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18 Nov 19:05

I am not That (One Thing): Celebrity, Creativity, and Shaun White

by Sarah Clark

(Author’s note: I want to particularly thank the inimitable Amy Gravino for her feedback on and reassurance about this essay. Her example as both a superfan and an advocate for Asperger’s Syndrome gave me the nerve to share this facet of my unique fandom lens, and reassured me that I wasn’t just (over)sharing for the sake of sharing. She is a talented writer, a hilarious lady, a sensitive mentor, and one of the most awesome people I have met since returning yet one more time to the Monkees fandom. I’m honored to call her a friend.)


Nez Tour ArtSo, I’m on a study break from my qualifying exam the other day, puttering around a few corners if the net I’ve neglected the past few weeks while preparing for the Take-home test of DOOM. In one conversation related to the current solo tour, someone made a passing comment about Michael “Nez” Nesmith’s decision to only sign one Monkee-related item per guest at his post-show Conversation Receptions—specifically:

Ya think maybe he’s still not at peace with the whole Monkee thing? Or at least extremely frustrated at the huge shadow it continues to cast over everything else he’s ever done. I guess I would be too.

Now that hypothesis is nothing we Monkeemaniacs and Nezheads haven’t thought or read or even said a million times. But my gut’s told me the “not at peace” line is a simplistic hypothesis that’s easy to toss off in a blog post (I’m guilty of it, in my defense we’d just had a Very Big Day), but that hides a deeper truth. So I began writing a long-winded reply. And then I started getting really passionate. And then I stopped, and asked myself why I was so certain of the inner motivations of a fairly complicated guy whom I’ve never met (Well, I’m meeting him in 13 days. Oh, shit. *takes cleansing breaths*).

Seriously, why do I keep ranting over and over about the evils of entitled fans, in all fandoms? Yeah, it all started with a momentary screaming fit in my car over a tour that came 3 months late to fulfill a lifelong dream of one of my best friends, but I started wondering if there was more than that to the story. And then “the Flying Tomato” did a “Double McTwist 1260″ in my mind’s eye, and I facepalmed. It was time to write the post I’ve been dreading ever since Gazpacho, Grief, & Gratitude went Monkees!Viral and I knew that I was not going to be able to extract my positionality and personality from the story I’ve told here of using pop culture to make sense of my life, and vice versa.

Uncropped SelfieThere’s no non-melodramatic way to say this, so I’ll just say it flat-out (with the help of a zipper-tastic selfie). I, like 1 percent of the population, live with a congenital heart defect, or CHD (three actually, though the latter two were quite handy). My plumbing issues are roughly comparable but a bit worse than fellow CHDer Shaun White’s, but thankfully nothing near so life-impacting as Becca’s (Happy 21st!) or irrationally adorable Pokemon Obsessive Liam. Like Liam, I’m Palliated but not “Cured”, though according to longitudinal studies my cardiac kludge seems to stand the test of time reasonably well, and there is an improved “fix” available to kids born with my issues these days (though really, few if any defects are ever 100% “cured”). Tl; Dr, I walk 5K races, but can’t (yet…) run them, and I take exactly one pill a day. All in all, a pretty good life. So what the hell does my backwards-plumbed circulatory system have to do with autograph policies, snowboarding, or even celebrity/fan culture in general?

Wow, his scar’s subtle. Either he’s had work done or I REALLY should brush up my Photoshop…

I’m not really a sports fan, but I do follow the Olympics—winter and summer. I honestly can’t remember where I learned about Shaun’s defect—I want to say it was some website profile before the 2010 winter games. I’d watched his antics in 2006 so was already mildly familiar with him, and was pleasantly surprised to discover somebody “like me” was a competitive athlete. A couple weeks later, Shaun was interviewed during the Olympics, and they asked him about the matter. Watching that interview very closely, I could almost feel Shaun struggling not to squirm. He said something very straightforward, along the lines of “overcoming my heart defect made me more competitive”, and then he smoothly changed the subject to his new skateboard line or whatever. I was impressed with his PR chops. He kept the interviewer on topic, and defined himself on his own terms. That wasn’t the time or place to be plugging charitable causes, so I simply filed away his deflection for my own personal future use (though I don’t ever plan to have a skateboard line).

Then came the Hobbit. I was mostly busy gazing at the glory that is Martin Freeman, but was also gnawing on this commercial for St. Jude’s that played before the show.

As this point, I’ll turn over the mike to Amanda, Liam’s mom. She says it better than I could here and here, though she has a rather different perspective on the matter than I do. I really want you to read her thoughts (and the rest of the blog, and then buy her book), but in a nushell: Amanda was kind of confused as to why Shaun devoted charitable energy to a cause better funded by several orders of magnitude than the one that has touched his own life.  (note: the link to Amanda’s book is an affiliate link, but if anyone buys I’ll split 100% of my commission into equal donations to the charities linked below)

Now, If we look at Shaun’s charitable PSA choices though Amanda’s lens as a warrior, she’s 150% right. In a perfect world, Shaun would not be playing it safe by using Saint Jude’s to contribute to the Charitable-Industrial complex—he’d be out there banging the drum for the Adult Congenital Heart Association, Mended Little Hearts, et al. But you know what? I understand Shaun’s choice. I only did the Poster Child gig once, but that was enough to learn how he would likely be infantilized and used if he didn’t construct and control his public image the way that he does. No broadly-grinning tomato-haired hipster soaring over metal music in total control over his performance, but rather soft-focus childhood photos, sad cellos interspersed with heart monitor sound effects, tears from mom, stock footage of hospital beds all building to a triumphal finale with some uplifting tune from Copeland or something. In other words, something like how those badass kids were disempowered and fetishized in that sappy-ass, manipulative St. Jude’s commercial. Gag. (And if you think I have issues about St. Jude’s marketing strategy, don’t EVER get me started on Susan G. Komen or Jerry Lewis…)

That narrative is the last thing I ever wanted attached to me as a competitive (in a nerdy way) sort of person, and the closest thing I ever achieved to sports success was when I was 13 and the softball coach regaled everyone at the end-of-season picnic with my medical history before handing me my “you tried!” participation trophy (pro tip: don’t do that). I was somewhat contented with the fact that if you squint, you can maybe just barely see the top of Shaun’s midline scar peeking above the top of his tee shirt in the St. Jude’s commercial if you know what you’re looking for. And even if he wasn’t helping “our tribe” directly, he was at least using his celebrity to help sick kids rather than flogging yellow wristbands while shooting up with performance enhancers. *ahem*

Luckily, I’m much more familiar with Shaun’s struggles than Amanda’s. At 16 I had the world’s most frightening Perils of Pregnancy talk from my cardiologist upon proudly announcing the utter miracle of landing myself a serious boyfriend. If I’d been Catholic I might have considered becoming a nun, but contented myself with sobbing on said boyfriend’s shoulder (If you ever bump into this, Eddie, thanks again). I’ve heard more optimistic assessments since, and I know of women with my anatomy who’ve had kids, but I chose against of bearing children then and there, because if shit can go wrong medically in my family, it does. In my 30s after some honest marital talks, I opted for a doctorate instead of adoption. Yes, I know some can get advanced degrees while raising children and working full time. I’m not one of them.

