when the status quo frustrates.

Helping friends

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Let’s hypothetically pretend that Ted’s friend Sally was raped in the last month by Sluggo, a man in an authority position over her at her job. To make matters worse, every sign indicates that Sluggo has worked out his own rape “system”, has raped others before, and will almost certainly rape again. In this scenario, Sally doesn’t report the man in any way to the police or to anyone at her job. Instead, she quietly puts in notice at her work, and quits there as soon as she can. So, Ted’s reaction to learning this is to want to tell her all sorts of things that he thinks she do– file a police report, sue the man, report him to her company and sue them if they’re unresponsive, etc, etc. But of course, she’s already the victim here. Ted knows he can’t very well tell her that she should do anything, not when it comes to anything that might even have the chance of making her life even more uncomfortable than she’s already feeling.

Is Ted being a good friend if he tells her all these difficult things that he thinks she should do? After all, it just really, really burns him that Sally’s having insult added to injury by leaving her job, AND that this shitty asswipe Sluggo is going to rape other women, too. And (it seems to Ted) that both situations could be preventible — but only if Sally took certain actions.

Does anyone have any suggestions for how Ted might encourage Sally to try to do something proactive about the rape (though maybe putting herself through more grief in the process), without becoming a complete dick himself? Or is that impossible? Maybe the best thing for Ted to do would be to stay mute about all of those unasked-for opinions of his, and simply offer emotional support in a positive way whenever/however it’s asked for. To remain as utterly non-judgmental of Sally as he could possibly manage.



Friday, July 30th, 2010

Please be aware that children conceived during the show or within 48 hours thereafter may be born with wings. The Wondaland Arts Society will not be held liable for this phenomenon or be held responsible for parenting or providing for your flying children.

Useful redefinitions

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Hope is another word for powerlessness.

Rights are a shared fiction benefiting the powerful.

Obedience, at least when it comes to politics, is the same thing as support.

Progressives are people who keep chasing progress to amend progress.

Mushrooms, not better carrots

Friday, July 16th, 2010

I haven’t paid money for a computer game for about a decade, but I am seriously tempted by Farmcraft 2: Global Vegetable Crisis.

Ginger’s story is part mystery, part success story: some of the time she’s working diligently against difficult odds to bolster the people who depend on her, and the rest of the time she’s trying to figure out what is going on in the world’s agricultural markets.

In the end, that means rejecting the lifestyle and game structure that has brought us this far. The bad guys sort of win — that is, they get rich at the expense of others, and they also save the world from disaster (one which they engineered in the first place). Ginger gives up farming and joins a monastery in Tibet, where she spends the rest of her life looking for inner truth. This is the happy ending.

The search for better ways to grow carrots (which has been occupying us for most of the game, really) is recognized as meaningless or, at worst, actively damaging. The urge towards relentless business expansion has driven down prices to unsustainable levels and brought the world agriculture market to the verge of collapse.

This final transition away from farming and the whole capitalist rat race is framed in terms of the desire for enlightenment and discovery… with a side of mind-altering chemicals, as Ginger has to collect 12 mushrooms in order to gain insight into her life.

Old Folks

Friday, July 16th, 2010

The other day I did a volunteer show at a local old person’s day center. A guitarist I know works there, and that was handy, because he knew all the songs they would like. He warned me not to get too jazzy with my piano stylings — so I stayed pretty bland and inoffensive (at first, anyway). The staff put the lyrics up on a big board, and everyone sang along. They really sang, these old folks! Music gives us life.

Most of the audience were in their 80s and 90s, with a sprinkling of younger tykes in their fresh faced 70s or even younger. We played for one hour, then I talked a little bit with the audience. I was a bit of a novelty for them. One of the very oldest wanted me to come over and shake her hand, so I did. Pretty soon I was shaking the hands of everyone in the room. Men and women all wanted me. I was like Santa Claus. Some of their eyes teared up as I held their hands. One woman gripped my hand like a vice– surprising strength– and shook it back and forth as she sang me an up-tempo song I couldn’t understand (my Japanese isn’t quite there yet), then blew me a kiss. One pulled me over, then gestured for a female nurse I didn’t know to come over, and pointed at her belly, and proudly said “She’s pregnant.”

