The Hidden Hatred

It makes me sad that I have to pull my soapbox out for this, but I’ve just seen too many stupid comments flying around about a myriad of issues that all involve the same thing:

HATRED

There are lots of different kinds of hatred, but I think we can all agree that now, more than ever, two forms seem to be dominating out collective consciousness – misanthropy and racism.

We’ll talk about Racism first.

By now, if you don’t know about Donald Sterling, you live under a rock, or you’re renting out the Unabomber’s cabin for the Spring. The (hopefully soon-to-be ex-) owner of the LA Clippers Basketball team said some less-than-appropriate things during a phone call to his alleged mistress,  V. Stiviano. During the call, Sterling urged his frequent court-side companion not to bring black people to the games, and to stop associating with them altogether. This was after he mentioned previously asking her to remove all the pictures of black people from her Instagram account. I won’t recap the entire discussion, but suffice it to say that it can concluded that Donald Sterling feels an inherent superiority to African-Americans. Although, it might be argued that he feels superior to everyone, this particular conversation seemed heavily slanted against blacks.

Donald Sterling Racism Clippers

I was going to post a picture of Donald Sterling, but no one with that much Grecian Formula on their head needs to be seen in public.

Soon after, it was revealed that this wasn’t the first time Sterling had been called a racist. Somehow, it was overlooked that in 2009, Elgin Baylor filed suit against Sterling for age and race discrimination. In that suit, he alleged that when asked about courting black coaches for the team, Sterling replied that he, “would like to have a White southern coach coaching poor Black players.” However, since he had no documentation, the suit was overturned. 

Earlier than that, even, in 2003, the Housing Right Center (and 19 tenants – all black), filed suit in Federal court against Sterling and his property management company. They alleged that Sterling actively blocked renting to “non-Koreans” (because he felt that they, more than any other group, wouldn’t have the courage to complain about a lack of services). When he purchased the Ardmore building, his then property manager, Summer Davenport, testified that when he entered the building, he noted the smell, and noted that it smelled that way because “blacks aren’t clean” and “Mexican’s sit around and drink and smoke all day”. According to Davenport:

Cultivating his image meant no Blacks, no Mexican-Americans, no children (whom Sterling called “brats”) and no government-housing-subsidy recipients as tenants.

So according to the testimony of tenants, Sterling employees made life difficult for residents in some of his new buildings. They refused rent checks, then accused renters of nonpayment. They refused to do repairs for black tenants and harassed them with surprise inspections, threatening residents with eviction for alleged violations of building rules.

Yet somehow, none of us noticed. Why? Because no one “important” was involved. But this time it was different. He called out a specific person, a person of some influence: Magic Johnson. He basically told his mistress not to associate with Magic Johnson anymore in any sort of public way. Because people might talk.

After the release of the recorded call, there was an almost immediate backlash. But I was surprised to find people defending Sterling and his “right to privacy”. We have an interesting concept of privacy these days. “Private” come from the Latin word privus, which means “single, individual” – that means something is only truly private if you keep it only to yourself. If you share it with someone else, it’s no longer private. But that’s not really the point. The real issue is what he said in a conversation he felt would not be made public. That’s when public figures reveal their real selves – when they don’t think anyone else can see them.

What surprised me the most were the people defending his actions (as opposed to his privacy). I got into a rather heated facebook conversation where one of the participants felt like since the African-American members of the Clippers probably used racial epithets against Sterling at some point in the past, it was all good. He added that we should all just get over racism because racism exists on both side. I find this rationale completely flabbergasting. Yes, let’s ignore the problem because it’s worse than we thought. Worse, there’s a tinge of “well it’s OK because they do it too”.

That’s the basic ideal that’s fueling the conflict in the Middle East. “They killed my baby, so I’m going to kill ALL their babies… in the name of <insert deity of choice here>.” Yeah.

