Flashback Link

I have totally failed to write a blog post, but I did discover that the Brunching Shuttlecocks’ Book of Ratings is still online! You can’t access the main page, but the separate pages themselves and the navigation bar at the bottom are still there.

In relation to some not-total-shitshow news this week, you can start with http://brunching.com/catnames.html

Drunk History: Crowley Like 4 Or Something: Crowley Harder

You know how I said there was a lot of this guy? There is A LOT OF THIS GUY. Like, I’m basically just going from what I’ve heard referenced in other occult stuff and Wiki, and I’ve done four blog posts already and Wiki has yet to get to Late Life, FFS. Crowley was clearly one of those dudes who couldn’t get the morning paper without starting a fire and writing a lengthy poetry cycle about it.

Sort of the Victorian occult version of people in the news right now, no? Except thank God our current attention leech doesn’t write poetry, like, that is the one thing that would make the situation worse.

Speaking of which: the VP debate is tonight, which makes it a great night for the “Drunk” part of this title. Tonight’s refreshing and wholesome beverage is St. James Brand Strawberry Wine, which my mom bought for me because she’s awesome and accepts that she’s raised an alcoholic hummingbird.

So when we last left Crowley, he was being an “occult bodyguard” to the Earl of Tankerville (actual name that I could not get away with using in a book) who was “afraid of witchcraft,” which is Weird Brit Occultist for “has sucked half of South America up his nostrils and is commensurately twitchy.” In his occultly-bodyguarding capacity, Crowley took Tankerville to Morocco and France.

Note to any cocaine-addled British nobility reading this: I would be a fucking fantastic occult bodyguard. I could protect you from all the witchcraft. DM me.

Aside from that, Crowley continued following his own drug-and-S&M star, punctuated by writing–horror stories, poetry, and pieces for, of all outlets, Vanity Fair. I am not even kidding. One of those last was titled “On the Management of Blondes,” and I say, from the depths of my heart: ew.

Founding his own magical order was pretty inevitable. One, as I mentioned, that was more or less mandatory for Victorians of a certain class–like a mystical version of foxhunting, or gout. Two, of course Crowley would go total Oh Yeah, You Think You Can Kick Me Out Mathers? about the whole Golden Dawn thing, because: Daddy Issues, possibly in both the paternal and the sexual sense. The fact that Alex named his order the “Silver Star” does nothing to dispel this belief.

Naturally, he also translated it into Latin–hey, Latin is sexy, so say Giles and Fenris, I have no beef with that–and then he abbreviated it as “A: A” but with a little three-lobed burning eye I mean three-ball-pyramid between each letter. Why, you might ask? Well, Llewelyn, everyone’s favorite source of Extremely Fucking Basic Wicca, says that the pyramid means “something further is hidden,” and also that the A balls A balls “possesses the secret Masonic “Lost Word.”

A completely unscientific prediction, by me, says that 100 out of 100 Masons think this is complete bullshit.

Noooot that the Aballs (and it really is sad that it was so goddamn silly, because “Silver Star” is a pretty name and Argentum Astrum is cool until people start making ass jokes, WHICH THEY WILL, but hey) weren’t influenced by the Masons. If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now: occultism, especially 18th and 19th century Western occultism, is more incestuous than a V.C. Andrews dynasty. The Golden Dawn got a lot of the rank-and-ceremony stuff from Masonic rites (which a lot of adult men in the UK knew, because Freemasonry and the Grange and so on were both socialization and social support networks in the days before insurance or social security or the Internet) and the Three Lobed Burning Star ripped off the GD like whoa.

Oh, excuse me, “expanded on” the GD. The lowest six ranks of Astrum are the Order of the Golden Dawn, Because Take That, Samuel McGregor, That’s Motherfucking Why. I will give Crowley credit for an impressive amount of pettiness here, and I speak as someone who initially named her fictional world’s evil god after a girl she hated in middle school. (I changed it a little later, not so much out of forgiveness or whatever but because it was one of those Evil God Apostrophe Names that went out of style in 1992.) Honestly, this level of intricate and detailed yet deniable spite makes me like the guy a little more.

(I would bet money that, had it been plausible, Bang Mathers’s Mom would have been one of the initiatory rites. I mean.)

