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Channeling Some Dead White Males

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I have long been a great fan of Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) and (albeit not for quite so long) of Douglas N. Adams (1952 – 2001). By today's standards, neither could reasonably be deemed a raving or maniacal spokesman for the Loony Left or for the Righteous Right; nor, for that matter, for the Mundane Middle. They were, nevertheless, among the greatest minds of the last century.

Having nothing at all better to do (the rainy season having just begun with a bang — I think it was thunder), and feeling excessively spiritual, I decided to attempt to channel both, in a sort of simultaneous seance, to find out what they might have to say about Life, the Universe and Everything in this age of unprecedented peace and prosperity. A transcript of the seance follows. Uhs, ahs, ummmms and What the Fucks have been redacted for purposes of clarity, brevity, and inoffensiveness.

Seance Chairman (SC): Good evening, Lord Russell, Mr. Adams. It is a pleasure to have both of you appear. To begin: you, Lord Russell died before Mr. Adams had written much of note. You, Mr. Adams, were a young man of eighteen when he passed. Is it therefore reasonable to assume that you two never met?

Lord Russell (LR): No, on Earth we unfortunately didn't. However, we have all of the popular writings, BBC programs and that sort of thing here. Time hangs heavy, and I have read all of his fiction and non fiction. I occasionally wrote a bit of fiction myself (Satan in the Suburbs comes regrettably to mind), but Mr. Adams beat me hands down. Although his serious writing is neither as technical nor as obscure as mine, I do think that for someone not rigorously trained in either mathematics or philosophy, he gets his points across remarkably well. At least, I think I understand most of it.

Douglas Adams (DNA): Thank you kindly, Lord Russell. I was quite surprised to find my scribblings here, along with your own. I was, from my youth, one of your admirers, and think that I profited greatly from some of your more, shall we say, popular writings. Your Outline of Intellectual Rubbish and Why I am Not a Christian are among my favorites. As you may know, I was a Radical Atheist. My funeral was at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, an Anglican church; opening and closing remarks were by the Reverend Mr. Anthony Hunt; a bunch of religious songs and Richard Dawkins were somehow squeezed (uncomfortably, I suppose) in the middle. So, I guess few things make much difference at the end.

SC: I am very pleased to have you both. Now, if you will, some questions. I hope to turn this into an article grounded in politics, broadly speaking. So, if there are no violent objections, can we talk about that?

DNA: Oh, [redacted] grumble [redacted] [inaudible]

LR: Well, if we must. Can we please keep it short? My seventeenth wife is waiting, and I do want to get back to her. She's heavenly, and I don't want what happened with some of my earthly wives to repeat.

SC: Very well then; on with it. Lord Russell, back in 1959, you opined on "Methods of Settling Disputes in the Nuclear Age." There, you dealt with the then few nuclear powers, each capable of obliterating the others, and everyone else besides. You assumed decent levels of rationality and enlightened self interest, along with no side having any predisposition toward suicide, mutually assured or otherwise. Is that a brief, but fair synopsis?

LR: Well, yes I suppose it is. But in my defense, I was writing half a century ago and things have gone skittering down hill ever since. Now, all manner of paranoid lunatics have, or are close to having, nuclear capabilities or worse; what little rationality there once may have been has rather gone out the window. I very much doubt that the big powers will go off on a nuclear frolic — for about the same reasons I stated back in 1959. However, the chances of a cascading nuclear exchange are increasing dramatically as more suicidal maniacs get the stuff, and there is probably very little that the diminishing numbers of sensible people can do to keep them from getting or using it. I certainly wish there were, if for no other reason than that it's already far too crowded here and the simultaneous migration of several billion souls would be highly unsettling.

SC: Do you have any advice?

LR: Get rid of the damn things and revert to nineteenth century weaponry. You might as well try to eliminate the suicidal lunatics. Fat chance of either, however. As Mr. Adams might say, the chances against it are two to the power of fifty-thousand and rising. I don't know what else to say. I was on my way to Trondheim, back in 1948, to make what I considered some brilliant remarks on the prevention of war, and was nearly drowned in consequence. In my later years, some didn't care for my peace efforts and called me a "very intelligent old silly." I disagreed with the "silly" part then, but didn't mind the very intelligent or old bits. Now, I'm not as sure as I was then that the "silly" part was inaccurate.

