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We need a Martin and a Bobby and we need them now
Air guitar kitty
I don't get obsessed like most people; my attention span is too scattershot and I'm interested in too many disparate things.

But history is the big exception.  I get obsessed with events long gone. 

Sometimes the events are really "long gone": like Alexander dying too young to stabilize his syncretic, tolerant Empire and make it last; or Constantine declaring Christianity the state religion of the Byzantine Empire, and ushering in multiple millenia of evidentiary points why religion and The State should not mix; and the genocides of North America's aboriginal peoples.  I still take stuff like that personally, which is why I can't bear to see movies like Agora.

And sometimes the events aren't all that long gone at all.

Take 1968.  Please.

That was a meatgrinder of a year in the US; a year when very little good happened and the bad that happened was so very very bad it made one despair of humanity and fear for the country.  I was a kid in '68, but I know of the events that happened with almost as much emotional investment as if I had been old enough to participate in the culture and politics of the time.

1968 was the year we lost two people we could ill afford to lose; two people who were murdered before their work was anywhere near done; two people whose murders wrenched American politics from one path and put it firmly on a much darker one.

Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy.  Martin and Bobby; Bobby and Martin; two men forever linked by the work they did and tried to do, and by their shared fates - just two months apart, no less.  Martin was murdered on April 4 and Bobby on June 6. 

I never stop thinking about them, and I've been thinking about them even more nowadays.  American politics nowadays is characterized by sociopathy on the Right and spinelessness on the Left.  The Right is particularly toxic, with Tea Partiers reviving racist tropes and the GOP doing its best to make sure the government can't address any of the inequities and parasitism brought about by a corporate economy that has taken leave of its collective senses.

The racism is the most dumbfounding, in a way, because... we were there once, fought our way out - with, granted, imperfect and incomplete success, but there really was a time when people tried not to be racist.  There was a time when the national consensus held racism to be a bad thing, and people who were overtly, viciously racist were certainly not celebrated by serious politicians or given major airtime on national TV to peddle their vile viewpoints. 

We have a black President, though, and that drove the Right completely out of its mind.  Whatever restraint it once had is gone.  I hear commentators saying things that haven't been said since.... well, since the early 60s.  The demons of our darker nature that Martin and Bobby worked so very hard to expunge; that Martin lost his life fighting. 

Martin had a gift or oratory, and of moral clarity.  Bobby had a gift of speaking from the heart and touching people - along with, bless him, a ruthless pragmatism and will to win that would have, maybe, made him one of the best Presidents ever.  Even if not - even if Bobby eventually lost the nomination to Hubert Humphrey anyway - I don't see how that would have led to a Nixon Presidency.  Nixon was elected mostly because of the riots in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention; and the riots were caused by rage and despair as America's best hopes had their brains blown out, leaving too many people with no one to stand for them, listen to them, care about the kind of country they lived in.

If Martin and Bobby had not been murdered, Nixon would not have been President.  That simple.  It was the replacement of one universe with another; the death of one timeline and birth of another.  What we are today, we are because Martin and Bobby were murdered. 

And when I hear the RIght, and the Tea Partiers, it's like time bending back on itself.  It's like they want to undo all the work of the civil rights movement, and go back to what things were like before the marches and the consciousness raising and the great acts of legislation and the earnest, heartfelt work so many did to reach out across the divide.  They want racism to be paramount again.  They want to be able to vilify, to be hateful - and they want to be praised for it.  They want to be powerful, and they see exploiting racial fears as their road to power.

I still mourn Martin and Bobby, but at least I could think they had not died in vain, that the country was better than it was for their lives and their work.

But with the Right working as hard as it is to bring back those hatreds and fears, I can't think that anymore.  The Left seems unable to muster the spirit, the strength, or maybe the moral clarity to beat them back. 

And so I wish we had another Martin, another Bobby, who with their courage, their wisdom, and their wit could kindle that righteous fire and lead us forward again.

Oh, goodie: More Racefail
Air guitar kitty
I'm not going to name or link to the person who committed the latest Fail.  One reason is she's already had a lot of people pointing out the error of her ways, by people both more eloquent than I and with more at stake than little ol' privileged white me.  The other reason is that - between this and all the other fails that have ripped through fandom over the last year - my thoughts have turned from the specific to the general, and that's what I want to write about here.

