Or at least my fellow passengers on the Lorelei, the steamboat that figures in Mark Siegel’s outstanding web comic, Sailor Twain.
I mean, just look at this. Here’s the first page.
Missives From the Reality-Based World
…they’d begin to realize that some things will always be misogynistic.
You’d be wrong.
Because if it doesn’t smell like a car air freshener, there’s no way I’m climbing inside it.
EDIT: This was apparently a mockup ad for a feminine hygiene product submitted for an award, that somehow got leaked to a legitimate ad site (Ads of the World) — see the comments. Evidently the actual owners of the actual product used in this mockup were incensed, and rightly so, by the misogynistic presentation.
Fair enough; it seems to me that removing the branding ought to take care of their issues, but I do believe I’ll take a moment to soapbox here.
1. Do not ever release anything — even for a contest (especially for a contest) — that might come back to bite you in the ass.
2. This trend I see among ad houses toward releasing ad mocks for competitions has to stop. Either be honest enough to submit real work, or stop pretending to be ballsy and cutting-edge for the sake of the contests.
And by the way, guys — really poor taste on the ad, mockup or no.
One of the more difficult parts about moving, for me at least, has always been the attrition. Deciding what’s going with me and what’s being donated — or, in some cases, simply pitched out — has always been more difficult than I think it should be.
Nowhere is this more obvious than with my book collection. It’ll come as a microscopic surprise that I have a fairly substantial library, probably 80% of which I’ve read. The rest is on the waiting list. When your library contains some 500 titles, that’s obviously a pretty big I’ll-get-to-it-soon stack.
Why on Earth would anyone even want that many books? I used to be asked that sometimes by classmates when I was in high school. (One even commented, in all seriousness, “I’ve never been so bored that I had to read.” It goes without saying that she and I never dated.)
To some extent, this is my father’s influence. I used to go into his study as a child and stare in utter, silent awe at the wall of books there. The collection showed a wide range of tastes, including literature, fantasy, and SF. The first time I read Dangerous Visions, I was about fourteen, and it was from his collection.1 DV was not the kind of book you’d normally think of a young teen reading, but that was how it went in my family. As long as it was a book, and wasn’t from a porn shop, there was no censorship.
27 Jan 2011 at 20:54
We will probably never fully understand just why Jared Loughner decided to do what he did1 on that day in Tucson. This should actually make us feel better about ourselves, when you think about it. I’d far rather be baffled by a spate of irrational killings than have a clue as to the reasoning behind them.2
This hasn’t stopped an immediate and intense response from quite a lot of people, in quite a few corners, each apparently trying to simultaneously absolve themselves of guilt while assigning it to others. Ironically, the argument about incendiary language in political discourse has itself become quite incendiary. So it goes.
Rather than seek to attach blame to one “side” or another,3 I’d like to discuss the language we use regularly in discussion of any kind, which is frequently over-the-top and improper for our purposes. By “improper” I do not necessarily mean insulting, offensive, and so on; instead, I simply mean the wrong set of words.
For example, many years ago, Hostess advertised their Twinkies and other baked candies as being “wholesome”. I believe I know what wholesome means, and it is not a word that I would apply to something made almost entirely of sugar and so pumped with preservatives that, assuming its packaging remains undamaged, it has an essentially infinite shelf life. Usage of the word wholesome is, here, improper. We might call Twinkies flavorful; we might call them convenient; we might call them tasty. We would be hard-pressed to defend calling them wholesome.
This is a good example of deceptive labeling. It could be argued that, since Twinkies do not contain cyanide, they are technically wholesome; however, wholesome is not a synonym for nonlethal. Using a word that is conventionally associated with healthy cheapens the value of that word, and robs it of effective meaning — particularly if that word is being used to describe something that, eaten in anything but extreme moderation, is in no way healthy at all.
19 Jan 2011 at 22:55
One time, many years ago, a monk was walking along in the forest. Suddenly a robber leapt out and demanded money, food, and so on. The monk, of course, had nothing to give; this infuriated the robber, who began ranting about all the travelers he’d beaten, how dangerous he was, etc. The monk listened, unfazed, for so long that eventually the robber became impressed. He wanted to know how the monk could be so apparently at ease in the face of such dire threat, when the robber himself — who was in a position of power — seemed unable to let go of his anger.
Eventually the robber confessed that stealing was an ingrained part of his personality. “Wherever I am, no matter who I’m with, when I see something, my urge is to steal it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s something I need; just to see someone possessing anything makes me want it for myself. I’ve actually tried to stop stealing, but I just can’t. I know I’ll be caught one day and executed, but I simply can’t help myself. Is there anything I can do to make it stop?”
