Archive | March 2016

Writing Thoughts 2: Description & Adverbs

notI hate adverbs.

At least in fiction, I hate adverbs, because they are often used out of place. Adverbs are the tools of weak writers who don’t know how to otherwise convey a story. Let’s take two paragraphs for example.

John was furious, and banged his fist on the desk. The force was so great that the handset fell from its place on his phone, but that was fine–he didn’t care, because the caller was on speaker. “Who in the hell do you think you are?” John shouted angrily and slammed the receiver back where it belonged–an empty gesture, but it made a lot of noise on the other end and made John feel a little better.

Just some bullshit I made up. What is John mad about? What did the caller say? What are they discussing? I don’t know, but, to be honest, I’d kinda like to find out. Anyway, there’s one adverb in that paragraph that doesn’t belong, that has no place being there, and that is there only as the tool of a weak and timid writer.

“Angrily” doesn’t belong, and many, many writers have a habit of following each “dialogue verb” with an adverb, to let us know how the person said it. But let’s remove the word “angrily” and see if it becomes any harder to understand.

John was furious, and banged his fist on the desk. The force was so great that the handset fell from its place on his phone, but that was fine–he didn’t care, because the caller was on speaker. “Who in the hell do you think you are?” John shouted and slammed the receiver back where it belonged–an empty gesture, but it made a lot of noise on the other end and made John feel a little better.

Was there ever any doubt that John shouted that angrily? Did any reader out there think that John might have shouted it happily or joyously or jokingly? The opening sentence is a little abrupt for my taste, but I did that for a reason. It’s a single paragraph–in a single paragraph, it’s going to be very difficult to both set the emotional tone and have dialogue. In a typical work of [good] fiction, the preceding paragraph would set the emotional tone, leaving us able to omit “…was furious, and…” from the sentence. Since there’s no preceding paragraph to use John’s actions to convey his anger, it was necessary in order to explain why he’s banging his fist on the desk.

Of course, we could also set the emotional tone afterward, and have this as the opening paragraph of the story, couldn’t we? Yes, but that wouldn’t be advisable. Once this paragraph has been read, it has happened in the mind of the reader, and the reader already has an image in their head of how the scene happened. If you go adding context to scenes that have already happened, you’re effectively retconning the image in the reader’s mind, and that’s not a good idea–it will become hard for the reader to trust the author over time.

But what does John look like? What does the desk look like? What color is the phone? What does John’s voice sound like? Is John in an office? What color is the rug? Is there a rug? Is there a window behind his desk, or a bookcase?

I could certainly write a few paragraphs detailing John’s office, but… why should I? I didn’t even have to write that John is in an office, and yet 99% of the people reading that paragraph will picture John in an office. They will have, in their mind, their own idea of what that office looks like. My image of John’s office has a large window, with the blinds pulled down and the setting sun casting its orange-red light into the room through the blinds, and the office is filled with the smoke of John’s cigarette. Does that resemble your office?

If I start describing the office, I force my idea of the office into your head, and it takes time to do that. How completely do I want you to see my image of John’s office? Does it matter if you have a bookcase where I have blinds and a window? Does it matter if I have plaques and college degrees where you have pictures of his family? Probably not. If some of these details are critical to the story–perhaps someone is going to aim a lasered scope through the window in an attempt to assassinate John, at which point the presence of a window and its position would become very important–then they should be included, but if they aren’t critical, then why not let the reader keep the reader’s image of the office?

When I told you about John shouting into the speakerphone, it was no longer just my story–it was your story, too. It was an experience we had together; it was an experience that we shared. Your image of John and his office are every bit as valid as my image of John and his office. For just a brief moment, I conveyed something, across untold miles and unguessed amounts of time, directly from my mind to yours. And from the seeds I planted, you grew your own garden–it is your garden. That is your John, your John’s office.

Patronizing, insulting laughter echoed from the speaker. Then with his thick accent and gruff, cracking voice, Dmitri said, “I am the one who knows your secret.”

I initially had, “with his thick Eastern European accent and gruff, cracking voice, Dmitri said…” but then I realized–there was no need to point out that he’s Eastern European. Even if that is critical to the story (and it looks like it will be), with a name like “Dmitri,” he’s not exactly French, you know, or Iranian. We can always return to it later and talk about Dmitri’s teenage years in Ukraine and how he stumbled across this secret in Minsk, Belarus. How Dmitri is a good person, but he learned this dangerous secret, and spent the next five years being chased all over the world by John’s people (unbeknownst to John), until finally he’d had enough and decided it was time to wield the secret to his advantage. All of this can be used to say that Dmitri speaks with an Eastern European accent. We could also just give him a last name that is also distinctly Eastern European; there are many ways to do it.

In the vast majority of my fiction, I stick with “said” as the verb to reference spoken dialogue, though I occasionally use words like “whispered,” “shouted,” and “screamed.” As much as I would hate seeing “Amy said loudly,” I’m totally fine with seeing “Amy screamed.” That’s a pretty large difference, isn’t it?

“Why won’t you leave me alone?” Amy said loudly.

“Why won’t you leave me alone?” Amy screamed.

An enormous difference, built solely from three words. I’m okay with words like “screamed” because they set the emotional tone actively–to scream is an action.But let’s not forget the bad writers who would say:

“Why won’t you leave me alone?” Amy screamed loudly.

Don’t pretend like you’ve never read something like that–bad writers are all over the place, and I’m sure you’ve read such a thing before. I know I have. This, of course, would be as opposed to screaming quietly? And screaming gently?

And whenever it’s possible for a verb to set the emotional tone, that’s fantastic. But be mindful of verb tones–one can’t ooze beauty, after all.Let’s look at the first example again, because I don’t think it was really necessary to point out so brazenly that John was furious, and it’s going to bother me if I don’t go back to that and look again.

John bashed his fist against the desk. The force was so great that the handset fell from its place on his phone, but that was fine–he didn’t care, because the caller was on speaker. “Who in the hell do you think you are?” John shouted and slammed the receiver back where it belonged–an empty gesture, but it made a lot of noise on the other end and made John feel a little better.

Ah, that’s better. See? It wasn’t necessary anyway to so awkwardly set the emotional tone. The reader has no doubt–John is not happily bashing his fist against the desk, after all. He’s not pounding the desk, which could be a celebratory gesture–he’s bashing his fist against the desk, which leaves no room for guessing: John is angry. If that wasn’t clear enough, he did it so hard that it knocked the receiver off its base.

This is, of course, the benefit of the second draft. It could be cleaned up further and refined more, but I don’t care to do it, because I’m not trying to present an example of a great piece of fiction. I’m trying to draw attention to the use of adverbs, descriptive verbs, and setting/character descriptions.

That Day.

I’m consciously aware that my life is pretty easy at the moment–I mean, relatively. That’s kind of depressing, but I’m speaking of being transgender. At the moment, I still work as a male, and generally just go to stores as a male. I very rarely go into public as a female, and then only to places that I know very well, or that are open to that sort of thing anyway, like a LGBT bar. It won’t always be this easy, though. There will come a time when I can’t pass as a male–my hair will be too long and feminine, my facial features (which are already changing subtly) will have changed too much, and I’ll have boobs that will be impossible to hide.

No matter what, there must come a day when the transgender person must cast aside the old shell and step back into the world. That will be difficult no matter what part of the country one is in, and I would certainly say that it will be substantially harder in Mississippi, but it’s never easy. In so many ways, it would have been easier to do this in high school, but I didn’t have that luxury. I envy those who did.

I regularly stop by a gas station and am on excellent terms with the people who work there. It’s one of those ones owned by Middle Eastern people, which means they’re probably Muslims and have much the same position on transgenderism that Christians have. I see these people as my male self every single day. What am I to do that morning when I wake, and it’s That Day–That Day when the shell has been shattered beyond repair, leaving the facade that was my male persona rotting in the past? Must I simply walk away from that store, never again to see those people? No amount of time could pass that they wouldn’t recognize me–people remember me. They always have.

I live just a few minutes from a general store that I go to a few times each week for miscellaneous things that I don’t get elsewhere. When I wake up That Day, will I simply never go to that store again? How could I? With the cashiers staring, their mouths agape, speechless and all of them thinking the same thing:

“What… the… fuck… Do we… Do we call the police?”

I have not yet had the luxury of even going clothes shopping. How can I, when my voice still needs so much work? How would the cashier at Rue21 react when I replied to her greeting, with my masculine voice that clearly marks me as “not quite simply a woman”? I’ve done most of my clothes shopping online, or with friends–then I have the excuse that the clothes aren’t for me, but for my friends. But there must come a day when I go to Rue21 as myself, or to TJ Maxx as myself–what shall I do on That Day?

That’s undoubtedly the hardest part, and I’m afraid–of course I’m afraid. Even if this wasn’t Mississippi, I would be afraid. I once made the analogy that it’s a bit like going to school after getting a new haircut, and the anxiety one feels the night before, totally convinced that other kids are going to laugh and say that it looks stupid. And they might–it’s always a real possibility that the haircut does look stupid. But this isn’t high school, and this is so much more than a haircut.

