The Mechanics of TC — A Note.

So far I’ve observed this about the interactions in TC: that they will tend to maximize the critical, the skeptic participant and the titanically self-confident participant.

Skepticism is maximized because once the process of criticizing a positive assertion has begun, it will reduce the number of participants who spend most of their time making positive assertions. (This excludes Filthy although in some sense he falls under the second description-category.) There are enough free lances among the participants at any one time to make it unbearable for any advocate to continue advocating. Take, for instance, Fred Foldvary, who has to parry assaults from all sides. It takes more energy to do the advocating than to do the criticizing. (This is not to imply that for this reason I value one more than the other.) A participant, then, will either move toward becoming a critic-at-large, or will become exhausted and leave, or will say only that which can’t be argued about, or will be so obscure and thick-skinned that nothing seems to get through. (Kysor? — Limit your critics.)

The critics-at-large will tend to stay, since it is fun, or rather, more fun than watching your carefully constructed arguments be demolished, misconstrued, or denied. Furthermore, random observers on the subscription list will see this mechanic and be leery of participating unless they have reached the stage where they are convinced that they have something “valuable” to say; that is, until they feel they have something to advocate, and that this position is strong enough to resist some attacks. Or unless they are calm and reasonable about it and enjoy thrashing it out… but this tends to bring in people who are accused of not being “intellectually honest” (read: fanatical enough to put up a good fight) or inconsistent. If you have a case, take it to the people at TC… if it passes their test by fire, you can bet it is going to be a strong doctrine.

This is not to imply that indisputable statements and cases are somehow valueless, since a refreshing angle of a good tale or a moment’s interesting rumination or an esthetically pleasing but inconsequential construct, all of which many find no attackers, are valuable (at least to me) on other merits…


Kysor: Actually I was inaccurate to say that you approached obscurity, since you are frequently direct and clear. However I do detect signs of the thick skin I mentioned in that you apparently spurn all pleas for the organization of your writing to be improved and more accessible. Or something along those lines. First I’ll reply to TC109 p94 line 5 in which you assert that several people in TC prefer to read “best selling authors.” This is an inaccuracy and it is compounded later by your further qualification: ”than any new & unaccepted theory appearing on these pages.” Since we are reading TC in the first place and commenting and soon, does this not render null such assertions? If we express a love for parsimony and saving of energy that will result in concentrating some of our finite resources on such works as have passed “peer review” doesn’t this mean we are correctly accused of such crimes as you try to smear us with? Come now! Later, on page 95 lines 6&7 of the same issue you ask whether the content is not more important than the style & format. Later on page 96 lines 47&48 you assert that clarity is a function of a minimum of “symbolism” and “ambiguity” (which is absurd in the first place given that on occasion one wants to communicate ambiguity and also in that you have apparently no appreciation for symbolism, which is a highly accurate and precise tool in communication… in fact, if we regard words themselves as symbols, and we can do so validly, then you have certainly painted yourself into a strange little corner there… anyway you appear to have left out NOISE (and noise detracts from clarity; therefore it belongs on your list of things to avoid) and SIGNAL DRIFT in your little set of things to avoid in communication. The point of being that format and style, which you so cavalierly dismiss, are a significant source of NOISE and SIGNAL DRIFT, especially in your printed works. I think that if you consider your tuner to be so powerful as to eliminate just such noise then you are to be held in awe… kaff, kaff… but that if you wish to communicate, and you evidently do, then the least consideration for your audience would require some effort on your part in the direction of a clean transmission. When I turn my radio on I don’t settle down with the crackling wavelength so distorted as to impart minimal information, I move to one that yields high gain at minimal effort on my part, and the situation is analogous to the one in which you cast your readers.

[Handwritten: Not noise so much as density?]

Let me, then, refer you to the indispensable Elements of Style (Strunk & White, Macmillan), Rules 8 and 9. #8 says: Choose a suitable design and hold to it. #9 says: Make the paragraph a unit of composition. I leave it to you to find and assimilate the reasoning behind these rules, with but one extra comment: they are time tested rules, by which I mean that they have been found useful by great numbers of people. There is usually a reason for this, and it is something akin to a generalized application of the scientific method.

