Manifesto of Elliot Rodger

If you want to read it for yourself, it’s here (let me know if that link stops working).

If you’d rather read a synopsis, you’re in the right place. I read the whole thing in just a few hours. He begins at the beginning: his idyllic childhood in England. His move to the US at the age of 5. School, friends, etc. His hobbies throughout the years may sound familiar: Pokemon, Halo, skateboarding, World of Warcraft. Sounds like the average Redditor.

Strange thing is how oddly specific he is. He names parks he went to as a child. Friends from grade school by first and last name. Each nice restaurant. He calls his father’s car “the Mercedes SUV” even if he’s already mentioned it in the last sentence and could switch to using “car” with no confusion. He remembers the names of his elementary school teachers and what desserts his grandmother fed him a decade ago on holiday. His family’s lawyer claims he had high functioning form of Asperger’s.

What was really interesting about him is that he didn’t hate women. Not really. He desperately wanted a girlfriend (a tall, skinny blonde, of course), but no girls ever talked to him. He was also obsessed with material things: clothes, mansion, car, hair, having lots of money. His logic was that he could only attract (deserve?) the sort of girl he wanted if he had millions of dollars and fancy cars. And his conclusion was that he needed to win the lottery, since that was the only quick way to get the kind of money he needed to attract his pretty blondes. He spent thousands on the lottery, but only after using the ideas found in The Secret (ie, picturing himself winning the lottery over and over again).

It’s funny that he couldn’t see his own contradictions at all. He spoke of the men who managed to sleep with the girls he so desperately wanted. He called them slobs. He said they were barbaric. Low class. Ugly. Poor. Then why would he, Elliot, need fancy cars and many millions to attract the same girls?

The killing spree was, in his mind, revenge on sexually active men for getting what he never had, and on women, for denying him sex and love, which he believed he deserved more than other men. He started out just being angry when he saw couples. Then he had a phase where he would spill his drink on happy couples. There is, perhaps, some amusing Freudian analysis to be made here — dousing coveted blonde beauties in liquids… I giggled a little when I read this because it sounds so childish. “He’s got what I want so I know! I’ll pour my drink on them!”

He does make one point which I think has some merit:

Women should not have the right to choose who to mate with. That choice should be made for them by civilized men of
intelligence. If women had the freedom to choose which men to mate with, like they do today, they would breed with stupid, degenerate men, which would only produce stupid, degenerate offspring. This in turn would hinder the advancement of humanity. Not only hinder it, but devolve humanity completely.

Though, personally, I wouldn’t restrict it to women. Rather, most people aren’t doing a great job  of choosing mates. If they were, at least half of the population wouldn’t be breeding at all (everyone with IQ below median should find themselves un-mate-able if people were making good choices).

All in all, the case of Elliot Rodger makes me sad. He grew up extremely privileged and wealthy. He visited 6 different countries before the age of 5 and would go on to have many lengthy international holidays. He attended film premieres, mingled with the Hollywood elite and their offspring, got basically everything he ever asked his mother for. Yet, he was unhappy. He wanted his mother to re-marry: someone even wealthier, because he thought it would solve all his problems. Where on earth did he get the idea that more money would fix things? Oh, right, this is America. Of course. It’s the only thing that matters here. More generally, I think we can all find a shadow of this in our own lives: we focus most of our attention on the one thing we don’t have, becoming unable to enjoy the rest.

I’m sad because he was smart. The people he killed, they were probably smart too. Why don’t we ever hear about the San Francisco homeless population massacring one another? Entire prison populations having a shank orgy resulting in the deaths of hundreds of violent offenders? Now that might actually be useful! But this, these. These deaths are a pity.

From his writing, I can tell that he was a sweet, thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent boy. His only downfall was caring so much about what others thought of him: having rigid ideas of success and worthwhileness, all of it validated only externally. As fiction, his Manifesto would’ve been one of the most brilliant books I’ve ever read. It’s better than Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.

I’ve spoken to two people about him, and both have said “He’s really cute!” or something along those lines. I think the true tragedy here is that maybe he was so shy that girls who would’ve been interested interpreted his behavior as disinterest.

