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Fashionable Nonsense: I have conflicted feelings about this book! It consists mainly of quotes from Continental philosophers about math or science, followed by “this doesn’t actually make any sense”, “this is confusing the scientific concept of chaos with the colloquial meaning of chaos”, “none of these words are real math words”, “they mixed up ‘velocity’ and ‘acceleration'”, and “the reason fluid mechanics are hard to solve is not that people have a misogynist objection to fluid things”. They spend a lot of time bashing Lacan, which I always approve of.

To a certain extent, I feel like it’s not entirely fair to critique postmodernism for being an elaborate series of word games? That’s the thing it is. A bunch of clever people showing off how cool their wordplay is. Now, you can ask a bunch of questions about it like “why do people act like these word games are producing knowledge?” and “why is the government funding people to sit on their asses and play incomprehensible word games with each other?” But I feel like criticizing them for being word games without connection to reality is sort of missing the point.

That said, I completely agree that a cute analogy to some mathematical or scientific concept is not the same as “an argument” or “evidence” and mostly serves to give unwarranted scientific rigor to your half-assed speculations. Indeed, I often feel like shouting this to large segments of the rationalist community.

(Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with making half-assed speculations– I do it all the time– but it’s bad form to make people feel they are all science-y when they’re not.)

I spent a lot of the chapter on Bruno Latour grousing to myself because, yeah, sure, Latour’s approach to sociology of science neglects that people might believe things because they are true, which is kind of an important part of science. But he can also write a coherent sentence! Sometimes he’s even funny! These things are not true of literally anyone else in the book Fashionable Nonsense (I guess sometimes Irigaray is funny but not, like, intentionally), and I think we should give Latour some credit for that.

Models: Attract Women Through Honesty: Finally, a PUA book that isn’t full of shit.

The basic thesis of Models is that the most important traits for a heterosexual man attempting to attract women are vulnerability and non-neediness. Non-neediness means that you care more about your opinion of you than people’s opinion of you in general and her opinion of you in specific. Vulnerability means that you are open about your tragic backstory, weird hobbies, embarrassing tastes, and other things that people might judge you for. These go together, because if a woman is like “ew! He likes bugling!” you’re not like “how can I survive if a woman does not approve of me?????” you’re like “*shrug* her loss.”

I think this is broadly accurate in terms of dating advice, although I really want to expand it to also apply to romances aimed at women. Vulnerability is right, but I feel like there are a lot of things you can say about Edward Cullen but “not needy” is not one of them. Maybe “at least one of not-neediness or murder”? When I brought this up on Tumblr people were like “Ozy, romance novels are different from real life”, which is true. But I think the primary difference is that some things which are bad in real life, like stalking and a history of committing murder, can be romantic in stories because you know that it is not going to end with Bella feeling creeped out and uncomfortable that she’s being stalked or with Edward Cullen murdering Bella Swan. I don’t think it’s true that women are attracted to needy men but understand that in real life there are negative consequences that don’t exist in fiction. There is clearly something different going on here and I want to understand it.

My favorite story from this book is when the author goes out with one of his player buddies to try to figure out The Secret Of Women. His player buddy gets drunk and starts shouting “can I pee in your butt?” at every attractive woman who walks by. Most of them are horrified, but one of them starts talking to him about rimjobs, and they go home together. A week later, the author tries saying “can I pee in your butt?” to women. He does not get laid.

The moral of the story is that subtext matters more than text, and if your subtext is “I like saying gross shit because I think it’s funny, that is who I am, I don’t care whether you laugh or flee in horror”, that is attractive, and if your subtext is “I have unlocked the magic secret to pussy, please fuck me now”, that is not.

Models argues that when someone rejects you, they’re actually doing you a favor. For instance, a lot of men complain about women rejecting them for being short. But if she rejects you for being short, she is either not attracted to you or extremely shallow. Why do you want to date a shallow person who’s not attracted to you? You should be grateful they kicked themselves out of your dating pool so you don’t have to. This is basically abundance mindset. It is really really hard to get people who can’t get laid to have abundance mindset, and I hope Models’s framing would actually work.

Women can be divided into the categories receptive, unreceptive, and neutral. Unreceptive women have boyfriends, are moving out of the country tomorrow, have taken a vow of celibacy, are lesbians, don’t share your interests, don’t share your values, think you’re ugly, etc. If you’re not certain if a woman is unreceptive, ask her out and then you’ll know. It is best to assume that you are never ever ever ever ever going to change the mind of an unreceptive woman; even if you can, it’s not worth the effort. Shrug it off and move on.  Receptive women initiate with you or enthusiastically reciprocate your flirting. If you have a receptive woman, you escalate and move things forward.

Neutral women aren’t really sure whether they’re receptive to you or not yet; they’re a tentative yes. For most men, most women are neutral when they first meet them. A lot of men assume the right thing to do with neutral women is to avoid offending them by sticking to boring jokes and talking about the weather. This is completely wrong. The longer a woman stays neutral, the more likely it is that she will become unreceptive, because you are boring. In fact, the goal is to get neutral women to become receptive or unreceptive as quickly as possible, through expressing your non-neediness and vulnerability. That way, if she doesn’t like what you’re selling, you don’t have to waste any more time on her, and if she does, then you’re not going to have fucked it up by talking about the weather instead.

There are three important factors in getting laid. Your lifestyle, status, and looks affect what percentage of women are initially receptive to you.  Your boldness, extroversion, and willingness to actually fucking ask women out affect how many women you meet in the first place. Your charisma, flirting ability, and “game” affect what percentage of neutral women become receptive. Models argues that all men who have problems with women have problems in at least one area; most have problems with two, and a few unlucky people have problems with all three.

Lifestyle. The most important principle of lifestyle is that like attracts like. If you want to attract well-educated and successful women with strong opinions on wine, putting your cap on backwards and saying “BROOOOOOOOOOO” a lot will not help. If your heart only beats for metalheads, Sisters of Mercy and Edgar Allen Poe is probably not the right choice. This also applies on a belief level: if you believe that women don’t enjoy sex or that women are all evil, guess what kind of women you’re going to attract. That said, there are also things you can do that will improve romantic success for basically everyone, such as proper grooming, wearing clothes that signal your personality and actually fit, exercising, weight loss, adopting masculine body language and vocal tones, finding unique hobbies that you like, and developing and confidently stating your opinions. (He doesn’t say this, but I would suggest only doing this if they fit with your honest, non-needy, vulnerable self. But I think most guys are not like “my best self is a person who wears clothes that don’t fit!”, they just don’t know how to buy clothes.)

In this section, Models claims that men in general tend to care more about objective indicators of beauty such as waist-to-hip ratio, boob size, and facial symmetry than about subjective indicators like what a woman’s self-presentation is signalling. Typical mind fallacy about this issue, he proposes, is what explains the popularity of weightlifting, complaining about your height, and penis pills. Is that true? Man, other people’s brains are extremely weird.

Approach Anxiety. Lots of men are afraid of things like talking to women, flirting with women, kissing women, and having sex with women. They will generally rationalize why, actually, they shouldn’t approach women: they might say that all women are shallow and terrible (which is silly, because it is far more likely that you are screwed up than that hundreds of thousands of people are all screwed up in exactly the same way), or that they don’t really care about getting a date, or that they need to learn more before they can start. You have to identify your patterns and do the things you’re anxious about anyway; it can help to tell someone who’ll ride your ass about it. He also recommends limiting porn and masturbation so that you’re so horny you’ll ignore your anxiety. Practice accepting your anxiety, recognizing that it’s normal, reframing it as the nervous excitement of being about to do something high-stakes that you’re good at, and not even bothering to hide it from women you’re attracted to. Do exposure therapy to your fear: begin by doing things you’re a little nervous of repeatedly until you are no longer nervous, then try something a little harder. Always err on the side of boldness: boldness polarizes women and turns those “maybes” into “yes” or “no”. Finally, when you are doing something unusual like asking a strange woman you just met out on a date, always acknowledge that it is unusual: for instance, you might say “excuse me, this is kind of random, but I thought you were cute and wanted to say hi.”

Flirting. Models claims that men always communicate literally and don’t do subtext. I have talked to several men in my life [citation needed] and this is absolutely not true. However, I can definitely buy that men who suck at flirting and are buying this book Models are bad at subtext. Anyway, flirting is all about subtext. The difference between teasing and insults is whether the subtext is “I like you so much I trust that you will understand I don’t really mean this” or “I hate you.”

Lots of men are afraid of being creepy when flirting. No one ever manages to 100% avoid creeping out anyone; there are always awkward situations and miscommunications. It happens, and it is not the end of the world. Creepiness is behaving in a way that makes women feel insecure sexually. You can do this by escalating too fast or by having a subtext that isn’t matched to your text (you’re asking her about the book she’s reading and staring at her tits).

When in doubt, the best pickup line is “Hey, I thought you were cute and wanted to say hi.” Don’t bother about worrying about trying to get women not to flake on you; if a woman really wants to sleep with you, she’ll make it happen. If Brad Pitt asked her out, she wouldn’t forget. Avoid movie dates and dinner dates; instead try museums, concerts, walks in interesting places, dance classes, nightclubs or grabbing a drink somewhere, as fits your style. Find a venue close to your house. Try to do multiple things on a date; it builds a sense of getting to know the person. There’s also a lot of stuff about flirting, signals women give, etc. but this review is already a million words long so I am not going into it.

The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption: Evangelical Christians made up an entirely fictional orphan crisis and then decided it was really important that they all adopt children to help end this orphan crisis that they just made up. Naturally, basic economics continues to apply: if you have millions of dollars’ worth of demand for orphans, the supply will magically appear. Parents in many developing countries put their children in orphanages because they cannot afford to feed them but continue to visit and be involved in their children’s lives; these children are often adopted. Many parents in developing countries don’t understand the Western idea of adoption and instead round it to local concepts, such as “being sent to live with a rich relative to be educated and eventually bring money back to your family.” Occasionally children are just stolen.

Domestic adoptions are also horrifying. Many crisis pregnancy centers don’t just coerce women into not having abortions; they also coerce women into giving their children up for adoption. Some actively lie to birth mothers, claiming that their open adoption is legally enforceable when it isn’t or that they can’t take the adoption back because they already signed the paperwork when in reality they could. Others tell women that they are incompetent mothers who will hurt their babies unless they give them up for adoption, or that single parenting is always wrong.

Utah is one of the most ‘pro-adoption’ states in the country. What this means is that, by virtue of consenting to sex, an unmarried man is considered to be aware that he might conceive a child who might be put up for adoption and his silence is assumed to be consent. A birth father does not have to be notified that his child exists; he has to figure it out himself and then fight for the right to take care of his own biological child. If the woman gives birth in Utah, Utahan law applies, and some adoption agencies will move the birth mother to Utah so that the birth father doesn’t have to be notified.

Part of the problem, I think, is that there are a lot of people who want to adopt babies (both infertile people and evangelical Christians who believe in the entirely fictional orphan crisis). But there aren’t a lot of people who want to go through nine months of pregnancy and then not take care of a baby afterward; most people either want to not go through the pregnancy at all (and thus have an abortion) or raise their child. Of course, foster care

Normally, I am not viscerally moved by ineffective altruism. But every time I saw a dollar sign in this book it upset me. $65,000 per child to bring a child from the Ukraine to meet prospective adoptive families equals 19 children dead of malaria. $8,000 per child for adoption fees equals two more dead children.

[The next item talks about the Holocaust.]

Quiverfull: Inside The Christian Patriarchy Movement: Not a lot of new information for me, but then I’ve been interested in Quiverfull stuff for a couple of years and have a lot of ex-Quiverfull friends and so on.

One of the theologians who really created the idea of God not wanting you to use birth control was also a Holocaust denier. Then he read one of his Holocaust denial books explaining that the gas chambers were too small to kill as many people as the Allies reported had died. Then it occurred to him that many Jewish people were children. So he made a gas-chamber-sized space with couches and cushions, called together his children, told them to stand in the mock gas chamber, noticed that they fit, and started crying. He then spent much of the rest of his life writing books debunking Holocaust denialism.

Doug Phillips, one of the more famous Quiverfull writers, is a Jewish convert to evangelical Christianity. Between this and Milo Yiannopolous pissing off the Daily Stormer [link goes to Neo-Nazi website], I have to ask: is there literally any intellectual movement that doesn’t have a Jewish person writing for it?

[The next item contains material about dieting and weight loss.]

Nutrition: A Very Short Introduction: Wow! Nutrition makes a lot more sense than I thought it did! For instance, I previously know that abdominal fat had more negative health consequences than fat on your butt and thighs does, but apparently there is a reason! Butt and thigh fat evolved for fat storage and is metabolically inactive, while abdominal fat evolved to maintain body temperature and as such is metabolically more active, stimulating the production of glucose (whether or not it is needed) and hormones that antagonize the action of insulin. The entire book is like this: explanations for facts you previously knew about but didn’t know there was an explanation for.

In terms of actionable advice, this book recommends eating lots of vegetables and fruits, not eating a lot of processed food or restaurant meals, exercising regularly, avoiding fad diets, and avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol. Which everybody knew about already, but on the other hand if a Very Short Introduction to Nutrition book was full of facts people didn’t know about I would be concerned about the effectiveness of our public health education programs.

I wish this book would have addressed in more detail the subject of why it is so difficult for people to maintain weight loss. The author briefly mentions that an appropriate diet for weight loss maintenance is the same as a sensible diet for people who have been thin all along, but I feel like this fails to answer important questions like how come my husband and I are both eating absurd quantities of post-Valentine’s on-sale candy and yet he’s the only one with a belly.

[Here there be spoilers for Shoebox Project.]

Shoebox Project: Like all the best Marauders fic, it is stealth tragedy. Not, of course, that anything about Shoebox Project is sad: Shoebox Project is commendably fluffy, happy, light, full of witty conversations and shenanigans, and completely missing anything approaching a ‘plot’. But every so often James mentions that he wants to have tons of gross old-person sex with Lily and he probably won’t even think it’s gross because that’s how much he loves her, and then you have to put the fanfic down and sob because of your overwhelming feelings about every one of the Marauders.

(A lot of people are mistaken about this, because the movies inexplicably cast reasonably-aged people to play James and Lily, but James and Lily were only 21 when they died.)

I appreciate that the pranking is treated as being fairly morally ambiguous, and that Remus is shown as having ethical qualms about it but going along because he has a hard time standing up to his friends.

Honestly, Shoebox Project probably has my favorite Peter Pettigrew ever. He feels like he’s stupider and less charming than all his friends (and that’s kind of true), he feels like none of his friends feel very much motivation to hang around with him and just do it out of inertia (and that’s kind of true), and he feels utterly neglected now that they’ve graduated from school (and that’s absolutely true). And he doesn’t even have an explanation for why everyone is neglecting him, because he doesn’t know about the Order of the Phoenix, and he certainly doesn’t know that Remus and Sirius are banging and too busy being wrapped up in new relationship energy to talk to anyone. He becomes a Death Eater because they pay attention to him and they validate his loneliness and they offer an explanation for his problems that isn’t “I’m kind of a terrible human being.” Very relatable. Someone give Peter Pettigrew a hug.

Shoebox Project is famously unfinished, but I actually feel like the ending is a satisfying ending? I mean, you can tell they didn’t intend it to be the ending, but having Peter Pettigrew’s start of darkness as the last chapter is actually a nice resolution. Shoebox Project is about the fun, fluffy part of the Marauders’ lives, and Peter Pettigrew starting to go evil is where you can draw the line and go “yep, it’s over now.”

God, remember pre-Racefail when there was a ton of Discourse about how we need to Write Men Like They’re Men and so we got a bunch of characters being Realistically Misogynist and calling each other girls all the time? Good times, good times. Feels super-weird reading it when I’m more used to reading modern fanfiction in which Remus and Sirius are more likely to have a conversation about how asexuals need to be included in the Wizard Gay-Straight Alliance.