Shared posts

04 Jan 16:56

One Two Three

by Greg Ross

This is in my notes with the words “ridiculous escape”: An 1889 article in Charles Dickens’ All the Year Round tells how Italian humanist Celio Secondo Curione outsmarted the Inquisition:

In my new prison I had been confined for a week, with huge pieces of wood chained to my feet, where I was favoured with a sudden inspiration from Heaven.

As soon as the young man who acted as my keeper entered my chamber, I begged and prayed of him to release one of my feet from its encumbrances. It would be sufficient security, I said, that I should still by the other foot be fastened to an enormous log. As he was a humane sort of fellow, he consented, and set one foot free. A day, two days passed, during which I applied myself to work. Taking off my shirt, and also the stocking from the leg which was at liberty, I made them up into a dummy resembling a leg, on which I put a shoe. I was in want of something, however, to give it consistency, and was anxiously looking about in all directions, when I caught sight of a cane-stick lying under a row of seats. Seizing it joyfully, I inserted it into the sham limb, and concealing the true one under my cloak, waited the result of my stratagem. When my young keeper made his appearance next morning, he asked me how I was. ‘I should do pretty well,’ I said, ‘if you would be good enough to put my fetters on the other leg, so that each may have a rest in turn.’ He assented; and, without perceiving it, attached the log to the dummy.

“At night, when their loud snores informed him that his gaolers were asleep, Curion threw aside the false leg, resumed his shirt and stocking, and opened noiselessly the prison door, which was fastened by a simple bolt. Afterwards, though not without difficulty, he scaled the wall, and got away without interruption.”

06 Dec 16:42

Works in Progress

by Greg Ross

Because weather and daylight change continually, Claude Monet believed that any visual effect lasts for only seven minutes, much too brief to paint — he said he wanted to “render my impressions before the most fugitive effects.”

His solution was to work on multiple canvases at once, putting a new one on the easel every seven minutes or so to capture the effect he was after. Georges Clemenceau once found him in a poppy field juggling four different canvases: “He was going from one to the other, according to the position of the sun.” In 1885 Guy de Maupassant watched him stalking about Etretat; no longer a painter, “he was a hunter. He walked along, trailed by children carrying canvases, five or six canvases representing the same subject at various hours of the day and with varying effects. He would pick them up or drop them one by one according to how the sky changed.”

When Monet visited London in 1901 to capture the “unique atmosphere” of the city’s fog, John Singer Sargent found him surrounded by 90 canvases, “each one the record of a momentary effect of light over the Thames. When the effect was repeated and an opportunity occurred for finishing the picture, the effect had generally passed away before the particular canvas could be found.”

“I am chasing a dream,” Monet once said. “I want the impossible.”

(Ross King, Mad Enchantment, 2016.)

06 Dec 16:36

"Who is General Failure and why is he reading my disk?"

“Who is General Failure and why is he reading my disk?”
24 Oct 14:21

The Unbearable Niceness of the Good Whites

Last week’s Helpful Twitter Thing involving Charlyne Yi and David Cross, wherein Yi recounted a fucked up story of her first meeting with Cross, followed by Cross and his fan’s responses, reminded me of an issue that, let’s call them, uh, people of power and privilege, especially in comedy, seem to have trouble grasping. That is, that, especially as comedy and culture become more diverse, the baseline assumptions about the fundamental goodness of white people (or men, or straight people, or whatever) aren’t necessarily valid.

The initial story and initial bobbled apology have been covered elsewhere, but essentially, the basic facts are that, last week, Charlyne Yi posted a Twitter about how, at their first meeting, David Cross joked about her appearance and then responded to her discomfort with, “what’s a matter? You don’t speak English?? Ching-chong-ching-chong.”

Cross made a couple responses, culminating with this one, which I’ve excerpted part of here.