Donald Sterling is a racist. Period. And he’s the worst kind of racist – one who pretends not to be or doesn’t believe they are. Just because he doesn’t use the language with which we’re most familiar, doesn’t make it less the truth. I don’t care how many tickets he gives away so he can sleep at night. This sort of behavior is unacceptable, and I believe the Commissioner of the NBA did the right thing by banning him for life.

Now onto Misanthropy.

You’ll note I said “misanthropy” and not “misogyny”. That’s because I’m seeing this door swing both ways, and frankly it’s disturbing. Granted, misogyny is far more prevalent today then it’s male-based counterpart, misandry, but they are both equally distasteful. That said, I’m not really going to go into misandry – I’m only mentioning it because lately it seems like the natural reaction to “woman bashing” is “man bashing”.

On to the issue, though. Recently, someone I follow on Twitter, Janelle Asselin (@gimpnelly), found herself subjected to the worse kind of misogyny all because she dared to question the practices if the current editorial team at DC, and the choices they made for a recent re-release of  Teen Titans. Her critique focused on, in part, the cover artwork – in which one of the members (specifically Wonder Girl) was drawn with a decidedly adult physique – a critique, I might add, with which I am in total agreement. Aside from the normal “he-man woman hater” rhetoric that’s part and parcel in the Comic Book world, Janelle was threatened with violence and rape.

Teen Titans Cover Controversy

This is the Cover in question – See there? That’s Wonder Girl, front and center. And she doesn’t look like a teenager to me.

And while that was certainly bad enough, the immediate reaction of her peer group (which being in comics means that it’s mostly men) was “well that happens” and “we get threatened too”. There wasn’t an outpouring of support, only more of the same. All because she said “that teenaged girl’s boobs look fake”… in a comic book. I mean I’m floored. I don’t know how to respond to this type of behavior. I mean I’ve written about the trials and tribulations of female Cosplayers in the past (The Baying of the Dickwolf), and about how the anonymity of the Internet makes us stupid (back when I wrote for Geek Shui Living). But this is just a whole new level of What The Actual Fuck.

What makes someone think it’s OK to threaten someone with rape? Because they don’t know your real name? Because you think they can’t find you? Because you think it’s funny? I think it’s because you’re an asshole. This is a long standing issue in the gaming/comic world, both among fans and among the industry professionals. They pander to males adolescents because that’s who they think their main target it. I wonder if it’s occurred to them that more young men buy games and comics because they are being targeted at them? We see that girls can be avid fans and consumers when they are targeted: My Little Pony and Disney seemed to have realized this, though they still enforce gender roles.

It stands to reason that if the art in comics were a little more realistic, and less fodder for young men’s… *ahem*… dreams, more girls would buy comics. The same for video games. I mean have you seen the armor in most MMORPG’s? It’s almost comical how little armor they put on the female figures compared to the male. It’s clear that they are objectifying the female form – it would be difficult to deny.

With comic books, though, there is the additional argument that they are presenting, in many cases, what amounts to persons of perfect form. They are heroes, after all, and usually have some sort of supernatural or extraordinary abilities. I mean, it makes sense that Wonder Woman has the body she does, she’s divine. But does she need to ruin around in a bathing suit? I mean Superman is also a perfect specimen, as are Batman, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Green Lantern, but they are almost completely covered (aside from Superman’s odd placement of his underwear). Wonder Woman is wearing a strapless one piece bathing suit. Black Canary is wearing fishnet stocking – because that’s practical gear for a superhero. I can’t come up with a single reason for Power Girl’s “cleavage window” – aside from it being a cleavage window.

So it stands that Ms. Asslin has a valid point. And she was attacked with threats of rape and bodily harm. Not to mention the questioning of her ability to even judge the matter in the first place. The nicest of the insults involved questioning her abilities because she only knew about Batman, or more bluntly, because “girls don’t know anything about comics”. At the end of the day, I think the issues are connected. There is rampant sexism in gaming and comics, and the industry has been turning a blind eye to it for too long. Ms. Asslin has involved the police in her issue (as she should have – bravo to her) and one can only hope that the tremendous asshats that threatened her will soon learn that nothing is “private” anymore.

