Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cat Women Of The Moon

"Cat Women Of The Moon" is the latest film I've seen on YouTube. Made in 1953, it tells of a manned mission to the moon. Although a manned mission, it has a woman in the crew, Helen, who's the navigator.

As the rocket-ship nears the moon, Helen tells the captain that the best place to land is in a valley on the moon's dark side. The captain thinks it a strange place to land, but, since Helen is the navigator, he has little choice but to take her advice. Helen also says there's a cave in the side of the valley that will be useful to explore.

The rocket-ship lands safely in the valley. The crew unstrap themselves and get up and stretch, Helen too. She also takes out a little hand mirror and arranges her hair and powders her face. All put on their space suits, that include an oxygen mask, and they clamber outside.

Although little can be seen outside because it's the dark side of the moon, Helen is able to lead everyone to the cave in the side of the valley that she'd told everyone about. It's a big cave that seemingly has no end. When the crew are deep in the cave they feel the atmosphere has changed. They remove their oxygen masks and find they can still breathe. There must be oxygen around. Odd.

Walking through the cave as it leads down into the depths under the moon's surface, the crew come across huge buildings that an advanced civilisation must have built. Did the beings who built these buildings breathe oxygen? If so, it explains the oxygen inside the cave.

It turns out there are inhabitants, young women wearing catsuits. There aren't too many of them, and they are all that's left of a nearly extinct moon civilisation. This near-extinction has happened because the supply of oxygen in the moon's underground has been dwindling for a long time, and there's now only enough to support a few moon-people. All the men have died, so only women are left - the ones in the cat-suits.

Being only a matter of time before all the oxygen is used up, the cat-women know they'll soon have to leave the moon for a another planet with oxygen. Earth is the best bet. The cat-women decide, then, to try and travel to earth and settle there. However, they have no rocket-ships. The only way to reach earth is therefore in one of earth's rocket-ships. But, how to entice one so that it lands near the mouth of the huge cave where they live?

The cat-suited women have a highly-developed extra sensory perception and can use this to control the minds of others, even if those others live on other planets. Hence they could sense the earthling's rocket-ship even before it left earth for the moon. They could therefore sense that the crew included a woman, Helen, whose womanly mind was more easily manipulable through interplanetary mind-control by other women, despite those other women being moon-women.

Thus the leader of the moon-women could send mental commands from the moon to Helen, to instruct her to tell the crew to land the space-ship in the valley near the moon-women's cave entrance. Once it's there, the moon-women plan to get into it and fly it to earth after they've killed the crew.

Things don't go exactly as planned because, for one thing, a moon-woman and a crew member fall in love. That's enough of the plot that I'll tell of.

***

"Cat Women Of The Moon" raises a number of issues.

Because the moon-women are not of earth, they can't genetically be human. However, this wasn't enough to stop one of the moon-women and one of the crew members falling in love. Also, it was obvious in the film that the other crew members found the moon-women attractive as women. One assumes, then, that they would want to have sex with them if the circumstances were right.

Given that the chimpanzee is genetically almost the same as the human - and so would genetically be closer to a human than would a moon-woman - I've heard of no instance of a human male falling in love with a female chimpanzee and wanting to have sex with her. But........you never know.

Having a woman, Helen, as a crew member led to tensions, leading to a punch-up between the captain and deputy captain, both of whom had fallen in love with her. This raises the issue of the gender composition of space crews today in the real world. Have any had both men and women?

If so, have there been punch-ups in space-ships or space-shuttles far above earth between male crew members in competition for romantic opportunities with female crew members? While punch-ups do have their place, a space-ship or space shuttle in which there's so much delicate instrumentation, isn't one of them.

***

Should you wish to watch "Cat Women Of The Moon", *click here*.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

They Came From Beyond Space

What is singular about "They Came From Beyond Space" as a science fiction film, is that it's British-made. I watched it last night on YouTube.

This 1967 film begins with a bunch of meteors landing somewhere in the English countryside. The locals report this to the Authorities, who send scientists to examine the debris. They are astonished to see that these meteors, unlike your normal meteors, had landed in a perfect geometrical formation. It's as if they're intelligently controlled. And, also unlike your average meteor, these meteors look like very large crystals, but are blackish grey.

To get a better sense of what these meteors are made of, one of the scientists hits it with a large hammer. This causes the meteor to send out a powerful wave of energy that also makes a funny but scary noise. The scientists gathered there fall to the ground in agony. Their faces contorted, they wriggle around for a few seconds. Then the noise stops. But when the scientists get to their feet again and begin talking, they sound robotic. It's as if invisible alien entities have taken over their minds.

