It’s Personal, Too
By R. D. Flavin
The Day the Earth Stood Still poster, Signal Corps laboratory in New Jersey, and a cover of Journey Into Mystery featuring Thor.
Dear St. Valentine,
Some of my earliest memories involve science-fiction, for example watching the 1951 film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, as 'The ABC Sunday Night Movie' ca. 1962 and some lazy afternoons spent lying on my back on the grassy field in front of Fort Monmouth’s Signal Corps laboratory or “hexagon” building imagining that moving specks in the sky were UFOs and not airplanes. Religion, as these things go, came later. Okay, I remember attending a Christmas Eve mass when I was five or six years of age, but that was only because my Catholic grandmother was visiting (as opposed to the Episcopalian grandmother – a comparison for another day), and we were generally what is today politely termed lapsed Catholics. My interest in religion, if I recall properly, sort of occurred through the reading of comic books and an interest in Norse mythology, which soon segued into Greek, Roman and other pagan traditions and beliefs. I appreciate science, fiction and religion and have pursued all with vigor. Though I’ve only professionally sold a couple of science articles and fictional stories each, my practice, study and contribution to a better understanding of religion is ongoing, I’m uneasy when money and religion become dependent on one another. Writing for money or love is one thing, but making money from religion? I’ve publically said and written against such, but ...it's personal, too. I'm an amateur, that is, someone who loves what they do. It's believed that you may have known a thing or three about love and writing. Klaatu barada nikto, St. Val! Though your feastday was officially removed from most post-V2 liturgical calendars, I hope much was shared yesterday which was, in some fashion, inspired by you.
A few days ago I had occasion to visit Harvard University and its libraries. My experience at the Tozzer Library was, as always, enjoyable and educational. On my way across campus (a couple of Harvard Yards, if you must), I remembered that I’d been sent some files in ‘mdi’ format that I hadn’t been able to view, so I stopped by the Computer Lab and help desk at the Science Center. The techs were knowledgeable and gracious, I was able to save the mdi files in another format (‘tif’, which I’ll convert to jpg’s when I’ve the time), and I was off to Widener Library to attend to a second research project. I walked past a couple of guys talking and overheard “9/11." I glanced over my shoulder and saw that one of them had a placard I’d seen versions of before. I paused, considered the potential waste of time and calories, took a photograph, and walked back and ...told the guys about the irony of the promotion of whack-science in front of Harvard’s Science Center. The guy with the placard had a smile and a glazed look in his eyes that I’d encountered before among cult members. I’d written a column about public protests sponsored by communists featuring 9/11 nut-jobs a year and a half ago, and then there’s "Hard Evidence" aka ex-BYU Prof. Steve Jones who is apparently still on the lecture circuit claiming Muslims “probably” had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. This is wrong on so many levels. However, I maintain that whacks associate with other whacks so that if one of them somehow manages to crack open the door of conventional science a bit, they hope they can squeeze through. In a free society it might be their right to attempt to open any metaphorical door of their choosing, but in a rational and responsible society there’s going to be someone stepping forward to explain ...science doesn’t work like that. Yeah, when I think of the look of smug pseudo-serenity of the 9/11 cult guy outside of the Science Center it still raises the hairs on the back of my neck. Yet, we must go beyond being offended and get involved. Irrational individuals and groups are killing people. We must say “Never Again,” mean it, and do something about it.
Another mis-use of a fine comic book graphic novel.
I was still considering the 9/11 whack as I crossed from the “Old Yard” into Harvard Yard and looked upon Widener Library. At the instant my heart thumped within my chest at the sight of a familiar place I was fond of, I noticed a German Shepherd running in front of the library, stopping, and defecating a significant amount of ...crap. A large woman in a bright red coat talking on a cell-phone walked past, the dog looked back briefly at what had just exited its ass and then ran after the woman on the cell-phone. She never broke her stride or glanced at what endowment her canine had left to Harvard. I was paralyzed with incredulity. Last weekend I consumed something which has caused me a bit of digestive discomfort since; perhaps I was jealous of the dog’s bowel regularity. An older fellow walked past me while I was still staring at the German Shepherd’s owner and rhetorically asked, “...Gives dog-lovers a bad name, doesn’t it?” I couldn’t bring myself to say anything, but I did silently appreciate his comment.
Sighing, I shook my head to re-boot my thinking and went about my business at Widener. About an hour and a half later, after a split decision regarding successes and failures concerning book requests, I exited the library, walked down the steps and noticed a couple of large dogs playing in the Yard. One was a very big black poodle and the other was a creme-colored breed I couldn’t identify. It was ...goofy looking, for lack of a better description. I observed that their two owners appeared to be students and the dogs seemed to enjoy each other's company. I was weary from eye-strain and brain-drain, so I decided to ignore the matter. And, then I passed the German Shepherd’s healthy dump and snapped off the above shot. I’m not used to such crap at Harvard and I’m going to have to work this through (perhaps in the Old Yard).
