Archive for July, 2013

Comic-Con is on the way, and you know what that means!

Actually very little for most of us.   But if you’re a geek or a nerd or whatever the terms are now for folks who enjoy comic books, science fiction, story problems, chess, and general superhero paraphanalia, this is your Geekmas In July.     Every year in San Diego, consumers converge on Comic-Con to pay for the privilege of being advertised to.   But the advertisements are EARLY! and called SNEAK PEAKS! and PREVIEWS!   So somehow it justifies the cost of the ticket, the overpriced food, etc.

Some of this is sour grapes on my part.  I’ve wanted to go to Comic-Con for 20 years, back when it was just geeks who went and not everyone with a Big Bang Theory Season Pass set up on their DVR.   Now that I can’t go I’ve conveniently decided I don’t want to.   How nice for me.

But that’s not what I’m writing about.

I’m writing about Wonder Woman, the Comic-Con preview and the fact that I’m pretty darn irritated by the news leaking out of San Diego.

Wonder Woman was the superhero that lit my imagination on fire.  I was a young kid when the Lynda Carter version was a hit TV show, and I absolutely loved the idea that an Amazon princess could fall in love with a war hero and fight the bad guys.   It was the first time I saw women kick ass and I was over the moon.  My first stories were set on Wonder Woman’s home island of women warriors.  To this day Wonder Woman has a special place in my heart, and those women warrior islands show up now and again in the stories I write even today.

When I read in Entertainment Weekly’s Comic-Con Preview that there is a new Graphic Novel about Wonder Woman’s origin story, I was thrilled.

But wait.  Not so fast.

Turns out that part of this origin story–the one that Grant Morrison promises will “take her back to her feminist roots”–includes…


Apparently Wonder Woman’s Amazon ancestors were kept in cages as some sort of rape puppets for some of the ancient Greeks until they fought back and then, etc.   

So we feminists who want to give our daughters a female superhero have to yet again put up with graphic (literally) depictions of rape, imprisonment, torture.   But it’s okay because they fight back.  Right?  RIGHT?!?   

I sure am getting tired of everyone sneaking rape porn into female stories as a sort of motivator.   Other things motivate a woman and do it without using torture porn to titillate and objectify.  

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I was going to write about the Rowling thing, but my thoughts on that aren’t gathered yet.  And everyone else is writing about it so I think I’ll wait my turn.

Instead I’m going to write this half of a post…this half of a post that I told people to convince me I shouldn’t write.  The other half of it is going to come out eventually, but probably not this week.

It has become very in vogue to call people “bullies”.   Like the other things that are in vogue–introversion, autism spectrum diagnoses, gluten-free diets–this takes something that seriously affects a percentage of people and misapply it to a broader percentage.    Now all of a sudden anyone who disagrees with you in a strong fashion is a “bully”, just as how anyone who doesn’t like playing frisbee golf is an introvert.

There are actual criteria for identifying bullies and bully behaviour.  Surprisingly, “vehement disagreement” is NOT one of those.  Sad news to people fighting about President Obama’s birth certificate, I’m sure.

Twice in my life I have been bullied according to the listed criteria; once as a child, once as an adult in the workplace.   As a person who often disagrees with other people and has also been bullied to the point where the employer gave me a financial settlement to avoid going to court I can assure you that it is very very important to me to not use the accusation lightly.

When I told a person in an online discussion last week that that person was being a bully I did so after much prayerful consideration and input from the counsel of many.


So when exactly is an adult in an online discussion exhibiting bully behaviour as opposed to enthusiastic debate?

  • Repeated use of terms that are designed to injure   
  • Creating an outgroup and assigning others to that outgroup
  • Humiliating a person repeatedly
  • Creating a power imbalance by assuming authority over the other party

Signs you are dealing with a bully in an online conversation*

1.  “I haven’t read all the comments”

Everybody says this occasionally; people don’t always have time to read every comment.  In online conversations, though, it is often part and parcel of Creating a Power Imbalance.   The bully wants you to know that their opinion is important enough to be stated, yours doesn’t even merit a skim. If the comment that follows “I haven’t read all the comments” is inflammatory, then that’s a pretty good sign that this person has the bully mindset.

