Weekend Update 3/11/2017: Ex-gay torture, dark clouds, and darker motives

“Some people are like dark clouds, when they disappear, suddenly it's a sunny day.”

“Some people are like dark clouds, when they disappear, suddenly it’s a sunny day.”

I’m sure that someone will tell me (as they have when other infamous bigots have died) that I should not speak ill of the dead. I will point out that the one of the oldest recorded instances of a this admonishment (a Greek text from about 600BC) is more accurately translated as, “Of the dead, nothing spoken unless truthfully.” So in that spirit, let me say that a dark cloud has passed, NARTH Founder and Leader in Ex-Gay Torture Movement Joseph Nicolosi Dead at 70. And that I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiment in this headline about this death: Ex-Gay Therapy Should Die With Its Pioneer, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi.

Nicolosi is just one of many who have profited over the years with the torture and bullying of gay people, often driving them to suicide. He was most recently in the news in 2012 when he tried to sue the state of California to overturn their ban on so-called gay conversion therapy for children and teens. A lawsuit which he lost, thank goodness! And just because another old, hateful bigot has died I know it doesn’t mean that this particular type of oppression is going to end. I can just hope that this death will get is a little closer to that ending, all right?

And in case you don’t know why this practice needs to be banned everywhere, remember that the ex-gay therapists and programs prey on vulnerable youth, making money off their pain, suffering, and sometimes suicides. They use bad therapy including pornography, lies and scare tactics, and discredited medical practices.

The science is clear: so-called reparative therapy fuels self-hatred and depression, increases the risk of suicide, and has no effect on a person’s sexual orientation or desires. None.

Source: thedesmondproject.com/Homelessness-Info.html (Click to embiggen)

Joseph Nicolosi caused a lot of people—a lot of vulnerable children—pain and suffering and actually increased the odds they would commit suicide. His propaganda encouraged parents to kick their gay children out on the street, leading to more pain, suffering and death. And he profited from that pain and suffering. The organization he founded still profits from it. So, damn right I’m going to speak ill of the dead.

And the usual arguments why one shouldn’t speak ill (he’s not here to defend himself, think of his grieving family, et cetera) should all be overruled by the fact that there are thousands of dead queer kids who not only aren’t here, either, but had no one to defend them from Nicolosi and his fellow bigots. Their memory and their grieving families deserve the truth. And the truth is, the world is a slightly better place now that Nicolosi isn’t part of it.

And let’s not forget that Vice President Pence is a big advocate for so-called gay conversion therapy for children. So the fight goes on!


In completely unrelated news, The DOJ Just Called for the Firing of 46 Obama-Appointed U.S. State’s Attorneys, Including Preet Bharara. This was very abrupt, and included at least one such prosecutor who was specfically asked to stay on recently by both Donald and Sessions. A mass firing is unusual in itself, and the initial reports of this made it clear it was very disorganized. At least one of the prosecutors admitting that he learned of his firing from the news—not even from a reporter calling for a comment. Also, the Justice Department doesn’t have any replacement prosecutors ready to nominate.

Which leads one to ask what the rush is. And a few people have spoken up: Feinstein: Trump’s firing of US attorneys hurts independence, and Trump “fires” 46 U.S. attorneys: standard practice or outrage? Yesterday’s round up of links included Trump Knows the Feds Are Closing In on Him – The president’s recent tweets aren’t just conspiratorial gibberish – they’re the erratic ravings of a guilty conscience. And that’s not all: Ukrainian attorney calls for probe into text message claims that Paul Manafort ‘knowingly’ had people killed or Connecting Trump’s Dots to Russia or Donald Trump panics over Russia: Jeff Sessions, Priebus, Bannon all huddled at Mar-a-Lago. Hence the weird claims about illegal wiretapping under Obama that went so far that a Fox News correspondent even called them false!

It’s becoming clear that there is more than enough evidence to indict a lot of Donald’s inner circle over various criminal charges, many of which border on treason. And if such an investigation got enough core Republican voters up in arms, Congress might actually do their job and start investigation the president himself. Getting rid of a lot of experienced federal prosecutors who are, by law, supposed to operate somewhat independently is one way to decrease the chances such a thing will come to pass.

It’s also yet another tin-pot dictator move, which this administration keeps doing again and again.

Friday Links (what would Buffy do edition)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

It’s Friday! We’re a couple weeks into March already. It’s been a weird work week, because the cold that I didn’t quite shake off has developed an annoying cough and a fever, so I’ve been trying to avoid people since I’m probably contagious. I’ve also been sleeping a lot.

Anyway, here are the links I found interesting this week, sorted into categories.

Links of the Week

You May Want to Marry My Husband. I made the mistake of reading this while riding the bus into work. I was sobbing…

‘Alternative facts’: A psychiatrist explains the difference between falsehoods and lies. There’s a part of me that thinks it is ridiculous that anyone needs this explained. And I don’t think enough attention is paid to the problem of people not caring whether something is true as long as they like it.

A Statue of a Defiant Girl Now Confronts the Famous ‘Charging Bull’ on Wall St.

This Week in the Economy

An Ivy League professor who spent 4 months working in a South Bronx check-cashing store says we’re getting it all wrong.

There’s no bull in the message behind ‘Fearless Girl’ statue.

This week in awful people

Simons’s Renaissance Technologies Equity Fund Rose 4.6% in June. US billionaire Robert Mercer who bankrolled Leave.eu didn’t make $16m after Brexit. His fund made $690m.

Fabulous, Darling!

John Barrowman celebrates 50th birthday by showing off his natural hair.

News for queers and our allies:

95-year-old comes out as gay in powerful must-see video.

Older Queer Voices: The Intimacy of Survival.

Safe as Houses.

Veteran who was to lead St. Patrick’s Day parade quits over decision to bar gay vets.

Science!

