Monthly Archives: October 2011

An addendum to today’s earlier post

Mostly because I’m tired and I need an eHow break (it’s been a frustrating day——details will come later in the week).
As I pointed out, Charlotte Allen’s claim that women walking around in public dressed sexy is as foolish as a guy flashing his big bankroll in a waterfront dive totally distorts the reality of rape. A further example of how that’s true: The Los Angeles Times actually printed her column (I misidentified the paper as the Washington Post, though I’ve now corrected that).
If a man actually did get robbed after flashing money in a bar or flaunting his wealth in front of the unemployed, does anyone would think the Times would accept an op-ed saying millionaires should be more careful flashing their cash? Or that the victim should have “taken steps to reduce the risk,” in Allen’s words of advice for rape victims?
Even with the current heated debate over income inequality, nobody’s seriously arguing that theft is acceptable. With rape, on the other hand, it’s perfectly acceptable to do as Allen does and explain it’s the woman’s fault. She asserts that the cops who triggered the original SlutWalk protests by warning women to dress more modestly were actually doing the right thing. Like the rest of the rape apologists, she never considers that maybe cops should be warning the guys (“Buddy, it doesn’t matter how she dresses, it doesn’t give you the right to rape her.”).
The LA Times should be ashamed of itself.

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Filed under Undead sexist cliches

Undead sexist cliche: The rape apologist as concern troll

Charlotte Allen’s LA Times [edited——I initially put the WaPO] piece on how SlutWalks are bad because women who dressy sexy will naturally get raped is a textbook example of concern-troll style. She’s not defending rapists, gosh no; she’s just concerned that women who walk around dressed sexy will get into a situation they can’t handle. She’s on their side!
No, she’s not. As witness this column from a few years ago, in which she asserts women are biologically stupider than men (the proof? They watch Gray’s Anatomy. Read chick-lit. And their brains are physically smaller [which is not, in fact, proof of relative intelligence. Check out Mismeasure of Man, among other sources, to settle that]) so they should just settle back into being moms and homemakers where their innate skills will compensate for their stupidity, and let men run the world (Allen does not explain why, having declared herself intellectually inferior, we should pay any attention to her). She’s taking the male side, whether it’s out of belief or because there’s a market for columns written by anti-feminist women.
As to the specifics, Allen’s hook is that Halloween is coming up, when all women want to wear sexy costumes (evidence that all women want this, rather than that a lot of marketers push this: None). Yet the same feminists who endorse the right of women to go out wearing sexy clothes and not get raped say women shouldn’t dress sexy for Halloween so hah, hypocrites!
And SlutWalks are stupid anyway because women can’t expect to go around dressing sexy without getting raped (“the faux-hos of Halloween and their SlutWalker counterparts marching in their underwear — like a man walking at night with a bulging wallet — should be careful about where they flash their treasure.”) and they’re really only doing it to flaunt themselves, just like those girls on Halloween. And rape is no different from some guy flashing a big wallet who gets mugged: “Sure, it’s not your fault if you get mugged while flaunting your wealth, but you could have taken steps to reduce the risk.”
Taking it from the top: The point of SlutWalk is a)that women should be able to go out, wear what they like and not get raped and b)that rape isn’t linked to clothing. ( Criticism of Halloween dress-up is about social pressure to show a lot of skin. Those are two separate issues so regardless of whether Allen agrees with either, they’re not in conflict.
Second, as I’ve previously mentioned, the comparison with robbery is bullshit. People might think someone flashing a wad of cash in a dangerous neighborhood is a moron, but they don’t refuse to prosecute because of that. Nor is the victim going to hear “Well, you were obviously looking to give someone the money so what’s the point?” (the closest I can come to the “Well, she was obviously looking for sex” excuse for rape).
Allen asserts that the fact (if it is a fact) women under 30 are the prime rape victims proves rape is indeed all about sexual desire, not power-tripping, but as Echidne points out, it’s not evidence of anything. Younger women could be out more and more vulnerable to stranger rape. Or underestimate the risk from the guy they’re dating. Or a great many things. By itself, the one statistic is meaningless (my own thoughts on rape-is-just-the-natural-sex-urge bullshit are here).
I realize rape is a huge problem for concern trolls, rape apologists and sexists. It brings up issues of the power imbalance in society and the law, of male-female relationships and lots of other stuff that spoils the sexist party-line that there’s no discrimination against women (Allen emphasizes that while she’s blaming the male sex drive, she’s not criticizing men as a group). But well, tough. Reality has a feminist bias. Deal with it.

