Death to Convenience!

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Human history is a funny thing: we spent millennia fighting off predators and toiling in the fields, painstakingly developing labor-saving methods and machines in search of convenience, only to now feel deep dissatisfaction with the industrialized world.

At least, some of us feel dissatisfied.

It’s a thing Jack Donovan touches on in much of his writing. And it’s also the kind of scorching hot take the chattering class likes to bring up when they trot out the whole “It’s a woman’s world now/Are men obsolete?” canard.

You see, apparently things like strengthdecisiveness, and physical courage are outdated and outmoded. As though only men display these things . . .

But this dissatisfaction is not just a man-thing. It’s a human thing.

All this labor-saving, all this technology, and all this existential angst. Is it any wonder that people feel useless? Anxious? Unhappy?

Maybe all of this convenience is the enemy.

This is a great time to be alive in many ways, especially in the West. Fantastic. An anomaly in human history:

  • Hunting and farming? Just press a button, and food is brought to you.
  • Courtship? Romance? Nah! We have devices. Soon, sex robots will be a thing. And if you really crave “the human element,” there are apps for that.
  • Disease? Most of the ones that used to ravage humanity are gone, or held at bay so as to be nearly eradicated.
  • Travel? Never been easier. You don’t even need to own your own vehicle to get from point A to point B, let alone a horse.

And so on.

But we’re all stressed. We suffer from ennui and listlessness and isolation. Pure enervation. Achievement is just not worth the effort since the rewards are ever-dwindling…right?

I mean, look around you, especially if you’re in a city. Things seem designed to keep us apart from each other. Where are the smiles? Hell, it’s weird to even see an athletic physique, isn’t it?

Convenience is killing us. This is not a great revelation when it comes to our personal lives. But what about when it comes to everything else?

How about convenience making us not even want to vote, or learn about important issues? Nothing really ever changes, right?

Our convenience even stops us from asking deep questions, introspective questionsabout ourselves, our legacies, the meaning of life, God, the eternal, the unknowable.

Convenience is a trap. It’s the cage of safety writ large. And this convenience was designed, so the official story goes, to make our lives better.

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And it has.

But as with most everything, there is a price. Continue reading “Death to Convenience!”

Reset: Chapter 23: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (4)

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There was a message on the whiteboard: “COME TO JONESYS!” And on his desk, a hastily scribbled missive on a sticky note: “at jonesys come find us!!! urgent!!!!!!” It was so urgent that Nick had time to write all of those exclamation points.

Joe picked up his phone, deciding to call Carlos and Jonesy first to see if there really was a problem, or if Nick was being typically hyperbolic.

Nobody answered, nor did Joe have any messages of his own. He hung up, tapping his fingers on his desk. He really wasn’t in the mood for adventures tonight. All he wanted was to grab a bite and go to sleep. But a tugging at his conscience kept him from turning in for the night. Nick, for all his faults, cared about his friends: if he said that someone was in trouble, they probably were.

What did we used to do before texting? he thought, running through the mental checklist: Whiteboard, sticky note, voice message . . .

Email.

Joe darted out his hand, tapping his mouse to unfreeze the screen, and logged in to his email account as fast as his then-cutting-edge desktop would allow. He had a message from Nick, timestamped about ten minutes ago: “We’re leaving Rodger and we’re coming there!”

Joe calculated the distances and times in his head. If they had indeed left ten minutes ago, it would take them less than ten to get here, especially at the pace Nick walked. He could just wait, but he was curious to see what was wrong.

Curious, and a little nervous. That sense of dread that had crept up on him like a frost while walking into Gwendolyn’s room hadn’t left, and while Joe normally didn’t put much faith in hunches, the week’s events had challenged many of his long-held certainties. With a huff, he put his coat back on and went outside.

He knew the path his friends would take to Paxton, and hurrying in the cool night, met them at the halfway point across the street from the student union building where a hill led down to an outdoor basketball court. He waved his hands and shouted for them.

Nick pointed and said something, and he, Jonesy, and Carlos started running towards Joe.

“There you are!” said Nick, grabbing Joe by the shoulders. Joe felt a momentary twinge of guilt when he saw the swelling in Nick’s upper lip. “What the hell, man?!” said Nick.

Joe’s heart quickened. “What the hell what?” He looked each of them in turn, scanning for any sign of injury, of panic, of grief. Instead, he just saw confusion.

“Where’ve you been?” said Nick.

“Where’ve I been?”

“Yes.”

Joe rolled his eyes. Turning to Carlos, the most sensible of them all, he asked, “What’s going on?”

“Jonesy’s been accused of rape.”

“Rape?”

“The girl, remember?” said Nick. “At KPD?”

Joe turned to Jonesy. “But you didn’t touch her.”

“I know!” said Jonesy. “I think.”

“There was no sign of anything,” said Carlos, “but these dudes don’t care, man.”

Dudes?”

“Her boyfriend and his crew,” said Carlos. “They’re out for blood, man. Sending threatening emails, making calls . . .”

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“And I didn’t even do anything!” said Jonesy, spreading his small hands.

Joe patted him on the shoulder. “I know. We were there–we saw the two of you. She had her underwear on, you had your pants on, and that’s that. But why now?”

“Who knows?” said Nick, throwing his hands up. “Women are crazy. You of all people should know that.”

“You’ve raped somebody?!” said Jonesy.

“No I haven’t raped anybody!” Joe snapped. He glared at Nick. “I’ve never even had a girlfriend. Remember?”

“That is true, actually,” said Nick. “Joe’s a total virgin. Like, never even kissed a girl before. It’s pretty sad, when you stop and think about it.”

“I think they get it,” said Joe.

“Wow,” said Jonesy. “You mean I’m actually cooler than you?”

