Saturday, October 20, 2018

Podcast #9 w/#1 Marmaduke Fan & Disney Princess Nonsense

The return of my podcast went well -- audio issues aside. If you were unable to watch the stream live (I know I was up against some big channels whose audiences are my targets), click play below:

Now, for the rest of this post, I'm going to expand on my brief remarks regarding one of this weekend's controversies du jour: the supposed sexism of Snow White, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid.

I've always been a little skeptical of the romantic tropes featured in many Disney princess films. I don't think you can know someone is your "true love" the instant you meet them; infatuation can happen in a split second, perhaps, but love requires conversation and a great deal of time in your potential partner's company. And truthfully, if I had girls who were old enough to be interested in boys, I probably would remind them that Disney movies are (often sanitized) re-tellings of classic fairy tales whose deep historical purpose was not to serve as a mere guidebook to dating in the real world. However --

As I mentioned in last night's broadcast, I watched Snow White yesterday for the first time since my childhood, and yes: the fact that the prince is essentially a non-entity in that film does bother me at the superficial level. But does that mean I think Snow White is sexist -- or that it teaches terrible lessons about consent? No.

Granted, Snow White is a very stereotypically "feminine" character. She's frightened of the woods. Her vulnerability and beauty quickly attract a crowd of adorable forest creatures. She enjoys housework and basically mothering the dwarfs. But - mark me, feminists - I don't think there's anything wrong with this. There are plenty of nonfictional women who fit this mold. All of my own mother's talents - sewing, interior decorating, flower arranging, cooking - fall firmly into the "feminine" category, and I will fight anyone who attempts to argue that Mom, therefore, is not strong or worthy of admiration.

I think it's terribly confining and narrow to say that all women must be housewives. I think it's also terribly confining and narrow to say that all women must be butch, independent bad-asses. There is room in the world - and in fiction - for both types.

As I remarked somewhat clumsily last night, the feminist reading of Snow White also fails to see the ways in which the film gently lampoons men. Pre-Snow White, the dwarfs don't know how to keep a tidy house and are, apparently, totally clueless when it comes to table manners. One long sequence in the movie argues pretty explicitly that it takes a woman to remind men to wash and present themselves respectably for dinner. And I know - I know - that every single woman reading this right now is smiling and nodding because we have all seen this exact phenomenon in our own lives. I love you, gentlemen, but it wasn't for no reason that we girls joked about "the four smells of Morgan Hall," the all-male dorm at my first college.

When you get right down to it, Snow White is presented as the civilizing force. That's extraordinarily complimentary to women.

And the prince? The flat character who wakes Snow White from her coma with a kiss?  Twitter has done an okay job mocking the #MeToo hysteria over this moment, which has been replicated by happily married couples on many a morn since time immemorial, but I have yet to see anyone on my TL address the Christian cultural genesis of the original story and what its beats are actually supposed to signify. As I said, Snow White's eating of the poisoned apple is an undeniable allusion to Eden -- which means the prince, who resurrects Snow White after her apparent death, is meant to represent Christ, Who has rescued humanity from the death of original sin and will bring about the general resurrection at the end of time. Bottom line, we're talking about a literal deus ex machina here; thus, on a deep level, it doesn't matter that the prince has no apparent reason to love Snow White. Christ has no reason to love us either; His love is perfect and unconditional.

The feminist readings of Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, meanwhile, are just as shallow. That Cinderella suffers as much as she does and yet never becomes bitter - that she is able to remain kind and good and capable of forging real friendships - is a testament to her strength as a character, not her weakness. And I'll say it again: She isn't rescued by a man. She's rescued by little mice who are the beneficiaries of her compassion -- which means, in the end, she does rescue herself by being the sort of person who inspires heroism in others.

And Ariel's crush on Eric is only part of the reason she gives up her voice; she's also driven by a profound curiosity about the human world and a desperate desire to escape her father's strictures and strike out on her own. I was ten years old when The Little Mermaid was released, and because I was precocious and already a little rebellious, I deeply related to the yearning Ariel expresses in "Part of Your World," which goes far beyond the desire for romance.

