A parody site says Dearborn, Mich., is now run by sharia law. Some rightwingers take it seriously.
•One that ought to be parody, but isn’t: the NSA decided to enter online role-playing games to see if terrorists were using them to meet secretly. Surprise! Hasn’t caught any terrorists yet (but I bet some of those agents had fun).
•Rightbloggers try to explain how the late Nelson Mandela was really, really evil or b)he’s better than Obama. Because they’re classy like that.
•A study makes the unsurprising revelation that men who are primarily interested in women for the bodies stare at their breasts in conversation. The Daily Caller predicts that before long, liberals will make looking at breasts a crime! And women really love it when you stare at their boobs!
•Some Democrats are horrified that people are starting to question the wisdom of axing Social Security.
•Memos indicate the Obama administration favors trade-pact rules that would let American businesses fight foreign regulations. Because dammit, we can’t have foreigners controlling who pollutes their country and enslaves their workers.
And yet the myth that Obama is a radical socialist firebrand will not die …
•”Satanic panic” claims about Satanic ritual abuse have consistently proven false, yet people keep making them.
•Yes, racism is still a problem.
•Your tax dollars at work. Only it’s not tax dollars, it’s money police departments just take from you.
A parody site says Dearborn, Mich., is now run by sharia law. Some rightwingers take it seriously.
First up, a new And Magazine article out.
•I’ve noted before that the more emphasis we place on the rights of the fetus, the less rights women get. Echidne looks at how mother-blamers keep piling it on, including the idea that as many pregnancies are unplanned, fertile women should always care for themselves as if they’re pregnant (as pointed out at the link, women who use birth control have relatively few unplanned pregnancies). As Echidne points out “don’t drink while pregnant” isn’t based on medical evidence. It’s a)heavy drinkers can cause problems for the fetus; b)we don’t know what the minimum level is; c)therefore any drinking in pregnancy is dangerous and women wind up getting arrested for it, even though they haven’t committed a crime.
•Right-wing philosopher Ludwig van Mises argued Christianity is inherently anti-capitalist.
•Calls for deference and good manners are a useful tool for keeping people in their place. Oh, and McDonald’s is helpfully giving workers advice on how much to tip the pool boy and the au pair.
•Some very good links from Slacktivist on why the poor can’t simply save their pennies until they’re rich. More criticism of richsplaining here.
•Rick Santorum says Nelson Mandela’s fight against apartheid is just like the Republican fight against the Affordable Care Act.
•The federal government protected wolves and the US wolf population grew. Now it’s pulling back in the face of Western opposition and wolves are being slaughtered.
•A speech from the late Nelson Mandela.
•I’m less surprised than Digby that conservatives (or some of them) are disenchanted with Pope Francis’ liberal comments. We’ve been here before. Back when John Paul II came out against the war in Iraq, right-wingers were loudly denouncing him and explaining the church had lost all moral authority. Christianity is what conforms the Republican Party platform (Rick Santorum’s disagreements with his church all coincide with things were the party disagrees with the church).
•If you have a baby, the government gives you free college—apparently one of the things crisis-pregnancy centers tell women to discourage abortions.
Contrary to some predictions, it looks like ebooks are stabilizing their market share at around 30 percent. John Scalzi comes to a similar conclusion here. Dissenters show up in comments at both sites. Of course, as I’ve noted before, much of the comments are either guesswork or anecdotal.
•Amazon meanwhile is offering small bookstores a program for selling Kindles and a cut of book sales on those Kindles. Consumerist looks at the ups and down. Publisher’s Weekly reports most booksellers see the downs.
•Turning to hard copy, here’s a look at some of the world’s most stunning libraries. And here we have the Vatican and the University of Oxford joining forces to make some old works available online (and by old I mean all the way back to Greek and Hebrew Biblical texts).
•The problems of condensing historical events into a few paragraphs.
•Sofia Samatar on writing around story problems.
•George R. Martin’s tips for fantasy writers. There’s one I’ll come back to later, but it’ll take more time than I have tonight.
•It’s not news that movies with female leads can be hits, but even the NYT feels compelled to mention it.
•Would you believe ET was originally conceived as a horror film?
And I tend to overdo it by watching as much Christmas-themed stuff as possible. It’s partly a reaction to living in Florida so many years (no snow, warm weather) and to having a lot of Christmases by myself (out to dinner with friends, but nobody to open presents with on the morning). So even now that I’m further north and have TYG to celebrate with, here we go.
HOLIDAY ENGAGEMENT (2011) is actually a Thanksgiving film, the protagonist of which hires an out-of-work actor to replace the guy who just broke off her engagement, thereby hoping she can prove to mother Shelly Long that she really has grown up. The premise of I Need a Fake Fiancee goes back at least to It Started With Eve (1941) but this film does it absolutely no credit—it makes Holiday in Handcuffs look like His Girl Friday. “Did you ever even read anything she wrote?”
Even less impressive is DEAR SANTA (2011) with Amy Acker in the lead role of a spoiled socialite who winds up working in a soup kitchen to help out a widowed father and his motherless little girl. Very dull. “All she has on her side is history.”
ALL SHE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS (2004) stars squeaky-voiced Monica Keener as a blonde wanna-be financier in a small Christmassy town who discovers the new guy at the factory where she works is both Very Cute and the exec in charge of shutting the factory down. The kind of small-town romance that would work any time of year—or more accurately not work.
ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS (1985) is an example of the darker Christmas film, where the season serves to highlight the pain. Mary Steenburgen is a working mother fed up with her job and her life to the point she can’t get into the Christmas spirit until angel Gideon (Harry Dean Stanton) gives her some shock therapy (very close to It’s a Wonderful Life in spirit). This gives us a Christmas with job stress, family strife, money issues and grief (not to mention Stanton’s weary angel) but even allowing for Christmas miracles things all get sorted out a bit easily (but no surprise there. It’s Christmas). “Even Santa Claus can’t make it so Daddy isn’t dead for Christmas.”
