Archive for July, 2012

Stuff I Learned Today

July 30, 2012 - 3:43 pm 25 Comments

I would have learned it four days ago, but I was busy this weekend, and I like my internet kerfuffles a few days stale, like the bread you make puddings and strata out of. Either way, the source of my education was a CNN column by someone named Joe Peacock on the imminent cultural threat of attractive women in Joe Peacock’s domain who might not be as into stuff as Joe Peacock is, as well as the commentary stemming from the predictably extensive reaction. Most of what I learned is from the original Peacock piece, though I got additional education from various comments.

- Actually being paid for sex, being paid for being sexually attractive in connection with a product, and getting attention for being attractive are all pretty much the same thing: whoring.

- Men automatically ranking women on a numbered scale of attractiveness is just a normal regular thing because of caveman biology, but attractive women only paying sexual attention to men they themselves find attractive is damn near a hate crime.

- Apparently Olivia Munn existing and having a career is such a terrible thing that people on the internet will actually use “because Olivia Munn” as some sort of commonly recognized shorthand for the tragedy that is whores (see first point) in geekdom.

- A woman getting more attention than her attractiveness number objectively warrants is terrible.

- Women will spend up to thousands of dollars and up to hundreds of hours of work, with up to a whole year in advance commitment, planning, and preparation, for the primary purpose of going to major cons to be attractive at people they have no intention of paying sexual attention to. This is self-evidently the height of pleasurable activity.

- Being only sort of into something and interacting socially with people who are more into it than you is a horrific trick you’re playing on them. I’m glad I learned this before I interacted socially with any more shooters, punks, or science fiction fans; think of the damage prevented.

- Geeky men are never attractive. Sexual interest in them by women is always a feigned ploy to gain pure ego gratification.

- Your attractiveness and interests are fixed traits determined in junior high school. Any attempt to venture beyond these boundaries in adulthood are a loathsome act of treason and manipulation.

- Geek culture is defined by alienation and outsiderhood, which is why CNN considers it culturally relevant enough to have a dedicated column about.

- People deliberately and with malice aforethought seeking to sell things to geeks for money are evil, particularly in a universe in which Hollywood spends squidillions of dollars on making giant, lovingly constructed comic book movie franchises. People who attempt to use sex to sell things to people who habitually rank strange women on numerical scales are particularly evil, akin to feeding Superman a dish of Kryptonite stew.

- Having attractive female friends is the new having gay friends, which was the new having black friends.

- It’s okay to be a female geek, with no necessity to pass litmus tests not to be considered a whore, if you are ugly. (This is not as comforting as it sounds like it must be.)

- Feeling alienated and picked on for your intense pop culture issues as a child was an awful experience, which is why having any of those interests achieve mainstream cultural popularity is the most traumatic thing that could happen to you now. (Things that were never popular in mainstream culture, apparently: Batman, Star Wars, Star Trek, video games, Lord of the Rings, cartoons.)

- It is possible to be aware of Fat, Ugly, or Slutty and to complain about women who go around being attractive at men and getting attention from them they don’t really deserve with no hint of felt cognitive dissonance.

- Also, if you’re a girl, and you play video games, and you aren’t ugly, and you get sexual attention from geeky men out of proportion to how you stack up against really hot girls, you should expect to get misogynistic threats and insults for doing so. Because you’re pretty much just as bad.

- Not being sexually interested in someone who shares interests you have at least lightly, yet resents you virulently for attracting them, is probably about finding those interests gross if indulged in any less moderation.

I’d go fret over the exact messages my t-shirts send and angst about my number and whether I really deserved any of the thousands of social interactions I’ve had with people who shared interests I had passionately or moderately or barely, but I’ve decided my answer to the quandaries raised is “holy shit I’m not in junior high anymore, and I don’t have to care.”

Unexpected Sights

July 28, 2012 - 3:40 pm 3 Comments

Some people you really don’t expect to see playing Mario Kart Wii. Let alone being that damn good at it that quickly.

…though it’s gratifying to see that some phenomenon are universal.

Presented Without Context

July 27, 2012 - 9:54 pm 5 Comments

From a small crowd in the living room.

Stingray: “Okay. Fine then. My ass is growing in notoriety.”

Writing On The Wall

July 26, 2012 - 2:34 pm 6 Comments

Without further elaboration, an argument for the constancy of human nature. I’m pretty sure I read several of these, with modernized language, in various comment sections today.

In Which I State The Obvious

July 25, 2012 - 5:38 pm 20 Comments

…Or, what should be the completely and utterly bleeding obvious to anyone with the moral compass imparted to the average five-year-old, but somehow apparently isn’t to some people.

Via Jennifer, apparently some people are upset that the NCAA decided to penalize Penn State’s football program for its role in the Sandusky scandal. These outrageous penalties include stripping the football program of some scholarships, and barring them from bowl games for four years. I regard these sanctions as amounting to some vigorous tickling of the wrist, with perhaps a whispered threat to slap if they continue being naughty, but apparently they are cause for sackcloth and ashes for some.

I suppose I should put my biases up front: I have a very low opinion of college sports programs in general. While I can appreciate the notion of a healthy mind in a healthy body, I think it’s completely ludicrous to set up our higher education institutions as feeder systems for professional sports leagues, or to encourage any student to prioritize sports when there is only a miniscule chance that that will be his or career, and even if he is riotously successful at that career, it will certainly be over well before their working life is. I think it makes about as much sense as tacking a poker league onto CERN, and it would not dampen my spirits in the slightest to see football (and basketball, and baseball) programs in general vanish from the American academic landscape.

That said, even if my heartbeat ran in tune with my alma mater’s sporting fortunes, I’m pretty sure I would not regard football as greater in importance to whether or not small children are raped. Sainted JoPa apparently stressed in a letter before his death that it was “not a football scandal”, on the grounds that whether a football coach rapes children on a recreational basis in no way reflects on the football program, if it happens in their locker rooms and showers and their games are used to lure the children in the first place.

But, according to the independent report, concern for the football program and an utter lack of concern for Sandusky’s victims dominated the discourse between basically all of Penn State’s leadership when discussing the delicate situation that was one of their coaches maybe having child rape as a sideline hobby. It wasn’t that they thought child rape was OK, it was that the possibility simply wasn’t foremost in their minds as compared to the pressing issues that were potential bad publicity for the football program and the much greater issue that was in any way upsetting Joe Paterno, who insisted on treating the football program and the students involved in it as his personal fiefdom, above and outside accountability to normal university rules. If you have lots of free time and no chronic high blood pressure problems, I recommend reading or at least skimming the full report; it’s a meticulously documented and lavishly illustrated ethnography of an institution subverted to the pure purpose of continuing a comfortable existence.

The NCAA apparently considered the possibility of imposing a four year “death penalty” on the Penn State football program, then backed off upon deciding it was too harsh. I disagree. If football has attained an importance within your institution such that the question of whether or not a child or children was raped on your premises by one of your coaches, and the identity of the child, is so uninteresting to you that the possibility only attains importance in the question of liability, you need to take a fucking break from football. This is like asking yourself if you need to step away from alcohol in the wake of driving the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile through the middle of your sister’s wedding after six bottles of Goldschlager; the answer should not be equivocal.

I am pleased Penn State had sufficient self-awareness to tear down Paterno’s statue. I would regard tearing down the stadium as well and salting the earth to be a proportionate response. And I think anyone who regards the ding in reputation the football program took, as well as the short break from bowl games, to be Penn State’s “darkest day” should consider the possibility of aversive therapy until the glory of the game shrinks to something like the level of importance that is the not-being-raped status of any given child.

Roller Derby FAQ

July 23, 2012 - 6:35 pm 16 Comments

Yes, I know it’s been really quiet around here lately. That’s because July has been insanely busy, with the topic of this post being a major contributing factor and work, friends, and other hobbies being no quieter. Either way, n+1 people have asked me about this and I have absolutely no better ideas for content, so here we go.

