Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Tradition Eleven: "Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films."

Tradition Twelve: "Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities."

From the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, first published 1946.

I think I've whined about this before, but I've never seen any good fiction set on the internets. Gibson's Pattern Recognition is the closest fiction seems to want to come - it's a story about the real world that involves a lot of internetting, but it's not quite there. Nonfiction set on the internet is still way above fiction; no one's made up anything as interesting as A Rape In Cyberspace or The MsScribe Story: An Unauthorised Fandom Biography. (And god, read those if you have the time. The former is a short tale from the early internets; the latter an engrossing epic that occurred in Harry Potter fandom 5ish years ago), And there's no cyberpunk character half so inspired as Anonymous.

People have all sorts of takes on anonymity/public identity on the web. This is how it looks on the Project Chanology wiki, Partyvan:

When internet communities are formed, nearly the first thing that is implemented is to remove anonymity, to make truthful registration as mandatory as possible. This is because of the aptly named Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory*, which observes that rude behavior normally unacceptable in polite society is inversely related to how non-anonymous users are. Not surprisingly, most people assume this means anonymity is a bad thing, and take every step they can to punish users who do not adhere their personal conversation etiquette.

A few people question this conclusion. A very few try out the alternative. So what happens when all censorship, including self-censorship, is removed? Chaos.

*Anonymous reads Penny Arcade.

How the mainstream sees it at the moment; Libby Brooks writing about the non-role of the internets in the Bridgend suicides;

...the unseemly rush to collar social networks only exposes adult ignorance about the integration of technology into young people's lives. Over 90% of UK teenagers belong to a social network like MySpace, Bebo or Facebook, and one-third of those keep at least four separate profiles running at once. The distinction between online and offline relationships has become increasingly indistinct for this generation, and the medium is integral to the way they present themselves and manage peer-group connections. [...] Research shows that most social network contacts are local, based on pre-existing networks... It's partly about perspective: teenagers simply don't adhere to the offline/online binary.

And I read that right after I'd read this old-internets view - David Wong, in Apex Digest, talking about pseudonyms and why his penname is the same as the name of his book's main character:

I started writing as David Wong when I created my first website ( back in 1999. It's just part of internet culture that you don't write as yourself. My friend Mack Leighty would write under the username John Cheese. Both of us would write in the first person, but always as these fictional people, so we wound up creating these characters on the fly.

(Until I read John Dies At The End [OMG] I hadn't clocked that David Wong wasn't a real person. Epic fail. I guess I'd mentally grouped him with the Ents.)

It's at least partly internets generational - not generational in an age sense, but dependent on what the norm was when and where you got involved. (I am still totally weirded out by how different my younger brother's internets is to my internets). Wong is slightly internets-older than I am (I first dipped in in 2000, and by 2002-2003 was a BNF in a small fandom I hope you've never heard of). Then, two-word pseudonyms seemed to be the in thing. (That, or the things concluding in random number streams that got spat out by AOHell). Before that - well, I'm sure we all know of a few pre-WWW internet ents - people like Julian Dibbell, Barbara Mikkelson, or J Brad Hicks, who talk about MUDs or BBs long before Usenet. I'm sure there are some exceptions, but I've yet to come across a still-active Ent who doesn't wear their RL identity on their sleeve. For all I know some of them started out anonymous and have got real since, but these guys are real and have been real for a considerable time now. (And see also The Strange Case Of The Electronic Lover; violations of trust wrt identity - lying online about who and what you were IRL - was taken seriously in [at least part of] the internet world of the late 1980s. In some places, it still is). [This said, I know that there existed an internet generation, a clutch of utopians somewhere between the different waves I've met, that liked to not disclose their gender, let alone any other personal information, because they thought the point of the internet was to dispense with these things. More of that later.]

The Bridgend kids are full-circle - identity out in the open, so all your internets friends will know if you top yourself. For this we can blame Landgon freaking Winner. (FTW.) If objects have politics - if the norms of our civilisation are morphed by the emergence of certain technologies; if you can't imagine what your society would be like without reliable contraception; if we'll do anything, sacrifice anything and anyone, to avoid losing a nuclear war; if we'll fall into whole new habits of communication just because we haz an internets - then software has society, for sure. To compare two juggernauts of internet society; Facebook's architecture/society features exclusion of the pseudonymous, while 2channel mandates full anonymity ("People can only truly discuss something when they don't know each other").

