Archive for July, 2011


July 29, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m hesitant to discuss Oslo more than I have already did, but since this is the free world and the press has decided to run with this based on their political slant I’m feeling like it’s a good time to do so.

First off let’s go with Glenn Beck, ““And then there was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler youth or whatever. I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing.”

I don’t know Glenn, who does a summer camp for kids that’s all about politics? You do, you sponsor one. Not to mention the numerous religious camps that exist throughout this nation (I just linked one, but I think 14 million results in a google search of “Christian Summer Camp” says enough). I guess these get to fall off his radar since they are Christian camps that align with his beliefs and a political camp that he helped create. Obviously he misspoke, that must be the case because he surely wouldn’t be comparing the victims of a massacre to being the members of the Hitler youth for being at the summer camp. That would be cold and purely inflammatory as well as not being based on any sort of rational measure. It’s also not like anyone is leaping to his defense.

I suppose that maybe he said it because for once, the person committing the deed was one of them. And you know what? Let’s not pretend otherwise. I want to be clear not everyone on the right wing of politics is a potential shooter waiting to happen. I have friends that are Republicans, Conservatives, and Conservative Christians; and I’m not lumping them in with the nutcase. But, sorry people, you have to eat this one.

Here’s why: everytime Jeanene Garofolo (or however you spell her name) explains to her audience that every person that disagrees with Obama is a racist, I have to take that. Everytime some dipshit atheist group sues to get “Christmas” removed from a school’s “winter festival” sign, i have to take it. Every time I talk about freedom of religion, or freedom of non-religion, I get called a “non-American” and someone who hates freedom and is seeking to destroy this country from within. So guess what? It’s time for you people to get lumped with the same kind of nut jobs that I get lumped in with.

What separates him from the great majority of you is that he really believed his own bullshit, delving deeper and deeper into a world of conspiracy and imagined persecution. But he’s been saying some of the same things that the right wing punditry has been saying for years: that multi-culturalism is destroying Europe,* that there’s an Islamo-fascist conspiracy, that Christians were being persecuted in the modern day, Marxism is going to ruin the world, and that Global warming is a hoax. What’s all of that, about the first hour of a typical Rush Limbaugh radio show? Not to mention his views on feminism. And these are just the parts I’ve read that weren’t copied from the Unabomber’s Manifesto (I swear I’m going to finish that someday).

If Benjamin Wiker gets to make the claim that Stalin’s crimes were committed because he was an atheist and get away with it; then this self proclaimed knight of the Temple (what the “templar” portion of the Knights Templar means) gets lumped in with the Christians. He’s a lunatic, and probably a psychopath but this one is yours distance yourself correctly, just as I have to do with Noam Chomsky.**

P.S. Also I don’t know how the insanity plea works in Norway, but this guy couldn’t get it in the US. He shows way too much planning and forethought to not understand either what he was doing or the consequences of his actions, in fact he clearly intended those consequences in order to wake Europe up against the islamo-marxist agenda.

*Which is really odd because the culture of Norway is vastly different from that of say, Greece or France or Spain. But somehow the multi-cultural European continent has been getting along just fine. 

**Although he did have a good riff on the “journal of 9/11 studies”:  “There are submissions to the Journal of 9/11 Studies, but that’s about as convincing as submissions to the Journal of Intelligent Design Studies.”

Categories: current events

January (The New Moon Walkthrough pg. 95-101)

July 25, 2011 Leave a comment

January, well here we are back from the three months of nothingness that the book skipped over. As I said last week my complaint isn’t that we skipped but how we did so. Just jumping from one period of time to another is usually the way it goes. The useless page turning just infuriated me.

How is our girl now that we are back. Well, she’s doing superficially well, she has explained that she is getting all As, rarely serving leftovers, and never getting in trouble. The perfect daughter…which is what she thinks of herself. The chapter opens, after some meaningless monologue about how time tramples forever on no matter who you are, with Charlie telling Bella he is going to send her “home.” By “home” he means to her mother’s house in Florida. I find that kind of odd because one would think that Charlie would think of Bella’s home to be with him, and not to be with the woman who left him with his daughter for some minor league baseball player.