This rush to condemn any creative work that doesn't hew to the strict, politically-correct script of 2018 is ahistorical, lacking in imagination, and frankly anti-human; we definitely shouldn't be encouraging children to read and interpret texts in accordance with said rush. Instead, we should be helping kids understand each story's context and should encourage them to have empathy for its author(s), who lived in radically different times and places and thus saw the world in radically different ways. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Mini Photo Journal: Columbus Day Weekend Adventures

Apologies for the lack of a post last Saturday. I was driving around the White Mountains like a normie enjoying the first signs of fall. See below for some of the photo evidence:

Real posts will resume next week. I'm resurrecting my Right Geek podcast next Friday night at 9e/8c with #1 Marmaduke Fan, a member of #Comicsgate who went to art school and thus experienced the fruits of the academic social justice ideology up close. I also plan to talk more about mass hysteria and that m-word we're not allowed to use to describe people who have completely lost their minds. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Is the USA Over?

Sarah Hoyt is probably going to smack me over the head for asking such a question, but I can't help but wonder: Is it time for a divorce? Should we just split the current US in two?

I can live with liberals. In many ways, I am a liberal -- at least in temperament. Though I have very firm opinions on what constitutes the "good life," I generally don't want the state to make my case for me via force of law. Additionally, old-style Democrats and I share many fundamental end goals. I want to alleviate poverty, narrow achievement gaps, help people who have fallen behind -- in essence, work towards a more egalitarian world. Old-style Democrats and I disagree on the type and quantity of the government intervention that is needed to achieve such a goal, but that's okay. Old-style Democrats and I can still discuss those differences and negotiate.

But the new left? The left that has swallowed today's Democrat Party? I can't negotiate with such people. How, pray tell, can I have a functional dialogue with anyone who denies that the truth - whatever it may be - is objective, universal, and accessible through empirical inquiry? How, pray tell, can I build workable public policy with anyone who believes I should be hounded out of society - or even locked up - for questioning the new left's consensus?

And that second question is not hyperbolic in the slightest. Recently, an unknown member of a campus LGBT group argued on Twitter that gulags are pretty great actually and should be used to punish anyone who opposes his/her/zir agenda. Meanwhile, this past week, a "professional" in the comics industry expressed shock that members of the Comicsgate community hadn't been jailed - yes, jailed - for criticizing minority creators. And what about the multiple conservative politicians whose private lives have been disrupted by screaming protestors who refuse to respect boundaries?

At best, they want us completely silenced and humiliated. At worst?

No, I can't "work with" those who are possessed by this diabolical ideology. And if I can't do that, I can't live in this country with them either. I can't live with people who crap all over due process just to indulge their bigotry and/or desire for revenge. I can't live with emotional abusers who accuse me and people like me of the nastiest things imaginable -- then gaslight us and tell us we're babies crying over nothing when, like normal human beings, we get pissed off. I can't live with anyone who flat out doesn't care about evidence, science, logic, or reason because their "lived experience" proves all.

Like Sarah Hoyt, I feel like I'm chained to a bunch of lunatics -- and I want to take a blow torch to that damned manacle. If there's another way to do this besides national dissolution, please tell me. Otherwise? What will be will be, and I won't be sad. In fact, I'll be dancing.

Because I'll finally be free.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Left Needs to Retire These Rhetorical Tics

(Or at least severely limit their use.)

It was probably a terrible mistake to get a Twitter account.

In my defense, my original intent was to follow a favorite kitten foster of mine; one of the kitties was sick, and I wanted access to breaking news on his condition. But before too long, I started following some favorite authors. Then some favorite YouTube personalities. Then...

274 follows later, my feed is full of absolute trash -- not because of the people I follow, thank God, but because of the stuff they retweet and criticize.

A significant minority in this country (and in the West in general) has gone absolutely insane. Many - including people I used to respect - have embraced a creed that not only rejects the basic foundations of liberal democracy but also seems to reject reason itself. Whether the correct label for this creed is "cultural Marxism," "post-modernism," "identity politics," or some other term not yet devised, the result of its adoption is the same: the wholesale destruction of critical thought. In thought's place, these ideologues deploy the tools of unthought: buzzwords, blanket insults, and ridiculous demands designed to silence dissenters in disputes both large and small.

