Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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Charlie (Colorado)

Honey, nobody is going to see the movies that are getting nominated. It's not you, it's them.


" I've always been kind of a nonfiction person. Which is another way of saying that fiction has to be really, really, really good to get to me."

Me too! I like fiction once in a while but most of the time it just reflects and enforces the cultural mythology, instead of telling you anything new. Non-fiction can help you see where the mythology is inaccurate, distorted, or wrong.

Like the "good guys versus bad guys" mythology, for example, that most of us believe in -- I think it comes from our religious traditions and our fiction, not from the realities of human nature.

And then we have the -- very American -- myth of progress. That our culture will just keep on getting better and richer and more tolerant and more compassionate and happier and healthier. The reality is probably more like waves that crest and crash, and rise up again in different forms.

michael Reynolds


Where are you finding fiction that tells you things will just keep getting better?


Part of it is not having kids. I have to hear about what's "in" from my friends/co-workers with kids of various ages.

And even if you had kids, you'd still get it wrong. At 12 I was scandalized when my mother couldn't tell Davy Jones from "The Herman and the Hermits."

Also, if I recall correctly, she said in Old Fogie Mode...when I was 19, it cost three lousy bucks to go to the movies! Even blockbusters like "Jaws."

And if you wanted to see anything uncut, you had to see it in the movies, because this was right before HBO and VCR's.


Mmmm, I dunno. I'm a huge consumer of non-fiction, and have been from very early in childhood. You could call it a gift (I do); you could call it a curse (I do). In any case, it is what it is.

Fiction has its own abilities and capabilities to illuminate. It, too, can be gift and curse, and it, too, is what it is.

Non-fiction does not have a lock on truth, much less illumination, and fiction does not have a lock on a birds-eye vision or beautiful expressions of intuition.

Neither has a lock on passion, deepest organizations and connections, or how in the world to see all of the world in a glimpse--which is what it would take, at minimum, IMO, to get what the hell is really going on here.

Well, that's how I see it, anyway, sort of, abbrev. FWIW.


Amba, dahlink, send me the ballot I'll fill it out! (not the first with a SAG ballot for me!). Much mirth with the votes maybe had!


RZA also appears in Ghost Dog, albeit briefly. Early in the movie (if memory serves) Ghost Dog greats someone on the street very formally, complete with bow. That's RZA. The Wu-Tang Clan is VERY big into the old chop-sockey movies from the 1970s, and were even releasing some of them on DVD for a while. Lucky for me, too, as that's how I laid my hands on a copy of The Kid with the Golden Arm. I really miss 1970s era Saturday afternoons watching cheesy movies on TV....


Exactly right, except for one thing: it's late in the movie. (Unless it happened twice, and the first time got by me.)


I just saw "Valkyrie." Eh. They got the look down perfectly and I didn't even mind that all the Nazis spoke English with different accents (American, English, German) but since we know how it all comes out (Hitler lives!), it's not as compelling as it could be. Tom Cruise is a very earnest three-fingered Nazi officer. This is definitely the year of the "Good Nazi." I snuck into a screening of "Marley & Me" after leaving "Valkyrie"--what was I thinking? It was intolerable and manipulative. I left the cineplex thinking I'd rather live in Nazi Germany than Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson's house. My awards money this year is on Sean Penn, Meryl Streep, and Kate Winslet.


Reader: your comment sums it up for me!

Amba: I had some things queued up to finally get around to watching yesterday. The DVD player refused to play them (or anything else, for that matter). Four years is a lifetime in the world of electronic gadgetry, I guess.


Charlie -- hmmm. I was going to say, "Why do I get the feeling that I'm not missing much?"

reader -- I don't think nonfiction per se is superior. I think I just have higher involuntary standards for fiction. Not that I read much of anything, these days -- no time, no concentration, easily disappointed.


Randy -- tell us anyway, what were you going to watch?

Melinda -- are you aware that there seems to be a new Woody Allen movie called "Melinda, Melinda"??


