dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
Horror can stop working as horror if the reader has a sufficiently different cultural background from the author, because what horrified the author may be mundane to the reader. Alternatively, what the author accepts as good and right may horrify the reader in ways the author never intended. This can happen over time as well as across borders.

I recently read Arthur Machen's The White People. Not only couldn't I find any horror in it (beyond the mundane horror of how badly Machen treats female character in general), I had trouble finding any plot or even what the hell was going on. I can't say I agree with H.P. Lovecraft's analysis of "what was going on"--it's not really in the text and I think HPL pulled it out of his aft. Machen's idea of horror seems to be Women With Agency Doing Things, which really, really doesn't age well.

And then there's H.P. Lovecraft, who wanders freely between cosmic horror of "man was not the first, and won't be the last being to rule the Earth, and they will return when the stars are right", the existential horror of losing your identity to undeath, body-theft, gender-change, or species-change; and the racist's abject horror that Those People live in his neighborhood, possibly even right next door!. Guess which aspect of HPL's horror has not aged well?

Writers need to pay attention to the classic horror tropes they're using, or they might find themselves saying "Genocide is morally good" or "Slaves are by nature inferior beings whose lives and desires are worthless and meaningless" in the themes of their stories. (Looking at you, Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft). Or you, the writer, could think about those tropes and deconstruct them instead, giving us wonderful stories like Elizabeth Bear's "Shoggoths in Bloom".
dragoness_e: (Echo Bazaar)
So our company is getting bought up/merging yet AGAIN, and we had a phone-in meeting about it. (That's where we all sit around the speaker phone in the conference room and listen to the head honchos yammer somewhere at the other end of the country). It was a pretty dull meeting; I made notes in my notebook about it to keep from making snide comments out loud... very often. Here are my transcribed notes, with the names changed to protect the annoying.

* The Big Boss repeats the entire contents of the announcement letter we got yesterday. I am not excite.
* Describing Power Point presentations verbally is even more boring than watching slides.
* Buzzword bingo fest.
* Do I get a share of this $XX billion business? If not, why do I care?
* We are merging complementary businesses. That's nice, but I'm not the Board of Directors, nor the venture capitalist that actually own us. It's not like I'm deciding anything.
* I get the impression they don't want people panicking about their jobs and jumping ship. *a few minutes later* CALLED IT!
* I have spent 26 minutes listening to Big Boss pat himself on the back and re-state the announcement letter. Oh wait, he started up again. But we can download the Power Point slides. 29 minutes now.
* Q&A session: Big Boss starts up again on the first question, which I could not hear. He assures us he's really humble about being the Big Boss of the new company, too.
* we will have locations everywhere--might make it easier to move somewhere else.
dragoness_e: NASA F-15A #837 (NASA Starscream)
I recently finished reading an interesting book, After the Ice Age: The Return of Life to Glaciated North America by E. C. Pielou. (I'm researching what parts of the Earth looked like for humans at the end of the last glaciation, when the big ice started melting and the sea levels started rising.)

In researching Ice Ages, I learned a number of interesting things. One is that we are still in the Quaternary Ice Age; we are merely in an inter-glacial within the Ice Age. The Ice Age will not end until the continents stop surrounding the north pole and the Antarctic continent moves off the south pole. That's a very long time in the future. In the meantime, glacials and inter-glacials are governed (mostly) by Milankovitch Cycles, though the changes in Earth's orbit affect temperature in complex ways. Note that neither element (plate tectonics, orbital cycles) is under human control. There will be another glaciation, and there is not much we can do about it.... except maybe dump lots of CO2 in the air.

But wait, isn't everyone worried about anthropogenic global warming (AGW)? Well, yes... and no. The warmest period of the current interglacial, the Holocene Climate Optimum (aka hypsithermal), ended about 5000 years ago, about the time of Egypt's Old Kingdom, which developed during the warm, wet period. It's cooler now than it was during the Optimum; in North America, various temperature-sensitive ecosystems were several hundred kilometers north of where they are now. Right now, we might warm back up to that temperature; the main thing that climate scientists are concerned about is the rate of warming, which seems greater than what has happened before. On the other hand, sudden climate changes don't show well in the fossil record; the resolution isn't that good. We know it warmed very rapidly at the start of the Optimum.

