Archive for July, 2011

Go There

July 29, 2011 - 7:27 pm Comments Off

Due to Various Circumstances there will be no content from us today, having to do with chores, errands, and having discovered a marvelous mojito recipe.

I did, however, find time to update the blogroll with a few I’d been meaning to add.

Adaptive Curmudgeon
In Jennifer’s Head
North

Friend Zone

July 28, 2011 - 5:03 pm Comments Off

Hey Hershele, first time I noticed you had a byline at NSWATM. The article, for those who aren’t simply geekily pleased to see a regular commenter writing somewhere you read, is the curious attachment Hollywood has in promoting the cultural meme that heterosexual men and women can’t ever really be friends, and that all cross-gender friendships are sexual relationships waiting to happen or else arrangements in which one person is sexually frustrated and the other is either oblivious or getting some kind of arcane pleasure out of sexually denying the other.

Hershele goes over the basic assumption underlying this- that men and women are simply too alien, too different to ever have a real friendship, and the only point in having interactions with anybody of the opposite sex who isn’t a relative is the possibility of sex.

The part where I want to make a separate post about it rather than just commenting there or tipping my hat is that I think the same set of assumptions and memes do a lot more damage to relationships than just creating needless jealousy or reinforcing Nice Guy Syndrome; they create and reinforce the idea that the kind of relationship you have with someone you’re sleeping with, even ongoing and long-term and ostensibly love-based relationships, is something totally other than friendship.

One of the most common pieces of advice I’ve seen in advice and self-help aimed at improving or maintaining marriages, or other long-term relationships, is to check the kinds of things you say about, to, or do your significant others and ask the question would I say/do that to/about a close friend? If the answer is “no” and the case in point wasn’t something along the lines of “ask them for oral sex”, then it’s something you shouldn’t be doing and is damaging the relationship. It’s the kind of question that shouldn’t, in theory, need to be asked, but judging by the messages we get both from dysfunctional relationships in our lives and the media in general about how casual intersex warfare is “normal”, it very often seems to need to be.

Intimate relationships ARE friendships, or they should be if they’re going to last; not all friendships are intimate, but all intimate relationships that aren’t friendships are likely to be far more stressful than satisfying, seeing as intimacy involves vulnerability. If someone is too different from you for friendship to be possible, either pursuing a romantic relationship with that person is a bad idea straight out of the gate or you could stand some improvement in being able to relate to people who aren’t exactly like you, in general. Of course, the idea of two people who are even remotely different from each other being good friends as inherently WACKY is another meme that we tend to see a lot of through Hollywood.

Hurtin' Kitty

July 27, 2011 - 5:46 pm Comments Off

Sorry for the light content again. Zydeco got dropped off at the vet’s early this AM for a dental and what turned out to be very multiple tooth extraction. He had a canine go rotten, and because he’s a stoic little bastard who never betrays any sign of pain or discomfort until he’s ready to collapse, the first indication we had of this was the crap from the infection at the root backing up into his sinuses until he was sneezing it out. Yeah.

The vet’s office managed to forget to call us when he was ready to go home, so between his age, the existing infection, his very much underweight status, and the general anesthesia I spent most of the day engaged in mid-level fretting that was not particularly conducive to creativity.

I needn’t have worried. He lost a lot of teeth (the rot was pretty deep, and pretty extensive), and he seems to have a chronic high blood pressure problem he will be medicated for hence, but he bounced back like a very angry rubber ball and was trying to kill the vet through the bars of his cage. When he got home he raced to where he’s fed and leapt up, then was equally pissed off I had not already served dinner, which he ate with gusto despite what must be pretty significant pain. Aside from the hypertension, bloodwork showed his internals in remarkably good shape.

He’s 13 now, so seeing these signs that my mad little berserker is starting to show the effects of age is making me a little sad. I got him when I was just freshly an adult himself, so seeing him starting to wear out in places is bittersweet.

Less maudlin content tomorrow.

Business And Beer As Usual

July 26, 2011 - 5:36 pm Comments Off

Not much of note going on here. It’s obnoxiously hot, like it is nearly everywhere in the US right now except the Pacific northwest. Things to do, people to see, news to not blog about because it’s just not really worth it. Politicians more concerned with own skins than future of country! Junkie who wrote a hit song about refusing to get help dies! Republican field of contenders hopeless disaster except for those with no hope! President gives speeches with no concrete ideas and a lot of scolding of opposite party and American people in general! Water to remain wet until further notice, stay tuned!

