This I Believe (really) Posted by: Jon Henke
on Tuesday, June 06, 2006
A friend set me on an interesting line of thought. Surely, we all believe something that many other people would find ridiculous. Many libertarians, for example, find my mechanistic philosophy fairly unusual. It's hard to gauge whether it's my view that is unusual or merely my peer group, but here are three fairly unusual things I believe...
I think it's highly probable that there are other, highly-advanced life forms in the universe. We may someday confirm this through some sort of indirect measurements, but I doubt we'll ever encounter them.
I think chiropractic care is psuedo-science quackery. But I also believe I've been helped a great deal by chiropractic care. I cannot reconcile these views.
UPDATE: A Chiropractor wrote me to explain the difference between the spinal manipulation that actually helped me and the unscientific claims that some chiropractors make. Apparently, there is legitimate, scientific evidence of spinal manipulation, which is nothing more than a form of physical therapy that is recognized to be beneficial by the AMA. Stuff like "subluxations" or chiropractors who claim to heal all manner of illnesses by manipulating the spine to reduce nerve interferencem etc....that's not scientific, and it does great damage to the legitimate physical therapy that chiropractors can do.
So, my conflicting views have been reconciled. My thanks to the Chiropractor responsible.
I don't think a truly good science fiction movie has ever been made. (Star Wars is fantasy, not sci-fi) My basis for comparison is the Golden Age of Science Fiction from 1938 into the 1950s, when John W Campbell Jr. occupied the sci-fi editing throne, and giants like Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, de Camp, del Ray, Van Vogt, and Sturgeon wrote for the pulps, explored Big Ideas, made provocative metaphors and broke new ground. No movie has ever quite managed to capture that zeitgeist.
I may, of course, be wrong about any of these three things. But absent some compelling evidence to the contrary, I'm sticking with them.
Old SF Movies that were pretty good good for the period, had decent story lines, scripting, and the actors were, well, okay, they were actors in keeping with the times.
The Day the Earth Stood Still ("Gort! Klatuu Barada Nicto!"). Forbidden Planet ("Monsters! Monsters from the Id!").
I think if more Science fiction movies like those two were produced, instead of movies like Plan 9 from Outer Space the genre would have caught on sooner. Now, we could certainly discuss the difference between my pretty good, and your target of truely good!
"chiropractic care is psuedo-science quackery" I’m 100% down with that. Everybody knows you can’t fix two crushed disks in your lower back by laying on a table and having some schlub twist the ever livin’ sh*t out of ya. If you didn’t know that...now you do.
Everybody knows you can’t fix two crushed disks in your lower back by laying on a table and having some schlub twist the ever livin’ sh*t out of ya. If you didn’t know that...now you do.
I don’t know any chiropractors who would treat someone with crushed disks... but my two disks which have fractures and which regularly slip out of place... my chiropractor is the one and only solution I look to.
Well, to be fair, chiropractic has been shown to have some limited benefit in certain types of back and neck pain, mostly because massage and physical therapy do confer some benefit in some cases.
However, the mystical aspects they’re always touting — "subluxations" and "life force equalization" and all that dreck — is typical quackery.
The most sensible suggestion I’ve seen came from a former chiropractor (apostasy!) who suggested that the few beneficial parts of chiropractic could be taught to physical therapists, and that all the rest of the pseudo-scientific BS could be thrown away....
On a sidenote: I recall an ad I saw in a megazine a few years back. Paraphrasing: "If you’ve been in an accident, don’t file a report until you’ve spoken to one of our trained chiropractors! You may have injuries you are unaware of, that may require repeated treatments in our state of the art facility! We have attorneys on hand who can help you file your claims!" Really laid the whole scam out on the table, I thought.
Of course I’m a fan of evidence-based medicine and tort reform, so I wasn’t the target audience of that ad.
