Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 15:00 on 04-10-2013, Robinson L
That's really shitty; sorry he put you through that, Cheriola. I enjoy the guy's work, and often admire his take on issues, even when I disagree with him. And yet I can all-to-easily picture him responding in that way - he seems like the kind of person who would be as hard-headed about his own ignorance as he is about other things.

Thank you, Cheriola, though, for making the effort to get through to him in a good cause. I know a little something about social anxiety and conflict-avoidance (and I have several layers of privilege to shield me from some of the worst forms of reprisal), so I can imagine how stressful just making that initial overture must have been for you; and I applaud you for stepping so far outside your comfort zone.

I'm sorry I can't be there to give you a hug in person, I can well imagine that you'd need it (I know I would.)
at 14:43 on 04-10-2013, Cheriola
I always rather enjoyed Chuck Sonnenburg's videos [...] I had Sonnenburg pegged as someone who would understand this.

Yes, that's what I was thinking, too, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered. It's like, if you can stop cringing at the ableist slurs, his reviews are usually enjoyable. But once or twice every month, there's something upsetting like a offhand rape joke. I thought, "He can't possibly be doing this out of maliciousness and if he could just stop doing that, the reviews would be so much safer to watch for everyone." In his videos he seems to care about not saying anthing obviously sexist or mysogynist, even if he's a bit hit-and-miss and wouldn't recognise intersectionality if you underlined it three times in red. So how can he have this massive blind spot on such an obvious matter?

I mean, even if I had given him the expletive-peppered tongue-lashing he deserved (The worst I did was call him lazy for not thinking things through and not educating himself. Because that's the most benign explanation I can come up with, and I wanted to give him at least a small taste of how this kind of writing makes you look.), how can you have priorities so skewed that taking offense at somebody's tone would be more important than realising that making prison rape references for comedic purposes (like in the latest X-Files video, though it's hardly been the first time - I've been waiting for him to cut it out for about a year) is a shitty and harmful thing to do? He started his very brief answer with "If you hadn't said that, I would have had a discussion with you" ...How can there even be a discussion about this? What possible argument could you have in favour of making rape jokes, especially one that is more valid in his mind than "you're triggering people and contribute to rape culture". I just... I could understand grudgingly admitting to not knowing any better but not wanting to apologise, because it's hard to face up to having done something hurtful. But this kind of cognitive dissonance? I don't get it. It's not like he's actively trying to be offensive, or lacks the intelligence to follow the argument when it's spelled out for him. It's beyond disappointing or enraging, and instead on some whole new level of alienating and despair-inducing.
at 13:26 on 04-10-2013, Fin
I used to watch his stuff regularly, but I haven't in some time. Most of his criticisms of sexism in the shows he reviews are pretty low-bar stuff, and his defences of his more politically incorrect jokes got on my nerves -- he's dragged out the old equal opportunities offender argument before. His review of TNG's The Child was the last straw for me. Any goodwill he might have generated for pointing out that episode's sexism was ruined by his point-missing comments on Guinan's role in the show and an astoundingly misogynistic rant about Pulaski.

Sorry to hear about your email exchange with him, Cheriola. :(
at 12:46 on 04-10-2013, Daniel F
Oh my; that's a shame to hear. I always rather enjoyed Chuck Sonnenburg's videos, and I'm not sure I want to judge an entire person on one secondhand e-mail exchange, but even so...

I don't know. I'm just very sad to hear that. Especially since the subject is rape jokes. It's not as if it's a very complex, difficult-to-understand issue. This is basic human decency, isn't it? I had Sonnenburg pegged as someone who would understand this.

*sigh* I'm really sorry that happened.
at 11:18 on 04-10-2013, Fishing in the Mud
Anyway, thanks for creating a safe space where I don't have do 101 education before someone deigns to listen to me trying to help them do less harm to other people.

Heartily seconded.
at 11:08 on 04-10-2013, Arthur B
Does anyone here watch SF Debris?

Not heard of it before now; not likely to start if dude in question is as obnoxiously clueless as you suggest. Sorry to hear you had to deal with that.
at 08:12 on 04-10-2013, Cheriola
Does anyone here watch SF Debris?

