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.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

X-Files: S1, E9: Space

Today, the world mourns John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth. There is also something to be said for a person who goes "I'm 77, and I'm going to space." You go Glenn!



That said, it seems appropriate then to resume my X-Files reviews, and with the very appropriate "Space", in which an astronaut is possessed by that goofy not-face from Mars.

In 1977, they found water on Mars. Insert your own Doctor Who joke here.

Lieutenant Colonel Belt is having some flashbacks to being In Space, especially as he ran into the Mars face during a spacewalk. Meanwhile, Mulder and Scully are investigating possible sabotage at NASA. Someone doesn't want people going to space, and we're assuming its aliens, even though they seem to have no problem hanging around Earth, pretending like they pay rent. 

I Googled "Why don't aliens pay rent for air space". Was not disappointed.

They hang out with the Obviously Sketchy Belt, and the launch goes fine, but then they lose contact with the astronauts. I mean, it is starting to sound like a Doctor Who episode, but unfortunately the Doctor does not show up, nor does he try to fit himself and two other people into a very tiny space shuttle. Also, now Michelle Generoo, communications commander, is seeing an alien face. Belt makes decisions that everyone thinks are bad, but actually sound like decent ideas, but he's bad because this is the program's "last chance". Granted, we haven't been too interested in our space programs lately, but still. It wasn't like NASA was going to call it quits over one bad mission. I mean, one got exploded and they kept on going.

Speaking of, Belt is rapidly coming under suspicion. He was at that explodey episode as well, along with some other problematic events. When he goes to sleep that night, the alien ghost that is possessing him flies to space to troll the astronauts up there. Which causes an oxygen leak. What a jerk.

Anyways, he commits suicide to stop the alien entity from continuing to sabotage missions, which doesn't make sense, as it could probably just possess someone else. 

So that was it. An episode about...a space ghost.

MEANWHILE ON X-FILES


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Update and Book Review: The Obsidian Chamber by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Hey look! I'm a little tired of politics. I said my piece, I changed exactly 0 people's minds about politics, welcome to the Internet, this happens all the time.

So, let's just move on, shall we? I'm eager to get back to reviewing entertainment that temporarily distracts us from our troubles.

LAST TIME ON PENDERGAST

There were witches in Innsmouth Exmouth. Monsters were set loose. Constance tried to make out with Pendergast, which ended about as well as everyone expected it to. Pendergast died. Again. Readers began to wonder if the real mind behind the Pendergast series was Steven Moffat.

Also Diogenes came back to life.

Readers began to wonder if--

ANYWAYS

No, Diogenes didn't "come back to life". He just landed on a convenient ledge and crawled back out. How? I...

Umm...

Moving on.

Diogenes has come to the conclusion that he is in fact in love with Constance, and suddenly the book turns into a Gothic romance, complete with a secluded island. Also, supposedly, the arcanum backfires if someone stops taking it, and Diogenes is Constance's only hope. Why did she just now starts suffering from it? We're not sure.

Diogenes has a psychotic female assistant who is not, in fact, Harley Quinn, because if she was then we would actually like her. Said female assistant has, predictably, fallen in love with Diogenes. Confusion ensues.

Meanwhile, PROCTOR IS ON A HIGH SPEED CHASE THROUGH THE DESERT TO FIND CONSTANCE AND HE FIGHTS OFF TWO LIONS ALL BY HIS LONESOME BUT WE DON'T SEE THAT BECAUSE BOOOOOOOOOO

I have strong feelings about not seeing Proctor's epic fight against lions.

Pendergast is not dead. Of course. Instead, he has been rescued by drug runners, who are holding him hostage on the boat and being Obviously Evil. They try to ransom him back to the FBI, which is divided between The Old Guys Who Implicitly Trust Pendergast's Wacky Ways and the Young Hotshot Who Isn't As Smart As He Thinks He Is. Where Mulder and Scully fall on this divide can be inferred.

This review has been a lot more sarcastic than I intended. I mean, it was a fun book, but I felt there was something slightly off. It's almost like the Gentlemen were like, "Hey, look at all these wacky theories by the Diogenes fangirls. Let's write them" and then it happened. The concept itself isn't bad, but I felt like Diogenes feelings came out of left field, and there was little focus on either Pendergast or Proctor's amazing ability to fight off two lions at once. (I'm not letting that go.) We get a little bit of Pendergast Pendergasting around, but that doesn't last long.