“Joe’s not cool,” said Nick. He actually sounded offended. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 23: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (4)”

Interesting Times

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It’s easy to feel yourself swept away by things, insignificant and out of control. Watching the world unfold, one question–maybe the first question–should be:

Why do you care?

The second question, then, might be:

How could you not?

Simple questions with no good answers. Simple questions that, I’m sure, human beings have been asking our ancestors first formed questions in their minds.

I imagine a caveman watching the blizzard from the relative comfort of his cave and pondering his existence. Is this all there is? Am I destined for nothing but fleeing the saber-toothed, hunting the mammoth, and finding shelter? Luckily for us, his answer, and those of thousands like him, was no.

So what’s our excuse?

Are we destined only to scrape enough to pay the taxman and the other bill collectors, to undue the sub-par education of our children, and to try and end life without running afoul of the endless laws that surround us?

It’s a reactive pose, which is why I suspect it creates such deep feelings of powerlessness.

The caveman sure thought so. It was this discomfort that eventually led to the skyscraper and insulation and central heating, the firearm, architectural principles, and the automobile.

So what’s our excuse? Continue reading “Interesting Times”

Jane Austen: The Conclusion

So now that I’ve read every single Jane Austen novel, ever, it’s time to make sense of it all, isn’t it? Isn’t that what blogs are for, to try to create a context–a larger story–even when there isn’t one?

Especially when there isn’t one?

Or maybe, just maybe, I really enjoy writing about reading. And writing.

In any event, I can safely say the following two things:

  1. Jane Austen’s novels are fantastic,
  2. Jane Austen may very well have written the best dialogue the English language has ever seen

What? That’s high praise from a dude reading chick lit, man! But like I said in my very first Jane Austen post many moons ago:

 In reading Sense and Sensibility, I’m struck by how nice it is to enjoy a story where men are manly and women are womanly, each sex exhibiting strengths, weaknesses, and in general complimenting each other the way those in healthy relationships should. Throw away all of the social stuff regarding the limited opportunities for women at that time and enjoy the story for what it is.

No, this isn’t some evil member of the white male patriarchy lamenting his lost power (first of all, I never had any power to begin with). It’s just . . . unique to read a story from a world where people seemed to have confidence in their identities. For starters, there wasn’t any self-loathing or existential angst in these stories. That would invade literature later.

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Anyway, I’ll divide this post into The General section and The Specific section (names subject to change). In the former, I’ll go over what I admire about Jane Austen’s writing, her strengths, and any criticisms I may have. And in the latter part, I’ll give a brief rundown of each book, my takeaway, and an overall rating/ranking that I’m sure will upset most people who study Jane Austen’s works more than I do, but what the hell, it’s my blog. So here goes! Continue reading “Jane Austen: The Conclusion”

You Can Stop for One Day

On Twitter, I recently posted a series of common complaints that infect the American media around every single major holiday. Although they are based on actual expressions of outrage I have seen since at least the early 1990s, the whole thread was intended to be humorous.

At least, thought it was humorous.

This was done in anticipation of Thanksgiving in America, a holiday that is supposed to either be about (a) an early-17th century feast of thanks held by the New England colonists and the local Indian tribes, or (b) thanking God for His blessings. Either way, the day is supposed to be about family, friends, thankfulness, and reflection on what one has.

It is a day of rest, even. And for many, it is a day of overeating and watching football.

If you’re a normal human being, Thanksgiving is awesome.

Yet to others–let’s call these people “joyless freaks”–Thanksgiving is all about bitching and moaning about how awful the United States is, how terrible and racist its colonists and Founders were, and increasingly, about how uniquely awful white Americans of European extraction are and why they should all just die.

Oh, and vegans always try to get in on the act as well. Continue reading “You Can Stop for One Day”

Book Reviews: Who’s Afraid of the Dark? and Knight of the Changeling by Russell Newquist

I’ve got a two-fer of tales for you today from Mr. Russell Newquist, he of Silver Empire publishing, and an author in his own right. If you recall, I recently reviewed his fun, action-packed debut novel War Demons.

War Demons featured a supporting character named Peter Bishop, friend of that novel’s main character Michael Alexander. Well, it turns out that Peter is heir to the sword of St. Michael and a pretty important player in the struggle to protect Earth from the demonic forces of evil.

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?and Knight of the Changelingare two short stories in Russell’s saga, and take place after the Prodigal Son series, of which War Demons is the first book. Yet these two stories were published first.

Don’t worry, it works. Continue reading “Book Reviews: Who’s Afraid of the Dark? and Knight of the Changeling by Russell Newquist”

No Nice Things

Boycotts and coffee and anger oh my!

For starters, let me say that (1) I fully support boycotts, because people can do whatever the hell they want, (2) it’s nigh impossible to make “voting with your dollar” have any impact if there aren’t enough dollars involved, and (3) your pious market-worshipping friend who can’t stop pleasuring him- or herself to Kirk’s ten principles can cram their bowtie up their rear end as they whine about “stooping to their tactics.”

Don’t you get it? Croaking “muh principles!” as your side–whatever your side may be–continuously loses while you righteously complain is worse than useless.

People who hate you and everything you stand for tend not to respond to self-satisfied virtue, no matter how forcefully asserted. In fact, your principles make them dig in even further. People respond best to pain. And I’m a civilized society, economic pain is far more preferable to physical pain.

This is why we “can’t have nice things,” as the cliche goes. This is also why I am a full proponent of retaliating in kind. Every single side in this sick, sad country will not learn until we’re all poorer, more unhappy, and less-willing to share what we think.

Yes, this means things will get worse before they get better. Boo hoo. The world is not a perfect place. Deal with it.

Continue reading “No Nice Things”