The monk pondered for a moment. “When you get the urge to steal, simply be aware of it,” he said.
The robber blinked. “That’s all?”
“Yes, that’s all.”
Bemused, the robber parted ways with the monk.
A year or so later, they met up again on the road. The monk didn’t recognize his onetime adversary; the man had converted, and was now a monk as well — no longer a robber. “Somehow,” he said, “just being aware of my urge to steal helped it to fade and lose its power over me. How did you know it would work?”
The monk shrugged. “Every lust is a thought,” he said, and in that moment the former robber was enlightened.
These stories always seem to be about wandering monks. I don’t actually recall the full thread of this one, and I can’t seem to find the reference anywhere; the monk might have been Bodhidharma, who was the itinerant Buddhist that brought the practice to China.1 It really doesn’t matter what the particulars are, because the essence of the story is what I’m focusing on here.
08 Jan 2011 at 19:45
Hands up, everyone who’s seen Castaway, the movie with Tom Hanks about the guy who ends up stranded for years on a deserted island. That’s a lot of you — good.
If you recall, Hanks was on a delivery aircraft, something similar to DHL or FedEx. The plane crashed, and he was the only survivor. After the crash, he managed to make it to a small island in the middle of nowhere. He started going through the freight that washed ashore along with him, looking for anything that could help him survive. Among many things, he found a volleyball, of the Wilson brand. That volleyball turned out to be one of the most significant elements to the story, to his survival, and — I think — became a fascinating enquiry into the nature of mind.
What began happening, you may remember, was that he started talking to the volleyball. At first it was clearly something that made him feel foolish, but over time it became so regular that he was having lengthy, complicated conversations with Wilson. Rationally, we can recognize just how weird such behavior is — after all, if someone started acting that way at the office, treating a pencil sharpener as a personal confidante, we’d quickly become worried about his sanity — but in the case of one person stranded in total isolation, it might seem a bit more sensible.
We’re social animals. In one form or another, we like human contact. Sometimes the contact isn’t what we’d prefer, but by and large it’s something we need on a psychological and emotional level. One of the worst punishments that a prisoner can be subjected to is solitary confinement; we even punish our children with time-outs, isolating them briefly from interaction with all others. People locked into sensory deprivation tanks actually begin hallucinating after less than an hour, partly because the stimulus-hungry mind ends up all alone with itself and, lacking anything to keep itself occupied, it begins making things up.
So, in a mind left with total isolation and something that looks vaguely like a human face, it’s not difficult to imagine that face becoming more and more real.
A little while ago, I was a volunteer shopper for Code 3/Clothe the Kids (third year for me). This is a local charity that exists because of the combined efforts of the KPD, the KFD, the Kiwanis, and others. Disadvantaged kids are taken shopping for clothes by volunteer adults, who have a predetermined budget. The purpose is to ensure that the kids have some decent outfits without being subject to undue parental influence.
That latter requirement became clear in years past; originally, some parents would take the kids’ clothes, get a refund, and turn around and spend the money on cigarettes and booze (true story). The system is considerably less exploitable now, but attempts to work around the limits still get made, every year.
This year, “my” kid was a boy of about eight. It started off well; he seemed amiable and not particularly shy, and picked out some shirts, undies, shoes, and other necessities. Then came the moment all the kids love: The troll down the toy aisle.
The rules are fairly clear. The majority of the budget is to be spent on clothing, with only ten to fifteen dollars or so spent on the gewgaws. “My” kid, who seemed at first to have such a good operational grasp of the procedure, quickly lost track of what we were doing.
He wanted a Nerf dart gun, one of the high-end ones that ran about $40. Well, no, too expensive. All right then, how about this MP3 player? $30. No, sorry, still over the budget. Okay, well, here’s a radio-controlled Humvee. $40, and we’re back up to way over the line.
Back to the electronics, where he confided that his dad had asked that he pick up a CD boombox for his and his sister’s bedroom. In addition to the cost — yes, again over the allowance — it became clear that he was now operating under a parent’s instruction, which is a no-no for the shopping day.
I worked with him a little about budgets, explaining that the toy allowance was only so large. He could have one thing that was just that large, or two smaller things that, added together, were that large; or three littler things that added up, and so on. Explained in those terms, he seemed to get what I was saying, and made a counter-offer: If we put back some of the clothes, can we get the radio or the Humvee then?
