Dallas Jenkins + Zoombombers
The other night I had the great privilege of hearing Dallas Jenkins, creator of The Chosen, which I now remember I said a long time ago I would review on this blog at some point and then I didn't, do a Q&A session with Mormon Studies Chair Patrick Mason at USU. He was, as always, charming and funny and spiritually supercharged. He talked about giving his career to God after one of the biggest failures of his life, and how God has guided him since then. It's very clear from his stories and from the most recent results of his career that this guidance is powerful and frequent. I thought to ask myself on this occasion, what does "the gift of the Holy Ghost" include that he doesn't already have? I was taught that my church has exclusive access to this gift, which is bestowed at baptism; that the Holy Ghost can and does speak to people outside the church, but only we can have it as our constant companion. And in fairness, I don't know of any other religion that places nearly such an emphasis on personal two-way communication with God as we do. Evangelical Christianity, which Dallas calls his spiritual home, places far more emphasis on the authority of the Bible and even asserts that feelings are an unreliable guide to truth. Yet I would wager that he has a stronger and deeper relationship with God than the overwhelming majority of Latter-day Saints. And he's one of the people that Brad Wilcox thinks is only "playing church" because he doesn't "have God's permission."
He talked about how focusing on Jesus can bring down religious barriers, and how people of different denominations can disagree even about significant things, refuse to compromise on their own beliefs, and still be friends and collaborators. I wish his fanbase would get the memo. Last I checked, evangelicals in the The Chosen group on Facebook were constantly posting about how Latter-day Saints and/or Catholics aren't really Christians, and it was very annoying. I got more defensive of the Catholics because life is too short to care what idiots say about my church. I would call out Catholic-bashers and conclude with "Sincerely, not a Catholic." I also mentioned more than once that this holier-than-thou gatekeeping bullcrap just makes Christians in general look bad to everyone else, and is a contributing factor to the modern secular world's lack of respect for them. That didn't fix the problem, but it made some people really mad because they knew it was true. Anyway - focusing on Jesus. There can never be too much focus on Jesus. I came away from the event convinced as ever by this godly man that whatever else I may or may not believe at any given time, I believe in Jesus.
Dallas talked about some things from a writing perspective that of course interested me as a writer even though I've heard him talk about them before. For example, he portrays even Jesus' enemies as nuanced and complicated people, which is both realistic and good storytelling. We see why some of the Jewish leaders opposed Jesus. As Dallas puts it, Shmuel didn't just wake up one morning, twirl his mustache, and ask himself how he could make Jesus' life difficult. Judas, who's introduced in the last episode of Season Two, seems to just be a regular decent guy, as he must have been at one point. This show skillfully avoids the dogmatic us vs. them persecution complex approach that makes the first two God's Not Dead movies unwatchable (and makes my own church experience insufferable sometimes). Very few people do evil things just for the sake of being evil. Even Putin has realistic motivation for his evil deeds. I'm not saying lust for power is a good motivation, but it's a little different than waking up one morning, twirling his mustache, and asking himself how many war crimes he can commit just for fun. I thought about this principle again the following evening when I got Zoombombed for the first time.
Dr. Solimar Otero of Indiana University was giving the Fife Folklore Honor Lecture entitled "Stories of Our Lives - Material Culture, Memory, and Narrative on the Bóveda," and I tuned in because I was bored and lonely. I half paid attention and half read a book. Half an hour into the lecture, someone screenshared pornography, and I cycled through six thoughts in about six seconds.
1. Ew, gross.
2. This is the most embarrassing moment of someone's life.
3. Ew, gross.
4. Wait, is my computer doing that somehow? If it is, I'll have to kill myself.
5. Ew, gross.
6. Wait, this is no accident.
My realization was immediately confirmed as someone started saying the n-word over and over and over again, and at least three people pasted it in the chat several dozen times each, rapid-fire. It was a blitzkrieg, a far more efficient invasion than Putin's. Someone said "If you make me the cohost, I can get rid of them," but for all I know he was one of them. It was very difficult to think under this barrage, but I tried to focus and come up with something to say that would make these Zoombombers understand that their lives were collectively more pathetic and less valuable than a mosquito's, and I failed to do so before the meeting closed. I couldn't just say any old rude or angry thing because that would play right into their hands. They wanted to get reactions out of people. And in the days since, I've grappled with the curious fact that this appears to be the entire extent of their motivation. The only reason I can think of for grown adults to ruin a complete stranger's Zoom lecture with pornography and racial slurs is that they just get a thrill out of being turds for the sake of being turds. They weren't well-written villains at all. And perhaps the greatest mystery of the universe, I thought to myself, is what Jesus saw in them that was worth dying for.
