Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Faithosis and my Solstice-and-Friends Resolution

There's no such thing as Jesus. Look, I know, three days ago we just did that whole routine with chopping a tree out of the snowy landscape to take it inside and cover it with fake snow and LEDs (just like Emperor Constantine used to) which accompanies the impersonation of a morbidly obese home invader, who in turn is just the sidekick of a magic baby. Out of all that mess, I don't mean to pick on the baby specifically, though his name (sorry, His Name) does tend to pop up a lot and I had to get your attention, get your nose out of the eggnog somehow.

The whole highfalutin' mess has got to stop. No, not just that one day. In fact, you can keep the stories about the manger-rat and the fat guy sliding his fat sac up and down your chimney, and if you like the smell of incense by all means adopt it as aromatherapy, and if you like waving your hand around in front of you and mumbling Latin gibberish, you can certainly do it as performance art... so long as we always, always admit that it truly is just performance art. Nobody's going to beam you up to some big public park up in the sky because you said your Pater Noster with just precisely the correct note of humiliating humility.

See, it's not just Christmas around this time but also the New Year, itself a nonsensical figment of our calendar system, but just for the sake of subdividing time let's call it Solstice and Friends. Around this thought-provoking time of Solstice and Friends, this emblematic memento mori of deepest darkness, our minds naturally struggle to encompass the changes in ourselves and the world around us since last Solstice and Friends. So, between the delightful little romp at Charlie Hebdo and the rest of the constant attacks by fundamentalists elsewhere we find Belgium, Britain and Germany overrun with fundamentalist immigrants forming enclaves immune to the laws by which the rest of us must abide and Europe's hands tied by its own mis-application of freedom to those who adopt denial of freedom as a fundamental dogma. Meanwhile, across the ocean, the only people who don't have to worry about Islam won't shut up about it. Remember when Alabama passed anti-Sharia laws? Well, ya gotta defend yourself from the rampaging barbarians. All three of them, or however many forgot to disembark their flight in California.
Then again, that's just another facet of faith-based mindlessness: the constant desperation to pose as a defender of the faith, to take as much territory as possible in the name of da lawd a-mighteh.

Hardly a challenge to find examples of religious atrocity on every scale, from those rainbow-sprinkle plaster eyesores Catholics call statuary to, oh, say, burning people to death for kicks. Still, no matter how often I and others are brought to a frothing rage by the latest fundie head-up-the-assery we should never lose track of the central problem. The things done by religion and the religious are bad enough, but even in their absence the precept of faith would warrant denouncement. Were it all good-intentioned, it would still be false.

Jesus ain't real. Mohammed was a filthy street-corner prophet the likes of which you can see mumbling against "da gummint" in any gutter from Chicago to Osaka. Siddhartha Gautama was a half-baked burn-out with a good eye and even better distaste for exploitation. So on and so forth. Sure, sure, archaeologists can quibble about whether two thousand years ago there actually was some poor sap wandering about Galilee who thought he was the son of yahweh or yo momma or whatever, but none of that makes the proposition of the supernatural true. There may have been a Yeshua with sand in his butt-crack preaching love and forgiveness, but there's no Jesus-son-of-dog-bringer-of-Apocalypse-and-snappy-dresser up in the clouds. More interesting, most of you who closed the browser tab as soon as you saw the first line of this post, you actually know that. You know damn well it's a lie, through all your kneeling and chanting or patting the kneelers and chanters on the back.

Some years ago, in a state-mandated "speech" class, I began a speech about gullibility with a phrase along the lines of:
"I am the earthly incarnation of the almighty creator of the universe, and you should all bow down and worship me... and if you don't believe me, why would you believe anyone else?"

Nobody worshiped me - in fact, as my claim to martyrdom, I was flunked for that little presentation. Still, that remains the relevant distinction. If some guy walks up to you on the street and says "hey, I'm Jesus, gimme twenty shekels" you neatly sidestep him while avoiding eye contact and try to catch the first bus out of crazy-town.

Rationalists are often active truth-seekers. We are too easily tempted to take the facetious demand "you can't prove there's no God" at face value, as a challenge, as an intellectual exercise, instead of the purely linguistic sophistic trap it represents. The thoughtless intentionally place an impossible burden of proof on thinkers. Yet not only should science and reason not be called upon to prove a negative, but sheep must be called out to back up their bleating. Despite every human society suffering its own peculiar strain of endemic faith-osis, science's attempts to cure the infection do not represent an action in itself. The initial action is taken by the faithful of all faiths. By declaring the existence of a creator, the mindless propose an interpretation of the universe, one which should elicit the very same skepticism I encountered when claiming to be the earthly incarnation of that creator. What's more, when the charlatans and fanatics fail to provide such proof as their divine hypothesis requires, day after year after millennium, we have no excuse whatsoever for taking the socially convenient route of appeasement, for mumbling some conciliatory "mmmyeah, you still might be right."