When I read really good fiction, I get so blown away that I don't read any more for about a decade. Life of Pi and Alice Munro did that to me.


Outis: good stuff! Now that the election's over we can get down to the nitty gritty, the real Americana! Murders! Muggings! Penis bitings!


"Where are you finding fiction that tells you things will just keep getting better?"

A lot of science fiction assumes continual progress in technology and in scientific understanding, for example. Many of the assumptions about progress in scientific understanding are pure materialist mythology -- human-like artificial intelligence, for example.

Yes, the societies portrayed in science fiction have lots of problems, such as wars, so things have not improved in all ways -- but that's usually because of the good guy/bad guy mythology.

And sometimes the advanced technology itself is the problem, as in Terminator.

But in general the myth of continual human progress and domination of nature pervades science fiction.

And ok, it isn't exactly a myth because we have made a lot of what can be called progress in certain areas. But the new inventions always create new problems, so I don't think it should be called "progress." I see things as getting better and worse at the same time. The word "progress" implies changing for the better, but we are changing for the better and for the worse.

Yet almost all modern Americans, whether or not they are political progressives, assume science and technology will just keep on improving our lives. And of course this is especially true of political progressives, who believe in the power of human intelligence to conquer and control nature.


Some years ago, when Jacques had just turned 65,ma and I went to see a movie with you and him. He was excited because he was now eligible for the reduced ticket price for seniors. But we were told this was not valid on Saturdays. Consider him miffed or outraged, we decided to hell with it and spent a very pleasant evening eating pizza on your 4th Street roof. A factor in deciding not to go often to movie theaters?



Amba, the films were so old that most of the people here, like me, weren't alive when they were released. The Thin Man and My Man Godfrey were among them. Had I a copy of Mr. Roberts, it might have qualified as a William Powell film festival.


But in general the myth of continual human progress and domination of nature pervades science fiction.

Apparently your only exposure to SciFi is Star Trek.

Here are a few of the most popular "future histories" from the genre:

Heinlein's Future History, the granddaddy of 'em all: The Crazy Years, revolt on the Moon, the threat of human experimentation forcing a subset of the species to run for the frontiers of space, etc. All Progress All The Time!

Asimov's Foundation stories: in which a future galactic-sized civilization has completely collapsed, leaving behind a Dark Age to dwarf the one from our history. Science does eventually allow for a recovery, after 1000 years of suffering on a huge scale, a scare from a nearly all-powerful mutant, and a big assist from some scheming robots. But there's hardly the assumption that things will always get better, OR THE DARK AGES WOULDN"T HAVE RETURNED.

Frank Herbert's Dune series, set 25,000 years in the future: humanity has settled the Milky Way - and reverted to a low-tech feudalism with a very few at the top and almost everyone else at the bottom. The future from THAT point goes downhill. The one good thing is that humanity DOES avoid extinction - but only at the cost of being subjected to 3,500 years of inhuman tyranny followed by the death of trillions. Woohoo!

Then there's Larry Niven's Known Space: finally genuine optimism! Just ignore the fact that for about two hundred or so years one can get the death penalty on Earth for having too many parking tickets (by which we mean more than three IIRC) or for any other violation of the rules. All such delinquents get sent from the courthouse directly to the hospital, so they can be efficiently chopped up and sent to the organ banks. Avoid that fate and one can perhaps immigrate to other systems. Perhaps Jinx, or We Made It, or Plateau, or the idyllic paradise of Home (don't let the Human Protectors or Tree-of-Life virus get you), or even Wunderland. Wunderland is the best! Depending on arrival date, one will be subject to either annoying Germanic pseudo-feudalism (if you're lucky) or get sent to Kzinti Hunt Parks. And then there are the Puppeteers, manipulating human genetics the whole time. Nothing says progress like being part of an alien breeding program! (See the Dune series above. Or the Foundation stories, for that matter. Or Brin’s Uplift series, which I’ll mention later.)

