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The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "The Ferrett" journal:

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July 22nd, 2016
10:35 am

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#NotAllFedoras: On MRAs and Fedora Biases.

(This essay was written to raise funds for @Catlaughing; FetLife user @ThoughtMonster donated, and as their topic chose “In Defense of the Fedora.” If you’d like me to write 500-750 words on the topic of your choice, there’s still two slots open; this one, I thought was interesting enough to cross-post to my Real Blog.)

The fedora has, unfortunately, become the stylistic choice of a generation of asshats. All those guys who absorb the pick-up artist manuals for women and proceed to use them to treat women as some sort of vending machine for sex, where you manipulate the controls until the sex comes sliding out?

They have decided that fedoras are The Bomb.

I wear fedoras. (Or, more accurately, fedoras and trilbies, since trilbies go better with my funny head shape, but sadly no one ever knows the difference but hat aficionados.) I wear them because I look damn good in them.

Without that hat, all you’d see would be a bald spot and a funny-shaped head. The hat helps give definition to my face. I wear it because it’s an assistant to a doughy physiognomy, which helps me to look prettier. I do not wear the hat because I wish to attract women with my blatant peacocking, but because it makes me feel good to wear a fedora.

Anyway, when I approach you, I promise I don’t have any pick-up lines ready, nor do I have a couple of negs ready to unload to undermine your self-esteem enough that you might be willing to sleep with me to impress me. I promise you I don’t work like that. I promise you not every asshole wearing a fedora thinks like that.

But my other promise is this: I promise not to get too upset if you lump me in with those clowns.

Look, how the hell would you have any way of knowing who I am? It’s not information that can be magically transmitted to you. No, all you have to judge me at first is by what I wear – and unfortunately, a lot of really irritating and slimy dudes have chosen, without even checking with me, to don the fedora as their outfit of choice.

Now, if you’ve run into enough of these bozos that you’ve come to associate me with them, well, it hurts… but I feel that a lot of my hurt should be directed at the people who are making me look bad. You have been, sadly, the victim of enough bad behavior from these fedora-wearing choads that I think it’s piling hurt on top of hurt to get pissy at you when yeah, five out of the last seven guys who had this outfit tried real hard to sleep with you. Maybe even tried to work you over, emotionally or physically, to get in your pants.

Me telling you, “You shouldn’t judge me by this hat that other assholes wear!” is, in fact, a way of saying, “You should lower your defense mechanisms for my convenience!” And if your hard-earned personal wisdom includes the direct experience that “Dudes in fedoras are likely to be creepsters,” well, then, I get why the shields went up.

Because I have my own biases! Me, I’m suspicious of old white guys in suits, because every time I see some asshole on television screwing over poor people, it’s some old white guy in a suit. I’m not saying it’s right to exclude white guys in suits from your parties because they might be self-centered Republicans, nor would it be right to pull them over in cars on suspicion of banking fraud just because they’re old, white, and driving a nice Maserati.

What I am saying that if your personal experience – and I stress “personal” experience, not as in “I’ve seen those bankers destroying our economy on NPR’s website!” experience – is that whenever you’ve seen some guy in a fedora, he’s been about to slobber all over you, I’m going to try not to take it personally when you initially respond to my behatted self with trepidation.

Yet at the same time, you have to realize there’s a balance between personal experience, media experience, and legitimate bias. Because somewhere, there’s a dude who got mugged three times by Hispanics, and now treats every Hispanic as a thief-in-waiting….

And then that guy told his story, which confirmed to someone else that “All Hispanics are thieves,” and then that guy told enough people so the cops started profiling Hispanics because shit, they’re gonna cause trouble, and then next thing you know there’s real legitimate discrimination.

It’s complex. I do not want to tell you to ignore the experience of your own senses to put you at risk of abuse by asshole pick-up artists in hats. But I do want to tell you, “If your assumptions about guys in fedoras comes mainly from reading articles that other people have written instead of actually talking to guys in fedoras,” well, keep in mind that you’re working with second-hand evidence, even if you trust the people who wrote those articles implicitly.

The people you trust implicitly have their own biases, and you’re at the biggest risk from importing them.

Because the way legitimate discrimination works is that people shorthand and amplify – “I got mugged by Hispanics” turns into “Hispanics mug everybody who looks like me” turns into an unquestioned assumption that guys who look a certain way (because not every Hispanic has the brown skin and the mustache and the cholo outfit) are all criminals and should be shunned.

The world is complex, so people make shortcuts. And the best way to fight those shortcuts is to recognize that the shortcut is not the person. If you choose not to talk to me because I look like some slimy MRA asshole, that’s fine, but then don’t conclude that I am a slimy MRA asshole. Don’t use a time when you didn’t interact with me at all to reinforce your personal experiences.

Because somewhere, a black guy in a sketchy neighborhood is walking past a white person’s car, and that person is mashing the “lock” button to protect themselves. And there’s two ways you can do that:

“I don’t know this guy’s motivation, but I’m not prepared to take the risk right now.”

Versus:

“You see that guy? Total mugger. I just locked him out. God, this neighborhood is terrible.”

In the first, you acknowledge your own potential bias, keep a watch on it, and allow for the introduction of new data.

In the second, your bias has just confirmed itself, even though nothing actually happened.

For me personally, the fedora-bias isn’t a big whoop. Occasionally some feminist leaves a comment assuming that because I wear a fedora, I must be a Men’s Rights Advocate who sneers at consent – which proves that nobody’s free of stupidity. And it means that some women are less likely to sleep with me, but since I don’t see “getting fucked” as a right I was denied, but rather as an activity I am obliged to convince partners is as good for them as I’d like it to be for me, that’s no big loss.

