mokie: Original Bad Seed Rhonda is getting upset (womb of doom)
I don't know if I can take another guy saying the Hobby Lobby decision is no big deal.

Let's set aside that the Supreme Court has said it's OK for employers to insert their religious beliefs into an employee's private life, by specifically limiting that employee's options in areas where they should have no say. No, your employer should not have say over your health care decisions.

Let's ignore that the Court has given employers the go-ahead to insert their political beliefs into an employee's medical decisions, by ignoring how certain medications actually work according to doctors, in favor of their own 'interpretation' of how it works based on their political agenda - this even though that incorrect interpretation is still perfectly legal in this country. No, your employer should not get veto power over your perfectly legal health care decisions.

We can even sidestep the fact that the Court has said it's OK for companies to selectively ignore parts of laws they dislike by claiming a religious exemption, even if they're for-profit outfits and not actually people, and definitely not churches. No, your employer's religion should not affect your health care decisions.

Basically, your employer does not own you and should not have control of your private life.

Guys, the Supreme Court has given employers the right to veto preventative care for a specific class of employees.

If a woman gets pregnant and decides to have the child, she's going to see a doctor for prenatal visits, for tests and check-ups to ensure things are OK, and for intervention if things aren't going OK. When time comes to pull a human being out of her body, she's probably doing it in a hospital, and given statistics in recent years, she'll quite likely have surgery. Pregnancy and childbirth involves a chain of medical procedures and is very much a big deal, one that has permanent physical repercussions for the person doing it aside from the impact on their lives in general. That's why lots of women decide not to have the child, and lots more - 99% of American women at some point in their lives - take steps to avoid conceiving in the first place. That's what makes birth control 'preventative care'.

No, Hobby Lobby was not being forced to foot the bill for abortions. Don't forget that employees pay into these packages, which are meant to cover the health care needs of employees, not the political agenda of the employer.

No, it does not matter that Hobby Lobby covers some other types of contraception, because they've opened the door for other employers to deny contraception entirely, which gets us into the sticky fact that, apart from pregnancy being a real risk for some women, 'birth control' often has medical uses outside of preventing pregnancy - treatment of endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, and reduction of ovarian cancer risks, for starters. You should not have to sit down with your boss and prove you're not just horny in order to get medicine prescribed by your doctor, dammit.

No, "They shouldn't have to pay for you to have sex!" isn't relevant, because these insurance packages sure as hell cover prenatal care and treatment for STDs, so by that logic they're already paying for people to have sex.

No, "It doesn't cover my condoms!" isn't remotely the same thing, because even if the condom breaks, that guy is never, ever going to risk having a person pulled from his dick nine months later.

Yes, it is a big deal, because contraception is expensive, but so is getting pregnant, and if you're working retail at the fucking craft store level, in all likelihood you can barely afford either.

Update: Oh look, folks are already trying to use Hobby Lobby's "sincerely held religious belief" precedent to skirt LGBT anti-discrimination legislation.
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: John William Waterhouse's Pandora peers into the box (disbelief)
If you ever needed a clear example of what's wrong with society:

A 20-year-old man in Oklahoma was arrested for rape after it was discovered he'd been engaged in sexual activity with a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old. He played Truth or Dare with the two girls and dared them to engage in sexual acts with him and with each other in his room at his parents' home. The reports don't say why the girls were there, but they do say that the 15-year-old "was successful in fending off one other sexual attack," and that the charges include forcible sodomy, so they're not just alleging statutory rape here.

The facts: an adult engaged in sexual activity with two minors.

Society: those wicked girls!

"He's still a kid himself!" says someone trying to justify an adult engaging in sexual activity with two minors.

"Why did they keep coming back?" says someone who assumes the girls were sneaking in to play games with an older guy, ignoring other possibilities - like that the girls were relatives spending the night, pressured into playing games with a creepy uncle that also lived in the house. (That's a scenario that also explains his parents' reaction: they immediately kicked him out of the house, and are on the record stating that these 'games' took place when they were asleep or not home. That doesn't sound like they were unaware of the girls' presence - or, possibly, their son's proclivities.)

