Podkayne of Mars

[Amazon Link]

Another book down on the Heinlein reading project, and (whoa) 32 to go. Podkayne of Mars came out in 1963, after Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land, and it's another indication of how easily Heinlein could shift tone and topic even within the SF genre.

The first-person (usual) narrator, Podkayne, is neither a tough-as-nails space marine, nor an orphaned Terran raised by Martians. Poddy is an eight-year-old human girl, born and raised by humans on Mars.

Sorry, that's eight Martian years. As she takes pains to point out, you multiply by 1.8808 to get Earth years. By dubious political/legal maneuverings, she and her younger genius/sociopath brother Clark wangle a grand tour of the inhabited planets aboard the luxury spaceliner Tricorn, escorted by Great-uncle Tom.

Well, they get as far as Venus.

I found it pretty enjoyable, and if you're gonna gripe about Mr. Heinlein writing in the voice of a very precocious teenage girl… well, how would you know about how such a girl, raised on a future Mars, might think, act, and say? Hmph.

It's all fun and games until… whoa… about three-quarters of the way through the book, where the dangerous hints previously sprinkled throughout come to a head. The true point of Uncle Tom's journey to Earth is revealed, as are the murderous lengths to which his political opponents will go to thwart him.

Consumer note: I got the "original" version of the book in paperback (retail $0.95, but I got used, marked down to $0.50). Since then, Heinlein's original ending to the book has come to light and it's very different. He was pressured to change the ending at the very last minute; just one page, but a 180° shift in tone. I understand current editions have both endings in place. The book's Wikipedia page has the details, but avoid that if you're spoiler-adverse.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-03

[Amazon Link]

Hey hey hey, happy Labor Day to all you Laborers out there.

  • If there are any levelheaded people at the Atlantic reading Kevin D. Williamson's writings at National Review, I'm pretty sure they're shaking those level heads in regret. Kevin's recent article: The Psalmist and the Sex Doll. In which he goes from analyzing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" to…

    The Marquis de Sade thought that the old order might be overthrown by a great orgy of dissolution and blasphemy, an organized assault on every accepted value until the achievement of a state of absolute freedom. De Sade and those who follow him hated and hate what marriage was, because they hated and hate the order founded on it. (Even now, what is left of it.) But they genuinely appreciated its power, and believed that if it were to go down, it would go down in flames. He would have been disappointed by the smallness and banality of where we ended up, even if it is more perverse (though generally less violent) than his fantasies, which were almost exclusively limited to the traditional, transgressions and violations sufficiently longstanding to have Old Testament injunctions against them. De Sade dreamt up theatrical acts of depravity, while we have only dreamt up new ways to be alone.

    From the psalmist who discerned in the love of husbands and wives an indication of God’s design to the question of which kind of silicone sex dolls might be unallowable in the marketplace — that is the arc of our history, and of our sorrow.

    As always, the implication in "URLs du Jour" is RTWT. But let me add in this case: really.


  • If you've ever wondered toward where America is moving, Joel Kotkin proposes that America is moving toward an oligarchical socialism. (Orange County Register).

    Where do we go after Trump? This question becomes more pertinent as the soap opera administration seeks its own dramatic demise. Yet before they can seize power from the president and his now subservient party, the Democrats need to agree on what will replace Trumpism.

    Conventional wisdom implies an endless battle between pragmatic, corporate Clintonites on one side, and Democratic socialists of the Bernie brand. Yet this conflict could resolve itself in a new, innovative approach that could be best described as oligarchal socialism.

    Oligarchal socialism allows for the current, ever-growing concentration of wealth and power in a few hands — notably tech and financial moguls — while seeking ways to ameliorate the reality of growing poverty, slowing social mobility and indebtedness. This will be achieved not by breaking up or targeting the oligarchs, which they would fight to the bitter end, but through the massive increase in state taxpayer support.

    Kotkin's scenario is, I hate to say, not unlikely…


  • … which, might make this Anarchist/Minarchist Debate at Reason between the wonderful Katherine Mangu-Ward and the equally awesome Nick Gillespie kinda pointless. Katherine:

    I'm an anarchist because government tends toward ineptitude and consent is extremely important. If you describe yourself as a libertarian, you probably agree with both of those propositions.