And, you know, I believe the “Not all men” argument is insidious bullshit. Not all Waffle Houses are altars of food poisoning, but if you get sick enough times you start skipping Waffle House to go to Bob Evans. Not every Waffle House has to guarantee you diarrhea before you say, “You know, I’d rather not.” You should have a right to make your own decisions on what’s safe.

But at the same time, with every right comes a responsibility, and the responsibility for “choosing your own dangers” should be “recognizing the potential for internalizing other people’s misinformation and treating them as fact.”

You don’t have to hug every fedora-wearer. You don’t even have to be particularly nice to them.

You just have to go, “I don’t know, and I’m unwilling to take the risk, but that doesn’t mean I’m right.”

That is, I think, the best you can do in the real world.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/548808.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(7 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

July 21st, 2016
10:17 am

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I’m Still Live-Writing My Newest Novel For Charity. Won’t You Donate?

So if you’ll recall, I promised to live-write the start of my latest novel-in-progress, The Song That Shapes The World, to help raise funder for the Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop.  The Song That Shapes The World is, as you’ll recall, “Pitch Perfect with magic battles,” in which I promise:

 

Ever since then, I’ve been battling technological glitches and recalcitrant novel starts to explain not just what I wrote, but why it works – or, in this case, mostly why what I wrote doesn’t work, since I’ve had a lot of false starts on this novel.  But if you’re a writer, seeing me explain why this perfectly-lovely scene has to go is, in a way, a lot more interesting than watching someone do it right.

But I still need your help!

Because this live-writing has been so delayed (and because of some major revelations about the book I just had), I’m going to go crazy and do this for two months instead of one.  But I’m still doing it to raise funds!  So remember:

Step #1: Donate at least $10 to the Clarion Foundation.  More is good if you can spare it.  You don’t have to donate in my name or anything, because honestly, their Write-a-Thon webpage forms are dreadful.

Step #2: If you don’t already have one, create a LiveJournal account.  Rejoice in this feeling of web page time-travel, as one suspects there’s not a lot of new LJ accounts created!

Step #3: Email theferrett@theferrett.com with your Clarion receipt and your LiveJournal handle, with a header of “HEY FERRETT LET ME IN.”  I’ll do the mystical LJ gestures to get you access.

(NOTE: Because my outgoing email currently will not let me send, I’ll probably have to contact you through LJ.  This is suboptimal.)

Step #4: Watch me figure out how to introduce you to Gwendolyn, the protagonist, and how she’s sucked through to Backstage, the mystical world-behind-worlds that influences all other civilizations with the cataclysmic Battle of the Bands.

Step #5: Share this post if ya can!

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/548483.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(2 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

July 20th, 2016
10:56 am

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“I Thought Democrats LOVED Plagiarism!”

I have what I call an Facebook Idiot Conservative Friend.  He’s a warm, reasonable guy when you can sit him down for a few beers – but put him on Facebook and suddenly he goes on wild, irrational benders where he rants about what “all liberals” do, even though I don’t do it and I’m right there, man.

A lot of his liberal friends have stopped talking to him on Facebook.  Can’t blame ’em.  It’s pretty hard when you’re saying “Hey, uh, I’m a liberal and I’ve told you on several occasions I don’t actually believe that” and he’s ignoring you the friend in order to score a political point about What Them Scurrilous Liberals do.

Me?  I listen to him rant, and usually don’t engage.  He’s a good bellwether for what the Republicans are mad about today, for good or for ill.

Yesterday, though, he made a doozy of a dipsy post, where he linked this article on Joe Biden’s 1987 plagiarism with the comment:

“I remember when Democrats thought plagiarism was A-OK! Two thumbs up!”

And this is, sadly, a standard tactic of my Facebook Idiot Conservative Friend: whenever the Democrats criticize a conservative for doing something bad – in this case, Melania Trump’s ham-handed stealing of Michelle Obama’s speech on integrity – he’ll haul out a time a Demmycrat did that as proof that Democrats have no ethics.

Except whenever he does it, it’s a crappy comparison.  Lemme break it down.

Point #1: Yes, Joe Biden Plagiarized A Speech.  But Democrats Didn’t Give Him A Thumbs-Up For It.
My Facebook Idiot Conservative Friend – FICF for short – has implied that we actually were for Joe Biden’s plagiarism.  But what does the article he himself links to say?

For Joe Biden, his plagiarisation of a speech delivered by Neil Kinnock, then Labour leader, helped put pay to his own campaign to win the Democrats’ presidential nomination more than 20 years ago.

What turns out was that in 1988, Biden actually had several instances of minor plagiarism, which his speechwriter took the blame for, but it was too late – not that Biden was leading in the polls at that point, but the accusations were enough to sour Democratic voters on him.  He withdrew, in mild disgrace.

So for for FICF to frame it as “We thought it was A-OK” when, in fact, voters chose not to elect Biden largely on the basis of accusations of plagiarization, is an idiotic thing to say.  Clearly, it wasn’t okay.  He spent years humiliated by that, deeply regretting not saying “Like Kinnock,” and didn’t run for President again for twenty years.

Erasing that controversy is every bit as bullshit as saying “Conservatives think Trump is A-OK!”  A lot of them do, it’s true – but that erases the people walking out on the RNC this very week, the people who are crossing lines, the New Republic writing an entire issue to try to stop Trump.  Trump may win, but it’s awfully hard to say that conservatives were thrilled with him – most major figures seem to be moving backwards, trying not to get his taint on them. They may not fight him as hard as you’d like, but it’s not like this is a thundrous roar of united glee, either.

Rewriting internal controversy into harmonious applause is the most puerile kind of propaganda.

Point #2: Not Every Scandal Should Be Met With Lifelong Expulsion.
After I pointed out that Biden’s plagiarization ended his Presidential campaign so badly he didn’t try again until after two decades, my FICF’s even-Facebookier-Idiot-Conservative friends began pointing out that “Well, you people rewarded Joe Biden with a Vice-Presidential position!”

