Political correctness gone mad

Stewart Lee’s “Comedy Vehicle” show continues to be awesome! I loved the ballet slipper bit. Also I liked it when Hitler complained that you can’t say “bum bandits” anymore… and the bit of advice about the hejab for the next Weight Watchers meeting.

Tragic Ballerinas!

Muslims made me fat!

Political correctness gone mad!

It was a good antidote to some of the dumbassery I encountered today during the continuation of RaceFail 09.

Related posts




Vacation with Saturn and proplyds

I'm in the parking lot of a motel staring at spectacular red and buff cliffs! It's the Kaibab Limestone and the Coconino sandstone and that other red rock formation I forget the name of. Spiky little lizards are playing on the fence next to me.

After a great but exhausting week at ETech and SXSWi, I'm on vacation in Arizona with a rental car and no particular plan. Last night in Sedona we picked up a flyer in the Super8 lobby, for Evening Sky Tours which I pictured as a couple of old retired guys out in a parking lot picking up some spare cash for new lenses by showing off their amateur astronomy knowledge. While this was close to the truth the Adventure was run in a scarily businesslike and professional manner and rather than being a once a week or sporadic deal it was clearly a real job. Three guys pulled up with a trailer or two full of telescopes with a D**'s mount sort of a huge wooden box like a box kite with mirrors stuck in and lenses and spotting scopes stuck on! They had a row of folding chairs with wooly blankets laid out. Reclining lawn chairs would have been more the thing.
The main dude went around in a bossy way reminding his employees the telescope flunkies to "tell 'em what they're lookin' at". It was excellent. They did an especially good job of saying "In Africa" or "In the MIddle East" when talking about the names of stars and the history of astronomical discoveries.

As the Milky Way began to slide into our consciousness we saw a few satellites and every time I wanted to scream "Satellite!!!" Might have done just that. We had out our G1 Skymaps at first but put them away so as not to be assholes. I knew Orion, Taurus, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, the Big Dipper and North Star, and that is about it. With luck I can spot Cygnus and the Corona Borealis. Zond-7 knew where Sirius was, which impressed me. I guessed where Gemini was, but got it wrong. Then I did what one of the astronomy dudes suggested and learned "Arc to Arcturus" and "Spike to Spica". Now I know a new thing!

The Night Sky Adventure dudes explained what we were looking at very well and were patient and sweet about all the questions. It was a little hard to get them to go into any depth. But it was light years better than going to a planetarium!
Stuff we saw: M51 which is sort of colliding or interacting galaxies, M3 (a globular cluster), M81 and M82 together (they affect each other with tides!), the Beehive Cluster, the Pleiades, a red dwarf star among the Double Cluster,  Mizar A and B and Alcor, (The horse and rider!), Saturn and 5 moons, and a bit of the Orion Nebula where the Trapezium is. We looked at Sirius through a polarized filter to see its spectral lines.

Later, the Wikipedia entry on the Orion Nebula turned out to be incredibly great; hello, iron tipped glowing blue "bullets" of supersonic incandescent gas. It just got more and more extreme and crazy in the descriptions. Keep reading. It gets better and better. Like this:

The green hue was a puzzle for astronomers in the early part of the 20th century because none of the known spectral lines
at that time could explain it. There was some speculation that the
lines were caused by a new element, and the name "nebulium" was coined
for this mysterious material. With better understanding of atomic
physics, however, it was later determined that the green spectra was
caused by a low-probability electron transition in doubly ionized oxygen, a so-called "forbidden transition".

