False Witnesses 2

“If you want to look thin, you hang out with fat people.”
– Thornton Melon

Commenters on the previous post about this rumor were right to argue that I overstated the case in saying that there could be no “innocent dupes” involved in its spread. That’s too categorical. But those few who may have been innocently duped by such an unbelievable tale — the very young, the very old, the very insular — weren’t also among those most active in spreading the rumor. They heard it, and they may have believed it, but believing false witness and bearing false witness are not the same thing. It is those bearers of false witness I’m interested in here.

Those spreading this rumor can be divided into two categories: Those who know it to be false, but spread it anyway, and those who suspect it might be false, but spread it anyway. The latter may be dupes, but they are not innocent. We might think of them as complicit dupes. The former group, the deliberate liars, are making an explicit choice to spread what they know to be lies. The complicit dupes are making a subtler choice — choosing to ignore their suspicion that this story just doesn’t add up and then choosing to pass it along anyway because confirming that it’s not true would be somehow disappointing and would prevent them from passing it along without explicitly becoming deliberate liars, which would make them uncomfortable.

What I want to explore here is why anyone would make either of those choices. In both cases, the spreading of this rumor seems less an attempt to deceive others than a kind of invitation to participate in deception. The enduring popularity of this rumor shows that many people see this invitation as something attractive and choose to accept it, so I also want to explore why anyone would choose to do that.

To briefly review the details of this absurd rumor, the claim was that some nameless CEO of Procter & Gamble appeared on some daytime talk show and declared his allegiance to Satan. This unidentified and unidentifiable Fortune 100 executive told Donahue/Oprah/Sally Jesse that he belonged to a Church of Satan, and that a portion of the company’s profits — every dollar collected from the sale of Tide and Dawn and Crest — went to support its evil agenda.

The origin and organization of this slanderous tale seems to trace back to P&G’s would-be rivals in a cult-like multi-level marketing scheme that coveted the Cincinnati-based company’s market share. That’s a sleazy tactic — marketing by smear campaign — and it betrays a lack of confidence in the quality of the rival product line, but one can appreciate the perverse logic at work. There was money at stake. If the rivals could create a negative association with P&G’s product line, then it would make their own products seem more attractive by contrast.

Such whisper campaigns needn’t be terribly plausible. They work by connotation and association. For every possible X number of people who actually come to believe that P&G supports the work of Satan there will be 3X people who come away with some dim, unexplored sense that the company is “controversial” or vaguely associated with something unsavory (think “Swift Boat”).

The motive of this small core-group of rumor-mongers is thus not terribly complicated or difficult to understand. It’s not even terribly interesting. They were lying for the sake of money. Nothing novel or remarkable about that.

Far more interesting than those greedy sleazeballs, though, are the members of the much larger group of gossips who enthusiastically spread this malicious and obviously false story. This larger group has no financial interest at stake, so what’s in it for them? What motivates someone to accept the invitation to participate in deception, to accept an obvious lie and then to voluntarily tie their own credibility to something so incredible?

To try to understand these cheerful gossips, I’d like to turn to an equally strange, if less malicious, group of enthusiasts — the Anti Kitten-Burning Coalition.

Every once in a while, I am sorry to say, some sick bastard sets fire to a kitten. This is something that happens. Like all crimes, it shouldn’t happen, but it does. And like most crimes, it makes the paper. The effects of this appalling cruelty are not far-reaching, but the incidents are reported in the papers because the cruelty is so flagrant and acute that it seems newsworthy.

The response to such reports is horror and indignation, which is both natural and appropriate. But the expression of that horror and indignation also produces something strange.

A few years ago there was a particularly horrifying kitten-burning incident involving a barbecue grill and, astonishingly, a video camera. That sordid episode took place far from the place where I work, yet the paper’s editorial board nonetheless felt compelled to editorialize on the subject. They were, happily, against it. Unambiguously so. It’s one of the very few instances I recall when that timidly Broderian bunch took an unambiguous stance without their habitual on-the-other-hand qualifications.

I agreed with that stance, of course. Who doesn’t? But despite agreeing with the side they took, I couldn’t help but be amused by the editorial’s inordinately proud pose of courageous truth-telling. The lowest common denominator of minimal morality was being held up as though it were a prophetic example of speaking truth to power.

That same posturing resurfaced in a big way earlier this year when the kitten-burners struck again, much closer to home. A group of disturbed and disturbing children doused a kitten with lighter fluid and set it on fire just a few miles from the paper’s offices.

The paper covered the story, of course, and our readers ate it up.

People loved that story. It became one of the most-read and most-e-mailed stories on our Web site. Online readers left dozens of comments and we got letters to the editor on the subject for months afterward.

Those letters and comments were uniformly and universally opposed to kitten-burning. Opinon on that question was unanimous and vehement.

But here was the weird part: Most of the commenters and letter-writers didn’t seem to notice that they were expressing a unanimous and noncontroversial sentiment. Their comments and letters were contentious and sort of aggressively defensive. Or maybe defensively aggressive. They were angry, and that anger didn’t seem to be directed only at the kitten-burners, but also at some larger group of others whom they imagined must condone this sort of thing.

If you jumped into the comments thread and started reading at any random point in the middle, you’d get the impression that the comments immediately preceding must have offered a vigorous defense of kitten-burning. No such comments offering any such defense existed, and yet reader after reader seemed to be responding to or anticipating this phantom kitten-burning advocacy group.

One came away from that comment thread with the unsurprising but reassuring sense that the good people reading the paper’s Web site did not approve of burning kittens alive. Kitten-burning, they all insisted, was just plain wrong.

But one also came away from reading that thread with the sense that people seemed to think this ultra-minimal moral stance made them exceptional and exceptionally righteous. Like the earlier editorial writers, they seemed to think they were exhibiting courage by taking a bold position on a matter of great controversy. Whatever comfort might be gleaned from the reaffirmation that most people were right about this non-issue issue was overshadowed by the discomfiting realization that so many people also seemed to want or need most others to be wrong.

The kitten-burners seem to fulfill some urgent need. They give us someone we can clearly and correctly say we’re better than. Their extravagant cruelty makes us feel better about ourselves because we know that we would never do what they have done. They thus function as signposts of depravity, reassuring the rest of us that we’re Not As Bad As them, and thus letting us tell ourselves that this is the same thing as us being good.

Kitten-burners are particularly useful in this role because their atrocious behavior seems wholly alien and without any discernible motive that we might recognize in ourselves. We’re all at least dimly aware of our own potential capacity for the seven deadlies, so crimes motivated by lust, greed, gluttony, etc. — even when those crimes are particularly extreme — still contain the seed of something recognizable. People like Ken Lay or Hugh Hefner don’t work as signposts of depravity because we’re capable, on some level, of envying them for their greed and their hedonism. But we’re not the least bit jealous of the kitten-burners. Their cruelty seems both arbitrary and unrewarding, allowing us to condemn it without reservation.

Again, I whole-heartedly agree that kitten-burning is really, really bad. But the leap from “that’s bad” to “I’m not that bad” is dangerous and corrosive. I like to call this Thornton Melon morality. Melon was the character played by Rodney Dangerfield in the movie Back to School, the wealthy owner of a chain of “Tall & Fat” clothing stores whose motto was “If you want to look thin, you hang out with fat people.” That approach — finding people we can compare-down to — might make us feel a little better about ourselves, but it doesn’t change who or what we really are. The Thornton Melon approach might make us look thin, but it won’t help us become so. Melon morality is never anything more than an optical illusion.

This comparing-down is ultimately corrosive because it bases our sense of morality in pride rather than in love — in the cardinal vice instead of the cardinal virtue. And to fuel that pride, we end up looking for ever-more extreme and exotically awful people to compare ourselves favorably against, people whose freakish cruelty makes our own mediocrity show more goodly and attract more eyes than that which hath no foil to set it off.

Melon morality is why if the kitten-burners didn’t already exist, we would have to invent them.

And, of course, we do invent them. After a while the buzz of pride we get from comparing ourselves to the kitten-burners begins to fade and we start looking for a stronger drug. Who could possibly be even worse than the kitten-burners?

How about Satan-worshippers?

