ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Ignore stupid "scary" music. More creepy stuff for this season.

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Were there not enough spoopy sounds for you last time? Very well; let's continue with more creepy-ass music for your amusement.

First, let's start with some game soundtracks that I've mentioned previously that are go-to tracks for me when writing creepy stuff: No More Room in Hell and Project Zomboid.  Both take different (and nicely creepy) takes on the zombie theme, and feature gorgeous soundtracks well worth a listen (and purchase).

And can we somehow forget the master of creeptastic: Trent Reznor? The Quake OST is delightfully dark (though not able to be purchased outside of the game, AFAIK) and definitely points the way to the atmospheric sounds later developed in the soundtracks for films like The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  This is nowhere as evident as his (along with Atticus Ross) cover of the Halloween theme:



And that brings us to Cristobal Tapia de Veer, who did the soundtracks for both Humans and The Girl With All The Gifts, both delightfully understated and creeptastic scores that raise gooseflesh and will serve you well for your macabre feasting.

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I believe you when you say "me too"

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For all the things I've done (and I'm sure that I've done something) - consciously or not - to contribute directly or indirectly to anyone feeling harassed or taken advantage of, I apologise unreservedly.

If you feel comfortable doing so, please call me out on any such behavior so that I may change it and help others change their behavior.

To all those saying "me too": I believe you.

And Woody Allen, Oliver Stone, and all the rest doubling down on victim-shaming: screw you.

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It's time to write this weekend, folks! Join us!

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Take just an hour to write with us this weekend! 
Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.



Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while.  It's also great if you have problems with getting past ideas that "you suck" (every first draft sucks, face it) or self-doubt.  Here's why:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
3. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
4. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
5. We are friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary.  :)



The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  Donna is our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

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Posting images to forums using Postimg or ImageTitan: HOWTO

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When we do the flash challenge (yes, it's time again this weekend! Join us!) every other week, and have a visual prompt. The thing is, posting images on forums can be a little tricky to get it large enough. I'm going to provide a walkthrough here for two services: postimg.org and imagetitan.com.

First, I'm going to recommend an ad-blocker. Why? Because (especially for postimg), the ads are simply overwhelming.
Too. Many. Ads.
So the first thing is to go to either of those two websites (logins aren't required).  They show where to upload images very prominently.


From there, select your image and it'll upload it to their servers.  Here's where the "fun" part comes in.  Both provide copy-and-paste code... for thumbnails. That's good "enough", I guess.


But you want full-size images to show up. So here's what you do:

POSTIMG: Select the "Hotlink for forums" code. That should actually do it just fine. Failing that, use the "Thumbnails for Forums" code

[url=https://postimg.org/image/eq3q0sbwl/][img]https://s26.postimg.org/eq3q0sbwl/2014-06-14--1402788637_1366x768_scrot.png[/img][/url]

And then replace the part inside the [img] tag with the code from the "Direct Link" section.

[url=https://postimg.org/image/eq3q0sbwl/][img]https://s26.postimg.org/9eotg2pu1/2014-06-14--1402788637_1366x768_scrot.png[/img][/url]




IMAGETITAN: Select all of the "Clickable Thumbnail for Messageboards/Forums" text.

[URL=http://img4.imagetitan.com/img.php?image=16_antininja.jpg][IMG]http://img4.imagetitan.com/img4/small/16/16_antininja.jpg[/IMG][/URL]

See the part after [URL=? Copy that to the part inside the [IMG] tag.

[URL=http://img4.imagetitan.com/img.php?image=16_antininja.jpg][IMG]http://img4.imagetitan.com/img.php?image=16_antininja.jpg[/IMG][/URL]


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Comparing apples and ottomans: Topic Diversion

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A friend criticized Mike Pence on Facebook the other day. Most of the responses were what you'd expect, until this one:

"But Harvey Weinstein!"

That person - let's call them Douchecanoe - kept harping about Weinstein's wrongs as a response to a criticism of Pence.1

This kind of topic diversion happens in political, religious, and relationship discussions, and is a huge red flag in any of them.

Topic Diversion is a tactic where a criticism or critique is responded to by a true, but irrelevant fact.

Because the person using topic diversion is saying a true thing, it can give the appearance that they're "right", or make it harder to refute the argument, or just simply move the discussion away from the thing they don't want to talk about.
REASONABLE PERSON: "Our roommate acts oddly toward me."
DOUCHECANOE: "But they do all the things on their part of the chore list!"
RP: "Yes, I know, but..."
DC: "If they do everything on the chore list, why are you complaining?"
BACKGROUND: ROOMMATE stabs nails into Voodoo doll of RP.
In such a situation, if you think the other person is still acting in good faith, you can acknowledge their point while still focusing on what was originally brought up.
RP: "I hear your point that they do all their chores. We can talk more about that later. Before we talk about that, I want to discuss the Voodoo doll she's holding over my head."
Pointing out the redirection may help you get the conversation back on track. What it will also do is let you know how intentional that redirection was.

