Tonight while I was waiting for the metro a man walked up talking to everybody and nobody in an agitated voice. Like most city dwellers my first instinct was to ignore him, but his words were so… self affirming, I suppose, and lacking the usual warning signs of someone who might get violent, that I felt compelled to sort of cheer him on. “Damn right you’re worthy!”
As we boarded the train, he calmed down, asked me what line we were on, and left at the next station. I find myself wondering if he was mentally ill, or on drugs, or perhaps had just had an encounter with someone who vocally disapproved of him being, I think his words were “a beautiful black queen”, and needed to reassert himself.
Whatever the case, I hope his evening has gotten better since.

The Short Big Whine

I’m honestly trying to write more, but everything is pissing me off to the point where it always feels like anything I start will turn out to be nothing but a big long whine.

We have a political candidate (I almost wrote “political theater candidate,” which feels more accurate, to be honest) who’s getting serious support whose entire platform is based on being rich and hating a lot of people.

That scares the hell out of me, because even if he doesn’t have a chance of actually getting elected, what does it say about our country, and our culture, that he’s doing as well as he is? Hell what does it say about our world that hate and fear are still driving forces in societies? That a major point of so many social groups is that it will make you feel justified in treating other people like shit?

I remember a couple years back reading (and writing) about Christian Fascists in Greece, the part that comes to mind is a young man proudly proclaiming himself a Christian Fascist and declaring that this gave him the right to tell someone to leave. Now here in the USA we have audiences cheering a man for saying that given power he would institute torture.

I just don’t even want to live on this planet anymore.

Left behind

Intergalactic superstar David Bowie returned to his home planet yesterday, we who remain on Earth mourn his departure.
Wil Wheaton said it pretty well on his blog, Bowie didn’t seem mortal. The idea of him dying doesn’t seem real somehow.
I can’t possibly do him or his career justice, all I can do is listen to Blackstar, his most recent album, and try to get thru the day.
Take care of each other everyone.
Fuck cancer.

Easing back into it.

The title of this post is what I should have done when I decided to start blogging again. What I did instead was start plotting out a post that should probably be split into multiple posts, a project so ambitious that while scribbling notes over coffee this morning, two full weeks after deciding to do it, I finally realized just how much I had put on my plate. In hindsight, I should really have written several smaller posts first to get back into the swing of things.

In the meantime, here’s a video that really communicates the power of history. It’s not just a neat example of how historians try to make sense of events when it is impossible to know the full story, but it also has a verisimilitude to it that makes me think it should be part of the Star Wars canon. I can easily imagine exactly this being produced (within the fictional setting, that is) a few generations after the events of the movies.

I give you: The Galactic Civil War.

Read the rest of this entry

The Future of this Blog

I suppose I should start by saying that this blog does have a future.

That may be surprising to some of you. Over the last few years I’ve written less and less here, to the point where any thought about blogging tends to be followed immediately by wondering how long ago I last posted something.  Read the rest of this entry

Siblinghood Challenge! (Kinda)

I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I simply cannot complete the Siblinghood Challenge that E.H. gave me. I’m not really a part of the blogging community these days, rarely writing or reading blog posts. And there’s no way I can scrape up the brainpower to think of ten good questions, or even five bad ones.

But I ought to at least attempt to answer them. Maybe it’ll be the first step in writing frequently again. Maybe even thinking frequently, though we really shouldn’t get our hopes up. So let’s examine these questions.  Read the rest of this entry

I’ve been struggling with this post in the back of my mind for a month now, so I’m just going to type it out stream-of-consciousness style and hope I can edit something coherent out of the result.

First and foremost, thank you, E.H., for your flattering words here. I sat down that weekend to write something, I forget exactly what, and saw the comment that lead to your post, and haven’t been able to figure out how to respond since!

On the one hand, I’m thrilled that someone holds my writing in such high regard! On the other, I really haven’t written much this year. Read the rest of this entry

On logistics and software.