    The state is bad at doing things. Quite a lot of things, really. That's a claim most libertarians—and an awful lot of non-libertarians—would find uncontroversial. Everyone agrees governments are frequently annoying (see: the DMV) and often deeply unjust and immoral (see: slavery). These conditions occur because governments are composed of fallible human beings, who want to make a buck/gain the respect of their peers/do the right thing/do the easiest thing/get through the day. They persist because government actors ruthlessly stamp out would-be competitors, using violence and threats of violence, a privilege they reserve for themselves alone.

    And Nick:

    To me, the three saddest words in the English language are "taxation is theft."

    Over the past few years, that slogan has become a shorthand way of announcing oneself as an anarcho-capitalist. It's also an excellent means of alienating people who don't already agree with you. In my experience, the same folks also usually declare that the non-aggression principle (NAP), which holds that any nondefensive use of force is morally illegitimate, should be the whole of the law. Those of us who merely believe in limited government, rather than no government—such sketchy characters as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises—are deemed "fake" libertarians.

    Me, I find myself agreeing with whichever one wrote last. Both have excellent points.


  • Let us give Katherine, however, the last word via Twitter, because I love this picture:


  • Don Boudreaux offers another rebuttal of Senator E. Warren's dopey proposals on bringing corporations further under the thumb of the state: Sen. Warren’s Tragedy of the Commons

    Alas, despite Sen. Warren’s intentions, passage of her bill – by giving non-owners of capital a legally enforceable say in how capital is used – would dramatically weaken, rather than strengthen, the accountability of corporate decision-makers. Accountability for using property wisely is destroyed by divorcing decision-making authority over that property from the effects that decisions on how to use that property have on its market value. The certain result would be a precipitous fall in the market value of invested capital and a corresponding drying up of investment.

    If you doubt me, ask yourself what would happen to the market value of your home if the state dramatically dilutes the decision-making authority of every homeowner by giving to all residents of each neighborhood a detailed say in how each home in that neighborhood is used. A majority coalition of your neighbors might decide that your garage will from now on be used as a public storage facility – or that your children must now sleep in the same bedroom as you so that the room that was formerly theirs can serve as guest quarters for neighborhood visitors – or that you may not sell your home because your “stakeholding” neighbors fear that they will dislike whoever might buy it from you.

    We already have too much of that sort of thing. Ironically, often in the name of increasing property values.


  • Back in the day, I enjoyed watching The Cosby Show. And I liked actor Geoffrey Owens in the role of Elvin Tibideaux, boyfriend and then husband to oldest sister Sondra. Anyway, he's been in the news, because he (Geoffrey, not Elvin) is bagging at the Trader Joe's in New Jersey. Giancarlo Sopo at the Federalist and I have the same sentiment: Former ‘Cosby’ Star Geoffrey Owens Deserves Respect For Working At Trader Joe’s.

    Rather than assuming Owens has fallen on hard times, he should be admired for his job at Trader Joe’s. Owens could have easily gone the way of “Celebrity Apprentice,” “Dancing with the Stars,” or a tell-all book of life on the “Cosby” set. Instead, like the millions who clean our offices, fold the clothes we buy, and attend to us from call centers, he is making an honest living.

    We should not presume to know why Owens is pursuing this new role, but it takes courage and humility to go from strutting down Hollywood’s red carpets to bagging meat and produce in Jersey. Few people are more visible in local communities than grocery store workers. Having starred in what was arguably the most successful sitcom in modern history, Owens is easily recognizable, but he isn’t hiding. He’s holding his head up high. This is commendable.

    I have no inclination to investigate further the circumstances of Mr. Owens', but his IMDB page shows that he's been working in show biz right along, with three credited roles this year alone. So I suspect he's doing OK.

    Only criticism: New Jersey?! Geoff, please put in for a transfer to the Newington, NH store. We'd love to have you.