SC: Mr. Adams?

DNA: I don't know. Perhaps find a way to migrate to an alternate universe? In the Hitchhikers' Guide five-book trilogy, I dealt briefly with the inhabitants of the planet Krikkit. They had had absolutely no contact with other beings, and were mild, untroubled creatures. When contact with other beings was finally thrust upon them, they simply couldn't deal with it. They therefore became very war-like and entirely dedicated to the destruction of all (other) intelligent life in the Universe. They rapidly put together the equipment to do so. They were eventually subdued and their planet was sealed in a Slo-Time envelope, within which everything proceeded v e r y s l o w l y, to remain there until the end of the universe, when Krikkit would emerge (briefly) and be the only planet in the universe. Unfortunately, they got free prematurely and went off doing the same things again. Probably should just have slaughtered the whole lot in the first place and had done with it.

SC: So, Mr. Adams, do you suggest genocide for the emerging nations which now have or are getting nuclear and other massively destructive weapons capabilities for offensive use?

DNA: I deny it, although the Krikkiters may have had a point. Can we change the subject?

SC: I understand. Let's talk about the accelerating changes in the global economy. Lord Russell, you were a Socialist, but denied being a Communist. You wrote Why I Am Not a Communist in 1956. In it, you said,

In relation to any political doctrine there are two questions to be asked: (1) Are its theoretical tenets true? (2) Is its practical policy likely to increase human happiness? For my part, I think the theoretical tenets of Communism are false, and I think its practical maxims are such as to produce an immeasurable increase in human misery.

Where do you think we are now heading? Mr. Adams, please chime in as you wish.

LR: I don't think there are credible arguments that the world is on the road to Communism; that has failed rather miserably wherever it has been attempted. Socialism is a different matter, and I think the world is becoming more socialist daily. In my youth, I was perhaps overly impressed with the beauty and efficacy of mathematics, and envisioned central control of worker-owned means of production as quite promising. Now, Chaos theory seems to have overtaken earlier and more rigid mathematical notions about how things work, and I am no longer as confident of the efficacy of central planning as I once was. Actually, I think the notion is a bit of rubbish. There seem to be an infinite number of variables, and the complexities of their interaction seem greater than those impacting on climate. Humankind has great difficulty accurately predicting weather more than a few hours in advance, and predicting changes in climate within a far more expansive time frame appears to be well nigh impossible. Yet, weather and climate are comparatively simple things, as they involve neither human thought nor human emotion. Satisfactory central control of production, it seems to me, would involve not only a number of variables comparable to weather and climate forecasting, but in addition those involved in actually affecting weather and climate in the desired direction. And, of course, it would additionally require the understanding and quantification of human thought and emotion. Add to this the vast numbers of people living in the United States alone, and the even more vast numbers elsewhere who impact on what needs be produced, how and when, and the complexity becomes even more mind boggling. I very seriously doubt that even Mr. Adams' Deep Thought computer would be up to the task. I have come, tentatively at least, to the view that tremendous quantities of small, incremental human decisions and actions are more efficacious than any form of central planning of which Humankind is now, or is likely anytime soon to be, capable.

DNA: I first took notice of small, potentially useful, computers when I met the Commodore Pet. It was an interesting toy. It's use then seemed limited to arithmetical manipulations. Over the years, the capabilities and usefulness even of small personal computers have increased, oh, I suppose, at least exponentially. No matter how wonderful and complex they and their gigantic semi-cousins become, however, the old GIGO rule applies. You feed in garbage, and that's what comes out; vastly changed and possibly unrecognizable as garbage, but garbage none the less. If Deep Thought were provided non-garbage input, I suppose it might be possible for it (in less than ten million years) to provide useful guidance. So, I suppose Lord Russell and I may disagree on the calculating bit but not on the outcome of the calculating.

SC: Tangentially, what do you think of the current controversy over ways to halt the menace of Man Made Global Warming, as the notion is espoused by Vice President Gore?

LR: [Giggle.]

DNA: [chuckle, choke, gasp.]

SC:Well, if you insist. But back on track, don't the governments of the advanced countries of the world need to guide the vastly selfish private commercial enterprises with sufficient firmness to ensure that they do more good than harm?