There's really no such thing as agnosticism on a social scale. If there might be gods and heavens and eternal souls, then I might be a sentient gerbil in disguise, I might win a different lottery every day, I might just spontaneously float off into space and the sun might just decide to disappear tomorrow. Yet you don't walk to work every day half-expecting to float off the face of the planet with every step, you don't give up setting your alarm clock because the sun might go out tomorrow; you are not agnostic about every ridiculous crackpot notion you hear.

As for those who call yourselves agnostics in regards to religion, most of you are really just atheists spinelessly sucking up to the fundies. Just as you don't act agnostic with regards to gravity you don't act at all uncertain with regards to the existence of a domineering sky-dwelling control freak or his hippie "son" by any measure of your daily actions. You watch the weather report just like I do instead of praying for rain, you make graven images of whatever you damn well please, you masturbate and stuff your faces with Bic Macs and covet the hell out your neighbour's wife's fine derriere with no second thought as to whether a celestial voyeur might be looking down on you. It's when you run into the faithful, the mindless degenerates who demand their lunacy be treated as virtue that your social ape instincts kick in, altering your behavior so as to form convenient social alliances, altering your thoughts so to appease others at every step. You're not a morally superior tolerant liberal. You're a facetious self-serving coward.

So here's my Solstice-and-Friends resolution: I'm going to be less tolerant of your stupidity and spinelessness from now on, not just because of my own anger but because niceness doesn't work. You can't just hide your head in the sand and call yourself agnostic and hope the idiots around you see reason. You have to speak reason. Like any zoonosis, faithosis must be treated as an invasive animal influence which reason must combat, as a social pandemic crippling the individual mind, as degenerative parasitic primitivism to be exterminated like smallpox or the black death or rabies, because there simply is no other way. The faithful interpret every concession not as benevolence but weakness, and the more you give the more they'll take. If you let loose a rabid dog, you are responsible for the death it causes.

Truth is not a fad or a preference. We may be yet unable to discern all truth, but to whatever extent we can it is one of the clearest prerequisites for all other actions. There are no gods, no heavens and no souls. If you believe in any of those lies, seek mental help, because if you meet me on the street you sure as imaginary Hell shouldn't expect me to chant along with your mental disease, or with those who promote mental illness.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Sound of Money

"God-Money's not looking for the cure
God-Money's not concerned about the sick among the pure
God-Money let's go dancing on the backs of the bruised
God-Money's not one to choose"

NIN - Head Like a Hole

I'd like to take this chance to recommend one of the few things to wring belly-laughs out of sour-tempered big bad lupine me over the years, the far-east re-imagining of a beloved "classic" known as The Backstroke of the West.
Now with 300% more Presbyterian elephants per galaxy far away. I bring this up specifically because I fired up Prime World a couple days ago to find Nival attempting to out-Engrish Chinese amateur translators:
Buy! Buy the arised awaken! It is a big.
Ah, traduttore, traditore.

Well, yes, it is in fact a big. Fuck the Middle-East and drowning polar bears. Babelfished translations aside, this weekend there's no other news to talk about except the awaken of The Force, by which I mean
by which I mean Disney's mind control apparatus. If we're to believe Wikipedia, over half of the most expensive movie in history's budget went into marketing. Two hundred and twenty-three million dollars our of four hundred and twenty-three. That's a quarter billion dollars spent on nothing.

I don't say that lightly.
First it might serve, as a thought-exercise, to translate that amount into something relatable like several thousand houses but I'll leave it up to my readers' imaginations to figure out what they could do with a quarter billion dollies. We cannot properly treat this as a comparison with other products, because it was not spent on producing anything.

Interlude: Nasreddin Hodja and the sound of money.

Once upon a time, Nasrudin came upon a hard-working wood-cutter going about his labors while another man lounged nearby clapping and yelling praise and encouragements. Confused, he asked the meaning of such a sight. The idle man said he's entitled to a third of the worker's income for providing support. The worker bitterly denied this, but Nostradin nevertheless demanded his coin-purse because it's only fair to provide an appropriate reimbursement for such a service. Taking out a metal dish, the Hogia loudly dropped a few coins onto it then handed all the money back to the wood-cutter saying "the sound of money is the proper payment for the sound of work."

