Wednesday, October 10, 2012

FSF: Endorsement

After much consideration, I have decided to formally endorse whichever presidential candidate promises to visit San Francisco least often. Seriously, you assholes make my commute impossible.

~S. Misanthrope

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

5 Things Wrong with Brave

Last weekend I was depressed, so I went to see Brave, knowing that nothing cheers me up like a Disney/Pixar film. Until Pocahontas, there wasn’t a Disney film I didn’t love. They are pure magic; even Hitler thought so. And Pixar…wow. Toy Story changed my life, and if we pretend A Bug’s Life didn’t happen and everyone watched Antz instead, Pixar has never disappointed me.

So it was that I rejected other plans, some of which involved watching past presidents fight the undead, to stand in line with 200 ten-year-olds. So it was that I prepared myself with ginger jokes, ready to pretend-criticize the film for romanticizing the Soulless Ones. So it was that I found myself standing in shocked disappointment after the ending credits, confused and sad and more than a little disturbed, with very serious criticisms rattling around in my brain.

Brave is a bad movie, and you should not take your children to see it, for at least five reasons:

1. Scottish accents

This is more of an observation than a criticism, but isn’t it odd the way we use accents in movies? I don’t mean just the absurdity of using a language-X accent to indicate that the character is speaking in language-X. I’m talking about when the entire movie is set in a certain place, but depending on what that place is the characters may or may not have the corresponding accents. Scotland, Ireland, and England always seem to get accents, but pretty much nowhere else does.

Think about it. Did anyone besides Lumier and the feather duster skank have French accents in Beauty and the Beast? Did anyone in Aladdin have any of the accents that can be heard in the Middle East? Hell, Snow White probably should have had a German accent, and with the wide range of accents to be found in The Lion King, it’s odd that not one of them is the Swahili accent (no, not even Rafiki.)

Disney tends to pick and choose their accents. Pixar can’t seem to make up their minds, based on Ratatouille at least, but be honest: was there any chance of making a movie set in Scotland, no matter the time period, without the accents? No, there wasn’t, because some places are just so defined by their accents, we can’t accept not having them in our films, even if it makes the dialog harder to follow and the music really annoying. That’s my real criticism, by the way: the music was terrible.

2. Will-o’-the-wisps

Are not cute land-based jellyfish that lead you to your fate. They are evil beings that lure virgins into the woods to rape and murder them. Well, okay, so there are a variety of myths surrounding these ethereal lights, but the only one that is remotely pleasant involves buried treasure, and even in that one most people die trying to retrieve it.

In real life, will-o’-the-wisps are phosphorescent critters that live in marshes. Travelers would be drawn to the flickering glow thinking they were seeing lanterns. More often than not, they would end up drowned in the bog or lost, thus inspiring the legends. And I’m sorry, but I think the animators at Pixar were well aware of the nefarious nature of these “fairy lights” because those blue globs with their Shining-esque childish giggling were creepy as fuck. Oh, and remember how the horse was (reasonably) terrified of them? What happened to that little clue?

The wisps’ impression was made even worse by the lack of a villain in the story. Without a bad guy around to provide a convenient focal point of evil, I kept expecting the wisps to suddenly reveal their true nature and lead the heroines off a cliff, like they’re damn well supposed to.

Also why are wisps the only magical creatures? I’m no expert on Scottish mythology, but surely there’s something more to work with there. A witch, okay, sure, but no sprites? No fairies? Nothing? For a “land full of magic and danger,” there certainly wasn’t a lot of either one. Although maybe there would have been if the story actually showed us more of the land instead of staying inside of or within a short ride of the castle the entire time. Which brings me to a more important criticism…

3. Brave has nothing to do with bravery

Nothing in this film was more confusing than the title. I can think of no plausible reason why this story deserves the title “Brave” when the heroine doesn’t even go anywhere, especially when the story clearly wanted her to. The witch went on a little trip? Then fucking follow her. Fight demons and overcome challenges in the woods for a few days, and do your mother-daughter bonding there. That’s your odyssey, not this stupid running back and forth between the castle and Stonehenge shit.

The theme of this film is very clear, but it’s not related to bravery at all. Everything in the film is about mother-daughter relations and listening to each other. Why wasn’t it titled “Listen?” Or “Mother Knows Best?” Or “Shut Up and Get Married to Save the Kingdom?”

