This place matters

This place matters

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Here's how we'd all benefit from legal pot - even if you never touch the stuff

It's no secret that Jeff Sessions has a big problem with weed. Remember, this is the guy who once quipped that he thought some Klan members who murdered a black man were okay until he learned they smoked pot (it was a joke. 'Cause if you can't laugh about a brutal lynching, what can you laugh about?)
In his role as Attorney General, he plans to go after pot with both guns blazing - including medical marijuana. He says pot's a gateway drug, despite the fact that it most definitely isn't - most people who try pot don't even try pot again, let alone harder drugs.

So you know how I'm always insisting there's no Big Pharma plot to keep people sick so they can make money treating them? There's an exception to every rule. The drug companies dump millions into anti-weed campaigns and lobbying efforts. Insys Therapeutics spent half a million on scare-mongering ads opposing medical pot in Arizona last year. Insys, it should be noted, manufactures a drug synthesized from fentanyl, an obscenely potent opiod that is as deadly as it is addictive. Perdue, which makes Oxy-Contin, sponsors anti-pot events all over the country. These organizations claim they're trying to protect people from the evils of pot all the while the drug that butters their bread is killing people from sea to shining sea. 

Drug companies lobby their asses off to keep weed illegal, and it's not hard to see why. Marijuana is a very effective painkiller, and unlike prescription opiods, it's not physically addictive (i.e., you won't get sick and go through withdrawal if you go off pot). In fact, pot might help treat opiod addiction (we don't have enough evidence to say so for sure, but we know that pot effectively treats symptoms like pain and nausea, which are part of opioid withdrawal).  Robust scientific studies show that pot can help with muscle spasms from MS, nausea from chemotherapy, seizure disorders, and more. It's also way, way safer than a lot of the pharmaceutical drugs used to treat these things. 
Pot isn't without side effects - it can suppress immune function, cause memory loss, even trigger psychosis in people predisposed to it. But if you compare those side effects to the ones caused by the pharmaceutical alternatives, the weed wins it.
So what's it to you? Well, imagine your community with less opioid addiction. Studies show that wherever medical marijuana becomes legal, opioid use and opioid addiction drop. That means fewer deaths, fewer opioid-related traffic accidents. It means if you have a heart attack, EMTs might get to you sooner because they're not busy administering Narcan to someone on the other side of town. It means government needing to use fewer resources for addiction treatment.
Medical pot means if you get cancer, or shingles, or fibromyalgia, you'll have another tool in your treatment arsenal - one that's relatively safe and affordable. Medical pot means your loved ones might suffer less when they get sick. Medical pot's a source of tax revenue. Medical marijuana means the justice system will be able to worry about bigger crimes. According to the New York Times
“Each year, enforcing laws on possession costs more than $3.6 billion, according to the American Civil Liberties Union,” the Times explains. “It can take a police officer many hours to arrest and book a suspect. That person will often spend a night or more in the local jail, and be in court multiple times to resolve the case.”
Now I should point out that pot's bad for developing brains. Teens should not smoke pot. You might think legal pot will increase the likelihood of teens using it, but the science doesn't support that. Little kids can get really sick if they get into mom and dad's edibles, but lock up the edibles. Problem solved. 

Legalized pot is good for sick people, good for cities, good for you.
 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Things I learned from my mother

My mom always said to always go dutch on dates. She said if you pay your own way, there will be no misunderstandings about who is indebted to whom.
I like this advice. This is good advice. The whole idea of the guy always paying creates an imbalance, with the guy always feeling like he's owed something, and the women always feeling like she owes.

