Radio Derb: New (I. E. Old) Afghan Strategy, Multicult Fender-Bender Navy, And Glimmers Of HOPE On Immigration, Etc.
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03m00s — Meet the new Afghan strategy. (Same as the old Afghan strategy.)

13m55s — Our fender-bender Navy. (While China holds its own.)

24m06s — Glimmers of hope on immigration. (Some action, some hints, some rhetoric.)

32m36s — A little bit of Pakistan in Congress. (Or just an anti-Muslim pogrom?)

40m13s — Dick Van Dyke apologizes to Cockneys. (Too bad they're extinct.)

42m49s — Dumbing down stupidity. (For 4 credits.)

44m53s — A Shakespeare query. (Do schoolmasters make stuff up?)

46m12s — Winnie the … pu? (Banned in China.)

48m11s — Brian Aldiss, RIP. (Meant a lot to me.)

49m38s — Signoff. (The toughest rhyme to navigate.)

01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your traditionally genial host John Derbyshire.

In case you were wondering, my intro music there was one of Haydn's Derbyshire Marches as usual, but played on a Dobro, which is a type of guitar. Thanks to my friend Paul for that.

I'm not sure what Franz Joseph Haydn would have made of it; but given that he was one of the most good-natured men that ever lived, I'm sure he wouldn't have minded.

There is a rather fine statue of Haydn outside the Mariahilfer Kirche in Vienna if you want to see the great composer in sculpture; although the way things are going with statues nowadays, you might want to hurry. Not that Haydn had anything to do with slavery, far as I know; but he was white and male and he spoke — OMG! — German, the same language as Hitler! In the current public mood, that's enough to bring down his statue.

Well, it would be here in the United States of Hurt Feelings. I'm hoping, for that statue's sake, the Austrians still have the attitude of cheerful fatalism they used to be famous for. The quip among German-speakers towards the end of both world wars was that in Berlin the situation was serious but not desperate; in Vienna it was desperate but not serious.

My own current mood, I must say, is Viennese in that sense. Things are obviously going to Hell in a handbasket out there; but there's lovely music to listen to, family to cherish, and household repairs to keep the hands busy. The air is warm, the birds are singing, and the sun is shining … except when the moon gets in the way.

So let's keep our peckers up, close our ears to the shrieking and gibbering, and try to extract some sense from the week's events.

02 — Meet the new Afghan strategy: same as the old Afghan . Monday our President trashcanned another of his campaign promises. In a speech to the nation that evening from Fort Myer, Va., our President announced his strategy for Afghanistan.

This new strategy is, the President told us, … same as the old strategy.

We shall continue to train young Afghan peasant boys — the ones too poor or dumb to bribe or cheat their way out of military service — we shall continue to train them in basic military skills, so when the undercover Taliban recruiters get to them they'll know how to kill their trainers.

We shall continue to shovel U.S. taxpayer funds into the offshore bank accounts of Afghan politicians, so they can afford the upkeep on their luxury bolt-holes in Dubai.

We shall continue to tell Pakistan's leaders that if they go on hosting Al Qaeda chieftains in walled compounds a few hundred yards outside their own military bases, we shall very very, very angry with them and write them angry letters.

Oh, and if your boy comes home in a box, we'll make lofty speeches about the sacrifice he made.

I have to say, Trump's losing me. We've been consoling ourselves by saying: "Well, at least he's not Hillary." OK, and he's not; but how does this Afghan strategy differ from what Hillary's would have been?

It might even be worse than what Hillary's would have been. It may be that Trump's traditionalist-American instincts have worked against him here.

On the campaign trail those instincts told him to get us out of pointless foreign entanglements. Then he got to the White House and staffed it up with generals. We traditionalists may hate unnecessary wars, but we like our military, and our instinct is to respect military leaders, perhaps beyond the point where it makes sense to do so.

Trump is an immediate, personal guy, not an abstract thinker. Perhaps the immediate, personal instinct to defer to the generals he's meeting with every day just overcame the abstract principle of minding our own national business. You can imagine him thinking: Hey, these are guys trained to win wars! Who am I to argue with them?

Richard Nixon, in one of his memoirs, said that one great advantage of having Eisenhower in the White House was that Ike had been a general himself, so he wouldn't let himself be buffaloed by other generals. Ike actually had won a war.

