Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The State of the Blog (12/21/16)

The Rev Reads It For You: This feature is on a semi-permanent hiatus. I bought the Kindle version of Rules for Radicals specifically because it was easy to copy text out and comment on. What I didn't know was that Kindle allows the publisher to set a copy limit.

I have surpassed the copy limit.

This is double annoying because the next chapter has some amazing examples of Alinsky calling special interest groups out on their bullshit (the Native American story is particularly humorous). I was going to do a separate post on just those stories but - nope! Kindle won't let me copy text!

At any rate, I'm going to try to figure a work-around out over the holidays. Stay tuned.

Wither the Rev?: The blog started out talking about Hegel and video games/cartoons. One fateful encounter with the Evil Lord of Evil later, it's become somewhat...different. We've got mission drift, is what I'm saying. So I'm not sure what the Rev 3.0 is now, but it sure as hell ain't a video game and Hegel blog.

To complicate this, I will start looking for jobs in Japan as of January 1st, and I plan to have boots on the ground in February. These last 5 years in America have been a constant reminder that I don't really want to be here. It was foolish to wait this long to go after what I want, and it would be doubly foolish to wait any longer. Which is somewhat sad, because with Trump taking office, America's prospects are better than they have been in a long time. So I say this sincerely: America, it's not you, it is me.

The point is, I don't know what this blog will be in 2017. And that's a good thing, because it is an opportunity for conscious improvement.

StudyOke!: One of my big goals for the 2017 is to build the other blog - the Japanese study blog.

This has been an interesting mix of fun, growth, and challenge. I started it to get practice with subtitling (wanted to learn Aegisub), but the project has sprawled into a lot of other areas as well. For example, I had never uploaded a video to YouTube before!

I've also been weaving mindset/NLP stuff into the lessons to make the grammar lessons more interesting - tying the language to the usage and rewire the brain into seeing the information as "valuable." That's a big issue for language learners. Your brain will spend five hours studying a vocabulary list only to file all that information under "unimportant" the moment you set your textbook down.  Music is a great way to bypass it, but I'm trying to innovate language lessons that have a similar effect.

I've run into two issues: first, the post-writing process is very time consuming - copy lyrics (most Japanese lyric sites don't let you copy directly), convert into romanization, translate, write a grammar lesson, make a video, make subtitles, upload, upload subtitles, etc.

Second, I'm having trouble finding my "controversy." It's hard to punch up when there's no one else doing anything similar. That's good in the sense that I'm not one blog in a sea of similars, but that's bad in the sense that there's no one looking for what I'm offering. It's a different jiu jitsu than what I'm used to.

Etc.: I have difficulty expressing how wonderful it has been to have you all respond to my posts. That goes for the haters too.

My number one goal for this blog is to keep putting out content that is worth reading. I'd like to ask you to keep reading until you think I'm no longer meeting that goal.


The Rev

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Distributed Thoughtware: Y'all Thought I was Kidding

There's nothing more fun than being both right and wrong. Here's a story I came across whilst browsing Vox Popoli:

Andy Crouch, the executive editor of Christianity Today, criticized both candidates, writing that enthusiasm for Mr. Trump “gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord.” He added, “They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us.”
As white male evangelists, we have no problem admitting that the future does not lie with us. It lies with groups like the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, led by Gabriel Salguero, or the Moral Monday movement, led by William Barber II, who has challenged the news media on its narrow portrayal of evangelicals. For decades, we have worked within evangelicalism to lift up the voices of these “other evangelicals.”
But Jesus-centered faith needs a new name. Christians have retired outdated labels before. During the late 19th century, when scientific rationalism fueled the questioning of Scripture, “fundamentalism” arose as an intelligent defense of Christianity. By the 1930s, however, fundamentalism was seen as anti-intellectual and judgmental. It was then that the term “evangelicalism” was put forward by Christianity Today’s first editor, Carl F. H. Henry, as a new banner under which a broad coalition of Jesus followers could unite.
But beginning with the culture wars of the 1980s, the religious right made a concerted effort to align evangelicalism with the Republican Party. By the mid-’90s, the word had lost its positive connotations with many Americans. They came to see Christians — and evangelicals in particular — as anti-women, anti-gay, anti-environment and anti-immigrant and as the champions of guns and war.
Mr. Trump did not create these contradictions, but his victory has pulled the roof off the building we once called home. It’s time to build a new home.
We dissect this after the jump.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Rev Reads it For You: The One Essential Quality (Rules for Radicals)

"One can lack any of the qualities of an organizer— with one exception— and still be effective and successful. That exception is the art of communication."
You can lack curiosity, irreverence, imagination, and indeed, organization and still be an effective and successful organizer.

"People only understand things in terms of their experience, which means that you must get within their experience. Further, communication is a two-way process. If you try to get your ideas across to others without paying attention to what they have to say to you, you can forget about the whole thing."
Aristotle and Bandler back Alinsky up. Rhetoric has a great breakdown on tailoring your message to specific audiences, where The Structure of Magic & Frogs Into Princes have great models for checking your experiences against those of your target/audience/partner.

In other words, part of being a great persuader is being a great listener. To be a miserable, useless persuader, either ignore what other people are saying or swallow it uncritically. Great listeners don't just pay attention to what people are saying, but to what they're omitting, when they're bullshiting, etc.

"I know that I have communicated with the other party when his eyes light up and he responds, “I know exactly what you mean. I had something just like that happen to me once. Let me tell you about it!” Then I know that there has been communication."
Communication occurs when it impacts the other party. Note that this can also be negative responses; 'his eyes light up and he responds, 'you racist, sexist, son of a bitch, I hope you get raped to death by cats.' This is part of being a good listener - you're able to confirm that you got the desired response.

We'll look at more Communication strategies after the jump.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Rev Reads it For You: How Do You Make an Effective Organizer? (Rules for Radicals)

Chapter Four is dedicated to "The Education of an Organizer," but it is less about educational methods than the type of characters who can become successful community organizers.

"The marriage record of organizers is with rare exception disastrous. Further, the tensions, the hours, the home situation, and the opportunities, do not argue for fidelity. Also, with rare exception, I have not known really competent organizers who were concerned about celibacy."
Mommas, don't let your children grow up to be community organizers. Perhaps this is why activists are so obsessed with sexual harassment: they're the sort of person most likely to be philanderers.

"The problem with so many of them was and is their failure to understand that a statement of a specific situation is significant only in its relationship to and its illumination of a general concept. Instead they see the specific action as a terminal point. They find it difficult to grasp the fact that no situation ever repeats itself, that no tactic can be precisely the same."
Speaking of students in a community organization course, Alinsky laments that they couldn't understand the difference between a tactic appropriate for a specific time and place and a universal rule. To put this in OODA loop terms, they wanted to skip OOD (observer, orient, decide) and just A(ct).

Anyone can act quickly and repeatedly, but if your tactics don't fit the situation, you'll just miss quickly and repeatedly.

We'll continue after the jump.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Distributed Thoughtware: The Coming Church Split

In the last post, we looked at why I suspect the 20% of White Evangelicals who voted against Trump were church leaders and the 80% who voted for Trump were followers. What we're going to look at today is what that model would predict.

My model (the "why") is that there is a major split between the values of White Evangelical church leaders and White Evangelical church-goers. That model could be wrong! But if it's right, it's an untenable situation.

Evangelicals are a fractitious lot. We'll split a local church over interior decorating and we'll split a denomination over electric guitars. So there's no reason to believe we wouldn't fracture over politics.

Up until Trump, White Evangelical denominations maintained a measure of unity on doctrinal niceties (Calvinism vs. Free Will, Adult Baptism vs. Child Baptism) and a sense of common political enemy (Democrats are Baby Killers). Evangelicals were pre-selected by politics; only esoteric doctrines divided us.

The problem is, White Evangelicals are arguing very loudly about who the enemy is. While we all agree the Dems are Baby Killers, it's less clear if Donald Trump is Good or Bad. Many church leaders are calling their parishioners' favored candidate Bad, Evil, Non-Christian and at the very least implying that anyone who supports Trump is the same.

The situation looks ripe for a round of denominational purges and splits like we haven't seen since the 60s-70s.

We'll look at variables and concrete predictions after the jump.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Distributed Thoughtware: 80% of White Evangelicals

I want to start by owning up to a mistake:
Here's the falsifiable bit: expect Trumps poll numbers among evangelicals to improve in the next few weeks, and up to the election assuming he doesn't say anything stupid about Jesus. Specifically, look for the number of evangelicals who strongly disapprove of Trump to start dropping.