Some of the current crop has written more optimistic stuff. Gregory Benford's Galactic Center novels focus on Machine Civilizations trying to exterminate all biological life, including humans. The Machine Civilizations plan for the very long term, and biological life tends to burn through resources too quickly. Thus it's in the Machine Civilizations best interests to exterminate all such. Or David Brin's Uplift series, in which Humanity tries to hide its ecological crimes from a billion year-old multi-galactic civilization. Failure to do so will lead to humanity being enslaved. Whichever species 'wins' us would then spend millions (probably tens of millions) of years breeding us to suit their needs. Of course, humanity might get enslaved regardless.

But it's all about the progress! And that's from the 'Hard Sci-Fi' realm which IS considered to be the optimistic branch of the genre. Try reading all the dystopian stuff for the REALLY depressing stuff. Or John Brunner's works, or the Cyberpunks, or Harlan Ellison (“A Boy and His Dog” is all optimism), or ... or ... or ....


Ellison is great for visions of human progress. Say what you will, but if nothing else "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman shows that the future WILL have jelly beans! Sometimes not going backwards is all the progress that's necessary.


Dad: I remember it well. With the wisdom of hindsight (which is what you see when you have your head up your -- oh, never mind), I now realize he should have said, "Oh good, you mean I'm not 65 on Saturdays??"


Thanks, Outis!!! I know the topias were more dys than u, but I didn't have the details at my fingertips.

michael Reynolds

Outis is a nerd, Outis is a nerd.

Oh, wait, so am I. I got all those references.

I set out once to write a utopia. Quickly lost interest in it, except as a sort of academic exercise, a difficult-to-pull-off job. There's a hole in the market there, tough. Someone needs to come up with the after-Trek utopia.

Meanwhile, I'm working on cannibal teenagers.


Ok well, I admitted I don't read or see a lot of fiction. And yes, science fiction all has a lot of violence and conflict, as does most fiction, because peace and harmony is boring. And it is not utopian, in general. But it does always have robots and computers that are often smarter than humans -- which often causes trouble for the humans.


I think the optimism in science fiction is the implicit assumption that mankind will have a future. After all, you can't have violence between human beings in 2400 unless you have human beings still at that point. Some days, e.g. watching Pakistan and India or Israel and Palestine, it is all to easy now to see doomsday scenarios where we don't make it that far.

P.S. Amba, it's not old age, necessarily. There actually are people, some a bit younger than you, who have lived decades without seeing any of the Academy Award nominees. (At least, until several years after they came out.) And that even includes a few of us who have actually got our names in the credits of a couple of movies we produced ourselves.


Wow, wj! It's brand-new, too! (You have to look at the full credits to find you.) Is it on DVD?


But it does always have robots and computers that are often smarter than humans -- which often causes trouble for the humans.



Ok Outis, what science fiction story doesn't have robots or computers that are smarter than, or at least as smart as, humans? One of the central assumptions is that, for good or bad, computers will keep getting smarter. But in reality, all the impressive "intelligence" of computers results from following explicit instructions extremely fast. There is no mind in the computer, it is purely automatic.

Artificial intelligence research has not done what it planned (simulation of human intelligence), because our minds are not purely automatic.


Science fiction almost always assumes that humans are smarter than nature, and never questions the philosophy of materialism.


Well...dramatically, robots dumber than humans doesn't make for a very good story does it? The robots in the story are commentary about what we fear/desire, so I guess they some juice don't they?


are you aware that there seems to be a new Woody Allen movie called "Melinda, Melinda"??

Yeah, "Melinda and Melinda" I've seen...a movie that literally had my name all over it.

It was weird to hear all these actors saying my name. I started answering them.


"robots dumber than humans doesn't make for a very good story does it?"

My problem with fiction is that trying to make a good story takes precedence over uncovering truth. To me, reality is a much better story than the cultural myths. The fact that computers are still dumber than humans (or microbes, for that matter) is fascinating, because it suggests that we might never be able to understand our own minds.

