May 042022
 

Without DALL-E, this is the best I can do for a “waterfall of constitutions” image.

Roe v Wade was always a stop-gap. I’m glad we had it for as long as we did, it provided proof that abortion rights do no harm to a country, and actually make it stronger. But it is there to cover for the lack of abortion protections in the constitution. That grace period will soon be over.

Abortion rights should be protected by the law. These protections should be in the Constitution, to make them as durable as possible. They should, in fact, be in every country’s constitution, just like Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion should be.

Putting these protections into law for every person on Earth is both important, and currently impossible. It is an effort of generations. Putting these protections into law for American citizens is easier, maybe only a matter of years. But it is also difficult. Just like there are tens of millions of people in Iran who would literally take up arms to kill someone who tried to grant them freedom of religion, there are millions of people in Texas that will pay tremendous costs to stop someone trying to grant them abortion rights.

Fortunately, every state has its own constitution. California doesn’t need to invade Texas to protect its own citizens. Texas doesn’t need to invade California to ban abortions over there. Once Californians amend their constitution they will be safe within their own state, and will be free to begin (or continue) the work of slowly lifting anti-abortion communities out of their dark ages. We start with the fortresses we have, and we work outward from them.

It is possible there will always be a state or two with abortion bans, which the truely obstinate will retreat to. Much like it’s possible there will always be a few nations of theological absolutism, that the zealots can flock to and live in joyful misery. That’s a problem for a future day.

Today’s challenge is to secure abortion rights in your state. Get them in the constitution. Worry about other states after that.

Once that is done, help make others safe. Pre Civil War, some of the most meaningful good that a private citizen could do is helping slaves escape to free states. There is a similar importance in helping people escape to pro-abortion states. Per @yashkaf – “the best thing blue state democrats can do for abortion access is get rid of NIMBY zoning and occupational licensing so that poorer women can actually find jobs and move to blue states.”

If you live in a blue state, start removing obstacles to dense housing and employment.

May 022022
 

Unsurprisingly, it looks like the Supreme Court will strike down Roe v Wade.

The stop-gap Roe v Wade ruling was necessary for decades, as the US Congress got its shit together enough to realize how important and vital this right is to the existence of Western Civilization. Anyone who doesn’t want to cede our future to commies, religious fundamentalists, fascists, and authoritarians of all stripes, recognizes the primacy of full reproductive control all humans should have over their own geneline.

Abortion must be an option protected by the full force of the law, which any pregnant woman can choose at any point without question or pause.

We can no longer rely on the whims of the courts, or the executive, or congress. We must pass a Constitutional Amendment that enshrines the inalienable right to abortion for everyone within America’s borders. It is as vital a right for the continuation of Western Democracy as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and the right to bear arms.

The time is now. Don’t rest until it is done.

Apr 242022
 

I.

“How can you be good if you don’t have God?”

As a survivor of the Atheism Wars, I saw many minds ensnared by this. It was perhaps the most frequent common-sense objection to atheism. Religion had spent centuries entangling the concepts of “moral goodness” with “religion,” and it protected them like a nest of razorwire. To get anywhere, New Atheists first had to disentangle these two ideas, so that people could see they were separate things. This took emotionally-potent examples of Good Atheists, and of Evil Religionists, and logical demonstration of why this entanglement was invalid.

II.

The Regressive Right is snapping right back into Crush Free Speech mode as soon as it benefits them.

To quote Grossman: “A state changing business regulations for the explicit purpose of harming a specific company that made political expressions the Governor doesn’t like, with the Lt. Gov. promising to restore the regs if the company adjusts its speech, should have every 1A defender’s hair on fire.”

And yes, this is straight-up government censorship. From the link “In 1996 the Supreme Court decided a case called O’Hare Truck Service v. City of Northlake that is deeply instructive in the present moment […] If the government could deny a benefit to a person because of his constitutionally protected speech or associations, his exercise of those freedoms would in effect be penalized and inhibited.”

III.

For the past decade, the right wing in America has been painting itself as pro-free-speech. It is very easy for a group to pretend to be pro-free speech while it protects them. It’s entirely possible that the concepts of Freedom of Speech and Right Wing became entangled for some people. This sort of thing happened to me as well, although in my case it was the Left.

