2017-08-18 12:58 pm
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Tip #84 "Both Sides"

With the events of this past Saturday, I feel there are things that I should not have to say. I should not have to speak opposition to white supremacy, white nationalism, or the Nazis. I would hope that can be taken as a given. But, there is an element of many responses to the riot and violence, including one man ramming a car into a crowd of people injuring many and killing one, that I feel important to address. And, I'll address it in this series, because I hear it in these arguments, too.

When you discuss conflicts, particularly ones wherein your side or the side with which you empathize has done wrong, there will be a temptation. It will be tempting for multiple reasons. You might enjoy the feeling of being detached and above the conflict. You might seek a solution in which both sides are equally pleased. You might want the sense of having an advanced, complex understanding of the issues at hand without needing to go through the effort of understanding said issues.
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2017-08-16 12:04 am
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Men In Matrix

Setting: Waterfront park in New York. The bench faces the ocean.

Camera focuses on the profile of a distinguished, older man, wearing black suit and tie, speaks.

Agent K:Humans, for the most part, don't have a clue. They don't want one or need one, either. They're happy, they think they have a... good bead on things.

The other person from off camera.: Why the secrecy? People can be smart, certainly enough to adapt to a new normal.

Agent K: A person is smart, people are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody knew the earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the earth was flat.

Other person: That is a modern myth. The size and shape of the earth had been mathematically verified thousands of years prior.
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2017-08-14 12:52 am
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1984 Deconstruction: Part 32 Why? No, Really, Why?

First a quick note, based on some of the comments I've gotten. I know that much of my interpretation doesn't match up to Orwell's intent. I'm taking a Death of the Author approach and I'm outright stating where I think Orwell is wrong.

Now, into the deconstruction.

According to O'Brien, Winston has gone through stage one, learning. The next stage is understanding, which will be the task of the current chapter. The final stage will be acceptance.

The stage of learning included O'Brien's line about meeting where there is no darkness, a line of invitation to the thought that O'Brien is like Winston himself (which he might be). It included giving Winston the book so he could read it. And, it included reinforcing the very same things, via torture, that had been expected of Winston all along.

Now, we get to the question that most plagues Winston.
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2017-08-11 03:10 pm
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1984 Deconstruction: Part 31.1 Party Propaganda

(Note: This is a fan-theory. This is a way of viewing and interacting with the text. This is not, in any way, statement on authorial intent.)

Oceana and the means The Party has of maintaining their dominance strike me as... unbelievable. I fully believe that they'd try it. I even believe that they'd believe it. But, as means of control, these aren't very useful.

There are elements that just don't fit.
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2017-08-09 04:24 pm
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The Case For An Antidote To...

A little backstory, because I don't know that there is a name for this Trope and I'm not about to get lost in a TVTropes search in order to find it. It comes from the comments in another webpage, wherein I had promoted the posts on my blog. Someone had noted that there is a common sexist trope that can happen in some of these kinds of movies. A woman makes ready to do a man's job and is shown to be silly for thinking she can do such a thing.

In some ways, our culture have already addressed this trope. The more common trope, these days, is that the woman announces her intention and, indeed, achieves that which sets out to accomplish. In fact, we've moved past that to a point where, sometimes, the trope is how outdated it is to even need to prove such a thing. The narrative either reaches a point where the protagonist outgrows the desire to prove herself to someone else or reacts, initially, with the roll of the eyes such a demand deserves.

Even so, we can still put in our own response. And, I dare to say that the 60's/70's style screwball comedy is exactly where we should put it.

My proposal is we set up something like a bet.
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2017-08-07 12:09 am
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1984 Deconstruction: Part 31 The Purpose of Torture

Trigger Warning/Content Note: There will be discussion of torture. I won't go into detail and Orwell does more telling than showing, here (which actually works out well for readability sake). But, still, here it is.

