But you don’t have to take my word for it Rob Salkowitz breaks it down nicely: GEEKGIRLCON DEALS WITH THE PAINS OF PROFESSIONALIZATION.
“As anyone who has ever worked for or with a nonprofit can tell you, the transition from volunteer to professional organization is not always smooth. People who contributed to the growth of the organization may feel resentment toward an outsider brought in above them, whose job is to make tough decisions and impose management discipline on previously informal systems. As fair-minded and inclusive as you might want to be in that role, eventually you will piss some people off just because you are the boss and they aren’t.
“It’s not unusual for longtime staffers to quit in these circumstances, sometimes in a huff. Sometimes, to really make a statement, they’ll resign in a group. If there’s something actionable, they can call a lawyer. And if they really want to leave a mark, they’ll take their dispute public via social media.
“But taking over the organization’s official email to blast out their manifesto after they’ve already quit? Nope. NOPE. In no conceivable universe is that ok.”
We now know that all of those who quit were white guys who posted their grievances anonymously (vague claims of being discriminated against by the new executive director who happens to be a woman of color) because they didn’t think they would be taken seriously. And that might have been true no matter what, but the way they did it really shows all we need to know. I’ve been either on staff or closely involved with enough people on staff for a lot of cons to recognize both the dynamic Salkowitz explains above and the circumstances that likely led to the mass resignation. By the way, it was only five guys, out of a staff of a bit over 50, so while it seems like a lot, it certainly isn’t most of the staff, as their post clearly tried to imply.
I could go into more detail about why hijacking the con membership’s list was wrong, how it is triangulation and so forth. But the real reason is this: when I have been in situations where I felt I was the aggrieved party and have been tempted to do such things, I knew that the suggestion was coming from the little devil on one shoulder, and not the little angel on the other. (Although in my imagination it’s the evil fairy tale queen on one shoulder, and a happy glitter-covered fairy on the other).
We come up with rationales for vindictive, angry, destructive behavior all the time. It’s not fair, we say. Or they started it! Or it’s just the internet! Or I was joking! Or you took it wrong! Et cetera and ad nauseum.
Maybe you are right. Maybe you have suffered a great injustice. But here’s the thing: if you win by fighting dirty, that isn’t justice. The ends don’t justify the means. There is a big difference between righteous indignation and vengeful lashing out. Just as there is a difference between cruelty and kindness. How we take a victory or defeat matters just as much as the actual outcome.
Situations are messy and there’s always more than two sides to every story. But every side isn’t equally true, or equally valid, or equally relevant. And sometimes you can tell which side has the fewest facts in their favor by their tactics. And I, at least, can spot a sore loser from miles away. Even when they’re hiding behind anonymity, misleading verbiage, and the furtive fallacy.
There are not two of you. There isn’t literally a devil/evil queen on one shoulder and an angel/good fairy on the other. There’s just you. A noble and just person doesn’t have to resort to dirty tactics. If you’re fighting dirty, even if for a just cause, then you’re not the hero.
Which anyone who knows anything about security knows is the most insecure way to treat passwords.
My boss called everyone in our department together and said, “Do not write down your passwords! If we get audited, I will tell them that of course we comply with the policy and of course each of you showed me where your passwords are hidden, but darn, I seem to have forgotten.” Which is what every other manager in our division told their direct reports (And I suspect a whole lot of managers in all of the divisions).
I understand how a policy like that comes into being. Someone who was the only person with admin privileges on some important system in one of the other division was out sick or on vacation or maybe even had died and there was a great deal of trouble that wound up costing a lot of money (either just from all the time spent by a lot of people trying to fix the problem and/or other people not being able to do certain tasks for a while). The solution to that is not to make every single bit of proprietary information available to anyone who can sneak into an office and snoop for a while. The solution is to make sure every system always has multiple people with admin rights. As long as you have someone with admin rights who can reset other account passwords or give other people rights to access files or whatever that are only accessible ordinarily to the one employee who is unavailable, you can solve any of the other problems.
Trying to avoid repeating a mistake is a natural (and not unreasonable) reaction when something goes wrong. Unfortunately, in some circumstances involving certain sorts of people a very simple “solution” that is worse than the original problem is adopted.
I’ve been worrying about this a little bit because as part of the move we’ve been trying to make some changes in our behavior to avoid problems we kept having at the old place. Some are fairly east: don’t let dishes pile up in the sink; it’s all right to run the dishwasher when it isn’t completely full. Others are a little more difficult to stick to: take out the trash or recycle as soon as we notice it’s full.
Those are examples of things we kept meaning to change before. There were issues with the outside garbage and recycle bins at the old place that provided an excuse to put off dealing with the trash at certain parts of the week, but the real issue was procrastination and habit. Habits are reinforced by all sorts of things, for example, getting used to seeing dishes piled in that sink. So maybe the change in visual cues will help us develop a new habit.
Some of the new ways of doing things are because of issues we didn’t realize were happening until we packed up. We discovered all sorts of unexpected things lurking in the back of closets, or the back parts of shelves we couldn’t see easily, or behind furniture that was seldom moved.