Long story short, I will never know what it feels like to be a mom of anyone—much less anyone critically ill. But I do know what it feels like to walk into the Doctor’s office every 6-12 months, knowing intellectually you’re as normal(ish) as ever but wondering if you were just in denial, if that bit of indigestion you had last weekend after that ill-advised Lengua taco at the new truck downtown was really a horrible pernicious arrythmia. If this is the visit where the good luck ends and you’re gonna start dying. Hasn’t happened yet, knock wood it very might well never happen, but you’d better believe that growing up with something like that is a powerful incentive to live life on your own terms and fuck what others say.

And I realized…I don’t keep ranting about this entitled fan crap for the reason I thought I did all this time. I rant about it because I decided long ago I needed to be more than my defect, more than my manufactured image.


Sweet Neffie on a Harley I’m getting this signed in 13 days…*takes more centering breaths*

And on that note of realization, back to autograph policies. Obviously I can’t speak for Nez, but for me, at least, It’s not a matter of being “at peace” or “not at peace” with something. It’s a matter of being able to stand up and say THIS is the totality of who I am, and to have my complete voice be heard. I am more than That One Thing. It’s a difficult thought process to understand unless you have a That One Thing in your life. That difficulty is why I kept That One Thing to myself over the past year and a half. But my old friends Jenny and Anissa (who died when I was 4 and 35 respectively) are gently telling me it’s time to put on my Big Girl Jimmy Choos and own this part of my story. My heart was probably irrelevant to the events of the past year and a half, but it was also suspiciously convenient not to go there. After all, something drove me to allude to Jenny in the very first post I made here–even if I was too chicken to tell you we met in our parents’ support group.

Sometimes it’s easier just to hide That One Thing. However, unless we become hermits (an ultimately self-destructive act–I know because I tried it during puberty), we all have to live in a world that may perceive what “matters” about us differently than we do. Doing that dance is tricky enough for me, and it was only about 2 1/2 years ago that I began coming out of the closet with my defect to more than my nearest and dearest. I can only imagine it’s murder when you’ve got a herd of fans and/or activists breathing down your neck to be a role model, or assuming that because your self-definition differs from their assumptions, that you haven’t “made peace” with That One Thing, whatever it’s a unique circulatory system or a stint in America’s first manufactured boy band. Maybe for the celebrity who you’re judging, That One Thing’s not that big a deal. Or maybe his attitude toward That One Thing is none of your damn business.

But all that said, Amanda has an extremely valid point. Now, Shaun doesn’t owe the CHD community anything. But having walked a mile in a version of his snowboots, I would cautiously argue that in our unique situation there are things my 1% owes ourselves, not to mention the very literal children, research animals, etc, who died that we might live. Maybe everyone owes something like this to themselves and the universe, but I can only know my perspective on this issue.  In any case, Shaun and I (and the rest of the 1 percent) owe those ghosts (and ourselves) a fully lived life of whatever length, full of joy and friendship and dreams attained and generally improving the world in the ways we can. And an aspect of my journey, right now at least, is to find openings where I can be honest about the ways in which my That One Thing does and does NOT matter. I’m a decent writer and educator, and my words might smooth the way for someone else. If I broaden someone’s horizon, or even better, help one struggling young person with a heart defect who was drawn to some of the dorkier byways of pop culture, then this post was worth it. (If that’s you, email me. No matter your health issues, I SWEAR it gets better emotionally and socially.)

As for the slowly emerging novel/series I mentioned in passing a few posts back? It’s the story of an unlikely friendship between a heart surgeon and pediatric cardiologist, and the lives their 30 year partnership saves (and doesn’t save) along the way. Think the Master and Commander series with EKG machines. I spent 36 years trying NOT to write about That One Thing. But now I will. I have to. The larger world NEEDS to understand this world, and it if my medicine will go down more effectively with the safe sugar coating of fiction and a generous dollop of dry humor, then so be it. Most importantly, I am exploring this story alongside my dissertation work because nothing else creative will come out till I do, and because I may be the only person who has both the nearness and the distance to tell this story. Most importantly, I needed to learn the lessons of The Year of Our WTF before I could explore That One Thing in a non-Mary Sue manner.

Solo choosBut this story will be told on my terms. If I do manage to write this, and sell it, and it hits big, you better BET I’ll be on talk shows in a tastefully low neckline promoting charitable organizations and urging other adults with heart defects to get follow-up care (You all need it, at least once. I don’t care what your cardiologist told you when you were a teenager about being “fixed”. Pop open a tab NOW and find a specialist. if you’re scared about it email me.)  But I can only conceive of doing that (or writing this post) because I’ve defined the rules of engagement. It’s my personal equivalent of the line between wearing sparkly Reunion Choos on the solo tour but only signing one Monkees item per person. My defect helped make me who I am, and unconsciously influences every word of fiction, analysis, or scholarship I’ve ever written. It also may explain a great deal about who I am a fan of, and how I make sense of celebrities, fans, and Fandom. That said, I am NOT my circulatory system. Never have been, never will be. So if I ever do get on National TV to plug my bestseller, I’ll happily answer a question or two to bust myths. But if Oprah or Rachael wants to spend all 10 minutes of my precious book-promoting airtime reducing me to my “miraculous” plumbing, then, well, in the words of another person far too often simplified down to his That One Thing…I’d really rather not. ;-)

(fast forward to 4:00 if it doesn’t automatically–or don’t, as it’s preceded by another favorite. :-) )

And speak of that sparkly-shod devil, next up is likely going to be my review of the Nez concert and *gulp* conversation reception. I decided against bringing my Vinyl Headquarters to go along with TLSHONZ and Tropical Campfires…but after an embarrassing amount of deliberation and waffling I’m wearing a cute new cashmere V-neck I just spotted. Kevin likes me in low-cut stuff and Nez can hopefully cope with some mild B-cup cleavage. ;-)  Besides—you only live once, right?

18 Nov 18:57

Updates: Temperature Conversion Table

Temperature Conversion Table

  • Since we posted this in 2010, we’ve been measuring our temperatures in Kelvin (not the Kelvin scale, but a guy named Kevin whose name we misspell around the lab).
  • Bees, they still exist. Don’t be unprepared.
  • Having trouble talking about weather with strangers? Browse our collected science and make new friends (who you only talk about the weather with).
17 Nov 10:27

Same-sex marriage 'only serves assimilationists' is piffle

by (Jen)

We've had an enormous amount of discussion of marriage in LGBT+ activism circles over the last couple of years. One of the semi-legitimate complaints is that the focus on this has passed over other issues affecting LGBT people (why I'm not persuaded of that is a tangent for another post). Another I've run into many times is that this change only serves the 'assimilationist gays'.

I'm not persuaded, and here's why.  My quick and dirty chart above considers the division of marriage up until legislative reform.  On the left of the black line, people who if they are to marry one person pick someone the law considers to be of the opposite sex; on the right, those who choose someone deemed of the same sex. (The law, at least in the countries I have lived in, remains a stickler for this binary thing).

But not everyone wants to marry. For whatever individual reason, all the people below the red line don't want to marry.

