Another Cranky Rant

As regularly happens, I need to remind my fellow cis het white people with niche interests or specific lifestyles that we are not, in fact, oppressed.

“Familiar” is a ridiculous substitute for “patronus.” No argument. (Side-snark: if you like an animal, just…say that. If you identify with a particular tiny turtle trying to bite a strawberry, say that too. God knows I do. If you feel a Deep Spiritual Connection to wolves and the need to broadcast it regularly on social media, Jesus, just go on Amazon and buy that damn T-shirt already, Sylvyrhawk.) I am not nonbinary and trust that there are people with valid reasons for using “fae/faer” as pronouns, so I’m not gonna judge just on that, but good *lord* all the explanatory stuff that comes up on Google is some twee bullshit. (You are not a dryad. You are a claims adjuster. Sit down.) But neither of these things are cultural appropriation.

Likewise, not having kids is not privilege. (Access to sex ed, birth control, abortion, and non-coercive reproduction in general is, but that’s another story.) “Couple privilege” is maybe kind of a thing in polyam circles, but it absolutely is not a thing the way that the more Bridget Jonesy and annoying of my fellow single people use it. (Being single is awesome! Get a grip, or at least stop making the rest of us look whiny and pathetic.)

Why?
Because words mean things. Words like “privilege,” “oppression,” and “culture.”

Let’s start with “privilege.” There are a couple necessary components to this in a social justice sense:
1. It’s a systemic thing. Not Having A Dipshit Brother Harold Who’s Really Into Dubious Investment Schemes isn’t privilege, it’s just luck. Harold’s siblings can tell him to fuck off, choose to ignore him when he rambles about opening his own massage franchise, refuse to lend him fifty bucks, and/or avoid family gatherings he attends, all without their careers, legal standing, health care, etc. being in danger.
2. It’s out of your control and/or not to your credit. (People whining about how being single is out of their control should read Item 1, and shut up.) Being a really good cook will make you popular, enable you to get certain jobs, and otherwise make your life better, but my brother-in-law does not have Cook Privilege. (Some skills are easier to learn or take advantage of *for* people who have systemic privilege, but that’s different.) Religion makes this a little weird, because some of it (how much you believe a thing) is under your control, but some (what culture you’re raised in) isn’t: the standard for reasonable humans is to assume the second and act accordingly until people start saying they’re the reincarnation of Joan of Arc.   3. It has to be in a certain quantity relative to people without X trait. If my friend Ashley is six feet tall, they have a harder time on long bus rides, but an easier one reaching stuff on high shelves than I do. They don’t have Tall Privilege; I don’t have Short Privilege; different heights just have different advantages and disadvantages. Generally speaking, privilege benefits Group X at the expense of Group Y.

Oppression is basically the reverse of privilege: it has to be systemic, and it has to be about stuff you don’t choose.
Now, and this is important: a particular person or feature of society can be shitty and in need of drastic change *without being related to privilege and oppression.*
Does the plague-ridden capitalist trashfire that is the US fail, in many important ways, to support parents? Yes. Yes, it fucking does. Do non-parents benefit from these failures? As a non-parent: not really. In fact, many of us end up covering for co-workers, giving a hand to relatives or friends, or fundraising because our government lacks the heart or brain to provide childcare, medical coverage, or an appropriate amount of parental leave. (I don’t mind doing these things, and I don’t think many other people do, but damn would it be better to have a system for it.)

As for societal attitudes…people are assholes. The same person who gives you grief for being occasionally fed up with your kids is the person who asks their co-workers or relatives (I can’t believe these people have friends) why they don’t have kids. Badly-done media portrays parents (especially women, because cis dudes *do* have privilege) as nagging, frumpy harridans and single people as sad loners, or it creates unrealistic images of perfection on both ends. Everyone’s fucked.

Similarly, “couple privilege” is not a thing vis-a-vis single folks, because while Cousin Brant may spend every Thanksgiving asking if you’ve “met anyone special yet” (nah, dude, just a dozen or two ordinary ones), he and his wife, who hates him, don’t benefit. You can make an argument for health insurance, but on the other hand, taxes, so even that comes under the heading of advantages and disadvantages on both sides.

That’s all true of paganism. Cousin Brant might accuse me of worshipping the devil, but (in most places in the US, in 2020) nobody’s going to fire me, deny me health care, or kick me out of my apartment for wearing a pentacle necklace. I might have gotten bullied in school*–and don’t get me wrong, bullying is awful and adults should squash it post-haste–but so did the kids in band, and nobody’s claiming piccolo players are oppressed. “Bullying is horrible,” *sometimes* intersects with “X group is systemically disadvantaged,” but not always.
This is important because “cultural appropriation,” or the kind you shouldn’t do, means lifting practices or terms from oppressed cultures. (Nobody is engaging in cultural appropriation by coloring eggs for Easter or putting up Christmas trees, for example. Maybe in a parallel universe where Constantine the Great never happened, but not in this one.) Pagans do not have a history of oppression to begin with. We sure don’t have the sort of historical trauma associated with, say, slavery or genocide.