In between lurching up from my wheelchair to peer through telescopes, I kept saying over the things we'd seen, so that I could look them up later. "You must have studied this!" one woman said in amazement. "No…. I'm just repeating to myself what the guy just told us…"

I don't mean this meanly, but I have forgotten how dumb most people are. Or maybe not dumb but just, without the most basic snippets of information about things like what a moon or a constellation or a galaxy is. Compared to our amateur astronomer hosts Zond-7 and I were just a couple of people who grew up liking science magazines and who might read the Planetary Society blog once in a while. But the people around us, holy crap. One lady was asking what it meant for something to be a moon. As we explained (super nicely) she *got it* that moons go around a planet, and planets go around the Sun, and so the moons are also going around the Sun at the same time, but with extra wiggling. I could see her getting it, even in the dark! Zond-7 explained very clearly to someone else what it meant for Saturn to be in Leo (which it was). Earlier, someone else went "Is there a thing called a .. a 'quark'?" and boy howdy did I feel like Mr. Peabody just able to say "It's a tiny elementary particle" Zond-7 asked if she meant quasar, but she meant quarks which were mentioned in a movie she saw. When I hung out with large feral packs of theoretical physicists I noticed how they would speak with disdain of washed-up media whores meaning anyone who ever talked to the press or wrote a popular science article. Meanwhile I wish popular science was more popular and more people would learn how to explain (with strangeness and charm) what a quark is to a regular person.

Anyway, I was struck by how much people don't know. We don't need to know it, people go around and function and are smart as anything, but I forget that most people don't care for some of the things I like to know. And I was struck by the thought that I am used to being around people who do know and who have a fairly huge internal database of random knowledge not applicable to their daily life. The people who came to the astronomy event were self selected to be people who were interested and curious and willing to learn stuff, unlike the general population. I am not trying to be judgmental on people by saying this, it is just that I felt a gulf suddenly between my assumptions about what's in people's heads all around me, and what actually is. Heather Gold at SXSWi in her talk show at Plutopia touched on this rather sweetly when she mentioned the movie Powers of Ten and said "You know, like that thing you do in bed when you're a little kid, where you imagine you're in your address, St. Louis, Missouri, United States, North America, Northern Hemisphere, Earth, The Solar System, Milky Way, like that? … and the crowd just kind of stared at her…. As Heather did, I assumed everyone did that! Did you? But no – not everyone spends hours poring over photographs of galaxies and nebulae and reading encyclopedia articles. I have not felt like a freak for having a lot of book learning for a long time, not for years. As a kid that was a hard lesson – I thought all reasonable people would automatically know what mitochondria were, and so on.
This crowd, the idea of spectral lines was going to be so completely over their heads that it was impossible for the guys to explain anything. I was glad they showed it anyway.

Meanwhile, I don't know the parts of an engine or how to fix a toilet or knit a sweater or take someone's blood pressure as probably the people on our Star Tour do know.

Saturn's moons freaked me out the most. They just hang there. The light reflected from Saturn shades them like our Moon is shaped and shaded by Earthlight. They were more surreal to me than Saturn itself, because they looked so three dimensional.

There is a flythrough of a 3-D model of the Orion Nebula! Can't wait to try it!

When we get home I have a book called Agnotology waiting for me which promises to be about theories of Not Knowing. What don't we know? And why don't we? And how does that affect us?

One last note, Zond-7 asked one of the astronomy dudes how many stars
were in a galaxy and was told a trillion.  He gently drew out the guy a
little more and then shut up. Later in the car he told me that the
trillion stars theory was in the process of being debunked, as it is
based on "a trillion solar masses" but like 99.999 % of that is dark
matter so there are likely not a trillion stars in the galaxy at ALL.
Speaking of Agnotology!

If you are wondering about a proplyd you may go read the article on the Orion Nebula! Happy pointless knowledge voyage!

