The Fourth Estate

Another question from Robert Reich. I find his posts truly useful for stimulating thought on particularly thorny issues.
According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of Trump voters got their news about the election from Fox News (in distant second place was CNN at 8 percent, and the rest mainly from social media).
Clinton voters got 18 percent of their political news from CNN, 9 percent from MSNBC, 5 percent from the New York Times, and only 3 percent from Fox (the rest from an assortment of networks, local news, radio, and social media).
Fox News – especially Trump surrogate Sean Hannity – delivered a steady stream of pro-Trump infomercials. If America still has the “fairness rule” that used to require media to be truly fair and balanced, Fox would be out of business.
What do you think?
I think we need to destroy political machines wherever they are, whatever they are. Political machines are a barrier to democracy because they supplant the will of the people for their agendas, which the leadership of the machine thinks is important.

News reporting should simply be held to a truthful/useful standard (which FOX would also fail) because any other standard introduces a bias that is unnecessary. There are not just two sides to political arguments and this is true across the board.  It is long past time we started dismantling the machines that have grown up around the framework that was established with the constitution; machines that no longer serve the purpose they were established for.  Machines like party primaries. Party-favoriting rules in legislatures. Party-backed campaigns.

There are new ways and new machines that we need to build so that we can introduce the vast majority of the US population to actual governmental involvement. The old machines are only going to get in the way.

Journalism needs to be governed by a professional organization empowered to police their ranks in much the same way that the AMA licenses Doctors, the AIA governs the practice of Architecture. State bars govern the practice of law. This has been my opinion for a very, very long time. There is no organization which can establish truth standards in reporting that organizations can be held to if they want to qualify as legitimate news outlets, and there really needs to be.  This has never been clearer in history than it is right now.

How journalists go about governing themselves is a question I'd like to see journalists discuss. What will work? What won't work? What kind of standards would they be able to establish and enforce? Should be an interesting discussion.

Triskaidekaphilia not Triskaidekaphobia

Written reference to the superstitious fear of the number thirteen dates to the late 1800s. Its origin is conjectural (a matter of guesswork). The term triskaidekaphobia first appeared in the early 1900s. It was derived from treiskaideka, the Greek word for thirteen + phobia, fear of = a fear of thirteen. (Google search result)
I'm a fan of all things thirteen. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this in my news feed;



Thirteen is supposedly a bad number because the twelve disciples plus Jesus equals thirteen, the first reference that she offers for the fear of that day and/or number.  I hadn't heard the cycles (moon, menstrual) argument before. I have never (and I do mean never) heard the triskaidekaphilic women's day argument before.

The thirteenth is my lucky day. I was born on the thirteenth. I got married on the thirteenth because the wife insists I remember things that fall on the thirteenth day of the month. She also scheduled the births of our children (C-sections are like that) for the thirteenth of the month. It isn't her fault the children didn't actually emerge on those days (birth is like that) So when Friday the thirteenth rolls around I enjoy the double-whammy of good luck; my favorite day of the week and my favorite day of the month combined into one great day to celebrate.

What I'm trying to say is I of all people should have heard that one before, and I haven't. So I'm going to say Friday the thirteenth being a women's day is the fiction. Hope that clears it all up for you.

On Flat Earthers

Flat earthers are a outgrowth of modern man's separation from the physical world.

Ancient man spent a lot of time around sea shores and lake shores. Spent hours at a time being forced to contemplate the horizon. They had direct visual confirmation that the surface they were on was curved. Boats sailed (and still sail if you can pay attention long enough) visibly over the horizon. This is probably what motivated Eratosthenes to try to work out what the actual distance around the Earth was, and he did it in the 3rd century BCE.

Modern man, wrongly informed that ancient man thought the world was flat; and especially modern religious zealots already prepared to discard all of science in exchange for heavenly salvation (or at least willing to sacrifice evolution) finds it quite easy to never notice the curvature of the Earth that he still can see if he simply looks.

That is why they call it "wilful ignorance".

Republican, Republican; Democrat, Democratic

I spent the last few hours listening to Maajid Nawaz in conversation with Sam Harris on the Waking Up podcast. This is the first time I've heard him speak and he seems like a honest, earnest person.

...except for this one thing.  This one thing that drives me absolutely nuts.

It is the Democratic party, not the Democrat party. That is how the word is properly used. Pouty Republicans and conservatives who want to discredit the Democrats invented (or reinvented) this little conundrum of wordplay as a dogwhistle to separate themselves from the rest of the liberal press, and anyone who uses this dogwhistle is either a member of the conservative press or is blind to the subtleness of word usage that propagandists rely on to spread their message.

