Sep 182014
 
writer-at-work-229x300Colleague/Acquaintance (and possibly Friend? I always feel a bit weird using that word if it’s someone I don’t hang out with regularly. We have a great time when we’re together somewhere, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to her house for a party, or vica-versa, and I don’t want to make claims to a friendship that isn’t actually there. Due to a very isolated childhood I consider people either very-close friends or strangers, and I’m not sure what to label the in-between areas. So lets go with Acquaintance) Rachael Acks posted yesterday about the Amazon/Hachette throw-down. I have one point of disagreement in a large (and well-written) post, so as dictated by long internet tradition I will now blog about that disagreement and not comment on anything else. 
> Companies are not going to value us or our work as long as we treat it as a thing without value. This is our problem to solve, because we let this happen. [...] we’re too fucking cowardly and blind as a society to smack [corporations] with a rolled up newspaper and say NO.
 
That’s all well and good to say, but the problem with us doing anything is that the vast majority of us aren’t controlled by me. While making money off writing is the dream, it is not the reason that anyone I know of writes. People write for the same reason they create music, or act, or make any other piece of art – to be seen by others. That’s putting it crudely, it’d be more charitable to say something like “To touch others, and connect in a more fundamental way through sharing this piece of ourselves.” But you can’t do that without being seen. The real payment is wide-spread publication, the money is just a bonus. Everyone I know who writes would still write for free if getting paid for it wasn’t an option. Heck, Rachael published free fanfic and raved about how good it felt.
 
So while one can say “We should all stop devaluing our work! No more providing Service X (stories, in this case) without decent compensation!”, how does one actually stop the vast majority of writers who just want to be noticed and appreciated from making their work available, without compensation? Force is out, and social shaming is becoming less and less popular. Even Rachael spoke out against it (see previous link). As long as people love to write and do it for it’s own sake, wages of writing will be depressed. It’s the same reason that it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a straight male porn actor. People would do it for free in their spare time, so why would producers pay extra?
 
Money is used as a motivator to get people to do things they don’t want to do. I would not be doing accounting in my spare time if I was independently wealthy. I’d drop that like a chocolate donut I picked up and then realized was actually a round-shaped turd. People generally don’t get paid to do things that people love to do for their own sake (like eating actual chocolate donuts).
 
Every year a few people win the Writing Lottery for reasons that appear to be entirely random, and they can make a career of it. I admire them, and wish them all the best. I read quite a few of them. If I were to ever win that lottery for doing something I already love to do, I would be crazy happy about it. But I don’t count on it. I expect, like almost everyone, to hold down a job that produces something people need enough that they’re willing to give someone else money to produce it, and also write when I have time simply for the love of writing. If I can make some money on the side, all the better.

 

Sep 172014
 

HhLIQujYes, today there are at least three links that originated from Scott’s blog. I don’t have a problem! I can quit any time I want! But first: This is what I think of your rabbit!

An atheist church is coming to Denver. Interesting… I fear this will be one of those things for “families” and “children,” but willing to give it a shot

Did you know this about Marx? Cuz I didn’t know this about Marx.
“[He's] basically just telling us to destroy all of the institutions that sustain human civilization and trust that what is baaaasically a giant planet-sized ghost will make sure everything works out”
Damn, mysticism poisons *everything*. :/

The Answer That Destroys All Our Futures. A good point about banks that I never really thought about before. Society would suck quite a bit more without them. Article goes on to draw a parallel to make a social point, which is also good, but I found the up-front bank commentary to be most insightful.

San Diego School District gets a 18-Ton Armored Vehicle. School Librarians to Tamika Flynn: “Your move, bitch”

“Sarwar and Ahmed, both of whom pleaded guilty to terrorism offences last month, purchased Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies
..[They] may try to justify their violence with recourse to religious rhetoric [...] but religious fervour isn’t what motivates most of them.
..large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy

Flight makes emergency landing because woman wouldn’t stop singing Whitney Houston song I Will Always Love You. This is exactly how I want to be escorted off a plane some day. (there’s video!)

Drone Discovers Abandoned Renaissance Faire Deep in Virginia Woods. I know what I’m doing if I’m ever in Virginia.