Here’s a much more thorough synopsis of Elliot Rodger from Mashable.

Lowered expectations

This post is in response to a couple of articles I read recently. One on how smutty fiction makes us unhappy by giving us unrealistic expectations, and the other on why I’m not married (both linked below). I have also linked my favorite response to the marriage article: it brings up the good point that expecting nothing means that we allow ourselves to be treated badly, and this is obviously not ideal.

Though the author of the marriage article, Tracy McMillan, has been called sexist, misogynist, etc, and I won’t agree or disagree. I do think she has a point. If marriage is so important that you are willing to mould yourself into an ideal of pleasant femininity, to accept any guy who will marry you, to be selfless and expect nothing in return except sexual fidelity, then yes — do that. It may really help you with your goal of being married.

However, I think it may be worthwhile to first examine why marriage is that important to you — and whether it’s really about you. Or is that that your parents expect it? That your friends are all doing it? That you’re sick of answering questions about why you aren’t married? You’re afraid to be alone? Your biological clock is ticking? There may be better solutions to all of these concerns.

The other article on fantasy boyfriends from fiction mentions the author’s parents who, at the time of publication, had been happily married for 39 years. I’m always interested to know how people manage to tolerate each other for that long. Her mother said her secret was “forgiveness and lowered expectations”.

Her response makes me sad. While articles like these are telling women they should be less selfish and more forgiving and live life “working around a man’s fear and insecurity”, they’re implicitly giving men a free pass. The other side of telling women “please lower your expectations” is telling men “you’re fine just the way you are”. In other words, men: you don’t need to work on improving yourself. You don’t have to be romantic. You don’t have to act like an adult rather than your wife’s other 5 year old son. You don’t have to deal with your emotions and your wife’s concerns in a thoughtful way. You don’t have to look good. You’re a man! That is just how you are! The only thing expected of you in a marriage is that you don’t cheat!

I think we should teach people (both genders) to raise their expectations. Unless it’s the kind of love that streaks across the heavens and lights up the night sky, it isn’t worth your time. Trust me on this one — I’ve taken the long road to verify it.

Your Fictional Fantasy Boyfriend May Be Making You Fifty Shades of Miserable

Why You’re Not Married

An Open Letter to the Women Who Are Telling Me It’s My Fault I’m Not Married

Is Benedict Cumberbatch an atheist?

As with my previous post on Tom Hiddleston’s religion (or lack thereof), the standard disclaimer applies: I don’t know for sure, and this is my speculation. I would lean towards “yes” but unlike the my many ambiguous tidbits of evidence for Tom Hiddleston, I have one convincing quote from Benedict Cumberbatch. In particular, during his Harper’s Bazaar interview he says (in response to the question “Do you have any irrational fears?”):

No, I’m quite a rationalist. I’m not superstitious. I think life is too full of natural wonders and logical complexities to worry about illogical things.

What convinces me that he’s an atheist is his word choices. References to “natural wonders” and to logical versus illogical make him sound very much like Richard Dawkins, one of the world’s most prominent atheists. That argument — that the world is too full of natural wonder to go worrying about illogical things — is actually the theme of one of Dawkins’ books (The Greatest Show on Earth).

It’s also interesting that when he says “illogical things” he bites his lip and smiles like a boy who has just said something naughty — as if he knows that he’s making fun of religion and he knows he might get in trouble for it.

Now, I know that many will argue that he worked at a Tibetan monastery during his gap year. There is also evidence that he meditates, or that he once did. However, here is his description of it:

There’s an ability to focus and have a real sort of purity of purpose and attention and not be too distracted. And to feel very alive to your environment, to know what you are part of, to understand what is going on in your peripheral vision and behind you, as well of what is in front of you. That definitely came from that.

This sounds more like the analysis of a clinical psychiatrist than a religious adherent. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he calls himself a buddhist “at least philosophically” — but none of this conflicts with atheism.

It appears that he has a feeling that there’s something bigger than him in this world, but the first quote seems to put him in the camp of Richard Dawkins. The “something bigger” is the natural world and its scientific intricacies.

Lessons from Teen Mom

(The observations in this post are about Teen Mom 2)

“Television rots the brain”

“Reality television is trash and a waste of time”

These are common statements, especially among educated, serious grown-up types. But I contend that if you look, there are common threads to human behavior and motivation that can be observed in these types of shows. Here are a few things I have learned.

What girls want

There is just one thing: they want to feel like the #1 priority.

Continue reading

Ruining San Francisco

Who gets to talk about what is ruining San Francisco? People who were born and raised here. Who gets to be quiet on the matter? Everyone else.

As someone from the former group, I will say that I disagree with Chris Tacy who denounces tech workers in his blog [link below]. He’s a tech worker that’s better than all the douchebag tech workers he describes because (and you will love this) he moved into the Mission in 1992 before it was cool! What he liked about San Francisco?

 I found a city made up of wildly different people – of all types – spread across a huge range of little tribal neighborhoods. It was a massive melting pot of values, ethnicities, world views, ages and economic classes.

Continue reading

On Reproduction

Unfortunately, some of the best people I know have no children and no intention of ever having children. It isn’t uncommon. My advisor doesn’t want kids. My friends who have started a non-profit to help women in Africa via water projects do not want kids. I know brilliant math researchers who can’t stand to be touched by others.

There are also many who doubt. They can’t answer philosophical questions like “why am I here,” and for fear of not being able to answer the questions of their future children (eg, “why did you bring me here?”) they don’t want to have kids. Or they doubt that their finances are sufficient to maximize opportunities for their children: private schools, piano lessons, college tuition, etc. Some doubt their genetics, knowing their families have a history of depression, diabetes, dementia, heart disease, cancer.

Meanwhile, who is reproducing? In the US, many religious people, people on welfare, teens who can’t be bothered with contraception, poor immigrants… In general, probably the stupider people. It is certainly true that less educated/less responsible/less intelligent people have shorter generations, with parenthood beginning much earlier (teens/early 20’s). The plot of Idiocracy could come to life before our eyes. It isn’t too hard to imagine, especially given the latest Programme for International Student Assessment results, which show the US lagging behind despite spending the 4th most per capita of any country surveyed. Other indications are abundant as well, such as what passes for news or food in the US.

This is my plea to you if you are reading this and have doubts about whether you want to have kids. A wise friend of mine once said, “If you are having these doubts, you are already more qualified than most of the people who are reproducing.” If you’re doubting, think again. And not just about adoption. The gene pool could probably use your genes. Intelligence is highly heritable. Thoughtfulness can be taught and is desperately needed in forthcoming generations. Boys — if you really can’t, do at least consider donating sperm. Girls — you can do it. We need you! The world needs you and your progeny. Or else it’ll be overrun by people like North West, offspring of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, and nobody wants that…

Language dilution

“As humans, we waste the shit out of our words. It’s sad. We use words like “awesome” and “wonderful” like they’re candy. It was awesome? Really? It inspired awe? It was wonderful? Are you serious? It was full of wonder? You use the word “amazing” to describe a goddamn sandwich at Wendy’s. What’s going to happen on your wedding day, or when your first child is born? How will you describe it? You already wasted “amazing” on a fucking sandwich.”

– Louis C.K.

I have heard people complain about this. It’s a disease of Silicon Valley especially, where companies hire “amazing software engineers” and VPs have been known to be “super excited” for more than 4 hours.

To answer his questions honestly, I think my wedding day will need only the words “tiresome, loud, uncomfortable” and perhaps “aching feet, frozen smile-face.” The birth of my first child will require mostly “exhausting, bloody, excruciating” — so it’s really fine that I’ve already used “amazing” and “wonderful” for Tartine’s ham and cheese croissant — because that is the experience (out of these three) that actually deserves those words.

The trouble is that words take on connotations based on the social group using them. It’s perfectly acceptable to use diluted terms like “awesome” to describe soup because everyone else does. It conveys the appropriate meaning. Since no one here uses it to mean “that which inspires awe”, it would be strange to use it in that way. This is nothing new. In fact, Louis C.K.’s rant is a complaint about the evolution of language.

I am not against dilution because it results in people having to be more creative when they do mean that they saw something awe inspiring that filled them with wonder. They have to be descriptive because they know those two words are parlayed roughly as being between “quite good” and “not bad” on the scale of Britishisms.

Because I can’t use a word like “wonderful” to describe how I feel, I have to say things like “his beauty made me feel like I had a soul.” Or “the fine detail in the gallery made me cry, overwhelmed by the dedication and tenderness that must have gone in to each gold-leafed flourish.” A few more words, sure. But much more descriptive. It’s better this way — we can’t be lazy and just pick up the words that have already been strewn about, expecting them to do the important job of imprinting our feelings on the minds of others.

Scattered thoughts (Part 11)

My favorite bridge in Paris. I dragged N here my last night: an hour and half of walking.

Rudeness. I have heard horror stories of French people being snotty to American tourists. But I hadn’t considered how the American tourist must have been acting. A response is a response to something, most of the time. No one was rude to me. Not the girl on the train, or any of the store clerks. Not even when I was alone and didn’t have N to protect me. I pretended in public that I could speak French! I was an echo. I am sure I fooled no one, because I could tell that people were amused with my abysmal pronunciation. But they were indulgent, and even friendly.

Fashion. I had this idea that every person would look like a runway model. Not at all. While I didn’t notice any morbidly obese people (maybe a few obese, but not many), the rest were average. The difference was not in glamour — the American version with bling and brands — but in understated grace and refinement. Clothes weren’t necessarily from fancier designers, but there is an attention to fit and tailoring that we don’t have. The American brands they have in Paris made me laugh though. American Apparel. Gap. Abercrombie!

Food. I understand the bread snobbery now. When even towns with fewer than a thousand inhabitants have their own bakery, and the French are used to visiting a bakery for fresh bread daily, there just can’t be any comparison to America, where one expects bread to last for weeks. There is an emphasis on freshness and flavor that shows everywhere, as if store and restaurant proprietors would be embarrassed to serve anything less. I like their model of eating well but not very much. I strongly object to the too-common use of child sized cups though. I also searched everywhere in Paris for an equivalent to a Big Gulp Icee, but there were none. I whined for an entire afternoon about this.

Work. I don’t think workaholism is as common. Everyone gets six weeks of vacation, and there were entire towns which were like ghost towns because the inhabitants had gone elsewhere on vacation.

Homelessness. During my visit, I encountered exactly two homeless people, both in Paris. Each of them had not only a mattress, but sheets. Neither of them hassled passers-by for money. Certainly none of them were insane. I can’t speak to France’s political system or taxes, but if this and the six week vacations are the result, their way of doing things can’t be all bad.

Landmarks. This isn’t unique to France, but it’s pronounced in Paris. The number of people at historical landmarks follows a Polya Urn distribution. I got the impression that people were there only to collect merit badges in the form of pictures to show off to their friends. A checklist of famous sites, and them grinning in front of each of them. Notre Dame is lovely, sure, but there were near-empty cathedrals that were just as nice, if not nicer. Everyone and their mother was trying to get goofy perspective pictures of picking up the Eiffel tower, or bopping it on the head, but hardly anyone cared for just sitting by the fork of the river, under the willow tree. I have no complaints about this — it made my life more beautiful.

Aesthetics. There was a room in the Louvre that made me cry. The one dedicated to the King Louis XIV. There was too much detail. Too much intricate detail, so precious, so loving, someone’s darling pet project. Lots of someones, probably. This was an extreme case, but care is taken everywhere. Sometimes to a fault. N told me what a headache it is to change anything historical. Even your own home’s window shades. I love that there is a governing body that has veto power over building plans which are too hideous. If Honolulu had had that, there would be no buildings in Waikiki save the Moana Surfrider. I think the French fully appreciate the power and even the necessity of beauty. It may be completely impractical, but what good does practicality do if you’re never touched by that feeling of wonder and delight that comes from beholding something truly beautiful?

I’ll leave you now with one more sunset

nb: this the last of a series on my trip to France