In another version, Nasr ud-Din Ependi is himself lounging around the outside of an inn, delighting in the aromas of dinner wafting from the kitchen. The owner steps out and angrily demands payment. Payment for what? Why, consuming the scent of food, of course. Nastratin dutifully takes out his coin purse, holds it by the inn-keeper's ear and shakes it, saying "the sound of money is the proper payment for the smell of food."

Anyway, what I was
Ahem, what I was getting at was that Disney sank a quarter billion dollars (that we know of) into market manipulation for a single movie. This is money which adds nothing to the quality of the product. It can't render the explosions explodier or the hams hammier, the Yoda-ling more cryptic or the force any more forceful. Marketing doesn't cut wood. What burning the equivalent GDP of Micronesia can do is starve out the competition, make you
the latest Star War instead of many other perhaps more deserving space-age reincarnations of the swashbuckling mystical hero routine. You don't know what you don't know, and the obscenity of the sums involved in keeping it that way grows every day.

Economists faithful to the fundamentalist dogma of the invisible hand (flipping the public the all-too-visible finger) routinely slam any mention of socialism by citing the legendary inefficiency of old Eastern Bloc Communist economies. The free market, you see, is supposed to be efficient. Of course everybody who's anybody does their darndest to un-free the market as soon as they get the capital to do so, which is where the monstrous inefficiency of capitalism comes in. Over half of Disney's investment in The Force has gone not into out-competing other movies as per the naive interpretation of competition by offering a product for the public's evaluation and comparison with competitors, but in limiting the public's knowledge of available choices. They do this because of course they expect a huge
return on same investment, to the tune of half a billion dollars just in the first weekend, and ever more ridiculous sums over the weeks and months to come. How many different movies could have been funded with a quarter billion dollars? How many Primers in a Force? How many Primers in a Force's Twitter budget alone?

Of course in another week Americans will remember there's a still bigger circus in town and everyone will go back to watching Donald Trump calling Mexicans rapists and Ben Carson's homoerotic Jesus fanfic and Sanders' goofy hair and hopeless appeals to reason and Hillary Clinton cackling maniacally and telling Obama to clear out his office and don't let the door hit your scrawny black ass on your way out. Wanna talk marketing? Estimates for this two-year campaign now seem to be exceeding ten billion dollars. The Clinton dynasty's brand name alone comes with a two or two-and-a-half billion dollar price tag attached.


Buy what? Stock markets and mass-media have reversed Nasreddin's lesson. This is capitalist "efficiency" throwing greater effort into telling the public which food smells better than into actually cooking or eating anything, and it's all paid out of that wood-cutter's money because the Koch brothers sure as hell aren't manning the spigots on an oil rig themselves. Ten or twenty billion or however many Primers' worth of your money spent to decide which dog eats which, spent to tell you which product is superior instead of allowing you to decide for yourself. Two billion dollars' worth of Walker and Clinton's plastic smiles tacked onto every billboard and every TV channel and every online video ad day-in and day-out for the next year, all because the fatcats are expecting a HUGE return on their investment. Sounds like money to me.

The leas-
Sorry, the least she
I said the least she could do-
The least she could do is wave a lightsaber around.

Oh, will you shut the fuck up already?

"Bow down before the one you serve
You're going to get what you deserve"

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Disarm you with a smile

I jumped back into LotRO recently. Not much of a jump since the game hasn't had a deep end in years, but hey, I'm only two zones behind the company's release schedule... I think? Who cares. Since it stopped being a game, I'm getting as much out of it as anyone by treating it as a 3D tour of Minas Tirith or The Shire.

Now, while I normally bitch and moan about the simplification of games over the last decade, today's installment of bile and vitriol predates the current slot-machine, microtransacted, head-patting achievement-unlock marketing model. It pertains to the thorny old issue of crowd control.

See, as LotRO was dumbed down over the years, it's become so mind-numbingly dull that the only (and sorely unsatisfying) way to spice it up is to take on more and more monsters at once. Some of these have crowd control abilities, which in theme-park MMO parlance usually boils down to nothing more imaginative than an outright stun. Some can also disarm you, which though is logically intended as one of the softest forms of crowd control has become in LotRO the chief impediment to dropping whole swarms of kill-ten-rats. The worthless mouthbreathers designing this pathetic excuse for a combat system have made dropping the soap more dangerous than being completely knocked out.