The Little Ice Age may have been the start of the next round of glaciation (the "neoglacial")--if so, it was reversed right around the time industrialization started dumping CO2 in the air in a big way, about 1850. AGW may well be what is staving off the next glaciation; we don't know enough yet. What we do know is that panicking that "global warming will destroy the world!!1!!" is stupid hysterical nonsense.

Another glaciation, on the other hand... well, look at the last glaciation. There is nothing quite as devastating to an ecosystem as grinding it under a few hundred feet of ice--not even strip-mining for coal is that bad. Nothing lives on an ice sheet, and nothing bigger than microbes and algae lives under it. (Although there are cave refugia under the rock under the ice where cave lifeforms carry on...). The sheer weight of a continental ice sheet depresses the continental crust under it (this will be important later); the presence of a continental ice sheet alters the weather in major ways, as icy catabatic winds howl off the ice sheet to sweep the lands surrounding the ice (it also carries dust for hundreds of miles, piling up massive loess deposits beyond the ice). All that water locked up in a continental ice sheet is no longer part of the water cycle; the whole planet becomes drier and more arid. Polar deserts and tundra surround the ice sheets; boreal forests persist in humid areas of what used to be the temperate zone. The rest of the mid-latitudes are cold steppe. Temperate forests get pushed back to the humid sub-tropics; the tropics become more arid and rainforests nearly vanish, replaced with steppe; the old steppe becomes deserts. The Sahara desert enlarges far beyond the current nightmares of desertification. Alpine and tundra life persists at the edge of the ice, or in isolated refugia along the coast or on nunataks. The sea-level falls 100-120 meters.

The end of the glaciation was also devastating. The great ice sheets slowly thinned and melted back, revealing land scrapped bare of soil except for the layer deposited by the retreating ice. Vast icy lakes of melt-water formed at the melting edges of the ice sheets, because the land was still depressed from the weight of the ice. Beyond the ice sheets, the land had bulged upward in isotatic reaction; as the crust rebounded from the weight of the ice, the land beyond the ice sheets sank back down to its normal position, adding isostatic sinking to the eustatic sea level rise from the melting ice. (Because the bordering crust had bulged upward, at first the glacial melting didn't raise the sea levels much...then it suddenly did). As the crust that had been under the ice sheet rose, the proglacial lakes switched drainage routes, and/or drained away--the vast freshwater sea that covered what is now the Great Lakes and most of Ontario eventually settled into the Great Lakes; the inland freshwater seas further west shrunk into the Great Bear and Great Slave lakes of the present day. (Fish populations re-populated the interior because of these lakes and drainage switching around, as fish can't walk to new lakes or rivers). Plants slowly migrated northwards, from the south or from refugia, first the pioneers that could grow in rock dust, sand and gravel, later the plants that needed damp, organic-heavy soil to root in. Animals moved in as fast as the plants they could browse on, though the big carnivores could cross sea ice and barrens in search of prey (Newfoundland is top-heavy with carnivore species because of this). Humans moved in where there was sufficient food, and hunted mammoths.

The sea level rose and rose and rose as the great ice sheets melted and the crust rebounded, up to 120 meters in some places. Beringia flooded, and became Siberia and Alaska. The dry land ('Doggerland') between the British Isles and Scandanavia floods, becoming the North Sea and the English Channel. Much of Southeast Asia becomes the string of large and small islands that we are familiar with today, instead of the low-lying continental mass it was during the glaciation. The face of the world changed.

Note that I am not arguing that global warming is happening--that it is undebatable fact, measured by satellite for several decades now, and by buoy and ground station for over a century. We have the numbers. There is a correlation with global CO2 levels. What we don't know: how hot does it get before Earth's feedback mechanisms kick in and damp it down? The oceans lock up and deposit excess CO2 in the form of carbonates via the Carbonate-silicate weathering cycle; the hotter it gets, the faster that happens, until enough carbon dioxide is pulled out of the atmosphere to cool things down to Ice Age glaciation levels again.

