Friday, March 15, 2019

Let Alone a Father

The change was gradual.
At first he didn’t want to believe it. But now he was unrecognizable even to himself.
He had what appeared to be a fungal network of hives growing just underneath the skin and his body had become amorphous, almost translucent.
Already his vision was beginning to blur. He could barely make out the shape of his own daughter as she stood before him.
He could feel his mind beginning to go as well. He was having trouble remembering things. At odd times he would become aware of being in a room he didn't know how he got into or why. Large chunks of time would even go missing altogether.
His daughter had been supportive in the beginning but she also knew that before long he couldn't be trusted. He wouldn’t even know her. He would only know hunger. He would be left with only the most basic of instincts. Survival would be all that mattered then.
He too knew that eventually he would become a danger to her. He knew he would be a creature that would only wish to consume that which is smaller than itself. 
And then one day it happened.
Her father was gone.
At the time she couldn't have known the danger she was in as she entered her fathers room to help him greet the day as she had done so many mornings before. But there she found him slithering up the wall near the window. 
"Dad?" She whispered.
Suddenly, as if based on sound alone, it noticed her in the room and came after her before she had time to articulate a response.
It wrapped itself around her like folded paper and began to digest what was contained between the folds.
Soon she would become nothing but a green pool of liquid spilled out onto the floor of her fathers bedroom. Sooner still, would what remained of her father, make its way out into the world. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Short Primer on Gossip in the Workplace

It is not now, nor has it ever been the case, a bad idea to listen to gossip. Quite the contrary actually, in fact all gossip is worth listening to if you can determine its source.
Generally it's easy to determine where gossip originates, you just need to pay attention to who gave you the information. By observing who talks to whom, on coffee breaks, at lunch, or even who commutes together, you can easily map the system. Doing this will allow you to determine how the information was acquired and judge how it may have been distorted as it passed along different channels. If you can’t determine the geography of the system however, then all gossip becomes meaningless.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that since most organizations lack any sort of official espionage system most successful organizations must therefore rely on these informal channels to find out what those on the bottom are up to. Gossip serves this function perfectly. As a matter of fact a lot of the time gossip is a means by which those at the top use to disseminate information in order to gauge the reaction to any new proposals, be it raises, layoffs, personnel changes, or the feasibility of a plan of action before it roles out. Not so much because they need or want the support of those below them but because they generally aren't always sure what to do and are in no position to solicit advice from their subordinates, since that would undermine their own authority. This gives management an excellent technique to employ in order to save face. It can also be used to deliberately leak information to soften the blow of bad news. Making the eventual announcement less painful. For example let's say there's a rumor that there will be no Christmas bonuses this year unlike the previous year which amounted to $500, this is the leak. Now management lets their employees stew for about a week or two and then when it finally comes time to have their one on one personal exchanges with each employee they announce that a $200 Christmas bonus will be handed out this year, which was their intention all along. Employees will easily accept this “new” bonus and will even be made to feel grateful at having been offered such a generous contribution after having assumed that they would receive nothing. This technique is a great way to get your employees to accept a lesser amount without argument or ill will. Understand, good news is almost always kept secret until the very last minute because senior officers naturally enjoy announcing it.
In much the same way, this informal system can be used to warn someone that they’re going to be fired in order to facilitate the task of the executive who has to do the firing, and it also serves as a means of warning people whose performance may be unsatisfactory.
Furthermore, gossip can even be a mechanism for influence, making gossip a functional tool for low power people because it allows them to gather information they otherwise would not have had access to.
Gossip also serves to make undesirable behavior difficult to hide from others and allows people to observe what consequences different behaviors may have in an organization, without experiencing everything first-hand. For instance, let’s say you start a new job. You’re getting to know your co-workers, sizing them up, learning everyone’s roles and positions at the company. You’re figuring out who you jive with, who you may butt heads with, who the office clown is, but then a co-worker makes a comment to you, outside the presence of other employees, about one of your other co-workers. This is as much of a test as anything. You’re co-worker is wanting to see how you will respond. To see if you know how to handle yourself in this type of situation. In other words, to see if you can be trusted, but also, and most importantly, to check that this informal system is still working.