Because that’s exactly what happens: the mother wants to force her daughter to marry someone she’s never met, the daughter wants to play in the woods instead, the mother gets turned into a bear and realizes that woodsy skills are valuable, and the daughter realizes that she was being ever so silly about the whole marriage-to-a-stranger thing and should settle down for the sake of the kingdom. The only way I can work “brave” into the plot or theme of the film is to restate it as “a princess, who is brave in the face of mortal danger, must learn to also be brave in the marriage bed.” Which brings me to the most important point…

4. Marital rape is not something to compromise on

I wanted to like the story of Brave. I really did. Who hasn’t dreamed of turning their mother into something that can’t speak? Personally I would go with a tea cozy rather than something with claws, but I’ll take what I can get. It was touching to see the mother/bear come around to see the value in her daughter’s passions and to admire her abilities.

But quid pro quo, Clarisse: you have to give a little to get a little. To break the spell, the princess must “mend the bond torn by pride.” That turns out to mean she must literally stitch a tapestry (good princess, do your needlework) that she had cut with a sword when her mother tried to force her to marry some random, ugly dude she had just met. Yeah, that’s right, acting out with some mild violence when facing an arranged marriage is what passes for hotheaded pride in the Pixar universe.

Let me take a moment here to point out that this princess is clearly about 14 years old (we're never told her age in the film, so I'm going with how she looks, and if Pocahontas was 14, this girl is -7.) Oh yes, it was pride that made her act out all childishly, not, you know, the fact that she is legally still a child. It wasn’t that marriage involves a lifetime spent with another person, not to mention bearing their children (sex is how that happens, remember?), and that marrying at 14 would be scary enough without the groom being a complete stranger to you.

When faced with what is effectively child rape, the princess takes issue with it, and that’s a temper tantrum according to Pixar? She needs to learn to accept her fate/responsibility/duty to spend the rest of her life fucking one of the two fat dudes or the dude who looks like Geddy Lee (no offense, Geddy, I love you), both of whom she saw for the first time today and hasn’t even spoken to yet? This whole thing is just a “misunderstanding” between her and her mother? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? THIS IS CALLED RAPE, AND IT IS NOT OKAY.

Ok, look, I realize that Brave is set in a different time, and I’m being as dramatic as possible. But Brave is also a kids’ movie. 90% of the audience when I went was under age 10. Kids that age are not able to grasp the subtle nuances of gender politics in ancient Scotland and to make allowances for old-timey injustices when extracting a modern-day moral from a story. It is fucked up to romanticize forcing marriage on a 14-year-old in front of children. Ew. I would sooner raise my kids on A Game of Thrones than let them watch this movie.

5. She did not change her fate and P.S. why did she sew the tapestry on horseback?

The opening and closing voiceovers in Brave are all about fate. Changing your fate, finding your fate, being lead to your fate by rapey, murdery fairies. So we would expect fate to play a major role in the story, no? Except that it doesn’t, not at all.

The first voiceover, heard also in the preview, says something along the lines of “our fate is tied to the land, a land full of magic and danger.” Sounds promising, I suppose, except I’ve already pointed out that there isn’t much in the way of magic (wisps and one in-denial witch do not a magical land make) or danger (There’s one angry bear. One. In all of Scotland.) Fate also doesn’t factor into it. Fate is not a synonym for “geopolitical circumstances that necessitate politically expedient marriages.” Fate is mystical and other-worldly. It comes from god or the Powers that Be or Zoltar, not from your mother.

Aside from that, this marriage fate of hers has nothing to do with the land. Governments are not a part of the land they rule. If they were, they wouldn’t change so often. In fact it’s mentioned several times that this kingdom is not just new, but brand new. Her father is the first-ever king in this kingdom. Odd, then, isn’t it, that they have so many traditions for marrying off their princesses, traditions so old and established that it would literally cause war to break with them, when this is the first time the kingdom has even had a princess to marry off?

Speaking of plot holes, what on earth possessed the princess to repair that tapestry on horseback? If she believed that a bit of mending was all that she needed to do to change her mother back, why would she waste time escaping the room, saddling her horse, and riding out? Why not just stay in the comfy room and fix the tapestry? Her mother would change back, the king would find her, and all would be well. Of course mending the tapestry is a red herring, and as usual the secret spell-breaking ingredient turns out to be princess tears, so it’s for the best that she behaved so irrationally. Which now that you mention it, isn’t it called “bad writing” when characters make senseless decisions in order to fulfill your plot needs?

