Archive | March 2019

Weekend Update 3/31/2019: Bullies need an audience

Cowardly lion looking affronted. “Bullies be like... when they get caught.”There were two stories that I watched unfolding on Twitter. It’s not often that a conversation crosses my social media and then turns up as headlines the next couple of days. I thought about just saving the links for next Friday Five, but as I was reading one of the articles about one story, I realized that the two sets of events illustrate an aspect of bullying and hate that I’ve written about more than a few times. I also decided that I wanted to publish this before April 1st, so no one will think any of this is a joke.

I’m going to start with the most disturbing one: San Francisco Police Search For Sword-Wielding Man in MAGA Hat Who Cut Victim. Now this is a reported hate crime, and mindful that people will try to claim this is fake, I want to point out that there were multiple witnesses to the guy being in the stupid red hat, yelling homophobic slurs at the people going into the roller rink, and at least once he followed a group up to the door while yelling, but stopped without going inside.

One of the first stories posted on a San Francisco news site tried to make the guy who attacked someone with a sword out to be the victim, because at least one witness said that the guy who got stabbed first knocked the red hat off. Other witnesses were unclear as to what how the guy’s hat came off his head. At least one person described what happened before the sword came out as a scuffle. I’m not as familiar with California law as Washington state, so I don’t know if knocking the hat off (if that’s what happened) counts as assault. And if police find the asshole I’m sure he’s going to claim the other guy attacked him first.

But I’m confident the hat wearing guy was an asshole, because of the multiple witnesses to his hanging outside a skating rink that was hosting a gay-friendly event shouting homophobic slurs. And he brought a damn sword with him. That seems pre-meditated. He meant, at the least, to be a threatening presence. I hope they find him and throw the book at him.

The second story is a little different. I think most of the headlines have the story slightly wrong, but let’s start with the ending: Conservative commentator fired for attacking gay journalist online. So Denise McAllister, who has written for The Federalist and the Daily Wire and a few other of the conservative hate sites that pretend to be news has not had a great week. A few days ago she posted a link to an article from “ILoveMyFreedom.Org” that was critical of Meghan McCain (daughter of the late Senator John McCain and current member of the cast of The View). McAllister’s accompanying derogatory comments generated a lot of backlash, but things really took off when McCain replied with the statement, “You were at my wedding, Denise.”

The phrase quickly became a meme, as hundred of people started attaching it to various unrelated pictures. McCain apparently thought that all of these memes were people taking her side, apparently not quite getting the jokes of the meme.

Anyway, on Friday night McAllister overshared on twitter, saying that she had tried to talk to her husband while he was watching a basketball game, and he replied “Woman you know better than this, the game is on” and she agreed that he was right, she was wrong. And then the oversharing part was how at the commercial she brought him a beer to apologize and she described the kiss and, well, the whole thing was very Stepford Wives. And all in a single tweet.

This is, by the way, a good example of why I wish tweets were still only 140, because you wouldn’t quite be able to encapsulate thousands of years of toxic masculinity/misogyny and the willingness of some women to defend their own abuse in a single message.

Anyway, an out gay journalist named Yashar Ali quoted McAllister’s tweet with the comment, “Oh, Denise.” And this sent McAllister into a raging tweetstorm.

Those two words, “Oh, Denise” were, in her opinion, a vicious attack—not just on McAllister, but on masculinity and men’s freedom and I don’t know what all. There was a lot. The tamest comment she made was an assertion that gay men have no right to comment on heterosexual relationships, before she got to the kicker:

“Oh so sad. @yasher is lost. He doesn't know his purpose as a man. He doesn't know his purpose as a human being. He doesn't know his purpose as an individual. So he wallows and tried to find himself in another man's asshole. Sad.” and “I think @yashar has a crush on me. Maybe I'm making him doubt his love of penis.”

“Oh so sad. @yasher is lost. He doesn’t know his purpose as a man. He doesn’t know his purpose as a human being. He doesn’t know his purpose as an individual. So he wallows and tried to find himself in another man’s asshole. Sad.” and “I think @yashar has a crush on me. Maybe I’m making him doubt his love of penis.”

The only thing that Ali had said after “Oh, Denise” was to observe, “I guess Denise is not happy that I’m worried about how her husband treats her.” Now, I realize that other people were commenting on her first tweet, pointing out that maybe she shouldn’t be so happy about how her husband was treating. But Yashar’s two comments were pretty mild. Once McAllister had gone to both an anal sex and penis reference, a bunch of other people—including other journalists and conservatives—took a screenshot of the two tweets and started contacting the official twitter accounts of the websites/magazines that she listed in her twitter bio as being places where she writes. And yes, two of those sites later issued statements that she no longer works for them, and specifically referenced the homophobic nature of the tweets in the screenshot.

She has deleted most of the rest of her tweetstorm—where she characterized people’s reactions as trying to burn her at the stake, and other crazy things. But by then the damage was done.

There is so much to unpack in all of this. Ali’s initial response was not an attack, it was pity. Pity for a person who is not only perpetuates the disrespect she gets from her husband, but actually rewards it and feels the need to go brag about it to the world. When you broadcast stuff like that, it is perfectly legitimate for other people to comment. The response that a gay man can’t comment on heterosexual relationships is pretty rich, given how many times McAllister has written about homosexual relationships. If a heterosexual homophobe can write homophobic editorials critiquing queer people and how they live their lives, then all us queers can state opinions about things the homophobe brags about in their own relationship.

While we’re on the topic of homophobic editorials: the publications that have fired McAllister have published dozens, nay, hundreds of articles, opinion pieces, and so forth that were just as homophobic as those two tweets that they now claim are unacceptable. If being homophobic and stating so publicly disqualifies someone for working at The Federalist, then they all need to fire each other right now. McAllister’s tweets were slightly (and only slightly) more crudely stated than the usual lying hatred toward gays that The Federalist and The Daily Wire publish all the time. Several other conservative pundits and journalists had weighed in on the sheer disproportionality of McAllister’s response to “Oh, Denise,” but given the sorts of things they have all written about queer people, what they are really upset about his how blunt she was.

I don’t believe that those tweets are the reason she was fired. That fact that Meaghan McCain’s husband is the founder and editor of The Federalist almost certainly has more to do with her firing than a couple of homophobic tweets. The weird dust-up with McCain had almost certainly already put her on the shitlist at several places.

And one is tempted to say, “Oh, Denise” in a rather pitying voice. But she doesn’t deserve our pity any more than the MAGA-hat wearing guy who attacked someone with a sword. Because they are both doing the same thing. You don’t go to a gay-friendly public event, wearing one of those stupid red hats, and yelling slurs at people unless you want attention. You want people to know you hate the gays. Similarly, you don’t post stories about how your husband yelled at you and sent you to fetch him a beer to earn forgiveness for the offense of talking to him while he’s watching a basketball game unless you want people to know that you hate the libtards who expect men to treat women with respect.

And you comment on a gay man’s sex life in crude terms because you want everyone to know that you hate the gays.

But make no mistake, the conservative pundits and sites that publish things about “the militant homosexual agenda,” and defending so-called gay conversion therapy, and insist that equal rights for queer people is an assault on religion, and repeat lies about the health of queer people also hate the gays. They run those headlines because they want everyone to know that they hate the gays. The only difference between them and people like McAllister of the sword-wielding guy is that the misdirect with code words. Instead of coming at us with a sword, they take away our right to healthcare and employment. Instead of blatant references to anal sex, they talk about health. But it’s still attacking us. They just try to hide their rage and hate with polite words and a smirk.

Ali’s final comment was, in stark contrast to McAllister’s raging, both eloquent and refined: “I was bullied for being Iranian as a kid. But I never felt ashamed of my ethnicity. I came out on 8/17/2001 & while it hasn’t always been easy, I have always been proud of who I am. I’m Iranian, gay, and Catholic. Perhaps an odd combo, but I wouldn’t change who I am for the world.”

Friday Five (fakes and cons edition)

The sign in front of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society building adjacent to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C  reads: “No one can serve two masters. You cannot serve God and White Supremacy.”

The sign in front of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society building adjacent to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C (click to embiggen)

It’s Friday! We’re already up to the fifth Friday in March!

Most of the week has been so normal that it is a bit unsettling. The weather has settled down a bit after a week or so of much warmer than normal temperatures. On the other hand, we are well on our way for it to be one of the driest Marches on record. I wish we would stop breaking all these weather records, but with the climate going the way it is, I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

Anyway, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five (IMHO) stories of the week, five stories about technology, five stories about science, five stories about awful people, and five videos (plus things I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

Otterly Wonderful News: Valkyrie gives birth to four river otter pups!

The Fake Sex Doctor Who Conned the Media Into Publicizing His Bizarre Research on Suicide, Butt-Fisting, and Bestiality.

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma agrees to $270M settlement with Oklahoma.

Gun advocates request for temporary emergency stay from Supreme Court denied as bump stock ban looms and Federal bump stock ban goes into effect Tuesday.

Morgan Freeman Converted His 124-Acre Ranch Into A Giant Honeybee Sanctuary To Save The Bees.

This Week in Technology:

Microsoft leads the way in banning April Fools’ Day pranks.

Told U.S. security at risk, Chinese firm seeks to sell Grindr dating app .

Facebook Bans White Nationalism and White Separatism.

How Google Wiped a Neighborhood off the Map.

The Internet’s Phone Book Is Broken.

This Week in Science:

A mathematician found a solution to the much-studied problem 33 = x³ + y³ + z³.

Hemimastigophora is a novel supra-kingdom-level lineage of eukaryotes.

Huge fossil discovery made in China’s Hubei province.

X-ray chimneys in the Galactic Centre.

Kuiper Belt dust may be in our atmosphere (and NASA labs) right now.

Awful, Deplorable People:

Slur-Spewing White Men Open Fire on Biracial Children Walking to Buy Candy: Sheriff.

AG Barr is engaged in ‘the biggest con’ this prosecutor has seen ‘in a long time’ — here’s why.

Mueller Report Summary Shows William Barr May Have Fallen For Russian Covert Operation, Former CIA Agent Says.

Why is Devin Nunes suing over Twitter parody accounts?

It’s Bigger Than Mueller and Trump – Trumpism follows a historical pattern: Whenever black people make progress, white people respond forcefully..

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 8/23/2019: More pictures, more words.

Confessions of a bergamot addict.

Narrow horizons and frozen minds — or sf/f shouldn’t be an old boys’ club.

Videos!

Rachel Maddow hilariously ridicules Mike Pence’s lie about going to the moon — while cutting NASA budget:

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

Stephen Colbert mocks Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee’s senseless :

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

Trevor Noah tries to make sense of Jussie Smollett’s dropped charges:

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

Who Is Pete Buttigieg and Why Is He Killing It in the Polls?:

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

Steve Grand – Disciple (official) – TW, this song is about addiction and self-destructiveness and is more than a bit disturbing:

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

Narrow horizons and frozen minds — or sf/f shouldn’t be an old boys’ club

“Kids these days will never know the joys of oil lamps and chamber pots”The tired cliche that there are certain “classics” of sf/f that one must have read in order to be a real fan has reared its ugly head. The current iteration is an assertion that writers of sf/f (aspiring or otherwise) who have not read the classics are not able to write good sf/f. And specifically the “classics” one is supposedly required to read and love in order to be a good writer of science fiction and fantasy are the usual suspects: Heinlein, Asimov, Clark, and so on.

Poppycock!

Now, it is true that I read Heinlein, Asimov, and Clark. I have written on this blog about how some of their work helped me in my formative years. I have also written on this blog about problematic aspects of both their writing and some of their personal life choices. I’ve also written before about how some of their writing hasn’t aged very well. Heck, when I was in my teens in the 1970s reading some of their older work, I was finding myself rolling my eyes over things that seemed either embarrassingly wrong or more than a little sexist and/or racist.

Unfortunately a lot of books from the middle of the last century that were important to the development of the genre, and/or were beloved by many fans over a span many years, don’t hold up so well years later.

But that’s not my only problem with this notion. Because people have been bandying around those specific names as “must-reads” for decades. A lot of excellent science fiction was written back then by other people. And a whole lot of good science fiction has been written since the heyday of Heinlein, Asimov, and Clark. A lot has changed in the genre. Sure, Asimov’s short story “The Last Question” was profound and mind-boggling when it was published in 1954 (63 years ago), but when I read it for the first time in 1973, even 13-year-old me saw the ending before it arrived. It was bit disappointing, to be honest. Because the story had been so influential that the once mind-boggling idea had been incorporated, expanded, deconstructed, and re-imagined several times in that 19-year span.

And it’s continued to be re-used in sci fi since. Heck, the entire story was boiled down to a two-sentence (and hilarious) joke in a 1992 episode of BBC’s Red Dwarf!

Which is not me saying that something which has been done before can never be repeated. Looking at old ideas in new ways is an essential part of sf/f. It’s just that the value of revisiting the same “classics” over and over is questionable, at best.

I would feel a little less like this was white guys insisting that everyone has to read their favorite old white guys if some of this “must read” lists included Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein published in 1816, as well as anything by Octavia Butler, Joanna Russ, Ursula LeGuin, or Andre Norton.

The usual argument is that Heinlein, Asimov, and Clark created the genre—and you can’t understand what it is now without reading them. Except, they didn’t create it. If you want to understand the origins you need to go back at least another hundred years to Shelley’s Frankenstein, for one, and stories from Nathaniel Hawthorne (“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment”, “Rappaccini’s Daughter” for instance) in the 1830s.

Sure, I think a writer needs to have read a lot and broadly to feed their craft. But when I say broadly, I mean really broadly. Read things outside your favorites, absolutely! Not everything you read needs to be a masterpiece, by anyone’s definition. You can learn from bad examples as well as good. Playfulness is an important part of the creative process, so reading light entertaining tales is just as important to feeding your artistic soul as reading deep, meaningful, serious stories.

Science fiction is supposed to be about not just looking at the horizon, but going past it. Not just using your mind, but expanding it.

And you know what doesn’t stretch anyone’s horizon or expand anyone’s mind? Everyone reading the exact same thing.

If the only input anyone has are the same list of books from the same authors, decade after decade, then every creator will just be regurgitating the same stuff that every other creator has.

There is value in studying what has been done before in your chosen field of writing, but it isn’t the only way to learn to create good stories in the genre. Just as one can learn to drive a modern car without first mastering the horse and buggy, you can learn to write without memorizing a specific set of books from a very narrow set of writers who were working 60+ years ago. If you want to study earlier generations of writers, remember that there is a vast volume of science fiction and fantasy works beyond anyone’s chosen list of classics or favorites. Find lists that don’t include the same few “must reads” and sample the less often recommended works, if you’re going to do that.

Similarly, there can be value for some readers in understanding the roots of some of the things being created today, but it isn’t necessary. You don’t have to go back in time to watch traveling vaudeville shows in order to understand and fully appreciate modern movies, right? You can understand and fully appreciate modern stories without reading the old stuff, first.

Look out at that horizon, and take aim for what’s beyond!

Confessions of a bergamot addict

I love Earl Grey Tea. Lots of people who really love tea emphatically do not like Earl Grey–and that’s perfectly fine. We all have different tastes. There are foods other people love that make me want to gag, and I am happy to let them enjoy those foods. Which is to say, this post is not meant to convince other people to like the same tea I do, nor to disparage anyone who doesn’t.

I know that I do not have sophisticated taste in tea. I grew up in rural communities where Lipton Flo-Thru® teabags were considered fancy. Most of the grocery stores seemed to carry black tea blends from Tetley, Red Rose, and Lipton. Occasionally they had Twinings teas, and they were more expensive than the others, so I had heard of and seen Earl Grey tea long before I ever tasted it.

Once I had tasted it, it became my favorite tea for many, many years.

There are various stories about how Earl Grey tea came about. The one that seems least far-fetched is that oil of bergamot was added to black tea in order to counteract the high level of lime that came out of the well at Howick Hall in Northumberland, where C Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, and his wife entertained guests. In 1830 Robert Jackson & Company claimed to be the first to sell the tea after obtaining the recipe from Lord Grey, though written references to “Grey’s Tea” only date back to the 1850s. And the oldest advertisements using the name “Earl Grey’s Mixture” date from some years later, in the 1880s, and from a different tea company entirely, Charlton & Co (which was founded by a former partner of Robert Jackson).

Jackson’s company was later bought by R. Twinings and Company, Limited, and for decades Twinings maintained they were the only company following the original recipe. Until 2011, when they reformulated it (to much protest).

The bergamot orange comes from a citrus tree that is grown commercially in Italy. Like all commercial citrus fruits, it is a hybrid of wild varieties that are now propagated by grafting–in other words, every bergamot tree in the world is a clone of one particular plant.

As I said, I’m something of a bergamot addict, by which I mean that I like many different blends of Earl Grey. The Numi Tea Company, for instance, sells an Aged Earl Grey, which they make by layering bergamot and the tea leaves to age for several weeks. The aged tea has a subtler almost smoky citrus taste to my tongue than the typical Earl Grey. Stash, on the other hand, sells a Double Bergamot Earl Grey, which despite the name all they say is that it has more bergamot oil than their regular Earl Grey. In any case, the citrus taste of this blend is more prominent.

Then there are lavender Earl Greys teas. My favorite, when I can find it, is Revolution’s Earl Grey Lavender. The lavender taste compliments and mellows the citrus, to my tongue. Stash also has a lavender Earl Grey, though the name they market it under is Breakfast in Paris. For some reason they only mention the lavender in small print on the boxes. Stash’s is good, though not quite as brisk to my tongue as Revolution’s version. Revolution’s tea is a blend of black, oolong, and darjeeling teas, which may also effect the flavor. Stash also includes vanilla extract. Who knows.

Stash also makes and Earl Grey Black & Green tea, which is a blend of green tea and black tea with bergamot oil. I happen to like this tea better than the regular Stash Earl Grey, though not as much as the Double Bergamot.

All of these come in tea bags, and as one former co-worker liked to say, American and European tea bags contain the stuff swept up from the floor of the tea aging house. Loose teas are what true tea connoisseurs swear by. And when I make tea from loose leaves the taste does seem stronger than from bags.

Of course, to make it from loose leaves you need to have an infuser. I have a few that are intended to making a single cup, but the issue then is that I have to clean out the used leaves, wet, clumping leaves after making a cup, and I wind up switching back to tea bags for any cup after the first. Until a few weeks ago, where I gave in an bought a small glass infuser pot, that lets me make about four mugs worth of tea at once. So I don’t have to deal with the used leaves after each cup.

Which is a good thing, because my friend, Mark, bought me this very tasty loose leaf Earl Grey for Christmas before last, and I hadn’t been drinking it very fast. And the leaves start going stale after a while. Since getting the infuser pot I’ve been drinking more tea and less coffee on the weekends, and really going through that tin of tea.

Which gives me an excuse to go shopping for more.

If you happen to have any recommendations for loose leaf teas, particularly Earl Grey blends, let me know!

Then we can (virtually) sit down together for a nice cuppa…

Weekend Update 8/23/2019: More pictures, more words

I keep saving various images to possibly use to illustrate a Friday Five post or a political commentary, then wind up using only a fraction of them. So, here are a few of those memes and graphics you may find amusing, enlightening, or thought-provoking:

Claim: “Blocking someone means your just afraid of what they are saying.”  Truth: “Just because I put garbage in the dumpster doesn't mean I'm scared of garbage, it means it's rank and I don't want it in my house.”

Claim: “Blocking someone means your just afraid of what they are saying.”
Truth: “Just because I put garbage in the dumpster doesn’t mean I’m scared of garbage, it means it’s rank and I don’t want it in my house.”
Block early and often.
(click to embiggen)

Have meeting in your workplace? Ever been stuck in a conference room with a bunch of other people for a long time, and feel as if you've gone braindead? Turns out science has the answer! Look at the CO2 levels in this chart!

Have meeting in your workplace? Ever been stuck in a conference room with a bunch of other people for a long time, and feel as if you’ve gone braindead? Turns out science has the answer! Look at the CO2 levels in this chart! (click to embiggen)

Click to embiggen,,,

“The shooter's manifest praised Trump as a 'symbo of renewed white identity and common purpose.' Let this sink in. A US President is the inspiration of white terrorists around the world. Let that sink in.”

“The shooter’s manifest praised Trump as a ‘symbo of renewed white identity and common purpose.’ Let this sink in. A US President is the inspiration of white terrorists around the world. Let that sink in.”

“State ownership and control is not necessarily Socialism - if it were, then the Army, the Navy, the Police, the Judges, the Gaolers, the Informers, and the Hangmen, all would all be Socialist functionaries, as they are State officials - but the ownership by the State of all the land and materials for labour, combined with the co-operative control by the workers of such land and materials, would be Socialism.” — James Connolly

“State ownership and control is not necessarily Socialism – if it were, then the Army, the Navy, the Police, the Judges, the Gaolers, the Informers, and the Hangmen, all would all be Socialist functionaries, as they are State officials – but the ownership by the State of all the land and materials for labour, combined with the co-operative control by the workers of such land and materials, would be Socialism.” — James Connolly

Historical photo of a woman at a protest holding up a sign that reads: “The enemy doesn't arrive by boat, he arrives by limousine.”

“The enemy doesn’t arrive by boat, he arrives by limousine.”

“In a society where work is necessary for survival, when you refuse to make the workforce accessible or safe for trans/ non-binary people, what you're saying is you don't care if we die. It's a violent as any physical attack.”

“In a society where work is necessary for survival, when you refuse to make the workforce accessible or safe for trans/ non-binary people, what you’re saying is you don’t care if we die. It’s a violent as any physical attack.”

Friday Five (how did this happen edition)

(click to embiggen)

It’s Friday! We’re already up to the fourth Friday in March!

After the coldest February ever recorded here (and the record-breaking cold lingered for more than a week into March), we then had several days of record-breaking high temperatures! It was like early summer for a while there. At the moment, we’re back to typical temperatures for this time of year, and we may actually see some rain, which would be nice.

Anyway, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five (IMHO) stories of the week, five stories about science, five stories about criminals, and five videos (plus notable obituaries and the thing I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

Jimmy Carter gets new title: oldest living former president.

Flawed analysis, failed oversight: How Boeing, FAA certified the suspect 737 MAX flight control system.

Pete Buttigieg first openly gay presidential candidate to qualify for Democratic debates.

An Irish pub born in the Dark Ages.

Methodist Churches Across U.S. Are Publicly Rebelling Against Their Leadership’s Anti-LGBTQ Stance.

This Week in Science:

Massive U.S. Machines That Hunt For Ripples In Space-Time Just Got An Upgrade.

New Horizons: Ultima Thule ‘a time machine’ to early Solar System.

Asteroid mission exploring a ‘rubble pile’.

How Fish Evolved Antifreeze From Junk.

‘Bomb cyclone’ triggers flooding on Mississippi, Missouri rivers.

Crimes, Hateful and Worse:

It’s Time to Attack White Nationalism for the Terror Group It Is.

Democratic polling group, says Republicans who watch Fox News are so vastly differently from other voters it’s pointless for Democratic candidates to try and win them over.

Devin Nunes Has a Cow, and Free Speech Is Endangered.

Trump’s supporters have launched three serious terror attacks in the past five months.

New Zealand Shooting Realizes White Supremacy’s True Aim.

In Memoriam:

Barbara Hammer Maintained Her Curious Eye Until the End.

Cartoonist Tom K. Ryan, creator of Tumbleweeds comic strip has passed, age 92.

Rest In Peace Tom K. Ryan.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 3/16/2019: Liars, bigots, and fakes.

St. Patrick’s Day parades used to be political riots….

Celestial fruits on earthly ground, or a queer ex-evangelical looks at christianist thoughts on ‘chosen people’.

Use Your Words, or, let your characters talk to each other!

Videos!

Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame – Official Trailer:

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

Stranger Things 3 | Official Trailer:

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

Toy Story 4 | Official Trailer:

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

Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Intimidation:

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

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – Nunes Is Suing Twitter For Being Mean:

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

Use Your Words, or, let your characters talk to each other!

“writers: how are we gonna top ourselves! we got tones of exciting stuff in store!! at least eleven big bads this season!!!! who's gonna survive who won't????!! 3 love triangles and 2 quadrangles!!!!!  me: I'll Pay You $5 To Let The Characters Just Simply Talk To Each Other For Once  #650000 baffled articles: but WHY is fanfiction a THING tho”

“writers: how are we gonna top ourselves! we got tones of exciting stuff in store!! at least eleven big bads this season!!!! who’s gonna survive who won’t????!! 3 love triangles and 2 quadrangles!!!!!
me: I’ll Pay You $5 To Let The Characters Just Simply Talk To Each Other For Once
#650000 baffled articles: but WHY is fanfiction a THING tho”

We’ve all been there: watch a new episode of a TV series or the like, where the characters do stupid things that serve no purpose other than to prolong a misunderstanding and put off the resolution of a subplot until a later episode. A subplot which could easily be resolved if one character simply told another character a piece of information that we, the viewers, already know. And usually a piece of information that would naturally come up in conversation if the two characters simply sat down and talked.

This particular storytelling problem isn’t just limited to television shows or similar serialized stories—but it is prevalent in such narratives because of a perceived need to use up screen time and prolong the suspense so that the viewer will keep coming back.

I say perceived because that time could be used showing the characters having the conversation, reacting to what they learn, and so forth. The counter argument is that viewers/readers don’t want to watch that sort of thing. Yet, as alluded to in the screencap of the blog post above, tens of thousands of readers and viewers create and read tens of thousands of fanfic stories that do precisely that. One of my favorite fanfics is 45,000 words of two characters processing some shared trauma and learning to trust each other. They aren’t just talking, things happen and other characters are involved, but at its heart the story is about these two getting to know each other and decide whether they are going to be friends or something more.

I totally understand the need to create suspense and keep the reader interested. But you don’t have to do it my creating these contrived circumstances where the characters who normally interact all the time just keep not speaking about something that both of them are very upset about. Because if the issue causes suspense, that means any revelation about it will have consequences. And you know what? Whatever those consequences are, they will also be new things to create suspense about!

Instead of finding ever less believable reasons that the characters don’t talk, let them talk. Then let the chips fall and see what happens next.

Celestial fruits on earthly ground, or a queer ex-evangelical looks at christianist thoughts on ‘chosen people’

“The problem with (some) christians: That they think they are bing that guy (points to Jesus being lashed and tortured) whilst behaving like those guys (points to the roman soldiers beating Jesus).”

“The problem with (some) christians: That they think they are bing that guy (points to Jesus being lashed and tortured) whilst behaving like those guys (points to the roman soldiers beating Jesus).”

Previously I wrote about several aspects of the contradictory attitudes that many evangelical Christians have toward the Jewish state and the Jewish people. Since I try to limit the length of my blog posts to digestible chunks, I didn’t go into every aspect of those attitudes in depth, my focus being primarily about how that particular subset of christianists proclaim their constant support for Israel and its people, while also acting (and sometimes talking) in very anti-Semitic ways. There are other ways these contradictions manifest to influences policies, political debate, and social interactions.

First, let’s handle a few caveats: I was raised Southern Baptist in the U.S., so I am most familiar with that particular subset of the larger evangelical/christianist/dominionist community. I have considered myself both an ex-evangelical and ex-Christian for many years—I didn’t leave the church, the church rather violently drove this queer science-loving person out. Finally, I use the word christianist in these essays to refer specifically to people who claim to follow Christ and his teachings, but who actively engage in words and deeds that are contrary to those teachings.

I have several times found myself in discussion with conservative christianists of various stripes on the topic of religious freedom where a person will insist they believe in religious freedom, but then say that being muslim ought to be illegal or something similar. When you try to point out the contradiction, many of them are genuinely confused. If you question them closely enough, you’ll find that many believe the word “religion” only applies to Christianity and Judaism.

One of the most public examples happened a few years ago when a state legislator in the south freaked out when she found out that the school voucher bill she had fought so hard to pass was being using by muslims in her state to divert tax dollars to their religious schools. She was absolutely livid in her first response, even though allowing parents to use tax dollars to send their kids to religious schools was exactly what the bill had been about. Her staffers and fellow Republicans had to explain to her that “religious schools” meant schools sponsored by any religion, not just Christian and Jewish schools.

A friend has told me the story of how back in school she had once signed up for a Comparative Religions class thinking she would finally get to learn what the differences were between Catholics and Lutherans and Methodists, et al—and how only a few minutes into the first class session as the teacher started talking about Buddhists and Muslims and Taoists and so on she started feeling really embarrassed. She hadn’t told anyone that’s what she was expecting, she was merely metaphorically kicking herself because none of the other religions had even occurred to her when she had read the description of the class.

There are the large number of christianists who insist that buddhism isn’t a religion, “It’s a philosophy!” I’ve been told many times that hinduism isn’t a religions—“It’s like greek mythology, no one believes it any more!” Tell that to the millions of people participating in the Ganesh festivals every year! And so on.

Since about 66% of the U.S. population identifies as christian, while people who subscribe to non-christian religions amount to only about 6% of the U.S. population, it isn’t difficult to understand why many americans would be less well informed on the topic of non-christian faiths. It’s easy to shrug this all off as people being clueless about things outside their own experiences, but it has real world consequences. It influences their decisions in the voting booth, and the policies they are willing to support.

To get back to christianist attitudes toward Jewish people, the fact that many of them believe that the word “religion” only applies to a Christians and Jews isn’t a sign of ecumenical thinking. Because most fundamentalist and evangelical christians view Jews as just junior varsity christians. This takes a couple of different forms. Some of them think that Jews are god’s chosen people who just failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, but they are still faithful adherents to the oldest of god’s teachings and still worship the one true god—they just aren’t doing it quite right. Others think Jews used to be god’s chosen people, but because they didn’t recognize Jesus, they no longer are chosen, and in fact no longer worship the true god at all.

The latter group is where I believe most of the more aggressively anti-semitic actions and rhetoric originates. Even the ones who aren’t openly anti-semitic, only tolerate the continued existence of Jewish people because they believe there is a special duty to convince Jews to convert to christianity. It’s like they think god will give them a gold star for every Jew they convert.

They also have that attitude toward other non-christians: our worth, to them, is solely as potential converts. And the less likely they think we are to agree to become born-again, the less value they place on our lives. And that also, has real world consequences.


Note: The title of today’s post comes from “We’re Marching to Zion” by Isaac Watts and Robert Lowry, #308 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal.

St. Patrick’s Day parades used to be political riots…

Anti-irish sentiment was rampant in the U.S. during the 19th Century, with political cartoonist portraying them with ape-like features destroying “true american values.”

Anti-irish sentiment was rampant in the U.S. during the 19th Century, with political cartoonist portraying them with ape-like features destroying “true american values.” (Click to embiggen)

The current wave of White Nationalism and Islamophobia we’re embroiled in was hardly the first time that the U.S. succumbed to anti-immigrant fervor. When the 1845 potato famine sent thousands of Irish people to America, hoping to find work and feed their families, the long-brewing anti-Catholic feelings in the country boiled over. Take this paragraph that describes the cartoon above:

“[Thomas] Nast’s anti-Irish cartoons focus on the Irish as a destructive and lying group, who endangered American society. In the immediate aftermath of the Orange Riot of July 12, 1871 in New York City, in which Irish Catholics clashed with the National Guard protecting an Irish Protestant parade, Nast drew a number of anti-Irish cartoons for Harper’s Weekly. One cartoon illustrated the Draft Riots of July 1863, where Irish Catholics attacked African-Americans throughout New York City. At the top of the drawing Nast wrote that the Irish Catholic is bound to respect “no caste, no sect, no nation, any rights,” highlighting the believed lack of respect the Irish immigrants had for American society. Furthermore, the contrast between the Irish and the Anglo-Saxons in this cartoon clearly shows the Irish in negative light. While the Anglo-Saxons are drawn as regular looking people, the Irish are drawn with ape-like faces illustrating their inferiority as well as the lack of intelligence. Such depictions of Irish were not limited to Nast, with other papers such as Puck and Judge also using caricatures of Irish as primitive and violent.”
—“Thomas Nast Anti-Irish Cartoons”, Catholic Historical Research Center

As I said, anti-Catholic sentiment had been a thing in the U.S. before the famine. There were the Bible Riots in Philadelphia, where anti-Catholic mobs set homes and churches on fire, killing dozens and wounding far more. And I want to emphasize that popular perception was that Catholicism was the religion of invaders. Most of the English colonists had been protestant, and many of the people who participated in the riots and demonstrations were part of so-called “Nativist” organizations, out to protect “real American culture.”

To be perfectly clear, I say so-called because none of them were members of Native America tribes. These were white mutts just like me, whose ancestors had come over mostly from Holland and England just a few generations before and either participated in or profited from the systemic slaughter and displacement of America’s indigenous peoples.

Anyway, the Archbishop of New York had a wall built around St. Patrick’s Cathedral during this time, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians (a pro-Irish group) stationed men armed with muskets around many catholic churches in cities where tensions were high. This is the same organization that sponsored (and in some places still sponsors) many of the St. Patrick’s Day parades throughout the U.S. today.

St. Patrick’s Day parades, during the 19th Century and well into that the 20th, were acts of political protest. Police and National Guard units were sometimes sent in beat up and arrest as many of the parade participants as possible. When Harry S. Truman first participated in the New York City parade in 1948, it was a big deal.

St. Patrick’s Day Parades were Irish Pride Parades—people marched to protest inequality, anti-Irish prejudice, anti-Catholic prejudice, and to honor previous generations who endured those riots, police assaults, and so on.

And during those turning point years, after Irish-America cops fought for the right to march in their uniforms, there was a bit of controversy in some parts of the community—people who were old enough to remember when riot police were sent in to stop the parade.

Now, most people think they are just big parties. Green beer! Everyone’ Irish on St Paddy’s Day! Right? Right?

Several politicians boycott Staten Island St Patrick’s Day Parade after LGBT+ group told they can’t participate.

Over the last few years some of the big city St Patrick’s Day Parades have begun to allow gay Irish-American groups to participate in the parades. But not everywhere. And before you try to argue that since St Patrick is a religious figure (though he was never canonized by a Pope, so not officially a saint), remember all that green beer and cheap Irish whiskey shots at bars? All the raucous behavior and public drunkenness at the parades?

It is not a religious event.

The St Patrick’s Day Parades in America have always been political events. They were originally about fighting discrimination. They are supposed to be about pride in being Irish, right?

Guess what? A lot of Irish-Americans are queer. Hell, a lot of Irish people are queer. The current Prime Minister of Ireland is an openly gay man! He brought his husband with him when he met with the Vice President last week, and then our very homophobic Veep had to stand by and smile diplomatically while the Prime Minister gave an anti-discrimination speech. In 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote!

My own heritage is mixed, like a lot of pasty-pale-skinned Americans. A chunk of my dad’s ancestors came to the U.S. from Ireland, but they were descended from Anglo occupiers who invaded Ireland in the 15th Century. Many of my mom’s ancestors came from Ireland and were poor Irish Catholics. There are conflicting stories in the family about exactly how and when each branch converted to evangelical Protestant, but, my great-grandpa was proud of his Irish roots, and told stories of how his great-grandpa struggled to find work after coming to America during the potato famine.

So, I think I have at least a bit of a right to state an opinion on Irish Pride Parades. And this queer fairy descended from more than a few Irish immigrants, thinks that telling queer Irish-Americans they can’t march in a St Patrick’s Day Parade is bigoted, backward thinking best described as pure blarney.

Weekend Update 3/16/2019: Liars, bigots, and fakes

“Christchurch Mosque: White supremacist. Tree Of Life Synagogue: White supremacist. Mother Emanuel AME Church: White supremacist. Oak Creek Sikh Temple: White supremacist. Overland Park Jewish Center: White supremacist. Islamic Center of Quebec City: White supremacist.” Gee, do you see a pattern?

“Christchurch Mosque:
White supremacist.
Tree Of Life Synagogue:
White supremacist.
Mother Emanuel AME Church:
White supremacist.
Oak Creek Sikh Temple:
White supremacist.
Overland Park Jewish Center:
White supremacist.
Islamic Center of Quebec City:
White supremacist.”
Gee, do you see a pattern?

Another in my occasional posts of either news that broke after I finished the Friday Five post for the week, or with more information about news stories which I’ve linked to in the past.

First, the mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. I’m trying to avoid linking to sites that name the gunman or his co-conspirators or show their pictures. I am angry at the news sites that have run stories about how he was a blond angel as a child, blah blah blah. Seriously, fuck those guys. Instead, Dead, injured or missing: Victims of Christchurch begin to be identified. It is heartbreaking, particularly when you see the pictures of the two youngest killed: a three-year-old and a four-year-old. I’m reminded of the time on some news show when Geraldo Rivera, of all people, got angry at another panelist for defending “some of the ideas” of the Oklahoma City Bomber. Geraldo mentioned the number of children who were killed in the daycare that was part of the building destroyed and said, “he was a baby-killer!”

Australia Re-Bans Homocon Milo Yiannopoulos Over NZ Comments. So, Milo the white supremacist who keeps trying to claim he can’t be a bigot because he only dates black guys, did a tour of speeches and rallies in Australia and racked up a huge debt by not paying for the police security at the rallies. At least one of the rallies turned violent. He announced another such tour in 2018, but then suddenly canceled (while various reporters had uncovered that his group had failed to pay deposits to venues on time, and news of his deepening debt spread). He was set to do another one this year, when the Department of Home Affairs recommended against granting him a visa, based on the violence, protests, and all those unpaid bills from the 2017 tour. But conservative members of parliament pressures the cabinet minister to grant a visa, anyway, and things were looking like another Milo crapstorm were going to happen… until Milo opened his mouth on social media last night, essentially agreeing with all the points of the Christchurch shooter’s published manifesto.

New Zealand shows willingness to curb guns after one, not 1,981 mass shootings. Imagine! A government taking action after a mass shooting! Why, oh why, has no one done that before?

FOX News Contributor Calls for Prosecution of Homocon MAGA Troll Jacob Wohl for Faking Death Threats Against Himself. Lock him up! This is hardly the first time that Wohl has made false reports and tried to profit from them while stirring up conspiracy theories. And while so far the police department that Wohl made the false report to hasn’t made a statement, the man whose photo was stolen by Wohl to create the fake account to send the death threat to himself, has retained Michael Avenatti, the former lawyer for adult film actress Stormy Daniels, to sue Wohl. I’m not a fan of the grandstanding Avenatti, but if anyone can keep attention on the false death threat issue, it’s him.

Speaking of slimy lying people: Trump Issues First Veto Of Presidency After House And Senate Vote To Block “Emergency” Wall Declaration. At least he actually did it correctly. When he sent out the tweet the night before consisting of the single word VETO in all caps, many of us wondered if he thought that’s how it works.

Meanwhile, MAGABomber To Plead Guilty. The guy who sent pipe bombs to critics of the alleged president has agreed to plead guilty to some of the charges, attempting to avoid a mandatory life sentence. We’ll find out what the deal is later this week.

I could comment more on all these horrible people, but it’s just been a depressing news week. So I think we need to end on a funny note. Stephen Colbert shows why it is so unbelievable at the First Lady would use a body double for public appearances. It’s quite amusing:

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

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