We should do away with this custom, which dates back to a time when women didn't work, or didn't get paid well enough to be able to take care of themselves. 
Folks tend to think that when feminists complain about the patriarchy, we're accusing all men of oppressing all women. But this is one of many cases where following the rules of the patriarchy is equally unfair to women and men. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A new hope

Sometimes we find hope in really unexpected places. Today I'm finding it on Lip Sync Battle.
This is Tom Holland, the newest Spider Man, putting a new spin on Rihanna's Umbrella. And I feel like not too many years ago, such a gender-bending performance might have really undermined the perceived masculinity of a fledgling action star. Might have been career suicide even. A couple of years ago, he might have gotten away with it if it was played for a joke, but it isn't a joke here - when he steps out in this very feminine costume, the audience doesn't laugh, they cheer - wildly. And he's not mocking or goofing, he's dead damn serious. 
Because here's the funny thing about clothes: this getup is feminine now, but back in the Victorian era, it would have been scandalous or even blasphemous for a woman to wear clothes like that - even under her nine layers of shifts and petticoats and skirts. It was utterly unacceptable for a woman to wear any sort of bifurcated undergarment then - might have turned her manly - might even have turned her wanton. Queen Victoria herself wore crotchless underwear. 
The outward trappings of gender in our society are as nonsensical as they are arbitrary as they are mercurial. A man can't be a man if he wears a skirt, unless it's a kilt, in which case it's okay, but only if he's Scottish. But Scots have been wearing kilts a lot less long than Braveheart would have you believe. The knee length pleated skirt we associate with Scotsmen today only became acceptable in the 18th century; before that, a kilt was a full length garment. But that garment dates only back to the 16th century - before that, men wore pants.
Today many, if not most Americans see makeup as a thing women should wear, and a thing men should not. But women in America didn't really start wearing makeup until the 1920s. In the early 20th century, the only place a person could buy makeup would be a theatrical costume store. In Europe from the Renaissance on, men often wore makeup to appear more aristocratic - pasty skin was a status symbol because it showed that a guy had so much money he didn't need to work outdoors. Men and women have been wearing makeup for 6,000 years, and only in the last century did makeup become associated with women and women only. 
I always find it funny when people use religion to justify a hatred of cross-dressing. Sure, the Bible condemns men who dress like women, but when the Bible was written, dudes wore dresses. If you want to dress like a man dressed back in ancient Israel, you've got to dress like a lady. According to Deuteronomy, God detests dudes who don't wear dresses. And what's absolutely bonkers is that here in the 21st century, people are murdering trans women by the thousands all over the world just for failing to wear articles of clothing that didn't even exist when their holy book of choice was written.
What I'm getting at is that rules about how women and men are supposed to look on the outside are arbitrary, mutable, and utterly pointless. But the good news is that we don't have to conform to these pointless rules. And the more young male action stars who say "fuck it, I'm wearing the bustier," the easier it gets for all of us. For trans men, and gender queer people, gender non-conformists and women who can't stand pantyhose and little boys who like the way their nails look when they're painted. For people who just want to look on the outside like what they feel on the inside. 
I dunno, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. I just know my life got a lot better, my self-esteem got a lot higher, when I realized I was under no obligation to try to look "like a girl." And I really value celebrities who are willing to refuse to conform. From Alicia Keys refusing to wear makeup to Alexander Skarsgard dressing in drag to Diane Keaton and her four decade love affair with men's suits. To say nothing of heroes like Laverne Cox to Lana and Lilly Wachowski to the late Alexis Arquette who have chosen to be their true selves with the judging eyes of the world on them.   

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Should I be planning for my parents' retirement?



