Archive | March 2018

No one likes a bully

No one likes a bully, they say. But the perception of who is bullying who can go to rather ludicrous points. When Laura Ingraham, long time radio talk show host, past editor, TV talk show host, et cetera, tried to portray one of the Parkland shooting survivors as whining when he mentioned that he’s been rejected by four of the colleges he applied to, she apparently didn’t expect that comment to go viral in a negative way. She certainly didn’t expect advertisers to start pulling out of sponsoring her show. She then issues a pretty ridiculous (half-assed) apology. And then headlines started coming out some places that made the high school students she ridiculed seem like the bullies.

Let’s get something clear. I hope Laura’s advertisers keep pulling out. I’m glad that some people have finally noticed that she’s a bully. But she has been a bully for years: Cyber Bullying is a bit new. But Laura Ingraham was a real bully long before the internet. From February, before this incident: ESPN’s Michael Wilbon on Fox News Host Laura Ingraham: “She Comes off Like a Bigot”. Or two years ago: How Laura Ingraham has attacked Latinos, civil rights groups, and more. Or this gem from 2014: Laura Ingraham Mocks Sick Immigrant Children With Terrible Taco Bell Joke. And this is a good sum up of some of her antics in the 1990s and early aughts: Laura Ingraham: Right-Wing Radio’s High Priestess of Hate.

That’s enough about that hateful person.

In related news: Black Students at Stoneman Douglas High Want Gun-Violence Solutions to Address Police Violence. While at events they had control over, the survivors of the Stonema Douglas shooting had tried to include all of their peers and present a diverse front, the media has tended to focus on a few of the white kids (and one light-skinned Latina). And lots of people have pointed out that these kids aren’t asking for anything more than the Black Lives Matters folks have been asking for all along.

So it is more than fair to ask why the killing of someone like 12-year-old Tamir Rice didn’t get the some attention as the Stoneman Douglas kids are. Part of me would like to hope that we’ve just reached a tipping point. But (particularly seeing both the racist and homophobic attacks made on Emma Gonzales) I suspect that there is more than a bit of racism in play here.

I have to agree with these kids: Black Parkland students worry: What happens to us when schools are over-policed? Putting more police officers into schools won’t help stop mass shootings, and has historically resulted in cops abusing and arresting kids for things that should never have involved a cop, and not surprisingly disproportionately targeting kids of color. The answer isn’t more cops or more guns in school, and anyway paying attention would already know this: CHILDREN OF COLOR ALREADY FACE VIOLENT DISCIPLINE IN SCHOOLS. ARMING TEACHERS WILL GET THEM KILLED, Why having police in schools is a problem, in 3 charts, and Black Students More Likely to Be Arrested at School.

Things that actually would help:

  1. Raise the minimum age to buy guns to 21
  2. Universal background checks to buy guns (a measure supported by 97% of the general population and by 96% of gun owners!)
  3. Licensing gun owners the way we license drivers, including requiring more rigorous testing and evaluation for different classes of guns (just as commercial driving licenses have more stringent requirements), and including periodic re-certification
  4. Requiring gun owners to carry liability insurance, again just like we do for car owners
  5. Voluntary gun buy back programs

That won’t prevent every shooting, obviously; just like changing drunk driving laws didn’t eliminate all drunk driving. But we’ve been able to bring down the rate of car crashes that result in death or injury in which alcohol played a factor by 35% by enacting some common sense drinking-and-driving laws. If we reduced shootings by even a fraction of that, that will still be thousands of people saved every year.

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Friday Five (quantum vampires edition)

It’s the fifth Friday of March!

Work was insanely busy again, but right now I don’t care because I’m on vacation! My husband and I are attending the 41st Northwest Science Fiction Convention, along with a whole bunch of our friends. My husband is on staff this year, instead of doing his usual thing of volunteering in a bunch of departments, he’s just being an IT Ninja all weekend. I, meanwhile, I’m goofing off. And doing a lot of it in costume. Today, for instance, I’m wearing an upgraded version of the Social Justice Necromancer costume I debuted a friend’s Halloween party a few years ago. I’ll be handing out pocket Constitutions, Bill of Rights bookmarks, and other fun civil rights related things while supplies last.

But for now, I bring you the Friday Five: This week you get the top five (IMHO) stories of the week and top five videos (plus notable obituaries and a recap of my blog posts).

Stories of the Week:

The Quantum Physics Of Vampires.

Who Does She Think She Is?

This whimsical home made entirely from clay is basically a giant piece of pottery. .

Why ‘He Should Have Just Complied’ Does Not Apply to Stephon Clark.

