Archive | February 2020

Friday Five (bizarre limits edition)

And we’ve reached the second Friday in February (which is also Valentine’s Day), and tomorrow is the third Saturday.

The rain went away for a few days, now it seems to be back, and I’m quite happy with that. So long as we don’t get any more wind knocking over trees and leaving us without power for 16 hours.

Meanwhile, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories about science, five stories about politics, and five videos (plus some things I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

More high school students than ever are coming out, but their despair remains acute.

NBA star Dwyane Wade talks candidly about accepting and empowering his trans child.

An Underwater Art World That’s Helping to Save Our Oceans.

You Think We’re Self-Obsessed Now? The 19th Century Would Like A Word – the 150 Year Evolution of American Autobiographies.

‘They are my family’: Stolen bonsai trees mysteriously returned to Federal Way museum.

This Week in Science and Technology:

New Horizons spacecraft ‘alters theory of planet formation’.

Coronavirus’s genetic fingerprints are used to rapidly map its spread.

Scientists in Israel grow date plants from 2,000-year-old seeds .

‘Reaper of death:’ Fearsome new dinosaur species discovered in Alberta.

A Mystery Radio Signal From Deep Space Appears to Be Repeating a 16-Day Cycle, Scientists Say.

This Week in Politics:

Brazen Trump Shakes Down NY Governor In Broad Daylight.

Republicans think tampons need to be taxed to limit women from buying too many.

Bernie Sanders’s New Hampshire victory shows exactly how he could win the nomination.

The ‘swarm’: How a subset of Sanders supporters use hostile tactics to drown out critics.

Senate votes to limit Trump’s military authority against Iran.

Things I wrote:

Sunday Funnies, part 39.

“The End is the Beginning” takes Star Trek: Picard into space at last.

“Once you have their money… you never give it back,” or, Contradictory statements about acquisition and wealth in Star Trek.

Videos!

CNN Host Destroys Limbaugh’s Anti-Gay Attack on Buttigieg: ‘What’s More Manly, Volunteering for Military Service or Avoiding It?’:

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

Trump and Barr Corrupt the Justice Department as John Kelly Speaks Out: A Closer Look:

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Maddow urges viewers to ignore the DOJ ‘official lie’ defending Trump and Barr: ‘The truth is evident’:

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The Thing About Harry – the Gay Rom-Com Jake Borelli Wish He Had Growing Up| Official Trailer | Freeform:

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

Jakk Fynn – Special (Official Music Video):

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

“Once you have their money… you never give it back,” or, Contradictory statements about acquisition and wealth in Star Trek

Picture of Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise from Star Trek: the Next Generation. Quote from an episode: “The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn't exist in the 24th Century. The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.”

One of the times that a character on screen claimed that the Federation doesn’t use money.

Since I’ve been obsessively reading reviews and such of the new Star Trek: Picard series, I’ve seen many people commenting on parts of the plot that clearly contradict the claim Jean-Luc himself made in one of the TV episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation:

“The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th Century. The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.”
—Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Many other times in the various series and the movies, statements have been made to the effect that they don’t use money in the Federation.

In the latest series, one source of tension between Jean-Luc and his former aide, Raffi, is that when they both left Star Fleet after the Utopia Planitia shipyards disaster, Jean-Luc was able to retire to his fabulous chateau and vineyards and live among wonderful antique furniture and the like, while Raffi ended up in what is essentially a mobile home parked in the desert.

If they really don’t use money in the 24th Century, and the accumulation of wealth is meaningless, how does such a thing happen?

That’s not all. Captain Rios, the pilot with the unlicensed ship that Raffi finds for Jean-Luc is being hired. We don’t know the terms, but Rios does comment at one point that he is expensive.

This is hardly the first time that important plot points in stories of the Star Trek universe have contradicted the assertion that money doesn’t exist in the beautiful future of the Federation.

Let’s turn back in time to the 13th of October in the year 1966, when the Original Series episode, “Mudd’s Women” was first broadcast. The Enterprise responded to a distress call and beams four survivors from a ship that is about to crash into an asteroid. One man and three unnaturally beautiful women. The man claims he was escorting the women to a distant colony to get married. It quickly transpires that the man has given a false name, and that he is Harcourt Fenton Mudd, a con-man with an extensive criminal record.

Now, if there really is no concept of money or wealth, what, exactly does a con-man do to get convicted of Grand Theft and Grand Larceny (among other things)?

Rather than the episode just ending with the discovery of Mudd’s identity, there is a complication. The ship’s dilithium crystals (the power source of the ship) are failing, so they must divert to a nearby mining colony to get replacements. But Mudd contacts the miners secretly and strikes a deal to provide the miners with the three brides instead in exchange for them demanding the ship release Mudd before they’ll provide the crystals, right?

So this is another thing. One of the explanations that is often given (on screen and not) to why money and economic disparity has ceased to exist is that replicator technology means that the Federation is no longer a scarcity economy. But then, why do we need mean living on dangerous worlds mining dilithium? The usual answer is creating dilithium crystals takes more energy that an equal amount of dilithium can supply.