My anecdotal evidence and gut feeling will be incorrect if the number of evangelicals who strongly disapprove of Trump to remain the same or increase (again, assuming that Trump doesn't say his daughter is the second coming of Christ or something equally offensive).
You can also call me an idiot if Trump says his daughter is the second coming of Christ and still improves his favorability among evangelicals.
- Killing Donald Trump Part Four: Really, Guys? Really?  (March 14, 2016)

Now obviously, I was correct about Trump improving his numbers with Evangelicals. He beat out Bush II's percentage for his first term among all Protestants (58% to 56%) and took fully 80% of the White Evangelical vote (couldn't find numbers for various non-white evangelical voters). The number of Evangelicals who supported Trump also went up significantly from April to November (only 15% of regular evangelical churchgoers supported Trump in April to 46% Strongly Support in November).

So the result was correct. What was wrong? The model, the "why this result will happen" was ambiguous. I expected Trump to gain evangelical support because of the riots. There was no accounting for other issues that might shore up his support.

Trump would likely have gained an Evangelical boost towards the end regardless since Hilary Clinton took the Dem nomination, Voting for Hilary Clinton would be even more of a betrayal to Evangelicals' self-image than voting for Trump. My model didn't account for that.

Even when you're right, the goal isn't to be right. The goal is to make your model of reality closer to reality. Scott Adams is right about Predicting rather than Rationalizing. If your model predicted incorrectly, or you were right for reasons outside of your model, you're wrong.

I'm going to try to include the why more into my predictions in the future. This time, I went off a gut feeling,

That said, I have one more gut feeling I need to pass from my stomach before moving onwards and upwards. It's about White Evangelicals, and we'll look at it after the break.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Top Six Lessons Liberals Can Learn From Trump (That They Should Have Learned from Saul Alinsky)

Donald Trump is the racist, sexist, misogynist outsider who rode a wave of liberal tears all the way to the White House. Saul Alinsky was the original Community Organizer, a liberal legend who wrote the book on effective protesting – Rules For Radicals. The two men could not be more different in their politics, but both could agree on one thing: the Left fucked up this election cycle.

The saddest part is that every wrong move the Left made and every Right move the Don made was called in advance by Alinsky, based on his involvement with community organization in the 60s. Rules for Radicals has taken on an eerily prophetic turn as the Left has returned to its vomit – the avoidable mistakes learned half a century ago.

As much as you may hate Trump, you can learn from him the things you should have already learned from Alinsky. Of those lessons, these are the top six.

1). The System Can Be Beat

“I can attack my government, try to organize to change it. That’s more than I can do in Moscow, Peking, or Havana.” – Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

This year, two outsider candidates took major political parties. While they had broad appeal with voters, they were despised by the party elites. Both parties took steps bordering on felony to throw their primaries to someone other than the most popular candidate.

Democrats and associated Liberals, do not lose heart. The Democratic party was able to smother the Bern, but in doing so, tipped their hand in a way that should infuriate you for years. The only danger is the trap that the party elite wants you to fall into: the thought that the system can’t be beat.

But take heart: Trump proves that the system can be beaten. No one but no one among the Republican party elite wanted him to be the candidate, and he beat them all. It’s too late for you to do anything about the 2016 election, but that means you have four years – four whole years! – to take the party back from its corrupt masters and mistresses.

You’re gonna have to work at least as hard as Trump, but it can be done. The only question is, will YOU do it?

[Continues after the jump]

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


I want to talk to my liberal friends for a moment - those still willing to read this blog!

You are upset and outraged about Trump's victory, You find yourself trapped in a country which is 48% unpeople - American racists, sexists, homophobes, etc.

I'm not going to take that away from you. You feel what you feel, and no one can tell you that it's wrong to feel that way. But I hope, once emotion has receded to its normal levels, once you are able to think normally, that you will keep a question in mind.

What have you learned from Trump?

To declare Trump a disaster, you also admit that he is an incredibly effective, powerful disaster. There were not enough psychotic racists in the USA to elect McCain, Romney, or indeed Jeb Bush. But Trump was not only electable, he was elected. He won where others failed. Vive la différence.

Now put aside all flippant answers in your heart (though feel free to shout them in public). What have you learned about how politics works? Public speaking? Media manipulation? Debate? In almost every situation, Trump did the opposite of what the experts advised, and yet toppled those experts and their chosen candidates.

So what have you learned from Trump?

You may want this to go away. It is here to stay. You may think this bitter cup, once drunk, will pass. You are wrong. A cottage industry already springs up to study the Trump, learn his ways, and turn this victory into your further defeat.

So! You had better learn from Trump. You had better swallow your pride and look him in the eye. You better let your preconceptions die and stare into that orange abyss.

I'm not one of the people who predicted the rise of Trump. I did, however, notice that the people predicting the rise of Trump made more sense than the people saying he couldn't possibly do any more winning.

It's not much credit to me that I could line up reality with which theory was best predicting reality. But apparently that skill is in short supply in the chattering classes.

Back when the first riots of the primary cycle started, I said this:
"This shouldn't be necessary, but I'll lay it out anyway. Shutting down a major city in response to a peaceful, lawful political rally and physically intimidating/attacking fellow citizens is as stupid as shit. Don't do it. Also, do not physically attack presidential candidates. Just...come on, guys. We shouldn't have to review this material.
I mean, you've basically just given Trump the nomination, if not the presidency."
Again, this is no credit to me. Anyone should have been able to see that the party of civic disorder, revolt, and riot would alienate the fence sitters and disturb the complacent. Hell, Saul Alinsky saw it in Rules for Radicals. Even if Trump was literally Hitler, 48% of the country prefered Hitler to Stalin. And in sheer number of murders ordered, that's the right choice.

So when you are tempted to think the worst is over and that you can retreat from this grim reality, remember what you thought when Trump said all Mexicans are rapist. When John Oliver told you to "Make Donald Drumpf again." When he couldn't possibly win the primary. When we hit Peak Trump six months in a row. When he grabbed America by the pussy. When he won.

If you think Trump is tired of winning, you are very, very wrong.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Why I Vote for Donald Trump

Let's cut to the chase: I don't like Trump. I wrote a series here speculating on how he could be stopped back in the Republican primaries.

But the evils of Donald Trump are evils I would forgive in a friend. The evils of Hilary Clinton make her my enemy, and the enemy of the Good.

It is clear who in this race is a flawed human being, and who is a partisan of Evil.

I will vote for a human being, flawed, against another flawed human, and I will vote for a flawed human being against Evil.

No one can tell you to vote for Evil against Evil. But then, anyone who tells you to vote only for perfect men is a fool.

No one will be saved or damned by God for their vote in this election. But if you restrain your hand at this time, when you might have stood against Evil at no cost to yourself, I pray your own conscience damn you and not give you rest.

The Rev Reads it For You: Let's Redefine Power (Rules for Radicals)

In this chapter, Alinksy redefines for us several words of the English language:

"The same discolorations attach to other words prevalent in the language of politics... They become twisted and warped, viewed as evil... This is why we pause here for a word about words."
Notice how Alinsky sets the stage. He is simply restoring these words to their true, original meanings! Removing the discolorations of politics! And what better word to first redeem, than Power?

Continues after the break.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Rev Reads it For You: The Eleven Ethics (Rules for Radicals)

Chapter Two is concerned with outlining Alinsky's 11 rules of "The Ethics of Means and Ends." Alinsky sets his moral foundation for community organization, but pay attention as he sets the deck against the Haves.

"To say that corrupt means corrupt the ends is to believe in the immaculate conception of ends and principles. The real arena is corrupt and bloody. Life is a corrupting process from the time a child learns to play his mother off against his father in the politics of when to go to bed; he who fears corruption fears life."
Alinsky first sets out by sidestepping the issue of morality altogether. 'Look, the real world isn't an Ethics textbook. Things are complicated. It's hard to stay clean. Everybody does it. Might as well give up.'

This shouldn't be new to anyone here, so I'll spare you the rant on moral relativism. Simply note that Alinsky uses examples/language that no one can deny and then skips over actually proving his point conclusively. It's a good maneuver!

Continues after the jump.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Rev Reads it For You: Ethics of the Haves and Wants (Rules for Radicals)

In Chapter One, Alinksy defines his "Trinity" of social classes, as they relate to revolutionary change:

Haves - The wealthy few who actively resist change because change would threaten what they have.

Have-a-Little, Want Mores - The middle class who wants enough change to get more while preventing change that would cause them to lose what they already have.

Have Nots - The mass of the poor who want everyone else off their backs so they can Get.

Interestingly, Alinsky correctly recognizes that the impetuous for revolution rarely comes from the Have Nots who are "a mass of cold ashes of resignation and fatalism," They are the fuel that catches on fire when a spark emerges from the Middle Class.

And indeed, historically, this is the general case. The poors are generally too poor and broken down to successfully resist, whereas the "friction" in the Middle Class, torn between Have and Want More, provides the spark.

