Thursday, September 21, 2017

For the Glory of Old Lincoln High

This weekend is the 50th Anniversary Reunion of the Class of 1967 of Lincoln (Lincoln West) High School of Cleveland, Ohio. A few things got in the way of my attending, among them Hurricane Harvey. I actually did not graduate with that cohort, having transferred to John Marshall High in the middle of the tenth grade. However, for odd reasons, LHS was 7-12, so I spent almost four years with my classmates. Of all the benefits of my education at LHS the greatest has been this, writing and editing.
Chandler & Price, Cleveland, Ohio, 1912
We boys had to take shop classes in the 7th and 8th grades; and the teachers could not fail us because it would keep us out of the junior honor society. I never did well at wood, metal, or mechanical drawing. But printing grabbed my attention. This is how books, newspapers, and magazines were made. I learned the arcane craft of creating the carriers of ideas.

In today's world of desktop publishing with Word, XML, and Madcap Flare, we do not know the Job Cases (upper case for capitals, lower case for little letters), the composing stick; the leads and slugs between lines, the molly quads and nancy quads to justify type; pulling proofs, the frames, furniture, and quoins; the kiss impression when cold type touches paper and you ride the pedal up, brushing out one sheet, and placing the next as your weight on the treadle brings the platen forward.

At the same time, I had journalism as a half-credit elective. Junior high schoolers were not allowed to actually work on the school newspaper. The next semester, I was in high school and on the staff with a semester of experience, counting headlines, and learning the special vocabulary of newspaper publishing. Today, very few educated people know the masthead from the banner, a tombstone from a gutter. Even though newspapers are as quaint as Amish buggies, the principles of good layout remain – even for tweeting.
Composing Stick
(Edinburgh City of Print. Wikimedia Commons)
I went from The Lincoln Log to the John Marshal Interpreter to the College of Charleston Meteor. A score of years and half a dozen life changes later, I was setting type on a DEC VAX in Donald Knuth’s TeX, the parent of SGML, the grandparent of HTML.

In Cleveland Public Schools, English classes alternated each semester between grammar and literature. In junior high, we had a lot of general reading. In the 11th grade, it was American Literature and in the 12th, English English Literature, by Jove. Although hormones lit up 
“Evangeline,” “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” “Annabelle Lee,” and “Lenoir,”  my secret passion was tracing word origins to their Indo-European roots. 

I became a technical writer when no one else on a database management project wanted to write the user manual.
"A Plan of Printing Instruction for Public Schools"
Library Catalog Card. Another root technology.
Twice, classmates from Lincoln High intersected my career path, Walter Rowinsky, and Greg Stricharchuk, both writers, formerly editors of the Lincoln Log. In 1987, I was writing user manuals for a start-up in Lansing, Michigan, when I saw a product review in PC Week or PC World by Walter Rowinsky. How many people could have that name? I sent him an email (via Fidonet most likely). It was he. Wally recommended that I write product reviews. I did place some, but sold more writing about the politics and sociology of computing, hacking, and informatics.

About 1993, I discovered numismatics. A few years later, I was the international editor of Coin World. Combing through the Wall Street Journal while researching fraud and theft in the hobby, I found an article about corporate crime by Gregory Stricharchuk. Not many people could have that name. So, I emailed him, probably via AOL. Greg said something like, “Where else would a kid from Tremont end up but under a street lamp on a dark night waiting to meet a hoodlum?”  


Friday, September 15, 2017

AFK: Hurricane Harvey

The day before the tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico became Hurricane Harvey, the Texas State Guard stood up its emergency operation center. I reported to the TEOC on August 23. We ran 24  hours a day in 12-hour shifts through the 13th of September.  On the 13th, with the flooding largely in recession, the State Operation Center scaled down, and we followed. We now have three 8-hour shifts, with reduced staffing. Texas still has about 6000 people in community shelters. 
State Guard Association of the United States (SGAUS)
State Guard Association of the United States (SGAUS)
The IDF sent a liaison to observe our
response to a mass casualty event.
(Author's file.)