Partly this is because stuns induce a ten-second immunity when they wear off while other forms of crowd control do not. Largely, though, it's due to the utter lack of imagination in determining which skills status effects like silence and disarm affect. See my cast bars above? Well, most of those "different" skills are utterly redundant copies of each other in the first place, but let's skip the "greater magic missile" idiocy for now. See how they're all grayed out? I'm a spellcaster. I have been disarmed. My only options are:
1) throw down a slowdown AoE
2) cure my wound effects, which would cure the disarm... amusingly useless since it takes about as long to cast as the status effect does to wear off on its own

Forget niggling details of balancing durations though. The more basic problem is that disarming blocks ALL skills from use. Half the reason to play a magician, thematically, is not being utterly dependent on the pointiness of your stick, but being able to call fire and lightning on the heads of your foes by simply... calling. That or wiggling your fingers, twitching your nose, groping Galadriel's phat phial, what-have-you. There's certainly room for removing a caster's channeling focus as a thematic element, especially in Tolkien's vision of wizardry (see Gandalf at Edoras) but sweet everloving fuck... an entire class of Loremaster spells in LotRO is called "signs" - as in I can take away a third of your attack power by giving you the finger! No big stick needed. Do you mindless finger-painting graduates trotting out this dross ever read your own ability names or are you getting paid to face-plant your keyboards and call it game design?

Suspension of disbelief aside, the whole point of having different status effects is to induce different states. If you're silenced you can't speak the name of the holy, if rooted you can't dance for rain, if disarmed you can't play fetch with wargs. Whatever. Not only should the same status effects not affect a fighter and wizard in the same way but different states should limit my skills in different ways. Yes, if I'm disarmed I should not be able to use "staff-stike" or "staff-sweep" but I sure as hell should be able to flash you or blow you down, sailor-man.

I will freely admit this is by no means a LotRO-specific problem and I'm only using it as a handy example of lazy lack-of-design, but it may surprise younger gamers to find that not only were such distinctions a core element of D&D spellcasting but as late as World of Warcraft's launch, counterspell abilities blocked spells from the specific school your target was casting at the moment. Meaning you could start casting a light spell to fake your enemy out and eat up his counterspell, then switch to nature or shadow spells and laugh as you shriveled his corpse... and that was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of crowd control diversity.

But then, if I get started on how much of the game industry WoW ruined, we'll be here all night.

Also, I seem to be overusing the phrase "tip of the iceberg" recently but what the hell. It's just the tip of the iceberg of my tip-of-the-iceberging.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Into the Woods

"For all that I know she's already dead."

Sometimes going a little bit "meta" can be a good thing, regardless of how tiresome our endless layers of post-modern irony and feigned nonchalance can render pop-culture as a whole.This pit falls all the deeper since we're talking bout a Disney flick here. You don't generally ask who wrote or directed or carried sandwiches for a Disney flick. You know what you're getting as surely as you know what a Bic Mac is, a product as square, slimy and tasteless as the box it came in.

Worse yet, this one's a musical! I don't mean just the usual Disney half-dozen kiddie clap-alongs but the mind-numbing, gratuitous operatic routine which, to preserve the orthodoxy of the form, forces characters to bellow and belt almost every damn line from start to finish. You never just had ham and eggs for breakfast in a musical.
Youuuu haaaaad haaaaam aaaand eeeeeeeeEEEEEGGGGSS! Foooor BreaaaakfffaaaaAAAAASST!!!

So why am I actually writing a positive post about Into the Woods? Those reviewers who panned it seem to have done so based on an unfavorable comparison with the original play on which it's based, which is fair. Hell, I'd be the world's biggest hypocrite if I didn't allow others some fanboy-ish purity and zeal after I rant and rail against every single Science Fiction movie that hits the market. If I can valiantly defend Heinlein's honor, they can do the same for ... what's this schmuck's name? Sondheim? Never heard of him.
Yes, I have seen Sweeney Todd; shut up. I'm doing a thing here.

In any case I can't speak for the quality of the adaptation, though I must say for a megacorporate appropriation, it could've turned out much, much worse. Just ask Pocahontas and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I'm sure it was somewhat "Disneyed" for the big screen (now an i-phone) but the moments in which it rises above the lowest-common-denominator are delivered so skillfully that they make up for most of the tedious cantata-ing. I was called into the room for the "already dead" line listed above, did the intended double-take and found its utterly natural and whiplash-inducing set-up and delivery convincing enough to sit through the rest.