In the first post on this topic, I mentioned that the Church of Satan aspect of the Procter & Gamble rumor seemed a bit too outrageous and over-the-top. But while that outrageousness makes the story less plausible, it’s also what makes it so compelling. The pride that fuels Melon morality is an addictive drug, and the mythological Satan-worshippers of the P&G rumor offer that drug in its purest form.

Whether or not there actually is any such thing as the or a Church of Satan needn’t concern us here. This story has nothing to do with any actual religion or cult or the actual doctrines espoused by Anton LaVey or any other publicity-seeking character who has claimed the name of Satanism. This story isn’t about that. It’s about the idea of Satanism — the lore and legends of this enduringly popular bogeyman.

That lore does not arise from or relate to any actual belief system or actual believers. It is, rather, the stuff of legend as recounted in a hundred Jack Chick tracts and heavy metal album covers, in urban legends and campfire stories, in the flim-flammery of Mike Warnke and Bob Larson, and in low-budget Z-movies like the classic Satan’s Cheerleaders.

From sources like those, you already know the basic outlines of “Satanist” lore. Black robes, candles, pentagrams and strangely shaped knives feature prominently. Those knives, of course, are used for ritual human sacrifice.

The very idea of ritual human sacrifice is shocking and horrifying, which is why it tends to be included in stories told by people seeking to shock and horrify. When that is your aim as a storyteller the tendency is to constantly up the ante. What could be more shocking and horrifying than ritual human sacrifice? How about the torturous ritual sacrifice of children? And what could be even worse than that? The sacrifice of babies.

This is what “Satanist” signifies in the P&G rumor. It means people who kill babies — sweet, innocent, adorable little babies. Here, from the article linked above, is an excerpt from a 1991 fundraising letter from the Anti-Satanist “ministry” of con artist Bob Larson:

I watched them rip apart a newborn baby and take the heart while it was still beating. I can’t forget the screams. I still hear them every night!

That’s supposedly eyewitness testimony from someone saved out of the depraved Church of Satan thanks to the ministry of Bob Larson. It reads more like something out of a horror story than like something out of a fundraising solicitation for a Christian ministry. It’s not quite a horror story, but it works in a similar way.

Satanist stories, much like stories about ghosts or vampires, tap into big mythic fears – the sense that there is real evil in the world, that the innocent often suffer, that we may be powerless against the powerful. We tell such stories because we are afraid — reasonably afraid — of powerful, unnameable things. These stories give those fears a shape and a name and a horrifying face, and somehow that can be more reassuring than allowing such fears to remain amorphous and existential.

And just like vampire and ghost stories, Satanist stories have their own sets of rules, details and basic outlines with which we’re all familiar. These give the stories their own kind of reality. (Ask most people, “Do you believe in vampires?” and they will answer No. But ask those same people if vampires can be killed with a wooden stake and they’ll tell you Yes.)

None of these stories work as stories if we undercut their impact by acknowledging that there’s no such thing as ghosts or vampires or Satanic detergent executives. To tell these stories well, we have to pretend these things are real. To hear these stories well, our readers have to agree to go along. This is a familiar, but dramatically necessary, convention in horror stories from Sleepy Hollow to Amityville. This conceit usually involves only the willing suspension of disbelief, but for those who really get caught up in them — those particularly afraid already — that storytelling suspension of disbelief can turn into the expulsion of disbelief, the abandonment of skepticism in real life. The fearful and the fear-prone come to almost believe that the ghost stories and urban legends are really true. They come to almost really believe that someone out there is really killing the innocent little babies. (Almost.)

So maybe that’s all we’re dealing with when it comes to the P&G rumor — the same mixture of storytelling and suspension of disbelief, with the usual subset of listeners/readers who fail to make that distinction. Maybe the people passing along this rumor are no more malicious than that gullible friend of yours who still thinks The Blair Witch Project was a documentary.

Maybe. Maybe for some few of them. But the problem with this horror-story explanation is that the P&G rumor isn’t told the way we tell horror stories and ghost stories. It’s told in well-lit supermarkets and Sunday schools, not in dark rooms just before or just after bedtime. And it isn’t really told as a story at all. It’s presented, instead, as more of an argument or a lecture, the way someone might tell you, for example, why you shouldn’t eat foie gras.

In it’s usual forms, the P&G rumor is told and retold without any of the flair or artful detail that we expect from storytelling. I’m not sure it even qualifies to be grouped in with urban legends. Compare it to any of the stories we usually think of as urban legends — the subcutaneous spider-eggs story or the missing-kidneys and bathtub-of-ice story — and it just doesn’t measure up. Those stories are retold, in part, because you don’t have to believe them to appreciate that they’re good stories. The P&G rumor, by contrast, is implausible and unforgivably dull. It’s just not a very good story.

But while the P&G rumor can’t really be considered a horror story, it is clearly about horror or, at least, about fear. Consider, for example, the variation of the rumor that Snopes provides on their page debunking it. Try to count all the things the author of this particular lie is afraid of:

PLEASE MAKE A DIFFERENCE

The President of Procter & gamble appeared on the Phil Donahue Show on March 1, 1994. He announced that due to the openness of our society, he was coming out of the closet about his association with the church of Satan. He stated that a large portion of his profits from Procter & Gamble Products goes to support this satanic church. When asked by Donahue if stating this on t.v. would hurt his business, he replied, “THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH CHRISTIANS IN THE UNITED STATES TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.”

That’s as pure a distillation as you will ever find of the nightmares and bogeymen that terrify the religious right, complete with the attempt to justify those fears because those people are really Satan-worshipping baby-killers.

Perhaps the deepest fear lurking in that e-mail has to do with the persecution complex of American evangelicals we’ve often discussed here before. The fear here is not that Christians in America might face persecution, but rather the fear of what it might mean that they don’t. The supposed effort to prove that there are ENOUGH CHRISTIANS … TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE is an expression of the fear — or the recognition — that the people sending and resending this e-mail are not CHRISTIAN ENOUGH TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. They’re shouting because they’re frightened — truly frightened of the truth about themselves, which is always far more frightening than any fear of what might be lurking outside ourselves in the dark.

The response to that fear is a desperate grasping at Melon morality in the most extreme form they can imagine — trying to prove to themselves that they are different enough to MAKE A DIFFERENCE by contrasting themselves with baby-killing Satan-worshippers. With baby-killing Satan-worshippers that they know are purely imaginary.

That requires more self-deception than any of us is capable of on our own. That degree of self-deception requires a group.

This is why the rumor doesn’t really need to be plausible or believable. It isn’t intended to deceive others. It’s intended to invite others to participate with you in deception.

Are you afraid you might be a coward? Join us in pretending to believe this lie and you can pretend to feel brave. Are you afraid that your life is meaningless? Join us in pretending to believe this lie and you can pretend your life has purpose. Are you afraid you’re mired in mediocrity? Join us in pretending to believe this lie and you can pretend to feel exceptional. Are you worried that you won’t be able to forget that you’re just pretending and that all those good feelings will thus seem hollow and empty? Join us and we will pretend it’s true for you if you will pretend it’s true for us. We need each other.

You can’t be doing well if it seems like an improvement to base your life and your sense of self on a demonizing slander that you know is only a fantasy. To challenge that fantasy, to identify it as nothing more than that, is to threaten to send them back to whatever their lives were like before they latched onto this desperate alternative.

That suggests to me that if we are to have any hope of disabusing them of their fantasies, then we will need to recommend some third alternative, something other than the lie or the reality that had seemed even worse.

  • Francis

    I had a conversation once about how guns and swords are penis substitutes, so, therefore, what would weapons look like if the men had womens’ bodies.
    I misread that as “guns and swords are pen substitutes” and then started speculating before I had time to double take and move my mouse cursor.

  • Francis

    I had a conversation once about how guns and swords are penis substitutes, so, therefore, what would weapons look like if the men had womens’ bodies.
    I misread that as “guns and swords are pen substitutes” and then started speculating before I had time to double take and move my mouse cursor.

  • http://accidental-historian.blogspot.com/ Geds

    But I looked at ‘em and said, “Nah. Nobody’s gonna buy the Rikki-Tikki-Tavi excuse. Even if it’s true.”
    Okay, assuming that the question you would have answered is the one I think (about weapons and whatnot), what does that have to do with the cobra fighting mongoose?