After the Golden Dawn comes the Rosy Cross, because why the fuck not just go on ripping off names? We’re fucking Victorians, it’s what we do. And theeeeen the top three ranks are the Order of the Silver Star, which used to be/hopefully is not these days sometimes abbreviated as the “Order of the S balls S balls”: balls or not, those are some YIKES ASSOCIATIONS.

The highest rank, Ipissimus, is also the Double Secret Highest Rank, because nobody who gets there is actually supposed to let on. Crowley…at least strongly implied that he’d gotten there, because Crowley.

There is also an entire controversy about the possible translations of the name. Nobody ever said 19th century occultists didn’t know how to cut loose.

One of the tenets of the order is that members can’t accept payment for initiation or other stuff. People who are still around today may actually abide by the spirit of that, but Crowley 100% accepted “donations,” which were “not payment” in the sense that the office softball game is “not work.”

Just to add fun to 1970s conspiracy-theory books and people who actually believe in conspiracy theories, Crowley then called the “Official Organ” (snrrrrk) of the Silver Balls, a magazine called The Equinox, “The Review of Scientific Illuminism”.

Do I know what that means? No. Does anyone? Did anyone, including Crowley? Probably fucking not.

Now I’m going to go watch the debates and scream drunkenly at Mike Pence.



Cover Reveal, Yay! Other Stuff Blerg

My plan today was more Drunk Occult History, because believe you me there’s more Aleister Crowley to go. The dude is like the Energizer Bunny of pretentious coke-addled Victorians.

However…did you know that alcohol can go bad? This is a total upending of my worldview: it’s alcohol! You can use it to clean out wounds! It prevented our ancestors from all dying of giardia and cholera and dysentery!

But noooo, apparently if your at-the-time boyfriend gives you a bottle of chambord and you forget about half of it and then eight to ten years later you get it down from the back of your parents’ liquor cabinet and drink a glass, there are Consequences, one of which is that I can’t manage booze for the foreseeable future. I can barely manage food.

Luckily, Sourcebooks unknowingly came through, with–ta-da!–the cover for Nightborn, sequel to Stormbringer.



Nice, huh?

Little House Reread, Because Fuck It

It’s this or doomscrolling right now, so: a series of notes I made while re-reading Little House in the Big Woods.

CW: Racist terminology–not repeated here, but in book.

This series is one of my points of evidence that a book doesn’t need a Big Deal Central Plot to be interesting, and “Big Woods” has the most of that going on. The other books each have a sort of through-line, whether that’s moving to a place or the Laura-Almanzo romance or (and sometimes and/or) Nellie Fucking Oleson, but this one just has the Mary-Laura rivalry and only about two chapters of that. It’s really just How Life Was For a Year in the 18Somethings, but it’s remained popular/compelling for almost a hundred years.

I have never eaten bear. Venison, yes, and enjoyed it. (Same with moose, when we lived in Maine, and bison, though neither of those enter into these stories.) Has anyone reading this eaten bear? If so, what does it taste like? I shot many of them in Oregon Trail, but that’s about it.

Lizzie Skurnick, in “Shelf Discovery” mentions the sheer number of disarticulated game animals here, and also the general food porn of the first two books in the series especially, but I will further note that these books are probably 50% responsible for my generation going so cottagecore/weird prepper, depending on your political leaning,

“It wasn’t Susan’s fault that she was only a corncob,” sounds very Bless Her Heart, and I want to adapt it to the various racist Susans/Suzannes in the romance industry.

Panthers: Fucking Terrifying is a major theme in this particular book.

Aunt Eliza’s story at Christmas (tl;dr: dog starts acting really weird/aggro about her going to the spring, she’s scared, turns out there was a ginormous panther waiting there) is basically “Faithful Gelert,” but with a happier ending. And I’m for that!

Ma is way less about Jesus and propriety here than she is in later books. I don’t know if that’s because Laura was younger and Ma didn’t think she had to start making her a Proper Christian Lady yet, or they were further away from people–Ma is definitely a what-will-the-neighbors-say kind of lady–or what. I can’t imagine the Ma of Plum Creek or Silver Lake being so sympathetic to the fact that Sunday is The Fucking Worst, or admitting that the standards of her time were uncomfortably restrictive.

YIKES casually racist 19th century songs. Apologies: they sort of slip this one in here, and I’d forgotten it was part of this book.

Bears also feature significantly here.

I was today years old before I realized that “Horse Marines” is an innately satirical term, though apparently also was at least one military group, and also a horse who was a Marine? Thanks, Google.

OMG THE DANCE. Pretty sure this and the pig bladder are the things most people remember from this book, thus covering both ends of some sort of spectrum.

Uncle George seems to have been in the Civil War when he was 14, so, yeah, “wild” is probably the best that could be hoped for there.

“Back hair” means something VERY DIFFERENT today than it does in old-school books.

God everyone’s dresses are so damn pretty. And none of them is what we generally think of as “fancy” when we’re talking Historical Stuff–no velvet or silk or whatnot.

“Maple sugar never hurt anyone.” Words to live by.

“Then somebody would have to be unselfish and polite.” This is just all of Behaving Well As a Child summed up in one weary sentence. Likewise “had to be unselfish” re: sharing the swing in the next chapter.

I’m so glad I’m not a parent sometimes, and not only because I will never have to pretend I give a shit about a sixth-grade ballet recital. Like, I understand wanting to instill altruism and sharing and similar as virtues because nobody wants to find out they’ve raised a Libertarian, but I also remember from my own childhood how much I haaaaaated “share your toys with your guests” and similar. (Especially when they weren’t my guests, they were my parents’ guests’ kids.)

19th Century color theory was weird. Whether it was this blondes-wear-blue-brunettes-wear-red thing or Anne Shirley being unable to wear pink because she had red hair, I spent a lot of my youth being confused about who got to wear what colors and why. Let us not even discuss the whole Red Issue, in general.

The springtime trip to town is where the whole Mary/Laura Hair Color Issue starts up. I was surprised to see it so late in the book, to be honest–which goes back to what I said earlier about this not really having/needing a through-line.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that kids, regardless of who they are or when/where they live, like shiny rocks more than is at all reasonable. See also: those bins of polished stones in museum gift shops.

I think reading the bit where the stones tear Laura’s pocket out, as a kid, was the first time I realized exactly how pockets work.

God, Carrie makes out well in the early books, just out of Mary and Laura not quite being able to divide things among themselves. She gets a bead string in Prairie, too. Granted, then she grows up and is Generally Sickly and gets picked on by Eliza Jane Wilder, so I guess we should let her have what pleasure she can.

In a purely fictional novel series, Laura and Clarence would have gotten together when they grew up, which illustrates the difference between fictional and real romance nicely. Also, I want copper-toed boots.

This “ask your aunt whether she likes gold or brown hair best” thing is not the worst thing Ma does or says in the series, by A LOT, but it is the most bizarre.

That is to say: Ma is racist as hell later on. It’s awful, and being “a woman of her time” does not excuse it, especially as the rest of the Ingallses, while also racist, are at least racist in a less openly hostile way. But a white chick in the 19th century being racist is not per se surprising. It shouldn’t be an expected thing, but it kind of is.

From even a perspective of self-interested parenting, though, why the fuck would you have your two under-ten, close-in-age kids go ask the aunt they clearly really admire whose hair she likes better? You don’t have to be a modern caring parent ot even give much of a damn about your kids’ self esteem to realize that this question is just setting yourself up for a headache.

Like, oh, the aunt is smart and diplomatic but the kids fight about it anyhow and one of them smacks the other? GEE NOBODY COULD HAVE SEEN THAT COMING, CAROLINE, YOU UTTER BOOB.

Being glad that your sibling has to do all the chores is also Peak Childhood.

And yeah, the rivalry plot also gets resolved in like two chapters. 

Bees just never sting Pa. This is completely unexplained.

The bit with Charley (tl;dr: spoiled brat makes trouble with the harvest, YELLOWJACKETS ENSUE) is, I think, good at illustrating the difference between kid readers and adult readers. A lot of people re-reading this as adults react with horror to the whole thing and yeah: the kid is eleven, it’s not his fault his parents spoiled him up to that point, he ends up in a pretty wretched state. These people are not wrong.

But, and maybe it’s because I don’t have/want kids, or am immature, or was a particularly mean-spirited child, but I remember reading this whole thing with relish. It’s the same as when a teacher yells at a kid who is Not You: one of the great joys of childhood is seeing another kid deservedly get it in the neck.

Pa is totally some variety of frustrated druid. 

Back!

Yeah, yeah, I keep saying that. I’m a dreadfully unreliable creature. Ask any guy I’ve ever known. ūüėõ

But with the help of my awesome editor, I’ve gotten the sequel to Stormbringer pummeled into shape, and made my way through a couple of other projects, and figured out what the hell I’m doing with my tabletop campaign. (The PCs are fighting the forces of the libertarian centipede ungods thr,ough diplomacy. And throat-stabbing. Also tactical psionics.)

So I sort of have a brain now. It’s great!

I’m still living with my parents, and probably will be mostly doing that until the end of the year if not later. It’s mostly great! I’m seeing less sf stuff than normal and more old-school Perry Mason, not to mention way too much political analysis (and I will overlook Morning Joe eulogizing Reagan every five minutes if it switches some people away from Trump, but they better shut the fuck up about that after Nov. 4, because every time Scarborough mentions “believing in the values of Reagan” I snarl back YOU MEAN IGNORING AIDS OR WHAT and then Dad spills his coffee and it’s a whole thing), and, since my nephew’s also around a lot, a whole bunch of Nick Jr.

I do not get the appeal of “Spongebob Squarepants.” Like, at all.

I also have unearned Cool Aunt cred simply because I know who the main Transformers are. It’s not even a main fandom of mine! I can’t distinguish the different series that well: there are the shitty Michael Bay movies (okay, the first two have semi-engaging plots buried in piles of toilet humor and Women Want Commitment, You Know? fuckwittery), there’s a series centered on rescue vehicles because it’s for young kids and/or the children of hippies, there’s the main series which has probably been rebooted a time or five, and there’s the one where everyone is inexplicably dinosaurs, but I suspect there are three to seven more that I’m mostly unaware of.

But I’m the only person around here who knows how big a deal Optimus Prime is. The bar is low, which is probably good for my future old-age care.

I keep trying to grow turnips, and turnips keep sprouting and then flopping over. I may or may not have grown potatoes. The jury is likewise out on parsnips, which have very healthy-looking foliage but may not be doing a damn thing underground. Something ate all my watermelon plants, and I’d be inclined to resent that, but I don’t know where we’d store watermelon anyhow. The squash is looking…plantlike? I don’t know. Very healthy little stalks, zero actual squash so far.

The world continues to be awful and on fire in seventeen ways. Everyone should vote, if they can. Everyone should vote Democrat, if they can, and I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR FROM WHITE CIS PEOPLE ABOUT “THE ESTABLISHMENT,” like, there is actual fascism going on, the current administration got close to two hundred thousand people killed, harm reduction is a thing and this is not a fucking high school production of RENT and every single character in that except Mimi is fuck awful anyhow. (Angel comes close to being OK but kills a dog, so no.)

So I’ve been text/phone banking, which means getting sworn at a lot by the sort of person who thinks that’s impressive or intimidating, even though it’s 2020. Does anyone out there actually believe calling someone a bitch is going to register? Because we’ve had the internet for 30 years now.

Read “Star Daughter,” which is amazing and 100% recommended. Read “Harrow the Ninth,” which is really well done, and which I need to read again: the first part is fairly trippy and confusing, and to be honest it was really good that the series started with Gideon’s POV, because Harrow is a bit of a pill. Understandable–blah blah teenager blah blah trauma blah blah–but understandable and tiresome are not mutually exclusive. Fortunately, the side characters and the world building and so forth carry the first part well, and then everything gets awesome.

Next week: Little House in the Big Woods, or WTF, Caroline, Part 1 of Eleventy-Million.

Future Plans: Little House Reread

I think I’ve maybe gotten most of the ranting out of my system.

FOR NOW.

I’ve also been re-reading many People Are Stuck Inside Forever historical novels, which inevitably led to re-reading “The Long Winter,” which led to me noticing some stuff about the Little House series. And I figured I’d blog about it, in the sporadic way I’m doing everything.

Preliminary disclaimer post, though: holy shit these books are racist.

I’m not really qualified to talk about that, especially since other people have done so already and with more background. Check out https://bookriot.com/i-grew-up-with-laura-ingalls-wilder/ and https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/little-house-prairie-was-built-native-american-land-180962020/, as well as Ana Mardoll’s reread, which takes a more socially-critical look than I’m going to: http://www.anamardoll.com/2012/08/little-house-lets-read-big-woods.html.

Personally, I can do the thing I do with Lovecraft and other old SF books, where I cringe at bits and then sort of shunt them off into a form of mental discontinuity. Both privilege as a white chick and a lifetime of Disney movies have also let me treat historical novels the way I do both “1776” and “Hamilton”–essentially, divorce the work from what it’s based on and pretend it all takes place in an AU where the protagonists are way better people and, in this case, didn’t then raise a libertarian trashfire.

This isn’t a thing everyone can or should do! If the concept of the books or passages from them make you nope the fuck out, that is totally fucking understandable, because even with all the above, some things are still YIKES for me. (Plus, nobody has to read anything they don’t want to. This isn’t ninth grade, you don’t have to suffer through two hundred pages of Hemingway to pass anything.) I’m not responsible for kids, which is great for the world in general for SO MANY REASONS, and I don’t know that I’d give the books to them if I was. I also would be seriously reconsidering this whole thing if Wilder or her horrible daughter were in any position to benefit from the attention.

That said: “talented” and “good” don’t go hand in hand, stopped clocks are right twice a day, et cetera. The Little House series does some things really well (food and/or clothing porn, the proto-cosmic horror of Nature, the Nellie Oleson arc), and some things interestingly (the increasingly Jesusy bits in Silver Lake and Long Winter only for religion to drop back down again in Little Town and Golden Years, the point at which the Laura-Mary relationship changed), and I’ll probably be rambling mostly about those.

I’m going to skip Prairie. Not only is it the one with the most egregious racism–there’s a gross stereotypical Native American bit character in Long Winter, and a minstrel show in Little Town that…ugh…but Prairie is really concentrated Oh God No–but, despite being the one to lend its title to a whole series, it’s also kind of the least significant. Aside from a cool trippy bit about malaria, there’s not much there (OTHER THAN THE RACIST BITS) that isn’t in the other books: you’ve got hints of the Mary-is-a-Priss, Laura’s-a-Tomboy aspect of Big Woods and the Nature Can, and Will, Fuck You Up theme from later in the series, and that’s pretty much it,

There are biographical reasons for that–the family actually moved and then came back to Wisconsin, so a lot of the events and dynamics in Big Woods sort of bracketed the ones in Prairie–but the effect is that you don’t need to read and/or care about Prairie. Summary: the family goes to take over land the government has stolen from the Osage, there’s a lot of racist bullshit, they build a house and get malaria, Mary is the goodiest-two-shoes ever oh my GOD, they find out that they’re for serious stealing the land even by the gross racist standards of the US Government, and they leave the end.

Also you don’t get malaria from watermelons. For the record.

I will also be denying that “The First Four Years” and similar exist, because fuck you, do not subvert your happy ending. See above re: AU, and in this one Laura and Almanzo had an awesome farm and stayed near her parents and nobody lost their shit about the New Deal. Fuck off, reality.

Not Oppressive, Still Obnoxious: The Necessity of Minding Your Own Goddamn Business, At Least to People’s Faces

So last week I spent some time getting annoyed at twee pagans and whiny single people, as one does, and didn’t have the room or time to go into another point I’d meant to make in more depth: behavior doesn’t have to be systemic oppression to be insensitive, obnoxious, or just plain deserving of an ass-kicking. The person practicing ska at 3 AM in an apartment building is probably not perpetuating or benefiting from an unjust system, at least not directly. The friend-of-a-friend who never bothered learning their limits or even telltale signs and ends up puking on someone’s rug at every single party without ever offering to pay for cleaning isn’t necessarily privileged. They’re still both assholes and should probably be fired into the sun.

There’s also a form of being a dick which is, although not really relevant to the privilege/oppression axis in and of itself, still bizarrely socially tolerated or even encouraged: being a goddamn busybody about other people’s lives. I started calling it the Harper Valley PTA approach, because that song is great and I first encountered the phenomenon when acquaintances were needlessly “concerned” about my personal relationships, but it covers a lot of ground.

Let’s start with the obvious. Nobody likes Have You Heard the Good News About Jesus Guy. At our most charitable, we understand that Good News About Jesus Guy is a brainwashed young sap whose cul–I mean, “church”–demands that sort of thing as a method of further brainwashing, but that doesn’t mean we need to put up with him. If your faith doesn’t overlap with Amway sales, you know this. If it does…you’re not going to like anything else on this blog, I’m pretty sure.

Nobody likes Amway salespeople either. And if I want to buy essential oils or Tupperware or cosmetics or sex toys, I’m a grown adult and I WILL ASK, LEANNE, OH MY GOD.

(I’m not saying that all the girls I hated in middle school grew up to get involved in MLM scams, but there’s a significant proportion.)

Now expand that.

Have You Heard the Good News About Not!Jesus Guy? Have You Heard the Good News About Veganism Person? ALSO ASSHOLES. People who try to convince you that their version of camping, or ballet, or Space Westerns are So Different and you really really need to just try them, after you’ve stated that you don’t enjoy those things? DICKS. People who feel the need to mention that you’re dressed too sexily or not sexily enough or not following the proper trend or have too many facial piercings or tattoos? CAN, AND SHOULD, DIE IN A FIRE.

And actually, sidebar before I go on: pressuring friends/family/SOs who are meh about your hobby to join that hobby isn’t just being a jerk to them. It’s being a jerk to everyone else who *does* enjoy that hobby, and doesn’t need Pouty SO Healer Who Doesn’t Want to LARP But Their Clingy-Ass Boyfriend (And It Is Nearly Always A Goddamn Boyfriend, Let’s Be Honest) Whined Them Into It along, glaring at everyone and checking their phone in the middle of intense roleplay scenes. “Let people enjoy things,” means “don’t drag disinterested people along and make it suck for the rest of us because you’re weirdly evangelical about your hobbies, STEVE.” (It also means “don’t intrude on activities you have no interest in because you’re jealous/clingy/otherwise a bracket fungus posing as a person and should not be dating, ALSO PROBABLY STEVE,” but that’s a different issue.)

Assume that adults are adults and that, unless you frequently party with the Amish, adults have resources. Assume that if people are your friends, they’ll observe your lack of eating animal products or your church attendance or your collection of Firefly DVDs (and it’s fine to mention things briefly, in context, like “oh, yeah, I’m an atheist so Easter is more about cheap jellybeans” or “we went on a hike this weekend and I saw a cool bird”) and will ask for more information if that’s something they’re interested in.

Otherwise, drop it. Jesus, Richard Dawkins, the cows, and the science fiction genre will be juuuust fine without you being a pain in the ass, and your friends will remain your friends.

Now that I’ve said people who are interested will ask…asking, itself, is often a dick move.

There are things you don’t need to know about other people. There are things you don’t have the right to know about other people. There are topics people are sensitive about, and choices that nobody has to justify, and no, it’s not “just being friendly.” The spectrum on which you suck ranges from being a pain in the ass about things you could Google to thoughtlessly bringing up potentially¬† painful topics out of selfish curiosity to what some internet forums call “JAQing off,” or advancing your own agenda under the guise of “just asking questions”.

Right off the top: DO NOT ASK PEOPLE IF THEY WANT KIDS. DO NOT ASK PEOPLE IF THEY’VE “MET ANYONE SPECIAL”. DON’T ASK UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE HOW THE JOB SEARCH IS GOING.

If you’re close enough to know, they’ll tell you. If you’re not close enough for them to tell you, you don’t need to know, so shut the fuck up and get a hobby.

(“Tell you,” doesn’t always have to be direct–if your friendship occasionally involves “ugh, dating is THE WORST” and similar phrases, casual follow-up “not much luck, huh?” questions are fine.)

Similarly, if you do ask–WHICH YOU SHOULDN’T–and they answer rather than throwing a glass of red wine in your face as you so richly deserve, or if they themselves mention not wanting kids/a house/a SO/etc, don’t ask why. Don’t tell them they’ll change their mind, or feel like you have to justify your own kids/marriage/whatever by convincing them otherwise. Otherwise, a “…so, what *is* the divorce rate these days, Janice?” type of answer is the least you deserve.

And I’ve seen it less, but: fellow single/childless people, we don’t get to ask either. You know the Miss Manners thing about sex, politics, money and religion not being polite subjects of conversation? Kids and relationships count as “sex” in this context, and employment counts as “money,” at least when they’re hypothetical. (“How’s Little Timmy liking summer camp?” or “Work treating you okay?” are different if you have a reasonable certainty that Little Timmy and the job are both generally going along fine.)

Relatedly: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT ASK ANYBODY WHY THEY GOT DIVORCED OR BROKE UP, WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU THAT YOU WOULD EVEN THINK THAT’S OKAY?

Seriously, if that seems like an acceptable question for you to ask anyone, at any time, please do everyone the favor of removing yourself from human society. Move out to the desert. Talk to cacti. Eat scorpions. Jesus fucking Christ, I can’t believe this even needs mentioning AND YET.

Likewise, if you deviate from allocishet monogamy at all, there’s a way-more-substantial body of people than there should be in 2021 who think they get to know how your sex life works. THEY DO NOT. If you believe in a non-Christian religion, a fair number of both Christians and atheists are under the impression that you need to know their opinion of your faith and put up with being badgered about your rationale for following it. YOU DO NOT. THOSE PEOPLE ARE AWFUL HUMANS.

This is an area where some questions are okay from some people, if those people genuinely want to know–and have done their homework on sensitive subjects where they could just Google things–and have the standing with you to ask.

As someone who’s not monogamous, “Wow, how do you schedule?” is fine as a casual-acquaintance joke. “I’d be interested to hear how you keep from feeling lonely or jealous, if you’re up for explaining,” is totally cool *from close friends and immediate family,* but not from someone I’m in one game with or put up with once a year at Christmas. “Oh, so you’re okay with cheating?” or “Wow, how do you live like that?”…FUCK OFF.

Similarly, as a pagan, “Oh, are you doing anything for that solstice coming up?” is great! “Hey, I’d love to hear more about what you believe sometime!” is a friends-and-family thing. “Aren’t you worried about going to Hell?” or “How do you believe in that stuff?” will make me hate you.

(Note: I’m speaking here as a member of non-standard but not oppressed groups. People need to be extra careful about what they ask, say, Muslims, or transgender people, and I FUCKING WELL BET that the gay person sitting next to you at a wedding does not want to discuss whatever dumbass thing Mike Pence just said.)

“But I just can’t imagine wanting to–” You don’t have to.¬†People can want different things from life, things completely incomprehensible to other people! It’s fine! I don’t demand that my friends who like camping explain that. (I just assume that they’ve fallen victim to an alien mind control plot to get us all eaten by bears, thus leaving Earth ripe for conquest, and I’d rather not draw attention to myself. :P) I¬† stay home and I hope they have fun, because it’s zero skin off my nose.

Lest you think I’ve turned hippie: none of this means you can’t be judgmental, even over petty things. I’d recommend knowing *why* you’re being judgmental, but, like, I have Opinions about toe-defining running shoes worn in non-running contexts, the phrase “making love,” Chloe from Lucifer, and people who give all of their kids names starting with the same initial.

Furthermore, if someone’s behavior is provably, unavoidably hurting other people or putting them at risk, absolutely confront them. Tell your TERF relative to fuck off, yell at people not wearing masks in stores, send Nazis’ pictures to their employers/colleges. Deck Richard Spencer. If you know someone’s in an abusive relationship (and that doesn’t mean cheating, or A Relationship You Personally Wouldn’t Like) try to intervene in a supportive, effective way that I am 500% unqualified to describe–check out Captain Awkward.

But: provably, and unavoidably. I myself think that the all-one-initial naming scheme is a pretty reliable path toward a book depository window, but I don’t *know* that. (Also, it won’t do Jason, Jennifer, and Joanne any good to get in their parents’ faces now: the damage has been done.) My friend’s SO who can and will quote the entire Python canon at so much as a mention of hamsters is…what he (probably he, let’s be honest) is, and I have to decide how much the friendship is worth putting up with that bullshit, but my friend is an adult and can leave if they want.¬† You Could Do Way Better is not a conversation I have the right to initiate, however enthusiastic I may be when it comes up.

That, as I’ve said about other things, is why God made mutuals and brunch, or the car ride home from the party. There’s a time and a place for a long sip of gin and tonic followed by “…well, it’s certainly *a* choice,” or “…okay but Boston is *full* of ex-fratboys with faces like potatoes who are at least somewhat less annoying than he is, so…” or just “…oooooof *course* they did. Lord.” After you’ve pulled out of the driveway, by all means turn to your friend, ask if they noticed that Madison was wearing a purity ring, and engage in as much eye-rolling as will let you get into the rotary safely.

But to people’s faces, if they’re not hurting anybody other than your sense of taste or reason? Don’t ask. Don’t tell, either. Get some kitting, and mind it. People who do otherwise deserve neither politeness nor consideration.

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/