drwex: (Default)
(slightly modified from a post by Cory Doctorow)

Dear Liberals, Independents, and principled Conservatives
In 2020 there will be a candidate competing against Donald Trump for President. It is very likely this candidate:
  1. Isn't your first choice

  2. Isn't 100% ideologically pure

  3. Has made mistakes

  4. Might not really excite you all that much

  5. Has ideas you are uncomfortable with

Please start the process of getting over that shit now instead of waiting until 2020.

Dear Democratic Establishment
In 2020 we will need to choose a candidate to fight Trump, an actual threat to the survival of the human race. So you might be tempted (again) to ask America to vote for a warmongering, banker-friendly, more-of-the-same candidate, on the theory that we'll vote for the candidate who makes people like you rich as fuck rather than enduring four more years of Trump, even if that candidate is terrible in every way except for not being Trump.

That is a hell of a gamble, and it could literally cost us the only planet we have. Knock that shit off.

Democrats have no future as the "at least we're not Trump" party. Get used to it. You have two whole years; use them wisely.

No love,
Me
drwex: (Troll)
Baby Driver is Edgar Wright's fast-paced heist-crew movie featuring Kevin Spacey (Doc) and Ansel Elgort as the eponymous Baby (b-a-b-y) who is the driver for all of Doc's gangs. I tend to like heist-crew movies - of which Heat is pretty close to the platonic ideal. This one promised to be something extra-special because Baby listens to music throughout. He has a soundtrack to his life and that becomes a large part of the soundtrack to this movie. You may have noticed I'm a little obsessive about music. Also, I tend to like almost everything Kevin Spacey does so I figured this one was a no-lose for me.

For about 80% of the movie that's true. Spacey is a tough-boss tough-guy with a surprising good streak in him, Elgort is a great pastiche of the "kid who could have been nice, but who fell in with the wrong crew" and the other players also do well. I particularly liked Deborah, as played by Lily James. She's sweet but not naive, beautiful but not glamorous, and it's easy to see why Baby falls for her.

The plot is pretty simple: some time ago, Baby boosted a car belonging to Doc that had valuable merchandise in it. Something went wrong and Doc is now extracting his due from Baby one job at a time, because Baby is an amazing getaway driver. Once the debt is paid off, Baby will, in theory, be free to do as he pleases. Of course, nothing is that simple. 3/5 stars; would've had 4/5 but for the ending.
Not exactly a spoiler but I'll cut-tag it anyway )
Still, see this if heist movies are your thing. Just brace yourself.
(*) or words to that effect.
drwex: (pogo)
This afternoon I was trying to describe to MizA how I was feeling and why and came up with this:

I have spent a lot of energy herding cats this week. This is making me snippier than I should be and not happy with cats that require further herding. Imagine if you set a bunch of balls bouncing down a hill. You'd expect them to bounce, roll, maybe collide, and go every which way but mostly down.

Now imagine that some of them start bouncing back UP the hill at you. Unpredictably. That's been my week. I think it explains why I'm kind of twitchy and jumpy and all up in the "stop DOING that!" space.

(It's also been compounded by off-again/on-again intestinal unpleasantness that has messed with my sleep.)
drwex: (pogo)
I am normally not a memes person but I saw this on a mailing list where people had fun with it and I though my week could use some fun. Love/hate/ate - reply in comments and repost if you think it would help spread more fun.

Love - I love the light in the evenings at this time of year. I notice the days are shortening but there's still a liminal quality to the twilight that I don't think exists in other seasons.

Hate - I hate that cell-phone spammers have started faking local-seeming numbers. I deal with enough contractors and such that I am often fooled.

Ate - fresh-picked fruit. Typically I wait until late in the fruit season to go pick Macoun apples, which are my absolute favorite variety. This year we did some fruit picking as part of our trip and Pygment has been getting fresh-picked fruit from the local farmer's market.
drwex: (WWFD)
I was startled to read (on one of my tech mail lists) that a person felt firing the Google employee who circulated the position piece on the inferiority of women (henceforth G) was "petty." It was not petty, nor done without thought.

I've never worked at Google, nor do I have any insight into their internal processes. But I've worked at a lot of tech companies and talked to many people at many others; I believe my experience generalizes. I have also worked at companies that have made the transition from private to public, which is significant. And finally, I have a background in cognitive science and experience working in Compliance. Both are relevant here.
First, let's deal with the science )
Now let's talk about tech companies for a minute )
Being a public company matters )
and this all explains why this guy got fired and why he didn't get fired faster )
You know who else should be fired? )

