theferrett: (Meazel)

So it’s inevitable: in the next ten to fifteen years, there will be another reboot of Star Trek, and there will be someone’s take on Picard.

Our question: who should play Picard?

The criteria are that:

a)  This will be roughly ten years from now, yet somehow they’ll pick a current actor.  Just go with that.

b)  Said actor will have to be in his mid-forties, older, about the same age Picard was when he started.  (They could reboot with a young brash Picard learning his stuff at Starfleet Academy, but that’s too close to the recent reboot and too samey-same.  They’re gonna want to distinguish.)

So.  Which actor should we go with?

I personally would prefer Viggo Mortensen, dragged screaming out of actor’s retirement, because he’s got that reluctant gravitas you need to pull off the Picard.  Yet Gini – a huge Viggo fan, it must be said – says that Viggo’s voice is too nasal to pull off the resonance of a Picard.  Erin says she’d like Daniel Day-Lewis to do it, as would I, if only to see what kind of crazed preparations he’d make to live as a starship captain.

Daniel Craig was suggested, but there’s no way I could buy this guy as a man who negotiates first.

The one really interesting idea was race-swapping it to get Idris Elba to play the role, which I think is pretty good; he’s got the deep voice, he’s got that gravitas, and he’d be about the right age when the time comes.  But I also worry it’d be seen more as a riff on Captain Sisko, who’s also got a rumbly voice and a quasi-Shakespearean delivery (though no patch on Patrick Stewart), so there’d have to be a lot of careful character writing.

But who do you think?  All nerd battles are heartily encouraged.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

In the wake of America’s latest mass murder, I heard a lot of complaints: “These children are dead! How dare you use this tragedy as an excuse to push your latest political agenda!  Give it a rest and be respectful.”

Now, I can understand if you’re personally unable to deal with political discussions at the moment.  Hearing the raw details about an entire classroom full of kids gunned down was an emotional moment for anyone with a heart.  It’s understandable if you need to step away from the debate to grieve.  I think needing some space to process this is a very human and honest thing, and people should respect your need for silence when they’re in your presence.*

Yet some of those complaints went farther, as if anyone who tried to pass a law or push an agenda based on the latest set of fresh graves was a disrespectful oaf.  To which I say, shut the fuck up.

The reason we politicize this tragedy is because we don’t want any more people killed by maniacs toting weapons.  And like it or not, the only real way we can affect that change is by passing laws to change the shape of society.  Certainly there’s been enough uproar and grief over the repeated spate of killings that if social pressure were enough to change such things, it would have fucking been changed. So something clearly has to be done, whether it’s getting politicians to pass more funding for the mentally ill, or giving cops more leeway in dealing with potential killers, or restricting access to guns, or discovering an effective way of stopping the media from turning killers into celebrities, or even arming teachers.

As it is, your cries of “Don’t make this political!” are the ultimate form of disrespect.  It’s a way of saying: do nothing.  Let’s bury our heads in the sand and hope this doesn’t happen again.

Here’s the thing: I think the folks who want to arm teachers are idiots, but at least they’re trying to push a solution that they think will stop tragedies like this in the future.  They’re utterly, bone-headedly wrong… but I’ll at least give them the credit that they’ve acknowledged how horrible this is and are taking proactive measures to try to head this off at the pass.

Because a tragedy on this scale should create a big, messy argument.  This is a big, messy problem.  Anyone who thinks that one solution will solve all of this is hopelessly simplistic.  It’s not just about banning guns, or better mental health care, or the media, or a lack of morality; it’s a convergence of all these factors, and many hidden ones we have yet to uncover, that is causing this.  We need to have a discussion, an honest discussion, about all the things that led to this grotesquerie… and then, while we still have the motivation, to enact a solution that will help ensure that jackasses like this will never do this again.

That’s what politicizing does: it creates solutions.  And it’s uncomfortable.  It involves listening to things you do not want to hear.  It involves dissatisfying compromises.  It means that yes, any of us might bear some responsibility in this killing, whether it’s in the way we fought gun legislation or the way we eagerly turn the television on to hear juicy facts about the killer.  It’s not fun, and it’s not clean and easy, and it’s like wearing a hair suit because fuck, if it was an easy answer we would have fixed that.

But the debate needs to happen.  And it won’t happen if you’re going, “Don’t politicize this!”, which is usually another way of saying, “I’m made uncomfortable by the fact that I might have some culpability in this issue, so please stay silent in order to enable my lack of soul-searching.”

It’s not pleasant, having these debates.  Yet it was far less pleasant for those shot in this latest butchering, and I think the least you can do is endure a bit of discomfort in an attempt to ensure no one else will be murdered. Which is the true respect.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

When I was twenty-one, I spent half my time crafting awful nicknames for my closest friends.  The goal was twofold:

1)  Find a strange habit of a good buddy of mine did that nobody else had noticed;
2)  Think up a “sticky” nickname, something clever and memorable, that would highlight this unnoticed character flaw in a way that others would immediately laugh at.

If I was successful, then suddenly we’d spend the next three weeks chortling about the way Matt swung his arm back and forth when he got excited about something.  If my nickname was really successful, then others would start riffing on the gag, and Matt’s swinging arm would become a locally viral sensation, where we’d find  a way to riff on Matt’s arm in every movie we watched.  Hey, was Arnie on TV?  He’s the Arm-inator! And we’d laugh ourselves hysterical about Matt, the contract killer, who slaughtered his victims by whirling his errant arm like a helicopter blade.  We’d draw pictures.  We’d imitate Matt with a Teutonic accent.

It was the pre-Internet version of a meme, where we’d endlessly permutate MTV videos to make them all, somehow, about Matt’s arm. All while Matt stood there, nodding stoically, acknowledging that ha ha, have your kicks if you need to.

This may seem cruel.  It was.  The only thing that made it okay was that Matt – and everyone else in my group – was trying to do the same thing to me… partially, because if they were successful at making me the kicking bag of choice for a few weeks, they got kicked less.  But there were about fifteen of us, all out to viciously exterminate each other’s self-esteem through humor.

Thing is, we took pride in our ability to endure.  The whole point was that we were brutally honest to each other, and we could take it.  Sure, I was fat, and had buggly eyes, and couldn’t hold my pot, and… well, I could go on about my failings for days, because in my time with that group every single one of my sins was enumerated, expanded, and roundly mocked.  There was literally nothing unusual about me that wasn’t held up to the light and blown up to Godzilla-sized proportions, to the point where it seemed like I was a walking tub of bug-eyed lard, because everyone was angling to tear me down.

But I didn’t have to be nice, which was another term for “dishonest.”  Being nice meant that you pretended that Mike’s hair wasn’t weird, or that Jake’s habit of wearing a tie wasn’t pretentious and idiotic.  Why should we have to tiptoe around these quirks?  Why should we hide our annoyance?

Why should we deprive ourselves of laughter?

Sure, you had to occasionally take one for the team, but that gave you an honest crossroads for improvement: you could fix the problem, or learn to love it.  Hey, was I fat?  Could be thin.  Hey, was Matt swinging his arm?  Well, he could learn to take pride in that arm-swinging, go over the top of us, and make arm-swinging one of his signature traits, to the point where we’d actually respect him for it, because by God the man may swing his arm but he fucking owns it.

We’d still mock him, but now it was a more respectful mocking.  Matt was a tough bastard.  Stood up to us.

That’s the way things should be.

And maybe sometimes you wanted a break from all of this hi-lar-ious humor, sometimes you wished you could just go to a party and not have someone call you “Fat Willy Wonka” and fucking deal with it, but that wasn’t the kind of world you lived in.  You learned to cope by shooting first; they couldn’t hurt you if you blitzed them, so you’d arrive at a party loaded up with bon mots and new nicknames and the right people to insult.  Better to get your chucks in now.

And maybe sometimes, you showed up fully loaded for bear for that party, and everyone else’s bon mots were funnier than yours, and you wound up the goat.  Which sucked.  But you could get ‘em again, tiger… and if you couldn’t, then maybe you could latch on to one of the funniest guys, laugh really loudly at all of his jokes so he’d be less inclined to pick on you (though he would sometimes just so he didn’t look soft).  This eventually led to subfactions where you had people allying with each other, these groups of hyenas laughing loudly, and one guy who everyone was trying to please because he could turn the tide of opinion.

But we were honest.

Very, very honest.

You can see that kind of honesty all over a lot of traditionally male culture; Howard Stern is the key man for such an environs, and its stamp is also all over Jackass.  40 Year-Old Virgin deconstructs that culture from start to finish, showing its appeals and limitations, which is why I love that movie so.  It’s a brutal, Darwinian environment where empathy is discouraged, and laughter is encouraged at any cost.

The reason I bring this up is because I heard this exchange the other day:

“That’s so gay.”

“Really?  You realize how you’re damaging actual gay people by using their name as a pejorative.  I see your name’s Harold; how’d you like it if we called everything terrible ‘Harold’?”