Cinderella's warbling dragged but many of the group numbers were quite dynamic. The two princes charming and their ludicrous duet makes you want to strangle them both while laughing maniacally. I found the witch oddly relatable... but then given my predilections, maybe I just would. On the other hand, Johnny Depp's number as the wolf fell flat, unfortunately continuing the tradition of weak lupine characters. If only Jack Nicholson could sing. Possibly the most surprising was the even distribution of guilt among the sexes, going decidedly against the feminist grain of pop-culture as a whole. I would've expected nothing but male villains and pristine, innocent, deified heroines and bumbling male heroes whose only "positive" quality is their self-destructive dedication to their lady love. Instead, we get a morally absent Little Red and much more startling, the baker's wife acknowledging the timeless female manipulation of men according to their social rank - "and a baker for bread and a prince for whatever" indeed.

However, the movie's (play's?) charm lies not in any one character but in its treatment of fairytale motifs as a whole. I'm quite fond of advocating strengthening our waning grasp on various cultural touchstones and I've frequently praised movies which manage to address our old-timey fascination with such storytelling. Into the Woods manages to convey the symbolism of wilderness not only as the terrifying unknown and birthplace of monsters but the escapist promise of possibilities outside the sphere of mundane interactions. There are indeed giants in the sky, and no matter how tritely everything may be sung, the characters' breaking and re-forming of their allegiances, their re-evaluation of their priorities makes for good watching. Going into the woods used to mean danger and possibility and most of all, discovery. These stories date from the time when audiences still remembered how to dream, forced to do so by their harsh realities.

Though it may not be the movie/play's main selling point (I suppose that would be the nauseatingly saccharine "no-one is alone" crap) I can't help but think that anything which even accidentally aids the Quixotic goal of prodding consumer culture into remembering the progressive, adventurous attitude which once set humans above other animals can't be all bad. Yes, even with the singing and all. If only more of the spineless book-faced little twits I meet in online games were watching this instead of other Disney fare, we might be able to convince them that beans can be turned magical.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Tipping the Scale of Id

Last month, Prime World introduced a new hero, Tu'rehu (and kudos on delving into mythology obscure enough that nerds like me aren't completely bored by it yet) as per the core business model of current, dumbed-down, DotA-knock-off "MOBAs" which relies entirely on microtransactions. Its all about pumping out endless streams of playable characters and skins, each for the low-low price of... whatever.

Trust me, you're gonna wanna pay that low-low price. You're guaranteed an endless string of wins against anyone who doesn't have that latest gimmick. This is also part of the business model: selling wins. Tu'Rehu, at release, out-damaged, out-healed and out-ran everything in the game... and I do mean everything and not just anything, as in, he could take out an enemy team 1v5. Despite this being blatantly obvious it took some conspicuous weeks for even a slight nerf to be patched in.

Of course, that's just an isolated accident. Ooopsie, the developers placate the masses on their forums, our bad. Hey, game design isn't a precise science, right? It's not like the previous hero, the Desperado was.... exactly the same story, or anything, for weeks on end beforehand, standing in the middle of your base, mowing you down while endlessly regenerating.
Prime World isn't even one of the worst offenders when it comes to this sort of stupidity, and though their constant updates make it more obvious, DotA knockoffs like League of Legends or Smite are only the tip of the iceberg. This sort of routine long ago became intrinsic to the idiotic pay-to-win microtransactions system shoehorned into every single game genre over the past decade. Even ignoring that, ample reasons to err on the side of "overpowered" upon releasing a new element predated our current crop of online cheatfests. If game design is such an imprecise science, I'm amazed at how precisely this pattern plays out, every time in every game. Somehow, by random chance, almost every balance error favors making the game easier for the group it most immediately affects, and not more difficult. It's like one of those old medieval images of Saint Peter or some archangel weighing souls for entry into Heaven or Hell... with a sneaky devil always tipping the "Hell" scale.

Quite a few devils hang off game developer's balances, dragging their judgment into the shadowy realm of legitimized cheating. As a very standard observation, if something is overplayed in a multiplayer game, it's probably overpowered. The corollary also holds true: if you make something more powerful, it will get played more. Hey, who wants to pay for in-house testing, amirite folks? Cuts into the bottom line. Easier to release every new feature as a candy-coated lure to every single min-maxing cretin looking to be handed undeserved wins, and the hordes of mouthbreathers will do your testing for you.