Well, yes.

After twenty years of him not plagiarizing people any more.

If he’d started quoting Reagan during his stump speeches in 2007, I’d betcha thousands that Crazy Unca Joe would have have crashed and burned again.

At which point the FICs blurted, “Well, you didn’t hold him accountable!”

For what?

I personally was not saying that Donald Trump should divorce Melania immediately, as this blatant plagiarism is proof she’s not fit to be the First Lady.  I think she made a stupid, callow error that shows that Trump and his campaign aren’t terribly bright – as witness this New York Times article showing how the Trumps ignored their speechwriters and subverted the anti-plagiarism-checking software that every major campaign runs their speeches through these days – but I don’t think it means that Melania Trump should never show her face in politics again.

I think it means she should be a) roundly mocked in the press for an error that should have been easily foreseen, b) apologize for the incident, and c) not do something that dumb again.

You know; what Biden did.

And this ham-handed cut and copy affects the Trump family’s chances of winning the election, well, that’s also what happened to Biden, and I’m fine with that.

As a writer, plagiarism cuts into my own wallet.  I despise it.  But unlike the Facebook Idiot Conservatives, I don’t think the proper answer to every scandal is “ETERNAL EXILE.”  Sometimes, I think the proper answer is “You learn a valuable lesson about how plagiarization brings you a lot of headlines you didn’t want, and then you don’t ever do that again.”

(Or maybe not.  The very next day, the Trump kids took full credit for writing a speech that someone else ghost-wrote for them, but I doubt that’ll matter as much.)

Point #3: “We Accepted That This Politician Did That Once” Is Not The Same As “We Enthusiastically Endorse This Behavior.”  
At which point the Facebook Idiot Conservatives swarming around my FICF like remoras started saying, “Well, you voted for him!  You knew he plagiarized!  So you must love plagiarization!”

To which I asked my conservative friend:

“Does a vote from you for a politician mean that you then not only approve of, but heartily endorse, every action they have ever undertaken?”

“If so, please provide a list of the politicians you’ve voted for, I’ll crowdsource a list of unseemly things they’ve all done – for all politicians have – and see whether you can pass your own test.

“Hint: you know you can’t.”

I note that my friend, at that point, acknowledged that “Ah, they all do it.”  Because ultimately, he’s a sane guy; he just likes ranting on Facebook, and I suspect it’s a lot easier for him to spew vitriol online about what the liberals do than it is to handle the nuance I’ve seen him deal with in real life.

Because the truth is, you don’t get a major politician without a few scandals in their closet.  You don’t get a politician who doesn’t have a few issues you disagree with.

If the only person you’ll vote for is someone who a) holds 100% of your positions and b) has never had a scandal, you will never ever vote.

As such, it’s blatant bullshit to claim that “a vote for $Politician is an enthusiastic support for everything they’ve ever done.”  I’m not thrilled with Hillary’s weak record on Wall Street, but it’s her or Trump.  I wasn’t thrilled at the way Obama elevated drone strikes to a murderous art form, but in 2012 it was that or lose Obamacare.

Every vote is a compromise.

Every vote involves holding your nose a little.

That is, in fact, politics.

And trying to recast every vote for a politician as a hearty endorsement of every action of their entire career is a game no one’s winning.  I could go through and pull up all the crappy things that McCain and Dubya and HW and even sainted Reagan did, stuff that my FICF would go, “Yeah, well, fuck, that wasn’t good, even if I voted for them” –

And I could hold it up and go, “See?  You like this!  You voted for this!  You love this!” but that would be a bullshit game designed to erase the complexities of politics and turn us all into Evil or Good people, depending on what aspect we’d want to highlight.

(Though thank God I never lived in Massachusetts.  I like to think I’d have had a hell of a time pulling the lever for ol’ Ted Kennedy, who drove a woman off a bridge, left her to drown, then didn’t tell anyone for nine hours.  That would have been a hell of a pill to swallow.)

The truth is, in politics, you never get what you want.  Not entirely.  And you never get a politician who you don’t cringe a bit at – or if you do, they’re nonelectable.  (And if you BernieBros don’t think Bernie didn’t have some scandals boiling, think again – Hillary didn’t dare touch them for alienating you, and the Republicans didn’t mention them because oh my God they were so hoping to break these open once Bernie was the official candidate.)

Yeah.  We vote for people who’ve done shitty things.  It doesn’t mean we like the shitty things.  It means we like the shittier things the other guy is going to do even less.

And casting past sins as an excuse for today’s sins is even shittier.  Yeah, Joe Biden did a crappy thing.  I don’t like that.  I never did.  If he still did that today, I’d agree that he deserves the crappy headlines that Melania is getting – maybe even more so, because he’s a career politician and Melania is not used to the political stage.

But to phrase it as though “Democrats thought it was okay?”  Wrong for so many reasons.  That logic’s divisive, and I don’t like it when my liberal friends do it to my conservative friends either.

Look.  You have to bear the burdens for the main platforms of your party.  Think Obama’s economic policies are  wrecking the country?  Yeah, well, I’m complict in that, because I voted for the man.  Not happy about the way trans folk are getting the screw these days?  If you’re voting Republican, you’ve got that ick on your hands.

Vote for Trump because you want to see what happens?  You are complicit in what happens.

But the idea that somehow you can vote for a politician and never get your hands grimy, well, that’s an illusion.

The idea that every misstep should be met with endless banishment from any level of government, well, that’s also an illusion.  People make mistakes and, hopefully, learn.

The idea that you can erase moments of great controversy at the time to twist it into a roar of approval, all so you can score points on The Other Side on Facebook?