And I thought: If I was twenty years old, I would fucking grow to love it.  I would take that bowl of metaphorical thumbtacks and gobble them down, because this crude attention meant they at least acknowledged me.  And if I held up under it and never cracked, eventually I’d start referring to bad shit by using my own name, and eventually the guys would realize I was one of them, and I would be one of the hardest motherfuckers in the crew.

So those gays?  Should toughen the fuck up.

That’s the thing. My old crew wasn’t honest.  Nobody would have fucking noticed Matt’s swingy arm if we hadn’t been on patrol for it.  If we were really honest, we would have said, “Hey, we’re all insecure, and desperate to do anything to deflect attention from our own flaws, and by laughing hysterically and bringing everyone down to our level, it makes us feel better.”  But we didn’t, and we didn’t acknowledge how these supposed irritations we found were ones we were hunting for.  We wanted to be vexed.  We wanted to find something to mock.  We wanted to feel like there was no grace or charm in life, just a cobbling of sad quirks and ugliness, because not all of us could have grace.

But when you deal with these folks – and there are a lot of them – you have to realize that empathy as a tactic will fail.  For them, empathy is a weakness.  If you can’t deal with their quote-unquote truth, then you caved to other people’s opinions.  And what do those other people matter?  They don’t.  They totally don’t.  That’s why you spend all of your time mocking other folks, to show them the wisdom of not caring.  That’s why you’re out there, making people mad, trying to get them to act as you do, because if the whole world acted this way then you could justify it completely and have no nagging worries when you’re alone or just feel too battered to deal with this shit.

Do I know how to reach them?  No.  But asking, “How would you like it?” will never work.  Because if you kicked them in the balls, they would grow to love it, because that meant they passed the test.  They endured.  And thus, the world should learn to be like them.

Sad.  And true.  Two words that go together a lot, if you’re truly honest.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

The latest tragic geekstorm is this: fake nerd girls. Women are pretending to be nerdy, because it’s trendy!  How dare they?!

In other breaking news, my eighteen year-old self is has just flown through the time barrier to punch every one of these complainers in the nuts.

Seriously, guys?  Your complaint is that comic books have become so popular that cute girls are emulating you?  I feel an attack of Condescending Wonka coming on:

condescending_wonka

“But Ferrett, you don’t understand!” the haters complain.  “These girls?  They’re not real fans.  They just watched, like, the Justice League cartoon and the only Green Lantern they know is Kyle Rayner!  They don’t deserve to wear the T-shirt!”

Really, dipweed?  Who decided what level of knowledge someone had to possess before they could become a fan?

The thing that constantly amazes me about minority groups is how, after being beaten up by the outside world for not fitting in, they retreat to a hidden locale where they’re accepted among others like themselves… and then manufacture reasons why other people can’t fit in with their group.  Hey, we’re gay – but those creepy bisexuals are playing at their gaydom, kissing women for male approval!  Hey, we’re a bunch of dominants and submissives, inflicting pain for pleasure – but those switches, the ones who alternate between dispensing pain and receiving it, well, they’re not really committed to the scene!

One of the Great Nerd Dysfunctions is that we confuse “depth of knowledge” for “depth of love.”  It’s a given in many nerd communities that you can’t be a True Doctor Who Fan until you’ve watched all fifty years of the show, seen every episode from every Doctor, and can discuss the differences between the BBC audio dramas and the novelizations.  Because that’s what you’re supposed to do, if you’re a nerd: consume relentlessly.  Become an authority.  Acquire the mantle of respectability, so when those Doctor Who Dick Wars come a-knockin’, you know exactly what happened to the footage from lost Shada, and which episode it was later reused in, and the embarrassing reason why.

And if someone doesn’t know all of that stuff and yet they claim to be a fan, well, they haven’t put in the same work as you.  Therefore, they cannot love as deeply as you do.

Read: they are not as good as you.

But the truth is, knowledge does not equal enthusiasm.  I’ve known Star Wars “fans” who had counted the number of shots were fired in the hallway battle in A New Hope, and they treated their fandom with a grim, possessive bullishness: I have invested my life in this, and even though I hate this new book series and this new set of toys is crap, I must have all the things or it doesn’t count. They often speak bitterly about the crappy novels they’ve read, the way Lucas is fucking things up, the way Disney will now fuck things up, showing not a love of Star Wars but a constant disappointment that it does not match up with the imaginary construct in their head.

Whereas there are people who have never heard of the novelizations, but love the fucking fuck out of the six hours they’ve invested in the movies.

So who’s better?  Trick question: the answer is, “neither.”  They both express love in their own way.

Point is that the real complaint of a lot of these disgruntled fanboys is, “They don’t know as much as I do!”  Which is true.  But that doesn’t make these fans fakers.  It means they love a small part of a much vaster whole, but that love is deep and real.  Maybe they’ll choose to explore more, when they get the chance.  Maybe they don’t get pleasure from tracking down every last scrap of continuity.  Who the hell cares? Fandom is large.  I do not have to have read every last Star Wars novel to call myself a Star Wars fan. That girl does not have to know about every being who’s taken on the mantle of the Green Lantern ring to have the heroic adventures of that incarnation of Kyle Rayner resonate with her.

What you’re upset about is that they’re not respecting your hierarchy.  And in that, you can fuck off.  You tried to escape hierarchies when you were on the bottom, and now you’re trying to manufacture one where you’re on the top?  That makes you a petty, shallow sonuvabitch.

Plus, there’s a hidden misogyny in there, in that you hardly ever see this sort of kerfluffle about guys wearing Green Lantern shirts and not meaning it.  The geek refuge is all too often the He-Man’s Woman-Haters Club meeting, where any guy who wears the clothes is accepted without question, but any woman has to pass the secret test.

Why?  For fuck’s sake, I’ve been playing Magic since The Dark, which puts me in the old grognard club of Magic players.  I’ve edited a Magic site.  I’ve been a Magic celebrity, such as it was.  And when I talk to some some twenty-something college kid and discover we both play and he tells me, “I love Magic!  I’m totally into it.  I have, like, all the cards,” I don’t think, oh, you ignorant fuck, let me show you how it’s done.  I think, boy, I’m glad he’s getting such pleasure out of it, and he’s gonna learn soon how many cards he doesn’t have, and I hope that encourages him to get all the ones he wants.  It’s okay that he doesn’t have all the dual lands like I do, or that he’s never played Rochester Draft, or that he’s probably not really understanding of what Standard is or how it works.

I think he has a love.  A love that may lead him down the same paths as me, or it may not.  But the joy he gets in slinging cards, incompetently, with his buddies over the lunchroom table is no less true.

And that’s why yes.  You can wear the T-shirt.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Okay.  So Shelley Dankert was a conservative blogger, drunk on buttershots during election night.

She decided to YouTube what was an EPIC FUCKING RANT, berating her friends for not sharing her YouTube videos enough.  The rant is twenty-four minutes long, and frankly, I’d probably watch her in a different sitcom every week, a tiny blogger furious that nobody is paying attention to her.  It’s a little close to the bone, but I love it.

Alas, she’s disallowed embedding, probably because she desperately needs the hits on YouTube.  Anyway, watch the first four minutes, at least.  Yes, the screen is black, mostly.  Part of the charm, really.

“I can make fifteen fucking posts on Facebook, and not fucking one of you will share it!”

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

One of the liberal complaints about Obama is, He didn’t do everything I wanted him to do. They had a laundry list of everything they wanted Obama to get done, including free socialist health care for everyone, and the fact that he didn’t do it means that he’s a bad politician.

Here’s my take: a politician who does everything you want is a bad politician.

See, politics is complicated.  Really complicated.  I couldn’t tell you who’s in charge of the Senate funding committees for the Pentagon, nor do I understand which Democrats have enough Republican constituents that they have to salve their conservative base periodically, nor do I have the slightest clues as to the rules of order for the House.  I have a general idea of how things go, but it’s about as vague as describing the cellular mechanisms of my body fighting off a flu virus as “I sneeze a lot.”

I elect a politician to learn these things for me.

Electing a politician, any politician, is an act of faith.  You vote for the guy who looks like he has enough of your concerns in mind, and then send him off to do your duties for you.  And you trust that he’s smart enough to a) know the overall goal, and b) do what he’s able to do with what he has.

Look, do I think that Obama really tried hard to push English-style, socialized health care for everyone?  No.  No, I do not, and that is what I wanted.  But did I also have a list of every member in both Houses, knowing what concessions I’d have to give to get them to vote for my desired health care bill, and a tally of the costs it would take?  Did I have a list of the huge numbers of polls Obama doubtlessly took, determining what America as a whole thought on the topic?  Did I know how much influence the insurance companies had in the House, or had I read any studies on the effects that a sudden shift to socialized medicine would have on America’s economy?

I did not.  So I’m disgruntled, but I’m also willing to admit that Obama may have wanted just as badly as I did to have socialized health care for everyone, and was “only” able to push through a huge bill that completely changed the face of American health care.  Politics is about realism, as in “What you can get done,” and I’ve read too many books on Lincoln to know that “what you want to do” and “what you can actually do now” are two very separate things.