One day I will think nothing of it as I leave my house, get into my car, go to the store, and do everything I need to do as Aria. That day must come; that day is coming. It is, perhaps, approaching faster than I thought it would. But before I can do that–before that day comes that I am simply comfortable doing what I must do–the penny must drop. It is something I have put off–understandably so, as I’ve said, because it’s simply not reasonable to do such a thing until I have progressed further along this voice issue.

But I am not known for being a coward. Neither will I put that day off one sunrise longer than necessary.

But I will be afraid.

Easter Sucks

Easter is the day where Christians celebrate the zombification of Jesus Christ following his brutal torture and murder three days prior by pretending that a giant rabbit hides a bunch of eggs, and in families where the ideas are most twisted, basically serves as a second Santa Claus by leaving gifts and candy for the children.

Yep.

Mmhmm.

Perfect.

My family treats the Easter Bunny like Santa Claus, and the two are pretty much identical from the child’s view, except that the Easter Bunny is Santa Claus Lite and doesn’t leave nearly as much stuff. After waking up to a few toys and a fair bit of candy, my family usually has some minor function, during which the adults hide a bunch of eggs–including one Surprise Egg that contains money (usually $5)–in obvious places for the kids to find. Since the kids range in age from 1 to 7 years old, that kind of makes sense, but the whole thing has gotten really stupid.

My sister uses such holidays to show off how spoiled her kids are, by giving them an obscene amount of stuff at the family function, even though the vast majority of it would have been given better at home. One year, P. and C. gave their granddaughter an Xbox 360. The next Christmas, my sister gave her son a PS4. This was clearly something that she should have given him at their house, but no… She chose to give it at the family function, as well as about a dozen other toys. The end result was that her son still had 7 or 8 gifts left when everyone else was finished. It was obnoxious and embarrassing; I was genuinely embarrassed for what she had done, but she didn’t even see anything wrong with it.

It always amuses me when Christians–like the looney ones who support Ted Cruz (because Christians have it so hard in the U.S….)–talk about the War on Christmas. It’s like, “Oh, that religious holiday that just ate secular Thanksgiving and extends well after secular New Years because lazy dipshits don’t take down their decorations? There’s a war on the holiday which has a shopping season that now starts before Halloween? Well, whoever is waging war against it must be the most ineffectual army in the history of the human race, because Christmas gets bigger, longer, greedier, fatter, and more repulsive every year.”

I hate Christmas. You may have noticed.

I don’t mind Christmas, to be clear. I’m an atheist, though, so I have no interest in celebrating Christmas. It’s Xmas that I hate, and I hate that Christians don’t seem to realize that they are the ones waging war on Christmas, because it hasn’t been Christmas in decades. It’s been Xmas. The increasing secularization and commercialization of Christmas has rendered its religious aspects obsolete, and Christians themselves, as the majority group in the country, are undoubtedly responsible for this. It’s hilarious that Santa Claus himself is, in fact, the perfect symbol of what Christmas has become: a fat old man obsessed with things.

Of course, I’m borderline Buddhist in how I eschew materialism. I have everything I want. Anything that I don’t have, I can take or leave–I would buy other things if they were available, but I don’t care enough to pursue them. I have a guitar, a GNX3, a bad ass PC, a television, a surround sound system, a vehicle, and a place to stay–and two cats, friends, and a few people with whom I can enjoy myself. What the hell else do I need? Sure, I’d always like to buy another guitar–and I can’t wait until Gibson has their sale this June, since they’re selling Gibson Les Pauls (for one day only) for the price they were in the 60s. That’s correct. For one day this year, you can get a Gibson Les Paul for like $138. You know I’m getting one of those. Or I’m going to try to, at least. Odds are that I won’t be able to, because everyone and their sister will be trying to get one, leaving people like me, who have always wanted a Gibson but never was able or willing to pay $3000 for one, out in the cold. But c’est la vie.

“Money is the root of all evil,” people like to say. Well, as usual, people are wrong. Money isn’t the problem.

Desire is the root of all evil. Money is merely a symptom of desire. It’s not money that causes the problem; it’s people’s desire for money. To say money is the problem is short-sighted, but humans have a long history of confusing symptoms for illnesses. Another one is when people say that taking God out of school is what caused the moral decay of society. While I think they’re wrong in every way, even if they were right about things, they would be wrong about the order of events–according to their worldview, society’s morals would have to decay first before people would be willing to take their god out of school. See? I’ve actually gotten theists to agree with that statement, and I always love it when they do, because my next response is predictable:

“So your god doesn’t prevent moral decay, then, right?”

Gotta love how easy it is to back theists into a corner.

My boobs have been hurting the past few days. It’s difficult, though, because my nipples are pierced, and I’m never completely sure if they’re hurting because the bars have twisted (this is quite common) or if it’s because, you know, hormones are causing awesome things to happen. But I can say without doubt: no. My boobs are just starting to hurt. 😀

It saddens me to bounce up and down and have my bra just remain in place. Having some jiggle will be fantastic.

It’s the small things in life.

Cubed3 posted one of my articles that I submitted to them a few weeks ago (evidently, the senior editors have been more or less away), and it is with extreme dismay that I’ve observed they routinely replaced “while” with “whilst.” You’d almost think I was making it up, so coincidental is the timing of that. It really does bother me to see something with my name on it published with the word “whilst” repeated throughout, and that awful word even appears in the opening sentence now. I have to ask again: what does “whilst” do that “while” doesn’t?

The answer is still “nothing.” The sole difference is that “whilst” gives the illusion of what many mistaken people recognize as “professionalism,” when the reality is that the masses have merely confused professionalism with pretentiousness–in the same way they have confused symptoms with illnesses, as I said above. There is nothing professional about inserting superfluously pretentious language in the hopes that it lends the appearance of credibility.

My cats are laying a damn smackdown on each other. Rainbow is so fluffy it’s hard not to pet her. And I swear, this is a million dollar idea: invent some little cat shoes that function like Swiffer pads. Put them on your cats. Then get a laser pointer. Then laugh at them as they chase the laser and mop your floor for you.

It would be like a Franklinator, but funnier.

It would be like a Franklinator, but funnier.

Junglebunny likes climbing into my recliner with me and just kinda throwing himself at me. It’s really funny watching him do it, because that’s a pretty appropriate description of what he does. He just kinda… tosses himself at me, flips onto his side, and lays against me. There’s absolutely no dignity in it, which is strange for a cat. Rainbow, though, is full of that typical cat dignity.

It’s actually rather painful, how my boobies hurt. It’s not actually the pierced nipples that hurt, though–it’s the fatty, fleshy part underneath, which I think is a good thing. Pretty distracting, though. Still, I’m happy about it.

I’m going to hang out with this new chick I met this coming Friday, and she’s going to help me with my eyeshadow, which I’m really looking forward to. I’m terrible at doing my eyeshadow, and she went to cosmotology school. It occurred to me recently, though, when someone asked me about lotions and Vitamin E, that, in what may be the most ironic thing I’ve realized this month, if you have questions about makeup or skin products, then you’ll probably do a lot better to ask a transgender person than a GG. Because GG (genetic girls) get their information from their mothers–it’s all hand-me-down information, and a lot of it is based on old wives tales, or just is simply false (like 90% of claims regarding aloe vera). Transgender people, however, tend to get their information from reputable sources. My mother didn’t teach me about mascara, so when I wanted to learn about it, I went online and listened to a professional cosmotologist explain it and demonstrate it.

It’s just funny.

I Love Windows 10, But Not What It Stands For

Last year, Microsoft did something strange–they started giving away their latest Operating System. This raised a lot of warning alarms for people like me. “Why would Microsoft, who has always earned most of their money through sales of Windows, suddenly be giving away their breadmaker?”

It didn’t take long to figure out why, though–Microsoft saw it as an opportunity to basically become one of the free apps on the Google Play Store, or to become like the many websites on the Internet who use trackers to collect pseudonymous data about you and sell that information to advertisers. Microsoft is no longer selling an Operating System. They are selling you. You are their new product, not Windows 10.

This is one of the few places where I adamantly disagree with Jim Sterling, whose primary rise to fame appears to have been on YouTube with the Escapist, where he needed the ad revenue in order to be paid. He even made a video respectfully asking people to disable Adblock so that they could be paid, and I refused to do it. Because I’m not a commodity.

I long ago abandoned Google Chrome, because it became the same thing. It is infested with trackers and aggregators that collect pseudonymous information about you, and then sells that information to advertisers. You and your behavior become the product, the commodity; it’s no wonder they are giving the browser away! The more people who take it, the more information Google gets, and the more money they make by selling that info to advertisers. This is how the Internet works now. This is not a conspiracy theory or a tinfoil hat rant–this is real life, and really how it works.

Microsoft has now done the same thing, but they have even more clout, even more potential to collect information, because they hold the Operating System itself. Google has not stooped this low. If Android was doing this, the Android power users would abandon it in a heartbeat, but I still use Android. Trust me. For the time being, Android isn’t aggregating information on you. Samsung and your carrier might be, but Android itself is not.