I've just had a really depressing/anxiety-inducing (I've got literal heart-palpitations and a headache now) email exchange with the creator of those reviews regarding his occasional use of rape jokes, which served to remind me that even most guys who seem to be basically well-intentioned and thoughtful will react like entitled, thin-skinned babies when criticised even politely, and more importantly, are unable to show even the slightest bit of empathy with women's experience of online discussions about this kind of thing. It also reminded me that even men who seem to have some basic feminist knowledge won't have heard of or understand the concept of "Schroedinger's Rapist" (I mean, even Butcher gets that!) or why tone arguments against people who you have privilege over are wrong. It's like I speak a completely different language, with words that don't even have a translation in his frame of reference.

I feel like I've wasted hours of my time formulating measured and educational emails (with a few links to more material, scientific proof and detailed arguments presented by other men!) only to be dismissed because he doesn't really care about being a good person. Not enough to actually read the links or listen despite one perceived insult, anyway. (I wasn't actually insulting him, even though I really had to bite my togue. Because not making rape jokes should be self-evident to any thinking adult, or even someone particularly thoughtless, if he hasn't lived under a rock these last few years.) And more importantly, it took me a lot of emotional energy that I can't really afford to spend. (Due to my social anxiety and conflict-avoidance, it takes a lot out of me to speak out critically to strangers and even more to anticipate their most-likely-negative response.)

I mean, I was prepared for the usual non-excuse ("if I have offended") and justifications, and not to be thanked for pointing out to him that he was scaring away a good part of his potential audience. But to be completely dismissed just because I dared to point out that most male comedians and geeks usually react very viciously when criticised by a woman, and that I trust him not be that way or to abuse my real name email adress that I was using as a sign of good faith, and that I hope he appreciates that trust (basically, I was trying to say "Be glad that I think you're not a completely lost cause." and "Please don't lash out at me in a kneejerk reaction, my emotional well-being is fragile." without being so blunt and, well, appeasing-the-oppressor about it.) He said he can't respect me because I "thought him capable of that". For one, I specifically said that I trusted him to be better, and secondly, does he think his rape jokes inspire confidence?

I wrote a rather sharper and sarcastic email back, but that didn't make me feel better. I feel like I need a hug. I feel like I should give you guys ally-cookies just for being decent cis-male human beings, and, damn, I shouldn't have to. The world is so fucked up.

Anyway, thanks for creating a safe space where I don't have do 101 education before someone deigns to listen to me trying to help them do less harm to other people.
at 19:51 on 02-10-2013, Melanie permalink
at 18:50 on 01-10-2013, Craverguy
Arthur, you should pitch that idea to Hollywood. There's a market for that.
at 11:03 on 01-10-2013, Arthur B
That reminds me of my dream version of Wuthering Heights where it's basically a Georgian-era Natural Born Killers with Heathcliff and Cathy in the Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis roles.
at 02:23 on 01-10-2013, Alasdair Czyrnyj
I'd like to believe that that Marie Antoinette book is secretly an anti-Bourbon screed but...well, it's 2013. Who would it be directed against? "Take that, those three women on Tumblr?"

Because kids these days don't know what happened to Hitler?

Everyone knows what happened to Hitler. His soul got sucked into a glass cube that's now sitting on the Red Skull's mantlepiece.
at 00:49 on 01-10-2013, Alice
Yeah, it doesn't seem quite the right genre for a Bear Grylls rec, somehow...

And wow, I can't decide whether that Marie Antoinette book looks "so bad it's terrible", or "so bad it's awesome".
at 00:25 on 01-10-2013, Michal
Nah, it's missing the obligatory zeppelin.

And Bear Grylls apparently blurbed this book?

ETA: The "Customers who bought this book also bought..." section includes a book that's far more WTF to me...Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer.
at 23:30 on 30-09-2013, Melanie
It would be a decent cover for a book about time travel, maybe.
at 22:28 on 30-09-2013, Alice
Another wacky YA book cover courtesy of my local chain bookshop -- though it was the following bit from Amazon's blurb that really made me go o_O :

"A note by the author explains the truth behind the fiction and lets readers know what really became of history's greatest villains."

Because kids these days don't know what happened to Hitler?

(To be fair, while it's not brilliant, the book cover's not the worst ever, it just doesn't give me much confidence that the book's any good...)
at 20:46 on 27-09-2013, Arthur B
Indeed it is.
at 18:52 on 27-09-2013, Dan H
I ... do not even know what this is.