Crappy as hell, no matter who’s doing it.  And I dislike the way Facebook makes people so eager to score points against sides that their own friends are on, erasing the very pointed concerns they have about “Yeah, I’m voting this way in this election but I have these concerns and I wish there were better solutions to vote for” into “THAT’S WHAT YOOOOOUUUU DO!  ALL OF YOU!”

I think it’s crappy because it swallows up that thin slice of common ground we might somehow stand on, and casts us all as US vs THEM.

Whereas some of us agree with some of them.

Maybe we could do something about that, if people weren’t trying so hard to be very clever on Facebook.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/548312.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(9 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

July 18th, 2016
12:32 pm

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Hawking My Books At A Never-Ending Funeral, or: How It Feels Promoting Fix In 2016

So in 2015, I published my first book, Flex, and that was hella-exciting.  Debut novels are easy to push – people have never seen you before!  You’re showing up new at the ball!  People are happy to give you, the debut author, a guest slot in their blog or a review because this is your first!

Then six months later I had The Flux came out, and that was still pretty exciteamundo because Flex still had a lot of momentum, and there were still blogs and podcasts I hadn’t hit in the first tilt-a-whirl go-round of Flex PR.

(NOTE: At one point, Angry Robot said, “Since your first book got delayed, we want to publish your second book be six months after your first.  I went, “Are you crazy? That will make people think I can write a book every six months!”  And they were not crazy; I was so totally, utterly, wrong.  If you can publish a new, quality book every six months, or even faster, do.  Momentum counts.)

So here we are, with Fix coming out in six weeks, and this one is really hard to promote for two reasons:

  1.  It’s the third book in a series.  Admittedly, it’s the final one in a series, and it’s designed to be read as a standalone, but it’s always harder to sell, say, Rocky III or The Amityville Horror III because it’s just not as exciting.  Maybe the new installment is exciting, but now it’s a continuing saga, and you either liked Rocky or the Amityville Horror or you didn’t, so it’s hard to get new eyeballs in through the door.
  2. The news is an absolute, unending, toilet-clogged shitshow.

#2 is much more relevant than #1.

I mean, at this point last year, I felt like it was fine to joke a lot about BUY MAH BOOK and cajole people endlessly that BY THE WAY NETGALLEY HAS COPIES OF FIX FOR YOU REVIEWERS TO CHECK OUT and laugh out loud shilling this book, hey did you know you could preorder it?

But this year?

It feels like I’m hawking merchandise at a funeral.

HEY, MY BOOK FIX IS

*another black man killed*

YOU COULD TOTALLY BUY

*three cops shot dead*

THIS BOOK

*countries rioting in government overthrows*

OF MINE

*our own country led down the path of a psychopathic con-man who has a better chance of winning the election by the day*

And I really feel this strange urge to shut the fuck up, because frankly, there’s no good time to wedge in a mention of such an insignificant thing in between the school shootings and the protests and Britain spiralling down the hole.  Someone important has always died, and so it feels totally inappropriate at times to express the squee I feel at this new book getting out to market.

And the number of advance reviews are way down from the past two books, which is a shame because both my editor and my friends have called Fix their favorite book in the series…

But this is just part of the book game.  Any long-time writer will tell you there are things out of your control, and this is one of them.  It’s the third book in a series, and those are harder to get people excited about.  It’s a tumultuous news cycle, so getting that work out is harder.  Everyone knows you’ve gotta keep pushing forward, which is why it’s always about writing the next book so even if this one doesn’t do as well as you’d wanted, you’ve got that new book in the pipeline to tack your dreams to…

But still.  I’m spending time donating money to good causes, writing to my Congressmen and my mayor, researching how to vote in this next election.  I hope you are too.  And if that time spent making the world better means some of y’all aren’t in the mood to read about the deepest secrets of Valentine DiGriz, and how the Unimancers might actually be better for Aliyah than her father, and what happens to Paul when you take his daughter away from him, well, I get that.  I support that.

But see?  Even that felt scummy.  Write your politicians first, my friends.  The book can wait.

But yeah.  2016 is such a shitshow it just feels gruelling to even slide a mention that I have a book out in between the horrors of politics and the landslides of dead men, and I’d be surprised if other authors didn’t feel that too.

I know we’re supposed to believe that art is what saves us.  And art helps.  It really does.  But a lot of the times, art is just sort of crouched down, hoping that fascism and bullets don’t actually tear through our bones, and nobody likes hearing that but art didn’t stop Hitler, art didn’t stop Stalin, and art is just this thing that can blossom beautifully but all too often turns out to be these sad stems trampled underfoot when the bad men come.

Besides, this isn’t about art anyway.  The art has been done.  All the art I’ve had to render got put into Fix.  We are now into marketing mode, and if I don’t feel as much like marketing these days, well, I’m probably right to do that.

It’s just weird.  People are dying, and you should buy my book.

Hard to make a sale like that.

Hard to not feel like a total putz when you try to make that sale.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/547844.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(17 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

July 15th, 2016
10:49 am

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Living At Pokemon Go Speeds

This sounds like it’s about it’s a game, but it’s not.  It’s about the way the game exposes a phenomena.  So even if you don’t give a crap about Pikachu, please do me a favor and listen.

Anyway: Pokemon Go was released last Wednesday.

I heard about it on Thursday, when pictures of Pikachu sitting in people’s back yards flooded into Twitter.

By Saturday I’d downloaded it and captured Pokemon around downtown Cleveland.  We gave a few folks knowing nods, already recognizing the “Pokemon Go hand position” that you hold your cell phone to play.

By Sunday Pokemon Go was making headlines.

By Monday, we went out and found at least eight other people playing Pokemon in our sleepy little burg, and we talked brightly to each other.  Wasn’t this weird?  It was weird.  But cool!  We had so much in common!