Look, I’m generally not one to get a bee in my gender-neutral bonnet over this or that thing that could be sexist, racist, ageist, homophobic, etc. [Sig. Other’s Note: Yes, she is.], especially when we’re talking about Disney or Pixar productions, which are just fun, beautiful films. I adore The Lion King, despite its concerning moral stances on hereditary monarchy and eating things that can talk. I don’t care that Pixar didn’t have a female hero* until Brave any more than I care that Disney pretty much only has female heroes still. I don’t think it’s racist for Sebastian to have an island accent, man, nor for hand-removal to be featured prominently in Aladdin. Generally I think everyone should just chill out.

But at some point, a line must be drawn, and I’m choosing to draw it at forcibly marrying minors. And so, Princess Merieda (sp?), I beseech you: would Jasmine put up with this shit? That chick could have married any prince she wanted, and still she had to rock the boat on principle. That’s what a princess role model looks like, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m very happy for all the little ginger kids who can finally look at a Disney princess and say “That’s me” (because for some reason they couldn’t do that with Ariel.) I know what it’s like to feel ignored in that way. When I was growing up, Disney film after Disney film showed beautiful blond princesses, but did any of them have green eyes? Nope, not until Tangled. It was so hard to be a pretty blond with non-blue eyes, let me tell you.

But why is it all about what she looks like? Is that what we want our children to look for first when seeking out similarities between themselves and fictional characters: eye color, hair color, skin color, and sex? I realize that these can be developmentally important identifications for kids to make, but maybe the real reason why we get so hung up on the physical characteristics of our Disney princesses is that there isn’t much else to differentiate them. They all want to better themselves, many want to break free from some societal restraint, but other than that, what can we really say about each one? Belle is a bookworm. Ariel is curious. The black one was highly industrious. The others…who can say?

For all its flaws, Brave did present a princess with a clear personality and values. That was great to see. Unfortunately it was pretty much ruined by the moral that effectively requires her to surrender all of those values and suppress her personality.

Thus ends the charmed life of Pixar films.

S. Misanthrope

*So they say. I say that if you assume that WALL-E is male and EVE is female, you’re the one promoting traditional gender roles.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Am Woman, Hear Me Blog


It’s recently come to my attention that there’s some confusion as to a few basics of my identity. Specifically a lot of people seem to think I’m a boy, despite my having blogged about shoes, developed a fool-proof method to figure out if you’re fat, and explicitly stated on this site that I am a girl. I’m not surprised, though, considering that Google also thinks I’m a boy. Even my parents expected a boy and with such confidence that they failed to pick out any girl names for me.*

While not surprising, I do find the confusion amusing since I’ve been sitting on a big pile of half-finished “women’s issues” posts that I seem incapable of completing, probably because my thoughts on these issues are only half-formed. Well, before I miss my chance to post one more time during the Stupid of the Week-worthy “Women’s History Month,” allow me to share some of these half-baked musings with you:

1. My musings are half-baked, because, as a modern career-driven woman, I don’t spend nearly enough time in the kitchen making cookies for my husband/provider/robot overlord.

2. Haha, just kidding! I love the kitchen. I love preparing food for people I care about, even when those people have penises. I love wearing frilly aprons and (at least for the first hour or so) impractical heels when I do this. I’ve been told that I will “single-handedly set women’s progress back fifty years,” and, in many ways, I consider that a compliment. Kicking ass in the work force is even more satisfying to me when I also kick ass in the kitchen.

3. That said, anyone who thinks I have any sort of obligation to do these things- to keep house OR to be the breadwinner –deserves a kick in a gender-neutral place, such as the head. I’d even go so far as to say that anyone who allows themselves to fall into prescribed gender roles by default rather than by choice is just sort of…sad. Imitation will never lead to satisfaction.

4. I know exactly why readers and Google (who is actually my most dedicated reader, hanging on my every word that they might be converted to ad revenue) conclude that I’m male. It’s not just that I like guns and cars and South Park; that I swear a lot and talk about boobs a little too much for the average person’s comfort; or that I frequent sites that males tend to frequent. It’s more fundamentally that my writing style is direct and confident. I don’t hedge my opinion. Maybe it’s just me, but I kind of think it’s sad the way that (no offense, haha, let’s be friends!) women and girls sometimes tend to maybe not make a completely strong, clear statement, but I don’t know, this is just my opinion, what do you guys think?

Do you know what this means? It means that whenever a person or algorithm erroneously concludes I’m male, I’m happy about it. I actually prefer my sex to be mistaken. Well, not by anyone who can see or hear me, but in writing at least. This is as close to self-hatred as I come these days. I don’t think I’m wrong to feel this way, however. I don’t wish I were male. If I were, I’d be a gay male, because oh god, how awful would it be to have to date women?