And what the hell happened to Tristram? You know, HIS SON? THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BACK? This kid started a rebellion at the age of, like, 15, after being locked in a basement for most of his life. WE REALLY NEED MORE ABOUT HIM.

That said, I'm interested to see where this particular arc point is going. And I'm happy to hear that the next book is going to be a classic Pendergast/D'Agosta team-up.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Post Election After Thoughts

I've been holding off writing this, first because to me, I had the same reaction I would have had if Hillary had been elected. "Well, that sucks." I made no secret that I despised both candidates. But here we are, and we have an orange president for four years (and hopefully no longer).

First, let's address the Electoral College thing. Look, I know it's frustrating when someone wins the college but not the popular vote, because I've been in that exact situation. But the purpose of the Electoral College is to prevent the high population areas from creating a tyranny of the majority over the rest of the country. It's job is to give voice to the people in rural areas and "fly over" states that would otherwise be drowned out. America was never intended to be a pure democracy. It was always a republic. There are some great Enlightenment works out there that discuss these concepts. I think a good foundation for learning about our country and political system would be to look at them.

Second, let's address the racists. I have one thing to say.

STOP

This is what you look like when you get mad at people of different ethnicities for merely existing:



I'm so confused by this. I admit, I laughed at people's outraged reactions the day after Trump won. I was scolded because "people are genuinely scared". Well, I maintain the majority of them were still ridiculous, especially these crying 18 year old white kids curled up in safe spaces. Stop that. No one got anything done doing that. And I'm saying this as a person who will cry at the drop of a hat. I also maintain that if that chick hadn't made up a false report about being attacked, these idiots wouldn't have latched onto the idea. I think she shot herself in the foot with that one.

That said, these idiots exist. They think Trump's strict (in some people's opinions, overstrict) immigration laws = HATE ALL MINORITIES, but these are also the people that took the Crusades out of context to apply them to any issue they don't like. Give us back Deus Vult, you varlets. You wouldn't last two seconds in an actual battle of any kind.

Look, Trump isn't exactly an ideal president. His public persona accidentally called out the crazy racists of the country, but I said it before and I will keep saying it: his "promises" are not going to come through. President Obama made a lot of promises too, and most of those didn't come to fruition either. I will also point out that Trump has never been "conservative", or even very Republican. In fact, he basically won because he's slightly outside the establishment. (We'll see how long that lasts.) But the point is, he had some very different ideas before the election, so I've always been skeptical about what exactly he's really going to do.

For now, we have to move on. He's in charge, like it or not, and the best we can hope for is that he doesn't screw up any worse than past presidents have done. We've been in this situation before. We can make it. And, on the bright side, we have four years of Oompa-Loompa jokes to use.

But next time you hear about some racist mob, the best thing to do is confront them dressed as a Crusader. Riding a horse, if  possible. See how fast they run.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Some Lighthearted Lovecraftian Fun to Cleanse Our Palates



Randolph Carter is having a bad night. His best friend went down into a tomb, and now he sounds really weird, and keeps insisting that there are go-carts down there, and Carter should totally come join him!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thanks, Election 2016, now EVERYONE is Hitler

Election 2016, with less muscular men.

AHAHAHAHAHA SOCIAL MEDIA IS FUN

Okay, this is the presidential campaign post. Or, more accurately, "Stop being jerks about the presidential campaign" post. So let's talk about how people have been behaving regarding this election.

Here's a picture that aptly demonstrates exactly what I'm talking about.

Yes, I whited out her name and Twitter handle, because this is a frigging classy blog

This attitude right here is why we're in the state we're in. Look, we're all going to disagree on somethings. We're also all going to have those idiots that genuinely think our candidates are the BEST CANDIDATES EVAR, which is a bit concerning, but never mind.
My point is that this attitude is destroying us from the inside. We live in a culture of outrage. Anything that can be construed as offensive will be construed as offensive, either by someone deliberately taking advantage of the situation to make themselves look better, or because they are so wrapped up in what they've heard about people that disagree with them that they genuinely think they are doing what's right. Those are the scariest. Fanatics behaving irrationally because they think they're right are the ones that can cause the most damage, because they can't conceive that they are wrong.