This schema runs throughout the chapter, but Alinsky starts us by a quick primer in moral relativism. We'll look at that after the break.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Rev Reads it For You: Rules for Radicals (Prologue)

As part of a recent push to get through my backlog of reading material (and also a lack of other topics that I'm interested in pontificating on), I'm introducing a new series. 

The Rev Reads It For You hits somewhere between Cliff Notes and fisking. I'll post excerpts of passages that jump out and comment on them. If the passages interest you, then go buy the book to learn more.

We're starting out with Saul Alinsky's famous and infamous Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals. It's a book that needs no introduction as the de-facto handbook for community organizers and all other groups of professional protesters. It's a window into the mind of the modern grievance industry and an indispensable guide to their thoughts and methods.

Published in 1971, Rules is primarialy a critique of the idealistic protesters of the Baby Boomer leftists. Alinksy's view of them is summed up thusly:

"They have no illusions about the system, but plenty of illusions about the way to change our world."
In other words, they have a correct consciousness about the evils of Capitalist America, but are utterly naive about how to change the situation. The prologue is largely dedicated to stating Alinsky's case in the strongest popular terms.

Continue with us after the break.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Wholly Unsatisfactory Response to John Wright's "Parable of the Messengers"

I've been reading through John C. Wright's A Universal Apologia for the Catholic Church. It's good.

Now Mr. Wright is not my favorite author, but One Bright Star to Guide Them may be my favorite novella. For any fan of Lewis and MacDonald, it's an absolute feast. My only complaint is that it is not a ten-book cycle.

Unlike Mr. Wright, I was born into a church and believed in the teachings of Christianity from a very young age. Indeed, I have never had any doubts in the existence of God or the truth of the Bible. This, in fact, is what caused me to hate God for a portion of my life.

You see, I attended a Christian school which railed against the usual litany of movies, rock and roll, and indeed Science Fiction. Being unable to find any evidence in the Bible that these things were sinful, I realized with a shock that men in pulpits were lying about God. Worse, they were doing so without being struck down by bolts of thunder.

For some reason, I transferred my hatred of these men to a hatred of the God who did not turn them into pillars of salt for their lies. Later on I was reconciled to God by the mercy of God, but that time of my life has left scars that will perhaps only be healed after this life (other-inflicted and self-inflicted.

At any rate, I have much respect for Mr. Wright's logical thought and intellectual consistency, despite the very different origins of his faith. However, while his Parable of the Messengers is absolutely correct from the Catholic perspective, it misrepresents the Protestant perspective.

I am not speaking of those who believe in a secret line of Southern Baptists stretching back to the apostles or anything of that sort. As Protestant and Protestant-descended denominations abound, there are certain to be ten thousand different versions of why the Church of Rome is a Den of Vipers. I am aiming for the mean, not to cover every single lizard-man conspiracy theory.

At any rate, here is a Protestant Reform of the Parable of the Messengers:

From league 0 to 300, we Protestants have no essential dispute with Mr. Wright's account.

We do need some additional clarification at the 300-400 league mark. At this point, there is already a general consensus among the messengers as to which written orders are legitimate, with a chain of documentation leading back to the followers of the Twelve General Officers (Matthias, Mr. Wright). There are essentially four groups of written orders in circulation:

1). Those which almost all messengers recognize as valid
2). Those which most messengers recognize, but a few dispute
3). Those which a few recognize, but most dispute
4). Those which almost no messengers consider valid

After debating the merits of the written orders in the second and third categories (the first are beyond dispute, the fourth are beyond salvage), the messengers settle on a list comprised of orders from the first and second categories (some of the second category orders are excluded).

In other words, the written orders were chosen in recognition of the fact that they were recognized as legitimate by the overwhelming majority of messengers. The sheep, as it were, recognized the voice of the Shepherd. And indeed, most of the orders in the third and fourth category contained teachings that flatly contradicted the teachings of the first two categories.

There is no mystery over why some orders were considered valid, understood only by the messengers. They were guided by that Holy Spirit which guides this army but also by the plain evidence of the written orders. A written order that claims the King is evil and must be rebelled against may be rejected out of hand.

We also have no essential dispute between 400-1000 leagues.

Around the 1000 league mark, something strange began happening in the camp. Little by little, the messengers started refusing direct access to the written orders. This, they said, was to strengthen the chain of command and keep unqualified messengers from misrepresenting the written orders.

And indeed, there had been problems with disagreements and divisions in the camp, It was deemed a wise precaution. All existing copies of the original orders were locked away and replaced by a secret, unbreakable code understood only by the messengers.

For the next 500 leagues, no one but the messengers were permitted to hear or read the original written orders. It was taken on good faith that the words of the trusted messengers were in line with the written orders.

During this stretch of the road, the messengers took from the war chest vast quantities of food and treasure for themselves, assuring the foot soldiers that this was in line with the written orders. They used these funds to build lavish buildings and fill them with works of art, and to fill their bedchambers with wine, gems, and whores.

They also introduced many new orders which the common soldiers had never heard before. Again, the soldiers were assured that these new orders were perfectly in line with the written orders. And because the messengers had been well trusted in the past, the soldiers were content to believe them.

Now around the 1500th league, a young man was raised up to the position of messenger and taught how to read the secret code. To his shock, he found that many of the orders of the messengers were in plain contradiction to the written orders. There was indeed no reconciliation possible between the spoken orders and the written orders.

Then he turned his eyes to his fellow messengers, and saw that their lives were also in complete opposition to the written orders. They fraternized with the enemy, raped and pillaged the innocents of the countryside, and unjustly looted supplies that belonged to their subordinates. Indeed, the army had become less of a fighting force and more of a carnival of indulgence run on behalf of the messengers and their lackeys.

This young messenger was torn. On one hand, he fully believed in the mission of the army, the greatness of the King, and the authority of its true commander. On the other hand, the written orders clearly showed him that the highest messengers were liars and opportunists in open rebellion against the written orders.

A war broke out within the camp, much bloodier and more vicious for being a civil war. When previous messengers had split away, they had taken their soldiers with them to other battlefields, preventing most bloodletting. But this young messenger was not content to leave the camp, and the other messengers would not have been content to let him escape alive.

For the young messenger had done the unthinkable and the unforgivable: he had broken the secret code and began distributing copies of the written orders in language the soldiers could understand. Any man with eyes could see that the high messengers were liars, and taught things in most obvious contradiction to the written orders.

So they called themselves "Loyalists," for they desired to be loyal to the King, High Commander, and written orders in the face of wicked and corrupt messengers.

Sadly, they were not in agreement on all points of the meaning of the written orders. Fearful of again being led astray by false messengers, they fell to fighting among themselves as well. The war was long and many friends and brothers slew each other.

As a result of the war, the high messengers instituted a series of reforms to curb the old excesses. They decoded the written orders and allowed all soldiers to read them in a language they understood. But the damage could not be undone.

The Loyalists would never again trust the orders of the camp. How could they? For five hundred leagues, the army had been turned from its mission by the messengers. The messengers had conspired together to suppress the written orders and then profited by lying about their contents.

The messengers of the camp have a few arguments against the Loyalists:

1). The excesses of the messengers have been exaggerated
2). The excesses of the messengers that led to the rebellion have all been reformed
3). The so-called "loyalists" do not agree on the meeting of the written orders
4). The so-called "loyalists" cannot explain why the written orders should be trusted
5). The so-called "loyalists" do not have an unbroken chain of command stretching back to the King

To this, the Loyalists respond:
1). Perhaps we were slightly less betrayed than has sometimes been claimed. What of it? The conspiracy to deny us access to the written orders cannot be denied, nor can the betrayal of the written orders. Who in their right mind would trust a liar and a traitor twice?
2). Perhaps the messengers of the camp have truly reformed. What of it? They still claim the same authority as before, the same authority than once almost snuffed out the written orders from the minds of men. The authority to make the written orders say the opposite of their plain meaning exists in the hands of liars and traitors.
3). This is true and cannot be denied. But honest disagreement is better than blind obedience to traitors and liars. It was not us who breached trust with the messengers, but the messengers themselves.
4). Bupkis! We know there is a King, and a High Commander. We know the history of our army. There are written orders which have always been considered legitimate, and we reject any that disagree with these. It was on the basis of this universal agreement that some written orders were declared authentic; that reason remains.
5). The so-called "true army" has nothing but a chain of liars, thieves, conspirators, tyrants, tricksters, sorcerers, and unrepentant whore-mongers. You claim as your pride the wicked men who lied to us, betrayed us, stole our wealth, and kept us in bondage. And you may keep them.
This, at least, is the story as it has come to me. To ask a Protestant to accept the authority of the Roman Church is to ask him to accept his ancestor's slave masters. I will not say that the Romans have no argument, only that wise men do not trust those who have betrayed them once already.

It did not take very many evil men to turn the Roman Church to evil the first time. It will not take very many the second time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Interesting Bits: "Propoganda" by Edward Bernays

I've been recently perusing Edward Bernays' 1928 classic, Propaganda. The book is considered by many to be the foundational text of Public Relations and indeed much of Marketing.