Panic and hysteria help no one and nothing, except someone with an agenda that requires people to react without thinking. They certainly don't solve the problem of AGW...if it is a problem that can be solved, or even needs to be solved. Climate does change, it has changed drasticly in the past, it will change in the future, it is changing now. Things will never be exactly like they were last Tuesday, that's just not how the Earth works.
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
I get so tired of being depressed all the time.

I don't get stuff done, I feel guilty about it, and then continue to not do stuff.

I get hyper-sensitive about other people's interactions with me, and avoid people because I don't know how to deal with them when I'm depressed, and then get lonely because I never talk to people anymore.

I can't handle disapproval or criticism at all when I'm like this; it makes me just curl up into a ball of misery--even if the other person is wrong and an idiot. (See above paragraph).

My usual consolations seem boring and pointless--I'm just wasting me time doing nothing useful, when I should be doing all that useful stuff I haven't been doing (see paragraph #2).

I don't get enough sleep, which makes me more depressed, so I stay up late because I'm too depressed to end the pointless day by going to bed.

I really hate this shit.
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
Because of this, there is a very good chance I will finally shutdown posting to my LJ account, if not scrub it entirely.

I strongly recommend that anyone who hasn't set up a journal on a non-Russian journalling or blogging service do so, and port your posts over before LJ goes dark (Dreamwidth, for example, makes it easy to import your entire journal from LJ). World politics are getting ugly right now, and I don't see the situation with Russia getting better before it gets much worse.

Be safe, and be free.
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
The main lesson I'm taking from all the media circus is this: if you are ever asked under oath, in a court of law if you ever said or did something that was normal and socially acceptable 50 years ago but is now considered offensive to some people: lie. They probably can't prove it if you did, and perjury is apparently less of a crime than having been a normal white Southerner 30-50 years ago.

Personally, if a freaking BANK ROBBER had stuck a gun in my face, I'd have called him a lot worse things than 'n****r', and not ever apologize for it. This kind of over-reaction is the reason many of us refer to "political correctness" with a sneer. It's also the sort of thing that makes the privileged (who haven't had the personal experience of being on the receiving end of racial slurs and abuse) have trouble taking seriously the genuine complaints of minorities who have been oppressed. Or more colloquially, worst case of 'crying wolf' I've seen in a long time.

Now, the whole racial slurs/sexual harassment lawsuit is a whole other matter, but it's ongoing. I'll wait until the evidence is in and the court or jury has ruled before jumping to condemn or exonerate.
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
...When Obama talked about change, I really didn't think he meant "Bring back the Nixon White House" (and the Hoover-era FBI).

As someone who is old enough to remember Nixon's heyday, the parallels are disturbing:

- Enemies List
- Illegal surveillance of U.S. Citizens
- Use of federal law enforcement agencies to harass political enemies
- federal intelligence agencies that consider themselves above the law
- a "Justice" department that makes up the law as it goes along....

Even Nixon didn't use the military to assassinate U.S. citizens, though. That we know of.
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
I still hate Buck Moth Caterpillars and would like to see them all drown in DDT.

Today, while trying to pull a weed, I failed to notice the big fat poisonous caterpillar wrapped around the stem. I pulled a handful of poison-spined caterpillar instead.
The fingers of my right hand are all swollen up and have I mentioned the excruciating pain of these stings? This makes typing difficult and uncomfortable as well.

Yeah, me and Phylum Insecta are at odds again.
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
I also hate tent buck moth caterpillars and want to see them all die. Preferably without leaving a huge pile of twitching corpses underfoot, because they are disgusting.

Because waking up to a massive horde of the damn things spiraling up one of your favorite oak trees, and knowing that they will strip the leaves clean off the tree is just peachy. Fortunately, a strong wasp spray kills the little bastards.

Unfortunately, the little fuzzy bastards have poisonous spines disguised as fuzzy. DO NOT brush up against them. You will seriously regret it. Yet another reason tent caterpillars must die.