Eh, so maybe I do hate women. Maybe I’m a horrible, terrible, awful, no-good person who deserves to be beaten to death by suffragettes. Then again, I pretty much hate everyone. The goal is equality, right? Still, I suspect I’m harsher on women than men. Men tend to come from positions of (relative) power, and I expect people with power to be complacent jackasses. But women, women know we have a struggle ahead of us. We know the default is not to take us seriously, to marginalize us, and to keep us oh-so-slightly downtrodden. So I have to know: if you know this going in, why the fuck would you act like a bunch of sorority twits at summer camp all the time when you’re in a goddamn place of business, girls in the next cubicle row? And what is wrong with you men who have sex with these baby-talking idiots? ARGH!

Ok, yeah, I’m not sexist; I really do just hate everyone.

5. I fully intend to claw my way to the top of my profession, by putting a battering-ram to that mythical glass ceiling if necessary. Thanks to John McClane, I know exactly how to deal with broken glass. It’s hard to know right now, though, if that will be necessary. We’re just now getting to the point where we have women who have been free to reach the top and a generation of people raised to believe women and men are equal. The next twenty years will be the real test.

At the moment, I’m apprehensive. At my company, the Really Big Corporation of America, there is only one woman in the top leadership team. Granted she is the Boss of All Bosses, but whenever I hear people lamenting that only [warning: totally made-up statistics approaching] 10% of leadership is black compared to 15% in the general population, I just kind of shake my head, wondering how they somehow missed that 5% are female compared to 50%+ in the general population. So while I believe it’s too early to call “Sexism!”, I’m limiting myself to cautious optimism.

6. One major reason for my hesitation to celebrate gender equality is that I recently saw Ally McBeal for the first time and was shocked at how relevant all of the “professional woman” conflicts are to me today, even though I share few values with the protagonist (other than Robert Downey Jr., of course). This is a show that started in 1997, and we’re no closer to resolving the many issues it raised today in 2012. How is this possible?

One reason I think is that we are actually discouraged from working through such problems. We’re commanded by law not to discriminate against women, which in practice means we can’t afford to even appear to discriminate, which means that discussion of what constitutes discrimination and what is really fair or unfair has to be shut down. We’re all basically told “Don’t worry, the government has already solved this problem for you.” As a result, women don’t even know when they are being treated unfairly because of their sex, let alone what to do about it. The tools we need to handle unequal treatment are denied to us by the very people who profess to protect us. There’s something has never happened before in the history of ever.

7. I just want to note quickly that I have a really hard time using the word “woman.” I will call fifty-year-old women “girls.” Although I may also call fifty-year-old men “guys,” I’m more comfortable with the word “man” than “woman.” Am I clinging to my slipping youth? Is my subconscious marginalizing me? Or is there something inherently awkward about words that start with “wo” but don’t end in “mbat”?

8. Physical stuff. This is an area where it either really sucks or really rocks to be female depending on whether or not you’re attractive to men. Everyone is judged on their looks, yes, but women more so. If you’re hot, it’s a crazy advantage. If not, um, bummer, man. Then again, it’s really not that hard to look good; the best thing to come out of China besides iPad 2s is the proverb “There are no ugly girls, just lazy girls.” Besides, physical attractiveness is a legitimate value in many contexts (basically all of the contexts that involve using your eyes). So yes, I think in general women have to try harder than men to look good, but we also get a lot more out it. It doesn’t bother me at all.

While we’re on the subject, what is with people getting so offended by the body type preferences of others? And by people I pretty much mean women. Granted people sometimes exert terrible pressures on others regarding weight. For instance a student at my high school was quoted in the newspaper as saying “I’m glad girls at this school [use dangerous drugs and develop eating disorders], because skinny girls are hot.” But there’s a world of difference between saying “All girls should risk their lives to be as thin as possible,” and saying “I prefer thin women.” Or fat, or muscular, or whatever. Who cares? Just decide how you want to look, and look that way. Odds are someone will find it attractive, and even if not, surely you have other qualities with which you can attract a partner, like money or oral.

I get that it’s a major bummer when someone you like prefers the polar opposite of you, especially when it’s a physical thing you can’t control. Believe me, I’ve been there. My first crush and “One True Love” for about seven years would have liked me a whole lot more if I had had a penis, which brings me full circle quite nicely.