[1] Note this is not why Summers was fired; see Cathy O'Neill's explainer from a few years back about what actually got him fired. But that's a digression. Summers was wrong, and G is wrong.
[2] There's a whole lot to say about what's wrong with tech companies in these areas but that's sort of aside. Take as given please that I think places like Uber are a cancer and should be cleansed with fire if nothing other than serving as a warning to everyone else.
[3] My actual background is in financial compliance - NASD, SEC and so on - but the principles are the same across industries. Financial compliance is just more complicated and more expensive.
[4] It's possible that the PR firm did advise them on this and Google didn't take that advice - I have no inside insight.
[5] Google's stock price doesn't per se exist since it's part of Alphabet, Inc and listed on the NASDAQ that way. In the last five days the price has been pretty stable so maybe this is a tempest in the tech teapot and the rest of the world doesn't give a hoot. If the stock was nosediving you'd be hearing a very different tune from Pichai.
drwex: (VNV)
There will certainly be music today and if the meeting cancellations keep coming (two so far today) then I might actually post this on Friday. I think for this one I'm going to do a few of the more gentle and beautiful tracks I've got marked.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-SurvChGFk
We'll start with this lovely piece from Skrillex and Poo Bear. This video is one you want to watch. To be honest I was hoping the video would be a a no-cut one-shot of the boarder. I don't think the generic sunrise shots help and I'd rather watch this guy do his thing. It's not typical Skrillex things, which goes along with my general theory that I tend to prefer him working with other people or remixed by other people to him solo. Bangarang (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJVmu6yttiw) being the notable exception to that. This track has nice vocals and very smooth feel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJvX6aaQHp8&feature=youtu.be
As an antidote to the blood pressure-raising dumpster fire in Washington I've been playing more chill and ambient music lately. Here's a lovely relaxed track from Boreta (part of The Glitch Mob), remixing Christopher Willits' "Clear". The original (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPFQvluC7nc) is from a couple years ago, and has much more of a drone feel. I think the Boreta mix is superior.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik2OsFSfA4M
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPhz2fvcgGE
First link: another very pretty Reload Sessions offering. Dahlia (whose online presence I've been unable to locate - there are at least six other artists/acts using that name) bring three singer/guitar players to a track called "Heart Would Say". I keep thinking I've heard this before but it might be just because I've had this tab up for a while and played it many times. I like the way the singers pass around the lead and all of them harmonize rather than one being lead and two being back-up.

The second link is Dahlia's cover of "Million Reasons" from Lady Gaga (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYRJ-ryPEu0). The original is also a simple-vocal-plus-guitar track so this isn't that different. It's interesting to see how the cover distributes the lead pieces so it's once again three strong voices trading off rather than the original's one-strong/two-backing.

https://soundcloud.com/user-74395092/ed-sheeran-photograph-djenergy
DJ Energy's bootleg remix of the very popular "Photograph" from Ed Sheeran (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSDgHBxUbVQ). The original is a great spare strong-voiced track and the remix respects that. It adds a little energy and some club beats, but they're muted for the most part to keep the original feel.

https://soundcloud.com/snbrn/snbrn-blu-j-you-got-me-feat-cara-frew
And finally, a closer from LA producer SNBRN that takes some intensely breathy trance-style vocals and lays them over a nice deep house vibe. It's a fun combo that mostly works (I could quibble with some of the echo-y repeats as unneeded) and brings this blog set back to my more traditional EDM choices.

(Aside for the tagging geeks: I had originally written that SNBRN was new to me but it turns out I'd tagged him back in October of last year. One of the side effects of losing tags is that I'm going to lose some of my memory for things I've posted in the past; it's just too voluminous to search manually.)
drwex: (pogo)
This past Thu-Sun we took advantage of our temporary child-obligation-free status and went across the border into New York State to enjoy fresh air, beautiful views, and a whole lotta cider.

Pygment wrote it up in quite some detail, which I shall not attempt to reproduce, particularly since she let me put in some editorial bits on her original text. I'll just say that the days were punctuated by frequent remarks of the "boy I'm glad we're getting to do this" and "this is really fun" sort. We vacation well together and found a good balance between doing things each of us wanted.

I'm slightly sad that we didn't have more time and flexibility but lots of this was learning experience. We only had the information that was available on the various Web sites. Once we got to the area we found there were guides and maps that the locals produce but that weren't clearly obvious to outsiders coming to the area.

But that's kind of a detail - the important point was we had a good time and we are looking forward to a time when our travel will be less constrained by other obligations. Also, we'd love to see more people who are far away.
drwex: (Default)
It's not going to be a surprise to anyone who reads my blog that I think Trump's stated policies against trans individuals serving in the armed forces is heinous. It's despicable, divisive, regressive, and just frankly wrong. I've seen assertions of somewhere between 4,000 and 15,000 trans persons serving in the armed forces today. Even if we take the highest number, the resulting amount of cost to the VA care system is minuscule compared to the real costs of meeting our social commitment to care for those who have put their lives and careers on the line for this country.

If Trump actually cared about the costs of medical care for military personnel he'd be paying attention to the VA healthcare system and its needs. But in fact he doesn't care. Nor does he care about trans people. They're just today's convenient targets in his ongoing abdication of the job of being president for anyone who isn't his natural supporter. I hear those folk think he's doing just fine to which I say, "fuck you."

Normally I try to be a little more tolerant but between the attempt to kill people by taking away their healthcare and this nonsense I've run out of tolerant for a while. Trump is manifestly unfit for the job of Commander in Chief; the people he's attacking are either fit or not, a fact that can be determined without ever raising questions of their sex, their gender, their assigned-at-birth gender, or their gender presentation. Disqualification of a class of persons based on a characteristic unrelated to their job performance is a sign of a weak and cowardly leader.
drwex: (VNV)
This will likely be the only music post this week. Next week I'll begin chipping away at the backlog. But this week I found something enjoyable enough I jump it to the head of the queue.

https://soundcloud.com/user-457571129/ummet-ozcan-presents-innerstate-ep-142
Start with another of Ummet Ozcan's "Innerstate" sets. I have a few of these sets marked that I might say a word or two about but in general these haven't excited me too much. Like a lot of the things I've been listening to they're often overrun with pointless glitch and wub and I click off about halfway through. This one I stuck with and that's a good thing.