For 1st Time Since Fatal Bombings Rocked Austin, Texas, Police Chief Finally Calls Serial Bomber a ‘Domestic Terrorist’. One of the few times ‘finally” is justified in a headline.

In Memoriam:

Linda Brown, Whose Case Ended Racial Segregation in US Schools, Dies.

Linda Brown, Symbol of Landmark Desegregation Case, Dies at 75.

Photos: What integration after Brown v. Board of Education looked like.

Actress & Stunt Performer Debbie Lee Carrington Has Passed Away.

Things I wrote:

Veterans for Gun Reform.

I don’t mean to be a jerk, part 2.

Videos!

Supergirl | Schott Through The Heart Trailer | The CW:

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Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War – Gone TV Spot:

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Stephen Falls Victim To CNN’s ‘Fake News’:

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Keiynan Lonsdale – Kiss The Boy (Official Lyric Video):

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This Is Me – Cover by Shoshana Bean Featuring Travis Wall:

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I don’t mean to be a jerk, part 2

“What if I told you that saying 'no offense' doesn't make you any less of an asshole?”

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Anyone who has hung out in certain progressive circles, particularly around young LGBTQ people in the process of coming out/figuring out who they are, has heard noble speeches about how we must respect how people self-identify, because questioning those declarations is being judgmental. Questioning those declarations is dismissive. Questioning those declarations trivializes their experiences and existence. Questioning those declarations denigrates their personhood. Questioning those declarations denies their agency, effectively treating them as children or non-persons who need adult supervision and guardianship.

And I agree. If someone refuses to call a transgender person by that person’s preferred pronoun, that someone is a first-order jerk. As one friend once responded to one such idiot who kept harping about a transgender woman of our acquaintance, “You’re right. Gender isn’t a matter of opinion. Her gender is not a matter of your opinion.”

However, there is a difference between matters of identity and matters of behavior. Being a “nice person” is not an identity on the level of gender or sexual orientation. It is a product of how you behave toward others, not who you are.

Therefore I want to state now, for the record, that I am not a nice guy. I try to be nice. I try to listen. I like helping people. I like doing nice things for people. I strive to be kind and understanding. Often I succeed. But I also fail. And I fail more often than I should. I know this. I’m not saying that as some sort of humble brag or a warning. It’s just an observation of a phenomenon that is true of most people. We’re trying.

Being nice seems to come more easily for some than for others. I know that one of the reasons it comes less easily for me is that one of my role models growing up was a very abusive man. When I mentioned in a recent post that I realized in my twenties that I was carrying around a lot of toxic waste from those years of abuse, I wasn’t referring so much to angry and resentment but more to that role model effect. Humans are hardwired to imitate–there are specific structures in the brain for imitating what we observe–and this trait is more active when we’re young. So even though I didn’t like the way Dad treated me (or other people), his way of reacting to things, his behaviors, even many of his figures of speech got encoded in me.

There have been times in my life when I have been shocked to hear essentially Dad’s voice coming out of my mouth. I have literally said to some friends when that happens, “I’m sorry. I don’t know where that came from.”

That’s not an excuse. Each time it happened, I spent some time figuring out what triggered that reaction, then thinking about what I would have rather said, and finally practicing in front of a mirror saying the other things. It isn’t about acting or putting up a facade. It’s about being mindful. When you have a bad habit, the best way to get rid of it is to replace it with something else that fulfills the impulse underlying the bad habit.

All of this is to say that if I interact with someone who is behaving in an obnoxious, combative, abrasive, mean-spirited manner, it is not unreasonable for me to point out that they’re acting like an asshole.

Some people will say that using such coarse language is too rude. It depends on the circumstances. Rudenss is defined by the social context. That means once one person begins acting detestably, it becomes acceptable to respond with blunter language. So depending on the circumstances, I might say, “That’s uncalled for,” or “I don’t know why you’re being so angry,” or “Hey, no reason to be a jerk about it,” or “I really can’t deal with asshole behavior today.”

Someone calling out your behavior for what it is isn’t an ad hominem attack, it is a signal that you have stepped over a line.

Insisting that the label of jerk or asshole is somehow worse than the behavior that earned it isn’t a valid argument. Insisting that you’re actually a nice person if we only got to know you isn’t a valid argument. Angrily insisting that someone doesn’t know you well enough to identify you that way isn’t a valid argument.

For example, remember a couple years ago when group of white people crashed a child’s party at a black family’s home, waved guns in the faces of the adults and kids and shouted various racist slurs (all caught on video)? When they were all arrested, tried, and sentenced for crimes such as reckless endangerment and racially-motivated intimidation, they cried. They sobbed and wailed and insisted that they “weren’t racist” and “not the sort of people who would do that!”