Related posts




Why I love depressing books

As a kid, I spent a fair amount of time in really small libraries. There wasn’t a lot of guidance. I never met the magical book lady with 20 cats and secret magic power who would show me the best books ever. Well, not until my piano teacher in middle school turned me loose on the science fiction paperbacks in her attic.
So I read pretty much anything, but kept an eye out for the special shelf in nearly any library that had the Caldedott and Newbery Honor books. I didn’t really differentiate between them. Those books that said AWARD and had the shiny metallic official-looking stamp on them!
A few years ago it struck me how depressing they all were. How many books about brave children struggling through the Great Depression and the Holocaust did I devour? A LOT. I think I got addicted to their atmosphere of serious angst and their heavy handed morals.
So I was a little bit amused to look at this year’s winners and see that they include:
- How I Learned Geography, where a young boy is mad AT FIRST when his father brings home a colorful map instead of some bread. I am sure it is good… yet I kind of feel like I’ve read it before, somehow.
- A book of poems about Cuba’s struggle for freedom. Do I even need to say more!?
Oh, ALA! I totally love you. Your respectable honor books sustained my revolutionary soul for so many years! I can’t wait to go to the library and spend an afternoon reading the entire “for young adult reluctant readers” award list. THey will be depressing yet uplifting, and won’t be about middle class suburban white children, I have complete faith in that, and are not meant for middle class suburban white children (though I was one) but are meant to be un-boring to everyone else. I wonder how far they succeed in that?

Related posts




Video game sports commentary

BoB has just been pwnd on a whole other level, but as I read about that, I came across this amazing video!

I love games, that is an incredibly beautiful space battle, and the commentators are great even though I can’t understand 90% of the words coming out of their mouth. Would anyone care to explain the strategy of what happened here, in plain language?

Did inferior ships from the opposing group, Star Fraction (the Thoraxes) just gang up cleverly and rush the more powerful ships? What happened? I would like the Osprey guide to this epic & famous battle, with diagrams and maps, the order of battle, etc!

Related posts




Get me off this ice floe!

The rain and cold are kicking my ass. Likely I am a bit physically weak from not doing much while I was sick. At least I can breathe really really well. (Yay steroids) But damn, I’m really worn down by pain, the last few days.

I can walk but it’s slow and creaky. This morning I woke up aching so hard. I moved around in all directions in bed, progressed to PT exercises, then got up and forced myself to walk around and pick things up off the floor. Unstiffening is good. Oh, for last week when the sun was out and I was full of strange vigor and I felt like being alive.

Distraction is the most helpful thing & also it passes the time so I can endure this grinding annoyance until I can legitimately be unconscious again. In short – I am cranky.

Before I got up and while doing slow leg lifts and stretches I read “Ice Drift”, a very dull book about two Inuit boys adrift on an ice floe. It’s hard to convey how dull it was for something that should be good. Plodding! Untrustworthy-feeling! Stilted As-You-Know-Bob dialogue on every single page! And pointlessness. It was like two pieces of cardboard, spouting bits of children’s encyclopedia entries to each other!

The afterword was the best bit, where the author explains that the real story that inspired him was the story of some of the crew of the ship Polaris in 1871, 19 people including 2 Inuit men 2 Inuit women, and 5 of their children, stranded on an ice floe for six months. The author read the manuscripts from the Captain and two crew members. “In the end, rather than attempt to boil down the mass of information about Tyson’s ordeal — the many characters, the murder of the Polaris master, the near mutiny, the shameful treatment of the Inuit — I decided to write a novel about two young boys who were forced to go on a similar journey.” A novel in which white people show up in their ship only to nicely give the boys a ride home and cheer for them.

There is also a bit from 3rd person omniscient focused on the kids’ mom who bravely sets out against her husband’s wishes, risking death and divorce to rescue them, but is warned by two big burly men to turn back, and then turns back. That’s after she and her husband go out to find them the first time and turn back after 1 day when they realize they were too stupid to bring any food with them. Why was that scene even necessary!

Why not write the story of the Polaris in all its complexity, from the point of view of one of the kids? I just re-read Treasure Island and was impressed with its moral complexity… and thought of how I loved it when I was little. The book I read this morning had none — zero, zilch, nada.

