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Making Excuses for Science Fiction
I was actually just thinking about this very topic while washing my hair, so I'm happy to see it turn up on the blue.

Honestly, I've read a lot of SF where it's about a marriage dissolving in 2155 and it doesn't need to be science fiction because nothing new is added by the SF setting and the story might as well be (usually very sub-par) Cheever or Munro - where the SF setting functions as a sort of... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 7:17 AM on December 28, 2013
Why stop there? You'd better have a good reason to set it in 1955 and not 1855. Are cars and telephones really necessary parts of the story?

No, that's exactly the point. If I'm writing a story where it's basically Jason and Belinda from Williamsburg breaking up on a loft roof, only I think it's more exciting if the loft is on Saturn, that's going to be a blah story. It will be just as blah - and probably more of a failure - if I just put Jason and... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 7:21 AM on December 28, 2013

...you took Christopher and turned it into Krystougher.
The thing I have observed about terrible names - and there are some terrible names, IMO - is that once you actually know someone Galadriel or Throgmorton or Reptilian Cork-Nethersole or whatever, it just turns into a regular name to you and stops sounding unusual. Really, it's no different from meeting someone from a distant place who has a name you've never encountered before. If you don't think naming a kid Allsing or Gunvald is weird, why flinch at Braelyynn?... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 3:59 PM on December 27, 2013
Also, I think that while there are lots of terrible white-people names (and IME, all those Jayden/Braden names are white), the whole "names spelled funny lol" conversation is shadowed so strongly by the racist conversation that even if you're only talking about white people, you kind of can't have that conversation and have it not play into racism.... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 4:05 PM on December 27, 2013
There is someone I have to email occasionally whose last name is Riddle and whose first and middle initials are "M" and "E"...and according to the email generating conventions of this person's employer, this creates an internal email of RiddleMe@[business.com] which has always struck me as awesome.
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 4:12 PM on December 27, 2013
It occurs to me, actually, that I have a perfectly sensible name carefully chosen by my parents so that it would be very slightly unusual but basically classic, with a standard spelling and simple pronunciation - and I have always disliked it, do not go by it and think it singularly unsuitable to my character and appearance. (It's a name with a sort of built in diminutive, a very wholesomely feminine name which would actually be perfectly suitable for either a cheerleader or a... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 5:07 PM on December 27, 2013
While we're on the topic of Le Guin, in The Dispossessed all the characters from the anarchist moon are named by computer - everyone gets a six-letter, two syllable name which also serves as a sort of SSN...and of course, it's set up so that it's always "Shevek" or "Takver" or "Bedap" and not "Llmxop" or "Iiieee" or something. You can't really leave town and start over on the anarchist planet. I admit that I am kind of... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 5:33 PM on December 27, 2013
I was just thinking how I love talking about names, and it's a shame that so many conversations about names get derailed by unconscious/unintentional/ignorant racism and class bias. (Because really, the whole "ha ha Braelynn" thing is really "ha ha someone who is either lower middle class or nouveau riche wants to sound fancy, but isn't classy enough to know how to really sound fancy"...I, an uptight person from a WASPy background, think... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 5:59 PM on December 27, 2013

What to say at the holiday table
Because I am a terrible person, I found these really, really annoying. I mean, for fuck's sake, you produced a work of scholarship. What precisely is achieved by dumbing it down into internet-speak? Is it that you feel contempt for your whole goddamn thesis? Is it that we really as a society believe that nothing is added once something goes beyond tweet-length? Is it just generalized contempt for the complex? I don't want to read an insouciant... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 7:16 PM on December 22, 2013

Pretend you're a cool ghost.
I would love some high-waisted pleated tapered pants. I keep hoping that they'll come back and get mass produced. And I personally am rocking a fade even as I type.

Honestly, the JCP catalog wasn't exactly a bastion of high-fashion even in 1990 - most of that stuff would have read as pretty frump-tastic at the time, though frump-tastic variants on then-fashionable things.