Hillary's smarter than Trump in this zone, unencumbered as she is with any traditionalist feelings. She knows that after thirty years of cultural rot, our generals didn't get to be generals by winning wars. They got their rank by promoting the correct numbers of blacks and Muslims and opening the military academies to girls and homosexuals.

And she doesn't want them futzing around in Afghanistan; she wants them doing the serious business of the nation: installing transgender bathroom facilities in tanks. With that in mind, she might have brought the troops home, leaving the Afghans to cultivate their opium and bugger their goats in peace.

So Trump's scheme to keep the billions flowing to Afghan crime bosses and the body bags coming home to America, may actually be worse than what Hillary would have done.

Trump's announced strategy is so dumb it has even alienated Colonel Ralph Peters, the hawkiest of hawkish neocons. Quote from Col. Peters:

Where is the U.S. general with the integrity to ask himself why, after 16 years of American support and self-sacrificing combat, the Afghan central government has been losing province after province to ill-equipped, poorly trained guerrillas who were characterized to me by one of our top generals as tactically inept "idiots"?

I could hear a proud and complacent British general saying the same thing about George Washington's army. In Afghanistan, we're the Redcoats.

End quote. Where is that U.S. general? Why, he's in his Pentagon office signing an order to lower physical training standards service-wide so that more girls can qualify for combat roles.

If, as an exercise in English Composition, you give me the task of using the words "General" and "idiot" in the same sentence, my own mind would fly at once to General George Casey after the Fort Hood massacre eight years ago, quote: "As horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that's worse," end idiot general quote.

After eight further years of Obama as Commander-in-Chief, do you really think matters have improved, General-wise?

Well, let's see. Here was General John Nicholson, supreme commander of our forces in Afghanistan, speaking on Thursday this week after the President's announcement. Quote from him: "We will not fail in Afghanistan, our national security depends on that," end quote.

Given that no-one in authority can give us a clear, consistent definition of success in Afghanistan, the first part of that announcement is void of meaning.

The second part is just a lie. Our national security depends on the internal arrangements of a tribal nation seven thousand miles away ranked number 204 in the world by per capita GDP, whose principal exports are opium and figs?

What our national security depends on, General, is, one, sturdy control of our borders and strict scrutiny of incoming foreigners, and two, the leadership of our armed forces. In regard to both of which, all I can say is: Heaven help us!

Whether or not Heaven will help us, it's looking increasingly unlikely that our President will. The excuses with which Trump papered over his surrender to the generals on Monday were even lamer than the so-called "strategy" itself.

He told us he would not announce dates for completion of his strategy so as not to tip off the enemy. Since the Taliban's already sat us out for sixteen years, I doubt this will be intolerably vexing to them. It's also, of course, a way to cover up doing nothing decisive for a few years more until some other sucker's in the White House.

He told us we are absolutely not going to engage in "nation-building." Are we not? The whole point of us being there is to make sure that Afghanistan has a government that looks like this, not one that looks like that. Perhaps that's not precisely nation-building — more like nation-shaping, or something — but it's a kind of lawyerish distinction.

Why not just tell the Afghans they can have whatever the hell government they like; but if they do anything to harm or annoy us, we'll kill their leaders and break their stuff? What would be wrong with that?

What would have been wrong with it sixteen years ago? What would have been wrong with it the first time I asked, about a year after that?

A footnote here: The President's sellout on Afghanistan, while deplorable, did at least generate a funny spoof in The Onion. Headline: Soldier Excited To Take Over Father's Old Afghanistan Patrol Route. The story is about a 19-year-old American soldier, fictitious of course, who is thrilled to learn he'll be patrolling the very same road his Dad had patrolled back in the day, when our soldier was a toddler.

Cute. You have to wonder how The Onion stays in business, though, with things as batpoop crazy as they've gotten. I mean, that could be a real story.

03 — Our fender-bender Navy. The state of our military is a bit worrying altogether. Those of us with family members serving in the military have more to worry about than the average.

I have no doubt our soldiers, sailors, and airmen will do their fighting best with any mission we assign them; but politicized leadership and stupid ideas about human nature may get in the way of their best being as good as it can be.

These dark thoughts came to mind when I read about the latest fender-bender involving a U.S. warship. This happened Monday when the U.S.S. John S McCain collided with a civilian oil tanker near Singapore. Ten of our sailors are missing, presumed dead. Five more sailors were injured.