This turns out to be the case. However, one of the scientists, the head scientist in fact, isn't affected by these invisible alien entities. Hence he is still himself, and must flee his colleagues, the better to consider what to do.

Next, people in the neighbouring town and elsewhere, start acting robotic too. The invisible entities have obviously also taken over their minds. Will it be only a matter of time before the minds of everyone in England, and indeed the minds of everyone all over the world, Americans included, are taken over by these invisible alien entities? And to what end?

Why should the mind of the head scientist not have been affected by the invisible alien entities? It's because he has a band made of silver inside his head. Doctors had inserted it after he'd injured his head in a car crash when young. Anyone not having the luxury of a silver band inside his head, can only prevent his mind being taken over by wearing a head-covering of silver. Easier said, though, than done.

Something else starts happening. People begin being covered with painful rashes and drop dread. It seems the alien entities have brought their germs with them, against which the people of England have no immunity. What if this plague should spread beyond England, to throughout the world, America included?

The plot gets complicated, so I won't say more about it.

***

As with most science fiction films, "They Came From Beyond Space" makes you think. Like, are you a robot? Do you, for instance, think the same things as do most people, and believe the same beliefs as do most people, and enjoy the same films as do most people, and go euphoric about the World Series and Superbowl as do most people, and wear the same clothes as do most people, and laugh at the same silly jokes as do most people, and guzzle hamburgers and fries as do most people, and go to a soul-destroying job everyday as do most people, and live in a split-level house in a suburb with a two-car garage and two brats and a dog and a cat as do most people?

If yes, chances are you're a robot. As you live as a robot, so you'll die as a robot.

"They Came From Outer Space" may be one of the last films in which almost everyone speaks with Received Pronunciation (RP). It was only in the early 'sixties with the "kitchen sink" dramas, and actors like Albert Finney, Tom Courtney, and Michael Caine, that the sort of accents with which most Englishmen speak, began to become the norm in English filmdom.

***

If you wish to watch "They Came From Beyond Space", *click here*.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Yesterday Machine

At the beginning of the 1963 film, "The Yesterday Machine" that I saw last night on YouTube, a young college man is trying to fix his car at the side of a road in the middle of somewhere Texas, while his coed girlfriend dances by herself to music coming from the car's radio. College boy can't get the car to go, so he and the coed go looking for help.

They set off through deserted-seeming scrub-covered land and come across two men dressed in very old-fashioned army uniforms, and who are brandishing equally old-fashioned rifles. Seeing that the two men appear hostile and are about to shoot, college boy and the coed run off as the two men fire away.

College boy is hit and falls to the ground. He gets up again and continues running, and is again hit and again falls to the ground. This happens a few more times. Eventually college boy reaches his car, but he can't see his coed girlfriend. Next, he's in a hospital bed, being questioned by detectives.

While the detectives find of interest what happened to college boy, and that his coed girlfriend still can't be found, they are more intrigued by the findings of bullet-experts, that the bullets removed from college-boy's body had been made in 1853 - 110 years ago (the film came out in 1963, don't forget).

This case also attracts the interest of a keen reporter at the local newspaper. Among those he talks to is the missing coed's sister, who is a nightclub singer. She can't enlighten him much. He tells her he's about to drive to the scene of the shooting to try to find out more. She insists on going with him, and does.

When there, they find the coed's scarf lying on the ground, but no coed. They walk back to the reporter's car to return home, but there's no car. What's more, the tarmac road is now a dirt-track, and the telegraph poles they'd seen, aren't there any more.

They begin walking along the dirt track, and see approaching a young yokel on a horse. He's dressed very old-fashioned-like - like he's from the 18th or 19th century. When he comes close to the reporter and the coed's sister, he stops, looks at them strangely, and gallops off in the direction from which he'd come.

Then the reporter and the coed's sister feel themselves falling through space. When they come to, they are in what seems a laboratory. It has lights that flash on and off, and a large metal chair. An old man is there. He introduces himself as Professor Von Hauser. He explains that he used to be one of Hitler's top scientists. The wonder weapons he'd invented when working for Hitler, would have ensured Hitler's victory if only he'd been given more time to perfect them.