"Those girls aren't so innocent," says someone who's never met anyone involved in this story, and who assumes that the female teens bear responsibility rather than the adult male.

I emphasize the gender because the gender is important - it's why the teens are being demonized, and why their rapist is being excused. He's just a poor boy, barely out of his teens, but they're teenage girls, and therefore brazen hussies.

It's bullshit, ladies and gents. The adult is always responsible. That's what being an adult is: being responsible. I don't care if the teens were willing participants - and remember, the charges specifically say they weren't. (No, being in a man's room is not the same as consenting, even if they were old enough to consent, which they weren't.) But even if the girls were up for it, it was still his responsibility as the adult to say NO and to not take advantage of the situation.
mokie: Thelma Harper glares at the viewer (stfu)
I'm medicated, because it turns out I'm allergic to coconut. (Ooops.) It also turns out that Benedryl makes me chatty--more so than liquor, surprisingly. And thus you get the benefit of my doofy wisdom!

#1. Vaguebooking is punishing everyone who reads because one person pissed you off. It's throwing a rock into a group because you're angry and you want someone to pay attention. It's an act of verbal aggression, and should be met with equal aggression--call that shit out when you see it.

#2. I don't mean privately. Those "Are you OK?" private messages and emails are what the poster wants, someone to come and coddle them so they can spread their misery around without actually asking for help or dealing with the person they're upset with. It just feeds that godawful behavior.

#3. I don't mean nicely, either. Vaguebooking is punishing everyone because you're mad at one person. That's not nice behavior and it doesn't deserve a nice response.

#4. At the same time, I know sometimes folks are just looking to vent. They're not trying to passively-aggressively lash out at someone, they're not asking for help, they just need to release a little steam before the auto-smacking starts. The problem really comes in when they fail to notice that all of their blog posts or status updates or tweets or [insert next big thing in social media] are this kind of venting, because they're never actually socialling in their media--they're just sticking anyone who reads in the position of having to be their ear for venting, without ever giving anything but venting.

#5. And who the fuck wants to read a non-stop negativity engine, just churning out nothing but misery and spite? Fuck, at least toss people a cat picture once in a while.

#6. Ironically, this looks very much like vaguebooking. I'm aware of that. Two minutes before I loaded Semagic, the free-form rant flowing through my wobbly grey bits was all about avocados, so at least this is moderately relevant to the medium.

Edited for clarification: I could have also mentioned in #6 that what sparked the vaguebooking rant was some Buzzfeed article in passing, but that would have made too much sense.
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-haired punk Vyvyan makes rude gestures at the viewer (snotty)
I need a word for the uncomfortable feeling of realizing you're the smartest person in a conversation.

I don't mean the smug belief that you're the smartest person present, or the haughty irritated glee of having the rightest opinion and why won't everyone just shut up and admit it already. No, I mean the awkward, embarrassed feeling when you think you're casually answering a question, only to realize that the other person thinks they're winning an argument you didn't even know you were having. You know, the moment you realize that not only do they not understand what you said, they're not capable of understanding it, because they really don't grasp how it works--be it science, medicine, English grammar, etc. And yet they're convinced that they're totally rocking that shit.

And then I need a word for the other side of the table: when you're pretty sure you're rocking that shit, but that little voice in the back of your head whispers, Maybe you're just not getting it.

For instance, homemade soap. Occasionally when washing my hands at someone else's house or purchasing a bar from a highly praised veteran soapmaker, I'll get irritated at the underwhelming performance. Terrible lather, a formulation clearly geared toward hardness rather than function, or toward squeaky cleanness at the expense of moisturizing, etc. I've dropped bars back into dishes and said aloud, "My soap is better than this." Even though I know that some people formulate for harder/softer water than mine, that one person's moisturizing bar is another person's 'slimy feeling' bar, that a formula that works perfectly for one person may be irritating to someone else, and so on. I know all this, because that's part of why I make my own soap--so I can have a bar that works just the way I want it, with the factors facing me, like my building's crazy-ass hard water.