Clever lad. He lacked foresight, but he understood the idea of bargaining.
23 Dec 2010 at 09:32
No, not John McCain — just one of his cheerleaders, old man Chuck Asay. Behold.
This cadre of old bigots can’t die off soon enough to suit me. Fortunately, Asay’s cretinous outlook is no longer relevant to the majority of Americans. That’s probably why he’s being such a prat, actually. He’s throwing a little tantrum because no one wants to play the game by his rules any more.
20 Dec 2010 at 23:18
In recent days, here in Arizona, there’s been discussion about privatization of prisons — hardly anything new — and state parks. The argument seems to be two-pronged: Private, for-profit industries tend to run efficiently; and by passing maintenance and facility costs off to companies, we’re able to free up funds in the tax budget which could be used for other things — or possibly not. In principle, taxes could simply be reduced instead.
To turn our attention to the latter argument first, Arizona has been cutting its state budget, steadily, for some time now. It’s cut so completely that recently, AHCCCS terminated paying for organ transplants and, incidentally, the lives of a few of its own citizens. (Death panel, indeed.) Large portions of state-mandated systems, such as the courts, have found themselves reduced to less than a bare-bones budget, with only a few officials being forced to handle the caseloads of entire counties.
We’ve also done away with rest stops, and for a while the DPS terminated its helicopter service in the Kingman area, essentially leaving all of Mohave County without any kind of aerial search-and-rescue or law-enforcement ability.
However, it’s worth noting that cutting these services has not, in fact, led to a reduction in taxes — so where has the money disappeared to? Is it really possible that the state is running at such a deficit that years of systematic budget and service cuts have had no effect at all on its operation? If so, it might be practical to suggest that no amount of budget cutting will actually do anything to keep the state’s balance in the black.
This conclusion seemingly leaves us with two choices: Raising taxes, or privatizing.
06 Dec 2010 at 22:01
The question of whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve in the US armed forces has been bandied about for years. You can always gauge how close we are to an election cycle by how often this topic surfaces; it’s one of those things — as with flag burning or posting the Decalogue in public places — that’s sure to get people riled. When people get riled, they tend to vote.
The current policy, charmingly called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, came into being during the Clinton years. It was seen as a sort of compromise at the time, but for those who wanted the ban lifted entirely on sexual orientation, it was difficult to see exactly where the compromise was. Succinctly, during enlistment, you used to be asked, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a practicing homosexual?“1 Now, they don’t ask. You don’t have to tell. That was the compromise.
The other side of the policy is that if a soldier later reveals a nonheterosexual orientation, he or she can be tried under court martial and issued a discharge, because homosexual behavior is against the military code of conduct. However, even revealing the presence of a lover, while remaining celibate when away from that person, is also grounds for discharge. The subtle message is that merely thinking about engaging in homosexual conduct is against the rules. Freedom of thought is thus quashed. This seems unreasonable in almost any light, and arguably goes against the spirit of our national founders’ intent.
Chuck Asay is one of those old-timey white guys who has more than outlived his usefulness to the planet. Born in 1942, he’s the direct beneficiary of most of the social-support systems that were erected during his youth, those same systems he wants to see dismantled now in the name of “conservatism” and — probably — that odious variety of pseudo-libertarianism which is really just a thin veneer of legitimacy masking a rapacious, pig-ignorant selfishness.
With his latest cartoon, though, he really pushed my buttons. Behold the quintessence of subhuman dipshittery contained in his “art”:
Okay, I’m afraid you’re going to have to tolerate a little gloating. I’m working on our annual report again — these things always end up being such massive projects for just a few pages of document — and this year I’m doing it as a journal or scrapbook. I’ve got these borders that look like pasted-in pages; I’ve got Polaroid frames; I even worked out a way to make images in those Polaroid frames look like actual Polaroid images, complete with variable color weirdness.
What else I have is all the text entered in a handwriting typeface called “Journal”. The problem with it is one endemic to all handwriting typefaces — the baseline is far too regular and the strokes too consistent for it to really look like handwriting.
One way to deal with that would be to hand-set the baseline shift and stroke attributes of each character, but I do not have that kind of time. Another way would be to create a nice OTF set that uses discretionary items to create variable text effects; but again, I don’t have the time to do that either.
What I do have, though, is a Mac, and AppleScript. Oh, and quite some experience writing code in a previous life.
That was how I was able to produce the results you see below in a nicely automatic fashion.
The script follows.
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