life in mokievision
always a cameron, never a ferris
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Tuesday 9 December 2014 - 10:03 pm - mokie's choice
weird, whee
Constantine isn't great, but it's entertaining, and looks like one of those shows that will work out its kinks as it goes, if the fans can hang in there and keep poking it in the right direction.

We won't get season 3 of Hannibal until April or May.

But rumors say if Constantine is cancelled, the network will probably bump Hannibal up to a February.

But Constantine is learning.

But Hannibal, in February.

But only probably, and Constantine.

But Hannibal.

...ah well, I don't miss Dracula, I probably won't miss Constantine. I mean, dig those scores!
Sunday 19 October 2014 - 9:42 pm - #NotAllSaplings
politics dissent, politics liberal
Having someone who once called you heavily, heavily implied you were a racist for living in South St. Louis wig out because black folks in her town are suggesting the community has some race issues to deal with: weird as fuck.

That some of the issues in question are things this same person openly acknowledged - even brought up - in conversation a few years ago, before they got into politics: weirder still.

I'm glad the protests have left the suburbs and gone regional, because it's not a Ferguson issue or a City issue, but a regional issue. Maybe now the skittish white suburbanites can stop being so parochial and defensive, nitpicking about trees and ignoring the forest.
Tuesday 26 August 2014 - 4:01 pm(no subject)
ambitious, adventure, accomplished
I have other things to write about besides Ferguson, swear to Bob, but I figured I should point out the three hot topics on the pro-police side, and while I'm at it, yammer about the issue of bias and information sources, while it's still fresh in my brain. (Wonkette has a quick and messy on two of these topics, if you want a shorter read that demonstrates bias.) So!

#1. There's a video taken at the scene of Mike Brown's shooting, in which people are talking. Some claim that a man in the background gives a different eyewitness account of what happened, and that he tells his friend Brown came at the officer. What he actually says is "He kept coming at him", and it's not clear to the listener which man is 'he' and which is 'him' - which hasn't stopped right-wing websites from posting transcripts that clearly don't match what's said in the video.

#2: a woman claiming to be a friend of the officer who shot Mike Brown called into a radio show run by Tea Party bigwig Dana Loesch. The woman called herself Josie and claimed that Brown had stopped to taunt the officer, and then 'bum-rushed' him.

CNN is still citing "a friend of Wilson" in stories on Ferguson, despite this Josie being more than unverified - the story she told is one being posted around social media, including a posting that claimed (disproved by a CNN reporter) to be Wilson himself.

Basically, it's a jumped-up email forward being cited as fact without anything to back it up as having come from Wilson at all.

#3: A Post-Dispatch reporter tweeted:
Police sources tell me more than a dozen witnesses have corroborated cop's version of events in shooting #Ferguson
Christine Byers (@ChristineDByers) August 19, 2014
The problem with this, as she realized and The Post-Dispatch clarified: she isn't covering Ferguson, or even working as a reporter right now. She's been on leave since March. And yet her tweet went out with the mantle of media respectability, because her PD credentials are stamped on her account.

You could argue that she's biased because, as a crime reporter, she frequently works with the police. You could argue that she's a better source than most because, as a crime reporter, she has access to the police and more information that isn't being officially shared. Probably the most accurate thing you could argue, though, is that since she's not working, she's no more or less reliable than anyone else sitting at home with their babies outside Ferguson, watching this unfold on the nightly news and Twitter. Where we were retweeting rumors that police confiscated video and asking if it upheld eyewitness accounts, she was retweeting rumors that witnesses at the scene confirmed the officer's story.

(On that matter, enjoy an excellent argument as to why four eyewitnesses to the shooting trump rumors of ambiguous conversation in the background of a Youtube video. Yes, I'm biased, but I'm biased in favor of witnesses we know about, not rumors of witnesses.)

That's not to say being in Ferguson automatically made one reliable, as all the "No racial divide in Ferguson, says white mayor" jokes demonstrate. People shared their lists of reliable protesters and reporters to follow, and those lists didn't always match up. While many considered St. Louis City alderman Antonio French a very reliable account, others rolled their eyes at white folks latching onto 'respectable' black folks and disregarding sources they themselves considered less swayed by fame and politics, like artist Tef Poe.

The reliability of the media, mainstream or otherwise, was a huge topic of discussion. Folks halfway around the country or the world sneered that people needed to stop relying on CNN and watch the livestream feeds instead. Folks inside the St. Louis area rolled their eyes and pointed out that this was local news here, and we weren't relying on CNN's top of the hour news snippets, but had live footage from local crews on the ground - but at the same time, we were shocked at how long it took local stations to interrupt scheduled programming when there was clearly shit happening that was more important than TMZ, and at the obvious bias of some of the area's elderly white anchors.

And let's face it, not all of the livestreams were created equal. While some got great coverage of events (and this epic educational moment) and showed us the contradiction between the official story and what folks were seeing on the ground, others were just attention-hungry dipshits who might as well have been making the next lame horror shaky-cam snoozefest, and white tech nerds who just had to get in on the story somehow. (Oh, Jack...) For Pete's sake, professional conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was out there with a livestream.

Ferguson itself seemed split on the issue of the media. Some insisted that the media was portraying only the negative coverage and the negative side of Ferguson, and ignoring the city coming together and trying to heal together, and even making things worse by feeding into the violent protests. Some said the harsh media spotlight was necessary to ensure that something was done to fix the systemic issues the shooting had brought to light, to keep these issues from being swept under the rug, and to keep protesters safe in light of the police response. It became an issue of who gets to speak for a victim, a family, a community, an issue, and who gets to decide when those things are conflated.

And my window of less-distractions has closed, because a storm is rolling in and I'm being nibbled by dogs. You'll have to imagine a tidy closing paragraph, alas.
Sunday 24 August 2014 - 10:05 pm - What's up? Not me...
ambitious, adventure, accomplished
I was asked what's been going on around here lately, and that's a tough question, because my schedule went cross-eyed and crazy for a bit, and it was impossible to keep up with news out of my kitchen, much less the region. Also, my disclaimer is worth repeating: I don't claim to be speaking with authority, and am only gathering info and recording events for my own remembering. I try to provide sources for folks who want to read up on their own (and if any of this helps other folks sort out and contextualize what they're hearing, that's grand), but at the moment I'm drowning in notes and will have to edit some links and whatnot back in as time/big-ass editing jobs permit.

That said, here's my understanding of how things stand right now:
- Around Monday, folks were talking about a feeling that it was over. Some of the dedicated nightly protesters were exhausted and/or demoralized, a lot of folks were frustrated at the ratio of protesters to media, the police seemed to be better at jumping in and grabbing specific troublemakers (or 'troublemakers', depending on your POV) from the crowd, and according to some, they had tactics specifically to keep the crowd off its game and pondering (stand still, keep moving, stay in your zone, no that zone over there, and so on).

- That's also around the time autopsy reports were shared, and there was momentum on convening a grand jury, and the politicians all got down to politicking, the National Guard was pulled back out, etc. It looks like some tension has eased specifically because there's visible official movement, and less fear this will be swept under the rug and forgotten. (Call Sharpton what you want, but his comment on people wanting justice vs. people wanting quiet was a well-aimed jab.) Protests have continued, demonstrations have continued, but with more emphasis on day-time events and calling out politicians in the daylight rather than the nightly face-offs with police.