I’m gonna pause so that everyone who was about to mention the non-existent “Burning Times,” or pretend Salem was about Real Actual Paganism/Witchcraft rather than misogyny, racism, classism, and the human tendency toward mob rule, can go jump in a lake.
Back.
We don’t, per se, have a lot of history before the 1950s. Paganism/witchcraft, as they’re practiced today, are largely a mixture of a few genuine folktales, British middle-class desire for an excuse to get naked in mixed company and engage in some light BDSM, and Golden Dawn/Theosophy metaphysics.
(Not that this makes it any less valid. A lot of civilization and like 75% of art began as someone trying to get laid, and any deity with sense would know enough to make use of that tendency.)

Golden Dawn in turn was largely Jewish mysticism plus the Victorian fascination with both Egyptian mythology and fraternal lodges. Theosophy grabbed a bunch of Hindu principles and made them more comprehensible to bored middle-class white people in New York and London.

We really, really do not have any room to talk.
*As it happens, I hated everyone in middle school way too much to even bring up religion, so it was never an issue, but I could see it being a possibility.

So Yeah Here We Are

Again. Still. We could’ve been New Zealand, but people are convinced that basic epidemiology digs up the graves of the Founding Fathers or whatever, so here I am with a blog and a cheeseburger.

And only social distancing prevents me from finding the “well masks cause some people to get light-headed and dizzy what about that?” assholes and kicking them in various squishy places, possibly including their brain. What about that? Well, I’ve been light-headed and dizzy before, it’s way better than your lungs basically eating themselves, if you were a person you’d find it a way better sensation than knowing you caused someone else’s lungs to basically eat themselves, I hate you, I hope you die slowly and without subjecting others to yourself.

I am, perhaps, a tad grumpy. That’s not going to change for a while.

While we’re at it: TERFs, including various YA fantasy authors, can fuck right off, stop being assholes in the name of all cis women, and die. As a cis woman, I find your reduction of my life experience to an annoying bit of my plumbing creepy in a Gileadean kind of way. As a white cis woman, I find YET ANOTHER set of cis guys suddenly discovering that they’re RILLY RILLY CONCERN ABOUT THE FEMINISM when it’s a way to shit on an underprivileged group to be hideous. Fuck off, Commanders Waterford and Serenas Joy. Your actual rationale is pretty obvious as “but Islam is oppressive to women,” which I saw a lot of during my college days almost twenty years ago so way to get any updated arguments, it’s pretty obvious when you’re using it to defend existing police structures, as I talked about last time, and it’s pretty obvious re: trans women.

And per cis women pulling this shit because of trauma, while systemically I’m sorry it happened because it should never have happened, and you don’t deserve it because nobody does…if you’re a bigot, you’re way down on the list of people I feel any sort of sympathy for, regardless of your past. Plenty of vile people were abused. It’s not an excuse or even a mitigating factor–I’ll start feeling bad for you right before I start weeping over Manson or Gacy.

A couple years back, after one of our traditional mass shootings, I was on a blog I then frequented discussing gun control. A pro-NRA dipshit made the argument that well what if she needed a gun so she’d feel safe from rapists? Well, various of us pointed out in various ways, statistics support her being less safe with a gun, and your security blanket can’t and shouldn’t come at the cost of actual people’s lives.

Same here. If you really and truly feel less safe Because Theoretical Penis, in the face of overwhelming statistics that show that this is not the case…too fucking bad. You’re not allowed to demand the entire world conform to your personal phobias. The consideration that the social contract requires where triggers are concerned (and I do think it does) only extends so far as it doesn’t impinge on other people’s ability to live their lives.  For instance, if animal death is a trigger for you, it’s quite reasonable to ask for a warning in media and to ask your friends to avoid the subject, but if you don’t want to watch “Old Yeller,” you shouldn’t go in the theater. Same deal.

(Honestly, if veterans and shooting survivors haven’t banded together to try and outlaw fireworks by now, y’all can sit down and shut up.)

Anyhow, our Supreme Court did a surprise right thing. I am not cranky about that, nor am I cranky about the fundies crying big Jesusy tears over it. There’s some debate, reasonably so, about whether this was a move to distract from refusing to reconsider qualified immunity (which was ass, don’t get me wrong), and I can see either way, but: first of all, if true, that means they thought they needed to distract us, which is a good thing as long as we don’t let it work, and second, a lot of the assholes seem to be genuinely upset about it.