You see, Republicans want to rob Democrats of the subliminal linkage of the Democratic party with with the democratic process; and they are attempting to do this by pretending that words when used as a party name should not be conjugated in the same way. This is false and it sounds forced when spoken.

I have an extremely hard time believing someone is being truthful with me when they take the time to pervert the english language in this way, purposefully use the word wrongly simply to call attention to the difference between a process and a party name.

The Democrats are far more democratic than the Republicans currently are. It is the neoconservatives who used to be Democrats, Democrats who had no problem perverting the democratic process when they were Democrats, who are now perverting the democratic process by denying the vote to larger and larger sections of the population in efforts to keep their Republican conservatives in power for a few more terms before the inevitable shift of power occurs.

The true test of whether the Democrats are democratic will come when, having regained power they return to the undemocratic ways of their past. Will they readopt the same perversions of the process that they previously practiced? That their neoconservative soon to be neoliberal power brokers will want to reimpose but now from the other side? Vote suppression? Gerrymandering? Or will we force them to create systems which are actually unbiased and open for the first time in US history?

Will we pass the test our forebears failed, or will we fail as they have?

As for the rest of the subjects of the podcast? Thought-provoking if not outright wrong on many points. How many times will I have to hear the false conservative talking point "won't say islamic terrorist?" I'm hoping I have heard it for the last time. We'll just have to see how much difference there is now that the conservatives have everything they've ever wanted since 1980. Now's your chance boys. How bad can you fuck it all up? Sadly, we are about to find out.

Can't Do a Western Top Ten Either

David Gerrold requested a quick list of Westerns the other day. I immediately fired off a quick list of ten films that fit the bill in random order;
Silverado, Two Mules for Sister Sarah, The Outlaw Josey Wales, True Grit, The Sons of Katie Elder, Unforgiven, McClintock, Dances With Wolves, Tombstone (with Kurt Russell), The Cowboys, Young Guns, 3:10 to Yuma which was the last western I watched.
But as you can see, I can't count.

Not only can I not count, but I left off at least a dozen films that I know are better than the ones I put on it. I know that, because I read back through the hundreds of posts and kicked myself for not putting them on the list.

For starters, I've been doing a Netflix Clint Eastwood retrospective. Not exhaustive, just felt like I wanted to see some of his films I enjoyed back in the 70's and 80's and hadn't seen since. The son wanted to watch Dirty Harry, so we've made our way through all five of them and now we're about to start the spaghetti westerns. His middle work, the westerns that followed Sergio Leone's films, those I'm just going to add to the home library, which is why I kicked myself for not including Pale Rider or High Plains Drifter, just to name the next two films I'm planning on buying.

But that's just to name what is going on in my head right now.

I completely forgot I watched The Hateful Eight quite recently, and that is damn annoying because it was such an excellent tribute to the vanishing art of super 70 wide screen films. It was good too. Not as good as 3:10 to Yuma which I own and did remember. Not even as good as Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino's previous film.  I've seen all of Quentin Tarantino's work, it is all worth watching if just for the experience. There is a reverence for the art of filmmaking in his films that you can't find anywhere else.

I also forgot The Revenant along with the 60's original Man in the Wilderness (h/t to Jim Wright) both based on the true story of Hugh Glass, and if you don't know that name, you have some really interesting reading to do over the next few hours.

But again, that is just scratching the surface. Reading back through the other comments reminded me of Little Big Man which I haven't see recently but remember fondly. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a mainstay of my childhood that held up well the last time I watched it. Many mentions of Shane. I hate to admit to the cardinal sin of never having watched Shane, but I guess I can always atone for it by watching it soon. So I will.

I just barely scratched the surface of the impact that John Wayne had on my young life. I literally didn't even have to think to name three films of his that I rated top ten. I could have done all ten as John Wayne films and still had some left over. I remembered True Grit because I saw the remake recently. Really can't watch the John Wayne version without watching the unofficial sequel Rooster Cogburn. Really can't watch McClintock without watching its unofficial sequel Big JakeThe Man Who Shot Liberty Valance had the most mentions, but I think The Shootist is the most memorable of all his films because he was already dying of cancer when he made it.

High Noon had the most mentions of any film (rough count) but truthfully I didn't find it that memorable. I mean, I've seen it. I don't recall anything about it. I don't think I'm a Gary Cooper fan, to tell you the truth. I remember more about the movie tribute to the TV series Maverick than I do about that film. Both the series and the film are worth watching just for the experience, but then I grew up watching The Rockford Files so go figure.