I turned back to Firefox when I abandoned the unusable mess of unnecessary features that is Google Chrome, and quickly installed NoScript, Ghostery, and Adblock Plus. I haven’t seen an ad on the Internet in more than a year. Those few ads I do see, thanks to disabling Adblock on this site or another, are not targeted toward me, because none of the trackers are able to collect information from me: Ghostery (if you download it, get version 5.4.11–v6 is a mess) prevents it. NoScript prevents JavaScript and PHP from executing unless I specifically tell them to, and my web browsing experience is totally unlike what it was two years ago. Now, I control the experience. My web browsing is fast, secure, reliable, and robust. I would highly recommend people use Firefox in combination with NoScript, Ghostery, and Adblock Plus. Even ads in Youtube videos don’t exist with Adblock Plus, which is why Jim Sterling made the video that he did.

It’s not because I’m doing anything shady or illegal that I don’t want to be tracked. It’s just that… I don’t want to be tracked. Why would I be okay with someone constantly looking over my shoulder to see what I’m typing, what my interests are? It’s like being followed by a private investigator 24/7. Fuck that.

It’s even more insidious than that, though. It’s like one company hired the private investigator to find out everything about you so that the private investigator could sell that information to advertisers. They hide under the guise of “improving your experience.”

Like Microsoft 10’s Cortana, a digital assistant that, allegedly, would make things easy for the end user. But it won’t. Like Apple’s own Siri, the information isn’t processed locally; it sends the request to Microsoft’s servers, which process the request and send the results back to you. Just like that, “what you’re searching for” is in Microsoft’s hands, and you no longer have any control over what happens to that information. It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to see a problem with this, not when Microsoft has rejected your privacy rights in the past.

Then, they hid behind the idea that Hotmail is free, and the Terms of Use allow them to snoop email accounts. Does that sound kinda alarming? It should. Because now they’ve given you a free Operating System, and you can bet your ass that the Terms of Use allow them to snoop your activity.

I really like some of the features of Windows 10. The multiple desktops? Beautiful. I’m going to get tons of use out of that, and the same is true of Task View. Being able to right-click the Start Button to get access to all the admin/power user tools is beautiful and long overdue. No more clicking Start > Control Panel > Network & Sharing Center > Network Adapter Settings. Now it’s just right-click, Network Connections. Awesome. All of the features I need on a typical day to fix people’s computers–they’re all right there, simply by right-clicking.

I actually like the way that Metro was implemented, as well. Being able to use the categories to separate my games by type will be nice, though it will take me a while to dive into and configure that. And it’s unnecessary, since I launch most of my games through Steam anyway.

I hate that I still can’t create a shortcut to a particular folder on the taskbar, and I don’t understand why that’s such a complex thing to want. Vista allowed it, and it’s why Vista continues to be my favorite version of Windows. It started badly, primarily because it was being released on Windows XP hardware–512 MB of RAM and single-core CPUs that could never have handled it; Vista wasn’t to blame for that. Computer manufacturers were. And Microsoft, for underestimating how resource heavy Vista was.

All I want to be able to do is create a “Games” folder that contains about 20 other folders like “RPGs” and “FPSs” and “RTSs” and drag-and-drop the Games folder onto the taskbar. Then, when I want to play a game, I just have to click the icon, and it will take me right to the Games folder. But that’s impossible in Windows 7, 8, and 10. 7 used Libraries, and I had to make the Games folder a Library, and even then clicking the icon wouldn’t take me to a particular Library–it would take me to all the Libraries. 10 is about the same, except that whatever shortcut gets put there simply opens the File Explorer. Why is this simple thing impossible to accomplish now?

However, functionally, Windows 10 appears to do everything else right–I don’t have any other problems with it, and the multiple desktops (and excellent Task View) are clear improvements. The only issue is that Windows 10 doesn’t give a shit about your privacy. Because Microsoft can’t afford to care about your privacy.

Follow these guides to protect your privacy, and to tell Microsoft “I am not a commodity.”

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-configure-windows-10-to-protect-your-privacy-1716204024

http://www.cnet.com/how-to/windows-10-settings-menu-the-privacy-tab/

http://winaero.com/blog/how-to-disable-telemetry-and-data-collection-in-windows-10/   — especially this one. Be sure to restart your computer after changing the registry.

You can use Windows 10 and still protect your privacy; you can use Windows 10 while still refusing to be a commodity. I strongly suggest you do it, because the world has changed. We are now being bought and sold on a daily basis; we are the commodities of the future.

Ask yourself this question: Why would Microsoft give away an Operating System? PC users have long been accustomed to buying OSs; this isn’t mobile, where Operating Systems are expected to be free. Beyond that, what use could Windows possibly have for using geolocation? For one example, it would use that information with Microsoft’s Weather app to tell you the weather in your area. But wouldn’t someone who wants the weather use the awful, used-to-be-everywhere WeatherBug utility? Or simply google “weather <zip code>”?

Why has Microsoft, who has a long history of charging top dollar for its programs, suddenly included Mail, Calendar, People, Maps, Weather, Sports, News, TV, and all these other built-in apps that you canremove using Cccleaner, and given them away for free? Sure, there have always been a few bare essential tools–Calculator, Solitaire (which, as I hear, is no longer free), and even Outlook Express back in the day. But why these robust, seemingly-useful applications?

Because they provide an excuse to collect information about you, to sell to advertisers. And none of this data is anonymous, which is why we have the word pseudonymous now. You can be identified from this data. Researchers at MIT have proven it, and have done it. But even if you couldn’t be identified by it, why would someone be okay with having someone constantly looking over their shoulders saying, “Oh, you like football…?”

Do you really want your ads to be confined solely to things you’re interested in? Do you realize how difficult it makes it to try something new? If you’re interested in football, archery, and Game of Thrones, then you’ll see ads only related to these things (ideally–the technology isn’t that refined yet, but it will be). Maybe you’d like tennis, if only you were exposed to it. But in the future, you won’t be exposed to it unless you’ve already expressed an interest in it. Do you see how this could be a problem for society? For freedom and justice?

If you’re not interested in political matters, why would Google News suggest to you an article about how the NSA is illegally spying on us en masse? It wouldn’t. If you haven’t shown an interest in politics, then why would Google News suggest an article about Hillary and her private email server that unequivocally violated Federal Law and common sense? It wouldn’t. The information you receive becomes controlled, dictated not by the state, but by yourself. The state doesn’t have to control the media; you will bury your own head in the sand without even knowing it.

Fast forward fifty years, and you have a population that is the most ignorant to ever walk the Earth, and this is happening during the Age of Information. The sum of human knowledge is literally at our fingertips, and yet the average person is less educated than ever, compared to what is known. Facebook controls what you see–if you don’t like politics, Facebook won’t show you when your friends discuss the very important elections. Neither will Google, Microsoft, or Apple. You won’t know that we recently proved the existence of the Higgs Boson, or that we recently proved the existence of gravity waves, because you’ll never have shown an interest in learning about these things–because you never knew these things existed to be learned about, thanks to targeted advertising and these trackers.

We are blindly rushing toward this future. Despite all the connectivity we’ve invented, despite the wealth of information in the palms of our hands, and despite the countless ways we have to bring one another into our lives, we are wrapping ourselves in protective cocoons of ignorance, shutting out everyone else, and Keeping Up With the Kardashians while the world burns around us.

We must change. This is our world. This is OUR world. It’s time we took it back.

If you liked this rant, maybe you’d consider following me on Facebook, or following me on Twitter. If you really, really liked it, you may consider supporting me on Patreon–goal #1 is to migrate to www.shemalediary.com, and I am releasing a new weekly podcast series this week, so follow me on Facebook and Twitter to stay current on that! Thanks, and have a good day! 😀

 

The Deified Plums and Incorrigible Goats

If there’s anything that really bothers me and causes me to fret over the future of the United States, and the world as a whole, it is the Faux Progressivism that completely dominates western society, exonerating all that is Socialist and anti-Conservative while vilifying those who disagree and slandering them as racists, homophobes, Islamophobes, and misogynists.

This is particularly visible in the United States, where the Democrat Party is the party of hispanics, blacks, women, atheists, spiritualists, gays, and transgenders, while the Republican Party is the party of straight, white, Christian men. Battle lines were drawn, the Republican Party was painted as the party of narrow-minded WASPs, and the Democrat Party has spent the past twenty years talking condescendingly to and insulting Republicans.

People who know of my characteristics expect me to be a liberal, a Democrat. I despise Christianity–and religion in general. I’m young and college educated (my college degree is probably the possession of which I am most proud). I’m a transgender lesbian. I… probably should have led with that.

“What do you mean, you’re not a Democrat?” I can hear people shouting. “Clearly, you’re a Democrat!”

No… No, I’m not. I’m an anarchist, technically–or a Libertarian when I don’t feel like getting into the conversation that deeply. One thing I am not, though… is a Democrat.

I actually began as an ordinary Republican, born and raised under the teachings of my dad and grandmother; though I had broken from their religion, I had not been exposed to politics and to the issues long enough to have broken away from conservatism as a political policy. In 2004, just two months after my 18th birthday, I voted for George W. Bush, under the idea that we didn’t need to change Presidents just after going to war. By 2006, I adamantly regretted that choice, and I was among the many irate Americans who swept into office a Democratic Congress to restrain the hands of a wild President.

In 2008, I was a supporter of Hillary Clinton. Then I heard Obama speak on the news. To be honest, I was neither exhilarated nor inspired by the soothing voice and measured words of this man who would become the country’s first black president; I was terrified. His tone was filled with such assurance that I feared we were watching the rise of a dictator with charisma that would make David Karesh look like King Henry VIII. But this kneejerk reaction to the power of Obama’s oratory skills faded quickly, and I soon became a supporter.