How Does the Public’s View of Science Go So Wrong?

Does Ceres still have currently active (erupting!) cryovolcanoes?

The Most Important Idea about the Universe.

Scientists Might Finally Understand One of the Most Basic but Mysterious Aspects of Our Heartbeats.

Mosul offensive: Assyrian artifacts discovered in abandoned ISIS tunnels.

Neanderthal Dental Plaque Shows What a Paleo Diet Really Looks Like.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

‘Buffy’ at 20: 13 Key Players on How It Changed TV and Why There Shouldn’t be a Revival.

‘Buffy’ at 20: Gail Berman Reflects on the Rocky Road to Air and How It Could Return.

‘Buffy’ at 20: What the Critics Originally Said About the Joss Whedon Favorite.

Love science fiction and fantasy series? Better also love being patient.

‘Are you ready to be strong?’: The enduring legacy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

“Buffy The Vampire Slayer” Gave Me My Own Scooby – Into every generation, a best friend is born.

The Complex Feminist Legacy Of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’.

20 Things We Still Love About Buffy the Vampire Slayer 20 Years Later.

Wells At The World’s End: The Time Machine.

This week in Writing

In Search of Lost Tweets: On Being a Writer on Twitter.

This week in Words

Prepone – An Indian English word which means “to move to an earlier time”.

Using ‘Lady,’ ‘Woman,’ and ‘Female’ to Modify Nouns – ‘Female’ doctor? ‘Lady’ lawyer? ‘Woman’ politician? Are any of these not offensive?

The Serial Comma – Why don’t they call it the Merriam-Webster comma?

You’re probably familiar with the term hot mess. But do you know how old hot mess really is?

This Week in History

An Unknown Latino Tuskegee Airman Has Been Discovered.

This Week in Tech

Errata Security: Some comments on the Wikileaks CIA/#vault7 leak.

Google’s Algorithm Is Lying to You About Onions and Blaming Me for It .

Google’s “One True Answer” problem — when featured snippets go bad.

Keep your cool when facing possibilities like SHA-1, Cloudflare, and the shoddy Internet of Things.

WikiLeaks’ CIA Hack: 9 Key Questions on Latest Document Dump – How reliable is Vault 7, the information allegedly leaked from the Central Intelligence Agency? For starters, nothing stated by WikiLeaks or Assange should be taken at face value.

Don’t Fall for the Area Code Scam.

This Week in Covering the News

NPR demonstrates how not to report on LGBT issues — four different times.

Rachel Maddow on How She Doubled Viewership Under Trump: ‘I Stopped Covering the Twitter Feed’. “We started covering only what they do rather than what they say,” MSNBC host tells TheWrap of recent ratings surge

This Week in Inclusion

An Asexual’s Defense of Jughead Kissing Betty on Riverdale. “Allowing Jughead to have “an origin story,” as Aguirre-Sacasa says, is not letting the character or the community down (yet). Giving him a coming-out narrative could create a dialogue about the asexual experience we have literally never seen before on broadcast TV. Of course, if Riverdale gets more seasons and it fails to develop Jughead’s asexuality, that would indeed be a disappointing omission, and a missed opportunity to do something truly new and brave with a character onscreen.”

A Bookstore Is Displaying All Books By Men Backward, And It’s Eye-Opening.

Culture war news:

Sportscaster Dale Hansen defends trans student wrestler Mack Beggs in amazing takedown.

OKLAHOMA: Tulsa LBGT Center Riddled With Bullets, Man Later Accosts Staff With Homophobic Slurs.

Why Is Franklin Graham So Obsessed With LGBTQ People?

What Do Feminists Owe Kellyanne Conway? As one person noted on Twitter, the answer is “A fair trial.”

Christians Are Treating a Comedy Skit About “Christian Persecution” As Proof of Actual Persecution.

Stop Using Women And Girls To Justify Transphobia.

A Field Guide to Straightsplaining. An oldie, but worth re-reading…

This Week in the Resistance:

Introducing the enemies of the American people: George Rodrigue.

People Walk Out As Ala. Official Pushes Voter ID At Selma Anniversary Service.

Nordstrom, Warby Parker and Etsy Pull Ads from Breitbart.

Resistance Art: This Amazing Sign Just Appeared on the Fence Surrounding the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station.

Remove health-care subsidies for Members of Congress and their families.

This Week Regarding the Lying Liar:

Trumpism is now getting exposed as a monumental fraud.

Stephen King mocks Trump wiretap allegations with short story.

When One President Smears Another.

Trump Knows the Feds Are Closing In on Him – The president’s recent tweets aren’t just conspiratorial gibberish – they’re the erratic ravings of a guilty conscience.

News about the Fascist Regime:

Canadian woman en route to Vermont spa denied entry to U.S., told she needs immigrant visa.

All 100 Senators Sign Letter Demanding Action on Jewish Center Bomb Threats.

Sean Spicer wrongly claims Fox reporter’s phones were ‘tapped’.

This week in Politics:

It’s Do-or-Die for Repeal-and-Replace.

Time to talk Trump impeachment: Jason Sattler.

House Republicans Unveil Plan to Replace Health Law.

Wow: Nervous Georgia GOP re-gerrymanders state House to protect vulnerable Republicans.

Rep. Joe Kennedy calls GOP health care repeal bill ‘an act of malice’.

This Week in Racists, White Nationalists, and the deplorables

The dark psychology of dehumanization, explained.

This Week in Hate Crimes

Suspect in gay-bashing attack out on bond, fighting extradition to the Keys.

Cyberstalking Charge Brought In Manhattan Federal Court Against Missouri Man For A Pattern Of Harrassment Involving Threats To Jewish Community Centers.

Man charged with threatening Jewish centers to frame his ex.

Sikh community asks for hate-crime probe after man is told ‘go back to your own country’ and shot.