This is the fourth serious accident involving U.S. Navy ships this year.

What's the normal number of collisions per annum? Close to zero. Prior to this year, the last such incident was in 2004, when our aircraft carrier the U.S.S. John F Kennedy ran over a dhow in the Persian Gulf.

Speaking as a credentialed navigator, I say there's something wrong here. Not having your ship run aground or collide with other ships, is basic seamanship, and made easier than it's ever been by modern navigation technology. Human beings have been sailing ships on the sea for several thousand years, remember. This is not a new art.

There's been some speculation that our Navy's high-tech navigation systems have been hacked into. There are a number of problems with that theory, one of them being that the Navy itself doesn't seem to believe it. Here for example is an extract from their report on the U.S.S. Fitzgerald incident, the one that killed seven sailors. Quote:

The collision was avoidable and both ships demonstrated poor seamanship. Within Fitzgerald, flawed watch stander teamwork and inadequate leadership contributed to the collision that claimed the lives of seven Fitzgerald Sailors, injured three more, and damaged both ships …

Several junior officers were relieved of their duties due to poor seamanship and flawed teamwork as bridge and combat information center watch standers. Additional administrative actions were taken against members of both watch teams.

End quote. In fairness to the crew of Fitzgerald, I should note that the report also contains the following, quote:
It was also evident from this review that the entire Fitzgerald crew demonstrated real toughness that night. Following the collision these sailors responded with urgency, determination and creativity to save their ship. Their rigorous damage control efforts and dauntless fighting in the immediate wake of the accident prevented further loss of life.
End quote.

OK, but it really looks as though we have a problem here. To misquote Lady Bracknell, one collision may be regarded as a misfortune; four looks like carelessness.

And the Navy's own reports finger "poor seamanship," "flawed teamwork," and "inadequate leadership."

It really looks as though the Navy has sailed into a zone of pretty acute personnel problems. But why would that be?

Call me over-suspicious [You're over-suspicious!] but I can't help thinking the issues are somewhat related to this report in the Daily Caller this March, quote:

A record 16 out of 100 Navy women are reassigned from ships to shore duty due to pregnancy, according to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by The Daily Caller News Foundation's Investigative Group.

That number is up 2 percent from 2015, representing hundreds more who have to cut their deployments short, taxing both their unit's manpower, military budgets and combat readiness …

Overall, women unexpectedly leave their stations on Navy ships as much as 50 percent more frequently to return to land duty, according to documents obtained from the Navy.

End quote. Oh, and what's this? A report from the New York Times just this past Wednesday, headline: Fort Benning Drill Sergeants Suspended Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations. Sample quote, after the stuff about sexual harassment allegations, quote:
The Pew Research Center said in a report this year that the presence of women in the United States military is growing. Women made up 14 percent of active duty Army personnel in 2015, and 15 percent of the active duty armed forces overall.
Concerning those allegations, by the way, I'm willing to bet — and if I'm wrong, someone who knows the facts please tell me and I will eat crow on the website — I'm willing to bet that a large majority of those offending drill instructors are black, and a similarly large majority of the plaintiffs are white.

Now, I don't say that mixed-sex military units are the stupidest idea of the past hundred years. The competition for stupidest is just too stiff: public-sector labor unions, affirmative action, mass Third World immigration, body piercing … I do say, though, that if I wanted to seriously degrade the military effectiveness of an enemy, I would do everything I could to get him integrating women into his combat units.

As a footnote here, I note that the U.S.A. is not the only country with problems in this zone. Here's another one from the Daily Caller, this one dated August 24th, headline: Chinese Recruits Are Too Fat And Masturbate Too Much, Complains State Media.

Apparently the ChiComs are worried that their young men are spending too much time sitting staring at their smartphones while pleasuring themselves. The evidence for the latter is that too many recruits display, quote with apologies for quoting, "out-sized testicular veins," end quote.

Forty-six percent also fall short on the standards for vision tests, we're told. Well, duh. I'm sure we all know the old joke: "Can't I just do it till I need glasses?"

So the ChiCom military is facing problems, too. Not to worry, though: I'm sure the commissars will take matters in hand. [Boo, hiss.]

04 — Glimmers of hope on immigration. As I said back there in my Afghanistan segment, the quality of our military leadership is one key component of our national security. The other component is firm control of our borders and a sensible, well-managed immigration policy.