If I had a politician who did everything I wanted, then I’d have a politician who had my expertise – which is to say, none.  And he’d vote in all sorts of things, regardless of who it would piss off, regardless of whether it would actually pass, regardless of whether there were actually hidden consequences I hadn’t thought about that would make this disastrous if it did pass.

That’s not to say Obama gets a free pass, of course.  It may well be that if I looked at all the secret data on Guantanamo Bay and the uptick in drone strikes, I’d be convinced to do what Obama is doing now.  But I find that doubtful, and so if I had a choice on foreign policy, I might consider throwing my vote behind someone else.  But, as the third Presidential debate pretty much proved, I don’t.

So no.  I’m not entirely thrilled with Obama.  But if I had a politician who did literally everything I asked of him, I’d probably have an inefficient puppet who made me feel good and accomplished zip.  I’d rather have a politician who does what I want if I was informed enough to follow all the news to the extent that a politician does… which is to say a politician who’s going to frustrate and contradict me from time to time.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So someone on my Twitter feed posted this most excellent link: “The Tea Party Will Win In The End.”  And by God, he’s right.  The money quote:

Such is the power of denial that we [liberals] simply refuse to concede that, by the metric of intractability, at least, conservatives are the cockroaches of the American body politic, poised to outlast us all.

The thing that’s always struck me about liberals is how blitheringly stupid they are in writing off an entire half of the goddamned country.  We’re so utterly convinced that we’re morally justified that we actually forget that opposition exists.  And so the history of me being liberal(ish) is watching people go, “What?  Bush won?  California passed Prop 8?  Tea Parties are winning elections?  How did that happen?”  And every time it’s like someone ripped off a Band-Aid, and there’s this sense of terror that the world has gone terribly wrong.

No.  It didn’t go wrong.  You just forgot to fight.

Dude, conservative rhetoric is here to stay, and no matter how laughable you may find their ideas, many people believe it and it does not cease to exist because you can’t take it seriously.  Stop being shocked that hey, they’re still here after every victory you accomplish.  You let down your guard, they come surging back.

Many of the liberals I speak to seem morally outraged that they even have to discuss their ideals, as though they’re as natural as water and it’s sheer stupidity of anyone to need to know about how noble you are.  Cut that shit out.  You gotta stay in there punching, man, because the conservatives sure aren’t, and they’ve never ever stopped taking us seriously.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

There’s an essay going around FetLife called “Please, PLEASE Defriend Me If…“, and I’ll quote the relevant parts here:

You don’t understand why it’s just not cool for a white person to be throwing around the word Nigger with impunity.

You believe blackface is just awesome.

You think that showing consideration for the historical and social contexts surrounding taboo play (incest, rape, racial, etc) equals your kink being poopoo’d on. Pro-tip: it is possible to indulge in taboo and NOT be an asshole.

You believe that racism is not a big deal anymore and black people just be trippin’.

You believe that sexism is not a big deal anymore and women just be trippin’.

You often use the phrase “no-homo” or “that’s so gay” and don’t understand why that’s a problem.

You think trans folk are annoying when they ask you to use their preferred pronouns.

You think being a decent thoughtful human being is somehow stifling, and not compatible with being a “real” kinkster/fetishist/pervert/BDSMer/whatever your kinky label may be.

You think white privilege, male privilege, cis-gender privilege, etc are not “real” things.

You don’t understand why women don’t find street harassment flattering.

You think creationism is just as valid a “theory” as evolution.

You believe in black-supremacy, white-supremacy, male-supremacy, female-supremacy, or any other type of supremacy.

You don’t believe rape-culture exists.

You don’t support gay marriage.

While I find every one of these types of thoughts to be odious and troubling and as irritating as the original poster does, let me make an alternate plea:

Please, please stay friended to me.

While others may not want to be your teachable moment, I do.  If I tell you to go away, chances are good you won’t learn; you’ll just hang about with your other friends, all of whom think this stuff is perfectly fine, and never have to think about your opinions again ever except maybe, if you even remember, that one time a jerk defriended you over stupid shit.

I won’t let you off that easy.  No, you have to walk away from me.

In the meantime, we’re going to argue.  A lot.  Because I believe that while I’ll lose a hundred arguments, I’ll win one occasionally, and that one makes all the difference in the world.  Because I believe that reminding people that yes, people they like have differing opinions is a good thing.  Because I believe that getting called on your shit makes you a better person.  Because I believe that if I walk away, all I do is teach you the lesson that “some people don’t have a sense of humor,” and let you frame the argument as someone oversensitive getting their panties in a wad, and let you get away with a sense of superiority that you do not fucking deserve.

Don’t get me wrong.  I won’t brook personal insults, and I try not to give them.  (I fail, on occasion.  I always feel bad.)  You have to be civil, and I have to be engaged, and I have to accept the prospect that on occasion, I may even be convinced by you.  Otherwise, we’re not having an exchange of ideas, but are just throwing speeches at each other.  And if you’re sufficiently abusive, the ban button’s always an option.

Yet I think it’s important.  If you believe all of this ignorant tripe, well, I may be the only dissenting voice you hear.  And I do think that people can change – because I used to be much less sensitive to transsexual issues until transsexual friends called me on that shit, and I used to not really understand exactly what a level-up being straight and male was, and I learned by making painful mistakes where people reminded me that hey, you’re actually kinda hurting folks with those opinions.  I didn’t change my behavior out of some fuzzy concept of “political correctness,” I changed because I saw people were genuinely injured by some of my thoughts – and for me, it came down to, “I can be a dick and say whatever I want,” or “I can phrase things differently and make life easier for people.”

I would like to give you my whips, friend.  To remind you, challenge you, and I hope, change you.  I’m patient.  Yeah, maybe only one in a hundred people can truly change their minds, but 1% could have made the difference in the 2000 and 2004 elections.  And no, not everyone wants to do this, nor should you expect them to, but I mostly view my blog as a public space and so I will. (There are days I don’t feel like arguing, and I reserve the right not to respond to your every comment.  Like George Martin, I am not your bitch.)

You’re gonna get pissed off.  You’re gonna piss me off.  But you and I, we differ, and we’re gonna hash it out right fucking here.

Stick around.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I don’t consider myself a ‘Bad Dude’ nor a ‘Nice Guy’ but I can spot a bruised ego and bad writing when I see it. I hate labels because they put limits on people. Your premise that ‘Nice Guys’ don’t get sex is ignorant. Then again, I consider the source. By the way, 1990′s Hawaiian shirts, a goatee, fedora, fingernail polish, and back hair don’t make you a ‘Bad Ass’ dude. What they do make you is just like your writing? Out of touch and needing to be noticed…

Now, that’s the sort of comment that leaves me a little stung, but not for the reasons you’d think.

It was left on the FetLife cross-post of my “Why Nice Guys Don’t Get Sex: Reason #1 In An Infinite Series” essay, and that sort of furious essay reminds me of middle school.  Now, I don’t begrudge a few angry comments; after all, that post was about a behavior I find odious (and took aim at), and made some generalizations that could sting if you were caught in the cross-fire, so I don’t mind a few slams back. It’s only fair, after all.

(My favorite is the guy who claimed that women are having sex with all those assholes only because you’re such a wonderful guy, they know they don’t deserve you, and so they close their eyes and fantasize about you guiltily the entire time they’re banging jerks.  Um, I’m sure that happens often.)

But the angry comment here, when analyzed, is pretty detailed.  See, my default profile pic on FetLife doesn’t even have me wearing a hat.  Nor does it display my sad, thatchy abundance of back hair.  So to leave this comment, the guy had to go through all of my pictures, specifically taking stock of all my many flaws, just so he could leave a comment that was meant to be personal and cutting.

He failed, sadly.  They usually do.  If he’d read any of my writing or my status updates (which he probably didn’t do because that would be too time-consuming), he’d have known that I don’t consider myself a Badass at all.  I’m a neurotic train wreck who occasional partakes in ritualized acts of violence for sexualized pleasure, sure!  But note that I don’t call myself a Dom, or a Master.  I don’t swagger much, except occasionally when it comes to rejoicing in my fireplay skills (and even that’s mostly out of a vaguely surprised “I did it!”).  In fact, most of my writing is about me fucking up in some way, using it as an example to talk about How Not To Do This.

So it’s like, “Dude, if you were going to do the research, you should have done it all the way.”  There are plenty of ways you could have hurt my feelings – you just didn’t dig deep enough.

(Which is what most insults are, weirdly.  If you look at what people are picking on you about, it usually reflects what they’re most terrified of being.  Dude is probably very concerned about his badass status, and as such thought that trying to remove mine would be devastating.)