Addendum: we identified the "tent caterpillars" as actually being Buck Moth Caterpillars, which do not tent, but do occur in massive outbreaks and really like oak trees. And are poisonous, and like to fall out of oak trees. This can be a problem if you are walking under an oak tree at the time.

Apparently this is a normal spring thing in Lousiana, because we have so many live oaks...
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
Have I ever mentioned how much I hate fire ants? They are one species that I would celebrate the extinction of. I think everyone in the South would--massive, Mardi Gras-style rejoicing.

Does anyone know how to put them on the Endangered Species List? And then push them into extinction? If someone does, that person needs to publicize the method, and be given a Nobel Prize of some kind.

Sadly, the malevolent little psychotically-aggressive bastards with the poisonous bite are as tenacious as cockroaches. You can poison the mounds in your own lawn, but you can't cover every woodlot, pasture, and crack in the sidewalk.

Summation: I hate, loathe and despise fire ants. Kill them all.


Apr. 11th, 2013 10:49 pm
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
Those of you with depression will understand this all too well.

dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
Something I have pondered from time to time over the years are the distorted lessons taught by the carefully "sanitized" TV shows and movies shown to children when I was growing up, and for years afterword.
Rambling follows.... )
dragoness_e: (Default)
The new PII (Personally Identifying Information) course is a complete snooze-fest. Automated Flash show with voice-over speaking bureaucratese. I recommend it to anyone having trouble sleeping--just leave it playing in the background when you go to bed.

The annual Trafficking-In-Persons training... Oh, boy. It's mandatory, it has something of a trigger warning in front, but it's mandatory. It needs lots and lots of trigger warnings, because it is a trigger-fest from front to back. And it's MANDATORY. Complete with quizzes to make sure you actually viewed it. To make sure you actually know that the evil of slavery is alive and well and you better damn well not aid and abet it.

I hate doing that one every damn year.
dragoness_e: (Default)
I am finishing up the annual mandatory Information Assurance course (v 10.0). Fellow DOD employees and contractors, you know what I'm talking about.

I have concluded that all my imaginary co-workers from the exercises are complete and utter morons.

That is all.
dragoness_e: Raven on the wing (Raven on the wing)
I just finished reading Karen Armstrong's "The Great Transformation", a fascinating book about the development of religious and philosophical thought during the Axial Age, that led eventually to the great religions of the world. It was, for me, an Enlightening book. I learned that the same great principles are at the core of all the world's major religions, from Judaism to Confucianism, from Islam to Buddhism, from Christianity to Hinduism:

"That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others." "Love others as yourself." "Harm none." and (paraphrased) "Don't be self-centered and covetous."

The differences are primarily in recommended "best practices" to achieve this behavior and state of mind. Ironically, (or diabolically), throughout time and space, people have taken disagreement over the different ways to those core principles as reason to ignore the core messages. There are none so blind as those who will not see...

I've shed a lot of poisonous certainties masquerading as doubts thanks to this revelation. I have long suspected that much of so-called "Christian" morality and values were so much obscuring fluff atop the basic rule ("Love God and love your neighbor and don't weasel about who really is your neighbor"), and, in my own religion had the testimony of the Gospels and the Letters of Paul that that was so. In the ancestral religion of Jesus, there is the commentary of the great Hillel: "“That which is hateful to you, do not unto another: This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary — go and study.”

I had not wholly escaped the messages my religious culture has instilled in me from early childhood: women having sex are sinful; sex in general is sinful; sinners are less worthy than non-sinners and are contemptible; enjoying yourself doing anything that isn't Church- or God-oriented is morally questionable; non-Christians are doomed sinners (though we can hope God is merciful); doing anything wrong makes you a sinner and deserving of misery; looking for a church with a less oppressive doctrine makes you a contemptible "cafeteria Christian" wanting to pick and choose what beliefs are convenient and thus lacking real faith; questioning doctrine means Doubt and Doubt endangers your Salvation... all the many poisonous beliefs and attitudes that are conveyed by traditional Christian culture, though few of them are actually supported by Scripture or doctrine.

Certainty is the enemy of spiritual growth. If you are certain you know all the answers, you will never seek further. Faith is not certainty; faith is the trust that there is something worth seeking for. Doubt is handmaiden of enlightenment; it drives you to seek further on.