I have to say that I’m completely flummoxed that either of these situations have people rationalizing the behavior to make it more acceptable. “Sterling’s from a different time”, or “they’re just kids who think it’s funny” just aren’t acceptable. We’ve turned into a society that doesn’t believe that people need to be responsible for their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault. When I was speaking to someone who I considered to be feminist about the “Cosplay is Consent” issue, her response was, “they wouldn’t dress like that if they didn’t want attention,” which to me is the same as saying, “they’re asking for it.” It’s the same with this issues. There’s no justification for racism or misanthropy. It’s just stupid, counter-productive, and god damn it, we’ll never develop Warp Drive and meet the Vulcans if we keep doing stupid shit like this. Stop it already.

And if you aren’t sure if what you’re saying or doing is acceptable, then remember Wheaton’s Law:

Wheaton's Law Don't Be a Dick

No seriously. Stop it already.

/endrant

The Price of Freedom…

Boston Marathon Bombing - Terrorism

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety.”
- Benjamin Franklin, c. 1759

I know I don’t normally start with quotes, but considering the events of the day, it seemed appropriate. I also tend to stay a little behind the times on current events stories because many times, the “mainstream” media will begin saying things as fact that aren’t necessarily confirmed. Truth, and its pursuit, is very important to me. The way I see it, I’d rather be late and credible than early and wrong. But I couldn’t let this event pass without writing something, because its events like these that define us for generations to come.

Boston Marathon Bombing - Terrorism

This is what we should focus on – That horrible events make us shine. We rise to the occasion and show what the best of us can really do.

It was late in the afternoon when a co-worker asked me if I had heard about what happened in Boston. It was a really busy day today (I didn’t have time to pick my own nose, let alone read the news), so I hadn’t. He related to me that someone had set off a bomb at the Boston Marathon, and that a bunch of people had been hurt. So, I stopped what I was doing and immediately went to Yahoo to look it up. There, on the front page, was the story, and a picture of the aftermath. Instantly, on Twitter and Facebook, people started with the normal rhetoric you would expect – the immediate assumption that this is terrorism, and the arguments that banning bombs didn’t prevent this tragedy, so why should we ban guns.

So, rather than talk about the event itself, since we know so little, I want to talk about… well.. the talking. Some of it disturbs me, and some of it makes me sad. Right now, there are over 130 people whose lives have been irrevocably altered by the events today. They should be our primary concern. Flag-waving and chest-beating will not accomplish that. I think the most important thing we can do, though, is to go about our daily lives as if nothing happened. Please don’t misunderstand – I don’t mean to imply that this isn’t important. On the contrary, it’s very much so. What I’m saying that we shouldn’t let events like this determine how we live our lives.

When I was a kid, IRA bombings in the UK were frequent. Of course, living in the States, I really had no idea what it meant to live in that kind of state of mind. Never knowing if the guy sitting next to you with the brogue accent was a terrorist or not. Or if the baby carriage being pushed toward you actually had a bomb in it. We never had to live with that level of uneasiness. Even in the big cities (I grew up in Middletown, Ohio, a city of about 50,000 – so this did NOT apply to me), you were more concerned with being mugged or raped than being the victim of a terror attack. In fact, until the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, it had never occurred to me that anything like what happened in the UK would happen here.

As a culture, we are heavily invested in our own invincibility. To the point that even though we lost the Vietnam War, we refuse to accept it as a loss because it was “only a police action”. When I was in basic training, I was taught that we salute palm inward because showing your palm was a sign of surrender and we had never surrendered to anyone. That sort of attitude permeates out culture to the deepest levels.

