Day by Day Daily Cartoon by Chris Muir

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Big G is Joe too! A Moronblogger Rant

Going around the conservative blogs today is the idea that we are all 'regular Joes' and we should say as much to the effete political elite... whoever and wherever they may be. This idea strikes close to my heart and the American dream is not restricted to citizens of the USA, so here's my go at it.

Alright, listen up, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, and you motherfucking dickheads and cuntlicking bitches in the press, and in Washington, and in the so-called halls of power everywhere governments exist; I AM JOE!

I am the offspring of an engineer and a stenographer, who were civil servants when civil service was still an honourable thing to do. While I don't mind office wear, I'm most comfortable in a tee and briefs - boxers if I have to. I eat in coffeeshops and not cafes most if not all of the time. Plain water from the spigot does me just fine. I buy regular eggs and cook regular chicken and dump a whole lot of garlic and pepper into my food. I do my own washing, iron my own shirts, air-dry the laundry, hand-wash the dishes and take out the garbage. Hell, I even download my own porn.


I want lower taxes, less government interference, and every newspaper can go FOAD and DIAF for all I give a shit. I want transparency and accountability from the assholes in Parliament, or Congress. I want freer markets and dammit, I want you bastards to keep your hands off my guns!

I AM JOE! And so are many of my friends. So just go away and let us do our stuff. Or we will throw you out of office and into obscurity, if your luck does not fail you.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

F&SF - the genres for the anal-retentive

So, I was reading about an interview conducted by Terry Goodkind (writer of the Sword of Truth series), and in the course of this interview, he says this...

Throughout the series, my goal has been to steer the covers away from
traditional fantasy covers because I'm not writing fantasy. I'm
accidentally published by a fantasy publisher so I get thrown in with
that genre, but my books are no more fantasy than a detective novel is
a "gun book." What makes me nuts about the fantasy genre is that,
unlike any other genre, people become obsessed and focused on
irrelevant things. For example, in a detective novel, if a detective
has a Snub Nose 38, no one asks him questions like "Can we know more
about the Snub Nose 38?" or "Have you ever thought of doing some kind
of special story just about the Snub Nose 38?" It's a distraction.

Now, it is no secret that Terry Goodkind is an objectivist, at it shines through every single page of his books. As a Christian, I can take about half of the stuff he's talking about - after all, I'm not a Randian, but I am conservative - but amongst the other things I can't take is that drivel quoted above. Terry, you ass, whether you like it or not, you are a writer in the F&SF genres. And here's why.

You notice other genres don't have people obsessed and focused on irrelevant things as in the fantasy genre? You dimwitted knucklehead, what about Science Fiction (SF)? Or do you consider them one and the same? You dyslexic amoeba, you wanna know why this is the case? Let's enlighten you...

F&SF are parts of a larger genre known as 'speculative fiction'. Yes, you can argue about it if you like, but most people intuitively 'get it' about what spec-fic is. The other fiction genres (not in speculative fiction) all have one thing in common - they use our current space/time continuum as the backdrop to their stories, and assume the same (or broadly similar) historical events up to the moment of the fiction's start. That means to say, using the example as given above, if you really wanted to know about a snub-nosed .38 Special, you could actually look it up. Now that I come to think about it, in the USA, it's entirely possible that you have an Uncle Andy who was once a PI, and you can ask him about it. Long story short, the piece of fiction does not have to deal with so-called 'irrelevant' details because they are details assumed in knowledge of the reader - or easily accessible to the reader.

In speculative fiction, especially the F&SF parts of it, the only information you can assume the reader knows about your world is human nature (perhaps, and only if you're dealing with humans in the first place). That, and what you decide to reveal. Now, how you do these reveals, obviously, is up to you. Most SF place these reveals as part of the storyline (take Stargate: SG1, for instance, where Col O'Neill is forever never understanding what Carter and Jackson are explaining, so they have to slow down and dumb it down for his benefit - and ours); others in footnotes, endnotes and God-notes aka 'authorial asides' (George Lucas does this somewhat with his prologue bits in Star Wars). Still others weave it into the whole story in bits and pieces, so that after you've read the whole thing, you get the idea.

Now, many authors will say that it's really the storyline that matters. It's the character development and the plot that are the drivers for the story, and not the 'details'. But have they, and you, ever considered that this is only true if the 'details' don't jar the readers out of their suspension of disbelief? The alternative is what I call Japanimation syndrome - 'Anything Goes!' But the only reason they get away with it is because anime is often so over the top it's expected, and written off. I mean, where else in the worlds of fiction would it be so hard to get plane tickets from Japan to China, so that you can dunk yourself in some hot springs? And yet that is the entire premise of Ranma 1/2. Or to become so hideously overpowered that even after you die, you can come back to life every so often and kick the ass of anybody? Dragonball ring a bell? And then there's the card game whose rules always favour the storyline progression, or Yu-Gi-Oh! could not have been so lucky. If you wanna go that route, then do a Discworld-type story - but even then, you know.