Another wave of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers happened today.

Things I wrote:

It’s the day to March Forth!

Game over, man!

There are worse things than invisibility—decoding is just another form of erasure.

Confessions of a public restroom avoider.

She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness — more of why I love sf/f.

Videos!

FDR “Let Me Warn You”:

(Embedding is disabled, so click here.)

Discovery Channel Song:

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

The xx – Say Something Loving (Official Music Video):

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

She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness — more of why I love sf/f

Anthony Head, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Brandon Nicholas, Allison Hannagan and James Marsters from a BtVS publicity shot.

Anthony Head, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Brandon Nicholas, Allison Hannagan and James Marsters from a BtVS publicity shot.

I am one of the biggest, craziest Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans you will ever meet. But I wasn’t always one. I saw the original movie when it came out, and thought it was very funny. There were some things I didn’t like about it, but it was a good laugh and a fun inversion of the typical teen horror film. Then a few years later I heard they were making a television series out of it, and I was certain it would be very bad. My late husband, Ray, watched it from the beginning when it started airing as a midseason replacement in March of 1997 and told me it was awesome. At the time, it aired on a night when I frequently had board meetings or committee meetings for the chorus, so I wasn’t home while he was watching it.

He managed to get me to watch an episode or two with him that summer, because he had a lot of the season on video tape. I don’t remember hating it, but it also didn’t really grab me. Season two started that fall. I remember one particular evening when I got home for chorus rehearsal that Ray was telling me about the show and how much he was looking forward to next week’s episode, because there had been a cliffhanger.

Two nights later, Ray had a seizure and went into a coma. Then he died, and I fell apart.

Some time after he died, I was alone in the house doing something, and I heard a noise from another room. I went to see what was going on, and one of the VCRs was rewinding furiously, then popped its tape out. In 1997 DVRs didn’t exist. We owned three video cassette recorders, though, and Ray had a complicated schedule of pre-programmed recordings, and a pile of labeled tapes. He would swap out tapes at different times in the week, so that the different machines would record the next episode of whichever series was kept on that tape.

And I hadn’t been keeping up.

This was maybe two weeks after Ray had died. I was still deep in the shell-shocked stage of grieving. So the idea that I hadn’t kept Ray’s rotation going seized me as a terrible thing. I was letting him down! I had let the wrong shows get recorded on the wrong tapes! Who knows what else I had messed up? Never mind that Ray was beyond caring about these things. I wasn’t rational. When someone you love dies, even the most stoic and logical person has some moments of irrationality over take them.

So I tried to sort out what was going on with the tapes. And that’s how I ended up watching all of the season two episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, along with about half of the season one episodes out of order (because his labelling system wasn’t always discernible to anyone but him) in a very short time.

There’s a lot of things that happened to me in those first few months after Ray died that I don’t remember clearly. But one of the few crystal clear moments was one point when I was staring at the TV and I said aloud, “Dang it, Ray! You were right. This show is incredible!”

I was addicted.

Don’t get me wrong, the show has problems. I can rant for hours and hours about how monumentally awful were most of the decisions the writers made in season six, for instance. And the many ways that season seven doubled down on some of the failure. Even before the universally despised season six, there was the incredible frustration of how the first half of season four showed such brilliance and promise of taking things to a new level, then collapsed into a world of disappointment and lost opportunity. And oy! Trying to make sense of both the explicit and implicit contradictions about the nature of magic, demons, the biology of vampires…!

Dru and Spike!

Dru and Spike!

But there were so many things the show got right. One of the things they got most right is casting James Marsters and Juliet Landau as Spike and Drusilla, the Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen of the undead set (and if you don’t know who they are, your life is sadly lacking in Sex Pistols, is all I’m saying). There was a point, after I had acquired the complete DVD set of season two of the series, where literally at least once a week I re-watched the episode that introduced Spike and Dru, “School Hard.” They were evil and cold and vicious and Dru is crazier than a coked out mutt in a hubcap factory. But they were also madly deeply in love. Spike rather proudly proclaimed himself love’s bitch in a later season, “at least I’m man enough to admit it!”

What made the show work was the relationships between the characters. Joss Whedon and his crew created a world in which a small, pretty girl regularly kicked the butts of evil creatures. A world where the real problems that teens try to deal with often made the monsters seem trivial by comparison. Some of the creatures of darkness were metaphors for the problems humans face coming of age, yep. And sometimes the parallel between the mundane story lines and the supernatural ones were a little on the nose.

But then there were the moments of brilliance, such as when everything had been taken from her: her first love turned evil, her best friend lying dying in a hospital, she’s been kicked out of her home, everything she cared about either broken, dying, or lost; the villain has fought her back into a corner and is berating her about all she has lost and all who have abandoned her. “What have you got?” he asks with a sneer, as he thrusts what we think is a killing blow with an enchanted sword. She catches the blade between her hands, looks him in the eye with the most amazing fuck-you glare of determination and says, “I’ve got me.” Then proceeds to kick his butt and save the world.

Those sorts of moments, where a simple refusal to give up in the face of impossible odds, and the many times that various characters in the story sacrificed for their loved ones and found a way out of a hopeless situation—they were what made the ups and downs of the show worth it. And I want to be clear: one of the things they did right more than once was not that the characters found that one last glimmer of hope in the midst of despair and defeat; rather, the characters made their own hope. Yes, Buffy was about empowerment. Buffy was about the damsel being able to rescue herself. Buffy was about turning notions of victims and saviors on their heads. Buffy was about seeing that the questions of good vs evil aren’t always black and white; that part of being a hero (and a big part of growing up) is about learning to make your way through all those shades of grey without losing yourself.

But mostly, Buffy was about love, chosen families, and not giving up.

Confessions of a public restroom avoider

“If you don't like trans people using the bathroom, just look away like you do with corruption, war, poverty, environmental destruction, and homelessness.”