It can be a painful realization. A group fighting for something Good becomes equated with goodness in one’s worldview. When you find yourself opposed by that group, there is a deep confusion about what’s happened, and a fear that you are on the side of Evil. It can be a long and laborious process to figure out where the true value lies. Is virtue loved by God because it is good, or is virtue good because it is loved by God? Is Free Speech good because the Good Guys support it, or are these Guys good because they support Free Speech?

It is only after one has disentangled the principle one cares about (Free Speech) and identified is as the good thing, that one can judge whether a group is doing a good thing or not (by defending it, or suppressing it). At that point, you no longer need to know if a group is Good or Bad! You simply fight along side them when they are supporting a good thing, and fight against them when they are attacking the good thing.

Don’t be fooled into thinking a particular group are your allies just because you are both fighting on the same side of a particular battle. Your only true allies are those who care as much about what you are defending as you do.

IV.

I hate Disney as much as any other creative worker does. In large part due to how they’ve helped corrupt US copyright law. Nonetheless, the censorious attack by the Florida Republican party is a bad thing that should be opposed, even though it is targeting Disney. This doesn’t put me “on the side of Disney” any more than it puts me “on the side of Democrats.” I am on the side of Liberalism, as I always have been.

Apr 222022
 

Worth The Candle, by Alexander Wales

Synopsis:  A D&D nerd is warped into an RPG video game (maybe?) where he has to survive, level up, and figure out what the heck is going on.

Book Review: This is one of my favorite books ever.

I put off reading this for a long time, because it was Lit-RPG, and I thought Lit-RPG was embarrassing and self-indulgent and couldn’t be taken seriously. I eventually realized I was being a tremendous elitist prick, and I really hate elitist pricks, and I love everything else Alexander Wales has written, so I should at least give it a shot. I then did little else with my free time for the next few months as I read this non-stop, because I fell in love right away.

To start with, the protagonist is emotionally damaged from page 1 in a way that I love my protagonists to be. I like seeing people on the edge of falling apart. He’s also a total nerd, and the portrayal of nerdom here is authentic and perfect. He talks the way my people talk, and thinks the way they think. He is immersed in late 20-teens culture. He immediately recognizes the tropes of modern story telling and modern gaming. He uses the fact that he’s in a video game, and he knows it, to manipulate the world to good effect. He’s sarcastic, enthusiastic, jaded, and funny, in exactly the right proportions.

Wales himself, of course, continues to be a master of storytelling, making it impossible to stop turning pages.

But the thing that really draws me in, the thing that cements this as a book I’ll never forget, and which has prompted me to create a 100+ hour podcast about it, is that this story is extremely meta. Joon was a DM for his friends’ RPG group back on Earth. He knows a lot about storytelling, and the conventions of storytelling. When he realizes he’s within a video game, that comes with the knowledge that RPGs are story-driven video games. Worth The Candle is a story about a storyteller trapped inside someone else’s story, who knows that this is what’s happening. Between all the killing of zombies and daring escapes through sewers and rescuing of princesses, there is also a continuous commentary on the nature of story telling. What it means to be inside a story, and how this can be used to your advantage if you are the main character. What the purpose of a story is, and how that is reflected in the monsters/challenges he is being faced with.

And of course hanging over all this is the knowledge that we ourselves are reading a novel, and all such commentary reflects on the text we are reading as well. It’s not just exhilarating and funny, it’s also intellectual and meta as hell. Highly Recommended.

Book Club Review: Turns out, not everyone can relate to being an emotionally damaged teenage male nerd. I had assumed that the shared nerd culture of all the SF/F geeks in our book club would be enough, and that the intense meta-commentary aspects of the work would win over any stragglers. This was not the case. The protagonist can be rather unlikable at first. He has issues, and he’s not the outgoing, charismatic hero type. He’s the depressed, anxious teen that’s isolated himself by lashing out type. That, combined with the fact that Lit-RPG is actually still looked at with some prejudice, meant that half our book club didn’t like this at all, and didn’t stick it out through all 613 pages.

I think this is a shame, but it did serve as a check on my hubris. Just because I think something is great, doesn’t mean even half the SF-reading world will agree. So, a caveat with this one. If your book club has a bunch of people into internet pop culture, that are well-versed with gaming conventions and tropes, and doesn’t mind a broody teenager getting super-powers by Authorial Fait because that sounds cool, Definitely Recommended! But the online culture and gaming culture are strong requirements to enjoyment — if your group doesn’t have a decent chunk of that, Not Recommended.