It hurts me a bit every time Scott says he’s against feminism, since he’s such an ideal example of all the best parts of feminism. I can’t stop admiring him. But he does have some good points which need to be made. If we’re losing people like Scott, we won’t win the long fight.
“everyone knows a Henry. Most people know several. Even three years ago, I knew there were Henry-like people – your abusers, your rapists, your bullies – and it wasn’t hard to notice that none of them seemed to be having the crushing loneliness problem I was suffering from.
And, like my patient Dan, I just wanted to know – how is this fair?
And I made the horrible mistake of asking this question out loud”

Jai responds to Scott – “there’s a much more charitable explanation of a world where almost everyone was and is trying to do the right thing.” Further quoting would just be me quoting the entire post, so… there’s the link.

The Denver Police Department has started using body cameras on their officers. Proud to be living in Denver. Over the past few years we’ve become a hell of a state. :)

Oh hell yes!! MTV releases the Liquid Television archives to the masses. Everyone who was a teen in the 90s knows how awesome this shit is. No one else will care. Which is too bad.

Posting in the hopes that this will help normalize the procedure, and more people will sign up for cryo over time. Bitcoin’s Earliest Adopter Is Cryonically Freezing His Body to See the Future. Also, he posted on LW when he was first diagnosed. The first two comments contain updates as he progressed. I can’t believe how fast that went. Get signed up early, most life insurance companies won’t accept you after something like this is diagnosed.

Good news everyone! Starting in October, Alzheimer’s Patients Will Be Injected With the Blood of Young People. If this works out, old people can feel better, and young people will have an easier time getting established and not suffer through as much getting-started poverty! Everyone wins :)

I always found Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun unbearable, because it seemed like a terribly depressing song forced into an upbeat tempo. At last someone has fixed this and made the music match the song. THANK YOU.

The Gingerbread Scientist. A short, sad story in comic form.

Facebook using their powers for good! Clearing clickbait from your news feed

We recycle everything we can. But in some cases, recycling is actually worse than throwing something away (most notable example being the dark glass of colored wine bottles)

Memorization of certain copyrighted material is infringement. Notably, many of these are test-practice materials. Even if these claims wouldn’t hold up in court, fucking someone over with thousands in legal fees to defend themselves is nearly as abusive.

The Strange Tale of the North Pond Hermit. This entire story is just FASCINATING. But one of things that most stuck out for me:
Robin Hanson has stated that the conscious self is a social adaptation – Consciousness is the PR-firm of the self, trying to make our actions look good to the other humans around us while still pursuing our own genetic interest. The North Pond Hermit provides support for this view –
“I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.”

Humans Need Not Apply. “Horses today are unemployable. The horse population has plummeted since 1910.”
I expect my job to last 10 years before the computers replace my field entirely. 20 at the very outside. In the USA we *already* condemn a chunk of the population as Too Unproductive To Live, things are gonna get bad as this percentage of the population goes up. Perhaps at some point we will adopt the mentality Scott Alexander recommends and realize that “we were here first and society doesn’t get to make us obsolete without owing us something in return.”
But I’m not holding my breath, and I’m hoping to amass enough capital before that happens to hold me through the upheaval time in between.

The Jon Stewart Show back when he was on MTV. Somethings changed a lot, somethings haven’t changed at all. :)

Ferguson – “How does a stop for jaywalking turn into a homicide and how does that turn into an American town essentially coming under military control with snipers, tear gas, and a no-fly zone? … events like this don’t happen without a deeper context. Part of the context is the return of debtor’s prisons
… fines and court fees comprise the second largest source of revenue for the city
…You don’t get $321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants per household [annually] from an about-average crime rate. You get numbers like this from bullshit arrests for jaywalking and constant “low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay.”
(Also, did anyone else not know that we have a fucking NO-FLY ZONE over Ferguson?)

I know this dates me, but this is still my go-to Fuck The System music.
“I look in the mirror and what do I see?
It will all end in anarchy”

Ferguson – “Your right to demonstrate is not being denied” For exactly as long as you can stomach having machine guns trained on you.
The public is the enemy.