The following text was originally a Facebook post and subsequent comment by my friend Krista Taylor, which she has allowed me to share here for whatever good the meager reach of my blog will do for it. Thus it becomes my first guest post ever. Hailey Allen of "Perfectly Unhinged" suggested doing a blog swap a few years ago, but she's been too busy every time I subsequently brought it up, or maybe she just realized I stood to gain a lot more from it than she did. So this is the first. Would that it were under better circumstances.
If any of you have confidence in the court system it is unwarranted. They have blatantly acknowledged that Bradley (my husband) abandoned the kids and me at my mom’s house after Thanksgiving on Dec 1, 2019. Since he took the car and car seats we had to get car seats from the local police station so there’s a police report to verify that. Nevertheless the courts have still claimed that since it is Utah policy to ‘ensure both parents access to the children’ that Bradley gets custody since I was refusing his visitation.
According to Utah Commissioner Christina Wilson and Alyson Johnson, the children’s guardian ad litem, abandonment doesn’t constitute neglect or any other form of abuse of the children. The court also has a copy of a text that Bradley sent me saying that he had thought about sexually abusing our then 4 year old daughter but that he didn’t think he would because he didn’t want to cause her trauma. He sent that 2 months after abandoning us all. Clearly abandoning her doesn’t constitute causing her any trauma. Apparently spending months convincing the courts to send in a SWAT team to tear her away from her mom and grandma obviously isn’t going to cause her or her two brothers any trauma either.
He also goes on in the text about how beautiful I looked that night and how sad he is that we aren’t together and how he’s been struggling so much and looking at porn but he’s trying to stop. It’s very cleverly put together to elicit sympathy and simultaneously send me the message that if I don’t come back he’ll sexually abuse our daughter and who knows how many other people through his porn use. He had repeatedly claimed that I was supposed to give him sex simply because I am his wife even after he abandoned us and I refused. He had also repeatedly sexually abused me throughout our marriage including manipulating me into having sex prior to going to work by telling me that he didn’t want sex on his mind before he went to teach piano to his students. (Yes he is a piano teacher and if your children are taking lessons from him I would recommend stopping immediately for their safety. Although since he cares a great deal about his reputation I don’t know how far he would take it with a student or not.) But of course the text is carefully crafted so that idea is not explicit because then he might get in trouble with the court. I’m not sure there’s a better example of mental and emotional manipulation and abuse out there.
Based on the text I also asked for a protective order from the Idaho courts here in Rexburg, “America’s Family Community” or “Zion” as many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints like to call it. But Judge David Hunt decided that not only was there not sufficient reason to grant a protective order he turned around and granted Bradley the writ of assistance that required the police to enforce the Utah custody orders. Previously I had shown the police Bradley’s text and they had been refusing to enforce the Utah orders for months because he is clearly a danger to the children.
What could possibly be more manipulative and abusive than subtly threatening to sexually abuse my children? But sure let’s pretend that he’s a safe person simply because the court said so and throw me in jail for daring to stand up for my kids against the court.
But don’t worry the courts told Bradley that he has to keep the kids at his parents’ house so according to the court they’re safe because his parents and sister haven’t reported anything. Never mind that his parents are the ones who have taught him to be abusive in the first place and they have been funding his attorney and everything else all along. They take great pains to ensure that they maintain a good looking but not too good reputation like these kinds of people do. https://www.flyingfreenow.com/liar-liar-pants-on-fire/... But don’t worry as long as things look good on the surface the kids are obviously safe and healthy. Clearly his parents did such a great job raising Bradley that they should be in charge of raising even more kids. And if he’s not really safe for him to be taking care of the kids himself then why in hell should they not be with me? Obviously it’s all for the kids. That’s our tax dollars and justice system at work for us all. They’re really working hard to protect everyone and keep us all safe.
