Archive by Author | fontfolly

Confessions of an urban transplant—or, conflicts in perceptual frameworks

“Don't know if I should laugh or facepalm”

(click to embiggen(

Earlier in the week I answered a question which had been posed elseweb in a post entitled, “Why do American right-wingers hate trains?.” That post had started life as a long answer that I almost sent as a comment on another person’s blog. The portion of the original comment which I turned into that 1000+ word post was much longer. Which is why I realized it really belonged on my blog. Among the things I cut out were a couple of anecdotes that illustrated some of my points. I’m not sure how informative these may be, but I think this one might be worth a few chuckles.

A few years ago I was riding the bus home from work and my cell phone rang. I looked at the screen and saw that it was a call from a relative I don’t hear from often. I declined the call, because I always feel self-conscious having a personal conversation in a place like the bus where total strangers can overhear (whether they want to or not). And often the bus environment is just loud enough that I can’t understand everything the other person is saying and they keep asking me to repeat myself because the background noise plus my aforementioned self-consciousness means they can’t hear me.

Once I was home, I called them back, leading with an explanation that I was sorry I hadn’t answered, but was afraid the bus was too noisy to have a conversation. The relative reacted with shock.

“Why are you riding the bus? What happened to your car? Were you in an accident? Is everyone all right?”

I explained that I have always used a combination of bus and walking to get to work.

“But why? You have a car!”

So I explained my reasons which are: 1) Not driving myself to the office every day means less wear-and-tear on the car; 2) Dealing with traffic can be stressful, and particularly after a stressful day at work it’s nice to let the bus driver deal with the traffic; 3) it is a whole lot cheaper to take the bus than to pay for downtown parking.

“Why can’t you just park your car at work?”

Then I had to explain that I could park my car in the garage under the office building if I wanted… but it isn’t cheap.

“Why are you working for someone who charges you to park at work?”

I proceeded to explain that, for one, my employer doesn’t own the building—they only rent a few floors of it. Two, if I do choose to park there monthly, my employer pays a portion of the cost, but not the whole thing, and the remainder is still quite a bit more than a bus pass. Three, there is no free parking in the downtown portions of most cities, because real estate is too valuable to have parking lot-sized portions of it not being used to generate income. Therefore, no matter who I worked for in Seattle, I’d be paying for parking.

“How expensive is it to park there?”

I told her how much (at that time) my portion of the cost would be each month to park in the building where I worked.

She whistled loudly. “That’s more than my mortgage payment! And that’s just to park your car for a month? How can that be?”

I wasn’t sure how she would react if I told her that the cost to park the car in that downtown garage for a month was less than one-tenth of the rent I was paying at that time for a two-bedroom apartment in another neighborhood. So this was when I said, “Things are more expensive in the city. But we shouldn’t be talking about my commute. You called me for a reason. What’s up?”

This is hardly the first time I have had a variant of that exact conversation with a relative or former classmate or old friend who still lives in one of the small towns or suburbs where various parts of my childhood occurred.

On a couple of occasions the conversation has included a long digression about how awful it must be to ride the bus, since the bus must be full of drug addicts and homeless people and the mentally ill and so on. When I say pleasant experiences on the bus far outweigh unpleasant ones they clearly have difficulty believing me.

And with some of the relatives/former classmates/old friends, if I explained how many unpleasant bus experiences (particularly in the first decade or so I was taking the bus) were because some not-homeless, not-mentally-ill, not-drugged-out guy suddenly suspected I was a faggot and deciding he needs to tell me how much he loathes my kind… well, that would have kicked off an entirely different kind of bewildered and awkward conversation.

The questions about buses and parking are relatively benign examples of a phenomenon that Foz Meadows very succinctly called an onion argument:

“When it comes to debating strangers with radically different perspectives, you sometimes encounter what I refer to as Onion Arguments: seemingly simple questions that can’t possibly be answered to either your satisfaction or your interlocutor’s because their ignorance of concepts vital to whatever you might say is so lacking, so fundamentally incorrect, that there’s no way to answer the first point without first explaining eight other things in detail.”

They illustrate a bigger problem. The frames of reference between rightwing folks and others is so disjoint that it’s really no surprise that we seem to be constantly talking past each other.

Line up your rockets! Or, we have the 2020 Hugo Award Finalists!

Photo © Dave Howell, designer of the base of the 2009 Hugo trophies.

Photo © Dave Howell, designer of the base of the 2009 Hugo trophies.

I first learned of the existence of the Hugos when I found a copy of one of the Hugo Winners anthologies edited (back then) by Isaac Asimov when I was about 12 or 13 years old. His anecdotal description of the awards and the ceremony created a fantasy version of the process for me. For instance, I assumed (incorrectly) that the voting for the awards happened at the convention itself. Anyway, because of that early perception, attending a WorldCon and attending the banquet as a professional writer myself (and maybe even as a nominee!) became my own subconscious prerequisites to voting in the Hugos. This persisted even after, at a later age, when I learned that in order to vote one merely needed to buy a supporting membership, and the voting all happened by mail and online.

