First up, a little good news: New York City: Felony Crime Rate Hits Record Low. One of the on-going American myths is the mistaken notion that crime is on the rise, that there is far more crime happening today than there was when we were younger or in the good old days, or whatever. But that is simply not true. At all. Don’t believe me? Take it away Brennan Center for Justice:
Even despite recent increases, rates of murder and violent crime remain at historic low points, almost 50 percent below their early-1990s peaks. A preliminary analysis of 2017 crime rates in the nation’s 30 largest cities projects that the overall crime rate and the violent crime rate will decline to the second-lowest levels since 1990.
They have a lot of statistics and analysis (and nifty animated graphs!) on their site. It is true that in 2015 and 2016 several cities saw a dramatic increase in murder rates. However, the murder rate continued downward everywhere else. In 2015 the violent crime rate went down 2.6 percent compared to the previous year, and some people would say that a 2.6 percent change isn’t very significant (in fact, certain conservative politicians argued exactly that), but the fact that it was the 14th year in a row that the national violent crime rate went down is much more significant.
Also, they are projecting that the cities which had dramatic increases in 2015 and 2016 are all seeing declines this year, some quite large (Detroit looks to be seeing a 24% decrease!).
In news that is harder to classify: Trump Deported Fewer Mexican Nationals In 2017 Than Obama Did In 2016. This is a bit surprising given some of the crazy lengths that the Trump administration has gone to rounding up suspected undocumented immigrants. Part of me wants to make the cynical observation that the racist jerks can’t even pull off their racist policies right. I really haven’t found anyone analyzing this story in a way that we can evaluate why the deportation numbers (not just to Mexico) are so far down. Maybe because in their zeal that keep rounding up people who actually are here legally, then losing the legal fight to deport them anyway?
Let’s end with something funny. The Daily Show did an end of the year special, and this skit (don’t be like the idiots commenting on Youtube: it’s a parody of both the music industry, political songs, and much, much more) is definitely worth your time. Watch it all the way to the end! Song for Women 2017 (feat. DJ Mansplain) – The Daily Show:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
I keep finding myself writing either cranky and dark stuff, or fluffy weird holiday stuff. And then not wanting to post it. Meanwhile, the interesting images I swipe from various parts of the internet pile up. So here are a few of the more thought-provoking ones:
This next one was being shared several places but without the attribution of whose book is shown. Fortunately, feeding an entire sentence into Google got me the name of the author and the book in question.
This one should more accurately say: “A banker and two working class people—one white, and one not—are sitting at a table with 20 cookies. The banker takes 19 cookies and warns the white worker: ‘Watch out, that other guy (who I bet isn’t even a real american) is going to take your cookie away.’” Because there is a long history of the rich pitting people against each other along color lines. The recent use of variants on immigrants are dog-whistles for the racism.
Right this very minute!
Egg nog at the brunch bar
With lots of bourbon in it!
Yes we need a rainbow Christmas,
Right this very minute!
My lyrics may be getting slurry,
But Santa dear, we’re in a hurry!
Fling ’round the glitter!
Put up more twinkling lights than the whole Vegas strip!
No need for fruitcake,
We’ve got a great big table of deliciousness,
Cause we’ve grown a little rounder,
Grown a little bolder,
Grown a little prouder,
Grown a little wiser,
And I need a toasty lover,
Snuggling by the fire,
I need a rainbow Christmas now!
We need a rainbow Christmas now!
What’s actually on my list are lots of things that aren’t going to happen, such as Congressional Republicans finding moral spines and impeaching the traitors in the Oval Office, real peace coming to several parts of the world that haven’t known it in many years, homophobic relatives seeing the light, and so forth.Otherwise, when I try to come up with lists, it’s fairly mundane things such as books I want to read, movies I would like to own, nice warm fuzzy socks, or some nice new Andrew Christian underwear. Things that it would be nice to have, but not that I necessarily need. I mean, yeah, socks wear out—particularly for someone like me who has to wear warm socks for medical reasons during cold parts of the year, and thus runs around the house in socks all the time. So, when I put fuzzy socks on my wish lists every year, I really appreciate the folks who get them for me.