But it’s not just dilithium. In another first season episode of the series, “The Devil in the Dark” the Enterprise goes to a pergium mining colony because of a mysterious creature killing engineers. Eventually Kirk and Spock determine that the lone creature is a Horta, set to guard thousands of eggs until the next generation hatches, but because the Horta are silicon-based lifeforms, the miners mistook the eggs for geological anomalies. Anyway, again, if replicators can make anything, why are the miners so delighted, after making peace with the Horta, at all the “other valuable minerals” the newly hatched creatures help them find?

Then there’s an episode from season 2 of the original series, “The Trouble with Tribbles” in which Cyrano Jones, an intersteller trader, is selling adorable purring critters called Tribbles (among other things), and the creatures’ incredible fertility issues cause various problems (and solve one). But he’s selling the Tribbles early in the episode, then at another point a bar owner is unwilling to extend him any more credit and certainly doesn’t want more Tribbles since the Tribbles he already bought have multiplied so much…

Again, selling and bar credit clearly imply some sort of money system, right?

The Next Generation introduced a new alien race, the Ferengi, who were fleshed out significantly in the series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Ferengi society is built all around the Rules of Acquisition (the first of which, “Once you have their money… you never give it back,” I quote in the title of this post). Now the Ferengi and their obsession with business and acquiring wealth were usually hand-waved with the point that the Ferengi were not part of the Federation, and yet one is able to operate on a Federation Station for 7 seasons of Deep Space Nine without any problems.

And there’s that hilarious scene from the movie, The Search for Spock where McCoy is trying to hire a criminal pilot to take him to the Mutara system. “Mutara system is forbidden. Need permits many, which means money, more.”

I could keep pulling out examples. I understand that the real explanation is that script writers are creating stories that will appeal and be understood by contemporary humans who live in societies where money and the acquisition of health are extremely important. These are story situations and character types that the audience will understand without a lot of explanation.

For an in-universe explanation, I’m going to have to get a little cynical. I think that the various statements about not using money and such are ideals that the Federation official aspires to, and tries to make reality by providing needed services, housing, and so forth, to everyone. In other words, it’s not the money doesn’t exist, it’s that in theory you don’t need it to survive. Some sort of exchange system where credits are tracked or whatever exists, and clearly the concept of private property still exists. But most everyone has bought into the myth that it’s not needed.

If it seems unreasonable to believe that people would buy into this myth, consider this: how many millions of Americans (including a lot of very serious and highly educated pundits and such) insist that racism is all in the past, because we eliminated slavery! And then passed civil rights laws! And isn’t just Americans, of course, who go along with and repeat things that aren’t quite true.

If anyone has a better explanation, I would love to hear it!

“The End is the Beginning” takes Star Trek: Picard into space at last

I had explicitly planned to write my review of the third episode of Star Trek: Picard before I read any reviews by other people. But the night after the new episode dropped, during a wind storm (after five weeks of record-breaking rain here north of Seattle), several large trees went down about a block from our house. And those enormous evergreen trees took out a bunch of power lines. The upshot was that literally while I was writing the first sentence of what was to be my not-influenced-by-others review, suddenly the lights (and most everything else electronic) went dead here. By the time I had shut down the devices plugged into Uninterruptable Power Supplies in our house, reviewing the latest episode was the last thing on my mind. Our power wasn’t restored for about 16 hours, by which time we were off at a social event with a bunch of friends… so I have once again read a couple of other people’s reviews of the episode before I completed mine.

First, the non-spoilery review: Another good episode. The story continues to grow more interesting. We get a lot of good character development. We see more ways that the intervening years have changed Jean-Luc. There was an exciting fight. We see a new starship. And at the very end of the episode, Jean-Luc and his new motley crew go to warp speed.

Past this point there be plot spoilers. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read on.

Read More…

Sunday Funnies, part 39

Another in my series of posts recommending web comics that I think more people should read.

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis This is another of those comic strips that I don’t need to check regularly because so many people are always posting strips, and when they do, I go catch up. The heart of the series are two characters, a clueless Pig and an arrogant Rat, and they comment on just about everything. It’s hard to describe that subject matter beyond “human foibles and society.” The author says his goal is to poke fun at humans’ unending quest for the unobtainable, and that’s probably why so many other reviewers describe it as a cynical comic. I don’t find it cynical, but I must admit that my basic optimistic temperament may be skewing my perspective. Or maybe I’ve just known too many cruel jerks who describe themselves as cynical that my definition of cynical is off. In any case, Pearls Before Swine certainly mocks human foibles without crossing into mean-spirited territory.


Comics I’ve previously recommended: Some of these have stopped publishing new episodes. Some have been on hiatus for a while. I’ve culled from the list those that seem to have gone away entirely.