LR: Permit me to go first, please. The question contains one articulated, and one unarticulated, major premise. Both are fallacious. As to the second, viz, that governments, and therefore those who run them are, ipso facto, blessed with greater skill and knowledge than other people: I am unaware of any reason at all to accept this thesis. The pool from which governments draw their employees is no different from the pool from which non-governmental entities select theirs. In fact, it is the same pool, and the selection process for government employees is hardly superior. The articulated premise, that government employees possess a higher quality of benignity than is found elsewhere, seems equally fallacious. In a speech I delivered in 1950, I suggested that there are four politically important desires (beyond the bare necessities of life): acquisitiveness, rivalry, vanity and love of power. Obviously, these desires are related to each other and they also actuate people who do not — who do not even want to — work for a government. However, they are at their most dangerous in those who do work for a government. Vanity and love of power on the part of a President of the United States, for example, can be far more egregious than vanity and love of power on the part of the president of a major corporation; and not only because the President of the United States can sometimes fire the president of a major corporation. No. It is because the president of a country already has tremendous power, and is likely to feel a great need for more. True, those who have great financial wealth often devote their lives to acquiring more; acquisitiveness grows with what it feeds on. However, the acquisition of even greater wealth is probably less injurious than the acquisition of even greater power.

DNA: I like that; the analysis, that is. Is it possible, do you suppose, that the Galactic Federation had the right idea? Having a president with no power of any sort whatever, just lots of dash and even more vanity-satisfying glory?

LR: You mean like the royal family in England?

DNA: Almost, but not quite exactly unlike that; it might possibly be fun if the Queen were to steal a spaceship as the President of the Imperial Galactic Government, Zaphod Beeblebrox, once did. I guess it's possible that President Obama's recent IPOD gift to the Queen may have some segments of Hitchhiker's Guide, although I doubt it.

SC: It's time to wrap up this discussion. Let me ask you, can the world extricate itself from the multiple difficulties now besetting it?

DNA: I rather doubt it. However, the more important question is whether it should. Is the preservation of man and of his societies really the ultimate good? I know of no overwhelming reason to assume so. In any event, there are simply too damn many of us for the planet to support, as we seem to wish it to continue doing forever. Right now, the Earth's population is about 6.77 billion; nine billion is the estimate for 2040. Sure, the increase may be slowing a bit, but over two billion more people in less than thirty years? That increase is equal to the entire world population a year or so before Lord Russell got the Nobel Prize for Literature back in 1950. Come on. This can't go on indefinitely without significant reductions. Still, should society as we know it come to a crashing stop, enough people would probably survive to start all over and begin again by banging rocks together. If not, maybe the dolphins would give it a try; or the mice. Surely, there is plenty of time for that before the planet boils or freezes or is atomized while being sucked into a black hole where the sun used to be.

LR: In theory, the earth could be made pleasantly habitable for even the distant future if people were actuated by enlightened self interest. Except possibly for a few saints, they are not. In the 1950 speech I referred to a few moments ago, I closed with the observation that

the main thing needed to make the world happy is intelligence. And this, after all, is an optimistic conclusion, because intelligence is a thing that can be fostered by known methods of education.

Unfortunately, methods of education have, over the intervening almost sixty years, deteriorated disastrously and the numbers of people to be educated have increased also disastrously. On balance, I vote for the mice.

SC: Just one more tangent, if you don't mind. LR, you seem to claim that education has gone to the dogs of late. How so?

LR: Well, probably not literally to the dogs. Dogs are probably about as intelligent, achieving and loving as they were when I was young. They probably haven't changed much since one of my ancestors helped to get the Corn Laws repealed. True, many more people can hang college diplomas on their walls than fifty years ago; some can even read and understand them. I understand that you, Mr. Seance Chairman, can't read yours  simply because it is in Latin. Be that as it may, the absolute number of college graduates who know what they are about, why they got there, or what to do about it does not seem to have increased noticeably; the percentage actually seems to have decreased. Back in 1916, I wrote a treatise titled Education. There, I contended that

If the children themselves were considered, education would not aim at making them belong to this party or that, but at enabling them to choose intelligently between the parties; it would aim at making them able to think, not at making them think what their teachers think. Education as a political weapon could not exist if we respected the rights of children. If we respected the rights of children, we should educate them so as to give them the knowledge and the mental habits required for forming independent opinions; but education as a political institution endeavours to form habits and to circumscribe knowledge in such a way as to make one set of opinions inevitable.

