Saturday, November 10, 2012


As of today, November 11th, this Blogger board is closed and the Slacktiverse community has moved to Wordpress.

There will be a redirect placed on this board, its pages, and its RSS feed; in the meantime comments here are closed. Thank you!

Not mean; but be.

There is a poem by Archibald MacLeish called Ars Poetica, usually translated as "The Art of Poetry,"* which ends in the couplet:

A poem should not mean
But be.

Assuming I understand it, I agree with it.  In fact I extend it well beyond poetry.  My primary concern is usually stories, and I would say the same thing, a story should not mean, but be.

This has had a tendency to get push back.  "Haven't you heard about symbolism and allegory?" I have been asked.  Yes, I have.  But here's the thing: those are hard to do well.

Before I expand on that, let me say this: a poem will always mean.  A story will always mean.  People are meaning creating machines.  We couldn't create something meaningless if we tried and even if we did the reader/hearer/viewer/player/experiencer would find their own meaning in it.  But the poem "Ars Poetica" is not about poems but the art of poetry.  It's addressed to the poets, and so I take the statement "A poem should", repeated six times in the full poem as a message to the poet about what their priorities should be.

I would expand that the the creators of all fiction, non-fiction as well but that should be obvious since to even be non-fiction it has to be about what actually happened, otherwise it's just fiction packaged as non-fiction.

So I take it to mean not that the result shouldn't have meaning, but the meaning shouldn't be the top priority, instead the being should be.

Which brings us back to symbolism and allegory.

In both the idea is that something stands in for something else.  The stand-in is what's actually in the poem/work of fiction (and thus the being of the poem), the meaning is what it's standing in for.  In a well crafted work with symbolism or allegory the stand in is chosen so well that, within the work itself, the stand-in and the thing it stands in for never conflict.

That is hard.

It is hard because the stand-in is not the thing it stands in for, that's what makes it symbolism or allegory, and so they will not be the same in all situations.  Sometimes there will be a place where stand-in would do X and thing stood in for would do Y.  They are different things and getting different things to act the same way isn't always easy.

To have well crafted symbolism/allegory you have to choose a stand-in that will act like the thing stood in for in every important situation that comes up in the whole of the work.

The same goes with deeper meaning that doesn't involve symbolism and allegory.  Maybe you have a message you want to send, but to do it well you need to make sure that the stuff actually in the work, the work's being, doesn't conflict with that message.  It can be hard to do.

And since it is hard to make the things line up, the result is that they often don't.  Meaning goes one way, being goes the other.  The creator has some options:
1) Give up in despair
2) Major rewrite so that when it reaches this point the meaning and the being don't conflict.  You've got to change the being somehow, but in doing so you've got to look back at everything that came before to take into account how whatever change you made would have influenced that stuff and rewrite accordingly.
     Say your allegory requires a character to make a certain decision, but what you've written before shows that that character isn't the sort of person who would make that decision.  You'd have to change the character, which means changing how the character was portrayed before, every action, every interaction, has to be reconsidered, every result from either.  The changes potentially cascade outward in ways that potentially change everything.  It might be easier to to restart from scratch.
3) Keep what has come before unchanged, ignore the intended meaning, and follow from the story/poem/show/movie's being.  Go with what's on the page, so to speak, and let it be what it will.  The meaning will take care of itself, even if the result isn't the meaning you intended.
4) Keep what has come before unchanged, ignore what that tells you about where things are going, and tell the story that the meaning requires.

1) Doesn't result in a finished work, and need not be considered.
2) If done right, produces a finished product indistinguishable from something where meaning and being never conflicted in the first place.

Three and four are where I see the meaning being conflict.  Three is what you do if you think things should be rather than mean, if you think what is on the page is more important than the intent behind it.  The intended meaning may be mangled, but the story will be internally consistent.  No one needs to act out of character, nothing needs to come out of left field, no established rules need to be broken, so on, so forth.

Four, in my opinion, does not work.  Because it sacrifices what's already established in favor of what the creator wants to say and that always shows up.  A character suddenly acts out of character, a situation is obviously contrived, a well established rule is broken, things make no sense in context.  The difference between what was supposed to be symbolized and the thing used to symbolize it is such that what was supposed to be an ok relationship becomes an abusive one in the context of the work.  Stuff like that.