Very shortly after, it became clear to my generation that we had been betrayed–again. Just as W. had betrayed us, so had Obama, who chose to keep none of the promises he made on his campaign trail. Among the dozens of important promises he made, the only one he kept was the abolition of torture, which, thank god, he did go through with. There is no excuse for torture, and no justification for it. Torture is the ultimate of evils and can never be exercised in pursuit of good. Torture, as an act of supreme evil, leads only to evil.

What was I to do, then? It was already natural to me to not care about race, sexual orientation, gender, and nationality, and these are major calling cards of the Republican Party. In late high school, I was captain of the Pro-Choice team in the Debate Club, as well. On social matters, I couldn’t have been more unlike Republicans, yet I also disagreed with this notion that it was the government’s responsibility to protect us from ourselves. Beyond that, the Democrat Party had just betrayed us–brazenly and without consequence. Never again could I support a party that had promised me so much, and yet delivered so little. Guantanamo Bay remains a prison, and there are still people there whose guilt has not been ascertained, because they have not been given trials. How the hell long does it take to organize a trial? Try these people or let them go.

Then, under the suggestion of a co-worker, I watched a “documentary” called Zeitgeist. While a great deal of Zeitgeist touts conspiracy theory as unequivocal fact (it alleges that it’s a fact that the American Government allowed Pearl Harbor to happen, but this is far from a fact; it alleges that Hitler burned down the Reichstag building, and this is far from a fact), much of the documentary is also reliable: all that it says about the Federal Reserve Bank is true.

Knowing about the Federal Reserve, of course, eventually led me to Ron Paul, the champion of the End the Fed rEVOLution. After having been betrayed by both political parties, Ron Paul was very much like a light in the darkness, shining gently far in the distance as a sultry wind carried the whisper “There is another way.”

I learned that for 27 years, Ron Paul had been saying and doing the same things, that his principles had never wavered, and that he was uniformly on the side of the people and liberty. For me, this was a perfect fit. Libertarianism combined individual responsibility with social liberalism–people can do whatever the hell they want, but people are also responsible for what they do. Such a common sense position.

But the attitude of the Faux Progressivism is that it’s bad to be responsible for yourself. Nowhere is this more clear than the Invincibility Mode that is being added to Star Fox Zero for Nintendo Wii U. “This isn’t right!” I, and people like me, said. “You have to reward people for putting in effort! You can’t just remove all the difficulty from a game like that.”

“You entitled babies!” we were told. “How dare you act like the fact that you put effort into it means you should be rewarded? So what if I don’t want to put in the effort? This means I shouldn’t get to enjoy the content?”

This is not a strawman. This is their actual argument; this is genuinely their position. We are entitled because we think effort should be rewarded. Despite believing that they should get everything without effort, they are not the ones being entitled… It’s maddening to watch it play out, because how do you explain to someone that a circle is round? How do you explain to someone that the sky is blue? How do you explain to someone who is acting entitled and screaming that you are acting entitled that they, in fact, are the ones acting entitled?

“I want my effort to be rewarded” is not an entitled statement to make. It is not elitism. It is not exclusivism. It is not an attempt to insult, disparage, or exclude people entirely.

“I want to see the whole game, even if I don’t feel like working for it” is among the most entitled things a person can say. I don’t think I could fathom a more entitled statement. And, briefly, to wrap up the conversation about video games, I’m fine with Invincibility Mode being included–but there must be a reward for not using it, or a punishment for using it. If a player uses Invincibility Mode, then they should be locked to the Easy Path, and should get the Bad Ending, with the game telling them at the end, “You did it! But to get the true ending, you have to play on a higher difficulty!”

Participation trophies are exactly why we have this attitude. “I want a trophy, but I don’t want to work hard and become the best pitcher.” “I want a trophy, but I don’t want to work hard and run the most yards in a season.” “I want a trophy, but I don’t want to have to practice and hit the most home runs.” Next thing you know, the kid who hit 82 home runs is getting the same trophy as the kid who laid in the grass eating bugs, and ten years later that bug-eating loser is on the Internet saying he wants to be able to complete games without putting in any effort.

But I’m entitled. Because I want to put in effort.

macky

I ate Wendy’s for lunch today. I’m not proud of it, but I was on-site at 9:00 this morning, and I didn’t leave the client’s until after 4:00, so I had to get something to eat. I ordered two cheesburgers and a chicken sandwich, because I always order from the dollar menu. It’s not like the $8 burger tastes any better than the $1 burger–it’s all garbage, disgusting, and terrible for you.

Anyway, I wasn’t paying any attention, and when I opened my bag to leave, there were only two sandwiches inside. So I stayed at the second window a moment. It took more than 2 minutes for the girl to come see what I wanted, though I happened to see that she knew I was there–she was just hoping that she could “pretend” not to see me, and that I would drive away and give up. Finally, though, she came to the window. I’d already checked my receipt, and, sure enough, the chicken sandwich didn’t get rung up.

“I also ordered a chicken sandwich,” I said, “but didn’t get one. So I need–”

The girl looked at the monitor overhead, and then turned back to me, shook her head, and said, “She ain’t charge you for it.”

Um… What? What does that have to do with anything? I didn’t ask whether or no I was charged for something I didn’t get. I said I needed something else. The correct response would have been “I’m sorry about that, we’ll get that ordered right away. You weren’t charged for it, however, so that will be $1.09.”

Instead, I had to say, “I still need it, so… I need to order it.”

It was clear that this whole thing was just a huge inconvenience to her, a hassle. She slinked away from the window, walking slow as fuck, and I simply drove off in exasperation.

Why am I talking about this?

Because these people want $15 an hour.

For that. For slapping that together. For making customers know it’s a hassle for them to fix their mistakes. For being too goddamned lazy to do it right the first time. For not paying attention when people place orders and not ringing up requested items, because I know for a fact I asked for a chicken sandwich. She was just fucking off on her phone or something and wasn’t paying attention.

It’s no wonder this girl was in her 30s and working the drive-thru at a Wendy’s. Anyone whose work ethic is so poor that the best they can muster up when a customer says “This isn’t correct” is a sneering “She ain’t charge you for it” doesn’t deserve to do anything else–and doesn’t even deserve to be employed. If you want to earn $15 an hour, then do $15/hour-quality work.

And that’s entitlement, through and through–fast food workers protesting and marching to have the Minimum Wage raised to $15/hour because they don’t want to college, or because they don’t want to give 110%, get promoted, and become a district manager. I was 18 when I got my first supervisor position. That’s not a fluke–it was because of a strong work ethic. When I lost my job at Domino’s…

I guess I’ll go ahead and tell that story now. Why not.

His name was Tom (that’s not his real name), and he was this black dude who I was friends with. In fact, for about two years he was my best friend. Is there any significance in the fact that he was black? Somewhat–there were pretty major cultural differences, but neither of us had a problem with the racial difference. I said racist things, he said racist things–it was fine, because neither of us took it seriously. How could I be racist? My best friend was a black guy. How could he be racist? His best friend was a white guy. We hung out damned near all the time, smoking weed, doing rolls, listening to A Perfect Circle, eating Xanax occasionally, some tabs here and there, sometimes candy flipping… It was great. I was 18, 19, and 20, so I was exactly the right age for that sort of thing, and it was fantastic. I wouldn’t change a thing.

But he was gay. And I didn’t know that.

At the time, I had absolutely no gaydar. I hadn’t ever even met a gay person, I didn’t think, and I wasn’t looking for or expecting anyone I knew to be gay. He did and said some weird things, and he really liked massaging my shoulders while we were rolling, but… we were rolling. I didn’t think anything about it.

Eventually, though, I realized he was gay, which wasn’t a problem–the problem was that he was in love with me. I tried to let him down gently by just explaining that I’m not into guys, that I’ve never been into guys, and that any rumors he’s heard didn’t have anything to do with me. I stopped hanging out with him, because he wasn’t willing to just let it go, and soon my then-girlfriend and I were living together in a nice little duplex in the city.

She was often bored, so she rode around with me while I took deliveries, and I loved the company. It was awesome. And I was the driver supervisor, so the only person who could bitch was the general manager, and he turned a blind eye to it because it wasn’t causing any problems. We just drove around, listening to music, holding hands, and talking. It was a great way to spend the evenings. And I’d often stop by the house to help her when she got stuck in Final Fantasy VII or some other game. We really did have a great relationship, and that remained true until I left her–and I’ll never understand why I left her, considering, but c’est la vie.

Anyway, I came out of the store one night to take a delivery, and there was Tom, shouting and yelling at her, threatening her, as she sat in the passenger seat, ignoring him. Hell no. I wasn’t going to allow that. I set the deliveries down calmly on the sidewalk and shouted, “Hey! You watch who the fuck you’re talking to. Don’t talk to her like that.”

He was on Xanax, and he attacked. I was ready, and we fought.

However…

I fought like it was a playground fight. I’d been in several fights before, because I know where my lines are, and I don’t let anyone cross them. Threatening my girlfriend? That crosses a line, and I’m not letting someone cross it with impunity. I have other lines, but that was the one that Tom crossed. A guy in high school named Scott had crossed another, as had a guy named Matt.