Ferguson – If the police shot you, what picture would the media use to represent you?

A news story from 150 years ago: The great balloon riot of 1864
“It is humiliating to think that after all the civilising influences which have been exerted upon them, so much of the savage should still linger in the blood of our working classes.”

Welcome to The Future! (Please enjoy responsibly.) (note: not sarcastic or ironic)

Sep 152014
 

TQ1I mentioned previously some of the effects of going from unattractive to moderately attractive. One that I didn’t mention before, but that I am reminded of all the freaking time…

People touch you. A lot.

I’ve always been really bad with physical touch. I don’t particularly like it, particularly from those I’m not intimately familiar with. So I noticed almost immediately when people started touching me. It didn’t used to be a thing. I mean, handshakes of course, and the glancing brush when maneuvering in tight quarters. But never did anyone intentionally reach out and touch me just in casual conversation. Somewhere between three years ago and now people started touching me. Claps on the shoulder, touches on the upper arm, a pat on the knee. Playful whaps and such. Coworkers, friends-of-friends, people I’ve just met that night. Men and women, and generally without any overt sexual connotation. Except, of course, we’re all primates, so it’s always sexual, even when it isn’t. Right?

I’m getting more used to it. I’ve gone out of my way to start hugging people a lot, especially friends. A sort of aversion therapy. It seems to be working, and I get the feeling people like it. I got so into it that I recently hugged someone out of reflex as she was saying “I have a thing where I don’t like touch,” and felt like a complete jackass for it right after. :(

Every time someone touches me I have a feeling of regret right after. Regret that I’m not in better shape, fear that they touched some soft fatty part. I wish I was iron throughout. It’s a great motivator to keep working out. Yeah, I know it’s not rational, and I know it’s like the least bad problem of all problems to have.

But man, touching. This social-bonding stuff is weird.

Sep 142014
 

The_circleBy David Eggers

Synopsis: Old Man Eggers gripes about social media and kids these days not having enough concern for privacy.

Book Review: Sometimes you hate a book so much you just have to dedicate hundreds of words to expressing that hate. This is one of those books.

I said before that I’m not that great with subtlety, but holy moses does this narrative over do it! Eggers lays it on with a trowel! The first twenty pages are nothing but saying how this company is the best company EVER and Mae loves it SO MUCH and all her previous companies SUCKED and describing in detail just how great every single thing is! An eloquent speaker is shown to be really gifted not by any action on his part (he is entirely ridiculous throughout the book) but by being described as “eloquent and inspirational, so at ease in front of thousands.” Informed Abilities, yay. :/ First the believability of the prose tanked, then the believability of the characters, and then the entire world came soon after. But I’ll get to that.

I’ve also mentioned that I can’t stand plots that only exist because the protagonist is absolutely pathetic, or stupid. Mae is both. She is the most pathetic imitation of a human I’ve seen in ages. Whining, simpering, idiotic, and never once stands up to anyone for anything. When she finds out only 97% of her co-workers love her she starts jibbering about how 300 people despise her and are looking for an opportunity to actually murder her. But if anything she’s above-average for this world, because…

This story could only exist in a world populated by Jersey Shore cast members. The entire world is completely retarded, and entirely self-involved. When it’s revealed that a character’s distant ancestors owned slaves she has a melt-down, and the vast majority of the people around her abandon her because (it is said) everyone believes slave-owning is genetic. Or when the government figures it would be a great idea to allow direct voting on all issues and let a single private company be in charge of all vote counting in the nation. Because that’s exactly the kind of power governments hate holding for themselves!

This book is a modern-day Atlas Shrugged in the feverish way it must warp reality and mutilate human nature in order to make its ideological point. It is an ideological point that pertains only to an imaginary universe, and so completely fails as a wake-up-call or dire-warning or whatever it was trying to do. At least Atlas Shrugged had some damn good Competency Porn to keep me interested. The Circle just has floundering jackasses. And what is the message it’s trying to promote?