Big shoulderpads and a wide cut make a really... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 7:38 AM on December 19, 2013
(I should clarify that I owned a number of things not just from the JCP catalog but from the JCP clearance catalog - I remember one particular semi-cropped striped pullover, some vests and a pair of button-fly jeans. We were not especially well-off when I was in my teens, and those items were pretty thrilling. Things turned around a bit a few years later and I was able to buy a few things from the GAP and one Christmas I got one of those big J Crew wool roll-neck sweaters. I... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 8:09 AM on December 19, 2013
I'm still waiting for ultra-wide-leg jeans to come back. I have a friend who didn't wear shoes for most of summer 1996 because her feet were always hidden inside her jeans.

Interestingly, I think those derived from Northern Soul styles fused with hip-hop - I mean, they were large and wide, but they were also very flowy, which is a Northern Soul thing, and they seemed initially to have some connection to that whole N. England dance... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 8:23 AM on December 19, 2013
I dunno, 1940's fashion still looks pretty damn classy to me. THAT look would be super cool to come back in style. Like in Blade Runner!

But forties fashion used to be considered frumpy-crazy in, say, the sixties or even the seventies. (In the seventies, it was 20s/30s that was fashionable; and in the sixties even that was a fringe taste - I remember seeing a documentary about the Cockettes and how they could, like, pick up silk... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 8:29 AM on December 19, 2013
Also, of course, just what is revived varies. Everything that the fashion kids today are reviving as "grunge" is (with very minor exception) actually what we would have considered boring and risible back in the day, certainly not what anyone who had any pretensions to hipness would have worn (with the exception of flannel shirts, but they're a cultural universal). What's being revived as nineties isn't high-fashion or avant-garde fashion - it's the tack-ball mall... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 8:38 AM on December 19, 2013
They did have a "Don't have a cow, man!" shirt in there, which wasn't far off from "Let's Fart!", based on the reactions I got to my Bart Simpsons t-shirt.

Oooh gosh, remember all those late eighties/early nineties pop cultural moral scandals? Bart Simpson - so transgressive! "Black Bart Simpson" shirts - just a sign of PC thuggery by a bunch of oversensitive types! Madonna! (I mean, how many Madonna scandals... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 8:42 AM on December 19, 2013
High-waisted pants have definitely come back in style - some of them skinny, some tapered. I don't know if they've fully caught on in the mainstream in a way that would mean mass productions but I say give it a few more years.

But it's the pleats that are the thing - and pants fit is so tricky for me that I require true mass production so that I can choose from a number of pairs. I've tried vintage and I've tried men's and I've only ever had one... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 9:06 AM on December 19, 2013

Just saw this elsewhere on the site - actual pictures taken in an actual shopping mall in 1990.


I think a key change from the eighties (because most of those photos are really eighties photos - certainly, by the time I graduated from HS virtually all that stuff was totally passe in suburban Chicago) is the current preference for hair that is not treated to create a curly texture, also the preference for hair that is less visibly treated in... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 9:59 AM on December 19, 2013
My understanding is that 40s fashion saw a revival in the 70s, and 50s in the 80s - I had a few teen annuals from the 80s which tended to feature fifties aesthetics, pictures of James Dean and Monroe etc.

Actually, there was a lot of forties in the 90s, too - I remember a particular photo shoot (someone unlikely - Marc Jacobs?) where it was intentionally a wartime look with wooden platforms and very long hair up in one of those "no haircuts under... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 11:20 AM on December 19, 2013