Neither of these things should be enough to make us stop fighting (especially you, fellow white cis people) but that second one alone is enough to make me happy. Like, if you need cheering up this week, turn to the opinion where Alito loses his entire shit in the legalistic equivalent of a sophomore tone poem about Dead Scalia’s Conservative Tears and Supreme Court Pirate Ships and “necking.”

Also, check out this article and the links: https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a32870451/how-to-help-black-trans-lives-donate/

On the Police and Heinlein’s Wrongness

As I said last week, there’s not a lot I personally can add to the voices that are currently speaking out regarding police brutality, racism, and how fucked this country is. But as sentiment grows for defunding/abolishing the police, I’ve seen a fair bit of concern or “concern” that amounts to: “this is a touchy-feely idea promoted by big idealistic hippie saps who think hugging can stop murder.”

I can talk about that, a little.

Because I am not idealistic. I do not touch, nor do I feel. I don’t think love is all you need, or that everyone deserves a second chance–“If forgiveness is your thing, YKIOK” is as far as I’m prepared to go, and in fact I can think of only a few people for whom forgiveness doesn’t amount to inflicting toxic trashfires on the wider social circle. I’m opposed to the death penalty because of systemic racism and classism and the proven and widespread existence of false convictions, but I would’ve been totally okay with drawing and quartering McVeigh, for example. Some people make a calculated decision to abandon their own humanity, and I don’t think A Better Society will fix that entirely. I think we will always need *a* body of people to deal with the overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly het cis dudes who take their mommy issues or their authority fetish or their lack of a date for the seventh-grade dance out on others, and if we deal with those guys fatally, I’m cool with it.

The world is not getting a fucking Coke from me, and I can think of very few people in it whose company I’d like to keep.

And I’m in favor of defunding the police. I’m in favor of abolishing the police as we know them, especially as we know them in the United States.

Why? Because Robert Heinlein was a sexist, racist libertarian fuck who was possibly in a sex cult with L. Ron Hubbard (though his weird libertarian third wife denies that) and he was full of shit about many things. Most relevantly, here, he was full of shit about specialization.

RH, via one of his self-insert characters, has a whole paragraph that various incarnations of That Fucking Guy quote all the time: a man should be able to blah blah blah military-prepper-fappery, “specialization is for insects.” While any individual person should be able to take care of many aspects of daily life (being able to code doesn’t mean you can flail around all unable to wash a damn dish, Other Iteration of That Fucking Guy), specialization on a societal level is…how we get society.

There are good reasons that the person who rewires your house doesn’t fly your plane, that the same surgeon doesn’t repair heart valves and remove brain tumors–hell, that the Army and the Navy are different branches of the armed forces in most countries, ROBERT, YOU ASS. Lives are short, human brain capacity is finite, and the more complicated a situation is, the more specialists are needed.

Keeping communities safe is really goddamn complicated.

“Defund the police” or “abolish the police” is generally a shortened way of saying that the people taking down the homicidal bastard with an AR-15 or finding the Green River Killer do not need to be, and shouldn’t be, the same people who stop you if your headlights are out. They shouldn’t be the people who respond if you think your loved one might harm themselves, the people in charge of handling addiction issues, the people who look into property damage or financial wrongdoing (although TBH I’d be kind of okay with putting the lethal force department in charge of, like, PharmaBro and wage theft, but I’m a bitch like that), and so on.

Different problems demand different sets of professionals, with different training and, importantly, different cultures. (Also, exactly zero of these cultures should include systemic racism, and all of them should include way more training and vetting than most police officers currently get.) It’s really hard to get that just by separating departments within the same organization: reporting to the same management structure, being in the same union/fraternal organization, and having intertwined ranks or promotional structures makes it much harder to go against corruption or speak out when people are behaving badly.

(Should they coordinate? Absolutely–all agencies should, because that’s ideally how you keep murderous dickheads *from* getting AR-15s, or connect other murderous dickheads to killings in multiple states–but that’s different from literally being in the same organization.)

And, speaking as someone who consumes a lot of Total Bastard True Crime? The dramatic catching-a-killer, stopping-a-terrorist stuff, for which someone might legitimately need to be armed and trained in potentially lethal force:

1) Is a really small proportion of stuff police do.
2) Is…not a thing the general police are great at, as a rule. (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/10/17/facts-about-crime-in-the-u-s/). This ties into systemic bigotry: how many young men might have lived if the Milwaukee police hadn’t shrugged off complaints against Dahmer because it was “a gay thing” or the victims were people of color? How many people report stalking or domestic violence, get shrugged off, and are murdered later? Yeah.
3) Has a certain amount of crossover with police themselves. In addition to the known stuff, like the Golden State Killer, a *lot* of serial killers have tried to join the police, hang out with cops, etc. Authority really appeals to a certain kind of person.

