Tag Archives: current events

I Am An American, and This Is Not Okay

The violence in Ferguson is still happening.  Another journalist was arrested today.  The National Guard is coming in.  By all appearances, the local PD seems to be invested in fanning the flames and working against the Missouri Highway Patrol (who briefly had things under better management) and the DOJ/FBI.  Follow the links from my previous post for coverage.

I want to say something about what’s happening here.  It’s not as important as what other people are saying — go read them — but I want to say it.

There’s a fairly vocal subset of the US-based Internet who seems to like to cry, “Free speech!  First Amendment!” at the drop of a hat.  Even when it doesn’t apply.  Like when people’s words get criticized (not a free speech violation).  Or when people lose the platform that was previously provided by another free person (also not a free speech violation).  Or when people are banned from privately-owned spaces (seriously, NOT a free speech violation).

You know what qualifies as actual First Amendment violations?  Gross, extreme, no-American-should-be-okay-with-this First Amendment violations?  What’s happening in Ferguson right the fuck now.

Journalists being arrested.  Press and citizens being told by authorities to stop recording.  Police aggressively preventing citizens from engaging in peaceful assembly or protest.  News helicopters being banned.  People having guns pointed at them or handcuffs slapped on them because they were standing or walking or talking or shouting or protesting or recording or associating in a manner a police officer didn’t like.  Curfews.  Snipers.  Tear gas.

IF YOU BELIEVE IN THE BILL OF RIGHTS, IF YOU BELIEVE IN THE FIRST AMENDMENT, THIS IS WHEN YOU GET MAD.  THIS IS WHEN YOU GET BEYOND OUTRAGED.  THIS IS WHEN YOU THROW A FUCKING SHITFIT.

The people of Ferguson are my fellow Americans.  And this is what it looks like when Americans’ rights are being violated.

For God’s sake, get angry.

Ferguson: Everyone Needs to Be Following This

I haven’t said much on Ferguson because I don’t have anything smart to add, and also I’m here safe on the West Coast and not in St. Louis having tear gas thrown in my fucking yard.  But I realized: I can and should signal boost, even to my small audience here.  To anyone I can.  Because if you’re not following what’s going on in Ferguson, start right now.  Police are assaulting unarmed protesters with tear gas — journalists are being arrested — a no-fly zone has been instituted — police are ordering citizens and reporters to turn off their cameras —

THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW IN FERGUSON, MISSOURI. JUST OUTSIDE ST. LOUIS.

And there’s no substantive response — none — from the state or federal governments.

A lot of media outlets aren’t giving full coverage.  Places to start:

#Ferguson on Twitter

@AntonioFrench is a St. Louis alderman tweeting from the ground in Ferguson, he’s giving a stunning level of coverage eta: It’s being reported on Twitter that he’s now been arrested.

Here’s a Twitter list of people tweeting from Ferguson

Here’s a Twitter list of journalists tweeting from Ferguson (thank you to those journalists — media, we need more, send more)

This article summarizes responses from horrified military and vets: “We rolled lighter than that in an actual war zone.”

This livestream is no longer live (as of this writing) but you can see prior footage of police attacking a group of unarmed protesters with hands raised — police demand that they turn off cameras but they keep filming.

Talk about this — tell people — link about it — especially my fellow USAians, let our government know that this is not okay.  That our leaders MUST respond.  Let the people of Ferguson know they are not alone.  Make #Ferguson trend across the country, demand a response from the government of Missouri and our president.

I am angry, and I stand with Ferguson.

Why I’m Glad We Didn’t Boycott Sochi

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows how strongly I feel about gay rights.

I remember when the issue of Russia’s policies first came up in relation to the games.  Some people called for the U.S. to boycott.

But all I could think of was how many professional athletes I know.[1]  And how hard they work.  How hard they strive.

How much a shot at the Olympics means to those athletes.  How short athletic careers can be, meaning this might be their only shot.

How (I’m sure) a good number of Olympic athletes are LGBTQ themselves.

