Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why? Because space is awesome, that's why!

If you haven't heard it already, go listen to this interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson over on NPR. It is truly awesome and once again reminds us that someone is carrying the fire for Carl Sagan.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Somewhere an American History teacher is drinking himself unconscious.

I gotta admit, I think I might see this just for the concept:

I just shudder to think what kinds of wrong answers we're going to see on AP American History exams once this thing comes out.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Um... yeah.

So, when browsing over at the usual wretched hive of scum and villainy I happened to notice something bizarre, even by their standards:

Or, to quote:

Evil atheists upset nursing home residents and their families with a "sinful" and "profane" atheist publication mailed to nursing homes.

Given the accelerating decline of global atheism, militant atheist and their father the devil are getting desperate. Did you ever notice that atheists often criticize God, but never criticize the devil? Many times people are reluctant to criticize their father.

Now there are a couple of things here I just want to briefly remark upon. First, I'm actually weirdly pleased to see them refer to "evil atheists", as this inadvertently implies that all atheists aren't evil. Otherwise, why the need for the adjective "evil" when describing the atheists in question?* Second, if you follow the supplied link to see what all the hubbub is about you'll reach an article over on about a mailing received at a nursing home. What was the mailing? Well, I'll quote from the article:

Often, our readers send in various atheist publications or promotions, hoping that we will answer them. In reality, there are so many that we are rarely able to do so in detail. However, when a supporter sent in a Free Inquiry promotion, with a note telling us it was sent to his mother, who has Alzheimer’s and lives in a nursing home for the elderly, we decided this warranted an exception. So, we are bringing it to your attention to highlight how aggressive the ‘new atheists’ are becoming.

Free Inquiry magazine claims to be the largest humanist publication in the English language, and features contributors such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens. As you read on you will see that they are going to attempt to take the high moral ground, but right off the bat their promotional material boasts that it is “blasphemous, sacrilegious, irreverent, impious, godless, profane, sinful” and then adds “(sounds like something you would enjoy, doesn’t it?)”. So much for their own warped version of what they think is ‘good’. They say that Free Inquiry is “the magazine religious fuddy-duddies are afraid of and don’t want you to read.” Their publication is, in their words, “bold and brave”—though mailing their advertizing to Christian little old ladies in nursing homes does not exactly match that self-awarded accolade.

Right, so what they're upset about is that a magazine for atheists, agnostics and free thinkers was being advertised- not pushed like crack, for crying out loud, but advertised- to elderly people. Apparently the folks at also can't quite grasp the notion of sarcasm- if you're an atheist, the notions of blasphemy and sin are rather silly and, frankly, most of us really appreciate irreverence. But it gets better:

Moreover, if they had any real concern for others, why would they not allow the elderly, who might only have a few good years left, to feel some comfort in their belief in God and that there is something to look forward to after this life? After all, the atheists don’t believe in an afterlife, so what difference does it make what someone believes? If their aim is to eradicate religion, these elderly folks in nursing homes are hardly the ones to be targeted. That is, they are most likely not ‘on the streets’ evangelizing others.

And, see, this is problematic for two reasons. It's problematic because it assumes that everyone in the nursing home is Christian to begin with. That's almost certainly not true, and for those who may already be atheists, agnostics, and free thinkers, this may be just the magazine that they would like to see. It's also problematic, however, because it implicitly assumes that for someone nearing the end of their life, belief in an afterlife will be a positive thing. In Christian theology with death comes judgment and with judgment comes the possibility of hell. I've met more than a few religious people who seem to be constantly tormented by fear and anxiety about hell- either the fear that they will end up there or the fear that their family and friends may end up there. In quite a few of its modern incarnations, Christianity is more a religion of fear than a religion of hope. And yet, somehow I doubt these folks would view sending evangelists into a nursing home armed with threats of eternal punishment to be quite as evil as a simple magazine advertisement.

But, getting back to Conservapedia, the last thing I find interesting is the intimation that atheists don't criticize the devil because we don't want to criticize our father. Mainly this is funny to me because it confuses criticizing the concept of a god or gods with criticizing a specific god as though he/she/it were a real thing. Atheists don't accept the entire supernatural bestiary of Judeo-Christian religion, so when we criticize "god" we're really criticizing the entire enchilada, not just a specific dude. Additionally, however, I just have to chuckle at the notion that atheists are really derived from the devil. I mean, hell, if that were true maybe we'd get some awesome powers or something but, in reality, we're just regular people. But as long as some people believe we're allied with satan, I guess we might as well make the best of it.