Goodnight, boys and girls,

S. Misanthrope

P.S. There’s actually an important issue I didn’t touch on, but it’s one I’m going to dedicate a full post to at some point in the future. A long, angry post, I expect. Oh yes. Yes.

*If you’ve ever wondered how a person ends up with an initial for a first name, that’s how.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Things That Have Annoyed Me Lately

I won't bother to point you to the specific article, but I recently came across a retraction article that was actually just a retraction blog post. It was on this blog (that I would normally never read), because I was lured there by a Facebook post that claimed the retraction resulted from the author learning of new relevant facts that altered his opinion. The subject of the retracted post is of some interest to me, so I was eager to find out what new information had been uncovered.

Unfortunately it was all a lie. Well, not exactly, but it was a complete mis-characterization. The author had not been presented with any new facts; he was merely changing his opinion regarding the original facts due to subsequent discussion and thought. He wasn't even changing his opinion that substantially. In my opinion, it wasn't even enough of a change to warrant a new post/retraction. A comment, or an edit to the original article, sure, but a big retraction statement is overkill.

So I'm already annoyed by this retraction that wasn't really a retraction and that gave me no useful data whatsoever, when I realize that the Facebook post that lead me to waste my time had heaped praise on this author for having the integrity and courage to change his opinion when presented with further information and to state so publicly.

Now truly that action deserves praise, however that's not what happened here. What actually happened is that the author neither read nor thought carefully before penning and publishing the original post. His work was sloppy and ill-conceived. Not horrendously so (I assume out of courtesy, although I did not read the original post), but still. There's the level of bravery where you change your mind due to new knowledge, and then there's the level where you admit you already had all of the relevant data and just did the wrong thing with it.

In a sense, the Facebook post didn't praise him enough. It's way more embarrassing to admit that your reading comprehension is poor than that you were missing key information. In another sense, it smells of ass-covering (you can guess what that smells like*) when you take into account that the praise-giver is the publisher of the retracted post. It might not be too good for business to admit that your published articles might be retracted the next day because "Oh, sorry, I didn't really think that through before clicking 'Send.'" In a third sense, this is all self-important bollocks, because no one cares about this blog anyway.

The point is, "I sort of changed my mind a little bit," is not a tune-change worthy of a whole big retraction post with an accompanying Facebook advertising campaign. The other point is that don't try to paint it like it's not your fault that you can't read good.

I'm also really, really annoyed by all this Hunger Games hullabaloo. No, I haven't read the books, and I do actually intend to at some point, but you know what? I'm pretty sure I'm going to learn that they are fucking bullshit. What the hell kind of populace-suppression model is "train the children to be superlative fighters and make some of them fight to the death on TV?" You couldn't come up with a better recipe for rebellion (and losing to said rebellion, since these will be highly trained rebels you taught yourself) if you tried. The Bene Gesserit would have a fit over this concept. Or actually, no, they wouldn't, because they are super-calm, controlled master manipulators who would just sit back and casually watch that idiotic civilization fall into ruin while plucking out the best genetic material that will totally come in handy in 15,000 years.

Authors like to use this contrived bullshit to pedal their moral and political agendas, because exploring universal themes in a meaningful, believable way is really hard, you guys. Why bother with a rich world that naturally illuminates the fundamental nature of humanity through the careful, patient application of the writer's craft (read: plotting), when you could just design a universe that fits your pedantic designs perfectly from the outset? Who needs Atlas Shrugged when you have Demolition Man? Or alternatively, who needs Les Miserable when you have "Starvin' Marvin"?

I do, that's who, and as long as I still have real books to read (especially real books about the exact same thing, but with a more coherent premise cough Battle Royale cough cough), this young adult fiction can take a fucking back seat.

Until next time,

S. Misanthrope

*If you guessed "ass," you're right.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why So Silent, Good M. S.?


Lately I’ve found it difficult to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may more likely be). Friends say to me, “S., why don’t you write about Occupy? Or business school? Or more stuff about how you hate trees?” Then I say, “Oh, yeah, sure. I totally will. Good idea,” but I don’t, and I know that I won’t. I won’t because I just don’t see the point anymore.

All I wanted was to make fun of stupid things. At the very least, I figured I’d have excellent job security, what with the never-ending stream of dumb things spewed forth by mankind. I could spend a dozen lifetimes mockingnon-visible art, or critiquing films about running, or relating my harrowing adventures among the mountain folk. I thought it was destined to go on forever.

I was wrong.