All Fails - gender, race, mental and physical capabilities, whatever - have one thing in common:  A profound lack of really elementary courtesy.  That lack can be attributed to bigotry; it can also be attributed to sheer thoughtlessness.  I prefer to think most of the people who've committed the Fails are not deliberately being bigots; I prefer to think they're "merely" thoughtless, insensitive persons who never let the impact or meaning of what they do enter their heads.  Ursula LeGuin frequently refers to a state of being as being "mindful."  Be mindful of what you say, and think, and do, and believe: be aware of how what you say, and think, and do, and believe shapes the universe you live in.

That standard applies to everything.  Once you opt to be mindful, your awareness expands greatly, and committing acts of Fail becomes, if not impossible, then certainly more difficult. 

The rules for mindfulness aren't complicated.  And they're universal.

1.  Don't write about cultures or peoples you know little about, have little understanding of, and have little interest in as anything other than a plot device.   Not only will you commit a Fail, your writing will be shallow and, very probably, inaccurate.

2. Don't use tragedies that have occurred within living memory as a setting for stories, unless the stories are directly *about* such tragedies, AND you have sufficient knowledge of the tragedies, and the context in which they occurred, that you can do so intelligently and respectfully.  People, real people, do not bleed and die and lose all that made their lives meaningful just so your characters can have a dramatic, storm-tossed passion, or learn the true meaning of courage, or find God, or whatever you're using the tragedy for. 

3.  Don't use other people's traumas to work out your own issues.   Don't use the destruction of a nation and the dispossession of its citizens as a metaphor for personal alienation or a vehicle for personal redemption.  Don't rape, mutilate, torture, etc. etc. a character as a stand-in for a person or type of person you dislike.

4. Similarly, don't assume that whatever misery, abuse, etc., you have suffered yourself gives you license to mine other peoples' misery, abuse, etc for dramatic value.  Extend to them the respect and kindness you wish had been extended to you.

5. If you have a wonderful plot in mind that requires a national tragedy for a backdrop, use one that happened long ago, whose participants and victims are long since dead.  Use time travel if you have to, to put your characters there.  Or invent one and put it in an imaginary country, and/or in an imaginary time.

These rules don't specifically reference race, gender, mental or physical traits, or any other recognizable "type."  That's because they don't have to:  they apply to everyone.  

A long time ago, as part of my becoming aware of the role language played in perpetuating sexual stereotypes, I made a deliberate decision to de-genderize my speech.  It took some doing, a conscious change of common nouns and such, but I was able to do it:  fire fighter, police officer, server, mail carrrier, humankind, chairperson, Congressperson, etc. And now it seems foreign and strange to *not* use nongendered words (and very jarring to hear other people use gendered ones).  The process wasn't that hard; it just took attention and consistency until it became ingrained.

Becoming mindful isn't that hard.  It just takes paying attention, making conscious choices, and soon becomes automatic. 

A Columnist You Must Read
Air guitar kitty
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a writer with Atlantic Magazine.  His writing is so brilliant and profound that one feels particularly fortunate just to be able to read it:  the chance to also discuss what he's writing about, and what he thinks, is delightful beyond words.  

Last month, Southern Right Wingers, displaying their usual classiness, celebrated Confederate History Month (their retort to Black History Month).  As you may or may know, they were trying to celebrate the Confederacy without mentioning the slavery that was at the very heart of the Confederacy, repeating the oft-told lie that secession wasn't "really" about slavery (a lie countered by the words and pronouncements of the leaders of the Confederacy themselves, up to and including Jefferson Davis).

In response to that, Coates decided that he, too, would observe Confederate History Month... by looking at the Confederacy from the slaves' point of view.  He researched and found some incredible letters written by ex-slaves to their former owners, and articles written at the time about slave familes being freed one by one... powerful, shattering stuff.  (Power and shattering enough that he's thinking of writing a book which, should he do so, will instantly land on my Must Buy list)

Now he's written an outstanding essay on U.S. Grant that should be shared with all.  