Also, I couldn’t get past the younger boy being named “Sulu”. Elementary school kids might not have this problem but for me it was a hurdle!

IN the book instead of being people who kill, kidnap you, and take you to be exhibited in museums, as well as setting off on polar expeditions that are complete clusterfucks because they all have their heads up their asses; instead of that, the white people on the ships are competent and benevolent – everything they do benefits the Inuit. Even the wrecked ship the Reliance is dismantled and its wood used by the Inuit to make their only “real village” of Nunatak with “even a proud community hall building, courtesy of the Reliance wood” as opposed to what they were before which was a “collection of temporary makeshift huts and iglu“. With this totally non subtle subtext like, “even the accidental garbage left over from our total failures helped immeasurably to civilize the childlike natives.”

It is a good book for this blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature, to take apart. I’m going to write to Debbie Reese and suggest it.

The best account of the actual ice floe journey that I could find:
http://www.oldnewspublishing.com/story1.htm

Doesn’t it sound like everyone on the Polaris was going mad from slow arsenic poisoning? and the Captain just got the most lethal dose?

Here’s some details about the Inuit who were on the ice floe. Unlike the Inuit in the “Ice Drift” book, these people were well acquainted with white folks. Hell, they had met Queen Victoria.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tookoolito
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebierbing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Hendrik – innnnnnteresting, Hans Hendrik wrote a book: “Memoirs of Hans Hendrik, the Arctic traveller, serving under Kane, Hayes, Hall and Nares, 1853–1876, by himself ”

Well, that’s how I spent my morning, obsessing over the ways that this type of “historical” fiction actually erases history in a way that is stupid, dull, inaccurate, simplistic, and racist, all in the guise of educating young people.

Related posts




Feeling low

I’m feeling a bit low energy from being sick for so long. I have either some lingering annoying bronchitis or really really hair-trigger asthma left over from the bronchitis or both.

As I lie here working and reading blogs and listening to music, I’m fairly content but then it’s like the wall goes down, some kind of wall between between me and all the times I’ve fucked up and disappointed other people. Past failures are playing over and over in my head. I think of whole communities I was close to, that treated me so well, like I was a minor rising star or at least a promising talented person, and somehow… I’d just drop the ball and drift away. How many times has this happened! And how bitter it is when I not only do that, but someone then writes me to explain how I let them down.

Nothing in particular sparking this, I’m just annoyingly ill and my parents were visiting. I’m reading a lot and playing Galcon in odd moments.

Emotional flatness… or meltdown. Not a fun choice!

Here I am in bed being vaguely pissed off at the world, with a nasty headache.

i am so sick of being sick

Cheeriest music of the day: The Kabeedies…

Related posts




Two Guys United by Devotion to Porn

Wow you know what? Screw you Wallace Berman and Richard Prince and screw you New York Times.
The headline reads Two Artists United by Devotion to Women, but it should read “Two Run of the Mill Assholes Collect Vintage Porn, Exploit Women’s Images”. Berman apparently is a “Beat guru”, while Prince is running an art show called “She”. Do they support women and women artists? NO… hahahah of course not!
“The exhibition focuses on a common subject where the two artists overlap in odd and unexpected ways: women.”
Get that? Women are the SUBJECT.
Also, apparently it’s news that dickwad artists, whether they are dead Beats or poncey rich New Yorkers, are obsessed with “images of half-clothed women taken from pulp fiction, biker magazines…”
Buried in the article, I thank the article’s author for this:

he is asked whether he has any female friends. He says no. Asked when he thinks a girl becomes a woman, he says it is when she starts baby-sitting.

So, number one, this guy is a jerk. Number two, why is this article news at all? Seriously, “Dumb Guy Glorifies Trashy Porn” is the headline. Glorifies and legitimizes AND makes a career exploiting it. HOW VERY TRANSGRESSIVE! Number three, why is the headline and the framing of the article all about how these are men who are “devoted to women”?
This is really offensive to women in the arts.