But the Americans arrived too early, and the Professor had to escape. Now, here in his Texas laboratory, he's in the end stages of perfecting a time machine that will go into the past, and send Hitler and all his Nazis from before 1945, into the present time. Under the Nazi regime as it was before 1945, Professor Von Hauser will now have the time to put the finishing touches to the wonder weapons which will win the war for Hitler.

When the reporter asks how someone could be sent from the past into the present, Professor Von Hauser says in part, "If ze shpeed of time ist increased from vot it now ist, it vill go beck to ze past. Mein machine increases ze shpeed of time, so zat I vill send it beck to 1945, and it vill send Hitler forvard to today."

That's, admittedly, a rather imperfect transcription of just some of what Professor Von Hauser said. But it should cause you who are reading this, to at least think, and is why you should watch "The Yesterday Machine." Hence I won't reveal how everything turned out.

Watching "The Yesterday Machine" will also enable you to see how men and women were in 1963, the year "The Yesterday Machine" was released. The reporter and the coed's sister are quite typical. For instance, when they go to the scene of the shooting, and have to walk though the hot scrubby terrain to look for clues, he has on a suit-and-tie, and she has on a hip-hugging knee-length skirt and is wearing high-heeled shoes. The better to protect her, he holds her hand as he walks with her though the scrub. He gives the orders, and she obeys. That's how it was then.

If today, while hiking along a country trail, you saw coming towards you a man in a suit-and-tie holding the hand of a woman wearing a hip-hugging knee-length skirt and high-heeled shoes, would you not be as startled as was the 18th or 19th yokel in the film, when he saw such an apparition on the dirt road he was riding his horse along?

If you wish to watch "The Yesterday Machine" (and you should), *click here*.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Plan 9 From Outer Space

Despite film critics saying "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is the worse film ever made, I watched it last night on YouTube, and am glad I did, for I found it entertaining and thought-provoking.

The brainchild of Ed Wood, "Plan 9 From Outer Space" tells of a visit to earth by extra-terrestrial aliens in flying saucers. They are concerned that earthlings, unless they change their ways, could soon blow up the sun, and therefore destroy the solar system. The aliens whose home planet is in the solar system, and who therefore have a vested interest in the solar system not being destroyed, want to persuade earthlings to change their ways.

Easier said than done, because most earthlings - or at least those in 1959 when "Plan 9 From Outer Space" came out - didn't believe in extra-terrestrial aliens. So earthlings weren't disposed to listen to any extra-terrestrial aliens they might come across, who told them to mend their ways, else they'll cause the solar system to be destroyed.

The alien high-command decides to get the attention of earthlings by implementing a plan they call "Plan 9", under which dead bodies in graves will be brought back to life. Having technology far in advance of that of earthlings, the aliens can direct rays of energy at grave sites of the newly dead, which activates a gland or somesuch in the dead body, that causes it to break out of its coffin, then burrow out of the grave, and to trudge to a public square and congregate with all the thousands of other alive-again dead bodies that have been activated under "Plan 9".

Earthlings happening upon such a gathering would not help but think something most strange was happening, and call the police. The aliens would then, at the propitious moment, introduce themselves. Earthlings, in their panic, would be disposed to listen seriously to what the aliens have to say about how earthlings threaten the solar system unless they mend their ways.

This is the bare outline of "Plan 9 From Outer Space".

While we earthlings, today, can't bring dead bodies back to life, who's to say we'll never be able to. Our scientific knowledge, after all, is currently doubling every two years. Remember, the aliens in "Plan 9 From Outer Space", bring back to life not the long-dead, but only the just-dead, whose bodies therefore haven't begun to decompose. Hence bringing dead bodies back to life isn't as far-fetched as one thinks.

What is the mechanism by which earthlings could blow up the sun? "Plan 9 From Outer Space" postulates a device called a "solartron" (I think), that when directed at particles of sunlight can cause them to explode. Since sunlight comes out of the sun, and is everywhere in the solar system, particles of sunlight that are exploded could start a chain reaction that would reach the sun and blow it up, in the way the flame from a lighted fuse travels along a wire to blow up a stick of dynamite. Blowing up the sun this way isn't therefore completely off-the-wall.

The aliens fear the huge disparity between the earthling's quite primitive emotions, and his much more developed technological abilities that have produced the likes of the hydrogen bomb that can destroy all of life on earth. Therefore an adult earthling with a hydrogen bomb is like a three year-old earthling with a hand grenade. Can we wonder, then, that the aliens in "Plan 9 From Outer Space" are so fearful about earthlings getting a "solartron"?

