Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cello Is Best Instrument

Well, I have found the cello I was looking for. And it is awesome. Oh man, it is awesome. You guys gotta see this action.

For starters, let's get you warmed up with The Piano Guys and their epic video, "Cello Wars."


Respect.

If that isn't enough cello-dueling for you (it sure isn't enough for me), I want to introduce you to the first musical group I can think of that has ever gotten me really, really excited.  When I hear these guys, I want to jump up and bounce off the walls.  I'm talking about 2Cellos, two guys from Croatia who use cellos to do things that are still illegal in seventeen countries.  Watch and be amazed as they shred "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns n' Roses while also shredding their bows.


So illegal.

And finally, to tone it down a bit, we have the haunting strains of Adam Hurst

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Epic Violin Time


For reasons of my own, I was on YouTube looking for cello music, but I instead found, by accident, music videos by violinist Lindsey Stirling, of whom I became an instantaneous and devoted fan, mostly because she's really cute she plays really well. For your viewing and listening pleasure, I embed here her arrangement, with Peter Hollens, of the main theme from Skyrim.  Note that she wields her violin bow like a sword.  Note also cute violinist in cute outfit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Virtue Ethics and Porn

After many days away, I return to you battered and weary. I know a fellow, whom I won't name here, who found himself within the furry community a sole voice against furry porn. I in recent days seem to have found myself, quite reluctantly and without any certainty as to how I got there, a sole voice in bronydom against "clop," the pony equivalent of the furries' internal rot. I don't much like the job and am not adequate to it; may I soon be able to abdicate it to someone else!

After a mostly fruitless argument that consisted largely of insult-hurling, swearing, ironical picture-posting (I had momentarily forgotten that a lot of these guys came from 4chan), and backslapping (amongst my detractors; I had no one around to backslap), I gathered my thoughts to clarify them and then vomited them into a blog post on a brony-related website. I reproduce the post here.


During Sunday’s unpleasantness, one person cropped up who actually knew how to make an argument intelligently without casting insults or using intimidation. In response to my comments condemning pornography (it’s hard to remember how that even started), he said this:

The important claim you're making that I believe most of us do not accept, is that agents have a "proper end or telos". Morality would indeed be simple if agents had such a thing, and we knew what it was. What you should be doing is arguing that agents have a (knowable) telos. Instead, you present that conclusion, which you should be arguing for, as evidence.

When you argue against consequentialism by saying that "any immoral activity can be justified this way", your arguments presumes that consequentialism is wrong. If consequentialism is "correct", then no immoral activity can be justified that way, as anything that can be justified that way is moral by definition. So this also presumes what it attempts to prove.

Very good. We’ll have to start from the beginning; I had no space (nor inclination) to lay out what you ask for in the combox of someone else’s blog, so I have moved things over here where I can get belittled and insulted on my home turf while I bloviate.

As an interesting historical footnote before we begin, Francis Bacon, who began the philosophical project that became a championing of empirical research over all other realms of philosophy, did not reject the existence of final causes (that is, of telos). He merely decided they could be ignored because they didn’t assist him in his goal of dominating nature. Rejecting final causes’ existence outright came later, usually on the assumption that their non-existence had somehow been empirically demonstrated, when in fact it had not, and could not be, because this is not a subject open to empirical observation.

That final causes exist in nature is indicated by what happens when people try to reject them; they inevitably sneak them in again through the back door and end up talking about them without admitting that they are doing so. To use an easy example, we may take the eye; we could describe it down to its last atom, but our description is incomplete until we say that an eye is for seeing. That is its telos, its final cause.

Ethics is about describing what ought to be, and it therefore presupposes a goal (or telos). At present, two positions are on the table: one presupposes that there are no natural goals, and that the “ought” of ethics is whatever we decide we want it to be, or is perhaps what society decides as a group, or is perhaps based on some arbitrary form of moral calculus (such as guessing how much harm something causes). The other, which I am supporting here, is the view that there exist natural goals with which our ethics, in order to be correct, must be in conformity.

(And to those who do not know how to debate without ad hominem, this does not mean I am incapable of realizing that some disagree with my opinion, it has no particular relevance to my religious affiliation, and calling it a form of bigotry is a mere trick intended to silence opposition through shame, a form of bullying. Imagine me as an ax murderer and read this essay through. Now imagine me as a living saint and read it through again. Imagine me as a Christian. Imagine me as an atheist. You will see that the arguments remain the same no matter what I am like.)

The problem with the first position is its arbitrariness. If there is no natural telos for a man, then there is also no objective guide for his behavior--because without an “ought” independent of his preferences to which he has an obligation to conform, he can have any “ought” he likes, and he has no reason aside from personal taste to accept any “ought” proposed to him. This means that there is no obligation binding on him to, say, try to cause minimum harm, or to be nice to people, or to be honest. The reason there must exist an objective telos and therefore an objective ethical standard is because the only logical alternative is no ethics whatsoever. If there were no ethics whatsoever, I would have no basis for condemning pornography or other crude material (or anything else), but my detractors would also have no basis for condemning me for condemning it, because their detractions presuppose some standard to which they believe I am failing to conform. By finding fault with my comments, they implicitly refer to a moral standard they consider me to be failing to meet. If they condemn me while saying there are no standards, or to put it another way, that there is no telos for the human person, they contradict themselves.

We can determine that objective moral standards exist because the alternative is incoherence. We are having a discussion on a certain topic--do we have an obligation to be honest while we discuss it? If we do, then we recognize an objective standard binding on us, independent of our preferences. If we do not, then this discussion, and every other discussion, simply becomes impossible. Merely functioning requires the recognition, at least implicitly, of objective moral standards. This is why I say I have never encountered a relativist who is a relativist consistently.

So, having determined that moral “ought”s exist to which we are obligated, we can begin to explore what they are. The first is to do good and avoid evil; or I could take that a little further and say we have the obligation to pursue the end (telos) of being moral actors who do good and avoid evil habitually--that is, who have virtue and shun vice. This is the telos of a moral agent; in fact, it must be, for it involves a tautology: to be moral is to do good and to avoid evil, so this first moral imperative must be taken as axiomatic.

The moral imperatives are also necessarily the same for every individual and can therefore be said to be universal. The final cause of a thing is bound up with its essence, what it is in itself. Take my example of the eye: what it is, is an eye, and the end of an eye is to see. If it were something else like a hand, its end would not be to see. If the end of a free-willed man is to be a virtuous man, as I have argued above, then the virtue is the same for every man, because every man has the essence of a man.

This takes us to a fundamental problem of metaphysics. Take a look out your window and spot two trees. How is it both can be trees and yet distinct objects? How can you identify them both as trees? In the whole history of philosophy, there have been two coherent answers to this problem, that of Plato and that of Aristotle. Plato proposed ideal forms, so there is a form of tree that each individual tree reflects. Aristotle proposed form and matter as two interdependent metaphysical co-principles existing in each individual being, so each tree has the form of tree, limited and differentiated by the matter of each specific tree. Both of these views have their advantages; I happen to be in the Aristotelian camp, but that need not concern us much, as in matters of ethics Aristotelians and Platonists can arrive at the same conclusions.

Modern man’s ethical errors begin as a metaphysical error. Neither the Platonist nor Aristotelian position on the Problem of the One and the Many is currently in the ascendant; rather, both have been replaced by a view called Nominalism, which addresses this fundamental problem by refusing to address it, considering the designation “tree” to be merely a word, a handy placeholder. This perhaps has the advantage of ending the apparently insoluble debate between Platonists and Aristotelians by merely refusing to entertain the debate, but it fails to answer the core problem--regardless of what words we use to discuss them or whether we even use words at all, there are still two trees out there, and we haven’t answered the question of how they can both be trees. Nominalism begins by confusing words with the things they signify; it is not the word “tree” that’s important in this classical metaphysical problem, but the trees themselves.

Nominalism leads to the dismissal of essentialism, the idea that all beings, such as human beings, have an essential nature. If humans share an essential nature (all of them being human), they also share a final cause, final cause and essence being directly related. If they do not share an essential nature, then they share no final cause either. This view, as is the case with Nominalism generally, proves inadequate: humans must share an essential nature, for if they did not, we would not be able to identify them as human. When we encounter a fellow human and correctly identify him as human, we are admitting implicitly that he shares something essential with us. Essentialism, like so many things I’m referring to in this discussion, must be accepted as axiomatic because denying it leads to absurdity; it cannot be denied with consistency, for anyone asserting that humans have no shared essence and no shared telos still speaks of humans as a group, indicating that he can distinguish them from other animals and abstract from them the idea of human.

So human beings share a human nature and therefore a human end; because humans have free will, they can will their natural end or not. The objective moral law describes human virtue, which is the natural end of man, and is therefore called Natural Law, which must not be confused with what is observed out of doors; Natural Law is the ethical prescriptions and proscriptions binding on man.

In terms of specific behaviors like the sort that prompted this brief essay, we need to look a little closer at how a man works. We find in him the presence of an intellect, of passions, and of appetites. By appetites, I mean desires directed at bodily functions and needs--eating, procreation, and so forth. By passions, I mean the desires for intangibles, such as love.

It is a well-known fact that a man may desire things he cannot have, or that he may desire two or more things he cannot have together, or that he may desire things immoderately (as in the case of my desire to eat a whole pie every day until I grow fat, for example). The passions and appetites have no reasoning power in themselves. As the expression goes, “the heart wants what it wants.” This is true enough, but modern man implicitly holds the belief that the passions and appetites are their own justification, that whatever the heart wants, it ought therefore to get. By contrast, a more sober view holds that the intellect must determine whether the passions or appetites are reasonable or unreasonable, logical or illogical. What standard can the intellect use? The only one which can truly moderate the passions and appetites is the standard of the telos of the passion or appetite in question; no other standard is possible: if telos is rejected, there is no other yardstick against which to measure our yearnings. And if we do not master our appetites and passions with our intellects, our appetites and passions can master us, for they prove unruly, and they grow larger and more exotic in their tastes the more they are fed without moderation.

So, for example, the primary purpose (telos again) of the appetite for food is to nourish the body. Eating is also pleasurable, but for a reason: the pleasure of eating encourages me to eat so that my body will be nourished (and therefore pleasure can be considered a secondary or subordinate end of eating). If I elevate pleasure over nourishment (that is, disregard my appetite’s primary natural end) and eat food excessively, I become a glutton, so I must use my appetite in moderation and refuse to indulge its excesses. If I desire to eat rocks or dung, my appetite is disordered (that is, ordered away from its proper end) and must be resisted. I may even have to force myself to eat things I don’t want for the sake of my health.

The sexual appetite can be evaluated similarly. Just as the appetite for food exists to nourish the body, the appetite for procreation exists for procreating--that is, reproducing the species. The oft-heard counterclaim that sex exists for pleasure and that procreation can be dispensed with cannot be taken seriously; the result of elevating pleasure over procreation is excess analogous to the excess that stems from elevating pleasure over nourishment, but the consequences, as should be evident to anyone not willfully blind, are more severe. It is because of the so-called Sexual Revolution, which elevates the sexual appetite over the intellect and elevates sexual pleasure over pretty much everything else, that one in four adolescents today has a venereal disease, that bastardy is common, that the Western world is strewn with broken homes and broken lives, that divorce is commonplace, that children grow up without fathers, and that men treat women like disposable toys.

The habitual use (or refraining from use) of the sexual appetite in accordance with right reason is the virtue called chastity. Because sex exists for procreation, and because the procreative act always has the possibility of producing new human life in need of nurture, with its own rights and (at least when it reaches the age of reason) obligations, it must be limited to a stable relationship within which new life can be nurtured--that is, marriage, family.

Pornography or other risqué material is antithetical to chastity. It invites the subordination of reason to the sexual appetite and not only elevates pleasure beyond its proper place but stands it alone and eliminates all else. It divorces sexual pleasure not only from marriage or any sort of mutual relationship, but divorces it even from sex. It disorders the appetite, reduces the possibility of self-control, and because it offers intense pleasure easily without immediately obvious consequences, proves highly addictive. It gives men unrealistic views of relationships and of the opposite sex. It also degrades the participants by reducing them to objects of lust to gratify someone else’s pleasure.

That brings me around to this comment from the discussion thread that prompted this post:

By the by, I would note that pornography seems to be single-handedly responsible for the rationalization and normalization of vast swaths of otherwise emotional/instinctive urges in the human psyche, lending itself to tremendous improvements in the stability and happiness of people who deal with it. If this constitutes 'readily apparent harm' to you, I question the openness with which you have considered the question, and worry that there are scales before your eyes. The beneficient psychosocial effects are the ones visible from the surface. I am not ruling out harms hidden beneath the surface, but for you to argue that these things 'have never been more obvious' gives the appearance of coming up with your conclusion before your question.

I’m frankly not sure I can parse that gibberish. The one who wrote it would, at the very least, seem to have the “rationalization” part right. I cannot imagine what the beneficent effects of pornography use are supposed to be, but what I can see in this quote is a celebration of the elevation of appetite over intellect, rationalized with pseudo-psychological jargon. Modern man’s position on ethics might look more persuasive to me if modern man could be found arguing for more fortitude, more compassion, or more self-control, but he is instead always found arguing for more self-indulgence. Suggest chastity to him and, as I learned quite recently, he reacts like a petulant child whose favorite toy a parent has threatened to take away. I confess that this disinclines me to take seriously the alternatives to the virtue ethics I have briefly and inadequately outlined here.

I don’t know where the fellow I quoted gets his ideas; my own sources paint a different picture of pornography’s effects. I have been asked to produce resources on that subject; I am reluctant to do so partly because the person making the request informs me that she has seen other such resources in the past and has dismissed them, so this would appear to be an exercise in futility. Besides that, the available resources of the sort she requests are mostly from psychologists, who usually, though not always, focus on addiction specifically. Nonetheless, I present the following. Third-party sources are linked in the assertions:

Pornography is highly addictive and reduces the capacity for self-control. Porn users gravitate over time to more outré content. Use of adult pornography can lead to use of child pornography. Pornography is linked to sexual dysfunction. People who cease using pornography report improved quality of life. Plenty more, loads more, more than you can stomach, can be found here.

I also refer you to the confession of Martin Daubney, a former pornographer who finally realized what he was doing:

Offering excuses for pornography when Loaded was attacked left me feeling cheap and hollow. I became a person I wasn’t, and, looking back, one I didn’t like. Today, I find myself agreeing with some of my fiercest former critics.

When I edited Loaded, I’d often get asked ‘Would you want your daughter to appear in topless photos?’ and I’d squirm, but feel obliged, but ashamed to say ‘yes’. Fortune gave me a son, but not on my life would I want any daughter of mine to be a topless model.

Looking back at my old job, I think it kept me and my team in a morally retarded state. We became numbed to nudity. We treated our models as crude sales devices.

But pornography does not exist in a vacuum. It is merely an outgrowth of an entire culture gone mad. The wider problems caused by the elevation of the sexual appetite over the intellect, of which commonplace pornography use represents only a small part, are legion. On that score, I recommend the writings of Theodore Dalrymple, who sees those problems up-close and personal. He is also an atheist, so if you are inclined to dismiss everything I’ve written here because I am Catholic (even though I have appealed to no religious authority in this essay), you can listen to him instead. I recommend you begin with “All Sex, All the Time” and “The Quivering Upper Lip.”

Note: Comments containing insults, vulgarity, ad hominem, or images will be deleted.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Danger of Shopping at Wal-Mart

There I was, minding my own business and stocking up on beef jerky for my next week of digging holes, when I saw it.



There it was, a big DVD pack of 100 sf moves for seventeen bucks.  Looking at the titles on the back, I knew I couldn't live without it.  It includes such great classics as Wild Women of Wongo, Future Women, Mesa of Lost Women, Hercules and the Captive Women, Prehistoric Women, and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women.  Somebody should tell EegahInc over at The B-Movie Catechism, because there might be one or two titles on here that even he hasn't seen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Assassinate Princess Celestia!" on EqD



For further self-indulgence before getting down to some real business, I'd like to mention that my fan fiction in progress, Assassinate Princess Celestia!, got posted to Equestria Daily, the hub of all things pony, which re-posts fan fiction that meets their high quality standards.

You can see the post here and the story here.

While I'm at it, I'll point out that the story itself has an up/down voting system and the EqD post has a star rating system.  I won't tell you to vote, or how you should vote, but I'll point out that those are there.

Friday, June 8, 2012

How Long Does It Take, In a Debate About Sexual Morality . . .

. . . to get told that I'm "sex-negative" and "entrenched in a patriarchal worldview"?

This long.

I suspect my interlocutor is in college; you don't toss around expressions like "patriarchal worldview" unless you're parroting a professor.

Now somebody explain to me what "sex-negative" means.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Important Maintenance Issue

A reader informs me that the "Feedzilla" news ticker at the top of the blog is crashing is browser.  I'd like to know if anybody else is having the same problem.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Gross Self-Promotion

Speaking of ponies, I am totally going to shut up about shutting up about ponies sometime in the near future.

In the meanwhile, I shall shameless promote my fan fiction in progress.  Previously, I was working on something  called Shadow of the Dragon Lords, which has a title embarrassingly similar to a John Scalzi parody.  You're probably better off reading the piece by Scalzi, though that pretty much goes without saying anyway.  The second half of season 2 jossed most of the important details in my little work in progress, so it's on hold indefinitely.  Also, I totally flipped a table and ragequit the fandom when I got jossed.  How dare they contradict my insignificant fanfic!

On much surer footing, and posted on a much prettier website, are my two current works in progress, Princess Trinity and Assassinate Princess Celestia!  The former is a G1/G4 crossover featuring demons from hell and quotations stolen from both Paradise Lost and the Inferno.  The latter has ninja mules and cake.

A Brief Reflection on Why I Watch Little Girls' Cartoons

By now, I think I can say I'm an old hand at this.  I was watching and enjoying cartoons for little girls, including My Little Pony, and saying so in public, years before there was any such thing as a brony.  So to my fellow bronies who like to complain when people make fun of them, I say, suck it up, dude.  If you can't take a little razzing for watching girly cartoon shows, you're not man enough for this.

Fellow brony Nate Winchester has an interesting post on ponies over at his own blog.  I was pouting because Winchester wouldn't join me in trolling John C. Wright's blog by derailing the discussion of space princesses with a discussion of whether or not the pony princesses qualify as space princesses even though they are anatomically lacking in midriffs, but I'm over it now.  I've decided to love and tolerate him.  Both.  At the same time.  Though I'm still not sure how that works.

Anyhoo, Nate Winchester has an interesting post on his blog in which he responds to an article at Cracked.com, which makes fun of the original My Little Pony TV special from way back in the day, "Rescue at Midnight Castle."  I'd like to discuss the comments at Cracked and Winchester's response, and offer my own comments.

Here's the money quote:

While boys were taught that evil giant transforming robots could only be defeated with other giant transforming robots, girls were taught that evil could be defeated with the power of rainbows and flamboyant song and dance. Which one better prepared their audience for the real world? If you'd like to find out, go perform a choreographed song and dance number in the middle of the highway while a semi bares down on you. In your final moments of consciousness, imagine how much more terrifying this would all be if that semi was sentient.  [more . . .]

Winchester destroys this with one sentence:  "There is a rather persistent belief that girls shows can be… less than realistic (whereas boy shows have giant robots in them) when it comes to conflict resolution."  Got that?  Girls' shows are unrealistic, whereas boys' shows have giant robots.

After that, Winchester basically dismisses old Pony as "lame," and then I don't care what he says because nopony insults my G1 and gets away with it, and I mean nopony.  Now I'm pouting at him again.  I watched G1 as a seven-year-old boy because I was already in the habit of watching girls' cartoons even back then.  Also, I had a crush on Megan.  I mean, seriously, that girl's freaking awesome:  she gets kidnapped by a talking pony and taken away to fairyland, but then she's just like, "Yo, why don't I slay an evil centaur while I'm here?"

And that, by the way, is something Cracked misses in its discussion of "badass cartoon villains" defeated by "retarded heroes."  Tirek may have been bad-awesome, but Megan was more bad-awesome.  Also, she was armed with the Rainbow of Light, and as soon as she opened a can of that, Tirek was destined to taste the rainbow.

What I really want to say, though, is this:  There is a good reason why cartoons depict girls defeating evil by putting on pretty dresses and singing or ponies defeating evil with rainbows.  The author of Cracked says this isn't like the "real world," and he's right, but that's because there is something wrong with the real world, not because there is something wrong with the cartoon.  It is not to our credit that our evil is so deep and pervasive that it cannot be so easily vanquished as it can be in cartoon land.  Cartoons about ponies and rainbows and pretty dresses speak of something better than the world in which we currently live.  Stories of cutesy cartoon characters who can defeat fearsome villains may not match what we observe around us, but they match what we yearn for in our hearts.  To say it in a misleading fashion, they are more true than reality.  Ultimately, they breathe, however slightly, of Heaven, where all fears are ended and all tears wiped away.

Incidentally, it is my humble opinion that, however poor its writing and other production values may have been, this is one thing ye olde G1 ponies got right that the G4 ponies haven't really managed:  really nasty, scary villains for the goodness and light of the ponies to vanquish.  The G4 villains, what few there have been, are halfhearted pushovers compared to the creepy evildoers from the original.  G1 offered a stark contrast between good and evil with colorful ponies on one side and devil-like monstrosities on the other, but also threw in evildoers who could be redeemed.  It did a fine job of running the gamut on villains.

The attitude of Cracked is the same attitude that gives us "deconstructive" fiction, the juvenile brand of storytelling that pretends to be mature, which takes fantasy tropes, especially wholesome or innocent ones, and depicts them as they would be in the "real world," the unspoken assumption always being that the real world is a crapsack, and that all real people are, to a man, ignoble and base.  Deconstruction is an easy to trick to pull, requiring no talent in itself, and I suspect that's why it's popular.

In his "On Fairy-Stories," J. R. R. Tolkien talks about the claim that fairy-stories are "escapist."  He answers that they are:  but, usually, escape is viewed as something noble.  When people find themselves in a prison, they try to escape, but if they can't escape, they can't be expected to talk of nothing but their prison.  The article at Cracked would have us talk of nothing but the prison.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

On the Prevalence of Slash Fiction in Pony Fandom

Hello?  Anybody out there?  I know I haven't posted in a while.  I've been very busy with work . . . and ponies . . . but it's time to get this thing running again.

Speaking of ponies, I am going to shut up about ponies sometime in the . . . ah, screw it.  I'm never shutting up about ponies.  Pwnies 4eva.

Where was I?  Yes, speaking of ponies, Equestria Daily, the center of all things pony, recently had a post on the subject of why most of the fan fiction in My Little Pony fandom seems to be slash, including a link to a lesbian blog containing an article on the very subject.  My own opinion is that most of the fan fiction depicts lesbianism because most of the show's characters are female and because most of the show's fans are prurient young men between the ages of eighteen and thirty.  Duh.

I wrote my own response in Equestria Daily's combox, and I reproduce it here:


It took me a while to put together all my thoughts on this matter, and the discussion on this site has likely moved on since this was posted, but here goes anyway:

A short while ago, I was in India.  While I was there, I frequently saw men holding hands with each other or putting their arms over each other’s shoulders.  I volunteered in an orphanage, and the older boys would often walk up to me or sit beside me and interlace their fingers with mine.  Every guidebook I read on that trip mentioned this type of behavior and explained that this was a sign of friendship, not homosexuality.  That the writers of these guidebooks felt the need to put in such a notice says, I think, more about our culture than it says about India.

Analogously, ponies in the My Little Pony franchise have been licking and cuddling each other since the early 1980s, but only recently has anyone taken this to be an indication that the ponies are lesbians.  Again, I think this says less about the franchise than it says about our culture and how it has changed in the last three decades.  For quite some time, we have been in the business of sexualizing most everything, but in recent days, that has apparently grown uninteresting, so now we have begun homosexualizing everything, including, apparently, innocent children’s cartoon shows.

The debate over homosexuality is often presented as an argument being had by Christians against everybody else, but that’s not actually the case.  For one thing, the current laissez-faire attitude toward sexuality is unique to the postmodern and post-Christian West.  It has existed for only a short while in a limited (though large) geographic location, and it is probably not long to endure.  Those who advocate it may think they are being cosmopolitan, but they are in fact being quite parochial and myopic.

For another thing, the arguments involved run deep.  The debate over homosexuality is in the end, at least from what I’ve seen it, not so much an argument between Christians and non-Christians as it is an argument between hylemorphists and materialists, between Aristotelians and Nominalists, between deontologists and consequentialists.  But almost no one studies philosophy anymore, so most who address this topic muddle through without ever stating or evaluating the fundamental axioms on which their positions rest.  Modern thought is characterized, probably more than anything else, by confusion, by an inability to define terms, by an inability to make distinctions, by an inability to use logic.  Many people who defend homosexual acts as normal or advocate for homosexual marriage seem to be honestly incapable, for example, of making even the simple and obvious distinction between copulation and mutual masturbation.

It appears to me, too, that this confusion of modern thought is on display in the Brony community, particularly in the popular slogan, “Love and tolerate.”  To love means to will the good of someone for his own sake.  To tolerate, on the other hand, means to allow or put up with another’s behavior no matter what you think of it.  The two are mutually exclusive:  you cannot possibly tolerate the self-destructive behavior of someone you love.  The Brony slogan is a meaningless paradox.

Very briefly and inadequately, I will lay out the position I hold on the subject of homosexuality.

It begins with teleology, the study of final causes or ends.  Though it is popular to deny their existence, final causes exist, and this is evident in that it is impossible to avoid them.  Take an eye as an easy example:  you could describe it down to the last atom, but until you say that an eye is for seeing--that’s its purpose, or end--you have not fully described it.  Similarly, the purpose of the genitals is generation (hence the name), and the purpose of the sexual appetite is procreation, that is, reproduction.  If an appetite is directed toward something out of accordance with its purpose, it can be described as “disordered.”  That is merely descriptive; it is not an ethical judgment.  If I, say, hunger to eat rocks instead of eat food, I have a disordered appetite.

All of that is relatively simple.  Note, please, that the existence of final causes does not imply the existence of God, though many today are inclined to leap to the conclusion that it does, which is why arguments beginning with teleology are often dismissed as religious.  There are arguments from final causes to the existence of God, but they are long and complicated and questionable at some points.  The one does imply the other.

Ethically, to live a rational life of virtue, it is necessary to govern the appetites and passions with the reason.  Appetites are not reasonable in themselves.  I may desire to eat two entire cakes all by myself, Celestia-style, but I must judge with my reason that doing so would be bad for me.  My appetite is immoderate, and so I must resist it.  If I do not, the results will be a decreased ability to resist it in the future, a likely growth in the immoderation of the appetite, and, in the long run, poor health.

The way to judge the appetites is to determine if they are within the bounds set by the purposes for which they exist.  The primary purpose of the appetite for food is to nourish the body.  Eating is also pleasurable, of course, but if I eat merely for my own pleasure without concern for my health, I will reap the consequences.  I assume this is obvious.

The primary purpose of the appetite for sex is reproduction.  This should also be obvious, though many today are in the business of denying it.  If the appetite is directing me to copulate with something with which it is actually impossible to copulate, such as an inanimate object or a member of the same sex, the appetite is disordered.  My ethical obligation, as in the case of an immoderate or disordered appetite for food, is to resist its impulses.

From this, it can be seen first of all that a person is not morally culpable for having a disordered appetite, so whenever someone asks me if I think “homosexuality” is immoral, I have to heavily qualify the question before I can answer it.  It can also be seen that homosexual acts are not morally licit.

Now I’ll bring all of this around to the discussion of fan fiction and of the essay linked in this post.

First, to deal with some of the claims of the essayist and the claims of some Bronies that the show actually contains a homosexual subtext, I refer back to the paragraphs with which I opened this.  We have taken on the habit of interpreting any amount of affection between members of the same sex as signs of homosexuality, and I believe this is to our detriment; it severely hinders members of the same sex from having close or affectionate platonic relationships.  The show, far from presenting a homosexual subtext, actually serves as a counterpoint to this.  The show is not about lesbians; it’s about friends.  To claim that Glinda must have been Rainbow Dash’s old girlfriend, or that something subtle is going on between Rainbow Dash and Applejack in “Fall Weather Friends,” or that Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are definitely lesbians because Rainbow gives Fluttershy a hug in “Hurricane Fluttershy,” is to miss the point:  the show is about friendship, as it says right in the title.  The characters are affectionate because they’re friends, and if you don’t understand that, I’m afraid you just don’t “get” the show.

And as for Lyra and Bon-Bon, the claim that they’re lesbians in canon sounds almost like a bad tavern joke:  “Hey, I saw two ponies standing next to each other in the background, and you know what they say about two ponies who stand next to each other in the background.”

During the controversy over Rainbow Dash’s ambiguous peck on Fluttershy’s nose in the season finale, I found a comment in a discussion thread that I think sums things up very nicely.  I’d probably never be able to find it again, so I’ll paraphrase:  “Listen, guys, sometimes girls kiss each other, particularly during stressful or emotional moments, and it doesn’t mean they’re lesbians.  Now go back to your basement.”

To wrap this up, I am not opposed to any and all depiction of homosexuality in literature, fan-created or otherwise.  Disordered desires are things that real people struggle with, and it would be strange to ban their depiction from literature.  However, if someone writes a homosexual romance and writes it as if it’s really no different from heterosexual romance, or as if anyone who points out that it’s different from heterosexual romance should feel bad about himself, I probably won’t bother to read it because the author is revealing that he doesn’t understand his subject matter.  Many of the components of romance may be present in the story, and it may have all the emotions of romance, but the fundamental reason romance exists in the first place is absent.  The author is revealing that he doesn’t understand love, doesn’t understand courtship, doesn’t understand marriage, and doesn’t even understand sex.

An author I respect said something on this subject I’d like to repeat; he was writing under a handle at the time, which might mean he didn’t want to be named, so I’ll summarize his statement without giving credit:  To love means to will the good of another person, but in recent times, we’ve decided you can’t really love anything without trying to have sex with it.  In the modern mind, love has been replaced with self-pleasure.

A friend and fellow Brony whom I converted to Bronyism to the endangerment of both our souls sends me a link to a relevant article on the subject, "A Requiem for Male Friendship?" over at Musings of a Pertinacious Papist.  The pertinacious one fleshes out and argues cogently for a belief I've held for years:  the prevalence of homosexuality in our culture kills the possibility of strong same-sex friendships.  The Brony obsession with lesbianism is an extreme and absurd example of this:  even cartoon ponies can no longer have strong same-sex friendships; there are fans of the show who honestly believe the physically sexless anthropomorphized horse-like cartoon characters must be homosexuals because they've sometimes been seen hugging each other, or because one of them is rainbow-colored (Like, dude, do you even freaking remember what it is you're watching???  There's freaking rainbows freaking everywhere in this freaking franchise . . . oops, sorry; little fanboy outburst there).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Novena to Stop the HHS Mandate

From Intimate Geography

From Eric Scheidler:

Lord God,

You are Light, and in You there is no darkness.
You sent Your Son Jesus Christ
as the Light of the World,
and You sent Your Holy Spirit
to enlighten the hearts and minds of all.

Lord, we pray today
that we may always experience
the light of Your truth,
informing our conscience
of what is right and what is wrong.

We pray that this light
will reach all of our fellow citizens,
that they may recognize the dangers of evil
which are often hidden along their path.

Open the eyes and minds of all
to the threats that currently exist
to our religious freedom,
to the health and well-being of women,
and to the good of our nation.

Give us the grace not only to recognize evil,
but also to reject it with the unwavering strength
that comes from you.

We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sticking It to the Man

Being a blogger who makes his e-mail public, I get a lot of junk in my inbox, and most of it gets deleted without comment or reply, but when this showed up, I checked it out and it seems legit, since it also appears in U.S. Politics Today, and I think I'll reprint it verbatim with only a brief comment.


Catholic missionary suing government willing to risk health over HHS mandate

DENVER, Colo., March 6, 2012—A missionary with FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, and one of two private citizens who has joined states, senators and others in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' mandate that nearly all health insurance plans cover contraceptives free of charge, says she would give up her critically important health insurance if the mandate is not overturned.

Stacy Molai, of Omaha, Neb., suffers from Crohn’s disease and says her health insurance coverage is critical in order to avoid financial ruin and possibly life-threatening consequences. Medical supplies for her condition cost up to $400 every month.

Molai, 31, raises her own salary as a lay Catholic missionary and says that, “Should the mandate be upheld, I would gladly give up my insurance coverage, despite the very real risk that would pose to my financial well-being and my health.”

“The government mandate violates my constitutional guarantee of the Freedom of Association,” Molai added. “I'm no longer free to associate with another Catholic employer without grave risks in abandoning a grandfathered insurance policy. I have had four surgeries and countless hospitalizations because of my Crohn's disease.”

“But my relationship with Jesus Christ is at the core of who I am, and the government mandate violates my unalienable rights by interfering with that sacred relationship. I'm no longer free to follow the dictates of my conscience and the teaching of my Church without great financial and health risks. That's not freedom.”

Jeremy Rivera, director of communications at FOCUS, stated that, “FOCUS is proud to have a woman like Stacy among our missionary staff. As her employer, we stand in solidarity with her and her convictions to remain true to her conscience and to exercise her religious liberty in the face of the government’s proposed HHS mandate. Given the reality of Stacy’s serious health issues, her courage should inspire all Catholics and people of faith to reinforce the necessity to overturn this unjust law.”

Miss Molai shames me. Not being a Catholic business owner myself, I was just pondering exactly what my own obligation would be when the new law demanding that Catholics burn incense to Moloch comes into effect.  If she, seriously ill, can give up health insurance to avoid sin, then I, who am healthy and physically fit, can do no less.

No More 'Terra Nova' for J00

From its IMDB page.
R.I.P., Terra Nova.  Well, sort of, or maybe, or probably, or something like that.  Fox has ousted Stephen Spielberg's dinosaur show with the great concept and the mediocre writing.  I'm sad to see it go, as it was one of the few real family shows left, but I'm not surprised, because what I saw of it wasn't all that good.

The show was about a family joining a group of colonists who go back in time to live in the Cretaceous; it was more-or-less the Swiss Family Robinson with Dinosaurs and guns.

According to the BBC, Fox has dropped the show but is looking to sell it to another network.  If it does continue, I personally suggest they get new writers and subject the show to some serious retcon.  In particular, they should throw out that dumb detail about the rebels having control of their only source of iron.  I mean, seriously, they got a rift in the space-time continuum that opens to the year 2149.  Can they honestly not call up the future and say, "Yo, send iron"?

Thanks to a reader for sending this in.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Fan Fiction Update: 'Shadow of the Dragon Lords'

I stoled it.
I am actually going to shut up about ponies at some point in the future, really, but not before I tout my fan fiction work, "Shadow of the Dragon Lords," which is now on chapter 6, but don't let that intimidate you:  the chapters are short.

While watching My Little Pony:  Friendship Is Magic, and yes, "Is" is capitalized in a title, it occurred to me to wonder why exactly Spike the dragon is hanging out with all these ponies.  It also occurred to me to wonder why Spike has a crush on Rarity the Unicorn, or why, for that matter, we see him in the series premier bringing a teddy bear to a Unicorn mare named Moondancer, or why Twilight Sparkle calls him "Casanova," suggesting he has a reputation.

I came to the obvious conclusion almost immediately:  clearly, Spike is a political hostage being held in Canterlot to prevent a draconic uprising, and he developed his unnatural attraction to ponies while serving as a harem guard in the palace seraglio, a role for which his masters mistakenly thought him well-suited, due to the species difference.  See The Hostage by Zayd Muti Dammaj for further sordid details, or else see "Shadow of the Dragon Lords" for decidedly less sordid details.

Spike performs his harem duties.

Actually, Spike is not the main character of the piece.  The main character is Princess Luna, awesomest of the ponies, who commands the moon, rides the storm, flies in a black chariot, wears a cloak of living bats, and speaks in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe.  I think her dialogue is supposed to be all Elizabethan, but it actually came out kind of Kimberlian, or even Meredithian.  For the hay of it, in my story, I made her a practitioner of Lovecraftian black magic.  Also, doing a Google image search for Princess Luna is a creepy experience.

Unfortunately, the episode in which Her Highness appears is largely about Twilight Sparkle trying to convince Her Highness to act more like an ill-mannered modern American and less like a princess, but so it goes.  Personally, I really wanted to see Her Highness give Twilight a royal beat-down.

A quick explanation of Luna's awesomeness.

And remember that scene at the end in which little Pipsqueak grabs Her Highness's mane?  Yeah, I wanted to see her give him a beat-down, too:  "Unhoof me, dastard!  Darest thou to lay hooves on majesty?  Crouch in the dust and lick, thou cur!  Thou dog!"

Although it may appear to be a waste of time, "Shadow of the Dragon Lords" is actually a public service:  I am doing my part to reduce brony illiteracy by correctly naming the piece of furniture on which Rarity sometimes throws herself in mock displays of excessive emotion.

I stoled that one, too.
Never refer to a Unicorn's chaise longue as a "fainting couch."  A Unicorn can mess you up.

Courtesy of Orthometer.

Okay, so . . . I lost my train of thought in there someplace.  My point is that you should go read "Shadow of the Dragon Lords," or Rarity will run you over with a tank.  Something like that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Happy Derpy Day and Sad Day for Freedom

Borrowed from Equestria Daily.

I'm going to shut up about ponies at some point in the near future, really, but I thought it worth mentioning that today, March 1st, is Derpy Day, which is to be celebrated by the wearing of gray tee-shirts and the consumption of muffins.

I find it somehow fitting that the day chosen by My Little Pony fans to celebrate their favorite character, who was recently censored by the powers that be because she didn't please the over-sensitive appetites of the randomly offended PC-niks who may strike anywhere, anytime, over anything, so that it is impossible to please them because it is impossible to guess ahead of time what they might arbitrarily find offensive, should also be the day the U.S. Senate has decided that little thing we call the First Amendment isn't really so important, and has tabled the Blunt Amendment, which would have protected the conscience rights of Christians who don't wish to spend their money on people's fornications and adulteries, and who do not wish to pay for the murder of children or the various devices and pills that make it easy for men to use women like tissues, and for women to treat themselves as if they had no value, and for the culture to perpetuate the hatred of children that has become one of its chief defining characteristics.

If Obamacare and the HHS mandate finally go into law, it will be the duty of all followers of Christ, and all men of goodwill who care about the freedoms our Constitution is supposed to guarantee us, to rebel against them and refuse to comply, and also to refuse to pay the fines the government will levy against them, and to go to jail, and to make right nuisances of themselves in jail in order to make clear that they cannot be easily tucked away and forgotten about.  Our bishops and priests, especially, must be prepared to lead the way in this civil disobedience.

Happy Derpy Day.  Go have a muffin.

Disney Ruins John Carter



Why is it Hollywood can no longer make a decent pulpy action adventure movie?  Look at what they did to Beowulf and Transformers, for crying out loud.  How can they get such simple and timeless tales so horribly wrong?

Though I do have to admit that, to my eternal shock, they did all right by Captain America.  But that was a fluke.

With a hat-tip to John C. Wright, we have news on the early screening of John Carter in Philadelphia, via Latino Review.  Let me begin by pointing out the first thing wrong with this movie:  the title.  Shouldn't it have "of Mars" in it somewhere?  Edgar Rice Burroughs's first novel in his long Martian series was called Under the Moons of Mars, later retitled A Princess of Mars.  And Disney, in its brilliance, changes the title to . . . John Carter.  Genius.  That title is so totally not boring, really.

Here's from Latino Review, from which I also stole that picture up top:

. . . the story takes us back thirteen years earlier where American Civil War veteran Carter is prospecting in Arizona. Being that they are deep in Apache territory, an Army Colonel (played by an almost unrecognizable Bryan Cranston) takes Carter into custody with the intent of forcing him to join their fight against the Native Americans. After a series of fairly humorous escape attempts, Carter finally makes a real jail break and flees into the mountains on horseback, where he’s forced to save the Colonel’s life after the man and his pursuing soldiers have a run in with a tribe of natives.  [more . . .]

In other words, they twisted up the opening of the novel to make the cavalry the bad guys and make John Carter, who in Burroughs is the greatest fighter on two worlds and likes it, war-weary.

I'll just let Mr. Wright give the response to this mutilation of the story's opening:

. . . I still have some hope for this film, but I also know that, in the same way Jackson could not portray Aragorn and Faramir in a LOTR film, Disney cannot portray John Carter. Political Correctness focuses on two main thoughts: undermining authority and emasculating masculinity. The storybook hero, since roughly the time of Mallory, has always had two characteristics: he was both humble and ferocious. That is the paradox of chivalry: a man obedient to the authority of country, king, and God, and all the noble principles of fair play, who is also a very devil in combat, laughing as he slays. There is no humility in PC, because there is no authority aside from the ego, and there is no laughter in PC, except for mocking laughter such as imps laugh when they see fair and fine things fail, and they have no joy in battle.  [more . . .]

And what becomes of a society when the Leftists and PC-niks have had their way?  What happens when heroism and chivalry are dead, men are taught to be cowards, women are taught to be men, marriages are destroyed, and children are raised in broken homes?

Han shoots second and Derpy gets removed from canon, that's what.  Save your stories, fanboys:  become a conservative Christian.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hasbro to Fanboys: Drop Dead

In other, less grave news, I turned on the Internet this morning to discover that socially maladjusted geeks everywhere are in an uproar because Hasbro has censored one of their favorite characters from the absurdly popular and weirdly addictive cartoon show, My Little Pony:  Friendship Is Magic.  I find this quite disheartening, as I was enjoying the show myself.  I mean, heck, I've even written fan fiction, and I don't do that for just anypony.

Your fond childhood memories, now twenty percent cooler.
Though I've never exactly been a huge fan, having a Y chromosome and therefore being outside the target demographic, I have always had a certain respect for the My Little Pony franchise.  When I was a child, Ponies were ubiquitous; every girl in my grade school had one or more, and when I played games of pretend with my Female Childhood Friend™ from down the street, I had Transformers and (though I hate to admit it) Gobots, and she had Barbies and Ponies.  I think in most of our games, I was a robot with a laser gun, and she was a princess with a unicorn.  I mention that only because it occurs to me that a fantasy novel about a unicorn-riding princess with a laser-toting robot sidekick would totally kick awesome.

Where was I?  Ah, yes.  Also in my childhood, I sometimes watched the original cartoon show based on the Pony franchise, My Little Pony 'n Friends.  I was probably about five or six when I saw it, so my memories of it are vague, but I recall it being surprisingly gritty for a girls' cartoon based on a series of pastel-colored miniature horses with brushable hair.  By lurking on Internet fansites as well as talking to people who remember it better than I do, I get the impression that my memories of the show are not entirely incorrect, and that it really was kind of gritty.  Also, I think the main reason I watched it when I was five was because I had a crush on Megan.

I remembered you cuter.
To give the uninitiated a quick rundown, it goes something like this:  Without getting into all the complications, My Little Pony has gone through roughly four phases or "generations."  According to the most trustworthy source on the Internet, Wikipedia, its inception was in 1982 when the first little pony was designed by Bonnie Zacherle, who shortly thereafter went to work for Hasbro.  The concept of these toys is elegant and simple and designed to appeal to young girls:  they're brightly colored plastic ponies, and you can brush and style their manes and tails  The show I watched as a kid was, along with some TV specials and one theatrical film and a second short-lived series, the televised manifestation of the Generation 1 (G1) ponies.  There was a second generation series of toys that saw no televised adaptation.  Generation 3 (G3), which ran through the first decade of the twenty-first century, can be considered the franchise's Dork Age; it involves a number of straight-to-video releases featuring ponies who apparently have little to do with their lives except hold parties and fashion shows, a far cry from the original G1 ponies who know how to kick haunch and eat ice cream, except they're all out of ice cream.

From what I've seen on the Interwebs, fans of the current G4 series enjoy pouring their hate on G3.  That might sound a little ridiculous, but to show that their hate is not entirely unwarranted, I suggest we play a little game.  I'm going to post an excerpt from a G3 video here; you play the video, and then tell all of us how far you made it before you either stopped the video or gouged your own eyes out.

Yes, I agree:  make it stop!

The franchise got a kick in the pants, and an unexpectedly broad fanbase, with the advent of G4 and a new television series with the cumbersome title of My Little Pony:  Friendship Is Magic, which is largely the brainchild of Lauren Faust, who earlier worked on Powerpuff Girls, though she has moved onto other projects while Friendship continues in its second season.  To the surprise of its creators, G4 has picked up a sizable and vocal peripheral fanbase made up largely of young men in their teens and early twenties, who have spread the word through Internet threads, meme-sharing, and goofy "ponifications" on YouTube, with the result that just about everypony seems to be watching this show.  As a result, we have gems like this:

Yeah, I'd watch that.

G4 gives us a slimmed-down Ponyverse based heavily on G3. The story takes place in a land called Equestria where most of the people are, not surprisingly, talking ponies.  An obsessive-compulsive young Unicorn mare named Twilight Sparkle, a student of magic in a school for gifted Unicorns, is ordered by the immortal and goddess-like Princess Celestia to leave the capitol of Canterlot and move to the small town of Ponyville to make some friends, because she seriously needs a break from study.  Accompanied by her assistant, a baby dragon named Spike (who has the honor of being the only character to appear in G1, G3, and G4), Twilight quickly meets five other ponies, all of them with distinct and rather eccentric personalities.  Twilight, however, is uninterested in making friends because she is convinced that, as she has discovered in a book of ancient legends, an evil demigoddess imprisoned in the moon will soon be set free to cover the world in eternal darkness.  She is of course correct about that, but eventually discovers that friendship, far from being an unnecessary distraction, is key to saving Equestria.

Because of the huge fanbase and the hype, I admit I was slightly disappointed when I sat down and actually watched this.  I was expecting something along the lines of Avatar:  The Last Airbender.  It's certainly not that good, but it is a charming, funny, and highly entertaining little show.  The pace is quick, the writing is clever, and the musical numbers (only occasional in the early episodes but growing in frequency) are catchy.  Each episode revolves around some lesson about friendship, usually delivered by Twilight in a monologue at the end of the episode and usually involving playing nice with others and the like.  Most of those lessons, although I would rephrase or edit a few of them if I could, are surprisingly wholesome and unpoisoned by Politically Correct claptrap.  To my pleasant surprise, I have not even once had to endure a character saying, "Believe in yourself," even though that content-free non-message would conceivably fit in a few places.  My only complaint is regarding the message at the end of the first-season episode, "Feeling Pinkie Keen," which goes like this:
I am happy to report that I now realize there are wonderful things in this world that you can't explain, but that doesn't make them any less true.  You just have to choose to believe in them.  And sometimes it takes a friend to show you the way.
I am still trying to figure out what the hay that means.

The show is quite episodic; only the season premiers have story arcs that run for more than one episode, and  the writers show no qualms about shifting around details and allowing little discrepencies for the sake of an individual episode's plot.  Although Lauren Faust has said in an interview that she originally conceived of the show as an action-adventure, it is actually more like a sit-com, making it, at least in my experience, unique amongst children's toons.  It succeeds because it has a large cast of instantly lovable characters, good writing, and a lot of zany humor, not to mention goofy speech patterns that a viewer could easily, to his embarrassment, pick up:

That's not what I meant.

The adolescent, adult, and mostly male fans call themselves "bronies," and one of the hobbies with which bronies like to occupy themselves is naming and discussing the "background ponies," the characters without speaking roles who only appear in the background.  Background ponies don't have official names, and the animators apparently construct them for the most part out of a set of prefabricated designs, but that doesn't stop the fans from examining them minutely.  You can see a massive list of background pones here, for example.  Although my personal favorite background pony is a stallion fans have taken to calling Dr. Whooves, by far the most popular is a character named Derpy Hooves.

Derpy first appears in the series premier.  Originally, her face was covered by another pony's flank, but somebody up top decided the scene would look better if her face were uncovered, and so the scene was changed, revealing her face and unexpectedly starting a fan subculture.  As either a mistake or more likely as a joke, she is represented with crossed eyes.  Fans noticed and went nuts, dubbing her "Derpy."

Derpy's First Appearance.
A pony with the same design, minus the crossed eyes, appears in other episodes, and after she mouthed the word "muffins" at one point, fans went nuts again.  It has become a standard part of fanon that Derpy is a muffin lover, and a banana muffin lover specifically, though I'm not sure why.

You ponies have too much time on your hooves.

The creators of the show, upon learning of Derpy's popularity, started inserting her, now with eyes always crossed, into more scenes, usually doing something goofy.  She finally received a speaking role and the official name Derpy in the second-season episode, "The Last Roundup," in which she accidentally destroys Ponyville's Town Hall.  Derpy is therefore the ultimate ascended Internet meme.

No, on second thought, I'm going to stop using the word "meme."  Ideas are not viruses, people.

Anyway, with the ascension of Derpy, the bronies believed they had triumphed, and it really appeared they had.  They gained respectability with an article in the Wall Street Journal, and recently, Hasbro announced the release of some Toys 'R' Us-exclusive toys that appear to be aimed at bronies specifically (or at least the bronies think so), including a toy Princess Celestia more accurate to the show than the earlier version, about which bronies had often complained, and a toy based on a popular background character the fans have dubbed Vinyl Scratch or DJ P0n3, who appears for all of three seconds in the first-season episode, "Suited for Success."  The Hub, the network broadcasting the show, has catered to the peripheral base by making  reference both to bronies and to DJ P0n3 in a remarkable advertisement:

That kind of creeped me out.

Just as the bronies have reached the pinnacle of their apparent success in gaining the attention of the show's creators and owners, it has suddenly fallen apart.  The news is fresh, and rumors on the Internet are flying, so the following comments may be based partly on misinformation, but what is clear is that the episode "The Last Roundup" disappeared for a while from iTunes, and Derpy-related gear disappeared or got altered on Welovefine.com, which sells Pony merchandise.  "The Last Roundup" has just reappeared on iTunes, but Derpy has a new voiceover, no longer has crossed eyes, and is not referred to by name.  Some bronies have suggested that this is the doing of Apple, but that cannot be, for Apple doesn't own the copyright.  This clearly comes straight from Hasbro, apparently as the result of complaints that Derpy is insulting to children with developmental disorders or crossed eyes or something like that.  In other words, the Politically Correct thought police finally came for the ponies.  Equestria Daily has posts on the subject.

Because I'm aware of what PC-types are capable of, and of how they can make mountains out of molehills and tempests in teapots, I'm not terribly surprised that they eventually came for Friendship Is Magic, though I am surprised that they came for Derpy, of all ponies.  I actually expected the complaints to center around Zecora the Zebra.  I mean, seriously, when they added an African character to the show, they made her a witch doctor who talks in rhyme.  I didn't think you could get away with that anymore.

Please don't take my Zecora.

I personally own an uncensored copy of "The Last Roundup," but I think I'll move it to my external hard drive just in case the folks at iTunes decide to pull an Amazon Kindle on me and delete it from my computer without my consent.  Because this post is already too long and heavy with YouTube videos, what's say I go ahead and post a pirated copy of the scene as it looked before Bowlderization:

The scene Hasbro doesn't want you to see!

I won't give the edited version the dignity of a posting here.  It's much the same, only with a higher-pitched voice, eyes uncrossed, the elimination of the name Derpy, and a worse voice performance from Ashleigh Ball, who plays Rainbow Dash.  I will, however, give this:

Simmer down, now.

Anyway, as you can see, Derpy is a funny and likable character.  Because she's no goofier than the rest of the cast, it never even occurred to me that she was supposed to be mentally retarded, though she's apparently been interpreted that way by those who make a hobby out of being offended.  Hasbro deserves only a little blame for this:  they of course have an eye on the bottom line, so we can imagine that some suited executives somewhere considered whether they'd rather tick off a bunch of teenage fanboys, or tick off Mom.  Realizing that Mom signs more of their checks, they naturally sided with her and risked subjecting themselves to brony wrath.  Rumor has it (though I haven't been able to find it and confirm it) that the official word from Hasbro is that Derpy can keep appearing in the background, but she will never speak again.

You make Derpy cry!

One of the reasons I have always had a respect, though mostly from a distance, for this franchise, is because it has a certain inherent immunity to the sleaze of the postmodern age.  Hatred of femininity and innocence are built into the ideologies of today's leftists and feminists, but in the midst of a world where British schools teach five-year-olds about sodomy and where everything that makes girls different from boys is derided or denied, My Little Pony has been an unassailable fortress in the storm, mostly because it is built around childishness and femininity and cannot let go of those things without ceasing to exist.  I suspect the people who own it know it:  it is a franchise about pretty ponies who wear dresses.  In remarkably simple and elegant fashion, it encapsulates the universe of the five-year-old girl, who, unadulterated as yet by the world's message that she is supposed to be just like a boy, loves things like princesses and pretty ponies and playing dress-up.  It might look absurd to a grownup, or at least to a grownup who has become too jaded and too convinced of his own maturity, but ponies in dresses are serious business to a little girl.  I know this because I grew up alongside girls who took them seriously.

I suspect this is also the source of the current popularity with the unexpectedly broad fan base, the members of which have probably seen very few examples of unabashed and unembarrassed femininity.  My Little Pony is inherently counter-feminist, and the cartoon adapation of it is for the most part lacking in anything that people today mistakenly call "irony."  Although the new series gives more nods and winks than earlier incarnations (drawing heavily on Internet fads as well as on pop culture icons ranging from Star Wars to I Love Lucy), and though it sometimes appears to be a little too amused with the fact that its cast is made up of talking ponies, it nonetheless usually plays it straight, taking itself seriously enough to avoid being snide, but not so seriously as to become pretentious.

Because I respect and love what My Little Pony is all about, I'm actually pleased with something else Hasbro has done that has cheesed off a large section of the bronies.  That something else is named Princess Cadence.

Lemme give y'all the background here.  According to the setup in the first episode of Friendship Is Magic, the land of Equestria has two princesses (actually queens or even goddesses, but little girls like princesses so we're calling them princesses, darn it), Princess Celestia and Princess Luna.  Princess Celestia raises and lowers the sun every day with her freaky magic powers, and Luna raises and lowers the moon every night.  A thousand years ago, Luna went all bad and tried to bring eternal night on the land, so Celestia opened a can of magical whoop-haunch and shut Luna up in the moon for a thousand years.  Then Luna got loose again and Twilight Sparkle and company had to open yet another can of whoop-haunch.  You got all that?  It's biblical, sort of.  Or Lovecraftian, maybe.

Anyway, in G4, Celestia and Luna are the only winged Unicorns (known as Alicorns in the fandom) and also, apparently, the only immortals.  The toy Princess Celestia has been pink, even though the character in the show is white, presumably because another one of those suited execs at Hasbro thinks pink princesses sell better to the target demographic than white ones do.

A white Celestia is now available, though it's unclear at the moment whether it will completely oust the pink model, but another princess, also pink, is in the works.  That is the aforementioned Princess Cadence, who has a couple of playsets in which she is depicted getting married to a hunk of a Unicorn stallion named Shining Armor.  I have, to my delight, seen at least one feminist go ballistic over this, because feminists hate things like children and marriage, but My Little Pony is for little girls, not for feminist busybodies, and the folks at Hasbro, whatever their personal politics might be, know which side their bread is buttered on.  They also undoubtedly know that little girls like pink, ponies, princesses, and weddings.  Let's face it:  creating a little girls' playset about a pink pony princess having a wedding is an act of marketing genius.

However, Princess Cadence, if she ever appears in the show, will throw the established worldbuilding all to heck.  Friendship Is Magic has shown adeptness at shoehorning in new elements, but explaining why there's a third goddess-princess who's never been mentioned previously will prove difficult.  Rumor has it that Cadence and Shining Armor will appear in the season finale of season 2, and Andrew Francis, who has played a small part in the series previously, has apparently done the voice work for Shining Armor.  This is unsurprising:  it would be strange if Hasbro didn't order the show's creators to stick the major toy characters in there someplace, since one of the show's most important purposes will always, inevitably, be to advertise the toys.  Nonetheless, Princess Cadence has a chance of becoming the Scrappy and single-hoofedly making the show jump the shark.  Personally, I'm hoping she turns out awesome, though I admit I like the two-princess thing the show set up at the beginning.  Considering that both of the current princesses are under-utilized as characters, I can't imagine what they'll do with a third one.

Princess Cadence lays the smack down on all her brony haters.
(Stolen from here.)
One way or the other, the addition of Cadence is a small problem for the bronies compared to the censorship of Derpy.  Will #SaveDerpy tweets be enough to save her?  Only time will tell.

But the important question, as far as I'm concerned, is what Fluttershy thinks of the Derpy and Cadence controversies.  I figure I'll just do whatever she says.

Yes, ma'am!  Whatever you say, ma'am!