You are a Lying Liar who Lies!

 

Sorry to accuse, but I’m sure you can’t help it. You’re human, after all.

 

Unless you’re invading aliens, in which case you may as well skip this post, because it probably won’t help you out in your conquest, or even in translating humanity, at all.

 

Anyway, we’ve discovered the television in the living room can connect directly to Netflix, and I’ve been watching it much more often, and you know, I pay for it. So that’s good. It also gives me time to knit and I’ve nearly finished the back of my first top!

 

This time, my recommended tags include: Barack Obama, United States, Mitt Romney, Maryland, Stephanie Cutter, Joe Biden, People, and History.

 

 

I is amused.

 

Mostly because, though I am accusing everyone of being a liar, it’s in relation to the TV show Lie to Me, hence the reference to Netflix. It’s not a great show, honestly, but at least it’s fun to watch. Lie to Me has another Sherlock Holmes–style character, at least in that the character has been such an enduring influence on our culture. The idea is, he can automatically tell you’re lying because Science.

 

It seems to be about on the level of every other show using Science to solve crimes. Or Numb3rs. Yes, I like that show too. Sorry, scientists, the silly conclusions and far-reaching fantasy conclusions do not stop me from watching fake science crime dramas—at least I won’t watch the CSIs…except sometimes when they’re particularly funny.

 

Back to Lie to Me. It’s a little harder to talk about because, despite having seen six episodes, I don’t know any of the character names. Anyway, so you have the genius-jerk type character, his Girl Friday, the weird guy, the new girl, and the secretary. Secretary, her name is Heidi, hardly shows up, and the weird guy takes awhile to get screen-time during the set up, but now is a foil for the new girl. The new girl is fun, but surely can’t have decent relationships outside of work, even if we haven’t seen that at all, because she doesn’t seem very clearly with humanity, except for identifying emotions. I like Girl Friday, she’s got back story and fun quirks. Main character, as I said, is a typical genius jerk, snarky, ought to get sued for harassment, can quell any naysayer with just one quip. These shows never acknowledge how attached people are to their opinions whether or not they’re caught.

 

Hotch on Criminal Minds did it better though. Mostly because he’s not a jerk, but because calling out the lawyer in the courtroom played with concepts of hubris and poetic justice

 

 

Not that Lie to Me isn’t trying to do the same thing, but the main character is supposed to pull it off every episode, and it’s less impressive that way. Also, they telegraph the guilty party a lot, and you generally know the answer as soon as the character comes on-screen. The fun comes from seeing how they’ll tease out the truth. It is nice that just because they can see a lie, they can’t necessarily force the truth.

 

A little less inerrancy, perhaps, in drawing conclusions would be nice. The characters are always right when they interpret the ‘micro-expressions.’ I are aware that these things exist but it’s not a straightforward science and there are, or should be, more ways of going wrong.

 

No, instead they’re always right. And lying is bad regardless of situation or intent.

 

For instance, I recently read about a Japanese social construct tatemae. That particular website compared it to a ‘social reality:’ for instance, when you go through the grocery store checkout line and the clerk asks how you are, you say ‘fine,’ well, unless you’re particularly socially inept or just a selfish jerk. The article I read described tatemae as similar to the white lie, but without the Western connection toward a lie: in other words, a necessary truth for social life. When trying to find that article again, I also found another article that defined it as pretense and considered it problematic.

 

That second article does make a very good point on the social scale, but in discussing Lie to Me, I want to discuss the idea that whole-scale truth isn’t necessarily a good idea. For instance, there’s no need for the woman at the end of the first episode to admit she’s glad to have gotten another candidate fired, except to cause bad blood—as if the workplace needs any more of that.

 

Culturally, in the US anyway, I don’t think our problem is increased lying, but the lying is a symptom of our overall lack of..dare I call it ‘honor’. People don’t care about how their actions, for example, cheating, plagiarizer  lying, cause problems for others and are more willing to break social norms for personal gain. A consequence, I think, of our idealization of individualism. The problem comes down to lack of ethics, and not more lying. But I’m supposed to be talking about a television show where people have already started lying, and this fictional corporation has to determine the truth.

 

Which, is, in part, the reason for the awkward nature of the show. The main character apparently started this company, and every episode they’re hired to solve two problems, often criminally related. So they have no investment except to find the Truth. Conceivably, if the client doesn’t go alone with them, the human lie-detectors could just walk away. Also, I’m not sure how they’re paid.

