Open Forum

Where you can't be off-topic because there IS no topic.

The floor is yours.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Trump is heading back to the United States after four days of embarrassing us in Japan.

    The good news is that it is apparently not possible for him to Tweet from Air Force One so he should be quiet for the next 18 hours or so.

  2. Teve says:

    the women who coined the term Mary Sue. It’s a deeper topic than you probably know.

  3. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis: He’s reTweeting as we speak.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Damn, I was kinda hoping they’d keep him.

  5. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Quick! Move the country out of the way so he can’t find it! 🙂

  6. Kathy says:

    After years of very fruitful listening of nonfiction, mostly history, audiobooks and lecture series, and podcasts, I’m finding myself more inclined towards fiction, mostly science fiction.

    Oh, a few years back I downloaded John Scalzi’s “Redshirts” (read by Wil Wheaton, in a fit of irony), but that was an exception. But then I read “Gulliver’s Travels” and “Brave New World” in audiobook, followed by “Logan’s Run,” and now I find myself gravitating there.

    See, I work from 7 am to 7 pm (on good days), and have little time to read anymore. So the time spent commuting to work and cooking is where most of my reading happens.

    Right now I’m looking into the sequels to Logan’s Run, Harry Harrison’s “Make Room, Make Room,” and then I think I’ll turn away from Dystopian novels.

    BTW, Harrison’s “Make Room, Make Room,” is the basis for the movie “Soylent Green.” This reminds me of the effect spoilers can have. In the movie, you don’t find out what Soylent Green is until the very end. But back when the movie was in theaters, people would describe it as “Oh, overpopulation forces society to make food out of dead people.” So when you see it you already know, and are wondering why no one says anything about it. This totally ruins the movie-going experience.

  7. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: My lifelong passion for science fiction began when I was 9 with Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. My first encounter with it was the Infocom text adventure on the Atari machine. That led me to read the book, and soon the entire series (a quartet at that point–Mostly Harmless hadn’t been published yet). I’d read a little YA sci-fi before, such as William Sleator, but Adams was my introduction to sci-fi in the “adult” section of the library.

    My interest in the genre is still particular and niche-oriented. Though I like Asimov and Heinlein just fine, I am not especially a fan of “hard sci-fi”; I’ve always tended to gravitate more toward philosophical sci-fi such as Ray Bradbury or Philip Dick or Vonnegut, as well as comedy sci-fi such as Adams or Alan Dean Foster.

  8. I think the tweeting from Trump came while he was on the ground in Alaska to refuel. Sadly, that means he’ll be back in D.C. by late this afternoon.

  9. Franklin says:

    @Kylopod: Just the fact of you mentioning Infocom text adventures stirred some vivid memories for me. Perhaps “vivid” should be in quotes here. Good times.

  10. Teve says:

    Trump tells troops that future US supercarriers are ‘going to use steam’ in a weird rant about an obsession he can’t seem to shake

    vurt dur furk

  11. Kathy says:


    I read all the Hitchhikers books once. The humor is great, though. I also read “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.” I mostly remember the Electric Monk.

    Bradbury just doesn’t do it for me. I read “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Martian Chronicles,” and assorted short stories. Likewise with Dick, though all I read was “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

    By far my biggest disappointment in SF, I think, was Carl Sagan’s “Contact.” it’s a good novel, and I liked he had a female protagonist, but the notion of “aliens make contact but not quite,” was deeply unsatisfying. Worse, it’s spawned many imitators, most nowhere near as good as Sagan.

    I wonder whether I should get the audiobook of a novel I’ve already read. it seems wasteful, but for some reason I think it’s something I ought to try.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Teve: There are several species of Trumpers. Some believe that Trump is a genius and is playing 11 dimensional chess. These people are gullible fools. But some say that Trump is smarter than he appears and merely throws up red meat as a smoke screen for what he is really accomplishing. But this steam catapult thing gives the lie to that. He keeps coming back to this and by now it is obvious he believes an opinion he formed while tweeting on the crapper is better than all the engineers and scientists in the world. Just one of the many examples where he has no clue about his own stupidity. The man is a legitimate moron. If you didn’t know he was a real person you would assume he was an extreme example made up to explain the Dunning Krueger effect.

  13. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: I’ve been audio-booking more and more lately, and trying to get back into sci-fi. I’ve found a few good ones but am disappointed by how many start out promising for the first third and then devolve into author-fantasy-wishfulfillment or just overall lazy writing.

    And interesting exception is “The 7 1/2″ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle”. While in some ways science fiction it mostly appears to be a Victorian murder mystery, but when all is said and done is actually a study of several different characters from a rather unique but immediately understandable point of view.