* Yes, this really is all it takes to make me feel complimented by Conservapedia. They really are that hateful.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Did You Notice?- The Purity Bear: Dinner Date

So, this is an advertisement in favor of abstaining from sex until marriage. Take a look and then we'll see how many of the interesting features you managed to pick out. C'mon! It'll be fun!

Okay, so, did you notice (with times in parentheses):

-The good Christian girl is dating a boy who drives a nice, American car? Wouldn't want one of those foreign cars built by heathens! (0:03)

-The director really seems to enjoy scenes of slowly driving and parking? This may signal his awareness of the quality of his acting talent. (0:00-0:17)

-The American car has a fancy built-in GPS system? Clearly, this boy or his parents have some money. Really, there's a very interesting class story in this video. (0:21)

-The boy apparently gets his advice on sweaters from Mr. Rogers? Honestly, that sucker probably guarantees his "purity" all by itself. (0:30)

-The boy reluctantly making the move after he gets an engraved invitation from his date? Based on his facial expression, I think he was much more interested in going home and catching that "Father Knows Best" marathon. (0:41-0:45)

-The girl's sudden psychotic break and segue into hallucinating a stuffed bear that speaks? (0:46-0:47)

-The fact that the blonde white girl on a date with a financially stable white boy who gets his fashion sense from the 1950s is hallucinating a sassy black woman as the voice for said bear? (0:48)

-The bear is, itself, black in color? (0:48)

-The bear is wearing a silicone wrist band which is, I assume, purity related? (0:48)

-The comparison of a woman who has sex to a pizza that's been eaten? (~0:50)

-That the bear is honestly the best actor in the entire bit? (0:49)

-The girl physically prying the boy's hand off of her neck? (0:55)

-The classic "If we really love each other, we'll wait" line? (~1:00-1:02)

-The boy's faked reluctance to agree? Damn, bitch, get out of the car! Father Knows Best ain't gonna watch itself! (1:04-1:07)

-The girl's date outfit? Christ, did you get that from Bonnie Tyler's yard sale? (1:15-1:17)

-The boy lingering in the driveway, wondering why his date suddenly started pretending to be a sassy black woman? (1:17-1:20)

-The vague, confusingly-phrased, unsourced statistics? The 2/3 of girls statistics applies to adolescents, which I do not think our actors qualify as. That stat, at least, I can source. The chronic depression and sex out of marriage thing may be reverse-causation (i.e. those prone to chronic depression are having sex in an effort to drive back the sadness). I don't even know what to do with the last one- more success at what? Being virgins? (1:23-1:33)

-That the person who designed the "Day of Purity" placard at the end clearly got his inspiration from an ironic place? (1:36-1:41)

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Looks like a winner...

So, apparently Kirk Cameron is making a movie. About American history. Seriously:

Now, I could go off on how silly it is to try to get historical insight from Kirk Cameron. I mean, it's fairly clear that his education is seriously suspect given that he believes that evolutionary theory predicts the existence of half-duck-half-crocodile hybrids. That's not a joke, that's literally true:

But I'm not interested in that argument. No, what I find more interesting- and this is closely linked to what we saw in The Overton Window- is the idea that America is somehow being ruined and we need to go back to the founders in order to save it. Yeah, well, you know what? We have a lot of problems right now that the founders never contemplated, including the responsibilities of a world power, nuclear freaking weapons, global warming, and so forth. We're also much, much more free than they ever contemplated us being. I think the founders were remarkable men,* but can we all just accept that they're gone and now we're the ones who have to shoulder the responsibilities?

The founders created a living constitution because they did not want us to expect them to solve all our damned problems. Just grow the hell up already, will you?

* As a side note, I often wonder whether some of the right-wing's desire to go back to the founders is really some sort of code for, "the good old days when straight white men had all the power and could treat everyone else like chattel". I mean, I'm a white man and I'm as straight as they come, but seriously, I am quite pleased with this whole "not owning other people" thing we've worked out. Just sayin' is all.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

If you're concerned about losing perspective...

Just take a long look at this. Don't worry, it's worth it to sit through the ad. Really.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

The Overton Window: Index

This is the index to Drek's series on The Overton Window. Use the links below to find any episode in the series... if you dare!

No, seriously, it's a really awful book.