2.   “Star-bellied sneetches are a pox on humanity”

Any solidly judgmental phrase that assigns people an outgroup based on their race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, political affiliation.   This happens more and more in online conversations as folks lose basic civility online and sublimate their life-stresses to exercise that stress on semi-anonymous internet persons.     It’s not always bullying.  Not everyone who says “Democrats are idiots” is a bully.  Sometimes they’re just being a jackass.

3.   “Email me”

When the bully is confronted in the group environment where the conversation is taking place, they will often say that they can’t respond in the forum where the bullying took place, but they’re happy to talk to you about it one-on-one.    This is because in a one-on-one scenario they don’t have the pressure of witnesses.  Any recounting is a he-said, she-said dispute.   If you then try to produce portions of  their email to refute their assertions they’ll accuse you of violating confidentiality.     The really canny bully will ask to speak to you over the phone or face to face.    Thus no writing trail exists!

4.  “I’ll pray for you”

I’m going to discuss religious bullying in the second half of this post, so I was reluctant at first to list this sign here.   But it’s one of the biggest indicators of cyberbullying in adult fora.   Even in non-religious circles an equivalent is often found.  “I’ll hope for your eventual enlightentment” or “Someday you’ll figure it out…”    I would venture to say, however, that the non-religious equivalents lack the punch hidden in the prayer statement.     There are two ways of saying you’ll pray for someone.  The first, innocuous, way is to let a person know you care for them and want to pursue a relief for them.   It’s actually what most people mean when they say they’ll pray for a person.    But when the bully says it they communicate two things:  1.  They have a special relationship with God that you lack because you are in the outgroup   2. They will use that special relationship to see that you are censured.

You may remember this one from childhood when it was phrased as “My dad is gonna beat up your dad.”


Please don’t call someone a bully without reason.  But please don’t be afraid to call a bully a bully.

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I didn’t want to talk about the Zimmerman trial over the weekend for a number of reasons. But what I most didn’t want to talk about–because I can’t even believe people are talking about it without listening to what they’re saying–was The Riots.

My husband was at a concert over the weekend, and during the last interact break the news of the verdict hit a lot of people’s cell phones. The woman sitting next to Husband asked her companion if they should leave early “because of the riots.”

People all over were just SURE there were going to be riots…in the black community because they were going to be upset about the verdict.

These predictions ALL say the same thing underneath their seeming-sageness.

1. Black people don’t know how to handle themselves. If they did they would suck up the “disappointment” and move on.

Any time you look at another person and expect the worst out of them because of race / gender / faith categorisation you are actively Othering them. “Oh, the women are going to have a fit”; “Oh, I bet the Muslims are loving this!” It’s all this language that establishes an _appropriate_ response and then highlights the Other for not responding _appropriately_.

2. Black people’s reaction to the verdict is an over-reaction.

I’ve talked several times about my dislike for the terms “over-react” and “over-think”. Different people respond differently for any number of reasons. To say that someone is “over” reacting or thinking is another thing that establishes the speaker’s responses to the issue as a baseline and then highlights the other person’s behaviour as being bad solely because it strays from the arbitrarily-set standard.

3. The only response black people have to troubling verdicts is to riot.

Whenever anybody acts like the latest celebrity trial is going to cause a riot because of the racial component it tells me that they really don’t tend to pay attention to the legal system in general. Because if they did they’d realise that if the black community rioted in response to every unfair verdict, we’d have much of the country continually in a state of riot.

I had so many people on my FB and blog feeds over the weekend act as though riots were inevitable because of the Rodney King verdict. That verdict was more than 20 years ago, in a different community on the other side of the country. It was in a community which had been terrorised by a corrupt and abusive police force for decades. While I don’t ever excuse a riot [more on that in a minute], I can fully understand why that community erupted in an explosion of wearied rage.