Your State Defense Force
Challenge Coins
Do Your Know Your Military
Armies Without Weapons

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Ayn Rand and Star Trek

Ayn Rand was a fan of Star Trek. As surprising as that may be, it is understandable. First, she knew about the show because it premiered in the TV season 1966-1967. Rand was at her height, deeply involved in popular culture, and commenting on it. The Objectivist Newsletter had become The Objectivist magazine. Those forums carried her essays on aesthetics, which became the anthology The Romantic Manifesto. Star Trek was and remains an example of romantic fiction. It is also true that Gene Roddenberry was fan of Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand coined the phrase "bootleg romanticism." It is the title of a chapter in The Romantic Manifesto. The label identifies works of art that may have some technical flaws, but which present a heroic sense of life in which good triumphs over evil in a battle defined by chosen values. The early James Bond novels and the first film versions are examples of that. Star Trek also fits the definition, and perhaps rises above the unconscious or “intuitive” choice of an author or artist to present a heroic struggle because Roddenberry read The Fountainhead several times and had read Atlas Shrugged. Roddenberry supposedly named Yeoman Janice Rand as a nod to Ayn Rand. Some years after Star Trek: the Original Series was cancelled, Gene Roddenberry read The Romantic Manifesto.

"In Gene Roddenberry's sci-fi series, Andromeda, there is a colony called "The Ayn Rand Station" founded by a species of "Nietzscheans."
"The Illustrated Rand" by Chris Matthew Sciabarra,
The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1,
Centenary Symposium, Part I:
Ayn Rand: Literary and Cultural Impact
(Fall 2004), pp. 1-20
"While I do not know if Rand and Roddenberry ever met, it has been established through two sources that Gene Roddenberry read much of Ayn Rand's work, including reading Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead ("four or five times") and the Romantic Manifesto. Two of his proteges, Myrna Culbreath and Sondra Marshak, became authors and are unabashed Objectivists. STAR TREK" LIVES!, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Sondra Marshak, and Joan Winston, (New York: Bantam, 1975), reviewed by Gary McGath for Ergo (November 19, 1975), archived here: 

J. Neil Schulman interviewed Ayn Rand for the New York Daily News.
“We spoke on the phone for another four hours. Rand initially would not agree to let me interview her, but by the end I brought her around.
            She interviewed me during that phone call as much as I interviewed her.
             She told me that she watched Star Trek and Spock was her favorite character. “
J. Neil Schulman: "I Met Ayn Rand"

Another writer in the Star Trek Universe included Ayn Rand's works in a "Mirror" novel about Dr. Carol Marcus and her son (by Kirk), David:
(I believe that that work, The Sorrows of Empire (2007/2010) was still under the nominal approval of Paramount. They controlled the Star Trek universe closely for many years. For one just thing, they needed to prevent fanfic Kirk-Spock romances from becoming canon.) 

Comments by Barbara Branden and others here:
“Ayn Rand and Gene Roddenberry”

Comments by Matt McKeever here:
“Gene Roddenberry and Ayn Rand”

Back in the 2oth century, I attended a trekker con in Livonia, Michigan. Armin Shimerman (Quark) was the Guest of Honor. The Ferengi were as close as Star Trek ever came to honoring merchants. Harry Mudd and Cyrano Jones were not heroic. Quark had potential. I asked Armin Shimerman if he ever read anything by Ayn Rand and he said that he read The Fountainhead in college and in preparation for shooting the next season, he was going to read Atlas Shrugged.

Quark: I think I figured out why Humans don't like Ferengi.
Sisko: Not now, Quark.
Quark: The way I see it, Humans used to be a lot like Ferengi: greedy, acquisitive, interested only in profit. We're a constant reminder of a part of your past you'd like to forget.
Sisko: Quark, we don't have time for this.
Quark: You're overlooking something. Humans used to be a lot worse than the Ferengi: slavery, concentration camps, interstellar wars. We have nothing in our past that approaches that kind of barbarism. You see? We're nothing like you... we're better.
See also

Armin Shimerman played Dr. Potter from the State Science Institute in Atlas Shrugged Part I.