How Logic’s Supposed To Work/How It Actually Is Used. (Warning: Pointing Out Of Conservative Flaws Ensues.)

The traditional view of logic is that people look at the facts and use them to build a theory that fits all the facts. Which is why logic, when used correctly, is probably the best tool we have for finding the truth.

But unfortunately, logic can be bent to justify emotion – and, I’d argue, that’s how it’s usually employed.

Take masks.

There was a little doubt in the beginning whether wearing masks was useful in preventing the spread of COVID-19, but as time has ticked on the evidence has become increasingly pro-mask. Are masks perfect? No. They’re like condoms. A lot of the success depends on them being used correctly, they do not provide perfect safety even when used perfectly, but in general the more people wearing masks, the slower the spread of the disease.

Now, this is not an attack against everyone who’s skeptical of masks. Some medical professionals have studied the data extensively, come to their own opinions. (Me? I’ve spent roughly 15-20 hours just studying mask efficiency, listening to pandemic-focused professionals, and I’m pretty sure anyone who’s scorning masks now is wrong – but I’m also open to the fact that maybe more information could change the course of my path.) It’s entirely possible to use logic properly and come to two different conclusions.

But if you hated masks to begin with…

Part of the resistance is, of course, political. Modern conservatives, which is to say the ones in power, no longer identify themselves by any stable ideology. They currently define themselves as “Whatever liberals hate,” or, more properly, a philosophy of, “Owning libs” – whatever, or however, bad that may be.

All you have to do to see that is watch the spread of the pandemic. Originally, it was “We must save every life we can,” but unfortunately modern conservatism is so steeped in liberal opposition that joining forces to save lives started to make them itch like a rash. And so soon enough, you had conservatives going, “We can’t be in favor of saving lives because that’s what liberals do!” and sure enough, the message mutated to “People should be proud to die to keep our economy going.”

Likewise: masks. For about four or five weeks, it was like “Hey, wearing masks is good,” but then enough liberals started wearing masks that conservatives came to resent looking like liberals… and, inevitably, there came a backlash of “Muh freedoms!” that led to conservatives shucking their masks to protect their identities as “Not-liberals.”

And what you’re frequently seeing when conservatives try to justify not wearing masks is logic being used to justify emotion. Because you’ll see ’em pulling out all kinds of comparisons that seem logical, but don’t actually function in real life – “The CO2 buildup is toxic!” Yes, that’s why surgeons routinely pass out in the middle of long operations. “The mask is too porous to prevent viruses from passing through!” But it’s not too porous to prevent most drops of spittle from passing through, the spittle in which the virus is contained. And, of course, the inevitable “I can smell farts through a mask, so obviously a mask can’t help.”

These are all facts that seem pretty good at first blush, but each of them are pretty easily disproven. And you’d think that once you dismantled those facts, these folks would acknowledge that they were wrong and change their mind.

Problem is, they’re not using logic to come to conclusions, they’re starting with an emotional conclusion (“I do not like masks”) and piling whatever facts they can find in front of them to justify that conclusion.

You can’t take away their facts. Either they’ll find new facts to justify their mask-hatred, or they’ll probably just ignore your disproving of the old facts because those facts were emotionally useful to them and no amount of logic will take them away.

That’s not to say that this usage of logic is an exclusively conservative one, of course; liberals do it, too. But it gets to be a problem in national debate when the fundamental thought behind conservative philosophy is “If the libs are for, I’m against,” and liberals think “Oh, they’re using logic to come to a conclusion, I’ll just talk them out of it through spirited debate!” Which is what mainstream America would like us to do, but unfortunately, it’s no longer possible.

I don’t have any grand conclusions here to fix America. Right now, the only consistent thing I see convincing mainstream conservatives of anything is “This will totally own the libs,” and it’s hard to have a working country when literally any solution we suggest, or even adopt (like, say, Romneycare, which was the conservative fix for health care) will eventually be reviled.

But in the short scale, what it means is that yes, facts are good. But beware of how people use facts. Because if you disprove a couple of their talking points and their attitude doesn’t shift, well, chances are that they’re actually not reachable.

It sucks, but that’s when you abandon or ban or ignore those folks, because – at least on this topic – you’re not equipped to get ’em out.

