Tuesday, June 18, 2013

this year.

I haven't written a single post this year.  Time to change that.

Monday, October 08, 2012

rep. paul broun, my rep. #fail

Athens is kind of a delightful town. Moving here after years in New York wasn't much of a culture shock at all. The people in the town are educated and engaged. There are farmer's markets, music venues, theaters, and art galleries. The food here is incredible. The town isn't cut off from the world. It is about as cosmopolitan as a small Southern city gets.

I was a little worried before we moved here. I grew up in Mississippi and Alabama; both states that I love, but both states that have hard won terrible reputations as ignorant backwaters. They continue to work to keep those reputations. I feared I might be diving back into the same sludge that I'd fought so hard to escape. I'd secretly love to live in Alabama again one day, but even though I think Birmingham is a great town, I'm not ready to face the intensity of the ignorance and bigotry that thrives there. So I was relieved to find Athens the opposite of all my fears. It is an incredibly open town. People have been wonderful. It is because I've found this such a welcoming and progressive town that I'm so intensely horrified to discover that my congressman is an idiot and an asshole.

 I'm having a really hard time dealing with the idea that this douche bag was elected here. I'm having an even harder time dealing with the idea that he is running uncontested! Why can't I vote against him? There is absolutely no reason he should be in congress. Anyone who is ignorant enough to be anti-science is a danger to us as a nation, but somehow this clown in on the science committee in congress?!

I've said it before, if you don't believe in evolution, you are against the scientific method. You are fighting against the way we measure our understanding of the physical world. You don't get to just be all like, "I don't believe in evolution" and then still believe in physics. The same standard is used to measure all this stuff. If you are anti-science, fine. You don't get modern medicine, you don't get television, you don't get a friggin' car. Because none of those things are possible without science! If someone wants to bitch about evolution being untrue and live in a primitive commune, sure, I can take that person seriously. I still think they are ignorant, but at least they have a little bit of conviction. If you drive a car and trust the science that built it but deny evolution or suggest that the world is less that 10,000 years old, you are an imbecile. Should science be questioned? Sure, of course, that is the whole point of it. But denying the basic (and intensely tested) underpinnings of our understanding of the physical world is just ridiculous. I can understand how someone who hasn't had a decent education could misunderstand some of these subjects. That someone who is a doctor can espouse ignorant ideas like young earth theory and anti-evolution? It is shameful.

To get a medical degree involves an incredible about of work. Much of the study is scientific. When we turn to a medical professional we assume that they have been trained to know our physical bodies more intimately and scientifically than we do. If they disavow science, why would anyone trust them? Why would I go to a doctor who has shat upon his degree? congressman broun has made a joke of his degree. The "m.d." after his name which should indicate a strong grasp of science instead can only be worn by him like a clown badge. He's made a mockery of his education; he's treated his constituents like fools.

I'm ashamed to learn this man represents me in congress (I would be ashamed to learn that anyone saying such ignorant things is representing anyone in congress, but when he is representing me; that's personal). His ideas do not represent me or the wonderful community I live in. I would vote for a linoleum floor before I would vote for him. I'm going to write in the tree that owns itself if we can't find someone else to run against him.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

a response upon being forwarded pat buchanan's essay, "It's all about race now."

(This is an email response upon being sent a link to this by my father describing it as a "good perspective". Which drives me nuts, because I do consider my dad to be one of the most thoughtful and intelligent people I know. And I think pat buchanan is an asshole. But it is better that I was writing to someone who I cared about while processing this, because it forced me to several times delete and rewrite to remove unnecessarily incendiary language. Since I stayed up til 4:30am finishing it, I decided to record it here as well.)

It isn't all about race, but a lot of it is.

The visceral reaction throughout Obama's presidency has been largely about race. Not really attacking what he has done (which I actually have issues with, because he has largely pushed a bunch of repackaged republican bullshit), but rather his legitimacy, which isn't tied to whether or not his actual election was legitimate, but rather to an argument that he fundamentally isn't legitimate and therefore all his actions are suspect because he isn't one of Us. His birth certificate is an ongoing topic of conversation. This is stupid... and racist. It has been coded in buzzwords: liberal, communist, Muslim, Kenyan, un-American; but the basic gist is that people have attacked him as Other, which is really what racism is about after all. Judging an individual based on stereotypes of a group that they belong to (or are perceived to belong to). Or reading the actions of an individual as representative for an entire group. Racism is sort a catch-all word for what I'm talking about here because it is the most apparent and easiest to identify of this kind Us vs. Them mentality. It is largely about class and wealth also, but racism is the quiet rallying cry to keep politically useful spite swirling. And racism is the manifestation of this that the US has been dealing with most explicitly for the last hundred and fifty or so years.

buchanan is arguing that the victim of a crime is the responsible party because of his appearance and race. That because the kid was black, it is his fault for being followed and shot. Yeah, that is about race. It's also pretty plainly racist.

A teenager wearing a hoodie, talking on the phone to his girlfriend, carrying a bag of skittles is followed by an agitated adult carrying a gun. The kid may have attacked this guy after being pursued by him for some time or may have fought back after being physically assaulted. The guy with the gun killed the unarmed kid, in public, after speaking with the police and being assured they were on the way and being asked to not follow him. The guy who killed the kid is free, wasn't charged, evidence about the crime wasn't collected. The kid is dead and his family is now being treated to a character assassination in the media as people argue that because he had been suspended or because he was wearing a hoodie, it wasn't surprising that someone assumed he was a violent criminal and killed him and it is somehow his fault.

This crime is bothersome on so many levels. It would be bothersome even if there wasn't a blatant racial component to both the crime and the responses to it. It speaks volumes about our gun culture and fascination with vigilantism. It says things about America's willingness to justify outsized and violent responses to perceived threats. It says things about how quickly victims are blamed in crimes with a disparity of power between the victim and the aggressor. Rape victims are often lectured that they were asking for it if they were wearing something attractive or if they were in the wrong part of town or if they were intoxicated, and while you can argue that doing different things can reduce the chances of being the target of a crime, our tendency to blame the victim takes responsibility from the perpetrator and downplays the crime while victimizing the assaulted a second time. And even if we remove the racial, there was an obvious and distinct disparity of power between Martin and Zimmerman. Zimmerman is an adult, in his home community, the son of a former judge, had placed himself as head of a neighborhood watch, and was armed with a gun. Martin was a minor, in a new neighborhood, and unarmed.

What is more interesting than just the racial element is who people sympathize with, or perhaps more accurately who they identify with: the victim or the aggressor? Or who people see as the victim and who they see as the aggressor. pat buchanan sees the unarmed kid who was shot by a stranger as the aggressor because of the race and appearance of the child. Perhaps he sees Zimmerman as someone like himself, wealthy and privileged, who was just retaliating against a threat to that wealth and privilege and he is willing to use lethal force to push back against that threat. That is pretty much what pat buchanan's and much of the republican party's politics have always been. I suppose people sympathize according to the role they could see themselves in. I can imagine my appearance misinterpreted or judged as indicative of "Other" and the victim of a crime because of it. It has happened before.

Still, there is a specifically racial element to this crime. And for whatever leaps and bounds we've made in dealing with the issues of race (and I've argued many times that America and the South in particular are more aware and informed about racism and and what it is and isn't than almost anywhere else in the world), there is still plenty of systemic racism in America. pat buchanan throws up crime statistics about how so many more blacks are charged with crimes and more likely to commit crimes against white people, but the major flaw in his argument is glaring as this is in discussion of a murder of a black boy perpetrated by a white man where we have black guy killed and the white killer walking free. This act of violence has thus far gone un-prosecuted and the behavior of the police at the scene of the crime makes it unlikely that the killer could be convicted even if prosecuted at this point. This is a crime that is national news, but not a part of our crime statistics. His argument that blacks make up a higher percentage of arrests/convictions/prison population and therefore should be treated more harshly is precisely backwards. It doesn't justify this crime, rather it, especially in combination with how this crime remains outside of the statistics, illustrates how we need to more closely reexamine the systemic racism throughout our justice system. No one thinks of themselves as racist, but being sympathetic and fair to people we perceive as Others doesn't come easily or naturally for anyone. link: race and criminal justice

And it isn't just that the justice system is biased because of race; poverty is more of an issue. Which becomes about race because poverty is more prevalent in communities of color. link: coloring-crime

A lack of institutional response to crimes against black people isn't new. link: notorious-past

pat buchanan hits the nail on the head when he writes, "And it is about an irreconcilable conflict of visions about what the real America is in the year 2012." He articulates a vision of America where assumptions and statistics about a group are valid justification assaulting an individual based on the crime you are afraid they are likely to commit. That is at odds with visions of the country as a place where people will be treated equally under the law. His attempts to make excuses for the the failings of our justice system is going to be inherently in conflict with people who want to identify the flaws and improve on it.

The people who are pointing out the racist aspects of how this all played out aren't the ones making this about race. It was always about race. And privilege. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Blogger: why isn't there an app for that?

Ok, I'll admit at the outset that there are apps I can buy which will let me post to Blogger from my iphone. And I could just sign onto blogger in the web browser on the phone. But blogger (I'm pissed off so I'm done with capitalization for these guys for now) really doesn't have just a simple app for uploading photos or leaving quick posts?

I've got problems with this for several reasons. Of course the main reason is that it is annoying. I'm not so serious with blogging that it is worth it for me to shell out for a third-party app. Beyond just being annoying, it suggests that whoever is steering development within blogger has no concept of what is going on with technology and the internet. I've got this blog and I'm going to keep pecking away on it, but I've lately been wanting to start another more thematic blog. Should I stick with blogger (who apparently are way behind the curve) or do I give Tumblr a try? They make it easy to send pics from your phone...

I've liked blogger, but this is kind of ridiculous. If there were one little thing to do to stay relevant, this is it. Please don't point out that they now have an Android app. Whatevs. Google might prefer people to use Android over the iphone but this isn't the kind of feature that is going to give Android an edge. It only takes the edge away from blogger.

Also don't mention the blogger functionality that lets you text or email pics. Having a system which requires you to register your device and start a new random mobile blog is awkward and inelegant at best, even if you have the option to then link that extra blog to your real blog. Did monkeys design this?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Eileen Myles reading at Athica: a few thoughts...

Earlier tonight we went to hear Eileen Myles do a reading from her recent novel, Inferno. I haven't finished the novel, but read a few chapters and have thoroughly enjoyed it so far. The book itself is beautiful, even as a paperback.

Our house is full of books that I should read, that I want to read, and this one is a new addition which wouldn't have been able to demand my attention normally. Not because I didn't want to read it, but because I didn't really know too much about it and have other things which I've been promising myself i would indulge in first. But the cover was pretty and it had managed to maintain a prominent position on the side-table beside the rocking chair in the reading corner. Taunting me daily and knowing that this reading was coming up, I was finally unable to ignore it the other day when the unseasonably warm weather begged me to sit on the porch and read. A light book with stylized flames on the cover, written by a poet, seemed appropriate. So I sat in the sun on the steps of the porch and dove in.

I zipped through a few short chapters and found myself thoroughly charmed. 'Zipped' might be a bit misleading. I moved quickly through it because I felt pulled along, not because it wasn't substantial. The writing is lovely and also witty, but not in a self-conscious, show-off kind of way. It bounces around and cuts jarringly from one moment to another and from detailed descriptive moments to stream of consciousness inner dialogues, but it is so far exceptionably readable. Oh, that such could be said of all books...

It made me want to write, which I consider high praise for a book. Why was I sitting on the porch reading when I should be writing? Because I was and for no other reason. Actually that isn't true; there were lot's of reasons. Until it is profitable and at a time when I'm not doing anything else which is profitable, writing seems somehow luxurious, a waste of time that could be spent looking for a real job or doing something productive like cleaning the house to reaffirm that I am useful. Sitting in the sunshine, inspired and feeling like I should write more, reading about a narrator whose economic situation has her considering a proposition from another girl to prostitute herself as the second half of a double date with a couple of Italian handbag salesmen, thinking about how direly I need to find work. All in all a fine afternoon.

As we sat down in Athica, I realized I had to pee terribly and that it would be a long time before I possibly could. Before Eileen Myles got up to speak tonight, there were two women who did introductions. They both spoke well and gave nice introductions that went on forever. While they were talking, I had a clear view of Ms. Myles in the front row. I recognized her from a picture on the poster announcing the event, but in that photo she seemed rather gruff and unfriendly. In person she was quite beautiful, in a more handsome than pretty way (kind of like Jaime Lee Curtis, but dressed like Sleater-Kinney). Instead of the stand-offish person I imagined from the photo, she seemed to like being there and open and pleased to connect with the crowd.

Before she began reading, she spoke rather quickly and seemed to jump around trying to decide where to start with her reading. She spoke clearly and without the slightest hint of any accent, but the second she opened her book and started to read... the Boston fell out. The accent became stronger at moments and disappeared at others.

When she read a poem as an encore, the accent again retreated except for occasional flashes where it peeked through.

While reading from the novel, she explained some backstory for a section she was going to read where she had met the female partner (who was an artist) of a very famous male artist and ended up living on their 70-acre farm for a while and writing. We speculated amongst ourselves whether perhaps this could have been Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock, but wasn't their farm on Long Island? This one was in Pennsylvania.

Afterwards, Ben was getting his copy of Inferno signed and forgot to ask her who this couple was because he accidentally kicked over her water. I had been outside and when I came in and asked him if he got the book signed, he replied, "Yes, she signed one of the poems in the book for me, but I think she hates me." I think he is mistaken. Her open water bottle was sitting on the floor beside a stool; I watched someone else kick it over again and then wipe up water with paper towels.

Now I have to finish the novel. I'll read a chapter a day, on the porch, only on warm, sunny days. I would probably finish it in one night if I read it in bed, but that somehow doesn't appeal to me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fuck microsoft

I bought a Toshiba Satellite about 4 years ago. I've put it through hell. It has gone to sea with me on terrible little long-line vessels from Hawaii and on crab boats in Alaska. That little piece of electronics has been dragged around in a backpack back and forth across the country and functioned in sub-optimal conditions. Salt spray and shitty, unreliable power sources: it keeps on ticking. I've had to replace the power cord twice, but that seems to be par for the course talking to other friends who work on boats and deal with engine-supplied electricity that is prone to surge and dip unexpectedly. The computer still functions and the battery works decently. The compaq I had before it died ingloriously overheating one New York summer and was threatening to die long before that. My little Toshiba has been a trooper.

I am not writing this on my laptop. I am writing this on our home Power Mac. I don't want to get all gushy about Macs, but at the end of the day, they work. And so does their software. The hardware on my Toshiba is holding up just fine so far, but the software SUCKS. When I got it, it had vista on it. vista was a terrible product which never should have seen the market. If microsoft had any pride they would have recalled it instead of launching their stupid ad campaign trying to pretend like it was anything other than a blight. I now have windows 7, which compared to vista is un-terrible, but still no gem. And occasionally, it has stupid quirks that drive me insane. Like right now. It periodically decides to not let me have internet access through networks I've connected to a million times and fixing it takes a near miracle. I'm no hacker, but I'm not completely computer illiterate and I've been using windows since they had their first consumer releases. XP was the last decent release and since then things have gotten more nonsensical and unusable. At this point, price is the ONLY reason that I have a machine that runs on microsoft software and Ubuntu is looking better every day. I bought a cheap machine because I knew my laptop was going to be dragged through hell with me and might end up at the bottom of the ocean, but the irritation of dealing with the crap products that microsoft is pooping into the market these days is getting to be too much. The only way I'd ever spend money on a computer that runs on their software again is if it cost $200 and had every bell and whistle imaginable. I'd rather pay for my next computer in cash instead of headaches.

Toshiba, thanks for a tough little computer. Now if you could just get an operating system that wasn't terrible...