Phrase o’ the Day: Ectoplasmic Tommy Gun!

Hrm…  Okay, so I’m still playing catch-up on posts, which means I think it might be time for the writerly equivalent of the puzzled shrug…that old slacker favorite, the list:

  1. I read a few news bits over the last couple of days about the State of the Union.  More specifically, about postponing or cancelling the thing because of the government “shutdown.”  To these pieces — and to the concept of delaying/cancelling — I say, “Well, duh.”  Is there a more pointless or pathetic example of kabuki theater than the freaking State of the Union?  For a long, long time the damned thing was just a letter sent to Congress, not the spectacle of imperial excess and extravagance that we have now.  Shit, all the Constitution requires is “notification” to Congress of the state of the union (note the lack of capitals!).  coronation_of_nicholas_ii_by_l.tuxen_(1898,_hermitage)What it does not require are speeches carefully scripted and crafted with *wait for applause* moments.  What it does not require is the expenditure of millions of dollars on something we already know will be cheered by one team and booed by the other, regardless of content or message.  What it does not require is empty pomp and circumstance and ceremony from 500+ people who can’t even do their fucking jobs.
  2. Ahem.  Rant over.  Thanks for your patience.
  3. Britain and the EU.  Oh, Britain and the EU…  As a history-nerd, I absolutely love the political maneuvering and shenanigans on display.  As an English history-nerd, I am completely appalled by the sheer incompetence on display.  I mean…shit…how in God’s name can you make the US Congress look like freaking workaholic geniuses?!?!  winston-churchill-with-tommy-gun_a-g-7613085-0Churchill isn’t turning over in his grave, he’s off getting pass-out drunk.  Every single person at Westminster — both government and opposition — should be happy his ghost is just doing that, by the way…otherwise he’d be stalking the halls with an ectoplasmic tommy gun, taking them all out.*  Look, I love both England and Europe as a whole…but the EU is an idiocy.  As a trade union, it’s great.  As a common market, it’s perfect.  As the “ever closer union” trying to force 27 very, very different nations/peoples/societies/cultures to turn into some bastard-mutant-child of the worst parts of France and Germany, it’s nothing more than the rankest insanity.  Unfortunately, like every single example in history of “technocrats” and “elites” who “know better,” who know “what’s good for you,” they won’t — they can’t — let even one single person slip from their control…
  4. *Churchill 2: He’s Back, And He’s Pissed! — hey, I’d pay to watch it!
  5. It’s gonna snow again in a couple of days…and I can’t freaking wait.  After the last dumping, I took off for a moderate off-trail hike.  Now, it can be hard in Colorado to find “untrammeled wilderness” without having to go deep into the mountains, but a nice knee-deep coating of snow with no footprints from anything or anyone but the wildlife is a nice freaking start. I’m getting the itch again, by the way, for one of those 6-month jaunts off to…err…well…nowhere in particular.  Go back to Krakow or Tallinn or Prague as an illegal alien, working tour gigs and bartending…or hike the Pacific Crest Trail…
  6. Yep, there’s a song for #5 too!:

Well, shit…

Now, remember…I’m a video game nerd. I’ve played thousands of ‘em, to the point where I seriously hesitate to add up just how many hours I’ve spent in various games. Even more, in the past I’ve taken a professional role in the industry: some of the first freelance writing jobs I ever landed were for video games.

All of which is a long-winded way of leading into my favorite quote of all time*: “Well, shit.”

*Game, movie, book, you name it…

I fully realize that I…err…”missed” posting twice last week. There are a lot of things I could claim as an excuse for that, but let’s just say that I don’t want to bore you with all of my personal crap and leave it at that, shall we? We can all just assume that I was, err, distracted and leave it at that.

I did, however, watch the news last week.

Hooooo, boy, did I watch the news.

I didn’t actually want to watch the news, by the way, and I definitely didn’t try to, but how the hell do you MISS all the bullshit going on in DC last week?!

Okay, so…I watched the news…

Well, shit.

Last week was that specific moment that future generations will look back on and say, “Oh yeah, they were screwed.”

But…oh…is the screwage is just getting started, my friends…

Never mind. We don’t particularly need to dive into my specific brand of prognostication-cynicism at this point.  As much as I love politics in general, I hate modern US politics. I also hate writing (openly) about them.

Look, I’m a libertarian, yet one of my best friends is a died-in-the-wool communist. And you know what? I just don’t care.

Others ask, “how can you be friends with him, with someone like that?”

I can be friends with him because I like him…and because I base my opinion of a person’s value as a human being on what they do more than what they profess to believe. And — honestly — if there is no room in this universe for different opinions*, and different types of people, then we truly are screwed…not just as a society, but as a species.