The good news is that we're working our way to the end. After I finish off with 1984, I'll move onto Brave New World. To my recollection, there won't be torture, there. But, for the rest of 1984, the topic is going to be there and whatever you choose to do for your own sanity, including just waiting until the next book, is entirely the right choice for you.
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2017-08-04 10:42 pm
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Tip #83 Grandiose Language

Last week's tip referenced someone who approached, nigh out of the blue, and asked me "have you found Jesus Christ as your savior?" Others have reported similar experiences with the message being the same, but the wording varies. "Have you been washed in the blood of The Lamb!?" "Have you been saved?" "Do you recognize Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior?" "Have you been saved from the fires of damnation!?"

Each of these questions asks the exact same thing. "Are you a Christian?" But, they each communicate something else as well.
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2017-08-02 01:08 am
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The Case for Remaking The Assassination Bureau

The Assassination Bureau, for those who haven't seen it, is the 1969 comedy about the chairman of the company sharing it's name with the movie and the lady journalist who has a plan to address their existence. The journalist, Sonya Winter, gains the financial backing of a newspaper, sets up a meeting with the Bureau. She finds that her meeting is with the chairman of the Bureau, one Ivan Dragomiloff, and uses the occasion to ask for a contract on Ivan Dragomiloff. He obviously sets a high price which she meets and he, much to her surprise, accepts.

The reason that he accepts a contract is where this has the potential to get interesting. In a board meeting with his international board, he takes the other members to task. What had been founded, by Ivan's own father, as a means of ridding the world of evil, via careful judgment of anybody they're asked to kill, had changed. It seems that you can make the moral case for killing anybody and, once that's the case, financial reward is its own justification.

The contract on himself gives him a means, within the bylaws of the Bureau, of addressing that issue and returning the Bureau to what he sees as a place of upstanding morality. Because the contract was proposed, paid in appropriate price (some 20,000 lb, in pre-WWI money), and accepted, either the other board members must kill him or he must kill them.
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2017-07-31 10:07 am
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1984 Deconstruction: Part 30 On a Long Enough Time Line...

Here we are at Part 3, where that which was set up will lead to pay-off. This will be the part of the series in which you are meant to be at your most uncomfortable and that's a tall order. We're already uncomfortable with the ever-present eyes of Big Brother and your neighbors watching you. We're already uncomfortable with the degree that the people around us are willing to believe the obviously untrue, or at least pretend to in order to go along with everybody else. And, we're already uncomfortable with whatever degree of empathy we have for Winston Smith.

To remind, Winston Smith fantasized about raping and murdering the woman who, eventually, turned out to be his girlfriend. In one occasion, prior to getting to know her, he's internally honest enough to admit that the only reason he didn't murder her when he had motive, means, and opportunity, was a lack of trust in his own physical capacities.

He's internally spiteful of those around him. He's a judgmental prick with regards to the choices of the Proles, respecting them only in the abstract. Whatever absence of emotional abuse levied toward his wife must have been only out of fear and propriety, for all the disrespect we see, in him, toward her in his memories of their time together.

The reasons to hate him are many and I still find myself empathizing with him. In the coming chapters, with what Winston goes through, it'll be easy to forget all those reasons to hate him. Because, right here, in this part, he's somebody being tortured and, in the modern language of the real world, aggressively gaslighted.

His survival method has failed. Before he even broke from it, the foreshadowing that he would find himself here, in a room where there are no windows and the lights are never off (where there is no darkness), was set forth. Whatever else his sins, here he is.
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2017-07-28 11:03 am
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Tip #82 Have Something To Say

No, this isn't really the opposite of my earlier focus on not leaning heavily on a script. Consider this the balance to that.

