Saturday, September 16, 2017

The End

I intended a lot of things. I intended to write a very long, thoughtful post about the division in our society. I intended to also write a lot of Doctor Who reviews, and endlessly fangirl squee obnoxiously discuss the Thirteenth Doctor.

But, all good things must come to an end.

At this point, I feel I have no resources left for writing outside of class. My latest job turned out to be utterly exhausting, despite me choosing it to explicitly escape customer service. With a supervisor that had no idea how to treat people, and 3-4 hours of overtime each day, I barely had the energy to do more than drag myself home, and struggle through reading for class. I have a feeling that working in an environment filled with dust and absorbing everyone else's frustrations and unhappiness (empathy is tiring), I was slowly drained of the ability to do anything other than stare at a computer screen for hours at time.

I have a different job, but it's still full-time (albeit with regular hours), and I have a senior thesis coming up in a month. After that?

Well, I don't know.

So, I'm closing the blog. I've had fun with it, but I have to deal with this silly thing called "life" and "responsibilities" and such nonsense. I might create another blog at some point, but until then, it's adieu.

(I was going to put a funny gif of Neil DeGrasse Tyson dropping a mike here, but Blogger is refusing to let me do that. Methinks the next blog will be on Wordpress...)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"I wish I had not lived to see such times."

Over the weekend, I worked on a research paper. I had chosen the topic a while ago: the Eugenics movement in America. At the time, it simply seemed like a rather dark but intriguing subject. However, writing that paper while watching the events of Charlottesville unfold was incredibly eerie.

Last night, after I finished the paper, I sat down and wrote out all of my thoughts on the subject. I wondered what I should say. The events themselves were simple-but the background, the tension, and the various views of the events were not. Should I address the simple or the complex?

I've decided to do both. Today, I will loudly express my feelings. In a follow-up, I'll look at everything that led up to the clash. Like anything in history, there is a lot of complexity, and I want to see it at every angle. But for now, let me say this:


I don't care what you think about the removal of Confederate statues. I don't care what you think about how the media has portrayed conservatives, or what Black Lives Matter or Antifa has done. I don't care if you feel like people are being mean to you. You can argue all you want about what the "other side" has done. Stop looking at what others do, and look at yourselves.

You have chosen to believe in the inferiority of others based on ethnicity and skin color, and you have chosen to follow the example of a man who was an insane, narcissistic egomaniac, a man who decided the best way to fix the world was to kill millions of people who had done nothing to him other than exist, and to do this in torturous, horrifying ways. A man who outright admitted that he wouldn't have passed muster for the American eugenics strictures on being a "superior" human. Your critical thinking abilities have failed, and your ability to claim you've been unfairly treated is gone.

The mere belief in inferiority of race is based on pseudo-science and biased observations informed by preconceived notions. Most of these beliefs stem from the European explorations in the 1400s and 1500s, when they would, say, see people wearing less clothes in another area and assume it had to do with sexuality instead of, you know, IT'S THE EQUATOR AND IT'S REALLY REALLY HOT.

This is the kind of wackiness you are buying into. 

And let's not even get started on the people doing this while claiming to be American. I mean, remember that time we fought a war because we thought fascism was bad? And we won that war, because it turns out a lot of people don't like fascism and were resisting it? Doesn't that make you think "Golly gee, fascist beliefs sure are unpopular. It's almost like people don't like being forced to do things by the government."

How about the people who hold these beliefs and claim to be Christian? If you believe in the inferiority of another person, then you are not showing Christian love. The whole point was to spread Christ's love and mercy to everyone-and you don't spread love and mercy by telling people they're naturally inferior and they must accept God's place for them in the racial hierarchy.

(No, Cain was not cursed with blackness. It doesn't say that anywhere. No, Sodom and Gomorrah was not destroyed because of mixed race relations-it's like you didn't even read that part where they were threatening to rape Lot's "guest". No, God didn't ban the Israelites from marrying other tribes due to race mixture-it was to keep the influence of other religions out of the worship of God, which is pretty obvious if you read any of the Bible. I think that about covers all the crazy Biblical race theories.)

To sum it up:

You have a right to protest. To paraphrase Voltaire, I will defend to the death your right to voice your opinions. But that doesn't mean I have to have any respect for you, and my First Amendment right says I can nonviolently oppose you as much as possible. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ecofiction: Anviliciousness Without The Cheese

You know what's worse than a cheesy anvilicious novel? An anvilicious novel without any cheese at all. Of either kind.

I prefer a nice, mild provolone for my reading snack.

Unfortunately, I had to deal with this for eight weeks straight when I took a mere "Readings in Fiction" class, in which the theme was environmental matters. Imagine Captain Planet, without any of the 80s charm. It was a dark, dark place.

Let's go in order, here. First one up was The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey.

Now, this one wasn't totally awful. The main characters were flawed, occasionally funny, and in the end most were shown to be a bit hypocritical. Research on an Edward Abbey paper actually helped this make sense. His anarchist views were more important than the environmental concerns; in fact, the environmental concerns were centered around government interference in life foremost. However, this becomes a problem when every single authority figure in the book is a strawman. So many strawmen, but I'm saving the inevitable Doctor Who joke for another book. The problem in creating flawed, unsympathetic protagonists and strawmen villains is that it looks like the villains were made to simply help your horrible protagonists look better. Not a good move. Not to mention that the plot tended to meander everywhere. (This is actually a common feature of ecofiction, for some reason.) So, try it out, but don't have very high expectations. I plan to read Desert Solitaire, which my professor said is more about Abbey's musings about the beauty and danger of the desert, and some of his philosophical views instead.

Up next was a book better relegated to philosophy class than actual fiction. Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn.

Now, I actually liked this one, chiefly because it was more a philosophical exercise than an actual attempt at a story. While we have a framing story, in which the narrator meets the telepathic gorilla named Ishmael (not Grodd, although that would have been much more interesting) who wants to be his teacher. What follows is essentially a series of Socratic questions intended to make us rethink how we look at ourselves and nature. While I didn't agree with much of what it said, I found it interesting that Quinn, through Ishmael, excoriates the idea of objectivity in science, which has led to science being treated, albeit unintentionally, as another religion. (See the discussions about human myths. It's interesting.) Strangely enough, I felt much more in reading this even though there was hardly any story to it. I wanted the narrator to rescue Ishmael in the end, so I think Quinn did a decent job in writing this unusual book, even if at one point he does imply that allowing starving children to starve is better for the environment...

Next, prepare for strawmen. Strawmen everywhere.

Yep, this is where the Doctor Who jokes fit.

Actually, I prefer these strawmen to Callenbach's nonsensical, cartoonishly villainous strawmen of Ecotopia Emerging.

Meet Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way Lou, her name is Lou, who is the sexiest and most super smartest teen genius that ever invented an entirely free, unending source of energy, and those mean, mean government men that want to steal her formula and sell it for PROFIT.

Pictured: the villains of Ecotopia Emerging.

Our second protagonist is Vera Allwen, the smug, preachy founder of the...PFFFTTHHH...."THE SURVIVALIST PARTY" YOU CANNOT MAKE THIS STUFF UP, who tells everyone how awful and horrible humanity has become and if everyone would just agree with her then it will all be okay. Add in to this random episodes that show how horrible the villains are (HOW DARE THAT MAN WANT TO DRIVE HIS CAR DOWNTOWN DON'T YOU KNOW WE ALL USE BICYCLES DOWN HERE AND YOU HAVE TO PAY EXTRA FOR ADDITIONAL TRANSPORTATION IF FOR SOME REASON YOU CANNOT WALK OR USE A BICYCLE FOR SOME DISABILITY WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS)

Like most of these books, it makes occasional good points (the nonsensical insistence in the 70s that chemical pesticide could have no bad effects on people, so it was okay to spray it willy nilly, for example), but it was so overwhelmed by the strawmen and the self-righteousness that it's hard to find anything tolerable.

Ever seen those books with an unreliable narrator, where you're not sure if they're mentally troubled or if their weird hallucinations are actually true? Well, Woman at the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy is not one of those books. 

Connie may be classed as insane, but that's because she hit her niece's abusive pimp boyfriend over the head with a vase, and now she's in an insane asylum for the violent. Granted, Connie is a troubled protagonists. She went through a period of alcoholism in which she did in fact harm her daughter, who was taken away from her. However, Piercy does point out that there are plenty of people in the healthcare industry willing to look away from the real problems (such as ignoring the niece's obvious terrified silence around Abusey McAbuseyton) to take the easiest route. So far, so good.


See, Luciente uses magic mind powers in the future to visit Connie in the past, because Connie is the key to their "perfect" Utopian future, in which babies are artificially grown because women had to give up some power to gain equality to men, polygamy is just the way things are and screw you if you don't feel the same way, and we can talk to cats. Okay, that last one is cool. Also, they genetically modified people to all have the same general skintone to get rid of racism and is anyone feeling really uncomfortable and awkward now or is it just me????