But we live in a culture of homophobia, and so people in the bottom left are pressured into marrying or else coming on the receiving end of homophobia through guilt-by-association: still not married, at your age? There must be something wrong and we all know what people who don't marry have wrong with them. Cue a variety of social ostracisation and for some financial penalties too.  Some will be assumed to be gay, others will marry for social acceptance.

Meanwhile on the right of the black line, at the top there are people who want to marry but are denied it, and at the bottom, people who don't want to marry (and may come to imagine a correlation between their distaste for marriage and their sexual preferences).

Now we redefine marriage as for any couple who want to marry.

This means the dividing line in marriage is not by sexual orientation but by choice.  No longer the black line but the red.

Those in the top right box are given the freedom over their own lives to choose to marry if they (and their prospective spouse) so wish.

Those in the bottom left box have the "it must be because you are secretly gay" assumption lifted. You could marry if you wanted; if you're not marrying it is because you choose not to, or the right person said no, or suchlike.

So I don't see same-sex marriage laws as 'just' liberation politics, and I don't see it as just for LGBT. It allows both those who wish to marry and those who do not to do the thing that feels right for them, without giving either the bully power to force their personal choice onto others.
16 Nov 14:07

The Mystery Of Moon Dust

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin returned from the moon, their cargo included nearly fifty pounds of rock and soil, which were packed in an aluminum box with seals designed to maintain the lunar surface’s low-pressure environment. But back at Johnson Space Center, in Houston, scientists discovered that the seals had been destroyed—by moon dust.
15 Nov 18:56

Dick Hole Mind Control, 1918 Version

by Jia Tolentino
by Jia Tolentino

The Week has collected some century-old wedding night tips, and some, as you might expect, are batshit ("Absence [of shame] is a proof of dullness and coarseness," "The young matron should shape her life to the probable and desired contingency of conception and maternity. Otherwise she has no right or title to wifehood").

Others actually hold up quite well: "Every intelligent physician knows that conjugal life is the salvation of many women."

Most notable, however, is the early signaling of the power of Dick Hole Mind Control:

In sexual intimacies, there is a discharge of this creative fluid from the body of the man, but where there is a full response on the part of the wife, there seems to be an exchange of magnetism or energy1 which makes up for the loss. If, however, his desire alone is active and she is simply fulfilling a supposed wifely duty, she gives nothing to him, and he, therefore, suffers a definite loss in vitality.

1"Half a cup of fluid flowing down a guy’s pee-hole and nesting in his balls."

[The Week]

10 Nov 23:36

No One Is Having Sex On Their Wedding Night Anymore


I was just telling the other day the story of how I played Apples to Apples with all my friends who were staying at my parents as there are no hotels in the middle of nowhere, until some of them suddenly had to be driven to the airport (a couple hours away) on short notice, after which my new husband and I got to retire to the fold-out sofa in my parents' basement.

In our collective imagination, every bride and groom is leaving the reception in a limo and arriving at a rose strewn hotel suite where they will do unspeakable things on the hotel’s high-thread-count sheets. Wrong!
10 Nov 23:25

Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #352

by Caron Lindsay

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 352nd weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the seven most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (3-9 November, 2013), together with a hand-picked quintet, normally courtesy of LibDig, you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

1. Censored @libdemvoice comment by Andrew Hickey on Sci-ence! Justice Leak!.
Just as a point of clarification, Andrew has not been banned from the site.

2. By-election Night 13  by Dan Falchikov on Living on Words Alone.
Dan’s weekly preview of local government by-elections around the country.

3. Labour liked my amendment so much they decided to vote against it by Jonathan Wallace on Jonathan Wallace
If it’s not proposed by them, it’s not happening. A tale of control and power in Gateshead.

4. Will there be a by-election in Sutton Coldfield? by Jonathan Calder on Liberal England
Could Andrew Mitchell be Brussels bound?

5. Labour can win in 2015, a disaster beckons in 2020 by Matthew Green on A Thinking Liberal.
A Labour government will make things worse and then what?

6. Party of protest or party of government – it’s the wrong question by Mark Pack on Mark Pack’s blog.
If we don’t protest about anything, try to make it more liberal, we’re a party of the status quo, says Mark.

7. And so, to Caddington by Alan D Winter on My Life.
Alan announces his candidacy for the Caddington ward in Bedfordshire.

And now to the five blog-posts that come highly recommended, regardless of the number of Aggregator click-throughs they attracted. These are normally chosen using the LibDig bookmarking website for party members, the site where you can highlight blog-posts you want to share with your fellow Lib Dems. Remember, though, you’re still more than welcome to nominate for the Golden Dozen a Lib Dem blog article published in the past seven days – your own, or someone else’s – using the steam-powered method of e-mail … all you have to do is drop a line to

8. Come of it, Met Police, you are having a laugh by Paul Walter on Liberal Burblings.
Paul isn’t buying the Met’s reason for stopping David Miranda. (Submitted by Paul via email)

9. Why the Lib Dem campaign for body confidence is important  by Jennie Rigg on Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.
We need to be more positive about others’ appearance because there are enough negative influences. (Submitted by Andrew via Twitter.)

10. Body confidence: or Debi finally gets angry enough to blog  by Debi Linton on Thagomizer.
Debi tackles those who criticised the size 16 mannequins launched by Jo Swinson this week. (Submitted by Andrew via Twitter.)

11. Hello Lib Dem HQ, Northern Ireland is over here by Michael Carchrie Campbell on Lib Dems in Northern Ireland.
Oops. Look west, Lib Dem graphics designers, look left (Submitted by Stephen via LibDig.)

12. Liberator says something nice about Nick Clegg – honest  by Mark Smulian  on Liberator’s Blog.
How come the Universe hasn’t imploded? Seriously, Liberator like his EU speech.

And that’s it for another week. Happy blogging ‘n’ reading ‘n’ nominating.

Featured? Add this to your blog post!
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
<a href=""><img src="" width="200" height="57" alt="Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice" title="Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice" /></a>

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

10 Nov 23:17

"The Logic of Stupid Poor People," Or, the Only Thing Worth Reading About the Barneys "Shopping While Black" Arrests

by Jia Tolentino
by Jia Tolentino

Recently, police at Barneys New York have been catching well-deserved heat for detaining and arresting black shoppers buying luxury items; also catching heat are the shoppers, particularly the nursing student Kayla Phillips, who bought her Celine purse with her tax refund and took the subway back to Canarsie and, according to some people, has no business buying a $2,500 purse anyway.

Tressie McMillan Cottom takes this issue on hard and perfectly: why "we hates us some poor people," because "first, they insist on being poor when it is so easy to not be poor. They do things like buy expensive designer belts and $2500 luxury handbags." Why might "they" do this? Tressie gets into it.

I learned, watching my mother, that there was a price we had to pay to signal to gatekeepers that we were worthy of engaging. It meant dressing well and speaking well. It might not work. It likely wouldn‘t work but on the off chance that it would, you had to try. [...] How do you put a price on the double-take of a clerk at the welfare office who decides you might not be like those other trifling women in the waiting room and provides an extra bit of information about completing a form that you would not have known to ask about? What is the retail value of a school principal who defers a bit more to your child because your mother’s presentation of self signals that she might unleash the bureaucratic savvy of middle class parents to advocate for her child?

