Book Review #15

robert-a-heinlein

The Book – Robert A. Heinlein

The Author – William H. Patterson Jr.

The Review –

This is the second of a two-part complete biography of one of the most important, seminal authors (not merely of Science-Fiction) of the 20th Century.  BrainRants made me aware of Part 1 last year, and recently, another blogger reminded me that book two was available.

The complete title is, Robert A. Heinlein – In Conversation With His Century.  That needs to be remembered when accessing library or bookstore web catalogs.  Enter only ‘Robert A. Heinlein,’ and you get, We have 800 listings for Robert Heinlein, which one did you want? I want the one written by Patterson.  The sub-title of Volume 1 was ‘Learning Curve.’  The sub-title of this Volume is, ‘The Man Who Learned Better.’  It covers his career from 1948 to 1988.

For someone like me, used to reading novels, with their character development and plot twists, reading this tome was a ….learning curve. Were it not for its subject, it would be as exciting as reading a telephone book.  (Remember those?)  But this was a man who met and talked to Presidents and Prime Ministers; who awed, and was adored by, astronauts who went into space and walked on the Moon, and scientists who put them there, and a probe on Mars.

I see why those with little intellect, or lives of their own, hang on every video-provided nuance of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” The author casts a very fine net, down to what Heinlein had for breakfast on particular days. Scrambled eggs, sausage, coffee and toast on April 17, 1957.

The ‘Rich And Famous Lifestyle’ of a profoundly successful author is not all that we might imagine – or rather, it’s far more than many of us would want. Not only did Heinlein (and many like him) have to keep grinding out grist for the publishing mill, but he had to keep in constant touch with lawyers, editors, publishers and agents.

He had a New York agent, a California agent, and a European agent. There was an agent who failed to promote Heinlein’s work.  There was an over-zealous NY agent who invaded the California agent’s territory long-distance.  There were editors who revised his works without his permission, or even his knowledge in a couple of cases, completely changing the thrust of a story.

Agents sold rights to stories they were not authorized to do. Publishers printed work they had not paid for. He lost money twice in the movie industry, when projects collapsed.  One studio used creative bookkeeping to withhold payments for a successful movie, while another simply pirated his idea, and retitled it.  Which brings us back to the lawyers.

Back before the internet, he had to deal with most of this at the speed of ink. When he moved to Colorado, he was on a party-line telephone with six neighbors for over a year.  One of his later notes said that he finally had to give up helping fans with theses, term papers, and dissertations.

He corresponded with other authors, giving and receiving commendations and inspiration for story lines. Occasionally, he would pen a promo or review for another writer.  While he pumped out a stupendous amount of prose during his working life, it was far overshadowed by the mass of mundane, unpaid writing he had to do.

‘All You Zombies’ is considered one of the greatest short-stories ever written. A time-travelling hermaphrodite becomes his/her own mother, father, and child.  It was written as a submission to Playboy Magazine, who turned it down – because of the implied sex??!

As a way to give back to a country he cared very much for, Heinlein did at least two important things. He promoted and supported NASA, and the space program.  While many civilians complained about the waste of money, Heinlein knew that every dollar invested in NASA returned $14 to the economy – and that was even before the Silicon Valley bubble, powered by the newly developed micro-processors.

He had had a variety of medical afflictions over the years, and had a very rare blood type. His life had been saved at least twice by transfusions provided by the Rare Blood Association.  He established grassroots blood donor clinic organizations, and he helped make the likes of Rare Blood, and the American Red Cross stronger and more efficient, donating both expertise and money.

While the book could seem dry and tedious, the life of the man it revealed was just awe-inspiring. I am glad I spent the time and patience.  I highly recommend the pair.

The Business Of Fame

Pence

Most Famous Man Who Ever Lived

One day many years ago at a school in South London a teacher said to the class of 5-year-olds, “I’ll give 20 pence to the child who can tell me who was the most famous man who ever lived.”
An Irish boy put his hand up and said, “It was St. Patrick.” The teacher said, “Sorry Alan, that’s not correct.”
Then a Scottish boy put his hand up and said, “It was St. Andrew.” The teacher replied, “I’m sorry, Hamish, that’s not right either.
Finally, an Indian boy raised his hand and said, “It was Jesus Christ.” The teacher said, “That’s absolutely right, Jayant, come up here and I’ll give you the 20 pence.”
As the teacher was giving him his money, she said, “You know Jayant, since you are Gujarati, I was very surprised you said Jesus Christ.” He replied, “Yes, in my heart I knew it was Lord Krishna, but business is business!”

***

$200 Bucks It Is…

A guy goes over to his friend’s house, rings the bell, and the wife answers.
”Hi, is Tony home?”
”No, he went to the store.”
“Well, you mind if I wait?”
”No, come in.”

They sit down and the friend says “You know Nora, you have the greatest breasts I have ever seen. I’d give you a hundred bucks if I could just see one.”

Nora thinks about this for a second and figures what the hell – a hundred bucks. She opens her robe and shows one. He promptly thanks her and throws a hundred bucks on the table.

They sit there a while longer and he says “They are so beautiful I’ve got to see the both of them. I’ll give you another hundred bucks if I could just see the both of them together.”

Nora thinks about this and thinks what the hell, opens her robe, and gives him a nice long look. He thanks her, throws another hundred bucks on the table, and then says he can’t wait any longer and leaves.

A while later Tony arrives home and his wife says “You know, your weird friend Chris came over.”

Tony thinks about this for a second and says “Well did he drop off the 200 bucks he owes me?”

