Recognition

I hadn’t looked at the byline and I was only a few paragraphs into this article when I thought, Wait, is this article written by Natalie Angier? It’s annoying me greatly so I bet it’s written by Natalie Angier.

And it was.

I don’t mean to pick on Angier particularly. Her writing just grates on me, sort of like some people react to fingernails on a chalkboard (which doesn’t bother me at all, by the way).

Kind of an amazing feat that someone’s writing can be recognized so easily.

As much as I’ve tried, I’ve not yet sussed out what makes Angier’s writing nettle me so much — perhaps its cloying cutesiness combined with sophomoric flourishes best left in the first draft.

Douglas Hofstadter is another one whose writing just alternately bores me and makes me want to hurl the book across the room, and for many of the same reasons.

He’s the only person I know who can expand a fifty-page essay into a thousand-page doorstop.

Yeah, that’d be Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

The tagline for that book was, “A metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll.”

The tag line of course should’ve been, “One boring over-hyped idea per 200 pages that only those under four years old have any trouble understanding in two seconds or less.”

Arrest everyone all the time

This all seems so strange to me.

When I was a kid in the late 70s and early 80s, I must have spent hundreds of hours in the car waiting for one or both of my parents in stores.

I hated stores and was not well-behaved, so it was a good place for me to wait.

By the way, this was not unusual. It was very, very, very common to have kids wait in cars, even in Florida where I grew up.

This is one small part of the social changes that I discuss from time to time on this site that many people seem intent on denying but that are common and numerous.

Hugo-not

I don’t really care much about the Sad Puppies’ political leanings.

Neofascism is not all that neo- anymore. It’s a permanent strain of and stain on world politics in the modern era.

I don’t care about bloc voting either. Any voting system is susceptible to it; most such as our American party system absolutely depend on it. The Hugo voting numbers are always so small that it has almost certainly been gamed in the past.

No, what I care about is that the works nominated by the Puppies are bad. Bad sf. Boring works. Substandard bordering on abysmal.

I’ve read some works in the past where the politics are disagreeable or disgusting but that I still liked. I know many people can’t separate the two but I can easily. So I do.

However, none of the Sad Puppies’ creative output that I’ve examined so far would’ve gotten printed in the average middling high school newspaper.

They are all terrible. And that’s really what bothers me the most.

Fluency

Language fluency is a spectrum.

I meant to write about it the other day and then lost the link, but I saw some moronic linguist claiming that no one was “truly” multi-lingual — basically that someone being fluent in four or five languages is an impossibility.

Of course that linguist was using “fluent” basically to mean “knows absolutely every word in every language one claims to know.”

I work with a woman who is demonstrably fluent in German, French, English, Spanish and Russian. I’ve heard her speak all but Russian, conversing with native speakers in each. She has no problems at all making herself understood and understanding each language in turn.

Is she fluent? By any normal measure.

Yet I am quite sure because I am a word collector that I know some words in French that she does not — so by that measure the linguist-not-worthy-of-the-name would say she’s not truly fluent in French. Yet her practical French is far, far better than mine will probably ever be.

Fluency is a spectrum. Can not be anything else.

My misanthropy is showing

With the SJW “absolutely everything is racism and appropriation” crowd on one side and the “women should be in the kitchen and evolutionary psychology explains everything” crowd on the other side, it’s a good time to be a misanthrope.

Polarization is increasing; studies show this.

When you’re non-tribal in nature and care more about being on the side with the evidence in its favor what do you do when you have no side?

Whine a lot, like I do.

Hey, it’s the American way. And I have to do some American things too I guess.

For children

I agree with the posters below this piece who says milk chocolate is for children.

When I was young I remember not liking chocolate all that much. And then going to the UK in the late 80s and deciding on someone’s recommendation to buy a chocolate bar despite it costing two pounds (five times as much as a bar in the US).

