Archive for April, 2009

Consensus of Two

Posted in Politics and Society on April, 2009 by melendwyr

When reading sites that avow socially unpopular ideas, especially those that contradict dominant ideological structures, I frequently come across people saying things like “when I talk to people in private conversations they admit that the ideas have merit, but no one is willing to say so in public” and concluding that there’s actually a vast, untapped wellspring of people who agree with their positions.

What never seems to occur to them is that many of those people are conformists of the worst kind, the sort that seeks always to match the society around them – ideological chameleons. And when an ideological chameleon has a private conversation with an individual who espouses unusual positions, the effective society they’re in has only two members.

The implications for any positions which are considered distasteful but not actively abhorrent are clear. Those who lack the courage of their convictions, or who have no convictions to speak of, are likely to say all sorts of things privately that they will contradict publicly, even if only by remaining silent.

In the News

Posted in Doom, Politics and Society on April, 2009 by melendwyr

In honor of the exciting new virus that’s sweeping the world: Pandemic. A very simple game, but it can provide some moments of amusement. The music sets the mood nicely.

Another thought: among college students and those who interact with them, there is a concept known as “helicopter parents”. ‘Helicopter’ in the sense that they’re always hovering above. Even though their child has ostensibly left the nest to set off into the world, they need to protect and control their little darling. Any setbacks or difficulties, no matter how trivial or due to the student’s own screwups, bring them swooping down to demand that their offspring be given special treatment and exceptions. Bad grades? They’ll demand they be raised by the professor. Kicked out of class for poor attendance? They’ll demand the kid be reinstated.

Many college students have grown up in a world where their decisions are made for them, with the consequence that they’ve never developed any self-control or interior sense of guidance. So when they get out from under their parents’ wings, with no external authority to restrict them and no internal authority to hold them back, they go nuts. The children of helicopter parents are even worse in this regard.

This leads me to wonder: just how much does our schooling system, which teaches kids to be passive, not-self-directed, and uninvolved, condition citizens to be passive and uninvolved citizens who expect problems to be handled for them instead of by them?

You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man

Posted in GIGO, Politics and Society on April, 2009 by melendwyr

I have been listening with great amusement to Obamatalk about the credit card industry. There’s been a lot of discussion of how companies are entitled to make ‘reasonable’ profits, but must be prevented from utilizing ‘unfair’ fees and changes to conditions.

How? By government regulation, presumably.

Why do I say that, despite that phrase never being mentioned in any of the speeches or press releases I’ve come across on the subject? Because no mention of the highly effective default control of corporate behavior – consumer discretion – is ever made.

The contracts typically offered for credit card agreements are frequently Byzantine, obscurantist, and give the companies the right to change the terms therein as they wish. And people still accept the agreements! As long as people will do business with companies that create such contracts, the companies have no reason to ceasing doing so if it’s in their interests.

The most offensive idea being batted about is that consumers are entitled to contracts they can understand. Look, this is quite simple: if you are presented with a contract for a service you want, and you don’t understand it, you should refuse to sign it – even if that means not getting the service you want.

But that’s a concept that’s gone completely out of fashion. Imagine: being expected to act with self-restraint instead of being entitled to the things you want! The modern way is to demand that you get what you want and in the way you want it to be provided to you. Can’t understand the contract for cellphone service? Get the government to force the company to change its terms – and keep the price down while it’s at it.


Once You Pay the Danegeld…

Posted in Doom, Politics and Society on April, 2009 by melendwyr

Listening to an NPR interview with some economics professor from MIT, I was informed that the government may not choose to permit some of the banks who accepted assistance to repay those loans, even though they now have enough assets to do so. Why? Among other things, the ability of the government to control what those banks do would end if the loans were repaid, the people running the government advocate a quasi-socialistic nationalization of everything (including finance) and want to keep that influence, and banks that are first to throw off the control and regulation imposed by the government could get an advantage over those who don’t have the capacity to pay the loan back (even if they were allowed to).

Talk about being hoist by your own petard. The banks sought a quick and easy solution to their own financial mismanagement, made enough of a noise to convince some politicians that they needed to be given public money and convince enough of the people that the act of giving the banks trillions didn’t trigger a revolution. Then they accepted a bargain in which the government could decide whether they were permitted to repay the loan. Now they can’t escape the long nose of the law, poking its way everywhere.

It would seem that taking the Dane’s money results in pretty much the same outcome as trying to pay him off.


Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire

Posted in Reviews on April, 2009 by melendwyr

‘Krud’ would have been a better name for the protagonist, I think.

I only saw a portion of the first episode, as I happened to catch it during a half-hour break. Usually I don’t like to form opinions of things without experiencing them fully and giving them a fighting chance, but that tendency’s been getting weaker and weaker as time passes.

Okay, so it’s a Comedy Central production and thus unlikely to involve cerebral humor. And it’s obviously intended to be baudy humor, judging from the promotional ads I’ve seen that free-associate the eponymous flaming sword with a penis. I don’t mind baudy humor. I’m a fan of Lexx, which was both surrealistic, absurdist, and quite tastelessly sexual.

But this show was simply horrid. Its lame jokes included but were not limited to the following subjects: temple prostitution, gang-bangs, medieval masturbation lubricants, mocking the protagonist for journal-writing, mocking the protagonist for missing cuddling with an ex-girlfriend rather than sex, and the sexual molestation of horses.

There’s no comedy here. There has to be a tension for there to be comedy. ‘Krod Mandoon’ isn’t pushing the boundaries, it simply doesn’t have any – and so it falls to the lowest possible energy state, as is always the case when there are no boundaries.

My recommendation: Avoid this show at all costs!

New Dresden Codak Comic!

Posted in Reviews, Things You Should Read on April, 2009 by melendwyr

Finally, DC has brought out something new. And boy is it a doozie. Check it out by following the webcomic link on the side of the page.

Sadly, he’s also no longer associated with Koala Wallop, as he’s too busy to maintain the forums. Ah, well.

Fictional Wisdom

Posted in Useful Aphorisms on April, 2009 by melendwyr

Destroying an Empire to win a war is no victory. And ending a battle to save an Empire is no defeat.
– attributed to Kahless the Unforgettable, First Emperor of Qo’noS.

It has always been the prerogative of children and half-wits to point out that the emperor has no clothes. But the half-wit remains a half-wit, and the emperor remains an emperor.
– attributed to Lord Morpheus, Dream of the Endless


Posted in Doom, Useful Aphorisms on April, 2009 by melendwyr

I’ve been considering hunting down and archiving the collective postings of Rebecca Borgstrom (who has since changed her name). Her writings have spawned the semi-serious art of Borgstromancy, or the interpretation and comprehension of those writings.

I’m probably a Borgstromancer. Most people probably aren’t.

See one example from here.

Suppose that you find a child playing in an endless waste with Nyarlathotep. It’s still Nyarlathotep, it’s still a thing that ought not be, it’s still eating your SAN. But for whatever reason, Nyarlathotep hasn’t eaten the kid yet.

And you ask, “Hey, kid, what’s that?”

And the kid says, “It’s my Skinless One!”

And you look in the kid’s mind, because maybe you’re starting to lose track of whether you’re the kid or the onlooker, and you can see all the shape of the games the kid plays. And you realize, even though Nyarlathotep is perfectly and utterly incomprehensible, the kid still *has* some sort of mental construct for the thing. The kid is comprehending *something*.

Of course, whatever you’re comprehending, it can’t be Nyarlathotep. You know that. Because you can’t comprehend Nyarlathotep. And because you don’t know Nyarlathotep’s boundaries, you can never comprehend anything else again.

But your mind’s still *there*, you know?