I’m Hella OK

It occurs to me, in light of the comment on my latest bird article, some might imagine me depressed. Worry not, dear readers. I’m not. I only ever feel bad to the extent that it would be reasonable to feel bad in any given situation, and my situation is not as bad as many other blogadores y blogadoras on this internet. (Especially on The Orbit. Support The Orbit y’all.) I’ve got that depressive realism, but without the clinical depression, it’s just a pretentious arty flavor in my thought.

The world is rough and keeps getting rougher. And as a quiet cat in the corner with eyes open, you can see the fires burning with clarity. I didn’t call the exact date of the subprime mortgage collapse. But I was that impoverished minimum wage fucko on the bus, looking at ads for home ownership none of us could afford, wondering how long it would be before predatory lending on that scale had consequences.

It’s grim, but through it all I just don’t feel as bad as I could. Seeing people around that have it worse than I do, getting to know some of them personally, I know what mental health is. My mind heals well. I’m probably the poorest person on this network, but aside from that source of stress, I’m one of the most fortunate in the neurochemical department.

When I talk about some grim stuff, I don’t need reassurance. I’m hella OK. Just waxing lyrical.

Thoughts on ABC Freeform’s “Cloak and Dagger”

ABC made a TV show off Marvel’s comic “Cloak & Dagger,” and shit it out onto their new streaming service called “Freeform.” The concept was and is problematic (black teen boy with powers of dark hungry void, white teen girl with magical powers of light), but the execution – even in the comic days – was pretty progressive, humanist, not shabby.

The show could be better, could be worse. The kids are alright. One thing sucked tremendous though: It ended in zombies. Really boring shitty nonsense zombies. Can we be done with zombies yet? I heard Walking Dead has flushed all its good will with fans straight down the terlet. Can that be done? Can everything zombie be done?

The worst thing though? ABC Freeform. The only things of any interest at all on there are Cloak & Dagger and re-runs of The Nanny. I kid, I kid, I mean, I could watch Paul Blart on there too, what am I complaining about? Everybody cancel your streaming services of choice and hit it up.

It Ends Sitting in a Car, Thinking About Birds

I had a long day. It could have been worse. In a stressful moment I was rude to someone I didn’t want to be rude to. Mega-retail on an understaffed, hot Sunday. I remembered to take some Excedrin two hours in and that helped.

In the early morning (later as well), we had an unusually high amount of homeless people looking to steal, or just negotiating some of the innumerable crises that make up their lives (I deal with the phone crises), or some combination of the two. Some Sundays the early part of the day can be dead as doornails, hours with just a few people wandering through. When it’s like today, my feet get beat down. I hope I helped some people.

Some cell phone companies decided to run promotions where you trade in an active cell phone for a deal on a new expensive phone, and chumps on the hustle think they can get a burner and flip that in a day. I try to tell ’em to read the terms of those deals more closely, because cell phone minutes aren’t returnable and they could be out forty bucks for nothing.

The company has a problem with staffing the store on weekends. When people are new, it’s easy to get them to work whatever hours you want. But when they get a little experience, they realize weekends are hell, and restrict themselves to weekdays. So Tha Man has been busting moves and leaning on people to open their availability, cutting hours all over the place. Other companies have been doing the same enough that Oregon was crafting legislation to make it illegal to force retail and grocery proles to work on-call or not at all.

All that’s to say the photo section guy has been reduced to one day a week, and only shows up if he feels like it. The rest of us aren’t as trained as we’re meant to be and have other responsibilities, so it’s a rolling train wreck over there. But I still have to go over and help people with it. One of these days I might figure out how to use the SD card slot on the new kiosks. It’s kinda funny watching a place go to hell.

There’s a weird banana toy thing with a hole in the side, someone left on a counter. It’s got drifts of uncanny powder all around it. What is that stuff? No one wants to clean it up and we’re all non-verbally daring each other to see how many days or weeks we can leave it there. It’s right in front of the drop box for customers sending out film to be developed, and that process takes a little over a week. If we have the resolve, someone could see that banana-thing as they send out the film and again when they come to pick it up.

It wasn’t even the hottest day in recent memory, but for some reason people were feeling it. Back to school shopping, or trying to hump the last days of the summer for all they’re worth, they cram into the place. Meanwhile, our own summerhumpers skip work and leave us even more understaffed than Tha Man’s hijinks have. Lines thirty deep. Stuff like that.

The babies were feeling it worse than usual. The stereotype of retail, I think, is of hating children because you hear them crying all the time. That doesn’t have to be true. I take on board the education I’ve had in recent years about ableism and children’s rights, think about the kid’s perspective. Plus they usually are not as jumped-up as the stories tell. But today they were upset. Zombie-walking with sweat-rimmed cheekbones, falling on the ground squalling. May you have better times tomorrow, babies.

I usually see our security guys, but today they were not to be found. I don’t know why, but the place really took advantage and got weird. There was a white dude slapping a belt in his hands as he walked around. A middle-aged couple almost jovially having a domestic dispute at 90 decibels while they strolled up and down every aisle. I noticed the man had a bizarrely formed earlobe. I used to feel upset about deformity and mutilation as a kid, but I see so much of it every day now that it’s helped me to be less ableist. Still some residual feeling a type of way about it.

While the couple was throwing out that massive wall of sound, a customer and I were trying to finish a transaction and having trouble thinking. She was pretty mad about it, but I tried to quell that by being casual. I said, y’know, people gotta keep life interesting somehow. We can watch drama on TV, some people feel the need to live it. Is it bad?

With overflow business from the understaffed front end of the store, I spent a lot more time than usual at the cash register. That helped my feet get less busted than usual, but I was still wiped out enough to need some rest at the end of my shift. I was waiting for my ride to finish some shopping of her own, drifting in and out of consciousness. I realized it was taking over an hour and went to check on her, helped finish that up and get out the door.

She’s borrowing her sister’s car while she waits to get her own fixed next week, and as payment for that, she had to get groceries for her. The sister is a chatty cathy, so when she brought the bags into the condo, my ride disappeared on me for several minutes. Five? Ten? Fifteen? I couldn’t tell, waiting in that clean new borrowed car in a suburban residential parking lot, surrounded by low buildings and tall trees.

When we first showed up, Steller’s Jays were running up and down rooftops and flitting through dense tree boughs. I heard more of them than I saw, and they were joined in the shuffle by several northern flickers (and another type of woodpecker I didn’t get a good look at). Eventually they all took off for higher treetops, leaving the ground level to a solitary junco.

There was one tall tree I could see well and it had tons of birds in it, like a bird apartment building. I couldn’t see them all at once, but I could see many go in and fewer come out, and hear lots of bird calls. The jays, the flickers, birds too small at that distance to identify. May have been chestnut backed and/or black capped chickadees, goldfinches, red breasted nuthatches, and more.

Among the calls, I heard notes that sounded like the chime of a cuckoo clock, and wondered if it could be a cuckoo. No, the cuckoos here surely have different calls from the European ones of infamy. But it put me in mind of my feels about brood parasitism again.

I was wondering why brood parasitism is selected for, why it is advantageous enough to stick around after it comes into being by whatever odd fluke. (In the comments on my brood parasite article, Icthyic linked to a scientific paper on the evolution of the trait. I’d forgotten that.) Anyhow, it occurred to me cuckoos are not just saving labor energy by non-parenting. They are also hobbling the competition.

In order to have their chicks raised by another species, that species must naturally serve food edible to the parasite. To avoid poisoned chicks, the adults have to be eating the same thing, so they’re competitors. A competitor for food that is being run ragged by your offspring is easier to beat in a race for resources.

I felt clever-ish, despite the fact I probably heard Richard Attenborough say the same shit at some point in time and just forgot about it. But why do I think about brood parasites like this? Last time I wrote about it, I had seen one in person. This time, it was just a random thought.

Since time immemorial, the cuckoo has been a symbol for the sexual paranoia of demented patriarchs. It’s seen a resurgence in the form of the alt-reich’s fetish porn-inspired cries of “cuck.” So it’s in the air. But it occurred to me, is this personal?

My father married my mother when she was already pregnant with my sister from another man. That baby grew up to be dangerous, exhausting, life-ruining. Antisocial Personality Disorder is rough. But then, so is being biracial in a house full of white people. I wish her well (for her own sake as well as the unfortunate people in her life), though I never want to see her again. Most likely, this background has nothing to do with any of my thoughts, waiting in that car. It just felt important to mention. So I’m mentioning it.


“Fuck Batman”

When said by a justice-minded critic looking at the implied meanings behind a story of a white cishet patriarch beating up poor people with no due process, whose enemies are mostly ableist caricatures: Cool.

When said by an edgelord Robin reboot with blood spattered across his chin before he kills seven dudes in an alley: Not great.

The always lovely and amusing SungWon Cho has this take:


Cinema Day Shout-outs

Got to see Antman & the Wasp and also Sorry to Bother You today, very nice. No time for big reviews, just wanna give a couple of shout outs.

Shout out to Ant-Man for acknowledging the MCU continuity in its way, and for being a gentle movie. The bad guys weren’t so bad, the stakes weren’t too grandiose, it was all just easy comedy, easy drama, easy action. Just lovely. I know the box office wasn’t what they’d prefer, but I’m sure it’ll make money for years to come on syndication, digital, and all that.

Shout out to Boots Riley, director of Sorry to Bother You and commie rapper from The Coup. Seems like the public forgot you blowing up the World Trade Center on that album cover, at least enough for you to score a wide release for your commie movie. Commie props, man. I love your shit.

Shout out Lakeith Stanfield for being a beautiful man and a damn superstar. Not sure when you’re getting Oscars and fan kids on internet, but congrats in advance.

And shout out to my boyfriend who went in for a follow-up on his surgery without my company. Hey, I’m sick with some kinda respiratory thing. Total excuse. No, I pretty much sucked today. Sorry about that.

And lastly, most importantly, big shout out and apology to the person sitting next to me at the 2 PM showing of Sorry to Bother You at the mall theater in Federal Way, Washington on July 16 2018, I think seat D6 or D7? I tried to avoid looking at you even though we were next to each other in a fairly empty place, propriety and all that, but I feel like you may have been a mature woman, my age or more?

Anyhow, I may have infected the air around you with this respiratory crud, even though I didn’t cough much. Also, I had to piss so I loosened my belt to try to put off going to the bathroom about halfway through the movie, and you ran out, never to return. Maybe you thought I was about to whip it out and start jerkin’ in the public-ass theater right next to you, but I swear I wasn’t. Sorry to fuck up your day.

Shout-outs.


Penny Arcade & Love Lost

Many of you have never heard of Penny Arcade. As far as webcomics go, it was the original success story, the ur-two-guys-on-a-couch video game afición strip-styled deal. The popularity of the comic helped the writer and the artist build a significant business, running gaming conventions, charities, and so on.

They’re still doing their thing, but outside of “gaming” (the bro subculture, not video game playing as a whole field), who has heard of them? They’ve hit the wall.

Two factors limit their success – the existence of gamergate and the “dickwolf” controversy.

Gamergate poisoned all things gamer, actually succeeding at their primary goal. Gamergate’s social terrorism was so vast it gained international media attention and told the world that gaming is an off-limits hostile place, ruled by miscreants that are best left alone. Congrats! You kept out the normies!

I’m not going to explain the dickwolf controversy and subsequent flare-up involving transphobia (because of course it did), even though they’re less well-known than gamergate. Long story short – they aligned themselves culturally with gamergate, with regressive gaming, by having mean-spirited blow-ups at mild criticism.

The dickwolf controversy aligned them with gamergate, no matter what they’ve said on the subject since, and gamergate relegated the culture of gaming to the sewer of human civilization.

I was thinking about that, about love lost. I used to follow the comic for a chuckle and dropped it like a rock back then. How many trans women and progressive-inclined people in general felt they weren’t safe engaging with the comic, with its fans, with the conventions they sponsored? How much love did they lose forever by being reactionary dickwolves?

And here we are – online atheism. The background is different, but the end result is the same. We were founded on islamophobia, so we were rotten at the core. A lot of us may have been socially progressive on a few issues, enough to feel good about ourselves, even then.

But collectively we were reactionary. When an opportunity for a movement-wide misogynist freakout came, it showed that we were stacked to the rafters with villains.

Many of us left the movement and culture altogether, I have no doubt. And of those who remained, the scum outweigh the rest of us by an order of magnitude. Maybe not in actual population (though I bet they do), but certainly in terms of will, of money, of resources, of cultural impact in the form of web presence, on social media and youtube.

Atheism aligned itself with evil and lost love. Where could we be without “elevatorgate”? Without the years of feeding the right wing islamophobia war machine?

It’s gone and it’s never coming back. I had a slow moment and considered opening up Penny Arcade’s website to see if I could have a chuckle. But no, I really profoundly don’t want to. They betrayed the vulnerable people in their audience – a fucking lot of us – and I’m not about forgiveness.

And no one is obligated to forgive us either. Organized atheism is a sewer. We can do things, we can be together, we can fight the good fight as much as possible. But what more could we be right now? How much love was lost?

Feels like all of it.


It’s a Simple Choice, Deferring it is Deadly

Abe at Oceanoxia has a post up about oil industry lying for money – looting while the world burns. Mano has a post about about heartless CEOs and the lack of reasonable basic careers in the job market. Both of these posts are about the effects of under-regulated capitalism and hint at the consequences – ecological disaster and economic collapse.

They get me thinking about The Beast Itself – Capitalism. About this system of unofficial aristocracy, where the hyper-wealthy have bought and sold every national government in the world, where the basic drive to take care of one’s own has combined with corruption to produce a situation where no one imagines they are accountable, no one can see their little part in the lies that will kill us all as important. Hey, I recycle and donate to WWF in my niece’s name, it was only one little law I helped draft to weaken environmental protections, no biggy.

And so we race toward extinction like the movie Speed, but the only Keanu is that fucking dracula dating Grimes, and he has the useless power of daydreams instead of action boy muscles. No one here gets out alive. How many seconds was it to Mars? Only thirty? Easy-peasy!

Anyhow, we love us some rich people. Can’t live without this system. It’s the only one that’s realistic for human nature. Blah blah blah. And I’ll take that. With regards to the CEOs in Mano’s link, and the way they want to get away with never providing any proles an actual living wage, want to watch everyone but a tiny cadre of techslaves shrivel and scrape in the streets? I am perfectly OK with that, on one condition.

The government needs to actually provide for its people. Freeze all rent rates, give everyone not just a universal basic income, but a living wage to where employment is only for people ambitious enough to want nicer things in life, not a condition of survival.

Too much? Don’t think we can scrap all militaries and do exactly that, for every country in the world? Shucks. Guess employers will have to actually fucking pay us mendicants enough to live on.

What? Can’t afford the same rates you paid previous generations? Not even a fraction? No one except robot science mutants is allowed a living wage? Back to the first thing. The government has to care for us.

This ball is in play, and the longer the corporations and the governments play hot potato with it, we all get closer to social collapse. Mad Max shit. Your doubloons devaluing to where we put ’em in teeth again. Assuming anybody survives at all. If the atmosphere gets anoxic zones like the ocean is getting? That’s a rolling holocaust of biblical proportions. Nothing can save anyone.

Simple choice. Someone needs to provide for the people. Is it the government, or businesses? Because if it’s neither – if the people have to provide for themselves – you are not going to like what that fucking looks like.


Why Gamers Should Hate Valve

IDGAF about gaming, honestly. I play very few vidya games. Never had a computer or system as a child, so my go-to entertainments are elsewhere. But I almost entered the video game industry in the Seattle area, came close enough to learn a lot about how it works, and I catch some information about it from the gamer in my life.

Valve is the company that runs Steam – the biggest video game web platform in the world. People use its servers to play shooters and the like. More importantly, people can use Steam to buy and download games with no need of a disk. This is a big deal. Eventually all disk media is going bye-bye, because it’s unnecessary overhead for companies. The next time there’s a big enough collapse in the game market – and there will most definitely be one – the disks won’t pull through.

So in order to sell video games online, you need a storefront for people to peruse. And this is where Steam fails dramatically, where Valve fails as a company. There’s zero oversight of the storefront. They let anybody sell games there, which means literally thousands of people are selling literally fake video games.

What’s a fake video game look like? The scammers get a program for making games, like Unreal Engine or Unity, and they save out a crude template of a “game” populated with stock or purchased assets. These things can look like an army of clones with different names slapped on them, can be chock full of bugs, lack anything resembling game play, and in some cases crash while trying to load at all, or crash and even damage your computer. In some cases, there isn’t even a game in the downloaded package – no executable file to run.

And even without scams, you get class projects from junior high kids across the planet, half-baked vanity projects from twisted megalomaniacs who threaten customers, and you get games with plots like “protect the pedophile anime art from evil nazi muslims.” Steam’s storefront – Valve’s main interface with the world – is an ocean of shit.

This is why gamers should hate Valve: You know what it would take to fix the whole store, easily? Hiring ONE SOLITARY FUCKING EMPLOYEE. You’d think, hey, thousands of games go up on Steam every year. How would one person handle it? Trust me. When you see one of the fake games? You know it. They could eliminate the garbage in swathes by banning companies that put up fake games, leaving them time to deal with issues that require more thought, like how extreme of an ideology are you willing to see promoted in your store? One person could do this. Just one.

For years now, people have been dancing around the mulberry bush with Valve, suggesting this, asking for that, getting pat replies, half-assed actions, and ultimately it’s always the same shit. They try to rely on algorithms to filter the bad games, try to foist the work on some useless robot, because they aren’t willing to hire ONE PERSON, ONE SINGLE HUMAN PERSON to look at the shit, to make the call. To push the button.

It’s libertarian techbro philosophy in a nutshell. Am I losing a ton of money a year from people giving my service the finger? OK, but am I making any money at all? Cool. Then fuck quality, fuck customers, fuck the humans. A tech company should be a server farm that runs itself with zero oversight and occasionally shits out a dollar for the shareholders. Good enough!

I’m not a fan of gamers though. Some individuals are fine, I’m sure, but collectively? Seems like the level of respect they deserve. Libertarian bootlicks for the new robber barons, enjoy the taste my dudes. Lap it up.


Hot Take from Sean McElwee

I don’t know who he is, but this tweet was hella righteous:


Sean McElwee on Twitter:

“every republican who wins an election meaningfully increases the chance that you or someone you love will die. from guns, from war, from pollution, from childbirth, from lack of health insurance, from a militarized police state. the republican party is a party of death.”

Seems like McElwee is a kind of journalist I can’t handle on the daily. He often speaks in mantras and laments that “no one cares” about this or that important progressive issue. It’s guilt tripping and I feel bad enough just living through this political climate without someone hammering my frayed nerves.

But other than that, word to my brother. Fight on, dude. This was a perfect encapsulation of where we’re at, what’s going wrong with the world. A lot of centrists and moderates just seem to have no earthly idea why things are going so badly.

Politics is just about opinions, maaan, and you should be nicer to your Aunt Sally! No, politics has direct impact on lives, and every position the GOP holds most dear is deadly as fuck.

Anyhow, Fuck any and all conservatives everywhere forever. Long live the fighters.