Kids these days and their damn social medias!! They’re over-sharing and destroying all privacy!! /cane-shakegrump kong

I took this somewhat personally because I recognized that he was attempting to caricature my culture in the book. It’s like seeing the most grotesque straw-man of your culture being railed against because of the horrors it will impose upon us all, and realizing that someone may think this is actually representative of what anyone sane thinks. (Privacy Is Theft? WTF?)

Reminds me of NPR’s recent idiotic story about Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk” which sparked a minor internet backlash by claiming that most atheists are “Spockians” and “in a Spockian universe there is no such thing as nature, there is just material process, particles and fields, in the void. Nor, for the Spockian, is there any such thing as wonder, not really; for what is an emotion, but a conjury of particles in the nervous system?

Which makes me wonder if the author has ever met a single atheist. While everything in the article is technically correct, the implication is that the world is over-run with Spockians and what we really need is some Kirks to bring humanity to atheism. When in reality the Spock-ism is (at the most) a phase that teenage atheists go through for a few months when they first deconvert, and EVERYONE ELSE who actually exists in the atheist world is VERY MUCH like what the author is impassionately pleading for. It’s like Noe has never read an actual atheist, and is instead stuck with caricatures that the opposition paints of them. I believe that accounts for the vast majority of the negative reaction the article received.

This book is doing the same thing. Being portrayed in such an alien manner and then lectured at for the sins of the caricature is intensely irritating!

Obviously railing against Kids These Days has been popular for millenia, and Eggers is just jumping on the bandwagon (which, BTW, fuck you very much. Millenias are fucking awesome). But here’s the thing, I’m 34 and I don’t even really count as a Millenial. I’m barely a decade younger than Eggers is. I just happen to have friends that are younger than me! How insulated from the younger generation must he be to think this is in any way a decent portrayal?

There was a few people in our book club who really enjoyed the book, one my own age that said it was obviously a hilarious, over-the-top farce. A wacky comedy that is intentionally way out of proportion and ridiculous in order to be funny. Looking back on it, I can see that may have been the intention, but it was poorly executed. It felt much more like an Atlas Shrugged style trainwreck than a Terry Gilliam piece.

But more to the point – it wasn’t self-parody, it was distorting and mocking others. It felt like blackface. The minstrel shows may very well try to excuse themselves by saying “Look, it’s all in good fun! We know black people don’t act like this, it’s just a joke! Can’t you enjoy the comedy?” To which the only reply is Fuck You.

And on a final tangent, aren’t cautionary tales supposed to be about bad worlds? In Atlas Shrugged the entire world falls apart. In 1984 a military dictatorship controls all thought and expression. In The Circle… the vast majority of the population gets exactly the government they want, and they have the tools they need to share everything exactly the way they love to! It’s kinda a utopia for them. Yes, they’re all flaming idiots, but that was presupposed by the world and is not due to the tech we’re being cautioned against. Of the three or four people in the world who actually want privacy, as long as they aren’t friends with Mae they can live as hermits or something. When the overwhelming majority of your population is happy and fulfilled, you have kinda missed the point of a cautionary tale.

So yeah – literally incredible world, unlikeable protagonist, sledgehammer metaphors, stupid message, and pissed me off personally. I realize Eggers is laughing all the way to the bank, but obviously I’m giving this a Flaming Not Recommended.

Book Club Review: I hate to say this, but this was one of our most lively discussions this year. One saw it as hilarious parody, a couple thought the book was a wreck, a couple thought it brought up good points about privacy, and one thought it was a cautionary tale about the danger of cults. Getting a lot of people together who have strong opinions on a book, and having those opinions be greatly varied, makes for good discussion. If you can stomach the book, and you have a moderate+ spread of world-views in your book club, this makes for some really good talking. So, as much as I hated it, I must say that for book club reading: Recommended.

Sep 112014
 

road11The Slippery Slope fallacy is probably my least favorite fallacy ever. It seems I run into it every single time I want to talk about anything outside the norm with average people. Thanks to SMBC’s great comic on the matter, I’ve taken to slipping the slope the other way to try to demonstrate how dumb this is. Recent examples:

 

 

*Car accidents kill ~35,000 people every year in the US. 90% of accidents are attributed to human error, and self-driving cars eliminate this almost entirely. This is an easy win.