Because of the nature of the physical internet, true online anonymity is often impossible (Compartments has a neat article about how & why she takes care of hers) and that's just as hard-coded as 2channel's compulsory anonymity - more so than AA's forced anonymity. The new RL-centric social networking sites just reinforce what was already there; we're all connected already, and the internet just keeps A plugged in to B. And yet (bloggers hereabouts might remember this incident), in spite of a thorough hunt irl, Anonymous never found Brandon. He is truly one of their own.

From what I recall of internets culture five years ago, was there and Anonymous wasn't. 4chan's big point as a community wasn't the anonymity, it was the anarchy. No limits, no mods or rules to speak of; the anonymity was because 4chan was intended as an English-language alternative to 2channel, with anonymising architecture to suit. Rather than being a 'one', 'legion' Anonymous, a then-friend who was one described /b/tards as being a deliberate non-community; a group of people who browsed the same place (and shared an already notably intricate internet dialect) but perceived themselves as being unconnected.

AA similarly took time to achieve a philosophy of anonymity, the Traditions being ten years younger than the group itself; Daisy recently explained the spiritual and practical purposes of AA anonymity, in a vent on the subject of ______, a person who Daisy is not happy with. [this was on seekrit listmail, qwp, but Daisy also has a fascinating post about legal/illegal drug use here].;

THERE IS A REASON that the Anonymous is in ____Anonymous. The reason is not to protect your sorry ass, but to protect the CONCEPTS and IDEALS.

To wit, if Drew Barrymore, Shannen Doherty and David Crosby (to name three offenders off the top of my head), go around saying "I'm in AA!" and then they go out and get publicly and spectacularly drunk, which all three of them DID, what does that say about AA? Many people will assume AA therefore DOES NOT WORK, and they have therefore hurt the program. Someone who might need it will think, ah, doesn't work.

OR... they will look at ______ and think, EW, I don't want sobriety if it means acting like that asshole.


Please make PRIVATE references to the 12 steps if you want US (fellow members) to know. For instance, use some phrases from the 12 steps, like Richard Pryor did in very dignified ways, "searching and fearless moral inventory"--a way to give US the heads-up, but not everyone. (I felt like he was waving to us, and that was nice.)

But to mention the 12 steps as often as you do, is obnoxious and uncool, and in fact, probably puts as many people off as it attracts people. But since you think you are so fabulous, you won't get that, will you?

We all know who said that ideas are bulletproof. (also, note the Chanology Code of Conduct that opened with internets rules 1 & 2; do NOT talk about /b/).

And we know what Anonymous looks like, not least from Deathboy's photos and flickr links (I link it again because it is brilliant). The V masks are the thing now but back in 2006 when Anonymous was raiding Habbo, their film character of choice was Jules Winnfield. (But look at the race/racism mock on the ED Habbo page). The suit-and-tie icon has endured. Anonymous is masculine - the February 10th photos indicate that IRL Anonymous is 80%+ male. Said photos also include posters mentioning Lisa McPherson's death (and plugging, a site that opens with her photograph) and the fact that the Co$ forces female Sea Org members to get abortions. Sometimes people use men to symbolise Scientology - Tom Cruise or John Travolta, usually - but never with this narrative of oh noez poor victims. There Anonymous is, in a suit and tie, holding aloft placards begging us to rescue these women.

I mentioned people who didn't disclose gender or race or other physical whatsits because they wanted a utopian internets without privilege? Compare to the one we've got, even once 'the gloves come off'. This isn't about Anonymous nearly so much as the other places we all know it happens - Indymedia most notoriously, Wikipedia, many or most corners of the net that supposedly give everyone a voice. It's the same voice as it was before the internets, with the same skew of volume. And that's in the design, the way the internet is an integrated part of the existing media/communications market. (though some people go quite off the rails about this fact).

So we considered going to the Atlanta Chanology thing, didn't, but that evening we go to the ED Chanology East Coast page and ctrl+f Atlanta, and find this video of what came to pass;

Riot police.

I am, for now, leaving aside the question of why my Georgia tax dollars are being spent on sending a million zillion riot police - with a partyvan! - to scare the internets out of RL, something that didn't happen at any of the other 100+ protests, though believe me I am very keen to get an answer to that. No, I'm blogging this because - just look at them. Riot police. In head-to-toe black, with masked faces, all moving as one.

The beautiful lady has been known to mention her Asshole Theory; it goes 'WHY OH WHY can't everyone be like ME?' Both masks and uniforms can keep that Asshole holding together.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

what first amendment?

Small realities of the State of Georgia, this. It's nothing much, just $50 here or there, but it is more than a little creepy:

(a) In applying for a marriage license, a man and woman who certify on the application for a marriage license that they have successfully completed a qualifying premarital education program shall not be charged a fee for a marriage license. The premarital education shall include at least six hours of instruction involving marital issues, which may include but not be limited to conflict management, communication skills, financial responsibilities, child and parenting responsibilities, and extended family roles. The premarital education shall be completed within 12 months prior to the application for a marriage license and the couple shall undergo the premarital education together. The premarital education shall be performed by:
(1) A professional counselor, social worker, or marriage and family therapist who is licensed pursuant to Chapter 10A of Title 43;
(2) A psychiatrist who is licensed as a physician pursuant to Chapter 34 of Title 43;
(3) A psychologist who is licensed pursuant to Chapter 39 of Title 43; or
(4) An active member of the clergy when in the course of his or her service as clergy or his or her designee, including retired clergy, provided that a designee is trained and skilled in premarital education.
(b) Each premarital education provider shall furnish each participant who completes the premarital education required by this Code section a certificate of completion."

So, professionals get regulated in nice proper ways, but you can do as you like and call it 'premarital education' so long as you can call yourself 'clergy'.


~ POPE ~
So please Treat Him Right

Genuine and authorized by The HOUSE of APOSTLES of ERIS
Every man, woman and child on this Earth is a genuine and authorized Pope
Reproduce and distribute these cards freely- POEE Head Temple, San Francisco

A =POPE= is someone who is not under the authority of the authorities.

Methinks the State of Georgia is venturing into chaos in bringing something as subjective and varied as clergy into such an otherwise neatly regulated law. (I wonder how Georgia's qualified psychological professionals feel about that?) As a Discordian Pope, I can't complain about the opportunities for confusion, but there's a Dawkinesque argument that comes to mind; just because something is religious doesn't mean it shouldn't be held to the same standards as non-religious stuff. If clergy, Discordian Popes and otherwise, are going to be doling out this $50-off-your-paperwork thing, shouldn't they be subject to the same certification as everyone else who's doing it? They could easily be untrained and incompetent in such education - not to mention that most clergy (from staid Christians to anarcho-Pagans) have a definition of 'marriage' that is not the same as the civil definition, and that could easily make their advice incompatible with regulation. Your clergy might be saying you shouldn't marry if you've had sex first, or that plural marriage is okay, or that you should only marry if God agrees to it, or that yes it is fine to marry someone of the same sex, or that you mustn't use contraception, or that legal marriage is a meaningless sham, or that you will never get divorced so you mustn't make plans for that eventuality... All matters in which the State of Georgia regulates otherwise, and on which their regulated psychological professionals might be more sure to speak in line with the views of the State.

So how can the role of 'clergy' be enshrined in law like this? How is this not 'respecting an establishment of religion'? Guh?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

still always Christmas:

[this post contains very small spoilers for Part II of Neverwinter Nights 2]

Thinking about gendered space in game worlds is fiddly because each player brings their own gender with them. I'll do the gamer drag thing later, I guess, but for now I can only hazard guesses about how much more welcoming the NWN2 gameworld would look to a male PC.

I am, as I am getting tired of being when it comes to gender, more vigilant than I'd like; I know that in games like this male is the default, for NPCs as well as PCs; women like Kana, Brelaina and Torio feel hopelessly token because the public spaces in the game are overwhelmingly gendered 'male'. I'd love to not be distracted by this point, but it's there. There's very little female visibility in the gameworld.

I'm just into Part III (of III) of this game, and how many female temple officiaries have I met? None. The only two female religious types around are playable characters; no other druids or clerics we've seen are women. How about the smiths and other merchants you rely on to keep your inventory turning over? Offhand I can think of only one woman among them, Nya in Port Llast, who is also a sweet soft plot hook due to her rustic paranoia over necromancers. Watchmen? This is where Brelaina looks really token; she's their leader, apparently, and she's also the only one with boobs except for my player character. Yes, having named female NPCs in important plot roles is an improvement on where we were in BG1, maybe, with just evil priestesses and the odd crazy wizardess/diviner. It also just makes it look even more weird that the rest of the world is overwhelmingly male. Where are all the missing women? Is there some genetic quirk of this world that makes 75% of useful, interactable characters male, or what?

(Oh, and Kana? Slanted-eyed person who talks about 'the Way' and says you couldn't understand because it's so totally Other? Not even slightly Orientalist, is it? Fuckssake.)

Then there's the Neverwinter Nine, Nasher's very favourite hired killers. The only female one we've met so far, Melia, has this SEKRIT IDENTITY because for some reason that's better than her just being one of the Nine poncing about in the cute blue outfit in the same way Callum and Nevalle are, owning the same public space as they do. You will never, ever, guess what her sekrit identity is. Ever. It's something that has never been worked into the story of a prominent female sci-fi character ever, ever, ever before.


Above and beyond wondering what it is about guys who write sci-fi and their obsession with collectives of whores - and why (with few exceptions; Galvena in BG2 was one) in sci-fi, male pimps/leaders of whores are evil and female ones are good, as if somehow happy hookers are more easily defensible as happy hookers if their pimp/leader (Ann-Hari, Nandi, Mrs Palm, Ophala, Gail) is a woman rather than a man, when in reality all this crud is authored by men anyway - why do so many prominent tough-women-in-sci-fi have sex work as part of their personal journey? Men never do. But we've got Ann-Hari, Molly Millions (and Mona), Mitsuko Souma...

Here, Torio makes the unsurprising admission that she was once a bar performer - singing and dancing, something which is given distinct gendered overtones, not least because there is totally not a rampantly gendered cliché about women fucking themselves into positions of political power (and other jobs, see Kaylee freaking Frye).

One thing I find quite positive is a change they've made in the voiceovers; previous AD&D RPGs have often had some voiced dialogue, some not, and have formerly gone into great linguistic contortions to keep those voiced lines gender-neutral. NWN2 instead frequently makes such lines gender-specific, so clearly they've gone to the minuscule data expense of recording two versions of each such line. And seeing as they've gone to the trouble, I'm going to be ruining their day by looking for slip-ups. Thus far I've hit only one - Daerred called me 'he' this one time. I'll be doing another playthrough sometime, not least because part I has two different routes and I want to see both; it'll be interesting to see if there are any slips in the opposite direction. (There was one such error in BG2, made by Jaheira in the Galverey estate; I swear blind she says 'she' in place of a 'they' that appears in the text, even if you're fronting as a guy).

Thus far into the game (unlike the last one), there has been little romance. Just Casavir and Bishop taking turns to sulk at me. But I know what NWN1 was like and I keep wondering if Shandra's really hitting on me or if that was just my dykey imagination; is any of her dialogue (particularly during the vigil) different if you're playing a man, or differently charged, or leading to different moments later? I guess I'll find out if I come back here in a few months time, but my guess is that the dialogue is the same but the male version gets more romantically charged later - as if (within eternally heteronormative gamespace) you can address men and women as being exactly the same and yet only really mean it if you're fronting male. (If anyone out there's played this game with a male PC, please let me know about this).

I do rather like Shandra, but, that twee little speech she gave later about HOW VERY AWFUL it must be to suffer maternal bereavement when you're young? Urgh. As if I've not heard enough of that sick fetishisation IRL.

It's a fun game, even a fun story once you're out of the dire tutorial and part I, but I could wish I didn't have to put up with this crap to get my fun stories.

[also, hello to a certain red person who has been reading my blog from her workplace lately. *beams*]

Monday, February 11, 2008

the best links ever:

I have stuff cooking in my head about the whole moving-to-another-continent topic; til then, these are the best links ever.

Proper srs links:

Daisy is asking if we can support the troops without supporting the war, and where classism fits with that.

Vii on interracial dating.

Brad Hicks on lynching as an economic crime.

The entire internets on those racist mid-Superbowl ads that put us right off our cookies.

Sillier links;

Deathboy on Chanology London - omg, read this, or at least look at the pictures.

Saint Gasoline has a comic strip on How To Be An Asshole With Mathematics.

Punkass on that bit where Mitt Romney said that voting Democrat is surrendering to terrorism.

Aishwarya on the suicidal, sex-obsessed Hobbits who sneaked into her house.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Castor, Achilles, Euryalus, Aretaeus, Alexander, Dubreuil

And Orestes.

[Or, to get into the spirit of the thing: Orestes and.]

I have a long memory - the kind where a good book can lodge for years, with me dropping by its cubbyhole every so often to continue our ongoing conversation. I've got broad tastes; encounters with the current mainstream are generally disastrous, and I tend to go home to sf/f eventually, but I wind up with a lot of isolated loves. Les Misérables is one of them. I don't know the first thing about other literature of the time and the place; it has no context for me, and if I want to grok all its obscurities, I grok alone.

After years of intermittent obsessing, I think I'm finally done talking to this one beautiful passage. It comes close to the end of Part 3, Book 4, Chapter 1: A Group Which Almost Became Historic, and it describes the connexion between Enjolras and Grantaire.

There are men who seem born to be the opposite, the reverse, the counterpoint. They are Pollux, Patroclus, Nisus, Eudamidas, Hephaestion, Pechméja. They live only upon condition of leaning on another; their names are continuations, and are only written preceded by the conjunction 'and'; their existence is not their own; it is the other side of a destiny which is not theirs. Grantaire was one of these men. He was the reverse of Enjolras.

We might almost say that affinities commence with the letters of the alphabet. In the series, O and P are inseparable. You can, as you choose, pronounce O and P, or Orestes and Pylades.

Grantaire, a true satellite of Enjolras, lived in this circle of young people; he dwelt in it; he took pleasure only in it; he followed them everywhere. His delight was to see these forms coming and going in the fumes of the wine. He was tolerated for his good-humour.

Enjolras, being a believer, disdained this sceptic, and being sober, scorned this drunkard. He granted him a little haughty pity. Grantaire was an unaccepted Pylades. Always rudely treated by Enjolras, harshly repelled, rejected, yet returning, he said of Enjolras; 'What a fine statue!'

Let's get our priorities straight (ha!) here; the slash, is it canon?

See, that's a totally incommensurable question to begin with. Hugo was writing before queer, before 'homosexual' was a word, let alone a rights movement; I can only guess at what he was trying to say about these two men, but he's left me a few hints. Seven, to be precise. Seven people who belong with seven other people.

Castor and Pollux are twins hatched from the same swan-egg, brothers of Helen of Troy; one mortal, the other divine but generous enough to see eternal life as worth sharing.

Achilles and Patroclus - is there anyone left who hasn't read Troy In 15 Minutes? Because, um, they were totally cousins. Totally. <3<3 Cleolinda.

Nisus, Euryalus? Even Wikipedia isn't quite sure about those two. Lovers for sure, but sexually? Maybe, maybe not.

Eudamidas is a character of 2nd-century satire; given the way people wrote at the time, I can't decide if it's more likely that he was fictional, or a vaguely real gossip-piece. He perhaps got himself on Hugo's radar via The Testament Of Eudamidas, a painting Nicolas Poussin made in 1643 about the guy and his testament, based on the original story by Lucian. This unusual document allegedly willed away not just Eudamidas's meagre possessions, but also his daughter and his mother. From the original Lucian:

Mnesippus. Eudamidas of Corinth, though he was himself in very narrow circumstances, had two friends who were well-to-do, Aretaeus his fellow townsman, and Charixenus of Sicyon. When Eudamidas died, he left a will behind him which I dare say would excite most people's ridicule: but what the generous Toxaris, with his respect for friendship and his ambition to secure its highest honours for his country, may think of the matter, is another question. The terms of the will--but first I should explain that Eudamidas left behind him an aged mother and a daughter of marriageable years;--the will, then, was as follows: To Aretaeus I bequeath my mother, to tend and to cherish in her old age: and to Charixenus my daughter, to give in marriage with such dowry as his circumstances will admit of: and should anything befall either of the legatees, then let his portion pass to the survivor. The reading of this will caused some merriment among the hearers, who knew of Eudamidas's poverty, but did not know anything of the friendship existing between him and his heirs. They went off much tickled at the handsome legacy that Aretaeus and Charixenus (lucky dogs!) had come in for: 'Eudamidas,' as they expressed it, 'was apparently to have a death-interest in the property of the legatees.' However, the latter had no sooner heard the will read, than they proceeded to execute the testator's intentions. Charixenus only survived Eudamidas by five days: but Aretaeus, most generous of heirs, accepted the double bequest, is supporting the aged mother at this day, and has only lately given the daughter in marriage, allowing to her and to his own daughter portions of 500 each, out of his whole property of 1,250; the two marriages were arranged to take place on the same day. What do you think of him, Toxaris? This is something like friendship, is it not,--to accept such a bequest as this, and to show such respect for a friend's last wishes? May we pass this as one of my five?

Toxaris. Excellent as was the behaviour of Aretaeus, I admire still more Eudamidas's confidence in his friends. It shows that he would have done as much for them; even if nothing had been said about it in their wills, he would have been the first to come forward and claim the inheritance as natural heir.

Lucian explicitly connected Eudamidas with Pylades. He was writing about two characters having a rhetorical competition over whether Greeks or Scythians had the best friendships. (Lucian himself wrote in Greek but is believed to have been Syrian). The contest begins with Toxaris, the Scythian, telling Mnesippus why Scythians make sacrifices to Orestes and Pylades; "We honour Orestes and Pylades, then, because they excelled in the Scythian virtue of loyalty, which we place above all others; and it is for this that we have bestowed on them the name of Coraci, which in our language means spirits of friendship."

Passing briefly over Alexander and Hephaestion as being too damn famous and Hollywood and canonslashy and all that: the only source I've ever, ever found on Pechméja also refers directly to Orestes and Pylades. (Male Friendship In Pre-Revolutionary France by Jeffrey Merrick, which you can read if you have the right login. I don't, but the blue person is magical like that). Jean Pechméja and Jean Baptiste Léon Dubreuil were both born in the early 1740s in the same small town in Aveyron, but after leaving said small town didn't encounter each other again til the 1770s. By then Dubreuil was a doctor, Pechmeja a writer - their friendship resumed when Pechméja fell ill and Dubreuil moved to the outskirts of Paris to care for him; in return, Merrick tells us, Pechméja dedicated a classical-themed book to Dubreuil with '"respect, affection, gratitude" (le respect, la tendresse, la reconnaissance) for his "austere virtue, generous friendship, and preservative power" (la vertu austère . . . l’amitié généreuse . . . la puissance conservatrice).' The book is about how male friendship is way better than marriage because marriage involves all that complicated sex stuff which just makes people confused and miserable. [Here you may insert your own rant about how much Brokeback Mountain sucked for drawing teh queer as being an idyllic escape from the real-life responsibilities women and children put on a guy, as if queer was somehow the opposite of being a proper grownup who cares for/belongs to a family. Go on. I'll wait here til you're done.]

Here's Merrick's word on the O and the P, if not the intervening T:

According to their contemporaries, Pechméja and Dubreuil enjoyed "the most intimate friendship" (l’amitié la plus intime) and resembled the mythological companions Orestes and Pylades. [...] Inseparable from each other, as if married to each other, Pechméja and Dubreuil shared everything: "dwelling, social circles, good things, bad things, pleasures, and pains" (logement, sociétés, biens, maux, plaisirs, et peines).

I checked the citation on that as soon as I read it, half-expecting it to lead back to Hugo. It didn't. It's from a 1780s-90s thingy called Correspondance secrète, politique, et littéraire. Was that comment influenced directly by Lucian, or was this Coraci thread running wider than that through the literary culture of the time? Also:

According to the marquis de Bombelles, Noailles pressured the local clergy, who had wanted to exclude Dubreuil from burial in consecrated ground because of the way he had died, without the last rites, as well as the way he had lived. Bombelles did not explain what they found objectionable in the life of the successful and respected doctor. No one in 1785 suggested that Pechméja and Dubreuil were sexually involved with each other or even acknowledged that they loved each other, but this one cryptic remark indicates that some contemporaries, in this case institutional advocates of traditional values, believed that friendship might involve dangerous as well as delightful possibilities.

Orestes and Pylades, incidentally, are totally cousins. (For real).

So what have we got there? Three men of myth, two of murky classical history, one who died a mere 20 years before Hugo's birth. A brother, three lovers, a testator, and a best friend who we don't really have reason to believe was also a lover. These, held up to two spirits of friendship. These, and Grantaire and Enjolras, who are not even really on speaking terms with each other. The hell?

Hugo is both quite particular about sex and also fond of making exceptions to all his rules in general; Les Misérables has it that God supports the Swedish model, and that male philanderers are bad, except for the cheerful old one; he idolises marital sex, and equates virginity with not just virtuous conduct, but with a virtuous appearance;

"Monsiuer", said Thénadier, "it is my wife's bridal cap."
The traveller looked at the object with a look which seemed to say 'there was a moment, then, when this monster was a virgin'.

And yet; 'all the nuns in the world are not equal to one mother', and other such sentiments. (I love this book, but it's part of the reason why I think anyone who says wives and prostitutes are the only women who get laid is stuck in the 19th century). Hugo seems to elevate wives and mothers when it comes to women, but men he cherishes as virgins. He makes a point of the virginity of almost all his male cast; of Jean Valjean he says; 'His youth was spent in rough and ill-recompensed labour; he never was known to have a sweetheart; he had not time to be in love.' Then later; 'Jean Valjean had never loved anything. For twenty-five years he had been alone in the world. He had never been a father, lover, husband or friend.' Marius is righteously indignant at his grandfather's suggestion that he take Cosette as a mistress; the antagonist Javert's virginity is also spelled out; 'His life was a life of privations, isolation, self-denial and chastity; never any amusement.'

But Enjolras and Grantaire? Well. The former is clear enough;
'...he did not seem to know that there was on the earth a being called woman... Woe to the love affair that should venture to intrude upon him! Had any grisette of the Place Cambrai or the Rue Saint Jean de Beauvais, seeing this college boy's face, this form of a page, those long fair lashes, those blue eyes, that hair flying in the wind, those rosy cheeks, those pure lips, those exquisite teeth, felt a desire to taste all this dawn, and tried her beauty upon Enjolras, a surprising and terrible look would have suddenly shown her the great gulf, and taught her not to confound the with the gallant cherubim of Beaumarchais the fearful cherubim of Ezekiel.

And Grantaire?
He was frightfully ugly; the prettiest shoe-binder of that period, Irma Boissy, revolting at his ugliness, had uttered this sentence: 'Grantaire is impossible,' but Grantaire's self-conceit was not disconcerted. He looked tenderly and fixedly upon every woman, appearing to say of them all: if only I would; and trying to make his comrades believe that he was in general demand.

Hugo piles up the adjectives right after that, contrasting Enjolras's 'chaste, healthy, firm, direct, hard, candid nature' with Grantaire's 'soft, wavering, disjointed, diseased, deformed ideas': again chastity is a trait that seems to extend well beyond sex - one Grantaire is devoid of even though he isn't getting any sex. Of course, I don't know what the hell he even meant by 'chastity' (and god help me, but I can't find the second volume of my French copy so I don't even know what the original goddamn word he used was). No sex? Not much sex? Not desiring sex? Sex only with people you're allowed to have sex with?

I could be a smart-alec slash canonista and say that Hugo is explicitly discussing only sex with women, but dude, did you catch the bit where I said the word didn't exist til a decade after his book came out? I am sure the OTP never occurred to him. Except for the part where he's talking about Hephaestion and Patroclus and Nisus and expecting us to grok it. You know, the part I got stuck on in the first place. My friend Kathie, being a little under three times my age, has it that the increasing visibility of queer people since the 1960s - and of queer readings of straight homosocial activities - has put new limits on straight masculinity, made it shy away even from homosocial forms more recent than those Hugo describes - constricting itself in fear of eyes like mine. I am just reading, just knowing that whatever bond he's describing is incommensurable with anything that could ever be written today.

He mentions Pylades only once more, in a chapter heading a full 400 pages later; Orestes Fasting and Pylades Drunk, in which Grantaire finally said "Vive la République! I belong to it," and 'Enjolras grasped his hand with a smile.'

A minor edit: here's 10littlebullets on LJ with some more gay metaphors Hugo pins to Enjolras.

an aside for those of you who've been net-stalking me since 2002; When I read that line early into the Lucian - "do you mean to tell me that you people actually sacrifice to Orestes and Pylades? do you take them for Gods?" "Sacrifice to them? of course we do. It does not follow that we think they are Gods: they were good men." - I put the kettle on and paced around the house until it boiled. I am staying with my person's family atm, so I had the restraint to only make one cuppa, not three.