Marx, Lennon, Stalin and the logo for the newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA.
Continuing the play-by-play, I boarded the MBTA Red Line subway train and traveled from Harvard Square in Cambridge to Park Street Station in Boston. As I got off the train someone tried to hand me a newspaper. The two major Beantown papers have street vendors across the city, but as they charge money (The Boston Globe is up to 75¢!) the vendors are stationary and one must approach them to buy a newspaper. The free weekly “alternative” newspaper, The Boston Phoenix, is distributed through vending boxes and loose stacks placed in many stores throughout the metropolitan Boston area. And, then there’s the two new Monday thru Friday free “dailies” that are wickedly heavy with ads, a minimal (though useful) amount of actual ‘news’, and these are given away by vendors who stand right in front of you and place their free paper in your face. I thought the paper thrust before me at the Park Street Station Red Line platform was one of the new freebies and quickly dodged past any confrontation. Out of the corner of my eye I recognized a picture of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Still walking away, it occurred to me that this wasn’t one of the new freebies and then (temporarily ignoring being surrounded by walls painted red to assist the color impaired in figuring out they were at a Red Line stop) I realized that the paper that had been put before me seemed to have an abundance of ...red ink. I turned around and took one of the papers from the guy. He grinned and asked, “How about a donation; these papers cost money...” I answered, “No, I’m not giving you a dime because you’re a commie and creepy as well.” As I walked up the stairs to street-level, the communist newspaper vendor called out, “The truth hurts, doesn’t it?” I trust Scully, but if she vouches for Mulder’s “the truth is out there,” then it's time to change the channel. I don’t believe that ‘truth’ will ever hurt. 9/11 conspiracy paranoia and anti-government hate-speech, crap at Harvard, Reds on the Red Line – I never want to get used to such synchronicities.
H. P. Lovecraft, L. Ron Hubbard as “The Commodore,” Cruise preaching Scientology, and protesters in Boston on 2-10-08 (pic from here).
To paraphrase Tip, all grades are class struggles, with activists and pacificists getting passing grades and the rich and the poor alternating between those who get really good or really bad grades which too often actualizes in orders for death and those who die. Not all cults and whackos are dangerous, but some are and we must extrapolate from the common sense of Mr. Justice Potter Stewart (Jacobellis v. Ohio) and recognize it by the creep factor (Ech + contemptible = neckhair raising creepy). Scientologists are way creepy and I’ve seldom (if ever) missed an opportunity to make it exceptionally clear that I regard all Scientologists as whackos deserving of a smooth blend of brain medicines and aggressive psychotherapy or prison time, whichever is legally determined as warranted. I wasn't impressed with any of the several science fiction short stories I read by L. Ron Hubbard before my first encounters with the Scientology cult ca. 1972-1975. A couple of magazine articles critical of the cult somehow got my attention and then I picked up a free paperback book copy of Hubbard’s Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (at a Detroit Star Trek convention, I admit with some reservation). The paperback got tossed midway through the second chapter. I’m not absolutely positive, but I seem to recall that the Rhode Island fantasy and horror pulp writer, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, once met a young L. Ron Hubbard and didn’t like him. Well, that’s what I remember now, who can say what I’ll remember tomorrow?
“Ears Still Shut," my 4-16-99 column, dealt with Scientology and I received several positive e-mails regarding my honest and deservingly harsh assessment of the cult. I’ve also had occasion to refer to Hubbard’s uniform fetish, NARCONON, and other creepy things associated with Hubbard and Scientology (though I’m unsure if I expressed outrage over Steven Spielberg allowing the setting up of Scientology massage tents near the sets of his recent film with Tom Cruise, the re-make of The War of the Worlds – if I didn’t, I do so now). I’ve tried more than twice to sit through all of Mission Impossible 3, and while I have the upmost respect for the acting ability of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I’m having a serious time disassociating Tom Cruise the actor from Tom Cruise the whacko Scientologist. And, it’s personal, too. I was a fan and tried to watch the original television series whenever possible, yet growing up as an Army-brat, I was “overseas” for most of the show’s first five seasons. The evil cult of Scientology should be regularly exposed and better investigations into their criminal methods should be pursued. Last weekend, many people around the globe tried to encourage such.
Scientologists have been litigious since their earliest days (think con-games, criminals and cash) and some of their out of court activities are infamously notorious (read: nasty, illegal and deadly). An online coalition of hackers and activists have formed to do their best to bring down the cult of Scientology. I’m liking it. Actually, I’m loving it ...except for one minor matter that’s giving me pause... The coalition members are “anonymous,” in public they wear masks, and I don’t know if a potential audience will trust nameless folks with their faces covered. Keep up the good work, Anonymous, but step up without fear as your cause is backed with rationality and honesty. I despise Hubbard and Scientology for many reasons, some more valid than others. I still can’t shake that Lovecraft and Hubbard connection.
