Discourse in the Culture Wars and the Hunger for Catharsis

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Alastair's Adversaria

This is just the fucking worst.

Imagine a self-help book written by the Darth Maul of tenured campus bad boys, an act of trahison des clercs so severe that it calls into question the entire five-thousand-year academic project—a book that seeks to make accessible to a general audience a mélange of mysticism, philosophy, psychology and dietary recommendations, assembled into a package so intellectually low-cal that it would be hilarious were it not basically a to-do list for a generation of tiki torch-wielding neo-Klansmen.

So begins Richard Poplak’s review of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life in The Johannesburg Review of Books. Poplak is far from alone in his excoriating take on Peterson. Houman Barekat declares Peterson to be a ‘a prancing messiah-cum-surrogate-dad for gormless dimwits everywhere’ in the LA Review of Books, concluding his review with the paragraph:

Admittedly it’s not always easy to distinguish between a harmless retro eccentric…

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Foreigners

Benjamin Has A Blog

Capture 2

Hanoi, 0730. So I’m in the café where the immigrants go. An American mother in yoga pants is chastising the counter staff for offering her a bag of oatmeal raisin cookies that were baked yesterday. “No, I want them baked today,” she says. I hate white people.

There is a weird abundance of grace here, when you consider that not too long ago the Marines were skeet-shooting Vietnamese infants up in the rice paddies. Also when you consider that if a foreign power ever spilled blood on American soil we wouldn’t forgive them until the sun burned out. But Vietnam is cool. They let the children of the killers return to the scene of the crime, and yell at them about cookies.

At another table a young ESL teacher is saying “Mate, I yelled BE QUIET, and the kids were stunned! They all stopped talking!” His friends laugh at…

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A Letter to Third Shifters

Dear Fellow Creatures of the Night,

As usual, I would like to say how honored I am to be part of your fold and how much respect and admiration I have for all of you.

Our backgrounds are various. Full-time parents during the day, going to work after the kiddos go down for the night for that supplemental income. College students who want their days clear for classes and schoolwork. Those legendary souls who sacrifice two-thirds of their day to two separate jobs. The ones afflicted with insomnia who would rather be making money than tossing and turning. No matter who you are, or where you come from, my hat is off to you.

We battle with biology, struggling to keep ourselves awake at night when our bodies naturally want to be asleep. When we get home in the morning we battle the sun peeking through the windows and the noise of the rest of the world out and about to try and get some sleep. To us, breakfast is dinner and dinner is breakfast and lunch is whenever we can squeeze it in there.

No strangers to sacrifice, we swap sleeping next to our loved ones at night for a timecard, morning news for the Late Late Show. Our weekends, if we get them off, are reserved for catching up on sleep. If we have plans, sleep goes out the window. We learn to go without.

When the streetlights go on and the rest of the world goes to bed, it is our time to shine. We are the hidden gems that keep the world moving when really all it wants to do is sleep. It is our duty, our privilege, to work the hours that nobody else wants and do the jobs the average person wants to do. Just not at night.

We are the unsung heroes, the warriors of the dark. And I respect you all.

Sincerely yours,

Another tired, hurting factory worker, 11pm-7am

A Personal Challenge

The past week, week and a half I have found myself blogging about writing and blog-related topics and less and less about the more general topics I intended the blog to be about.

My current tag line is “A blog about writing, society, and life itself.” I decided that for the rest of the week I am going to try focusing on the society and life aspects instead of writing.

With the exception of my daily Bradbury Program updates, which is my way of keeping myself on track, I will refrain from blogging and writing-related subjects for the time being on CrapPile. I still retain the option of writing about them for my weekly Amazing Stories piece if I choose to do so.

So if you’re a regular subscriber to the blog, you’re in for a much more varied exposure starting…now!

The End of the War?

Kim Jong Un crossing the demilitarized zone to meet with the leader of South Korea, the removal of loudspeakers and lightening of guards along the North/South border, President Donald Trump warmly welcoming him at the recent summit…after over sixty years, the Korean War might be on the verge of officially being over.

Or is it?

Naturally, the amount of effort the President has been putting into the North Korean dictator has both sides of the political drama weighing in. The Republicans vow to remain vigilant despite meek “this is a great first step” assertions. To some Democrats, this is yet another warning sign that Trump is indeed Hitler reincarnated; others condemn him for neglecting our long-time allies in favor of the autocrats.

I actually found it quite funny that Trump seemed to step away from being President very briefly and back into the businessman when he tried to make Kim envision the greatest hotels in the world popping up in North Korea if he would just give into peace instead of arms. People need to remember that the Korean War has technically still been going on since the mid-fifties. A ceasefire is not the same thing as a peace treaty. While many are condemning Trump’s actions, he is proving to be the exact opposite of what everyone has been calling him before. Trying his luck with peace talks with the leader of perhaps our greatest “potential” enemy and remaining Cold War rival proves that Donald Trump is not the war-monger he was accused of being after the Syria bombings months ago. It shows a strong desire to get things done that so far no other President has been able to do.

It can be forgiven, then, that he is spending more of his focus on Putin and now Kim these days instead of our old friends in Europe. Russia, China, and North Korea are the three powers that pose the United States our biggest threat, not only economically and militaristically, but they all have nukes. And tensions with all three have been getting hotter and hotter until recently when Trump decided to start playing the ambassador side of his position. I don’t blame him at all. I would rather live in a world where the threat of global war and nuclear holocausts were at its bare minimum. To me, that is far more important than whatever France and England have to say about the Iran deal.

I hope in the end the war will officially end and we will at least have a new peaceful relationship with North Korea, even if it doesn’t end up being the economic partnership that Trump the real estate developer wants. These talks should be applauded because for the first time in six decades a major war is on the verge of ending. And it was men like Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un who brought it to the table.

A Secret for Blogging Success: A Good Title

(Originally published on June 11, 2018 by Amazing Stories.)

My personal blog has caused quite the tiny stir the past few days. It just celebrated its two-week anniversary (the longest I have made any blog of mine last) and already had 500 followers in those two weeks. It is not a couple days later and that number is nearing 600, with over 400 views and 200 visitors each day. I’ve been getting numerous emails and comments from followers and other blog peepers asking me to share my “secrets” about how my blog is growing so rapidly. I’m not going to, because I think they already know what they need to do; they’re just not doing it. I am, however, going to talk a little bit about something many of them ARE NOT doing right (in my humble opinion) that not only applies to blogs, but writing in general.

I’m talking about titles. To me, the title is the most important part of any work because it is the first words the reader gets to read. It tells them what it is about, sets the overall tone of the book, and ignites a spark in their mind that will help their imaginations to wild once they get into the story or poem itself. For a blog, it’s an entrance into the blogosphere. You want the title to be good otherwise who is going to want to read it? The title not only speaks for the work or blog itself, but for the author. It gives you a little peek inside their mind and whether or not they are worthy of being read or not. To paint a little picture of what I mean, let me use a few of my now-defunct blog titles as examples.

I have started and quit so many little blogs over the years I can’t even remember them all, but the earliest that I do remember was called Idkhowtowrite. I think I was 23 or 24 when I had that one going. I wish I could go back in time and ask the previous incarnation of myself what the hell I was doing running a blog if he didn’t know how to write. Who in their right mind would want to visit a site with a title like that? He deserves a big slap on the head for that one.

The next blog I created a couple of years later somehow got the name The Novice Student of Writing. Never mind that “novice” and “student” mean exactly the same thing, but isn’t that the lamest title you’ve ever heard in your life? It practically screams “I don’t know what I’m doing.” I like to joke that I must have been drunk when I came up with that name, but the truth is I probably thought I was being clever and creative. Oh what I would do to that version of myself if I had the ability of time travel…

After a month or so I stopped blogging again but left The Novice Student of Writing up on the intrawebs, in case I ever decided to come back to it. To my credit that is one thing I did right blogging-wise, because at the end of May 2018 I chose to take it up again. Struggling to keep from barfing when I remembered what I had named it, the first thing I did before my first post was change it’s name to CrapPile. There. FINALLY something catchy. Two words combined into one with the visual aid of a second capital letter halfway through it, it was catchy. It drags people in and gets them interested because it doesn’t give much away. It’s not too presumptuous. I actually get quite a bit of praise about the blog’s name, and sadly I wish I could say that I pay the same compliments back to people. But I can’t.

Let me reiterate; the title is the most important part of a story or blog. If you want your work to be successful, the first step is giving it a good title. That’s why neither Idkhowtowrite, it’s predecessors, or it’s successor The Novice Student of Writing earned a single follower. It’s also part of the reason CrapPile is doing so well as it is in such a short period of time. In contrast, one of my loyal followers has had his blog for over five years and has yet to reach 200 followers. I’m not going to embarrass him, so let me call him D.D. His blog is simply “D D’s Blog”. First thing the reader says is, “Who is D.D.?” But my pondering is not really enough to make me want to visit the site. Now if it were called “Stephen King’s Blog” that’d be a whole different story. We alone know who Stephen King is and how great a writer his is, so it’s a given his blog is going to be great. But we don’t know who D.D. is; his name does it lend his blog title any credence.

The same can be said about fiction. Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is as plain and unoriginal a title as any in literary history, and doesn’t want me to rush as the book in the way that Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream” does. You can almost literally feel the emotion and horror reaching out to you from that title. “The Road” does absolutely nothing for you. It is just too simple and common. IT might be the exception to the rule, though; it is already being hailed as a classic, though at the same time there is a growing movement of backlash towards the book, one that the title will do nothing to protect against. Nevertheless, the books that already have withstood the rest of time and have become classics have all had great titles.

I will be the first to admit from my own personal experience that a few words at the top of the page, website, or on the cover of a book are not solely responsible for any kindness of failure or success that comes after them, but it is a start. Just like the hook at the beginning of an essay drawing the reader in, so does the title act as the first splash of the bobble, drawing in the first attention. The better the bobble, the better the catch.

The better the title, the better the audience.