These are some of the things "Plan 9 From Outer Space" makes one think about.

Film critics have laughed at its amateurish special-effects. Well, yes, they are somewhat amateurish, but this adds to the film's charm.

So I recommend "Plan 9 From Outer Space". You can watch it by *clicking here*. At the very least it's not half-bad, which is more than one can say for any film with Adam Sandler in it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Wasp Woman

"The Wasp Woman", that I watched last night on YouTube, is a 1959 film produced and directed by the famed Roger Corman, and has many features of interest for those outside the normal run of horror-film watchers.

I won't talk of "The Wasp Woman"s plot, except to say that it's about a scheme by a cosmetics corporation to enable its middle-aged and elderly women customers to look like the beautiful and desirable twenty-somethings they once were, through having them injected with enzymes from wasps.

My saying more would only vitiate the excitement and the raw and visceral horror I know you'll experience if you watch "The Wasp Woman".

"The Wasp Woman" will be of additional interest if you are a social historian. This is because the main character, Janice Starlin, is a forty-something single woman who is the boss of her own cosmetics corporation, whose yearly sales run into the many tens of millions of dollars. It's a large corporation.

That it's a large corporation isn't at first sight noteworthy. But, that it's a large corporation run by a woman certainly is, particularly if you remember that this was 1959, when corporations were owned and run almost exclusively by men. And the men below them had all the important jobs. Women of course also worked in large corporations then, but they were in the typing pool.

In 1959 if you were a forty-something woman, and single, it was because you hadn't been able to attract a man sufficiently for him to ask you or your father, for your hand in marriage. This was usually because you weren't beautiful enough. Or if you weren't beautiful enough, you didn't have the pleasing personality to more than made up for you not being beautiful enough.

However, the thing about Janice Starlin is that, despite being forty-something and single, she's still somewhat beautiful, and certainly would have been beautiful enough by far when young, to sufficiently have attracted a man, or indeed many men, to ask her or her father for her hand in marriage.

Why, then, was she still single? Was it because, being a corporate boss, she had a personality so forceful, that it frightened off men from asking her or her father, for her hand in marriage? You must remember that young women in 1959 were expected act coy and demure. If they didn't, well, this was enough to consign them to permanent spinsterhood, even if they were beautiful.

Also of interest for the social historian, is how the staff of Janice Starlin's corporation acted when at work. Everyone smoked in the office, or at least all the men did. This was how it actually was in all corporate offices in those days.

Some of the men in Janice Starlin's corporation acted towards, and said things to the women in the typing pool, that today would cause them to be called on the carpet. For men to act this way was simply the done thing in corporate life then.

Anything else? Oh yes, Janice Starlin wears blacked-rimmed glasses of a shape and style that is today current. Odd, that.

I hope all this has sufficiently whetted your interest in "The Wasp Woman" for you to *click here* and enjoy it as much as did I.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The White Man's Burden

As I write this, the airwaves and newspapers are filled with feverish talk of yet another coming attack by a certain Great Power upon yet another small land over the seas in an area ruled not so long ago by another Great Power.

This is best understood if one thinks of Kipling's famous poem - as good an example as any of poetry succinctly capturing a truth in a way that reams of bombastic journalistic prose and floods of excited television chatter, can't.
Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man's burden--
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man's burden--
Have done with childish days--
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Doubt

After I'd talked in yesterday's posting of having doubt about History, I thought of what John Patrick Shanley wrote when introducing his play, "Doubt". Some excerpts:
.......We are living in a culture of extreme advocacy, of confrontation, of judgement, and of verdict. Discussion has given way to debate. Communication has become a contest of wills. Public talking has become obnoxious and insincere. Why? Maybe it's because deep down under the chatter we have come to a place where we know that we don't know anything. But nobody's willing to say that......

.......Let me ask you. Have you ever defended a way of life you were on the verge of exhausting? Have you ever given service to a creed you no longer utterly believed? Have you ever told a girl you love her and felt the faint nausea of eroding conviction......?

.......What is doubt? Each of us is like a planet. There's the crust, which seems eternal. We are confident about who we are. If you ask, we can readily describe our current state. I know my answers to so many questions, as do you. What was your father like? Do you believe in God? Who's your best friend? What do you want........?

".........Your answers are your current topography, seemingly permanent, but deceptively so. Because under the face of easy response, there is another You. And this wordless Being moves just as the instant moves; it presses upward without explanation, fluid and wordless, until the resisting consciousness has no choice but to give way.........

..........It is Doubt....... that changes things. When a man feels unsteady, when he falters, when hard-won knowledge evaporates before his eyes, he's on the verge of growth. The subtle or violent reconciliation of the outer person and the inner core often seems at first like a mistake, like you've gone the wrong way and you're lost. But this is just emotion longing for the familiar. Life happens when the tectonic power of your speechless soul breaks through the dead habits of the mind. Doubt is nothing less than an opportunity to reenter the Present.......

.........I still long for a shared certainty, an assumption of safety, the reassurance of believing that others know better than me what's for the best. But I have been led by the bitter necessities of an interesting life to value that age-old practice of the wise: Doubt........

........There is an uneasy time when belief has begun to slip but hypocrisy has yet to take hold, when consciousness is disturbed but not yet altered. It is the most dangerous, important, and ongoing experience of life. The beginning of change is the moment of Doubt. It is that crucial moment when I renew my humanity or become a lie..........

.........Doubt requires more courage than conviction does, and more energy; because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite - it is a passionate exercise......... We've got to live with the full measure of uncertainty. There is no last word. That's the silence under the chatter of our time..........

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Professor and Me

Today's entry comes out of a comment left by a reader, a Professor Smith, who wanted to know what I'd meant when I wrote in another comment, "..... the further back the History, the larger the pinches of salt that should be taken with it......".

Professor Smith wanted to know what exactly I meant. Did my statement imply that the further one goes back in History, the less one can believe it?

I replied:
That's exactly what this statement implies. My doubts about the veracity of the ancient History most of us were taught in school began when I learned that the origins of the English language and of the Romance languages may not be what we were all told.

I invite you, Professor Smith, to read what I recently wrote about this, *here*, and *here*.

I don't expect you, after having read these modest and non-scholarly blogging entries, to now believe that the English were already speaking English when the Anglo-Saxons arrived, and to now believe that the ancestors of those who today live in the Romance-language areas of Europe were already speaking these languages when the Romans invaded.

However, on the assumption that you believe what everyone else believes, I hope there is now at least a smidgeon of doubt in your professorial mind about English having come out of Anglo-Saxon, and the Romance languages having come out of Latin.

I invite you also, Professor Smith, to read what Professor Stephen Oppenheimer wrote about the *origins of the British*.

Oppenheimer postulates that the British are not, as is commonly supposed, descended mainly from the Anglo Saxons, but, rather, from the Basques.

And he postulates that the English were already speaking a Germanic-type language - the forerunner of today's English - when the Romans arrived.

I also learned of the *Paleolithic Continuity Theory*, which postulates that ".....The prehistoric distribution of proto-languages akin to Italic was an important factor underlying the current distribution of Romance languages throughout Europe......".

What this means is that long before the Romans, the forebears of today's Romance-language speakers were already speaking Latin-like languages.

It's not important in itself that we may have got everything wrong about the origins of the English and Romance languages. But if we are wrong about them, we may also be wrong about much other History we take for granted.
For all I know, what we were all told at school about the origins of English and of the Romance languages, that they came out of Anglo-Saxon and Latin respectively, may be true after all. But, enough plausible objections have been raised against these two self-evident truths, to cause the man on the street to at least raise his eyebrows.

I, for one, have doubt about these two self-evident truths which I accepted unquestioningly until quite recently. I also have doubt about the truthfulness of History generally, particularly ancient History.

I'll talk more about this at another time.........

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

Among the many things I've been meditating upon while reading a recently published book about Hannibal has been the legendary Gunfight at the OK Corral. It seems odd even to think about The Gunfight at the OK Corral, let alone to meditate upon it, while reading about what Hannibal and other luminaries from history can each us about our lives.

On a sultry soporific sun-drenched early afternoon in Tombstone Arizona in 1881 a gunfight took place among seven men that lasted thirty seconds. At the end of those few seconds three men lay dead, another three lay wounded, and the remaining one was unharmed. Despite the brevity and innocuousness of the event, it has become a legend. There is arguably no-one living today in the entire world who hasn't at least heard of the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

However it wasn't until 1931 - fifty years after the gunfight - that the public began to know of it. Someone had written a biography about one of the dramatis personae in the gunfight, Wyatt Earp. This biography was later determined to be largely fiction, but it was the spark that began the Gunfight at the OK Corral legend that has never stopped growing. Many films - dramatic, fictional and documentary - have been made about it; many books - both novels and non-fiction - have been written about it; songs have been composed and sung about it.

Given this, and that the events leading up to the gunfight, and the details of it itself, are thought uncertain, is it any wonder that accounts of it, and interpretations of it, have differed wildly for reasons emotional, ideological, artistic and commercial? It has turned into myth you might say. Its dramatis personae have turned into myths too.

Come to think of it, is it really so odd that I thought of The Gunfight at the OK Corral while reading about Hannibal..............?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dabbling

Today's posting continues where I left off last time (the posting of February 11th). The last posting concerned Ludwig Erhard, as written about in the recently published book, "*Hannibal and Me*".

Despite having been a mediocre student in high school, and despite having struggled particularly in the left-brain subjects of accounting and mathematics, Erhard, after his traumatic experiences as a soldier in The Great War, managed in the post-war years to get a PhD in Economics - ostensibly a left-brain discipline.

However, Economics has a branch called macro-economics, that looks at the forest rather than the trees. Perhaps, then, Erhard, who may have struggled with left-brain micro-economics as much as he had struggled with left-brain accounting and mathematics, was so outstanding in the more right-brain macro-economic subjects, that it more than made up for any failings in the left-brain micro-economics subjects.

Assuming that Erhard was more comfortable with macro-economics than with micro-economics, it says much for his pertinacity that he could write articles as dessicated as, "The Finished-Goods Market" and "Economic Policy Newsletter of the German Finished-Goods Industry".

Erhard had little choice but to write them because, being an avowed opponent of the Nazi Party in the Hitler years, he was barred from official academia, and so could only eke out a living writing soporific left-brained micro-economic tracts for interested persons under the table.

Given that Erhard had struggled with mathematics and accounting when in high-school - subjects so important in the study of economics - why did he choose economics as his profession in the first place? Did it offer him the best way to make a reasonable living because economists were more in demand than, say, historians?

For what it's worth, I, too, always struggled with left-brain subjects like mathematics and accounting. This is because, arguably, I have the most atrophied left-brain than anyone in the history of mankind. Yet, after several years of lucubrations, I managed to get, of all things, a professional designation to do with numbers because I had reasoned there was a demand for it. It led to a reasonably pleasant job with reasonable security. I needed this for reasons too complicated to go into here.

I might otherwise have tried to make History my profession, for it was History that interested me most when in school. However, my not trying to make History my profession turned out a blessing because, later on, History interested me less and less. I felt it too confining for my eclectic tastes. I turned, in my spare time, more and more to Psychology because, being an emotional basket-case, I wanted to understand why I was one. I was also dabbling in the various other non-left-brained subjects.

I've digressed from "Hannibal and Me". I'll return to it next time..........

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gods and Monsters

This posting continues the last one (of February 8th) which was about the book, *"Hannibal and Me"*.

Harry Truman was an example of a man who became great, not because he sought greatness, but because he had greatness thrust upon him. It was principally because he was in the right place at the right time that he became President.

The young Truman had been what the author of "Hannibal and Me" calls a "wanderer" - someone who didn't have a consuming goal in his life. Truman wouldn't even have imagined he might become President some day. But, President he became.

"Hannibal and Me" uses Ludwig Erhard as another example of a "wanderer". There was little that was out-of-the-ordinary about Erhard as he grew up, for his school grades were mediocre. He did, however, love classical music and dreamed of becoming an orchestral conductor. From today's perspective this did make him appear at least a little out-of-the-ordinary, for how many boys today love classical music and dream of becoming an orchestral conductor? Not many, I suspect.

However, in the Germany of the time in which Erhard grew up, it may have been as normal for a boy to love classical music and to dream of becoming an orchestral conductor, as it is for a boy today in America to love rock music and to dream of becoming the lead guitarist in a world-shaking rock group.

Despite a deformed foot - the legacy from polio - Erhard was, when nineteen, inducted into the army during The Great War as a gunner. During this time he caught typhus and was given up for dead. He eventually recovered sufficiently to return to duty. He again almost died, this time from severe wounds from an exploding artillery shell. Miraculously he pulled through, but at the expense of an atrophied left arm that he could hardly again ever use.

Erhard's being permanently maimed from war wounds, in addition to life in the trenches - the horrors of which have been vividly written about in books such as "All Quiet On The Western Front" and "Goodbye To all That", plus many, many other graphic accounts - it's remarkable from today's perspective that Erhard would appear never to have complained about, nor to have dwelt upon his war wounds.

No doubt this was because he would have found it too emotionally painful. Also, those of his generation didn't generally when with others, emote as do those today about their vicissitudes. However, we now know that traumas - and life in the trenches was, if nothing else, traumatic - that are not acknowledged, will usually become the proverbial eight-hundred pound gorilla in a room.

While severely wounded survivors of the trenches, like Erhard, may have tried to ignore their traumas, they (the traumas) would, as a consequence, have surfaced in the form of violent nightly dreams for the rest of the survivors' lives. This was a theme in the excellent film, "Gods and Monsters", of a few years ago.

I'll continue this next time.........

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Do You Need a Goal?

This posting's title is that of the third chapter of *"Hannibal and Me"*, which I'm currently reading, and which I'd mentioned in my posting of *February 2nd*. It (the third chapter of "Hannibal and Me") could also have been titled "Do You Know What You Want To Do In Your Life?", but it would have been too long.

This third chapter dwells on Hannibal Barca (of course), Meriwether Lewis, Harry Truman and Ludwig Erhard. The first two (Hannibal Barca and Meriwether Lewis) knew, when young, what they wanted to become in life. The latter two (Harry Truman and Ludwig Erhard) didn't.

Hannibal and Lewis were "heroes on a quest", and proactive. They achieved greatness. Truman and Erhard were "wanderers", and reactive. They had greatness thrust upon them. Being myself a "wanderer" and reactive (albeit sans even a soupcon of greatness being thrust upon me), I find Hannibal and Lewis less appealing than Truman and Erhard, who are therefore the ones this posting will talk about.

Having little more than a high school education - and not much of a one at that - but being a lifelong reader of books on a wide variety of subjects above my station, I was gratified to learn that Harry Truman also had little more than a high school education - although almost certainly a much better high school education than mine - and was also a lifelong reader of books on a wide variety of subjects above his station. He was also an accomplished piano player of classical music.

Truman must therefore have felt himself out of place among the men he would have hobnobbed with in the jobs he had as a timekeeper on the Santa Fe Railroad, as a clerk in various places, as a mailroom worker in a newspaper, and as a worker on his father's farm.

Perhaps inwardly he felt destined for greater things, and so decided to acquire an educated mind which would be his weapon in combatting adversaries in a hostile world. No doubt his educated mind gave him the breadth of vision that enabled him, as President, to re-shape the world in the immediate post-war years.

Since I'm an autodidact as Truman was, he is an historical figure I can identify with. While I, too, didn't know what I wanted to become in life, I knew what I didn't want to become, which was the sort of man I frequently came across when growing up, and came across in the places I worked after leaving school.

This was the man, an Organisation Man, who talked only shoptalk about his boring job, and told boring anecdotes he'd been told by others, and bored everyone with his unfunny many-times-recyled jokes. His mind was a mere roomful of old echoes. When young, I looked at this sort of man and said to myself that unless I educated myself, I would become him.

Although I probably did become him, it wasn't for lack of trying not to.

That's enough for today. I see I didn't get to Ludwig Erhard. I'll dwell on him in another posting............

Sunday, February 05, 2012

How Do Pigeons Find Their Way Home?

Scientists' responses to this question were, according to *this piece* in today's Guardian UK, among the things that started Rupert Sheldrake's apostasy from his brother scientists.

The truth is, these scientists didn't actually know how pigeons find their way home, but couldn't admit it, and so tried to jam their answers into the dogmatic boxes they'd made for themselves. Hence they were the very opposite of scientific, and acted like theologians or priests.

Science postulates that there's an area in the brain that's religious. Hence religion is innate to us, and it doesn't matter what the religion's about, whether God, politics, philosophy, economics, or anything else. We have the innate propensity to believe, and what we believe becomes so much who we think we are that we're prepared to die for it, and some of us actually do.

This also means we have to get rid of those whose beliefs threaten our own. We usually do this by killing them, or banishing them from polite society by ensuring they can't get work again, or simply by laughing at them.

Whenever a group of the like-minded congregate around an idea, the idea soon becomes dogma, and the group quickly assumes all the characteristics of a church.

We're all Believers.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

What If One Writes And No-One Reads?

While I like it should someone read what I write, I would, should no-one read what I write, continue writing.

As it is, my “Since Time Began” blog has two or three regular readers at most, and this “From the Horse’s Mouth” blog has no regular readers. However, I continue with them because I write principally for myself, and only secondarily for others.

If I really want to have others read what I write, I can always leave comments on widely-read blogs, and I do. Even if the blog I leave a comment on has no readers, I can be reasonably sure that at least the blog-owner will read my comment. One reader is better than none.

