The irony of Martin Luther King Day—

Occurring on Monday while the KKK-endorsed candidate takes the presidential oath of office on Friday. God help us all.

I have nothing really deep to say about the day or the man that others or himself haven’t said better. For example, Jim Hines links to King’s letter from Birmingham jail. As Fred Clark of the Slacktivist blog once put it, a lot of right-wing preachers declare their willingness to be jailed for their faith. King actually was jailed.

And here’s a quote from what I imagine is one of his less-known speeches, his commencement address at Oberlin, 1965: “Let nobody give you the impression that the problem of racial injustice will work itself out. Let nobody give you the impression that only time will solve the problem. That is a myth, and it is a myth because time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I’m absolutely convinced that the people of ill will in our nation – the extreme rightists – the forces committed to negative ends – have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic works and violent actions of the bad people who bomb a church in Birmingham, Alabama, or shoot down a civil rights worker in Selma, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.” Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals. Without this hard work, time becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So we must help time and realize that the time is always right to do right.”

You may have heard that Rep. John Lewis, a veteran of the civil-rights movement, said Trump was not a legitimate president. Conservatives freaked out. And not because they were impressed by Lewis: He’s whiny, he’s a fraud, he’s just as bad as Trump (if Trump were bad instead of awesome)! But hey, those guys write blog posts and get criticized, which is just like getting beaten by bigots, so it’s not like they’re any less courageous than Lewis. And after all, MLK was a religious conservative, so he’s on their side! And Dinesh D’Souza wants you to know that Rosa Parks is no big deal — all she did was not sit in the back of the bus. Yes, I’m sure D’Souza would have done the same thing if he were on the wrong side of Jim Crow (LOTS OF SARCASM).

Last week Fred Clark had several linked posts discussing the Biblical defense of slavery. And he includes a quote from Frederick Douglass, which I’ll repeat in part here: “They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.”

Happy MLK Day.

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A racist for attorney general, and other links

The New York Times gives a detailed look at the voting rights case that got Senator Jeff Sessions — Trump’s proposed attorney general — branded too racist to be a judge.

•Right-bloggers continue to insist that if Putin did help Trump win, it’s no big deal. But the black guys who assaulted the mentally handicapped guy in Chicago? Serious business. Which I would agree with — no way was that justified — but I think the conclusions that This Is the Face of Black Lives Matter and This Proves Segregationists Were Right are baloney. And as one blogger pointed out, the men have been caught and will probably be convicted, which is why the left isn’t making as big a crusade out of it as the Trayvon Martin killing or countless cop-shoots-black-guy cases where the perp got off.

•The right keeps trying to pretend that they object to Obamacare because it was a “back room deal” passed without Republican input or support. As noted at the link, it was a bill, handled like other bills and voted on by a majority of Congress — which makes it law whether or not Repubs in Congress support it.

•President Elect Shitgibbon’s cabinet nominees haven’t been background checked by Congress because they haven’t submitted financial information. Trump Chief of Staff Reince Preibus now says background checks are a waste of time: they’re all successful people, no big. Of course, that’s not what Sen. Majority leader Mitch McConnell used to think.

•Ransomware is now spreading to smart TVs.

•Another way to fight Trump: legal challenges from the states.

•A blog post looking at the role of sexism against Clinton (arguing, among other things, that a woman campaigning for high office raises hackles regardless of qualifications)

•It’s not news that Saddam didn’t have WMDs when we invaded back in 2003 and didn’t even have programs. Apparently his real interest was writing fiction.

•A look at one small town nostalgic for when Christianity was in charge, black people were quiet, and how they hope Trump will make America great again.

•Trump’s press secretary says we need to stop mocking the shit-gibbon and start giving him credit for his awesome accomplishments. Shakezula replies that he doesn’t have any.

•Republican history: President Johnson tried negotiating an end to the Vietnam War. Nixon undermined it.

•Jesus never read the Bible.

•An Afghan woman has convinced 6,000 imams to take gender-sensitivity training. That’s some good news.

•”Our job will be to be embody and protect all of those things most antithetical to authoritarianism, racism, misogyny, kleptocracy, an atmosphere of lies and indifference to science, fact and truth.” A more hopeful (though hardly naive) look at fighting back.

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How not to fight Trump, Republican sexism and my new And column

Professor Mark Lilla got a lot of flak for his recent claim that Democrats spend too much time on “identity politics,” issues that benefit only blacks, Latinos, gays, women, and that this is why they lost the election. If only they’d pitched policies that would benefit all Americans, Clinton might be president today! This is what they must do to win in the future!

