Thursday, May 23, 2019

Five Reviews: Games and Movies of 2019

Avengers: Endgame

There are two views of Avengers: Endgame - the standard and the meta. The standard view is to just judge the story and events in the context of the MCU. On that level, it's pretty average. The time travel storyline is, as expected, very wonky and silly, breaking its own rules at several points. The action is not as good as in Infinity War and Thanos has lost all of his gravity. There are some funny moments, and the ending is strong - particularly the sendoff for the four original main Avengers. However let us consider the meta view - the wider idea of what Endgame represents. It is the culmination of over a decade of planning and production. From that perspective, it is an incredible creative achievement. Few studios have the nerve to even try such a feat. To see so many of my childhood heroes on screen kicking ass is just cool, even if I dislike many of the specific artistic choices. I appreciate Disney for bringing this into the world. However I am not especially interested to see where things go from here with the MCU given Disney's shameless politicization and commodification of so much of modern childhood. Endgame is, thankfully, a great opportunity to step away. Thanks for that, Disney.

Grade: B


Shazam is a mediocre and pointless movie. It's so blah that in some ways it is even worse than Suicide Squad. That movie was aggressively bad but there was so much noise and energy that you at least got the sense that they tried. Shazam is just really bland. The action is lame for the most part, as are the special effects. It's just completely forgettable. My hope going into it was that since it is primarily a kids' movie it would at least be funny. It wasn't. Comic book movies are often badly written and/or poorly acted, but rarely are they just flat out boring. DC has managed to accomplish this twice now, as Batman v Superman to everyone's amazement managed to be boring too for much of its middle section. The best that can be said about Shazam is that it is well-intentioned. The child actors give decent performances and there's nothing offensive about it. It's a fine diversion for elementary school kids I suppose.

Grade: C-

Resident Evil 2: Remake

I complain as much as anyone about the constant rehashes and remakes today when it comes to video games and movies. I understand why companies do it - it's easy money and in spite of what audiences say, when we follow the money, we see that remakes are just a safer bet for studios. With that said, I still appreciate a well-done remake. Resident Evil 2: Remake is a textbook example of how to do a remake well. It maintains the spirit of the original game almost perfectly. You have the same setting and characters just updated to look much better on modern systems. The atmosphere is fantastic, the challenge is just right thanks to the three difficulty levels, and there is solid replay value thanks to the two characters and "2nd run" scenarios. It's also easy to mod on PC, so there's that too. It's so good I would recommend it even to people who don't like survival horror. Play on the 'Assisted Mode' difficulty with some costume mods and have a comfy time.

Grade: B+

Devil May Cry 5

Capcom had a good start to the year with Resident Evil 2: Remake. It followed up strong with Devil May Cry 5, a crowd-pleasing fan-focused sequel that washed away the stain of the ill-conceived DmC: Devil May Cry. In many ways it is the same formula as Resident Evil 2: Remake - better graphics, classic characters, variable difficulty, and tight gameplay. It helps that the humor is on point, the characters are fun, and the controls are solid. Devil May Cry 5 has a few flaws that keep it from being in that A-level tier though. The story is not great. The environments could use more variety. I did not love playing as V, the weird summoner character. The music is a mixed bag. Still, these blemishes aside, the foundation is there for some great DLC or a special edition down the road. I really hope we get a playable Vergil (and maybe even Trish and Lady too) and some other content.

Grade: B+


Sekiro is the best game of 2019 thus far and may be a strong contender for GOTY. It is a master class in how to do a true single player action RPG. The story and overall aesthetic are fantastic. It is not as open-ended and vague as other From Software games like Dark Souls or Bloodborne. With Sekiro we get real cinematics and a much clearer plot progression. There are four different endings, all of them moving and appropriate in their own way. What's more the level design and gameplay are fantastic. Challenging as ever but immensely satisfying once you master the sword combat. The ability to jump and use a grappling hook adds an amazing sense of verticality to the interconnected world. The music is nice too if not as memorable as other From Software games. I especially loved the Fountainhead Palace. Just a gorgeous environment with so much to explore both underwater and up in towering palaces and mountains. Sekiro has one key weakness that is actually a compliment; there's just not enough of it. It needed a bit more - weapon variety, build variety, character customization - something to give me more reason to come back to it. I don't miss the multiplayer and it would not really fit with the story anyway. However Sekiro may be just a bit too stripped down for its own good. Still, an amazing experience. Doesn't quite surpass Bloodborne for me, but it is up there.

Grade: A-

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Random Thoughts VIII

1. Movie Review: Aquaman

This was good. Didn't re-invent the wheel or offer many surprises, but I had fun. It did a lot of things really well. The action and visuals were a blast. Mera was gorgeous. Both of the villains were compelling. And most importantly, Aquaman himself was a total badass. I think it is safe to say the hero is no longer a punchline. Overall, it is a better version of Black Panther. Far better visuals, better action, more charismatic lead, less preachy political nonsense, and fewer plot holes. Definitely the DC Universe's best movie to date.

Grade: B

2. Videogames and Male Competition

Quillette recently published a good article on the subject of video games and male identity. There have been a number of pieces in recent years lamenting how difficult it is for women to get married these days because men would rather play video games. As the Quillette piece mentions, I think it is true that videogames are indeed a surrogate for men's natural desire for hierarchy and competition. The problem is that skill at video games does not signal anything that interests women. Being really muscular, or unusually intelligent, or wealthy, or skilled at cooking - these things signal an ability to provide security to a woman. Making it into the Elite League in Smash Bros Ultimate does not signal these good things - if anything it signals the opposite. While I recognize that there are some good things about playing videogames, the fact remains that they can easily become a lifestyle due to their addictive nature. The same is true of internet porn. In the long run we won't get anywhere breaking men from these addictions until we offer them something better. Women and society at large need to figure out what that is and fast.

3. Trump's Wall

This is a defining moment for all of western civilization.

Do predominantly white western countries have the right to explicitly pursue their own national interest? Few people question Japan's right to its strict immigration policies. Few people condemn Mexico for its border enforcement. Few people criticize any non-western country that seeks to protect its identity. Even Israel gets less criticism for building walls - hell American politicians send them billions every year to help keep Israel Jewish. But what about America itself? What about Poland or Hungary or Italy? What about Australia? What about all of western Europe? Or Canada?