If you want only to be read by people who want to put extra work into it, then by all means go ahead; it shouldn’t really have any bearing on the truth of your propositions. All it will do us artificially restrict your audience. This, you may well know, is an overcompensation. People who make themselves difficult to approach are usually afraid of being approached, and often with good reason. They might have to be able to defend their statements. But maybe I’m wrong and it isn’t really noise; it is density. Either way what excuse can you offer for limiting your accessibility?

Filthy: Fanzine. The reason I didn’t use the word is that although Inside Joke is within the fanzine milieu, once I start writing for something it is no longer just another fanzine. Just thought I’d let you know. Elayne is going to be at the World SF Con in September and I told her to look you up. Also, Fred told you of Bert Sowerwine’s project near Yellowstone. I don’t think Bert is going to make a good proprietor, even though he’s a good guy. (As an aside, the Sandinistas stole some of his property in Nicaragua when they took over, which made a very interesting story; he had to search all over to find his wife, who was in a refugee camp in the Honduras if I recall correctly.) Anyway, his prices are very high and his plans for local influx of cash run on about the level of handmade handicrafts for the tourists and they only buy the junk Indian jewelry. He’s had trouble with locals who have vandalized his place in the past (they regard him as something of a con-man or a crank, which isn’t unusual in our movement… he’s surrounded by real atavists), and with the Feds, who trumped up some poaching charge last year and busted in with all sorts of flagrantly illegal warrants (unsigned, refused to show them… I read the depositions), and 1. terrorized the people who were renting his ranch; 2. busted up a lot of property; 3. stole things; 4. didn’t find any poached game. I expect they regard him as another immoral back-to-the-lander who feels no compunctions about doing a little hunting on his own land even though the State regards the herds as common property or something, and a libertarian back to the land community in that area is going to face some hassles from the Wilderness Police, who are pretty active around here. As to incorporating and avoiding some of the regulations, unless he has a deal worked out with the State and Federal apparatchiks, he isn’t going to get away from the important ones. Could he, for instance, create an enterprise zone, with immunity from taxes? Ah, well. Perhaps he could start a para-military training camp for party members…

Downard: “Non Sunt Multiplicanda Entia Necessitatum” was first rate, very enjoyable. Hunter S. Thompson is far from being the best prose stylist of our generation, or of any. For that award there is no winner, because there aren’t very many who measure up to any meaningful standard. (So he may be the “best” but that isn’t saying much.) Kenneth Rexroth was one of the last prose stylists of any value, and he devoted most of his effort to poetry which wasn’t so hot. (He did write a few real gems, however.) Maybe Tom Wolfe is worth reading even if he does overdo it with the capital-f Flair.

As for On The Road, it is beaten hands down by Richard Farina’s little known classic, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me. Highly recommended if you can find a copy. Farina died of a motorcycle accident after attending a party to celebrate the announcement of his first novel’s publication, and as the literate know, Thomas Pynchon dedicated Gravity’s Rainbow to his lost friend. Those of you who have not read Gravity’s Rainbow are still living in the dark ages. Or worse. Anyone unfamiliar with it cannot claim to have any particular knowledge of letters. If you haven’t read Pynchon’s V. or his The Crying of Lot 49, you have no business talking about what’s going on in letters today, because you obviously don’t follow them very well. (By the way, I’ve moved this to a general-address mode, not meaning to insult you, Downard, directly.) Joyce and Pynchon are the two greatest writers that the West produced. (That is, industrial modern west, since it is inexcusable to leave out Cervantes… and I put Russian writers in the East.) Existentialism as a movement in philosophy or literature is neither dead nor stillborn, as you will discover when you have read Pynchon and Farina. And when my book is out. As a matter of fact (glissando here, please), it is the ONLY movement, and nothing has happened worthy SINCE Nietzsche in philosophy with the possible exception of Sartre, who is dreadfully overrated as a proponent of existentialism. In literature the movement is strong and healthy; it is the only aspect of today’s literature that is strong and healthy, it is the fundamental sentiment that grounds true libertarianism (forgot the parentheses), and it has reached a mighty and mightily-redefined statement with Pynchon. All disbelievers may now raise their hands to be called on.

