The wit of Ronald Reagan

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

An evening pause: On this, the birthday of Ronald Reagan, I think it appropriate to get a taste of the man’s humility and humor in the face of the pressures of politics. If you are too young to remember him, you might want to get this short taste.


Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.

This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.

This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.

Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

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  • LocalFluff

    I’ve never seen Donald Trump make a joke, or even really laugh. Maybe that’s why so many people don’t like him? He’s an all work and no play kind of daddy. Although he doesn’t make the opponent laugh in the staring game, he never loses either. Foreign leaders will feel horrible about having to negotiate with him, especially when he has began to put a track record in international politics also. They don’t quite understand yet what is coming their way. “04:30, up before the enemy!”

  • wayne

    –you bring up an interesting point about the lack of humor coming out of Trump. He just doesn’t appear to use humor, or self-deprecation, to any extent.

    [Just be careful watching too much MILO— George Washington is commonly referred to as the “father of our Country,” but be clear– we’re not children, DJT is not my “dad” and the government is not my “mother.”]

    Reagan was a story-teller, part of the way he connected with people.
    Trump, in contrast, is more of a “Booster,” ala “George Babbit” from Sinclair Lewis.

    Reagan tells Soviet jokes

  • Wayne and LocalFluff: That both of you think that Donald Trump has no sense of humor and think he has never cracked a joke reveals that you probably have never watched any of his speeches during his campaign rallies. For a good description of one, read this Mark Steyn column, in which he says:

    Trump has no prompters. He walks out, pulls a couple of pieces of folded paper from his pocket, and then starts talking. Somewhere in there is the germ of a stump speech, but it would bore him to do the same poll-tested focus-grouped thing night after night, so he basically riffs on whatever’s on his mind. This can lead to some odd juxtapositions: One minute he’s talking about the Iran deal, the next he detours into how Macy’s stock is in the toilet since they dumped Trump ties. But in a strange way it all hangs together: It’s both a political speech, and a simultaneous running commentary on his own campaign.

    It’s also hilarious. I’ve seen no end of really mediocre shows at the Flynn in the last quarter-century, and I would have to account this the best night’s entertainment I’ve had there with the exception of the great jazz singer Dianne Reeves a few years back. He’s way funnier than half the stand-up acts I’ve seen at the Juste pour rires comedy festival a couple of hours north in Montreal. And I can guarantee that he was funnier than any of the guys trying their hand at Trump Improv night at the Vermont Comedy Club a couple of blocks away. He has a natural comic timing.

  • Ted

    I miss President Regan. Perfect? No. But compared to those who followed him he was a gem. Especially liked the Thomas Jefferson joke and the joke about potatoes.

  • wayne

    Mr. Z.,
    I would differ– I did watch an inordinate amount of Trump’s campaign speeches on C-span & Right Side Broadcasting (RSBN) via YouTube.
    (I was trying to get a sense of his consistency across time and his general style.)

    There was humor, and I would stand corrected in-general.
    –He’s not totally humorless.
    I should have maybe said more specifically– “it’s a certain type of humor.”
    (-I wish we could a real glimpse of how he actually interacts without a camera running. He’s always “performing.”)

    He’s also a complete counter-puncher & never allows the slightest slight, to go without responding. (Much like the German Army in WW-2, “they always counter-attacked,” and so does Trump.)

    I would definitely grant that Trump is able to weave multiple seemingly tangential points, over a relatively long time, and rarely loses his place or doesn’t bring everything together.
    (It’s a relief actually, after hearing Obama lecturing everyone for the past 8 years.)

    I do have distinct Nostalgia for Reagan, but I also recall it was painful at times to hear him respond contemporaneously to any random hard-policy question.
    If he wasn’t prepared– it was horrible. If he had the script memorized, he owned the moment.
    He was definitely able to tap into “The American Experience,” via his humorous anecdotes, in a manner Trump instinctively lacks, but in his own way– does hit on multiple shared-themes.

    Who is Trumps main speech-writer?

  • wayne

    I did enjoy Trumps “Snake story.”

  • LocalFluff

    Trump is entertaining, but he never tells a joke like an imaginary story, like Reagan about the Soviets. Nor does he ever indicate any failure of his own in a joking way. The laughs are always on his opponents. He makes a point of beating Arnold Schwarzenegger in terms of TV-ratings, in doing business and as politician. But he doesn’t joke about it, he just shows that he is stronger than the Terminator. This guy never jokes about winning.

  • Jake V

    “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

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