Friday, March 30, 2018

SuperCorp Friday

I know I'm behind on the Supergirl recaps, mostly because I'm behind on watching the show itself.

However, that's no reason I can't be entertained by fake movie trailers featuring Kara/Lena. I may have mentioned before that fake movie trailers, particularly fake Imagine Me & You trailers, are one of my favorite genres of fan video.

But also, imagine, if you will, an entire universe of only queer movies. For instance, Beauty and the Beast, featuring Lena and Red Kryptonite Kara:

I also encountered fake trailers for SuperCorp versions of Star Wars, 50 Shades of Grey, and (of course) Imagine Me & You. I would 100% watch all of these movies.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Comedians In Cars Being Rich Assholes

I might have mentioned once or twice that I'm one of approximately 17 people in the multiverse who never got into the show Seinfeld, or Jerry Seinfeld in general, despite giving it a good try.

That's why this article, panning Seinfeld's Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, is so thoroughly satisfying to me. I've never watched this particular show (see above), but it sounds horrible:
"It’s not hard to understand why the show exists, but a slightly harder question to answer is why it fucking sucks shit. I will admit it is nicely shot. The rest of it feels more like the exercise of a man who spent his life obsessing over fancy cars and needed an excuse to write off his expensive hobby.
...Here, we’re presented with a man who looks like the Seinfeld we [sic] know and love, but his foibles are no longer our own. Perhaps it’s a side effect of the Trump era, but a significant percentage of us are not exactly in the mood these days to watch the grabass exploits of a monied narcissist."
I often see, as in this piece, the suggestion that Seinfeld's character in Seinfeld was a "humble everyman," but that characterization never resonated with me. In fact, his persona in Comedians In Cars seems pretty on point with how I've always seen the guy.

Anyway, the correction at the end of the piece is somehow just perfect:
"Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Jerry owned a Porsche on Seinfeld."
Somebody both knew and needed this bit of fake Seinfeld news corrected.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Facebook Users and Informed Consent

This op-ed is a week old, but over at The New York Times, Zeynep Tufekci wrote about Facebook surveillance in general and with respect to the 2016 election. 

In it, she makes an important point about, while user profiling and surveillance are part of Facebook's business model, it's likely that most users do not give informed consent to everything the company does:
"Facebook doesn’t just record every click and 'like' on the site. It also collects browsing histories. It also purchases 'external' data like financial information about users (though European nations have some regulations that block some of this). Facebook recently announced its intent to merge 'offline' data — things you do in the physical world, such as making purchases in a brick-and-mortar store — with its vast online databases.

Facebook even creates 'shadow profiles' of nonusers. That is, even if you are not on Facebook, the company may well have compiled a profile of you, inferred from data provided by your friends or from other data. This is an involuntary dossier from which you cannot opt out in the United States.
.....Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you had explicitly consented to turn over your Facebook data to another company. Do you keep up with the latest academic research on computational inference? Did you know that algorithms now do a pretty good job of inferring a person’s personality traits, sexual orientation, political views, mental health status, substance abuse history and more just from his or her Facebook 'likes' — and that there are new applications of this data being discovered every day?
Given this confusing and rapidly changing state of affairs about what the data may reveal and how it may be used, consent to ongoing and extensive data collection can be neither fully informed nor truly consensual — especially since it is practically irrevocable."
Most Facebook users know that the company generates revenue by selling ads, many likely sense that these ads are targeted to them. But, it's likely that most users don't know the extent of it. See, for instance, this Twitter thread.

As I've noted before, we should be terrified if Mark Zuckerberg actually does choose to run for office, particularly given the number of human profiles, including profiles of people who don't even use Facebook, his company has seemingly amassed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Conservatives Respond to Gun Violence Activism

If you're active on Facebook and Twitter, you might be seeing some posts about a campaign called "Walk Up Not Out."

Here's some background, via an article about it:
"Walk Up Not Out proponents say students should try harder to reach out with friendliness and compassion to their more solitary peers. By moving out of their comfort zones and helping their peers feel more welcome, the theory goes, students could potentially head off angry impulses or an outbreak of violence."
This article further notes that the campaign is being promoted by conservatives and others against gun control, which corresponds with my experience.

Let me tell you.

As a national movement against gun violence takes shape, the following responses have been f-a-s-c-i-n-a-t-i-n-g to watch:

(a) I've seen a correlation between people who support Trump and people who support Walk Up Not Out.

