I Read 50 Shades of Grey, and I Liked It

Posted: February 12, 2015 in books, movies, sex
Tags: , ,

Warning: this post contains frank and (mostly) adult conversations about sex.

Warning 2: Mom, I know you read my blog. I apologize in advance.

Confession: I read 50 Shades of Grey. And I liked it.

The prose gave me shivers, and not in a good way. It’s clunky and offensive to those of us who have tried to make a living as writers. Some of the turns of phrase are so godawful that you can’t help but laugh out loud.

The characters are unbelievable. The guy is unrealistically rich and successful, in his mid-20s, and has a perfectly-carved body while still finding time to fly various aircraft and play piano. The woman is a recent college grad who doesn’t know how to use smartphones, the Internet, and is still a virgin who has never had a relationship despite every man around her thinking she’s attractive.

The plot isn’t much better. Much has already been said about a relationship that, at its best, is an unhealthy depiction of BDSM. At its worst, it’s borderline abusive. The guy is a stalker, and the woman not only continues the relationship (at first), she’s so intrigued by what amounts to a heavily-damaged near-sociopath, she crosses boundaries she shouldn’t be comfortable crossing.

Now, let’s talk about 50 Shades of Grey.

That? No, that was my summary of any number of hundreds of pieces of written erotica – smut, word porn, whatever – on a website devoted to such work.

Before the Internet, it would simply be pornography, or erotica if we’re being kind. Some famous authors have tried their hand at it: Anne Rice’s Beauty series has scenes (and prose) that makes the BDSM and unhealthy relationships in 50 Shades look like a Golden Book. Another of her BDSM tomes was turned into a movie almost 20 years ago, starring Rosie O’Donnell, among others.

So why the hue and cry over 50 Shades?

It’s popular. It took something that has remained hidden, even with authors like Anne Rice tackling it, and turned it into something in the national (or international) consciousness. And, I suspect, the patriarchy feels threatened by its existence. A good portion of the criticism is reinforcing an incredibly (cis)-male-centric view of what pornography should be, and what women “should” like.

Someone tacked the pejorative label “mommy porn” onto 50 Shades. Porn it may be, and yes it’s aimed at women, but the use of this label reveals the larger cultural problem accepting a mass-market fantasy aimed at women that isn’t Bridget Jones’ Diary.

The main character is an American college student as imagined by a British housewife in her mid-40s. Christian Grey is the epitome of some cis-female fantasies: he’s wealthy, good-looking, commanding. Their relationship, if taken by any sort of normal standards, would be, to use a technical term, “extremely fucked up.”

But does anyone out there read 50 Shades of Grey and think “hey, this is something that could realistically happen?”

Let’s apply that question to any of the other kinds of porn, smut, or erotica that exist out there. Does anyone think the relationships portrayed in “Cum-Guzzling Gutter Sluts 3” are healthy? Does any woman think the titular Debbie of Debbie Does Dallas is someone they should feel threatened by? Does any man look at a guy in “Logjammin’” and think anything other than “that’s a proxy for me to be excited and aroused?” Did reading Beauty as a 15 year old (sorry mom!) turn me into a sociopathic abuser of women?

No. So why, all of a sudden, are we freaking out over 50 Shades?

I suspect it’s for the same reason I liked it despite the prose, unrealistic characters, and abusive relationship (and tired “woman who fixes the man” plot): because it’s popular, it’s opened dialogue, and it exists to do one thing–intrigue and turn people on.

What awful, awful, awful smut!

It’s erotica. It’s porn. And it’s super-successful and it’s made the kind of money I can only dream of when writing about zombie-killing cowboys. It threatens cultural norms, and some of its largest detractors are, oddly enough, women.

50 Shades is also an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and our significant others. Does this turn me on? Why? Is there something here I can take away and put into practice in my own sex life?

50 Shades isn’t supposed to be great art. Or even bad art. It’s pornography. We either condemn it with the rest of pornography, or we use it as an opportunity for dialogue and conversation.

Who knows. You might learn something new.

And fun.