While I knew I could just buy a membership and vote, I never actually did it until the Melancholy Canine Kerfuffle motivated me to get involved.

And I’ve been happily nominating, reading the packet after the ballot comes out, and voting ever sense.

Which *drum roll* brings us to—the finalists for the 2020 Hugo Awards and the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards have been announced!

2020 Hugo and Astounding Awards

Best Novel

Only two of the books I nominated made it to the final ballot, but three more were already in my to-be-read pile, so this is a very strong selection, and I suspect I’ll have a very hard time picking in this category.

  • The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK)
  • The Light Brigade, Kameron Hurley (Saga; Angry Robot UK)
  • A Memory Called Empire, Arkady Martine (Tor; Tor UK)
  • Middlegame, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)

Best Novella

Again, only two of the novellas I nominated made this list, but a couple more were ones I would have nominated if I could nominate more than five. And the other two I’ve heard good things about, so, I’m looking forward to the Hugo packet.

  • To Be Taught, If Fortunate, Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager; Hodder & Stoughton)
  • “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom”, Ted Chiang (Exhalation)
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (Saga)
  • In an Absent Dream, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Deep, Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes (Saga)

Best Novelette

The further you get down the ballot ballot in the printed fiction categories, the less possible it is that any individual reader has seen a significant fraction of all the stories in that category published in a single year. So I’m not surprised that only one single entry is one that was on my ballot. But several that I haven’t read yet have been written by authors I know are really good, so…

  • “For He Can Creep”, Siobhan Carroll (Tor.com 7/10/19)
  • “Omphalos”, Ted Chiang (Exhalation)
  • “Away with the Wolves”, Sarah Gailey (Uncanny 9-10/19)
  • “Emergency Skin”, N.K. Jemisin (Forward)
  • “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye”, Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny 7-8/19)
  • “The Archronology of Love”, Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed 4/19)

Best Short Story

I think this is the first time, ever, that four of the stories in this category are ones I had read before the ballot came out. This looks like, again, a great set of nominees.

  • “Do Not Look Back, My Lion”, Alix E. Harrow (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 1/31/19)
  • “As the Last I May Know”, S.L. Huang (Tor.com 10/23/19)
  • “And Now His Lordship Is Laughing”, Shiv Ramdas (Strange Horizons 9/9/19)
  • “Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island”, Nibedita Sen (Nightmare 5/19)
  • “Blood Is Another Word for Hunger”, Rivers Solomon (Tor.com 7/24/19)
  • “A Catalog of Storms”, Fran Wilde (Uncanny 1-2/19)

Best Series

This is still a very new category, and it’s difficult to know which series are eligible in a give year. Only two of the entries on this list were on my nomination ballot, but I’m familiar with a couple more, and know that they are very good.

  • Winternight, Katherine Arden (Del Rey; Del Rey UK)
  • The Expanse, James S.A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • Luna, Ian McDonald (Tor; Gollancz)
  • InCryptid, Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • Planetfall, Emma Newman (Ace; Gollancz)
  • Wormwood, Tade Thompson (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

Best Related Work

This category is always odd, because it is intentionally a miscellaneous category intended as, among other things, a place to nominate new artforms. Anyway, three things I nominated made it here, so obviously I think it is good. I am delighted that Jeannette Ng’s speech made the list, even though it never occurred to me that it was eligible. On the other hand, I think that other things on the list are more deserving of the trophy. But then, I have to admit that half the reason I’m delighted that the speech is here is precisely because of the people who are furious that it got nominated.

  • Joanna Russ, Gwyneth Jones (University of Illinois Press)
  • The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein, Farah Mendlesohn (Unbound)
  • “2019 John W. Campbell Award Acceptance Speech”, Jeannette Ng (Dublin 2019 — An Irish Worldcon)
  • The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, Mallory O’Meara (Hanover Square)
  • Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood, J. Michael Straczynski (Harper Voyager US)
  • Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin

Best Graphic Story or Comic

When I was younger I was reading comic books as they came out, before they were collected into graphic novels. I tend to wait, now, so I’m not as up on what all is out there, like I used to be. This year while I was trying to fill out my nomination ballot, I learned that almost everything I’d read in the last year had been published earlier, so I didn’t nominate many. Only one title below is one that I have read recently (and nominated). But I’m familiar with several of the writers and artists of the other titles, so I’m looking forward to reading them.

  • Die, Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker, Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Stephanie Hans (Image)
  • The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 9: Okay, Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Jamie McKelvie & Matt Wilson (Image Comics)
  • Monstress, Volume 4: The Chosen, Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)
  • LaGuardia, Nnedi Okorafor, illustrated by Tana Ford, colours by James Devlin (Berger Books/Dark Horse)
  • Paper Girls, Volume 6, Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang & Matt Wilson (Image)
  • Mooncakes, Wendy Xu & Suzanne Walker (Oni Press; Lion Forge)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Three things I nominated made this list. Two others I have reason to believe are really good. One… one is going under No Award on my ballot already. But I don’t think anyone who knows me will be surprised that the number one slot on my ballot is going to Good Omens

  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Captain Marvel
  • Good Omens
  • Russian Doll, Season One
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  • Us

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Only one episode I nominated made it to the list. A couple of the other series, I nominated different episodes than are here.

