Throwback Thursday: “My Parents Spanked Me As a Child Edition

Besides vaccination, I don’t think there was a single issue we considered more settled than the question of corporal punishment. This was one of the first IMDD’s I did on the subject, and I’m pleased to report that the overwhelming majority of our readers were supportive of our ant-spanking stance. This is also where I reveal one of the inspirations for the Derby, the second most famous Happy Days episode ever…

I find it interesting that, in the USA at least, I can use the term “Demolition Derby” and be incredibly confident that my audience will know exactly what I’m talking about. And I can credit Garry Marshall, creator of Happy Days. Despite completely whitewashing anything remotely controversial about the ’50s and contributing to the slang lexicon the phrase “Jumping the Shark”, Happy Days was one of the most popular situation comedies of our childhoods. And thanks to the seminal 2 part episode “Fonzie Loves Pinkie” in which the Fonz and love interest
Pinkie Tuscadero compete in the big demolition derby against the hated Malachi Brothers (I finally learned how to spell that), and their dreaded “Malachi Crunch” double team maneuver, most of us are familiar with the basic idea, even if we grew up far away from the flyover country fairgrounds where the sport is practiced.

Well this edition’s meme is the Malachi Brothers of the Internet Meme world. It is scary, violent and quite possibly after poor Pinky. It is literally all over the place, as some form of this meme has been popping up on my Facebook feed on a monthly basis.

It was a very popular meme!

Don’t even get me started on how disrespectful this meme is to people whose actual and serious psychological conditions are mocked and minimized to form the punchline for your shitty joke. As one of those people, let me just add a personal “Fuck you and the horse you Rode in on,” to the creators and purveyors of this meme.
Respect for others is a complicated thing to learn. Some of us still have a lot to learn, despite the fact that we are legally adults. And some of the people that we need to have more respect for are CHILDREN. The idea that we can “beat some sense” into kids has been thoroughly debunked. Try something else folks. Look on the internet, there’s lots of good advice.

I finish by sharing a meme featuring a famous comedian who is now famous for whipping it out in front of co-workers. Click on over and read the rest, every click gets us closer to getting this dog personalized snow booties.

Tuesday Theater: In the Heights

When you live in flyover country, far from the footlights on Broadway, it’s hard to keep a musical theatre obsessed teen happy. But we managed it last night. We visited one of the treasures of the Ohio Valley, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, to take in some Lin Manuel Miranda magic in the form of In the Heights.

Bringing a Broadway size musical to a modest sized regional theatre, one of the oldest in the nation in fact, is an ambitious task. But director May Adrales pulled it off with style. The music was wonderful, the dancing was superb, and the cast was fantastic. Ryan Alvarado as Usnavi de la Vega is the fulcrum on which the rest of the cast pivots as they come and go from his corner bodega in Washington Heights. Yassmin Allers is heartbreakingly sweet as the neighborhood matriarch Abuela Claudia.

Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography

It was a refreshing tonic in the age of Trump to see a story about immigrants living, loving and thriving in what is really America’s capitol city. It’s a story about “the barrio,” and it’s changes. But also what doesn’t change. Some folks need to leave to grow, some all the way to Stanford, others just a train ride away. And some need to stay to grow, to put down the kind of roots that make a place a home for others as well as themselves.

The Schmoo cried… although the Schmoo cried at the end of Black Panther so…

It was really freaking fun. The show runs through February 17th. Catch it if you can.

Monday Muse: First Aid Kit sing to Emmylou

I don’t remember where I first heard sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, better known as the Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit. It may have been on NPR’s All Songs Considered, way back in 2011. But I know that this song from their 2012 album Lion’s Roar is the one that cemented their place in my collection.

Making Emmylou cry…

But wait there’s more… here they are singing my favorite Emmylou Harris song, the title track to 2001’s Red Dirt Girl…

Making Emmylou cry more…

Their new album Ruins is pretty yummy too… Enjoy.

The Friday Files: Shutdown Follies

So the longest government shutdown in United States history came to an end this afternoon, when the pressure on air traffic controllers working without pay started to cause delays up and down the eastern seaboard. And that was only the most acute of the symptoms the government shutdown has inflicted on the nation. Federal employees just faced their second missed paycheck, important government institutions have been stretched to the breaking point, just as an economy already fragile from months of uncertainty faced the prospect of a whole mess of folks not having tax returns to spend.

The result is certainly the most telling defeat of the Trump presidency, The Cheeto Tinted Tyrant wanted funding for his Great Wall of Trump on the US/Mexico border and he got nada. The government will reopen for three weeks, allowing furloughed federal workers to receive their back pay and get back to the under-appreciated job of keeping the country running for three weeks at least.

We may be doing all this again next month, so my enthusiasm is muted. But we’ll see… we’ll see.

Throwback Thursday: Whisper Networks

Today’s throwback was inspired by my emigo Callie Wright, veteran podcaster, activist and Star Trek fanatic. Callie just repackaged her podcast The Gaytheist Manifesto into Queersplaining. In the first episode “Why We Whisper,” Callie deftly weaves together interviews with Stephanie Svan and Ashley Miller, bloggers at The Orbit and Deb McTaggart into a story explaining why women and other marginalized groups often resort to “whisper networks,” when powerful men (it’s usually men,) use their position to impose sexually on the folks around them. In this case they are referring to the Atheist/Skeptic Movement, but their analysis could easily translate to any organization, social movement or community that shares the kind of informal relationships that characterize activist movements. Sadly, Deb unexpectedly died as Callie was editing the episode. I never got the chance to know her but from the outpouring of grief I’ve observed from friends who did it seems like we lost one of the good ones.

The episode remembered me to a piece I threw up on Medium last spring after that Buzzfeed article detailing Lawrence Krause’s history of sexual misbehavior landed. I was engaged in my favorite unhealthy activity, arguing with assholes on the internet and in trying to explain why whisper networks come to be I painted him a picture with a classic Tortured Sportsball Analogy, which I will reprint here in it’s entirety. Looking back on it after listening to Callie, Ashley, Stephanie and Deb tell their story I feel like I did a pretty good job. I don’t remember if the douchebag was convinced.

Full disclosure, the events in this example are fictional. I used the example of a local disc golf club because it was an organization I was familiar with. But all of the power dynamics I describe are accurate and it’s exactly the kind of informal setting that predators can exploit.

CN:Tortured Sportsball Analogy, also sexual harassment)

I recently had a long Facebook “discussion” with a particular “Adjective Atheist” who I will not name because his identity really isn’t important to this piece. He posted about the current deepening of the rifts on our community after the recent Buzzfeed article detailing Lawrence Krause’s history of sexual misbehavior.

The details of our differences aren’t important either. If you know me you know I believe Krause’s (and Shermer’s and others) accusers. At this point I find most attempts at “objectivity” in these cases more banal than anything. But a couple things from that discussion stood out for me and I thought I needed to tease them out.

AA stated at one point that the Buzzfeed article was the first he had heard of the accusations against Lawrence Krause. When I responded that it was fairly well known in our circles he complained that was the fault of the “whisper network,” that the women who had quietly warned each other behind the scenes that Krause was unsafe to be alone with were at fault. If they had made a bigger stink at the time he would find the news more credible I suppose.

At one point I proposed that if someone acted like Krause in our disc golf league we would kick them out, hoping perhaps that by providing an example of how an informal association might deal with the problem. His response was pointedly legalistic, expecting that we would take each case to the organizers who would take appropriate action. It was then I realized that AA had zero experience with the social dynamics at work.

So here’s the story I crafted to try to explain it to him.

Imagine you are a woman who likes disc golf. Maybe you played in school or picked it up from a parent or a sibling. You decide you want to learn more, you check the web for meet ups and you eventuality find the Local Flying Disc Club. They have a weekly league, they do monthly tournaments for all skill levels. It sounds great.

It’s a lot of fun. You meet a lot of new people, make friends, learn about the sport. There aren’t a lot of other ladies in the club, but that’s ok. Most of the guys are cool, although like a lot of places with lots of dudes there’s a lot of “locker room talk.” But you can hack it, you’re no snowflake.

There is this one guy. He’s one of the top players, a local pro. He represents the LFDC at tourneys around the world. He has sponsorships with Discraft, he’s been club president before and could be again. He’s friendly and always happy to help with advice on technique. And he pushes sexual boundaries.

You’ve noticed that the older women in the club give him a lot of space. Maybe over beers after a meet you are warned to keep an eye on his wandering hands. You assure them you can take care of yourself. Which you’ve always been able to do, right?

Then it happens to you. The specifics are immaterial. What do you do? Tell someone, tell the current club president, he’s a great guy, he’ll understand. And he says he does and he says he’ll talk to The Pro. But you get the feeling he doesn’t quite take it seriously.

The Pro is a popular guy. He buys beers at the pub after meets. He has lots of friends in the league. And now those friends are paying more attention to you. The locker room humor is more pointed and directed at you. It starts to feel like harassment and you complain about that to the president.

But now you look even worse. The president talked to his friend The Pro, and he said that it was just a misunderstanding. Mixed signals, he’s really sorry. But by coming forward about harassment on the course from Pro’s cronies, now YOU are the problem. You’re imagining things. You can’t take a joke. You’re just making trouble.

It starts to become obvious. Mr Pro is important to the club and you aren’t. He knows all the park commissioners and helped design the newest course. You’re just a hysterical woman.

And forget about going to the police. I think we can all see why that would be laughed off.

Maybe it becomes too much. It’s not fun anymore. You can’t even seem to get up the energy to throw a round by yourself. The next spring your bag of discs end up in a yard sale and this becomes a thing you “used to do”

Or maybe not? Maybe you’ve gotten pretty good at this game. You think maybe you should be getting some of that sponsorship money. That’s a different tragedy. That’s going to require even more from you. Mr Pro isn’t going anywhere. He could make your career in the sport miserable if he wants to, and you know that the club won’t do anything. So you swallow your pride. You learn to laugh at the jokes and not rock the boat.

And when you see another young woman join the club, maybe you drop some hints or whisper a name to watch out for.

It’s the best you can do.

That’s how and why whisper networks form. Blaming women for doing the best they can to keep themselves safe from unwanted sexual attention or even assault is rank hypocrisy. It’s not the women being silent, it’s US. It’s our cowardice at play here. We’re the ones in power, we’re the ones who maintain the environment that says a man’s reputation is more important than a woman’s body. We’re the ones who can stop this.

If we won’t take this seriously then there’s no reason at all for anyone on the sidelines to take our movement seriously.

Wednesday Webcomic: Questionable Content

For the last 15 years, Jeph Jacques has been sharing a world with us. It’s a world quite like our own, but different in some subtle and not so subtle ways. In the very first strip in August of 2003 we meet two of the central characters Marten Reed, a young office drone and musician and his rude, lascivious AnthroPC AI companion robot Pintsize. It gets both more, and oddly less weird from there. For instance, Artificial Intelligences seem to have no interest in taking over the world. or maybe they have and we haven’t noticed?.

The story centers around Marten, his best friend and roomie Faye Whitaker, her boss at Coffee of Doom the aggressively bisexual Dora Bianchi, and their neighbor the clinically neurotic Hannelore Ellicot-Chatham. The storylines initially focused on Marten and Faye as they navigated post-millennium malaise, griped about relationships and snarked about indie music. But as the cast grew and Jeph’s drawing and writing skills grew along with it, QC became something much more ambitious.

Imagine Friends with an updated sense of social justice. The cast is diverse across multiple spectrums, from the effusively polyamorous librarian Tai Hubbert, Marten’s girlfriend Claire, a trans woman, to Faye’s girlfriend (!) Bubbles, a retired military AnthroPC suffering from PTSD. Jeph has been particularly adept at addressing some pretty deep emotional issues throughout there series with kindness and humility. And he stands by his characters as if they are friends. For instance he has promised that there will never be any stories or jokes about Claire’s “junk” in response to nosy Twitter trolls.

The stories are sexy without being exploitative, raunchy without being puerile, and rude without being crude. Jeph has explored whether friends can or should become lovers, grand romances and quick flings alongside frustrations and loneliness. QC has dealt with questions about how we interact with technology and culture, how to be a good or bad friend, or a good or bad parent. His characters feel very real, even when they are up to seriously outlandish shenanigans, like when they had to disable the military laser that Pintsize’s new chassis had been accidentally shipped with, or when they went to the Space Station  that Hannelore grew up on.

16 years of storylines are too much to sum up in one blog post. I recommend diving in from the beginning. Treat it like a Netflix binge, it’s worth the time. If you have a couple bucks a month to toss in the hat, Jeph has a Patreon that can get you tomorrow’s strip today, as well as other Patreony goodies. And he has some sweet merch, including print editions with bonus content! Jeph’s also an excellent Twitter follow,  and a good Tumblr. His other webcomic, a complete sci fi tale called Alice Grove, is also very cool.


Tuesday TV: The Arrowverse is back!

I don’t have the mental energy for a deep dive, but I just wanted to share my squee at the return of Supergirl, The Flash, and Arrow from their winter hiatus. Coming off a great annual crossover event, Elseworlds, all three shows will start wrapping up this years storylines in preparation for the biggest event in Superhero TV history… Crisis on Infinite Earths!

What the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done in theaters, the CW has done on the small screen, bringing the experience of reading a superhero story in a living universe to life in front of our eyes. In this respect at least it’s a great time to be alive.

PS. Legends of Tomorrow returns in April!

Monday Muse: Sick Burn of the Year Edition

“You mean you used to listen to this un-ironically?”

Abby Doench, 13, with the Sickest Burn of 2019 so far….

Yes child… yes I did…

So as a vinyl collector I subscribe to a service that texts me deals on new records I might like. And when a sweet 200 gram remaster of Rush‘s 1977 release A Farewell to Kings just after the holidays… well it kinda just jumped into my queue. And so had I’ve “Closer to the Heart” stuck in my head all week. Which led to the sick burn of the year above, uttered as I assaulted the family with Dad Rock on a shopping g trip. And yes I STILL listen to Rush un-ironically, though not with quite the same enthusiasm as in my substance fueled twenties. I gotta admit that the Canadian trio hasn’t quite aged quite as well as some of my other Prog Rock faves.

The music still moves me, the amazing drumming of Neil Peart,  Alex Lifeson’s wondrously inventive guitar work, and  Geddy Lee’s unique aggressive falsetto combine to make sonic masterpieces. And I absolutely admire the gusto that band throws into sprawling eleven minute sagas like .”Xanadu” and “Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage. But I have to admit that Peart’s songwriting chops are still in infancy at this stage of their evolution. The subject matter is ambitious, but Peart wields his lyrics like blunt instruments, as if he missed the classes on metaphor and simile in English class. The end result can seem kind of corny… as this Family Guy clip lampoons…

“And now here’s a song about Radio Towers!”

A lifelong Jethro Tull fan develops a thick skin though, so while the sick burn stung, the scars will heal. So here’s an unapologetic 13 minute live performance of a song about a FREAKING BLACK HOLE to chew on…

The Friday Files: Impeach the Motherfucker

Clay Jones  Copyright 2019

So wow… just wow…

Buzzfeed news has reported that President Individual One personally directed his longtime attorney and supposed “fixer,” to lie to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow that were still ongoing during the 2016 campaign. Which he did, which is why he’s going to prison for three years.

Congressional Democrats are… shall we say… upset? And while leadership has been trying to put the dampers on talk of impeachment, the new House majority, full of foul mouthed whippersnappers eager to stretch their new muscles are already agitating for the process to begin.

Watergate? This is WAY worse than Watergate.

What makes the Cohen lies even worse—and yes, far worse than Watergate—is that it exposed any U.S. officials who were involved in orchestrating his false testimony subject to blackmail by Russia. As Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney and professor at the University of Michigan Law School, wrote at Just Security, “in the context of counterintelligence investigations, lies can also compromise national security. … A foreign adversary like Russia can use lies as leverage over government officials to coerce them into complying with its demands or else face exposure of the lies.”
As former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified in the context of Flynn’s lying about Russian contacts, “To state the obvious, you don’t want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians.” If Trump suborned Cohen’s false statements, the president would have exposed not only himself to Kremlin blackmail, but also other members of his team who, according to court documents and reporting, helped orchestrate his personal lawyer’s congressional testimony.

Ryan Goodman, Slate

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to negotiate a smooth Brexit blew up in her face in completely predictable fashion, because Brexit was based on a lie.

The Government is still shut down. Furloughed Federal workers have taken to crowdsourcing to raise funds for things like rent, heat, medicine and food. Which is completely normal… right?

In Buckeye State news, our new Governor, Mikey DeWine, took his oath of office on a comically large stack of Bibles.

 (Photo: John Minchillo, AP)

Why is Baby Hitler trending on Twitter? Thank Ben Shapiro, Conservative “thinker” and licensed straw man stuffer. The responses are brilliant…

All sorts of folks are gonna be running for President over the next 20 months or so. My good friend Gretchen at Giant If has a helpfully preachy primer about it…

Late Night of the Week

Rudy Giuliani went hurtling off the rails in an interview on CNN, it was hilarious.