mokie: Original Bad Seed Rhonda is getting upset (womb of doom)
I don't know if I can take another guy saying the Hobby Lobby decision is no big deal.

Let's set aside that the Supreme Court has said it's OK for employers to insert their religious beliefs into an employee's private life, by specifically limiting that employee's options in areas where they should have no say. No, your employer should not have say over your health care decisions.

Let's ignore that the Court has given employers the go-ahead to insert their political beliefs into an employee's medical decisions, by ignoring how certain medications actually work according to doctors, in favor of their own 'interpretation' of how it works based on their political agenda - this even though that incorrect interpretation is still perfectly legal in this country. No, your employer should not get veto power over your perfectly legal health care decisions.

We can even sidestep the fact that the Court has said it's OK for companies to selectively ignore parts of laws they dislike by claiming a religious exemption, even if they're for-profit outfits and not actually people, and definitely not churches. No, your employer's religion should not affect your health care decisions.

Basically, your employer does not own you and should not have control of your private life.

Guys, the Supreme Court has given employers the right to veto preventative care for a specific class of employees.

If a woman gets pregnant and decides to have the child, she's going to see a doctor for prenatal visits, for tests and check-ups to ensure things are OK, and for intervention if things aren't going OK. When time comes to pull a human being out of her body, she's probably doing it in a hospital, and given statistics in recent years, she'll quite likely have surgery. Pregnancy and childbirth involves a chain of medical procedures and is very much a big deal, one that has permanent physical repercussions for the person doing it aside from the impact on their lives in general. That's why lots of women decide not to have the child, and lots more - 99% of American women at some point in their lives - take steps to avoid conceiving in the first place. That's what makes birth control 'preventative care'.

No, Hobby Lobby was not being forced to foot the bill for abortions. Don't forget that employees pay into these packages, which are meant to cover the health care needs of employees, not the political agenda of the employer.

No, it does not matter that Hobby Lobby covers some other types of contraception, because they've opened the door for other employers to deny contraception entirely, which gets us into the sticky fact that, apart from pregnancy being a real risk for some women, 'birth control' often has medical uses outside of preventing pregnancy - treatment of endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, and reduction of ovarian cancer risks, for starters. You should not have to sit down with your boss and prove you're not just horny in order to get medicine prescribed by your doctor, dammit.

No, "They shouldn't have to pay for you to have sex!" isn't relevant, because these insurance packages sure as hell cover prenatal care and treatment for STDs, so by that logic they're already paying for people to have sex.

No, "It doesn't cover my condoms!" isn't remotely the same thing, because even if the condom breaks, that guy is never, ever going to risk having a person pulled from his dick nine months later.

Yes, it is a big deal, because contraception is expensive, but so is getting pregnant, and if you're working retail at the fucking craft store level, in all likelihood you can barely afford either.

Update: Oh look, folks are already trying to use Hobby Lobby's "sincerely held religious belief" precedent to skirt LGBT anti-discrimination legislation.
mokie: A doll with an open torso featuring a diorama (yay for girls)
May started with a terrible essay (broken down fabulously over at Captain Awkward and by Dr. Nerdlove), in which a man tried to shame his ex for refusing to maintain a relationship with him. Not the relationship, but any relationship. By his own account, she had moved on and found someone new, and she didn't want to hang out with him and rehash the drama of their now-defunct relationship over and over. She did not want to be in a relationship with him, and she did not want to be in that dysfunctional not-relationship with him, either, and so she called it quits - except he doesn't think she has the right to do that. He believes he has veto power over an ex-girlfriend's right to decide who she associates with, because he hasn't got closure (read: the change to debate-to-death her decision to end the relationship). His response to her cutting off contact was to ignore it, keep poking, keep popping up, even after being threatened with a restraining order.

And he painted her decision to cut contact with him as abusive. Yes, seriously. He suggested it was abusive of her to expect to decide for herself who she did or did not interact with. He also suggested that abusive men are abusive because they feel powerless, hint hint, ladies.

Y'know, in case you wondered why she threatened him with a restraining order.

Then, less than two weeks after that essay made the rounds, an asshole declared war on women, and a world that would give women to other men but not him. He killed his roommates, grabbed his guns, and set out for "the hottest sorority" on campus, because. Because girls never approached him, and would have rejected him had he ever bothered to approach them. Because girls pick jerks (who actually ask them out) instead of 'gentlemen' like him (who sit around waiting for ass to be handed to them, like Sleeping Booty, and never put themselves out there for outright rejection). Because when he attempted to assault some women months earlier (what a gentleman!), some nearby men had intervened and kicked his ass. Because he was a misogynistic shitstain driven to obtain riches and women, and frustrated with a life that did not magically hand him these things. Because he was an entitled, spoilt rotten adolescent piece of walking, talking crap who'd had everything handed to him, and his response to adulthood and the requirement that he grow up and work for things was magical thinking (use The Secret to win the lottery!) and an inevitable tantrum.

Because girls aren't psychic - but thank God for instinct and intuition.