“Defund the police,” generally used, means directing money away from buying fucking tanks for the local department and toward programs that could better address or prevent a lot of the “crime” going on. “Abolish the police,” generally used, means splitting off the functions that don’t require or justify force. That lets a department that actually does intervene to stop violent crime concentrate on that, while not sending people trained for lethal situations to check on folks who may or may not be passing bad checks.

You don’t have to believe in the innate goodness of humanity or the power of love or the brotherhood of man to support any of that.

You should really read these, which explain the general issue better than I do:

https://medium.com/@deray/on-the-path-toward-police-abolition-c8b91137024b

https://www.stanforddaily.com/2020/06/04/police-abolition-looks-like-palo-alto/

https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/abolish-police-instead-lets-have-full-social-economic-and-political-equality/

Assholes Who Get Too Much Credit: Hubbard

Credit for many facts here goes to Inside Scientology, by Janet Reitman. I totally recommend reading that and Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear for peak WTF.

I have previously discussed Lafayette Ronald’s trippy bohemian Thing with a Crowleyite rocket scientist, yacht fraud, and occult wanking to classical music. (I am kidding about exactly none of this.) (Scientology’s official take is that the Navy sent Hubbard in on a secret mission to…wank occultly, I guess. Or encourage-slash-sabotage occult wanking in others. Or make away with valuable yachts.) Dude went on to create Dianetics, get pissed off when psychiatrists pointed out that it was maybe 90% bullshit and 10% ripped-off hypnotherapy, and then go full-tilt wacky and create a whole cult involving Xenu. And yachts.

I cannot explain the yachts.

Hubbard is another guy who gets a lot of credit for being a genius con artist, and, frankly: no. His mistakes weren’t as egregious as Bundy’s, but the bits of Scientology that he didn’t flagrantly rip off of standard therapy (Dianetics) or that aren’t a sci-fi-ish skin over existing occult theory (thetans are basically reincarnation BUT WITH ALIENS) are not smart. Like, I could write a better creation story than the whole Xenu-Teegeyak thing in my sleep, or at least drunk. His grudges were flagrant, his personal mythology was pretty blatantly pathetic, and he died (excuse me, “continued his research on another planet”) a barbituate-addled mess after being on the run in a Winnebego that he shared with a dude named “Pat.”

This is not brilliance.

Dianetics and Scientology technically started in the 1950s, but they also started in Southern California (okay, Dianetics was technically started in Jersey, but Hubbard was just visiting there), where, frankly, the 1960s began at about the turn of the century and is even now going on. SoCal is A Lot, I have some theories about that, and they’ll probably be part of a novel, but suffice it to say that L.A. as early as the 1940s was a place where a government-employed rocket scientist could be openly into weird sex rituals and L.A. in the 21st century is where Gwyneth Paltrow’s “wear these stickers to rebalance your bodily frequencies” company started.

Seriously, I lived in SoCal for a while growing up. I like it now, and there are absolutely different cultures in LA, some of which have as much common sense as those anywhere else, but it is definitely a nurturing environment for those who refuse to eat refined sugar and are really fond of crystals, placentas, or both.

Hubbard also…okay, the guy himself was goddamn ridiculous well beforehand (q.v. the Babalon Project, yacht fraud, his entire Thing with the navy) but that wasn’t as public in the fifties. Not unlike Bundy, he benefited from the pre-Internet age: when you spotted a book by someone back then, you couldn’t just Google their name and discover that they were a giant fuckoff weirdo who once used Mexican islands for unauthorized ship target practice. You had to seriously ask around, or wait for an expose.

Dianetics–which was only popular for a few months, until people started realizing that they could not in fact think their way to 20/20 vision–also downplayed its more bizarre aspects. Sure, there was past-life auditing, but as I previously mentioned, past-life regression was a semi-known thing, whether you believed it or not, and weird inflated claims about attempted abortions were hard to check. Audiences were left with exaggerated promises of personal improvement–something that hit the Charles Atlas/Norman Peele/legacy-of-New-Thought 1950s zeitgeist pretty damn well itself.

Even Scientology didn’t get some of its weirdest bits until the 1960s. Sure, there was some stuff–Hubbsy was talking about Clam Trauma in 1952, going entirely tinfoil hat at the FBI in 55–but the auditing shit started getting laid down between 62 and 64, as did the bizarro word meanings. The Peak Paranoid “Keeping Scientology Working” document came out in 1965. The dorkily-named “Guardian’s Office” was 66. “Operating Thetans” were 68, as was the Wall of Fire and Xenu and volcano planes.

And…it was the sixties.

Disclaimer: I’m sure there were plenty of people with common sense and critical-thinking skills in the 1960s.

But you know the naive “holding hands and singing loudly will lead to World Peace” thing I mentioned re: the 1970s and Bundy, last post? Take that and like double it for the 1960s. This was when we got the Moonies and the Hare Krishnas, not to mention those upstanding pillars of faith, the Manson Family and the Peoples Temple. There were plenty of folks claiming that UFOs had told them the truth of the cosmos, or that crystals would heal breast cancer, and plenty of other people believing them.

