Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 672, May 27, 2012

"Choose to be free"

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Letter from Richard Bartucci

Letter from Jonathan David Morris

Letter from Bill St. Clair

Letter from "Bill Sawyer"

Letter from Sean Gabb

Letter from Pam Maltzman

Letter from A.X. Perez

In Mr. Morris' excellent opinion piece "Boobs in the Media" (TLE 20 May 2012) regarding TIME magazine's eye-catching position on the breastworks of America's social Kulturkrieg over meeting the nutritional needs of future Playboy subscribers there was so much of merit that to recount them all would take a letter of comment longer than the article itself.

I would add only that for the greatest part of our species' history (especially since the development of sedentary agriculture, as Mr. Smith has cogently pointed out), the normal condition of Homo sapiens has included episodic but invariably in devastating poverty, disease, suffering and death, and most of that last has been the result of mortality in the first decade of life.

Particularly in the first few years of that decade.

Biologically, we might speak of the human reproductive process as merely beginning with the birth of a new Naked Killer Ape. To accomplish the real objective of the generative fandango kindled in sweaty copulative exercise, the zygote thus produced has him/herself got to get to maturity sufficient to swim upstream and spawn.

That critter is most grievously vulnerable as a legal infant, and (as all of us who have done the "Father Knows Best" bit can tell you at length) getting them into—much less through—their teenage years without their managing to become Dead Right There in some kind of misadventure is an achievement right up there with pulling off the Normandy Invasion.

The sexually mature human female's ability to lactate continues for some years after parturition, as the recent Omigawd! cover of TIME magazine—and decades' worth of photographic spreads in National Geographic magazine—readily attest.

Why should this be so? In biology, we speak of the principle of least effort. Ceteris paribus, living critters tend with great reliability not to exert themselves—to expend energy and other resources—unless that exertion conduces to survival of the species. Even those cute little kittens Mr. Smith prefers to whimpering puppies don't play chase-and-catch games just for fun; it's clearly practice for Kitty's career as a successful predator in maturity.

In time, I wot, they'll start demonstrating the ability to operate can openers.

Mr. Morris accurately comments on "...the hard work of nursing (and make no mistake: it is hard work)." Understanding the principle of least effort, that "hard work" capability is robust as hell despite the fact that nursing imposes an unarguable survival burden on the individual fecund human female herself. It robs her of protein and minerals—calcium particularly—to sustain her offspring.

Therefore we've got a reason why the machinery of human reproduction includes this element, and it can be reliably inferred that it's a means of bettering the odds of said reproductive process resulting in that momma eventually becoming a grandmom.

Her immune system at the time of birth and through the remainder of her childbearing years can be presumed to have attained maximum functional capacity. She can consume and digest food that would arguably kill her children in their years of greatest vulnerability, and even after the nasty little ankle-biters have gotten to the point that they can bulk up on commercial foodstuffs "packaged with toys [and] served by six-foot clowns" after successfully running to first base (rather than third) in a T-ball game, the supplemental nutrition and passive immune protection conferred by human breast milk are still objectively valuable contributions to such a child's survival.

Having managed the medical care of lactating women over the decades— and especially in more recent experience as head-of-household in a domicile shared by an adult daughter during the infancies of her children—I would caution merely that (a) maternal nutritional supplements are strongly recommended throughout, and (b) breast milk expressed and refrigerated should be stored in containers clearly labeled as such.

You do not want to be putting that stuff in your morning coffee.

Richard Bartucci

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Re: Previous Letter (above)

Hey Richard,

Thanks for the email. I'm glad you liked the article.

You make some good points. Species don't work hard for things that won't help their survival. But isn't it interesting, in the human species, we seem to be increasingly engaging in behaviors that seem directly determined to eliminate our survival? I look at the food industry as a perfect example. We are eating crap. Actually, I wish we were eating crap. Crap would be a vast nutritional improvement over some of the poisonous garbage we're eating.

And I agree: No breastmilk in the morning joe.

Jonathan David Morris

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Re: "A Frontier Without Fighting?" by L. Neil Smith

Concerning a digression in Neil's "A Frontier Without Fighting?" in issue #671, Avatar wasn't like Pocohontas nearly as much as it was a FernGully for adults, with really really good special effects, but sadly lacking Robin Williams' humor.

Bill St. Clair

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Letter from "Bill Sawyer"

A guy I know recently read 2,220 essays written by middle-school kids for an end-of-grade test. Around 409-500 of these essays view Mr. and/or Mrs. Obama as a cross between the Second Coming and Quinn the Eskimo. It's possible to despise everything the man does and stands for, yet take away an important fact: for a serious percentage of our population, the American Dream is within reach. After all, they say, Obama worked hard, studied hard, and look where he is now.