Whether we're bickering over comic books or Supreme Court appointments, we keep getting bitten by the same intellectual mosquitoes. Can I exterminate them all by myself? Not in one blog post. Probably not even in a hundred blog posts. But right now, I can at least smack a few annoyances and, hopefully, entertain my readers in the process.

1. Believe All Women.

No. I'm sorry for the upcoming language, but that is bug-fuck crazy. Were these people never the targets of mean girls in junior high? Some women absolutely are evil enough to spread bullshit if it gives them a social advantage and/or sympathy points.

Sure: like male rapists, female pathological liars are very rare. But we don't even have to assume a large population of prospective malicious accusers to understand the importance of due process. We just have to understand some basic human psychology.

In brief: Our memories are not digital cameras. On the contrary, our memories are susceptible to influence. For example, in one study, participants who were asked to remember the sentence "the ball hit the window" later reported being told that "the ball broke the window." These people were sober, yet their own assumptions altered what their memories recorded. Do you really think the recollections of a drunken tryst are going to be any more reliable? Or the memories of something that happened more than three decades ago?

We cannot rely on one person's account of an event. That's why we presume the innocence of the accused until we can gather more evidence. Yes: a full-scale investigation and cross-examination is very stressful for someone who sincerely believes she's been the victim of a crime, but the alternative leads to Salem.

2. Stay in Your Lane.

When white people opine on race relations, this denial of the universal accessibility of the truth always manages to make an appearance. Recently, I tweeted the following reply:

"I have severe rheumatoid arthritis. I am an expert on how this has impacted me personally. But I would never presume that I am therefore more qualified to speak on RA than a board certified rheumatologist, even if he/she were healthy.

"My understanding of RA is pretty educated, but it's still a layman's understanding. Thus, it would be ridiculous for me to pass myself off as an absolute authority based just on my personal experience alone.

"Hell, I can't even speak for other sufferers of RA! There are commonalities among us sufferers that led to our diagnoses in the first place, but our disease courses are still going to be individualized based on severity, life situation, etc.

"The same is also going to be true for issues surrounding American race relations, gender, sexuality, etc. If you identify as a particular minority, you definitely have some important insights to share. But to declare yourself an absolute authority is wrong.

"'Outsiders' may have access to important data that are germane to the discussion. Your perceptions could be wrong, so have some humility and recognize the limitations of your viewpoint."

3. Alt-Right Hate Group.

There is such a thing as the alt-right, but it has a very specific, narrow definition. To be alt-right, one must believe that national identities are racial/ethnic in character -- that the idea of a nation-by-creed is fundamentally ridiculous. That's why members of the actual alt-right have attacked author Sarah Hoyt, a libertarian and extremely patriotic Portuguese-American immigrant, as a pseudo-American.

According to the left, however, Sarah is herself "alt-right." So am I. And so is anyone else who has participated in any or all of the consumer revolts that have dominated discussions in geekdom over the past several years. Gamergate, the Sad Puppies, Comicsgate -- all of these have been smeared as "alt-right hate groups" by leftwing journalists and creative "professionals" based on the thinnest of evidence. Why? Because they want to silence our critiques of popular culture and its increasingly obtrusive political tilt.

I'm not saying we've never been salty. We're human beings, after all. But have you noticed that SJW's keep using the same few lapses in judgment to build their weak-sauce case against us? When ConCarolinas rescinded its invitation to John Ringo this past year, for example, everyone defending the decision used the same Ravencon panel from twelve years ago as evidence that Ringo was a "sexual harasser." And whenever anyone wants to discredit prominent Comicsgate personality Richard C. Meyer - a.k.a. Diversity and Comics - they always, always dip into that one ill-advised "dark roast" from 2017 for ammunition. If Ringo and Meyer were as bad-bad-terribad as SJW's claim, we would have been presented with evidence of long-standing patterns of behavior a long time ago. But we haven't -- because they aren't.

Hey, we're imperfect. I'll cop to that. But that makes us neither "alt-right" nor members of a "hate group." See above. "Alt-right" has a meaning, and it's not "opposes identity politics" or "is generally conservative or libertarian" or even "criticizes the works and behavior of minority creators." The alt-right calls itself the alt-right precisely because it wants to distance itself from conventional rightwing beliefs. Thus, if you're calling ordinary individualist fans "alt-right," you either don't understand what you're talking about or you're being a dishonest prick.