“If you don’t like trans people using the bathroom, just look away like you do with corruption, war, poverty, environmental destruction, and homelessness.”

Midway through my second grade year my family moved from Colorado to Nebraska. My dad’s job in the petroleum industry meant that we moved a lot (ten elementary schools in four states). I had a number of unpleasant experiences the first week at the new school. I misunderstood several things. The teachers and other school officials simply didn’t tell me about several rules. And the other kids weren’t exactly welcoming to the new kid. when I say unwelcoming, that’s putting it mildly. The second or third day there, I was cornered in the bathroom by several boys only some of whom I recognized from my classroom. They wanted to know if I was the idiot who got in the wrong line at the lunch room. I don’t remember everything that was said to me, but they communicated as only grade school bullies can that I was a stupid sissy—a freak who didn’t belong with the real boys.

The school was far more regimented than either of the previous grade schools I had attended. There were rules and assigned times for everything. We were sent to the restroom at three specific times each day, for instance. And my new bullies singled me out for taunting and humiliation every single restroom break.

I didn’t want to explain what was happening. Previous incidents of being bullied by other kids had always resulted in my dad yelling at and beating me for being a pushover. When I attempted to stand up for myself as he’d said, I got in trouble at school, which resulted in more yelling and beating. So I couldn’t let my parents know what was happening in the bathroom. And I knew I couldn’t let the teachers know, because eventually they would inform my parents.

So I stopped going to the bathroom.

I convinced my mom to let me walk home for lunch instead of eating at the school cafeteria. I don’t remember how I convinced my parents, but I did. I used the restroom at home in the middle of the day. At school, when we were marched off at our appointed times midmorning and midafternoon, I would loiter outside the restroom until we were collected and taken out to recess. Since I was eating at home, I skipped the midday restroom trip. I changed my drinking habits. I stopped using the drinking fountain at school, because if I didn’t drink water I wouldn’t need to pee as often. And so on.

I managed to avoid going into the restroom at that school almost entirely for the rest of the time we lived in that town. I still got bullied on the playground, in the classroom, and so forth. But because teachers were always nearby, the kind of bullying that happened was slightly less horrible that what could happen when a bunch of the mean boys had you trapped in a room that the adults seemed to never enter.

When we moved to a tiny town in Wyoming next, I wasn’t able to avoid the restrooms. The town we moved to didn’t have a school, so we rode a bus to a town almost an hour’s drive away. I can still remember how scared I was at what would happen the first time I went into that school’s bathroom. That school was less regimented, so I as usually able to get by with only one trip per day, and I could time it so I wasn’t using the restroom when a lot of the other boys were. Similarly with the town back in Colorado but near the Kansas border that we moved to for the last part of my third grade. And the next town, and the next.

Even when I was in high school, I learned to avoid certain bathrooms and certain times of the day. Because yes, even in my teen years, there were guys ready and eager to demonstrate to the class faggots just how despised we were, and the boy’s restroom was a place that they could do so with impunity.

I’m not trans. I don’t pretend to speak on behalf of the trans community. But I am very familiar with that cold fear that strikes like a fist in the gut when walking into a public restroom and someone looks at you in a less than friendly way. I’m a grown ass man in my mid-fifties, and there are still moments of anxiety any time I am in a public restroom and there are other people in there with me. There are little checklists that part of my brain runs through. Am I behaving the way I’m supposed to? Is this person going to interpret something I do in the wrong way?

Heck, part of me still freaks out if a straight co-worker strikes up a conversation in the restroom at the office! Making eye contact or saying anything to the wrong guys was the surest way to get bullied when I was a kid, and it doesn’t matter how many years ago that was, the conditioned reflexes are still there—the surge of stress hormones and keying up of fight or flight response happens every time.

So these bills and court fights about where or whether trans people can use restrooms at school and other public accommodations strike close to home. I get really upset that people think keep portraying the queer people as the dangerous ones in public restrooms.

Everyone needs to eat, drink, breathe, and yes, people also need to pee from time to time. We have public restrooms for that. A number of places in our country have had laws and policies that explicitly allow people to use the restroom of the gender they identify with for many years, and there has never, not once, been an incident of a trans or otherwise queer person using those policies to assault anyone in a restroom. The only incidents of people going into a restroom to harass women have been straight anti-gay people doing it to try to make headlines in order to justify these bathroom bills or to yell at a woman who doesn’t want to sign their anti-trans petition.

Seriously.

This isn’t about privacy. It isn’t about protecting women or girls. It is about making it impossible for trans people to exist in public spaces at all. It is about punishing trans and gender non-conforming people. It is about giving bigots an excuse to harass queer people or anyone who seems maybe a little queer.

There are worse things than invisibility—decoding is just another form of erasure

The Disney library (like that of most big studios) is already full of coded gay characters, as either villains, jokes, or both.

The Disney library (like that of most big studios) is already full of coded gay characters, as either villains, jokes, or both. (click to embiggen)

It’s happened twice so far this year: big media company makes an announcement about how they’re adding an explicitly gay character to an upcoming release, then reveal that it’s a character that everyone outside the company already assumed was gay and has been the butt of homophobic jokes about said media property for years. The one that’s getting all of the attention right now is Disney’s announcement that in the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast it will be revealed that Le Fou is “exclusively gay.” I think they meant explicitly, but lets ignore that weird phrasing for a moment, because it gets worse. The director clarified that Le Fou is confused about his feelings for Gaston. He’s oddly attracted to this man who abuses him and uses him to do his dirty work.