Obviously there’s no reason to suppose that the courts could ever make a mistake about that since they care soo much. Except for more than 600 children who have been murdered by abusive fathers in the last ten years because the courts insisted on visitation regardless of clear safety risks for the kids. But who really cares about them? The court is just another industry to make money and divorce impoverishes women and children and enriches men. So pander to the men because they have the money. How dare I have the audacity to say that Bradley can’t call and repeatedly ignore them or make them cry over the phone as he was doing before I cut off all contact? They sent in a freaking SWAT team and literally ripped my baby out of my arms and carried my other two children crying and screaming out of the house, this while they arrested my mom and I for refusing to hand the kids over to Bradley because he is abusive. So yeah the courts definitely care a lot about the kids. And justice. Oh and did I mention that since Bradley abandoned us if I went back to our house to get my stuff the police told me that I could only take essentials? But if Bradley threw our stuff out on the road the police couldn’t tell him what to do with “his” stuff? But at least the courts wouldn’t like it if he did that. So by abandoning us he stole our house and our things. He did bring some of them back because that makes him look better but he managed to trash plenty of the stuff in the process. He told me that he wouldn’t take the kids away from me. He also told me that the kids are my life. He has spent the last year working toward taking them away from me through the legal system. Yay for him he’s succeeded! But of course telling me that they are my life and then taking them away doesn’t constitute mental or emotional abuse. How blatant can he make it that he hates me? But of course that’s all fine and dandy because it makes people more comfortable to sweep it under the rug than to face the truth. Obviously Bradley and I just have communication issues. Frankly I was stupid to ever marry him after all the bs my mom went through with her divorce. It’s no wonder that so many people are scared of marriage. They’d be naive idiots not to be terrified of it.
Furthermore after seeing and experiencing plenty of abuse throughout my life I don’t know whose “genius” idea it is to force kids to go back and forth between parents in high conflict cases. But when there is abuse even if you haven’t confidently identified who the abuser is sending the kids back and forth just allows the abuser ample opportunity to further abuse the victim and children and potentially frame the victim. That has got to be the most dangerous position for the kids to be in. And it’s all court sanctioned. It’s heinous. “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiesel The courts have repeatedly and blatantly reaffirmed to me that they will give Bradley custody until I agree to allow him back into our lives. I can not live with myself and do that. I have tried allowing visitation and it was brutal to stand by and allow his mental and emotional abuse of my children to continue. They need to know that they matter and they are worth protecting. They need to know that I will not condone or enable his abuse. I will be arrested and thrown in jail but I will not voluntarily allow him to abuse them. How could any genuinely loving mother do any less for her children? How can we pretend that as long as the parents divorce and the mother can get out that it’s ok for the children to be tossed back and forth between parents and denied any stable home? What has our society come to? Why in the face of such clear abuse were the only choices that I was left with to go into hiding or be arrested and thrown in jail for protecting my children?
If you have the chance to “help” anyone with a custody case or who is going through a divorce please make sure that you are actually informed and listening and genuinely helpful. People need real help not a bunch of lame excuses and pretenses that the courts “care” when it’s really just about money to them too. Whether or not you believe me or care about my case, this is a big issue and it desperately needs to be addressed.
Please pray for my children and please look for ways to help those around you through these horrible issues.
Link about psychological abuse escalating to murder:
Don’t worry the police have thrown big bad scary grandma and mom in jail for trying to set safe boundaries for children. https://www.eastidahonews.com/.../woman-jailed-after.../
Although they suddenly decided to drop her $25,000 bail to zero after she spent two weeks in jail. Watch out! She’s loose on the streets again! She just might do something like tell people about how dehumanizing the jails are and how much of money making industry that they are too. Oh and the police officer who claimed that she landed a strong punch is lying but the newspaper didn’t want to print our side of the story. She attempted a punch but couldn’t see well because they had knocked off her glasses so she missed. I overheard the police officer claiming that it hurt about as much as brushing his teeth.
Please share this. People need to know. #outthem #domesticviolence #domesticviolenceawareness
Addendum: For whatever it’s worth psychologically speaking based on the research that I’ve done as horrible as sexual abuse and other abuse is, neglect is even more psychologically damaging. So to disregard abandonment, which is the ultimate act of neglect, is heinous. Especially since he later claimed that I am physically abusive and then asked the courts for joint custody. What kind of father abandons his children, particularly with someone he claims is abusive and then claims that that person should still have them half of the time?
