Reading George Fox

Of Filibusters & Magical Thinking

After listening to Dahlia Lithwick on 2038 today, I had to write her a note. It’s hard to believe someone so smart and incisive can be so blind to political reality. Dahlia, I was just listening to you on the new 2038 podcast. Your support of the Democrats reinstating the judicial filibuster is simply magical thinking ignoring the current reality of the Republican Party. The Democrats simply cannot shame them into re-establishing norms. They already tried to do it once. The Republicans got rid of Blue Slips during the Bush years; Democrats brought them back during Obama’s term; and the Republicans immediately dropped them after Trump was elected. The only thing the Blue Slips did was help McConnell keep spots empty for Trump to appoint more judges. I have no doubt if the filibuster is brought back, the Republicans will get rid of it again when they control the White House and the Senate. Their behavior over the past two decades has not given any reason to believe otherwise. The Democrats are stuck in a prisoner’s dilemma and continually compromising doesn’t work when the Republicans refuse to reciprocate. It’s tantamount to conceding defeat. The correct strategy for the current situation…

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Moral Monsters & Non-Hollywood Endings 🎥

Spoilers Ahead Moral Monsters After sleeping on my thoughts about A Star Is Born, I’m still struggling with my reaction. I truly enjoyed the film, but it also sits really uneasy with me, terrifyingly so. And I think that clench in my stomach stems from Rez’s actions at the end. I have struggled with my own suicidality and the dark thoughts that all I do is hurt the people I love. Those thoughts are disconnected from reality—even as they spiral in my head I know that they are fundamentally irrational. But that knowledge does nothing to lessen their power or shake my belief in them. If, in my worst moments, someone close to a loved one told me that I was hurting them, that my loved one would never tell me, but they would be better off without me…I’m not sure what I would do. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t self harm, but I’d probably need to go to an inpatient psych ward to be safe. Watching Rez do that to Jack—a man who had just begun to face his trauma—shredded me. At that moment, Rez became a moral monster: he is so ruthlessly selfish that he’s willing to emotionally…

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“A Star Is Born” is Too Easy 🎥

Spoilers Ahead. I really enjoyed A Star Is Born; the music is fabulous, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga kill it, and the ending crushed me. But the main dilemma, Ally’s choice between a famous pop career or a smaller1 indie career, is too easy. There’s really not much to recommend the more famous path: Ally’s producer is a mercenary and disregards anything she wants, she doesn’t seem happier performing on pop stages, and it keeps her away from Jack, whom she dearly loves. Her troubles with Jack stem from his alcoholism and drug abuse, not any desire on her part to pursue the kind of independent career she does. I could easier she her being happier if she signed with whomever produced Jack. After all, Jack was the one who helped her get comfortable in the recording studio. If she had taken a more indie path, I could easily see him continuing to support her in recording sessions and otherwise. Moreover, by the end. Jack seems to have come to terms with Ally’s career. He kills himself after Rez convinces him that he’s holding her back. In doing so, Rez moves himself beyond any sort of sympathy: to him Ally’s…

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Lively Porn vs. Deadly Meditation

Or I’d Rather Be ‘Dick Drunk’ Than Be Masturbated Like Clockwork Content Warning: Explicit description of sex. I picked up Emily Witt’s Future Sex after a friend reviewed it. I haven’t finished yet, but I couldn’t help but notice the discomforting comparison of the chapter on Kink.com (obviously very, very NSFW) and the one on Orgasmic Meditation. Perhaps contrary to our cultural expectations the porn shoot is much more connected, alive, and joyous than the “well-lit room” of a female-led San Franciscan blend of orgasms and transcendentalism. In the chapter on Orgasmic Mediatation, Witt visits OneTouch, a program1 founded by Nicole Daedone that teaches a very particular form of partnered masturbation: “So if her clitoris were a clock” (the room found this hilarious) “it would be in the one o’clock position. And you’re just going to stroke there, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down.” (Kindle Location 733)2 This clitorial time keeping lasts for exactly 15 minutes—the stroker sets a alarm on their iPhone. To me, this sounds like the most deadly and boring sex imaginable.3 Daedone claims to want to free women from the male-centric concept of sex, but drains all the life out of the act in…

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Such Disrespect!

I wrote this mostly as a parody of certain men raging at women making minor geek culture mistakes. There is a slight bit of actual annoyance at Ebony attributing a cinematographer’s contribution to a director.1 More importantly the episode is an incisive discussion of Blindspotting. Oh, oh, Ebony messed up big time today on Feminist Fequency Radio #37. She talks about film directors who know how to light brown skin. Talk about disrespecting cinematographers! Yes, some directors are involved with lighting, but even they collaborate with their cinematographers: the latter are the ones specifically trained in lighting and capturing light on film! As a theatrical lighting designer, I’m sorta sensitive to this, as I’m the one doing the equivalent in live performance. And, as a aside, POC are such a pleasure to light as there’s so much more color to bring out than in pasty white people. For those of you who haven’t seen it recently, check out Purple Rain again. The lighting throughout the film is so good. There’s one scene in the basement with acid yellow lighting making Prince’s father so much more threatening. And it would have turned a white person into a lemon. There is a…