If I were a gay athlete who’d been training six, ten, twelve hours a day at my sport, who had been striving to be the best I could possibly be, to push my body to incredible feats of strength or agility, the last thing in the world I would want would be a boycott of the Olympics.  Instead, I’d want to go, and to be awesome, and to tell Russia to suck it.  And possibly make out with my partner in the middle of Sochi afterwards.

Olympic athletes are amazing.  To be at that level at your sport, to put in the work and dedication to achieve that level—to have the sheer inborn talent these athletes do—it floors me.  I love watching people who are that talented.  I love that they exist.  And I wouldn’t want anything to interfere with their opportunity to compete at one of the most prominent international competitions there is.

Especially the gay athletes.

So I’m very glad the U.S. didn’t boycott. But I do hope a whole mess of queer athletes win gold medals. Russia can’t do a damn thing about that.

  1. And yes, it just happens I know a lot, including former Olympians, and yes, it’s very cool.

U.S. Supreme Court Rules on DOMA, Prop 8

The Supreme Court today announced its decisions striking down DOMA and ruling that the proponents of Proposition 8 did not have the standing to have put the case before them.

Salient notes:

  • The decision on Proposition 8 returns the case to the lower courts’ decisions, which both struck down the law.  This means, barring future complications, that same-sex marriage will be legally restored in California.  It does not, however, make any statement about overall constitutionality regarding bans of same-sex marriage. Edited to add: Reading the decision indicates that the lack of standing ruling vacated the decision of the Ninth Circuit.  The district court also struck down Prop 8, however, so I think that should still make same-sex marriage legal in CA going forward?
  • As much as I would have liked to see a wider ruling, in a way, I kind of love that SCOTUS told the people bringing the case that they didn’t have standing to do it.  It’s like what I always say about same-sex marriage: why do you people care so much?  Nobody’s going to force you to marry someone of the same sex; why are you putting so much effort into this?  And SCOTUS effectively just told those petitioners they were sticking their noses where they didn’t have the legal standing to!
  • From what I’ve read, the only part of DOMA before the courts was the part about federal benefits.  The rest of the law still stands, I believe, including the part about states not being required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states (this part of the law was not being challenged in this court case).  But now federal benefits will have to be extended to legally-married same-sex couples.  (I wonder if this will be applied retroactively back through to the Massachusetts decision ten years ago?  If so, a lot of people are going to get hefty tax refunds.)
  • Both decisions were 5-4, but with different breakdowns.

This is about what I expected to happen from reading analyses of the cases, but I’m still ridiculously happy about it.

Amazon To Sell Self-Published Fanfiction Tie-Ins Through Kindle Worlds

So, the corners of the Internet I frequent are blowing up this morning about Amazon’s announcement that they’re starting a marketplace called Kindle Worlds that is, essentially, a marketplace for fanfiction.  The rights holders of the canon must opt-in, of course, and royalties will be split between the fanfiction writer and the original rights holder (and, of course, Amazon).

Some people are going crazy with “OMG SELLING FANFICTION THE WORLD WILL NEVER BE THE SAME!,” but my first reaction is an almighty shrug.  After all, I grew up on Star Wars tie-in novels.  I have no objection to authors self-publishing original books, so why would I have an objection to authors self-publishing tie-in books, provided the rights holder has licensed them?  Which, in this case, they have.  In fact, this strikes me as a pretty good business idea, and I’m all about media conglomerates adapting to the changing world rather than throwing tantrums and stomping on people (cf. starting Hulu instead of suing college students into oblivion for downloading TV shows).

My initial reaction, therefore, was about equal parts, “So?” and “Hey, good idea on their part” (“they” being both Amazon and the rights holders who have opted in, which right now include Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, and Gossip Girl).  I don’t think there’s any danger of Amazon trying to make opening a canon to Kindle Worlds non-optional for rights holders (they’d be pushing against too much cultural inertia for that), so this is rights holders saying, “Hey! We want to do this!” and fanfiction writers who choose to publish there saying, “Hey! We want to do this!” and everyone’s making money and I’m generally all about people having mutually beneficial agreements and making money together and being happy.  I personally feel no temptation to make use of it either as a rights holder, a writer, or a reader, but I’m all for people working out the publishing models that work for them.

But.  But . . .

Here are some concerns:

  • My chief concern here is whether rights holders—both those who opt-in and those who don’t—will see this as a reason to bring the hammer down on all the unlicensed, not-for-profit fanfiction and fan communities.  This isn’t a reason to criticize Kindle Worlds itself (unless they started encouraging such hammer-bringing), but I am concerned.  I suspect only time will tell.
  • For this reason, I’d rather the discussion be framed as “self-published tie-in novels and stories” rather than “legitimized fanfiction,” which is the term everyone seems to be using—because calling this “legitimized fanfiction” might tempt rights holders to draw the binary, “If we want to allow fanfiction we’ll allow it through Kindle Worlds and it’s NOT PERMITTED ANYWHERE ELSE.”  (Of course, the reason people are using the term “fanfiction” is that Amazon is using it quite eagerly, which does make sense as they’re trying to draw in fanfiction writers.)
  • Amazon’s terms seem to include the clause that the rights holder can use any of the ideas in a Kindle Worlds story without further compensation to the writer.  This seems like a spectacularly terrible deal for the writer.  It makes me curious what rights professional tie-in authors have—for instance, if they decided to film Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars books, do his contracts with Lucasfilm/Bantam/whoever entitle him to further compensation?  Personally, this release-of-rights clause would make me very uncomfortable, were I inclined to publish in Kindle Worlds.  (And to those who say, “Well, but the rights holders are letting them do this, they should have all the rights to it they want!”—no, that’s not how mutually beneficial contracts work; the writers are bringing something of value to the table too that the rights holders will be making money off of, and I feel it’s perfectly justified to criticize the contract terms they’re being offered.)
  • Speaking of contract terms, IANAL, nor am I at all well-versed in publishing contracts.  I’ll be looking out for what others have to say on the subject.
  • I hope this will not have a detrimental impact on fandom cultures (whatever that impact may be).  This concern is not a reason it shouldn’t be done, of course.

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Boston: When Math Doesn’t Help

I still have so many friends in Boston.  I’ve been haunting Facebook pages and emailing people all afternoon, trying to get confirmation that everyone is okay, terrified I’m forgetting someone, terrified that someone I used to know but didn’t keep in touch with was at the marathon.

My closest friend in Boston, someone I care about very deeply, still hasn’t gotten back to me.

I know the chance that someone I know was injured is tiny.  I did the math, even—despite the length of time I lived there, there’s less than a 1 percent chance anyone I know was affected, probably more like a .01 percent chance.

But that doesn’t matter.  The math doesn’t help.  I still have to know.  I still need them to tell me they weren’t hurt.

(And I feel selfish saying all this—because we know how many people died and how many people are injured, and nothing will change that number, and if they aren’t my loved ones they’re someone else’s loved ones.  But I can’t help it.)

I still think of Boston as my city.  Some cities are places you live in—Boston was home.  This attack feels more than tragic to me; it feels violating.

Boston’s a small city, too, impossibly small.  Even if my friends are all okay, will I hear next week about a friend of a friend?  About a former professor’s daughter, or the spouse of someone I used to train swords with?  This attack is too close, too intimate; it feels impossible that it won’t somehow resonate through my social circles, that someone I know won’t be personally affected by it.  Boston isn’t like LA; almost every time I meet someone from Boston we have something in common: some experience, some hang out, some mutual friend.  It’s too small a city.

I don’t know what I’ll find out later today, or later next week, or three weeks from now.  All I can do right now is wait.  Wait, and stalk Facebook with the shitty hope that they were all someone else’s loved ones.

Equality. There’s No Downside.

I just wrote quite a long post that I’m going to save for another day, because, no, I have to talk about the marriage equality stuff that’s going on right now.

I don’t have anything new to say, really.  All I can do is comment on how, in my lifetime, I’ve never seen this staggering and steady a reversal of public opinion, this fast.  How it’s knocking the wind out of me a little bit, this tsunami of support rising in the nation—in a good way, in a really good way, like I’m on a carnival ride swooping so fast it’s taking my breath away.

Half my Facebook is filled with red equal signs.  Friends are passing me their phones to show me tweets from George Takei or sharing pictures of celebrities sporting supportive slogans.  In the news, Senate Democrats are flocking to support marriage equality in droves, and Republican lawmakers are mostly silent.  Companies—private corporations!—are bursting out all over the place in support of gay rights.

I’m getting the distinct feeling some of the politicians are scrambling because they don’t want to be remembered as being on the wrong side of history.  To which I say: Good. That’s how you should feel.  That’s how we, your constituents, should make you feel.  Like this is inevitable, like the power of public outrage will topple the bigotry of legislation banning same-sex marriage until a generation hence it’s viewed with the same scandal and shame as miscegenation laws.

Marriage equality isn’t the be-all end-all for LGBTQ rights, of course.  We still have a long way to go—after all, look at all the entrenched institutional attitudes with regard to race and sex still persisting an entire half a century after we passed the Civil Rights Act.  Making same-sex marriage legal won’t automatically make everyone treat it as normal—won’t necessarily make everyone treat gay people as normal.  It won’t solve bullying, bigotry, or stereotyping; won’t convince religions to accept and embrace their gay parishioners; won’t stop families from judging and rejecting their gay children; won’t convince America that gay relationships aren’t any more scandalous than straight ones.  It won’t stop some lawmakers from continuing to try to pass sneakily bigoted laws.  It won’t stop television shows and movies from portraying gay people poorly or invisibly.  It won’t solve the mess our society makes of embracing everyone else on the QUILTBAG spectrum.

But you know what?  It’s a step.  And it will be the rectification of an injustice that has already gone on for far too long.

Teaching Kids About Sex and Consent

In the wake of Steubenville, there’s some great stuff being written about how to teach kids about sex and consent.  How do you teach your sons and daughters what consent is?  What rape is?  Is it ever too early to start talking about it?

There’s also the issue of the bystanders in the Steubenville case, whom I don’t see quite as many people focusing on, but to me the presence of those bystanders is horrific.  How could a room full of people stand by and not only not object, but take pictures and laugh?  And how do we teach our children not to do that, to instead be the person who stands up and says, this is not okay?

From my own experiences and the experiences of family and friends I’ve talked to about these issues, here are some Thoughts.

#1. As your children become older and become more curious, be able to talk to them academically about sex, including all its varieties.

There’s a persistent perception even among adults that sex = penile penetration, which is not even remotely true.  But who teaches kids it isn’t?

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Redefining Language, and a Culture That Invites Prosecutorial Overreach

I’m still blogging about Aaron Swartz.

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot since I heard news of his death and started reading about his case is how successfully American culture has demonized people who believe in freedom of information.  I can’t believe our societal condemnation of copyright infringement as THEFT THEFT THEFT! isn’t what enabled the U.S. Attorney to go after Aaron like she smelled blood.

I am not disinterested in the intellectual property debate, personally, professionally, or financially: I work in film, and I make my money off people paying for creative endeavors.  I believe in freer information because I believe it’s better for creators and better for society, that artists will earn more money and have greater longevity for their work in a freer culture, that the public sphere will benefit from the dissemination and mixing of ideas and knowledge encouraged by greater freedom of information.

I have these opinions because I’ve read extensively on the subject and come to a decision on what attitudes toward intellectual property I feel are appropriate and beneficial.  I’m very reasonable about my opinions.  I am happy to discuss the ramifications of less stringent reservations of rights and why this might or might not work for different business models, I enjoy discussing statistics and studies, and I don’t accuse anyone who believes in more stringent copyright of DESTROYING SOCIETY!!1 or what have you.

And yet.

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The Way the World Treated Aaron Swartz is a Disgrace

I have so many things I want to say about Aaron Swartz’s death.

How much the world lost when it lost his brilliance and drive.  How angry I am that the institutions of this world decided instead of valuing him to kick him in the face, and then, once he was down, to keep kicking him.

How ashamed I am of my alma mater that they blithely ignored the ideals of the MIT community in a rabid pursuit of injustice.  How absolutely furious I am that it took the suicide of a brilliant man to make the administration realize how outrageous and harmful their actions were.  How pointless their decision to reexamine their actions now seems.

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