However, at an even more basic level, human beings simply do not want equality. With the eternal optimism of our monkey brains always swinging for the ripest fruit, the truism of power-lust upon which capitalism is built, each individual, no matter how unlikely to benefit from an unjust system, will wholeheartedly support injustice in the conviction of someday being at the top of the pyramid and pissing on everyone else around. Some of the most successful games reflect this.
Counterstrike always kept the idiotically overpowered AWP as a standby for anyone who got tired of actually playing the game and just wanted to grief others.
DotA was based on fighter heroes completely trouncing spellcasters.
Blizzard Entertainment, even before World of Warcraft, never even attempted true balance. Instead, it relied on sequential imbalance, giving each race or class from Starcraft to Warcraft 3 to WoW its fifteen minutes of fame, relying on selective memory to retain customers who keep hoping that next month it'll be their turn to get free wins over everyone else by abusing the latest gimmie. This is arguably how the blatantly game-breaking "zerg rush" came about.
Planetside 2 hands players more ways to one-shot each other at no personal risk than they even care to use. Sure, your bomber airfoil can fly upside-down and one-shot the fighter craft which should logically counter it, but who wants to go to the hassle of finding a gunner and flying around when you can just sit back, completely invisible, and snipe players from a mile away?
The rogue / assassin archetype has been ludicrously overpowered in every single PvP game to feature it, yet nonetheless it's constantly handed out as the "griefer special" contributing nothing to a team but sure to make some little snot feel big about himself for one-shotting players who can't even see him, keep the mindless petty sadists coming back for more of that endorphin boost.

Customers are more likely to remember a moment of glory, however undeserved, than a hundred complex, nail-biting, photo-finish pitched battles. Most human beings are morons, and we want most of the money now don't we? All we have to surrender are those outmoded old notions of challenge, personal choice or fairness. You know, what used to be called games, sports and contests. It's all about the cardboard medals now.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

More Effective in Smaller Doses

I realized something recently.
Superman being poisoned by small pieces of that which once supported him? Kryptonite ain't just sympathetic magic in general terms, but outright homeopathy.
Oh, where is James Randi when you need him!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

It's like "Eternal Sunshine" for Sheldon Cooper

A thought occurs. I hereby propose a general pattern to be observed in the dissemination of new technology.

From the universities which develop its ideas it goes to Fortune 500 companies, to the fatcats who restrict it to themselves while it's new and patent the crap out of it to keep prices artificially high.

From there, when the fatcats can no longer contain knock-offs, it gets sold to the thirteen-year-olds who use it for the same reason the fatcats kept it to themselves: status symbol.

Then most commercial companies will adopt it in an effort to keep up with the younger generation, and thus the older segments of the population will be forced to adopt it.

Only afterwards will it trickle back into academic departments where it will be regarded as a vulgar, external, commercial imposition by them young whipper-snappers (who have by now moved on to creating cheap knock-offs of the latest new gimmick which academics have already forgotten they've handed off to the fatcats.)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Friday, December 4, 2015

Feelings... Nothing More than Feelings

"The truth is subjective and the court has lost perspective
And what is your objection here?
You are guilty
You are found guilty of every crime under the sun"

Ego Likeness - Burn Witch Burn

If anyone on the outside hasn't heard, we've been having a lot of fun these past few years in the states with cops and vigilantes shooting black people for the lulz. Well, not that they'd come out and say that. The guy who, when a drunken nineteen-year-old girl who'd just crashed her car knocked on his door at 4 a.m., stuck a shotgun in her face and blew her brains out, claimed he was afraid his house was being robbed. Yes, because nothing screams "robbery" like someone walking up your driveway and beating on your front door. But then, logic has no place in this argument. In the same recurring sad refrain to every new stanza of this "stand your ground" routine, he felt endangered. Brown people are scary.

Let's switch tracks a bit.

Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist who had won a fair bit of fame by the '80s as a chief proponent of gene-centered evolution, which though I can't say I generally agree with after reading The Selfish Gene, certainly adds a fascinating dimension to the other proposed levels of natural selection (genome, organism, group, etc.) He also appears to have come up with the "meme" meme, and for that the internet owes him its everlasting thanks. After the turn of the millennium he leveraged his respectability and erudition toward combating the growing religious fundamentalist revival in Britain and the U.S. and has become probably the second most famous figurehead of atheism around these parts after Bill Maher.
Rebecca Watson is nominally also an atheist. I say nominally because I can only remember one impression of her outside this scandal in some youtube video and I would have described her as a glib but incoherent catchphrase-machine. Her chief skill seems to lie in abusing her cuteness to make the audience swallow anything that comes out of her mouth.

