Archive | May 2021

Friday Five (coddling doesn’t work edition)


Hey! It’s the fourth and final Friday in May, leading into the fifth weekend of May. Pride Month is just days away!

A week ago I got my second Covid vaccine. The side effects for me were a lot milder for the second shot. Then the middle of this week my husband got his second shot. His side effects seem to be much worse for the second than the first one. So we’re having a very mixed week.

Meanwhile, we have this week’s Friday Five. This week I bring you: one story that made me smile, the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about Pride Month, five stories about seditious traitors, five stories about other deplorables, and five videos (plus some notable obituaries).

This Week’s Story That Made Me Smile:

A group of bikers pull up to a lemonade stand and made the day for some little kids

Stories of the Week:

DC Statehood Gets Huge Push From Constitutional Scholars – No, you do NOT need a constitutional amendment to pass DC statehood, say a wide variety of constitutional scholars

US attorney general expands resources to combat hate crimes – Justice Department move follows passage of anti-hate crimes legislation in US Congress

UN rights council to investigate crimes during Gaza conflict – UN Human Rights Council will also investigate ‘systematic’ abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel

Democrats, GO NEGATIVE in Your Advertising! It WORKS! "The conclusion is clear: START LABELING THE REPUBLICANS AS THE DANGEROUS RADICALS THAT THEY ARE"

The surge in U.S. coronavirus cases shows a shift in who’s getting sick – Younger, unvaccinated people aren’t just getting mild infections; they’re landing in the ER too

Stories of Interest to Queers and Our Allies:

Oregon’s out governor signs bill banning gay & trans “panic” murder defense – The maneuver is usually attempted when an LGBTQ person is killed by someone they recently had sex with

Nashville prosecutor says he won’t enforce anti-trans law requiring bathroom signs – Tennessee passed a law requiring businesses to warn their customers if they serve trans people equally. This DA isn’t having it

Hunter Schafer’s pastor dad says Jesus inspires his fight for trans rights – The father of Euphoria’s Hunter Schafer has written a powerful essay explaining why people of faith should be rushing to support trans rights

Classmates rally behind trans student as school plans to deadname him at graduation – Soren Tucker’s school says they’re going to use the name he was given at birth at his graduation. His classmates aren’t having it

Federal agencies take aim at Trump’s LGBTQ policies

It is nearly Pride month, y’all:

‘Pride Month Song’ sketch by SNL is wicked and hilarious, but never insulting to LGBTQ people

Pride 2021: Big cities ‘playing the safe card’ with small gatherings, virtual events – “We believe that we certainly can’t have millions of spectators in one massive crowd just yet. It’s just too soon for that,” Dan Dimant of NYC Pride said

Companies need to swap tokenism for authenticity if they want to celebrate Pride with us – Companies hoping to make a buck from slapping a rainbow on their products and calling it a day should think carefully about engaging in pink capitalism this year

No Kink at Pride? What’s Next, a Drag Ban?

Nazis, Puriteens and Accessibility: The pointless ‘kink at pride’ discourse "Coddling normies doesn’t move the struggle for liberation. Rights aren’t granted – they’re taken."

This Week in Seditious Treason:

Scared McConnell Begs GOP Senators To Kill Jan 6 Panel As ‘Personal Favor’ – McConnell is so afraid of Brian Sicknick’s mother that he’s strongarming colleagues not to meet with her and to dump the commission as "a personal favor."

Self-Described ‘MAGA Caravan’ Leader ‘Pi Annon’ Charged with Assaulting Police During Capitol Siege

The Capitol Siege: The Arrested And Their Stories

Capitol Rioters Hoping for a Plea Bargain are in for Some Bad News — They Better Prepare for Prison

Giuliani Defends His Call For ‘Trial By Combat’ on Jan 6 as ‘Clearly Hyperbolic’ in Response to Capitol Riot Lawsuit

This Week in Deplorables, Haters, and Obstructors:

Rick Santorum axed by CNN over racist remarks on Native Americans If any headline in the history of the universe was more desperately crying out to have the word "FINALLY" added to it, I don’t know what it could be…

Court documents allege KS lawmaker left student with bruise – Kansas GOP State Rep Told Police He Was Acting Under God’s Instruction When He Kicked Student In The Balls

Son, ghostwriter of late senator say Trump intervened to stop probe of Patriots’ Spygate scandal

Once Again, Rage-Filled Woman-Abusing Good Guy With Gun Does Mass Shooting

Neo-Nazi arrested after terrorizing gay couple & vandalizing trans support center for months – Officers say Seth Bertrand is behind a campaign of terror targeting the LGBTQ community in Ontario

In Memoriam:

Eric Carle, Author of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar,’ Dies at 91 – A self-described “picture writer,” he wrote and illustrated more than 70 books for young children, selling more than 170 million copies

John Davis, one of the real voices behind Milli Vanilli, dies at 66

Samuel E. Wright Dies: ‘The Little Mermaid’s Sebastian The Crab, Broadway’s Mufasa Was 74

Legendary gay rights pioneer Kay Lahusen passes at 91 – The world’s first out gay photojournalist, she documented the birth of the LGBTQ movement

Videos

Click on the image to be taken to the video!