By Tuesday morning, I heard about clever business people who’d attached lures to the Pokestops in front of their stores, which drew customers.  By Tuesday evening, my friend Eric told me he was researching whether he could place Lures at his conventions.

By Wednesday, we went down to the mall and Pokemon Go was no longer an unusual activity.  Everyone was there to play Pokemon Go – the people who didn’t have their phones out and the by-now-mandatory recharge cord sticking out of their pocket were the exception.  And the friendly nods of Monday had been replaced by shrugs, because this was no longer cool or interesting, it was just what we did.  

Now check that out: Seven days, and we’d gone from “Never heard of it” to “Everyone is doing it.”  But it got worse.

By Thursday, we expected all the business Pokestops to have lures.  That was just standard practice.  Hillary Clinton was already making Pokemon Go jokes in that hesitating way the elderly discuss “the Facebook.”

By Friday morning, my feed was clogged with Pokemon Go thinkpieces asking, “Haven’t we had enough Pokemon Go?”

Nine days, and we had crested a complete wave from “This thing has never existed” to “This thing is so big that Presidential candidates feel the urge to reference it” to significant chunks of the population saying “God, this is played.”

I have a friend who’s in the hospital right now; she had a brain bleed last Thursday night, went into the hospital on Friday.  She’s okay, thankfully, but I can’t stop thinking that this is some parody version of Rick Grimes waking up in his hospital on The Walking Dead – arising from her coma to go, “Wait, when did Pokemon Go become just something that people did?”

And ya know, if you’re in the hospital for brain problems, waking to find everyone casually doing something you didn’t remember last week has to be a little worrisome.

When I grew up – which was, admittedly, in the dinosaur days before the Internet – nationwide crazes took months to catch on.  Star Wars was as big as it gets, but it had a premiere in May of 1977 – a well-attended premiere – but then word of mouth moved slowly in those days, as did theaters.  Star Wars, like every nation-changing phenomenon, was a glacial juggernaut, because movies often stayed in theaters for three to six months at a time with filled houses, drawing in people who’d never see it via Bittorrent or DVD or HBO.

I try to imagine the new Ghostbusters still drawing crowds to theaters in November, and it’s never going to happen. Even if it’s the best movie ever, people rush out to see them quickly and then they fade.  There’s a speed that gets us out there.

We’ve sped up.  Which is fine for entertainment.  Hey, Pokemon Go speeds are fine for videogames and movies and phone-booth-stuffing and whatever other trivial things we feel like whipping out.

But then we expect everyone to live at Pokemon Go speeds, and that’s pretty much inhuman.

I’ve seen major chains get yelled at because some store of theirs out in Futtbuck, Montana did something  intensely sexist/racist/otherwise stupid, and it’s gotten 50,000 Tumblr reshares, and why hasn’t this business done anything about this by now, don’t they care?

And I’m like, “That Tumblr post was posted nine hours ago.  At eleven o’clock at night.  When people were fucking sleeping.  And the people of this company got to their offices, logged into email, started to see something they were just aware of, and now they have to verify this awful thing isn’t some Photoshopped hoax, and get the regional manager out there to interview to see who did what and when, verify who’s responsible, and discuss a legally-correct punitive measure that’s not going to get them sued.”

Not everything acts on Pokemon Go time, and expecting that speed leads to you buying into lies.  Because a news that operates at Pokemon Go speed is a news that’s cribbing from whatever source it can get, and that leads to manipulation and horrendous smears that everyone knows, and believes.

Like, you know, the former Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron.  If Americans know him, it’s because he’s the guy who fucked a pig.  The story broke a few months ago: he was in a frat initiation, and he put his cock in a dead pig’s mouth, and ever since then there’s been a rampant stream of jokes about “This little piggy went to market” and “YOU FUCKED A PIG THE WAY YOU FUCKED BRITAIN WITH BREXIT” and so forth.

Except that never happened.  To quote this story:

Then, after a full day of online merriment, something shocking happened. Isabel Oakeshott, the Daily Mail journalist who had co-written the biography with Lord Ashcroft, a billionaire businessman, went on TV and admitted that she did not know whether her huge, scandalous scoop was even true. Pressed to provide evidence for the sensational claim, Oakeshott admitted she had none.

“We couldn’t get to the bottom of that source’s allegations,” she said on Channel 4 News. “So we merely reported the account that the source gave us … We don’t say whether we believe it to be true.” In other words, there was no evidence that the prime minister of the United Kingdom had once “inserted a private part of his anatomy” into the mouth of a dead pig – a story reported in dozens of newspapers and repeated in millions of tweets and Facebook updates, which many people presumably still believe to be true today.

Oakeshott went even further to absolve herself of any journalistic responsibility: “It’s up to other people to decide whether they give it any credibility or not,” she concluded. This was not, of course, the first time that outlandish claims were published on the basis of flimsy evidence, but this was an unusually brazen defence. It seemed that journalists were no longer required to believe their own stories to be true, nor, apparently, did they need to provide evidence. Instead it was up to the reader – who does not even know the identity of the source – to make up their own mind. But based on what? Gut instinct, intuition, mood?

In other words, she took an unsourced allegation, gave it to the Internet, and the Internet moved at Pokemon Go speed.  Was it true?  We didn’t have time to investigate, or fact-check; someone said it was true, and so we went with it.

Hell, I said it was true.  Why?  Because newspapers were reporting it.  I assumed, foolishly, that newspapers wouldn’t report something that was false – but I forgot how Pokemon Go speed is warping business models.

Because if everyone else on the Internet is saying something and you, the news source, are not confirming or denying it until you’ve determined whether it’s true, then you’re missing out on the precious clicks that fuel your coffers.  So you compromise.  You post a piece saying that “Everyone’s saying” this, the lie that Donald Trump slithers by on, and don’t bother to say in big letters that THIS IS UNCONFIRMED because the story is not whether he actually fucked a pig, the story is the allegations of him fucking a pig, but for some strange and ephemeral reason the words fucking a pig are the ones that stick in people’s minds.