In the last twenty years there’ve been a lot of disappointing verdicts. I don’t recall any riots; there may have been some. I don’t know. But this “there will be a riot” business is just insulting to everyone. And, frankly, it underscores a lot of what I’ve seen folks mention about the racial divide lately.

I don’t excuse riots, personally. In my worldview the only type of reaction that is “not okay” is a reaction that injures another person physically or emotionally. That goes for any reaction to anything, whether they are comments on Facebook or in a family discussion or in a crowd assembled to protest a verdict.

I still remain–by choice–unaware of the particulars of the Zimmerman case. I don’t think I need to be, though, to realise that predicting a wave of riots is one of the most racist responses I’ve ever heard.

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This week I’ve been following a bit of a heated conversation swirling around the not-at-all-controversial topics of feminism, faith, Biblical Submission and spousal abuse. It started when Mike Duran linked to a several-months-old article in Prodigal Magazine about Biblical Submission. If you want to necropsy the conversation you can head over to Mike’s and go from there. I’m not looking to rehash all that ground.

This morning I went over to the personal website of the author of the original article. Emily Wierenga is a Canada-based author of Christian articles and self-help books. For the first time all week I read about her background and saw that she is a Missionary Kid. Finding that out was like someone handing me the Rosetta Stone to this woman whose words have proven so divisive and hurtful.

Missionary Kids–also called Third Culture Kids–are the cousins to Preachers’ Kids. As a Mrs. PK I’ve written about the phenomenon of PKs before.

There’s something so infinitely sad about a child who has to compete with Almighty God for his father’s attention and love. There’s something so brave and lost about a child who learns early on that his behaviour AS A LITTLE BOY could affect his father’s livelihood…

Now add into all that angst the fact that your parents’ calling has landed you in a place where you are forever alone, no matter where you turn. You are not quite North American because you grew up in Peru. You’re also not quite Peruvian because your parents and household had North American cultural traditions and spoke English. You are your own culture in between, your third culture that belongs to you and maybe a sibling or two.

Being a TCK can be extremely awkward and unsettling, and just as Preachers’ Kids deal with their issues by being either rebellious or hyperconformative, so do TCKs. That’s why we end up with some people who feel comfortable imposing their interpretation of scripture upon strangers with the utter conviction that _they themselves cannot be wrong in any way_. After all, God was their dad’s boss. They got used to dad being the Authority On All Things Biblical when he and mom were the only Christian adults in the village. Conviction and authority are necessary tools for survival on the overseas mission fields; grow up in that kind of home and it’s not going to be a surprise when a person attempts to exercise that same conviction and authority over others. Sadly, though, the people of Peru revered Dad because he was the source of their knowledge about their new faith. It’s got to be a bit of a puzzle to be suddenly faced with people who have themselves grown up in deeply devout Christian homes, steeped in a Christian community. The MK are no longer The Authority. The MK is a fellow traveller.

I imagine for some with certain personality types that this is can be a bitter pill to swallow.

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Back in Indiana the years always had a definite rhythm marked by school semesters, holidays and the annual capstone of my late May summer-kick-off birthday. Our school breaks were still structured around farm life so we’d get out in early June and return the day after Labor Day. That meant if you weren’t busy helping detassel corn or riding the tractor you had a nearly solid three months of bookmobile trips, Flavorice and family vacations. Right around the middle of August, though, the Country Time people would start running this really cruel commercial about how summer just flies by and is almost over but you can hang on and enjoy the last few minutes of your free season by making up a cold pitcher of Country Time Lemonade. That ad always depressed me.

It’s been years since I’ve seen it, but I still get to a point every summer that I think of as “the Country Time moment”. It’s unfixed and very changeable now; I don’t go back to school so there is no date on the horizon against which to focus my sorrows. But there it is, that time when I think summer is leaving us and the carefree days of hammock reading are going away.