Will Jeff Bezos Release The Apprentice’ Tapes To Shame The Former President? Will Jeff Bezos Release The Apprentice' Tapes To Shame The Former President

Biden Bans Justice Department from Seizing Journalist Phone Records Biden Bans Justice Department from Seizing Journalist Phone Records

Sponsored Content: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Sponsored Content: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

If You Don’t Know, Now You Know: New Tech | The Daily Show If You Don’t Know, Now You Know: New Tech | The Daily Show

Lil Nas X: MONTERO -Call Me By Your Name -Live – SNL Lil Nas X: MONTERO -Call Me By Your Name -Live - SNL

Friday Five (audit the ultra rich edition)


Hey! It’s the third Friday in May! And this year that means that today I’m getting my second Covid vaccine shot!

It’s been a weird week, with some bad news about a relative, the usual stress at work, and trying to deal with some unexpected wildlife issues.

Meanwhile, we have this week’s Friday Five. This week I bring you: one story that made me squee, the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about science fiction and fact, and five videos (plus one thing I wrote and some notable obituaries).

This Week’s Story That Made Me Squee:

Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy Officially Returning for ‘Hocus Pocus’ Sequel

Stories of the Week:

Israel, Hamas Cease-Fire Begins After 11 Days of Conflict – Recent clashes have claimed the lives of more than 200 Palestians

Feds Seize 68 Big Cats From Infamous “Tiger King Park”

Biden proposes doubling IRS workforce as part of plan to snag tax cheats – The department’s total budget would increase by about 10 percent annually

New York and Maryland follow Ohio in creating Covid vaccine lottery – Ohio Vax Rate Surged 28% After $1M Lottery Offer

Novelist Cory Doctorow on the Problem with Intellectual Property

Stories of Interest to Queers and Our Allies:

Creating Gender-Affirming Spaces Literally Saves LGBTQ Kids’ Lives- A Trevor Project survey found that LGBTQ youth who had at least one accepting adult were 40% less likely to report suicide attempts in the past year

U.S. Expands Birthright Citizenship Of Babies Born Abroad To Same-Sex Couples – The State Department now recognizes the citizenship of babies born abroad to same-sex married couples, even if an American parent is not genetically related

Alabama bill to force teachers to out trans youth & ban health care access fails – Trans youth and their supporters protested in front of the state’s capitol to stop the attack on their rights. And the bill failed

Trans/Nonbinary Candidate Has Historic Primary Win in Pennsylvania

TikTok’s recommendation algorithm is promoting homophobia and anti-trans violence

This Week in Science Fiction and Fact:

In the latest wave of science fiction, authors of color take space to imagine multiple new societies

UFO studies and the possibility of alien origin

The Curious Case of the Many Black Supermen

A newfound quasicrystal formed in the first atomic bomb test

China on Mars: Zhurong rover returns first pictures

In Memoriam:

Charles Grodin, Midnight Run and Beethoven star, dies at 86

Charles Grodin, activist, author and actor who made grouchiness cool, dead at 86

Mistress Velvet, the queer intersex dominatrix who made clients read Black feminist theory, has died. She was 3

Riley Hadley – 12-year-old boy died by suicide after relentless homophobic bullying at school

Felicia ‘Flames’ Elizondo, Trans and HIV Activist, Dies at 74

Don Sakers, SF writer and editor, Dies at 62

Writer and editor Marvin Kaye Dies at 83

Things I Wrote:

https://fontfolly.net/2021/05/20/write-what-you-know-is-not-good-advice-but-ignorance-is-not-a-good-tool-either/

Videos

Click on the image to be taken to the video!

What Barack Obama Really Thinks About No. 45, Who May Face Criminal Charges What Barack Obama Really Thinks About No. 45, Who May Face Criminal Charges

CDC Says Vaccinated People Can Stop Wearing Masks & Why the Honor System Won’t Work | The Daily Show CDC Says Vaccinated People Can Stop Wearing Masks & Why the Honor System Won’t Work | The Daily Show

Matt Gaetz Wingman Pleads Guilty and Says He’ll Cooperate with Feds – A Closer Look Matt Gaetz Wingman Pleads Guilty and Says He'll Cooperate with Feds - A Closer Look

I promise this story about microwaves is interesting – it involved reviving frozen hamsters I promise this story about microwaves is interesting

Miss Minutes Teaser – Marvel Studios’ Loki – Disney+ Miss Minutes Teaser - Marvel Studios' Loki - Disney+

Write what you know is not good advice, but ignorance is not a good tool, either


So, there’s a blog post about writing and plotting that I keep not finishing in no small part because I keep going on digressions that quickly turn into fractal rabbit holes and the next thing I know I’m writing about something so unrelated to the original subject that even when I stop and re-read the string of digressions I have a hard time understanding how I got there.

