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Author Archives: mcbender

Mitchell’s Feminist Relationship Advice for Heterosexual Men (& everyone else too)

For better or worse I’ve ended up having way too many conversations about romance/sex/etc advice recently, so I thought I might as well collect my thoughts in one place (and just in time for Valentine’s Day too, sometimes coincidences are fun). It’s a good time for it anyway; the mainstream culture is always so terrible about these sort of things, and I think it’s especially important to push back against that in this age of the Sexual-Predator-in-Chief.

This is a serious post despite the snark.

I’m afraid this may feel disjointed in places, as it’s mainly a collection of things I’ve found myself saying or wishing I had said in response to things people have said to or around me, but so be it. I’m fairly certain the core ideas should still come through just fine. That said, I’m not entirely sure who the target audience is here: I’ve tried to keep this mostly at 101-level for accessibility but I’m not sure I entirely succeeded, and also I’ve tried to address various different stages here so it’s unlikely it all is likely to be applicable to everybody.

(And as this excellent piece I encountered the other day points out, patriarchal relationship norms aren’t good for men either. I think it’s always a worthy effort to undermine them.)

[I likely won’t have much to add, but I’m here agreeing with these points.]

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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in mitchell

 

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Quick Review: Oculus Rift (game-toy-thing, 2016)

Before I start, it is important to make one thing clear: even if I were inclined to give this thing a positive review, I would recommend not buying it because it is made by assholes.

Further disclaimer: I am basing this review on a relatively short trial experience (which I probably wouldn’t even have bothered with if I’d remembered about the assholes); I happened to be in a Best Buy store where a salesperson was giving demos and my father and I were both talked into trying it out. I think I saw enough to get a pretty good impression of what it’s like, but for the record I spent at most 10-15 minutes with the thing so that’s probably worth acknowledging.

What is Oculus Rift? Apparently released in March of last year, it’s a virtual reality headset thing with stereoscopic display and so forth; it seems to have been designed with gaming primarily in mind but they claim it can serve other purposes also.

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Posted by on January 30, 2017 in mitchell

 

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Some disorganised thoughts after the Women’s March(es)

So yesterday (21 January 2017), for anyone who doesn’t already know, the day after the tragic inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the (not-so-) United States (I will not give him the dignity of the office and refer to him as President Trump, he’s a loathsome despotic buffoon #notmypresident), was also the day of the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches in major (and not-so-major!) cities throughout the US and beyond.

Here’s the official Women’s March site and the Sister Marches page.

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Posted by on January 22, 2017 in mitchell

 

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Recommended Reading: “Let the Record Show”

I second everything John Pavlovitz says in this incredible piece. Just read it.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2017 in mitchell

 

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The view from the brink (or: on the Electoral College)

I have been struggling with writer’s block for quite some time, so it may not be surprising I’ve not had much to say recently. That said, I think the recent version is something a bit different: I keep feeling like I need to say something about politics (what I have called and will continue to call the US national disaster) but can’t get through the shock and horror and disbelief well enough to actually say something coherent. Lots of people have already been saying the things I want to say better than I could say them, which doesn’t help either (I’m not sure if anyone has noticed my continued linkspam in the comments over here but that’s the best I’ve been able to manage thus far).

At the same time, I haven’t been able to look away. I keep reading news stories in horror as they come out. It certainly isn’t good for my mental health, but I can’t stop doing it, and at the same time I can’t imagine it would be better to stop paying attention and bury my head in the sand. I’ve been wrestling with that since 11/9, as I’d been fully expecting the horrorshow to be over (or at least to change forms; I’ve said before that prior to the election I’d naively thought the worst case scenarios involved disappointed deplorables lashing out). (As an aside, I do love that people are referring to this as 11/9; while slower acting, I really do think this is a catastrophe of similar scale to 9/11.)

I can pretty safely say that I do not think I have ever felt such hatred and contempt for anyone as I do now for Donald Trump, his stooges, and the Republican party for abetting them. These people are fucking terrifying. These feelings make me very uncomfortable, but I think in the end they are rational feelings to have, and they’ve more than earned it by this point.