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Kevin Drum Bets Hard On Genetics

A few days back, Kevin Drum wrote a post about the future influence of genetic engineering on social policy. I’m going to leave aside the moral argument that everyone deserves a decent standard of living and focus on two of his assumptions. How much does parental upbringing affect any of this? I’m going to put my money on “not much,” but it’s hardly worth making guesses anymore. In a decade or two we’ll know. How much effect does the entire environment outside the womb have starting with the day a baby is delivered? I’m going to put my money on “some,” but that’s as far as I’ll go. I strongly question his assertation that genetics and epigentics will be found to be overwhelming determinative of talent and skill.1 How will that square with studies that show children of wealthier and/or highly educated parents do better academically? Or that teachers grade girls’ math tests more harshly than boys’ when names are included, but the opposite when names are redacted?2 For a specific example3, Ta-Nehisi Coates attributes much of his success as a writer to his family having a ton of books around and his father’s philosophy that he should learn about…

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Dan Swings and Whiffs—Savage Lovecast #610

Dan may have not played the entire call and I’m personally biased, so it’s possible that I’m misinterpreting the details. Dan has a truly terrible response to his final caller in episode 610. A woman asks about her boyfriend: he can fly off the handle at himself for days because of simple mistakes. While she describes him as genuinely kind to others, he also has significant self-hatred1: thinking that he is a worthless person and being uncomfortable when he is happy because he doesn’t believe he deserves it. Dan’s verdict is the boyfriend is a manipulative asshole who just needs to grow the fuck up. It’s far more likely that this man suffers from severe mental illness and desperately needs treatment. For one, it sounds like the behavior precedes the relationship, that he’s tortured himself while single as well. The caller never mentions him getting angry at her or that his explosions have anything to do with her behavior (or reality in general). He doesn’t blow up when she goes out with friends, when she picks up the wrong food, when she’s not paying attention to him. Rather, he’s triggered by his own silly mistakes. While his behavior clearly affects…

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Response to San Hughes on Kink—Savage Lovecast #608

This post is safe for all but the most conservative workplaces. The most explicit aspects are naming a certain fetish and a specific performance art piece.1 There are no visuals. The only link is to the podcast page. I’m to lazy to search JSTOR for Sam’s research, but some of what he shares in the podcast doesn’t match up with my experience. Towards the beginning he suggests that people often eroticize the opposite of what causes them stress: the classic CEO goes to the dominatrix. One potential odditiy is that Hughes also talks about kink stages starting in childhood (well before anyone is a CEO). But on a personal level, his explanation doesn’t make much sense. One thing I love about being a dom is setting up scenes and telling degrading2 stories. Take the intercourse, degradation, and personal participation out and that basically describes my career as a lighting designer/theater-maker.3 Indeed going back to my childhood, a lot of my play with friends was running around outside, making up stories, and telling them their roles. Another through line from the rest of my life is the nature of my sadism: I like creating predicaments where there is no “right” answer.…

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Faith Not Reason

I left an extended version of this response as a comment on Keith Giles’s posted “Saved by Zero”. In 1936 Alfred Tarski proved that no formal system can prove its own truth, which is a pretty big impediment to using mathematics to justify God’s existence. Even if one could get around that, it’s probably impossible to prove the existence of God in any meaningful way. Trying to reason from fundamental physics (which we still don’t fully understand) or a logical system devised by humans isn’t going to get us there. In an extreme case, how would one tell the difference between a materialistic, deterministic universe and a universe set in motion by an omnipotent and omniscient watchmaker God? How can one be sure that a revelation is from God or from the natural workings of the human brain, which we still only rudimentarily understand? Or perhaps God determined that those workings would occur? There’s no there there. Belief in the divine/spiritual realm comes down to faith. As does disbelief in those things. And if understand correctly, Jesus said something along the lines of not relying on human reason but relying on him instead. Personally, I’m an atheistic Quaker with a…

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A Rigorous Response to A Sophomoric Argument

Berny Belvedere responds to Patrick S. Tomlinson’s Fertility Clinic Hypothetical: (1) The standard liberal position crucially involves the view that every individual has equal value. (2) In a scenario roughly comparable to Tomlinson’s, where a standard liberal had to choose between saving 100 random people, or their own spouse or child, someone who believed that every individual has equal value would easily and unproblematically choose to save the hundred random individuals. (3) But if a standard liberal were actually put in such a scenario, he would choose to save the family member. (4) Thus, standard liberals don’t really believe every individual has equal value. (5) The liberal position is a sham. This argument is unserious because Tomlinson is not arguing about what people would do, but what people believe they should do. The “standard liberal” (or at least a rigorous utilitarian) would admit saving family over strangers was the morally wrong choice and, if they had the courage of their convictions, they’d save the 100 people. We see this scenario played out in movies all the time. It happens three times in Infinity War: Quill and the Scarlet Witch make the choice to kill their romantic partner to stop Thanos.…

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