Incidentally, this is not true for 'shared universe' stories. If you're writing a Dragonlance series, or a Forgotten Realms novel, you can dispense with all of the details, but only because Wizards of the Coast has done the hard work for you. Why do you think that Tolkien's considered the father of epic fantasy? Because he fleshed out his world so completely, you can translate the Bible into Sindarin or Quenya.

Hence, Terry, F&SF are genres where you supply the details. And because the people who read F&SF are the kind of people who like details (hence the title of this post), you'd better make sure the details are as correct, as detailed, and as logical as necessary. And if you think you've got a problem, you haven't met my sister yet. Working in the microbiological sciences field, she constantly nit-picks CSI for its magical PCR machines that can do stuff in that time-compressed manner TV is so good at.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Conservatism Big G Style - Introspective Series part 3

With the Nov elections in the US coming up soon, it may be instructive to see why I, a non-American, self-identify so closely with the conservative Republican framework. It certainly is true that my take on the matter is uniquely my own; however, it does track quite closely to that of the typical right-winger.

However, before we get started, let's have a look at the framework I work off - Christianity.

- Religious Belief - Christianity
Now, all kinds of people have all kinds of ideas about what religion is. I prefer to think of it as your fundamental life axiom. Regardless of your upbringing, everything around you - your social interactions, the world, events, information, life itself - in short, all you think, all you sense, all you experience - feed into your sense of how things 'ought to be'. You can call it metaphysics if you like, but really, it's just your platform, your foundation, upon which everything else is built.

By this working definition of mine, atheism is a religion. Naturalism is a religion. Marxism, even, can be a religion. And certainly, if you see everything through a political lens, then Leftism is a religion too.

You can't run away from this, by the way. Axioms are unprovable assumptions; first principles, upon which everything else is derived. Even if you say you are a freethinking rationalist, you are working off the assumption that everything has an rational explanation, the vast majority of the time, such an explanation will involve only that which is bound by space/time and matter/energy. Which you can't prove. Ever.

For me, that framework, the foundation and the lens through which everything else is experienced and interpreted, is called Christianity. God, in the Persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, created the universe and all within it ex nihilio (out of nothing), and in 6 days (the 7th being Their day off). Mankind was given great responsibilities and unbelievable freedoms, but managed to screw up a pretty sweet deal anyways. Throughout history, God has been hard at work doing things both behind the scenes and in open view to reverse the effects of Man's screwups. This work got focused through the children of Abraham, known as the Israelites, and later on also known as the Jews, who God does not give up on even though they, like the rest of mankind, kept messing things up. It culminated in God the Son coming down to Earth, dwelling amongst us, and we now know Him as Jesus Christ.

See, this is what I'm all about. The Christian framework, in my case, was arrived at through reason. Now, God chooses many ways to initially hit someone over the head with the truth - in my case, He used my thinking. In other instances, He uses dreams, visions, even implants convictions. It matters little - the end result is that eventually, we put our faith in Jesus. And we start using our heads, our hearts and our bodies to live for Him.

What are the implications? Why would conservatism work hand in hand with Christianity so nicely?

1. Mankind is innately sinful; hence, in a world that has abandoned Judeo-Christian values, it is best to appeal to enlightened self-interest. Hello, free markets!

2. God is a personal God, and He demands personal commitment from His children. Hence, no letting the 'government' handle charity - this is meant to be our work, done in private enterprise.

3. Jesus said to render Caesar's stuff to Caesar, and God's stuff to God - creating the very first separation of Church and State. This was true during Israelite times, too, after Saul became King. But it wasn't 'Church' then. :)

4. God created us in His image, hence human life is of great value because God values us. Therefore, death is a very serious issue, to be used as a form of punishment and deterrence only when absolutely necessary.

5. We march inexorably towards the end of history, but we do not know when that will be. Hence, we should continue to be watchful, alert and vigilant, ever-ready for whatever may come. This is a very short distance to having strong and well-trained, well-educated military, and disaster preparedness.

These are just a few of the things that I will be looking at over the next few posts, but it should give you the idea that Christianity and conservatism go together quite well. Not that you can't be a Hindu conservative Republican, of course - look at Tushar D! :)