Apr 212022
 

This is a story about a much younger Eneasz. One who was very naïve, had a lot of unexamined assumptions, and who has beliefs that are significantly different from my own. I won’t bother apologizing for him, because he’s long gone. I don’t know if the world is better or worse for that.

I grew up political. My family watched the nightly news together. We watched one-hour news programs as family events from at least my tween years.

I had very different views from my parents. They raised me in a conservative Christian religion, and held to its tenants. Atheism was evil. So were gays. When I came out as an atheist at fifteen, my mother didn’t speak to me for three days.

Once I was out of the house, I was mildly politically active. I was poor, with a menial office job paying not much over minimum wage, so I didn’t have a lot of time and energy for activism. But I did what I could. I argued with people, I fought in the online spaces (easier to access them during work hours at my office job), I occasionally went to marches. I felt camaraderie with my fellow atheists and social justice warriors. We were making the world a better place.

Proposition 8 was a bill that went to the public for a general vote in California in 2008, which banned gay marriage. It was called Proposition Hate by everyone on the left. It was plainly evil. Fortunately it was going to a popular vote in California, at the same time that Obama was swooping in for his landmark election win. There is no way it would pass.

Not only did it pass, but it passed with 70-75% of the Black vote in California (reported at the time).

I was devastated by this. I saw it as a stark betrayal. All these years, I had thought that all us minorities were in this together. My community of queers and liberals had canvassed, marched, and protested, for all of our allies. We marched for women. We canvassed for black and hispanic residents. We protested for gay rights. I had put more personal time into this election than any prior. Most of our objectives were reached. Obama had been elected president. And then, the black voters of California stabbed us queers in the back.

I felt so… used.

This was very stupid of me, of course. No individual voter in California owes me a damn thing. The “black population” of California certainly doesn’t “owe” the queer population anything! It was racist to even think that they did. There had never been any sort of alliance, all of it had been pure projections on my part. Just my delusion that we were together because I viewed us all as “the minorities” that were fighting back against “the patriarchy.” It was quasi-racist to have that feeling of entitlement to someone else’s votes.

I posted about my hurt on the activist forums I was part of back then, and I was comforted by them. I was reassured that we fought for the rights of all minorities not because we expected anything in return from other minorities, but simply because it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t even a betrayal. It was the smallest of misalignments, and yes it sucked and it hurt, but I’d been too naive and silly in my expectations. The fight is long, and it is fought because it must be fought.

And yet, it was my first hint that the language used to unite us wasn’t truthful. We are not “allies” in any real sense. We are only co-combatants currently on the same side by happenstance. I wasn’t about to leave my community over what voters on the other side of the nation did. There were millions of them, and they had nothing to do with me. They didn’t even know I existed for chrissake! I fought on.

I guess I wasn’t that surprised when, almost a decade later, they came for me when I refused to repeat some of the insane slogans that were demanded of me to prove my purity. It still hurt, when the final rejection came. But I had been prepared by that first, smallest, disillusionment. I never had allies in the movement. I only had utility to others, and eventually that ran out.

There is no loyalty within cultural movements. There is only the conviction that you need to keep doing what is right. So don’t ever despoil your principles to buy loyalty from people that you don’t have personal relationships with outside of the movement. The loyalty doesn’t exist, you’ll be degrading your integrity for nothing.

Apr 182022
 

I — Background.

Last month (I think?) Walter and James suspended their podcast. Their podcast, Rationality: From AI to Zombies Podcast was a project to make the entirety of the book by the same name available as an audio podcast for free. (The book R:FAtZ is a curated collection of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s blog posts from 2006-2009.) These posts, commonly called “The Sequences” by fans, formed the payload that initially launched the Rationalist movement/memeplex/community.

Walter and James’s podcast was valued by many people who were either already part of the rationalist movement, or interested in it, but who hadn’t been exposed to The Sequences as the time they were originally written.

When they quit producing the podcast, they posted this statement:

Dear Rationalists!
As some of you will already have guessed, we have decided to end this podcast project.

There has been a trend in the community we have been observing with increasing worry, and it has reached a tipping point.
We realised from the beginming that the politics of the rationality-sphere leaned heavily American libertarian. But back when we started, we felt that the community was genuinely interested in better outcomes for everyone and that if we would just sit down together, we could surely come to a sensible agreement.

But recently, the disdain and the antagonism against movements such as feminism and BLM and communities such as transgender and nonbinary people has taken over. Even with people we once looked up to and collaborated with. This has reached a degree that makes us feel not just deeply uncomfortable but also unwelcome.