If the other person/people won't address your concerns and keep doing this kind of topic redirection, that's a huge red flag and an indication that they're working to "win", not to reach a resolution.

1 He later said it was awful to compare the two men's actions, even though he was the one who did so, FFS.

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The important news about Harvey Weinstein isn't what he did.

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The important news about Harvey Weinstein isn't what he did.

Don't get me wrong - what he did (and really, is there any point in putting "allegedly"?) is horrible. But sadly, it's not new news. Whether we're talking about Weinstein, Whedon, Cosby, Louis CK, or so very many men in politics (grab 'em by the ...), there's missing stairs in pretty much any area of public life where men have power. Even in our small part of sf/f/h fandom, we've had to deal with missing stairs in publishing and conventions of every size. (And yes, it happens to men too - including people like Terry Crews).

The important news, the real news, is that missing stairs are no longer being tolerated.

These predatory assholes have always been there. They have been part of every movement, every group1.

Their atrocities were always happening. That, sadly, is not new or news.

What is important, what is news, is that they're being outed. They're being named. And they're being shunned in ways they never were before.

And that, my friends, is good news indeed.




1 Pointing this out because at least one person I've run into has tried to do the "but a liberal was like this too" schtick. If you're going to judge a group, judge them by how they respond to this kind of revelation of a missing stair: do they cast them out, or do they elect them to office?




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The consequences of failure don't fall evenly: The Lowest Difficulty Setting applies here too.

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I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a failure these days.

Largely because I have failed in many of the areas of my life that I've been trying to succeed. (Those of you waiting for an exhaustive list of my failures, comb through the archives of this blog yourself, thanks.)

Two things occur to me:

1) Some of my current successes, particularly in relationships, owe a lot to my failures in the past. By paying attention to my failures I've learned what not to do or how to do things differently.

2) Everybody fails sometimes. The failure can be large or small, but they do fail. But failure is not equal.

I should have failed much worse and much earlier. But through the advantages of my birth, family, and friends, my failures have not been catastrophic. Yet

Those are not things that I earned.

Even if you want to argue that the privileges of me being a straight white educated male coming from a middle-class family did not contribute directly to my successes or somehow don't count as playing life on the lowest difficulty setting (and if you want to argue it, you should probably watch/listen to this TED talk first), it is inarguable that those advantages and privileges have softened the blows of my failures.

This is what I want people to think about when they think about privilege now. This is what I want people to think about when politicians try to remove safety nets, or make things harder for people who have had unexpected events happen in their lives.

I want you to think about your failures. I want you to think about the help you have gotten, and how much worse it would be if you had not gotten that assistance. 

If you were denied assistance, whether that denial came from family, friends, or the government, think about how much easier it would have been to recover and to make things right if you had gotten that help.

And then I want you to think about the (almost) uniformly well-off well-to-do and inherited money that makes up our politicians in the United States.

Like this guy
I want you to think about how none of this affects them, because they have nothing but privilege and advantages. Their idea of "failure" is losing their place in politics and moving straight into the revolving door and getting an average 1,400% raise.

If you've experienced failure - even on the "easy" setting I have - you know the feelings that come with failure.

I want you to think of all the shame, all the frustration, all the hopelessness, all the grief you felt.

And I want you to feel the rage at these assholes who will never feel that way, and want to make those feelings all the stronger for you and me.

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The Good Samaritan was not "pro-life" like Paul Ryan

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If you're someone who labels yourself "pro-life", I beg you to read this to the end. If you are not, I hope that you will pass it along to others.  Thank you.

House Passes An Abortion Ban After Letting Children’s Health Program Expire

I get it. We might disagree sometimes on what "pro-life" should mean (though maybe you should read my manifesto about being both pro-choice and anti-abortion).  But this?  A move that the Trump administration says is supposed to "foster a culture of life"?  John Paul II must be spinning in his grave.

This position is not pro-life - it's merely pro-birth. A nun said it far better than I:

I'll freely admit that what Sister Chittister calls us to is far more difficult than simply being anti-abortion.  But nobody said taking a moral stand was going to be easy. If anything, these "Right-To-Life" chains and setting up displays outside of churches and demonstrating outside of the (few) clinics left that will perform abortions are seductively easy.  It's not real ministry.