I decided that this particular digression was worth it’s own post. And maybe if I get the rant out of my system I’ll have one less digression to avoid in the other post.

I have mentioned many times how my mom, who is a both a science fiction and murder mystery fan, would read aloud to me from whatever book she had checked out of the library for herself and picked up at the used bookstore when I was a small child. From a very early age, therefore, I heard a lot of Agatha Christie murder mysteries, and a lot of Andre Norton sci fi and fantasy, and so forth.

Because of the Christies, I have always had a great fondness for murder mysteries, police procedurals, and the like. Which means that I usually watch at least the first episode of any new series in that vein, to see if it might become my new obsession.

But I also have a few pet peeves, and one of them is the serial killer. Some series seem to decide to throw in a serial killer when other plotlines in the series are fizzling out. Some series can’t seem to go a month without throwing in a serial killer plot.

Why do I almost always dislike serial killers in these shows? First of all, fictional serial killers are almost always portrayed as super geniuses who have been getting away with it because no one can keep up with the blazing brilliance. That doesn’t match reality, at all. Most serial killers range from borderline intellectual functioning /(well below average intelligence/) to just a bit above average intelligence.

The reasons that most serial killers manage to rack up sometimes mind-boggling numbers of murders before they get caught are much more mundane. According to FBI statistics, on average only 58% of murder investigations result in an identification of a perpetrator. In a number of cities, that percentage is lower, less that 50%. So the odds are already pretty good that a serial killer will get away with it for a while.

Another big reason is that a lot of serial killers target strangers. There is no social connection between the killer and their victims. Police investigations always focus at the beginning on people who knew the victim. One reason they do this is because it’s easy, once you know who the victim is, to compile a list of neighbors, relatives, and co-workers. Then you got investigate all of them.

The second reason that police investigations always focus on people who knew the victim well first is a kind of confirmation bias. To explain in, I’m going to go on a planned digression.

Several years ago the place I was employed at at the time experienced a number of workplace thefts. Thousands of dollars in hard drives alone was walking out the door somehow. They brought in a consultant to give us all pointers in how to secure our work areas and so forth. This consultant turned out to be one of these guys who is really good at sounding like an expert but not really that bright. And he had apparently never given his presentation to a room full of computer engineers and other kinds of math nerds before. Early in the presentation he had a slide that included a statistic that at most 5% of the perpetrators of workplace theft are ever caught. Sometime later in the presentation he said, "Nine times out of ten the workplace thief turns out to be an employee."

A zillion hands shot up. "But you just said that only 5% are caught, that means the 95 times out of 100 we don’t know who the thief is. At best, you can only so that 4 times out of 100 the perpetrator turns out to be an employee."

It became really painful to watch, because the guy didn’t understand the flaw in the statistics. At all.

That example applies to the cliches that a number of police believe about murders. "It’s also the boyfriend!" or "It’s almost always someone who knew the victim well." Those beliefs are the a result at looking at that 58% or less of the murders that are "solved." I put solved in quotes because the FBI statistics don’t require an actual conviction to designate a murder case as having been cleared, and they don’t take into account the growing number of wrongful convictions that are being discovered through testing of DNA evidence that wasn’t tested at the time.

The important thing is that if we accept the 58% number as a rough estimate of how many murders get solved, that means we have absolutely no idea how many of the unsolved murders were committed by someone the victim knew. At best, it seems that a little over half time someone is charged, it’s usually someone the victim knew. That that’s 51% of the 58% solved, which is less than 30% of all the murders.

Meanwhile the serial killer has gone back to their normal life and never gets looked at by the cops.

A third reason that a lot of serial killers get away with it a lot is not just that thereis no prior known social connection between the killer and the victim, is that a significant number of serial killers target people in various marginalized communities. It’s not just that a number of police don’t think the victims are worth the time and effort (though that is a factor), but that other prejudices and facts of systemic bigotry makes a lot of potential evidence essentially invisible.

The most famous example of this is one of Jeffery Dahmer’s victim. The young man was clearly injured, had escaped the clutches of the cannibal Dahmer, and was begging for help. Except he spoke almost no english. The police who found him handed him back over to the cannibal, because Dahmer was a white guy who spoke well, and he convinced the cops that the young asian man was simply his boyfriend and they had had a lovers spat.

Another example are some of the known victims of Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur. They were closeted gay men, several of them either immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants. They led double-lives which meant that for those that were reported missing, the families simply didn’t know a lot about their lives. At least one victim was never reported missing because his family feared deportation.

There are a lot of other myths about serial killers that almost always are used in these shows, but this evil genius myth is particularly irritating to me. Now, I get it. If the writers’ wrote a serial killer case truthfully, the cops wouldn’t arrest anyone and not get to be shown as heroes. That’s not as fun a story to write.

One easy solution to that problem, in my opinion, is not to write about serial killers at all. Find other ways to put your characters into difficult situations. There are millions of other possibilities. Give them a try.

Friday Five (big liars edition)


We have reached the second Friday in May. Which, paradoxically, will be followed by the third Saturday. Which I keep forgetting; which is an issue because the third Saturday is when I host the monthly (virtual) Writers’ Meeting.

I have reached the point where I am not only counting down the days until I get my second vaccine shot (and when my husband gets his), I am starting to enter into my calendar the dates when various friends will be fully vaccinated, and when we can start maybe actually visiting some of them in person.

Meanwhile, we have this week’s Friday Five. This week I bring you: one story that made me tear up, one story that made me chuckle, the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about deplorable people, five stories about science, five stories about science fiction, and five videos (plus one thing I wrote and some notable obituaries).

This Week’s Story That Made Me Cry:

A father kicked his son out when he came out. Two dads adopted the teen & now he’s speaking out – Families didn’t want to adopt a gay teen because they thought he would "turn the other children gay." Now he wants to stop discrimination against LGBTQ parents

This Week’s Story That Made Me Laugh:

Tyson blames underperforming roosters for US chicken shortage

Stories of the Week:

The Art in the Oval Office Tells a Story. Here’s How to See It

10 of the World’s Oldest Languages Still Used Today

Dry cleaners suffer as pandemic changes what we wear

Facepalm Pilot: Where Technology Meets Stupidity: An Interactive Guide to Ambiguous Grammar

Biden orders federal cyber upgrade after barrage of hacks – The far-reaching directive is an attempt to close longstanding gaps in the government’s ability to block and investigate hacks

Stories of Interest to Queers and Our Allies:

Judge blocks requirement for ‘gay sex’ offender registration

U.S. Will Protect Gay And Transgender People Against Discrimination In Health Care

‘The love of homosexuals is something good’: German Catholics to bless gay unions, defying Vatican ban

Author fights to keep her queer memoir on a Texas high school reading list — dildo and all – In The Dream House, about an abusive same-sex relationship, is one of 15 titles up for review in Leander

A Gay Man Says He Was Tormented at Liberty University. Now He’s Suing

This Week in Deplorables, Haters, and Obstructors

Lawsuit from Stephen Miller group alleges racial discrimination in distribution of COVID-19 relief

Joel Greenberg set for federal court hearing Monday, expected to plead guilty

Federal Judge Rules NRA Bankruptcy Effort A Sham – Score one for New York Attorney General Letitia James! Judge Harlin Hale ruled that the bankruptcy filing was an effort to escape regulation rather than a financial decision

First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot

Mum’s internet research on vaccines doesn’t make her an expert, court decides

This Week in Science:

A study of Earth’s crust hints that supernovas aren’t gold mines – The stellar explosions can’t be the main source for heavy elements, new data suggest

Is Mars Ours? – Should we treat other planets like natural resources or national parks?

Voyager spacecraft detects ‘persistent hum’ beyond our solar system

There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically)

Saturn has a fuzzy core, spread over more than half the planet’s diameter – A wave in one of the rings reveals the size and composition of the planet’s core

This Week in Science Fiction:

Cora is the Winner of the 2021 Space Cowboy Award!

15 recent sci-fi books that forever shaped the genre – About the future, shaping the future

Mark Millar is ushering in Netflix’s new superhero universe with ‘Jupiter’s Legacy’

#DisneyMustPay Task Force Updates

Doctor Who fans feel ‘demonised’ by BBC crackdown on fan fiction

In Memoriam:

Norman Lloyd Dies: ‘St. Elsewhere’ Actor Who Worked With Welles, Hitchcock & Chaplin Was 106

Things I Wrote:

Don’t Roll the Dice if You Can’t Pay the Price — or, some writing lessons from a 1960 heist film

Thinking about professional conclusion jumpers

Videos

Click on the image to be taken to the video!

Stephen Colbert: McCarthy Admits Election Wasn’t Stolen, But GOP’s Tent Isn’t Big Enough For Liz Cheney McCarthy Admits Election Wasn't Stolen, But GOP's Tent Isn't Big Enough For Liz Cheney

Republicans Refuse to Move On from Donald Trump: A Closer Look Republicans Refuse to Move On from Donald Trump: A Closer Look

Let’s Talk About the Israel-Palestine Conflict | The Daily Show Let’s Talk About the Israel-Palestine Conflict | The Daily Show

Venom: Let There Be Carnage – Official Trailer 2021 Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson Venom: Let There Be Carnage - Official Trailer 2021 Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson

LOKI Trailer 3- NEW, 2021 LOKI Trailer 3- NEW, 2021

Thinking about professional conclusion jumpers


I’ve got several topics I’ve been trying to finish a blog post about, but I keep finding myself running around in circles… when I’m not getting lost down fractal rabbit holes.

So tonight I want to just post here this list that I’ve calling:

Gene’s Postulates of Bad Faith Argumentation

  1. The shortest distance between two blowhards is a common enemy.

  2. An argument can be extended into an infinite line of malarky with just the occasional application of a sea lion.

  3. All circular reasoning can be defined by a single point and an iterative diversion.

  4. Every false equivalence is congruent to every line of B.S.

  5. If two persons are having a sincere misapprehension a single troll can cause an infinite number of irrelevant squabbles.

There may eventually be some Axioms and Definition of Elements to go along with this eventually.

Don’t Roll the Dice if You Can’t Pay the Price — or, some writing lessons from a 1960 heist film


A group of friends and I have been having a weekly movie night during quarantine. Each of us have nominated some movies, we put them into a rotation in a shared spreadsheet, and each Sunday night we all cue up the movie to stream or otherwise watch together and we text each other comments while we watch, then talk about it afterward. This last Sunday the movie was The Thomas Crown Affair /(the 1999 remake/).

There were at least two of us in the group old enough that we remember watching the 1968 version starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. So while we were contrasting the newer version versus our recollection of the original, a young friend in the group mentioned that the 1960 version of Ocean’s Eleven was awful compared to the newer version. I started to get affronted, but fortunately before I typed anything my second thoughts pointed out that I haven’t watched the old version since I was about fourteen years old.

And I honestly couldn’t say whether I would agree with 14-year-old me about the merits of the movie.

So, since it was available to stream for free on one of the services I subscribe to, I watch the 1960 version of Ocean’s Eleven that night.

Short review: I still really enjoyed it. However, I completely understood why younger viewers would not enjoy it at all. It was a great reminder that no creative work stands in isolation.

More detailed review: One of the film’s greatest weaknesses is that there is virtually no character development. As more than one contemporary review pointed out, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop — also known as the Rat Pack — aren’t playing fictional characters unique to this movie, but rather just playing the personas that each had become associated with over the course of several movies and other performances over the years before the release of this film.

Cesar Romero–who was never considered part of the Rat Pack–is essentially playing the same character he played in a large number of movies before this. And much less famous members of the cast (Richard Benedict, Norman Fell, Hank Henry, Robert Foul,, Richard Conte, and Henry Silva to name a few) were all playing a type of character that they were frequently cast as. So for a vast portion of the 1960 audience of the film, the script didn’t have to do any work to establish the characters—the audience knew what to expect when they saw the actor walk into frame.

A further example of this is the recurring gag during the first half of the movie. For no apparent reason, Sinatra’s Danny Ocean keeps doing or prompting others to do things that greatly upset the mastermind of the operation, Mr. Acebos /(played by Akim Tamiroff/). Nothing about this sub-plot ever contributes to the end of the film, let alone moving forward any part of the plot. Tamiroff was an exceedingly well regarded actor who had been nominated for an Oscar a few times in his early career, but by the late fifties he was often cast in roles like this one of a easily excitably, overly worried character. His main role in those sorts of files was the be the easily wound up character who was unnecessarily worried about the ability of the main character to do whatever he was supposed to do for the plot.

Slight digression at this point, Tamiroff was an Armenian-American who was never able to shed his accent, and thus enjoyed a 60-some year career in Ho0llywood being cast as virtually every ethnicity except Armenian. The character he played in 1940′ The Great McGinty is often cited as the inspiration of the character of Boris Badenoff in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.

Another big shortcoming of the movie for modern audiences is the heist itself. The way that Danny Ocean’s eleven comrades go about stealing millions in cash from five casinos simultaneously is not even slightly as intricate or clever as the plots of later caper films such as The Hot Rock or either version of The Thomas Crown Affair or even any single episode of the television series Leverage.

But, to defend the movie (which made a tidy profit for the studios at the time), one doesn’t have to ignore all of those deficits. Rather, one should ask what sort of story was it trying to tell?

First, even though it usually presented as a stand-alone movie, that wasn’t at all how the movie executives (nor most of the audience) perceived it. If you were a studio making movies at that time, you didn’t cast Sinatra, Martin, Davis, Lawford, et al, to portray a new and unique character. You cast them to play a particular type of character they had become famous for. Similarly, if you were an audience member going to the theatre to see this film, you were expecting those actors to deliver a certain kind of entertainment.

Second–and possibly most important–this film is not part of the modern genre of caper film. The title itself foreshadows the ending. Early in the film Sammy Davis, Jr. sings a song called "Ee Oh Eleven." The song is about a person who is trying to claw their way out of a less than advantaged background, and almost reaches financial success, but life is a crap-shoot, and the character rolls an eleven, losing everything he had amassed. And that is the clue that was meant to tell audiences what was coming. The title appears to refer to Danny Ocean and his ten army buddies who, as a gang of eleven, are going to do the impossible. But the eleven in the title actually refers to that moment in a game of Craps where the person rolling the dice rolls an eleven and loses everything.

While I was looking things up about the film to make sure I remembered all the details of its release and so forth correctly, I happened upon a quote from a contemporary review of the movie: "In the end, it is just an amoral tale told for laughs."

I think the reviewer who wrote the line thought that it was a scathing rebuke of the film. But when I read the line, my thought was, "Yeah? So?" Because an amoral tale simply told for laughs sounds like a quite wonderful way to spend an evening. We don’t usually come to stories and other works of art hoping for a deeply profound life-changing exploration of a erudite philosophical question.

We just want something that makes us laugh and feel entertained. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Friday Five (lazy privilege edition)


And here we are at the first Friday in May. Wow!

With both my husband and I getting vaccinated within days of each other late last week, we spent the weekend dealing with an ever-changing set of side effects. All of the side effects we had are the sorts of things one experiences when one immune system is having a strong reaction to something, so I’m taking it as a good sign, but it threw me off for the whole week. Still, thank you science!

Meanwhile, we have the Friday Five. This week I bring you: one story that made me chuckle, the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about deplorable people, and five videos (plus one thing I wrote and some notable obituaries).

This Week’s Story That Made Me Wonder:

Mountlake Terrace Police close to filing charges in serial crow killings. This is local to me, but the best part is the if you go to this related link and jump to page 16, where they detail such things as the crow murder board assembled by volunteers, and the ludicrous attempt the culprit made to cover his tracks, thus giving police a lot of the evidence they needed: First quarter 2021 Police Report

Stories of the Week:

Rare lobster saved from being dinner at Red Lobster: ‘One in every 30 million’

Maddow: Arizona ‘Recount’ May Violate Federal Law – And Rachel Maddow has a new technical term for the bamboo sniffing "recount" team…

Biden decision on COVID vaccine patent waivers is more about global leadership than Intellectual Property

The reopening of the US economy is driving a steel boom so strong that some are convinced it will end in tears

Alabama Legislature votes to legalize medical marijuana

Stories of Interest to Queers and Our Allies:

Push against trans athletes in girls’ sports fails in Kansas

Country Duo Graciously Responds To Republican Who Blocked Honor For Gay Singer – Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison expressed “some concerns” about congratulating T.J. Osborne of the Brothers Osborne, who came out as gay in February

Florida Republican gets slammed by her own daughter: Kids’ lives are at stake

Utah Supreme Court rules in favor of transgender rights – With a sharp rebuke, the court overturned a district judge’s decision to deny two transgender people the right to change their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity

Middle school teacher loses control & scrawls “heteros rule” over students’ Pride flag chalk art – When the group of students refused to erase the Pride flags from their drawing, the situation escalated quickly

This Week in Deplorables, Haters, and Obstructors

Neo-Nazi Hero Tucker Carlson Says ‘Cat Cafes’ Are The Real Threat To America – Tucker Carlson opened his show by doubling down on his love of white nationalism and saying the real threat to America isn’t from these violent racist bastards at all

Traitor Trump Launches A Blog Like It’s 1995 – Donald Trump has been forced to launch his own "social media platform" after being banned from Twitter, Facebook, Tiktok, YouTube, Pinterest, Etsy, Yahoo Groups and Ask Jeeves

Giuliani evidence should be reviewed by an outside lawyer, Justice Dept. says

“Sorry” Neo-Nazi Gets 41 Months In Swatting Scheme

Trump family travel cost $140,000+ in just the first month post-presidency

In Memoriam:

Olympia Dukakis dead: ‘Moonstruck’ actress was Oscar winner – Los Angeles Times

Armistead Maupin & Cher pay tribute to iconic actress Olympia Dukakis – She was one of the first actresses to portray a trans character on American television when she took on the role of Anna Madrigal in Maupin’s Tales of the City

Billie Hayes Dies: Wicked Witchiepoo Of ‘H.R. Pufnstuf’ Was 96

Billie Hayes, ‘H.R. Pufnstuf’ and Broadway Star, Dies at 96

Things I Wrote:

Weekend Update 5/1/2021: Astronauts, Unhinged pundits, Crazed substitute teachers, and how I accidentally quit smoking 26 years ago

Videos

Click on the image to be taken to the video!

Covid Vaccines: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Covid Vaccines: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Republicans Lash Out at Liz Cheney for Not Supporting Trump’s Big Lie: A Closer Look Republicans Lash Out at Liz Cheney for Not Supporting Trump's Big Lie: A Closer Look

‘Deep sh–‘: Giuliani Criminal Raid Has Trump Worried | The Beat With Ari Melber | MSNBC 'Deep sh--': Giuliani Criminal Raid Has Trump Worried | The Beat With Ari Melber | MSNBC

Stranger Things 4 Teaser | Eleven, are you listening? | Netflix Stranger Things 4 Teaser | Eleven, are you listening? | Netflix

**ETERNALS Teaser Trailer | NEW 2021 Marvel Superhero Movie HD ** ETERNALS Teaser Trailer | NEW 2021 Marvel Superhero Movie HD

Weekend Update 5/1/2021: Astronauts, Unhinged pundits, Crazed substitute teachers, and how I accidentally quit smoking 26 years ago

Good speed, Michael Collins

Time for a post where I either talk about news that broke after I composed this week’s Friday Five or new developments in stories linked previously, or something I want to say about a story linked previously.

I posted two different stories about the death of Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot, Michael Collins, already. When Apollo 11 became the first human mission to land on the moon, I was an eight-year-old science and sci fi geek living in the central Rockies region of the U.S. and I was glued to every news cast about it. Yesterday I find this re-posted story on NPR that includes a 1988 interview with Collins which I found really interesting: ‘Fresh Air’ Remembers Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins

Moving on…

You may have seen the video or pictures of this sweet moment that were being shared on social media Thursday and Friday: Joe Stops to Pick Flower for Jill Biden on Their Way to Ga. Rally and to Visit Jimmy and Rosalynn Carte – While en route to Georgia, the president shared a brief moment with his wife, stopping to pick her a dandelion before they boarded Marine One

While all of us normal humans saw a man plucking a flower from the lawn to hand to his wife, a gesture that men who are in love with their wives have been known to do spontaneously for centuries, the people at Fox and Newsmax saw something else. And while this headline uses the work ‘mock’ I think a better description is that they came unhinged at the sight: Fox & Newsmax Hosts Mock Joe Biden’s ‘Sweet’ Dandelion Moment with Jill — One Claims it Was ‘Planted’

One of the so-called pundits claimed that Joe had murdered the flower because he plucked it "before it had bloomed." And how does he know that it was before it had bloomed? Why, because it was in that downy stage where one can blow on it and send its seeds flying. In case you don’t know how flowers work (which clearly this guy doesn’t) the downy seed stage happens long after the flower blooms. The whole point of that downy seed stage is to spread the seeds that have been created by the flower blooming and getting pollinated.

But then the unhinged Fox host goes on to claim that blowing those seeds causes other people to get asthma. Um, no, again, that isn’t how asthma works nor is it the seeds that are even the issue. Many asthma sufferers have attacks triggered by high pollen count. That downy part of the dandelion is not pollen. Those are seeds. Very different things.

The latter charge is particularly eye-roll-inducing because just a few moments before the same producer and accused Joe of effectively committing dandelion abortion… but the flowers can’t reproduce without exchanging the very pollen that the pundit has mistaken the seeds for and which he says it is a crime to spread in the air.

Ooooo, boy!

Speaking of unhinged people…

Kansas Lawmaker Arrested For Assaulting Student After Long Day Of Yelling At Teens About God This is just a wild and terrifying story. The assualt, by the way, is that the teacher grabbed a student by both shoulders, declared that he was delivering god’s wrath, kneed the kid in the testicles, and then yelled at the rest of the class inviting any other students who wanted to to come up and kick the same kid in the balls, too.

This is after hours of this substitute teacher yelling hysterically (and all being recorded and uploaded to the internet by astounded kids) about god and how important it is that they make babies and don’t let kids wind up in foster care with lesbian mothers. It’s just unreal.

And now he’s claiming that it was all staged. But the kid who got kneed in the groin isn’t going along with the story. And if you watch any of the videos it seems fairly clear that the teacher and lawmaker is not acting.

Let’s move one…

Yesterday I linked to the story about the FDA kinda sorta moving forward with possibly making a statement about eventually banning menthol in cigarettes: FDA says it will ban menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars – The agency has long faced calls to act on menthol cigarettes, which are disproportionately smoked by Black Americans and teens just starting to use tobacco

People have been lobbying the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes for many years. So it is a little irritating that 8 years after officially studying the question, their new major announcement is that they will publish a policy sometime soonish proposing the ban… and begin yet another public comment period.

I am illustrating this section of the post with a picture of a pack of Newport brand menthol cigarettes for a reason. Those used to be my favorites. Yes, until I quit 26 years ago, I not only smoked cigarettes, but I smoked menthols.

You may ask why people have been asking the FDA to ban the menthol cigarettes? Well, the answer is essentially the same if you asked me why, back in the day, I preferred menthols. Menthol is not more dangerous than the ordinary ingredients in tobacco smoke on its own, but want menthol does (besides added a cool tingly taste) is it numbs nerve endings. The reason that one of the more popular brands of menthol cigarettes is named Kool is because that numbing effect and the taste create an illusion that the smoke you are inhaling in these cigarettes is less hot (and therefore less burning) than ordinary cigarettes.

So smoking menthols mean that you are less likely to cough or feel a burning sensation and so forth. Some studies have indicated that people who smoke menthol cigarettes smoke more cigarettes per day than those that don’t, and everyone suspects it’s that numbing/cooling effect the menthol has that leads to that.

There are other studies that show that regular menthol smokers, if they can’t get a menthol cigarette during a particular time period, smoke less. And there are also studies that indicate not being able to get menthols at all would increase the number of people who decide to quite each year by the tens of thousands.

And given how deadly smoking is, that would be a good thing.

But the main reason I wanted to write about this ban is because it’s a great excuse to tell you how I accidentally quit smoking 26 years ago.

That’s write, I didn’t mean to quit smoking (even though I really knew that I should)…

How did that happen, you ask? Well, I got this really, really awful case of bronchitis. My doctor prescribed a seven-day course of the antibiotic Zithromax, and by day five the bronchitis seemed to be letting up, but about three days after the last pill, the bronchitis came back with a vengeance.

So my doctor prescribed a ten-day course of clarithromycin, another antibiotic. After several days on the clarithromycin the worst of the symptoms of the bronchitis let up, but I still had a wheeze in my lungs and shortness of breath. Mostly I just wasn’t keeping myself awake all night coughing. And again, a couple of days after the the last tablet, the symptoms got worse, again.

So, after taking another x-ray and some more tests to confirm that it was a bacterial infection of my bronchial tubes, the doctor prescribed augmentin. Augmentin is a combination of the very old, basic antibiotic amoxicillin, plus clavulanate potassium – which is a substance that neutralizes the most common mechanisms that some drug-resistant bacteria deploy.

After just four days of that ten-day regime, the cough had faded away, the wheezing was almost entirely gone, the shortness of breath was gone, and my fever had dropped down to low-grade. I kept taking the pills until they were gone, but I felt so much better.

And it was around this time, when I still had four or five days of the third antibiotic to go, that I realized I couldn’t find my open pack of cigarettes. I searched and searched. My late husband suggested I just pull a fresh pack out of the carton, or take one of his (except he smoked Marlboro Reds – no menthol, so no thanks).

For whatever reason, I was feeling extra stubborn. I was sure that I had more than half a pack of cigarettes somewhere that I had just smoked from, right? Ray asked, "When did you have your last cigarette?" And I started to say, "Oh, it must have been a couple hours ago? I think…? I was at my desk…"

So I went up to the computer room and started looking more thoroughly around the desk. Back then, I kept a pile mail that needed attending to on the desk. Items were added as they came in, and periodically I’d go through it, pay bills that were coming due, and so forth. Inside the pile, beneath seven days worth of new incoming mail, I found the open pack of cigarettes.

I pulled out a cigarette, put it in my mouth, and reached for the lighter.

And then I thought, "This means it has been seven days since my last cigarette." I had been too busy cough and wheezing and choking and being miserable with the bronchitis for the nicotine craving to rise to the surface. I walked downstairs, told Ray where I had found the pack and what that meant. I put the cigarette back in the pack. "I went seven days without smoking and never even noticed. Let’s see if I can go eight."

For the next couple weeks I said a variant of that to myself each day. "I’ve gone eight days, let’s see if I can do nine," and so on.

Sometime in the mid-twenties I just stopped counting days.

There is a coda to add. For years every time I caught a cold, even a mild head cold, it would turn into bronchitis and I’ve have to take antibiotics. At least three times every winter I’d get bronchitis. It was about three years after I quit smoking before I realized that in all that time, I hadn’t had a cold turn into bronchitis.

This is not to say that I have never had bronchitis again, but now it is, at most every other year or so, and even then, it’s only if I have a severe cold or the flu that goes on for a week or more. So, in case the danger of cancer (and watching a number of my loved ones die of smoking-related illnesses over the years) wasn’t enough reason to quit, I’m happy that I’m not constantly getting that painful choking cough in the middle of the night several times a year.

So, yeah, speaking from personal experience: anything that will help more people quit smoking is a good thing!

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