[...] You have no idea what you would do if you were poor until you are poor. And not intermittently poor or formerly not-poor, but born poor, expected to be poor and treated by bureaucracies, gatekeepers and well-meaning respectability authorities as inherently poor. Then, and only then, will you understand the relative value of a ridiculous status symbol to someone who intuits that they cannot afford to not have it.


10 Nov 22:59

Is This Tiny Shuttle The Future Of Spaceflight?

The Dream Chaser has an airplane-like "lifting" body. That means it can reenter the atmosphere relatively slowly in comparison to traditional capsules, and can glide to a graceful landing rather than plummet down to Earth.
10 Nov 22:56

Technology For Men, By Men

As a woman, I’ve slowly been written out of the phone world and the phone market.
10 Nov 22:55

Russell Brand and 2011

by (Lee Griffin)
In 2011 a lush green pasture of possibility lay before us. Alongside local elections we were given the opportunity to change the way that our lawmakers were elected, ensuring that once and for all a well supported but otherwise net-unpopular MP could no longer "represent" us in our constituency. A positive result would have given more weight and momentum to the second part of the revolutionary change to our politics that would ensure no small voice would be left unheard, no doubt allowing Labour to jump properly on the bandwagon instead of stalking it; the change from our Lords as an unelected body to one that is elected in proportion to our political views.

Fast forward past the unsuccesful result, one that in my opinion actually did more harm than if we had never had the referendum in the first place, to the modern day where one Russell Brand is touting a democratic and constrained revolution of our interaction with the state. I don't disagree with him in general terms, but then I also voted in 2011 to say "Yes" to a new voting system.

There are those out there championing Brand right now, probably not as the instigator of these ideas...he says himself that is too false and lofty an accolade for him to claim...but as a figure that is focusing the issue of disenfranchisement in the UK political system. I'm glad, we need people to be actively thinking about how the state and the people form their contract, and how they continue their interaction; but at the same time I'm frustrated. Where were all these voices in 2011?

As some on Twitter have suggested, perhaps the voices were fooled by a successful No campaign, confused by an awful Yes campaign, or otherwise convinced by the media of the pointlessness of the exercise. Perhaps they wanted to stick a finger or two up at Clegg and his "broken promise" on tuition fees (a perfect example of where people need to think of the wider and longer term impact of political policies rather than headlines). If any of the above are true it saddens me.

There was a long lead up, long enough for someone who is so disenfranchised that they are willing to peg their flag to the mast of "revolutionary" change in Brand's vision, in which to educate yourself about what was going on. Listening to the papers, to the campaigns even without an objective and scrutinising eye, is just not the sort of thing a "revolutionary" should be engaging in!

Worse still though, if you hate the idiocy of party politics (I know I do), and how closely they are all aligning with each other, then why the hell you thought that punishing one party, for genuinely putting together the first policy in god knows how long that would have a direct and positive impact on the level of power you hold over the politicians, would alter or even reverse that trend...well, I can't even find words to describe the idiocy.

I don't pull my punches here for good reason (in other words, sorry if I've hurt your feelings 2011 non-voter). I don't think that people who claim to want to find a better way should be let off lightly for playing by the rules of the organisations and structures that they claim to want to break free from. Paying lipservice to the idea of change while falling into the comfort and convenience of education by soundbite, and the self-gratification of vengeful and partisan based decision making, is nowhere near good enough. Not good enough for us, not for future generations.

I'm on board with the sentiment that Brand is espousing right now, the system is awful. We elect people every 5 years in a process that, outside of a real revolution of opinion and thinking, only a small minority of the country will actually influence. We have our legislation overseen by appointed old men (by and large) that, if they can be bothered to turn up to do their job and stay awake while doing so, have an intermittent record on scrutiny. The idea that our government or parliament are in any meaningful way "accountable" is a joke and shouldn't be entertained. Worse still this government has actively rolled out programs that have similarly lessened accountability around the country with directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners and Mayors.

If you don't feel like voting then in all honesty I don't blame you and, unlike the myriad of celebrities and political journalists/bloggers trying to say that not voting is wrong or right, I think that's your choice...the system doesn't give you power through your vote, it just enables an unaccountable body (the cabinet/government is usually formed of people that have friends in the right places of their party, not the people that are best for the job or that the wider public may want) to make decisions as they see fit for 5 years, usually on the basis of advice and lobbying by a different and even more unaccountable set of people in the form of wealthy political backers, large business or civil servants.

But despite all of this, I don't trust anything to change any time soon. Things are relatively good for UK citizens, by and large, and people that have it good don't tend to care too much for real revolution, even if they feel awfully bad about all the stuff happening to the poor and the young. 2011 was evidence that when handed the opportunity, we the people are unable to act maturely and intelligently enough with the chance we are given; this is when the opportunity is essentially black and white and with clear outcomes.

No revolution will come, if the basic logic of taking the opportunity to tell the state exactly your preference of representative where you live, and as a constituency get a guaranteed best match amongst the opinions of your peers (aside from one mathematically gymnastical scenario), is too much for people to understand, or if abandoning their desires to stick it to the "other team" is too enticing...what hope is there for some as yet undefined new way to come about? If people are too content in life, in general, to rock the boat then what hope is there to engage people as would be required to make such new ways legitimate? If the only options the disenfranchised are willing to take are ones that are somehow not offered or co-opted by the establishment, how can any new way ever form?

The one thing Brand is absolutely right about is that change happens most readily when there is a fundamental gap between the power of the state and it's people; maybe in the future, after another decade or more of assaults on those without jobs, those who happen to be under 25, and those with disabilities continuing, the disparity between the government and it's people will be large enough for change to come.
10 Nov 11:02

Sunset over Stockport

by Paul Magrs

10 Nov 10:58

On the Death of Renisha McBride

by Jia Tolentino
by Jia Tolentino

Renisha McBride was a 19-year-old girl who'd just graduated from Southfield High School and gotten a job at the Ford Motor Company. Late last Friday night, she got into a car accident, alone. With her phone dead, she left her white Ford Taurus on foot to seek help. An hour or so later, she reached Dearborn Heights, a city west of and adjacent to Detroit, and knocked on a stranger's front door. He shot her point-blank in the face with a shotgun and she died.

Her family was not notified of their daughter's death until Monday. The police initially told the family that McBride's body was "dumped" at a nearby intersection; they are now stating that the young woman died on the stranger's porch. Her death has officially been ruled a homicide, but because Michigan is a Stand Your Ground state, prosecutors have not yet charged McBride's killer, a 54-year-old man whose name and race and background are still unknown.

Her killer's attorney has stated, “I’m confident when the evidence comes it will show that my client was justified and acted as a reasonable person would who was in fear for his life." Dearborn Heights Police Lieutenant James Serwatowski said, "She was in a car accident, but I don't know if she was trying to get help or what she was doing." No matter what she was doing, scared doesn't mean a finger on the trigger and a shotgun in her face.

Stand Your Ground allows for the use of deadly force when a person “honestly and reasonably believes” such use is necessary to prevent "imminent death, great bodily harm, sexual assault" or to protect against the “imminent unlawful use of force by another individual.” Renisha McBride was unarmed and her killer shot her in the mouth.