And the apologists poured out. It wasn't misogyny because look, he killed more men! - despite the videos and the manifesto and forum posts in which he declared his hatred for women and that he was going to kill as many as possible, and the fact that he only failed because he was utterly incompetent even at being a super-villain. It wasn't misogyny, because look, he had Aspergers, and oh why did no one get him treatment! - despite the fact that autism isn't a mental illness, the mentally ill are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence, he was receiving help and his family did attempt to get him committed out of fear he was a threat to himself and others. It wasn't misogyny, because he was probably gay! - and what the fuck is in the water over at Fox News? Seriously now.

And worse, there were the creepy comments. "If even one girl had put out..." What? Pussy would have cured him? No. Or the NYPost's naming and shaming of a girl from grade school that didn't even remember the asshole, though her father did - specifically, he remembered him as a creepy little fuck.

May ended with women on Twitter sharing times they were harassed, intimidated or assaulted - and being harangued by men who were upset because this conversation about women being harassed, intimidated and assaulted was not taking place within the context of how it hurt men to be associated with this and discussed this way. They insisted that the conversation must begin with how feminists discuss men, and must include caveats that specifically let certain men (them) off the hook, because somehow, simply saying that a man raped you and the police didn't take it seriously is slandering all men, because this is really all about men's feelings, isn't it?

So let's start June off better, with Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds, in which a nerdy guy calls out the pop culture nerd narrative as insulting to and unhealthy for nerdy guys and women alike.
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (SCIENCE!)
A conversation observed, paraphrased and annotated:

Naive poster: "My friend is a nurse and washes her hands all the time, but I looked at her lotion and it's full of all these chemicals. I'm going to make her some all-natural homemade lotion! With coconut oil, and sunflower oil, and..."

Note: Many medical facilities use latex gloves and barriers. Oil-based products break down latex. This is a bad, bad idea.

Helpful people: "Since your friend works with sick people, sterilizing your equipment and using a preservative is a must. This is usually the problem people run into with homemade lotions."

TRUE. Lotions are water-based, and water-based products are almost guaranteed to succumb to mold and bacterial growth eventually, even with a preservative. Products made without a preservative should be refrigerated and used within a month, and not on broken skin, because seriously y'all, cooties.

Naive poster: "How does a preservative keep someone from spreading infection? Pshaw!"

...ungh.

Helpful people: "It keeps bacteria from growing in the lotion. The lotion she spreads on her hands. The hands she touches equipment and sick people with."

Not at all helpful people:
- "You can just use vitamin E."
- "Or grapefruit extract."
- "I like rosemary oleoresin."
- "Essential oils make great natural preservatives."

Helpful people: "No, none of those things are preservatives. Several are antioxidants. They prolong the life of the oils, but they don't stop bacteria and fungi from growing in the product."

Not at all helpful people: "I don't use water in my lotions, just aloe juice, so it's not an issue for me."

Helpful people: "Aloe juice is water-based. Juices in general are still water-based. Is your lotion made with liquid? Then you still need a preservative."

People who work in an actual medical setting: "Guys, the products we're allowed to use are strictly regulated for exactly these reasons. Also, oil-based products break down latex."

See?

Scoffing scofferson: "Don't all lotions contain oils? Harumph and pshaw."

No. For example, products made for industries that use latex--

Scoffing scofferson: "Sounds like more chemicals to me."

And this is why you should be a little more cautious when buying handmade personal care products, especially from folks throwing around the terms 'all-natural', 'preservative-free', 'herbal', and (especially) 'great for kids': because good intentions are no substitute for actually knowing what the fuck you're doing before you put the health of total strangers at risk.
mokie: Red-haired punk Vyvyan makes rude gestures at the viewer (snotty)
I need a word for the uncomfortable feeling of realizing you're the smartest person in a conversation.

I don't mean the smug belief that you're the smartest person present, or the haughty irritated glee of having the rightest opinion and why won't everyone just shut up and admit it already. No, I mean the awkward, embarrassed feeling when you think you're casually answering a question, only to realize that the other person thinks they're winning an argument you didn't even know you were having. You know, the moment you realize that not only do they not understand what you said, they're not capable of understanding it, because they really don't grasp how it works--be it science, medicine, English grammar, etc. And yet they're convinced that they're totally rocking that shit.

And then I need a word for the other side of the table: when you're pretty sure you're rocking that shit, but that little voice in the back of your head whispers, Maybe you're just not getting it.

For instance, homemade soap. Occasionally when washing my hands at someone else's house or purchasing a bar from a highly praised veteran soapmaker, I'll get irritated at the underwhelming performance. Terrible lather, a formulation clearly geared toward hardness rather than function, or toward squeaky cleanness at the expense of moisturizing, etc. I've dropped bars back into dishes and said aloud, "My soap is better than this." Even though I know that some people formulate for harder/softer water than mine, that one person's moisturizing bar is another person's 'slimy feeling' bar, that a formula that works perfectly for one person may be irritating to someone else, and so on. I know all this, because that's part of why I make my own soap--so I can have a bar that works just the way I want it, with the factors facing me, like my building's crazy-ass hard water.

All the same, I look at packaging, and that list of fancy-pants oils, and I think, "Who makes a coconut-based soap and uses olive just to superfat? You just gave me sandpaper fingers!" I stand there, all irate because my soap is better and they have years more experience than I do, and they have no right, no right at all to not whip my soap's ass. (I know, I can't even be cocky right.) And in the back of my head, there's that voice: What if my soap is so wrong, I just don't even know it?