But 9/11 changed all of that. For the first time, we felt vulnerable and exposed. We suddenly didn’t feel so invincible. Maybe it was the circumstances, or maybe it was the fact that we were faced with fighting in ideal rather than a country, but we were completely out of our element. We allowed ourselves to be consumed by our fear. And it’s only getting worse with every new event. Just a few weeks back, I was assaulted by the idea that I should be watching my neighbors and reporting “suspicious” activity. They didn’t define “suspicious” – I guess that’s left up to the Department of Homeland Security. Even our science fiction, which really reflects our visions of the future, has darkened, particularly when compared to that of the past. The favorite enemy in film changed from being Soviet/Communist to being obviously Arab or Islamist. I remember watching True Lies when I was in the Air Force and commenting to a friend that it was the first film we’d seen with Arab-based antagonists (compared to The Hunt For Red October from a short 4 years earlier where the Soviets were still the enemy). Even my survival training was based around Middle Eastern combatants (previously they had been based on Southeast Asian – read: Vietnamese – tactics). Granted, terrorism wasn’t the root cause of this, the First Gulf War was. But even then, we imagined our selves fighting the Iraqis, not because of religious or idealogical differences, but because they did something you should never ever do – they bit the hand that fed them.

And after all that, we were still invincible.

After 9/11, we slowly started giving up our freedoms. We decided that it was better to be safe than to be free. We wondered how we ever were so lax in our security. We started becoming suspicious of anyone “brown”. Iraqis, Iranians, Libyans, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis – they were all lumped together in a giant bin we called “Muslim Extremists” even though they are all really very different people. And while I would agree that Sharia isn’t the ideal system of government in terms of equality and freedom, it is the government the people selected, and we should respect that. But we don’t. We want everyone to be like us, because this is the greatest country in the world, and how wonderful the world would be if we were all like us.

And so we started checking ourselves before we stepped onto aircraft. Not because we probably should have been doing it all along – but because we are scared. And it’s crippled the companies that provided us with air travel because they have to foot a great deal of the expense of the checks. And people avoid air travel because it’s more of a hassle than a convenience now.

And then we started thinking about our borders, trying to keep out the “undesirables”. All of the men who attacked us were here legally, though, so we made it harder for foreigners to come here legally, meaning more come illegally… because we didn’t think that far ahead. We aren’t very good at planning for consequences.

And then we started rattling our saber at anyone who we thought might be intimidated by it instead of trying to identify what made us a target in the first place. I won’t go into why I think we were targeted, but suffice it to say that it’s not because they are jealous of our freedoms. They WERE or ARE free people. As an example, Iran was just as free as we were up until we had their President deposed in the 50′s. Then they spiraled into decades of oppression by a US/UK sponsored tyrant who was deposed by religious zealot. We’ve made our bed, ladies and gentlemen, and now the whole world has to lie in it with us.

So what does any of this have to do with Boston, seeing as how we don’t yet know what happened? Well, it’s like this. As I watched the events unfold, I started seeing this identified as an “Act of Terror”. Friends, by definition, and “Act of Terror”, which is what terrorism is about, is defined as an act of which the sole purpose is to inspire fear. And while that MAY be the case here, we don’t know that yet. I find it more likely that the blast was intended just to kill and hurt people. Which makes his good old fashioned mass murder (or at least an attempt at mass murder – as of this writing, thankfully, only 3 people have died while well over a hundred more are severely injured). Before we sensationalize, let’s find the facts. There’s no reason to qualify this as ANYTHING other than to drive rating and feed our over-developed need for violence and impended sense of doom.

This is how I see it: Today, we witnessed the depths of human depravity, and we don’t need to understand it. We likely never really will. It’s not necessary to. We just need to know it was awful. What’s far more important is that despite the horrible things happening – the death and misery, the looting and hysterics – there were people who ran toward the danger rather than from it. There were people who were there immediately to help the wounded and the frightened. It took the worst in us to find the best in us. And that’s the real take-away here. Because honestly, we don’t need to glorify whomever did this by plastering their face all over the international media. That’s exactly what they want. We need to recognize the heroes of the day – like the man who was running alongside a wheelchair, holding pieces of a man’s legs while he was being taken to an ambulance.