  14. Mister Bluster says:

    232 Years Ago Monday May 28, 1787
    From Massts. Nat: Gorham & Caleb Strong. From Connecticut Oliver Elseworth. From Delaware, Gunning Bedford. From Maryland James McHenry. From Penna. B. Franklin, George Clymer, Ths. Mifflin & Jared Ingersol took their seats.

    Mr. WYTHE from the Committee for preparing rules made a report which employed the deliberations of this day.
    Mr. KING objected to one of the rules in the Report authorising any member to call for the yeas & nays and have them entered on the minutes. He urged that as the acts of the Convention were not to bind the Constituents, it was unnecessary to exhibit this evidence of the votes; and improper as changes of opinion would be frequent in the course of the business & would fill the minutes with contradictions.
    Col. MASON seconded the objection; adding that such a record of the opinions of members would be an obstacle to a change of them on conviction; and in case of its being hereafter promulged must furnish handles to the adversaries of the Result of the Meeting. The proposed rule was rejected nem. contradicente.

  15. Kylopod says:

    @Franklin: The thing I remember most from the Infocom Hitchhikers was that you keep running across an object called “tea” as well as another object called “no tea.” You can pick up either one of those objects and add it to your inventory–but not both at the same time, because holding “tea” and “no tea” simultaneously would be a logical contradiction. The problem is that you have to do just that in order to access the ship’s computer. So to make this illogical feat possible, you must become a microscopic particle inside your own brain, where you remove the Common Sense particle. Once your brain no longer has a Common Sense particle, you are free to hold “tea” and “no tea” at the same time.

  16. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: Fahrenheit 451 was one of my least favorite Bradbury books, maybe in part because I was forced to read it in school. His best stuff isn’t preachy like that, but almost playful. I love the part of Martian Chronicles where we learn that because the Martians possess telepathy, everyone sees the hallucinations of crazy individuals; therefore, when the humans announce to the Martians who they are and where they came from, the Martians simply assume the humans are mentally ill Martians and that the spaceship, spacesuits, etc. are just projections of their mind.

    But my favorite Bradbury book is still Dandelion Wine. It’s not really science fiction, though it shares some of the themes of his other books, such as the dehumanizing effect of technological advancement.

    He was more a short story writer than a novelist, and indeed both Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine are essentially short story collections with a larger narrative arc, rather than straightforward novels.

    Philip Dick was also primarily a short story writer. The novella “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” was of course the basis of Blade Runner, but other films based on his work–Total Recall, Minority Report–came from short stories. He’s had a strong influence in Hollywood for decades after his death, as there are even a number of “original” films that are reminiscent of his works–two big examples are Inception and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He’s practically the godfather of the genre of the difficulty in telling what’s real and what’s not; who’s human and who’s robotic; who can be trusted and who’s an agent; and the loss of privacy and personal rights in the future.

    I liked Sagan’s Contact, but I came with a particular set of expectations that made it easier to appreciate. I normally avoid any fiction by people whose background isn’t fiction, particularly those “celebrity” novels written by actors, singers, etc. just because they can. I didn’t approach Contact expecting fabulous prose or a thrilling narrative or intricate character study, but it was pretty thought-provoking, and for me, that was enough.

  17. Gustopher says:

    I’ve been listening to the Emily Wilson translation of The Odyssey, narrated by Claire Danes, and it is so weird hearing a woman read classic mythology.

    It shouldn’t be weird, but it is. I’m not quite sure if it’s latent sexism or just the novelty or both.

  18. Kathy says:


    I was rather disappointed with “Redshirts.” It was great, until they leave the ship. There are some good parts after that, sure (“they have food safety laws”), but the overall theme of what is going on was not good at all. I can’t explain without spoilers.

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: One of the many hats I’ve worn in my teaching career has been “reading specialist” even though I never actually trained as one. A fair amount of the time hearing a book that you’ve read before in someone else’s voice with their inflections and cadence will evoke new discoveries about the text. So it’s probably not a waste in the sense you’re thinking of.

    Audio books don’t work for me because of all the years I listened to radio for the sake of the background noise, so I don’t connect well to them (and I’m not much of an auditory learner on the whole verbal spectrum, way more visual–to the point that when I would recall for tests when I was young I imagined I was looking at the textbook page). But if they help you connect, more power to you.

  20. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher: One of the problems with audiobook readings of novels is the reader voicing dialogue of the opposite gender. A man reader doing a female voice often winds up sounding like something out of a Monty Python skit, a woman voicing a male character sounds like a man who just inhaled helium. It’s not always that bad, but it’s rarely convincing. You just have to suspend disbelief.

