Do not underestimate the military strength of the human navel

After the success of Wonder Woman, you may be wondering whether the upcoming Justice League movie will continue to correct the dismal, depressing failure of the DC comic hero franchise. Have no fear! They’ll find a way to fuck it up.

One sign that they will is…costuming. Wonder Woman’s Amazons wore practical, reasonable armor that were less about fan-service and more about warriors not wanting their guts stirred with a sharp piece of metal. In Justice League, though, the Amazons are ditching the uncuddly, relatively unrevealing metal plates for soft leather bikinis, because, apparently, belly buttons are more ferocious and intimidating.

Perhaps the US Army should ask Zack Snyder to design their uniforms?

Both sides suck

Sean Hannity has been defending creepy hebephile Roy Moore, so people have been calling for advertisers to pull their ads from the Hannity show. One advertiser who has done so is Keurig, which has been prompting the triggered snowflakes on the right to #boycottkeurig. Suddenly I’m seeing angry videos of right-wingers throwing Keurig machines from balcony windows or shooting them with shotguns. It’s absurd.

But what is equally absurd is that I’m seeing liberals declaring that they’re going to buy Keurig machines, or trade in their Nestle equivalent for a Keurig, or are celebrating by drinking coffee from their Keurig. Aaaaargh. K-cups are wasteful — consisting of almost as much packaging as coffee. Why are you celebrating a minor tactical decision by an exploitive, destructive capitalist company by rewarding them for a design that promotes convenience over the environment? I don’t get it.

I should also remind you that Keurig was supporting jingoistic, far right wing propagandist Sean Hannity all this time, that they didn’t seem to mind his constant America-First schtick of hatred for immigrants and people of color and queer folk and the poor, but only broke from the pack when he supported sexing up underaged white Alabamans. There’s an unconscious prioritizing of problems here. It’s not that I don’t think it’s despicable for Roy Moore to have been assaulting children, but that there is so much that is despicable about Moore that it’s shocking that his supporters are only noticing a problem now.

I appreciate that the opposition is finally crystallizing around this one incident to try and kill Moore’s career, and I’ll be very happy if it succeeds, but I’m just disappointed that his long history of theocratic bullshit and general incompetence weren’t enough to have kept him out of office, any office, for the last 40 years. But then incompetence and ideological asininity are no barrier to success in this country.

A review of Louis CK’s latest, and possibly last, movie

I haven’t seen it, probably won’t have an opportunity to see it, and have no desire to see it, but Alexandra Schwartz reviews it. It sounds like it’s just Louis CK playing himself (as he always does), and it sounds rather sad and ugly.

The only generous way to read “I Love You, Daddy” is as a portrait of male cowardice. What kind of man would be so shamefully pathetic as to avoid confronting the famous geezer who may or may not be screwing his underage daughter because that geezer has offered to read his latest script? The same man, presumably, who winces but doesn’t intervene as his dumbo comedian buddy (Charlie Day) describes, at gleeful length, all the ways that the man’s daughter has probably been fucked on spring break. As is often the case with the roles that Louis writes for himself, there is a strong note of masochistic pleasure in this extreme passivity. Louis, famously obsessive and controlling of his work—he writes, he directs, he edits, he acts, he produces, he distributes, he does it all—likes to play losers who are at the mercy of others. Often, those others are women. It’s hard not to wonder, in the wake of Thursday’s revelations, to what extent Louis has used this persona to shield his reputation. But cowardice is not just an avoidance of a moral stance; it is a moral stance, too, and not a flattering one.

His character always seems to wallow in his failings as a man, which at first is part of the appeal — at least he’s aware of his shortcomings. Unfortunately, it’s always coupled to an even lower opinion of women, who must be kind of dim and oblivious to be willing to associate with such an unappealing character. At least now we’re all seeing through the pretense to recognize that there’s not much thoughtfulness there — he’s just another opportunist with a schtick.

Live! From #Skepticon! Well, mostly alive, anyway

Yesterday, got up at 6am and prepared for my busy day, went to one conference, then got on a plane for another one…with an itinerary that went from Minneapolis to Baltimore, then a 6½ layover in the dead of night, and then to Atlanta, and finally to Springfield. I did not sleep a wink the whole time. I attended a series of talks: a workshop on queering violence with Randall Jensen, which was a nice eye-opener. A talk by Nikki Jane on hip-hop as a tool for coping with mental illness. I learned about pre-apocalyptic party planning from Mika McKinnon, and that was a nice surprise. You don’t prepare for disaster by by getting a bunker and a big gun and 5 years worth of processed food, but by making social connections and building a more resilient community. And finally, Mandisa Thomas spent an hour being fierce and strong, as she does.

No sleep yet. I’m feeling it, though, boy am I feeling it. I’m too old for all-nighters. So, for dinner, I took a long hot shower to try and restore some humanity. It didn’t work, as you can see.

I look even more terrible than usual. Those aren’t eyes, they’re aching blobs of bloodshot gelatin, and all that lurks behind them is a howling void. I should collapse into a bed right now, because I’ve been 36 hours without sleep. But I’m not. Because obviously I’m a party zombie.

