26
May 16

Campus Fraternities are an Embarrassment to the 21st century

“Condoms, tampons and feces: Oregon fraternity suspended after ‘disgraceful’ trashing of Shasta Lake” headline from the LA Times

Headline from the Daily Dot: “fraternity rape culture is even bigger than you think”

Since college fraternities have no real relevance in the 21st century–not a valid relevance–and since they consistently are a hotbed for over-drinking, the idiotic abuse of pharmaceutical drugs, sadistic and even lethal hazing, and the spreading of vile subcultures like racism and rape culture; and since they seem to teach a sense of unreasonable entitlement, academia should just end “fraternal” institutions. It’s slow to do it because of the old-boy donations stream. Colleges should do the right thing–something they have a long history of not doing.

The “Greek system” is an engine of old fashioned classism; it is utterly meaningless to today’s education–it’s only a device for insularity, a campus echo chamber of the dregs of 19th century values.

“Boolah boolah boolah rah rah rah, Kappa Bagel Frinka!”

We should reply, “Shut up and fuck off you left over parasite from the age of robber barons and Jim Crow.”


23
May 16

Hillary, Bernie, and the Big Picture

–Several points I want to make about the Democratic candidates for President:
       1) Bernie Sanders has no responsibility to quit the Presidential race before the Democratic convention has made its choice. He genuinely has a purpose in continuing through the convention, whether he’s likely to be nominated or not. At the very least, Bernie is creating a political base that will have enough momentum to overturn the right-wing dominance of the House and the Senate. Overall, he is like a lens focusing national consensus on political reform: a genuine reform of campaign financing, the breaking up of financial “institutions” (is a pirate ship an institution?) into smaller, more regulated, less threatening structures; on meaningful regulation and single payer health care; on a reduction of military spending; on much better wages and conditions for Labor. . .And in order to accomplish that he needs to rally people into political determination and political action. This grassroots organization can be extended beyond the Presidential election, even if Hillary Clinton is elected. Sanders accomplishes this most effectively by using the pulpit, the stage, of the Presidential primary, to continue to rally his people toward that political revolution…
     I’ll just add, while I think Sanders has a plan for reforming banks if he’s elected, he doesn’t need to have every step of that reform laid out now–he can organize that once elected, as long as we know what his goals are. And we do.
      2) The right for years has has been exaggerating about the Clintons; has been spreading assumptions, jumping to conclusions, smearing them. The Clintons made their mistakes–the pumping up of prisons, the weakening of financial regulations. They have learned from their mistakes. And there’s nothing wrong with an ex-president being paid hefty speaker’s fees, and nothing wrong with a stateswoman, a person trying to rally support for the Clinton Foundation, with charging her own fees to speak. It’s done every damn day. It’s called lecturing. People did it for a living going back centuries.
There is no evidence–just accusations being taken as evidence–that she gave preference to any donors to the Clinton Foundation. The Clintons do not make money themselves from the Foundation, either. The problem is that the left, perhaps spurred by right-wing operatives, have been picking up on conservative exaggerations and slanders re Hillary Clinton–the new, young left has been appropriating these exaggerations from the right and even the far right. In short, they’re dancing on puppet strings for the right, when they attack her as corrupt–when there is really no evidence of actual corruption.
      3) Conservatives, Libertarians, Theocrats, Trumpies–they all benefit when Bernie supporters lose their objectivity and spout insults and inject blind emotion into the contest; Clinton supporters are helping Trumpies and righties when they lose objectivity and rage at Bernie supporters. The divisiveness will divide the vote on the left; to some extent already has. The fascists love it when we on the left call each other fascists.
     4) I am voting for Bernie in the primary–and again in the general election IF he gets the nomination… If Clinton gets the nomination I’ll vote for her. Clinton fans should vote for Bernie if he gets the nomination; Bernie followers should vote for Clinton if she gets it. And I am confident that Bernie Sanders will endorse Hillary Clinton if she gets the nomination from the Democratic Party.
      And if we vote in the general election for whoever is chosen as the Democratic Party’s nominee–each vote will trumpet a resounding No! to right-wing political opportunism and manipulation.

15
May 16

Does God Exist? Yes and No

When people say they’ve lost their religious faith, the core reason is nearly always that they observe the world to be a mess, that cruelty and despair are integral to the world–probably to the cosmos–and God does not intervene, “hence God doesn’t exist”. I don’t blame them. They’re both right, and wrong, in my view.

There are various rationales offered to us for the existence of evil in the world–”it’s necessary so that free will can also exist” is one–but in fact evil probably exists because nature simply iterates that way, ramifying so that we receive “evil” (relative to our consensus reality) along with “blessings”. But a “blessing” seems doomed to be crushed eventually, as if it were a happy woman suddenly abducted and murdered: victimized by the infinite rolling of the cosmic dice; by entropy, and the bitter shortness of life; by death.

To me, there is no God per se, but that doesn’t mean there’s no Supreme Being of any kind. The mistake is in assuming that there must be a higher being defined by our childish notions. “The Supreme Being has to be our creator!” Then who created the creator? “The Supreme Being has to have deliberately designed this Grand Absurdity!” Says who? Primitive tribesmen in the Middle East 2500 years ago? “It has to be all-loving and good according to what humanity thinks is loving and good.” Same answer, and that presumption is your need for a perpetual parent which you superimpose on the world.

And these notions of your God’s loving kindness are strange in the context of the Bible where God does at least as much mass murdering as blessing–drowning millions of babies in the Great Flood for example. This same fellow sends billions of people to burn for all eternity for entirely arbitrary reasons. That should have been a sign from the first something was wrong with the whole concept.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no supreme, or higher being. Sunlight can be cruel. Be congruent with its nature, however, and it cultivates you. Darkness can be a blessing–modify harsh sunlight with shade, a modicum of darkness. . .

To me this pervasive, intrinsic consciousness–this hypothetical higher being– has some background, rootlike connection to our own consciousnesses. Then again, it’s like a river one goes to for irrigation– you must fetch out the water yourself, but it is, by its nature, always on offer. Just remember that a river is a natural force that might drown you as well as quench your thirst. The Nile is not kind or unkind. Nor is it a distinct god. Tillich said, the being that pervades the cosmos is “not a person–but not less than a person”.

I seems to provide a mysterious kind of guidance, and nourishment. But it’s not going to listen to your prayers for money or physical healing or saving innocents–it’s for us to save the innocents. The consciousness intrinsic to the universe is beyond listening to us as individuals…Do you hear the individual splash of every raindrop that falls in every storm?

Childish, self pitying notions of its obligations to us merely obscure it from view. And when we look for it, we tend to look with the wrong part of ourselves.


12
May 16

Sanders Supporters will Probably be Smart Enough, When the Time Comes..

I THINK that Bernie Sanders will inevitably endorse Clinton–if she gets the nomination–and when he endorses her *most* Sanders supporters will vote for her in the general election. Maybe a fair number won’t. But the majority will. And I think that’ll just squeeze Trump out.

It has to work out like that, if the country is not to slide into the dust-heap of the lowest of the lowest common denominator–because apparently voters in Ohio and many other states don’t care about Trump’s racist statements (which he’s now trying to cover up), they don’t care about his flagrant slobbering after his daughter, his poor understanding (to put it kindly) of foreign policy, his floating the idea of killing lots of women and children in the Middle East because they’re the families (he supposes) of terrorists, his verbal degradation of women, his wife’s posing (presumably with his approval) in the nude for a major magazine, GQ, *while chained to a briefcase full of money*, his deliberately catalyzing violence at his rallies, his association with white supremacy, his cartoonlike plans to close the southern border–none of that bothers them.

So we have to hope that Sanders supporters, if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination–she probably will–will be forward-thinking enough to vote for her. I know he’ll be intelligent enough to endorse her.

If you wonder WHY Trump’s supporters follow him no matter what–it’s the power of magical thinking. The power of the primitive mind. The power of the subconscious:

http://www.rawstory.com/2016/03/follow-the-bleater-donald-trump-and-the-power-of-the-subconscious/

 


10
May 16

DONALD TRUMP TO BE KING OF HIS OWN HUGE PLANET

“And so, Mr Trump, as the Secretary General of the United Nations…”

“And I, as head of NASA…”

“And I as head of the Republican Party…”

“All of us wish to give you this great honor. We, and millions of others, have agreed that you should be *king of your own planet!*”

“Wow. I can’t say I’m surprised, I should be–I mean, sure, it sounds like I haven’t got modesty, but I do, but let’s face it, let’s be honest, I SHOULD be king of the world.”

“Ah, yes, BUT this world is too small for you, sir–we have one that’s hundreds and hundreds of times bigger than this world…it’s a gas giant in the Phlebotnick System, and we feel that you deserve to be–and should have the honor of being…the sole king of it.”

“Wow. Being king, I make all my own decisions, right, no congress! I mean, how great is that? How many people would I rule over?”

“Well–it’s a very big planet. So–just imagine how many there are there!”

“Billions and maybe trillions, right? But how would I get there?”

“Oh we’ve arranged fast transportation for you! You’ll be going at something approaching the speed of light!

“And you can come back anytime you can!”

“What? What do you mean ‘anytime I can’?”

“Oh, oh he means, anytime you want to come, why you just get in the spaceship, and fire her up and…you’ll see!”

“Okay, but I want that in writing.”

“Certainly. We’ll fax it to you.”

“And I’d better bring my wife. Or maybe she could come later. Don’t want to disappoint the ladies who want to meet the king on this planet!”

“You won’t be disappointing any ladies there, Mr Trump! Every lady there will be available to…meet you.”

“Now, Mr Trump–right this way, sir–we’ll send you out immediately. You can have a press conference there the instant you arrive. Talk to anyone you like!”

“Ha! No Hillary there, right? No Paul Ryan?”

“They definitely don’t plan to go!”

“Right through this door sir! Make yourself comfortable in that chair.”

“This chair is pretty  comfortable, not bad. But damn, its strapping me in, like it’s grabbing me and holding me down, here. I need a designer chair, I know a guy in Italy…”

“No time for that, Mr Trump! Bon Voyage!”

“Hey wait! What about a lunch on the way!”

“Your needs will all be taken care of! Good bye!”

“Lock the door down, Bill. Step back…farther…countdown begins…”

*** *** ***

“It’s gone! A successful launch!”

“Let’s go people, we don’t want to be late for the worldwide celebration!”

The Happy Ending

Inspired by: Kepler Has Nearly Doubled the Number of Confirmed Exoplanets in Our Galaxy


02
May 16

GAME OF THRONES Tears Apart Newborn Babies For Entertainment

Tried to give GAME OF THRONES another chance but when they entertained us tonight by having a pack of vicious dogs tear apart a baby, they crossed a line, and I have ceased watching again.

When I’ve complained about a television program that is sadistic, using cruelty for entertainment without any balance, without any moral center to refer to, someone says, “But oh John, you have published some very dark fiction, some violent fiction indeed…” But you know, there were always lines I wouldn’t cross, and there was always a moral center. Occasionally I probably got carried away with some act of revenge in a story or novel–but then I wasn’t writing for a television show going out to millions and, anyway, I would never have a baby (and his mother) torn apart by vicious dogs. The way they dramatize it, too, it just doesn’t feel like it’s a protest against the horrors innocents are subjected to. It feels like, “just more entertainment.” Like “useful torture” on “”24″ and Fear the Walking Dead”, and beloved characters eaten alive, in excruciating detail, on “The Walking Dead.”

As seven billion people increase to 9 billion people on a climate changed Earth where food will likely be scarce and billions pushed into desperate migration, empathy will become a rare gem. It will be around–but it’ll be rare and precious. How long before we make the cruelty more than fictional television, and put the Romans to shame, leaving their timid little bread-and-circus entertainments far behind? Are we now engaged in a televised preparation for that society?

Do we really have to degrade ourselves in advance?


21
Apr 16

The Music in the Sentence, BROKEN MIRROR GLASS and – SF SIGNAL

Here’s the opening of my short guest editorial at SFSIGNAL Magazine. Link below.

‘I was scarcely more than a boy when I attended the Clarion Writer’s Workshop in Seattle. One of the instructors was Harlan Ellison, and being a fan of Ellison’s I was on edge with excitement, even more like a cat on hot bricks than usual. In those days I was wildly callow, the very soul of impulsiveness. One night I dropped acid–and I dropped down on Ellison, just missing him, from the boughs of a tree as he walked underneath. After the necessary fulmination, Harlan let it go. He put up with me, he said, because I “heard the music in the sentence”. You either heard the music in prose, he told us, or you didn’t….’

Read all about it and Broken Mirror Glass at:

http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2016/04/guest-post-john-shirley-hears-the-music-in-the-sentence/


04
Apr 16

Message From The Galactic Civilization to Residents of Planet Earth

“Having done exhaustive calculations and a detailed global evaluations we’ve decided that the human residents of the planet Earth are too stupid to be allowed to live. We’ve been observing the planet for some years through drones transferred by wormholes; we have translated your language into our own, and hopefully this message, translated into your various languages, will be clear. We have studied your history, your treatment of your planetary environment, and the culture of your dominant civilization. The simple fact is, there are relatively few known habitable planets in this universe. Those that are habitable are quite precious. They cannot be wasted on pseudo-intelligent species bent on destroying the biosphere of its own living world. Such planets are simply too hard to come by. Normally we are a “live and let live” galactic civilization, but this kind of excruciating wastefulness cannot be tolerated. We might have given you more time, but we have been observing your political rituals recently, and our level of disgust is too overwhelming for forbearance.

“We realize this is a harsh judgment, and we apologize for any inconvenience. However the extermination will be painless, and will only affect your species. Other animal species will be unaffected. The process will sweep the entire planet in the course of ten minutes. Again, we apologize for this interruption in your plans.”


02
Apr 16

Why Cultural Appropriation is a Stupid Concept

Cultural appropriation is an idea born of ignorance. All culture is in part appropriated. Africans appropriated some culture from India; people from Jamaica “appropriated” from Africa and from North America and from Europe; European countries appropriated from one another. American blues appropriated from Africa and from European folk music and from hymns; Christians  appropriated myths from other religions; other religions  borrowed from Christians and Hindus. Buddhists appropriated from Hindus and Japanese Zen from China; American Indians appropriated from invading Native tribes of various kinds, and later (eg, horseback riding) from Europeans.

Country music appropriated from Celtic music and from yodeling and from African American gospel. Roman myths appropriated from Greek myths; Greek from Babylonian and Egyptian… And on and on and on and on and on. Culture is synthesis.

There is no such thing as cultural appropriation. There can be racist cultural stereotyping–but not appropriation. Instead there is cultural adaptation…If there is such a thing as the “the sacred” then…no one owns it. No one owns the genuinely sacred.


29
Mar 16

Review of BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

We saw BATMAN Vs SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE today. When I was a boy and on into my early-mid teens, I read a lot of comics, especially Marvel. . .DC seemed a bit square in those days. I had turned my back on Batman because of the Adam West TV show, and Superman, too, was pretty dopey then. It did occur to me that someone should make a non-campy, more serious Batman and Superman. I used to visualize how it would happen. (The guy who made it happen was Michael Uslan–you can see his credit on all the newest Batman stuff, indeed going back to the TIm Burton one–he basically bought the rights to Batman *cheap* after the Adam West debacle. He rescued Batman.) And in those days there were many forays into Superhero Vs Superhero. Spiderman and the Human Torch got mad at each other and fought. The Hulk and The Thing had a tiff. Make your own list. They’d get mad for no particularly good reason and fight for no particularly good reason but *comics fans enjoyed it* because it was *fun*. It looked cool graphically, and it satisfied an itch comics fans had. (And that’s basically what Captain America: Civil War appears to be, Cap vs Iron Man)…Soon I got out of superhero comics, until The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. Those graphic novels impressed me, especially Watchmen. My nostalgia about superheroes was rekindled, up to a point…

So when I saw the Batman Vs Superman movie was coming, I figured it was the same sort of hero vs hero marketing gimmick and appeal to fun–and it was and is–and I looked forward to it. I could tell early on that it was going to use some of The Dark Knight Returns. And it does. And I did not  expect too much of it. . . Also clearly it was a set-up for the Justice League. And I was into that. And people forget that’s part of what it was.

The movie is uneven. I did not think it was the mess some other people thought. But I didn’t think the whole thing worked in every particular. It’s not the epic film it hoped to be. Still, I would say that if there was a category of film criticism that allows two and three-quarters stars, just short of three stars, it is that. Actually I enjoyed it a good deal, so maybe that’s up to 3 stars. Wonder Woman might deserve her own “star” in the rating…

Of course, one problem with superheroes fighting superheroes is: if they’re so heroic and good, why are they fighting? Are they drunk or something? So there has to be a rationale. They tried hard on the rationale for this one–I will say it’s better than the rationales that appeared in the comics, because they built it up a good deal. People reacting to the movie may be forgetting that Batman doesn’t know much about Superman at this point, in this particular story continuum. There *was* a kind of invasion from Superman’s planet, in Man of Steel, and Superman’s battle with the supervillain in Metropolis did do a lot of damage and did, presumably, hurt a lot of people, as a side effect. Not really Superman’s fault but people blame him for it. Some moviegoers –and the studio reacted to it, in this new movie–and some fictional characters in Batman Vs Superman were down on Superman because of that. So in the context of all that, and people acting like Superman was a God, and giant statues of him looking rather fascistic in public squares, and Lex Luthor manipulating both Batman and Superman to pit them against each other…the  Batman /Superman fight is just believable enough. People also forget that this is a set up for Justice League so it’s not supposed to answer all questions.

The thing is, if you’re a fan of “adult” (and one really needs those quotation marks) superhero stories, this film has some great set piece scenes, an excellent Batman scene…the demonic “Bat” of Gotham rescuing sex slaved women, for example…and those scenes are very good realizations of the more “adult” and non-campy use of superheroes.

To me, the movie –though two and a half hours–was well paced, didn’t seem too long and largely came together pretty well. It was cogent enough for a strong momentum, and for me to follow a bit more than the gist. BUT…there were things I didn’t like, and I can’t really talk about them now–except to say they’re toward the end and I thought they were over the top and they were emotion-milking and they seemed a bit absurd to me. Do not want to say more, too spoileristic. I will say that the inserted (felt that way) scene with the Flash talking from some possible alternate future, and Batman’s apparent vision of an ugly alien haunted world to come, was confusing and, though it sets something or other up…maybe it shouldn’t set up whatever that is. Anyway it disrupted the flow of storytelling and confused a lot of people. (I didn’t even know that was the Flash till I read it later.)

I had no problem with Ben Affleck as (remember!) an *aging* Batman. He was perfectly fine. He’s a good actor. And I had no problem with this new version of Lex Luthor–in fact I dug it. The production *had* to do a Lex Luthor that contrasted with the one from the other Superman movies, and anyway as this one is the ultimate tech bro and I dislike tech bros, well, that’s a meaningful contemporary villain…I thought the guy acted that character really well…

On balance I thought it was definitely worth the price of the ticket; I enjoyed this Batman, I loved Wonder Woman (she was actually in several scenes) but–the production committed the same sin all vain, overpaid teams of writers and producers and directors of blockbuster films commit now, perhaps because they face the challenge of offering more, more, more all the time…the sin is putting in more, more, more. They just put too damn much in these big superhero films, and they need to learn how big and powerful is not too much. They’re like that Jon Hamm character at the beginning of Bridesmaids where he’s slamming it to the girl in bed, really hard, as if to impress her and she’s rolling her eyes…Dude, there’s such a thing as too much.

Bottom line is, expect a lot from contemporary superhero movies, but don’t demand too much, or they’ll do too much; and don’t expect perfection, because hey, it’s a superhero movie. Are myths perfect? Does the story of Jason and the Argonauts have to be perfect? These are modern myths, as Michael Uslan pointed out. Long as they’re reasonably grown-up in style…just enjoy them. That’s what works for me.