Walking Dead, You’re Dead To Me

25 10 2016

Well I said I would tune in for season 7, despite how the season 6 finale left me feeling bullied and scammed. Thankfully, however, I read this recap of the season 7 premiere, saving me the worthless agony of sitting through it. I see no reason to believe the rest of season 7 will improve things. Clearly the show is just cheap shock torture porn now. I find such stuff repulsive. I will have nothing to do with it.

It’s too bad the show became terrible before it became over. Became a shambling lifeless shell of it’s former self even, if I may belabor a metaphor. Actually the show is less a directionless zombie, and more the cynical sociopath that ruins Rick and co.’s lives every 6 episodes or so. OK for you The Walking Dead, but I’ve got no time for the Neegans of this or any other world.

We’ve Got a Big Problem

8 10 2016

It’s starting to look like Trump is done. Not that anyone should relax their vigilance– Frith knows anything can happen in the next month– but the leaked audio of Trump and Bush seems to have caused a real shift in the campaign. So we probably won’t have to deal with the national shame of Trump in the White House…but every other threat he represents will remain undiminished when Hillary Clinton is sworn in. Trump himself may go away (he won’t; I shudder to think what his next step might be) but he’s not the problem. The real problems are many and complicated, and we have to deal with them.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. But we have to take a hard look and try to understand what brought us here. Here are some things to consider, in no particular order.

  1. the left behind. I’m as guilty as anyone of passing judgement on Trump’s supporters, but the fact is, there are real grievances behind the urge to blow up the whole system with a wild card outsider. We used to have a job market in which a high school graduate could comfortably support a family. For a lot of reasons, that’s not the case anymore. Employers have been racing to the bottom for decades, and they’ve reached that finish line, and tunneled ever deeper. It shouldn’t be so hard to earn a decent living.
  2. education/information/media. Trump is a buffoon with no political skills whatsoever. And he secured a major party nomination, and briefly polled at close to 50%. What if, as well as a narcissist and sociopath, he had been the least bit charming? What if he had a modicum of self control? Because that person exists. That person is in an elected office right now. And Trump has just published the cheat codes for the presidential campaign. We need to immunize our population against that up and coming demagogue right now. We need to find a way to get past toxic anti-intellectualism, resistance to facts, contempt for experts. I don’t know how we do that. It’s a big job. I think it involves changing the culture of public education, changing how we receive and disseminate information, changing how the media defines and upholds objectivity.
  3. the Republican party. My Republican friends, I understand you live by certain principles that cause you to vote Republican, or maybe just oppose Democrats. That’s great. That’s the whole point of democracy– one of us doesn’t decide what happens. Instead we all discuss, and try to find a compromise. I’m down with that. But as an institution, the Republican party has utterly failed this country. Elevating a jackass like Trump to a contender for the presidency was nothing but cowardice and raw cynicism. It can’t go unpunished. We can’t set a precedent that such abject sycophancy is ok. Our leaders must, at bare minimum, stand up for human decency. Failing that, they must be thrown out.
  4. the Democratic party. For the reasons stated above, I dearly hope that this election torpedoes Republican majorities in Congress as well as putting Hillary in the Oval Office. But I don’t relish the idea of one party being in charge–again, see above, the whole point of democracy. And without question, the Democratic party has it’s share of corruption and failure. We need to hold their feet to the fire, especially if the main opposition party loses it’s teeth.
  5. electoral reform. Basically it’a an open secret that our elected officials don’t represent us anymore. There are ways we could address this. Unfortunately they mostly involve those in power jeopardizing their own power. Still, there are clear steps we could take; use ranked choice voting, reassess the electoral college, undo gerrymandering, increase voter access instead of restricting it, increase access for third, fourth and fifth parties, repeal Citizens United, and so on.
  6. civil rights for real. Women are assaulted every day. Minorities are murdered every day. Women are paid less, minorities are hired less. Yeah yeah, white men get murdered too. But bigotry is real, and deep, and wide. It’s disgusting. It’s inexcusable in this day and age. It’s time to wipe it out.
  7. polarization. We don’t have two major political parties, we have two tribes. Tribal affiliation has become more important than truth. This was Donald Trump’s tool. He seized the levers on the right. The next demagogue might just as easily seize the levers on the left. We need to become one country, before we are no country at all.

Sneak Previews with Skorpen and Skorpen

9 09 2016

Note: since I seem to have worked myself into a perfect rage/shame paralysis over everything that matters, I’m going back to blogging about things that don’t matter, as if they do.

Wyatt and I have made extensive studies of children’s television. We put in the hours, and now we are the experts. Despite our often sharply divided opinions, we present here our combined ranking of shows, from worst to best.

Super Why

Wyatt: Cartoons! Plus the main guy’s name is Wyatt! 👍👍👍👍

Neal: From the way they toss around the “super” prefix, it’s obvious the creators have never read a comic in their lives. 😡😡😡😡

Curious George

Wyatt: Cartoons! Antics! Squeaky babbling! 👍👍👍👍

Neal: Monkeys have tails. George is clearly a chimpanzee. Stop calling him a monkey! 😡😡😡🎓

Thomas and Friends

Wyatt: Cartoons! Trains! Thomas! 👍👍👍👍

Neal: Sir Toppemhat. Top EM hat?? What the £*<# is that?! It makes my teeth curl every time I hear it. 😡😡😡😁

Dinosaur Train 

Wyatt: Cartoons! Trains! Dinosaurs! 👍👍👍👍

Neal: Who designed that train? Willy Wonka’s meth-head uncle? 😡😡😲😺

Ready, Jet, Go! 

Wyatt: Cartoons! Space! Amy Mainzer! 👍👍👍👍

Neal: Mindy stays home and plays in the sandbox, while all her friends blast off into space, and she’s fine with it? That’s just not believable. 😡🤔🤔😡


Wyatt: Cartoons! Animals! Emotions! 👍👍👍👍

Neal: Drawing broken lines for the sake of broken lines? No thank you. 〰〰〰😡

Nature Cat

Wyatt: Cartoons! Animals! Kate Micucci! 👍👍👍👍

Neal: What’s the deal with Hal’s nose? 👃❓❓😡

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Wyatt: Daniel Tiger!!! 👍👍👍👍

Neal: Avoid episode 108 at all costs. ☣🙈🚫☢

Sesame Street

Wyatt: Muppets! Songs! Elmo! 👍👍👍👍

Neal: I feel old. 👴🏻👴🏻👴🏻👴🏻

Wild Kratts

Wyatt: Cartoons! Animals! Mild peril! 👍👍👍👍

Neal: Howcome those guys get youthful cartoon versions of themselves? 👴🏻💥➡️👱🏻

Odd Squad

Wyatt: Kids! Wackiness! Problem solving! 👍👍👍👍

Neal: I legitimately enjoy this show. 😊😊😊😳

Peg + Cat

Wyatt: Cartoons! Musical numbers! Number numbers! 👍👍👍👍

Neal: As a sometime professional animator, I can unequivocally state that Peg + Cat is the winner. 🎓🎓🎓🏆

Trump’s Intentions Don’t Matter

10 08 2016

So now Trump has said only “second amendment people” can do anything about Hillary Clinton. His camp says he was merely referring to their power as a motivated voting block. I certainly don’t buy that. Neither do I think he was actively calling for an assassination. I think the phrase just came into his head, and he thought it would be fun to say to a crowd. Trump doesn’t have intentions like a fully conscious human being; he’s just a guy with no filter who craves attention.

Ultimately though, Trump’s intentions, or lack thereof, don’t matter. The effects of his words matter. In a population as large as ours, in our current political climate, it is a statistical certainty that some unstable people will hear his words and take it upon themselves to gun down Clinton, and/or her supporters. 

Last November in Minneapolis, some hooligans shot into a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters. They reportedly called out “Trump 2016.” This was back when Trump was battling more than a dozen candidates for the nomination, before the press thought he would still even be a candidate in January. Now, despite all the prevarications of Ryan and McConnel, Trump and his antics have the tacit endorsement of half of our political landscape.

This is a campaign that was literally about penis size in its early days. The only thing surprising about Trump’s “second amendment people” comment is that it took this long to happen. This time his rhetorical vomit will lead to bloodshed. Count on it.

Arguing with Myself Vol. 25B-XXI

29 07 2016

Since the death of Philando Castile and the shooting of Charles Kinsey, all my posts seem petty and stupid. I’m outraged over gun violence because it’s turned formerly safe places into danger zones. But some people have no safe places. Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and all the rest are tragic atrocities, but Castile and Kinsey finally made the reality clear for me. Those two did everything they could to defuse situations which shouldn’t have been tense in the first place, and they still got shot.

I have some good friends who are cops. I like and respect and admire them. I know their courage and integrity represent the majority of officers. I know they are up against some awful shit and deserve our support. But institutional racism is real. We have to do better.

Walking around without fear of getting shot is a privilege that everyone is entitled to.

Reinvention of Self (blue pill version)

4 07 2016

matrixPillsBlueHere’s a funny thought: on a typical day in real life, I interact with a dozen people at most. On Facebook, I’m having conversations with several hundred people. So which identity has more legitimacy?

More to the point: let’s say I wanted to reinvent myself. (I could go into just what that means and why it’s attractive but I’ll skip that part for now.) In real life, I’d have to keep a constant vigilance over my own unconscious tendencies in order to change my behavior. With social media, I can take the time to edit my behavior before releasing it into the universe. It wold take some effort to craft and maintain my ideal identity online, but it seems a much easier prospect than wrangling my natural failings in realtime.