What wounds me is the time.  I see a lot of dipshit writings on the Internet that I disagree with.  If motivated, occasionally I’ll even argue them in the comments.  But it would take a lot to get me to do research to try to find personalized ways to insult them. I’ve spent time looking up links to defang someone’s argument, absolutely, but spending time rooting through their profile to try to find the things that I think would hurt them?

That’s mean.  And yet here’s the guy, taking time to do craft a personalized insult to a stranger.  The actual insult doesn’t hurt; the intent does.  It makes me wonder whether what I wrote was actually that bad, causing a self-reflection that’s troubling… And yeah, I probably could have written it better.  I’ll get ‘em next time, tiger.

Yet there’s that pathetic attempt.  Someone took a shot at me, and missed.  And I wonder if that’s how Superman feels as the bullets bounce off him, going, “Do they really mean to do that?  Do they know what they’re trying to do?”

Not that I’m Superman, of course.  More like Jimmy Olsen; occasionally lucky, given more adventures than he truly deserves, but a little too cocky to be a true hero.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Dear Republicans:

I think at this point, the whole “gay rights” issue is pretty much guaranteed to head the same way as “women’s rights” and “African-American rights.”  Oh, there’s still battles to be had, but if you look at the demographics among younger folks, most of whom see gayness as no big deal, then what’s going to happen over time is that the old homophobes will die off and the new homophiles will take over.

At which point, gay rights will continue to be an issue, in much the same way that discrimination against women and African-Americans continues to be a problem, but people will mostly agree that gays are folks just like anyone else.

At which point the Republicans will be screwed.  Their opposition to gay rights will be noted by this generation, and they’ll almost certainly abandon their anti-gay stances just to survive as a political party, but the stigma will continue.  You’ll have people going, “Well, I like the Republican party’s line on many issues, but we all know how much they hate gays.  I can’t vote for them based on that.”  Votes will be lost.

Those future Republicans will doubtlessly claim, “Hey, wait!  I didn’t have anything to do with those old anti-gay laws!  I actually like gay people!  I haven’t tried to pass any anti-gay legislation in, like, ever!”  At which point people will go, “Oh, sure, you say that, but everyone knows that if you got your druthers you’d try your best to drum gays out of the military and revoke all the gay marriage laws.”

That’s gonna suck for you.  But here’s the deal:

If you have ever agreed that the Democrats are going to take away your guns, then shove your fucking whining back in your pie-hole.

Hey, we seriously stopped battling the NRA shortly after the Brady Bill passed back in 1993, and it’s been almost two decades since we’ve given up the fight.  We got trounced so severely by our nation’s love of guns that Democrats don’t even discuss it any more.  And there are plenty of gun-totin’ Democrats who like to shoot, which inevitably evinces surprise from conservatives, because everybody knows how much liberals hate guns. It’s just how things are.  When a Democrat gets in office, he wants to remove every handgun.

So, you know, if you said at any time between his election and the end of his first year of Presidency, “Now that Obama’s in office, he’s gonna work to take away our guns!” (or stood silent when someone else did), well, you can eat a bowl of shut the fuck up when it comes to enduring the world thinking that all your kind hates gays even though you conceded the point decades ago.  Because hey, what goes around?  Comes around.

(And for those of you who didn’t?  Well, I’m sorry you’ll have to endure that.  Some day.)

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

One of the biggest problems that nice guys have: they think women want men who don’t want sex.

I think this attitude, unconsciously developed, stems from listening to women complain about the fuckheads who hit on them.  “All those assholes want is sex!” is what they hear their female friends lamenting, so they go, I’ll be the opposite.  I’ll be very quiet and never ever mention sex, or that I desire it.  This will make me a gentleman.

No.  It will make you a loser.

I think this attitude springs from this sad view of nature where they believe that women don’t really want sex, they just sort of endure it for the sake of the species.   So you have to sneak up on sex.  You can’t just mention it around women, because at the first hint of cock they’ll run like zebras from a lion.  No, you have to sort of sneak in the penis, waiting for the proper moment to, uh, bring it up.  This may take months.  And all the while, you’ll never ever mention sex, or if you do you’ll discuss it like you were handling a dirty diaper. Because that’s what women want.

So how’s that working out for you, chum?  Well, you’re probably standing by the sidelines while your ideal woman is going out and fucking these horrible behemoths, feeling resentful because you’re doing everything right and there they are – falling into bed with an oaf!

An oaf who actually expressed his desire for her, and she responded!  Carnally!  Why, it’s like she wanted to get fucked! But that can’t be the case, so these brutes must be, I don’t know, hypnotizing her with their gold chains and their Axe body spray and their abs or something.

No, dude.  What you heard was “All these assholes want is sex,” and came to the erroneous conclusion that sex was bad.

What she was saying was, “All these assholes want is sex.”  As in, “Remove my vagina, and I’m worthless to them.”  That doesn’t mean her vagina is some sort of null zone to be ignored. She wants to fuck, but she wants to fuck someone who wants to fuck.

And what are you doing?  By conspicuously not mentioning sex ever, you’re sending the impression that if she wants sex, well, it shouldn’t be with you.  You’re taking the default stance that as a guy you naturally desire it on occasion, like some sort of cyclical Pon Farr, but it’s not anything you need.  And if she really needs it, why would she want to fuck a guy who’s never said he really wants to, loves to?

Look.  What women like – what people like – like is passion.  And you being a wishy-washy huggabear will just make it clear that when you get into bed with them, she’ll have to tell you everything to do, making you kind of a voice-activated vibrator.  So she finds other guys who may have less attractive qualities but at least will satisfy her in the sack, and leaves you firmly in the friend-zone.

Why?  Because you never told a dirty joke, or shared an embarrassing sex story, or even told her how fucking gorgeous she is.  Not that she’s pretty, but fuckable.  And yes, there are creepers who make women feel awful by slathering them in filth, but the fix is to not go the opposite route and sanitize yourself so you’re as sexless as a Hello Kitty.  Yes, it’s awkward finding that fine line between “no sex ever” and “creeper sex maniac,” but if you squash your desires altogether then you’re lying to her about what you want… and you can’t complain when she doesn’t respond to a desire that she doesn’t know exists.  (Or that you’ve given the impression that you’d be bad at it.)

A lot of guys have this terrifically sad dance, wherein they never mention sex ever and if they do, certainly it’s not something they’re really interested in, no!, and then they wind up with women who aren’t that interested in fucking. Don’t do that.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

My Dearest Nerds, et al:

When I was a young lad of nine, my uncle took me to my first science fiction convention – a Star Trek convention, to be precise.  It was held in a dirty basement of a hotel, a seedy thing hidden away from sight, because nerdy conventions a) weren’t terribly popular, so they couldn’t afford better spaces, and b) nerdy things were, in general, best hidden from sight.  And Star Trek Fandom was a tattered, desperate thing – the show had been cancelled seven years ago, and the movie that would bring Kirk and Spock back to life hadn’t been made yet, so the convention was a bunch of die-hards, warming their hands at the dying embers of an old TV show.

It was largely considered pathetic.

Yet upon the folding tables of the con, I found wonderment and brightness.  I could mention “The Horta” and have everyone understand that I meant an acid-secreting monster… And no one would make fun of me for that.  We made bad Star Trek puns, and people got them.  I bought two Star Trek scripts – cheap mimeographs of typewritten pages held together with a binder clip – and my Uncle Tommy bought peeling rubber Spock ears.  These were things I had always dearly wanted to own, yet didn’t think anyone else shared our interest.

This whole convention was proof that there were others like me.

I was not alone.

Thirty years later, I still carry that amazement in my bones.  That wonder that my crazy desires were shared.  And so, my friends, as one of you, I’m here to bring you an important message about fandom:

You fucking won.

It is time to stop pretending you’re a minority.

Whenever I see someone proud of geek culture, they speak as though we’re still that tatty Star Trek convention stuffed in a bad hotel’s basement – something shameful and shunned.  But seriously, guys.  Look at the movies.  What’s the top 10 movies of the year?  The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, Hunger Games, Amazing Spider-Man.  Those are all major box-office draws, bringing millions of like-minded folks together.

And what’s bigger than movies these days?  Videogames.  Oh, there was a time when maybe your Atari or Nintendo was mocked by others, but these days?  Videogames rake in billions of dollars, are played by rock stars and sports stars alike in the back of vans; the Halo series, a science fiction saga, is so big it doesn’t need to have a movie to be iconic.

You look around, and the Internet has made computers cool, even a little bit de rigeur.  Online dating is not only acceptable, but becoming a default.  Your silly cat macros have become a part of the culture.  Cartoons are okay for adults to watch, now.  People used to mock people for carrying around a pocket calculator, but now you’d damn well better have an iPhone in your hand.

You have become the dominant culture.

Sure, there are a couple of things that never caught on – tabletop roleplaying never became cool, but that’s largely because networked videogames did a better job of bringing people together.  And sure, maybe Firefly never became the massive hit – but the point is that these days, you can admit in public that you like a show about spaceships and laser-guns, and most people find that normal.   World of Warcraft and Modern Warfare raids have become as normal as Fantasy Football.

