Hong Kong Action Blues

King of Snake: The Personal Journal of Woodrow Jarvis Hill

The Fire in Which We Burn.
As I head to bed, I have Baltimore on my mind.
I have family in the area, people I know. I don't care for violence, for the reaction of inflicting harm and pain. Nor for what I fear the police have become -- bullies. There's a reason it's called a cycle of violence.
I don't have any answers, just hopes, prayers of a sort, and fears. But I am mindful, in the rush to condemn riots, of what one man has said about these kinds of outbreaks of violence. And today, I mingle them with the words of someone of some importance to the city in question, Orioles COO John Angelos:

[...]my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

But these words below? These are words I've posted before in other places, and ones I keep in mind, this person's opinions have been bowdlerized and diminished to cliche, time and again:

First, is the guilt for riots exclusively that of Negroes? [...] for a perceptive and vivid expression of culpability I would like to submit two sentences that many of you have probably heard me quote before from the pen of Victor Hugo. "If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin but he who causes the darkness." The policy-makers of the white society have caused the darkness. It was they who created the frustrating slums. They perpetuate unemployment and poverty and oppression. Perhaps it is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes, but these are essentially derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society.

When asking Negroes to abide by the law let us also declare that the white man does not abide by the law. Day in and day out he violates welfare laws to deprive the poor of their meager allotments. He flagrantly violates building codes and housing regulations. His police forces are the ultimate mockery of law. He violates laws on equal employment and education. The slums are the handiwork of a vicious system of the white society. Negroes live in them, but they do not make them any more than a prisoner makes a prison.

----From A New Sense of Direction (1968) by Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tonight, though? I just am thoughtful, and hopeful for Baltimore.

ALL of Baltimore.

[META]: Where I'm At.
For those curious, I've finally put together a list of (most of the) online services I use -- this one I plan to keep edited. If you know me, feel free to add me on any or all of these (where appropriate):Now Trimmed so you can see the rest of my Journal...Collapse )

I won't be at Arisia 2015.
What it says on the tin; I won't be coming to Arisia, this year.

There's naught wrong with Arisia. I hope to come, along with my Partner, for 2016.

Rather, it's a combination of some activities I'm managing, a few personal things I'm working through...including being out of the loop on many of the key discussions I started coming to Arisia to discuss.

So, everyone have fun, and I'll see you around!

I came out of my workout class today, exhausted and wore out -- but with a laugh in my throat. I think my good humor -- in the face of my awkwardness, and obvious lack of mobility -- kind of charms them.

That, and being the only guy in class, so far as I've seen or heard of. I'm used to that, as you'd expect.

I'm also the only Person of Color I've seen in class. Of course, no one will ever say otherwise; that's rude in Modern America. But I'm used to that, as well.

Well...I lie. I'm mindful. Very mindful. It's the culture I grew up in, after all, to mind my place as a Black Man amongst White Women.

So when I'm walking out, and keep the door open for the older lady behind me, I'm half talking to her, half looking at my phone, to see if a couple of "I've available after 7" messages got responses. And in doing so, I forgot I parked not right in front, as I've been doing, but around the block. Turn around, re-direct myself...

Same direction that lady I opened the door for, is already walking in. In the dusk. I have to follow That White Lady to get to my car.

You learn to walk slow, then. To keep a pace that makes it clear you're not a threat. Stare at my phone, skim Google+, but don't laugh at the funny bit, because it draws attention to you.

It's almost, but not quite, done subconsciously. It's the thing I never can bring myself to ask my Parents, esp. my Dad -- "how did you survive Even Worse? How did you deal with the barred doors, the outright humiliation and hostility?"

And you kind of wonder -- how much is it because you're a Guy, and how much because you're a Black Guy?

Either way, she shouldn't have to live in fear.

And I shouldn't have to suck it up, suck it in. I shouldn't have to live in a world where my gender is an auto-threat, my heritage a Bonus Coupon of fear. If Something Happens -- well, I've told that joke, hell it was the first joke Marcus and I told at our first SCA meeting. We knew it'd defuse people, and they'd not see is as Those Kinds of Black Guys.

I can never, ever take back the self-hate. The things I've done, and said -- they can, and will, haunt me.

Nor will I apologize for my culture, or my gender. There is nothing wrong with what I was born with, for me.

But I see the flaws within, and the societal privilege and biases without. The things that treat my life as a tug of war, and so many other lives as far more worthless. And I remain resolute that this must change.

If I help make a world where ethnicity, gender, and sexuality matter in all the right ways, then I've helped make a world where everyone can walk strong and tall, and never have to hide who they are. Where I can just walk to my damned car -- and so can everyone else.

That's a world worth fighting damned hard for.

The Anatomy of Sacrifice.
[Crossposted from Facebook.]

Veterans/Memorial Days are hard, for me, so forgive if I don't simply drop a "thank you for your service". There's more to it, for me, than that.

I grew up with people who went to wars, and saw not only the enemy, but their fellow serviceman, treating them like crap. That colors (so to speak) how you see the service, how you think about wars and rumors of wars.

Combined with my views on history's lessons around wars, I can't say I'm eager to jump into a denunciation of wars, and those who serve them. That's shallow thinking at best; we do not live in a world, I think, where war will simply go away when you drop your weapons.

And neither am I unaware of the many sacrifices made by those who seek to keep democracies intact, and that I can and will honor.

But I keep coming back to the hell 2 generations of my family endured to protect freedom, from the same people who are supposed to be "on their side" -- much less any enemies. As much as we honor the sacrifice, I think these days must also be calls for our Military to be strong in the face of dishonorable acts.

ART OF WAR shows how honor in, and our, of combat -- how respect for everyone involved in combat -- is a weapon in itself. We must re-establish that baseline, and promote it to the world. That would be the greatest way to not only honor the past, but also to secure a more peaceful future.

With that, we will know these sacrifices were never, ever in vain.

Watching WHO While Black.

(Inspired by my Birthday, this post, and the thought "you know, you've not really talked about much online in awhile...")

I recall the first time I thought about race in DOCTOR WHO, and what that means to me, now. Because -- I started watching WHO in my teens. It was a ritual; Saturday night I'd settle in for late-night WHO, mindful of the early rise for church Sunday AM.

But this was my time, just me and The Doctor. No Mom, no Brother, no friends calling, and this was well before email, and I couldn't afford a BBS.

So I was alone, with my thoughts, when I watched The Happiness Patrol. Messy, weird, off-putting Happiness Patrol. There's a lot that can be said about Patrol, and little of it is germane to this topic.

Because little of that discussion is around harmonica-playing Earl Sigma. Because he wasn't just a background Character of Color, but someone who was interesting, was fun.

I remember, distinctly, wanting him to go with The Doctor and Ace. Not just because he had my skin color...although that helped. But there it was, putting "me" in the TARDIS, putting someone who could be me -- if I learned to be cool, and play the blues on a mouth organ.

It sounds silly, saying it out loud. But it's key to how I experience media, how I see WHO today.

I loved, and still love, WHO. But I hate that so many people on WHO who "look like me" turn out to be jokes. Mickey had to be rebooted to be "compelling". Martha was the Rebound Woman. River Song went from utterly competent to a plot tool for the Doctor.

No laid out redemption arc for them, like with Rose or Donna -- or even, had they been able to finish it, Ace. And, as much as I love these characters in different ways, I wish I had better experiences watching them, rooting for them, wanting to be them.

Today, I'm a Serious Adult. But on my birthday, I remember the teen who just wanted to fit in, somewhere, any-damn-where. And my experience as a WHO fan is my experience of (not) fitting in. Of being both "too black" and "not black enough". Of struggling to find a balance, and having damned little in the world, in the media, to lean on to understand where that balance might fall.

Media isn't a guide to life. You're right, it's just a show. But stories -- the core of every show, real or not -- are how we tell each other what's important. Media is the reflection of what a society finds important -- at least, important enough to share with others.

And the truth is that the media I found engaging, wasn't the media that told others I was worth engaging. And that's something I struggle with, to this day.

Wiscon: Get your damn head outta your ass.
TRIGGER WARNING: Discussions of sexual harassment issues.

This will be brief, mostly because you should just read what I wrote years ago during "Moonfail", and read the people deeply involved and invested in the con; for reasons having nothing to do with Fenkel, I've not been in some years.

TL;DR: Wiscon needs to (at a minimum) be part of, and not disconnected from, the conversations around criticism of it's policies and (in)actions.

Running a con -- running any public event -- is not an academic process. It takes guts and courage just to run an event. To put yourself on the map? Even moreso. I have a lot of dancer friends who run huge events, and I know how much work making it happen, getting asses in the door, is.

