mokie: A doll with an open torso featuring a diorama (yay for girls)
May started with a terrible essay (broken down fabulously over at Captain Awkward and by Dr. Nerdlove), in which a man tried to shame his ex for refusing to maintain a relationship with him. Not the relationship, but any relationship. By his own account, she had moved on and found someone new, and she didn't want to hang out with him and rehash the drama of their now-defunct relationship over and over. She did not want to be in a relationship with him, and she did not want to be in that dysfunctional not-relationship with him, either, and so she called it quits - except he doesn't think she has the right to do that. He believes he has veto power over an ex-girlfriend's right to decide who she associates with, because he hasn't got closure (read: the change to debate-to-death her decision to end the relationship). His response to her cutting off contact was to ignore it, keep poking, keep popping up, even after being threatened with a restraining order.

And he painted her decision to cut contact with him as abusive. Yes, seriously. He suggested it was abusive of her to expect to decide for herself who she did or did not interact with. He also suggested that abusive men are abusive because they feel powerless, hint hint, ladies.

Y'know, in case you wondered why she threatened him with a restraining order.

Then, less than two weeks after that essay made the rounds, an asshole declared war on women, and a world that would give women to other men but not him. He killed his roommates, grabbed his guns, and set out for "the hottest sorority" on campus, because. Because girls never approached him, and would have rejected him had he ever bothered to approach them. Because girls pick jerks (who actually ask them out) instead of 'gentlemen' like him (who sit around waiting for ass to be handed to them, like Sleeping Booty, and never put themselves out there for outright rejection). Because when he attempted to assault some women months earlier (what a gentleman!), some nearby men had intervened and kicked his ass. Because he was a misogynistic shitstain driven to obtain riches and women, and frustrated with a life that did not magically hand him these things. Because he was an entitled, spoilt rotten adolescent piece of walking, talking crap who'd had everything handed to him, and his response to adulthood and the requirement that he grow up and work for things was magical thinking (use The Secret to win the lottery!) and an inevitable tantrum.

Because girls aren't psychic - but thank God for instinct and intuition.

And the apologists poured out. It wasn't misogyny because look, he killed more men! - despite the videos and the manifesto and forum posts in which he declared his hatred for women and that he was going to kill as many as possible, and the fact that he only failed because he was utterly incompetent even at being a super-villain. It wasn't misogyny, because look, he had Aspergers, and oh why did no one get him treatment! - despite the fact that autism isn't a mental illness, the mentally ill are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence, he was receiving help and his family did attempt to get him committed out of fear he was a threat to himself and others. It wasn't misogyny, because he was probably gay! - and what the fuck is in the water over at Fox News? Seriously now.

And worse, there were the creepy comments. "If even one girl had put out..." What? Pussy would have cured him? No. Or the NYPost's naming and shaming of a girl from grade school that didn't even remember the asshole, though her father did - specifically, he remembered him as a creepy little fuck.

May ended with women on Twitter sharing times they were harassed, intimidated or assaulted - and being harangued by men who were upset because this conversation about women being harassed, intimidated and assaulted was not taking place within the context of how it hurt men to be associated with this and discussed this way. They insisted that the conversation must begin with how feminists discuss men, and must include caveats that specifically let certain men (them) off the hook, because somehow, simply saying that a man raped you and the police didn't take it seriously is slandering all men, because this is really all about men's feelings, isn't it?

So let's start June off better, with Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds, in which a nerdy guy calls out the pop culture nerd narrative as insulting to and unhealthy for nerdy guys and women alike.
mokie: Man with an old computer monitor for a head drinks through a straw (media pop culture)
#1. Room 237
The structure of this documentary about the search for hidden meanings in Kubrick's The Shining seems to intentionally mirror the movie: creepy labyrinthine rambling, and then someone whips out the crazy.

Long before the documentary rolled up on Netflix, I'd seen an article (or three) mentioning some of the more plausible theories, and did some back reading on them. That's why it's so odd that the film does a relatively poor job presenting those theories: the documentary is a long series of rambling interviews with voices we never seen, played over clips from the movie edited together, looped around, rewound and replayed, while the soundtrack jogs along being inexplicably more creepy than it was in the actual film. It could easily have been trimmed not just for a tighter pace, but to better cover the theories. Instead, the detached voices ramble, and the more they ramble, the more obsessive they begin to sound, like the famous director himself.

And then they get to the moon landing conspiracy theory, which sounds like it was added intentionally to make everyone involved sound crazy.

#2. Death Becomes Her
Death Becomes Her took the bones of Hollywood's classic monster movies and turned them into a Hollywood monster movie.

A disgraced surgeon working on corpses to give them the semblance of life? An inmate asylum who funnels their obsession into eating? A slinky and seductive foreigner offering eternal youth? Not one, but two brides? Even zombies get a nod near the end of the film.

The horror isn't shambling creatures rising from the grave in search of blood, but shambling stars emerging from the plastic surgeon in search of youth, part of an industry based entirely on the preservation of appearance, the rejection of reality and fear of the passage of time.

#3. Lilo & Stitch
Lilo & Stitch was the first Disney movie in which we see protagonists who are orphans and the implications of that.

The golden age princesses had their parents conveniently removed in favor of wicked stepmothers and fairy godmothers, and later animal protagonists lost their parents for drama points, but it never mattered: the princesses were content to sing and wait for their prince to come, the animals were too young to care or got a narrative cut-away to hit us with the death but spare us the grieving. (Damn you, Bambi.)

The Disney renaissance passed on stepmothers in favor of single/adoptive parents and wicked fairy godmonsters (hey, worked for Maleficent). Neptune's daughters appear to have no mother, but Ariel gets a little hand from Ursula, while Belle had only crazy old Maurice and a long-gone witch who thought it was appropriate to turn a castle's worth of people into furniture because someone was once rude to her. Jasmine's mother? Pocahontas's mother? Chief Powhatan's first on-screen act was to let us know she was dead. Hercules? Kidnapped, adopted by a nice couple, later reunited with his parents. Simba? Lost his father, adopted by a nice same-sex couple, later reunited with his mother. Tarzan? Orphaned (but too young to grieve), adopted by a nice couple (of apes), later reunited with his species.

Lilo? Orphaned, grieving, arguably acting out because of it.
Nani? Orphaned, grieving, trying to keep their tiny broken family together in spite of it.

Beside the fantastical half of the story, there's this small human story about loss and coping with it. No Prince Charming can come to their rescue, though David offers support; no evil monster is going to rip them apart, though a social worker threatens the family (out of concern rather than malice). The big scifi tale of an isolated special snowflake created in a lab (almost a shot at Disney's family-free princesses) gains its depth by smooshing it into this little human story.

#4. The Addams Family
The original comics, TV show and movies all show the Addamses as part of a community that accepts and even celebrates their weirdness. While the plot may be about the average Joe or Jane stumbling into weird Addams territory, the Addamses and their culture are always accepting and welcoming of these mundanes - more accepting and welcoming than the mundanes are, certainly.

Weird moment of synchronicity! I jotted that down several months ago intending to expand it into a whole ramble at some point. A day or two later, the_phredPhred shared a blog post arguing that the Addamses are the most well-adjusted family on television, because: Gomez and Morticia are clearly in love and enjoy spending time together while also giving each other space to pursue their own interests; Wednesday and Pugsley may play dangerous, but "seem to view one another as accomplices, rather than rivals"; it's an extended family, in which relatives and employees are clearly respected and cared for; and they didn't change who they were to please others, or demand that others change for them.