4. Racist/Sexist/Homophobic.

Racism, sexism, and anti-gay sentiments also exist, but once again, the left is playing games with their definitions to mendaciously attack people they disagree with. If you're calling Frank Oz a homophobe simply because he won't accede to your wishes and agree that Bert/Ernie is canon, you are part of this problem. If you are calling fans sexist simply because they don't like the all-female Ghostbusters, you are part of this problem too.

The leftist's world is a bizarre world in which treating everyone the same is in fact proof you're a monster. The aforementioned Richard Meyer has repeatedly gone after Mark Waid and other straight white men for their unprofessional behavior and crappy product -- but since he's also gone after "creators-of-color" or LGBTQ creators for the same, he's a Nazi. As Meyer himself has accurately observed, "They hold minorities to a different and lower standard." Indeed they do. Why this hasn't been called out as rank bigotry is beyond me.

As a teacher in a majority-minority neighborhood, I understand that certain groups face extra challenges in the aggregate. But the solution to that is to provide struggling people from all groups whatever additional resources or encouragement they need to clear life's hurdles and meet the same standards demanded of everyone else -- not to treat them like helpless babes and tell them they don't have to "git gud" to succeed because they're oppressed and are therefore owed that success -- and the fawning praise that comes with it.

So what say you, readers? Are there other leftist nonsense arguments that you wish would just disappear? I encourage you to comment below!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Things That Make Steph Happy: Cells at Work

Over the past week, I bandied about some ideas for posts that would address the absolute trash fire that is the fandom and/or modern-day discourse in general -- but in the end, I decided to talk about something a little more fun. In the end, I decided to introduce you all to a treasure of a show that has brightened my Saturdays every week since mid-summer and may yet turn me into a full-blown weab.

In the end, I decided to talk about Cells at Work.

As one YouTube comment remarks, "I've never been this excited to see blood before." The setting of Cells at Work is the inside of an unspecified human body, and all of the principal characters are anthropomorphized blood cells, including:

Red Blood Cell AE3803, who starts off as a directionally-challenged ditz but actually becomes more competent as time goes on.

Neutrophil U1146, a hyper-dedicated white blood cell who screams "die, germ!" a lot and, oh by the way, also has a thing for Red. (Yes, this show will persuade you to start shipping blood cells. Just roll with it.)

The platelets, little kindergartners who are so freaking precious that you almost die of sweetness overload every time they appear. A clip of these cuties building a clot is what convinced me to seek this show out in the first place.

Additional components of the immune system also make appearances depending on the particular challenge of the episode, including Killer T, Helper T, NK, B-Cell, Macrophage, and others. Of these secondary characters, Macrophage is probably my favorite. One minute, she serves as nursery school teacher to developing erythroblasts in the bone marrow; the next, she busts out a giant ax to lay waste to invading antigens. That juxtaposition is pretty damned funny if you ask me.

Actually, a lot of this show is pretty damned funny if you have a background in biology and/or medicine. Oh my Lord, do the in-jokes come fast and furious! For example, you will sometimes see Red squeezing through an impossibly tiny alley to deliver a box of oxygen to a common cell -- because capillaries are super small, amirite? You will also see various immune cells passing through walls or popping out of sewer grates -- because, of course, said cells actually have that transmigration capability in real life.

On the whole, I adore how Cells at Work depicts its concepts. For instance, in "Cedar Pollen Allergy," the over-the-top immune reaction to the goofy, harmless cedar pollen marshmallow monsters is finally stopped when Steroid, a robot labeled "for medical use only," lays down a barrage of overwhelming weapons fire until the swelling in the mucus membranes goes down and he runs out of juice. I love that! Every time I take steroids from now on, that's what I'm going to picture.

