Archive | September 2015

Varmints in sheep’s clothing

A lot of people are being shocked (shocked!) that the Pope not only met with the bigoted Kentucky county clerk who prevented gay couples from getting marriage licenses until a (republican-appointed) federal judge threw her in jail. And it’s worse than that: he’s the one that had his people set up the secret meeting, and at the meeting he told the bigoted clerk to be strong and gave her and her husband blessed rosaries.

You can’t get a stronger endorsement of bigotry and disobeying the law than that.

Folks are shocked because they have fallen into the trap of kind-sounding words that, when taken out of context, make it sound as if this pope is more tolerant and more accepting. The oft-quoted “Who am I to judge?” was a fragment of a sentence out of context. Reading the full context (as I and others explained before), the kindest spin you can put on his actual comment was, “Who am I to judge a person who claims to be ex-gay and does a decent enough job of staying in the closet as to give me plausible deniability?”

Similarly, his comments a few months later which were quoted as “we shouldn’t focus so much on fighting gay rights” was, in context, not a call to live and let live, but rather, “hate the sin, pretend to love the sinner, and find ways to make our hating of the sinner sound compassionate.”

Not everyone is surprised at all of this, of course; I’m not the only one who has been pointing out the pope is still very socially conservative. I just wish more people paid attention to what he actually says, instead of getting swept up in the out-of-context stuff.

I know why it’s tempting to applaud this pope: he really pisses off the wingnut politicians who claim to be Christian but promote greed and exploitation. He does quote the very parts of his holy book that those of us on the progressive end of the spectrum are always calling out the rightwing for ignoring. And yes, generally his statements are less nasty than those of his predecessor, but that doesn’t make him a hero for human rights.

So I don’t find it at all a surprise that he is encouraging the law-breaking and discrimination of that Kentucky clerk. No, the only thing even mildly surprising is that the evangelical clerk and her supporters are teaming up with the pope.

See, for most of my life, evangelical fundamentalist Christian churches such as the Baptist church which the Kentucky clerk used to belong to, and the even more radical Apostolic Christian church she joined after her third divorce, have despised the pope in particular and catholics in general. I know, because I grew up in such churches myself. I sat through sermons where ministers insisted that Catholics were not really Christians, and therefore would not go to heaven. I attended Bible studies where the teaching materials laid out in painstaking detail the argument that Paul the VI (who was the pope at the time) was the literal anti-christ from the book of Revelations. The exact theological reasons for rejecting Catholic teachings varied. Depending on which reasons were most important to a particular fundamentalist, the Catholic church was looked on with either pity as being full of delusional well-meaning people who didn’t realize they were actually following the devil, or it was held in contempt as a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

But increasingly the sorts of evangelicals who have done everything in their power to redefine christianity as a hatred for homos have also been embracing the Catholic church and its leadership as if they are long-lost soul mates. The reason is simple demographics. Back when I was a kid, about 65-70% of the U.S. population identified itself as Protestant. During my teens that dropped down to about 60%, and it continued declining, dipping below 50% around 2005.

The only way they could still claim to be speaking for the majority of Americans was to accept the 23-25% of Americans who identify as Catholic under the Christian banner.

The most recent reliable figures put the Protestant population at about 37%, while Catholics are hovering between 21-23%. At no point were the evangelical fundamentalist denominations a majority of the Protestants, but on many of the public/society-impacting issues, many of the other Protestants were at least sympathetic to the evangelical agenda. During the last decade, as a number of the Christians who don’t support all the misogynist and anti-gay policies of the far right have made more of an effort to be heard, it isn’t surprising that the evangelicals are now even welcoming Mormons (the only denomination they rejected more vehemently than Catholics when I was a kid) into the fold.

They have a right to their beliefs, no matter how delusional or backward they may be. I’m not arguing that they don’t. But it is incredibly ironic that a woman who has been divorced and remarried several times (which, according to even relatively recent statements of the pope is at least as bad a sin as homosexuality) is being embraced as a symbol of christian perseverance by the pope.