I should say again that while I currently exist in a constant state of anxiety and terror, it’s not really for myself; it may be my depression talking, but I honestly don’t particularly care what happens to me (and at the same time, I belong to enough privileged demographics that the worst consequences aren’t going to fall on me; a lot of my fear is fear for what is going to happen to other people and groups of people). This is bigger than any one person. Rather, I’m concerned about the drastic consequences that will inevitably ensue from having such an incompetent, foolish, narcissistic arsehole in power and from the destructive cabinet appointments he is making. And that’s even disregarding the Russian interference, and the Trump campaign’s possibly-treasonous collusion with it; between this emboldening of Russia and what is looking something like a resumption of the Cold War, and Trump’s irresponsible actions with respect to China and the Middle East, I am beginning to seriously think this might be leading up to a World War Three. The odds of humanity surviving such an event do not seem favourable.

In a time where everyone should be seriously concerned with trying to curtail climate change in any way possible (if it is not already too late) instead Trump and stooges seem to be threatening to remove anyone who agrees with the scientific consensus from their positions in the EPA, promoting climate-change deniers and oil executives to high positions and encouraging more environmentally destructive drilling and reliance on fossil fuels. There are multiple ways in which the worldwide consequences of a Trump presidency might be irrecoverable. This is not histrionics; it is brute fact. We cannot afford to play games.

And that is disregarding the smaller effects that a Trump (and Pence) administration will have on the everyday lives of people, especially people with marginalised identities. I am not the biggest fan of ‘Obamacare’, but it is undeniable that many people will suffer and die if it is repealed.

To frame things a bit flippantly: I do not ever want to see another fiction story about time-travellers trying to prevent the rise of Hitler, when people in our time couldn’t even do anything to prevent Trump and at best looked the other way while it happened. Let’s note the parallels in how journalists downplayed that threat too. While I don’t want to make excuses for ignorance, in the case of Hitler it could at least be argued that such a thing had not happened before; today we have the benefit of history, the benefit of hindsight, and the parallels are all too obvious. Americans like to think that our national ideals and supposed values make us immune to facism, but it has become all too clear over the past two years that if anything it makes us more vulnerable, because that very tendency to think ourselves immune caused us to stop looking for the warning signs. We elected (for some definition of that word at least) a candidate whose only noteworthy newspaper endorsement came from the Ku Klux Klan. We cannot afford to minimise that either.

I could go on. I could try to list off every single thing Trump, his children (who thanks to nepotism and corruption will have outsized influence in his administration), and his cabinet appointees have said which makes it utterly obvious what a disaster they will be for America and the world, but if you are reading this post you probably already know.

The Electoral College meet tomorrow to cast their votes. This may well be the last opportunity we have as a nation to legally put the brakes on this tragedy, though I’m afraid I don’t think the odds of the electors miraculously opting to spare us are very high. Nevertheless, I can’t help hoping they will do something (even without the intelligence briefing they’ve requested and been denied). It’s unfortunate that many of them have received harassment and threats (and from both sides of the issue; so much for the moral high ground. I really do not envy the electors their position, as they may well feel unsafe no matter what they do), but I hope some of them will find their consciences in spite of that. It may sound melodramatic, but our future really is in their hands right now. If I were a praying person (or even thought there were the slightest possibility of benevolent supernatural entities), I would fucking pray. But that won’t help us, so instead let us pray to the potential better nature of the electors.

I should add, because I’ve just been reminded: this is not about “poor sportsmanship” and Democrats being “sore losers”. This is not about “sour grapes”. Donald Trump is the single most unqualified person ever “elected” to the presidency (in point of fact negatively qualified, nearly everything about him should have been disqualifying), and beyond that the election was “won” by suspiciously slim margins in a few “swing states” while having the largest gap between popular and (projected) electoral vote we have ever had. When we consider this is also in the context of interference by a hostile foreign power (via propaganda there is no doubt; whether voting machines and vote counts were actually meddled with seems an open question but is unproven at best), it becomes even more troubling (and I find it troubling even to discuss), because so much of this sounds like conspiracist nonsense. I should like to think that Democrats would be equally troubled if it was our own favoured candidate who “won” an election under such circumstances (I am not sure this is true, sadly, but at the very least I think they/we would be more troubled than the gloating deplorable Republican “sore winners”). This is about an international crisis and preventing catastrophe. Don’t be blindsided by accusations of partisanship. This is a crisis that should transcend party affiliation.

