Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Tidings of Comfort and Joy


Friday, December 02, 2016

Robotrek!

One good idea is not to think about politics more than one can help. And one good way to do that is by taking refuge in old videogames of which one has nostalgic memories. And Robotrek is such a game. Is it actually any GOOD? Well...it’s wildly rare for me to actually finish RPGs that I restart out of nostalgia, but I finished this one, so take that for what you will.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Better living through internet trolls

So this is kind of odd, but: yes, I've been more or less ignoring the news lately, but I've still been intermittently looking at Lawyers Guns & Money, a blog I read. It's had a long-standing troll problem, and in the wake of the election, there's an unreconstructed Nazi bwahaha-ing--no links, but you can probably imagine: THE WHITE MAN HAS TAKEN OVER, AND ALL THE [African Americans] WILL LEARN THEIR PLACE! SEND THEM BACK TO AFRICA! (I mean, I assume it's an actual Nazi; it could just be some nihilistic 4chan-type purely trying to promote a reaction--but I'm willing to grant the anonymous creature the, uh, courage of its convictions). It's incredibly repulsive stuff, and yet I found, somehow, that I wasn't as upset as I might have been--that, in fact, I found it oddly comforting.

Now, I should preface this by emphasizing that I really, really am not trying to undersell what a fucking disaster this new president is. His administration is definitely going to cause a lot of pain to a lot of people, ethnic minorities most of all. And that, obviously, fucking sucks. A lot.

BUT!

You know, it's easy to despair, and when you talk to like-minded people, it's easy to get into a downward spiral: the country is doomed, humanity is doomed, the world is doomed, doomed doomed doomed. But when you hear your worst fears presented as masturbatory fantasies by extreme rightists...well, it kind of puts things in perspective, because you're not inclined to agree philosophically with them. And you realize just how goddamn goofy it sounds. Because, yes, as I said, people are going to be hurt. But there isn't going to be some kind of friggin' Turner Diaries-style white revolution, and the fact that these people apparently think there is is just pathetic and comical.

Obama and Trump have this much in common: they got elected by allowing people to project their own deep impulses onto them. I mean, yes, unlike Trump, Obama actually had a coherent, consistent set of principles, but that ain't how people vote. They were voting for the extremely nebulous idea of "change," just as Trumpites voted for the equally vague "make America great again." A lot of leftists were miffed when Obama didn't turn out to be a fantasy left-wing Messiah, but that's just because they were projecting their own fantasies onto him.  It's the same thing that these dumbass white supremacists are doing with Trump, and they're going to be no less disappointed, because as bad as he is, he's not actually Hitler.  I mean, okay, maybe "republican president not literally Hitler!" is the world's least comforting piece of comfort, but I do think it's good to try to stay as calm and rational as possible, and for me, this helps with that.

So, uh, Happy Thanksgiving, anyway. I hope everything is okay.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Helen DeWitt, Lightning Rods (2008)

Dewitt's second novel is pretty far removed from The Last Samurai. It's short, and it has a plot that, when described, sounds like this weird dream you had this one time: Joe is not having much luck as a vacuum-cleaner salesman, so, by a series of mental associations, he comes up with a new idea: a service aimed at corporate clients where men in a company can have anonymous sex through a wall with a certain subsection of female employees hired specifically for this purpose--the idea being that this will increase productivity and eliminate sexual harassment and attendant costly and time-consuming lawsuits. All of this is described in blandly liberal corporate terms. The novel chronicles the introduction of this service and its evolution as it starts to catch fire.
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Friday, November 11, 2016

Hi

I hope you're okay

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Helen DeWitt, The Last Samurai (2000)

Wow. The Last Samurai. By law, I must clarify that this has absolutely nothing to do with any damn Tom Cruise movie you could name--it was originally published well before the movie, in fact. I've read that it was originally to be titled The Seven Samurai, which is appropriate but kinda perverse. Well, at any rate, it is what it is.
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Friday, October 21, 2016

Tatyana Tolstaya, The Slynx (2000)

Here we have a totally wild post-apocalyptic dystopian satire allegory thing by (I think) a great grand-niece of Leo Tolstoy. The nuclear war happened some indeterminate hundreds of years ago, and now people are living a primitive, medieval (pre-medieval in some ways) lifestyle. There's a lot that's disorienting and alarming about this world, as obliquely revealed in bits at pieces. Take this, from the beginning:

Black rabbits flitted from treetop to treetop.

Huh? Flying rabbits?

It would be nice to have the meat...

Okay, makes sense...

Give black rabbit meat a good soaking, bring it to boil seven times, set it in the sun for a week or two, then steam it in the oven--and it won't kill you.

?!?! Mammals aren't supposed to kill you like that. It shows, startlingly, a world out of joint. There's a lot like this--things are weird and inexplicably deadly. I once read an observation that Adam Roberts made somewhere to the effect that one thing that scares us about nuclear weapons is the idea of being poisoned by light--poison is supposed to be a dark, dank, underground kind of thing. It bends against how we see the world, and that's alarming. I think you get a similar thing here. There's a lot more like this.
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