We have friends and family in these and adjacent movements and communities that we love dearly.
We ourselves are part of these movements and communities. There is no us without them.

So we strongly oppose the recasting of them as authoritarian religions and some sort of reverse oppressors, a perspective so antithetical to what we thought the idea of ‘rationality’ represented that we can no longer watch in silence. We expected more from a community that we joined under the impression that it centered honest thought and compassion for all.

Our own interactions with listeners have been nothing but kind and mutually respectful. For that, we thank you.
But we cannot, in good conscience, remain a part of a pipeline towards the rationality-sphere if that is the place it has become.

Do better!

Walter & James

The word “recasting” is linked to my blog post from Feb 23, 2022: I Am A New Atheist, And I Repent. They have stated on more than one occasion that this post was not a primary driver of their decision, nor was it strongly influential. It was merely “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” The last item that finally pushed the scales over in a long, long list of worries and concerns.

However, it was the one linked in their final signing-off post, which sorta highlights it, and gives it some symbolic significance. So, after some musing, I have considerations of my own on the topic.

II — My Thoughts

What I’m most struck by is the idea that rationalism is a political movement with an ideology that must be opposed. What my focus keeps returning to is the idea that Walter and James feel they cannot “remain a part of a pipeline towards the rationality-sphere.” My interpretation is that this is due to their opposition to that ideology. That this ideology includes “disdain and antagonism against movements such as feminism and BLM and communities such as transgender and nonbinary people.”

I have a very different experience. The rationalists I know personally vary from mildly conservative to mildly leftist. The ones I know well online (in the TBC Discord server) range from pretty conservative (believing nationalism is a strength, minors shouldn’t be given hormones, society is too decadent) to strongly leftist (capitalism must be overthrown, billionaires should be punished and have their wealth seized, any parents that aren’t left-leaning enough are guilty of literal child abuse). Of the rationalists that I am aware of online, they range from reactionaries that want to reinstate absolute monarchy, to classically liberal sex-workers, to very woke social justice crusaders.

I don’t have any experience of rationalism as a movement that has any sort of consensus position on the feminism, BLM, transgender, or nonbinary movements. The majority of rationalists I know are neutral or in support of all of these.

This is why I have the view that rationalism is about attempting to improve reasoning, and not about political ideology. The people I meet in rationalist spheres can (usually) speak with each other in productive ways even when they have extremely different viewpoints about the world. I find that very helpful in truth-seeking. I’m glad I can speak with people who view things very differently from me without fearing that I will be berated. I’m glad that I can be confident the conversations will generally be productive and interesting, even when the person I’m speaking to has ridiculous(?) fringe beliefs. They can rationally discuss their reasoning, rather than posturing and signaling.

Personally, I do think that wokism is net-bad for civilization. As per my linked post, I think one of its strengths is that it taps into unfulfilled religious needs that many people have, and that a movement I was a part of helped to deprive people of having those needs fulfilled. I regret that I didn’t see that this might happen when I was younger.

If I’m wrong about that, I don’t understand how abandoning the tools of rational thought will help anything. The problem, in my opinion, would be with my wrong beliefs, rather than with Rationality. I may have failed at using the tools of rationality, due to a perverse environment (which perhaps I nurtured!) or due to my own failure to use those tools correctly. But I haven’t been able to find fault in the tools of rationality themselves.

If I am using those tools incorrectly, I would like to know.

If the tools themselves are faulty, I would like to know.

If neither of these are the case, I don’t see how abandoning the tools is helpful. I would also be interested in learning how/why that is the case?

III — Behind The Scenes

I am (kinda) engaged in a private conversation with Walter and/or James, from which these thoughts have been curated and posted. I don’t intend to make that conversation public, it is our own affair. But many of the thoughts and realizations I’ve come to during that discussion are represented here. I was sorta singled out in a public disavowal, and these are my considered thoughts on the consequences of my words.

Apr 102022
 

Compulsory schooling is net-harmful. Here’s my reasons why, starting with my three major objections, which apply to mid-teen and late-teen public schooling (called “high school” in the USA). These are followed with several more commonly heard points, which apply more to early schooling for pre-teen children.