As you can see gossip can be a very multifaceted tool, which can be employed to establish the unspoken rules of the workplace or even as a way for employees who lack power in an organization to gain informal influence over their peers. Which is why it is so useful, and also why it is so wide spread.
It should be noted however, that anyone interested in advancing within an organization must acknowledge the existence of this system of alternative management. Realizing that this system is both stronger and more effective than traditional forms of management would lead you to believe, as anyone who has ever worked in an office environment will be able to attest to.
In short, once you know the sources of gossip, and how it functions within an organization, you will be in a sensational position that will allow you to predict the actions of upper management as well as the maneuverings of your fellow peers, which is a very good position to be in.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Review: Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In an article for The Irish Times, Fionola Meredith, wrote, “It has become a feminist article of faith to believe in the existence of “rape culture”: the notion that sexual violence exists on a continuum, from low-level instances such as leering, wolf-whistling or cat-calling, right up to the most extreme: sexual assault and rape. Well, if that’s the orthodoxy, then I am a feminist heretic. I think “rape culture” is a myth, lacking in logic, which seriously disempowers women and teaches them to be victims. By that logic, a mildly bawdy text message from a colleague, or an unwanted wolf-whistle in the street, is part of the same spectrum that ends in forced sex. Rape culture, as a philosophical construct, simply doesn’t make sense. The span is too broad to be useful. Would we talk about “murder culture”, with nipping or pinching at one end of the scale, and homicide at the other end? What’s worse, conflating the most borderline instances of sexist behaviour with genuine sexual harassment or assault only serves to trivialise these much more serious attacks on women’s agency and dignity. If they’re all part and parcel of the same thing, how do we distinguish between outrageous acts of molestation and minor infringements of the social code?”
On many college campuses today the current rhetoric concerning sexual assault routinely conflates consensual drunk sex with rape, especially given that students are encouraged to see every bad sexual decision as assault. Which is where this flawed notion of “rape culture” really begins to break down, it fails to discriminate between the relatively trivial and the most severe. The majority of campus incidents that have been carelessly described as sexual assault are not even felonious rape, involving force or drugs, but oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides. In most cases of reported rape where “incapacitation” was the “tactic,” 88% of victims were drinking alcohol and another 4% were using drugs, voluntarily. Judging by this data what we have is not a sex problem or an assault problem or even a lack of respect for women problem. What we have is a drinking problem.
Most states now, due to the hysterical propaganda surrounding “rape culture,” have even begun to enact laws asserting that consent is impossible when a person “knew or should have known” their partner was unable to give informed consent because they were drinking. The reality is that, virtually always, the woman is seen as the victim and the male as the perp. The laws focus now is all about finding who’s to blame for what was, in hindsight, unwanted sex. But there is a defect in this way of thinking that becomes evident when we consider the law regarding drunk driving. When a woman is too drunk to give informed consent, then she is not responsible for her decision to have sex. When that same woman climbs in her car to drive home and then kills a family of four, she is completely responsible for her choice to drive while impaired, and the law will hold her responsible for these tragic deaths. Drunk driving? That’s on her. Drunk sex? Thats totally the man’s fault. This way of thinking does both men and women a complete disservice. With drunk driving, both genders are held to a gender-neutral standard, and both are treated as responsible adults. With sex, men, either drunk or not, are held responsible for their sexual behaviors, while women are treated as if they were children.
Christina Hoff Sommers has commented that, “It appears we are in the throes of one of those panics where paranoia, censorship, and false accusations flourish—and otherwise sensible people abandon their critical facilities. We are not facing anything as extreme as the Salem Witch Trials or the McCarthy inquisitions. But today’s rape culture movement bears some striking similarities to a panic that gripped daycare centers in the 1980s. Today’s college rape panic is an eerie recapitulation of the daycare abuse panic. Just as the mythical “50,000 abducted children” fueled paranoia about child safety in the 1980s, so today’s hysteria is incited by the constantly repeated, equally fictitious “one-in-five women on campus is a victim of rape.” “Believe the children,” said the ritual abuse experts during the day care scare. “Believe the survivors,” say today’s rape culturalists. To not believe an alleged victim is to risk being called a rape apologist.”