But the result is more than just poor art.

The conflict between the meaning "This is just supposed to represent [whatever] so the fact it doesn't actually make sense when taken literally is ok," and the being, "Given the actual situation presented This Does Not Make Sense/Is Downright Evil Though You Call It Good," undermines the meaning. It makes you look at it and think, "Ok, so maybe it meant X, but given that they had to do [atrocious writing] to get there, why in the hell would I accept that their views on X have any value? They had to be dishonest with the reader/viewer to reach that point."

Choosing meaning over being undermines both.  Choosing being over meaning risks producing a meaning never intended, but it produces better art and it means that whatever meaning is produced will be stronger for staying true to what has come before.  A stronger being creates a stronger being.

Art will always mean and be but if forced to choose between the two as an artist, staying true to meaning, or staying true to being, then this is what you should keep in mind, "Art should not mean, but be."

[This could be considered the almost from scratch reincarnation of a comment at Ana Mardoll's.]


* Technically if you want to be extremely literal it's closer to "the poetic art" because the way Latin formed the name of a given art form was "ars" plus adjective, where the translation "of poetry" implies a genitive noun which "Poetica," is not.  The important thing is it's about the art form, not the result.  It's about making poems, not poems, not reading poems.

Friday, November 9, 2012

So you've just been turned into a zombie

Remember how I said everyone's crunch time hit at the same time?  Remember how I said this would probably end up being a low post week?  Well that applies to the yet to be started deconstruction round up as well.  So instead I give you a hastily produced effort at looking at a traditional fictional convention from a different perspective.


So you've just been turned into a zombie.  You're slower, your fine motor skills are lacking, you can neither speak nor sign, your walk is a sort of shamble, but that doesn't bother you, does it?  Because suddenly everything is so clear to you, finally, at last, you understand what this was all about all along.

The answers to questions that you never thought to ask when you were one them come so easily to you now.  Before you took the next step in the evolution of the species did you ever ask why there was never any infighting amoung zombies?  Did you ever ask why a lone zombie might be hiding in a darkened room or stay facing away from lower beings so that they couldn't see it's bloodstained mouth and would mistake it for one of them, yet while in a group no effort would me made at self preservation or subterfuge, only at making sure that some part of the swarm broke the line and delivered the "infection", such a small word for so wonderful a thing, to the other side?

You understand now, don't you?  You're part of something larger than yourself.  You have a higher purpose.  In a group you realize that the survival of the group is more important than your own survival, but alone you have to carry the purpose on your own shoulders, and thus must take more precautions.

You understand why we have to stop them.  They're not just a food item, would that it were that simple.  They're a dangerous and unpredictable food item.  In a fair fight they'd lose, so they don't fight fair.  Guns and bombs and technologies thrown against us when we are content with what nature gave us.

Any attempt to uplift them, to give to them the purpose you have been given, is met with violence.

They wish to exterminate us, the genocidal maniacs, and so we must fight back.  Convert them to our side or eat them, but make sure they're no longer a threat.

So wrapped up are they in their petty concerns that they never think of us as anything but something to be destroyed just because we're not like them.  And we're not like them.  We get things done, we work together.  We would never ruin each others lives for bits of paper.  We would never throw others of our kind to the curb to get ahead ourselves.

We are united by common purpose and absolute loyalty.  Think back to before you changed.  Remember the doubt and uncertainty, never being sure if you could trust those around you?  Remember wondering what everyone's agenda was?  Remember how limiting that was?  Never being sure that your allies were really your allies?  Never being sure that you were all on the same side.

Compare it to now.  You know no other zombie will betray you.  You know that we're all in this together.  We are all equal, we are all one.  United by our higher purpose, our next step toward a more perfect species.

For thousands of years humanity was forced to rely on technology to compensate for it's inherent weaknesses, but no longer.  We've crossed a threshold where we no longer need anything but what our bodies provide.  We are the future.

But also remember, also remember the revulsion you felt back when you were one of them.  When your mind had yet to be expanded and you were hampered by a short shortsightedness of metaphorical vision greater than your current shortsightedness of physical vision.  Remember how you saw us as monsters to be wiped out, disgusting and subhuman.  Remember how racist you were then.  How horribly opposed you were to change and how violent your urges against us were.  Remember the unthinking murderous response to us.