I'm now trying to pin down the poisonous messages that inform many an unexamined belief, and discard them. It's a great relief to finally get that I don't HAVE to believe in the doctrinal fluff; it's just fluff. The medium is not the message, the fluff is not the message, the doctrine is not the message. Fighting over fluff totally, definitively misses the point of the message. I think I understand the core messages now, and look forward to learning to put them into practice. I hear that can take a lifetime.

Love & kisses, Merry Christmas, Good Yuletide to all!
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
It's raining down here. It's raining quite a bit, and quite steadily. And that's it. Tropical Storm Lee is a big yawner, and a great opportunity to curl up with popcorn and some good movies. Just so you know, since the national news media seems to be desperately looking for something to be hysterical about.

We're not "suffering" down here, and people aren't "terrified". As far as I can tell, people cleaned out the grocery stores of beer, chips, hot dogs, hamburger, and other Labor Day/Hurricane Party supplies. Unlike when they are actually stocking up for a dangerous hurricane, when there's a run on batteries, bottled water, canned food, plywood & duct tape. So yeah.

Tropical Storm Meh.
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
One of the things I like in both characters and plots is the theme of redemption: a wicked character realizes he's been doing evil things (possibly after the hero beats him up, a lá Dragonball Z), repents of his evil deeds, and turns to the good--or at least, not murderously evil. It's a theme that strikes a chord: we're none of us so evil that we can't get our acts together, be forgiven, and turn ourselves around. Ditto for our neighbor. It's one of the fundamental teachings of Christianity (or Buddhism) and some other religions as well.

It's also a consequence of writing three-dimensional antagonists: if they have motivations other than "I'm a raging sociopath who likes to hurt people", they often wind up looking more tragically misguided than villainous. The thing about being misguided? You can be pointed back in the right direction; a well-written character will suggest that possibility to the reader/viewer. It then becomes tragedy if the character persists in his downward path, or a dramatic redemption if he finally straightens up.

Thanks1 to the lingering effects of the Hayes Code and the Comics Code, that was a very rare theme in drama when I was growing up. It was so rare, I cherished every instance of it. Thanks to the Hayes & Comics Codes, generations of Americans were taught the frankly unholy belief that people were either Good or EVIL, Good people were GOOD all the way through, and EVIL people were irredeemable, unforgivable, and deserved misery and death. In the rare instances that somewhat evil people turned good, they always had to die to make up for their crimes, though they might get to die heroically. (See Redemption Equals Death). One could argue that the inculcation of such beliefs has unfortunate real-life consequences, such as the notion that "criminals" deserve no mercy and should be tossed into jail to rot, and never given a break even after their sentences are up, or that people who imbibe officially-disapproved substances are horrible criminals who deserve never to hold an honest job again.

Thus I cherish characters such as Marc C. Duquesne in the Skylark series (though he more decided there was no point in being a moustache-twirling villain when he had his girlfriend and the entire universe to roam around in than actually turned good), his possible homage Marc Remillard in the Galactic Milieu/Pliocene Exile series (who was definitely redeemed), and, of course, Vegeta in DBZ. If you consider the entire Dragonball Z series, one could argue that the fundamental theme is the redemption of Piccolo (at the hands of Gohan) and Vegeta (at the hands of Goku).

This probably explains why the overarching theme of my DBZ fanfiction is the redemption of Raditz. It's probably why I like Decepticon-to-Autobot defectors in Transformers: I like characters who realized they were doing evil and turned away from it, and were forgiven.

1 And I mean that in the most sarcastic tone possible.
dragoness_e: "Just a GHOST of myself" Starscream (Ghostie-Scream)
Last night I watched a bunch of G1 season 3 episodes for the first time in quite a while, all the way through "Ghost in the Machine", and realized something.

My attitudes toward the episodes and the characters have changed... )
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
This is definitely one for the Living Dead Girl in a Pissy Mood icon.

Does anyone else besides me think this is a mockery of all the efforts for real political prisoners and MIA's?

April 2019

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