See, if this WAS an act of terror, and that’s a big IF at this point, the last thing we should do is change how we live our lives. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be vigilant – we should – but we have people whose sole purpose is life is to be vigilant FOR us. I shouldn’t have to watch my neighbors and keep my eyes open for suspicious activity. Because that’s exactly what terrorism is about – making me afraid. They want us to think an attack is awaiting every minute of every day. They want us to be afraid. And I refuse. I refuse to live in fear. I look at that quote from Ben Franklin from 250 years ago and it’s much more common paraphrasing, “Anyone who’s willing to give up freedom for security deserves neither and will lose both” and I think to myself… what price, this freedom of ours?  I don’t want to teach my daughter that we gave up our rights and freedoms just so we would feel safer. I refuse to teach her to be afraid.

I would much rather teach her to be invincible.

G.I. Joe: Right in the Childhood

No One Died in GI Joe

***WARNING – MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***

Last week, I laid my money down to see G.I. Joe: Retaliation. As a child of the 80′s, the Joe’s are near and dear to my heart. And while I didn’t actually own any G.I. Joe action figures (Masters of the Universe was more my thing), I did watch the cartoon, and the cartoon movie. Some of the kids would bring some of their figures and the smaller vehicles to play with at recess. Yeah, not only did we get recess, but we were allowed to bring things from home to play with. Different times to be sure. I don’t think they would allow you to bring the tiny plastic guns into a school anymore, even though they are only about 2 inches long. Anyway, when they would cut the grass, it would pile up at the edge of a small wooded area on the edge of the school property. We would use the dried clippings, twigs and leaves to make forts, and the hedge apples were our weapons of mass destruction.

Ahh, the memories.

No One Died in GI Joe

Duke, Scarlett, Roadblock, Snake Eyes and Flint – Notice how none of them are DEAD?!

When G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra came out in 2009, I was excited to see the “Real American Heroes” brought to life. I was willing to forgive that they weren’t using the most commonly known Joe characters (I don’t know anyone that had a “Ripcord” or “Breaker” figure), and the use of those suits was just plain silly. Joe’s were supposed to be the best of the best – they shouldn’t have needed suits to make them better. They fit it all into the plot, though. All in all, GIJ:ROC wasn’t a great movie, but it didn’t make me write off the franchise.

What I really didn’t like, though, was that Dr. Mindbender was practically an afterthought. I originally imagined that the “Doctor” character working with McCullen (Destro) was Mindbender, but when they showed him later in the film, I felt a little let down. I also didn’t like that the Baroness and Mindbender were basically written out of future stories when they are so integral to the Cobra organization.

Listen to me talk up G.I. Joe lore like I wrote it.

So let’s fast forward to 2013. The long-awaited sequel has arrived, and the previews really give the impression that Cobra has the upper hand. I’m prepared for a sequel along the lines of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. But that isn’t what I got. There was a tremendous opportunity here to create a sequel that not only surpassed the original, but set up a thrilling finale.

Instead of Wrath of Khan, we get The Motion Picture. Instead of Empire Strikes Back, we get Phantom Menace. What a waste.

Allow me to elaborate. The basic plot points of GIJ:ROC were as follows:

  • Highly trained soldiers are sent on a mission to protect a powerful weapon
  • Someone playing on both sides set them up to fail
  • All but a few members of the team are killed
  • The remaining members, with the help of a veteran officer, plan a mission to get back the weapon
  • The enemy uses the weapon to destroy an important site with the intent of striking fear into the hearts of the populace
  • A member of the enemy team discovers that their life has been manipulated and changes sides
  • That person is instrumental in bringing about the downfall of the enemy
  • The leader of the survivors is made the leader of the new team.