What would real ministry be like?  It'd be working to make sure that single parents can support their children on one income. It'd be protesting to make sure that healthcare is available to children, not taken away from them. It'd be helping those in need.

Instead we have folks either standing around feeling smug and superior or lawmakers actively making things harder for parents.

Jesus shocked his disciples by telling them how a heretical Samaritan was more deserving of eternal life than a priest or a Levite (politician), not because of what they preached or how they followed the Law, but because of how they acted towards those in need.

So tell me, you who want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus: Which character in that parable are these supposed "pro-life" politicians?

And tell me: whose example will you follow?

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It's time to write this weekend!!!! Take an hour and be creative!

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It's rough finding the time to write. Life intervenes... a lot. 

Then take just an hour to write with us this weekend!
 
Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.



Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while.  It's also great if you have problems with getting past ideas that "you suck" (every first draft sucks, face it) or self-doubt.  Here's why:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
3. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
4. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
5. We are friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary.  :)



The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  I am our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

No comments :

Ignore stupid "scary" music. Go for some deeply creepy stuff this season.

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It is almost that most wonderful time of the year - the time when leaves fall, when mortality is evident, and children scamper oblivious collecting candy while adults fret and worry, distracted from the reminders of their own deaths by the kind pranks played on them by others.

Yes, it is all-hallow's eve.  And let me give you a soundtrack so much better than the banal "scary" sounds you'll find at those abominations of halloween stores selling "sexy elmo" costumes.

We'll start with something hard to find, but well-loved among those who have: Sephiroth.  This track, "Wolf Tribes" is very representative. This dark ambient track contains a menace that is deep, and primal.



Hopeful Machines, self-described as "Music for Sociopaths", is a side project from a member of Ego Likeness and has a lot of music available for download. They are more softly disturbing, with an aesthetic drawn from industrial-styled sampling and sweeping electronic chords.



Cryo Chamber is a label, but they offer several samplers of dark ambient works for free. Definitely worth checking out.



And to wrap us up, Pye Corner Audio has several "Black Mill Tapes"; while all their work is delicately and beautifully dark, these are wonderful as soundscapes and well worth the asking price.



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Objecting to NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem is racist.

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Let's make this clear:

Objecting to NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem is racist.

Full stop.

Think about it.

When BLM has a large event, or protests innocents shot by police, that's not "appropriate".  When BLM blocks a street, it's not okay.  When there's simply counter protests against Nazis and the KKK, it's criticized. 

And when there is a silent, non-violent protest that literally had no practical impact and inconvenienced no one, it's still lambasted.

But when the Nazis and KKK and white nationalists march and block streets and incite violence (the KKK quite literally said that their members should kill gay people last month), it's "free speech" and "both sides".

So I say again:

Objecting to NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem is racist.

Don't like being racist?  Then stop with the knee-jerk objections and listen.


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The one way educators still don't use digital submissions to help themselves

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Digital homework submissions are a beautiful, but underutilized tool for educators.

While some aspects (such as TurnItIn) have been somewhat embraced, there's one other big way that having essays and papers turned in digitally will make things easier for educators and make it harder for students to slack off and cheat.

Word counts.

Don't give out assignments with page lengths, give out assignments with word counts.

For example, these two syllabi could, instead of listing the requirement of eight pages and fifteen pages, state that the papers must be 2,000 words and 3,800 words.  The calculation is approximately 250 words per double-spaced page.

Word count is an easy thing to check in a word processor, and it makes complaining about font sizes and margins and spacing all a moot point.  The point, after all, is to get the students able to write content about the topic; why waste your time (and theirs) with a very subjective and fudgeable metric?

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Anyone can use mental aikido in thier relationships

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It's possible - and sometimes necessary - to do a bit of mental aikido in order to facilitate the better options that are your ideals .

I use aikido as an analogy purposefully; it is a constructed martial art, can be translated as "the way of harmonious spirit", and is all about redirecting energy. In this case, you're redirecting your own mental energy, purposefully, and it requires mindfulness to do properly.

A simple example:  You find it easy to commit to taking care of someone else, but have a hard time taking care of your own needs. Upon reflection, you realize that in order to care for another, you must yourself be in good working order. You cannot take care of someone else without tending to your own needs. From there, you can use the mental motivation "taking care of another" in order to do self-care without it seeming greedy or self-indulgent.

This is the same strategy used with learning compersion (a skill you really want to have in a relationship). And like compersion, it sounds easy, but can be quite challenging in practice.

