Occupy Oakland–Update

Pictures and footage from last night’s police action against the Occupy encampment in Oakland, CA.

This footage from the Associated Press isn’t terribly coherent, but you can see the classic tactic of crowding someone who is angry. Once one of her stray gestures touches an armored cop, the force used in return is startling.

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Remembering Wellstone

Nine years ago today, they announced on the radio that Senator Paul Wellstone’s plane had gone down in northern Minnesota. It was one of those days that etches itself in memory, as you wait for more news to come in, trying to find a way to disbelieve what you’ve already heard, until you finally have to admit that a planeload of people who have dedicated themselves to public service are gone.

Wellstone wasn’t a saint. [Read more...]

Who Do You Want to Be Today?

Via Bug Girl, who has a post of her own about Halloween costumes, comes this campaign to get people to think a little bit harder about their costumes this year.

Not a Costume

From the blog post:

These incredible posters were created by the student organization at Ohio University called Students Teaching Against Racism (STARS).  Amazingly, these posters became popular over Tumblr on their president’s blog site (here). Their mission is “to educate and facilitate discussion about racism and to promote racial harmony and to create a safe, non-threatening environment to allow participants to feel comfortable to express their feelings.”

There are five posters. You really should see them all.

Update: If you still have questions after reading that post, I suggest you try Crommunist’s FAQ on the topic.

Dangerous Creatures

Oh, goody. Yet another thread has grown swollen with the terrible, terrible concern that it’s a mark of sexism for a woman to entertain even a passing thought that an unknown man could turn out to be a rapist. I’ve said everything I wanted to say on the particulars of the situation in the comments there, except for the following. This was originally posted here.

I was sitting down with a very good friend of mine the other day for a much-needed catch-up session. He said, “My mother’s behaving better. I’m starting to think I might not have to kill her and bury her in the back yard.”

He looked down, then back up. “The sad thing is that I could.”

I just nodded. That last part wasn’t news. I’ve got a pretty good idea what my friend is capable of. It doesn’t bother me, though, except to the extent that it bothers him, because I also know the resources and creativity he applies to avoiding the violence he could unleash. I’ve seen it over the last several years that he’s been in this ugly situation.

People who understand their own violence rarely scare me. I reserve my fear for the people who think they “could never do anything like that.” [Read more...]

U.S. Rape Counts About to Increase

The FBI, responsible for aggregating U.S. crime statistics, is finally about to update its nearly century-old definition of rape:

Activists have been pushing for a new definition for years, but the issue went into high gear in February, after Representative Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) attempted to make women who hadn’t been raped “forcibly” pay for their abortions out of pocket.  The proposed new definition is far more to the advocates’ liking, and far closer to reality: “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

This is a vast improvement over the current definition: [Read more...]

On Display: Clothing, Breasts, and Power

Greta Christina has been writing about fashion as a language, about how we choose what to express and the fact that we don’t get to choose to say nothing by our choice of clothing. On Friday, she wrote about her relationship to clothing as an expression of gender. The whole thing is interesting, but I was struck in particular by her statement that “male drag was a way of feeling sexy and sexually transgressive when my weight was up and I wasn’t feeling conventionally attractive.” I’ve been thinking about weight, clothing, and gender for some time. Greta’s post has inspired me to write about it.

Breasts are fascinating, but perhaps not quite for the reason you’re thinking.

All right, in addition to the reason you’re thinking.

Breasts, or at least larger breasts, are made up primarily of fat. As a culture, we hate fat, but we love breasts. Where else but in the bumpy cleavage of a very thin woman are the unmistakable signs of plastic surgery so generally accepted?

Hips and butts too, but as a former kid whose diapers slid off my nonexistent hips all the time, I’m somewhat less qualified to talk about the dichotomous reaction to those particular secondary sex characteristics. Breasts I’ve got, in plenty. Sex and fat in one package.

It’s a combination that brings…an interesting set of choices. [Read more...]

Approaching 99%

If you’ve been following the blog, you know I have some concerns about the Occupy movement being co-opted by those with simpler concerns and a measure of existing political power. Jason has a post on the topic over at Lousy Canuck.

No, I don’t think anyone’s disparaging the middle class just for being middle class. I think the crux of the problem here, what Greg is upset about and what Stephanie is worried will happen, is that the middle class — traditionally comfortable and happy with working and producing and owning their little plot of land — is eroding thanks to the predatory practices of the confluence of government and big business. The underclasses, the lower and lower-middle classes, the hippies, the freaks, the anarchists, were all affected first and all started fighting this new corporatocracy, this capitalist oligarchy, long before the middle class did.

The right-wing, trying to preserve this oligarchy, has smeared these underclasses as being underclasses. The middle class, having not fought any of these imbalances before, is only getting involved now that it’s starting to directly affect them via foreclosures, job loss, bankruptcy after a health issue, etc. And they’re being taken seriously, even though the underlying issues were taken up by the freaks, the anarchists, the Cassandras of society long prior.

While we’re largely focusing on class, others are covering other underserved parts of the 99%. [Read more...]

Saturday Storytime: The Fourth Board

Strange Horizons magazine has recently successfully completed its annual fund drive. It was a near thing, coming up to the last few hours. Donation-funded fiction is a risky thing, but it works for Strange Horizons in part because they keep bringing us stories like this one from D J Muir.

As she waves the heating coils to life under the cauldron, and sets the teapots and cups on their trays, she worries what today will bring. Like the Tyrant seeking out her talents, this worry is something new. Since her mother died five years ago, Jinli has never had to worry about the future—at least, not the short future, the few-days-ahead future—because when she thinks forward she can direct her thoughts to a time and place and see it with absolute clarity.

Only this afternoon is a storm of fragments which fly like snowflakes in a blizzard, a broken whiteout time. She can hear, see, smell, touch nothing. And when she thinks of tomorrow, she sees fractured images, as though each shard of a broken screen were playing a different vid, and she hears shattered soundtracks screech like sirens. There will be a tomorrow; but for the first time, what tomorrow will be she cannot say.

The last clear moment she foresees is this afternoon. She sees the Tyrant, the bald crown of his head gleaming, and he will be asking her father to bring her out, and then everything dissolves.

Only a few people know that Jinli can see futures. Only she knows that today she cannot.

Her father enters the kitchen smiling, come to fetch more cups to set on the tables. He and the Tyrant are of an age, but his hair is still thick and black; the teahouse has aged him less than the conquest of worlds has weighed on his former comrade. Father has lived a gentle life in the years between.

“Father,” says Jinli, “you will need the hao ryl this afternoon. He will be coming today, and he will want to play.”

She doesn’t have to say who he is; Father knows, and his smile fades a little.

Keep reading.

Halloween Is Popular; Therefore, God

An opinion piece by Amity Shlaes on the significance of Halloween being popular was published a couple of days ago. It’s not the best laid-out article, but here’s her thesis in a nutshell:

There’s a reason for the pull of the pagan. In the U.S., we’ve been vigorously scrubbing our schools and other public spaces of traces of monotheistic religion for many decades now. Such scrubbing leaves a vacuum. The great self-deception of modern life is that nothing will be pulled into that vacuum. Half a century ago, the psychologist Carl Jung noted the heightened interest in UFOs, and concluded that the paranormal was “modern myth,” a replacement for religion.

Children or adults who today relish every detail of zombie culture or know every bit of wizarding minutiae are seeking something to believe in. That church, mosque and synagogue are so controversial that everyone prefers the paranormal as neutral ground is disconcerting. There’s something unsettling about the education of a child who comfortably enumerates the rules for surviving zombie apocalypse but finds it uncomfortable to enumerate the rules of his grandparents’ faith, if he knows them.

Tl;dr: Halloween is popular now because there isn’t as much god in our lives. And this is a bad thing.

You understand that I can’t just leave this alone.

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