It looks like I don’t get my full year. In fact if I get another month or two I can count myself very, very lucky.

The cancer and associated infections are bad enough, but I discover something about myself that I would have never expected: I am subject to extreme panic attacks.

The attacks don’t seem to have any origin, rhyme, or reason. They just force my entire bodily resources into sucking air in and out of my lungs. That being the case, it doesn’t leave much room for additional efforts.

My son, James, is easily capable of blog posts and short emails, and to take over the blog if he wanted it. But unfortunately there is no way I can patch this together well enough to make the sequel to “Temporary Duty” work.

So those of you who contributed with that in mind? You got cheated, and I’m sorry.

Thank you and God bless you, to each and every one who responded to the appeal. I’m sorry I couldn’t return your efforts in kind.

If there are more announcements to be made, please watch this space.



The portable oxygen concentrator came today. There are some issues, but it’s working well enough to make it clear that it was a wonderful idea. The best thing is, I don’t have to run it on full speed. A relatively small supplement keeps my head clear, and (surprisingly enough) if my head’s clear and I have enough air the pain isn’t so bad. One of the things I’ve realized since I started being more aware is that I don’t have my phone download cable with me. If I can get it I’ll post pictures, but that would be tomorrow at the earliest.

What I have to do now is refrain from using it as 100% support. The doctor has prescribed exercises to extend and renew my lung capacity, and if I do them I can be autonomous without having to carry the machine around. If I just use the machine instead of doing the exercises, I’ll end up tethered to it. I may anyway, eventually, but I don’t need to be setting myself up for that from the get-go.

My normal response to donations is to reply to each one with a “thank you”. In this case, that won’t be very practical — several thousand such replies would be necessary, and having to wade through them one at a time (the only way I can do it with my email program) would sort of cancel the good effects. But in every case I have, at minimum, looked at the name and location/address and sent a mental thankyou across the ether — and a couple of curses; some of you have no business digging into your own resources to support somebody else.

Several people have offered alternate therapies and/or treatments, and some of them look plausible. In every case I will, at minimum, investigate them further, with gratitude for the concern that led to the offer. And with the new clear-headedness, it becomes fairly obvious that simply discarding the notion of trying to treat this is foolish. The doctor is sly. At my last appointment, he simply mentioned that the next time we see one another there will be much more to discuss.

I can never quite believe I have that many friends. I still can’t believe I deserve that many friends. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

Stage III, inoperable. Median survival prognosis: One year after diagnosis.

Which is, as it turns out, the reason I haven’t been accomplishing much, including posting here and making progress on the sequel to Temporary Duty. The details are complicated, and I don’t have the energy to fully explain.

Medical insurance? Of course not. My doctor says it doesn’t matter much. Going full-bag on treatment, chemo and radiation and all that, for this particular cancer might, on average, add six months to the survival time at massive expense — and the quality of life for that additional half year would be miserable.

The only thing I could really ask for is an oxygen machine. I’m continually short of breath, and my blood oxygen hovers at the low end of the “satisfactory” scale, around 91 or 92. That means I don’t think or react as clearly or as quickly as I did, which makes it difficult to accomplish intellectual tasks like writing. There are also a couple of things on my “bucket list” that I’d really rather not do without, and one of them is one last visit to my brother’s grave — which is at 12,000 ft. MSL, more or less. At my current ability to breathe, that’s just plain out of the question.

The machine I think I want is the Sequal Eclipse, a relatively new model of portable that does both pulse delivery (for when the user is active during the daytime) and continuous delivery (for sleeping). List price is $4K or so; they’re available discounted and/or used for around half that. And because I’m a suspicious sort who was into servicing electronic and electromechanical equipment for a long time, I’d also like to have a home-type (non portable) machine — I think it highly likely that the portable would be lightly enough built that using the heavier-duty fixed one would be advisable when I’m not out and about. Good used ones of those can be had for $500 or less.

Money needed… because Temporary Duty sold so well, the IRS took a nice chunk (and wants another $1,555 before July 15th) and Social Security came along behind to inform me that they’re taking back $10K by simply not sending checks, starting in September. I have stuff around the place I can sell, not to mention the place itself, so I won’t starve, but there’s gonna be a lot fewer luxuries for a while.

The sequel to Temporary Duty (well, sorta; same world, different characters) is called Service Call, and it’s somewhere between half and two-thirds done. I can’t guarantee I’ll finish it; what I can guarantee is that at my current mental capacity, it won’t get finished. Think of it as a sort of Kickstarter. If I have enough tipjar hits to get the oxygen machine, it might get done.

