845 Comments

I have a tech job that treats and pays me well but I don't find fulfilling, meaningful, or fun. I'm looking for a job that:

1 - I find the mission of the company fulfilling and meaningful

2 - I enjoy

3 - Pays really well

I know this is vague but curious what advice people have to offer.

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It would probably be interesting to ask in the following ACX survey whether people find their jobs meaningful and enjoyable. I suspect that most people in IT would respond negatively. But it would be interesting to compare it to other professions.

Good luck finding a better job, but I suggest also exploring the possibilities of early retirement as a Plan B.

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Initial advice is, figure out what fulfilling and meaningful means to you. Grocery stores feed the hungry. Is that fulfilling or meaningful?

Good luck with fun. The more fun it is the less it'll pay.

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The solution to the fun/pay part is ‘what do I find fun that others would not find fun?’

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Wasn't my initial comment suggesting that grads from Duke (as an Ivy) appeared to acquire 35% more privilege above that of similarly competent grads from public Uni through attendance at Duke?

I simply don't recall and have no interest in repeating points from the paper. I don't see the point (perhaps you correctly report what I wrote) of your nitpicking except to justify a belief of your own. I clearly stated that I looked at the paper in the context of my daughter's (actual grad>99.9%) move from NZ to the UK with the latter having a similar presence of prestigious uni.

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Hey, folks. Substack engineering manager here. We deployed some performance improvements to the ACX comments section this week. We noticed that while scrolling content would sometimes just disappear and when switching tabs the page would just lock and not scroll. Super painful. We think we nailed these two symptoms, though we still have more work to do. Just wanted to let you know we're working to make this better and ask for your feedback. Let me know what you're seeing either here or feel free to shoot me a note at john.pignata at substackinc.com. Thanks!

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Ironically enough when I tried to click on Scott's link to this comment in his next open thread, the page froze, and then froze again while I was writing this comment.

That said thank you for trying! Big fan of Substack's design in general, but it does seem to suffer from some bloat.

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Hey Isaac. Bummer. Can you share some details about what kind of browser on what kind of system you were using? We want to eliminate all of the freezing and this feedback will help. Thanks.

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I'm on Chrome 116.0.5845.187. I just tested on Firefox 15.11.0esr and had similar issues, I don't think it's limited to a specific browser. I'd recommend testing on Scott's Ivermectin post, I believe that one has the most comments of any of his articles, and consequently the most severe loading/freezing issues:

https://www.astralcodexten.com/p/ivermectin-much-more-than-you-wanted

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Thanks so much for working on this!

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Awesome! What was the problem/change?

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Web dev here.

The problem was that we were re-rendering all the comments on the page any time something changed. This was extremely wasteful and blocked the browser from drawing more items as you scrolled. Now we only re-render the comments that need updates.

This is just the first improvement I could think to make. I’m going to investigate a little more and see what else we can do.

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One problem is that when clicking footnotes (or otherwise navigating in-page, e.g. clicking back after clicking to a footnote) on a page with lots of comments, it's slow to navigate. Might be slightly less bad than it used to be, hard to say.

When I looked into this in the past, the cause seemed to be that every single comment had an event handler that would react to the URL fragment changing. (I don't remember exactly what event was being reacted to.) The point of the handler was to highlight whichever comment the URL fragment was pointed at, but it was implemented by every comment checking "is the URL fragment pointed at me?" So with hundreds of comments, that slowed things down.

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Good find. I’m removing these listeners since the highlight only ever has to be appear when the components mount.

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Nice, thank you! It seems fast now. I'm happy I could help from the sidelines.

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May 20·edited May 20

It would be really nice if

(a) the page did not say "0 comments" before it has loaded the comments, and instead said something like "loading" so you don't think the comment list is empty and then close the page.

(b) after submitting a comment, if it would immediately render or at least put a placeholder where you put it, rather than the form just vanishing and leaving you wondering if your comment went through.

(c) after editing a comment, the comment was rendered with your edits shown instead of in its unedited form.

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I believe I fixed B and C. I also can't reproduce A, but it's probably specific to a page I'm not finding. Are you on the `/p/slug` page or the `/p/slug/comments` page?

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Thanks for this feedback! We'll take a look at this list. I don't see a), but I do see some weirdness where it sometimes changed post load (e.g. this post says 830 comments, and after loading it says 831... weird off by one error).

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Putting React where it doesn't belong? :)

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Eh, it's a React anti-pattern to do global state updates while scrolling. At minimum you throttle the updates to once per 100ms or something. Best case you don't do any at all, except possibly kicking off async background fetches if you need to load new data.

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Thank you for the improvements, and also thank you for the explanation! :-)

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This is amazing!

It scrolls like a breeze with all content visible. And no freezing. Thanks!

This changes everything :D

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So no more need for the app?

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Not quite there yet, I think… go to the archive, sort by top posts (so we get something with lots of comments), and try to load it on your phone

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Sssssh... or they may revert the changes. :D

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Administrative rulemaking is overlooked as an avenue to influence US policy change. The FTC's recent NPRM on deceptive fees would impact the vast majority of economic transactions across the country. It has received a few thousand comments, most of which are contentless "yay rule / boo rule" comments that have close to zero impact on this process. Even some of the professional comments from industry associations simply attack constitutionality, and seem to misunderstand the opportunity for influence. Effective comments would empathize with the rulemaker's dilemmas and propose minor, consensus-building modifications that spotlight ways to remove ambiguities or smooth implementation, while privately nudging things toward favorable interpretations.

My point is not that this particular rule is good or bad (some of the industries requesting carve outs have really tortured logic in order to continue to hide pricing details, others might have legitimate cases). My point is that there's enormous policy alpha in notice and comment periods and nobody takes advantage of it effectively because nobody really understands how.

I know one of Scott's recent passions is better understanding US policymaking, and if I recall correctly, someone who served on a legislative staff is writing about it? I think administrative rulemaking would be a good addition to that effort and I'd be happy to unpack my thoughts further in support of or in parallel to that effort.

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One bias in this process is that only current players in an industry have the time and interest to comment. If there is a proposed rule that will clobber someone who would have entered into the industry in ten years, or that makes it very hard for new companies to compete with existing ones, there will usually be nobody commenting who has any incentive to bring these up as problems, and very often nobody will even notice. (Microsoft knows what rules will cost them a bunch of money, but doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about what rules will be a problem to some newcomer in ten years.)

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This sounds like a great point, although ain't nobody got the time (which may help explain part of the effect of why things are how they are).

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People who are into X-risk: what are your takes on EMP effects from solar activity? I've been hearing about this more since the latest aurorae caused by a coronal mass ejection (CME). An "expert" claimed that the odds of a large portion of the electrical grid being knocked out were 1/8 per decade. This would be catastrophic on a large enough scale, as transformers take 1-3 years to be delivered from manufacturers.

The Carrington Event in 1859 probably had the power to do this. A CME directly collided with the Earth's atmosphere. The aurorae spanned the entire globe, and were so bright people could read in the middle of the night. I know some background on this due to my climate investigations: solar activity in the 19th century was in the 90th percentile of the last 10,000 years, and has been trending steadily downwards for the last 150 years.

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I don't think anything the sun did in the last billion years qualifies as x-risk. Knocking out electricity world-wide would be bad, an ice age would be worse, but neither are things which would permanently hamstring humanity.

Also, while CME are travelling blazing fast compared to spacecrafts, they are not relativistic, so we would be able to spot them a few days before they arrive, giving us the opportunity to disconnect the transformers from the long overland lines.

And then transformers are likely subject to price elasticity of supply. At the moment, a lot of companies are likely not building transformers because they would not make money from them -- they are a mature product, and power companies can plan ahead how many they need and pick the cheapest supplier. If the alternative was sitting in the dark, humans would likely be willing to spend a lot more on transformers. At the moment, a few cents of my price per kWh pays for the cost of transformers. If the alternative was a life without electricity, I would eagerly accept a price of a few euros per kWh instead of I ditching my laptop and phone while using kerosene for lighting.

This would incentive a lot of companies to get into the transformer market and make big bucks by selling what would previously have been considered primitive and inefficient transformers -- just a piece of iron with insulating wires coiled around it in the most extreme case. Of course, they would also be hampered by a lack of electrical power, but some sources of power would likely be remain available.

Before 2020, particle filtering masks were an absolute niche product used by people working in construction and the like. When covid hit, the demand increased by orders of magnitude, quickly leading to a scarcity. But within half a year (IIRC), suppliers had adapted to the new situation and the markets were flooded masks. Today, they are cheaper than in 2019 because the increased demand makes for better economics of scale.

There is nothing to constructing a transformer which intrinsically takes half a year, like a step "after casting, let the device cool for five months". There would be some latency to the market reacting, but it would not be three years.

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Ok, X-risk is not the right category, but I'm not sure what better term to use.

There is the concern that large scale disruption of the electrical grid would cause a lot of secondary disruptions in the supply chain. Obviously there would be a huge incentive to make new transformers quickly, but that doesn't make it easier to get everything together under unexpected and chaotic circumstances.

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Catastrophic risk is often used to describe things that may not lead to extinction but are still very bad

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Does voluntary self-regulation by industry sometimes work?

What I mean is: Oftentimes, government tries to regulate an industry, and the end result is not enforced regulation but some sort of self-regulation agreements, where companies promise to limit their behavior without a legal framework. Whenever I read about this kind of setup, it’s because it failed. The companies say “sure we won’t do the thing, promise.” but then do it anyway.

I am curious if there’s a good empirical case for self-regulation: does this actually work more often than not, and we just hear about it when it fails?

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One common case is that the government says "you must try to achieve goal X", and then leaves it to private industry to decide on the best way to do it. This is how KYC mostly works for example. Banks are required to have controls in place, but they get to decide what those controls are.

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I don't know if this counts, but the way the UK legislates process safety vs how the US legislates process safety kind of lets the regulated entity write their own rules?

The UK has a suite of laws (mostly offshore) that mean certain operations (eg offshore oil rig) have to write a Safety Case, which is basically the suite of processes and rules that apply to that particular facility. The HSE authority approves the safety case (as well as any updates) and if anything goes wrong the company needs to prove they complied with the safety case.

The US kind of just writes a bunch of rules that govern the entire industry instead of letting each one write their own rules (subject to regulator approval).

In my view, the UK safety case approach is more efficient - you don't need the regulator to be on top of every little detail of all facilities in order to make effective rules.

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I can remember several instances of large low-wage employers loudly announcing they are voluntarily raising wages in the face of pending legislation to raise minimum wages, which I believe has in some cases succeeded in reducing support for that legislation.

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And did they actually raise the wages, or was it just some trick?

(Something like: yes, raise the wages, but only for one employee in a thousand, or only for a few months, etc. Or even, raise the wages now by 10%, but then keep them the same for the rest of the decade, until inflation catches up.)

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The Hayes Code and the MPAA rating system are examples of self-regulation working (at least in the sense that the industry did what the govt wanted, without govt having to enact regulations. Not in the sense of being an improvement, at least not IMHO. But one can presumably say that about any limit on business activity).

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May 15·edited May 15

Margarita posting:

> The second variety of the lidérc is as a tiny being, a temporal devil, földi ördög in Hungarian. It has many overlapping qualities with the miracle chicken form, and it may also be obtained from a black hen's egg, but more often it is found accidentally in rags, boxes, glass bottles, or in the pockets of old clothes. A person owning this form of the lidérc suddenly becomes rich and is capable of extraordinary feats, because the person's soul has supposedly been given to the lidérc, or even to the Devil.

Pokemon, Hungarian folklore, or servant of El Poio Diablo?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lid%C3%A9rc

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Hi! Anyone know a good apartment locator in SF? I tried calling up realtors but they don't seem to deal with apartment rentals. Thank you!