Except they had done it. They had done it and then bragged about it afterward. It doesn’t matter how many times they had gone to church, nor donated to charity, nor been nice to puppies. It doesn’t change the fact that they pointed guns in the faces of small black children and screamed the n-word.

So, if you act like a bigot, it’s perfectly acceptable for other people to call you a bigot. Act like a jerk? Accurate to call you a jerk. Behave like an asshole? Perfectly legitimate to call you an asshole.

And I’m saying this as someone who has deserved to be called an asshole more than once. I’ve tried to get better. Getting better meant recognizing that even if at the moment I didn’t think the word was called for, I had pushed the other person into a situation where they felt they had to say it. And if I didn’t want people to react that way to me, I need to change.

If, when I’m reflecting on why someone called me something like that, I decide that it wasn’t called for at all, the change I make might be to spend as little time as possible around that person. But that’s a topic for another day.

Veterans for Gun Reform

I’ve been doing housework today. I have a bunch of errands to run while my husband is off doing convention committee stuff. So I wasn’t going to post a Weekend Update. But then I saw this, so I have to share it:

Veterans For Gun Reform PSA – March For Our Lives:

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Friday Five (Austin bomber was a TERRORIST edition)

“Austin bomber was a TERRORIST”

“Austin bomber was a TERRORIST”

It’s the fourth Friday of March!

Very busy at work. I and several co-workers coming down with several maladies. Impossible deadlines, as always. Meanwhile, spring appears to arrive, but is quickly overshadowing by weird unseasonable weather. Meanwhile, we still have a senile narcissist in the White House and the Republicans continue to show absolutely no spine and certainly no respect for the rule of law.

Once again I bring you the Friday Five: This week you get the top five (IMHO) stories of the week, the top five stories related to queer rights, plus five stories about white terrorists, and videos (plus notable obituaries and a recap of my blog posts).

Stories of the Week:

THE LIMITS OF LEGALISM – Robert Mueller and the FBI can’t save us.

The Great Lie of Conservatism – The philosophical foundation of conservatism is a template for exploitation, argues Drew Magary, and it’s time to stop treating it as half our country’s guiding principles. “…like most conservative writings, these principles are written in the kind of highfalutin dipshit-ese designed specifically to impress any self-declared “enfant terrible” in your school’s debate club. It’s all insufferably pompous. But if you plow through all of Kirk’s bone dry copy, you will see the blueprint for the con laid out.”

Child abuse imagery found within bitcoin’s blockchain. Also, cryptocurencies are a scam.

Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner Promised a Criminal Justice Revolution. He’s Exceeding Expectations. Seriously, this is incredible!

‘This is now a crime scene’: Trail steward recalls finding illegal ‘gingerbread house’ filled with child porn. This story is sooooo weird!

News for queers and our allies:

John Oliver’s gay bunny book is a runaway success. Mike Pence’s bunny book isn’t. Also, this book’s proceeds go to charities devoted to helping gay people. Remember that Pence, when he was a governor, diverted health care funds earmarked for AIDS patients into conversion therapy. So ignore that Slate article that takes issue with this book. Even better, go comment on that Slate article about how much good this book does…

Savannah Georgia ruined Mike Pence’s St. Patrick’s Day in the best way possible.

AIDS 1969: HIV, History, and Race.

Women who have sex with women orgasm much, much more, new study shows.

Judge Demands Trump Provide Names of Those Who Advised Trans Military Ban.

This week in white terrorism:

Here’s What We Know About The Austin Package Bomber.

The double standard on how the media is talking about the Austin bomber .

Americans are more likely to be attacked by far-right terrorists than Islamists.

‘This is all we’ve got’: Young white supremacists are down to their last fundraising platform .

White evangelical Christians really only care about one thing — and everything else is a sham.

In Memoriam:

Who Is Stephon Clark? Police Shot Black Man Holding Cellphone 20 Times.

Austin Bombing Victims Included a Father and a 17-Year-Old Musician.

These are the victims of the Austin bombings.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 3/17/2018: Did no one see this coming?.

Spring has sprung, but winter isn’t through with us, yet! (and what say the squirrel god?).

It still isn’t unfathomable!

Ken and Ben, twinks in love — or where did you think fashion came from?

Videos!

A Selfish Argument for Making the World a Better Place – Egoistic Altruism:

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Stephen Colbert Works Out With Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

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John Oliver on His Children’s Book About VP Pence’s Gay Bunny, Marlon Bundo:

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Trump’s Advisers Told Him Not to Congratulate Putin: A Closer Look:

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Panic! At The Disco: Say Amen (Saturday Night) [OFFICIAL VIDEO]:

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Ken and Ben, twinks in love — or where did you think fashion came from?