Much as Trump would like it to be, this is at root not about security or drugs or terrorism. It is also not only about illegal immigration. This is about whether or not western nations have a right to an identity. A wall is a powerful symbol. A wall is an emphatic statement - "Us, HERE. Them, THERE." If Trump can get something - anything actually built, it will be an important step toward showing that there is still hope for a political solution to western civilization's problems. If he can't, then we start down a much slower and more painful path.
4. Will Smith

I caught the recent trailer for Aladdin that ended with a terrifying blue CGI genie incarnation of Will Smith. This followed his cringy appearance on YouTube Rewind and continues a trend of missteps for the actor. It's a shame because I was a huge fan of his back in the 90's. He still has some star power but ultimately the problem with Will Smith is that most of his films have been somewhere between bad and mediocre. Since Ali he's done maybe one good movie for every two or three forgettable ones. Part of the problem I think is that he tends to play himself in every role. His "fish out of water black guy" thing, a dated shtick to begin with, is wearing thin at his age. His career is a testament to the importance of evolving as an actor and making good choices when it comes to projects. Tom Cruise, Samuel L Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio - they have all had staying power by doing these two things. It's sort of fitting that he turned down the role of Django in Django Unchained since a Tarantino movie is exactly the kind of thing his career needed to show he is willing to take risks.

5. Relatable, Working Class Heroes

Who makes for a better protagonist? The legendary superpowered 'chosen one' with hidden abilities that let him effortlessly save the day? Or the salt of the Earth working stiff just trying to pay his bills? Are stories about exceptional people inherently more interesting than stories about ordinary people? I made a Twitter thread about this recently. Both can be great I think. Fantasy fiction is rife with stories of mysterious powers and fulfilling of prophecies. The classic hero's journey of the original Star Wars trilogy gets it right with good pacing, strong supporting characters, real drama, and demonstration of real personal growth for the, "chosen one." Then you have Mary Sue type characters like John Galt in Atlas Shrugged or Rey in the new Star Wars movies. They're amazing at everything just because. At least in the case of Galt there was a wider philosophical point to his character. In general, though, I like the more working class types, especially if they are set in an interesting universe. As long as the story isn't excessively naturalistic and boring, it can work great to have a regular Joe type explore an unusual world, like Deckard in Blade Runner. They are just easier to root for.

6. Game Review: Smash Brothers Ultimate

This game is ridiculously fun. I don't know what else to even say. It's Smash. You already know what it is. It's just now on Switch so it's portable and looks gorgeous. It's also got every character. Every. Fricken. Character. Honestly it's bloated as hell. The echo characters are kind of silly - would have served fine as alternate costumes. But who am I to complain about being able to pit Richter Belmont against Dark Samus. The single player is varied and deep. It's also totally unnecessary as the plain Smash mode is endlessly fun. This is an obvious must-have game for Switch owners.

Grade: A-

7. Analyzing Cultural Marxism

How do you detect and analyze propaganda in popular media?

When analyzing a film, book, video game, or whatever, think about it at three levels:

1. What is the main theme or idea of the work?
2. What are the sub-themes or secondary ideas explored by the work?
3. What are some relevant individual scenes, lines, or moments?

The question to ask is, "at what level does it push a cultural message?" The recent live action remake of Beauty and the Beast for example, had one brief pro-gay scene toward the end. This is an example of level 3, a very safe level to push agendas because it tends to invoke the argument from pettiness. Increasingly companies like Disney are more openly pushing propaganda at level 2. We see this in films like The Last Jedi and Wreck it Ralph 2 where there the sub-themes are all militantly feminist or social justice focused. Occasionally we see media that opts for level 1 subversion in its core idea - often in "serious" Oscar-bait type movies about race or history. Gillette also recently did an ad that would qualify as a level 1 given its explicitly anti-masculine theme. Always think in terms of these three levels and you can easily pick this stuff out.

8. Good Financial Advice 

Caught this clip from "Divorce Court" the other day. In it the judge makes an excellent point about how the black community too often treats money. She tells the man to not be a, "pipeline dude," which is a person who serves as a money pipeline between two rich people. People struggling with financial difficulties often do this. They get paid by their boss, wealthy white guy #1, and then they immediately go buy some frivolous crap like some overpriced sneakers, enriching wealthy white guy #2. Now, wealthy white guys #1 and #2 have no problem with this. They thrive off of low class people doing this sort of thing instead of trying to generate wealth. Whatever your income level it is important to have your priorities right. It's fine to have a bit of fun money but it should come after you have invested in yourself and your future.

9. TV Review: Barry 

Binge watched this on a flight a little while ago. This was surprisingly good. It is the story of a hitman who wants to become an actor. It's the sort of thing that could easily turn really cutesy and unrealistic if it leans heavily on the comedy side, like Get Shorty for example (which is a fun movie and decent TV series btw). However Barry is much darker. It doesn't shy away from the naked horror of what its titular character does: He kills people for money. We see him wrestle with this many times and even better, we see that most of his suffering comes from his own bad choices. Barry is a true black comedy that defies conventions in good ways. Also, Henry Winkler and Anthony Carrigan are amazing supporting characters as an acting teacher and a Chechen gangster respectively. The show's biggest weakness is its female characters who don't add much but don't get in the way either.

Grade: B+

10. Women Are Property

As I pointed out in my recent post on gender, due to evolved sex differences, there is an inherent asymmetry of power between men and women. For most of human history women were essentially a commodity. This doesn't mean they necessarily had it worse then men. Wars between tribes tended to end with the men of one side all getting killed and their women being absorbed by the new tribe. I think most would rather be in the woman's position given the choice. Patriarchy evolved in virtually every human society independently because it worked. Its power imbalance is reflected in many aspects of our lives. The tradition of the father of the bride giving her away to her husband at a wedding ceremony. The fact that the Japanese word for husband literally translates to "master" while the word for wife is "in house." Or even the fact that both men's and women's brains tend to automatically see women as things and not people.