"The Day of the Triffids," John Wyndham The movie not as good as the book, though. Even in the fifties there were only a few science fiction movies. I think the movies don’t capture the "zietgeist," because not everyone’s view is the same. I read a lot Robert Heinlein, when I was a teen. I was suprise to see now, how important he is to many libertarians. Maybe I was too shallow to recognize the profound nature of his work.
As to number 3, allow me to violently disagree. ;)
Just to point out a few I enjoyed from the period 63 to 70 (called the new wave period):
Arthur C Clarke, Poul Anderson, Robert Silverberg, Ursula LeGuin, Alexei Panshin, Larry Niven, Roger Zelazny, Clifford Simak Stanislaw Lem, Jack Vance, J.G. Ballard, James Lish, John Brunner, L. Sprague De Camp, Philip K. Dick, Phillip Jose Farmer, Harry Harrison, Robert Henlein (who wrote extensively in this period), Keith Laumer, Cordwainer Smith, James White
Any of those names are first rate. Although many of Philip K. Dicks novels have been made into movies (Blade Runner, Paycheck (yuck), Total Recall, Imposter (yuck)), read the original novels because they are better.
As to 1980 onwards we have,
Gregory Benford, Donald Benson, Alfred Bester, Michael Bishop, James Blish, Robert Bloch, Ben Bova, Ray Bradbury, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Terry Brooks, John Brunner, Algis Budrys, Jack Chalker, Paddy Chayefski, C. J. Cherryh, D. G. Compton, Michael Crichton, John Crowley, Samuel R. Delany, Lester del Rey, Peter Dickenson, Gordon Dickson,Stephen R. Donaldson, Gardner Dozois, Gordon Eklund, David Gerrold, Charles L. Grant, Joe Haldeman, Frank Herbert, Stephen King,R. A. Lafferty, Tanith Lee, Ursula K. Le Guin, Fritz Leiber,Elizabeth A. Lynn, Vonda MacIntyre,Barry N. Malzberg, Anne McCaffrey, Edgar Pangborn, Frederik Pohl, Spider & Jeanne Robinson, Joanna Russ, Robert Sheckley, Charles Sheffield, Norman Spinrad, James Tiptree,Arthur Wilson Tucker, John Varley,Joan D. Vinge,
As for the 80s til now:
Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, David Brin, Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, William Gibson & Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Elizabeth Hand, Charles L. Harness, Russell Hoban, Ernest Hogan, James Hogan,Julian May, Valerie Martin, Elizabeth Moon, Kim Stanley Robinson,Joan D. Vinge, Jack Williamson, David
So, I think there has been a lot of good and important science fiction written since the 50s.
Golden age? I started reading sf in the late ’50s, and even though I was pretty young I recognized that most of it was cr*p. Like the "Golden Age" of television, most of the gold is a product of nostalgia and the airbrushing of memory by time. How many of the books of the golden age are still read, or even remembered?
Blade Runner is an excellent film, also Alien and Aliens (the BEST sequel ever made and with Jeanette Goldstein as "Vasquez" and Bill Paxton has "Hudson" and "PSgt Apone" you have some of the finest movie charactrs created!). Also the Matrix is an excellent film.
Sci-Fi is great these days, as a genre it has far surpassed its "Golden Age". The shelves are FILLED with Sci-Fi, when I began reading in the 1970’s one or two racks was all you were likely to find, now there are thousands of titles. Sure now as then, 90% is derivative Dreckh, but there is so much more that the volume of excellence is staggering. Simmons’ Ilium is masterpiece. THIS IS the "Golden Age" not the 1930’s... then a few works a year came out that were astounding, now dozens of works a year come out.
Maybe I was too shallow to recognize the profound nature of [Heinlein’s] work.
Y’know, Heinlein was a complicated writer. I’m not a fan of all of his stuff — I may be alone in this, but I think "Stranger in a Strange Land" was the biggest piece of hippie crap I’ve ever seen — but he managed to write his stuff to work on multiple levels. Partly, I think, it’s because he was a "thinker" who wrote for money — and the money was in writing for kids.