If the truth comes out later, well, the fact that someone didn’t fuck a pig is way less interesting, so that never grabs people.

And we have rushed, with great speed, to a false conclusion, and never looked back.

The problem is that speed – or, rather, the assumption that this speed is necessary.  When Nice was bombed last night, we had thousands of folks on Twitter demanding to know what was happening by the minute, making crazy predictions about who did this before the last dying heart had stopped beating, everyone grabbing their hoary old stories of why these terrorists had attacked and tacking on their preferred narrative before a single fact could enter.

And I repeat: Pokemon Go speeds are fun.  It was super-fun to go down to the mall and find a group of people doing something unique in human history.  It’s fun to watch this story spread, and mutate, and see all the weird things Augmented Reality encourages humans to do when it’s mashed with actual, you know, reality.

But actual news cannot, and should not, move at Pokemon Go speed.  Sometimes good investigations take months of careful digging to get out the facts, cultivating news sources, discarding false leads, determining the story is bigger than this immediate scoop – the movie Spotlight has an excellent analysis of why a big story may not break at Pokemon Go speeds.

And I understand that news agencies can’t not report, because ultimately their primary goal is report what people want to hear, not what people need to hear – otherwise, they go broke, for all their lofty aspirations to responsibility – but I wish that news sources would draw a distinction.  To say “This is Pokemon Go-sped news, you should probably take it with about 80% skepticism, we’re going to deliver the real news in a week when we’ve had the chance to interview people, so chomp down on these news Cheetos until we can deliver you the rich, nutritious meal you deserve.”  And they’d repeat that every fifteen minutes, and put it at a big block at the top of every Pokemon Go-sped news page.

But they won’t.  Why?  Because you want your news at Pokemon Go speeds, just like you want your justice delivered at Pokemon Go speeds, just like you want your outrage delivered at Pokemon Go speeds.

And what I am suggesting – no, actually, I’m telling you – is that as long as you’re demanding people act at Pokemon Go speeds, you’re also demanding they rush to unwise conclusions based on sketchy facts perpetrated by unknown sources.

Slow down.

Wait a little.

Stop thinking you should get everything at convenience speed.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/547704.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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July 14th, 2016
10:26 am

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How Real Cocks Work: A Tutorial.

A real cock comes on command. A real cock never provides you with that embarrassing moment where you’re trying hard to orgasm, but can’t quite get there in time, so your partner’s on their knees foreeeeever waiting for you to ejaculate.

Real cocks never get almost close enough for you to come, so much so that your chest is heaving and your heart is pounding, and then coast up to the edge of sweet release before going “NOPE” and leaving you to have to start all fucking over again.

Real cocks never come too soon. Premature ejaculation’s for teenagers and the inexperienced.

Real cocks switch on hard whenever you want them and stay trembling stiff for as long as you need them to. A real cock never requires you to jerk off for a little between positions to keep your groove in. Real cocks never lose their erection while you’re fumbling the condom on. Real cocks never have problems with the loss of sensation from the condom, even though yes condoms are brutally necessary, come on, stop being a jerk like that and trying to spread STIs.

Real cocks are tied directly to desire. When you’re turned on, a real cock is hard. When you’re not interested, a real cock is soft. A real cock never has a moment where it’s stiff and you look down and go “What the fuck, why are you hard, I wasn’t even paying attention to you!” A real cock never has a moment where you think, “Wow, buddy, every other part of my body is into this, would you mind joining me?”

Real cocks have one level of hardness: rock. Real cocks never have varying levels of hardness, some of which may be inadequate for the job, where trying to work this 70% stiffy into a recalcitrant asshole is like trying to stuff a marshmallow into a parking meter.

Real cocks are all eight inches. Minimum.

Real cocks are all perfectly straight. No bends or curves. Just this divining rod of erection.

Real cocks all bulge real good. Real cocks never require you to say, “I’m a grower, not a shower!” Real cocks are like 80% of a full erection at all times, pushing out through any underwear like a peacock’s plumage to show all the penis-loving people “PENIS, HEY, GOTCHER HOT PENIS HERE.”

Real cocks are pretty amazing.

Man, I wish I had a real cock.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/547531.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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July 13th, 2016
10:14 am

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The Complete List Of Obvious Pokemon Go Story Cliches, So You Don’t Have To Write Them.

As a former slush reader, I can tell you that lots of writers get their ideas from the news.  Right now, Pokemon Go is in all the headlines, and so every science-fiction and fantasy writer is writing a story that’s a spin on Pokemon Go.

Don’t make that spin obvious.  It’s going to be a lot harder to get your story published if it’s got the same plot we’ve seen six times this week.  And I can tell you from experience that in the months to come, magazines will see tons of stories with the following plotlines:

A Pokemon Go-style game is an evil plot designed to lure humans to their de –

What?

Kris Straub did it?

pokemon_gone

Well, I think my point’s been made.  If you want to be published – and I love it whenever a new writer gets published! – you’re going to have to work harder than the first ideas that come to mind.

But if you want more examples of the obvious twists slush readers will be seeing a lot of in the near future:

A lonely/abused child discovers his Pokemon Go-style capture is a real actual talking friend, and their new magical buddy humiliates and/or beats up the meanest character in the story.

A Pokemon Go-style game turns out to be the work of leprechauns (or fairies, or whatever) wanting to teach humans to accept finding magical creatures everywhere. 

A Pokemon Go-style game turns out to be the work of evil demons using the game to teach children in the secret ways of HATRED, even though honestly most of the people I’ve seen playing Pokemon Go personally have been in their early twenties.  