Now, this is not to pick on David Cross particularly (though, honestly, some of his fans are… the fucking worst). But I wanted to highlight one of the fundamental disconnects that white comedians (and, again, others) frequently miss when crafting their comedy. That is, they assume that when they talk to us, we can all fundamentally agree that they are, come on, you know, good dudes.

Cause let’s take the above argument at face value. When David Cross defends saying “ching chong” at an Asian person by claiming it’s a character, the entire joke then rests on this premise: that the person saying these slurs must be a Bad Person Who Is Not Me, because, naturally, we all know I, a Good Person, would never say those things. That’s it. That’s the whole joke. Since we all agree that I wouldn’t say racist shit, when I do say racist shit, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA lol.

But what’s easy to forget when you’re in a position of power (with straight white guys at the apex of our current geo-political-historical org chart), is that we don’t all share the assumption that you’re a good person – even if you have a public history that places you on the “right” side of issues.

And that’s because people of color (and anyone vulnerable) don’t have the luxury of that assumption. On some level, conscious or not, we always have to be wary of people’s attacks, even unwitting, to our humanity, because we’ve all been disappointed or stabbed in the back enough times by people we like and trust (or want to like and trust) enough times that you’ll have to forgive us if we can’t always give you the benefit of the doubt. Sure, the dude yelling slurs might be joking, but the consequences for you and us differ greatly if he isn’t. And the fact that you don’t seem to know or care that that’s the case makes you immediately suspect.

Now, if it sounds like I’m singling out straight white dudes, in many ways that’s because I am. This behavior, this idea that “everyone agrees I’m a good person” comes directly from being the protagonists of our culture for so very long. Of course, it’s not unique to these guys, but, there’s an unquestionable concentration of this bullshit in that cohort.

So, anyway, white comedians (and people), that’s my short explanation of why you need to up your game with your “ironic racism.” It only works in places where everyone shares your assumptions, and, guess what, because of so many fucked up racist (and other) experiences in your diverse audience’s lives, we always agree that it’s fair to assume that the person saying some racist bullshit is “kidding.”

28 Sep 14:06

Some Enchanted Evening

by Greg Ross

In 1993, reseachers Suzanna Rose and Irene Hanson Frieze asked 135 undergraduates to describe what had happened on their most recent first date:

Women Men
Groomed and dressed Picked up date
Was nervous Met parents/roommates
(Man:) Picked up date Left
Introduced to parents, etc. Picked up friends
(Man:) Courtly behavior (open doors) Confirm plans
Left Talked, joked, laughed
Confirm plans Went to movies, show, party
Got to know & evaluate date Ate
Talked, joked, laughed Drank alcohol
Enjoyed date Initiated sexual contact
Went to movies, show, party Made out
Ate Took date home
Drank alcohol Asked for another date
Talked to friends Kissed goodnight
Had something go wrong Went home
(Man:) Took date home
(Man:) Asked for another date
(Man:) Told date will call her
(Man:) Kissed date goodnight
Went home

Of the 20 actions reported by women, 6 were initiated by the man. Of the 15 actions reported by men, none were initiated by the woman.

Thirty-three respondents reported something going wrong. “[O]ne young man had car trouble after picking up his date and was mortified by having to take her back home. Another’s date abandoned her at a party and began to cruise other women, leaving the woman to fend for herself. Embarrassing events were also common. One participant reported having made a fool of herself by throwing the ball backward while bowling; another woman got extremely upset when her date insisted it was ‘love at first sight.'”

“A third type of interruption … was related to perceived violations of gender roles, such as ‘He lost points for not opening my car door’ and ‘We went out to eat later at Pizza Hut and she was a pig.'”

(Suzanna Rose and Irene Hanson Frieze, “Young Singles’ Contemporary Dating Scripts,” Sex Roles 28:9/10, 1993.)

28 Sep 13:56

In the latest "Of Course They Are" news, racists are pissed off that there's an Asian actress playing Ariel in the stage production of The Little Mermaid. Because nothing is more important than keeping the ethnicity of fictional mermaids "pure."

She has hardly any fish DNA too, wtf.

26 Sep 14:23

So if people think that protesting racism is "attacking America"... wouldn't that mean they admit America is racist as fuck ?

I feel like this obvious fact won’t bother the racists as much as it used to.

26 Sep 14:23

It's disrespectful to the Confederacy to pretend that the Civil War wasn't fought over slavery. They specifically wrote in their succession documents that defending slavery was their #1 thing, so it's pretty much spitting on their graves to say they didn't love slavery more than they loved the USA.

Yeah, respect your ancestor’s LITERAL WRITTEN WORDS racists.

14 Sep 17:15

Hidden Mothers

by Greg Ross

In the 19th century, photographic subjects had to hold still during an exposure of 30 seconds or more. That’s hard enough for an adult, but it’s practically impossible for an infant. So mothers would sometimes hide in the scene, impersonating a chair or a pair of curtains, in order to hold the baby still while the photographer did his work:

More in this Flickr group.

11 Sep 13:45

The next time someone tries to excuse their racism as merely a reaction to being unjustly called a racist, remind them that feminists have been called feminazis for decades but they're not out there marching under swastikas and calling for genocide. Funny how that works.

Almost like bigots are, among their many moral and intellectual failings, a buncha whiny name callers who have no idea how language works.

11 Sep 13:45

draw-blog:On Shopping While Fat 2: Son of Fat


On Shopping While Fat 2: Son of Fat

07 Sep 14:41

I work at an independent Apple retailer.  A man came in one morning and bought a new MacBook. That...

I work at an independent Apple retailer.  A man came in one morning and bought a new MacBook. That afternoon, I answered the phone at the store and it was his wife. 

Client: I’m helping my husband set up his new computer as I tend to be more tech savvy than he is.

A note: we always offer to help customers set up their computers before they leave the store. The husband claimed he doesn’t remember us asking if he wanted help.

Me:  Okay, what can I help you with?

Client:  I don’t know how to set up the new computer.  There’s no instruction manual.

Me: When you turn on the computer, it will take you through the steps.  Just follow the instructions on the screen.

Client:  Do I need to connect it to the internet?

Me:  Yes, it will tell you how to do that when you get to that part of the set up process.

I stay on the phone with her while she starts to set up the computer.

When she gets to the point in the set up process where one connects the computer to the internet she says:

Client: I don’t know which Wifi network is mine.  If I read you the list of networks, can you tell me which one is mine?

Me: No.

Client:  If I figure out which one is mine, can you tell me what my password is?

Me:  …No. 

Client: I wish they’d include an instruction manual. 

Me: ….

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06 Sep 13:53

robert e lee's great-grandson is a pastor, and his church fired him for speaking out against white supremacy.

Weird how they don’t respect their southern heritage all of a sudden…

05 Sep 13:21

Ringer Volume/Media Volume


Too true

Our new video ad campaign has our product's name shouted in the first 500 milliseconds, so we can reach the people in adjacent rooms while the viewer is still turning down the volume.
24 Aug 16:01

Dressed for Work

by Greg Ross

Parisian engraver Nicolas de Larmessin’s 1695 Fantastic Costumes of Trades & Professions presents workers clothed in the objects of their calling:

larmessin baker larmessin basketmaker larmessin blacksmith larmessin cabinetmaker larmessin ceramist larmessin cheesemonger larmessin clockmaker larmessin confectioner larmessin coppersmith larmessin gardener larmessin glazier larmessin goldsmith larmessin hatmaker larmessin locksmith larmessin musician larmessin optician larmessin perfumer larmessin publican larmessin pyrotechnician larmessin sculptor larmessin swordsmith larmessin tailor larmessin winegrower

Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you’re a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.”

24 Aug 15:59

Borrowed Insight

by Greg Ross

In 2015, University of East London psychologist Tim Lomas encountered the Finnish word sisu, which means something like extraordinary determination in the face of adversity. The word has no direct analog in English, but it describes a universal human trait — an English speaker who learns it can more easily recognize and appreciate sisu in herself and others, which enriches her life.

Lomas began collecting similarly specific words that describe positive feelings:

  • Desbundar (Portuguese) – to shed one’s inhibitions in having fun
  • Tarab (Arabic) – a musically induced state of ecstasy or enchantment
  • Shinrin-yoku (Japanese) – the relaxation gained from bathing in the forest, figuratively or literally
  • Gigil (Tagalog) – the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished
  • Yuan bei (Chinese) – a sense of complete and perfect accomplishment
  • Iktsuarpok (Inuit) – the anticipation one feels when waiting for someone, whereby one keeps going outside to check if they have arrived

Northeastern University neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett says that learning to make fine distinctions in identifying one’s feelings increases “emotion granularity,” which has real benefits — people with a rich emotional vocabulary recover more quickly from stress and are less likely to drink alcohol. Yale psychologist Marc Brackett, who has seen similar benefits among children, agrees that Lomas’ word list could help people to identify and appreciate their positive feelings. “The more granular our experience of emotion is, the more capable we are to make sense of our inner lives.”

Lomas’ list now numbers more than 400 words — you can browse them here.

(Thanks, Greg.)

24 Aug 15:41


by Greg Ross

In order that life should be a story or romance to us, it is necessary that a great part of it, at any rate, should be settled for us without our permission. … A man has control over many things in his life; he has control over enough things to be the hero of a novel. But if he had control over everything, there would be so much hero that there would be no novel.

— G.K. Chesterton, Heretics, 1906

24 Aug 15:35


by Greg Ross
Image: Flickr

Church signs, collected by Steve and Pam Paulson for Church Signs Across America, 2006:



24 Aug 15:34

The Green Book

by Greg Ross

During the Jim Crow era, it was difficult and dangerous for African-Americans to travel — they were routinely refused even basic amenities such as food and lodging. Civil rights leader (and now Georgia congressman) John Lewis remembered a family trip in 1951:

There would be no restaurant for us to stop at until we were well out of the South, so we took our restaurant right in the car with us. … Stopping for gas and to use the bathroom took careful planning. Uncle Otis had made this trip before, and he knew which places along the way offered ‘colored’ bathrooms and which were better just to pass on by. Our map was marked and our route was planned that way, by the distances between service stations where it would be safe for us to stop.

Accordingly New York mail carrier Victor H. Green began to publish The Negro Motorist Green Book, a guide “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable.” Green paid his readers to contribute reports of road conditions, sites of interest, and information about their travel experiences. Julian Bond later recalled:

You think about the things that most travelers take for granted, or most people today take for granted. If I go to New York City and want a hair cut, it’s pretty easy for me to find a place where that can happen, but it wasn’t easy then. White barbers would not cut black peoples’ hair. White beauty parlors would not take black women as customers — hotels and so on, down the line. You needed the Green Book to tell you where you can go without having doors slammed in your face.

The book was published annually nationwide from 1937 to 1964. The New York Public Library has the full collection.

22 Aug 14:22

Hey, did you hear about the heroic Senator who is battling an especially deadly form of cancer (and recovering from major surgery) but still flew to D.C. to make sure the Republicans could not pass any version of their awful healthcare repeal bill? Her name is Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and she has stage 4 kidney cancer but she still flew 5,000 miles so that the Democrats would have their 48th No vote. You might not have heard of her, over the sound of the media sucking John McCain's dick.


22 Aug 14:20

nevaehtyler: nevaehtyler: actual factuals this is from an...



actual factuals

this is from an Afro-Latina owned shop btw if anyone’s willing to cop

18 Aug 13:37

Client: What’s this gibberish?Me: It’s Lorem Ipsum. Typically this is the end of this conversation,...

Client: What’s this gibberish?

Me: It’s Lorem Ipsum

Typically this is the end of this conversation, but this client had HEARD of Lorem Ipsum and knew that they’d just embarrassed themselves. So they tried to recover.