Ever since the orange nightmare took office I've had this niggling worry at the back of my mind. The kind of worry like when you're on vacation and you suddenly realize you aren't sure you didn't leave the iron on. I've been worried my parents will get sick and we won't have enough money to make them well. 
The House Cut Poor People's Noses Off to Spite Their Faces Act has an uphill battle in the Senate, with senators on both sides indicating they plan to rewrite it completely. Which is a temporary relief - a literal stay of execution for many. Maybe the Senate bill won't be the cruel, spiteful nonsense the House shat out. But honestly, the fact that my parents' health now relies upon this Senate doesn't have me sleeping much easier.
Oh, my parents have savings. My dad worked and paid taxes for nigh on sixty years before very reluctantly retiring at 77. Mom did the same, though she took a few years off to stay home with my sister and me - and by "took a few years off" I mean "ran a daycare out of our home so she could bring in income while being a stay-at-home-mom." But a life savings eked out one clipped coupon, one untaken vacation day at a time amounts to little in the face of the illnesses my parents could face as they get older.
My dad was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis forty or so years ago. He was in debilitating agony for most of my childhood until the disease somewhat miraculously went into remission. And yet he literally never missed a day of work. Daily he walked to the bus stop on aching legs to a job he hated, and nightly he came home shrouded in pain and exhaustion. 
When he got let go from the Plain Dealer, it seemed like the end of the world. But he got a job as an advocate for people with physical and developmental disabilities, and there he stayed. He kept vigil at the bedsides of clients who were dying, he broke bones, he got chunks bitten out of his flesh. It paid terribly - the hardest work always seems to - and he loved it. And after all that, he deserves to be able to get sick without going broke. He has paid for it in tax dollars and in volunteer hours and in care he gave to the sick and vulnerable. His country owes him that.
My mom loved her work too. She taught kindergarten in some of the poorest, most dangerous neighborhoods in Cleveland. Teachers came from all over the city to see the way she ran her classroom - the innovative math curriculum she adopted of her own volition, the teaching methods ahead of their time. Her salary probably amounted to less than minimum wage, especially considering the fact she volunteered to run the before school program, so that parents who were shift workers could drop their kids off at school before dawn. I can't count the number of times I've been at a restaurant, or out shopping with my mom and seen some grown adult come up to her and throw their arms around her, former students who just have to tell her what an amazing teacher she was. And she deserves to not have to wonder whether she'll always be able to afford the expensive medications and treatments for her chronic health conditions. She has paid for that medication in tax dollars too, and in giving a world class education to the poorest and most vulnerable kids - kids who have grown up and gone on to be successful, productive, tax-paying members of society. 
-
Legislators and ACA opponents keep talking about how they shouldn't have to pay for the health care of the poor and the lazy. But the Affordable Care Act doesn't give free health care to the poor and the unemployed - that's what Medicaid's for. The ACA extends medical benefits to people who work, but don't make enough to pay for insurance on their own. In fact, the ACA can help keep those folks healthy and in the workforce, rather than sick and on disability. 
For people like my folks, the ACA is about having the coverage they paid for in literal blood, sweat, and tears. For folks like me the ACA means being able to afford the psych meds that keep me sane and employable. The ACA is for small business owners and freelancers. It's for single moms and helpless kids and poor people and middle class people, and even well-off people who are, as it turns out, one cancer diagnosis from broke. The ACA is for people who work and pay taxes and deserve to be able to remain healthy enough to do so. 
Edit: if I earlier made it seem as if I don't believe that the poor and vulnerable are not also deserving of adequate health care, that is not what I think. We are the richest country on the planet, we have a moral imperative to protect our most vulnerable. No one deserves to suffer and die in A nation as wealthy as ours. "Christian "Republicans ought to under stand that.

Jackdaws at Stonehenge
They're holding chunks of wool they stole from sheep in a pasture nearby

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Elegy for the shattered ones

