August 18, 2017

Random Thoughts, Post-Charlottesvill

Thoughts following Charlottesville:

Free speech—your right to free speech is about what the government can and can’t do to inhibit your speech. It has zero to do with your job, your friends, someone else’s Facebook page, or even your community getting together and saying you’re a dickbag and should just go away. And it does not now, nor has it ever protected you from consequences like getting arrested, getting sued, getting fired, getting unfriended, or getting punched in the face.

Quick to judge/A mile in someone’s shoes—you are shaped by your experiences, your circumstances, and your thoughts. Compassion comes from being able to put all that aside and really think about what someone else has gone through so you can acknowledge the truth of their experience. If you can’t do that, if you can’t put you aside, then you can’t contribute anything really meaningful to the conversation, because all you’re doing is engaging in an intellectual exercise with you as the star. And you will find in the course of your own life, if you haven’t already, that when what you thought you knew/would do/feel about something intellectually runs headfirst into the actual experience of the thing, it’s all something completely different. Reason—in the moment, when you are face to face with someone who wants to hurt you, you cannot reason with them. If you try, then you will be hurt.

“The US is too polarized”—the problem is not that the US is too polarized. Your notion that we ever all completely agreed on anything is simply untrue.

The problem is we still haven’t figured out how to normalize the social experience of the internet so daily we run into terrible behavior: trolls, dickbags who’ve decided contrarian is a valid personality choice, bored people who just want to argue to argue and have zero interest in figuring anything out, people who mistakenly think their uninformed opinion carries some kind of special weight, and people who live for nonstop outrage.

On top of that, as a whole, we don’t seem to understand that our experience on the internet exposes us to a wider range of people with radically different experiences and opinions than we have. Most people tend to think that everyone thinks and feels the way they do. This is reinforced by their real life friendships.

The problem too is that for decades and decades we have lived in a country with two branches of the corporate party. Each branch has pursued the same policies and only distinguished itself from the other by its advertising and where they supposedly stand on social issues. This illusion of difference has kept us squabbling with each other so we don’t notice them pursuing the exact same disastrous polices that benefit their corporate paymasters and not noticing that whenever there has been actual social progress on anything it has always come from the united will of the people not the political class. The policies of the two branches of the corporate party have left our country mired in endless war and left most of us, if we have a job, living from paycheck to paycheck, barely getting by, suffocating under a mountain of debt, and painfully afraid of getting sick. Our country is one of poverty and fear. Poverty is the mother of thieves, and fear is the bastard sire of hatred. It’s not that our country is polarized, it’s that you are finally seeing things being challenged, you are finally seeing other opinions.

The South—The government as a whole shafted the South a long time ago. The Democrats have ignored it for decades. Neo-liberals favorite insult is "redneck." The South has a history of exploitation by industry. And wowhere in the United States is income inequality more visible then in the South.

You want to meaningful combat hate in the South? Create jobs with livable wages—not training programs, actual jobs—and affordable health care. If the new legitimate Left truly wants to get anywhere, they should not ignore the South.

"This started with Trump”—The problems you are seeing now were there when Obama was president. These problems are long-term and systemic. The big difference between the two men is one talked nicer and made you feel better.

Compare the police response in Charlottesville to the police response in Ferguson…

“Well, both sides…”—You should not be surprised at the number of people I am sure you have seen who don’t want to have an opinion, who don’t want to take sides, who aren’t immediately against racism and white nationalism.

This is not new.

One of Martin Luther King’s most famous pieces of writings is his Letter from the Birmingham Jail he wrote in response to an admonishing letter by white clergy who were upset about how he was just making things worse. In response King wrote:

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

August 17, 2017


Currently on the 5th season of Homeland.

Honestly not really sure why I’m still watching it or even if I’ll make it through to the 6th. Yeah, sometimes when it’s cooking it’s great drama, but ugh…

I feel like first season the show at least tried to deal objectively with the problems of the US trying to police the world and our shitty foreign policy causing the terror we’re supposedly trying to stop. However, I feel like that all falls by the wayside in favor of Frankenstein logic—“Muslims bad!”—and boy, drone strikes sure are awesome!

And, man, each successive season my dislike for Carrie Mathison has gone up. So, two episodes into this season, I'm having a hard time buying Carrie as working at a philanthropic organization.

July 25, 2017

Political Post: Our Plan? The Same as Our Opposition!

The Democrats big plan is to offer more tax cuts to businesses. It's no surprise the Democrats have learned nothing. They fail and they fail epically and consistently because they offer ZERO meaningful alternatives and no real actual dissident to the other side.

When's the last time the Democrats questioned the magic of the free market? Or tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy?

