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Warped at childhood (in a good way)
You know that Fantasia was a major childhood influence when you listen to Dance of the Hours, and realize that you just plain *can't* hear it without envisioning the cartoon -- the connection is hardwired.  I am still in awe at how perfectly the imagery worked with the music...

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I was in the stands for one of the great comebacks by the Red Sox.  (Down by 5 in the ninth, led off by Big Papi, which led to my Sox motto, "It's not over until the fat guy swings".  It *felt* like the moment when the Sox finally started to turn things around.)

I remember the Snow Bowl, with the magic final-second kick, while we were all snowed in at Arisia.

I accidentally turned on Wimbledon for the Nadal/Federer finals in 2008, where you could just *feel* that this was one of the most perfect tennis games ever.

That may have topped all of them.  Holy crap...

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And at half time...
In an upset against perennial favorites Cars and Beer, the runaway lead was claimed by Household Goods, with a surprise touchdown from Tide followed by a fine defensive pay by Febreze.

Specifically, it's amusing how few ads manage to be well-written, appropriate to the setting, *and* actually have something to do with the product; most of the funny ads fail on the third point.

On the plus side, I am encouraged that the companies did not back down from their usual pro-international viewpoint.  Particular points to 84 Lumber, of all people, for coming closest to saying, "Fuck your wall" with a sentimental but well-done pro-immigrant ad; I'm actually tempted to go to their website and check out the rest.

(The football game? Oh, we're losing that. Nice halftime show, though.)

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Presidency Fatigue
Lots of people are terribly worried about "Resistance Fatigue", and there's some basis for that -- spending all day, every day for years worrying about the fight is a good way to mess with your head and just fall into eventual despair.  You have to learn your own capacity, and pace yourself accordingly, because this one's going to be a marathon.

But it occurs to me: we do know one person who famously has no patience and precious little discipline, sitting at the top of his gold-plated tower.

Can we help induce Presidency Fatigue in Trump?

Seriously: it's pretty clear that he didn't really understand what he was getting into, and I suspect it's all more of a pain in the ass than he expected.  He's used to being CEO of a company that he *owns*, not working with other people and making sensible compromises.  As far as I can tell, he's a bit overwhelmed and cranky already.  Tiredness and anger cause people to make stupid mistakes.

I'm being a bit flippant here, but only a bit.  I suspect that he isn't mentally prepared for ongoing resistance to everything he does, every day, for years.

So the details of each individual fight aside, the ongoing *act* of resistance may well be helpful.  We need to keep it non-violent, and not play into their damned "all those protesters are destroying the country" narrative.  But keeping up the pressure may well gradually break a man who is, I suspect, really fairly weak to begin with...

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On Punching Nazis
I've been mulling over the "punching Nazis" incident a couple of weeks ago, to understand how I think and feel about it.

Really, it's not a simple one. On the one hand, I can totally understand the visceral satisfaction of pasting one to the smarmy bad guys. OTOH, as many folks have pointed out, that doesn't make it right: the Nazi preaching his subtle hatred on the street is almost the textbook definition of why *really* believing in freedom of speech is challenging. That latter argument is pretty compelling to me.

But as I contemplated the rioting over Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley, I realized that there's a much simpler and in some ways more important argument here: at this stage of the game, letting yourself get provoked into violence is incredibly *stupid*, and wildly counter-productive.

Look -- Trump and his cronies are attempting to build a fascist state.  Their *primary* mechanism for doing so is preying upon the fears of Middle America: convincing them that Those Evil Liberals are selling out the country, are out to get them, and are full of Those Awful Terrorist Immigrants.  They have brilliantly built a narrative that Normal White People are *victims*.  Yes, it's bullshit -- but to people who in fear for their jobs, and have spent many years with the news telling them about every awful thing that might happen, it's compelling bullshit.  The Dangerous Other is *always* the go-to tool of the fascist dictator.

And when they can show scenes of terrible violence caused by "the Left", against Trump's talking heads, that is *gold* -- it plays directly into that "we're the victims and must protect ourselves" narrative.  Guaranteed, they'll be spinning that to explain why they just need to crack down a *little* bit.

(Of course, it is *such* gold, and *so* convenient, that I'm deeply suspicious of it -- I'd give better-than-even odds that Trump's own surrogates instigated the Berkeley riot.  But unless proof comes out, that suspicion isn't going to get very far in the news.)

Anyway, it's just an example, but it's a telling one.  This is why non-violent protest is so deathly important in any struggle for hearts and minds -- and make no mistake, so long as the US is still an actual democracy, that's what the struggle is.  We *must* not feed into their narrative -- if we're going to win this thing, we have to be conspicuously better than they are.

That does *not* mean being meek or weak: we should be loud, we should be clear, we should have our message in front of the country every day and every way.  But we should refrain from punching the Nazis, and settle for just telling them off...

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A Half Second
[Slight spoilers for Rogue One]

Kieron Gillen (my current favorite comics writer) has started a rambling blog-like-entity in the form of emails that go out now and then, Kieron Gillen's Word Mail. Today's installment isn't up in the archive yet, and the relevant bit is from the middle anyway, so I'm going to quote from his discussion of Rogue One directly. Hopefully he'll forgive me:
To that end, the ballooning of viewpoint characters becomes the point, those pilots as real as anyone else, the actors commitment to those fragments of time meaningful. And as we pull away from our cast, we come to the final scenes, with those nameless Rebellion troops being cut down by Vader, one by one. Look at the details as Vader looms out the dark. The half-lowering of the gun as each consider just not doing this.. and then raising as they decide they have no choice.

Any of them didn't slow down Vader for a half second, the Death Star survives. Any of them.

Which leaves me aware that's all we can do when facing fascism in the dark. We have no idea if what we do make a difference. But it may. You have to believe it may.
Yes. This.

We live in a society that encourages egotism, wanting to believe that we are going to Matter in some big, important way. That's human nature in general, but modern celebrity culture in particular leads to an internalized belief that everything is either Important in some huge way, or it doesn't matter. I've been seeing this a lot when talking with folks about the rising struggle -- I've hit the comment, "Yeah, but I can't *do* anything" several times, with an implied "I can't do anything Significant".

But I think Gillen is exactly right above. Most of us *aren't* going to be Luke or Leia -- we're not going to be one of the heroes on the marquee. But those heroes only get the critical shot through the help of countless other people, each of them giving that half second of help.

We're facing a rising tide of fascism worldwide, and it's scary as hell. But it is not on any *one* of us to stop that -- it's on all of us, working together, each doing our tiny bit.

Don't worry about hitting the Death Star -- it's not your responsibility. Just look for your own half seconds, and remember that they *do* matter...

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Uber vs. Lyft?
h/t to [personal profile] drwex for pointing out this article.  (tl;dr: when taxi drivers held a strike to protest Trump's policies, Uber went and dropped their prices to fill in the void.)

On the one hand, I wouldn't necessarily condemn Uber if it was *just* this incident, and I'm enough of a businessman to sympathize with the desire to grab market share when there's an opportunity.  That said, Uber has shown an exceptional degree of anti-social bull-headedness even by the standards of corporate America -- they've consistently been assholes at the corporate level -- and their CEO joined one of Trump's advisory boards, which doesn't exactly endear them to me.

And on top of that, Lyft (their biggest competitor) is apparently responding by donating a million bucks to the ACLU.

It's time to start making clear to corporate America that we *are* paying attention, and we *are* going to punish them where it counts -- in the balance sheet.  The right wing has been using this tactic pretty effectively over the years, and we should be playing the game, hard.  So I think I'm likely to join the #deleteuber movement.

Which brings us to the question: I haven't used Lyft.  Is there *any* reason not to just delete the Uber app and switch?

(NB: I actually still use old-fashioned taxis a fair amount, in part because I sympathize with the poor bastards who spent a fortune on a medallion whose value has crashed.  Green/Yellow Cab is doing a fair job of being somewhat competitive, and I commend their app to folks who live in this neck of the woods.  But in some circumstances the modern ride-hailing services are just more convenient, as well as usually cheaper, and I don't really have any principled objection to them...)

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[Yes, I'm a bit distracted by politics today.]

Thanks to a comment in [personal profile] siderea's DW, I call your attention to Presterity, which looks likely to be a very important site for managing the current mess.

The site looks to be a really good shot at something I've been thinking we need: a well-curated site that ingests and organizes information about the Trump administration and what's going on.  There is such a torrent of craziness happening that keeping things straight is hard.  So they've set up a system whereby anyone can submit news as it's happening, and this then gets sent to the volunteer curators to analyze and organize it, so that everyone has to-hand a clear account of each topic.

This is an important project -- if they were accepting money, I'd toss them fifty bucks towards expenses in a heartbeat.  I might well volunteer as a curator, but first I'm going to read into it, and get myself set up to be able to submit articles.  We're in the middle of an information war, and this is an important defense shield.

Check it out...

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Just had the @RoguePOTUSStaff Twitter account pointed out to me.  This has apparently brewed up in the past few days -- it claims to be White House insiders who have had enough and are going to just leak away.  I don't know whether it's real or not, but it's impressively *plausible*, including being just paranoid enough to have the ring of truth.

It's kind of fascinatingly fun, and weirdly encouraging: it paints a White House that is *completely* in disarray, and trying desperately not to fly apart at the seams in factional warfare.  (They've coined the hashtag #UnholyTrinity for the alliance of Pence, Ryan and Priebus, who appear to be more or less at war with Bannon.)  And it links to a whole nest of related "insider" accounts that purport to be at various government agencies.  Check it out.

We'll see if it proves to be real.  But it's a nice reminder that the social-media game cuts both ways, and the good guys can use it just as effectively as the bad...

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The Gulenist Game
I've been pondering Trump's travel ban on Muslims entering the US.  (Which may or may not be wildly unconstitutional, but is at best screamingly inhumane.)

On the one hand, it's straight out of Dictatorship 101: choose a minority who are already distrusted by some of the populace, and systematically "other" them.  Pick up the pitchforks and start leading the mob against them.  It whips up patriotic fervor, and distracts people from the way that you're stripping them of their freedoms.

That said, this *particular* variation is starting to have a specifically familiar theme.  I've mainly been thinking about how Trump has been taking his style from Putin's Russia (in particular, the high-handed abuse of the press), but this one is reminding me of another successful neo-dictatorship: Turkey.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's dictator (yes, he's elected, but by this point I consider that a detail -- so are many dictators), spent several years building up a gigantic boogeyman in the form of the Gulenists, an Islamist movement founded by Fethullah Gulen, a cleric currently living in the US.  Gulen was originally an ally of Erdogan, but after they parted ways a few years ago, Erdogan began to blame the Gulenists for everything wrong with Turkey, making them out to be a terrifying conspiracy out to destroy the country.

Of course, last year there *was* a coup attempt, and Erdogan wasted no time blaming the Gulenists for the whole thing, possibly far moreso than was warranted.  He has spent the time since then purging all areas of the state of all Gulenists *and* anybody else who disagrees with him, on the grounds that there is a massive conspiracy that he must root out.  And having survived the coup, he's doing this with considerable popular support.  Frankly, it's a masterclass in not wasting a good crisis.

The talking heads today are mostly focused on how idiotic the travel ban is -- that it's just going to convince much of the Muslim world that the US really *is* against them, that we *do* want to go to war on them, and that IS is the only group that is going to defend them.  All of which is true, and the obvious (and possibly correct) response is that Trump is simply a moron.

But consider: what if that's the whole point?  The travel ban is likely to cause more terrorist attacks on the US, with a causation that is obvious if you *think* about it, but indirect enough that Trump can claim it isn't his fault.  And when there *are* attacks, Trump has the excuse he's looking for to clamp down on civil liberties and attack his foes in the public sphere as being "weak on security".

Mind, I don't think Trump is anywhere near Machiavellian enough (or at least, disciplined enough) for a scheme like this.  But as far as I can tell, Bannon totally is -- and Bannon's just been placed on the National Security Council, replacing the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.  (Yes, really -- this happened yesterday.)  Bannon is, quite literally, calling the shots on national security, and this feels like exactly the sort of thing he'd do to interpret "national security" as being his own personal, lifelong job security.

Many of us spent eight years saying that the *main* problem wasn't George W Bush, it was Dick Cheney.  It's looking to me like that is true in *spades* of Steve Bannon.  I increasingly suspect that Trump is mostly a clumsy and bullying loudmouth on his own, but Bannon is malign and smart enough to be even more dangerous.  I dearly hope folks are digging deep for dirt on him -- he needs to become a major embarrassment to Trump, soon, before he has a chance to entirely unwind the United States...

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 Quick question for folks around Somerville: Kate's having some neck issues, and would like to talk to a chiropractor, ideally within walking distance of us.  (In the general range delineated by Davis, Porter, Ball and Magoun Squares.)  Anyone have any current recommendations or disrecommendations?

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Seeding the Anti-Meme Meme
I'm gradually watching my way through Stargate: Atlantis (which I hadn't watched in its original run).  Today was the episode where everyone in the city loses their memory, and havoc predictably results.  What is it named?

Tabula Rasa, of course.

Okay, yes, we didn't invent the idea (I originally got it from the ST:TNG episode Conundrum).  And yes, it's probably parallel evolution.  But I strongly suspect this was inspired by the Buffy episode of the same name, and there's still a little part of me that wonders if Joss Whedon heard about our game 20-odd years ago and said, "Hey!  That would make a cool episode"...

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And another feed ported to DW
 Autumn Care and Crossings -- Dr. Becky's professional veterinary blog

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Best New Television, Part II
On the flip side, there's the show I *wasn't* expecting to love: The Good Place.

It starts off looking like they've set up basically a weird sitcom.  Our protagonist, Eleanor (Kristin Bell), wakes up one morning to find that she is dead, and is now in The Good Place.  Only the very best people (chosen by a terribly scientific algorithm) get into The Good Place; everybody else goes to The Bad Place, which you wouldn't want.  And The Good Place is so terribly *nice*.  They serve all your favorite flavors of frozen yogurt.  Everybody is there with their assigned (and perfectly selected) soulmate.  It isn't heaven per se, but it's lovely.

There's only one problem: Eleanor doesn't belong here.  She was really a fairly mediocre person in life: not evil per se, but utterly self-absorbed for nearly her entire life.  She's a fish out of water, and things are going wrong as a result.

Like I said, an obvious sitcom, right?

Except that it isn't.  Quite unexpectedly, The Good Place is *also* structured as a novel, and they make no bones about it.  Each episode is numbered, not named, and they follow hard upon one another, often starting seconds after the previous.  To my considerable surprise, it's structured as tightly as any thriller.

Mind, it's *not* a thriller -- it's a comedy, and an unusually funny one for modern network TV.  Bell turns out to have better comic timing than I would have given her credit for, and the cast play off against each other brilliantly.  There isn't a lot of depth here -- the show is painting in broad strokes -- but episode by episode you start to really like all of our characters.

Mostly, though, this is a ride through the unexpected.  It is *so* rare for me to watch a show any more and constantly be going, "I have no forking idea where this is going next", but that's the case throughout the first season.  Every episode is full of jaw-dropping WTFery, while still kind of making sense within the scenario's demented logic.

I won't say that it's at the same level of once-in-a-decade brilliance as Westworld.  But it doesn't cost an HBO subscription, and it is a *heck* of a lot more fun.  Check it out...

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Best New Television, part 1
While I think of it, a couple of reviews.  The most recent television season included two new genre (more or less) TV shows that were both brilliant and yet *wildly* different from each other.  In the modern TV environment, only a fraction of my friends have seen each, so it's worth talking them up.

Let's start with the obvious one: Westworld.  I'm not going to mince words here: it's the best new science fiction in ages -- best in the past decade that I can remember.  We'll see whether it lives up to the comparison, but the last time I was this jazzed about a series was Babylon 5.  And that's not an idle comparison: I've heard that this is going to be a five-year novel in the same way, and the pacing supports that.

In case anyone hasn't heard the premise: Westworld is vaguely a remake (but mostly just inspired by) an old SF movie about a theme park with robots run amok.  And that's kind of what's going on here, but it is *so* much more -- not least, in that the Hosts (the robots) might yet turn out to be the good guys.  At least, by comparison.

Mind, this story isn't light and fun.  One of the execs is Jonathan Nolan, who was behind Person of Interest (which I would previously have dubbed the best show of recent years), and he's exploring somewhat similar themes, but with HBO's budget and standards.  So whereas PoI got a bit grim sometimes, this one gets downright DarkityDarkDark.

The thing is, though, it doesn't just get dark the way you expect.  Yes, there's a good deal of violence and a modicum of sex.  But there isn't nearly as much sex as nudity, and the nudity gets downright disturbing -- it's used as a narrative tool, to show the way that the humans think of the hosts as *things*, not as people.  And even that only begins to set the stage for where the story winds up going, exploring concepts of sentience and free will very deeply, very honestly, and bone-chillingly.  This may be the first TV show since The Twilight Zone that manages to be fundamentally creepy through its exploration of existential questions.

Pretty much everything hangs together here.  The writing is tight (although I will warn that you need to be prepared for quite a bit of, "not all is as it seems"), the direction is solid, the effects are fabulous, and the acting ranges from solidly good to marvelous.  (I am a confirmed member of Team Maeve by now.)

Most importantly, the *structure* is delicious.  This feels like a novel, not a serial: deep, incredibly intricate, and finely woven together.  I'm fairly sure that Season 1 is just giving us the surface of the story -- there are ample indications that there is far more to this world, and I would bet we're going to see a lot more of it as the epic progresses.

We'll see if they can continue as well as they've started; I'm praying we don't get another Galactica at the end.  But this was the best first season I've seen of anything, period, and Nolan has demonstrated that he can finish strong.  This may turn out to be one of the all-time greats, and it is well worth seeking out.

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Feeds you might be interested in
My lady asked me to track down some feeds she'd been reading on LJ.  I found some and wound up creating a few of them, and suspect that other friends might be interested, particularly in:

The East Kingdom Gazette


What If?


Note that not all of these have populated yet...

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Hamilton Sing-Along
Almost done with a *very* long weekend at Arisia. Generally been a great time -- worked hard, got to spend lots of time with friends, and have had a lot of fun.

But I'll call out tonight's unexpected joy: the Hamilton Sing-Along. Exactly what it sounds like: something like 80 people in a room, with the Hamilton soundtrack playing, folks scrolling the lyrics on a big projector, and a little bit of floorshow from the folks who've done this before. It wouldn't have occurred to me that it's a show that *can* work for sing-along, but while it's a bit challenging it turns out to be a blast with a crowd like that.

A particular ridiculous joy behind the cut:His Royal YellownessCollapse )

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Musical Comedy
The annoying cough I've been dealing with for a week finally turned into a full-on, OMFG, now-I-see-why-everyone's-so-draggy Monster Headcold yesterday.  Between that and last night's difficulty sleeping, I've been wandering around going, "Grarh" all day.

So there were some helpless giggles when Spotify, quite of its own accord, decided to kick up "All We Want to Do is Eat Your Brains" for my listening pleasure... 

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Did Media Literacy Backfire?
Here's a fascinating exploration from Danah Boyd (one of the better thinkers about the Internet and society), about the ways in which the current tribal mess we're in can be traced to the way American culture works, and the way that media literacy programs of the past couple of decades played into some peculiarly American habits.

Not too long, and highly recommended, both to read and think about.  The upshot is that combating the "fake news" problem is probably a lot harder than most folks are thinking...

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Is this spam just messing with me?
Today's study in Weird Spam starts off with,
It is with pleasure that we invite you to take part in the 2017 world conference on Global Security, Save The Life And Terrorism In The World. This conference Scheduled to take place from [February 15th to 19th, United States and Senegal from February 22nd to 26th 2017].
It's obvious phishing spam, and was properly marked as such in Gmail.

The punchline? This conference is organized by the "World Thoracic Society".  That word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

Really, I kind of suspect they chose an important-sounding word at random.  Am I missing a definition that would make this make sense?

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