Recently, while out for a walk, someone noted that they'd seen me on several walks prior. (I play Pokemon Go and I tell myself that the reason is that it gets me out walking.) Said someone then asked me if I was okay. That was... a strange thing to ask. It didn't seem to be based on anything. Potentially, he might have thought I was in financial difficulty and in need of a job? (Something I'd give serious consideration.)
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2017-07-26 02:31 pm

I Want to Talk About Laura Moon and Atheism

Fair waning given. This will be about both the book and the Starz series "American Gods". If you haven't read and watched, you may wish to do so before reading on, for here there be spoilers.
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2017-07-24 12:46 am
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1984 Deconstruction: Part 29 Paranoia Will Destroy-Yah

The good news is we have another short chapter. It's even the end of part two of the book.

Yeah, that kind of suggests bad news, too. But, hey, it's not happening to you and Winston's a bit of a prick anyway, so let's get to it.

In the last chapter, Winston fell asleep after having read the first and third chapters of "The Book", Goldstein's missive on how The Party maintains power (with some massive oversimplifications of sociology) and the true purpose of war in the current world. Chapter ten of part two begins with him waking up feeling as though he'd slept a long time, but thinking that the old-fashioned clock (which would read 8:30) indicated that it was only twenty-thirty.

We're also told that, though Julia made sure the stove was full, it's now empty of oil. And, when they look out the west-facing window, "The sun must have gone down behind the houses; it was not shining into the yard any longer."
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2017-07-19 12:54 am
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The Case for Another Attempt at a Time After Time Series

Time After Time, for those who have the bad luck to not have seen the movie and the good luck not to have seen the recent attempt at a television series, is the story of H.G. Wells and Jack the Ripper transported from their time to the (at the time of filming) present. Conflict and out-of-time drama commences.

In the movie, Doctor Stevenson reveals to his good friend, H.G. Wells, that he is the feared and infamous Jack the Ripper. Shortly after that, and shortly after discovering that said friend has really designed a real time-travel device, he uses that time-travel device to escape capture by the police.

Again in the movie, the reason H.G. Wells creates his time machine, iconic to the very one in his story of the same movie, for the purpose of going to his predicted Utopian future. Instead, he has to go in pursuit of his... the word "frenemy" actually applies.

In that future they both come to, in the movie that being approximately 1979, both are surprised by what they find. They don't find the utopia, exactly. In fact, they find a world that has, in some ways, degraded. In both versions, the Jack the Ripper character expresses, to Wells, the line that "[Then], I was a freak. Today, I am an amateur."
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2017-07-17 10:17 am
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1984 Deconstruction: Part 28 How Do the Mighty Fall?

According to Orwell's thinking, the reason for the totalitarianism that's so much worse than what had come before was because people in power (whoever those people happen to be, it doesn't matter according to his theory) reacted for fear of losing that power in the face of the very real potential for total human equality. Different jobs need be done, but such vastly differing quality of life isn't, and with that loss of the need for such differentiation comes the question of, if the powerful aren't so different, why give them the power?

According to Orwell, there are four ways to lose power.

Either it is conquered from without, or it governs so inefficiently that the masses are stirred to revolt, or it allows a strong and discontented Middle group to come into being, or it loses its own self-confidence and willingness to govern. These causes do not operate singly, and as a rule all four of them are present in some degree. A ruling class which could guard against all of them would remain in power permanently. Ultimately the determining factor is the mental attitude of the ruling class itself.

Again, I'm going to disagree with, at least, Goldstein. At this point I can't be sure as to how fully Goldstein is a mouthpiece for Orwell, himself, or how deliberately Orwell may be playing around with limited perspective.
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2017-07-13 01:55 am
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The Case for The Karate Kid Series

No, I'm not talking about the cartoon. I will be focusing on the original. Yes, you can thank Barney Stinson.

"The Karate Kid", for those who have seen neither the original nor the remake, is the story of a kid with a single mother moving to a new location, having the social problems associated with being the odd one out and the new kid, as well as dealing with the trouble of a violently aggressive bully. Seeing that he's going down a bad path, one elderly gentleman of Japanese descent takes it upon himself to teach the lad Karate, the same martial art as said bully.