Science fiction assumes materialism is correct, and science fiction writers and readers are likely to see this as scientifically verified fact. When it's just an ideology.

The mythologies promoted by science fiction are just an example of how fiction promotes mythologies in general. Of course this has been going on since humanity began -- every tribe had its myths, which they accepted as true and never questioned.


Sometimes i doubt the truth in non-fiction. I mostly really like fiction that is written to be so realistic that it could pass off as non-fiction. Does that make sense?

I really like Mitch Albom as a writer. Simply thought-provoking, not necessarily deep. I like Nicholas Sparks, too(i read seldomly, anymore- and i often re-read my favourites more than new books)(my Louis L'Amour paperbacks are a staple for losing myself from reality:0)).

I liked The Joy Luck Club as a read and bawled my heart out during the movie- which i didn't do so much during the book- pretty weird. Hey, i cry for Hallmark Card commercials, too. My 5yr old runs for tissues. I'm a baby about things.

I like Narnia and the new Narnia- i hate fight scenes because i swear i can feel the adrenaline in the characters and i want to puke.

Last night my husband an i watched ~Step-Brothers~ w/our 17yr old daughter. If this is what i'm missing... i'm so far behind the culture as to be a lap ahead of it, IMhumbleO. What an idiotic movie- unbelieveable. She says it's the best movie ever. I counter that ~The Colour Purple~ was a great movie. ~Blades of Glory~, etc are all of this, today's( ' necessary?)culture. I like your culture here in this space way better,amba :0).

What is a penis biter? There was one in ~Step Brothers~. Is it a real occurance? And- aren't all myths supposedly inaccurate, distorted & wrong in some sense due to their... myth-ability?


Ok Outis, what science fiction story doesn't have robots or computers that are smarter than, or at least as smart as, humans?

I don't recall any Knwon Space story with computers that were anything more than fancy computing devices. And I only recall one where a computer was in any way central to the story. (In "The Ringworld Throne" one of the characters has used a very powerful computer to save the lives of 1.5 trillion hominids.)

Niven mentions intelligent computers in another one of his 'verses, the Draco's Tavern stories. The only problem is that whenever anyone builds an intelligent computer, it immediately goes catatonic. So, not much in the way of computers there.

The Dune series does and does not have intelligent computers. The stories revlove around a society that had outlawed thinking machines, or even fancy calculators, for fear that they would enslave humanity.

Pretty much any Harry Turtledove alternate history story will have no computers. I don't recall Verne or Wells using such devices either.

"A Canticle for Leibowitz" has nothing to do with computers either, and little to do with modern tech. That's the whole point of the story.

The two Ellison stories I mentioned earlier have nothing to do with computers.

I recently read an old issue of Isaac Asimov's Scince Fiction magazine cover to cover. (Such magazines make good reading in hospital waiting rooms.) There were nine stories. Of those nine stories, exactly none of them mentioned computers or needed computers. One story concerned an orphaned boy and his alien guardian (Steven Popkes's "The Egg"), another concerned an account of Mohammed's experience as a Christian monk (Harry Turtledove's "Departures", from his great alternate history of Byzantium), another concerned a misplaced quest for revenge between two time travelers (Alexander Jablokov's "The Ring of Memory"). Megan Lindholm's "Silver Lady and the Fortyish Man" tells a tale of a sales clerk in a department store in the late 1980s starting a strange love affair with a descendent of Merlin. That story might qualify as fantasy instead of as science fiction, but it's really just another tale of an improbable love affair and of finding magic where you can. Pat Murphy's "Prescience" and Jane Yolen's "Feast of Souls" should probably be considered fantasy. Gregory Benford's "All the Beer on Mars" pretty much implicity assumes the use of computers but the story also assumes the use of bulldozers. On could just as well assume SciFi is obsessed with bulldozers as computers. (See Theordore Sturgeon's story "Killdozer!" for example.) Benford's story is as 'hard' as scifi gets, and the basic plot point has everything to do with human foibles and nothing to do with computers. Dean Whitlock's "Iridescence" is also pure 'hard' science fiction, and computers aren't mentioned, although aliens, police, guns and soap bubbles as art form are. That was probably my favorite story in that issue. It's all about the healing power of art and friendship, even in unfamiliar media and between radically different species. Lawrence Watt-Evans story "Real Time" ... well, I'd rather not give it away, on the off chance someone reading this ever reads that story. But computers sure as hell aren't a part of THAT story of time travel.