So, I think there has been a lot of good and important science fiction written since the 50s.
Oh, I agree. And I’ve read a lot of Pohl, Anderson, Simak, Niven, Zelazny, Farmer, and others, too. (as well as some from the 20s and early 30s, like EE Smith) It’s just that the Golden Age was the most exciting one.
I should note, however, that Ray Bradbury was more of a story-teller who set some stories in space than he was a sci-fi author. I realize this will upset some people, but they are wrong.
Golden age? I started reading sf in the late ’50s, and even though I was pretty young I recognized that most of it was cr*p.
Well, most of everything is crap. But the important authors from the Golden Age have held up exceedingly well. Clarke, Heinlein and Asimov — the Holy Trinity of Scifi — are well regarded.
I am a heretic... I HATE Aasimov’s work... never liked it, read Foundation and that was IT, OK did read and like "I, Robot" but that was it, really. I realize it’s just personal opinion but I nver really understood his appeal.
Now CLARKE, I loved his work, though the last one I read was either Rendevous with Rama or The Fountains of Paradise or 2010, whichever came last. There may be no characterization in Clarke’s works, but the stories are great! The ending of Rendevous with Rama has to be one of the BEST endings ever written, "Ramans always do things in threes."
Heinlein was good, too, Stranger in a Strange Land was good and Starship Troopers was superb, the opening sequence where he drops on the "Skinnies" is very good, "I’m a thirty second bomb. I’m a thirty second bomb... twenty-nine... twenty-eight."
Harry Harrison was a favourite of mine too, though I got burned out on the "Stainless Steel Rat". The opening of the Stainless Steel Rat is CLASSIC, "Slippery Jim DiGriz I arrest you on the charge of"... and dropped a two-ton steel safe directly onto his head, he squashed very nicely thankyou...". Now-adays, it would have been a REAL person and Slippery Jim would have been a socio-path combating corporate enemies, it’s nicer in Harrison’s universe.
If you LIKE dark, though read Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovics novels, starting with "Altered Carbon." It’s fairly distopian but the first one is good as a piece of film noir or a Raymond Chandler "who-dunit" in a Matrix-like Universe.
Henlein was an extremely complex man. If you consider his life path then all of his books make sense.
He grew up in a family that was more social experiment than anything. His parents would have been considered radical by 60s commune dwellers.
Early on, he became a social activist and strangely enough that ended up with his becoming a follower of the social credit political system. He graduated Anapolis and served until discharged in 1934 with TB. He rejoined at the start of WWII was involved in running various naval research projects. Being an established SF writer, he hired many of his contemporaries like Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp to work on his pet projects.
So you have a combination of styles that almost seem schizophrenic. He seems either very left or very right. Hard to pin down.
Joe, it sounds like we’re very close together on taste. I don’t *hate* Asimov’s work, but it’s not in the same league with Heinlein. Except for the Foundation Trilogy, I never got the urge to reread Asimov, but I have reread just about everything from Heinlein.
I’ll put Niven and Card easily ahead of Asimov in my pantheon. I think Asimov could have been at the very top, ironically, if he had written less stuff and polished it more - I don’t think any human being really has 300 good books in them.
My sons love Stainless Steel Rat, which I waited until almost teen years to introduce to them (I was a tad worried about a criminal protagonist).
I will challenge Jon on SF movies. The Matrix was a thought-provoking and well made film, and I think deserves a place as a classic SF movie. We’d probably think better of it if they had not made those horrific sequels. (Though they are more palatable after you read this.) Slim pickings, I admit, but better than nothing.
We could easily have 100 billion galaxies, each with 100 billion stars. Even if habitable planets are one in a million and life on those planets are a one in million then the odds say that there are billions of planets with life on them. If you believe in numbers you believe in life on other planets. The distances are big though. E=MC**2 needs to be repealed before anyone comes to visit.