It's a fascinating text for many reasons, not the least of which is that it comes from a time when society was still coming to terms with mass markets and globalism. It provides a look into the birth of mass communication controlled by a handful of men - for we who live in the death of that system. It is easy to lose sight of just how defenseless the masses once were to official ideologies and party lines in this age of social media.

At any rate, here are a few excerpts for your perusal. If these book bits interest you, here's a link for the Kindle version.

"Not many years ago, it was only necessary to tag a political candidate with the word interests to stampede millions of people into voting against him, because anything associated with “the interests” seemed necessary corrupt. Recently the word Bolshevik has performed a similar service for persons who wished to frighten the public away from a line of action."
The more things change, eh? The only parts that we would update for the 2016 edition would be "interests" to "special interests" and "Bolshevik" to "Socialist" or "Racist." Frankly, the most surprising part is that Bernays implies that there was a window where these tricks didn't work!

"While the concrete recommendations of the public relations counsel may vary infinitely according to individual circumstances, his general plan of work may be reduced to two types, which I might term continuous interpretation and dramatization by high-spotting. The two may be alternative or may be pursued concurrently."
"Continuous interpretation" refers to the process of subtly molding the public image of a product or policy in a favorable fashion, whereas "Dramatization by high-spotting" refers to special events to bring a product or policy into the public imagination. For example, Continuous Interpretation would be subtly drawing public attention to the benefits of toothpaste by funding/spreading research on tooth decay and Dramatization would be a highly publicized tooth-brushing competition ("The World Series of Tooth Brushing!!!").

"The only propaganda which will ever tend to weaken itself as the world becomes more sophisticated and intelligent, is propaganda that is untrue or unsocial."
It is unclear to the extent Bernays actually believed this, but it seems to have held up, particularly the untrue. Blatantly untrue propaganda requires more upkeep and suppression of free speech to succeed.

The Big Lie is effective in the short term, but not in the long term.

"Ours must be a leadership democracy administered by the intelligent minority who know how to regiment and guide the masses."
Sound familiar? Bernays was an instrumental advocate of Democracy From Above. In his mind, there is a natural oligarchy made up of the people who drive public opinion - people like himself. The interest in this book is not only in the techniques of propaganda, but the mindset of social engineers.

"[Women] can justifiably take the credit for much welfare legislation. The eight-hour day is theirs. Undoubtedly prohibition and its enforcement are theirs, if they can be considered an accomplishment. So is the Shepard-Towner Bill which stipulates support by the central government of maternity welfare in the state governments. This bill would not have passed had it not been for the political prescience and sagacity of women like Mrs. Vanderlip and Mrs. Mitchell."

I have been somewhat suspicious of claims that extending the vote to women caused the growth of the welfare state, but here is Bernays trumpeting the accomplishment. This is merely one more point of data - but one wonders if a perusal of more old books on the subject would turn up more triumphal announcements of the role of women in creating the Nanny State.

"As an example of this new technique: Some years ago, the Consumer’s Committee of Women, fighting the “American valuation” tariff, rented an empty store on Fifty-Seventh Street in New York and set up and exhibit of merchandise tagging each item with the current price and the price it would cost if the tariff went through. Hundreds of visitors to this ship rallied to the cause of the committee."

Women vs. Tariffs. Quite interesting given the recent reemergence of the tariff topic.

"Yet if this is the case— if the university shapes its whole policy toward gaining the support of the state legislature— its educational function may suffer. It may be tempted to base its whole appeal to the public on its public service, real or supposed, and permit the education of its individual students to take care of itself. It may attempt to educate the people of the state at the expense of its own pupils. This may generate a number of evils, to the extent of making the university a political instrument, a mere tool of the political group in power."
Can there be any doubt that Bernays' fears proven true? The university system is nothing if not a political instrument, and it is due to public funding.

This section is the crux of the whole book, and unfortunately Bernays himself did not seem to realize it. The marriage of propaganda, oligarchy, and politics repeats over and over in the following chapters, but the university is the only place Bernays sees any potential problems.

"In such a case, it is not the work of the public relations counsel to urge that the courses be made better known, but to urge that they first be modified to conform to the impression which the college wishes to create, where that is compatible with the university’s scholastic ideas."
If the SJW has one true skill, it is in convincing institutions that they are the public opinion to which institutions must appeals. Bernays' naivety in thinking universities will maintain their scholastic ideas is adorable.

"And since social service, by its very nature, can continue only by means of the voluntary support of the wealthy, it is obliged to use propaganda continually. The leaders in social service were among the first consciously to utilize propaganda in its modern sense."
Interesting to see where propaganda first took root.

"The great enemy of any attempt to change men’s habits is inertia. Civilization is limited by inertia."
Oh Bernays, you stupid fuck.

"Today the privilege of attempting to sway public opinion is everyone’s. It is one of the manifestations of democracy that any one may try to convince others and to assume leadership on behalf of his own thesis."
True, but Bernays actively sought to undermine this by putting control of public opinion in the hands of a few unelected puppet masters. Social media really is a miracle by the grace of God.

"When art galleries seek to launch the canvases of an artist they should create public acceptance for his works. To increase public appreciation a deliberate propagandizing effort must be made."
The fine arts are as susceptible to market pressures as anything else.

"Propaganda can play a part in pointing out what is and what is not beautiful, and business can definitely help in this way to raise the level of American culture."

Can, sure can. Didn't, sure didn't. The same political pressures Bernays predicted on the university affect the museum as well (more often than not, directly through the university).

"A piano manufacturer recently engaged artists to design modernist pianos. This was not done because there existed a widespread demand for modernist pianos. Indeed, the manufacturer probably expected to sell few. But in order to draw attention to pianos one must have something more than a piano. People at tea parties will not talk about pianos; but they may talk about the new modernist piano."
Not everything Bernays says infuriates me. This is actually very clever and explains a lot about loss leaders.

"A recent annual report of an art museum in one of the large cities of the United States, says: “An underlying characteristic of an art Museum like ours must be its attitude of conservatism, for after all its first duty is to treasure the great achievements of men in the arts and sciences.” Is that true? Is not another important duty to interpret the models of beauty which it possesses? If the duty of the museum is to be active it must study how best to make its message intelligible to the community which it serves. It must bodily assume aethetic leadership."
And we're back to fury. Nothing Bernays says is technically untrue - it would be great if museums had a leading role in raising aesthetic standards in the community. The issue is that the marriage of political oligarchy and propaganda in the arts has had the opposite effect: the uglification of culture.

"There is no means of human communication which may not also be a means of deliberate propaganda, because propaganda is simply the establishing of reciprocal understanding between an individual and a group."
And people wonder why I'm paranoid.

"It was not many years ago that newspaper editors resented what they called “the use of the news columns for propaganda purposes.” Some editors would even kill a good story if they imagined its publication might benefit anyone."
Can we go back to this? Please? Pretty please?

"In the New York Times— to take an outstanding example— news is printed because of its news value and for no other reason. The Times editors determine with complete independence what is and what is not news. They brook no censorship. They are not influenced by any external pressure nor swayed by any values of expediency or opportunism."
Lol, New York Times was an pillar of journalistic integrity.

"If the public relations counsel can breathe the breath of life into an idea and make it take its place among other ideas and events, will receive the public attention it merits. There can be no question of his “contaminating news at its source.” He creates some of the day’s events, which must compete in the editorial office with other events. Often the events which he creates may be specially acceptable to a newspaper’s public and he may create them with that public in mind."
False flags, paid demonstrations, and fake outrages are extremely effective in creating propagandistic news. And I love the way that he hand-waves the charge of "contaminating news at its source" by immediately jumping into "creating some of the day's events," which is the very definition of contaminating news at its source.

"Large groups, political, racial, sectarian, economic or professional, are tending to control [radio] stations to propagandize their points of view."
As depressing as reading what we've lost in newspaper ethics is, it pales in how compromised other media sources have been since their beginning.

"The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today. It is a great distributor for ideas and opinions. The motion picture can standardize the ideas and habits of a nation. Because pictures are made to meet market demands, they reflect, emphasize and even exaggerate broad popular tendencies, rather than stimulate new ideas and opinions. The motion picture avails itself only of ideas and facts which are in vogue. As the newspaper seeks to purvey news, it seeks to purvey entertainment."
Bernays underestimates the ability of movies to create new ideas and opinions, but absolutely nails its role as the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda and its reliance on the vogue. But once you become the source of vogue information, you become the voice of what is vogue. That's when you can start introducing new ideas/fashions/messages.