All the same, I look at packaging, and that list of fancy-pants oils, and I think, "Who makes a coconut-based soap and uses olive just to superfat? You just gave me sandpaper fingers!" I stand there, all irate because my soap is better and they have years more experience than I do, and they have no right, no right at all to not whip my soap's ass. (I know, I can't even be cocky right.) And in the back of my head, there's that voice: What if my soap is so wrong, I just don't even know it?

Except when someone sheepishly points to a soap I purchased but they think I made, and says, "That one doesn't really lather." Then I am vindicated, goddammit.
mokie: Clue's Ms White saying, "Flames on the sides of my face" (irritated)
"Is that canned chicken?"

With two bowls of slow-cooked and shredded chicken breast in the fridge? No. Why would I open a can of shredded chicken when I already have shredded chicken?

Ugh.

I prefer fresh ingredients over tinned veggies and heavily processed boxfuuds, not out of a puritanical fear of any edibles that come from a container but because I'm cheap: ingredients go farther than prepackaged meals, and I don't have to worry about the sugar/salt/fat tango*, or the corn/dairy industry shoehorning in fillers to earn those subsidies. I keep a good supply of tinned and boxed food on hand for weather troubles and scheduling issues, but generally access to fresh food isn't an issue, since I live within walking distance of two supermarkets and a summer veggie stand. Time isn't even an issue: in the same time it takes a Pinterest mama to pull up a "3 cans + 2 boxes = homemade meal!" recipe, open her boxes, Instagram it and throw it in the oven, I can have my ingredients sliced, diced and cooking.

It just doesn't make sense to rely on boxfuuds in my situation.

If I don't tell older relatives what the meal is made of, it's the tastiest damn thing they've ever put in their mouths. If I reveal that a meal doesn't contain at least one can of Campbell's Cream Of Soup, or one box of Cheezy Noodle Product, they look at the dish like it's toxic. I don't know if it's generally generational or just my family, but there seems to be some kind of deep distrust of, well, cooking. Like it's not food unless someone opened a box.

And forget leftovers. Forget any big meal meant to store or stretch over several days, unless it's boiled (to death) ham'n'beans. "Eh. I'm not in the mood for that." Mood? You don't get to be in the mood to waste $15 of chicken that you requested.

"Is that canned chicken?" Would she know the difference without asking? Nope. And yet she didn't want it unless it came from a can.

No wonder my grandfather was such a cheap bastard, if this was what he was up against.

If you're not quite ranted out after all this, I offer: The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater


* It's difficult to maintain tastiness in a product meant to sit on a shelf for months at a time. Boxfuuds therefore rely a lot on salt, sugar and fat for flavor. If the box claims to be low in one, look over the ingredients carefully, because it's probably high in one (or both) of the others to make up for the cut.
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: A patriotic squirrel holding an American flag (politics politicians)
While I'll happily rant up a storm about specific issues that get under my skin, I'm usually less interested in ranting about politics in a general sense. I see the whole conservative/liberal spectrum as a pendulum, a balancing act for long-term social order rather than a winner-take-all tug-o-war over a societal death pit.

But Romney's calculated moves to appeal to the Far-Right, long past the "Dude, have you no dignity?" line, have finally squeaked into "Dude, have you no soul?" territory with his comment on Libya:
I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.
He not only ignored what was actually said, he tried to twist it into something completely different, in order to score political points through American deaths.
[Romney's statement] conflates a statement from a staffer in the Egyptian Embassy, who was trying to calm a potential mob, with the Obama administration. It conflates unrest in Egypt with the murder of an American diplomat, among others, in Libya. And it accuses the Obama administration of something that they not only didn't do, but that would have been horrific of them to do: To sympathize with terrorists who had just murdered one of their ambassadors. (Ezra Klein, "Romney's comments on Libya show desperation," Washington Post 12 September 2012)
And of course the cockroaches pour out of the woodwork--Palin, Perry, Blunt, et al., the "Oh us poor oppressed Christians!" crowd--all happy to wallow in the blood and condemn a tweet calling for religious sensitivity.
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!]

We never learn.

Sunday, 22 July 2012 08:10 am
mokie: Notebook paper with a message, "Abort mission, destroy phone" (media mistrusting)
A couple of quotes from Charlie Brooker's Newswipe seem particularly relevant right now.

First, the host: "Repeatedly showing us a killer's face isn't news, it's just rubbernecking, and what's more, this sort of coverage only serves to turn this murdering little twat into a sort of nihilistic pin-up boy."

And I agree.

Second, from the same, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz:
We've had 20 years of mass murderers, throughout which I have repeatedly told CNN and our other media, 'If you don't want to propagate more mass murders, don't start the story with sirens blaring. Don't have photographs of the killer. Don't make this 24/7 coverage. Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.

Do localize this story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market, because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week. (Charlie Brooker's Newswipe, 25 March 2009)

Update: The experts may expect to see one or two more attacks within a week, but I think we all underestimate how many plain old-fashioned assholes will pop out of the woodwork.

[Related posts: We never learn. / Let's play Armchair Profilers!]
mokie: A screaming child holding a headless teddy bear (cranky)
I'm currently stuck in a horrible depression loop.

I'm pretty sure I know why--the two week heat wave killed my appetite, my sinuses and my sleep schedule, so I'm sniffly despite three kinds of medication, sleep-deprived but not sleepy thanks to the decongestant, and hungry but not feeling it thanks to the phlegm. And then being hot, hungry, sleepy and sneezy all conspired to kill my attention span just as a big job came in, so I'm feeling all of that and frustrated and stupid and worthless.

Fortunately it's the kind of depression that manifests not as woe! woe is me! or I'm not worthy of hygiene!, but as a seething rage that pops up randomly against random people for no good reason. Actor on TV who cannot act, I will kill you with my mind! kinds of rage, pointless and brutal but quickly passing, thanks to that short attention span.

So that's fun.

I'm not sure if I should grab my camera and go hide for a while, or consume vast amounts of coffee and hammer this job until it submits.

Update: And the random brown-out just now answered my question. Camera it is!
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
A little while back, South Park did a whole episode dedicated to reclaiming the word 'faggot' as an all-purpose insult because the young men who make up its target audience really, really like that word. The show argued that the word has other meanings and is not in and of itself a homophobic slur, and it shouldn't automatically be assumed to be a homophobic slur. I mean, it's not like their young male viewers also use 'gay' as an insult or say stupid shit like 'no homo', right?

Except yes, they do.

Now when is South Park going to get around to a certain racial epithet that the young white men want to use? Where's the argument that 'nigger' isn't racist and has other meanings? For example, according to two local DJs in the '90s, it's used to call someone ignorant in parts of the South, and that's not racist, right?

Except yes, it is.

Does anyone really have to explain why?
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: Firefies swirl beneath a tree on a moonlit night (happy)
From the Terminator 2: Judgment Day trivia page:
The "forced medication" scene (Special Edition only) had to be re-shot several times because actor Ken Gibbel wouldn't hit Linda Hamilton properly with his nightstick. The scene was very physically demanding and Hamilton was furious with Gibbel because he repeatedly botched it. She got her revenge in a later scene where she beats Gibbel with a broken-off broom handle - the blows are for real.
If you check Gibbel's IMDb page, you'll notice T2 is his last acting role.

She beat him right out of the movies!
mokie: Clue's Ms White saying, "Flames on the sides of my face" (angry)
Today I read a pissy academic's blog post in which he declared that the Left is unrepresented in 'the blogosphere.' To illustrate this, he pointed out a handful of big name bloggers who fail to meet his standards of Leftiness.

The first part of his problem is that his sense of the blogosphere's borders is narrowly defined as this cadre of big names on either side of the political spectrum. He defers to the authority of celebrity, rather than recognizing the raison d'être of blogging--that anyone can put their voice out there and join the conversation. He has not found bloggers who meet his criteria because, whether he admits it to himself or not, his criteria starts with their status, not their politics.