Dearborn Heights is 86% white. Detroit is 82% black. Gun ownership correlates positively with racism. Police Captain Jeffrey Seipenko said, "As far as I am concerned we don’t have a [problem]. Dearborn is a very mixed community, you know – white, black, Arab – for years, it’s been that way. So I am a little confused as to where that is coming from.” McBride's family told police reporters that they don't understand how anyone could have been afraid of their 19-year-old girl.

Renisha McBride's funeral took place today in Detroit, a city that's seen this over and over, most shockingly in the 2010 death of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones in her own house during a police raid engineered to give A&E a better reality show. There was a protest calling for justice yesterday; another protest is scheduled for 6 PM tonight. I teach in Ann Arbor, which is a 45-minute drive from Detroit. Yesterday I asked my mostly-white class of freshmen if they'd heard of either Renisha McBride or Aiyana Stanley-Jones; they said no. They stared at me blankly when I brought up stop-and-frisk.

At Salon, Roxane Gay writes: "Increasingly, we are faced with a horrifying truth. The environment in the United States is toxic for black people. There are exceptions, certainly, but Aiyana Stanley-Jones was murdered in her own home, by law enforcement. Trayvon Martin was murdered while walking home from a convenience store. Renisha McBride thought, like any reasonable person, that she could ask a stranger for help."

A toxic environment for black people, and yet a very friendly environment for gun owners, gun users and gun mis-users associated with whiteness in any way. Renisha McBride was shot in the face while looking for help after a car accident, and Fox News used this headline: "Self-Defense Mistake?"

10 Nov 10:54

tsarbucks: amroyounes: The Strongest Anti-Racism Ads Of The...



The Strongest Anti-Racism Ads Of The Last 20 Years

  1. 1996 Benetton
  2. 1996 UK
  3. 1999 campaign via the UK by the Commission for Racial Equality
  4. 2001 For the National Congress Of American Indians
  5. 2002 Via the UK for the National Assembly Against Racism
  6. 2002 Via the UK
  7. 2002 National Union of Students
  8. 2003 Red Cross of Finland
  9. 2004 campaign via the UK
  10. 2007 A More Perfect Union via the USA


10 Nov 10:48

Good Morning World (Wide Web)!

by LP

If you are like me, you have a normal morning pre-work routine that consists of checking various websites and social media, which prepares you for the day of labor by making you incredibly depressed, angry and/or resentful before you even arrive on the job.  So why not monetize it?   I present the following “A.M. Internet” Bingo Game; fill it out completely and send it in to me for valuable prizes!*

*:  Prizes consist of valuable items I will give you in a dream. Dream not guaranteed.


10 Nov 10:46

Your Phone Is Ruining You For Us

by Robert Lanham
by Robert Lanham

I find it impossible to write fiction that's set after 2002. Not because I'm a Gen-Xer waxing nostalgic about relaxing to Morcheeba on a distastefully stained sofa I found partially torn apart by a dog in an alley. (Oh, the glamour.) It's just that it's inconceivable to depict contemporary times authentically without including interludes where characters stare at their cell phones instead of advancing their plotlines – their lives – towards some conclusion. Which is, as a thing to read, mind-numbingly dull. Unless I write "and then his Galaxy 4's battery died" no one can ever get lost, forget an important fact, meet a partner outside of a dating site, or do anything that doesn't eventually have them picking up a phone. So I'm stuck writing about an era where Ethan Hawke was considered the pinnacle of manliness.

On average, people spend 119 tedious minutes staring at their cell phones each day (and that's according to a UK phone provider). That's 43,435 minutes annually. Thirty days a year. The month of June. Sure, a portion of those minutes is spent doing useful things. But most involve time-killing activities like playing Bubble Safari or pinning photos of cronuts to our Pinterest walls. It’s a substantial chunk of the year for our plotlines to stand still. 

According to that infamous study by the UK Post Office, 66 percent of us suffer from a phone separation anxiety called nomophobia—'no mobile phone phobia'—which can cause sweating, queasiness and trembling. Common warning signs include feeling anxious when your phone is turned off and being unable to visit the bathroom without having your phone in hand. This mass neurosis is hardly surprising in an era when 83 percent of millennials bring their phones to bed at night— a number which assuredly trumps the number of millennials who have an actual bed.

Recent hand-wringing suggests that the cultural backlash against cell phones has finally arrived. If it has, what are we doing about it? We all hate being on call. We all hate being sidetracked by people who just have to Google—mid-conversation—that actor's name they can't recall from last night's "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland." We all hate those people with the marimba ringtones who refuse to mute their phones. Not a day goes by that I don't hear someone complaining about being "over" cell phones. So if the backlash is here, why are we so complacent? It's like we're getting mad for all the wrong reasons, fixating on mere annoyances instead of realizing why we should truly be outraged. Backlash against cell phones won’t arrive until we understand the real problem. Cell phones have made us dull.

Most outrage about cell phones sounds like this: "I went to the Arcade Fire concert and, oh my God, some guy had his phone up in the air for, like, 20 seconds during the glockenspiel solo.” Then there are those who are livid because they had to listen to some uptalk from a teenaged girl on a phone after shelling out 15 bucks to take the Chinatown bus to DC. Others are hopping mad at that jerk who was texting during that important scene in Magic Mike where McConaughey does a final dance at club Xquisite.

Yes. The horror, etc.

Whining about cell phone etiquette isn’t righteous indignation about the human condition. It’s a clichéd first world problem, not a catalyst for change. If you want to be upset by people using cellphones poorly, you will never run out of opportunities.

Then there’s the "cell phones are destroying our children" argument—a form of outrage typical of helicopter parents who deify Carl Kasell. "Our poor children—They should be outdoors!" They worry that kids are missing out on the meaningful things of childhood: finger-painting an enchanted castle in the sky, making a giraffe from paper mache, pretending to be a Minotaur in the labyrinthine bushes behind the barn.

You don't want kids glued to a screen sexting for hours on end. So don't let them. You want them to learn to speak well to adults and not scream at everyone? Sit them down at dinner device-free every night. Parents who obsess about phones sound like Bill Cosby bitching about rap music. Nevertheless, cultural backlash isn’t going to occur because you’d rather see your kid reading The Wind in the Willows than staring at a phone.

On "Conan," Louis CK discussed his concerns about a culture obsessed with cell phones. His outrage was much closer to the mark. Without hyperbole, he articulated how our need to constantly tune out—checking email, hopping on Facebook, playing Angry Birds—deprives us of things fundamental to our humanity.

You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That's what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That's being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty—forever empty… It's down there…

That's why we text and drive…. People are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don't want to be alone for a second because it's so hard….

So I go, 'oh, I'm getting sad, gotta get the phone and write "hi" to like 50 people'…then I said, 'you know what, don't. Just be sad. Just let the sadness, stand in the way of it, and let it hit you like a truck….'

And then I had happy feelings. Because when you let yourself feel sad, your body has antibodies, it has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. So I was grateful to feel sad, and then I met it with true, profound happiness.

He’s right. Our little handheld addictions are a crutch—they keep us quarantined from our own emotions. But I'll take things a step further. Our compulsive relationship to our phones is making us less dynamic. Less interesting. Cell phones take us away from ourselves, causing us to passively experience our thoughts, instead of thinking them. The solitude we abandon to catch up on Twitter is the very place from which our creativity arises. Opinions, unfiltered by group-think, emerge from this solitude as well. This is why lots of writers say they have most of their ideas in the shower: no distractions, nowhere to hide. What'll happen when iPhones are waterproof?

Instead of embracing quiet introspection, we opt out to read “’Masters of the Universe’ Is Actually a Tragic Gay Love Story between He-Man and Skeletor” on BuzzFeed. When we’re constantly checking for updates on Facebook—relying on what’s discussed on social media and blogs to maneuver our thoughts—we stifle our own individuality and become intellectually disengaged. Removed from self-reflection and solitude we become the very worst thing there is to be: dull.

Smartphones aren't even novel anymore! We’ve been staring at them for nearly a decade. We’d almost be excused if the first iPhone was released in 2012, and we'd just ditched our pagers. But instead of being wowed by the types of exhilarating innovations we saw last decade (Google maps, being able to text instead of call, a freaking phone that’s a camera,) we’re fawning over Touch ID fingerprint sensors and retina display. “A7 makes iPhone 5s the first 64-bit smartphone in the world” is an actual Apple marketing pitch. Um, wow?

Still, our devotion is unwavering. Just try criticizing a friend’s preferred Android or Apple device. Apparently if cell phones had existed in 1860, you'd be challenged to a duel. Sure there’s a lot of money being spent on making us covet the latest thing, but our passions for our phones can only be rationally understood as overblown.

The emergence of "digital detoxing" as a trend, suggests there’s at least an appetite for a cultural backlash. In case you're unfamiliar with the concept, the term was recently added to the Oxford dictionary:

digital detox (n): a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.

The indignation that fuels most digital detoxes, unfortunately, for the most part ranges from half-hearted to fully privileged. You possibly still remember the Times style section piece from just a couple months ago, "Step Away From the Phone!" We're told that fashion market director at Vanity Fair Michael Carl detoxes by playing “phone stack” when going out to dinner: "Everyone places their phones in the middle of the table; whoever looks at their device before the check arrives picks up the tab."

Marc Jacobs, MSNBC host Ari Melber, and party planner Bronson van Wyck also advocate creating self-imposed "device-free” zones. (Thurston Howell III and Little Lord Fauntleroy were apparently unavailable for interviews.) Meanwhile, former Lucky magazine editor Brandon Holley tosses her phone “into a vintage milk tin" a couple hours per day. Oh yes, a vintage milk tin.

Digital detox retreats and vacations are now a thing too. Most are hosted by New Age yogaphiles soliciting pricey, device- free getaways where you can "recharge"—they always say that—with hiking, organic meals, and "journaling"—they always say that too. Consider this recent event offered by

Leave your phone at home or check it at the door for a night of Digital Detox and Camp Grounded goodness. Live music with Con Brio and Cello Joe, campfire sing-a-long with Seltzy, analog zone with arts and crafts, board games, typewriters, delicious treats, face-painting, and so so much more.

If you're like me, they lost you at "Cello Joe." If not, don't miss their upcoming detox event at "a tree house community nestled in an undisclosed jungle."

Normal people have tried out digital detoxes too. A recent article in Salon speaks to a reporter’s attempt to find a life balance by unplugging. Well, sort of:

The answer isn’t necessarily to deprive yourself. It’s better to find a balance…. I’ve set up a few rules for myself, too. No tweeting while walking. No checking the phone on the subway. No TweetDeck. It’s far better to check Twitter on the actual website instead of having it open and taunting me all day long.

No TweetDeck? Um… okay, don't hurt yourself there.

Digital detoxes lack passion. They're pretentious. They're the commitment equivalent of hedge funder who uses LED lightbulbs on his private jet to be “environmental.” We don't need balance. We need to be embarrassed. We need to be mortified by how monotonous we've become.

Do we really want the future to remember us as a generation of obsessive compulsives who spent thirty days a year uploading selfies?

Where do we start? Anyone can tell you that brief detoxes and binge-and-purges diets don't work. So here's a novel idea, if we're truly ready for the backlash to begin, let's do something revolutionary! Let's try a restaurant without reading what JimBo67 thinks about the tacos on Yelp. Let's skip that important article "Who's Cuter, Boo or Colonel Meow?" If someone forgets the name of an actor in some dumb movie, let's just let it go. Let's skip taking that old timey-looking Instagram pic of our navels. Let's show up at a bar, alone, without a phone and talk to that girl or boy who approaches us, curious, because we're not staring at a screen. Do you need to be on call 24/7? Sure—if you're a brain surgeon at a veterans' hospital. Guess what: you're not.

Let's sit in silence, cell phones turned off until we truly need them. Let the sadness hit you like a truck. On the other side, we'll see what's what. Who knows who you've actually become while you were desperately not paying attention?

Robert Lanham is the author of the beach-towel classic The Emerald Beach Trilogy, which includes the titles Pre-Coitus, Coitus, and Afterglow. More recent works include The Hipster Handbook and The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right. He is the founder and editor of Photo by Sascha Kohlmann.

10 Nov 10:33

The Post Wikipedia Doesn't Want You To See

by (Philip Sandifer)
Due to my revelation in this post that Charles Ainsworth, an employee of the US Military (aka Chelsea Manning's jailers) has been editing Wikipedia under the username Cla68 to argue that transgender people are too biased to edit the article on Chelsea Manning, the Arbitration Committee of the English language Wikipedia has removed my administrator privileges and banned me indefinitely, forbidding any appeal of the ban for a year.

As discussed in the post, Ainsworth has, prior to this, been open about his participation on Wikipedia, freely giving quotes to the media and engaging in discussion on Wikipedia about those quotes. It's only now that he's begin editing with an obvious conflict of interest that he has suddenly developed a desire to keep his identity a secret. My "revelation," in other words, is nothing of the sort. Indeed, it's difficult to see how this decision comports with Wikpiedia policy, which declares that "Posting another editor's personal information is harassment, unless that person had voluntarily posted his or her own information, or links to such information, on Wikipedia." Which, again, Ainsworth has done.  Since my post, in fact, Ainsworth has posted on Wikipediocracy, a Wikipedia criticism site on which he's a forum moderator, confirming his employer. Furthermore, I've made no mention of Ainsworth's identity on Wikipedia, nor have I linked to that blog post from there. I revealed Ainsworth's identity in my capacity as a z-list blogger, not as a Wikipedia editor.

My reasoning for outing Ainsworth was and is simple: it's in the public interest. The sixth largest website in the world is sanctioning trans allies and Chelsea Manning supporters for being "too involved" to work on the Chelsea Manning article, but is giving a pass to members of the US Military, who apparently have no conflict of interest. This is straightforwardly something that deserves to be talked about.

This shockingly harsh sanction - the harshest the committee ever hands down - takes on an unnerving tone when one considers that the bulk of that blog post consisted of criticism of the Arbitration Committee's decision to punish editors complaining about transphobic behavior on Wikipedia more harshly than they punish transphobic behavior itself. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see this move as anything other than petty retaliation.

Particularly entertaining is that I've been banned for attempting to disinfect with sunlight with regards to Chelsea Manning. Not only does this sanction look petty, it looks particularly ridiculous when applied on the topic of someone who is in jail for her commitment to transparency. I'm actually taken aback by the comedy of it. The Arbitration Committee censures its critics for leaking things in the public interest. Over the Chelsea Manning article.

It is not the ban in particular that bothers me. I rarely edit Wikipedia anyway, have not used administrator powers in ages (though they were quite nice for finding well-written articles on fiction that got spuriously deleted on "notability" grounds). I knew there was a risk in criticizing the Arbitration Committee, and I took it because the consequence - banning - wasn't one that personally mattered to me much at all.

Nevertheless, the underlying issues are real. The Arbitration Committee has sanctioned people for complaining about transphobia while leaving transphobic commentary unsanctioned. It has further declared transgender topics to be subject to "discretionary sanctions," which mean that any editor who, in the judgment of an administrator, "fails to adhere to the purpose of Wikipedia, any expected standards of behavior, or any normal editorial process" can be banned after a single warning. The result of this is a clear precedent that complaining about transphobia can result in being banned. And now they have moved on to trumping up reasons to ban people who call them out on that. 

I have, for what it's worth, appealed the ban to Jimmy Wales. I'm not particularly optimistic, but it's not out of the question that he will overturn it. Even if this happens, however, the fact that the Arbitration Committee has engaged in such astonishing behavior needs to be called out and condemned.

At present, the English language Wikipedia has, on basic matters of governance, committed itself to being an environment where transphobia is tolerated while criticism, whether of transphobia or the site's governance, is not.

The Arbitration Committee wants a culture of silence. One where bigots go unchallenged, hypocrisy goes unexposed, and criticism goes unvoiced.

We cannot let them have it.
10 Nov 10:30

#979; The Line Between Sour and Sweet

by David Malki !

I'm gonna hit you so hard, I'm never going to want to let you go

10 Nov 10:29

How To Write The Worst Possible Column About Millennials

So, you've committed to writing an anxious and hand-wringing newspaper column about the State of Millennials. Congratulations! But be warned. You are competing in a highly competitive sub-industry of journalism, so it's important to distinguish yourself in both style and substance.
10 Nov 10:27

The 50 Best Animal Photos Of 2012

A definitive collection of the best animal photojournalism of the year. Enjoy.

The orphaned gorilla and his warden

The orphaned gorilla and his warden

Patrick Karabaranga, a warden at the Virunga National Park in Congo, sits with an orphaned mountain gorilla in the gorilla sanctuary.

Source: PHIL MOORE/ AFP/ Getty Images

The deer escaping a wild fire

The deer escaping a wild fire

A deer jumps through a fence along U.S. Highway 24 while escaping the Waldo Canyon Fire in June.

Source: Christian Murdock/Colorado Springs Gazette/MCT

The 10-day-old elephant in Sumatra

The 10-day-old elephant in Sumatra

A ranger inspects a 10-day-old baby elephant at Sarah Deu conservation response unit in Indonesia. There are fewer than 3,000 Sumatran elephants remaining in the wild, a 50% drop since 1985.

Source: Chaideer Mahyuddin / AFP/ Getty Images

The cat cafe kiss

The cat cafe kiss

An employee kisses Dyushes, a Don Sphynx cat, at the "Cats Republic" art cafe in St. Petersburg, Russia. The cafe has an exhibition area, a library, and a hall where cats live. Visitors can pay $5-10 to play with the cats.

Image by Alexander Demianchuk / Reuters

View Entire List ›

07 Nov 07:36

It Was A Good Night For Sodomy In America

From Virginia to Illinois to Seattle, gay rights, and really “sex” more generally, was on the ballot, and it won in a big way.
07 Nov 07:35

Marriage equality in Illinois, 15 … 16 … 17 …

by Fred Clark

"I’ve heard nothing today about the scriptures. The only thing I have heard is about human rights."

Well. that right there is a reason that equal marriage is good for the country.

Good news for the people of Illinois and the Constitution: “Illinois lawmakers approve gay marriage in historic vote.”

Lawmakers approved gay marriage Tuesday in a historic vote that saw supporters overcome cultural, racial and geographic divides and put Illinois in line with a growing number of states that have extended the right to wed to same-sex couples.

… Gov. Pat Quinn said he intends to sign the bill, which would take effect June 1.

After a long slog and several false starts in Illinois’ legislature, the bill passed in the state House last night and was quickly reconfirmed by the Illinois Senate and sent to the governor, whose signature will make Illinois the 15th state to legally recognize marriage equality.

The surprising speed of this vote in Joshua Speed’s old hometown has sunk my marriage equality office pool — I’d picked Hawaii for No. 15, New Mexico at 16, and then Illinois. Since I’m clearly no good at guessing the order of these things, I won’t speculate about which will come first, but Hawaii and New Mexico are poised to join Illinois before the end of this year, or perhaps before the end of this month.

After a long and contentious hearing process — including 57 hours of testimony and a clumsy attempt at a “people’s filibuster” by marriage equality opponents — Hawaii’s House Judiciary Committee finally voted yesterday afternoon, passing that state’s marriage equality measure and sending it to the full House for a vote:

If the bill passes its second reading in the House [today] there will be a 48 hour hold before House Representatives take a third reading and final vote, which would be Friday at the earliest. Since the bill has been amended, it still needs to cross back over the Senate for approval.

If passed, Hawaii’s law would take effect Nov. 18 — a week from Monday.

Meanwhile, in New Mexico:

Eight counties are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and the state Supreme Court is considering a lawsuit on whether gay marriage is legal statewide. State law doesn’t explicitly authorize or prohibit gay and lesbian couples from being married.

Courts are supposed to stick to the law when making their decisions. It’s hard to imagine any credible way for a court to rule that something which is not illegal is still somehow not legal. (“All that is not explicitly permitted is therefore forbidden” is not how the law is supposed to work.) So this should be a swift and easy decision, and it’s also expected soon.

In anticipation of that, “New Mexico’s insurance regulator has directed insurers to provide same-sex married couples with the same benefits and discounts offered to opposite-sex married couples.”

The dead-enders in these states are not going quietly or graciously. In Illinois, for example, we learned that Republican state Rep. Dwight Kay is astonishingly ignorant about the U.S. Constitution:

“The other thing I didn’t hear today was the fact that this nation was built on the scriptures,” he said on the House floor. “And then came the Constitution. Is that not right?”

“I think it is,” Kay continued. “Our Constitution has always looked to the scriptures for its guidance and its columns and its foundations and its leanings, its underpinnings. And, yet, I’ve heard nothing today about the scriptures. The only thing I have heard is about human rights.”

“So I guess we have walked away, we have backed away from our heritage in this nation, which we seem to do quite regularly for the expediency of what we wish to do in the moment,” he remarked. “And, ladies and gentlemen, that’s pride. That’s the belief you’re better than the very foundations of this nation which we find in the scriptures.”