"Yet the vivid dramatization of personality will always remain one of the functions of the public relations counsel. The public instinctively demands a personality to typify a conspicuous corporation or enterprise."
Older than print: “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

"Undoubtedly the public is becoming aware of the methods which are being used to mold its opinions and habits. If the public is better informed about the processes of its life, it will be so much the more receptive to reasonable appeals to its own interests."
You have to love Bernays' optimism here. Maybe it would have worked out better if the propagandists had more (any) concern for our interests, and less for oligarchical control over our lives.

"Propaganda will never die out. Intelligent men must realize that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help to bring order out of chaos."
Ordo ab chao; indeed, Novus ordo seclorum ab chao . But Bernays is correct. The propagandist will always be with us, and it behooves us to use his arts wisely. Shedding light on these techniques is the first step to building defenses against their misuse.

It is for this reason that I highly recommend Bernays' book. Whether the propagandist is your idol or your enemy, it can only benefit you to learn his tricks.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Dread Ilk Reads

Shout out for The Dread Ilk Reads, a book discussion group reading Aristotle's Rhetoric. I've been interested in the topic since reading Vox's excellent discussion of it in SJWs Always Lie and diving into it deeper is a great opportunity.

Here's a link for a free version of W. Rhys Roberts' translation, which I've found quite clear and readable. Any translation is fine for the reading group, but this one is quite easy on the eyes and brain.

I've been using this Kindle version ($0.99) since I like to read across a number of different devices. Many classics end up poorly formatted and typo-ridden on Kindle; this version is mercifully free of defects.

Here's looking forward to fruitful discussion!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

One Final Thought on the 2016 Hugos

Nnedi Okorafor, PhD ‏@NnediI wish the media would discuss the stories we wrote more than the grumblings of&responses to a certain group of ppl I won't name.#HugoAwards
I've often pondered the relative staying strength of the Puppies vs. the Puppy Kickers. Both groups are, after all, sworn to eternal war.

But then, the Eternal War is the Culture War. Blood Oaths about the Hugos in particular vary from person to person. While it is hard to imagine either group willingly giving ground on the greater Culture War, particular battlefields wax and wane.

Regardless of who you think is currently 'winning the Hugos,' comments like the above make me wonder about battle exhaustion. Ms. Okorafor is a Hugo winner, not a Hugo loser, and yet she is unsatisfied.

In 4th Generation Warfare theory, an extended conflict favors the insurgents. I wonder whose bottom line is spanked hardest by the controversy?

Apparently, it is not enough to win Hugos, one must also win the media war. Apparently, getting the most press is how you win the media war.

If the Kickers want to win under these conditions, they need the media to clamp down on the story as much as possible. When authors start treating awards as secondary to press coverage, the value of the awards decreases.

Now obviously we do not want to read too much into a single tweet. But comments like this are something to watch out for, on both sides. In a war without bullets, each group's perception of victory is one of the most important victory conditions. Look for the exhaustion tell.

Bonus points to anyone who can find some exhaustion tells from Puppies.

On the One Hand (004)


“The professor was a small man with a long beard. His office was pleasantly cluttered with books and papers, just the way a professor’s office should look. For a moment, my heart soared – and then I noticed the very modest pile of waste in his hand.

“I threw myself to the ground and wailed in agony. The sickness had returned to infect even the source! The professor gently asked me to explain myself, and I recounted my story as faithfully as I have recounted it to you.

“The professor heard my story with a noble bearing, wise eyes, and a hand holding up his own waste. Of all the things I had seen, this disturbed me most – each half of the picture worked on its own, but put together made a mockery of both.

“The professor let out a weary sigh and slumped back into his chair. ‘I can understand your concern. I certainly never intended for men to start actually relieving themselves into their hands. And I too am worried by the excesses some have been driven to. This morning, I had students begging me to give them some of my waste! All of these merchants of filth, all of these ridiculous inventions for supporting more waste than a person can naturally carry, this should have no place in these hallowed corridors.’

“So I asked him, if he knew how ridiculous this all was, how could he support it by carrying his own waste?

“He said, ‘Because it is having such a good effect! Men are starting to lift their minds above the superstitious belief in prayers to magical, invisible gods! It is a rallying cry for the dignity of man – each fistful of waste is a hand raised in defiance against the old order.’

“’But sir,’ I said, ‘We are talking about waste! Waste!’

Bill clambered up onto a table a howled with fury. “No! No more! I will mince words no longer! This. Is. SHIT! Filthy, stupid shit. Disease-spreading, foul-smelling shit. How will farmers work with only one hand? How will soldiers fight with one hand full of shit and their minds occupied keeping it balanced?

“The merchants are so busy buying and selling useless shit, they have stopped selling things which benefit their fellow man! The priests are so busy fighting over meaningless shit they have no time to minister to the poor. Why, young men and women are so worried about losing their grip on their worthless shit, they won’t even risk making love!

“We’re so busy worrying about other people’s shit – comparing their shit to our shit, gossiping about their fake shit, stacking shit upon shit until we can’t even carry it. We judge a man by how much shit he has instead of by his wisdom or his courage or his deeds. I’m not saying that the old ways were better, but at least we didn’t have to put up with all of this open, unapologetic shit.

“I don’t care if God is a lie or if prayer is wasted effort. I don’t care how much stock everyone else puts into this shit system. I don’t care if I’ll be judged a fool or if you think I’m missing the point. Shitting into your own hand is the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard of!"

Bill’s arms were stretched out, veins bulging and fingers curled into hooks. He sucked in air, chest heaving, and slowly sunk to his knees. He cradled his head in his hands, weeping gently.

Suddenly, his head snapped up and he looked the stunned men around him in the eyes. “Then the professor said, ‘My good man, there is no reason to throw the baby out with the waste water. Certainly, there have been abuses, but my colleagues and I are writing papers which will limit the holding of waste to tasteful limits. We shall do away with arm supports and the buying of others’ waste – from a man according to his ability, in the hand according to his strength!’”

Bill clambered down from the table and returned to the bar. A mug was pressed on him, but he waved it away. “I left the professor’s office after that, though I could hear that he was still talking. I’m not sure if he knows that I left; for all I know, he is still talking. But I was finished listening. I walked out of that college, out of the city, and did not stop until I arrived here.”

“So gentlemen, tell me what you think. Which is better? Which is worse? Which is more filling to the hand and to the soul? The vice of prayer or the vice of shitting into your hand?”

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Reduxing Vox Day: Post Hugos Commentary

1). A Little Too Quiet

If 2015 was the year of the Grand Stand and Noble Gesture, 2016 was the year of the ominous silence. Perhaps my eyes and brain deceive me, but the Hugos seemed to get less press this year. And I'm including both blogs and mainstream media, from both the Puppies and the Puppy Kickers. There has been little rending of garments, and even less rejoicing.

Space Raptor Butt Invasion was perhaps the only story with legs, but even that conversation petered out. Why?

My guess is that after seeing the fallout of 2015 (while adamantly denying the fallout of 2015), the Tor cabal is trying to play things down and push EPH/similar reforms. Seriously, when was the last time anyone described Vox Day as a "minor racist"? Isn't he usually a double-secret probation ultra mecha-racist who MUST BE DEFEATED? For the first time in years, we had a Hugos that wasn't The Most Important Hugos Evar! Shocking.

Take this as evidence that the Puppy Kickers are capable of learning. Specifically, they've learned that life isn't a bad message fic and it will take more than virtue signaling to win.

The only question is, will EPH be enough? People smarter than me and better at math have said both "yes" and "no." In my experience, it is easier to game an "unbreakable" system than to make a system truly unbreakable. At any rate, my predictions are on the record.

2). Invasion, Repelled

Space Raptor Butt Invasion failed to take home the prize, and Chuck Tingle has already published a story about being pounded in the butt by the loss. You gotta love this guy.

Nonetheless, this marks my first failed prediction. Back in this post, I wrote:
-Space Raptor Butt Invasion will win a Hugo. Both sides will claim it as a victory. Framing SRBI's nomination as about love winning over hate was a master stroke by Dr. Tingle.
Clearly, I was incorrect. And while I'm ready to tuck in and eat my words, it's interesting to look at where my logic broke down.

My logic was the following:
-Puppies will vote for it because they think it is hilarious, embarrasses the Hugos, and Chuck is one of them.
-Puppy Kickers will vote for it because they think it is hilarious, embarrasses the Puppies, and Chuck is one of them.
-If the two largest blocks vote for it, it can't lose.
But lo and behold, one of these two voting blocks failed to vote for SRBI and instead propelled Cat Pictures to victory and Noah Ward to second place. One of these two blocks was either lying to itself or lying through its teeth.

My prediction failed, and it failed because one of these two groups said one thing and then did another. So which group is the group of dirty liars? The Puppies? The Kickers? I'm sure the ballot numbers will tell.

Either way, learn from my mistake. Take that group's tendency to lie into account in the future.