*Err…except for Nazis. And true racists. And assholes. And cat-lovers.

_MG_2344pUmm…track…hello? Where are you? I seem to have lost you?

Ahem.

Do you have any idea how long it has been since I actually drunk-blogged a post? Yeah, it’s been that long…

But — and let’s be honest here — did you really think there was any other way I would touch on the Kavanaugh hearings?! I may have my own opinion about the DC circus, but I’m not going to presume that my take has any more importance or validity than anything already out there…and I’m certainly not going to dive into that particular briar patch!

I will admit, however, to having played my own personal drinking game during the 9+ hours of testimony last week: every time a party talking point came up (Team R or Team D), I had to drink.

I was, ahem, pretty much gone by 9:00am…and it just got worse from there.

In other “news”, I do have a 2-part post planned for later this week…or maybe for next week. The first part is a long-delayed astronomy-nerd post, then the second is intended to take that into the realm of how reality affects writing sci-fi.  I am also working up a microfiction piece that is decidedly NOT flash fiction…

Light That Bonfire And Get Those Vanities Ready…

What the hell is happening to us?

I’ve mentioned before my belief that what will finally destroy the US, as a nation and as a culture, is our descent into the madness of defining political opponents as enemies. I didn’t think, at the time I wrote that post, that I also had to spell out the corollary that defining speech and points-of-view with which you disagree as dangerous is just as bad…

But that’s where we’re at.

What in the hell ever happened to the concept of defending other folks’ right to say things you may not personally like? Are we really going to keep going down the path of listing as dangerous and evil those words and opinions with which we don’t happen to agree?*

Yeah, that civil war I expect ain’t a decade off, it’s right around the damned corner. We’re pretty much fucked.

The worst part about writing this post is that I despise the asswagon who spawned it. Alex Jones is a tool, let’s get that out in the open right from the get-go. He is that rare blend of lunatic, asshole and fool all rolled into one. He is, when you get right down to it, everything that’s wrong with humanity in one unpleasant package of uselessness.

But that doesn’t make right the various social networks’ silencing of him, and voices like his. Look, I ignored InfoWars and the other idiocy of Jones’ ilk from Day One because it was pretty obvious just how unhinged those folks truly were. So did many, many other people. A free marketplace-of-ideas means folks are free to say and write pretty much whatever they want, but it also means the rest of us are just as free to ignore whatever we want. If something is stupid, or foolish, or demented, or just plain vile, then the answer is simple: DON’T READ IT!

But that’s not enough, not anymore. No, nowadays the only answer, apparently, is to actively silence the writers and ideas that used to be — quite successfully — ignored and marginalized by normal folks.

Are we really so terrified of the ranting inanity of people like Alex Jones that we have to eliminate their very words? That’s not just stupid, it’s more dangerous than he could ever even try to be.

AE7F8FFD-E231-461B-A5C0-1ADF51AD8B7BApple and Facebook and Twitter and Google and the other players in the modern tech game did not create the divisions and dangers that threaten everything about the US today, but they are making them worse. Oh, they’re not sitting there like liberal Blofelds, stroking cats and planning to fuck with the weather…no, what they’re doing is much worse than that: they’re acting out of cowardice and pure, short-sighted greed.

They don’t want to be criticized. They don’t want to be protested. They want only to siphon every penny they can, and control every bit of data they can, with no interference or trouble. They want to be the robber-barons that they truly are with no discontent, and certainly with no interference or disagreement. And they want all of that without disturbing their self-images as the torch-bearers of tolerance and progressivism that will save humanity from itself.

The decision to shut down various voices — whether loony ones like Jones, or the everyday voices of conservatives and libertarians that have been silenced by the social platforms — simply allows people like Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey to avoid criticism or protest for “hosting” such voices, while simultaneously playing into their personal echo-chamber-dominated, rose-tinted view of themselves as “protectors and champions.”

I can’t cuss enough to show my derision for that particular sentiment, by the way. I can take care of — and think for — myself, thank you very much, Mr Cook.

There are moves afoot to silence voices on all kinds of topics…from global warming, to immigration, to various social and economic philosophies, the go-to response has become to silence, rather than to dispute. To silence, rather than to debate and educate. What we are growing is a New Orthodoxy, one that is never to be questioned, let alone disagreed with…for the “good of all,” of course.