Kyle’s B&B by Greg Fox is hard to describe. The main character, Kyle, is a gay Canadian who owns a bed and breakfast that seems to be constantly occupied by hot queer guests. Many, many hot queer guests! There is some romance, and a lot of jokes about things ranging for sub-cultures in the queer community, to gardening and pop culture and… well, a lot of stuff. If you like Greg Fox’s work, you can purchase his books here

Good Bye to Halos by Valeria Halla. Fenic is trans and gay. The comic begins when Fenric is a teenager. Fenric’s father says that it is no longer safe for him there, and then pushes him through a portal and Fenic finds herself in a place call Market Square and unable to get back. She is befriended by an anthropomorphic lion and learns that Market Square is a place where queer kids from many worlds/dimensions find themselves when they are abandoned or lost. Later, as Fenic gets older and assumes that her father is never coming to rescue her, the adventures become increasingly fantastical. If you like the artist’s work, you can support her on Patreon.


What QQ by Carlisle Robinson. This is one of several comics created by Carlisle Robinson, a deaf trans masculine queer artist. If you like Carlisle’s work, consider supporting the Patreon

Casey at the Bat by Bob Glasscock. 20-something Casey was dumped by the man he thought was the love of his life, then a friend convinced him to try out for a local gay softball league as a way to meet new people. And thus begins the comic. Casey At the Bat describes itself as a lighthearted slice-of-live romantic comedy, that just happens to start a young gay man. The strip is entertaining and does mostly stick to the less serious topics. If you enjoy this comic (which is more about romance and friendships than it is about sports—though there is some of that, too) you can purchase collection of the comics here.

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 3.18.45 PMCheck, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu is the story of Eric “Bitty” Bittle, a former junior figure skating champion from a southern state who is attending fictitious Samwell College in Massachusetts, where he plays on the men’s hockey team. Bitty is the smallest guy on the team, and in the early comics is dealing with a phobia of being body-checked in the games. He’s an enthusiastic baker, and a die hard Beyoncé fan.

“Manic Pixie Nightmare Girls” by Jessica Udischas is a hilarious web comic that tells of the adventures of Jesska Nightmare, a trans woman trying to make her way in our transphobic world. The comics are funny, insightful, and adorably drawn. The sheer cuteness of the drawing style is a rather sharp contrast to the sometimes weighty topics the comic covers, and I think makes it a little easier to keep from getting bummed out to contemplate that the strips aren’t exaggerations. If you like the strip, consider supporting the artist through her patreon.

https://lifeofbria.com copyright  Sabrina SymingtonLife of Bria by Sabrina Symington is a transgender themed comic that ranges from commentary to slice of life jokes and everything in between. Even when commenting on very serious stuff it remains funny—sharp, but funny. It’s one of the comics that I would see being reblogged on tumblr and lot and I’d think, “I ought to track down the artist so I can read more of these.” And I finally did. And they’re great! If you like Symington’s work, you can sponsor her on Patreon and she has a graphic novel for sale.

Nerd and Jock by Marko Raassina This is a silly webcomic about a Nerd and Jock who are good friends and like to have fun together. Frequently the joke of the strip is to take a cliché about jocks and nerds and twist it in some way. It’s cute. I happen to really like cute and low-conflict stories sometimes. If you like this comic, consider supporting the artist on Patreon.

Assigned Male by Sophie Labelle is a cute story about a transgirl (we meet her at age 11) and goes from there. Some of the strips are more informational or editorial than pushing the narrative forward, but they are in the voice of the main character, so it’s fun. The artist also has a Facebook page of the site, and is in the process of moving to a domain of her own (though currently it still doesn’t have the actual comic strips available). I mention this so you will not be put off by the words “old website” she’s added to the banner. If you like her comic and would like to support her, she has an Etsy shop were four book collections of the comics and other things are for sale.

Stereophonic by C.J.P.

Stereophonic by C.J.P.

“Stereophonic” by C.J.P. is a “queer historical drama that follows the lives of two young men living in 1960s London.” It’s a very sweet and slow-build story, with good art and an interesting supporting cast. But I want to warn you that the story comes to a hiatus just as a couple of the subplots are getting very interesting. The artist had a serious health issue which was complicated by family problems, but has since started posting updates to his blog and Patreon page, assuring us that the story will resume soon. If you like the 300+ pages published thus far and would like to support the artist, C.J. has a Patreon page, plus t-shirts and other merchandise available at his store.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson concerns the adventures of 9-year-old Phoebe Howell. One day, Phoebe skipped a rock across a pond, and the skipping rock hit a unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils in the face. This happened to free the unicorn from her own reflection, so she granted Phoebe one wish. Phoebe wisely wished that Marigold would become her best friend. If you like the comic, you can buy the books here and enamel pins and other stuff here.

Reading Doonesbury: A trip through nearly fifty years of American comics by Paul HébertThis blog is mostly about the Doonesbury comic strip by Gary B. Trudeau which has been being published for 50 years. Hébert looks at various sequences and themes and long arcs from the comic strip, writing essays analyzing how the story went, putting it in context of the time it was printed, and so forth. He also reviews other comics and graphic novels.

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

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

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

copyright Madeline McGraneMadeline McGrane is a cartoonist and illustrator who is from Wisconsin and lives in Minneapolis. She posts vampire-themed comics and other art on her tumblr blog. My favorites are the vampire comics about three child vampires. They’re just silly. Her black and white comics are minimalist and really work well with her style of humor. Her color work is a bit more complex. If you like her work and want to support her, she has a ko-fi.