I'd like to take a moment today to talk about the most oppressed, the most persecuted minority group in our great society: Porcelain Americans. What's a Porcelain American, you ask? Well chances are, you know several. 
Like that guy at your gym who keeps getting passed over for promotions just because he's a white male. Porcelain American. The type of person who cracks under the unbearable weight of being called out for making casually racist statements. The kind of person who shatters whenever the hero of a movie is black and the villain white. The kind of person who falls to the floor in a million tiny pieces when a person of color speaks to them with anything other than complete and humble deference. These are Porcelain Americans.
Not all white people are Porcelain Americans, and not all Porcelain Americans are white. But it is true that for Porcelain Americans, the pendulum on racism has clearly swung too far - it was all fine and good when Black people were demanding the right to vote, but the fact that Black people now demand justice for small Black children being shot by cops? Clearly demanding that individual cops be held accountable is an attack on all cops everywhere, blue porcelain shattered all over the floor. 
For Porcelain Americans, the agony suffered over a footballer of color who won't stand for the national anthem is exponentially greater than the suffering of the starving people of Somalia for whom that same footballer has helped raise millions. Hungry people are a fact of life, but when you start cracking the porcelain bust of Uncle Sam - well that's a travesty that Porcelain Americans should never be forced to witness.
It's easy to ignore the suffering of Porcelain Americans. Yes, on paper - and by almost every metric you can measure, the average Porcelain American enjoys privileges that Americans of the non-porcelain variety doesn't. But put yourself in Porcelain Americans' shoes. What good is all that privilege if you can't use it to tell racist jokes without someone getting offended? What good is anything in a country where it's no longer okay to openly discriminate against the undesirable?
And imagine... just imagine for a moment the terror of knowing that any minute, some movie that you are in no way required to watch could retroactively shatter your entire childhood? 
Who even knew that was possible? And how can we say we're fighting rape culture if every day in America thousands of Porcelain Americans' childhoods are being raped... somehow. 
 Look at what the world has done to our precious Porcelain Americans and tell me that their lives aren't literally worse than all the Black kids in Flint with lead poisoning. Look at all the horrors under which Porcelain Americans are cracking and straining and tell me it isn't literally worse than piffling concerns like "systemic racism" and "rape culture." Porcelain Americans are shattering all around us. And we're just turning a blind eye.



Okay, I'll let you in on a little secret. I'm totally a Porcelain American. When I saw that  there was a movie called Dear White People, damned if the first thought to cross my mind wasn't "DOUBLE STANDARD!" But then I remembered the whole idea of false equivalence, and I watched the movie, and it was good, and I learned stuff. Not a chip or a scratch. My inner Porcelain American's always gonna take offense at being accused of having privilege, or having someone call me out for a micro-aggression I didn't even mean to make. That initial moment of taking offense may not be voluntary, but shattering over every slight and offense and every hint of unfairness or double-standards or disrespect - that's totally optional. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Casting call

So yesterday I mentioned my blog to some folks at work, with the caveat that it consists mostly of abrasively liberal diatribes and occasionally some stuff about words, wordplay, and word origins. Then I looked at my blog and it turns out that the abrasively liberal has pretty much drowned everything else out. I blame school - I don't have much time to browse through my stacks of word trivia books, stuck as I am reading Important Literature, and the little free time I have between work and school is generally dedicated to laying awake nights fretting about the Trumpacolypse. 
Possibly from 9gag.com?

So today, and in light of the fact that I should be off reading some of that Important Literature I mentioned, I thought I'd tell you some fun facts from some of my favorite podcasts, and provide you with links so you can have fun too.

This is more than just the most cleverly named podcast in the interwebs - it's a really entertaining and exceedingly well-researched podcast and website that is, in their words, "a collection of entertaining curiosities in history, literature, language, art, philosophy, and mathematics, designed to help you waste time as enjoyably as possible."
Fun fact from the archives of their show: in the early part of the 20th century, Dutch forger Han van Meegeren fooled the art world into believing he'd found previously undiscovered Vermeer paintings to the tune of millions. This despite his work looking nothing the hell like Vermeer.  
Helen Zaltzman hosts this show which, unlike my blog, actually is about words, wordplay, and word history. 
Fun fact: Back in 1816, the world seemed a very bleak place. A volcano in what's now Indonesia had just unleashed the largest volcanic eruption in 10,000 years, enveloping the planet in volcanic matter that blotted out the sun, cooled the planet, and destroyed crops all over the place. Tens of thousands left their homes and wandered from city to city in search of food and shelter. That's the backdrop against which Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein. 

Episodes of this show are short, which is too bad because you want to hang on every word. He tells stories from history, of people forgotten or misremembered.
You may have heard that Leo, the MGM lion, killed his trainer the day after he filmed his world famous roar. Well he didn't. But life after the roar was even more strange. MGM decided he'd be the first animal to fly cross country, but the plane crashed. No worries, he survived. 

There are lots of podcasts dedicated to scientific skepticism, but this is my favorite. The three hosts debunk all kinds of pseudo-scientific claims, but what I like is that they demonstrate that lay people can read scientific studies to determine just what's fact and what's crap. 
Fun fact: Gwyneth Paltrow's website, Goop.com, sells "yoni eggs" - jade eggs that you're supposed to shove up your hooha to give it superpowers, maybe. The skeptics are here to inform us that this is not where rocks are supposed to go. 
None of them, for the love of god. None of them.

If you've never listened to podcasts before, I like Stitcher. You can use the Stitcher app, or you can listen straight from your browser. This app's really simple, and you can stream directly without having to download.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

I'm still here

Sorry I've been away so long. I was looking forward to spending some time caching blog posts this week while I'm on spring break, but instead fibromyalgia decided to beat the living shit out of me for a while. I'm just hurting and exhausted and so far beyond cranky. Honestly, it makes me want to


It kind of feels like
Maybe more like 
I mean, I guess it could be worse

So here's a video I like to watch when I'm feeling bad about my own life.

I never get tired of that. Because if there's anything Tom Hanks has to teach us, it's that, no matter how shitty a hand you get, you half-ass nothing, and eventually, if you dream big enough, you can grow up to be...

Any questions?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hooray for hypocrisy!

So another awards season is nearing its completion and there have been, and certainly will be, some fiery political diatribes up on that podium, stars selflessly using their sixty seconds in the spotlight getting in their digs at good old Donald Trump. And good for them. 
I guess.
This parody brought to you by MS Paint.
When I saw Meryl Streep's speech against Trump's bullying at the Golden Globes, all I could think was "Then make a movie with a god damn Black person in it, Meryl." The cast lists for her movies are whiter than a Starbucks inside a yoga pants outlet, and she's not doing shit about it. Last year, defending a lack of diversity in one of her projects, she claimed it was okay because "we're all Africans." She's one of the most talented, most visible actors in Hollywood and she could be doing a hell of a lot more than making self-important speeches. 

And that's the thing about certain Hollywood liberals. They're all about conspicuous displays of liberalism, but when it comes to Hollywood's massive diversity problem, they don't want to do shit. 
Hollywood's still whitewashing roles from Michael Jackson to all the gods of Egypt and the Meryl Streeps of the industry aren't saying a thing. Scarlett Johannson and Matt Damon have condemned Trump's racism, but Damon's currently the star of a movie set in medieval China (I'm sure there's some vitally important reason the character has to be white; there always is) and Johannson's wearing yellowface in The Ghost in the Shell and says it's okay because feminism. Practice what you preach or quit preaching, dude.
I was heartened by David Harbour's SAG awards speech when the Stranger Things cast won for Best Ensemble. He talked about standing up to bullies and speaking up on behalf the disenfranchised and marginalized. But the guy's on a show with one whole character of color. The whole of the show's first season failed the Bechdel test. Maybe focus some of that fiery passion on getting Stranger Things show runners to actually cast some of the marginalized and disenfranchised folks of whom you speak.

There are some celebrities getting it right. Oprah, Brad Pitt, Danny Glover, Lee Daniels, Nate Moore, Shonda Rhimes, and so many more have busted ass trying to make TV and movies that give a voice to marginalized people and a platform for them to stand on. They're not perfect people (Oprah unleashed Dr. Oz on an unsuspecting public for God's sake), but they're not shouting liberal catch phrases from awards podiums and then going home to do jack and shit.

So I'm calling you out, Hollywood celebrities who definitely read this blog and care what I think: practice what you preach. You want to make America kinder, more tolerant? You want to rise up against bullying and racism and discrimination? Make movies and television that promote diversity and draw in the marginalized. Don't just make speeches, make art. Make changes. Make waves. Make people think. Make a difference. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

um, guys?