While I support an authentic anti-bullying program, I believe folks have lost moral authority on the matter of bullying if they've supported a predatory, serial social media bully for president and have largely reveled in "libtard snowflake tears" since the 2016 election.

Yet, even for those Walk-Uppers who aren't themselves bullies, the entire premise of the campaign itself is both a false dichotomy and a gross victim blaming. We can advocate for love and respect in our schools while also advocating for peaceful protests and gun control.

(b) Some anti-gun-control folks seem to loathe the kids leading the March for Our Lives movement. But also, so do many anti-choicers (and there seems to be a lot of overlap within these categories).

Rod Dreher, for instance, the anti-choice conservative Christian who regularly rages against the scourge of "transgenders" and political correctness in society, calls David Hogg "a disgusting little creep" whose harsh rhetoric supposedly ruined Dreher's chance of ever supporting the March for Our Lives movement.

In a later post, Dreher mocks Hogg for not having a completely-detailed policy proposal on the table.

As a reminder, it as been approximately six weeks since a shooter killed 17 of Hogg's classmates. in light of that, he might be experiencing a fair amount of PTSD. I, for one, don't expect high schoolers, let alone those who have just experienced a major traumatic event, to have comprehensive policy proposals developed with respect to school shootings.

What I do find compelling, however, is the position, "I don't want to be murdered while going to school." That, I believe, is a pretty solid starting point for the conversation, particularly given that most previous attempts to even broach the conversation are met with "pleas" to "not politicize" the various shootings that have occurred in US history. It is the job of adults to work with youth to seriously address this issue. The youth are neither going to be our big saviors nor should they be 100% dismissed just because they're kids.

Unfortunately, we've been treated to a plethora of articles from the right, bleeding into the mainstream, wherein kids are absolutely loathed for, supposedly, being hyper-politically-correct snowflakes. It's hard not to view these grotesque attacks on the March for Our Lives youth as an extension of this larger attack on youth and, more generally, treating people with respect.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Students Lead Historic March Against Gun Violence

Two of the largest single-day protests in US history have occurred during Donald Trump's tenure. Today, over at Shakesville, I wrote about one of them - this past weekend's March for Our Lives, which was a massive student-led mobilization against gun violence.

Check it out!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday Fun

Me, last night: I'm going to write something serious for Friday.

(proceeds to search YouTube for Scooby-Doo Daphne/Velma femslash videos)

What are y'all entertained by these days?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cambridge Analytica Stirred the (Supposedly Non-Existent) Bigotries of White America

Over at Shakesville today, I wrote about the fixation the political class has about being outraged by Hillary Clinton not being kind enough to Trump voters:
"What is critical to understand is that the notion that Trump supporters are largely not bigots is a political fiction that is primarily perpetuated by influential white men in the media and political establishment as a perverse form of political correctness.

It is a political fiction because the data suggests that, actually, "racial attitudes towards blacks and immigration are the key factors associated with support for Trump." And, via The Washington Post:

[W]hite millennial Trump voters were likely to believe in something we call "white vulnerability" — the perception that whites, through no fault of their own, are losing ground to other groups. Second, racial resentment was the primary driver of white vulnerability — even when accounting for income, education level, or employment.
This political fiction of non-existent bigotry of white America fits squarely within the mainstream narrative of American Exceptionalism that has barely even begun to reckon with its historical treatment of non-white, non-male people both within and outside of its borders.

This political fiction is, like misogyny, a national vulnerability."
Read the whole thing!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What Is Cambridge Analytica's Impact On Mental Health?

Cambridge Analytica has been in the US mainstream media since at least 2015, such as in this Bloomberg piece that describes the company's activities on behalf of Republican candidates for political office.

The piece describes how the company predicts voters' psychological profiles based on their online activities and then, based on these profiles, helps candidates design micro-targeted ads aimed at those who fit these various profiles. For instance, here's a description of the company's activities circa 2014:
"[The John Bolton super-PAC] group had one objective—to convince voters to support Republican candidates based on national-security issues—and it served well to demonstrate a personality-driven theory of political persuasion. Bolton’s committee agreed to communicate over satellite-television systems like Dish and DirecTV, which, unlike broadcast and most cable systems, permitted ads to be assigned differently to specific subscribers, allowing Cambridge Analytica to fully exploit the benefit of its individual-level modeling.

The firm, which was paid $341,025 for its work, advised Bolton’s team on the design of six ads, thirty seconds each, with wildly different creative approaches. One ad, targeted at voters modeled to be conscientious and agreeable, was set to upbeat music and showed Bolton standing outdoors on a bright day, matter-of-factly addressing the need to 'leave a stronger, safer America for our children.'

In another, aimed at neurotics, the diplomat was invisible—replaced by storm clouds, foreigners burning American flags, and an admonition to 'vote like your life depends on it,' intoned by an disembodied narrator. 'That’s obviously something that’s quite emotive,' says Nix, 'as we’re really looking to drive an emotional reaction from an audience who would be inclined to give you one.'”
As more information comes to light about this company's activities, particularly in the 2016 election, something we must also consider is how the general population's mental health might be being impacted by this deliberate sort of triggering of people's personality types. I get the sense that many people are struggling, mentally, right now and these targeted ads seem designed to stoke the precise negative emotions many are experiencing.

To be sure, mental health is complicated and driven by many factors. Yet, the above snippet is just one of many tidbits that confirms for me that we're living a Black Mirror episode with no end in sight.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Shifting the Overton Window As Republican Strategy

Politico ran a telling profile of a little-known Republican mega-donor by the name of Richad Uihlein.

Uihlein is supporting the campaign of Jeanne Ives, who is challenging Illinois governor Bruce Rauner in the Republican primary today. Via Politico, here's an encapsulation of the kind of campaign Ives is running:
"Democrats and many Republicans in Illinois were horrified by the ad: a 60-second spot released by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s GOP primary challenger, Jeanne Ives, featuring a parade of politically incorrect takes on thorny cultural issues. A deep-voiced man portraying a transgender woman tells Rauner, 'Thank you for signing legislation that lets me use the girls bathroom.' Then a young woman thanks Rauner for 'making all Illinois families pay for my abortions.'”
Ives is unlikely to beat Rauner in the Republican primary, as every poll I've seen has shown Rauner with a substantial lead. Plus, Ives is a woman. White men generally seem to fare better in elections when they assume the Trumpian personality traits of anti-establishment, unqualified, and bigot.

What struck me about the article, instead, was this description of Uihlein's motives (emphasis added):
“'Here is a passionate social and economic conservative who is willing to spend a large sum of money wherever he can in hopes of moving the needle, knowing he’s going to lose a lot of bets,' said an Illinois Republican with knowledge of Uihlein’s political giving. 'He’s not measuring himself by wins and losses — he’s measuring himself by moving the debate.'”
The aim here seems to be to shift the Overton window ever further to the right, which has been a concern of mine since the beginning of the Trump era.

As tempting as some might find it to laud less-overtly bigoted Republicans as "moderate," we must remember that the Republican Party as a whole has offered no meaningful resistance to the Trump Administration or his actions to dismantle our political system.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Enough! National School Walkout Held Today

Earlier today, I attended a rally in support of the students participating in the National School Walkout. This protest is being held in schools across the US today, on the one month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida.

Via the Women's March website:
"Women’s March Youth Empower is calling for a National School Walkout to protest Congress’ refusal to take action on the gun violence epidemic plaguing our schools and neighborhoods. Our elected officials must do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to this violence. Students and allies are organizing a National School Walkout to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship. We view this work as part of an ongoing and decades-long movement for gun violence prevention, in honor of all victims of gun violence ㅡ from James Brady to Trayvon Martin to the 17 people killed in Parkland."
Student organizers and the nonprofit organization Everytown For Gun Safety are also planning a march for later this month, on March 24th, in Washington, DC and across the US, called the March For Our Lives.

For many years, it's been hard for me not to feel helpless about gun violence in the United States. I want to feel hopeful, particularly in light of the recent waves of activism, but feeling hopeful sometimes just feels naive because so often, nothing ever changes with respect to gun violence.

Still, I choose to show up, if only to stand in solidarity with those who are in mourning, those who are fearful, those who are angry, and those who have more hope than I do.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Radio Wednesday: "The Joke" - Brandi Carlile

If you've been reading this here blog for awhile, it's no secret that our current political situation is distressing to me. I want to be optimistic, but some days it's hard. I am sustained largely by family, friends, working out, eating well, writing, caffeine, vodka, satisfyingly resonant political pieces, pop culture, and music.

Brandi Carlile's latest album, By the Way, I Forgive You is a poignant work of art for this political moment. I was casually listening to the album in the car when I was struck by the lyrics to one of the stand-out songs, "The Joke":
You get discouraged, don't you, girl?
It's your brother's world for a while longer
We gotta dance with the devil on a river
To beat the stream
Call it living the dream, call it kicking the ladder
They come to kick dirt in your face
To call you weak and then displace you
After carrying your baby on your back across the desert
I saw your eyes behind your hair
And you're looking tired, but you don't look scared
The first two lines are almost certainly about the 2016 election and, as I was listening, I felt a sense of deep sadness, followed by a validation that I feel has largely been missing in mainstream punditry.

While the mainstream press has spent the last year and a half obsessing about Trump voters in general, and angry white men in particular, the meaning and impact of Hillary Clinton's loss to a misogynistic predator, for the girls living through this political moment has been explored much less. That is a failing, and it's one I think about often.

In my political writing, I think one of my biggest goals is to provide validation for posterity and anyone who may stumble across my posts, that we've been enduring some massive, fucked-up gaslighting about the pain many girls and women have experienced. Far too often, people like me are denigrated as "Hillary cultists" when the reality is that we simply, subversively refuse to hate women in a profoundly misogynistic society.

In the next verse, Carlile expresses an optimism that I don't always feel and that we, of course, are not assured.
Let 'em laugh while they can
Let 'em spin, let 'em scatter in the wind
I have been to the movies, I've seen how it ends
And the joke's on them
I will never stop hoping, at least.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

TV Corner: Everything Sucks! (and I Don't Care About McQuaid)

Over at Shakesville, I have shared a critique of Netflix original Everything Sucks!  

Specifically, I have strong opinions about male nerd intrusions during a specifically queer moment. Spoilers abound in the snippet below:

"Immediately after Kate and Emaline share their first kiss, the camera perspective widens and we see McQuaid storm into the auditorium. The camera then focuses on him watching the girls, while his face is fixed in agony over being confronted with the reality that Emaline is kissing someone else. After several seconds, he goes into the hallway, and we go with him, and he slumps back against a locker as if in visceral pain.

So, in what should be a triumphant moment for Kate, Emaline, and their respective self-discoveries, we are instead left watching a tangential heterosexual male nerd experience angst about what he has just watched the female characters do. We are implicitly invited to empathize with McQuaid.

It is a profoundly befuddling choice, although not surprising."
 Read the whole thing!

Friday, March 2, 2018

2018 Winter Olympics Roundup Friday

What kind of lesbian would I be if I didn't even mention the recent Winter Olympics in PyeongChang?

The truth is, I don't understand many of the Winter Games. As an athlete, how do you just get into skeleton, for instance? The name alone is horrifying, and then you go headfirst at (checks Google) 90 miles per hour? NOPE. I also think it might help people appreciate the difficulty of each sport if regular non-Olympians did a run-through before each event, just for context. Just spit-ballin'.

Welp, now that I've really built up my expertise, here are my esteemed thoughts on the Winter Games:

1. Figure Skating

Given the degree to which women are hated, it is inherently subversive to be a femme guy. This is especially true in the Trump-Pence era, which politically has a been a big win for toxic, macho "I have the biggest nuke" masculinity.

Enter Adam Rippon, openly-gay, feminine US Olympic figure skater.

Rippon first came to my attention when he criticized the White House's decision to let the anti-LGBT Mike Pence lead the US delegation at the Olympic opening ceremonies. He was then later reported to have denied Mike Pence's request to meet for conversation (which Mike Pence publicly denied). The son of the sitting US President then, via Twitter, attacked the US Olympian during the Olympic games.

Despite the distractions, Rippon went on to help the US team win a bronze medal. Here's a great clip, from 2017, of him singing and then doing a routine to "Diamonds." As one does:

2. Hockey

Congratulations to the US Women's Hockey team for winning the gold medal! They beat Canada in a 3-2 shootout. I don't regularly watch hockey, but go team! YAY!

3. Curling

I watched the South Korea vs. Japan curling game at a bar with friends. We* were all big fans of the Korean team and, in particular, their leader - who seems quite skilled and has cool glasses (and is cute, but that's tangential):

The South Korean team seemed to be underdogs at the Olympics as, in an interview, the coach alluded to difficulties in obtaining resources for curling in South Korea. However, they ended up winning the silver medal. Congratulations!

As a fun fact, the team members each gave themselves English nicknames that were breakfast foods. The more you know, folks!

(*n = me)

That's pretty much my rundown. I'm sure a lot of other meaningful and cool things happened.What else happened? What else are people watching, playing, reading, or doing?

Thursday, March 1, 2018

I Can't Stop Thinking About This

Someone privately explained to me that "big mo" might a sportsball reference to signify "big momentum," but as a sporty lesbian I'm here to say that momentum is not what immediately crosses my mind when I hear the word "mo."