You also asked why Hitler is so fascinating. I think it is because so many people feel so powerless that those figures in history who had immense power become objects of envy. You know about how the gods of the vanquished become the devils of the victors: well, Satan has always been the patron saint of people who feel themselves to be underdogs and would rather be kings. Those who feel persecuted are going to identify with others who are vilified, etc.

CORRECTIONS: Kerry Thornley did not produce the poster titled “Destroy that which bores you.” It was made by one Freddie Baer. In TC 109 p. 57 in my talk with Witham I said that “studies by Laing et al have showed.” Should have been “have shown.” (I don’t rewrite this stuff. Some of the errors are embarrassing.)

Just called up the radio station to tell them I had an LP tape with Clark, Rothbard and Daniels talking about Social Security, plan to go up tomorrow and they’ll play some of it. The newsman asked me to comment on the Wyoming Legislature’s “Lemon Aid” bill, a plan to give car buyers an extra boost when they have problems etc. Had a hard time getting my thoughts in order. “O.K., I’m going to turn on the tape recorder now,” he says. “Holy shit, what is it I’m supposed to be commenting on?” I think. “Uh,” I stumble. Funny, I almost start laughing. I could say something wild, like ”People who buy lemons should switch to oranges if they don’t like it.” Instead, “Caveat emptor… blah blah… encouraging them not to be wary buyers, blah blah, etc., getting out of the habit of being good traders, trusting some other authority to do their work for them, blah blah… ” News from home. Carmen says she likes my tennis shoes because they’re so “rock ‘n’ roll.” Uh-huh. Hmmm. I told Jane she really has that alienated rhythm down pat…




— G. Reith

It is argued that the DIJA gave birth to Karl Marx, or at least, within the context of an ideology, that if there were no Satan, God would have to invent him. That is, since we all know that (ahem… ) propaganda is some sort of long-lasting brand of pheromone whose role is to show people where they can find the team they want to play on, Karl could only make up a bunch of stuff about the exigencies of the Current System, which happened to be something he called “capitalism”… with the result that Karl defined his life in terms of that which he opposed, whence the phrase about the DIJA being his daddy. Which came first, the cadre of the bank? More accurately, the idea communism is first and foremost capitalism’s most advanced way of thinking about itself.

But enough of this. Metaphors extend only so far. I hear too much babbling about genetics to think that it is just another portion of those communiques that extrude from TC’s hundred-monkey-typewriter bank at random. If there is no universal imperative to do anything beyond survive, I cannot see the sense in placing value on survival of the race or some group of DNA permutations. One only works for the survival of the “race” to the extent that this is necessitated by some credible threat to the “race” at large, including ME.

It is nothing to me that I am the result of lifelong labors by long suffering ancestors; for even if I could be charged with some debt to these people, I would be hard-pressed to discharge it. I can see no defensible chain of reasoning that establishes the universality of some charitable principle such that one repays one’s fathers by having children and doing a good job at it

Anyway (and I’ve worked on this throughout a week of interruptions), I also find this emphasis on Race, genetics and the Folk to be repellently collectivist. (Call me again on the Party if you like, but I need not be that perfect… as Von Mises said, it isn’t the source but the truth of the proposition that matters.) Again I see a doctrine that finds supporters primarily among those who need an excuse to deny their petty, transitory, and individual desires. The result tending to be an accrual of power to whatever large Monopoly On The Use of Force happens to lay claims in the area. I think that most of you are familiar with some of the other arguments against Racism, and I’m not talking about the corrupt meaning of the word, as in prejudicial attitudes blah blah. Why is it that people fall for the line about Greater Destinies, Future Glory, Racial Manifests, and Duty to DNA? Why, indeed, do they on occasion resort to using race as a description of individuals as if their race had anything to do with their ideas, or explained their ideas in any cogent way? I know the answers. I know I have readers who do these things, too. And which came first, me or my reflexivity? (P.S. Downard: existentialism not dead, see elsewhere.)

CONCLUSION: There may be reasons to have children, but they have nothing to do with “propagating the race,” which is not a good reason, for many reasons…

archive: letters

Valid XHTML 1.1!