Plus, the ones who didn’t believe? Still didn’t want to be too critical about it, because skepticism and criticism was what The Establishment Did, Man.  Calling bullshit was for squares. I’ve read the Breendoggle documents  (TW: Child sexual abuse, and you will barf yourself inside out even if it isn’t a personal trigger for you) and the number of people saying something to the effect of  “…but, like, we can’t judge him, because who are we to judge, that’s what The Man does, right?” is both staggering and nauseating.

Don’t get me wrong: Lafayette R. himself cannot be blamed on the sixties. Dude was a shitbag at least twenty years before Dianetics happened. But I doubt he, or Scientology, would have lasted as long if he’d tried starting his shit then–or twenty years down the road. Thetans and the Bridge to Total Freedom would not have held a lot of water if they’d been new ideas in the 1980s. There were other cults then. (*Cough* Reagan *cough.*)

Did he knowingly exploit the zeitgeist? As I mentioned, I don’t think he deserves that much credit. Reading his letters, I get the impression that dude honestly seems to have bought into his own hype–which, as Robert Mathiesen once mentioned, is the downfall of any good con artist–and none of the accounts of Scientology gives me the impression he was thinking that strategically.

“Oooh, start a religion for tax purposes, good thinking,” makes good press. “Start a self-help movement based on your own rather pathetic attempts at affirmation, turn that into a religion when you fail, then bounce around for a couple years essentially putting together those newspaper-clippings-and-string charts every police drama shows in the killer’s den, then get picked up by a culture ripe for any huckster who promises a mystical experience PLUS ALIENS,” is closer to the truth, though.

 

 

 

Bundy II: No, Seriously, The 1970s

In The A-Z Guide to Serial Killers, a frequent choice of high school reading material and perhaps an explanation for my general lack of dates, Harold Schechter theorizes that the serial killers who stay in public consciousness are ones who personifty the zeitgeist: Ted Bundy as the ultimate 70’s pick-up artist, Jack the Ripper as the double nature of Victorian life, etc.

Plausible theory. I expanded on this for my 11th grade history paper, in which I theorized that the women who get and stay involved with those guys exemplify the shadow archetype and extreme end of acceptable femininity in their culture or subculture. Ted Bundy’s jailhouse wedding is the logical conclusion of “Stand By Your Man” (and yes, I did write a verse that starts “even if he’s killed some co-eds,” which, while tasteless, is totally in the spirit of the original song, and yes, I did rhyme that line with “heads”); the Manson girls are an extension of the old saying about how the place of women in the Movement is on their backs; etc.

Dear Mom and Dad: yep, your tuition money did pay for this sort of thing.

Twenty years later, I don’t know whether or not this was a sound sociopolitical insight. I do know that I got fifteen pages and my school’s equivalent of an A- out of it. (My teacher, more bleeding-heart than I am and also way more idealistic than befits anyone who’d spent his career around teenagers, thought I should’ve been more sympathetic to the Manson girls because they clearly lacked father figures, as I recall.)

But, coming out of a true-crime-media spree that included the Ted Bundy series of my last post as well as a lot of Scientology/cult stuff, I have a new theory. Can’t get graded for it, but here goes: most of the really well-known cults or killers, whether they embody part of the zeitgeist or not, sure as hell benefit from it.

As an example: the 1960s and 1970s.

Let’s start with Bundy, who, as I mentioned last post, gets way too much credit for being some sort of Moriarty-esque mastermind when he was actually a below-average Nixon wannabe who didn’t have the common sense to use an alias. But he killed thirty people and broke out of jail twice–partly because tech and coordination and the general understanding of serial killers were, not to put too fine a point on it, total shit in the 1970s, but also partly because of the culture.

My impression of the 1960s and 1970s, other than the sort of fashion trends that let otherwise-functional adults wear bellbottoms in public, is that the time period was very angry (Watergate, Vietnam–look, just play “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and call it a goddamn day) but that was an anger directed at The Establishment, Man. (Which had certainly earned it in a lot of ways.) When it came to human nature in general…

…I mean, this was an era when “I Want to Buy the World a Coke” could actually air, no matter how cynical the Draperquivalent who came up with it was, and not get laughed out of every home in the country. People legit gave the peace sign unironically, fucking “Love Story” was somehow a hit, and there was a lot of sitting around singing acoustically about The Brotherhood of Humanity and how we are all stardust and everyone has good if you Just Give Peace a Chance and Imagine No Possessions, Maaaaaaaan. (I know this post is not about John Lennon, but there’s no time at which it’s inappropriate to tell John Lennon to shut up, so: shut up, John Lennon.)