When I learned this morning that there'd been violent demonstrations at UC Berkeley over a scheduled speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, I'll admit I didn't know much about the guy. And now that I've wasted a little of my life reading about him, I'm gonna waste a little of yours with a theory I can't seem to stop having. Note: There are hate words below.
Pretty much everything you need to know about M.Y. is stuff he'll tell you himself. He's a self-proclaimed Internet troll with the mantra "double down, don't back down." He once said, "If someone calls you an anti-Semite, you go to their page and put up swastikas." He's not an anti-Semite himself, of course, because one of his grandparents was Jewish, and I'll just let you go ahead and connect the dots back to Hitler on your own. "I’m totally autistic or sociopathic," he once bragged to Bloomburg. "I guess I’m both." He'll do anything to get attention - he says that in the last for years he's never been alone in a room for more than an hour. And he's a genius at maintaining his brand - the embattled provocateur. 
Still, that's no excuse for censoring the guy. Even if he does insist on calling his tour The Dangerous Faggot Tour, I guess. Sure he's got no real education and his lectures generally consist of wall-to-wall anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-minority hate speech, but we live in a country of free speech, goddammit. And violence is never the answer, right?
Well, it might be if you're Milo Yiannopoulos. See, his big controversial tour has turned out to be kind of a dud. There were few bookings and a bunch of cancellations. A handful of students at Rutgers stood up, smeared paint on themselves, and then left. His appearance at the University of Minnesota drummed up a whole 40 protesters, only five of whom even made it into the venue. I mean, the guy proclaims himself an "Internet Supervillian" and he gets what? Some brief interruptions, a protester or two? Some supervillian.
To finally get some attention, poor M.Y. had to enlist the help of even less relevant "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli for a planned event at UC Davis. Now the controversy machine was firing up. M.Y. said on Facebook that the event was cancelled due to violence, but the police stated that there had been no violence or even property destruction. 
And then there was the University of Washington. Out of nowhere, this huge phalanx of organized black bloc protesters show up with fireworks and baseball bats. They're all in black, their faces are covered, and they're attacking M.Y. supporters and press alike. Finally, some headlines!
And isn't it a weird coincidence that a couple weeks later another well-organized gang of black bloc protesters showed up at M.Y.'s Berkeley engagement, dressed all in black with their faces covered, with fireworks and baseball bats to force the cancellation. Police are saying that the Berkeley students were protesting but peacefully, when all of a sudden a hundred and fifty guys dressed like ninjas showed up and started throwing bricks and setting fires. The attacks were aimed mostly at the police, but groups of peaceful protesters were targeted as well. About two hours before the event, the university said it was cancelling the event, saying they couldn't guarantee M.Y.'s safety.

M.Y. appeared on Facebook Live not long after, looking fabulous, saying he was shocked at the way some people "were so threatened by the idea that a conservative speaker might be persuasive, interesting, funny and might take some people with him, they have to shut it down at all costs."
Now M.Y. had his headlines. He was trending on every platform one can trend on. Even the President, a man M.Y. creepily refers to as his "Daddy," paid attention. M.Y. is back in the headlines and back on brand. It worked out really well for Milo. Who, remember, brags about being a sociopath and a supervillian and being willing to do anything for attention.

Is it crazy to wonder if that "anything" includes maybe a little violent pot-stirring? 
And a kitten, so you don't have to look at M.Y.'s pretty,
smug face.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Life or something like it

I've been thinking about lives and choices, on this, the anniversary week of the Roe v. Wade decision. Good, loving people are marching on Washington this weekend protesting abortion. I get where they're coming from, I do. I was a pro-life activist in high school.
And then I realized that picket signs don't prevent abortions. Contraceptives do. Education does. That's why I support Planned Parenthood. I still don't like abortion. So I support organizations that strive to prevent unwanted pregnancy. 
Abortion right now is at an all-time low - lower even than in 1973 when Roe v. Wade was passed.
Notice the nosedive it took starting in 2010? That happens to coincide with the passing of the Affordable Care Act, which put contraception into the hands of the women who needed it most. That's how you enact legislation that will end abortion.
But the Affordable Care Act is going away. And Planned Parenthood is in peril. Social programs that feed the hungry, care for the sick, and help the poor are in the cross-hairs. Do you honestly think that's going to make for fewer abortions?

ShareThis