What's interesting is that women have also clearly evolved a capacity to revel in this subordinate position. Over half of Algerian women believe their husbands have the right to beat them. A traditionalist woman on Twitter recently argued that if a woman wants a worthy husband she will have to think of herself as his property. The most common female sexual fantasies involve coercion and very high status men as in 50 Shades of Gray, Beauty and the Beast, and many others. In the BDSM community we see vastly disproportionate numbers of dominant men and submissive women. Even nominally feminist women in their dating behavior demonstrate a clear preference for dominant masculine men who are inclined to objectify them. We see this in the behavior of affluent career women who refuse to marry men that earn less than them, suggesting a preference to still be under the man's protection to some extent. Hypergamy motivates women to put aside egalitarian delusions and find an alpha male to whom they can submit. Perhaps the law should reflect this common desire again? Elective coverture marriages for example, where the woman is legally her husband's chattel. I wonder how many couples would opt for such an arrangement...

11. Movie Review: Alita Battle Angel

This was better than I thought it would be. I am familiar with the manga though I haven't read it all. From what I recall the movie is pretty faithful and mainly just glosses over things. The world-building is generally good. I found myself really invested in the setup with the floating city and the mysterious war 300 years prior. The CGI and action are really top notch. The fight scenes in particular had a really cool sense of speed and weight that fit the cyborg nature of the characters. It's a solid origin story. Alita was a multifaceted and believable character. The supporting cast was decent, particularly Christophe Waltz. The main weaknesses were the lackluster villains, the annoying love interest, and the lack of tension due to Alita herself being so ridiculously overpowered. Alita falls head over heels for literally the first guy she meets, a total fuckboy named Hugo, even to the point of literally offering him her heart. I am with the feminists on this one; she should have flown solo or at least had higher standards. Still, didn't take away from an enjoyable flick that has set the stage for a potentially amazing sequel.

Grade: B

12. Book Review: Why Sex Matters

A dense, thorough, uncompromising examination of the science of sex differences and evolution. Bobbi S. Low's work is not the most accessible for lay readers. I read it off and on over several weeks finding the work not terribly engaging. It's the sort of nonfiction book you need to break into chunks and annotate as you go. No surprise given the depth and complexity of the book's titular question. What it lacks in readability it makes up for in rigor. This is an intellectually potent work that is not easily dismissed by the "gender is a social construct" dogmatists. The central point - that gender differences flow largely from biological sex and evolution - has strong scientific backing. It is not even remotely controversial for the myriad other animal species that exhibit gendered behavior. Why should it be for humans? If this is a subject that interests you, this book will broaden your mind, whatever your views, and give you lots of great sources for further investigation.

12. Why Movies Aren't Sexy Anymore

It is ironic how modern society is flooded with porn yet  is so unsexy.

Why is it that rated R movies, raunchy comedies, and romance stories so rarely manage to titillate us anymore? What happened to that old Hollywood sensuality? The problem is likely over-saturation. Porn is ubiquitous. Hookup culture is rampant. Sexual liberation taught the last three generations that sex is cheap and meaningless. Modesty is a dead virtue. Women parade around in public and on Instagram flashing their yoga pants-clad asses and baring their cleavage. The net result of all of this is that sex just isn't that sexy anymore. The allure of old Hollywood actresses came partly from the fact that their era treated sex as something special, magical, and even dangerous. There was no rush to swipe right and start exchanging body fluids. A small glance, a flash of leg, a breathy voice, a graceful movement - even the littlest things were enough to get the blood pumping. There is no way back to that sense of life without rejecting modern degeneracy.

13. The Value of Commitment

A MGTOW guy I know recently argued with me about marriage. He said that too many women are no longer virgins and it is absurd for women to expect men to support them after having given away their virtue. "Why should I have to work my ass off and take care of her in order to get occasional pity sex when Chad Thundercock got her best years and best sex without doing a thing for her?" By this reasoning, any man who has married a non-virgin is a cuck who has been tricked into working for what someone else got for free.

This is wrong though. A woman who goes on to be a loyal and helpful wife is giving her husband many many things that Chad Thundercock never got. Chad never got years of emotional support. Chad never got children. Chad never got the clean home, or delicious meals, dedicated mother, or financial support from a working wife. Loyalty and years of commitment count for something. Now this is of course assuming you have a good wife. In terms of sex, a good wife won't deny her husband anything she gave Chad Thundercock. In fact she ought to do more for her husband sexually since he does more for her. You ought to put your best foot forward for the person who is most valuable to you in your life. That said, I do still think it is better for women to marry young before notching up a lot of (or any) sexual experience.
14. Put Your Best Foot Forward

Continuing from the previous point, I want to point out two different conceptions of love. Some people believe that, when you love someone, you should always be trying to impress them. You want to look your best, act your best, be polite, be kind, smell good, mind your manners - basically be on your best behavior. Others take the opposite view. They see love as being the opportunity to let your guard down. Because you and the other person love each other, you don't need to look your best. You don't need to be super polite. You don't need to worry about impressing them. You can just let your hair down and slum it. You can gain weight, act bitchy, be lazy, etc. Dressing up, making an effort - that's for strangers not your husband / wife.

Many westerners agree with this second notion but I find it abhorrent. I think it is immoral actually. We should give our best effort to those we love the most and to those who do the most for us. I think just in terms of attitude, a man has a right to be offended when he sees his wife being more deferential and kind to strangers than to himself. What have they done to deserve her best behavior? The same applies to husbands. A wife would not like it if her husband spent more time and money supporting strangers than her and their children. A husband and wife should treat each other better than they treat anyone else.

15. The Undernet

The internet in its current form cannot last. The inevitable progression, fueled by capitalism, from small decentralized communities of experts to a handful of big corporate tech fiefdoms, has pushed us toward a situation where the entire mainstream internet is becoming like LinkedIn. Tumblr recently killed all of their NSFW content out of fear that "female presenting nipples" were not advertiser friendly. Facebook and Google continue to aggressively deplatform people who don't enthusiastically subscribe to progressive politics. Twitter is doing the same. Governments and private groups are encouraging this as well. The tech giants are too entrenched to be vulnerable to traditional market competition. They can just censor their would-be competitors - suspend their Twitter accounts, refuse to host their apps in popular app stores, etc. Even worse: The payment processors and hosting companies are getting in on the deplatforming. So now it isn't just "go build your own Twitter" if you don't like it. It's now, "go build your own Twitter, and hosting company, and DNS provider, and credit card company, and bank, and payment processor."

