When is success not success?

Posted in Uncategorized on January, 2022 by melendwyr

TV Tropes is all-consuming, so I’ll understand if you don’t want to read it. But, I’m building up to something, and it’s not all that dangerous. You can stop any time you want, right? Right?

Magnum Opus Dissonance

When a creator and their audience disagree as to their greatest work, or whether a given work is successful or not, who is correct? We can hope that our actions will be justified by history, but is there any reason to value the judgment of the future more than that of the past? What if other people never perceive the quality we do, or perceive it where we don’t?

It’s worth reading the whole thing, but especially check out the ‘Other’ section at the bottom.

When and Why to Reject Language Shift, or, Another Reason to Hate NPR

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December, 2021 by melendwyr

My bedside clock radio is set to NPR, because it’s very effective at getting me moving in the morning, because I hate it so very much. Passionate feelings are the best way to chase away that early-morning sluggishness; no one said they had to be good feelings.

Anyway, one of their “human interest” stories caught my interest this morning. Morning Edition – A pelican in Naples, FL

It’s the typical drivel that is of no significance but that people like to hear, until it comes to the end of the story, in which we are cheerily informed that the pelican’s eyes were literally bigger than its stomach.

[meaningful pause]

I’m an amateur conlanger, and I’ve hung out around a lot of linguists and people with linguistic interests. In my experience, they tend to generalize the scientific dispassion and strictly passive observation required for the study of language to how they approach languages issues generally, particularly when it comes to pet peeves surrounding how words and phrases change their meaning.

Well, I still believe that it’s appropriate to oppose certain changes of words. It’s often hopeless, of course, and practicality means we simply have to accept things. ‘Gay’ will probably never mean “cheerful, joyous, or happy” ever again, no matter how much we might wish it had kept that original meaning. But there are plenty of synonyms for the older meaning of ‘gay’, which is part of why the word’s usage shifted so easily. But the increasing use of ‘literally’ as a mere intensifier? NO!

There aren’t all that many ways to say that something is meant literally, not figuratively, other than actually using the word. I’m reasonably fluent in English, and I had to stop and think for a while, then break out a dictionary, to double-check the formal definitions and find acceptable synonyms. ‘Plain’, ‘straightforward’, and ‘factual’ are among them, but none of them quite match the meaning of ‘literal’. Which is, of course, why we have that word in the first place.

When a shift in language makes it difficult or impossible to convey meaning in a useful way, that’s when we should dare to insist that the change is actually an error. If we asked that reporter if she used those words as a figure of speech, she would of course affirm this. The idea of accepting the statement as a factual claim is absurd. Yet that’s precisely how the statement was tagged.

NPR ought to be ashamed of itself for abusing the English language in such an ignorant and counterproductive way.

The Liars Who Cannot Be Forgiven

Posted in Doom, Medicine, Politics and Society with tags on December, 2021 by melendwyr

Now that I finally have a steady job again, I should take up this blog once more. I haven’t had the time and energy required.

Today, though, something happened that made me decide to make the effort.

My clock radio is set to wake me up with NPR, because I hate them so very much that it pulls me right out of sleep. When I awoke today, the current story was the “Omicron Variant” of Covid, and a patient who attended a convention in New York and has been confirmed to have contracted Omicron.

Vaccination was required for attendance, and so presumably all attendees, vendors, and venue employees had been fully vaccinated. The patient certainly had – but he contracted Covid anyway.

The doctor being interviewed stressed that the patient had a very mild case, and claimed this demonstrated that vaccination provides a protective effect against Covid and everyone should be vaccinated.

We now have enough reports about the spread of this strain of Coronavirus for it to be clear that vaccination doesn’t provide much immunity to it. And, of course, vaccination doesn’t even provide much immunity to the previous strains, which is why people are now being urged to get booster shots. (Presumably the plan is to offer boosters from now into forever, or… something.) But we simply don’t have enough data yet to conclude that vaccination moderates the course of Omicron, or any other strain for that matter. If nothing else, research on the early spread of the virus has demonstrated that most people who contract Covid don’t have seriously life-threatening or even necessarily noticeable symptoms. A single case of a vaccinated person contracting Omicron and having mild symptoms proves… basically, nothing at all that we couldn’t reasonably conclude is probable from our past experience.

I don’t have a whole lot of life wisdom, but what little I do possess has been hard-won. And it has been my experience that people who lie to you for their own benefit can sometimes be trusted again. Conscience plagues decent people, and indecent people recognize the danger in being found out in a lie and avoid doing so if means for others to verify their claims exist. But the people who tell you lies “for your own good” cannot ever be trusted once recognized, because those who deceive you with the full approval of their own consciences will do it again and again and again. They will fall into the same pattern more reliably than an addict. And they virtually never repent; contrition is almost always another deceit.

Consider what authorities tell us carefully, and doubly so when it’s for our good.

The Fear of Empty Spaces

Posted in Uncategorized on August, 2019 by melendwyr

It’s been, what, two years since I could bring myself to put things here?  They’ve been pretty awful years for me.  And possibly for you.  But that’s not so relevant.