Wiscon was a place where people invested in the intersection of genre fiction and social justice could come together. It was many decades of work, back when such a thing was an isolated wellspring in a host of female-hostile genre events. This seems to have led to a level of complacency and navel-gazing that's horrific.

The fact that the Harassment Chair wasn't aware of the Readercon situation in 2012, and only found out by posting a mea culpa that seemed to explain nothing of the actual decision process, while regretting the decision in a really half-arsed way, underlies the fact that Wiscon leadership is disconnected from the very conversations around these issues it claims to be invested in -- and helped start!

Really, how the hell do you have a Harassment committee in 2013-14 that isn't informing itself of what other cons are doing, and how the conversations in fandom are going? The lack of outreach says a lot about Wiscon's commitment to engaging in these discussions, and being a space to drive them in the larger genre/fandom community.

For one other example, I'm really struggling with this idea that any decision would have been equally disappointing. Is banning a serial harasser for life really going to upset a lot of people? And perhaps more critically, are they people who you want to have pissed off at you? Who are your allies, who's making the world, and your con, a better event?

Because: there are other places to engage the discussions Wiscon engendered, now. If Wiscon wants to lead -- and it can, and should -- it needs to shake itself loose from this aura of "moderation" and "rationality".

And I mean itself. Sure, people can come in from outside, but the leadership needs to self-recognize it's failure, and not just capitulate and/or abdicate to "new blood". I get a little grumpy when i hear people promote "join the con-chair", as if that, in itself, solves the clearly endemic issues the leadership keeps having.

Only Wiscon can save Wiscon. Only Wiscon can choose to save itself. Having a cabal come in makes it not-Wiscon, save in name. And maybe that's what needs to happen. Maybe.

But for certain, I'm not going to swim out to save a ship clearly sinking under years of rot and neglect.

Hate the Game.
You know, I don't want to turn this into My Griping Place. But bear with me for a second, please, as I loop back into my prior post from a more personal POV, after some incidents unrelated to that post's core situations. And this is 100% internal, not pointed to anyone. You're welcome to skip with no hard feelings.

Sometimes, I write something online, and because of how my mind is constructed, I just don't rage when I feel like I should. Someone'll write something that, inside, makes me angry -- something that I'll totally support someone else going off on about -- and here I am, in what feels like "stuck making the argument" mode.

Stuck teaching.And I know, sometimes, I am "teaching" people who have zero stake in the fight, who just want to use this discussion, so damned important to so many, as their night's entertainment. Teaching, in the odd hope I might help the cause, help someone who's reading my words.

This is what makes so many anger --- the thought that our pain becomes someone's pleasure, in ways we cannot control. In ways that, for me, invoke me performing a modern-day minstrel show for some online asshole with more privilege than sense.

But. This is who I am, today. And that's some really, really ugly cognitive dissonance.

Alright, bed. Early wake tomorrow, and lots of driving. Night, gang.

On the work of dismantling rape culture, and those who love to make it even harder.
Due to weather, work, and other issues, I've been a bit behind on discussing the fallout from twistpeach's post (trigger warning) about their harassment experience at Arisia.

But I've been thinking about it. A great deal.Cutting due to discussions on sexual harassmentCollapse )

It's not a no-win scenario. But it's one that does need support, and love, and affection aplenty -- as well as voices, bolstering the advocacy.

Don't Let the Assholes Win.

A brief note on why snow sucks in the South(eastern US)
It's not the snow - it's the damned ice!

Let me explain. Snow is an issue for the Southeastern US, to be certain. We have plows, yes -- I walked past the snow trucks, ready to go, that are the the facility not far from my house, yesterday. We know (well, except Atlanta!) how to "salt" the roads, get snow out of the way, and so forth. An inch or two that's planned for is, these days, a manageable process for most Southern cities of a size.

But -- in part because we have so little snow, and because it tends to melt with a quickness, we also tend to get a thin layer of ice on our roads, most times we get snow. This "black ice" is the real danger, in my experience. Between it's rarity here, and lack of visibility, it's a hot mess that we don't know how to manage well. So we try to stay off the roads, mostly to avoid the risk of sliding on a patch of ice that's damned hard to see at day, and pretty much invisible at night.

So that's a huge contributor to the fear and loathing that snow (and, really, any freezing precipitation) brings to this region. The contrast with my living and driving in MA in the early 90s could not be greater.

Pop Culture is Alright.
So, it's pretty clear by now that Pop, will, in fact, not Eat Itself.

But the people angling for it -- well, they have a point. But they also seem to lay said point on with a backhoe, and it frustrates me.

I think, sometimes, it's the "coolness of not being cool". I've been there, sure. I've said some really busted-up things about pop, and it's not hard to hear me diss disco, or 80's music. Somewhere in the archives of this post, there's a piece about hating Autotune, done before Jay-Z's DoA track.

But. In a culture that's growing ever more soloed and self-selecting, there's still a joy in a track that crosses cultures and barriers to hit the mass of folks. I mean, I'm a person who's working like mad, and then who's working to figure out a half-dozen sub-cultures and engage them with respectful intent...

...but I still want to know what's going on here, in my home culture(s). I don't want to live in a world where the people in the Grammys are utterly unknown to me, especially when these presentations directly impact so much of what I work on.

How pop culture deals with tech impacts my work. How it deals with genre impacts one hobby, and how it presents sexuality impacts both a side of my advocacy and my dance career. And I can easily go on.

That don't mean a lack of discernment around what I like in it! But it does mean, for example, I have to grappel with Pharrell, who's I've loved since I fight heard N.E.R.D. years ago, also helping to pen and produce "Blurred Lines". What do you support, and to what ends?

But that's true of whatever media you consume. I just don't see that weird line that others see -- but I've been there, and I'm trying to do better.

The dull frosty air
Hides a multitude of sins,
No river swims deep.

The quiet wind stills
As birds land on snowy twigs,
Frozen ponds claim land.

It has been two years, plus one day, since I last posted in this journal -- my first serious online journal.

It's been an amazing run of time, those two years and a penny. A huge part of that has been changes, intense and weird and powerful, in my job. As was typical in my posts here (and elsewhere) I will say no more.

But I will say that I've met, and love deeply, an amazing woman. And she brings me so much joy, it kind of takes my breath away. I hope to write more about her, in the future. I plan and pray for her to be my future, in that hopelessly-in-love way we humans sometimes have.

So, too, did Arisia, in ways mostly good, and one not-so-awesome. I'm still working though a lot of it, including the intensity of moderating the "Addressing Sexual Harassment in Our Communities" panel. I'm far more introspective this year than in years past, and I wonder if that's a change in who I am.

It's a bright, complex, rich future I see. One with many challenges -- indeed, my previous post in this space was an unexpected echo of a comment I had to make to someone I've known for a very, very long time. It was not a comment of joy.

To get America -- indeed, the world -- to understand the risks and responsibility of power and privilege is not the work of a day. I have, and will, fail at not just doing that, but also in understanding what needs to be done. In this space, I acknowledge that I start every day with the knowledge that I, too, am but human. Not humble, as anyone who's written the words I have laid down, spoken the intent to change I feel, cannot be.

But. It does appear that, for better or worse, I am back. You might want to hold your horses.

On MLK as a GOPer, or a Slight Rant.
So, in the spirit of "posting On LiveJournal on a Sat. Night", I have to vent a little, in the midst of processing.

I've now seen, for the 5 millionish time, the meme that MLK was a "Republican", a GOPer. In this instance, it's someone calling on the "old bones", as I call 'em, of that political party, from Lincoln forward.

Is it true? Very likely he voted GOP in his younger years, from my research. And yes, the obvious comment is "but the parties have changed drastically in the last few decades."

But this isn't about rational actors. It's not about looking at the actual historical record. Asking about how a man who roundly denounced the Vietnam War, who was mentored by a homosexual Communist that he stood up for -- how that man could and world be part of the modern incarnations of the GOP as seen on a dozen+ debates to-date, baffles and astounds me., I lie. It sickens and infuriates me.

And again, herein lies the issue. Again, we see how people are willing to abuse other's past to gain some measure of solace that their support of modern abuses is "OK". "It's OK, if I hate gays, MLK would have." A certain member of the King family appears to work from such sentiment, and it's good that the rest of the family -- including Coretta, until her death -- regularly speak in opposition to her words, that are full of a hate and intolerance that Martin never expresses, nor is known to his colleagues who've been asked on these issues.

It's always tricky to extrapolate a historical figure's opinions into modern terms. I've recently fought with someone on here about their expression of MLK and what he'd thought of OWS. And in that, I did not fully express -- again, because of anger -- my opinions, hiding to some extend around my personal opinions of their discussions. That risks a distortion, of course, but at least you rest somewhat in their words and actions in taking such an approach.