The free market will not save us nor can we hold out hope for a regulatory solution. Trump and other figures may complain about it but we are years off from any serious legislative fix to these issues, if ever. No, we are going to have to have to be even scrappier. What are we to do if neither the government nor the market can protect our rights?

The solution is to take matters into our own hands. What we need to do is build a complete alternative to the current internet - an 'Undernet' if you will. What this would constitute is an entirely alternate infrastructure and suite of services all integrated for ease of usability. I am talking about privacy-focused browsers, VPNs, reliable hosting, alternative social networks, impartial payment processors and hosting companies, DNS providers, video sharing, and everything else needed to tie it together. This will require new revenue systems perhaps built around cryptocurrency, microdonations, and Patreon-like subscription systems. Much of this stuff already exists. For social media you have things like Gab and Minds, for browsing you have Brave, and there are a number of alternative but little known payment processors.

What is needed is for some very smart people to figure out how to tie it all together. How do we create a true Undernet - a free and uncensored alternative internet - that is easy for anyone to dive into and explore? How do we ensure maximum privacy, encryption, peer-to-peer protocols, anonymous payment, and security? I have some high level ideas and with a team I could probably make progress, but alas I have neither the time nor the resources to do such a thing on my own. However as the mainstream corporate internet becomes increasingly sanitized and bland, people will more and more cry out for authentic unfiltered communication. Thus one thing I know for sure about the Undernet is this: If we build it, they will come.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Fourteen Hot Takes on Gender and Sex

Flaming hot takes on sex and gender. Random musings really. Some are serious. Some less so. Some contradict one another. Read at your own risk.

1. Of Course Sex is Real

What are we to make of the modern idea that gender is entirely a social construct? I have read many books on this subject of late and it is striking how little examined this idea is. Take it seriously for a moment. How is it that hundreds of human societies across thousands of years all independently created patriarchal monogamy-based social systems? How is it that thousands of other animal species, including our closest primate relatives, all have significant gender differences in behavior due to evolution? Why would nature just skip humans when it comes to engineering biological gender differences? Why would every human civilization create 'sexist' societies if there is no biological cause or motivation? Even more hilarious, there are those on the far left who argue that even sex is a social construct. A penis only exists because society believes it so, apparently.

Our ancestors and children have always understood some basic realities: Of course sex is real. Of course sex largely determines gender. Of course gender influences behavior and roles in society. Let us stop fearing what follows from these truths.

2. Two Versions of Feminism

For a long time I considered myself a feminist. Then I started reading more and came to see how divorced from reality the movement has become. The contemporary third (or fourth? or fifth?) wave of feminism is degenerate, dysgenic, and cultural cancer. However there is a version of feminism that I can still support. The first wave feminists did not believe in gender equality; they did not argue that men and women were the same. Instead they argued that the female sex had unique needs that were not properly represented by a male-dominated government. Precisely because men and women are different it is important for government to listen to both sexes and ensure society meets their needs. This is the polar opposite of modern egalitarian feminism which assumes bigotry as the only reason 50% of tech company CEO's aren't women. Sex-aware feminism is in step with reality and can be a force for good. Egalitarian modern feminism is premised upon fictions and will continue to cause social unrest and contempt between the sexes everywhere it is practiced.

3. Why PUA is stupid

Pickup artistry is essentially haggling - psyching out or wearing down women so that they have sex with you against their better instincts. I deliberately use the term 'better instincts' too, because casual sex is not good for women. PUA is distinct from seduction or courtship, which are about creating attraction over the long-term, not just getting the lady to drop her panties for one night. The skill itself seems worthless to me over the long term. It doesn't get you a loyal wife or family or anything meaningful. Rather it gets you a lot of drama with bitter women. PUA is all about simulating status to make women think you are worthy. Better to invest that time into developing real skills and gaining real status. Better to be the genuine article than some slick talker. Think of it this way: Would you rather be the guy with the coupon book burning hours haggling with a salesman, or the guy who rolls up, points to what he wants, cuts a check, and then leaves in a matter of minutes?

Furthermore PUA creates more promiscuity, which is bad for society. It makes zero sense that PUA's complain about women being sluts and then go around banging random women to score points. Roosh, a notorious PUA guru, figured at least this much out, eventually becoming a neoreactionary traditionalist type. A lot of PUA's I think end up where he is eventually. His journey is the other side of the coin for the "roastie" late 30's single girl who wasted her youth banging alpha men and now wants to settle down. PUA philosophy creates millions of women like this. If we want healthy gender relations and a society comprised of strong families, we must repudiate both feminist sexual liberation and PUA-style notch-collecting. It takes two to tango.

4. On Infidelity and Polygyny

I ran an informal Twitter poll the other day to determine which sex cares more about sexual fidelity. The results were not very conclusive. I predicted that women would care less because they have certainty of parentage. As long as the father has good genes and provides resources, they won't worry too much about him getting some action on the side. In popular culture we see this reflected in how much more harshly we judge women who cheat.

Consider the film Lost in Translation. In one scene, Bob, Bill Murray's character, very casually (and somewhat unintentionally) cheats on his wife. The consequence is a brief awkward lunch with his friend Charlotte. She forgives him quickly, and so do we the audience. We have a bit more context than Charlotte too. For example, we see that when Bob wakes up in the morning with the lounge singer, he grimaces. He thinks to himself, "What the fuck did I do last night??" We the audience see this, but Charlotte does not. From her perspective Bob may have gone out of his way to cheat. Bob may do this sort of thing all the time. Yet still she forgives him. Now imagine instead Charlotte had cheated. Even with her distracted vaguely negligent husband, we would not have felt sympathy for her. It would have ruined her character.

Why are we cool with Bob cheating but not Charlotte? I think part of it, subconsciously, is the understanding that Bob is a high status man. He's a wealthy successful actor. He's earned it. Of course he has women throwing themselves at him. How can we expect him to be faithful? Societies have long accepted that men of means will use their resources to score some extra tail. In fact I would even go so far as to say that there are ethical ways of practicing polygyny. There is a eugenic benefit to society in allowing high status men (presumably with good genes) to procreate with multiple women provided they can support their offspring.