One of my fondest early childhood memories was taking walks down Upper Gilchrist Road in the Ohio countryside with my mother. She was a science teacher, and would explain all kinds of things to me: different flowers and plants, rocks, the animals (cows, if memory serves). Thirty-some-odd years later, most of that is just impressions. I have no idea how much of that is real memory, but I can say without a doubt that she helped spark in me a feeling of scientific inquiry: ask questions about the world. Find out how it works. Don’t take anything for granted.

As I grew up, I applied that to many different things, from my love of space and astronomy to my fascination with the bottom of the ocean. I’d pour over National Geographic and Odyssey magazines. Space exploration always had a special place in my heart. I don’t know why exactly – maybe it was the images Voyager 2 beamed back during my formative years, the memory of the Challenger disaster, or early (and frequent) exposure to the Roddenberry-esque positive future on Star Trek.

I had a poster of all nine (at the time) planets on my wall, and used to imagine what it would be like to visit them.

I woke up early in the morning to see Halley’s Comet through a pair of binoculars.

I dragged my college friends to the middle of a field to look at Jupiter and its moons, or Saturn and Titan, through my telescope.

I looked up and dreamed. I still do.

As a dear friend recently reminded me, there is plenty more scientific exploration beyond space, although my heart will always be in the stars. There are remarkable advances occurring in neuroscience and psychology, particle physics, biology and chemistry, and medical science that will continue to change the way we (people) see ourselves and the world around us.

We keep looking at those flowers and rocks and cows and asking why and how.

One of the beautiful things about sciences is that discoveries can inspire the next generation of astronomers and biologists (or artists and poets) to look up to the sky and dream. Whether it’s landing on the surface of a comet, discovering something new about the human mind, mapping the world of subatomic particles, or curing a deadly disease, a kid out there will look at that accomplishment and think: awesome. 

And that kid will keep asking why and how.

And someday, that kid’s going to grow up and look at a possibility–scientific or artistic–and ask an even more important question:

Why not.

The popular interpretation of Lord of the Rings as a World War II metaphor isn’t entirely wrong. You’ve got big nasty conquering armies who want to bathe the world in darkness, epic battles, and deus ex machina escapes by the good guys—pretty much WW2. But I’ve always seen something else, especially in Peter Jackson’s film versions of the stories—Frodo’s journey, a more personal battle against the lure of the Ring. It could be the temptation of evil, but I offer an alternative explanation—a battle against mental illness.It’s something I experienced firsthand several years ago, and now that I’m watching a similar battle play out with a loved one, this interpretation seems even more relevant.

Frodo is given the Ring (the mental illness) by his uncle as part of his “inheritance,” a “gift” from someone who struggles to get rid of it. Mental illness is often caused or triggered both by genetic (family) predispositions to the disease along with environmental factors. The cliché of a psychologist asking about the father and mother exists for a reason: the mental patterns created in childhood and adolescence can directly lead to mental illness in our teenaged and adult years.


Frodo knows the Ring should be destroyed, and sets off with his friends to accomplish this task. It’s constantly luring him and calling to him to use it, and he gives in as often as not. When he does on Weathertop, the Ringwraith stabs him and nearly kills him. Even after he’s healed, he will carry the scars of the wound for the rest of his life. So too does mental illness lead its sufferers to making awful, self-destructive choices that often leave scars long after the wounds (physical or mental) have healed.

Fast-forward to the Two Towers and Return of the King, when Frodo meets up with Gollum. Gollum is the person who never dealt with or escaped from his illness: he still fights it, even at Frodo’s insistence, but can never overcome it. The scene with Gollum talking to himself by the pool at night, with the “good” Gollum telling the “evil” Gollum to go away, and the “evil” Gollum saying “you need me—I’ll be back”—always struck me as a perfect interpretation of struggling with my own depressive voice. Confession: this scene has brought me to tears more than once because it so perfectly matches how that conversation goes in my head.


And now that I see someone struggling with another inner voice that’s constantly telling this person how awful he or she is, and how easy it is to give in to the self-destructive behavior that voice is telling this person to do, this scene has taken on an even more poignant meaning for me.

The fight against that voice is always an internal one, and the tragedy of mental illness is that, like Sam, the only thing friends and family members can do is support the person struggling with the Ring. We can never carry it for our Frodos. Sometimes we can carry our Frodos, but the Ring is theirs alone. We have to watch as our Frodos struggle with making that choice, even on the ledge inside Mount Doom, when the Ring’s extinction burst will be strongest. We can talk, support, and encourage, but ultimately the choice to cast the Ring into the fire is theirs and theirs alone.

And, like Frodo, even if they make the choice, they will be forever changed by the struggle to get to that ledge. They’ll be older, scarred, and have put their lives on hold for the journey to Mordor. And all we can do is ride the eagles back home with them and be there as they recover.

Then, even if our Rings are discarded, the illness can still come back. Imagine if every few months (or years) Frodo found the Ring sitting by the fire again, and had to go on a shorter (or longer) quest to ditch it. Sometimes the quest never ends, even if Sam is ready to go with him a second, third, or tenth time.

The good news is that from my personal experience it is possible to toss that Ring into Mount Doom and be rid of it, and when it comes back, you already know the way and have the tools you need at your disposal so the quest can be easier the next time around.

A small consolation, but an important one.

Frodo and SamThis time, I am not Frodo. I am Sam. Frodo is someone I love, and someone else I love is Sam again, having already done Sam once before.

It’s tough being Frodo, and it’s tough being Sam.

But guess what: I’ll be with you until the end, Frodo.

A Friend Died This Morning

Posted: September 16, 2014 in friends

A friend of mine died this morning. Yesterday, he was hit by a car while he was walking his dog in his neighborhood. He suffered severe head injuries, was flown to Harborview in Seattle, and passed away this morning.

Kyle was the only client I’ve ever had, in ten-plus years of agency life, who I wanted to carry on a friendship with after our professional need to connect ended. We kept in touch after I moved to London and as he navigated through Microsoft, and after I returned, we met every month or two for coffee and chat. Comics, movies, jobs. He gave me some great advice before Zoe moved up here about being a father. He mentored me (even when he didn’t realize it) about my own career, and was waiting enthusiastically to read my novel.

I was supposed to meet him for coffee this Friday at 8am.

Kyle always had an easy laugh; he loved life, loved his family, and loved his friends. He made Christmas mix CDs for people every year and mailed them, free of charge, to anyone who wanted one. His posting that track list on Facebook was one way to know it was the holidays.

He and I differed in political ideology, but he wasn’t the kind of person to paint anyone with broad strokes; he was respectful and was a constant reminder that people could have vastly different opinions but still be amazing human beings you’d want to have a beer with.

The world lost a good person far too soon. My friend, I wish you could see the outpouring of affection and support from all the people’s lives you’ve touched in your time here. It’s like one of your favorite movies – you know which one. The world is a better place for you having been in it, and your positivity and sense of humor had a profound effect on everyone around you.

You will be missed, my friend. Thank you for everything.

I’ll keep that coffee date and grab you a cup.

Trigger warnings: sexism, and some discussion of rape and suicide.

There’s an important conversation happening in the gaming community right now. I won’t recap it here: there are plenty of other sites that can give you a rundown on “Gamers Gate” (I refuse to use the hashtag).

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched people I used to respect stand up for those who would silence women who continue to point out ongoing sexism and gender bias in the games industry, and among the larger gaming community. I’ve seen celebrities I used to admire claim that these women are simply blowing things out of proportion, or aren’t representing both sides equally.

And yet, reading through the vast IRC logs from 4chan where it’s becoming increasingly obvious that a handful of people decided to organize a classic FUD campaign disguised as “debate” and fair and balanced representation, there’s no desire for equality. There’s so much shouting down these women and absolutely zero listening to their complaints and acknowledging that this gender bias still exists.

So let me say a few things, unequivocally and without explanation.

Becoming the father of a 16-year-old girl overnight opens your eyes to the young age at which sexism and gender bias, harassment and bullshit that women in our society (not just the games industry) deal with on a daily basis. #YesAllWomen indeed.

Games may have once been the refuge for those of us who suffered at the hands of the heteronormative jock-types in high school, but they’ve now become mainstream. We won! This is something to celebrate, not a reason to become insular and exclusive just because we were picked on and found refuge here.

Gamers (and yes, I won’t drop that terminology quite yet), by their nature, should be inclusive. Why would we ever want to exclude people excited by our hobby? There is no good reason to ever exclude anyone from games, or to create a hostile environment for anyone.

If you’re using the term “social justice warrior” as an insult, you should seriously rethink your position. Name me one time in American history when someone working for social justice has been on the wrong side of a social issue.

When a woman says that gamer culture is hostile, our first reactions shouldn’t be any of the following:

  • “But I”m not!” – It doesn’t matter if you are or not. This isn’t about you, dipshit, it’s about her and how she feels.
  • “This should be a safe place for men to act like we want.” No, it should be a safe place for everyone to do something they like.
  • “But what I like is to be a gamerbro, so this is a double standard if I have to change!” Wrong. If what you really want is to be a sexist asshole, then go do it with other people  who feel the same way and leave gaming behind you. If you enjoy something at the expense of other people’s feelings, there is something wrong with you. Seek professional help.

A woman’s sex life is her own fucking business. Implying that a woman is somehow worth less because she had consensual sex with several partners is slut-shaming, pure and simple. Implying that a woman who has consensual sex with several partners devalues her in any way reinforces gender bias and sexism. Period.

The 4chan IRC logs show conversations where this very small group of people talk about how they wish the woman at the center of this controversy would simply kill herself. They talk about emailing naked pictures of her to friends and family. They talk about raping her, and how they wish someone else would rape her.

Another blogger wrote that this is not what debate looks like. When you’re engaged in an intellectual conversation, if this is what you post, you’ve already lost, because it’s not about intellectualism at all. It’s about your inability to see the inherent sexism in what you’re doing (or, worst-case scenario, you’re embracing it.)

Cherry-picking posts from around the Internet showing people reacting to these statements by saying “these people should be locked up!” or “burn the place down” does not indicate a double-standard on the part of the larger community.

When ISIS beheads a journalist, it’s normal for people who don’t think such an act is OK to say “holy fuck, these guys are animals and should be stopped, if that means locking them up and killing them.”

The 4chan logs show gaming’s equivalent of ISIS cutting a journalist’s head off.

It’s OK to call someone out for being a sociopathic asshole for wishing someone would kill herself, or wishing she would be raped. That seems like a natural reaction, whether it’s some 4channer or some ISIS militant.

Communities have both the right and the responsibility to dictate minimum standards of conduct within their communities. For the gaming community, that means not slut-shaming women, ending sexism and gender bias, and no longer tolerating those who would take pleasure in a person being raped or committing suicide.

The saddest part of this whole debacle has been how successful the FUD campaign has been in convincing some otherwise reasonable people that there is something to debate here, or pretending that the 4chan side isn’t about gender bias and sexism. Or, if you’d like, in revealing that what appear to be otherwise reasonable people are simply looking for a way to continue a certain kind of bias (or reinforcing their own privilege).

You want this to be about debate? Fine. Stop defending this pocket of assholes.

Stop defending, period.

Start listening.

Download the most recent version of The First Hundred: A Drama System Series Pitch

Free RPG supplement alert: I adapted the premise of one of my favorite science fiction series (the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson) to a series pitch for Robin D. Laws‘ Drama System RPG. Drama System is a mechanics-light narrative RPG system where the GM and players take part in a collaborative storytelling session (or series of sessions). The “series” is the setting or scenario–think “TV show series” like Carnivale or The Walking Dead.

This “pitch” is designed for groups that would want to run a series based on the premise that one hundred scientists are sent to Mars to form the vanguard of the colonization of the red planet. From the pitch:

One hundred scientists from all over the world embark on a one-way mission to establish the first permanent human settlement on Mars. Their decisions about design, social structure, and use of Martian resources pave the way for the development of Martian society and future waves of colonists seeking new opportunities on the red planet.

Your journey to Mars awaits. How will you shape the future of space colonization?

Graphic design and layout for The First Hundred by Daniel Held.

Download the Most Recent Version of the Crescent City Quickstart

So here’s a blast from the past: Crescent City (the quickstart version anyway.) This was an RPG system I wrote for a long-gone PDF anthology called Beyond the Storm that pulled together a bunch of RPG authors and people in the games industry for contributions, and then sold copies for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Naturally, I was paid nothing to write this system.

I really like the idea of using a tarot deck for resolution mechanics, because tarot and its symbolism starts to bring some very natural, Campbellian symbolism into the game through the imagery of the major arcana and the names of many of the cards. It lends itself to a magical realistic world-that is, a world that is mostly mundane but the suggestion of mythic, magical connections lies just on the fringes. Tarot is, of course, completely mundane, but the lizard parts of our brain love to suggestion that maybe, just maybe, there’s something else going on with those cards.

I always intended to do more with this game (like, say, publish it and include a pack of tarot cards in a bag with the book that I’d sell to game stores-just ask my wife, a box of shitty Miss Cleo tarot card decks sat unused in our garage for years.)

This game was heavily influenced by the popular Indie RPGs of the early 2000s: My Life with Master, Dogs in the Vineyard, and so forth. Reading through the rules again there is quite a bit of their legacy here.

So here’s Crescent City. Enjoy. I doubt I’ll ever get back to doing anything with it, but there you go.

Writing About Writing

Posted: February 5, 2013 in creativity, writing

The last couple of months have been some of the most productive in my life in terms of creative writing. I changed jobs, and planned to get back into writing for National Novel Writing Month. I’d had an idea for a book I was kicking around for a while—sort of a Cormac McCarthy-meets-Gabriel Garcia Marquez set in the Old American West—and I planned the whole thing out and started writing my masterpiece.

I washed out of NaNoWriMo well short of my word count. Before Christmas, I stared at my 36,000 words and tried to find the motivation to keep going.

Then I had an idea for a story. A “wouldn’t it be cool if?” sort of thing, much more wacky action movie than Great American Novel. But I wrote a scene, then another, then realized the story was there just waiting to come out.

This last weekend, I finished at a little more than 62,000 words, all written between January 8 and February 2 (although I officially wrapped Draft 1 on January 31.)

In the last several weeks, I’ve realized a few things about how I write. These may apply to how you write or the might not—I don’t know. This may be Universal Truths for me, or they may only apply to my life such as it is in February of 2013—I don’t know. But here we go.

1. Write what you want to write. For a long time, I was hung up on being some strange combination of Stephen King, Vladimir Nabokov, and Cormac McCarthy. On some level this is natural. Artists see other people’s work and sometimes think one of two (polar opposite) things:

  • “Holy fuck this is fantastic and I want to do something of this level of brilliance.”
  • “Holy fuck this is awful, and I could do so much better!”

We take something away from the first, and the second gives us a threshold to aim above.

Part of my realization was that I wanted financial independence or security (I ought to be paid to make art full time! Also I hate sweating the bills each month!), but I also wanted recognition (I want people to feel the exact same way about something I wrote, that I feel about Nabokov or Rushdie or McCarthy!) Add to that the middle-class feeling that if recognition of brilliance, then financial security. In other words, if I’m so amazing, people ought to see that and of course give me moneys.

It took ten years to realize how wrong that is on so many levels. The world just doesn’t work that way. It never has, and it never will, and I’m not sure where this myth even comes from.

My rambling point here is that I kept trying to write something that fulfilled one or both of these two things. It had to be brilliant. It had to make a difference. If someone didn’t read what I wrote and come away feeling motivated, inspired, or changed, it was failure. And if I wasn’t making enough money to be financially secure doing it, it was a failure. Whenever I felt like I wasn’t doing that, I felt like my writing was failing.

Even the book I started for NaNoWriMo fell into this category. It was going to be a brilliant piece of Magical Realistic Western literature, like 100 Years of Solitude meets Lonesome Dove.

I realized I didn’t want to write that book. I wanted to write something fun.

So I started a story about two cowboy con-artists who resurrect the recently-deceased from town graveyards with a zombie serum developed by the Russians during the Napoleonic invasion, and used in the final days of the Confederacy as a last-ditch effort to try to win the civil war. The cowboys then kill the zombies in exchange for a payout, then move on to the next town.

Who knows? Maybe this will end up being life-changing to someone. I don’t know. Some of the books, games, comics, and so forth that inspired me as a kid weren’t intended to be Great Artistic Statements when they were created. It was just someone doing what they wanted to do, and making the very best thing they could.

So there’s #1. I’m not King or Nabokov or McCarthy. I’m just the very best me I can be. If you want to read what I write, awesome. If not, awesome.

2. The Write Time and Place. It turns out I can’t just write anywhere. I can write in some strange places, but there have to be barriers and boundaries. I don’t mean that I can only write on certain kinds of desks or in total silence or in the woods or anything like that. In fact, my guess would be that I’m way less OCD about this than some other writers. I have learned a couple of particular things about myself though.

I can’t really write in the evening. Anything I produce past 8 or 9pm takes forever and just doesn’t read very well.  I’m decent in the early morning, great after 2-3 cups of coffee, decent in the afternoon, but after dinner my mind’s turning off and I want to relax. If I get into the zone late at night, then chances are I’m not going to sleep.

I also can’t write at work. I write for work, so I don’t mean I can’t physically do it—I mean that I’ve mindfully been keeping the actual execution of my creative project separate from my job. On one level this is a conscious choice about keeping my job separate from my personal life (more on that in a minute). On another level, it’s because I’ve worked on creative projects at jobs in the past and it doesn’t really work well, because inevitably your real work suffers.

3. The Write Job. My job (my 9-5) involves a lot of writing. It’s also the first time in about ten years where I work a job that “ends” at the door.

Last October, I realized that my old job had burned me out to the point of ineffectiveness. I was waking up at 6 (if I slept much at all), opening my work computer, checking my email, and more often than not starting Skype conversations with my colleagues on the east coast. I’d then work until 7 or 8 at night, and check email until I went to bed anywhere between 10 and 11. My cellphone was my workphone, and even if I didn’t have my work computer, my email was on my phone.

It never turned off, ever.

I’m not discouraging anyone from this kind of lifestyle, but I had reached my own personal breaking point. Something had to give.

I’m convinced that if I had not left I would not have been writing nearly as much as I have since November. I’d probably still be sitting here frustrated and maybe writing some jerkoff shit that no one was going to read or care about, about social media marketing.

Instead I’m writing about cowboys shooting zombies in the face!

4. Fill your time with good stuff. My wife and I don’t watch much TV. We go out of our way to eat dinner at the table most nights and talk to each other. We manage it 3 or 4 times a work-week most weeks. That has been a very conscious choice on our part, because time is limited, and we’d rather spend it with each other than in each other’s presence when we’re doing something else (IE, watching TV.) We play board games, drink wine, hang out by the fire in the winter and on the back porch in the summer.

My point is that we’ve very mindfully tried to occupy ourselves with good things. Since our time is limited, we’ve tried to spend it doing things that are meaningful. My own time is spent playing games or reading books, and I’ve become very selective about both. I don’t waste hours grinding out achievements anymore. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy that, but it’s just not how I want to spend my time.

This was a big learning for me, because doing things that nourish and stimulate the mind has given me the headspace to start thinking about things more abstractly, and I swear has stimulated the creative process. I’ll admit my evidence is circumstantial, but it certainly makes sense.

5. This should be fun. One last nugget: writing should be fun. Not that it won’t be hard at certain points, but ultimately storytelling should be an enjoyable experience. That was part of the problem with all the other stuff I tried to write: it wasn’t fun. There were elements of fun in it, but when I stopped having fun telling the story and just turned it into a grind, it lost its appeal to me as a writer. As a result, the story suffered, and I eventually abandoned the project.

The great part about the cowboys-killing-zombies project is that it’s been fun to work out front to back. There have been hard elements to write, but for the most part, I’m excited to get back to it each day. I’m looking forward to telling more of the story because I kind of want to know how it turns out, and I have been having a blast coming up with ideas and jokes and fun stuff on the fly.

So that’s what I’ve figured out in the last few weeks about how I work and write.

It’ll be interesting to come back to this in a year and see how much of this still holds true.

The Great 2012 Twitpocalypse

Posted: November 15, 2012 in Twitter

I haven’t used Twitter with any regularity for the last couple of years. Every time I’d open Tweetdeck, it was an endless parade of headlines to irrelevant news stories, retweets of some social media guru or another, or a river of stuff I didn’t care about.

I followed about 1800 people. Most of them were professional contacts from earlier parts of my life, either bloggers, PR / social media folks, or old clients. Here and there were friends or people whose opinions I valued-but that was byfar the exception.

So I realized it was time for a purge.

I spent the bus ride home last night, a bit of the evening, and the last part of my lunch hour today purging the people I follow on Twitter. I planned a post about the criteria for whether I kept someone, but I realized I could summarize it with this phrase:

If the content you produce is somehow relevant to me, then I’m still following you.

If I unfollowed you then please don’t take this to mean I don’t like you (except in a few instances, but I’ll keep those to myself.) It’s just that the content you’re producing isn’t what I’m interested in. I’m not doing digital PR anymore. I don’t live in London anymore. I am writing a lot of fiction and games, and I’m still interested in what a select few people have to say about the development of the Internet as a social platform, and I care about what my friends are saying. Apart from that, I’m glad to have trimmed my follow count down significantly.

I started with 1800. Now I’m at 394.

Let’s see if this makes Twitter relevant again.

This is the blog post I tried four times to write prior to the 2012 election. Now that it’s called and the dust has settled, I think I can finally put what I’ve been feeling into words.

This is not a post about gloating. It’s a post about my feelings about the modern Republican party, and the politics of division. It’s my appeal to bring back the party of Barry Goldwater and ditch the party of Robertson, Buchanan and Bachmann.

And because every political conversation I’ve had online in the last several months has inevitably resulted in some clown misrepresenting who I am and what I believe, let me get the “manifesto” part out first:

  • I’m socially liberal. Hopefully that’s not a surprise. I believe in allowing women choices in reproductive rights, in giving everyone equal rights regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or creed. Or lack thereof.
  • I believe we have a responsibility as a society to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. I feel that a society should be judged on how it treats its poor, its infirm and disabled, its mentally and physically ill. Sometimes that means we’re going to end up paying for things that will never offer a return on investment (health care and housing for a permanently disabled or mentally ill person.) Sometimes it means giving people a nudge so they can pick up and start helping themselves.
  • In my past, I have been a social worker in a predominantly poor, African-American part of Tulsa. (If you don’t think segregation is alive and well, take a drive north of Admiral in T-town.)
  • I have also lived in the United Kingdom and experienced socialized (socialised?) health care and low-income housing firsthand, something most Americans cannot say.
  • I identify with neither political party, and have voted for candidates from both in every election in wich I’ve voted (at least, I’m pretty sure that’s the case.) I definitely did in this election. Not on the national level perhaps, but certainly on the state and local level. More on that below.
  • I personally feel the two-party system is unhealthy and permanently screwed up. I participate in it grudgingly because right now it’s the only system we have and I respect my freedom to participate in any system at all.
  • However, I actively campaign to attempt to change it.
  • At a fundamental level, I believe that communities will govern themselves best from a bottom-up approach: active participants in a neighborhood can govern themselves, which ratchets up to the community level, then to the county, then to the state, and finally the federal government, which ought to be as small and non-involved as possible in our daily lives, although it has its place in other things.
  • I am not religious, but do not begrudge anyone their beliefs as long as those beliefs are not foisted on others. I simply ask for the same respect in return.

Now that you know where I’m coming from, this is where I’m going. The Republican party has issues. Big issues. I have several friends and family members who are party members, and this is my way of imploring them to look for ways to enact some serious change in your party.

I was a potential swing voter in this election. That’s right, you could have had me! I went all-in for Obama in 2008 but was disappointed with his first term on several levels. I’m not sure the economy is on the right track, and I thought Obamacare was a misplaced priority.  But as it stands I will not consider the Republican party until the party of Goldwater and Eisenhower is back. My list of recommendations. Think of this is a customer feedback if that helps put it into context for you.

  • This is not the party of Lincoln anymore. It’s not the party of Goldwater either. Goldwater preached fiscal conservativism with social liberalism (or libertarianism). Religion was not a huge part of his platform apart from the preservation of the right to believe as you choose. There’s a reason Martin Luther King was a Republican until JFK pulled off one of the greatest political coups in history.
  • You have to recognize that this is not the current state of your party. At the 1994 convention Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan began the slide to appeal to the religious right – traditionally Democrat southerners disenfranchised by the passage of the Civil Rights Act by Johnson–in an effort to make inroads in the House and Senate, and set themselves up for retaking the White House. Congratulations, it worked! But the party has been railroaded by this element, made even worse by what the Tea Party has evolved into, and Mitt Romney, who should have been a Goldwater-style conservative, was forced to appeal to that element to try to bolster their support. In so doing, he lost voters like me forever. And the election. Oops.
  • Please stop glorifying ignorance. If you’ve got a guy who thinks the Earth is only 6000 years old, don’t put him on the House Science committee. If you’ve got candidates who actually think that legitimate rape can’t result in a pregnancy, kindly ask them to change their party affiliation. You can only fix these problems from inside, not outside. Goldwater’s fiscal policies were based on study, fact, science and reason. Don’t eschew those things to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
  • This goes for willful ignorance of facts. Climate change is real. Denying it is becoming a joke. Watching Karl Rove argue with Fox News after the called the election for Obama was like watching Baghdad Bob claim they were going to crush America even as the tanks rolled through the background. Your party has a major issue with facts: if they don’t confirm what you believe, whether you call it your “gut instinct” or “religious teachings” or whatever–you can’t simply stick your head in the sand and expect it to go away. Nate Silver didn’t predict Obama winning the election because he’s a liberal who hates Romney, he did it because he look at an analyzed data. This is how we’re going to have to live in the 21st century. The age of ignoring fact and data in favor of bias (or worse, claiming facts are biased and your bias isn’t) is over. Please realize this and move on.
  • Recognize that Fox News exists solely to motivate people through sowing discord, and that the Republican Party talking points these days are finely honed to excite those people as well. Again – it’s not working out for you. Bring the rhetoric back to Earth please. Obama isn’t a socialist, he’s an American citizen, and we’re all tired of hearing otherwise. If anything, you’re distracting from honest criticism that might have won you the election.
  • (Most) liberals don’t think you’re a bunch of mustache-twirling villains ready to deny people rights and tie America to some train tracks. I think that your leadership has been great at misleading you in an effort to gain power and make a ton of money, but that’s hardly on you. Just see it for what it is, and change it.
  • Speaking of rhetoric, if someone disagrees with you and offers facts that contradict your beliefs, they’re not bullying you or being mean to you. If someone is asking for equal rights for all, that does not infringe on your rights. Claiming either of those things makes you sound like a petulant child who isn’t getting his way. If someone’s challenging your beliefs, use logic and reason to defend them. If you can’t, it’s not your challengers fault. Take responsibility for your reactions to this conundrum. Own them. It’s how we all improve as people after all.
  • The Tea Party has got to go. It was initially a great movement that helped sparked national conversation about the awful fiscal policies of George W. Bush and the 2000-2006 Republican congress. Now it has devolved into something resembling a crazy militia movement from the mid-1990s after it was co-opted by the southern right. People like Michelle Bachmann are embarrassing not just to your party but to America as a whole. You know what the Occupy movement has been up to? Leading Hurricane Sandy relief in New York City, and be some accounts doing a better job of it than FEMA. Or keeping libraries in Seattle open. What’s the Tea Party done lately apart from lose you an election? Ditch them. Make them be a third party and see if their beliefs will stand up in that context. Goodness knows we need viable third parties anyway.

One last note before we go: we’re all Americans here, and we’re all in this together. At our cores we’re here because of freedoms we all love: the freedoms to speak and be ourselves. The idea here was that it’s not just our side vs. your side. Or liberal vs. conservative. Or good vs. evil, or whatever. This goes back to that community thing: the only way we’ll fix this and make it better is to work together.

Listen to customer feedback. Adjust your product. There are people out there waiting to buy if they like what they see.

See you in 2016 guys.