Just Like Game of Thrones

I don’t get to watch it, because Dr. SJ has an issue with premium cable. She thinks we send Jimmy Dolan too much money already, and won’t send him a dime more than necessary. She’s very tough about things like that.  But I did see a video of it the other day, and it involved one guy having a sword fight with another guy, who he killed.

To put it mildly, the guy who was killed lost the sword fight. With extreme prejudice.

For all those who are fans of the show, take a memo: sometimes, you lose.  Most of the time, you get to fight another day, unless you lost with extreme prejudice. Then, you don’t.  I thought about this after a late night phone call with Marco Randazza last night. 

During the call, he asked me if I remembered some guy whose name eludes me at the moment. I told him I didn’t. He reminded me that it was some baby lawyer who wrote a few posts at Randazza’s blog, the Legal Satyricon.  Vague recollection came back to me. It seems he wrote about criminal law issues, and was just awful.  He wanted to be a blawger, but lacked the grasp needed to be even moderately competent at it.  And I told him so.

Apparently, he told Randazza that my criticism had broken his will to write. I crushed his spirit. He gave up.  I felt badly hearing these words, not because I felt any blame for being critical, but because his reaction was to quit.  Marco gave me a tummy rub; “you were right. He could have stepped up his game, but instead he decided to run away.”

After I hung up, because it was way past my bedtime, I thought about the reactions I had evoked from some scamblogging baby lawyers a while back.  They called me a monster because I was so cruel.  From their perspective, it was a fair assessment.  They were never losers, but just the last winner.  Their ideas were never stupid, but just in need of further development. Nobody ever explained to them that for every winner in a sword fight to the death, there was a dead loser as well.

How could they love their video games, love their HBO series, and yet not have the slightest appreciation of the reality that not everybody wins?  They watched and applauded, but never realized that they could be the dead guy as well as the hero?  Had there been no one in their life, no parent, no teacher, who told them the truth?  Was there no one willing to risk their antipathy, to suffer being the monster, so that they would recognize that bad work is bad?

Well, yes, there probably was such a person, and they gave her the name “bully.”  If you hurt someone’s feelings by failing to tell them what they want to hear, then you are a bully.  How easily then to dismiss any negativity, because they are the guy still standing, with the sword raised over his head. They can’t be the dead guy on the ground.

There are two things we need a whole lot more of. The first is honesty.  Feelings need to be hurt sometimes, because the truth is that not everything is good, winning, fabulous.  Sometimes, it’s not passable. Not even salvageable. Sometimes, it sucks.  You see that for others, but it’s just as true for you. And me. And everyone. Stop crying about it. You’re not special. When we blow it, we blow it. And someone ends up dead on the ground.

The other thing we need is to react to a harsh smack of reality by learning from it, doing better.

Randazza told me that he thought what I did to the baby lawyer was a good thing.  He would have continued to write garbage on the internet, unaware of the fact that his content was bad.  He would have made people who read his stuff stupider, and that’s not good for others.  But because I spanked him, he quit. He ran away. All those readers who would have been made stupider were saved.

But that’s not what I hoped he would do. I hoped he would step up his game, learn from his mistakes and try a whole lot harder to do better.  But he didn’t, and I’ve long since forgotten he existed except for Randazza’s reminder.

So I’m a monster who says mean things. Screw me. Do better. Prove me wrong. Show me what you got and make me look like a flaming idiot.  That’s my gift to you.

21 thoughts on “Just Like Game of Thrones

      1. Brett Middleton

        You can always read the original books to get around Dr. SJ’s ban on premium cable, assuming she has nothing against George R.R. Martin or his publisher. Just steer clear of “I will take what is mine with fire and blood” (Daenerys Stormborn) because that quote can get you into trouble. At least in New Jersey.

        1. Jake DiMare

          LOL. I recommend listening on tape. Roy Dotrice, the voice actor who does the versions available on Audible.com is incredible and does a much better reading of Hodor. Seriously though, the audio versions are amazing.

  1. Wheeze The People™

    Are “monsters” a protected class?? Or is it perhaps time to sharpen the pitch forks and light the torches?? To me, yes, you are a surely monster, but more in the image of Shrek as opposed to Vlad the Impaler . . .

      1. Wheeze The People™

        I do wonder whether that was his real or just his porn stage name, but regardless, any name with “the Imapler” in it is a special sort of badassness . . .

  2. AH

    Have you seen the recent speech by Gabourey Sidibe that’s making the rounds? A link can be provided at your request, but the whole speech can be found on Vulture. The punchline is this:

    “If I hadn’t been told I was garbage, I wouldn’t have learned how to show people I’m talented. And if everyone had always laughed at my jokes, I wouldn’t have figured out how to be so funny. If they hadn’t told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty. And if they hadn’t tried to break me down, I wouldn’t know that I’m unbreakable.”

  3. Bruce Coulson

    But everyone is a hero (at least in their own eyes). They’re supposed to win, to triumph, every time. (Even though in both fantasy and real life, heroes often take a beating, and lose several times, before they finally win.) By criticizing them in a way they can’t refute, you’re trashing their personal narrative.

    1. SHG Post author

      If somebody had told them on the way up that they wouldn’t be the hero, the winner all the time, then it wouldn’t be left to monsters like me to do the dirty work.

      1. Kathleen Casey

        Be thankful. Maybe most of them realize you don’t care. And you don’t do belly rubs.

  4. the other alan

    You say you hoped he would “step up his game, learn from his mistakes and try a whole lot harder to do better.” Did you include that in your criticism? If you really wanted him to do better, do you think it would have decreased his chances of mis-interpreting your criticism as a reason to stop writing, if he had known you were saying these things to motivate him to do better? Perhaps you feel if he needed to be told that explicitly, then he REALLY shouldn’t be writing a blog / may have bigger issues than bad writing?

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s a great question, and I wondered about that too. Some people get pushed and do better. Others get pushed and resist. Still others get pushed and quit. If I was more explicit about trying harder rather than giving up, it might stop the quitters from quitting. Do I want to do that, though?

      It’s like the answer I give kids who ask if they should go to law school. I always tell them no. My rationale is that if they really want to be lawyers, they’ll ignore me and go anyway. If they’re persuaded not to go by the likes of me, they probably shouldn’t. It’s hard to find just the right height hurdle to suit every purpose, and sometimes I fear I’ve set it too high or too low.

  5. bill

    At the risk of sounding like a kiss ass, the “Cruel Tutelage of SHG” (to steal a Kill Bill scene) is something I highly recommend. I would frequently ramble off topic or make unrelated homework which I’ve largely stopped since trying to comment here. Although I tried to do my homework before asking questions, it’s turned into a full fledged habit now. And watching how thoroughly you put together posts resulting in seldom/never having to walk back a position is something any professional can admire and learn from. That worldview makes the world a much more annoying and frustrating place (I know realize how everyone’s a legal expert on every legal topic du jour and it irks me) but I’m glad I picked it up. I’ve still got a ways to go and i know several have gotten an extreme case of butthurt over it. But the world needs more people doing exactly what you do. A belly rub from me is the last thing you need, the comment is OT enough to probably not get posted, but I’ll just say I learned several valuable lessons reading SJ,legal ones being the minority of them. And I disagree totally with @the other plans sentiment, it’s the seemingly harsh criticism (constructive criticism is just a phrase whiners use frequently to justify butthurt) that gets your attention and makes you think twice about things – and do more than just a few minutes of research before saying something. It’s helped me immensely and had you been soft and gentle about it – I would have continued on, making obvious, not very well thought out, not very well researched comments, annoying people and looking stupid in the process.

    1. SHG Post author

      The funny thing is, I’ve taken every phone call from every baby lawyer who needed a hand, and I’ve tried my best to provide meaningful help. But then, who wants to call a monster?

  6. DanQ

    Cast aside the colloquial … The word monster comes from L. monstrum, meaning a sign of future events. The Romans used the word to refer to bizarrely unusual events—such as those documented, digested and discussed here daily,

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