Worst Case Scenarios
I tend to assume that anything I try to do on this front will be either very small-scale or pretty useless. Like, it makes sense to try to insure that my house is in good condition - I want to refinish the basement so we have a comfortable space that will stay cool without air-conditioning. It makes sense to grow a certain amount of your own food. But if things get really terrible - like, massive local displacements, sudden total collapse of the water supply terrible - no... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 10:18 AM on December 18, 2013
It would be a kick if the caldera erupted - it might kill enough people and derail enough industry to permanently slow global warming. Of course, I'd probably die - but that's going to happen eventually anyway.
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 10:22 AM on December 18, 2013
(Vis-a-vis Chernobyl, too, remember that the response to Chernobyl was everything that a huge authoritarian industrial empire could muster - they had guys in radiation suits doing thirty-second shifts shoveling radioactive debris, they had absolutely everything they could throw at the problem. (And prior to the end of the Cold War, the men who worked on cleaning up Chernobyl at least had access to health care for the horrible problems so many developed.) Chernobyl went... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 8:13 AM on December 19, 2013

Mother Expletive Nature
"Birthday Cake" was a mix tape staple for me in college, back when my thirtieth birthday seemed really far away. Time passes.
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 5:56 PM on December 14, 2013

Google acquires Boston Dynamics.
This really is so much like Oryx and Crake, only actually kind of worse. Pleeblands, here we come.

Actually, what frosts me the most is that sure, Google will develop some kind of radical life extension and so on - for the 1%, and the same selfish assholes and spoiled rich people who are already ruining everything will just live forever while a pullulating mass of regular humanity lives in misery, plague and want (except for the ones they recruit for sex work and so on).
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 7:53 AM on December 14, 2013

Confession of an Ivy League teaching assistant
Perhaps this is the place to mention that in a recent class, my professor (a grown man!) recounted that he had twice (recently!) been physically threatened by students over grades. This at a perfectly conventional large university and in a rather ordinary field.
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 1:12 PM on December 13, 2013

A lion told her to walk away, and she did.
But the theme that girls stop being interested in cool/fun/interesting stuff and become "boring" when they start being interested in boys is certainly not a hard one to pick up on, either here or across the board in all kinds of texts aimed at children. Especially those aimed at young girls, which is what makes it especially disheartening.

This isn't even out of line with the rest of Lewis's writing - consider "The Shoddy Lands",... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 12:14 PM on December 12, 2013
This always bugged the heck out of me - the idea that Narnians know about Christmas. What exactly do they think they're celebrating? Shouldn't they be celebrating "Aslan-mas" or something?

I really feel that this is a problem mostly because of the commercialization and ret-conning of the books. If you read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a stand-alone story with a relatively light-hearted and fun kind of... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 12:22 PM on December 12, 2013
You don't have to wonder too much what happened to him, we know most of it. His dog died, his mother died, he had a crazy headmaster, WWI freaked him out and he recommitted to atheism, then became an academic and Tolkien and Dyson dragged him back into Christianity. An intellectual, he couldn't stop thinking about it and writing about it and so you have his many fiction and nonfiction books. Sure that's an oversimplification but if you want to better understand what he thought about... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 12:36 PM on December 12, 2013
In all fairness, that idea of complete "interest in [your] own agency"-- that you exist for yourself, you belong to yourself, you don't owe nothin' to nobody and nobody is the boss of you-- is pretty much the textbook Christian definition of pride, both for men and women. Lewis describes it in Milton's Paradise Lost as "the root of [Satan's] whole predicament-- the doctrine that he is a self-existent being, not a derived being, a creature."... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 12:45 PM on December 12, 2013

My daughters seem baffled and bored by their peers who they say seem to be mostly interested in fashion and boy bands.


"I am not yet sexual and so this stuff bores me" or "my romantic or sexual interests are different from these and so they bore me" or "I just am not going to be especially a sexual/romantic person" are not the same as "when girls start being interested in boys they become... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 2:16 PM on December 12, 2013
It's in that spirit that I dislike this piece. It reads to me like a rejection of imagination and rapture and transcendence and an embracing of...I don't know, exactly, status and prestige.