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Has anyone gone to a psychedelic retreat in one of the 2 states where the stuff's legal -- Oregon and Colorado? If so, I'd appreciate it if you could share your impression of what it was like. I'm trying to help someone who wants to get legal psilocybin with a trained facilitator present, and as I look through the directory of facilitators in Oregon I'm drowning in woo. I have not found one person yet with conventional credentials. Seems odd to me since lots of psychiatrists and psychologists I know are quite interested in psychedelic-assisted therapy. I keep reminding myself that somebody who's into woo can still be quite good as a guide and facilitator but . . . https://ginagratza.com

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Is Colorado even operating with psilocybin therapy yet? Last I read they were expected to be up and running EOY 2024.

The link to Gina rings some serious BS bells with my personal spidey sense.

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Not sure about Colorado. Drug's legal there now, but I didn't have time to read around and find out the details. As for Gina -- if you click on the main page you soon get to a picture of her wading in the ocean with her butt crack visible through her gauzy dress. IMHO uploading your butt crack on the site touting your trip guiding expertise automatically disqualifies you.

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But she has a Master's in Counselling, Eremolalos! This is all about empowering women to discover their inner Divine Feminine through getting blasted on magic mushrooms!

I have to admit that my cynicism around the whole topic is that it's most likely to be engaged in by woo types (see Gina) and those who want to find a legal loophole in order to get high. It'll be a while before the respectable types dare dip their toes in the water, given how medical marijuana was the same at first.

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There is a woman in Minneapolis who bills herself as a facilitator / trip sitter / shaman. Her online photo shows her with a wolf pelt over her shoulders and the wolf head on top of her own. Jebus I think I’ll pass.

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In these degenerate days, we could hope it was a fake wolf pelt.

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I’m afraid it looked pretty real. :(

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Maybe she also had the tail glued to the seat of her pants?

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That wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

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It would keep her ass crack from showing, thus avoiding being instantly disqualified by Eremolos....

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May 14·edited May 15

If asked to imagine a typical "conventionally attractive" heterosexual man (who can get any women he wants), I think most people would imagine a "Chad" type: a rich, muscular, masculine guy with plenty of confidence. And IRL those kind of men seem to do very well on the dating market.

If asked to imagine a typical "conventionally attractive" heterosexual women (who can get any man she wants), I think most people would imagine a young, smoking hot bombshell woman with feminine allure. And IRL these women also seem to do very well.

I know that there are some local optima as well: e.g. I'm told that the rare dominant woman has an easy time dating because submissive men outnumber them by a lot.

Now, my very hetero question: What's the correspondence for gay men and lesbians?

What does the super-attractive gay man look like? I know that there are some gay archetypes ("bear", "twink", "diva") but I have no idea who's most in demand. I would guess that young, somewhat androgynous but muscular, submissive gay men have the easiest time getting whatever partner they'd like, but that's just guessing.

Same for lesbians: I know that there are archetypes (ok, I know one: "butch"), but what does the ideal of an attractive lesbian women look like? What's the most dateable lesbian in my city like? Here I'm even more lost, I don't even have a guess.

Are there any gay and lesbian local optima like the dom woman?

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Most guys I know who are the most popular with women aren't super muscular. Like, not ugly or unathletic, often a bit muscular, but mostly just gregarious and outgoing personalities.

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Most guys I know who are the most popular with women aren't super muscular. Like, not ugly or unathletic, often a bit muscular, but mostly just gregarious and outgoing personalities.

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All of these archetypes have more in common that you'd think. Symmetrical proportions. Appearance of physical fitness, average-slim build. Tall. Healthy.

The only difference with the gays is the open signals of potential reciprocation (though there are plenty of girls into Taylor Swift, but someone who might be into you is generally more attractive than someone who is basically fully incompatible with you)

Its kind of cheating to use celebrities, but I would guess Troye Sivan for gay men and Kirsten Stewart for lesbians. You may notice that they just look like... Attractive young people who signal that they're interested in the same sex.

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Tangent!

> "I'm told that the rare dominant woman has an easy time dating because submissive men outnumber them by a lot."

Out of curiosity, who's telling you that?

I know a lot of dominant women - in addition to several kinky irl friends, I moderate one of the largest personal ads groups on Fetlife - and I've never heard one of them say it's "easy" to find a submissive man to date.

"Submissive" being the key word there.

Because most men who believe themselves to be in search of "dominant" women are in fact themselves quite dominant. The only difference from their vanilla counterparts is that they happen to want a woman to do things *to* them rather than be the person doing the things.

That manifests as hordes and hordes of men often very aggressively approaching "dominant" women with the hope of receiving BDSM topping services from them, no different than men who wish to receive blowjobs from women. Arguably "submissive" men are even worse, because at least blowjob seekers have no illusions they're seeking a service, whereas many pegging seekers (for example) assume the act of physically receiving *anything* in their body is *inherently* a submissive act. "I can't be a misogynist," these guys will say, "I'm willing to get fucked *just like a woman!* Why aren't these bitches replying to my unsolicited dick picks?!"

Nobody has described this better than Last Psychiatrist knockoff and/or secret second identity, Hotel Concierge (https://hotelconcierge.tumblr.com/post/173526578129/shame-society):

"...that doesn’t make [cuck porn] a fetish of weakness, an idea both empirically nonexistent and definitionally wrong. With e.g. femdom, the man’s weakness is balanced by a fetish for the strength of *HIS* dominatrix. He *COMMANDS* her power, even as it is directed at him."

Genuinely dominant women almost universally bemoan the vanishing rarity of genuinely submissive men. Many eventually give up hope because they're just that rare!

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May 15·edited May 16

Very interesting! "Dom women has it easy" was just something I've picked up online, can't remember when or where. Your explanation makes more sense. Thanks for sharing! Does that mean that "good" sub guys do have an easy time finding a partner? (But then again it's hard to know if someone is one of the "good" subs or not...)

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Off the top of my head I can't think of any chronically single "good" sub guys!

Many will observe that it can be difficult to get past the skepticism / cynicism of women who are used to being approached for fetish-dispensing services, but the bar for not being an entitled asshole is actually pretty low.

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I think for gays "twinks" (slim, youthful appearance) and "hunks" (large, well-defined muscles, but not necessarily bodybuilder) are by far the most successful groups on the dating market. They have the easiest time to get lots of dates. Dating apps are overwhelmingly important to find dates in the gay world, so looks and outwards appearance play an even bigger role than in the straight world.

As Nobody Special mentions below, turning dates into relationships (if desired) probably required a different set of skills.

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Seems weird that two opposites would be equally successful? Or would a "twink-hunk", who combined the best of both archetypes, be even more of an ideal?

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They're not opposites at all, they're both young, fit, slim, with conventionally attractive faces and bodies. If you're looking for the opposite, you'll have to look at "bears" (hairy overweight biker types of any age) and "daddies" (oldish guys with a fatherly aura). Those are also popular, but less so than the twinks / hunks, and probably not with the same audience.

Just like straight people and butch / femme lesbians, some gay men look for someone with an opposite or complimentary gender expression, and others want someone similar to themselves.

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If you buy into a theory of complementary genders, why would this be weird? A middle position might be all things to everyone, but not necessarily as attractive as an extreme. Or to put it another way, everyone's got their preferences, but if you can occupy the sweet spot of "good enough" across the whole spectrum, you can rack up a high score.

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It's weird in the sense that if I poll 100 people about if they prefer apples or oranges, it's weird if I would get an exact 50:50 split. Some will prefer apples and some oranges, but it's unlikely that both are exactly equally popular?

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And as demost_ said, there isn't! They aren't equally popular, but people work out their differences one way or another, through nonmonogamy, switchiness, sides, or just putting up with it. There's variability, IMO partly due to people being people, but also partly due to the lack of any biological Schelling point and the lack (so far) of overwhelming cultural reinforcement to a single role per point.

I guess mostly what I'm saying is that opposites can attract and make sparks, not to mention work together long-term, and in a genderqueer environment, those opposites can be on a lot of different axes. But when actually put into a society, people will gravitate toward poles in sort of the way political parties in a FPTP system do. Maybe given a few hundred years of open acceptance, there'd be two roughly balanced poles, but I dunno.

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Welcome to the concept of twunks. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=twunk . Sometimes they are also called "muscle twinks".

Actually, there is a continuum between twink and hunk, where the body has little body fat, but with varying amount of muscle mass. I think this whole spectrum is successful on the dating market, but the classical categories are twink and hunk.

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>If asked to imagine a typical romantically successful heterosexual man (who can get any women he wants), I think most people would imagine a "Chad" type: a rich, muscular, masculine guy with plenty of confidence.

OMG. in my psychotherapy practice I listen to a bunch of 20-something guys who have a terrible time getting dates moan about how they're not tall and handsome enough -- also about how they're not rich enough to get anyone (though they're in grad school and will be able to earn a good living once they have the degree). There is *some* truth in that stuff, but not much. The things that moved me and my close women friends when we were in the dating years were (1) the guy was smart about things we considered important (and we varied some in what those things were). (2) he was a good conversationalist and fun to do things with. (3) He displayed genuine interest in us. If a guy had that triad we were willing to overlook his being short, chubby or the skinny gawky kind of tall and/or homely of face. Of course, 1, 2, & 3were not enough unless we also began magically to sprout a crush on him.

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Can't confirm but have always heard that gay men, most of whom are submissive types, prefer masculine, dominant types. With lesbians I believe it's the reverse. But this is more of a ratio thing like your example of the dominant heterosexual woman.

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I also believed that most gay men are submissive type (it's still my personal experience), but I was recently pointed to good statistics that show otherwise, some of them by Aella.

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May 14·edited May 14

What definition of "romantically successful" are you operating on? Because if asked to imagine a 'typically romantically successful' heterosexual man or woman, my default image is "happily married."

*Sexually* successful might be a different thing, if you're asking me to optimize for gene-proliferation or something, but if we're talking *romantic* success, "dating lots of people" is not the end point I and most of the humans who've shared their dating goals with me (or, I think, 'typical' people) seem to be aiming for. Most of the men and women I know tend to be looking for one committed, happy, & stable relationship. There's definitely outlying swinger couples or forever-single-by-choicers, but the romantic success criteria most of the people I'm familiar with seems grounded in monogamy.

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I thought I made it pretty clear in the post but I'll clarify: I'm using "romantically successful" as "dateable"/"high sexual market value"/"attractive"/"has an easy time finding dates and relationships, especially with other attractive people".

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My loves, my doves, my chickadees, boys, girls, ladies, gentlemen and others - the day we long awaited has finally come! Many doubted it would ever happen, but the naysayers have been proven wrong.

Mark your calendars and clear your schedules for 29th August, because it is in the trees, it's coming! Yes, the second season of "The Rings of Power" will be upon us like the black oozy thing in the teaser trailer.

This trailer here which they just dropped and my oh my, it is chock-full of plummy goodness. Based on this, the second season is going to live up to the standards of the first. Careful, there will be SPOILERS so if you honestly don't want to know what's coming, don't read on. Or watch the trailer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCwmXY_f-e0

We've got Galadriel braiding up her hair around her head (remember the derivation of her name, "Maiden Crowned With A Radiant Garland"? yeah, throwing another bone to the book fans). Worry not, she's still Girlboss Glads who one-shots the monsters without mussing a hair. Plus we also get Galadriel on a horsie again, though at least this time it's not in disturbing slow-motion.

Poor old Celebrimbor is still stuck in the granny bathrobe, but he probably has a merciful (if horrible) death to look forward to this time at least. We might even get to see him somehow involved with ring-making, imagine that! Or at least with "shoving a pile of rings into the furnace", for whatever reasons he might have to do that. I'm hoping for the "using his tortured to death corpse as an Orc war-banner" scenes since the show is going for dark'n'gritty (citation needed) in the second season, but I fear they'll disappoint me on that front, too.

We have, of course, the CGI that should be better than it is, considering the money pumped into this turkey. Not enough view of the costumes to see if they still have the plastic armour, though now Elrond gets his turn to strap on a helmet, jump on a horse, and gallop into battle.

