Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker everestmckinley: "Share a 3-sentence version of one of your favorite stories to tell."

Okay, technically not a question, but whatever! *wink!*

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Orrery Mission: Complete

As promised, here is a picture of my completed orrery tattoo, now that the color has been added:

image of a tattoo on my left shoulder inspired by Aughra's orrery from The Dark Crystal

The detail on the planet is extraordinary:

image of a close-up on one of the planets in the orrery

The little white flecks are reflections of the goop that's still on my shoulder, since I literally just had it done. The lines look smoother and the color looks solid when it's not viewed through a prism of goop.

I am completely in love with it. Lui is basically a genius. The end.

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Working Poor and Mendacious Narratives

[Content Note: Class warfare; food insecurity.]

Anyone who has been paying attention to the world around them and the people in it almost certainly already knows this, and anyone who is resistant to facts that might undermine their self-aggrandizing cruelty won't fucking care, but here it is anyway:

A report from Feeding America on food insecurity and food costs in the United States sheds new light on the real targets of the conservative media's crusade against food stamps.

...[The reality is] that almost 41% of recipients live in a household with earnings, and according to the USDA program fraud is below one cent on the dollar.

Feeding America's report on the county and congressional district level food insecurity and county food costs in the United States paints a startlingly different picture of the food insecure than the one the right-wing media typically pushes. Feeding America found that more than 47 million people in the United States are food-insecure, meaning that they have "limited or uncertain access to adequate food," and that 16 million of those people are children. On average, about 71% of the food-insecure throughout the country fall below 185% of the poverty line, making them eligible to receive SNAP benefits.
I know I'm the brokenest of all the broken records that have ever been broken, but the incessant yammering about "bootstraps" and "takers" and "moochers" and people who can't be "convinced" to "take personal responsibility and care for their lives" is FUCKING GARBAGE.

Indecent, dishonest, execrable, inexcusable garbage.

I have nothing but voluminous contempt for anyone who barfs up this resoundingly discredited garbage, who scapegoats working people who don't have enough to eat as lazy, system-gaming scoundrels, in a futile bid to mask their reprehensible agenda of "reducing dependence on government"—a gross euphemism for vile social Darwinism justified by bullshit beliefs about bootstraps and fairy tales about how people earn what they deserve, designed to ensure that the wealthiest fuckers in the wealthiest nation don't have to pay a penny more in taxes in order that the workers they exploit to become billionaires might have enough food to stay alive and drag their exhausted, malnourished asses to jobs that won't pay them a livable wage, because profits are more important than people.

This isn't, and will never be, about whether people are working hard enough.

This is about the fact that Republicans think people aren't entitled to food. And they're too cowardly to say it plainly. So they tell lies about lazy people who game the system—a breathtaking bit of projection that would be laughable, if only it weren't so fucking tragic.

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An Observation

[Content Note: Fat shaming.]

I have touched on this previously, but it bears repeating: If you are a person who shames fat people under the auspices of concern for our health, you are not only a bully but a liar. Fat shaming does not improve fat people's physical health, and in fact is extremely likely to have a deleterious effect on our psychological health.

Just stop. Stop.

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Quote of the Day

[Content Note: Privilege; racism.]

"The Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat. But neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities."—Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her impassioned dissent to the Supreme Court ruling today which "upheld a Michigan voter initiative that banned racial preferences in admissions to the state's public universities," i.e. upholding Michigan's ban on affirmative action.

Fuck this court.

Please note that we will not be debating the value of affirmative action in this space.

[Related Reading: Number of the Day.]

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Assvertising

[Content Note: Misogynistic tropes; rape culture.]

Shaker Cafeaulait0913 forwarded this Excedrin ad, which features a collection of thin, white, kyriarchitypically attractive women being relieved of their headaches:

A thin, young, white woman and a thin white man in an office approach a mountain of disorganized files. "Aw, this audit will take days," complains the man. The woman sighs. "What a headache," the man says. "Actually," the woman replies, "I don't have a headache anymore. Excedrin really does work fast."

Two very young white children, a boy and a girl, are playing in a well-appointed home. The boy knocks over some toys, which clatter noisily to the floor. "QUIET! MOM HAS A HEADACHE!" yells the girl. Mom, a thin, young, white woman, leans forward from her overstuffed chair. "Had a headache. But now, I don't!"