For the many people who recommended Magnificent Seven (or the more recent remake that is on my list to see) I suggest you watch the original. No, not the 60's American film which was so popular they made a sequel and a series. No, I'm talking about Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa.  I've seen three or four of his films and I have not been disappointed by any of them. Fair warning, be prepared to read subtitles.

Finally I suggest Cowboys & Aliens because, why not? You have cowboys and they are fighting aliens. What could you possibly hate about this film? Just joking, save your criticism, I'm well aware of its failings having seen it four or five times. It is one of the Wife's favorite films, and it really is quite good once you've seen it a few times.  This from the guy whose favorite episode of recent Doctor who featured Cowboys & Aliens, just different ones. Episode title A Town Called Mercy. Give it a try.

Weirdest film I've run across in reply to David Gerrold's hive mind query? Well, weirdest film that could be called a western anyway? Zachariah. Just watch the trailer. If you can that is. I couldn't, but I'm going to try to watch the film.

So as you can see, I can't do just ten, and I'll be kicking myself for forgetting something that just has to be part of this list the minute I hit the publish button.  Such is my life. 

The Justification for the Explanatory Pause

Code Switch is one of those podcasts that I make a point to listen to even when the titles make me cringe. This is one of those episodes that I cringed through while at the same time having some relevant old white guy points I really felt were worth addressing.


The podcast hosts bring on Hari Kondabolu (whose podcast Politically Re-Active isn't one I listen to) to talk about why he takes a break in the middle of a subject riff in order to explain the subject matter being discussed.

He refers to it as Hold Up, Wait a Minute which is amusing, the right move for a podcast that is humorous in nature. However the title of this podcast Explanatory Comma had me yelling explanatory pause at my headphones by the end of the episode.

In my opinion, the breaking point for when/when not to explain things is entirely subjective. If the audience member knows about the thing, they will think you are talking down to them. If the audience member doesn't know, then they will be lost if you don't explain it. I knew who Tupac was, so was not lost during the previous episode of Code Switch that dealt with him but didn't explain who he was.

On the other hand Hari Kondabolu says Tribe Called Quest and stands on his outrage at having to explain that this was another music reference. I know it is a music reference now, because I went out and looked it up and realized that my ignorance on the subject is a product of not having any interest in Rap, Hip Hop, or any other form of music that wasn't Rock or Classical or the Country music my mother made me listen to as a child.

All of us are products of our experiences. If our experiences don't include your experiences, then any attempt to connect will be fruitless unless a common ground of conversation can be established. So you have to take time to explain to the audience so that you can bring them along with you if you want them to go where you are going by the end of your narrative. If you don't do that, they get bored, stop reading/listening/watching and your attempt to communicate fails.

When you can't see your audience, the curse of the A/V field, you have to attempt to gauge what your audience will understand without your providing an explanation. Which is largely what this entire episode of Code Switch is about.

But I didn't start writing this entry to talk about why explanatory pauses are necessary.

What I wanted to address was making sure that you don't take time to explain things that really shouldn't have to be explained. All of us have our own lives, our own heuristics, our own foibles and our own prejudices. Most of us are smart enough not to air our dirty laundry or (as Hari Kondabolu quite pointedly says) force our white supremacy onto the rest of society.

There are exceptions, the entirety of the FOX news team springs immediately to mind, but generally we keep our thoughts to ourselves because, hey, everybody is busy and why burden a total stranger with the bullshit in your life? Right?

On the other end of the spectrum we have something like the TED talk below;



Now, I've made a few attempts to line out what I think on the subject in the talk. Tiptoeing through Gender IssuesPartnership by Any Other NameHomophobia In Denial. Before you come to any snap judgements about what I'm about to say, I'd suggest that you take an explanatory pause and go look at what I've said before, so that what I'm about to say doesn't strike you as callous or unfeeling.

When I look at that couple I do not see the complex characters they want us all to accept them as. What I see is a perfectly average couple who clearly love each other. If I'm passing them on the street, serving them food, etc. Any of the dozens of jobs of the people they will encounter every day, none of those people will have the time or the desire to understand and accept these two as what they see themselves as. There comes a point where you have to rely on your gender presentation (clothing, hair style, scents, makeup, whatever) to communicate all the myriad things you think are important as a first impression. You cannot go back and make a second first impression, and an angry explanation about why your presentation should have been understood will be accepted just as well as the FOX news junkie who goes around insisting that Santa is white.

This TED talk is an example of the dreaded internet oversharing. The needy posts on various social platforms that start with "Let's see who reads this" or "if you really are my friend". The entire TED talk is an explanatory pause; and frankly, I've contested a few of the belabored points in the talk.  Contested them because, in the end, no one really should care that much about you unless they are having sex with you. You aren't having sex with the entire internet and if you are you probably need therapy of a different kind.