How in the world am I supposed to figure out how to cope with a society where the police and the courts are the ones kidnapping my children to hand them over to our abuser? Why do “father’s rights” so obviously take precedence over our basic safety? Since when did “father’s rights” include the right to abuse children? Oh and a writ of assistance is used for property. Think about that. What it really boils down to is that the court simply views my children as property.
I don’t know about you but I am really looking forward to when the prophecies about the cleansing of the world before the Second Coming of Christ come true. This society has lost all sense of morality and decency and as a society we deserve to be utterly destroyed and swept off the face of the earth when we treat our innocent children in such a heinous fashion.
Also please keep in mind that sexual predators and abusers routinely pretend to love their victims in order to entrap them and manipulate them. That is how Bradley convinced me to marry him and that is how he has succeeded in getting the courts to kidnap the children for him. How is it helpful to the children to continue lying to them and pretending that he loves them when his actions clearly show what a lie that is? Believing that lie was the most damaging thing that I have ever done. Choosing to continue to believe it in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary nearly made me lose my mind. I spent years of my marriage just trying to get through one more day of that hell. Who benefits from believing that lie? Because it certainly isn’t my children. I’ve been the child in a divorce and accepting the fact that my dad didn’t love me in spite of his claims to the contrary was freeing. Likewise recognizing Bradley’s lies has also been freeing and standing up to them has been immensely healing. “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
And how many of you will even believe me? How many of you will blame me because it is too uncomfortable for you to believe that the courts and the police are so corrupt?
“We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable.” - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
What will you believe?
Evil and abuse and oppression rely on and thrive in secrecy and a code of silence. Will you look the other way and allow it to grow? Or will you shine a light on it?
Post for September 20, 2020
I watched a clip from "Cuties" the other day to see what all the fuss is about. It made me feel like I should be in jail. I am well aware of the director's stated purpose for creating this movie, but I don't believe that any amount of context could possibly justify the existence of the footage I saw. If sexualization of 11-year-old girls is such a big problem (which I don't doubt), then surely the director could have achieved her desired shock and outrage by creating a documentary about the sexualization of 11-year-old girls that already existed, instead of sexualizing 11-year-old girls to prove that sexualizing 11-year-old girls is wrong. When all is said and done, regardless of the intentions behind it, she created something for pedophiles to jack off to and I'm baffled that it was legal. I'm baffled that a cameraperson can zoom in on the rear end of a twerking 11-year-old girl for any reason and not go to jail.
This week the university brought some completely unnecessary extra stress into my life by trying to make me pay $8,300.64 instead of the $595.34 that I actually owed. Somehow they forgot that I've been a Utah resident since 2012 - a fact they should be well aware of since I did my bachelor's degree here under the same ID number I have now, not to mention they never bothered to ask - and charged me $10,787.48 non-resident tuition instead of the $3,082.18 resident tuition that's covered by my graduate instructor tuition award. I lost considerable sleep over this which rendered me mentally incapable of doing almost any homework on Friday, and didn't get so much as an apology for their attempt to swindle me, and the only reason I didn't tell them to get bent is that I don't want to jeopardize my employment. But I still showed them. They didn't say sorry for making the mistake so I didn't say thank you for fixing it.
All this sleep deprivation I've been experiencing since late August for no legitimate reason just feels so gratuitous. It feels like God is saying, "Graduate school is too easy for you, so I'll make up some extra crap to make sure you can't enjoy it."
On the plus side, my neighbors' dog no longer wakes me up because they seem to have gotten rid of him. He was always out in their fenced backyard, obscured from view, and when I moved in over a year ago he barked every freaking time anyone whatsoever walked past the fence, because apparently he hadn't gotten used to the existence of this apartment complex that's been here at least since the eighties. One night he was barking while I tried to sleep, and I yelled at him a few times to shut up, and he didn't, so I went outside to throw rocks at him. But before I could find any rocks, he shut up. And after that night, instead of barking at passersby he just tried to jump the fence. He still barked at occasional random intervals but if it continued for more than five seconds I yelled at him to shut up and he did. I held no personal ill will against him. I reserved that for his owners, who never lifted a finger to prevent him from being a nuisance to the entire block. Until they recently got rid of him. I don't know why the change, but it may have something to do with this note I left a couple weeks ago.