Yet for all of that, fandom tends to have this cringing attitude that fundamentalist Christians have – the concept that because there are still people left who disagree with us, we must still be an embattled minority.  And if nerdy culture knows anything, it’s that the embattled minorities are in the right – it’s always the little guys with the moral rightness, fighting against the Big Culture of Evil!

You’re the big culture, guys.  And you’re a little evil.

Because as Greyweirdo puts it so wonderfully correctly:

Someone posted a quote on Facebook recently, that said something like “Geekery is about being enthusiastic about things we love, not decrying, not belittling.” and the very first comment to that quote that I saw was “Bullshit! I’ve never seen a geek like anything, they’re like hipsters, only they think they’re better because they pretend to be feminist or liberal sometimes.” and I found that to be just plain tragic. Because the geeks were supposed to be the good guys. But no, give them some time and they’ll be racist, slut shaming, misogynists, just as bad or even worse than any asshole you’d gleefully run down with your car. In fact, they’re far worse because they have the ingrained belief that no matter what transpires, they’re actually the victim here.

So there’s going to be some pumpkin-flavored things. Maybe that’s not to your liking, but a lot of people do like it. It’s not hurting you, no one is taking away the asiago bagel. The salmon spread is still there. Likewise, no one is taking Dr. Who off the shelf and replacing it with Twilight. No one is burning your Harry Potter set and forcing you at gun point to read 50 Shades of Gray. Get over yourselves anyway, you are in no way the monitors for what is and isn’t good. Some of you people liked the Star Trek reboot for Fancy’s sake. There’s nothing wrong with liking it, but it does rather negate you from being ANY KIND of final arbiter. Not so much because of the Star Trek thing, but because there is no final arbiter. There might be some critics who are better than others, some who have a more informed opinion, but no one has the final say.

The problem is, because you think you’re still in that Star Trek basement, heavily bullied, you have to defend this fragile culture – because if someone assaults it, even us, especially us, it will collapse like a house of cards. There just aren’t enough of us to get by, is the thinking, so we must accept everyone who wants to step into our tent.  We’re the culture of refuge – when people are feeling battered by the outside world, they come into our sheltering arms, where we never judge.

The problem is, we never judge.  And there are a lot of people standing underneath our tent, the kind of people who call people “faggots” while playing those videogames you love, slurring women…. and we tolerate it because hey, we’re just this tiny bunch of people, it doesn’t matter, we have no power and even if we did who is this affecting? Are women being objectified in gaming culture, women heroes often being presented as huge-titted rape victims or co-dependents?  Well, we don’t like that, but what does that matter?  We’re small potatoes, man…

My point, my friends, is that now that you’ve won, it’s time to decide who you are.

Are you going to be the good guys, strong enough to eject the troublemakers?  Are you willing to look hard at the troublesome aspects of how fandom often deals with women, and homosexuality, and minorities, and not just knee-jerk defend it because you like it?  (One can love something and still acknowledge the problems therein – Lord knows I love me some Kirk, who was considered progressive at the time, but hoo boy is old Star Trek saturated with various flavors of ugliness.)

Are you going to slowly slide into becoming just another judgmental group of exclusionary pricks, blind to your problems?  Are you going to quiver, powerless, and let the worst of you define you?

You did an amazing thing.  You reshaped the face of American culture.  You took marginalized hobbies and made them cool.

Now, flush with victory, can you acknowledge you did all that?  And can you do something even better? Can you stop pretending that anyone who likes Justin Bieber is a soulless jerk?  Can you look a little deeper at the midriff-baring armor that your heroines are wearing for your pleasure?  Can you transform the culture you have now into a culture that provides role models for all sexes, races, sexual preferences?

It can be done.  But doing that starts with one very critical idea: you won.

Now do something awesome with that power.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Two blocks away from the ruins of 9/11 was a Burlington Coat Factory that some muslims wanted to turn into a mosque. Conservatives went berserk, claiming that the mosque was an insult to all who had died in the Twin Towers attack, that it was too soon, and (not all, but enough) claimed that they didn’t want this statement of a religion they disagreed with in their city.

At which point liberals argued back that America is about free speech. If the space is available, and the Muslims are willing to pay, then they should have the right to open up a temple. Yes, Muslims may be an unpopular religion in certain circles, and no, you may not like some of the causes that this temple may be funding, but your like of their goals is irrelevant. Freedom of speech applies to people you disagree with – and the true test of America’s values is not, “How do we tolerate people we like?” but rather, “How do we handle people with opinions at odds with everything we believe?”

As long as they’re not doing anything illegal, liberals argued, the Muslims should have the right to be there. And they were Very Sure about this.

Then the mayor of Boston slammed Chick Fil-A, urging them in an angry letter to “back out of their plans to locate in Boston.” And liberals shared this letter with a great whoop and WHOO GO TOM MENINO and great acclaim.  Seriously. It was spooged all over my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Yet I think: What if the mayor of New York had expressed similar sentiments about the mosque?

Before we continue, I’d just like to express my credentials: I’m a big fan of gay marriage. Despite the fact that there is a Chick Fil-A literally across the street from me, and they are my favorite fast food chain, I have not eaten there in two years because of their anti-gay fundings. When the Muppets pulled out of Chick fil-A’s business, I immediately posted a link to Twitter that said, “Muppets do the right thing,” and I think that people have the absolute right to vote with their feet. This isn’t about me not being intensely pro gay marriage, or intensely anti Chick Fil-A, so if you’re starting a response along those lines, stop, delete your comment, and start over.

This is about freedom of speech for people you fucking hate.

But Ferrett, you’ll argue, this is a snack stand, not a temple!, to which I say, “So you’d have been okay with people telling Muslims that opening up a Muslim-run dry cleaning business close to the mosque was an insult?” Or Chick Fil A firing someone because they’re Jewish, because hey, work is different than worship and we only wanna hire nice happy Christians? No, guys, “freedom of speech” doesn’t mean “You get to be religious in firmly-marked areas with big symbols warning you so you know what’s going on,” but rather “People of all religions, even the icky ones, have an equal right to worship AND work, and express those beliefs through both.”

(And, you know, it’s not like all Muslims – particularly the fundamentalist ones – are a great bunch of well-adjusted people. All religions are nut magnets, and there were some very real concerns about where the funds the mosque raised were going. A lot of the mosques were funded by more virulent sects of Islam, even if the one in New York seemed to be largely run by a more peaceful branch.  If your worries about funding anti-gay causes are justified, then at least some percentage of the anti-mosque sentiments carried a similarly valid concern.)

Either way, you have a person in power telling someone, “I don’t like your religious beliefs, I don’t like how you spend your money, and I want you out of my fucking town.”  And your attempts to draw distinctions between that and the mosque are splitting some mighty fine hairs.

I hate Chick Fil-A, and I think they should have every right to build in Boston without having to worry about having permits pulled or being hassled because of their repugnant, stupid, backwater, bigoted, terrified, swamp-ass beliefs. That’s freedom of speech. They should have every right to go to Boston, build a franchise, have a constant stream of gays and gay-friendly straights picketing it and handing out fliers, spend months dealing with bad PR as the funds slowly run out and they realize that their anti-gay stance is costing them so much business they can’t afford to stay, and then maybe they’ll make a better choice. Or pay the cost of their opinions, because every opinion has a cost and if you’re willing to pay that price then you should be able to carry on with it.

The government, however, should not get involved.

This is not a popular stance, because so many liberals I know treat religion as though it were a disease. But that’s the point. Even if you dislike Chick Fil A, they have the right to their say – and part of their say involves selling chicken sandwiches to make a living. And a mayor telling fundamentalist Christians, “You are not welcome here” spreads the message to Christians that yes, they are persecuted, here’s the proof! And those dang liberals don’t practice what they preach.

Let’s practice. Let’s allow religious-run businesses to stand or fall on their own merits. And if it turns out that the fine people of Boston aren’t so pro-gay as to abandon Chick Fil-A, then I say that’s a problem we need to face in a different way than harassing them until they leave, and issuing bold threats from official pulpits. But as a government, let us make room for people of all stripes, even the foul and corrupt stripes of anti-gay bigots.

(And if you’re a conservative who is cheering now, yet was against the mosque? Shut the fuck up. The point I’m making is that we shouldn’t be as bigoted and closed-minded as you. If we should be ashamed, you should be ashamed doubly so.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

In the wake of the Batman shootings, the AMC theater chain passed a ban: no patrons would be allowed to attend in costumes that obscured their face.  In addition, no fake weapons would be allowed into the theater.

A moment’s thought would make you realize how foolish this is.

For one thing, “covering his face” wasn’t the problem: afterwards, he went and waited for the cops to come and get him.  If guns don’t kill people, face paint certainly doesn’t.  There’s the slight danger of maybe it’d take the cops longer to find the shooter if he’d worn a mask, but chances are that they’d have tracked him down anyway. And any good bank robber knows that if concealing your identity is a concern, you can just stuff a ski mask into your pocket and put it on before opening fire.

Then there’s the weapons ban, which is completely useless.  The actual shooter, so it’s said, entered through a propped-open exit door.  Even before the ban, the shooter realized that hauling in an armory on his back would have raised questions, so he sidestepped the existing personnel.  Post-ban, it means nothing, as I highly doubt the rent-a-cop security guards at the theater would be a serious deterrent to a murderous terrorist.

So why have these bans at all?  They won’t stop any prospective shooters, and they punish enthusiastic fans who like cosplay.

The answer is easy enough: because those things would make customers nervous. But those people are stupid.  Yes, these bans will make them feel better, but in reality they’re not one iota safer due to the stoppages.  I mean, if AMC had said, “We’re having all of our theaters hire emergency security to police our doorways,” then that would be an effective security procedure… But they didn’t do that.

They encouraged the ostrich route: Can’t see any people in masks?  Then you’re safe!  And yes, that makes people more likely to pony up at the box office, but it’s security theater: if a maniac wants to kill them, that maniac will not be significantly deterred.

So how do you fix that?  In a sense, it’s not the theater’s problem, because you know, hey, this is what the people want.  But what do you do when what the people want is stupid and shallow and not a real solution at all?  How do you train people that no, this thing that terrifies you isn’t what will harm you, and this thing that you could give two shits about would actually keep you safe, if you dared to actually do it?

Because I guarantee you, AMC did the “smart” thing.  They could have hired a ton of extra security, for a negligible risk of copycat killers, and still had people freak out over the guy in the Joker costume.  The extra security would be mostly non-visible, and the guy in the costume would have caused some people to ask for their money back.  So that’s the smart money, doing the thing that does nothing at all.

Yet in the end, feeding those stupid instincts gets us hollow exercises like the TSA – look at how incompetent they are! – where we figure, “Hey, we’re inconvenienced sufficiently, this must be good stuff!”  Meanwhile, we’re always one threat behind, searching shoes and making travel so hellish that people don’t want to do it unless they have to.

So how, if ever, can you educate people as to what a real threat?  Can you?  Or are we forever going to be stopping Batman and letting the Joker slip in through the back door?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

John Carmack, the guy who programmed Doom and Quake, is applying his considerable talent towards improving VR headsets.  Here, he gives a (highly recommended!) twenty-minute talk on why VR headsets don’t work and why his approach comes closer to working, which I found fascinating for a couple of reasons.

1)  John emanates a tendency I’ve noticed in the “good” geek world: accepting and acknowledging problems.  Which is to say that if you talk to a certain style of geek about his favorite X, that X does everything perfectly – and anything it doesn’t do is something you’re stupid for wanting.  Which is why, despite our abundance of tech, so many problems remain – you have this sort of geek tunnel-vision where they fall in love with a technology, and then they forget that this technology has limits, and rather than working to expand those limits, they start circling the wagons and explaining defensively that this isn’t doable, and besides that’s not what’s important.

Note how John does not do this.  If anything, this presentation is full of encoded apologies – it doesn’t do this, but we want it to.  It should do this, but the technology’s not there yet.  Some people experienced blurriness, and we’re not sure why yet, but we’ll get it.  John’s a smart guy, and while he’s clearly loving the tech, he’s much more concerned with making it do what he wants it to ultimately do, as opposed to working within the limitations it imposes.

This is what I consider to be a “good” geek in that competent nerds may love a tech, but they never forget that the tech exists to accomplish a goal.  And they never get so wrapped up in the joys of doing Stuff that they forget that Stuff, cool as it is, still isn’t really all that impressive yet.  John’s clearly proud of what he’s done, but he has a vision – a 360-degree vision – and he is not removing his eyes from that end goal.

2)  The article itself talks about how impenetrable John’s talks are, because he’s a smart guy who uses a lot of big words – which led me to believe that I’d spend twenty minutes hearing some UNIX guy blathering on about device driver conflicts.  But aside from one or two words I didn’t know, I found the talk itself surprisingly easy to follow. Carmack’s a good teacher, and this was highly educational about why current VR is so dissatisfying.  So am I that smart, or is the PC Gamer guy that dumb, or is PC Gamer purposely making it sound like Carmack is obtuse so their readers will feel brilliant when they don’t have problems following along?

3)  John Carmack is about half a second away from bursting into a Gilbert Gottfried impression.  At all times.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

It is remarkably easy to convince your child that Santa exists.  After all, the child trusts you implicitly – why wouldn’t they take your word when you tell them there’s a red-suited jolly guy who brings them presents via a venison-powered transportation system?

Still, it’s a little declasse to do victory laps around the block, yelling, “See?  I convinced Virginia that yes, there is a Santa Claus!  What wondrous proof that Santa exists!”

Yet people do it.  They do it all the damn time, particularly when it’s about ex-boyfriends or arguments they’re having with soon-to-be ex-girlfriends.

The reason I’m writing this essay is something a friend of mine wrote a while ago: “The high road sure is a frustrating bitch, sometimes. Luckily, there’s all that rewarding moral superiority.”  That stuck with me, because I worry that’s how I come off when I tell people, “I try not to blog about the arguments I’m having with my lovers” – as if the reason I avoid airing my dirty laundry in public is because I’m just naturally superior.

No, it’s because I’ve learned the feedback you get is nonsensical and misleading.

There’s one of three reasons people read what you write on the Internet:

1)  They’ve come to trust your opinion enough to want to know what you have to say.  (Thankfully, this is the most common reason.)
2)  They think you’re a fascinating train wreck, and want to see what sort of dysfunction you’re up to this week.
3)  They think you’re an active hazard, and your blog is a lighthouse warning of what deplorable fuckeries you plan on committing.

Now, in the case of #1, you’ve built up a big ol’ well of trust to draw from.  People have showed up because you’re either a good friend who they like, or because you’ve dropped enough truth-bombs that they’ve become a fan of your blogsmithery.  In either case, whenever you post that Facebook status, you are talking to people swimming in a deep pool of “Benefit of the Doubt.”

In other words, you’re talking to an audience that is on your side already.  And as long as whatever you write doesn’t insult them directly, well hey, all your complaints are gonna sound good!  I mean, if I’m in an argument and dash off some Chinese fortune cookie complaint like, oh, “You can’t have true love without true trust,” then twenty people will like it on Facebook and the comment threads with my friends will be about how yes, true love needs a partner who believes in you.

But like all advice, that’s good in a vacuum.  What if my wife’s complaint is that I’m spending all my free nights with a single girl she has never authorized, a girl who she knows is deeply attracted to me?  What if she’s come home to find us cuddled up on the couch, knowing that I’ve been texting her at mysterious times and never letting Gini see what I wrote… And then, aggrieved after she’s been haranguing me for more detail on what’s going on, I flee to my Twitter and write angrily about her neediness and lack of belief in me?

NOTE: This has not happened.  But if it damn well did, then my complaint of “You can’t have love without trust” becomes an obfuscated complaint of, “Gini doesn’t trust me when I’m doing sketchy things.”

But hey!  I write the posts, so I get to frame how all this turns out.  And I’m talking to a veeeeery Santa-friendly audience.  They all vouch for my status as a Good Guy.  And what I get are tons of attaboys, and you keep dropping that wisdom, and lots of positive feedback for something that I could well be completely wrong on in the first place.

In other words, what I get when I post about my troubles to the Internet is an echo chamber, telling me how wonderfully correct I am.  It’s the kid, hanging the stockings by the fireplace.  Because relationships are relative things – it’s right in the fucking word, people – any complaint I have, no matter how fucktastically incorrect, can be extracted and made to be true for someone.

“The beautiful thing about being a grown-up is that you get to choose your own family.” – Charlie Manson

“When all else fails, you just have to believe in yourself.” – Jenny McCarthy, head of the anti-vaccine movement

“When you find the right person, you have to follow your heart.” – Britney Spears

See?  All true for someone… But not the people I’ve attributed them to.

And what’ll happen if I keep posting discussions on what’s wrong with my girlfriends?  Some of the #1s will automatically take my side, whereas many others will quietly slide into the #2s (train wreck) and the #3s (uses your blog as a warning).  But they won’t post, generally.  Why would they?  Your blog/Facebook/Twitter is generally a positive space, unless you’ve been so psychodramatic that you’ve actually edged out all the #1s and now the #2s and #3s are in the majority.

(NOTE: This sad state can be assumed if you’re in high school.  Everyone’s nutty in high school.  Be prepared to be flayed alive, should you complain.)

So when you do post, what do you actually accomplish?  You get a feeling of moral correctness that is not at all justified.  You get friends, using this as an excuse to tell you how wonderfully wise you are.  You get some people quietly stepping away, not wanting to be on the train that’s rapidly heading for another collision.  And you piss off the person you’re posting about, at which point they often post their own interpretations of what’s wrong with your relationship, which gets their own cascades of “Attaboys” and “You go, girl!” and “Santa loves me, this I know, for my friend she told me so!”

What you do not get:

  • Actual wisdom.
  • Forward movement with your relationship.
  • Presents from Santa.

As such, I try not to post about a personal foible until it’s so dead that nobody even thinks about it any more… And usually, I make damn sure that it’s clear that I was the one at fault.  Because otherwise, what I get is a big ol’ tide of supportive nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, pals.  I appreciate your being on my side.  But I want that to be because I’m on the side of genuine truth and justice, not just because I sound good.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

The good news is, I’ve talked to Republicans, and it turns out none of them are racist.

Now, you might think many are racist, given the harsh reaction they’ve had to Obama, a black president – getting vitriolically angry at him for doing many things that they had little vocal complaint about when Bush was doing the exact same things.

But when I talk to conservatives, what it turns out is that every single complaint they have against Obama is entirely justified by Obama’s damaging policies.  They can talk for hours about how what they’re against is Obama’s actions – which, given that they’re Republicans, it seems pretty reasonable that they’d oppose a Democratic President.  And since their complaints are based entirely on the laws that Obama’s trying to pass, as are the complaints of all their friends, they assure me confidently there’s no racial component.

Certainly they’re rationalist Republicans.  After all, they’re debating me in my rather liberal journal – clearly not a comfort zone for them – and they have many long, thoughtful screeds on why Obama’s proposed laws and policies would do harm.

Therefore, all Republicans are like them.

Oh, sure, there may be a couple of racist mails passed back and forth, and a few embarrassing signs, but those aren’t representative of the true conservative party.  Most of the conservatives oppose Obama based on nothing more than sheer disdain for his policies – a sane, rationalist approach.

Which is good news.  Because what I was thinking in my foolishness was that yes, the conservatives almost certainly had some valid complaints against Obama.  But could it not also be that for many – and not necessarily those who comment here, but not necessarily not – their legitimate complaints are aggravated because of hidden racial sentiment in a way where they wouldn’t freak the fuck out if it was an old white guy in charge like Bush?  That it’s easier for them to complain about a black guy?

I thought it likely, given the consistent pattern of alienation and repetition – Obama is not a real American, he’s a Muslim, he hates the flag – that for many, these legitimate complaints are inflamed by an undercurrent that many of them aren’t even willing to look at, turning everyday gripes about the current leader into OMG HE’S RUINING AMERICA.  That there’s some ugly stuff there that might be deserved to look at, even though much of what they say is true.

But as it turns out, there’s one of two sides: either they’re all redneck racists and as such none of their complaints is worth a damn thing, or they’re all very rational people who’ve been inflamed by a particularly confrontational President.  You have to choose one.

It can’t be so complex as to that they can have both legitimate complaints and racism.


Now.  For “Obama,” read “Twilight.”  For “racism,” read “misogyny.”

Some people sailed magnificently past my comments that Twilight had some really difficult issues involved to settle, rather dimly, on the interpretation that “Ferrett thinks Twilight deserves a pass on its female issues.”  Which is distinctly not true.

Yes, I’m sure you have some good reasons to hate Twilight.  It’s eminently hateable.  It’s got some really fucked-up issues with regards to female empowerment (or lack thereof) and the prose is amazingly bad, and Edward’s stalkery creepdom.  Yes, all those are manifestly clear.  Yes, I’m sure you and all of your friends have thought it through very thoroughly, and that each of you have considered it carefully.

Yet forgive me for remaining unconvinced that the reason that everyone so easily dumps on Twilight is because of its terrible prose, and that there’s not a scrap of “teenaged girls have terrible taste and should be scorned” in there somewhere.  Because as I said, it’s not just Twilight, but Justin Bieber and Titanic and Sex in the City and a long score of feminine media, where if you tell people you really enjoy such silly things, you have to justify these silly pleasures on some level.

Because they’re girl things.

What I’m suggesting is that maybe, in addition to Twilight being deeply flawed so that you intelligent people can pick on it, there’s something inherent in our culture that allows us to see teenaged girl things as disposable.  (As witness this comment here about how the shrieking girl fans of the Beatles are presented as not really appeciating them.)  Which does not mean that Twilight is immune to valid criticism, it just means it’s more okay to kick girlish things like Twilight around because we subliminally accept it.

It’s been suggested that my liking of Batman is only acceptable in nerd cultures, and I’m just hanging around my nerdy unwashed friends too much, since any reasonably grown man would never admit to liking anything comic-booky in public.  Yes.  That could be.  It could also be clear that my reclusive nerdy culture doesn’t get out much, and the fact that five out of the the last ten years of box office annual #1s include a Spider-Man movie, another Spider-Man movie, a Batman movie, a Lord of the Rings movie, and a Star Wars movie certainly doesn’t mean that my boyhood favorites haven’t achieved, you know, global domination or anything.  Or that male power fantasy videogames like Halo and Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto haven’t outperformed even those stalwarts at the box office.

Clearly, the fact that these nerd fantasies are all massive money-makers means that every one of the millions of people who saw Dark Knight Returns never discussed it in public, clutching their purchases shamefully to their chest and never mentioning it among genteel society.  It’s certainly not a sign that my silly boyhood weirdo fantasies have actually infiltrated the mainstream culture to a large extent.

(As opposed to, say, Japan, where I hear tell the videogame development industry is suffering because men who play videogames past the teenaged years are considered childishly foolish and soon walk away.  Then again, I haven’t been there, so I can’t say.)

My point is that yeah, there are valid complaints to be had with these sorts of teenaged girl’s affections – mostly, the worrying message that a man bringing dizzying love is the only thing you need to complete you, a message hammered home again by Bieber and Twilight and Titanic and tons of rom-coms.  That’s a very legitimate complaint.

Still. A lot of women legitimately and unironically love these things.  So what then?  Do we train society that if women aren’t toeing the line of “Liking empowering things,” that it’s okay for society to make fun of them, dismissing the things they carry close to their chest?  A dismissal that further encourages teenaged boys to consider their teenaged girls as alien creatures, both mysterious and trivial?

(I wish I could find an essay someone linked to on Twitter the other day, but there was a creative writing teacher saying that when they asked students to write about what it would be like to be the opposite sex, the girls wrote long, involved essays that showed they’d clearly given it a lot of thought.  Whereas half the boys flat-out refused to do the assignment, considering it beneath them, and the remaining half made it clear that trying to think what they’d be like as a girl would be a waste of time.)

So.  Do we honestly think that everyone who’s bagging on Twilight is doing it with the same thoughtfulness that you’ve put into it…  or is it possible that the moral equivalent of Redneck Randal is riding your coattails, complaining for entirely different reasons?

I don’t have an easy answer.  But I think it’s more complex than “Everyone knows Twilight is bad because it’s disempowering.”  I think there’s something entwined in there that bears greater consideration.  (As is the concept that “changing the world,” as Katniss and Buffy do, is invariably a noble thing, and something as simple as trying to find the love of your life is not really a worthy story to tell.  I like world-changers  I just don’t think they should be everything.)

Which is why, in the end, I will – and have! – complain about Twilight.  I just won’t make Twilight the automatic punchline when it comes to choosing “the worst book in the world.”  Because some of those people laughing might not be doing it for reasons that I support.  There’s a difference between that and “refusing to criticize,” and if you can’t see that distinction, well, maybe you should write me off with Twilight.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

There’s a little misogyny in the hatred of Twilight and Justin Bieber and all the other things that teenaged girls love, and I wanted to unpack that.

Because one of the things I said yesterday that Twilight was a teenaged girl’s power fantasy, which it clearly is – the drab girl goes to a new school, finds that every boy there wants her, but she can ignore all that because the most special boy in the world who’s waited his whole life for someone like her comes along to change himself in every way for her.

This may seem dumb.  But consider the teenaged boy’s power fantasy, wherein your parents are shot dead, leaving you free with your wealth to buy all the cool gadgets and go beat up clowns in alleyways, and you’ll see that almost all power fantasies are, at heart, silly.

Now, admittedly, the phrase “teenaged girl’s power fantasy” is going to get some hackles up because, yes, not all teenage girls are the same and there are many who would rather go running with Katniss than Bella.  Fair cop.  But there are millions of girls reading and re-reading Twilight because for them, it’s the dream of what they want to be.

And it is scorned.

Twilight is the butt of everyone’s jokes, the automatic punchline.  Even people who’ve never read Twilight hate Twilight.  And there are very legitimate reasons to dislike Twilight, but I think a large part of the reason Twilight slips so easily into that “Need a flavor of the month to kick?  Why not Twilight?” is because girls like it.

Because stereotypical teenaged girls also like Justin Bieber… And as I’ve noted before, he too is the automatic kicking boy of jokes.  It’s not like the metal and rap bands that boys like, with their over-the-top posturing and hyper-masculine shouts, aren’t equally as stupid, but somehow Insane Clown Posse (or even more popular bands) never quite reaches the level of “auto-joke” that Justin Bieber does.