This year I’m crying especially foul because I got hit with my Country Time moment on Sunday. July 7th. It’s been actual summer for a grand total of three weeks and already I’m fretting about how summer is ending. This is some pitiful nonsense.

I think there is a high probability that I will take my Kindle out to the hammock for awhile today and just ignore my brain’s insistence on pouting.

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I used to be a straight-up idealist. It’s perhaps unfortunate that 43 years of meeting people and seeing the increasingly complex layers of things have led me to be more shade-of-gray about most things. Idealism is actually very comforting because you don’t have to ponder much about a situation.

The latest casualty of my outlook is the book award.

[Just a note: Because I do not wish to become embroiled in the mentioned controversy and because I also wish to protect the various players as much as possible I’m being purposefully vague about the tipping-point incident. Vanity Googling makes me extra cautious these days.]

I always firmly believed that a book award is for the best book, period. If you think _A Clockwork Llama_ is the best book of 2028, then give your Scout Finch Book Award to Seamus Winebrynner and be done with it.

But here’s the sticky wicket, as I realised for the first time yesterday. Let’s say that _A Clockwork Llama_ is the best book of that year. But let’s also look at two more things.

1. The Scout Finch Book Award is a business enterprise. It is a book award that is given to Irish-born writers who have converted to Judaism and write about the Celto-Judaic experience. Several publishers of Celto-Judaic fiction have put up money to promote the award as a means to also promote their fledgling businesses. The Scout Finch Book Award is essentially a form of advertising for them.

2. Seamus Winebrynner happens to be a notorious jerk who routinely makes racist and sexist comments. A couple of months before the award is due to be given (and widely touted in the press), Seamus calls a Female Cherokee author in the Magical Realism Fiction Writers Conglomerate (MRFWC) a “living proof of the fact that white people are awesome and everybody else is actually not technically a person because they are not as evolved as white people.” He then says a few more things that are really nasty and calls those who criticise his position “retards”.

So now what? I mean, _A Clockwork Llama_ is a really great book. But if the Celto-Judaic publishers give Seamus the award, doesn’t that not only promote _Llama_ but also make a tacit statement that the publishers support Seamus? If they’re trying to get their business off the ground, chances are that giving Seamus the award is going to make people think of them as “the people who gave that nasty racist guy a trophy.” And that is most definitely NOT what they’re going for.

What do we do here? Or is this even an appropriate consideration? Because if you’re giving out book awards you are saying right up front that you’re about books.

I’m pretty torn on this issue right now and would love some additional insight.

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I don’t usually do this. I post my book reviews on GoodReads, Amazon and Book In The Bag (on Sundays) and save the Farceland for other things like religion, navel-gazing and whatnot.

Today, though, I’m breaking that rule because I’ve just abandoned a book in cold-fired anger the likes of which I seldom feel in response to the printed word.

A few years ago “Waiter Rant” was the hip, go-to blog. A lot of bloggers have waited tables at some point in their life and whinging about bad tippers and Christians who make working on Sunday a special hell is a big draw. Few people were surprised when the anonymous The Waiter got a book deal. I didn’t read the book because reading books based on blogs generally bothers me. Why should I buy your cow when you’ve given me the milk for free? But here we are a few years down the road and I suspect The Waiter needs money because his ticket to success (i.e. his book deal) is over and the book is now in Amazon Kindle’s clearance bin. It cost me a couple bucks and curiousity got the best of me. But then something happened….I’ll let the review speak for itself. From here on out you see the same thing I have up at GoodReads….

Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical WaiterWaiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steve Dublanica
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a bargain Kindle read for the month of July. It may be worth the $2 I gave for it. Maybe.

I didn’t read the book when it first came out because
1. I don’t trust books based on blogs as so many of them merely compile the free-to-read blog entries and sell them to people too lazy to click through the blog archives.