So how are we looking on the second one there?

Well, there are some glimmers of hope. This week has seen some action, some hints of further action, and some positive rhetoric on immigration. I'll take them in turn.

The action has concerned countries that won't take back their citizens when those citizens have committed crimes in the U.S.A. This is itself a subset of the larger problem of violent alien criminals who you'd think would get deported but never were; not necessarily because their home countries wouldn't take them back, but often just because our own government couldn't be bothered to deport them.

In the particular case of foreign countries that won't take back their criminals, our immigration laws — yes! believe it or not, we actually have laws about immigration, passed by the people's representatives in Congress! — in those cases, our immigration laws provide a remedy. Under Section 243(d) of the relevant federal code, when a country won't accept its nationals, quote:

The Secretary of State shall order consular officers in that foreign country to discontinue granting immigrant visas or nonimmigrant visas, or both, to citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of that country until the Attorney General notifies the Secretary that the country has accepted the alien.
End quote.

That sounds pretty straightforward. Given the number of foreign criminals you read about in the press, you'd think that law would be invoked a lot. We arrest a criminal; he turns out to be a foreign national; we try to deport him; his home country won't take him; we stop issuing visas for people from that country. Straightforward, right? Invoked all the time, right?

Wrong! That law has been invoked just twice this century: against Gambia last year and against Guyana in 2001. And in both those cases, visas were denied only to government officials and their families, not to ordinary visa applicants.

As I've been telling you, we're not short of laws governing immigration, we've only been short of executive will to enforce them.

That may be changing. Tuesday this week we learned that the State Department has triggered visa sanctions under Section 243(d) against four countries that have been refusing to take back their criminal nationals. The countries are: Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Several other recalcitrant countries, we're told, have started taking back their criminals after threats of visa sanctions, or in return for minor favors.

That's good news; and in fairness to our President, who I was excoriating back there for the Afghanistan flip-flop, it's a fulfillment of one of his campaign promises.

That was the action. The hints of further action concern DACA, Barack Obama's order granting renewable two-year work permits to illegal aliens claiming to have been brought here as children.

Attorneys General from ten states — Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia — Attorneys General from those states will file suit in Texas on September 5th to have DACA declared unlawful. Jeff Sessions is known to support the suit, which makes it unlikely the feds will contest it in court.

Now we're hearing that the President may pre-empt the court case by just rescinding the Obama order, as he is entitled to do. As, indeed, he could have done at any time since he was inaugurated; as, on the campaign trail last year, he promised to do, quote, "on Day One" of his presidency.

So why didn't he do it? The theory's been aired — by our own Peter Brimelow, for example — that the President has just, for political reasons, preferred to let the courts do the job for him.

If that has been the President's strategy, it comes with some risks.

Two years ago a federal judge in Texas stopped DAPA, a similar program but for adult illegals. The Obama administration appealed to the Supreme Court; but the court deadlocked 4-4 so the lower court ruling stood. The assumptions are that the same Texas judge will give the same ruling on DACA, and that the Trump administration won't appeal.

That second assumption is sound enough, but the first isn't. There are differences between DAPA and DACA. The costs of DAPA to the states were more obviously burdensome than are the costs of DACA, for example. A skillful challenger could contest that point, or some other point, in court and possibly win on the law. No such challenger has so far shown up, but one might.

It would be best — cleanest, most decisive — for the President to act himself before September 5th. I hope he does so.

And finally, the rhetoric. This of course came at the President's Phoenix rally on Tuesday. Quote from him:

Build that wall … The obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall.
End quote. That got the biggest cheer of the rally. Some sourpusses in the media wondered why it would be necessary to have Congress allocate funds for the wall when Mexico is supposed to pay for it; but Trump supporters, including this one, aren't much bothered about that. We just want the damn wall. Thank you, Mr President, for reassuring us that you have it in mind.

05 — A little bit of Pakistan in Congress. I have an erratum to confess here.

Two weeks ago Radio Derb reported to you on efforts by black congresscritter Yvette Clarke, who represents a district in Brooklyn, New York City, to change street names at Fort Hamilton, the city's big Army base. Some of the streets are named after Confederate generals, you see.

I quoted the Army's firm response rejecting Rep. Clarke's request, and then I added, quote: "Mr. President, on your authority as Commander-in-Chief, find out who wrote or dictated those words, and promote him," end quote.

I have since learned that the author of that Army response was not a he — and thank God not a xe or a ze — but a she, Assistant Secretary of the Army Diane Randon. I didn't know that at the time and used generic "him"; but I confess the error anyway.

Ms Randon I assume is a civilian employee of the federal government. Just to clarify, though: I have no problem at all with women serving in the military, and I thank them for their service. I just think it is gross and colossal folly, and a huge military negative, to put men and women together in close-quarters combat or training units, or ships of the line. Every military or ex-military person I know agrees with me.

And since I've mentioned Rep. Yvette Clarke, I may as well note that she has been in the news for other reasons.

There's a backstory here. A week last Thursday a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. indicted two Pakistani software contractors on charges of conspiring to commit offenses against the government, including bank fraud, making false statements, and conducting unlawful monetary transactions. They are also under strong suspicion of having committed, quote, "congressional cybersecurity violations and large-scale theft of congressional property," end quote.

The Pakis are a chap named Awan and his wife, Alvi. Awan was arrested at Dulles airport July 24th while about to leave the country, and just after wiring $300,000 to Pakistan. Alvi left in March; the feds may seek to get her extradited from Pakistan. Lots of luck with that.

The husband-wife team had supplied computer services to dozens of congressfolk, all Democrats, for several years. They had also worked for the House Democratic Caucus, and had access to emails and computer data from hundreds of Democratic legislators and staffers.

It wasn't just the husband and wife at work here, either. Awan brought in his brothers Abid and Jamal; also Abid's Russian girlfriend Natalia Sova, and a friend named Rao Abbas. They were all doing IT jobs for members of Congress and for the Democratic Party.

For example, Awan was a close aide to former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who of course tells us that Awan's indictment is part of an anti-Muslim pogrom. She'd probably like to tell us that suspicions about Natalia Sova are driven by anti-Russian sentiment likewise; but that's hard to square with the current Democrat Party line …

Public records show that between 2009 and 2017 the Awans took home a total of over $4 million in government money — which is to say, of course, your money and mine. Nobody seems to know what else they took home in the way of classified information from all those emails and databases they had access to, and how much they were paid for that, and by whom.

That's the backstory. Sounds like nasty stuff, but what's it got to do with Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke?

Well, Our Lady of the Fort Hamilton Street Names was one of the congressional Democritters availing herself of Mr Awan's services. Her office employed his brother, Abid. It looks as though Abid was taking office equipment home and selling it; and Rep. Clarke's chief of staff wrote off the missing equipment in a way that evaded the congressional system for tracking inventory. Hmm.

Whether Rep. Clarke was aware of the scam or not, I don't know, and no-one else seems to know either. The larger probability, on my estimate, is that she is just seriously stupid; though of course that doesn't rule out the possibility that she is also corrupt.

Whether she is stupid, or corrupt, or both, won't hurt her re-election chances. She's black and female; her district is 53 percent black and 54 percent female. Rep. Clarke is an incumbent for life, barring federal indictments.

Good luck with that Fort Hamilton thing, though, Congresslady.

(A hat tip here to Z-man, on whose excellent blog I first read about the Awan family and their Democrat friends.)

06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.

Imprimis: [Clip: Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.] That was Dick Van Dyke in the 1964 movie Mary Poppins, doing the worst imitation of a London Cockney accent in the history of sound recording. For years afterwards, British TV and radio shows used to play clips like that for a quick laugh from the audience.

Now at last Dick has apologized to Britain for his linguistic crime. He's been selected for an award by BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the award to be presented at a ceremony this October. I guess he thought he'd better clean the slate before accepting the award.

Quote from Dick:

People in the UK love to rib me about my accent, I will never live it down. They ask what part of England I was meant to be from and I say it was a little shire in the north where most of the people were from Ohio.
Well, it definitely wasn't Derbyshire. Personally, though, I've long since forgiven Dick for his insult to the Cockneys.

And it's ancient history now, anyway. Those people ribbing him about it must by now be nearly as old as he is, which is 91. The Cockney accent is long gone. Its original home, the East End of London, is now pretty solidly Bangladeshi and Somali. The Member of Parliament for the district is Rushanara Ali, who was actually born in Bangladesh, and is of course a Muslim. She showed up in the news a few weeks ago calling for a ban on demonstrations by British and English nationalists.

I don't know if there's a remake of Mary Poppins in the works; but if there is, the chimney sweep better get to work on his Bengali accent.

Item: I am just going to read you, without comment, a course description from the Critical Theory / Social Justice offerings at Occidental College in Los Angeles — Barack Obama's alma mater, if memory serves.

The title of the course is "Stupidity." It's worth four credits. Here is the course description.

Stupidity is neither ignorance nor organicity, but rather, a corollary of knowing and an element of normalcy, the double of intelligence, rather than its opposite. It is an artifact of our nature as finite beings, and one of the most powerful determinants of human destiny. Stupidity is always the name of the Other, and it is the sign of the feminine. This course in critical psychology follows the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, and most recently, Avital Ronell, in a philosophical examination of those operations and technologies that we conduct in order to render ourselves uncomprehending. Stupidity, which has been evicted from the philosophical premises and dumbed down by psychometric psychology, has returned in the postmodern discourse against nation, self, and truth, and makes itself felt in political life, ranging from the presidency to Beavis and Butt-head. This course examines stupidity.
End quote.

Item: Oh yes, the eclipse. The Mrs and I watched it from the back porch, using some sheets of polarizing clear plastic I got from a friend who teaches the physics of light for a living.

I have an eclipse question — lunar, not solar — for any Eng. Lit. majors who may be listening.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 107 includes the lines:

The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur'd,

And the sad augurs mock their own presage …

English schoolmasters circa 1960 told their older pupils — well, ours told us — that this was a reference to Queen Elizabeth the First having come safely through her menopause.

Is there any scholarly foundation for that? My schoolmasters told us all sorts of things that turned out to be fruits of their bookish imaginations. I've never checked this one.

Item: Continuing the literary theme: I note that Winnie the Pooh has been banned in China.

This actually started in 2013, when social media in China began circulating two pictures side by side. The right-hand picture was a news photograph of Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, who is kind of portly, striding along next to then-President Barack Obama, who is of course lean. The left-hand picture was a drawing from one of the Pooh books showing Winnie the Pooh out walking with Tigger. The two pictures are indeed quite strikingly similar.

ChiCom politics works on a five-year cycle, and the 19th quinquennial Party Congress is coming up this fall. Xi wants to consolidate his power and get more of his placemen into key positions. So things are more than usually fraught right now. Anything that might inspire negative thoughts about the Supreme Leader is particularly unwelcome.

That apparently includes social media memes comparing Xi to a bear of very little brain, so Pooh has to go.

Not really a big thing, not like pulling down statues all over the place. I seriously doubt there are any statues of Winnie the Pooh in China. But then, China's already had their Cultural Revolution.

Item: Finally, an obituary notice. Brian Aldiss died in the early hours last Saturday at his home in Oxford, England, aged 92.

Who he? Yeah, this one is kind of personal. Aldiss was a British science fiction writer. That's not quite as deep into obscurity as, say, a Bessarabian pop singer, but it's deep enough.

To the twelve-year-old Derb, though, Aldiss was an inspiration. The lead story in the first sci-fi magazine I ever read was one of his — I quoted from it once in a column for Taki's Magazine.

I am quite likely the only person alive who has read The Brightfount Diaries, Aldiss's non-sci-fi first novel. (Sci-fi writers tended to start out writing mainstream fiction, like Mondrian painting still lifes.)

Sure: personal and trivial, I know. "Those who understand, will understand." Rest in peace, Brian.

07 — Signoff. That's all, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening; and you folk in the storm zone down there in Texas, be safe, and help and support each other as citizens should — as we and our neighbors did here on Long Island when Hurricane Sandy hit five years ago.

I remember Sandy all too well — eight days without power. A kind neighbor shared his generator with us. Now I have my own generator, and I'll share it if we're hit again.

I'm sorry to have poked fun at Dick Van Dyke back there. He's one of the best physical comedians of the past few decades, and he made me laugh a lot, mostly intentionally. Stay well, Dick.

Dick Van Dyke's singing voice wasn't anything to write home about; but hey, not everyone can do everything. His voice wasn't any worse than Fred Astaire's. And he did at least give the classic demonstration of how to nimbly navigate the worst rhyme ever put into a popular song: Lee Adams' "tragedy/glagedy" in "Put On a Happy Face."

There will be more from Radio Derb next week.

[Music clip: Dick Van Dyke, "Put On a Happy Face."]

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