  • http://accidental-historian.blogspot.com/ Geds

    But I looked at ‘em and said, “Nah. Nobody’s gonna buy the Rikki-Tikki-Tavi excuse. Even if it’s true.”
    Okay, assuming that the question you would have answered is the one I think (about weapons and whatnot), what does that have to do with the cobra fighting mongoose?

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Let’s say that I meet an attractive, intelligent, single woman who is interested in me and we start dating. I’m not entirely sure why this wonderful human being is even willing to talk to me, let alone seems to think highly enough of me that she’d want a relationship with me. Then I find out that her previous boyfriends were all pretty much jerks who treated her like crap.
    I now have the option to simply try to be a better boyfriend than the last guy. But if I do that what does it say about me and, more importantly, what does it say about my opinion of others, especially this microcosm of the other who I think is a completely wonderful human being?

    Well, first, why assume a wonderful human being wouldn’t be interested in you? Perhaps you’re a nice, attractive, interesting person.
    Second, if your calculation is ‘I can get away with being a semi-good boyfriend because she has no basis of comparison’, then that’s manipulative and mean. If, on the other hand, your calculation is ‘I don’t want to put her through what that jerk did’, then that’s a compassionate attitude.
    ‘Being a better boyfriend’ might be about getting away with stuff, or it might be about respecting that she may have some raw places from previous relationships and, for example, calling when you promised because Steve was a date-breaker, or not gawping rudely at other women because John had a wandering eye, or trying to keep your voice down in arguments because Toby hit her when he lost his temper … and you don’t want to give her flashbacks.
    Whatever someone’s previous experience, the sensible calculation is probably not a comparative one: it’s about being a good boy/girlfriend to the best of your abilities rather than being a better one than your predecessors. Factoring in somebody’s issues may be part of that (though obviously if she starts taking out on you resentments of previous men, it’s time for a discussion). It’s the difference between being aware of someone’s past and using that knowledge to broaden your understanding of how to make them happy, and being an emotional cheapskate.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Let’s say that I meet an attractive, intelligent, single woman who is interested in me and we start dating. I’m not entirely sure why this wonderful human being is even willing to talk to me, let alone seems to think highly enough of me that she’d want a relationship with me. Then I find out that her previous boyfriends were all pretty much jerks who treated her like crap.
    I now have the option to simply try to be a better boyfriend than the last guy. But if I do that what does it say about me and, more importantly, what does it say about my opinion of others, especially this microcosm of the other who I think is a completely wonderful human being?

    Well, first, why assume a wonderful human being wouldn’t be interested in you? Perhaps you’re a nice, attractive, interesting person.
    Second, if your calculation is ‘I can get away with being a semi-good boyfriend because she has no basis of comparison’, then that’s manipulative and mean. If, on the other hand, your calculation is ‘I don’t want to put her through what that jerk did’, then that’s a compassionate attitude.
    ‘Being a better boyfriend’ might be about getting away with stuff, or it might be about respecting that she may have some raw places from previous relationships and, for example, calling when you promised because Steve was a date-breaker, or not gawping rudely at other women because John had a wandering eye, or trying to keep your voice down in arguments because Toby hit her when he lost his temper … and you don’t want to give her flashbacks.
    Whatever someone’s previous experience, the sensible calculation is probably not a comparative one: it’s about being a good boy/girlfriend to the best of your abilities rather than being a better one than your predecessors. Factoring in somebody’s issues may be part of that (though obviously if she starts taking out on you resentments of previous men, it’s time for a discussion). It’s the difference between being aware of someone’s past and using that knowledge to broaden your understanding of how to make them happy, and being an emotional cheapskate.

  • inge

    Karen: Apparently, my evil plan to preserve my sons’ virginity at least through high school by encouraging them in their fascination with science fiction will have to be modified.
    Not for as long as he’s aiming for a place high in the geek hierarchy. Note how the hierarchy is moving down from pure thought (writer) to involvement (fan) to eh, bodily involvement (costumes, furries)?
    Izzy, re: hygiene at cons (and LARPs, and SCA events): Many of the cons and SCA events I was it was difficult to brush your teeth, hard to change clothes, and impossible to get a shower. Insufficient facilities, no privacy, camping/sleeping on the hall floor, limited baggage space, spending the day in crowded rooms (usually too hot, sometimes too cold) with bad air circulation, limited space to move… one of the reasons I’m not doing this anymore. It was barely tolerable when I was in my 20s.
    if you wear your slave collar (or your cat ears or your Wiccan robe) to the mall, people are going to make fun of you
    The rule I learned was, “If you wear costume out-of-context, be at your best behaviour and move as if you own the place”. It’s when you are impolite or insecure that you’ll get laughed at.

  • inge

    Karen: Apparently, my evil plan to preserve my sons’ virginity at least through high school by encouraging them in their fascination with science fiction will have to be modified.
    Not for as long as he’s aiming for a place high in the geek hierarchy. Note how the hierarchy is moving down from pure thought (writer) to involvement (fan) to eh, bodily involvement (costumes, furries)?
    Izzy, re: hygiene at cons (and LARPs, and SCA events): Many of the cons and SCA events I was it was difficult to brush your teeth, hard to change clothes, and impossible to get a shower. Insufficient facilities, no privacy, camping/sleeping on the hall floor, limited baggage space, spending the day in crowded rooms (usually too hot, sometimes too cold) with bad air circulation, limited space to move… one of the reasons I’m not doing this anymore. It was barely tolerable when I was in my 20s.
    if you wear your slave collar (or your cat ears or your Wiccan robe) to the mall, people are going to make fun of you
    The rule I learned was, “If you wear costume out-of-context, be at your best behaviour and move as if you own the place”. It’s when you are impolite or insecure that you’ll get laughed at.

  • http://cereselle.livejournal.com cereselle

    Okay, I have seen it forever, but I’m not at all versed in furriness, so what is yiff?
    Especially ’cause if you take it far enough, you end up with that German cannibal guy. Or people who sew meat to themselves.
    *chokes* *falls down*
    I find that as I get older, I’m less and less able to tolerate congoers who have little to no social skills. Stench is okay– I can always move. (Except for that one time that good-looking guy laced me into a corset. Apparently he was enamored of his own natural musk. Ew.) But the people who argue with panel members, or nitpick statements in order to show how much smarter they are? Those people are rude, and at this point, I tell them so.
    You are not Phedre no Delaunay; furthermore, Phedre no Delaunay was FUCKING ANNOYING for about ten thousand pages before she became a minor character, so please do get over yourself.
    Aw, I liked Phedre. Although the “hey, I can speak any language in the WORLD” did get old. (And Imriel is better.) I’m glad, though, that the whole dark sex fantasy thing didn’t exist when I was in college. I would have glommed onto it wholeheartedly, and I’d be awfully embarrassed now.
    To sum up: I am clearly out of the loop, as I’ve never heard of RACK. But y’know what? I’m kind of okay with that. Also, I can raise either of my eyebrows independently, and I like to do it to the beat of “Closer.”

  • http://cereselle.livejournal.com cereselle

    Okay, I have seen it forever, but I’m not at all versed in furriness, so what is yiff?
    Especially ’cause if you take it far enough, you end up with that German cannibal guy. Or people who sew meat to themselves.
    *chokes* *falls down*
    I find that as I get older, I’m less and less able to tolerate congoers who have little to no social skills. Stench is okay– I can always move. (Except for that one time that good-looking guy laced me into a corset. Apparently he was enamored of his own natural musk. Ew.) But the people who argue with panel members, or nitpick statements in order to show how much smarter they are? Those people are rude, and at this point, I tell them so.
    You are not Phedre no Delaunay; furthermore, Phedre no Delaunay was FUCKING ANNOYING for about ten thousand pages before she became a minor character, so please do get over yourself.
    Aw, I liked Phedre. Although the “hey, I can speak any language in the WORLD” did get old. (And Imriel is better.) I’m glad, though, that the whole dark sex fantasy thing didn’t exist when I was in college. I would have glommed onto it wholeheartedly, and I’d be awfully embarrassed now.
    To sum up: I am clearly out of the loop, as I’ve never heard of RACK. But y’know what? I’m kind of okay with that. Also, I can raise either of my eyebrows independently, and I like to do it to the beat of “Closer.”