On the bright side, we got our first real harvest of hop cones- six ounces’ worth- off the most vigorous of the native hop vines. One other is just beginning to cone, another is aburst with flowers that will become cones. Initial smell-and-taste shows good alpha acids and bright flavors. We are thinking once the harvest is fully in of applying them to a pilsner or American-style pale ale.

Whatever other stupidity is going on, there will be beer.

Represent

July 25, 2011 - 6:42 pm Comments Off

Here we have an op-ed by Lawrence Krauss about Rick Perry’s call-to-prayer event, which pretty much everyone but the dishonest and the mentally handicapped understand to be a run-up to his expected Presidential bid. Krauss thinks the event is problematic for a number of reasons, chief among which is the way the event goes out of its way to outline its beliefs, including reiterating that all non-Christians are damned.

The predominant strain of comment on this editorial seems to be thus:

1) Krauss is an atheist who voted for Obama and therefore has nothing to say about Christians or Republicans
2) The first amendment protects freedom of religion and expression, including this one
3) Krauss and people like him would JUST LOVE IT if it were a Muslim or atheist doing the same thing, despite the fact that Krauss used specifically those hypotheticals to demonstrate that the event is uncomfortably exclusionary.

Point one is essentially nonsensical- people who disagree with people or institutions comment on them all the time and it isn’t particularly controversial when they do- and point three shows a fair amount of having sheerly not read the article. Point two, however, is absolutely correct; it just isn’t the point of the article.

Perry is entirely free to believe as he chooses, associate with whom he chooses- the saved versus the damned, as it were- and hold assemblies dedicated to those beliefs. The first amendment does indeed protect all faiths and all messages, exclusionary ones or no. As long as Perry is acting in his capacity as a citizen and not the Governor of Texas, holding the event is not Constitutionally problematic. All of it is completely normal and ordinary in a country of a dozen or a hundred faiths, any one of which may believe that all the others are damned to follow so long as nothing is done to hasten them on their way to their ultimate destination.

The reason Krauss’s critique hits home as “problematic” isn’t because of who Perry is or what he believes, but that it’s extremely likely he’s doing it to open his campaign to run for the President of the United States, which is essentially that of chief executive representing the entire populace, not just the Christian one. It’s entirely possible that Perry would govern in the secular fashion appropriate to the office and the civic structure of the US, showing no favoritism or bias and always conscious of what’s appropriate for a chief executive as opposed to a national pastor, but just as he is free to send whatever messages he wants to the saved, the damned are equally free to read anything into the messages he sends about the likelihood of that.

As Krauss points out, the irreligious and the nonChristian combined represent about 21% of the population of the US- and he did not bother to point out, perhaps not feeling it necessary to do so, not all of them vote for Democrats as a matter of course. While it may be possible to win the governorship of Texas with that kind of screw-you-heathen messaging, it is extremely unlikely that it’s possible to win the presidency without that 21%. Remember, Obama’s winning percentage was a decisive win at 52% of the popular vote- and a REAL blowout would be more like the 60% by which Nixon defeated George McGovern in 1972, or the 58% with which Reagan defeated Mondale in 1984.

Perhaps Krauss is dismissable because he’s a Democrat himself anyway, or at least likely to vote for Obama, but it’s unlikely this atheist would vote for Obama either unless he undergoes a major personality transplant and political realignment. I would not, however, be capable of voting for Perry either, and would be staying home with a big bottle of whiskey and a big bottle of aspirin for the next day. Just like every election year without the stop at the polls first.

BTDT

July 22, 2011 - 7:07 pm Comments Off

Jennifer posts about a dream involving needing to shoot someone and not being able to. (In her case, because the slide came off in the holster.) Coincidentally, in a bull session with some of our other gunnie friends the subject came up and it turns out we’ve all had that dream, often in a wide variety of ways.