! But I really enjoy driving. Why are you taking away my freedoms to do something I enjoy? You people want to turn the world into such a safe, sterile place that all joy is drained from life and we will in a soul-sucking nanny state!

– Ignoring all other objections, what you’re saying is that you should be allowed to put others in danger for your own amusement. Why not just get rid of all traffic laws and every commute can be an action-packed Road Warrior death race? So much fun!

 

 

*It’s better for people to not have Down Syndrome. Terminating a fetus that has tested positive for Down Syndrome is a good thing.

! Down Syndrome children are people, and parents should be happy to raise whatever they’ve been given rather than trying to play god. You’ll proposing a path that will lead us to China’s gender-imbalance problem, because no one will want girls/brunettes/whatever trait.

– You’re right. We should also ban all nutrient supplements to pregnant women, because they should be happy with their natural children rather than trying to play god by making sure they gets enough folic acid.

 

*Death is bad. We should eliminate it.

! But the world will become over-crowded! We’ll live in a hellish Malthusian dystopia.

– We avoid that right now by letting people die of old age rather than starvation. Your answer to this problem is literally the application of death. What other social problems do you think would be best solved with wide-spread killings?

 

I try to phrase them a little lighter, and then follow-up with “I didn’t argue that your policy is a slippery slope toward inviting all terrorists to come onto planes with our eyes closed, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t try to do that to me.” Or a similar “I didn’t straw-man/slippery-slope you, please don’t do it to me.” Sometimes it works. Other times I just get “You call it a fallacy, I call it the way that the world often works.” /sigh

Still I think a constant, liberal application of slipping the slope in the other direction, every time this is encountered, may eventually make people think just a teeny tiny bit before they jump to using it. I hope I’m not just being naïve again.

Sep 092014
 

SupermanReturnsShield1This started off as a reply to the previous post, but it’s sorta grown since then.

In the justly-famous “All Debates Are Bravery Debates”  Scott starts with the story of a friend who was helped by reading Atlas Shrugged because “he’d been raised in a really strict family that had told him that ever enjoying himself was selfish and made him a bad person, that he had to be working at every moment to make his family and other people happy or else let them shame him to pieces. And the revelation that it was sometimes okay to consider your own happiness gave him the strength to stand up to them and turn his life around.” I am not that friend. I’ve never met Scott IRL, though I really hope to some day. But I have a very similar story.

Since then I’ve become suspicious of moral codes that can only be upheld by gods. They will break men, I’ve watched it happen at least once, and I narrowly escaped it myself. The system is vast and terrible, and to fight more than a human-sized piece of it requires more strength than any mortal has. That’s the domain of fiction, not reality. I will try to focus on the parts I’m most concerned about, and admire and say nice things about others who are fixing other parts of it. But I can’t take responsibility for the whole damned thing.

When people look back on the past and say “OK, those guys were fixing one thing, but if they were so great why did they still have slaves, which we all know is the most awful thing ever?” they are saying that from within a system which already strongly supports their abolitionist views, and has come down on slavery like a ton of shit. It’s EASY AS HELL to be anti-slavery in this system. That part of the system is (finally!) already fixed. Back then, fighting slavery was as hard (or harder) than trying to ensure you never use any products created in sweatshops. People who internalize that sort of shame and hatred will not end up making even a small piece of the world better, they’ll end up paralyzed with self-loathing and possibly dead. Those past people had a lot going on already, what with fighting a war, forging a loose union of bickering states, and trying to implement a new form of largely untested government. If they left some parts of the social fixing to other people, by monkey, cut them some slack! I’d rather have a group working on democracy and ignoring slavery, and a group working on slavery but ignoring democracy, than two groups in existential torment deciding only purging the world in fire can have any effect.

In short, stop demanding moralities that destroy those who adopt them.

Sep 052014
 

thomasjefferson_smYesterday I said people who didn’t terminate Down Syndrome fetuses weren’t individually immoral, even though they were making an immoral choice. They were misguided by a broken moral system that has failed to update to changing conditions. Most people are basically good, and they’re trying to make their way through life guided by principles that all of society has told them are Good. That’s what being good means, right?