  • http://accidental-historian.blogspot.com/ Geds

    Well, first, why assume a wonderful human being wouldn’t be interested in you? Perhaps you’re a nice, attractive, interesting person.
    To be fair, it was a hypothetical talking point. However, my original post contained a parenthetical thought after the part about meeting an attractive person who’s interested in me that basically said, “I know it’s hard to believe, but work with me here.” I tend to be the sort who says, “I’ll be ready when ______ happens,” and make excuses until it does, then find another blank to worry about. It’s ultimately self-defeating and creates situations where wonderful human beings do seem to be interested in me and I think, “Yeah, right.” But that’s a story for another day…
    It’s the difference between being aware of someone’s past and using that knowledge to broaden your understanding of how to make them happy, and being an emotional cheapskate.
    This is totally where I was trying to go using the A/B comparison. The whole idea of being a cheapskate and trying to just get by with the minimum effort. Are you really helping anyone by doing that and, more importantly, aren’t you cheating yourself out of a life worth living?
    (though obviously if she starts taking out on you resentments of previous men, it’s time for a discussion)
    …Yeah…
    I used to date a girl who had, for lack of a better term, abandonment issues. Not only that, but as best I can tell they were completely imaginary abandonment issues, since no one had ever really abandoned her. She took those issues out on me and I hated the idea of leaving because it would only play in to those problems in the future and although I was pretty much done with whole thing I really didn’t want my actions to cause her or some other unfortunate guy problems down the road.
    That totally sucked. I still feel kind of bad about how it ended even though it really couldn’t have ended any other way.
    It’s when you are impolite or insecure that you’ll get laughed at.
    Back in high school I learned that acting like you were supposed to be out in the hallway during a class period was just as good as a hall pass. If you give off that “I’m supposed to be here” vibe people will probably agree with you since, really, no one gives a flying crap unless you call attention to it. Paint the damn mountain pink and erect a Somebody Else’s Problem Field around it…

  • http://accidental-historian.blogspot.com/ Geds

    Well, first, why assume a wonderful human being wouldn’t be interested in you? Perhaps you’re a nice, attractive, interesting person.
    To be fair, it was a hypothetical talking point. However, my original post contained a parenthetical thought after the part about meeting an attractive person who’s interested in me that basically said, “I know it’s hard to believe, but work with me here.” I tend to be the sort who says, “I’ll be ready when ______ happens,” and make excuses until it does, then find another blank to worry about. It’s ultimately self-defeating and creates situations where wonderful human beings do seem to be interested in me and I think, “Yeah, right.” But that’s a story for another day…
    It’s the difference between being aware of someone’s past and using that knowledge to broaden your understanding of how to make them happy, and being an emotional cheapskate.
    This is totally where I was trying to go using the A/B comparison. The whole idea of being a cheapskate and trying to just get by with the minimum effort. Are you really helping anyone by doing that and, more importantly, aren’t you cheating yourself out of a life worth living?
    (though obviously if she starts taking out on you resentments of previous men, it’s time for a discussion)
    …Yeah…
    I used to date a girl who had, for lack of a better term, abandonment issues. Not only that, but as best I can tell they were completely imaginary abandonment issues, since no one had ever really abandoned her. She took those issues out on me and I hated the idea of leaving because it would only play in to those problems in the future and although I was pretty much done with whole thing I really didn’t want my actions to cause her or some other unfortunate guy problems down the road.
    That totally sucked. I still feel kind of bad about how it ended even though it really couldn’t have ended any other way.
    It’s when you are impolite or insecure that you’ll get laughed at.
    Back in high school I learned that acting like you were supposed to be out in the hallway during a class period was just as good as a hall pass. If you give off that “I’m supposed to be here” vibe people will probably agree with you since, really, no one gives a flying crap unless you call attention to it. Paint the damn mountain pink and erect a Somebody Else’s Problem Field around it…

  • Spalanzani

    Izzy: “Not the noblest of motives, but hey, not everyone can be Mother Teresa.”
    I know this wasn’t meant very seriosly, but statements like this are pretty common, and it’s interesting that they’re an inversion of the sort of thing Fred talks about in his post. Instead of excusing your failings by comparing yourself to some utterly horrible excuse for a human being and saying “at least I’m not as bad as that guy”, you excuse your failings by pointing to some impossibly saintly person and say “there’s no way I can be as good as them”.

  • Spalanzani

    Izzy: “Not the noblest of motives, but hey, not everyone can be Mother Teresa.”
    I know this wasn’t meant very seriosly, but statements like this are pretty common, and it’s interesting that they’re an inversion of the sort of thing Fred talks about in his post. Instead of excusing your failings by comparing yourself to some utterly horrible excuse for a human being and saying “at least I’m not as bad as that guy”, you excuse your failings by pointing to some impossibly saintly person and say “there’s no way I can be as good as them”.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Is, “I only have to be better than this guy I’m already better than,” and, “I only care enough about you to do the minimum work necessary,” really something to strive for? Moreover, if you say you value someone then follow up with that line of reasoning, do you really value them at all?
    I have learned, from various online discussions about the writing/publishing industry, to call that attitude (not yours, Geds, but that of the hypothetical guy you argue against being!) “Crap Plus One.” As in, “Crap Plus One is not a viable goal,” a corrective phrase appropriate when the conversation becomes dominated by cynics declaiming that “Dude, look at all the crap that gets published today! If Eragon is a best seller, I should at least get published, because I can do better than that crap!”
    Yes, you can do better than “that crap.” But it shouldn’t be because you’re trying for Crap Plus One, but because your best is of course going to be better than “that crap.” Besides, a goal of Crap Plus One implies a heckalotta contempt for one’s potential readers, just as Geds’s hypothetical “better than the ex” boyfriend exhibits contempt for his girlfriend. “I don’t have do my best. All I have to do is wow ‘em with being marginally better than the usual crap they enjoy.” And, ordinarily, contempt for your readers is not a component of a viable career path.
    (It should be noticed that given a group of Crap Plus One advocators in an online writing discussion, about 85% of them will in fact not have reached a level of Crap Plus One, let alone Personal Best, because Chris Paolini actually finished a novel and submitted it for publication, which, regardless of the novel’s inherent quality, is more than the complainers have hitherto accomplished.)

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Is, “I only have to be better than this guy I’m already better than,” and, “I only care enough about you to do the minimum work necessary,” really something to strive for? Moreover, if you say you value someone then follow up with that line of reasoning, do you really value them at all?
    I have learned, from various online discussions about the writing/publishing industry, to call that attitude (not yours, Geds, but that of the hypothetical guy you argue against being!) “Crap Plus One.” As in, “Crap Plus One is not a viable goal,” a corrective phrase appropriate when the conversation becomes dominated by cynics declaiming that “Dude, look at all the crap that gets published today! If Eragon is a best seller, I should at least get published, because I can do better than that crap!”
    Yes, you can do better than “that crap.” But it shouldn’t be because you’re trying for Crap Plus One, but because your best is of course going to be better than “that crap.” Besides, a goal of Crap Plus One implies a heckalotta contempt for one’s potential readers, just as Geds’s hypothetical “better than the ex” boyfriend exhibits contempt for his girlfriend. “I don’t have do my best. All I have to do is wow ‘em with being marginally better than the usual crap they enjoy.” And, ordinarily, contempt for your readers is not a component of a viable career path.
    (It should be noticed that given a group of Crap Plus One advocators in an online writing discussion, about 85% of them will in fact not have reached a level of Crap Plus One, let alone Personal Best, because Chris Paolini actually finished a novel and submitted it for publication, which, regardless of the novel’s inherent quality, is more than the complainers have hitherto accomplished.)