So, to sum it up, if Connie lets the good doctors put a mood-controlling device into her brain to stop her "violent" episodes, then humanity will become a dystopian cyborg race in which the wealthy live above the atmosphere and the rest of the people are struggling along with bad air and barely living to 30 down below, and women are entirely sex objects and nothing else, because patriarchy, or something.

The book meanders. And meanders. And meanders. Connie is brought to the future (again, via magic mind powers never fully explained), and every time her discomfort with some of the changes is shown as bad and close minded. How dare she value real childbirth? How dare she be uncomfortable with people being touchy feely with her, or some dude who is apparently turned on at the drop of a hat? What a bigot!

I hated this book.

But wait, there's more! For the price of one radical feminist novel, you get two! Next we move on to The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk, and yes her name is Starhawk. 


We get a utopia and a dystopia all wrapped up into one! Watch the pleasant village of San Francisco, yes you heard that right, San Francisco, be one with nature using Super Magic Witch Powers, and men are destructive so they can't be in charge but they're okay with that because this is apparently a polygamist society (SERIOUSLY WHAT'S WITH ALL THE POLYGAMY IN THESE BOOKS? DO THE WRITERS THINK NO ONE COULD EVER POSSIBLY CHOOSE TO BE MONOGAMOUS OR SOMETHING?), so free sex for them, and no one has a hint of selfishness, they can share everything without any concerns at all, because they've overcome human nature entirely. MAGIC.

Then we have our horribad villains, the Stewards, who are a nominally Christian theocracy of REALLY REALLY REALLY BAD GNOSTIC HERESIES, and they want guessed it...TAKE OVER THE UNITED STATES.

So we have our 98-year-old grandma Maya, who has her Super Magic Witch Powers and that's literally her job, use her Super Magic Witch Powers. We have Bird, who is Damaged and Traumatized but will screw anything that moves. We have Madrone, who will also screw anything that moves, including someone else's boyfriend/husband, and the other person is wrong for being mad because they should just understand that Madrone is from a different culture, even though in most etiquette books the visitor is supposed to be respectful of cultural differences, not the other way around, but never mind, POLYGAMY IS GOOD AND MONOGAMY IS BAD, REMEMBER THAT, YOU DON'T AGREE, WELL YOU'VE CLEARLY BEEN BRAINWASHED BY THE STEWARDS. Since Madrone is Maya's granddaughter, that makes Madrone, at the very least, in her 30s, but probably older, but her behavior is treated as the impulsiveness of youth, and she's landing pretty young people left and right, and if this doesn't scream "self-insert" I don't know what does.

Also there's a Magic Bee Lady, whose weirdness made her the only interesting thing in the book.

I hated this book even more.


The last book was Garden in the Dunes by Leslie Marmon Silko, but that isn't on my bad list because Silko is an actual good writer and knows how to balance her message with interesting characters and an immersive, compelling plot, leading her novels to be both successful and thought-provoking instead of merely irritating and preachy.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Ham and Cheese Christian Novels: A Second Look at Debra White Smith

So when I read Smith's Austen series, previously, I said that they could be a bit cheesy, and were better fluff than anything, but didn't reach the ridiculous levels of anviliciousness that other Christian novels have.

Well, not so much a lie as...a purer, more innocent time.

Don't get me wrong. I still maintain that Smith's novels are good fluff reading, especially if you're, say, trying to get through finals involving environmental fiction with your sanity intact. (More on that later.) But re-reading them really brought out all the bad writing and super ridiculous villains Smith uses.

Smith comes from the "said is a word for plebeians" school of writing, in which her characters do almost everything but "say" things. She focuses on little details that...don't really add to the scene, such as a character, in the midst of a tense, emotional moment, gazing at the hot dog seller in the park. Like, the hot dogs get their own description.

Also, the copies of the books I have all seem to have had a bad editor who misses really obvious grammar problems. Those, in fact, were more distracting than people hollering and wailing and grimacing words (how do you grimace words? I don't know how that works) and hot dog distractions.

But the big problem, and this is a problem so many writers have, are the strawmen villains. Oh, those delightful strawmen villains. Such as the complex and vivid Mary Crawford being reduced to Sexy McSeducerton, who wears scandalously short skirts and her perfume is...GASP...called "Sexy".