Between Stingray and me alone, we’ve had:

- 900-pound trigger pull
- Unclearable jam
- Gun fires, but the bullet just falls impotently out of the barrel
- Gun falls apart
- Gun was apart in the first place, cannot be put back together
- Wrong ammo
- No such thing as right ammo, gun chambered in something completely obscure
- Gun is magic ammo-eating device, perpetually not loaded when trigger pulled even if freshly loaded
- Uninsertable magazine
- Magazine falls out
- Gun successfully fired, intended target bulletproof
- Gun successfully fired, intended target not bulletproof but mysteriously mobile and also mad as hell
- Gun successfully fired, shooter recent graduate of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy

The way I figure it for me at least, they’re out-and-out anxiety dreams. When I was much younger I had dreams about running from a pursuer who never stopped; when somewhat older, dreams about trying to beat somebody down with my bare hands and them simply not going down. Now that I’m a shooter and my subconscious has absorbed that defending myself from a threat may involve a weapon, it’s the Comedy Malfunction Parade.

These days I use them as a dipstick for my overall current mental health/outlook- if I neutralize the threat, escape, or otherwise deal acceptably with the situation, I’m doing pretty well. The time I dreamt I actually DID successfully beat someone to a bloody pulp and then felt REALLY BAD ABOUT IT, I figure was right about the pinnacle of self-confidence for me…

We Also Needn't Worry About Monoliths

July 21, 2011 - 6:14 pm Comments Off

I have a new record for the dumbest thing a member of the mainstream media has ever pestered a scientist about: Ape Uprising?

The actual reporter went to some actual primatologists to quiz them about the possibility that chimps might, like they do in the upcoming Rise of the Planet of the Apes, be able to use a gun and consciously rebel against humanity. Or something. The question is as muddled as the answers he got out of said primatologists, as classic a case of GIGO as I’ve ever seen.

They made a game attempt at stating some reasons as to why the question is a bit silly, but they didn’t do what I really wanted at least one of them to do, which was instead of stating things like “they’re just apes, and there aren’t actually all that many of them left, and guns would probably scare them more than anything”, just saying:

“Look, it’s a big, dumb, action movie, and not only that it’s a big, dumb, sequel to an entire franchise of big, dumb, action movies. This is not hard science fiction, it’s CGI apes with guns because apes with guns are cool on a movie screen when you’ve paid twenty dollars for a bucket of popcorn and the intention to suspend the laws of reality for a couple of hours. Nobody at all is remotely confused about this, and anybody who might be anyway has some problems that are far beyond my capabilities to address. Please find something more constructive to do with your time. You have embarrassed both of us. Goodbye.”

Shifting Expectations

July 20, 2011 - 6:41 pm Comments Off

So yesterday Jay brings us a story about two keystone cops who plugged each other, rather than the guy they were trying to catch. Supposedly the dude is a child pornographer, a phrase usually inserted into news stories in order to make sure everybody knows This Guy Is Skeevy And Bad. For some oddball reason most of us, myself included, are in the vein that would have a grand old time introducing people who sexually exploit and/or abuse children to Mr. Blowtorch and Mr. Sandpaper.

The part that made me do a doubletake, though, is that that wasn’t my first reaction to reading the quote from the article Jay put up. My very first take was more along the lines “I wonder what trumped up bullshit they’re throwing at this schlub. Probably some dipshit 17 year old sent a picture of her boobs to his phone,” and it doesn’t take more than a few seconds with google to turn up copious examples of such trivial things ruining lives.

Further along, it turns out the suspect was 45 years old and at a Harry Potter premier, which still isn’t damning by itself, but does tend to raise the eyebrows a skosh. Either way, evil sleazster or maligned dumbass, the fact that we have managed to fuck up our laws regarding sex so spectacularly that the previously visceral label “child pornographer” has not only lost all immediate impact, but swung all the way around to bring up an initial impression of sympathy (or perhaps more accurately severe doubt of the charges and sympathy for being on the receiving end of high-impact bullshit), probably means I need a much bigger and much stiffer drink. With breakfast. From now on.

Crossfit is trying to kill us.

July 19, 2011 - 4:35 pm Comments Off

After this, content when we can type more again. Or breathe.