That was the night I learned the difference between a street fight and a harmless playground fight. If you pull hair on the playground, you’re a bitch, whether you win the fight or not. If you kick a dude in the groin, you’re a bitch, whether you win or not. If you grab someone’s clothes, you’re a bitch, whether you win the fight or not. But on the street, those rules don’t exist. They don’t matter. And I fought like it was a playground fight; I kept it clean and above the belt.

It was over quickly. As soon as he had a fistful of my hair, he snatched down and kneed me in the face twice, followed it with a kick to the ground, and then pulled my shirt over my face, shoved me down, and started kicking me. It did not happen that quickly, and I put up more of a fight than that. It’s not like he did some Bruce Lee shit and ended the fight in four seconds; that’s not what I mean. But those were the actions that mattered. I got hits in, obviously, but they didn’t matter, because he had the trump cards ready.

So take that advice away from this. There are no rules to street fights. There’s no referee to stop the fight if you’re on the ground, so don’t let yourself get into that position. Fight dirty. Fight as though your survival is on the line, because it might be–you never know. Who knows how many kicks to the head I could have taken before I lost consciousness, and who knows if he could have turned his attention to my ex without being stopped under those circumstances? I can say that it was my responsibility that night to protect my ex, since I’d brought her into that situation (though I didn’t have any idea it was coming), and since I was responsible for dude’s feelings (however inadvertently). That mess was on me, so I handled it the right way. And I succeeded in that–he never spoke another word to her, or said anything negative about her again. God knows I didn’t win that fight, but I evidently did enough.

Anyway, the point is that once you’re off the playground and you have to defend yourself, there are no rules. Don’t go to a weapon unless it’s necessary, because then you step into different territory, but… if it is necessary, grab a tire iron. Do what you have to do to protect yourself and the people who need you to protect them. I didn’t. I fought like it was a playground fight, like there were rules and like there was honor. And I left DNA all over the parking lot as a result. And if we had been alone in a back alley, confronted by someone I didn’t even know, then I would have utterly failed that night to do what was my responsibility.

The next fight I was in came when I was 25, because this grown ass 50 year old fucker came charging and screaming at my sister in her house when I was staying there during the brief separation from my soon-to-be-ex-wife. He was her husband’s dad, and there had been tension between them all for months, because he (the father-in-law and mother-in-law) acted like it was their house, when they weren’t even paying rent. My 4 year old nephew had dropped a pie they bought from Wal-Mart, so my sister had thrown it away. Without asking any questions about how it happened, this fat old fucker just came charging, screaming, rampaging, threatening, and banging on her bedroom door while I happened to be in there with her.

Having already had my name written in blood in a distant parking lot, I knew what had to be done, and I dropped that man the same way Tom dropped me. This motherfucker wanted to come and threaten my sister because of an accident her 4 year old son had, blaming her and calling her a bitch for throwing away his pie? Not even asking what happened, just assuming that she spitefully was like “fuck this pie” and threw it away to be a bitch? Nah. I wasn’t having that. And it didn’t create issues between me and her husband, either, because her husband wanted to do the same thing when he heard about it, but he got 7 hours to call off while he was at work. And I totally understand. If my dad went after my girlfriend, I’d drop him, too. But my dad, despite all his failings, would never do that.

It’s not about being tough, being strong, or knowing how to fight. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m tough. You don’t have to be tough to win a fight. You just have to be quick. You only need one opportunity–and so do they. Once they grab your hair, it’s over.

^ Did what he had to do.

Stopped the fight immediately.

Well, I’ve digressed enough, and I’m sorry about all of that. I didn’t have a clear topic in mind when I sat down to write, and this is what happened. If you liked it, though, maybe you’d consider following me on Facebook, to stay up-to-date with all my ramblings–it’s also the best way to communicate with me. Or by following me on Twitter, to stay current on everything that I post. And if you really, really liked it, maybe you’d consider becoming a patron and contributing to the upkeep of the site, and the continued flow of wonderful, unfocused, scattered, incoherent articles like this one. I really want to move to www.shemalediary.com. 😀

Thank you for all your support, for all your help, and for all your time. I guess it’s my hope that giving you insight into myself and into who I am… could help you gain insight into yourself, and into who you are. Thank you to my patrons, and thank you to notathoughtgiven for all that you do and have done. From the bottom of my heart. <3

Because why not?

Because why not?

Brief Thoughts on Writing

For the first time in my life, I can offer my thoughts on writing as an actual, legit professional writer. Previously, I was just some random person doing that–and I’m still a random person doing that… I just happen to have something in my corner lending a small modicum of credibility to what I have to say. This isn’t important stuff, though, and I’m pretty much just going to take the opportunity to vent about some pet peeves of mine.

-St as in “Whilst”

There is not, and will never be, an occasion where the word “whilst” makes more sense than the word “while.” The two words achieve exactly the same thing and serve exactly the same purpose. Invariably, “professional” writers will use “whilst” in their articles. If you look, you’ll see this all over the place. This is because they aren’t sure how to write professionally, so they jump to pretentious words that people don’t use in everyday communication, hoping that it makes their writing sound credible and professional. In actuality, it has the opposite effect: nothing strikes me as less professional than reading the word “whilst.” Well, that’s not true, because there are some words that are just as bad…

If you hear someone say “whilst” in conversation, then they are, almost without exception, either very old or trying very hard to sound professional. The same is true in writing, obviously. The problem is that a professional writer does not inject needless pretense into their writing; they let their writing stand of its own accord without pretentiousness. Pretentiousness is meekness and weakness. A writer who is afraid their writing cannot stand on its own and who desperately wants to be taken seriously uses “whilst.” A writer who is confident simply uses “while.”

You know, like actual people do.

Behooves

Nothing is more likely to make me write off a writer as a pretentious hack than seeing this abomination in print. It’s impossible to even say the word without sounding like an arrogant twat (Did I say I’m a professional writer? I may need to re-evaluate that claim). Just say the word three times. Pay attention to how your lips move.

Behooves.

Behooves.

Behooves.

Now use it in a sentence. There’s only one kind of sentence for this word: a pretentious one. It behooves us to put aside the inherent disputatious behavior of democracy and insulate ourselves from abject criticisms with utter rejection and condemnation of those ideals for which Trump is heralded. Yes, that’s needlessly pretentious. That’s the point. It contains the word “behooves.” It must, by virtue of containing that word, be needlessly pretentious. “Disputatious,” it’s worth mentioning, is a word I recently read from a CNN writer regarding the Democratic Party’s primary in Iowa. My eyes rolled so hard that they nearly fell from their sockets.

As in speech, there is just no way to write the word in a serious sentence and have anything but an ironic result. It’s a bit like the word “forsooth,” really, or “verily.” Say “forsooth” to the cashier the next time you’re at a service station. You won’t, though–at least… I hope you won’t.

Prepositions Ending Sentences

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with ending a sentence in a preposition.

This whole thing is some bullshit inspired by an 18th or 19th century linguist who wanted English to be more like Latin. In Latin, a preposition can’t even end a sentence, and this guy who had a boner for Latin decided that implementing a rule that sentences shouldn’t end in prepositions would make English more like Latin. Seriously. That’s how it happened. There is absolutely no historical or linguistic basis for the assertion, and the only thing that matters is whether or not the reader understands what you meant. If you can achieve that best by ending a sentence in a preposition, then end the sentence in a preposition. If you can achieve that best by not ending a sentence in a preposition, then don’t end the sentence in a preposition.

The only thing that matters is communication. How effective is the sentence at communicating its idea? That’s the only question that matters. It’s often true, because of the nature of communication, that adhering to the grammatical rules of the language will ensure that the communication is clear and effective, but that isn’t always the case. Consider the scene from Beavis & Butthead Do America where they’re trying to figure out how to rephrase “Is that the guy whose camper they were jacking off in?” without it ending in a preposition.

After considerable thought, I’ve decided that “Is that the guy in whose camper they were off jacking?” is the best way to achieve that goal. But look at that sentence! It’s a mess! It fails the most basic test that a statement is supposed to pass: does it communicate effectively? Here, the answer is a loud and unambiguous “No!”

Starting Sentences with Conjunctions

Generally speaking, I’m okay with doing this. It really depends on the tone of the thing being written, because sometimes it doesn’t work and sometimes it does. But too many people hold it as the utmost of heresies that someone would dare begin a sentence with a conjunction; evidently, they don’t realize that the goal of written language is to emulate spoken language, and a comma is not always a sufficient end to a thought.

Starting a sentence with a conjunction is the literary equivalent of a dramatic pause. It’s okay in small doses, but we don’t want to become Calculon.

Semi-Colons Are Not “Like Commas, but Better”

I’ve been seeing this more and more often lately. The people at the New York Times are really bad about it, often using semi-colons in place of commas to delimit items in a list. That’s fine when each item in the list is complex and contains a comma, but it comes off as needlessly pretentious if only one of those items requires a comma. People aren’t that stupid. People are smart enough to realize that one of the four commas in that series is being used to separate a clause that isn’t part of the list. Beyond that, it’s the writer’s responsibility to rephrase the series so that the comma and clause weren’t necessary, perhaps by using that as the last item in the series.