It is more than ironic:

It is has been decades since the Catholic church has lobbied for the repeal of divorce laws. It has been decades since a Catholic official has denied communion to a politician who has not tried to repeal divorce laws. It has been decades since the church leadership has advocated for laws punishing unmarried women who have babies. But these are things they have done, and divorce and pre-marital sex are acts that the church still claims are just as immoral as homosexuality. Evangelicals used to be just as opposed to divorce, remarriage, and decriminalizing extra-marital and pre-marital sex.

They’ve given up on trying to enforce those things in civil law at least, to the point that all of the Kentucky clerk’s remarriages were performed in a Baptist church by a Baptist minister, and to the point where the Pope has given his blessing to a thrice-divorced woman and the man who got her pregnant in-between some of those marriages. If they can do that, then they can shut up about marriage law, and let consenting adults who aren’t members of their faith make their own, legal, decisions about who to love, who to share their lives with, and who to designate legally as their next-of-kin.

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The worst part of censorship…

BBW-logo122hIt’s Banned Books Week, which as both a writer and a reader is very near and dear to my heart. I have been a long time member/supporter of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which is one of the organizations at the forefront of fighting book banning. You can support them any time, but this week there is a special offer, Humble Bundle is offering a Pay-What-You-Want Forbidden Comics Bundle. Pay minimal amount and you can download eight comics/graphic novels and an audiobook. Pay more than the current average price and you get an additional seven-plus comics (more will be added as the week goes on). These bundles are a great way to raise some money for this good cause, and you get a look at some of the kinds of comics that have been banned or challenged in various jurisdictions.

These are the top 10 books Americans tried to ban last year.

It’s Banned Books Week again. Can we stop yelling at each other about it?

Banned Books Week celebrates freedom.

Books enlarge our minds; book bans shrink them.

In Defense of Banned Books Week: A Call to Expand the Debate.

And all the reading and thinking and mind expanding requires some mental leveling up, so it’s a good thing that today is National Coffee Day: Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts & More Celebrate With Free Deals!

Birthday not very quizzacious

One side of the table during my birthday get-together at AFK Tavern.

One side of the table during my birthday get-together at AFK Tavern.

This year my age is equally divisible by 5, so it feels like a milestone birthday—even if only a middling one. I took the day itself off rather than do my usual work-from-home day, and I was mildly lazy. I drove my hubby in to work as I usually do on a work from home day, but when I got home instead of going inside to log into the work network, I just sat down on the porch steps with my travel mug full of coffee and let the drizzle come down on me.

I love overcast days with light rain. It’s my very favorite weather, so it was like nature was giving me a birthday present. I posted to twitter and got caught up on personal email until I was out of coffee. But the weather was so nice that after I unlocked the door and refilled my coffee, I grabbed one of our cloth folding/picnic chairs and my iPad and went back onto the porch. I sat there, reading, visiting with a neighbor, watching three bluebirds have a fight, and so forth for for a few hours… Read More…

Sunday Funnies, part 15

Another in my series of posts recommending web comics:

logo“Strong Female Protagonist” by Brennan Lee Mulligan & Molly Ostertag  is a superhero comic, sort of. The protagonist, Alison, was not just any superhero, she was Mega-Girl, completely invulnerable, super strong, could fly, et cetera. During her teen years she was a member of a superhero team called The Guardians, but now, at 20 years of age, she’s a college freshman trying to live an ordinary life. The reasons why, and the reasons that is such a struggle are revealed over the course of the story. This isn’t the first time that someone has tried to tell a tale of how the real world would be with super-powered people in it, but I really like this tale for a number of reasons: 1) Alison a very relatable and believable character, 2) the comic is not all gritty, and 3) the tone of the story is not “most people are awful most of the time.” It’s not a happy, fluffy bunnies story, but it isn’t all anger and cynicism, which is an incredible breath of fresh air. If you enjoy the comic, please consider supporting the creators by checking out their store or hit up the Donate link!