But I also recognize that slavishly adhering to rules without regard to unintended consequences can create worse problems. So I’ve been trying to think of this as merely establishing new norms: not strict rules, just expectations.
And maybe that’s the secret: don’t be inflexible!
But the crowd on the E is very different than the D. There are always interesting people on the bus, of course, but since most of the E route goes down Aurora Ave (aka Highway 99, aka the old Pacific Coast Highway), well, there are a lot more marginal people on the bus.
And everyday on at least one trip I wind up sitting near & seeing a couple (a guy and a gal who are obviously together) who dress, act, and talk like a particular movie cliche. Note: it’s seldom the same couple! I have seen one couple twice (and the female half of the couple two other times, once hanging out with a different couple who matched the trope).
What trope am I talking about? The couple who are dating/romanatically involved in some way and are also a pair of less-than-bright petty criminals who have gotten into something way over their heads which will cause no measure of awful problems for the actual protagonist in the movie. That couple.
And seriously, if I transcribed their dialogue–often a monologue because usually one of them is very talkative and the other either nods and says “uh huh” if the talkative one is the male, or sits there stone-faced and occasionly grunts or mutters something if the talkative one is the female–it would sound like comedic dialog written for a ludicrously incompetent criminal. Monday night there were three sets, though not at the same time. And one of the freaky parts was how similar the guys were.
In the first couple, the guy was wearing a Seahawks baseball cap and carrying a filterless cigarette. While the gal babbled, he kept adjusting is hat and fiddling with the cigarette. He would pack the tobacco in the cigarette a little denser crimping one end a bit more, then tamp that end on his knee or his cellphone, then crimp the other end tighter and flipping it to do some more. Meanwhile he would randomly lift his cap and reposition it on his head, sometimes seemingly exactly as before, and sometimes he would flip it so the bill was in back, then several fidgets later he’d put the bill in front again. Every now and then he’d stick the unlit cigarette in his mouth as he did something with his phone.
In the second couple, the guy was wearing a UW Huskies baseball cap and fidgeting with a filtered short cigarette (I kept hoping he’d pull out the pack and confirm my suspicion that it was a Marlboro Red, which would have nailed the stereotype further…). He would put the cigarette in one side of his mouth, then adjust his cap. Half a minute later, he’d take the cigarette out of his mouth and flip it around in his fingers a few times. Then he’d stick it in the other side of his mouth and pull off the cap, smooth his hair, then put the cap back on. And so on. He flipped his hat front to back once, then later flipped it back.
The third couple had the additional trope that both of them were burdened with backpacks and such that were, technically, each bigger than them. The guy was wearing a Mariner’s baseball cap, bill forwards, with a filterless cigarette behind one ear. As they were getting situated in their seats, he flipped the hat front to back, and moved the cigarette to the other ear. As they talked, he kept adjusting the hat–each time pulling the cigarette from behind his ear and moving it to the other side. There probably would have been some more flips, but as we approached a bus stop with several people waiting, she suddenly jumped up, very agitated, and ran to the back door. I thought that she had seen someone waiting at the stop that she didn’t want to ride the bus with, but as the bus stopped, the guy (who had gathered up his backpack, her duffle, and this rolling suitcase with two more backpacks attached and ran over behind her) started shouting for the driver to open the back door. As soon as the doors opened, she leapt out, landing in a little strip of landscaping beside the pharmacy there, and proceeded to puke her guts out. He followed with their stuff, and seemed to be offering some comfort as the bus pulled away.
Those were just one bus ride. As I said, I’ve seen couples like them at least once a day, four days a week, for seven weeks, now. The ages of the couples have varied quite a lot, as had the apparent ethnicity of each member of each couple. But there have been a lot of similarities in mannerisms, the sort of things one or the other talks about way more loudly than someone ought about cheating drug dealers and such in a public place, and so on.
The late, great author Terrie Pratchett observed on more than one occasion that there are really only a small number of people in the world, you just keep meeting some of them again and again and again in different bodies. This phenomenon (which is at least partially the result of social and economic circumstances that cross cultures and time periods) is one reason stock characters exist in fiction. But there is a difference between a stock character such as the morally impair braggart or the gullible minion and a racist/sexist/homophobic stereotype.
For storytelling purpose, you sometimes need a stock character to move the plot along or add a bit of verisimilitude to a scene. You don’t want or need to put a lot of effort into these characters’ backgrounds, but you do want to make sure you aren’t just pulling a bigoted stereotype out of the drawer when you do it. This may be helped with a sensitivity reader, beta readers in general, or an editor. But the burden shouldn’t fall solely on them.
Any character you put in a scene, no matter how minor, ask yourself a few questions.
- Is there a reason you made the character one apparent gender rather than another? Does anything change if you change the gender?
- If you mention race is there a reason you made them that ethnicity? If you didn’t mention it, but realize you are imagining them a specific ethnicity, why? And does it change anything if you change it?
- If you mention any physical characteristic or their clothing, is there a reason?
- If you mention apparent sexual orientation, again, why? If not, how are you imagining them? Why?
Having all of the characters apparently white, heterosexual, and cisgender serves an agenda, whether you mean it to or not, because the real world (yes, in every era of history and every part of the world) has characters of different races/ethnic groups, different economic classes, different sexual orientations, and different genders. If you aren’t including them in the world, you’re promoting an agenda. Is that what you want?
And if the only time certain marginalized groups are mentioned, they fall into lazy stereotypes (petty criminals are people of color, nurses are always women, doctors are always white men, et cetera), you’re also promoting that agenda. Is that what you want?
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.
Bill Paxton, ‘Aliens’ and ‘Twister’ Actor, Dies at 61:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.
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.
If you haven’t seen this story, or the viral images of the wrong number text message that led to a Thanksgiving meeting of former strangers: a woman send Thanksgiving dinner details to the wrong number. The guy who gets it replies, “Who is this.” The woman says, “Your Grandma.” The guy sends a selfie, “I don’t think you’re my Grandma.” She sends back a selfie and apologizes for the wrong number. He jokes, “Can I still have a plate?” and she says, “Of course! That’s what grandma’s do, feed everyone!”
And they kept texting and she said she was serious he should come to Thanksgiving dinner, and he didn’t have local family, and then, well, this happened:
In other news, after the phenomenal crowdsourcing campaign, the Green Party in Wisconsin has filed for a re-count and a paper ballot reconciliation:
I admit, I was one of the people saying I didn’t trust the Green Party’s effort. After asking the world to donate 2.5 million so they could demand recounts in three states, they changed the small print on the fundraising page several times, and changed the goal they were asking for several times. The fine print was the sorts of disclaimers you would expect, in one sense: they couldn’t guarantee the recounts would happen; if excess money was raised the part would keep the money to promote “voter integrity options” that sort of thing. But the wording kept adding more loopholes.
But the thing was, the first filing deadline (Wisconsin) was Friday. They had exceeded the original ask significantly, and the clock was literally ticking down, and they had not filed a petition for a recount. It was at a point where the Wisconsin Elections Commission was making snarky comments on it’s website and twitter account, because the Greens kept blasting out more money beg messages but hadn’t filed: Wisconsin Elections Commission Basically Calling Jill Stein Out for Not Filing Recount Petition Yet.
So I don’t think I was being unreasonable (or mean) when I retweeted another editorial that made the observation that the Green Party money beg was starting to seem as if it might be a scam. The word “seem” was in the title, so even if you didn’t click through and read the piece, (which was nuanced and balanced) it should have been obvious that I was only claiming suspicion.
As I exchanged words with some others on twitter afterward, I repeatedly said that if the Green Party actually filed all three petitions before the deadlines in each state, that I would agree that they weren’t merely fundraising for themselves off the issue.
The party did file a petition in Wisconsin before the deadline (as the above headlines show), so that’s one down. I understand that the rules in each state about the petitions vary. And that sometimes an incorrectly worded form can cause a filing to be rejected. I don’t know if any of the remaining states have a process by which the initial filing can be amended or corrected after it is filed.
And heck, even the states don’t always know. The Wisconsin Elections Commission said they had their own lawyers double-checking the procedure while they were awaiting the petition. Turns out there’s a contradiction in the state law: one part says that the petitioner has to deposit money to pay for the recount when they file, another part says that the Commission has to give the petitioner an estimate of the cost of the recount after receiving the petition and the petitioner has to pony up the money within a very short timeline after getting the estimate. So, I understand that trying to make certain all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed means they can’t just slap down a petition right away.
Completely unrelated to all of this: while there are reasons to be skeptical about the vote count in some places, I’m not holding out a lot of hope that any of these recounts will change any results. Part of that is based on past experience. And the lack of clear evidence of wrong doing is the reason that organizations such as the Clinton campaign is loathe to expend the millions of dollars required for a recount. I’ve blogged more than once about the Republican gubernatorial candidate in my state several years ago who paid over a million dollars for a recount and audit, and succeeded only in discovering that there had been a total of four fraudulent ballots filed in the race–and all four had voted for him, not his opponent. So he and the party spent a lot of money to actually reduce their own vote count, and thus lose slightly worse…But I have to agree with Dan Pfeiffer, if the Green Party had done what so-called third-parties used to do: endorse the major party candidate who supported most of their agenda (earlier in the campaign the eventual Green nominee had claimed she would endorse Bernie Sanders if Bernie got the nomination, and since Hillary’s voting record when they were both in the Senate matched Bernie 90+ percent of the time you’d think that would be close enough). I get it, when I was younger I used to think that what we needed was more active third parties. That was before I understood a couple of very important things: while the Constitution says nothing explicitly about parties, the way the electoral college is set up to elect presidents means that we have a Constitutionally-mandated two party system; and for most of history both major parties are coalitions of unofficial smaller parties already.
Anyway, I don’t think that recounts and audits are ever a bad idea. So even if these efforts don’t change anything, I’m glad that we’re going forward with at least one, and hope at least two more.