I recommend listening - midway through there are two of Ozcan's own tracks - the "You Don't Know Switch" and "Something Just Like This" - that I think are quite good but I couldn't find separate linkable uploads for.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccfEUIhxKvs
The real payoff is at the end, though because you get back-to-back goodies. The first is this edit by Dmitri Vegas and Like Mike based off of "Renegade Master" a track popularized by Fatboy Slim (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyWqeJ1vLWo) though it was originally created (but never released possibly due to copyright issues over samples) by a DJ known as Wildchild. This new edit is actually based on a recent mash done by two other producers. It's a fun bouncer of a track and a study in how music travels and mutates.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJhn-sicZgU
Then finally stuck on the end like an afterthought - or maybe saving the best for last? - is this gem. "Mariko" by Sagi Abitbul (https://www.facebook.com/sagiabitbulofficial and also https://soundcloud.com/sagiabitbul). Near as I can tell, Abitbul is an Israel-based DJ with origins in eastern Europe (Serbia?). The track is a hot crash of modern EDM sounds with traditional east-European vocals and instruments - can anyone identify the stringed instrument shown briefly at 1:19?

I love this kind of thing - mining a variety of traditional styles for modern inspirations. Damned if I can figure out the language, either; Google thinks it's Bulgarian. Anyway, that led me to find this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NejMwMeZyag
Sagi Abitbul again in collaboration with Guy Haliva (https://www.facebook.com/Guy-Haliva-670327543003366/ and also https://soundcloud.com/guyhaliva) another Israeli. This one I recognize the sounds as being more Israeli/Middle Eastern but the lyrics are likewise a mystery. I've seen claims of Bulgarian, Serbian, and Turkish but damned if I can tell those apart. Still a fantastic sound and I'll be following both these guys to see what else they do.
drwex: (Default)
One of the areas where I can differ from other liberal/progressives is in the area of violence against law enforcement. A nice column addressing this came out today from Professor Margulies of Cornell.

Margulies is also very left-liberal and has been deeply into the theories and research around policing and criminal justice reform. I was interested to see that he takes a stand very similar to my own, which is that although acts of murder against police are quite rare (and have been dropping steadily for the last 40 years) there is still a perception that police are targeted and that violence against police is not adequately addressed.

I understand why this is so - we focus attention on the victims of police violence, particularly because those victims are often young men of color who are ignored and denied a voice unless we keep a hard focus on their unjust treatment. But I think we are adult enough to pay attention to more than one thing and in this case that means giving appropriate attention to violence against police without taking attention away from the violence committed against their victims.

Margulies' column notes that police are increasingly being asked to solve problems that they simply cannot solve, and that a first step in reducing violence and tension is for us (society) stop making police the first and only approach to public manifestations of complex intertwined social problems such as addiction, homelessness, and mental illness. He argues we need to change the role and mission of police - if you read his earlier writing you'll see he's a big advocate of place-based policing, reducing overall police presence in favor of concentrating on the handful of individuals and locations that are responsible for the majority of crimes.

I think it makes sense to try these approaches - in particular I agree with Margulies that AG Sessions' attempts to reverse the history of policing are only going to make things worse. And I would go one step further, specifically to address the perception issue. I would make it law that any person who targets police because they are police should be subject to hate-crime investigation and possible prosecution.

At first this seems like a stretch. "Police" are not an identifiable protected class the way black people or women are. But I think that misses the point. When someone firebombs black churches, or vandalizes Jewish cemeteries, or shoots up a gay nightclub they are attacking the visible symbols of identity of a class of persons. Likewise, on those rare occasions when someone specifically targets those in uniform such as happened in Dallas last year they are attacking the class of persons who wear those uniforms. And I believe those attacks should be investigated and potentially prosecuted the same way.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the perception of police being under fire is not matched by statistical evidence; however, when women say they feel a company has created a hostile environment we don't ask them for statistics (or ought not). Instead we (ought to) work to turn the environment around. Part of turning around the environment for police is to stop asking them to solve unsolvable problems; another part can be making a clear public statement of how we feel about violence that targets them.
drwex: (VNV)
Yes, I will be posting music entries Real Soon Now, I promise. Probably next week. But first I want to unload some of the stuff in the mental backlog.

I really appreciated all the commentary on the last post. If y'all want to chime in about this one I'd likewise appreciate it. The topic is "Music video WTF" - as in, should I link to videos if I like the song but not the video?

Here, let me give you an example that sits right on the borderline, two videos for "One On One" by Tujamo, with vocals by Sorana. Tujamo is a German producer and EDM spinner; Sorana is an eastern European singer (near as I can guess, Romanian) and this is her first big team-up with a "name" producer. So, OK, great. It's a fun tune and I like her voice, though as with a lot of these things I think it's over-tuned.

First up, the official video for the song:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y19FzsqM1as

Minor warning: it's a PoV video done in the style of a lot of porn these days where you, the viewer, are invited to have the gaze of the (male) camera in intimate interactions with a small, very conventionally attractive woman through a series of scenes, including bedroom. There's nothing actually X-rated about this, but I was uncomfortable watching it. In case that gaze isn't intimate enough for you, there's even an official 3D-VR version - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx6OeuZ-mLE

Plus side: she's smiling and active throughout. She appears to be not only enjoying the interactions but initiating things. But if voyeurism isn't your kink (it's not mine, at least not for strangers) then you may (like me) find yourself unable to watch this video and see if there are other alternatives. Here's one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gVZnnxvf38

At least that's just a static conventionally-attractive-skinny-chick-half-dressed-in-provocative-pose. You see that kind of thing selling pretty much any product under the sun everywhere in the industrialized world. But, seriously, what does this have to do with the music?

I usually try to link to SoundCloud for my music choices but lots of things aren't up there and are on YouTube or other visual media.

So, dear readers, what do you make of this? Would you rather I didn't blog video music that sets me off, or blog it with information so you can judge for yourselves?
drwex: (VNV)
Once upon a long ago I used to merrily blog music. Yay, it was fun. Sometimes people would leave comments telling me they liked this or that or otherwise indicating that I wasn't just blogging into the void. That's always nice.

Then [personal profile] mizarchivist pointed out that LJ has these things called "tags" and I could tag my music entries. This is helpful to know what's going on, and particularly helpful for back-reference and finding things that are particularly notable. Eventually I got enthusiastic enough to go back and tag my existing couple years' worth of music entries... at which point I promptly ran out of tags. This more than anything else prompted me to move to a paid LiveJournal account because I needed more tags. All is fine until the company owning LJ decides to move the servers into Russian airspace and I decide it's time to move over here to DreamWidth. Which, I shall not bore you with details, will not allow me to have unlimited tags, even if I do pay them.

For a while this has stymied me. I really like the convenience of being able to go back and revisit things I've blogged in the past, and I blog a lot of new artist/DJs in a given month so the list of tags grows with no obvious way to condense them. I'm tired of being stymied though and it finally penetrated my thick skull that this convenience I've grown used to is just that, a convenience. I don't actually have to tag music entries in order to write them. So I'm going to start blogging music again, only with erratic-to-nonexistent tagging. You've been warned.

I realized this because I have re-remembered (I keep forgetting, somehow) that music is important in my relationships. Intimate, certainly, and otherwise. If you and I don't share some musical taste or other, it's likely we're less close of friends than we would be if we did share. For example...

This morning Pygment and I responded to a wedding invitation that included a request to list something that would cause us to get up and dance. At first I snarked that my music tastes would appall most people and DJs wouldn't play it at weddings anyway. Pygment agreed and said something like, "Yeah but imagine if they would, we could get them to play..." and in two clicks I had the track linked below, which we put on the RSVP card. I'll let you know if it plays at the wedding because I will sure as shit be dancing if it does.

We Can Make the World Stop
drwex: (Troll)
Took Amtrak to/from Harrisburg and met up with the g/f to do a couple days of touristing in Gettysburg. Rode down Thursday, back Sunday. Overall good, but I am glad to be in my own bed again. If I'd had more knowledge I would have planned better, but given the knowledge I had at the start I think we planned very well.

Friday we took two pre-planned tours. A "History Nerds" tour that was mostly riding around in an air conditioned bus (quite useful when the temp AND humidity topped 85) and looking at sites with a guy who could firehose details about pretty much everything. We got a fairly complete set of visits and lots of facts. I would have liked it if the bus stopped more often, but it did provide info we used later.

That evening (once it had cooled off from "utterly beastly" to "merely summer sticky") we had a walking tour of the city itself with a hobbyist guide. That was interesting because most of the National Park-level focus is on the battlefield and kind of glosses over the fact that the battle swept through the town multiple times. Our guide had lots of interesting stories and trivia to help contextualize the facts and sites and since it was just the two of us on this walk we got extra time and it was much more conversational.

It was interesting to be reminded throughout just how much of a cultural bubble I live in; for example, the evening guide was explaining how the local Lutheran congregation continues to struggle with whether to do services in (traditional) German or (modern) English, how they vary some week-by-week and how they print variations on the prayer book in one or the other or both languages. I commented, "Yeah, sounds like every synagogue I've ever been to" and the guide admitted she had no idea Jews did that. I get the sense that she likely doesn't know any actual Jewish people.

Saturday we decided to revisit the battlefield in the morning, predicted to be the coolest and least humid hours of the day. Despite some navigation snafus we made it to several of the sites we'd wanted more time at and spent a lot of time wandering around getting a sense for things that's hard to achieve while in a bus.

After a few hours of that we declared a break for lunch at a period recreation inn in town that was OK and fortuitously was across the street from the local cidery that I'd been wanting to try. Between heat, exercise, post-food coma, and a flight of very tasty ciders we decided to ditch the previous plan of going back to the battlefield in favor of nappage. By the time we got up from that it was late and GF wanted to visit the official Gettysburg visitor center and cyclorama.

The visitor center was OK - we saw a short film narrated by Morgan Freeman that talked about some of the impact of the Civil War on slavery and economics. The Gettysburg Cyclorama is one of the last few surviving cycloramas anywhere. This version was originally displayed in the Boston Cyclorama building (who knew?) and moved to the park's visitor center in 2008 after restoration work. It's quite impressive; unfortunately we were the last group of the day and the museum needed to close promptly because there was a wedding using the site right after closing. I would have liked more time to soak it in but such is the nature of things.

After dinner and ice cream we detoured into what is locally marked as the "Soldier's National Cemetery" but Wikipedia calls Gettysburg National Cemetery. The place is a little eerie, particularly the rows of "unknown" markers for soldiers interred there who could not be identified. There's a commemorative marker for Abraham Lincoln as well, which people have placed numerous Lincoln pennies onto. Being my own contrarian self I found a pebble.

It was interesting to me to have a memorial marker there since it's not where he's buried (that's his hometown of Springfield at the Oak Ridge cemetery) nor is it where he gave(*) the Gettysburg Address - that spot is marked by a separate memorial stone. Humans are weird, what can I say.

We skipped doing one of the many "ghost" tours that take place in the evenings and I felt good about that in retrospect. They all seem to be popular but kind of commercial and largely beside the point. My interest is in authentic history, at least to the degree we can understand and experience it. I would have liked another half day on the battlefield - we got to see almost all of Cemetery Ridge (the Union side) and about 3/4 of Seminary Ridge (the Confederate side) but not really view Little Round Top or see the cemetery in detail.

(*) Actually there's some debate about where Lincoln actually stood. He was not the featured speaker of the day - that was the popular orator Edward Everett of MA - and in fact had not been expected to attend. His remarks were so brief that the photographers didn't even have time to set up properly; there is only one popular photo of the address and Lincoln isn't even easy to distinguish in the shot. The location is in dispute as contemporaneous accounts differ and really nobody paid much attention to his speech at the time. The New York Times printed Everertt's address in full but declined to reproduce Lincoln's remarks.

To make matters more confusing, at least five different versions of the Address were printed in other newspapers of the time and all differ in some details from written versions that have been authenticated as being in Lincoln's handwriting. Post-hoc analysis of Lincoln's condition ("ghastly color" and "haggard" were reported) indicate that he was likely feverish at the time of the speech and so may have said things different from what he had written.
drwex: (Default)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6UZUhRdD6U

Because once again we're in a fight to be able to listen to the music we want, watch the videos we want, load the Web sites we want, message with who we want using the app we want... all of which we've paid for.

Net neutrality ought not to be a new or surprising concept to anyone who reads this blog but Vi Hart breaks it down for you anyway along with a history lesson.

If you don't feel like watching an 11 minute video it comes down to this: Cable companies (Comcast, Verizon, ATT, etc.) pretend we live in an era of cheap quality data service with lots of alternatives. In fact, cable companies have one-provider monopolies over 90% of subscribers and I cannot find a major metropolitan area where any person has more than two cable choices. Even a company with the deep pockets of Google has been unable to break these monopolies and the monopolists have sued numerous cities and towns to protect their monopolies against municipal-funded competition.

All the while providing US consumers with crappy data service. We're middle of the pack or worse compared to other industrialized countries with wide broadband penetration.

Cable companies, and now the FCC, are acting like monopolies didn't exist and like people were getting high-quality broadband services. They're also acting like the ISPs were disinterested parties rather than also being large cable companies whose cable divisions (e.g. HBO) are in direct competition with broadband media services (e.g. Netflix).

Net neutrality is about stopping monopoly providers from using their protected positions to disadvantage competition. It's that simple (though I realize those are long complex words - upgoer five knows almost none of them). If you haven't already called your Congress critters, or written a comment to the FCC today is the day to do that.
drwex: (Troll)
I realized that "what's up with me" has largely been "the kids." They and their needs occupy almost all of my brain space. They've been away at camp and will be intermittently gone this summer - all the away time doesn't quite line up the way we hoped but it's still a fair set of days of nobody but us and the dog in the house. Very mixed feelings about all that.

I've also realized that I'm not updating the way I'd like to. It's the usual cycle of not-writing that leads to there being so much stuff to write that it's overwhelming and so more not-writing happens. So let's talk first about the 4th because I felt good about it.

Project Social has been one of my ongoing goals since November. Feeling crushed and attacked on a daily basis - if not me then people I know and care about - is a real and disheartening thing. Seeing friends and doing relaxing things with them is a good antidote.

The Fourth there's one friend's party we traditionally go to, and we try to catch some fireworks somewhere. This year we were trying to figure out how to fit in another party with no kids home to do dog care when we got a message from [personal profile] mizarchivist saying she was in the midst of a packing marathon and could use company.

So we adjusted plans to stop by, bring packing supplies over, pack a handful of boxes while we were there, and then take her away to the party, a few blocks from her place. Feed, give tasty drinks, and hopefully provide a useful and refreshing interlude. We all agreed that moving (especially one's own stuff) is a horrid and horrible experience and if things can be done to make lives easier then that's a blessing.

The party was nice, tasty foods and some conversation with people I don't see that often. The attendance has shifted over the years to where I see fewer of my acquaintances there, and so spend less time there. We got home in time to feed the dog and chill a bit before going to see fireworks with Pygment's GF and fiancee (I keep wanting to type "husband" but they haven't quite yet formalized it - soon!) I think they are both excellent people but due to a combination of natural introversion and tiring work travel we don't see them much.

The fireworks show was good and the GF drove, meaning I didn't have to stress out about the traffic - if you've never driven with me in a traffic jam just accept that such things activate my aggression and anxiety a lot more than they ought. But if I'm not driving I can mostly ignore it.

So that was a holiday. Unlike many of my cow orkers I was in the office the 3rd and the 5th and did actual work. It was kind of empty in the building but not horribly so. One-day weekends aren't nearly as good as four-day but that's coming.
drwex: (Troll)
Finally, Marvel has given us its version of Spider-Man, fit into the Marvel movie universe. Having shown us chunks of it in Avengers and with a fairly revealing trailer the outline of the story was pretty well-known and the plot has only one or two surprises. 3/5 stars for a passable movie that doesn't inspire, particularly, but doesn't turn off.

Like almost all the Marvel movies so far this one rises on the strength of its main portrayal. Specifically, Tom Holland is Peter Parker/Spider-Man for the early 21st century. He's got the embarrassed nerd act down pat, and the wonder-struck teenager done pretty well. He bumbles and improvises and does frankly stupid things.

The script is a bit of a mess- I ended up disliking the ending because it rang false and felt like unnecessary fan service[1]. There are also some really bad inconsistencies, not least of which is the utter lack of concern everyone has about a minor disappearing all the time in all kinds of places. But it's not so terrible as to throw me out of my enjoyment.[2]

That said, the film does nod to several bits of Spider-Man canon and history without hitting anyone over the head about it. Perhaps the best thing about the script itself is that it is not an origin story. Where I felt that Wonder Woman absolutely needed to give us a definitive origin tale, Spider-Man's origin is something we've seen done and done to death. Here what's needed is to situate Spider-Man in the (new) Marvel universe and its ongoing events, not retell how Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider. This movie does that.

I do want to give a special shout-out to the movie for representation. Laura Harrier plays Liz, a mixed-race [3] senior that Peter Parker is into. Her movie parents... well, yes, right on. Zendaya is Michelle, the very hip not-a-girlfriend who hides just how smart she is, also mixed background. Jacob Batalon as Ned-the-best-nerd-friend-ever, also clearly not a white guy. Major roles are still white dudes but it's very 21st-century appropriate in my view to have people of all sorts on the screen and nobody makes a big deal of any of it. It just is. The film doesn't pass the Bechdel test, though.

Go see it; it's a fun summer movie and nobody but me expects these things to be great art.

[1] for a change I'm going to try doing this one spoiler-free so you'll just have to watch the movie and see if you agree with me.
[2] Does it bother anyone else that Peter calls her "May" rather than "Aunt May?" I get that they're trying to update a stodgy white-haired old widow into the younger, obviously hotter Marisa Tomei version and I can roll with that, but him calling her "May" throws me every time.
[3] I hate that term; if you have a better one for a person who has one white and one black parent then I'd love to update my vocabulary.
drwex: (Default)
http://pressthink.org/2017/06/white-house-daily-briefing-trouble/

Sometimes the most insightful things about the dumpster fire are also the most depressing. This one hit me square between the eyes, and it starts with the simplest statement:
Wake up: Trump is not trying to win the support of anyone who is not naturally aligned with him.

Oh. *foreheadsmack* Yes. That is true and it explains so much.

Jay Rosen goes on to give examples and expound on it. For example, it explains why the administration has gone from unfriendly to hostile to outright war on the media. Mainstream media are the enemy. They exist solely to be demonized to froth up the faithful[1], who wouldn't read or watch those liberal eggheads anyway and who've been trained for years not to trust anything that appears outside the carefully constructed echo chamber. [2]

We're all used to situations in which our elected leaders try to broaden their appeal after victory. People have, I suppose, forgotten the degree to which Obama worked to reassure people that he was the President for all Americans, not just black Americans. We've certainly forgotten that Republicans used to talk about "big tent" ideals and tried at least to portray themselves as welcoming. Now the face of the Republican party is locked in a permanent sneer. Loyalty to DJT is valued above all else, and anything that questions whether the Dear Leader is right, or sane, or fit to rule is taken as evidence that the Dear Leader is under attack and needs the faithful to rush to his defense.

And it's all driven from the top. When Trump emits spectacularly hateful and misogynistic statements we might hear a little tut-tutting from the Republican establishment but they don't open up any space between themselves and the Dear Leader because there isn't a continuum anymore. There is either you are with us or you are our enemy and Republicans know they cannot win elections without the faithful. So they'll just go on like this was business as usual and this is exactly the process of normalizing the outrageous that I feared would happen.

But back to the mainstream media for a bit. Rosen argues (correctly I think) that this is a dominance game. Trump has all the power and he's using it to force the mainstream press to beg, to humiliate itself, to submit, and to support his agenda. That stupid yank-grab-squeeze handshake isn't an accident, folks. It's how he displays his dominance. The faithful lap it up and so he keeps doing it. To the extent that the press continue to play into this game they're signing all our death warrants.

Part of that denormalization is that "persuasion" gets written out of the equation. Dear Leader (Rosen argues and I agree) has no interest in persuading or convincing anyone who doesn't already believe. Thus being hateful and misogynistic is just fine because you're not trying to make anyone else believe your ideas - you're just trying to build up your dominance in a very playground-bully style. You issue insults and if people respond they're playing your game and reinforcing your style or if they ignore it they're normalizing bullying and reinforcing Dear Leader's bond with the faithful.

This applies to other supposedly outrageous behavior we've seen from the dumpster fire including blatant lying, put-downs, favoritism, and litmus-test loyalty. There's no effort to convince because that's not important; what is important is how forcefully you can attack your enemies - you heard this in the language that White House spokespeople used to defend Trump's sexist tweets. In their view Dear Leader is "attacked" and has to "fight back". This is exactly what the faithful want to believe, so lying to shape the narrative that way is normalized.

Rosen's piece stops there, but I want to go a couple steps further. First, what are the media to do? Dear Mainstream Media, welcome to being black or a woman in America. Not only do you have to be good at what you do, you have to be better than your (white|male) peers. Jackie Robinson didn't just have to be a good ballplayer - he had to be a f**king superstar, one of the best of his generation. Today if you're a woman in business or tech you have to be immaculate and beautiful and smarter than everyone else but don't let people know that. Et cetera.