Another blogger expanded up on this with a brief comparison to the '60s other televised 'horror' family, the Munsters, and might have definitively explained why most people are either a Munsters fan or an Addams fan:
"On one level, the Munsters were a campy stereotype immigrant family, while the Addams' were strictly old-money. Two different spins on the American experience. On another level, the Munsters are 'externally validated' and live entirely for the approval of others. The Addams are 'internally validated' and totally comfortable with themselves as long as they live up to their own standards. The Munsters are ashamed of their unique qualities, while the Addams' celebrate and enjoy them. (Only Grandpa Munster is unabashed, and continually has to be reigned in). [...] In my experience, Business people, early risers, team sports players and dog owners all seem to like The Munsters while artists, night owls, individual sports players and cat fanciers see to prefer The Addams Family."
It makes me wish Mockingbird Lane, a very-Addams reboot of The Munsters, had been picked up. Ah well.

#5. Roseanne
In many ways, Roseanne is less about a working-class family than it is about the death of a small town.

The small town of Lanford, Illinois, is almost a character in its own right. Outline the series, and you'll see not just the changeable fortunes of the Conners, but the decline of Lanford: the closing of its primary employer, a loss of quality jobs, a slip in the local economy affecting local businesses, the town quietly fading into a trucker's stop-over point. It's part of why the last season rang so wrong, but for the right reasons (or, at least, right on paper): it wasn't a big fantasy about her husband not dying, but about the main character having the money to save everyone, culminating in saving the town itself by restoring its primary employer, Wellman Plastics. It all centers on one line in the monologue: "When you're a blue-collar woman and your husband dies it takes away your whole sense of security."
mokie: A big red dinosaur says, "Make me a sandwich" (grumpy)
The Black Death wasn't spread by rat fleas, says a researcher...

...promoting a TV special.

...based on 25 bodies in one British plague pit and a modern account of pneumonic plague.

...ignoring contemporary reports of the Black Death's spread and symptoms, which acknowledge that respiratory infections (pneumonic plague) occurred, but that they were less common than the regular infection presumed to be spread by fleas, whose symptoms (buboes, or swollen lymph nodes) gave the Plague its other common name.

...based in part on genetic analysis of the Yersinia pestis bacteria from those bodies, which he found to be almost identical to modern bacteria in modern outbreaks and which he thus concludes couldn't have spread as fast in its bubonic form as the Black Death's scale would have required, which ignores that (a) modern folks are by and large less cozy with fleas than medieval Europe was, (b) medieval Europe had seen a series of massive famines in the years leading up to the Black Death, and malnutrition leaves populations vulnerable to disease and infection, and (c) European researchers have found previously unknown (and hopefully extinct) strains of the plague bacteria which could easily have been nastier than the modern version.

...apparently jumping into the "It wasn't rats!" debate without actually addressing any of the rat-related evidence.

I love the hemorrhagic plague theory - the idea that Europe was struck not by the rat-spread Yersinia pestis bacteria, but by an Ebola-like virus. Or better, both, sweeping through a weakened population at the same time! And according to some researchers, there are a few assumptive leaps when it comes to rats spreading the plague in Europe, because of where specific rat species lived or had been recorded during the period.

But at the same time, we know Yersinia pestis hit Europe because the DNA is there, and we've known rats and their fleas spread the plague for years, because regular outbreaks in outbreak-prone areas in Asia were preceded by massive rat die-offs. That's what led researchers to specifically study transmission via rats and fleas. We know how that mechanism works. Getting rats and fleas off the hook requires more than proving that 25 bodies in a single British plague pit died of pneumonic plague rather than bubonic, because for all we know that pit was reserved specifically for victims of the pneumonic plague, since it was so very contagious and deadly.

Of course, you could argue that the real problem is that I don't know for sure that this is what the researcher is saying: I'm responding to a flurry of articles proclaiming that the flea and rat are innocent of all charges, and for all I know, it's just a bunch of writers misinterpreting one researcher's findings, just like the regular articles proclaiming that a cure for AIDS has been found because one researcher or another has found a promising technique that still needs years and years and years of testing.

Concentric Kvetching

Saturday, 8 March 2014 03:27 am
mokie: FLCL's Naota silhouetted holding a guitar (impressed)
I want to save this forever and ever.

Psychologist Susan Silk came up with a handy visualization of concentric rings to help people avoid saying the wrong thing to a person going through tough times.

At the center of the diagram is the person at the center of the situation - for example, a man who is seriously ill. The people in that person's life are arranged outward from the center in circles of ever-decreasing intimacy: his spouse and immediately family are one circle out from center, their close friends a circle beyond that, then extended family and aunties followed by co-workers (or maybe vice versa, depending on how the family feels), then acquaintances, then that sales clerk who always says hello and the guy who sometimes reads the ill man's blog, ad infinitum.

The rules: care goes inward, venting comes outward.

The sick man needs a shoulder to lean on, not to have to support everyone else and make sure they're okay with his condition. At the same time, his immediately family needs support from their extended family, not to have to comfort a distant aunt who wants to wax dramatic about how this illness devastates her. And if that aunt happens to be in town and stops by the shop, a sympathetic word from the sales clerk would be great, but not a lot of fretting about a customer he barely knows.

Given that so many of us worry about what to say, saying the wrong thing, what we think we'd want to hear if we were in those shoes, etc., this is a nice reminder that we're not at all in those shoes, and that some situations shouldn't be about what we need or want, but about what someone else needs from us.
mokie: Hannibal Lecter sits on his shiny blue couch (media viewing)
Sometimes you get a look behind the curtain, and you realize that the little man back there is pulling so many more levers than you imagined. Stephen King's On Writing, for example, opened my eyes to how he thought about and structured stories. Suddenly those weird elements in his stories that just don't work (you know the ones) made more sense: they still didn't work, but I could see the reason, the intention and framework behind them.

Other times, though, you pull back the curtain and discover that the little man has no clue what he's doing--but it won't stop him from congratulating himself without cause. That's what it felt like to read an interview with the creator of the classic Nick show Clarissa Explains It All.

"You have to remember that before Clarissa, girls were given outfits to wear. Matching clothes. Girls didn’t pick their own clothes and make their own styles. Now we take it for granted. Annie Hall was a good example for adults. People didn’t create their own styles except in minor ways. Punky Brewster wasn’t fashionable. She was being 'quirky, goofy girl.' She was really Pippi Longstocking." (Mathew Klickstein, "Inside Clarissa Explains It All with Creator Mitchell Kriegman," Splitsider.com 27 February 2012)
Bullshit.

We'll put aside the fact that kids bucking their parents' ideas of suitable hemlines and haircuts, and picking out their own clothing to make their own styles, is half the history of modern pop culture, most frequently and fondly remembered in the '60s tug-of-war between mod and hippie and the '70s war between glam and punk. Sure, as a Boomer, Kriegman should remember those days, but let's keep things closer to the era of the show in question.

Before Clarissa came along in 1991, we had three seasons of Becky Conner's fab fashion sense and Darlene's descent into demi-goth territory on Roseanne, not to mention Denise Huxtable, not just a fashionista but a fashion student, and her sister Vanessa, who seemed to change up her personal style a couple times per season.