Bella reacts shocked, she wants to stay in Forks but she never explains why. I can guess, though since its obvious, she’s hoping that Edward or one of the Cullens will come back and if she’s in town they might bump into each other. Charlie, to his credit for once, gets it. First off it’s not that Bella is depressed that angers him, it’s that she isn’t. If she moped as she put it, she would be doing something. Instead, “you’re just…lifeless Bella.”

Bella insists that she’s fine, that she’s being good, and that she can handle things. Like all smart ass teenagers, she thinks she knows better than anyone else. Again, Charlie makes sense when he tells her that she’s not the only person that’s ever gone through this. It’s a good point, but useless. I’m sure we’ve all been dumped before, and it always feels like no one else has ever been through what you’ve been through. But in truth, it’s all the same. Your life won’t be complete without them, you’ll never find another person, love is a lie, etc. Charlie comments that he is thinking of getting a Bella a shrink.

Bella takes this as an insult. She’s too smart to need psychiatry, she’ll just keep plodding along like a golem until Edward comes back for her. If there were a Denny’s in Forks, she’s be the type to be hanging out at it until well past midnight bragging about how stupid her shrink is, and how she’s fine. The depression will make her creative or something. She’ll be no danger to anyone else, or even herself, but she’ll be miserable for her entire life.

Bella doesn’t see this problem, “I didn’t know much about psychoanalysis, but was pretty sure that it didn’t work unless the subject was relatively honest. Sure, I could tell the truth–If I wanted to spend the rest of my life in a padded cell.

This is something that tells a lot about the character, probably more so than we are meant to. At first it may seem confusing why Bella was so upset. It’s just a highschool guy, and they are pretty much all douchebags. Then we understand that it’s her first boyfriend and he’s so far up the ladder from her that she just felt privileged that he even talked to her. When he left, despite the fact that is exactly what she’s been telling us he ought to do and that she deserved, she became upset. So was all of her early self-deprecations just that? Possibly, but there’s more to the story.

Let’s say that she goes to the psychiatrist and talks about what is bothering her, why would she be committed to a padded room (do they still have those?)? But wait blogger person, you reply, it’s because she would have to tell the shrink that he was a vampire and that his family was all vampires as well. Ah, I would reply to you, would she?

I’ve talked to friends about being dumped before, mostly, as a guy, you get told to drink a beer and shut up the game is on. So I don’t know what it’s like for women, but if why should she have to mention that he’s a vampire? It’s because it was him, the gorgeous, sociopathic, control freak, stalker, that she was in love with. Couldn’t she just be honest about that? Or is there some other reason that she is so upset? The question we should be asking is what she loves more Edward or the Vampire? It seems silly but there is no reason for her to mention is undead nature to the shrink, unless that shrink is going to be asking a lot of oddly specific questions:

Shrink: So did you two eat a lot?
Bella: Not really, he didn’t eat much.
Shrink: Watching his weight? You’ve mentioned repeatedly, at nauseum, how hot you thought he was.
Bella: No more of a drinker really.

The other problem for her is that if she did go to a psychiatrist and talk about the relationship, the shrink might begin to besmirch his good name. Surely a doctor would recognize that he’s not the most healthy of boyfriends that she could have. Definitely the psychotherapist is out.

In an effort to explain to Charlie that she’s fine, she decides that her and her friends are going to go to a movie tonight and that she won’t be back for dinner. Right now she is facing a steep difficulty, she has no fiends. Bella put all her chips in the Cullens’ basket and lost. Remember she explained at the beginning of this book that while they all sat together she never spoke to Mike or Jessica unless she had to, that is when Alice and Edward were not in school that day.

Mike is basically our lost cause guy at this point. His torch bearing for Bella has existed even through his relationship with Jessica at the end of the last book. We also know that Bella works at Mike’s family’s sporting goods store, I’m sure she shook her money maker to get that position. What the most frustrating thing about the skip in time is how he took the break up. Was he happy, did she notice a repressed smile, or has he grown passed the crush and onto actual concern. Or, as I would like to have done, has he washed his hands of her. “He didn’t bother walking me to class anymore.”

