A few weeks ago, my former pastor’s daughter posted on Facebook about how some of her best memories were made at Camp Hickory. She tagged pretty much everyone she was in youth group with. A lot of other people chimed in in agreement. I didn’t get it. For me, camp combined the worst aspects of camping (bug bites, sunburn and uncomfortable sleeping arrangements), church (lots of lecturing, little chance to ask questions) and gym class (being judged on your athletic abilities, constant rick of injuring people if you play too hard). Camp was about the most miserable experience in my life and eventually I had to be forced to go.
Most of us grew up in heavily Christian cultures and are vaguely familiar with what the camp experience entails. Imagine, instead if you grew up around a few Christians and heard plenty of rumors about them at temple, but they were rarely featured on TV and the only books you could find on them in your language were the Bible, histories of the church that focused on doctrine and politics and books aimed at believers about how great it is to walk with Jesus. This would tell you nothing about camp, or what church services were like or the role of potlucks in community-building. Knowing all about the history of Christmas and the traditional ways of marking it tells you very little about how most Christians feel about Christmas and the Bible tells you even less.
Unless you live in a handful of heavily-Islamic communities, that’s how things are with respect to Islam in the English-speaking world. My friend Heina is trying to rectify this in a book she’s writing, tentatively titled The Skeptic’s Guide to Islam. She will cover what you do at the mosque, the way people obey all the rules you’ve heard about and so on. I encourage you to go help push her the last few hundred dollars over her stretch goal on Kickstarter to make the book extra awesome.
I’ve been milling a piece about in my head where I criticize Anita Sarkeesian. If you’ve been paying attention to the Internets, you know that’s she been the target of a misogynistic backlash because of her announced intentions and fundraising for a project talking about sexism in video games. I had already been thinking about doing a piece on her, so this seemed like a good opportunity. I had also been thinking about a piece about how the Internet gamesphere is full of assholes and my general burnout on fandoms in general. Sexism was one of many factors. This is just the latest example of horse asshat behavior.
However, my piece on Anita Sarkeesian wasn’t panned to be particularly positive. While she does a lot of good work, it tends to be mixed in with a lot of sloppy work. Then, I got thinkign abotu whether it was advisable for me as a man to criticize a fairly prominent voice of feminism for being a bad feminist. It sounds kind of mansplainy. I thought about it some more and realized that I wasn’t so much wanting to criticize her for being a bad feminist (though she is that, too) as a bad movie critic.
She has a strong tendency to come up with interpretations based on her personal views and pet theories rather than the text, then impose them on the text, then criticize the text because she finds her interpretation offensive when her interpretation was something she brought from outside and not the fault of the work she was evaluating at all. On a closely related note, she seems to have little sense of nuance, despite explicit claims to the contrary, and takes everything terribly literally and interprets most material on a shallow level. In practice, this means she can’t tell the difference between straight uses of a trope and subversions or parodies. She also seems to confuse her personal tastes with moral value.
Criticizing her for her frequent use of out-of-context examples that don’t fit her thesis and cherry-picking is going to look like criticizing her feminism, though, especially since there’s currently an anti-feminist dogpile on her based on the idea that she goes around looking for shit to be be offended by (a common stereotype of feminists). Plus, I want to make direct criticisms of her feminism since she’s anti-sex-worker and, if I’m interpreting her correctly, a gender essentialist.
My concern is that anything I write critical of Sarkeesian will come off as the dreaded “yes, but” argument. It hardly seems fair to lay off legit criticism just because a bunch of people are combining illegitimate criticism with asshattery. Is there any good way to handle this?
There are a good number of people out there who like to promote the idea that atheists are rational. I think this is a terrible oversimplification and leads to problems when you apply it to the real world. Atheism is a rational position, but there are as many reasons to not believe in a God as to believe in one and some of the reasons are far more supportable than others. Common reasons to believe include being raised that way and not thinking about it much, liking the social institution of church (and not necessarily even paying attention to doctrine), a need to feel a sense of greater purpose, a smug sense of superiority to non-believers, not being able to imagine where the world came from, and not being able to imagine morality without a supreme moral authority.
Common reasons for disbelief include being raised that way and not really thinking about it, dislike of the social institution of church, a lack of a need to feel a greater purpose, a smug sense of superiority to believers, lack of any solid evidence for religious claims and moral objections to religious teachings. Only those last two are rational, and not necessarily even then. There’s also a great deal of diversity of belief among atheists. I’m a materialist who believes in the scientific method and reasoning to the most like explanation, as are most of prominent speakers on the atheist lecture circuit, but plenty of people don’t believe in God but do believe in karma, mind/body dualism, chakras, choprawoo, conspiracy theories and pseudo-scientific versions of racial and gender essentialism. I started thinking about this again because of this recent story, ably covered by Dan Fincke over at Camels with Hammers. Short version: a minor atheist blogger Leah Libresco has converted to Catholicism. Read more…
Roger Ebert says that the hardest part of being a movie reviewer is that you have to watch 200+ movies each year. Most people don’t like movies that much and burn out after several months. I just checked my records. I watched 152 Blu-rays that I hadn’t seen before in the last year. When you add in things I had seen previously, DVDs, Netflix and the theater, I probably am over two hundred. Granted, I only wrote in-depth criticism of a handful of those, though I did post smart-ass remarks about dozens more on Facebook. I may actually have the necessary temperament.
Earlier this year, I decided not to apply for an opening at Rewind (after spending several hours developing a review of Sucker Punch that fit their format) because I don’t think that my TV is good enough for me to accurately judge picture quality. Once I get regular income, I’ll drop $2,000 or so on a decent TV and this will no longer be a concern. Of course, I also won’t have as much time to write.
One of the main issues is I am not really a slave to the release schedule. I am generally watching things that came out years ago. Most demand is for new releases. People who write for websites tend to get free releases from the studios, but I wonder about deadlines. For instance, Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series hit Blu-ray a while back. It’s seventy-three episodes, a miniseries, two movies and a couple collections of webisodes. The majority of episodes have an audio commentary and deleted scenes, plus there are various other special features. In total, there’s about one hundred hours of material. When a reviewer receives such a set in the mail, how long much time do the have to write the review? How much do they get paid. Granted, it’s Battlestar Galactica, so a low hourly rate may be acceptable, but reviewers are also expected to watch a lot of shitty shows and movies.
Sometime in the next few weeks, I should be finishing both Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek. I think that when I’m done, I’ll write in depth looks at the Blu-ray releases of both and something about how the sci-fi genre has changed over the last few decades. I mat endeavor to write about every movie I watch from now on as well. In the meantime, I’ve become active on TV Tropes. I think I’ll write about that experience once I’ve done more actual editing. Right now, my experience is mostly in arguing in the trope repair shop.
Plus, I still have a family event thing to write about. I’ll start that with a question for the readers: How old do you have to be before people stop insinuating that you don’t understand because you’re too young and eventually, you’ll agree with them?
P.S. Is there some way to find posts that Facebook did not see fit to preserve on timeline? There’s some stuff there I’d like to find.