The students filed down the stairs, into the basement. "We've never had a class this far down, before," said Percival de Rolo.

"Really?" said young Dresden, who was a first year. "My uncle told me strange things about the professor."

"I'm sure it'll all be okay," opined Kiki.

"Okay?" asked Nimue. "There've been a few deaths every year. I don't think we can assume anything's-"

"That's enough chit-chat," said Professor Harris in, surprisingly, an American accent. "Class won't always be down here. But, here you are." He motioned to the room.

The room was strangely arranged, especially for a school of witchcraft and wizardry. There was a half-wall blocking the students from the majority of the room, leaving it completely blank between until the end, with a plain curtain blocking something. Even the things that weren't strange for that context were still... strange. For instance, Professor Harris pointed to a skull... without a candle dribbling over it. Instead, it was encased in a strange, transparent pinkish... something.
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I'm going a bit back-and-forth with this chapter, for reasons of theme. Last time, the theme was survival strategies for Oceana (and, in general for those of us who are just trying to get along). Now, let's talk about Newspeak, one of the rarely referenced elements of 1984. Doublethink gets referenced often... and often... and often... and, in this political climate, not without good reason.

Duckspeak gets mentioned a bit (again, not entirely without good reason). And, we all love to talk about Room 101... or room 102 (That reference will be funny when we get to that part of the book, really.)

Let's talk about the basic concepts and intent of Newspeak, as understood by Syme.

Syme notes that Winston doesn't really appreciate Newspeak. That's understandable. Winston's in his middle ages, so it'd take him some effort to adapt. Put in the High School analogy, he's not one of the cool kids and isn't able to internalize the language of the cool kids. It's also because Winston Smith, the rebel who's only cause is his own mind, resists the intention of Newspeak.

'Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.

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Chapter 5, I've been looking forward to this one. In the previous chapters, we mainly have characterization for Winston Smith and for Oceana in general. Yes, we have Mrs. Parsons, but she's less a character and more just an example of the put-upon-ness of parents in Oceana. The narrator had far more interest in her husband than in she, herself.

In this chapter, my view of Winston Smith as something of a burnout-kid only gets more credible (at least in my mind, feel free to argue). But, here's where I get to express my view that Winston Smith isn't so much a whole person as he is a survival method in Oceana.

Winston Smith tries to maintain something of himself, his own mind, some means of retaining some measure of control over his own existence. It's only in these small ways, at least so far. He's no rebel. He's just like a lot of us become in our teens, becoming cynical about things we can only barely comprehend. That cynicism is... not always wrong.

But, let's meat Syme, who represents another survival method in Oceana.
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While considering my thoughts on Pornosec, I realized that Comrade Ogilvy, Winston's fictional hero in place of praise for the FFCC, is ripe for analysis as well.

So, let's look at the dead person that Winston conjured out of thin air, faked photographs, and Oceana's core values.
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I self-published this little thing through It's 2.99 and I'm actually rather proud of it.

The story is set in a version of Hell that takes an alternate view of certain philosophies and biblical stories. Here's the link and here's a small sample.

Day 1
If you asked an ancient Roman about what a lake of fire meant to them, chances are you’d hear them say that it meant the place where a society throws its refuse. At the time, the vast majority of trash was safely, if not pleasantly, burned away. Those with the job of tending that fire might mention danger, but not malice. The entire purpose of their lake of fire was for something to be thrown away and forgotten as it turned to ash to be scattered on the wind.

Now, imagine someone took that idea, but threw conscious people into the fire. Next, imagine that someone then bid that the burning should last forever, such that those who were tossed into the flame would never stop suffering from the flames. What would you say about the kind of person who would come up with such an idea? What I felt, at the time, was betrayed.
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There was even a whole subsection-Pornosec, it was called in newspeak-engaged in producing the lowest kind of pornography, which was sent out in sealed packets and which no Party member, other than those who worked on it, was permitted to look at.