Prof. Reynolds has another theme, and I wish others would pick up on it.

It’s another of many reasons to rage at the leftoid hijacking of the hippie “movement”. Prior to SDS, Ayers&Dohrn, and the rest of the KGB tools (witting and unwitting), some very sound views on police power and the utility thereof were being developed, and were being promulgated in the best way possible: using ridicule.

That all went by the boards, and the result is as we see. Of course, no matter what they say, the Left wants and needs powerful, intrusive police forces. Somebody’s going to have to machine-gun the “dissidents” and “deniers”, and they’re sure as Hell not gonna get their own precious delicate hands dirty. At one time, it might have been supposed that policemen were American citizens, too, and would refuse to go along with that sort of program. As can be seen daily, that assumption is no longer valid, if it ever was.


One of the supporting arguments for a free press is what I’ve seen described as the “leprosy argument”. Rulers tend to become isolated from the people they govern; there are many mechanisms promoting such isolation, but the predominant ones are the rise of “courtiers”, people who force themselves into association with the Big Guy in order to bask in the reflected glow of power, and the multiplication of bureaucrats the Big Guy appoints to implement his policies.

One of the effects of leprosy is loss of nerve endings that may result in the sufferer not even noticing damage to his or her extremities because the pain that normally accompanies such damage isn’t felt. Courtiers are by their very nature flatterers, who achieve their positions by playing on the self-image of the ruler to gain their privileged position. Bureaucrats are specifically intended to take the burden of day-to-day interaction with the populace off the boss, who doesn’t have time to deal with minutiae. In both cases the result is layers of intermediaries between ruler and ruled. Leprosy is no longer a common occurrence, so most of us instead refer to a “bubble”, analogous to the child-in-a-bubble who has to be isolated from disease organisms in order to survive and thus cannot interact freely with the world around him.

A free press bypasses all that; its expostulations can, at least in principle, help by passing pain signals from the populace to the ruler despite the insulation provided by the courtiers and bureaucrats.

Moe Lane notes:

I’m used to the President lying to me.  It’s a thing.  I’ve almost grown comfortable with it.  But Obama lying to his own base is pretty darn low-rent of him.

The blogfather quotes James Taranto:

Politicians are supposed to take sides on questions of public policy.

News reporters are not.

Reynolds then goes on to remark

The idea of an independent media has been eclipsed by crony journalism to go with the crony capitalism.

Which is precisely the case. In the terms I introduced above, the (supposed) journalists have converted themselves into courtiers, who see it as their job to both flatter Mr. Obama and to use their considerable power to see to it that anything unflattering is concealed to the extent possible. Coupled with the huge and still-growing armies of bureaucrats who are taking charge (or trying to) of every tiniest aspect of American life, and who are essentially unmanageable from the top simply from their number and the complexity of their operations, this means the President very likely has no knowledge whatever of what lower-ranking Democrats think, let alone the populace at large. The bureaucrats have no intention of bothering the Big Guy with minor details, and the soi-disant Press take it upon themselves to suppress any hint of opinion that might disturb his equanimity.

So I disagree with Moe. I don’t think President Obama is lying to anybody. It’s a matter of definitions. “Lying” requires that the liar knows the truth and suppresses it. A person who has imperfect knowledge and/or a firm belief that’s wrong, and who makes statements based on that, may be issuing and perpetuating total falsehoods, but is not a “liar” because he or she is not suppressing the truth. It’s fairly clear that Mr. Obama tends to reject data that might contradict his firmly-held convictions, but in the present case it’s highly unlikely he will ever detect any such data, because the Press will suppress it in an attempt to keep him looking good and the bureaucrats won’t tell him because it’s their job to handle such objections without jogging his elbow. The result is egregious mistakes, due to the leprosy-like inability to feel damage brought on by the layers of courtiers and bureaucrats.

Which is fine by me. I’d like to see the man turfed out of his sinecure; the more mistakes he makes the more likely that becomes; and the thicker and denser the “bubble” gets, the less likely it becomes that he’ll feel any pain from his mistakes, right up to the point where his extremities start falling off.

We got it from “Julia”, who is so flaccid and incapable of self-direction that she needs the helping hand of Government in every phase of her life. Now we get it about black people:

The prepared content of a Tuesday presentation to the House Democratic Caucus and staff indicates that Democrats will seek to portray apparently neutral free-market rhetoric as being charged with racial bias, conscious or unconscious.