The people who actually deserve condemnation are the leaders of the broken systems that oppose fixing things because they are personally comfortable. If you tell people they are evil, you’ve simply made an enemy. If you show them they have been misguided by self-indulgent or hypocritical rulers, they may someday become allies.

For this reason I also think we shouldn’t judge the past too harshly. You know what’s evil? Slowly torturing people to death because they were accused of being witches. But as horrific as that is, the individuals were simply trying to save their community from Satan’s clutches, and help to redeem the soul of their fallen neighbor. They thought they were doing good. Likewise, slavery was an unalloyed evil. And yet poor whites in the American south fought for the Confederacy, even though slavery was hurting them. Not only that, but many black men, some of them slaves, voluntarily fought for the Confederacy. They weren’t evil, they were simply trying to do what all of society agreed was the Good and Right thing to do. As Jai says, “Almost no one is evil, almost everything is broken.”

So when people point out that America’s Founding Fathers (should that be capitalized?) owned slaves and didn’t believe women and non-land-owners should have rights or votes, and say they are bad people, I think they’re using a bad metric. They would be bad people if they believed that, in our society. But for their time they were far ahead of the average. They were pushing moral progress forward from where it was! And that is what actually makes one Good. Accusing them of being bad would be akin to saying they are evil people because they allowed their children to die of pneumonia and infected cuts instead of giving them antibiotics. Medical science had not advanced enough for that to even be an option at the time. Likewise, moral science had not advanced enough for them to have the option of our standards at that time.

It is entirely possible that two hundred years from now we may be judged evil for eating the products of factory farms, or for eating animals at all. Are you willing to call your Auntie May the equivalent of a slave-owner for eating her chicken-fried steak every Thursday?

Changing the system is hard work, and takes decades. But it’s the only way to make things better. Things don’t suck because people are evil. People try to be good. They’re just working inside a broken system.

(or, if you wanted to summarize this post into a single tweet: “Eneasz says slavery is about as bad as eating steak.” :/ )

Sep 042014
 

Dawkins tweetWhen asked what to do if the fetus one was carrying was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, Richard Dawkins recently tweeted “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” I learned about this via the outraged Facebooking of an in-law, who has a close friend with two Down children. Fortunately I had just written a long post about eugenics, so I was able to refer back to that and already have most of my thoughts laid out. But it took me hundreds of lines of typing to explain a <140 character tweet.

I know Dawkins doesn’t need my advice on this sort of thing, but you simply cannot post new and interesting insights on complex concepts in 140 characters. When the overwhelming majority of social moral intuition goes against you, simply being right is not enough. That statement implied that anyone who may choose otherwise, or who did, is immoral. And that results in immediate defensiveness. That tweet managed to polarize everyone into the factions of “Those who already agree with me” and “Those who don’t.” The people who could be helped by this message were immediately alienated.

To get to some decent dialog I first had to (again) acknowledge that all existing people are valuable, and this choice only applies to pre-existant potential people. Then I had to prime the ground by stating that if I loved someone who was unable to have non-Down children I “personally wouldn’t leave anyone for something like that, but back in darker ages “inability to produce healthy offspring” was considered a valid reason to nullify a marriage.  Fortunately we’ve come a long way.” This was needed to get my audience to agree that moral progress is a thing that exists, and that it is good. Finally I was able to parlay that into saying that people who do choose to have Down children are actually NOT immoral, personally. Generally they are good, kind people. It’s not their fault they were misled by an archaic system into making that choice. It is the system’s fault for continuing to push ancient, out-dated moral customs. The parents are the victims, not the perpetrators. This takes some effort to say – at least a couple lines, maybe a paragraph, per point. That’s longer than 140 characters. Which is why Twitter is the worst. It’s primary use is for signaling allegiance and spreading memes. Meaningful content takes a few more words than that.

