Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Monday, October 24, 2016

We all float down here

I'm sorry it has been so crazy long since I posted - turns out this whole grad school thing is kind of a time-suck. I'm so happy I'm in school, though. I mean, so happy. It's the weirdest thing - I was the world's worst procrastinator all through my undergrad, and now I don't procrastinate at all. I want to be reading and writing and interacting with my class, and I wasn't quite expecting that. But it's good news, as I'm way too old for last-minute all-nighters. 
Since Halloween's coming up, monsters, ghouls, and blood-suckers are out in force. But enough about Donald Trump. And just in case you're sick of being kept up at night by thoughts of a Trump presidency, here's some different nightmare fuel.
Creepypasta is a neologism describing scary myths and urban legends shared and re-shared online, often being passed off as true. The term is related to the term copypasta, a general term used to refer to stores shared and re-shared on social media - the term's a portmanteau of copy and paste. Here are some of my favorite examples:

  • In 1922, citizens in a small German farming town noticed the Gruber family seemed to be missing. When they went to the Gruber house to investigate, they made a ghastly discovery. The entire family had been hacked to death with an ax, and the killer had lined their bodies up neatly in the barn.
    But that's not the most terrifying part. A few days before the murder, Mr. Gruber mentioned to his neighbor that he'd found a set of footprints in the snow leading from the woods to his house, but no footprints leading away. For months things had been going missing from the home, and more disturbingly, things that didn't belong to the family had been showing up. The family had been hearing noises in the attic that they were sure were just the house settling, but sounded for all the world like footsteps.
    Investigators believe the killer, who was never caught, had been lurking in the house for weeks or even months, unbeknownst to the family.
  • Ten years earlier and a thousand kilometers to the southeast, there lived a man called Béla Kiss. Kiss was a tin smith in a town near Budapest, quiet, but well-liked. He seemed a lonely man, and in fact had placed marriage ads in some local papers, but he never seemed to hit it off with the ladies he met through the ads, and they never stayed around long.
    In 1914 Kiss was conscripted to fight in the Great War. A couple of years after that, Kiss' landlord came upon several large metal drums. Remembering that Kiss had said he was using the barrels to store gasoline in case of war rationing, the landlord alerted the constable who offered the barrels to some soldiers stationed locally. What the soldiers found when they opened the first drum, however, wasn't gasoline.
    After finding the first drum to contain the rotting corpse of a young woman who had been strangled, police searched the barrels and the house, a search which yielded the bodies of 24 women in total. All had been strangled, all had been exsanguinated, and all had two puncture wounds - bite marks - on their necks.
    Police began a massive man hunt for Kiss, and in October of 1916 received word that Kiss could be found in a Serbian hospital. The detective investigating the case rushed to Kiss' bedside, only to find the corpse of a different man entirely. The real Kiss was never found.
  • The Cecil Hotel was a palace of marble, alabaster, and stained glass when it was built back in 1924, but it didn't remain the home away from home of the rich and famous for long. During the Great Depression, the Los Angeles neighborhood in which it was located went all to hell - a hell that soon became known as Skid Row.
    In the 1950s and 1960s, the hotel saw a rash of suicides. One woman who threw herself from the 9th floor window landed on a man, killing him as well. In the mid-1960s, a transient woman was murdered in her room. In the 1980s, the Cecil became home to the Nightstalker serial killer. In the 1990s, a Cecil guest killed three local sex workers.
    But the strangest thing to take place in the Cecil Hotel happened in just 2013. For days, hotel residents had been complaining about water pressure - and about the fact that the water that did come out was discolored and funny tasting. When a maintenance worker finally went to the rooftop water tanks to see what was the matter, he found the body of Elisa Lam, who had apparently been rotting there for weeks. Surveillance camera video from the elevator showed Lam behaving strangely the day she went missing, glancing around nervously while pressing all the buttons on the panel, flailing her arms, and eventually apparently trying to hide in a corner. No one knows how she got through the locked door to the roof, or why the alarm on the door didn't sound. They don't know how she climbed to the top of the tank, and they don't know how she got the lid open. They only know she drowned and was, as near as anyone can tell, alone. 
  • And here's the creepiest of all the pasta so far. All of the stories above are true. No legends here.

