Saturday, July 07, 2007


‘From far across the ocean you can hear the sound of thunder.
I listen closely but I hear no evil.
Just the sound of cities crashing as they fall into the ocean…’

- 'Hear No Evil', Hunters and Collectors

Happy 37th birthday to Sandor! And happy 100th birthday, wherever you are, to Robert Heinlein!

I like the way Heinlein was game enough to build The Green Hills of Earth around a bit of Kiplingesque poetry.

We've tried each spinning space mote
And reckoned its true worth:
Take us back again to the homes of men
On the cool, green hills of Earth.

The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet ---

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

I have just made, as far as I know, the first ever translation of this verse into Australian, which goes like this:

Earth! Earth! Earth! Oi! Oi! Oi!

I tried making a Gysin/Burroughs-style cut-up of Friday once. And I have managed to successfully forget the twist at the end of The Puppet Masters at least twice. But I admit that overall my grasp of Heinlein’s oeuvre is not what it could be. As his books get longer and longer and the characters spend more and more time talking about what they are going to do instead of doing it (Number of the Beast, what is that book all about? It is like a faculty meeting that just goes on and on and on) I grow less and less likely to finish them.

And I am ashamed to say that I have never read Starship Troopers. I have seen the movie, which I understand is something like saying to a fan of the original Thirtysomething Mutant Ninja Turtles comics that I’ve eaten the TMNT breakfast cereal. I did like the movie. I think I have written somewhere on this blog that it is the first great movie of the 21st century. In the director’s commentary on my DVD the director- a Dutch guy who has not been decapitated- is quite adamant that he didn’t set out to glorify miltarism. I think he is being a bit disingenuous. It doesn’t matter what he set out to do. His movie offers a very sympathetic and attractive portrait of a militaristic society. Salman Rushdie says The Satanic Verses was never intended to blaspheme Islam. Eugene Terreblanche says the logo of the AWB wasn’t intended to be reminiscent of the Nazi flag. My 2003 NaNoWriMo novel wasn’t supposed to be pro-euthanasia. But once you create something, you are not just responsible for the reading you intended it to have, but for any other obvious readings it might have. What you intended is neither here nor there. Works of art are like wandering livstock.

Unfortunately, Mr Verhoeven does not seem to be one of us ‘Earth! Earth! Earth! Oi! Oi! Oi!’ types. He is that sad thing, a self-loathing human. On my DVD he argues, apparently sincerely, for moral equivalence between Mormons and the murderous insect hordes:

The screen shows ‘before’ pictures of a shiny Mormon settlement with a golden
angel on top, then ‘after’ shots with lots of dismembered corpses scattered

Federal Announcer: Mormon extremists disregarded Federal warnings
and established Fort Joe Smith, deep inside the Arachnid quarantine zone. Too
late they realised that Dantana had already been settled by other colonists-

Paul Verhoeven: The rest of the scene is very interesting …
What it says, of course, in this scene, was that the war was not started by the
bugs. Like that is a very interesting political situation because in politics in
general, especially in American politics, there is a tendency to take a part of
history but not acknowledge what happened before.

See, we humans started it by constructing settlements. Boo, hiss. Bad humans.
Silly Mr Verhoeven! The bugs don’t hate us for what we do, they hate us for what we are. A race without a hivemind is like a body without a head, a shambling zombie horror lurching about erratically. Humans are the antithesis to bugdom. Our very virtues are abominable vices to them. Our decadent individualism revulses them. Our pasty mucilaginous flesh, daubed pathetically over our flimsy endoskeletons, makes them want to vomit up gouts of insectoid phlegm. They get queasy just thinking about us. Eugh, so do I. Must… destroy… humans.

No! That way lies madness.

Earth! Earth! Earth! Oi! Oi! Oi!


Marco said...

HA Ha... For a while there, I thought the Australian Wheat Boars had a shawztchamcallit for their logo.

Go Earth!

Earth first, we'll colonise the other planets later. oi,oi,oi!

Marco said...

AWB logo

See! Nothing like a Ni flag - more like a piece of wheat.

Dave said...

Nah, the most amusing reading of Starship Troopers is (I think) Grant Morrison's in The Invisibles. The bugs are an entirely human-created crisis designed to maintain a state of war and justify the existence of the (sort of utopian) fascist military-industrial state.

Well, I laughed, anyway.

Dr. Clam said...

That would be funny, yes, if exactly the same sort of thing was not seriously believed by millions of Chomskyite fruit loops today.

Dave said...

Is conspiracy really so much harder to believe than stupidity?

Well, perhaps it is, but there is an odd sort of comfort to it as well, the sort that says "Neither I nor people I know are complicit in the wrongdoings of my country because They have taken over".

Sure, it's denial, and an abrogation of the responsibility to throw out the jerks in charge of screwing things up, but it's a comfortable illusion.

Dave said...

Chomsky, by the way, I can take or leave - he's a bit on the absurd side (moreso than Michael Moore at times) though that doesn't mean he's always or even often wrong.

But this guy, Keith Olbermann, who obviously think he's the reincarnation of Edward R. Murrow, is *exactly* what I think an American commentator should be (for reasons above and beyond the fact that Bill O'Reilly hates him, which alone would be sufficient to endear him to me):

Dr. Clam said...

I couldn't watch it all- was overcome with nihilistic despair. Will try again tomorrow. The whole affair, from start to finish, seems indicative chiefly of the witless self-indulgent solipsism of the world within the Beltway.

I read something recently by Christopher Hitchens in which he talks about the false dichotomy between conspiracy and cock-up: most events, he maintains, can be explained in terms of conspiracies that are disasterous failures and end up achieving the opposite of what the conspirators intended. This seems a plausible model to me.

As for Chomsky, I take visceral Clamly umbrage at the idea that such an addlepated nitwit could ever be right about anything, ever. A pox on his loathsome spotty behind.

Hmm, having done my bit to dispel all those nasty stereotypes about the low-calibre of Blogging argument, I am now off to dinner. :)

Bethany J Fellows said...

I recall being hastily chaperoned by you youthful chaps to the premiere of the Ninja Turtle *Movie*. Sitting on the slanty floor amongst the darkened chanting (in awe; before i became wary of chanting).
Did you try the breakfast cereal? I recently ate a wheetbix (singular) with pandan flavoured soy milk and 100s&1000s in a hello kitty bowl. I imagine TMNT cereal was much like this, in an aesthetic sense anyway.
Tangentally, I am living with the guy who did the Hunters and Collectors set lighting all throughout the 80s. He speaks very loudly & has trouble pausing to listen in conversation.
But really I am just posting to advise that my publicity team passed on some stalky unsigned fanmail from the New England Area. Regards xx

Dr. Clam said...

Woot! Yes, I think the TMNT brekfast cereal was *exactly* as you described. I guess you must get a lot of stalky fanmail. Thanks for dropping by, O taco-hurling one!

Anonymous said...

"When a man writes a
book he fires a machine gun into a wood. The game he brings down often
astonishes him, and sometimes horrifies him." (H. L. Mencken)