Honestly, we don’t even know how long it will take us to find out if they’ve done anything, and I suspect that will cause a great deal of anxiety for quite some time.

I don’t expect it to accomplish much, but there will be protests outside every state capitol tomorrow and I will be participating. It took me a long time to make up my mind, but I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t go; I’m not at all optimistic that it will make a difference (especially in Pennsylvania) but I feel like I have to do something more than just signing petitions…

I don’t know that I’ve made any coherent point here, but I’ve been quiet for too long and I needed to say something.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2016 in mitchell

 

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Fantastic Beasts, a first look (writing in the dark)

We saw “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” yesterday. We’ll have a full review for you all later, once we have some time to put it together, but thought it might be fun to give you this first. I attempted (do note: attempted) to take notes while watching, and I took some photos of my notebook, so here’s my initial reactions to some things. Some of it is pretty indecipherable and I’m sorry about that (wrote over myself a few times because I couldn’t see what I was doing), but honestly that’s some of the fun too.

Spoiler warning, although honestly, you probably won’t be spoilt on much without serious effort because this is a cryptic mess. [We’re writing this post the morning after seeing the film and we can’t figure out some of this…]

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Posted by on November 20, 2016 in loten, mitchell

 

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Absolutely Not Harry Potter Soda

We found ourselves wandering Aberystwyth [yes, that is a real place, I promise] the other day and came across something purporting to be an “American candy store”. Naturally we thought this had the potential to be amusing… and it was, though perhaps not in the precise way we anticipated. They ended up having a weird mix of things I definitely recognised and things which were absolutely traditional British things you won’t find anywhere in the States, plus probably things in between. It was all a bit surreal to me, but I also don’t purport to be an expert on sweets.

There was also a shelf labelled, simply, “Harry Potter Soda”. After a double-take we obviously needed to investigate this.

The first thing to note is that, contrary to the store’s labelling, this stuff is very specifically Not Harry Potter Soda. I’m not sure about the legal details, but the labelling is very clearly trying to get as close as possible to saying that it is while keeping the specific names changed just barely enough to avoid liability. I wouldn’t want to be them if someone decided to sue, though.

So, anyway, fanfic soda. What is it?

The label proclaims this to be “Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer” and, in smaller print, admits it to be butterscotch-flavoured cream soda. The label design is amazingly cheesy in the best possible way. And the back of the bottle has this amazing blurb:

“Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer. Since 1374, the Flying Cauldron has been making this magical brew for under-aged wizards or wizards who are young at heart at their brew pub in Hogsbreath England. The recipe has changed little over the centuries. It has the perfect combination of spells and quality ingredients. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to create our Giggle Potion.”

(All grammatical errors original.)

What can we even say about that? Hogsbreath. HOGSBREATH. Like I said, it’s Not Harry Potter Soda. I don’t know what it is, but it is absolutely Not Harry Potter Soda. We could hardly control our laughter and had to buy some, so clearly something about this company’s marketing is working. Even if I doubt they wanted people to buy it out of laughter at how hard they were trying. [It was also pretty cheap, relatively speaking, particularly compared to any official merchandise they may or may not have been charging multiple limbs for.]

Despite that, we fully expected it to taste awful. Well… it’s actually not that bad. It honestly tastes like butterscotch-flavoured soda. It’s not the sort of thing I’d normally choose to drink (and I tend not to like overly sweet drinks much), but I found it pleasantly drinkable if nothing extraordinary, and Loten liked it. It is much, much better than the stuff they serve at the official Harry Potter venues, or at least the one we tried when we visited the Harry Potter studios in Leavesden, which made me want to be ill (though it didn’t help they put a lump of some unpleasant creamlike stuff in that).

[I liked the ‘official’ one as well, personally. But I like weird things. And with enough sugar I’ll drink pretty much anything.]

I took a photo.

reeds-soda

It’s apparently made by a California soda company called Reed’s. Here’s the link to the product page, with even more hilarious pandering to Harry Potter fans. Seriously, go and look at it.

I’m not sure I would really recommend it, but it honestly isn’t bad and you could do far worse for a theoretical Harry Potter themed party or something. Regardless, thanks for the laugh, Reed’s.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in loten, mitchell

 

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