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Filed under Undead sexist cliches

Still trimming my bookmarks

I really like this post, by a doctor, about why she sides with the 99 percent, and why she thinks the “I am the 53 percent” counter-protests miss the point. Yes, it’s commendable if you support yourself and your family by working two jobs for 67 hours a week and pay your medical bills without insurance, but that doesn’t mean we should just accept that as the new normal, the minimum that’s needed to survive. As another blogger puts it, is this what the 53 percent want for their kids? Their younger siblings? For their retiring parents? (Second link was supposed to be in an earlier post, but I got it wrong——now corrected though).
Meanwhile, conservatives continue to insist that income inequality, if it exists at all, is no big deal. And Paul Ryan, a Republican who wants massive cuts to the safety net, is tut-tutting about the fact that “no one in Washington” is fighting efforts to cut the safety net. If that’s not enough, here’s another thrashing of Ryan, pointing out that not only are his ideas are bad, he’s constantly asserting that the White House is crushing job-creating Randian superman through punitive taxes. And stating, quite untruthfully, that America is a land of opportunity for hard-working poor people to rise, in contrast to the class-conscious societies of Europe (the odds are better over there, actually).
•Here is a reminder of the kind of actions Bank of America takes that continue to make life hard for customers and to muck up the economy with derivatives and dubious foreclosures.
•Switching subjects, here’s details on FBI anti-Muslim training predicated on the idea that they’re all terrorists at heart. The FBI also sees fans of Insane Clown Posse as a terrorist threat.
This article points out that Mississippi’s “the fetus is a person” amendment could potentially lead to bans on the Pill, IUDs, in vitro fertilization and to prosecuting mothers. Some supporters are quite keen on this; others are other fudging or genuinely confused about what they’re advocating.
There are already multiple cases in which laws have been twisted to justify prosecuting women for miscarriages, including a woman who lost her baby under a suicide attempt. Does Mexico offer a preview of what’s ahead if these laws become the standard?

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Nor battle to the strong

In my last post on luck, I mentioned that while I believe God is part of “luck”——however you define it (and I offer some definitions at earlier posts)——I also wasn’t sure how to fit that into my theory, or my slowly forming story on the subject. But since these posts seem to be working out ideas in these post, I figured I’d joG down possible thoughts:
•There is no luck. God plans everything out and what appears like random events is part of some master strategy. I’ve never accepted this because I can’t accept a good God would come up with a plan that includes Rwanda and Auschwitz.
•There’s no one route. God sees all possible choices, all alt.futures and whatever plans he may have, he works with that.
•God improvises. He can’t plan what we do so whatever plan he has for the cosmos has to adjust constantly (“Ahh, TYG came through the surgery okay. In that case, I need to nudge this person here …”). From a viewpoint outside of time, time isn’t a fixed structure, it’s a constantly shifting blur.
•God intervenes by an occasional nudge rather than overtly, the sudden gut sense that hmmm, maybe my car overheating wasn’t just because of the hot day (the overheating happened a couple of months ago, and it’s a good thing I didn’t drive it again). Of course, this raises the perennial Problem of Evil: Does God nudge everyone? If not, why only a few people? If he does nudge everyone, why don’t they all listen? Isn’t that putting blame back on the individual (“If you’d only listened, everything would have worked out right.”)?
•God doesn’t intervene. This is a short, brief blink compared to eternity, so however bad our luck seems here, it’s minor in the grand design.
•God plans the turning points, not the turns we make. As Jorge Luis Borges puts it in “Lottery of Babel,” lotteries are random but someone still has to plan the ticket drawing.
•God (or Gods) aren’t omnipotent so they can’t intervene all the time. Or they’re the humanized Greek deities who only intervene they like you (like the first theory, not a personal belief of mine, but it’s been widespread enough in human history to be worth mentioning).
•Luck isn’t really luck. It’s the working of cosmic forces we don’t understand yet, just as the sun worked by fusion power even before anyone conceived of such a thing.
Any of the above, or none of them, may get into my story eventually. So could ideas that aren’t part of my (or anyone else’s) real-world belief system?
For example, what if it’s Satan (or a generic Fate or Destiny) that does the planning? Not for evil ends necessarily, but to winnow away our free will, until we’re nothing but sheep following a predetermined path? And God’s goal is to undercut the plan and give us free will again (very much like Jack Kirby’s live vs. Anti-life concept, though that wasn’t an influence)? I’ve had variations of that idea around for a while, maybe it’s time to employ them (this was inspired by a couple of dreadful books where the characters were announcing how their personal wishes didn’t matter, they must Submit To Destiny etc.).
I actually employed that concept as part of a story I began a few years back. Maybe it’s time to get back to it soon.