Gender Kabuki

July 18, 2011 - 3:43 pm Comments Off

I used to pretty much automatically tune out people that use terms like “hegemonic masculinity”, and truth be told it took me long enough to try and find a concise definition that wasn’t an impenetrable thicket of jargon that I had to use the link at hand, but every once in awhile I come across completely straight-faced pieces that are damn near a parody of the entire concept- like this one. So far as I can tell Laura Ingraham is completely serious about it and so is National Review, but it trips my Poe threshold to the point where if I hadn’t been familiar with either I’d be going back and forth over whether or not it was a satire, written by someone who wanted to translate a concept.

The topic of the article? The profound threat to American masculinity that is the man-purse. To wit:

In their mission to erase all vestiges of masculinity once and for all, the fashion mavens have done away with the backpack, the briefcase, and the gym bag. The only accessory acceptable to the chic man about town is the murse. This purse-like man-pouch is all the rage in most metropolitan areas.

Fashion probably has something to do with it, but if I were completely unfamiliar with American culture and I were trying to explain why there were more square bags carried by shoulder strap around and fewer backpacks, briefcases, and gym bags, I would probably start by noting that carrying a bag by a strap is more convenient and comfortable than carrying a bag by a handle, and that the things people were carrying with them tended to also be flat and square and thus carrying a backpack or gym bag would be mostly wasted space.

If I got as far as noting that shoulder-strap bags of moderate size had a different set of gender connotations than the other kinds of bags, I might be really confused trying to figure out why the location and number of straps had so much to do with the sex of its carrier.

At first, they weren’t as objectionable because they were modeled on satchels you’d expect to see on a World War I infantryman. But over the last few years, they have gotten more and more . . . well, feminine. The leather, canvas, and Naugahyde man-bags are now indistinguishable from their female counterparts.

The really interesting part of this is that she’s not saying the bags themselves have changed all that much, she’s saying women carry them, or things that look them, more as well- which makes them unacceptably feminine.

Why does a man even need a purse? A man should carry around exactly two items: a wallet and a phone. If you routinely tote anything more than that, you just might be a woman. With coin purses, brushes, makeup, tissues, and other female products, we ladies need the extra space. A man can survive with a lot less.

This is especially ironic to me because I really do only carry around my wallet and maybe a knife at any given time, whereas Stingray carries around enough hardware to start and maintain a small civilization.

It really only gets stranger the longer you think about it and try to unpack it, though. Kleenex is feminine now? Are men supposed to use their sleeve? Men should forgo toting around a netbook, pen-and-paper notebook, their own paperwork, a book or Kindle to read, or any other tools of productivity because they can survive without them? Only women should be prepared for downtime or minor problems easily solved with simple tools? Or men can carry tools of productivity, but they have to be uncomfortable and lose the use of one hand while they do it?

What a man chooses to carry his stuff in tells us a lot about who he is.

Once we attach an absurdly byzantine meaning to everything people do, carry, wear, or use, it does.

Men should by nature be solid, tough, and strong (think leather briefcase) — not soft, delicate, and transparent (think macramé tote).

I have never seen a man carrying a macramé tote outside a hippie event where everything is made of natural fibers, and a majority of both women’s purses and messenger bags alike are made of leather. I’M CONFUSED NOW.

Carrying a shimmery Dolce & Gabbana clutch is not going to endear you to a woman — we won’t think you are cool or hip. But if you play your cards right, we might just loan you a set of matching pumps.

Before someone accuses me of having missed the point, I know Ingraham meant this entire brief post as snark/a joke, but the premises on which something is supposed to be funny don’t alter just because it’s a joke piece and not a piece trying to make a serious point with the exact same premises. And the premise here is that a generic-looking bag is just like a woman’s clutch- markedly and laughably feminine- because it has a strap on the shoulder and can carry less stuff than a gym bag or backpack.

It gets more interesting when you realize that you don’t need to Mad Lib the piece much at all to make it a screed about why a real woman should never wear pants with pockets or sneakers- showing off your gender by forgoing useful designs. In the pockets/shoes case it’s taken as given that that’s the model because men are practical and carry their stuff with them in a handy way and wear shoes it’s comfortable to walk a long way in, but women are fashionable and wear painful shoes and clothes that conform tightly to their outline because they’re modeling. In the “murse” case, women are practical and men show off manly they are by only carrying things that are absolutely necessary or else carrying them in something that’s less practical… unless they’re being Led Astray By Fashion.

Odd world we live in. H/T Ozymandias for original article.