Framing it as mental aikido, though, reinforces that while this can be quite challenging, it's a learned skill. A skill you can learn. A skill that you will sometimes fail at while practicing, but a skill you can always improve at.

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A Failure of WorldBuilding: How *The Conjuring* Doesn't Make Sense

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It only took me three years to realize The Conjuring doesn't make sense.  I mean, I don't think it fulfills a fundamental role of genre, but the film's internal logic doesn't hold up.

Or, for that matter, any theologically-based story where the forces from Hell try to tempt and subvert (and take over) those who aren't Christian.

Think about this for a second.

Let's go with the idea that "spiritual warfare" exists, and that the forces of Hell are actively trying to recruit souls.

In the plot of The Conjuring, the "fault" of the Perron family (those attacked by the evil spirit) is that they're not religious enough, and that God is the answer.  I mean, the film writers confirmed this Christian message in an interview for the sequel.

But that doesn't make sense. Why would the forces of Hell mess with non-believers?   

It's wasting time.

In this movie-default idea of Christianity, literally the only people worth messing with are those who are "good" or "saved". The heathens, the people who aren't "saved" or believe the right kind of way are already screwed.  As the Hills said themselves:
"Conjuring 2" is a story told through the eyes of believers, whose strongest weapon is their faith in God. Our film allows believers and non-believers to travel their journey with them, and in some ways, maybe affect someone who is on the edge of faith, and somehow give them the strength they need.
The actions of the forces of evil in these stories literally lose them souls all the time.  Sure, some heathens die (they would eventually anyway), but the actions depicted in these stories (or in the IRL stories they're loosely based upon) would drive people towards the one way they could get out of evil's grasp.

The old bet between JHVH and a satan in the Book of Job is the only way this makes any kind of sense (though we're never told whether Job's wives or children are religious and good before they're summarily slaughtered for a celestial bet)... but again, that makes the random shenanigans in all these films simply counterproductive. Even in The Exorcist, even with the priest's questioning of their faith, the demon's actions seem to do little but provide moments for people to die for their faith (automatic sainthood!) or give them a proof of theology not seen since Thomas placed his fingers in a resurrected Yeshua's side.

But maybe that's the point. Maybe I'm seeing these films all wrong.  They're meant as a kind of theatrical "hell house"1 meant only to be scary to the non-believer and nothing but self-righteous back-patting for the believer.


1 If you wish to torment yourself with the live-action Jack Chick tract that is a "hell house", you can find some video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5esn1jHOCuI

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The One Big Difference A Lot Of People Are Missing - Are You?

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Something to think about.

If the Nazis and their ilk go away, antifa goes back to whatever they do in their normal lives.

*poof!*

If the antifa and their like go away, the Nazis and white supremacists continue to push an agenda that cannot succeed without mass murder and the imposition of a full-blown police state.

You cannot claim that the two are morally equivalent without embracing, or at least tolerating, the Nazi agenda.

"Yes," you might say, "I hate both." That is a rational and defensible position. But if you pretend they're the same level of evil, you are not someone I want to be associated with.

The Nazis, white supremacists, and white nationalists want to murder millions of people based on nothing but who their parents are or how dark their skin might be.

Antifa wants to stop them.

If you are too stupid to see the difference, please remove yourself from my friends list.

And, if we associate offline, please let me know so I can avoid you like the multi-cellular
plague that you are.

Get the hell out of my universe.

- Paul Myers
(countersigned by me)

(The above is quoted with permission from Paul Myer's Facebook post in response to Trump's re-insistance that "both sides" are to blame for Charlottesville. If you're interested in selling online, Paul has a lot of good information at his website; I recommend his work and have been a subscriber to his newsletter for a long time.)

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It's time to write with us again this weekend!

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It's rough finding the time to write. Life intervenes... a lot. 

Then take just an hour to write with us this weekend!
 
Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.




Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while.  It's also great if you have problems with getting past ideas that "you suck" (every first draft sucks, face it) or self-doubt.  Here's why:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
3. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
4. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
5. We are friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary.  :)




The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  Donna is our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

No comments :

Emotional Self-Medication: Good bids, Bad bids, and Canceling Out

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You can tell a lot about how a relationship is going (and how it's going to go) by the emotional bids in the relationship.  The better the ratio of positive:negative "bids" or interactions (even tiny ones), the better the relationship. The effect of these emotional bids is even demonstrated in subconscious physiological responses, where couples who routinely fought could be sent into flight/fight responses merely by proximity, but those who were doing well were more relaxed around each other.

I want to take this idea a little bit further.  I have a hypothesis based on anecdata:

The cumulative amount of positive bids in a person's life can help offset the negative bids in a relationship.

