Is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Superversive?

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

It's been a while since we did one of these. I can think of no better occasion than the release of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the latest movie from Hollywood's last auteur director.

Tarantino has called this film a love letter to Hollywood. That's an apt description. Specifically, it pays homage to the twilight of Hollywood's Golden Age, right before the studios sold out to counterculture subversives who broke the Hays Code and started a willful descent into debauchery and nihilism.

This movie celebrates the Hollywood of the white-hat western, the two-fisted war epic, and the Cinderella dream of young girls from flyover country becoming Tinseltown royalty.

But is it superversive?

The standard format of these reviews is to point out that the movie in question has a message the author agrees with and call it case closed.

But Once Upon a Time in Hollywood doesn't really have a message--not in a political sense, anyway. It's Tarantino's most personal movie--his eulogy for an era that shaped him as an artist. Instead of examining this film through any ideological lens, I think it's more fruitful to consider some of its key themes.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood doesn't have a single plot. Instead, multiple character-driven plot threads intertwine in different times and places. In that regard, this movie resembles Tarantino's breakout hit Pulp Fiction.

The main frame narrative concerns actor Rick Dalton and his trusty stunt double Cliff Booth.

Leonardo DiCaprio paints a compelling portrait of Dalton, a Western actor who finds himself on the skids after rashly torpedoing his hit TV series in pursuit of a movie career that never quite materialized.

Brad Pitt gives a masterfully understated performance as Cliff Booth. Cliff is reminiscent of Michael Madsen's celebrated turn as Budd in Kill Bill: Volume 2. He's one of the most dangerous men on Earth--a war hero capable of going toe-to-toe with Bruce Lee--who lets his inferiors use him as a punching bag due to deeply ingrained guilt over past misdeeds.

Rick and Cliff's relationship is comically lopsided. The TV star employs his former stuntman as a de facto chauffeur, bodyguard, and handyman while also using him as an emotional handkerchief. Ever the strong silent type, Cliff bears his burdens stoically.

In a lesser director's hands, Rick and Cliff would have been reduced to shallow caricatures: the former an effete weakling who pretends to masculinity and the latter a flawless superman patiently suffering his boss' exploitation until someone--probably a love interest--tells him he deserves better.

For all of Tarantino's faults, cynically holding his audience's hands isn't one of them. Rick's dependence on Cliff--and the fact that they're both aware of this dynamic--is made clear in the first five minutes. After that, they're both allowed to stretch their archetypes and show hidden depths.

Any other director than Tarantino would have bowed to temptation and made Cliff the put-upon hero with Rick as the sleazy comedic villain. But it's Rick who proves to have greater unexpected depth. A conversation with his film agent leads to a bout of deep insecurity that forces him to choose between sinking into mediocrity or pushing himself to escape his rut.

I won't say if Rick succeeds. It's really not important. What's important is the character this adversity reveals. We see that Rick isn't just an aging pretty boy. He's a true craftsman whose renewed commitment to his art unearths flashes of brilliance.

It's worth noting that Rick's craft also involved learning how to wield a flamethrower. Just in case you forgot w're talking about a Tarantino movie.

Actors have to learn all sorts of crazy stuff. Don't mess with them.

That Manson Family forgot that rule. Their story intersects with Rick and Cliff's at various points in the movie. Tarantino comes closest to outright making a statement with his depiction of Manson's hippy cult, who stand for the subversive forces that destroyed the Old Hollywood he loved.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood celebrates such wholesome themes as the indomitable power of male friendship, the necessity of rejecting self-pity and overcoming effeminacy with virtue, and the inestimable, intrinsic value of innocence.

But is it superversive?

You'll find no shortage of dullards who insist that Tarantino's films are morally bankrupt because they feature violence. Then you get caved-in head takes to the effect that his movies are meaningless because they don't have linear plots.

Unlike Eli Roth torture porn, Tarantino films convey meaning through their violence, horrific as it often is. If you're still prone to clutching your pearls and insisting that violence automatically disqualifies a work on moral grounds, read the original versions of some popular fairy tales sometime.

Because as the title suggests, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a fairy tale for the modern age. And I do mean Modern. One clear and trenchant impression the film leaves on you is that the America it glamorizes is long gone. But that lost age of frayed but still widespread social cohesion has wisdom to teach us. Few Americans know their neighbors--an oversight this movie makes a point of correcting.

 Near the self-declared end of his own career, Tarantino has crafted a film wherein men grow in friendship and virtue, and neighbors grow in solidarity. The stark parable of the evils wrought on the world for want of one man like Rick Dalton, warts and all, stands as a scathing rebuke of subsequent generations.

The verdict: Superversive

For more visceral action in service to virtue, read my hit mecha thriller Combat Frame XSeed.


Missing Pieces

Missing friend

When you really come to accept the influence that spiritual evil can have on the mundane world, it's hard not to see a sinister unseen hand behind the more tragic and puzzling events of your life.

To be sure, you can't discount apophenia--seeing patterns where none exist. The human brain is a pattern recognition engine, and it will impose false order on chaos.

Then again, chaos is meaningless without order, and we know that the order of the universe contains more than is dreamt of in natural philosophy.

I had a friend back in high school. I'll keep the exact span of years in reserve to avoid doxxing both of us. It was between the wars in Iraq. Only 15% of American homes had internet access. People still rented videotapes.

Though our friendship began during my high school days, he and I attended the same school only briefly. Accounts differ as to whether he transferred voluntarily or was expelled. To this day, I don't know the answer. But I do know other things that set me to wondering darkly these days.

Most of us in that tight-knit circle knew about the drugs--mostly fleeting dalliances with lighter hippie fare--and the booze, which became far more serious. Another acquaintance once recounted a visit to the dorm room where our mutual friend lived alone. Empty bottles filled the table, shelves, and windowsill. This acquaintance--quite the party animal himself--expressed amazement that anyone could have consumed that quantity of alcohol in the time claimed and survive.

At this point, you might be forming images of a childhood spent in a broken home, passed between bitterly warring parents on alternate weekends. At the very least, you've probably got one parent pegged as an inveterate drunk. You'd be wrong on both counts.

My friend's sad situation and difficult disposition largely remain mysterious. He came from a stable, respectable home under the care of Christian parents, both sober as judges. Yet he always displayed a subdued yet abiding hostility toward them and their faith.

Before I continue, I must impress upon you that my friend was not an irredeemably dissolute monster. He could be the most generous, affable, and loyal comrade one could ask for. In terms of technical and artistic talent, I've met few to equal him.

That said, a conversation from early in our friendship surfaced in my memory lately and has been haunting me like a bad dream.

A year or so after we'd started hanging out frequently, my friend--though still a minor--had moved out of his parents' aged but stately house within walking distance from the parish school.

At the time, he was sharing a crowded two-bedroom flat with a rotating cast of teenage ne'er do wells in a commercial part of town replete with mostly empty strip malls. Always possessed of a dogged industry, my friend fell into the role of Mr. Mom, keeping the lights on and the frayed carpet free of crumpled Taco Bell wrappers.

One gray winter afternoon, my friend was driving to the comic book shop near his flophouse with me and another friend my age in tow. Out of the blue, he mentioned his involvement in a local Satanic group. When my fellow passenger and I expressed doubts, he further claimed to have sacrificed a German Shepherd.

A heavy silence filled the boxy European import at that point. My friend turned on his tape deck, turned up "Killing an Arab" by The Cure, and never spoke of his occult dabblings again. None of us spoke of it. My friend did later allege that he'd been attacked and nearly killed in his room by a snake, but nothing else of occult significance.

Like I said, my friend could be the most companionable guy in the world. But no one who knew him would deny he had a dark side--and anybody who ran afoul of it did well to watch his step.

Once, after my friend had shaved his head on a lark, the driver of the car stopped next to his at a red light rolled down his window and called out, "Bet you can't believe it's gone!" while pointing to his head. My friend got out, kicked off the other driver's mirror, and said, "Bet you can't believe it's gone!" before getting back in his car and driving off into the night.

Another time, a careless BMW driver made the mistake of cutting my friend off in traffic. He tailgated the bimmer all the way from the mall, across town, and into the next county. When the offending driver parked on a residential street and fled the vehicle for the safety of his suburban home, my friend smashed every glass component of the BMW with a 9 iron, returned to his car, and left the scene.

On the whole, it's safe to say that my friend led a rather isolated and frustrated life. He was never able to form deep relationships with the opposite sex despite his sincere desires. His artistic genius--I don't use the word lightly--was foiled by malignant perfectionism, absolute refusal to compromise, and extreme difficulty working with others.

I recall one brief respite from the storm of his tumultuous life. When Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ hit theaters, my friend went to see it with a girl he fancied from his college Christian fellowship group. He'd openly admitted being a selfish person before, but he told me that seeing the movie made him, "... feel like not being selfish."

The calm in the storm didn't last long. He and the girl soon parted ways, and my friend never spoke positively about Christianity in my hearing again. He did take a deep and deliberate plunge into communist politics. After college, he bounced around between three of the bluest states in the union before disappearing--as of this writing, for good--some years ago.

I still run into my friend's mother, father, or sister around town. They always ask if I've heard from him. I haven't in years. Neither have they. I can tell by the half-scared, half-hopeful look on their faces that they miss him.

If there's a silver lining, it's that we're pretty sure my friend's still alive. Word is that every once in a while he'll blow into town unannounced and crash with an old buddy who's since tied the knot and fallen away from what's left of the old gang. Supposedly, our friend holes up in his buddy's house for a few days without talking to his other friends, his family, or anyone. He blows town again before anyone else knows he was there.

Whatever he's wrestling with, he's determined to fight it alone.

Do I know what turned my friend into a restless, self-exiled nomad? No, I don't. Even his own self-confessed escapades must be taken with a grain of salt, since he was also given to telling tall tales back in the day. The incidents with the snake, the dog, and the BMW may never have happened, though his cousin witnessed and can vouch for the post-head shaving altercation at the stoplight.

I do know that sometime in high school, my friend abandoned his childhood faith and never looked back except for one brief glance over his shoulder.

St. Augustine once said that the purpose of your life could be to serve as a warning to others.

These are evil times. Lions are prowling just beyond the failing firelight. It's dangerous to go alone.


Did Normies Ruin Comics?

Comnics Normie

A cherished reader passed along this video by David Stewart, wherein David addresses the theory that an influx of normies ruined the comics industry.

From the transcript:
I don't think that normal or mainstream people ruined comics at all. I actually think it was the opposite.
Comics were taken out of the mainstream, and I'd like to explain my conclusion to that. Before I do, so let me make a distinction between what I'm talking about. 
So, if you have a small, dedicated subculture, and then you have an influx of normal people to it that, you know, makes it explode in popularity, obviously that's going to fundamentally alter the subculture in a ways that the creators of the subculture don't want it to be altered. It's going to dilute some of the things that made it special.
That's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about in this is the reality that comic books used to be more popular than they are, and the mainstream interest for them was removed because the product was changed.
Right away, I recognized that David is offering a rebuttal to Mop Theory, which states that geeks create a cool new scene which is inevitably destroyed by an invasion of Mops, aka Normies.

In fact, David argues for the diametric opposite position.
I'd like to read a little bit of a quote for you that supports my point of view and distills down this idea that comics were taken away from the normies, not ruined by the normies. 
So this is a this is an interview with Jim shooter, who was in charge of Marvel for about ten years in the 1980s. And his basic thesis about the problem with modern comics boils down to storytelling--that they don't tell good stories that people are interested in. That's the background of this quote. Let me read it. 
"It takes forever to tell a story." He's talking about what he calls "decompressed storytelling." It's like a soap opera. "It takes forever to tell a story. What Stan Lee would put in six pages, it takes six months [now]. 
"So you look at the sales. Marvel comics are not $4 apiece, and they're thrilled that the sales are over thirty thousand. When I was at Marvel the whole world was different. We didn't have a single title. We had 75 titles. We didn't have a single one that sold below 100,000. We had the X-Men approaching three-quarters of a million. 
"And that's not some special number one or somebody dies or changes costumes or someone gets married. It was every time. 
"A lot of it was single copy readers. People weren't running around buying cases of it because it had a foil embossed cover. It was every issue." 
So with that quote, you basically have my thesis, which is that comics at one point in time were extremely mainstream. I remember as a kid seeing comic books on the shelf at the drugstore like in the 1980s. 
In fact, I remember buying Ninja Turtle comics off of the shelf and reading them; not going to a comic book store. I didn't set foot in a comic book store until like the the 1990s, and it was kind of a weird thing when comic book stores became the place where you had to buy comics. 
So at one point in time, these things are really mainstream, and they've gone away from being mainstream and actually been captured and become a subculture, so it's really like a subculturecaptured the industry and started excluding all of the things which make make the comics appealing to the mainstream.
Watch the whole video.

Best selling author Jon Del Arroz fills in some of the blanks, explaining how Marvel eschewed quality writing in favor of letting rock star artists run the asylum.

Personally, I liken David to a man groping an elephant in the dark. He may not see the whole picture, but he does know the texture of the problem.

I hew closer to Jon on the issue of comics' demise. The original creators who provided the industry's original impetus retired or died. Their creations ambled along as corporate-sanctioned fanfic. Bereft of fresh ideas, the industry hemorrhaged sales, as Jim Shooter explained.

With the smart money long gone, comics were easy marks for the collectors' bubble, which effectively killed the industry in the early 90s. SJWs then arrived to pick the corpse.

Marvel and DC are dead. Move on.


Hope for Gen Y

MTV Generation Y

A commenter on my recent review of definitive Gen Y high school movie Clueless writes:
How tied to is gen y. I mean, I've experienced and seen a lot of failure in my life and others. Is it a trait? By what means can it be overcome if it is?
I dont mean this as despair, just something you pointed out "being Gen Y, she's incompetent, and her project blows up in her face"
Reader Heian-kyo Dreams answers:
Failure is a common theme in everyone's life. It just means you're still breathing. 
Those movie montages did a huge disservice by making people think that 5 minutes of effort and practice make you good at something. And if you don't learn effortlessly like the movie characters, you should give up entirely.
I answer:

The association isn't failure and Gen Y. It's incompetence and Gen Y.

Ys are the gaslighted generation. Boomers taught them a false vision of the world but failed to teach them practical skills. As a result, Ys tend to have difficulty dealing with the real world and often have a "mugged by reality" experience--which happens to Cher in a literal sense.

As for dealing with these deficiencies, Heian-kyo Dreams has a solid point. Failure is normal. Ys tend to fear failure and get easily discouraged because they were taught to avoid conflict instead of facing it.

Like all bad habits, overcoming counterproductive Gen Y behavior patterns takes work. Luckily, the internet makes it easier. Don't know how to cook a meal, balance a checkbook, or change a tire? A world of knowledge is just a click away.

TL; DR: It's a technical problem that admits of technical solutions.

On what may seem like a tangent, but bear with me, reader Desdichado comments:
Keep in mind that nothing about the plot itself can be pinned to generational cohorts, only the details surrounding it. The movie is a transparent reworking of Emma by Jane Austen and the plot follows that novel point for point.
Which maybe is worth an interesting tangent or so all it's own; in spite of the obvious generational cohort differences, at the same time, at a broader level, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Clueless writer/director Amy Heckerling's admitted cribbing of Emma is why I didn't directly address the movie's plot. However, Desdichado's comment gave me a hunch that a connection existed between Cher and Emma.

I did some research on Strauss and Howe's Fourth Turning generational theory. In a nutshell, they assert that generations come in cycles of four archetypes corresponding to four repeating historical turning points.

  • A cultural High fosters a Prophet (Idealist) generation.
  • An Awakening brings about a Nomad (Reactive) generation.
  • An Unraveling gives rise to a Hero (Civic) generation.
  • A Crisis brings forth an Artist (Adaptive) generation.
Strauss and Howe start our current cycle with the Baby Boomers as the Prophet-Idealist generation that entered childhood during the postwar cultural High. 


However, they immediately veer off course by labeling Generation X, the Millennial, and Generation Z as Nomad-Reactive, Hero-Civic, and Artist-Adaptive cohorts, respectively.

Strauss and Howe's mistake is easy to see. While they correctly define their generational archetypes based on shared formative experience:
They say the generations in each archetype not only share a similar age-location in history, they also share some basic attitudes towards family, risk, culture and values, and civic engagement. In essence, generations shaped by similar early-life experiences develop similar collective personas and follow similar life-trajectories.
They erroneously stick to an arbitrary definition of a generation as a twenty-year period.

As I've argued previously, the Awakening sparked by the Boomers has led to such a rapidly accelerating societal Unraveling that people born just twenty years apart no longer have anything close to the same formative experiences. Shortening the duration of each turning after the Boomer High corrects the problem.

This correction also gives us ten extra years between the Boomers and the X-ers into which Generation Jones fits snugly, plus ten more between the Xers and Millennials perfectly sized for Generation Y.

Making these adjustments gives us:

  1. High: The Baby Boomers: Prophet-Idealist
  2. Awakening: Generation Jones: Nomad-Reactive
  3. Unraveling: Generation X: Hero-Civic
  4. Crisis: Generation Y: Artist-Adaptive
See Strauss and Howe's description of an Artist generation:
Artist (Adaptive) generations enter childhood after an Unraveling, during a Crisis, a time when great dangers cut down social and political complexity in favor of public consensus, aggressive institutions, and an ethic of personal sacrifice. Artists grow up overprotected by adults preoccupied with the Crisis, come of age as the socialized and conformist young adults of a post-Crisis world, break out as process-oriented midlife leaders during an Awakening, and age into thoughtful post-Awakening elders

The generation that entered childhood with the threat of nuclear annihilation hanging over their heads, grew up during a brief return to conformity and consensus in the Reagan and Bush years, were propagandized by the converged post-1980 entertainment industry, had overprotective parents, and grew into adults looking to go along to get along has been well documented on this blog.

Their name rhymes with, "Why?"

Now, there's a fair objection to be made to my modification of Strauss and Howe's theory. My X-er readers have probably spotted it, but for everyone else, here's the Fourth Turning definition of a Hero generation:
Hero (Civic) generations enter childhood after an Awakening, during an Unraveling, a time of individual pragmatism, self-reliance, and laissez-faire. Heroes grow up as increasingly protected post-Awakening children, come of age as team-oriented young optimists during a Crisis, emerge as energetic, overly-confident midlifers, and age into politically powerful elders attacked by another Awakening.
Members of Generation X will probably nod along to the first sentence of that definition. They grew up post-Sexual Revolution in the rugged individualist early 80s. Where the wheels come off is at the "increasingly protected" part. Gen X is notorious as the "Thrown to the wolves" generation.

As a result, they've hardly come of age as overconfident team players. And we know Gen X will never be given the reins of political power. They and Gen Y will be skipped over.

What could possibly have gone wrong? How did a cycle of each generation passing the torch to the next suddenly get derailed after working smoothly for hundreds of years?

I wonder.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2
"Hey. Hey, Boomers, c'mere. We...we just wanna *talk* to you!"

Before discounting my variation on Strauss and Howe's theory, keep in mind that they originally listed the Millennials as a Hero generation. Others have argued that this classification is accurate, but the Millennials' heroic destiny has been thwarted.

I argue that the evidence much more strongly points toward the X-ers as the Hero generation whose collective vocation was ruined by their parents' failure.

The anomaly which explains all subsequent aberrations in the Four Turnings theory is that no prior generation in recorded history actively hated their own children--until the Baby Boomers.

Think that's hyperbole? Keep in mind that the Boomers murdered half of their children in the womb.

Sincere condolences, Gen X. You were supposed to be the heroes we needed. But like hack authors who purposefully subvert the hero of prophecy in their postmodern Tolkien ripoff novel, the Boomers' neglect and abuse killed your optimism and patriotism. Along with half of you.

The bad news is that our civilization probably won't survive the damage inflicted by Generation Locust. Strauss and Howe didn't find anything like the Boomers going all the way back to the fifteenth century. There probably hasn't been such a destroyer generation since the fall of Rome.

In the title of this post, I held out hope--specifically for Generation Y. Now that we've correctly identified Gen Y as an Artist-Adaptive generation, we have a glimpse of what the future may hold for them.

Strauss and Howe have chronicled past Artist generations breaking out of their shells in middle age to master useful processes and take leadership positions. That's an encouraging prospect.

But the tragic tale of Gen X warrants a big caveat. It's highly unlikely that Ys will get to fill official leadership positions. Those are reserved for the Millennials. If Ys are going to emerge as leaders, it will be as local, informal organizers and mentors.

Of course, it's possible that the Boomers permanently sabotaged Gen Y as well. But the key formative difference between Gen X and Gen Y also Gives Ys reason to hope.

Gen X's Hero archetype was broken because they didn't get the necessary protection from their parents. In contrast, the Boomers overcompensated with their younger Gen Y children, enabling them to fulfill their Artist archetype.

The question remains: Will Gen Y fulfill the Adaptive part of the equation? Based on signs we're seeing now, the answer could be yes. Many authors among the PulpRev and Superversive literary movements belong to Generation Y. They're not only establishing themselves as skilled artists, they're actively seeking to inspire cultural change.

Another prominent--one might justly say infamous--author making a cultural impact is Gen Y pickup artist turned Augustinian sage Roosh V. Having turned from hedonism and toward Christ, he travels the globe trying to foster male fellowship at great personal risk.

The greatest obstacle Gen Y will have to overcome is their lack of confidence and practical skill. To fulfill their role of guiding Gen Z, they must embrace failure as a trusted teacher and put in the work to master the life skills they were never taught. And like Roosh, they must return to Christ.


Clueless by Design

Clueless Reunion

My dual review of Heathers and Mean Girls elicited multiple requests for me to give my take on Clueless.

I'd somehow managed to avoid seeing Clueless all these years. But pleasing my readers is job one, so last night I watched the movie for the first time.

Now, I pointed out before how Heathers and Mean Girls are the quintessential high school movies of generations X and the Millennials, respectively. I also mentioned, based mostly on the release date, that Clueless would be the defining high school film of Gen Y.

Having finally seen Clueless, it's uncanny how spot-on that description was. The cultural--especially the generational--touchstones are so plentiful here that I can skip the plot analysis and do a thorough review from a purely generational perspective.

For those who haven't read my generational breakdown which includes generations that the media and pop culture have memory holed, Generation Y is between Gen X and the Millennials. It's a transitional generation like the Silent Generation and Generation Jones.

Some people accuse me of making up an ad hoc generational cohort to fit a preexisting theory, but they forget that Gen Y used to be talked about in the news media and popular entertainment all the time.

But then the Millennials came along, and Boomers decided they made much better punching bags than the previous two generations. Thus, Ys were ex post facto folded into Gen X and the Millennial Generation.

Due to coming of age in a transitional period and suffering the deliberate blurring of their generational identity with the cohorts on either side, Generation Y can be hard to pick out from the Xer and Millennial crowd. That is, until you know what to look for.

There are real and definite qualities that distinguish Ys, but these behaviors and attitudes are arbitrarily assigned to Ge X or the Millennials depending on the--usually Boomer--commentator's immediate rhetorical needs.

Let's take a look at some defining Gen Y traits.

  • Born 1979-1989.
  • Have personal memories of the Cold War.
  • One foot in the pre-internet world and the other in the internet-dominant world.
  • Grew up being told that majority-minority America was inevitable but enjoyed a relatively high trust childhood environment.
  • As the Boomers' younger children, were sheltered and bribed for their affection instead of being manipulated and neglected like their elder Gen X siblings.
  • The divorce and latchkey kid epidemics that started with Gen X were in full swing during Gen Y's formative years. Many Ys came from broken homes and perceived it as normal.
  • To compensate, Ys were raised in a fool's paradise of cartoons, plastic toys, video games, and suburban enclaves. They grew up on the Truman Show.
  • American culture still had a vestige of vaguely Christian morality when Gen Y came of age. Many Ys were even taken to church regularly as kids but fell away when encouraged to, "Decide what's true for yourself!"
  • Raised with the unquestioned expectation that they would all go to college. Yes, Xers got the, "You wanna flip burgers all your life?" speech, but in 1969 it was still assumed that some people weren't cut out for college. To Ys, college was a normal life stage that just happened, like losing your teeth or dying.
  • Grew up during peak racial harmony. No memory of 60s and 70s unrest, and saw the 90s riots as aberrations.
  • Education focused almost exclusively on rote memorization and regurgitation of ephemeral facts instead of practical skills. The "good at tests" generation.
  • The first guinea pigs of Leftist social engineering back before the process was perfected. Escaped the Millennials' full on indoctrination but picked up some residual utopianism.
To drive the differences home, let's compare and contrast Xers', Ys', and Millennials' generational vices.

Generation X: pretentious, cynical, and nihilistic

Generation Y: hapless, tractable, and naive to a fault

Millennials: self-absorbed, needy, and entitled.

Now that the picture's a bit clearer, let's dive into Clueless and see why it's the definitive Gen Y high school movie.

Silverstone - Cher

After a brief opening montage, we're introduced to our main protagonist, Cher, played by Alicia Silverstone. Right away, she hits all the Gen Y high notes.

You know the old, "Bob is such a perfect example of _____, that if he didn't exist, we'd have to invent him," quip? Cher comes off as writer/director Amy Heckerling trying to invent the epitome of Generation Y.

The movie was released in 1995 and takes place over the course of a school year. That means the story either happens between fall 94 and spring 95 or fall 95 and spring 96. Cher's age is stated as 15 at the start of the film, meaning she was born in 1979 or 1980. Either way, she's early Gen Y.

Cher's dad is a widower and multiple divorcee. Cher appears to be his only natural child out of all those unions. She has grown up with a succession of stepmoms and at least one stepbrother, though it's strongly suggested she has other stepsiblings. Broken home: check.

As a corporate lawyer who's made his fortune by parasitically latching onto the system, Cher's dad is always busy with work. He tries to compensate by furnishing Cher with every material luxury, including a lavish room in their palatial home, a seemingly limitless line of credit, a cell phone.

Interesting side note: Cell phones feature more prominently in Clueless than in Mean Girls, which was made a decade later. Remember that in 95, having a cell phone was as much a mark of affluence for a high school kid as having a sports car.

Speaking of emerging technology, Cher dips her toes int he digital world by using a desktop-based foreshadowing of a fashion app to select her outfit each morning. She then takes Polaroid selfies to make sure the ensemble is to her liking.

If there's anything more Gen Y than a Polaroid selfie, I haven't found it. I don't want to find it.

Cher's best friend Dionne is black. She never brings up her friend's race because it's simply not important. The two girls act, talk, and live almost identically. Dionne perfectly represents the peak blank slate/colorblind era that Clueless chronicles. You could recast that character with Reese Witherspoon or Michelle Rodriguez without having to rewrite the part at all.

This colorblindness pops up again in a speech Cher makes in her debate class. The topic is whether or not the US should admit Haitian refugees. I was floored when I saw this scene because the same disastrously naive outlook behind the immigration policies that have destroyed America is on full display.

In her argument, Cher likens illegal immigrants to dinner party guests who show up to her father's mansion without RSVPing. She glibly argues that all the government has to do is rearrange some chairs, and the party can go on as before.

We could pick this ridiculous argument apart by pointing out that the dinner guests were invited or even hypothetically ask Cher how many Haitian immigrants she'll be housing at her mansion. But that's not the main point of this post.

The point is that Cher, like most of Gen Y, has grown up so insulated from the real world that she accepts her own facile argument uncritically. If she thinks of Haiti at all, she assumes it's populated with clones of Dionne who just have less fashionable shoes.

The blank slate isn't the only Leftist canard the movie openly broadcasts. Plenty of screen time is given over to PSAs for feminism and environmentalism, for example. What's fascinating isn't so much the wall-to-wall Leftist messaging. It's that the movie embraces the earlier, utopian strain of Leftism.

The Gen Y kids are urged to recycle, use PC jargon, and cheerlead for the loss of their national sovereignty under the pretext of achieving some universal moral good. And they lack the frame of reference to realize they're being duped.

If nothing else, Clueless is a stunning time capsule from the not-so-distant past when the Left still pretended to care about human betterment in general. Their real agenda is present in a subtle, nascent form, most clearly in the character of an implausibly Caucasian mugger.

It's not that Cher is willingly vicious. Unlike her nearest analogue from Mean Girls Regina George--Cady is too atypical a Millennial for an apt comparison--Cher is driven by a genuine desire to do good. But her conscience is so malformed and uninformed that she misses the mark.

Just as Mean Girls' main character is a poor match for Cher as a moral agent, Heathers' protagonist Veronica is not her movie's primary moral catalyst. In that instance, it's more insightful to contrast Cher with Heathers deuteragonist J.D.

Here again, a fundamental difference between Gen X and Gen Y is highlighted. J.D.'s Boomer father has exposed him to the evils and injustices of the world. Cher's Boomer dad has sheltered her from the world.

Having knowledge but lacking a firm moral foundation, J.D. despairs and seeks to burn it all down, including himself. Lacking both knowledge and a firm moral foundation, Cher drifts on the deceptively placid sea of pop culture, oblivious to the tsunami surging below.

Cher clearly isn't Gen X, but you might object that she's just a low tech Millennial. After all, isn't she terminally self-absorbed?

Taken at face value, the short answer is yes. Both Cher and Regina are selfish characters. But there's a world of difference in the underlying reasons for their egoism and even more so in their reactions to being called out.

Regina is self-absorbed because she's been raised to see herself as the center of the universe and the sole arbiter of morality. When her selfishness is pointed out to her, she takes it as an attack on her identity. She experiences deep cognitive dissonance and responds by lashing out at her accuser.

Cher is self-absorbed because she lives in a gilded cage where her every whim is catered to. Her dad built the cage to protect her, but to his credit he did instill in her a mercenary system of ethics that provides at least some moral foundation. Cher acknowledges a moral standard outside herself.

This dynamic plays out when Josh, Cher's more worldly Gen X stepbrother, states that self-interest motivates 90% of her decisions. Cher is initially shocked, but she actually engages in some self-examination and resolves to perform at least one selfless act.

Of course, being Gen Y, she's incompetent, and her project blows up in her face. But at least she embarks on an honest search for the true and the good. It's the epistemic bubble she lives in, diligently maintained by her elders, that keeps her from finding the truth.

What ails Cher and the rest of her generation is the illusory vision of the world they've been imprisoned in since birth. They've spent their lives in a mirage of an oasis eating sand.

It will take a plot device from another 90s movie--made not by a Boomer, but by two members of the also transitional Generation Jones--to cure Gen Y's cluelessness.


MCU: The Inversion of Christ

This video comes to us from a reader who, like many, is coming to realize that Disney and Marvel aren't making movies. They're churning out Christianity-subverting propaganda.

Admittedly, the video starts off pretty cringe. But get past the vacation Bible school delivery and the Virgin-Mary-in-the-toast apophenia, and you'll see there is indeed fire under the smoke. With more than a whiff of brimstone.

Don't give money to people who hate you.

Support creators who want to entertain you.

Combat Frame XSeed - Brian Niemeier


Utopian vs Cultist

The following exchange comes to us from a stalwart reader who braved the reverse madhouse of Facebook, where mental patients keep the sane locked down.

Trolly Problem 1

Right away, the poster reveals his allegiance to the older, utopian iteration of Leftism.

This was the form the Left morphed into during the Cold War, when you'd see academic papers and NYT editorials singing the Soviets' praises right up until 1991.

The utopian Left's defining feature is the staunch belief that humanity will ascend to a shiny, sexy post-history future if only we can stack the corpses high enough.

There are already glimmers of what's coming, though. Note that the utopian phase already has religious undertones. Having abandoned faith in Christianity, the utopian constructs a secular eschatology based around A.I. central planning and transhumanism.

Giving the utopians the benefit of the doubt, if there's no God, and bringing about a posthuman, post-scarcity paradise is mankind's only hope of salvation, maybe we'd better start filling mass graves until the New Soviet Man appears.

Sadly for the utopians, they've been left behind like extras in a Kirk Cameron movie now that Leftism has evolved into its final form.

Trolly Problem 2

Trolly Problem 3

Trolly Problem 4

Trolly Problem 5

Trolly Problem 6

Utopian, meet Death Cultist.

Reread that debate over killing all humans, and pay special attention to the moral dimension. I'm not talking about whose argument is morally right from an objective standpoint. Both parties are morally retarded antichrists. I mean look at who takes and holds the rhetorical moral high ground.

If you're confused, I'll walk you through it. The utopian poses a moral dilemma as a means of virtue signaling. It's not a question. It's making the statement, "I'm willing to kill all billionaires to save everyone else. Look how daringly woke I am next to all these bourgeois posers!"

Then the Death Cultist shows up and teaches the utopian what woke really is.

The cultist agrees and amplifies, unflinchingly advocating the mass murder of all mankind. Note that he couches his position in moral terms. Total human extermination, "would do us all good."

Right away, the debate takes a fascinating turn. Thrown into cognitive dissonance by the cultist's unexpected answer, the utopian is immediately set on his back foot. He tries to reclaim the high ground by calling the cultist a Nazi, but the attempt fails.

Now, I'll tell you why the old Nazi gambit failed, and I want you to really let this sink in. Anytime a Leftist calls someone to his right--even a gay Asian journo; even a Jewish YouTuber--a Nazi, the label sticks.

Here's a utopian Leftist, who wants to kill just enough people to usher in the Workers' Paradise, trying to use the Nazi label on a cultist who wants to kill everybody, and it doesn't stick.

The Right has such a penchant for literalistic, linear thinking that the point might be lost, so I'll spell it out. In our Leftist-controlled social discourse, the Nazi label can only be successfully used by whoever wants to kill the most people when smearing someone who wants to kill fewer people.

When the utopian is identified as wanting to kill fewer people, his argumentation from that point is an attempt to qualify himself to the cultist, who's already won.

If that reminds you of how hapless Conservatives try and fail to argue against Leftists from within the Left's moral frame, good job. It's the exact same dynamic.

The Left isn't lying when they call themselves progressive. The historical arc of Leftism has rocketed toward seeking the largest body count possible. Compared to somebody who wants to kill everyone, somebody who wants to kill most people is a fascist.

To his credit, the utopian presses his futile argument against human genocide, but the final nail is driven into his coffin when the cultist justifies killing everyone on Earth by saying he feels like it.

The utopian tries a feeble appeal to human progress which is, understandably, utopian. The cultist dismisses the appeal by repeating his desire to kill everyone because he wants to die, and therefore everyone else should bow to his sovereign preference and die, too.

At that point, the utopian is reduced to fully embracing the cultist's frame. He states that he doesn't want to die. But it's to no avail. Having accepted the cultist's frame that personal preferences are absolute, any attempt to curtail those preferences must be condemned as regressive and immoral.

Knowing he's already won, the cultist does the standard victory lap. He triumphantly spews pure nihilism, crowing that everyone dies, and he just wants to skip to the end.

Roundly defeated, our utopian retreats back into the fantasy that he cultist just crushed--signaling that the cultist triggered deep cogdis and therefore won.

Trolly Problem 7

Sorry, sweetheart. Boeing can't even keep planes in the air thanks to the policies you vote for. You ain't going nowhere.

Let this chilling look into the black heart of Leftism be a stark reminder that abandoning the real absolutes of truth and the good to absolutize freedom inevitably leads to mass graves.


Mean Heathers

Heathers Mean Girls

Hollywood producers long ago figured out that they could repackage audiences' high school experience and sell it back to them. It's a testament to human vanity that a four year stint in what now amounts to a juvenile detention center can be glamorized into a long-running subgenre.

As with everything, 90% of high school movies are forgettable trash. The other 10% are pretty trashy, but in every generation a few carve out a place in the cultural zeitgeist.

Last night I treated myself to an impromptu double feature of Mean Girls (2004) and Heathers (1988).

If you haven't seen these movies, Mean Girls was the brainchild of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock writer Tina Fey. It's a fish out of water story about a formerly homeschooled student getting embroiled in the nasty inter-clique politics at her new generic high school.

Heathers starts with pretty much the same basic details as Mean Girls, with a few superficial differences. You've got the same social commentary on in-crowd vs out-crowd dynamics, social ostracism, and betrayal.

The differences become apparent in Heathers' tone--which is far darker, themes--also darker, centrally featuring the issue of teen suicide, and plot--which veers into outlaw lovers territory a la Bonnie and Clyde, Wild at Heart, and True Romance.

For starters, I'll rattle off a list of similarities between the two films, many of them trivial, in no particular order.

  • A main clique of four popular girls organized in a rigid hierarchy ruled with an iron fist by a queen bee character.
  • Both are set at cookie cutter high schools in the Midwest.
  • Gay panic subplot
  • Characters turning their backs on childhood friends to join/stay in the popular clique.
  • Exactly one Taco Bell reference each.
  • Hyper-violent dream sequences (though in Heathers, these or similar events often come true).
  • Female character hit, but not killed, by a vehicle.
  • Social blackmail (actual blackmail, in Heathers' case).
  • Protagonist displays exceptional aptitude in a specific field of study (Mean Girls: mathematics, Heathers: literature).
  • Romantic involvement with a male character from outside the protagonist's traditional social circle is the main plot catalyst.
With so many similarities, some of them quite eerie, it's no wonder people frequently compare these two movies. From my recent experience, they made a pretty surreal double feature.

There are significant differences, though, and these are where the most interesting cultural implications lie.

The most obvious differences are generational. Mean Girls is implicitly aimed at Millennials, whereas Heathers is a much more overt Gen X cri de coeur.

If you're wondering about Generation Y's defining high school movie, that would be the aptly titled Clueless--a topic for another time.

These different generational outlooks are embodied by both films' main protagonists. Mean Girls' Cady, played by Lindsay Lohan, is paradoxically cosmopolitan yet sheltered. She grew up in Africa, yet she's hapless in social situations.

Cady is also a math whiz. That's significant because it's used to portray her as breaking down barriers to girls excelling in traditionally male pursuits. It's interesting to see Hollywood already actively blurring distinctions between the sexes back in 2004.

It's also worth noting that, even though smart phones were still a few years off in 2004, a lot of interactions between characters in Mean Girls take place over the phone.

Heathers' protagonist Veronica, played by Winona Ryder, is a completely different character than Cady. She's already a member of the upper crust at the start of her movie, and she's far more socially capable, even defying the titular Heathers to their faces on multiple occasions.

Veronica's parents are rich boomers, as are all of the parents shown in Heathers. Unlike Cady's folks, who are portrayed as kind but somewhat bumbling, all of the parental figures in Heathers are depicted as vain, aloof, venal, and selfish. Veronica does half-jokingly call her dad an idiot to his face, an insult he glibly agrees with and amplifies.

The palpable Gen X vs. Baby Boomer conflict in Heathers is even more explicit in the twisted relationship between male lead J.D., played by Christian Slater, and his boomer father.

From his first scene J.D.'s dad is painted as a sinister sociopath who won't let anything--tradition, morality, family--stand between him and a buck. He's a ruthless real estate developer who is shown quite literally demolishing history to line his own pockets.

The guy is so evil that J.D.'s mom walked into a condemned library seconds before demolition just to get away from her psycho husband. The boomer connections are driven home by the fact that the site of her death is a building in Texas that housed books.

Digressions aside, Veronica is shown to be quite the wordsmith. When she begins forging suicide notes for J.D.'s popular victims, even going so far as to perfectly match the deceased's handwriting, her fake notes are featured first in the school newspaper and then in the news media.

Note that as late as 1988, a female protagonist is shown excelling in the literary arts, where women still dominate today. Heathers spares its audience the contrivance of a smoking hot female extreme mathlete.

Don't get me wrong. The kids in Heathers are hardly pure as the wind-driven snow. Unlike Mean Girls, which mostly hints at sex, Heathers has a couple of sex scenes commensurate with its R rating. Sometime between 1988 and 2004, Hollywood figured out that PG-13 innuendo in a movie kids can legally see is more effective at scandalizing them than gratuitous R-rated debauchery.

Tellingly, the characters in Mean Girls dress far more sluttily. They even lampshade it in the movie.

Another key difference is the kind of degeneracy they were selling back then. Heathers is still pushing sexual revolution style hetero hedonism. Homosexuality is played for laughs or slung as an insult. There's no explicitly gay character you're supposed to sympathize with, as in Mean Girls.

Which of the two do I prefer? Using the word "deep" in reference to a high school movie comes off as absurd on its face, but there are degrees, and depth is relative.

In the final analysis,Mean Girls is a delivery mechanism for trite Barbie commercial style "Friendship is magic!" moralizing and "Girls can do anything!" third wave feminism.There are some crafted jokes that elicit a chuckle or two, since Tina Fey does mirror her protagonist's success in a male-dominated field. Though ironically, more like Veronica in Heathers, her forte is the arts.

Though Heathers has fewer laugh-out-loud gags, its humor is darker and subtler. For example, J.D. is able to unfailingly manipulate the local authority figures through such seemingly innocuous acts as leaving a bottle of mineral water or a marked-up copy of Moby Dick at the scenes of his crimes.

The humor in Mean Girls revolves around the characters. The humor in Heathers is derived from and concerned with the world. That's a telltale difference between female and male writing. It's also probably why I gravitate toward the latter.

A final note on aesthetics. Heathers was produced in the 80s and is unmistakably a product of its time. Looking at one still from the opening scene will tell you exactly when the movie was made.

Mean Girls, on the other hand, is a product of post-1997 Hollywood. Almost exactly the same amount of time separates us from 2004 as separates Mean Girls from Heathers. But other than the conspicuous absence of smart phones, Mean Girls could take place anytime from the year 2000 up until today.

We're about due for the definitive Gen Zed high school movie. My money's on a shot-for-shot remake of Mean Girls with a Mary Sue transsexual character and a carefully edited gay sex scene shoehorned in.


They're Gonna Need More than One Exorcism

House Chaplain Exorcism

Even Jesuits are starting to realize there's no political solution to America's problems. House Chaplain Pat Conroy has done what somebody should have a long time ago and performed an exorcism on the US House chamber.
The House chaplain has staged an emergency prayer intervention in Congress to cast out the “spirits of darkness” he blames for the turmoil that seized the chamber during the vote to condemn the president’s tweets for ‘racism.’
"It felt like there was something going on beyond just political disagreement” on the House floor on Tuesday during the contentious vote, chaplain Rev. Patrick Conroy told CNN on Thursday. “The energy of the House was very off. No one was relishing what was happening."
Conroy’s prayer was inspired by the Catholic exorcism rite, he explained – as well as “traditional blessings for homes or other buildings.” He had the idea after witnessing Tuesday’s chaotic vote on a resolution condemning Trump’s “racist” tweets degenerate into partisan sniping. The drama unfolded before the vote itself, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi ultimately leaving the room in a huff after Republican Rep. Doug Collins demanded she retract the characterization of Trump’s tweets as racist. Presiding Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver dropped the gavel and abandoned the chair, a dramatic move with no historical precedent, as the proceedings devolved into bickering over whether a rule had been broken. Over two hours went by before order was sufficiently restored to continue with the vote, which split along partisan lines to condemn the tweets.
Here's the video.

It's gonna take more than one exorcism to purify that den of thieves. I'm surprised the demonically influenced representatives didn't descend on Conroy and tear him limb from limb.


The Alabama Gambit

Alabama Brooks Moore Sessions

Taking the temperature of the room, most people seem burned out with politics these days. It's probably because if the Trump presidency has accomplished one thing, it's to convince most people that there is no political solution to our problems.

The lack of urgency is why politics has gotten boring. Everybody's wise to the song and dance by now. Trump tweets a bombastic statement promising some big move on one of his key planks. MAGApedes swoon. Trump walks back his statement, making action conditional on some foreign government or the Democrats playing ball. Weeks pass, and everybody forgets the whole affair. Meanwhile, Dems carry on as if the Fourth Reich is abducting kids from Latin America and stuffing them in boxcars.

Frankly, it's not disappointing anymore. It's just tedious. That's why I don't write about politics anymore unless something inherently interesting happens. We have the makings of some top notch political theater in the 2020 Alabama US Senate race.

The 2017 special election to replace then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions proved quite the spectacular circus train wreck. For those who automatically purge events predating the last Star Wars movie from memory, that was the US Senate election that saw the Republican establishment mobilize to help smear their own party's candidate and hand a solid GOP seat to the Democrats.

Curiously, you see a lot of blame heaped on Republican candidate Roy Moore. That he ran an anemic campaign is beside the point. Any Republican could have run an identical campaign and won if not for Leftist shysters ginning up a manufactured #metoo case and the GOP going along.

Even dumber, some Republicans still slander Moore as some kind of sex criminal. The subsequent vindication of Justice Brett Kavanaugh should have permanently discredited the Left's sex scandal gambit. They ran the same op against Coach K, in large part because it worked on Moore.

Now it looks like Moore is counting on the Narrative's collapse to get some vindication of his own. It's not outside the realm of possibility, as early polls have shown Moore leading in a speculative Senate race

The potential Moore redemption arc is intriguing enough, but the situation gets even more interesting with the involvement of AL rep. Mo Brooks, who's favored for Senate by the likes of Ann Coulter, and the astonishing return of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump is reportedly less than pleased with Sessions' decision.

With the GOP Alabama Senate primary looking like a three-man tug of war, what would the smart play for the Republicans be if they got serious about winning this seat back? What would a real 4D chess master do?

If I'm Trump, I pick a favorite now and start courting local party players in Alabama to secure him the nomination. It's a tough choice because all three of these guys are pretty solid. But I've got to pick one, so I pick Mo Brooks. He's the youngest of the three, and we want this seat held for the long haul.

What to do with Moore and Sessions? That's where the 4D chess comes in. If I were Trump, I'd nominate Roy Moore for the US Supreme Court. And no, I wouldn't wait for a vacancy. I'd do it right now. Today.

Don't think that nominating another SCOTUS judge while the bench is technically full is beyond the pale. More than one current Dem presidential candidate is openly advocating packing the court with additional justices. A tactic the enemy uses is fair game for you to use.

For maximum chaos, I'd be sure to accompany the nomination with a number of tweets mentioning how you never know when you'll need a spare SCOTUS justice since many aren't exactly the picture of health. Ginsburg is low hanging fruit. I'd throw in a Sotomayor diabetes reference for good measure.

Who knows? The shock might make this a self-fulfilling prophecy. I'd pad my odds by having Tucker Carlson add a SCOTUS dead pool segment with nightly odds updates. All of this is, of course, pure speculation, as I would never wish harm on anyone.

When the news cycle eventually wound down from a fever pitch, I'd wait a week and nominate Jeff Sessions for SCOTUS. Mind you, I wouldn't withdraw Moore's nomination. I'd keep them both nominated at the same time.

Moore would almost certainly accept the nomination and run with it as a chance at vindication, which is what he clearly wants most. Watching his confirmation hearing performance would be a hoot. He'd make Coach K. look like Ben Stein.

Sessions would be a tougher case. Getting him on board would probably require a closed-door meeting with a personal apology for abusing him during his tenure as AG. I'd tactfully point out that this is no longer his fight, and it's time to pass the torch, but he'd make a great Supreme Court justice.