A Queer Version of Love and Marriage goes over the line from explanatory pause into the realm of browbeating. If you are in an educational setting like a podcast or a TED talk, then you are going to get things explained to you that you probably already know. That is what the 30 second jump button is for (if your podcast app doesn't have that, go get this one) if you don't have the patience to hear something explained for the 97th time, skip ahead 30 seconds. But if you are getting a gallon of milk at three in the morning, don't expect the cashier to know your preferred gender pronoun. Just pay the person behind the counter and say "thank you" and walk out. He's got mopping to get back to and he really doesn't care about your frustrations.

When I'm listening to a podcast about Code Switching I expect to have musical references, as well as many other references, explained to me. That is why it is called Code Switch. Because we are trying to Switch the Code; Race and Identity Remixed. Understand the other side. Broaden our understanding of the human animal. Can't do that if we don't understand the references. Hope I'm being crystal clear here.



I edited the first sentence in the second to last paragraph to be more clear as to where the line between explaining and over-explaining is, or where it is for me. Your Mileage May Vary, as the saying goes. Damned indefinite pronouns, the bugaboo of all attempts at clear writing.

Earlier on I changed the last paragraph to link the FAQ for Code Switch so that anyone who disagrees with what is being said can just go to the FAQ and educate themselves.

The most amusing thing about writing this piece, about my initial response to pushback against White Supremacy being attached to everything white people do, to the explanatory pause being denigrated as a distraction from the actual storytelling, is that the overwhelming number of negative attacks have come from White Knights who feel obliged to jump in and defend minorities from aggression. As if Old White Guy points are always going to be aggressive. Or White Supremacist. As if minorities aren't capable of defending themselves in a battle of words and ideas.

May I always resist the urge to come to the defense of someone whom I consider to be my equal and does not appear to be losing a battle of words. All Social Justice Warriors should be compelled to adhere to that oath.

If Gene Demby (whose sole response was two characters "NO") feels that the explanatory pause is an interruption to his storytelling, I would suggest that he might want to take some time to talk to Jad Abumrad of Radiolab fame and get a feel for how he explains while not appearing to explain. Because explanation is a necessary part of the equation if you want to broaden your reach. Widen the appeal. Another suggestion from a humble listener.



Still listening to Code Switch. I'm currently looking forward to the last installment of the look back at the influence of President Obama. I have an opinion piece on that subject which I title Obama Best President Since Eisenhower. Subtle I am not.

The last episode put a bug in my ear about the miscommunication of what Code Switch means to black people and why it might mean something different to white folks. I talk in code to old white people. My age and older (yes, there are older white people than I am) I will occasionally put on a filter for children that aren't mine as well. I have found that being dead honest with the children of strangers can be more troublesome than being dead honest with old white folks.

However Code Switching takes on a whole new meaning when you take things like this into account,
The Green Book, or to give it its full title, “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” was first published in 1936. It was a revolutionary publication which listed restaurants, bars and service stations which would serve African-Americans.
Traveling during the Jim Crow era was difficult for African Americans. In the South, “black code” laws targeted them for loitering. In many towns, black travelers risked death if they stayed past sundown.
Travelers came up with their own ways to avoid violence and humiliation. One was called ‘The Green Book’ created by Harlem postal worker Victor Hugo Green. It was an invaluable tool to help black people plan a safe route across the country.
Alvin Hall’s BBC program ‘The Green Book’ documents this little-known aspect of racial segregation.
When you might be lynched or shot for simply driving into the wrong town, knowing what the code is takes on a whole new meaning. I know this. I knew this. But knowing isn't being. While I know that I don't speak freely (speak in code) around parents, children, people who aren't into SF or video games or recreational drug use (legal. All my drugs are legal now. Have been for at least 25 years. I have the prescriptions to prove it) the downsides of slipping out of code for people like me are radically less life-ending than for people who face the possibility of death at the hands of people who hate them just for existing. Which is why a Code Switch takes on much more weight for minorities than for people like me.

My apologies for approaching the subject with less gravity than it probably deserved. I still see the refusal to explain as a missed opportunity to connect; but truthfully there is little use in telling me about one more artist whose rap I probably won't be interested in either. The explanation for how I lost my music (and with it the appreciation for pretty much all music) is a story I haven't tried to write down yet.

Another time, perhaps. 

War on Christmas - Shit's Getting Weird Edition - Black Santa

This was a thing again this year. Which is even weirder than it was way back in 2013 when Jon Stewart riffed on the subject.




I really do miss this guy.