Oct 182016

lilith1Lilith, by George MacDonald

Synopsis: A landed gentleman stumbles into a magical dreamland, which I guess is full of parables and symbolism?

Book Review: Written in 1895, this book reads like it was written a century earlier. It’s short, only 200ish pages, but I still gave up after 60. This thing is not worth reading.

First, there’s no reason to like the protagonist. He’s a bland young man of the landed gentry class, who inherited his wealth, and has no friends or anyone important in his life. I just don’t care about his aimless wanderings through a nonsense world.

Second, there’s no tension. In addition to not caring about the protag, there’s no reason to care about what’s happening. None. He just goes wandering.

Third, it’s poorly written. Something something different time period – whatever. MacDonald will often write extremely long sentences that, once you parse them, say literally nothing. Sometimes several in a row. And those are just the ones that intentionally say nothing. My biggest complaint is that:

Fourth – this book is nothing but a huge dump of Pretending To Be Wise. In fact, it’s worse than Pretending To Be Wise. At least if you’re Pretending To Be Wise, you’re actually making some claims with substance, even if they are shallow. Lilith contains innumerable passages with a bunch of fancy-sounding words which don’t actually say ANYTHING. There is no substance there at all! It is the 19th century equivalent of the Quantum Homeopathy Woman. It’s fancy gibberish that doesn’t have any referent!

Well OK, not *every* time. It’s pretty obvious that the little people vs giants section is a big ol’ sign to say “Greed is bad.” Thanks for that update George. It was extra-profound when you demonstrated Greed Is Bad by pointing out that it would be awesome if everyone lived in an Eden, in perfect health with unlimited food and no need for shelter. Totes applicable to my life.

Strongly Not Recommended.

Book Club Review: Yeah, there’s not much to talk about here. There’s no topic to discuss, because nothing has been said. I was going to chalk this up to “Writing technology has advanced a lot”, but our English Major pointed out that MacDonald doesn’t even have that excuse. This post-dates Charles Dickens. It post-dates “Alice in Wonderland”, which was an actual GOOD tale set in a magical dreamland. It’s only a couple decades removed from Hemingway.

The only person in our book club who enjoyed this novel was someone who misinterpreted it as an Absurdist Humor piece, and found it hilarious. Even she got tired of it after about halfway through though, and skipped to the end.

On the plus side, it’s in the public domain, so you can get it free. Or for under a buck at Amazon.

Not Recommended.

Oct 122016

space_planet_light_82977_2560x1080I love finding opinions that differ from mine in interesting ways. Here are two.

Re my distaste for Genghis Khan, a friend replied:

“Status: terminally monogamous. Ironically, it was my girlfriend that first showed me this song a few days ago. I honestly just tuned out the lyrics as silly when I heard the name Genghis Khan, but I just googled them. It’s sort of sad, and I’m totally going to be projecting now, because it’s a lot like what my first relationship was like (many moons ago before I’d ever heard the term “polyamorous”).

Anyway, the lyrics: the guy feels jealous and possessive and hates himself for it. And that pretty well describes how I saw myself during that first relationship. Now, I sort of bristle when I see situations where a philosophy that lives mostly in the frontal lobe is being given dominance over emotions that live all over our brains. For me, that philosophy was “love is not possession” and it’s a hard argument to beat (and really not one you’d want to beat). But you also can’t argue with emotions. The idea of my then-girlfriend being with -her- girlfriend hurt terribly. Was it “right”? No, love is not possession. Did my emotions care whether or not it was right to feel that? No, they didn’t. “And I don’t have the right / To ask where you go at night / But the waves hit my head / To think someone’s in your bed”

What should I have done in that situation? I should have left before we hurt each other more. But neither of us had scraped together enough self-esteem to end it until an ugly ending. The non-judgmental thing would have been, “I need this, but you can’t give it to me. That hurts, but we should part as friends.” So now having been forced to read the lyrics to this silly song… ( ;P ) It makes me a little sad for a guy that is beating himself up because he thinks he’s the “I’m a bad person” flavor of “wrong”. It reminds me that we’re all pretty fucked up in the head and a relationship is about finding somebody compatibly fucked up and working on making room for each other’s fuckedupitude. If one person is poly and the other person isn’t, nobody is wrong. There just isn’t room for a relationship there. Which isn’t what I think the song is saying. I think the guy is mad at himself for feeling the way he does.”