 

I don’t know. Several how-to writer’s books insist the protagonist must have high personal stake in the plot, otherwise the reader will question why they don’t just quit when it gets hard. Aside from that not being a desirable trait, fictionally or otherwise, it’s a valid concern. Why shouldn’t the characters of Lie to Me not walk away?

 

Heh. It’s not a question that the show asks, and it definitely doesn’t support it. That’s just what happens when I go off on a tangent. It’s a fun show to watch though. As I knit more this winter, it’ll definitely be on in the background.

 

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Refereeing Sanity

If the referees who made the bad call at the football game—which I know nothing about, as I don’t follow sports—aren’t getting death threats, I will be flabbergasted, flattened by shock.

What a terrible thing, this lack of surprise. How has it become acceptable to wish death on complete strangers? And for something, as dare I say, as useless and pointless as a sport game.

Some time ago, I read that, with all the movement of modern life, and lack of geographic and family connections, the college is the new hometown. That’s the place to which you swear allegiance. Perhaps sports are the same? We carve niches for ourselves, our identities, out of these fragile things like sports, or books.

On Goodreads today, I read several negative reviews of The Name of the Wind. One commentator wished the reviewer to die in a fire—it’s a common expression on the internet, though not one usually said ‘face-to-face’ in even that most figurative sense. But for that Rothfuss fan, did he truly believe the reviewer deserved that level of rhetoric? for disagreeing over a book?

And what about the commentator who offered cancer as an appropriate punishment, though more sardonically.

I’m sure, were these people actually interviewed, they didn’t mean it. What’s online isn’t real, after all.

Sports seem to bring more sincere anger though, more passion, more savagery. A bad call at my high school football game (an honest injustice) also lead to death threats, to the point where the referee had to be escorted from town by police. My aunt told me a story about substituting for a mail carrier, when something went wrong: “She said, ‘I hope you die,’ right to my face.”

I can’t claim full innocence myself. Driving exposes me to stupid people without any filter (unlike the internet) and when I’m nearly sideswiped (and alone) I’ll shriek aloud and think I hope you get in an accident (though more likely profanity-laced because I can’t seem to stop myself) but am immediately after shattered with guilt. I have to pray for their safety and happiness—which is almost worse, because I would rather they learn their lesson and not do it again.

As I hope is obvious, this is a trend that bothers me tremendously.

What little I know about the football bad call came from Good Morning America. Now I suppose I can’t blame them for giving it priority—the show isn’t designed to actually give anyone important information, just the highlights of what’s popular for ratings (although people could just go online and see all these memes for themselves). Still, when they joked about the referees hiding in the dark in their homes…I was taken aback, to say the least. People can be violent, and when you’re being threatened anonymously, likely by others who can find out far too much about you, it’s just not funny. Given that the GMA hosts have been pushing the problems with online bullying, I’m surprised no one thought to warn them that this is exactly the same problem.

I touched on the idea that all of this is due to misplaced passion. Because our modern lives have so much upheaval and so little stability, and so rarely prioritizes self-knowledge, society pushes worth based on exterior markers. With so many people in the world and the idealization of ‘individuality’, never defined of course, people latch on to anything they can to create smaller communities: things that make them unique, but not too unique. In The Googlization of Everything, Siva Vaidhayanathan calls it the “local cultural movement”, and details its causes and effects.

And I have so much else to say about that: see these bookmarks?

bookmarks

The downside of library books is that I’m not allowed to write in them.

In other words, people get irrational and won’t accept any criticism because they are insecure. No one has taught them how to learn who they are—and while this is a cultural thing, education should be a solution. But since we’ve turned schools into nothing more than a standardized test factories, people don’t even have the chance to learn it anymore (the real learning was always optional, because it can’t be forced).

I keep touching on other posts I want to do, so before I get too off track: please try to take yourself less seriously. If you love something and hear someone else talking about how much it sucks? Take a deep breath. It’s not you, I promise.

In fact, difficult as it is, try reaching out specifically to those who disagree. Don’t attack them, just listen. Try to understand.

Maybe you’ll learn something.

I feel like I’ve said this before…

Let’s Not Talk Politics, Talk About Sex!

 

It bothers me that we worry more about talking about politics in public than sex. Mostly because I find sex fairly irrelevant except for the participants.

But considering how concerned people are with what’s going on in other people’s bedrooms (or wherever), I don’t know why we can’t talk about politics.

For example, one of the creepy shows on TLC (remember when it was The Learning Channel? haven’t I mentioned that before?) was about fetishes. Well, okay, why not? If you’ve got a fetish that’s a little out there, it might be comforting to be introduced to others like yourself: although one would think with the rise of the internet it’d be less necessary, and less freak show—all right, I do know TLC only airs it for the freak show reason. Look at these weird people, aren’t you glad to be normal?

So uncomfortable.

But most awkward was a point where the subject of the episode talked about how he’d “come out” to his family and friends about his fetish, which was balloons. I don’t object to anyone having a fetish. Not my business, right? But to announce to family and friends what you like to do on your own time is just too much information. That’s not coming out. Coming out as gay, for example, may be important, because parents and friends might not expect it. For a friend they may want contact information for the parents, for a significant other they’re going to want to give the talk, and you don’t want to confuse the two. Announcing you’re aroused by balloons means I’ll never invite you to a birthday party. What you think about balloons, unless I’m a romantic partner, is never going to be relevant to me.

I’m not the only with with issues with our glorification of over-sharing in our culture.

But if we can talk about what you want to do to balloons, or statues, or cars, why can’t we talk about politics?

For example, and this relates to my post on audience behavior from a few weeks ago, I saw a clip of Romney making a reference to the Americans killed in the embassy attacks, and some guy, probably a college kid thinking he was actually making a point, started yelling from the audience about, I don’t know, not politicizing Libya.

You know what? Politicians may not be the best suited at giving honor to those who’ve given their lives for the country. We have demanded that they do, however, and so every politician is and should be talking about that loss. You, kid, are not standing up for any grand social right, you are disrespecting those killed.

 

Betrayal! Confessions of an eBook Reader

As in, someone who reads e-books, not an e-book device.*

 

books

books (Photo credit: brody4)

When I was in Academic Decathlon, they asked me “What’s your favorite book genre?” My mouth went dry and I know I took too long to answer. “Fiction? …or nonfiction.” Any question connecting favorites to books strikes me as entirely unfair.

 

After all, how many books are published per day?

 

When I was a kid I wanted to read every book ever published. Even now, I occasionally get anxiety attacks over the sheer number of books I haven’t read yet, and all those brilliant works I may not ever read. By Roman times, scholars were bemoaning the breadth of important literature, and the impossibility of reading it all.

 

There’s just no way to keep up—or in, e.g., in the loop. I’ve always had eclectic reading tastes: I’ll read science and history and paranormal romance and the so-called literary novel and fantasy and memoir. I’ve never been discriminatory and I love (some) genre works as much as I love (some) of the classics. Let’s face it, some of the classics are only canon because the manuscript happened to survive.

 

Growing up with reading privilege, which is to say, a bookcase in every room, my own library before I could read on my own, I learned to love books, and especially value the physical book. Books are more than just a product, because all those words stand for ideas, a nearly direct communication from the author’s brain to yours. Fortunately, they do not include mind control, and so you are free to interpret the author as best (or worst) you can.

 

I only bought my nook after getting hooked on the local library’s e-book lending program, but reading on the computer screen, at least in terms of ‘real’ books, has never been the comfortable for me. And while I do love my nook, but…

 

As a dedicated reader of everything, I feel guilty for sidling along with the e-book bandwagon. (I’m far too timid to jump after all, and paying that much for those little text files?) People keep talking about e-books killing the traditional publishing market. Which I find problematic in two parts: first, with the rise of the dependence on technology, some form  of change was inevitable, and second because that’s just such a huge shift for so little benefit.

 

Remember when email was supposed to mean we wouldn’t use paper anymore?

 

My nook is nice. I can carry around as many books as I want; I have instant, free access to most classics (public domain), and I can read it more easily all the time. Like walking, or eating, and even knitting although turning the pages can be difficult with my fingers tangled in yarn. I can just set it on my knee and go, whereas if I try the same thing with a paperback—whoops, lost my place.

 

But O! do I miss the feel of paper and slick covers and especially typography. Not that physical books always pay the closest attention to the quality of the interior pages, but the nook can never match even an average layout…especially when the e-book designer formats the text incorrectly and it doesn’t respond to my spacing and text choices and their text choice is awful.

 

I nearly went all caps there, the phenomenon annoys me so much, but I didn’t think that’d be fair to you, dear reader.

Cover of "The Monsters of Templeton"

Cover of The Monsters of Templeton

The nook fits in my purse better than my former minimum of two novels and a hardcover, just in case. I have access to the library program books, which, though it isn’t a huge selection, is still different from the rest. I can only check out three e-books at once compared to the local library’s ten, but the two week limit means I don’t keep them three months before I get to read them—I mean I always try to finish, but you know, life gets in the way, and I couldn’t just not check them out, right? E-books don’t take up space on my shelves, which is good, because I don’t have any. And it’s easier to get new books on the nook, since I don’t live within 100 miles of a bookstore.