I think I’ll see if I can’t find a way to fill up some of the empty spaces screaming at me.


Rupture: Movie Review

Posted in Fiction, Reviews, Things You Should See with tags , on August, 2017 by melendwyr

I am so often disappointed by small, independent films that I find it noteworthy when I come across one I approve of wholeheartedly.

So I recommend ‘Rupture’.  It’s not what I would call a perfect film, but perfection is often boring and hidebound, and this certainly isn’t that.

A single mother interacts with her young son, unaware that her home is filled with secret cameras and strangers follow her car.  After she drops off the child with her estranged ex-husband, she is abducted and taken to a bizarre facility by inappropriately genial and empathetic captors… and things get weirder from there.

I particularly appreciate the use of color to create tension and atmosphere – really well done.  I didn’t feel the musical background was always used well – too much heavy-handed dissonance can draw a viewer out of the experience if there’s no obvious reason to feel tension in a scene, so going to that well too early in the film is a mistake.  But it’s a small matter, and I only care because I enjoyed the movie enough to nitpick.

‘Rupture’ is unrated, and must have had a very limited distribution, but it can likely be found at various streaming services and temporarily at Redbox kiosks.

Good news, everyone!

Posted in Blogging, Uncategorized on June, 2017 by melendwyr

Now there’s a title that will inspire dread in every geeky heart…

On the plus side, I have steady work now, which means I no longer have to worry about starving to death on the streets.  On the negative side, it’s kept me so busy that I haven’t had much time to devote to my all-important hobbies, like gardening or occasional blogging.

Hopefully I can manage to get more of those things in.

What color was the Emerald City?

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction with tags , , on February, 2017 by melendwyr

No, seriously, think about this for a moment.  In L. Frank Baum’s original work, what color was the Emerald City?

Your first thought will probably be ’emerald green’, and your second will probably be that there’s some kind of trick here.  There is.

In the book, the Wizard didn’t know how to make a city where everything was green.  So he made a city that was totally pure white, and told everyone that they had to wear green glasses to prevent the dazzling glare of the ‘green’ city from blinding them.  They quite naturally saw everything as being green once they wore the colored lenses, but because they were gullible, they were taken in by the Wizard’s explanation.

Of course, making a White City is even harder than making an Emerald one.  So there’s a great deal of irony in the fact that, in attempting to deceive everyone into thinking he had made a lesser accomplishment, he made a greater one.  There are also many associations to be made in the real world, but that’s another story and will be told another time.

Also, the Slippers are silver.  But I don’t know that they’re symbolic or emblematic of anything.  If the movie makers hadn’t wanted to show off their color technology quite so much… oh well.

Okay, let’s try this again…

Posted in Blogging on February, 2017 by melendwyr

I had been holding off on doing things like blogging while I was trying to find work.  Then I found some and was too busy to start it up again.  Now I’m looking, again, and I think I’ll try some different strategies.

I don’t know how regular updates will be, but there will be some, in the near future.

What Women Want – 50 Shades of Grey’s ancient pattern

Posted in Fiction, Politics and Society, Things You Should Hear with tags , , , , , on February, 2015 by melendwyr

For years, people have been gushing over the novel 50 Shades of Grey, and now that it’s a major motion picture people are gushing about that.  Praise or condemnation, it doesn’t much matter – either way, people are talking about it.  It might not be quite true that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.  For people.  For ideas, for memes, that seems to be the literal truth.

I’ve been monitoring how the book is discussed in various male-dominated circles, and my overwhelming impression is that the people claiming to explain the ‘true significance’ of the novel just aren’t getting it.

50 Shades is a combination of two kinds of fantasy: sex-without-guilt, which like the ‘rape’ commonly found in romance novels permits women to enjoy forbidden/tabooed sexuality without being responsible for breaking the social codes – basically having the cake and eating it – and the fantasy of having a man be so obsessed and emotionally tied to the woman that he can be induced to change his bad-boy nature.

It’s the same basic pattern found in lots of romances. The only difference between this and the standard bodice-ripper is that as more and more forms of sexual expression have been normalized, more extreme practices are needed to give people the frisson of transgressing what’s ‘good’. Go back far enough, and sex we’d consider tame and standard would be kinky and shocking.

Readers get to be titillated by the forbidden, then released from guilt about enjoying the forbidden by having it be treated as a shameful male crime – “It’s not my fault, he tempted me” – then given what they really want.

And what is that, exactly? The medievals knew perfectly well.

Go read Chaucer’s ‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale’.  Or better yet, go listen to Professor Corey Olsen’s Fairie and Fantasy lectures about ‘Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle’ and ‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale’.  And consider how the basic pattern of those works compares to the structure of 50 Shades.

The Phoenix and the Firebird

Posted in Uncategorized on February, 2015 by melendwyr

It’s been nearly a year since I did much of anything with this blog.  Sometimes I’ve had nothing to say.  Other times I’ve had plenty to say in other venues, and didn’t bother repeating it here.

Perhaps soon I will think of something worth posting.