What did Clarissa Darling do? The same thing Punky Brewster did: brought a watered-down version of a specific style to television five years after the hip kids started it. In Punky's case, it was defanged and pastelized punk, and yes, she was fashionable: the show hit as whitebread department stores began selling blue lipstick and multicolored converses to decidedly non-punk teens. For Clarissa, it was eccentric layers loaded with patterns and vintage and accessories, straight out of Pretty in Pink--of whose costume designer On This Day in Fashion's Ali Basye says, "Vance excels at capturing, without irony or kitsch, the instinctive thrift and experimental, sometimes awkward dressing that is distinctive to adolescents." (Emphasis mine.) ("The WTF Prom Dress of Pretty in Pink", 28 February 2011)

What Clarissa did was nail (not invent) the vest + untucked shirt + shorts + tights/leggings + boots look that is so very, very '90s, and which Kriegman seems to think is the first time teens picked out their own clothing. He's wrong about that.

"It was amazing that they accepted that first episode with Clarissa trying to kill her brother. In those days, people did not talk about sibling rivalry at all. It was kind of taboo. But we went right at it with her trying to kill him. No one seemed to give me any trouble about that. They just let me do it. I don’t think you could ever do that in a show now. But I think it was healthy to bring out the fact that people can talk about sibling rivalry in shows like this."
Bullshit.

Did this man not watch TV at all? Sibling rivalry is the bread and butter of sitcoms. Jan and Marsha, Marsha, Marsha (1969 - 1974), Thelma and J.J. (1974 - 1979), Raj and Dee (1976 - 1979), Willis and Arnold (1978 - 1986), Vanessa and Rudy (1984 - 1992), Mike and Carol (1985 - 1992), DJ and Stephanie (1987 - 1995), Bud and Kelly (1987 - 1997), Darlene and Becky (1988 - 1997), Bart and Lisa (1989 - 3043), Eddie and Laura and Judy, till she went into porn (1989 - 1997)... Not to mention every other TV show that has ever featured siblings, ever.

How taboo can something be if the Smothers Brothers built a comedy act around it?

Does Kriegman believe sibling rivalry is defined by acts of cartoonish violence? Even there, he's not even breaking new ground on television: Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp had him beat by nearly 60 years. Not even on modern TV, as Darlene's torment of DJ bordered on criminal and started three years before Clarissa first aired.

It's irritating. I want to give Kriegman kudos for an awesome show that legitimately did break ground: while it didn't invent the 'teen sitcom', Clarissa Explains It All did re-popularize it and bring the target age down a few years to include pre-teens; it was one of the first non-animated Nick shows to be carried by a single character instead of a concept that allowed for an ensemble cast; and it was one of the first teen-aimed shows to feature a female lead. Given how '90s Nick shaped the network and influenced later tween programming, that's a pretty big deal.

But I can't shake the annoyance of the irrational teen fashion claim, and the nonsensical sibling rivalry claim. It makes me want to offer less praise, because unwarranted pride is just arrogance. Sure, Clarissa was OK, but she wasn't All That...
mokie: Red Dwarf's Rimmer does a very embarrassing dance (people are crazy)
Yes, seriously.

First, there's the very popular "Hitler took everybody's guns! If the Jews had guns, maybe the Holocaust wouldn't have happened!", which Salon answers nicely:
Proponents of the theory sometimes point to the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as evidence that, as Fox News’ Judge Andrew Napolitano put it, “those able to hold onto their arms and their basic right to self-defense were much more successful in resisting the Nazi genocide.” But as the Tablet’s Michael Moynihan points out, Napolitano’s history (curiously based on a citation of work by French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson) is a bit off. In reality, only about 20 Germans were killed, while some 13,000 Jews were massacred. The remaining 50,000 who survived were promptly sent off to concentration camps. (Alex Seitz-Wald, "The Hitler gun control lie", Salon 11 January 2013)
The same article also points out that Hitler did not come for everybody's guns, as the much-cited 1938 law actually deregulated gun ownership for most residents. It restricted gun ownership for Jews, but was just one of many restrictions on the Jews.

(Those wondering when Jews became non-white might as easily ask Google when Italians became white, or when the Irish became white, or ask why some Iranians get upset when referred to as non-white. Race isn't as simple as skin color--it has lots to do with social and historical context and power, us vs them dichotomies, and at times with who is and isn't considered fully 'people' at all. You can find books on it from the Jewish perspective, if you're curious. In the meantime, you can think of it as 'ethnically specific tragedies', if you find that easier.)

Then there's Gawker's story, with a title that speaks for itself: "Al Sharpton Rips Into ‘Gun Appreciation Day’ Chairman Who Thinks Slavery Might Not Have Happened If We Had Just Given Black People Guns"

Yes, seriously.

Of course, it was a different story when groups of black people actually were arming themselves, and the NRA helped to draft gun control measures instead of fighting against gun control. Meanwhile, remember when the neo-cons argued that slavery wasn't so bad, bred mutual respect between the races, and at least kept black families together in 2-parent households? Or when Quentin Tarantino decided he was an expert on history and declared "Roots" 'inauthentic'? Okay, that last one's unrelated...

Except that, for both "Inglourious Basterds" and "Django Unchained", Tarantino has been criticized as exploiting another race's past tragedy and rewriting it as a revenge fantasy, ignoring history and, some believe, implying that the oppressed could have taken care of themselves had they just grabbed those bootstraps and gotten a little more inventively violent.

Huh. Guess it does apply.

And this is just the headline-level racial fuckery emerging from the gun control debate. It's not touching on comment sections, where eyes are rolled, racial slurs are tossed out, and the threatening specter of the gangbanger is waved. It comes together as a disjointed vision of a Mad Max future, in which armed and melanistically-rich criminals roam free and run Bartertown, formerly known as the US of A, and by the way, their ancestors could have saved themselves from us pasty bastards in the first place if only they'd had guns.

Except nobody is enslaving us. Nobody is forcing us into concentration/re-education camps, or sending us off to Thunderdome.* There was a whole lot more going on in pre-Civil War America and the Third Reich than the oppressed parties not having guns, and much of that had to do with those parties being considered barely (or not even) human by the Powers That Be.

Guns aren't what's keeping society from suddenly imploding on itself. Society isn't imploding because, despite all the gloom, doom, school shootings and terrible cable reality shows, it works pretty well for the most part. Rethinking our stance on guns to take military weaponry off the streets isn't going to change that, or leave us bare and defenseless against barbarians at the gate. It might, however, stop a mass-murdering fuckhead or two from donning body armor and walking into a school to make himself famous.

Meanwhile, as some folks are suggesting that the only thing those other folks needed to fix their problems was more guns, completely different folks are uncomfortably wondering exactly why killers who arm themselves and walk into schools almost always turn out to be young middle-class white men. Is it just statistics? A dramatic rise in mental illness, or a dramatic drop in effective treatment? A pathological reaction to stressful times, changing demographics and social norms, and/or loss of status?

This is progress of a sort, given that a decade ago, we were uncomfortably discussing whether these killers were monsters created by video games or monsters created by bullying. Now that bullying is an openly discussed issue, video games aren't just for easily-demonized geeks anymore, and more killers clearly fall outside the stereotype of the kid playing out his revenge fantasy in real life, we can stop asking why that person committed this one horrible crime and start asking what it is about our culture that's incubating this trend.


* I know there's a tangent on the American penal system in here waiting for someone, but I've only got the one rant in me today.
mokie: Man with an old computer monitor for a head drinks through a straw (eljay drama)
A new reader left an awkward comment a few months ago. Introductory comments are always awkward, so I blew it off. His journal featured a few short random entries packed around various event announcements. (I don't remember what for. They weren't my cuppa.) I figured maybe he was just dropping comments around like business cards, hoping to find eyeballs for his cause. I decided to follow-back anyway, because test-driving new journals is part of the fun of community journalling sites.

He left two perfectly normal conversational comments. Not in a row, no--two in his brief time following me. Two. The rest were uncomfortable, preachy diatribes often only tangentially related to what I'd posted. I quickly learned to cringe when an email arrived telling me he'd commented.

I let things slide at first, since I'm an expert at saying the wrong thing the wrong way, coming across like a know-it-all and generally putting my foot in my mouth. (New journal title! mokievision: making an ass of myself since 2000!) But when he got pissy at me over my Newtown post, I was done. Not because of the gun debate, but because I refuse to discuss issues with someone whose response to plain logic is to throw a fit and an insult.*

In going back through those months to tag them properly (because I <3 tags), I kept stumbling on his assorted comments, except without my benefit-of-the-doubt hat on they just look like a pattern of assholish behavior--behavior I allowed him to get away with because I was too polite to put a stop to it sooner.

So I broke one of my own rules and deleted him. All of his comments, everywhere I found them. I don't remember ever deleting comments before, except for the occasional spam clean-up, and I don't like doing it, because even angry comments usually add context to the discussions and entries. But dammit, the man derailed a freaking book review to humblebrag about how many languages he could read. That should count as canned meat of some kind.

Edited to add: dracunculusdracunculus pointed out the Five Geek Social Fallacies, which explores why geeks sometimes put up with bad behavior instead of drawing boundaries. It's so on-target that it almost hurts. The most relevant of the five: you can't toss a jerk out of your circle because ostracizing a jerk is worse than whatever behavior makes the jerk a jerk, and you can't criticize a jerk's behavior because friendship means never, ever calling someone on their bad behavior.


* By 'plain logic', I mean that I pointed out several of the things he was repeating were either unproven, such as anything involving the killer's medical history; had been disproved, such as that Israel arms its teachers; or were plain wrong, like his reference to Asperger's as a mental illness. I also asked him to offer a source for his gun statistics, since they didn't match other sources I was seeing, and suggested twice that we seemed to simply be at odds on the whole topic and should just agree to disagree.

His response was to pull 90° conversational turns any time he was corrected/questioned, pull some more numbers out of his ass, and seize upon "agree to disagree" as some demented proof that he was winning some debate that only he had agreed to have. I finally insisted on seeing some sources, at which point he metaphorically threw himself to the floor and whined that I was more in favor of gun control than I claimed (i.e. tried to tell me what my opinion really was), because I wouldn't respect his authoritah and let him just make shit up without calling him on it.

Happy New Year!

Friday, 4 January 2013 08:55 am
mokie: Stonehenge with the sun shining through the stones (holiday renewal)
Three days late for a new year post. Well, so much for that resolution...

Let's get right to business, shall we?

NEW
YEARS
RULIN'S


1. WORK MORE AND BETTER. I've been very fortunate in my current line of work, but I need to buckle down and more actively seek more of it. This means overcoming my oddly specific fear of work-related scheduling conflicts, a result of having to fight at three different retail jobs to make them respect my 'unavailable' days.

2. WORK BY A SCHEDULE. A new soap or related product every week! This year, I will keep the shop stocked.

3. Here's where I break from the Guthrie list, because the man has eight different hygiene-related resolutions, which is a little worrisome. So instead, I'll take one from a very cool project manager I know: PUT ON A BRA AND GO OUTSIDE. Between working from home and working night owl hours, it's easy for me to forget to put on real clothes and go outside every so often. While the fresh air may be trying to kill me, I could probably use the vitamin D, and the socialization.

4. DRINK GOOD. With all due respect to Mr Guthrie, I want to expand my alcoholic horizons this year, from trying out more of the local beers to adding some of the better reviewed absinthes to my liquor cabinet.

5. READ LOTS OF GOOD BOOKS AND WRITE EVERY DAY. When scheduling gets crazy, one of the first things to fall by the roadside is my own writing. The next is recreational reading. I miss both, and so this year, instead of being something to fit around the schedule, they're going to be part of the schedule. That includes staying on top of the journals, and getting older entries properly tagged. All thirteen years of them.

And a corollary: read less tabloid fodder and media gossip, view fewer celebrity photos. This isn't a new resolution for me. I was never big on gossip rags, and working in retail during Britney Spears' Very Bad Year, seeing her mental illness played out over rows of magazines every day for entertainment, didn't raise my opinion of them. Unfortunately it's easier to get sucked into gossip online, where you're often looking at a row of links to news stories mixed with a row of links to stories that shouldn't be considered news at all. ("The Senate passed a bill requiring--wait a minute, Lindsay Lohan did what?")

It also weirds me out that our celebrities have WWF-style heroes, villains, grudges and sob stories that are wheeled out as a form of advertising every time they have a movie coming out. That can't be healthy for us as a culture.

But mostly, it's the idea that being a celebrity means someone gives up their right to common respect and privacy--that they don't have the right to sit in their own yard without cameras peering over hedges, that they can't walk their kid to school without hiring someone to first push the press out of the way, or that it's acceptable to put lives at risk chasing them through traffic in search of that perfect shot. And for what? For a picture to put in a magazine intentionally designed to make the rest of us feel old, fat, ugly and unhip so we'll buy products to fix what isn't broken. Why feed that beast? Why pay anyone to make myself and a handful of famous strangers miserable, when I generally feel better not knowing or caring who's seeing/breaking up with/stalking who?

6. DON'T GET LONESOME. I'm not just an introvert, I'm one of those introverts that makes other introverts uncomfortable. But I've been slack when it comes to maintaining my social ties lately, so this year I'm going to make an effort not to be such a hermit--from a family game night with the nephew, to taking a friend up on an offer to tutor me in local beers.

7. LEARN PEOPLE BETTER. I've seen some cooing over Guthrie's self-awareness, and even a project on Tumblr about interviewing people to learn them better. As a girl with roots in southern Missouri, though, I suspect Woody was using 'learn' in the rural sense--that this really means "Teach people more effectively." That's how I'm taking it, albeit in a personal direction.

Though I rant about random topics that rile me and get way too cozy with the TMI, I'm really a pretty private person. I don't open up often or easily about my personal life, feelings, beliefs, relationship status--anything, really.

In my hesitation to become that friend who won't shut up about their cause or their boyfriend or their faith, I've become instead something of a relatable blank slate. The end result is that I find myself fairly often with an angry ___ who is upset because suddenly my experience/feeling/opinion/belief doesn't mesh with what they've projected onto me, and I'm not an angry ___ too. (It's usually atheists. Don't know why.) I'm never whatever enough to fit the idea they've formed of me, so they want to push me to their position, or lecture me on how wrong I am to not be like them, or tell me what I really am/believe (and you would not believe how much that pisses me off). There I am, left with the awkward choice of smoothing things over and putting up with their crap for the sake of peace, or telling them to fuck off and dealing with the fall-out. I admit that I lean more toward the latter these days, because life's too short to cater to other people's personal issues. But anyway.

Essentially, I need to open up more, and get comfortable with expressing who I am and what I think (etc.) a little more, and not worry so much about becoming that creepy friend who nags you for wearing leather, or being targeted by that creepy friend if I reveal that I'm not also a Baptist/vegan/UFOologist.

For the record: I'm a relatively liberal blue-haired bisexual hammock-dwelling pulp-reading hippie-ish single neopagan who eats meat, listens to whatever damn music feels good at the time, and really only feels strongly about reproductive rights and single spaces after sentences. (Never double. It's a relic of the printing press and HTML ignores it anyway. Let it go.) There's probably more worth adding, but nothing comes to mind at the moment. If you're conservative, don't eat meat, don't dig hammocks, listen only to K-pop, etc., it makes me no nevermind.

8. STAY GLAD. I used to live within walking distance of one of the world's greatest gardens; now I'm a tedious bus ride from any of the city's fun activities. I used to live beside a well-planted park, in a picturesque neighborhood that I wandered with a camera in hand; I now live in a closely packed neighborhood with bland lawns, where I feel like an intrusive guest even without the camera. I used to have my own little garden, with plantings older than I was and a makeshift pond; now I have a tiny patch of weedy dirt that I share with a rotating cast of neighbors who always, always, take it over and ruin it.

I've let this vague, sulky, gloomy dissatisfaction rule my roost far too long. I need to zhenzhizhenzhify my outlook! To look up and find the beauty in the moment and where I'm at, to look out over the neighborhood not as an intruder but as an explorer, to take bootyloads of photos and share them, if only to remind myself that it's not where my body is, it's where my head is.

9. SAVE DOUGH. Enough said, right?

10. LOVE EVERYBODY. And I do, even when I don't.
mokie: Earthrise seen from the moon (melancholy)
What can I say that hasn't already been said? News of the shooting was devastating. The national discussions it started on gun control, mental health access and the role of the media have been frustrating, but were overdue. The national discussions some people tried to start using the tragedy suggest that any mental health care reform needs to start with our politicians and celebrities. Please, won't someone think of Victoria Jackson?

On the same day that a man shot 20 children and 7 adults in Connecticut, a man in China slashed at least 22 children with a knife, a man in Indiana was arrested after threatening to set his wife on fire and then shoot up a nearby elementary school, and a teen in Oklahoma was arrested after plotting to lure students and faculty into the school gym and open fire. In the week since, a man walked into an Alabama hospital and opened fire, a Maryland teen was put in psychiatric care after concerned students reported that he had detailed information on the school building and security, and a Utah elementary school student brought a gun to school and threatened his classmates, citing fear of being killed like the kids at Newtown.

Maybe the world is always this crazy, and we just spend so much of our time focused on our own little corners that it's usually easier to ignore.

Mental Health Reform
Yes, please.

Though speculation abounds about the attacker's mental health, his actions point to a larger societal problem, and if we can't see it objectively in our own backyards, we can observe it unfolding in China, where attacks on schools are on the rise. Some experts attribute these attacks to mental illness, while others talk about frustration with rapid social changes, unemployment and general disenfranchisement.

I don't think that's an either/or. Dismissing these attacks as mental illness fails to address seriously the debilitating stress that drives people to the point where exploding seems like a solution; talking about them only as frustrated men downplays the value of access to good mental health care in favor of talking up punishment and armed guards. We need a healthy middle ground, where a person doesn't need a diagnosis of mental illness to get serious help, and doesn't feel stigmatized for seeking out the help they need.

Gun Control
Social media has been rife with strife, hasn't it? In one corner, people waving photos of an armed Israeli teacher with her students as proof that we need guns in schools--nevermind that the photo is of a guard, not a teacher, and that under Israel's restrictive gun control policies, citizens wouldn't even have access to as much firepower as the attacker had that day. In the other corner, people pointing out that the 22 children involved in the Chinese knife attack will all survive, so eager to make the point that they gloss over the alarming larger reality that schools are increasingly seen as a viable target by the disgruntled.

To share my biases upfront: my grandfather was a hunter, my cousins still are, and I know people who work in dangerous vocations that have to be armed for their own protection, so I know that there is such a thing as a responsible gun owner. At the same time, I also believe there's no reason for your average everyday citizen to have an assault rifle in their home, and that the discussion about gun control in our country is muddled by an unhealthy combative mindset that has latched onto guns as symbols of power and agency.

Examples of that mindset? Start with politicians pushing to arm teachers, under the assumption that at least one teacher with a gun could easily take out a gunman and reduce the danger. In reality, all armed teachers would introduce to the situation is crossfire: statistics tell us that accuracy drops among trained police officers when shooting moves from target practice to real situations, and psychology tells us that humans are consciously unwilling and subconsciously sabotaged when firing on other humans. (Yes, that's a Cracked article. Their explanation is a more interesting read.)

This kind of thinking is dangerously related to the kind of thinking that says, "I'll get a gun and show them all that they messed with the wrong guy." This kind of thinking isn't the solution--it's the problem. It's the kind of thinking that got an unarmed teenager stalked and shot by an armed junior detective wannabe after the real police told him not to engage, and which had half the country arguing if the wannabe had the right to 'stand his ground' and fire on the unarmed kid that he was stalking through the kid's own neighborhood. It's the kind of thinking that led a grown man to fire into a minivan full of teenagers because their music was too loud.

Whether or not we manage to come to a consensus on the issue of accessibility to guns, we have to address the connection between anger and armament in our culture. We've gotten the idea that waving weapons around is a legitimate way to express our frustration, even to the point of bragging about it on cable news stations. Is it any wonder a segment of the population carries out that threat?

The Media, the Politicians, the Deities and the Wingnuts
By midweek, even the media was questioning its presence in Newtown, and the value of the story vs. the empathy of its actions.

Sadly, some of us have gotten so entrenched in the politics of empathy that we've started to lose hold of the real thing.

Politically and/or religiously-minded individuals tried to stick the tragedy to their favorite hobby-horses. On the right, Mike Huckabee blamed the 'removal' of God from schools (nevermind what that says about attacks in places of worship), Victoria Jackson tried to equate it with abortion, James Dobson blamed it (and everything else) on the gays, and Ted Nugent blamed 'political correctness and moral decline', if you're inclined to take a tongue-lashing about morality from a man who gained legal guardianship over a teenager so he could have sex with her. On the left, there were snark remarks about 'arming those evil union teachers' and a demand to talk gun control before the families even knew if their children were among the slain.

For me, none of that tops Charlotte Allen's error-ridden misogynistic New Review essay in which she blames the "feminized setting" of the school, stating that "women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers," lamenting that there were no men on staff to leap into action, that "even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys" might have taken the attacker out had they not been pushed to hide like scared little girls. It's a batshit revisionist view of events that ignores two brave women who rushed to try to stop him, insults the custodian who saved lives not by flinging a pail at an armed man but by running through the building warning teachers and students to take cover, and denigrates teachers who saved lives by concentrating on getting kids out of the line of fire rather than throwing themselves into it.

And, on the other side, those pointing out that the heroes of Newtown were all women (sorry, custodian!), and waxing philosophical about the differences between the genders, as if male teachers would not have given their lives for their students in the same situation.

But can we say that they're at least learning? Between Anderson Cooper's refusal to use the attacker's name on the air, and the media's greater focus on the victims rather than the gunman, the media seems to have figured out that they don't have to feed that morbid curiosity or give the attacker a posthumous platform. If this holds up, it's already a great step forward.
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (nerdy)
First I flood you with dream entries, then my social ineptness, and now nitpickity book talk. I bet this isn't the exciting chronicle of chronic excitement you thought it would be.

For those who believe there's nothing as boring as hearing someone else's dreams, let me reassure you that I don't usually remember and record them this often, and this recent burst of dream entries probably won't last. For those uninterested in my social ineptness, you and my mother both. For those who don't care what I'm reading, take solace in the fact that I at least cut the spoilers. Unless you're reading by RSS, which I hear ignores cuts, in which case...oops?

Now, onto the nitpickity book talk!

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm twitchy about genres. There are genres for settings (westerns), genres for audience (young adult), genres about types of relationships (romance), genres that include unreal elements (fantasy), genres that include unreal elements that could be real maybe (science fiction), genres about types of relationships that include unreal elements (paranormal romance, though arguably chick lit would fit here too), genres within genres, genres overlapping genres, an entire wide swath of fiction dismissively dubbed 'genre'. It's chaos!

It irks me.

I look upon my shelves of science fiction/fantasy and sigh with relief at the convenient compromise that is 'speculative fiction'. I glance at the horror shelves and wince at the idea of a genre based not on the book, but on how the reader reacts to the book. I organize my nonfiction shelves by the Dewey Decimal System because it makes sense.

So I was happy to stumble on The King of Elfland's Second Cousin's entry "Ephemeral Horror and the Diffusion of Genre Markers" even if it wasn't about ephemeral horror, as I thought, but about horror as an ephemeral genre, which is something of an ephemeral horror. This will start making sense any minute now, I promise.

The following points made my inner M&M sorter very happy:

#1. "[W]e categorize stories based on the conventions they employ and the devices that show up within their texts. Spaceships, time travel, aliens? Let’s call it science fiction. Magic and knights? Let’s go with fantasy. [...] These devices, the objects and tropes of most genres, can easily be slapped on a cover to communicate the story’s category to booksellers and readers."

Sometimes, in my flailing about order and chaos and systems for big cohesive pictures, I lose sight of the tiny common sense trees--namely, that 'genre' is just a fancy French word for 'kind', and is not, never was, and never will be some high and mighty literary infrastructure. It's just a big mental box into which vaguely similar stories are tossed so that the stuff you like is near the other stuff you like, so you can find more stuff you like.

#2. "Horror lacks the constraints that more solidified genre conventions impose. We can write a horror story – like Shirley Jackson’s classic 'Flower Garden' – without a single element of the supernatural or the inexplicable. [...] This freedom means that – in order to be effective – horror must sneak past the reader’s natural defenses, must directly speak to the reader’s perceptions, values, and fears. This is the kind of deep-seated, emotional and perceptual communication that the literary fiction genre has traditionally claimed for itself. But where literary fiction uses such emotional and philosophical intimacy to explore comfortably distanced morality, horror uses a highly sensitized point-of-view to get as close to the nerve as possible, to map even the most painful experiences from the inside."

It's a fantastic parallel: like a good horror story, the horror genre is about wandering into the dark and unfamiliar room to check out that bump you just heard.

I've argued the merits of horror with haters before, and pointed out that like fancy pants literary fiction, good horror says something about the viewer and society (and not just "We watch movies with naked co-eds taking a hatchet to the face"). To play on our fears, horror has to be able to get into our heads and push the buttons it finds there.

#3. No quote here, because it's a bit too spread out, but the point is brilliant: there are (of course) horror tropes, except when we become too used to them, they stop being horror tropes.

When horror begins relying on tropes to define it, those tropes cease to be scary, and in a fundamental way, the works that feature them stop being horror. Once the tropes are no longer new and unsettling--once we know them by heart--we begin to redefine and re-imagine them. We turn vampires into moody romantic leads, disfigured undead serial killers into comedians, and the lonely werewolf from an alienated loner into a member of a highly organized underground society of walking AIDS metaphors.

It won't make me change how I organize my reviews, but it does have me rethinking the horror movies of my youth.
mokie: A patriotic squirrel holding an American flag (politics squirrelly)
When they say we need to "run government like a business", ask them to name a business that's run like a democracy. (@Berryhillj)
There's a thing.

It's all well and good to suggest that the budgetary aspects of governing would be better handled by a politician with business experience, but a political system run like a corporation would be an oligarchy, in which faceless and disposable labor ideally (to said corporation) has no voice, no rights, and no protection against abuse, under a chairman and board that have all the power and ideally (to said corporation) don't have to answer to the masses--only to the power brokers and money-men behind the scenes. Wave the flag of rugged individualism all you like, but it's highly unlikely that anybody on the factory floor is going to bootstrap themselves into the boardroom. Invade Colorado and fight a football team, maybe...

Why don't we run America like a business? Because they're two different things. A business is an organization of willing workers under a management team with an overall agenda which is, ultimately, to make money, while a country is random people from a geographic blob overseen by officials whose agenda is, hopefully, to keep life in that geographic blob running smoothly. Because the first rule of business is that the business itself and profit always comes first, while the first rule of government should be that the good of the community and its members comes first. Because businesses institute policies specifically to thwart customer attempts to hold them accountable for their services/merchandise because it's all about saving that buck, while countries institute laws specifically to ensure that politicians are held accountable to the public, because it's all about maintaining the integrity of that office.

I admit that my bias is showing, but I don't understand how anyone who's ever worked for a corporation would want to vote one into office, even by proxy through politicians who hold them up as an ideal.
mokie: A big red dinosaur says, "Make me a sandwich" (cynical)
In November 2007, Malcolm Gladwell wrote in The New Yorker:
In the mid-nineties, the British Home Office analyzed a hundred and eighty-four crimes, to see how many times profiles led to the arrest of a criminal. The profile worked in five of those cases. That’s just 2.7 per cent... ("Real psychics: Criminal profiling and the F.B.I.")
The point Gladwell makes is that criminal profiling, despite its high profile in recent years, and maybe despite the best intentions of the profilers themselves, is nothing more than the old-fashioned cold reading practiced by psychics and televangelists: a few reasonable deductions mixed with a handful of okay assumptions and a lot of iffy guesses, couched in language so vague as to be realistically useless.

I mention this first because it's interesting, and second, because as a new friend (hi!) pointed out, the profilers have gathered around the Aurora shooting, all twitching and bitching. They're having trouble working with the reality they've got--the kind of profile they would come up with if they were looking for a suspect doesn't fit the suspect they have at all, and he's not giving them anything to work with. No blue collar job, no criminal history, no masturbatory basement lair. He doesn't even have a Facebook account! (Gasp!) Someone even brought up the tried-and-true boogeyman of video games, but the killer's game of choice was Guitar Hero.

So here's my profile on the killer:
  • He's an average student in a tough field of study. He wants to make a name for himself, but it's not going to be in neuroscience.
  • He claimed to be the Joker, but in red hair and body armor. He hasn't actually seen the recent Batman movies, but is aware of the popularity of Heath Ledger's Joker, and the controversy around the character. He wants to make a name for himself, and latching onto that image is, he thinks, a good way to start.
  • He may have the The Dark Knight's Joker confused with Batman Forever's Riddler. That is both sad and hilarious at the same time. If true, this suggests that he is not a nerd or a geek, as they would be aware of this difference, but that he would pretend to know such things if it got people to pay attention to him. In other words, he is a douchebag.
  • He allegedly asked one of his jailers how the movie ends. This has been interpreted by the media as a sign of how mentally out of touch he is. If we examine the question in the context of a screenplay, however, you see that it would play well as an action movie one-liner. From this, I suspect the killer really wants the world to think of him as a bad ass, and, based on that, it must really chafe his ass that the line did not play the way he anticipated. (Well played, media.)
  • Who tries to pull off action movie one-liners in real life? Douchebags.
  • According to his jailers, he's now claiming amnesia. I think we can look at this as, "This really didn't work out the way I wanted, I don't want to play this anymore."
In summary: I think he's just a douchebag who wants to make a name for himself. But it's just a guess.

[Related posts: We never learn. / Let's play Armchair Profilers!]
mokie: Clue's Ms White saying, "Flames on the sides of my face" (angry)
Missouri's conservative legislators have recently introduced two bills to force the state's schools to teach Creationism.

The first is House Bill 1227, hilariously called the Missouri Standard Science Act, which would require Creationism to be taught in grade school, high school, and even college science courses. That's the head-on attack.

From the side, however, comes House Bill 1276, a sneak attack on the scientific theory of evolution. In weasel language that pretends to be about encouraging critical thinking, the bill actually enables Creationists to intentionally derail class time to "review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution." [Emphasis mine.]

What's so bad about that, you ask?

Your child is sitting in science class, learning about science things. The next chapter in the textbook is evolution...

Under HB1227, by law that textbook must "give equal treatment [ditto] to biological evolution and biological intelligent design." Intelligent design is, by law, not required to "address the time or sequence of life's appearance on earth, time or formation of the fossil record, and time or method of species extinction." In other words, it is not required to be backed up with any sort of facts or evidence. It is presented solely as the belief-based conviction that it's impossible for life to have developed without a behind-the-scenes intelligence directing it.

But the bill "does not require the identity of intelligence responsible for earth's biology but requires any proposed identity of that intelligence to be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation." No theories about alien colonization. No masturbating Egyptian sun gods wanking the world into existence. No Hindu spontaneous and conscious-less creation. The 'present-day observation' of a supernatural watchmaker is implicitly assumed to be the Judeo-Christian god.

Best of all? "If a scientific theory or hypothesis proven to be false is taught for historical, illustrative, or other reasons, the theory or hypothesis shall be identified as false when taught orally or in writing." That's a sly way of allowing Creationists to toss out evolutionary theory completely, as they frequently (and erroneously) claim to have debunked it, largely based on willful misinterpretation of the word 'theory', which has a specific meaning in scientific parlance.

So, even if you don't want others teaching your child their religion, even if you want to raise your child in your faith and on your terms, or without faith entirely, it doesn't matter: the state will teach your child religion, specifically the evangelical Christian's religion-based argument against science that they don't like.

Again, that's the overt attack. Let's go back to the classroom, where your child is about to turn the page to the chapter on evolution...

Under HB1226, your child's classmate can bring the class to a halt: her mother told her this is all lies, and has given her a pamphlet with discussion points. The teacher cannot say, "That's what some religions say, but that's a discussion for church--back to science!" The teacher has to stop and seriously address, in a science classroom, a religious argument. This is a license for students to evangelize in the classroom. Worse, it's a license to continually interrupt and disrupt science lessons in order to do so, to force teachers to stop and discuss religion instead of teaching science.*

Now imagine it's the teacher doing the disrupting.

Your child is sitting in science class, and the teacher you trust to instruct the class in science has been given a license to denounce it--to put forward not evolutionary theory, but the Creationists' (again, erroneous) claim that they've debunked it. Without regard for your religion and yourbeliefs, without regard for your child's right to an education in accepted science, without regard for their future in the educational system, the state has given evangelical Christians a pass to force your child to study their beliefs.

I honestly do not understand the evangelical point of view on this. They don't trust the state, the schools and the teachers to teach their children about science or sex, but they want to mandate the state, the schools and the teachers to give their children religious instruction? It seems to me that's the one subject you'd definitely want to cover at home.


* Yes, this happens. A friend and former fundie heard about folks doing it; I witnessed a variant of it in a course on Judaism that a Southern Baptist attempted to derail. (The rabbi reduced him to tears, but still.)
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
Happy holidays, you crazy cats! I've not forgotten about you, I've just been buried under work, and unable to muster many big words.

So, did you guys know that I have a livejournal and a deadjournal and an insanejournal and a dreamwidth journal? They're all really the same journal, and all mokie. I mirror like a mofo, because I believe in the fundamental ability of websites to disappear without warning. But anyway, if you intend to bail on LJ and would prefer I read/comment at another site (when I dig myself out long enough to read), etc., feel free to say so.

For those not in the know, Livejournal has revamped the way its comments work, which is causing some consternation.

Some of it is trifling, like the font. Yes, there are people saying, "You bastards! I hate that font! Change it back NAO!"

Some of it is fair but still a little dramatic, like removal of subject lines and comment managing bits. I know these things have legitimate uses, especially in some contexts (like very talkative communities), but calm and clear feedback on why these things are not 'clutter' and are valuable is probably more helpful than screaming like someone murdered the kitten Jesus.

And some of it sounds trifling, like the new color combo, but is very much not, since the complaint is that it triggers migraines. Not migraines in the sense of drama queens who can't just have a headache, they have a migraine (though some jerky commenters on the news page are treating it like such), but migraines in the full medical sense, with nausea and hypersensitivity to stimuli and a crushing immunity to most painkillers. Gotta love a headache that brings its own 2-day hangover.

(If you're wondering: it's the new blue. It tricks the eye into reading the screen as washed out and much brighter than it actually is. Even users who don't get migraines are still getting headaches and reporting eyestrain. If you're sensitive to such things and have a paid account, I'd recommend viewing pages in your own style for a while, by adjusting your management settings and/or sticking ?style=mine onto the end of links. Don't trust Greasemonkey to customize things for you--I've seen a few users saying the site change has borked it.)

The much bigger problem is that this change to the comments appears to be the beginning of a site overhaul, in the same color scheme. So, that's fun.

Yet another LJ exodus is underway, and for good reason--if folks can't even read their comments without a headache and a hangover, then the site is fundamentally broken for them. Dreamwidth has open registration until the end of the year, and if any of my lovely readers need an invite for Deadjournal (or DW later), I'll share. Online journals with no commenting haven't been fun since '97.

I do hope LJ takes this one seriously. I know the userbase pitches a fit whenever a pixel is moved, but this is more in line with, "Hey, your cartoon causes seizures in certain percentage of small children." You fix that shit on principle, y'know?
mokie: Clue's Ms White saying, "Flames on the sides of my face" (angry)
In hot air that's dry, we sweat, it evaporates, we cool off.

In hot air that's damp, we sweat, it doesn't evaporate as easily, we don't cool off as much or as fast, and that makes the air feel hotter.

That's your heat index, folks: humidity and sweat. Sweat is how we regulate our internal temperature--the air pulling moisture off our skin cools us, which is why a spray bottle and a fan feels so good right now.

Why is the heat index important? So what if it feels hotter, and we stay sweaty?

When the air is so full of moisture that it can't suck the sweat from your pits anymore, that means your body can't cool itself. There you are, sitting and soaking in that summer heat like a pot roast in an oven, and like that pot roast your temperature is going to go up. The humidity makes it easier for you to overheat, and cook in your own stanky juices.

Reporting just the temperature is fine in areas with low humidity, but 88F in the desert is not the same as 88F in the hot and juicy swamp that is the Midwest right now--one is warm and the other is dangerous. Sure, meteorologists could just say that the humidity is an insane 79% today, but the heat index puts it in terms that people can understand: with the current humidity, the 88F heat will feel like 105F, little pot roasts, so cool off and stay safe.