Reading this Wired article made me both wish I’d stuck it out for a software career & at the same time breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t. The sheer scale of it is literally awesome.
The logistics of the thing fascinate me. I mean, it’s hard to convince 25,000 people to show up at one place on a specified date. To coordinate all that code, and the constant changes being made to it…. Well, it just makes Caesar’s British campaign seem a bit trivial, you know?
But I keep thinking about it. This huge thing that people are writing, where each part has to work with every other part. It’s amazing. And it’s not just a weird quirk, this is the future. This is how the next generation of the internet is going to be made.
It’s amazing, and I’m excited to think about what may come next.

“I love you, I just don’t support you or your right to get married.”

So I saw this posted on facebook.
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I am so angry about this I can’t even think straight. I expected better from the person who posted it.
Saying you “do not support” marriage equality is the same as saying it shouldn’t be legal. I can’t see another way to interpret it. That means you’re saying they should not be able to marry the person of their choosing, that they should be denied the benefits and privileges of the marriage contract. That this legal contract between equals should be restricted to certain types of people.
That all adds up to second-class citizen status because of who they love.

In this context, “stand for what we believe” means denying legal equality to an already persecuted minority. You’re not defending anyone, you’re not helping anyone, you’re hurting people for no benefit to anyone.

Furthermore, the stereotyping of Christians as hateful, small-minded bigots comes from statements exactly like this, statements that claim being a Christian means being anti-gay. The ones who push this stereotype the hardest are hate groups who want to pressure Christians to support them by convincing them that this is part of being a Christian. If you really want to separate Christianity from bigotry, you need to stop claiming it as your motivation every time you act like a bigot.

Incidentally, you can be a Christian without denying equal rights. If you don’t believe me, come to San Francisco Pride next year and see how many churches of various denominations march in it, often carrying signs advertising “I will marry you!”

Finally, the whine about “name-calling and stereotyping” being “what we don’t want done to you” grates me on another level, because while Christians do get called names and stereotyped, LGBT people get denied services, fired from their jobs, beaten, raped, and murdered. Don’t pretend that you’re equally persecuted with people who literally just won the right to have their marriages recognized throughout the country, and in half the nation the right to marry the person they choose at all.

Consider what friendship means before you imply all that, and then say “we’re still friends.”
I want my friends to be better people than that.

the psychology of power

Hello, readers. I’ve been digging through my drafts folder, deleting everything that doesn’t look like I can still get a post out of it, and I found this apparently complete post just sitting in there. I originally wrote it on February 17th, 2013, and I have no idea why I didn’t post it. I probably felt that I had more to say or something. Anyway, since I haven’t posted anything in a while, I figured I’d toss this up for you.

Interestingly, I don’t think I ever wrote a review of this book. Which is a shame, since it’s my favorite by this author so far. Maybe I’ll read it again and write about it soon, who knows.

Everything that follows the asterisks is from February 2013.

*** Read the rest of this entry

Today’s Feminism

Saw this on Twitter this evening and got to thinking. 

Screen shot 2014-09-03 at 9.21.44 PM

The topmost tweet is that one that caught my attention. I’ll quote it in case it’s difficult to read. 

Most gamers seem to support equality feminism. What they reject is today’s male-bashing, propaganda-driven, female chauvinism.

I read a lot of claims about “modern feminism” or “3rd wave feminism” or even “4th wave feminism” being somehow separate from “equality feminism”, but I don’t usually see much else. It’s just sort of thrown out as though it’s self-evident that mainstream feminism today has abandoned the old standard of “the radical notion that women are people” and become an excuse for male-bashing by ugly, uppity women. 

Actually, I’m pretty sure people have been saying that about women’s rights movements since before “feminism” was a word. 

Honestly I do have an actual point to get to, but first I have to wonder: is “male-bashing, propaganda-driven, female chauvinism” actually a thing? I mean, I’ve seen a couple of websites that describe themselves as “radical feminists” and do seem to be openly hostile towards men, but they seem to be fairly isolated and don’t attempt to, you know, actually oppress men in any way. I just haven’t seen any of this male-bashing in a position of actual influence, you see, and certainly not to the point that you could describe it as though it were the primary voice of feminism today. 

But moving on, the bottommost tweet added some context, which really must be appreciated. 