  • SchrodingersDuck

    Okay, I have seen it forever, but I’m not at all versed in furriness, so what is yiff?
    Yiff is basically a catch-all term for anything sex related in furry fandom; sex, cybersex, furry porn, etc. The word supposedly represents the sound of an extremely happy fox (furry roleplay has a whole spectrum of words – I think it’s something like yiff, yipp, yarf, growf, growlf, grrrowl – to represent the various emotional states of a fox).
    It probably doesn’t help their public perception much given that they have the same word for conventional sex as for the furthest excesses portrayed in the media, so if you say “yiffing” to someone, they’re likely to think of the kind of depraved drug-fuelled anonymous fursuit orgies that appear on CSI, rather than the ordinary, if slightly animal-themed, sex that 99% of erotic furries are into.

  • SchrodingersDuck

    Okay, I have seen it forever, but I’m not at all versed in furriness, so what is yiff?
    Yiff is basically a catch-all term for anything sex related in furry fandom; sex, cybersex, furry porn, etc. The word supposedly represents the sound of an extremely happy fox (furry roleplay has a whole spectrum of words – I think it’s something like yiff, yipp, yarf, growf, growlf, grrrowl – to represent the various emotional states of a fox).
    It probably doesn’t help their public perception much given that they have the same word for conventional sex as for the furthest excesses portrayed in the media, so if you say “yiffing” to someone, they’re likely to think of the kind of depraved drug-fuelled anonymous fursuit orgies that appear on CSI, rather than the ordinary, if slightly animal-themed, sex that 99% of erotic furries are into.

  • Izzy

    Cereselle: “Yiff” is furry for “have sex”, because “fuck” apparently isn’t Unique and Special enough. (q.v. reasons why I dislike the subculture; it’s like Jean Auel’s drippy insistence on calling all sex “Pleasures” and why the hell do I *remember* that? I haven’t read the damn books in years, and yet…that information, taking up otherwise-useful space in my brain.)
    Phedre is…well, she’s cool when she’s not practically creaming her (leather) pants about how nobody can understand the great burden-slash-blessing that is being an anguisette and how shameful it all is blah blah blah–dude, you’re a sub, whatever. And also, I like the world a lot, but I couldn’t care less about her Angsty Torrid Angsty love plot with Joscelin, who also needs to shut up through most of the first two books.
    Imriel, OTOH, is a lot better. Especially since most people in Kushiel’s Scion react to his snitty teenage whining *as* snitty teenage whining until he gets over himself. Also, the plot of KS was less Byzantine and more straightforward coming-of-age, which I like much better. (And the Ghost of Not!Caesar was awesome.)
    Spalanzani: Yes, *but* there’s a good point in deciding not to try and live up to an impossible or onerous ideal. And also, there’s a point where some other people see things as failings and you don’t and you have to decide what you want to do about that.
    I donate to charity, support my friends, vote Democrat, try to do a good job at work. These are good things about me. I don’t call my parents nearly as often as I should, am sometimes thoughtless or wasteful, and occasionally am impatient or irritable when I don’t mean to be. These are failings I try to work on. I also eat meat, have (or had) casual sex, point and laugh at those who I think deserve it, and engage in the occasional flame war. These aren’t good qualities; I don’t think they’re bad ones either, so I don’t try and change them. I realize some people may feel differently.
    But rather than explaining all that every time, “Enh, we can’t all be Buddha,” works pretty well.

  • Izzy

    Cereselle: “Yiff” is furry for “have sex”, because “fuck” apparently isn’t Unique and Special enough. (q.v. reasons why I dislike the subculture; it’s like Jean Auel’s drippy insistence on calling all sex “Pleasures” and why the hell do I *remember* that? I haven’t read the damn books in years, and yet…that information, taking up otherwise-useful space in my brain.)
    Phedre is…well, she’s cool when she’s not practically creaming her (leather) pants about how nobody can understand the great burden-slash-blessing that is being an anguisette and how shameful it all is blah blah blah–dude, you’re a sub, whatever. And also, I like the world a lot, but I couldn’t care less about her Angsty Torrid Angsty love plot with Joscelin, who also needs to shut up through most of the first two books.
    Imriel, OTOH, is a lot better. Especially since most people in Kushiel’s Scion react to his snitty teenage whining *as* snitty teenage whining until he gets over himself. Also, the plot of KS was less Byzantine and more straightforward coming-of-age, which I like much better. (And the Ghost of Not!Caesar was awesome.)
    Spalanzani: Yes, *but* there’s a good point in deciding not to try and live up to an impossible or onerous ideal. And also, there’s a point where some other people see things as failings and you don’t and you have to decide what you want to do about that.
    I donate to charity, support my friends, vote Democrat, try to do a good job at work. These are good things about me. I don’t call my parents nearly as often as I should, am sometimes thoughtless or wasteful, and occasionally am impatient or irritable when I don’t mean to be. These are failings I try to work on. I also eat meat, have (or had) casual sex, point and laugh at those who I think deserve it, and engage in the occasional flame war. These aren’t good qualities; I don’t think they’re bad ones either, so I don’t try and change them. I realize some people may feel differently.
    But rather than explaining all that every time, “Enh, we can’t all be Buddha,” works pretty well.

  • inge

    Jared: Schools will be required to teach pwecious widdle kiddies that same-sex marriage is as good as opposite-sex marriage;
    I would say, “so what”, or “high time”, except that IMO schools have no business telling kids that marriage has any moral value whatever, be it positive or negative.

  • inge

    Jared: Schools will be required to teach pwecious widdle kiddies that same-sex marriage is as good as opposite-sex marriage;
    I would say, “so what”, or “high time”, except that IMO schools have no business telling kids that marriage has any moral value whatever, be it positive or negative.

  • http://bifrosts-edge.blogspot.com Jon

    Back in high school I learned that acting like you were supposed to be out in the hallway during a class period was just as good as a hall pass. If you give off that “I’m supposed to be here” vibe people will probably agree with you since, really, no one gives a flying crap unless you call attention to it. Paint the damn mountain pink and erect a Somebody Else’s Problem Field around it…
    Similarly, if you’re the sort of person who never gets in any trouble and does well academically, people will just assume that if you’re doing something, you’re supposed to be doing it. In high school a friend and I could pretty much walk around with impunity because the baseline assumption about us was that we didn’t do things that we weren’t supposed to do.
    And to be honest, most of the time when we were just walking around with impunity we weren’t actually up to anything.
    As for the whole “I can’t believe she/he is interested in someone like me,” I think that’s a pretty common thought. Perhaps it’s not the most ideally healthy attitude, but it still seems pretty normal to me. Sure, it’d be great (I guess) if everyone went around thinking “Why wouldn’t someone wonderful be interested in me? I rock!” but honestly it strikes me as more normal (and healthy) for people to have at least some amount of self-doubt on occasion.
    It’s really only a problem if you can’t get past the thought. Basically, the thinking should go something like “I can’t believe someone so wonderful is interested in me. But, whatever the reason may be, she/he is, so, yay me!”

  • http://bifrosts-edge.blogspot.com Jon

    Back in high school I learned that acting like you were supposed to be out in the hallway during a class period was just as good as a hall pass. If you give off that “I’m supposed to be here” vibe people will probably agree with you since, really, no one gives a flying crap unless you call attention to it. Paint the damn mountain pink and erect a Somebody Else’s Problem Field around it…
    Similarly, if you’re the sort of person who never gets in any trouble and does well academically, people will just assume that if you’re doing something, you’re supposed to be doing it. In high school a friend and I could pretty much walk around with impunity because the baseline assumption about us was that we didn’t do things that we weren’t supposed to do.
    And to be honest, most of the time when we were just walking around with impunity we weren’t actually up to anything.
    As for the whole “I can’t believe she/he is interested in someone like me,” I think that’s a pretty common thought. Perhaps it’s not the most ideally healthy attitude, but it still seems pretty normal to me. Sure, it’d be great (I guess) if everyone went around thinking “Why wouldn’t someone wonderful be interested in me? I rock!” but honestly it strikes me as more normal (and healthy) for people to have at least some amount of self-doubt on occasion.
    It’s really only a problem if you can’t get past the thought. Basically, the thinking should go something like “I can’t believe someone so wonderful is interested in me. But, whatever the reason may be, she/he is, so, yay me!”