3). Thoughts on Brand Value

This is related to #1, but I get the feeling that no one is going to be bragging much about their 2016 Hugo wins - certainly not as much as they would have in the pre-Puppy era. While this year wasn't as publicly disastrous as 2015, there's still a sort of exhaustion about the proceedings. An implied asterisk above each winner.

Remember, 4th Generation Warfare is about legitimacy. And when winning a Hugo is no longer something to brag about, it will lose the only legitimacy an award has.

This will be a great way to gauge the health of the Hugos. Keep an eye out for cool reserve on the part of winners and (more importantly) apathy on the part of losers. Winners will always enjoy being honored, so the tell here is the amount of gushing. The less gushing, the less they care.

Losers will always enjoy being able to brush off an award as "not important" - it soothes a bruised ego. Look for losers (particularly, politically neutral losers) shrugging off a loss instead of being 'crushed,' 'crestfallen,' etc.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

On the One Hand (003)


The inn exploded with indignation.

“Not Madame Vestrati!”

“On a stage, no less!”

“Is there no shame left in the world?”

“Gentlemen, it pains my heart to continue, but I must push on. With the illuminous support of Madame Vestrati, the waste-holding party grew in leaps and bounds. A man’s wisdom was now valued by the size of the pile he could carry. Clever merchants designed arm supports which, hidden under the clothing, could help a man support truly stupendous amounts of waste. Less clever but shrewder merchants bought up the City’s supply of sewage and sold it back to the people who made it.

“Criminals began breaking into the homes of the rich and stealing the contents of chamber pots, and the Judges rose up to condemn this intellectual theft. Soldiers were posted at the homes of scholars, poets, and musicians to protect their waste, which was considered of great value.

“For the Priests, this was naturally an opportunity to divide into two warring factions: The Clean Hands and the Wise Hands, as they called themselves. The Clean Hands maintained that this was a disgusting practice which encouraged godlessness, and that the Wise Hands should be imprisoned and their property turned over to the Clean Hands.

"The Wise Hands maintained that this was an ancient practice dating back to Isaiah, the first man to live by his own waste – and that the Clean Hands should be imprisoned and their property turned over to the Wise Hands. Much ink was spilled on the debate, but the Soldiers prevented any blood from being spilled.

“And I, poor soul, was forced to wait in lines that attracted more flies than men.”

The town minister spoke up. “So it is in these evil times, when men value their own shame more than the good gifts of-” The good patrons shouted him down, wanting to hear the rest of the story.

“Well, needless to say, I slept little and ate less for the rest of my time in the City. I stayed locked up in my room at the inn, which seemed to be the last place in the city where a man could breathe freely. Good people, you know that I am not a religious man-” A round of mumbling assent. “But surely a hand full of prayers has more value than a hand full of waste!”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” said the old man. “You may have no use for waste, but we farmers use it to fertilize our crops.”

“And it sounds like waste fetches a good price in the City – maybe we should gather ours up and take it to market.”

Bill shuddered. “Only if you are willing to carry some in your own hand. No one will do business with a Clean-Hand; they’d worry that you were tricked into selling cow waste!”

The crowd muttered about that one. Only a City person could mistake human waste for cow waste.

“As I was locked in my room, I ran the events of my trip over and over again through my mind. The young madman, the people at the inn, Madame Vestrati danced gaily through my mind, taunting me with their outstretched hands. Finally, as I was on the verge of giving into madness, I had a sudden realization: the young madman mentioned a teacher! He had not thought of this madness on his own, it was proposed to him as an experiment!”

“So, tying a handkerchief to my face, I ran to the City Library and poured over their books, searching for any mention of this experiment. With the help of an effluence-dripping librarian, I found it – a book written by a professor at the City College of Philosophy which mentioned this very experiment.”

“I poured over the pages hungrily, wanting to understand the source of this madness. This was the wicked teaching that had driven an entire city to the depths of depravity. Imagine my surprise, then, when I read that the entire thing was only supposed to be a thought experiment.”

“What’s a thought experiment?” asked Fred.

“It’s an experiment where you’re only supposed to think about doing instead of actually doing it. For example, what would happen if you stuck your hand in that fire?”

“Well, I suppose it would get burned.”

“Exactly! That’s a thought experiment. You were not supposed to actually relieve yourself into your hand, but rather just think about what would happen if you did.”

“Well, I suppose you would have a hand full of-”

“Exactly! So you would have more in the hand you relieved yourself into than the hand you prayed into, right?”

“Well, yes. But it would be-“

“Waste, yes.”


“Apparently, the young madman had misunderstood his professor and done in deed what he was only supposed to do in thought. Without delay, I ran to the College of Philosophy and inquired after the professor. Perhaps, working together, we could convince the city to confine their waste to their heads instead of their hands.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

On the One Hand (002)


“’Not while you’re carrying that!’ I said, ‘Are you mad?’”

“’What? What do you – Oh!’ He laughed again, and I felt my hand moving toward my knife.”

“’This!’ he continued, ‘Ah, yes, I see. Let me explain. When I was a young man, I had an unfortunate, disgusting habit. You see, I used to pray to God that he would give me my fill of all good things.’”

“WHAT?” The patrons roared with surprise.

Bill nodded and tilted his empty glass to Fred. “Once again, that is exactly what I said. But this madman completely mistook the reason for my disbelief. ‘Oh yes, I understand your surprise,‘ he said. ‘It was such a silly habit, not at all fitting for an intelligent young man. Fortunately, I had a teacher who challenged me to undertake a most enlightening experiment which cured me of this foul habit, and now I stand before you a better man.’”

“’What experiment could lead a person to carry around their own waste?’”

“’Why, nothing less than that most excellent of experiments, which clears the mind of all superstitious belief in God. One simply prays into one hand and relieves himself into the other. Naturally, the hand which is used to relieve oneself fills up much faster. So much for gods!’”

“’But,’ said I, ‘Why would any right thinking person continue to relieve themselves into their own hand?’”

The patrons murmured in agreement.

“’Ah,’ he said, ‘I see I have misjudged you. I had thought you a reasonable man, but clearly you are a superstitious soul who cannot rid himself of the prayer habit. It is truly a shame. I had thought we might continue our conversation, but I cannot risk associating myself with the unenlightened. Please do not try to detain me.’”

“And with that, he walked off, head held high and hand dripping effluence!”

The old oak walls creaked and fire popped.

“Well,” said Fred, “I can certainly see why you were so shaken. But you know-“

Bill threw back his head and howled with laughter.

“Oh! You see why I was shaken! But I do know, I know such terrible things!”

“There’s more?”

“What else?”

“It got worse?”

Bill stood up and began pacing in front of the fire, clutching his mug in one hand and gesturing wildly with the other.

“Once I was sure the madman had put enough distance between us that I would not have to walk in his odor, I continued to the City. After all, we have our madmen in the country as well.”

Nods, murmurs, the old man cried “Hear hear!”

“Naturally, once I reached the City, I made my way to a proper little Inn and told my strange story to the good folk there. Most of them laughed, but a few were moved by the madman’s actions!”


“Yes! Among the sea of snickering faces, there were one or two who listened solemnly. These serious souls started arguing in the madman’s favor. The Inn, was thrown into an uproar! On this side, the vast majority who swore no man could convince them to relieve themselves into their hands, on that side, a few stubborn radicals who swore that it seemed wiser to them than prayer. I excused myself to my room, already tired of the debate.”

“I awoke the next morning and would have been sure the whole thing was a bad dream, but for the fact that I woke up in a cot instead of my own bed. So I laughed to myself as I dressed, saying ‘Surely the good patrons of this inn are gentle souls. They stick up even for absent madmen!’”

“So I dressed and walked downstairs to take my breakfast.” Bill took a slow pull from his mug. The good patrons were torn between urging him to continue and fearing what horrors would follow.

“But fate did not intend me to eat breakfast that day. When I walked downstairs, near half of the patrons were holding waste in one hand as they ate with the other!”

“Their own waste?” asked the old man.

“I can only assume,” said Bill gravely. “I did not stick around to ask. My appetite spoiled, I hurried off into the City center to attend my business.

“Here were the great men of the City, going about their business. Merchants, Judges, Soldiers, Bishops all marching through the heart of the City in their shining uniforms. The pillars of our society, with their noble gaits and sober minds, were a soothing balm to my heart. I stood in the long lines and filed papers with a happy heart, grinning at the clerks and checking boxes with a flourish.

“Having finished the day’s business, I decided to treat myself some culture. There was an opera playing that night which I was quite keen to see – the writer, cast, and director were all luminaries of the field. So I paid my ten pence and took my seat.

"The violins hummed and the curtains rose. Young men and women dressed in white lifted their voices in a celestial melody. And Madame Vestrati strode onto the stage in a shining gown – gracefully holding a pile of her own waste.”

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

On the One Hand (001)

'Shit into one hand and pray into the other; see which one fills up first.'