Over generic graphics of a male head in silhouette showing the medicine "working," a male voiceover says, "With two pain fighters plus a booster, Excedrin ends headaches fast. In fact, for some, relief starts in just 15 minutes."

A thin, young, white, different-sex couple lies in bed. The man is holding a book. The woman says, "Wow, my headache is gone." The man quickly closes the book and turns out the light. The room goes dark. The woman turns on her bedside light, to reveal the man hovering over her eagerly. "Not gonna happen," she says, to the man's chagrin.

Male voiceover: "Excredrin. Headache: Gone."
So, the thing about this ad is that it's clearly geared toward (white, straight, thin, privileged) women, and yet:

1. It uses a male silhouette in the graphics.

2. It uses a male voiceover.

3. It uses, as a punchline, the tired old trope about women using a headache to get out of sex they don't want to have with their husbands. Which, you know, is not actually a funny trope, as it's a reflection of a rape culture in which women must feign pain to delay sex, because their agency and right to simply say no isn't respected.

This certainly isn't the worst entry in this series, but it still gets a thumbs-down. Do better, Excedrin. Thanks.

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Discussion Thread: Grody Delicious

Sometimes, the dogs are completely pitiful about being outside in a little drizzle, but sometimes they love to run around in a storm. Last night, it was pissing down rain, and they were outside forever, then came back in totally drenched. And, of course, smelling like wet dog.

Wet dog is renowned for being a terrible smell, but I weirdly kind of like it.

I seem to like a lot of earthy smells that have reputations for being awful. Like cow manure, which I find to be a pleasant smell, too.

Anyway! I know I'm not alone on this. A lot of people like scents with bad reps. Gasoline seems to be a common smell that some people find awful and others find pleasant. And I know a few people who like the smell of skunk, which most people find to be terrible.

I don't hate the smell of skunk, although I don't really like it, either. It's just such an aggressive smell, and it just makes me laugh every time I think of such a big smell coming out of such a little creature!

So: Are there any smells that are reputed to be terrible that you enjoy?

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Dudley the Greyhound, looking very adorable
This is my favorite picture of Dudley.

Today is the fourth anniversary of our officially adopting Dudley. (He didn't actually come to stay until the 28th, because I had some terrible flu, so he stayed with his foster family for a few extra days.) But this was the day we met him; the day he first came to visit Shakes Manor and walked in looking all nervous and confused; the day he leaned his long self against our legs for the first time.

It was just supposed to be a meet-and-greet, and a chance to test him out with our cats. Iain and I were in firm agreement that we weren't going to make any decisions that night.

Two hours later, all the paperwork had been filled out and the check for the adoption fee had been written. He was our dog. There was no use even pretending otherwise.

* * *

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

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Dispatches from the 99%

[Content Note: Class warfare.]

The LA Times has a piece today by Walter Hamilton about how the "number of Californians 50 to 64 who live in their parents' homes has surged in recent years" as a result of the recession, long-term unemployment, and raising housing costs.

For seven years through 2012, the number of Californians aged 50 to 64 who live in their parents' homes swelled 67.6% to about 194,000, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development.

The jump is almost exclusively the result of financial hardship caused by the recession rather than for other reasons, such as the need to care for aging parents, said Steven P. Wallace, a UCLA professor of public health who crunched the data.

"The numbers are pretty amazing," Wallace said. "It's an age group that you normally think of as pretty financially stable. They're mid-career. They may be thinking ahead toward retirement. They've got a nest egg going. And then all of a sudden you see this huge push back into their parents' homes."

Many more young adults live with their parents than those in their 50s and early 60s live with theirs. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, 1.6 million Californians have taken up residence in their childhood bedrooms, according to the data.

Though that's a 33% jump from 2006, the pace is half that of the 50 to 64 age group.

The surge in middle-aged people moving in with parents reflects the grim economic reality that has taken hold in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
I just don't know (I mean, I know intellectually; I just don't know emotionally) how the wealthiest and most influential USians look at stories like these and continue to disgorge epic amounts of horseshit about bootstraps from their filthy mouths. This is not about individual people making bad choices. This is about a system that is catastrophically broken.

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime



David Bowie: "Changes"

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today...

[Content Note: Guns] The Centers for Disease Control's current funding for gun violence prevention research is $0. And it looks like it will remain that way for the foreseeable future, since Congressional Republicans refuse to fund it, with one Republican Congressman calling money for gun violence research a "request to fund propaganda." The depth of my contempt is cavernous.

[CN: War on agency] Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed into law a bill that allows "state health authorities to conduct surprise inspections of abortion clinics without a warrant. HB 2284 repeals an Arizona law that requires a judge to give approval for inspections of abortion clinics. Department of Health Services officials will now be able to inspect any clinic during business hours, even without reasonable cause." This is just state-sanctioned harassment of abortion providers and patients.

[CN: Homophobia] This is your regularly-scheduled reminder that same-sex marriage equality is not the end-all be-all of gay rights: "A Boy Scout troop in Seattle announced on Monday that its charter had been revoked after its church sponsor refused to fire the troop's scout leader because of his sexual orientation. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) withdrew the membership of Scoutmaster Geoff McGrath, 49, in March after he revealed to an NBC News reporter that he was gay. McGrath was widely thought to be the first openly gay scout leader after the organization voted last year to allow gay youths as of Jan. 1, but not allow gay adults to lead troops. The Rainier Beach United Methodist Church received a letter from BSA on Friday stating that its charter had been revoked, and an attorney from the organization told the church it could no longer host any troops under the Boy Scouts name." Fucking assholes. Seriously.

[CN: Homophobia] On the marriage equality front: States with conservative majorities tend to lag behind the national average in support for same-sex marriage, but a new poll out of Texas has found that 48% of Texans now support same-sex marriage while 47% oppose it. That sound you hear is another domino falling to the floor.

[CN: War on agency] Tennessee's Pregnancy Criminalization Law Will Hit Black Women the Hardest: "The bill, SB 1391, would impose criminal penalties on mothers of newborns who have been exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs in utero. While the bill appears race-neutral, prosecutors and judges will wield the law against Black women more so than white women, based on a long tradition of deeply embedded racial stereotypes about Black motherhood. Should Gov. Haslam ignore the growing outcry against SB 1391 from pro-choice and anti-choice advocates alike, the law would likely lead to Black women being thrown in jail for up to 15 years for aggravated assault should they choose to carry a pregnancy to term while struggling with an addiction to illegal narcotics."

[CN: Fat bias] Oh for fuck's sake: "Airlines look for ways to cut down on weight, squeeze in more seats: If you thought airlines could find no new ways to squeeze more passengers into each plane, you are underestimating the resolve of the airline industry. At this month's Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, many of the 500 exhibitors were promoting new ideas to cut down on weight—to save fuel—and innovative layouts to fit more seats per cabin. Among the concepts offered at the expo was a set of seats that put passengers face to face; seats that are installed in a staggered, diagonal layout, and lavatories designed to wedge in a few extra passengers in the back of the cabin." Meanwhile, fat passengers will be up for even more harassment and discrimination, because it's our bodies that are the problem, not the constantly diminishing space on airplanes.

And finally: Would you like some vegetable ice cream? Häagen-Dazs is debuting veggie ice cream in Japan next month. Sounds interesting! One of the best things I've ever eaten was a cucumber sorbet at Tom Colicchio's restaurant Craft. Delicious!

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War on the War on Drugs

[Content Note: Racism.]

So, this is good news:

The Obama administration is beginning an aggressive new effort to foster equity in criminal sentencing by considering clemency requests from as many as thousands of federal inmates serving time for drug offenses, officials said Monday.

The initiative, which amounts to an unprecedented campaign to free non­violent offenders, will begin immediately and continue over the next two years, officials said. The Justice Department said it expects to reassign dozens of lawyers to its understaffed pardons office to handle the requests from inmates.

"The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety," Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Monday. "The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences."
This follows the decision of the US Sentencing Commission, an independent agency that sets sentencing policies for federal judges, to vote "to revise its guidelines to reduce sentences for defendants in most of the nation's drug cases." In 2002, the commission "found that the [sentencing] disparity had created a racial imbalance in which harsh sentences had been disproportionately imposed on minorities, particularly African Americans."

Ostensibly, this new effort should help address that disparity. But:
Holder has announced a series of initiatives to tackle disparities in criminal penalties, beginning in August when he said low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with no connection to gangs or large-scale drug organizations would not be charged with offenses that call for strict mandatory sentences. He has traveled across the country to highlight community programs in which nonviolent offenders have received substance-abuse treatment and other assistance instead of long prison sentences.
Emphasis mine.

My concern here is that men of color, specifically black and Latino men, are disproportionately likely to be accused of having gang or cartel affiliations during drug prosecutions, sometimes even if they have no meaningful connections to gangs or drug cartels at all. Gang activity by association is another level of bias, which will mean many of these offenders, including women of color whose "gang activity" might have been established simply by dating someone in a gang, won't benefit from clemency.

This article about the new effort [CN: sexual abuse] tells the story of a white woman who is serving a disproportionately long sentence "for her minor role helping her drug dealer husband." But if her husband had been involved with a gang, or could have been convincingly accused of involvement with a gang, hers might not be described as "emblematic of the harsh and inflexible sentencing regimes of the past," nor she a good candidate for clemency.

So, I am glad for this effort, but I am concerned about its application. Its parameters may simply entrench racial privilege in yet another way.

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Blog Note

The blog may look a little weird this morning, because Photobucket seems to be having some kind of issue, so our images aren't serving properly. Hopefully Photobucket will resolve the issue soon.

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Open Thread

image of a man's lower legs; he is wearing mismatched socks and Birkenstock sandals

Hosted by Birkenstocks.

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker Alison Rose: "What is something about you now—your life, your work, your personality, etc—that a younger version of you would be surprised by?"

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Photos of the Day

Congratulations to Rita Jeptoo of Kenya, who won the women's Boston Marathon for the second year in a row with a course record of 2:18:57, and to Meb Keflezighi of the US, who won the men's Boston Marathon, making him the first US man win the Boston Marathon since Greg A. Meyer in 1983.

image of Rita Jeptoo, a thin black woman, crossing the finish line with her arms in the air, pointing upwards
Rita Jeptoo

image of Meb Keflezighi, a think black man, crossing the finish line with his arms spread wide
Meb Keflezighi

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Um, Okay

Welp:

In a new national poll [by GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications] on America's scientific acumen, more than half of respondents said they were "not too confident" or "not at all confident" that "the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang."

...Scientists were apparently dismayed by this news, which arrives only a few weeks after astrophysicists located the first hard evidence of cosmic inflation.

...Other polls on America's scientific beliefs have arrived at similar findings. The "Science and Engineering Indicators" survey -- which the National Science Foundation has conducted every year since the early 1980s -- has consistently found only about a third of Americans believe that "the universe began with a huge explosion."

In 2010, the NSF poll rephrased the question, asking whether the following statement was true: "According to astronomers, the universe began with a big explosion." When reworded, more Americans agreed, suggesting more respondents are aware of the science than originally suggested -- they just don't believe the science.
PIX OR IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.

Naturally, the go-to explanation is always religious belief, but there lots of religious people, across religions, who also believe that the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang (based on what current science can tell us at the moment, with the caveat that new science and technologies may result in adjustments to the theory). There's a lot more going on than that.

There's no single universal answer, either, because individual people have individual (and sometimes overlapping) reasons for disbelieving science of the universe.

And, frankly, I wouldn't even care what people believed, except that disbelief in science of the universe is so inextricably intertwined with the garbage beliefs that are used to legislate oppression.

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Fatsronauts 101: Fat in Public, Thin Allies, and the Veneer of Strength as Dehumanization

[Content Note: Fat hatred; abuse; harassment.]

This afternoon, I've been doing some tweeting about being fat in public and the obligation for fat people, especially fat women, to be impenetrably strong in the face of harassment. For those who aren't on Twitter, here is the Storify of that tweet session and a place for discussion.


If you have problems reading the embedded Storify, you can also read it here.

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Discussion Thread: Democrats 2016

With Senator Elizabeth Warren saying definitively that she is not running in 2016, and with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still officially undecided, let's imagine that neither of them runs for the 2016 presidential election. Who would you like to see as the Democratic presidential nominee?

Please note the question doesn't presume you're a Democratic voter. (Or even a USian.) I wouldn't vote for a Republican candidate if you paid me all of Mitt Romney's money, but I still have some investment in who the nominee is, etc.

Your answer is not required to be someone who is likely to be able to get the nomination, e.g. Joe Biden, or people who have been named as potential contenders, e.g. Martin O'Malley or Deval Patrick. You are absolutely welcome to name a fantasy candidate, i.e. someone who is a terrific politician but unlikely to be a contender based on the usual stupid factors.

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Assvertising

[Content Note: Rape jokes; disablist jokes; fat jokes; privilege.]

Shaker Rebekah forwarded me this piece about the series of adverts Ricky Gervais is doing for luxury car brand Audi, which have recently started airing in the US:

To launch its new A3 sedan, Audi of America is turning to Ricky Gervais to drive home the message that consumers should never compromise.

To hammer home the message, it cast Gervais, a comedian who is often blasted by critics for his acidic sense of humor and jokes.

Gervais is featured in an overall branding campaign called "Dues," and a separate shorter spot called "Names," as well as in a series of "Uncompromised Portraits," in which he discusses his process of telling jokes.
I've seen the "Names" spot several times, in which a little girl reads shitty tweets about Gervais, and he says they mean he's doing something right. The other two, I've only seen online, and this "Uncompromised Portrait" ad is hilariously awful:

The ad, filmed in black and white because OF COURSE IT IS, opens with piano music and text onscreen reading: "Audi A3 Presents: An uncompromised portrait. Ricky Gervais, writer, comedian, actor, etc..."

Gervais, sitting facing the camera, says: "I cherish the gasps as much as the laughs and the cheers and the rounds of applause." He makes a gasping noise. "I like that. I didn't turn up to any audience and go, 'What do you like? What shall I do? I do requests.' You know? The reaction after the Golden Globes was weird." This monologue is intercut with images of an empty theater, a man walking in the snow, a train, and other random shit because ART. "You usually have to be a mass murderer for that sort of column inches. But then, you know, by the end, they sort of got it. They went, 'Oh, okay then. He's just telling jokes.' I don't really want to do safe, homogenized stuff that everyone likes a bit, you know? I sort of like doing it my way, 'cause that's the fun. Every day should be filled with doing what you love. That's more important. It's more important than anything." Gervais grins.

Text onscreen: "Whatever you do, stay uncompromised." Audi logo.
Good fucking grief.

First of all: LOL FOREVER at the contention that people who criticized Gervais' garbage routine at the Golden Globes were somehow confused about the fact that he was telling jokes.

Secondly: LOL FOREVER at the assertion that Gervais isn't doing "safe, homogenized stuff" when he's a teller and defender of rape jokes, disablist jokes, and fat jokes (for a start), as if making fun of rape, disabled people, and fat people isn't so old it's got brontosaurus shit in the treads of its sensible shoes.

It is the height of irony that humorists who do bigoted humor are regarded as provocateurs.
I mean, sure, he's a "provocateur" if provocateur is broadly defined enough to encompass a playground antagonist who pokes other children with a stick. If anything designed to provoke any response can make one a provocateur, then give Ricky Gervais his trophy for Provocateur of the Year or whatever.

But "provocateur" really should mean something loftier—not a person who engages in the tiresome bigotry of misogyny and ableism, of racism and xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia, who tells and defends rape jokes, just to elicit an entirely predictable (and legitimate) negative reaction from people getting poked with the stick, who are then immediately dismissed with charges of "humorlessness" or a lack of sophistication required to get the nuances of a joke to which the punchline is, at its essence, you are less than me.

A provocateur, if the word is have real meaning, is someone who challenges existent paradigms and marginalizing narratives, who presents a radical thought that makes people sit rather uncomfortably in their privilege and urges them to wander off the well-worn path of their socialization. It's someone who changes minds.

It isn't someone who calls people "mongs" and pretends that it's brave.
That shit's about as edgy as an abacus.

Finally: All the mirthless laughter in the multiverse at another highly privileged person sagely dispensing the advice that "every day should be filled with doing what you love" because "it's more important than anything." EVEN EATING! OR SHELTER! So go ahead and quit your job at the factory and spend your days DOING WHAT YOU LOVE, because no matter what it is that you love, you can definitely get rich doing it, if only you work hard enough!

Jesus Jones. Everything about this advert is the worst. Except for the fact that it's probably a pretty great choice for selling a luxury car to privileged dipshits who think Gervais is a hero for bravely upholding kyriarchal norms and calling it radical.

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