July 20, 2010
The only people who think we’re racist are those worthless niggers. How dare you call me racist! “Racist” is just a label that anti-White people like to use to try and silence anyone such as myself from exercising freedom of speech on racial issues. It’s not like I hate black people because they’re black. I just don’t want them in my country because they’re naturally inferior. How can you possibly call that racist?
July 18, 2010
I’m under no illusion
As to what I meant to you
But you made an impression
Sometimes I still feel the bruise
-The Mountain Goats, «Sometimes I Still Feel The Bruise»
Let me try something different, and actually personal. I’ve just written this late at night after a not terribly great day and with little or no editing. It may or may not change tomorrow.
It was a few months less than two years ago now that a girl I suddenly found myself in a conversation with invited me to a Halloween party hosted by a friend of hers, which I gladly accepted. After that, we would hang out semi-regularly.
We didn’t really have much in common. I’m a geeky intellectual, she was… well, not a great thinker, and she knows that perfectly well herself. Nor did we have any great mutual interests. But I didn’t care, for my part. I don’t need to have something in common with someone in order to like them. For me, it was enough that she had simply said hi, and spoken to me without running away.
After we started hanging out, she told me that she had been trying to attract my attention for weeks (we had a class together every Thursday) before inviting me to that party, but that my oblivious self had not taken any hints. I wonder if this has happened a lot. I’m always lonely, and always have been, and as a result have no social graces and no idea of the signs and hints people transmit by anything other than sheer explicit language. And then a nice person comes and tells me so, right to my face. It was a shock.
On occasion she would tell me that I was weird and hard to relate to, that I was exhausting to be around. I was overjoyed to hear this. I loved that she didn’t go out of her way to lie to me in such a non-constructive fashion, as people usually do. And she stuck around, and kept talking to me week after week, whereas most people I meet appear to enjoy my presence long enough to suggest making plans for getting together and hanging out later, get my number and give me their, and then the next day goes into hiding to avoid ever having to say another word to me again. I mean, that’s the norm for me. I’m told other guys, when they ask girls out, dread the prospect of getting a rejection. I would love to get a rejection. When I ask a girl out, she disappears off the face of the earth. I honestly don’t think I’m quite so monstrously repulsive to deserve that. But I digress. The point is, I liked this girl because she was actually willing to tell me what she thought about me, even the bad stuff. At the very least, it gave me some idea why people respond to me the way they do, even if it wasn’t readily apparent what I could possibly do to change it. And of course because, in spite of my flaws, she was actually willing to tolerate my presence over a longer period of time than, well, any other girl before or since.
Then last year, in the winter (which is to say january or february, not this winter), I got very depressed and sullen and withdrawn, as happens every winter and is beyond my ability to change… and evidently the same thing happened to her. She stopped talking to me much. We didn’t hang out. My messages were answered with brief, curt replies that did not encourage further conversation. After a while I, in a wintery mood, wrote off the whole friendship, removed her from my various contacts lists, and stopped sending messages. I firmly believed that she wouldn’t even notice. I put the whole thing out of mind and went about my days as best I could.
After a week or two she sent a message asking why I had gone so quiet. I was genuinely surprised that my pessimism had been proven wrong. I attempted to explain my reasoning to her, telling her that we did not in fact seem to share any common interests or common anything at all, and that I generally had very little to say that was of interest to her and that, as she had admitted herself, I am difficult to be around, so maybe we should just drop the whole friendship.
Her response to this was this: «stop being so dramatic.» And then we chatted and hung out again. In the spring I went to her birthday party dressed as the phantom of the opera, and read aloud a very short text I had written as a present (not to her, but to her friend with a birthday close to hers, which they were celebrating jointly, but to whom I had not bought anything; thus I had written a tiny text in a great rush in the four hours before I went to the party), and everyone loved it. It was possibly the most fun party I’d ever been to.
She invited me out to places, and we hung out. I got her British chocolates when I visited London, which she had especially requested. I lent her a few books for a class she was taking that I had already done. One time I sat down with her on the one day she had any time to spare and we edited a paper of hers that had been rejected by her teacher, from start to finish, in one sitting.