Cells at Work is, for the most part, very formulaic. The characters start off an episode going about their usual business when - oh no! - the Monster of the Week appears, forcing them to scramble for the appropriate solution. But just because a show has a formula doesn't mean it doesn't tell good stories. No: the Japanese writer of the manga upon which this show is based generally balances the teaching aspect and the storytelling aspect of his/her conceit quite well. The evolution of Naive T Cell in "Influenza" is enjoyable to watch, as is Eosinophil's mini-arc in "Food Poisoning." And this happens to be the first show ever that has made me feel bad for a cancer cell. (Poor Cancer Cell! It's not his fault his DNA was copied incorrectly. And yet, he still must die for the sake of "the world.")

TL;DR: Cells at Work is the best educational program I've seen since the days of Square One TV. If you can find a way to watch it, go and do so! It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you have any interest in medicine whatsoever, I'm positive you'll find it an absolute delight.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Grumpy Thoughts, 5th Edition

  • While at Dragon Con this year, I learned of a conspiracy that has been busily dragging said con for its decision to remain apolitical. Apparently, Dragon Con is the "con of choice for Nazis"  now simply because it won't deplatform popular libertarian authors who've made the mistake of being outspoken about their beliefs. The conspirators claim, of course, that they just want to protect people from "harassers," but aside from a salty comment one of their targets made on a panel twelve years ago, they have zero evidence that said authors are genuine threats to con attendees. No: What this is really about is power. The ringleader of this conspiracy and her followers want the power to shut down anyone who might contradict the SJW worldview. Hopefully, Dragon Con continues to tell them to pound sand.
  • In the world of comics, meanwhile, Peter Simeti of Alterna Comics is being relentlessly bullied for being pleasant to all of his paying customers, including those who follow the leading voices of #Comicsgate. How dare he! Clearly, we should punish the guy by buying a crap ton of Alterna titles. They're only $1.50 each, so acquiring the entire catalog wouldn't actually hurt your pocketbook all that much.
  • What the two situations above have in common is this: Screaming social justice harpies have decided that anyone who is connected six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon style to critics of identity politics should be punished until they bend the knee. Well, screw that fascistic nonsense, I say. If anyone tries to shame you just because you won't unperson people who aren't radical leftists, raise two middle fingers in proud defiance and tell that individual to go straight to hell.
  • Speaking of leftists trying to control us, that's the problem I have with militant trans activists and their pronoun obsession. He/him and she/her are used when you're talking about someone, not when you're talking to him or her. So basically, when a special snowflake demands to be referred to as e/eir or whatever, that person is trying to dictate how we all should converse even when he or she is not in the room. That's not okay. You have a right not to be mistreated based on how you choose to express yourself, but you do not have a right to impose your preferred mode of expression on others.
  • You also don't have a right to silence researchers who are asking questions that challenge your ideology, nor do you have a right to cover up uncomfortable truths that do the same. Indeed, stopping such conversations before they even get off the ground is incredibly dangerous. People who have been denied the opportunity to discuss what they see right in front of their eyes will latch on to anyone who is willing to tell the truth. Do you want those truth tellers to be dispassionate scientists and thoughtful intellectuals? Then I suggest not pushing certain subjects out of the realm of "respectable" debate. Otherwise, people will gravitate to any crackpot who's willing to give voice to their resentments. 
Okay, so that was a bit disjointed. I may expand the above into lengthier posts at a later date once I get back into the writing groove. In the meantime, I hope you've enjoyed that little hodgepodge of things that have occupied my mind this week.

It's great to be back!

Monday, August 27, 2018

I Will Return September 8, 2018

Many apologies for being gone for - let's see - almost a year.

In October 2017, my father had a significant, disabling stroke that forced me to place my parents and their health and well-being first. But finally, after all this time, the situation at home is starting to stabilize. Dad is making fantastic strides in his recovery and is on more powerful medication to control the autoimmune condition that caused his stroke in the first place. And Mom, despite breaking her ankle several months ago, is now able to run quick errands and cook dinner as needed. Hopefully, these positive developments will continue once we move into our new one-level ranch in Amissville, VA, and escape the mobility-impairing Townhouse of a Million Stairs.

At any rate, I want to get back to blogging after this year's Dragon Con. It's time I start raising my voice again in defense of individualism, artistic and intellectual merit, and common sense.

Continue to watch this space. I'm finished with being silent.