We finish the experience, in part, with a final comment of the week winner. This last time, the winner is Jay, basically because even after I suffered through this entire train wreck, he still thought it right to wrap up by mentioning off-handedly that I'm a dumbass:

What really screws up this book's argument is the fact that the founders didn't agree themselves on what they wanted. The Congregational Church of Massachusetts was a good deal more rabid than the worst fundamentalists, and was the official state church. Some of the founders were deists, which is pretty much what atheism looked like before Darwin and Heisenberg. New England Yankees had (and to some extent still have) a thriving tradition of local democracy, but the South sure didn't. Their founding document was a compromise, and when the first compromise didn't work they tossed it and wrote a new one.

P.S. The electoral college existed because without mass media, mass literacy, and fast travel it was impossible for the masses to form a reasonable opinion on the candidates. Instead, they'd have to vote for somebody they knew for the state legislature. The legislature chose men of good judgement to go to Washington and meet the candidates.

Ah, yes, the true reason for the electoral college: not because everyone was an elitist, but because horses only move so fast. I should have remembered that but, alas, I was in too much of a hurry. And yet, somehow, I think my account remained more plausible than the absurd logic contained in the book. In any case, well-played Jay, and congratulations.

So, we should finally ask who had the most comment of the week wins. The final scores are as follows:

Sassafras - 15
Jay - 14
Ken - 10
Aussiesmurf - 3
Mister Troll - 2
Jonas - 2
Whatisthewhat - 2
Scripto - 1

And thus Sassafras comes in with the most comments of the week wins, with Jay in 2nd place and Ken in 3rd. Congratulations everyone! Sassafras has earned the right to a prize, to be decided by her and subject to my veto. This can include, but is not limited to, receiving my personal copy of The Overton Window in the mail as a keepsake. Other possibilities are a post on a subject of her choosing or the opportunity to write a guest post here on Total Drek. Or, you know, whatever as long as it's not too much work for me. I'll also be extra receptive to suggestion by our top three contestants for the next book I do this to, with the understanding that my wife has basically threatened me with grievous bodily harm if I do this again in the near future. And trust me, she knows how to use that hammer.


Dedication, Acknowledgements, Author's Note, & Prologue

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3, Part 1
Chapter 3, Part 2
Chapters 4 & 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10

Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20

Chapter 21
Chapters 22 & 23
Chapter 24
Chapters 25 & 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30

Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapters 33 & 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40

Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47

Last Thoughts


Friday, February 03, 2012

The Overton Window: Last Thoughts

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that shot the sheriff, but did not shoot the deputy. Last time we suffered through an afterword in which the authors attempted to justify their staggering incompetence. What happens this week? We wrap up the entire "Overton Window" experience with some final thoughts, which are also first thoughts since this book has, thus far, basically inspired no thinking whatsoever.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Jay just for being depressing:

Someday the nation will have horseless metal carriages, zooming across the landscape at speeds of almost 30 miles an hour and recklessly endangering the careless pedestrian.

Sorry, I was trying to think of a warning slightly less timely than the one in this book.

Our problem isn't that a PR person may cynically manipulate us to increase his own power. Our problem is that we've become completely accustomed to treating the news as fodder for a contest between cynical PR teams, and have lost the ability to collectively react to facts except through that framework.

Jay is, of course, absolutely right. We have grown accustomed to PR blitzes and this does mean that the book is effectively "ripped from the headlines", even though those headlines derive from the late 19th century. Well done, Jay, and everyone give it your all this week: it's your last chance to get a win before I tally the results for the index!

Given that we've finally wrapped up this book, let's take a last look at the dramatis personae:

Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by the fates.

Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.

Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's. Molly's Mom. Injected with weed killer by parties unknown blisteringly obvious to everyone.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not good at talking to women. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol. Lost his mother when he was young. Fond of chicken and waffles. Rich as shit. Views himself as a sexual panther. Likes bacon. Considers himself to be good at word games. Wants to bang his mom. Some kind of moronic double-agent.

Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder. Looks just like Noah's mom. Also looks just like Natalie Portman. Almost certainly dead from a nuclear blast.

Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations. May be afraid of cats. Fast draw, terrible shot. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly. Not particularly trusting. Lives in a double-wide trailer. Sixty-three years old. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

Mr. Puddles: AKA Gray Death. AKA Ninja Cat. Stuart's cat. Large. Dangerous looking. Possibly plotting his demise.

Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.

Ellen Davenport: Old friend of Noah's. Second-year neurology resident at Mt. Sinai. Doesn't appear to need sleep or have good taste in her associates.