 

 

But I can read a physical book better: because the pages are larger, you see two at once, and flipping black and forth is easier. When I picked up The Monsters of Templeton this morning I realized I also read much faster and more happily.

 

Dear everyone, don’t give up on the paper book because some people buy e-books. Physical books are accessible and shareable and so much more valuable.

 

*I can’t find a standardized spelling for e-book anywhere.

 

The Burden of a Name

Growing up, I was never very happy with the first name Marie.

For one thing, I was the only one who had it, and in elementary school, anything that sets you apart is risky. And anyway, everyone wanted to call me Maria, which was worse than having a ‘weird’ name (because it wasn’t even the right name, and sounds entirely different—although only when your name is Marie, apparently).

Marie Curie

Marie Curie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s grown on me since, and I like how it suits me: a little old-fashioned, a little different. Knowing approximately 20% of the female population seems to have it as a middle name is somewhat aggravating, however. It works so so well for me, why doesn’t everyone want it?

One of my main complaints growing up with the name Marie was its history. Notable figures named Marie: Marie Antoinette (reviled throughout history and had her head cut off and especially the obnoxious way she’s glorified by pop culture) and Marie Curie (who poisoned herself with radiation, whatever she did for science).  I like knowing about science in the general sense, but I’ve never particularly wanted to practice it, and so what did I have to look up to.

On a whim I looked  up the name Marie in behindthename.com, which is probably my favorite name site (for fiction purposes).

Name ratings for Marie

I rather like those stats. And while some of the comments on the website were positively mean:

“Marie sounds nice and I was planning on using it as a middle name for my daughter. I’m so glad I looked up the meaning first! It means “Bitterness” “Sea of Bitterness” and “Rebellious”. For me that’s a deal breaker of massive proportions. So I warn all who plan on using this name: ABSOLUTELY HORRID MEANING!”

Well fortunately, other commentators mentioned that that isn’t necessarily its meaning, but quite frankly that seems rather vitriolic (and maybe, to be judgmental, simplistic) or just a name.

Isabella Teotochi Marini

Isabella Teotochi Marini (Photo credit: Maia C)

And then many of the commentators linked me to other famous Maries: unfortunately one of my favorites gave up the Marie: Vigée Le Brun, the 18th century artist who started out as Marie Louise, which admittedly, is a little less distinctive, but I didn’t even know she’d at least been born a Marie. That may have even been inspiring to an inspiring artist. And she was a favorite portraitist of Marie Antoinette.

And aside from the two most famous Maries, a scientist and an unfortunate queen (maybe Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State, but no one knows recent history of politics or reality, and she gave up the name Marie), there were a few Marie artists, like Marie de France, a medieval poet. And considering medieval times, being a famous female poet isn’t bad. There’s also Marie Wittich, apparently a well-known German opera singer, but I know little about the comparative fame of any opera singers.

Marie Lloyd

Marie Lloyd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do like opera casually, though, so I’ll take her. Slightly less related, but both a Marie and a Medici, Marie de’ Medici was queen of France and disliked by whoever wrote her Wikipedia article, but she supported the arts. And finally, there’s Marie Lloyd, whose name wasn’t actually Marie, but was a popular music hall singer turn of the (20th) century who showed great skill in innuendo and was refused entry into the US for “moral turpitude”, which I find rather fantastic, so I’ll take her too.

And this how the German’s pronounce it, just because,  http://www.nordicnames.de/Aussprache.html

As for my lack of interest in Marie Curie growing up, I’ve heard about a couple new biographies recently, so we’ll see how that goes.

An FYI on Audience Participation

 

Please don’t.

 

Okay, so I’m admittedly a traditionalist on this issue: 8 years of concert band will do that to a kid. But there is a time and a place for everything, and often the time and place doesn’t include the audience.

 

Hence the word “audience” instead of “participant”.

 

Audience

Audience (Photo credit: thinkmedialabs)

 

Sighing over the in-girl -guy in movie theaters? I’d prefer you keep your preference to yourselves, but sure, so long as you’re not too obnoxious. A thirty decibel difference in the clapping vs screaming at a high school graduation? The poor kids have suffered enough through high school that those who’ve pulled together an entourage are the ones who don’t need it.

 

All those shrieking people outside Good Morning America (and similarly, anything televised)—do you ever feel the least bit silly?