- Oh, and there's the fact that our unusually cool summer weather came to an abrupt end, and August decided that it needed to prove itself with a little extra effort. Right now, at 10pm, it's 89F (32C), but the humidity makes it feel like a very muggy 98F (37C). During the day, temperatures are hovering around 100F (38C) with a head index of 112F (44C). I don't blame anyone for calling it a day in this heat.

- Also, a lot more emphasis on helping Ferguson get back to daily life and get back on its feet, which is also grand.

- Tuesday, there was a shooting in the City proper. City politicians immediately jumped up to promise transparency and talk about respecting the community and so on. I saw a bit of cynical eyerolling*, but it did seem to calm things down, and looking at the difference in official responses and results, you have to wonder how different Ferguson could have gone if the black community hadn't felt actively disrespected. I saw some suggestion that folks were less riled specifically because it was the City ("Everybody knows that St. Louis city police are more chill than St. Louis County police"), and multiple accounts of City police cheering on protesters, which may have to do with City/County tensions, or City/County regional/representational make-ups, or City police just being more chill than County police...

(It might also make a difference that the man shot in the City was an adult and not a teenager, was armed instead of unarmed, was behaving erratically according to bystanders instead of just walking down the street, that the police department has released a resident's video of the shooting instead of clamming up, that folks in the shops up close said it looked necessary as opposed to the multiple eyewitnesses in Ferguson saying it was an execution, etc. I personally question why two officers with tasers couldn't take down a man with a knife non-lethally, but as we've established, I'm a hippie and that's my job.)

- A lot of 'pro-Wilson' supporters have suddenly started pouring out of the woodwork, too. I scare-quote that because, PR-wise, their support looks to be as helpful as the looters were to Brown's supporters. There's racism galore amongst the protesters and commenters, overt and covert, which is making even the determinedly neutral uncomfortable, and the fundraising aspect is problematic as hell. On the other side of the street, fundraising helps Brown's family cover funeral and legal costs, and helps the neighbors of that community suffering under the inconvenience of prolonged protests. Wilson is on paid leave, though, and doesn't the police department cover his legal defense? So then what is the fundraising but a 'bonus' for killing a person? Tacky as fuck.

And c'mon now: you kind of have to cringe at tone-deaf white folks talking about 'waiting for the facts to come out' and 'innocent till proven guilty' in the same breath as 'Brown was a thug', and, shit thee not, "It was a good shooting, you know."

- There's a lot more talk about re-unifying the City and County now. I wonder if this will be what finally gets that accomplished.


* Before anybody passing through jumps on this: I'm not trying to call anybody out or get passive aggressive here. (What's the LJ equivalent of subtweeting or vaguebooking? Besides 'livejournalling'?) Just acknowledging that the reaction is out there.
Monday 18 August 2014 - 7:02 am - Day godDAMN of the conflict in Ferguson!
ambitious, adventure, accomplished
So much for keeping track of developments as they happen in the Ferguson shooting and its aftermath. The sheer speed of developments, and then work and sleep and apartment hunting and falling sick - and where did I even leave off? Erf.

Let's get organized and recap, yes? Yes!

First off, let me point out that there's a Wikipedia entry which might do a better job of citing references than I do at this stage, with the caveat that its neutrality is currently disputed.

Second, while the shooting and aftermath has gotten people talking about local (whether or not there's a racial divide in Ferguson), regional (that there's definitely a racial divide in the St. Louis metropolitan area, of which Ferguson is a part), and national issues (the militarization of America's police, the limits/erosion of Constitutional rights, being black in America). In that regard, while we can't ignore the way events here reflect the larger national issues and the national conversation, we do need to be careful about flattening the narrative and missing factors pertinent to the community itself. For example, the area is mash of small cities in the county, which has led to confusion about which police force was responsible for which actions, and the protest area near the burnt-out QuikTrip passes through several of these other cities, raising questions about how many protesters were from Ferguson proper and how many from the surrounding region - especially as days passed and people from outside the Metro area entirely began to pour in. (At least one resident has pointed out that there is another, less publicized and much quieter protest opposite the Ferguson police station.)

Third, yes, I know I have a bias. I can't pretend not to.

Saturday: a white police officer, Darren Wilson, confronted two black teens for walking in the street. There was a struggle, and the officer fatally shot one of the teens, Mike Brown.

The other teen, Dorian Johnson, says the officer ordered them out of the street and they told him they were almost where they were going anyway. Angered by this response, Wilson blocked them with his car, grabbed Brown by the neck, pulled his weapon and declared he was going to shoot them. There was a gunshot, after which Brown managed to free himself. Wilson got out of the car and fired after them, shooting Brown in the back. The injured teen stopped, turned around, and knelt to the ground with his hands raised, telling the officer that he didn't have a gun and to stop shooting, but the officer came forward firing. This account is viewable in a highly shared video recorded the same day. (Foreshadowing: note what he's saying around the 1-minute mark, because you'll be going, "Haaaang on..." about it later.)

This account seems to be supported by several other witnesses, who said it looked as if the officer was the aggressor in the struggle and that the teen was shot dead while kneeling on the ground with his hands up. One livetweeted events immediately after the shooting (note the timestamp), along with some graphic photos from his vantage point.
@DomoTheTruth dude was running and the cops just shot.him. i saw him die bruh
Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014
His account was that the teen was shot twice in the back while running away, but stopped and turned to face the officer, only to be shot multiple times.

People on the scene were extremely upset, and a call went out for assistance in crowd control. My understanding is that multiple jurisdictions responded, and at least one brought police dogs to the scene, which was a bad idea as it immediately brought to mind for some the Civil Rights-era use of dogs as an intimidation tactic. I'm having trouble finding that now in the flood of articles on what happened, though, so caveat bloggor on that detail.

Sunday: the police held a press conference giving the officer's account. Wilson's account was that when he stopped the pair, Brown assaulted him as he tried to leave his car, pushed him back inside and grabbed for his gun. 'There was at least one shot fired inside the car', but it's not said who fired, or if they don't know that. Wilson got out of the car and 'there was a shooting'. The police chief clarified that the shooting took place 35 feet from the car, and that all casings found were from the officer's gun.

There was immediate outcry about this version of events, as the 35-foot distance to some lends credence to the claim Brown was fleeing. Others find the claim that Brown grabbed for Wilson's gun to be both very convenient and very common when an unarmed person turns up shot by police.

A candlelight vigil was held, and the police attended in riot gear. This will be a recurring theme, to the extent that many believe it was an intentionally provocative act (a claim some believe is tinfoil hattery waved by folks who are being intentionally provocative). Not long after the vigil, tensions erupted and a riot broke out, despite politicians and cooler heads trying to persuade the crowd to go home and calm down. Journalists and cops were both targets of violence, shops were looted and vandalized, and one was burned down, the QT which has been the focus of the protests making the news all week.

Monday: a whole lot of "Oh shit, did that really happen?" and "But St. Louis doesn't riot!", with a heavily armed and very visible police presence hanging around. As it grew dark, police announced a curfew (though no state of emergency had been issued), ordered the crowd to disperse, and when they didn't, fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Some reporters say they were ordered to leave, while supporters say the police were worried about the safety of the reporters/officers due to their presence. Some folks also said the police blockade itself physically prevented people from exiting as ordered, because suburban geography is fucked up.

Elsewhere in the region, shops closed early, police cars camped out in mall parking lots, and rumors flew that looters were targeting various destinations. An open-air mall in South St. Louis (the city proper; Ferguson is up in the northern 'burbs) was hit by a convoy of assholes who looted one shoe store and tried to break into a Radio Shack before police arrived and they fled. (You have no idea how hard it is for me not to crack a tacky, poorly timed joke about South City hoosiers right now.)

Tuesday: a whole lot more "Oh shit, did that really happen again?", and once it grew dark, a whole lot more "Go home!"/"You go home!", but things stayed more or less cool until two acts of specific violence. First, a drive-by shooting was reported, though the conspiratorially minded believe the victim was a protester shot by police. Second, four armed men shot into the crowd, though the conspiratorially minded believe they were plants sent in by police to justify action. The police ordered local media out, which raised lots of outcry from protesters, the media (who are pretty sticky about this First Amendment thing), and people following events. Again, some are saying the cops ordered media out for their own protection, some are saying it was an attempt to get troublesome eyeballs out of the way so they could go full Fallujah on the protesters.

Wednesday: lather, rinse, repeat of the disbelief and tension - at least, at first. Then two reporters were arrested while sitting in a McDonalds, and the crew from Al Jazeera America was tear gassed, with County police rolling up to dismantle their equipment, after which the media got het up (see: First Amendment). Many, many, many people pointed out that Washington Post reporters have been arrested in only two cities: Ferguson and Tehran. (Huffington Post reporters: Vegas, baby.) (Kidding.) Then Antonio French was arrested, and the Internet got het up. French is a former reporter, and it showed: his Twitter account is deemed one of the more reliable sources of current info. He's currently a St. Louis City alderman, which means on Wednesday, the cops decked themselves out like an army, road out into the streets like a scene from the Middle East, and went after journalists and politicians.

What I'm saying is, they might as well have just worn signs saying, "WE HATE AMERICA AND PUPPIES."

Thursday: a collective "Oh shit!" from Missouri's elected representatives, who dislike the idea of the police just arresting politicians almost as much as they dislike the idea of being rendered unelectable for looking like they're not doing shit. (Roy Blunt even had to stop trying to get Obama fired and remember that he represents the whole state!) Governor Nixon cancelled his plans to attend the State Fair (I wish that was a joke) to come to town and take the St. Louis County police out of the situation. He put in charge the Missouri Highway Patrol under a black captain raised in the area; some are suggesting he was appointed because of his race so as to look like a more progressive solution than the police were really willing to offer, some are suggesting he was appointed because of his race to act as a figurehead and take the fall. Either way, County Prosecutor Dickhole Robert McCulloch had kittens, declaring this an overreach by the governor, predicting Game of Thrones scenarios and decrying the action as disrespectful to the police who had just spent the past four days throwing tear gas into crowds on television.

And yet the new approach - de-escalating the situation with hugs and handshakes instead of tear gas and rubber bullets, letting the protesters protest, and encouraging the crowd to keep each other in check - seemed to work wonderfully.

Friday: the region skipped to work, smiled at store clerks and winked at birds. Folks flooded into Ferguson to peacefully assemble, while around the nation folks peacefully assembled in a National Moment of Solidarity for victims of police brutality. New York City's gathering was disrupted by police with no sense of irony. But a dark cloud gathered on the horizon...

After days of refusing to release the name of the officer involved in the shooting on the grounds it was too dangerous to him, his family and neighbors, the Ferguson police chief finally conceded. He also decided it was the right time to release a strong-arm robbery report filed the day of the shooting, and stills of a security video which seem to show the Mike Brown stealing cigarillos and roughing up a store clerk. ("Haaaaaaang on..." Told ya.) There was backpedaling later in the day, as the police chief admitted that the two teens were stopped for jaywalking, and not as suspects in the robbery, so this was largely irrelevant - except maaaaaybe the officer saw the cigarillos and got suspicious! (Gee, let's wonder why some folks don't trust the police.)

The owner of the store in question disputes the police report, saying that they don't believe Mike Brown was the man inside their store, and that neither they nor their employee called the police to report a robbery - though, honestly, that might have been a practical measure taken because they watch the news. The new captain in charge of cooling things down in Ferguson was also displeased, and many saw both the police chief's actions and the prosecutor's actions as an attempt to undermine him, some catty political dick-waving over bruised egos.

Still, people gathered and all seemed well - mediators in the crowd kept everyone cool and in check, despite the presence of some people clearly intent on starting a ruckus. (One group of protesters say they recognized members of an out-of-state anarchist group, for starters, and in an interview with local station KMOV, another pointed out a man who had been trying to get the crowd to attack the police.) Then, according to folks on the ground, as the officers mingling with the crowd started to clear out and go home, and many of the protesters decided to go home, suddenly that big-ass armored truck rolled back in, along with more police in riot gear, and no one able to identify who they were or why they had shown up. The aforementioned agitators tried to rile the crowd again, but when the crowd refused to play along, they instead turned to the shops and began looting (with the shop Brown is supposed to have stolen from being particularly hard hit). Protesters rushed to block doors and protect businesses, with many wondering why the police chose now to stand by and do nothing. Others pointed out that the larger crowd of protesters was between the looters and the police, which meant they'd have had to drive through the crowd, which might cause more chaos and violence (and some leaders in the crowd tried to rally them further back on the road for this purpose, apparently).

Some believe the return of riot gear was an intentional ploy by someone at County to provoke the crowd, either to justify their early actions, to get the Highway Patrol booted out and County reinstated, or just to cause a renewed riot that would prove someone right in busting heads; the latter point to the lack of response as a tactic to make the Highway Patrol look bad, and point out that the Highway Patrol specifically barred Ferguson and County from jumping in on Friday night.

Fucking politics, man.

This weekend, I got sick, so I'm still playing catch-up with updates, but few of them are good.

Saturday: sadness, with a little heartbreaking goodness. As the sun came up, the news was reporting on residents coming out before work to help with clean-up efforts. For those who need to look for the helpers, there were plenty of them on Saturday. The Governor issued an official state of emergency, with an official curfew, and lots of 'We're trying to find a balance between the right to protest and the community's safety' talk, and talk of how the curfew would not be enforced with tear gas.

By which they meant they'd use a smoke grenade with the same active ingredients as tear gas when they needed to remove a crowd from a nearby BBQ joint. The police said it was to retrieve a man who had been shot and injured, but several folks there (including one whose word I trust highly) says the gas came before the shootings.

Sunday: I got so sick yesterday that I had to head to bed, so I'm more or less in the dark. All I know is that the Governor called for the National Guard, and that some autopsy details were released. While some folks were calling for the National Guard last week, when it looked like the police were too interested in playing army and needed to be reined in, many now see this as an extension of the police's tactics rather than a replacement. And how you read the autopsy results - as supporting Johnson's story or Wilson's story - depends on where you stand in this mess.

So, there we are...
Saturday 16 August 2014 - 6:26 pm - Just a reminder to myself about communication
ambitious, adventure, accomplished
Speaking of communication, I really need to remember that my communication style does not always go over well in emotionally charged situations.

I tend to look at things like other people look at knick-knacks - pick it up, turn it over and around and upside down, find all the bumps and scratches - and it can come across more callous than I notice. I sometimes 'argue' both sides, because the best way for me to feel out a side is to take it out for a ride and put it through its paces, but that sounds like trolling. Plus I crack jokes in tense situations, which makes me seem flippant (but great fun at funerals).

There are folks who want to talk about what's going on in Ferguson, because from their perspective it opens a wound that's festered and needs exposed to the light. There are folks who do not want to talk, or even hear talk, about Ferguson, because for them it's a fresh new gaping wound that needs people to stop poking it. I need to remember that someone offering a bit of information is not the same as someone opening the door to a bigger discussion, and to trust my own instincts about when to remove myself from someone's space, instead of waiting for them to speak up or blow up. Bigger worries, y'know?

And I need to remember that not everyone pulls out a joke when the cops are at the door. Also, I should maybe not do that ever again.
Friday 15 August 2014 - 6:42 am - Good news is great news.
ambitious, adventure, accomplished
I have a collection of links, quotes, etc., from the past two days, but when I get too low on sleep, my ability to write coherently gets a little wonky. Later today or tomorrow, I promise.

But in the meantime: USA Today's timeline and Buzzfeed's timeline offer not just a chronological sense of events, but a perfect demonstration of the pro-police vs. pro-protester stances that crystallized during all this.

"But mokie, ___'s timeline isn't biased!" It's like accents, reader: you can't hear your own.

Also:
It isn't lost on us that, once tanks, dogs, gas, rubber bullets&tripods/rifles would be gone the crowd turned multicultural,right? #Ferguson
stacia l. brown (@slb79) August 15, 2014
Ouch. Yes, but... Okay, excellent point. But... Goddamn, I'm going to be that white person for a minute here. Bear with and forgive me, please.

Basically, last night was a WTF tipping point for people and politicians alike. A lot of white folks said, "Holy shit, I can't just watch anymore - we have to help stop this," and a lot of politicians said, "Holy shit, I can't just watch anymore - we have to stop this or we'll never be electable again." The folks I know who headed to Ferguson today rallied to do so last night, before today's dramatic de-escalation, not because of it.

But still - yeah, we're totally late here. Mostly, I think, because it took that long to wrap our heads around what we were seeing. For those interested, here's the extremely truncated pro-protester white person in the St. Louis metro region but not Ferguson watching this shit unfold by Twitter and video timeline, as I lived and/or witnessed it:

- Saturday: This looks suspicious as hell. He shoots a kid who's running away? Multiple times? And they aren't even saying why he stopped him in the first place? I call bullshit. Somebody had better answer for this.

- Sunday: This looks suspicious as fuck. Why are cops putting on this riot gear fashion parade at a candlelight vigil? He was an unarmed teenager headed for college, not a Gambino enforcer. Somebody had better answer for this.

- Sunday night: WHAT THE FUCK?

- Monday: DID YOU SEE THAT? Is it going to happen again? Is it going to happen outside Ferguson? Somebody had better answer for this.

- Monday night: What the fuck is this shit? Why does the County have a fucking tank? Why are they firing tear gas at people who are just demonstrating? Oy, they're not looting, you assholes!

- Tuesday: DID YOU SEE THAT? Is that going to happen again? You can't shoot people when they're not rioting! Somebody had better answer for this.

- Tuesday night: What the fuck is this shit?! You can't order the media out! You can't suspend the First Amendment! You're suburban cops, not the goddamn army!

- Wednesday: DID YOU SEE THAT? That can't happen again! You can't do that shit to people! This is America! Somebody had better answer for this!

- Wednesday night: What the fuck is this shit?! You can't arrest reporters for reporting! You can't gas reporters! And still none of these people are looting, you assholes! You can't--OH, YOU CAN'T ARREST ANTONIO FRENCH YOU MOTHERFUCKERS! Fuck! Where's Nixon? Where's McCaskill? Where's the National Guard? Where are the people who are supposed to be answering for this shit? Call in sick, bitches, we're going to Ferguson!

- Thursday: Ah, there's Nixon. And McCaskill. And the St. Louis County (or was it Ferguson?) police chief wearing an "Oh shit" face. Looks like they made him answer for some shit. He's out, Highway Patrol's in! Aaaaaand now the police are hugging protesters. We're still going to Ferguson, right?
Wednesday 13 August 2014 - 1:35 pm - The art of communication
ambitious, adventure, accomplished
Night 3! Peaceful gatherings at a church and the burnt-out QT was relatively quiet, even after cops lined up in riot gear and begin issuing orders to disperse. They seemed more laid back, and the outcry from the crowd felt almost perfunctory. In a way, it was almost like a polite disagreement over who got the pay the check. "No, no no no - I'll be the bigger man here." If that makes any sense.

And then, according to reports, a woman was shot in a drive-by after midnight. And then, as I heard it, "four men in ski masks fired into the crowd", and one was shot by officers. These incidents strike some as highly dubious:
People also need to understand that the young men wearing "masks" on their faces started doing that after police started using tear gas.
Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 13, 2014

Local Tv is blacked out. No fly zone. Media locked out. Then a random drive by shooting happens. Yeah.
DarkSkintDostoyevsky (@daniecal) August 13, 2014

But how are they driving ANYWHERE if the streets are blocked off? This is why they wanted media out.
ronnieNotch (@RonnieNotch) August 13, 2014
Despite stating earlier that they would release the officer's name by yesterday, police have decided it was too dangerous to name him. They have said, however, that he suffered facial injuries. Some were predicting early that this would be another Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager confronted and killed by an armed adult and then painted not only as a thug, but as the aggressor; this news release and the police department's refusal to release Mike Brown's autopsy until toxicology reports come back are fanning those fears.
Don't believe the media propaganda.

They're going to run toxicology tests to find some kind of marijuana to muddy Michael Brown's reputation, the same way they did with every other innocent black life that's taken by the police. Despite this soon to be college student having a reputation for being fun-loving and never a trouble-maker.

They're going to drag it out so that the dust settles and the cop who did this can continue working in a few months.

They will continue to treat the accounts of the police as the "official word", even though every eye witness says the exact opposite.

Do NOT believe the media propaganda. An innocent young black man was murdered in cold blood. And the murderer(s) will be protected by our "justice" system. (Derrick Jaxn, 11 August 2014


A friend in the area who knows many of the local police officers and city officials is dismayed by what she sees as a rush to judgment. I mention her ties because context seems so very important when it comes to Ferguson right now. What's happening there is much more complex, she says, than everyone is insisting, but I'm not sure what she means by that - region-wide racial tensions boiling over after some high-profile incidents seems complex enough, to me.

The black community is clearly outraged at yet another young man shot down and his death excused before he's even in the ground; they're saying exactly that and pretty loudly. They perceive a racial bias in the town's government and police force, both of which are overwhelmingly white, and which seems borne out in the statistics for police stops and arrests (going around in articles - I'll try to dig it up later today). And if I understand the economic discussions, there's a wide economic gap between the town's black majority and its white gentrifiers. And then you have the anger of the larger metropolitan area: St. Louis is so segregated, the BBC wrote about the street that draws the line between black and white.

And then the 'stand your ground' killings of Trayvon Martin by an overzealous white vigilante for the crime of walking home, and of Jordan Davis by a white man who thought his stereo was too loud, both still recent enough to sting. The verdict in the killing of Renisha McBride, killed for knocking on a door to ask for help, just came out and made headlines for how badly the AP managed to humanize the white murderer while dehumanizing his victim. And the police killings of John Crawford for the crime of picking up a toy gun in the toy section of Walmart, and Eric Garner for selling illegal cigarettes (though witnesses dispute this, and the officer has been investigated for false arrest before), are still in the news.

Meanwhile, white guys all over Texas are walking into department stores and coffee shops armed to the teeth to make a point, a white rancher and his buddies pointed arms at federal agents and faces no charges, a white doctor walked into an airport with an assault rifle and charges were dropped, a white teen in Aurora, CO, where very recently, a heavily armed man walked into a theatre and started shooting, not only took a stroll around town flaunting his weaponry, but argued with police, refused to show his ID and refused to put down his weapon. But when reporter Matt Pearce quotes a black victim of police brutality...
"I got smacked in the head with a flashlight because I didn't say, 'Yes, sir.'"

He added, "I was 14 years old."

http://t.co/VjJlU4Y2Fe</p>— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) August 13, 2014
...the responses are, "Then do what you're told. That's what I would tell my son," and "got to have good manners. Yes sir, no sir" [sic]. They're the usual responses, responses that imply someone has the right to beat you for failing to be polite enough. Not them - these kinds of statements always come from folks who'd raise fifteen kinds of hell if a police officer was less than courteous to them - but you.

Like I said, pretty complex all on its own.

Tangent!

On Monday morning, two women were interviewed in front of the burnt-out QT. Both wanted to convey how badly the looting affects the local community, but only one succeeded. Before I go further, let me be clear: I am not judging either woman, or questioning sincerity or motives, or casting snark. I'm simply holding up the wording and looking at what's communicated. And yes, I am pointing out the race of each woman, because race is very much an issue in these events, but more to this particular point, I think it's also an issue in how each woman communicated her message.

White woman standing at the burnt-out QT in Ferguson after the riots (paraphrased): I walk everywhere - I walk when I need to get a snack for the kids, we go out for walks, and so do a lot of people around here. What are we going to do now? Now I'm stuck at home.

Her message is full of I's. Despite including 'a lot of people around here', her message is one of personal inconvenience. What she's conveying is, This is an inconvenience to me. It was an off-the-cuff statement, the reporter didn't give her much time, and, hey, without the QT, maybe she hadn't had her coffee. In any case, not only did she not come across as well as she could have, she didn't come across well at all. She came across as a white lady whining about how the looting inconvenienced her personally, without regard for the context (Mike Brown's killing, the affected community).

I recognize the conversational tactic, putting a thing it in personal terms to show how it affects you personally, so it's easier to explain and demonstrate that impact, because it's one I use often. But it backfires here and comes across as self-interest.

Black woman standing at the burnt-out QT in Ferguson after the riots (paraphrased): My husband and I have lived here for 20 years, and shop on this street all the time. This is our neighborhood. I know one of the kids that works here - what is she going to do now? This [looting] doesn't represent who we are as a community. I'm sure the police will investigate this, and unfortunately, that takes time. I am angry that a young man lost his life, but I don't want to tear things apart for everyone else.

Her message is full of we's. Out of the gate, she not only points to the community, but herself as part of it, and then slams it home with a direct 'This is our neighborhood'. She points to a very specific person besides herself, and phrases her concern as concern for that other person. When she does talk about herself and how she's affected, it's in relationship to the killing - that she's affected by the more serious incident, and by sympathy rather than personal grievance - and even there, she turns it to 'everyone else'.

She's good. She's damn good. True, her statement sounded a bit rehearsed, and she had plenty of time to give a longer statement. But still, she came across as a civic-minded citizen concerned for her community and for justice. The difference between the two was so powerful that I stopped and wondered if there was an inherent difference in the I/we language balance between the races. But mostly, I thought that if she's not writing someone's speeches, her talents are going to waste.

[Speaking of communications: I'm half-asleep, so any social awkwardness, "That sounds rude!", etc., is down to that. When I tag and clean-up, I'll try to sand down any rough edges.]
Tuesday 12 August 2014 - 6:11 am - Day 2 of Ferguson exploding
disbelief
Failing in Ferguson: How the police are doing everything wrong and why it’s dangerous for everyone (Melissa Byrne, 12 August 2014)

Her premise is that police escalated the tensions in Ferguson by taking an increasingly aggressive posture in response to events - by bringing police dogs to the crime scene for crowd control (a gesture with extremely negative historical connotations), by bringing out the riot gear early (as early as the vigil, like a slap in the face), by trying to shut out the media, and so on. One look at tonight's last night's events, and it's hard to argue. (Sorry, I work weird hours.)

Officially, there was a curfew and the police began to close off the area and disperse the assembled protesters to avoid a repeat of Sunday night's looting and vandalism.

But when you look at the video from folks on site, what you see is armored vehicles and police in riot gear throwing tear gas into crowds of non-violent protesters (or protesters who look non-violent in the clips, especially when up next to guys in riot gear aiming guns at them), shooting rubber bullets at people recording them (including area politicians), blocking off the roads and yanking people out of their cars at gunpoint when (apparently) they were trying to leave the area as instructed. According to people there, roads were blocked in such a way that the people they were telling to go home physically could not leave, despite threats of arrest; add that mass transit was interrupted by the blockages, and there were people who were stranded in the area.

Some reporters said they were told they had to leave, which struck many as suspicious as hell and made them wary that shit would get really ugly if the reporters pulled out.

By the time things quieted in Ferguson, rumors popped up that it was moving south via the Metrolink. Earlier in the day, there was an incident at the Galleria that was rumored to be some thwarted looting (the local news had a clip with a woman who said she'd come to the Galleria after reading some inciting Facebook post), but the late night rumor was that folks were gathering at Chippewa and Gravois and moving up to Hampton Village, which is pretty far away, and makes this a stupid, stupid plan. Having worked overnight at a 24-hour shop on a major bus-line, a group of thieves popping in to steal shit and then running for the bus is nothing new, and I thought, if there was anything to the rumor, it was likely just a bigger-than-usual handful of these asshats trying their luck because they figured most of our police force would be in Ferguson.

Also, that Chippewa and Gravois is a terrible place to group up for a raid on Hampton Village. What are you going to loot between Gravois and Kingshighway, the Wonder Bread day-old store? A really stupid plan.

No sooner had I scoffed, though, than a friend near Gravois Plaza (around the corner from Chippewa and Gravois) reported a smash-and-grab at a shoe store there. So either the rumors were wrong and this was just a coincidence, or the opportunists had their sights the closer Gravois Plaza. (Or maybe someone mentioned that the Wonder Bread day-old store had long since closed down, I don't know.)

Anyhow.
- I hate that it's so easy to lose sight of the fact that this was originally about a teenage boy's death, but there's that terrible dichotomy: does seeing Mike Brown as a symbol and rallying point take away from his death?; and does trying to bring it all back to his death do an injustice to the protesters who are outraged about the violence that threatens them all, and of which Mike Brown is a symbol?
- I hate that folks are conflating protesters with looters, so as to more easily dismiss the protests and justify the violent response. (Yes, in case it wasn't already obvious, I'm kind of a hippie. Deal.)
- I hate that there are these perceived lines in the sand, so folks think you can't be outraged at the police response and outraged at the looters and waiting for the results of the investigation into Brown's death.
- I hate that a friend in the area finds herself not just living through this, but through the stress of having friends on both sides waving flags (metaphorically) and being angry. Twice the rage, twice the stress, I imagine.
- I hate that my tag for all local news, a reference to a hoax from a few years ago, now looks a little racist without context. Dammit. I love my 'sweet baboon of florissant!' tag.

Links, for the linkfully inclined:
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Different versions of the encounter that led to a fatal police shooting
- MSNBC: Eyewitness to Michael Brown shooting recounts his friend’s death
- Alderman Antonio French's Twitter feed, with lots of Vine videos from the scene
- Reddit's live feed and map of police scanner reports and incidents (compare with KMOV's map of the looting)
- RT: #FergusonShooting: Outrage as Missouri police shoot and kill ‘unarmed’ black teen because it's nice to get an outside perspective
Monday 11 August 2014 - 12:31 am - A weekend of WTF
scared, anxious, distressed
Saturday, police shot and killed an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis. Eyewitnesses said the officer pulled up, tried to put Mike Brown in the squad car, and he resisted. His hands were up and he was running away when he was shot in the back; the officer walked over to where he'd fallen and, standing over him, shot him again and again, a total of ten times, in the head and chest. The teen's body laid in the street for four hours with police standing over it while crowds gathered in outrage. In response to the angry crowd, the police brought out dogs and a vehicle so heavily armored that it looked like a fucking tank.

People who knew the teen said he was a good kid who had never done anything wrong. Bystanders said he hadn't done anything to warrant being stopped by the police - he was just walking down the street with a friend. The only whiff of explanation I could find was a vague mention of 'stolen candy', and the suggestion that the officer tried to stop him because he fit a profile. There has been no official explanation of why the officer stopped this kid.

Update: The friend Brown was walking with says the cop told them to get out of the street, and they replied that they were almost home anyway. Also, the number of shots is now less clear, with some sources saying eight and some saying ten. For more information, read "Different versions of the encounter that led to a fatal police shooting" by Jeremy Kohler at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

This morning, police held a press conference saying the incident is under investigation and the officer is suspended, and his version of events was that when he tried to put the teen into the car, the boy went for his gun and assaulted him. STL Public Radio has discussed the legality of the shooting ("The Constitution does not permit police to fire at unarmed, nonviolent, fleeing suspects unless there is a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or the public"), but the police have all the evidence: they knocked down a local business's surveillance camera and went inside to seize the tapes, and intimidated a witness into surrendering her phone and recording of the incident.

A vigil/demonstration was organized outside the police station, which was reportedly well-attended and well-behaved, but at some point in the evening, a portion of the crowd turned violent. Things were thrown at journalists, shots were fired at cops, and shops were looted, with at least one set on fire afterward.

Protest organizers tried in vain to calm the crowds and get people to go home. The social media response is split evenly between, "These are people outraged at a long history of systemic bullshit, finally blowing up and expressing their rage," and "These people are not from the area and have no respect for the murdered teen or his family - they're just opportunists." It's probably both.

A massive police presence has been mobilized to the area, the local news has finally figured out that we don't really care about that concert Downtown, and this is important enough to keep the information flowing.

So, hello Monday.
Saturday 9 August 2014 - 5:47 am - Speaking of Ebola...
zombies
The next time you get the urge to roll your eyes and snark at someone that Ebola isn't really all that contagious, unless you're coming into contact with bodily fluids, just remember:

- According to researchers, 95% of Americans don't wash their hands properly after using the bathroom, i.e. long enough and well enough to kill bacteria after coming into contact with bodily fluids, with soap, or at all.

- According to the CDC, around 99,000 deaths in the US each year involved hospital-acquired infections, because medical personnel get slack about proper hygiene.

- As for the CDC itself, last month it was called out for shipping anthrax to other labs in Ziploc baggies, failing to decontaminate labs where they worked with anthrax, losing samples of both anthrax and a highly contagious and deadly flu, and finding samples of smallpox they'd had forgotten about some 60 years earlier.

Ah, no, wait, the smallpox thing was the USDA - the folks who keep our burgers (relatively) rat turd-free. Because that's better.

In any case, I'm not saying we're all going to die - just that any argument that assumes we're safe because of other people's hygiene is inherently a bad argument.
Saturday 26 July 2014 - 11:34 am(no subject)
ambitious, adventure, accomplished
‘Crossbones’ effectively canceled by NBC; final episodes to air August 2

Welp, everyone called that. I think most people figured it would fail simply because nobody has yet figured out how to make an effective and successful pirate-based TV series, though. (That's discounting Black Sails, because I haven't seen it yet, and One Piece, because I have.)

I figure there are too many contradictory expectations of what a pirate show should be. For instance, the reviewer in the article says, "It didn’t have the sort of fun that you would have expected a show all about pirates to have." Except I wouldn't expect a show about pirates to be fun - I would expect gritty realism as a backlash against (and way to stand apart from) Disney's pirate movies, while the vaguely Hercules/Xena vibe suggested a possible return to the glorious cheese of the '90s, and the mere appearance of pirates or Robin Hoods prompts my mother to sigh wistfully about the lack of good old-fashioned Fairbanks-style action these days.

Crossbones doesn't have gritty realism. It's hard to pin down what it does have, and what it actually is, which may be the real problem. The design, from sets to characters to plot, has a whiff of realism mixed with too heavy a dose of modernism and self-conscious "That sounds like it will sell" thinking - setting and wardrobe that cross the line from eclectic to Pottery Barn, female pirates that might as well be wearing pins saying, "Let me tell you about how there really were female pirates," bits of plot that reek of modern screenwriters unable or unwilling to accept the limited playground of historic fiction because it inconveniences them. There's also a slight movie vibe which sounds good, but undermines the story and sabotages the pacing: the plot can only build-up, because pay-off feels like wrapping up, while story that would have been 10-30 minutes of back story or set-up in a movie feels stretched into a season-long plot here.

And what is the plot? Good question.

At first appearance, it's a battle of wits and wills between two powerful men, from the point of view of the man caught between them. The governor of Jamaica comes to believe that the notorious pirate Blackbeard isn't as dead as everyone thinks, and concocts a plan to confirm his suspicions and bring about the pirate's end once and for all. But not really - the show demonstrates its allegiance so early that there's nothing for the Governor but to become the villain. He's saved from being a buffoonish villain (of the "D'oh! Zorro outsmarted us again!" type) only in that he's made unhinged, vicious, and essentially a minor bit of back story.

The ostensible plot, once the show gets chugging along, is that the spy/assassin slipped into the pirates' midst by the governor discovers bigger wheels in motion, and so not only has to put his plans to kill Blackbeard on hold, but also has to earn the man's confidence. Yes, but no: they're quickly comfortable with each other, because the show wants us to believe that Blackbeard is almost supernaturally savvy when it comes to judging character, but it feels sloppy and inconsistent (not unlike Malkovich's accent). The subplots feel like plodding distractions attempting to disguise how thin the plot is, and that it could have been told just as well in a 2-hour movie.

The actual plot: pirate politics that are never adequately explained for the audience, despite near constant chatter about what Blackbeard hopes to accomplish with his pirate society. British/colonial politics that are never adequately explained for the audience, despite the focus on two Jacobites in exile. (As the family nerd, I'm not saying American media should assume its audience is too dumb for history - just that they should remember that the Jacobite rebellions aren't a big part of the lesson plan in American history classrooms, and most of their audience hasn't been in one of those classes in several years.) Back story that is unveiled so slowly it seems to be going nowhere, alongside side plots that feel like directionless padding.

All that said, I enjoyed it more than expected, and I think I might even miss it. It looks like the main premise was supposed to be the adventures of the notorious pirate Blackbeard and the sneaky spy Lowe, and that sounds very interesting.
Wednesday 2 July 2014 - 11:11 pm - Id, ego, super-ego, squiddy-go!
ambitious, adventure, accomplished
So I was discussing fiction with a friend... No, that's not quite right.

So last year I started watching Hemlock Grove, but got distracted and wandered off. When I saw an advertisement for the upcoming second season, I thought two things: "Better to catch up and keep up, then," and "Wait, what? 'Emmy-nominated'? Hemlock Grove was nominated for a fucking Emmy, but there's no love for Hannibal?"

Because I like Hemlock Grove, more or less. Contrary to appearances, it's not yet another True Bloody Vampire Twilight Diaries teen romance soap opera with fangs, but a collection of Hollywood's classic Silver Screen movie monsters translated to a modern setting, and that's a pretty nifty idea. But I love Hannibal, and most of the critics who've bothered to watch it call it the best show on TV right now - better than Game of Thrones, better than Mad Men, better even, some thought, than Breaking Bad. And yet it was more or less snubbed by the mainstream American awards shows, and even the piddly media awards; for instance, it shows up only in vague "Best Villain" and "Best Show" categories on TV Guide's online awards voting. Why is that?

Because society is full of snobby assholes who take great pride in not watching horror... No, that's not quite right. Because society is full of snobby assholes who take great pride in bragging about not watching horror. And the little committees that pick award nominees and winners are loaded with those assholes. This is no surprise to 'genre' fans - we're pretty used to the world looking down its nose at us - but it is a surprise to see so many vampires and werewolves sprinkled around out in the open and accepted. They're not horror anymore, but romance, the new soap operas, and the voters are totes cool with them as long as they stay sexy and don't look like, y'know, monsters.

Even so, I suspect Hemlock Grove's nomination had more to do with patting Netflix on the head for making its own series than the series it made.

But anyway.

So I was discussing that with a friend, and we wandered off on a tangent about romance novels, including paranormal romances, historical romances, the old fashioned gothic romances, all that jazz, and eventually circled around to poking the fanfiction concept of 'id fic' with a stick, because that is a clever, clever way to look at literature.

Id fic appeals to the squat little reptilian pleasure-seeking part of brain, your id, the little masturbating monkey mind, the part of your brain that embarrasses you at parties with inappropriate thoughts and grunts, "Uhn, sexy!" at shit you know just ain't right. As one fanfiction writer put it, "Because 'good' stories often have to temporize, to maintain reality and your suspension of disbelief and the dynamics of the canon. But idfic says fuck that, let's turn this shit up to ELEVEN and SEE WHERE IT GOES."

See? That's brilliant. Instead of blushing through flustered and defensive explanations of how V.C. Andrews' hypermelodramatic incest porn has deeper meaning, or romance novels aren't really about the smut, or how pulp fantasy novels have deeper wish fulfillment blah blah blah, look at the freedom of just saying, "It's id fic" - acknowledging that the masturbating monkey mind loves its stories, too, and that this is totally okay.

But, at the same time, it also lets us see how V.C. Andrews' hypermelodramatic incest porn, etc., can have deeper meaning, because where you've got id, you've got context for the tightlaced and prudish super-ego to stroll in: the masturbating monkey mind likes it dirty, and what the masturbating monkey mind finds dirty has a lot to say about the culture and society and baggage of the mind. For instance, Wuthering Heights is a big ol' floppy melodramatic mess of id, crouched in the corner fapping furiously and leering at onlookers, but it's also a classic that "challenged strict Victorian ideals of the day, including religious hypocrisy, morality, social classes and gender inequality."

Would it be going too far to suggest there's also super-ego fic? Stories that consciously and purposefully poke at social constructs and cultural baggage, that get all up our noses about being a better person? Those stories certainly exist - they're the things we rarely read on our own, because they're preachy and boring, not at all as interesting as peering through a book-shaped keyhole with the masturbating monkey mind at things we know we'll later feel dirty for enjoying.

Maybe that's what I like so much about Hannibal - having both the monkey and the monk at the dinner table together, uncomfortably aroused.

Edited to add: Yes, I know, the id fic concept has been around for ages, but my circles don't overlap that way. In discussing some topics, particular fandom or fan-adjacent topics, things work out best if I just assume that the other person has no idea what I'm talking about until/unless they say otherwise, and thus I need to explain from scratch without getting to slangful or complicated.
Tuesday 1 July 2014 - 1:47 pm - The obligatory Hobby Lobby post.
womb of doom
I don't know if I can take another guy saying the Hobby Lobby decision is no big deal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Oh look, folks are already trying to use Hobby Lobby's "sincerely held religious belief" precedent to skirt LGBT anti-discrimination legislation.
Tuesday 10 June 2014 - 8:12 pm - [Dream] Chatterbox zombies
dream nightmare
The dream started off a bit like the original Night of the Living Dead, with people seeking safety in a house together.

We were aware that there was something wrong with the some of the people on the street.
Some of them looked deformed, like the woman with a shrunken head. Some of them looked like they had been homeless for a while, digging through trash cans and hunkering down wherever they could get out of the weather. Most just looked like worryingly excited people, and they kept grabbing at people walking by, trying to catch up with them, to talk to them - but if one stopped you, you'd quickly be mobbed by a knot of them, all talking incessantly and clutching at you.

A stranger flagged us down and urged us a this big Victorian house, along with several other normal people. He explained what he had observed: that anyone cornered by these chatterboxes soon spaced out and went catatonic. We could go out, we could move around, but we had to be careful not to get cornered, not to listen to them. We decided to go out only in pairs or groups, to keep each other focused.

A boy was going to run supplies (okay, a pizza) over to another house by bike, and I agreed to go with him as his back-up. I strapped the pizza to the bike and stopped to ask what next - was there another bike, was I riding handlebars, etc.? But the boy was staring vacantly ahead, as were the two people who had come out with us to help us get ready. I realized one of the chatterboxes was standing in front of them, and had just noticed me.

I yelled to get their attention, to snap them out of it, but she quickly had me by the arm and a small cluster of them were gathering around, so I had to pull free and run. (In a sort of in-dream flashback, I knew I had spaced out for a moment, and it was sheer luck I hadn't gone quiet like the others.) The Victorian was on a corner with two parking lots nearby, and I ran a wide circle, dodging chatterboxes and trash-diggers and deformed people, before darting back into the house and slamming the door shut in the face of the woman who had tried to grab me beside the bike, and cutting off her non-stop stream of talk.

My memory fades out here - I know there was a little more dream after this, but only because I remember it involving other parts of the house, and the man who had originally called us in. I've a feeling I was trying to convince him to go out and save the boy and the other two, and he was trying to convince me that they were already lost, but that could be post-dream brain trying to tie things into a logical plot.

Notes, details and explanations
#1. I am all out of social. I don't think that symbolism needs explained.

#2. There are contradictory symbols/non-symbols here. The setting was my old neighborhood, and the big Victorian stood on the same lot where my old home stands. Jungian logic says that a house in a dream represents the dreamer (it's the space you inhabit, see?), and my old home has popped up in my dreams frequently. In that respect, me locked inside with all the chatterboxes outside? Oh yes.

But the house was not my old house, and it didn't feel as if it was supposed to represent it. The neighborhood didn't feel symbolically significant, but rather like a quick and familiar backdrop. Is that simply a little Post-It from my brain that my sense of self has evolved - a little kick in the pants to update my mental image already? Does it have anything to do with this urge I've had to pack up and move? Is the big Victorian simply an amalgam of various horror movie houses (which, again would fit pretty well for this purpose)?

#3. The man who called us into the house was played by Duane Jones, because my brain knows its homages, but the man I argued with at the end was played by Idris Elba, which might have something to do with starting Luther last night and going full nerd on me.

#4. Turning my hermitage into a big homage to Night of the Living Dead? Kudos, brain. And thank you for not making me the Barbara.

#5. The chatterbox who was on my tail was a scrawny old woman in a housecoat (remember those?), with a high pitched and nasal voice. That's probably meaningful in some clichéd "Oh no, old age!" way, but meh. The shrunken head/pinhead woman wore a country-style sundress and never spoke, which is probably also meaningful, but also a little scary.
Sunday 1 June 2014 - 11:17 am - A month full of can't even.
snarky, yay for girls
May started with a terrible essay (broken down fabulously over at Captain Awkward and by Dr. Nerdlove), in which a man tried to shame his ex for refusing to maintain a relationship with him. Not the relationship, but any relationship. By his own account, she had moved on and found someone new, and she didn't want to hang out with him and rehash the drama of their now-defunct relationship over and over. She did not want to be in a relationship with him, and she did not want to be in that dysfunctional not-relationship with him, either, and so she called it quits - except he doesn't think she has the right to do that. He believes he has veto power over an ex-girlfriend's right to decide who she associates with, because he hasn't got closure (read: the change to debate-to-death her decision to end the relationship). His response to her cutting off contact was to ignore it, keep poking, keep popping up, even after being threatened with a restraining order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let's start June off better, with Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds, in which a nerdy guy calls out the pop culture nerd narrative as insulting to and unhealthy for nerdy guys and women alike.
Monday 21 April 2014 - 5:28 pm - Pop culture epiphanies!
media pop culture
#1. Room 237
The structure of this documentary about the search for hidden meanings in Kubrick's The Shining seems to intentionally mirror the movie: creepy labyrinthine rambling, and then someone whips out the crazy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The small town of Lanford, Illinois, is almost a character in its own right. Outline the series, and you'll see not just the changeable fortunes of the Conners, but the decline of Lanford: the closing of its primary employer, a loss of quality jobs, a slip in the local economy affecting local businesses, the town quietly fading into a trucker's stop-over point. It's part of why the last season rang so wrong, but for the right reasons (or, at least, right on paper): it wasn't a big fantasy about her husband not dying, but about the main character having the money to save everyone, culminating in saving the town itself by restoring its primary employer, Wellman Plastics. It all centers on one line in the monologue: "When you're a blue-collar woman and your husband dies it takes away your whole sense of security."
Sunday 20 April 2014 - 7:11 pm - Immaturity is not a legal defense.
disbelief
If you ever needed a clear example of what's wrong with society:

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

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

Society: those wicked girls!

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

"Why did they keep coming back?" says someone who assumes the girls were sneaking in to play games with an older guy, ignoring other possibilities like that the girls were relatives spending the night and being pressured into playing games with a creepy uncle that also lived in the house. (It's a scenario that would certainly explain one of the girls telling her mother, and the asshole's parents immediately kicking him out.)

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

I emphasized the gender because the gender is important - it's why the teens are being demonized, and their rapist is being excused. He's just a poor boy, barely out of his teens, but they're brazen hussies, technically teens but what does that have to do with it?

It's bullshit, ladies and gents. The adult is always responsible. That's what being an adult is: being responsible. I don't care if the teens were willing participants: if that were the case, it was still his responsibility as the adult to say NO and to not take advantage of the situation.
Tuesday 15 April 2014 - 8:32 am - [Dream] There's symbolism, then there's symbolism.
dream stub
Earlier this week I dreamt that part of my tongue fell off.

In the middle of a completely unrelated dream last night, I noticed scar tissue in my mouth, and not only did I remember the previous dream, I remembered it as a real event, and my tongue falling out, bit by bit, became a real worry for me.

I might be a little stressed on the job front, I think...
impressed, satisfied
Finally, the perfect response to the usual You can't criticize nonsense.

You know what I'm talking about. The thin-skinned writer who gets irate and insists that you can't criticize his work because you're not a best-selling author. The artist's friend who overhears you point out that the figure is a little stiff and loudly interjects that you're just jealous because you can't draw. The asshole who whips out a snotty variant of "Those who can't do, teach," or in this case, "What qualifies you to teach? If you were an expert, you'd be doing!" That nonsense.

Here it is, courtesy of a commenter (wlubake) at Scriptshadow: "This is asinine. Teaching comes from analyzing a craft. It is a completely different skill set than having the creativity to actually perform the craft."

Fuck, yes. It is a completely different skill set. Teaching and creating involve different skills. Performing and analyzing involve different skills. The skills needed to mentally deconstruct a work, analyze the pieces, and offer that analysis to others in a way that they can understand - those aren't the skills the writer or artist or chef or whatever uses to put the work together in the first place.

Of course, the opposite is also true - just as your favorite writer about their experiences with writing groups, and that one participant who thinks applying regurgitated writing blog tips to a story is the same thing as analyzing.
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