Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Benatography

Oh hi guys. I did some science and made some discoveries. Here are the figures so far:












THIS WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING.


?

Friday, September 25, 2009

FML, Where the "L" Stands for Lasagna

So let me tell you about my day.

I woke up, took a shower, then tried to decide what shirt to wear. I was going to the gym later, so that had to factor that into my fashion choices. I came across my grey Alaska shirt, then thought to myself "you know, self, this is pretty much the perfect gym shirt. It colour coordinates with my gym shorts, it's nice looking but not so nice that I'm afraid to get it sweaty, yet it still has no visible pit stains." I hugged the shirt tenderly, put it on, then got on with my day.

I came home from the gym starving. Preparing for dinner, I looked through my cupboards and came across my favourite plate. I thought to myself, "self, this is the perfect plate. It may not be the prettiest, but it's light, it doesn't take up much room in the dishwasher, and it's the perfect size for, say, a single large piece of lasagna. It's a shame I only have one of them." I'm not making this up; I really thought something like this. I hugged the plate tenderly, put a slab of lasagna on it, then got it in the microwave.

Needless to say, the slab of lasagna was also perfect in nearly every possible way. Cheesy, delicious, and nuked until it was hot enough to keep warm through a whole half-hour TV show.

Now I'm not completely sure what happened next. One second I was grinning deliriously to myself as I watched TV, the plate of lasagna in my hand and cheesy goodness in my mouth. The next second I had the remaining shards of a shattered plate in my bleeding hand, and scalding hot cheesy goodness all over my chest. All over my favourite gym shirt.

The take home message here: never stop to appreciate the best things in your life.



Thursday, September 24, 2009

At the Gym, Volume 4: The Grunter

UPDATE 09/25/09 11:15: None of you fuckers commented on this post, but check out the intense debate about it going on over at Reddit.

UPDATE 09/25/09 11:23: I'm sorry I called you a fucker. You know I love you.

If you've ever been to a gym, you've met the grunter. He (for he is invariably male) is not content to demonstrate how hard he's working out purely with the muscles bulging out of his sleeveless shirt, or the strained expression on his face, or the sweat he's dripping all over the place. No, he has to announce his effort with grunts.

Unfortunately this is not an audio blog, but it sounds something like this:

UUUUNGH! [lift weight] FFFNNNG!! [lift weight] GGGRRRRMMPH!!!

Maybe he thinks it helps. If he focuses his energy with a primal howl, it will allow him to lift more weight.

But then you use the machine when he's done, and you're adding fifty pounds before silently completing your workout, and you gotta wonder what all the commotion was about.

A gym is swimming in testosterone, so you really can't blame him for allowing his animal instincts to kick in. It's not like he's Grunty McGruntsalot during more mundane, less manly activities.

But then you use the bathroom on your way out, and guess who's in the stall next to you?

SSSCRRRGH! [dribble] EEEFRRCH!! [fart] EEUURRKK!!!



Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sucking and Fucking

To follow up yesterday's post, HERE is another article on the accusations of sexism in the British Fantasy Society (and horror novels in general).

It's interesting, if for no other reason than introducing me to the term "sucking and fucking" as a genre.

By the way, when you're looking for a picture to include with a blog post on the topic, it's probably not a good idea to do an image search for "sucking and fucking" in a coffee shop. Uh, hypothetically.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fighting Sexism With Sexism in the Horror Genre?



The British Fantasy Society has recently taken criticism because their new collection of 16 interviews with horror authors failed to include any women. It's pointed out that there are "a lot" of women who write horror, and of course, Mary Shelley's name comes up.

On the surface it does appear to be blatant sexism. But I think it's important here, as with many gender issues, to look deeper and make sure we're not accusing people of sexism based on premises that are themselves fundamentally sexist.

What proportion of horror writers are female? And of those, what proportion are among the best in their field? This list of the top 20 horror writers of all time does not include any women. Maybe its author is himself biased, but there is no question that serious horror (i.e., not Twilight) is a male-dominated community.

Let's estimate that, say, one out of every ten serious horror writers are female. And let's say that, for this controversial interview anthology, its creators had to randomly pick from all of the horror authors worthy of inclusion based on their writing alone (i.e., not their gender). The probability of, by chance, picking 16 male authors, then, is (.90)^16 = .185, or 18.5%.

So not a great chance, but still a chance. In the lingo of science, if lack of sexism were the null hypothesis, this wouldn't be enough to reject it (i.e., prove sexism). My numbers could be off, but I predict my point is valid: even if no sexism were operating and authors were picked from a pool based on merit alone, there is a non-negligible chance that the collection would include zero females.

One could argue that a woman author should have been sought out for inclusion just to represent her gender in the community. But this is itself a sexist premise. It is proposing that a woman should have been given special privilege based on her gender alone, rather than her merit as an author. It's the same principle behind affirmative action, and in my humble opinion, horribly misguided. It should be self-evident that the key to eliminating sexism is not more sexism.

What is the key? That is a complex question, but I think it needs to start at the bottom. We can't force the top of any merit-based honour to comprise 50% of each gender. What we can do is make sure there are no obstacles for women on the road to the top, and that safe passage there is based on merit alone. Even more importantly, we can encourage more women to get on that road in the first place if they want to. Even then, there is no guarantee of a 50/50 split - it's quite possible that horror simply appeals to men more than women because of some genuine difference between the genders - but any women that do hop on board shouldn't face any sexist roadblocks.

It's possible that some sexism occurred in this interview collection (either consciously or unconsciously), but there is not enough evidence to convince me either way. I am convinced that writers should be judged based on their writing rather than their gender, and that knee-jerk accusations of sexism need to be carefully examined lest we make the problem even worse.



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Better To Burn Out...

Man, all these celebrities are dying lately. I wonder why it seems like there really are a bunch of high-profile deaths lately. I suppose one explanation is that the celebrities that most people currently care about were born approximately one lifetime ago. Or maybe it's just that other celebrity deaths are being sucked into the black hole nucleus of importance that was Michael Jackson's passing.

Ah, but even before that, Kurt Cobain was winning the race to leave the planet.

And if you're around my age, then here's something to think about: Cobain was 27 years old when he died. In 27 years, he rose to fame, had a successful career, tumbled in a downward spiral of drugs and pain, and ended it with a surprising, historic death. I've been alive for longer than 27 years, and I'm still in fucking school.

Isn't that what we all really want? To have an impact on the world when we finally succumb to that cancer, homicidal doctor, or shotgun? It's the closest we can come to immortality until we finally have the technology to cure aging, upload our brains into computers, or become zombies.*



* Or vampires, but after seeing Twilight, seriously, I'd rather be a zombie than fucking sparkle in sunlight.



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Will of Willow

There are people who say that creativity is an exclusively human trait. These people are wrong.

Take my dog, Willow. In the morning, when she sees that I'm starting to wake up, she wants me to get out of bed as quickly as possible so she can go for her morning walk and pee. She knows the direct approach - barking at me - won't work, so she has to get creative.


I've woken to my toes being softly nibbled on. To her jumping up and down on the bed. This morning, she gave me one lick on the back of the neck, then sat on my pillow, staring at the back of my head breathing heavily until the sheer power of her will woke me.

Incidentally, sometimes when I'm at the computer she feels attention-deprived and goes through similar strategies to make it all about her. Just as I was writing this, she threw a bone at my leg.


The thing is, she has to do something novel to get my attention, and she knows it. If it's boring old barking or nudging me, I'd rather just sleep in. But if it's something I've never seen before, of course I've gotta be all "awww the smart puppy's doing something funny! I can't sleep through that!"

And doing something novel to accomplish a useful goal, that's the definition of creativity. Maybe there are some animals that rigidly stick to what they're programmed to do, but many don't; part of what we love about pets is that they constantly surprise us. Willow may be the very best example, but a trip to Youtube will net you thousands more. Creativity is nowhere near being exclusive to humans.




Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ambition



Remember kids, there is no "I" in "team."

There is also no "I" in "run a marathon."

But there should be.

I'd like to announce my plans to ruin a marathon.

I'm thinking low-lying barbed wire and free samples of laxative Power-Gel.




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Photo: Lucy in London

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Beatles: Colonoscopy

Today is 09/09/09, marking (in a clever little reference to Revolution 9) the release of The Beatles: Rock Band.

But let's talk about colons.

Most people hear the name of the game, and they assume that it's another Rock Band game, being described as a Beatles edition. Which Rock Band is this? It's The Beatles Rock Band. "The Beatles" is being used as an adjective.

But this fails to take the colon into account. That colon in the middle, it totally changes the meaning of the title. Rather than being a Rock Band game described as Beatles-like, the title is a full unit of meaning; "The Beatles: Rock Band" describes a game about The Beatles, who happen to be a rock band. The colon serves to expand on "The Beatles" with what comes after the colon, "Rock Band." It's the opposite of the adjective "The Beatles" expanding on "Rock Band."

Why does this matter? Well, uh, it doesn't, really. The colon's not even on the front cover of the game case. But I do think it's nice that Harmonix, with a simple bit of punctuation, put the focus of the game on The Beatles rather than on the Rock Band franchise. It's a nice little switcheroo compared to games like Guitar Hero: [Insert Band], showing an increased respect for the band that I expect will carry forward into the game itself.

YAY PUNCTUATION!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I'm Not a Fan

You know how most bathrooms have a fan in the ceiling? Do those actually go anywhere? Or are they just there to make noise to cover up farts?

It's like, I've never done this, but in a public washroom, if your friend has to go make a loud poop, you can keep the hand dryer running so nobody else hears it. I hear this is why girls travel to the bathroom in packs.

Or like, in my kitchen, there's a fan in the hood above the stove. You'd think it sucks air up into a vent that leads somewhere outside. But no, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that the fans just vent air out of an opening about an inch above the hood itself. All it does, then, is take hot air and scalding steam and choking smoke rising from the stove and spit it out a bit higher up; at about eye level. Maybe bathroom fans are kinda like that, except useful in their noise-obscuring abilities. The one on my stove not so much, because I rarely fart in the kitchen.

Actually I never fart, but that's a story for another post.

In conclusion: if a silent bathroom fan was invented, nobody would buy it.

Stay thirsty my friends.



Friday, September 04, 2009

The Advantages of Goldfish Memory

I don't have a very good memory. I rarely remember what I had for breakfast, and if you ask me about yesterday's activities, wheewy, forget about it. I'm still angry with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVD sets, because they left out the "previously on Buffy" segment at the beginning of each episode. How am I supposed to remember what's going on without it?

But one upshot of ... whatever I was talking about ... is that I'm continually surprised by the effortlessness of my own accomplishments. I'll get notification that I won a contest that I don't remember entering. Or discover a half-written project on my hard drive that's brilliant but not something I remember doing. Or I'll wake up one day and, oh, look at that, I have a dissertation written, several published papers, and a PhD, and all I had to do was wake up.

I probably had some deep, insightful point in mind to end this post with, but, well, you know.