(I can only go five minutes without making a Doctor Who reference.)

However, I still maintain that my favorite villain is her Mr. Elliott analogue, who likes to "chase his ice cream with a little heat". Seriously, our villain is introduced as evil because he is drinking whiskey.

Of course, I would advise him to try Jackscream instead.


  • 1 1/2 C whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 lb. good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 c Jack Daniels
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 C cold heavy cream
  1. Heat the milk until bubbles rise around the edge of the pan.
  2. Remove from heat, add vanilla, cover, and steep for 20 minutes.
  3. Melt the chocolate with the whiskey on low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until thoroughly combined; gradually whisk in the warm milk.
  5. Pour back into saucepan and heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened; temperature should be 170 degrees.
  6. Strain the custard through a fine mesher strainer and let cool.
  7. Stir the melted chocolate mixture and cream into custard; cover and refrigerate until chilled.
  8. Freeze the ice cream in ice cream maker; transfer to a freezer container and freezer for an hour or two to firm before serving.

I have no doubt I have already earned the "Debra White Smith Evil Badge of Evil". When do I get some minions? Brent Everson has Penny Clay. They spend a good chunk of time genuinely cackling over their evil schemes.

Maybe hindsight is 20/20. Or maybe I was so overloaded on strawmen and anviliciousness from the Ecofiction class that I noticed it more.

Oh, don't worry, environmental fiction. You'll get your turn.

Looking at you Ernest Callenbach. Side-eyeing you so hard right now.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Remember that time I went on blog hiatus without telling anyone

So yeah. Since I haven't posted anything of substance in months, I guess we can call this a hiatus. When you're reading three books a week and a coworker quit abruptly in the middle of the work day leaving you short staffed, life gets hectic.

So let's get this out of the way.

I probably won't be doing anymore individual episode reviews of different series. X-Files, for example, is leaving Netflix in April, which means I can't just plop down and watch one when I have time. Instead, I'll write series or season reviews, which I think will work better for me.

I have a huge back list of book reviews to write, though, so those will be arriving at some point. In the future. When I can stop reading preachy books about the environment. Five more weeks of it. I can make it.

See you on the flip side.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Chaucer's Valentine's Day Advice

Chaucer wrote a column for NPR, dishing out medieval love advice.

"Lo, whanne first yn love al folke do interpret choyces and signals more carefullye than the protagonists of Dan Browne novels."

Do try to avoid the Deciduous Forest of Certain Maiming.

Monday, January 16, 2017

In Defense of Eldritch Tomes

I bet you weren't aware that Jane Austen was a staunch defender of the Necronomicon. Now you know.

Yes, eldritch tomes; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with tome–writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding — joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own scholar, who, if she accidentally take up a tome, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! If the scholar of one tome be not patronized by the scholar of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new tome to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected madness than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers. And while the abilities of the nine–hundredth abridger of the Collected Works of David Foster Wallace, or of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some dozen quotes of Joyce, Hemingway, and Faulkner, with a paper from the New Yorker, and a chapter from Franzen, are eulogized by a thousand pens — there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the tome writer, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them. “I am no tome–reader — I seldom look into eldritch tomes — Do not imagine that I often read tomes — It is really very well for a tome.” Such is the common cant. “And what are you reading, Miss — ?” “Oh! It is only a tome!” replies the young sacrifice, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only the Necronomicon, or the Book of Eibon, or the Pnakotic Manuscripts”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of eldritch beings, the mind-blasting delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of insanity and horror, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language. Now, had the same young lady been engaged with a volume of The Atlantic, instead of such a work, how proudly would she have produced the book, and told its name; though the chances must be against her being occupied by any part of that mundane publication, of which either the matter or manner would not disgust a young cultist of taste: the substance of its papers so often consisting in the statement of probable circumstances, natural characters, and topics of conversation which concern anyone not living in the shadow of Kadath; and their language, too, frequently so dull as to give no very favourable idea of the world, unconscious to the threat of eldritch invasion, that could endure it.

She was truly eloquent on the plight of mad scholars.

All this to say I have a cold, I'm sleep deprived, and I need to start blogging again.

Note: All names chosen for their connection to so-called "high brow culture", not for any personal opinion about them, and also because they might possibly be devoured first when Cthulhu next awakens. By all means, enjoy these thoroughly mundane tales not connected to the problem of vast, unknowable beings that will one day cleanse the earth of humanity and drag it off to their dimension, presumably to use it for an eldritch tea party.