Five Links That Are Actually Important, 12/19/08

December 19, 2008 at 12:35 pm (frightening things, injustice, LGBT, politics, sexism, stupidity) ()

1. Microcredit and “The Political Economy of Shame.”

2. Rick Warren to give inaugural invocation–Bad move!

3. So, what to do about the fact that Warren is doing the invocation. This is the message I sent to Emmett Beliveau, director of the inaugural committee:

Mr. Beliveau,

I am appalled that Rick Warren has been chosen to give the invocation at President-Elect Obama’s inauguration. This is a slap in the face to women and LGBT people. I can’t imagine that any person so callously promoting the hatred and oppression of any other groups would be chosen to have such an important role in this or any ceremony of the Obama Administration.

I thought the Obama Campaign was about change for everybody. Apparently not — bashing LGBT people and denying women control of their own bodies continue to be just fine on Obama’s watch.

Selecting Rick Warren is not an act of inclusivity. It’s a clear message that marginalized people will continue to be excluded, while the farthest fringe of anti-liberty, anti-equality, pro-theocracy fundamentalists will continue to be pandered to.

Signed,
Daisy Bond

Contact Beliveau at emmett@pic2009.org.

4. Bush Administration approves sweeping protections allowing health care workers to refuse care to patients. This is fucked up.

5. See Queen Emily and Jill for more about the horrifying effects of Bush’s new rule.

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You should not be having sex.

December 9, 2008 at 5:20 pm (injustice, sex, sexism, stupidity) ()

Caroline Ryan, you are a cruel, selfish, and incredibly unabashed idiot. I am amazed by your callousness and lack of empathy. Your article does more for the case against routine infant circumcision than almost anything else I’ve ever read.

If you’re not able to respect your lovers’ bodies as they are, you should not be having sex. If you can’t stop yourself from ridiculing another person’s genitals, in print no less, you should not be having sex. If you think that someone’s genitals being able to feel sensations is bad, you should not be having sex. If you would prefer your lovers to be unfeeling machines instead of human beings, you should not be having sex.

At least not with anyone else.

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Dinosaur Kingdom

December 7, 2008 at 11:26 am (funny things, stupidity) (, , )

Dinosaur Kingdom is the name of a new and silly amusement park in Virginia.

Dinosaur Kingdom is a twist on the biblical Creationist view that people and dinosaurs lived together. Here, people live with dinosaurs — but only until the dinosaurs eat them.

As the tour begins, visitors are asked to imagine themselves in 1863. A family of Virginia paleontologists has accidentally dug a mine shaft into a hidden valley of living dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the Union Army has tagged along, hoping to kidnap the big lizards and use them as “weapons of mass destruction” against the South.

What you see along the path of Dinosaur Kingdom is a series of tableaus depicting the aftermath of this ill-advised military strategy. As you enter, a lunging, bellowing T-Rex head lets you know that the dinosaurs are mad — and they only get madder. A big snake has eaten one Yankee, and is about to eat another. An Allasaurus grabs a bluecoat off of his rearing horse while a second soldier futilely tries to lasso the big lizard. Another Yankee crawls up a tree with a stolen egg while the mom dinosaur batters it down. Mark has augmented some of these displays with motors: toothy jaws flap, tails and tongues wag.

Mark explains that he originally wanted the dinosaurs to attack Pancho Villa and his troops at the turn of the 20th century, but then decided against it. “I was really looking for some villains,” he explained. “The Pancho Villa thing — nobody remembers that.” Which is true. Instead, Mark’s substitution of Union soldiers seems certain to win him favor, at least locally. “I mean, for Christ’s sake, people still fight the Civil War down here,” he said. “I would gladly have changed the color of the uniforms — if I was from the North.”

No further comment.

Via A Blog Around the Clock.

