Archive for the ‘Braak’ Category

Some Notes on Tragedy

Posted: November 16, 2015 in Braak, Politics
Tags: , , ,

It probably has not escaped anyone’s notice that I don’t usually write things in the face of terrible tragedies.  With one or two exceptions, I usually don’t know what to say.  I don’t know how other people survive in the world; I keep most of it at delicate, carefully-maintained distance.  Any horror is capable of collapsing that distance, bespeaking not just itself but every horror, every agony in the unremitting misery of the world.  I don’t have a good mechanism for feeling bad about only one thing at a time, I think.  Somehow, in my imagination, every tragedy is chained together and to drag one loose is to pull all of them free.

When things like this happen I start to feel…”deliberate” I suppose is a word.  Maybe this is a kind of vanity – in the face of external stresses I become introspective.  Vanity is certainly something I am capable of.  And maybe it’s a kind of cowardice – I look for, instead of some way to act, only the one way to act perfectly correctly, the opportune moment to do only the exact right thing.  Sometimes the opportune moment never presents itself, and I do nothing, and so maybe this is a way of forgiving myself of the responsibility of action.  Cowardice is certainly something I am capable of.

I don’t know.

A philosopher that I happen to like is Baruch Spinoza, and a quote that has felt especially pertinent to me lately is this one, from his Tractatus Politicus:

Peace is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from force of character.

I suppose I’m interested in what that means, what it means that peace is not the absence of violence, but is instead a resistance to violence.  That war is not an active condition but a passive one – a state of entropy that emerges on its own when the hard work of peace is abandoned.  That it’s peace that is the real work, the difficult work, the challenging work.

I don’t know the answer to this, either.  I don’t know how to win this war, and I am suspicious of anyone who claims to know.

I do know that I want to do the right thing, and only the right thing, and I don’t know what that is or even what it looks like.

So.  This is the letter I wrote to my congressmen.  I encourage you to write to your congressmen, too.


Was Christopher Columbus a handsome dreamer? Or is this mere propaganda?

Was Christopher Columbus a handsome dreamer? Or is this mere propaganda?

So.  There I was, tooling around in my electric-hybrid Prius, sipping on my $5 a cup organically-grown locally-sourced free trade latte, generally just thinking about how superior I am to the god-bothering gun-snugglers of real Hillbilly America, and looking for a gun-free church vestibule where I might conduct this Samhain’s pansexual Mexican blood orgy, when I came across this absolute hum-fucking-dinger of an article:

Why Do Liberals Hate Columbus Day

Some in the Catholic Church would love to canonize Christopher Columbus as a saint, while Liberals and Native Americans seek to depict him as a brutal xenophobe.

The truth is quite a bit more complex, but we shall explore the absurdities attending the Liberal hatred of the controversial Italian explorer.

That is how it opens right there, and for as much as the author (DJ Pangburn, I don’t know if “DJ” is his name or it’s a title because he spins fire mixes with this hot takes) would like us to believe that the truth is more complex he spends several paragraphs showing that SPOILER ALERT no, it’s not.



The Hugo Award is a rocketship, to indicate the importance of rocketry or something, I don’t know

(Okay friends!  We are trying to get back to some regularly-scheduled programming, now that this nonsense with the baby has settled down somewhat.  To reward you all for your patience, I’m starting on with some inside baseball horseshit about an obscure conflict deep in the nerdliest bowels of the science fiction & fantasy community.  Maybe this is what you read Threat Quality for!  Probably not!  Too bad!)

Today I would like to talk about this, a proposal for an award for SF storytelling, created by a guy named Jay Maynard, whom you probably (do not) know as “Tron Guy.” I do not think that this proposal, or the conflict that has engendered it, is particularly interesting or important in either the grand scheme of things or in the petit scheme of things, but puzzling over it has led me to some ideas that I have about the nature of criticism that I DO think are interesting, and so I’m going to write about it anyway.


david brooks
(I guess I am going to keep doing these.)

Friends, this week’s David Brooks column is…a little bizarre.  I don’t completely know what to make of it.  It’s definitely about Christian homophobes, and how they need to conduct themselves in the new, slightly-less-homophobic America that the Supreme Court has gay-married us all into, and I can’t tell if it’s this clever mixture of diplomacy and stinging criticism, or if it’s just astonishingly dopey.  Experience leads me to believe option two, but…man.

Just, look at this, check this out.


The thing about a tumor is, it’s not just malign tissue.

(Well, the first thing is that it’s not “malign” at all; tumors aren’t evil, they’re just obstinately disinterested in the well-being of the organism that supports them. They’re more like Libertarians.)

A tumor isn’t just malign tissue, it’s a factory for malign tissue. It swells up somewhere, on your testicle, for instance, which you discover in the shower on Sunday night because your doctor told you when you were fourteen to start checking for tumors, because being fourteen wasn’t already an age replete with anxieties about uncontrollable forces destroying your life, you had to add in fucking tumors.

You find a mass on your testicle, and you know how tumors work, you know that it’s metastasizing even as you think about it, sending out fucking saboteurs to the rest of your organs.

I’ve had an ache in my thigh for a while now; is it a muscle pain, or is it a metastasized tumor that lodged in the muscle tissue of my leg? My back hurts, my spine is crawling with tumors. There are tumors in my intestines, in my prostate (prostate cancer is what killed my grandfather) and my colon (colon cancer is what killed his brother). There’s a pain in my groin roughly in the spot where my lymph nodes are (lymphatic cancer is an extremely common and dangerous variety).

If it hasn’t metastasized, maybe they’ll just cut off one or both of your testicles. If it’s spread to your muscles and your bones and your intestines, maybe they’ll just have to amputate my entire lower body. People can survive like that – you have colostomy bags for the rest of your life, and a wheelchair obviously, and you don’t fence or do kung fu or do a lot of things anymore, really.


This movie was fine. There were a bunch of robots, and people shot beams at them. Thor hit some robots with his hammer, Hulk smashed some robots, Captain American kicked his shield around a bunch of times. The best part was James Spader’s exasperated Ultron, who just couldn’t believe how people didn’t get how great his plan is. Actually, I think as far as villains go, Ultron was probably the second best we’ve seen in a J. Whedon Joint – Holland pointed out to me that making the villain an insane robot actually makes a lot of things make a lot more sense. We’d have a hard time buying this kind of “I dunno, what about a meteor?” plan from a crazy human being, but a crazy robot, sure. Who knows WHAT those fucking things are up to.

(Who’s the first best villain? Loki? No, it’s the Mayor of Sunnydale from season 3 of Buffy. I contend that the best parts of Loki are actually Hiddleston’s nuanced, three-dimensional performance in Thor; in the Avengers, he’s interchangeable with any other dumb old megalomaniac.)

Obviously, though, I am here to talk about politics.


The Hitler Questions

Posted: April 13, 2015 in Braak
Tags: ,

I like hypothetical ethical dilemmas. I think they’re interesting, because ordinarily I think we don’t really think about what constitutes “right” and “wrong”: we’ve just got a sense of it, and when questions come up, we respond to them intuitively first, and then justify them later. The purpose of Ethical Dilemmas is to interrogate that mechanism that lets us choose, but in an environment where outcomes are known to us. This lets us examine both how we feel about a question, and how those questions interact with what we say our principles are.

Here are some questions about whether or not you’d go back in time to murder Adolf Hitler.

(Trigger warning for some talk about the Holocaust and about rape and murder.)