9770B227-EFB4-480A-BE6F-110305CA6236We’re watching a modern, electronic auto-da-fe of which Savonarola would be very, very proud…

*I can’t even imagine not reading ideas and thoughts and opinions that are not just different, but are diametrically opposed. The friction between viewpoints really is the only way to pull aside the layers of bullshit and confirmation bias and get at something resembling the truth.  Just to give a bit of an idea, here is my regular morning reading list: The Drudge Report, The Guardian (both US and UK versions), Fox News, BBC News, The Washington Post, The Nation, Reason, The Hill, The Cipher Brief, The National Review, and the Real Clear “family” of sites…

A Point? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Point!

I was thinking about doing a post on writing today. A few ideas have been chasing themselves around my mind, and I was looking forward to developing one or two of them. Of course, those damned ideas managed to chase themselves around until they got all tangled up and derailed what passes for my train of thought…

FAC5F2EB-C5EF-4DAC-80F3-F8D89A7AC9BBAhem.

Derailed may, in fact, be putting things (more than) a bit lightly. They derailed me in the same way the Hindenburg was “derailed”…

Why is it that I find it so damned hard to remember that first, most crucial rule of writing? When an idea comes — everyone say it with me, now — YOU WRITE THE DAMNED THING!!!

Yeah, I forgot/ignored that one. Again.

*sigh*

It would’ve been a great post, too.

Ahh, well…maybe it’ll come back in time for Friday’s post.

Of course, another problem cropped up while I sat in the shade today, trying to recover from hiking in the unrelenting, hot sun and flipping through articles and editorials on my phone…

FF48DB56-1970-4187-86FB-6EDF6C47A8F4Now, it’s not all that often that I run across something that makes me nod and go all agreeable. Very, very rarely has the phrase “Amen! Preach it!” ever crossed my lips (other than as a joke), but today I ran across one of those few.

I love it when someone else gets it. I especially love it when they “get it” from a totally different perspective from me. Things like that give me hope for the future…which is something in short supply in my cynical little corner of the world.

Saritha Prabhu has a great editorial in USA Today that you can find here. Read the whole thing, and take it in the spirit in which it is written. For those that want to short-cut the actual reading, this little pull-quote gives a good sense of things:

“Politicians from both parties have gotten away with letting down ordinary Americans for decades because millions of Americans are culturally wedded to their tribal political identities of Republican or Democrat, and can’t think outside the box.”

Amen! Preach it, sister!

Her conclusion does a good job, as well:

“I see myself as a political independent these days, who’ll opine based on what she sees and thinks, not along party lines.

For what it’s worth, renegades like me are like that canary in the coal mine: We’re trying to warn Democrats when they’re tone-deaf or still don’t get it.”

Now, look, I don’t want to go all political — and I especially don’t want to veer off onto some libertarian tangent — but holy crap, could we use some independence from the two-party-rigmarole* nowadays. I’ll let Ms. Prabhu’s piece stand for itself with her criticisms of Team-D, but for Team-R…shit, don’t get me started on Team-R. Can we PLEASE just do away with the whole, damned “social conservative” thing? Pretty please?!

*And if you think I didn’t have to spellcheck THAT particular word, you’re nuts!

I can’t think of anyone more problematic to a functioning, vibrant democracy than aggressive social conservatives. I’ve said it many times on this blog, but it bears repeating: my morality is none of your business, and yours is none of mine.

1365C924-B5E2-4C89-A6D7-1F992C8D6A51Look…I’m a libertarian. I don’t give two shits if you smoke a pound of pot every day, marry your lampshade, and attend full-moon orgies in the middle of a National Park. I don’t care who you love, or what you do, so long as you aren’t hurting anyone other than yourself. Adults are responsible for themselves and their own choices, and that includes the right to make decisions that others might consider “bad.”

And that’s where the Republicans and their “team” lost me — the social conservatives who drive that particular bus want freedom and libertarianism in some (very limited) ways, but in the truly important ways,* they want to control every single aspect of folks’ lives.

*The areas where NO ONE should have control…

No. Just…no.

Financial conservatism? A pragmatic — dare I say, Bismarckian — foreign policy? A strong military? A system that focuses on equality of access rather than equality of results?

Yes, to all of that.

But a system that dictates who you can love/marry? Or what you can do? Or that elevates one religion, or one interpretation of that religion even, to ideological and political supremacy?

No. Not just “no”, but “HELL NO!”

I agree with the Founding Fathers that our rights are inherent in us as human beings. They are rights that cannot be alienated away from us…and especially cannot be alienated away by any government or controlling power that “knows what’s best,” whether we agree or not.

Okay…crap…this is starting to turn into a screed, so I think it’s time to stop.

Ahem.

The next time I start to go all political, I’m gonna skip the problem and just post excerpts from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  All hail Douglas Adams!