Arthur in the Dumps

I had previously, via facebook, this blog, and another blog, lauded the fact that Arthur magazine was coming back. The original (first?) version of it lives in infamy on various torrent sites and usenet back alleys and it was worth a read. Even if you didn’t agree with it, you could understand the reasoning for how they got there. It was sort of like what Rolling Stone should have been if it was more interested in cultural movements than making a point.

The problem is, the new Arthur (weirdly edited by Jay Babcock) wants to make a political point. I never remember it being like this. It’s so retarded I had to actually google make sure it wasn’t another Jay Babcock with the same name. It’s not. He’s just another washed up living corpse on the shores of lake LSD with no braincells capable of reason anymore. The post which had me remove Arthur from my RSS, facebook and two blogs was Repeal the Second Amendment. The original magazine was witty and funny and had this Mad sort of illustration. It toured music and culture.

Jay Babcock weirdly tries to pull an appeal to authority by saying “Well I edited SWAT magazine”. Well here’s an issue (GET IT?) – he never edited SWAT magazine. I’m not a huge fan of SWAT magazine, I can safely say I never knew it existed. On the other hand, I can google, and no-where is Jay Babcock credited as an editor of SWAT magazine. Modern Gun? Nope. He didn’t do that one either. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say maybe he edited under some sort of pen name but neither magazine turned up any references to him as an editor.

Now this gives us a particularly interesting problem – if he’s not being truthful about his editing of the firearms magazines, how can we trust him as a cultural commentator? We can’t. More importantly there’s now a serious issue where not only is he lying, but if someone submitting content to a magazine which “has no gatekeepers” and it doesn’t toe his line, we can expect it to be removed. This isn’t about free speech, Jay Babcock is just a huge a nazi as the “publishing gatekeepers” he claims to “destroy”.

More on the point, a magazine is just a thing, it’s a medium. He should be able to publish what he wants, just like SWAT should be able to publish what it wants. It’s sort of this live and let live environment where he claims professional and mutual respect. The problem is that instead of then condemning murder as wrong and recognizing that there is evil in the hearts of men (incredibly ironic given his “insider position” in “that culture”), he claims we should repeal the second amendment. He doesn’t, of course, suggest that freedom of speech and a culture of violence (teen slasher movies, violent TV, making the killers a household name on the news and magazines) influence people more than actually holding and owning a gun. Far be it from him to ask we repeal the first amendment to prevent the glorification of violence than to repeal the second amendment which somehow would prevent people from just reaching for their kitchen knife, or truck full of fertilizer, lime and diesel fuel.

Between Babcock being a liar and the new, low standard of content on Arthur, I’m sorry to see it’s back. I can’t help but shake my head at the terrible irony of a culture commentary magazine that doesn’t recognize print’s contribution to culture. Adios, Arthur.

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Robert Rubin’s Defensive Occultism

Robert Rubin was kind enough in sending me an advanced copy of his book Defensive Occultism. It’s being self published through Lulu. Robert is a professional occult investigator in the Philippines and has contributed to Mysterium GMA. In America it’s roughly similar to what happens on Paranormal State with less Chip Coffey finding spirits of little boys everywhere. The episodes are a mix of tagalong and english so I really have no idea what’s going on.

The book itself starts out with a comprehensive who’s-who of the possible ailments. While in America we just have “ghosts”, Rubin’s book covers everything from maligned psychics to rogue occultists. While not everyone might agree on the classifications, the book itself is comprehensive and devotes enough time to each topic to cover it fully. The second part of the book covers briefly methods for identifying whats actually at work. This section sort of reads like a lot of DuQuette’s work where things are explained enough to get started but leaves enough room to fill in the details with your personal flare. The final part of the book is actually what you can do to protect yourself if you’re so inclined. People will recognize the LBRP here and be surprised at the inclusion of some voodoo sort of work. To Americans, this is going to be an interesting take on the culture combination.

If you’re interested in Ghost Hunters or Paranormal State in the American market but wish the programs had more depth to what actually goes on, this is the book for you.