1. WTF is roller derby?

It’s women on roller skates playing a game resembling a cross between NASCAR and demolition derby. Go fast, turn left, if you’re assigned to scoring you try to lap your opponents, and if you’re assigned to defense you try to capture the scorer and/or hit her out of bounds/to the ground and/or hit the people trying to help her. The player responsible for scoring is called the jammer and the players on defense are called blocker. The chief blocker gets a fancy striped cover for her helmet and is called the pivot. Mostly her job is yelling at the other blockers. An interval of play is called a jam. The game as a whole is divided into two half-hour periods with an unlimited number of jams (max jam time = 2 minutes, endable earlier under various conditions), and a halftime in between to allow the players to recover some, the coaches to encourage/yell at them, and the referees to reshuffle into new vantage points. There are a bunch of other rules besides, but they are largely uninteresting to the casual observer. To quote a friend, it’s a game in which every rule is as fiddly as the infield fly rule in baseball.

On the grounds that jetting around on roller skates body-checking each other is way too awesome to leave entirely to women, there are now men’s roller derby leagues as well.

2. Isn’t that fixed, like wrestling?

Used to be, back in the seventies. Roller derby has actually been around in various different incarnations since the 1920s, and has varied from a straight-up sport to an exhibition/entertainment event. Right now it’s a straight-up sport.

3. Is fighting allowed?

Used to be, when the current incarnation still had more sideshow elements and penalties were more jokes/excuses for show than actual penalties. Now actually attacking the other players, as opposed to landing legal hits (nothing above the shoulders or below mid-thigh, can’t use your arms or kick), will get you ejected from the game. As it turns out, allowing players to actively try to beat the shit out of each other isn’t all that sustainable in a game that already has a pretty high rate of player attrition from injury.

The completely legal and sanctioned hits are perfectly capable of sending a skater crumpling to the floor or tumbling into the audience, particularly as there are no weight classes and players are sometimes getting hit by girls that are much bigger than them, so the game still isn’t exactly nerf. Imagine a sport that equally encouraged both the body types found on the backs of racehorses and those found in the defensive line of a football team and you’ll have an idea of the potential disparities.

4. Why are there so many, uh…

Yes?

5. You know…

Yes?

6. …lesbians?

It’s a sport whose modern incarnation originated in the punk-alternative counterculture and features highly athletic women in often skimpy costumes. What do you think?

Suffice to say the two communities are close enough that derby skaters often have a spot in pride parades even if everyone on wheels is actually straight.

(There are a lot of gay/bi men in a lot of amateur sports leagues for similar reasons. It’s just being out tends to get the shit kicked out of them, whereas derby tends to encourage any and all to fly their freak flag.)

7. Do you have to be an athlete to skate?

Yes and no. Most leagues make a point of advertising that all skill levels and body types are welcome, for the simple fact that being able to roller skate isn’t that common a skill anymore and most leagues value an inclusive you-can-do-it atmosphere. That said, being able to skate and hit people for an hour straight is actually a pretty big physical demand; by the time you have the skill and stamina to pass the tests to be allowed to bout, you’ll be an athlete whether you started out that way or not. (This is not even going into what you may have to do to be recruited to a team within the league, which depends a lot on the size of the league.) You either put in the sweat, or quit.

8. That girl is really, um…

Yes?

9. …Heavy?

And?

10. …Doesn’t that matter?

I’ll skip the fat vs. fit lecture and reiterate that the nature of the game encourages a lot of different body types. Jammers need speed and agility, but for a blocker being big is often an advantage in and of itself owing to sheer laws of physics. It’s difficult for a much smaller woman to effectively hit a bigger one, or to recover from a hit before major position has been lost.

There’s also more than one way to make it through a pack of skaters; little jammers tend to duck and weave and juke, bigger jammers tend to bash their way through. It all gets much more complicated than that, due to rules and skill levels, but as a basic explanation this one will do. Suffice to say everyone needs to be fit, but being skinny is not a requirement.

11. What kind of gear do you need to play?

Quad skates (NOT rollerblades), knee pads, elbow pads, wristguards, skate or hockey helmet, and a mouth guard. Skimping on any of it will get you hurt, maybe badly. Yes, this gets expensive pretty fast. Most leagues have at least some loaner gear for newbies who are still trying on the sport, but eventually you will have to pony up if you want to continue.