(In other news, I could have sworn that “Strangers in a Car” dates from here and…no, 1991. How the actual fuck did someone sit down and write those lyrics in the nineties? Please watch this space for my next discussion, “Mark Cohn: Raised in a Cave, Or What?”)

People hitchhiked, for fuck’s sake. People picked up hitchhikers.

This is, like most things, a generalization. There were certainly more skeptical, suspicious folks, especially in the later 1970s–punk and rock started replacing the acoustic Let’s All Hold Hands for the Revolution themes, there were different attitudes in different places, and at least four of the women Bundy tried his “help me unload an entire sailboat from a Volkswagen Beatle” (seriously) trick on refused.

But I don’t know if there are other eras in which as many people would have accepted as did. (And I’m not saying that to blame the victims. They didn’t know, they had no way of knowing until Bundy himself and a whole cohort of assholes like Kemper and Gacy and Dahmer had been on the scene long enough for us to internalize that hitchhiking could get you killed and that if a single guy is approaching a woman for help when there are other people around, he’s probably got an agenda and she probably won’t like it.) I think it’s sort of telling that most of Bundy’s luring-women-away-with-“clever”-ruse murders happened before the mid-1970s: after ’76 or so, he was mostly either using ambush-style attacks or, horribly, going after kids.

Dude would probably have killed some people in any other time, absolutely. But I don’t know that he would’ve killed as many, because I honestly don’t know of any other time that was so naive about human nature.

Speaking of human nature, or maybe Thetan Nature, or Clam Nature, I don’t even know: Scientology next week.

Not Exactly Moriarty, Dude

Hello from whatever time and space this is now!

Shit is weird? Shit is weird. Like a month and a half ago I made a cover reveal in Providence at 6 AM, and then there was a whole day where I got on the wrong train and a Greyhound Saga and shortly afterwards we began to seriously live in the Plague Times. And now I’m out in PA, lucky enough to be in good health and with parents who are likewise, learning to cook and planting things, and also watching/reading just an enormous amount of true crime.

About that: Confessions of a Killer is actually remarkably good.

I came to it with a sense of deep and abiding meh, because Bundy, as serial killers go, was extremely basic. (Someone on Twitter said this first, and I wish I could remember who.) Failed white middle-class dude with Mommy Issues and Women Issues and Adequacy Issues, takes them all out on women at large? Been there done that discussed the ethics in games journalism.

And I stand by this particular assessment. Theodore Robert gets a lot of credit for being “handsome” and “smart,” and: no. Mark Harmon, who played him in the TV movie, was handsome. At his best, Bundy looked like a generic-model Brett from Sales, the sort of guy who, if he lived now, would be constantly talking on speakerphone in the middle of a crowded office and describing how 100K a year just isn’t enough to live on. But the other well-known killers at the time were Berkowitz, who is like the Pillsbury Doughboy with Botox lips and a receding hairline, and Charles Manson and his Short Jesus with Body Lice stylings, so Bundy really benefited from the Ugly Bridesmaid Effect there.

As for “smart,” no.

The multiple jailbreaks were nothing that took genius. “Put stuff in your bed and cover it with your blanket,” rises to the nefarious level of every teenage girl sneaking out after curfew. Jumping out the window of the law library and the whole business with the hacksaw and the hole and the weight loss? Dedication, yes. A certain disregard for personal health and safety, yes–way to be a more determined murderous asshole than other murderous assholes to record, Ted, well done. But brains? Nah.

Meanwhile, the guy insisted on firing his own legal team and completely screwed the pooch on his defense. When he got picked up after his second attempt, he’d stolen the same model of car he’d owned before.

Which was the car he used to pick up his victims. (A fairly distinctive car, BTW,  because he’d picked it out as part of his quest to Single White Female one of his bosses, which…not that it compares to his actual crimes, but it’s sort of fascinating how these guys are really actually Not Entirely Right in minor ways as well, usually.)

Oh, and when he did pick up those victims? Apparently he introduced himself by his real first name.

You know how everyone makes fun of various media vampires for thinking that nobody will catch on to the Really Cunning Ruse of spelling their own first name backwards? Bundy makes aforesaid vampires look like fucking masters of stealth.

He gets a reputation for being this criminal mastermind because he did manage to kill a lot of people before he was caught, and because he did break out of jail, but 100% of that (maybe 90% for the jailbreaks, with 10% the aforementioned dedication to murderous assholery) comes down to It Was the Fucking 1970s.

The Fucking 1970s was half the reason I watched Confessions in the first place, and in between the shots of, like, state prosecutors publicly wearing magenta paisley shirts and investigators working on the New! Advanced! Computer Punchcard Models! and similar, which I loved, it does a very good job of showing how the era really contributed to Bundy’s body count.