I wasn't going to sign it "your very tired and pissed off neighbor" but I had extra space and wanted to use it wisely. And I'm glad they believed my bluff about the police. The only reason I would contact the Logan police would be to tell them to go choke on a cactus, but I wasn't sure about the legality of threatening to break the dog's neck.
The girls next door - that is to say, in this apartment complex, on the opposite side from the house where the jerks with the dog live - continue to be loud, but last Sunday they tried to make it up by dropping off zuchinni bread and a card.
Following the example of their predecessors, of course I told the police to tell them to never be nice to me again. (That joke only works if you know what I'm referring to and forgot that I just said the only reason I would contact the Logan police would be to tell them to go choke on a cactus.) Seriously though, I took them up on their offer to party the next day when I had to wait two hours for my laptop to update, but they were busy doing homework and only had time for a game of Uno. I felt very misled. I came over again on Friday because the loud one was screaming so much that I had to make sure she wasn't being murdered. She was just getting too worked up over a game of Sorry. Whatever her quirks, though, at least she probably isn't a delusional pathological liar like one of her predecessors I could mention.
Although I'm done with dating for the foreseeable ever, pandemic or no pandemic, that didn't stop someone in Uganda from trying to play matchmaker.
I appreciate the sentiment, really. There's just a slight cultural difference at play here, like the time he found the profile of some college student in Georgia, decided he was in love with her, and wanted me to add her and set her up with him. I'm not one to assert that my culture is "the right way" to do things, but that just wouldn't have worked. So I just stall and change the subject when these things come up.
The referendum against Utah's recent tax reform ended on Tuesday, having collected an estimated 150-170,000 signatures out of the 116,000 that were required. It would have taken some time to verify the final count, and some would have been rejected, but we were pretty dang confident we had this in the bag. Then it became moot because the Legislature was so scared by this upswelling of resistance that they repealed the tax reform altogether. Now, instead of being put on the ballot in November, it's simply ceased to exist. Of course I hope Utah will still remember in November exactly which people voted for that train wreck in the first place, and I hope this will leave a lasting impression on anyone currently in or planning to enter politics. I have to admit the referendum would have most likely been a flop without the endorsement and enthusiastic participation of the Harmon's grocery store chain, where I would happily shop if they had a location in Logan, and the conservative think tank Sutherland Institute who encouraged people to sign by running radio ads telling them not to sign.
I finished submitting the supplementary materials for my graduate school application. The requirements use all this pompous academic language, of course, and it's intimidating and it makes me feel like I'm way out of my depth when I just want to write fun science fiction stories. Realistically, though, and I'm not trying to be cocky, but realistically, I'll be very surprised if I don't get in. I think the skill exhibited in my writing sample will speak for itself, and I also know the professors giving me recommendations will speak very highly of said skill, especially the one who urged me to consider graduate school and teaching in the first place. By my estimate I was the third best writer in his class the first time around and the second best the second, but of course that's kind of subjective and when I told Stormy she was probably the best she said "No, you definitely are." I think my biggest strength is that I fill a different niche than most. Nobody else in any of my writing classes over the years has focused on fun science fiction stories.
I recently lost a substantial chunk of one of my teeth, substantial enough for me to see the sensitive core with my naked eye and touch it with my naked finger, which I only did once. I assumed the remaining chunk would have to be pulled out and I was surprisingly quick to accept that. It's way in the back where nobody would notice, and I've already learned to chew without it, and I figured this life is mercifully short and I'll get it back when I'm resurrected so whatever happens to me in the meantime doesn't matter. I was far more concerned about the cost. I just got Medicaid but it doesn't cover anything dental because the US government has decided those things aren't super important. Imagine, then, my relief when the dentist said he can repair my tooth in half an hour and it will only cost $254.84 if I pay the same day. He might have to follow up with a root canal, but there's no sense worrying about that yet.
The situation with my neighbors... hasn't changed at all, but after the initial shock, I surprisingly don't much care. Their wrongness is their own loss. It will also make my memoir that much better.