2. When I had read the blog in the past it struck me as alternating between smug pretension and snarky whining.

3. If I want to hear waitstaff grumble about tips I can go to Reddit or LiveJournal.

Well, so far the book is at least safe on #1…there is actually some semblance of new material. Unfortunately that “new”
material hurts the #2 category in a big way. Because now The Waiter takes anecdotes from the blog and weaves them into the most tiresome story device ever…the “here is the deeper life meaning revealed by this little story.”
Knowing that the author went to seminary should be a warning. The book is indeed so far a series of secularised homilies. It’s a sermon collection for people who worship food.

I’m writing this review while I’m only halfway through the book because I’m honestly not sure if I’ll finish the book itself. The voice he writes with just does NOT make me want to root for him. He’s snottily making snap judgements on the diners whose patronage kept him fed, clothed, housed and patronizing lap dancers for the better part of a decade. I like how a guy who can’t get it together in his own life decides that he can automatically declare a person a villain for leaving him a $7 tip instead of the more mathematically correct $9.50.

I tip well for a variety of reasons, mostly because I know what it’s like to have a hard job and I appreciate having someone else carry my plate and bring me sodas. But the difference between a bad tip –10%– and a good tip of 15-20% is often only a couple of dollars. I err on the side of generosity unless the service has been a huge failure. But I can understand the reasoning behind some folks’ decision to tip the lower amount and I don’t think it’s particularly fair for someone like The Waiter to be so rude about it. Yes, I know servers don’t make minimum wage. But he himself repeats endlessly that he stays in the job largely because he’s addicted to the lifestyle and has little financial discipline. With these confessions out in the open it hardly seems sensible for him to complain about the people whose whims underwrite his drunken strip club crawls.

Any amount of patience I had for this guy went out the window when he told the story about giving espresso to a woman who was annoying him with her repeated requests for a very hot cup of decaf. I understand being upset about not getting paid what you deserve. (Try being an executive assistant for a couple years and then come crying. They’re always underpaid and don’t get free food and booze). I understand wanting an outlet for the various gripes that come with any job.

But when you begin medicating people against their explicit requests, that crosses a major line. Caffeine is a drug that many people cannot have due to medicatons for heart disease, migraine, autoimmune disease, Type 2 diabetes and many other common ailments. When a person says “decaf” fifty times it’s obviously important. In what may come as a shocking twist, Mr. The Waiter, the world does NOT revolve around you so the lady’s request for decaf is most likely not some plot cooked up in an underground bunker to annoy your precious self. The fact that you’d go ahead and give her not only caffeine but a highly-concentrated dose of the stuff is proof of what a self-absorbed twit you really are.

I think I’m officially done spending time in your world.

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I finally got around to reading Lily Koppel’s “perfect beach read”–The Astronaut Wives Club.

Find out how suited it is for poolside, and how feminist a tale it turns out to be….

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Introverts–and I are one–have been under a microscope lately. I think it was because a book or two came out recently or some famous introvert bit some bullet and went on a talk show. I’m not entirely sure why; I just know that all of a sudden people are talking about us like they’ve just discovered we’re from Planet Earth.

“Well, golly! I guess my weird cousin Lyle isn’t as weird as I thought! He’s just one of these Introverts.”

We introverts really do like people–we just get more mileage out of our interactions with others. I have an extroverted mother who gets antsy if too many hours go by without her interfacing with a group of people. She taught school for a living and goes to Red Hat Society meetings for fun. For actual fun. She thinks that leaving the house and sitting around with seven other women EVERY WEDNESDAY is FUN.

We are not alike in this.

That’s not to say that I don’t treasure my friends and my interactions with them. I have been so extraordinarily blessed to find people I enjoy spending time with who do not want to flee into harsh coping methods after spending time with me.

Saturday was one of those days where I finally spent face time with some of the Earthlings I normally interact with via the safety of the Interovertnet. I can assure there is nothing quite as nourishing as gathering around a table discussing lemons and rent boys and the soy planet where all the women taste like Spock. There’s a sort of alchemy in meeting with people face to face, in reacting to their expressions and hearing their laughter.

I’ve gone into this week both joyfully and encouraged by that wonderful time.