There are two more talks ahead of me. Samantha Montano is going to be talking about Disasterology, because somehow I think a theme of this year’s meeting is coping with catastrophe. It would be useful, except that as the old decrepit guy, I know what my role would be. I’d be the grey-haired crusty cynic dispensing advice who eventually gets eaten by zombies to the relief of the stalwart band of survivors, who were just to noble to admit the he was slowing the whole group down.

Then Leighann Lord is going to invigorate me with an hour of comedy, so I might have the energy to drag myself to the Skeptiprom, where I will have one drink, and only one drink, which will make me fall over in an unconscious stupor.

Instructions to kindly skepticonners: I’ll have my room key in my front left pants pocket. I’d appreciate it if you’d carry my unconscious form to my room, and drop me on the floor or, if you’re especially nice, on my bed. Don’t worry about the usual defenses against choking on my own vomit, because I won’t be drunk, just exhausted.

I can do this. Jeez, though, it sure was a heck of a lot easier when I was 19.

Louis CK: just stop and go away, OK?

You’ve probably already heard about Louis CK’s mea culpa. I’m unimpressed.

I want to address the stories told to the New York Times by five women named Abby, Rebecca, Dana, Julia who felt able to name themselves and one who did not.

These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.

I have been remorseful of my actions. And I’ve tried to learn from them. And run from them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position.

I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community, which disabled them from sharing their story and brought hardship to them when they tried because people who look up to me didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t think that I was doing any of that because my position allowed me not to think about it.

There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with.

I wish I had reacted to their admiration of me by being a good example to them as a man and given them some guidance as a comedian, including because I admired their work.

The hardest regret to live with is what you’ve done to hurt someone else. And I can hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt I brought on them. I’d be remiss to exclude the hurt that I’ve brought on people who I work with and have worked with who’s professional and personal lives have been impacted by all of this, including projects currently in production: the cast and crew of Better Things, Baskets, The Cops, One Mississippi, and I Love You Daddy. I deeply regret that this has brought negative attention to my manager Dave Becky who only tried to mediate a situation that I caused. I’ve brought anguish and hardship to the people at FX who have given me so much The Orchard who took a chance on my movie. and every other entity that has bet on me through the years.

I’ve brought pain to my family, my friends, my children and their mother.

I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.

Thank you for reading.

My reactions:

  • He confessed that the accusations were true. That’s good. This might have been a great statement if he’d said, “These stories are true. I am sorry.” FULL STOP.

  • At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. See? He should have stopped before this. That was just stupid. Sure, he asked. They said NO. I’m gonna go ask this guy in front of me at the airport for his wallet, and if he says no, I’m just going to take it anyway. Asking first makes it OK.

  • I don’t care if you have power over a person or not, asking them to look at your dick is just plain weird. I have no power over this guy with the wallet in front of me, I’m not going to put on a penis puppet show for him, against his will. Because that would be wrong.

  • How often is he going to tell us how admired he is? I’ll remove that source of guilt from him, at least: he’s not admired anymore.

  • He only learned yesterday how much he hurt people? He should have been able to figure this out before he inflicted his kinks on others. To claim now that he was unaware of the wrongness of his actions is bullshit.

  • He wishes that he’d reacted by being a good example to them as a man. OK. Please understand, then, that he’s been a poor example of a man, and should shut up about how he was admired. That admiration was undeserved.

  • The only people who deserve any sympathy here are his family, friends, children, and wife. And his victims. He can self-flagellate all he wants, it’s not going to win him any pity.

  • He’s going to listen. Great. Listen to this: go away. Louis CK has disgraced himself and his work, and I for one don’t need to hear any more about him.

I don’t accept the Christian principle that an admission of contrition is sufficient to absolve someone of bad behavior. It requires real change. I don’t see what Louis CK is going to do to be a better person, and I doubt that he’s going to adopt a quiet life of faithfulness to his family and respect for others — he’s tasted the heady waters of power over others and used it for self-indulgence. I’ll believe he’s a changed man when he shows it, but not when he practices a written form of exhibitionism.

Busy busy busy — #MnCOSE17 and #Skepticon

This day is just done. I’m at the MnSTA conference on science education today, speaking about the state of evolution education this afternoon (there is bad news, and there is good news, but the bad news is surprisingly manageable). Once I’m done babbling, I’m rushing off through rush hour traffic to catch a plane to Skepticon, sorta. In my quest for a cheap flight that was compatible with my awkwardly full schedule, I’m catching a flight to Baltimore (?), with a connection to Atlanta, and from there to Springfield, Missouri. This is too complicated. I’m already scheduled to not get in until tomorrow morning, and I have a feeling that something is going to break and who knows when I’ll arrive. Everyone will be all partied out by the time I drag myself in.

Anyway, you know the drill. Behave yourselves while I’m out of touch, spit venom at the trolls, and I’ll clean up the mess tomorrow morning.

Another battle of the Blue Check Mark

Twitter has once again put their foot in it over their annoying “verification” system — you know, the deal where certain users get a ‘prestigious’ blue check mark next to their name. To what purpose, I don’t know. Anyway, they handed out a precious Blue Check Mark to a known Nazi, the guy who organized the Charlottesville debacle, and suddenly everyone was questioning the invisible criteria they use to give these things out, and Twitter suspended the whole process while they review what the heck they’re doing.

I think xkcd explains it best.

Ouch. That’s a mark that’s gotta sting.

The Christian Brothers…now there is a name that will live on in infamy

The things one learns long after the fact…when I was a boy, my father had a favorite fishing spot, an oxbow in the Green River north of Kent, Washington, where we lived. It was a lovely place, a little bit of a walk from the road, but you were surrounded by river and trees and grass. I remember well this one trip where we’d been spectacularly successful and had caught a pair of 10-12 pound steelhead, and we were walking back to the car; I was carrying one of the fish, my fingers hooked in the gills, Dad was carrying the other, and my brother Jim was carrying the tackle box, and he saw this thick trickle of dark red blood dripping over my fingers and down the flank of the steelhead, and he puked all over the tackle box. He always had a delicate stomach. I also used to tease him about how he’d get seasick on ferry rides.

Of course, then when he grew up he got a job as a commercial fisherman and spent all his time on a heaving boat in the North Pacific hauling in massive quantities of aquatic beasties, so he’ll probably deny that event.

Anyway, those were good times. The site also had a crumbling wreck in the middle of it, an old school that was decaying walls and broken windows surrounding a gutted interior. My father wouldn’t let us go anywhere near it. He didn’t like the place at all; he’d name it with a little snarl, because it apparently had an ugly history with people who grew up in Kent in the 40s and 50s. I vaguely recall being taunted by other kids about being shipped off to Briscoe if I was bad, but that was about it. All I knew was that it was a step above a ruin, and there was a statue of Jesus in the courtyard, which I was surprised to see erected in the Catholic churchyard in town some years later.

The place was called the Briscoe School for Boys. It was a Catholic reform school where the delinquent kids were sent. That was all I knew about it. A bit out of the way, good fishing, decaying building, occasional whispers of dislike from my parents’ generation.

That’s an impressively oppressive sorta Gothic building to have been plunked down in a small farming town in the Pacific Northwest. I guess the long reach of the Catholic Church meant all kinds of nightmares were assembled in out-ot-the-way places. Even now, the small town I live in in Minnesota has a Catholic history, with the Sisters of Mercy building an Indian boarding school right here in the middle of the prairie. It’s as if some malignant cosmic entity has sprinkled Stephen King bait all across the country.

It was just last tonight that I stumbled across the story of the place. It was founded by the Christian Brothers of Ireland — and you already know what horrors dwelt there, just from that name. Hogwarts it wasn’t; it was a torture factory.

Decades ago, society was much more accepting of corporal punishment, the men alleging abuse acknowledge.

But what happened to them at Briscoe “weren’t beatings, they were torture,” said John Green, a 59-year-old technology consultant who lives near Everett and boarded at Briscoe in the 1950s. “It continued into self-gratification and rage. It had nothing to do with punishment.”

The brothers carried leather straps — about a foot long and an inch or two wide — with which they hit students, the men say.

Jerry Blinn, 65, a retired business manager in Placitas, N.M., said students were punished for anything from getting wrong answers in class to talking in meal lines.

He said one brother would strap students so hard his feet would leave the ground. Blinn, who was sent to Briscoe in 1946 after his widowed, ill and impoverished mother was unable to take care of him, said some brothers also grabbed students by their ears or cheeks and shook them “like a bass on a hook.”

Davison, of Seattle, who ended up at Briscoe about 40 years ago after he ran away from home, remembers being beaten with straps and fists — sometimes so hard he was knocked unconscious. “They beat me half to death there,” he said.

He and some of the other men say they saw brothers beating naked boys with wooden paddles in the showers, and that some brothers had students fight each other.

“It was a truly brutal place,” said Earl Dye, 60, a mental-health counselor in Seattle whose mother sent him to Briscoe around 1955 at the urging of nuns. “In the morning, you would think: ‘I hope I don’t get beaten today.’ And every night you would hope you wouldn’t be one of those boys that the brothers would pull out of bed.”

Several of the men say they would sometimes see brothers take one or two boys out of their dorm-room beds for a while at night.

Pat Gogerty, retired executive director of Childhaven, a local agency serving abused and neglected children, said that happened to his brother, William Gogerty. William lived at Briscoe from about 1937 to 1945. Once, when Pat stayed overnight during a visit, he saw a brother take William out of the room.

“He was gone for a while,” Pat Gogerty said. “He didn’t talk about what happened (then). In those days, you never talked about anything like that.” Years later, his brother told him he had been sexually abused at Briscoe, starting from his first day there at age 8.

Jesus. I had no idea. I’ve known of the Christian Brothers, an evil cabal of self-righteous perverts and sadists, but I always associated them with other places, other countries. But they’d set up shop in my hometown and had creeped out my father years ago? Eerie. Survivors of sexual abuse are still talking about went on there. And what is it with the Catholic Church building prisons for young boys all around the world, and staffing them with psychopaths?