First of all, the whole serial killer concept was still fairly new. We’d had Manson and Berkowitz, we’d had Zodiac out in SF, but the default for most murders was still personal cause. (And that’s not wrong, per se–most people are killed by domestic partners, the most risky thing you can do if you’re not a cis guy is have an SO–but there’s more recognition of possible differences and patterns these days.) Second, there was significantly less inter-departmental coordination, forget about inter-state, in part because there *couldn’t* be. That Punchcards Are the Height of Tech thing is for serious: VICAP wouldn’t show up until 1985. Bundy was operating at a time when the motherfucking fax machine was unavailable science of the future, and if you wanted to send someone a picture, you had to put it in an envelope and stick it in the mail. Third, for both the police and normal people, the news was much more local. If you were in Colorado and there was a serial killer operating in Oregon or California, chances are you hadn’t even heard of that.

Fourth, and this is a thing I want to explore more in a future post, the culture was stupidly naive, in part because of everything above. People still hitchhiked. People didn’t think that, huh, this guy needs a hand getting a boat hooked up and he’s asking me, a random mid-twenties woman instead of any of the hundred Sonny Bono carbon copies at this lake party, maybe he has some dubious shit going on, because they hadn’t had Bundy and Dahmer and the thousand other willfully inadequate ragewads that I grew up hearing about.

This was a time when people could put out that “I want to buy the world a Coke” ad and have it be taken semi-seriously. If that doesn’t sum it up, I don’t know what would.

I noted a couple other things from Confessions, mostly how much all the victims’ friends and family (back when they were missing rather than confirmed dead) said some variant of “she’d never just take off without telling anyone,” and wow, I take off without telling anyone all the damn time. I’d either be the most frustrating murder victim for investigators, the worst 1970s roommate, or both.

Also, the narrator at one point described Young Bundy as “He was a clean-cut, four-square Young Republican,” and I said “well, that should’ve fucking tipped you off,” out loud.

But mostly: Bundy does not deserve any of the credit, even in a sinister way, that a lot of people give him. Some eras are just easy pickings for certain kinds of awful people. It doesn’t mean those people are smart. Like I said, I’ll go into this more generally in a later post…but if you think this is Relevant to Our Times, you’re also not wrong.

Drunk Occult History Because What the Hell

Hello the universe makes zero sense right now and I have wine, so let’s consider Aleister goddamn Crowley SOME MORE.

Seriously, I thought I’d finish up this guy in three posts and then move on to other things, but wow, no. And I’m not even going into detail about most of it.

To sum up so far: Rich repressed Edwardian dude decides to go performatively bad, blows his entire inheritance on hookers, blow, and self-publication, has Mystical Buttsex Experience, joins occult society, creates Drama in same, gets married in a “let’s save you from an arranged marriage” deal that would be romantic if it wasn’t, y’know, Aleister fucking Crowley, spends his honeymoon getting messages from possible Egyptian gods, writes a book dictated by same, refuses to commit museum theft and doesn’t publish the book.

Crowley was twenty nine at this point.

Whatever you can say about the guy, he did many things. I, in contrast, am eight years older and have yet to have any sort of Mystical Buttsex Experience, let alone transcribe an entire book from a dubiously-motivated disembodied voice. Clearly I’m spending too much of my time playing  video games and eating avocado toast.

So Mathers, the guy who ran the aforementioned occult society? Post-marriage, Crowley decided that Mathers was attacking him magically for Reasons and their bromance ended. One might speculate about the timing of this, Mathers’ Victorian attitudes toward sex and celibate marriage, and the displacement activity of repressed homosexual attraction. There’s a half-decent historical drama here, in fact. I see Tom Ellis as Crowley, and as Mathers…hm. Going with Alexis Denisof.

Crowley carried on doing things like getting more mountaineers killed by climbing the most dangerous mountain in the world in a dumbass fashion, naming his daughter Lillith OF FUCKING COURSE, and paying a guy a hundred pounds to write an essay about how good his poetry was. His daughter died, which was sad but did not keep him from naming another daughter “Lola Zaza,” nor from smoking a fuckton of hashish and doing magic, which I approve of more than I do “Lola Zaza,” good fucking Lord.

Dude claimed to have become one with God, as That Guy inevitably does, and wrote a bunch more books of occult philosophy. The whole system became known as Thelema, which some reasonable people practice, and Crowley was in no way one of them. He claimed, as That Guy inevitably does, that it was “objective truth.”

Izzy’s Drunken Life Tips #43: Never hang out with guys who talk about “objective truth.”

I was wrong earlier about Crowley having blown through his inheritance already, because at this point his money started running out, so he started acting as a magical bodyguard for coke-addled noblemen, writing short fiction, and taking paying students, which only seems to have involved BDSM like half the time.

Next: Starting His Own Magical Order! With Blackjack! And Hookers!

