A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.

To be clear, the sandpit is for regular commenters to pursue points that distract from regular discussion, including conspiracy-theoretic takes on the issues at hand. It’s not meant as a forum for visiting conspiracy theorists, or trolls posing as such.

11 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. I’ve been thinking about LGBT dragons, sparked by this very Brighton anecdote shared on FB by my daughter:
    ”I work at a bookstore and this was an actual conversation I had at work last night:
    – 5-year-old boy: *brings me a romance book* “What’s this?”
    – Me: “A story about two people falling in love!”
    – Boy: “Is there a dragon in it?”
    – Me: “No.”
    – Boy: “Then why do you even have it on the shelf?” “

    It should be possible to bridge the competing interests here with a progressive dragon romance. What you need to remember is that dragons, like clownfish and other species of tropical coral reef fish, can change sex. It’s routine but painful, and involves a full moult, like a snake. Pink girl dragons become blue boy dragons, and vice versa.

    We start with two boy dragons, Kalessin and Fafnir. They are inseparable childhood friends, and in adolescence this turns into love, as can happen with dragons. They are happy together until….

    Here the story forks into a “gender as fate” branch and a “gender as choice” one.

    In the former: Some dragons change sex for unknown biological reasons. This happens to Fafnir but not Kalessin.
    In the latter: They decide to start a family. One of them must change sex, and they decide it’s Fafnir. She seeks out the rare and perilous firestone that enables this, becomes Fafnira, and in due course the proud mother of a fine brood of dragonnets.

    Now the forks rejoin. The sexual orientations of the couple are unchanged, the dominant pattern with transgender humans. Fafnira still loves Kalessin – but Kalessin can no longer love her, as a female. Kalessin finds love elsewhere with another male, Orm. Perhaps Orm has already fallen for Kalessin, and the three of them know very well what is going to happen. Cue for grand Wagnerian trio. The love triangles of dragons are dangerous indeed, as the refugees from burned villages can attest.

    I can’t see a happy ending to this. In either branch, a later sex change to female by Kalessin does not help. You can always fix any plot problem with a draco ex machina, say they fly off together to a rainbow haven of dragon bliss, but in storytelling that’s cheating. So end it as a tragedy, Anna Dragonina as it were. Even 5-year-old boys have to learn that sometimes life just sucks, and all choices lead to pain. LGBTQ+ is largely a list of forms of bad luck.

  2. Good story, interesting premise / thesis. LGBTQ+ can be simplified IMHO. Everyone is bisexual in orientation(s) albeit not in physical conformation, except perhaps for hermaphrodites. The idea that anyone is perfectly straight is a furphy. The issue with bisexuality is a matter of degree. Is one 90-10, 80-20, 60-40, 50-50 or some other ratio? How could this ratio be estimated? I would say only by stated preferences and/or actual behaviors honestly reported. Attracters, attractors and environments will change this ratio. It is malleable.

    We have all heard the expression “straight at the gate, gay for the stay” in reference to prison sex. An erstwhile acquaintance of mine, as ostensibly and manifestly hetero as any ocker but more intelligent, taller and stronger than average, admitted that after six months in prison (for growing weed), “One rather effeminate guy in there was starting to look pretty good to me.”

    Many of us who are “mostly” heterosexua,l even to a high ratio of say 95-05 or more, will likely still have experienced that odd, rare feeling when becoming aware of an extraordinarily attractive person (to us) of the same sex. It’s an awareness that “OMG, I could turn gay for this person in the right (or wrong) circumstances.” As one of Elvis Presley’s seemingly quite straight male associates said in an interview, “Elvis is so good looking he makes you wish you were a girl.” Shame, dishonesty and oppression about the somewhat blurry and malleable sexuality of all people is the main source of some or many orientations becoming “a list of forms of bad luck”. All in IMHO.

    When it comes to storytelling structure, you can’t go past:

    Click to access Propp_Vladimir_Morphology_of_the_Folktale_2nd_ed.pdf

    JW, if you are very interested in storytelling structure and its application to lowbrow and highbrow narrative I would suggest this course of action. (I think you should do it since your story precis shows a high degree of storytelling imagination IMHO.)

    1. Read “morphology of the folktale”. Alternatively I can post my precis of his narrative structural analysis in this thread.

    2. Read “Harry Potter”, first book, (lowbrow) and analyze by applying Propp’s folktale narrative structure.

    3. Read “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse (highbrow) and analyze by applying Propp’s folktale narrative structure.

    I think you will find the insights you gain extraordinarily interesting and the exercise well worth the effort. It’s interesting to note that some (many?) serious authors take folk tales very seriously. Leo Tolstoy is a case in point. He read, analyzed and note-booked his Russian folktale readings and insights from those readings. He somewhat prefigured Propp in that regard without developing, so far as I know, a formal academic structural schema as did Propp. The American Joseph Campbell “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” (read by George Lucas who used his theories for the Starwars narrative structure) is inferior in my opinion to Propp and possibly derivative if Campbell could read Russian or read the first and very obscure English edition of Propp before writing his own book. It’s also possible Propp and Campbell developed their theories independently. There are many prefiguring writers and theorists in this arena.

  3. Ikon, I have never heard ““straight at the gate, gay for the stay”.

    James. If “ We start with two boy dragons, Kalessin and Fafnir” had older siblings, story arc may be enhanced. Go on…. write it. One will turn into a diplomat. A start for “Lord of the Gendered Rings”

    “In Norse mythology, Fáfnir (/ˈfɑːvnɪʐ/ in Old Norse and /ˈfaupnɪr/ in Icelandic) or Frænir is a son of the dwarf king Hreidmar and brother of Regin, Ótr, Lyngheiðr, and Lofnheiðr.[2] After being affected by the curse of Andvari’s ring and gold, Fafnir became a dragon and was slain by Sigurd.”

  4. KT2,

    You might want to be careful talking about rings in this context. 😉 I can say that not being a homophobe. There are plenty of good jokes around which are not necessarily homophobic if not uttered in the wrong spirit in the wrong place. Some NFL (American Football) position names are certainly amusing if you think about it. I refer to tight ends and wide receivers. I hope this is not too off color. J.Q. please delete if it offends.

  5. Delete as required. But I don’t think it is required.

    I recently read a grammatical justification for a sentence containing euphamism for faeces starting w “sh..” 5x in a row as a sentence. It was grammatically correct due to acceptable language drift.

    “about rings” used by friendly jordies, to call out John Barilaro – and a key chain of “greasy …. & ….s” with caricature in place of …

    Defamation be damned.

    Without expletives or crude inuendo, you’d need a 500 page book to detail Barilaro.

    “bruz: eternal”


    It took me a year to cease swearing altogether after I became a single parent. Since kid becoming a teenager, expletives are creeping back in. And my teenager doesn’t swear. Yet.

    Swear but don’t slur. And I don’t even know “… a different F-word – a three-letter slur used to disparage LGBTQ people.”… dragon?

    “Most of Carlin’s words seem less shocking today. The F-word really raised eyebrows in 1972. In 2019, it had dropped to 23rd in my survey, just ahead of “asshole.” The S-word was No. 43, just ahead of “dumb.” Only two of Carlin’s filthy words, both of which start with the letter C, even cracked the top 10. These rankings have barely budged over the past decade.

    “So why do many bad words sting young people less than they used to?

    “Partly it’s because they’re so common. People are now estimated to use an average of 80-90 profanities per day. In the most extensive observational work with children to date, the psychologists Kristin and Timothy Jay found the F-word and the S-word to be the most commonly used profanities by children under the age of 13. So it’s no shock that these words would lose their impact.

    “But this doesn’t mean young people find nothing offensive.

    “Specifically, they don’t like slurs.

    “For example, the second-most-offensive word according to the undergrads taking my survey this year is a different F-word – a three-letter slur used to disparage LGBTQ people. No. 4 is the R-word – a six-letter slur used against people with intellectual disabilities. These are among a host of slurs that even mental health professionals once used without compunction but that young adults like my students now reject.”…

    When travelling around Europe, I was taughr expletives along with language. No escape.

    And I can tell you exactly where I wanted to swear just one hour ago. Went to auction in my street. A 2 bed tin & fibro box “tastefully renovated 4 bed” on 800m block, with fibro still in situ (!) with caveat / disclaimer to buyer “if cracked must be remidiated by new owner” $ 620k at auction!!! Listed for $550k. Worth 250k imo.

    I wanted to swear loudly at bidders, auctioneer, government and the wind.

    I’d get 4x what I paid for mine and it is brick compared to 2.5x start 2020. Investors discovered airbnb and internal holidays, made local kids and base pay workers unable to to be local. Our region at least +20% rise in property prices since jan 2020. Zero rentals. !!!*$$####£¥€%%%!

  6. Thanks Iko for the suggestions. In return, may I recommend Italo Calvino’s introduction to his magisterial collection of Italian folk tales.
    KT2: My third dragon, Orm, is also a nod to Le Guin’s Earthsea.

  7. IKO: We aren’t going to make much progress here on nature vs.nurture in sexuality, but my depiction of the stability of sexual orientation after gender change is accurate. Eg this paper in Nature:
    “Sexual orientation did not change over time. We did not observe associations with serum levels of sex steroids or gender-affirming surgery (chest or genital surgery). Sexual orientation did not change during hormonal transition and was not associated with sex steroids or surgery.”

    This stability is pretty strong evidence for the propositions that (a) sexual orientation and gender depend on distinct mechanisms and (b) both are mainly fate not choice. “Fate” here is wider than genetics, and includes epigenetic and environmental influences. True fluidity is rare and anyway does not imply much room for choice, an unlikely story propagated by a handful of libertarian and conservative extremists.

    Basically we are all clownfish. Wikipedia:
    “A school of clownfish is always built into a hierarchy with a female fish at the top. When she dies, the most dominant male changes sex and takes her place.”

  8. KT2: Tolkien’s MIddle Earth also has dragons, notably Smaug and Ancalagon, They are purely malevolent, like orcs, and don’t have the moral complexity I was trying for, and both Le Guin and Norse myth achieve..

  9. I’m het. I know of bisexuals, lesbians (old term), and other categories, if you want categories. Several friends of mine, during the past forty or so years, I have known or later discovered were…well, pick the time-appropriate terminology, but not het. I have at least one relative who is far from het. So what. If we could just accept that around ten percent (or some nominal amount) of the population won’t be het, wouldn’t things be a whole lot nicer? As for cases that are more complex, such as physical aspects not matching brain’s image/structure, again, I ask: if we just accepted this as the thing that we get for being humans, for being animals, for being creatures that were evolved in all its messiness, wouldn’t that be cool? Who the snek cares if somebody is physically different to their brain’s inbuilt gender? Or who cares if somebody is missing an arm, has a huge schlong (or not)? Honestly, why do those things matter in the slightest?

    Put another way, if you are white/green/blue/black, what difference does that really make? Only the difference that I, as another person, care to make it. So, why should I make somebody else’s life a misery, just because of a colour or gender or body-morph difference? I just don’t get why people get in a fit over the so-called *other,* as if this supposed *other* is going to bring the building down on our heads. Crazy stuff.

  10. Thanks James. 

    Kids’ current major English assignment – gothic horror. 

    A reference to Italo Calvino and the classification system “Aarne–Thompson Uther Index type 361 – Bearskin” may make assignment stand out. And it seems tales almost universally adopted. Loved Brothers Grimm & Pier Gyntt as a kid.

    “Bearskin” (German: Der Bärenhäuter) is a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm(KHM 101).[1] A variant from Sicily, “Don Giovanni de la Fortuna”, was collected by Laura Gonzenbach in Sicilianische Märchenand included by Andrew Lang in The Pink Fairy Book.[2] Italo Calvino included another Italian version, “The Devil’s Breeches” from Bologna, in his Italian Folktales.[3]

    “The tale is classified as Aarne–Thompson type 361 (Bearskin), in which a man gains a fortune and a beautiful bride by entering into a pact with the devil.[1]

    “The Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index is a classification numeric system created to group similar folktales from different cultures, created by Finnish folklorist Antti Aarne (1867-1925) in 1910 and latter revised and expanded by American folklorist Stith Thompson (1885-1976) in 1928 and by German folklorist Hans-Jörg Uther in 2004.

    Contemporary example of scary horror tale… ala Bearskin …

    “The tale is classified as Aarne–Thompson type 361 (Bearskin), in which a man – Trump – gains a fortune and a beautiful bride/s including a pet mendacity dragon named GOP, by entering into a pact with the devil – himself & his reflection.” h/t Wikipedia. 

    “9/11 and 1/6
    How an American nightmare becomes real

    …” No one is seeking to hide that this is the plan.  It is right there out in the open.  The prospective Republican candidates for 2024, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley, are all running on a big lie platform.  If your platform is that elections do not work, you are saying that you intend to come to power some other way.”…

  11. Don: I hope you didn’t think I was in any way opposing tolerance of sexual diversity in my “bad luck” epigram. I do however doubt that tolerance and courtesy will make all the problems of being different go away. It’s true that half the problems LBGT etc. people face in life come from intolerance, discrimination and lack of empathy, If the straight majority started behaving properly, these would go away. But not the other half. The non-standard would still face two obstacles to a happy life. The first is figuring out in adolescence who and what they are, with few role models (especially within the family) and cultural templates to go by. The second is the statistical difficulty of finding a congenial mate. This very often means moving from a homogeneous small town to diverse big city, regardless of other preferences. Even in the big city, the pool of potential partners is far smaller.

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