When's the last time Democrats were like, "Hey, maybe we shouldn't bomb this country and start another war?"

When's the last time the Democrats championed Single Payer Health Care? I mean, is Obamacare better than Trumpcare? Absolutely, but ultimately Obamacare is most successful at making sure insurance companies get a whole lot of money.

The differences between the two parties are all purely cosmetic to create the illusion of choice and reinforce branding. Why do the Democrats spend so much time talking about social issues? Because those issues offer no real challenge to corporations or the rich. They also divide and distract the populace while providing opportunity for both sides to direct your focus to how they make you FEEL and not what they actually DO legislatively.

July 17, 2017

The 13th Doctor

So the new Doctor Who is finally going to be played by a woman. Ignore the people who are going to complain. Ignore the people who are already complaining. Don't let them make this moment about them. Don't let them win by hijacking the conversation into either arguing or justifying when it should be about excitement and wonder for what's to come. Don't let them ruin you finally getting to throw your hands up in triumph.

Remember: Doctor Who is about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.

You see that's the problem we still have with the internet. As human beings, we have this tendency to default into thinking everyone thinks like we do. In our real lives the people we chose to spend time with have lots of things in common with us and, chances are, tend to share our opinions. On the internet, we're confronted constantly with people who don't think like we do and who don't share our opinions. Those people have always been there and will always be there.

And, yes, there have always been haters and complainers and contrarians. Especially when society takes a step foreword, moves closer to that world where we don't pay attention to things like class, religion, skin color, sex and it's orientation--especially when it comes to a fictional character. Doctor Who has always been a show with a fluid backstory and freely reinvented it's mythology. It makes total sense that an alien race that was able to free its consciousness from the constraits of a single body and the boundries of space and time would also unfetter itself from gender. (Never mind we have no idea what sex organs Gallifreyans actually pack.) We need to not let them distract us. Don't let the conversation be dictated by the bratty chatter from the kid's table. As adults, we keep moving forward with intellect and romance triumphing over brute force and cynicism.

July 13, 2017

Elementary Season 5

When it’s not functioning as simply another CBS police procedural and allows for character and bigger plot, Elementary is my favorite modern take on Sherlock Holmes. 

Sherlock’s struggle with sobriety, his attempts at relationships both professional and personal, Watson being a woman who isn’t there just to sleep with Sherlock, her backstory as surgeon and her introduction as sober companion, and their ongoing relationship are all bright spots that far outshine the visceral pulp-action of the Robert Downey films.

That brightness certainly works better than Sherlock. The BBC show about the "high-fuctioning sociopath" suffocated under the full weight of every-single-one of the worst flaws found in the writing of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Unappealing and impossible-to-relate-to characters acting smug in ridiculous plots that are badly paced and fizzle out in arrogant and unsatisfying endings.

Hulu recently added Season 5 of Elementary and so far it’s been a disappointment. So many of the plots are generic and forgettable, easily serviced by any other set of characters from any of the countless procedural shows. The real meaty character stuff has been few and far between. When it’s there, it’s been unfulfilling (like Sherlock’s relationship with Fiona). And all due respect to Nelsan Ellis but the Shinwell plot is terrible and hollow, the character is completely transparent as an eventual impetus for Joan pursuing some kind of revenge.

If the show stays like this for the rest of the season, I might be done with it.

July 12, 2017

Entertainment & Economic Power

I don’t understand the thing people have with “live tv”. Hulu for example is blowing a ton of money on a stupid Hulu Live TV option.

Who cares?

There is literally nothing I want to watch badly enough that I HAVE to watch it when it airs. And who wants to sit through commercials? (Those are the two things I actually hate about Hulu--paying extra to avoid commercials and having to wait for new episodes). Plus, I have yet to see any live tv app or any app that includes a “live” stream that runs well across a variety of internet connections (that’s why we don’t have the WWE Network—their live channel broadcast portion of the app will not run reliably on our internet connection).

All “live tv” apps are is an attempt by the networks and companies to continue business as usual. Repackaging the same old TV experience you were sick of in a fancy enough package to trick you. (This is the same reason AT&T—literally—spent a billion dollars buying the failing DirecTV instead of spending that money on improving and upgrading the infrastructure of their phone/internet service).

The only way you’re going to get the experience you want is by not caving and using your economic power. Companies and corporations ultimately don’t care about your opinion until that opinion is backed up with a blow to profits. All you have to do is take a look at something like satellite and cable. When did the price finally come down? When you stopped giving them your money and went after the experience you wanted elsewhere. When did satellite and cable start offering you customizable packages instead of making you pay a $100 for a whole bunch of channels you were never going to watch? When you stopped giving them your money and went after the experience you wanted elsewhere.

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