Mainstream media have gotten used to playing on easy mode and suddenly Dear Leader has twisted the difficulty knob up to 11. The CNN story that had to be retracted is going to haunt us. I guarantee you that in 2018 and 2020 they're going to be chanting to the faithful about how CNN is fake news because they published a false story. Trump is already putting out videos of himself physically attacking "CNN". (https://news.google.com/news/video/e8ELJIc8HeE/d5z5Uh_6iaE4l1MEW8efv2_Wy6pAM?hl=en&ned=us) which is just absolute blood in the water for the piranha faithful. The media need to be on their A game and not giving away points and scoring own goals.

To be frank, being on their A game is going to be profitable. MSNBC, one of the earliest and most aggressive anti-Trump outlets, has seen a 73% year-over-year growth in viewership. (Numbers from Nielsen audience tracking, reported here: http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/340318-media-reaps-dividends-from-trump-attacks)

And what about us? You and me. Time to ante up, if you're not already doing so and your wallet can take it. Pick an outlet you like that's doing reporting you care about and subscribe. Put your dollars to work paying people who are going to help us win this thing. Reporters gotta eat, too. I've been a supporter of The Progressive for decades and I'm thinking about adding a Washington Post subscription to my list.

I find it depressing to be wrong. When Trump was elected I objected to the "not my president" movement, arguing that we needed to accept the electoral victory and acknowledge - just as we insisted for eight years that people on the other side acknowledge Barack Obama was their president. But if Dear Leader wants to give up the mantle of being my president, so be it. Now if he'd just abdicate all the way, instead of the half-assed way...


[1] an earlier draft of this piece referred to these core Trump supporters as "sheeple". I think that characterization is true to a large degree - groupthink and reflexive dogma dominate independent inquiry and deep insight for these people. But I'm trying to avoid overtly negative terms because I think it's important to emphasize that these people also deserve clean air and water, effective schools and safe roads-and-bridges. They need job opportunities and meaningful futures for their children. That they will never be our allies doesn't make them undeserving of fair treatment, the same as we demand for all.

[2] I deeply disagree with the accusation that the left is guilty of "bubble" thinking. Data show that people with left/liberal/progressive views get information from more and broader sources, and engage more with opposed viewpoints than do people with right/conservative/regressive views. Moreover, the right-wing bubble has been carefully and deliberately constructed to be a self-reinforcing echo chamber for the purpose of isolating the faithful from distressing ideas. That such cynicism exists among the conservative rich elites is unsurprising, but still depressing.
drwex: (Default)
I originally wanted to do another bullet-point list to cover a bunch of things but the first thing about kids turned out to be a full entry on its own, so let's try this again...

- Politics. I've been on the phone a fair bit. Living in MA means I mostly call my Congresscritters to thank them and encourage them to keep #resist -ing. Still, I called the Governor about the Paris accords (yay, let's get this sh*t done and maybe have a planet to leave to our children because fuck DJT).

I called three state Senators and three Reps who are on the committee trying to pass marijuana legislation because the Senate version is a lot closer to what I and the majority of others voted for last time around. The House version seems to be a repeal-by-legislation effort that I think is BS. I also want the Lege to tackle some of the crucial issues that weren't defined in the referendum, such as establishing a uniform standard for intoxication, drafting rules for part-time residents or people who live outside MA but commute here for work or entertainment, and so on.

I'm still nominally involved with the local ACLU "People Power" group, which seems to be about 4-5 of us. We did meet with the Burlington Chief of Police, who's an interesting fellow, and found him much more receptive than I expected. We already had a good reception from the Middlesex County Sheriff so this is more heartening. We're unlikely to go on a full sanctuary city route like, say, Somerville. But we seem to have more law enforcement support than not. I'm all for tackling our Town Meeting in the fall when it reconvenes but getting the other people in the group motivated is proving challenging. Sadly, the ACLU doesn't seem to have a lot of skill or organization behind this so a lot of people are sort of floundering.

- Work. It sort of is. We're starting the annual review cycle which is always stressful for me and is going to be more stressful for my minions if only due to them being junior and not used to this kind of thing the way I am. I'll have more to say about work in a locked entry at some point.

- Car, house, big stuff. We're on the verge of finally getting the house painted. You'd think finding contractors to do this stuff would be easier but I find myself wandering the virtual hallways saying "someone please take my money to do this work" a lot. People are busy, just don't show up, or turn out to be incompetent. On the other hand, sometimes it's really nice to have a professional on the job, as when we called a plumber to deal with a backed-up sink and it turned into $1300 worth of work. Yay project creep; yay having people with the right skills and tools on hand to get it done in a few hours.

I continue to find my car "OK" six months in. I doubt I'll ever be bowled-over excited about it, but it's functional and it gets the mileage I want. As noted in the earlier entry, we're going to have to replace Pygment's car soon so shopping for that has commenced.

- Project Social continues to be a dismal near-failure. I am just not able to arrange time with as many people as often as I'd like. People be busy, y'know? It sounds silly to write this just before I head out the door to a social evening with one of my favorite people but over the long arc of weeks and months it's clear I'm not doing enough right things in this space.

- Arisia is moving along at the slow pace you'd expect from summer. I'm working hard to fill all the important jobs in my half of the division. Once I have those in place I'll feel better and may be able to relax a bit more. Yah, right.

- Looking forward to vacations in July, one to see the g/f and Gettysburg and then a getaway with Pygment. Lots of my cow orkers are taking at least July 3rd off and many are taking the whole week but it doesn't hook me that way. I hope we can make it to some good fireworks on the 4th and maybe one or two of the parties that traditionally happen that day and that will be enough for me.