I don’t think there is any special magic to me that got these kind of strong and sometimes childlike reactions. It’s nice to think I am particularly good or virtuous, but that’s just not it. I bet it’s the same anytime anyone from outside comes in and does a similar kind of activity with them. I think it’s just that some of these old folks are starving. The only thing I can think of that would make me cry from a handshake with a complete stranger is if I just didn’t get enough handshakes.

I’m not sure whose fault it is, exactly. It’s easy to blame it on the culture which worships youth, but then again, “culture” is a gestalt, not really decided by anyone in particular. In a way, if there’s a youth culture which ignores old people, the old people are the ones who helped to put it in place. Few of us like to think about getting old, and surely they were no exception back before suddenly they were.

My grandfather died about five years ago. A couple of years before he died, due to problems with mobility and internal juiciness (I think that’s the technical term, anyhow), he had to start wearing a diaper again. He had an “accident” once while I was visiting with family. He was a very taciturn man, so what he said to me in the aftermath got branded into my memory. “It sucks getting old,” he said.

He was right, of course. And let’s not also forget that age needn’t even come into play for life to suck and then you die. But then again, if you spin it right, this fact can be a genuine source of strength.

(EDIT: That last link should have been this one. However, the one I put by mistake is also excellent.)

Here’s the great Ben Webster and Teddy Wilson playing the jazz standard “Old Folks”. Ben Webster is crying as he plays because he had just learned that his mentor Johnny Hodges was dead. It’s an extraordinary moment to have actually ended up on film.

Me and Al

Monday, April 5th, 2010

If only 70 million more had followed my lead.

I, for one, despise internet memes. Don’t you? You come across a video on some obscure blog of a young Governator sexually harassing women in Rio or a Russian dude expertly singing on “Oo ya ya ya ya ya”, and you think, “Whoah. I found this. This is mine. I have discovered a secret treasure of the internet!” Proud of your triumph, you forward it to everybody and their brother, you feature it on your blog, you help your grandmother set up internet access just so she can watch it, and she’s all like, “Meh. I saw this three years ago.” Oof. Like a punch to the gut, it is.

There is one glorious exception. The video I saw last week. I don’t care if you already saw it two weeks ago. Watch it again, and cry tears of joy anew.

I know there is no god. But Dear God: I’ll take back all those things I said about You if You just make sure this gets made into a real movie. Please?

I first saw this over here at the Onion A.V. Club. At the time I saw it, literally the first 10 comments were all folks saying, “His was the first concert I ever went to.”

Funny thing. His was the first concert I ever went to, too. Put on a helluva show, too.

April F***s

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Ah, good old April Fool’s day. The day that corporate entities across the planet strive to prove that they, too, have a sense of humor! Almost as if they were a real person.

Award for most disappointing April Fool’s prank goes to Wikipedia, whose shtick this year is that all of the links on the wacky front page go to real bona-fide articles. Taking primo spot as “Today’s Featured Article”? Why, Wife Selling, of course! Because nothing conveys good humor and lightness of spirit like a jaunt down memory lane, back to the days it was acceptable to parade one’s woman around the village square in a halter and then sell her for a few bob. All in good fun, and fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke, ha ha!

Award for best goes, naturally, to Fafblog.

Maybe bunnies wouldn’t be such a metaphorical cliche if they just had easier access to contraception

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

First, read Lisa’s little story.

Then listen to the bunnies.

Tell the FDA to Act on Emergency Contraception from Center for Reproductive Rights on Vimeo.

Created by “Once Was A Punkass” Marc Faletti.

…but Liberals are Eviler.

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Apologies to Antigone. I need to preface this with the statement that I don’t mean this as pure malicious snark, and that I respect that she laid out her true feelings. But I can’t say I find much with which to agree with her. If she wants to start using hackle-raising words like “evil” about conservatives, that’s fine. But she’s being far too selective. Fact is, the case is compelling that liberals are even eviler than conservatives.

So which is worse? Those who support evil, but insist they believe it is good? Or those who support evil while claiming, at least some of the time, that they actually know it is evil? …in a psychological sense, I probably would have to say the Democrats (and certain of their apologists) are worse: to say you recognize evil to any extent at all, yet to fail to oppose it or, which is still more reprehensible, to act for its furtherance, consigns one to the lowest rung of Hell.

It’s fine to call out evil where we see it. But we should all take care to apply the word with equal rigor to whatever side we happen to identify with. In the vast majority of what Antigone just wrote, it would make perfect sense to apply the exact same arguments that she’s made about conservatives, to liberals. Even the parts about “respect for heirarchy”. Especially those parts. It seems almost willfully tribalistic to pretend that liberals aren’t equally to blame for all of the rotten fruits of American politics.