What selfish joy do I get from this site, publicly wallowing in misanthropy? Satire. Satire is its own reward. It serves as a necessary reality check for thinking people. When the big, bad world throws something fucked up your way, you throw something even more fucked up right back at it. Feminists at Berkeley got you down? Lysistrata their asses. Did Transformers 2 steal three hours of your life? Respond with an off-Broadway musical biography of Michael Bay. Do you have lupus? In that case, you should probably go see a doctor, but feel free to mock Grey’s Anatomy while you do that.

The tried-and-true satiric formula has protected us against the onslaught of morons for centuries. But will it be enough to face down and make humorous the challenges of future retards? I fear it will not; in fact I believe the indispensable armor of satire is already showing cracks. Consider two of the greatest satirists of our generation: Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park. How many times have their parodies of real people and events not been true parodies at all, but rather a completely accurate recreation using animated characters? They themselves have stated that the original idea for Team America: World Police was simply to re-make Armageddon, frame-for-frame and word-for-word, using puppets instead of humans.

This is the current, low state of satire. All that is left for satirists to do is copy reality exactly, only with puppets.

This is not art. This is not creativity. This is not enough to save us.

Some time ago, I wrote this parody of Twilight, based solely on the 20-seconds-worth of clips from the film that I had seen at the time. I was so proud. I thought I had really hit the comedic nail on the head. Since then, however, I have done a terrible thing: I have actually read Twilight. Well, not exactly. I’ve read maybe 4 or 5 chapters of Twilight, and I’ve watched “Alex Reads Twilight” on YouTube. Trust me: that was enough.

I had absolutely no business parodying Twilight, not because I hadn’t actually read it, but because Twilight itself is a parody of Twilight. If a parody is a sad, inbred baby whose ears don’t line up, then Twilight is its own grandpa. It’s derivative of itself. It is a parody wrapped in a satire inside something that unfortunately is not a horrible, horrible joke that accidentally went too far and turned into a wildly popular international bestseller read ironically by the entire world.

And that, my friends, is why I find it so hard to muster the energy to practice my Three Rs (ranting, raving, and writing) these days. What’s the point? Nothing I write, no matter how absurd, exaggerated, or brazen, nothing can be as ridiculous as Twilight. For a time, I even considered retiring this site and starting a new one entitled Actual Quotations from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, which would feature absolutely nothing but actual quotations from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. No commentary at all, because what could one even say? Ms. Meyer’s work stands completely on its own. Any remarks or analysis would be superfluous, serving only to detract from the comedic purity of stupidity-in-action. In fact I only abandoned this idea once I realized that I would ultimately end up copying the entire book, word-for-word, onto such a site, because not one sentence in that magnum opus is unworthy of derision. Aside from copyright-infringement issues, I simply can’t bring myself to contribute to the spread of this monstrosity even in jest.

Maybe it’s just the Valentine’s Day blues. Maybe I just need a pale, sparkling, freezer-safe dildo (specially designed for a realistic Edward Cullen experience*) to keep me company during the long, lonely nights. Maybe I’ll be back, ready to mock displaced Amazonian tribes and the idiots who praise Injuns for “using every part of the animals they killed” (cough*bullshit*coughcough) but criticize McDonald’s for turning whole chickens into tasty(?) nuggets. Maybe things will get better.

Psych!

S. Misanthrope

P.S. I only just learned, when writing this article, that Stephenie Meyer can’t even spell her own name properly. “Stephanie” is supposed to have an “a” in it, come on! Jesus fucking Christ. Maybe not being able to write for shit is a genetic trait.

*I’m completely serious. This is a real thing. Look it up.**
**Because I can’t do it at work.***
***By which I mean I can’t Google for simulated vampire penises on my work computer, not that I couldn’t use a simulated vampire penis at work.****
****Although I also couldn’t use one at work because I don’t have one.*****
*****I’d also like to point out that vampires are *room temperature*, people. There is no reason why they would be freezing. Edward Cullen’s penis would feel exactly like your regular dildo.******
******Oh God, I just ruined dildos for everyone. I am so, so sorry. Your regular dildo probably feels nothing like Edward Cullen, unless your regular dildo is 110 years old and made of human skin and oh God, I’ve done it again. Shutting up now.

Friday, February 10, 2012

An Open Letter to People Using Instagram

Dear People Using Instagram:

Congratulations. You've done it. You've successfully become the most annoying people on Facebook.