I’m rather glad that as I swim deeper into the waters of my forties I’m learning the rhythms that keep me whole.

As it happens I also had lunch with some other friends yesterday. Believe me, TWO face-to-face interactions within 72 hours? Am I becoming my mother?! Heh. I don’t think so. I don’t think my mother would want to go to a Greek restaurant to discuss the merits of Zork vs. Bioshock Infinite and whether or not reading _Brave New World_ is worth a person’s time (It is) and how Holden Caulfield is a whiny dork at the center of a terrible, overrated book. (He is.) Wow. That was a long sentence. (It was.)

Where am I going with this? I guess I’m just going to the place where I say that I am glad to embrace my introverted nature but I also enjoy being able to embrace people I care about.

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If you read books set in the 1920s and 1930s there is often a scene where the doctor rolls his eyes after a housecall to the town drunk. “Old Mrs. Whitewater just calls me for the booze in the cough syrup.” It was during Prohibition and the Volstead Act had made pharmacists and physicians the only approved purveyors of alcohol.

If you go to a modern Emergency Room for, well, pretty much any blasted thing but especially kidney problems, you are encountering our only approved purveyors of narcotic pain relief. The adversarial nature of Emergency Room providers and patients is both sad and embarrassing. I’ve gotten to the point that I’d rather lie in a whimpering puddle of agony than visit the ER. The last visit was at my husband’s insistence and I only went along because I remembered the East Tennessee woman who died a few years ago from what started as a kidney infection.

Now here I am, 14 days out from the start of this last round of stone-passing and infection. My stones often don’t show up on the CT scan…turns out they’re too small. Unfortunately I’ve passed so many that my system is all torn up and hurts no matter how small the stone. But wait. I’m off-topic.

Prohibition. That’s my topic. Jesus_Weed

I’m not at all in favour of saying “if it’s a drug, let people buy it from the store!” That goes down an area into ridiculousness. Even after the repeal of the Volstead Act there are still restrictions on what you can buy where and when. (Wine in grocery stores in Tennessee is apparently the equivalent of Black Tar Heroin.) But when I read countless articles _in medical journals and on responsible medical discussion groups_ that all say that every one of my conditions has been shown to respond–and go into REMISSION!– on cannabinoids…

I’m angry. I’m just so angry. Instead of a system where I can purchase the medication that would return me to society on a functional level…you know like how people with allergies can buy Benadryl…I’m stuck in this thing. This system where the “helpers” automatically view you as a manipulative enemy, where instead of finding an effective disease modifying regimen folks like me are stuck trying to convince adversarial care-givers that we are in fact being honest about our disease processes and not just in it for the cough syrup.

I’m far from the first to liken the illegality of marijuana to Prohibition. I’m also far from the first person who has cried while reading medical journals, while seeing that there is help, pure and clean, but that help is forbidden by bureaucrats who don’t understand the problem.

I won’t take it until it’s legal because I don’t break the law. I don’t break the law because that integrity and dignity are often all that I have to cling to when I get rushed to the ER and face “care providers” who see me as something less worthy of their care because the type of care I need is not available anywhere else. You know…now that alcoholics can buy liquor they rarely go to the doctor for cough syrup unless they have a cough. Doctors are free to treat more demanding and emergent cases.

The percentage of addicts drug-seeking in the ER is estimated to be anywhere from 5-45%. Notice anything? Even at its highest estimate–which includes those who are admitted for overdoses from using illegally-obtained Rx narcotics–THERE ARE STILL MORE PATIENTS WHO NEED MEDICAL TREATMENT THAN WHO ARE JUST CRUISING THE ER FOR DRUGS. But as long as the doctor is the only place for pain patients to get help, then this is going to be an adversarial culture.

If we get marijuana legalised, regulated and integrated back into society on a par with alcoholic beverages and OTC medication it can only be better for us in the long run. It’d certainly be far better for me.

Hat tip to Mike Duran who used the image for another purpose altogether and would probably be horrified to see me using it for this. But still. I love the sentiment.

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