Followed by the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson


I will not be able to write a full review yet because I am barely at the half-way point of the first book, Red Mars.

But here is what I have gleaned out of the 300 pages I have read so far.

One hundred people set off from Terra to go to Mars, to make it habitable for human use. These 100 people are 35% Russian, 35% American, and 30% a mix of a number of other races, mostly mentioning the Japanese. They are half male and half female, expected to form permanent attachments on the way. Naturally, the 300+ days it takes them to get to Mars, we start seeing a lot of jealousy, splitting into factions, each faction wanting one thing, and then arguments start between members of the factions. There is one psychiatrist among the geologists, lab scientists, builders, manufacturers, medical staff, every thing that might be needed in setting up a whole new world. And he has mental problems. There are quite a few memorable names of people we start getting to know. But the main folks we are getting to know are Maya, a Russian, John and Frank, both Americans, Nadia, a Russian woman who is both a builder, and the steadiest thinker and problem solver among the group, and Hiroko, the Japanese who runs the horticultural gardens and animals. John and Frank have been long-term friends, but Maya has had sex with first Frank, and then John, and ignoring Frank. Frank is a trouble-maker, and begins to resent John because he has Maya, and is the only one who has ever been on Mars already.

Then there is Arkady, who wants his team to set up Phobos military-style, and who has a mean mouth, to keep stirring up trouble. And Ann, who does not want Mars terraformed at all, but wants to keep Mars as it is. There is also apparently a stowaway, brought on by Hiroko, and everyone is going to both Nadia and Michel, the French psychiatrist. I have already learned that Hiroko has taken her own group from the horticultural bunch and left, taking Michel and the stowaway with her/them. So far, we don’t seem to know where she is. But at the point I am at in the book, there have been several other nations who have sent ships with up to 500 people to Mars in to different places to begin building their own towns. At this point I know there are Russian towns, and Arab towns, and others like the Japanese and the Chinese.

And Ann who doesn’t want any of it (and why on earth did she choose to go with the first hundred?). And sabotage is wide-spread over Mars.

(My personal choice, had I gone on such a trip, would be to terraform Mars.)

So this is where I am in this set of books, with two more books to follow (Green Mars, Blue Mars). And what I have learned up to this point is that if 100 people cannot come up with a common agenda, there is going to be trouble. And this is exactly what is going on here in the United States, and much of the rest of the world off in its little corners.

We declare we all want to live in peace. But only if that peace comes about through each individual’s idea of what peace is. They couldn’t come up with a Declaration of Independence in the Heinlein book from the 40s. Now 50 years later, Robinson’s Trilogy is beginning to sound as if the same point is being made.

We the People, many of us, do not know how to live under a document that simply was written over 200 years ago that does not say exactly what they want it to say. I’m talking about the Constitution. I definitely could also be talking about the Ten Commandments, and then christianity has the Beatitudes to live heir lives by. But everyone wants every single document ever written to specifically say what they personally want it to say. And we/they elect politicians to stir us up over what should be minor differences between each and everyone of us to make instruction lists and want everyone to honour their own personal wishes. If 100 people cannot even come to terms with one another, how can our millions and billions of human beings on any planet live together in peace and harmony.

I think love and compassion and tolerance of our differences should be hallmarks of getting along. All the power should be left to whatever deity, or philosophy, each of us believes in. Instead, we live on a planet where there are the power-hungry, the money-hungry, the religious fanatics who have got it all wrong, and a definite criminal element which plays the system, and very few people who do not live with those mindsets, but who even have personal wants, and even those whose politics are the same cannot get along because there are other beliefs which keep getting in the say.

So here we sit, and we write, and we express our opinions to everyone whether they want to hear it or not, and we friend and then unfriend one another for disagreeing with us, and we whine day after day about things that should not even exist.

And as long as human beings exist, I doubt any planet or moon we choose to live on will be the great, peaceful place we all wish it could be.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

Posted in Crime, Economics, Equality, Freedom, global warming, Health, Medicine, Mental health, personal thoughts, Politics, Religious, Science fiction, Terraforming, Voting Rights, War | Leave a comment

Why this can never be a perfect world, for anyone


I have been reading nothing but science fiction these days because there is so much out there from 50-70 years ago that is speculative sf about the future of humankind. Here are some of the things I have picked up in books I apparently never read.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein. The moon has been settled, but the people want their freedom from Terran oversight. So they deliver a message, and several of the characters actually go to Earth (which is difficult because of the weight it puts on their hearts by going into the gravity, much stronger than their own). The attend peace meetings, and talk over things, and add people to their cause. Naturally, politicians want to keep the Lunites under their rule. And they send their prisoners to the moon to do the work. But they all want to be free.

