Monday, April 30, 2012

No, Not All Sides Are Equal: Sexism

So the false equivalency thing is making the rounds again. That both "sides," liberal and conservative, are the same. I just have a thing about the false   equivalency. Here I am going to treat you to some material I have written about sexism on the liberal "side."

Bill Maher gets letters every time he pulls that misogynistic bullshit even though he has a long career of transgressive political stand up where, yes, the standards are a little, a little more relaxed - but not when it comes to misogyny. And, of course, his persona is an asshole (no idea of that comes from his personal life, or is on stage only). Some highlights from my own letters include things like "...if you have to point out that someone has (or is?) a vagina as an insult then you should have retired years ago, because not only are you a cad, but you aren't funny anymore, either." Or there is this: "You are blurring the line between you and them sir, stop it." And there is plenty of material about how Maher screws up on sites like Shakesville. Just because the push back does not get a lot of flashy press does not mean that it does not happen.

Ed Schultz took himself off the air for an unpaid week - he took it to MSNBC less than 24 hours after it happened, and said this is what I want to do: I am going to take an unpaid week off the air after I apologize live on my show and tell my audience what I am going to do. He was not suspended, but if they wanted to punish him further, he was open to it. That is about as much class as a human can have and still managed to screwed up in that way, I think. It did not erase what he did, but it did set a good standard for how to behave after. And effective damage control, too - that was so quick there were only rumbles of a letter writing campaign to him or MSNBC or his radio bosses before he was acting on it himself.

The left, or at least the patch of left I camp out on - is indeed consistent. Even if I otherwise like or respect a performer, politician, or other mucky muck I will loudly and enthusiastically let them know when they screw up. When it comes down to it, I and a lot of other liberal or progressive folks are harder on liberal figures because, goddammit, we expect better from them than the likes of Limbaugh. And the feminist and womanist blogs I read? They HATED defending Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Ann Romney and their ilk - but every time someone went after their gender or gender performance with some sexist garbage, they stood up and yelled about it! Just like they did for Sandra Fluke.

Both sides are not equal. And when my "side" screws up, a lot of us push back. It feels a lot like being consistent is also being invisible. I do not know what that push back seems to not get the same coverage. Maybe it is a non-story because it is expected, or it is quick, or the stories are small in scope, or it is boring.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Words and Political Correctness

I had the opportunity the other day to participate in a terrific community discussion about political correctness, specifically referencing things like A-line ribbed tank tops, the use of the word "rape" in a gaming environment and others. And I want to explore the idea of political correctness here. No links or anything, just trying to iron out some ideas and see what they are.

I want to set some hyperbole aside. When we talk about social political correctness, we are not talking about laws at any level. There are no Jack Booted Language Police. We are simply dealing with social norms. And those can very from nation to nation, culture to culture, house hold to house hold. And just like every other social norm, we are all constantly juggling one to another as we go through our days and our lives.

No law, no physical impediment keeps you from using a politically incorrect word or phrase or idea in conversation or media. The gripe is that if you do value your right to a word over the potential offense or harm it may cause, your may be viewed as someone that does exactly thatThe problem is not the use of this word or that word. They can still be used. The only penalty is that your peers may, may see you as someone that values their right to a word over their hurt, offense, or harm. 

The social price of political incorrectness is being thought of as an asshole. 

I want you, Gentle Reader, to know that I did not start over here, although I wish I had. I started over there, demanding my rights to words and other people's right's to words. I am a greater fan of the 1st Amendment than the 2nd Amendment - and I value them both quite highly.

I had not considered every one else's right to exist at least with my indifference, if not any benevolence. But those other people, they should not have to guard themselves every time they are among other people. They should not walk in fear that I may throw them back to an abusive marriage or a sexual assault just because they had to go to the store. They should expect the world to be as indifferent, neutral, or benevolent to them as you expect it to be for you.

