Thursday, February 23, 2017

Crap from Facebook: February 23rd, 2017

I always approach the prospect of actually writing about anything in the general sphere of feminism stuff with considerable trepidation. Becoming obsessed with this sort of thing is something I'd like to avoid, if possible. I suppose that I feel a bit guilty, like I could be turning my attention to something worthwhile, like something exciting in the sciences. It's not that I'm firmly committed to not discussing topics of this, ah, conformation. But at the very least, I've aspired to keep it toned down. For every feminism-related item that makes my "Crap from Facebook" roll, there are dozens that I mostly just ignore.

And then there's this article. Well, that's not fair. One might get the impression that I find it uniquely deplorable or something. Far from it. Timing is part of this. I don't think that anyone is still reading this blog, and even if people were, I have a well-established habit of not putting content here if I wouldn't want people to see it. VSEPR has become a sort of peculiar hybrid of something totally public and also something meant exclusively for me. Resisting any sort of analysis of feminism here has been something I have done for my own sake. In bits and pieces in conversation with other people, I have elucidated some of my thoughts relating to the morass of feminism-issues-stuff. But to actually put work into writing something substantial? When I could have spent my effort writing about something else? I'll at least say that I'm reluctant. And some day, I'll say why that is. Some day, in the near future, I want to make the post on feminism for this blog. It'll have a title like "The Feminism Post" or something like that. But I digress, dammit.

This article is different. It's not the same run-of-the-mill stuff I see on the internet when it comes to feminism. For one thing, I have to admit that Jessa Crispin is smart, which is more than I can say for the sources of most of the other crap I'm talking about. She demonstrates a level of intelligence and depth of thought sufficient for me to speak of her as an individual beyond the "this idiot it not worthy of respect" reaction that I might have in other cases. Uh, for example there was this time I wrote briefly about Lindy West writing something stupid. Lindy West is stupid, but more than that, she is stupid and also does not put very much thought into what she writes. Jessa Crispin is intelligent and also puts thought into her work. She is committed. Driven. And before I end this paragraph leaving the impression that I admire her, I should add that her philosophy is diametrically opposed to my own. I won't say that I do not respect her, but I just want to make it clear that to the extent that there is respect, it is a very particular flavor of respect. I respect her devotion to her own conviction in the same way that I might respect the strength of a large bear that is charging at me. Yes, I can be impressed, but that doesn't mean I like it.

For anyone who happens to be reading this and is a feminist (let's face it: that's no one), I do highly recommend reading that interview. I'm hoping that'll be the last time I ever link to Jezebel, but it's worth it in this case. Ask yourself if she represents you. Do you find yourself thinking, "Yes, this is how it should be. This is an accurate take on what is wrong in the world."? Or do you find her too extreme or perhaps taking things in the wrong direction? I find myself vaguely remembering something Michael Ruse said in some totally different context. When the revolution comes, I'll be sent to a reeducation camp. But you, what will happen to you? If the revolution is run by people like her, what will become of you unworthy, impure feminists?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pastwatch by Orson Scott Card

I think that I first read about the existence of this book when I was in high school I was intrigued by the premise and really wanted to check it out, but the library didn't have it available at the time and I moved on to something else. It wasn't until earlier this year that I saw it at Fred Meyer, bought it, and eventually read it. Conclusion: I really liked it and found it to be my favorite work by the author. Recommended and such. Blah blah blah. It's good. A bit silly in parts, but that adds to the fun.

One of the most striking things I've noticed about this novel is that much of the reception, at least these days, fails to separate the work from the author. Some readers seem desperate to find a way to read between the lines and find something terrible about this book. And I think I know why. A huge portion of Card's audience read some of his earlier books, especially the "Ender" saga starting with the 1985 Ender's Game. They were introduced to Card through those books at a young age, fell in love with them, usually turned away at some point due to the diminishing returns in quality of the sequels, and branched out to read other authors as they got older. They may or may not have known that Orson Scott Card was Mormon (it has nothing to do with most of his books). The years went by, the world wide web swelled in importance, and through it, Card's former fans discovered that he was actively campaigning against gay marriage and writing some intense vitriol on the subject of homosexuality (this was a major movement by Mormons at the time, with every Mormon I knew of doing at least a bit of rallying to stop gay marriage, and I'm convinced that there was some sort of church-impelled mandate going on, not that this would absolve the individuals involved). For this beloved author of their youth to write something they found so vile, Card's former fans felt betrayed. And that is what I'm seeing reaction to in recent reader reviews of Pastwatch. Commonly, there's an insistence that the book is Mormon propaganda or at least some sort of culturally conservative propaganda. Many facts in the book fly in the face of this interpretation, but the people imputing hidden propaganda messages on the book, published in 1995, are more interested in how scandalized they were by what Card was saying in 2009 than by the actual contents of the book.

Orson Scott Card has a talent for using language and selection of detail to make fictional technology seem like gritty realism. He skillfully gets into the heads of characters, exploring their emotional motivations, even while not fully fleshing them out. Beyond that, he's a competent writer, not one of the greatest of all time, but certainly not bad. And this is his best work I've read so far. It's full of plot holes and splits too little time between too many major characters, but it's a fun read with some compelling philosophy.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Crap from Facebook: September 19th, 2016

Every time I think about actually bothering to post something even vaguely related to feminism in this series, I cringe. Then I ask myself, "Is this one really worth paying any attention to?" It's clear that several of my Facebook friends strongly identify as feminist and are passionate about the general sphere of issues that entails. They wear their philosophy on their sleeves, I guess. And it occurs to me that they probably don't know the first thing about my position. This is, I've decided, a failing of mine. I'll have to do something about it, once I figure out how.