The story is an epic, consisting of three books. Book one introduces us to everyone, and starts the Free Luna organization. Three main characters spring out of this: Manny (Manuel), the Russian; a Spanish professor, and a computer named “Mike”, who has very human interactions with Manny and the Prof. There are, of course, many second level important characters, but these three are the drivers of the storyline.

Book two then carry us through all the steps it takes politically to bring a Free Luna about; meetings with upper echelon politicos on Terra, and threats of embargoes and wars and power plays. Sound familiar yet? This book was written in 1946. Heinlein definitely had his finger on a pulse of what was to come. And he wrote this right at the finish of World War II.

Chapters 15 and 16 cover the “Congress” to write a Declaration of Independence, but guess what. Practically every person on the Moon is involved with one group or another in a desire to make the Declaration include their own personal choices of living, including adding things about religious rights, human rights, prejudices, biases of their own, and moralistic ideals. But, of course, even the groups fall into chaos because all of the people in them have wants of their own, which don’t also agree with the next person to them.

In book 3 they go on to war with Terra. Missiles flying from Terra to the Moon, the moon sending rockets containing tons of rocks, enough to beat sites down to bedrock. The scientists on the moon do try to keep from dropping rocks on cities and shorelines, so they won’t be killing people. And they made announcements days before hand, over and over, to tell the citizens where they were going to do this, so they can clear out. But, of course, the people close by decide to take picnics and friends and families to these sites, thus getting killed, and then Earth politicians accuse the Lunites of killing off large numbers of people – making it the moon’s fault. In many cases, some of those rock bombs were falling on military units, but they were warning them ahead of the shots.

Terra on the other hand was shooting missiles directly onto areas full of people, and manufacturies, and underground cities. And this is where I finally found out where tanstaafl came from – a word I had been familiar with 30 years ago, but never knew where it came from. The people I would ask were secretive. I found that most veteran sf readers think you only get to know things if you started reading at a very young age. I didn’t get involved in the genre until I was about 46, in 1987, brought about by the Star Wars trilogy.

But I digress. Basically the book ends with many nations on Earth (not including the US) suing for peace, and the moon got its freedom. One of the three main characters dies, one goes on to become president/emperor/king, and one disappears completely.

To be continued in the next blog………..

Carol Stepp, Austin, TX

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Life under reality


What have I been doing since I last wrote here?  I’ve watched the TCM 31 days of Oscar, and saw many films that I never saw.  Lots of old black and whites from the 30s and 40s, as well as newer films involved with the Oscars in many ways.  It has been entertaining, and nonstressful.

I quite the Board of Directors at Gaston Place, and no longer attend the Bingo games.  Last time I called a game, I has requested that everyone be polite and considerate of everyone playing.  But it was a no-go.  Then the president of the council told me I could not change people. My reply was if I could not change people around here, how could I possibly  think I could change Washington.  What I finally decided was that if I could not change them, at least they could not change me.

I have begun packing up some of the unnecessary items for my present needs, like winter blankets and coats and books and DVDs, of which I seem to own about 130 or so.  I am watching syfy a lot, and reading science fiction.  Our move seems to be getting pushed back further and further, and I don’t know from time to time when the construction is going to being.  So I bide my time.

I don’t watch MSNBC much these days because every time I turn it on, I just read about another atrocious thing the trumpeter and his cronies are doing to this country.  I don’t read Facebook much any more because I just read about what such-and-such MAY finally bring him to impeachment.  Al I want to know is that he is finally being brought up on impeachment  charges.  The people who could stop him are too chicken shit to actually do anything.  He is bringing these people to their knees, and while down there, they are kissing his feet like he is some of a god.  Every one seems to be afraid of him.

I am not afraid of him, but I am not able to do much about him, and so I ignore him.  I just believe this country no longer has a president, but a dictator who is getting by.  Are we going to have a russian government?  No, we are too big.  Smaller than the old Soviet Union, but a lot more people, and this country is obviously going to have to split itself in two, and let the conservatives rule their part, and the liberals/progressives to have the other.

Until people more powerful than I am actually do something, I will live my life the way I want it to be – in compassion and patience and peace and love.  And allow my money to do the talking with the SPLC and ACLU, and I’m going to quit donating to the DNC until they stand up on their own legs and quit dithering about what is wrong, but not seeming to do anything to change things.

What else can I say?  I will never accept the trumpeter, but I am disabled enough by my knees now that I cannot physically DO stuff any longer except write what I feel.  Yet I need to save what is left of my sanity.  At least I am old enough not to care if bombs start falling and people start shooting and WW III begins.  I will hide myself away, as I do here where I live, and comfort myself with things I personally love, and do.

I will write at least once a month and talk about music, and books, and life in general as I live it.  And politics again when I feel like there is something going on to fix things. And despite what the McConnell and the Ryan want to do, I feel safe that my Social Security (not SSDI) and my Medicare/Medicaid will remain intact.  If you are worried about your own, then you need to take charge and quit letting other people do it for you.

Now I’m going back to on-line jigsaw puzzles.

Carol Stepp, Austin, TX

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Lost Horizon


How many of you have seen, or even heard of, the Burt Bacharach musical based on The Lost Horizon, released in 1972. It starred Peter Finch and Liv Ullman, Sir John Gielgud, Charles Boyer, George Kennedy, Sally Kellerman, Bobby Van, and Olivia Hussey. It is a beautiful story, based upon the book by James Hilton, and was a remake of an earlier b&w movie, and featured Shawn Phillips singing the title song. It is a story about men who found Shangri-La, and about the chance to leave our planet of chaos, and developing a place where you never hear the sounds of guns again.
I have the DVD, and have just watched it again on my new VHS/DVD player. I realize it is almost a fairy tale, but after my long years in this “civilized” world, I realize that I more than wish I could find it. It is rather spiritual, but not christian. It does repeat the Beatitude which talks about the meek inheriting the earth.
I have the DVD, and have just watched it again on my new VHS/DVD player. I realize it is almost a fairy tale, but after my long years in this “civilized” world, I realize that I more than wish I could find it. It is rather spiritual, but not christian. It does repeat the Beatitude, which talks about the meek inheriting the earth.
How many of you think you could live in a peaceful, non-chaotic, constant wonderful weather for centuries, never growing old, never being sick. I wonder.

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Life Goes On – for now


As I sit here having just watched M.A.S.H., and on the way to watching a Rambo marathon, I wonder when WWIII is going to start.

Everyday there is good news and there is bad news. We get an Executive Order that is later cancelled, or at least delayed, by a Justice Department. Then we get a passel of lies. What a way to run a country.

We have a trumpeter who wants to torture us; who wants to kill off the poor and sick; who wants a world of blondes with blue eyes the Super Race, the Aryans; who wants to load up anyone who does not pass his standards on trains like cattle and put them into concentration camps, and eventually take them to “showers” where they will be gassed, or even burned alive, then put into mass graves, covering them up with lime so it will disguise what has been done to them. This was tried before, beginning in 1933 with a smart man, who eventually was overcome by his own delusions of grandeur, who caused WWII, and who went down by his own hand when he realized it just wasn’t going to happen.

Just thank whatever deity you trust most that there are enough of us, We the People, who are working hard to defeat these bastards and bring back a sane government which really does care for We the People, including the working poor.

Contemplate a world you will have if the trumpeter stays in his megalomaniac power seat in a world where only the wealthiest people will remain. Oh, they will keep a few middle class people to be their slaves, doing the work that they don’t want to dirty their fingers to do. Remember this: money is the dirtiest thing we touch day by day, and they are the ones who want all of that money, and property, and all they can get their dirty hands on. That doesn’t leave you with much to try and secure your own pursuit of happiness.

We the People are working hard to see that this never happens to us. We can use all the help you can give us.

I would love to say God Bless the USA, but I am afraid of the deity the trumpeter and his followers believe in. But I happily say God/dess bless the America that I believe in.

Think about it.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

Posted in Crime, Economics, Equality, Family, Foreign Affairs, Freedom, Gay Rights, global warming, Health, Homelessness, Medicine, Mental health, personal thoughts, Politics, Religious, Voting Rights, War, Women's Rights | 1 Comment

A new year has begun


Frustration over the past political fuck-up has passed, and yesterday, January 3, 2017, I got back to MSNBC to find out what was happening on the first day of the first session of 2017.  I came away with a couple of things.

There is going to be a huge clash between the trumpety ugly duckling and scheming Paul Ryan early on.  Ryan was not for the trumpeter at the beginning, and then as he continued to listen to him, I think Ryan decided he was going to get everything he wants with a trumpety president.  I think Ryan has taken in more than he can chew.  I think he thought he was going to have a lot more power in this upcoming presidency, and I think just over the difference between his plans and trumpety’s plans for social security, Medicare, and Medicaid, they are going to come up against one another.  Probably why Ryan is going to try to get his way before Trump takes office, but that will certainly fail.  Obama is still the president for 16 more days.

Today also seems the day that these congress critters are going to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and I assure you that if they try to write Obamacare into the repellent pages, it won’t actually be legal.  As I sit here and listen to Mike Pence say Obamacare, and never by its correct name, he has no clue what he is talking about.

Mitch McConnell just said he hoped the Democratic side of Congress would be willing to treat trumpety’s choices for cabinet members like they did Obama’s.  Yes, I hope the Congress Democrats treat everyone that is part of trumpety’s administration just exactly has the repubs did to Obama.  I know I will given them exactly as much respect as they did to President Obama.

I had to laugh with David Cay Johnston last evening when he was explaining why the trumpeter was so rude to the writer, a friend of one of the Kochs, when throwing him off his golf course.  His words were “Trump holds grudges forever; he didn’t like what this writer said about him in a book several years ago, and he never forgives.  He will hound a man (I guess he doesn’t recognize women’s writings) until he absolutely ruins him.  Maybe that is why he doesn’t like we poor citizens because he cannot ruin us – or perhaps we should read that as why he doesn’t care, I mean we all know the meaning of “why, what have you done for me lately”.”.

One last thought of yesterday’s news:  Meghan Kelly has moved to NBC to do several shows and become a real reporter.  I know we cannot trust the media that much, but getting away from Fox or any of its faux news fellows can’t be bad.

Oh yeah, I hope you all got to listen to Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders on Rachel’s show yesterday.  I see nothing but hope as long as we liberals stay the path we have chosen.

I feel fairly sure I have left something out that I wanted to say, but I am also pretty certain this will not be my last comment.  I expect to be blogging quite often during the next year.  I will not be silenced, and I’m pretty sure the trumpeter can’t ruin me.

Carol Stepp, Austin, TX

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Protests


I have been reading a large number of people who planned to join the million women march on Facebook.  I am also now reading a number of posts from people who apparently are believing that Donald Trump can really close off the different monuments in Washington DC for long periods of time around the inauguration, before and behind.

Folks, Donald Trump does not have the authority to do that.  Nor do the police, the National Guard, nor would the National Park Service.  But I wouldn’t even ask for a protest permit.

What I am trying to tell you is that if thousands and thousands of you show up, they are going to have a very difficult time trying to arrest the whole lot of you – there is power in numbers, as I hope a lot of you have learned since the faux elections.  And if you see one person being arrested, then instead of running away screaming, just SIT DOWN, right where you stand.  At this point, whoever is trying to keep order, and keep you away, are just going to say there are too many – we cannot do anything (unless, of course, someone is found with a gun).

I was twenty years old in December of 1960.  I turned 30 in December of 1970.  So I literally spent my whole decade of my 20s during the 60s.  And I saw a lot of stuff.

I saw a beloved president murdered.  I saw the music revolution brought about by the Beatles and MoTown and the psychedelic musicians.  I saw a lot of protesters too.  They were not afraid of going to jail for standing up for their rights – not to go to Vietnam, and equal rights for every human being.  I don’t think anyone thought they would  die during a peaceful protest.  Certainly not that young man at Kent State, in 1970.

But the majority of those peaceful protestors stood their grounds for something they believed.  No running and screaming from any one person who thinks he is god and Solomon and king and dictator.

However, if you see anyone harassing someone near you, just SIT DOWN.  I remember seeing the young peaceful protestors being carried out with a policeman at his/her arms and another one at his/her feet.  Anyone is going to be  cowed by numbers.  Even Trump would be afraid if he was facing thousands of people who simply don’t like him, or want him in the president’s seat.  Will he bring on his own personal army to take you on?  I suppose it is possible, but remember, if there are thousands of you there, you can, in numbers, overwhelm them.  Still, I would just sit down, and force them to decide if attacking me is a smart thing to do.  I should think it would just cause more of us to stand up to him.  Isn’t that what happened when the Kent State student was killed by a trigger-happy national guardsman.

 

I guess it is up to you to decide if you are so adamant about your rights that you would be willing to get killed, knowing it is a thing that is not likely to happen.  Are they going to stand back and start shooting into the crowd, and hope a shooter can not be identified?  Or are you going to be scared away by a single man’s bluster?

Peaceful protest is still the strongest way to defeat this man.  Standing up in numbers against him, publicly, is the best way to defeat him.

I have heard of people getting death threats, and I am sorry for you.  But a death threat is not going to stop me from standing for my rights.  Or sitting for my rights.

Be honest with yourself.  Are you willing to live under the dictatorship a Trump presidency will bring you?  Are you willing to ignore all the illegal things he is guilty of.  By rights, he is not eligible for the presidency.  By my beloved Constitution, he is not eligible for the presidency.  Are the other countries who live under the dictatorships in their own homes happy about their lives?  How did they get there, other than refusing to fight for their rights, and running scared enough to lose everything?

Don’t leave it to the “other” guy  to do something.  If you are afraid of being the only one willing to speak out,  s/he may be just as afraid as you are.  Join him/her.  One turns to two, then two can turn to four, then four can turn to eight, and before you know it, you will have hundreds willing to take the same risk, and after that it will grow into thousands before you know it.

Just do it.  Because if you don’t, you and your friends may find yourselves standing in lines begging for bread, or sitting inside glumly because you are afraid to go outside.

Carol Stepp, Austin

Posted in Crime, Equality, Foreign Affairs, Freedom, Friends, Gay Rights, Homelessness, Mental health, Other media, personal thoughts, Politics, Voting Rights, Women's Rights | Leave a comment