It’s not so much that they need to be trained to race bait — they surely have enough practice at that — as it is the underlying assumption. Black people and women are so incapable of managing their own affairs that Mother Government must lead them by the hand in every phase of life; it follows that any reduction in, or even failure to extend, the scope of Government programs means that black people and women will fail to get the assistance they need to survive, so is either “war on women”, “racist”, or both.

As I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother was a liberal Southern Democrat (1950s version). She told me “You have to be nice to the Negroes, because they can’t do for themselves the way white people can.” Rephrasing it in 21st-Century PC-speak doesn’t change anything, although I suppose it’s nice (in a cynical sort of way) to see that nothing fundamental has changed in half a century. I don’t think she would have approved of making her advice into a principal function of Government, and I’m damn sure that extending it to women would have motivated her to pick up a hatchet.

The feminist message I responded (favorably) to was independence. Women are perfectly capable of managing their own affairs without being dependent on men, and should (or must) assert independence because of the costs. In the end, the one who pays the piper calls the tune, and feminists regard the quid pro quo for relying on men with horror.

Now we have Julia. Ann Althouse links to a Washington Post op-ed that asserts

“Julia” was the Democratic Party’s “attempt to make singlehood cool and fresh and new…”“… in an attempt to court [the single woman] demographic.”

What I want to know is: Why the Hell doesn’t that generate outrage? “Julia” is totally dependent; she does not (cannot?) make a single move in her life that doesn’t depend on Government support. It’s a direct, in-your-face contradiction of the ideal of independence from women.

At least some of the associated commentary assumes, without explicitly stating it, that being dependent on Government is superior to being dependent on “the Patriarchy” because Government won’t demand anything in return. The “story of Julia” directly contradicts even that, at least on one point — “Julia” runs her own business for several years, at least, but doesn’t make enough out of it for a comfortable retirement; she then has to depend on Social Security in her Golden Years. All the small business owners I know, a considerable number, make an explicit point of doing their damnedest to sock away enough that when they retire they don’t have to live on beans and cornbread. Where did Julia’s profits from her business go? Did Government take them all away, leaving her with nothing of her own to live on? It would seem so. Was that a good trade, worthy of her sacrificing her independence in order to batten off others including other Julias?

“Whatchu doin’ hyar, boy?”

Some years ago, my boss and I were on the way home from a business trip, and decided to stop for the night at the home of a mutual friend who lived in a gated community in Sacramento. Some time around midnight I woke wanting a cigarette and a short walk, so I went outside. A few minutes later I was accosted by the security guard employed by the homeowners’ association: What was I doing there?

I responded without excitement. Holding my hands in plain sight and open, I approached the rent-a-cop with a casual gait. “I’m Ric Locke,” I told him. “My boss and I are visiting at [address]; that’s our van, with Texas tags, sitting in front. I just came out for a smoke and a short walk.” He asked to see my ID, and I shrugged and showed him my driver’s license. Strictly speaking, he didn’t have the authority to demand ID — but I thought then, and think now, that since he asked politely and had an obvious, valid concern, showing him ID was a reasonable thing to do. He handed it back, apologized for bothering me, and said they’d had some recent break-ins. We discussed the matter casually for a few minutes and parted amicably, and I went back in and went to bed.

The parallel should be obvious. What if, instead of acting furtive and trying to get away, Trayvon Martin had recognized that the other residents of the community might have a valid concern? He might have approached George Zimmerman, keeping an unthreatening pose, and said, “Hi, I’m Trayvon Martin. We’re visiting [family] at [address], and my little brother and I wanted some Skittles, so I walked down to the convenience store to get them.” What would the likely result have been?

From what we know and observe of the character of Zimmerman, it’s very likely that his suspicion might well have turned to concern — especially when he discovered that Trayvon’s little brother was home alone. People are entitled to visit one another, and the simple truth would have provided Trayvon Martin with all the justification he needed to convince Zimmerman that he wasn’t there for any nefarious purpose. Zimmerman might still have been suspicious, but it would have been easy enough for him to check with the residents when they got home; that would have confirmed Martin’s story. In the meantime, it would be sufficient to see Martin admitted to the home by someone already inside, taking note that although it looked all right, it might be best to check further, later on.

/Of all the sad words/Of tongue or pen/The saddest are these/”It might have been.”/ It didn’t happen that way, and somebody got dead because it didn’t. Why didn’t it happen like that?

There are a lot of reasons, but they eventually boil down to: Somebody told Trayvon Martin he couldn’t do it that way, that “they” were Out to Get Him and the thing to do was break contact and get away. Trouble is, trying to break contact is exactly the behavior a suspicious person would see as requiring additional suspicion. Martin had the right to be there — but he didn’t act like he did; he acted exactly like someone would act who was casing the joint, looking for opportunities for petty theft. And he acted like that because somebody (several somebodies, no doubt) told him that was the right thing to do.

They lied.


We didn’t have lynch mobs where I grew up, thanks to an accident of history, but my relatives and neighbors knew the principle and discussed it.

If you should want one, this is how it’s done.

The good news is, not enough people seem to be paying attention for it to reach critical mass. The bad news is, that’s clearly pissing the Leftoids off enough that we need to watch closely as they try more and more extremes.

Schumpeter at The Economist analyzes the failure of “John Carter” the film, and comes up with three rules for making a total failure:

First: slaughter a sacred cow.

Second: mix oil and water.

Third: produce a genuinely awful product.

Now, in fact, from looking at people’s reactions, I don’t think you can fairly say that the movie is a “genuinely awful product.” There are lots of people who’ve said they enjoyed it. The first two rules have some genuine content, but not in the way Our Columnist describes them. Take them, turn ’em around a bit, and you have a real insight: One way to make a megaflop is to start with something utterly dependent upon the cultural and social factors of an earlier time — factors you don’t even know exist, let alone understand — and try to “interpret” it in terms of current mores. There is no way in Hell the result can possibly make sense, either to the original audience or to today’s, and all it will be is puzzling and disappointing.

A Princess of Mars is written in first person, as the intensely personal memoir of a character presented as an instance of an archetype familiar in Burroughs’s day, but almost entirely absent from current ideas. To present John Carter as “a Civil War veteran” is true, but misses the point. He describes himself as “a fighting man”, and if you don’t know what that means — and most of you, and damn near everybody in Hollywood, have no teeniest hint of a Clew — the whole story is just a mass of unconnected violent events. If that’s all there was to it, Burroughs’s audience wouldn’t have grabbed the narrative and held it in their minds. There were lots of “pulp” writers in that day; what most of them wrote was as simplistic and undriven as any of the drivel put out today, and most of them are utterly forgotten except for a few academics who might dig them out of dusty archives. Why did A Princess of Mars resound and become beloved, where the Rover Boys and similar stories — much more popular in their day than Burroughs ever was — descended into obscurity?

Answer: In many subtle ways, Burroughs presents The Fighting Man on his own terms and subverts the notion. The result is fascinating in its own terms, with the SFX being a sideline.

The Fighting Man, as an archetype, was almost the last holdover of the millenium-long European wars. He is an effective dealer and organizer of violence, and is proud of his laboriously-acquired skills and knowledge; the overlying society admires him in many ways as an expert in his profession, but regards him with some suspicion because now that he’s out of work he may become a danger. Both he and the society he lives in recognize that he is restrained by the ways he was taught, summarized in the word “honor”. John Carter, in the introduction to the book, chafes at those restraints but understands that they are necessary, that the society he lives in has no use at the moment for his talents and abilities, the which talents and abilities can and would make him a real danger if he were to forget his honor so far as to employ them. His transubstantiation to Mars, where he can freely indulge himself in the joy — his very word, often repeated in the books — of fighting and killing his opponents, is a dream come true for him.

In present-day society, the only referent we have for The Fighting Man is the caricature of soldiers presented by the Left; such people are to be medicated into submission at the very least, and (especially among the preening Progressives so common among the elite) a person fighting for a wrong cause cannot be taken as having virtues of any sort. In Burroughs’s day the Fighting Man was still honored, though perhaps more in theory than in substance; valor, in and of itself, was seen as a Good Thing no matter which side the valorous individual had taken when valor was exhibited. In that connection, it is worthwhile to point out that John Carter is a Confederate veteran. When the books were written, it was still taken for granted in most circles that such people could have been and often were brave and honorable, even though they were on the wrong side and fighting for a Cause that was (even then) considered villainous.

So Carter, in his own eyes a Good Guy who is unfortunately out of work in his chosen profession and doesn’t care to learn another, finds himself on Mars, where he is presented with a series of challenges that exactly match his skills and talents. He takes advantage of that, and is extremely pleased by it despite the fact that it results in danger and privation.