I regret not having read this earlier. As I stated before, I thought that 1984 was something that people read in order to reference. It is certainly valuable for that. It's also an engaging read. Right here, with the notions of Pornosec, I regret, even more, not having read 1984 earlier. Had I read this a couple decades ago and caught this one line... I might have done my Senior College Thesis on the question of just what is Pornosec and what constitutes "the lowest kind of pornography."
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Chapter four, all in one go. So far, it seems like the reason I can get through these chapters so fast is that, technically speaking, not much is happening. There are bits of memory and bits of every-day life that is so every day that it could, literally, be any prior day in Winston Smith's life. That first chapter had specific things happening, things that made that day unique. It's pretty engaging for a chapter in which nothing much happens.

And, it's an amazing advertisement for Winston's job. Seriously, I want this job. I don't want the society in which this is an actual job that one could have, but I want this job.

Before that, I want to talk about the additions Orwell has made to the English Lexicon. So far we've seen phrases that somebody who hasn't read 1984 has still heard and probably understands the meaning, if not the reference. Two Mintues of Hate and Doublethink both apply under the the umbrella-term "Orwellian". The concepts are too pervasive, such that they might be as invisible as water to a fish... that suddenly learns the word "wet".

Let's add to that the Memory Hole.
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Chapter Three will go in one post. Part of the reason is that this entire chapter is all focused on Winston Smith. Nobody else really does anything. I'm not even complaining. This is a well done chapter, a compelling read where the only thing that happens is Winston Smith dreams, wakes up, exercises, and remembers things. Replace "exercise" with any kind of regular ritual and everybody does that until they don't wake up anymore.

Make that a compelling read and I, as someone who likes to imagine himself a writer and someone who likes to read, am impressed. I'm impressed.

We start with a dream that might be indicated by memory or might not be. Winston Smith, by his memory, was ten or eleven when his mother disappeared. That's the word used, "disappeared". Considering the context, it's entirely likely that he doesn't know why his mother or his sister disappeared, only that nobody spoke of either after that point.

In the dream..
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Last night we had what was, technically, not the State of the Union Address only because it was Trump's first address after having been elected. There's been some commentary, in the media, about how he went the entire address, 108 minutes, without referencing the size of his electoral victory or the size of his crowds and without attacking the media. That was even referred to as the moment he pivots and becomes Presidential.

The depth of how low a standard that is for a President should be acknowledged, but is of lesser importance. Also of lesser importance is Trump's advocating for infrastructure spending after Obama tried to get that done and was blocked by Republicans who now give the basic concept a standing ovation. At least that's of less immediate importance. Doublethink in the highest levels of government is alarming. But, there's the terrifying aspect of the address.

There are three points, each frightening on their own, that I want to talk about. In combination, they're an indicator of a horrible direction for this administration and for my nation.

1. Terrorism as completely owned by foreigners and Islam. Hear that, white nationalists and Christian dominionists? Dylan Roof and Robert Deer don't count!

2. A complete refusal to even acknowledge wrongdoing on the part of police. Unity with law-enforcement cannot happen without law-enforcement acknowledging that it has done wrong.

3. VOICE: Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. VOICE is about victims of illegal immigrants, despite the fact that, statistically, your neighbor who was born and raised here is more of a threat than an undocumented immigrant.

Individually, each of this should frightening. The denial of home-grown terrorism marks that law enforcement will take the eye off of that and focus on stoking fear of the different. Denial of police brutality and police shootings of unarmed black men will, at best, ignore legitimate fears. VOICE is, in no uncertain terms, a propaganda wing of the Department of Homeland Security.

I don't know where this *can* go in a country with checks and balances. I do know where it's trying to go and that place isn't America. It was Germany.
We're living in a world of dark re-imaginings of what was once lighthearted fare. This has been going on for longer than Riverdale, but Riverdale really brings us to a peak of what's done wrong in the effort. I don't want to reject the idea of dark re-imaginings. I think they have real value. They can add depth to a work or a franchise or an idea. But, you have to do it right. In order to get a sense of how to do it right, let's start with source material that's more ripe for the dark re-imagining.

For those who haven't seen it, Flight of the Navigator is about David, who's knocked out in the woods near his home, wakes up to find that it's eight years later, the world has aged that eight years but he hasn't. This turns out to be due to an abduction by an alien artificial intelligence. Said artificial intelligence lost, for reasons I can't recall if they ever existed, its navigational charts in the mind of David and needed them returned. Upon requiring them from David, the machine also takes in part of his personality.

So much of that is just ripe for horror and dark foreboding. We have a family that has to deal with the sudden disappearance of a child, including one member who was an even younger child. We have the displacement in time. We have the nigh-Lovecraftian element of an alien artificial intelligence with motivations we may or may not be able to guess at. Oh, and did I mention the parts that deal with government scientists?
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I've been hard on Winston Smith, so far. And, I will continue to be so. In part, I'm arguing against the notion that Winston Smith is, in any way, more whole a person than anybody else in the text. A more important part is that Winston Smith is already a victim of Oceana, or at least of similar thought-control techniques to those used by Oceana.

We approach Winston's perspective and his flaws from three decades after the time in which the book is set, which is still approximately three and a half decades after it was published. Winston Smith comes at his world with a heavy amount of isolation. Even in that time of "freedom" he barely remembers from his childhood, much of a person's identity was chosen for them, far ahead of time.

Which isn't to say that 1950s London was just as unfree as Oceana, of course. But, he's not exactly coming at this from a place where anybody's helped him view other people outside of the life-scripts to which they had been taught, from early age, to adhere. And, that's in a society that genuinely wanted him to form connections to other people.

Oceana doesn't. He's left with only his imagination and an imperfect memory.
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It took us five parts, but we got out of Chapter 1 and now we're into Chapter 2, where Winston Smith gets to meet people and interact with them in a manner not entirely bound up in his own mind.

A knock on the door, plus panic, plus a desire not to smudge wet ink in his diary equals accidentally leaving the book open to the words "DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER" repeatedly written and in full display. Luckily, it's not the thought-police or anybody interested in entering his apartment, but his neighbor.

It was Mrs Parsons, the wife of a neighbour on the same floor. ('Mrs' was a word somewhat discountenanced by the Party-you were supposed to call everyone 'comrade'-but with some women one used it instinctively.) She was a woman of about thirty, but looking much older. One had the impression that there was dust in the creases of her face.

Meet Mrs. Parsons. Not having read all the way through, yet (at least not since my first read), I don't recall if she gets much mention beyond this. Tom Parsons, her husband, will. But, she won't get much, if anything, beyond this scene. (Note: I may be wrong, so this is me putting, in writing, something for you to look back and mock me over if my memory was faulty here. I promise not to go back and edit it away... But, I could go back and... you know what? We get to that part when we get to it.)
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Part of the motivation for the previous tip is what may very well be what spells the doom for this pre-apocalyptic world. There is that desire for apocalypse, the desire for things to be burnt down so that we, as a civilization, can start over, of course. But, there's also that desire to exclude, to purify civilization so that it's only "us", "the right people".

All of this is vexing, not only because of the danger, because of how it gets debunked time and again. Each time, someone will repeat the same talking points that have been debunked, only to have them debunked anew each time. Each time, they will have the right to speak, but demand that they be debunked now, as though they've never been debunked before.
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I want to be clear. There are some times when purity can be something good. You'll want to look for pure water. If you've found a stash of stored supplies, you'll want to know if the packages are still pure sugar or pure salt. Even a vat of pure feces has the benefit of knowing that it isn't tainted with some kind of herbicide and can be useful in fertilizing crops.

The moment someone starts applying that word to people is a moment you should start to fear.

There's an oft-recurring fantasy that plays out in the human mind, both on the individual level and on the societal level. You've had this fantasy, too. It's almost impossible not to. It's also nigh-impossible not to mistake this fantasy for an ideal reality. "This civilization would be great, if only everybody were..."

You should recognize that as the "nice" way of saying it. The "mean" way of conveying the exact same information is "This civilization would be great, if only we got rid of all the..."
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(Note: This is a question I've asked of those who identify as pro-life and, only recently, gotten a real answer (as in one that actually answers the question rather than attempts to avoid answering the question with any clarity). Someone wanted this in convenient blog-post form, so here goes.)
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Okay, let's see if we can finish off the first Chapter, here. (This is why these deconstructions take so long.)

We're at the end of those Two Minutes of Hate, which seems to be both an obligation and a manipulation that's nigh-impossible to resist. And, while I said the Two Minutes of Hate represents something to be found in all cultures, it's never there just for its own end.