But I also tried, very hard, to find period similarities, things MLK knew of, as analogies to what OWS is doing. And in such like, I also tried to work past my reflex and anger, to read over some off King tonight, and think -- is there anything here that rings of a modern GOP? Could King, in fact, have fit into the party as it exists today in any way?

In this, it's important to note that a Political Party -- at least in my experience as an American -- is a complex entity. Suffice to say you could have opinions diametrically opposed to the Party, and yet still vote for them. This is, actually, key to the process -- no single Rep. is going to suit everything you want, so in theory you vote for the closest analogue.

And there simply isn't that analogue in MLK's deeds+words and the GOP as it exists today. Maybe the liberal GOP that's near-decimated in terms of actual elected officials, the "Rockefeller Republicans" of the 60's-80's. But they are gone. Pushed out. And that has ramifications.

I don't think I need to outline to this audience much more. I will say I'm pondering how I want to react to this. Because: although I really get uncomfortable with MLK-as-savior talk, he was and is key to much that is our modern understanding of not just Social Justice, but Politics as a participatory sport. And my greatest fear is that the "MLK as GOPer" meme will be another brick in the wall of misunderstandings and devolution of his ideals.

I'm pondering a short series of posts of his words. Just his words. Cross-posted, so no one can miss it. And in such way, we use his own words to underline how, in very obvious ways, the GOP that MLK might have voted for is so very different than the one that we see today.

It won't end it. But it can, hopefully, put some goddamned context to invoking Saint Martin.

A Quick LEVERAGE Guess
Clearly, it's time for the Leverage Revenge Squad, and it's clear who the leader is:
Speculation for future LEVERAGE ahoy!Collapse )

What I try to remember about being a Male Feminist.
The book Black Like Me is the troupe starter* for the idea of a White person "posing" as a Black person for the purpose of discovering what the "Black Experience" is (at least in America). When Griffin did it in 1959, there was real risk and real discovery, and he was a man that, from the accounts I've read, was running in terror and trying hard to be brave, to stand up as an ally. There's an article on the book that's worth reading, and kick-started these thoughts.

Incidentally, as I noted on my Tumblr, he barely lasted a month as a Black man in the American South. Ponder that for a moment.

[Yes, I'm getting to the Feminist stuff. But as my favorite movie puts it, I've gotta develop the proper exploitation.]

Since then, the troupe has turned right around into a way for white liberals to show their anti-racism cred. Every time it appears, even in the modern "white person comes in and saves downtrodden black person" which seems to pop up as Oscar bait yearly now, it seems to be not about the way racism dehumanizes it's victims, as much about how cool it is to be a Good White Person. This was pretty much what MLK was talking about when he decried the White Moderate.

Griffin, to his credit, listened when Civil Rights activists noted how his lectures were going down in the greater media:

Griffin [...] eventually curtailed his lecturing on the book, finding it “absurd for a white man to presume to speak for black people when they have superlative voices of their own.”
And that lets me ponder my work in Feminist circles, as rare as it's been of late. It's not that it's not about me, or the worth of my opinions; men suffer from the ravages of the myriad aspects of sexism, just as non-PoCs are hurt by the damage racism does to the fabric of a society.

It's about being a reflection of the voices of people who haven't had much of one for centuries. It's about using my power, the respect people have for me -- including the mostly-unconscious respect men tend to get in many societies -- to get others to respect Feminist issues. It's about getting out of the goddamn way, just a little, and more than enough that they don't feel they have to take my lead to get my backing.

Somedays, I worry that I'm not saying enough, or being original enough. And somedays, I fail at the work of Feminism. Yet I also know, deep in my heart, that respecting all the genders comes first and foremost from rejecting the right to be the loudest voice in the room.

* In fact, it appears to be missing from TV Tropes proper. I think it needs adding...

Woodrow/Asim's Yearly attempt to do Holiday cards
So, every year I try this, and I don't always succeed.

But I keep trying.

If you'd like a Holiday Cards of some sort from me, I'd ask you fill out this 6-question form, so I have addresses and stuff. And then I'll try to put it all together in the chaos that is my life, right now. *sigh*

Thanks, folks.

Steve: Technology is an Art.

Steve Jobs, seemingly moreso than all his tech peers, understood that Technology is Art.

Moreover, he understood that Tech-as-Art should be in service to, and stimulate, the average Jane.

These two ideas were clearly the pillar of what he iterated via all his endeavors. Although I did not love Apple, one could not help be admire it. Although I live much of my tech life far away from that walled garden, one cannot help but grasp why it was, and is, key to have that curated tech experience. And although I fight for a world with choices, I also know that Apple makes the complex simple, and the simple a support for our lives.

Doc Searls wrote an awesome piece upon Steve’s death. In it, he quoted from a letter he wrote about Steve upon the occasion of Steve’s return to Apple:

“The force that allowed Apple to survive more than a decade of bad leadership, cluelessness and constant mistakes was the legacy of Steve’s original Art. That legacy was not just an OS that was 10 years ahead of the rest of the world, but a Cause that induced a righteousness of purpose centered around a will to innovate — to perpetuate the original artistic achievements.”

The greatest programmers, tech-heads, and so forth -- they all are as much Artists as they are Scientists and Engineers. It’s easy to forget that, when college and society drives you to focus on purely technical innovations, to forget that what fuels the spirit is how those innovations play out, how people react to them. In this, in encouraging this in his words and work, Steve Jobs has left a legacy for the 21st Century.

Apple’s own advertising might have put it best, at the start of their Think Different campaign:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

“The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

“About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

“Maybe they have to be crazy.

“How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

“We make tools for these kinds of people.

“While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

MLK on rioting.
Asim Pissed
I confess I have not followed, with the alacrity I should, the story of the UK rioting -- work, birthday party prep, and other issues have made following that story a challenge. Yet, when I look upon this video that's spreading fairly virally:

Or this commentary from Time's article:

Racial tensions have fomented much of the anger that's being released, and that informs the deteriorating relationship between officers and the communities they police. In the past five years, the number of black and South Asian people stopped and searched by the police in the country has nearly doubled to 310,000. "Most of the time the police don't find anything," Bagguley says. "I think what we're seeing is partly a consequence of those tactics." That many of the looters come from high-crime areas that are heavily policed strains the relationship even more.
I was reminded of one of my favorite King speeches, done a few short months before his assassination. I've posted A New Sense of Direction here before, but part of it seems all too timely. And the work shows King at his best, predicting, and not just reacting to, the near future of social justice, and where his work can fit in and lead. That so few of his acolytes followed in this document's footsteps indicates so much of what was already going wrong with King's movement, and what would become of it after his death.

It also underscores something that has been lost in the legend -- that King, as much as he was a man of peace, was NOT a man who suffered fools lightly, and was more than willing to challenge the power structure. In doing so, he didn't shrink from invoking the majority white power structure as the source of oppression, while also recognizing that there were allies in that group, as well. Believing that he was willing to overlook the concept of white privilege is a common invocation of King's legacy, and it's a distortion of his long-held beliefs.

But, as always, he says it so much better than I:

When asking Negroes to abide by the law let us also declare that the white man does not abide by the law. Day in and day out he violates welfare laws to deprive the poor of their meager allotments. He flagrantly violates building codes and housing regulations. His police forces are the ultimate mockery of law. He violates laws on equal employment and education. The slums are the handiwork of a vicious system of the white society. Negroes live in them, but they do not make them any more than a prisoner makes a prison. And so let us say forthrightly that, if the total slum violations of law by the white man over the years are calculated and compared with the lawbreaking of a few days of riots, the hardened criminal would handily be the white man. In using the term white man I am seeking to describe in general terms the Negro's adversary. I seek not to categorize all white people by any use of the term white man. I think it is very important to say this, for there are millions who have risen morally above prevailing prejudices. They are willing to share power and to accept structural alterations of society, even at the cost of traditional privilege. To deny their existence as some ultra-nationalists do is to deny an evident truth. More than that, it tends to drive away allies who can and have strengthened our struggle. Their support serves not only to enhance our power, but their break from the attitudes of the larger society splits and weakens our opposition. To develop a sense of black consciousness and peoplehood does not require that we scorn the white race as a whole. It is not the race per se that we fight but the policies and ideology formulated by leaders of that race to perpetuate oppression.

In summing up the general causes of riots, we would have to say that the white power structure is still seeking to keep the walls of segregation and inequality substantially intact, while Negro determination to break through them has intensified. I find five basic causes of riots—the white backlash; pervasive discriminatory practices; unemployment; the war in Vietnam; and the urban problems of crime and extensive migration.