I'm not actually into Super Post-Feminist Girl Power Susan in the OP myself. The breathless sentences and the sort of ressentiment bug me a bit. There's this sort of disingenuous tone in this type of narrative - we're supposed to see the hero as victimized... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 2:24 PM on December 12, 2013
What I mean about Girl Power Susan is that what she suffers always and only makes her succeed. It's like an equation.
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 2:25 PM on December 12, 2013
I'm sorry, but no. I was widowed at 33. What happened to me was shitty, and was definitely Loss and Tragedy, but I am in no way damaged. But society kept telling me I should be, so it took me a hella long time to realize that I wasn't, and maybe society is for telling me I should be.

I'm very sorry that something so terrible happened to you.

I wasn't describing real people who have had real tragedies happen to them,... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 3:56 PM on December 12, 2013
You're right that there's a lot to be known, but wrong that it's unknowable. When C. S. Lewis was 16, he met Arthur Greeves, who was his best friend (after his brother). They corresponded for literally the rest of Lewis's life. Obviously the early letters cover appalling boarding school experiences, in addition to other topics generally of interest to teenage boys, including sex and kink. (Also, Greeves was gay and Lewis was pretty cool with it.) Their correspondence makes up a 600-page... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 11:04 AM on December 13, 2013

Parisian Auction of Sacred Hopi Artifacts
I think there's this whole difficult-to-let-go-of logic of collecting and saving that gets tied in to the market and to fear of death. Leaving aside the colonialism aspect because it's been covered upthread - I think we have to let go of the idea that we can "save" everything for future study and for future generations - there's just too much stuff, for one thing, and it's this sort of costive, hoarding, anxious kind of thought. Also the idea that we should be... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 8:21 AM on December 13, 2013
Why does it sound so unlikely that that individual Hopi member who first sold the masks may not have made masks themselves and sold them to traders, realizing that traders found them valuable? And if the Hopi claim is that they held property in common, and no one had the right to sell outside the tribe - did someone have the right to leave it? Many people from many tribes left for their own purposes. If said Hopi left the tribe for owning personal property, why should they not sell... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 9:40 AM on December 13, 2013
Also, honestly, in these days of super-sophisticated photography and other imaging, we don't actually need to have All the Artifacts to still provide a rich museum experience. It's nice to see things in the flesh - and it's important to be able to see some things in the flesh, I'm not advocating artifactless museums - but we don't need to see All The Things. Much better to return the ones that were acquired improperly and just have replicas or photos of... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 10:14 AM on December 13, 2013

Throughout the ages, women have led rebellions and revolutions...
Perhaps this is a good place to mention Maria Nikiforova and her armored trains full of anarchists. Nikiforova was a great power in Ukraine in the years around the Russian revolution - apparently eclipsing Mahkno - but has largely been written out of history for her anarchism and her gender.

I was astonished by her biography - and I had absolutely never heard of her. (She's clearly one of the inspirations for the trains in China Mieville's Iron... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 11:55 AM on December 10, 2013

iPads and food banks.
There are a lot of food banks in the UK. But, how does one get access to a food bank in the UK? They go to a doctor/nurse/faith leader and say "I am hungry". Then, the official does a survey to assess whether that person is hungry and poor enough to access a food bank, which they can only access three times per year for a grand total of nine days' worth of food per year. So, a lot of people accessing nine days' food per year. Food banks are a stop gap measure meant to empower... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 7:45 AM on December 10, 2013

People of Color are not an anachronism
This tumblr is one of the best tumblrs out there, IMO. It really uses the medium to the fullest, the writer is extremely smart and has great instincts for relevant scholarship, and the subject is just awesome on many levels, artistically, historically and politically.

I have always wanted to know more about those people of color who are mentioned in passing in historical accounts or novels - I figured that people got around a lot in the ancient world, so there must... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 9:24 AM on December 8, 2013
I think the thing that's irritating is that the sort of mefite who's going to click on a link to a blog full of medieval (or not) art is also the sort of mefite who's going having enough of a knowledge of European history to realise that the casting of Vampires of Venice or whatever wasn't ridiculous.

I beg to differ!