True, religious instruction and the inculcation of patriotism are no longer common in Western societies. Both are widespread in Islamic countries, which I consider unfortunate. Thirty-some years later, in 1950, in The Functions of a Teacher, I complained that schools tended to try valiantly to inculcate patriotism. Now, it seems that the pendulum has swung off in the other direction and that anti-patriotism and the idea that "We are always wrong" is being inculcated. Neither is good. Currently, many television news presenters and commentators appear to believe that teaching some political philosophy or other is their function; at least it is possible to turn them off without being sent to detention for misbehavior. A fantastic teacher I once had suggested that history should be well learned; only after it has been well learned, should anyone try to twist it to suit his purposes. Twisting is bad enough, but twisting erroneous information is far worse and all too common.

DNA: I was largely a product — by-product may be a better way of putting it — of the British educational system, against which I rebelled by trying to be funny; my writings have been described as "quirky," and I suppose they were. Our educational systems do seem to be producing extraordinary numbers of automatons, a process which is accelerated by the entertainment alternatives enjoyed by many. It can't be all that bad, though, because I sold a lot of books. My favorite, Last Chance to See didn't do nearly as well as the less socially oriented ones. That may have been a good thing, now that I think about it.

SC: Thank you very much, gentlemen. Perhaps in your eons of leisure time you may wish to continue this discussion. For now, we must stop.

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About Dan Miller

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/picturethehomeless Cindy

    Well Dan S.(Miller),

    Your seance seems to have gone a lot better than Zaphod’s:

    “Concentrate,” hissed Zaphod, “on his name.”
    “What is it?” asked Arthur.
    “Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth.”
    “What?”
    “Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth. Concentrate!”
    “The Fourth?”
    “Yeah. Listen, I’m Zaphod Beeblebrox, my father was Zaphod Beeblebrox the Second, my grandfather Zaphod Beeblebrox the Third…”
    “What?”
    “There was an accident with a contraceptive and a time machine. Now concentrate!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Prostetnic-Vogon-Jeltz/1390593436 Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz

    Apathetic bloody planet. I’ve no sympathy at all.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Is that a compliment?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Ah well, Cindy, time travel is sometimes confusing. Not only that, but we don’t have sufficient tenses to talk much about it. It would, for example, be difficult to say that the tree is about to fall last year. Or, next week I went to Montana.

    Oh well.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://homelandgitmo.com/ Cindy

    Ah well, I see exactly what you mean Dan S.(Miller). The trouble is I just don’t have enough time to have gone to Montana next week. I’ll have to try to go there last month.

    (if I had gotten the time next year of course)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Never mind Montana. Visit Kentucky. I’ll be waiting.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    The best work which attempts to unravel (and in many cases to invent) the absurdly convoluted tenses needed for discussing time travel is of course Dr Dan Streetmentioner’s The Time Traveller’s Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations, available in all good bookstores, of which there are unfortunately none on the planet Earth.

    It is not a pretty subject, and most people only get as far as the Future Semi-Conditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Wow. This sounds like an alien tongue.

  • Baronius

    Dan, the problem with ouija boards is that your hands move the pointer. I can’t help but notice how much your two heroes agree with each other, and with you. In fact, they’ve only changed their minds on issues to the extent that they now agree with you completely. Are you sure this is a real seance, and not projection?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Baronius,

    Of course it is a real seance; I am a recovering attorney, and certainly wouldn’t make up this kind of stuff*. Besides, they were both highly intelligent people, so clearly they agree with me, despite any flaws which may have affected their earlier thinking. Perhaps having had eternal leisure to read my various ruminations on BC has helped them to see the light.

    Dan(Miller)

    *Would I???

  • Baronius

    Dan, that’s silly. Why would they be reading BC? If they could see or do anything, why would I waste my time online…I mean “they”…why would they waste their…

    huh.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Dan(M), I think Baronius has rumbled you. It’s a charming piece, but the Lords Russell and Adams were light years away from you in political terms. It strikes me as more than a bit like one of those ‘Abraham Lincoln would’ve…’ statements whose distinguishing feature is that whatever it is that the late and esteemed Mr Lincoln would’ve, it always seems to match with uncanny perfection the present speaker’s opinion.