Sources: Lore Podcast, the "Urban Legends That Happen to be True" series.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Just hear me out

This isn't for people who've already made up their minds to vote for Trump. If you're for Trump, you're either a bigot or you're willing to throw minorities under a bus, and I don't even know what to say to you.
This is for people planning to vote third party. This is for people who are thinking of sitting this election out. Please, please hear me out.
The doomsday clock read seven minutes to midnight, but in October of 1962 it seemed we were in the final countdown. The Soviets were deploying ballistic missiles to Cuba, just 90 miles south of the US. The only thing standing in the way of nuclear annihilation were a couple of red buttons. But "Kennedy didn’t see the Cuban crisis as a test of his manhood," as Chris Matthews put it. He brokered a deal with Khrushchev, and that's likely the reason we're alive.
This could have been Manhattan. 
Hiroshima before and after

This could have been your mom or my dad.

This could have been the new face of humanity.

Trump wants to know why we have nuclear weapons if we don't plan to use them. Trump thinks it's important to be "unpredictable" when it comes to nuclear weapons. He's not going to rule out using nuclear weapons in Europe. He says "the devastation is very important to me."
Prominent Republican leaders say that the thought of Donald Trump with the nuclear launch codes keeps them up at night. The thought of Donald Trump with the nuclear launch codes keeps me up at night. The thought of Donald Trump with the nuclear launch codes should terrify you too.
Who do you think is more likely to bring about a nuclear holocaust? It's Trump. You know it's Trump. He couldn't stop himself going on a three AM Twitter rampage about Alicia Machado even though all of his advisers warned him to cut it out. He couldn't stop himself badgering and badmouthing Khizr and Ghazala Khan even when his employees and members of his own camp publicly disavowed his statements. The man has no impulse control, no ability to drop his own petty grudges for the sake of his campaign; he cannot stand to have his power challenged, his manhood questioned. We cannot allow him to be the man with his finger on the button.

As odious as the thought of a Clinton presidency might be to you, you know, you know, Clinton's not gonna hit the red button on some psychopathic whim. 
It's 1963 and Lyndon Johnson has inherited a mess in Vietnam. "The battle against communism," he said "must be joined ... with strength and determination." Maybe he was right and maybe he was wrong, but he sent troops to Vietnam without a declaration of war from Congress. 58,000 of our men died, and hundreds of thousands more were injured or missing or prisoners for god knows how long. If not for that war, which Congress never fully supported, there wouldn't be Vietnam vets sleeping on grates in the freezing cold and begging for pennies because they came home from Vietnam, but they didn't come home the same. I don't know if LBJ might the right call or the wrong call, but I do know that this one man's actions changed the face of America and Congress couldn't stop him.

Of course, after Vietnam, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution, which was meant to limit the president's ability to send troops into battle, but there are loopholes, plenty of loopholes for a charismatic psychopath to exploit. Can we really afford to take a risk on a man that Holocaust survivors have compared to Hitler?
The president is responsible for preparing the US budget; Trump has run more businesses into the ground than we can count. The president appoints Supreme Court judges, and although Congress probably won't confirm whatever Neo-Nazi flat-earther Trump wants to appoint to the job, you can bet whoever does get confirmed won't be friendly to women, minorities, or the poor. 
The man surrounds himself with Holocaust deniers, Neo-Nazis, climate change deniers, racists, misogynists, and criminals. Which is a problem because as president he'd have the power to unilaterally appoint over 300 people to various positions in the federal government. 

Look, I know I'm not gonna convince you that Hillary Clinton is a good choice for president. But I really hope I can convince you that America can't afford a Trump presidency, that the stakes are too high to sit this election out or vote for a candidate who cannot win. Vote for Clinton on November 8th and start demanding her impeachment on November 9th if you've got to. But please, please vote for Hillary Clinton for president of the United States of America. 
Please re-post if you're so moved.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Caveat Donor

So breast cancer awareness month is upon us, and the pink explosion has begun. I'm a cancer communist myself - I prefer to donate to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and let them distribute funds where they're needed. There are lots of types of cancer, and it seems unfair to me that research into men's cancers receives so little funding comparatively. But if you do want to donate to a breast cancer charity, here are some things to know:

  • We tend to assume that products that go pink for breast cancer during October donate a portion of their proceeds to cancer research, but that isn't necessarily so. Anybody can slap a pink ribbon or label on their product. 
  • It's also worth noting that companies that do send a portion of their proceeds off to charity make a whole lot of money doing this and only give a tiny percentage of that to charity. 
  • Susan G. Komen is the largest and best funded breast cancer charity in the United States. However, your donation dollars might not fund what you think.
    • Only 21% of proceeds go to fund breast cancer research, and only 13% go to fund health screenings. 40% goes to "awareness," which seems like a lot of money for a disease that pretty much the entire population of the country is already aware of. 
    • The CEO makes a ton - well over $600,000. This is rated as extremely high by Charity Navigator, which gives the organization only 2 out of 4 stars.