Rep. Kay didn’t say which “scriptures” he was referring to, so let’s look at the Constitution and see which scriptures it cites. … Hmm, nothing there. Nothing at all. Only a couple of mentions of religion in the entire document.

It says “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” And it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” But the Constitution doesn’t say anything about being based upon “the scriptures.”

Rep. Dwight Kay seems to be talking out of his ass, and his ass has apparently been watching too many David Barton DVDs.

Kay is almost as confused about the law as Tenari Maafala, the head of Hawaii’s police union, who testified before Hawaii’s House Judiciary Committee that he would never enforce the legal recognition of marriage equality. “You would have to kill me,” the melodramatic fantasist-with-a-badge said in an apparent attempt to say the most absurdly self-aggrandizing thing he could think of.

Set aside the question of whether Maafala is qualified to be a police officer, since he seems to think he’s allowed to pick and choose which laws to enforce. The weirder thing about his flaccid defiance is that it’s based on the notion that marriage in general is something that needs to be enforced by the police. Perhaps you’re married. If not, perhaps you know some people who are married. Can you recall any time in which the police were summoned to “enforce” the law recognizing the legality of their marriage? “Hello, 9-1-1? Yes, this is Mrs. Jones. We need you to get over here right away to enforce the legality of our marriage. It’s our anniversary and we can’t celebrate unless the police …” Bizarre.

Hawaii state Rep. Bob McDermott provided another dead-ender lowlight in those hearings. McDermott seemed eager to trot out the anti-gay zingers that had gone over so well with his buddies at the Men’s Leadership Prayer Breakfast. They didn’t go over quite so well when he tried them out on Harvard geneticist Dean Hamer. Science, schmience — McDermott’s not gonna [change] his tune just because of elitist facts and pointy-headed reality and all that Ivory Tower stuff.

Bob McDermott doesn’t want to know facts and he doesn’t want to know people who might expose him to facts. He’s proud of his ignorance and unconcerned with the cruelty and injustice it produces.

The good news is that McDermott and Maafala lost the argument in Hawaii and Kay lost the argument in Illinois. The bad news is that many, many other people think like they do — as this depressing video from Justin Lee shows.

07 Nov 07:25

Perversely insisting you like the unlikable doesn’t make someone else a liar

by Fred Clark

Old riddle/joke:

Q: How many legs does a dog have if you call it’s tail a leg?

A: Four. Calling it’s tail a leg doesn’t make it one.

Most of the jokes Jon Stewart tells on The Daily Show are funnier than that one, but it’s not at all funny when Stewart contradicts the truth expressed in that joke and says President Obama is lying for not agreeing to count tails as legs.

John Stewart just isn’t making much sense here. “The president has been somewhat dishonest about the promise of his health care program,” Stewart says, playing a long string of clips of Obama saying “If you like your plan, you will be able to keep it” as though this were a big “Gotcha” moment.

That’s not a gotcha moment and that’s not “somewhat dishonest.” It’s true: “If you like your plan, you will be able to keep it.”

But what about those people whose old plans no longer exist in that same form because of the health reform law? Well, that’s only true for those old plans that were basically screwing over customers. The new law doesn’t let insurers do that anymore.

So, no, if your old plan was screwing you over, you won’t be able to keep it.

Here’s the “Gotcha” moment then: Ah, but what about people who liked getting screwed over by their old plans? They liked being ripped off, but they’re no longer allowed to be ripped off in quite that same way — therefore Obama was lying when he said “If you like your plan, you will be able to keep it.”

This is just weird.

“If you like your diet, you will be able to keep it.” But we’re no longer going to allow people to sell you a plate filled with broken glass and feces and call it lunch.

But I liked my broken glass and feces! If you won’t let me keep paying top-dollar for that, then you’re a liar!

Seriously, I’ve come to expect this level of journamalism from Politico and cable news pundits, but it’s disappointing to see The Daily Show parroting such strangeness.

In what sense was Obama’s statement — “if you like your plan, you will be able to keep it” — “dishonest”? I suppose the criticism is that the president failed to account for the possibility that some customers would be eager to redefine “insurance plan” in a way that allows it to refer to an expensive scheme that denies them insurance. Such redefinition is certainly dishonest, but the dishonesty is not on Obama’s side of the ledger.

I suppose one could argue that Obama ought to have anticipated this response. He ought to have realized by now that polarized partisan attitudes have pervaded all of our lives and culture, and that a big chunk of the public seems to have embraced such a knee-jerk antipathy to anything he says that they’re no longer concerned about reality or the concrete meaning of words. In such a context, Obama probably should have foreseen that some people would insist that they like eating feces and broken glass, and that they’d prefer to keep eating that instead of paying less for a more palatable meal of actual food.

Obama, in other words, ought to have realized that others would lie and that still others would eagerly swallow those lies. But his failure to insulate his otherwise accurate statement from the challenge of those lies does not constitute a lie on his part.

Shit and shards are not a meal. And no matter what some people are happy to pretend in an attempt to score political points, no one really “likes” eating it.


05 Nov 10:03

A Handful Of Baby Chameleons

In this closeup is an adorable group of baby veiled chameleons. Along with the six upfront you can also see more lurking in the background!

Source:  /  via:

05 Nov 10:01

Male Novelist Jokes

Q: How many male novelists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: War is hell.
04 Nov 20:38

How You Know You’ve Arrived As an Author, 2013 Edition

by John Scalzi

There’s a torrent for my novel Lock In on Pirate Bay, and it hasn’t even been written yet.

So… yay?


04 Nov 20:34

Giant Space Chicken

by Paul Magrs

Here’s a billboard poster for the new sf film, ‘Gravity’. I spotted it leaving Piccadilly station one day and misread it, first of all.

My misreading got me thinking about a couple of issues I’ve got with contemporary sf in all media, and perhaps with other genres as well.

And it’s all to do with things that take themselves way too seriously.

‘Gravity’ seems like rather serious film, from the few bits I’ve seen about it. And, a very expensive one to make. They must have poured untold sums into the special effects and the marketing and publicity.

No way would they want it to look as if their poster depicts a giant robot chicken flying through space.

But that’s precisely what I thought it was.

Two things struck me about this. Firstly, films like this don’t have a sense of humour. Not in the way that would allow an audience to entertain the idea that they might see a great big silly chicken flapping about the place. Even a split second’s suspicion that one might appear would be enough to undermine the carefully constructed illusion that this is real space and real drama in space. We live in an era of very literal verisimilitude, and a very earnest approach to science fiction, and an almost superstitious dread of silliness and frivolity. Everything must be grim and earnest in order for the magic to work, it seems.

The other thing that struck me was that I would love there to be a film about a giant space chicken, presented in deadpan fashion, undermining that sententious pseudo-realism. But that seems impossible in this terribly serious age.

04 Nov 18:45

Today’s Photo 11/1/13

by John Scalzi

Culver Hall, the University of Chicago, November 2013.

04 Nov 18:44

Today’s Photo, 11/2/13

by John Scalzi

Outside the Art Institute of Chicago, November 2013.

04 Nov 18:42

Today’s Photo, 11/4/13

by John Scalzi

Student sketching at the Art Institute of Chicago, November 2013.