Which is exactly what homophobes have been sniggering and making fag jokes about with Le Fou since Disney released the animated version of the movie. Gaston is a parody of hetero hypermasculinity, and Le Fou is is craven, clownish sidekick willing to do anything at all to get the slightest bit of attention from Gaston. Le Fou’s lack of manliness in the animated film could be rationalized as being there to throw Gaston’s exaggerated masculinity into sharp contrast. Okay. Except that is exactly what the Hollywood sissy/coded gay sidekick has always been: he’s the example of what a “real man” isn’t. His whole point it to prove that unmanly men are jokes, at best. Not real people, but punchlines.

So they are taking the implicit hateful characterization and making it an explicitly hateful characterization. Thanks, but no thanks.

Le Fou is a typical unmanly minion.

Le Fou is a typical unmanly minion.

There will be people who insist that we shouldn’t judge it until we see it, but they’ve given me enough information that I already know they have messed this up. The fact that they decided to announce it, for one. Just as if a person begins a statement with, “I’m not a bigot, but…” we all know that pure bigotry is going to follow, if you feel the need to announce you’re enlightened and inclusive, you don’t know what those words mean. The director has described the classic negative stereotype (confused, obsessed with a straight man) is what they’re going for. Worse, they’ve referred to it more than once as a moment. Just a moment. You know why it’s a moment? Because they are already making plans to edit that moment out of the international release, because they knew as soon as word got out that countries would start threatening to ban the film. Heck, Alabama is already up in arms about it!

That means that it’s a tacked on joke. It’s not part of the plot. It’s not a meaningful part of Le Fou’s characterization.

Even if they do something with it. Let’s say that at the end of the film they have a moment that implies maybe Gaston is ready to return his feelings? What message does that send? It tells us that hating women (Gaston’s exaggerated masculinity includes a lot of misogyny in the animated feature, just sayin’) or being rejected by women is what makes men gay. And, oh, isn’t that great inclusion?

He was a pink lion without a mane wearing a string tie and cufflinks (despite not otherwise having clothes) whose dialog was littered with theatre jargon, delivered in a fey/swishy voice. He was a classic sassy gay character already!

He was a pink lion without a mane wearing a string tie and cufflinks (despite not otherwise having clothes) whose dialog was littered with theatre jargon, delivered in a fey/swishy voice. He was a classic sassy gay character already!

I mentioned that the Beauty and the Beast revelation was the second time this has happened this year. Previously it was Snagglepuss. Yes, DC Comics/Warner Brothers announced that the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, Snagglepuss, was going to be reimagined in a new comic book series as “a gay Southern Gothic playwright.” Literally my reaction on twitter a nanosecond after I saw the first person retweeting the headline was, “reimagined? But that’s what he already was!”

Snagglepuss was a version of the sassy gay friend from the beginning. He was protagonist of his cartoon series, which wasn’t typical for the sassy gay friend (who is more typically a sidekick to one of the lead characters), but Snagglepuss broke the fourth wall constantly, addressing the viewer with his arch asides and sardonic observations. He was the viewer’s sassy gay friend, in other words. And he was cheerful and optimistic and always trying (but usually failing) to improve his life in some way. Despite the many setbacks, he remained cheerful and upbeat.

So the DC Comic (besides being drawn by an artist who has apparently never seen an athropomorphic character before—seriously, go hit that link above and tell me if that isn’t the worst comic book artwork you’ve ever seen!) takes the happy, upbeat fey lion and turns him into a bitter old queen. Again, thanks but, no thanks!

Coded queer characters have been appearing in pop culture for decades. Their portrayal as comic relief or as villains (and sometimes both) sent a clear message that they were not normal people. They are never the heroes. They can be loathed as villains, or tolerated and laughed at as sidekicks, but they will be lonely and unloved in either case. Neither of these supposedly inclusive announcements changes that homophobic message. It’s not, contrary to what certain evangelical hatemongers are saying, indoctrinating kids to be accepting of gays. It’s instead reinforcing the same old bigotry: we don’t matter, we are jokes, we are never the heroes, we are never loved.

Just another means of erasing the truth of our existence. No thanks!

Game over, man!

To me, he will always be the panicky (“Game over, man! Game over!”) yet cocky (“Don’t worry. Me and my squad of ultimate badasses will protect you!”) Marine PFC William Hudson, fighting and cursing with all his might as he’s dragged to his death by an alien xenomorph. Bill Paxton Was Film’s Quintessential Game-Over Man: An Appreciation.

He was and remains the only actor ever slain on screen by a T-800 (a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger flung him into metal bars at the Griffith Park Observatory in The Terminator, 32 years before Gosling and Stone danced among the stars there in La La Land), a Xenomorph (a bug dragged him under the floor in Aliens while he raved his profane epitaph), and a Predator (Paxton emptied his sidearm into the advancing beast on an L.A. subway car in Predator 2; when that didn’t work, he tried a machete. And a golfball. Never say die! Even when dying is apparently your job.).

I didn’t intend to leave Paxton’s death completely out of yesterday’s weekly round up of links. But I’d wanted to write something a bit more personal than my usual inclusion in the links, so I had a separate draft post open with links to some of the best Paxton obits I had read, and then when I was assembling the links post, forgot to copy some from here to there!

Paxton appeared in a lot of my favorite movies. Frequently he played a slightly pathetic excuse for a human. Even more frequently, he died on screen. Seriously, directors apparently loved to kill him. And they did it a lot! In addition to the three famous deaths in the pull quote above, he was shot at least six times, stabbed, hacked to pieces with an axe, and in at least one movie both shot and stabbed. Even when he played an undead creature, an immortal vampire in the movie Near Dark, Paxton didn’t make it to the end of the film without being killed again. In the time loop movie, Edge of Tomorrow he’s only seen dying once on screen, but the script makes it clear his character died hundreds of times before the film was over.

His characters didn’t always die. And he wasn’t always the comic relief in a film. In Apollo 13 he portrayed astronaut Fred Haise, for instance, who gets to be heroic and live to the end of the picture. And in Twister he got to play a storm-chasing meteorologist still pining for his ex-wife, who risks his life for science, and lives!

Even though Paxton was often cast as a sort of smarmy loser whose lines would deliver many laughs in the film, he had a knack, using changes in body posture and facial demeanor, for making you forget about the other roles you’d see him in. There were a number of times I’d be well into watching his performance in a film before a moment would arrive where I’d go, “Oh! It’s Hudson!”

In interviews appearances on talk shows (when promoting a new film or series), he always came off as a nice guy. And he certainly had a sense of humor about his tendency to be murdered on film a lot. In his directorial debut, he cast himself as the character who is hacked to death by his own son with an axe on screen! So, clearly, he was in on the joke. Bill Paxton fought Aliens and The Terminator, but he was always just a guy from Fort Worth.

I’m going to miss seeing Bill pop up in my favorite movies and series.

The Death Of Bill Paxton Reminds Us That ‘Twister’ Changed Meteorology.

Bill Paxton, ‘Aliens’ and ‘Twister’ Actor, Dies at 61:

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It’s the day to March Forth!

“We don't know them all but we owe them all.”

“We don’t know them all but we owe them all.”

I’ve written before about an acquaintance in college who was shocked that I’d never heard the pun about this day: March Forth! It’s a date! It’s a command! It’s a date and a command!

For the last few years I’ve been observing my own March Forth tradition. I urge you all on this March Forth, to go please donate to The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

You can also go to this page on the NCHV website, click on the name of your state, and find a list of organizations helping the homeless in general and homeless veterans in particular in your community. Donate or volunteer.

March forth, and spread the word.

Friday Links (nevertheless he perjured edition)

c58ssdzuyaigm8lIt’s Friday! And we’re already into March! The year is just zooming by!

Anyway, here are the links I found interesting this week, sorted into categories.

Links of the Week

Thieves Rappelled Into a London Warehouse in Rare Book Heist: The burglars made out with more than 160 books worth an estimated $2.5 million.

Just Let This Little Girl’s Wonder Woman Invisible Jet Costume Win Every Contest.

This Week in Restoring Our Faith in Humanity

Man Who Intervened In Shooting Of Indian Engineers Delivers Powerful Message Of Hope.

4-Year-Old Boy’s ‘Colorblind’ Haircut Goes Viral.

Muslim veterans offer to guard Jewish sites across US.

This Week in the Economy

Buying Coffee Every Day Isn’t Why You’re in Debt.

Trump’s $5 Trillion Attack On America’s Values And Reputation.

This week in what the Frak?

Giant Tunnel Boring Machine Under Seattle, Bertha, Stopped Because the Machine “May Be Several Inches Off” Tunnel Alignment, State Says. The tunnel is at least three-years behind schedule…

This week in awful news

Muslim teen found hanged in woods near Seattle; family seeks answers.

Fabulous, Darling!

89th Academy Awards: ‘Moonlight’ is first LGBTQ film to win Best Picture.

“Moonlight” is 2016’s best movie, but its impact on black storytelling is much more important.

What Moonlight’s Win Says About the Oscars’ Future: The stunning film’s unexpected triumph is part of a larger trend toward more small and intimate projects for the Academy.

News for queers and our allies:

The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness. A long read, but very enlightening information about the stress of the closet and how that still causes harm lang after a person comes out.

“Moonlight” is the first LGBT movie to win best picture. Here’s why it matters – The Oscars have long recognized movies where LGBT people were props or tropes. “Moonlight” makes us human.

This week in cool information

America divided into states with the population of England.

Science!

New study gives weight to Darwin’s theory of ‘living fossils’.

Siberia’s ‘doorway to the Underworld’ Is Getting So Big It’s Uncovering Ancient Forests.

China’s crazy smog-sucking vacuum tower might actually be working.

Cool NASA video shows dust devils whirling on Mars.

Giant Prehistoric Penguins Evolved During the Dinosaur Age.

New Imaging Method Helps Scientists Look Beyond Dinosaur Bones.

Scientists discover gigantic 400 million year old extinct worm in Canadian museum.

Chance Discovery Of New Fossil From Half Billion Years Ago Sheds Light On Life On Earth.

What’s in your chicken sandwich? DNA test shows Subway sandwiches could contain just 50% chicken.

It turns out methane CAN simply walk into Mordor.

Wolf Spiders Have Threesomes to Avoid Getting Eaten.

Why exactly are these turkeys circling a dead cat?

World’s oldest microfossils found, researchers claim.

Bad Astronomy: These strawberries aren’t red. Seriously. They aren’t..

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

Eric von Dimpleheimer has assembled another masterpiece which you can download free. He explains: . “I began putting together an ebook of the various 2016 recommendation lists and sorting them by magazine (with some links to free stories), but as I kept coming across more recommendations, I abandoned the Sisyphean project. It is still useful (to me at least) and I thought others might be interested in it. I included two of Rocket Stack Rank’s annotated lists and Greg from Rocket Stack Rank is OK with me including them as long as the ebooks are free, which they are.”

Mind Meld: Fresh Perspectives on Common Tropes.

Shaun Duke: The 2017 Hugo Awards Reading / Viewing List.

Defying analysis: Sherlock S3-4..

Remembering Dad… by Adam Nimoy.

Magic Meat March: Hot fantasy dudes! Half naked wizards! Simpering elves! Men in skimpy armor!

‘Elvira: Mistress of the Dark’ Coming to Blu-ray in April.

Flash Fic Challenge – Construction Zone.

Hugo Award Nominee Recommendations

2017 Hugo Nomination Recommendations

2016 Locus Recommended Reading List

Rocket Stack Rank’s 2017 Hugo Awards

2017 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Award Longlist, Part 1: Fiction Categories

Jason Sanford: Info and links for Hugo Award nominations (including my Campbell Award shortlist)

This week in Writing

What Works For Me: Scrivener Color Coding Pt. 1. This looks really useful. I’m currently using the color coding a bit differently, but could easily see this working.

Scrivener vs Word for Writers.

This Week in Tech

Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media and democracy. “Bots made up a third of all traffic on Twitter before Brexit–and they were all for Leave. Later, they were five-to-one in favor of Trump.”

FCC chief doesn’t plan to review AT&T–Time Warner merger.

Twitter users can finally filter out ‘egg’ accounts from their notifications.

Why Twitter users who swear at politicians might get put in a timeout.

U.S. appeals court tosses patent verdict against Apple.

This Week in Covering the News

Trump lied to anchors about immigration to get ‘positive press coverage’ in run-up to speech.

Tom Hanks buys new coffee maker for White House reporters.

This week in Health

Record STD rates drive syphilis in newborns.

A year old, but valuable supplemental information for that last story: The Return of Syphilis – Why are rates of the once-rare disease now climbing again?

This Week in Inclusion

Published in 2016: Books by/about Native peoples.

Culture war news:

This needs to be repeated: It Wasn’t Abortion That Formed the Religious Right. It Was Support for Segregation.

Transgender boy Mack Beggs wins girls wrestling title as Texas struggles with transphobic laws.

c5wzprfvuaapz_vSupreme Court Instructs Liberty Counsel to Refer to Transgender Teen Gavin Grimm as Male.

Tennessee has declared war on same-sex families: Inside the legislation that would eradicate nearly all rights for LGBT couples.

This Christian Pastor is Furious That Someone Donated to Planned Parenthood in His Name.

The myth of the transgender boogeyman is as ridiculous as it is heartbreaking.

Former Evangelical Christian Explains How the Tea Party Pushed Him Further Away from the Faith.

Why A Seattle-Area Mosque Barred Anti-Trans Activists.

Anti-Trans Initiative Sponsor Fundraising Numbers Don’t Add Up.

This Week in the Resistance:

Oregon Governor Forbids ALL State Employees, Including Cops From Aiding ICE Agents.

Governor Jay Inslee Issues Executive Order Blocking State from Participating in Federal Immigration Raids, Religious Registry.

This Week Regarding the Lying Liar:

Issa: Trump-Russia probe requires a special prosecutor.

Why Donald Trump’s tweet about national debt decrease in his first month is highly misleading.

Yemen SEAL raid yielded no significant intel: report.

Donald Trump’s Call For Millions To Rally Fizzles.

Trump ignored new national security chief’s request not to rant about ‘radical Islamic terrorism’: report.

President Trump suggests anti-Semitic threats across U.S. are coming from within Jewish community.

News about the Fascist Regime:

Muhammad Ali Jr. questioned by immigration officials at Florida airport.

Passengers on a domestic flight deplaning in New York were asked to present ID by Customs and Border Protection agents—a likely unenforceable demand that nevertheless diminishes freedom.

George W. Bush speaks out on Trump’s war with the media, travel ban.

New Commerce Secretary at nexus of lucrative Trump Russian deal.

Jeff Sessions’ shifting, deceptive explanations for his secret meetings with Russia.

Sergey Kislyak, the least memorable man in the world.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself From Investigations Into Russian Election Interference.

Why Jeff Sessions Must Resign as Attorney General – Whether or not he perjured himself on the Russia matter, Sessions must go.

This week in Politics:

Arizona leader kills protest bill after widespread criticism.

In response to New York Times ad, NRA accuses the media of arson.

Most states with largest insurance gains under Obamacare voted for Trump.

Donald Trump claims to have grown the Republican Party by millions. He didn’t.

Republican State Senator’s “business degree” turns out to be from Sizzler Steakhouse.

Pence used personal email for state business — and was hacked. Not even a private server – it’s an AOL account!

This Week in Racists, White Nationalists, and the deplorables

‘Things have changed’: White supremacists cite Trump in bomb threat targeting Muslim students.

This Week in Hate Crimes

Couple will spend years in prison for terrorizing family with Confederate flags, shotgun.

Bomb Threats Made Against Jewish Community Centers In 11 States.

Editorial: Trump’s silence on deadly Olathe shooting is disquieting.

No Jail Time For 19-Year-Old In Idaho Coat-Hanger Assault Case.

Four Mosques Have Burned In Seven Weeks — Leaving Many Muslims and Advocates Stunned.

Farewells

ETA: Bill Paxton fought Aliens and The Terminator, but he was always just a guy from Fort Worth.

ETA: Bill Paxton, ‘Aliens’ and ‘Twister’ Actor, Dies at 61

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 2/25/2017: We have to have standards! (aka, Martinis for Science!).

Why Livejournal isn’t the best way to follow me.

Voting is our best weapon, but they’re trying to take that away, too.

What’s better than Bikini Armor Battle Damage? Magic Meat March!

Goal-darn age….

Destiny, prophecy, self-discovery, and love — more of why I love sf/f.

Videos!

Otter Enjoys Lettuce!:

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Explosm Presents: Channelate – The Talk:

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NEW Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Trailer – WORLD PREMIERE:

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

The Big Deal – #EqualLove:

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

Destiny, prophecy, self-discovery, and love — more of why I love sf/f

Cover of Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell, cover design by Olga Grlic (click to embiggen)

Cover of Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell, cover design by Olga Grlic (click to embiggen)

Carry On — The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery.” So begins the official blurb on this novel that I found myself enjoying far more than I thought I would. First, an explanation. Rainbow Rowell, the author of Carry On first came to my attention through a recommendation on a podcast. Her work was described by one of the people on the podcast as being young adult novels that didn’t feel like YA. They also noted that she handled non-heterosexual characters really well. So I looked up some of her books and put them on my wish lists, but I hadn’t gotten around to actually trying one.

And then fan art for a book that seemed to be about teen wizards (but not characters I recognized) started appearing on my tumblr dashboard for a series that I’d never heard of: the Simon Snow series. Except there is no Simon Snow series. One of the novels by Ms. Rowell that I’d put on my list was entitled, Fangirl, and the blurb was that the main character, Cath, is just starting college, and that for the last few years her life has been dominated by her love for a series of urban fantasy novels. And these novels star a young man named Simon Snow.

In order to write convincingly about a fan who is very active in writing fanfic and has a number of close friends within the fandom, Rowell had to plot out a fictitious fantasy series. At least enough for the characters to talk about it as if it were a real series. Fangirl was a success, and received a lot of praise, particularly in sf/f circles, despite not being a fantasy story itself, because the portrayal of fannish culture was considered spot on.

After finishing that book, Rowell wound up writing a Simon Snow book. She didn’t write the entire series, she wrote a book that can be looked on as the next book that was published after all the books that Cath and her friends had been fans of in 2013 (when Fangirl was published). So, Carry On is not a sequel to Fangirl. Carry On is a sequel to the fictitious series which is talked about in Fangirl.

The magical world of Carry On bears a strong resemblance to the Harry Potter series, though it isn’t a parody or a satire. It also bears certain parallels to other young adult fantasy series. The plot seems straightforward, at first. Simon Snow attends a wizarding school called Watford. He was not born in the wizarding world, but he has immense power and various prophetic signs indicate that he is the person who is destined to defeat the Insidious Humdrum. The Insidious Humdrum is a mysterious being which, when it attacks, drains all of the magic out of the area, leaving what appear to be permanent dead zones where wizards and other magical creatures become powerless. Simon doesn’t know how he is going to defeat this creature, and has so far failed to master his magical powers. His powers are massive, but out of his control, and things tend to get destroyed when he tries to use them. His roommate at the school, Baz (full name, Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch) is Simon’s nemesis at school, and is assumed by everyone to be the person destined to try to kill Simon when the big battle with the Humdrum finally happens.

But the story isn’t really about the conflict between Simon and the Humdrum. It’s really about the nature of prophecy, what does it mean to be a chosen one, and how people (whether mortal politicians or master mages) twist belief and hope to fit their own agendas. It’s about identity, not just what it means to be a hero or villain (or the fact that it is seldom either/or), but there are allegories for ethnic identity issues and class identity issues. Oh, and more than a bit about sexual and romantic identity (which aren’t always the same thing).

There is a ghost story. There are several mysteries. And there is even a love story. There are battles magical, political, and personal. And it all hangs together very well. I have to admit, I think the wizarding world portrayed in Carry On makes a lot more sense than the world of Harry Potter, or a number of other fantasies of similar ilk, even though the magic part of the story isn’t the main focus of the plot.

I’m not sure that those two observations are unrelated.

I enjoyed the book a lot. I didn’t find most of the plot developments surprises. As one reviewer put it, the revelations as the story moves along feel more like confirmations of your existing suspicions than plot twists. But again, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that’s part of why the story hangs together better than some other books we could name.

I enjoyed the book a lot. It didn’t end quite as I hoped it would, but it ended in a way that felt right and satisfying regardless. It did make me wish that some of the series and fantasy books had handled their characters as well as Rowell does. I hope that the next person who undertakes this sort of tale takes note.

Goal-darn age…

Keep Calm & Achieve Your Goals.

Keep Calm & Achieve Your Goals.

When I set my goals for this year, I pledged to do monthly updates, since the years I’ve done that has resulted in better results than years I haven’t. So, how did I do in February?

My specific tasks for February were:

  • Get through the rest of the bookcases in the computer room. We made progress on the computer room, the bedroom, and the kitchen. We haven’t been sticking to a get-this-whole-bit-finished then move on schedule.
  • Figure out Writers’ Night schedule for at least the following couple of months. Done! Sorted through July.
  • Write at least four blog posts about things I like. I wrote six or seven such posts, depending on how you count.
  • Expand the list of places to find calls for submissions and write one new story. Not done.
  • Finish the current stage of the copy edit pass. Maybe half done.
  • Disconnect from the internet at least one night a week so I can concentrate on writing and editing. I hit the goal, in that every week there was at least one night when I didn’t pay attention to what was going on on the net. A couple of times I was feeling so tired and run down that I came home, ate dinner, and just crashed. So while I achieved the disconnect goal, I didn’t get the writing and editing half of it done each time.

My overall goals for the year, where I’m trying to follow the idea of replacing bad habits with better ones:

Don’t get mad, get busy. My tasks are: write about about things I love; listen to music and audiobooks more and podcasts less; spend at least half of my lunch break writing; set specific monthly writing/editing goals in each check-in; write at least one blog post a month about organizations we can donate to that are fighting the good fight.

Again, I did pretty well on this, with some weirdness because of work and illness eating away at our energy and time.

Reduce, pack, and prioritize. We now officially know that we have to find a new place to live this year. We have lots of stuff to go through and decide what to discard and what to pack.

Making more progress. I didn’t haul as much away the last weekend of the month as the previous three, though.

Take care of us. My initial tasks are related to some specific medical things that aren’t urgent, but need to be dealt with. I am going to remain vague on the details of this one.

We both saw various medical professionals this month as hoped. My hubby’s tests came out good and he has the big procedure scheduled for next month.

Submit and publish. Initial task was to organize how I’m going to find calls for submission and set reasonable targets for the novel revision/finalization.

This was the goal that suffered most from the time squeeze. Not much progress on it at all.


Finally, my specific tasks for March are:

  • At this point it’s time to just pack everything, so pack!
  • Get the new living situation sorted.
  • Make reasonable progress on writing/editing knowing that the above is going to eat up most of our available time.
  • Disconnect from the internet at least one night each week.
  • Write at least two blog posts about things I like.
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