Damn, what a difference. It contained actual cacao that you could taste. It was rich, flavorful and didn’t taste like someone was squirting sugar straight into your mouth.

After that I was a dark chocolate devotee. (In most European countries it is almost impossible to find chocolate of the terrible quality of almost all US chocolate.)

So now when I buy chocolate it’s usually got 60%-80% cacao content.

So much better.

Milk chocolate is indeed for children.

And Americans, I guess.

Where the power is

This is why voting is pointless, especially when it comes to anything that actually matters.

A 2014 Princeton University study comparing 1,779 policy outcomes to more than 20 years of public opinion data found that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

Assuming absolutely everyone voted, climate change would still not be treated seriously in the US and that has the possibility — the likelihood, even — of being an extinction-level event. This is the prime issue which absolutely swamps every other concern (or should).

The same large companies would still have the same power they have now. Abortion restrictions would still occur. No systemic changes would be made in any real way.

Voting is an appeasement process to make you think that you matter.

You don’t.

Tadpoles and electric eels

I’ve been thinking tonight about my disagreements with modern liberalism and with identity politics.

Lately, it’s hard to un-conflate those two as they’ve essentially merged — a great mistake, I think.

More and more I’ve been leaning towards a more Marxian analysis and practice of liberalism which of course eschews identity politics by nature.  Identity politics and its inherent focus on the individual and their feelings is implicitly an extension of neoliberalism and in fact extremely compatible with all of the goals and end-states of this worldview.

Which is why I generally want nothing to do with it.

Take transgender rights for instance. Before anyone goes wacko, I’m a full supporter of transgender rights and the ability to define one’s gender. Absolutely a full believer in this. Enough said.

But as identity politics goes further down its Sarlacc hole, I question the wisdom of entire activist communities concentrating so many resources, words and effort on 0.3% of the population.

It’s not that they’re not important. They are. But in times or ridiculous and rising inequality, the near-complete triumph of neoliberalism and the oppression of the everyday worker, the concentration on transgenderism is like fighting a battle against a tadpole while an electric eel shocks you and all your friends to death.

Identity politics is nearly perfectly-designed to further the triumph and complete dominance of neoliberalism.

Its concentration on atomistic individualism and feelings over data and results; its focus on non-systemic causes and problems; its descriptions of issues as solely relating to personal flaws in oppressors — all of these sound like they’d been written up by the Koch brothers for squelching real protest or revolution.

I’m still thinking about all this. But I’d rather fight battles worth fighting.

You can continue striking a death blow against the tadpole if you want.

But I’ve got bigger fish that I don’t want to fry me.

Indiv

Politically, the ACA’s  Individual Mandate is one of the stupidest domestic actions I’ve seen any modern president back and sign into law.

I understand “why” and all that but it is such a ridiculous idea if you think about it.

The ACA is such a piece of crap.

The most American thing I’ve seen

I saw the most American thing I’ve seen in a while the other day at work.

Or rather, outside of work.

I noticed that all of the earthworms had crawled out of the grass and died. Maybe not all of them — I didn’t dig through the soil to see if any remained — but certainly a huge number. Hundreds lay dead on the sidewalk, and not due to rain.

And then I remembered a few days earlier that the lawn crew had been treating the grass nearby, probably with some sort of insecticide or worse.

Now instead of having healthy dirt with earthworms and other desirable creatures, it was most likely a completely sterile wasteland that absent further constant chemical onslaughts would probably quickly deteriorate.

Congratulations, I thought — you’ve gone from a fairly self-sustaining system to one that is fragile and requires constant maintenance, especially since most if not all of the beneficial microbes are probably now dead too. Perhaps fruitful for the bottom line of the lawn service company, but even homeowners who benefit not at all from such ecological destruction still do the very same thing.

So very American — the utter destruction of something to “improve” it, which then necessitates making the environment even worse to “perfect” it in some carnival of artifice and perpetual maintenance to uphold the simulacrum that left alone would be much more pleasing and healthy.