  • Doctor Who: “Resolution”
  • The Expanse: “Cibola Burn”
  • The Good Place: “The Answer”
  • The Mandalorian: “Redemption”
  • Watchmen: “A God Walks into Abar”
  • Watchmen: “This Extraordinary Being”

Best Editor, Short Form

Editor categories are always hard to predict. Three of the editors I nominated made it here. Two of the others I am familiar with their work already. It will be interesting researching the others.

  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • C.C. Finlay
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form

The last couple of years what I have tried to do in this category is find out the editor of the novels I nominated. This year, I was only able to find out who was one of the editors of the five novels I nominated. She made it to the list. I really wish the book publishers would make it easier to find who the editors are. It was only after the ballot was released today that I found out that one single editor who wasn’t on my ballot edited two things I nominated. They didn’t make it to the list, and I firmly belief part of the reason is because people like me can’t find out who edited the books we love!

  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Brit Hvide
  • Diana M. Pho
  • Devi Pillai
  • Miriam Weinberg
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

Several great choices. I suspect the ones I’m not familiar with already are good, as well.

  • Tommy Arnold
  • Rovina Cai
  • Galen Dara
  • John Picacio
  • Yuko Shimizu
  • Alyssa Winans

Best Semiprozine

Three of my nominees made it to the list. The other three entries on the list are all things that almost made it. I just read/listen to a LOT. Every one of these publishes good stuff, so another really strong category.

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • Escape Pod
  • Fireside
  • FIYAH
  • Strange Horizons
  • Uncanny

Best Fanzine

Only one of the things I nominated made it to the list this time, but three more are publications that I quite love, and the other two I’ve never perused before, so I’m looking forward to exploring new things.

  • The Book Smugglers
  • Galactic Journey
  • Journey Planet
  • nerds of a feather, flock together
  • Quick Sip Reviews
  • The Rec Center

Best Fancast

Three of my nominees made the list. I’m familiar with a couple of the others and they almost made the cut. So, once again, a strong category.

  • Be the Serpent
  • The Coode Street Podcast
  • Galactic Suburbia
  • Our Opinions Are Correct
  • Claire Rousseau’s YouTube channel
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show

Best Fan Writer

I was so happy watching the livestream when this category was announced. Three of the entries were also on my nomination ballot. Two of those are Blog Buddies! And the other three are people whose work I am at least partially familiar with and have enjoyed their work, so this is a category I’ll have a difficult time ranking.

  • Cora Buhlert
  • James Davis Nicoll
  • Alasdair Stuart
  • Bogi Takács
  • Paul Weimer
  • Adam Whitehead

Best Fan Artist

Good list!

  • Iain Clark
  • Sara Felix
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Meg Frank
  • Ariela Housman
  • Elise Matthesen

Lodestar for Best Young Adult Book (Not a Hugo)

Only one book I nominated made it to the list. But part of the problem there is that three other books that did make it were in my to-be-read pile at nomination time and I don’t feel right nominating if I haven’t read it. This is another really strong list and I’m looking forward to finishing a few books and reading two more.

  • The Wicked King, Holly Black (Little, Brown; Hot Key)
  • Deeplight, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan)
  • Minor Mage, T. Kingfisher (Argyll)
  • Catfishing on CatNet, Naomi Kritzer (Tor Teen)
  • Dragon Pearl, Yoon Ha Lee (Disney/Hyperion)
  • Riverland, Fran Wilde (Amulet)

Astounding Award for Best New Writer (Not a Hugo)

This is another really strong list!

  • Sam Hawke*
  • R.F. Kuang*
  • Jenn Lyons
  • Nibedita Sen*
  • Tasha Suri*
  • Emily Tesh

*Second year of eligibility

1945 Retro Hugo Nominees

The Retro Hugos are… weird. At final ballot time I seem to never pick the winners. I know that part of the problem with the Retros is that enough voters vote by looking for familiar names, so when an early story by someone who later became really good is on the ballot, even when that is one of the worst stories that later-famous author ever wrote, and clearly the weakest story on the Retro ballot, it still wins.

That said…

I’m happy that Leigh Brackett has several nominations.

I am even more happy that C.L. Moore is nominated in several categories!

I am delighted that a movie based on a story by Oscar Wilde made it into one of the Dramatic Presentation categories.

Related, a non-fiction book by H.G. Wells is also nominated. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Oscar Wilde and H.G. Wells won Retro Hugos at the same time? I’m just saying!

I am not surprised that Edgar Rice Burroughs appears more than once, but remember he owned his own publishing company by this point, and was churning out work at an insane pace.

The f-ing fascist was nominated in one of the editor categories. I really hope that my fave, Raymond Palmer finally gets one of the Retro Hugos, but we all know it is almost guaranteed to go the fascist, so…

Best Novel

  • “Shadow Over Mars”, Leigh Brackett (Startling Stories Fall ’44)
  • Land of Terror, Edgar Rice Burroughs (Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.)
  • The Golden Fleece, Robert Graves (Cassell)
  • “The Winged Man”, E. Mayne Hull & A.E. Van Vogt (Astounding Science Fiction 5-6/44)
  • The Wind on the Moon, Eric Linklater (Macmillan)
  • Sirius, Olaf Stapledon (Secker & Warberg)

Best Novella

  • “The Jewel of Bas”, Leigh Brackett (Planet Stories Spring ’44)
  • “A God Named Kroo”, Henry Kuttner (Thrilling Wonder Stories Winter ’44)
  • “Trog”, Murray Leinster (Astounding Science Fiction 6/44)
  • “Intruders from the Stars”, Ross Rocklynne (Amazing Stories 1/44)
  • “Killdozer!”, Theodore Sturgeon (Astounding Science Fiction 11/44)
  • “The Changeling”, A.E. van Vogt (Astounding Science Fiction 4/44)

Best Novelette

  • “The Big and the Little”, Isaac Asimov (Astounding Science Fiction 8/44)
  • “Arena”, Fredric Brown (Astounding Science Fiction 6/44)
  • “No Woman Born”, C.L. Moore (Astounding Science Fiction 12/44)
  • “The Children’s Hour”, Lawrence O’Donnell (C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner) (Astounding Science Fiction 3/44)
  • “When the Bough Breaks”, Lewis Padgett (C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner) (Astounding Science Fiction 11/44)
  • “City”, Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science Fiction 5/44)

Best Short Story

  • “The Wedge”, Isaac Asimov (Astounding Science Fiction 10/44)
  • “I, Rocket”, Ray Bradbury (Amazing Stories 5/44)
  • “And the Gods Laughed”, Fredric Brown (Planet Stories Spring ’44)
  • “Desertion”, Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science Fiction 11/44)
  • “Huddling Place”, Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science Fiction 7/44)
  • “Far Centaurus”, A.E. van Vogt (Astounding Science Fiction 1/44)

Best Series

  • Pellucidar, Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Jules de Grandin, Seabury Quinn
  • The Shadow, Maxwell Gibson (Walter B. Grant)
  • Captain Future, Brett Sterling
  • Doc Savage, Kenneth Robeson/Lester Dent
  • Cthulhu Mythos, H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, and others

Best Related Work

  • “The Science-Fiction Field”, Leigh Brackett (Writer’s Digest 7/44)
  • Mr. Tompkins Explores the Atom, George Gamow (Cambridge University Press)
  • “The Works of H.P. Lovecraft: Suggestions for a Critical Appraisal”, Fritz Leiber (The Acolyte Fall ’44)
  • Rockets: The Future of Travel Beyond the Stratosphere, Willy Ley (Viking Press)
  • Fancyclopedia, Jack Speer (Forrest J Ackerman)
  • ‘42 To ‘44: A Contemporary Memoir Upon Human Behavior During the Crisis of the World Revolution, H.G. Wells (Secker & Warburg)

Best Graphic Story or Comic

  • Donald Duck: “The Mad Chemist”, Carl Barks (Dell Comics)
  • >Buck Rogers: “Hollow Planetoid”, Dick Calkins (National Newspaper Service)
  • Flash Gordon: “Battle for Tropica”, Alex Raymond (King Features Syndicate)
  • Flash Gordon: “Triumph in Tropica”, Alex Raymond (Kings Features Syndicate)
  • Superman: “The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk”, Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster (DC)
  • The Spirit: “For the Love of Clara Defoe”, Manly Wade Wellman, Lou Fine, and Don Komisarow

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • The Canterville Ghost
  • The Curse of the Cat People
  • Donovan’s Brain
  • House of Frankenstein
  • The Invisible Man’s Revenge
  • It Happened Tomorrow

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

  • John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • Oscar J. Friend
  • Mary Gnaedinger
  • Dorothy McIlwraith
  • Raymond A. Palmer
  • W. Scott Peacock

Best Professional Artist

  • Earle Bergey
  • Margaret Brundage
  • Boris Dolgov
  • Matt Fox
  • Paul Orban
  • William Timmins

Best Fanzine

  • The Acolyte
  • Diablerie
  • Futurian War Digest
  • Shangri L’Affaires
  • Voice of the Imagi-Nation
  • Le Zombie

Best Fan Writer

  • Fritz Leiber, Jr.
  • Morojo (Myrtle R. Douglas)
  • J. Michael Rosenblum
  • Jack Speer
  • Bob Tucker
  • Harry Warner, Jr.

Edited to add: Where To Find The 2020 Hugo Award Finalists For Free Online.

The return of the attack of the fumble fingers

Dang it, was barely started on the formatting, let alone my comments!

Okay, now you can read the post: Line up your rockets! Or, we have the 2020 Hugo Award Finalists!

Tuesday Tidbits 4/7/2020: Grifters gotta grift

Let’s look at some news that broke after last week’s Friday Five that ought to be covered now rather than wait for Friday.

Just sayin’ (Click to embiggen)

First up, the Grifter-in-Chief (and his toadies) keeps recommending a drug that studies indicate does not help treat Covid-19: CNN Doctor Shreds Peter Navarro: ‘This Is Not A ‘Can’t-Hurt-Might-Help-Why-Not’ Situation!’ – Dr. Sanjay Gupta took the wind right out of Peter Navarro’s arrogance by putting some facts on the table.

When it first happened, I figured it was just the usual stupidity from the guy. Someone mentioned it to him, and as a narcissist suffering from some form of severe dementia, he has a constant need to say stuff that make it sound like he knows what he’s talking about. But after being debunked a few times, and after at least one person died trying to self-treat with it, why did he start talking about it again?

Well, it turns out it’s about greed, because of course it is: Pharma-Funded Group Tied to a Top Trump Donor Is Promoting Malaria Drug to the President. That’s right, some of the companies who make the drug that doesn’t work against this thing are donating money to Trump. So, of course, he’s going to tout it so people will buy it and put money in the pockets of people putting money in his pocket!

But it’s even worse than that! Millions of doses of Covid drug bought by Trump admin today from Novartis–Michael Cohen connection. This article links to several others, but it appears that either a shell company owned by Trump or by some of his toadies, has managed to buy up a bunch of the drug that does not work against Covid-19, and now they are selling this stockpile to the feds.

This shouldn’t surprise us, because Trump’s entire financial career has been about stealing from his investors, contractors, employees, and charities. It has also been about tricking other people into paying for his projects and making it look as if he was the person who raised the money or donated or whatever. All those seasons of his reality show, when at the end the winner (or a charity) got a big novelty check that made it look as if Trump was paying them? Every penny actually came from the network. Neither Trump or any of his businesses contributed so much as a dime. He was paid, the network paid for the production and everything related to it, the network paid the actual award money, and on those occasions when a Trump business was mentioned or a picture of one of his buildings was shown, the network paid said business a royalty.

It does leave one wondering how his faithful keep believing him after lie upon lie upon lie. Well, in this case, there is a bit of an explanation: Here’s why the tormented conservative mind is so drawn to the dangerous allure of miracle drugs.

Trump is also really good about blaming other people, no matter how implausible the blame is: Trump Earns “Pants On Fire” Rating For Insane Claim He Inherited “Broken” Virus Tests From The Obama Admin. So Trump is now claiming that the reason we have been so behind on testing is because Obama left behind thousands or millions of “broken” test kits. Big problem with that lie: when Obama was President, know one knew that the virus which causes Covid-19 existed, yet. So no one had tried to make kits, yet. The problem is that Trump didn’t think the disease was serious (or that it would hurt anyone he cared about), nor was he willing to take and pay for kits from any of the foreign entities that had developed them as the disease swept through parts of China and other countries, nor was he willing to put any money into developing our own.

Unfortunately, his base doesn’t seem to be smart enough to do anything but swallow the lie. Even when the evidence is overwhelming:

How Trump and Kushner Failed on Testing and Ventilators: A Closer Look:

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

Meanwhile, it’s important to remember that not everyone is hurt to the same degree by this current catastrophe, as Samanth Bee explains below:

Introducing: Coronavirus For Her! | Full Frontal on TBS:

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

Why do American right-wingers hate trains?

“Mmmmmmmm... must build more cares. NEED MORE CARS.”

(click to embiggen)

I was reading a very interesting blog post elseweb (discussing yet another post somewhere else on another topic) where one of the regular commenters asked in response to some off-hand remarks in the other post and related comments, “What is it that American right-wingers have against trains?” And several other people (a few of whom I know aren’t from the U.S.) gave some answers that contain parts of the explanation. I typed a really long comment going into great detail based on debates I’ve been having with fellow Americans (of varying degrees of being more conservative than I) on the topic. I realized a really long comment doesn’t belong in someone else’s blog’s comments when I have my own place to publish it. So I copied the text out and posted a much shorter summary there. Now, with additional editing, it can be a posted here.

As I said, this comes from years of debating issues such as bus service, various ballot measures to build or extend light rail or commuter train service and related policies. It’s also grounded in my own experience growing up in rural and suburban U.S. communities.

For a bit of cultural context: to graduate from high school in this state back in the year I graduated one of the courses you had to complete was a Civics class. And there was an entire chapter in the state-approved textbook my high school was using at the time called “America’s Love Affair with the Automobile.” I very distinctly remember that there was an essay question on one of the tests in which we were to describe the procedure for changing a flat tire.

This knowledge was considered to be of the same level of importance as how to register to vote, read a voter’s pamphlet, and fill out a ballot.

So, to get back to the question about trains…

Cars represent self-determination and self-reliance. They are seen as being more flexible than trains, because they aren’t limited to running on a track. Cars are also perceived as being the responsibility of the individual owning it. You choose how often to buy a new car. You decide what kind (and how costly) of car you want to own. You pay for your gas and maintenance. And so on.

On the other hand, all types of mass transit are perceived (at least by those of a more conservative bent) as being primarily for the use of people who are too poor to afford a car of their own. Transit is therefore perceived as being paid for primarily through taxes, and specifically the taxes of folks who are not so poor as to need public transit. Add in another myth popular with that crowd—that the vast majority of poor people are only poor because they are lazy, immoral, or both—therefore taxpayer-funded transit being used mostly by people who don’t deserve it.

Whenever I have tried to point out that virtually all roads which cars drive upon in this country are built and maintained entirely by the taxpayer, people are unpersuaded. Because of another myth—this one is believed by people of virtually every political stripe—which is the myth that roads are paid for by taxes on gasoline. Therefore, it is believed (incorrectly) that people who own gas-burning cars are paying for all of the roads all by themselves.

While it is true that most gas taxes are spent on highway projects and the like, what people fail to grasp (or fail to remember once it’s explained to them) is that gas tax revenue is not sufficient to pay for highways, and none of it (at least not in any state where I have lived) is ever used for surface streets within towns and cities. The portion of highway costs that aren’t covered by the gas tax comes from the general tax revenue, of course. And all other road construction, likewise, is paid for by all tax payers, not just the ones buying gasoline.

On the very rare occasion that I have convinced someone in one of these discussions on the latter point, we get to yet another myth that is widely held by conservatives in this country: poor people don’t pay taxes—at all. Again, while if one makes less than a certain amount of money, one does not pay federal income tax, that isn’t by any means the only taxes there are. If you are earning a paycheck so small that there is no federal income tax withheld at all, one still pays social security tax, medicare tax, and state unemployment tax

And that’s still not the entire tax picture. Most states have a sales tax. So everyone who buys things pays those taxes. Most states have property tax, and if you don’t own the property yourself, your landlord is charging you rent to cover those property taxes, it’s just indirect. Depending on the jurisdiction, there are many other taxes that folks who earn too little to owe federal income tax do, indeed, pay.

I’ve skipped over another bit of the issue, though it is implied in one of the earlier points. A lot of right-wingers (because they believe that the only reason one is poor is because one is lazy, immoral, or both) adhere to the firm conviction that any service which makes life less than completely miserable for poor people simply encourages them to continue being poor. Therefore, buses, light rail, commuter trains, and so forth are seen as things that encourage laziness and immorality.

There are a lot more aspects to all these misconceptions. The idea that cars are more flexible than trains overlooks the fact that roads are no easier to move than train tacks. And that most cars aren’t suitable for extended off-road use. Even for those cars which are, most car owners would not be happy with what extended off-road use does to their paint job. And since 80% of the population lives in cities, the only way 80% can get more flexible than existing roads is to drive through other people’s yards. Not a good kind of flexibility!

The above misunderstanding about gas taxes also contributes to why so many right-wingers sneer at electric cars and hybrids, for another instance.

And so on.

But, really, most of it comes down to that dogma I talked about near the beginning: cars represent self-determination and self-reliance, while mass transit (especially trains) are perceived as a tax-payer giveaway to people too poor (read lazy/immoral) to afford a car.

And thats why right-wingers in America hate trains.

What to pick?

I had a different post that I thought I’d scheduled for today, but I saw that it was still in draft status and decided to reschedule for Monday because of another weird dream.

This is the second Sunday morning in a row where I have dreamed of the same friend who died two years ago. I figured it is worth sharing because I suspect other people’s subconsciouses are not that unlike mine.

Dream began with I and most of the friends I world normally expect to see at NorWesCon next weekend walking somewhere together. I think at first we were going to a grocery store, but then the trip morphed into a rendezvous with the friend who died for lunch.

We met her and wound up in a very long line to get to the order window of this odd little building that had big chalkboards outside with the menu on it. Being a dream, I couldn’t really read the menu. My other friends were all talking excitedly about the thing they were going to order, but I couldn’t quite understand what food each of them were talking about. And because the menu was unintelligible, I couldn’t figure out even what kind of food the place was offering.

So I asked her what she recommends.

“I can’t tell you what to pick.”

I repeated that I was asking for a recommendation.

“You have to pick what’s right for you.”

“But I can’t read the menu!”

“Life doesn’t come with a menu.”

And that’s when my alarm clock went out.

Weekend Update 4/4/2020: Lying liars, flip flopping, and one funny suggestion

Once again it’s time for some news that either came in too late for this week’s Friday Five, or is a new development in a story I’ve commented upon previously, or otherwise didn’t quite make the cut before. As you can tell form the title of the post, I’m going to be talking about a lot of bad people here. If you would like a laugh, instead, scroll down to the bottom and click on the video. And learn something while you’re at it!

First up, you remember that there are a few Senators and Congresspeople who made suspiciously timed decision to sell of stock after getting classified intelligence briefings on the coronavirus threat? There is a bit more news on that front: U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s most recent financial disclosures show that millions of dollars in stocks were sold on her behalf at the same time Congress was dealing with the impact of the coronavirus. She continues to insist that these transactions were carried out by her financial advisor without any discussion with her, but the more news comes out the less credible that seems. She and her husband (who happens to the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange) didn’t just happen to sell off stocks in industries sure to take a big hit when the pandemic hit U.S. shores, but they also coincidentally bought up a lot of stock in companies that manufacture medical face masks and the like.

Right, coincidence!

Even though we now know that she had been briefed on the grim statistics of how quickly the disease would spread, how many millions would eventually get sick, and how high the death toll could go, she was making public statements to constiuents and donors that there was nothing to worry about.

Even Fox News’ most notorious liar isn’t buying it: Tucker Carlson: Sen. Kelly Loeffler Should Resign if She Knew About Stock Trades.

Resignation is the minimum that should happen.

Moving on…

Critics Pile On After Kushner’s Virus Response Lies, Federal Website Edited To Make Him Appear Truthful. Kushner claimed that the federal stockpile of medical ventilators was never intended for the states, but rather, “they belong to us.” Just who does he thing us is?

The Strategic National Stockpile of critical medical equipment was created by an Act of Congress in 1998. And the act specifies that the purpose is to make sure those critical medical supplies are ready to be deployed to any state or territory where a critical public health crisis arises.

“Gangsters don't hire family members because they're qualified. Gangsters hire family members because they're less likely to talk to the FBI.”

“Gangsters don’t hire family members because they’re qualified. Gangsters hire family members because they’re less likely to talk to the FBI.” (Click to embiggen)

I know he’s an idiot. No, seriously. He’s what certain types of really stupid people think is a smart person. Which means he’s good at lying on his feet and using words that sound like he knows what he’s talking about. But he’s an idiot and a con artist, who couldn’t pass a basic security check and is in office (in violation of The Federal Anti-Nepotism Statute) because Trump wants him there. His motives are not public service, his motives are always his own personal gain, and the personal gain of his patrons. And ordering someone to change the government website that describes the reserve doesn’t change the law.

Remember, Kushner is the idiot who did this: Inside Jared Kushner’s coronavirus research: A wide net on a giant Facebook group. That’s right, he had access to all the experts at the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and so forth, but what did Jared do? He called his brother’s father-in-law who happens to be a doctor.

The stupid, it burns!

Moving on!

Texas Christian radio host ‘Doc’ Gallagher gets 25 years for bilking Christian investors out of millions. Not only isn’t he a registered investment advisor (for which he was fined previously for falsely claiming), he’s not an ordained minister, so I the headline can’t call him a scamvangelist (even though that’s what he is). I’ll just quote this:

“He took advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. He targeted elderly investors and individuals attracted to his Christian ideals and then stole from them.”
—lead prosecutor Alexis Goldate

Yeah, great Christian values, there.

Okay, enough about bad people. Here is a helpful video for those who need a face mask for their next excursion. I hope it at least makes you chuckle:

Friday Five (legal bloodbath edition)

“Trump held rallies on: Jan 9th, Jan 14th, Jan 28th, Jan 30th, Feb 10th, Feb 19th, Feb 20th, Feb 21st, Feb 28th... Trump golfed on: Jan 18th, Jan 19th, Feb 1st, Feb 15th, Math 7th, Mar 8th... But SURE, impeachment, which ended on Feb 5th, is what stopped him from resonding to the coronavirus until late March...”

Click to embiggen! “Trump held rallies on: Jan 9th, Jan 14th, Jan 28th, Jan 30th, Feb 10th, Feb 19th, Feb 20th, Feb 21st, Feb 28th… Trump golfed on: Jan 18th, Jan 19th, Feb 1st, Feb 15th, Math 7th, Mar 8th… But SURE, impeachment, which ended on Feb 5th, is what stopped him from resonding to the coronavirus until late March…”

We’ve reached the first Friday in April.

I’ve started on Camp NaNoWriMo, but my word count so far is pathetic. On the other hand, at one point on Thursday evening I realized that it was like the umpteenth time that day that I had shared a whiny story related to my work (I’m working from home in an industry that is considered essential, whereas my husband was furloughed last week and we’re both trying to adjust to being housebound together more than ever before)… so I recognized the expression on his face as being less than thrilled at my topic of discussion. So I said, “I need to stop talking about work, or you’re going to either divorce me or strangle me.” And he responded with: “Oh, I won’t DIVORCE you…” Which made me observe: “I see strangling is still on the menu…”

He did not contradict my conclusion.

So… I put on my headphones, picked one of my more compelling playlists, and started working on this post while trying very hard to resist any urge I had to pause and talk to him.

Meanwhile, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about the pandemic, and five videos (plus notable obituaries and some things I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

Fox News purportedly bracing for “legal bloodbath” after peddling coronavirus misinformation. Couldn’t happen to more deserving people, business, or network…

Authors, Publishers Condemn The ‘National Emergency Library’ As ‘Piracy’. Let me correct this headline: “vMedia Fails to Recognize The ‘National Emergency Library’ As Piracy Until Called Out.”

A Neighborhood Celebrated A Teen’s Last Chemo Session With A Coronavirus-Appropriate Parade.

It is not ethical to pirate an author’s work without their permission.

Craving Canon Is Killing the Way We Talk About Movies and TV.

This Week in News for Queers and Allies:

‘We both rolled over in bed. Me: ‘I’m gay.’ Her: ‘I’m transgender.’ Silence. Now what? I’m married. HAPPILY married!’: Couple stays together despite realizing sexual preferences weren’t as they initially thought.

U.S. Eases Restrictions on Gay Men Donating Blood Amid Covid-19.

Gay Men Barred from Donating Potentially Lifesaving Blood Plasma to Critically Ill Coronavirus Patients.

Gay Man Tearfully Recalls Husband, First ER Doctor to Die from Coronavirus, in Gut-Wrenching Interview.

California’s Same-Sex Marriage Foes Press to Keep Trial Video Under Wraps. Hateful bigots know that when their arguments are shown to the public the public embraces our side…

This Week in COVID-19:

What We Know So Far About Possible Coronavirus Treatments Promoted by Trump.

AOC Blasted the “Shameful” Corporate Bailouts in the Senate’s Coronavirus Relief Bill.

Global condom shortage looms as coronavirus shuts down production – World’s biggest producer says lockdown has already caused shortfall of 100m condoms.

Trump’s coronavirus response is a failure by his own standards.

‘Religious liberty’ argument, once hindering LGBTQ rights, is now endangering COVID-19 prevention.

In Memoriam:

Their Mom Died Of The Coronavirus. They Had To Say Goodbye Via Walkie-Talkie – “She was a supermom, you know?”.

Terrence McNally, acclaimed gay playwright, dies at 81.

Terrence McNally, Tony award-winning playwright, dies of coronavirus complications.

Rage for Terrence McNally.

Things I wrote:

Star Trek: Picard wraps season one in a retro doozy.

Sunday Night Update: We need some good news.

“You’re going that way”.

Tuesday Tidbits: No joke, some people don’t understand….

No foolin’ — and let’s go to Camp!.

A little brain dead.

Videos!

Stephen Colbert Returns With A Message: America, You Got This:

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

Trump Fights with Governors, Reporters Over Coronavirus Response: A Closer Look:

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

Coronavirus III: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO):

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

Trump’s “New Tone” On Coronavirus | The Daily Social Distancing Show:

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

:Dua Lipa – Break My Heart (Official Video)

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

A little brain dead

(click to embiggen)

I started a blog post for today, but I’ve already clocked 53 hours this week, and couldn’t quite get things to gel in the idea I had. So I’m postponing it.

The company I work for counts as an essential business (I’ll just say that I’m in the telecommunications industry and one of the things we do is make sure that when you call 9-1-1 or whatever your country uses for summoning emergency services, we make sure your call gets to the correct emergency services center, and they know your current location. The fun part is I get to read scientific papers about satellite constellations for work sometimes.) so we’re still working and having to deliver products on time. And my department had two big product releases this week. But everyone is stressed and stretched thin even without the pandemic.

And I find it more than a little irritating that even with my changes in news viewing habits, I’m still seeing way more homophobic sh*t cross my timeline.

So this Friday Five is going to be… interesting…

I haven’t gotten much writing done since the beginning of Camp NaNoWriMo, but I have high hopes.

(Click to embiggen)

No foolin’ — and let’s go to Camp!

“Today is April Fool's Day. Believe nothing and trustt no one... just like any other day.”

“Today is April Fool’s Day. Believe nothing and trust no one… just like any other day.” (A little cynical, but not completely wrong.)

I used to sometimes write April Fool’s posts. My rules were 1) that the joke couldn’t be something that would alarm people if they didn’t realize it was a joke, 2) the butt of the joke always had to be me, 3) nothing related to any disaster or illness or danger to anyone.

But even when I tried to stick to those rules, a couple of times one friend or another wouldn’t realize it was a joke right away and sometimes read something between the lines.

With the world in the middle of a deadly pandemic, with a President fond of spouting false information (and who is more concerned with the TV ratings of his press conferences than the thousands of severely ill citizens), this really isn’t a time to write parodies or satires of current events.

So, no jokes from me. No linking to any parody articles. It’s Wednesday. It happens to be the first day of the fourth month of the year. Which happens to be the day that a writing activity I often participates starts.

Therefore, I wanna talk about Camp NaNoWriMo. That’s right! It’s April, and that means an opportunity to do a writing project with the help, encouragement, and maybe even a little competition with friends near and far!

The non-profit that organizes National Novel Writing Month every November also sponsors two related events, one in April and one in July, called Camp NaNoWriMo. You set your own word count goal, can set up writing groups so you and your writing buddies can cheer each other on, and so forth.

With the goals being self-defined, one might wonder what the point is. I like having the expectation that I’ll publish my word-count (or number of words revised, or whatever) regularly. It is fun having a few people to watching and available to commiserate with, as well.

My previous forays at Camp NaNo have met with varying degree of success. This time around I mostly just need something to motivate me to work on my fiction at all. I’ve been quite bad at it. The last thing that I set out and finished was the Christmas Ghost story.

In these trying times, lots of people turn to the arts (if you’re binge watching shows on line, catching up on those audio books you’ve been meaning to get to, et cetera to get through a shelter-in-place or related ordered lockdown, you’re turning to the arts) in times of crisis. And so some of us should try to make more art, as well.

Wanna give it a whirl?

%d bloggers like this: