"Buoyed by billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the industry has surged more than sixfold since 2010 to more than 800 companies, according to market researcher NewSpace Global, with investment in private ventures in that span poised to reach $10 billion by year’s end. SpaceX led the way with $1 billion from Google Inc. and Fidelity Investments on Jan. 20 -- a day after satellite maker Planet Labs Inc. announced that it raised $95 million.
“It’s impossible to overestimate the degree of rock-star engineering talent that has come pouring into the commercial space sector,” said Matt Ocko, co-managing partner of venture capital fund Data Collective, an early investor in San Francisco-based Planet Labs. “For great scientists and engineers, this is incredible catnip.” Bloomberg
"The stars like dust shine down on us."
I presume that the first really commercial venture will be mining on the moon for rare earths, helium, and the like. Structural materials for deeper space ventures as well as fuel could be manufactured there. pl
Pat recently asked me to write a bit about my father. My father was a Hollywood writer/director and Pat said that I looked like him.
It dawned on me that to write about my father meant that I first had to do a portrait of my mother. Some of what follows Pat has published, but I am here offering a complete account of this woman who damaged the children entrusted to her care.
My mother was a small-minded, emotionally forceful, vindictive monster of unassailable selfishness who didn’t look the part in the least. Although she was short and dumpy, with huge thighs, but she had an extremely very beautiful face and amazing, sincere blue eyes. She was a rigorous Christian Scientist. In public, her carefully composed expression in church radiated kindliness and goodness and charitable forgiveness. In private, she didn’t radiate any of those things.
She had been born a Roman Catholic from an Irish mother, but she lied about this to everyone, including me, in order to rise in Christian Science hierarchy. My Grandfather told me about her birth much later, and she reacted with fury against him and me. She thought herself a “good” woman who believes in her self-righteousness and thought herself passionately noble, but I reality, she was a woman who was spiritually derelict, domineering, and narrow-minded.
The question must be asked, if your aim is to domineer over your family, and you are a person with no special gifts of thought or speech, how can you do this?
A divorced wife in her thirties with two children, a woman with no friends, and no position in the world, she appointed herself as the spiritual head our tiny family. After the divorce, I was 7 or 8 and my sister was 11, but my mother was the one who was closest to God, the one whose advice, whose interpretation of events and happenings and whose estimates of her children and their acquaintances was not to be questioned by anyone.
My mother was expert at clothing herself in God’s power. In my mother’s case, she clothed herself in the Truth. When she was about to say something painful and annihilating, she would lock her eyes in mine and say, “Let me give it to you straight!” Since my mother was closer to God than we were, by far, what she said and did was simply what God required for our good. Not her good, mind you, but our good. Her possession of Godly spiritual power made her unchallengeable, for next to her, all we had was our weak and unworthy gifts when compared to hers.
My mother understood with genius that to inflict pain on those subject to her was to make them remember and fear you. Pain is a strong, intimidating sensation, a shattering, unnerving sensation, and those who suffer pain are always conscious of its source and cause. Pain made you feared and respected. It created awe. Inflicting humiliation and pain by a parent was a sure way to force an uneasy, resentful and unwilling obedience while asserting your superior spiritual power.. Thus, through inflicting pain, her children were always made incessantly conscious of her. If she had made things pleasant and carefree, her impact on us, her hold on us, would not have been as sure and unrelenting. Pleasures are enjoyed and forgotten. She would not be pleasurable. She would be remembered instead.
Since she wielded power in God’s name, she went to any length to ensure that we feared and respected that power. She lied, she fabricated, she misrepresented, she was unjust, capricious, arbitrary, cruel, even brutal -- an emotional terrorist of the utmost ruthlessness – all for the sake of the pretense that she, and not we, were in the right and had the backing of God. Her closeness to God and her concern for our welfare excused everything she did because it was vicious cruelty for a good cause. In other words, it was cruelty that our own wickedness had called forth. The cause of her faults was our faults. It was not really her being cruel and liking to be wicked that caused discord in the family. It was our incurable faults and defects, she said. So she maintained that her cruelty was sent by God to punish us for our moral failures.
Her desire for power over others was unbounded. She sought complete dominion over the innermost recesses of our souls. That was why she warred with anyone who was in any relation to her, if that person manifested any action that implied their independence of her. Her relations with people were based on their total submission to her prestige. She had no friends, only subjects.
She hid her wickedness well. With outsiders, she talked with gentle, assertive and compelling authority, Bible in hand, she would talk of the missteps they had made in life. It was not her opinion, she said, no, she simply saw that the sinning person had a need for guidance, and, as the servant of God, she would guide them. Her subjects were ordinary intellectually limited people who had no general intellectual interests of army kind. Most had no culture. Most had no interest in history. Thus, brandishing her authority, my mother worked constantly to pull people into her orbit. Any joy in learning she savaged with an almost military resolution. “I know I haven’t read as many books as you but I know what god requires and it isn’t knowledge of books.” Any sort of knowledge she saw as a threat to the Faith, in other words to her power over people.
In her little realm, she sometimes slipped and exhibited had a narrow, jealous, inquisitorial spirit especially when someone’s back was turned. She would say to a friend, “Don’t you think it’s odd that a neighbor like Mary, practically up the street, spends so much time at with her neighbor's husband?” If you asked what she meant, she drew up and got huffy: “Hinting is not among my flaws.” And if someone asked, what did she mean? Was Mary having an affair?” She exploded with venom, “I didn’t say that, and you would have the thought the same thing, you little hypocrite.”
Her catty malice had many targets. If she saw a woman with a good figure, and knowing she had a very bad one, she would say, “I think it is better to spend time thinking of the goodness of God rather than trying to turn people’s heads.”
She loathed being disagreed with. Disagreement was another threat. When you are on an authorized mission from God, there is only one reason a child or a friend disdains your advice or turns aside from you supervision – because their minds were clouded by wicked darkness. She therefore attacked them with unbridled savagery, the way people used to savagely beat the mentally ill – in order to drive out their demons. Any tactic was justified, from pulling their hair, slapping their face, spitting in their face, hitting them with hairbrushes, a hockey stick, pots and pans, cancelling your outings with friends, withdrawing small pleasures like a long-awaited movie. What sound in the world was more ominous than to hear that she had returned home from shopping, taking away any chance of safety from her?
She had a unique way of arguing. I found in my files a scrap of conversation, done from a memory ten years later, that took place just after I had graduated from high school. My mother was ensconced on the big bed upstairs, where she usually conducted interviews, and I was standing uneasily at the foot of the bed. I was eighteen. The argument begins with me sputtering the word, “Mother….”
“I wasn’t chosen as valedictorian because my school asked me to address our chapel. It was an honor. I was the first to be chosen to speak there in the 25 year existence of the school.”
“Yes, and you have an answer for everything. What was the real reason?”
I didn’t know what she was asking. “Mother...l.”
“Answer me, you sniveling little idiot. The wonderful Dean of boys loved you. We all know that. He loved you because he didn’t know you. He didn’t really didn’t know you did he?”
“No.” I said, surrendering weakly, wanting the venomous conversation to end..
“No, you’re damn right, he didn’t.”
“No one knows you except me. I know you because I had you. So don’t talk to me! And don’t talk to me about teachers! What does your teacher know, anyway. Huh? Tell me. Teachers,” she spat.
“I’m going to bed.”
“You go to bed when I tell you to go to bed. And all your little looks and simpering and little courtesies and little cut bows – do you think that everyone is an idiot? Huh?”
By then I was getting upset because I held my Dean of Boys in high regard because he had given me a chance at a fresh life. He had rescued me from the private hell of my childhood.
“I do not.”
“Yes, you do!”
“I do not!
“Yes, you do!”
“I do not!”
“Listen, you,” she said menacingly. “Don’t interrupt me, you sniveling little girl.” Because tears had sprung to my eyes.
“I am not a girl.”
“You’re crying like a girl. Is that why your teachers gave you such nice grades? Did they like little girls?”
“I’m not a girl.”
“You cry like one. I should have dressed you in little pink diapers. So nice, so outstanding at school,” She sneered. “I bet you were nice. Always so nice. Always so charming. I bet that’s how you got good grades being so nice so charming. Well, you make me sick. Go to bed!”
When in a mood of rage she would shout, shake her fists, her cheeks flushed and she would walk and down until her face was very close to your face, and she would then stop and hurl her next accusation.
Even when I was very young, I could do nothing that would please her or make her happy or proud of me. From my early childhood I learned to live with the inevitability of being scorned, belittled and misunderstood. As a child I was treated as a cipher. When I was extremely young, I was frightened all the time. Around my mother, I was a miserable, feeble, frail, fearful soul. When I, in my innocence, believed that I had done something praiseworthy, I was always startled to find that it always fell short. My mother was always comparing me to other boys. Other boys my age were making their mothers proud, but when it came to me, I had done nothing but make her regret that I was born. She thought me stupid and loathsome by birth, and every day that had passed, she felt I had increased my birthright.
Such thoughts continually oppressed me, of course. Most young boys are very conceited and have a wonderful belief in their own future success. Disraeli once said at sixteen everyone believes himself the most exceptional man who ever lived. I never felt like that. I felt shunned and rejected, and constantly yearned for friendship and acceptance. I think that it was Bagehot who said that the proper food for a self-relying nature is solitude, and the most stimulating solitude is solitude in the midst of people. I had that gift. I was alone in a crowd. Only today, with my wife Carol, does that feeling go away.
I had quickly learned that my mother was a person of dull wits, a woman of obtuse feelings and inordinate vanity, stubborn and willful. I came to that determination very early. I always cringed when she would come into the bath to try to wash me and read to me from a children’s book, Peter Rabbit. One time she was trying to teach me to say the word “breakfast.” I must have been two years old. I couldn’t do it. She said, “Well you can say ‘break’ can’t you?” she said impatiently. I cringed, but admitted I could. “You can say ‘fast’ can’t you?” I could. She said, “Well just say them together really fast: ‘Breakfast.’” But when I said it, it always came out as two words. She gave up and said something venomous and ruined the book by tearing it or some other brutal, frightening and abrupt act. Of course all she needed to do was to point out that the word “break” changed its pronunciation to “brek.” To give another example, she would never use “”Xmas” because she said it was crossing the Christ out of Christmas” in utter ignorance of the Greek. It was a common habit of people at that time would call people “Mac.” My mother refused to let me use that word since “Mac,” truly meant, “Make America Catholic.”
Once my mother was left alone with two children, she turned her fury and her hatred on her kids. I was the prime object of her viciousness. Her abuse was not just psychological, it was extremely physical. Her perpetual ill-temper was quick to burn up in rage. You did not dare to go near her or feel easy in her company since you felt as if you stood on the edge of a volcano. Nothing was less inviting or comfortable than to be in this state of uncertainty and apprehension. When displeased – well I have already related that. One thing she did that still smarts –she would break my toys or abruptly forbid me to go a movie or buy a toy on which I had set my heart. As she stormed and brayed, she would take her hands and squeeze my checks with such force that she would leave bloody marks from her nails when she had finished. Another time, at Halloween when I was 12, I had run away on my bike, thinking to live off of Halloween candy. I came home when I realized I had not bothered to wear a custom. Her furious temper at my running away ended with her sitting atop me in the dining room, pummeling me and trying to scratch my eyes. (I ran away and stayed with my soon-to-be stepfather.)
At other times, I would be wakened up from a sound sleep late at night and summoned to her bedroom where I would sit on the end of the bed as she stormed and yelled at me until in my eyes her face began to go large, then go small, it went in and out as she ranted as I was forced to sit there for so long a time. She incessantly taunted me for cowardice her abuse had produced. When I began to cry because of all the jeers and pitiless upbraiding, she would sit and jeer: “Go ahead and cry. Crying is the one thing you do well. Go ahead and cry and I’ll dress you up in little pink diapers.”
When my father left home when I was five or six. He was a charming, witty writer of short stories and books. I loved him beyond description. He left my mother to marry an heiress in Hollywood where he became a director, and mother detested the sight of him. She was always implying he was “a fairy,” a homosexual. Unfortunately, I looked a lot like him, and her hatred of him was turned on me. She used to call my father such vile names that, later in life, when I was 18, I one day asked her, “Did you never love my father at all?” The question stopped her cold, and she blurted, “I adored him.” She said that she had liked being the wife of a man whose books came out and who people pointed out. But in private, after he left, she called him “a fairy, a fag,” and the like. So that was the basis of her hatred. I had no idea what those words meant at the time. I do remember the time when I was about 10 and was resting from soccer and stood with my hand on my hip, and she came and snatched away the resting hand.
So whatever the lovely and unblemished face my mother turned to the world, in her home, she displayed a very ugly, extremely unstable personality. She faked the qualities of goodwill, patience, fair-mindedness and gentleness to outsiders. At home, her personality was poisonously polite. If I earned a good grade, she would say, “This is fine, this is very good. Of course, other sons are doing much more to make their parents proud.”
So I was the product of a life that had rejected me completely. No wonder I have such sympathy for lost causes. I was one of them.
My original intention was to read “Cry Havoc” over the course of a week as a relaxing bit of evening reading before drifting off to the land of Nod. Instead, I finished it in two sittings. I found it that exciting and engaging… and definitely not conducive to sleep. As you read this novel, you will find elements of such science fiction classics as “Dune” and “Starship Troopers.” But make no mistake, this is an original and uniquely imaginative world set largely at the Ganymede Military Academy in the year 2410.
A universe slowly unfolds inhabited by an intriguing array of beings, a bioengineered galactic bestiary including intelligent and heavily armed dinosaurs. And just like in our world, all these beings display a wide array of motivations, allegiances and dark secrets. As expected in a piece of military science fiction, we see futuristic military technology, but we also see edged weapons and grappling hand to hand combat. We also see chemically induced manifestations involving seeing and feeling colors, mind blowing psychic abilities and frightening fighting skills.
We follow the transformation of four teenagers, Jane, Sand, Salem, and Paris, as they embark on the journey from youthful innocence through their last year of academy training to become battle tested competent warriors. The key to their transformation is Master Assault Sergeant Alexander Black, a veteran mentor with many secrets of his own.
Many books about soldiers and soldiering are riddled with incongruities that are painfully obvious to us veterans. This is not so with “Cry Havoc.” The subtleties of martial life and soldiery interactions ring true. The author lets us see the formation of bonds between young soldiers and that special relationship between those young soldiers and the seasoned mentors that mold youth into soldiers. Even the mundanities and eccentricities of military life are handled well. The veterans among us will recognize this with a soft “ah,yes” and a smile. Most of us have known an Alexander Black. A few have been such a man. Those who have never experienced military life will gain a valuable insight into that world.
This is the first of what I hope will be a long series of novels about these characters and their universe. There is a lot more to learn about these soldiers, both the newbies and old veterans, and the worlds they live in. The Twisted Genius
This newly published non-fiction work by SST/TA longtime author and commenter FB Ali is truly a must-read. From the cover of Prison Journey:
FB Ali was a rising star in the Pakistan Army when, in 1969, Gen Yahya Khan, the army chief, declared martial law and took over the country. Disheartened at the direction in which Pakistan was heading, and his inability to do anything about it, he contemplated resigning, but the 1971 war with India intervened.
Given an important combat command shortly before it began he witnessed firsthand how badly this disastrous war was mismanaged by the military regime and the incompetent generals it had appointed. The resulting debacle drove him to initiate and lead the army action that forced Gen Yahya Khan to hand over power to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had won the 1970 election.
The usual fate of kingmakers befell him: in 1972 he was retired from the army and a few months later arrested and tried on charges of trying to overthrow the government. Narrowly escaping a death sentence, he ended up with life imprisonment, spending over 5 years in prison before he was released following Bhutto's ouster in another military coup. Though offered a significant role in the new setup he decided to move to Canada with his family.
This memoir contains an insider account of many important events of that decade, including the 1971 India-Pakistan war and the troubles in East Pakistan that led to the creation of Bangladesh. It is also a poignant tale of courage and endurance in the face of adversity.
Below are some excerpts from the book which provide a flavour of its contents and style (other excerpts, and reviews, are available on the Amazon sites):
- 1 -
Where did it begin, this road that took me to the sprawling stone fort of Attock, perched on the low hills above the winding Indus River? And then, from there, through the shadow of the gallows, to those many prisons in the Punjab before I finally ended up here in Canada?
Confucius is reputed to have said: The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. What, then, was this first step that set me upon this long road that I have travelled?
Was it the sudden ending of my childhood when, at the age of seven, I was plucked from the warm cocoon of a small family and deposited in the midst of a boarding school up in the hills? I had never been away from home, had never had to fend for myself, did not know any English, which is what they spoke there. I had to grow up fast, very fast.
Or, was it all those new and exciting ideas of nationalism and freedom from foreign rule that Taufiq put into my innocent head? My friend, my difficult friend (I was the only one he had in that school), whose precocious mind knew much more about the outside world than I did, and teemed with ideas that I knew nothing about. I still remember the excitement of those "rambles" on which we were occasionally taken out, when, while the other boys played boisterous games around us, I would sit, rapt and entranced, on the sun dappled slope of the wooded hill while he told me the tale of the Count of Monte Cristo, or held forth on how India had to overthrow its subjection to the British.
Poor Taufiq! He could not cope with a world that neither understood nor cared for the brilliance of his mind, the ebullient joy of his spirit, the essential innocence of his soul, a world that would make no allowances for the peculiarities of his nature, a nature that he had neither fashioned nor sought. Finally, unable (or unwilling) to carry on this constant struggle, he went to a railway platform and stepped off it, departing from a world that seemed to have no use for him.
Was it that intoxicating time when I was consumed by the passionate struggle to create Pakistan? My first two years in college had been spent in the heedless but innocent enjoyment of living away from home in a big city. Then, suddenly (it was almost like a religious conversion) this struggle was the only thing that now mattered in my life, and I threw myself into it completely: organizing my fellow students, marching in the processions that mobilized citizens, facing off the police and hostile activists, trudging through the countryside, village after village, mile upon weary mile, seeking votes. Then, as ominous clouds began to gather in the sky, engaging in cloak and dagger escapades in the murky, shadowy world of Khurshid Anwar, risking much more than I then realized.
"I have no intention of marking Pete Seeger's passing by relitigating the Cold War. A lot of very good people paid a ghastly and inordinate price for having spent the 1930s and 1940s looking for a solution to an economic catastrophe outside a political spectrum that ran from Herbert Hoover to Huey Long. Seeger spent his life in the most honorable way possible -- he tried to teach America about itself. First, he helped teach it about itself through all the music it had forgotten, a darker and infinitely more fascinating place than the America that was selling itself Brylcreem on the TV, an America of murder ballads, and of the pain wrought in music of all its lost promises, and of the hope that the music itself could redeem those lost promises..."
Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee- "Down By The Riverside"
This Land Is Your Land Words and Music by Woody Guthrie
This land is your land This land is my land From California to the New York island; From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters This land was made for you and Me.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway, I saw above me that endless skyway: I saw below me that golden valley: This land was made for you and me.
I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts; And all around me a voice was sounding: This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling, And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling, As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting: This land was made for you and me.
As I went walking I saw a sign there And on the sign it said "No Trespassing." But on the other side it didn't say nothing, That side was made for you and me.
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people, By the relief office I seen my people; As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking Is this land made for you and me?
Nobody living can ever stop me, As I go walking that freedom highway; Nobody living can ever make me turn back This land was made for you and me.
Bonus Track: Pete Seeger & Johnny Cash Sing "Worried Man Blues"
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
-Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1850
Symphony #40 in G Minor- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Bonus Mozart Track: Symphonie Concertante in E Flat Major K 364 1st Movement
Wishing all Athenaeum/Sic Semper readers, commenters, & posters a peaceful, prosperous 2014.
Pour a Christmas pint, Athenaeum readers, & settle in for one of the great aviation tales. Written by Frederick Forsyth, published in 1975, this novella tells of a 1950s RAF pilot trying to fly home to England for the holidays in a deHavilland Vampire. But fate, always the hunter, intervenes...
A wind is rustling "south and soft,"
Cooing a quiet country tune.
The calm sea sighs, and far aloft
the sails are ghostly in the moon.
Unquiet ripples lisp and purr,
A block there pipes and chirps i' the sheave,
The wheel-ropes jar, the reef-points stir
Faintly --and it is Christmas Eve.
The hushed sea seems to hold her breath,
and o'er the giddy, swaying spars,
Silent and excellent as Death,
The dim blue skies are bright with stars.
Dear God -- they shone in Palestine
Like this, and yon pale moon serene
Looked down among the lowing kine
On Mary and the Nazarene.
The angels called from deep to deep,
The burning heavens felt the thrill,
startling the flocks of silly sheep
And lonely shepherds on the hill.
To-night beneath the dripping bows
where flashing bubbles burst and throng,
The bow-wash murmurs and sighs and soughs
A message from the angels' song.
The moon goes nodding down the west,
The drowsy helmsman strikes the bell;
Rex Judaorum natus est,
I charge you, brothers, sing Nowell, Nowell,
Rex Judaorum natus est.
Christmas! 'Tis the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall,