Author Archives: Andrea Harris

About Andrea Harris

Welcome to the web thing of me, Andrea Harris. I write stuff and take pictures. Here is the email address. Here is a Twitter thing.

working in the fail trade

Oh dear. There is so much that is wrong with this article that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let me make a little list.

  1. The Daily Mail
  2. “Daily Mail Reporter”
  3. “…it has been revealed.” (No no NO NO.)
  4. I am put in the position of actually having to defend Richard Dawkins, who I think is somewhat of a big jerk sometimes.

By the way, that’s “wrong” as in “wrong-bad,” not “wrong” as in factually inaccurate, and it fills me with dismay that so-called “conservatives” keep falling for tactics like this. After all, isn’t it one of the major complaints conservatives have about liberals and progressives the way that those two groups use “UR ancestors were bad!” tactics to gain political power? I have no doubts (and also don’t care) that some ancestor of Dawkins’ owned slaves in Jamaica. What is wrong-bad about this whole thing is the way his opponents are snickering and giggling about this as if they’d revealed some big, damaging secret. Sadly, in this bizarre world where people (white “liberal” ones, mostly) are trying to one-up each other in the “I’m more anti-racist no I’m more anti-racist” holier-than-thou game, it could probably cause damage to whatever he is trying to do, even good things.

Because I’m sure that he does good things in between setting fire to the kittens of cute Catholic children and trying to cancel Christmas. Let’s look for some. Oh here. Here is the Richard Dawkins Foundation, whose mission says it is to

…support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering.

See, who can argue with that? Aren’t scientific education, critical thinking, and evidence-based understanding of the natural world good things, that people on the right and left side of the political spectrum both claim to want to be used in society? On the other hand, there is that bit about “religious superstition,” but I can remember when I was a kid being told that “superstition” was different from proper religious belief. “Superstition” was both stupid (astrology, palm-reading, thinking that if you broke a mirror you’d have seven years of bad luck) and dangerous (belief in witches led to the death of scores of innocent old women whose only crime was being disliked by their neighbors), and proper Christians, for example, were not supposed to act that way. There was even a song, popular in the Seventies, that spelled that out: “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. Anyway, to make a long diatribe short, in Sunday school we kids were taught that “proper” religious belief did not involve the use of nonsensical activities like spells, horoscopes, and charms to get things we wanted and to tell the future. We were taught that proper religious belief was supposed to focus on making you behave better. Yes, it was a very Protestant, whitebread sort of religious upbringing I had, but that was before religion on television became popular.

Leaving the religious bit aside, I think that the mission of the Dawkins Foundation is a good one. We have a real serious need for proper scientific education in the Western World. The lack of understanding goes all the way to the top, leading to such things as the banning of the harmless incandescent light bulb as a frankly superstitious gesture towards the problem of overuse of energy. Banning the light bulb does fuckall to save large amounts of energy — it’s like watering a petunia in your front yard while your house is burning. But the scientific ignoramuses we keep voting into the government were fooled into doing this and now if I want to buy 100-watt incandescent bulbs I have to order them over the internet from Germany. What sort of fuckery is that?

Anyway, getting back to the point, how is Dawkins at fault for this? Where is his hypocrisy? The only way this attack could mean anything would be if he had tried to hide or deny his family history, or if he had attacked someone else for having slave-owning ancestors. As far as I know he has not done either of those things. What good does sneering at Richard Dawkins’ slave-owning ancestor do anyone? It gives his enemies a right old laugh. And… that’s about it. All I can say is you must be very depressed if that’s what it takes to cheer you up. Also? I never want to hear one word against “reparations” or anything descendants of African slaves in Europe and the Americas say or do any more if you think this sort of thing is okay. No more complaints about their supposed “lower IQs” being the only thing holding them back from being as intelligent and successful as white people, no more whining when your “funny” racist joke isn’t well-received, no more complaining that “those people stick together,” no bitching that white people aren’t getting 100% of the appreciation any more, no moaning about how some minority critic trampled on your toys when he pointed out some beloved book or movie has racist elements in it. I don’t want to hear any of it any more if you think that it’s just fine to join in when some white person who is on the other side of your white people status games gets slammed.

(Via Kathy Shaidle, who sadly joins in on the mockery — even though, I don’t know, she’s apparently not too pleased with the Catholic church these days, so whatever.)

Everything looks worse in black and white





In other words, they’re actually doing something right for probably the first time in 100 years. Their situation now is not at all analogous to the moribund, blind-to-reality, “it can’t happen to us,” “why should we listen to the peons” traditional publishing industry. A better comparison would be to the Kodak of yesteryear and their efforts to control the film camera industry by dick moves like 620 film, and APS film.

And actually, I don’t even think that works. Because it’s like this: film is not easy to produce, and there are only a few other companies in the world (Fujifilm, Adox) who still make it. Film manufacturing needs specialized equipment and people with the special knowledge of how to operate that equipment. Text, on the other hand, is easily produced. You don’t need specialized equipment or knowledge, just a standard modern education and a writing implement. And with the advent of the internet, e-readers, and companies like Amazon, a writer no longer needs to depend on a traditional publisher to get his works printed and advertized.

Typing is not writing

The desire for fame and status has destroyed more lives than the cholera.

According to the post I linked in the above paragraph, an author of an apparently-beloved YA book series (vampire-themed, as so many of these things are these days, sigh), has had her work taken from her and given to a “ghostwriter” because Evil Corporate Publisher, etc. But as you read further (and as is pointed out by a few helpful commenters), the writer in question, one L.J. Smith, wasn’t actually what we think of as an “author.” You know, someone who has a burning need to write a story that they created themselves out of their ideas, dreams, and experience. Instead, she had been hired on to pen a YA series for this publisher, Harper-Collins. Hired on to write something isn’t quite the same thing as you approaching a publisher yourself with your manuscript(s). And it looks like what happened is she either didn’t read the contract or have it read for her by someone more qualified, or she did and didn’t understand certain things, or she did and understood it perfectly well but hoped that something like this would not come to pass but now that it did she’s having a good old public cry about it.

What can I say. Let’s see, how about: this author seems to have put forth a lot of creative effort on this book series and obviously feels used and abused. On the other hand, she did get paid, and she did get name recognition. Of course, now she probably won’t be able to publish anything under that name because the publisher is going to keep on putting it on new entries to the series even though she’s not going to be writing them. Not only did she sell them her time and effort, it looks like she sold them the name “L.J. Smith.” Oops. Of course, she could just start writing under a pen name, but she’ll have to work her way back up the brand-recognition ladder. That’s tough, but that’s the way the game is played. At least now she has the internet to help her — she can notify her fans of her new name and direction.

Still, it just goes to show that being an “Author” and being a writer are two different things. A writer writes, but an Author gets invited to parties. Writers have been told for decades now that they aren’t really writers unless they are Authors too. And like college degrees, the concept of the Author has degraded over time as publishers turned more and more to marketing “trends” and “concepts” and less to actually publishing books. Maybe this is the real “death of the Author.” It’s about time.

Major stumbling blocks to my sympathy

You know, stuff like this does not help, conservative people. I refer to the very first sentence of the quote, which acts on me much in the same way a too-high speed bump acts on the undercarriage of my car: it brings the vehicle of my caring to a crashing, jolting halt:

A primitive society is being devastated by a disease, so you bring modern medicine to bear, and wipe out the disease, only to find that by doing so you have brought on a population explosion…

What. I mean what. No really, what. This was quoted with approval, by the way, because as we all know conservatives are supposed to want to stop all that improvement-of-the-world stuff because OMG something could change and someone might get uncomfortable by being jolted out of their little shell of complacency! Especially if it results in a “primitive society” (ew!) having a “population explosion” because some stoopid doctors cured them of a disease that was killing them off and making more room for white people.

So you know, I think for myself. If that means I’m not “conservative” if “conservative” means worrying that healthy “primitives” (i.e., people with too much pigmentation in their skin who put too much spice in their food and worship unapproved gods) are having too many babies because some “scientist” (boo hiss) cured them of a disease then fuck it, I’m a liberal.

By the way, I didn’t read the rest of the shit. I know what “unintended consequences” are and I know that they are something to watch out for and when they happen to deal with like grown men and women. They are not a reason to stop curing diseases or trying to fix any of the other problems of life on Earth. They are not a reason to retreat in a thumb-sucking sulk to a playpen lined with the works of Dead White Males.

What is it with men and the song “American Pie”?

I was going to call this “Glenn Beck transforms into every American girl’s Date From Hell” but I’ll bet you there have to be some Buddy Holly fans across the pond who have tortured their female partners at least once with a five-hour disquisition on the “meaning behind” this overrated song.

However, Beck apparently thinks that it’s not really about Buddy Holly, but about the evils of rioting. And um… okay, I’ll admit that I quit reading the transcript. Because I don’t fucking care. And yes, I was subjected to the lecture, on one of the few “dates” I went on when I was in my twenties. I think there is some unwritten law that every man in North America (and possibly the UK and Ireland) has to bore at least one woman in his life at least once with a long-winded disquisition on Don McLean’s opus. What really irritated me was I already knew all that shit about the song. My friends and I were all pop culture junkies back then and were really into the Sixties, so we — men, hang onto your parts so they don’t fall off — had researched the song all by our ownselves. What can I say, cable tv was still in its infancy and we didn’t have the internet then to distract and entertain us, and they cancelled Manimal at some point so there was nothing on tv to watch. Anyway, I went on this date with this guy, who was nice enough, and we’re hanging out in his house (very chaste, he lived with his parents and it was 1983 or something), and he starts with “do you know what the song ‘American Pie’ really means?” He was one of those guys that don’t really listen to girls when they say “I’m not really interested” so I got to sit there in his parents living room in Hialeah for about two hours while he rambled on and on. In retrospect, I should have just gotten up and walked out in the middle of the part about how “I saw Satan laughing in delight” was all about the Rolling Stones at Altamont and that guy getting stabbed and oh my god kill me now why am I even thinking about this

By the way, my date was of the “‘the day the music died’ meant the death of Buddy Holly” persuasion, which I could never buy because Buddy Holly was in my opinion a rather dull singer with a couple of poppy, forgettable hits that people only keep playing because he died tragically in a plane crash along with a couple of other one-hit wonders we’d never have heard of if they were still alive and getting royalty checks in the old folks home.