On nearly the last day of this gig, the reader discovered how many of these kids found inspiration in the life of Mitt Romney: 1.

A Romney candidacy would strongly suggest that the RNC has been instructed to take a dive again.

"Bill Sawyer"
(a pseudonym, of course!)

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The Ghosts of Athens
by Richard Blake
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Paperback Version: $19.95

Richard Blake's new novel The Ghosts of Athens, has now been published by Hodder & Stoughton. His earlier novels have been translated into Spanish, Italian, Greek, Hungarian, Slovak and Complex Chinese. This is the fifth in his series of critically-acclaimed and internationally best-selling historical thrillers.

612 AD.

Decadent, desperate Athens is the Roman Empire’s most vulnerable city.

Aelric — senator of the Roman Empire, fresh from a bloodbath in Egypt that may or may not be regarded in Constantinople as his fault- is forced to divert the Imperial galley to Athens for reasons the Emperor has neglected to share with him.

He finds a demoralized and corrupt provincial city threatened by an army rumoured to contain twenty million starving barbarians.

Not to mention an explosive religious dispute, an unexplained corpse, and hints of something worse than murder. Is he on a high level mission to save the Empire? Or has he been set up to fail? Or is the truth even worse than he can at first imagine?

He will have to call upon all his formidable intellect and lethal ingenuity to survive his enemies inside and outside the city walls...


‘Vivid characters, devious plotting and buckets of gore are enhanced by his unfamiliar choice of period. Nasty, fun and educational.’

‘He knows how to deliver a fast-paced story and his grasp of the period is impressively detailed’

‘Fascinating to read, very well written, an intriguing plot and I enjoyed it very much.’

‘A rollicking and raunchy read... Anyone who enjoys their history with large dollops of action, sex, intrigue and, above all, fun will absolutely love this novel.’
Historical Novels Review on THE TERROR OF CONSTANTINOPLE

‘Blake’s plotting is as brilliantly devious as the mind of his sardonic and very earthy hero. This is a story of villainy that reels you in from its prosaic opening through a series of death-defying thrills and spills.’
Lancashire Evening Post on THE SWORD OF DAMASCUS

'It would be hard to over-praise this extraordinary series, a near-perfect blend of historical detail and atmosphere with the plot of a conspiracy thriller, vivid characters, high philosophy and vulgar comedy.

Read Chapter One for free!

Richard Blake is available for interview.

Sean Gabb

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Re: "Cats and Dogs" by L. Neil Smith

In the past few years, I have come over to the feline side and now admire their predatory ways; but as a kid I preferred dogs. I particularly have loved collies and German shepherds for their beauty and intelligence and guardianship.

However, I have two long-haired female tortoiseshell cats, both of whom who have coat markings resembling collies ... a red tortie who gleams in sunlight and is reminiscent of a sable collie, and a tortie-and-white whose markings resemble a tricolor collie.

When my man and I are settled down and can think of having a dog, perhaps we will. Hopefully the cats will adjust.

It doesn't have to be one or the other; both dogs and cats are delightful, just not in the same aspects of their personalities.

Albert Payson Terhune's collie stories were popular for a reason: collies are magnificent dogs in their own right.

Pam Maltzman

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Keeping on the trail

Have acquired Fast and Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and the Shameless Cover-Up by Katie Pavlich from Have not had time to read, but at this time what I've skimmed looks interesting. Ammo for going after Him What Am in Charge for at least not being in charge of his Attorney General for failure to properly Manage the Department of Justice, if not condoning that (un)worthy's abuse of his office to promote an anti gun agenda.

Apparently the Republicans in Congress are slowballing their attacks on Eric Holder over Operation Fast and Furious and its cover up. At this rate the arrest warrant for contempt of Congress because of the AG and DOJ's failure to co-operate with Congress's investigation will probably be served in September, just in time to embarrass President Obama going into the election. Or to make the Republicans look like petty rat bitches if the Democrats and their media allies spin things right.Of course, this also gives the President time to fire and disavow AG Holder and Gunwalker, toss the "gun lobby" a few well publicized bones, and come out of the mess stronger than ever.

I have noticed that polls keep saying that President Obama remains popular among Latinos. Perhaps this would change if more Chicanos (Americans of Mexican descent) became aware of how the Obama administration supported the murder of little girls in Juarez whose only crime was to be in a store the Sinaloa Cartel decided to shoot up to intimidate supporters of the Juarez Cartel.

Finally, and unrelated, I've noticed that all sorts of folk are expressing joy at President Obama's new found support for gay marriage. For their sakes, I hope it means more than his promise to respect the right of people to use medicinal marijuana.

A.X. Perez

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