Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Partisan Hypocrisy: At Least the Right Wing is Less Stupid About It

Democratic would-be presidential candidates Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg have been floating plans to Make America Suck Slightly Less by bringing back slavery -- sorry, "mandatory national service" for young adults. The thing that baffles me most about these renewed calls for mandatory national service – and I know, this is basically a rehash of previous complaints I've made regarding “calls for gun control” and “calls for anti-hate-speech laws” – is this: both left- and right-wingers in America have a tendency to replace principles with partisan political hackery, but for all their hypocrisy, at least right-wingers are generally smart enough to ONLY call for increased government power when “their guys” are in charge: we've all known people who (for example) supported every government power-grab under G.W. Bush, rediscovered their “small government, personal liberty” principles within nanoseconds of Obama taking the oath of office, then re-abandoned said principles when Trump took over.

Not the left wingers, though. During the Bush/Cheney years they were all “Aargh! Bush and Cheney are turning this country into a fascist dictatorship!” (Pause.) “I wish those would-be fascist dictators would hurry up and confiscate everyone's guns, because agents of this fascist government I so fear are CLEARLY the only ones who can be trusted to own any means of self-defense.” And now? The left wingers are the ones calling for “mandatory service” or “the government should pass hate speech laws and decide what people can and cannot legally say.” Which would be cringeworthy enough coming from them if St. Obama the Trustworthy were still in the Oval Office – but FFS, how farking clueless do you have to be to think “Yeah, Trump is a terrible president – let's give him even MORE powers to wield! Surely Donald race-baiting 'Some of those Nazis are very fine people' Trump can be trusted to use hate-speech laws to ONLY go after bad guys, right? Surely Donald 'build the wall' Trump can be trusted NOT to abuse a mandatory workforce of millions of young able-bodied Americans, right?”

If you believe President Trump is destroying America (a belief I happen to share), then why in Zod's name would you want to give him even more powers to destroy America with?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A Supernaturally Awesome Business Opportunity

Atlanta has enough credulous residents (or tourists) that there exist actual businesses whose sole function is to give "ghost tours'" of allegedly haunted spots. I'd really like to ask one of those tour guides about the timeline required for the tragically dead to turn into a ghost -- local haunt-lore is all stories like "This spot is supposedly haunted by the spirit of a woman who died in the Civil War" or "the first black man murdered by a lynch mob in Georgia."

None of them cover more recent tragedies, a la "Here there once stood a trendy nightclub where, in 1979, a man overdosed on cocaine snorted off a supermodel's bare ass while Donna Summer's 'Love to Love You Baby' played on the sound system. Some say that on cloudless nights when the moon is full you can still hear his voice, talking very very VERY fast and saying 'Oh my god darlin' you're so hot and I really really wanna do you but I'm having trouble getting it up right now you think you can lend me a hand sweetheart Jesus CHRIST but you are FINE my wife doesn't understand me BARTENDER gimme a shot of Glenlivet for the li'l lady here...."

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Personhood in Alabama (women are silly slutty cattle edition)

An Alabama judge has ruled that a fetus is a "person," in the specific context of letting an Alabama man sue the clinic where his ex-girlfriend had an abortion without his consent. Silly slutty women, thinking their bodies belong to themselves rather than to whichever man most recently stuck his dick into them!
An Alabama county court recognized an aborted fetus as a plaintiff in a lawsuit Tuesday, opening a new chapter in the fight for reproductive rights in the United States.

Madison County probate court Judge Frank Barger allowed Ryan Magers to name the fetus his girlfriend had aborted as a co-plaintiff in his case against Alabama Women's Center. 

The judge's decision to establish an estate for the fetus, allowing the suit to move forward, came four months after the passage of Amendment 2 by voters in a state referendum last November. The law, which passed by 18 percentage points, gives fetuses the same legal rights held by a person under the state constitution.
I did not realize the Alabama constitution grants Person A the right to demand use of Person B's body to stay alive. So if, say, I need a bone marrow transplant to stay alive, and the only possible compatible donor is unwilling to donate, does Alabama law give me the right to FORCE that person to give me some marrow? For all the unpleasantness you must go through to have marrow extracted and given to another, it's far quicker and less unpleasant than staying pregnant for nine months, followed by being in labor for however long.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sex Workers: Were They "Rescued" or "Ruined"?

As a northern transplant to the overheated suburbs of Atlanta, I shrugged it off a couple weeks ago when the entire metro area shut down over the threat of a half-inch of snowfall -- but stockpiled supplies and hunkered down when the city hosted the Super Bowl a few days later.

In the run-up to the Super Bowl and for some time after, the local news sites have run buttloads of stories about prostitutes being arrested -- sorry, make that "human trafficking victims" being "rescued." Like this story from the Atlanta Patch, which I saw today on Facebook: "More Than 160 Arrested In Super Bowl Human Trafficking Operation / Nine juveniles and nine adults were rescued during an 11-day federal, state and local takedown."
The body of the article includes mention of "rescued victims," and also says "Of the 169 arrests, 26 people were alleged traffickers and 34 suspects were allegedly people attempting to engage in sex acts with minors. The youngest sex-trafficking victim rescued was 14 years old."
I read the article and then posted this comment on the Patch's Facebook page:  "The article is unclear: were those 18 'rescued victims' included among the number of people arrested? What happened to the sex workers in question -- where are they now? I hope their 'rescue' did not entail them being imprisoned and saddled with a criminal record."
So far nobody has bothered to answer my question. I'll update this post to let you know if that changes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Context Makes the Difference Between Good and Evil

Here's a wince-inducing op-ed a friend of mine posted on social media today, and due to a temporary moment of confusion caused by looking at multiple browser windows open across three different computer monitors, I honestly thought this was a (not very funny) Onion article until I noticed the font and formatting differences and realized "Holy crap, this is real."

AZ Central published a piece by Rashaad Thomas titled "Phoenix restaurant says this is a photo of cola miners. But I see offensive blackface".

Short version: historic photos of coal miners after work need to be taken down, because white guys covered in coal dust look exactly like white guys wearing blackface, which is racist, which means vintage coal-miner photos are racist too.

Actual quote:

Who determines what's offensive?

For me, the coal miners disappeared and a film honored for its artistic merit, despite being the most racist propaganda films ever, D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” (1915) surfaces, in which white actors appeared in blackface. The white owner saw coal miners in the photograph. Therefore, it was not offensive.

Fact: The photograph shows coal miners’ faces covered in soot. The context of the photograph is not the issue.
This is the same logic which inspired certain idiots at Facebook a few years ago to insist that the infamous "napalm girl" news photo from the Vietnam War is actually child pornography: "Fact: the photograph shows full frontal pre-pubescent nudity. The context of the photograph is not the issue." Except that's not really a fair comparison because at Facebook it was an algorithm, rather than an actual human being, which erroneously flagged Napalm Girl as pornographic.

While discussing Thomas' article, another friend of mine pointed out that "idea that context doesn't matter is really a pretty scary one, because it can be used to shut down entire topics of discussion." But it's even worse than that: if you take such logic only a tiny bit further -- not even to the point of exaggeration for ludicrous effect -- without context you completely lose the ability to distinguish between good and evil, or right and wrong.

Lemme tell you about a certain scary incident involving me and one of the staff photographers at my last daily newspaper job: one afternoon we were walking through downtown New Britain on our way to some assignment, and stopped at a four-way intersection and crosswalk waiting for the light to change. When "don't walk" changed to "walk" I glanced up and down the street, saw no cars coming, and started to step out into the road/crosswalk. But I didn't think to look behind me, which is why I did not notice a speeding car coming up that street, clearly intent on making a right turn into the crosswalk. Fortunately the photographer did see this, and grabbed my arm and yanked me back just in time so that when the car sped around the corner in front of me there was maybe a half-inch of space between it and my body--though maybe a bit less than that. 

Needless to say, I was very grateful to the photographer, and also pretty badly shaken by the close call, and it took a few minutes, most of the rest of our walk to the assignment, before I got over it enough to focus on matters at hand rather than be all "Ohmygodohmygod" and "If you hadn't ... [shuddery silence] ... right now I'd be ... [shuddery silence] ...."

So, yeah: I'm sure we'll all agree it was damned lucky for me, that the photographer was there to do what he did. And for what it's worth, there have been a couple of occasions when I was able to do something similar for other people, and depending where you live you've likely done so too, because anyone who's spent time enough time in certain city environments will eventually wind up on the giving and receiving ends of such incidents on occasion.

But if you take Thomas' argument about the coal miners to heart -- context is irrelevant, and any one person's context-free opinion overrides all else -- you could describe the photographer's actions this way:

One day, a physically small and weak woman was walking through a high-crime neighborhood when suddenly, a much larger and stronger man grabbed her and refused to let her walk away even though she clearly wanted to. She was badly shaken by the incident for some time afterwards -- and he'd grabbed her hard enough for that spot on her arm to be sore for awhile, too.

Fact: such behavior is often engaged in by criminally aggressive men who override women's individual autonomy for their own desires. The context of the incident is not the issue. (I'm not saying the photographer was necessarily a bad rapey-type of guy who deserves to be arrested, mind you; I'm just saying what he did should NOT be held up as an example of acceptable behavior, especially not from a man toward a woman. Because there are just too many times when such behavior is not ONLY not acceptable, it's downright harmful.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Clearly, these new fans don't APPRECIATE the band like I do

Confession: there is a certain personality type we-all like to mock, the sort of person who always makes a point of saying things like "I liked that band before they got popular" and "These newcomer fans, they don't truly appreciate the music the way we early adopters do." Pompous snobs, I always thought, except now I suddenly find myself kinda empathizing with them.

Late last night/early this morning, I was going through a collection of old (mid-00s) mix CDs I recently found, with lots of glum-but-beautiful Goth/darkwave/dark ambient stuff of the sort Projekt Records put out in the 90s and early 00s. Naturally, I wanted to listen to those discs -- but I am still looking to buy a replacement CD player for my ancient broken one, and I dislike playing discs on my computer because it's rather old (Jeff and I are currently engaged in SeriousTalks™ about replacing it) and discs make it even slower than it already is. Luckily, many of those songs have videos on YouTube -- usually homemade fan videos of the song playing over a still graphic of the album cover.

One mix-CD song I found on YouTube is "Russia," from a band called "Black Tape for a Blue Girl." It was originally a track off an album titled As One Aflame Laid Bare By Desire, though it might also have been released on one of Projekt Record's periodic From Across This Gray Land, volume 1 or 2 or 3 or whatever compilation discs (roughly 90 percent of all Goth bands, songs and album titles have names like that). I have multiple Gray Land volumes and a copy of AOALBBD somewhere in my CD collection, so when I burned those now-ancient mix discs I must've taken "Russia" off one of them.

So, about last night: I looked for and found a video for "Russia," by "Black Tape For a Blue Girl." Even remembered, after all this time, to start the song at the three-minute mark so as to avoid the veeeeeeerrrry sloooooow intro, and delve right into the "only moderately slow" main part of the song. Started playing the song, turned back to the papers I was writing on -- and only then did I take a second look at the computer monitor displaying a [presumably homemade fan] video of "Russia," with the song performed over a still graphic of the album cover. But -- which album? Was it As One Aflame Laid Bare By Desire? From Across This Gray Land, Volume Whatever? Or possibly some newish re-release introducing classic fin-de-millennium Goth music to a new generation, something along the lines of Projekt Sampler: Best of the Depressed?

The third guess was ... not correct, but the closest to it. That particular music video for "Russia" comes from an album titled Fifty Shades Darker (music for a sensual evening). With "sensual," per the album cover, apparently defined as "the sort of night where the woman spends the evening with her wrists tied to her ankles." NTTAWWT, and I definitely don't want to be the judgmental type who runs around telling consenting adults "Look, if you wanna engage in an evening of mass-marketed mainstream vanilla-scented softcore BDSM you gotta get better background music than that" but -- seriously, there are many dark-n-gothy tunes that make for great sexytime background music, but "Russia" is NOT one of them because the rhythm is waaaaay too slow. Even an especially lethargic tree sloth would eventually be like "C'mon, honey, you've got to pick up the pace here."

Clearly, anyone who only knows about Russia because of that Fifty Shades album doesn't appreciate the song the way I do. Remind me to buy a lawn so I can tell 'em to get off it.

BONUS:  Jennifer's recommended list of ACTUALLY SEXY dark Gothy songs (in no particular order):

1. Only Fooling by David Cross

2. Drown by Strange Boutique
3. Dirt From A Holy Place by Office of Strategic Influence/OSI [start at the 1:40 mark because Gothy songs are waaaay too fond of overly slow intros]
4. NOT Russia by Black Tape For a Blue Girl
5. Fear of Ghosts by The Cure
6. A Girl Called Harmony by Attrition
7. Christian Woman by Type O Negative
8. Definitely not Russia by Black Tape For a Blue Girl
9. Elyria by Faith and the Muse
10. Always, Dear Iris by Skinner Box
11. Mediterranea by Love Spirals Downwards
12. I told you twice already: no, N-O, to Russia by Black Tape for a Blue Girl. It does not make the cut. I'm not denying it's a good song, I'm just saying it's no good for this purpose.
13. Make It Right (F.F.S.) by Anathema
14. Ionia by Lycia
15. Haunted by Gary Numan
16. I said NOT RUSSIA. No, nada, nein, nyet. Why do you keep recommending it for this list? You CANNOT have good sex to the rhythm of this song. What is wrong with you? Have you ever actually had sex before?! JFC, I almost wanna slap you except if you need my help to put together a sexy-music set list marketed for BDSM sessions I'm afraid you'd probably enjoy it. I APPRECIATE THIS MUSIC ON A MUCH DEEPER LEVEL THAN YOU, DAMMIT!!!

Ahem. [Embarrassed throat-clearing] Carry on.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Tossing Bullion in the Trash

The other day I did a minor culling of clothes, discarding a few pieces with small but unfixable (by my standards) flaws such as "The front of this garment has a grease spot the size of a dime" or "there's a tiny hole in one part of the fabric." So I won't donate these items to a thrift store, and I didn't even add them to the ragbag because that's already full; I threw them all away.

Which is no big deal for a modern American (especially one who pays thrift-store rather than retail prices for clothes), but for most of humanity's time on earth, throwing away that much usable fabric would've been as extravagantly wasteful as a person nowadays saying "Yeah, I found some gold bullion while cleaning house, and threw it away because I have no room for it." Had I the skills, inclination and time I could've reworked those damaged clothes into a couple complete new outfits for myself, or a patchwork quilt or part of a rag rug or some handkerchiefs or curtains or [insert list of useful textile items here]. But with today's textile technology, there's no point in me investing the huge amount of time this would require.

Any given yard of textile today is literal orders of magnitude cheaper than it would've been back when every bit of fabric had to be made my hand -- spinning loose plant or animal fibers into threads, weaving individual threads into cloth -- yet if you compare contemporary western standards of dress with those of past eras, it's strange to think that back in the day, a given outfit (at least for warm-weather conditions) required far more fabric than a given outfit today. Thinking about what I'd need to make myself a single summer dress in the 19th century -- today that same amount of fabric would make me an entire long-sleeved shirt and long-legged pants combo, with enough cloth left for some smaller items. Or, if I went with short sleeves and short pants or skirts (as I'd often wear before moving to Georgia and hiding my skin from the sun), I could get two or three complete summer outfits from the fabric needed to make ONE pioneer-woman dress. Seems odd, that back when cloth was vastly more expensive for people, "respectability" standards required a person to wear far more cloth at any one time than you must wear today.
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