Monday, July 13, 2015

pan-troglodytic deuterostems are not the endpoint of terrestrial evolution...,

theatlantic |  “Most educated people are aware that we are the outcome of nearly 4 billion years of Darwinian selection, but many tend to think that humans are somehow the culmination. Our sun, however, is less than halfway through its lifespan. It will not be humans who watch the sun’s demise, 6 billion years from now. Any creatures that then exist will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or amoebae.”

Among the several questions that jostled for the uppermost in my mind was this: Where is the fiction that can rise to the level of this stupefying reality? (Only one novelist, Julian Barnes, was sufficiently struck to include Rees’s passage in a book, but that was in his extended nonfiction memoir about death, Nothing to Be Frightened Of.) I quite soon came to realize that there was indeed a writer who could have heard or read those words with equanimity, even satisfaction, and that this was J. G. Ballard. For him, the possibility of any mutation or metamorphosis was to be taken for granted, if not indeed welcomed, as was the contingency that, dead sun or no dead sun, the terrestrial globe could very readily be imagined after we’re gone.

As one who has always disliked and distrusted so-called science fiction (the votaries of this cult disagreeing pointlessly about whether to refer to it as “SF” or “sci-fi”), I was prepared to be unimpressed even after Kingsley Amis praised Ballard as “the most imaginative of H. G. Wells’s successors.” The natural universe is far too complex and frightening and impressive on its own to require the puerile add-ons of space aliens and super-weapons: the interplanetary genre made even C. S. Lewis write more falsely than he normally did. Hearing me drone on in this vein about 30 years ago, Amis fils (who contributes a highly lucid introduction to this collection) wordlessly handed me The Drowned World, The Day of Forever, and, for a shift in pace and rhythm, Crash. Any one of these would have done the trick.

For all that, Ballard is arguably best-known to a wide audience because of his relatively “straight” novel, Empire of the Sun, and the resulting movie by Steven Spielberg. Some of his devotees were depressed by the literalness of the subject matter, which is a quasi-autobiographical account of being 13 years old and an inmate in a Japanese internment camp in Shanghai. It’s not possible to read that book, however, and fail to see the germinal effect that experience had on Ballard the man. To see a once-thriving city reduced to beggary and emptiness, to live one day at a time in point of food and medicine, to see an old European order brutally and efficiently overturned, to notice the utterly casual way in which human life can be snuffed out, and to see war machines wheeling and diving in the overcast sky: such an education! Don’t forget, either, that young Ballard was ecstatic at the news of the atomic obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an emotion that makes him practically unique among postwar literati. Included in this collection is a very strong 1977 story, “The Dead Time,” a sort of curtain-raiser to Empire—Ballard’s own preferred name for his book—in which a young man released from Japanese captivity drives a truckload of cadavers across a stricken landscape and ends up feeding a scrap of his own torn flesh to a ravenous child.

Miracles of Life (a book with a slightly but not entirely misleading title) will soon enough discern that he built on his wartime Shanghai traumas in three related ways. As a teenager in post-war England he came across first Freud, and second the surrealists. He describes the two encounters as devastating in that they taught him what he already knew: religion is abject nonsense, human beings positively enjoy inflicting cruelty, and our species is prone to, and can coexist with, the most grotesque absurdities.


BigDonOne said...

"...see a once-thriving city reduced to beggary and emptiness, to live one day at a time in point of food and medicine, to see an old European order brutally and efficiently overturned, to notice the utterly casual way in which human life can be snuffed out,..."
Whoa!! Dude is actually predicted Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit...??

"religion is abject nonsense..."
Wow!! Dude also digs N-1...

CNu said...

Cliven Bundy ranch was Occupy for tards, much as many, various, and sundry obstructionist and violent actions against women's health and abortion clinics was yet another Occupy for tards event. The primary difference between tard protest and Occupy protest is that tard protest is almost always explicitly violent or heavily laced with the threat of violence.

ken said...

"pull yourselves up by your bootstraps" where there's neither strap or boot."

Well there is a statistical reality, it may not be totally the person having to pull themselves up by the bootstraps but maybe an adjustment where to place one's trust. And of course with that comes a different motivation. Maybe getting involved with a different group of people might create some straps and after awhile with the aid of those around them in this new community and the willingness of the person to see things a different way, they'll be able to put the boots on.

Vic78 said...

That N-1 sweet spot statement was funny as hell.

ken said...

If it were true, maybe someone could tell him that, but I think you better come with a little back up. Why don't you start with bootstrap free individuals who attend church weekly and give me the links you find to back up the presumption you're putting forth.

Constructive_Feedback said...


Someone criticizes "Occupy", CNu redirects to the Conservo Tards.

Are there some hidden sensitivities at play?

CNu said...

Nothing hidden. I proudly wear and pronounce my disdain for the stupid.

Constructive_Feedback said...

[quote]Cosby-ite admonishment to "pull yourselves up by your bootstraps" where there's neither strap or boot.(which is why conservatards can't make any headway with black folk's political allegiances)[/quote]

Brother CNu repeat after me: CONSUMERISM.

You are arguing as if you are in the small minority that fails to see that THERE IS ABUNDANT WEALTH among the "Black Poor".

Or are you unwilling to talk about "Opportunity Costs"?

AGAIN you are expecting ME to "MAKE HEADWAY" in a POPULARITY SCHEME.
What you are LOATHED TO FOCUS UPON is the fact that since the "Federal Consumer Protection Agency" DOES NOT REGULATE the Propaganda that influences POPULAR OPINION that trick people into VOTING FOR THEIR SALVATION, largely focused upon FIGHTING AGAINST THEIR "WHITE RIGHT WING ENEMY" - even if he has no power where they live IS NEVER going to be REGULATED EXTERNALLY by a GOVERNMENT.


CNu said...

Stop flapping hither, thither, and yon Feed. Have you have, or have you ain't read Black Bourgeoisie? Simple kwestin, yes or no answer.

Vic78 said...

Not a presumption. The poorest tend to be the most religious. The problem with poor people is a lack of money. How the hell does telling them "go to church and let the pastor bang your wife" put money in their pockets?

CNu said...

lol, what kind of blind solipsist haze could convince anybody who comes here regularly to pretend that I don't link to a regularly updated catalog of N-1 crimes committed in "de name uh de lawd"?!?!?!?!

ken said...

Ok you're challenging the article I linked to that said..."Doubling the rate of religious attendance raises household income by 9.1 percent, decreases welfare participation by 16 percent from baseline rates, decreases the odds of being divorced by 4 percent , and increases the odds of being married by 4.4 percent."

A number of researchers have found striking correlations between religion and various measures of well being. For example, religious participation is correlated with lower levels of deviant behavior and better health. And, attending religious services weekly, rather than not at all, has the same effect on individuals' reported happiness as moving from the bottom to the top quartile of the income distribution.

However, the same factors that determine religious attendance may also determine these outcomes; for example, it may be that happier people go to church, not that going to church makes you happier."

Can you give me any something more than what you are bringing now?

Constructive_Feedback said...

Got it open in Google Books right now.

Assuming that the book says that the "Black Bourgeoisie" ultimately USES the "Black Rank & File" as political pawns - WHO today can you point to as the voice of the "Under-Developed Blacks" against the attempts to get them to invest more of their valuables into the scheme run by the "Black Bourgeoisie"?

Did You Humans Crack This Isht And Then Hide It From Yourselves 70 Years Ago?

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