Friday, August 29, 2014

PAX prime 2014

After such an awful week of people who identify as Gamers behaving indefensibly, I want to say that I hope that this PAX weekend is the best one yet. Not because we need to take attention away from the negative aspects of our community, but because we need to be motivated to stand up for our community against those who would like to claim it for themselves as their hateful little club.

Stewardship is important to me, and for me, being a nerd and a gamer has always been about liking things enthusiastically and unapologetically, and sharing them happily with anyone who was willing to give them a try.

The argument has been made, that being a 'gamer' as a identity is dying, and that that is necessarily a good thing. I don't know if that's true, but it seems a sad thing to me, because I've always felt identifying myself by the joy I take in a thing was ... well, joyful.

I hope that the wonderful, progressive, and thoughtful people who I know will be going to PAX and talking about it in person and online will take the opportunity to come together against the toxicity in our community, and become galvanized to speak out against it both during and after the event.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Prince Privilege

Once upon a time, there was a really big, really strong prince.

He stood taller than everyone else in the kingdom, had big strong arms and massive feet. He liked to wear thick heavy boots when he went out so he could ride out into the forest or do something heroic and princely at a moment's notice.

He genuinely loved his people and wanted to be good to them, but sometimes he noticed how they acted hurt or upset around him.


Then one day, as he paraded through the marketplace someone shouted "HEY, watch where you're walking BOZO! You stepped on my foot!"

No one had ever dared to speak to the prince this way, and he was taken aback and his feelings were hurt. He had been stepping on feet all this time but because of his strength and status no one before had ever spoken out to him about it.

Now, the prince never meant to step on any feet, and he can't help that he was born a prince or grew really big. And no one had ever told him to look where he was going before so how could he have known?

But that doesn't make stepping on feet a good thing to do. And it doesn't make it not the prince's responsibility to avoid stepping on feet. And it doesn't make the prince the injured party in the incident where he's called out on it.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Affluenza Quarentine.

Ok, everyone sounding off about the DUI teen getting off on the 'affluenza' argument, a word please.

I don't know what happened in that courtroom, and honestly neither do you. People are flipping out about the double-standard between rich and poor and pointing to this as an example, and they totally should.

But I'm not sure the judge in this case is to blame.

I think it might just be possible that instead of being taken in by a bullshit argument and coddling a rich, white shithead, the Judge in the case looked at the odds of a minor given twenty years (the maximum sentence) only serving two and then having their record expunged (totally possible) vs 10 years probation, which puts him under the thumb of the law for a decade with no chance of shortening that term and if he breaks probation the case for harsh punishment is much stronger.

I don't know if that actually is the reasoning behind the verdict. But I hope it is the case, because I'd like to believe there a judges who pragmatically put the good of society above how their verdicts will play out in a sensationalist media.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Gun rights advocacy: You're probably doing it wrong.

The other day I got into a Facebook discussion about gun rights.

A friend had posted an article from a gun rights webpage wherein they praised an armed man for stopping a mass shooting. I pointed out that with at least 250 mass shootings in the US this year alone (defined as an instance of four or more people being shot -not including the shooter themselves) that brings what I've taken to calling the 'Gunman Savior' strategy's success rate up to 0.4%.

I've since read some actual research which suggests that the rate of successful armed intervention may be as high as 1.6% of mass shooting incidents.

This is not the rock upon which to build an argument in support of the idea of gun ownership as a thing of practical value to society.

(By the way, I don't think defense against a tyrannical government is a very good one either. There have been plenty of groups and individuals in recent history that thought they were doing just that, and it worked out poorly for everyone.)

My friend responded to my -admittedly snarky- post with a good deal of defensiveness and personal indignation. When I pointed out that throwing a tantrum was not a good way to convince me he was someone who should have the unfettered and unregulated right to own and bear firearms, he deleted the entire thread.

It may surprise you to know that I am not altogether opposed to a society where private citizens may own and even carry firearms. I used to be, but I was convinced by polite and informed discussion in a FARK comment thread that reasonable adults willing to take on that responsibility should be allowed to do so. (Though we also agreed that increased scrutiny and culpability for said individuals was also reasonable.)

It made so much sense, I wondered why no one had gotten through to me before. And then I read some of the voices that came into the thread later and understood.

Gun rights advocates are their own worst enemy.

I know a number of people who own guns, and they are amongst the most responsible, stable, and trustworthy people I know. One is an instructor who teaches victims of sexual assault and domestic violence how to own and use guns safely.

I have no doubt that reasonably crafted legislation that came out of an informed conversation about second amendment rights and public safety would leave the circumstances of their gun ownership wholly unchanged. They'd still store their guns safely, practice or hunt with them lawfully and safely, and enjoy them and the feeling of security and confidence they have described to me without feeling threatened by other people who don't think owning guns is such a great idea.

But we can't have that conversation with people shouting at each other. Extremists and zealots are the proverbial assholes that ruin it for everybody, and honestly, if gun ownership is put up as an all-or-nothing proposition, I'm much more comfortable with nothing.

I'm not saying there isn't unreasonable extremism amongst gun control advocates -there are idiots everywhere, but the narrative of the gun control argument isn't being dictated by the extremes, and I feel like the gun rights narrative is (with some help from cynical interests who stand to profit.)

For everyone's sake, I hope that the reasonable voices start to speak up, because we could certainly use them. And if you think you are a reasonable voice, here are a few tips on how to speak to a person like me:

1) Acknowledge that guns mean the power to kill.
Don't trot out the bullshit lines about guns being for targets or whatever. If you're not willing to admit that a gun is a tool designed to take life, you're not going to convince me of anything except that you shouldn't have a gun.

2) Acknowledge that it is reasonable to be concerned.
If you accept tip 1, tip 2 is pretty obvious. The power to kill should not be taken lightly, and when someone says that they should have access to that power, it's not unreasonable to want assurances that it will not be misused or abused.

3) People are not stupid for knowing less about firearms than you, and liking them less is not the same thing as knowing less.
In response to the 1994 assault weapons ban, and in 2004 during the discussion of whether to extend the ban or allow it to lapse, many characterized the outlawed modifications as purely cosmetic. This is not the case, and while you may disagree that modifications outlined in the assault weapons ban truly made a weapon more likely to be used against people rather than targets and game, using a such an obvious straw-man does not help your case with moderates like myself.

If you have facts about the operation and capabilities of a gun that you think people like me are ignorant of and you think are pertinent to crafting policy, believe me we'd love to hear your input. But if you want to dismiss arguments that are uncomfortable to you as being the hysteria of people who don't and can't know what guns are really like, don't expect to have your own arguments taken very seriously in return.

4) Understand that in the end, we all want the same thing.
We all want to be safer and more secure. We all want to keep guns out of the hands of those who would use them to do harm. We all want responsible adults to be free to conduct their affairs in a way that affords them dignity, respect, and agency over their actions and circumstances.

People may disagree on how to go about accomplishing these goals, but that disagreement does not define a line between good and bad, or smart and stupid.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I've been thinking about this,

Like many people, issues of mental heath and tragic violence have been on my mind. People have been talking about it on Facebook, and I have started to hope that we can finally have a serious and productive conversation about tragedy, and how we can best prevent one.

Recently, we've heard from a mother who sees echos of Adam Lanza in her own son as he grows. Wonkette wrote a compelling piece on the failure of the public discourse to engage with what she said in a meaningful or constructive manner. And then a doctor charged to heal those who are mentally ill spoke out, with a very clear and poginiant cry for help.



I am not Adam Lanza's father or his brother, or his teacher, or the tragic young man himself. But I can imagine him, and I can try to imagine what it might be like to be another young man facing mental illness.

I can only imagine how scary and frustrating it must be to alone in 

a mind that is not truly your own.

Especially in a society that is so uncomfortable with looking at you we only talk about extrem
es or after tragedy, when we can safely describe the person as other than ourselves, a monster.

I can only imagine what it would be like to know that I might harm someone around me, and know that there would be no one to help, or to stop me, until it was already too late.

I think that would be more terrifying and lonely than anything I have known in my life.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

There's no wrong time to do the right thing.

Marriage Equality is certainly in the news today with both some good and bad news, and in my opinion the two events aren't unrelated.

So on the one hand, we have North Carolina's latest move in the ongoing worst state in the Union competition: Amendment 1. It's pretty shameful and despicable that the people of North Carolina would decide to single out a group of people for discrimination and write that bigotry into their very constitution.

But the fact that they feel it necessary to go to such lengths is itself a sign of their waning influence. The writing is on the wall and gallup polls have begun to consistently show that a plurality support equal rights for LGBT Americans, and that plurality is growing. The bigots are running scared, and are doing everything they can to get their bigoted laws on the books now, because in a few years they won't have the political capital to do even that.

In their desperation, I think supporters of Amendment 1 in North Carolina may have done more to harm their cause than help it. Amendment 1 is pretty flagrantly a direct act of discrimination, and when it is challenged (and it will be) the battle to defend it will be a difficult one. Being an amendment to the state's constitution, it's pretty well entrenched, but that might just make it the key to getting a universal federal ruling in favor of Marriage Equality.

Armchair speculation aside, I do think it's already triggered positive action elsewhere. Specifically, the Oval Office.

President Obama's public statement in support of Marriage Equality couldn't be better timed in my opinion, and serves as a direct counterpoint to the demoralizing influence of North Carolina's Amendment 1 passing. My more cynical friends worry that it's a political maneuver in an election year -which, of course, it is- but I don't think that makes it insincere or diminishes how good it is he said it.

First off, it's simply the right thing to do, and I don't think there is a wrong time to do the right thing. Should he have made this declaration sooner? Yeah, but better today than tomorrow.

I've also seen friends worry that taking a stand on Marriage Equality will hurt his chances of re-election. I think that remains to be seen, but honestly I think it will help more than it hurts. President Obama's always been a moderate, but when he was elected many progressives thought they had put a much more liberal man in the White House, and as a result were somewhat disillusioned when he failed to live up to their expectations.

Standing up for Marriage Equality gives a lot of progressives a reason to be excited about the prospect of four more years of an Obama administration, and that's very important. Simply being scared of what a Romney administration might bring isn't as strong a motivator, in my opinion. And having another positive reason to support Obama should help with fundraising.

Will it also motivate homophobes to vote against President Obama? Sure, some. But honestly, they were never going to vote for him in the first place, and I think the net result still tips in the President's favor.

So on the whole, I'm feeling pretty good about the outlook for LGBT rights and the upcoming presidential election. And it's about damn time.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Form is temporary...

Even as a fairly recent Manchester City supporter, I'm no stranger to the club's propensity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Which is part of why I am so strongly disinclined to prematurely crown ourselves the Premier League Champions, but that's not the only reason.

It also would be the sort of behavior I've come to expect from a Manchester United supporter and I'd like to be as dissimilar to a ManU fan as possible.

My friends and I are part of a small, but growing contingent of  City supporters frequenting a nearby English Pub here in Seattle. There are usually only 3-5 of us at most games, since many of us have to work on the weekends. This morning saw the usual suspects all seated happily in our regular booth, right beneath the big TV. Directly behind us, however, was a pair of new faces, both proudly sporting brand new United shirts.

Now there's nothing surprising about seeing a United supporter show up to catch a City match, especially when their fate depends on us dropping points. That being said, I can't help but smile when I hear the inevitable jeers. And razzing one's rival is part of the fun, so I generally don't mind the exchange too much.

There is one line, though, that always tilts my head a bit:

You can't buy class!

Do they suppose Sir Alex purchased his squad at a rummage sale using money from his summer job at the Car Wash?

But more than that is the underlying assumption that class is a quality that they are qualified to speak to, being the classiest act around.


Funny, I wouldn't consider shouting out your sour grapes during a match the mark of a classy fan.

It seems to me like many Manchester United supporters feel entitled to victory, as though it were theirs by right, on the merit of their club's history alone. I've seen reds squall and fuss like petulant children denied a sweet when they failed to make it out of the group stage of the Champions League, and after their 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford I heard every manner of excuse and equivocation, everything short of acknowledging United was outplayed in a fair fight.

Don't get me wrong, I've heard things from City fans that I do not approve of, Munich chants in particular are completely unacceptable. And I've certainly seen admirable conduct from United supporters, often the old guard; the type that's there every weekend without having checked the results of the match beforehand.

I particularly remember a white-bearded gentleman, wearing red from top to bottom walking over and shaking my hand when we beat them in the FA Cup semi-final last year.

That was super classy.

That was the act of a man who saw past the outcome he would have liked, saw what a huge win it was for the blue half of Manchester, and understood that congratulating a rival's hard-won success takes nothing away from your side.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that saying you've got class is, at the very best, redundant.

Form is temporary...

Class is self-evident.