What happens when you are brought to someone else's pain is that you are being trusted with it. If I say to you that a particular phrase or word is upsetting to me, you have two decisions to make:
  • You either believe, or not. I have a responsibility to be honest, and I will probably even try to be patient if my situation is not one that you could have been expected to be tuned into. But then you either believe me, and take me at my word that something is offensive to me personally or maybe I say that as one of their number, some of these folks are offended by that. You can educate yourself as much as you like later, that would actually be great. But in this moment, it is simple trust issue.
  • You either care, or not. While that may sound cruel to the person being asked to stop offending, upsetting, or harming - I guarantee that it is less cruel then being asked to forgive or ignore someone while they knowingly do harm to you whenever, however they see fit, forever. Because whatever burden you carry is simply unimportant to them. 
That is it. 
  • If you believe and care, you work to change a language habit (you do not really "lose" a word in any actual sense), and you show a wounded someone that there is at least one person out there not willing to knowingly hurt them further. 
  • If you care but don't believe, you start asking or teasing about exactly that harmful thing, maybe discounting the very idea, or act like the stated harm is over-reacting. Hey, maybe you ask friends and strangers around you if this thing "is really offensive?" Because: 1st Amendment. You may change your language use if you do research that confirms, or other people concur.
  • If you do not believe and do not care, then you will change nothing about your habits, maybe dig into the wound a little bit, you know, to prove it is not there. Because: "plenty of people go through more and aren't crying." 
  • If you believe and do not care, then hopefully you are apathetic, but maybe you dig into that wound often and deep, you know, to help them "get over" their sensitivity. Maybe you envision yourself as some sort of Devil's Advocate. As if the person trying to trust you has not had enough of true adversaries.
There are other options, and many other factors that may influence a particular situation, but I am comfortable with those four as likely types of outcomes.

I have said before, and I truly believe it: "Political correctness is a quick and easy guide to avoid being seen as an asshole if you are not, in fact, an asshole."

I truly do not understand how being conscientious of another person's history, or that of a group of people, is walking on eggshells, or some other surrender of personal power. Why is it a problem to have to think about these people with a problem? Surely they have to consider you. Why is it not a instead a strength to be in a more grounded, solid group free or nearly free of such angst, pain, distrust, suspicion and harm?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Opiate Crackdown... Again.

So the New York Times has written about the newest opiate prescription crackdown. This will come as no surprise, but a deep burden, to pain patients everywhere. Like life with the kind of pain that gets opiate attention is not already hard enough.

I know that my life is not indicative of all lives, and that my experience is not universal. But it is already hard enough, dammit. I already have to schedule, attend, and pay for doc visits I do not need (as opposed to the many I do need) in order to "check in" on my pain script. I have already mentioned several times that it is no longer cutting it, and we are going to have to find something better that still leaves some upward mobility in this area for the rest of my life.

That is part of what I mean when I say it is already more difficult than it should be. I have to plan to be in pain for the rest of my life. Imagine that, if it is not your life:  you can never, ever have a pain free day. Not once can you ever go to sleep thinking that tomorrow will be better. That maybe, one day, you will find a way to not actively suffer throughout your day.

Just think about that for a minute.

So, your pain is incurable, but "manageable" through drugs. Opiates. And at every turn, it feels like someone is trying to remove the one thing that makes your daily activities possible. That allows you to not spend your day curled up in a ball, in tears, on the bed you rarely leave now.

Also: no one believes you. No one truly has a hint of a clue as to what life is like in your chronic pain body. And they simply cannot fathom the amount of pain one human being can feel and still be here, still be trying to function, still be trying to make some thing of their life. And they cannot imagine that one may need an evil, addictive opiate to manage. They do not understand the difference between addiction and dependence. Hell, a lot of detox programs do not understand that difference.

So sure, they may catch some people abusing the system. And some doctors may, from what was in the article, find some other, maybe even more effective treatments for a few. But what this really means is that a lot of law abiding patients are going to be in a lot more pain in the name of... Hell, I am not even sure. It will not matter to those patients. It does not matter to me. I just want someone to have an idea of the hell that some people are going go through in the name of it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Gimpy Gamer: Leela

Does a meditation game really work?

I just played Deepak Chopra's Leela on an XBox 360 Kinect And I think it works.

Leela is kind of a experiment, in my view, an attempt to game-ify meditation practices. There are sections that are more active, Play, and more introspective, Reflect. Completing levels unlocks new ones, and the ones completed become deeper upon replay.

The active parts of the game focus on isolated body movements in Movements and then combined movements in Sequence. Minion One made fun of my hip wiggling, but that was alright. 

One of the only problems with the game is that if the Kinect loses track of you, the game does not recognize it. When I started Stillness I had to grab my mat and cushions, and then the game bugged a bit, losing me and not giving me control hands on the screen to choose the next section. So I bumped out and restarted the game...

The Kinect/XBox menus only intrude at the storage device menu. Otherwise the game creates and sustains a very peaceful, but focused mood. I have duplicated the menu choices here for you so you can get a good look before you decide whether or not to play. I think it is a success, and it my hope to get it out and play it a couple of times a week. 

Oh, and on a personal note: I found it easier to get the family to respect meditation time and space if I take over the living room to do it and there are visuals and sound. Something that they could see and hear that delineated a personal time and space bubble. That may have something to do with having greater success.

The game has gentle, spoken guidance from Chopra himself. There is also a female voice that is equally effective. The reminders and help are sometimes a little creepy in their prescience. By that I mean that shortly after my shoulders had started to slump at one point, I think, I heard a reminder to keep them natural and correct.

(Notes on access and ability follow below game sections.)


Play, Reflect, Options

Note: there is often a Learn option which will repeat to you whatever instructions were needed the first time through.

Movements, Sequence, Mandala (which you can share on Facebook)

Origin, Life, Power, Love, Harmony, Intuition, Unity

Basic, Foundation, Heart, Ethereal, Wholeness, Guru, Leela

Stillness, Oracle, Ambient

Guided Meditation, Breath Practice, Silent Meditation

Guided Meditation:
Begin, Flow, Energize, Open, Connect, Vision, Be


Gimpy Access: 

Obviously, a completely able bodied gamer is going to get the most out of this game. However, as long as you have some limb use you can use LeeLa. If you cannot stand, you can still enjoy and use the half of the game labeled Reflect for meditation. 

Some folks with chronic muscle/joint pain may find the Play section eases that for a short while - it does for me, at times. Although, you have to be at a certain ability level to even try to get that relief...

Controller use is limited to the standard choosing a profile and saved game destination.

The game is captioned. 

Overall, this is one of the more accessible XBox 360 Kinect games I have played.

If I have missed an access point, please let me know and I will address it as best I can!

Friday, April 6, 2012

How To Be Black

Yeah, I know: what the hell is a white crippled lady in the Midwest writing about how to be black? Well, I was encouraged (you know who you are!) to apply for the street team for the upcoming release of How to Be Black, or #HtBB, and I wanted to be a part of it. It looked pretty special. So I applied and let them decide. 

And it is.

Note: I have always said that I would tell you if I got a product or service for free either through other methods or specifically for review here. I did get an e-copy and later a physical book for being on the street team. Just so you know: I am likely to be more strict on a product I receive this way. And I still loved this book. So take that as you will.

How To Be Black is the brain child of Baratunde Thurston, you can find his other information here. One of the first stories he will tell you in HtBB is how he got his name, what it means in general and what it means to him. Baratunde is a master story teller whether it is as an editor at The Onion, getting political at Jack and Jill, or his various media appearances (including multiple appearances on Blacking It Up - shout out!). I only needed to listen to his voice and his manner of storytelling to know I would sit there as long as he kept talking.

The title is joking in one way - reading it cannot make you black; but it seems to me that in another it is very serious - it does delve into how Baratunde has approached his blackness through the years, how he was taught what it meant by family members and through educational institutions. My crippled white lady ass was just as pale when I finished as when I started; but I felt my empathy stretch and grow with ease during humorous tales, and with heartache through the more touching ones.

I have told you that this fibro/lupus cocktail with trimmings leaves me bereft of higher cognitive function at times. Lately I have bounced from flare to flare to finally settling into the one currently fucking with me. But right now I have a rare mid-flare cognitive window that I am going to take advantage of to write this and hopefully several other pieces to tide us through at least some of the duration. 

I am (now, post the suck onset of my illnesses) usually only able to read sort pieces without some sort of mimetic hook - another part of the mind to hang the process on in my head. Practically this means my best reading is done when I have some other memory of the subject or author. I could read a Halo or Mass Effect novel, but not a Gears of War book. I can read Rachel Maddow or Melissa Harris-Perry, but not Piers Morgan (Dom Lemon, maybe). I spent some time on the web, specifically YouTube, to become familiar enough to be able to retain this work.

Even though I live far away from NYC, I was familiar with Baratunde Thurston. I first found him doing YouTube video hopping looking for humor about race in America (if you care about race in America, sometimes you need humor to keep you from the abyss of despair). My enjoyment and respect deepened when he was on my favorite podcast, Blacking It Up. He is suave and erudite, but able to make connections with people that are neither - a skill most do not bother to learn, not even most entertainers.

So I had high expectations for HtBB, and not a single one of them was disappointed. I was, of course, entertained. I was, at times, surprised at the personal depths he was able and willing to plumb with and for us. His stories were engaging enough to be a gripping tale. But he did not settle for just tales from his own life, he also gives us his Black Panel, which he consults throughout the tome. The panel includes the following:

The book does not need a panel for filler, which is good because he uses the panel for content, and it is a rare treat to see several different opinions about some of the tender topics raised in the book. 

I have been looking for that perfect pull quote, but no single one would really do justice to the whole thing. The book is poignant, real, funny and also just a damn good read. The overall tone is conversational and accessible. 

Reading How to Be Black did not make me black, but I think I am a better person for it. I reached out to understand someone else's story, and he trusted all of us with it. I recommend buying maybe even two copies of this book, because you will probably have a friend you will rec it to before you are done.

Wait! I found a good quote!

"If you don't buy this book, you're a racist." - Baratunde Thurston

I wonder if my neighbors will judge me if I get the #HtBB hoodie...

Edit: 11:40am 4/6/12 Grammar

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

PatientC TWIBIU Project

So I finished my fan video for the TWIBIU Project. Since it talks about a lot of things that are important to me, I thought I would post it, and a transcript of it, here. I hope you enjoy it!

This transcript is the text that I worked from while making the video. I have made the changes I remember making on the video, but every moment may not be a word for word dictation, if that makes sense. I am at the approximate end of my cognitive rope, as it were, until I get some good solid rest and meds - and that will not be for at least a little while. So I want to get this up now, and if there are other changes that need to be made, I will be happy to make them later.

So script, or transcript below! (Or under the break, depending on your viewing pleasure.)

Monday, April 2, 2012


So, I decided, Gentle Reader, that I have kept you in the dark too long. And the truth of the matter is sad, indeed: I keep hitting fibro/lupus fogs that have been eating away at my ability to think things through. Instead of waiting for my brain to come back, which I have been doing off and on for months, I am going to say "fuck it" and forge ahead.

But this diminishment has kept me from writing my review of the terrific How To Be Black. It has delayed my playing and review of Leela. Never mind what it has done to my personal life. Arg! I have drafts going about gun culture, about Civil Rights (TM) & civil rights. And I did actually tally up your answers to my question earlier, about what you are interesting in reading - and have started working on some of those subjects! Most of these are actual drafts that I just need to be satisfied with and publish - not pipe dream promises.

Thank you for your understanding and for sticking with me. I am sorry that the mess I am dealing with has the ability to mess up pretty much everything I am involved with or am trying to do.