I don't know if the history curriculum offered in American junior high and high schools is any better now than when I was a teenager.  All I can say is that history was taught as if the intent was to  make you hate the subject:  a lot of memorization of names and dates, with little if any exploration or analysis of why those names and dates mattered.  The result for me was that I loved and was fascinated by history I "discovered" on my own - particularly English and Greco-Roman - but sort of ignored the history of my own country, because school had pretty much killed any interest I had in it.

That started to change about 20 years ago,  and I've been basically rediscovering the history of the United States bit by bit since then.  Coates has been a wonderful, invaluable resource for me, and I'd love to turn as many people as I can onto him.

So:  Go here:  http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2010/06/ulysses-grant-trouble-man/57735/

Start with his essay on U.S. Grant.  Then go back and read his Confederate History Month essays.  They will absolutely blow you away.

White Collar Review from the bowels of a machine translator
Air guitar kitty
... at least, I think that's what this is:  something the writer ran through a machine translation to Japanese and then ran the automated Japanese translation back to English.

You tell me:

Watch White Collar Free Season 1
By: Dylan Wilder's Articles"

Soul Cop is a USA Textile crime comedy-drama receiver program created by Jeff Eastin, starring Matt Bomer as con-man Neal Caffrey and Tim DeKay as Primary Medicament Apostle Statesman. It premiered on October 23, 2009.

In Dec, 2009 Colorless Collar was renewed for a wares season origin in season 2010; USA Meshing did not foretell the identify of episodes consecutive.

Neal Caffrey is a con-man who was captured after a three-year courageous of cat and pussyfoot. With quartet months tract patch serving a four-year time, he escapes from a peak precaution yank situation to happen Kate, his ex-girlfriend. Saint Rhetorician, the FBI bourgeois who initially captured Caffrey, catches him again. This clip, Caffrey gives Burke accumulation most evidence in another occurrence; still, this content comes with a damage: Burke moldiness somebody a assembly with Caffrey. At this assembly, Caffrey proposes a dealing: he leave provide Speechifier grab different criminals as line of a work-release person restraint criminals, Caffrey has proven to Statesman that he will support him, and that he will not try to dodging again. This begins an spacy but roaring partnership.

Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer): Neal Caffrey is a delicate counterfeiter and thief who was imprisoned after existence captured by FBI Businessperson Peter Statesman. After his lover visits him in slammer and ends their relationship, Neal escapes from situation in request to undergo her, but Saint speedily recaptures him in their now-empty lodging. Punt in situation, Neal proposes he beautify an FBI consultant, but Peter declines, then changes his watch, stellar to Neal's free with an ankle jewellery monitoring his movements. Neal uses his new billet with the FBI to investigate for Kate, whom he believes is in disoblige.

Specific Broker Apostle Solon (Tim DeKay): Official Apostle Rhetorician is brilliant at what he does due to his knack for feat into the deplorable intellect. He apprehends Caffrey and, in travel for Caffrey helping him on a effortful framework, he after has him released to assist him in transmissible white-collar criminals. Apostle must reserve Neal on a scam restraint as vessel as play sure Neal doesn't stalk into his old construction.

Elizabeth Burke (Tiffani Thiessen): An circumstance somebody and the spouse of Saint Burke. She is auxiliary and understanding of his touch and elongate hours gone. An levelheaded japanese herself, Elizabeth is competent to address Apostle's cases with him, and at present makes a pregnant gift to them. She has, on chance, been shown to be corroboratory of Neal and consenting to center to his ideas as intimately as reprimanding him for accomplishment to his old ways.

Mozzie (Willie Garson): A con-man himself, Mozzie, often called Moz, is Neal's person, informant and confidante. He helps Neal in a show of slipway, supplying substance, analyzing grounds and impersonating different law enforcement agents. Mozzie is the only otherwise organism who knows the intact tale of Kate's afoot state and the clues leading to her. He appears to be a diddlyshit of all trades and performs a show of tasks for Neal.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com

When LJ idols reveal clay feet
Air guitar kitty
Something happened yesterday that really brought me down:  I got into an lj fight with someone I used to have a great deal of affection and respect for.  It was awful.  The other person turned out to be... not the kind of person I thought she was.  