I thought nothing on Facebook could possibly be more annoying than Spotify updates, but I was wrong. Instagram has combined the unbearable obnoxiousness of food pictures with the retinal irritation of sepia filters. It is now so easy to make your dull pictures even duller through superficial gimmicks that what used to be an easily-ignored trickle of boring images in my Facebook feed has become a torrent devouring everything in its path. What little valuable content remains is lost in the flood.

The one thing preventing this bombardment of inanity from completely destroying the internet is that little warning flag "posted via Instagram." Without that, I would never be able to safely browse pictures of adorable kittens again. I also would never be able to instantly block anyone whose updates include that phrase. But this is a frail defense against a mighty and persistent enemy. The destruction of all that is good in photography is inevitable.

I just want to know: what hater of values thought it would be a good idea to make the worst aspects of Photoshopping *even more accessible* to the common idiot? Who wakes up one day and says "I have a great idea that will empower people who have no skills or taste to produce crap at such a rate that they will completely drown out the few remaining sources of true artistry in our culture?" I hope he drowns in a flaming pit of monkey feces and that lots of pictures of it are "posted via Instagram" so I can watch the glory through every available filter that "transforms the look and feel" of the experience.

Normally I would end a letter like this by begging you people to stop ruining my life, but this time I actually don't want you to do anything. Just keep on going, because whenever you use Instagram, I make a mental (and physical) note to never again take you seriously about anything. And that is going to come in really, really handy during election season.

Affectionately yours,

S. Misanthrope

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2-1-12

If you recall, your good friend S. here isn't that into music. That said, Rush is AWESOME. Happy Rush Day, y'all.







Rock it out,

S. Misanthrope

P.S. If you somehow discovered this blog before you discovered Rush, may I recommend a personal favorite to get you started down the path to nerdy-prog-rock-dom:



P.P.S. I'd never seen this video before. I could not possibly love it more! Amazing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

This Site Is Not Going Dark Today

I haven’t been writing much lately as I have much better things to do. However I felt obligated to post something today, because today is National Whine about Congress Not Understanding the Internet whilst Demonstrating that You Know Less than Nothing About the Law and/or Rights Day.

If today is your first day on the internet, you should probably come back another time. All the cool sites, like Wikipedia, XKCD, and Google, are engaging in forms of protest against two pending bills: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and Protect IP (PIPA) in the Senate. Everyone says these bills are bad (BAAAAAD), which to me was the first reason to suspect they might actually be good. Well, “good” is unlikely given today’s political and legal culture, so perhaps “pretty ok” or “not that bad” is more likely.

So I proceeded to read 50,000 articles professing to brutally expose the evil that is SOPA/PIPA. Lo and behold, the popular position on the issue turns out not to be worth the virtual paper it’s not actually printed on. Here are the main arguments of the anti-SOPA/PIPA crowd (including the you-know-who-ists’) and why they’re stupid:

1. SOPA/PIPA will fundamentally alter the structure and use of the internet.

Something about IP addresses and DNS and security and things. It’s not really important, but if you care to, you can read about it here.

Why this argument is stupid

Non-sequitur. The government’s job is not to protect existing systems, it’s to protect rights. The internet is home to mass theft. Its fundamental structure probably should change.

A better argument

The mechanism the bills propose for preventing theft online is sub-optimal. It won’t stop what it’s trying to stop, and it will interfere with legitimate activities and/or security. A new bill should be written with a better mechanism.

2. SOPA/PIPA make website owners responsible for content posted by their users.

YouTube would be shut down! Reddit would die! How can Facebook possibly police their users to prevent the illegal posting of copyrighted materials? It just isn’t fair. No one else is forced to do this!

Why this argument is stupid

Actually, everyone else is already forced to do this. No property owner is free to turn a blind eye to illegal activities taking place on his property. If a vendor at a flea market has stolen goods, the market is rightfully shut down until the stolen property is recovered. When valuable personal property like jewelry is stolen, police and insurers alert pawn shops, who are required by law to turn over any suspicious items. The owners of the flea market and pawn shops have not committed any crime, but they still have obligations under the law. Further they can be liable for the thief’s actions, meaning the owner of the stolen property may have rights to recover against them as well as the actual thief in a lawsuit if they contributed to the harm, say through lax security standards.

SOPA essentially proposes to extend this standard to the Web. PIPA actually requires “good faith belief” that a site’s primary purpose is the dissemination of pirated materials in order to take action, so the fears for Facebook under that bill are totally unwarranted. The strongest element to this argument comes from the potential for SOPA to be applied very broadly, in a nightmare scenario where sites like this one are taken down because one commenter posted one link to a site containing one piece of pirated material. However this does not appear to be the actual mechanism proposed by the law nor is such application consistent with legal precedent. Without knowing the precise mechanisms of application and enforcement, it's basically impossible to evaluate the reasonableness of SOPA or PIPA.