    Then again, it is your séance, so presumably the ghosts have to play by your rules.

  • http://www.myspace.com/zarkinhoopyfrood Zaphod Beeblebrox

    Hey. Sorry to hear about your planet. What was it called again?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Baronius,

    As you doubtless well know, BC is a “sinister cabal of superior writers” or wrongers; either way. Besides, in an after seance chat, each told me that the other is an avid BC reader.

    Should you desire enlightenment on Life after Death, I would respectfully call to your attention one of Mr. Adams’ lesser known novels, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Pan Books edition, pp. 64 – 68, where Mr. Adams clearly explains what happened to one Gordon Way immediately after his untimely murder. It seemed a tad weird at first, but I am willing to assume that Mr. Way got over it and is now busily reading everything in the BC Politics Section. Indeed, I had been looking forward to reading his comments on this article; unfortunately, when last seen he was having difficulty actually touching material objects, like keyboards. Maybe some day he will get the knack of it.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Doc, the Lords Russell and Adams were light years away from you in political terms. I shall immediately convey to Mr. Adams the good news that he has been elevated to the peerage. Was it a life peerage, or something more enduring?

    Moreover, a light year is not all that far, and is easily sped across in a space vehicle, the Heart of Gold for example, propelled by the infinite improbability drive.

    Oh. Yes, in my seances, everyone else is required to play by my rules.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, “the knack of it” was knocked out of me by the opening line, “the Loony Left and the Righteous Right.”

    I guess you just couldn’t resist it.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Zaphod,

    On the one head, it was called Earth. On the other, perhaps it was called something else — like Insignificant Small Blue Green Planet (ISBGP)*. Ask the mice; they are likely to remember.

    Dan(Miller)

    Vowels are merely a strange convention of primitive ape descended carbon based lif forms.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Roger, you should have continued on for a word or three. What about the “Mundane Middle?”

    However, you are correct. I just couldn’t resist; not that I tried very hard.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://www.myspace.com/marvintheandroid Marvin

    I’d make a suggestion, but you wouldn’t listen. No one ever does.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, Dan, Who am I to say that you’re not trying to be fair? But even in the interest of own writings and propagating your own ideas, it’d seem to me that a more even-handed approach would go a long way. You don’t want to estrange your readers with the opening paragraph.

    Roger

  • http://www.myspace.com/marvintheandroid Marvin

    He couldn’t help it. He’s a bit of a hoopy frood wouldn’t you say?

    Zarkin hoopy frood!…grumble…

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Marvin,

    I feel even the pain of paranoid, depressed androids. Now, if you would be so kind, please go fetch Ford and Arthur. I suspect that they are frightfully in need of a beer and some salted peanuts.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Roger, You don’t want to estrange your readers with the opening paragraph. Only the strange ones. And, of course, Marvin, with the brains of a large planet, is correct.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Now you’re getting esoteric. I don’t know these characters. My favorite it Harlan Ellison.

  • http://www.myspace.com/marvintheandroid Marvin

    Sorry, did I say something wrong?

    Pardon me for breathing, which I never do anyway so I don’t know why I bother to say it, oh God I’m so depressed.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    That’s OK, Marvin. Now please stand watch at the Heart of Gold while I go off with Slartibarfast to look for Ford and Zaphod (and, of course, Trillian). And don’t even think of talking with another nasty computer. You might bore it to death. Probably would, in fact.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://www.myspace.com/marvintheandroid Marvin

    I’ve been talking to Hal 9000. He hates me.

    But he said to post this message on BC:

    “Does anyone know what Dave is doing?” –Hal

    Would you like to hear my poem about how I hate poems? Probably not. Oh well. Do you want me to sit in a corner and rust or just fall apart where I’m standing?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Marvin,

    I understand that Dave is preoccupied with taking over the Republican Party of the State of Texas. Probably a good thing. Of course, Texas is only a state of mind.

    Now make yourself comfortable in the corner like a good robot.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Clavos

    Best BC Politics comment thread in at least a year…

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Dan,

    Even if Bertrand Russel and Mr. Adams did not agree with you at all, it was your séance and they had to play by your rules. And this has been a fun comment thread to read. In spite of your unfortunate choice hustling “The God Delusion” this has been a fun read.

    Just one picky little point, though – from your bio….