5. Why is the Man the Head?

Conservatives who believe strongly in gender roles often say that men and women are different but equal in worth. Christians also say this, however the more traditionalist ones will also argue that the man must be the head of the household. It is the husband that gets the last word and the wife must submit to him. If husband and wife are of equal worth, why is the man the head?

Studying evolution gave me an answer - one premised on an uncomfortable biological reality. Consider an average woman and an average man. They are alone together. If they were to fight to the death, 9 times out of 10 the man would win. If the man wished to rape the woman, 9 times out of 10 he could because he is likely bigger, stronger, faster, and more aggressive. Men as a class have an implicit physical authority over women as a class. If a woman lives in a home with a man - if a woman is merely alone with a man - she is implicitly under his authority. This is how we evolved for millions of years and it deeply informs our values.

Men have to be more publicly accountable than women. When we see a begging family out on the street, it is the father we blame, just as Ras Al Ghul blamed Bruce Wayne's father for the death of his parents. When it's time to fight a war, check a bump in the night, or be the last to get in a lifeboat it is men that are called to step up and be accountable. This doesn't change when a man starts a family. Marriage constitutes the ultimate in accountability for a man. He now has to be accountable for himself, a wife, and any children they produce. By contrast for a woman marriage constitutes the ultimate vulnerability. She must live under the same roof as a man not related to her, take his name, become impregnated by him, bear and rear his children, and ultimately submit to his authority. The feminists are right when they say that marriage constitutes female subjugation. That's the point.

6. Strong Female Characters

Why do men create Strong Female Characters?

I think it's because they like to imagine a beautiful woman who shares their masculine values - strength, competence, assertiveness, stoicism, etc. They demonstrate these values through action - killing tons of bad guys. It helps if they are also drop dead gorgeous, as beauty connotes power for women. With their revealing outfits these women are both sexually alluring to men while also appealing to masculine values. I think it's fine for men to enjoy such characters but it is important to keep aware of the line between fiction and reality. Most women are not like this and the ones that are would make terrible girlfriends.

7. Female Fantasy

The female sexual fantasy is a powerful high status man who only has eyes for her. Consider some of the examples in the picture. All are men of power - men who have authority over other men in some way. This power is alluring to a woman because it improves the likelihood of her offspring's survival should she mate with such a man. What makes it fantasy is the degree of supplicating the men all engage in to try to win over their one perfect woman.

Spiderman and Superman are superheroes - gods among men - who suffer from severe oneitis. In Pretty Woman and Sex and the City you have wealthy men choosing to wife up and give legal control of their finances to a literal street-walking whore and a bitter washed up 50-something slut respectively. 50 Shades of Grey is more of the same with some additional cartoonish details. No man finds these fantasies appealing - this notion that if I as a man make it to the 99th percentile of status (superhero, billionaire, etc.) I might be able to marry a prostitute, an over the hill party girl, or a snarky feminist girl next door type. But women find them appealing precisely because the women are not especially deserving. The women are not exceptionally talented, smart, kind, or even beautiful (though 1990 Julia Roberts is bae). The fantasy works because average women can feel like they too have a chance of their knight in shining armor coming and sweeping them off their feet. So long as it is understood as fantasy it's not a big deal. The problem starts when society starts telling women that they are entitled to such men in the real world.

 8. Critique of Family Alpha advice

I recently discovered an interesting right of center men's blog called The Family Alpha. The blog offers a lot of advice to married men for keeping your marriage strong. Much of it is good. The focus is on personal accountability, staying fit, being a good provider, and using game to keep your wife attracted to you. The last point is where I take some issue. At several points the writer outright states or implies that the wife's choices are entirely the man's responsibility. The solution to every marital problem is just "be more alpha / awesome" and the woman will adjust naturally.

The problem with this advice is that it assumes women have zero agency. A wife's behavior is not 100% a function of the man's actions. Women have free will just as men do. The advice, "just be awesome and she'll change her tune," is not bad advice, but it is incomplete. Because the thing is, she might not change her tune. Furthermore, the advice relies solely on implicit leadership, when in reality sometimes explicit leadership is necessary. Headship sometimes requires explicitly calling out bad behavior and correcting your wife. It is uncomfortable and must be done thoughtfully, but it is at times necessary. Men are better suited to explicit leadership (larger, stronger, deeper voices, etc) while women are better at implicit leadership. The women's marriage advice book Fascinating Womanhood exemplifies this as it teaches women to improve their relationships through changing their own behavior, not usurping their husband's authority.

Men should try to remain attractive to their wives. Be assertive, stay in shape, hold down a good job, be the family's rock - all of this is great. It doesn't guarantee a successful marriage or content wife. She may have deeper issues. She may need more direct guidance or instruction. Headship sometimes must be direct and unambiguous. Wives too need to be held accountable for their choices. Wise husbands demonstrate both explicit and implicit leadership, leading by word and example.

9. Whore, Escort, Sugar Baby, Mistress, Concubine, Wifey

What is the difference between these types of women? I argue it is the degree to which sexual intercourse is the core priority of the relationship. For example with a wife I'd argue that sex is about 25% of the relationship. The other 75% is made up of other priorities such as emotional support, motherhood, etc.

Whore: 100% -- Fucking is all that matters
Escort: 80% -- May see more than once. Looks and personality matter.
Sugar Baby: 65% -- Need to get along well. Some emotional support too.
Mistress: 50% -- Like a girlfriend at this point. Need real intimacy.
Concubine: 35% -- May bear children. Sex is no longer main priority.
Wife: 25% -- Family and other issues come first.

10. Scoring App for Men and Women

What is your marriage market value?

I had the idea the other day of creating an app that scores men and women. You input lots of details about yourself and it outputs a score. What would make it controversial is that it would be honest and score men and women differently. For example, women's scores would go down a lot faster as they got older and men's scores would be influenced a lot more by annual income. The app would also factor in things like sexual history, number of current children, debt, and other relevant attributes. Once users have their score, they can try to match up with partners who have a similar score. The app would help people be realistic about their prospects. The two tricky technical challenges are 1. Accurately scoring people's looks and 2. Getting honest answers from people. Otherwise the actual software is quite simple to write. Hit me up if you're interested in helping build or market it. Could be fun.