A discussion of the causes, trimmed for people"s reading lists, but HIGHLY recommeded...Collapse )

When white immigrants arrived in the United States in the late nineteenth century, a benevolent government gave them free land and credit to build a useful, independent life. In contrast, when the Negro migrated he was left to his own initiative and resources. He crowded the cities and was herded into the ghettos, locked out of employment, subjected to gross exploitation within a context of searing discrimination. Though other minorities had encountered obstacles, none have been so brutally scorned nor so consistently denied opportunity as the Negro.
(NOTE: Feel free to repost/share at will.)

"Black People are Taking Away Our Childhoods!"
Oy Vey.
Followup to my last couple of posts: Morpheus is playing Perry White.

h/t Deadbrowalking

On The New Spidey -- the new-new Spidey.
Both theferrett  and jimhines  have excellent and powerful posts on the insane fan reaction around the Hispanic/African-American Alternate Universe New Replacement Spiderman (say that 3 times fast!) I think this quote from Ferrett says...something, but most notably about the fanbase in comics, and the future of these changes:

[...]the black guy will be forgotten, and what started out as an attempt to be hearteningly progressive will actually wind up a sort of unconsciously racist sort of thing as the minority character gets shoved aside.  It’s not entirely racist, since both Kyle and Wally were white as well and the primogeniture of comics means that the “real” character eventually returns to center stage – but it’s gonna have some real uncomfortable overtones when it happens.

And this is why comics can't have Nice Things, as I've said recently.

Oh, as far as the racism in so many comment sections? I think this comment speaks for me:

If you're not racist, you generally don't have to explain that to people.

Why fanboys are ruining comics.
The juxtaposition of these two items, below, both from the same panel, speaks to the core of so many issues with comics, today:

On Female Creators: The same Batgirl-clad fan who made appearances at many DC panels over the weekend asked why there aren't more female creators on DC titles. DiDio said that DC Comics hires the best writers and artists they can[Emphasis mine-WJH], to much applause from the audience. Morrison quipped that he looks great in a dress, to which the questioner responded, "I appreciate you trying to brush me off." Morrison then encouraged women in the audience to submit their work to DC.

On Batman: Odyssey: A fan asked why "crap" like Batman: Odyssey is let out the door, calling it "completely incomprehensible." Jim Lee stated that just because a fan doesn't like something doesn't mean it shouldn't be published, which promoted much applause. Grant Morrison stated that Neal Adams has done so much for the comic industry that he has the right to publish whatever he wants[Emphasis mine-WJH], and that what doesn't make sense to the reader makes perfect sense to Adams, because he's approaching a story in a different way.

I'm usually long-winded about these things, but this is short. Respecting the past is awesome. Living in the past is horrid -- and as a member of the SCA, I really know the difference between the two. Making baby steps towards opening up your characters -- worse, one step forward, two steps back -- is leaving comics in the dustbin of history as much as paper costs.

And the hardcore fans -- all that's really left -- encourage, nay, demand, such things. They just want to be part of the club, part of the more and more exclusive group of people who buy comics out of a store, or online, who crave that Wed. fix of ACTION and ADVENTURE COMICS -- well, until the latter got cancelled.

No wonder so many new creators go it alone on the 'Net, with a system designed not to bring out the best creators, but simply to preserve fanboys and the creators who rose up from their ranks, for as long as possible.

Asim not coming to Pennsic.
What it says on the tin. :(

Due to a circumstance of timing, I've decided to bow out of attending Pennsic, this year.

I'll miss you guys, but I assure you, it's for the best, overall.

Have extra fun for me, OK?

On Diversity.
I've been wanting to revisit the Jim Butcher thing for awhile. (And I can't wait till my local friends, who are also huge fans, want to ask me what's up in my head. You guys: Don't Go Assuming.)

The thing is this: I work overtime to support a lot of the media I want to see; more women, more PoCs, more diverse genders and orientations thereof, and so forth. And the sad part is that's it's easy, because there's still so little to support. Or, as this post so elegantly puts is:

[...]it’s not happening the other way. The five-year-old boy who lives up the street from me does not have a shelf groaning with stories about girl animals. Because you have to seek those books out, and as the parent of a boy, why would you? There are so many great books about boys to which he can relate directly. Smurf stories must make perfect sense to him: all the characters with this one weird personality trait to distinguish them, like being super brave or smart or frightened or a girl.
I have been told that this is a good thing for girls. “That makes girls more special,” said this person, who I wanted to punch in the face. That’s the problem. Being female should not be special. It should be normal. It is normal, in the real world. There are all kinds of girls. There are all kinds of women. You just wouldn’t think so, if you only paid attention to dogs and Smurfs.

When someone tell me "why not just enjoy it?" they assume you can only have two options, that my criticizing is like Siskel and Ebert -- "thumbs up" or "thumbs down". But the reality is that I grew up in a world where media about people like me was, at best, media about my plight. ROOTS. SHAFT. GOOD TIMES. SANFORD AND SON. You get the idea. It's wasn't until THE COSBY SHOW that African Americans on TV returned to the kind of vision that I SPY or STAR TREK had; for all their faults, they were foremost about African-Americans as characters.

That's not a knock of the shows I listed; ROOTS was damned important, GOOD TIMES started as an important premise, and so did THE JEFFERSONS, for that matter. But it marks you, when all you grow up seeing is poor Black folks, and used-to-be-poor Black folks (hello, DIFFERENT STROKES!) Reality or not, it marks you, just as I suspect DUKES OF HAZZARD marked my southern contemporaries.

And there's still an element of that in today's media. I consider Hardison from LEVERAGE a gold standard on how to write African Americans and Geeks in media -- but he's still the jokester, the funny guy, and that echoes to how so many of the African-American led series on TV are comedies (look above...) The sassy female Black Best Friend (hello CASTLE!), or the serious Black Male member of the FirmTeam (any police/lawyer drama) are stock characters, now.

By stock, I mean "they are what I see of my group when I watch TV or movies". When I read literature. When I talk or see or read these things, this is the world I often view -- one where "my kind of people" are presented as surplus to requirements. Where other people oft-maligned are done similar. It's depressingly common, and depressing because it's an uphill fight to even get people outside the paradigm to see it, much less to agree it's a real issue. Doing that for a couple of decades, and getting the same reflective angry retort every time, it'll make a saint go spare.

And I'm far from a saint.

I don’t want only positive female role models. I want the spectrum. Angry girls, happy girls, mean girls. Lazy girls. Girls who lie and girls who hit people and do the wrong thing sometimes. I’m pretty sure my daughters can figure out for themselves which personality aspects they should emulate, if only they see the diversity.

There are so few stories that really speak to the diversity within these groups. So rare to have a "diversity token character" actually be diverse as a person, even in works that otherwise are paeans to diverse and complex characterization (Dee in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA). It's what makes the above so important -- the more diversity you start with, the more you talk to people about the important of diversity, the less diversity becomes a stamp, a way to make the "annoying PC folks" go away. The more it can be used to enrich your works, to rise the standards of your writing.

Because, today, every time I pick up media that falls down on the job, I have to choose. Do I dismiss it? Do I praise it? Do I gloss over it's faults, and if so, how many can I before it literally gets thrown against a wall?

That's not always as easy a choice as anger might imply. Indeed, I think some the anger comes from yet another series one might otherwise unequivocally like, now to be struggled with because of these issues. Seeing, time and again, echo after echo of sins so many think dead and buried. A burden that makes no sense to other fans. It's not, at times, one that makes sense to the people who also see the faults. It's a burden you carry your whole life, and may never quite get comfortable with.

Saying that a work triggers you, that it feels like it's another brick in a tall, long wall of denigration, that it demeans and attacks the structure of self-respect you so carefully built and tend -- that should be the core of the kind of critique that we support and labor to have in our arts and entertainment. How a work's characterization affects me as an African-American should be at least as valuable an outlook on a work as that of a NRA guy looking at the use of guns, or a well-heeled lawyer looking at how attorneys are portrayed.

That it is not, saddens and shames me. And I wish I could say it surprises me.

(h/t andrewducker for the link that led to this.)

"How Not to Negotitate" by Senator Graham (R-SC)
An object lesson in what happens when ideology overtakes politics:

[...]the worry and tension were evident as seasoned lawmakers of both parties whose experience told them that Congress always finds a white-knuckle way to avert disaster wondered if this was going to be the time when it did not.

“Our problem is, we made a big deal about this for three months,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

“How many Republicans have been on TV saying, ‘I am not going to raise the debt limit,’ ” said Mr. Graham, including himself in the mix of those who did so. “We have no one to blame but ourselves.”

Politics is the art of the possible. It's a messy art, and one that involves constantly not getting quite what you want.

This has a tendency to frustrate people. That frustration can be good, can lead to people being more involved and invested in their communities and politics. The sharp exchange of ideas and ideologies is what this country was founded on, and should be embraced.

It can also lead to those self-same people believing that their ideology is so right, their cause so just, that any and all dialogue that doesn't immediately lead to the "other side" capitulating in the real world is evil. That, no matter what they do or say, they have a "right" to win offices and accrue power, and that any tactic, any process that leads to that win is just.

And it's worse than that. Because I suspect some, like Graham, played along because they thought this was just another game of brinksmanship. But it's not. There's a cadre of ideologies that think default is worth the fight. To them, their belief that the budget is far too high trumps any other monetary consideration. And much like the belief that lower taxes creates jobs, any outcome of that work will get spun as proof of the importance of a weak, low-budget Federal system.

Yes, even crashing the entire American economic system.

Sen. Graham didn't know he was playing with fire. But now he does. Now they all do. And we'll see if, and how, this gets contained.

And those of us on the other side of the issue must guard against such pockets of "purity above all!" taking too deep a root in our work.

Adding Asim on Google Plus
As some of you know, Google Plus is on limited beta. If you're already in, feel free to go to my profile and add me. If you have issues, drop a comment.

If you're not in, I'm going to see how many invites I have left after I get some folks on who have priority. Keep in mind an invite is not a promise to get in; they are adding only at specific, unannounced periods, and I have no control over that.

If you're looking for help using it, here's one tutorial.

If you have no idea what I'm on about, or want to register a complaint about Yet Another Social Network, hold it in your pocket, please.

On Butcher.
So, on a panel at Arisia, when asked "who do you recommend as a good author for non-Racefail type issues," I chose to turn the question around, mostly because no one else was responding. To sum up my response:

"I've been impressed at how much Jim Butcher has listened to criticisms of his many and myriad issues in these areas. Sometimes that's as key to these issues as not failing to being with. The latter is preferable, yet we can all make our works better."

I said that because I've seen him talk about his failures in interviews, in forums posts, and so on. Not just in terms of writing, but even in points not talked about in those interviews, like dropping the insipid gay jokes, or improving the standing of the Native American character, or seeing the lead character get called out on his issues around women. Or how awful his grasp of Chicago (the city it's set in) geography appears to be.

Well, Jim, thanks for making me look like a fool. I feel like I owe everyone who heard me say that a damned apology, now -- I'm so sorry I misread him, and his intentions. Thanks for showing that one person's profanity towards you is more key than getting the city you're writing about correct. For a man who's flat-out said on multiple occasions that he screwed up describing Chicago, papering your buttocks over with "but s/he was mean to me!" is foolishness as an author.

[ETA: A good summary of the implications of his geography failures.]

Dude, I think the Russian of African-American decent* is a great character, too. But there are a lot more of us in the city, and as a fan of the series? I'd like to see folks like my cousin, or karnythia, as part of the cast -- actual People of Color actually living in Chicago. I'd love to actually see you suck up this, and realize that actual people living in these areas might have something to say about you re-purposing it. You know it's wrong, and you've said directly you've screwed it up. Jumping on the "it's fiction" defense means nothing, because the point is to help you get the damned city right. The damned RPG based on the books does better at talking players through this than you're doing, right now.

It's not that you failed at this one thing. It's that you're literally white-washing any responsibility away, after admitting you've screwed things up in the past. Instead of saying "yeah, it's a mess, I'll try to do better" -- which you've done before -- you're saying your fictional Chicago is an unassailable construct that "you know better than anyone". Which, of course, isn't the damned point -- is that you've stopped listening to criticism of that construct. Which Jim Butcher am I supposed to believe? To read?

I know you've improved since the quoted writing in some ways (although if the original poster keeps reading, I cant wait for her to get to the gay yuck-yucks. *growl*). But owning up to past failures, such as this describes, with some damned grace and sensitivity might be more than a little wise. In my response@Arisia, I really wanted to point out that failure is an option. It's in how you manage that failure, in what you do next, both when fierce, even personal criticisms come down, and ongoing evolution and growth as an author, that matters.

This is decidedly not how you do it.

* I have no idea where Butcher picked up on it, but there is a small but real enclave of descendants of African-Americans who live in Russia, encouraged by the Soviets to emigrate in a period prior to WWII. One of the secondary characters is of that group, and has been growing in prominence in recent books.

Dear Rep. Bachmann: John Wayne was a bigot.
So now-official-official Presidential Candidate Michelle Bachman wants to live in "John Wayne's America"*.

Ignore, for the moment, the location gaffe. It's a sideshow, a distraction, from the real point -- what was John Wayne's vision of America? What did he think was important, what mattered?

A few months before I was born, he gave an interview to Playboy that answered those questions, and brought him some notoriety that has lasted to this day. Wayne was already a famous Conservative in Hollywood, had been for decades, and the airing of these views undergrid his opposition to so much of the revolution in modern political life that we're still fighting for and over, today.

Anyone who claims to want to live in John Wayne's vision for America should note his words on the matter carefully:

With a lot of blacks, there's quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can't all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don't believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people. [Emphasis mine]

Or note his words on the Native Americans he so often opposed in fiction:

I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them if that's what you're asking. Our so called stealing of this country was just a question of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves....

Or on the import of Medicare and Social Security:

I don't think a fella should be able to sit on his backside and receive welfare. I'd like to know why well-educated idiots keep apologizing for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living. I'd like to know why they make excuses for cowards who spit in the faces of the police and then run behind the judicial sob sisters. I can't understand these people who carry placards to save the life of some criminal, yet have no thought for the innocent victim.

A man, a woman, a person is welcome to opinions, many and multitudinous. But when you invoke a symbol, you risk invoking the person behind that symbol. It's why, when I quote MLK, I do so knowing his faults, his sins, as well as his strengths. I can talk to them as much as to the good in the man.

And it's why Bachmann is ridiculous. Because either she merely invokes the symbol of a man, the 2D celloiud image of a person named Wayne -- or she thinks something of the like as Wayne did, thinks those past values hold eternal truths, and defines them as he did above. And unlike, say, the SCA (at it's best), she seems to give only lip service to taking the best from the Past, seems to not wish to learn anything about why a social safety net can make Capitalism stronger, not weaker, makes America more flexibility and powerful -- and moral.

A debate on the matter is part of the political arena. I never expect a Conservative to simply give up on the ideal of slow, ponderous change in society. Yet I think the balance of the issue has shifted from "do these programs work?" and "what is the moral responsibility of government and society?" to...other issues. And people like Wayne had more than a little to do with the beginnings of that shift, and for reasons I find personally distasteful -- but, sadly, very much in the American underbelly of fear and xenophobia.

Saying there are Two Americas is a shallow way of understanding any debate. But there's a view of America, one I do find to be not-so-deep, that I find myself oft-placed in direct opposition to. The near-worship of Wayne seems to be a regular sign that said views are coming into play with a person, and that Bachmann invokes him, time and again, is more than troublesome.

But I'm sure that's not news to anyone on my side of the program.

[WARNING: I know a lot of people want to call Bachmann a lot of names. I'm saying now that, like with Palin, sexist commentary is not an option here. Also, invoking mental illness in defining her is way off-base. We're smarter, better, more moral than that, and if you can't discuss her without invoking those old and tired tropes, this ain't the commetariat for you.

Also: I'm out for awhile. Behave yourselves. :) ]

Anthony Wiener needed to GTFO.
Let me be brief, 'cause I've got a meeting in a few.

The standard is not -- I repeat, not -- "But the GOP gets away with it!" Half the damned problem with the Liberal/Progressive movement today is that we're too damn busy worrying/staring at/reading the tea leaves of the Conservatives to do a damned thing. And I'm not pretending that the calls from the Democratic side for Weiner's ouster were part of a standard. But I am saying that -- look, the dude didn't just have a sex scandal. He deliberately tried to pick up women, mostly young, all politically engaged, via Twitter, while married. Not a crime.

The trouble is that it wasn't just he sent pictures. It's that he did it non-consensually, more than once. He did it in ways that pressured the women involved. He, in short, was practicing not just adultery (which is a private thing, mostly), but damnit, he was Sexually Harassing Women!

Again, say it with me -- Anthony Wiener is a Serial Sexual Harasser.

At this point, it shouldn't matter if Wiener was a saint, otherwise. This isn't the 60's, and Wiener's no MLK or JFK. We don't need sexists, no matter how much they "fight". We don't need allies who can't manage the spotlight. We don't need people who's commitment to the process is skin-deep, and who's hunger for power goes down to the bones. We don't need modern-day political Pharisees hypocriticing their way through our movement. 

You kick guys like that, guys who abuse their power in this manner, to the curb. And you do it because it's the right thing to do, and this was, 100%, the right words and actions by Pelosi, Obama, and many others.

[TRIGGER WARNING] How to not talk about Black Sexual Assault victims.
I know I've been pretty quiet, but this post, coming on the heels of a brief personal exchange, knocked me back on my heels, and I think I'm triggered by it -- so warning with reading below:

Recently, boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard came out as the survivor of a sexual assault. In a guest post at the feminist blog Echidne of the Snakes, Anthony McCarthy declares Sugar Ray Leonard a liar because ... you know, I'm not going to repeat his statements, because they are classic victim-blaming and you can read them for yourselves by clicking on the link above. As I say above, I think that the not-quite-stated subtext of his arguments is that big muscular black men can't be raped, and in fact that they are a danger to white gay men[...]

[...]In his follow-up post, McCarthy justifies his conclusions by listing a series of false accusations white people have made against black men, describing homophobia he's witnessed in the investigation of the murder or rape of boys, and referencing false recollections of ritual child abuse. It takes some chutzpah for a white man to justify his baseless accusation against a black man with the history of baseless accusations of white people against black men.

These pieces, these articles? I can't even imagine reading. I've known coffeeandink  for awhile, as a person...not given to hyperbole, let us say. Just the description makes my stomach churn, makes me want to run and hide. I cannot even imagine reading paragraph after paragraph about how a damned victim of sexual assault is blamed because of his occupation and ethnicity -- and I'm just a guy who's been threatened with assault.

I think some of the lesson there, around "why fight for all these causes?" is self-evident, in these times. Hell, if nothing else, someone has to keep standing up for a Feminism that isn't full of only White Women's (or Gay Men, I guess in this case) Tears.

To the piece itself, I'm not sure what else I could, or should, say. I'm gratful, once again, that this blog is setup explicitly to be "off the beaten track"; Internet-wise. I don't know if I could handle a debate on this without...well, it would be bad.

You're welcome to read, to comment here or there, to ascertain for yourself how good, or bad, it is -- indeed, you might want to read the comments on coffeeandink's post before wading into the apparent cesspool of the posts in question, to get a sense of the matter.  Of course, it's my choice and right how much to participate, and I'll just say that this one's on a more narrow margin than most conversations. Be honest, but be wise, ya wankers. :)

A brief quote regarding the GOP Primary field.
"Since the toupée don't fit, they'll go with Da Mitt."

----My Brother's sage observations, upon study and reflection regarding the current status of the GOP Presidential candidates, including those who have declined the honor of running.

Sarah Jane?


My distress is not merely at my memories of Sarah Jane. Although a companion I liked, she was not quite my favorite, although Sladen's work to expand and make real the Feminism of her character paved the way for an expansion of the role. The core of her presence on the show is this -- even Liz Shaw and Leela weren't quite as vibrant, as engaging, and as powerful a presence as Sladen made Sarah Jane into, and in ways that had damned little to do with how pretty she was.

It is also that a woman who headlined, at an age when many female actresses are put out to a certain kind of pasture, an action-adventure show -- a kid's show, no less -- is now gone on, and at the height of her powers.

No matter her age, she strove to be more than the sum of her looks, and trailblazed until the day she died -- and if the last half-season of stories are released, no doubt her legacy will extend far, far beyond.

Quasi-easter Egg in the STAR TREK movie (or, how it answers a long-standing question from TOS...)
So, on my way to setting up my new music server, I was looking in my old emails. I came across a discussion about developing stats for James T. Kirk* that triggered something. It was the comment that Kirk drives a stick -- shakily, but manages -- in one episode that put something together that I don't think anyone has noticed, yet.

For it means that the latest STAR TREK has another Easter egg, of sorts, answering a long-standing question -- how the hell did Kirk know how to drive that stick shift in "A Piece of the Action?" Answer: Both Kirk's learned how to drive their father's Mustang. One drove it...less, most likely**, and another drove it off a cliff.

Amazing what you can dig up from looking at old emails.

* I'm on the email list that works out RPG stats for this website. even though I utterly lack time for the work (aside from a few comments when I catch something of interest) these days, I've done a few in the past; I'm esp. proud of the work I did on stating Veronica Mars.

** Hints in the series show that, even as a youth, Kirk Prime was focused in ways the reboot Kirk wasn't, implying a strong amount of parental approval of that focus. I'd even extrapolate that the Kirk we see in TOS is the one -- forgive the pseudo-pop-psych here -- working through his repressed Teenaged rebellion/parental approval issues, in many ways, as a Starship Captain. It's easy to assume that George Kirk was a huge and imposing presence in his life, and Mitchell's comment about Kirk in the Academy being highly studious underlines that Kirk wanted, on some level, to please someone, and it wasn't just himself.. And it's a process that leads through the Khan incident, his inability to settle, and even his racism towards Klingon in the later films.

On LJ's issues
Normally, I'd keep my mouth shut about this. I am really, insanely busy at the moment -- such that I've not even had a chance to mention I'm teaching dance next weekend in Charlottesville, VA. There are a LOT of issues with LJ, and I'm not going to ignore that.

However, the people blaming LJ for the issues currently going on are way off base. A DDOS attack is one of the most brutal and hard-to-defend issues a site can be hit with; solutions often involve a lot more bandwidth at short notice, and infrastructure changes that can be hard to implement. DDOS attacks have brought down many sites bigger than L; it's not a shame on their part that a concerted, long-term attack is proving had to keep up with. Please stop smacking them around for a problem that's in large part out of their direct control.

Moreover, one rumor is that this is an attack on the Russian dissents working out of LJ to change the Russian system. We non-Russian users are pretty unaware of how different the Russian side of the site is, in my experience, and I strongly suspect it has far more to do with that than an attack on, say, Harry Potter fans.

If you want to jump, jump. Not denying you that choice, nor that their have been actions from LJ that 100% underline that as a wise choice. Just saying that blindly blaming LJ for something without an basic understanding, such that you can get from, say, the news or status communities, seems unwise.

For the Record: I have a Dreamwidth account, one I mostly use to read. If LJ was to collapse without warning, or I got sufficient pressure to change, I will not be moving the journal entries over en masse.

Once it's over, it's over.

The Cycle: A Brief Scatalogical Political Post
So, this post is my brother Marcus' fault.

I was discussing with him the latest GOP inanity out of Wisconsin (quick news: Judge sez "No, really, I meant what I said: Don't implement the law"; Gov't sez "Nah nah nah, we don't have to listen!"). In the process of bemoaning the closed information loop that seems to empower these poorly thought-out decisions, I seem to have coined a new term ..that I will cut for those of tender disposition.Collapse )

Oh, Wisconsin.
As just commented on Facebook, the best quote I've heard on the mess in Wisconsin last night:

"I guess people forget that Martin Luther King Jr was murdered while trying to help public employees in Memphis win fair wages and treatment."

(For background, read this article. The very short form is the the GOP in the WI Senate decided to pass the infamous union-busting bill by taking out the elements even the unions had agreed to, the elements actually having to do with the budget, and passing just the "I HATES UNIONS" parts.)

There is much foolishness in the GOP's play. They show themselves to be far more invested in supporting the destruction of unions that in their supposed investment in saving jobs via reducing the budget. The debate over if unions are good or bad is a sideshow, a distraction, a way to pull the spotlight off the real game here -- disabling not only a piece of an old Conservative bugaboo, but in the process hobbling the Democratic Party in WI as well.

With some more patience and wisdom (not that there's wisdom in this to begin with...), by acting like Sun Tzu instead of Sledge Hammer, they would likely have managed it with little problem. That they did not shows the dangers of working and feeding and organizing off anger and feedback loops that have more to do with ideology than actual politics.

The danger here isn't that they are getting "paid" by Koch to do this; I don't think it's at all that simple, and that infamous call doesn't actually indicate that. What it, and their actions, do indicate is that they are True Believers, unwilling and unable to function in a traditional legislative structure, and trying hard to subvert it for their own efforts w/o even a token attempt to allow adjustments and negotiations to change their course.

Sometimes that's needed. But in many cases such as this, it's more a sign that the people involved have no interest in working to pass good laws. Just, and only, their laws.

And that is a threat to any democratic system of government.

(There is much to be said about class warfare as well. Watch for that old fight to become very real, in ways I suspect the GOPers who love to throw that word out do not expect....)

ETA: I was looking for this earlier, and just pulled it from the above article:

In short, unions in Wisconsin are not just economic organizations made up of their respective workers -- they are political institutions that are a major part of the state. As such, a change to the state's union laws that would threaten the existence of organized labor would in turn threaten the existence of the Democratic Party itself in Wisconsin, as people have known it for over half a century -- something that state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) may have accidentally alluded to earlier today.

Walker: Wisconsin Lier.
So. That just happened.

It appears -- but has not been verified by a 3rd Party source -- that someone got Gov. Walker of WI on the phone by pretending to be David Koch, the well-known conservative/Tea Party funder and general gadfly to Progressive and Liberal causes everywhere.

There's a transcript and audio recordings going around, and this is illegal, from everything I understand. However, it's also..illuminating:

Walker: [bragging about how he doesn't budge]…I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders—talk, not negotiate and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn—but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them will come back and sit down in the state assembly…legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have quorum…so we’re double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capital with all 14 of them…

If this is true? Then it means that -- and this comes as no surprise to anyone actually watching these matters -- Walker has no interest in negotiation. None. Nada. Zilch.

The people protesting + marching in WI are doing the right thing. The little-d democratic thing. And when a group of legislators are nearly completely locked out of the process, they, too, have a right to not shut down government -- the WI Senate can and will continue to be funded, and laws can and are being passed -- but to stop a bill that breaks the balance between government workers and the government they work for. When someone fails to negotiate in good faith, and takes extraordinary measures to force laws, there are times when extraordinary measures must be used to stop it. And yes, if a Democratic crew did similar, so too would they deserve such treatment.

And yes, here we see the difference between the National Health Care debate -- which was part and parcel of the Democratic debates, part of Obama's early proposals, and debated and negotiated for over a year -- and a law that was forced-fed at the highest legal rate possible through the Senate as a "surprise" package never mentioned in Walker's campaign.

One is how a Republic works. The other is a Republic breaking.

(h/t Thoughtful Black Co-Citizen over at Balloon Juice.)

A brief note on the growth of prison populations in America.
There's a lot going on, but something just popped over the transom that I wanted to address here, briefly, and maybe get some feedback on.

I've read where a conservative made, yet again, the argument that the growth in the prison population is directly connected to the so-called "Welfare State" in America. This logic implies that handouts cause people to be dependent on government, and -- by some means I'm uncertain of, and which brings to mind the Underpants Gnomes -- we get a group that is more prone to crime. I presume it has something to do with Socialism causing laziness.

This time, I actually looked up some numbers around this. Although statistics are just another form of lying, this still jumped out at me:

Now, there could be a dozen potential reasons why there's a massive jump starting at exactly 1980. Perhaps there's some sort of "Great Society Grenade" that takes a decade or so to go off.

But a far more likely scenario is to assume changes in law enforcement and judicial activity, due to a political shift + a ongoing media narrative about rampant crime.

Democracy in Wisconsin.
I don't want to distract from the power of this moment, as reported yesterday by Rachel Maddow:

Yet not a little about what I was speaking on in my Tea Party post is here. It's one thing to have some knowledge and ability to organize. It's another to use it. And I submit that we Progressives haven't. And this has been a point of mine, a disappointment, for some years, now.

So, let's talk about why this is occuring, as I listen to the Governor's presser. And he's playing you -- all of us. He's not even mentioning the real reason people are out there. It's not the damned pension, or the health care, in and of itself. If you asked for just sacrifice, you'd likely get it, damn it. Everyone knows it's tough times, you daft fool.

It's the act of cutting people's right to organize in groups that can apply pressure off at the knees. It's trashing decades of unions under the proviso of "saving the budget". It's playing to well-brewed fears of "the union", and although yes, unions have been cesspools of corruptions -- so, too, have politics.

And I love politics, and the political system, flaws and all.

I can see where people can buy this. And I don't blame them, in and of itself.

Yet it's fear-mongering of the worst order, what's being spoken today right now, from this Governor. And I fear, truly, that the National "sudden discovery" of the horrors of the budget -- while still working to dismantle a key bill that can reduce the core of our National debt issues -- is made of similar stuff.

I'm the son of a union man, a man who worked and organized in a Postal union formed because White people didn't want Negros "polluting" their collective bargaining. I have no illusions about how utterly stupid and self-serving unions can be.

And to those who beat up and disparage unions, I say -- you have no idea how key they have been. You assume failure in one thing means failure in many. And if that were ture -- if the Hoffas and the other mobsters and so forth were all that unions today mean, if all a union is is just a siphon from honest hard-working governments and companies, if they are that evil...then by the same rules, we'd best just toss out the American government, as well.

Dammit, look at the people. This -- THIS is why I keep defending the Tea Party. Because as much as I disagree with nearly every damned thing they say, they got up and marched and worked. And this shows it doesn't take selling your soul to do it.

It just takes wearing out the soles on your shoes.

Why does my heart feel so bad?
...when the people in the thick of it are full of so much hope?

(Translations at the YouTube page. h/t al Jazeera's Live blog.)

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From a Birmingham Jail.

(Yes, I'm going to keep quoting it, because it never, ever stops being relevant.)

Tea Party: Here we go again.
*sigh* At some point, the Tea Party might actually realize how idiotic they sound:

But I'm really not holding my breath.

I want to respect how the Tea Party has organized. I want to grasp that they have honorable fears, and a vision of a solid America. And I want Progressives to learn lessions about interacting with the greater mass of the body politic from how the Tea Party has pulled itself together (but the right lessons, mind you!)

But it's not just a different vision. It's a vision of America that's so far from any reality, any concept of the actual history, that it warps the very point they claim to support. It's like my post about Christmas, where we've become so enamored with the gloss of history, with the concept of an unbroken chain of Christmas lovin', that we don't dive into the rich and honest complexities of how Christmas came to mean something to us.

Maybe not all of the Tea Party is like this. I hope and pray not. I hope and pray they have the strength to face the reality of American history, of American life, and to fuse that into a viable 3rd Party that anyone can support...without having to feel like you want to take a shower.

(h/t Balloon Juice.) ETA: And here's Anderson Cooper giving the same situation a wallop: Cut for those who don"t need two times the ignorance...Collapse )

Quickie Update
Still down for the sickness count. Putting together more than a few words that aren't critical to work or a upcoming project is...difficult.

So Arisia processing will have to, at best, wait awhile.

On AZ.
Steve Benson

Aside from all the Politics, all the Fighting, all the Very Critical Civics Lessons: There is a Congressperson who lives, who fights for her life after a life of service.

There is a Judge who died, after a life of service.

And there is a Young Lady who died, who's spirit was rose to service from the agony so many of us felt on her day of birth.

No one who knows me will confuse me for a non-partisan. Yet I want everyone who knows me to know this -- I want to honor these people, their lives, and their battles to do service.

I struggle with the urge to assign guilt, to lay blame, to charge into battle. I feel strongly about this, to the point where I've fought the urge to scream my head off here, and elsewhere. I want to point out so much of what I feel is wrong in our discourse...

...but then I think about that young lady, especially. How often I've been angered at people who decry one politician or another for not doing exactly what they want. How often we, in these modern times, disparage the act of civil service that being a politician represents.

And maybe, today, I'll follow that better angel, for a time.

A Thing about Christmas.
Today may be the day one or more of you unfriend me, here.

Why? For I have come not to praise the defense of Christmas as seen on Fox News, but to bury it. Not because I hate Chistmas, but because I love it. Because the true meaning of the season is lost in a sea of manipulated feelings and ahistorical chatter.

A simple test: point to me where the Bible says Christmas is to be celebrated.

The New Testament is clear about these things. The Sabbath day is holy. Loving God, and loving your fellow humans "as yourself", those are holy.

But nowhere in that book, in no viable translation I know of, is their any requirement to worship Christmas to get into Heaven.

That does not make Christmas Wrong! But it must be put into perspective. And for me? Christmas isn't about what other people get you. Or what other people do. Or how many other people have Christmas with you.

Christmas is about sacrifice. It celebrates someone who sacrificed himself, who arrived in full knowledge that he would die at our mortal, fallible hands.

To sully this ideal with demands -- be it for gifts, or for approval, or for official blessings -- is the act of children, not adults.

But again, the cries of "Christian Nation" erupt. And to that, I say: Look at the evidence.

It is not enough that The Father of Our Country, George Washington, moved his forces to surprise-attack the Hessians on Christmas at the Battle of Trenton. Why? Not out of simple desperation; rather it was a cultural issue. For back then, at the founding of the soon-to-be United States, Christmas was hardly a universally-recognized holiday in the American Colonies. But for the Hessians, it was, and it was their Christmas feast that made them slow to notice troop movements, and slow to respond that early post-Christmas morning.

if Christmas was like the Sabbath, then Washington would have ordered troops into sin. But to Americans then, to our Founding Fathers, Christmas was Not a Serious Way to Worship.