In the middle of May, we went out to a bar, and had our last conversation. There was nothing, in hindsight, that stood out as odd about that conversation. She invited me to join her a few days later for a barbeque, and we did, although we didn’t talk much then.
It was at the end of May I realized she hadn’t said anything to me since then, or answered any messages I sent her. And when I then bumped into her in person, and watched her walk away without a word, it was hard to miss.
She never spoke to me again. I would try talking to her for many months to come, never receiving an answer. She hadn’t disappeared: she still went to school, and on a few occasions I bumped into her on the way from one building to another, and she practically turned and ran when she saw me, giving no facial indication that she had ever known me. She never spoke, which includes, of course, never giving me any indication why, after six to eight months of friendship, she apparently had decided that I was not worth ever interacting with ever again. I continued trying until late in the fall before I finally gave up entirely.
Mysteries stick in the mind. Like an open sore that refused to heal, it was always fresh, always painful. I spent months scrupulously poring over every memory, searching for something that could possibly explain it, some moment where things had gone wrong, but I found nothing. If there was a reason, she refused to say what it was. And in so doing, forbade me from learning from it, to not repeat it in the future. And in the end, the only way I could manage to put it aside was to tell myself that at the end she was everything I had thought she was not, everything I had liked her for not being. I told myself that she was a mean, spiteful, callous, cowardly bitch.
Yet even so.
She reached out to me when no-one else did and gave me a chance, and when I lost faith in her she proved me wrong.
I never forget my friends.
Cow gave birth and her calves are snow white
They huddle up close together at night.
And the mamma cow leans down and cleans her young.
Licking their faces with her tongue,
And unmarked airplanes buzz the air.
And you’re falling off that cliff somewhere in California –
Which I’ve never seen.
I put the pieces all together, but I don’t know what they mean,
And day is breaking over cobscook bay.
And I’ve never seen anything like it in my life
-The Mountain Goats, «Cobscook Bay».
July 17, 2010
Scott Brown, who you will recall was the first teabagger Senator, elected by Republicans this spring to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s seat from Massachussetts (reputedly the most liberal state in the union). He won over one Martha Coakley, who ran a horrible campaign that seemed like she didn’t even take it seriously, and in so doing ushered in the new age of Republican obstruction by giving them a filibuster-capable 41 seats in the Senate. But Massachussetts remains a liberal state, and Brown goes up for re-election in 2012. He was never going to hold that seat if he adhered to the party line, so the question was: would he sacrifice himself to strengthen his party for a few years, or would he look out for his own career and moderate himself? And it was always a given that any deviation from the party line would have him excommunicated by the teabaggers who elected him. And that’s exactly what happened: the other day he voted in favor of financial regulation reform, which passed with 60 votes in the Senate, and now his facebook page is flooded with people who can’t see any difference between 98% teabagger and 0% teabagger. It’s 100% or nothing. So don’t expect him to hold that seat come november 2012.
July 17, 2010
I’ve been too absorbed by my book projects and by Australian politics (of which more soon) to pay a lot of attention to the forthcoming US elections, but it seems to be widely projected that the Republicans could regain control of the House of Representatives. What surprises me is that no-one has drawn the obvious inference as to what will follow, namely a shutdown of the US government.
It seems obvious to me that a shutdown will happen – the Republicans of today are both more extreme and more disciplined than last time they were in a position to shut down the government, and they did it then. And they hate Obama at least as much now as they hated Clinton in 1995 (maybe not quite as much as they hated him by 2000, but they are getting there faster this time).
July 16, 2010
I kept meaning to write in recent days, but frankly all week the blogosphere has been even more depressing than normal. First there was this uplifting story about how people are mindless and democracy is a sham (which brought to mind this column by Paul Krugman from two weeks ago):
Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.