However, many feminists will still naively claim that reform is urgent given that one in five women will be raped during her time at college and you will be hard pressed to find an article lamenting campus “rape culture” that does not contain some iteration of this often repeated statistic. But it’s inaccurate. Statistics surrounding sexual assault are notoriously unreliable and inconsistent, primarily because of vague and expansive definitions of what exactly qualifies as sexual assault.
While more sober voices have said that the moral panic surrounding “rape culture,” while perhaps a bit overblown, has at least called attention to some serious problems. The reality however, is that it has done nothing but confuse and discredit genuine cases of abuse and violence. Molestation and rape are horrific crimes that warrant serious attention and vigorous response. Panics such as these, only breed chaos and mob justice. They claim innocent victims, undermine social trust, and teach us to doubt the evidence of our own experience.
Most of the essays in this anthology are also linked, in some way or another, to the now prominent #MeToo movement, which is a movement that, while making clear the insidiousness and prevalence of sexual harassment and assault, has also, unfortunately, and this aspect has been greatly overlooked, been eerily centered mostly on the experiences of affluent women. Just who is able to participate in such activism has a lot to do with economic agency. You can pretty much bet that most photos of marchers wearing pink “pussy” hats during the Women’s March, for example, earlier this year, document middle or upper class women able to take time away from work, obtain transportation to a protest site or afford a babysitter. It is a movement that has quite clearly been reappropriated by the upper middle classes. Even the founder of the movement, Tarana Burke, has said that the movement itself has become, "unrecognizable" and that it, “risks losing its original purpose.”
Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Žižek, who views the #MeToo movement as revolutionary, has also cautioned that, as in every revolutionary upheaval, there will be numerous injustices and ironies. Thus, for Žižek, the movement runs the risk of turning into just another case where political legitimization is based on the subject's victimhood status. It is precisely this notion of "victimhood as a form of empowerment" that is, for Žižek, one of the two main dangers posed by the #MeToo movement. Which echoes what Arthur Koestler once said, “If power corrupts, the reverse is also true; persecution corrupts the victims, though perhaps in subtler and more tragic ways.” The other is that it remains too obsessively focused on the realm of sexual exploitation within a very narrowly defined milieu, with little or no relevance for, or impact on, the lives of real women in the real world.
Despite all the remarkable advances we have made in the realm of gender equality, the idea that all men are the enemy of all women has been given a new lease on life, due now, to the erroneous belief in “rape culture.” Which is really a return to the misandry prevalent during the 1960s, only now much closer to the mainstream than it was some fifty years ago. The most recent instantiation of which is the bogus term known as “toxic masculinity.” However, if we again look at statistics we come to find that some 43% of boys are raised by single mothers and roughly 78% of teachers are female. Which means that almost 50% of boys have an almost 100% chance of having a feminine influence while at home and while at school. “Toxic masculinity” doesn’t really seem to be a problem. A lack of masculinity however, might be.
Mothers are often venerated as faultless parents, irrespective of the ways many of them screw up their kids’ lives. Yet they are only held responsible for the positive aspects that show up in their children. For example, if a young man becomes an investment banker or lawyer after being solely raised by his mother, she is lauded as a superb role model, even a saint. But if that same young man becomes a rapist? Rather than blaming the mother for failing to instill proper values in her son, it’s men, all across the United States and the Western world as a group, who are instead held collectively responsible for his heinous actions. Whenever the specter of criminal behavior comes up, most notably rape, responsibility that might normally flow to a mother’s parenting can be conveniently offloaded onto the cab driver in Chicago, the window-washer in Seattle, or the policeman in small-town Maine, none of whom will ever meet her son. If this is how society approaches the causal factors of rape, motherhood has to be the most impotent biological and social construct known to humankind.
The ideas of thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau are the source of most of today’s feminist theories, which attempts to identify society as somehow being responsible for every social ill. However, feminist thinker Camille Paglia, has rejected Rousseau throughout much of her work in favor of thinkers and writers such as Freud and Sade, who weren’t afraid to acknowledge the aggression inherent in humanity and, ultimately, nature itself.