Good for him.

Jessica is a different case. We got the impression that she was the alpha female in the school before Bella came to town. It’s hard to tell because there are about five people, aside the Cullens, that actually attend this high school. Bart Simpson’s class room has more recognizable names in it than this place has students. Jessica, to her credit actually gives her some shit. “Are you talking to me Bella Swan?”

The interesting part of the Jessica situation is that she resists at first, but then sighs and relents. Maybe that’s normal for teenage girls, I don’t really know, but it’s an actual nice touch. Jessica may actually think that Bella wants to be her friend again, it’s too bad that this horrible person is only using Jessica to get her father off her back.


July 25, 2011 Leave a comment

It gets harder to write a certain amount of posts every week. I used to try for four, but now I hope for three. The trouble is that with school I’m kind of sapped, it requires so much of my brain that when I sit down to try and write non-school stuff I have nothing. My real worry is that I will keep this blog only for doing the twilight thing, but I don’t want that. I suspect that some of you out there might not want that either. I’ll keep doing it.

I’m worried that I will become repetitious ranting my anti-conspiracist critical eye on the same things over and over again. Although that is kind of fun so I’ll probably do that until it becomes rote…even for me. Then came the thing in Oslo.

Now I had previously been arguing with a former classmate of mine regarding the possibility of a future war between Iran and the US based on a tenuous grasp of things that we in the philosophy and scientific disciplines call “facts” and “evidence.” My mistake was that I was demanding those two things and getting in return nothing more than coincidence and innuendo. I was told straight up by this person that he was forgetting that he was talking to a person incapable of reading between the lines (me). My expectation was that eventually the conversation would degenerate into this but later. The estimation was that since we were classmates and co-workers for a number of years that would prevent our disagreement from seeming personal. What I failed to realize is that I was basically asking for proof of this person’s worldview, and then not finding it telling him that the worldview isn’t true.

In a way it’s alot like arguing politics or religion. In those two cases one person’s beliefs are represented as being a truth. Yet in politics, even American politics, disagreements can happen between people who don’t agree without it getting personal. That’s because a political or religious argument is focused on those two things. I may disagree with my liberal friends on gun control but we are still friends. I may disagree with my Republican friends about this debt limit fiasco but we’re still friends. Yet so quickly was the conspirator calling me an idiot that I was taken aback.

Typically when this happens I like to take a breath and give it a couple of minutes then go back to the typing. This time I had to leave it for a day. Then I typed out my response, the first thing I did was remind him of Einstein’s maxim that if you can’t explain something simply you don’t understand it enough. Was it my fault that I couldn’t see the conspiracy? No, if he clearly saw it then he should explain it. Secondly I reminded him that burden of proof is on the proposing party. It’s not up to me to prove there isn’t a conspiracy it’s up to him to prove its existence. Thirdly, I closed with Karl Popper’s falsifiability test, what would it take for him to believe that there wasn’t a conspiracy?

I should back up a second and explain that we were arguing over whether or not this thing in Oslo was a conspiracy. Yes, a day after the massacre on the island, he sent me an email telling me that this was the first strike. Odd, because if these people are right it’s not even close to being the first strike. Words like “Illuminati” “false flag” and all of the usual suspects came up. A simple car bomb couldn’t do that to a building even though the suspect was said to have purchased six metric tons of fertilizer, and even though we can look at two examples on American soil that were the exact same thing, rental truck loaded with a deisel ammonium nitrate mix coupled with religious extremists and it is literally the same thing.

I tried my best to talk it out of him. However facts have no place in a debate of this kind. Then the suspect’s manifesto was found on the internet and he calls himself the “Knights Templar 2083.” Forehead, meet palm. I was so pissed off. It just had to be the Templars didn’t it? I spent a four paragraph email trying to explain that the Illuminati didn’t spin off from the Templars, and that in any case they were all gone. He replied that this was proof that they weren’t but 2083 had to mean something.