Except when someone sheepishly points to a soap I purchased but they think I made, and says, "That one doesn't really lather." Then I am vindicated, goddammit.
mokie: A cardinal sits on an icy winter branch (cold)
There's nothing like being slammed with work to steal all the words right out of me.

It doesn't help that a large part of the work involves Googling terminology from specific fields. One fashion-related writing job, and for the next week Amazon and Buy.com send me emails about great sales in leggings, while Pinterest has oh so many fashion boards to share...
mokie: Clue's Ms White saying, "Flames on the sides of my face" (irritated)
"Is that canned chicken?"

With two bowls of slow-cooked and shredded chicken breast in the fridge? No. Why would I open a can of shredded chicken when I already have shredded chicken?

Ugh.

I prefer fresh ingredients over tinned veggies and heavily processed boxfuuds, not out of a puritanical fear of any edibles that come from a container but because I'm cheap: ingredients go farther than prepackaged meals, and I don't have to worry about the sugar/salt/fat tango*, or the corn/dairy industry shoehorning in fillers to earn those subsidies. I keep a good supply of tinned and boxed food on hand for weather troubles and scheduling issues, but generally access to fresh food isn't an issue, since I live within walking distance of two supermarkets and a summer veggie stand. Time isn't even an issue: in the same time it takes a Pinterest mama to pull up a "3 cans + 2 boxes = homemade meal!" recipe, open her boxes, Instagram it and throw it in the oven, I can have my ingredients sliced, diced and cooking.

It just doesn't make sense to rely on boxfuuds in my situation.

If I don't tell older relatives what the meal is made of, it's the tastiest damn thing they've ever put in their mouths. If I reveal that a meal doesn't contain at least one can of Campbell's Cream Of Soup, or one box of Cheezy Noodle Product, they look at the dish like it's toxic. I don't know if it's generally generational or just my family, but there seems to be some kind of deep distrust of, well, cooking. Like it's not food unless someone opened a box.

And forget leftovers. Forget any big meal meant to store or stretch over several days, unless it's boiled (to death) ham'n'beans. "Eh. I'm not in the mood for that." Mood? You don't get to be in the mood to waste $15 of chicken that you requested.

"Is that canned chicken?" Would she know the difference without asking? Nope. And yet she didn't want it unless it came from a can.

No wonder my grandfather was such a cheap bastard, if this was what he was up against.

If you're not quite ranted out after all this, I offer: The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater


* It's difficult to maintain tastiness in a product meant to sit on a shelf for months at a time. Boxfuuds therefore rely a lot on salt, sugar and fat for flavor. If the box claims to be low in one, look over the ingredients carefully, because it's probably high in one (or both) of the others to make up for the cut.
mokie: Man with an old computer monitor for a head drinks through a straw (eljay drama)
A new reader left an awkward comment a few months ago. Introductory comments are always awkward, so I blew it off. His journal featured a few short random entries packed around various event announcements. (I don't remember what for. They weren't my cuppa.) I figured maybe he was just dropping comments around like business cards, hoping to find eyeballs for his cause. I decided to follow-back anyway, because test-driving new journals is part of the fun of community journalling sites.

He left two perfectly normal conversational comments. Not in a row, no--two in his brief time following me. Two. The rest were uncomfortable, preachy diatribes often only tangentially related to what I'd posted. I quickly learned to cringe when an email arrived telling me he'd commented.

I let things slide at first, since I'm an expert at saying the wrong thing the wrong way, coming across like a know-it-all and generally putting my foot in my mouth. (New journal title! mokievision: making an ass of myself since 2000!) But when he got pissy at me over my Newtown post, I was done. Not because of the gun debate, but because I refuse to discuss issues with someone whose response to plain logic is to throw a fit and an insult.*

In going back through those months to tag them properly (because I <3 tags), I kept stumbling on his assorted comments, except without my benefit-of-the-doubt hat on they just look like a pattern of assholish behavior--behavior I allowed him to get away with because I was too polite to put a stop to it sooner.

So I broke one of my own rules and deleted him. All of his comments, everywhere I found them. I don't remember ever deleting comments before, except for the occasional spam clean-up, and I don't like doing it, because even angry comments usually add context to the discussions and entries. But dammit, the man derailed a freaking book review to humblebrag about how many languages he could read. That should count as canned meat of some kind.

Edited to add: dracunculusdracunculus pointed out the Five Geek Social Fallacies, which explores why geeks sometimes put up with bad behavior instead of drawing boundaries. It's so on-target that it almost hurts. The most relevant of the five: you can't toss a jerk out of your circle because ostracizing a jerk is worse than whatever behavior makes the jerk a jerk, and you can't criticize a jerk's behavior because friendship means never, ever calling someone on their bad behavior.


* By 'plain logic', I mean that I pointed out several of the things he was repeating were either unproven, such as anything involving the killer's medical history; had been disproved, such as that Israel arms its teachers; or were plain wrong, like his reference to Asperger's as a mental illness. I also asked him to offer a source for his gun statistics, since they didn't match other sources I was seeing, and suggested twice that we seemed to simply be at odds on the whole topic and should just agree to disagree.