Liberals and Conservatives– at least the mainstream varieties of both– have got a good scam going. I don’t literally think it’s a willful scam, being overseen by a council of Illuminati or anything, so much as the natural systemic byproduct of America’s two party system. (Although I guess one never really knows.) But it might as well be one. It’s an ever-rightward moving ratchet, and we’re the ones who get squeezed by it. Well, us, and all those brown people all over the world* who our overseers** are exploiting/murdering in the process.

When the conservatives are in power, they’re all like, “All this stuff that makes rich and powerful interests richer and powerfuler just happens to be morally right, too”, while the liberals say “Boo! All these conservative ideas are morally wrong! If we were in power, we’d show them!”

Eventually enough voters get fed up and vote in the liberals. Then it’s the conservatives’ turn to say “Boo! All these liberal ideas are morally wrong!”, and the liberals are all like “All that stuff that makes rich and powerful interests richer and powerfuler are still wrong, except for 80% of it which is actually okay with us now that you mention it, but we can’t make too many changes right now because we need to win the next election so that we’ll REALLY be able to make a difference then, and besides, Stupak/Lieberman/Nader.” Eventually voters get fed up and vote in the conservatives. Ratchet squeezes us further right. Uncle Scam nods and smiles to himself.

Numbers-wise, when it comes to procedural politics, Liberals hold all the cards right now. They could do a lot of good. If they wanted to. Trouble is, they really just… don’t.

With the passage of the medical insurance industry welfare bill one thing was proven. The democratic party can pass legislation without the help from the republican party of which not one voted in favor of this legislation. The excuse has always been that without pandering to the far right nothing can be accomplished which is regarded by many as a realist view of American politics yet this supposed victory seems to disprove that assumption.

In other words if the democrats had chosen to do so they could have passed real health care reform legislation rather than welfare for the insurance industry. The democrats could end the wars in the Middle East but they choose not to do so. It’s not that the republicans force them, it’s what the democrats choose to do, to continue and expand the wars even as jobs evaporate and the U.S. slides ever deeper into another great depression.

Why the Democrats would choose this– and why Americans liberals nearly all wholeheartedly support them in it– is a question whose answer I will leave to the reader to decide.

Whipping your own side is a form of masochism (which is fine, if you’re into that kind of stuff, I guess)

Friday, March 12th, 2010

The US House of Representatives debated whether to end US military presence in Afghanistan by the end of this year.

No surprise, of course, the resolution in question failed, 65-356. But perhaps its real purpose was to give legitimacy to a debate even occurring at all.

In fact, much of the debate from the “no” side came in the form of questioning whether the debate should have happened at all, including speculation that Rep. Kucinich and others had “forgotten about 9/11″ and that they were deliberately trying to undermine America in seeking to end the eight and a half year war.

The last thing any kind of vested interest wants is to start talking about change. But don’t you worry, change-haters– not only the bill got squashed, but press coverage of it was kept to an absolute bare minimum. Nothing to see here. No uncomfortable ideas need pollute the already divided public’s thoughtways here. Any play it did get was devoted to rationalizing what a bad “strategy” it is for peace activists to pick any fight they’re not absolutely sure of winning. Because, after all, “appearances do matter.” It’s interesting to me that this kind of thinking is exactly what gets the United States “bringing democracy” to only the countries that it does. But perhaps I digress.

So what about that there quiet press? What do you think, Trollblog?

…the Times is willing to publish good reporting as long as the topic written about does not have critical day-to-day, life-and-death importance for our lives. So for topics the Sulzbergers regard as peripheral and fluffy, we get good stuff. But when the chips are down and the rubber hits the road, on war and peace or unemployment and depression, other considerations intervene, and the Times becomes the propaganda organ of an unexpressed neo-con, neoliberal non-partisan “centrist” agenda.

The media have chosen sides, and it’s not our side. We have to recognize this before we can deal with it. Even if all of the Democrats and liberals magically wised up about this overnight, I still doubt that we’d be able to overcome the systematic media opposition. But they haven’t wised up; they’re still hoping and praying that their holy fathers, Czar Sulzberger and Czar Graham (or maybe Czarina Weymouth) will hear their pleas.

Fortunately for the Czars, their Cossacks are loyal and up to the job.