It contains 13 characters, although in fairness to the authors two of those (Mr. Puddles and Khaled) have a lot more detail as a result of our fertile imaginations. Also I wasn't really paying very close attention. Regardless, given that the "story" is 292 pages long, that averages to about 22 pages per character. That's more impressive than Left Behind's 15 pages per character, but not really when you realize that the authors of The Overton Window used every trick they could think of to run up the page length. This 292 page story could probably have fit comfortably in 100 pages, which would have given us something more like 8 pages per character or, to be generous, if we assume it would have fit into 200 pages, we'd have 15 pages per character. Or, hey, if you think that's not generous enough, we'll go with the 11 named characters (i.e. excluding Khaled and Mr. Puddles) and 150 pages for about 14 pages per character. So for all intents and purposes we're in the same class as Left Behind.

Now, in this final post I wanted to review the lessons that The Overton Window has taught us. As it turns out, this is a pretty tall order because this book is so stunningly vapid, it's difficult at best to take anything substantial away from it. Nevertheless, I owe it to you, dear readers, to try, and so I will attempt to draw blood from this particular turnip.

Lesson One: If you're going to write a "thriller" it should at least be mildly diverting, if not actually thrilling.

I would have hoped I wouldn't have to make this an actual lesson. I mean, it seems rather obvious to me. And yet... it appears that, no, for some people this really has to be spelled out. And by "some people" I primarily refer to the authors. You see, this book really contained few instances that might be referred to as slightly thrilling. There was a bar fight, which was brief and quickly lost. There was Noah's heroic resistance to oppression in the police station, but that took place off-stage. There was Noah's penetration of Doyle and Marchant, but with his daddy in charge it was difficult to be all that thrilled by a guy basically taking the back door into his own workplace. There was Danny and Stu's meeting with terrorists, who were universally cordial right up until the end. There was Noah's quest for vengeance, which was derailed in about a chapter. There was Noah and Molly's daring escape, which was somewhat daring but unspeakably dumb. There was Danny and Stu's gunfight, which was told but not shown. There was Danny and Stu's suicide, which was thrilling only in that we all hated them. And then I guess there was Noah's effort to stop the cops, which was just dumb. Over and over the authors attempted to invoke something akin to a thrill, but they were consistently and utterly defeated by their own inability to craft a believable character or make the reader care about the situation. As a result, we were left with a narrative, but not a story.

Now, it's fair to ask whether I could do any better, and the honest answer is, "No, probably not." I am not much of a fiction writer- as anyone who has read this blog long enough already knows*- but the thing is, I don't claim to be. I'm a social scientist and a university professor, not a writer of popular fiction. My writing is for scientific journals and is not exactly the stuff of best seller shelves. One could, of course, argue that Beck is also not a fiction writer, by training or inclination,** which is true. He's a radio "personality" and he's managed to make the transition into television as well, which is a medium far removed from fiction writing. Fair enough, but Beck also has quite a few co-writers on this thing. And as a result, one would have thought that at least some of them would have more writing credentials. So, we're forced to conclude that Beck either chose a bevy of co-authors who are also unable to produce decent fiction, or else that he forced so many convoluted and ridiculous constraints on them that they were unable to actually produce very much. In either case, we're left with a sorry situation and an even sorrier book. The simple, final reality is that if you are going to write a novel to promulgate your philosophy, you must at a bare minimum make it entertaining. And yes, I am looking at YOU Ayn Rand. Which brings us to our next point.

Lesson Two: Incoherent anger at your opponents is not the same as a philosophy

When I started reading this book I wasn't expecting much, given my experience with Beck's version of rhetoric, but I was looking forward to learning a bit more about his views. I am, perhaps, a little warped in this regard, but I actually enjoy learning about perspectives that differ from my own. And I think I had a right to expect in a "novel" such as this one that I might, possibly, have gained deeper insight into the ideal world of the right-wing. Sadly, however, this was not to be. The authors of The Overton Window spend a great deal of time criticizing various groups. They apparently view government as corrupt and inefficient, which it sometimes is. They also apparently view corporate America as greedy and underhanded, which it sometimes- perhaps even often- is. They want smaller government, and lower taxes, which are goals that I doubt many of us would really dispute in isolation. But aside from those things we never really learn anything about what they think is good. If we're to have lower taxes, what programs should we cut? Medicare and medicaid? Social security? The military? How about education or funding for science and technology? If we're to have a smaller government, does that mean that more powers devolve on the states, or do we simply give up on regulating some things? Do we give up on regulating pollution, or prescription drugs, or product safety? Do we stop prosecuting the war on drugs or do we give up on the war on terror? The simple truth is that if we are to change our government and the way we live hard choices will have to be made. Certainly a novel cannot be a policy document, but one would think that the authors could have given us some idea of what tradeoffs they would prefer. But, alas, this was not to be. What we got was poorly-directed venom against the "bad guys" and a caricature of "good guys" who reflect nothing moreso than a romanticized notion of what the original rugged individualist Americans would be like if they were somehow transformed into a modern context. It's a sort of wish fulfillment book, only instead of obsessing over fancy cars and apartments like their avatar, Noah Gardner, the authors are obsessing over the notion of what would happen if everyone believed and behaved the way that they do. It's an immature longing for the smoothly functioning democracy that would result if everyone believed the exact same things. Except... that's the whole strength of a democracy, that people don't all believe the same things. If we all agreed, we wouldn't need an elective government. We wouldn't need mechanisms for routinizing political conflict to eliminate the need for political groups to establish safe houses and manufacture hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Simply put, the form of government the authors purportedly long for is one expressly intended for a world other than the one they think necessary to make it work, which reveals such a spectacular misunderstanding of the nature of democracy that I can hardly catch my breath.

In reading this book I was constantly struck by the contrast with Heinlein's Starship Troopers. Those who have read the book, as opposed to just watching the hideous movie version, know that while it sounds like an action novel, it's really a book about political philosophy. Heinlein lays out in intricate, and often very engaging, detail his vision for how a more smoothly functioning democracy might be built. It's very different from our own, often in ways that I think many of us would find unappealing, but one at least walks away understanding what he's presenting and his reasons for suggesting it might work. It can function as a starting point for discussion and, if it isn't the sort of democracy I'd want to live in, it at least preserves an awareness that democracy is a system built around disagreement and negotiation rather than a sickening conformity of thought and belief. Heinlein provides a good example of how a sort of right-wing utopian novel** can be written and made enjoyable, and The Overton Window is all the more disappointing for failing so dramatically in comparison. But, we may as well move on to the next lesson.

Lesson Three: When writing faction, one should be careful not to cherry-pick the facts

Writing any book that is "ten minutes into the future" and "ripped from the headlines" is going to be tricky because much of what you write will become dated and quaint virtually instantly. The authors of this book in theory attempted to deal with this problem, at least in part, by sourcing a lot of material, although they themselves admit that a lot of it was still of very dubious veracity. The thing is, if you're going to go to all that trouble, you should probably try not to miss the forest for all the trees. That is to say, don't focus on getting the little stuff right- like the fixtures in limousines- to the point of screwing up the big stuff. See, the authors were portraying the founding fathers as these god-fearing populists who wanted nothing more than for regular, average joes to be able to set the course of government. The founding fathers were indeed radicals, and for their time they were populists of a sort, but by modern standards they frankly had more in common with Arthur Gardner than with Molly, Hollis and the rest of her merry band of retards. See, when the constitution was written the founders installed an awful lot of protections that had the express purpose or preventing the common people from being in charge. To begin with, the franchise (i.e. the right to vote) was restricted to land-owning white males. Property requirements weren't completely eliminated until about 1860, non-white men couldn't vote until 1870, women couldn't vote until 1920, the poor and racial minorities couldn't vote due to all kinds of measures including poll taxes until the mid-1960's, and adults between 18 and 21 years of age didn't get the vote until 1971. So, for all intents and purposes, the founders intended to limit who was able to set national policy quite tightly. But wait! There's MORE! See, the founders also thought this might be a mistake, so senators were elected by state legislators rather than citizens directly until 1913 and we even got the bizarre institution of the electoral college, which was in theory intended to make sure that if the people voted for someone stupid, older and wiser heads could essentially give the country a do-over. The simple fact is that the constitution of the United States of America, as written by the founders, basically institutes a plutocracy in the guise of a republic and American history since then has been a gradual effort to change the democracy-in-name to democracy-in-fact. As for the notion that the founding fathers were god-fearing populists... well, Jefferson was arguably the most populist guy among them and he was, simultaneously, likely the most hostile to the intersection of government and organized religion. So, not so much.

The failure to see the forest for the trees issue in this book might be viewed as a sin of the authors, but it's not a unique sin of the authors. All political parties commit this sin to a greater or lesser extent, but in the case of the modern right-wing it's rather striking. Conservatives often claim, as their description suggests, that they would prefer to stick with time-tested approaches to various problems. That's a valid perspective and one I have no small amount of respect for, even if I tend to be a fiend for new technology. The problem arises when, instead of trying to stick with the way things have actually worked, you tell yourself an elaborate story about how they should have been and then try to stick with that while claiming to be conservative. See, it's much easier to be in favor of founding fathers who weren't racist, sexist, elitist jerks as opposed to the real founding fathers who just happened to be less racist, sexist, and elitist than the norm for their time period. Don't get me wrong, I love the United States of America and have a great fondness for our government, it's just that the stories we like to tell about ourselves don't always fit very well with reality, and very little good ever comes from self-delusion. If the conservatives want to have the populist nation they half-assedly describe in this book, that's fine, but it's absurd to pretend that it's any less radical a deviation from the traditions and history of the U.S. than what the Democrats want. Both sides want to turn the country into something that, at present, it isn't- it's just that only one side is honest about it. Well, sort of.

And, honestly... that's kinda it for me. I feel bad only drawing 3 lessons from this book, but to be utterly honest it was a trite, hackneyed piece of trash that really only teaches anything via its failures. There is no substance to the characters, the narrative, or even the animating ideas, and as a consequence no matter how hard we try, there's just not that much to be had here. And so, on a low note that frankly captures the entire Overton Window experience, we have to skid to a halt, little more enlightened than we were before, and wondering what we ever did with the time.

Thanks for coming along for the trip! Next week we'll see the series index posted, announce the winner of the comment of the week competition, and then, finally, I am done with this nightmare.


* Yes, if you look hard enough through the archives you'll eventually find one of my high school era short stories. No, I'm not going to find it for you.

** Although if you've read his books on politics you may be inclined to disagree.

*** I say "right-wing" but I'm never really convinced that does justice to Heinlein's actual views. He was fiscally conservative and pro-military, but he was also sexually very liberal and believed that individual choices were sacrosanct. I suspect he would have preferred lower taxes, but would have supported gay marriage and opposed efforts to determine U.S. policy from the bible. I don't think I would necessarily have agreed with Heinlein's views on modern politics in a lot of areas, but I sure as hell would prefer him as an opponent to most of the morons we have around today.


Thursday, February 02, 2012

Damned lactation nazis...

As it happens my wife is an absolute breastfeeding champion and our little JezLil is doing wonderfully. That said, I have so much profound sympathy and appreciation for this that I can't even explain:

You really did not think this was going to happen, partly because you spent nine months being practically Gisele about EVERYONE SHOULD DO IT and WOMEN WHO SAY THEY CAN'T ARE LIARS BECAUSE EVOLUTION (not out loud, or anything, because you're likable), but quietly and fatuously in your head. And you read The Politics of Breastfeeding and attended the LLL meetings and waltzed around feeling completely confident that you would produce such an excess of precious perfect nutrition from your body that you could probably add it to kale smoothies and donate it to nice gay male adoptive parents.


But natural childbirth worked! And it took a couple of days for your milk to come in, which is completely normal. Expected! You expected it. And in the interim she lost about 13% of her birth weight, which is...more than normal, but not completely disastrous. And she was a little baby to begin with, so she started to look like a plucked chicken, but no big deal. But your milk came in, and you fed every hour or so, because that's what you do, and you had to wake her UP to feed, because snoozy, but she always had a great latch, and looked satisfied and drunk when she fell off, so you assumed you were in business.

And then you brought her back in, and she had lost another ounce. So, obviously, you had a crazy weeping fit in your pediatrician's office, and BEGGED for more time when she extremely hesitantly suggested you might need to start supplementing. Lactation consultant! Pump! Fenugreek! Blessed thistle! Nursing vacations! (You get in bed, naked, with your naked baby, load up the entire run of The Wire, have people bring you water and food, do nothing but nurse for 48 hours.)

She wouldn't gain. It wasn't great.

It's worth reading the rest, because it's an awesome, awesome post. Breastfeeding is a very healthy thing for both mother and child and should be encouraged, but good lord! Doing it doesn't make you an angel from heaven and not doing it doesn't make you a crack smoking reject. Being any kind of parent is so freaking impossible that you'd cry if you didn't love that little four-limbed alien so much, and you'll probably still end up crying from sheer, unrelenting frustration. Breatfeeding mothers? Rock on. Non-breastfeeding mothers? Rock on.

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