Here's a hypothetical example:   Jane is in a crappy relationship with her husband.  Their positive:negative interaction is somewhere around one good one to three bad ones ( +1:-3).  But she has a friend at work where the interactions are overwhelmingly positive ( +4:0).

While those two don't cancel out to +2:0, I suspect that the positive relationship makes the bad one not seem so bad.

Even if that's just a platonic relationship (and especially if it isn't), my suspicion is that the positive interactions elsewhere may mitigate the effects of the bad relationship.  That is, no number of good other relationships in your life are going to improve that bad one, but it may make it not seem as bad.  Good makes bad more tolerable, but not better.  It's emotional self-medication.

Maybe it's because the other relationships (platonic or otherwise) provide the appearance of an "escape". Maybe it's because you haven't hit rock bottom, or how women's close friends can pull them through a crappy relationship.

It's a hypothesis, and one I have a little bit of anecdata for.  What do you think?

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Given the easiest moral choice EVER, Trump hesitates, telling you everything you need to know.

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There are a lot of choices in life that are shades of grey. Moral dilemmas are built around that.

Then there are choices that are easy and clear.

For example, saying Nazis are bad.

Arguably, neo-Nazis are worse; unlike the average German in 1939, they're fully aware of the height of the Holocaust and all its horrors... and think that's okay.

Congress' resolution - that Trump has yet (as of me writing this) to sign says:

“[Congress] rejects White nationalism, White supremacy, and neo-Nazism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.” It says we and the president should “speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy,” and use all of the executive branch's resources to “address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.”

It's bipartisan. It's unanimous in this horribly divided Congress.  IT CONDEMNS NAZIS.

And while Trump may eventually get around to signing this and condemning Nazis (and other white supremacists), it's already too late.



Hesitating to say "Nazis are bad" is a message in itself.


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I don't think IT is really a "horror" movie (but it is a good one)

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IT opened to the largest box office opening of any horror movie ever.

Which is kind of funny because I don't think it's really a "horror movie".

Despite having read and written a great deal of horror, I'm not been much of a horror movie fan. (Reading it is different, somehow.) I intensely dislike jump-scares and definitely loathe body horror, torture porn, and gross-out movies. Give me Army of Darkness over the original Evil Dead any day.

I do enjoy what I tend to "dark fantasy": movies on the other end of the horror spectrum that contain fantastical elements and dark themes. Movies like Pan's Labyrinth, Horns, and The Lady in Black. (I also like Daniel Radcliffe as an actor but that's a separate point.)

I'll admit, it's a blurry line: 28 Days Later, despite all the zombies, falls into "dark fantasy" for me, while Alien is definitely horror. 

Which brings us back to IT.

I think the 2017 version of IT falls into the dark fantasy side of genre for one simple reason: 

The movie isn't about the monster.

Instead this is a movie about people, mostly the kids, but also the adults in the town. This is a movie that does what genre is supposed to do: hold a dark mirror up to reflect society and allow us to see ourselves more clearly.


Yes, the monster appears, and does damage to the town, and is delightfully creepy (though almost over using every horror movie monster trope developed over the last few years).

But the threat of Pennywise is not just there for jump scares.  Pennywise's actions - and the actions Pennywise inspire - serve to reveal the core of the human characters and the relationships between them.

That exploration of character and relationships is the power of this movie, from the quiet brotherly love of the first scene to the quiet, slow separation of the group in the last, so reminiscent of the promises to always stay in touch after high school.

I greatly enjoyed the film, and suspect you will too.

Conservatives Ironically Get Angry At Science (That Isn't Really) Suggesting Conservatives Are Angry

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There's a thing that's pissing Conservatives off today from the University of Cincinnati:  an article entitled "People Become More Economically Conservative When Angered".

Let's just examine the irony here for a moment before moving on:  These conservative folks are getting more angry because of the results of a research study, and thus are bitching on Twitter to remove funding (e.g. become more "economically conservative"1) because they're angry.

Oh, damn, that's some delicious irony.

So let's move on to the thing itself:

(Note: I used a similar mechanism as this study in my own research for my Master's degree.)

This is a research study that involves over a thousand participants.  (That's good.)  It contained control groups (also good) and examined an apparent opposite effect while refining and duplicating the study (very good!).  And both the study and the author of the article were careful to note (including in the headline) that they were talking about economic conservatism, which is a very specific thing.

The reactions (see this Cincinnati.com article) are very disturbing, for one big shiny reason:

They're reacting to a tweet of a headline, but condemning the study and the article

Not enough?  How about this to send chills down your spine:

They're upset because the findings of a scientific study weren't pleasing for their ideology.