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Filed under Comics, Personal, Writing

Movies and Books

TENEBRAE (1982) is a gory, dumb slasher film in which a serial killer begins hacking up hot women and taunting visiting American author Anthony Franciosa with the fact. This “spaghetti slasher” is interchangeable with countless other low-budget American hack-em-up films from the era; definitely not the right choice for introducing myself to Italian horror director Dario Argento. “It means the killer had an excellent classical education.”

HOUSE OF STAIRS by William Sleator is a creepy SF novel in which five teens find themselves trapped in a vast maze of stairways where the only way to feed themselves is to let a mysterious machine condition their behavior——but what, ultimately, does it want them to do? Effective (and very deft in subtly sketching in the world outside) though even the limited happy ending this gives two of the characters seems implausible.
HEXWOOD by Diana Wynne Jones has an ET conglomerate sending agents to shut down a reality-altering machine hidden in a British village; when one local girl follows them in, she finds a vast forest with dragons, wizards, androids and time constantly running out of joint. Rereading Jones in sequence, I realized the idea of Secret Overlord manipulating Earth is one she’s used before (Sudden Wild Magic and Homeward Bounders) and the time games, likewise, resemble Archer’s Goon and Fire and Hemlock. That aside, this is an excellent book (though it’s a lot easier to make sense of on second reading) and I’m impressed that even with a reality-altering supercomputer in the story, Jones doesn’t use it to cheat on the convoluted plot.
Bonus: Neil Gaiman and Emma Bull pay tribute to the late DWJ.
THE VICTORIAN UNDERWORLD by Donald Thomas looks at the Victorian world of crime, from the lower classes who stole out of need through suave schemers whose plotting financed their bourgeois respectability. The book moves through prostitution, theft, porn, con games (including many I recognized from reading the 1940s classic The Big Con) gambling and on the other side it covers court procedure, crimefighting and jail life (in the early years of the century it included prostitutes and gin shops for inmates). I have other books that disagree with some of Thomas’s analysis, but I found this a good book nonetheless.
THE ANNOTATED HUNTING OF THE SNARK: THE DEFINITIVE EDITION is Martin Gardner’s analysis of Lewis Carroll’s absurdist nonsense in which an ill-assorted squad of questers hunt the strange Snark with a blank map to guide them only to discover, when they finally confront the creature … The annotations are less interesting than Gardner’s Annotated Alice because he has less material to work with, but they’re still informative (though I’m surprised Gardner can’t resist reading meaning into the poem, which is something he staunchly rejects in his earlier work on Alice).
JOHN CARTER, WARLORD OF MARS was actually a Marvel series from the seventies that I recently finished rereading. Set during the 10 year period at the end of Princess of Mars (so technically Carter isn’t the planetary warlord yet) this squeezed out two main arcs before the licensor yanked the property; the first is a very good Burroughsian story, the second adequate (Chris Claremont takes a while to get up to speed) but unfortunately the two villains are very similar (both ready to destroy Mars in order to save it). Unfortunately the main arcs are accompanied by stories of supernatural menaces that simply don’t fit on Mars (they felt more like plots lifted from Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian).

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Filed under Comics, Movies, Reading

Story Behind the Story: Mayhem ex Machina

My ninth Applied Science story is now out at Big Pulp (you can find all eight previous stories here), so as usual, here’s the backstory on how it came to be.
In the prologue to Brain From Outer Space I’d had a short scene where Gwen Montgomery takes down a robot that’s about to wipe out a small black slum district. I wanted to demonstrate both that Gwen enjoys what she does and that she’s liberal for her time on race. When Big Pulp proposed the Applied Science series, expanding that vignette seemed a natural choice. It would also give me a chance to catch up on the Dani/Steve relationship in the two years since they reconnected in Blood and Steel.
As frequently happens, things changed as I went along. First, there was the whole heroic-white-person-saves-minorities thing; it worked fine for me as a single short scene, but not in a short story. Plus, I’d already touched on the racist attitudes of the era in a couple of stories and I didn’t want to overdo it. Not that it isn’t worth multiple stories but as I’ve mentioned before, I worry a lot about turning a series into a rut.
So instead of a black neighborhood, the target became LA’s Little Tokyo. And instead of a racist pig, the rogue scientist responsible was really a decent guy, doing best to develop a robot that would serve humanity rather than threaten it. Only things went a little wrong …
The next change was that I dropped Gwen from the story. I’d originally planned to show the start of her romance with FBI Science Police Agent Alan Ross, but I’d nixed the romance in the rewrite, and I just couldn’t seem to fit her into a Science Police case (the SP investigates super-science used for crime; Gwen’s agency oversees science licenses and busts researchers who try building robots, death rays etc. without getting their license first). So the heroes became Mickey Moon (previously seen in Hidden Faces) and his Nissei partner Harry Sato.
I still wanted to work Steve and Dani into the story though. I hadn’t thought about it before, but two years was a long time back then to be dating without marriage coming up. I knew Dani had turned down Steve’s proposal, so I wanted to show why, and why they were staying together despite that. I also wanted to deal with Steve’s hunt for his brother, Tommy and how it had gone since he’d moved to California to find him.
So what eventually developed was a two-track story. Track One, the battle between Harry and Mickey and the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut, Roboticus (got to say, I think that name would look good in a 1950s SF-movie marquee). Track Two, Dani and Steve figuring out their relationship … and eventually wandering right into Roboticus path.
I hope y’all like it.