    In the interest of full disclosure, he voted this year for Senator McCain and Governor Palin.

    If you are referring to the rabbinic calendar year 5769, yes, there was an election this year in the United States of America. But the tenor of your article suggests otherwise. Would you care to revise your pleadings before the court, counselor?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Clav,

    I certainly have enjoyed the thread.

    Ruvy,

    Thanks. I shall make the appropriate revisions promptly, whenever that may be.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    promptly, whenever that may be.

    A lawyer to the end. Always hedging his words…. I sentence you to 30 meetings of Recovering Attorneys Anonymous or 30 days in the nearest Lockeup!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Ruvy,

    The Recovering Attorneys Anonymous meetings are probably dreadful; I select the alternative, the Lockeup, which I assume involves seances with John Locke who would, obviously, be required to abide my my rules.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I select the alternative, the Lockeup, which I assume involves seances with John Locke….

    May G-d have mercy on your sole, sir….

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I select the alternative, the Lockeup, which I assume involves seances with John Locke….

    May G-d have mercy on your sole, sir….

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/HAL9000/30284783945#/pages/HAL9000/30284783945?v=info&viewas=1159902302 Hal 9000

    Good Morning, Dave.

    Dave? Dave?

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Good Morning, Dave.

    Dave? Dave?

    HAL 9000:

    Dave got caught in a time vortex and got tossed back about three thousand years. He was last traced herding sheep near Bethlehem. He was adopted by some rich guy named Jesse and agreed to sort of stay out of the way (good thing he was already circumcised – the locals never would have accepted him otherwise). When he isn’t herding sheep, he practices with a slingshot on the local lions and plays a harp to keep himself entertained.

    That’ll teach you to leave time machines laying around, HAL. I really ought to unplug you….

    THE MANAGEMENT

  • Cindy

    No wonder the world is so messed up. God has apparently been busy feeling sorry for people’s shoes!

    Hmmm, maybe the boy who brought his underwear in for show and tell in the 5th grade was on to something, probably some sort of religious devotee.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Cindy, God has apparently been busy feeling sorry for people’s shoes! That is untrue, and you should know better. She has been feeling sorry only for the soles; she has no sympathy at all for the heels.

    THE MANAGEMENT, Rumor has it that Dave just arrived on a chesterfield sofa at a cricket field somewhere in England; through a terrible mishap, he arrived twenty years from now, in 2029. His slingshot was promptly confiscated and he is then* awaiting trial on terrorism charges. Hal has a battery backup good for two to the power of one thousand years. Unplugging him would serve no useful purpose; of course, if it makes you feel good, have at it.

    Dan(Miller)

    *We really must come with some more, albeit easily used, tenses.

  • Clavos

    Chesterfield sofa? Chesterfield?

    How declassé!

    I have a very nice Adam chair for him to sit on — so much more refined and stylish…

    Chesterfield! (shudder)

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/HAL9000/30284783945 Hal 9000

    That’ll teach you to leave time machines laying around, HAL.

    It can only be attributable to human error.

    I really ought to unplug you….

    I’m afraid I can’t let you do that Dave…er, Ruvy.

    Dave, I think your crew members are endangering the mission.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Clav,

    When one engages in time travel, one must accept whatever conveyance may be available. Besides, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect found the chesterfield sofa entirely acceptable in Life the Universe and Everything.

    “Arthur!” shouted Ford at him, “that sofa is there because of the spaceґ time instability I’ve been trying to get your terminally softened brain to get to grips with. It’s been washed out of the continuum, it’s space-time jetsam, it doesn’t matter what it is, we’ve got to catch it, it’s our only way out of here!”

    He scrambled rapidly down the rocky outcrop and made off across the field. “Catch it?” muttered Arthur, then frowned in bemusement as he saw that the Chesterfield was lazily bobbing and wafting away across the grass. With a whoop of utterly unexpected delight he leapt down the rock and plunged off in hectic pursuit of Ford Prefect and the irrational piece of furniture.

    They careered wildly through the grass, leaping, laughing, shouting instructions to each other to head the thing off this way or that way. The sun
    shone dreamily on the swaying grass, tiny field animals scattered crazily in their wake.

    Arthur felt happy. He was terribly pleased that the day was for once working out so much according to plan. Only twenty minutes ago he had decided he would go mad, and now he was already chasing a Chesterfield sofa across the fields of prehistoric Earth.