One of the central assumptions is that, for good or bad, computers will keep getting smarter.

No, it isn't. That IS an assumption in many stories (see Asimov's Robot stories or Benford's Galatic Center novels), but certainly not all. Niven seems to have rejected that idea outright. Perhaps there's a Niven story I haven't read that makes a big deal out of machine intelligence, but for the most part computers are just increasingly powerful calculators in his fiction.

Many authors assume in many of their stories that computers won't become conscious. Many assume that if such machines do become conscious it will be bad for wetware. Many authors make different assumptions for different stories.

There is nothing in science fiction, not even in the restricted realm of hard sci-fi, that makes universal assumptions of any kind, other than this: The universe operates according to certain rules. The rules get changed from story to story, but within a given story or set of stories, only one set of rules pervade. THAT'S IT!

Science fiction assumes materialism is correct, and science fiction writers and readers are likely to see this as scientifically verified fact. When it's just an ideology.

This is pure ignorance. Herbert's Dune universe assumes psychic powers and connections on a scale that dwarfs anything I have ever heard from religious sources, or New Agers, or pretty much anyone else that advocates the existence of psychic powers. Larry Niven's Known Space, a hard sci-fi realm if ever there was one, assumes several psychic powers, including one called 'luck'. Roberet Heinlein, THE biggest name in modern science fiction, believed fervantly in the afterlife and in various psychic abilities.

RealPC, the more you say about the subject of science fiction the more clear it becomes that you don't know anything about it. I don't think you've gotten one salient point about the genre correct. I suggest you either get educated by READING some science fiction before offering an opinion, or just don't offer any opinions about it at all.


What is a penis biter?

Karen, Amba was responding to a comment of mine on another thread. She's referring to a story I mentioned here.

As for Will Ferrel movies.... I assume the popularity of Will Ferrel, Adam Sandler and Vince Vaughn are signs of the impending Apocalypse. I'm not religious, but surely the end of our civilization is near if that's the best we can do.


wj gets it right, mostly: I think the optimism in science fiction is the implicit assumption that mankind will have a future.


There is science fiction that has nothing to do with humans, or assumes they will be wiped out. But that's a tiny percentage of it. Really, humans are predominantly interested in humans, so there's not much market for strictly non-human science fiction. Not on this planet, not at this time.


Outis, you just made me want to read most of the stories in that magazine.

I didn't like the reference to hospital waiting rooms, though.


I didn't like the reference to hospital waiting rooms, though.

Neither do I! OTOH necessity has made me dig out stuff I either bought and never read, or haven't read in years. I'm trying to get what I can out of the experience.


Amba, that one is making the rounds of film festival submissions at the moment. If nobody picks it up, we will probably repeat what we did with the first one: set up a private publication ( and list it on Amazon. Who knows, some day we may do as well as Michael does with his creations. Well, maybe not . . . but you gotta have a dream.

And I'm not that hard to find. Look under Executive Producer; (how many people on the credits have initials WJ?). The wages of having not been paying attention when Paw Print Studios was getting organized. (My excuse is that I was out of the country on a consulting gig. And communications from Riyadh were not quite as good as I am accustomed to here.)


A couple or three years ago I saw all the movies up for major Oscars that year or which had a nominated actor. I haven't been the same since. Years later and I'm still reluctant to see "important" movies. I wearied of all the lecturing.

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