By that time, the press will be in such a frothing furor that they'll have forgotten all about the Alabama senate race. As the clear Republican candidate running in a clean race, Mo Brooks should mop the floor with Doug Jones.

Meanwhile, I'd leave the SCOTUS circus running as long as necessary. If a vacancy opens up, I'd publicly proclaim Moore exonerated and give the seat to Sessions. Everybody's happy.

Except for the Democrats, who are howling in impotent rage at the sky.

Remember when they used to do that? Good times.


Selling an Image

50 Shades image

I've been asked to compile this Twitter thread, which turned quite a few heads. The topic is newpub marketing, which tends to be popular with my blog readers, so I've reproduced it here.

Most folks in newpub unconsciously stumble out of the gate by calling themselves indie *authors*. I know I did.

But newpub means more than writing. If you go indie, you accept all the responsibilities of an author AND a publisher.

As a result of indies' author-centric focus, a lot of time is spent discussing matters of craft. That's fine. Craft is indispensable. No books, no industry.

The problem is that the business end often goes overlooked.

In newpub, you wear two hats: author and publisher. These are different roles with intrinsically different functions & skill sets.

Sometimes the dichotomy incites conflict: "Learning marketing is beneath me. I'm an artist!"

That's setting yourself up to fail.

Unpopular opinion: Most authors' exclusive focus on story quality is a detriment to their marketing efforts.

Note I said 'exclusive'. I'm not saying story quality doesn't matter. It's essential to reach readers.

Here's what 99% of newpub never asks: how to reach non-readers?

"Why would I want to reach non-readers?"

If you asked that, you're thinking like an author. Stop, doff your artist hat, & put on your publisher hat.

An author's 1st job is pleasing readers. A publisher's 1st job is selling books. As a publisher, you want to sell as many as possible.

25% of Americans didn't read a single book in 2017. Everyone with a TBR stack knows that books bought > books read.

I couldn't verify this figure since oldpub keeps such data close to the vest, but a friend with his finger on the pulse of the deep marketing lore asserted that only 20% of the Big 5's major release books actually get read.

We're talking front list stuff like titles featured on Oprah's book club. People buy those books to conspicuously leave on the coffee table so they can signal how hip they are.

You may disdain their behavior, but if those buyers account for 80% of blockbuster book sales, you shouldn't spurn them outright if you want to make the A list.

How do you sell your book to folks who don't read?

As we saw, most authors over-focus on their books' content. Sure, they'll put decent effort into the cover art. Some learn SEO & keyword-fu. Many dump a few $$ a month into AMS ads.

But all of that is for attracting *readers*.

Remember: most sales are motivated by status. This doesn't just apply to books. Just look at any beer ad.

Think about who buys 50 Shades of Grey. It's mostly customers who want to be seen as the kind of woman who reads 50 Shades--edgy but within the bounds of social convention. Nobody wants to be seen as a "good girl".

You get non-readers to buy your book by convincing them that owning your book will make people see them as the kind of person they want to be. That's aspirational marketing.

Publishers understand the power of aspirational marketing--or they used to.

Why did that news article have a pic of that celebrity holding that hot new book? It wasn't a coincidence.

TL; DR: you entice non-readers to buy your book by showing them that someone they aspire to emulate already owns your book.

Sit down and write up a list of influential people your target market wants to emulate. It couldn't hurt to email these people with a free book offer.

If you're the kind of person who wants to be seen as a discerning anime connoisseur--not like those pesky weebs--be seen reading my sophisticated mecha thriller Combat Frame XSeed.

Combat Frame XSeed


Church and State

Not a Christian

Over the weekend, Team Fedora Tipper got a couple of anti-Christian hashtags trending on Twitter. That's nothing new, since these people define their identity by their hatred of Christians.

What is interesting about Christian-bashing on the part of internet atheists, and the Left in general, is how their rhetoric has taken on an implicit--and sometimes explicit--moralistic character.

Here's a tweet from some vapid New Zealand MP claiming that the Holy Family were "Palestinian refugees."

The Death Cult understand neither their enemy nor themselves, so it's quite the spectacle watching them obliviously sermonize, complete with moral appeals to a faith about which they know nothing.

Such ill-informed preaching, particularly coming from a government official, represents another unforced tactical error on the Death Cult's part. Their Enlightenment forebears conned Christians into accepting separation of Church and state to unilaterally disarm ourselves in the culture wars.

By prompting Christians to think about politics in terms of their faith, the Left risks forfeiting the advantage of granting themselves the freedom to speak politically in religious terms while Christians are reduced to engaging in politics solely with economic arguments.

Smugly browbeating Christians with pig-ignorant takes on their own religion is so colossally dumb, I can't immediately grasp why the Left would do it.

All I can come up with is that it's a striking example of premature Leftist overreach. They were supposed to have gained total victory by now, and their time preference is so high, they're doing a touchdown dance on our twenty yard line.

I'm not the only one who's noticed an air of thinly veiled desperation surrounding Leftist rhetoric these days. When you're in a utopian cult that believed legalizing infanticide and butt marriage and electing a black president would usher in the end of history, seeing the prophecies fail must set you on edge.

There's also Leftists' growing dissatisfaction with Big Tech deplatforming anyone to the right of FDR. Concerning as we may find the Adpocalypse, the Left is beginning to realize that kicking Alex Jones off YouTube, banning MILO from Facebook, and shutting down Laura Loomer's Twitter account hasn't made the boogeyman go away.

The Left find themselves in a worse position, after a fashion. Before, all they had to do to keep tabs on what Paul Joseph Watson was up to was skim a Buzzfeed hit piece peppered with out-of-context tweets. Banishing him from their sight just let him slip into the shadows. He could be hiding in the laundry hamper for all they know.

The realization is dawning on a lot of ordinary people that we've been losing because our self-styled leaders keep honoring gentlemen's agreements with the Left that categorically prevent us from winning.

A smart movement whose leaders cared about the rank and file's interests would seize the advantage offered by exile to the underground. Thus the Conservative Inc. quislings will have to be deposed first.


Star Wars Is now Disney Fanfic

YoutTuber David Stewart explains why there is no longer any reason to pay the least bit of attention to the Disney fan fiction masquerading as Star Wars
Disney Star Wars - it's not canon guys. It's unofficial. It's fan fiction. View it as such, treat it as such, talk about it as such; including not treating it as anything that needs to be paid attention to or be thought of as official. And anyone that says it is official, they're incorrect, right? Just as they'd be incorrect about Thor being a woman or anything else like that. 
Once you separate creator and creation, it's completely unofficial. It's a fan work. It's something like ... you go see a Dio hologram. You're not seeing Dio, that's obvious, but all of these things are like the Dio hologram. They're just continuations of something which has already passed on from this earth.
Watch the full video.

Our culture will begin the long road to recovery when most people accept that their beloved childhood IPs are dead. Luckily, there is a new generation of creators hard at work on new stories. If Western civilization can trudge on for another decade or two, perhaps some of the new storytellers' works will break out to entertain and inspire large audiences.

One thing's for certain: We can't succeed without readers. Set aside your fear, skepticism, or simple procrastination, and support independent authors today.


Humiliation Rituals

Bug Burger Humiliation Ritual

People have slowly started to notice a new fad gaining traction among our ruling class. Check your social media feeds or the entertainment news, and odds are you'll see a piece extolling the virtues of eating bugs.

As if it had to be said again, you should never take our rulers' stated motives at face value. They don't think eating bugs will save the planet, nor do they think bug burgers are delicious. We know this because our betters won't be dining on meal worms. When the daily bug ration is mandated, they'll make unprincipled exceptions for themselves.

It's good to see people catching on to the real purpose behind pushing bugs as haute cuisine. They've seen enough humiliation rituals to know the next one when it pops up.

If you're unfamiliar with the concept, the most commonly cited example of a humiliation ritual was Eastern Bloc shopkeepers being pressured to place "Workers of the world unite" signs in their front windows. If you didn't display the sign and the local party functionary stopped by, there'd be trouble.

Now, this practice continued well into the 20th century, when it had become obvious to anyone with a brain that there would be no global Communist uprising. We know the guys in charge knew it. That wasn't the point. They didn't think the revolution would come if only enough shopkeepers displayed little red stars.

They knew from history that forcing people to publicly state manifest untruths demoralized them.

That's how humiliation rituals work. If you can sap the people's fortitude until they'll willingly recite patent falsehoods, they won't have the fortitude to challenge the elite.

A good example of the Left's current favorite humiliation ritual came across my Twitter timeline yesterday. It's astounding that there are any Conservatives who still think the Left's noises about gay rights are on the level. Yet there they are, publicly endorsing butt stuff while wondering why it still hasn't won them any brownie points with the Death Cult.

The reason for these housebroken Conservatives' confusion is, as usual, their penchant for linear thinking. They can't imagine anyone having ulterior motives, or if they can, they imagine some deliberate mass conspiracy; the SJWs getting daily marching orders from the Central Committee.

In reality, the Death Cult works more like a school of fish. They're always sending subtle signals to each other to produce what looks like consciously coordinated movement.

That's why Conservatives trying to be more pro-LGBT/anti-racist/feminist than the Left never works. They forget they're dealing with a heretical religion, not a bunch of individuals who subscribe to an ideology.

To the Death Cult, a Conservative proclaiming his commitment to gay rights is LARPing with his fly open. He's burning his pinch of incense and professing Caesar's divinity while visibly crossing his fingers. The cult knows he's not one of them, so his attempts to placate them come off as sacrilege.

That's also why Conservatives lost the culture war. The point of a humiliation ritual is to make the enemy parrot your side's moral code. For decades, Conservatives have dutifully performed every humiliation ritual the Death Cult liturgists have devised.

This isn't a battle of divergent policies. It's a war of conflicting morals. In asymmetrical warfare, whoever captures the moral level wins. Accepting the Death Cult's moral framework is suicide, as Conservatives have proven. Beating this enemy will mean rejecting their morality wholesale.


Hecklers vs Critics

I've been getting a lot of requests for writing advice lately. Knowing how to recognize and take constructive criticism is among the most important skills a writer can master, so I've dug this post out of the vaults.


Writers tend to be introverts. Most of us also crave external validation. Add in the fact that naturally shy authors seek approval by submitting deeply personal works for public consumption, and it's no mystery why many authors--and creative people of all kinds--are averse to criticism.

This aversion to criticism amounts to a fear of failure, which is a detrimental mindset for anyone; not just us creative types. Nobody likes being rejected, but unless you're putting yourself out there--and make no mistake; as an author, your product is you--and inviting rejection, you won't get anywhere.

Here's an uncomfortable fact that writers need to get realistic about if they want to improve as artists: accepting constructive criticism will teach you far more than will living in a hermetically sealed hugbox.

I understand that facing your critics can be an agonizing ordeal, but there are ways to soften the blow. Here's some advice on how to take criticism.

Know the Difference Between Criticism and Heckling
Criticism itself is a subtle and noble art. Unfortunately, the number of highly opinionated people with internet access far exceeds the number of skilled critics. As a result, most online critics are really hecklers.

In this clip, comedian Jamie Kennedy briefly discusses the difference between a critic and a heckler (he even made a movie about it). Whether you enjoy Kennedy's humor or not, he has some valid points.

  • Heckling consists of emotion-based, personal insults intended to tear the artist down; usually to inflate the heckler's ego.
  • Criticism is an honest effort to appraise the strengths and shortcomings of a work. Legitimate critics analyze books, movies, games, etc. based on accepted artistic standards. The aim of criticism is to help the artist improve, thereby improving the state of the art.

You can probably see from the definition of criticism alone how constructive critiques are invaluable resources for improvement. If you don't know something's wrong, you can't fix it. Luckily, a real critic will restrict criticism to your work. Someone making it personal is a heckler who can be safely ignored.

Find a Trusted Critic Whose Style Fits Your Disposition
If you're still not convinced that criticism is an invaluable tool for creative growth, consider The Lord of the Rings. By all accounts, the early drafts of Tolkien's beloved masterpiece sucked. Seriously, if he'd had his way, instead of the world's greatest fantasy epic we'd have gotten a thousand page account of Bilbo's 111th birthday bash. No orcs, no balrog, not even the titular Dark Lord; just a bunch of hobbits stuffing their faces and telling jokes.

C.S. Lewis single-handedly saved us from that adorable yet tedious fate. His advice to Tolkien that hobbits are only entertaining when they're doing unhobbitlike things is possibly the greatest piece of criticism ever given. Lewis deserves a Nobel Prize for that alone.

Yet Lewis' true genius didn't shine forth in the criticism he gave, but in how he delivered it. Knowing that Tolkien was among the shyest introverts of a notoriously shy and introverted breed--and since both of them were university professors--he framed his criticism of LotR by adopting Tolkien's conceit that it was a real history and critiquing the "translators" of "The Red Book of Westmarch".

Whereas Tolkien tended to flee from direct criticism, Lewis found that playing along with his friend's fantasy was the sugar coating that helped his advice go down. Brandon Rhodes gave an outstanding talk on how Lewis' mastery of wise and gentle criticism coaxed Tolkien out of his artistic shell. The whole video is well worth any artist or critic's time.

The takeaway: friends who will tell you the truth about a project you're emotionally invested in are rarer than pearls. Critics who can tell you that something you made sucks in a way that makes you glad to hear it are more precious than gold. Seek out both, and thank God if you can find one person who fits into both categories.

Sift Your Feedback
Not all critics are created equal. Not all criticism is equally useful. Learning how to sift feedback is just as important as training yourself to seek it out. Here are some reliable methods:

  • Assemble your own group of handpicked beta readers/first critics. As mentioned above, select for people who will tell it like it is without being jerks. This will take time--probably years--and will be an ongoing process.
  • Do not try to implement all feedback. Doing so will undermine your artistic voice and creative freedom. A solid rule of thumb is to take roughly 25% of the advice you get from readers--even your trusted beta readers.
  • Once is a fluke. Twice is coincidence. Three times is proof. Don't fret if a single, isolated review calls your protagonist one-dimensional. If several critics take issue with your characterization, strongly consider taking action.
  • Your target audience takes precedence over critics who aren't fans of your particular genre/themes/mood, etc. As a professional writer, pleasing your readers is your job. Treat repeated complaints from your hardcore fans much as you would critiques from your trusted beta readers. Likewise, if you write nuts & bolts hard SF, take a bad review from a self-described super squishy space opera fanboy with a grain of salt.
If They Really Bug You, Don't Read Bad Reviews
I know of several authors who just plain skip negative reviews of their work. That practice may sound detrimental based on what I've said so far, but there's sound reasoning behind it. Most of those writers already have solid beta readers--many of whom are also professional authors, and they run their work by pro editors.

Besides, someone who posts a one or two star review probably won't become a fan, even if you improve. Your fans are the folks you want to please, and they'll usually point out where there's room for improvement. So you can learn from reading bad reviews, but it's not mandatory.

I'm really grateful that my readers have given my work pretty high marks. Even those four and five star reviews can be mined for useful criticism, and I've learned a lot about my audience's tastes that way. Thanks to constructive criticism from my beta readers, editors, and fans, I've grown as an author and I look forward to improving even more.

To be sure, there've been folks who tried my writing and didn't like it. I'm thankful that they've all been super good sports and have explained their distaste in ways that made perfect sense. But even when someone's decided my work isn't for him, I've benefited when he told me why.

And if this article teaches you nothing else, I'm obligated to leave you with this one, crucial law:

Never, ever, under any circumstances, should you respond to a negative review.

As an author, defending yourself against bad reviews makes you look like an amateur, takes time away from writing you get paid for, and if the review is from a heckler, it gives him the grand prize: your attention. If you can't resist leaping to defend your precious book's honor, you should definitely stop reading negative reviews altogether.

So that's what becoming a professional author has taught me about taking criticism. If you're a working artist, I hope you'll confidently go and seek out feedback.