No, it doesn’t. One religious fanatic wants to identify himself with a holy war, it’s not like we haven’t seen that before. Maybe this guy had a second shooter, or some help; it’s certainly possible. Some survivors seem to recall a second person shooting, but why would the invisible hand that guides history do this? Not that it’s out of the moral scope of the mythology that the conspiracists have built, but what’s the goal? He called it a false flag, but that won’t work unless Norway really really wanted to go to war with itself.

It’s not new though. Alot of the times people make up these intricate webs because they don’t want to believe the truth. They don’t want to believe that one man with a gun and motivation can kill 92 people, or a president. Sadly it’s the case. I feel for the Norwegians, I hope they get justice somehow. The real danger of these theories is that for Norway the conspiracists believe that justice isn’t possible. It can’t be, because that invisible hand cannot be shackled.

Categories: current events

The Bet

July 19, 2011 Leave a comment

These last few months I’ve been rather hard on conspiracy theorists, and the only reason I have not been harder is because I try to keep things rational…as rational as is possible with people that believe there is some narrator to the course of history,* that steel exists in only two states (solid and indestructible, or liquid), or that a cabal of people secretly…whatever by now you should know the drill.

One of the difficulties of having the skeptical outlook is that it can be kind of alienating. When you only have utter faith in rational doubt people just stop talking to you. I get why, but I do make an effort to separate myself from the extremists. If there is one group that I utterly abhor it’s extremists of any kind. This distinction actually puts me at odds with some of the ideas of say, Richard Dawkins, Al Franken, or any of the other far left people that I am sometimes accused of siding with. I have friends that disagree with me: conservative friends that think that the current president is the worst president in the history of the United States (it’s clearly not, Franklin Pierce) liberal friends that think all weapons should be in the sole hands of the government (the wedge issue that prevents me from being a leftie) and I’m married to someone who believes in God.

So all of that being said I usually know who the people are I’m going to run afoul of. This is sometimes mitigated by our mutual like of each other which gets us to avoid topics of friction when we are full of the drink. I’ve never lost a friend over a political, religious, or theoretical disagreement. Although I just may be doing so by the end of September.

A couple of months ago an ATF operation known as “Fast and Furious” (seriously) was exposed. It targeted the attempts of Mexican drug cartels who sent people into the US to buy weapons that were used in drug crimes in Mexico. The ATF bugged and sold the guns to the cartels, allowing them to possess them and then figured that they could track the weapons. In short, what happened was that the ATF lost the weapons. Some of them have turned up as shooting weapons at crime scenes but the whole project was a disaster. Currently there is supposed to be a congressional probe going on which is to look into who authorized this plan and why was it completely botched. Of course Congress wants answers and the ATF wants to not have to answer why it didn’t plan this thing through. That’s where we are at right now.

A few weeks after the story broke I received an email from a friend of mine whom I’ll call “Nick” because that’s his first name. It was a chain email titled something like “Obama is going to steal your freedom” or whatever. He had forwarded it to a large number of people and whenever I see a large chain email in my inbox I usually just delete it without reading it (sorry extended family but that’s what happens). The odd thing was who it came from. Now “Nick” wasn’t very politically active when I knew him, nor did I think he divulged himself in conspiracy theories, and since his email had been hacked in the past I figured that this was the case. The email read, in short, that there was a secret operation called “Fast and furious” that was headed by the president to sell guns to Mexican drug cartels.  So far this is technically correct in that the president is in charge of the person in charge of the ATF. It’s basically a quibble to argue the point, but since it implies that the president personally oversaw the operation I began to think of a response.

As the email went on it began to explain of a coverup and a government mandated censor of the press regarding the issue. The email had gone from a criticism of someone that worked for the president making a rather stupid decision (why sell them working guns the CIA had a program of delivering faulty weapons to the NVA in the Vietnam War that worked rather well), to full blown conspiracism. Quickly I looked for the easiest hole in the argument and pulled the trigger. The most obvious hole was the government mandated censor of the press.