This review of my site on Webwiki, the first one from somebody who isn't me, isn't new, but I just noticed it the other day and it made me happy.
Thank you, Jason. Now I'm all like
and I hope to continue putting out the same level of quality, but no promises.
I've had a few bits and pieces of writing on this site in the form of embedded word documents and downloads that don't really work on mobile devices and would be too tiny to read comfortably if they did. I don't think search engines can go through them either. Since these are mostly unfinished pieces of crap from my middle and high school years, moving them into the twenty-first century (which my middle and high school years were already part of, but I'm speaking metaphorically, in a self-deprecating remark about my own lack of technological prowess) hasn't been a priority, but in the last few days I've been finally doing it, transplanting the text from these documents into actual web pages.
The most horrifically painful thing about some of my early writing is the godawful attempts to straight-up copy Douglas Adams' one-of-a-kind writing style. In fairness, he left us much too soon and I would be doing a legitimate service to the world by providing more works in his vein if they were of equal quality and not just pathetic knockoffs. And I guess I don't regret the experiment because I believe that it had a lasting impact on the evolution of my actual genuine writing voice. I think I can see a bit of Douglas Adams in my writing voice, but just a bit, thank goodness.
Anyway, I was skimming through this unfinished sci-fi epic "The War" as I moved the text over - I had intended to read it all straight through, but that was too painful - and this little bit stopped me in my tracks. When I wrote it as a teenager in 2008 or 9, it was just a silly attempt at humor with virtually no real-life subtext intended, but anyone reading it today would be unable to avoid what TV Tropes calls Unfortunate Implications. It's - well, I'll just let it speak for itself.
[Beginning of excerpt. The setting is a party/dance with members of many alien races present.]
“All right,” Hok announced, leaping to the nearest hovering microphone on ridiculously long gangly legs. He was a short, skinny green man with a gargantuan head and pointy ears. “All right,” he repeated, “hang on to your kramblotches, because it’s pippiks’ choice!”
There was a slight groan from some of those assembled, elicited by the fact that there was only one pippik present, a suddenly rather confused-looking Troikot.
There is a simple pattern followed by many species throughout the universe, and that is this: male, female. The reason this is followed by many species is that it’s simple, it works, and if you believe in an all-powerful Hand guiding it somewhere along the line you can imagine Him wanting to keep it consistent. For those who like to keep it even simpler, the options of hermaphrodite and null were made available. However, the Universe being the humongous place it is, some species are bound to be dissatisfied with these perfectly reasonable choices, and choose to come up with their own fancy alternatives. Pippiks, then, are only one of thousands of relatively obscure genders to be found throughout said Universe. Kramblotches, on the other hand, are completely unrelated organs found in some species for the purpose of throwing at predators.
When it comes to interstellar travel, this also brings up the problem of gender pronouns. The language of a species with its own special genders will have developed its own special pronouns, of course, but usually any being from a normal male/female/hermaphrodite/null species will not want to bother memorizing all of the pronouns for the thousands of relatively obscure genders that exist. As a result, most choose to lump them all under the “it” category. Some find this offensive, but, others argue, they should have thought of that before their species decided to create its own genders anyway.
“Ask that cute farfel over there,” whispered a Queezik.
“I don’t swing that way,” the Troikot timidly whispered back.
Hok’s keen ears picked up their exchange and he grinned in spite of himself. He knew, of course, that there was only one pippik in the room, but he was trying as best he could to be fair and tolerant of everybody. Sexism, of course, was unseemly even by this society’s standards.
[End of excerpt]
So. Much. Cringe.
I've avoided talking about all the sex and gender controversy (except that one time, which I won't apologize for) because it's surprisingly complicated and I don't want to say ignorant things. I know that chromosomes are complicated and there are several - not percentage-wise, but numerically - demonstrable exceptions to the "XY = male, XX = female" dichotomy. Externally female bodies may have only one X chromosome, or even XY chromosomes and useless internal testes in place of ovaries, to cite a simple and surprisingly common example. I do think a lot of other people don't know as much about it as they think they do either, even when citing "science" as their authority. A couple months ago in the Mormons Building Bridges group someone posted an article about a study that had allegedly found that, marriage expert Mark Gungor's hilarious routine notwithstanding, there is no difference between men's brains and women's brains. And more recently in the same group someone posted an article about a study that had allegedly found that transgender children's brains matched the gender they identified as, not their biological sex.