We have a shot of what I *think* is Tar-Miriel underwater, faced with a big toothy mouthy tentacly sea monster thingy. I have no idea what this is meant to be, unless it's another prophetic dream about the downfall of Númenor and how she ends up (spoilers for the book: drowned).

We get a quick shot of Dísa which made me go "Flip me, she actually looks good in this one!"

We have *more* Diverse Elves; one (1) Asian she-elf this time (she *could* be Chinese or Korean, not too sure). I'm actually not mad at all about this, to be honest; by now, it's just 🤷‍♀️ Unfortunately, the Diverse Elves means the return of Arondir (sigh) (that's "disappointed" sigh not "he's so dreamy" sigh, just to be absolutely clear on that) doing the improbable acrobatics on horseback that Action Glads did in the first season. That also means the return of Theo (double sigh). But on the bright side, he seems to be stuck in the middle of a siege, so there's every chance he bites the dust. We can but hope!

The Stranger and Nori are back, in what is probably meant to be Rhun (it's vaguely Middle-Eastern/North African desert oasis setting). And the three witches who got blasted into moths in the first season are probably back, too.

There's rings! Including a frankly awful cheap piece of tat that looks like it came from 80s TV shopping channels ring handed to Durin Senior (who the fudge is doing styling on this thing, they have no notion of beauty). "You too can own this blatantly fake hunk of blue glass masquerading as a sapphire and gold ring for the low, low price of thirty-six instalments of $99.99 each!" Don't be fooled by the spiel, Durin Senior!

There's the return of Adar, which is terribly unfair of me towards the new guy based on a quick shot of him in the trailer, but I dearly wish Joseph Mawle were returning in the part since he was the best thing in the first season. Alas, he proved he's got brains as well as acting talent and left after the first season.

We have the bit I really, *really*, REALLY want an explanation for and I may even fork out for Prime so I can watch this episode and see what silly rationalisation the scriptwriters pull out of their backsides for this - a giant eagle coming in like a 747 on the runway to be the background to a shot of Pharazon. Eagles of Manwe? In Númenor? In Pharazon's time? They better have one *heck* of a *doozy* of a *sockdolager* of a reason for this one! Just when my homicidal fury towards the showrunners had died down, they had to go and blow on the embers and fan the flames back to life!

Of course, it wouldn't be "Rings of Power" without a blatant rip-off - I mean, homage - to an iconic scene from the LOTR movies, so - remember the scene at the start of "The Fellowship of the Ring" where Cate Blanchett does a voice-over and we see the three Elven rings worn by their bearers? This show sure does, and it decides to go one better and 'improve' on it by making Gil-galad, at least, look like he's just updating his bling collection with Vilya.

But I've saved the best for last: Sauron. Or Halbrand. Or the Being Who Is Both. We get shots of Charlie Vickers looking moody, and I feel you, Chuck, I wouldn't fancy another six to eight episodes of this if I could get out of it. Okay, but the rumours about recasting for Annatar to be played by a completely different guy? They were all lies and diversions! I know, I'm as shocked as you are.

Since the showrunners belatedly realised they couldn't really *have* Rings of Power without Annatar, so that meant they *needed* Annator, they've given us Annatar - Charlie Vickers in a wig and elf-ears.

I dunno about you, but I don't find him particularly handsome. Tastes differ, I realise, and some may find him attractive. What he is not, however, is ethereally beautiful divine if fallen spirit looking. Remember what I said about not minding the Asian elf? That's because at least Chinese xianxia drama can do "ethereally beautiful like a divine if fallen spirit" in male and female versions. Sincerely, if they got a pretty young Chinese male actor to play Annatar? I'd be cheering *that* casting decision on!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-KRAd3EJqU

Oh, and surprise, surprise: Isildur Ate'nt Dead. Sorry if I spoiled that for you! So I'm ready for August to follow the snarky reviews and, if prodded hard enough by "They did WHAT????", to spite-watch this truly unique(ly awful) adaptation of a fantasy classic.

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OMG I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE RINGS OF POWER SEASON TWO...

...***VIDEO ESSAY REVIEWS!!!***

No exaggeration whatsoever, I am sincerely *that* excited for the forthcoming high-level criticism of this volcano dumpster fire of a show. The Little Platoon's essays on the topic are actual works of art. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vT6bIea7YMo)

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I'd highly recommend ACOUP's reviews of Rings of Power. I wonder if he'll bother writing anything about season 2.

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The Little Platoon is indeed great. I found a whole slew of online video critics via reviews of the Rings of Power, including Erik Kain who started off with "hey this is pretty good, give it a chance" in response to all those complaining about the show two episodes in, but by the third episode he was "okay, this is not doing what it should be doing" and by the end he was One Of Us 😁

He writes for Forbes but also has a Youtube channel:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kth8WdPWjrY

I also like Critical Drinker - a grumpy, boozy Scotsman who isn't too gruntled with much of what modern content is produced? Yeah, you can see why he appeals to me!

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Critical Drinker's politics are 180 degrees away from mine, but I have actually watched and enjoyed some of his videos! He's very witty, and he's fair in his criticisms, not just negative for the sake of negativity. When he thinks something is well done, he'll say so. [Scottish accent] Anyway, that's all I've got for today. Go away now!

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I'm likewise a fan of Critical Drinker, although he's drifted into shorter-form content these days which, while useful in deciding what to watch, I don't find as enjoyable as The Little Platoon's and MauLer's mega-criques. God bless MauLer, specifically, for so thoroughly recapping and critiquing MCU and Star Wars IPs that I don't need to watch them myself to have "seen" them.

I had a friend recommend Erik Kain's evolution from ROP shill to One of Us, but haven't followed it myself!

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I would recommend Erik, I started off annoyed with "Oh God, not another media critic who is just parroting the Amazon press release on this" but he did review the show properly and his evolution into "this is a pile of crap, let's just skewer it" was fun. He also pointed out the flaws, as a professional media critic, that the show had and where it could have improved, so it couldn't be dismissed as Just Another Racist Fascist-Adjacent Tolkien Fanboy complaining.

From a year ago (before he cut his hair):

(1) Hey, I like this new show!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDu7LrdQD0w

(2) The gloss has worn off:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9Fdwh94hq0

I think "House of the Dragon" is going to eat "Rings of Power"'s lunch once again, I haven't seen the new HoD trailer but they dropped it immediately after the RoP one and I'm betting it looks better, must go and watch it 😀

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I was enjoying "House of the Dragon" when it came out. It seemed to be getting better and better every episode.

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I haven't watched HoD myself since I'm allergic to GRR Martin's fantasy series (tried the first ASoIAF novel when it came out, bounced off hard) but I understand it was well-done and Paddy Considine did a stellar turn in his part.

One of the benefits of having the author still be alive and around to prevent you "improving" on the books, I guess? Also helps if you hire more than one (1) decent actor, and give them good lines to say. There are a few decent actors in RoP but they're reduced to standing around doing nothing while Galadriel, Miriel and Disa girl-boss their ways; the Dwarves are pretty much the best bits of the show (what they did to the Hobbits aka Harfoots is not). Poor Elendil just gets to have a useless son, a newly invented drippy daughter, and to be shouted at by both Galadriel and Miriel. A shame, because for fractions of a second at a time, there are indications the guy could do something with the part if permitted to say more than "yes sir no sir three bags full sir".

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You piqued my curiosity to the point that I actually watched the trailer!

Re: Sauron/Annatar: never mind if he's handsome or not, de gustibus non disputandum est, my question is, how in the name of Eru does the continuity work here? We found out at the end of Season 1 that Galadriel's moody friend Halbrand was really Sauron in disguise. And here, in this trailer, it's treated like some big revelation! How? Why? "He's been among us all along," Galadriel says, yeah, no kidding, lady, you found that out in Season 1! What am I missing? Also, that creepy black goo looks like Venom from Raimi-verse Spider-Man.

I love Tolkien and I really, really hope they'll manage not to mess up Season 2 as much as they did Season 1. What can I say? I strive to be an optimist.

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May 15·edited May 15

To use the quaint American phrasing, they really screwed the pooch on this one. The showrunners, being JJ Abrams-alumni, went for the stupid mystery box approach - no we can't follow the canonical storyline and have Annatar, people who read the books will know in advance, we want it to be a big surprise revelation!

So they teased Big Surprise Revelations in season one about "is this guy Sauron? could this guy be him? or this guy?" but viewers twigged fairly early on that it was Halbrand. I didn't want it to be Halbrand because I went "Surely they can't be this dumb".

They were that dumb.

Well now we're into season two and it turns out we *do* need the maker of magical mystical rings after all, you can't just sqoosh the ring-making into the last ten minutes of the season finale. Which means they need Annatar. Which means they effed it up with the mystery box season one approach, since if Glads *knows* "scruffy mortal dude who just wants to smith and deffo is *not* the long-lost king of Da Southside, I mean Southlands = Semi-Big Bad I've been hunting for centuries", then even she can't keep her yap shut about "hey guys, so - this ring-crafting dude?"

Okay, I just remembered: they *are* that dumb. But Elrond has also figured it out, and he has been permitted to retain two functional brain cells, so if Glads doesn't want to talk about her rebound romance, he certainly will tell everyone.

Which means no ring-forging. So now crap we've got four seasons to go (pfft - I very much doubt it) and no magic rings? Hence they *need* Annatar.

I think they might be trying to do it in flashback form - Annatar *did* turn up just like Tolkien said, in fair form pretending to be an emissary of the Valar, back previously (that is going to require one *heck* of a flamin' recap when they introduce him in Maiar form but whatever) and that's what Galadriel's hysterical rendition of the line refers to - oh no, that guy we thought was maybe sus but seemed to be another Elf from Valinor was really - dun-dun-dun!!!

How they're going to reconcile that with "And then he *also* turns up as scruffy mortal on a raft in the middle of the ocean, claiming to want to reform and just do some smithing and be good", I have no idea. Because if they have Annatar working with Celebrimbor to already make "essays in the craft" of magic ring-making (hence the scene of Celebrimbor desperately dumping a load of rings into the furnace?) but he was then run out of town - that makes nonsense of the first season where Celebrimbor has to be told about the secret hyper-advanced technique of "alloys" by said scruffy mortal. I also like the Cunning Disguise of "if I take off the pointy ears and cut my hair from what I looked like back then, nobody will recognise me now!" which seems to have worked, so the Elves are as stupid as the showrunners.

I think that's what they'll try to do: Annatar showed up before, was run out of Eregion, then turns up mumble-mumble years later as the mortal Halbrand for a second try at seducing the Elves into darkness. Or a redemption arc, gee honest this time. Though the showrunners apparently think he should be Walter White/Tony Soprano, so better to bet on "he was Evul all along!"

It'll be nonsense, but these are the blokes who thought mithril needed an origin story. They tried "improving" on Tolkien's story, messed it up, and now have to patch a fix-it together. Nobody's fault but their own.

EDIT: It also makes Galadriel even *more* oblivious than in the first season: "Grr that Sauron I hate him grrr I'm gonna track him down and take my revenge - oh, hi, Annatar - grrr hate that Sauron hate hate" and then *centuries later* "Grrr that Sauron still tracking him down - oh, hi, Halbrand - grrr where can he be hiding?"

🤦‍♀️

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"they really screwed the pooch on this one"

Truth. It's as if they suddenly realized, Oh no, we've got one episode left, we have to shoehorn the revelation that Halbrand is Sauron and the forging of the Three Rings into this one episode! And yes, the idea that Celebrimbor the grandson of Feanor did not know what alloys were was an extra dose on facepalm on top of a pile of fail.

The showrunners should hire you to be a consultant, and I would pay money to be a fly on the wall during meetings in which you explained Tolkien lore to them and beseeched them not to be so dumb.

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May 15·edited May 15

There's not enough money even in Jeffy Bezos' hip pocket to pay off all the people they pissed off with mangling the lore.

