Sunday Morning Reading Material: Fourth Sunday in May 2011: And I feel fine edition

(Come bards from the north, elves off the moor!)

It’s Sunday morning. Sundays are for cuddling in bed reading this very thing right now. Or Sundays could be for recovering from the cold which inspired the edition name of this post. Alternately, Sundays might be for recovering from a very bad, no good, horrible date.

This week, President Obama caught some flack for saying the sort of perfectly sensible things about Israel that every president has said since 1967. Economically ravaged Iceland experienced an eruption of it’s most active volcano. Also: Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh promised to step down. Eventually. At some point. Also Also: the Iranian president is at loggerheads with the Iranian supreme leader- both men want more power.

Last Sunday, we San Franciscans held a “race” called the Bay to Breakers. I put the word “race” in quotes because we San Franciscans don’t take it very seriously as an athletic competition. For most of us, it really is a giant, drunken, moving street fair, complete with costumes, nudity, and floats. The floats are how we know that it’s a special day in San Francisco. I mention this because every year, there is a male and a female winner of the race. Every year that winner is from Africa- usually Kenya. It amazes me that there is a large enough prize pool that traveling across 3 continents to race is worth the bother. But then, Kenya is a very poor country.

This comic does a great job at capturing the dynamic of cross-pond super hero expectations.

The single most depressing job I can imagine is oncology. The entire job is dealing with people who either have cancer, or think they might have cancer. The best news an oncologist can deliver is “the problem you’re experiencing isn’t cancer.” Fortunately, oncologists have a simple Six-Step Protocol for Delivering Bad News. Handy for all your bad dates! Table 2 is especially noteworthy.

Secret Service makes a whoopsy.

The supreme court this week decided that the police may enter a home without a warrant if they suspect that illegal behavior is happening inside that home. Put more bluntly, the Supreme Court violated its oath to the US Constitution by wiping its metaphorical ass with the 4th Amendment. As much as I truly detest marijuana, I don’t hate America more than I hate pot. I’m not sure why the Supreme Court seems to.

The idea of putting cameras on police officers seems obvious. The money counting room at a grocery store has cameras. The police are a lot better armed than your average Safeway clerk. Shooting someone is a lot more serious than stealing from the till. This shouldn’t be at all controversial.

A week or so ago I mentioned that I don’t understand the idea of being transgendered. I’ve also said that I don’t have to understand, I only have to accept. Carolyn Michelle is a damned good games reviewer. Anyone who will overlook that fact because of her gender is doing themselves a grave disservice- and failing in a prime duty as a human.

One of the more interesting things about the emergence of trans people into the public consciousness has been grammatical. While English isn’t nearly as gendered a language as the Romance languages, it does lack a gender-neutral option. Attempts to change this, or any parts of the language, have been met with incredulity, derision, hostility, and illogic.

One of the more interesting realizations I’ve had over the past few years is that even if all gender identities were treated with true equality, there would still be need for separate spaces for the various genders. The problem is not that “The Mary Sue” exists (far from!), nor is it a problem that “The Mary Sue” needs to exist (I just said it would be necessary even in a perfect world). No. The problem is that The Mary Sue is the female version of a default that is assumed to be male. That’s not their problem. That’s mine.

One of the things that becomes clear reading this retrospective from Rosanne Barr is that by the end of the show, she was crazy, and it was unfunny. Unfortunately, so many people had told her that she was crazy and unfunny when it was demonstrably untrue that she was unable to distinguish between lies and truth. Did the patriarchy literally cost Ms. Barr a bit of her sanity? Arguably. It certainly cost her a crucial bit of judgment and cost humanity an enormous talent.

I watched Thor this week. It was incredibly good. In fact, it was so good that I went back and re-watched Iron Man 1 and 2, as well as the most recent Hulk movie. They were all pretty enjoyable. I came to the conclusion that a good script, good director, and good acting can make any concept fun. Wonder Woman is a kind of silly concept. It isn’t sillier than Thor, Hulk, or Iron Man. Those stories feature men, though, and are thus given a lot more leeway than a story featuring a woman.

Speaking of Norsemen in modern times: Official NASA instructions for a viking attack.

Every Saturday night, I sit down and bang out a bunch of words to put together a post you guys can enjoy on a Sunday Morning. Sometimes it’s better than others. Sometimes it’s easier than other times. I do know that if I skipped a week I, people would notice, and (I hope) complain. That knowledge is one of the things that keeps me motivated. I say that because whatever my problems as a writer, George R R Martin has them ten or a hundred thousand times worse. It’s been about 12 years since the 3rd book in his epic was published. Book 5 is due soon.

Speaking of good writing? A good friend of mine is stretching her abilities a bit. I can’t wait for her to publish a collection of short stories.

Representative Ryan would like to cut funding for the elderly and the poor, so that America can slash taxes for the rich. Before the implementation of Social Security, one in two of the elderly were impoverished. Representative Ryan would like to undo decades of progress and return to the days when grandparents died on America’s sidewalks. Representative Ryan would like to replace all the government programs with strong multiplier effects and replace them with programs that have small multiplier effects- thus shrinking America’s economy and giving a bigger share of it those who are already well off. Representative Ryan claims that President Obama is engaged in Class Warfare. Representative Ryan is implicitly agreeing with us: it’s only class warfare when the poor fight back.

Musical Interlude (the second track is excellent)

The major difference between East Coast geeks and West Coast Geeks is that East Coasters can love sports and West Coasters cannot. Even in my geekdom, I am atypical, I guess. Sports really do create enormous safe spaces to engage in mutual activities. Even small steps towards becoming more inclusive are, of course, welcome.

A person who, this week, is newly old enough to drink would have lived their entire life without Jim Henson.

I’m not really a fan of wrestling. Nothing against it, but nothing for it either. It’s just not my thing. So the rapturous death of “Macho Man” Randy Savage didn’t move me. Nevertheless, this obituary paints a picture of a man who was a net positive to the human experience. That is all anyone can ask for in a lifetime.

Fun fact: George Orwell’s grandson taught my introduction to Political Science course. That’s why I often refer to the great author as “Eric Blair”. Orwell was undeniably brilliant, and so often correct that it’s more than a bit humbling. In his diary, he makes some guesses as to England’s probable fate in the war. It’s shockingly plausible, given what we know of history. It is also entirely wrong. I wonder why he misread Churchill so badly.

Sound design is one of those things most people rarely pay attention to. It is generally one of those things done at least adequately. It is worth, therefore, spending some time thinking about what makes sound design good– extraordinary.

I don’t have anything really to say about this article about death in video games. It’s good. Go read it.

The penultimate sentence of this article contains a truth so profound that once you realize it, everything changes forever.

Every teacher at a University of California is (in theory) committed to spending about a third of their time “for the public good”. Sadly, things like Academic Senate counts as fulfilling that requirement, and the public good is conflated with the downward gaze at one’s own navel. Nonetheless, it points to an important truth: Universities aren’t merely for teaching, but for learning new things about the way humanity- or the universe works- and using that knowledge. The mission of every public university and college is- or very much ought to be- the betterment of humankind through the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Someone in the Obama administration gets this, and is taking steps towards making it happen.

One of the more interesting things I learned while studying theology in college is that it is unclear whether Jesus was insulting bankers by calling them terrorists– or if he felt that calling them bankers was a sufficient insult. While it’s arguable that Jesus didn’t have disgust for the rich, he certainly had violent rage towards anyone who stood between poor people and meeting the needs of poor people. Shockingly, it seems it is possible to have spent a lifetime in bible study and utterly fail to understand this point.

Fact: San Francisco invented the burrito. There are places in London claiming that they make burritos the way we do. I wonder if they’re even close?

Know what else San Francisco does better than anyone else on Earth? Porn. Imagine a porn company with the corporate ethos of Ben and Jerry’s. That’s They’re doing pretty well by the City. Also: the fact that they’re located at the Armory means they’re literally making love, not war.

It’s not trespassing if it’s done in the name of art, right? It can’t be. How can anyone call themselves a photographer of beautiful things and fail to climb the Golden Gate Bridge to photograph San Francisco at dawn? We here at Indignant Desert Birds applaud audacity, oddity, and awesomeness. Also: beauty.

Some day in the future, I can well imagine that people will only buy paper versions of their most-beloved books. That cheep paperback I bought to pass time on a plane? Gonna delete that file when I’m done. The new Michael Lewis masterpiece? Let me proudly display that on my shelf. Like Ezra Klein, I was resistant to ebooks. Now? Obviously I’m a convert.

I’m not sure this is really the best model for the library of the future. I am glad that someone is thinking about these things.

If you read just one thing:

Douglas Adams died a decade ago this week. He made his reputation as a humorist, but he seemed to have a deep and fundamental grasp on what makes humanity tick. Read this in remembrance of him.

This week’s theme was the cost of non-inclusiveness. In the comments, leave a link to a cute puppy.

(Some great story telling and photography)


One Response to “Sunday Morning Reading Material: Fourth Sunday in May 2011: And I feel fine edition”

  1. Did the no good, very bad, horrible date involve phlegm?

    (You don’t have to answer that. Cough, cough. Iachth.) :)

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