Has anyone not heard of "Elevatorgate" yet? After a 2011 conference, Watson was apparently approached by someone who'd just watched her talk and asked if she'd like to go back to his room for "coffee" while they were riding the elevator together. After her refusal nothing else happened but she decided she was being "sexually objectified" and in fine feminist form spun the non-incident into metaphorical rape. Because, you see, he had asked a question while they were alone... in an elevator! Oh, the humanity! I suppose it would have been highly preferable for him to walk up to the podium while she was still giving her speech and blurt out "heya, you'se hot, ya wanna do it?"

Dawkins rightly ridiculed his fellow atheist for her self-serving victim simulacrum. The entire world rushed to defend poor helpless Becky from mean old Dickie, and the rest is history. Never mind that Watson had no imaginable reason to play the victim in a situation which involved no more than a couple of polite sentences. The poor sap who propositioned her was even one of her fanboys. He wasn't watching her bathroom window through binoculars, wasn't following her through the park with mirrors on his shoe-tips, wasn't chasing her down a dark alley, but had actually listened to her talk and thought her an interesting person so he asked a private question in private. No matter. Men are evil. Becky felt ooky and that's all the justification she needed to attack him. See, it's how you fheeeeeeelll that matters, not anything so frivolous as reason or fair-mindedness.

Switch again.

A couple of years before Dawkins learned the hard way that no amount of logic trumps the political correctness fiat of a pair of ovaries and a neotenized girlish face, I was driving home from work. While waiting at a stoplight I accidentally lifted my foot off the brake and slid forward a meter or so into the car in front of me (which was, incidentally, worth about three times mine) so we pulled off the busy road into a mini-mall parking lot to inspect the damage. The car turned out to be inhabited by two teenage girls. The damage? The bumper was not broken or dented, the paint not even scratched or even indented as can happen with polymers. The force of the impact had barely left marks in the dust on the paint.
Relieved, I walked to my own car to inspect the front bumper. Then as I turned around thinking we could probably skip the insurance-info routine, the two girls are standing shoulder to shoulder, heroically defiant against my (apparently) threatening presence, waving a cell-phone in the air and yelling "the police are on their way!"

See, apparently even though I was calmly walking around inspecting the cars, there was no possible explanation but that I was just about to jump the both of them in a wide open parking lot in broad daylight and rape them both by the side of a busy six-lane intersection.
So a few minutes later, enter flatfoot #whatever who politely asks me to step into the back of his van while he discusses everything with my poor victims. Fifteen minutes of squinting at their rear bumper trying to discern... anything... he finally starts to get wise and comes take my own statement. Fuming at the lack of immediate police brutality in response to their damsel in distress routine, the ditzes up the ante, repeating over and over again that "no, he hit us pretty hard!" An ambulance had to be called in and one of them (did they flip a coin or what?) was wheeled out on a gurney with a neck-brace.
Long story short: my insurance settled the resulting whiplash lawsuit. I washed my hands of the whole thing after sending them a photo of my car's unblemished front end. I have to wonder how quickly the cop would've called bullshit if bearded, Adam-appled little old me were accusing two teenage girls of vehicular dusticide.
But they hit me pretty hard!

Switch to another track, because this train-yard's got a helluva lot of them.

While taking a 400-level anthropology course last spring I sent a couple of e-mails to my professor questioning the excesses of anthropology, feminism and other areas taken over by post-modern anti-intellectualism. She replied, CC-ing her department head, that I was causing a hostile environment and was invited in no uncertain terms to drop the course or disciplinary measures would be taken.

Don't like that track? Here's another:

I live in a small university town now. My mother visited me last fall. One of my neighbors, a beefy midwestern ceiling-tall American Football player, was descending the stairs as we went up. He passed me calmly enough, both edging an arm out of the way. Then he spotted my mother and immediately flattened his massive form against the wall until she passed. My mother, sheltered innocent that she is, was for her part utterly perplexed by this behavior in the younger generation.
By the time males reach college age, they have internalized so much feminist vitriol that he knew, absolutely knew, that to so much as breathe on a passing woman would invite rape accusations.
Men are evil, and it doesn't matter whether he did anything wrong or not. If she feels like he's creating a hostile environment, if she feels like he's "hit her pretty hard" or if she fheeeeeeelllls like condemning his behavior, no matter how benign, the entire world will rush to her defense.