RSS and Facebook

One of the more bizarre things I’ve found recently now that I consume content on the go is that people don’t publish full articles to RSS. A good example of that is The American Thinker. While it started out as a blog, it’s sort of grown into a columnist site. The problem is their RSS Feed just doesn’t have the content. This means that to actually read their site, I have to visit the site. My workflow at the moment is “Wake up, sync my nook simple touch to the RSS via Opera, drive to the train, read”. It works really well. The problem is that it only works via Opera, and it’s low bandwidth. When I say low bandwidth I mean that it has the same speed a typical tablet or cellphone does – if wifi is there, great. If I’m lucky, I can tether 4G. If I’m less lucky, it’s 3G. The final word in all this is that the train spends a good portion of it’s time below ground or in a trench, and the cellphone and wifi doesn’t work at all. My content is either all stored locally, or I don’t see it.

For something like a blog, this is killer. People don’t really want to see the pictures, and for something like a nook people can’t see them well anyway on the 16 color greyscale screen even if they want to wait to see them download. The mobile market is particularly vexing with this since the browsers tend not to load content in a threaded fashion, and to add insult to injury there’s still a lot of web servers (looking at you, microsoft) which can’t use HTTP stream. If theres’s a picture at the top of the page, you don’t see the article until it loads. Sometimes this is simple esthetics, sometimes it’s intentional branding. I tend to think the IT staff doesn’t give a shit either way.

Facebook is particularly hilarious. I had the ah-ha moment when I realized I still didn’t like google+ enough to make the jump but every time Facebook rolled out a “feature” I liked it less and less. The mobile app is a mess, it still doesn’t cache content, text is (bizarrely enough) rendered as images in android land until you go to select it and it changes the font, and now I don’t get a link preview in an email. Instead I have to click on a link to go to Facebook to visit a link I may or may not be interested in. Got help me if I’m at a library or something which blocks Facebook. I used to be able to copy and paste the link text (the link itself always visited Facebook first) but now that’s gone. I find myself reading Facebook less and less except for groups, which is the only leg up it has to google plus, and publishing to my blog more and more.

Yes dear reader this means more content is coming.

Possibly the worst offense is that google plus works with the nook, wordpress works with the nook, but Facebook¬†says¬†it works with the nook and then refuses to install. Now, not only do they make it a pain to read anything, but they make it a pain to update the device which has my eyes most of the downtime in the day from the device itself. Frankly, what’s the point of Facebook? I can’t help but feel like they wanted to get their hands so deep in the phone that they’ve neglected everything else.

I have a weird feeling they’re going to finally produce a mac/windows app which lives on your computer as a service.

All this speculation and ranting aside, if you have a blog, enable content in RSS. While you might not count every single person visiting the blog, your mobile readers will appreciate it.

Regurgitating the Apple

This is absolutely worth a read. It’s a heritage.org aritcle about how liberals think.

The only thing that rubs me wrong is the invocation of Brokeback Mountain. Really it falls prey to itself here because Brokeback isn’t something used in line with the argument. In fact, the way it’s used is counter to the argument. The argument being made here is for self-determination and discrimination (or judgement). Brokeback is a movie about two cowboys who want to be gay on their ranch. Fine, great, it’s not my thing. If they had wanted to make the correct point, they should have pointed out towns where they have pride parades, etc. There’s no pride in being “straight” and they make the point with Desperate Housewives saying the message isn’t “you’ll make a great family” but that “your life will suck if you’re a housewife”. It’s the tyranny of standards argument being put forward. That being said, towns with pride parades do represent a form of tyranny. With no pride parade celebrating wanting to be straight, or (my favorite) the white heritage day, celebrating any other holiday is flat out wrong. While this argument itself plays into the problem raised in the article that we’re treating everything as mediocre, I believe this is the point. If there’s no discernible mediocrity, if there’s nothing which is obviously evil then we can coexist. But this requires judgement and this is the crux of the article. The Brokeback reference is used wrongly.

