Shock billionaire spoiler candidate enters presidential race

Timothy the Talking Cat, billionaire CEO of publishing multinational “Cattimothy House” entered the 2020 Presidential fray, with a shock announcement on Tuesday. At a book launch in Borstworth Library, the outspoken cat and business guru laid out his vision for a new kind of US President.

While discussing his new book I’m So Rich I’d Like to Be President, the celebrity publishing mogul explained his thinking.

“I mean, the cheapest way to get free publicity for my book is to run for President. I don’t even need to actually run a campaign or anything. Also, I don’t want Democrats taxing my massive income but being a Republican would hurt my lovable image. Independent spoiler candidate is the trendy new look for the billionaire about town.

Washington political commentators are more sceptical about Timothy’s presidential run. A leading pundit said anonymously:

“He’s English isn’t he? Also a cat? I’m not sure he’s even a billionaire? His only policy is “tax cuts for cats”. That makes no sense, cats don’t even pay taxes. Is this what I’ve been reduced to as a political journalist? Talking about surreal absurdities in a world gone mad?”

Timothy’s campaign manager was unwilling to leave his name with us but appeared to be a hastily put together craft-work model of a dog made out of woven grass.

“These eligibility questions about Timothy are frankly absurd. Nobody knows where we will be in 2020. By mid-2019 I fully expect England to be the 53rd US state (after Putin’s bedroom and Narnia) – crazier things have happened in the last two years. Clearly Timothy is a natural born citizen. He wasn’t supernaturally born, despite the rumours.”

Neither Timothy nor his campaign manager were willing to discuss the typo on his book cover.

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The Punisher Season 2: or it’s probably for the best that Marvel Netflix is winding down

I started writing a review of the latest season of Netflix’s gritty collection of Marvel characters and realised I had very little new to say. The show was compelling enough that I pretty much watched it in three parts (aided by being on a work trip and stuck in a hotel with good wi-fi). The thing is I could now write a generic review and just paste it here each time. It would go like this:

Season N of YYYY is available on Netflix. YYYY has tried to walk away from their life as a crime fighting vigilante but events conspire to bring them back into the life of violence they had rejected.

As always the acting is excellent with the lead actor bringing real depth to the role of YYYY. The pacing between introspection and violent, highly choreographed fight-scenes remains good but overall the plot would not have suffered from losing a couple of episodes. Like last season, there’s a sense that the show is trying to say something but in reality it is too mired in its own dubious ethical stance that hitting people is an effective solution to complex problems.

Well produced, well acted and with exciting fight scenes but stuck with a problem that YYYY objectively does more harm than good.

This time Frank Castle has to face two threats. One is his old buddy Billy Russo who is recovering from amnesia and horrific injuries from Season 1. The second is a mysterious hit-man/enforcer who dresses like a modern day puritan but appears to be a former neo-Nazi. Lots of people get hurt in the process.

If you enjoyed the first outing then I can’t see why you wouldn’t enjoy this one but the beats and the structure of the whole thing feels very familiar. The bad guys get semi-sympathetic arcs (again, a recurring approach in each of the Marvel Netflix series) and the hero isn’t so very different from the people they fight.

The thing is, I’m not sure I’d bother with a third season if one was made. I’m not interested in watching something that feels like the same thing again. Collectively there’s been thirteen seasons of these shows and there’s one more Jessica Jones in the pipeline. Thinking of them as a single TV show, that’s already a very lengthy run and it’s less surprising that I’ve started getting plot points confused between them.

Still, I wouldn’t mind a final Defenders 2 to wrap the whole thing up :).

The Right would rather men died than admit any flaws in masculinity

I shouldn’t read Quillette. For those unfamiliar with the Australian/International online magazine, it is part of that genre of modern political thought that could be called anti-left contrarianism, that covers various soughs from Steven Pinker to Jordan Peterson. Its stock style of article is shallowness dressed up as depth, utilizing the same style of misrepresentation of issues as the tabloid press but with longer sentences and a broader vocabulary.