That's the other problem here, No one can possibly think they could be wrong about any little thing. And look, there's a difference between "I'm pretty sure I'm right on this" and "NO I REFUSE TO LISTEN TO ANYTHING THAT MIGHT MAKE ME HAVE TO THINK ABOUT WHAT I'M SAYING BECAUSE I'M RIGHT BECAUSE YOU'RE ALL JERKS AND I'M NOT". Yes, big difference.

This election has brought out the worst in people. Trump supporters think he's just "telling it like it is" despite the fact that he totally thought the exact opposite of a lot of things before he decided to run for president. Clinton supporters think that Trump is one bad day away from blowing up the world, while Hillary is sunshine and roses and has never done anything awful ever.
The problem with both sides is that they are blatantly ignoring all the truly awful things both candidates have done and continue to do. Trump supporters pass off his sickening comments about married women as "locker room talk", and sure, some men do talk like that, but if they jumped off a cliff should Trump do it too? No, don't answer that, let's not get into that right now. Point being, just because a lot of people do something doesn't mean it's right. Argumentum ad populum is still a logical fallacy. Also, Trump is pretty much a textbook narcissist. I took one year of psychology and even I can recognize that.

Clinton supporters, meanwhile, have suddenly decided that Wikileaks, who was their bestest best friend that ever bestest with them, is an evil puppet in the employ of Donald Trump and/or Vladimir Putin, whoever is playing Hitler in their minds that day. Clinton wasn't found guilty about sharing classified information, so that means she's not guilty! They happily ignore the totally coincidental meeting with Loretta Lynch and Clinton's own lies during the debate about the matter. Every time a new piece of evidence arises to show that no, Hillary Clinton isn't the pure, disinterested leader we want, they cry conspiracy.

All this leads to the problem we see now. Both sides are at each other's throats. They have so convinced themselves that their candidate is the only one that will save us from Doomsday (no, not that one) that the other side looks like the most heinous, selfish, awful people you will ever meet. Our friend Laura up there uses the word du jour, "privilege". It's a good word. It means that you can immediately dismiss whatever your opponent says by insisting that they can't understand other people. Sympathy and empathy are part of humanity, and by mentally casting your opponent as someone who can't feel these things, you diminish their humanity and thus make it easier to dismiss anything they have to say. You justify it by saying you are making the world safe for those without that privilege, and you come off looking like an angel of light.

On the other side, you have people casting their motives as speakers of the TRUTH (Truthiness?). Rather than engage in the sophistry and subtle repression of the their opponents, they insist that they are the truly rational ones, and as such they have the responsibility to insist on their version of the truth, loudly, at any time they feel appropriate, which is basically all the time. And with both sides, if you even venture a partial disagreement with anything, they are ready to cast you into the political outer darkness, where they think there's weeping and gnashing of teeth, but where there's really just a lot of very confused people who decide to just move on with their lives and shut up.
And there's the problem. These behaviors are leading to an echo chamber. By telling anyone who disagrees with you to simply be quiet and agree, you are damning yourself to delusion. It is impossible to be 100% right, and if you surround yourself with sycophants, you will never improve, you will never learn. 

Honestly, I think part of this problem comes from social media. It is such a part of our lives now that we view everything through its lens, and that's something I'm trying not to do. When we see the crazy neckbeard shouting "GO TORMP BEAT THOSE $^$#%#y$#ETHNICSLURS#@%#$%#@" on Twitter it's easy to connect that to the multitude of kind people who thought long and hard about the election and decided on Trump for reasons unconnected to racism and treat them with the same contempt as Neckbeard McNeckbeardy. Similarly, we see people like Laura up there, or the whiny college student who discovered that real life is hard, and connect it to normal people who spent time making their decision for reasons unconnected to FREE STUFF. Add to the fact that news outlets deliberately frame things to be as outrageous and eye-catching as possible, and we have a perfect storm of assumptions that lead us alienating ourselves from other people.

All this to say, vote for who you want, but regardless of the outcome, take time to see the humanity even in people you disagree with. And not in the Brexity "oh, you poor uneducated fool, I feel bad for your stupidity" kind of way. See the reasoning and sympathetic human being you are talking to, not a walking stereotype. Maybe we can start repairing this mess.