Is this another example of people going to remarkable lengths to viral-promote something that isn't actually very good?
at 11:30 on 26-09-2013, Arthur B
So it turns out that @horse_ebooks and Pronunciation Book, which people liked mainly because they genuinely seemed to be slightly malfunctional and whimsical spam bots let loose on social media, were both elaborate stunts designed to promote an art project*. At least one person isn't impressed by the extent of the manipulation the folks behind this engaged in.

*Apparently @horse_ebooks used to be a genuine spam account, but the people behind the art project bought it off the owner in 2011.
at 05:43 on 26-09-2013, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Sweet Jesus. I spent an evening and about 4000 words writing about a manga series. What has happened to my life?

Still worth it though. Sometimes a story just hits you like a brick and you need to talk about it.

(And no, it wasn't the one you're thinking about. Or that one.)

Aside from that, I've got some random horror-things for October, then that should be it for the year.

And before I toddle off to bed, something lighter: Star Trek '09 as summarized in screencaps by an excited fangirl. [spoiler]p.s. I am a member of the canon police.[/spoiler]
at 17:16 on 23-09-2013, Kit
Actually, France having a semi-presidential system has been rather conducive to coalition governments. It has happened quite a few times that the president and the parliamentary majority (and thus the prime minister) were political opponents and thus forced into a power-sharing arrangement of cohabitation. This isn't as frequent anymore since 2002 (at that point the term of the president and that of the National Assembly were synchronised at long last, reducing the possibility of political discrepancies between the votes), but even so coalitions are pretty much the norm - as of now, the Socialist Party is cooperating with Europe Ecologie- Les Verts and the Radical Party of the Left, for instance. The president is indeed relatively powerful, but he can't govern without the majority of the Parliament.
I think you might be right - having a two party system probably has this kind of effect on electoral discourse and iconography. I wouldn't say that electoral campaigns can't be vicious and sometimes a bit, well, exalted (or frothing at the mouth, depending on where you're standing) in France, but yeah, the perspective of having to govern in a coalition might foster a more sober and restrained political climate.
at 16:44 on 23-09-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
anything more enthusiastic than a slogan like the FG's "Take back the power" (without any exclamation mark, mind you) and a sober photograph of a stoic or hopeful candidate would get associated with slightly hysterical extremist propaganda of dubious respectability. I don't know if it's a general cultural thing, though.

I wonder if that's an off shoot of a two party system, because there will probably not be a situation where you have to share power oor have a coalition government. Although does that apply to France really? How does it go on the parliamentary level there, are coalitions usual, or does the relatively powerful office of president mix things up?
at 16:38 on 23-09-2013, Arthur B
Come to think of it, I was on a brief holiday in Marseilles when Sarkozy got in and I remember the election posters around there were in a very similar style.
at 16:33 on 23-09-2013, Kit
Find a lot of philosophical texts heavy going? There is anotter medium of discourse.

Oh sweet Jesus, now I'm having flashbacks to the Thesis of Doom - some kind of post-philosophical stress disorder? Anyway, it's not until I came across those otters that I realised just how really fucking ubiquitous the word "other" is in philosophy. Especially if you're working on the post-structuralist/deconstruction/any kind of feminist/subaltern/post-colonialist studies end of the spectrum, which I sort of do (even though I think I never want to hear the word "postmodern" again for at least ten years). So, basically, there is a high probability I will now have flashes of frolicking otters every time I read a philosophical text of any relevance whatsoever to my work. Thanks, man :)

Re: the electoral posters, I remember those in Germany being fairly on par with ours here (in France) - most of those I've seen were quite restrained, even when they were bearing the rousing slogans of the Front de Gauche (a left-wing/far-left coalition which became the vector of many hopes for change, especially amongst people my age) in 2012; I don't know if that's the case for anyone else in continental Europe, but I'd say that, here, anything more enthusiastic than a slogan like the FG's "Take back the power" (without any exclamation mark, mind you) and a sober photograph of a stoic or hopeful candidate would get associated with slightly hysterical extremist propaganda of dubious respectability. I don't know if it's a general cultural thing, though.
at 14:39 on 23-09-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
Seems rather tame (but very civilised) compared to this sort of thing.

But that is much less ambigious and sort of easier for the basic voter, who just needs a compact and concise picture to make a decision. In this case, for example, it is obvious that the voters best interest is to vote for the killer robot from the labour party, because they do not want to get killed by the killer robot. Plus, you get the impression that the killer robot is a new one as well, so progress, yay.