I always expected other liberal-minded scholars to join me in exposing 3rd wave feminist lunacy.Never happened.But now the gamers r here.

Just so we’re clear, is there some other clash between feminists and gamers, or is she actually talking about the waves of hate and abuse Anita Sarkeesian has been receiving for the heinous crime of creating a video series examining common sexist tropes in video games? You know, the shit that’s gotten so bad that blogging about the death threats she’s received is enough to bring death threats of your own down on you?

Because to be honest, I’m not really seeing that as “exposing 3rd wave feminist lunacy”. Not even a little. It really looks like pure reactionary anger to me. 

Look, I’m not all-knowing. Maybe I’ve missed some vital context here.

Truth is, lately I’ve gotten lazy about checking sources & background on anything to do with feminism, because it’s always boiled down to a bunch of guys with a sense of entitlement whining. I think the turning point was a kerfluffle about a conference instituting a sexual harassment policy for the first time. The outcry wasn’t over the content or implementation of the new policy, it was that they had a sexual harassment policy at all.

Not that it’s really relevant, but from what I recall the policy itself was pretty boilerplate. Instructions to staff dealing with complaints were basically, “Document everything, and call the police if someone asks you to.”

It’s gotten increasingly difficult for me to take this sort of thing seriously since then. 

 

Are you okay?

Howard Taylor’s Schlock Mercenary is one of a handful of webcomics that I still read fairly regularly, and I’ve come to respect his opinions on movies, so I always check the blog post to see if there’s a movie I should see or avoid. I’m glad I’ve gotten into this habit, because it gave me the chance to read this short non-fiction piece about mental health. Do yourself a favor and check that out. 

Something that occurred to me though was that the title, “No. I’m fine.” is something I’m likely to say if someone asks me if I’m okay. Regardless of whether or not I’m okay, I’ve been more or less trained to answer that question with “I’m fine”, “Yes, nothing to worry about”, or “I’m always okay”, and usually I don’t even spare a thought to consider whether or not I am, in fact, okay. (Does it still count as a lie if you don’t actually know & just answer automatically?) Read the rest of this entry

Dungeons of Old San Francisco

I visited the San Francisco Dungeon on Fisherman’s Wharf the other day. I was a little disappointed by the lack of spanking, but it turns out it’s not that sort of dungeon. 

In fact, “dungeon” isn’t really a good name for it, except there doesn’t seem to be a better one for this sort of attraction. The only other appropriate term that comes to mind is “haunt” which suffers from the same shortfalls as “dungeon” does. 

Whatever it is, it’s pretty fun. The basic premise is that you go through creepy rooms inspired by San Francisco history, starting with a mine circa 1849, and moving through such attractions as mid-19th century gang hideouts, a frighteningly overworked & corrupt court system, a shanghai saloon, plague-infested late 19th century chinatown, up to a climactic encounter in early 20th century Alcatraz. 

Strangely, there’s also a mirror maze. It was presented as a metaphorical representation of a deep mine nobody has escaped from, but it still felt out of place. I’m not going to complain about that too much, though, because it was probably the most fun part for me. I’ve always been slightly annoyed by these attractions that just herd you from one scene to the next, I want to explore on my own. Just one more reason why I wish so badly that The Night Circus were real, I suppose. 

The acting was mostly delightfully over-the-top, except for a few brief instances where it was chillingly understated. There were the sort of cheap jokes you expect at a tourist attraction, several fun moments of singling out audience members to embarrass, and some very, very clever sets. There’s a lot of creativity in there, it’s clear that a lot of work has gone into it and that the cast care about their performances. 

On the downside, the scene in Alcatraz is seriously too loud, I mean painfully loud. If they aren’t providing earplugs for the cast they’re going to get sued over that, and rightly so. The show also suffers from marketing hype, the promotional images set expectations far above what it delivers, although in that I suppose it’s no worse than any amusement park I’ve ever been to. 

(Seriously, I can still remember the first time I went to Disneyland in the fourth grade and I thought it didn’t live up to the hype. Especially Tom Sawyer’s cave; it was just a tunnel with a column dividing it near the middle! Did they even read that book? Anyway, back to the dungeon.)