Magic Earring Ken

One weekend way back in 1992, my late husband Ray and I were having brunch at the old Hamburger Mary’s in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, and I was reading the local snarky alternative weekly newspaper, The Stranger when I read about Mattel’s latest edition to the Barbie toy line: Magic Earring Ken. He was being written about in the snarky paper because one of the many so-called Christian anti-gay organizations had sent out an alert to their supporters explaining how Mattel had released a Gay Ken, marketing it to children, and each doll came with a sex toy! They helpfully published a 1-800 number where people could call Mattel and tell them they were going to boycott the company. And apparently a lot of them did, prompting the company to issue a statement trying to explain that the Ken wasn’t gay and there certainly wasn’t a sex toy included.

The reason the wingnuts had gotten up in arms about Gay Ken was because a couple of weeks earlier, Sex Advice Columnist Dan Savage had mentioned in his column that he had seen this so-called Gay Ken. He noted that the clothes and hair style of the doll would not have looked out of place in the West Hollywood a couple of years previously, but wasn’t exactly super stylish any more, but that every gay man would recognize a piece of jewelry that came with the doll as something they usually only used while having sex.

Because Dan hadn’t said what the jewelry was, and then the wingnut pastor (who I’m sure was only following Dan’s column to keep tabs on a notorious queer—except this was 1992, and Dan wasn’t really famous or notorious, yet) had called it a sex toy, apparently a lot of his followers assumed that doll was being sold with a dildo or vibrator and they really confused the poor people answering the phones at Mattel, let me tell you.

Later that day, Ray and I scoured a few toy stores until we found Magic Earring Ken, and we bought two of them. Ray named them Ken and his boyfriend Ben. He decided they needed to be displayed like art, and got a couple of doll stands so they could stand atop a shelf we had in our living room in the teeny studio we were living in at the time.

I have seen people post on tumblr and other places a very wrong version of how the doll got designed. It had nothing to do with trying to make Ken look like someone at a rave. It had a much more innocent origin. The designer responsible was interviewed for several magazines after the incident. She was looking for new ideas for the next year’s Ken—because a survey the company had done asking girls whether Barbie should get a new boyfriend, had returned the results that girls wanted Barbie to stay with Ken, but that wanted Ken to be “cooler.” The designer, realizing one of her nieces was exactly in the age group that played with Barbies, took her niece and several of the nieces friends out for ice cream at a mall. And there, she asked the girls to point out all the boys who they thought were dressed “cool.” As people walked by, the girls would point out guys (usually older teens or college-age looking), and the designer took notes and made quick sketches of the clothes and hairstyles.

She was not aware that the chrome metal ring some of the young men were wearing on chains around their necks were cockrings. And truth be told, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the guys wearing them didn’t know, any more than a lot of the girls in the mid-eighties inspired by Madonna started wearing silicon cockrings as bracelets. And also, most of those guys probably weren’t gay. It’s often been the case that certain marginalized groups, including by not limited to queers, establish fashion trends that get copied subsequently by other folks.

Based on follow up conversations with some of girls and her notes, she designed a new look for Ken. And the next year (1992) it came out. It was selling as expected for at least a month before someone writing for another gay paper somewhere saw it, wrote a short humorous article calling the doll a Gay Twink. And Dan found out about it, and things were from there.

Contrary to what many of those other blog posts claim, there was also a Earring Magic Barbie and several other members of the Barbie line got an Earring make-over. But only Ken’s makeover looked gay. And as word spread about the Gay Ken, thousands of queer men like Ray and I ran out to buy them. Magic Earring Ken became the best selling model of Ken in the history of the Barbie line.

But, because of the controversy, Mattel decided to stop making or selling that model.

When I first saw this look in the box on the shelf at the toy store, I thought it looked more like late 80s California dude rather early 90s, but...

When I first saw this look in the box on the shelf at the toy store, I thought it looked more like late 80s California dude rather early 90s, but…

Our two dolls didn’t just stand around gathering dust. No, Ken and Ben became an ongoing art project for Ray. It started innocently enough, we both decided they shouldn’t always dress identically, so we picked up some other Ken outfits and started mixing an matching. Then Ray found more toy props, so he could pose them sitting at a table, drinking coffee. And of course more outfits. After we moved to a larger apartment, Ray bought Barbie’s dune buggy. Then the pink Barbie jeep. And a G.I. Joe. And another action figure (I don’t remember which cartoon show he was from, but he had a weird tattoo on his chest). And more outfits. And a Shaving Magic Ken. I found a Christmas tree that was just the right size for them to stand around at Christmas time. Ray found multiple sweaters, include two different designs of ugly Christmas sweaters that fit them.

Month after month, Ray would change the the clothes on all the dolls, and change out the props to fit with the season. In the summer they would all be in swimsuits or wet suits and have the dune buggy and surfboard, for instance. And every year the Christmas party scene would get a bit more elaborate.

Until Ray died.

The last setup he did was for Halloween. He’d found some things that could be cheesy costumes for some of the dolls, and a little jack o’lantern, and I think a little toy black cat that was the right size. On the night we were discussing Thanksgiving plans, he made a comment about changing Ken and Ben’ clothes and setting all the boys around one table like a Thanksgiving Dinner. Later that night, in the wee small hours, Ray had the seizure that led to the coma and ultimately his death.

I left Ken and Ben and the others in the Halloween set up for a few weeks. I wasn’t in a mood to change them (or really do anything for a few months, to be honest). I decided not to decorate from Christmas that year, until one evening I got hit by the irrational thought that Ray would be very disappointed with me if I didn’t put up at least something. So Ken and Ben and the others went into a box. I bought few Christmas things (because I knew if I tried to unpack any of our big collection of Christmas ornaments and such I would start crying and might not be able to stop) set them up on top of the entertainment center, which had been Ken and Ben’s stage for years.

I did eventually get Ken and Ben and the others out of the box, changed their clothes, and posed them in a not terribly interesting way. It had been Ray’s project, and while I loved helping him do it, it just wasn’t the same without him. After Michael and I got together, he would occasionally make suggestions to change the boys up a bit. But it still wasn’t the same. A couple years later, that entertainment center was getting wobbly. It had been a cheap particle board kit and was at least 8 years old. And while looking for a replacement (and making considerably more money than I had been 8 years prior), I found this enormous, beautiful, solid oak entertainment center that I just had to have.

It was so much taller than the old one, that I couldn’t really see Ken and Ben when they were up there, and changing their clothes and such required a small step ladder. So I packed up a lot of the accessories (the jeep, dune buggy, tables, chairs, et cetera) and most of the dolls, and took them to Goodwill. I kept Ken and Ben, though. I was thinking I should hang onto them if for no other reason, as a monument to a particularly weird and funny pop culture/queer culture collision.

I thought that Ken and Ben were still packed away somewhere in the computer room closet, but when we were packing to move out of that place last April, I didn’t find them in the box I thought they were in. I was a bit perturbed, but figured that at some point in the unpacking I would find them. But they weren’t in any of the boxes from other closets that hadn’t been opened for years. Nor were then in any of the boxes in the basement in a similar state.

I know what probably happened is that one of the times in the last ten years when I would make attempts to go through all of the Too Much Stuff™ that we had at the old place, that I decided to finally donate Ken and Ben to Goodwill or Value Village or the like. But I don’t remember doing it. So I’d rather believe that they got tired of being boxed up and forgotten. They staged an escape and ran off together—two twinks in love, looking for adventure.

It still isn’t unfathomable!

“Stop quoting people saying the bomber was a nice guy... he was an angry, hateful person— the bombs themselves are proof enough!”

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It was bad enough that mainstream U.S. media didn’t start covering the story of the exploding FedEx packages being delivered in Austin, Texas until a white person was injured. Black man killed? No big deal. Black teen-ager killed (and another black woman injured by the bomb that killed the kid)? Again, no big deal. Even after the third bomb went off, injuring a hispanic woman, what did the FBI do? They issued a request for the bomber to call them.

The asked the bomber to please call them.

Two people killed by bombs in unexpected packages in less than two weeks, with local police saying they didn’t believe the attacks were random, and the FBI just says, “Well, maybe if we ask nicely the guy will turn himself in.” The Unabomber only killed three people with his bombs (over the course of 17 years), but he warranted the “largest manhunt in FBI history”?

I realize that it they might have been doing more than that behind the scenes, but given how several federal officials said they saw no link to terrorism and otherwise made very dismissive comments, I suspect not.

And now the bomber blew himself up after a short police chase (we don’t know if he killed himself on purpose or if his next explosive went off accidentally). And authorities are making more, “There’s no more threat” in the same breath that they admit they haven’t figured out if he had accomplices, nor how he picked his victims.

And headlines and subheads are mentioning how neighbors described the bomber as a nice guy.

First of all, several of those stories also quote friends reporting that he was “rough around the edges” and that he “would be intimidating and dominate every conversation.”

Apparently headline writing editors and such don’t understand some simple facts:

  • Nice guys don’t intentionally kill people with bombs
  • Nice guys don’t put on disguises to go into FedEx centers and mail bombs that are intended to kill the unsuspecting recepients
  • Nice guys don’t intimidate their way into dominating every conversation
  • Nice guys don’t post angry bigoted screeds about gay people being evil abominations
  • Nice guys don’t post angry screeds about women who get abortions or who take birth control
  • Nice guys don’t post angry screeds that some women deserve to be raped and argue that guys who commit rape shouldn’t be labeled sex offenders for the rest of their lives

And journalists, don’t say that you’re trying to be fair, or give both sides. He was a cowardly, hateful killer. There aren’t two legitimate sides to these incidents. There are victims, and there is the killer who was obviously a bad guy.

Also, stop with the “why did he do it” laments. He was angry. He was hateful. The bombs alone prove that. When you dig into the bigoted rants he posted online, the friends who describe his bullying behavior, and so forth—all of that corroborates the initial characterization as an angry, hateful, bad guy.

In one of the stories I read, the friend who described him as intimidating and dominating every conversation during High School, opined that since then he must have “succumbed to some sort of hate.” No, buddy, that intimidation and other behaviors you describe were clear signs of anger already there.

I understand why people often wind up describing the mass shooters and other killers of this type as a nice guy. Some don’t want to speak ill of the dead. Some don’t want to hurt the feelings of the family of the killer. Some are trying to absolve themselves of not having seen him for the danger he was. We don’t want to believe someone we know is a monster. Particularly when they are someone we are obligated to spend time with (we’re students at the same school, we are co-workers, we are related to them, we are friends with someone related to him, et cetera) we will make excuses and tell ourselves he’s just “rough around the edges” but under that we’re sure he’s capable of being a nice guy.

Now, I’m not saying that every angry high school boy is going to grow up to be a multiple murderer. Some of us discover the source of all the anger and learn to be better people.

That’s right, I said us.

I don’t claim to know all the sources of this guy’s anger, but part of me was cringing when reading that description of him dominating conversations by intimidating the other people in it—because I did that a lot. And it’s a form of interaction I can easily fall into to this day. I was lucky enough to first get out of the toxic environment caused by my abusive father when my parents divorce while I was a teen, but I didn’t understand for a long time that I was still carrying all the toxicity around. I was in my early twenties when a good friend was brave enough to call me out as being a verbal bully. Making me see for the first time just how much of the abuse I had internalized. It was a couple years after that before I was ready to admit that another source of my anger (and self-loathing) was being a closeted queer man. And it was during my coming out process that I was able to identify just how toxic the evangelical churches I was raised in were. It wasn’t just my abusive dad who filled me with all that poison.

Which gets me to one of the articles that pissed me off most: the New York Times describes the killer’s family as a tight-knit, godly one. That description, plus knowing he was homeschooled—plus those anti-gay, anti-abortion (complete with the usual slut-shaming plus ignorance of biology), pro-rape posts tells me what kind of religious background he came from, and therefore at least one source of that hate.

We don’t have to ask why. We already know, it’s just mainstream America doesn’t want to admit how much hate and anger is being cultivated in this country. It isn’t about the foreign so-called extremist groups recruiting. Because we aren’t willing to recognize the extent to which fundamentalist Christian churches are engaged in manufacturing these angry young men.


Edit to add: I found more information about some of his angry rants on line, so I updated the bullet list above.

Spring has sprung, but winter isn’t through with us, yet! (and what say the squirrel god?)

On of my lavender plants on the veranda is blooming!

On of my lavender plants on the veranda is blooming!

Just over a week ago we had a pseudo-spring, when over the course of three days the daytime high temperature went from about 10 degrees below average for this time of year, to more than 25 degrees above normal (and then over the next two dropped down to right about normal). Today, on the first official day of spring, the daytime high is set to be just a teensy bit below normal. Sunny and dry, and clearly the plants are all loving it. Rain and cooler temperatures are coming. Though we’re going to just get a fringe of the enormous atmospheric river about to hit California. They are currently predicting some snow in the foothills on Friday and maybe Saturday. Which is nothing compared to the winter storms heading toward the eastern U.S.

In our little corner of the world, spring is definitely here, as noted with the lavender starting to bloom, for one. Most of the rest of the flowers blooming out on my veranda are spot colors I planted weekend before last, so those don’t really count (though they are very pretty).

Most of them don’t count, that is.

The squirrel-planted tree and two pansies from last year survived the winter.

The squirrel-planted tree and two pansies from last year survived the winter.

Because in addition to my lavender plants which wintered out on the veranda, a couple of the spot color pansies from last fall survived, along with my tree. That’s right, I am growing a tree on our 5-foot wide deck. It wasn’t something I planned to be growing. See, a squirrel at our old neighborhood buried a filbert nut in one of the smallest flower pots I had, and it grew to just over 10 inches last year with a small cluster of leaves. Once I identified it (by the distinctive leaf shape), I posted pics of the little tree online and asked people’s opinions on what I should do. Everyone who replied agreed I should see how well the tree could do out there. One friend said, “Of course you keep the tree! Mustn’t anger the squirrel god.”

But, as I mentioned, the little tree was growing in the smallest flower pot that I had (there had been one smaller one at the old place, but it had a broken lip and large cracks, so I tossed it rather than move it to our new place). I was afraid the tree would quickly outgrow the pot. On the other hand, I didn’t want to damage its roots digging it up. So I left it in the pot over winter, intending to move the entire contents of the small pot into one of the big planters where I’m trying to keep my grandma’s irises alive. For whatever reason, the two pansies in the tiny pot had also survived the winter. Usually two or three of the fall pansies appear to make it through the winter, but usually in the spring when I start planting new flowers in the pots, a closer examination reveals that there are only a few green leaves visible above a decidedly sickly-yellow body of the pansy. Any time I tried to keep them, they usually died without blooming again. So I usually compost the over-winter pansies and replace them.

Since I was moving the entire pot, there was no point in pulling the two pansies loose. So they moved to the bigger planter along with the tree. It has been 9 days, and not only are they both much leafier and much greener than they were when I transplanted them, one has bloomed again! Which I’m going to take as a sign that the squirrel god is happy that I am trying to keep the tree alive. I know in the picture that the tree just looks like a stick, but just a few weeks ago it was a drab brown stick, whereas now there is clearly a lot of green in that bark. Plus there are a bunch of little buds all up and down the tree. So I expect it to be much leafier this summer.

I also moved my teeny wind chime from one of the medium pots to the bigger planter. My husband insists on calling wind chimes of all types “wind clunks” and gives me serious side eye whenever he catches me looking at them in stores. This little stained-glass butterfly and tiny chimes was a gift from a friend, and are so quiet that one has to be outside and fairly close to hear them, so my husband can ignore them.

I’ve been thinking about whether to move the bird feeder to a spot further down the veranda, away from the place where our chairs and table are. More of the birds might be brave enough to keep eating while I’m out there if it were further down. Also, most of the spilled hulls and seeds would be centered away from the section I walk on to get to the table. The down side is that the feeder would be harder to see from the living room window if I moved it down.

So, for now, I’m leaving the feeder where it is.

Weekend Update 3/17/2018: Did no one see this coming?

Things you find in a closet (click to embiggen:

Another entry in my series on news that either came in after I posted my Friday Five, or new development in previously posted stories, or things that didn’t make the cut but deserve some commentary. This is also another in my series of posts pointing out that public figures who are most adamant about policing, judging, and criminalizing other people’s sexual behavior seem to always have some kind of immoral skeleton in their own closet.

Deputy Australian Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce resigns over sex scanda He’s a family-values politician, described as one of the “most staunch opponents of same-sex marriage” and gay rights in general, et cetera, has been having an affair with a staffer. Not only is he resigning his post, but he is leaving his wife (the mother of his four children) for the younger staffer who his pregnant. Did no one see this coming?

Last month in Utah we got first this headline: Rep. Jon Stanard resigns abruptly with little explanation followed up with this: Utah Rep. Jon Stanard, accused of meeting call girl for sex, used public money for hotel rooms. Before you ask, yes Stanard was also a typical family-values politician, pro-life, anti-gay politician: “Family values” politician Jon Stanard of Utah hates gay people… but he sure loves prostitutes!. Did no one see this coming?

Let’s not forget the governor of Missouri, arrested last week on charges that while he had his mistress tied up in bondage gear, he took pictures of her against her will, threatened to release the pictures to her family and the public if she told anyone about the affair they were having, and then did send the picture to someone. That’s three separate crimes under Missouri law. He’s refused to resign and had been blaming the whole thing on a jewish billionaire that the Republicans keep naming whenever they want to claim that protests aren’t genuine and so forth. Apparently somehow this guy forced him to take the pictures and store them on his computer and make the threats that were secretly recorded by the mistress’s husband? Well, things aren’t looking good for the family values, anti-gay, pro-life governor, as more bad news piles on: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ nonprofit is an example of ‘secret cash’ trend, report says. So, the pro-family, anti-gay guy was cheating on his wife, blackmailing his mistress, sending revenge porn, and is breaking campaign finance laws. Did no one see this coming?

The headline on this one is true, but leaving out a lot: Anti-gay discrimination just cost this judge 3 years of pay Vance Day is a state judge in Oregon, and you may recall that Oregan legalized marriage equality before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling. This guy repeatedly had his staff construct an elaborate system that included lying to any same sex couple that came in to get married that the judge wasn’t there, and so forth. As the state Supreme Court ruled when handing down the punishment: “That screening process demonstrated to respondent’s staff that, in exercising his statutory authority and judicial duty to solemnize marriages, he would not treat all couples fairly.”

But that’s not all he’s being sanctioned over. Day also had a strange relationship with a veteran suffering from PTSD whose case in Veteran Treatment Court had been presided over by Day. Despite the veteran being under orders not to have guns (because of previous felony Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol convictions), Day provided him with a gun on at least two occasions, and promised the man that Day would somehow get his other legal restrictions lifted. These details make very little sense, at the moment. Day invited the veteran to dinner at his house before this things happened, and this was after the veteran had appeared in court in front of Day, and at some point after that the gun incidents took place. One reason we don’t have details is that Day has been indicted on three criminal counts over these incidents (all separate from the judicial suspension). Until this goes to trial we won’t know what was going on. Oh, and also, after some altercations with referees of his son’s soccer games, he lied and claimed a ref assaulted him. So, the pro traditional values judge who went to extreme links to deny some gays equal treatment in his court, has been making false criminal allegations against people he disagrees with, circumventing laws to give guns to a convicted felony, and committed other yet-to-be specified in court (when those indictments are unsealed) official misconduct. Did no one see this coming?

But I have to ask, why, oh why would a vehemently anti-guy official suddenly take a peculiar interest and start offering big promises to another man? I’m just asking.

In other news, Maine House candidate who attacked 2 survivors of Florida shooting drops out of race. Leslie Gibson is (again) a so-called family values, pro-life, traditional marriage supporting politician. He had called one of the teen survivors of the Parkland shooting a skinhead lesbian (whatever that means), and another a bald-faced liar. When members of his own party called him out, he issued an apology to the young woman he called a skinhead lesbian, but left the comments about the other student standing. This all happened when he was running unopposed for reelection to his state legislative seat. A few days later, on the last day to register, a young woman registered as a democratic candidate for the seat, and another republican registered to run again him. And that’s when he dropped out of the race.

Listen: you can’t simultaneously dismiss these high school students’ protests and such as meaningless because they are merely children and don’t know anything, and also attack them as if they are public figures involved in the process. That’s super hypocritical. And an asshole move. Anyway, he did the usual claim that he’s not dropping out because he did anything wrong, but because this controversy is a distraction.

Yeah, right. Good riddance.

Friday Five (everything old is new again edition)

(Click to embiggen)

It’s the third Friday of March!

Things have been happening in the lives of a bunch of our friends. Work is being insanely stressful. I have not been in the greatest of moods. But enough about that.

Once again I bring you the Friday Five: The top five (IMHO) stories of the week and videos (plus notable obituaries and a recap of my blog posts).

Stories of the Week:

Using an AIDS-activism slogan to protest gun violence.

Donald Trump Is the New George W. Bush.

Jesus Taught Me How to Play Soprano Saxophone While I Was Dead, Says Christian.

Generation Z Is Less Religious Than Ever, and Evangelicals Don’t Know Why.

Depth Of Russian Politician’s Cultivation Of NRA Ties Revealed.

In Memoriam:

Pioneering Scientist Stephen Hawking Passes Away at 76.

How Stephen Hawking Transformed Our Understanding of Black Holes.

Stephen Hawking’s life was made possible by access to great health care and social support.

STEPHEN HAWKING: MOTOR NEURONE DISEASE CHARITY WEBSITE CRASHES AS PHYSICIST’S DEATH SPARKS DONATION SURGE.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update (3/10/2018): Another homophobe arrested for being a sexual predator.

100 years of Daylight Saving Time, and most of what you know about it is wrong.

Pseudo spring arrived, time for flowers and to assess our plans for the veranda!.

…and the darkness comprehended it not.

Videos!

Spider-Man’s Tom Holland crushes Rihanna’s “Umbrella” in lip-synch challenge:

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

Which Trump Cabinet Member Will Survive The DCAA Tournament:

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

Jimmy Kimmel’s Shocking Discovery About Trump Merchandise:

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

Conor Lamb’s Win, Trump’s “Space Force” and #NationalStudentWalkout::

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

Ireland’s Adorable Gay Eurovision Song Entry May Be Banned By Russia:

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

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