Now, allow me to sum up the plot of Retaliation:

  • Highly trained soldiers are sent on a mission to secure powerful weapons from an unstable government
  • Someone playing for both sides set them up to fail
  • All but a few members of the team are killed
  • The remaining soldiers, with the help of a veteran officer, plan a mission to avenge the fallen
  • The enemy uses a new weapon to destroy an entire city, with the intent of striking fear into the hearts of the public
  • A member of the enemy team discovers that their life has been manipulated and changes sides
  • That person is instrumental in bringing about the downfall of the enemy
  • The leader of the survivors is made the leader of the new team

Holy shit. It’s the same movie. The plots are nearly identical. Well, not literally identical, but the plots are close enough that they could be interchanged without affecting the flow of the story. I can forgive the minor inconsistencies – like Duke identifying himself as a Captain, but wearing a Major’s oak leaf insignia – but it’s hard to overlook those things that don’t really make sense.

So the main characters are Duke, Roadblock, Lady Jaye, Flint, Snake Eyes, Jinx and General Colton. Where the hell is everyone else? The only carry overs are Duke and Snake Eyes. Ripcord, Scarlett, Heavy Duty, Breaker and General Hawk are all MIA. They make is seem like the previously massive (and multi-national) G.I. Joe force is limited to a single strike team made up entirely of Americans. There are no references to the previous team despite it having been something less than 4 years since the previous movie (considering that Zartan took over as the President in the last film and is still in that role in the new film). When Zartan framed the Joe’s for stealing nuclear warheads from Pakistan – which in and of itself doesn’t jive since his entire command staff was in the room when he ordered the Joe’s in to secure the warheads – he says that the G.I. Joe’s were “terminated with extreme prejudice”. That’s jargon for “kill on sight” and furthers the implication that Duke was the only commander and that his team was the only team.

Here’s what should have happened:
Duke shouldn’t have died at the beginning. That’s too easy. It gives the team something to fight for that the audience can relate too. In the first movie, Duke was motivated by the destruction of his team, but from the audience perspective, it’s just not as powerful. Duke is beloved, the average Joe is not. No, it would have been far better to have Duke die near the end, secretly by the hand of Storm Shadow (who was siding with the Joe’s because he’d been manipulated by Zartan as a child – It would have made much for sense for the whole thing to be a set-up by Cobra Commander). That way, like in Wrath of Khan, even though it may look like the good guys win, the question will be “at what cost?” The movie should have ended with the Joe’s foiling Cobra’s plan to destroy the world, but with Zartan still intact as President and the Joe’s in hiding. Bad Guys win. That’s what I wanted to see. That would make me want to see a final installment where I know the Joe team will win. A final installment with Scarlet, Shipwreck and Gung Ho. The final scene should have been Baroness retrieving Destro from the cryo-prison – or what’s left of it – and with the knowledge that he, Cobra Commander and Zartan are still in play.

What we have now is: Cobra Commander on the run, Baroness out of play, Destro likely killed when the prison exploded, Zartan possibly dead (Storm Shadow killed him, but the nanomites had incredible healing properties and he could have survived) and Storm Shadow on his own. And the Joe’s, well, you can’t have any of them from the first movie since it was made clear that the only Joe survivors were Roadblock, Lady Jaye and Flint. And the Joe’s win. And it was WAY too easy. I mean the plan to put Zartan in place as President and set up the Zeus satellites had to take years to come to fruition. And The Joe’s took it down in hours. It just would have been a lot better of a movie if Cobra won.

And someone needs to remind the producers that in G.I. Joe… everyone gets a parachute.

That means no one is supposed to die.