I – High School Steals Life-Years During Crucial Psychological Transition States, Causing Immense Mental Anguish

By their mid-teens most humans are at a developmental stages where they have a drive to begin their lives. There is a strong desire to contribute something of value to their community or family, or to begin accumulating worth for themselves. This doesn’t necessarily mean material wealth — reputation, respect, and advancement are extremely valuable. In the pre-modern era, by this age most people would have duties and responsibilities that matter. Their peers or family would be counting on them in some way.

Teens in school, on the other hand, are acutely aware that nothing they do matters. They are given endless hours of busy work, which is thrown away after it’s done. They are prohibited from doing anything of value, locked in a holding pattern of meaningless stasis for years. Not only are these years subjectively far longer than the years that older adults experience, they are also some of the most energetic and healthy years of most people’s lives. They are burned for nothing.

II – High School Is Literally Low-Intensity Physical Torture Via Sleep Deprivation

Most teenagers naturally have later sleep cycles than older adults. They also need more sleep than older adults. Older adults run schools, and they don’t care about the natural cycles of legal minors. In addition, since teens are compelled to waste so much of their waking hours on schooling yet still desire other activities, they will often cram in more activity at the cost of even more sleep. As a result, 3/4ths of teens are chronically sleep deprived. Severe sleep deprivation is a tool of torture. Less severe but chronic sleep deprivation is low-key torturous, and also causes long-term psychological damage.

III – High School Has The Social Dynamics of a Prison

Rates of depression and mental health disturbances by teenagers outstrips that of all other demographics. This was not the case in the pre-modern era. Much like criminal prisons, many in school turn to alcohol, prescription drugs, or illicit drugs to claw their way through this time. With no way to measure status via metrics that matter, students form into cliques and form hierarchies based on surface appearances and local popularity. Anyone not in a clique suffers social isolation and sometimes harassment, and it can be difficult to join one. Even within cliques, many people spend much of their time tearing down rival members in zero-sum status games, or abuse of low-ranking or new members.

 

Nearly 100% of our population endures these years of torture, and it’s been deranging us for generations.

The thing is, I had a pretty darn good schooling experience. I was a precocious child. I loved learning. I honesty and thoroughly enjoyed a well-delivered lecture, and scribbling notes as fast as I could. I loved taking tests and scoring well on them. Test taking is a skill all of its own, and it’s fun to be good at something hard. My teachers loved my enthusiasm for learning, and by extension loved me. I sometimes got special privileges. My school was in a progressive middle-class suburb, with minimal social nastiness. And yet…

And yet everyone I know (including myself) feels like we “survived” high school. Yes, almost everyone survives high school, it’s designed to take people to the brink without pushing them over. The fact that the experience is one of having survived an ordeal by so many is a very strong sign that something is wrong. More importantly, the survivors come out scarred and deranged in significant ways, and they make up nearly the entire populations of our country. Despite my relatively “good” experience, I was deeply depressed in high school, especially the later years. I cut myself for some time, and came to the brink of suicide at one point.

I’m in my early 40s now. When I see a school, I still get a powerful frisson of awe and horror. Especially large, institutional buildings, with multiple wings sprawling over a wide campus, with several areas 2-3 stories tall. I am drawn to them, wanting to be inside that alternate reality once more, despite feeling all the old scars throbbing at the sight. It hurts, and it’s sweet, and I think this is what Stockholm Syndrome must feel like.

Is there some social benefit that justifies this mass emotional scarification?

 

Other Harms of Schooling, Which Are Also Not To Be Overlooked:

(many of these are also variations of “destroying years of life for no gain is very bad”)

1. Compelling Those Who Don’t Want Schooling To Be Confined With Those Who Do Is Damaging To Both

Children and teenagers who don’t want schooling are forced to attend anyway. These include both students who won’t learn, and those who already know that which they’ll be instructed on. They are confined in boring rooms with nothing to stimulate them. This style of low-grade sensory deprivation is already damaging. These students will often resort to rebellion and disruption, which makes it impossible for even those who would benefit from the instruction to gain anything from it. The result is fruitless confinement for everyone, wherein no one learns anything, and vast time and resources are wasted.

If the students who didn’t want to be there were not compelled to attend, they would have much better lives, and the students who do want to attend would have a chance to learn something.

2. The Majority of pre-5th Grade Instruction is Wasteful

When humans need to learn something, especially humans under the age of 30, but SUPER ESPECIALLY humans under the age of 20, they will learn it quickly of their own accord. Anyone who’s watched a child master a game they are interested in already knows this. Anyone who’s watched a child teach themselves to read so they can consume another story knows this. Anyone who’s seen a child experiment with tools or physics or bugs already knows this. Anyone who has created a website, or podcast, or renovated their home, or stayed a few months in a foreign country, already knows this.

