Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Climate Change: A Debate Between Correct And Stupid

I love how they wait to show the conversational bomb dropped by Mr. Buggy Eyes at the conference. When someone calls science the result of a Marxist conspiracy and that "green is the new red," they are so blatantly out in left field as to make watching the rest of the show almost unnecessary.

Watch Climate of Doubt on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

From Whence Misogyny In Geek Culture?

There's a good article up over at Shameless Magazine that explores misogyny in geek culture. The basic thesis is that geeks feel that women and pop culture are taking away geek culture. It's summed up in a later adumbration.
1. Straight White Dudes, we are not here to steal geek culture away from you - we’re here to help make it MORE AWESOME. 
2. Excluding people just because they’re not geeky enough, or bullying them because they’re female is just as bad as the isolation and bullying you may have experienced while growing up. If, as a geeky teenager, you hated and resented the kids who picked on you, why the hell would you turn around and do it to someone else?
I think that the author is missing the wellspring of the behavior and the reason why her arguments will fall upon deaf ears. Namely, geek culture has never been about acceptance, and it is not surprising that geeks have turned around and behaved identically to ways in which they themselves were treated. It's like the Pilgrims coming to America to escape religious persecution, when in fact they were coming to America so they could be free to be the ones doing the persecuting.

While geek culture has many elements, one of its unifiers was exclusion from popular culture. They were rejected, so they created a culture that was purposely separate. It was not a culture that was defined internally, but also externally. Geek culture requires something separate from it for it to be geek culture. If it becomes integrated into the wider culture, it loses one of its original bricks and is thus no longer geeky. This connotation is built into the very history of the word.

Similarly, geek culture was defined by rejection by women. The point of it was to happily accept that rejection and create a society where part of its very make-up was a lack of women. Geeks have been resistant to accepting pop culture and women because part of geek culture is not having these things.

Let's face it. Many of the people in geek culture are not attractive and have few social graces. It hurts to be that way. It hurts to be rejected sexually. When one's life is heavily influenced by sexual rejection, a safe haven will be sought. And once found, that safe haven only remains safe when the object of rejection, be it pop culture or sexuality, is specifically left out.

It doesn't matter if women entering geek culture are as "geeky" as the men already there. Their not being there is the point. They could never make the culture "more awesome." And when one considers the perspective of those within the sub-culture, this makes sense.

While this is a sympathetic viewpoint, it does not absolve them. Perhaps my own experience with the sting of rejection makes me appreciate their views more than some others. I have never been an object of desire and that sucks. Losing myself in a fantasy world always felt great.

Moreover, this doesn't absolve the community of its racism and homophobia, although I think that these elements are something much more easily expunged. I think that it has more to do with the fact that middle-to-upper class culture in America is dominated by white, cis-gendered people. the biases of that socio-economic group will obviously rub off on any fantasy worlds created by it. Since geek culture was not created by people who had previously been rejected by homosexuals and people of other races, accepting these people will be something that will happen quickly. Accepting them will not undermine a tenet of geekdom.

Does that mean that traditional geekdom will not transform? Of course not. Traditional geek areas like science fiction, fantasy, and games will expand into the general culture, and the language is what will fade. Just as art and filmmaking are no longer the domain of those who lived on the outskirts of polite society, we will stop calling fantasy, science, and games "geeky." The label will die.

Perhaps that's the ultimate point that people should be making: geek culture as it was once known is dying. Science fiction, Dungeons & Dragons, comic books, video games, and fantasy are in the mainstream. I don't begrudge these men for wanting to have something into which they can escape, and specifically something that is theirs, separate from the broader culture. But they must realize that the world of traditional sci-fi, fantasy, and games is no longer that world.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Our Drug Laws Are Stupid (A Documentary)

Hooked: Illegal Drugs And How They Got That Way was a documentary that aired on the History Channel some years back--around the same time that the History Channel was still primarily the World War II Channel.

One thing that can be said of The History Channel, now simply called History, is that they are an incredibly timid, conservative channel. They want to insult no one, and worse still, have recently started catering to the lower common denominator in their show selection. While the LCD programming is a relatively new characteristic, they have always been conservative. That said, the fact that they were willing to air a series of shows that all but directly call our drug laws stupid is amazing. It should tell you how truly idiotic the laws actually are.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I Still Support Lance Armstrong

I assume that I am not the only person out there who still supports Lance Armstrong, but I'm going to say this anyhow. For one thing, I accept that the procedure by which the case against him was developed is one-sided. Cases that would never in a million years pass successfully through a court trial are held up as fact. The USADA is a sham organization.

That said, even if the USADA was as pure as the driven snow and Lance Armstrong was a creature of pure pitch straight from the pit of Sheol, my opinion wouldn't change. I may not like Armstrong as I now do, but I would still stand in support of his activity.

Likewise, I stand in support of every single major cyclist who was nailed for doping. I stand with any athlete who uses performance enhancing drugs. I see nothing wrong with it because there is nothing wrong with it. People get up in arms about it, but when forced to try to explain why they are up in arms, the explanations all  fail to pass even the most rudimentary analysis.

Not only do I support the principle of using drugs, but I also support Armstrong's wins as legitimate. The only way we can assume that they are not legitimate is if we likewise assume that no one else was using this special mojo that Armstrong was using. We now know that this is not true. All of the major players were using drugs, and in all likelihood, most of them are currently using drugs. If everyone was using drugs, and Armstrong still won, in my book that makes his wins legitimate.

But I feel that is beside the point. Armstrong (to say nothing of Ulrich, Basso, and others) did nothing wrong by taking the drugs. For me, a better case cannot be made than the documentary Bigger Stronger Faster: The Side Effects of Being American, the entirety of which is available on YouTube.

And if you don't choose to watch it, I'll leave you with a couple of questions. Why are hypobaric chambers and chemically engineered nutrient bars legal, but drugs not? Why were Oscar Pistorius' artificial limbs legal, but drugs not?

Conservatives Losing the Fight on Same-Sex Marriage

From Free Thought Blogs.
The notable silence by the Republicans on the issue of same-sex marriage during the current election campaign is a sign, if one needed one, of how rapidly sentiment has shifted on this issue. In 2004 opposition to this was very potent and was used to galvanize voters to go to the polls and vote for George W. Bush. Daniel McCarthy argues in The American Conservative that it is one more sign of the retreat of religion in the face of modernity... 
Even conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly thinks that they are losing this battle and blames (of course) public education.

No. You are losing the fight because you are a bunch of backward, bigoted, troglodytes and people don't want to be associated with you.

There is an extensive quote from an article in The American Conservative, and the author tries his best to frame the loss of a fundamental tenet of conservatism as something that is totally cool. I guess he is tired of being automatically classified as a bete noire at dinner parties when everyone there finds out he writes for a magazine called The American-freaking-Conservative.

My recommendation: stop being conservative. Then you won't simply be the most recent iteration of a grand tradition of being left behind by the progress of society.