 

These, though, I can grudgingly accept as a consequence of the total lack of subtly in our culture. Or our total lack of culture, which ever way you want to look at it.

 

After the Aurora, Colorado shootings, President Obama used the platform of one of his intended campaign speeches to address the nation. That’s fine. Just as well he suspend campaigning on a day like that and it’s standard practice that the president make a speech after such tragedies. It’s sad that we have such a precedent.

 

But that’s absolutely no excuse for all those audience members, especially those standing behind him, to start squealing and hollering in today’s Hollywood ‘applause’ I get to see the president! That should have been a time of horror—respect and honor for the victims. Contain your fan excitement and understand there’s a world outside of you.

 

Sometimes silence says most of all. OK?

 

Don’t Even Ask Me to Play Nice

 

I’m not sure there’s anything that frustrates me more than people using ‘niceness’ as an excuse to silence others. If there’s an illegitimate argument, fine, point it out.

But to say that someone shouldn’t speak out—whatever the issue, be it racism or the color of a website—because they didn’t make their point ‘nicely’ enough…

…it pisses me off.

Notice how ‘nice’ always has quotations around it? Because it’s effectively meaningless. Unless it’s used in the sense of ‘precision, which is never the case in these arguments. Furthermore, ‘nice’ came through from Middle English as foolish all the way back to its Latin root for “to be ignorant”. Good reason to never be nice.

People just can’t stand any challenge to their internal belief system, or anything that they feel defines them: which is to say, anything they like, because no one examines who they are beyond these things anymore. Have they ever? It’s certainly not taught in schools. Test scores and rote memorization are the key words of the day, and thought doesn’t come anywhere into it.

“Thought” is the only thing, in my opinion that everyone needs to know.

They push college educations on everyone as the answer to societies ills. But college is just continues the high school philosophy—another four or more years of refined job training. Teaching something as abstract as ‘how to think’ simply isn’t a factor.

Beware of the anti-anti-intellectualist (tdotc.wordpress.com)

So people define themselves by their shoes, and you get Sex in the City. They define themselves by their money and cars, and you John Goodman, the millionaire who killed a kid and abandoned the scene of the crime and who also ‘adopted’ his girlfriend. Then there are the people who wish they could define themselves by all of these things and you get Twilight and its offshoots, all emblematic of the exceedingly problematic way we treat young people, and especially women, and the glorification of rape culture.

Bestselling books (in the example I know most about) appeal most to the common denominator. I’m the last person to think this is necessarily a bad thing. But without readers who are capable of self-examination, who understand they can like something without thinking it’s the best thing ever, all these problems just get worse.

For example, back to GR. Many of the highly intelligent (intellectual) reviews bring in their life experiences, other books they’ve read, and if necessary to their response to the book, maybe author behavior. Often, when they’re responding to a book they don’t like, they respond to real-world events, real-life problems that are left unexamined by the text. Intellectuals don’t read in a vacuum.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
― Socrates

Fans of the criticized work, however, often come again and again to such negative reviews just to post that the reviewer is wrong. A rare few will be willing to understand the reviewer’s point, whether they agree with the conclusion or not. Most seem to take it as a personal attack. If the reviewer dislikes the book, they dislike the reader.

Frankly this is insane.

Sometimes these reviews are hidden because they’re flagged by fans as ‘inappropriate’. Back to what this does to conversations in our culture, you end up with sites like STGRB (which I will neither link nor specify further) which has stalked and harassed reviewers and even authors who object. All you need to know is that the site believes if someone goes on the record as not liking a book, it is bullying, and therefore should be attacked.

Few forums (in the larger sense of the word) are this actively anti-intellectual or anti-intelligence, and it’s an especially rare example for the book world. Even in the larger cultural discussion, it’s skeevy behavior— and yet is still something that people seem to enjoy talking about in a ‘titillating’ kind of way: like Huffington Post space given to STGRB apparently without apparently ever realizing thoughtful people found that behavior horrifically offense.

Thoughtful people enjoy conversations, playing with words, real discussions. Many others don’t realize what they love isn’t what they are, and can’t justify it to themselves any other way. Any difference is an attack on who they are, and they fear not having an answer to that challenge. And they do everything they can to silence it.

So if you come across someone just ripping apart something you love…Well, I hate to say it, but the best response is silence—at first. I hope you can think about their opinion, and their reasons. If they don’t have any? It’s not worth your time. If they’re all invalid? Same thing. But maybe, much as you hate to admit it, maybe they have a point. Start there, and you can have a real conversation.

Even on the internet.