In this And column, I argue that compromising on equality — which is what Lilla’s talking about — isn’t going to win over Trump voters. In a Vox interview, Lilla makes a more nuanced argument, that he’s not saying to abandon minority issues, just to reframe them. Don’t discuss how black motorists are pulled over arbitrarily: start from a general position (“Everyone should be free of arbitrary police harassment, right?”) and then lead them to see how black drivers are being arbitrarily harassed. Then the person you’re working on will have to agree with you.

I think that’s bullshit. There’s no shortage of stories about right-to-lifers who believe their abortion is different from everyone else’s. Or who agree freedom of religion is important, but of course that doesn’t apply to Muslims. Or the right-wingers who support a war on terror, but squeal like stuck pigs if right-wing terrorism is the target. And how exactly do you make pro-choice issues into something that applies to men?

Millions of Americans throughout history have believed “all men are created equal” doesn’t apply to blacks. Or Latinos. And if you read some of Martin Luther King’s speeches, you’ll notice the civil rights movement called on America to deal with the problems of black America not some vague call for universal equality. Not to mention that Clinton did make proposals to benefit everyone, such as a higher minimum wage. In short, I think Lilla’s full of crap. For better suggestions about how to win, check this post.

Shakezula points out that while Trump lashes out when provoked, he’ll lash out when not provoked. We can’t stop him getting angry, so don’t worry about it. To a large extent, I think this applies to the hardcore Trump supporters. As long as we’re not in the 1950s, as long as blacks, women, Muslims, gays and other groups don’t Know Their Place, they’re going to get angry.

•Trump’s health-care advisor Katy Talento, is yet another forced-birther who thinks birth control is baaaaad for women. And since birth control interferes with nature, isn’t that wrong by definition? Oh, and the reason men abandon women to raise babies alone is birth control! Because it never happened before the Pill came along! As many conservatives pretend.

•In more Republican sexism, Rep. Congressman Mark Meadows wants Trump to roll back Obama’s rules for how colleges handle sexual assault charges. Because they’re too hard on the accused, which reduces the chance victims will report rapes (no, it didn’t make sense). And besides, most of them are just date rapes, so no big.

•And here’s a memorable listing of great Republican quotes about rape.

•Digby points out that Trump’s business debts could give Wall Street a lot of influence over his presidency. And that despite his boasts about the factory jobs he’s saving, the shit-gibbon isn’t doing much about thousands of retail jobs that are being lost.

•Under a revived Congressional rule, the House can now pass appropriation bills that slash the pay of specific, individual federal employees. To as low as $1. I think I’d be happier with that if voters could do the same to Congress.

•Florida AG Pam Bondi announced a couple of years back that she was thinking of suing Trump University (which as noted at the link, has paid out $25 million in a settlement with students), while at the same time soliciting donations from the shit-gibbon. So the Trump Foundation donated to Bondi’s campaign…and Bondi is now being considered for a Trump administration post. Thank god we were spared the corruption of a Hilary Clinton presidency.

That sort of thing, Bill O’Reilly, is why the left wants a profound change in how the country is run.

(There will be another link post today as I clear out old links).

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Charlie Chan, science and saving the cat: books read (#SFWApro)

7884913I knew who Charlie Chan was years before I ever saw a film of his, so I was fascinated a couple of years back to learn he was based on a real person, Honolulu cop Chang Apana.  CHARLIE CHAN: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang (jacket design Chin-Yee Lai, all rights to design and images remain with current holder) is a history of Opana, a larger than life legend in his own right; Earl Biggers and his creation of Charlie Chan (who started out as a minor character in the book House Without a Key); and Chan’s status as pop-culture figure, Chinese celebrity (when the Charlie Chan films were new, China celebrated them for showing a Chinese character as hero) and later symbol of yellow-face acting (the only Chinese to play the role was Keye Luke providing the voice to the Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan cartoon), racist stereotyping and Americanized Chinese immigrants. While Huang is certainly sympathetic to the criticisms, he also argues the character is hardly the submissive Uncle Tom he’s often seen as, and argues he’s more eccentric detective than racial stereotype (comparing him to Poirot, another detective who mangles English and tosses off aphorisms). Wanders quite a bit, though unlike many books the byways (Hawaiian history, anti-Chinese immigration sentiments) are interesting too.

WHAT IF? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe was one of my Christmas books from TYG, in the time-honored genre of answering strange questions such as whether you could use machine-gun recoil to power a jetpack, what would happen if you collected all the periodic table in one place (nothing good), and how long it will take before dead people on Facebook outnumber the living. Informative fluff.

SAVE THE CAT GOES TO THE MOVIES: The Screenwriter’s Guide to Every Story Ever Told by Blake Snyder is in the time-honored How-To mold of showing how every single story can be broken down to fit a given template. In this case, Snyder shows how the story outline from his original Save the Cat book applies to such formats as Quest Stories, Buddy Comedies, Protagonist Challenges the System and Superhero stories; I’m not sure this is really anything I can use and it’s definitely not Every Possible Story (unless you really, really stretch), but I’ll look it over again.

THE COLLECTED SHORT FICTION OF C.J. CHERRYH is a 1990s omnibus that includes her first collection, Visible Light, the later themed collection Sunfall (adventures in Earth cities as the planet slowly dies) and various uncollected tales. Unsurprisingly a mixed, though mostly satisfying bag of tales, the weakest part being the introductions to the stories in Visible Light (Cherryh tries way too hard to be clever, and fails).

ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS by Shigeru Mizuki is the fictionalized version of the author’s WW II experiences. Mizuki’s account of bullying sergeants, put-upon privates and inflexible upper leadership shows that the experiences of war from the grunts’ perspective is pretty much universal. For the same reason it didn’t work for me, as it seemed like every WW II movie I’ve ever watched. Very much a YMMV reaction, though.

GLACIAL PERIOD by Nicolas de Crécy has a future archeological expedition (including a talking dog) unearth the Louvre and try to make sense of its imagery — do the nudes mean these people were sensual hedonists? Or were they tightly repressed and this was their sexual outlet? Quirky, and probably a YMMV too, but in the other direction — I enjoyed this one.

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If adventure has a name, it must be Fred Flintstone: movies and TV (#SFWApro)


Working on Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast put me in mind of Fred Flintstone’s turn as a stone-age James Bond, 1966’s THE MAN CALLED FLINTSTONE (all rights to poster belong to current holder). This seems to be riffing on From Russia With Love in having a female agent offer to sell out her evil master, the Green Goose (“He has a missile that can blow up the world, and might just use it.”) in return for a meeting with irresistibly sexy spy Rock Slag — who happens to be Fred’s double (I must admit, the first moment when Slag speaks and I realize it’s not Fred is kind of startling). So when Slag is injured, who does the government recruit to fill in for him? Making it an animated spy-spoof musical was a mistake (though Louis Prima does a great job with Pensa Amore) and it really isn’t any more outrageous than some of Fred’s TV adventures (like one episode where he gets involved in a spy thriller concerning the evil genius Stonefinger).  But I really like the animated credits, which are up on YouTube. “Pardon me, but do you know about the fifty fighting fireflies?”

I’ve accumulated a number of DVD multi-movie sets over the years, and when I pulled them out to check for time-travel movies, kept them on the shelf to watch the rest of the material. SLIPSTREAM (1989), which is in the same collection as Journey to the Center of Time, is a standard-issue low-budget SF film in which bounty hunter Mark Hamill and wannabe bounty hunter Bill Paxton pursue a wanted android through a post-apocalypse world — though like TV’s Revolution, it’s low-tech rather than ravaged — where the powerful Slipstream winds make it easy to cross the country by glider. Forgettable. “If the gods decide in his favor, the wind will set him free.”

I watched the first episode of the new series EMERALD CITY this week and didn’t bother to finish. Even before the ads billing it as “Oz meets Game of Thrones” I had the latter influence pegged—we got the grim, we got the gritty, we got the stuff that’s not as original as they may have thought (the implication the 20something Dorothy is some kind of Oz founding was done in the 1925 silent version of Wizard), we have dark touches that don’t add anything (the yellow brick road is composed of opium) and we generally lack an Oz feel — the Scarecrow, for example, isn’t an animate scarecrow, he’s just a guy Dorothy finds crucified in a field with crows watching for him to die. Return to Oz and other dark versions I’ve seen (The Oz Encounter by Ted White for instance) go dark but manage to keep the Oz feel. But as I have more than enough stuff to watch, this turning out to suck works out well for me.

I thought the first season of BLACK BUTLER ended perfectly, but I thought they did a good job keeping things going for Season Two: a rival wealthy child, Alois, contrives to deny Sebastian the soul of Ciel Phantomhive and pits his own demonic butler against Sebastian. As I mentioned recently, Netflix dropped the series, but the actual story arc was wrapped up, leaving just direct-to-video specials to fill out the run (though the Making Of special, in which the “cast” discuss the decision to come back for another season, is a deft parody).

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It snowed on me. You won’t believe—actually, what happened next is pretty believable (#SFWApro)

But first, some PR: annual Raleigh-Durham Illogicon is here again. And as I have been the past few years, I’m on some panels:

Friday 7pm: Magic Systems in High(ish) Fantasy
Saturday 10am” Repeating Itself: Historical Fiction
6pm: Writing Real People and Places (or, That Looks Familiar!)
Sunday 11am Reading: Fraser Sherman
12pm: Time Management for Writers.

And here’s the Illogicon mascot, Schrodinger, from last year:

professor2Now, the week. As  I mentioned this morning, I was snowed in with the dogs until Tuesday evening. To put it mildly, that did not work out well for me: Tuesday work I pretty much zoned out (I love the pups, but constant confinement for four days with them got to be a little much. Okay, a lot much). Happily it thawed out enough that I could make writers’ group Tuesday night. It’s always fun to hang out, more so after not getting to go anywhere.

What I did get done was the first chapter of my book version of Undead Sexist Cliches. I hadn’t planned to put that much work into it this month, but I was kind of zoned Monday too, and nonfiction is easier.

The rest of the week I worked primarily on Southern Discomfort, thinking about the character arcs, the characters and some of the plot holes. My brain moved slower than I wanted, but it did move and I got a lot of thinking and revising and changing accomplished. I’ll probably discuss it next week.

Then Thursday TYG had an unexpected schedule glitch. So she was up late. So I was up late. Trust me with the dogs there’s no way for her or me to slip quietly into bed. So I was pretty zonked today. I’d planned to work on Trouble and Glass but wound up mostly doing more thinking about Southern Discomfort. I definitely think I’d have made more progress if I hadn’t been so thrown off by schedule.

One distraction did work out well. We had to take Plushie in to the vet to check his kidney levels — they were a little high last year — but it turns out that the kidney food we put him on did the trick. They’re fine. So yay.

And by the time you read this, I’ll probably be at Illogicon while TYG gets to make up all her lost time with the pups.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

And out of the ice he came (#SFWApro)


(Above, Plush Dog discovers that his armies, like so many others that invaded Russia have fallen before General Winter).

I mentioned last Friday that we anticipated snow last weekend. And we got it. Up and down our street it seemed to range from two to six or seven inches.


(Our backyard, in black and white).


(A frozen water pipe and a snow-covered rain barrel)

Which meant I was confined at home with Plush and Trixie, as I couldn’t drive on our local roads (the bigger nearby ones were clear probably the first day, but that didn’t help). Saturday, that was actually kind of fun. We took long walks, and I marveled at how they loved romping in the snow, Plushie in particular (Trixie sometimes got a little frustrated trying to find somewhere to put her butt to the ground). And we had a play date with Trixie’s bestie Lily. A personal highlist was watching Plushie rush over to Lily’s family’s compost area, where he’s always trying to scarf food. Only this time, it was all under several inches of snow. He kept wandering off, then checking back to see if things had improved.

snow-lily(Lily, romping in snow)

Sunday, things were a lot less entertaining. TYG had been supposed to get back from her alumni event that afternoon, but the airport was closed. And where the previous day I’d been able to walk across the roads in our neighborhood, now the cars had removed or packed down the snow, leaving a dangerously slippery layer. So we were now confined to our block. I tried to make walkies as long as possible (despite the temperature Sunday being around 10 for much of the day), but I think the pups got pretty frustrated. Plus Plushie just loves playing out in the cold and the snow (“A stick! I shall sit here and chew it!”). Plus I think they missed their mommy, particularly in the evenings when she plays with them.


And then Monday, her substitute flight was canceled. And it was still very cold, and I still couldn’t get out.

Fortunately TYG returned Tuesday and everything looked brighter. The temperature also rose above freezing, and has stayed there, so the ice and snow have been slowly but steadily melting. Today it’s almost all gone, though the yard is impressively muddy.

And happily there’s no snow or ice forecast for this weekend, when I’m at Illogicon in Raleigh (details in the afternoon post).

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