(These ideas are explicated in this sloppy manifesto)

Wednesday, January 15, 2003
SplendorQuest: "Cut"

John Venlet at Improved Clinch links to Asparagirl, who in turn links to this story by Megan Lindholm. The story is called "Cut:," and it is nominated for a Nebula Award.

I intend to discuss the story, so you should read it before proceeding. Take note that the story itself is not a thing of Splendor, but understanding the art of it is, I think. Take note, also, that the subject matter is pretty graphic.

"Cut" is not at all my kind of story. I often like squalid stories where they are truthful. Sometime soon I will deconstruct "The Old Apartment" by Barenaked Ladies, which tells a story that is horrifying--but horrifyingly true. My major objection to "Cut" is that it is utterly false. The writing is fairly decent, at times imagic. But the characters are completely incredible in the context of the story, and the story itself is simply gratuitous.

Last first: "Cut" is a reductio ad absurdum: What is the logical end of 'body art'? Reductions are always at risk of being specious arguments, and this one surely is. 'Body art' is alleged to be decorative. Clitorectomy surely is not, although Lindholm makes a wave in that direction. 'Body art' is voluntary. Clitorectomy is not. Sexual 'body art' seeks to enhance sexual enjoyment. Clitorectomy seeks to negate sexual enjoyment.

Lindholm tries to motivate all of this by debate, but that just makes things worse. Her Patsy is smart and glib and hugely well-informed. She would never do something this dumb. An actual candidate for clitorectomy--if clitorectomy really happens--would be a very different person from Patsy. A voluntary candidate would be a thing to see. The fact is, clitorectomies or not, there are many, many women on Earth who volunteer for extreme subordination, and exploring their lives is something worth doing. The mother/daughter/grand-daughter interaction is more interesting than the story itself. Of the three women in the story, Katie, Patsy's mother, is the only one who is truly believable: She is consistently permissive and negligent of her responsibilities as a parent, vaguely distracted to the end. 'Granma,' the baker of cookies and wielder of Colt 45s, is even less credible than Patsy.

I am conflicted about the structure of the story. It consists of almost nothing but dialogue taking place over a very brief span of time. Virtually no action occurs, and what action there is does not advance the actual story. It is action in support of the dialogue, that's all. I myself write stories in this form all the time, but they are intended to work as editorials, or editorial cartoons, not as works of art. Lindholm makes up for events that illustrate her theme with gratuitously shocking dialogue about a gratuitously shocking subject. This is cheating. Staging a story about voluntary clitorectomy at the time and place of the voluntary clitorectomy is the honest way to do this, with or without 'Granma' and her gun.

Lindholm is a good writer. I can see why John Venlet and Asparagirl sought to cite this story. But "Cut" fails completely as art. This is not a matter of taste, I don't think, but a matter of scheme, plot/theme and structure. The story is shocking and readable. But it owns nothing of the truth of real human life. The shame of it is, there are two good stories here--mothers and daughters and actual voluntary extreme subordination--but neither one of them would appeal to the Nebula kind of reader...

Abel's world: The counter-argument...

A simply terrific Flash simulation of the forthcoming war from He's wrong, but it's fun anyway.

Cain's world: Why they hate us...

This is from Dennis Prager at
If America abandoned Israel, our Arab and Muslim haters would rejoice, but they would surely not stop hating us. Not one of them. They would only conclude that their terror worked, and that America will give in when the threats are great enough. One proof? Most Muslims living in Europe, which has abandoned Israel, continue to loathe Europe. Europe's abandonment of Israel has only convinced them -- for good reason -- that Europe has lost its moral fiber and is ripe for an Islamic takeover.
Prager goes on to list his reasons why Islam hates America, but I think he misses the most important one: Islam hates American--and the West as such--because it is a reproach to Islam.

If we are infidels, tools of the devil, why do we succeed where they fail? Why does god withhold his favor from those who are supposed to be favored? Cain did not slay Abel. Hellenism did not hunt down and eradicate barbaric Pastoralism. Pastoralism tells the story the way it does for two reasons: To hang onto the sheep, so to speak, and to feed them its seething resentment against Hellenism and its insuperable mercantile and military success. Islam hates the West because Islam was born in hatred for the West. It is Cain and Abel writ large in flowery calligraphy: Abel's Pastoralist counter-revolution against the Hellenic Cain, who was 'killing' the old way of doing things not by murder or conquest, but by sweet commercial persuasion. Unlike early Christianity, Islam did not suppress its vestigial Hellenic remnants, and it mistook the ensuing relative prosperity as proof of god's favor. When the Christians reclaimed Athens, and when Islam finally fully renounced it, then did Abel get a glimpse that nature--not god--had favored Cain all along.

Muslims must choose, and they don't want to. The fruit of the West is abundant and her Temptations unending. The Koran is Truth, unerring, and yet it cannot bear up to scrutiny. The Muslims bring with them god's final revelation, yet, as with the Christians, they succeed best when they live by reason, and fail worst when they hew to dogma. They have not discovered the corrupt Christian solution to this contradiction--letting Cain run the firm so long as he doesn't put his name on the door--so they are left with these alternatives: Apostasy or murder. Cain did not slay Abel. But if Islam is to survive as Islam, it must kill the West.

That is why they hate us.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003
SplendorQuest: Lost dogs...

I've written about my girl Shyly, and both Cathy and I have written about Desdemona. But we have two other big dogs whom I've never mentioned, although they're depicted in links off our Christmas cards. Char Leigh is an Akita/Chow mix, fierce and beautiful. Peritas is half Doberman but still all scampering Labrador. All of our pets are rescues, but now Char Leigh and Peritas are in need of rescue. They got out of our yard last week, and by the time we knew about it, they were long gone. We've been scouring neighborhoods, putting up posters, making and taking phone calls. Last night Cathy and I walked all around the Lakes at Biltmore, following up on a tip to a dog who could have been Char Leigh. We're both going back there separately today to follow-up. And every day I go to Dogschwitz, the horrifying pound, in hopes of finding them before they are euthanized. All, so far, to no avail. We'll find them in due course, although I expect they will be thinner and more cautious by the time we do.

I would write about dogs. Truly man's best friend: Not as vital as your relationship with your spouse or your kids, but more important than any other after those two. To have my girl Shyly in the car with me is to have all the company I need. She's going with me a lot, now, as I look for the two prodigal sons. I would write about dogs. But I don't have time. I have to go look for my dogs...

Sunday, January 12, 2003
Socialism is evil? Sure. But to a mainstream newspaper...?

It's not the what but the where of this op-ed by Dr. David P. Shreiner. This appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review:
And so the elderly and the chronically ill cannot pay for their medication. So they look to the government for more socialization to help them. It's a vicious circle. This is how the government grows and assures that more and more citizens become dependents of the state. Meanwhile, certain privileged elites become extremely wealthy.

This is the fruit of the evil called socialism, the evil which begets more evil. Why can't Americans understand this after the terrifying experience of Germany's National Socialism (better known as Nazism)?
This sign foreruns no death or fall of kings, it's just nice to see the other side of the story in newspaper for a change.