THE RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (2012) is actually set at Easter, even though it aired at Christmas last year (after all, how many hit Easter movies are there?). The Guardians are the super-hero style team of Santa (Alec Baldwin), Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the Sandman trying to save the world’s children from the bogeyman Pitch (Jude Law) with the reluctant help of amnesiac Jack Frost (Chris Pine). This is watchable, but lacks either the visual or the story imagination to put it over the top (though in fairness, that’s partly because animation standards have risen so much in this century). “The lights! Why aren’t they going out?”
A MAGICAL CARTOON CHRISTMAS is a collection of 1930s Christmas themed cartoons, two or three of which I’ve seen before. Pretty, but nothing that really stands out enough to mention.
SCOURGE: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox by Jonathan B. Tucker is less a history of smallpox than a history of the politics and logistics involved in destroying it in the 20th century. The World Health Organization was won over to the idea (despite already working on ending malaria) because of US offers of funding and the relative simplicity (no insect vectors—inoculate all the exposed people, you can end an outbreak), and set off on the challenging effort to inoculate every victim and everyone they might have infected (logistically very challenging). After the elimination came the contentious debate over whether eliminating US and USSR stocks would make the world safer (no chance of an accidental or terrorist release) or less so (on the theory some group could genetically engineer a new smallpox in which case we need the stockpile for research). The discovery of Soviet germ warfare experiments and terrorist interest in bioweapons tilted the balance in favor of keeping the stuff, though as Tucker notes it’s debatable how useful the supply will be in a worst-case scenario. Very good.
THE UPSIDE OF IRRATIONALITY: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home by Dan Ariely discusses the underlying reasons why big bonuses make us less effective, why pride in our work and ideas matters more than money and what prompts us to give negative feedback about businesses. This works well in discussing the business world, but Ariely just plugs in stereotypes when he tackles our personal lives. For example, he claims that men being 2.4 times more likely to ask out a woman online proves men are less fussy about who they date than women, rather than say, more willing to take the initiative or less worried about meeting a rapist online. In general, he seems to ignore outside forces that influence our judgment—is the massive support for Baby Jessica (a toddler trapped underground some 25 years ago or so) prove anything other than saturation media coverage grabs our attention? Interesting but flawe
THE WARRIOR WHO CARRIED LIFE by Geoff Ryman is a mythic fantasy in which a woman transforms herself into an armored male warrior to avenge the attack on her family only to discover revenge will require regrowing the Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden. The big twist is that we learn Adam is the one responsible for the Fall of Man, only to blame the serpent and Eve; this isn’t that shocking (I’ve seen much more in-your-face deconstructions of Christianity) but it works. Enjoyable overall, but not A-list.
FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF SHADE: Secrets of the Dead by Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt and Alberto Ponticelli is the second and final volume in the series (Frank himself went on to join Justice League Dark) which focuses heavily on family matters, Frank and his Bride discovering their long-lost son lives, then going for a showdown with their creator. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near the story it should have been—the final showdown with Victor gets brushed over so that we can focus on a crossover event involving his new master, the Rot (a demonic force of decay). That said, entertaining enough to be worth reading.
The good news being that I sold I Think Therefore I Die to Sword and Sorcery. I had two stories come back, but the stings are ineffective by comparison to the I-sold-it buzz.
The week as a whole was good. I made all my quotas for the first time in a while so my schedule tinkering was obviously effective. I still wasn’t quite as efficient as I’d have liked—I slowed down quite a bit as the week wound on—but with the built-in three-hour buffer, I did everything I was supposed to. Even a few odds and ends, like cleaning, watering our new orchid and making an appointment for the chimney sweeps.
My big fiction project was replotting Brain From Outer Space. Unfortunately today I reached the midbook point where I really need to make some changes (now that I’m just looking at events bullet-point by bullet-point, it’s obvious). Nothing drastic, the way my past rewrites have come unstuck, but substantial. Knowing where the key divergences are, I’m going to focus on other stuff next week and pick Brain up again the week after that.
I also looked at on one of my older stories, Kernel of Truth, and decided it doesn’t need as much rewriting as I thought. I think part of the problem may be that it doesn’t get supernatural until very late in the story, but I can set it up effectively (I hope) with just a little tinkering and added mystery up front.
I did a few extra Demand Media articles this week because they’re not going to process any articles the last two weeks of the month. I’m quite happy with this even though it means a dip in income because I’m sure I can put the extra time to good use. However the more work I can squeeze in for them ahead of time, the better.
Oh, and I submitted another And article, though it’s not up yet.
And now the weekend is here. Various conflicts have forced TYG and me to cancel our evening’s plans, but it should be a fun weekend nevertheless.
Pound Foolish author Helaine Olen critiques richsplainer David Ramsey’s claims that if you’re broke, it’s your own fault. Slacktivist adds more.
•Did you know Rosa Parks ended racism?
•A former GOP official is charged on multiple rape counts.
•A Fox TV host is shocked, shocked and appalled that we can’t put “In God We Trust” posters in schools. The pastor trying to do it says”Nowhere on it does it state anything about a religion …It merely says, ‘In God We Trust.’”
Does anyone think if we put up posters saying “God is Dead” he’d think that wasn’t about religion?
•It’s a standard claim that the Affordable Care Act is interchangeable with a Heritage Fondation plan from years back.LGM says wrong!
•Virginia law allows parents to homeschool their kids with no minimum standards at all.
•An Android flashlight app neglected to tell users it made their location information available to third parties.