Remember these things because they're what makes coexistence impossible.  Some don't remember.  They shamble up to or passed the lower humans and quickly learn that there is no possibility of truce.  Unless the first shot lands in the head, then they don't have time to learn.

It is true that the first response of most zombies is to try to pass on the gift or, in rarer cases, to feed (the transformation tends to leave one feeling hungry) so there are definitely times when our side strikes first, so to speak, and the response to this gift, or attempted gift, is often a bullet to the brainpan, squish.

But more often the first shot is fired by the other side.  Sometimes from such a distance the zombie never saw it coming.  We don't have to threaten them to be attacked by them.  They are threatened by our very existence.  Their objective is to wipe us from the face of the earth.

After which they'll no doubt sink back into their petty infighting, class war, international war, racism, sexism, homophobia, oppressing whoever they can whenever they can.

But we will not go quietly into that night.  We will fight their attempted genocide of us tooth and nail.  And if we succeed then true egalitarian will reign supreme for all time.  For in us there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for we are all equal, we are all one.  Imagine no religion, no country, no possessions, nothing to kill or die for.  You don't have to imagine, it's already here.  But those who pervert nature with their technology are trying to destroy all that.  They're trying to kill us all, and they make no secret of it.

Why?  Because we no longer speak their language?  A small price to pay for the gift.  Because we look different?  You'll never see a zombie judging someone by their looks.  Because we're an acceptable target and they're always ready to lash out at one of those?  Not good enough.

They fight us with a thousand slings and arrows, they fire bullets from far away, they use fire stolen from the gods against us, they stab and they slice, they bomb, perhaps even nuclear.  We meet them with nothing but what nature gave to us.

We will not be destroyed.  We will not be exterminated.  We are not some pest to be wiped out.

So you've just been turned into a zombie, and now you understand.  We all welcome you as one of us.  We don't judge you, we don't create artificial divisions, we don't carry with us prejudice.  We welcome you as our equal because we are all the same here.  You are our equal, and we are yours, and united by common purpose we will defeat the genocidal maniacs who seek to wipe us out.

Welcome to the community of equals.  Welcome to a place without prejudice.  Welcome to a family that will never cast you out, never betray you, never present one face to you and another behind your back.  Welcome to a place where the answer to, "Can't we all just get along," is a resounding, "Yes!"

Before you were given the gift you probably looked down on us.  You looked at our slow speed, outside of short quick bursts, and found it comical.  You looked at our poor coordination and found it limiting.  You looked at our inability to speak or sign and found it a sign that nothing was going on in our minds.  You probably saw us as subhuman.

But now that you're here, don't those things seem like such small prices to pay?

So you've just been turned into a zombie.  Welcome to the new mother nature.  No more petty bickering.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Board Business, November 11th, 2012

If I have a plain text introduction will that stop me from messing up the widgets?

Irregular Business

Big discussions on the future of the board are going on here.  Seriously, if this is something you care about, you'll want to at the very least read what's being discussed, maybe make your voice heard.  Basically, this place was set up in a hurry because we needed a place to go fast, but it's looking like wordpress would be better in the long run.  If you have some problem with moving to wordpress you need to speak up soon.

Regular Business
Time to remind everyone about the weekend post.

Anyone who has submissions for the weekend post should send them in.  Some people wonder if they really deserve to be in the post.  Let me answer that: You do.  So try not to be afraid and do try to send in submissions if you have them.

The sections of the post are as follows:
The Blogaround
Any denizen of the Slacktiverse who has posted an article to their own website since they last submitted to a weekend post is invited, enticed, and cajoled to send a short summary of that article along with its permalink to the group email. That summary and link will be included in the next weekend blogaround. This will help to keep members of our community aware of the many excellent websites hosted by other members.
In Case You Missed This
Readers of The Slacktiverse can send short summaries of, and permalinks to, articles that they feel might be of interest to other readers.  These should be sent, as you might expect, to the group email.
Things You Can Do
Anyone who knows of a worthy cause or important petition should send a short description of the petition/cause along with its url to the group email.

Please email all submissions to said group email address (SlacktiverseAuthors at gmail dot com). The deadline this week will be 2000 GMT on Saturday.

Urgent or time-sensitive announcements will be posted immediately rather than being held for the next regular "This Weekend" post.  But you'll have to tell me they're urgent or time sensitive because it's liable to go right over my head if you don't.


Lastly, feel free to consider this an open thread.  Completely open, no prompt, say whatever you like.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Don't Worry About Thinness, Just Eat Healthy Food and Exercise": A Righteous Smackdown

(Content warning: Discussion of weight, body image, and body shaming.)

The fat acceptance movement has made important steps towards changing society’s discourse about weight by insisting that health and beauty are not exclusive to thin people. However, in conversations about how to be healthy, I have frequently heard it said that while weight is not a choice, everyone can choose to eat nutritious food and be physically fit. This is not true, and is offensive to people such as me who lack the capacity to exercise and eat a “healthy” diet.

“Eat fewer animal products and eat more vegetables,” say health food advocates. For some people, that is workable advice. When you are allergic to all nuts and all legumes (legumes include peanuts, soy, beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas), as am I, you do not have a choice about getting most of your protein from animal products. I was actually, seriously told by a vegan recently that it would be possible for me to be vegan, on the basis that there were various plant-based foods with between 10% and 20% calories from protein, and people only need 10% calories from protein to survive. Clearly he had limited math skills, because he apparently did not realize that in order to get at least 10% of my calories from protein, over half of my diet would have to be those few plant-based foods with over 10% protein. Someone less blinded by ideology would realize that this was not a workable possibility. Nonetheless, many people insist that everyone should be vegetarian or vegan.

Likewise, many people and medical authorities insist that a large proportion of everybody’s diet should be fruits and vegetables. Most of these people appear to be unaware that for people with sensory processing disorder, a condition that affects how the mind perceives sensory input, the tastes and textures of fruits and vegetables are often impossible to tolerate. I have sensory processing disorder. I cannot tolerate most fruit at all, and I can only tolerate most vegetables if they are well cooked, well seasoned, and mixed with other food. I need grains and animal products in a meal if I am to eat enough to satisfy my body. 

The few healthy lifestyle advocates who would accept these points would likely protest that maybe not everybody can eat mostly “healthy” foods, but everyone can exercise and improve their physical fitness. This completely erases the existence of people with physical disabilities that reduce their ability to exercise.

While most people would accept that those with visible physical impairments have difficulty exercising, it is often unrecognized that people who look able-bodied may in fact not be able to exercise. There are people, such as myself, who have cardiovascular fitness that is abnormally poor for their level of exercise. For me, walking is aerobic exercise. I cannot move faster than a medium-paced walk and still readily carry on a conversation. I have been like this since childhood. Doctors blamed it on asthma then, but more recent testing has proven that whether or not I had asthma in childhood, I do not have it now.

It is only recently that I have tried to find a medical explanation for this problem. For years, I believed that it must be my fault I couldn't exercise like other people--that it must be because I don't try to exercise enough. As I have learned more about ableism and victim-blaming, I have come to realize that normal people do not have this much trouble exercising, even if they are completely sedentary, and I have stopped accepting blame for my lack of cardiovascular fitness.

If anyone is wondering, my adult weight has varied from the “underweight” BMI range to the low end of the “overweight” BMI range, which, at my height, still is not very large. There are people twice my weight whose fitness puts mine to shame, but my fitness is not something I can control.

Obviously, I take exception to the idea that physical activity and physical fitness are personal choices. Because I cannot get significant amounts of exercise without getting out of breath and exhausted, I do not have the option of doing regular cardiovascular exercise. If I haul groceries home for a 20-minute walk from the store, I don't have the energy to do laundry that day.

I also have developmental coordination disorder, which means that I am not physically coordinated enough to ride a bicycle (on most surfaces) or drive, let alone play sports. When I was a child, I was abused by my peers for my lack of physical ability, to the point where I have PTSD-like reactions to any sort of exercise class or any sort of frustration regarding exercise now. I was also continually gaslit by well-meaning gym teachers who told me I was doing fine in order to make me feel better, even though I and everyone else around me knew I wasn't. My parents insisted that I would do fine in gym class if I practiced the skills more. Needless to say, practice did not help.

(Note: This is directed to people in general, not any one person:) So, DO NOT FUCKING TELL ME A STEREOTYPICALLY NUTRITIOUS DIET, EXERCISE AND FITNESS ARE CHOICES. FOR ME THEY ARE NOT AN OPTION. I do strength-building exercises, which have helped tone my body. I get most of my protein from white meat, fish, and dairy. But salads and cardio fitness? No way. I cannot eat a standard “healthy” diet or be "physically fit", and IT IS NOT MY FAULT.

I know I am not alone in this regard. Some of my specific issues are more common than others, but the point remains: Eating and exercising the way our society says people are supposed to is not possible for everyone, and you cannot identify the people who are incapable of these things by looking at them. Condemning people who cannot do those things for not doing them is unfair and bigoted, as is condemning people who cannot lose weight. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Open Thread: U.S. Election

Feel free to discuss the election as the results come in.

For those in the U.S., did you experience any problems with voting machines or any voter intimidation?  Is your state red, blue, or swing? What candidates do you support? Were you involved in campaigning? How do you feel about voting your conscience vs. strategic voting? Do you have any other thoughts on the election?

For those not in the U.S.: What do the U.S. elections mean to you? How do they compare to elections where you live? What do people in your country think about the U.S. elections?

Open Thread: NaNoWriMo

[Important discussions on the future of the board are taking place here.  If you have any stake in this place, including if you are a lurker, you should go there and make your opinions known.]

So, what is nanowrimo.  Well "nano" tends to be used to denote very small things (nanotechnology used for augmentations for example) and wrimo is clearly a portmanteau of writ and primo, thus meaning the most excellent legal documents issued by a court or other judicial entity.  So a nanowrimo is a very small, but most excellent, legal document issued by a court or other judicial entity.  So simple.


That's not it.

Na is for National.  It's an anachronism.  The event is worldwide.

No is for Novel.  The definition of which is loose.  Work of fiction 50,000 words or more.  Their might be some more to it than that, but it is lose, a collection of short stories would count.

Wri is for Writing.  Most people type.

Mo is for Month.  Specifically November.  It's not too late to start, if you start now you probably still have a better chance of winning than me.

The idea of the project is, basically, to use to pressure of a deadline to get words on paper.  By which I, personally, mean "hard drive" it's a first draft, there's no pentalty for writing crap, it's more or less on paper, just get the words out there.  Making them fit for public consumption comes later (also known as editing.)


So, the prompt here is this: NaNoWriMo.  Say whatever you want about it.

Official website here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wordpress Redirect

Please click here to go to my "test" board.

Wait 4 seconds.

You should be redirected automatically to here, a potential Wordpress board that has our posts and comments imported thus far. (As of 11/5/2012 4:45pm CST.)

This is the result of our moderation discussion thus far:

1. We can use the Disqus commenting platform here in order to block trolls, but this solution is highly untenable for a large portion of our community that cannot access Disqus for a number of technical reasons.

2. We can use the Wordpress blogging platform, which provides troll blockage and stronger moderation, but at the cost of some template control. (We have no Wordpress experts on staff currently, so what you see over there is pretty much what we get for the time being -- that template was the closest I could find to our current setup.) We can set this site to automatically redirect there, in order to ensure that the Patheos and Typepad links still steer people to the right site.

3. We can continue here as before, and delete trolls as they pop up.

I think that pretty much covers the range of technical options thus far. My vote, if anyone is counting, is for #2. But we need to make a decision together. Thoughts?

Post/Open Thread: Transformative art/commentary/stuff

It looks like everyone's crunch time hit at about the same time, so with the exception of a post written a while back tentatively scheduled for Wednesday this could end up being the week of the open threads.  (As a reminder, the moderation discussion is still ongoing.)

If it does I'd kind of like to arrange them around the theme of writing since it is National Novel Writing Month (next open thread will ask you to weigh in on that) but today, being as it is, the fifth of November, it seemed worth remembering.

Guy Fawkes doubtless saw him as a freedom fighter or political/religious reformer, the gunpowder plot failed, he was caught, and thus was a traitor.  Guilty of High Treason he was tortured and executed.  (Strangely he managed to earn the respect of the king he tried to assassinate  though that did not stop the king from ordering him tortured.)