Client: It doesn’t look like Lorem Ipsum to me. It looks like Russian or Bulgarian or something. 

Me: It looks like Lorem Ipsum to me. Mostly because it starts with “Lorem Ipsum” and isn’t written in Cyrillic. But what do I know. 

17 Aug 13:21

I consider myself a liberal and an ally, and I certainly don't like Nazis, but when a bunch of people put on masks and helmets and armor and grab weapons and go to where the Nazis are, spoiling for a fight, you're going to create violence and loss of life. That's a fact. That's why I'm calling on all sensible centrists of good will to denounce WWII GIs.


17 Aug 13:00


16 Aug 20:13

Eclipse Science

I was thinking of observing stars to verify Einstein's theory of relativity again, but I gotta say, that thing is looking pretty solid at this point.
16 Aug 20:10

Let's replace Confederate monuments with monuments to slaves and abolitionists. Surprisingly I don't see a lot of those around.

Almost like those fucking things having nothing to do with “remembering history” and everything to do with honoring racism???

16 Aug 13:37

a modern retelling

by kris

also in the painting: a portrait of dorian gray not wetting the bed

20 Jul 05:44


18 Jul 14:44

My husband and I ran a small computer repair business out of our home. As we offered 24-hour...

My husband and I ran a small computer repair business out of our home. As we offered 24-hour emergency service for businesses in our area, we had a phone directly by our bed.

We set up a new system to do daily and weekly backups for a hotel in the area, timed to happen at 2:00 am when things should have been very slow. We made sure the daily backups were happening properly, told them we’d be back in a week to double-check that the weekly backups were backing up correctly too, and asked them to contact us in the meantime if anything weird happened or if they got any error messages or anything.

Client: Great! Thank you.

That night, 2:30 am or so, we get a call from him.

Client: Hi! Just wanted to let you know that the daily backup happened just fine!

Me: Um, that’s good. But it looks like there might have been a slight communication error. We’ve already confirmed that the daily backups are happening properly, so you don’t need to let us know when they do. Just let us know if you see any error messages about them, or if you have any reason to think something isn’t working properly, okay?

Client: Oh, okay, sure!

The next night at 2:30 am, the phone rings again:

Me: Hello?

Client: Hi! Just wanted to let you know that the backups are still working just fine!

Me: Great. Thanks. Listen, please don’t call us to let us know it IS working; that just wastes your time. We know it’s working; just let us know IF something goes wrong, okay? Otherwise you don’t need to call us, and we’ll see you on Friday.

Client: Oh, sorry, okay, no problem!

Next bloody night, the phone rings again, and the Caller ID shows it’s the client again.

Me: Are you serious?

My husband said I should just let it go to answering machine.

Client: (on answering machine) Daily backups are still working great! Just wanted to let you know.

Great. Good. But the phone rings AGAIN, five minutes later. I answered it.

Client: Hi! Glad I got you! I left a message when no one answered but I wanted to make sure that you got it. The backups are still working fine. Everything’s good.

Me: Okay. Great. Listen, you DO NOT NEED TO CALL US to tell us that everything is working okay. It’s SUPPOSED to be working okay. We don’t need confirmation each night that everything is working the way it’s supposed to, okay? I know you’re trying to help, but the phone is right by our bed, it’s the middle of the night, and you’re waking us up each night for something that is just the normal operation, not an emergency. Please. If there is a problem, absolutely call us; but if everything is working okay, then please don’t call and tell us that. Okay?

Client: Oh, sorry! I didn’t realize. Sorry for waking you up each night! Don’t worry, I won’t call again. Unless something goes wrong. Heh.

Me: Great, thanks. Goodnight.

And yet, the next bloody night, the phone rings. I answered it, and got a pre-recorded message.

He sent us a fax. I accepted it, and our printer spit out a piece of paper.

Sure enough, the fax read “Daily backups worked fine.”

18 Jul 14:41

What Time

by Reza