Sep 032014
 

divorcecardA friend of mine just posted twice about divorce, which has brought up a lot of old emotions re my own divorce. Similar reasons are why I never want to get married ever again. So much BS baggage goes along with divorce that it doesn’t make *getting married* worth it. I’ve seen far more relationships ruined by people forcing themselves to stay together because they’re married far FAR longer than they should have been, than I’ve ever seen ruined for any other reason. The current institution of marriage is a relic of when women were property and society enforced a “You broke it, you bought it” rule that dehumanized everyone involved.

If marriages had kept up with morality they would be temporary 5-year contracts with the option to re-up for another 5 at the end. The reactionary idiots pushing to make divorce harder and harder are doing little more than destroying the ability for people to marry. Nowadays there are very few benefits to actually being married, especially if both partners work (as is the case in most relationships). But the costs of getting divorced are substantial. Unless you plan on staying with someone until you die, everyone is better off simply not getting married. I expect to live at least another ten years. I do not want to stop changing and growing, because to me that’s not far from death anyway. I do not want my partner to stop changing and growing, as I don’t have any interest in being with a breathing corpse. Thus I do not expect to stay with anyone for a decade or longer. It could happen. Sometimes people change in parallel paths, and they find they want to stay together. But counting on it is Stupid. I go into every relationship knowing it’s going to be great, with occasional rough patches, and some day in the next ten years or so it’ll probably be over and we’ll remain friends, and the two of use will jump into our next lifetime with gusto. And we won’t have had to go through a bullshit shaming ritual that society forces us through to do it.

Very few people who haven’t gone through a divorce realize how stressful and stupid they are. I expect almost everyone will have to have one before they realize marriage is a dumb idea and swear it off. So, thanks fundamentalist christians. You’re managing to destroy marriage. You are why society can’t have nice things.

/grumble

Aug 292014
 

ash_malindalo_500By Melinda Lo

Synopsis: An asexual lesbian retelling of the Cinderella story

Book Review: I’m reluctant to say bad things about this book, because it seems to have come from a sincere place. So I’ll start by saying it was nice to see some depth in the evil step-mother and step-sisters. They were still evil, but not for the sake of generic evil-doing, but for good reasons. We as readers could detest them properly, the way real shitty people deserve to be detested. :) And the imagery in the book is beautiful, Lo knows how to turn a paragraph into a painting. The important things pop out and grab you.

But that being said, I’m glad I had heard beforehand that this was a lesbian retelling, because I wouldn’t have known it until halfway through the last chapter otherwise. Not once did I get the impression Ash was attracted to the huntress. I don’t expect erotica, but even a mention that her pulse quickening would be something. Honestly, I feel more passion toward my platonic male friends than Ash did to her love interest. Which is why I said this was an asexual lesbian retelling – but in retrospect, that is unfair to asexuals. Because it wasn’t just a lack of sexual attraction or tension – Ash doesn’t seem to feel any strong emotion at any point in the book. Reading this was very much like watching Kristen Stewart act. There is only one expression, and it is always Bland.

I was also annoyed by how many times something really interesting and potentially emotionally-involving is brought up, and then is never mentioned again. The “dry, atheist philosophers” vs “earthy, nature-based spirituality” was being set up very nicely, and I thought I could get good and steamed about that, but no – nothing. It just petered away. Same with the conflict between the male and the female fairies. And Ash’s mother’s journal. And on and on. So many things that I can’t even call “missed opportunities”, because they were clearly being capitalized on! Before they are entirely forgotten.

And finally, the way Ash gets out of her obligation to the fairy at the end is simply a reinforcement of every negative stereotype of women that every MRA-douchebag has ever vomited forth, and just made me give up in complete despair. If that’s what love is, you can count me out.

But more than anything, the book was just boring, primarily because of its lack of emotion. Not Recommended

Book Club Review: Even if there had been good emotion and strong plotting and I enjoyed the story, I still don’t think this would make a good Book Club book, because it just doesn’t have anything to say. It’s a “Thing That Happened” story. It doesn’t champion any struggle, say anything about the human condition, or question any assumptions. It doesn’t even have a new take on the Cinderella story. It’s just there. Swirsky’s “All That Fairy Tale Crap may have an unlikable protagonist, but it has more to say in a few thousand words than Ash said in a full novel. Not Recommended.