I may be missing something obvious, but I can't help feeling like it's fundamentally impossible for both of those claims to be true. Of course it's not my place as a non-scientist to reject either or both of them without being able to explain why, but neither is it the place of other non-scientists to imbue either of them with more authority than it actually has. Scientific truth is not established overnight by one scientist or team of scientists. A study may be interesting but means very little unless and until its results are replicated in additional studies. This often never happens. There's also the issue of news outlets and other lay people misinterpreting studies to mean what they want them to mean - for example, this happened a few years ago:
Study from BYU: We found that religious people who use pornography are more likely than non-religious people who use pornography to describe themselves as "addicted" even if they show no signs of addiction.
Almost Everyone Else: This study from BYU found that pornography addiction is a myth created by religious guilt.
These people seemed to believe they were objectively reporting the study's results, when in reality they were doing something else: making crap up. In any case, I'm going to reserve judgment on most of these issues for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, it costs nothing to be kind.
I do still consider it plausible that the vast majority of alien races would fall into something recognizably analogous to the male/female dichotomy, just as the vast majority of advanced organisms on Earth do even with chromosomal arrangements that in many cases radically differ from ours. Sexual reproduction is weird and gross but it works because, by mixing and recombining parents' DNA, it drastically boosts the genetic diversity of the species, which in turn makes it far less vulnerable to being suddenly wiped out by disease, climate change or whatever. This obviously requires at least two parents. Three, four, or a dozen would create even more diversity, but the exponential difficulty of actually pulling it off in practice would more than nullify that benefit. Of course, there may be aliens out there who aren't even made from DNA as we understand it, but that's also too complicated for me to think about right now.
Ugh, I need to get the taste of that excerpt out of my mouth, so here's another from the same scene that I don't hate.
[Beginning of excerpt.]
“Let’s go find a seat,” said Bert. They turned around and nearly bumped into the nine-foot tall hairy mass behind them. It reacted slightly less than a tombstone, but the purple snake coiled around its neck reared up and hissed at them violently.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Alicia, who had spilled soda all over her clothes in response. “Er, nice pet,” she said to the hairy creature, hoping to make light of it.
“How dare you speak that way of my fiancé?” demanded the snake.
[End of excerpt.]
It's a dumb joke, but I find it amusing. At least I was supportive of interracial marriage long after it was cool.
Why do I put these garbage writing samples, these "sins of my youth" as Hergé would call them, on the internet instead of burying them forever? First of all, because when I'm famous everyone will be fascinated to see how my writing has evolved. Joking but serious at the same time. Second, because despite how bad they are, they're actually not that bad. Oh sure, they're too painful for me to read, but they have their moments of brilliance and I can see in them the potential that my teachers saw and urged me to cultivate. They're better than some Legend of Zelda fan fiction I've read. Heck, they're better than some things I read from some of my undergraduate English classmates. Not singling anyone out but just being honest. And maybe some people who hold me to a lower standard than I do, who aren't personally embarrassed by the existence of this old writing, can actually enjoy it. I enjoy the Star Wars Holiday Special, which shouldn't be possible for a carbon-based life form, so it's not that far-fetched.
While I was skimming through "The War", I laughed out loud at a part where (spoiler alert) one character who's just learned English as a second language refers to puppy love as "dog lust". Maybe I'm just an idiot, but I think that's one of the funniest things I've ever written.
The Dating Game
My closest friend, by whom I mean someone who actually lives very far away that I don't talk to very often but who knows more about me than anyone else except God and doesn't think any less of me for it, is almost exactly the same age. She's a week younger than me. In her twenty-six years, she's been in more relationships than I can count and been engaged once or twice. In my twenty-six years, I've never been on a second date. She, by her own admission, is somewhat codependent and can't stand to be alone, so she ends up dating guys that she knows aren't a great fit. I, in contrast, am so settled into my solitary lifestyle and eternal cycle of rejection that the hypothetical prospect of being in a relationship, even with someone I really really like, is deeply unsettling and becomes less attractive the more I think about it.