A better argument

The enforcement mechanism is vague/untenable. Unfortunately no one seems to have bothered to figure out what the enforcement mechanism is (and some of that will be up to the courts later on), and I’m certainly not going to read the bills (nor would I likely understand them.) Which is actually an even better argument: that no one reads these things nor can they be understood by the people to whom the laws apply. Of course that’s an argument against just about every law we have; doesn’t really make sense to get all worked up about that now, does it? Save it for the health insurance debate.

3. CENSORSHIP!

Just writing “censorship” in all caps counts as an argument, right? Yeah, totally.

The “argument” behind this go-to non-argument is basically that giving the government the authority to black out stolen content opens the door for blacking out any content the Man doesn’t want us to see.

Why this argument is stupid

Gosh, if we give the government the authority to put criminals in jail, that opens the door for them to put ANYONE in jail! JAILORSHIP!

Shut up. Seriously, please, just shut up. This has nothing to do with free speech. You have rights to your own property and your own speech, but you have no rights to the property and speech of others. Blacking out stolen content on the internet is no different than taking back stolen goods. It’s no different than shutting down printing presses that are printing copyrighted materials without the owners’ consent, or bookstores that (even unknowingly) sell them. It is irrespective of the content of the material being blacked out. It is not censorship.

A better argument

Pandas. Ecumenicalism. Antidisestablishmentarianism. Literally any combination of words, sounds, or stick figures makes a better argument than this.

4. Individuals have the power to trigger action by accusing sites of piracy.

Under SOPA/PIPA, a content-owner can trigger various crippling actions against the site that contains the stolen content. Primarily they can stop that site’s ability to process payments by notifying the company that handles the payments. They don’t need to notify the offending site. With a court order, they can do some other stuff, like stop advertisers from advertising on the offending site. These actions could destroy a Web business, particularly a start-up, and is ripe for abuse.

Why this argument is stupid

All such systems are ripe for abuse, and the answer is always the same: sue. If someone causes you harm through abuse of “the system,” you system their ass right back. This is what the civil court system is for: keeping such abuse in check and providing compensation when abuse does occur.

A better argument

Just stop talking. Seriously, it’s painful to watch you flounder like this. Just…just stop. Please.

Ergo, Strategic Misanthropy is going to be live and well on this day. I will gladly change my tune if someone can prove to me that there really is something deeply objectionable going on here, but to date I have not seen any compelling evidence. I’m not saying I hope these bills pass, but I do hope those in rabid opposition check their premises. By the way, picking up a legal dictionary once in a while would help with that. Just saying.

Chip chip cheerio,

S. Misanthrope

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Resolved: Fuck Resolutions

Every year I'm baffled by the practice of new year's resolutions, the only resolutions less powerful than those produced by the United Nations Security Council. Everyone makes them, breaks them, and makes them anew the following year, and we all subconsciously agree to pretend this is a healthy practice. America is the country of self-actualization, after all.

Thus I urge my dear readers to do away with all this pretense. Resolutions can go to hell. Or, if you must make them, make them on January 2nd, or February 8th, or some other random day that lacks the pomp and false-hope of January 1st. Resolve it like you mean it and, more importantly, when you mean it.

Of course you're still going to need some 2012 Statement of Self-Improvement to blab about when your coworkers are talking about what radically better people they will surely become this year. The next time a friend, coworker, relative, or homeless person asks you what your new year's resolution is, may I humbly suggest you reply with one of the following [Note: these are the actual, true resolutions of your very own S. Misanthrope. Every. Single. Year.]:

RESOLVED: Drink more.

RESOLVED: Party more.

RESOLVED: Be meaner to children.

RESOLVED: Use more paper products. Use them as if your worth as a human at the Last Judgment will be measured in trees you helped destroy. Throw them in the regular trash, not compost or recycling.

RESOLVED: Try something illegal, addictive, and/or socially unacceptable that you haven't tried before.

RESOLVED: Play more video games.

RESOLVED: Buy more pointless things, for instance helicopters that do battle with lasers [Author's Note: Check and check.]

RESOLVED: Get angry more often. Unleash your fury on those who deserve it, FEDEX!

RESOLVED: Stop writing this post and go do real work.

Happy New Year,

S. Misanthrope