The fight started over slash fiction.  John Scalzi, a well known, award-winning SF writer, is holding a fan-fiction writing contest based on a very funny painting showing him as an orc, being menaced by Wil Wheaton who is riding a flying kitten with a unicorn horn, brandishing a sword, and wearing The Infamous Clown Sweater.   Anyone can join the fun and write a story based on that painting.  The only restriction is to please not write slash.

Scalzi and Wheaton are real life friends who are probably squicked by the idea of being written into a relationship that, well, personal - particularly since both are married (and, no, not to each other!), so that seemed like a reasonable request to me. 

It did not seem like a reasonable request to Ex-Friend, who immediately got up on her More Progressive Than Thou high horse and accused Scalzi and Wheaton of being homophobes.  It never crossed her mind that one doesn't need to be a homophobe to not want to be the starring player in slash.  I, for example, am heterosexual - and I would be equal parts mortified and enraged if anyone wrote heterosexual porn about me. Writing porn starring real people is so horrendously rude and intrusive and violating that it absolutely boggled my mind anyone could think a natural, politely-expressed request to NOT DO SO was an affront of some kind.

I tried to say as much in a comment at her lj.   I tried to say as much in as non-inflammatory a manner as possible. 

And promptly got flamed.  She accused me of being homophobic, no less; and told me that my homophobia was "unconscious" - a charge against which there is, of course, no possible defense.  Once someone has decided they can read your innermost thoughts, no amount of expressing outermost thoughts will convince them they're wrong. 

I was gobsmacked.  This was a person I liked!  respected!  I had been commenting on her lj for years- always saying nice things, always complimenting her writing, and offering solace on the many occasions she needed it.  Having her lash out at me, call me names, ridicule my opinion, and accuse me of bigotry was like.... it was like find out Mr. Spock was a segregationist, or the doctor you grew up going to was arrested for drug dealing.  That kind of shock and disillusionment.

Well, I got pretty angry then myself.  And responded... somewhat in kind.  Didn't accuse her of being anything but an ass.  Considering the charges she was leveling at me, I'd consider that pretty low key.  I picked apart the more egregious nonsense point by point...

... and couldn't post it.  She'd frozen her comment so it couldn't be responded to.

At that point, I was beyond shock and just plain pissed off.  Freezing the comment so I couldn't reply to it?  That's pure cowardice.  You can't win the debate on points so you clap your hands over your ears and go LA LA LA I WON'T LISTEN TO YOU NYA NYA NYA I WIN?  Bullshit.

I posted the comment as a new comment, rather than as a reply - and added a line calling her out for being such a chicken (without using the word chicken).

She then posted some cockamamie argumentation pyramid - and froze the entire entry.  Neener neener indeed!

And her commentariat rose to her defense, giving me a glimpse of LJ sycophancy that was also depressing to see.  One of her commenters came over here - to jeer, no doubt, and was probably a bit nonplussed to see I rarely post here, so there was no one to jeer at.  I know she came here because she said so at Ex-Friend's LJ; very pleased with herself for having done so, and saying she had to sit on her hands to keep from commenting on the cross-breeding entry.  Which makes, of course, no sense at all:  the entry is, SFAIK, scientifically accurate and the parts not referencing actual science are my personal opinion that Star Trek plays awfully fast and loose with interspecies genetics.  If she had something to say, why the devil didn't she say it?  Well, I know why:  she didn't actually have anything to say; she likely didn't understand what the essay was about, and didn't want to betray her own ignorance by making a snarky ass comment that anyone who knows anything about biology would know was nonsense.  But, oh, she had to go back and make herself look good!  So she got in her little dig...

Losing the LJ friend was bad enough.  Being on the receiving end of her Harpy Chorus was... the rancid cherry on the rotten milk sundae.

Now, if you'll excuse me:  I've got RL stuff to attend to.  Just wanted to vent.

If u r dead, u cn gt a grt jb in cust svc
Air guitar kitty
Great moments in recruiting:  The company shall be nameless, since I don't want to embarrass them, but someone should have run a Spellcheck before hitting "post"  for this want ad on craiglist:

looking for exited people!!!! - <<customer service

So, the question is, what product or service, exactly, are they offering that appeals to "exited" (i.e., dead) people? 