Re the poem “air and light and time and space“, which I loved, a different friend said:

“I’ve seen this poem several times, and honestly it’s always confused me why people see this as such a positive message. I’ve never seen it as something nice to hear, and I think I’m finally able to articulate why. I think most creators see this and see inspiration to not make excuses to get their ideas out. I read the hyperbole in the second half as a sort of “some people are creative, and some people just aren’t, no matter what sort of preparation they make for themselves.” This seems to discourage people who don’t see themselves as creative to try being creative, ’cause they just “don’t have it,” and I really, really dislike this attitude.

I feel like I went through my whole life thinking I wasn’t creative until a few years ago when I did exactly what the spirit of the first half of the poem was describing, in that I set aside some space, time, and money to do the thing I was interested in doing, and it ended up being a really great experience. I also doubt it would’ve been good had I not prepared at all, due to the scope of what I was trying to accomplish. This poem seems to doubt the ability of people who – like me – are only occasionally struck by the need to make something new and interesting, but that creative process is still meaningful to them.

At any rate, I think it’s cool if you draw inspiration from this, and I hope my rambling doesn’t rob you of that. I felt like I had some insight when seeing this for the 4th time or so, and I just needed to get it out. Maybe other people share this experience when reading this poem and might appreciate seeing their opinion corroborated on some level or something.”


Cheers guys!

Oct 112016

Quoted directly from Eliezer Yudkowsky
“For so long as the voting system works the way it does, there will always be 2 parties in American democracy, no more, no less. For reasons that include e.g. the Median Voter Theorem, the votes will always drift back to around 50/50 for each party. The Republican Party *will* be back in 2020, and Hillary seems more likely than usual to be a one-term President.
So this would be a very good time to praise the #NotAllRepublicans who were first to say #NeverTrump. The Republicans who never compromised with visible evil from the start, not for the sake of power, nor party, nor fear of Hillary Clinton. The #NeverTrumpers deserve that praise, and you *will not like* what happens in 2020 if those honorable Republicans do *not* get to be the ones to rebuild the Republican Party.
A list of refusers, including time of first break, appears here.

Oh shit. No more excuses. Seriously, someone loved the poem enough to buy the domain and host just that poem, forever. That is awesome.

Twitter reveals How God Created Animals. It is hilarious.

California passes poorly-thought-out regulations which destroy small businesses? Who’da thunk it?
Forgers can’t sell Mark Hamil’s autograph easily anymore, but now *neither can Mark Hamil*. If you sell stuff at SDCC, don’t sign it anymore. Unless you bring along a stack of paperwork.
“The law requires that any autographed item sold for more than $5 must include a certificate of authenticity including information about the dealer, where and how the item was signed, and the name and address of any third party from whom it was purchased. The law was undoubtedly aimed at shutting down forgery mills, but it was written so broadly that it will make things a lot harder for anyone dealing in autographed goods.

second-hand booksellers, some of whom carry hundreds or thousands of autographed copies of books … must either create individual certificates of authenticity for each book, or else discard thousands of dollars in inventory that is no longer salable.”

“Whether we like it or not, we all need some kind of objective standard against which to measure our work. […] most of the great art the world has ever seen came about not through a single stroke of genius but by the continual effort of a community.”

A great short piece by Yudkowsky, from the writing prompt: “Write a romantic comedy. Difficulty: both lovers are emotionally mature and have excellent communication skills.” Here’s a small taste:
“WOMAN: Is this really… dating? I captured you. I now own you. You’re my harem slave, not a, a…
MAN: We’re seated at a nice marble table waiting for a chef to cook our food. I am reasonably sure this is a date.
The WOMAN covers her face in her hands.
WOMAN: It is, isn’t it. Oh, god, I’m on a date.”

25 years ago today (Sept 24th when I posted) Nevermind was released, and saved us all from CockRock. Very few albums can be said to have spearheaded a movement that significantly altered the music ecosphere, and this was one of them. HT to awesome music.

