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Elf M. Sternberg
There's a popular meme that says "All bodies are good bodies," often with a collection of photographs or drawings. The whole point of the meme is to counterbalance the narrow range of what our culture considers physically healthy and attractive. And while I'm sympathetic to the project, the meme is still a terrible one.

While the range of bodies shown is broader than what used to show up on the cover of Cosmopolitan or Redbook, there are still two issues with the meme that make it little better than the standards it intends to replace.

First, the meme is always about women. I don't think I've ever seen a "All bodies are good bodies" about men. There is only one standard for men, and Chris Hemsworth and Idris Elba epitomize that standard. The "dad bod" is an acceptable alternative, but "dad bod" articles are always written a wink and a nod that "We know you're really too busy and too lazy, and besides you're married and don't have to work hard to keep up the appearances. It's not like you're out to get the chicks now, are you?"

Second, while the meme broadens the list of acceptable bodies, it still consigns an awful lot of people to the shadows. The usual meme depicts the tall white woman, the short woman, the brown woman— usually with afro, to remind us that she's really, really brown— the modestly fat woman, and the disabled woman; the last is usually a woman in a wheelchair or one using long-term forearm crutches.

You know what you'll never see in these memes? Psoriasis, sebhorrea, exczema, planus. If you see cellulite, it's a little on the thighs not the massive build-up that turns the buttocks into a cauliflowered-textured challenge for Lunar Lander. You never see the deformities of disability.

There remains a powerful bright line to physical attractiveness. It has been broadened to include a few manic pixie dreamgirls who happen to be stuck in wheelchairs, walkers, or with canes, and who happen to have more melanin than in the past, and who happen to have a little more bodyfat than in the past. But that bright line exists, and to this day only saints are praised for crossing it.
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VDare, for those of you that aren't familiar with it, is a political magazine that regularly publishes nationalist, anti-immigrant, and "pro-white" pieces. VDare may have started out as just an anti-immigrant rag, but it has devolved into a evolved into a neo-reactionary hot-house of silliness.

While tracking down the ridiculous VandeHei article this morning, I stumbled into VDare mostly by accident, and they put up a full-screen "donate to us" pop-up before I got any deeper. The pop-up, though, is hilarious.

It's bannered with a photo of two small children, white girls in white dresses with their backs to the camera, peering out over a meadow. VDare then exclaims: "We can have a world of clean, safe cities, advancing technology, sustainable development, and increased human potential. We can have societies that are prosperous, peaceful, and have high social trust. We can have a culture that generates great works of literature and art, just like our Western forebears." This is followed by a testimonial: "Our opponent, the elite native American secularist has gained victory after victory in his quest for a 'diversified' America," followed by a request to "donate today!" It ends with the tagline, "Keep America American."

I'm not sure what they mean by "native American secularist." Surely they're not talking about the continental aboriginals. It would entail a strange lack of self-awareness to not appreciate that "native Americans" would have loved to "keep America American" on their own, starting back in 1492.

But overall, the message here is so muddled as to be incoherent: we're already marching toward clean, safe cities. We have all the things they claim they want. Oh, and we have vibrant, colorful cities filled with the smells of a hundred different cuisines, we have we have Christians and Buddhists and Muslims and unbelievers, people of every color and nation and creed, getting along with high enough social trust to share the bus, the restaurant, and the sidewalks together.

As for the notion that we don't generate great works of art and literature, bullshit: we are drowning in it. We praise Shakespeare, but there are thousands of Shakespeare-quality playwrights and screenwriters living today. We know how to teach them to be great artists. We have the leisure and luxury of cranking out all manner of artists to the point where we're overwhelmed by the quantity of high-quality art, music, and literature.

For all of VDare's earnest hand-wringing about cities, it's clear that their vision is small-town, homogenous, and dull.

I'm all for the return of the city-state. It's clear that nations are ego-building exercises foisted on us by kings and princes, ideological constructs that demand VDare's flavor of homogenization.

Civilization, civics, civility and city all come from the same root, and all have a similar meaning, the most fundamental of which is this: A city is a place where one is likely to meet strangers. Civility is having the grace to maintain a residence and livelihood well in such a place. VDare's imagination would narrow a city down to "Strangers... but not too much stranger." It's a paltry imagination. It deserves its place on the ash-heap of history.

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While the mainstream press is still still touting mindfulness as an essential tool for your kit, there's been a very welcome wave of pushback that's dedicated to letting much of the air out of the mindfulness convoy's tires.

The loudest voices are those that claim that mindfulness strips the Buddhist tradition of mindfulness of its ethical foundations, simply adapting mindfulness as a way of calming the employees, making them more efficientr employees, and essentially co-opting what has been an essential spiritual practice into a tool of avarice.

But I suspect the recent spate of "it doesn't work" / "it's not cost effective" / "the science isn't there" articles is actually led by a counter-concern: mindfulness is most attractive to the most energetic of employees, the ones who are constantly sparking off new ideas and new projects. The biggest fear our corporate masters have is that sati will translate, as the Buddhists contend it does, into karuna: that is, that mindfulness will lead those who practice it best into the realization that most capitalism is bullshit.

The pro-mindfullness folks want employees to have just enough mindfulness to be more diligent and detail-oriented at their work, but they're deathly afraid that in the process their employees will develop compassion and an awareness of the transience of all things, and ultimately leae their corporate positions for something more fulfilling. The threat of actual mindfulness to the Gordon Geckos of the world is not to be understated.

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Current Music: Desolation, Addicted to Industrial

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JK Eldon has a rather familiar article entitled From QWERTY to Dvorak in 120 Somewhat Miserable Days in which she outlines her transition from QWERTY to Dvorak over a four month period. She outlines all the reasons for doing so, and for not doing so, then goes ahead and does it anyway. Her main reason, that she wanted to learn to touch type, is an excellent one.

I made the same transition myself, although I did so 18 years ago. At Spry (later: CompuServe, even later: WorldCom) I'd been a Solaris user working in vi and csh, which were the standard tools Sun had been foisting on us for a generation. After the massive swap deal with AOL and the Great RIF, I was left with a generous buyout and time to re-up my skills. So I did what any self-respecting nerd did in 1998: I bought a shiny new computer, installed Linux on it, and made myself use Bash, Emacs, and Dvorak instead. (The new desktop, by the way, was a Compaq. Compaq is dead, and you may thank God for it.)

The learning curve Eldon experienced was pretty much the same one I went through. I write code, non-fiction, and fiction. Emacs's key patterns aren't friendly to Dvorak users, but I learned. I did go from 10WPM in the first month to almost 80 by the fourth month. I did put stickers on my laptop keys.

I never went through the "I hate myself" stage, nor the "God, I wish I'd never started this" stage. It wasn't that I was committed; it was that I'd set Dvorak up at install and never taught myself how to go back, so going back would involve learning a whole different set of tools or worse, re-installing an OS I'd finally managed to stabilize. The inertia inherent in that choice kept me persevering, and eventually I was good enough at Dvoark that I realized the MS Natural Touch keyboard I had was doing more damage to my wrists; the position you hold you hands in for Dvorak are different from QWERTY, and the MSNT caused me to bend my wrists outward unnaturally.

Fortunately for me, by 1998 I'd mostly been done with MUDs and IRC, and real-time "business" chat services would have seem ludicrous back then.

They're still ludicrous today.

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Current Music: Niko, It's a Bad Dream, One of Them

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I have less than ten hours to teach a dozen surly high schoolers to go from opening their notepads to writing Tetris. This is the objective: to give them enough HTML, CSS, and Javascript to be able to write a very simple video game.


Here’s what I told them:


A high school programming class and a high school cooking class are more or less the same. At the end of a cooking elective, if you followed all the steps you were required in class, you go home with two things: a cake, and a recipe for cake. All of you are going to eat the cake. Some of you might try to make the cake a second time. A few of you will wonder, “If I change this chocolate to strawberry, and make the cake again, will it work?” And one of you might go on to be a professional baker.


The same thing is true of this class. At the end of a class, you’re going home with a game written in HTML, and the source code to that game. The game will be fully playable. You’ll even have the source code, so you could try transferring the game to other computers to see how it works there. A few of you will look at it and wonder, “If I re-arrange these things, can I turn Tetris into Pac-Man?” (The answer is “Yes,” by the way.) And one of you might go on to be a professional software developer.


Oddly, the teacher who organized the elective tells me that that’s the best and most succinct description of what an elective like this is trying to accomplish. So I guess I’m doing something right.


Of course, there’s already that one guy who has a three-d game written in Unity, and took this class so he could learn how to put up a website about it…

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World Net Daily's David Kupelian asserted that "The left is such a toxic experience it's driving people crazy."

Of course it is. But it's not toxicity. It's reality. You see, reality has a well-known liberal bias. Evolution is real, climate change is happening and will suck, vaccines work, gay people are just as valuable (and immutably gay), as straight people are valuable (and immutably straight).

The Church of No Homo is driven crazy by two conflicting desires: trying to stay within the lines of something identifiably "Christian," while not extending the decency and love God demands they do for gays and lesbians.

"We are children of God," Kupelian notes, as if to say, "... and they're not." Liberal society isn't all that confused or unhappy; it's just human, trying to figure out what it means to live in a highly technological, culturally diverse society that celebrates the individual. Poor Kupelian, he can't handle reality.

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Each year Edge Magazine asks a question and invites the intellectual public to answer it. Eric Weinstein, the director of Thiel Capital, has a fascinating article answering the question, "What is the most interesting recent scientific news?" In Weinstein's case, a fascinating case for a man in charge of a venture capital fund, the news is that capitalism is ending.

Weinstein has two prongs to his argument: first, software is replacing even routine expertise work, like legal document discovery or medical diagnosis. Second, software has displaced a vast trucking industry in mass goods: correspondence and media of course, but now with 3D printing also physical items. Weistein argues that software is almost always a "public good:" infinitely reproducible and hence inexhaustible, and non-excludable, meaning everyone benefits from it whether they pay for it or not. The price and value of software has become disconnected, and since software is inexorably headed toward being in everything, the market will inexorably disconnect everything.

So, sex. There's a reason we talk about bars as "meat markets," and when we discuss the questions of marriage and family we use the phrase "the sexual economy." The question is, does Weinstein's observation have any impact on getting laid?

Of course it does.

We've actually already seen one beneficial disconnect; software has started to replace rape victims. One well-documented effected of Internet pornography is that, in the US, rape and sexual assaults dropped by between 15 and 25% the year after broadband Internet reached a given county.

I've always believed that when it comes to sexual availability, the Internet is starting to satisfice in a lot of ways, and those ways and means can only get "better" as the Internet starts to replace a lot of our other experiences as well.

Soylent, sexbots, and transhumanism: food, sex, and god are being replaced at an alarming rate. The only question is, what kind of market will exist to supply and enhance those experiences going forward?

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I like women. And I'm a big fan of pin-ups.

The first Internet generation of pin-ups was a lot of fun: Renata Daninsky, Veronika Zemanova, Erica Campbell, Piper Fawn, Danni Ashe were all beautiful women who took to the Internet before it became supersaturated with so many pornographic images that it was impossible to stand out. I was always a fan of Aria Giovanni, the kind of busty, well-built woman for whom the term "broad" was invented.

So I have sympathy for Eric Raymond. He took a lot of crap for posting about his admiration for one of the other women on the list, Veronika Zemanova. He may have gone a little overboard in trying to analyze his impressions-- really, nobody wants you to spend pages going into pseudo-evolutionary-psychology bullshit territory when all you really have to say is "Y'know, I like adult, strong-looking women with big tits."

There are plenty of reasons to rag on Raymond. He's spent his entire career navigating imposter syndrome, his authoritarian impulses, and a deep-seated need to be loved and respected, often with only a trash-fire reputation to show for it all.

Don't we all.

Current Mood: nostalgic nostalgic

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I'm not sure why this guy claims "No atheist can honestly answer some of these!" I'd really want to know which ones he believe I'd lie about:

How Did You Become an Atheist?
*Shrug* I was never very convinced about the stories they told me in Sunday school. None of it made much sense, and I never felt much connection to the idea of a god. I just kinda drifted into it.
What happens when we die?
Ever spend hours and hours with no awareness of what was happening? Sure you have, that's called sleep. That's what happens. The greatest disappointment about death is that you have nothing to look forward to.
What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!
If I'm wrong and the Christian God is awaiting me there, I'll go down proud to have been on the side of liberty and justice, rather than kowtowing to the rampaging beast of the Old Testament who drowned men, women and children by the millions in a fit of pique, who sent wild animals to slaughter children who do what children did, and who revels in "the dashing of your little one's heads upon the rocks."

And if it's some other god, like Bacchus, well... that will be awkward, won't it?
Without God, where do you get your morality from?
From my culture. Like everyone else, including you. You got it from your parents, who got it from theirs. The message doesn't get to everyone, which is why we create governments and police forces.
If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?
Buddhists don't believe in a god, and they clearly have the same answer; they do what is *right* because that's what living together is about.
If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?
False premise: who says it "does." What do you mean by "meaning?" This is one of those questions that *sounds* deep, but actually has no content behind it.
Where did the universe come from?
I don't know. Which is a *much* better answer than any one that you might give me, since any answer you might have will be contradicted by the evidence we actually have.
What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?
Schizophrenia. The number of people who have claimed to see angels, who suddenly "get better" when given the proper medication, is astonishing. If one can hold angels at bay with one sad little molecule, that doesn't say much about their divine power now, does it?
What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?
I'm unimpressed. None of them have said much that the Greek atheists weren't saying two thousand years ago. The biggest problem is that you all haven't brought us anything new. After two thousand years, you're still relying on the same tired stories, fables, and deceits you always have
If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?
False premise. Not every one does. Buddhists have no god. Highly primitive human societies generally don't have much in the way a god or gods.

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In order to protect public morals, the State has a valid exercise in police power when discouraging prurient interests in autonomous sex and the pursuit of sexual gratification unrelated to procreation, combating the commercial sale of sex, and protecting minors. Any alleged right associated with obscene devices is not deeply rooted in our Nation's traditions.

There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one's genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship. There is no right to promote dildos, vibrators, and other obscene devices.
That quote comes from a brief filed before the Fifth Circuit Court on behalf of the state of Texas. The case is known as Reliable Consultants, Inc. v. Earle (2008). Now, the good news is that the Fifth Circuit took these words and applied the existing case law, and struck down all laws banning the sales of dildos, masturbation sleeves, and sex machines. Since the Supreme Court had already ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that gay people had a right to intimate conduct with each other in the privacy of their own homes, so to did the court rule that individuals had every right to "autonomous" sex. So everyone worried about "owning too many sex toys can get you arrested," you can all stop now.

Oh, by the way, do you know wrote that legal brief? GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz.

Just as every one of Scalia's ominous warnings about the framework of how we understand gays and lesbians has come true, how every ruling that furthered their dignity made Scalia more and more angry, Ted Cruz will now go down in history as the man who made-- and lost-- the argument about whether or not sexbots should be legal.

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