Thursday, September 29, 2016

Angel of Infantilization

One of my all-time favorites, Clay Shirky, has taken to using his Twitter account to retweet pro-Trump tweets he finds particularly outrageous... or entertaining... or something. I think Shirky sees it as his job to make sure anti-Trump folks don't stay inside a bubble of support.

That said, here's his most recent retweet:

It's time 4 a President that respects R 1st responders& Vets & military~Only Trump loves them all & promises 2 make life better 4 them all~♡
By Fran Cifelli ‏@FranCifelli
That mess of letters, numbers, tildes, and hearts was accompanied by this disturbing piece of artwork:


Aside from the tackiness of the concept — with its Photoshopped stars and bars on what I assume are supposed to be angel wings (unless that's a WWE feather cloak) — this image synthesizes the extreme version of how white people generally think of police: They protect us.

We are like children, nay, like little blonde girls clutching teddy bears, sheltered within the hug of their mighty masculinity. Meanwhile, in the background, the hellscape of dystopia awaits.

Do black people in America generally see police this way? Not a chance.

And while I don't want this idealized infantilization to be the image anyone has of police as they relate to the citizens of a democracy, the fact is that some significant number of white people probably identify with it, while almost no black people do (and for good reasons).

And that's a problem those same white people don't recognize.

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Speaking of which, this from NPR: A wide gulf persists between black and white perceptions of policing

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A New Term: Forcemanteau

Somewhere in my almost nine years of blog posts, I know I've written about business names or signs I saw where someone thought they were being clever by grafting two words together. The result, in these unfortunate cases, turns out not to be clever but pathetic... trying too hard, unintelligible, or worse.

Well, I just found out that someone has created their own clever word for those instances: forcemanteau, a play on the term portmanteau. Examples of portmanteaus (portmanteaux?) we no longer notice include smog and motel. More recent ones are infomercial and turducken.

Here are a couple of examples of forcemanteaus from the ever-great Twitter account of Minneapolis writer Chris Steller:


I know it's  hard to see in the photo, but along the top of the van it says "Have a Paws-tastic Day!" Which is mostly stupid, not really cringe-worthy.


While this business name, Eyenique Vision, makes my face squinch up in pain. I'm not kidding.

The hashtag #forcemanteau was started by Art Allen (Twitter account: @punconsultant). Examples he identifies include sharknado and bridezilla. But it looks like the term came from local writer Christeta Boarinia in this Daily Planet article from 2013.

However it got started, I think it's a useful word, and if, in the future, I spot one, I plan to use that hashtag so we can build the library of forcemanteaus for Twitter eternity.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Democratic Values (with a Capital D)

According to Doug Muder at The Weekly Sift, Elizabeth Warren spoke at a recent get-out-the-vote rally in New Hampshire. Her summary of Democratic values was:

  • Every young person is entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt.
  • No one who works full-time should live in poverty.
  • After a lifetime of hard work, people are entitled to retire in dignity.
  • “Let me say something that is deeply controversial in Republican circles: We believe in science, that climate change is real, and we have a moral obligation to pass on a livable Earth.”
  • Equal pay for equal work and a woman’s right to choose.
  • When Wall Street CEOs break the rules, they should go to jail like anyone else.
  • Money should not own our government.
Add in something to cover mass incarceration and racist policing, and the list would cover my range of values, too. I'm sure I'm forgetting something important (as always), but distilling a list like this is helpful. And the overriding thought behind all of this is that people, through government, can make these things happen so that the average person shares in the bounty of this country.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

There Are Only So Many Covers Possible, I Guess

Or that would be the obvious conclusion for anyone browsing bookstores these days. I've already noted one repeated design trope on fantasy covers, but yesterday I saw two others on mainstream fiction while wandering the aisles at Common Good Books. Come to think of it, it's not so much as two tropes as two variants on a format.

First there's big type with the linespacing fairly wide, and little dectorative doo-dads partially obscuring the the letters:


The designs most often use type that could be 19th century wood type, as on the right-hand cover (though even the type on the left-hand cover could be a sans serif wood type). There were at least a dozen other books within about 10 feet in the store that fit into this category.

Then there's the subset where the title and author name aren't quite so big or spaced out, the type is more of a plain geometric sans serif, and the doo-dads are smaller:


Really, did they pay two different designers to create these covers? Why not just pay the first person who did it and then replace the type?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

No More Polar Fleece

You may have heard about micro beads, which are little pieces of plastic put into facial cleansers to help exfoliate the skin. Of course, it turns out they get washed down the drain and end up in our water after treatment since they're, you know... plastic. They are already well on their way to being banned.

Unfortunately, it turns out there's a lot more plastic than that washing into the Mississippi and other rivers, and it will be a lot harder to get rid of than those silly micro beads. It comes from Polar fleece, the nice warm fabric many people wear (and even make into blankets and bed sheets).

Polar fleece is made from recycled plastic bottles, you see, which I used to think was a good thing. It's manufactured in America, too. But every time you put your fleece through the wash cycle, it sheds tiny bits of itself and they're ending up at the bottom of the river, where they
absorb toxic chemicals like PCBs and are eaten by fish, mussels and even phytoplankton.

“There have been documented effects on reproduction, growth, hatching rates and liver toxicity,” said Austin Baldwin, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, which conducted the sediment study. “They can get to a size where they can pass through gut walls and cell membranes, into the circulatory system and cause damage.”
 Filtering out the tiny fibers during the water treatment process is cost-prohibitive. That must be some cost, since the alternative (aside from banning the fabrics, which no one has yet mentioned) is to "design fabrics and products so they are biodegradable or don’t fragment." Well, yeah, duh, but what does that cost, and what do we do in the meantime?

No more washing Polar fleece in my household, at least.

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Photo by iPowahFX Studio from the Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Mid-September Tabs

The browser tabs are crushing and crashing yet again.

I think I'll start with a post I read a little while ago, and that keeps popping into my head. How to be polite. So little goes so far.

Which makes me think of this post by Anand Giridharadas, who tried to politely engage a respondent named James who thinks Giridharadas is a rebelliously-haired man/boy who should shut his cultural-Marxist mouth if he can't assimilate into James's idea of America. Then it turned out James's parents had been Christian missionaries in Japan, and Giridharadas couldn't help pointing out the irony:

When your parents went to Japan, did they assimilate into local religious traditions, or did they try to get people to celebrate the new they were bringing? Just wondering.
James replied that his parents' case was different, of course, since they went to Japan for the express purpose of changing the Japanese view of things, while immigrants to the U.S. are not doing that. (Irony number two:  Giridharadas was born in the U.S. and James was born in Japan.) Giridharadas replied,
Your missionary/immigrant distinction makes no sense, because it is designed for self-justification. By your logic, a missionary is a category of immigrant who is entitled to bend local culture to his or her tastes, and a plain old immigrant is any non-missionary person not entitled to do so. So basically a missionary is an immigrant who auto-exempts himself or herself from the duty (as you see it) to assimilate. This goes to show that the missionary position is not only boring but also sometimes wrong.
Giridharadas followed that line of reasoning with this: "What culture did the early colonial settlers discover in America, and do you believe they were bound to assimilate into it? And did they?"

Then there was this triad of good energy news stories:
And this less-good news on the reality of confronting climate change, also from Dave Roberts at Vox: Is it useful to think of climate change as equivalent to a world war?

Switching topics, I got a lot out of reading Reaganomics killed America's middle class, by Thom Hartmann on Salon. High taxes on wealth lead directly to greater equality and an expanded middle class, but this also happens, according to Hartmann:
When wealth is spread more equally among all parts of society, people start to expect more from society and start demanding more rights. That leads to social instability, which is feared and hated by conservatives, even though revolutionaries and liberals like Thomas Jefferson welcome it.
The right-wing legacy of Lewis Powell and what it means for the Supreme Court today. From Truthdig. (This isn't the first time I've mentioned Justice Powell.) Powell is the architect of the modern business-funded think-tankocracy and had a hand in the Court's 1970s decisions that money equals speech, the necessary forerunners to make way for Citizens United.

Trump's blood libel against immigrants and the press's failure. By Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. The best summary I've seen of Trump's misrepresentation and exploitation of the immigrant crime "problem."

And here's a post I love by education writer Paul Thomas, because it combines biking/transportation and social justice: "Share the road" is about more than bicycles and cars:
It is a message to be heeded every moment: See the other in a way that is listening to the other, in a way that honors the dignity of every human being. Driving a car as if only your life matters reveals a great deal about the driver, but the consequences are often suffered by the innocent other.
McMansions 101: What makes a McMansion bad architecture? Unbalanced massing, too many voids, no notion of rhythm or proportion... From the aptly named site, Worst of McMansions.

You may have already seen this, but I have to save it for posterity: the recent XKCD comic showing 22,000 years of global temperature change and history, and just how anomalous the past 100 years have been (I'm showing only the most recent years here, but please view the whole thing if you haven't already):


Here's another thing we've been lied to about since the beginning: what happened at Attica in 1971. That's according to a new scholarly book, Blood in the Water, based on suppressed New York State documents. "Several reviewers have noted that they had to stop reading at several points, to breathe and to wipe the tears from their eyes."

If, like me, you've managed to avoid knowing there is such as thing as Sandy Hook trutherism... I'm sorry to report New York magazine has posted a grim but gripping account of people who think it was all a fake so Obama can round up the guns. Yes, that includes thinking parents of the dead children in Connecticut never had those kids in the first place.

Should the emails of government employees be treated as if they were printed letters or as something less formal, like a phone call? Matt Yglesias at Vox argues for the latter.

We passed the 20th anniversary of the date when Bill Clinton "ended Welfare as we know it." There were a lot of good articles on the aftermath:
Another topic that got a lot of attention was what some people call "white trash," a group of people who are much in the news because they are perceived to make up a large chunk of Donald Trump's voting base. Here are some of the stories that appeared:
Finally, there were (as always) a bunch of interesting posts from Pacific Standard on a range of topics:


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Four Photos for the Election, Sort of

As seen on the streets these days: First, an interesting case of cohabitation:


It's possible these windows are from separate apartments on the second floor, or possibly it's a single inhabitant who doesn't know what the rainbow flag usually signifies.

The simplicity of the design on this woman's shirt hit me suddenly:


I'm not a big fan of pink, generally, but if it appeals to a few more little girls that way, I'm okay with it.

This shirt was also pink, but, again, it was the message that made me run after this unsuspecting woman to take a photo of her back:


A big YES! to that sentiment.

And finally, this book:


It's hard to read, but the subtitle at the bottom reads, "The Way to Life and Happiness." An odd companion for a book called The Battle of Armageddon. But it seems kind of fitting while we live under the threat of a Trump presidency.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wilmington on Fire

A new documentary is coming out soon about the Wilmington Massacre, the only armed coup d'etat in U.S. history. I wrote about that historical event awhile ago, and look forward to seeing this film, called Wilmington on Fire, so I can learn more.


The film is being made by a guy whose family is from Wilmington, who grew up hearing about it through the oral tradition of black families in the area. You can see the trailer here. The release date is listed as November 10 on the film's Facebook page.

The fact that almost no people (especially no white people) know about this travesty is predictable, but telling.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Keep Your Paws to Yourself

Appropriating Native American regalia for a human person's Halloween costume is bad enough, but this is... words fail me:


(As seen in the most recent Parade magazine.)

The copy reads in part, "Wearing his majestic ceremonial headdress with pride and casting an all-knowing, green-eyed stare your way, 'Chief Runs with Paws' is the chosen guardian of the spirit world...and the mysterious secrets held within."


Ironically, each cat ($29.99 plus $8.99 shipping) comes with a certificate of authenticity

I couldn't find a photo of what the 4.5" figurine actually looks like, but in searching, I did find out the cat is part of a larger set of "chief" animal figurines: Chief Barks a Lot, Chief Little Paws... Since there are only two dogs and one cat on offer currently, I imagine more will be on the way. What do we have to look forward to? Chief Slobber No More, Chief Drinks from the Sink, Chief Begs for a Bone...

As my sisters and I used to say to each other when we were kids, keep your paws to yourself, Hamilton Collection designers.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Weaponizing the Flag

This morning, NPR reminded me that this photo was taken 40 years ago, in spring 1976:


It's Boston, of course, during the battle over busing. What I didn't know was that the black man being assaulted had nothing to do with the protests. He was just hurrying from his parked car to a meeting at city hall.

The white man with the flag used as a weapon was a high school student, let out of class by officials who wanted to foment unrest against busing.

The fact that the black man, Ted Landsmark, was a Yale-educated lawyer while the white man was not yet out of high school shouldn't go unnoticed. Landsmark's three-piece suit marked him as educated, even if no observer could have known the extent of his class elevation over the typical white Bostonian.

"The first person to attack me hit me from behind, which knocked off my glasses and ended up breaking my nose. The flag being swung at me came at me just moments after that and missed my face by inches," Landsmark recalls.

"The entire incident took about seven seconds."
This 2008 article argues the flag was not being used as a weapon, but it felt that way to Landsmark. A 2006 article from Smithsonian makes it clear that the attacker, Joseph Rakes, was trying to hit Landsmark with the flag, but not spear him with it. Which is soooo much better, right? (Rakes was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and received a two-year suspended sentence.)

There's no sharper representation of our recent controversy about athletes standing or not standing for the national anthem. The flag or another overt symbol of patriotism is being used to undermine equality and freedom of all people, not just white people.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Car Tabs

I just found out about another book I have to read: Edward Humes' Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation. But until I get around to it, here's some of what he has to say in an interview with the New York Times.

First, generally,

We drive these vehicles that weigh 4,000 pounds and are built to carry five people and eight suitcases, and most of the time, it’s just one person and this giant machine going to work. We’ve got transportation overkill.
Then more specifically,
In the book, you write about the car as if it were a social problem.

And a health problem. And an economic problem.

Next to our home, the car is our single largest household expense. We’re paying for it round the clock. Yet, it sits idle for 22 hours a day. Plus, it’s horribly inefficient in how it uses energy. The average car wastes about 80 percent of the gasoline put into it. By comparison, an electric vehicle uses about 90 percent to actually move the car.
And that's not mentioning the 38,000 people killed in or by cars each year in the U.S., or the 4.4 million injured. The latter part of the interview focuses on why there aren't speed governors in our cars.

Pair that interview up with these other recent posts on transportation topics:

Friday, September 16, 2016

Unclear on the Concept

As seen adjacent to the side door of an out-of-the-way office building in St. Paul:


So many things to say to autism. How would one even start? And why wait until after hours?