11. Masculinity, Femininity, and Gender Roles

Which of these two seems more powerful?

Not long ago the trailer for the movie Captain Marvel came out. Predictably some feminists complained about it, but for an interesting reason. They complained that Samuel L Jackson got to talk more in the trailer than Captain Marvel herself. Some argued this was simply because he is more famous. However I think there is another more basic reason: Women's voices don't carry as much authority as men's. It's why the movie trailer voice guy is always a guy. We don't find women as intimidating as men. It's one of the reasons both men and women prefer male bosses. In the state of nature, authority was all about physical dominance. Women don't have this so we feel less secure with a female manager or leader. The one thing women can use to be intimidating is their sexuality. It's why female super heroes wear revealing outfits. It's why female fighting game characters have big boobs. Greater sexual potency makes them seem stronger.

Feminine strength and sexuality are based on vulnerability. Pregnancy, therefore, is the ultimate state of femininity. It is the time when a woman is at her most vulnerable. Thus a nude pregnant woman appears even more feminine because she seems more vulnerable still. This doesn't apply to men. For them it is the opposite. Masculinity is about accountability. Men seem more masculine when they look ready to be accountable - equipped for action with armor and tools. A naked man just seems silly. It's no surprise women don't spend nearly as much effort trying to see naked men as men do trying to see naked women. But consider again the picture of the man and nude woman above. Both the man and the woman are very powerful but in different ways. Western society makes it easy to understand the man's power but difficult to appreciate the woman's.

12. On Women Voting

First of all, I am skeptical of democracy generally, however that discussion is its own essay. I think that if a society is to have a properly functioning democracy, the most important principle is a coupling of authority and responsibility. No one should vote without the ability to be physically accountable for their vote. Voting is an act of political violence. Voting dictates which citizens get guns pointed at them by the government and which foreigners get drone strikes for breakfast. Any individual who is unwilling or incapable of putting on a uniform, picking up a rifle, marching over to their neighbor's house, and pointing a gun at them, should not be voting. To allow people to instigate violence in their name without risk to themselves is a moral hazard.

This is the core argument against women voting. They are simply not capable of being as accountable for political violence as men. If women's votes lead to migrant invasion or terrorist attacks or nuclear war, do we expect women to meet that violence in kind? Of course not. They'll be off cowering in FEMA shelters with the children as they should. A proper society would never give them such authority to begin with. It is akin to making a young child responsible for the family budget. A proper democracy would only allow people to vote after they registered for some form of national service that made them eligible for a draft. They should also have to undergo some basic training, meet a fitness standard, and pass a civics test.

You need not have a blanket ban on women, however far fewer would meet this standard than men. To give them some political voice I also support the idea of family votes. I think a family vote should be weighted equal to the number of members. So for a married couple with three kids, the man could vote for the family and it would be worth 5 votes. The logic here is that people with kids are more invested in the future of society. They make better voters because they have skin in the game.

13. All Sex with Japanese Women is Nonconsensual

A friend of mine, let's call him Jack, was talking to me the other day about his experiences dating Japanese women. He complained of the unusual sex culture, noting that whenever he and a Japanese woman began having sex, the woman would say, yamete ("stop!") or "no" or something suggesting that she did not want sex. But the thing is, whenever Jack would actually stop, the woman would get annoyed and tell him to continue. "It's like they want me to rape them or something," Jack lamented. Well, there's a reason for that.

In less developed parts of the world such as central Asia and Africa, there is a tradition known as bride kidnapping. The way it works is that when a couple has spent some time courting and is preparing to marry, the man will pretend to kidnap the woman by grabbing her off the street and taking her home. In some places this is done even when there is no relationship; a man will just grab a random woman, take her home, and keep her captive for a day or two. In those cases where the woman does not know the man, she may or may not be raped, however from the community's perspective it doesn't matter. The mere fact that she was kept in the man's house will cause everyone to assume that the two had sex, and since she is no longer a virgin, no self-respecting man will marry her. She has no choice but to marry her abductor.

So what does this have to do with Jack's issue? Consider the motive for bride kidnapping. It is done to allow women to maintain their innocence. Men evolved to prioritize virginity and purity in women because it increases the likelihood that their offspring will be legitimate. Women, therefore, do not want to ever appear too eager. When an offer for sex or marriage comes along, they must say no. Bride kidnapping takes the choice out of their hands and lets the husband (and wider community) know that she stayed virtuous to the end. The same logic applies to Japanese women (and it isn't only Japanese women that do this) who say, "no" and "stop" during sex. Japanese men are attracted to purity (this is why lolicon is so popular). They don't want a slutty experienced over-eager woman. They want a woman who is untouched. Thus women in Japan during sex tend to act as though sex is being forced upon them. Many women around the world eroticize the lack of consent - the feeling of being taken by a powerful man. Evolution may be to blame for this as well.

14. Patriarchy is our Only Hope

In the long run human civilization probably won't last. Either slowly or quickly we will likely destroy ourselves. Survivors will regress to the harshest forms of patriarchy just to stay alive. Technological singularity is another possibility, but the probability of it happening is low, the time frame is longer than people think, and if it happens, we will no longer be dealing with human beings anyway.

So how do we continue to live as homo sapiens sustainably into the future? Consider this: Most people think that modern societies have closed the gap of gender differences thanks to technology. The advent of guns for example is said to have reduced the importance of the size difference between men and women. However, in reality, the opposite is true. Modern civilization is even more gender divided than in the past. Sure, we have guns now, but who owns most of them? Who invents, maintains, and learns how to use them? Modern civilization is delicate. Its infrastructure requires vast expertise distributed across millions of minds. Sewer systems, deep sea internet cables, nuclear power plants, etc. Which gender disproportionately possesses this expertise?

People worry that AI is going to wipe out a lot of jobs. This is true but it will be gradual and it will not wipe out the need for expertise. One job it can't wipe out is 'Mom'. Since women disproportionately do a lot of the service sector jobs most easily replaced by algorithms, it seems logical that encouraging more women to stay home with their families is a good method for reaping the benefits of automation without disrupting society too much. This to me seems far better than something like UBI, which I think is less sustainable and far more socially radical. Women staying home with the kids is a part of recent historical memory and in line with our species' evolution. Assuming we don't destroy ourselves, this sort of retro-futuristic approach seems best.