Related posts




From top to bottom, news full of morons

Am I especially ill tempered today or is the news full of jerks and morons? Every single article chaps my hide. They are all jerks. Only the scale is different.
* Horrible make-up artist sues another horrible make-up artist. Good Samaritan? Sure… yet, drunk-ass idiot Samaritans.
* Can any of us even fathom the depths of total asshole Rod Blagojevich? “I will fight, I will fight, I will fight, until I take my last breath.” Did he really just say “lynch mob”? Yes he did.
* Jerks who want to cancel other people’s marriages. Defending marriage by… attacking marriage! They totally hired that Clinton blowjob lawyer. Nice touch.
* Bristol Palin’s boyfriend’s mom arrested on 6 felony counts of drug possession. Classy! Wonder what drug? If that baby gets named “Crystal” then we will know for certain sure.
* One of those guys who got mauled by the escaped tiger gets caught shoplifting from Target. First you tease a tiger so hard it leaps out of its cage and eats your friend. Then you stuff a Wii down your pants and get caught. Then your slimey lawyer blames you stuffing the Wii down your pants on your 182 stitches from the tiger attack. Dude. Learn how to do some real crimes or something.
* The one spot of joy in my day was imagining that asshole Madoff wearing an electronic ankle cuff. Though it would be so much nicer if he were in prison.




12 days of Internet Freedom!

Donate to the Electronic Frontier Foundation! A membership makes a good gift, and you get a nifty tshirt as well. See my awesome “Defend Bloggers’ Rights” tshirt in the header photo? Well that’s an EFF tshirt, and you can have one too if you go right now and fork over some money, then wear it with pride!

Fair Users Empowered
Fair use law protects your ability to use copyrighted material for commentary, criticism, parody, research and beyond. In 2008, EFF took on large and small entities who tried to use copyright to chill speech — from music labels to diamond companies to land developers to tech companies and even psychic Uri Geller — and defended your right to mash-up, remix and create in the modern digital world.


Learn more about this video and support EFF!

Related posts




Smoking dope with the poets

I started reading Black Beauty to Moomin tonight. I remebered it as a sweet, intense horse book with a few sad parts. My grandma read it to me when I was about 4 years old and I certainly re-read it many times – though not as an adult. I was a little bit in love with Ginger.

Well, wow. So far, it’s kind of scary. Beauty, or “Darkie” as he is called in youth,
given lessons by his mother in how to obey and please a master, and how to be a good horse.

My master often drove me in double harness with my mother, because she was steady and could teach me how to go better than a strange horse. She told me the better I behaved the better I should be treated, and that it was wisest always to do my best to please my master; “but,” said she, “there are a great many kinds of men; there are good thoughtful men like our master, that any horse may be proud to serve; and there are bad, cruel men, who never ought to have a horse or dog to call their own. Besides, there are a great many foolish men, vain, ignorant, and careless, who never trouble themselves to think; these spoil more horses than all, just for want of sense; they don’t mean it, but they do it for all that. I hope you will fall into good hands; but a horse never knows who may buy him, or who may drive him; it is all a chance for us; but still I say, do your best wherever it is, and keep up your good name.

!!!

Darkie describes in detail (and with acceptance) the process of being broken in. It’s absolutely chilling.

Do you suppose Anna Sewell was just talking about animal rights, or is she commenting here on women’s status, on slavery, on the status of workers? I was overcome with suspicion. It seems an intensely radical book.

I’m sure she was completely sincere about animal rights but no one could write this book and not be also thinking about people!

Sewell’s Wikipedia entry contained this totally fascinating sentence, about the middle of her life,

While seeking to improve her health at European spas, Sewell encountered various writers, artists, and philosophers, to which her previous background had not exposed her.

That could mean ANYTHING.

I’m going to have to read Dark Horse, a recent biography of Sewell, to find out a little more about her life!

Related posts