  • http://www.gothhouse.org McJulie

    And if the terminology wasn’t puke-your-guts-out cutesy-poo: “fursona” and “yiff” and so on
    Well, that sort of thing is certainly the number one reason I mock furries. Stupid contrived terminology will get me to mock pretty much anything.
    But what makes furries different from, say, goths? Or Trek fans?
    For one thing, furry fandom has always had an overtly sexual element. That puts it in the easy-to-be-grossed-out-by category. In that respect, it contrasts with BDSM primarily by having much dorkier outfits.
    But I think the biggest difference is that the more self-aware goths, Trekkies, gamers, anime fans, SF fans in general, seem to mock the less self-aware members of their ilk with the same gleeful abandon that everyone else mocks them. Furries don’t really do that, that I’ve noticed. The culture gives off a distinct vibe of “we have absolutely no idea how dorky you think we are, in fact, we kind of imagine that you find us as sexy and interesting as we find ourselves.”
    Anyway, that’s my perspective based on going to a lot of conventions — “furry” has become shorthand for “people who have a goofy fetish that other people think is dumb,” “people who dress like dorks,” and “people who have absolutely no clue how ridiculous they seem.”
    Especially ’cause if you take it far enough, you end up with that German cannibal guy. Or people who sew meat to themselves.
    Win!
    Diss on gamer funk all you like, but leave the funky furries alone. You try licking yourself clean and see how far you get.
    And win again!

  • http://www.gothhouse.org McJulie

    And if the terminology wasn’t puke-your-guts-out cutesy-poo: “fursona” and “yiff” and so on
    Well, that sort of thing is certainly the number one reason I mock furries. Stupid contrived terminology will get me to mock pretty much anything.
    But what makes furries different from, say, goths? Or Trek fans?
    For one thing, furry fandom has always had an overtly sexual element. That puts it in the easy-to-be-grossed-out-by category. In that respect, it contrasts with BDSM primarily by having much dorkier outfits.
    But I think the biggest difference is that the more self-aware goths, Trekkies, gamers, anime fans, SF fans in general, seem to mock the less self-aware members of their ilk with the same gleeful abandon that everyone else mocks them. Furries don’t really do that, that I’ve noticed. The culture gives off a distinct vibe of “we have absolutely no idea how dorky you think we are, in fact, we kind of imagine that you find us as sexy and interesting as we find ourselves.”
    Anyway, that’s my perspective based on going to a lot of conventions — “furry” has become shorthand for “people who have a goofy fetish that other people think is dumb,” “people who dress like dorks,” and “people who have absolutely no clue how ridiculous they seem.”
    Especially ’cause if you take it far enough, you end up with that German cannibal guy. Or people who sew meat to themselves.
    Win!
    Diss on gamer funk all you like, but leave the funky furries alone. You try licking yourself clean and see how far you get.
    And win again!

  • Izzy

    Inge: On the one hand, I agree.
    On the other hand, schools *do* have business, I think, telling kids that the way other kids are is okay–they certainly did the diversity seminars, and the understanding-other-cultures thing, and so forth when I was in school–and that extends to the way their parents live. “Marriage is awesome!” isn’t really relevant, but “Billy has a mommy and a daddy. They love him. That’s good. Bobby has two mommies. They love him. That’s good too.” is.

  • Izzy

    Inge: On the one hand, I agree.
    On the other hand, schools *do* have business, I think, telling kids that the way other kids are is okay–they certainly did the diversity seminars, and the understanding-other-cultures thing, and so forth when I was in school–and that extends to the way their parents live. “Marriage is awesome!” isn’t really relevant, but “Billy has a mommy and a daddy. They love him. That’s good. Bobby has two mommies. They love him. That’s good too.” is.

  • hapax

    Geds: what does that have to do with the cobra fighting mongoose?

    Oh, sorry. I never know what is widely-known slang and what isn’t.
    “To go Rikki-tikki-tavi” or “RTT” is to emulate the motto of the mongoose familty, “run and find out.” It refers to those of us who are unable to resist trying to answer every oddball idle question that comes are way, and is especially prevalent among (but not restricted to) librarian-types.
    Izzy: Yes, *but* there’s a good point in deciding not to try and live up to an impossible or onerous ideal
    The reason it’s impossible or onerous is that you aren’t Mother Teresa or the Buddha, and even if you could perfectly imitate either (and I’d rather you didn’t, I don’t think I’d like either one much) that would be a failure, because you’d no longer be Izzy. I think that a much better goal for you would be as Izzy an Izzy as you possibly can.
    (Now there’s a refrain for a fifties bubblegum pop song!)
    That’s why I never got the whole “what would Jesus do?” movement. Christians aren’t called to imitate Jesus — I would make a lousy first century male Palestinian Jew, and I can’t imagine what use I would be to the world as one (unless it were a *very* peculiar LARP indeed!)
    Christians are called to imitate *Christ* — that is, the Logos, the Word/Plan/Design of God, incarnate in a human body.
    I know that you aren’t a Christian, Izzy, but honestly, I don’t think that’s a bad goal for anybody. Even if you don’t believe in God, most people believe in themselves. Why not strive to be that person, instead of somebody else?
    [climbs very gingerly off soapboax, minding the bad foot]

  • hapax

    Geds: what does that have to do with the cobra fighting mongoose?

    Oh, sorry. I never know what is widely-known slang and what isn’t.
    “To go Rikki-tikki-tavi” or “RTT” is to emulate the motto of the mongoose familty, “run and find out.” It refers to those of us who are unable to resist trying to answer every oddball idle question that comes are way, and is especially prevalent among (but not restricted to) librarian-types.
    Izzy: Yes, *but* there’s a good point in deciding not to try and live up to an impossible or onerous ideal
    The reason it’s impossible or onerous is that you aren’t Mother Teresa or the Buddha, and even if you could perfectly imitate either (and I’d rather you didn’t, I don’t think I’d like either one much) that would be a failure, because you’d no longer be Izzy. I think that a much better goal for you would be as Izzy an Izzy as you possibly can.
    (Now there’s a refrain for a fifties bubblegum pop song!)
    That’s why I never got the whole “what would Jesus do?” movement. Christians aren’t called to imitate Jesus — I would make a lousy first century male Palestinian Jew, and I can’t imagine what use I would be to the world as one (unless it were a *very* peculiar LARP indeed!)
    Christians are called to imitate *Christ* — that is, the Logos, the Word/Plan/Design of God, incarnate in a human body.
    I know that you aren’t a Christian, Izzy, but honestly, I don’t think that’s a bad goal for anybody. Even if you don’t believe in God, most people believe in themselves. Why not strive to be that person, instead of somebody else?
    [climbs very gingerly off soapboax, minding the bad foot]

  • hapax

    Jon: if you’re the sort of person who never gets in any trouble and does well academically, people will just assume that if you’re doing something, you’re supposed to be doing it.
    Quoted for truthery. I remember my senior year of high school not only cutting any classes I pleased, but actually going up to a teacher and explaining that I couldn’t take an essay test that day, because I simply was all “written out”, and I’d take it tommorrow — and he said “Oh, okay!” because, well, I was That Sort of Person.
    Then I went to college, where I hadn’t built up a rep yet, and tried to pull the same sort of stunt…

  • hapax

    Jon: if you’re the sort of person who never gets in any trouble and does well academically, people will just assume that if you’re doing something, you’re supposed to be doing it.
    Quoted for truthery. I remember my senior year of high school not only cutting any classes I pleased, but actually going up to a teacher and explaining that I couldn’t take an essay test that day, because I simply was all “written out”, and I’d take it tommorrow — and he said “Oh, okay!” because, well, I was That Sort of Person.
    Then I went to college, where I hadn’t built up a rep yet, and tried to pull the same sort of stunt…

  • Izzy

    McJulie: Thanks, and likewise, because I think you put your finger on it.
    I watched Trekkies , and I cringed in vicarious shame for pretty much everyone in there.* Furthermore, I watched it with *Star Trek fans*, with people who can quote individual episodes and talk in detail about the difference between DS9 and Voyagers…and they did the exact same thing. The gamers I know will occasionally, if we become aware that we’re being dorky about something, ratchet our voice up into Geek Nasal and say “And my twelfth-level paladin has an eighteen Charisma and a Holy Sword +5, and this one time…” (See also: Something Positive.)
    And yeah, I don’t get the impression that furries do that either. To be fair, this might be because we’ve seen them at cons and on the Internet, which aren’t exactly havens of the socially clueful, but I get the same vibe you do: “Nobody could possibly find this icky and weird!” which turns into “How dare you find this icky and weird!” when someone points out that, y’know…it’s icky and weird to those who don’t share the fetish.
    *Except for the dentist, because having a Star Trek themed dentist might be awesome, insofar as it’d give me something to think about other than the Cronenbergian horror taking place in my mouth. (I do not, however, want a David-Cronenberg-themed dentist, OH GOD NO.)

  • Izzy

    McJulie: Thanks, and likewise, because I think you put your finger on it.
    I watched Trekkies , and I cringed in vicarious shame for pretty much everyone in there.* Furthermore, I watched it with *Star Trek fans*, with people who can quote individual episodes and talk in detail about the difference between DS9 and Voyagers…and they did the exact same thing. The gamers I know will occasionally, if we become aware that we’re being dorky about something, ratchet our voice up into Geek Nasal and say “And my twelfth-level paladin has an eighteen Charisma and a Holy Sword +5, and this one time…” (See also: Something Positive.)
    And yeah, I don’t get the impression that furries do that either. To be fair, this might be because we’ve seen them at cons and on the Internet, which aren’t exactly havens of the socially clueful, but I get the same vibe you do: “Nobody could possibly find this icky and weird!” which turns into “How dare you find this icky and weird!” when someone points out that, y’know…it’s icky and weird to those who don’t share the fetish.
    *Except for the dentist, because having a Star Trek themed dentist might be awesome, insofar as it’d give me something to think about other than the Cronenbergian horror taking place in my mouth. (I do not, however, want a David-Cronenberg-themed dentist, OH GOD NO.)

  • Izzy

    Hapax: Thanks! Also: best fifties song ever.
    Seriously–I think that’s a good goal, and I tend to follow it. (Except for those times when I try to imitate Conan or similarly badass people, because that’s fun.) “Enh, I can’t be X” is my shorthand for “I know this isn’t Making The World a Better Place, and I’m okay with that even if you aren’t,” but I’m thinking it doesn’t come across so well. Perhaps a new shorthand. And less time sitting around in student unions–I’m feeling like a very old Izzy right now. ;)

  • Izzy

    Hapax: Thanks! Also: best fifties song ever.
    Seriously–I think that’s a good goal, and I tend to follow it. (Except for those times when I try to imitate Conan or similarly badass people, because that’s fun.) “Enh, I can’t be X” is my shorthand for “I know this isn’t Making The World a Better Place, and I’m okay with that even if you aren’t,” but I’m thinking it doesn’t come across so well. Perhaps a new shorthand. And less time sitting around in student unions–I’m feeling like a very old Izzy right now. ;)

  • Anonymous

    > having a Star Trek themed dentist might be awesome
    Oh yeah! A Star Trek themed dentist would be great, until the dentist pulled-out some 19th century steel implements, instead of a medical tricorder.

  • Anonymous

    > having a Star Trek themed dentist might be awesome
    Oh yeah! A Star Trek themed dentist would be great, until the dentist pulled-out some 19th century steel implements, instead of a medical tricorder.

  • inge

    Izzy: I don’t know about anyone else. For me, it’s the same reason I watch and blog about bad books or movies, or read fandom_wank, or whatever: pointing and laughing is fun.
    Plus, it teaches how to do it better, and (wrt wank) when to shut up because the discussion is dead except for the shouting. I learned loads about how not to write bad fanfic from reading sporkigs of bad fanfic. (As they say, no one is useless, they can always serve as a bad example.)
    ?: When those fearmongers complain about schools “teaching homosexuality,” are they saying that schools are teaching that it’s normal or that schools are teaching students to be gay?
    They could teach how to be gay, but considering the mess they make out of teaching how to be het, it’s probably better if they don’t.
    (Everyone I know in my age group got the really useful info from teenage magazines, which were amazingly unprejudiced on anything except manipulative behaviour.)

  • inge

    Izzy: I don’t know about anyone else. For me, it’s the same reason I watch and blog about bad books or movies, or read fandom_wank, or whatever: pointing and laughing is fun.
    Plus, it teaches how to do it better, and (wrt wank) when to shut up because the discussion is dead except for the shouting. I learned loads about how not to write bad fanfic from reading sporkigs of bad fanfic. (As they say, no one is useless, they can always serve as a bad example.)
    ?: When those fearmongers complain about schools “teaching homosexuality,” are they saying that schools are teaching that it’s normal or that schools are teaching students to be gay?
    They could teach how to be gay, but considering the mess they make out of teaching how to be het, it’s probably better if they don’t.
    (Everyone I know in my age group got the really useful info from teenage magazines, which were amazingly unprejudiced on anything except manipulative behaviour.)

  • http://bifrosts-edge.blogspot.com Jon

    hapax: Then I went to college, where I hadn’t built up a rep yet, and tried to pull the same sort of stunt…
    Yes, college can be a bit of an eye-opener.
    By my senior year in college I had built up a rep, at least within the English Department.
    (Part of my reputation came from my being named the recipient of a prestigious departmental scholarship – I wasn’t concerned with the prestige; I just liked the money)
    I learned about my rep from a professor who informed me that she was disappointed that I wasn’t living up to the hype. It was kind of an odd moment. (Among many odd moments with her; she was often rather…flirtatious in her demeanor around me)
    As for Geek Hierarchies, it’s worth noting that no one hates one kind of nerd/geek more than some other kind of nerd/geek. I have a lot of theories about why that it is, but the fact remains that when it comes to hating nerds, jocks don’t have anything on other nerds.

  • http://bifrosts-edge.blogspot.com Jon

    hapax: Then I went to college, where I hadn’t built up a rep yet, and tried to pull the same sort of stunt…
    Yes, college can be a bit of an eye-opener.
    By my senior year in college I had built up a rep, at least within the English Department.
    (Part of my reputation came from my being named the recipient of a prestigious departmental scholarship – I wasn’t concerned with the prestige; I just liked the money)
    I learned about my rep from a professor who informed me that she was disappointed that I wasn’t living up to the hype. It was kind of an odd moment. (Among many odd moments with her; she was often rather…flirtatious in her demeanor around me)
    As for Geek Hierarchies, it’s worth noting that no one hates one kind of nerd/geek more than some other kind of nerd/geek. I have a lot of theories about why that it is, but the fact remains that when it comes to hating nerds, jocks don’t have anything on other nerds.

  • http://www.dylanwolf.com/ Dylan

    That’s why I never got the whole “what would Jesus do?” movement. Christians aren’t called to imitate Jesus — I would make a lousy first century male Palestinian Jew, and I can’t imagine what use I would be to the world as one (unless it were a *very* peculiar LARP indeed!)
    Good point. Not too long ago I was talking to someone who said he would probably be responsible for some particular couple breaking up, and snarkily said, “What would Jesus do?” I didn’t say it, but the first thing that flashed through my mind was, “well, he probably wouldn’t be getting in a relationship anyway, what with all the traveling he’d be doing teaching and healing.”
    Well, first, why assume a wonderful human being wouldn’t be interested in you?
    Because I’ve never seen any evidence that such a person exists? :/

  • http://www.dylanwolf.com/ Dylan

    That’s why I never got the whole “what would Jesus do?” movement. Christians aren’t called to imitate Jesus — I would make a lousy first century male Palestinian Jew, and I can’t imagine what use I would be to the world as one (unless it were a *very* peculiar LARP indeed!)
    Good point. Not too long ago I was talking to someone who said he would probably be responsible for some particular couple breaking up, and snarkily said, “What would Jesus do?” I didn’t say it, but the first thing that flashed through my mind was, “well, he probably wouldn’t be getting in a relationship anyway, what with all the traveling he’d be doing teaching and healing.”
    Well, first, why assume a wonderful human being wouldn’t be interested in you?
    Because I’ve never seen any evidence that such a person exists? :/