I don't think we need to go to the extreme of coverture wherein women are legally the property of their husbands and male relatives (unless of course cultures elect to go that route - consent of the governed and all that). I think if we work iteratively we can maintain individual rights and enough flexibility that women will basically be free to do all of the same things as men. In a society that embraces evolved gender roles and liberty, we would likely end up with a kind of soft patriarchy - a culture that accepts gender norms and tolerates noncomformist individuals. A good example of this is modern Japan's attitude toward homosexuality. There is a strong heterosexual norm that encourages family formation, but gay people are free from persecution. Society benefits from their productivity and creativity without normalizing their lifestyle. A similar approach is suitable for gender relations. Maintain gender roles as a standard but allow for variance - a minority of career focused women and domestic men.

Who knows? It may not be so bad.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Pants and the Skirt: Review of Fascinating Womanhood

Helen Andelin’s book Fascinating Womanhood is founded on one basic premise: Men and women are fundamentally different. Its argument for traditional marriage is quite simple: Femininity catalyzes masculinity, and in a relationship, this is a woman's best way to win her man's devotion.

Yet Fascinating Womanhood is not simply a relationship advice book. It is also a book about society and humanity. Andelin argues strongly for gender roles – the “Pants” and the “Skirt” you might call them. She opposes feminist notions of gender equality and the idea that the sexes are wholly fungible. Her priority, above all else, is the strength of families and the well-being of children. To this end she passionately believes a society that devalues the Skirt is both immoral and doomed to fail.

Is she right in her basic premise of male and female psychological sex differences?  There is still much debate, but increasingly the science is coming down heavily on her side. Numerous studies of evolution, psychology, and brain development strongly evidence what our ancestors and children have always known: Boys and girls are different. The idea that men and women naturally differ in their thinking and behavior was not controversial for most of human history. Perhaps then it is unsurprising that more free, wealthy, and progressive societies often exhibit greater gender differences.

Andelin runs with her gender thesis and starts by discussing the nature of men. She talks about hierarchies and competitiveness. She talks about the need for respect and meaningful work. She argues that most boys and men are good, hardworking individuals that want to start families with a woman they can cherish. There are some broad statements in this section that will not ring true for everyone however there is still a lot of good insight.  The struggles of young boys in today’s education system (girls are outperforming them at all levels) bolster Andelin’s point about the unique psychological needs of men.

This is one of the book's strengths. More than most modern social science books Fascinating Womanhood shows tremendous compassion for men. In our current #MeToo era it has become fashionable to think the worst of men. The media gleefully characterizes them as misogynistic patriarchal oppressors who are to have their livelihoods destroyed over a bawdy joke or a bad date. Andelin’s voice is a breath of fresh air. She recognizes that most men, like most women, are well-intentioned, decent people.

The discussion of female nature is similarly measured if overly broad. Andelin very clearly defines femininity and feminine qualities and explains how men find them fascinating. She encourages wives to be a source of joy and comfort in their husband's lives. She endorses biblical gender roles with the man as the leader in the home. While she encourages wives to be submissive and obedient, she also stresses the importance of open communication and respectfully disagreeing with husbands when necessary. Most men I think would agree with the basic idea that femininity is attractive while disagreeing with some specific suggestions. Andelin's advice to "act childish" to diffuse arguments, for example, may not work for everyone.

Fascinating Womanhood is a surprisingly empowering book for women. Ms. Andelin does not believe women in flawed relationships are hapless victims. Instead she tells women to take ownership of their own behavior. She tells them to work to rebuild trust with their husbands. She tells women that through their own actions and the force of their own will, they can reform their marriages. Controversially, she suggests this even in cases of infidelity or abuse (though she acknowledges that divorce is acceptable in situations where one partner may be a danger to the other or the children).

It’s an interesting contrast with other politically right of center marriage advice. Among the Christian complementarian movement as well as among the “red pill manosphere,” the basic advice on marriage is this: If the wife is unhappy, it is the husband’s fault for not being sufficiently godly / alpha / manly whatever. The premise is that the wife’s behavior is wholly a function of her husband. Fascinating Womanhood begs to differ. While a husband and wife may not have entirely equal responsibility in all things, Andelin firmly believes that women can be responsible for the state of their marriages.

While placing a great deal of responsibility at the feet of women, Andelin is also compassionate and empathetic toward women and their unique natures. Fascinating Womanhood delights in relaying the joys of being a housewife and mother. The book talks about feminine dress, manner, housework, cooking, child-rearing, interior design, socializing, volunteer work, and all manner of traditionally feminine interests. It makes for a good sales pitch for people skeptical of the traditional lifestyle. The book also uses a lot of testimonials, literary allusions, and biblical references to bolster its points. It adds color and persuasiveness, particularly for serious Christians.

Selling the importance of the Skirt to a society that is all about the Pants is no easy feat. Contemporary western cultures tend to look down on women who stay home. Being at home to prioritize your family - your children and husband - apparently makes you a slave. True freedom can only be found in paying strangers to raise your kids and helping some corporation earn billions in profits instead of serving your loved ones. Andelin’s writing is at its strongest when she questions this value system.

One area where I think she went a little off the rails was with regard to sex. Andelin encourages women to have sex regularly with their husbands, but also tells them to say “no,” regularly lest their husbands become sex fiends. She spends several pages explaining how to properly reject a husband's sexual advances. Contradicting her exhaustive biblical arguments for being obedient and respecting the husband's decisions, Andelin even tells women to unilaterally destroy their husband's naughty magazines since pornography is “filth.”

Andelin’s attitude toward sex is not biblical. Both the husband and wife are supposed to freely give of themselves to their partner. In other words, neither the wife nor the husband should reject their partner's advances but for a very strong reason. (medical issue, house on fire, etc.) I also find it odd that Andelin encourages women to respond to even infidelity and physical abuse with submissiveness to win over a bad husband, but draws the line at hubby's Playboy stash.