Compressing the timeline? Sure, I understand the necessity in a show or movie, they're different media to books. Even the Diversity and Inclusion needn't have been as bad as they did it; Miriel is bi-racial? Okay, I can roll with that, it's Numenor. That's ignoring casting an actress who is a good foot shorter than canonical Galadriel and directing her to have the default expression "bulldog licking piss off a nettle".

But putting all that aside, their response to criticism was "it's all racist sexist homophobic trolls" as a one-size-fits-all defence.

No, it was the writing. Ai Eru Melme, the writing. "Why does a stone sink and a boat float?" Principle of buoyancy? Don't be silly, it's because of some fake-profound gibberish. After Galadriel's scene with Adar, I was Team Orc-Father all the way due to a combination of Joseph Mawle being able to out-act the socks off pretty much everyone else in the show, and the fortuitous opportunity of some half-decent writing for him for once.

A sadistic, genocidal, psychopathic torturer. And her half-Orc prisoner:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWgzEBQq8gU

You should *not* be convincing me to cheer on the Orcs as they blow up a volcano and set everyone in the village on fire.

Well, Amazon are going to get the views whether I watch it because I love it or hate it. But I don't see any way this is going to go five seasons. They had already committed to a second season during the broadcast of the first one, so they were stuck with that, but getting it renewed for a third? And Nazgul will fly! On the Eagles! Into Valinor! Before swimming all the way home across an entire ocean!

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>That also means the return of Theo (double sigh).

I decided fairly early on that my headcanon is going to be that Theo is the future Witch King of Angmar. I think it's pretty unlikely that this is where they're actually going with him, but assuming it in my head makes the character more interesting and tolerable.

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I thought they were going that way with the Magic Sword Blood Addiction, but then the Magic Sword turned out to be the dam-bursting key and they don't seem to have done anything with it.

Maybe it'll turn out that Theo sneaked off and reclaimed the Magic Sword Hilt after it was used as a key (unlikely, given that everything was covered in volcano ash, but inconsistency has not stopped the show so far) and he'll continue his Blood Addiction with it and eventually become the Witch King.

Though that would be a lot more coherent than the showrunners have demonstrated they intend to be, so far.

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That's almost exactly my logic. The blood sword was what got me thinking Witch King, and I'm refusing to abandon the idea after the payoff for that subplot turned out to be stupid.

One of my many major gripes about the series is that Season 1 at least has heavily relied upon Lost-style "Mystery Box" plots, and I'm finding myself liking the theories I came up with a lot better than what the writers actually wound up going with. If they'd for some reason handed me the show to finish after wrapping the first few episodes but leaving no scripts or notes for the rest, I probably would have gone with:

1. Theo is the Witch King.

2. Halbrand is the king of the Oath-Breakers of Dunharrow

3. Meteor Man is Tilion, the Maia of the Moon, and the Harfoot plotline is the origin of the folklore that Bilbo drew on in composing the "Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late" song that Frodo sang in Bree.

4. The Nazgirls are Thuringwethil and her crew.

5. Annatar has been hanging out in a back room in Eregion the whole time. He wants Celebrimbor to himself for now and keeps coming up with excuses to send Elrond off to Moria to keep him out of the way.

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May 15·edited May 15

The only problem is that having Halbrand be king of the oath-breakers is that it's in the wrong place and too soon.

I do like the idea of that being Tilion! And it makes more sense than what the scriptwriters have done, but they've boxed themselves in by changing everything to be "Okay so it can't officially be LOTR Part Deux but we also need the name recognition characters from the movies, hence it's Elrond and Durin IV the great Elf-Dwarf friendship and not Celebrimbor-Narvi, so we need Elrond and Galadriel and Hobbits and that means it's gotta be Gandalf".

So Meteor Man is going to be Gandalf, and never mind all the guessing and hoping that maybe it's one of the Blue Wizards.

One of the Nazgirls is *definitely* meant to be Thuringwethil, see the 'bat ears' on her headdress:

https://64.media.tumblr.com/33d2b5869d9f14de3b60914346732788/d40c37840b0b7a53-34/s1280x1920/3484610cae0060fa59b8c3e78a65bf9230d7ea47.jpg

But that has me guessing at who the other two are meant to be, and I think one of them (possibly the one in the military helmet) must be meant to be *a* werewolf (she can't be Draugluin or Carcharoth). That leaves Feminem, and I think the staff she carries is clearly meant to evoke the "Eye of Sauron" so that must have been misdirection on the showrunners' parts ("could *she* be Sauron? Giggle!")

From the new trailer, looks like Annatar has indeed been hanging out and promising all kinds of sweet, sweet ring-making to Celebrimbor, only to break his heart and besiege Eregion. "Halbrand" was just some scruffy yokel he found lurking around Da Southside and he set him up to distract Glads. Hard to get a relationship going when the psycho cousin is hanging around giving you the scowly face and muttering about revenge all the time!

Honestly, the amount of stupid in season one was face-to-desk impact stupid. They didn't want Annatar since that would mean people who read the books/knew the story would immediately know who that really was and it would ruin the surprise. Well they managed to ruin their own surprise by revealing who Sauron was in the season finale, so now what? And it turns out that Tolkien knew what he was doing and they *do* need Annatar for the ring-making and giving, especially after they mucked it up by having the three Rings crafted in a rush during said finale. Now they have to shoe-horn Annatar in by sticking Charlie Vickers in a wig and pointy ears.

I can't wait for the new season. It will be one glorious dumpster fire as they try to get out of the corners they've written themselves into and struggle with this alien concept called "continuity" so characters don't do X in one episode, then go off and do Y, directly contradictory to X, in the next.

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> struggle with this alien concept called "continuity" so characters don't do X in one episode, then go off and do Y, directly contradictory to X, in the next.

Forget episode-to-episode continuity, they can't even handle *scene-to-scene* continuity, like that one battle where the army magically transforms from orcs into humans, respawns from the dead several times, and people teleport all over the place.

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Ah, yes: the battle where it was night in the Southlands village, day when the Numenoreans were riding to the rescue, and the cutting between both sets left it very unclear if all this was supposed to be happening at the same time or if there was an interval of "the Southlands village was fighting all the night and just in the nick of time at the dawn the Numenoreans turned up to save them".

The Orcs able to fight in daylight now as well. And why weren't you impressed with the Cunning Plan to send in the human cannon-fodder first to deceive the villagers they were fighting Orcs? Didn't it seem on a grand scale of tragedy to have the villagers be fighting their former neighbours instead of the Orcish monsters they thought they were fighting? 😁

Things happened in that season purely because they were convenient. Oh no, Halbrand has a mortal wound that can only be healed by Elvish healing! So he's now able to get up and walk around with it, so he can be put on a horse to ride a vague number of days to Eregion to get healed! Instead of it being tense and nerve-racking (is he going to make it, will he survive the horse ride to get to the place of healing?) I was just laughing at the poor actor flopping forward over the horse's neck to try and convey "argh, ouch, I am in bad health, my wound my wound" - yeah well you should be dead by now because jolting around on a horse at full gallop is going to burst that wound right open and since you're in the middle of nowhere you're going to bleed to death.

The worst part though definitely was Galadriel in that episode going full-on rant about her planned campaign of Orc genocide and then in the very *next* episode lecturing Theo about putting aside hatred and giving up on his desire for revenge. That was ridiculous. Why did she suddenly have a change of heart? No reason, except maybe having a volcano literally blow up in her face?

I am eager to see the second season to see what other jewels of crassness and idiocy this lot present to us.

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I don't think the Southlands were firmly established to be Mordor until the volcano. Before that, the region could also have encompassed what would later be Gondor and Rohan. It is too soon, but RoP is already compressing the hell out of the Second Age timeline.

Good point about them desperately clawing for name recognition. That also explains why Morfydd Clark's character is Galadriel when her daughter Celebrían is a much better fit for the stuff they seem to be trying to do with her. Especially the "young hothead" characterization, which is a little implausible when given to a character who is literally older than the Sun.

Good catch on the headdresses. I'd completely overlooked that. Not sure who Feminem is, either, unless she's a small-n necromancer (with Sauron of course as the big-N Necromancer).

Yes, Annatar definitely has to be there. There are seventeen more Great Rings to craft, after all, and Sauron needs to be there to rootkit them. Also, Celebrimbor needs all the help he can get since RoP has established that he was sick the day Aulë taught the Noldor about alloys. It'll be interesting to see how they retcon Halbrand.

I'm looking forward to the new season in much the same spirit as you are.

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May 16·edited May 16

"Good catch on the headdresses. I'd completely overlooked that."

It was only when I finally got a good look at the trio, from the side, in the episode where they catch up with the Stranger and think he's Sauron or Morgoth or somebody, and then it hit me like a truck - "hey, that looks like bat ears - OH MY LORD SHE'S THURINGWETHIL".

We should be kinder to Celebrimbor; maybe Grandpa Feanor neglected to teach this super-duper secret high-level technique to Curufin before he spontaneously combusted and so Curufin could not teach it in turn to Celebrimbor 😁 Grandpa was running around being psychopathically crazy before ending up in a one-on-one with a force of Balrogs, so smith-crafting lessons were probably the last thing on his mind at the time.

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You actually make me look forward to it. :-)

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Oh, I'm looking forward to it, too.

With a big sharp cleaver 😈

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The ACX Meetup (Berkeley's Spring Schelling) will be June 5th, Wednesday, doors open at 6:30pm. Admission is free, If you aren't sure it's okay to come because you're new to the blog or you're not a typical ACX reader or you disagree with the blog about lots of things you are explicitly invited anyway! Details are here: https://www.lesswrong.com/events/mXd8aQ8FDYCXhMusx/berkeley-acx-meetups-everywhere-spring-2024

Source: I'm the organizer for the ACX meetup, and also Scott's Meetup Czar.

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May 14·edited May 14

Are there any media that is suitable for children and/or younger teens that show realistic, healthy ways to engage with the opposite gender and have romantic relationships? Popular culture seems to teach some pretty unhealthy lessons: there's either Disney-style magic romance or the red-pill reaction to that message which also isn't healthy IMO. Is there a film or book or whatever that I can give a 12-year old boy to show how people date in the real world and that women (generally) are different from men in what they find attractive?

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I haven't read it, but Peggy Orenstein's "Boys and Sex" might fit the bill. As I understand it, is based on numerous interviews with high school and college boys/men about their views, experience and desires re dating, sex, intimacy, etc,, which seems like just the ticket for a 12-year-old boy https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45730106-boys-sex She also has a previous book called "Girls and Sex."

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Thank you, I'll look into it!

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Hesitantly:

Classic Loveline episodes (from the Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla era)?

The content might be a little mature for a 12-year-old (although plenty of 12-year-olds listened live at the time, and it's certainly less explicit than the internet porn he's almost certainly already encountering).

Also, I suspect its chief value is the pattern-recognition that comes with consuming a tremendous volume of content about human behavior.

(I went back through like 8 years of archives and got almost as good as Dr. Drew and Adam at guessing what age a female caller was sexually abused based solely on the "little girl" quality of her voice when beginning the call.

Unfortunately, Dr. Drew and Adam's current show is mostly focused on self-congratulations and complaining about California politics, not people's problems.

But classic Loveline had a lot of people calling with a lot of dating, relationship, and sex questions, and I learned a lot from it, even as an adult.

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May 15·edited May 15

There's definitely room for improvement — but hasn't popular culture always taught unhealthy lessons? And if I were a wee bit cynical, I'd say that the majority of people have always favored sentimental pap that over-romanticizes and obscures the reality of relationships. Not that I'm suggesting kids be fed a steady diet of Tenessee Williams, either. But there's very little in the middle ground.

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May 15·edited May 15

That's kind of my point: pop culture has always been idealistic to the point of unhealthiness and I'm trying to find the haystack needles where this isn't the case.

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My apologies. I thought you were implying it was a new phenomenon. However, at least five generations of happy, healthy, and *productive* Americans have been raised on this pap. And look at how wonderful the world is!

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Are the classic romance movies out? "When Harry Met Sally", "Must Love Dogs", "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", etc?

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May 15·edited May 15

I'm partial to Gregory's Girl, myself.

But on the red pill side, there's some damn good high-art cinema that's deliciously raw. Films like Godard's Contempt, Mike Figgis's The Loss of Sexual Innocence, A Streetcar Named Desire, Dangerous Liaisons come immediately to mind.

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Yes, but would a 12-year-old boy, or a 16-year-old, be interested in such movies? Aren't there any movies which are a bit more attractive to young people and teach good dating behavior? Or is the only hope in those advice subreddits?

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May 14·edited May 15

I had not thought there would be such a distinct lack of this, in what I remember reading. I've got a nephew of a similar age, who's being raised in fairly traditional household, and now I'm wondering about this question, too. There's not a lot of "what to do when you meet someone and are attracted" that isn't "everything magically works out" or "everything goes horribly wrong". The most I've got are books that have role models or positive and negative examples, but that don't cross over into one-true-wayism.

Jack Vance's "Araminta Station" might count (first of a trilogy, all great space opera). Later in the series, there are a couple of excellent bits of fatherly advice, from two different people: "Remain honest, steadfast and true! Adopt no weird philosophies. Avoid exotic cults and intellectual miasma." and "My only specific instructions are these: do not allow well-meaning but impractical theoreticians to exert any control over you; make sure that your associates are competent experienced and tolerant folk, without ideological axes to grind."

Lois McMaster Bujold's "Memory"-"Komarr"-"A Civil Campaign" sequence might work. They're in the middle of another great space opera series, and have a number of buried lessons about integrity, different ways of dealing with your roots, relationships with no future, and what exactly you can trade for your heart's desire. "Komarr" in particular has alternating POV chapters that capture the initial stages of a romance, although it's more "Persuasion" than "Pride and Prejudice".

You might try John C. Wright's "The Golden Age" trilogy (again, great space opera, wow am I predictable). The author has strong gender-essentialist opinions, but they don't interfere with his artistry of writing.

It's been a long time since I read it, but possibly Erich Segal's "Love Story".

It's been a long time since I saw it, but the film "Groundhog Day" might have some important lessons, too.

Classic movies might be a good place to look. "Casablanca" comes to mind, in terms of "making yourself into someone worthy of love is itself worthwhile". But I don't know whether something like this scene might be too much: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgVPnWmUqd4&t=177s (I almost need to fan myself after watching it at that timestamp.)

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In Groundhog Day the Bill Murray character starts out as a complete jerk. He does evolve into a pretty decent specimen of humanity over time.

Not technically over time I suppose because he is somehow cursed to live the same day repeatedly. The curse is lifted when he finally lives the day perfectly. Perfectly for the purposes of the story anyway. It does involve a lot of selfless behavior.

The U.K. Buddhist Society likes to show the film for the lesson it presents

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Oh hooray, finally I have the opportunity to complain about this little thing that has always been bothering me!

We saw him visiting an old piano teacher and obviously asking for lessons and offering a ridiculous remuneration, because she instantly kicks out the poor child that was sitting at the piano, and then we hear him playing his first C major scale. Then on his final perfect day, when he's in that bar playing the piano, the old piano teacher proudly announces that he is her pupil. This means that on his "perfect day", he found time to have a piano lesson, he made her kick out the poor child, and she sees him as her pupil although he'd only had one lesson with her and must have learned most of it elsewhere!

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I’m glad you feel better. That’s what I’m here for. :)

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> He does evolve into a pretty decent specimen of humanity over time.

Yes, that's the aspect I was thinking of. It demonstrates a lot of reasons why the guy is deservedly rejected. But once he starts working on making himself a better person, he eventually succeeds. I think it would have been better, from a pedagogical standpoint, to have him find romance with someone else who wasn't even on his radar initially, but oh well.

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May 14·edited May 14

If you completely strike out, maybe a stopgap would be to find positive examples of masculinity and femininity, and then later explicitly point to them and say "be like that" or "look for that".

For masculinity, "Captains Courageous" by Kipling stands out in my mind.

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I'm interested in this too, but with the caveat that I won't need this information for the next five or ten years - at which point there's no way I'll remember this one forum post (or even the .txt file I copy/pasted any leads from it into.)

I have this problem with the broader parallel society/right wing bridgehead conceit in general. I'm interested in for eg. homeschooling, but without an obvious homeschooling syllabus, endorsed by someone I trust, I have no way to filter (for general quality as well as non-wokeness) without doing all of it myself. Which is not a sensible division of labour.

Re: your media, one naïve answer is just draw a cutoff and declare anything pre 2010 "probably fine. Ish."

A better answer would be for some talented and enterprising young chaps to write us some better media to consume. That would be nice but I don't see it happening.

If I think of any good specific titles for your boy I'll come back and post them.

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I'm curious what kinds of "woke" stuff you're trying to avoid there? Any particular messages you see as most harmful to children in particular?

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I once chatted to a girl in a pub and she turned out to be a nanny to two seven year old children, a boy and a girl. She boasted about how she was encouraging and building the girl up, but with the boy she was making sure he was "aware of his privilege" and teaching him not to challenge or disbelieve women. She was obviously used to receiving praise and adulation from people when she told them this. When I instead said something to the effect of, "this kid is growing up in a totally different world to the one you're talking about, won't what you're doing achieve nothing and just destroy his self esteem?" it was like talking to a brick wall. She wasn't able to comprehend that the seven year old boy wasn't one of the evil oppressive rapists-in-waiting she had been taught about.

If this girl were making films instead of nannying kids directly, I might try to put in words what messages I think should and shouldn't be allowed. It would be a worthwhile exercise and well suited to a forum like this one.

But my real answer is simply, people like that girl should not be allowed access to children.

If she comes out with a film, the things I object to about it would likely be small and incredibly petty. I would object to them not just in themselves but because they reveal who she is.

Whatever form her ideas take, whatever wording she uses, whatever constraints or guidelines she is asked to follow - it doesn't matter, because her intent will shine through. Anything that fits with her sensibilities is going to be destructive to young children.

That's my non-answer to your question. I'm writing in a hurry and could probably come up with something better later on.

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2x Kaggle champ & AI guy Jeremy Howard has done a couple podcast interviews about homeschooling his daughter. It's going really well, and he describes his approach. I recommend checkin that out.

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May 14·edited May 14

I'm not trying to avoid woke stuff (ok, I'm trying to avoid woke stuff but plenty of other stuff as well). Like, I don't want my children to grow up thinking romance works like in Disney's Snow White: you just lull around and live your life and then suddenly your perfect match will appear and you will be happy ever after without any effort. Snow White doesn't teach you how to be the kind of person boys or girls would want to date, or how to take someone on a date, or how sexual attraction and seduction work.

Same goes for most of the classics. Maybe Pride and Prejudice could work? But it's a bit too indulgent and the social mores a bit too old. Like, I don't think the Victorians had dating figured out.

Plenty of millennials who were raised on pre-2010 media were on red pill subs complaining about how the media they grow up with (and the broader culture) made them totally unprepared for the realities of dating. And I don't blame them. I was raised to believe that women and men are mostly the same, that you should be nice to girls and befriend them to make them want to date you, that you should just be yourself and love will happen, and that caring about your appearance is superficial and stupid. I realized it was bullshit pretty quickly but I can see how that could do harm. But as I said, the red pill reaction is plenty of unhealthy as well, and no-one has made any red-pill media for kids anyway.

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Seems like most movies already start at the point where the protagonist is attractive (or almost attractive... just needs to remove the glasses and change the hairstyle), and the problem is lack of communication or being an asshole, and once you solve that, happy end.

Not helpful when one's actual problem is how to get *to* that point.

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If you were asking for a girl, I’d say the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. It’s

conceivable a boy could get into it. It’s a well-told story, and there are guy characters intelligently depicted, but it’s very clear that the center of the book is the relationship between the 4 girls. A book about guys for a guy — I’ll see if I can think of anything.

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May 14·edited May 14

I'm interested in media for both boys and girls! But just to clarify: I want media that shows how to engage with the opposite gender and how to do hetero dating, not how to have strong same-sex friendships.

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Yeah, I get it. The series of 4 books follows the 4 friends from about age 16 to about age 30. All have boyfriends, & while career stuff and relationship with family of origin are important, I'd say the romantic relationships each young woman has get the most air time. The 4 main characters have both good and bad relationships, and reflect on and talk with each other about sense of self, quality of relationships, disagreements and crises with boyfriends and husbands, etc. I'd say it's all quite realistic. I don't think anyone meets their honey via online dating -- books are 10-15 years old, so take place in a slightly less online world.

Another excellent source of info is Dan Savage, who does a podcast about sex and relationships. He is smart, realistic, well-informed, kind and funny. BUT I think his content is too intense for a 12 year old. Many of his callers are asking about fetishes, for instance, and even in the modern world I think 12 year olds should have a gentler education than Dan gives. to those matters. I introduced my daughter to Savage when she was around 16. By then she seemed to have heard of every sex act and fetish and gender variant. She talked about all that stuff in a matter of fact way, but I could tell she was still pretty naive about a lot of things. So we listened to Dan together, often on long car trips. That side of life worked out well for her. She's got a wonderful boyfriend, seems very in love, and has friends all over the gender spectrum.

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Thanks for the clarification, both suggestions sound excellent!

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I just learned there is a significant Albanian minority in southern Italy, and that they first started arriving in the 1400s. Has anyone done genetic testing on the population of immigrants who came from southern Italy to the U.S. to determine how many of them are actually of Albanian blood?

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I found this poem about Gaza, written jointly by - according to the credits - Dieter Hallervorden and Diether Dehm (no relation), a German actor and a left-wing politician, respectively.

Gaza Gaza https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duHA3wq3hFA. There are English subtitles on, but I thought of using this as an opportunity to revive my fragile A1 German and transcribed/translated myself it with much help from AI services. Deutsch and English text follow, its slightly different from the English translation on the clip but uses it as basis. All corrections from better speakers of German welcome.

=====

D> Ein Mann drückt zerfetzte Fingerchen

--- E> A man pushes shredded little fingerlets

D> an seinem Bart beim flüstern [?...?] dran

--- E> against his beard, while whispering about this:

D> "Was haben denn die zarten Dingechen... den Herren generell getan?"

--- E> "What, pray tell, could have those delicate little things... done to the esteemed generals?"

D> Dann hebt er den Rumpf seiner kleinen Zu Allah...

--- E> Then he raises the torso of his little one towards Allah

D> in die Sonne, zum Mond

--- E> in the sun, towards the moon

D> Und wieder haben wir da einen, der nichts und niemand mir schont

--- E> [and thinks] And here again, we have those from which nothing and no one is spared

=====

D> Soll ich diesem Vater empfehlen...

--- E> Should I then advise this father...

D> so cool wie Talkgast zu sein

--- E> to be as cool as a guest in a talk show?

D> sich bloß in keinem Wort zu verfehlen, das antisemitisch erscheint

--- E> Just so he won't slip into using any word, possibly interpreted as antisemitic?

D> Sie geloben apart die Treue von Ampel bis afd.

--- E> They all swear faith to Apartheid: From the Traffic Lights coalition [1] to AfD [2]

D> Sie liefern Granaten aufs Neue bittend Zahl, damit umzugehen

--- E> They all supply grenades again and again, asking, pretty please, "to be handled with care"

D> beim Menschen, wie Viecher vertreiben, mit Hunger und mit drohnen

--- E> As people, like cattle, are driven away with hunger and drones

D> Dieser Kinderfriedhof wird bleiben als Albtraum für Generationen

--- E> This graveyard of children will remain, for generations to come, a nightmare

=====

D> Die aus Ohnmacht brodelnde Kraft, hat sich nie jemand selbst ausgesucht

--- E> The helplessness in the face of brute force, was never chosen by anyone

D> doch die Macht, die die Bestien schafft... aus kalten Kalkülen, sei verflucht

-- E> But this power, that which creates beasts... out of cold computation, may it be cursed

++ D,E> Gaza, Gaza

D> Ich schlage meine Augen nieder vor dem ohnmächtigen Geschrei

-- E> I gaze down [in shame], before your powerless screeches

D> vor deinen zerfetzen Liedern,

-- E> Before your torn limbs

D> und ich frage mich da immer wieder

-- E> And I ask myself again and always:

D> "und das... soll kein Völkermord sein?"

-- E> "And this... is not supposed to be Genocide?"

=====

[1] The Traffic Lights coalition: a coalition of mainstream German parties whose combined colors resemble that of a traffic light

[2] AfD: Short for Alternative für Deutschland, or "Alternative for Germany" in German, a far-right party that is not mainstream and considered extreme, focused on combating immigration

=====

~|~ Dedicated to the soul of Hend Rajab, 2017|2018 – 29 January 2024, killed by criminals driving tanks.

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Some translation errors, e.g. "generell" means "in general" and has nothing to do with military generals. Also "apart" means "fancy" and has nothing to do with Apartheid (which is Afrikaans and not German). Besides, it has been done before: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Must_Be_Said

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Thanks for taking the time, those are transcription errors, most likely, as the translation on the video agrees on the meaning.

> it has been done before

I can't understand this, are you implying this poem is basically the same as the poem in the link?

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I've been thinking about what I call relationship revulsion campaigns. If there's a better or more standard term, let me know.

I'm talking about prejudices which are specifically saying that people from some demographic are too revolting for sex and/or bad marriage choices.

Such prejudices are pretty pervasive, though they vary in how much grip they get. There are prejudices against fat people, old people, homosexuals, black women, Asian men, disabled people, (in America) people of the other political persuasion, Jewish women (though I think that's faded)...

I think one of the nasty side effects, in addition to presumably good pairings which are presumably prevented, is that if people say they don't want to be targeted by relationship revulsion, they can be taken to say they're entitled to a relationship. Perhaps sometimes they mean that, but I think mostly not.

Part of the mess is that people living in a society with relationship revulsion can actually be revolted, so if they hear pushback against the prejudice, they think they're being pushed into a relationship they don't want.

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Downthread, Martin Blank was talking about definitions of "racism", and I think this is similar. It's not just that someone feels some way, they have a need to explain it and justify it and make it righteous and good, to embed it in the social fabric as "the way things should be". It is not allowable to have personal preferences, every preference one has must be objectively correct, and if that means redefining what is "correct" to suit one's preferences, so be it. It may relate to the creeping politicization of life, where totalitarian ideologies wriggle their tentacles into every private orifice of the mind.

Or at least, that's my personal opinion. ;-)

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Campaign implies a level of intentional coordination that I don't think exist. This seems just being on the wrong side of a heuristic, which sucks.

I do think that the current discourse environment (or current-ish, you know, vibe-shift and all that) is particularly cruel to people belonging to the people belonging to these groups:

- Right-thinking people will denounce these stereotypes loudly, but are likely to still not date within those categories if they can avoid it.

- Contrarians/dissidents often over-index to the heuristic as a reaction to the stifling norms.

- Complaining about the stereotypes is often seen as entitlement.

- Signaling that you do not fit the stereotypes is seen as traitorous/pick-me/desperate.

My advice for individuals looking out for themselves would be to lean into the latter point anyway and ignore the noise. It's a hard balancing act, but people won't know your worth if you don't tell them.

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In one of the classified threads, maybe a year ago, a guy linked to a long, frank profile of himself with multiple photos. He was a moderately overweight guy in his 30's, and I think also balding. But he was articulate and funny, and sounded active, with a lot of interests. Anyhow, I remember one line from his profile was "I'm not everyone's cup of tea. I'm fat. On the other hand . . . "[and he described some positive stuff about himself -- interests, achievements, can't remember now.]

I am totally not in a dating mode, and he's too young for me anyhow. But if it were his age and dating, he's the person from that dating thread I would have contacted. Like pretty much everyone, I think hair looks better than partial baldness and normal weight looks better than fat. But that stuff is just not that important. I know from experience that whether a man is handsome or homely, he will soon just look like himself to me.

And besides, all you people who have their hearts set on finding a beautiful mate: Do you *get* that your partner is going to age? Time and having babies make various things soften and slide south. Pregnancy and motherhood often cause weight gain, and the pounds are hard to lose. Time, sun and smiling give you crow's feet and smile lines. People get busy with their careers and don't want to take out time to work out and have their teeth whitened. I you can't face that, sign up for some permanent feed of 23 year olds. It's like getting all the Mac desktop models as they come out. Once the bloom is off one, the agency will send another.

Jeez!

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> Do you *get* that your partner is going to age?

But that applies to both the more attractive and the less attractive people. And I would naively expect that the older version of the more attractive person will still be nicer to look at than the older version of the less attractive person.

There are some exceptions to this. For example, it seems that some people simply "age more slowly", which can make them less attractive as teenagers, but more attractive after the peak age for their gender. But I still think you probably can make a reasonable guess about how your potential partner will age. And "he is already partially bald and overweight in his 30s" probably doesn't result in an optimistic prediction.

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ISTM that one thing people want from a stable permanent relationship is not to have to worry that they're going to lose their partner by going gray, gaining weight, acquiring stretch marks, etc. That can be bad (why do I need to bathe regularly now that I'm married?) but also is a pretty important benefit in a world where younger people are usually more attractive than older people, where pregnancy has a substantial impact on your body, etc.

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Hmmm... 'campaign' is tricky - makes me think of something centrally organized, which I'm not sure matches your phenomenon. Maybe "Mate Revulsion?" "Revulsion Culture?"

It's definitely a thing - people generally want 'desirable' partners, and every society has its undesirables.

>>if people say they don't want to be targeted by relationship revulsion, they can be taken to say they're entitled to a relationship. Perhaps sometimes they mean that, but I think mostly not.

Yeah, I'm reminded of some of Scott's past posts about shy, bullied young men frustrated at their lack of prospects who say something to the effect of "it sucks that this is happening to me" and society responds "so you're saying your *entitled* to women? Because that's pretty despicable of you." See also, the mockery that trans-people or fat people get in similar circumstances - "dating sucks because I'm not seen as desireable" is a fairly common opinion, but that ask for empathy often gets rewarded with a mallot-to-the-face response along the lines of "are you saying people who don't want to date you are transphobes/fatphobes/whateverphobes? Because that's pretty despicable of you."

I'm sure there are some small number of people (probably struggling with mental health issues) who genuinely mean things in the "I am entitled to be considered sexually desired" kind of way, but most strike me as just meaning something along the lines of "dating sucks because 'm not seen as desirable," and honestly, dating in the internet age tends to suck a lot generally, so it'd be nice if we could all just kvetch without getting punched in the face for it.

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How do you distinguish a campaign from just what people prefer/don't prefer?

Like, if you ask a large set of men whether they're more attracted to a fit 23 year old yoga instructor or a 53 year old overweight mom of three, nearly all of them are going to find the yoga instructor more attractive. (Even the older guys who suspect that they'd be more likely to have a meaningful relationship with the mom of three thanks to shared experiences.) I'm not convinced this is the result of a campaign, exactly.

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You're not entirely wrong, just mostly wrong.

If you look across art and cultures, you'll see that there's variation on body composition, facial features, and height, at least.

There's a preference for youth. There may be a male preference for lighter skin. (See _The Curse of Ham_.)

The thing is, it's one thing to have a preference, and another thing to go on and on about how much you're disgusted by what doesn't match your preference. Public disgust has effects, and I'm inclined to think the real revealed preference is for malice . This isn't about everyone, but definitely a large enough fraction to make a difference.

There are fat yoga teachers.

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>Public disgust has effects, and I'm inclined to think the real revealed preference is for malice .

That sounds very plausible. Weaponized disgust is a classic element of xenophobia.

I could see someone being startled and turned off by an unexpected characteristic of someone they met on a first date, but I'd thing a decent response in such a case would be more like "Oops, <X> happens to be a turnoff for me, no offense, but could we cut this short?"

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OK, but how does any of that make the person you're replying to wrong? All they said was that in their culture, people tend to prefer X, and that this doesn't necessarily imply a "campaign."

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There is a difference between "most people prefer X to Y" and "most people prefer X to Y and they keep reminding everyone that X is more attractive to Y, therefore only losers choose Y".

In the former scenario, if there is a sufficiently large minority of people who prefer Y to X, or at least are indifferent, and there are not too many Y people... it still can have a happy ending.

In the latter scenario, people indifferent between X and Y will still choose X for status reasons, and even people who genuinely prefer Y to X will be tempted to do so. So it would be nicer if the people who prefer X to Y act on their preferences but stop preaching about them. (Most of them probably do exactly this, but sometimes it only takes one loud asshole.)

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At least from the purely sexual angle, if the mom of 3 had non-white hair, and a certain softness in voice, I will be almost as sexually interested in her as in the 23 year old yoga instructor, if not ***more***. As an actual matter of fact, I find myself getting quite aroused just thinking about the traditional qualities associated with your description right now, **no matter** what ethnicity or general body plan I mentally assign to the "53 year old overweight mom of three".

I kind of like bigger (in both meanings of the word, older and chubbier) women so that's not typical, perhaps, but "nearly all" strikes me as so obviously wrong. After all, I DO find free porn featuring chubby respectable moms seducing twenty-somethings. Nothing which you can find free porn for is ever niche. Perhaps a reasonable ratio is like 90%, 10% of all men is still a pretty huge portion.

There is also a big difference between just stating what you want, rejecting what you don't want, and declaring that **everyone** should or would or must reject what you don't want (or is stupid not to). Each step of the way is more hurtful to what you don't want.

And this is still not the total rejectionism of movements like 4th wave feminism and Andrew-Tate-ism, which assert that **all** people of a certain gender has this and that qualities, and that you would be a fool not to assume maximum bad faith and act accordingly. That's the apex of what OP is talking about. I personally call it "Gender Separatism", they talk about marriage and love using terminology taken from independence movements, and explicitly invoke the metaphor of political subordination of one people to another when they describe the current status quo.

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Yeah, there's definitely a difference between:

a. I don't find X attractive.

b. I don't think anyone should find X attractive.

Maybe Nancy is getting more at (b) when she talks about revulsion, rather than just lack of interest.

I think statistically you will find most people with broadly similar tastes, but with substantial outliers. And you definitely have loud internet voices demanding that people find them attractive. Depending on the context, that can be single men, transwomen, fat people, old people, disabled people, etc. Demanding people find you attractive will never ever work, but the internet is about clicks/attention, not about what makes sense or can work.

Entertainingly, you can also get loud internet voices demanding that you stop finding some people attractive, or denouncing you for finding them attractive for the wrong reasons. (Maybe you only find that black woman attractive because you're exotifying her.) Because the internet is about getting clicks via outrage/anger/eyeball grabbing, not about anything sensible.

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>Entertainingly, you can also get loud internet voices demanding that you stop finding some people attractive, or denouncing you for finding them attractive for the wrong reasons.

Yup! Reddit has a huge amount of strident demands to "Stop sexualizing <group>/<body part>!!!" I find busybodies who issue such demands to be obnoxious.

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Yes, I mean (b).

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It seems a little odd that your list mentions homosexuals, even though they usually don't want relationships with heterosexuals, but doesn't mentions bisexual men and transgender people (especially transgender women I think).

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I see enough from conservatives that homosexuals are obviously revolting. I think the idea and to some extent the effect (much more in the past) is that they aren't supposed to want each other.

You've got a point about transgender people.

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Conservative (and straight) here. I don’t think homosexuals belong in this list. Homosexuality as revolting, sure. Homosexuals revolting for engaging in homosexuality, possibly. But the stereotype about (male) homosexuals is that they are better looking and more attractive than heterosexual men - and this is broadly true IME.

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You can also think about whether the revoltingness is contagious.

Absent any concerns about STDs, would it matter to you if your girlfriend had been in a previous relationship with another girl? A transwoman? A black guy?

None of these seem important to me, but there are people for whom each of those three would be a deal breaker.

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Linking to this article I posted recently on my personal blog, for more visibility: https://upcoder.com/21/is-there-a-power-play-overhang

Introduction, copied from the post:

This post is about risks in the development of increasingly capable AI, in particular the risk of losing control to AI and extinction risk. I'll suggest that a key question is, "When do we need to take this kind of risk seriously?"

We'll look at the issue of 'agency overhang', which suggests that adding agent-like abilities to AI could result in a sudden and surprising increase in these kinds of risks.

I'll draw on intuitions about humans taking administrative and political control (with reference to the 'Dictator Book Club') and rephrase agency overhang as 'power play overhang'.

I'll finish by suggesting that a lot of people may be making a subtle but important mistake in imagining just one fairly specific path to dangerous AI.

(Interested to hear any thoughts and comments, from people here.)

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When governments subsidize things like high-speed particle accelerators or giant space telescopes to look at distant galaxies from the past, is there generally hope that it will lead to new knowledge that has a practical value for the world or is it mostly "science for science's sake"? Percentagewise, how much is the former vs the latter?

To the extent it is the latter, why don't we subsidize the arts as much?

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founding

When there's any pushback on funding science, the proponents will absolutely trot out "This could bring us vast practical benefits, like cheap clean abundant energy! Or maybe not, no way to know in advance, but we'd all be living in caves if we didn't try!". This argument is usually rather overstated, and it's unclear how sincere the proponents are about it.

But it's definitely a weapon in their arsenal, one that the arts can't use. And it is at least somewhat effective.

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> vast practical benefits

Our space program gave us tang and velcro.

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The problem with drawing a distinction between the two is that it's very difficult to assess what projects are practical and what projects are just for prestige before you actually do the damn thing. For example, you might fund a materials science lab with the hopes of getting a superconductor and get nothing out of them five years later beyond a lot of papers explaining why it didn't work and a new kind of talc. Alternatively, you might fund a new exoplanet telescope and find out that, in addition to a lot of pretty pictures, they invented a new form of glass that revolutionizes fiberoptics and the patent will shortly be worth trillions.

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>When governments subsidize things like high-speed particle accelerators

Do you include e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_Light_Source, which is a 3 Gev electron synchrotron?

>Its purpose is to produce intense beams of light whose special characteristics are useful in many areas of scientific research. In particular it can be used to investigate the structure and properties of a wide range of materials from proteins (to provide information for designing new and better drugs), and engineering components (such as a fan blade from an aero-engine[1]) to conservation of archeological artifacts (for example Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose[2][3]).

It isn't the LHC (which operates at >1000X the energy), but it is a high-speed particle accelerator.

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Sure.

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Thanks!

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May 14·edited May 14

The question you are asking is based on a bad model. "Government" is just a big bunch of people in a room. The government doesn't "hope" for anything. Decisions are generally not taken based on careful analysis where the benefits are broken down in percentages. A good historical example is that Iraq War: There was no big meeting were it was decided to invade Iraq, instead some people said "maybe we should invade Iraq" and it slowly morphed into "we should invade Iraq" without anyone ever making the decision.

For science funding, some parliament or similar typically assigns a big pile of money to "science" each year as part of the budget process. Why do they do this? Because that's what they always have done and if someone opposed it they would be painted as "bad for science" and no-one wants that and there are some members who are really into science and working hard to increase the amount and they are kind of nice to have lunch with so you don't want to make them angry and also they scratch your back sometimes as well so whatever. Then the big pile of money get's fought over by different science institutions and bureaucracies which also mostly run on inertia.

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That's a fair point. My question was more of a "Ideally, what should we fund?" not "How does our political process determine what we fund?" But you are right to make the point.

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May 14·edited May 14

Like, this space is filled with rat libertarians and I'm one of them so my answer to "ideally, what should we fund?" is "burn the current system to the ground and then do something that is based on the facts that 1. we're trying to create public goods and 2. incentives matter. Definitely enforce pre-registration and open access. Maybe do something with dominant assurance contracts and/or prediction markets, that would be cool."

Having a big central committee trying to decide what's Good Science That Should Be Funded and what's not is doomed to be terribly ineffective. Having a big central committee trying to decide how much resources to dedicate to science may be harder to avoid but it is also a fundamentally bad idea.

There's a good Substack by a guy who really cares about science funding here, it has ideas that are a tad bit more practical: https://goodscience.substack.com/

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We subsidize "culture" in the broader sense by a staggering amount: keeping historical buildings intact, pushing knowledge and use of niche languages and dialects (a lot of this in Europe, less so in the US I guess), keeping landscapes pretty, etc etc. Heck, even sports might go on this list. All of this is fine since these things enjoy very broad support.

The arts are also subsidized by the public purse quite a lot. But (a particular breed of) artists do their utmost to make art exclusionary. They take public money on one hand, and refuse to make things the public enjoys on the other. Architects often do this as well.

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A lot of individual artist have done their best to alienate the public while also demanding that the public fund them. I have no sympathy for those types. But things like symphonies, operas and ballets are much less controversial, and they do require a lot of money to exist. I wish more money were given to symphonies to perform Strauss and Mahler so they wouldn't have to pay the rent buy performing "The Music of David Bowie."

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There's usually a hope that blue sky research will result in discoveries that benefit society. But these big projects also push the limits of engineering, so work on them can result in improved optics, magnets or other technologies that can be applied in other areas.

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Governments do subsidize arts a lot, it's just that any individual art (or humanities research) project needs much less expensive equipment and manpower than the projects you've mentioned.

As for the motivation, I think it's hard to separate. Scientific success brings a government prestige, but there's always a chance that even the most abstract projects will produce useful things as a result.

Incidentally, prestige and the hope of positive (social) effects is also why governments fund art.

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With architects, at least, I think it's partly Stockholm Syndrome. They're forced to keep their designs inexpensive, and eventually they brainwash themselves into believing that the designs forced upon them are in fact objectively good. To do otherwise would involve admitting that they're "sellouts" who compromise their artistic vision for filthy lucre.

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Does anyone else find it weird that the Chandrasekhar limit and Tolman–Oppenheimer–Volkoff limit are both very close to the solar mass?

https://xkcd.com/2707/

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There are only 3.2 orders of magnitude in star mass (0.075-120 solar masses), and there's a multiple-comparisons problem where the progenitor masses reaching those limits are *not* all that close to solar mass.

More generally, since stars are "things that collapsed hard enough to do nuclear fusion", the Chandrasekhar limit is "things that collapsed hard enough to do electron capture" and the TOV limit is "things that collapsed hard enough to break physics", it makes sense for them to be fairly similar.

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But why? Naively I would have expected that neutron degeneracy pressure would be *much* stronger than electron degeneracy pressure or something. After all, the particles have very different properties.

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May 15·edited May 15

As Erica said, because gravity increases with density, once you start to get gravity that can actually overcome repulsion forces it needs less and less of a push to overcome the next, stronger set of repulsion forces (high-pressure polymorphs start at something like 0.00000005 solar masses, Coulomb pressure fails at ~0.05 solar masses, electron degeneracy at ~1.4 solar masses for C-O - more for hydrogen, less for elements heavier than calcium - and neutron degeneracy at 2-3 solar masses).

This is, incidentally, why there's a sharp divide between white dwarfs and neutron stars and why the formation of the latter from the former invariably blows up a star rather than powering one smoothly; once the electron-degenerate core comes under enough pressure that electron capture becomes favourable, it starts shrinking because of the decrease in electron degeneracy pressure, and the increase in density increases the gravity and thus pressure further, making electron capture *more* favourable, so while the first few electron captures are near equilibrium and release negligible energy the later stages of the process release incredible amounts of energy and it will self-accelerate until completion - the core doesn't "get stuck" partway.

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Your intuition is correct as far as it goes: max neutron degeneracy pressure is many orders of magnitude more than electron degeneracy pressure. But you don't need to add a whole lot more mass to get there because there's an insanely large positive feedback effect where adding enough mass to overcome electron degeneracy pressure means you squeeze out all the empty space between atomic nuclei and wind up with a neutron star whose core is something like 8-9 orders of magnitude denser than the core of a white dwarf. A neutron star is on the order of 10 km in radius, while a white dwarf is on the order of 5000 km.

Internal pressure at the core due to gravity of an ideal star works out to being proportionate to M^2 / R^4, so increasing mass by roughly a factor of 2 and decreasing radius by roughly a factor of 500 (i.e. going from a white dwarf just under the C limit to a neutron star just under the TOV limit) means your pressure is a bit more than 11 orders of magnitude higher.

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Both Ross Barkan https://rosselliotbarkan.com/p/from-misogyny-to-no-mans-land?utm_source=profile&utm_medium=reader2 and John Pistelli https://substack.com/home/post/p-144554840 have interesting posts this week on the decline of masculinity in literary fiction.

It's a subject that fascinates me. In the first half of my life, male novelists were the kings of the intellectual world. Since 2000, they barely register in American culture. Why?

Barkan suggests the usual suspects: video games and social media. His thesis is that young men simply aren't exposed to the gateway drugs of literary fiction anymore because they don't have empty time to fill anymore. I know that in my day writers like Kurt Vonnegut or Joseph Heller were gateways to more literary fiction. But he also suggests that there is a chicken-and-egg problem: it's been a long time since an under-40 literary male novelist writing in English was popular (since the 1990's and DFW). Males don't read literary fiction because males no longer write literary fiction and vice-versa. That analysis doesn't get at the root cause, but there may be some truth in it. The root cause, of course, may be political correctness: how can a heterosexual male novelist exist in today's social climate?

Pistelli suggests a more interesting root cause: gentrification. Heterosexual men don't want to write fiction anymore because it's higher status to be a literary theorist than a writer of literary fiction. I.e., real American men don't want to be Hemingway or Pynchon anymore; they want to be Nick Land.

I myself wonder if there isn't an economic explanation that is congruent with

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The top 10 bestselling novels in the US by year since 2000, by gender of author(s):

2000: 8 by men, 2 by women

2001: 8 by men, 2 by women

2002: 7 by men, 3 by women

2003: 8 by men, 2 by women

2004: 9 by men, 1 by women

2005: 5 by men, 5 by women

2006: 9 by men, 1 by women

2007: 7 by men, 3 by women

2008: 6 by men, 4 by women

2009: 7 by men, 3 by women

2010: 7 by men, 3 by women

2011: 7 by men, 3 by women

2012: 2 by men, 8 by women

2013: 8 by men, 2 by women (note: one of the male authors was long deceased)

2014: 5 by men, 5 by women

2015: 5 by men, 5 by women (note: one of the female authors was long deceased)

2016: 4 by men, 6 by women (note: one of the female authors was long deceased)

2017: 6 by men, 4 by women (note: one of the male authors was long deceased)

2018: 8 by men, 2 by women (note: one of the male authors was long deceased)

2019: 7 by men, 3 by women

2020: 5 by men, 5 by women

2021: 7 by men, 3 by women (note: two of the male authors were long deceased)

2022: 2 by men, 8 by women (note: one of the male authors was long deceased)

2023: 2 by men, 8 by women

Male authors dominated through the first decade of this century, as they more or less always had previously. Then it balanced out somewhat. The last two years it's mostly women or, more precisely, woman: Colleen Hoover, the Michael Jordan of romance novelists, wrote 6 of the 10 best-selling novels published in 2022 and then 3 of the ones published in 2023. Romance novels started cracking the annual all-types-of-novels top ten list only during the past decade or so. That genre has always been overwhelmingly written by women and read by women, so its growth is a factor in the overall shift.

(Also while putting together this comment I noticed that in that entire 24 years there hasn't been one instance of a top-10 US bestselling novel in any genre co-authored by a man and a woman. There are some male duos and some female duos, but no mixed duos. Not sure what means if anything.)

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I'm not talking about popular fiction. I'm talking about literary fiction.

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The NYT best-seller lists are organized by category, one of which is "literary". (Others are "romance", "adventure", "horror", etc.) For the decade starting with 2000, 53% of the books that made the NYT's annual top-10 in the literary category were written by men. For the decade starting with 2010 it was 54%.

Library Journal's list of the "Best Literary Fiction of 2023" included 11 books of which 8 were written by men.

Literary Hub's 2019 list of "The 20 Best Novels of the Decade" included 9 books written by men.

The Guardian's 2019 list of the "100 best books of the 21st century" included 28 literary novels of which 15 were written by men. (If you include poetry collections and short-story collections those totals become 35 and 19.)

Etc etc.

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I had to find out what it means. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literary_fiction

Sounds like a dangerous kind of thing to write for a man today, because if the story is not plot-driven, then it will probably contain opinions on the general society (as seen by the protagonist), and that could be problematic.

But maybe it's just a mater of fashion, and men don't write this kind of stories these days because they write different kinds of stories.

Or maybe it's the audience that has changed. Maybe the kind of person who would read this kind of stories in the past has either moved to a different kind of stories or stopped reading completely. Twenty years ago, this kind of fiction would sell much better than sci-fi/fantasy, but I suspect that while sci-fi/fantasy fans still keep reading books, the more mainstream audience has switched to watching Netflix.

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Computer generated graphics have come a long way in the last couple decades. There used to be very hard limits on what you could film in a way that is decreasingly true. Why read a war novel when you could fight in one? Of course, abstract concepts aren’t as easy to visualize, which is why you see the shift to nonfiction. Because no movie is really going to be as effective at teaching philosophy than a book.

It’s kind of weird because I’m an avid movie watcher/nonfiction reader who decided to write fiction and I find fiction harder to read than most nonfiction, mostly because of descriptions. I’m not used to taking characterizations from words and visualizing them in my mind.

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May 14·edited May 15

I'd lay this at the feet of the decline of "literary fiction" as a genre. It's relevant to less and less of the population, and the portion it's still relevant to tends to be moderately to aggressively anti-masculine.

It's a pity. I view litfic as being like a paleo diet, in that it does without the added sugar and processed ingredients of, well, actually being exciting. (I remember the hand-wringing over Donna Tartt.) But these days, they don't realize that they've been using another artificial stimulant, political correctness. And so the effort to prioritize craft uber alles is fading away.

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People go into writing for three reasons: because they're highly motivated, because they want to make money, or because they want the mystique of being a writer.

It's hard to make money being a writer. If you do want to make money, it's easier to write genre fiction. This has always been true to a degree, but I think it's now truer than ever. In genre fiction, there are still many cishet male writers.

As for the prestige, I think that's dwindling. Literary fiction is becoming a "for girls" thing which makes people look down on it. Genre fiction "for women", like romance, has more thematic overlap with litfic than genre fiction "for men" like hard sci-fi. So it's more likely for a female genre fiction author to be "elevated" into litfic than a male one.

And as for sheer interest, I think boys don't really read much. If they're into solitary pursuits, they're more likely to watch shows and play video games. There's many reasons for that, but in the end it leads to fewer cishet men with a great interest in fiction writing.

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Couldn't finish my thought because of the shitty software here. Was going to say Baumol Effect. Would an 18-year-old Thomas Pynchon or William Shakespeare even want to be a novelist today or would they go into tech to make a living?

I think the same thing about contemporary classical music. Wouldn't a clone of Mozart or Beethoven today either choose to make more popular music or---because they are smart and ambitious---perhaps choose a career other than music?

Another reason I think there aren't more male heterosexual novelists -- along the lines of Pistelli's suggestion that it is about status -- is American politics. Apolitical times are best for art, whereas politics ruins it. Just look at what politics does to comedy. Mid-century America was a great time for bipartisanship and thus art. When artist have to choose a side they stop making art and start making propaganda.

EDIT: What are the odds the 21st century would produce the greatest writer in history considering that the smartest minds in that century would be drawn to something more productive?

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>>Apolitical times are best for art, whereas politics ruins it. Just look at what politics does to comedy.

I disagree with this completely. In the first place, there's no time in human history whose inhabitants would look around and say "we are living in apolitical times." Conflicts may be forgotten to us, but they were always present.

Plus some of the best art has "political" statements behind it.

Totalitarianism and 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheight 451. The Red Scare and the Crucible. Abolitionism and Uncle Tom's Cabin. The Civil Rights Movement and To Kill a Mockingbird. WW1 and Guernica. Jacques-Louis David's paintings of Napoleon and the French Revolution.

To be fair, art doesn't always have to say something political to be interesting - lots of western art, historically, said nothing more than "my patron and/or the church is wealthy and awesome," and still was amazing. And plenty of good art has been made out of non-political statements - "I have issues with my dad," "I'm obsessed with my mistress" have made been every bit as fertile statements to center interesting art around as their "political" alternatives have been. But at the end of the day, statements about *something* are what make most forms of art interesting, and I don't see any reason to carve political statements out of that quilt when they account for many of our most interesting squares.

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There's a bias when we look back at "the best art" and see political statements in it - if we're still reading it, it's probably good. Your examples do show that it's perfectly possible to have politically motivated art...

...but I think that a big problem with looking for good politically motivated art is that it removes a filter. If I write a poem about going outside on a cold winter day, and it's trash, nobody will read it. If I write a poem about going outside on a cold winter day to storm the US Capitol Building, lots of people won't care whether it's trash or not - they'll review it entirely based on whether it agrees with their politics. Seeing that a work of art can receive attention its creator could possibly want just by "sending the right message", it is natural for artists to skip the step where they try to make it any good.

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Yes, this.

I'd say that the attention can also be gained by "big explosions" or "superhero fights" or "hot naked people" or other stuff like that, with similar effects.

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Some people love those novels you mention but they are the kind of preachy stuff they force you to read in school that I hate. I loathe art that makes statements.

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May 14·edited May 14

It's more than just "some people" though - we're talking about some of the most influential works of fiction of the last 200 years.

Plenty of less explicitly 'preachy' novels can be considered as if not more successful - I'm not trying to argue that art *must* make political statements to be good. However, regardless of your or my personal taste, "apolitical times" (if such times can be said to exist) can't be said to be "best" for art if "political" pieces routinely run among the most popular and impactful works.

One certainly could say "such-and-such a time or cultural moment is best suited producing art that I personally prefer," and I'd have no quibble with a statement that apolitical times, whatever that may mean, are best suited for producing art that is to your tastes, but that's a very different statement from "such-and-such a time or cultural moment is best for art."

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Your last point is fair. It is just my opinion.

But books like 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Crucible are as popular as they are only because public schools made them assigned reading. I mean, maybe they would have been read widely for a long time if they hadn't been assigned reading, but that's a counterfactual we can't examine. As it is they are popular political works precisely because the politics of the time was "We need to ram these political messages down kids' throats" and they did. They were 20th century American political propaganda: 1 against the Soviets, 1 against racism, and 1 against being too anti-Soviet.

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I'll 50% disagree, and say that the problem is the way the books were rammed down kids' throats. The messages are very important, but when they're presented as having a single reference, too many kids come out thinking "now I'm warned, so I'll never do that specific bad thing to those specific people". And then they go on to recreate the pattern elsewhere.

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I wonder how much of this is related to modern literary fiction being so focused on internal emotional states, like the classic short story in the New Yorker with no plot but lots of elliptical dialogue. Male writers seem to be doing a lot better in genre fiction of all kinds.

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I am so sick of hearing being supersmart equated with working in tech. Shakespeare was a genius, but he *wrote* all the time and when he wasn't writing sonnets and plays he was problem thinking about doing so. And he didn't, you know, get the royalties from all the modern film adaptations of his plays. He was not wealthy and successful in his own time. He could probably have made more money owning a pub, and he probably knew that. Mozart and Beethoven may have been smart and ambitious, but they were not particularly practical and they were *in love* with music. I know someone who is a 23 year old bona fide math prodigy and they are getting an advanced degree in something other than tech. David Foster Wallace was supersmart and he did not work in tech. SCOTT is supersmart, and he is not working in tech. Zvi is supersmart, and he is not working in tech. Each of them is/was in love with some kind of mental activity that is not a tech one.

I'm sure there are people working in tech who are in love with their jobs, but my impression from the people I know, including people on here, is that most have a practical, workaday attitude and are pleased to be getting prosperous at something they are good at. If anything what stands out for me about people in tech is not that they are smarter but that they have more common sense and less passion than the kind of smart person who produces things because they're in love with the process.

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On the other hand: I'm arguably one of those people who's in tech but probably would be one of those obsessive intellectuals in an earlier time. Don't get me wrong -- I like programming, it's fun, and I'm pretty good at it. But my real first love is mathematics. I did math all the time, wanted to be a mathematician, did original research as a high school and college student, went to a high-ranked PhD program in math.... and then the pressure burnt me out on academic research and I wasn't a good fit for the teaching college where I got a job instead (and was overworked and underpaid and didn't have the energy to do research anyway). So I went into software, which is less stressful and pays more, and now I do things like Project Euler (which is like 80% math and 20% programming) for fun in my free time. And I know several other people with similar trajectories.

My point is, it's not just that tech pays more (though that's not trivial), it's that tech, unlike most intellectual jobs today, is not an absolutely brutal meatgrinder to actually have a career in, so lots of would-be intellectuals who can't handle the meatgrinder but are ambitious and good at tech stuff too end up in tech. Are they "more productive" in tech? Well, Society Writ Large seems to have decided so. I'm not so sure, but here I am anyway.

(I will probably retire early and do lots of math then, though "early" is less early because I spent 10 years in PhD + tenure track trying to make the academic math thing work.)

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Also tech, well IT anyway, has a fairly low entry barrier. So it is ideal for people lacking the funds or the patience and perserverance to spend several years studying vocational specialities such as medicine or law.

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Yeah, that makes sense, and good for you! I have nothing against people working in tech, just tired of hearing it talked about as "something more productive" that "the smartest minds in the century would be drawn to."

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Yeah I don’t understand this “I’d write/play music, but there’s more money to be made in tech” thing. I play music because I can’t not to.

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What do you think the decline in masculinity in contemporary literary fiction is about?

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I think this is a ridiculously over-phrased claim. What do you mean by "masculinity"? Do you simply mean "male writers" or do you mean "no He-Man Rough Tough Characters"?

That reminds me of my reaction to Jack London's "The Sea-Wolf" where the big mean rough'n'tough character is named Wolf Larsen. Well, okay. But then it turns out that Wolf has an even meaner, rougher'n'tougher big brother called... Death Larsen.

At which point I found it hard to repress my giggles. I enjoyed the book, but that's a bit *too* gilding the lily to be taken seriously. I get the impression, Hank, that you think we need Moar Death Larsen! in the contemporary novel?

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I'm curious how old you were when you read it? If you don't mind me asking.

I read it at around 10? or so. Needless to say I gobbled it up, starry-eyed, of course wanting to be the badass Wolf Larsen.

I doubt I'd be able to read it as an adult.

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I really just mean heterosexual male novelists. The Ross Barkin post goes into much more detail about what he means. He mostly makes the point about how in the mid-60s American novelists were overwhelmingly male whereas now they are overwhelmingly female and the ones who are male are mostly writing from a racial/sexual-orientation minority perspective. (The emphasis being the perspective not whether the author happens to be a minority). With the recent deaths of Roth, Mcarthy and Amis, the only male novelists alive I can name who write in English are Pynchon and Franzen.

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"'I am Grimm Shaddo,' said Grimm Shaddo, his triple wand-claws extending. 'And I am here to take it to the limit.'"

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Truly, one of the pinnacles of literature.

Although the Star Wars EU character "Savage Opress" comes mighty close.

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