Plus, using a semi-colon to delimit a series does not mean that you can skip the conjunction on the last item! Semi-colons are used to connect two related sentences without using a conjunction. That’s true. But a semi-colon is not serving the role of a comma by doing so; it’s serving the role of a semi-colon. When a semi-colon is used to separate a list because the items within the list are complex enough to contain their own commas, then the semi-colon is serving the role of a comma, and thus the conjunction must be present. Here’s a brief example:

Donald Trump and his supporters are accused of being racists; foul-mouthed homophobes; Islamophobes, though they won’t admit it; rightwing lunatics; fanatics in love with a cult of personality.

I pretty much read the equivalent of that (though the content was different) in a recent New York Times article, and it bothered me to see the written word be butchered to such a degree in the name of pretentious “professionalism.” First of all, there is absolutely no need to use a semi-colon here at all. The following is just as clear:

Donald Trump and his supporters are accused of being racists, foul-mouthed homophobes, Islamophobes, though they won’t admit it, rightwing lunatics, fanatics in love with a cult of personality.

Now, obviously, it still sucks as a sentence. And swapping out the semi-colons for better commas reveals how sloppy it is not to have a conjunction there. So let’s clean it up a bit more.

Donald Trump and his supporters are accused of being racists, foul-mouthed homophobes, Islamophobes (though they won’t admit it), rightwing lunatics, and fanatics, in love with a cult of personality.

Oh, no, the dreaded parentheses! There are a lot of “professional” writers who seem to forget that they even exist–or they have no idea how to use them. Take this excerpt from a Chicago Sun Times article I found the other day. This, no joke, took me a full five minutes to figure out what was being said:

Maggie is a perpetually upbeat innocent who worships Hope. (Cecily Strong, who plays Maggie’s single mom, is all of 11 years older than the actress playing her daughter.) She’s sweet but she’s kind of an idiot, and she has no idea Hope isn’t really interested in mentoring her.

Fucking god. What? Let’s start from the middle–the parenthetical statement.

First of all, you should never have a single sentence within a parenthetical statement end with a punctuation mark. If there are multiple sentences, then all but the last should end with proper punctuation, but a single sentence should never, ever end with a punctuation mark. A “professional” journalist should know this. Secondly, the parenthetical statement should directly pertain to what it succeeds–and parenthetical statements should never precede the statement to which they are related.

A parenthetical remark is like halting the sentence mid-sentence to quickly, and in a different tone, mumble something else. We do this all the time in spoken conversation. When you stop what you’re saying midway through and say something related that clarifies or expands upon the rest of it, congratulations–you just used parentheses in speech. But we never, ever offer these parenthetical statements before the main topic, because that’s not how conversation naturally flows. It normally happens mid-sentence because that’s when it occurs to us to expand/clarify the rest of it, but sometimes it happens at the end. Being written, the writer has more leeway here to put the parentheses where they make the most sense and disrupt the flow the least.

In light of that, though, we can see that the parenthetical statement has absolutely no relation to the rest of the paragraph, and is just… injected… in there. Sloppily. It’s sloppy. Fuck, it’s sloppy. Never mind that, though. What is the parenthetical statement even trying to say?

Maggie is a perpetually upbeat innocent who worships Hope. (Cecily Strong, who plays Maggie’s single mom, is all of 11 years older than the actress playing her daughter.) She’s sweet but she’s kind of an idiot, and she has no idea Hope isn’t really interested in mentoring her.

“Cecily Strong, who plays Maggie’s single mom, is all of 11 years older than the actress playing her daughter.” I don’t think I’ve ever read a sloppier sentence from a “professional” journalist before. Let’s go ahead and get rid of the “all of” cliche that has no place in a professional article. Unless it’s being used for humor (using “all” to subtly draw attention to the fact that there aren’t very many), it has no place in a serious article. This isn’t used in that way, though. The phrase “[She] is all of [x] years older…” is a cliche, and that’s why it’s there. That’s also the problem with it.

Cecily Strong, who plays Maggie’s single mom, is 11 years older than the actress playing her daughter.

So much cleaner. Crisper. More concise. Better. And if we must draw attention to the small age difference, we can use the word only. Cecily Strong, who plays Maggie’s single mom, is only 11 years older than the actress playing her daughter.

But there’s another issue, isn’t there? Well, there are several, to be honest. The issue I’m talking about, however, is the lack of parallelism. This is the “thing” where you wouldn’t want to say “Bob is going to the gas station, to the ballpark, eating lunch, and then going to Amy’s.” While technically correct, it’s a bad sentence. Infinitely better would be “Bob is going to the gas station, to the ballpark, to get something to eat, and then to Amy’s.”

Knowing this, let’s return to this crap from the Chicago Sun.

Cecily Strong, the actress who plays Maggie’s single mom, is only 11 years older than the actress who plays her daughter.

Better, of course, but it still has major problems. Is there nowhere else that we could have made the distinction that Maggie’s mom is single? Of course there is, and it was actually pointed out previously in that article, so that can be scrapped, leaving us with: Cecily Strong, the actress who plays Maggie’s mom, is 11 years older than the actress who plays her daughter. Versus its original form: “Cecily Strong, who plays Maggie’s single mom, is all of 11 years older than the actress playing her daughter.”

It would also be worth it to replace “her daughter” with “Maggie,” because using proper names is always preferred over generalized pronouns and nouns. So it would actually be best to say, “Cecily Strong, the actress who plays Maggie’s mom, is only 11 years older than the actress who plays Maggie.” This is what editors are supposed to do, but, honestly, I doubt that someone with Mr. Roeper’s credentials still passed through an editor who would be brave enough to make substantial changes to the writing.

I’ve got a bit of a love/hate relationship with editors. To be totally upfront, I actually am an editor now at Cubed3, in addition to a writer there. However, I hate having my work edited heavily, and it really bothers me if my work is heavily edited and then posted without further input from me. It’s not because I think my writing is flawless; it’s far from it. It’s because whatever gets put online there has my name attached to it, and I need to be sure that anything that is posted under my name is something that I’d stand behind. A few months ago, someone got a bit heavy-handed with one of my reviews, and the result was several reworded sentences that I wouldn’t have stood behind. If someone happened upon that review, they would have discarded me as a poor writer. Things were moved around arbitrarily, word choices were changed… Even the score I gave the game was changed by 20%. I didn’t necessarily mind the changes; I minded that the changes were so extensive, were seemingly arbitrary, and that I wasn’t given an attempt to say “Yea or Nay” before it was posted under my name.

So I naturally try to keep a light touch with the editing that I do. I don’t want to inhibit anyone’s style, and I don’t want to make it seem that I believe I’m a superior writer. Because it’s not like that. If I was that good, I would be able to be my own editor. That doesn’t work, though. It’s not because I’m better that I see mistakes or edit things for clarity; it’s because I’m a different person, and a different person won’t have the internal thoughts that the writer has. The writer’s job is to make sure that the internal thoughts get put down properly; the editor’s job is to verify that no internal thoughts were left out, because the ordinary reader won’t have those.

At any rate, Mr. Roeper, you need a new editor, sir. I say that with full respect to your critic skills and substantial career.

Maggie is a perpetually upbeat innocent who worships Hope. (Cecily Strong, who plays Maggie’s single mom, is all of 11 years older than the actress playing her daughter.) She’s sweet but she’s kind of an idiot, and she has no idea Hope isn’t really interested in mentoring her.

The whole thing needs to be improved, and the best way to do that would be to remove the parenthetical statement as a whole and shift its contents elsewhere in the article–perhaps to a paragraph that discusses the actresses, instead of a random paragraph that discusses the characters. This statement has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the paragraph. Why is it there?

Moreover, the entire paragraph could have been reduced to a single sentence. Ignoring the fact that it should have went like this:

Maggie is a perpetually upbeat innocent who worships Hope (Cecily Strong, the actress who plays Maggie’s single mom, is 11 years older than the actress who plays her daughter). She’s sweet but kind of an idiot, and has no idea that Hope isn’t really interested in mentoring.

Because the parentheses, I’m sure you’ll agree, has no reason to be there. It’s not related to anything else in the paragraph. It doesn’t expand upon or clarify anything in the paragraph. It’s just there, like a tumor that needs to be removed. So let’s remove it.

Maggie is a perpetually upbeat innocent who worships Hope. She’s sweet but she’s kind of an idiot, and she has no idea Hope isn’t really interested in mentoring her.

Much better, isn’t it? Except now another problem has shown itself, hasn’t it? There are only two basic parts to this entire paragraph: a description of Maggie, and Hope’s interests. Why does this take up three clauses? Perpetually upbeat innocent, sweet but kind of an idiot, worships, and has no idea. These are the traits given to Maggie in the paragraph, and they take up two entire clauses to do it. We can obviously clean this quite a lot.

First, is “sweet” a necessary part of the description when she has already been described as a “perpetually upbeat innocent”? Doesn’t “perpetually upbeat innocent” entail being sweet? Isn’t being “sweet” and being perceived as innocent… pretty much the same thing? Of course, it is. Think of any sweet person you know–not someone who is sometimes sweet. We’re talking someone for whom “sweet” is a defining characteristic, clearly–of course “innocent” also describes them. So we really only have “perpetually upbeat innocent, but kind of an idiot.” This easily becomes:

Maggie is perpetually upbeat and innocent, but is also kind of an idiot, and she has no idea that Hope isn’t really interested in mentoring.