Or, alternatively, have they decided that dead people make great customer service reps because, presumably, they're very very patient (and their feelings can't be hurt)?

Searching for a ST fanfic challenge
Air guitar kitty
A week or so ago, one of the zillions of LJs I found one hosting a new fic challenge:  rewrite all the TOS episodes from the perspective of the AOS's altered milieu and characters.   Now I can't find that LJ.  I don't want to write, but I sure do want to read.  Does anyone out there know who issued that challenge, and where I can find it?

Trekverse Crossbreeding
Air guitar kitty
A subject that has driven me a little nuts for a long time is the cross-species breeding in Star Trek. 

it drives me a little nuts for a couple reasons.

The first reason is:  cross-species reproduction isn't easy, automatic, or a matter of two people gettin' it on.  In fact, it isn't even possible.  Different species cannot make babies together without a lot of serious, detailed, and ongoing bioengineering intervention.  (Diane Duane is, I think, the only Trek novel writer who actually went into some detail about this, talking about the bioengineering of Spock).  It therefore follows that there can't be any unplanned, accidental, surprise pregnancies.  Uhura cannot miss a period and go OMG!  I'm preggers!  What'll we do! (in fact, I can't see any circumstance in which Uhura gets pregnant at all, since she's on active duty a few hundred light years out in deep space on a ship devoted to exploration and military patrol - but that's another issue).  In fact, since - so far as we know now - hybrids tend to be sterile, Uhura can't get pregnant at all by Spock, even if they want to, even if they plan to... unless, of course, the problem of "mulism" has also been resolved by the 22nd or 23rd Century.

The other reason is, people who can interbreed with other species at the seeming drop of a hat would not also, still, go around thinking in terms of alien or 'other,' anymore than we, here, today still think of other ethnicities or races as the alien 'other.'  (I'm very well aware there are still bigots who do in fact think that way.  But I refuse to let them define or frame this issue.)  In other words, the ease and mundanity of cross-species offspring argues a concomitant ease and mundanity of cross-species contact, familiarity, and acceptance.

So in order for there to be half-Vulcans, half-Betazeds, half-Romulans, half-Klingons, and half-every-damn-species-in-the-galaxy, a few things have to be true:

1.  Everyone's genome has been mapped - every species, and every individual.  Genetic mapping has to be as routine as annual checkups - or at least as routinely available as, say, physical therapy.
2.  All genomes can be mixed and matched - bioengineered, in other words - at reasonable cost.
3.  OB/GYN for mixed-species pregnancies is also routine, reasonable, and readily available. 
4. Ongoing medical care specializing in hybrids has also got to be, if not as routine and available as the OB/GYN, then pretty nearly so.  Geriatrics, internal medicine, neurology... medical practitioners specializing in hybrid practice has got to be one hell of a growth industry in Starfleet.
4A.  This includes the issue mentioned above:  hybrid bioengineering has solved the mule problem, and hybrids are as fertile as they want to be.
5. Bigotry is, if not dead, then about as socially acceptable as parent-child incest - at least, in such cosmopolitan settings as Starfleet, the Federation, and most if not all of its member planets.  Why?  Because if Nos. 1-3 are true, then hybridization has to have been around for a really long time, has to be ubiquitous and has to have been that way for a while - otherwise, the capacity for just-about-anyone to have a cross-species baby would simply not exist.

I want to make it plain, if by any chance it isn't already so, that I LOVE hybrids; approve and applaud the whole idea, with so much fervor that one of my dream jobs would in fact be one of those hybrid-specialist medical practitioners mentioned in No. 4.  I can think of few more interesting or rewarding tasks than seeing a hybrid's life processes happen, than tailoring a medical history and medical care unique to that individual.  It would be fascinating; it would be awe-inspiring... and it would, glory be, finally put speciesism (and racism, sexism, and all the other bigoted "isms" behind us)

Chirp! (But a very artistic and enthusiastic chirp, mind you!)
Air guitar kitty
Another day, another quiz:

You are Woodstock!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Not exactly a surprise, this
Air guitar kitty
You Should Get a PhD in Liberal Arts (like political science, literature, or philosophy)

You're a great thinker and a true philosopher.
You'd make a talented professor or writer.