But regardless of our differing paths we're both equally single. I muse on that sometimes and I invariably conclude that, as far as this one topic is concerned, I'm the luckier one. It must be so much better to never have something than to have it and then lose it. Over and over again, no less. When I'm thinking rationally I determine that my phenomenal failure rate has been a blessing in disguise.
Recently she lamented that she had been on a date with this guy and really hit it off and was hoping for things to become quite serious. Alas, some girl he'd been interested in for years chose that time to reciprocate those feelings, so now he's with her instead. My friend is very bummed out. I was able to empathize because this sort of bullcrap is my least favorite bullcrap of all the multitude of bullcrap that constitutes what we call dating. You don't operate in a vacuum. You can't just stand on your own merits; you also have to be better than everyone else who wants what you want. It doesn't matter how much you want it, how hard you try, how well you plan, how hard you pray; someone else that the object of your affections finds more attractive than you can come along and erase all your efforts in an instant, and there's nothing you can do about it. Often there's no way to even see it coming.
I shared with her the metaphor that I'd come up with for these situations. It's like playing a video game where, at random intervals, invincible enemies pop out of nowhere and instantly kill you and send you back to the beginning.
Actually, let me back up. Figurative language isn't really my thing but I think this metaphor has potential. I will attempt to explain what dating was like for me as an Aspie YSA by comparing it to a video game. I didn't grow up to be much of a gamer because my parents thought every console prior to the Wii was evil or something, but I enjoy them when I get the opportunity. (Legend of Zelda FTW). They're a nice way to relax and escape from the existential horror of this sick joke we call mortality. Usually.
Okay, so first of all, you've heard about this metaphorical game growing up and people have tried to make you excited for it. You're intrigued, but it's not the sort of thing you'd take the initiative of choosing to do in your spare time. You're more of a book reader. As you get older, people try to encourage you more and more, offer to help you with it, and whatever, to the point where you cave and decide to see what all the hype is about.
So you check out the instruction manual, and discover upon doing so that it's written in an amalgamation of Chinese, Sanskrit, and drunk spider footprints. Most of your friends, despite their assurances to the contrary, seem to read it just fine, and you ask them for help and they try to give you a summary. Sometimes people charge money for books and seminars about what they think it means.
The only way to actually figure it out, you finally conclude, is by trying the game yourself and learning as you go. So you start the game, and discover upon doing so that it's a maze. You know those antique DOS games from the nineties that are challenging, but reasonable, and you're just going along collecting items and figuring out where to use them and then suddenly there's this maze segment that's almost impossible to finish in less than an hour without a walkthrough? And it's completely disproportionate to the difficulty and tedium of the rest of the game and you're just like, What genius thought this would be fun? So this game is like that, except instead of side-scrolling or top-down it's first-person, which makes it even worse.
Also, there are land mines in the floor. So it's also like Minesweeper. Do you know how to play Minesweeper? I don't and I don't know anyone else who does.
You can't figure out the controls from the instruction manual, but your friends tell you what each of the five dozen buttons and triggers is supposed to do. You start the minefield maze and discover upon doing so the difference between theory and practice. Sometimes the controls do what they're supposed to, sometimes they do the opposite, sometimes they do nothing, and sometimes they leak battery acid all over your hands.
When you step on a mine, the damage varies. Sometimes your character dies and sometimes he just loses a limb or two. The plus side, if it can be called that, is that you have unlimited lives in this game. The downside of the plus side is that every time you die you get sent back to the beginning and the maze randomly rearranges itself. You get bored quickly and would rather not play this game anymore. But your friends assure you that everyone steps on mines and yes, it sucks and it's always going to suck, but what can you do? Apparently that's supposed to be comforting.
Also, even if you manage to avoid the mines through luck or telepathy, at random intervals, invincible enemies pop out of nowhere and instantly kill you and send you back to the beginning.
Why would anyone spend more than two minutes playing such a terrible, horrible, no good very bad game? Because apparently there's a really cool cutscene at the end, and when people reach it, they become so excited that they decide it was all worth it and decide how much they hated the game. Especially decades down the road when the rising generations are playing an even harder and stupider remake of the game, and these old people who beat it decades ago don't understand what the issue is. (You can just watch the cutscene on YouTube, but people will tell you that's a cheap counterfeit of the real experience because the audio quality is poor or something.)
Whatever. You're more of a book reader.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.