Chiropractors help bad backs. Mainstream medicine only offers pain pills and surgery. Since they are rejected by mainstream they reach out to the holistic medicine folks. If you are willing to ignore the Indian music and the Incense they are really just very well trained (and paid) physical therapist.
I agree Billy Hollis, about Card and Niven, but don’t forget about Niven AND Pournelle, together... The Mote in God’s Eye is a classic. Footfall and Lucifer’s Hammer were very good, too. Niven’s stand-alone work in the "Known Universe Series" is amazing. I used to really enjoy Purnelle, even if his work was darn near Fascist, but you know, he NEVER FINISHED A SERIES! "The War World Series"-great but unfinished, "The Janissaries Series" interesting, but unfinished, "The CoDominium/Falkenberg Series" unfinished. I’d kind of like to see what happens(ed) the characters that I have grown attached to, How DID Lysander become Emperor? Will the Saurons tame the Havenites or vice versa what will happen to the inhabitants of Tran? I HATE the fact that Pournelle can never end a work....
Orson Scott Card is someone whom I have never really read, I read Enders Game and I was moved to tears. I just couldn’t read any more about Ender. From what I recall it was tragic and I don’t think I could read much more about man-child that committed genocide in what he believed was a "game." It was a great work, but it was such a tough subject that I just couldn’t return to it.
I think I ought to read Harrison’s other works, the one’s about the intelligent dinosaurs... the "Eden Series" I think?
"Chiropractors help bad backs. Mainstream medicine only offers pain pills and surgery."
Billy Hollis is apparently unaware of the range of exercises, physical therapy and other modalities for back pain offered by mainstream medicine, apart from pain medication and surgery. Another good reason to see an MD before treatment of a back condition is to get an accurate diagnosis, to avoid being "adjusted" where such chiropractic "therapy" would be ineffective or dangerous (prolapsed disk pressing on a nerve, metastatic tumor etc.). _Then_ if you want (and can afford it), go for an alternative treatment.
I can empathize with the dilemma posed by following an unorthodox treatment regimen while recognizing that scientific evidence backing it is slim. I give an aging and arthritic dog a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement, feeling that it improves her symptoms even though clinical evidence is slim on this score. I can justify it based on cost, lack of side effects and the ability to fall back on mainstream pain meds if necessary (plus it seems to be effective in this case). And in this alternative med foray I’m not supporting practitioners that delve heavily into quackery (as in the case of chiropractors who promote "adjustment" of newborns for "birth subluxations" or who condemn vaccinations over imaginary hazards.
Never pick a chiropractor from the phone book; 90% of them are thieves (the quackery is in service to the thievery). "Oh, we can help you. Have the receptionist schedule you for three times a week for the first 3 months, and then we should be able to taper you off...."
There are decent chiropractors out there, but you’ll only find them from personal references. What you want is one described as "(S)he helped the pain go away, and then (s)he told me to come back if it bothered me again."
I’m convinced that my son is a lifer (MSG) in combat arms because he read Starship Troopers when he was about 10. On topic to your post - HOllywood can fsck up a wet dream as shown by the movie using the same title.
...also Alien and Aliens (the BEST sequel ever made and with Jeanette Goldstein as "Vasquez" and Bill Paxton has "Hudson" and "PSgt Apone" you have some of the finest movie charactrs created!).
I thought (and still think) Alien is one of the best SciFi flicks ever made (and, btw, whoever mentioned it, Forbidden Planet, for its time, was awesome ... and yes, I saw it when it was originally released).
The thing about Alien is they made it as a horror flick. Then they actually did the sequel right ... they made it as an action/adventure movie instead of another straight horror pic. Together they’re a terrific pair of movies.
Seems to me, with the special effects capabilities of today, many, many great SciFi stories could be translated to the screen. I remember as a kid avidly reading every one of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars series. They would make a compelling adventure series for some movie maker and creating a ’thoat’ or some of the other creatures he imagined would be a piece of cake today.