How about you guys? What's your top bullet point (or two) right now?
drwex: (Troll)
So much has happened since last update it's not even vaguely possible to try journaling it.

I'm just going to talk about the kids here for a bit )
So that's my kids - how about yours?
drwex: (Default)
I have been trying, and failing, to write about what I can only term the Healthcare Massacre. This entry is incoherent and doesn't have a nice point but if I don't get it written I'm never going to be able to write other stuff, so here goes...

Shortly after Trump was elected, I wrote that I was feeling like we'd been here before. One of the things I will forever curse Reagan about is his refusal to see AIDS for what it was, refusal to fund research, and associated refusal to treat people with a then-fatal disease as human beings deserving of dignity, respect, and compassionate care.

Hundreds of thousands of people died of AIDS; I knew only a tiny handful of them and a slightly larger handful of the people who cared for and survived them but their stories have stayed with me. Then I saw a photo of a wheelchair-using activist being loaded into a police van from a protest outside Mitch McConnell's Senate office to which someone remarked that we might be witnessing the birth of a new ACT UP, a way to give a voice to those whose cries are not being heard. I read stories like this: https://twitter.com/aliranger29/status/878428841773019136

Go ahead, read that and say with a straight face that you need a tax cut more than that child needs to live. I won't even address the obscenity that this child will be condemned to death so billionaires can get an even bigger tax cut than you and I will get. Ali's story is just one example and of course we sympathize with cute children but he's representative of that population whose voices are not heard. Perhaps they do need an in-your-face advocate like ACT UP to clear a space for them on the national stage.

But I can't think of ACT UP without thinking about those people I stopped hearing from in the 80s. Engaging with this issue in any meaningful way is hard enough. I look at my children and think about what would happen if one of them needed lifetime medical care, of a sort that could blow the lid off "lifetime caps." Oh, right. They very likely will.

As I said, this is kind of stream-of-consciousness. I don't have a neat conclusion nor a snappy retort. I don't want another issue to have to focus my energies on. But I can't let this one go - the ghost voices in my head are too strong.
drwex: (Default)
So the Dems lost another special election, one into which they had poured a lot of money. It's almost always an error to generalize from special elections to, well, the general election. And there's a lot that can happen between now and 2018 not least of which is the R's continuing to push for a wildly unpopular bill to take away millions of peoples' health care in order to give tax breaks to billionaires. But let's assume they don't fully immolate themselves and the Dems have to come up with a winning plan - what does this election tell us?

1. Probably the most important thing it tells us is that not only is Trump's base not abandoning him, the Republican electorate in general is still willing to close ranks around him. Karen Handel is generally portrayed as a "conventional" Republican but she didn't make any effort to put space between herself and DJT and that strategy paid off. Conversely, the Republicans' attacks on Ossoff linking him to unpopular national Democratic figures didn't dent his support. He got the same 48% in the run-off that he'd gotten the first time around.

2. That failure to move the needle also shows that money isn't as important (for us) as people like to make out it is. Dems poured a lot of money into this election - $25MM by most estimates - and that swayed nary a voter. One might argue that it was necessary to counter the heavy Republican spending or Ossoff might have lost by a larger margin. But that, imo, points to another more important point, which is...

3. The Republicans are going to have to assume that no seat is safe. They're going to have to play a big zone defense and the Dems will be able to sniper at districts they think are vulnerable or where they can produce a good candidate. That gives Dems a tactical advantage. If they're smart they'll tailor their messages district-by-district and avoid big national things.

4. Speaking of tactics, it's disheartening to go 0-for-4 but if you compare Democratic numbers in these four elections they're better than the district numbers in 2012, 2014, and 2016. If Democrats are making gains in heavily red districts it bodes well for similar gains in more purple districts. Unfortunately, those are few and far between. Initial analyses I read said the Democrats have outperformed their past showings by 5-7% in these four elections. If you grant that as a nation-wide boost, then a 5-7 point lift should gain Dems something like 12-15 seats in the House, assuming everything else tracks (which is a wildly wrong assumption, but we have no other data right now). That's not enough to flip the House, but...

4a. Nate Silver's analysis shows Dems outperforming by a much wider margin - he has it at 11-17% and he says that margin puts as many as 60-80 seats into play, well more than the 24 needed to flip the House. The Senate map is less favorable because fewer seats are in play and because the Democrats have historically done not-so-well in state-level races. On the other hand, the margin needed to flip the Senate is also much thinner.

5. What these analyses have in common is the sense that Democrats are failing (a) to provide a coherent message beyond "at least we're not Trump" - which is a failing message from the get-go; and (b) to bring together the coalition that lifted Obama twice to the White House. Or really any coalition. This circular-firing-squad stuff really needs to stop. It's not Pelosi's fault that Ossoff lost (though I think it's long past time for a leadership change) any more than it's Sanders' fault Clinton lost. All candidates face drag and either the candidate is good enough at promoting their message to enough receptive people to overcome that drag or they are not.

That doesn't mean we should ignore the systemic factors disadvantaging voters - the Supreme Court has recently shown a remarkable willingness to take on gerrymandering cases. And we're going to need vigorous legal action to counter the active voter suppression that is targeting minority, older, and urban voters who tend to be more Democratic-leaning. But none of that is going to help if Dems continue running candidates that do not speak to voters' concerns.

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