When you need to know something, you learn it. You learn it quickly, and you know the value this knowledge has to you. There are a lot of things that people need to know to function in our society, such as basic literacy and numeracy. When they aren’t shackled by plodding instruction, imprisoned in an institution that doesn’t let them see how this knowledge is useful to them, and plied with extraneous trivia, children can learn all the basics in just a few hours per week, rather than burning every non-weekend day (before accounting for homework).

3. The Vast Majority of Learning is Wasted

All students are instructed in roughly the same things. This is a gross misuse of time, because students have very different aptitudes. Some excel in math, and should be spending a lot of time honing and exploiting those skills. Some pick up reading very quickly, others languages, or physical systems. When everyone is instructed at the same pace, many are instructed in things they have no aptitude for. They shouldn’t be wasting any time in those areas after they master the basics needed to function as an adult (usually what we call the “fifth grade level,” those most people could achieve that level of mastery long before the traditional fifth-grade age). Continuing to compel students to take instruction on topics they don’t have aptitude for and will not use is a destruction of their life-years.

4. The Vast Majority of post-5th Grade Instruction is Useless

In harmony with point #1, when you don’t need to know something, you forget it quickly. Everything learned after elementary school is knowledge that is only needed in limited domains. Every single student will lose 90% of what they learn by the time they are in their 30s. No matter how smart they are and no matter how demanding of a career they pursue, at most 10% of what they learned will actually be used by that career. Therefore, it will be forgotten. The greatest physicist of our generation won’t remember anything worth remembering from Honors Biology or World History. The few things s/he will remember are things they would have picked up as an adult anyway. Every hour spent on that unused 90% of compelled schooling was pure waste.

In summary, no one should be compelled to go to any school. Compelled schooling is in some ways worse than incarceration, as confined students are guilty of no crime.

If the populace is taxed to provide for general education (which I agree is a public good), the parents of minors (or teenagers who’ve reached majority) should be allowed to direct that money to any school they desire. If they attend no school, but pass tests proving competency, that money should be refunded directly to the parents/student for having done the labor of educating the child/themselves.

The amount of suffering and the vast amount of life-years lost by compelled schooling in the US is unconscionable.

Apr 082022
 

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

Synopsis:  Two outcast orphans come of age on a small European island, bound to their community and traditions via the mystical, vicious horse-monsters that can exist only here.

Book Review: I was wary at first. A book about orphaned teenagers? Coming of age? With a strong focus on horses? This sounded suspiciously like the sort of 80s preteen lit that had been done absolutely to death. I felt like Fred Savage asking “Is this a kissing book?” But it was for book club, so I did my due diligence.

By the fifth page I was intrigued. By the tenth page I was hooked. After that, it was all over for me. The Scorpio Races is excellent. I had forgotten that a million knock-offs are launched in imitation of an actual great originator. And sometimes, after forty years have passed and only the ancient ones still remember the faded fads of yore, a true devotee of the progenitor genre will spend a decade refining all her dreams into a successor that captures that greatness once again for a new generation.

The Scorpio Races reads like a labor of love. The island state captures life in a small, isolated community with striking fidelity. The closeness to history, the depth of the communities roots and traditions that hold one tight, and the stifling economic realities that drive the young and ambitious away. Even the smallest of supporting characters is many-layered, with complexities that can often only be seen by subtle implication (with the possible exception of Mutt). The plot is straight-forward but not simplistic — our heroes’ problems are easy to identify but difficult to navigate. The horse-monsters are religion made manifest, the sort of deep magic that tap into spiritual traditions rather than high fantasy spell-slinging.

I’m not sure the novel has a Statement that it is Making. It’s not the sort of thing I usually am taken in by. But it has immense amounts of heart. In a more subtle way than I’m used to, it is commenting on the nature of love. A strong, vivid style of love. Not the sappy, lovey-dovey stuff. It’s the loyal love of one’s homeland, the awe and fear of nature’s majesty, and the fierce love of two survivors finding mutual respect and respite. Very different from what I normally read, and I am happy to have read it. Recommended.

Book Club Review: There’s something here for everyone. I don’t think this will spark a lot of fiery debate or provocative takes, it’s not that kind of book. But there’s substance here, enough to give anyone something to reflect and expound upon. Recommended.

