Wednesday, May 28

To continue a previous thought, and answer a comment from Modi, below:

Really, [the following poster] Robert has the right of it here. I'm sorry for the misunderstanding.

As for my seeing the world from an American perspective . . . well, that's unavoidable. I'm American, and though I'm rarely (these days) proud of what my country does, I am a passionate believer in the ideals upon which this country was founded. It is the gap between those ideals and our current reality that I find so saddening. I don't think America is "better" than your country, whatever that might be. America is America, which is sometimes a good thing, but more often not.

On the 4th of July (America's Independence Day) a few years back -- not long after the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq -- I found myself watching one of the few surviving Cagney song & dance flicks, Yankee Doodle Dandy, a biography of the unabashed patriotic super-booster, George M. Cohan.

It had me in tears. Because I just can't imagine any more what it must be like to have that kind of uncritical faith in the fundamental rightness of this nation.

When I was in Washington D.C. on tour for Revenge of the Sith, I took an afternoon to walk around the Mall and visit the memorials to by two favorite presidents, Lincoln and Jefferson. I won't go into detail here . . . but I couldn't even look their statues in the eye. Out of shame for what we've let the Bush Administration do to our country.

However: we love who and what we love, despite their flaws. Sometimes because of them. Because we're still a work in progress.


Anonymous said...

As a Brit, one thing I've always found impressive about Americans is their ability to stand up and say "I love my country and everything it stands for", no matter the storm they might be weathering at the time. In England it seems, no matter the decade, that you're more likely to hear in detail the exact ways in which this country is "going to the dogs".

So it's a shame to see the pure patriotism of Americans being eroded, not by fleeting social issues that Brits are so found of taking as the signs of the End Times, but by the disgusting actions of an administration that seems genuinely set on turning the USA into something...else.

And this is coming from somebody usually cynical of the kind of faith found in patriotism. Maybe that's because I'm English.


MWS said...

Our nation is a great deal younger than yours, DJM. America still has the youthful naivete to believe itself capable of greatness.

And it's always sad to watch someone surrender hope.

unblinking said...

Thanks for the moral support for America. A few questions, a few assertions, with respect:
Is it really that our "pure patriotism" that is being eroded, or have the events of the last few decades simply removed the red, white and blue tinted blinders that "the man" pasted on us through twelve or sixteen years of public education. Must I love "everything" America currently stands for in order to be considered hopeful or a patriot? Most nations seem to do their best to inculate blind Nationalism in their populace, but is it always a good idea to accept such conditioning? America was founded by radical political dissidents, after all, and she serves her country best who questions it's policies most.
Patriotism can also be a mask for cultural centrism, the kind that would still have us believe that Columbus "discovered" the Americas, that Magellan was the first to circle the globe, that North and south America were wild, untended landscapes peopled by unsophisticated "aboriginals" before "civilised" Western Europeans arrived to tame it, and that "America" is always synonymous with "the good guys".
History (and the Nationalism is is often used to instill) is rarely what it seems, its "truths" as fluid as any other area of human inquiry, be it astronony, medicine, physics or whatever.
If I loved my country less, I'd be that much less excersised over the attempts made during my lifetime to turn it into something other than what it ought to be.

Anonymous said...

As I said at the end of my other post, I'm cynical of blind faith as a whole, so you're preaching to the converted there.

I didn't mean to suggest pure patriotism is necessarily blinkered devotion, or that to be a patriot one must support everything the country does. I'd suggest rather that it's the belief in your country's ability to do what it can to set things right. Hope, if you like. It's this sense that I see being eroded by the USA political climate of the 21st century, to be replaced by the sinking ship mentally so prevalent over here.

My message was perhaps obscured by an unfortunate case of semantics, but hopefully that clears it up a little.


Wolfman Walnuts said...

gotcha, DJ.
It's not that I feel the ship is sinking, but that it's entered one of those Reeeaaalllyyy bad mid-ocean hurricanes that occur in the deep mid-pacific and Atlantic Oceans. I'm just bailing like a madman and slapping on the pitch to my own tiny section of hull, but it's just one ship in a huge fleet and it's sadly certain that there's gonna be a whole like of floating flotsam and sailors overboard before the remanents of the fleet (hopefully) make it out the other side and into safe harbor.
In other words, my common sense tells me it's gonna get worse before it gets better.
A monk takes a vow of silence and is told by the High Llama that he may utter three words once every decade to express what he has learned.
After ten years, the monk approaches the master and says "Days are long."
The master nods and says, "True. Return to your contemplations."
Another decade passes and the monk approaches his aging master and says, "Work is difficult."
The Llama smiles and says, "Yes, this is often the case. Now go and contemplate further."
After another ten years, the monk, now approaching fifty, tells his master, now a wizened old sage, "Life is short."
The Old Master squints at the monk, shakes his head and gives a soft, enlightened-sounding Bronx cheer, "For Tathagatha's sake guy, I've known you now for thirty years and all I ever get from you is 'Bitch,Bitch,Bitch!"
Heeyyy, I'll be here all week. Try the veal, it's FAN-tastic!

Incubus Jax said...

I think it all comes down to bullshit and stupid people myself.

I've been registered independent ever since I came of age, simply because I don't believe in political parties. I believe in balance. I believe that you have to take the republicans and democrats and do your best to find a happy medium.

Do I like what we're doing in Iraq? Absolutely not. And to be frank I think everything else in our country is bullshit.

For example: The Bush administration is firmly against gay marriage. To the point that they've devoted a lot of time to the subject.

And for what?

Has discriminating against gay people helped find Bin-Laden? Did we stop gay marriage and then inadvertently win the war on terror?

Now that two men in your community living together having sex with each other and are in every way a "couple" except they can't get legally married, does gas cost less in your area?

I think not.

But this is the kind of Bullshit that Bush wants to stumble on about. I don't blame the man for what happened when he was a new president (9/11). That just plain sucks.

But for the guy to take his time to worry about something so trivial, while, in the meantime young men are dying in his war, and his people are suffering under his party's economy, is just insane.

In the mean time the American public isn't doing its part either. We have become so fat and lazy that we just let politics and corporations run us over all the while bitching that no one's come to save us from ourselves.

We elect a president who's made his fortune in OIL and then can't figure out why oil companies are posting record profits while the price of gas keeps going up - and yet we keep buying big, gas guzzling pickups, sports cars and SUVs.

It makes me sick. We're a society of consumers. Corporations own us, and we just stuff more into our mouths and into our homes and into our marketing-clogged arteries.

And I love this country. Hell, I was in the Marines.

But I don't know what's happening anymore, and I don't know why, for the first time, we're letting it happen.

And it scares me.

Scott said...

I suspect that a lot of this comes down to perspective. I think collective human memory is identical to our individual memories; it's human nature to remember the good and forget the bad. Humans have the astounding ability to mythologize the past and do so mostly unconsciously. History books, television and radio (for the short period the latter two media have been in existence) are reflections of this and paint a brighter picture of the past (at least to some extent). In other words, the criticisms and skepticisms of our ancestors which probably currently mirror our own, have become historically vague and what are left are the highlights and headlines of memory rather than the minutia that makes up most of life’s dramas.

Most likely for as long as man has moved in groups there has been the sense that these are the "worst or times" and that best of times were long in the past; reality being replaced by nostalgia.

When Dickens penned the phrase, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times", he could very well have been talking about any time in human history.


Adam said...


I'm wondering how you justify certain word play in your fiction, in particular the Caine novels (though, presumably, also in the Barra series, which I've yet to read).

On Overworld, only a limited number of people speak English. Yet there are a few English idioms/ideas going around. How do you justify their use?

The three I can think of off the top of my head are Lamorak's teaching the girl "mother fucker," Caine making a bad pun to the elf woman, and Kris' self-conscious use of the word 'come' to Tup.

Each seems to have an explanation in the story (an example being when Caine slips and makes the joke about the similarity of the words Pallas and palace, the elf doesn't catch on; "come" seems like an idea that's cross-cultural, 'arriving' and orgasm are two seperate ideas that can be linked outside of English, I think), however, I'm wondering what words or phrases you would justify allowing your Westerling (that is the name of their language, yes?) speaking characters to use, without having to explain that they found their way into the language from meeting the english equivalent.

I don't think I actually asked a question there, and I apologize. I'd just like you to try and clear up what rules Overworld (or in Barra's case, pre-english) speakers abide by.

Also, sorry if this doesn't seem particularly cogent. I've just finished an extensive exercise in translating Livy's account of the Horatii and for some reason i've started putting verbs at the end of sentences, as if i were writing in a bastardization of latin and english.


Scott said...


I know exactly what you mean. I added "y'all" to my vocabulary after 6 years of Latin, due to the necessity of distinguishing between 2nd person singular and plural. On the plus side, I no longer misuse the subjunctive. :)

MWS said...


There are a number of occasions where a pun or other quibble on language occurs in all of my "non-English speaking" books (actually, ALL my books are non-English, since folk in the Star Wars environment speak Basic).

If linguistic consistency is essential to your enjoyment of the story, simply assume that what is being presented is a pun of roughly similar content and effect; in other words, what appears on the page is an English-language equivalent, rather than a direct translation.

As far as rules qua rules go, well . . . there are no rules.


Nathan said...

There's a wonderful chapter in Steven Pinker's new book, THE STUFF OF THOUGHT, about cursing: in particular, about (if I remember correctly) how involuntarily or instinctively uttered epithets stem from a different part of the brain than the rest of speech, and how that part of the brain stays consistent from person to person regardless of what the epithet of choice (or language) is. So just assume that "Fuck!" is a foreign epithet rendered in the reader's language for the reader's convenience.

GREENE said...

What's that Stephen R. Donaldson says? Fantasy exists in "a-rational" universes. Not rational and not irrational, you just GO with it. Which is why linguistic issues are really so pilfering.

Tim said...

On the issue of language in books, I have to say that I find MWS's translations from Westerling just different enough from my own automatic comprehension to be distracting.

MWS said...

Oh, har har de har har har.

Nathan said...

Matt: just curious whether you're familiar with this book: Dead Man's Brother a mystery novel by Zelazny.

Dornicus said...

Pardon me for, uh, being relevant, here, but I completely and totally agree with the original post here, and not just for the sake of as much. I truly do love this country's values, and her vast, untapped potential for greatness. Many of our states are larger and more prosperous than some European countries (Alaska alone would be a good chunk of mainland Europe), and yet we find ourselves caught up in trivialities like gay marriage.

I think that a lot of the laws we've come to accept are completely opposite of what our Founding Fathers would have us do, and completely Unconstitutional. As long as you're not hurting or restricting the rights of others, you're free to do what you like -- that's my interpretation of the Constitution.

I still love this country, and would defend it and its people in any argument solely on the principle of what it's been through; I would not, however, defend many of its recent decisions in government.

I love this country for its land, its people, and its professed values (Constitution, Declaration of Independence, etc.) -- not for its government, though there have been some very admirable figures in its government.

Corny as it may be, I think that there really is an "American Spirit", and that's something that no government, no matter how corrupt, can ever touch. There are a lot of people, I think, who've more or less given up on America, and I hope that in my lifetime we prove them wrong; I know that the American people, if they can be made to give a damn, are capable of anything. I mean that.

Nathan said...

I guess I then ask: what exactly will it take to, as you put it, make them -- them? -- us give a damn? When the government that, y'know, governs our lives, allegedly representatively although exactly whom it is they think they're representing is anyone's guess, is doing such a piss-poor job nearly across the board, and we don't give enough of a damn to do anything about it: what will it take?

Also I question being so dismissive of the issue of gay marriage as a "triviality".

Robert said...

I think it's less making people give a damn. I think most people give a damn.

The issue, I believe, lies in our current culture's habit of shunning anyone who wants to make an honest difference. Either because they don't believe in honest intent anymore, cynical and bitter over the years and years of political scandals and broken promises...or because it's just not seen as socially acceptable to care anymore.

People too often will tell you to focus on more material things than wasting your time on stuff you cannot personally make a difference in.

The problem is that if no one tries, if no one attempts to make a difference, than nothing can ever be changed.

It's only by people getting together TO make a difference that things ever get any better.

NSB said...

I know people give a damn. That's why I qualified later with: "give enough of a damn to do anything about it." That's my question: what will it take to get the tens or hundreds of millions of people who give a damn, who are unhappy with the goings-on, to do something about it. (And I'm included in this. I can see the bs as well as anyone. I could do a whole lot more than I do (granted, given that my paycheck's coming from the government, there's actually a good deal I'm not allowed to do or so in terms of lobbying, etc.).) What will it take to get people who are pissed off but cynical/disillusioned/disaffected/too tired/too poor/too busy/too comfortable/whatever to say, "Y'know what? This isn't worth it anymore. It's hard to believe I can make a change, but I know my neighbors, friends, coworkers feel the same way I do, and trying has got to be better than what's going on here." What will it take to get this vaunted untouchable American Spirit to kick in, to get America fired up again?

Robert said...

I will say that I think the current presidential election is a wonderful opportunity for us to do just that. Even if it's just a little support, decide which candidate you feel is going to best put forward your interests and campaign for that person.

Even if it's soft campaigning, just telling people why you support him, etc. I do not think we can underestimate the power of honest intelligent discussion, especially those who may not agree with us.

There's the old saying of "One should never discuss politics and religion in polite company."

Personally, I partially disagree with this statement. I feel that only by talking about these things can we ever get anywhere in progressing understanding and tolerance. There shuld be no reason why people cannot discuss the merits and pitfalls of policies without becoming insulting and vindictive.

But then theory isn't life and tempers can flare with passionate discussions. As with everything, pick your battles and practice moderation.

At least, that's my opinion.

Gio said...

Sorry if this is old news, but I just discovered that Amazon has COVER ART for Caine Black Knife!

Can't wait for it.