October is coming up, and with it a flurry of haunts to keep a fear-lover busy. I’m curious if the SF Dungeon will see a drop in attendance due to competition, or a rise in it because it’ll be the season for such things and on people’s minds. Perhaps the two will even out? 

Overall, it’s not a bad way to kill an hour. This show isn’t really my type of entertainment, but I still had a good time and even managed to sit through the entire scene in Miss Piggot’s Saloon without making a single “Kermit The Frog” joke, which I feel deserves recognition. If you’re the sort who enjoys this kind of haunted house show it’s definitely the best I’ve ever seen and probably the best you’re going to find in the Bay Area. At $22 ($16 for children) the tickets are a little pricey for an hour’s entertainment, but I’ve seen worse. 

Don’t forget to visit the restroom on your way in, you’ll thank me for that. 

Meeting Arturo

Arturo Galster was a legend in the San Francisco drag community. He passed away on Sunday the 24th of August, apparently from a head injury. SFGate and SFist have obituaries of sorts, and I’m not going to try to write anything like that. I want to talk about the image I built of him, through the people he’s left an imprint on. I won’t give any names or repeat any specific stories, partly because it would feel like publishing a page out of someone else’s diary, and also because I was a bit drunk and don’t really trust my memory. This is about feelings, not facts. 

There was an informal memorial held deep in the night between Saturday and Sunday, and I was privileged to attend it, even though I never met Arturo. It was an eclectic affair even by this city’s standards; a motley collection of performers, fans, hangers on, and random passersby laughing and crying and talking beneath a tree while the city glittered around us.

Some of the people there were staying up late to be present, others had just finished working. The clothes ranged from jeans & a hoodie to five-inch stiletto heals with LEDs that blinked every step combined with a slinky black dress, fishnet top and more LEDs in the chest. As the night wore on, the wind picked up and cold began to seep into the mourners, punctuated by the almost comical attempts to keep a candle lit. A bottle of Arturo’s preferred whiskey was passed around, and stories were told and memories shared. And I began to build a picture of this person I’ll never be able to meet, assembled from the words of those who loved him. 

Arturo was kind without necessarily being nice. He noticed people working with him and made a point of greeting them, even if they were the lowliest ticket collector. His philosophy was that you should not ask for what you need, but demand it, and he taught that to young performers he worked with as well as living it for himself. Arturo was willing to advocate for the new kids to get their chance to shine. He also traveled extensively, and I’m looking forward to hearing some of those stories from his traveling companions over a drink sometime. 

I know there was more to him, more than I could ever learn even if I decided to spend the rest of my life as his biographer. People are complicated, and no matter how well you think you know someone they always have hidden depths, they’re always capable of surprising you. It can be easy to simplify your impression of somebody, just as it can also be easy to fall into comfortable routines, letting habit decide your actions. I get the impression that Arturo was also a believer in working outside your comfort zone. 

I did not speak when everyone was standing in a big circle telling their stories, but I knew what I would have said, so I’ll say it now. 

I never met Arturo, and I never will. Listening to the stories from those who knew him I feel robbed of that chance. He wasn’t killed by age or disease, his death was entirely avoidable. To me knowing that, and hearing people speak of him, powerfully underscores our responsibility to take care of each other, and to cherish each other. 

That is all I have to say, for now. Please take care of yourselves, and take care of each other. 

Priming the Pump

I’ve actually been meaning to write here a lot lately, but there’s been this problem where I can only think of things to write when I’m unable to write them. If I manage to remember that I can scribble myself a note about whatever idea I’ve had, I forget it by the time I find the tools to do that. This has been happening to me pretty much my entire life, but it’s been really bad lately!

So I’m not going to write about any of the deep ideas that wander through my mind in the shower or while I’m drifting off to sleep, instead I’m just going to write out a stream of consciousness for a bit, so that I can at least get some writing done. Maybe I won’t produce anything worthwhile, but at least I can try to keep in practice.

Of course, because I’m me, I’ve managed to start a list of subjects while writing this out. Yeah, I don’t understand my mind either. Maybe I’ll write about one of those right after this, but first I’m going to share the search term that led someone to my blog recently, “false tarvi”.

Which makes me wonder, do I have an impostor? Or, from someone else’s point of view, am I the impostor? How disturbing!

I also had an interesting dream when I dozed off this afternoon, but all I can remember now is driving a sports car with annoyingly cramped cockpit conditions, and doing parkour after abandoning the car. Huh.

Anyway, now I’m going to make a drink and see if I can’t write something more substantial.

How 50 Shades of Grey Should Have Ended

So I’ve been reading the excellent, entertaining and informative review of 50 Shades of Grey on The Pervocracy. The Pervocracy is a kink blog, (and thus Not Safe For Work) and Cliff is an experienced kinkster who brings a lot to the table discussing the book. This post would be worthwhile just to share that link, really. Though I suppose I should warn you that the book under review contains an awful lot of abuse. Seriously, unless Cliff is making stuff up and deliberately lying about the story, I’m a little shocked that these books made such a big splash because of the sex and not the abusive relationship! 

Anyway, I was reading the comments on the latest installment and an anonymous commenter provided this link to a fan(?)fic. It’s short and very good, and I recommend it after you’ve caught up on Cliff’s review. Soon after reading it I remembered that the trailer for the 50 Shades movie is out, and decided that if and when the people behind How It Should Have Ended get around to that movie, they could do a lot worse than take inspiration from that! Though I suspect they’ll go the route of suddenly reverting to the sparkly vampire source material….

That’s really all this post was for, sharing some links and a random thought. Since I’m thinking about it, though, how in the world is this whiny, tantrum-prone, abusive, petty rapist Christian Grey supposed to be sexy?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

By now I hope everyone has heard at least a little about Ferguson, Missouri. I figured I’d share some thoughts on it, since I felt like writing this evening. 

There is no situation where a police officer can shoot an unarmed man six times in the back and be morally or legally justified. Ever.

Michael Brown was, and is, legally an innocent man because this is the United States of America were all suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. It does not matter what video you have, it does not matter what evidence you have, it does not matter whether or not he did commit that crime, or any crime. Police do not have the power to execute anyone. The only time a police office is justified in shooting someone is if they are a clear and immediate danger, and even then I expect a serious investigation, not because things should be difficult for cops, but because shooting a human being is not something to be treated lightly under any fucking circumstances. 

To crack down on fully justified anger for what appears to be an outright murder does not help the situation, because it ignores the real problem. The real problem isn’t that lots of people are angry about what appears to be an outright murder, or that some people are using that anger as an excuse for theft or violence, the real problem is that apparently a cop felt completely comfortable with outright murdering one of the citizens he was sworn to protect, and apparently has good reason to think he’ll get away with it.

And, for some completely inexplicable reason, an awful lot of people, especially those in power, seem to be closing ranks to defend this apparent murderer. Because that’s what always happens when a cop shoots an unarmed black man. (That’s five separate links spanning the last four years. They all came from the first page of a Google search.)

There is a pretty clear message here that black people can be murdered with impunity. To scold a 70% black community for being angry about this as though they were, (to paraphrase John Oliver), an unruly class in a high school assembly is not only refusing to recognize their situation or take them seriously, but to treat them as though they are the ones in the wrong for having the audacity to publicly voice the situation. 

I seriously do not understand why this country consistently treats exposing and denouncing injustice as a worse crime than the injustice itself. 

Worse, to wave away or minimize the very real situation that cops kill black people with impunity fairly routinely is nothing short of saying that it is okay for them to do so. If you’ve attempted to justify Brown being shot in the back by saying he allegedly robbed a store earlier you need to accept that you are saying it is okay for a cop to execute suspects without a trial, and I want you to seriously consider what that means. 

There is no way this is going to get any better until cops start going to jail for shootings like this. I feel confident in saying this because I remember how stupid I was at age eighteen, and realize that if I were a young black man I’d be thinking very hard about how to protect myself from the cops right now. Until the police start facing justice, I can only see this escalating. And frankly, if peaceful protests are met with violence and military hardware, maybe it needs to. 

I’ve heard that the National Guard has been deployed. I can only hope it is there to protect the people of Ferguson from their police.

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