On the other hand I am sympathetic to the idea that we have no moral compass as a society. If one group is off murdering your group, then you probably should go over there and kill them before they get you. As pointed out in the article and that godawful song Imagine (which is another pet peeve of mine I happened to lol at when I saw it come up), Hitler started in a beer hall. He didn’t have his own nation. Germany didn’t wake up one day and say “well lets give this nazi thing a go and hand out microwaves! we’ll tell those jews that they’re hats!”. There is evil in the hearts of men and we should seek to stamp it out and lament the fact that doing so requires armed conflict. Another opportunity is missed here, but brought up under the guise of Abu Graib. Treating people badly to prevent or persuade them from evil should be preferable to killing them outright. This is what separates the west from the middle east. We don’t go around bombing their civilian centers. We do give them a trial. We treat them badly, but we don’t actually hurt them. Again, the point is lost in the articles writing but the point he wants to make is restraint is a virtue. You should own a gun. You should know how to use it, be comfortable with it, and pop off rounds every weekend. This doesn’t mean when there is conflict you immediately smoke the guy, but it means that you understand the zen of gun ownership. You’re willing to treat people badly (pointing a gun at them) to prevent further evil (shooting them). Of course when their potential for evil outweighs the actual cost in terms of real evil of keeping them alive, our heros should be perfectly willing to shoot them with confidence and sleep like babies at night.

Try putting that on TV. It will be made an action movie, rather than a movie about self doubt, moral exploration and finally confidence and sorrow at conflict.

Minor quibbles about framing aside, it’s a decent read. I said to my brother the other day that we had, as a society, fallen prey to the spiritual danger of not owning a farm. The topic was the LL Bean catalog. The version they sent us, supposedly the full catalog, didn’t include any of the hunting section. Well it turns out they do have a hunting section and it seems to have some nice stuff. But the point was that a lot of these places make up crap so we can play dress up. We own boots which don’t keep our feet warm, we buy camo jackets which only serve to make our corpses harder to find when we freeze to death, etc. When we do make value judgements on things, we don’t make them because they’re rational or just, we make them because we want to play dress up and this camo is more military than that camo, etc. I realize this flies in the face of the plea above saying that barring egregious offenses to the general morality of society (murder), we simply shouldn’t care.

As above, so below, or what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If we say that something is crap we should ensure that we ourselves can pass our own judgement. This is why I’m not huge on EMS or Cabelas either. There might be good stuff there, it might work as advertised, but it’s overpriced and therefor it is vanity. My favorite hunting jacket is still an M65 Field Jacket. It’s warm, it’s built correctly (who in gods name thought velcro was smart to put on tactical stuff?), it’s camo, it’s got pockets in the right places and the best part is that they’re $20 when they’re on sale. Can’t be beat. But this is a good example of the middle road. Traps are on each side of the line. It’s possible to be too permissive as it is to be too iron fisted. How do we maintain the middle ground? We examine ourselves and we judge.

I Write Like…

I’ve been posting to kuro5hin since it split from slashdot under one name or another. Having been there to see it born I feel obligated to stick around to see it end. I’ve contributed a lot to the site over the years in terms of both stories (rated content) and diaries (unrated content). One of the guys ponied up a link to I Write Like and I gave it a try. I would say it’s interesting in terms of proposition but not in terms of accuracy. When I was actually trying to write like a particular author – usually William Gibson – it instead chose Stephen King. This is sort of sad since I think his writing is crap, but if they put William Gibson in there I’m afraid far too many people would simply go “who”?

It eventually chose David Foster Wallace and Lewis Carroll.

The exposition I wrote when asked for comment:

When I’m writing a manual, it comes out like Wallace. When I’m writing for atmosphere, it comes out like Steven King or Lewis Carol.

Which is weird, because when I’m writing for atmosphere I am usually trying to write like William Gibson. That is to say I try to describe people, places and things with detail while making an effort to withhold information so I can also describe this later.

Neuromancers first line was “the sky above the port was the color of a television, tuned to a dead channel”. I always thought it was a great, great piece of writing, and what possibly adds value to it as a metaphor is the idea that new TVs – the hip, high tech and sleek ones he wrote about – don’t give you the static gray anymore. It’s only if you know how things were before, or you explore a piece of technology which is “old and busted” to find a use for it, which would provide you with what a TV might look like tuned to a dead channel. In this march of technology the writing becomes more relevant to the gritty cyberpunk culture Gibson wrote about. “The street finds it’s own use for things”.

Go figure.