Regularly misled by the naive optimism and the “You go, girl!” boosterism of their upbringing, young women today do not seem to see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark. They assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of human civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature. Too many young women today, raised far from urban environments, seem to expect adult life to be an extension of their comfortable, overprotected homes. But the world remains a wilderness and the price of women’s modern freedoms is personal responsibility for vigilance and self-defense.
Any intelligent person knows, almost intuitively, that society does not teach young men in any way, shape or form, what this book asserts that it does, and if we forget that there are real differences between violent and non-violent conduct, no one is safe. Yes, grabbing a girl’s breasts and sending her a dick pic are both bad, but they’re not equally bad and they’re not bad in the same way. For many feminists, any unwelcome sexual advance is “assault.” But you can get past bad sexual experiences, just as you're expected to get past a bad car accident. But this book doesn't want you to believe that for a second. It insists that men are demons, and that any attempt or expression of sexual desire is dirty and bad, and that a foul experience between a drunken stupid man and a drunken stupid woman inevitably consigns women to chronic anxiety that therapy doesn't seem to help. It’s time we stop pretending that everyone is guilty instead of a few real criminals, otherwise rapists win. No longer will they be just a group of very bad and dangerous people, they’ll just be men. It's utterly painful to read something so monolithic and so lacking in courage as this book. As Paglia, herself, again has argued, “Society is not the enemy, as feminism ignorantly claims. Society is woman’s protection against rape.” In other words, the real rape in this book is the toxic narrative in which it is written.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Review: Sour Candy

Sour Candy Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We’ve all been there. Standing in the aisle of some big-chain box store. Trying to hurry and get the stuff we need so we can get out and on with our lives. There’s a hundred other places we’d rather be, and we’re already annoyed because it took way too long to find a parking place and there are too many people there whom, it would seem, are only there for the sole purpose of standing in our way, chit-chatting with a friend or acquaintance they happened to have ran into while shopping. Thats when the screaming starts. Some loudmouth kid is braying like a donkey because they didn’t get either a cookie or a toy they wanted, and their parents are either trying to negotiate with the little shit, or, worse, attempting to ignore them. Meanwhile, you’re standing there thinking, that it just isn’t possible that this kid isn’t some kind of demon from Hell. Well, you could be right.
Phil Pendleton is an unexceptional man, living a carefree life with his young son, Adam. No one who observes them however, has any idea that Phil has only known Adam for a short time, and this seemingly carefree life they are living is really a living Hell. After the two randomly meet at a store, Walmart of all places, Adam decides to make Phil his newest “parent,” using his terrible powers to completely rewrite Phil’s life so that everyone thinks he’s always had a son. Only Phil remembers the life he used to live and those memories are no comfort as he becomes a prisoner in his own home, a slave to this demonic child.
Suffice to say, this is an ominous and innovative story that plays on the fears associated with becoming a parent. The core premise is one of a man having to take charge of a child he never wanted, and having to unwillingly give up aspects of his personal life, which is a real-world relatable circumstance that offers a breadth of intriguing narrative paths, particularly when considering the child is a supernatural being, possibly even a malicious one.
Burke’s writing is visceral and during the final pages, you could have lit me on fire and I wouldn’t have noticed as Phil’s numb despondence acted like a contagion I struggled to keep out of my own mind. His descent into madness is rendered in unnerving terms and there is even a Lovecraftian pantheon of monsters, which helps to create a stomach-twisting ride through the depths of horror, breathing new life into an often-stagnant part of the genre.
By introducing the unfathomable into the everyday, Burke has managed to hit us all right where we live. Phil Pendleton was simply doing what we’ve all done before, making a quick run to the store and that, coupled with one kind gesture, was enough to ruin him. If this idea that we could all be living so close to an abyss doesn’t scare you, then I don’t know what will.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Just a Little While Longer

"You know he wants me to forget about you, don't you?" 
"Maybe you should." 
He knew he wasn't really talking to anyone. But ever since she died it had made things a little easier to pretend that she was still there. 
At first he pretended that she was only visiting friends or picking up some last minute item needed to finish that nights supper, but he had to stop that mental game of denial, it was getting too easy and it frightened him.
"He thinks I'm crazy." 
"Aren't you?" 