The left wing routinely condemns right-wing shock jocks for feeding racial panic, for providing gun-toting rednecks with the moral justification to attack blacks, hispanics, middle-easterners, or whoever the scapegoat of the week might be, as recently exemplified in the big leagues by Donald Trump's now famous slurs against Mexicans or more amusingly in the "war on Christmas." Such charlatans leech hefty pay-offs off whichever segment of the population they target by feeding its false entitlement and fabricating constant panic that the whatevers and whoevers are coming to get them.
Feminism is the left wing's most prominent counterpart to such parasitism. It is an industry based on vilifying men as innately evil. Not that most women actually believe that 3.7 billion men are lining up around every single corner to rape them or they'd die of sleep deprivation clutching a shotgun in their basements... but it sure is handy to be able to call upon feminist justifications whenever you want, to be able to blame anything in your life on patriarchal tyranny and have any man ostracized on a whim, ain't it? If any man questions your presumptions of his guilt and original sin, if he fails to genuflect and meekly accept the latest chauvinistic diatribe equating the mere existence of masculinity or worse yet male sexual enjoyment with every evil under the sun from puppy-kicking to cancer, then he's "creating a hostile environment" and the system will gladly have him removed.

No, women are not shooting men like redneck cops are gunning down black boys, it's true. They get their boyfriends to do their dirty work for them, or barring that, a legal system which has institutionalized feminist prejudice. The precept, however, is the same. People will gladly give you money if you tell them their feelings pre-empt reality and all of their emotions are justified, and there's a helluva lot of entitlement to reap when your potential audience comprises over half the population and the second half is instinctively programmed to protect and provide for the first. Just remember, women have different ways of knowing. Always believe women, even if you cant find a scratch on the bumper.
Of course men should live in terror of accidentally brushing up against a woman in a stairwell or worse yet, an elevator. You're evil. You patriarchal sexist pig shitlord.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Oh, Balls...

Probably the chief advantage of webcomics is the supposed freedom of the internet, the relative lack of gatekeepers policing a writer's output. Such freedom rapidly manifests its own flip-side whenever creators go off the rails without even realizing it - and keep going and going and going. When you lack a superior to tell you you've gone batshit insane, the results can be disappointing but also amusing in retrospect. The cartoonist comes up with a setting or even one scene which must seem utterly fascinating subjectively, because like film directors who grow obsessed with a single camera angle or other gimmick, the comic dedicates page after page to subdividing that one chapter into aspects and alternate views, set-ups and internal monologues. While more astute webcomic literati would probably bemoan Sluggy Freelance's "Oceans Unmoving" (which really was quite un-moving in many ways) or Megatokyo spending a year of comics on a single in-character hour of strained, over-wrought romance, I'm going to settle for crying foul over a dodgeball game.

Sorry, I mean "hitball" - and the comic in question is Paranatural, a relatively uninspired "magic kids" setup which made up for it with hefty doses of exaggerated sitcom-style zingers. Good, clean fun for the whole family, and a relaxing way to clean out your brain at the end of the day, though I generally don't read comics on a daily basis. In this case, I hadn't checked up on Paranatural since this past spring, when the magic-powered, ghostbusting kids had just started playing a dodgeball game.

They are still playing that same dodgeball game.

Forget ghost-trains or magic artifacts or superpowered kung-fu training montages. The latest chapter of Paranatural treats its audience to page after page of extreeeeeme close-ups of kids winding up to throw rubber balls, dramatic frame-by-frame sequences of kids being hit by rubber balls, lengthy internal monologues on the tactics of rubber ball throwing and of course the unremitting drah-mah of brotherhood in arms balls. And they're not even dragon-ballz!

Maybe I'm being too skeptical as I'm currently fuming over just having dedicated my time to over fifty oversized glossy full-color pages of... balls... but I'd gladly give the contents of my wallet's change-pocket to see Paranormal's traffic statistics since April, when this whole tomfoolery started. Was this chapter supposed to bring in more grade-school visitors, and if so, did it succeed?

I suppose if P.G. Wodehouse can numb my brain with cricket, the good Mr. Morrison might make a good living off comics about quidditch-style dodgeball.
Wooouuldn't bet on it, though.