A lone traveler walked up the dusty road to The Tilted Radish. They say that all roads lead to Rome, but if you happen to be passing by The Radish, Rome will wait while you have a drink or two. And look, the lone traveler agrees! He walks with a rapid gait, cloaking billowing out behind him. Any traveler worth his salt knows that the next drink is miles and miles off, and the sun is already setting.

Inside, it is warm. The traveler, being of sound mind, takes off his cloak and hat. A cheer greets his face – they have been expecting him.

But there is no cheer on his face. His eyes are wide and ringed with dark circles, his mouth drawn, his cheeks pale. His friends press around him, lead him gently to the bar, and press a mug into his hands before assaulting him with questions.

The patrons of the Radish have their priorities straight!

Surrounded by good company and filling with good drink, the traveler begins to recover. Only now do his friends start asking questions:

“What happened, Bill?”

“Where have you been?”

“Would you like another drink?”

Good questions all – Bill has been gone for months now, more than enough time for the good country patrons to forget why he left in the first place.

“All your questions will be answered, friends. I’ll have that other drink, Fred, and all of you may wish to join me. This story may take a while to tell and you will need all your mental courage!” Bill took a fortifying pull to steady his trembling voice. “As you know, I have been in the City these past three months.”

The patrons nodded sagely. Bill often went to the City – sometimes for his family’s business, sometimes for their families’ business, and sometimes for entertainment. Bill was strange in that way. No wonder he looks so ill! Poor soul! Better him than us!

“On my way to the City, I met a fellow traveler. Since the road is long and winding, with very little to pass the time, we talked and walked together. Right away, I knew he was a very learned man, for I could hardly understand a word he said. The only part I can remember is our conversation about flowers – for what happened afterwards was the start of my most harrowing experience.”

“’What we call a flower,’ he said, ‘is not really a flower at all. It is nothing more than the aggregate of the base elements of a flower. The flower itself does not actually exist, only the base elements of the system. Only fools would think that the aggregate itself exists as a single thing!’”

“’But,’ I said, ‘Could we not call the aggregate of the base elements of a flower, a flower? After all, to call it an aggregate also implies it is a single thing.’”

“’A single thing? Bah! To call it an aggregate presupposes it is made of many parts!’”

“’But to call it a flower also means it is made of many parts – petals, stems, roots.’”

“’Bah!’ he repeated, ‘I should have expected as much from a country bumpkin. Be glad you have met me on the road. Had you spoken that folly in the City, they would have laughed you out of town!’”

“While I reflected on this man’s wisdom, he suddenly stopped in the middle of the road. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.’”

“’Begging your pardon,’ he said, ‘But I need to stop to relieve myself.’”

The patrons muttered at the learned man’s forwardness.

“But I suppose,” said Fred the bartender, “Natural necessity affects City folk and country folk the same.”

Bill shuddered, but continued his story. “I, course assured him that I would wait a bit up the road so that we could continue our conversation once he finished. I walked a bit up the road to give him some privacy. And then…”

“And then?” asked the patrons.

“And then!” cried Bill, “And then he returned, holding his own waste in his right hand!”

There was a general ruckus of shouts of disbelief, disgust, and refills.

“Was it the First or the Second?” shouted a small old man.

“The Second!” cried Bill.

“Would it have been better or worse if it was the First?”

“What in God’s name was he thinking?”

“That’s what I asked!” said Bill

“What did he say?”

“There must have been some reason.”

“He said, ‘Why, I thought you wanted to continue our conversation. Was it not a grand diversion from this long and weary road? Or has my wisdom been too much for you?’ And then he laughed! He laughed! Hand full of his own shame!”

Chairs and stools creaked as the patrons moved in closer. It was the only sound. Every ear strained to hear what happened next.

One the One Hand Hub

A short story about a common phrase.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

State of the Blog (July 2016)

A few quick announcements:

1). I'll be winding down the Archetypes Vs. Women series soon, as I've said more or less everything I wanted to say. There will be a few more posts exploring individual Jungian archetypes from a female-character perspective before it ends.

2). I've more or less put my chips on the table already for the Presidential election and the Hugos, so don't expect much on those fronts until the voting happens.

3). You may notice the StudyOke! posts disappearing soon. That's because I've decided to spin them off onto their own blog:

Unlike this blog, I'm not going to discuss HBD/Politics/Anything but Japanese Music and Grammar on StudyOke!, so please don't let it spill over. If you don't like that, tell me why I'm a totalitarian dickhole on this blog.

4). I'm considering fleeing America for Japan. This has nothing to do with the election, and everything to do with being bored out of my skull. Maybe in two or three months.

5). I really have no idea what topic to focus on next, so I may try my hand at some fiction/amateur game design. It seems a shame to have all of these opinions about art and culture and not put any of them to practice. Of course, I have no experience in programming so things are going to get messy.

But then, messy is better than boring.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Girlbusters Review

I saw the new Ghostbusters last weekend as part of a three-for-one drive in show. For those who cannot rest until they know what the other two movies were, they were The Secret Lives of Pets (which was excellent) and Tarzan (left in the middle of it).

Let's start with a disclaimer: if you only care about Ghostbusters as a flashpoint in a cultural war, it won't be good enough to win you over. All of the little Feminist Flag Waves are going to set your teeth on edge past the point where enjoyment is possible.

If you don't care about feminism or the meta-controversy, it's simply another mediocre remake. After a solid opening sequence, the film flails about for the first half trying to find a reason to exist. It's not particularly funny. the characters walk the line between two-dimensional and off-putting, and it drags around the original films like Marley's chains. It does achieve one thing - using a plot this formulaic and still have pacing problems this severe is truly extraordinary.

The humor has an ad-lib, schizophrenic energy that I can tell is intended to be funny, and yet at best can only elicit a sensible chuckle from me. It's less of a series of jokes and more a stream of silly words. My friend Rick thought it was hilarious, so this may be a matter of taste.

 Me, watching Ghostbusters

None of the characters click in a convincing way until roughly the mid-point of the film, where we learn the reason Erin became interested in hunting ghosts. I'll avoid spoiling the scene, since it's a moment that truly jumped out for me, and the only thing I can think of that improves on the original.

It is after this scene that the movie starts to come into its own. We find what was missing in the first half of the movie - a reason for any of this. Girlbusters is a movie about the search for acceptance in a cruel and dangerous world, and it carries that theme well through the final action sequences and into the credits.

Funnily enough, Ghostbusters and Girlbusters serve as something of ur-examples of gender differences. The male Ghostbusters are hunters that conflict with authority and primarily care about success. The 'Ghost Girls' are pack animals that bend to authority and primarily care about being accepted. Success in Ghostbusters comes from running a successful business in spite of opposition. Success in Girlbusters comes from getting government funding from a jerkass mayor who had them arrested.

Girlbusters succeeds in the feminist quest to turn men into women, but it fails in the quest to turn women into men. The four main characters are women, and the movie reflects that. As "feminist propaganda" goes, that's fairly weak.

As a movie, it's a mediocre reboot with moments of brilliance, like lonely wontons floating in a sea of soup. Speaking of which, make sure you stick around for the credits, as they're legitimately one of the most entertaining moments in the entire film.

Final rating: C+

Monday, July 18, 2016

[AVW014] Rethinking the Heroine (The Persona)

[AVW013] Doing Better - The Missing Half (Part Two)

Having talked about Archetypes and Stories, I'd like to transition into talking about Characters. There's some natural overlap between these three topics, but think of this as strengthening our discussion instead of retreading old ground. Let's circle to build!

Today we're going to talk about why Strong Female Protagonists are screwing up women's representation in media.

This builds off of our previous post on why Strong Female Protagonists Who Don't Need No Man are difficult to relate to, but we're also going to take this a step further. Having embraced the Female Protagonist out to save her man (get her man, liberate the Animus), we're going to go a step further and throw out the Strong Female Protagonist altogether.

This will sound counter-intuitive at first, so bear with me. I'm not saying that Female Protagonists are bad, or that Strong Female Protagonists are never good. But if we want more billion-dollar franchises with female leads, we need Boring Female Protagonists in interesting worlds, as opposed to Strong Female Protagonists is boring worlds.

The Archetype In A Nutshell

I'm going to explain this Archetype myself, but the video below also does an excellent job:

How interesting is Mario, as a character? Not very. His background doesn't matter, he has zero character development, and he only rarely speaks.

How interesting is Link, as a character? Maybe a little more than Mario. But the character works just as well if you pick up the Hero of Time and drop him somewhere else (as the many-branching cannon of the Zelda series attests).

Even when a specific background is in play, we prefer protagonists with as little personality as possible. Gordon Freeman. Chrono. Master Chief. Do you really like the fully-voiced, characterized modern Sonic the Hedgehog better than the silent, finger-waving original? Did you like the simpering, whiny Samus from The Other M better than the mercenary with zero lines of dialogue? Of course not - you're not an idiot.

I'm not saying only idiots like this game.
But only because it goes without saying.

As the video above explains, a bland non-entity with minimal characterization (Neo, Luke, Mario, Link) is the exact sort of protagonist that drives billion-dollar franchises. Why? Because the less characterization your hero/heroine has, the easier it is for the audience to slip them on like a mask.

The perfect protagonist

The word 'persona' comes from Latin, and refers to the masks worn by classical actors. Jung uses it to describe the 'masks' we use to face the world. These masks are not our true selves, our true personalities, but rather social roles that other people can understand easily.

Removing your fake-ass Customer Service Persona

These bland protagonists don't have zero characterization. Neo is a rebellious and loyal underdog in a cyberpunk setting. Luke is rebellious and loyal underdog in a high-fantasy space setting. Harry Potter is rebellious and loyal underdog in a contemporary fantasy setting. Mario is an arguably rebellious and loyal underdog in the Mushroom Kingdom. Link is an arguably rebellious and loyal underdog in a faux-medieval setting. Sonic is a rebellious and loyal underdog in a techno-furry setting. Samus is an arguably loyal and rebellious underdog in a sci-fi horror setting.

In fact, "rebellious and loyal underdog" would describe roughly every protagonist of a billion-dollar series from the last 3-4 decades. While individual protagonists may have certain distinct pieces of window-dressing (setting, color scheme, facial hair) that appeal to particular demographics, they are all essentially interchangeable.

In other words, we expect the Protagonist to function as a mask that allows us to slip into a setting. While they may have some specific characteristics and backgrounds (Harry Potter is an orphan, Neo is a hacker), this is more about adapting the Protagonist Persona to a setting than true characterization.

The Character

Test time: can you think of any female protagonists who launched billion dollar franchises?

Take your time, I'll wait.

Time's up. Here's my list: Katniss from The Hunger Games, Bella from Twilight, Samus from Metroid, that chick from 50 Shades of Grey and Ripley from Alien.

Second test: how many of these protagonists are held up as models by Feminist Puritans?

Maybe Ripley? Even then, the first Alien movie barely passes the Bechdel Test, so she's hardly a model for hardline feminism. And since she's a white, thin, physically-abled, English-speaking woman, Ripley could never pass Intersectional Feminist tests.

Which brings us our point: if you want to sell a female protagonist to a mass audience, thus improving female representation and setting an example for young girls, make your protagonist as bland as humanly possible. Make her nothing more than a mask than young women can pull on and off like a mask.

If you put a female protagonist in your game, give her as little of a background as possible. Just throw her in a world with no explanation of who she is or rationalization for her powers. If you must include some sort of story in your game, make her a rebellious and loyal underdog.

Look, I get it. You want your female protagonist to be deep and complex, like a human being. And that's great if you're trying to write Serious Literature or make a Serious Film. But it's not how you make a billion-dollar franchise. It's not how you put a female face on a generation-defining franchise. It's not the mask that people will pull on to explore a fascinating world.

When it comes to pop culture, go boring or go home.

Next: [AVW015] Lilith, Demoness of the Night (The Shadow)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

[AVW013] Doing Better - The Missing Half (Part Two)

Previous: [AVW012] Doing Better: The Missing Half (Part One)

"Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken."

-Jane Austen

"Romance"does not exist as a genre of video games. That's a big statement, but it's my position and I'm going to argue for it here.

Obviously, there are video games with romantic subplots and games where romance is the main character's primary motivation (we discussed them last time). And of course, video game fans love  to shoehorn romance into games regardless of romantic content (see the global Rorschach test that is fanfiction). There are even documented cases of human beings falling in love with video game characters

But all of that does not a genre make. What I'm arguing is that even in games with romantic subplots and characters with romantic motivations, the core gameplay mechanics have nothing to do with romance. For counter-example, action games have action (shooting, punching, climbing) in their core mechanics. Puzzle games, racing games, first-person shooters and so on are not defined by their plots, but by their core mechanics. So for a Romance genre to exist, the core mechanics would need to reflect Romance.

Now, I'm not saying that no one has ever tried to make a romantic video game. It's just that they failed. And today, we're going to look at why.

Dating Sims in a Nutshell

I am going to massively oversimplify the history of dating sims and make extremely broad, sweeping generalizations. And that's okay.

The earliest crop of dating sims in Japan focused on the idea of romance on the story level, with the usual cliches one would expect, Destiny, finding 'the one,' so on and so forth. It was an idealized love, very much informed by the social narrative of monogamy and the psychological 'search for the missing other self'. 

However, these early dating sims also delivered these romantic narratives through multiple-choice gameplay. A certain string of choices led to one girl, another string led to another girl, and another string led to a "bad end" of singleness (I am massively oversimplifying here; roll with it. Here is a more detailed breakdown). A 'correct' string of decisions was needed to obtain the 'best' ending.

This multiple choice gameplay introduced a textual/metatextual split into the dating sim genre. It is my belief that this is what prevented dating sims from becoming a truly romantic genre - but let's examine this split first.

On the textual level, early dating sims emphasized themes of destiny, true love, and finding "the one." This is reinforced by the text, pictures, and sound of the game. The enjoyment gained from this textual consumption is essentially the same as that derived from reading a romantic novel or watching a romantic movie.

On the metatextual level, early dating sims emphasized physical attraction, emotional attraction, player choice and cynicism. Players were not able to respond to the text however they chose, but only through a series of predetermined choices. The only way to win the game is to target a girl and then make the all of the right choices to get her.

Because pursuing multiple girls simultaneously is generally not an option, players must choose quickly which one they want to pursue. Because there is no option to 'get to know' the girls, the players must choose one based off of physical attraction ('I like them titties') or emotional attraction ('I like shy girls'). And of course, because the game can only be won by making the choices that get the girl, the player must always do what they feel has the highest chance of success, not the most honest choice.

So the girls are only appreciable for their surface-level features, and the player can only advance by sociopathically suppressing their emotions and 'gaming' the choices. The metatext emphasizes the consumer's will ('what matters is what I want') and cynical behavior ('I will do whatever I must to get what I want'). while the textual level emphasizes over-the-top protestation of ideal, perfect love. 

The center could not, and did not, hold.

The first generation of dating sims promised romance and delivered sociopathic cynicism. There were basically two ways for this formula to break. Either the metatextual leg would break (allowing romance to return) or the textual leg would break (discarding romance). 

Where the metatextual leg broke, we got 'visual novels,' game-like collections of text, pictures, and music with no gameplay beyond 'turning the page.' By removing the compromising metatext, we eliminated the element of sociopathy and the romantic ideal survived.

Where the textual leg broke, we moved away from romantic 'true love' and towards texts compatible with sociopathic maniupulation. The most obvious example is porn games, which skip romance and jump right to jumping the bones. But there are other options!

Huniepop (which we've mentioned before), discards the idea of endings (there is no ending when a girl is seduced) and the idea of monogamy (all girls can be seduced on the same play-through, simultaneously). The girls must still be seduced with sociopathic cynicism, but sociopathic cynicism is woven into the textual level. Taarradhin removes the romance, but also gives an option to sacrifice yourself and transcend sociopathy. Hatoful Boyfriend moves us to pure parody, removing the cognitive dissonance by stripping away any pretense of seriousness.

All of this genre tinkering is fine (and perhaps necessary), but it also doesn't solve the original problem: how do we fix the rift between romance and gameplay without jettisoning romance or gameplay? 

Visual novels are fine, but I'm not sure we want to throw out the gameplay baby with the sociopathic bathwater. Games can deliver so much more than novels with pictures and a soundtrack. If multiple choice gameplay is causing textual dissonance, let's try a different type of gameplay.

Subverting the idea of romance, allowing the quest for the missing self to fall into permanent nihilistic sociopathy (or absurdist meaninglessness) is also unappealing. Nihilism can never solve the problems of Existentialism - it can only succumb to them. What we need is a better mechanic.

Creating a Genre?

The missing half of the Romance genre is gameplay mechanics that do not succumb to sociopathic manipulation. I have some thoughts on what this might involve, but they are a topic for another time.

My gut instinct is that we're going to have to discard linearity. Branching choices are fine, but they're also what makes sociopathic manipulation possible. So long as there is only one, 'best,' answer we will be stuck with the Gamefaqs dilemma.

But as I said, that's a topic for another time - and perhaps a homework assignment for any aspiring game designers out there. Romance novels do have the biggest share of fiction, after all. And the author is the second most important factor for purchasers of Romance novels. If you can solve the sociopathic manipulation problem and create mechanics that deliver a truly Romantic game, there is a potential for Minecraft-level profits.

Yeah, this is a question I'll be returning to.

Next: [AVW014] Rethinking the Heroine (The Persona)