***

Italian, French and Indian

An Italian, French and Indian all went for a job interview in England. Before the interview, they were told that they must compose a sentence in English with three main words: green, pink and yellow.

The Italian was first: “I wake up in the morning. I see the yellow sun. I see the green grass and I think to myself, I hope it will be a pink day.”

The French was next: “I wake up in the morning, I eat a yellow banana, a green pepper and in the evening I watch the pink panter on TV.

Last was the Indian: “I wake up in the morning, I hear the phone “green green”, I “pink” up the phone and I say “Yellow.”

***

What’s The Point?

When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 million to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300 C. The Russians used a pencil.

 

I Wish You Hadn’t Said That

Being a rant about the things that people write without thinking, mostly, but not entirely, incorrect homonyms.  Crossword puzzles still irk me when the creators don’t really know what they’re talking about.  The Canadian province Alberta, can be rendered AB, Alt. or Alta, but not Alba.  That’s another name for Scotland.

“Refrain from” does not mean cease.  Refrain means not doing something.  Cease means you’re already doing it and must stop.  A video was titled “crazy way to tow a bus”, and showed it being pushed.  Towed means being pulled.  Pushed means not being towed.

Connotation vs. denotation means, what people think things mean, instead of what they really do mean.  Often secondary meanings become so common that the original gets lost.  If I were hungry, I might be a little testy, but peckish means hungry, not testy.  I get a bit testy when people don’t know that.

Ordinary folk using the wrong word is common, but it especially irks me when someone who really should know, doesn’t.  Probably not old enough to remember wringer washing-machines, the female leader of a Provincial political party claimed that, “The Liberals are putting us through the ringer.”  What a ding-a-ling.

The editor of an on-line publishing company got rid of a troublesome client, and wrote, “Good riddens to bad rubbish.” apparently not knowing the existence of the word riddance, and that riddens is not a word in English.

A successful author’s character, “Reloaded his weapons, and checked his partner’s ordinance.”  There’s a law against that, because weaponry is ordnance.  This man has three university degrees, works for NASA, and has six successful books – just not a publisher with a proof-reader.

“Grant shirked back into his leather duster” and the author shirked his duty to discover that the correct word is shucked – to remove from, or in this case, return to, an outer covering.

“I’m not the kind of mother who pawns her children off.”  I didn’t know you could get money for the little ba….bies.  She should use some to catch a magic show.  Closely watching a card trick will show you how the performer palms the card.

For all intensive purposes – or, for all intense and purposes.  My intents (intentions) and purpose is to remind people to think about the correct word.

I despair of ever having the general public correctly use the forms of lie and lay.  Misusage is endemic in newspapers, and on TV.  “Danny DeVito and his wife laid low.”  If you are “laid low” you’re dead.  Lay requires a noun to perform its action on.  Lie doesn’t.  You can lie down, and lay your head on a pillow.  You can lay your mistress, and lie to your wife about it.

I am sadly amused by those who are illiterate enough to not know that the word segue is pronounced seg-way, but have the arrogance to “correct” it by writing segue-way.  I mentioned it to the great Edward Hotspur when he did it, and was promptly run over by his turbo-charged ego.

We go back to the pawnshop for the story of a young man and woman who hocked their virginity online.  In aggressively promoting something for sale, they hawked the product.  A businessman offered Brittany Spears $2 million for her virginity.  This gal got $68,000!  The guy just got a lot of people shaking their heads.

A man who’s reputation preceded him should have thought, damn it, if it has an apostrophe, it’s an abbreviation.  Whose yer English teacher?

A woman wanted to sell an original addition of War and Peace.  Damn, it’s long enough already!  Why would you want to increase it?  Another genius wanted to sell a Star Wars action figure – Job of the Hut.  I thought nerds could read and write.

They failed to chalk the truck in place, after arriving early to get a good birth on the ferry, and its parking breaks failed.  This author/book must take some sort of prize for having the most mistakes in one sentence.  I’m sure you already know, but the correct words are chock, berth, and brakes.

After seen the video, or, I seen the video.  One wrong word taking the places of both seeing, and saw.

He hit one out of the part.  What!!?  Let’s hope that was just a baseball typo.

It meant that, simply foot…  Simply put, I don’t even want to know what the author thought the word foot meant in that context, oh damn, that thought word again.

For sale – radio arm saw.  I wonder if it’s AM/FM.  I have a bionic shoulder.  What’s a radio arm?

Don’t say anymore, the game’s a foot, just proves that two words don’t mean the same as a single compound word.  Allot means to divide, or portion out.  I see that a lotAlot is a lot closer, but still not proper English.

It is not a case and point.  It is a case in point, in case no-one pointed that out.  And it’s neck and neck, side by side, not neck in neck, which is impossible.  Think damn it!

A palace spokesman changed his tact.  If he’d been a sailor, he’d have correctly changed his tack.

There was wed paint on the rod iron railing.  I know you got the wet paint.  Did you know the railing was wrought iron?  Hogs get into chicken coups…and cause double entenders.  Hey, if you can’t handle English, stay away from French or someone could get hurt.

The wing snapped off the plane, and it augured into the ground.  Well, I could have foretold that.  The spirally thing you’re vaguely thinking of, is an auger.  While we’re talking about machine-tools, she wore a fancy broach on her lapel.  Not my Mom, she wore a brooch.

For better or words, (Ow! Ow! Ow!) that’s all my rants for this time.  Come back soon and I’ll tell you a funny story.