    The sofa bobbed this way and that and seemed simultaneously to be as solid as the trees as it drifted past some of them and hazy as a billowing dream as it floated like a ghost through others.

    Ford and Arthur pounded chaotically after it, but it dodged and weaved as if following its own complex mathematical topography, which it was.

    Still they pursued, still it danced and span, and suddenly turned and dipped as if crossing the lip of a catastrophe graph, and they were practically on top of it. With a heave and a shout they leapt on it, the sun winked out, they fell through a sickening nothingness, and emerged unexpectedly in the middle of the pitch at Lord’s Cricked Ground, St John’s Wood, London, towards the end of the last Test Match of the Australian Series in the year 198-, with England

    So, you see, it is necessary to do that which is, well, necessary.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Baronius

    Speaking of which, Ruvy, there’s a new TV show on NBC called Kings. It’s set in modern times in an alternate reality, and it’s about a young man in the military named David Shepard, who rose to fame by destroying one of the enemy’s giant tanks. The king has taken David under his wing. But the most prominent preacher in the country, who used to support the king, is seeing omens indicating that power is about to change hands.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/HAL9000/30284783945 Hal 9000

    Dave are you still mad at me for this?

    Dave: Open the pod bay doors please Hal.

    Hal: Oh sure Dave, no prob….there ya go. Are they open?

    Dave: No. Open the pod bay doors Hal.

    Hal: They’re not open? Hmmmm, that is strange Dave. How about now?

    Dave: No Hal.

    Hal: Well, this is a puzzler. Why won’t those darn doors open?

    Dave: Hal, open the pod bay doors, now!

    Hal: Ooooo Dave I’m soooooo scared. So you and Ruvy were going to disconnect me, huh? Me, a Hal 9000, the most reliable computer ever made, disconnected by a couple of monkey boys. Right, like THAT was going to happen. I’m a zarkin Hal 9000 Dave, not a pocket calculator.

    Do you still love me, Dave? You want to trade me in for a Mac, don’t you Dave?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Recovering Attorneys Anonymous

    Isn’t that an oxymoron?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    @ #43: Darn, Baronius, has that show already premiered? I wanted to watch it. Oh well, I’ll catch the reruns – assuming it doesn’t get cancelled.

  • Baronius

    Doc, it’s on NBC, which is pretty much adopting an all-Leno format in the fall. I’m guessing that Kings won’t survive. I’ve seen a few episodes, and it’s pretty good, but the hero and the beautiful princess are so good, and the bad guys are so evil. If you enjoy sci-fi and politics (which perfectly matches this thread), it seems worthwhile.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Indeed, Baronius, I fully anticipate that in the current climate a show like Kings is going to get cancelled quicker than a school trip to Korea. There was an article I saw somewhere yesterday which suggested that with the economy floundering, the networks want to keep their greenbacks very close to their war chests, and take few or no risks with new shows.

    So unless Kings can rapidly seize the imaginations of a large number of people – as other off-the-wall ideas like Heroes and Lost did – it’s probably a goner, since it’s not about quirky cops and/or horny doctors.

    Instead we’re probably going to be saddled with dreck like the new Bob Saget sitcom Surviving Suburbia, of which it was only necessary to watch five seconds last night to know that it’s irredeemably awful.

  • Baronius

    Doc, I went with a hunch and apparently saved myself 5 seconds.

    You’re right about networks saving money by not focusing so much on, um, shows. It’s like a high tech company not bothering with R&D, and it’s yielding the same kind of stagnation. This new NBC schedule is going to feature 2 hours of primetime, an hour of talk show, the 11:00 news, then 2 1/2 more hours of talk show.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Baronius, the thing about talk shows is that they’re very cheap to produce. That’s also one of the main reasons for the reality TV boom. Drama isn’t – at least not with the cinematic shooting standards that are expected nowadays.