And that's why Rush Limbaugh is a fucking moron and an irresponsible asshole.
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
Unless you want to. But I wouldn't recommend it. There's a lot of yelling, and you've pretty well sorted out the sides within the first few minutes. Really, I only read up for about ten minutes before going off to play with kittens instead. But there was an interesting thing, so let's get to that!

A friend linked a blog rant about sexism in the atheist community, inspired by a recent teapot tempest. The saucers flew when one woman vlogged about having given a talk on sexism only to later find herself followed into an elevator at 4am by a convention attendee who asked her to come back to his room to chat over coffee. She told the story to point out that, to a woman, being caught alone and propositioned late at night in an elevator by a stranger was creepy, and "Guys, don't do that."

(And a sad bit of brain sighs and points out how many guys I've known who would conclude that a woman who talks about sex at a convention must be a woman who puts out... Hey baby, how about some coffee?)

Guys flew into a rage. By God, they had the right to flirt and women needed to just man up and get over this silly male-phobic paranoia of theirs!

Gals sighed. Which is it? Are women overreacting when they get creeped out by a guy following them late at night, or are they not careful enough if they get raped by a guy who followed them late at night?

Men huffed. He probably didn't intend to 'corner her.' All he did was ask if she wanted to go back to his room! If a man can't even ask a woman out...

Women huffed. It's the situation. You don't follow a woman at 4am to an isolated spot and expect her not to find that creepy! You don't corner her alone--however briefly, however large the hotel, whatever the statistics on stranger rape and elevators--in an enclosed space late at night! And furthermore, had she agreed to this offer and he did turn out to be a creep, society would have said she was asking for it, because society says, "Coffee in his hotel room at 4am? Yeah, he meant 'sex,' and you should have known that."

Men huffed again. This guy didn't rape her! He didn't lay a hand on her! He asked her out, she shot him down, and that's all! She assumed he might be a creep based on anti-man prejudice just because he followed her onto an elevator!

Women facepalmed, because society gives women endless grief and lecturing about exactly this sort of situation. "It's your job to be aware of your surroundings and not put yourself in risky situations!"

At best, with the biggest possible benefit of the doubt forwarded to him, this guy was completely oblivious to their surroundings and the context they lent his actions. Perhaps not an active creeper, but like the guy who walks up to the widow at the funeral and says, "So, you're single now, right?" Do you have the right? Sure. Is it still creepy? Fuck, yes! It's just not the right time or place, dude.

Anyhow, I spent ten-odd minutes flitting through this morass and encountered the most terrible, wonderful, and sad wording I've seen to describe the female dilemma: Schrodinger's rapist.

That guy who very obviously wants to talk to you as he follows you across the parking lot after the store closes? He could just want to talk. Or he could be a rapist. You can't know until...

Society wants to maintain women in a similar state of possibility. If he does nothing, you are obviously a paranoid and over-reactive girl who's just prejudiced against males. If he assaults you, you are clearly a careless and stupid girl who doesn't pay any attention to her surroundings. You must give men the benefit of the doubt, but if he's proven guilty, it also proves you were stupid enough to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, there is a simpler, more objective take on this, completely separate from exclamation marks and discussions of privilege and sexism. Off to the sides of this hubbub, I saw men and women agreeing that this was creepy simply as a breech of Small Enclosed Public Space Etiquette: face forward, no conversation, keep any necessary requests brief and to the point, and pretend you smell nothing. This is the etiquette for tight halls, restrooms, urinals and elevators alike.

And that's where I stand, because nobody who walks up to you in a small enclosed public space at 4am wanting to chat is ever not creepy.
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (nerdy)
Time Magazine (yes, again) discusses why the rich shoplift more than the poor, but doesn't ask why store employees are still following poor people around the aisles instead of more affluent customers (answer: management doesn't care about pissing off poor people), or even when $70,000 a year became "rich," because isn't that closer to "middle-class" and doesn't that put a somewhat different spin on this?
In the book, you cite a study that finds Americans with incomes of $70,000 a year shoplift 30% more than those earning up to $20,000. Why is that?

Entitlement is certainly a factor. Rage is a factor. A lot of people feel that they are the victims in whatever way — whether it’s their life circumstances, or that they’re the victims of a larger economic plot — like Bernie Madoff. There’s this idea of avenging yourself on an impersonal entity, like a store. You see what others have — like on TMZ — and you think, ‘What difference does this make?’
mokie: A Japanese lantern in front of lush green bushes (thoughtful)
Time Magazine has published a serious article on fan fiction.

As with all things Internetty and/or geeky, that's either a sign that it's finally big enough to be recognized by the non-nerdly press, like lolcats and rickrolling, or a sign that it's hit oversaturation, like lolcats and rickrolling.
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
No matter how much they act like they want to discuss the Casey Anthony verdict, people are lying. They want to gnash their teeth over the lack of justice and commiserate with others, and that's okay, but it's not the same thing.

They have no interest in an objective discussion of the high burden of proof for murder, why it's an uphill battle even when there's plenty of evidence, and how little actual evidence there was in this case.

They don't care about the legal difference between murder and manslaughter, despite its obvious bearing since the state had to prove that Caylee was intentionally killed (murder), and eliminate the possibility that Casey accidentally caused her daughter's death (manslaughter) and covered it up, or simply discovered the death and disposed of the body callously after the fact. In fact, just pointing this out is somehow proof to them that you've bought the defense's claim of a family conspiracy, even if you're simply pointing out the salacious suggestions that Casey doped her daughter so she could get away for a bit (which, again, would be manslaughter) or how cause of death can't be determined and leaves the door wide-open for reasonable doubt.

They don't want to talk about reasonable doubt at all, or what the state did or did not prove or the holes that allowed reasonable doubt to poke its head through. They hear "reasonable doubt" as "I think she's innocent!" rather than "There is a definite non-magical, non-crazy chance she didn't intentionally kill the kid, and that means we can't say 'guilty of murder'."

Suggest that being a skeevy person and a bad mother are not in and of themselves proof of murder, and they throw their hands up in frustration. And why shouldn't they? That was the crux of the prosecution's case--she's a lying liar who lies and she got rid of the body, ergo she obviously killed the girl. Personally, I think had they not muddied the water with murder charges that the evidence didn't support, and tried to stretch Internet searches on a shared computer into a smoking gun, they might have gotten a conviction on manslaughter--not because my armchair legal expertise is Harvard-quality, but because like everyone else, the jury wanted to see someone held responsible and Casey Anthony does come across as skeevy and a bad mother. It's easier to suggest that a shitty mother caused her child's death by being a shitty mother than to suggest that a monstrous mother intentionally killed her child when she could instead have just dropped it off with Grandma and Grandpa and taken off.

But anyhow, I should have realized this, because this is the same thing that happens every time a kiddie murder makes the news.

At least I'm not the only one: The Casey Anthony Verdict: The Jury Did the Right Thing [Time Magazine]

ETA: And now that infamous 84 Internet searches for "chloroform" is under fire. The former policeman behind the software used to come up with that number has come forward to say it's wrong--there was only one search, he contacted the sheriff's office and a prosecutor to give them the corrected information, and yet it appears prosecutors deliberately withheld that information from the defense.

So even if she hadn't been found not guilty, she would have walked.
mokie: A Japanese lantern in front of lush green bushes (thoughtful)
Randy Jackson (Five, not Idol) tweeted that Tina Turner once accidentally shot him when he showed up at her house unannounced, says NYMag.com.

Having seen What's Love Got to Do with It, I figure he's lucky she didn't go full ninja on him.

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