Anyway, the content in the link above isn't the most egregious thing I've seen on Facebook lately; not by a long shot. But it is notable because I saw it from several different sources, and I know that some of the people who shared the link diverge from each other sharply in other respects. They aren't people who I'd think have much in common, philosophically or socially. This Gretchen Kelly article struck a nerve with what I gather is a broad spectrum of people. And this is super weird to me because the whole article strikes me as insubstantial, practically rebutting itself. It shouldn't warrant a real response. That would be silly. So I won't do it! Nope, I won't even try. Instead, something else...

The article concludes by imploring men to listen. I humbly suggest something else, videlicet this: look. Look into her eyes. Yeah, that picture at the top of the article. The one with no caption or apparent relevance to the article itself. It's a close-up on part of the face of a girl with piercing blue eyes, her hair at least partially disheveled and sweeping a bit in front of her nose and eyes. Someone put it there for a reason. We don't know anything about the girl in the photo. I can't even tell how old she might be, although it's pretty clear just from seeing part of her face that she's rather young. I don't know enough about photography to specify the technical terms for what is going on here, but I contend that the angle, focus, zoom, placement of hair, and use of a youthful-looking model are tools that convey vulnerability. It's an image that was designed to evoke an emotional response. And it works. It certainly works on me. Seeing that picture at the top of the article, I feel a surge of sympathy for the nameless girl. She looks like she might be in trouble, and I find myself wanting to protect her from whatever it is that is troubling her. The people who set it up so that an image like that went on the top of that article are attempting emotional exploitation. Don't let them bullshit you. It's a cheap trick. See right through them.

In other news, there's this...

And here's this obligatory bullshit that comes around every four years. People who would vote for a third-party presidential candidate are told that such an action would be useless, wasteful, vainglorious, petulant, etc. As this article inadvertently demonstrates, there just aren't any arguments made to dismiss votes for third-party candidates in general that cannot just as easily be used to dismiss votes for candidates in either of the two major parties. The author tries a lot of shit-slinging, but bitch, I'm rubber and you're glue. Every argument he makes could be used to hoist him on his own petard. Go ahead and check. I'll wait.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Into the Sea of Stars by William R. Forstchen

Mom, Rachel, Matt and I flew to New Jersey and visited Josh for a week. I read this one on the plane trips there and back. As cheesy 1980's science fiction goes, it was pretty good. I later realized that this is the same guy who wrote the Arena novel for Magic: the Gathering and also the same guy who wrote that famous "One Second After" book about the U.S. following and EMP attack. While Into the Sea of Stars isn't ever overwhelming, it's a fun read and I'll keep the author in mind for the future.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Crap from Facebook: July 20th, 2016

It takes a peculiar state of mind to see that something happened somewhere else and to say, "That didn't happen here, but some other, different thing did happen here, and when you wrote about the thing that happened somewhere else, you didn't mention the thing that happened here." I don't know whether the statistic mentioned here is true, but the author is disingenuous anyway...
  • This appears to be a Canadian newspaper, but the author appeals to a U.S. statistic and then says "U.S. and Canada." No need to bring us up at all. You want to compare Canada to Pakistan, then do it.
  • The homicide rate in Pakistan is much higher than in Canada.
  • While I think "honor killing" is a stupid term, it does have some meaning. It refers to the killing of a person by that person's family due to cultural factors indicating that the victim dishonored the family. In some places, this is legal. In others the government turns a blind eye toward it. While that's all rather vague, it's far removed from the statistic presented that "three women a day are killed by their male partners" in the U.S.
  • It's still the case that most victims of homicide are men. That didn't stop being true.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The narrative progression of my (first) playthrough in Fallout 4

In 2077, a man speaks to his bathroom mirror, pondering the history of civilization. "War," he concludes, "war never changes."

210 years later, the man's wife stumbles out of cryogenic preservation into a nightmarish wasteland. She struggles at first, but begins learning how to build weapons, armor, and other tools. Dubiously named the leader of a militia organization, she slaughters hostile mutants, raiders, and other threats, uniting the small, vulnerable settlements in the area for the common defense. She joins three separate organizations that each have their own political goals, effectively becoming a triple agent. Later, as these groups come into conflict, she destroys two of the factions by attaching explosives to their infrastructure and killing everyone who gets in her way. And as she watches the last of these explosions, she remembers the world she lost and the world she found on awakening. "War," she concludes, "war never changes."

Yeah, I'm pretty sure war wasn't like that before...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cryptonomicon, The Caves of Steel, and War Dogs

Just a quick update on books I've read lately.

I'd already posted an excerpt from Neil Stephenson's Cryptonomicon here. I do like Stephenson's work and intend to read more of it. Seveneves is one of my favorite books ever. This one in, in many respects, is great too. But it's missing an ending! Same problem as The Diamond Age only worse. The novel doesn't even pretend to have a proper ending. It just stops going. I still enjoyed it, but that's a pretty serious flaw.

I read The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov while I was stuck on Vashon Island for work and realized that I'd left Cryptonomicon at home. I immediately recognized that it was one of Asimov's robot novels and that it must have taken place sometime before The Naked Sun. Classic Asimov and a real pleasure to read. I do remember The Naked Sun as being a bit better than this one, but it's still quite good.

Most recently, I read War Dogs by Greg Bear. I'm finding that Greg Bear's work is inconsistent, sort of hit-or-miss. This one would be a partial hit. I enjoyed it, but it seemed that Bear was setting up a whole world and then, rather than fleshing it out or really developing the characters, concluding everything by setting up a vague, unsolved mystery that the reader isn't really compelled to care about. I'm still interested enough to look for the sequel at some point, but compared to Eon and such, War Dogs just isn't impressive.