And this is why I have no trouble accepting the "whitewashing" argument - even though clearly there... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 7:00 AM on December 9, 2013
Something that's getting overlooked here is that it's not super important whether each individual instance is accurate*; what's important is that the vast majority of the time, in any material not produced for a specialist audience, Europe has been inaccurately portrayed as virtually exclusively white - and this whiteness has been mobilized for all kinds of unsavory political purposes. It's like, if there were lots of historical fantasy shows and movies and... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 8:23 AM on December 9, 2013

you can love me if you want it's not my problem
That Heiko Julien thing reminds me of the Sick Puppy story in Girl With Curious Hair crossed with Generation X with a little bit of Kathy Acker and her general cohort.

That is, I don't think it's new in some kind of revolutionary sense; I think it's the generational recurrence of a certain type of anomie, expressed slightly differently each time in response to the world. But I also thus don't think it's bad or... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 8:26 AM on December 6, 2013
THAT SAID, I’ve been saying on MeFi for actual years that if you know any young people who’ve grown up with social networks as a way of life it is sort of astonishing how interesting and witty and sharp the a lot of them have turned their local online cultures into. Lots of excellent comic timing and self-reflection and even insight and wisdom that I don’t seem to recall my five-years-older generation having quite so much of. There’s a lot of enabling going on, both good and bad, and... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 1:20 PM on December 6, 2013

Exiting the Vampire Castle
As for privilege-checking, it is really not an ethos. It is a way to make people who are completely insensitive to the realities of ingrained sexism and racism and homophobia, cis-normativity, &c. aware of how much they take for granted. It is not something good liberals do every morning while they brush their teeth or every evening during their bedside prayers. I don't know why people take it to this absurd extreme, but it's just about awareness and a helpful way of thinking about... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 7:26 AM on December 4, 2013

The New Statesmen Moustache the question.
Also, in a society which is substantially patriarchal and misogynist, any kind of "let's assert these practices about masculinity - which is very, very different from femininity!!! - and let's dehistoricize them so that we can all bond around masculinity in sort of a jokey way" is going to reinforce crappy gender norms, precisely because it pretends that gender norms are natural and uncomplicated.

As far as the whole race/mustaches thing being "the... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 10:19 AM on December 3, 2013
(To clarify - I don't mean that all men of color have "family or religious traditions about facial hair", which would be absurd....just that in general white dudes don't. (Although what about the Amish and Mennonites? I suppose that's the nearest majority-white related experience.)
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 10:21 AM on December 3, 2013
Step one: Depose Peter the Great.

That's totally fascinating, the way that being cleanshaven got made part of this narrative of modernity. ("The beard is a superfluous burden".) I know Peter the Great was a big modernizer/Europeanizer, but was this tax targeted at any particular social class or ethnic group?
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 10:27 AM on December 3, 2013

I don't really understand the weird dig about baristas being "class-mixed" and I certainly am not going to get into one of those arguments about who is a "real worker" but I promise you that beard prohibitions are common in 2013 in many jobs at many levels of shittiness and overall workplace-policing, including white-collar office jobs in certain industries.


Oh, no, what I was trying to convey is that there are some... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 10:49 AM on December 3, 2013
The thing is, it seems extraordinarily unlikely that the Movember people thought "aha, let's reinforce traditional masculinity and racism under the guise of working on men's health."

What they almost certainly thought was "we have to appeal to the center-right* using language that will resonate with them, and anything is justified [short of, like, kicking puppies] if it is in a good cause, and really "norms" around race and masculinity don't... [more]
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 12:15 PM on December 3, 2013

Divers on Body Retrieval Mission Find a LIVE Nigerian cook who survived
That poor, poor man. Lucky to be alive, of course, but it must have been the worst kind of torture to suffer through - in the dark, in the sea, knowing you're going to die but having to wait, surrounded by the dead.

In nature there is neither good nor evil, but only an abundance of horror - that's about the size of it.
posted to MetaFilter by Frowner at 10:34 AM on December 3, 2013

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