13754380_10153636581221512_4996851253414833391_nOh snap!! (also props for correct use of “ironic”)
“This image is really ironic, actually. Because it is meant to shame the young people looking at their phones and seemingly ignoring the beautiful Rembrandt painting titled, ‘The Night Watch’, which is on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
“In fact, the kids are using the museum’s fantastic free downloadable multimedia app to learn more about the artist and the painting. This photo was just one of a larger set of photos, most of which show the students engrossed in the art and its history.
“But the internet doesn’t care about the truth. Not even enough to do a small amount of searching before sharing something. It gets a small amount of information, a simple image, a snapshot in time, and it draws ridiculous conclusions, especially if it means they get to be superior and judgemental of others.
“How’s that for wisdom?”

Humans never cease to amuse. From Michael Blume:
“Snowden: Hey WaPo, I found out about this thing; you could tell people about it. Or not. Really, just do whatever you think is best.
WaPo: Hey everybody, Snowden just told us about this thing, we thought you should know.
WaPo: Hey, Pulitzer committee, remember when we told everybody about the thing? That was excellent reporting, and it served the public interest. You should give us a prize for it.
Pulitzer committee: Yeah, sure.

WaPo: Hey everybody, we really think Snowden ought to be prosecuted for telling people the thing, it was completely irresponsible of him, he should’ve kept it to himself.”

Another proposed name for those of us that spent our teens getting shoved into Gen X, are now tacked onto Millennials, and don’t really fit in either. I thought this was a good idea for 5 minutes, before I started seeing everyone claiming it, esp those outside the date-range, because they also liked Oregon Trail. /sigh. Back to the naming-board.
“Gen X individuals were already fully-formed teens or young adults when computers became mainstream, and Millennials can’t even remember a time before computers.”


Companies Can’t Legally Void the Warranty for Jailbreaking or Rooting Your Phone. This is the opposite of what I thought was the case, and it makes me a little happier about the world.

Now this… this is an idea worth trying! Start splitting all Culture War movements into High and Low, to distinguish good actors from bad. (Rabid Puppies = Low as Fuuuuuuuuuck)
“The benefits of using low vs. high:
You get to be immune to fights over naxalt etc.; if someone says “feminists are doing evil things like erasing male rape victims” you just add “low feminists, yes, they do suck indeed” and judo their categorical attack to the ground. If they respond to this category-splitting dodge with “no, all feminists” the existence of a single counterexample is enough to pwn the pathetic attempt once things have been expliticized.
Similarly, you get to use this same phenomenon to whine about nasty people who have hurt you. If you say that low feminists do bad stuff, there’s nothing I can do about it because you’ve inb4′d the naxalt and according to the rules of the internets that means you win. But there’s nothing I need to do about it because yalxalt. It’s not about me, it’s not about you, it’s about them out there. Every ideology has its share of utterly repugnant assholes and everyone deserves a chance to whine about them without being naxalted, and everyone deserves to not have their ideas discredited by weakmanning superweapons to existence.
everyone (high) prefers everyone splitting, and by using this distinction we can force people who want to maintain credibility with us highs to split too. We can still disagree for all we want, and fight over shit, but we should be able to coordinate to try to enforce this one civilizing rule on everyone we interact with. We can now actually define something as kind of a geneva convention of culture wars in a way which should actually be win-win and in the participants’ incentives”

I have discovered a new website to take all my hours! Bad-ass Of The Week. Here’s one sample, courtesy of Charles Stross.
“Julie D’Aubigny was a 17th-century bisexual French opera singer and fencing master who killed or wounded at least ten men in life-or-death duels, performed nightly shows on the biggest and most highly-respected opera stage in the world, and once took the Holy Orders just so that she could sneak into a convent and bang a nun. If nothing in that sentence at least marginally interests you, I have no idea why you’re visiting this website.”

How Studying Mnemonics Changed the Way I Learn
“At this point, I have explained control systems to the parts of my brain (and yours!) that actually matter for real learning. [note: yup, she did!] … I have built inside my mind a structure that directly supports further understanding of anything and everything about control systems.
If it turns out that there’s something wrong with my understanding of control systems, I’ll be able to notice because my control system will fail to behave the way it’s supposed to, and then I’ll adjust the structure.”

Warner Brothers reports own site as illegal.
“A good approach would be to white-list non-infringing sources such as warnerbros.com and amazon.com”
No, a good approach would be to repeal this clusterfuck of a law, and jail/fine/flay everyone who’s despoiling the creative commons so wantonly. ><

This review of Star Trek Beyond is soooo much more than just a review. And it puts into words why I avoid nostalgia as much as possible. Not good for mental health!!
“These memories. They are just that. Memories. They are part of me, and what I’ve enjoyed. Part of what makes me who I am. They live inside me. I can’t relive them. Making new things won’t take away the pain that this ever ended.”

A two-year-old’s solution to the trolley problem.

“Being unconditionally polite, kind, and compassionate in a society that values and finds “deeper meaning” in aloofness and cynicism is subversive and thus punk”
(seen on tumblr)

Julith VS Kerubim

We really are living in the CapitalPunk universe!
Legalist is a Silicon Valley startup […] offering “data-backed litigation financing” using algorithms to “analyze millions of court cases to source, vet, and finance commercial litigation.” It’s the latest in a series of companies that allow third parties to “invest” in the success of a lawsuit, by funding said lawsuit.”

A rationalist in the Zombie Apocalypse. Short, fun, and includes a great in-universe explanation. :)

This Is Why There Are So Many Ties In Swimming. The timing can’t be made more sensitive because then it would be more sensitive than the lane lengths are:
“In a 50 meter Olympic pool, at the current men’s world record 50m pace, a thousandth-of-a-second constitutes 2.39 millimeters of travel. FINA pool dimension regulations allow a tolerance of 3 centimeters in each lane, more than ten times that amount. Could you time swimmers to a thousandth-of-a-second? Sure, but you couldn’t guarantee the winning swimmer didn’t have a thousandth-of-a-second-shorter course to swim. (Attempting to construct a concrete pool to any tighter a tolerance is nearly impossible; the effective length of a pool can change depending on the ambient temperature, the water temperature, and even whether or not there are people in the pool itself.)”

This short story by Alexis Hunter is exactly my sort of thing!! /heartflutter

The most ridiculous patch notes from 10 years of Dwarf Fortress. :) Animal breeding is prevented if animals aren’t “willing to marry”.

Oct 032016

steel-beach Steel Beach, by John Varley

Synopsis: A tour of a transhumanist future on a lunar colony, where Humanity struggles against the ennui of irrelevance, and a sovereign Friendly AI struggles against value drift.

Book Review: It is really impressive how ahead-of-its-time this novel was. It was published in 1992, and for the most part I felt like it could have been published last month (with a few notable exceptions–the “we update our news sites every hour” must’ve seemed like a lot back then, nowadays we update in real time…)

I was wary at first, because the story starts with a journalist being told to write a series of articles about how life is different now than it was 200 years ago (due to the approaching bicentennial of humanity’s exit from Earth). That just felt like a very ham-handed way of saying “I, the author, shall now pontificate on my personal vision of what a cool future would be for hundreds of pages.” But I was pleasantly surprised. The world is indeed pretty cool, and its oddities and quirks kept me interested in the initial chapters. The plot, while it does flag in a few points, keeps things moving pretty well. Varley’s style totally steals the show though! He writes with a very strong voice that really brings his protagonists personality to the fore and lets it shine. I may not like everything about the protagonist, but I feel like I know who they are after spending this novel with them.

The big draw with this book is Varley’s dive into the meaning of life. Not in the pretentious “Let us ponder upon the meaning of life” way, but in a somewhat-more-intelligent-than-average character trying to figure out what exactly to do, and how to be meaningful, in a world that doesn’t really need humans anymore. Let me take that back – not just “try to figure out”, but actively churning his/her life experiences in multiple attempts to try stuff and find a thing! It’s cool to see someone actually make efforts and go through several feedback loops.

Hell, the protagonist even falls back on the old “revert to survivalism” and “have children” clichés, and fortunately doesn’t come to the conclusion “It turns out we all just need to go back to living like our ancestors.” :)

Most interestingly, the book doesn’t really give any answers. Varley certainly doesn’t have any method to push, aside from the usual “keep seeking, there’s gotta be meaning somewhere.” It’s more of an exploration of ennui than a refutation of it, and has a bittersweet taste throughout. If that thought turns you off, this is not the book for you. But I enjoyed it.

One big downside—most of the climax happened off-stage. That’s a storytelling sin, IMHO. But the book wasn’t really about that plot, so I’m more forgiving of it than usual.

This is not a book that I would give a hearty “You must read this as soon as you have free time!” endorsement of. However I’m glad I read it, and I would recommend to my past self to read through this at some point, when there’s a lot going on in my life and I need something to bring me some calm for a bit. So, a Mildly Recommended.

Book Club Review: Holy crap, there is so much in here to talk about! The entire novel is a comment on modern life and how we deal with it. There are so many hooks for conversation you may have to choose to focus just on the ones most interesting to your group. This will spark a lot of discussion about human nature, the coming age of automation, the banality of modern news media, the ethics of X and/or Y, and so forth. It is absolutely fantastic.

And it does so in a way where the focus is on the fiction, not where the fiction is just some thin excuse for the author to expound on how much Kids Suck These Days or whatever. It’s got a legit good story with good characters, who happen to be wrestling with those issues, but who were written for their own sake. Not to serve as mouthpieces.Quite well done.

One would be excused in thinking that this book was written specifically for book clubs that like read a neat story and then discuss cool things. Highly Recommended!

Sep 282016

Is it ok to make a post complaining about something? I don’t do it very often. Every now and then is alright, right?

This freakin’ song man. It’s so pro-patriarchy and mono-normative it makes me want to puke. The chorus made my flesh crawl. I now understand how people who had bad reactions to Blurred Lines felt. No wonder they disliked the song so much – it’s a visceral physical reaction that you can’t really prevent (aside from not listening to the song in the first place, which is hard if it’s being played in a public area)


The possessiveness on display here–of someone he acknowledges isn’t even his primary!– is gag-inducing. Plus the implication that if he “made up his mind” to move this relationship up to primary that he’d have the right to be possessive like that. Bleh.

And he had to top it off with a reference to Genghis Khan. I guess it’s far enough in the past that people don’t care anymore, but I still associate the name with genocide and mass-rape.

A friend who really liked the music tried to argue that he’s struggling to understand his own feelings,  calling himself “selfish” and “obscene”. That he’s exposing all of his own faults, and if I hate this song because he’s singing about being a terrible person, and acknowledging himself as terrible, then there’s a lot more music that I need to also hate for the same reasons.

I do like the juxtaposition of upbeat music with tragic lyrics sometimes. Hey Ya is fantastic for this! But Hey Ya is about a break-up, which doesn’t normalize anything. I understand that Khan can be interpreted as a struggle over trying to not be a shitty person, and mad props to anyone who hears it that way. But I know there are people who find this possessive attitude sexy, because I was married to one for several years. And she certainly wasn’t in the minority among her friends. I’d be surprised if Khan wasn’t seen as a sexy song of desire, that normalized those attitudes among those listeners.

Which is not to say the song should be banned or anything. Just… ew ew ew. This is as horrifying to me as the women who write love letters to serial killers. What is wrong with people??

Sep 232016


Recently a friend complained that we’ve exited the brief window in history where “gaslighting” was a word that meant something distinct. To gaslight someone (as a verb) used to mean to drive them to insanity by sabotaging their reality-testing. The eponymous example is a husband who alters the gas flow to the lights in his house without his wife’s knowledge, and when she complains about the house being dimmer, says that everything is exactly the same brightness it always was, and there must be something wrong with her. It is literally a destruction of the tools we use to comprehend the world around us, and our interpretation of it.

Nowadays it’s overused to the point that it’s come to mean no more than “being lied to by the person you’re in a romantic relationship with.” Basically just a slight narrowing of “being lied to”, which makes it a vacuous term. Maybe we can reclaim it in time, like we did with “literally.”

Humans, through a combination of instinct and training, develop a moral sense. I don’t mean that we can sense any actual “morality” that exists as an objective thing, like we can sense photons or air vibrations. But we can certainly sense to a fair degree when something is commendable or reprehensible in the moral system we’ve been taught. Edge cases can be fun to think about to explore borders, but we know theft is wrong.

This poses a major problem to most religions. I was raised in a religion that believes in the omnipotent & omniscient christain god, who is Good. I was also raised to be a good person by modern standards. And the mindfuck that creates is hard to describe. You know what constitutes a good person. You know what a good person with limitless resources would do. And then you look at the world around you.

It is impossible that a Good, Sane god would do NOTHING about the state of the world. It is morally abhorrent to even consider that. And yet every day you are bombarded with evidence that He (in my case it was a “he”) is doing nothing. Either can’t or won’t do anything. And every day I’m reminded of how good god is, and how much he loves everyone, and that we should always strive to be like him, the perfect example of true goodness.

I know what goodness is! YOU taught me! All my moral-sense information says God is not good. He’s probably evil! Negligent at the least. Yet I keep being told that He is, in fact, good. Ultimately good. My senses must be lying to me. Or my brain is screwed up in some way that I’m misinterpreting things. My senses cannot be trusted, the world must not be real in the way I perceive it. It’s unfortunate I’m crippled/crazy in this way.

Gaslighting can be difficult, because to gaslight someone you can’t let them interact with anyone who would honestly corroborate their sense information. Asch’s Conformity Experiment is a model case for gaslighting. Eight different people (one of them an authority figure) are all earnestly saying your sense information is deeply flawed in a consistent way, and you can’t ask the opinions of people outside the room. To successfully gaslight someone long-term, you have to either keep them isolated, or recruit everyone they may run into, so they participate in the sabotage.

And wouldn’t you know it – those motherfuckers got away with it, for centuries. They convinced EVERYONE to buy into their authority and repeat their distortions. No matter who you asked, you would always get the same answer – your senses are broken, or you’re crazy. God really is good, despite what your moral sense and your own lying eyes are telling you.

Maybe this didn’t used to be the case. Maybe when morality was a primitive affair, and only extended to your tribe, this was less of a problem. Maybe when you didn’t have 24/7 news from around the globe, and history books full of atrocities, it was harder to notice how fucked up the world is. But holding to that line in the face of modern morality is insanity-inducing.

I think that’s one of the reasons that newly-deconverted atheists are often angry. It’s infuriating when you realize how much your entire social world has been trying to cripple you. Has been *successfully* crippling you. And you need to shout it, because you know that gaslighting falls apart when people are willing to stand up and report their true sense-data. It’s why religions used to murder anyone who didn’t play along. If a few people are willing to say “Look, I don’t know what you’re seeing, but to me Line B is clearly NOT the right match” it breaks the spell. If your friend comes into the house and confirms “Yes, you’re right, the lights really are dimmer, I see it too!” you have evidence that you aren’t defective. It’s someone else trying to make you think you’re crazy. Now that you’re free, you want others like you to know they are not alone, and they aren’t crazy.

Thank god for the internet. It’s the main reason atheists can be fairly chill now. Finally everyone has easy access to the knowledge that lots of other people see the lights dimming too. It no longer has to be yelled just to be noticed among all the confederates pointing to the wrong line.

I still have some reality-testing issues to this day. Mostly they’re under control, and I doubt they’re all do entirely to this reason. But shit, the religion thing certainly didn’t help.


Sep 192016

ghostbrideThe Ghost Bride, by Yangsze Choo

Synopsis: At the turn of the century, a young girl must marry the dead son of a rich family to save her father from ruin, but he’s a total jerk.

Book Review: An interesting animal! First, this book feels like an Urban Fantasy that’s set in an early 1900s Chinese colonial holding rather than in modern-day Chicago. It’s a neat blending of modern style and old setting.

The thing I most enjoyed about this book was its exploration of the afterlife mythology of this culture. It’s not exactly Chinese, and not exactly Malaysian, but kinda a blending of the two that happened in that time/place. I am almost entirely ignorant of that mythology, so seeing their afterlife beliefs coming to life in these pages was entirely fascinating. It’s very much the Bureaucratic Hell version of afterlife, except everyone goes there. Then they suffer through a century or so of paperwork and red tape and corrupt government officials until they die for real. Not the worst of tortures, but certainly not a pleasant afterlife. :) Almost every chapter had something new and fascinating that kept my interest. And the prose is basically well done, in some places slipping into cliché, in other places really shining.