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Filed under Brain From Outer Space, Short Stories, Story behind the story

Stuck for a title

Having an odd fondness for Marvel’s punchy alliterative titles of the 1970s (e.g., “Wasted by the War-Wolf!”), I tried coming up with something similar like “Slammed by Surgery!” or the like but nothing seemed quite right.
TYG is doing well after her surgery, but being primary caregiver has really knocked me off-balance. It’s not that it’s demanding, just that the stress of worrying about TYG or fearing that I’ll screw up (“You fed her tofu? Don’t you realize tofu dissolves surgical stitches!”) makes it hard to focus on writing. I’ll really have to focus when I start work again on Monday——a couple of days of dithering is doable, but no more.
For obvious reasons, there’s not much work to report. I did put four hours in on Brain From Outer Space Monday, and it does seem to be progressing well … Which brings up my novel-writing goals on my 101 in 1,0001 list.
In the current 1,001 days (which runs through September 27 of next year), I put down no less than four I’d like to finish: Brain; Impossible Takes a Little Longer; a rewrite of Let No Man Put Asunder (an earlier novel whose manuscript I lost in the move); and my paranormal romance Good Morning Starshine (I was about two drafts in at the time of my move to Durham last year).
That’s a lot, but since I don’t get any reward for finishing goals other than the satisfaction (and, of course, having novels to submit), I don’t mind if my reach can exceed my grasp. Though the sooner they’re off my back, the sooner I can take up new novels (I’ve one or two ideas I want to get working on, but I want a smaller queue before I add them). The question is, how far can I get?
Impossible should be done by the end of next summer, possibly earlier. Brain will be finished within a year and half, unless this rewrite turns out as unsuccessful as previous ones.
The other two? Well, if I can recreate Asunder and do another draft of Starshine, I’ll be happy, though more would be better. If I were just writing novels, maybe I could finish three out of four, but I don’t intend to stop writing short stories.
So how do I divide my time? Well, Impossible needs beta-reader feedback, so I won’t be doing the next draft until next year. My immediate priority is to complete the Brain rewrite and be certain it works. What I intend to do is devote most of next month to the rewrite and see if I can complete the current draft (the fact NaNo WriMo is coming up is undoubtedly influencing me, though obviously I can’t submit a rewrite in the challenge itself). The only short story I’ll work on is Mage’s Masquerade. After that——well, we’ll see how it goes in November and then decide.
Now, as to my eHows for the week:
•How to Do a Google Company Evaluation
•iWeb for Business Beginners
•The Effects of Multitasking on Processors
•Can You Get Back an Internet History After Erasing It?
•The History of GPRS
•How Does Aviation GPS Work?
•Differences Between Optical Fiber and Wireless Communication
•Software to Measure Sound Decibels
•The Advantages of Bridging Network Connections
•What Is Buffer Pool in SQL?
•How Do Netbooks Work?
•Definition of FDC & CATV
•Public DNS Vs. Hosted DNS
•How to Make Programs Fast
•Definition of Grid Cell Resolution
•Python Tips
•What Is an Audio Transformer?
•How Globalstar GPS Works
•What Is Aperture Framing?
•Ingredients for Nanotechnology Batteries
•Technology Impacts On Database Management
•The Advantages of Dual LAN
•The Difference of Two Sets in Java
•NetBeans Project Types
•Internet Settings for a MacBook

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Filed under Brain From Outer Space, Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Time management and goals