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 10.15.31 AM“Unshelved” by Gene Ambaum & Bill Barnes recounts the adventures of a teen services librarian named Dewey. The web site is also an online book club, with reviews, links, and samples of various recommended comics and other books. This should not be a surprise, since one of the creators of the strip, Gene Ambaum, is a librarian in real life. The strip is funny, and is available for free syndication on non-commercial websites. They’ve printed a number of collections of the strip and have various other cool things related to the love of reading and libraries for sale on their online store.


Some of the comics I’ve previously recommended:

mr_cow_logo
“Mr. Cow,” by Chuck Melville tells the tale of a clueless cow with Walter Cronkite dreams. If the twice-weekly gags about a barnyard of a newsroom aren’t enough excitement for you the same artist also writes and draws (and colors!) some awesome fantasy series: Champions of Katara and Felicia, Sorceress of Katara. If you like Mr. Cow, Felicia, or Flagstaff (the hero of Champions of Katara) you can support the artist by going to his Patreon Page. Also, can I interest you in a Mr. Cow Mug?

dm100x80“Deer Me,” by Sheryl Schopfer tells the tales from the lives of three friends (and former roommates) who couldn’t be more dissimilar while being surprisingly compatible. If you enjoy Deer Me, you can support the artist by going to her Patreon Page!

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And I love this impish girl thief with a tail and her reluctant undead sorcerer/bodyguard: “Unsounded,” by Ashley Cope.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 5.36.43 PMMuddler’s Beat by Tony Breed is the fun, expanded cast sequel to Finn and Charlie Are Hitched.

The_Young_Protectors_HALF_BANNER_OUTSIDE_234x601The Young Protectors by Alex Wolfson begins when a young, closeted teen-age superhero who has just snuck into a gay bar for the first time is seen exiting said bar by a not-so-young, very experienced, very powerful, super-villain. Trouble, of course, ensues.

3Tripping Over You by Suzana Harcum and Owen White is a strip about a pair of friends in school who just happen to fall in love… which eventually necessitates one of them coming out of the closet. Tripping Over You has several books, comics, and prints available for purchase.

12191040If you want to read a nice, long graphic-novel style story which recently published its conclusion, check-out the not quite accurately named, The Less Than Epic Adventures of T.J. and Amal by E.K. Weaver. I say inaccurate because I found their story quite epic (not to mention engaging, moving, surprising, fulfilling… I could go on). Some sections of the tale are Not Safe For Work, as they say, though she marks them clearly. The complete graphic novels are available for sale in both ebook and paper versions, by the way.

Weekend Update 9/26/2015: in the land of crazy

Click to embiggen.

Click to embiggen.

People have been predicting John Boehner’s resignation or ouster as Speaker of the House of Representatives for a while. He’s never had the whole-hearted support of the teabagger wing of his party, who perceive his attempts to actually govern (i.e., do the job Congress is supposed to do) as collaborating with the enemy. But I think it’s wrong to blame his failure on the crazies in his party (the “crazies” is rumored to be the term Boehner himself uses while speaking with other more traditional conservative colleagues). The teabaggers only have about 80 seats in the Congress, which is far from a majority out of 435 members total, and not even a a majority of the Republican caucus (247 members). Half the problem is how much he and the so-called non-crazy members of his party coddle the crazy bullies: Speaker Boehner’s Resignation Highlights Problems with Coddling Nativist Wing.

But that’s only half the problem. The other half is that the alleged sane branch of the party believe enough of the same crazy things as the teabaggers that what they see as compromise is still skewed way over in crazy land. This is merely a subset of another phenomenon that infects most Americans about the political spectrum in general. I’ve pointed out before that a majority of Americans are in favor of more liberal positions than the vast majority of Democratic politicians are. In other words, the Democratic Party isn’t liberal, it’s slightly on the conservative side of moderate, compared to the country as a whole.

Some of it is a perception problem. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried to explain to some of my wingnut relatives, for instance, that Social Security is a socialist program, just as Medicare is. They love Social Security and Medicare, and they believe that Ronald Reagan was absolutely right to push through the law that allows people who have no insurance to get needed medical care at emergency rooms—but hate anything anything socialist, especially socialized medicine. And don’t get me started on everyone’s misunderstanding of how wealth is currently distributed. If you want to talk about crazy misperceptions, that’s a doozy!

Speaking of crazy, it’s been a while since I wrote about Pastor Manning (he of the hateful church sign). His ministry was long ago designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and he’s been clashing with his other neighbors in Harlem for some time. To the point that he occasionally draws protesters. Which happened earlier this week. And as anyone who has read or heard any of his homophobic rants before could have predicted, he doesn’t respond to it with the sort of love and kindness that Christ commanded: Harlem Hate Pastor Has Must-Watch Manic Meltdown at Protestors Outside His Church: VIDEO. By the way, I disagree with the headline, it’s not a must-watch. The quotes in the article give you a good idea of what went down.

Friday Links (quizzaciously exceptional birthday edition)

I haven't been this old before, it's true! (click to embiggen)

I haven’t been this old before, it’s true! (click to embiggen)

It’s already the fourth Friday in September, that most blessèd month! The autumnal equinox has occurred and I check my calendar to see what’s next and… oh, that’s right. Today I am officially another year older. Wow. How did that happen?

And thank goodness it’s FRIDAY!

Anyway, here is a collection of some of the things that I ran across over the course of the week which struck me as worthy of being shared:

Link of the Week

Man Builds ‘Dog Train’ To Take Rescued Pups Out On Little Adventures.

This week in Not as Noble as They Want You to Think

Seth Godin on Ad Blocking.

Ad Blocking Irony.

The Mobile Video Ad Lie: NYPost.com site loads 10Mb on iPhone, with no videos or video ads to be seen.

How Much of Your Audience is Fake? Marketers thought the Web would allow perfectly targeted ads. Hasn’t worked out that way.

John Gruber on why online ad networks are so user-hostile.

This week in Bad History

22 Hilarious Excerpts From Scathing Reviews of “Stonewall.”

A ‘straight-acting’ problem: why mass market gay films increasingly fail us all.

This week in Evil Greedy People

A Huge Overnight Increase in a Drug’s Price Raises Protests.

Science!

Riddle of the Ages Solved: Where Did the Philistines Come From?

New duck-billed dinosaur found in Alaska, researchers say.

On World Rhino Day 2015, Some Things about Rhinos You Might Not Know.

Medieval skeleton found in roots of toppled tree VIDEO.

World’s Oldest Sea Turtle Fossil Discovered.

Siberia could become pockmarked with giant craters: Global warming is releasing ‘explosive and violent’ levels of methane under the ground, warn experts.

No Sign of Galactic Super-Civilizations.

The astonishing village where little girls turn into boys aged 12.

Scientists found something unexpected in this eerie new image of Pluto.

Linking brains: Researchers at UW say they’ve done it.

State Officials Are Preparing for Another Year of Continued Drought.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

Your body isn’t your world: The heroes of Mad Max and disability.

The Six Swans.

Some thoughts about Tragic Queer Narratives.

They Don’t Stand For That: Symbols, Vampires, and Faith.

Comics historian Craig Yoe celebrates Banned Books Week with the Forbidden Comics bundle.

11 Sci-Fi Books Every Woman Should Read. I’ve only read 3½ of these!

This week in Geek

15 Minutes of Fame: The AFK Tavern, where everybody knows your name.

Culture war news:

This is why they have such hate: Coulter, Trump, Carson and the real history behind right-wing intolerance. This is an awesome historical analysis of the trajectory of anti-semetism, anti-Papism and other sources of rightwing thought…

This Guy Shut Down The World’s Largest Gay “Cure” Group.

Harlem Hate Pastor Has Must-Watch Manic Meltdown at Protestors Outside His Church.

That “Old Time Religion” Isn’t As Old As You Think.

TIFF Review: Roland Emmerich’s Gay Rights Drama ‘Stonewall’.

‘Gay’ Doritos Prompt Freak-Out.

U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies.

Not for Queer Eyes Only.

See How Religious Homophobia Promotes Child Abuse.

Emails show Indiana damaged by religious liberty law.

Kim Davis’ Book Deal? It’s Not Happening. There’s a word missing from that headline, “yet”

The Search for Kim Davis’s Gay Friends.

Kim Davis’s One Gay Friend Is Angry.

Defiant clerk Kim Davis confiscated and altered all the marriage licences issued while she was in jail. Bonus points if you can name all the subtle and not-so-subtle biases in the story…

Stop calling Pope Francis progressive: You might love his pastoral style, but don’t fool yourself on Vatican substance.

This Week in the Clown Car

The Ted Cruz Problem Is the Reason Trump Ducks — and Must Duck — the Obama Birther Question.

Colbert bests Trump.

Fiorina Spins a New Lie, and Her Issues With Truth Look Compulsive.

This week in Other Politics:

Obama has vastly changed the face of the federal bureaucracy.

The GOP’s Deeply Bigoted Week.

McConnell makes first move to avoid shutdown.

The War to End Slavery Didn’t.

One big reason Congress ignores the poor: they don’t vote.

This Week in Diversity

“I’m afraid of men on the Internet.”

Hillary Clinton To Lena Dunham: I’m ‘Puzzled’ By Women Who Say They Aren’t Feminists.

Why Asking Is Not ‘Outing’ in 2015.

Goshen College withdraws from Council of Christian Colleges and Universities following changes to LGBT non-discrimination policy, hiring practices.

Gender Liberation: Leaving Men Behind.

If You Think ‘Straight-Acting’ Is An Acceptable Term, You’re An A**hole.

Here’s Why We Need To Stop Calling Pumpkin Spice A ‘White People Thing.’

News for queers and our allies:

Editorial: Two more small steps for gay rights.

A Scottish boy couldn’t stand a preacher’s homophobic rant, so he whipped out his bagpipes.

The LGBT+ community doesn’t need fair-weather allies.

9 questions about gender identity and being transgender you were too embarrassed to ask.

On Loving a Bisexual Man.

Farewells:

Jack Larson (1928-2015).

The Washington Post: How ‘Superman’ ruined a gay actor’s life — then saved it. Jack Larson (‘Jimmy Olsen’) dead at 87.

Yogi Berra: businessman and gay-rights advocate was more than a lovable dope.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 9/20/2015: Otters and Bi-people.

Scene Essentials.

Invisible? Difficult to see what others have erased.

The Original Wizard School – more of why I love sf/f.

Videos!

The Zipf Mystery:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Cabaret – willkommen (because some days you just need Alan Cumming to sing to you):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Disclosure – Jaded:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

DRAGON CON 2015 – PART 1 – EPIC COSPLAY PARTY:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

The Original Wizard School – more of why I love sf/f

Original hardback cover of A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin art by Ruth Robbins

Original hardback cover of A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, art by Ruth Robbins (click to embiggen).

I think I was 14 years old when I found a copy of A Wizard of Earthsea on a library shelf. The novel tells the story of a boy named Sparrowhawk who lives on the island of Gont which is situated in an archipelago called Earthsea. Sparrowhawk’s aunt is the village witch, and she recognizes his innate magical talents when he is very young, so she teaches him as much as she can. When he is twelve he nearly dies saving his village from marauders using magic. Which attracts the attention of an older mage named Ogion. Ogion heals Sparrowhawk and takes him on as a student. Ogion is the person who gives Sparrowhawk his true name, Ged. Knowing someone’s true name gives one power over them in the magic of Earthsea, so people have to guard their true name. When it becomes obvious that Ged’s talents and impatience are more than the mage can handle, Ogion sends him to the island of Roke to see if he can join the school of mages, there… Read More…

Invisible? Difficult to see what others have erased

1442933694_celebrate-bisexuality-dayI had a topic queued up for this week’s Throwback Thursday/More of why I love sf/f post, but then I remembered that it’s Bisexual Awareness Week, which is an expansion of Bisexual Visibility Day, and I thought, maybe I should write about some of the sci fi stories that I remember reading in my late teens/early twenties that nudged me into thinking maybe I was bi rather than gay.

As I tracked those stories down over the last few days, I realized something: none of the characters in those books actually identified as bisexual. The characters talk about bisexuality as an abstract, in exactly the way a closeted queer person might with their friends as a means of tentatively sounding out the friend to see if said friend would accept them if you came out as gay or bi.

And then there was no actual coming out. No romance other than opposite-sex couples, et cetera. It was a little irritating. Especially since one of the rules I adopted about my “more of why I love sf/f” posts is that I want to talk about books, stories, authors, movies, et al from the genre that I love rather than focus on critique or griping. So I couldn’t write about those stories that I had misremembered as having bisexual characters without it turning into a big gripe session.

So I’m not going to write about them tomorrow. And other than that explanation, I’m not going to write anything more about them, today, either. Because today is Bisexual Awareness Day, and it’s is supposed to be a celebration of and for bisexual people, not a time for a old white gay guy to gripe about related issues. So I encourage you, if you don’t know why Bisexual Visibility Day exists, and is different that National Coming Out Day and why it’s needed, to read this: Bisexual Visibility Day: Why being a bisexual is not easy.

And you might find this interesting: Celebrating the ‘B’ in LGBT: A history of Bisexual Awareness Week.

And while you’re at it, take a look at this: Why Bisexual Visibility Is Important.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I’m not bisexual myself, but I happen to be married to someone who is, as well as having several other important people in my life who are bi. So I have at least an empathetic understanding of their struggles, and how some of those overlap with mine, while many are different.

Remember, love is love; shout it for the world to hear.

Scene Essentials

Checklist of essential elements of a scene from jamigold.com/for-writers/worksheets-for-writers/

This is just one of many excellent worksheets to help you write to be downloaded from jamigold.com/for-writers/worksheets-for-writers/ (click to embiggen_

I posted almost nothing all last week for a very specific reason. I have two very large editing/revision projects that have been dragging out for many more months than they should have taken. So I decided last week that,other than  Friday Links and another “more of why I love sf/f” post I usually do on Thursdays, I couldn’t spend any time composing blog posts. It was my hope that this would make me finish one of the projects.The good news is I did make more progress last week than I have been most weeks. Unfortunately, I haven’t finished either project. But because one of the projects is editing a novel, I have been using a few tools to help in that process, one of which is the checklist shown here. Jami Gold has made this—and several other worksheets you might find useful—available for download in .doc format here at her blog.

This particular worksheet is based on a couple of articles. One by Jami Gold, How to Make the Most of a Scene; and another by Janice Hardy, Rule of Three: No, the Other One. Either of which you might find useful if you are writing a work of fiction or revising such a work.

The cover of my copy doesn't look like this...

The cover of my copy doesn’t look like this…

And as I usually do when I recommend any reference for creative writing, you ought to check out Jesse Lee Kercheval’s Building Fiction: How to Develop Plot and Structure

Weekend Update 9/20/2015: Otters and Bi-people

uncloakIt’s Bisexual Awareness Week! A time to remind you not to assume that every person you see in a same-sex relationship is gay, and not every person you see in an opposite-sex relationship is straight. It just so happens that I am gay, myself, but my husband isn’t. Gasp! And a significant number of my friends who are married to an opposite-sex partner are bi. And while I like to think of all of us as part of the big, fabulous Queer Rights movement, bi erasure and invisibility is something that isn’t perpetuated solely by uptight straight homophobes.

Anyway, I’ve been following Camille’s tumblr for a while, and it’s always cool, but her video this week is especially good:

BISEXUAL AWARENESS 101:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 3.52.42 PMToday is also the first day of Sea Otter Awareness Week!

Sea Otter Awareness Week falls on the last week in September and is an annual recognition of the vital role that sea otters play in the nearshore ecosystem. Each year, zoos, aquariums, natural history museums, marine institutions, filmmakers, researchers, academics, educators, and the public participate in various events and activities highlighting sea otters and their natural history and the various conservation issues sea otters are faced with.

Go, learn about Sea Otters and learn how you can help protect this adorable creatures!

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