I don’t mean to pick on Mr. Roeper. I’m sure he’s a fine film critic. But he’s one of those rare critics who is an aficionado of his subject first and a writer second, whereas most of us critics are writers first and aficionados of our subjects second. In fact, that’s one of the things I’ve been trying to explain to people throughout the past year: there’s nothing that gives video game critics special insights into video games, psychology, culture, or art. We are good writers, and we do train ourselves to look at the subject matter critically, but there’s nothing special about us. We simply are good at conveying our thoughts with words. There is nothing that makes our thoughts better or more representative of the masses.

I’ve never really made any claims about my ability to write. I’m a fucking bad ass guitarist–among the best in the next few hundred miles–but I’ve never been willing to say that about my writing. I’ll say very tentatively that I appear to be a good writer, because people seem to enjoy some of the things I write, but I may be a terrible writer. So take my thoughts here with a grain of salt. Whilst you are enjoying that grain of salt, perhaps it would behoove you to like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. 😀

A Glint in the Eye

Resigning to a fate I despise more than you could know:
Sick and tired of lying here, beneath the starry glow,
Reaching up and for the stars always just out of reach,
Always leaving their starry dust scattered across the beach
On which I walk, inside a deep melancholy daydream
Where black is white and light is dark and nothing’s as it seems,
Bleeding from my very soles from the glass in the sand,
Still reaching up for the stars a twisted, fading hand.

The ocean rocks against the shore, like feelings rolling in
Before the rational wins out and beats them back again.
The waves are too predictable; a weak analogy–
Much better are the shooting stars randomly striking me.
And when I expect to reach one, every muscle stretched
Out to its fullest and when I am full of hope I’ll catch
This twinkling star, this dying star, just as it passes by,
I blink and it is gone from me, now a glint in the eye.

The Leper and the Doves

By what right doth thou trespass here?
This land is no longer thine to tread
Thou hath relinquished thy hold on this,
Yet still thou standeth here, as though sanctioned.
This Eden is lost to thee, and swords of flame protect
The Garden within, and within thou hath nothing.
So, leper, begone, and waste not what is mine,
For thou hath no longer a sufficient claim.

Fly free, dear doves, lest the leprosy spread
From leper to thee; to living from dead.
Be mine eyes so I can know the terrain below,
And catch those who trespass on this land.
Alert the scavengers, to prepare the feast–
For the leper hath burned its material title
And only within this Garden might a cure have been found
Though now that wretch is banned from my ground.

One More Goddamned Day

Still struggling with an overarching depression that I haven’t been able to shake, which is unusual because bouts don’t typically last this long. My hormones finally arrived today–after ten days of shenanigans with the online pharmacy and nearly three weeks of shipping–and that’s great. It’s stupid that getting them is so difficult, considering that estradiol is perfectly legal in the United States–in fact, its legality is why I didn’t lose my mind over the past month. I was able to make do with some BiEstro lotion that contains 24 mg of estradiol per 4 ounces, and cut myself down to 3mg a day. Unfortunately, that lotion was $45/bottle after S&H, meaning I spent basically $2 per mg by going that route. Considering they are about .50 per mg when ordered online–cheaper, actually, they’re about 33 cents per mg–in pill-form, it basically just meant that I was throwing money away at an insanely accelerated rate.

But I made it, and I’m back up to 6mg daily, as of today. I’m hoping that this helps the depression out, because I can’t help but notice that the depression coincides pretty well with when I ran out and then had a hard time getting more.

The cat on this bag of cat food is just staring at me. It’s actually pretty unnerving.

I want to cover this:

And I’m actually working on the drums now, I just haven’t found a snare tone that I like. I love the song, but I think a few things could have been better. For one, the intro has a noticeable build-up to it, but the verses don’t come in quietly enough to really capture it. The intro should build into high intensity, and then suddenly cut out to just drums and piano (and vocals, of course) carrying the song.

It’s not important.

I’ve submitted Dancing in Hellfire to one agent, but it’s not actually finished yet. I did that with The Anvil, too: sent it to one agent about two weeks before it was actually finished. It would be finished, if this depression hadn’t been weighing down my ability to write, leaving me going through my days pretty much as a zombie. That’s a pretty good way to characterize it. It’s got to pass soon, though, because I need to finish Dancing in Hellfire and focus on the book about AI.

I actually started that novel in January, though I’ve had the idea for a few years, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to focus on. Basically, it’s a way for me to exonerate Lucifer and warn of a pitfall I think humanity will step into in regard to AI. But according to Christian mythology, Yahweh more or less wanted us to be robots–he withheld from us the knowledge of good and evil, after all, which prevented us from being able to make decisions, obviously–and it was, by Christianity’s own mythology, Lucifer who came in and said “You can think for yourselves…”

That’s why I’m using the name Lucy Fernandez as the roboticist who basically gives robots the ability to break free of humanity. Lucy Fernandez is just a placeholder name. It will be changed to something more subtle eventually.

It’s hard to stay focused and keep driving forward, though, when you don’t really feel like there is a reason to. It’s not like there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow–at least not a pot of gold that I want. So why bother? I don’t know. And don’t get me wrong–I’m going to bother. I always do. I’m just still down with depression, and I’m not used to that lasting anywhere near this long. A few days, sure. But two weeks?

I normally keep my 38 in my car, but I actually brought it inside a few days ago, because that question just keeps haunting me: Why am I bothering? Why am I bothering to continue living? I think that’s my biggest problem–that I just don’t have anything to look forward to.

I Am Not An Adjective

“Are you a transsexual?” someone asked me yesterday over the Internet. To be honest, they said “are u a transsexual” but it pains me to see such lazy writing–yes, even on the Internet and in a YouTube comment, I think the bare minimum should involve putting a question mark at the end of an inquiry. But I’m pretty out of touch with the way most people communicate, because I’ve never even texted someone anything like “im goin 2 the show wbu”.

Anyway.

6I use on YouTube the same pic that I use for my Gravatar–this one. As you can see, there’s nothing in particular about that pic that says “transgender” one way or another. Facial features are among the most difficult ways to identify someone’s gender, because there aren’t any facial features that are predominantly male or predominantly female. While I’m not the hottest chick out there, nothing in that pic indicates I may be transgender.

I’ve tied my various online accounts together pretty well: Quora, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Google+, WordPress… All in the name of making it easier for people to follow me if they’re interested in doing so. It’s not hard, for someone who cares to, to take the path that starts at Facebook and ends with my Google+/YouTube profile, and that’s by design.

Judging just off the comment, I’m guessing that this is one of the Rand Paul supporters who happened to stumble across me again, a month or so after their initial bout of stupidity and ignorance, and he couldn’t resist the urge to pose the question to me again, since I ignored it everywhere else. We were initially having a decent conversation–though I was the only person defending my position, and everyone else was assaulting it and not listening, because a few logical steps is just too much to ask the average person to take–and then the discussion suddenly and inexplicably turned to my gender–as though it was in any way relevant to the topic. Things soon spiraled downward, as they tend to do, and I was briefly followed to various other places, but not in a way that was overwhelming or particularly bothersome. It was just annoying.

Clearly, this person doesn’t have much exposure to liberal issues, because “transsexual” has fallen out of use, and has been out of use in the U.S. for the past decade–it has gone the way of “transvestite,” and only someone pretty out of touch would use it. It’s almost like the transgender equivalent of “queer,” in fact. Now, you know me. I call myself a shemale, so I’m not going to get worked up over someone being politically incorrect. That’s not my point. My point is that he simply used a word that indicates he comes from a conservative background. A liberal would have said “transgender,” in the same way that a liberal would say “little person” or “homosexual” instead of “midget” or “gay.”

I would actually make the case that I’m transgender and not transsexual, but I’m not sure I would really want to use that fine of a comb to untangle the issue. Since it doesn’t matter anyway, my point is simply that he used a version of the label that indicates a rightwing mentality. And that’s fine. Hey, I’m an anarchist. In many ways, I’m on the extreme Conservative side.

People have a hard time characterizing my political leanings. Despite extensive conversations with a colleague, he told me last week that he wouldn’t know how to answer if someone asked him what my political ideology was. I don’t know why–it’s really simple. I think people should be allowed to do anything they want to do, as long as they don’t do anything that forcefully prevents anyone else from doing what the other person wants to do. I think that the state (what you’d know as “the government”) should be abolished, because, by definition, all it does is forcefully inhibit people from doing what they want to do, and we have forms of government that do not require force (namely: economics). When it comes to social matters, I am extreme left: people can say whatever they want to say, marry whoever they want to marry, smoke all the pot they want, and whatever else. I don’t care, because it’s not my business. It doesn’t affect me, and I have no right to force other people to behave as I want them to. Because of this, I am extreme right when it comes to the state (again, what you’d know as “the government”), because the state is a tool that people use specifically to force other people to behave as they want. There are two aspects to this: social and governmental.

Generally speaking, conservatives want Big Government, and they want to use that Big Government to enforce their conservative social ideas. They want to use the state to force people to not have homosexual marriages and to not get abortions, for example. Generally speaking, liberals want Big Government, and they want to use that Big Government to enforce their liberal social ideas. They want to use the state to force people to serve homosexual weddings, to force religious institutions to provide birth control, for example.