Over the past few days it has published a couple of pieces on the American Psychological Associations Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Men and Boys. Now you would think that the stalwart defenders of innate gender differences would be happy that an influential body like the APA would be overtly recognising that men and boys have distinct psychological needs that require special advice for practitioners. After all, is this not the ‘moderate’ criticism of the rise of feminism? That somehow, men’s needs and men’s issues have been sidelined? Ha, ha, who am I kidding 🙂 The APA guidelines were characterised by MRAs, conservatives and the so-called “Intellectual dark web” as a direct attack on masculinity.

Here is one particularly stupid piece at Quillette that reflects the harrumphing style of response: https://quillette.com/2019/01/23/thank-you-apa/ The writer (a professor of psychology at North Dakota State University) either haven’t read the guidelines or is actively misrepresenting them.

However, a second piece is what actually caught my attention. It’s better written but also is attacking a strawman version of the guidelines: https://quillette.com/2019/01/23/how-my-toxic-stoicism-helped-me-cope-with-brain-cancer/

The writer describes how his stocial attitude helped him through a diagnosis & treatment for brain cancer and uses that to lambast the APA’s (apparent) criticism of stoicism in its guidelines. I, perhaps foolishly, left a comment on the piece. What follows is an edited version of my comment.

The piece is basically a strawman argument. It misrepresents what the APA guidelines say to imply that the guidelines have blanket disapproval for people acting stoically. e.g. Take the APA’s own article on the guidelines:

“It’s also important to encourage pro-social aspects of masculinity, says McDermott. In certain circumstances, traits like stoicism and self-sacrifice can be absolutely crucial, he says”

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/01/ce-corner.aspx

In the guidelines themselves, the word “stoicism” appears only twice and in neither case is a blanket condemnation of it. Once is in relation to difficulties SOME men have forming emotional bonds with other men:

“Psychologists can discuss with boys and men the messages they have received about withholding affection from other males to help them understand how components of traditional masculinity such as emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance, and competitiveness might deter them from forming close relationships with male peers”

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

And the other connects with a broader health issue of men not seeking care that they may need:

“Psychologists also strive to reduce mental health stigma for men by acknowledging and challenging socialized messages related to men’s mental health stigma (e.g., male stoicism, self-reliance). “

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

Neither example relates to be being stoical in the face of medical diagnosis but rather social pressures that mean some men (no, not ALL men) don’t seek care that they need (including for physical ailments) because of a misguided belief that they have to battle through by themselves.

The writer’s example is NOT an example of the case the APA guidelines were addressing. The writer sought out medical care, received a diagnosis and stuck with treatment. The writer self-described actions are the OPPOSITE of what the guidelines are discussing — they show a man taking their health seriously and SEEKING HELP. That’s good and healthy but many men aren’t doing that and as a consequence are dying of treatable diseases

As guideline 8 points out:

“For most leading causes of death in the United States and in every age group, males have higher death rates than females”

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

At least some of this is due men not seeking out healthcare they need:

“Between 2011 and 2013, men’s mortality rates for colorectal cancer, a generally preventable disease with regular screenings, were significantly higher than women’s, suggesting that many men do not engage in preventative care (American Cancer Society, 2015).”

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

A stoical attitude need not be toxic but when misapplied/misunderstood or adopted out of a feeling of social obligation, it can take on a harmful form of thinking that you shouldn’t seek out help. I’m glad the writer’s stoicism was of the positive kind but the writer should perhaps also take greater care in researching what the APA guidelines had actually said.


To put not too fine a point on it: toxic aspects of masculinity kills men. There is nothing pro-man about it. Nobody is actually sticking up for men by pushing back against the APA guidelines.

Discovery: New Eden

Discovery decides to play it safe with an episode that’s so The Next Generation that it needs Commander Riker to direct it.

The mystery of the red signals leads Discovery to the Beta quadrant via a quick use of the spore drive. There they discover a colony of humans from pre-warp Earth. Meanwhile in orbit, the collapse of a planetary ring of radioactive rocks (just go along with it) imperils not just the lost colony of humans but the away team (Pike, Michael and crew member of the week).

It’s nice enough. There’s a theme of faith versus science with Pike sort of taking one side and Michael the other. There’s an ecumenical perspective on religion that nonetheless centres Christianity. A very North American church with stained glass windows, including one with a crucifix surrounded by religious symbols from other faiths sums up the episode’s take on religion in one go. It’s striving to be inoffensive and it’s not implausible given the back story of how this particular church finds itself in the wrong bit of the galaxy.

As below, so above. Nothing is resolved about the mysterious signals or the red-angelic figure glimpsed by Michael last episode. However, the presence of the blurry winged beings is now known by Captain Pike as well.

Pike is being pitched as an older, father-figure like captain in the Picard model. This is some distance from the Pike of the original series Pilot, a more youthful, if melancholic figure but consistent with the J.J.Abrams version. The dynamic between him and Michael works nicely. Michael’s complex reaction to authority figures is one of the most interesting things about her character — seeking approval and yet somehow on the edge of rebellion. It’s a trait that she shares with Tilly, whose eagerness to help out leads her into doing dangerous things and defying orders from Saru this week.

The return of the Prime Directive as a plot point underlines the whole TNG feel of the episode. It’s probably the weakest application of it ever — this is after all a human colony — but it’s not gratuitous. I doubt the show will be able to maintain quite such a strict application of the rule (I like to think of it as a strict rule in the same sense that ‘fair use’ in copyright is a strict rule — as in not at all).

Speaking of consistent ethics, Pike has no problems sending Stamets back into the spore drive. The rationale is that it is OK to fire up the dangerous spore drive which relies on unethical war-time human experimentation and which directly endangers the health and sanity of a crew member because Starfleet would really like to know what those red signals are all about and hey, that’s not so very different from being in an existential war of survival. I envisage Chidi from The Good Place with his blackboard on the deck of the Discovery trying to point out all the ethical inconsistencies. On the one hand, this is pretty minor compared to Season 1 but on the other hand, Season-1’s ethical lapses were mainly by an actual psychopath from a literally evil universe.

Rankings

  1. Brother – an action orientated fresh start for the Discovery crew
  2. New Eden – The Next Generation of The Next Generation

Bits and Pieces

  • A ghostly side plot for Tilly!
  • The Discovery crew really have that vibe of a workplace that recently lost a toxic colleague and can’t work out why things just seem happier somehow.
  • Disco-donuts in space!
  • OK, nice enough but is Discovery in danger of Chibnallism — all safeness and no WTFckery? I know I’m in a minority but I expect Discovery to deliver more intense nonsense than this 🙂
  • Saru on the tardigrade: “You had to be there.”
  • My grammar checker wants to change “spore drive” to “spare drive”.
  • Yes, I have a grammar checker. What you see is what you get AFTER the grammar checker.
  • Nice that Season 2 hasn’t forgotten that Discovery parked a giant rock in its hanger, given that Season 1 just forgot about a whole missing shuttle pilot.
  • ETA Cora explains that the third member of the away team was Lieutenant Owosekun — who actually is a regular cast member but I didn’t spot that. Sorry.

War of the Worlds – as explained by Timothy the Talking Cat

England: the late nineteenth century! The heart of a massive planet straddling empire! In the genteel Home Counties, the English middle classes need fear nothing. Well obviously they should fear that within a few years Britain will be drawn into an horrific European war whose impact will spread to all parts of the world as multiple empires fight for dominance but in the process destroy the very basis of European empire, a process that will also lead to communist revolution and eventually an even more virulent form of German nationalism and also the end of the British Empire itself in a historical process that will eventually lead those self-same Home Counties middle class into thinking that listening to Boris Johnson is a good idea. Who better to puncture this bubble of complacency than H.G.Wells who wrote the excellent notes for Jeff Wayne’s concept album.