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On Being The Only One In The Room (Updated)

December 4, 2008 at 3:25 pm (LGBT, stupidity) ()

So in about half my classes this semester, I’m the only visibly queer person. I noticed this right away; the first few weeks of school were marked by near-constant nightmares that I somehow had long hair again. I had to cut my hair even shorter than I usually keep it just to feel like I can breathe.

This makes me feel isolated and freakish. (And it really doesn’t help that my classmates have occasionally directly pointed out that I’m, um, a deviation from the statistical norm.) There’s also the fact that I don’t feel like I have very many friends at school anyway, which is my own fault for being misanthropic, I guess. Not that I can help it, but whatever.

Anyway, all this came to a head at my midterm critique some weeks ago. I put a up a few portraits of my girlfriend — in addition to a bunch of other stuff — and in introducing my work, I mentioned that she’s my girlfriend and said some things that I think made it pretty damn obvious that she’s my girlfriend. Not to mention how plainly gay I am anyway. But my professor referred to her as my “friend” throughout the presentation, saying stuff to make it clear he understood the relationship as totally trivial (saying, basically, that I don’t really know her). I was fuming and I felt like someone had stepped on my throat, but I couldn’t say anything because I didn’t have any allies — I don’t think anyone else even noticed. I wrote him a note about it, explaining that I knew it was just a mistake but that it hurt my feelings. Of course he never said anything.

Today, in our final critique, my professor misgendered one of the people I’d made a portrait of. This picture is of a pretty young woman who has short hair. Though you can only see her face, her gender is very obvious — she’s wearing earrings and make-up, and has clearly feminine facial features. What the hell.

This is starting to wear down and me and make me depressed. I am so fucking glad I will be out of that class after Tuesday. I’m sick of feeling like a freak everyday. And it’s not that everyone there is apparently cisgender and heterosexual — it’s the creeping sensation that, when these weird, unintentional insults happen, I’m the only one who sees them. I would never, ever let something like that just pass if it happened to someone else. That is, provided I could see it happening; that’s the worst part — that they’re on such a different planet from me that they can’t even see me. My feelings are so foreign they’re invisible.

These are just the two things that are on my mind today; they’re part of a collection of dozens of similar things this semester, all of which have built up into the sense of alienation that’s starting to overwhelm me. If the pattern continues I might seriously consider leaving school. It’s toxic. It’s heartbreaking. It’s fucking unnecessary. And I do not have the resources to go at it alone.

UPDATE: I talked to some of my schoolmates about this in my class this evening, and they were very kind to me, which was tremendously heartening. I also learned that this professor has said similarly stupid things to several other people; I guess that should annoy me even more, but actually, it was a relief. I’ve concluded that the problem is, in fact, almost entirely the bad behavior of a single person.

I’ll take this as a sign that’s it’s time to write a post I’ve been sitting on for awhile about power dynamics in the classroom.

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The Bottomless Abyss of Formal Schooling, Part III

November 19, 2008 at 12:18 pm (injustice, stupidity) ()

The final segment of my series of posts on the school system is now up at Revolutionary Act.

It seems to me that the foundational assumptions of traditional school are: that children, left to their own devices, cannot and will not learn; that children are basically helpless and stupid and deficient in curiosity; that children must therefore be taught, by a competent authority, or they will fail to grasp concepts and gain skills.

I think anyone who has ever spent any time with a child can attest that all of these ideas are patently false. Anyone who was ever spent time around a child who is learning to talk can attest as much with even greater confidence — tiny babies, unable even to feed themselves, crack the code of language with a speed and an enthusiasm most adults could envy. The reality, as far as I can tell, could not be farther from those assumptions.

And I do believe those are the underlying ideas. We would have to believe that children must be forced to learn in order to ask ourselves, “Is our children learning?”

That is an insane question. I know it’s also a much-mocked one, but no one would have laughed at it if our Ivy Leagued-educated* soon-to-be-former President had managed to formulate it correctly. And that’s absurd. There is no such thing as a child who isn’t learning. The only questions is, “Are our children learning things in the arbitrary order and at the arbitrary pace the school system requires?” If that’s more important to us than whether children are happy, healthy, curious, and engaged — and it certainly seems to be — we have our priorities precisely backward.

Keep reading.

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On “Learning How To Learn”

November 12, 2008 at 12:22 pm (injustice, stupidity) ()

The next post in my “Bottomless Abyss Of Formal Schooling” series is now up at Revolutionary Act. Part I is here.

When I was in 10th grade, Emily and I started going to the bookstore during our free periods. We’d get coffee, and then just wander, reading title after title, picking up anything that interested us. We often read whole books in a single sitting, crouched on the carpet at the back of one aisle or another, sometimes reading silently to ourselves and sometimes out loud to one another. We read novels, collections of poetry, nonfiction volumes about science and history and feminism. This was fun — it was great, unadulterated fun, and the things we learned are immeasurable. I would learn more in ninety minutes, exploring an interesting topic with my best friend, than I did in an entire semester in any of my classes. Overall I’m sure I’ve learned significantly more reading with Emily — in bookstores, bedrooms and the blogosphere — than I did in my three* years of high school combined.

Being forced back into class every day after this was incredibly demoralizing. I’ve always been an A student and liked school more than most, but this exposed the great hypocrisy of what I was being forced to do. I was learning, passionately — and it felt nothing like sitting in those classrooms.

Keep reading.

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The Bottomless Abyss Of Formal Schooling, Part I

October 29, 2008 at 10:50 am (injustice, stupidity) ()

Sorry for the light posting, everybody! I’m very busy in school.

And speaking of school, over at Revolutionary Act, I’m doing a series of posts on formal education. Part I just when up…

I’m at my high school, sitting in the gathering space — the hall where we had our weekly, school-wide assemblies. All my friends are there, and all my teachers. Guest speakers have come in. They are talking and talking, lecturing us about some subject, passing a microphone back and forth. They are saying something that infuriates me — some lie, some bigoted untruth that the teachers and administrators are nodding along to. I’m exchanging glances with my friends, my classmates, uneasy sideways glances as we slowly realize how wrong these lecturers are. They talk on and on and it gets only worse, I get angrier and angrier. I raise my hand to speak but they ignore it. My hand is up for what feels like hours, until my arm is shaking and exhausted and my face contorted. I start to yell, begging to be allowed to speak. I need to speak. I know that no one will correct these liars if I don’t and I can’t let them talk like that to my friends, to all these kids. I love these kids and I can’t let them do this. But they ignore me. I start screaming, and I’m crying, choking around my sentences, my pathetic little points that I need to make so badly. I need only to say them, to be heard.

Keep reading.

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And Even More Kids Abusing Themselves

October 11, 2008 at 10:52 am (sex, stupidity)

For fuck’s sake, for at least the third time here, a minor is being charged with sexually abusing herself by taking (and distributing to other minors) pictures of herself naked. The fifteen-year-old is facing felony charges and the possibility of being a publicly-registered sex offender for ten years.

The distortion of the intent of the law here — you know, to protect minors from sex predators — is so overt, so extreme, I (almost) have trouble believing it’s happening. What’s the problem with child pornography, people: that an adult might be sexually aroused by children, or that a child has been abused?

The latter is a catastrophic violation of the sovereign rights of a person with almost no power. The former, disturbing though it may be, a thought crime. And it’s disturbing because it clearly implies the potential for child abuse — i.e. the actual wrongdoing we’re supposed to be trying to prevent here.

What the hell.

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Extreme Ironing

August 25, 2008 at 3:58 pm (amazing things, funny things, stupidity)

Can you focus on a tiny crease in a shirt sleeve while balancing on one leg on a tree branch jutting out over a cliff? Didn’t think so.

Not much to add to this, so just read it. It’s hilarious.

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I’m Voting Republican

June 21, 2008 at 11:31 am (movies/video/clips, politics, stupidity)

PSYCH! Bet I had ya there for a second, didn’t I? No? Eh.

Via Queers United.

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