That should scare the ever-loving crap out of you.

Because if you actually read the article, there's several places where the reporting on this study leaves questions:

  • How big of a shift in attitudes was measured?  
  • Did the degree of the shift (or how statistically significant the shift was) change depending upon the person's baseline value?  
  • How did they test for, or control for, the participant's initial value for "economic conservatism"?   
  • Was that statistically significant shift meaningful in real life?

That's four big questions right off the top of my head.  It's quite possible - I haven't had a chance to read the study itself yet - that the study answers none of these questions.  It's even possible that the study has other issues, like the "hungry judges" study that I've been mentioning all week to people has some statistical problems I wasn't aware of.

Those are questions that need to be asked.  It's important that they're asked, and meaningfully answered.

That's questioning scientific methodology to ensure you get accurate results.

But instead, these "capital C" Conservatives1 would rather condemn science based on the (summary of a summary) of the results... simply because they don't like the results.

That's bloody terrifying.


1 The study isn't even about political Conservatives: UC Director of Public Relations M.B. Reilly said: "The item is using the word conservative with a lower-case 'c' so to speak, in other words in the classic meaning or sense of 'cautious,' 'orthodox' or 'marked by moderation.' (In fact, if you look at the body of the text, you will indeed find that the word conservative is lower cased in the second and tenth paragraphs.)

"It would seem that some are perhaps perceiving the term as a capital 'c,' in other words as signifying and/or limited in meaning to a specific political party vs. the term's broader definition and connotation.

"I hope this is helpful context to have."

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There's a Price of Admission to Dating A Parent

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Here is a simple thing that I never really thought I'd have to spell out:

If you start (non-casually) dating someone with kids, be aware that you will be a part of those kid's lives, and will have to take on familial responsibilities.  If you're not interested in that, don't start dating someone with kids (and definitely don't get so serious that you move in with them).

If you are the person with kids and are (more than casually) dating someone who actively refuses and avoids taking on or helping with familial responsibilities, it's time to DTMFA.  That person is not dating you, they are only interested in a part of the totality that is you.  Continuing to date them does a disservice to your kids.

To clarify:  I'm not advocating that you introduce someone to your kids/introduce yourself to their kids as "your new parent".  Dear FSM, no!  In this age of blended (and sometimes thoroughly run through the mixer) families, it's important to not try to be a "replacement"

When I say familial responsibilities I mean things like "helping pick the kids up from school/daycare if you have to work late" or "helping make sure the kids brush their teeth".  Things like that.  They're responsibilities that are usually taken on by parents, but aunts, uncles, grandparents, and even good friends of the family can do those things as well.  Hence, familial responsibilities.

Yeah, casual dating is a different story.  I'm not advocating that you should introduce children to everyone you're dating.  Some relationships only last a few dates.  Some last only a few weeks.  While there's nothing wrong with a short-term relationship, forming attachments to people who then just up and disappear can be really upsetting.

But again, if you're looking to step up on that escalator (or even have more than a casual relationship), all the people in that relationship have to be engaged with the kids and making sure they're taken care of.  The kids are a price of admission, and if it's not freely paid that speaks ill of both the parent and the person(s) dating that parent.

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Protest how you want to. They'll never be okay with it anyway.

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Complaining about how people protest - particularly when it's quiet, non-violent protest like football players kneeling during the national anthem - is so much tone policing.

Do not trust the admonitions of those who gain privilege and power from the status quo.

They want to be able to ignore you.

Fuck that.

Civil disobedience must shock and break norms.

Otherwise it's just obedience.

https://postimg.org/image/3mga3pxhh/
click to embiggen


Original photo by Vlad Tchompalov

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Having trouble finding time to write? Write for an hour with us tonight!

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It's rough finding the time to write. Life intervenes... a lot. 

Then take just an hour to write with us this weekend!
 
Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.



Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while.  It's also great if you have problems with getting past ideas that "you suck" (every first draft sucks, face it) or self-doubt.  Here's why:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
3. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
4. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
5. We are friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary.  :)




The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  Donna is our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

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Newsflash: If you have to compare your actions to worse people, you are worse people.

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“But I’m not racist! I didn't do anything as bad as...”

And then comes the list of far worse things, which the person I’m talking to would never, ever do, nuh-uh, not them.


What they’re ignoring - either out of ignorance or on purpose - is that the standard for not being a bigot isn’t a fixed point.