Pokemon Go-style creatures have real thoughts, and their own desires when humans aren’t looking, and yet none of them seem to realize this is the plot of Toy Story!   

A Pokemon Go-style game alienates a boy from his friends and he learns the amazing power of books.

Civilization has collapsed because every last human was playing Pokemon Go and nobody else mystically did anything, so now we’re all crawling through the ruins looking for Pikachu.  (Optional variant: A Very Smart Person tries to warn person about the dangers of a Pokemon Go-style game, and is ignored, and everyone is soooo foolish!  For extra chunky in your salsa, combine that with Pokemon Go-style games are the work of evil aliens and/or demons!)

A boy is sucked into the world of Pokemon Go, and now HE is the one who must be caught, and learns a valuable lesson about cruelty to animals.  

Maybe WE are all living in a virtual videogame, did you ever think of that?  Cooooool.

Pokemon Go-style… rape.  Someone will do it.  Someone always wants to tell the rape story.  Nobody ever buys them.

Pokemon Go-style characters comment about how silly the lives of humans are!  (We don’t have an actual plot here, just Squirtle making Seinfeld-style observations.)

A Pokemon Go-style game is a secret test by mysterious aliens to prove who really has the guts to catch them all.  (Although, you know, Ernie Cline got paid millions for that plot, so maybe you can do it too!)

I don’t mean to scorn, writers.  I bring up Ernie Cline at the end because if you write well enough, you can put a good spin on the hoariest concept.  But slush readers are going to be seeing a lot of stories like this, and even if you’re writing the best possible spin on this, an overworked slush reader may write you off because you sound too much like the last seven stories they’ve heard on this.

There’s good ideas for Pokemon Go out there.  Be inspired!  But be next-level inspired.  Think of an idea, and wonder if anyone else has thought of it, and take it to the next level.  Maybe the Pokemon Go AI has become sentient, and it doesn’t want to take over the planet or save a special child or make twee observations, so… what interesting things could it want?   Maybe the Pokemon Go changes society in fascinating ways – it already is – but that change is not as simplistic as “Pokemon Go leads us to the Rapture” or “Pokemon Go destroys civilization,” but rather has a subtle effect that leads to more unique story ideas than “save” or “break.”

You’ve got a good source material, here.  Now take it somewhere nobody but you is going to take it, write it, and submit it everywhere until, as they say in the Viable Paradise Workshop, “Until hell won’t have it!”

And good luck.

(But seriously, don’t write the “Pokemon Go is the lure of the devil” story.  Kris Straub’s done it.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/547125.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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08:56 am

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Ask Me Anything, Stressed Weasel Edition

So I had a pretty crappy day yesterday, what with a cavity and a gruellingly ignorant tech support experience:

So I’m doing my usual “I want to reach out to people but don’t want to write an essay to do it” trick of saying “Whaddaya wanna know about me?”  All serious questions are on the table, which is to say, questions you actually want to know the answer to: the answer to questions like “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?” is “You’re not nearly as clever as you think you and shouldn’t post in this thread,” which generally makes people sadder than they’d like to be.

But anything else: up for grabs.  Wanna know about the new novels?  Polyamory?  What’s happening with me and Pokemon Go?  My opinions on random news events?  I’m up for anything, because last night was so stressful all I had for dinner was cupcake frosting and Ativan, so g’wan, distract me.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/546833.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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July 12th, 2016
10:04 am

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Your Secret Dental Weapon: Waterpiks

I just went to the dentist, as I do every three months, because about seven years ago I lost ten of my front teeth.  Cue three years’ worth of agonizing, embarrassing gum implant surgery.

…I’m better now.

(And a little better this morning, because I had the strange reward of “going downtown to see the dentist” and finding how Poke-packed the dentist’s office was! Seven Pokestops within an amble of the receptionist’s desk!  Two new Pokemon, a Zubat and a Koffing!  The only thing that might make random doctor visits fun is, indeed, Pokemon!)

Anyway, because of this, hoo boy am I familiar with dental hygiene!  And if you’re slack on your own teeth, I have some advice you need to know:

Get a Waterpik.

One Waterpik, even used improperly, beats the hell out of really good flossing.

Flossing requires a lot of knowledge, both in how to manipulate the string properly and in the personal topography of your mouth.  If you get the angle wrong, you don’t catch the plaque you need to.

A Waterpik, however, is basically pressure-washing your mouth – it requires no particular finesse, as you’re just flooding the spaces between your teeth with water.

I used to spend half an hour at each dental cleaning, being told I needed to be more careful as they scraped my teeth, me bleeding the whole time.  (I build up a lot of tartar.)  Now, post-Waterpik, I can be in and out in ten minutes, and at best my gums are a little red.

And it’s pretty quick, too.  Fill the tub with warm water (cold water hurts my gums), add a shot of Listerine to ensure that the bacteria get killed (and diluted, it doesn’t taste as awful as the direct stuff), and after about a minute you’re as squeaky clean as you can be.

So seriously.  If you’re looking to up your dental game so, I dunno, all your front teeth don’t have to be yanked out in a traumatizing surgery, get you a Waterpik.

Advice ends.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/546749.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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July 11th, 2016
10:10 am

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Pokemon Go: First Impressions Of A Game That’s Changing Everything.

1) I’ve had a lot of friends sniffing how Pokemon Go isn’t as good as Ingress (which is the game it’s literally based on), and I don’t think these folks understand how deeply a game’s theme affects your appreciation of it.

Take Magic: the Gathering, for instance.  I can give you a card that’s an Equipment:

Equipment
Equipped creature gets +1/+0.
Whenever equipped creature blocks or is blocked by a member of Faction X, destroy that creature. It can’t be regenerated.

And if you’re big into Magic, you’ll understand what that card does, but it’s not a particularly memorable card.  If you don’t understand Magic, it’s a bunch of random words.