The Junior Science Power Hour by Abby Howard logo.The Junior Science Power Hour by Abby Howard. is frequently autobiographical take on the artist’s journey to creating the crazy strip about science, science nerds, why girls are just as good at being science nerds as boys, and so much more. It will definitely appeal to dinosaur nerds, anyone who has ever been enthusiastic about any science topic, and especially to people who has ever felt like a square peg being forced into round holes by society.

The logo for Scurry, a web comic by Mac SmithScurry by Mac Smith is the story of a colony of mice trying to survive a long, strange winter in a world where humans have mysteriously vanished, and food is becoming ever more scarce.

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

logo-1Fowl Language by Brian Gordon is a fun strip about parenting, tech, science, and other geeky things. The strips are funny, and he also has a bonus panel link to click on under the day’s strip.

lasthalloweenThe Last Halloween by Abby Howard is the creepy story of 10-year-old Mona who is reluctantly drafted to save the world on Halloween night. This is by the same artist who does the Junior Science Power Hour. She created this strip as her pitch in the final round of Penny Arcade’s Strip Search, which was a reality game show where web cartoonists competed for a cash prize and other assistance to get their strip launched. Though Abby didn’t win, she started writing the strip anyway. If you like the comic, you can support Abby in a couple of ways: she has some cool stuff related to both of her strips in her store, and she also has a Patreon.

Last Kiss® by John Lustig Mr. Lustig bought the publishing rights to a romance comic book series from the 50’s and 60’s, and started rewriting the stories for fun. The redrawn and re-dialogued panels (which take irreverent shots at gender and sexuality issues, among other things) are syndicated, and available on a bunch of merchandise.

Sharpclaw by Sheryl Schopfer. The author describes as “fantasy comic that blends various fairy tales into an adventure story.” The first story is about twin sisters who both have the potential to be sorceresses. One pursues magic power, the other does not. If you enjoy her work, you can support the artist by going to her Patreon Page!

“Champion of Katara” by Chuck Melville tells the tale of a the greatest sorcerer of Katara, Flagstaff (Flagstaff’s foster sister may disagree…), and his adventures in a humorous sword & sorcery world. If you enjoy the adventures of Flagstaff, you might also enjoy another awesome fantasy series set in the same universe (and starring the aforementioned foster sister): and Felicia, Sorceress of Katara, or Chuck’s weekly gag strip, Mr. Cow, which was on a hiatus for a while but is now back. If you like Mr. Cow, Felicia, or Flagstaff (the hero of Champions of Katara) you can support the artist by going to his Patreon Page. Also, can I interest you in a Mr. Cow Mug?

Private I, by Emily Willis and Ann Uland is a comic set in 1942 Pittsburgh in which queer gumshoe Howard Graves is trying to sort out a collection of bewildering clues and infuriating eccentric suspects. It’s an interesting take on a lot of noir tropes. It handles the queer elements well—being outed or caught by the wrong people can spell the end of not just one’s career, but possibly life–without being all grim-dark. If you like the comic and want to support the creators, check out their Ko-fi.

The Comics of Shan Murphy As far as I can tell, Shannon Murphy doesn’t post a regular comic on the web. But among the categories of illustration on her site are comics. Her art styles (multiple) are really expressive. And she just writes really good stuff. If you like her work, considered leaving a tip at her ko-fi page.

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

The Young Protectors: Legendary by Alex Woolfson. This is just a new story arc for the Young Protectors comic recommended above. However, Alex is changing up the artists he’s working with in this arc, and the focus is decidedly different. This new arc begins by exploring the changed relationship between our protagonist, Kyle (aka Red Hot) and one of his teammates, Spooky Jones. The story is NSFW, although unless you are a patron of Alex’s Patreon, you see a lot less of the explicit artwork. It isn’t porn, per se, and it isn’t a romance. If you check out the page, you’ll see that Alex has written several other comics, some of which are available to purchase in hard copy. And, as I mentioned, he’s got a Patreon account.

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

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

NsfwOglaf, by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne is a Not Safe For Work web comic about… well, it’s sort a generic “medieval” high fantasy universe, but with adult themes, often sexual. Jokes are based on fantasy story and movie clichés, gaming tropes, and the like. And let me repeat, since I got a startled message from someone in response to a previous posting of this recommendation: Oglaf is Not Safe For Work (NSFW)!


Note: Usually when I do one of these posts, I include the slightly shorter reviews of all the comics I’ve recommended previously. I do periodically go through those lists and remove comics that have vanished entirely. For now, I’m leaving in those that have stopped publishing new episodes but still have a web site.

But the list is getting awfully long, and I’m not sure how useful the older links are. I’m still thinking about it. Feel free to comment if you have strong thoughts on the topic.

Note the Second: For the first several years that I was making these posts, I foolishly inserted the title graphic for each comic using the WordPress defaults—so that when a reader clicked on the graphic, they would see the graphic full size. What I should have been doing was changing the setting so that clicking the graphic would take you to the home page of the comic being reviewed. Which I have been doing for a while with new reviews. But most the the mini reviews under each new review had the old behavior. Which I was reminded of when I saw that about half the clicks on my blog the day Sunday Funnies, part 39 posted were people clicking on the images. So I spent the time to fix them from that entire post. And will be using this fixed list from now on. I wasn’t a quick simple fix, so I’m not likely to go back and fix the 38 older editions of this blog series any time soon.

Friday Five (spineless sheep edition)

And we’ve reached the first Friday in February.

I know I’ve mentioned the record-breaking rain three weeks in a row, now, but we have flooding and a state of emergency declared although the medical examiner has yet to release the official ruling, it appears to two teen-agers may have died due to the flooding earlier this week.

Meanwhile, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five of interest to queer people, five stories about science and technology, five stories about deplorable people, five stories about people who had it coming, and five videos (plus notable obituaries and things I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

California Governor Posthumously Pardons Gay Civil Rights Icon and MLK Confidant Bayard Rustin for 1953 Sex Conviction.

Brooklyn park to be renamed after trans activist Marsha P. Johnson.

Donald Trump Is Acquitted, But Not Exonerated – For the first time in history, the vote to remove Trump was bipartisan, while the vote to acquit was the usual GOP bloc.

Federal judge says Boston can reject raising of Christian flag at City Hall.

Violent domestic white supremacist extremists elevated to “national threat priority,” FBI director says.

This Week in News for Queers and Allies:

In case of 8-year-old transgender student, Pennsylvania school district to pay $100K and change bathroom policy.

Virginia advances LGBTQ rights as Republicans call for secession.

How about those LGBTQ Super Bowl commercials .

German Bishops Declare Homosexuality Is “Normal”.

Touching new Starbucks ad is about a trans teen changing his name.

This Week in Science and Technology:

Identity-Switching Neutrinos Could Reveal Why We Exist At All. But Can We Find Them?

An ‘Off-the-Shelf, Skeleton Project’: Experts Analyze the App That Broke Iowa.

In a rare sighting, astronomers observe burst of activity as a massive star forms.

An ancient skeleton from an underwater Mexican cave sheds light on early Americans.

Beaked Whales Use Coordinated Stealth Mode to Evade Killer Orcas.

This Week in Deplorables:

Hiding in Plain Sight: The White Nationalist Who Toiled Inside a Right-Wing Media Powerhouse.

Boris Johnson is about to find out just how weak the UK is after Brexit.

Franklin Graham Cries ‘Discrimination’ as UK Venues Ban Him Over His ‘Divisive’ Anti-LGBTQ Extremism.

‘Shocking Disrespect’ As Trump Acts Up During The National Anthem – While Melania stood at attention, her hand over her heart, Trump was seen ‘conducting’, waving his hands around in the air, and twirling.

Evangelical Leaders Busted In Human Trafficking Ring, Lavish Lifestyles, Forced Victims To Solicit Donations .

This Week in He Had It Coming:

Christopher Hasson Sentenced To More Than 13 Years In Domestic Terrorism Plot – The white nationalist Coast Guard lieutenant pleaded guilty to federal charges last year amid a plot to “murder innocent civilians” on a wide scale, the feds said.

Pastor sentenced to more than 13 years in prison for sexual abuse of child.

Air Force Colonel Set To Take Command Of Air Force One Base Jailed For Five Years On Child Pornography Charges.

Ex-Gay Torture Minister Charged With Child Molestation.

Rush Limbaugh Has Advanced Lung Cancer Now – Limbaugh has a history of praising the practice of smoking.

In Memoriam:

Kirk Douglas, Indomitable Icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Dies at 103 – The actor starred in such films as ‘Champion,’ ‘The Bad and the Beautiful,’ ‘Lust for Life,’ ‘Gunfight at the O.K. Corral’ and ‘Spartacus,’ to name just a few.

Remembering Kirk Douglas, One of the Last Surviving Links to Old Hollywood.

Remembering Terry DeCarlo, LGBT Leader In Orlando.

The first openly gay federal judge passed away at 72 – Deborah Batts was a prosecutor and a law professor before Bill Clinton appointed her to the federal judiciary.

Things I wrote:

“Maps and Legends” takes Picard into the world of espionage, or, an original Trekkie is still loving the new series.

That has always been here, part two: or politics aren’t a new thing in sf/f — including Star Trek.

Late Tuesday Tidbit: For some, freedom’s just a code word for lawlessness.

Still haven’t posted my goals for the year and other trivial revelations.

Videos!

The Booksellers | Official Trailer:

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Colbert’s LIVE Monologue Following Trump’s 2020 State Of The Union Address:

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Jeep® | “Groundhog Day” | Bill Murray | 02.02.2020:

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The State of Our Union is BAD | Full Frontal on TBS:

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“Cell Block Tango” – Broadway Backwards 2015:

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Still haven’t posted my goals for the year and other trivial revelations

Cartoon image with background showing a landscape in flames. One disheveled guy sits  on a rock front center, looking exhausted. A faceless entity wearing a t-shirt that reads '2020' consoles the guy, saying, “And that was only January!”

“And that was only January!”

Last year the plan was to report on my goals progress on both my Patreon and this blog… and for reasons mostly having to do with both my procrastination, over-thinking, anxieties, and good ol’ brain hamsters, posts didn’t get posted either place. Of the three big goals I set for last year, I made great progress on two, and mostly borked the third. I had scaled back to three because my experience for several years before that, where I set four big goals, was that I made great progress on three of them, but one of them always seemed to be neglected. Cutting back to three didn’t help.

I strongly suspect if I cut back further that it would just mean that I only make progress on one goal. Anyway, this year I went back to four goals.

Whether you call them new year’s resolutions or goals, I like giving myself targets for improvement. Some years ago a friend suggested the analogy of how one trains a dog: you can’t get rid of a bad behavior without replacing it with something else that fulfills the same need for the pup. In other words, replace a habit you don’t like with a new one that you do. This has helped me make a number of changes in my own behavior over the years since.

My goals for 2020:

  • Tell my friends that I love them. Usually my goals are more broad than this, and then I give myself individual tasks from month-to-month under the umbrella. But especially how exhausted with all the outrage, existential threats, and general awfulness of the work the last few years, I’ve felt that I keep forgetting that each of us has the power to encourage each other. Also, it feels as if much of what is wrong with the world is a combination of toxic antipathy. So one of my goals for the year is to remember to tell my friends that I love them. Because I do. And there should be no shame in telling people who are important to you how youf feel.
  • Acknowledge Rage, but Stay on Target. It has always been the case that I find it easy to rant and get outraged about injustices and the like in the world. Ranting burns up a lot of energy, especially when so many people who actively want people like me to cease to exist are in power. I think I’ve done a reasonably good job of paying enough attention to try to protect myself and my family, while not getting overwhelmed. So I’m going to again try this year to keep (and in some areas increase) my focus on things I can control. My tasks are: write about about things I love on my blog; continuing listening to music and audiobooks more than news podcasts and the like; join my husband in his painting project; donate to candidates running against the haters.
  • Engage. I have fallen back into the habit of only getting together with friends for things related to projects. I need to spend more time hanging with friends just to hang. My task is: set specific goals each month related to re-connecting with friends.
  • Make It So. Various writing and publishing projects have all stalled out. I need to actually finish more things and put them out in the world. My task is: set specific monthly writing/editing/publishing goals each month.

We’re barely into February and I already feel as if 2020 is a grueling year. My discussions with friends indicate that neither I nor the creator of the meme I link above or in the minority.

I’m tired of talking about infuriating stuff, however. So, let’s go in a different direction.

Last spring, on a whim, I picked up a hummingbird feeder at a nearby dollar store. Since we moved to this neighborhood almost three years ago, I had frequently seen hummingbirds in the summer months, through the fall, and well into winter, going from flower to flower on all my flower pots on the veranda. Our mild winters meant that we had at least some plants continuing to bloom throughout that period. So I figured a dedicated feeder would not go amiss.

Alas, throughout the summer and fall, though the feeder’s liquid level would steadily go down, I never once saw a hummingbird at the feeder. During last summer there were many days when I saw a bunch of bees clustered on the feeder, but the only times I saw hummingbirds on the veranda, they were visiting flowers. Still, given the difficulties bees are facing, I figured that it was fine if I was feeding bees.

Very late last fall, as some upgrades were being installed on our gutters and drain pipes, I took down the hummingbird feeder so it was out of the way of the workmen. That was on a weekend. A couple of days later, I was working from home, and I came out of the kitchen with my coffee mug, and found myself essentially face-to-face with a small brown-bodied hummingbird hovering at eye level just outside my sliding glass door. I stopped. She then flew to the spot where the hummingbird feeder used to hang, hovered there for a moment, and then she moved down the eave, stopped at each of the hooks in the eve… before flying back to the door and staring at me.

As one friend said when I was telling this story, the bird seemed to be saying, “Okay, monkey, what did you do with my food? Chop-chop!”

So I carried the hummingbird feeder inside, washed it out thoroughly, mixed up some more sugar water, then carried it out and hung it up. Since then, there are several points every day that I am home that I see at least one hummingbird at the feeder.

And then, we had our week of snow and ice. Every morning I went out and checked the feeder to see if it was liquid. It I had been a bit more proactive, I would have brought the feeder inside at night time so it wouldn’t freezer. But I didn’t. Anyway, there were only two mornings when the sugar water mix inside the feeder was frozen. Both times I whisked the feeder inside and used the microwave to thaw it out…

The problem was that the feeder felt as if it was about to collapse. It was extremely cheap plastic to begin with, and had spent nearly 10 months hanging outside exposed to sunlight and other elements before the freezing weather came in. Anyway, it felt as if it was going to disintegrate at any moment, so after a consultation with my husband, I ordered a higher end feeder, with the main reservoir made out of glass–and purple glass at that. The first day it was hanging up, hummingbirds were feeding at it, so it was a good purchase.

Since then, I have installed a dual-suet cage and after a couple of weeks many of the neighborhood birds have figured out that it is food. The squirrel feeder, on the other hand, kept getting very wet and food at the bottom of the feeder kept rotting… so I finally gave in and moved the feeder to a spot well under the eave of the building. Oddly enough, all of the squirrels come and get food from the feeder, but carry that food over to the edge of the deck near where the feeder used to be to eat it.

I have a few theories on why they do that, but no good way to test them. Oh, well.’

The important thing is that I’m feeding wild life in my neighborhood, AND I get to watch and listen to all these cool birds every day that I’m home. So, win-win-win, don’t you think?


Finally, my specific tasks for February are:

  • Schedule a painting day with my husband.
  • Host Writers’ Night.
  • Write at least four blog posts about things I like.
  • Finish the next story in the list.
  • Finish and send two submissions to Rowrbrazzle..
  • Post updates to Patreon.

Here’s looking forward to a successful 2020!

Late Tuesday Tidbit: For some, freedom’s just a code word for lawlessness

“The favorite Republican word is 'freedom,' but they're not referring to YOUR freedom. They mean the freedom of corporations to do what they want to do: pay lo wages, bust unions, spy on employees, pollute the atmosphere, collude with one another, and monopolize markets.” — Economist Rober Reich

(Click to embiggen)

A few quickies to wind up this interesting Tuesday

The Iowa caucuses have always been bad. Now we know just how bad they are – With its error-prone process in a disproportionately white state, Iowa doesn’t deserve to be the state to have the first say in who the Democrats should nominate. Despite this, the problem isn’t about corruption, nor do the slow release of results prove any kind of conspiracy. Caucuses are in theory run by the state parties, who rely heavily on volunteers. These are not trained professionals. The volunteers seldom get much in the way of training beforehand. And volunteers at these things tend to skew older, exactly the demographic that you don’t want carrying out important tasks with a smart phone app. To be fair, primaries have a lot of the same problems—poll workers again are not paid professionals, they are volunteers who often are not well trained. And with either system, election night results are always, at best, estimates. The real results aren’t known until all the paperwork from the precincts are processed, sometimes weeks later. And yes, there were all the usual paper documents signed with the entire precinct witnessing and so forth. The app wasn’t meant to be the official results, but rather to facilitate announcing estimates sooner.

Let’s move on to a differnt topic: Republicans scrap child marriage ban because they’re worried about a pro-LGBTQ proposal — Indiana could have stopped adult men from marrying 15-year-old girls, but Republicans wanted to be sure their marriage equality ban stayed on the books. Because nothing says freedom more than forcing teens to marry whom their parents chose. And heaven forfend that consenting adults are allowed to tie the knot…

‘Shocking Disrespect’ As Trump Acts Up During The National Anthem – Video of Trump behaving erratically while the Star Spangled Banner were played at his Super Bowl party have surfaced. This from the alleged president who called on people to be fired (and worse) for kneeling during the national anthem. And let me point out: kneeling is not disrespect! That’s the part that really gets me. Kneeling has always been a form of respect and deference. Whereas gyrating around, moving a chair, waving your arms in mockery of a choral conductor? That’s definitely not showing respect.

It’s No Exaggeration: Sweeping South Dakota Bill Aims to Eliminate All LGBTQ Rights. Again, because nothing says freedom like imposing your religious beliefs on others…

I am not going to watch the State of the Union. I don’t need to watch that buffoon lie while mangling the language for hours. If you do want to watch a good speech under 8 minutes, you might enjoy this:

LGBTQ State of the Union w/ Billy Porter | Logo TV:

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

That has always been here, part two: or politics aren’t a new thing in sf/f — including Star Trek

“Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in the differences in ideas and differences in life forms. It we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kinds, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.” — Gene Roddenberry

“Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in the differences in ideas and differences in life forms. It we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kinds, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.” — Gene Roddenberry

I get really tired of hearing certain fans yell about politics in science fiction. There are multiple reasons I find it annoying. The most important reason is that all of the sf/f that those people hold up as examples of politics-free sci fi is actually loaded with politics — usually white supremacist, misogynist, colonialist, homophobic politics — which they don’t notice because all that racism, sexism, xenophobia, and heterosexism reinforceses their own beliefs.

The next reason is that these same people inevitably hold up older sci fi works as examples of so-call non-political writing, which was sometimes even more loaded down with a lot of politics than the newer stuff they are decrying — but unlike the other example, the reason they don’t notice this time is not so much because the politics are favorable to them, but because they are ignorant of the social-economic-political landscape that was prevalent in the world at the time those things were created.

For instance, let’s look at Star Trek: the Original Series which broadcast from September 8, 1966 through June 3, 1969. That was a total of 79 episodes while the U.S. was in the midst of the Vietnam War (and protests against it), the Civil Rights movement (including a fight for racial equality, a separate fight for equal rights for women, a separate fight over any rights at all for gay people, and the fight for religious equality for such a distant dream it was laughable).

I mentioned last week that the original Star Trek series had episodes that commented (sometimes ham-fistedly, yes) on the civil rights issues playing out in the real world at the time. For example, the original draft of “The Enterprise Incident” (September 27, 1968) was such a scathing indictment of the real world Gulf of Tonkin events (America’s excuse for invading Vietnam), that the network censors pressed for rewrites that watered it down… but even watered down it was still recognizable as a commentary on the Cold War with the Soviets and China in general, and how that Cold War was playing out in Vietnam in particular.

For another example, the sixth episode of the series ever broadcast, “Mudd’s Women” (October 13, 1966) delved into many issues related to the social and economic disparities between men and women and related topics.

The “Balance of Terror” (December 15, 1966) was an extemely obvious commentary on the Cold War in which the U.S. and allies were deeply embroiled with against the Soviet Union and allies at the time. There were also more than a few bits of the story that commented on the racial aspects of World War II.

And then there was “Plato’s Stepchildren” (November 22, 1968) which involved a lot of arguments with the network censors because Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura kiss! Oh, em, gee! A white man kisses a black woman! How will civilization survive such a thing?

And let’s not forget “I, Mudd” (November 3, 1967) which includes the scene where Uhura appears to be acting out the expected sexist trope of elevating her own vanity above other issues, but instead it is a trick she and the captain worked out in advance, and more importantly, not of the stereotypical sexist tropes related to the notion of a woman doing the right thing instead of the expected thing played out, either. That couple of minutes in the middle of that episode was an incredibly radical political statement for the time, believe me!

I could keep going, but it just becomes a pile on at this point.

Politics isn’t just about squabbles between elected officials. Politics is about public policies the govern the way the ordinary people are allowed to live within the society. That does far more than cause an occasional inconvenience. Politics can and does have profound impacts on quality of life including our health. It quite often has life and death consequences for several groups within the population.

Science fiction has sometimes been described as the literature of change. And changes made in societal attitudes, policies, and laws are certainly a legitimate topic for sf/f stories. The very oldest tales we have the people classify as the roots of sf/f do precisely that. It’s part of the genre from the beginning. And there is nothing wrong with keeping that tradition going.

“Maps and Legends” takes Picard into the world of espionage, or, an original Trekkie is still loving the new series

Jean-Luc Picard discusses possible explanations for the death of the mysterious Dahj with his two Romulan employees.I don’t know if I really want to do an episode-by-episode review of Star Trek: Picard in part because more than one fan writer that I admire are already doing that, and I’m not sure I’m adding much to the conversation. On the other hand, I have been a Star Trek fan since at least 1966, when the original series was being broadcast for the very first time on NBC.

For a bit of context: my sixth birthday happened between the airing of the third episode of the original series (“Where No Man Has Gone Before”) and the fourth episode (“The Naked Time”). I don’t know how regularly we watched the first season. My very vague recollection is that Dad insisted that we watch “Daniel Boone” on Thursday nights, and if the promo for “Star Trek” came on before Mom realized the “Bewitched” was happening over on ABC, then she might feel conflicted about whether to switch over (because both she and I loved Bewitched, but also loved sci fi). I also know that between Star Trek and Bewitched in the 1966-67 TV season is the reason that I remember the first half of every Batman two-parter (which for two years aired on Wednesday, then the second half on Thursday), but often never caught the second half until years later in syndication.

The point is, I have been a Star Trek fan for more that 53 years (and I started reading only-available-through-obscure-snail-mail-subscriptions fanfic 47 years ago) and sometimes I feel as if I’m not holding up my end of the fandom elder bargain by not weighing in more often.

This is complicated by the current streaming environment. A lot of people who would love to sample the new Trek series are reluctant to sign up for yet another streaming service—and I really understand! It irritates me that all the people who love Trek can’t easily access this series.

Side Note: if you happen to be in a position to come visit my husband and I in the suburb where we live just north of Seattle, we are more than willing to host a viewing party. You can come over and watch episodes on our 4K TV and (older) surround-sound set up, because I love sharing this sort of thing… and as many of our friends will attest, we love cooking for large groups, so… I guess I should keep posting at least some sort of review.

Okay, so first, once again, I start with the non-spoilery review: I don’t just like this show, after seeing episode 2 I can safely say that I love it. This episode takes several interesting turns away from Standard Plot Points and continues to allow the actors a lot of room to flex their acting muscles. There is a particularly awesome use of an editing trick where we keep cutting back and forth between three characters discussing an issue, and another place where two of those characters are actually gathering evidence at a distant location that works really well.

This is a really good episode. The series continues to be extremely engaging. Before I more into spoiler territory I want to mention one more thing. While in the first episode it was unclear whether the main thrust of the series would be the mystery or action/adventure, if this episode is indicative, the series is diving deep into epsionage/intrigue. I have a really strong suspicion that the overall arc is going to be more heist/capter/espionage-flavored, aka Leverage/Ocean’s Eleven than space battles. But I might be wrong. Still, this episode is much more Alias/Leverage/Mission: Impossible than any variant of Battlestar Galactica.

And I think that’s a good thing.

Past this point there be plot spoilers. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read on. Don’t read any reviews I link below, either, because they also have spoilers.

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