Then there was this disgusting race-terrorism in Utah. Then there’s the fact that it still looks like Republicans have a very good chance of taking back the house of representatives this November (if that happens expect to see no legislation pass whatsoever except for crazy Republican conspiracy theories that can get Joe Lieberman’s support in the Senate, and expect Obama’s impeachment proceedings to begin by February first). There’s the fact that Democrats are still working hard to prevent anyone from being even remotely pleased with their work, and to push as much pain and hardship as possible onto those least fit to handle it.
In short, I feel like this. And then I read this incredibly insulting, patronizing, belittling and astonishingly ignorant article and I want to throw up.
July 11, 2010
As is usual in these situations, Blizzard was swamped by the massive outcry against their plan to remove all locks from the houses and apartments of Blizzard City so that all the users can walk around and get to know each other better, and decided to rethink the idea. But do they mean it? As is also predictable, there may be some ambiguity to the company’s newest statement. As Penny Arcade’s Tycho said, “You should be careful about any kind of celebration, though: the third paragraph tells you why. They’re still tying incredibly useful Battle.net functionality to it, so this is the Public Relations equivalent of Aikido.”
“There are no girls on the internet”
-old internet joke.
Sometimes, big companies with lots of users on the internet get it into their head that they want to do more with their huge membership, and take a more active part in improving their lives. This does not always work out well.
This spring, Google unveiled Google Buzz, a service that would connect the many, many users of Google’s many various applications, like Gmail, in a social network. This took the form of grabbing lots of people’s private personal information and making it available by default to a large audience, and a massive uproar ensued, prominently led by this blog post by an affected user, that quickly forced Google to change the specifics of Buzz’s functionality. They couldn’t understand it; they had only wanted to bring people together. But they did not realize the possibility that some of the people who would be thus brought together would be, say, abusers and their past victims currently living in hiding under assumed names, whose Gmail accounts remembered having been in touch a long time previously, or anti-government protesters in repressive dictatorships and secret police. Good job, Google.
Obviously there’s a crapload of literature on the blogosphere about privacy issues on the internet, and going through it all could take forever. But since I consider it my little job to make my non-blogosphere-savvy friends aware of these issues, I’m going to go through a fair amount of it now. If you read Harriet J’s blog post you’ll also see the issue that women are especially targeted by vile commentary online. This seminal article on the subject from three years ago retains its force. Over at Penny Arcade, the videogame culture hub, they pithily described the phenomenon of online vileness years ago with their Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.
Google is not the only large company to screw up. Facebook, with its hundreds of millions of users across the globe, has been oft-criticized for weakening their users’ privacy control over time, changing the privacy settings to make it possible to hide fewer things, and switching all user info to public by default, forcing you to go back in and change everything just to get it back the way you already had it. Facebook, like Google, just wants to improve people’s lives by making everyone more open and social, even if they have to do it against your will and remove your ability to control your own info.
This debate has been going on all year. Which is what makes it so bizarre that some companies have apparently learned nothing, and want to follow in Google and Facebook’s self-destructive and backlash-inciting footsteps. Blizzard Entertainment, makers of the hugely popular World of Warcraft MMO and the upcoming Starcraft 2, is working with Facebook to leverage their millions of players into yet another social network, and as part of the move want to remove all anonymity from their game forums and applications. In the near future, if you post on any of the Blizzard forums, your real name will appear on your post, and there’s nothing you can do about it. One of their stated reasons is to counteract the Greater Internet Fuckwad effect of anonymity, and I have been somewhat troubled to see that so many people think it’s a good idea. Joystiq, the videogame news blog, wrote about this, and the comment section was filled with people stating their support for this decision… all of them posting anonymously. But happily a great many people are speaking out in protest.
PZ Myers, the atheism-and-biology-blogger, also has an interest in internet society (not to mention a huge geek reader base), and wrote two posts on the subject, with links to other posts talking about these issues. But the best response so far has to be this comment to a small post on Metafilter, which lays out the dangers of this kind of privacy invasion at length and in detail, and gives us generic males who are not liable to suffer much a very good insight into the plight of those who are not part of our hegemony. Go read it.
July 1, 2010
Now I feel like a lying son of a bitch.