Barney Stinson, the character in "How I Met Your Mother", popularized an interpretation of the original movie and others have taken that to heart. In that view, the lead character, Daniel, is the bad guy of the movie. The real good guy is the one that the movie would have us believe to be the bad guy, one Johnny Lawrence, the bully who, at one point, violently beats Daniel. And, I'll go so far as to say that they're half-right.
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2017-07-10 11:48 pm
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1984 Deconstruction: Part 27 Oversimplifying Is Strength

Winston Smith jumped around, so, once again, I feel free to do the same. We're still in Chapter 9. Julia returns and Winston reads the book to her.

Here we have Orwell massively oversimplifying human civilization and history.

Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or another.

That's a sweeping generalization, but it's hard to argue the point... if only because it goes out of its way to be as general as possible. In fact, this can be applied to the vast majority of societies that have populations over, say, twenty.
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2017-07-05 01:45 am
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Post-Apocalyptic Society Guide: The Past is In the Past

Last time I said the Past is not Past. Socially, that's true. The old civilization may have died, but you're not a brand-new species, here. If you are, by the time you've discovered and translated this blog, you may well be beyond the use of this advice. No, what you are is a group of people who likely lived in the pre-apocalyptic society. So, the social issues will follow you. You can't deny that.

You can, however, reasonably let go of previous ownership.

The idea of owning something is more complex than we like to imagine. In reality, your property is what you can keep others from taking. The idea of being the rightful owner of an object is the construct of a law that helps us all accomplish that "others not taking away" thing. It's certainly useful and I would advocate maintaining the basic concept of ownership in your new society.
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2017-07-03 12:12 am
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1984 Deconstruction: Part 26 War, What is it Good For?

In Chapter 9, Winston finally has The Book. The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, by Emmanuel Goldstein. Winston takes this book deliberately out of order, and I will take that as an excuse to do the same with this chapter. I'll go back to the first part of the chapter, later, but I'll do as Winston does with the book and go first to War.

The least interesting part of the focuc on War is the fact of the three nations. Oceana, Eastasia, and Eurasia all exist and are, in terms of their purposes, their philosophies, and the experience of the common citizen, identical. We'll into the direct-politics later, but first to the very concept of war.
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2017-06-30 12:24 am
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Tip #81 What You Want To Hear

Yes, I harp on listening skills quite a bit. It turns out more complex a concept than the initial focus on "listen". It has parts. It involves listening to what's being said, not over-relying upon a pre-defined script or formula, keeping context, both social and specific, in mind. It also involves being ready to hear what you don't expect to hear.

By example, some years back, in a conversation with a conservative Christian, I made the point of an issue I took with Christianity. (Christianity as I saw it at the time, to be honest. Though, my view of Christianity did, in case, match up with that of the Christian with whom I was discussing.) I took issue with a moral theory that reduced morality to rules that existed for the sake of rules. This, I felt, took all matter of actually caring about people out of issue of morality, leaving just a set of rules to be adhered to just because that's how one gets closer to "good".
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2017-06-28 09:39 pm
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The Case for Remaking A Matter of Faith

I actually watched this movie for this post. I watched this movie. I watched A Matter of Faith. This is a good time to note that I have a Patreon account*. If you like what I do, please share this page with others and, if you can, become a patron. Because, I repeat, I watched A Matter of Faith. My Netflix queue will now have "Because you watched A Matter of Faith" on it. I should be compensated, somehow.

I watched this movie because I've seen other reviews. The two over at The Bible Reloaded did an "Atheists Watch" post on it. The three at God Awful Movies gave it a full breakdown, as did Captain Cassidy over at the Roll To Disbeleive blog. And, they all make their good points. That means that I come to this movie with certain expectations and certain points already being made and expectations set ahead of time. Whether that means my suffering was prolonged or I didn't give this movie a fair chance is up to you to decide.
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