Apr 082022
 

Grooming isn’t real. Grooming has never BEEN real. Accusations of grooming were always just an excuse to persecute gay men.

In the early 21th century, this was expanded as a method to attack men who had sexual relationships with women more than a few years younger than them. Eventually it was used to persecute anyone that has any contact, even nonsexual, with someone younger than them.

And of course, it’s come full circle, and now is being used to persecute gays and lesbians again.

This is, and always was, complete bullshit. Child abusers don’t bother “grooming” their victims. They just sexually abuse children. They abuse the ones that already trust them, or that they know can be easily control. The vast majority of child abuse is done by someone close to the child, very often a blood relative. “Grooming” is a blood libel invented for the purposes of dehumanizing and destroying a socially-weak target.

For that matter, almost every law of the past 80+ years passed for the purposes of “protecting the children” is actually a tool used by amoral monsters to attack a minority for political or social gain. The Comics Code of the 50s. The War On Drugs of the 70s. Parents Music Resource Center of the 80s. The violent video games panic of the 90s. The FOSTA/SESTA bill of a few years ago. And of course, the fear of the gays throughout all of it. All of it bullshit. All of it there to fan the flames of moral panic, fueling the careers of monsters by destroying the innocent.

Never forget – anyone who introduces a law to protect the children is a cackling puritan sadist. Anyone who accuses someone of grooming is sick liar. Anyone who smelled it, hath surely dealt it.

Mar 292022
 

Humor is the greatest gift of mankind. It, more than anything else, allows us to see each other as humans.

When we joke with each other, we take the sting out of disagreements. We are saying “I think you are stupid and wrong, but I respect you enough to try to make you feel better about it, and acknowledge we’re both fumbling monkeys.”

When we joke with each other, we defuse awkwardness and uncomfortable realities that otherwise are left unspoken. We can all admit we all have flawed, farting bodies, and it’s not a big deal.

When it comes to discussing controversial or emotionally-laden issues, there are few things as valuable as a strong and well-tuned sense of humor. It is a near-panacea for interpersonal conflicts. It makes romantic relationships easier, it makes work relationships more productive, it makes family almost bearable! Individual humans are weak. Humans united in a group are strong. And an absolutely crucial lubricant that allows groups to continue to function without wearing themselves to dust is humor.

Guys, not to go all evo-psych on you or anything (I’m sorry Wes, don’t hate me!), but there’s a reason that women find humor attractive, and this is it!

I am friends with people of wildly varying stances on many Issues. Some of them hold positions I strongly disagree with. On the other hand, there are people I’m acquainted with that agree with me on most issues of substance, who I cannot stand. The thing that separates the first group from the second group is humor.

A lack of humor is a glaring red flag that Something Is Wrong with your movement or group. One of the most striking things about the pre-2000s culture wars was the staggering imbalance in humor. The Christian Fundamentalists and Right Wing Scolds were completely bereft of humor. They couldn’t take a joke, couldn’t make a joke, and generally didn’t understand what this human emotion called “humor” was. Frank Zappa and The Simpsons and South Park were degenerates that were destroying Christianity and ruining women’s virtue!

(This isn’t the case anymore, the right has had some good humor for a while, and the left doesn’t have as much. It’s strange how times change, and gives an insight into which direction the moral authoritarians are drawn)

Famously, those in power try to keep a tight rein on what humor is acceptable, because they know that unsayable truths become sayable by the jester. Humor is anathema to Fear.

For all these reasons, I think Humor is one of humanities greatest assets. When we laugh together — even at things that really suck, even with people we don’t particularly like — we destroy the myth that others are alien monsters. We are actively tearing down the walls of dehumanization that were wrought in hate.

I’m not here to debate the particulars of the Oscars and of if any given joke was good or bad. I am here to say that Humor is Important. It should be nurtured and encouraged.

It should not be suppressed, and especially not with violence.

Yes, obviously all rules have exceptions in the extremes. But the DEFAULT should be to accept humor and play along, hit back with jokes of your own if needed. Physically attacking someone making a joke requires overwhelming provocation, because it chills all subsequent humor, and that is very bad for continued social functioning.

Which is why I’m saying Will Smith is a gigantic buttmonkey, and we should all fling poo at him for a while. He screwed up, and burned a lot of good will at the Oscars. That sucks for him, but he’ll get over it. Maybe his friend Chris Rock can give him some tips on how to do so with grace.