If you tell me that my real-life self is the inherent real me in a way that my online self can never be, I won’t argue. But as The Fixx said, It’s not what we are, it’s what we do. If I’m interacting with 20-30 times more people online, isn’t my online self the one with the greater impact? Isn’t it reasonable to measure ourselves by our affect on others, rather than some philosophical construct of self?

I suppose it’s likely that my little online missives have a very small impact on a lot of people, while my real life behavior has a larger impact on those close to me. But maybe, if I work long and hard to make my online self into my ideal, those habits and behaviors will spill over into my real life.

Seems like it’s worth a shot.

Arguing With Myself About Guns, Part CMXVII

29 06 2016

This post is for my peace of mind. I have no reason to believe it will change anyone’s thinking, or even be read by anyone who disagrees with me. But I need to get to a place where merely raising the issue of guns doesn’t make me crazy. So I want to address a couple of the more reasonable pro-gun arguments I’ve run across, and clarify my own thoughts about what should be done.

Style Matters

The AR-15 is hugely popular with gun owners, due to its flexibility and capacity for customization. Mechanically it is virtually identical to some hunting rifles. Gun owners have argued that the AR-15’s military styling is just a shell, with no real bearing on it’s lethality, and therefore a ban on the AR-15 makes no sense.

But why do people go on shooting rampages?  Going on a massacre is not logical. It is emotional. It is dramatic. Shooters are using the most shocking means available to address their personal pain. I submit to you that the military styling of the rifle adds to the power of the gesture in the shooter’s mind. If he only had access to a wooden stock hunting rifle, he might not bother.

I realize I’m dealing in fuzzy psychological hypotheticals. But given the stakes (mass murder, prevention of), is the role of symbols in an unstable mind less compelling than the right to pursue a hobby? Everybody likes the AR-15. Arguments against banning it are reasonable, but boil down to the defense of a sophisticated toy. Most gun enthusiasts won’t be pushed into irrational homicide by the gun’s action movie aesthetics… but a handful will. Which leads me to:

Numbers Matter, but Lives Matter More

It is undeniably true that the vast majority of gun owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens. This article from the Guardian (which I found very helpful in humanizing the other side) has the numbers:

Set 30,000 gun deaths, or even 500,000 gun victimizations, against 300 million. As incomplete and imprecise as much gun data is, the bigger picture is clear: most guns are not being used in crimes. Most gun owners are not committing crimes.

I can’t argue with that. But I do argue with the conclusion that onerous gun regulations would unfairly victimize all those responsible gun owners.

Our world is different than it used to be. A mass shooting of random people was unthinkable at one time. Now they happen several times a day in America. Relative to all the daily occurrences in the country they are still rare, but so what? Any workplace, any public place, any school is a potential target. We shouldn’t have to live like that. Not just so that hobbyists can bolster their collections.

I’m sorry for being derisive. There are legitimate reasons for owning guns. There is nothing wrong with enjoying guns. But guns are dangerous. That’s the whole point. It should be hard to acquire them. There should be requirements for keeping them. There should be limits on what is available. This Texas gun owner gets it, believe him if you don’t believe me.

Responsible gun owners get training, get training for their families, keep their weapons secure, and know their weapons well. Their efforts should be honored. No one who is willing to do less should be allowed to own, buy, or fire guns.

What To Do

Some things we can do relatively easily that will make a big difference:

  • Ban magazines bigger than 10 rounds.
  • Enact universal mandatory background checks for all gun sales. Yes, this means you can’t sell your old hunting rifle to your cousin, like you could a car. The model of cars, car insurance, and driver’s licenses is often cited as instructive for gun practices. It’s not a perfect analog, but it’s a good model. I think the prescription drug model is equally instructive. You can’t sell your cousin your leftover Vicodin either.
  • Ban online gun sales. Require presentation of ID in person to buy a gun. Yes, some criminal masterminds can work around this. The point is to make it harder. As I’ve said before, mass shooters are not criminal masterminds. Most of them rely on easily acquired weapons. We must take steps to erase the gray market.
  • Severely restrict open carrying. There is no reason to carry a rifle into Starbucks. Laws can be crafted to make threatening carriers subject to immediate arrest, while allowing hunters and target shooters to transport their guns as they will.

What we should not do, at least not right away, is tie gun ownership to terrorist watch lists. It sounds like a good idea, but currently our watch lists and no-fly lists are highly problematic. We need to refine our law enforcement and national security mechanisms beyond racial profiling. We would be better served by scrapping the next round of new fighter jets and putting the money into training and development of human beings to understand, locate, and assess other human beings.

That brings up big picture items. Guns are not the only piece of the problem, and we need to address deeper root causes if our lives are ever going to be secure. But that’s another post. This one has served it’s purpose. Thanks for reading.