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    it was difficult to brush your teeth
    Keep a couple of packs of sugar-free gum around, is the best method in those situations. The flavour freshens your breath, and chewing stimulates saliva, which cleans your mouth out. But surely a small toothbrush and a deodorant stick don’t take up impossible amounts of room in baggage space? (I admit, I’m picky about that stuff; I hate feeling like my mouth isn’t clean.)
    But the people who … nitpick statements in order to show how much smarter they are?
    I’ve had that happen to me, and I found it unbelievably rude. I remember once meeting this guy at a party who spent a full five minutes, if not more, banging on and on about how a passing joke I’d made – in an attempt to be agreeable, it was a sort of compliment to one of the other people there – couldn’t really happen because it was historically impossible. (Which I knew perfectly well; it was a joke, for Pete’s sake.) I felt completely aggressed on; this guy was pretty geeky (one of the geekiest friends of my geekiest friend), and I had a strong sense that because I was wearing different clothes and didn’t share the same hobby as him, he felt he had to put me in my place, like my trying to be friendly was some kind of dominance challenge from an outsider. I think he may have thought he was being funny, but he really wasn’t: mostly he was just showing off his knowledge of relatively obscure history, as if that proved he was still boss of this group despite the appearance of a stranger. I have to admit, I did spend some time fulminating about him on the way home, because who thinks it’s okay to attack someone who’s trying to be nice to you? He may have been a nice guy in other areas – he was a friend of my friend, after all – but I was simply staggered that he thought this was a reasonable way to behave. With everyone I know, it’s just against the rules.
    As in, “Crap Plus One is not a viable goal,” a corrective phrase appropriate when the conversation becomes dominated by cynics declaiming that “Dude, look at all the crap that gets published today! If Eragon is a best seller, I should at least get published, because I can do better than that crap!”
    I think such statements come down to a sense of personal entitlement rather than an actual interest in art. It’s about ‘I deserve to get published, because people who don’t deserve to be are!’, as if the publishing industry was some kind of justice-dispensing mechanism. Well, it ain’t – and if you’re thinking of publishing in terms of you deserving it, rather than in terms of writing the best book you can and hoping someone in an editorial position will like it, then you’re thinking about yourself, not your work; about the rewards you should get in the end, not the process of writing. Promising writers seldom take that line, because such an attitude is about ego, not writing, and that kind of ego is seldom an astute enough observer of the world to produce good fiction. The publishing industry really doesn’t care what you think you deserve.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    it was difficult to brush your teeth
    Keep a couple of packs of sugar-free gum around, is the best method in those situations. The flavour freshens your breath, and chewing stimulates saliva, which cleans your mouth out. But surely a small toothbrush and a deodorant stick don’t take up impossible amounts of room in baggage space? (I admit, I’m picky about that stuff; I hate feeling like my mouth isn’t clean.)
    But the people who … nitpick statements in order to show how much smarter they are?
    I’ve had that happen to me, and I found it unbelievably rude. I remember once meeting this guy at a party who spent a full five minutes, if not more, banging on and on about how a passing joke I’d made – in an attempt to be agreeable, it was a sort of compliment to one of the other people there – couldn’t really happen because it was historically impossible. (Which I knew perfectly well; it was a joke, for Pete’s sake.) I felt completely aggressed on; this guy was pretty geeky (one of the geekiest friends of my geekiest friend), and I had a strong sense that because I was wearing different clothes and didn’t share the same hobby as him, he felt he had to put me in my place, like my trying to be friendly was some kind of dominance challenge from an outsider. I think he may have thought he was being funny, but he really wasn’t: mostly he was just showing off his knowledge of relatively obscure history, as if that proved he was still boss of this group despite the appearance of a stranger. I have to admit, I did spend some time fulminating about him on the way home, because who thinks it’s okay to attack someone who’s trying to be nice to you? He may have been a nice guy in other areas – he was a friend of my friend, after all – but I was simply staggered that he thought this was a reasonable way to behave. With everyone I know, it’s just against the rules.
    As in, “Crap Plus One is not a viable goal,” a corrective phrase appropriate when the conversation becomes dominated by cynics declaiming that “Dude, look at all the crap that gets published today! If Eragon is a best seller, I should at least get published, because I can do better than that crap!”
    I think such statements come down to a sense of personal entitlement rather than an actual interest in art. It’s about ‘I deserve to get published, because people who don’t deserve to be are!’, as if the publishing industry was some kind of justice-dispensing mechanism. Well, it ain’t – and if you’re thinking of publishing in terms of you deserving it, rather than in terms of writing the best book you can and hoping someone in an editorial position will like it, then you’re thinking about yourself, not your work; about the rewards you should get in the end, not the process of writing. Promising writers seldom take that line, because such an attitude is about ego, not writing, and that kind of ego is seldom an astute enough observer of the world to produce good fiction. The publishing industry really doesn’t care what you think you deserve.

  • inge

    Izzy, yes, this is exactly the point. Tolerance and acceptance and love and not meddling in things that are none of one’s business are actually moral virtues. So is giving good information. But marriage is IMO neither a moral virtue nor a moral vice, it’s just one way of arranging one’s life.
    So I don’t want schools to teach, “marriage = good”, whether its “het marriage = good” or “gay marriage = good”. I want them to teach, “it’s a deal, here’s what you get, there’s what you pay, and don’t go around feeling superiour”.
    harpax: “To go Rikki-tikki-tavi” [...] refers to those of us who are unable to resist trying to answer every oddball idle question that comes are way,
    There’s a name for it? Now I’m happy.

  • inge

    Izzy, yes, this is exactly the point. Tolerance and acceptance and love and not meddling in things that are none of one’s business are actually moral virtues. So is giving good information. But marriage is IMO neither a moral virtue nor a moral vice, it’s just one way of arranging one’s life.
    So I don’t want schools to teach, “marriage = good”, whether its “het marriage = good” or “gay marriage = good”. I want them to teach, “it’s a deal, here’s what you get, there’s what you pay, and don’t go around feeling superiour”.
    harpax: “To go Rikki-tikki-tavi” [...] refers to those of us who are unable to resist trying to answer every oddball idle question that comes are way,
    There’s a name for it? Now I’m happy.

  • lonespark

    I was confused about the dentist, until I realized I haven’t seen Trekkies, and was thinking instead of Free Enterprise.
    That’s why I never got the whole “what would Jesus do?” movement. Christians aren’t called to imitate Jesus — I would make a lousy first century male Palestinian Jew, and I can’t imagine what use I would be to the world as one (unless it were a *very* peculiar LARP indeed!)
    Christians are called to imitate *Christ* — that is, the Logos, the Word/Plan/Design of God, incarnate in a human body.

    I always thought the idea was more like, “What would a Christ-like person dedicated to serving a God of Love do?” and that most people don’t make that type of distinction between Jesus and Christ, or rather think of Jesus as the Trinitarian Son rather than a particular mortal carpenter dude. Eternal Jesus, rather than historical Jesus? But I don’t know, because WWJD never caught on with the UCC crowd I ran with.
    My aunt is a UCC pastor who has a bumpersticker on her car reading “Jesus is coming. Look busy!” I always took that one as an exhortation to “do unto the least of these,” even when you don’t really feel like it. And maybe also as a dig at RTC types who seem more concerned with legalism and putting on a good show than with Christlike living.

  • lonespark

    I was confused about the dentist, until I realized I haven’t seen Trekkies, and was thinking instead of Free Enterprise.
    That’s why I never got the whole “what would Jesus do?” movement. Christians aren’t called to imitate Jesus — I would make a lousy first century male Palestinian Jew, and I can’t imagine what use I would be to the world as one (unless it were a *very* peculiar LARP indeed!)
    Christians are called to imitate *Christ* — that is, the Logos, the Word/Plan/Design of God, incarnate in a human body.

    I always thought the idea was more like, “What would a Christ-like person dedicated to serving a God of Love do?” and that most people don’t make that type of distinction between Jesus and Christ, or rather think of Jesus as the Trinitarian Son rather than a particular mortal carpenter dude. Eternal Jesus, rather than historical Jesus? But I don’t know, because WWJD never caught on with the UCC crowd I ran with.
    My aunt is a UCC pastor who has a bumpersticker on her car reading “Jesus is coming. Look busy!” I always took that one as an exhortation to “do unto the least of these,” even when you don’t really feel like it. And maybe also as a dig at RTC types who seem more concerned with legalism and putting on a good show than with Christlike living.


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