His response was to pull 90° conversational turns any time he was corrected/questioned, pull some more numbers out of his ass, and seize upon "agree to disagree" as some demented proof that he was winning some debate that only he had agreed to have. I finally insisted on seeing some sources, at which point he metaphorically threw himself to the floor and whined that I was more in favor of gun control than I claimed (i.e. tried to tell me what my opinion really was), because I wouldn't respect his authoritah and let him just make shit up without calling him on it.
mokie: Cartoon of an angry tea pot raging (drink tea)
What's the secret to green tea, mokie?

Time and temperature, mokie. Mostly time.

Experts suggest water heated to 160 - 180 °F for green tea, 190-ish °F for oolong and 212 °F for black, and argue over 140 °F or 212 °F for white, presumably debating whether to lower the temp because of the lower oxidation or raise it since herbals are given a full boil. Herbal experts, meanwhile, huff that just as you can't boil all teas, you can't boil all tisanes. (That's the proper name for an herbal tea, since they don't actually contain, you know, tea.) And yet more expert experts point out that there's a difference between Japanese and Chinese greens, and spring-plucked and summer-plucked greens. All that's before you even get into the Celsius conversions or the debate over whether greens should be steeped just 1 minute or 7 minutes...

And they wonder why green tea didn't take off in the US until Lipton started bottling it.

Let me make your life easier the Chinese granny way: 'shrimp eyes'.

For black tea, your water needs to come to a full raging boil, but when you put on the water for green tea, wait for little bubbles rising to the top, the size of--you guessed it--shrimp eyes. The next two steps up are 'crab eyes' and 'fish eyes', and they're well within the green tea range. If you think your bubbles are too big, or you've just lost track of time and hit full boil, turn the pot off and let it sit a minute or two. With a bit of practice, you'll be able to tell where your water is just by the sound of the kettle.

That said, time is the killer. Water that's too hot may leave you with a bitter green, but most greens, including those you're going to pick up from the shops, also become bitter or astringent if they're steeped too long. Most packaging on green teas is oblivious to this; people from countries that drink sugary coffee milkshakes and sugary milky black tea are told to steep their green teas up to 7 minutes, as if to confirm the healthy benefits of green tea we must first make it taste godawful. Trust me and aim for 3 minutes; if your cup is too weak/strong, you'll at least have a good reference point for adjusting the timing on the next pot.

Now that's out of the way...

What's the biggest problem with flowering teas, mokie?

Time and temperature, mokie. Mostly time.

First, let me explain (finally, halfway down the entry) that flowering teas are whole tea leaves tied together in such a way that, as they steep, they 'bloom' from a hard round ball into a floating 'flower' in the pot, often with actual flowers like jasmine at the center. It's also, according to some, a very pretty way to sell off really outdated tea stock, and I believe it, since I haven't had any yet that didn't taste stale.

Second, there's the issue of steeping time. A flowering tea starts out as a hard bound ball o' tea, but tea leaves need room to move and infuse--that's why bagged tea is chopped into tiny pieces (more surface area), and why tea balls are great for corralling herbs and herbals, but not so great for actual teas. It can take anywhere from 3 - 7 minutes for the outer leaves of a flowering tea to infuse enough that they unfold, and that means that while the outer leaves are oversteeping, the inner leaves aren't getting much room to infuse and expand at all. You can easily end up with a contrarily astringent cup of weak tea.

Which I did.

In the Bag:
Oh look, the actual review! The brand in the cup today is Primula's flowering green jasmine tea. It has several negative Amazon reviews which mention that the customers' tea arrived already several years old judging by the 'manufacture' date and/or expired. I find this perversely funny, since, again, flowering teas seem to be made exclusively from stale tea.

In the bag, this is a little knobby ball that smells a little dusty. No jasmine scent.

The Steepening:
Took forever.

The unfolding of the leaves and flowers into a little bouquet is the real point of flowering teas (more on that below), but this one underwhelmed me. The leaves are rolled and bound in such a way that it didn't gently bloom into a dainty bouquet, awaiting the oohs and aahs of onlookers, as much as it porcupined out into a delicate tea mine, awaiting passing U-boats.

The scent was also disappointing. The mark of any good jasmine tea is its ability to make you forget you're supposed to drink it, because you're too busy inhaling the aroma wafting off the pot, but jasmine barely showed up to the party in this tea.

The Verdict:
Weak, astringent, and not even particularly jasmine-ish? Blah.

I'll admit that the primary draw of flowering teas isn't the cup but the pot: they're not drinking teas, they're watching teas. If you're hosting a little girl's tea party (raiding party, whatever), and everyone's going to drink their flower tea with a heaping spoon of sugar and a handful of cookies anyway, then it's not a problem. They're also not too shabby for that relative who'll drink it and think, "Ah, so that's what a fancy tea tastes like," and then return to her Diet Coke quite pleased at having had fancy tea that one time.

If you want a drinking tea, though, flowering teas aren't the way to go. And if you want a watching tea, you can certainly do better than Primula's.
mokie: Red and Kitty Foreman are obviously exasperated (disappointed)
After watching George Romero's Land of the Dead a few days ago and Rob Zombie's Halloween tonight, I feel like starting a movie review series entitled, "I see what you were trying to do, and here's why it didn't work."

I see the earnest effort. I see the love. But I also see where they fucked up (yes, including making the film at all) and damn, it hurts.

Conspiracies 'R Us

Thursday, 15 November 2012 11:52 am
mokie: Red and Kitty Foreman are obviously exasperated (disappointed)
I will not dream about politics tonight. I will not dream about politics tonight. I will not dream about politics tonight...1

But I'll sure as hell write about it. I seem to be writing more about politics now than I did during the year leading up to this election.

For a few minutes this week past, it seemed as if the crazy spell was broken. The shrieking prophets of doom were temporarily dumbstruck. The viewers blinked out the sleepy dust, stretched and asked what time it was. The moderates dared to raise their hands and suggest rethinking the party's policy of political martial law. Everyone took a little step back from the Cliffs of Insanity.

A few folks asked if we could stop catering to the fringe now, and start work on "a message that works for people who represent all of America."2 There were many nods; turning a blind eye to the tinfoil behatted birthers was not only embarrassing, it was also counterproductive in reaching out to "a segment of society whose members have often been discriminated against through the types of disqualification-hunts that [rabid birther] Donald Trump engaged in so vigorously."3 And, as liberal Rachel Maddow pointed out (with only moderate gloating), the idea behind the two-party system is that those two parties come at problems from two different angles and hash it out; it breaks down if one party dedicates itself entirely to keeping anything at all from getting done in the name of destroying the political career of one particular president.

Alas, it was not meant to be. Or at least, not yet.

Despite his attempt at a classy concession speech, Romney threw out a snarky parting shot about Obama winning on the basis of 'gifts' to targeted voters. The gist of the message is common sense: the Democratic campaign tailored its approach to a wide range of voting blocs, emphasizing Obama's stance on reproductive rights to female voters, on immigration issues to Latino voters, on student loans to young voters, etc.--while the Republican campaign seemed to target only angry white guy voters. The language of the message, on the other hand, is loaded with the same angry white guy rhetoric that the party has used for four years to slyly stir Teapublicans into a foaming rage of willful misunderstanding. Off in a family room somewhere, someone's uncle is ranting at his family that Obama literally handed out presents in exchange for votes, and that's the goal of this rhetoric. The stupid, counterproductive goal.

And now the conspiracy engines at Fox News have smelled fresh blood, proclaiming voter fraud because areas of Pennsylvania went 100% to Obama. It seems incomprehensible to them that in predominantly black urban areas, Obama got nearly all of the vote, despite the campaign writing off black voters and urban voters in the first place, and pre-election polls showing Romney's support among black voters to be so ridiculously low that it registered as 0%. But again, beneath the bewilderment that they can't find a single Romney voter in some areas, the message they're sending is one of disenfranchisement: there shouldn't be that many black people voting, and if there are, it must be fraud. It can't be that they were motivated to get out and vote--it must be that they're dishonest and cheating the system.

With the Right torn between those who want to 'double-down' and those who want to pull back to a more moderate platform, I've seen many suggestions that this is not the end of our partisan woes, but just the beginning of the GOP's own less-than-civil war.


1 I wrote this bit last night, and it worked! I didn't dream of politics! I dreamt of editing text...
2 "David Frum: Why Mitt Romney Lost the 2012 Presidential Election (VIDEO)," The Huffington Post 14 November 2012.
3 John Dickerson, "Why Romney Never Saw It Coming," Slate 9 November 2012.
mokie: A book with scissors in them, and text, "Grrr... bad book!" (reading boo)
"The Great God Pan," by Arthur Machen
Edition: Manybooks.net's plain text

Info
Originally published in 1890, this is reckoned by many to be not just one of the greatest works of weird fiction--that is, anything nowadays described as 'Lovecraftian'*--but one of the greatest horror stories ever written. It was also "widely denounced by the press as degenerate and horrific because of its decadent style and sexual content," according to the Wikipedia article on the story, which may contain spoilers. For the curious, I'd suggest The Kind of Face You Hate's review, which definitely contains spoilers.

Story
Dr. Raymond believes that man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality, but there is, unseen by most, an underworld--a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit: a dark side. And by ever so slightly nicking the brain of his foundling (and why not? Finders keepers!), he can enable her to see that dark side, commonly referred to as 'the great god Pan'. Hijinks ensue!

Progress
Not much, but maybe you'll understand why if I offer a quote.
I saw a paragraph the other day about Digby's theory, and Browne Faber's discoveries. Theories and discoveries! Where they are standing now, I stood fifteen years ago, and I need not tell you that I have not been standing still for the last fifteen years. It will be enough if I say that five years ago I made the discovery that I alluded to when I said that ten years ago I reached the goal.
...yeah.

When youngsters grouse about old horror movies, half the complaint comes down to them expecting our post-modern horror experience. The girl doesn't go down to investigate the creepy noise in the basement anymore because the audience believes they wouldn't, because they'd know better than to do something stupid like that. This isn't true, of course--people investigate spooky sounds all the time, because we know we're not in a horror movie. Yet they expect characters to act with meta knowledge: to know they're in a horror movie; to know everyone else has died a horrific death, even if it was at a completely different location the character has not yet visited; to know there's a crazed man in a mask running around killing people, even if they've not yet seen him. Audiences expect meta knowledge, genre savvy behavior and stupid jokes, and then wonder why scary movies aren't scary anymore.

But that's a whole different rant.

The other half of the complaint comes down to the trappings of the story: the way the characters talk, the way the actors act, even the structure of the story. My own nephew, zombie lover extraordinaire, refuses to watch Night of the Living Dead because it's in black-and-white. Sometimes these trappings are just too great an obstacle, and the viewer can't put themselves into the story.

I'm trying not to be that person here, but I have to admit, old-fashioned writing just isn't my cup of meat. I find it tedious to slog through and obnoxiously affected. And yet I have no problem with faux old-fashioned writing as a stylistic device. Go fig.

[Reading "The Great God Pan": And I thought I was wordy (12 Nov '12) / All hints, no happenings (25 Jan '13)]


* Some draw a distinction between 'weird fiction' and 'Lovecraftian horror' as subgenres. The reasons why are many and varied, but mostly serve to point out how 'genre' is an incredibly sloppy, slapdash and ineffectual organizational system.
mokie: Yakitate Japan straight man Kawachi  flails at a peacock flapping on his head (meh)
I keep vowing to improve my social skills, and I keep failing miserably at it.

No, I'm not fishing for reassurance. I'm very aware of my flaws in this regard, that's all. I don't remember birthdays, anniversaries or holidays. I rarely send presents, and when I do it's almost never on time or in alignment with the proper social etiquette for such things. (Oh hullo, box that I should have sent dracunculusdracunculus ages ago. Oh, her birthday was last month. Double fail!) I don't hang out much, and I don't like hanging out that involves spending money because I feel guilty over what I'm not spending money on instead, like, say, that new fridge. Or pants. Egads, do I need new pants. I've never mastered the art of dropping in on people, and I always feel creepy when I'm visiting folks just by virtue of being in the room. For example, I'm pretty sure saying that after bringing up pants was pretty creepy.

When you think about it, it's kind of amazing that I've even made friends. And not out of yarn and plasticine, if you dig my meaning.

Back in the retail days, I promised myself I'd hang out with the co-worker friends once in a while, but their timing was insane. Who wants to end an 8-hour shift in a popular store where you're surrounded by people by going to a popular bar where you'll be surrounded by people? Everyone except me, as it turns out. My full-time schedule frustrated non-work friends too, because I was reluctant to give up one of my days off--my few, precious, people-free days off--and not at all willing to 'just tell the boss you can't work that day.'

I'll give them the former, because that's all me being a hermit. But the latter? Asking me to either blow off an already set work day or go to war to rearrange it so that I can go hang out with someone who doesn't understand, "I'm working"? Who asks that? (In my experience, the guy who was on his third write-up and about to be fired, the girl who complained that management wouldn't give her the hours she thought she deserved, and that one relative who never understood why I took jobs so seriously, mostly because she rarely had one. But that was supposed to be rhetorical.)

So I thought it was all explained, all just bad timing combined with my crappy hours. Then I ditched it all for the freelancing gig, which theoretically means I can set my own hours, or at least carve out more of them for other people, and instead I've only gotten worse about it.

Do I prioritize work first because it's so sporadic that I don't dare take it for granted? Sometimes, yes. Like the party I was actually looking forward to and planning on attending up until an hour beforehand, when I had to admit defeat and settle in for the night to fix an exploded work project that was due omgrightnow. I'm still grumpy about that, but it was a big next-month's-rent gig and I couldn't afford to blow it off.

And sometimes, when a nine-to-fiver tells me, "Now that I'm off we should go do something," as if I don't even have a schedule to be taken into consideration. It makes me want to hand them the latest mammoth undertaking and tell them, "No, finish that, then we'll go do something."

But other times I know that, even if the work is pouring in right now, it can wait and I should go be social, but then I tell myself, "But maybe if I get this done there will be more work, and what if urgent work comes in while I'm out? And going out means finding pants and spending money..."

There's nothing else for it but to keep trying, I guess. I wonder if concertina42Tina's game for getting together. Maybe we can go shopping for pants...
mokie: Text, "Fuck politics, I just want to burn shit down" (politics)
The upside of getting steady work is that it means steady pay.

The downside is that, because it's writing and editing, by the end of the day I don't feel like doing more digging and sorting and taping-together of meaningful words. So I piece together a few notes for a post or a rant, and vow to come back and flesh it out the next day. A few weeks later I spot the file, when the world and I are both out of steam on the issue.

For example, the whole contraception kerfluffle. Who said anything about asking taxpayers to pay for birth control? Most people just want their own insurance, insurance that they pay for with their premiums and their co-pays, to cover their medical needs adequately. And contraception is medication: forms of contraception are used to treat a variety of medical needs of which birth control is indeed one, but only one--and not a damn one of those medical needs is anybody's business but the patient's and her doctor's. For that matter, neither is her sex life. No woman should be obliged to give her employer her medical records and full disclosure of how much dick she is or isn't getting to justify receiving medication that her doctor prescribed.

Why should anyone's employer get a say in their medical care anyway? Who made CEOs experts in health care? Would a Muslim employer get to override a heart transplant if doctors decided that I needed a baboon heart? Would a Jehovah's Witness have a say in whether I received a vital blood transfusion? Would a Scientologist get to nix my prescription for antidepressants and send me in for an 'audit' instead? Would I have to sit down in a Christian Science prayer circle and hope that fixed a cancerous mass instead of seeking actual medical attention? If it's all about not asking an employer to violate his 'morals and beliefs', will racists be able to dictate that their employees only see white doctors? My freedom of religion should include the right not to have my employer's religion dictate my health care choices.

But I'm all out of rant about it. Now it's just a sad resignation to the idea that some people don't get how contraception works or why it's necessary.

Or the whole SOPA/PIPA debacle. I saved a lovely quote from TechDirt just for the occasion, but even with Obama hinting at another round of that inanity, I can't work up the oomph to do more than nod:
"What they might not have known -- because the RIAA never wants to admit this -- is that the overall music industry is growing, not shrinking. Sure, the dollar value of music sales has shrunk, and perhaps it's because of file sharing, but the overall music industry -- including things like concerts, licensing and publishing -- has continued to rise, quite significantly. More importantly, these are the parts of the business where artists actually keep a much larger percentage of the money -- meaning that artists are significantly better off today than they were in the past, contrary to what Sherman and the RIAA will tell you."
For example: Bandcamp and Noisetrade. Go forth and support an artist on their own terms.

But I digress.

Now that work has quieted down some and I can think up words for fun and pleasure again, I've found I'm pretty much out of things to apply them to.
mokie: Sleepy hobbit Will Graham naps on a couch (tired)
While cruising links, I wandered past two stories.

The first is of a popular new novel that was originally published as fanfiction, and which has some writerly blogs/groups upset. They point out that the author only changed the names in her story, nothing more, and that she drummed up support for her novel within fandom. Pro-fanfic, they question the integrity of exploiting another author's work for profit, and exploiting the fan base at all.

The second was about a self-published romance author, treasurer for the Romance Writers of America (networking: it's what's for dinner), unmasked as a plagiarist. Upon being caught, she claimed she'd downloaded the original story to read but mistakenly saved it to her writing folder and uploaded it for sale by mistake--a story which didn't explain the changed title or character names. As more examples rolled in from her other works, she confessed that she was guilty, resigned her role, and tried to fade back into obscurity.

Somewhere in the tangled mass of comments and debate for these two stories, someone made the sad observation that there had been quite a few stories of self-published authors revealed as plagiarists in the past year. The usual slew of "I don't see how they think they can get away with it" responses came up, but a few pressed a different angle...

There are some people who really believe that changing just enough counts--that taking Steve in Wichita and making him Mike in Dubuque makes the story uniquely their own, even if most of the words are the same and in the same order as Steve's Wichita adventures. They really believe they can take a favorite scene, change it just a little--plug in their characters, reword a sentence or two--and it's theirs. They completely misunderstand what is meant by 'taking inspiration' from a beloved story.

They're not intentionally out to trick or defraud anyone, or claiming their work is a remix. They simply don't recognize what they're doing as plagiarism. In their minds, plagiarism is exact copying. If it's Dubuque, and the big showdown doesn't feature all the same elements, that's different enough to count as an homage, right? (No.)

I don't mean the unconscious copies, words or sounds or ideas that quietly take up residence in the back of our heads and pop up a year or ten later pretending to be original ideas, like the songwriters who play a riff and don't realize it comes from "The Wizard of Oz," or authors who write a line and fall in love with it, only to have it pointed out later that it's an obscure movie quote. I remember jabbering about pulling squid out of my nose, and not realizing until later that the image in my head was a medicated hybrid of a short story I'd been reading and someone's blog post; I can only imagine how much more embarrassing that kind of thing is when it's, say, a pop star being called out for ripping off a twenty-year-old Madonna song. Or how frustrating, given that Madonna twenty years ago was openly and intentionally ripping off her contemporaries. But I digress. And embarrass myself by citing the Gaga/Madonna thing. Moving on.

I'm also not slamming self-publishing or fanfiction. Quite the opposite: I think before self-publishing became so easy, these authors would have participated longer in fanfiction, participated in some competitions, and been poked (or seen someone else poked) for their lifting of a line. Or maybe they'd have taken a creative writing course or two, participated in a critique circle, and received a polite but pointed comment about their work being too 'derivative', and that they should look into the exact meaning of plagiarism. Maybe they would have just started a blog, lifted someone else's material, and been on the end of some flamey comments and emails.

The point is, there's been so much debate about the importance/unimportance of the traditional 'gatekeepers' in publishing, snark about the whole world being one's slushpile vs. defiant optimism about levelling playing fields, and so forth. But hand in hand with that, there's also the diminished importance of the small-scale writerly training grounds. Maybe it isn't so much that authors used to have to pay their dues to earn a traditional contract, but that these spaces allowed them to make mistakes semi-privately, whereas now Google sees all and remembers all.

Or, more likely, I'm overthinking this entirely because I've been so loaded with work these past few months that this is the first chance I've had to sit down and overthink a couple of silly articles.

Hi, journal! I've missed you!
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
Unless you want to. But I wouldn't recommend it. There's a lot of yelling, and you've pretty well sorted out the sides within the first few minutes. Really, I only read up for about ten minutes before going off to play with kittens instead. But there was an interesting thing, so let's get to that!