If I leave long comments that I think say something worthwhile, I paste them also onto this blog as separate postings. For instance this posting, the one you're reading now, is well-nigh word-for-word what I wrote as a comment on another blog as part of a discussion.

Before the internet came along, most writing was never read. Consider that only a small percentage of novels submitted to publishers are ever published. Therefore nearly all the novels that have ever been written, have been destroyed unread, or moulder in dusty desk drawers or in attics and basements, never to be read. This happens even with most novels written today.

What with the internet, there has never been a better time for a writer than today. Writers from the pre-internet past, wherever they are now, must be looking down at us disappointed that their brief lives in this earthly realm were so long ago.

Friday, February 03, 2012

It's A Lovely Day Today

Today's posting is a continuation of sorts of the one dated January 31 2012, and called "Inchworm". You will recall that it was about Paul McCartney's new album, "Kisses on the Bottom", in which he sings some of the pre-rock "standards" - the sorts of songs his mum and dad would have listened to when they were young.

If the young Paul was like the other boys and girls of his generation, he would, when a young child, have thought the sorts of songs he sings in "Kisses on the Bottom" to be sort of alright. But when he became a teen, and rock 'n roll was coming in, he would have laughed at these old songs.

Why?

It was because mums and dads of the teens of Paul's generation had this tendency to pontificate that rock 'n roll was rubbish, and that the only good music was the music that they, the mums and dads, liked to listen to, like the songs of Perry Como and Frank Sinatra and whatnot. This set up a resistance in the hearts of teens, which caused them to laugh at the songs of Perry Como and Frank Sinatra and whatnot.

The mums and dads of that time feared the new rock 'n roll because it signified rebellion against the soporific bourgeois conformism of the 'fifties. They feared the pronounced rhythmic beat of the new music would shake loose the cultural constraints that kept the base instincts of the id in check.

Being myself of Paul McCartney's generation, I can confirm that I and the other teens of my age group reflexively rejected all the pre-rock popular songs as hokey. They seemed insipid compared to the new and exciting songs of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley, and so different. For instance what songs could have been more different than Perry Como's 1952 hit, "It's a lovely Day Today" and Elvis's 1958 hit, "I Got Stung"?

The teens of today's generation don't seem as dismissive of the music of their mums and dads as the teens of my generation were of the music of our mums and dads. Is it because the music of the mums and dads of today's teens was rock 'n roll inspired, and so was generically similar to the pop music of today?

And are today's mums and dads more accepting of the current pop music, than were the mums and dads of my youth? If so, their teen children will respect their musical judgement, and so will listen to the Beatles and Stones far more appreciatively than the teens of my generation listened to Perry Como and Frank Sinatra.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Trees and Forests

The writer of a I blog I regularly read, and whose first book, *"Hannibal and Me"*, has just been published, wrote a post about how happy he was that his book had been glowingly reviewed by one of the world's great authorities on Hannibal.

The author of "Hannibal and Me", who, although a journalist, isn't a professional historian, wrote in his blog posting that although he, as a non-historian, had likely got some details wrong in his book, the reviewer hadn't bothered with them, because, no doubt, he was able to appreciate the book's big concepts and the author's meditations upon them. He saw the forest, not the trees.

I'm reminded of reviews I read of a book I greatly admired, "The Female Brain", by Louann Brizendene, a neuropsychiatrist. She showed in her book how vastly different are the brains of men from those of women, because of hormones, neural pathways and their like. It was one of those books from which I emerged slightly different from when I began reading it.

Louann Brizendene, although an academic, didn't write her book in academese, but in English, and in a way ordinary people could understand. Because of this, and because the topic of male-female differences is controversial, not to say ideological, "The Female Brain" got mixed reviews. Some critics *liked it* ; others *didn't*.

I felt, though, that those who didn't like it obssessed on relatively unimportant issues, and used them as a stick to bash the whole book. They saw the trees, not the forest.

That said, I'm led to understand that an assertion in "The Female Brain" that females use three times more words in a day than males, was based on apparently faulty research, and so was excluded in the second and subsequent editions of the book. All the other research appears to have held up.

While Louann Brizendene in "The Female Brain" may not have got everything right, she likely got most things right. That's what's important. That's why you should read "The Female Brain".

As for "Hannibal and Me", although I've yet to read it, I do expect to like it, despite that its reviews have so far all been positive.