I find myself, instead, thinking about things that I’m thankful for and things that I wish I could give to others. Yes, I gave people presents, and the gifts seem to be appreciated. But while I can go to a store and buy someone some chocolate, or that electronic thing they put on their list, or a nice sketchbook, and so on, I can’t give people the job with benefits that they really need, or a non-dysfunctional family, or just health. So I can offer my love and support.
So, this is my list, things I wish for everyone who reads this:
- People in your life who love you
- Someone who appreciates you
Bless us, every one.
In short, it feels like my real Christmas.
When we were still all publishing a sci fi zine together, we would publicize the date and location of the party to the subscribers and contributors. And that meant we often got a lot of people who weren’t part of the regular monthly writers’ meeting crowd showing up. Which was great, but I also used to go to pains to de-emphasize the gift exchange part of the evening. I didn’t want people not to show up because they thought they were obligated to bring presents for strangers. That also means that I got in the habit of picking up and wrapping a bunch of extra presents–just in case. Because I didn’t want anyone who showed up not to get a brightly colored package to open.To pull that off, one of the things I’ve been doing for years is keeping an eye out for things to give people for Christmas all year long. So at any time after say mid-January, there is a box hiding back in the bedroom with various things in it as I slowly accumulate presents. So, for instance, if I read a book that I really, really loved earlier in the year, I’ll buy a second copy (or several) to put in the box to give to people at Christmas. I don’t always have a specific person in mind when I do, but I know that enough of my friends enjoy some of the same kinds of books as I do that there will probably be someone I can give it to.
Because of moving the year, and what a big hole it blew in our schedule for months (not to mention eating my brain), I didn’t have as many things as usual already sitting in the box by the time November rolled around. So I spent a bit more time scrambling for presents this year than I have usually done. Still, I had something for everyone, and a collection of extras. And we all had a lot of fun unwrapping things and discussing what we got or where we found that thing, et cetera.
This I got something that made me tear up a bit. It takes a bit if explaining. My friend, Keith, comes from a whole family of artists. His parents ran a commercial art company for many years, and one of their product lines were the Alaska Snowbabies Christmas ornaments, designed by his mother. I own a bunch of their ornaments, mostly from the Snowbabies line, though there are a few others. Keith, as you might expect, has a much larger collection of such ornaments, since he worked for years in the company as both a business manager and a mold designer (among other things). Keith’s parents retired and closed down the business a number of years ago, and Keith’s father has since passed away, so there haven’t been any new products for some years.
Anyway, Keith and his wife do two trees in their house most years, and he posted pictures of this year’s trees earlier in the month, and I noticed that several of the Snowbabies visible in his pictures had red Santa hats, rather than the usual white parkas, and I commented on how cute they were and that I was a little jealous.
So shortly after arriving, Keith handed me a small package and said, “And that’s from my mom.” It was very pretty paper, and it said “To Gene and Michael from Suzanne” and I thought it was odd for her to send us a present, but I wasn’t quite smart enough to put together the dots until later, when we were opening gifts and I got to hers, felt the package, and suddenly realized what it was. She’d seen my comment on line and decided I needed to have one of the later ornaments.So it’s now hanging on my tree. As she said afterward, it’s where he belongs.
Not often you get a gift straight from the artist, right?
But one can’t credit Irving Berlin with the invention of the phrase, “Happy Holidays!” It’s been in use for more than 125 years, and was clearly not part of any attempt to secularize the holiday.
Happy holiday, happy holiday
While the merry bells keep ringing
May your ev’ry wish come true
Happy holiday, happy holiday
May the calendar keep bringing
Happy holidays to you
Most people point to Bill O’Reilly’s segment on December 7, 2004 about the so-called assault on Christmas as the origin of the myth. But you have to go much further than that, back to the 1920s, when in recurrent segment of industrialist Henry Ford’s newsweekly entitled “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem” which opined: “Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone’s Birth. People sometimes ask why 3,000,000 Jews can control the affairs of 100,000,000 Americans. In the same way that ten Jewish students can abolish the mention of Christmas and Easter out of schools containing 3,000 Christian pupils.” Notice that even 97 years ago the American rightwing was antisemitic.
I was not alive back when Ford and others were trying to use Christmas to inflame anti-Jewish sentiment, but by the time of my childhood in the 1960s, that notion (along with the John Birch Society’s theory that the United Nations and Communists were trying take the Christ out of Christmas) had soaked deep into the psyche of evangelical fundamentalists. Though it took slightly different forms. I’ve written before about how the various Baptist churches my family attended considered Santa Claus an anti-Christian emblem. Some churches banned Christmas trees from the sanctuary, because of their pagan origins. Poinsettias were allowed because popular myth was the the red leaves represented Christ’s blood. But many of the common symbols of the holiday were believed inappropriate for the church.
Which isn’t to say that they forbade you from decorating your home and a tree or Santa — there was just a clear distinction between the sacred meaning of the holy day and the more general public celebration of the holidays. Which is why some leaders of the Christian Right in the 60s and 70s started advocating that Christians should encourage businesses to use phrases such as Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays precisely because all that commericialism shouldn’t be associated with Christ.
That’s right, there was a time when the very same sorts of people that today are foaming at the mouth about Starbucks’ holiday coffee cups not being sufficiently Christmas-y were asking businesses not to profane Christ’s name by labeling their products with the word Christmas.The pendulum keeps swinging back and forth. It’s been popular across the political spectrum to lament the commercialization of Christmas for many years, for instance. But the funning thing is that this commercialization: the emphasis on exchanging gifts (specifically gifts for Children) are part of a puritanical push during the 19th Century to make the holiday family friendly. For most of its history, the Christmas season was associated with drinking and feasting and various kinds of wild partying. So the Victorians decided to wage a war on the previous forms of the holiday. Unlike the Puritans, who banned Christmas entirely when they set up their colonies in the U.S., the Victorian prudes at least understood that you couldn’t ban the celebration outright, but you could encourage people to observe it in a different way.
So the next time someone gripes about commercialization of Christmas, point out that little historical tidbit and watch their head explode.
I could ramble some more, but why not watch this video instead?
Adam Rules Everything- The Drunken, Pagan History of Christmas:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here
The frequency of certain incidents have changed significantly since we moved to Shoreline and I’m taking a different route and riding longer. For instance, Fare Enforcement encounters. For a little context, some Metro routes are Rapid Ride lines. My old commute was on Rapid Ride D, while my new one is Rapid Ride E. What makes a route of Rapid Ride is that first the buses are designed more like commuter train cars: multiple doors and low floors so you don’t have to climb up stairs to get into the bus (this also makes boarding people in wheelchairs a lot faster since there isn’t a lift). Many bus stops have a pay station at the curb, so you can tap your card there before the bus arrives, and board using any door–instead of everyone having to enter through one door and either pay as they enter or show the driving a transfer.
This means the Rapid Ride buses operate on something of an honor system. But it isn’t entirely an honor system. Teams of Fare Enforcement officers randomly board buses, announce themselves, and then while the bus proceeds to the next stop, they walk up and down checking everyone’s proof of payment. Those of us with a pass, for instance, hold up our card and they touch a reader to it, which pulls information from the RF chip in the card. If someone doesn’t have a pass or transfer, they will be asked for their ID, information is recorded. They may receive a warning, or a ticket. Usually the officers only pull people off the bus if the person argues or otherwise doesn’t cooperate, or if they need to write up the multiple tickets. Whether they find anyone in violation or not, the get off at the next stop after they’re checked everyone, and wait for another bus on the line to board.
During the years I rode the D-line, I tended to see Fare Enforcement only once a month or so. And only about a third of the time did they have to write anyone up or take them off the bus. My second day riding the E-line, Fare Enforcement boarded the bus and wound up taking three people off. I thought that was unsual. I soon learned it was not. I see Fare Enforcement at least once a week. And I have never seen them not find at least one person who hasn’t paid or doesn’t have proof of payment.
By chance, most of the neighborhoods the D-Line goes through are median-rent or higher-than-average rent districts. While much of it’s route is on a major arterial, a big part of that arterial is through residential areas. The E-Line runs down State Highway 99, also known as Aurora Avenue. It’s a major thoroughfare that usually has commercial and retail. The neighborhoods range from well-to-do, to average, to what some people like to call affordable housing. This also means the crowd on the E-Line is both more colorful and diverse than the D-Line was.
Last week, between taking Friday off and working from home another day, I rode the bus only six times. I saw Fare Enforcement on four of those trips. On three of the trips they pulled two or more people off the bus besides issuing warnings to a couple.
The fourth time was the trip home Thursday. They were already on the bus when I got on. Typically the bus is pretty full by then, but that one was very empty. And all three officers were gathered around one guy, writing him up. He was complaining about how many of these tickets he’s gotten, and one of the officers was trying to get him to confirm that the address on his ID was where he received mail, because more legal papers would be coming. That means that he’s gotten so many tickets for not paying his fare, that they’re going to send a summons to appear in court.
The enforcement guys got off the bus at the next stop. And as soon as they left, the guy pulled a bottle of vodka out of the giant backpack he had in the seat next to him and started swigging. At that some stop, about three dozen people got on our bus, so it was suddenly as crowded as usual. At the next stop the guy with the vodka bottle was still grumbling, and waited until the bus driver had closed the doors and started to pull out to start shouting, “Wait! Wait! This is my stop!” So the driver stopped, and a bunch of people packed into the aisle had to squeeze and move in order to let the angry drinking man and his giant pack off the bus.
There are a lot of reasons someone can’t afford $2.50 bus fare—especially twice a day, five or more days a week, and so on. There are reduced fare passes available, but applying for them takes time, effort, the wherewithal to get documents together to prove you qualify, and so on. And I know lots of people who on paper make too much money to qualify for such programs, but they and their family are living hand-to-mouth. My point is that there are lots of circumstances where skipping paying the fare seems like a reasonable risk. But I still find my mind boggled a little bit.
On the other hand, many times I’ve seen people who keep an eye out the window, and when they see Fare Enforcement standing at the stop we’re pulling up to, they jump out of their seats to exit as the officers get on. I’ve never seen an officer pay any attention to people leaving. I’ve even seen guys not notice until the officers actually step on, and they jump up and say rather loudly, “Oh! It’s my stop!” and rush off. So clearly some habitual non-payers have figured out this is a way to avoid getting a ticket.
When my husband was explaining this a couple months ago online, someone expressed shock that the officers didn’t stop people that were exiting. That misses the entire point of the Rapid Ride. If they prevented people from leaving until they checked them for payment, that would hold the bus up. The way the officers do it, the bus’s route isn’t interrupted.
I’ve rambled on this a bit longer than I meant to, but to circle back to my point about reasons people have not to pay: I have assumed all along that the reason the E-Line is a more fertile ground for catching violators are economic ones. But I have also noticed that people who are dressed in a manner that would lead you to conclude they are well-off are just as likely to turn out to be the person who hasn’t paid. So, it’s another example that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Another in my series of posts recommending web comics that I think more people should read:
Last Kiss® by John Lustig is not your usual web comic. And I didn’t find it the usual way. Two years ago at Geek Girl Con I was wandering the dealer’s den, and I saw what I thought was a poster of a kind of typical fifties comic book beauty, but her word balloon said, “OMG! I’m my evil twin!” So I had to check it out. The artist was selling tote bags, t-shirts, greeting cards,and other things festooned with vintage-looking romance comic art, but with hilarious (and more modern) dialog substituted. Among the other merchandise was a lot of coasters, two of which leapt out at me as things I had to own: “I can’t eat on an empty stomach! Let’s have a drink!” and “I’m so ready for a drink!” And I had to buy the two-sided tote that said “I didn’t do it! It was my evil twin!” while the other had the aforementioned “OMG! I’m my evil twin!”As he explained at the table (and on his web site), Mr. Lustig bought the publishing rights to a romance comic book series from the 50’s and 60’s, and started rewriting the stories for fun. The redrawn and re-dialogued panels are syndicated, and available on a bunch of merchandise. Among the Lustig’s previous jobs is comic book writer for Disney, Marvel, and Viz. Not only do I think his work is funny, but he seems to be a really nice guy. I had hoped to run into him at a convention again this year, because I’ve had a few friends comment specifically on my coasters and how much they like them. So I wanted to buy some of the coasters to give at part of their Christmas presents for the friends. We skipped most conventions this year, so that didn’t happen. And he didn’t have the coasters listed on his site as available to sell. So I sent an email explaining about the coasters. He answered right away, said that the coasters had been an experiment, but he still had a bunch in stock, and he’d sell them to me at the same price he’d had them at the con. When I sent him my shipping information, he replied that since he lived in North Seattle, if I didn’t want to pay for postage, we could meet up somewhere instead.
Anyway, I love his work. He’s got several e-books and other things available, as well!
Some of the comics I’ve previously recommended: Some of these have stopped publishing new episodes. Some have been on hiatus for a while. I’ve culled from the list those that seem to have gone away entirely.
Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu is the story of Eric “Bitty” Bittle, a former junior figure skating champion from a southern state who is attending fictitious Samwell College in Massachusetts, where he plays on the men’s hockey team. Bitty is the smallest guy on the team, and in the early comics is dealing with a phobia of being body-checked in the games. He’s an enthusiastic baker, and a die hard Beyoncé fan.
“Manic Pixie Nightmare Girls” by Jessica Udischas is a hilarious web comic that tells of the adventures of Jesska Nightmare, a trans woman trying to make her way in our transphobic world. The comics are funny, insightful, and adorably drawn. The sheer cuteness of the drawing style is a rather sharp contrast to the sometimes weighty topics the comic covers, and I think makes it a little easier to keep from getting bummed out to contemplate that the strips aren’t exaggerations. If you like the strip, consider supporting the artist through her patreon.
The Junior Science Power Hour by Abby Howard. is frequently autobiographical take on the artist’s journey to creating the crazy strip about science, science nerds, why girls are just as good at being science nerds as boys, and so much more. It will definitely appeal to dinosaur nerds, anyone who has ever been enthusiastic about any science topic, and especially to people who has ever felt like a square peg being forced into round holes by society.“Stereophonic” by C.J.P. is a “queer historical drama that follows the lives of two young men living in 1960s London.” It’s a very sweet and slow-build story, with good art and an interesting supporting cast. But I want to warn you that the story comes to a hiatus just as a couple of the subplots are getting very interesting. The artist had a serious health issue which was complicated by family problems, but has since started posting updates to his blog and Patreon page, assuring us that the story will resume soon. If you like the 300+ pages published thus far and would like to support the artist, C.J. has a Patreon page, plus t-shirts and other merchandise available at his store.
The Young Protectors: Engaging the Enemy 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.
Tripping 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.
“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!
Scurry by Mac Smith is the story of a colony of mice trying to survive a long, strange winter in a world where humans have mysteriously vanished, and food is becoming ever more scarce.
And I love this impish girl thief with a tail and her reluctant undead sorcerer/bodyguard: “Unsounded,” by Ashley Cope.
Muddler’s Beat by Tony Breed is the fun, expanded cast sequel to Finn and Charlie Are Hitched.
Fowl Language by Brian Gordon is a fun strip about parenting, tech, science, and other geeky things. The strips are funny, and he also has a bonus panel link to click on under the day’s strip.
The Last Halloween by Abby Howard is the creepy story of 10-year-old Mona who is reluctantly drafted to save the world on Halloween night. This is by the same artist who does the Junior Science Power Hour. She created this strip as her pitch in the final round of Penny Arcade’s Strip Search, which was a reality game show where web cartoonists competed for a cash prize and other assistance to get their strip launched. Though Abby didn’t win, she started writing the strip anyway. If you like the comic, you can support Abby in a couple of ways: she has some cool stuff related to both of her strips in her store, and she also has a Patreon.
“Champion of Katara” by Chuck Melville tells the tale of a the greatest sorcerer of Katara, Flagstaff (Flagstaff’s foster sister may disagree…), and his adventures in a humorous sword & sorcery world. If you enjoy the adventures of Flagstaff, you might also enjoy another awesome fantasy series set in the same universe (and starring the aforementioned foster sister): and Felicia, Sorceress of Katara, or Chuck’s weekly gag strip, Mr. Cow, which was on a hiatus for a while but is now back. 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?
If 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.
Oglaf, by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne is a Not Safe For Work web comic about… well, it’s sort a generic “medieval” high fantasy universe, but with adult themes, often sexual. Jokes are based on fantasy story and movie clichés, gaming tropes, and the like. And let me repeat, since I got a startled message from someone in response to a previous posting of this recommendation: Oglaf is Not Safe For Work (NSFW)!