Novemeber the 5th had been transformed from the day a group of Catholics hoped to overthrow Protestant rule, to a day that Protestants celebrated those Catholics failure and burned the Pope in effigy   With the passage of time that too would (largely) pass and, instead of the Pope, Guy Fawkes was burned in effigy.  The word "guy" entered the English language via these effigies.

From 1982 to 1989 Allen Moore published V for Vendetta, in which the ambiguous title character and, after his death, sympathetic second lead, don Guy Fawkes masks, completely altering the perception of a Guy Fawkes mask.

In 2006 a film was released.  Allen Moore charged that it transformed his British story into an American one.  It seemed to present Fawkes, the attempted mass murderer, in a positive light and definitely presented the characters who put on Fawkes masks (with one exception) in positive lights.

I've just listed a lot of transformations, some through circumstance, some through time, and the last two through works of fiction.

I've previously mentioned that I think part of what makes deonconstructions so appealing is that they're transformative.  Start with the World's Worst Books, end up with Fred Clark's brilliant commentary.


This was supposed to be a lot shorter, the open thread prompt is:
What do you think of transformative work?  What are some transformative things that interest you?  Stuff?

Open thread, run wild.  But within reason.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

This Week In The Slacktiverse November 3,4

The Blogaround 

Darth Ember wrote:
It's only poetry, but it does express my frustration with the way people use that particular cliché.
Last week, Storiteller wrote about organizing a Food Day celebration for church in Growing Community for Food Day. (TW: Food insecurity, cancer) While there was a very small turnout, we did get to express our concerns to local politicians and check out the excellent movie A Community of Gardeners.  This week, she described her love of bicycling in the fall, offering photos of fall leaves and tips for doing so safely in Falling Leaves and Changing Seasons. Halloween is one of Storiteller's favorite holidays, so she celebrated it in part by considering how the skills she describes on her blog would be useful if there was a zombie outbreak.  From gardening to bicycling, there are ways to Sustainably Survive the Zombie Apocalypse. (TW: General zombie horror / violence, links to movies with sexual threats; CN: some movie spoilers).

Froborr wrote: Since last Saturday, I've posted two things:

On My Little Po-Mo, Good gravy, girl! What's wrong with you? (Applebuck Season): I discuss the concept of character collapse and work my way around to liking the episode despite not liking the writer or the main character.

On Animated Discussions, I discuss intestering implications for what Disney can do with their newly acquired IP in Disney Buys LucasArts. And no, I don't mean Lucasfilm.

chris the cynic writes: 
I still haven't gotten around to that thing I was going to do, so I still want to find every newspaper in circulation in the US, or at least every English language one, that accepts electronic submissions.  There ought to be thousands and if there's a way to locate them better than Wikipedia's list of newspapers I haven't found it yet.  So if you know of a better way, please tell me
.  Also, if you know of anywhere else that has even the smallest chance of publishing an open letter to the school board described here (CN: Transphobia), please tell me.  But those were already written.

This week I wrote "Life's not fair" is no excuse, because it isn't, 
The Lovecraft Reference that Needs To Exist because in any work not set in Lovecraft's universe that quote is just a bit of early 20th century pop culture, not an ancient bit of lore.

I wrote two responses to part of Fred's deconstruction of Left Behind where Buck is driving around trying to get to Chloe.  The Skewed Slightly to the Left one had Cameron unexpectedly getting a driver, the other, called, "Her Bailiwick", will make no sense to people who have not seen the first episode of Warehouse 13.

I wrote several things about voting and the election.  After I voted I explained why I voted for a Senate candidate I would really rather not, and explained how Maine ended up with a Governor 61% of the people voted against in the process.  I responded to an internet ad that said to vote for Biblical values, which (for the most part) were not on the ballot, and a yard sign that said "Don't Redefine Marriage" while it was radically redefining marriage.  And in, "Rat@$#*%ing" I noted that a Nixonian election tactic is still in use.

Finally, the Bounty sank in the storm.  Of the 16 crew members of the replica ship, 14 were rescued.  One was recovered only to be declared dead.  Since I wrote the post the search for the remaining crew member, the captain, has been called off.
--Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community