But that’s not the real Magic card.

The real Magic card takes place in Innistrad, the Gothic horror plane overrun by werewolves and zombies, and the actual card is:

Wooden Stake – Equipment
Equipped creature gets +1/+0.
Whenever equipped creature blocks or is blocked by a Vampire, destroy that creature. It can’t be regenerated.

Suddenly, all those random statistics coalesce into a story.  It fits into your brain a lot easier.  It becomes a pleasure to see this card, even if you don’t think it’s a good card (it isn’t), because the flavor of the card conveys and reinforces rules.

And I played Ingress for a bit, and I just didn’t care.  The flavor was dead: oh, you’re the blue color or the green color.  There was some vague text in the game about one being the rebellious color, but functionally both sides were perfectly identical, so I forgot which side was which because it was meaningless: there was “my side” and “the other side.”  And I went around checking in places for a while, but my rewards were pretty much “Hey, you’re more blue, go blue,” and I wound up not caring.

Pokemon Go is saturated with flavor.  First off, collecting little cute animals?  A major upgrade, even if nothing else happens.  But these animals are also iconic, giving you the choice of finding a Pikachu or a Charizard, so the collectibles you get in the game are more desirable.  And you can photograph them in the places you got to share them with your friends, so it’s automatically more entertaining than pressing a button when you’re within thirty feet of some restaurant and getting random numbers added to a meaningless score.

Flavor matters.

And maybe Ingress got better once you got to a super high level, but the fact is that at the early levels, the rewards were not particularly well defined.  They were an equipment, not a wooden stake.

Making Pokemon Go a wooden stake is a major upgrade even if you change nothing else, and if you’re a game designer you ignore that flavor component at your peril.

2)  Pokemon Go is a super-popular videogame, yes, but what strikes me about it is how it takes a solitary pasttime and makes it visible.  I mean, millions of people were playing Call of Duty and Dragon Age when those came out, but they were seated in their living rooms.  Pokemon Go makes you go out and be seen.

In a way, it’s the most brilliant marketing ever.

3)  I suspect it will also be a real sea change for how games intersect with real life from now on.  Already we have people who’ve had their houses tagged as gyms complaining about the way random folks showing up makes them look like a drug dealer, and they have no effective way to “un-gym” themselves.  We’ve had a Pokemon Go player stumble over a dead body. We’ve had robbers setting up camp by Pokemon Go stations.  We’ve had businesses putting up signs that “Pokemon are for paying customers only.”

We’ve seen black dudes and white dudes bonding over Pokemon Go at three in the morning, and concerns that Pokemon Go could get black men in trouble, wandering suspiciously in white neighborhoods.

What I like about the game is that it encourages real-world exploring.  I live in the suburbs, and I’m pretty much all rat and bird creatures.  My friend Dave went to the woods this weekend, and he found all sorts of water Pokemon I’m unlikely to find here, and I got a little jealous – which, if you know how much I hate the outdoors, is a strange strange feeling for me indeed.  I like the idea that Pokemon Go rewards people for going to new places, and you’d be surprised just how little incentive people need to change their behavior.

We’ve never really seen what augmented reality does before, and this is going to have so many surprises – both good ones and bad ones.  It’s going to get more insane, just you wait.

4)  It’s also going to cause a run on external power packs.  This game chews through batteries like there’s no tomorrow.

5)  This game is both good and bad for your social life.  On the one hand, I like the way it encourages small talk between strangers – I know if I see a guy with his phone in the “Pokemon hunting” hand position, I can say, “Hey, what’s in the neighborhood?” and talk shop with him.  Given that the game also encourages me to get out, that’s lovely.

But it’s terrible for talks with friends.  I went for a walk with Gini yesterday, and every three minutes the game buzzed and we collected a Pokemon.  We kept going, “…as we were saying” until we realized that it’s hard to discuss anything but Pokemon while you’re playing Pokemon, because it snatches your attention away.

6)  The game itself is… okay.  Like most MMORPG variants, it rewards “time” over “skill,” which is to say that a guy who grinds a lot will be rewarded a lot more than a very talented person who only has a half-hour or two to put into the game.  And it’s annoyingly undocumented, as there’s all sorts of things the game doesn’t bother to make clear, like what you’re supposed to do at a gym or what the little footstep-meters next to the Pokemon mean.

(Forbes Magazine, of all sources, has some hints for you.)

However, the “catch ’em all” formula has worked for years, and I do feel an urge to catch all the possible Pokemon in my neighborhood.  I found a crab wandering on my neighbor’s lawn today.  I don’t know why he was there, but hey, I caught him.

Will this game have lasting value, or be a fad?  A bit of both, I think.  We’re watching the high tide crest as Pokemon Go eclipses Twitter in “number of active users” (in under a week!), but eventually it’ll subside as everyone’s tried it and levels up enough to decide hey, I’ve seen enough.

But Nintendo hasn’t unleashed everything.  Once we can start trading Pokemon, that’ll be a major change in how we interact.  And the mass-captures, where everyone assembles in a city at a given time to capture, say, a Mewtwo, will be legendary – and they’re coming, it was in the game trailer.

And with each of those changes, societal ramifications will also ripple.  What happens when you can trade Pokemon, so some enterprising robber sets up shop at a gym to force people to trade him their strongest Pokemon at gunpoint?  And then he sells them on the black market to other Pokemon users? What happens when a kid gets sick and someone decides the best way to cheer him up is to get everyone to trade him the world’s best Pokemon, making him a tremendous owner of massively overpowered artificial monsters?

This is a fascinating world, my friends.  Pokemon Go is gonna change it a lot.

Let’s see what happens.

Until then, anyone wanna go into the woods to get a Magikarp?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/546326.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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