This is kind of blindingly obvious if you think about it for a moment; “not racist” in 1800 in the United States is a whole lot more racist than “not racist” in 1920 which is a whole lot more racist than “not racist” in 1973, which is a whole lot more racist than “not racist” in 2015.

And it's true, things have (mostly) gotten better.

But that doesn’t mean the work is done.

Look, here's a simple example.

Farting at the dinner table is unpleasant. Taking a crap on the main course is a whole lot more unpleasant, yes, but that doesn’t suddenly make farting pleasant.

Let's spell out what they're actually saying: 

When someone says they're not "that bad" of a bigot, they're telling you they think some bigotry is just fine.

The whole argument is based around the idea that there’s a degree of bigotry that is acceptable, and that they or their actions (supposedly) haven’t crossed the line of acceptability.

And that is some fine bullshit.

We could make excuses for them.

But we won’t.

We will not be silent.

We are their guilty conscience.

We will speak up, and call them out, and make visible not only the obvious bigotry, but we will also make visible the structures and institutions that perpetuate inequality.

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The Brainwashing of My Uncle: A Review of The Brainwashing of My Dad

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I posted this on Facebook today:
I don't know what happened to my uncle. He used to be the most empathic person I knew. And now I see all this fear and anger.
Regardless, I am not okay with racists, Nazis, or those that enable them. I hope that some day the uncle I remember fondly will return.
And maybe that's not entirely true. Because a while ago, I backed - and later watched - the documentary "The Brainwashing of My Dad"  (Amazon link). 
Jen Senko, a documentary filmmaker, looks at the rise of right-wing media through the lens of her WWII vet father who changed from a life-long, nonpolitical Democrat to an angry, right-wing fanatic after his discovery of talk radio on a lengthened commute to work. In trying to understand how this happened, she not only finds this to be a phenomenon, but also uncovers some of the forces behind it.

Ms. Senko's experience kind of mirrors my own mystified experience with my uncle.  He went from running a new age store and strongly influencing me toward compassion, empathy, and non-violence to - at minimum - being a jingoistic militaristic presence providing a kind of vichy support for racism and fascism.  The straw that broke the camel's back? Back to back postings complaining about protesters not being more like MLK in the street, then complaining about Browns players protesting silently during the national anthem.  (If you can't see the hypocrisy in telling people that the only acceptable protest is nonviolent civil disobedience, then raging against nonviolent civil disobedience, then I can't help you.)

Because I don't see him that often, I don't know for certain what caused this change in the compassionate, kind man that I remember.

Ms. Senko's documentary (which I highly recommend) might hold the key.



But in the meantime, I miss the man I knew.  I miss the man who wouldn't get me a sword at Sea World, who encouraged me to play with action figures in a non-violent way, who did his level best to turn me toward empathy and caring about others.

I don't know who the man occupying his body is anymore.

I reject the toxic, selfish thing that has taken control of him.

I hope that the man I remember is still in there, somewhere.

I hope that one day that my uncle will return.

And for all those who have reached out to me with similar stories since I posted that on Facebook, I hope the same for you as well.

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An economic example of institutionalized inequality

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If you're trying to examine how institutional and systemic effects can perpetuate inequality, sometimes it's useful to get away from race and gender and sexual orientation and so on.
 
So here's a real-world, class-only example (though it doesn't take much to tie this to racism or other kinds of bigotry): 
 
Many agree that education is supposed to be the great leveler. Nearly all places fund education by property taxes. So that means that locations where property values are low are going to get fewer quality educational tools and fewer top quality teachers. 
 
(If you're not going to argue that salary matters, then let's discuss how CEOs don't deserve the high economic rents of their salary.) 
 
This means that the "great leveller" DOES NOT LEVEL a damn thing. While there are people who manage to excel despite crappy educational conditions, imagine HOW MUCH BETTER they'd be in a quality school!

So, all other things being equal, if you have a group of people who start in poverty, their kids are going to STAY in poverty because they will have a substandard education compared to those people who begin with wealth. (It's more complicated than that, but I'm trying to be clear here.)

This would allow people to say "but they could excel in school", and while that's technically true, it's realistically bullshit, even though no one person explicitly acted to make it so.

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The Cowardly Way To Address Racism (and other bigotry)

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I was recently told on Facebook that if I found a group or person that was actually bigoted1 that that person would stand by me... but until then I was on my own.

And this is the pernicious and horrible strength of institutional and structural bigotry.

You could start, if you were cowardly, with those people who are quietly bigoted. The people who may not march in the street or declare their bigotry in an Archie Bunker kind of way.

You could start, if you were cowardly, with the people who are "just joking" every time they're called on a bigoted statement. You could start with the people who make decisions based on their bigotry without even thinking about it because everyone knows "those people are like that".2

But that is easy. That is the coward's way out.

That is the coward's way of avoiding the bigotry that permeates the very institutions and structure of our society.

The far more courageous - and difficult - path is to examine institutional bigotry and structural discrimination.  It is to confront how bigotry is not explicit, but is implicit in "common sense" and "the way things are".

It is to examine how history has informed social, economic, and class differences in our society. It is to confront and demolish the ways that we do things that perpetuate inequality, without anyone involved actually thinking that they're personally being bigoted.

Racial profiling is often the perfect example.  If you stop a greater percentage of people of a specific type to search for contraband, you will find that more of your arrests come from that class of people.  It is a simple error of sample selection, but unlike a survey, it has real effects on real people's lives.

Everyone - including myself - has these bigoted prejudices taught to them by example, by explicit instruction, and just by absorbing the culture around us.

Everyone.

There is only one way to minimize the damage: that is to closely question the structures around us. To closely question the impact our actions have, regardless of our intentions or conscious motivations.


1 I'm paraphrasing slightly, including that they said "racist" instead of "bigoted", but the point applies. They apparently hadn't heard of the KKK.
2 I heard those statements just today. TODAY.

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It isn't how you screw up as a feminist. It's how you deal with screwing up.

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There's already a lot of digital ink being spilled about Joss Whedon's alleged infidelities while married to his ex-wife. The Mary Sue in particular has done a good job pointing out that the problems were not that Joss screwed other people, but then he used a position of power to do so and then lied about it.

This is not the first time that a man who has appeared to be a very strong feminist has turned out to behave in completely different ways. I'm certain that many of you reading this know of individuals who have behaved this way and not made the national stage like Louis CK and Joss Whedon.  They have made their careers (or at least reputation) around material that seems to be feminist and "woke".

And then it's revealed that they did something (or a lot of somethings) that were completely contrary to the ideals they espoused.

This is not the last time this is going to happen.

There is something I am not seeing in the writing about Joss Whedon or Louis C K. 

We live in a patriarchal culture, and sometimes that leaks out in bad behavior. 

That is not the important part. Even good intentioned people can act badly.

The important part is how bad behavior is treated and how the individuals in question react when one realizes - or has pointed out to them - the bad actions.

Louis CK apparently tried to silence and cover-up allegations about bad behavior on his part, and when he finally commented publicly a year later, it was a tepid statement at best. Joss Whedon tried to excuse himself privately ("It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth."  UGH.) and has been silent publicly.

Let me offer a counterexample in myself.

In the past, I behaved badly and in a way that shames me as a feminist.  I'm not going into details  at the request of the person that I hurt. I offered my mea culpa to her at the time and offered to post it publicly; she asked me to not publicly post it.

In private, however, I have admitted freely where I screwed up.  There are factors that led to me screwing up and hurting another, but those things explain, and they do not excuse. 

Unlike Joss Whedon, in his letter to his ex-wife, I have spent a lot of time examining those factors and working on myself so that I do not fall victim to them again. I have spent a lot of time working so that I can be a better person. So that I can be a better feminist.

I've used my story in private as an example of how even the best intentioned person can fail.  How we all need to be called on our bad behaviour.  How we need to be held accountable publicly and privately.  I've also repeatedly - in public and private - asked people to call me on it when my privilege blinds me to my actions.

No one is perfect. Living in our racist and sexist society, there are timebombs of cultural programming in all of us.  We are often blind to how we act as agents within this racist and sexist  system. It is to be expected that we fail, fuck up, offend, and misstep. We will hurt other people. We will fall short of our ideals.

It is more important for us to judge how people take responsibility for their actions and the damage that they cause. It is more important for us to see how people apologize when they fail.  It is more important for us to see how they ensure that they will move closer to their ideal self.

It is important to espouse public ideals and to encourage others to follow them. 

It is also important to publicly acknowledge your failings and demonstrate how to make them right.

And it is important to hold people accountable when they fail to do so.

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Take an hour long break and write with us this weekend! (attn: @WriterSymposium )

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Tired of politics? Or perhaps you're at GenCon and need to get away for an hour? Or even better, you've attended sessions at the GenCon Writer's Symposium, and want to put what you've learned to the test?

Then take an hour to write with us this weekend!
 
Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.



Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while.  It's also great if you have problems with getting past ideas that "you suck" (every first draft sucks, face it) or self-doubt.  Here's why:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
3. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
4. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
5. We are friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary.  :)



The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  Dr. Q (a newcomer to the forum!) is our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

No comments :