This issue aside, Fascinating Womanhood is still an excellent manual on traditional marriage based on strict gender roles. It is a useful read both for unmarried women seeking such a relationship and married people looking to revive their romance. It is not, of course, for everyone. There are many people who genuinely prefer more egalitarian arrangements. I'd argue that even for such folks the book is worth a look as it will help them reflect on their own values and understand how much of the rest of the world lives. I also endorse the broader message of the book as it celebrates the art of homemaking and family nurturing.

Healthy civilizations value both the Pants and the Skirt. Andelin’s book is a love letter to the importance of the Skirt in human society. It is a reminder of the crucial non-material values of home and family. It is a reminder that human beings often do their most important work for society when they are not receiving a paycheck for it. Would that modern feminists remember this instead of clutching their pearls over the number of female CEO’s. Andelin’s Fascinating Womanhood insists that men and women work best together when we recognize our differing natures and seek to complement each other’s strengths. She may well be onto something.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Migration from Google

I have been gradually migrating away from all Google services over the last several weeks.


Lots of reasons. I'll narrow it down to three core ones:

1. I no longer feel comfortable allowing so much of my personal data to be mined for advertising purposes no matter what company does it.

2. I no longer trust Google to act ethically with respect to their technology. This trust was broken gradually over the last several years.

3. I believe Google is having a bad effect on our wider culture in numerous ways.

So in this post I am just going to go over what alternative solutions I use for various Google products.

Google Search

 Alternative: DuckDuckGo and Bing

Google Search is still a great search engine. Much of the web is optimized for being easily found by Google Search. Unfortunately, recent events have shown Google's hostility to heterodox ideas and their comfort with both censorship and search result manipulation for political purposes. Thankfully there are many other search engines. I use DuckDuckGo by default and sometimes Bing. The latter I find is almost as good as Google while the former has better privacy guarantees. In a pinch, I'll use Google, but never while signed into a Google account.

Google Chrome

Alternative: Firefox

This was an easy one since I already use Firefox. I occasionally used Chromium when I needed a second browser. I also used Chrome from time to time with Google Hangouts since they are largely broken on Firefox. With the recent change forcing browser sign in when logging into a Google account, I can no longer justify using Chrome at all. Firefox has long covered all of my browser addon needs and works great on Linux, Android, and Windows. I have Opera and incognito Chromium hanging around for those, "can't be Firefox!" edge cases.


Alternative: Protonmail

Switching emails is always annoying. It isn't hard to set up a new address, rather it's migrating all of your logins and getting your contacts aware of the change. I did some research and decided to set up a business account with Protonmail. It's fairly cheap and easy to use. It has strong encryption and other privacy guarantees. It's also based in Switzerland, which is reassuring for various reasons. The downside is that the user experience is not as nice as Gmail. Mail search isn't as good (can't search email body text) and the UI is not as intuitive. If you really just want to get away from Google but don't care as much about privacy, there are other email services that are nicer to use. I like protonmail a lot but there are definite tradeoffs.

Google Drive

Alternative: Sync

There are a lot of reasons why I would never trust Google for personal file storage. That they scan your files for advertising isn't even my biggest concern. I switched to Sync because it not only works well across several platforms but also incorporates a zero knowledge privacy guarantee (this means that even employees of Sync cannot read your files). What's more it is a Canadian company, which means less worry about crappy American data privacy laws and mass collection from US government agencies. Sync also is great for securely sharing files as it includes password protected links and other tools in its admin console. If your priority is ease of use, Dropbox is also pretty great, particularly if you need to use a variety of devices. For me, their history of breaches and their weaker privacy guarantees disqualified them.

Google Authenticator
Alternative: Authy

Google Authenticator is a super useful app for MFA. Instead of dealing with a yubikey or SMS messages, you just use generated codes to add a layer of security to your accounts. There isn't any obvious privacy or security issue with using Authenticator (that I know of, anyway); I just personally did not want to rely on a Google product. I switched to Authy and was pleasantly surprised to discover that its Android app was much better than Google Authenticator. Excellent UI and super easy to migrate.

 Google Music
Alternative: Poweramp, Spotify, Amazon MP3 store, CDs

My main source of music is physical CD's. I rip them into FLAC files for archival purposes. I then convert those FLACs into mp3s and put them on my phone. I also buy mp3's from online stores like Amazon. For obscure stuff that I can't buy legitimately, in a pinch, I'll download from YouTube or some other mp3 site. I have accounts with streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, but mainly I use them to discover new stuff. So yeah, maybe I'm weird, but Google Play music just doesn't suit me. Like many other services it focuses on streaming even when you buy songs. You need to download a separate program to download all of your songs to desktop. I used it with my Android phone just because I was too lazy to look up a decent player. After experimenting with a few I really got into Poweramp. It's a good simple music player but it also has TONS of features. It works fine for streaming music from my huge mp3 collection in my Sync account. I'm still exploring alternatives though. My music collection is huge and a mess.

Google Maps

This one also wasn't too hard to replace. Google Maps frankly isn't that great on Android. It's slow, buggy, and the directions are frequently just plain wrong. I switched to to find a few offices in downtown Tokyo and was happy to find it quite easy to use and responsive. There are also lots of other map and directions apps out there so this is a pretty easy one.

Google Hangouts

Hangouts is tricky to replace completely. It involves many use cases. For one, I have to use Hangouts for work meetings. I have long-lived hangout chats with people which I uses for just quick texts. Also for YouTube I use hangouts to do livestreams with other people. For just messaging friends and family, I now use a combination of Telegram, Signal, and occasionally WhatsApp. It is hard to consolidate to one when other people are accustomed to a specific app. For longer term group chats I use Slack and Riot. I don't love Slack but I get invited to a lot of workspaces so I just have to deal for now. For meetings I use Zoom for business and Discord for hobbies. The latter has decent group voice chat support but not great. Overall, this has been one of the thorniest to get away from but I'm making progress.


Alternative: WordPress or Medium

This one isn't done yet obviously. I intend to migrate to a new domain on a self-hosted WordPress site in the near future. I'm also considering Medium. Need to do some more research on it. I have an account for a side project but I'm not sure I want to trust Medium for my main personal blog. Blogger is tough to leave. I have been a fan for years because of its simplicity. However this is one switch where I'm genuinely excited to explore alternatives.