Some thoughts on dead baby jokes

I don’t know anyone who’s never heard or told dead baby jokes (crude, very simple jokes designed to evoke an emotional reaction of disgust along the lines of “What’s the difference between a truckload of bowling balls and a truckload of dead babies? You can’t unload bowling balls with a pitchfork!”). I told them myself when I was young; they seem to be a staple of American culture.

Or rather, that part of American culture that’s between, say, ten years of age and fourteen years of age. When you get above a certain age, dead baby jokes abruptly cease to be a part of your social landscape.

Over the last several days, ladytabitha has been sharing very creepy pictures of spiders with me. I know that the links she’s sending me will take me to creepy pictures of spiders; I’m not especially fond of spiders; yet I look at them anyway.

But I didn’t come here to talk about dead baby jokes or spiders. I came here to talk about the nature of reality.

To some extent, everyone constructs an illusion about the world we live in. We all like to feel safe, secure, and protected, and the reality is that none of these things is ever really true; a drunk driver, a careless mechanical engineer, or a religious extremist with heaven on his mind can intrude into our lives without warning at any moment, no matter where we may be.

It’s impossible for a person who is constantly in fear to function. So we build a set of emotional defenses, or construct an illusion of safety, that protects us emotionally; this illusion serves us because the fact is, the odds of a sudden and guesome death in a stadium collapse or at the hands of a terrorist, while not zero, are extremely small.

But we’re still fascinated by those things that frighten, disgust, or shock us.

That fascination takes many forms. When we’re young and unsophisticated, we tell dead baby jokes–which, crude as they are, are a mechanism for probing that simultaneous fascination and disgust. When we’re older, we watch Nightmare on Elm Street. As we become still more sphisticated, we read about Nazi atrocities and turn Stephen King into a cultural phenomenon.

Is it genetic? Is it hard-wired into us? I think it is.

The world is not always a pleasant placel there’s plenty within it that’s gruesome and horrifying. That fascination, I think, is an evolutionary adaptation; we’re fascinated by what’s repulsive because we live in a world where these things exist, and we need an emotional mechanism to deal with them. Without that compelling fascination, we would simply seek to avoid these things–stripping us of the tools to handle them when they happen.

So we tell dead baby jokes, and look at spiders, and read Stephen King, and develop a sort of gallows humor about it all. In the end, laughing at the Void does help protect us from it.

One step closer to the line…

NEW ORLEANS — It’s a groundbreaking court decision that legal experts say will affect everyone: Police officers in Louisiana no longer need a search or arrest warrant to conduct a brief search of your home or business.

Full story here.

Is it my imagination, or do we take one step toward totalitarianism with each passing day?

Nothing to see here…move along…

So much going on in my life right now, and I don’t really have the time or energy to document it, so just a quick drive-by…

– I downloaded all of Red Hat over the past few days–took two days even on cable. (Teir server is slow.) Now I just need a new hard drive for one of my ‘pooters and I can start porting Onyx over to Linux. Hey, even Linux geeks like kinky sex!

– Every time I’m online these days, someone IMs me with “a/s/l?” It’s getting really, really annoying. I mean every time. Where are these people finding my screen name??

– I skipped going in to the office on Friday because it was such a beyootiful day out I couldn’t bear the thought of being at the office working on Web pages for building control companies. So what did I do instead? Sat in fornt of my computer at home and played video games. *sigh* At least lightgatherer came over yesterday and played with me…which was good, as I missed a LAN party I’d been looking forward to. šŸ™

ladytabitha keeps emailing me links to the creepiest pictures of spiders on the Net. That’s a lot of creep, boyz n girls. I used to think the Internet was the world’s largest repository of anonymous slandering and pr0n; now I know better. It’s the world’s largest repository of anonymous slandering, pr0n, and creepy pictures of spiders. I’m going to have a phobia by the time she’s done.

– And speaking of which… ladytabitha == all kinds of crunchy goodness. Now with 37% more spider bits!

Secret Window is a very good, if creepy and somewhat nasty, bit of moviemaking. Who knew Johnny Depp could act?

PolyTampa today. That is all.

– [Edit] Edited this entry a half-dozen times already to fix typing mistakes…grr.

Poly-related musings

(From a reply to a post in polyamory)

People in the poly community will often tell you that the #1 requirement for a poly relationship is communication.

That’s true, as far as it goes, but it’s not really the most important rule of making polyamory work. It’s vital, it’s absolutely necessary, but it beginsa bit before that.

There’s one lesson about poly relationships that really ought to be Rule #0; it is, in my experience, the single most important rule of any poly relationship, but also the one people–even people with lots of experience–most often screw up:

Let your relationships be what they are. Do not force them to fit a shape that is not natural for them. Do not box them, cage them, or try to impose an arbitrary form on them.

You see poly people make this mistake all the time. It may take one of several forms.

The first, and most common, is attempting to enforce an arbitrary distinction: “I already have A Primary Relationship(tm), so I will make sure that from now on I have only Secondary Relationships(tm).” Just as it is impossible to force a casual relationship to be deep, so is it impossible to force a deep relationship to be casual; and trying to do so tends to hurt everyone involved–usually, the person required to be “secondary.” (In fact, such an arbitrary distinction tends to be rather cruel on anyone coming into an established relationship; when it works, it works by accident, not because the structure makes it work.)

The second, only slightly more common, version of this mistake: “I’m poly, but I absolutely will not let my partner see anyone who is not seeing me as well. Anyone who wants to date one of us dates both of us.” In real life, outside of Hot Bi Babe(tm) fantasies, relationships and connections form between different people at different rates, and relationships take on different shapes; expecting a relationship involving three people to develop at the same rate and in the same way all around is kind of foolish. In fact, those couples rarely find their Hot Bi Babe(tm), because real-life Hot Bi Babes(tm) want to be treated as human beings, not as sex toys and not as pets. (It often seems that the couple searching for the Hot Bi Babe(tm) wants someone willing to pack up and move across the country to be with them, promise not to make any waves or upset any applecarts, and who will go away without a fuss if he or she becomes a problem.)

Another classic mistake people in poly relationships often make: Expecting newcomers to the relationship not to change anything, not to make any ripples, and not to have any real impact in their day-to-day lives. Such people want external relationships provided they are tidy and convenient, but God help anyone who has any real needs! However, that’s a rant I’ll save for another time.

Draft of a Constitutional Amendment to Defend Biblical Marriage

As certain politicians work diligently to prevent marriage between two people of the same sex, others of us have been busy drafting a Constitutional Amendment codifying all marriages entirely on Biblical principles. After all, God wouldn’t want us to “pick and choose” which of the Scriptures we elevate to civil law and which we choose to ignore:

Draft of a Constitutional Amendment to Defend Biblical Marriage:

* Marriage in the United States of America shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5.)

* Marriage shall not impede a man’s right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

* A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

* Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30, 2Cor 6:14)

* If a married man dies without children, his brother must marry the widow. If the brother refuses to marry the widow, or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen.38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

* In lieu of marriage (if there are no acceptable men to be found), a woman shall get her father drunk and have sex with him. (Gen 19:31-36)

I hope this helps to clarify the finer details of the Government’s righteous struggle against the infidels and heathens among us.

Paul R. Ehrlich
Bing Professor of Population Studies
President, Center for Conservation Biology
Department of Biological Sciences
Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305