Recent work. And voting for the Oscars…

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View 757 Tuesday, January 08, 2013

I have been working on getting the California Reader into print, and also on fiction, so I have been a bit slow with commentary here, and also I have let the mail pile up. I’ll try to do some of the mail tonight. As usual it’s all very interesting: this site gets some of the best mail on the Internet. Alas, sometimes the sender has to be anonymous even to the point of my not being able to quote directly, but mostly it’s good arguments. Not all in agreement with me, which is fine.

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For many years I have paid dues to AFTRA. I don’t do much in the way of paid radio or television commentary or performances, but once in a while I do and AFTRA collects for me. Overall I think I am ahead in that I get paid for some guest appearances that otherwise would be gratis; I suppose I have missed some opportunities too. For the most part I haven’t paid much attention; AFTRA hasn’t been as activist as some Hollywood unions. Last year AFTRA merged with the Screen Actors Guild, and I got a union card that says ONE UNION SAG-AFTRA.

Now I have a card that lets me vote in the Oscars, and I have been getting DVD’s of Oscar nominated films. They have dire warnings against sharing them or letting them out of my custody, with the implication that the FBI will put twenty agents on the case if I do. I’m sort of against piracy to begin with so that’s no burden.

I have a moral problem here. I will not have time to watch all the movies that ought to be considered for the Oscars; is it fair to vote for ones I like when there are others that might be a lot better? Of course I will vote. I don’t read all the science fiction novels written each year, or even all those nominated, but I vote when I think there’s a work worthy of SFWA’s Nebula, and I’ll employ the same criterion here.

One of the movies we got was ARGO, and we watched it the other night. The opening propaganda about Mossadegh and the Shah is standard hogwash. I suspect that if Iran could have a fair election now, the Pahlavi dynasty would probably be returned to power; the Shah’s government was certainly authoritarian but it was also a great deal more tolerant than what replaced it. But if you ignore the introductory political massaging, it’s a good movie, and not all that far from the way things actually went down. They manage to build tension well even though everyone watching has to know that eventually they’ll get away with it. If you like caper movies you’ll probably like this one.

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I’ve spent the day working on the California Sixth Grade Reader – this is the reader that was standard in California public schools when California arguably had the best public school system in the world – which I will put up with commentary shortly. I’m adding a few items to it: in those days California built it’s textbooks largely out of public domain, and some important works that would have been in it if they hadn’t been expensive can be included now. Also, there are some poems that readers would have encountered in fourth and fifth grades in those days, and some of them should be in here as part of preparation for works that are included.

It’s not all that much work, but it is a bit time absorbing. I’ve let this slide for years, and that’s not fair. Given the state of our public schools we need some decent reading materials out there. There’s a lot of Western Civilization that ought not be lost, but which is fading from our collective consciousness. This is one book that will help connect the next generation to those that came before. At some point the education system collapse can’t continue – if something can’t go on forever it will stop – but recovering from the rot that our public education system has become will not be easy.

It won’t be all that easy. In 1914 when this reader was standard in California, something like half the people of this country were involved in agriculture, farming, food processing, food distribution, and other occupations related to food production and distribution. Now that’s a much smaller number because the productivity of our agriculture and food processing system has so greatly increased.

People then moved from agriculture into manufacturing; but manufacturing productivity grows yearly – Moore’s Law directly affects electronics and computers, but that affects productivity of everything else – and fewer and fewer people are needed to do that.

Western Civilization once inspired people. Something needs to do that for the future. Perhaps that will be something new, but it seems important that we don’t throw away all our cultural heritage while we try to figure out what it is.

And it’s dinner time.

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