My initial guess was that I’d read of the meeting between Lovecraft and Hubbard in an HPL biography (De Camp 1975), but after checking out the index and going over the material concerning his New York City years, I wasn’t able to find any mention of Hubbard. I thought the meeting would be in association with the Kalem Club, a discussion group whose name was whimsically formed from K-L-M, the surname initials from its founding members George Kirk, Rheinhart Kleiner, Frank Belknap Long, Jr., H. P. Lovecraft, Samuel Loveman, Everett McNeil and James F Morton, and which De Camp allows to be “considered the world’s first science-fiction fan society,” but the mention wasn’t there (ibid, pp. 219-220). Maybe it wasn’t HPL who described Hubbard as having a mass of red hair and an overly aggressive demeanor, as Hubbard did meet at one time or the other many science-fiction writers of the 1930s (also into the 1940s and 1950s), but my self-imposed terminus is 1937, the year Lovecraft died. Maybe it was later and with someone like Heinlein, but my best guess remains Lovecraft. Perhaps it’s mentioned in one of his volumes of letters – I’ll have to follow through with this. One sad thing which resulted from my investigating the veracity of my memory was that I’d somehow selectively forgotten Lovecraft’s racist attitudes. Sure, I’ve always recalled that he owned a black house cat named “Nigger-Man” and that he’d married a divorced Jewish woman, but re-reading and remembering such pronouncements as, “Any white man who would do such a thing [enjoy the company of an African American woman] ought to have the word NEGRO branded on his forehead” (ibid, p. 219). Way ouch! Lovecraft, dude, where’s the love?
St. Valentine’s Day is a day when many people think about love, not just traditional Catholics, but even some Hindus and Buddhist-Shintoists go against the warnings from their spiritual leaders to not partake in this holiday of love. Does the celebration follow a blend of Christian mythology and pagan practice? I’m going to have to shrug that one off and refer the interested to take a closer look at Halloween, Christmas and Easter and decide for themselves. Of course ‘love’ predates your prison notes, as it does Jesus and his teachings, the various pagan festivals, and extends far back into human history. Indeed, it’s been argued that love had a great deal to do with how we ...became human.
Oreopithecus, a late Miocene higher primate from Italy; almost, but not quite human (Oxnard 1972, p. 658).
A super-abundant food resource enables a single parent to provide full parental care. As has been noted above, however, survivorship of offspring must have been critical to Miocene hominoids; further female paenting is negated by the mobile feeding strategy; hominoid males may be considered an “untapped pool” of reproductive energy; and Miocene ecological conditions required a generalist feeding strategy. Conditions were prime for the establishment of male parental investment and a monogamous mating structure. Finally, it should be pointed out that only among primates in which the male is clearly and directly involved in the parenting process should monogamy be found (Lovejoy 1981, p. 346).
In a discussion of the significance of bipedalism and what makes us human Prof. Ken Feder (Central Connecticut State University, anthropology) has commented:
In Lovejoy’s view, she [a Miocene hominid] must assure him that the offspring are his and that, by helping them, he ensures that half his genes get passed along as well. Only a pattern of sexual fidelity – in other words, monogamy – can do this. Basically, it’s a trade: Females increase the likelihood their children will survive by remaining sexually faithful to one male. The male receives exclusive sexual access to a female and an increased probability that he will father offspring. All he has to do is faithfully provision the female and the children he has sired with her. This ability to bring food and other resources back to the female and the young is made feasible, in Lovejoy’s view, by the freeing of the hands – which, in turn, is made possible by walking on two feet (Feder 2007, p. 102).
Feder continues his discussion with alternative theories, as a female remaining sexually faithful while the male is away would appear to be a quintessentially human problem since before we ...became human. It’s an engaging and well documented examination in attempting to answer some of life’s biggest questions. Truth? Let’s talk about what makes us human and why we love. We’re human because that’s what we’ve evolved into and we love because it’s the right thing to do. It’s time-tested, one might say.
Lone female mallard duck on St. Val's Day in the pond of the Boston Public Garden and a large Valentine heart trimmed with roses on locked doors.
So, St. Val, while some don’t grant you credit for your letters of love, dismiss your feastday as a Medieval invention, and cite Chaucer’s “For this was on seynt Volantynys day, Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make” from his 1382 poem, Parlement of Foules, as the earliest popular exploitation of your contribution, I’m not convinced. Yesterday, Saint Valentine’s Day, I saw a female duck alone in the pond of the Boston Public Garden. No other duck, male or female, nor any other bird that I could see, for that matter, was around. Maybe I should have waited...
De Camp, L. Sprague. 1975. Lovecraft: A Biography. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
Feder, Kenneth L. 2006. The Past in Perspective: An Introduction to Human Prehistory. Fourth edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Lovejoy, C. Owen. 1981. “The Origin of Man.” Science. 211, 4480: 341-350. See p. 346.
Oxnard, Charles E. 1972. “Man's Morphological History.” A review of The Ascent of Man: An Introduction to Human Evolution by David Pilbeam.
Science. 176, 4035: 657-659.
Looking forward to Next Presidents' Day,