Indeed, Congress was in session for their 1st Christmas as a legislative body, as well as many others until it was made an official holiday by U.S. grant.

And Grant made it so after a War that ripped apart much of what we were as a country. In reading an article yesterday about the Christmas before the American Civil War, I note this passage:

American Christmases in the mid-19th century do not seem to have had much religious significance – neither for the callithumpians, nor the proto-shopaholics, nor anyone else. Many, if not most, Protestant churches did not even have Christmas services, though some staged holiday parties, pageants, and “entertainments.” The New-York Tribune remarked in 1860 that only gradually was the festival starting to become as widely observed as more important national celebrations like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day.

Again, this isn't a War Against Christmas. It's a reminder that Christmas is special because we mortal, fallible humans make it so. That events like the Christmas Miracle in the Trenches  exist because we give each other grace, and for a moment, we extend a peace that was at the center of all that Jesus taught and die for.

To claim that we have no room at the inn of America for other people's grace, especially at this time of year, flies in the face of all that we've built in this country. It implies a shallow grave of belief, that causes me to reflect yet again upon the early Christians, who had no country, who were truly persecuted, and who, in the face of all that, kept preaching love and respect and the joy of what Jesus brought for them.

The lesson of history, in this case, is intertwined with the lesson of Jesus. When you demand respect simply because you "rule", as the Pharisees did, when you force others into your beliefs, when you harden your heart as Pharaoh did -- you lose. When you open your hearts, your doors, and your spaces to all who come in joy and peace, you change the world.

Bernie's Not Filibustering.
...what Bernie Sanders just did? Not A Filibuster.

I recall, years ago, certain GOP Senators doing just what Bernie did, in the early days of Clinton; speaking most of the night about, well, whatever, usually pretty derogatory to Clinton, with only C-SPAN's cameras there to watch. Night. After. Night.

A filibuster is a very specific set of actions (or lack thereof). A filibuster applies if there's a bill on the floor. There isn't. (see Wikipedia for more).

What Bernie is doing is impressive, and I'm glad this part of the debate's being aired (even if I do disagree with the revolution itself, in some key ways; it's beyond impossible for me to look at the unemployment situation, and say I'd rather risk toppling low taxes for the rich for even the limited benefits this bill brings. It's not why I'm a Progressive, folks.)

But in the end, it's a speech. It's not a move to actually block, stop, or otherwise hinder passage of a bill, which is what the filibuster is. And there is, I confess, some frustration in people mislabeling, and risking further misunderstandings via, his acts tonight. I see too many people ascribing near-magical powers to both Congress and the Exec branch (in general, I speak not specifically of anyone on my friend's list, but have seen many examples elsewhere), and I present this in that spirit.

New Life.
The Black Darwin
Well. This'll make you feel kind of small. From Gizmodo, we now find out what the secretive NASA conf. for today is about -- a whole new form of life on Earth:
At their conference today, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon will announce that they have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today. Instead of using phosphorus, the bacteria uses arsenic. All life on Earth is made of six components: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.

But not this one. This one is completely different. Discovered in the poisonous Mono Lake, California, this bacteria is made of arsenic, something that was thought to be completely impossible.
Not quite the "life on a moon" theory that was running about, but make no mistake -- this is huge. I vaguely recall reading some theories about how arsenic could be a building block due to some structural similarities, at least from what I could gather from my limited Biology. It was always presented as one of those really crazy theories. Guess not so much, anymore, if this report is correct...

I look forward to the conference today (2 PM EST), if I can take a lunch break to catch it.

Tentative Arisia 20111 Schedule for Asim/woodrow
One of these days, I'm going to learn to stay off the troublesome panels. Short comments, as I'm still quite under the weather...

Non-Genre TV Shows that Fans Love      Fri 5:00 PM
                Veronica Mars, Leverage, and Criminal Minds are all mainstream shows with large followings amongst genre fans, and they often obtain a sci-fi "feel." What other realist shows (classic or current) feel like sci-fi or fantasy, and what are the qualities that make these shows feel like genre material?

(I have a couple of theories about this, most having to do with how this generation grew up on "pulp" -- the embrace of comics being the biggest implication. OTOH, I can't wait to explain how Rizzoli & Isles fits into this. *smirk*)

Race and Identity in SF/F              Fri 8:00 PM
                Does genre literature have tools and tropes uniquely suited to complex discussions about race and identity? Is the very notion of a post-racial society hopelessly naive?

(Moderating. Oh, boy. This one is a landmine of issues.)

Fashion Throughout History        Sat 9:30 AM
                Panelists will discuss how fashion, styles, and traditions changed throughout the years, and what that means for historical costuming. Hand versus machine sewing, fabrics, and sources. What are the most important things historical costumers should know in their research? Where do people most likely make mistakes? What makes a costume historically authentic, and how important is it?

(Oh, this should be fun.)

Race & Gender Politics in Comics              Sat 2:00 PM
                How have politics influenced comics? What can't you believe saw print? Conversely, how do politics affect the writers, artists, and editors who publish our beloved books?

(Oh, the possibilities for the crazy. I look forward to having to explain to a fellow panelist that PC is not an invective, and that the idea of actually portraying others as we'd like ourselves to be portrayed is the highest of Christian values.)

FAIL!!!          Sat 5:00 PM
                Racefail, Open Source Boob Project, ... how do we keep stepping in it? What is it we're stepping in?

(The key to my participation in this is the phrase "I hate, and try hard to avert using the term 'Fail'. As painful and ugly and brutal as these topics are, I want to focus on how a community has grown and solidified over these actions, and their implications.")

This Panel Has Warped My Fragile Little Mind!    Sat 9:30 PM
                The Baroness. Emma Peel. Princess Leia in that metal bikini... So many images from science fiction and fandom may have been ingrained in your mind while you were still young and impressionable. Now that you are old and corrupt, it is time we let loose these naughty secrets. How are our fantasies rooted in those images, and how can we can corrupt them even more now?

(...actually, for me? Princess Ardala. [Certain Persons will suddenly go "AHA!"]. But not simply because she walked around half-nekkid -- she was a villain, but one who pretty much owned her own power, a rarity on TV at that time.)

The New Doctor. Who?                 Sun 9:30 AM
                New season and new Doctor. What's the verdict on Matt Smith, the newest Doctor? And who doesn't love Amy Pond? Has the series gotten better or worse since Moffat's takeover? Is the current Doctor Who "madly inventive" or just maddening?

(Expect Kung-Fu fighting. I don't know who's the crazy fool who dislikes Smith's work, but I'm sure they'll show up on this panel.)

Avoiding Culturefail        Sun 12:30 PM
                How can writers best avoid creating simplistic or hurtful imaginary cultures? How can the author avoid portraying real world cultures without resorting to stereotypes? Is doing research enough? Where does one start?

(Nervous as hell about this panel. It's a big gaping hole of chaos...)

Sexual Harassment and Assault in Fandom           Mon 11:00 AM
                In the last few years, multiple problems have arisen at conventions around the country that are troubling for many. Sexual harassment is not just about someone trying to grope a woman in a skimpy barbarian costume. It's about being able to say "no" and have it respected, a willingness to back someone up if they need it, and the ability to recognize when they don't. How can we all contribute to making conventions free of harassment?

(After the DragonCon debacle, I'm really looking forward to talking about this, and maybe even bringing some of the SCA critiques into the process. The issue is converting this to actions!)

Asim Email change starting soon
Still sick, still feeling puny, still thinking.

A quick note: Those of you with my address, please be aware that the phaseout of that address will start just after New Year's. If you want to be ahead of the curve, transfer your allegiance to, please.

I give thanks for the Future.

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

[LibraryThing] Help Buy Asim an Christmas Present!
Everyone knows two things about me:
  1. I have a lot of diverse interests
  2. I love books on my interests, and more
And I hate the idea of people who'd otherwise buy me presents, but don't have the cash, not having a way to do so.

And now, you can help buy a Christmas Present for me, for free -- if you have a LibraryThing account. :)

Login to LibraryThing (free if you don't have an account), and then go to either, or both, of the below request buckets:
  1. First Recommendation Bucket
  2. Second Recommendation Bucket
And under "Add a suggestion/comment", recommend a book or 3. I've got links to my wishlists you can use for more ideas, as well! The actual person who'll be picked to choose my books (which could also be you if you have an account there!) will doubtless use these to sort out what the heck to get me, so as to avoid their heads exploding. *smile*

Thanks, and Merry Christmas!

(And no, I don't own stock in LibraryThing. It's just been a very useful, and fun, space for bibliophiles. ) ETA: Fixed links

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