We remember a similar outrageous claim made by a caller to the Rush Limbaugh show that said there was a media censor of the BP oil spill, you know despite the fact that all of the news media was covering it. I sent him a link to CNN’s coverage of the ATF program. I hoped it would work, but it was also a good litmus test. What really defines a conspiracy theorist is whether or not they can look at evidence to the contrary and accept it. If you make the claim that the Apollo Landing was faked based on the waving of the flag and are shown the principles of physics which explain why the flag waves despite the lack of air and still maintain that the objective scientific evidence doesn’t suffice you are a conspiracy theorist. In this case he still maintained the press black out because Yahoo news didn’t cover it, which it completely did (less than a minute on google/yahoo search combined) so I sent him that link. It still wasn’t enough. The email exchange kind of ended.

Then last night I received “a deal.” Quickly stated his proposition was that if the US government went to war with Iran by the end of September then I would have to admit that these conspiracy theories were conspiracy facts. If the US government did not, then he would stop emailing me. I agreed, then I thought about it and made some changes. The problem for me was the he loses nothing if he’s wrong, all he has to do is stop talking to me about it. That’s not enough, if I have to admit that all of these theories are more than just the slim connections of random events with some nefarious underlying cabal at the center of it then he should have to admit that these connections aren’t connections. Plus, I wanted a concrete date by which to judge. This is important because conspiracy theories are rarely that specific. The only time Nostradamos ever gave a specific year and month nothing happened (July, 1999). It’s the appeal of the theories themselves, you get to act superior to everyone for having secret knowledge but the vague ambiguity of it means you can never be proven wrong, thus you have no actual knowledge. If you think about it what he is proposing is that there is some link between the ATF operation and a future war in Iran that no one is proposing or talking about.

I am not the least bit concerned about losing. I wanted to be clear because let’s say Israel bombs something in Iran the normal conspiracy theorist would link the US to Israel and claim victory saying that one is the puppet of the other. I can’t take the risk of such vagueness, so I needed to be clear. As it stands right now here is the bet:

“As to the deal. Let’s just lay the ground floor down, I thought about it last night and realized that I don’t want any wiggle room plus there’s a little bit of unfairness in it. As I understand it the bet, or whatever, hinges on the United States going to war with Iran by the end of September. If they do, then I lost and have to admit that the President knew about and personally controlled the gun running operation known as “Fast and Furious” in Mexico. If you lose, you stop emailing me about it? No, that’s not fair, if you lose then you have to admit that you were wrong in an email to me about this whole conspiracy web that somehow links the gun operation to the president (I won’t repost the email but I will paraphrase it for my blog).”

*Religious people believe this too, in a way, but they aren’t who I am talking about. Put in comparison, this atheist believes that the religious belief actually makes more sense.

Categories: current events

Time (The New Moon Walkthrough pg. 84-93)

July 18, 2011 Leave a comment

We’ve got a short one today, but I know that upon writing that I’ve just jinxed myself. One of the problems in writing this blog is that sometimes I have to make choices about what I want to write about. Last week’s entry covered a rather large portion of the book but there was one central idea that occurred in the section. This week we have a short section, but it isn’t really a section at all since absolutely nothing happens. We left off with a Bella’s incoherent, but not out of character, rambling after being dumped by Edward. We must remember that the reason that Edward dumped Bella is because they are different creatures, not because he didn’t love her or anything else. His reasoning is actually valid, their relationship would be like that of a snake and a rat. One of them just really wants to eat the other.

Out of this breakup we discover that before it happened Edward broke into Bella’s room and stole the picture of himself. Because somehow that will make the breakup easier. Bella is shocked by this but regards it with some admiration. She’s just had her heart broken for a reason that was apparent when they first met, so at this point it’s pretty arbitrary, and still she can’t assert herself enough to admit that he might not be perfect. She goes to sleep. And then we have today’s actual section. This happens in September, which we know because the new school year had just started.

This is the entirety of pg. 85 “October.”

Alright, it is a chapter heading…but then here is the entirety of pg. 86″        “

Here’s pg. 87 “November”

This continues to January on Pg. 91 and on 93 the story resumes. That’s eight pages discussing the passage of time. with four words on those eight pages. At first I thought it silly, then stupid, now utterly pointless as a waste of time. Granted it only wasted a minute or two but those are minutes I want back. The problem for me is that I understand why Meyer did it, and that’s because I understand what sloppy writing is through my own early attempts at writing fiction.

We start out with October, which is fine if something happens in October. Since nothing does we quickly skip over to November and on and on until January. What we should have read after Bella goes to sleep on pg. 84 was “January” on pg. 85 and perhaps a line in the very beginning of that paragraph which read something like “It was now winter, and going back to school after winter break was going to be difficult…” or even a more trite “four months had passed and it still wasn’t getting easier.”

Placing those eight pages like she did reminds me of Lord of the Rings. No, not the books or the Peter Jackson trilogy but rather the, uh interesting Ralph Bakishi animated version that comprised the first two books of the trilogy. People who only know the Jackson movies miss the fact that the story takes place over a period of many years. Between Bilbo’s leaving the Shire and Frodo leaving the Shire a number of years pass, 17 in fact. It is 3001 of the third age when Bilbo turns 111, it is the 3018 when Frodo leaves the Shire with Sam and the ring. This is glossed over in Jackson’s movies because it lends to a sense of panic–that Gandalf made haste to determine whether or not Bilbo’s ring was the one they were looking for. Bakishi goes a different route. He has an external shot of Bag End in the summer and then runs through a change of seasons, eight or nine times at high speed. Just so we get the sense of the passing of time. The only time that passes is ours, because a simple subtitle would suffice both in Meyer’s book and in the movie.

The other problem with this abrupt time shift is that are we really to believe that nothing of any importance happens to her in the next four months? Our main issue with Bella is that she has no life outside of the person that she is attached to, in this case Edward. Bella identifies herself solely as Edward’s girlfriend now that he is gone, she has to establish her identity. Even less philosophical, she was just dumped by a person who, for some reason, is the love of her life. Wouldn’t a chapter or so of immediate post break up psychological exploration be something teenage girls would be interested in? Maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t writing for your audience be a good thing? It’s why Kevin Smith works in at least one star wars reference in every film, while it may seem pandering it works. Here it ought to be necessary we have many questions to ask about what happened in October:

1) did she go to school?
2) how did her friends react?
3) what exactly did she do to pass the time?

Instead we are left to make assumptions about these four months in which I guess she just laid in her bed. It sounds pretty lame but if there’s no water we have to drink something.

Random Topic Friday or My Attempt to Get Back to Three Updates Per Week

July 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Topic 1: Gwen’s new method.

People always tell me I’m in big trouble with Gwen when she gets older. I disagree, I’m in trouble now. She’s gorgeous and cunning, what’s worse is that she possesses both self-awareness of these traits and a certain moral ambivalence about using them. She twirls her hair, spins on her toes, all in an effort to get something that she’s clearly not going to get otherwise. She’s also been changing up her phrases to endear herself. What’s the difference between these two sentences:

1) Daddy I would like some chocolate milk yeah? (while nodding her head)
2) Can I have…some chocolate milk my daddy?

She uses “my daddy” when she wants to get something or go somewhere. My daughter is extremely clever at pulling those heart strings like some marionette. It can be really difficult to tell her no sometimes. I actually worry for her future boyfriends.

Topic 2: Ann Coulter and the Tea Party

Ann Coulter expressed surprise (feigned I’m sure) that there were 500,000 less government employees under Obama than there were under Bush. Her surprise was directed at the fact that there at least 500,000 government employees. This was on Real Time with Bill Maher, and she asked why we couldn’t go back to Washington times with an extremely limited number of federal employees. I’ve heard this notion from Tea Party spokespeople on the radio, once in awhile of course. There are times when me and my liberal-atheist-socialist-islamofascist conspirators slips up and let them on our propaganda radio stations. They keep talking about how we ought to return the government back to it’s founding principles and the time that it was founded in.

I have respect for Ann Coulter, while I almost completely disagree with her she’s got the chops as a writer. You can at least follow her argument and while one of her books “Treason” was founded on a false equivalence it made logical sense. Yet this standpoint from her and people like her, that we ought to return to this type of government is not a sound system. Essentially they want to apply an 18th century solution to a 21st century series of problems. While I have great respect for the founders of this government and the core principles surrounding the constitution there are certain public institutions that cannot be privatized as they would have it.

The central fallacy is that certain government programs are going to lose money. Every aspect of the criminal justice system is going to be a money sink hole. Education is a sink hole, you lose money paying staff but then you are supposed to make money in the long run off of what you produce in education. The defense department doesn’t make money either and privatizing its function, even parts of it, is not a good idea.

I understand that there is quite a lot of bloat in the government and plenty of overlap. I understand the need to make some cuts, but going back to a time when most of the navy was occupied by privateers is not a valid solution. Think about it from this analogy, our medical costs are out of control should we return to a 1776 medical practice in order to curb them? It sure cost a lot less to care for people then? Then again I probably just have too much blood in my system, or maybe it’s black bile or the other bile (I forget which one causes the vapors).

While I’m normally one to just rip apart other people’s ideas without offering a suggestion I’ll offer one here. Why not return the tax rate to what it was under Reagan (praise be unto him). While at the same time ending the ability of corporations to do business here but headquarter themselves in foreign countries to avoid taxes, couldn’t this done by making them pay an import tax since essentially these alleged “job creators” aren’t American businesses. If a car company is located in Detroit but builds parts in Mexico, they should be taxed when they bring their parts in. This would not only make American jobs more competitive with their underpaid foreign workers, but would also increases revenue.

My other problem is the absurd defense of private jet owners. If they can afford the plane they can afford the tax. Some defenders like to talk about how many jobs the building of these jets create, but they don’t complain that we just scuttled the shuttle program. If a jet creates 10 jobs then the freekin’ space shuttle ought to create a whole bunch more.

But hold on, I have to take an elixir distilled of lead and pomegranate to fight this headache I have. 

Categories: Gwendolyn, politics

Soft Apocalypse

July 13, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the reasons that I love my Nook, is that every Friday they give out a free book. Most of it’s crap, what I call “airport books.” They pass the time but you aren’t taking away anything from it: for example one book was a collection of odd historical facts that kept using “too” when it should have been using “two” or “to.” Usually the books are fiction and despite the fact that some of the authors have won some type of award (there are a lot of writing awards apparently) none of them have been particularly gripping. Until last week I started reading a book titled “Soft Apocalypse” by Will McIntosh.

Maybe it’s the fact that economic apocalypse is nearing as Democrats and Republicans feel that doing the right thing and preventing the country’s economic decline is the wrong thing to do but I really wanted to read a fictional account of the end of the world and the Book of Revelations was left at home. What attracted me to the book, other than its price, was that it didn’t deal with a sudden attack or some nuclear catastrophe that plunged the world into chaos. Instead it centered around a slow decline of civilization that began when bio-technology became so cheap that people were engineering viruses in their homes. While that sounds a bit preposterous the author is just merely applying what we are seeing with hackers in the computer realm towards microbiology.

Although there seems to be something in addition to the Polio-X virus that ravaged the world, the story begins with our protagonist Jasper a former Literature student in Georgia and a caravan of unemployed people walking the highways looking for a way to trade energy that they have harvested from a solar blanket for food. We get the impression that at the start society has been in a decline for awhile now and that Jasper and his people have been at it for a long time. They know to move on when they get some friction from the people at a local bowling alley.

As the book progresses society civilization continues to decline. The opening still has people driving cars, businesses operating, and a reasonably functioning government even though employment is at 40% with a tanking market. As we move through the story things get steadily worse until finally formal civilization utterly collapses. What begins to happen is that certain segments of the population see the future for what is happening while most of the people try to hold on to the past. Then there is a third group hastening the final collapse and actually contributing to the apocalypse with new genetic engineered viruses and bioterrorism.

Police and Firefighters begin to form gangs, think of Martin Scorcese’s “Gangs of New York” and how the firefighters acted in that movie (literally setting fire to a building in order to loot it). Gangs begin to form, opportunism reigns, as well as those people that cause chaos just to cause chaos called “Jumpy Jumps.” Finally supplies of water and food run out and nomadic tribes begin to run into static from those with supplies. Killing becomes a necessity for the group of former intellectuals as well as for the rest of the population at large aside from those infected with “Dr. Happy” a virus that somehow makes everyone sedate and content with their situation.

What people may dislike about the book is that it is awfully slow. Society is still holding on and while it has been profoundly changed it still functions the way it ought to. The real difference is a stark divide between the haves and the have-nots. economic differences are really the central struggle in the first half. Jasper has a friend, Sophia, a married woman for whom he’s having an emotional affair with and who represents the haves in the world. For most of the book she still drives a car and goes to trendy clubs (it’s amazing that alcohol never really runs out). Their relationship is completely non-physical and that physical disconnect is a metaphor for their economic difference as well. Sophia won’t let Jasper even kiss her just as the world will not let Jasper and his people enter the safe society of the wealthy upper classes which are fenced off, guarded, and supplied.

It’s not until even the wealthy zones are attacked (it’s not clear by whom: rogue bands, the military, or the police) that even the haves are cast down. What happens is reminiscent of a conversation in HG Wells “War of the Worlds” between the Narrator and the Artilleryman in London, wherein the Artilleryman speaks of converting society into a group of underground world that the former wealthy would be unable to cope with because they are essentially good for nothing and too soft to live in a post civilization world. Jasper, who harbors complete unrequited love for Sophia finally drops it toward the end of the book after he shoots a couple of men who emerged from the forest and asked them to drop their packs. Sophia can’t understand it and screams that Jasper had changed finally wondering what had happened to the sweet man she once knew. Jasper explains “I haven’t been fortunate enough to spend the last ten years behind a gate, guarded by mercenaries. That’s what happened to me…I’ve been terrorized by men like these every day of my life. I had to watch someone I loved be tortured by men like these. That’s what happened to me.”

It’s a jarring point of view from someone who has lived in a Hobbesian state of nature for years now wherein Sophia still believes that there are rules and, foolishly, that there are people that still play by them. The belief in those rules hold what’s left of civilization together for awhile as news reporters still believe things are going to turn around. Even Jasper for awhile believes this until an internet dating site provides him a conversation with a wheel chair bound economist who explains that the market isn’t going to turn around, that the economy as the world knows it is “going to get worse, and then it’s going to collapse entirely.” This shatters Jasper’s worldview as he believed that things had to get better, but they don’t despite what the news says.

The novel as a whole works because it does a really excellent job of making every chapter seem like this is the worst it’s going to get but a final conflict will make things better, however that never really comes. Every struggle is a struggle for survival and the interesting thing about that is the previous chapter’s struggle seems like a walk in the park compared to the struggle of whatever chapter you are currently reading.

There are two drawbacks and one omission to the book. The first is that throughout the entire work Jasper, and his friend Colin, seem to obsessed with finding Jasper a woman. He bounces from Sophia, to a quick date with Phoebe, to a Lady Gaga/Bjork like singer, and then to a random girl in a nomadic tribe. If it were a way to distract themselves from their life’s misery it would be one thing, but Jasper seems genuinely concerned that he will never find someone–which ought not to be a concern when food, shelter, and security should be a priority.

The second is that the book definitely is written for leftists and sometimes its shoe horned in. I like political allegory but the obvious metaphors for illegal immigration, right wing hawkishness, and a repeated explanation that the world no longer wants academics seems out of place. The first villains we meet are caricatures of gung-ho war veterans that the left used during Bush’s Presidency. This is a criticism from a person who leans left. It just has no place in the story and when it comes up it’s not subtle which it ought to be.

The third is, and I know what I just said, that there is no religious presence whatsoever. Not only am I “leftist” but I am also an atheist, and while I may disagree about the truth of religion I know that as the world ended membership would begin to go up. Ever hear the saying that there are no atheists in fox holes? The decline of civilization basically puts everyone near or in a fox hole. Perhaps a roving gang of religious fundamentalists (doesn’t matter what religion, perhaps a new cult or something) would have been a welcome addition to the otherwise realistic portrayal of the end of the world. An interesting take on a subject that has almost been obliterated by an over saturation of zombie movies and books.


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