Saturday, August 27, 2016

Summer is Nearly Over!

     I was in the store the other day and one mother was lamenting to another mother that this is the shortest summer she has ever experienced.  The other mother agreed and her daughter leaned over and said, "I've never seen a summer go faster!"

     When a child notices how quickly time flies, you know that it's blatant. 

     So, with summer nearly over, did you get to do everything you wanted to do?  Did you have a relaxing vacation in your favorite place?  Did you connect with friends or family?  Did you play?  Did you laugh?  Did you think deep thoughts?

     Did you read The Gemini Bond?  Well, it's never too late to pick up your very own copy and enjoy your last few sips of summer.

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Great Idea for a Constitutional Amendment

     Sometimes I like to revisit old friends.  This book is an old, old, old friend and I had completely forgotten the plot, so it was like revisiting a new friend.  It's Arthur C. Clarke's The Songs of Distant Earth.  It takes place far into the future, after the sun has gone supernova and has destroyed the solar system, causing humankind to scatter to distant stars via hibernation ships.  Quite an interesting story, and Clarke really shows his romantic side in this tale.

     What really caught my eye, considering we are enduring the once-every-four-years American torture cycle -- also known as an election -- was his description of the leadership requirements in one human colony.  First of all, there are no elections, but a random selection of all qualified adults.  The pool of qualified adults include those who have been adequately educated (and all citizens of this world are educated to the fullest of their capacity -- what a great idea!), who are between the ages of 30 and 70, are not incurably ill, are mentally fit, and have not committed a grave crime.  Oh -- and they are disqualified if they deliberately want to have the position of leadership.

     Sounds like a great system, doesn't it?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Another Terrrific Short Story Collection

     While on vacation, I savored a second short story collection by Ursula K. Le Guin, Four Ways to Forgiveness.   This is Le Guin in her mature style, where she envelopes you in the sights, smells, customs, and belief systems of a whole new world (or worlds).  These stories all touch on the theme of forgiveness in one way or another, but take the time to immerse you in the details of lives lived on other worlds.  These worlds, Werel and Yeowe, are in the midst of rebuilding their society after a slave rebellion and the subsequent chaos of the overthrow of old power groups.  It has many relevant parallels to our society today.

     What I think I really enjoy most about Le Guin is that, at heart, she is a romantic (she even admits it).  But these are not easy romances; the characters must grow, overcome, and prove themselves in ways they find unimaginable.  They are beautifully written, deeply satisfying stories.  Highly recommended.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Wonderful Short Story Collection, Part 2

     Last week I was praising the collection of early short stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wind's Twelve Quarters.  One story, "Vaster Than Empires and More Slow," follows a small group of misfits as they are sent on a one-way mission to explore another world.  One of the misfits is a man who was born an empath.  Sadly, his gift is so overwhelming that he reflects others' attitudes towards him back toward them, and the result is that he is universally hated.  Here's a quote from a character explaining how that works:
"Well, you see . . . the normal defensive-aggressive reaction between strangers meeting -- let's say you and Mr. Osden just for example -- is something you're scarcely aware of; habit, manners, inattention get you past it; you've learned to ignore it, to the point where you might even deny it exists.  However, Mr. Osden, being an empath, feels it.  Feels his feelings, and yours, and is hard put to say which is which.  Let's say that there's a normal element of hostility towards any stranger in your emotional reaction to him when you meet him, plus a spontaneous dislike of his looks, or clothes, or handshake -- it doesn't matter what.  He feels that dislike.  As his autistic defense has been unlearned, he resorts to an aggressive-defense mechanism, a response in kind to the aggression which you have unwittingly projected onto him." 
And later, in response to the question, "He can't tune us out?":
"It's like hearing . . . No eyelids on your ears.  No Off switch on empathy.  He hears our feelings whether he wants to or not."
Does that feel familiar to you, dear Empath?  Hopefully, however, you have learned to be a bit more sociable than this poor character.