And if you’re one of those enraged “logic” users who’s screaming, “WHY IS NO ONE WILLING TO ENGAGE WITH ME?!?!”, well…. ponder that you may be that person, and the people who are blocking/ignoring/abandoning you are actually perfectly logical in refusing to engage with someone who’s never going to have their minds changed.

A Vital Key To Help Y’All Understand Toxic Masculinity

Yesterday, I linked to this article on “What Is It Like To Be A Man?“, which should actually be called “What is it like to be a man indoctrinated in harmful ideas about masculinity?” because holy shit I’ve never been through a third of what this dude has been through and I wouldn’t want to.

Benefits of friending the girls on the fourth-grade playground, I guess.

But at one point, he said something which some of my female friends took umbrage to:

“‘Men don’t have to think about how they look,’ says another coworker, also a woman, and I nod again. Then I realize, days later, that the reason the statement is still bugging me is that I am literally never not sore from the gym, because I am so concerned with looking a certain way.”

To which women said, not unreasonably, that men don’t pay attention to how they look – one in particular said she’d seen dudes showing up at interviews in a grimy hoodie, which was proof that dudes never had to think about appearances in the way that women do.

Which is true. They don’t.

But that doesn’t mean men – or, rather, these types of trad-masculine men – don’t think about appearances.

Because for those kinds of dudes, showing up at the interview (or anywhere, really) with their hair in a lime-green scrunchie or their fingernails painted a bright pink would be horrifying. It would be girly, and terrifying, and they would avoid it in the same way so many of them avoid picking up a package of tampons for their girlfriends because I can’t be seen like that.

(And if you’re readying your commenting fingers to say, “I don’t think like that!” then congratulations, you should recognize come the third mention of “These sorts of guys” that you apparently don’t fall into that category, good work you, but the fact that you’re not like these guys doesn’t negate the existence of these sorts of duderinos.)

For the trad-masculine men, what you have to realize is that they are dressing up to impress other men. They don’t care that much about the opinions of women; they assume that women are out to impress men, and that other men are also out to impress men. And as such, those sorts of dudes virtue-signal in a constant fashion by dressing according to a strict manly method that pretends to be effortless.

And don’t get me wrong: it is much less effort, because unlike women’s fashions the traditional-manly look doesn’t change from season to season. But it is a narrow range of looks, one that does not tolerate certain colors or hairstyles, and you step outside of it you’ll be noticed by the dudes. (Hell, even paying too much attention to your looks risks marking you as a metrosexual, which has an unsavory whiff of girly city boys. Ridiculous and bigoted as that is.)

Yet that’s the key: once you understand that those sorts of dudes are literally living their lives to impress other men, everything else snaps into focus. You’d think the incels could just clean up and get a nice girl, but no – they don’t actually want a girlfriend. What they want is a pornstar-perfect 10 they can parade around in front of other men to signal that they’ve got the status now, and the fact that said women require effort and change to land strikes them as being deeply unfair, in part because they’d have to attempt to impress someone other than men. Which, as noted, is not their point.

And likewise, in the article on that poor tortured dude, note how he’s enduring years of a miserable cross-country high school group where he doesn’t even like the other guys in it, but he’s afraid to be the one guy who drops out.

Note how there’s a lot of guys who get married simply because it’s what society – and by “society,” mean “the right type of guy” – thinks they should do, normally with mediocre results where they offload duties onto a wife and then wonder why their lives are stagnant.

Note how a lot of men don’t form emotional friendships with other men, because it’s hard to be open with someone you’re desperately seeking approval from, and as a result they swallow their feelings back to the point of suicide because the risk of losing whatever approval you had means so much more to them than the hope of connection.

It’s all about courting dudes. Which explains the problem with so much of traditional manliness – there’s only one type of person worth impressing, and that person is also probably fronting hard.

There’s all the other issues, too, and once you get past the grimy bits of this dude’s psyche he starts making some good points about how traditional masculinity claims to protect women, but doesn’t do a particularly good job at it. And so I’d advise a gander if you got it. (I don’t agree with his viewpoints 100%, but his experience is equally telling and unpleasant.)

But when you look at it, remember that this is why traditional masculinity is hard to define, and harder to reform into something that might be useful – it’s an illusion. It’s a shell game where men have been trained to only want to impress a certain type of man, and that man is probably faking it to some significant degree to impress someone else.

If you don’t fall into the category, you don’t count. Even if you’re a potential employer. Or a lover. Or a savior. Your redemption will come when other dudes look upon you and, if you’re lucky, give you a discreet nod.

And that’s all you can hope for. And man, I hope it’s enough for you.

I Hate Condoms, And I Hate Masks.

Yet whenever I don’t want to put on a condom or a mask, I remember something I told my daughter – a philosophy that’s only gotten truer with each passing year:

Being a grownup is largely defined by your ability to do things that you don’t want to do.

It’s true. Filling out my taxes? I don’t wanna do that. Getting up at 8:00 every morning to work out, so my heart doesn’t clog up again? I don’t wanna do that. Having awkward conversations with lovers and friends about problems that will blow up if we don’t discuss ’em? I definitely don’t wanna do that.

But it turns out that learning to do things you don’t want to do makes your life a lot better.

Seriously. If there’s an overpowered skill in the game of life, it’s that. Pouring all your points into “Doing things you don’t want to do” will have you leveling up faster than everyone else. Your car registration will be taken care of, that novel you’ve been meaning to write will get done, you’ll be well-rested because you put yourself to bed at a reasonable hour.

But to get those benefits, you have to abandon the idea that “I don’t wanna” is a good reason not to do something.

So yeah. I’m not gonna bullshit you; sex is slightly less enjoyable for penis-owners with the condom on, and the masks are itchy and hot in the summer. But at the same time, you get to have a lot more, and safer, sex with the condom on, and you don’t risk infecting innocent people with hard-to-detect diseases with your mask and your condom on. (Though hopefully not worn in the same place, that’d be awkward.)

But to get that, you have to get to the point of being a grownup where you realize that “I can’t have everything I want” isn’t the same as “Then it’s not worth doing.” Sex is less enjoyable with a condom, but it’s still insanely fun. Mini-golf with a mask on isn’t as fun as mini-golf without the mask, but on the other hand you don’t have to worry about the putt-putt course being closed down due to a COVID outbreak.

Leave behind this idea that everything must a steady stream of perfectly maximized fun, and take on some goddamn responsibilities. Stop trying to sneak that condom off, or the mask off. Look at the bigger picture than your next shot of joy, and mitigate the risks both for you and for the people around you.

Be a grownup. It’s got benefits. Promise.

I’m Talking About Social Media On The KinkyCast!

Now, technically the KinkyCast is where you go to discuss all the kinky stuff in your life – which I have done in past episodes.

But hey, remember when I announced that I’d be cutting wayyyy back on social media because I didn’t think it was good for me?

Then remember that nasty little bug that waylaid the world, making travel and visiting friends all but impossible for sane people?

Yeah, I’ve been on social media a lot more as of late because that’s the only place I can see a lot of my friends, but I can’t say I’m happy about it – which is the sad point of social media. One of the things I say in this podcast is that if you spend two hours mired in a nasty argument with your relatives on Facebook, tearing apart once-beloved relationships and stressing because you can’t believe your aunt would do that…

All Facebook sees is “Two hours of committed user engagement.”

Social media doesn’t care how you engage, it just cares that you do engage. So what I wound up discussing on this podcast was all the tricks I’ve learned to handle nasty comments productively, how to avoid doom-scrolling, how to interact with people who aren’t actually there to interact.

(And since we’re talking technology, I also discussed my upcoming tech-fest romance book Automatic Reload for a bit near the end.)

Anyway, it turned out to be a really interesting discussion, in part because FetLife – the Facebook for Kinksters – is also experiencing a lot of growing pains because people are coming to realize that kink can’t be separated from politics, not effectively anyway, and that’s causing stress from people who go to Fet to get away from things.

So anyway… here I am. Listen up if you like. I think it’s one of the more interesting conversations I’ve had since the pandemic started.

Why The Last Of Us 2 Failed, Or: How Theme Matters.

(Spoilers to come, but not yet.)

It’s fucking weird to say “The Last Of Us 2 was a failure” when it’s sold more copies of anything that you, or I, or anyone you know will ever make. Judged purely in terms of “copies out the door,” The Last Of Us 2 is a fantastic success.

But in terms of “How happy are the people who bought Last of Us 2?”

Hooo boy.

Now, keep in mind that even aside from commercial success, artistic success is never perfect. You’re not gonna satisfy everyone. It’s more like a percentage: If, say, 70% of the people who saw your stuff liked it, then you’re doing really well. And I dislike the dialogue around tricksy stuff like, say, the latest Star Wars films, because whoever’s talking them down always goes “Everyone hated them” and it’s like no, lots of people liked them, please don’t dismiss the positive feedback just because you’re hauling in a bucketload of criticism.



The Last Of Us 2 is a story that’s really dreadfully constructed. It’s like the last season of Game of Thrones, where you can see what they wanted to do, but largely didn’t provide people with the emotional beats to get them to that place where they wanted.

And where did they fail? Theme, mostly. Everything else is good: the plot is there, the characterization is consistent (or could be, because characters are always evolving and we definitely could have bought way more people into Ellie making these decisions with the right setup), the dialogue is sharp.

But the theme that sells the story they wanted to tell?

It’s like they forgot.

So I’m gonna analyze it here, and talk about TLOU2 in-depth, and if you wanna exit out before I discuss anything spoilery here’s your option.








Okay. So let’s talk about the big elephant in the room: The Last Of Us 2 wants us to sympathize with the person who killed the person we played as for like 90% of the previous game. It wants us to sympathize with her so much that it literally halts the game at the climax of Ellie’s story and spends twelve goddamned hours forcing us to play as Abby.

The problem is, Abby’s theme isn’t compelling.

Abby is theoretically getting revenge at Joel because he killed her dad, who was trying to find a cure for the not-a-zombie fungus. Which is a legitimate take! Again, like the degraded Khaleesi, you could do a lot with that.

But Abby’s story is not about why she wanted revenge at Joel, which is a major goddamned problem. I mean, it certainly talks about it, but we don’t see that motivation driving her in any way outside of Joel – Abby’s basically a cold-hearted killing machine working for a cold-hearted militia, and her story is essentially “Abby learns to love thanks to a stray kid.”

Which doesn’t really explain why Abby turned out to be a beefed-up enthusiastic killer. Is she an idealist? Is she trying to smash her Daddy issues flat? Has she been shaped, unthinkingly, into a murder machine by the WLF after the Fireflies disbanded?

The game doesn’t really have an *opinion* on this.

And if the whole point of this game is “We want you to see both sides of this,” then thematically, Abby has to be a opposite to Joel in some form, not “pretty much the same as Joel.” Because we know Joel. Seeing his story thematically represented in Abby will undoubtedly work for some, but for many others – many, many others according to the user reviews – dwelling on Abby as “Like Joel, but womanlier” just reminds people of how much they liked Joel.

It’s a dangerous act that didn’t pull off.

And they have opportunities to differentiate! When Abby stumbles up her dad talking about the cure, she overhears another doctor saying “What if it was your child you had to sacrifice?”

And the game waffles. The Dad’s all like, “Well, you know, that’s different,” and then Joel kills him saving Ellie, and that’s about it.

That is a shitty way of approaching it. It’s basically saying, “Well, Joel had a good point” – which doesn’t make Abby’s murdering him feel like payback (particularly after Joel saves her from not-a-zombies), but just sort of senseless nastiness.

What if Abby had a point, though?

What if instead of shying away from the question, Abby’s dad had rallied? What if instead of backing off, he’d doubled down?

If Abby’s dad had been established as the polar opposite of Joel by saying, “If it was my child – no, let’s be specific, if it was Abby? And she was the only hope the entire world had for a cure, which right now, Ellie is? Damn straight I would sacrifice her. It’s our duty. How many friends have you lost to these bites? How many anguished people are staggering around in a hellish living nightmare, knowing they’ve become monsters as the cordyceps overrides their body but not their consciousness, eating their daughters and mothers?

“I would mourn my daughter. But the world is more important than any one girl. We have to take this shot.”

Thematically, that’s Joel’s opposite – and maybe it’s horrifying to hear a guy stanning for murdering his daughter, but done right it should be horrifying in the same way that Joel was willing to let everyone die to save his second kid.

And I maintain that if Abby had been inspired by that speech, that her whole goal was to selflessly subsume herself into the collective, that would have been a motivation we could have understood. We could have seen her not know what to do when the Fireflies – the world’s last hope, from her perspective – dissolved. We could have seen her very specific response to her friends dying to the cordyceps, which is to look at every zombie as someone she personally failed by not being as special as Ellie. We could have seen her sucked into the WLF’s fascist rhetoric because she’d be sacrificing part of her soul to save others, she hates killing but it’s necessary (unlike Joel, who went to it as a gleeful go-to)…

And when she finally stumbled across Joel, sure, she’d have a moment when she felt bad about it – that last, struggling remnant of her humanity – but everything else lined up into everything she was told she wanted, because the WLF wants this guy dead and Abby wants revenge on the guy who killed her father and the universe tells her this is who you’re meant to be….

Which, if the theme of TLOU2 is “Revenge will destroy you,” is actually the story that could be told. Because unlike Joel, Abby could be a hardass who is secretly breaking down underneath. That sacrifice could be more than “Her friends keep a distance,” but instead “Abby acting out more in an attempt to justify, until the point she can’t any more.”

But what did we get?

Rehashed Joel. And that did not go over well.

Likewise, for Ellie, the theme is “Revenge is bad,” but Ellie doesn’t have any choices that we can make. The game goes into a sadistic amount of detail showing exactly what it’s like to slit a woman’s throat or to beat a dog to death, but you have to do that to continue. There’s no non-violent options available to you, so your lack of choices doesn’t feel organic to most people – it feels like railroading.

And I wonder what would have happened if the game had leaned into that theme of “You’re just as bad as Ellie,” in a sort of Undertale way, by presenting off-ramps.

Like, what would have happened if you were given a choice to stop at some point? Like, Joel dies, you go back to town, you have a heartwarming talk with Dina… and you can choose, if you want, to give up the revenge.

And that revenge has actual costs. The game’s save erases itself then. You get to see how things turn out, but you don’t get to see the rest of the game. You don’t get the trophies, the full story, the full value or what you bought. And if you choose to continue, the game locks in that value to all previous saves so you’re forced to that path.

You want to see what would have happened if you’d continued? You have to play all the way through again.

Which would have let you tell your own story. You wanna stop before you murder the pregnant lady? Fine. You wanna live with harmony with Dina and your PTSD flashbacks? Fine.

But if you face that victim with a pipe, knowing that you could walk away from this right now – that you don’t have to swing that pipe to beat the information out of her, that you could select “Nope” and decide the story ends here?

Then this story is on you.

That would have been bold, and equally controversial, but it would have played into the theme of “Revenge is bad, but you can walk away.” (And probably encouraged more playthroughs.)

There’s a lot the game could have done better – I’d argue it would have been less hair-teary to split time equally between Abby and Ellie’s story, and you could have got a lot of narrative juice out of making you the murderer. (Imagine if you’d started out early with Abby and her pregnant friend navigating a city full of zombies, thinking “SHE’S GONE GET BIT” and then being surprised when it turns out you are the one who murders her.

But fundamentally, a lot of the problem with TLOU2 is that it wants us to sympathize with Abby, and Abby is someone who is insufficiently contrasted. In a vacuum, Abby is an interesting character – she’s got a fucked up love life, she’s got real friends, she’s got hidden depths. On her own, she’d probably be a good lead for a game.

Yet when you’re unveiling “The person who murders your best friend from the last game, how do you like them now?” well, you need more than “Hey, cool character, bruh.” You need to justify their behavior, to place it in context, to get to the point where the further you go on, the more you go, “I don’t agree with what she did, but if I were in her shoes I might have done the same thing.”

Would that have gotten universal acclaim? Of course not. As I said, “artistic success” is a percentage ploy, and the original Last Of Us was a really solid plot. I don’t think you could follow it up in a way that was both as shocking/interesting as the first one and also as good.

The best you can do is sway a few more percentage points in your direction. And what they did with Abby was guaranteed to alienate a lot of people – especially when you’re forced to spend a big, unskippable chunk of time as her. They didn’t seem to ponder, “Well, what would make her someone we could, if not exactly root for, at least sympathize for?”

What you got was a story that seems really random. Last of Us 2 has great combat. It has interesting characters. But it doesn’t coalesce in the same way that The Last of Us did, and people feel that gap between intent and execution.

Which is a shame. They had ambitions. But in the end, I get the impression they felt constricted by the game engine they had, where violence was the big show of the day and so violence had to be the theme, and they just chose… more violence, as opposed to questioning it in a way any deeper than “Is bad.”