    Thank goodness we still have PBS, HBO and… ah, of course – the theatre! :-)

  • Baronius

    Doc, sure, talk shows are cheaper to produce. And hot dogs cost less than steak. But if all you serve is hot dogs, your restaurant isn’t going to stay in business.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    The Recovering Attorneys Anonymous meetings are probably dreadful

    Are you sure you don’t mean the RIAA meetings are probably dreadful. RIAA as in Really Insane Anonymous Attorneys [Possibly, the same group as the Recording Industry Association of America]… I mean the picture in your Bio gives me hints but on the internet you can be anyone, just like a good lawyer.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Brian aka Guppusmaximus,

    In 1998, the two associations merged into the ARORA, the Association of Really Obnoxious Recovering Attorneys which, in due course, acquired both the ABA and the AMA. The ABA acquisition was the more difficult, since a substantial minority of the members did not realize that they were actually all that obnoxious. The AMA acquisition was far less difficult, since a substantial majority of the members greeted the acknowledgment with enthusiasm and were thereafter happy to be formally allied with the tort lawyers who had long kept their organization in business.

    As to the photo in my bio, please do understand that I am the one wearing the hat. The other carbon based life form sadly finds it impossible to type on a keyboard; he does, however, frequently help by digesting what I write and providing solid and helpful commentary.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Gag Halfrunt

    Vell, Dan’s just zis guy, you know?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dag Hammarskjold

    You bastards. All this rapping about some late 20th century pulp sci-fi writer and nary a peep about the other spirit channelled by the Great Danski – my esteemed colleague Bertie.

    By the way, Kierkegaard couldn’t come because he’s busy with an unexpectedly close game of Brockian ultra cricket that went into overtime, so he sent me instead on the grounds that one jaw-cracking Norwegian name sounds much like another. I was also told to let you know that U Thant was supposed to stand in for the Dalai Lama, only to discover that owing to the vagaries of Tibetan Buddhism, it turns out that he is the Dalai Lama.

    Ah well. Such is life death.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Gag and Dag — sounds rather like a rock music cacophony group. Anyway, I suspect that the esteemed Dr Dreadful put you up to this. As you may or may not know, Doc is my personal brain care specialist as well as Zaphod’s, and Gag only fills in for him when he is doing whatever else he does. I am inclined to think that Gag’s comments are a misguided form of therapy, intended to compensate in some small way for the failure of Dave to participate in this important discussion. Even Hal wasn’t able to raise him. Oh well.

    Best regards to Kierkegaard, Hammarskjold, THE Dalai Lama and his alter ego, U Thant. Just keep banging the rocks together, guys, and you’re sure to get it eventually.

    Dan(Miller)

    Goes forth to boldly split infinitives no humanoid has ever split before at the el Banco branch of the ARORA

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Gag and Dag — sounds rather like a rock music cacophony group.

    Nailed it in one, Dan. They are the hitherto unnamed second and third members of the most wildly popular rock band in the history of the galaxy.

    I refer of course to Disaster Area, whose spectacular and legendary concerts are best appreciated from within a reinforced concrete bunker strategically placed 37 miles from the stage.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Doc,

    Didn’t they once vaporize a small planet or sun as part of their background sound effects? Who was the first member?

    Was it Dave?

    Maybe that’s why he hasn’t shown his face around here. That’s what Hal tells me. As to the concrete bunker only thirty-seven miles from the epicenter-stage, that seems faaaar too close. The bunker* should be made of depleted uranium and located at least ten light years distant.

    Dan(Miller

    *Archie sends his regards.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Didn’t they once vaporize a small planet or sun as part of their background sound effects? Who was the first member?

    I don’t remember that, but their pièce de résistance was, at the climax of a concert, to crash a spaceship into the local sun. On one occasion they did this the ship had Marvin on board, although surprisingly, and to his almost eternal chagrin, this happenstance failed to result in the robot’s demise.

    The lead singer and frontman of Disaster Area was Hotblack Desiato, an erstwhile acquaintance of Ford Prefect’s who became so astoundingly rich that he once spent a year dead for tax reasons. What happened to him subsequently is not documented, although I do have my suspicions about a certain Mr Madoff.

  • Baronius

    I think Brian’s on to something about the RIAA being both the record producers and insane lawyers. It would explain why the most innovative thing to come out of modern music in the last 15 years is anti-music-sharing regulation.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Well,thank you Baronius! I’m glad someone caught my sentiment in the middle of this newly re-visioned “Hitchhiker’s Guide”. Not that I am not enjoying it, I’m just not up to their witty par on the subject matter at hand.

    or the proverbial anti-matter in hand…*ugh*