 

Drunk Occult History RETURNS!

There’s a plague! I’m in rural PA with my parents–who have let me drive their car, which is a sign of the goddamn End Times–for the foreseeable future! I may have panic-bought carrot seeds! It’s time to think about Aleister Crowley some more!

Dude followed the Golden Dawn thing with a world tour, in which he hit Mexico and Hawaii and San Francisco, went over to India and caught malaria to finish up his disease collection plus claimed to have achieved a state of enlightenment because of course he did, fucked around with Enochian and a number of poems about women he wanted to bang, and then ended up in Paris, where he married a friend’s sister, Rose, seriously pissing off said friend.

I’m not sure who to side with here. On the one hand, I’m not crazy about fraternal overprotectiveness. On the other, Aleister Crowley is not the sort of person anyone should marry. On the third, maybe don’t be friends with people you wouldn’t be okay with your siblings dating? On the fourth, maybe dude wanted Crowley himself, which would also be not the best judgment ever.

(To be fair, Crowley as a young man was much hotter than the standard picture in which he looks like Lex Luthor, or a very surly egg. Wiki has a photo of him in ceremonial clothes in 1912, and…I would, yeah. Especially with a good supply of penicillin.)

Crowley and Rose started their honeymoon by telling a Cairo hotel they were royalty, which is about #4 on the Most Aleister Crowley Ways to Spend Your Fucking Honeymoon. #1, of course, is Claiming To Be Contacted By Ancient Egyptian Gods, which, yes, apparently Horus just hangs around waiting for some rando drug-addled Englishman to show up so he can reveal Mystic Truths. The Egyptian underworld does not have a lot of Scrabble games, one assumes.

Presumably inspired by Horus–British occultism had a real Thing about Egyptian gods back then, and it makes it very difficult to deal with canon Golden Dawn stuff for those of us who have unfortunate Internet-inspired associations with animal-headed people–or at least a disembodied voice, Crowley spent three days writing The Book of the Law.

A lot of the book in question is…the sort of book dudes conveniently hear mystical voices telling them to write. A new age (excuse me, Aeon) is coming! Someone needs to lead it! Guess who has the lofty yet burdensome duty? Look, the disembodied voice says so, do you want to hurt its feeling? It’s a VERY SENSITIVE disembodied voice, okay? Don’t fuck with the voice.

There was apparently A Whole Thing where the voice also told Crowley to steal a stele (sorry) from a museum and fortify an island and Crowley was like “look you might be a disembodied voice and I might be a syphilitic Edwardian jackass but I have standards dammit please do fuck off,” so he sent copies around, then locked the book away and ignored it.

We are going to stop here and have a moment of silence for Crowley actually having a lick of sense. I think the next one is in 1946 and involves L. Ron Hubbard watching people jerk off.

Coming in December: THE STORMBRINGER

I’m not dead! I haven’t given up blogging! I have, however, been swamped writing and editing A NEW SERIES, which I can now reveal! (Thanks to the hour and a train and a cup of London Fog and a chocolate croissant, there will be plenty of CAPITAL LETTERS.)

HEY FRIENDS: Do you like “The Witcher?” Do you want to read about people trained from childhood, and altered by magic, to hunt monsters in a fantasy world?

Only what if a bunch of those people were women? And what if they also got bonded to the spirits of long-dead people who hang out in gems in their swords? And this all happened because of FANTASY SNOWPOCALYPSE a while back which was totally not inspired by me having to live in New England in 2015, Boston is ONLY SLIGHTLY A GODLESS WASTELAND, really?

And what if one of them discovered that the asshole who caused the snowpocalypse is BACK?

Stormbringer_Facebook

THE STORMBRINGER! Coming next December, just when your rum-to-eggnog ratio is starting to run low and you’re seriously contemplating setting fire to something important if Uncle Don doesn’t stop talking about bitcoin. Contains:

Training the Peaceful Villagers!
Monsters slash villains based loosely on nucklavee, dullahan, and Gamergate!
The SOMEWHAT AWKWARD situation where the frozen-in-time dude you’ve just awakened is the ex of the guy in your sword, who thought Dude 1 was long dead but he wasn’t and now you’re all trying to prevent the apocalypse and previously-frozen-in-time dude is ACTUALLY PRETTY GODDAMN HOT.
Rainbow magic powers!
A bit that made my editor comment “Great world-building, and also: gross.”
A goddess of love who also specializes in healing, death, and vengeance because fuck Yoda is why.
A shiny blue god of justice!
AND MORE!

Does not contain: WORDPRESS’S INABILITY TO BULLET A GODDAMN LIST WITHOUT BULLETING THE PARAGRAPH BEFORE IT.

THE STORMBRINGER: The first book of a new fantasy-romance trilogy. Look for it on the Sourcebook page, Amazon, B&N, and other places where you get books!