The thing about this novel though… well, just a week or so before I read it I came across this essay about the Basic Girl Story (as compared to the Basic Boy Story), and I’m glad I did, because it put everything into perspective. (OK, tumblr post, but basically an informal essay)

The Basic Boy Story is “common boy is found to be Special, with Special Powers or Destiny or some such. He gets training under a mentor, pushes his abilities to new levels, and completes some difficult task. He returns to his home town as a much-lauded hero.”

The Basic Girl Story is “common girl is found to be Special, with Special Powers or Destiny or some such. She meets a Gruff Loner. She is put in danger several times, and in each case rescued because she is Precious and Worth Rescuing. In the end she and Gruff Loner fall in love, the danger passes, and the most significant change in her life is that now she’s happy.”

The essay itself compares The Matrix to Jupiter Ascending as the two Basic story examples, and its interest and short. But the main point is that neither story is bad, they are just… basic. We’ve seen them both a hundred times. There’s no shame in enjoying them, they are so basic because they are widely enjoyable! But unless they incorporate some sort of radical twist or concept (like The Matrix had), they won’t cover new ground.

The Ghost Bride is the essence of a good Basic Girl Story. It hits every beat, and if you’ve read a few of these before, you can see everything coming from a mile away. I knew when the Gruff Loner was removed from the story that he wasn’t really gone for good – he had to come back for the declaration of love at the end. But I was hoping maybe, MAYBE our protagonist would solve at least one problem by herself now. Nope. He’s back before you know it to save her yet again. Ah well, I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. :)

If you like that sort of story, this really is a great execution of it! And the interesting world makes up for a lot. But it doesn’t really grab me, Not Recommended.

Book Club Review: The book isn’t bad for book clubs. The exposure to a foreign mythology is really neat, and it’s a fast read, and not an unenjoyable one. There are a couple things to talk about, such as how much society has progressed since the time when it was hard to marry off a nearly-spinsterly 18-year-old girl.

I personally was bothered by how the book strongly pushed the narrative of “parents have an obligation to sacrifice everything for the child’s happiness.” I realize that parents sacrifice a lot, and this is generally good. But Choo seemed to speak very approvingly of a young mother who committed suicide so that her daughter could marry the guy she wanted to. That’s really overdoing it IMHO. You don’t have an obligation to kill yourself so your bratty 14 year old can run off with her True Love. These over-the-top sacrifices, and the entitlement of the children to them, really rubbed me the wrong way. That sparked a fair bit of conversation. However I think this was a peculiarity of my own, and most people wouldn’t think that much of it, and wouldn’t make it a talking point.

All things considered, it isn’t bad. No one disliked it. Most people weren’t significantly excited by it either though, so I can’t give an Enthusiastic Consent recommendation. Ultimately, Not Recommended.

Sep 142016

<walking by new kid that started at the office>

Thinks to self: Ya know, I don’t fit in with the kids starting new jobs. Haven’t for a while, I guess. Definitely no longer young. But I don’t really have anything in common with the old folks around here either. Not old either. I’m kinda like, I dunno… the adult version of a ‘tween? Like, right in the middle of the ages…

oh.. oh fuck no. Oh god they have a word for this, and it’s literally “middle” and “aged”. Goddammit, I’m middle aged. Goddamn you all to hell!!!!


Sep 082016

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the premier of the first episode of Star Trek. When I was a wee atheist, sometimes people would ask me “Without religion, how will you teach your children morals?” My answer was (and still is) Star Trek. This show (particularly TNG, I didn’t watch much TOS) demonstrates everything that is noble about humanity, and acts as an incredible guide to living as a good person. Far, FAR more than that book of atrocities. And it has much better narratives, characters, and poetry along the way. (I’m sorry Songs of Solomon, but comparing a women’s breasts to fortress towers just doesn’t do it for me).

There is nothing in those 2000+ year old myths that isn’t fantastically outclassed by our modern myths. I don’t blame those people for the time they lived in, we’ve come far. But I would never use it as a guide for morality when we have such better sources nowadays. May the Trek ethos live long and prosper.