To give you an idea, scattered around various areas of our house are two pairs of skates (I want to upgrade soonish to get a better fit/better quality- this will probably cost me between $350-500, my old skates will go to the loaner bag for any tiny-footed fresh meat out there), a skate tool, a bearing puller, three sets of wheels, we’ve both upgraded our bearings at least once and gone through a set of laces apiece, bearing lube, a wash bottle (again for the bearings, an unbelievable amount of crap accumulates in your wheels when you skate outdoors), two bags for gear (both milsurp and pretty cheap, thankfully), a full set of helmet/pads for both of us, leather toeguards for Stingray (my skates are just duct-taped since I care less about them), and a pair of padded shorts.

The tendency to go gear queer is if anything even worse in derby than it is in shooting. Some of my fellow skaters have more sets of wheels than Imelda Marcos had shoes.

12. This sounds like I’m gonna get hurt pretty badly pretty quickly.

Maybe, thought it’s far from inevitable. You need an interesting mix of fearlessness and a very healthy respect for Newton’s laws of motion to play. Respect your learning curve skating and don’t try anything crazy until you’re pretty certifiable AND pretty damn skilled, never ever cheap out on your protective gear, learn the various falls and practice them over and over again, and train and supplement to protect your joints and connective tissues. Free weights are recommended if you don’t already have a physical hobby that challenges your connective tissues without just breaking them down. (Be very vigilant about form and don’t let your ego write checks you can’t cash in THIS realm as well.)

And try not to fall on your tailbone or your head. Seriously.

13. So just how fiddly ARE these rules?

Functionally? Pretty simple.

Technically? The sport is basically a mobile game of DnD for nerds who want to do something physical but don’t want to play with dumb jocks, so very. The occasional square-offs between 10th-dan rules lawyers are inevitable, and sometimes even change the game in fundamental ways. (See: scrum start.)

Short version: don’t hit with your elbows, or forearms, no kicking or tripping, don’t hit in the back, above the shoulders or below mid-thigh, turn left and stay near your team. Unless you’re the jammer, in which case haul ass and try not to get caught.

14. Why would you do something like this, anyway?

Because it’s cool.

Anything else?

Pundit Meets Pop Culture

July 18, 2012 - 3:00 pm 10 Comments

So, Campaign 2012, alias Campaign “Oh god not again has it seriously been four years it can’t have been”, is in full swing, which means it’s time for everyone who REALLY REALLY cares about politics and makes a living off it to start frantic coverage and everyone who doesn’t to try and ignore them for a few more months.

Coincidentally, it’s also summer movie season, and several hotly anticipated comics-movie blockbusters have either already come out (Avengers) or are about to, like the third and final installment in Chris Nolan’s dark and gritty Batman series, The Dark Knight Rises. The last five years or so have been the age of the comic book movie, as Nolan and Marvel studios have conclusively demonstrated that they can be objectively good movies and not just good takes on comic books.

Except Rush Limbaugh thinks it’s actually not a coincidence:

RUSH: Have you heard this new movie, the Batman movie, what is it, The Dark Knight Lights Up or whatever the name is. That’s right, Dark Knight Rises. Lights Up, same thing. Do you know the name of the villain in this movie? Bane. The villain in The Dark Knight Rises is named Bane, B-a-n-e. What is the name of the venture capital firm that Romney ran and around which there’s now this make-believe controversy? Bain. The movie has been in the works for a long time. The release date’s been known, summer 2012 for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental that the name of the really vicious fire breathing four eyed whatever it is villain in this movie is named Bane?

….Um, yes, actually. But Rush is REALLY convinced.

So, anyway, this evil villain in the new Batman movie is named Bane. And there’s now a discussion out there as to whether or not this is purposeful and whether or not it will influence voters. It’s gonna have a lot of people. This movie, the audience is gonna be huge. A lot of people are gonna see the movie, and it’s a lot of brain-dead people, entertainment, the pop culture crowd, and they’re gonna hear Bane in the movie and they’re gonna associate Bain. The thought is that when they start paying attention to the campaign later in the year, and Obama and the Democrats keep talking about Bain, Romney and Bain, that these people will think back to the Batman movie, “Oh, yeah, I know who that is.” (laughing) There are some people who think it’ll work. Others think you’re really underestimating the American people to think that will work.

Or else they’re… making a Batman movie. I know this is a crazy theory, but bear with me for a moment.

The first time I laid eyes on Bane the Batman villain was in 1994, watching the rather excellent Batman: The Animated Series, like most other kids my age. Who are now in their early to midthirties and, I dunno, some sort of money-having potential theater audience or something. I know, it’s a crazy conspiracy, but I’m just trying to present all the alternatives. Kids (and for that matter adults) that were harder core geeks than I was met him in 1993, in Batman: Vengeance of Bane. He’s appeared off and on the Batman comics and cartoon adaptations ever since; the last time I saw him outside the movie theaters was in Young Justice. He’s had a bit more sticking power than some of the other staple comics Batman villians, mostly because he’s visually impressive and generally cunning, so there’s a lot you can do to make him scary and a lot that distinguishes him from the rest of the rogues’ gallery.

Now, I know that explanation doesn’t make as much sense as this one:

The Bane character in this movie was a terrorist. He’s out to destroy Gotham, New York City, which is the case in every Batman movie. But instead of sounding like Romney, he sounds like an Occupy Wall Street guy, in truth. Now, there’s a story in the Washington Times Communities today: “Is Mitt Romney…Batman? — Opponents of Mitt Romney have noticed that the name of Batman’s villain in the upcoming film The Dark Knight Rises is homonymous with the name of an investment firm that Romney founded in 1984. The childish ‘aha’ moment was not unpredictable. Americans have tolerated condescension remarkably well for the past four years, so we can presumably take an insult to our ability to spell — or ability to follow a storyline, for that matter.”

But, anyway, I didn’t really know what the point of this story is. They’re trying to point out that in Batman the good guy and the rich guy are one and the same, and that’s Bruce Wayne. And so what this gal is saying here is: Hey, instead of falling in with the evil guy being Bane, let’s just say Batman is Romney. Batman’s Romney, he’s the evil rich guy, he’s the good rich guy, he’s out to save New York. The rich guy’s the good guy. Of course the evil guy is always rich too in these Batman movies. You may think it’s ridiculous, I’m just telling you this is the kind of stuff the Obama team is lining up. The kind of people who would draw this comparison are the kind of people that they are campaigning to. These are the kind of people that they are attempting to appeal to.

I mean, Bruce Wayne as the Batman has only been around since 1939, which is OBVIOUSLY just in time for modern populist politics, and Bane is obviously meant to allegory the evil 1% as the originally penniless victim of government experimentation and entirely self-made man.

Oh, Obama administration: prescient enough to tell Chris Nolan to make Bane the villain of a movie that began scriptwriting in 2010, because they were just that sure that Romney would win the Republican primaries and make Bain capital a hot topic totally to the entirety of America and not just the pundit class, but so comically stupid as to have the intended allegories make no sense whatsoever.

Pass the pills, Rush, I like this plan! You can’t fool the American people, Obama administration! We’re on to your bat-tricks!

Modern Gaslighting

July 15, 2012 - 7:12 pm 9 Comments

Warning: Jargon heavy modernized psychological “fiction” follows below the break.
(more…)

Sigh

July 13, 2012 - 5:38 pm 8 Comments

I have concluded the most interesting things to happen to me/do in the last two days fall under the heading of, variously, only remotely interesting if you are me or one of the people I interact with weekly, entirely too delicate to blog about without landing on either rude or overweeningly sensitive, or only interesting if you follow the exact same stuff I do, which doesn’t even apply to Stingray. Perhaps content will appear if something bloggably interesting happens in the next four hours or I saddle up a new hobbyhorse for crusadin’ times.

So, a question: has the “view conversation” function basically been nonfunctional on Twitter for the last few weeks for anyone else? Is it a “don’t have a Twitter account” thing they decided to implement for Reasons? I don’t do Twitter, but I watch the Twitters of a lot of people who are a lot funnier in 140 characters than I am, and watching people talk nonsense to the winds and walls has been a less fun experience than the original one.

Insert Stick, Stir

July 11, 2012 - 8:18 pm 32 Comments

So I’ve so far managed to avoid ever commenting on anything related to Elevatorgate, which blew way the hell up on a lot of blogs I sometimes read and sometimes lurk in comments at, but nowhere all that close to home, and blew up in ways that were really ridiculously huge, and seems to get real stupid real fast everywhere it’s discussed. Including at Popehat, where I regarded the initial post as too reasonable to have issue with and therefore exploded in the comments.

So I recognize I’m basically failing as a pattern-recognizing organism in remarking on anything at all related, but apparently one repeated trend in discussions (other than the mass insanity) bothers me enough to do the internet equivalent of going in the bathroom, turning off the lights, and saying “Candyman” five times.

That trend is this: someone brings up Schrodinger’s Rapist, some people get REALLY REALLY OFFENDED by Schrodinger’s rapist, and things immediately devolve into a flamefit back and forth between “THIS IS NAKED BIGOTRY AGAINST MEN” vs “STOP BEING ENTITLED PIGS”.

The thing is, the basic premise of Schrodinger’s Rapist is true. Every woman I know has the idea of assault in general and sexual assault in particular ingrained in some way into the fabric of her life and routines in little rules like the blogger describes. Don’t go walking alone/without dogs at night, always make a first date/meeting somewhere public, always make sure someone knows where you’ve gone if going out with a new guy, etc. etc. Everyone follows rules basically like them; lock your doors, fasten your seatbelt, the friendly Nigerian who sent you an e-mail about the great financial opportunity probably isn’t telling the truth. The post itself goes pretty far in hammering down “BECAUSE A STRANGE MAN MIGHT BE A SEXUAL PREDATOR”, which is in fact the reason for the little rules, but most women that aren’t recovering from having been actually assaulted and possibly having PTSD aren’t explicitly thinking like that anymore than someone who gets into their car and buckles their seatbelt is thinking about all the maniacs on the road and how they might kill him. (Or, for this audience, any more than someone who showers, shaves, dresses, and puts on their carry pistol is thinking about how he or she might have to shoot someone in the grocery store.)

What it’s actually more like is that the question “If (unknown guy interacting with) asks for sex/proposes step toward sex, and I say no, what happens” is always somewhere in there, buried many layers down or closer to the surface depending on the interaction. 99% of the time this is a nonissue because strange men aren’t interacting or aren’t interacting in a remotely sexual manner or the answer is “I say no and then nothing remarkable even could happen unless he’s a raving psychopath, and I don’t see any drool and bloodstains on his shirt”. Raving psychopaths aren’t really what women are concerned about, since they are very rare; the guy they are actually concerned about is the one that just can’t seem to hear the word “no” without assuming it’s either only tangentially relevant or a negotiable point that he just needs a harder sell to answer.

In an elevator, the answer to “what happens if” isn’t a given anymore, and late at night/early in the morning when not many people are around, and the guy being maybe drunk, raises the alert level more. That’s why it’s “creepy”- as in creates a sense of potential threat- in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with how good-looking a guy is or how awkward he is. (Awkward guys with bad social skills are perfectly capable of ignoring “no”, and so are good-looking guys.) Not every or perhaps even most women would experience actual fear, but “this is a bad situation I would like to leave as soon as possible”- yeah, sure. Or even just “offputting”. Which is probably not the goal of anyone hitting on a woman unless he’s doing it to mess with her* instead of actually date/sleep with her consensually.

“Don’t hit on women in elevators late at night, it’s kinda creepy” isn’t akin to “don’t hit on women ever”, or “don’t be male in case someone finds that threatening”, it’s more akin to “don’t stand inside strangers’ personal space”, “don’t approach a stranger on the street with three of your friends when he’s alone and ask for the time”, “while they’re otherwise alone in a dark parking garage is a bad time to approach a stranger for any reason”. Basic courtesies for interacting with strangers comfortably most of us don’t need to be told about because they’re on everyone’s radar.

*Yes, some men do this. It’s another context that most guys don’t really think of because it’s not a thing that happens to them nor a thing that would ever occur to them to do.