"Chiropractors help bad backs. Mainstream medicine only offers pain pills and surgery."
I can only tell you from my own experience with bad back trouble that it was only when I finally relented to my wife’s entreaties and went to a chiropracter did I experience relief from the pain. And it was immediate relief.
That was after years and years of treatment by MDs. But, given the CW about chiropractors, I avoided going to one even when in bad pain. It was only while almost bent double and in pain that my wife’s question, "what have you got to lose"?, made me open to the experience. I can only say I’m glad I went and have been back a few times since, always with good results.
That doesn’t make me a believer in anything else they claim to be able to do ... I primarily agree with Billy’s assessment as it mirrors my own experience ... but for my lower back, he was a Godsend.
Joe, Glad to get some info on Enders Game. I read Card’s Homecoming series and was looking to start another. It’s not science fiction, but the novel that introduced me to Orson Scott Card, was The Lost Boys. That was one of the saddest novels I’d had ever read.
Yes, Ender’s game is great. You should check out his complementary series about Ender’s Shadow. Ender’s Shadow is about the tactical/strategic genius who was number 2 in the Enderverse. In the Ender’s Shadow series, it is SF military political story set on earth. Very Weber like but with Card’s specific feel to the story. A "what if" all those military child genius free agents were released back to a factitious earth after the end of the war. Ties in how Ender’s brother becomes the Hegemon. Anyway, I liked it.
Joe, try Ender’s Shadow next. I didn’t think the nominal sequel (Speaker for the Dead) was that good. And I struggled to get through the next (Xenocide and Children of the Mind). But I liked the whole Shadow series. It concentrates on Bean instead of Ender. (There are four books in that series, by the way.)
Yep, and it ought to be a movie on the scale of Lord of the Rings. It is the best first contact story ever written. Great premise, interesting characters, fascinating aliens (who could be done nicely with today’s CGI).
I was at a party with Jerry Pournelle a year or so ago, and asked him about that. He said they keep renewing the option on Mote every year, but it never seems to get any closer to production.
I realize that "The Thing" is a horror movie, but I don’t see how this disqualifies it from also being a science fiction movie. It is, after all, an adaptation of John W. Campbell, Jr.s "Who Goes There?"
Several largely random thoughts. First, I suspect part of the claim that even the best of science fiction movies don’t compare well to the best of science fiction novels involves blaming a dog for being an unsatisfactory sort of cat. Both are forms of commercial fiction but nonetheless such different media that comparisons will always be in some sense unfair one way or the other.
Having said that, I’d add my vote to “Blade Runner,” (brilliant sci-fi film noir); “Alien,” (H.R. Giger’s amazing conceptual art); and a few others mentioned, as well as “2001,” a film that still holds up well visually, given the technology available then and remains interesting because its oblique metaphysics are more provocative than didactic.
I find many of the sci-fi ‘greats’ I read some thirty or more years ago don’t stand up well on re-reading even as simply genre popular fiction. Of the Golden Era Big Three of Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, only Heinlein remains interesting to me. Asimov (whose short fiction can still be a fun read) and Clarke simply couldn’t create real, multi-dimensional characters; Heinlein couldn’t avoid it. I’d love to see a good film version of “All You Zombies,” my all-time favorite time travel story. Then again, my complaint about the test of time applies to so-called serious literature as well. I couldn’t re-read J.D. Salinger today or even most of Hemingway or Fitzgerald with the same naïve pleasure I found in them in my teens and twenties. (I agree, BTW, that “Stranger In A Strange Land” is ‘60’s crap. It was the first Heinlein I ever read and, because of that, damned close to being the last.)
Carpenter’s The Thing had ONE great thing... when Kurt Russell gets the drop on everyone else and tests everyone to see who IS the Alien! FINALLY, a character in a movie with some smarts!
Also, an under-rated film is Tremors, wonderful film. Great characters, Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon are some of my favourite characters, unlike so many movies these guys aren’t interested in defeating the monster, they just want to get the H$(( out of the valley, LET SOMEONE ELSE KILL THE MONSTER.
. I didn’t think the nominal sequel (Speaker for the Dead) was that good
It was exquiste. Hard for me to say, in light of my loathing for Card’s extremist socialcon views. But I loved Speaker.
Greg Bear’s Queen of Angels. Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, (I’m about to read the sequel, A Deepness in the Sky.)
As for Dune and it sequelae, the Sci-Fi channel did a B+ mini-series that almost redeems the travesty of the silver screen version.
Van Vogt was great when I was a kid, and Heinlein always rocks. Pournnelle-Niven collaborations are delightful.
Nancy Kress’s Beggars in Spain trilogy is among my all-time favorites (it has virtually nothing to do with Spain), and that I bought the first in the series from Laissez-Faire books should tell you how ideologically pleasing it is to libertarians — but the writing is also top notch and isn’t at all polemical. Damn good, intelligent story-telling.
The problem with SciFi movies is they have to come from SciFi books (same with fantasy). Actually, the problem is someone has to make the movie that captures the essence of the book. SciFiChannel’s three part Dune series seemed so good largely because David Lynch’s movie was so bad.
The budget required to do justice to novels such as James Blish’s Cities in Flight or Clarke’s Childhoods End would be prohibititive balanced against those who would pay top dollar to see such a film (me and 3174 others).
I have to make a few comments about chiropractors:
1) the ridiculous claims made by some remind me of the spam that I receive every day. Apparently, I’m about to get $100 million deposited directly in my bank account whilst my manhood reaches porn star proportions
2) I’ve had several acute neck twists that had me eating pain relievers like Chik-lets. My chiropractor straightened me out in about 30 seconds
3) Holding my 18 month old son for 30 minutes wrenched my back such that I could hardly breathe from the pain, which got progressively worse over a week’s time. 15 minutes after a visit to the back doc and I was pain free
The movie version of Dune was horrible (in my viewpoint). The series actually captured much of the essence of the story. Perhaps I enjoyed (as others have said) because David Lynch completely screwed the movie up.
Barnes and Niven have excellent collaborations. Greg Bear has excellent stuff.
I agree on the Thing, great suspense, good characters, ok story.
I mentioned it before but the current Battlestar Galatica series is excellent. No previous literary work there. There are other good series (like Firefly) but they never seem to last.
Regarding chiropractic care, I recently retired from active practice after 18 years (now in early 50s). I sympathize with those members of the public who feel that many of my colleagues speak in babble. IMO, many of them do. I can forgive some of my fellows because it’s what most chiro. colleges impart, but some of us appear to be brainwashed by this effort, engaging in little if any rational critical thinking on the so-called precepts. For instance, all spinal bones ’move out of place’ in the normal course of daily behavior (not talking about frank dislocation, only minor movements, in three planes). Interesegmental motion is inherent, and key to normal funciton. Chiro’s do not alter this movement with an adjustment, we don’t return bones to normal position, and we don’t straighten out the spine. Most importantly for accuracy - spinal bones do not press on nerves unless there has been a serious trauma leading to dislocation (emergency room stuff). At most, the suddenness and extent of the bony movement experienced during an adjustment traumatizes the connective soft-tissues that bind the spinal joints, specifically at the facet joints - the small rearward spinal joints, while causing no locally perceiveable effects on the discs. This trauma, at most, is a sudden and ’attention-getting’ sensation perceieved by the local nervous system, which can, in certain circumstances, inhibit other local incoming sensations including pain, which can subsequently lead to a reduction in the need for local muscular spasm - nature’s cast or splint, which leads to increased pain-free active ranges of movement. There you have it - a rational understanding and approach.