Interesting choice of the word, “Cossack”. And will you look at that– reigniting just by chance a couple of days before the house vote on the Kucinich-sponsored bill whether to pull out of Aghanistan, the ongoing campaign to label as “unserious” and “ineffectual” anyone who is seen to fight for anything resembling a meaningful change was given its regular booster shot just in time. The official purpose of this particular Democratic party whipping is to keep Dems in line about the health care bill, and I believe that it probably really is just a fortunate coincidence for those with a neocon agenda, but still the timing is just exquisite, isn’t it? Whistle so blown, out trots Markos Moulitsas and attendant heelnippers.

Charlie Davis:

When not helping raise money for the same party that endorses locking up hundreds of thousands of Americans for non-violent drug offenses — and whose rule has brought us progressive achievements like the surge in Afghanistan and the official policy of killing citizens without so much as a judicial rubber-stamp if they travel to sufficiently swarthy countries and associate with the natives — Moulitsas is busy enforcing Democratic orthodoxy and party dogma, his latest threat of an ineffective primary challenge coming against poor old Dennis Kucinich for the sin of failing to endorse the White House and congressional leadership’s corporatist, pharmaceutical-insurance-complex-boosting joke of a health care reform bill.

“[I’m going to hold] people like Dennis Kucinich responsible for the 40,000 Americans that die each year from a lack of health care,” Moulitsas declared on MSNBC this week. Tough words. Now, here’s who he promised to support primary challenges against after 189 House Democrats voted to extend the war in Afghanistan, against a measure offered by the dastardly Kucinich, thus ensuring NATO forces will continue killing Afghan civilians at a healthy pace: ____________. That silence is a reflection of an awful strange and morally dubious set of priorities.

I’m going to hold people like Markos Moulitsas responsible for, I don’t know, EVERYTHING BAD IN THE WORLD. People like him, who beat down and belittle anyone who dares to actually act on the strength of the convictions that he claims to share, are the ones who keep all the shitty things shitty.

The really ironic thing is how Kucinich only gets into trouble because he’s doing his best to work within the system. Being a Democrat sure can be a problem sometimes, can’t it.

What? Boys can do stuff too?

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

The real reason I am briefly reappearing is to plug Harriet Jacobs’s outstanding blog Fugitivus. She’s very introspective– painfully so at times– but that’s what makes her writing sear itself into your brain. Well, mine anyway. But in a good way.

In particular, I wanted to call attention to a page she created called “Stuff What Boys Can Do” which has a terrific idea. Recognizing Lisa’s point about just how dangerous it can be for men to stand up to misogyny in an all-male environment, and how the situation isn’t always an easy cut-and-dried one, she’s attempting to compile a survey of real actions that men have taken, large or small, to support women when it would have been easier not to. I guess the idea is that a list of positive examples might be of some inspiration to men who would like to be strong in this way but aren’t quite ready yet (I feel this way myself much of the time, actually). And also, a large enough list of examples might start to reveal common themes which would allow us men to more easily recognize where and how we might help fight misogyny in our own lives.

Have you already thought of an example? Then get over there and share it!

Happier in real life

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

To be honest, I had a kind of a downer period going there for a while. I mean, I guess it’s natural– you move to a new city, in a foreign country, and you don’t have any friends there, it’s gonna be a little bit depressing for a while.

But I don’t think my internet connection was helping. While it kept me hooked in with the rest of the world, it also was a way to avoid sinking my teeth into the actual possibilities of life going on all around me.

So, I’ve been avoiding the internet a fair amount lately. For the past couple of months I’ve done a wee bit of blog reading and otherwise surfing, but to a purely minimal degree. Instead, I’ve been engaging in actual human interactivity. I’ve been playing a lot of music. Like, in front of people, I mean, not just in the privacy of my own room. I generally am playing somewhere around town in some capacity about twice a week, one of which is a steady (unpaid) gig as the house musician at a local open mike, singing Japanese pop songs, which the locals of course find quite amusing.

With all of this, my happiness level is generally up quite a bit. I think I’ve stumbled onto something here, this whole going out and trying to do real things with real people strategy. I heartily recommend it if you’re not already a practitioner.

So, I don’t plan on posting here all that much in the near future. Not that I’ve been posting all that much in the near past, either. I just wanted to let everybody know, though, “it isn’t you– it’s me”! And that it’s good.

I guess I just needed to get that off my chest.