    One audiobook I came across came up with a unique solution to this problem. It was for a novel that used alternating first-person narration. So the audiobook alternated between a male and female reader, depending on the gender of the narrator. Obviously, this wouldn’t work for most books.

  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    merely throws up red meat as a smoke screen for what he is really accomplishing.

    Okay… what’s he accomplishing? (Not an attack on you personally, of course, just questioning a frequently offered… meme? bs trail? pecker track? pipe dream? bong vision? –clearly I’m not sure of the correct term.)

  22. Kathy says:


    In Wil Wheaton’s reading of Redhirts, he uses his normal voice for all characters. the annoying bit, and I assume it annoyed him as well, is that after every bit of dialogue he identifies the speaker.

    Others with a single narrator do tend to do different voices and intonations. But I don’t mind it much. yes, they sound ridiculous sometimes. Maybe I’m used to John McWhorter doing the voices he thinks go with languages (that’s even stranger).

  23. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Not what I had in mind. but in fact I had read Brave New World before rereading it in audio. I can’t do a fair comparison, as I last read the book before over ten years ago and had forgotten quite a bit. But the reading by Michael York did have a great deal of voice tone adjustments for various characters.

  24. DrDaveT says:

    @Kathy: Kathy, as I recall you know a fair bit of physics, yes? Let me recommend the audiobook version of Neal Stephenson’s Anathem. I enjoyed it immensely — but then I’m pretty much the target audience, because I think philosophy of science is a really fun topic…

  25. DrDaveT says:


    I read all the Hitchhikers books once. The humor is great, though.

    The books are OK, but I highly recommend the original radio series that the books were spun off from. I like it a lot better.

  26. DrDaveT says:


    [Ray Bradbury] was more a short story writer than a novelist

    Indeed. The only actual novels I can think of that he wrote were Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Fahrenheit 451. Of those, only Dandelion Wine is maybe long enough to be considered a novel today.

    Though he’s famous as an F&SF writer, most of my favorite Bradbury stories are perfectly mainstream — “A Medicine for Melancholy”, “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”, “Icarus Montgolfier Wright”, “The Terrible Conflagration Up at the Place”, “Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby’s is a Friend of Mine”, “The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse”, “All Summer in a Day”, “The Flying Machine”, etc.

    Of the F&SF stories, I like “Homecoming”, “Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed”, “The Small Assassin”, “The Veldt”, “Fever Dream”, “Kaleidoscope”, “The Long Rain”…

  27. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod: It isn’t the voicing of the male characters that seems odd, it’s everything that seems odd.

    Narration of storms and action and wine dark seas — all a little odd. I’m surprised that it seems odd, but not very surprised. You forget your own latent sexism, and it’s always a bit of a surprise to be reminded that, yes, despite being pretty liberal, you are still a product of your culture.

    The scene where Odysseus is filthy and naked, covering his manly modesty with a branch while asking some bathing women for help getting into town, and isn’t sure whether he should approach closer, but decides to just talk more… I expect that scene to be odd when read by a woman. (Claire Danes does a remarkable job of not audibly rolling her eyes, or suddenly yelling “of course you keep your distance from the naked, bathing women you moron!”)

  28. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: There’s a warmth to Bradbury’s writing that I really like, but at the same time, I recognize that he’s kind of just pretty good beyond that warmth, and sometimes quite clunky.

    I have not read that much of his work though. It often inspires me to read something else next.

    The last time I read/listened-to The Martian Chronicles, for instance, there was a very clunky story about the last human male settler on Mars finding the last woman, deciding she was awful, and then running away. It made me want to try some of them women authors for a bit.

  29. DrDaveT says:

    In which Clarence Thomas demonstrates that he’s actually a complete shill of the anti-abortion lobby…

  30. Teve says:

    Trump told the Japanese military “Happy Memorial Day” because of course he did.

  31. DrDaveT says:


    Trump told the Japanese military “Happy Memorial Day” because of course he did.

    It could have been worse; he could have said “Happy V-J Day”.

  32. Teve says:

    @DrDaveT: If he got outta there without calling them Orientals we got lucky.

  33. Teve says:

    Trump’s DoE is now calling natural gas “Freedom Gas”.

  34. Kathy says:


    Kathy, as I recall you know a fair bit of physics, yes?

    Well, that’s kind of relative (ha ha). I know some physics at a descriptive level. Add math and I get lost and stupid, especially stupid.

    Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll look it up.

  35. Teve says:

    Random thought:

    LeBron James’s shoes are ugly in the way Hind helicopters were ugly, the way the J. Edgar Hoover building is ugly, the way Andre Agassi’s power baseline game was ugly.

  36. Teve says:

    If Anathem destroys your love of Neal Stephenson, The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O will resurrect it.