Then he meets Dejah Thoris — and, almost more importantly, Sola, the green woman.

To a modern person, steeped in feminism, Dejah Thoris and Sola are very nearly nonentities. They are slaves in a slaveholding culture, constrained to act in certain ways by the assumptions of that culture, which they fully accept (though they may resent their status, they understand it). In Burroughs’s day the memory of slavery was yet green, and Sola and Dejah Thoris are fairly accurately portrayed — and that’s where the story goes off the rails in then-contemporary terms, and the reason it caught people’s imaginations sufficiently to be preserved when much of the other adventure fiction of that day has been lost. Carter, too, sees them as nonentities in the beginning, though on completely different terms than the way a modern has to see them — Sola is a servant, to be ordered about without expecting questions; Dejah Thoris is a game token, to be carried back to her parents for an expected reward, like the flag in a paintball game. Neither of them is a person, to be interacted with soul-to-soul.

But that’s not the way it works out. Sola first begins mutating into Yet Another Instance of the “n– sidekick”, like Friday in Robinson Crusoe — dependable, but lacking her own motivations. It doesn’t take long, though, for Carter to realize that Sola has an agenda of her own, and that she helps him not out of any obligation as a lesser being serving the greater but as a way of furthering her own goals. Woola is unthinkingly subservient and helpful; Sola is not — she’s a thinking being, and if at any point Carter’s goals don’t lead toward her own she’ll abandon him like a used hankie (in fact she does so, at least once). That, in Burroughs’s day, was a startling subversion of a common trope, and people read on to see where he’d go with it.

It is against that background that Carter encounters Dejah Thoris. At first she is merely a game piece, somebody to be rescued for the reward — which may include her person in marriage; the rules of honor on Mars echo those on Earth, and under those rules, for Carter to “take advantage” of her person (sexually, although that’s never mentioned directly; it’s omnipresent in then-understandable code we now find hard to interpret) is Wrong, dishonorable. Carter, being honorable, accedes to that requirement despite strong physical attraction and plenty of opportunity, and proceeds to rescue the Princess in much the same way as he would seek to take advantage of any other treasure trove. Again, though, it doesn’t work out that way. Dejah Thoris turns out to be smarter than he is, and much better versed in the ways of her society; she brings him up short at several points, and even abandons him at considerable cost to herself when his proposed course of action can only bring disaster in her society’s terms. She knows what she’s doing, and knows that he doesn’t — and that, again, subverts the then-prevailing trope. Pauline, having been rescued from Peril, is supposed to throw herself upon the arms of her rescuer. Dejah Thoris is no Pauline. She starts out that way when it doesn’t appear that the result will be rejoining with her family — she likes Carter, and would be content to be his mate as a commoner — but when it becomes clear that her rescuer is determined to go all the way back to Helium with his game-flag, she demurs, and makes that demurral real.

It is that character interaction (and others along the same line) that made A Princess of Mars stick in the minds of its first readers, who placed in the pantheon and have referred to it ever since when most of its contemporary fiction has been forgotten. It is, in reality, a fairly powerful story of how honor and faithfulness can be achieved under difficult conditions, and how a character can grow and change to meet new challenges without recognizing it himself — as narrator, Carter never drops the “Fighting Man” trope even when he is clearly acting in violation of that ideal.

All of which is why I haven’t seen the movie, and won’t. Given modern ideals, it is inevitable that Carter must be flawed, an apologetic semi-warrior who sees his abilities as somehow shameful and tries to minimize them, and that Dejah Thoris must be a spunky feminist who takes over the action. Against those ideals, none of what happens in the book makes any sense whatever; it’s just a bunch of swordfights and jumping through hoops with no overarching narrative, which is why the filmmaker had to drag in Therns and the life-after-death scam (and get that mostly wrong, too) in order to provide some sort of plot that he could process into a sequence of events. In a literary sense, the whole thing’s a tragedy on the same order as Starship Troopers, and for the same reasons: the filmmaker was simply and categorically incapable of understanding what the story is about. Of course, for all his flaws Voerhoven is a good filmmaker, and the resulting movie is worth watching so long as you realize that it is emphatically not the story Heinlein told. John Carter doesn’t rise to that standard, and flops on its own terms.

Tip Jar

Donations (via PayPal)

Hit it, folks.
:fx:Calvin eyes:Puuleeeez?
You don't know many people who need it more.

When I Posted

October 2022