He didn't say anything for awhile. 
"I guess maybe life is for the living,” is what he finally said, but didn't believe.
"You have to move on Frank, I can't stay here forever." 
"I know, I know, Jesus Christ I know, but it's only for a little while, just a little while longer, please."
He got up from the table and poured himself a cup of coffee.
"Is that my cup?" She asked.
"How much longer are you going to keep my things Frank? It's been over a year now."
He just stared at her. He could see the details of her face were beginning to blur. He had a hard time remembering what she even looked like. It was getting harder everyday. Tomorrow he would have to find her picture, the one where she was all smiles, the one she always said was the only picture of herself she ever liked. Keven would help him find it. He would ask him when he came over.
"Dammit Helen." He shouted slamming an open palm down onto the counter.
"Don't you understand?" 
"It would just make things easier on you is all..." 
"Easier? Easier to what, forget about you?" He asked, his voice cracking.
"Is that what you want Helen, for me to forget about you? God knows thats what Keven wants."
He took another sip of coffee. 
"It's not forgetting Frank, it's moving on." 
"Moving on to what Helen? You were everything. You were my life. My hate. My dreams. All that’s gone now. There’s nothing to move on with." 
"You can't grieve forever Frank or you really will go crazy." 
"Good. I want to suffer Helen. I want to go mad with grief. I want to feel the pain of your loss every morning when I wake up until the moment I fall asleep." 
Tears were forming in his eyes as he walked back to the table they shared every morning for twenty-nine years and sat down across from her. No one said anything. They just sat in silence together and that was enough for him.
He wanted to say so much, but found the silence too oppressive and it strangled the words right out of his throat.
"I know you’re dead. But I.....I can't do this."
"Sure you can Frank, just let all the pain and grief be replaced by the good times we had together. It was a beautiful life we had together filled with so much love; sometimes I thought we would drown in it, and we were always there for each other. You were so good to me Frank, I don't think I could have loved anyone else as much..."
"There was never, not in twenty nine years of marriage, a moment I regretted.."
He felt what little control he had begin to slip away. He had always hated crying in front of her.
"You remember when you asked me to marry you? You cried so hard I couldn't even understand what you were saying, but I didn't have to. I could tell that you loved me and I was so happy to say yes."
And then it hit him. So hard he nearly fell out of his chair. The pain was so intense he could barely sit still. He wanted to run. To run out of the house, into the street, and never stop.
"Oh god!" 
"It's ok Frank." 
"No it's not. I can't even enjoy the good times without being reminded  that they're over. I don't know what to do Helen please help me, I can't do this. I can't face it."
But the truth was he was pleading with only himself. He was alone. Sitting at a table. In the kitchen of an empty house. A house now too painful to live in. 
"How am I supposed to go on Helen, and what would be the point?" 
"I don't know Frank." 
"There will never be anyone else like you, but I'm supposed to just accept that and move on?" 
"You can't change it Frank, it's just how things are."
"But it's so goddamn unfair." He shouted. 
"I wish heaven was real. Hell, it doesn't even have to be real, I just wish I could believe it was." 
She didn't say anything.
"I don't want you to become a dream Helen. I don't want you to become a stranger. I don't want it to be like you were never real." 
He sat there for hours talking to himself trying to understand what couldn't be understood. Feeling as empty as the coffee mug in front of him.
"You should eat something Frank, you've only had coffee." 
"I'm not hungry."
"What happens now Helen?" he whispered, barely audible. 
"Nothing Frank." 
That’s always been the logic of a broken life. Grief had hollowed him out.
This was the way it was for him every morning of everyday and he knew that if he wanted to keep her it would have to continue this way. 
"I love you Helen." 
"I love you too Frank."
Some days he would acknowledge what on other days he couldn't. That nothing he did could ever bind her to him. That healing in effect was akin to forgetting. That every minute that ticked away just meant that he was that much further away from her. His grief was the only real connection he still had to her now and one day he knew she would become only a story and remembering her would get harder and harder until he couldn't tell whether what he remembered even happened or if he had just made it up. She would be taken from him piece by piece in the middle of the night as he slept and he would never know the exact moment when he would lose her. 
And then it would be morning again.