A friend linked a blog rant about sexism in the atheist community, inspired by a recent teapot tempest. The saucers flew when one woman vlogged about having given a talk on sexism only to later find herself followed into an elevator at 4am by a convention attendee who asked her to come back to his room to chat over coffee. She told the story to point out that, to a woman, being caught alone and propositioned late at night in an elevator by a stranger was creepy, and "Guys, don't do that."

(And a sad bit of brain sighs and points out how many guys I've known who would conclude that a woman who talks about sex at a convention must be a woman who puts out... Hey baby, how about some coffee?)

Guys flew into a rage. By God, they had the right to flirt and women needed to just man up and get over this silly male-phobic paranoia of theirs!

Gals sighed. Which is it? Are women overreacting when they get creeped out by a guy following them late at night, or are they not careful enough if they get raped by a guy who followed them late at night?

Men huffed. He probably didn't intend to 'corner her.' All he did was ask if she wanted to go back to his room! If a man can't even ask a woman out...

Women huffed. It's the situation. You don't follow a woman at 4am to an isolated spot and expect her not to find that creepy! You don't corner her alone--however briefly, however large the hotel, whatever the statistics on stranger rape and elevators--in an enclosed space late at night! And furthermore, had she agreed to this offer and he did turn out to be a creep, society would have said she was asking for it, because society says, "Coffee in his hotel room at 4am? Yeah, he meant 'sex,' and you should have known that."

Men huffed again. This guy didn't rape her! He didn't lay a hand on her! He asked her out, she shot him down, and that's all! She assumed he might be a creep based on anti-man prejudice just because he followed her onto an elevator!

Women facepalmed, because society gives women endless grief and lecturing about exactly this sort of situation. "It's your job to be aware of your surroundings and not put yourself in risky situations!"

At best, with the biggest possible benefit of the doubt forwarded to him, this guy was completely oblivious to their surroundings and the context they lent his actions. Perhaps not an active creeper, but like the guy who walks up to the widow at the funeral and says, "So, you're single now, right?" Do you have the right? Sure. Is it still creepy? Fuck, yes! It's just not the right time or place, dude.

Anyhow, I spent ten-odd minutes flitting through this morass and encountered the most terrible, wonderful, and sad wording I've seen to describe the female dilemma: Schrodinger's rapist.

That guy who very obviously wants to talk to you as he follows you across the parking lot after the store closes? He could just want to talk. Or he could be a rapist. You can't know until...

Society wants to maintain women in a similar state of possibility. If he does nothing, you are obviously a paranoid and over-reactive girl who's just prejudiced against males. If he assaults you, you are clearly a careless and stupid girl who doesn't pay any attention to her surroundings. You must give men the benefit of the doubt, but if he's proven guilty, it also proves you were stupid enough to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, there is a simpler, more objective take on this, completely separate from exclamation marks and discussions of privilege and sexism. Off to the sides of this hubbub, I saw men and women agreeing that this was creepy simply as a breech of Small Enclosed Public Space Etiquette: face forward, no conversation, keep any necessary requests brief and to the point, and pretend you smell nothing. This is the etiquette for tight halls, restrooms, urinals and elevators alike.

And that's where I stand, because nobody who walks up to you in a small enclosed public space at 4am wanting to chat is ever not creepy.
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (nerdy)
Time Magazine (yes, again) discusses why the rich shoplift more than the poor, but doesn't ask why store employees are still following poor people around the aisles instead of more affluent customers (answer: management doesn't care about pissing off poor people), or even when $70,000 a year became "rich," because isn't that closer to "middle-class" and doesn't that put a somewhat different spin on this?
In the book, you cite a study that finds Americans with incomes of $70,000 a year shoplift 30% more than those earning up to $20,000. Why is that?

Entitlement is certainly a factor. Rage is a factor. A lot of people feel that they are the victims in whatever way — whether it’s their life circumstances, or that they’re the victims of a larger economic plot — like Bernie Madoff. There’s this idea of avenging yourself on an impersonal entity, like a store. You see what others have — like on TMZ — and you think, ‘What difference does this make?’
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
I dreamt I walked into the old house to find three homeless junkies lounging around, one of whom I knew as a friendly acquaintance. I pulled family aside to talk, trying to get the idea across that they couldn't just let people come inside and hang, but they weren't getting it. So I retrieved $25 that I owed my sister and hid it in a glass.

The friendly junkie left, and I didn't dare look in the glass, but I didn't need to either--I already knew the money was gone.

You can like someone, even love them, and still not trust them.
mokie: Clue's Ms White saying, "Flames on the sides of my face" (angry)
Attention gay and straight folks:

You don't get it both ways.

Heterosexuals, if sexuality is a choice then you have made a conscious decision not to fuck members of your own gender, and nature has nothing to do with it. Not attracted to members of your own gender? Please see: Not a choice.

Homosexuals, if sexuality is not a choice then bisexuals are not 'indecisive' or 'on the fence' but simply hardwired for a wider range than you are, and you need to get the fuck over it already. "Not a choice" doesn't mean "pick a side and stay there."

Heterosexuals scoffing that bisexuals are just trying to be cool: you're just bitter because she wouldn't be interested even if you had a vagina. Move on.

Sincerely,
People who do get it both ways

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mokie: Earthrise seen from the moon (Default)
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