The Hate rose to its climax. The voice of Goldstein had become an actual sheep's bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that of a sheep. Then the sheep-face melted into the figure of a Eurasian soldier who seemed to be advancing, huge and terrible, his sub-machine-gun roaring, and seeming to spring out of the surface of the screen, so that some of the people in the front row actually flinched backwards in their seat. But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of Big Brother, black-haired, black-moustachio'd, full of power and mysterious calm, and so vast that it almost filled up the screen. Nobody heard what Big Brother was saying. It was merely a few words of encouragement, the sort of words that are uttered in the din of battle, not distinguishable individually but restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken. Then the face of Big Brother faded away again and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitols:


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Trigger Warning for those who read the book: There's two sentences of a fantasy and those two sentences are stomach-churning. I won't be repeating them, but I will acknowledge them.

That said, even the rest of this is going to get disturbing. It's about hate, the influence of the two minutes of hate, and about how even those of us who imagine ourselves to be above it all, like Winston Smith, are easily swept up. It is a Dystopian novel and those are supposed to be disturbing. So, well done, George Orwell, well done.
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The List

Jan. 31st, 2017 07:12 pm
Here's a term I thought up a few months ago and, mainly, kept in my head. It was useful for me to organize my thoughts but I didn't think it'd need to be put into common use. Things being where they are, politically, I think this needs to enter common use, if only because it's something that needs to be discussed.

The List. You've heard the phrase, put in the mouths of youths looking to be intimidating, "you're on my list." You've heard of Nixon's enemies list. That's a good start. That list is a metaphor. The physical lists are controlled by one person. This List isn't controlled by any one person, but everybody in a culture gets a hand in crafting The List.

The List is all the people that will get agreement someone says "this country could do without..." or "things would get a lot better if we could get rid of all the..." or "we should do something about the...".

The List shifts with the times and with which specific culture you're talking about, who's in power, etc.
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The Two Minutes of Hate

There's a lot to unpack with The Two Minutes of Hate. Let's start with the general concept. Two minutes, every day, in which every citizen of Oceana is to spend targeting the enemies of Oceana, symbolized by one person, with their hatred. This specific hatred of this specific figure and all the figure represents is an integral part of patriotism to Oceana.

The parallels come easily. Communists and their sympathizers. Terrorists and their sympathizers. The gays. The devil. And, as I think Orwell was well aware, antisemitism.

1984 is about methods of control that you might not notice if you didn't have the language for it. And, Two Minutes of Hate is a good language to use. Hatred galvanizes, distracts, and tests. Because, within the culture, there's always a test to make sure that you have enough hate for the hatred. And, we might not notice because we put it freaking everywhere so that it's practically invisible.
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Establishing Shot: The tents of a semi-nomadic tribe of herdsmen as seen from very far away. Robed men with staffs tend to herds of goats. Too far to be recognized in specific at first.

Camera moves closer and also moves slowly from side to side. The sound of breathing up close. ((definitely not shaky cam!)) As the camera approaches the tribe, the goat herds move away from the tents. Women scream. Children cry.

Voice from just behind the camera gasps and breaks into a run.

Cut to inside the village.

Shenzi: Oh come on, now, really? For these stories, you should be used to talking animals by now! We're not even making a glance at your goats.

Banzai (quieter): Well, Ed's not exactly putting them at ease.

Camera moves to show Minotaur carrying Ed in the manner of an American Football. Ed glares at the goat-herders, snaps at them when they look in his direction. Beside him, Fenris sits... being Fenris.

Shenzi: And Fenris isn't exactly a calming presence.

Banzai looks around: Okay, okay, we're not here to talk to any of you. Here's our guy.

Camera turns to witness a largish man running towards the tribe, spear gripped to be ready for battle. He looks like he might be wearing a different kind of clothing from the rest of the tribe. But, the reality becomes apparent that he's wearing a loin cloth and is, otherwise, that hairy that you'd make the mistake.

Shenzi stands to all fours: Esau the man we want to see. We would have met you out in the wilderness but, well... you're a hunter and we're all various degrees of furred.
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