The second part of his problem is that his line in the sand serves primarily to stroke his own ego and highlight his envy. He's not just Leftist, he's Leftier-than-thou, and certainly Leftier than the well-known bloggers who don't push his Leftism. And yet they're the big dogs, and he's left out in the cold. Since he can't achieve their status, he attacks their politics.

Of course, my problem is that he made me say the word 'blogosphere' seriously. For that, he is a douchebag.

I offer no link because it's a long repetitive whinefest by a shitstain in his ivory tower. Oh, how much better he is than everyone else! Woe, why does nobody notice and rush to agree and reward him with fame? It's better not to reward that nonsense with extra attention.

So why comment on it at all, you ask? Because we've not yet dumbed down our political discourse to Palin's Facebook page vs. Ebert's Twitter feed. The blogosphere, whatever your opinion on the term, is still an open plaza where anyone can set up a soapbox. Raise your voice, and raise up the voices you value. If you're complaining that Kos doesn't toe your line, you're the one who's missed the point.
mokie: Clue's Ms White saying, "Flames on the sides of my face" (angry)
From Indie Won. Now What? [Broken Pencil]
Authenticity has become dominated by persona (or worse, personal brand), serving to disguise or deflect a person's motives. At this juncture, indie needs to provide a better window into its soul -- and like every useful window, it must be transparent. ... The problem, of course, is that authenticity is much sexier (and safer) than transparency. 'Select only things to steal that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic,' explained indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch in a 2004 article for MovieMaker magazine. 'Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.' Transparency has no place in this equation because it involves footnotes and citations and other unsexy tools of attribution. Ripping someone off, meanwhile, requires nothing but swagger.

David Shields, in his recent book Reality Hunger, is equally obsessed with artistic bona fides. He admits that he is 'desperate for authenticity and in love with artifice' and that 'we're clinging to anything that seems 'real' or organic or authentic. We want rougher sounds, rougher images, raw footage, uncensored by high technology and the powers that be.' Curiously enough Shields, like Jarmusch, endorses thievery, admitting that 'most of the passages in this book are taken from other sources.'

Meanwhile, in February of this year, it was revealed that Helene Hegemann, a 17-year-old German novelist, had also taken Jarmusch's advice and plagiarized (or borrowed, or remixed, or repurposed) a blogger named Airen in her book Axolotl Roadkill. 'There's no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,' Hegemann said in her defense, taking inspiration from Shields and nearly plagiarizing Jarmusch in the process.
The author goes on to point out the irony of carefully constructed and inauthentic authenticity, as part of the article's theme--that the indie hipsters need to embrace the inauthenticity of their authenticity to make it authentic instead of pretending it's authentic. Or something.

But I wish, oh how I wish, we had followed that tangent above: that hipsters and the indie movement have conflated authenticity, that which is genuine, "of undisputed origin or authorship," true and trustworthy and legitimate, with theft. The claim that there is no originality is a cover for an unwillingness to pursue originality in favor of rehashing the past with tongue in cheek, an excuse to sneer when you are caught stealing someone else's work--caught, because the plagiarist doesn't state upfront that she's ripped off a handful of bloggers and authors.

It's nothing to do with originality or authenticity, or the relative unsexiness of footnotes. The braggadocio of the embarrassed asshole caught in the act may be the hallmark of the hipster but it did not originate with him, and "Fuck you, I meant to do that anyway" is older than spit.

So, the author says, their authenticity now thoroughly inauthentic in that it can be bought and sold to market a car, indie has 'won'--a strange reversal of values, given that previous generations would have decried this as 'selling out' or having been co-opted by corporate interests, and a tragic undermining of the legitimacy of that movement/aesthetic. Except, that's right, their legitimacy isn't, their authenticity isn't, it's all been a snarky sham and if the suits are going to make a buck off of it (isn't marketing the ultimate example of inauthentic authenticity?), the hipsters might as well pose for the cameras.

And now that they've won, what's next? Transparency. Footnotes. Show your sources, show your work, because honesty and integrity are the new indie.

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