Stereotypical teenaged girls also like romantic comedies.  And rom-coms, another female power fantasy, are widely agreed to be awful, acquiring both critical denigration and a “Eeyew, who’d watch that?”  But action films, the teenaged boy’s powerful fantasy, may not get the critic’s thumbs-up, but mostly society thinks that well-done action films are kinda cool.

Compare, say, The Transporter to 27 Dresses.  Which one’s the more joke-worthy?  Even though they’re both by-the-numbers, competently-done versions of their genre?

And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the more embarrassing versions of power fantasies are invariably the girly ones.  The quiet message here is that what you want now is not just foolish, but actively embarrassing, something to be shucked aside.  You women with your silly dreams, go discard them the moment you grow up, because what you want now is to be gotten rid of.

There’s some very deeply-rooted misogyny in there, I think.  It’s like we’re almost afraid of young females agreeing on something, as though it scares the shit out of us as a society.  And if it was just one instance, I might write it off… But the fact is that every time I see something that teenaged girls think is cool, everyone immediately jumps on the bandwagon and agrees it is only not awful, but cringeworthy.  Which sends a bulletin to teenaged girls that whatever you like, you should change that shit right away.  Because you’re kind of silly and stupid, and maybe you should alter yourself to like better things.

Meanwhile, comic books and videogames, the secret male nerd pasttimes of my childhood, have gone mainstream to the point where pretty much everyone agrees Batman’s a badass and hey, can’t we play some Madden or Assassin’s Creed?  Aw, man, wasn’t Pokemon great?

(Which is why I think YA is causing some discomfort in the nerd communities, because mostly girls read YA, but reading is cool… isn’t it!  Should we take it seriously now that girls own it?)

Which is why I don’t make them the butt of my jokes.  Yes, Twilight’s problematic.  So’s DC’s nearly female-free comics reboot, along with the inflated breasts and suddenly submissive, dully-sexual women.  And it’s perfectly okay to analyze why they’re difficult from a sexual perspective, and to discuss the bad lessons they may be causing people to internalize.

But as far as making “Edward and Bella” the butt of my auto-humor when I’m searching for “the worst book in the world”?  I’ll pass.  Because hey, those teenaged girls may be silly, but they’re no sillier than I was when I was rooting for Batman to be the most bad-ass, smartest guy in the world.  Hopefully, like me, they’ll take the best parts and leave the silly behind.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

For research into my new book, I had to read Twilight.  People had told me that Twilight was an abomination unto the Lord, a scabrous pile of poop that a talentless hack had shat out to plague the world.

I didn’t believe it.

I always believe there’s some appeal to a bestselling book, even if that appeal does not necessarily lie in “prose.”  Take the Da Vinci Code, for example.  Are the characters wooden?  Yes.  But the thing people don’t get about Dan Brown is that his characters are not the central characters.  He spends far more time describing the parquet floors of the Louvre than he does on his protagonist’s motivations.  Once you realize that Dan Brown’s priorities are inverted and his locations are actually his lead characters while his lead characters are background, the novel moves quite swiftly.

And Twilight, well, I didn’t want to read it because Bella’s character sounded like she’d annoy me… But I assumed it had some appeal.  Why would millions of teenage girls read it otherwise?

And lo, Twilight did one thing better than I’d ever seen it done, something so perfect that before I read Twilight, I didn’t realize nobody had ever captured the moment before:

Stupid, silly New Relationship Energy.

The triumph of Twilight is that there is a hundred-and-thirty-page stretch where all Bella and Edward do is talk.  Oh, they talk in different locations – they’re talking in the school!  In the car!  In the woods!  In her bedroom!

And they’re talking only about how much they love each other!

Thing is, Stephenie has that silly first-blush of love completely down, where you’re so amazed that this person’s fallen for you that you keep regurgitating your origin story back at each other, endlessly creating your own mythology of How This Happened.  You learn a new fact about someone, then slip back into “I can’t believe this is happening” and “You smell so good” and “I knew I loved you from the moment I saw you.”

She abso-fucking-loutely nails it.  Which is going to irritate a lot of people who don’t like that kind of NRE.  I mean, if you’re not a silly teenaged girl at heart (and really, I am a cuddler), then this sort of flighty repetition is custom-made to drive you batty.

Yet that does not mean it does not ring true.  Having two characters do nothing but talk for a quarter of your novel, with no other people to interrupt or interject, and still maintaining my interest?  It’s a feat few can manage.

Bella’s also far spunkier than the world gives her credit for, though – she keeps running off, disobeying and contradicting Edward, coming up with plans.  I expected a total doormat… And Bella’s not an active lead, God knows, but she’s not quite an inert object either.  (Though I dunno if her character suffers from Motivation Decay in later books.)

The troublesome anti-feminist overtones of Edward have been rehashed in depth elsewhere, as Edward Knows What Is Best For Bella And Bella Agrees… But what I find more troubling is the way all the other characters fade into the woodwork.  This is a teenaged girl’s power fantasy where the world is bent to satisfy her, no different than a boy kicking ass as Batman…

And the supporting cast just vanishes.  Bella is strangely cruel to those she doesn’t care about, and it’s disturbing me more and more that this is a classic teenaged fantasy.  Anyone who isn’t attractive to Bella is flat-out invisible and interchangeable, to the point where they exist only to be dropped from the plot.  In other words, I’m so special that I have all of these friends begging for my attention and I don’t even NEED them.  I can just discard all human interaction to be with Edward.  She seems to find the concept of “regular friends” actively irritating, which is disturbing.

jenphalian thinks that this is merely a weakness in Stephenie Meyer’s writing, that she’s not that good at keeping track of many people – but no, Stephenie handles the vampires just fine.  It’s the everyday folks who become literally invisible, the ordinary kids who want to hang with the cool new girl, and the subliminal message is “If they’re not useful to you, they’re to be discarded.”  That’s fucking concerning.

But overall, despite the Godawful prose, I can see the potent vampire heart distinctly NOT beating at the core of Twilight.  I dunno if I can get through New Moon, not with so many actually good books out there (Holly Black is calling me, and I have two novels to crit)…. But there’s an appeal.

I just wonder how much NRE I can take.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

There are days where I don’t want to vomit rage all over you.  Today isn’t one of those days.  But I think it would be hypocritical of me to let the day pass without mentioning the passing, and subsequent failing to veto of, the National Defense Authorization act.

Fucking leprous shit-eating motherfucker.

Obama’s record on personal liberty has been pretty abysmal – I mean, I still blame Bush for starting the Guantanamo detention camps, but Obama’s kept them going.  And at this point, what I’m seeing as Obama’s legacy is two things:

1)  A complicated boondoggle to fund the insurance companies that he shoved through Congress without actually explaining to anybody, which may or may not work and which may or may not be dismantled in the courts;

2)  Destroying habeas corpus.

Basically, by not vetoing the bill, Obama’s said, “You know what?  If I think you’re guilty of something, I can jail you for as long as I want.  Do I need evidence?  Nah.  A trial?  Nah.  If you fucking annoy me, I can fucking get rid of you.”

Which, as has been noted here, is not really a surprise – the NDAA merely codifies what Obama and Bush have been doing all along, a great big ol’ reacharound Presidential land grab of authority.  And you know, maybe I do trust Obama not to lock up civil enemies without warning, barely, but this isn’t about just Obama.  This is about every fucking President from now on being able to do this.  This is handing a loaded gun to every dickwad wanna-be tyrant who walks into office.

And Obama knows this.

As I’ve said time and time again, the problem with just side-stepping the law is twofold: one, if the laws aren’t sufficient to catch criminals, reform the fucking laws.  Without laws, you have abuse.  And while it’s tempting to just tell the cops, “Yeah, it’s hard to play by the rules, so we’ll look away while you go beat up the guilty,” in reality what happens is the cops pick on whoever they don’t like instead of actually carrying out justice.  If the current tools aren’t good enough, refashion the fucking tools, you leaking diarrhetic fuckfaces.

Two, as Irving Berlin once said, “Anything you can do, I can do better,” which is to say that every time the United States says, “Hey, we don’t need to actually follow rules or encourage freedom locally,” some shit-pot of a tyrannical dictatorship looks to us and goes, “Well, if the country of freedom can’t be bothered, we certainly don’t need to be.”

If America’s going to advertise itself as “The land of the free,” then it needs to be an example of what freedom is to other fucking countries.  And freedom is not full of shortcuts.  Freedom’s a hard thing where sometimes the terrorists are smarter than your laws, and sometimes you know someone’s guilty, but you let them free because it’s not about your gut feeling, it’s about proving it to other people with evidence.  Because the alternative is just fucking grabbing whoever looks guilty, and feeding into that feeling that the system is rigged, which eventually leads to a never-ending series of overthrows as people come to realize that if they’re not the guy on top, they’re going to be fucked over.

Obama’s a scholar.  He knows that.  He’s studied what happens, and still he threw it away in a cynical, personal power grab.  So fuck him and fuck his idea of freedom.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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