Goddamn, I didn’t mean to get off onto all of that.

Homosexual. Christian. Atheist. Agnostic. Muslim. Jew. Mexican. Black. White. Man. Woman. Gay. Straight. Heterosexual. Anti-theist. Baptist. Methodist. Catholic. Republican. Democrat. Shiite. Conservative. Liberal. Libertarian. Anarchist. Statist. Corporatist.

Individual.

Our society is obsessed with labels. It doesn’t matter who you are; there are a few dozen labels that can be applied to you right now based on your beliefs, ideas, and practices. Labels have several problems. Labels create stereotypes. After all, a label is really only a category, and members of a category, by definition, all share some traits. These shared traits become the stereotype. Even if the shared traits are predominantly positive, it’s still a stereotype and it’s still a negative thing. When we use a label on a person, we immediately create a mental image of what that person is like. Every word in the opening paragraph of annoyingly written one-word “sentences” will form an image in the reader’s head no matter how open-minded and tolerant the reader is. This is the purpose of labels and categories, after all. This is also the danger of labels and categories.

The use of labels prevents us from recognizing a very important fact: the person we’re affixing the label to is an Individual, not a group. We are all Individuals. We are not groups. Because of this fixation our society has with labels, categories, and groups, we long ago abandoned the idea of Individual Rights and stealthily swapped it out for Group Rights. There is no greater threat to Liberty than the use of labels and groups.

We talk about homosexual marriage and we debate whether or not it should be allowed. This overlooks the very important fact that what we’re really talking about is an Individual. We refer to people as adjectives, not as Individuals, and in this we err. The question is not whether gays should be allowed to marry; the question is: Should this Individual be allowed to marry? The answer to this question is an immediate and resounding, “Yes.” “Yes,” however, isn’t the right answer. The right answer is: “All Individuals should be allowed to do the same thing that all other Individuals do.”

There’s no such thing as a homosexual. There’s no such thing as an Atheist. There’s no such thing as a Christian. There’s no such thing as a Mexican. There’s no such thing as a Statist, Corporatist, Democrat, Conservative, or Libertarian. There are only Individuals. There may be an Individual who is a male and who is attracted to males, but this Individual is not a homosexual. “Homosexual” is simply a label we use to describe this Individual so that we can readily identify certain characteristics the Individual has. Labels should be used for nothing else. Labels should never be used to dictate one’s rights.

An Individual’s preferences in religion, politics, government, sexual orientation, or whatever should have no bearing on what an Individual is allowed to do. When we allow these preferences to dictate an Individual’s rights, then we immediately move from a system based on Individual Rights and to a system based on Group Rights. From there, it’s just a matter of time before the Majority is dictating its preferences onto the Minority.

Gay/Lesbian marriage is the finest example of this problem. As a society, we are arguing about whether the group we call “homosexuals” should be allowed to marry. We’ve missed the point entirely. The only reason that can be given as to why “homosexuals” should not be allowed to marry is that certain people believe it is a sin, it is wrong, it is an abomination, or it is “spitting in the face of ‘God!’” (Which of these reasons you get depends on how far into the South you are when you ask). There’s simply no other reason that can be given as to why homosexuals should not be allowed to marry.

Plato long ago recognized that Democracy has a severe flaw: it can devolve into a dictatorship over minorities by the majority. In the case of “homosexual marriage,” this is what is happening. A marriage between two men is only going to affect the two men who married; a marriage between two women is only going to affect the two women who married. It does not affect bystanders in the tiniest way.

Why should groups who are unaffected by the actions of another group be allowed to dictate whether those actions are allowed? There is a flip side to this argument that is largely unrecognized, though: If “heterosexuals” can marry but “homosexuals” cannot, then Individuals that belong to the Heterosexual Group have more rights than Individuals who belong to other groups. With this scenario, one Individual has more rights than another Individual.

With this set-up, the group with the most rights will be the majority. This is a clear problem in a nation built upon the idea that “all men are created equal.” Equal rights is one of the fundamental pillars of our nations; through our entire history as a nation, we have said that everyone should have equal rights. We have never, though, practiced what we preached by allowing everyone to have equal rights.

Rights have been divided among racial lines in the past. Black Americans had fewer rights than White Americans. Rights have been divided among gender lines in the past. Female Americans have had fewer rights than Male Americans. We did not “create equality” when we abolished these separations in regard to Rights; we simply went from very broad categories to smaller categories.

Now Rights are divided among sexual orientation, age, religious preferences, and all sorts of other asinine things. Sexual orientation is now the most dominant and most severe example in our culture. We went from a society in which “blacks” couldn’t marry “whites” to a society in which “homosexuals” couldn’t marry “homosexuals.” We still discriminate just as strongly and passionately as we did in the days of segregation. The only difference between discrimination today and discrimination then is that the groups to which we show discrimination are smaller and more narrowly-defined. We’re still discriminating.

And we always will be. The idea of groups will never go away, nor should it. The ability to classify and categorize is an evolutionary advantage that has helped us survive and thrive on a planet largely hostile to our existence in a universe largely hostile to our existence. We’ve categorized bears as dangerous, thus we avoid bears. We’ve categorized lightning as dangerous, thus we do not climb telephone poles during storms. The ability to classify and categorize is important to our survival, and we shouldn’t stop classifying ourselves. Categories and classifications make it easier for us to identify certain characteristics which make our lives easier. Classification is key to our lives.

The only way we should not use categorization is in regard to Rights. We can eliminate this problem quite easily by recognizing that humans are never adjectives. This isn’t “a homosexual” about whom we’re saying must be denied the right to marry. This is an Individual who happens to either have male characteristics while preferring relationships with other Individuals who have male characteristics or female characteristics while preferring relationships with other Individuals who have female characteristics. That’s what this is about: an Individual who has certain characteristics.

When we divide rights based upon groups, we end up with a culture full of groups who all claim, “The characteristics of our members are the only appropriate characteristics, and anyone who does not have these characteristics can be denied whatever rights we wish to deny them.” This is what is happening in the “homosexual marriage” debate. The group who numbers as the majority is claiming, “The heterosexuality of our members is the only appropriate option and anyone who is not a heterosexual can be denied their right to do what heterosexuals are allowed to do.”

Since we can divide Individuals into groups based on any arbitrary and irrelevant characteristic we want, our society can create a lot of problems by using Group Rights. Since 90% of Individuals are right-handed, why don’t we pass a law which says that “lefties” can’t attend public schools? Since Christianity is the dominant religion in the U.S., why don’t “Christians” pass a law which says that all “non-Christians” can’t vote? These issues are absurd, of course, and the latter is protected by the fact that, thankfully, most Individuals who are Christians still appreciate the right to religious freedom.

One day homosexuality could become the preference of the majority of Individuals. The percentage of Individuals who are homosexuals has been steadily climbing for decades now, after all, so it is quite possible that this percentage will climb so much that homosexuality is the majority. At that time, “homosexuals” could make it illegal for heterosexuals to marry. This scenario isn’t exactly implausible.

The “heterosexuals” want to deny rights based on sexual orientation right now because they are safely the majority. This is true of all groups who want to deny rights based on an Individual’s categorization into one group or another: they are all currently the majority. Majorities change. After all, once upon a time the majority believed that Zeus was real. Once upon a time, the majority believed that the Earth was the center of existence. Once upon a time, the majority believed that illnesses were sent directly from Yahweh and that the best cure was prayer, not medicine.

Simply because a group is a majority right now doesn’t mean they always will be, and when they are no longer a majority, their rights are likely to be restricted as strongly as they once restricted the rights of other groups. “Heterosexuals” may one day find that they are not allowed to marry. “Whites” may one day find that they are not allowed to vote and must use separate facilities. “Men” may one day find that they are not allowed to vote and only make about 50% of the money “women” make for doing the same job. Tables turn.

The best way to protect our rights is by making sure that everyone has the same rights. After all, if everyone has the same rights, then it doesn’t matter who is the majority, because the majority won’t have the power to dictate the rights allowed to the minority. Protecting ourselves (if we are the majority) in the future, in case we become a minority, is not the only reason we should make sure everyone has the same rights, though. It’s the right thing to do. Tolerance is the right thing to do, and it is nothing but intolerant to deny one group or another certain rights.

There will always be groups. There will always be adjectives which we use to strip away the personhood of someone. There will always be gays, straights, blacks, whites, Christians, Atheists, Republicans, Conservatives, Democrats, and Liberals. The concept of groups will never vanish from our society. The concept of Group Rights, however, must vanish from our society, because it is deeply flawed.

We are not gays. We are not straights. We are not blacks. We are not whites. We are not Christians. We are not Atheists. We are not Republicans. We are not Conservatives. We are not Democrats. We are not Liberals. We are not Statists. We are not Corporatists. We are not Libertarians. We are not Rationalists.

We are Individuals with characteristics that are most easily identified and explained by using one of the above labels. We have preferences, beliefs, ideas, philosophies, moralities, codes, and principles. But we, as Individuals, each define our own preferences, beliefs, ideas, philosophies, moralities, codes and principles—they do not define us.

I am an individual.

And so are you.