Meanwhile, across the vast emptiness of space incredible minds were watching Earth and thinking “I know, let’s invade Surrey”. You have to remember that this wasn’t the 1950s when invading aliens preferred to target sleepy small towns in America. This was the nineteenth century and if you were an alien and you were thinking of making a trip to Earth, your first thought was “Surrey”. It’s a case of a local tourist board being just a bit too successful with their promotion of local sights. “Visit Sunny Woking” said the brochure that a Martian advance scout had picked up at Waterloo Station in an extremely brief visit in 1885. It was actually her only venture out from her capsule that had landed in the back garden of Lambeth Palace and she’d faked up her whole reconnaissance report on the basis of this one pamphlet.

“Go for bracing walks on Horsell Common”, sounded lovely she thought as she shivered in her capsule, struck down by a nasty case of the flu. “This is a nasty case of the flu I’ve got, “ she thought but as the Martians had never developed the use of dramatic irony in their literature, she didn’t think to mention in her report that London was essentially a clearing-house for every virulent disease on the planet.

Tippy-tap on her Martian radio-telegram machine she typed her message in Martian Morse code which was nothing like Human Morse code but coincidentally had been invented by a Martian named Morse. Technically “Morse” was his nickname and was short for “More sauce!”, the word “sauce” being the Martian term for primate blood which was both a staple food and an intoxicant on Mars.

Where did they get primate blood from? Glad you asked. So space probes with monkeys in them sent up in the 1950s travelled back through space wormholes and landed on Mars millennia earlier. That’s why nobody shoots monkey’s into space anymore because of the time-travel wormholes and the whole “Planet of the Apes” type scenarios that you get. All the space dogs landed on Titan which is how it ended up covered in methane. Nobody sent cats into space because there is no way we’d get into those death traps.

So the Martian fire themselves off their planet using giant space guns because they are off-their-face on primate-sauce during a particularly wild party which had been running for maybe two Martian years. The booze was running low and somebody remembered that there was a whole planet full of primates near-by. “Woah! No way am I going to the Planet of the Apes!” said one inebriated Martian, “Roddy McDowall freaks me out.” No, no explains everybody else, they plan to go to Earth not the Planet of the Apes. “Well, that’s OK then,” because, like I said, no sense of dramatic irony.

Anyhoo. Boom crash. The Martians land in Surrey and it’s not a terrible choice as there are regular trains to the centre of London and yet the hotel prices are cheaper than in the city. “Let’s go nuts with the death ray!” the Martians shout on their party bus/space cylinder. Zappp, zappp. “Let’s go for a ride in our tripods!” they shout, getting a tad too rowdy now. Off they go, zapping and tripoding about and blowing up dreadnoughts.

Well, all good parties come to an end sooner or later and before you know it the Martians are either dead, ill or badly hungover. The invasion has ended.

Back at Martian HQ minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded these events with face-palming exasperation.

“Whose, frickin’ idea was it to land on an ISLAND?” said the chief Martian war general whose full name was Patricia but she liked to be called Patty because it was more approachable.
“I’m not sure,” said Mike the Martian (who was called that because people got confused with Mike from Phobos, which was an easy mistake to make as they both lacked the same sense of humour). “We were all VERY drunk at the time.”
“And nobody, not a single one of you, thought to back a BOAT?” screamed Patty, except she screamed it in Martian so it sounded like “OOOOO LAAAA”
“That’s frankly unreasonable Patty,” said Mike the Martian, “We live on an arid planet and have zero concept of water transport and frankly it’s weird that we even have a word for ‘boat’”
“I tried to warn them all.” said Doug the Microbiologist.
Patty turned to him sympathetically: “It’s not your fault that the whole Martian Invasion Force/Interplanetary Party Bus were anti-vaxxers and thought they could protect themselves with homeopathic highly dilute human nose droppings.”

It’s only later that in a shocking twist the Martians discover that Earth is the Planet of the Apes!