The Baying of the Dickwolf

Cosplay is not Consent

At some point, and in the not-so-distant past, people lost their ever-loving minds. Collectively, we’ve gone a bit daft, at least as it relates to how we treat women. Being a bit behind in my news reading, I’ve just stumbled across the “Cosplay is Consent” story from PAX East (I read the piece written by Jill Pantozzi on The Mary SueI follow them, you should too). The first line of the article struck a chord with me, particularly the beginning: “Convention harassment is just an off-shoot of regular, old harassment but seeing it invade your ‘safe space’ can be tough to stomach.”

Cosplay is not Consent

So does the way these women dress give you the right to assault them?

 

It made me think about the recent events in Steubenville, Ohio, where two high school football players were recently convicted of sexually assaulting (read: RAPING) a fellow female student. At first glance, you might wonder how I could compare two wildly different events. After all, the ladies at PAX East were merely dressed as Lara Croft, not drunk and unconscious at a party. The cosplayers weren’t physically assaulted like the young lady in Steubenville either. But I believe the root cause is the same – the notion that the victims somehow invited their attacks.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on this trying to find the point in time when we decided, as a people, that women were responsible for how men act. We joke about it constantly – lots of comedians have made the “detachable penis” joke, and some even carry it into “my wife keeps my dick in her purse”. And to a certain extent, a man’s behavior is affected by the woman in his life, because men and women think differently, and he has to adjust his thinking to suit her needs. But that door swings both ways, and I think as a society, we ignore that. We place an inordinate amount of responsibility on women to act a certain way – with the idea that if they do, men will also act a certain way. When some men invariably fail, our society has been trained to find what happened; who was at fault, how did this seemingly moral person fall into deprivation  Those girls dressed as a sexy video game character, well they should know that dressing sexy makes men lustful and when men are lustful, the stop thinking with the heads up top, right?

That’s so offensive to me as a man, that I can’t accurately convey it.

Back to the research – as I was reading, I kept seeing the same themes over and over again: women as corruptors and men as mindless. The funny thing is, that even in societies where women were considered property, they were still revered and protected, and rarely reviled. One major root of our perception seems to be firmly planted in our Judeo-Christian foundations. In the Bible, God created Adam first, and then created Eve by removing one of Adam’s ribs. In Hebrew, the word “woman” is אישה or ishah literally means “from man” (the Hebrew for “man” is אִישׁ or ish). This concept is not universal, though. In most Indo-European languages, the words for Man and Woman are completely different (German: Mann and Frau; French: Homme and Femme; Greek: Anthropos and Gynaika; Hungarian: Férfi and – even the non-IE language shares the concept). Even in other Semitic languages, the words are different (Arabic: Rájul and Imrá’a). The Hebrews specifically looked at woman as being derived from man.

Now remember, Eve was tricked by the Serpent into eating the Fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (which is itself telling, since when they realized they were naked, they felt it was wrong…yeah…) and she in turn fed the fruit to Adam. When they were discovered, Adam didn’t say he was sorry, he said “She made me do it.” Similarly, in the Greco-Roman creation myth, man was created by Prometheus, but woman was created by the gods (sounds nice but  wait for it)… as a punishment for accepting fire from the Titan who created them. Her name was Pandora, and she was sent to men bearing a gift of a large jar (or box) which she later opened, releasing all the woes and ills into the world. In fact, Epimethius (her husband) and she had the first marital spat as a result. The Romans used the same story. SO as you can see, while they viewed women as a gift, they also saw them as the source for all the wickedness, strife and problems in the world.

So we are faced with two archaic concepts from our Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman background that are working in tandem against us: woman are derivative from men, and thus lesser, and women are the source of wickedness and hardship. Hardly seems fair.

So back to the case in point – this “journalist” at PAX. I use quotes because being a good writer doesn’t make you a journalist. With the exception of tabloid media outlets, generally there is an accepted decorum involved between journalists and their subjects. I think it would have been a little different if this guy had just written his opinions into his piece. Sure there would have been some backlash, as there should be, but he could at least hide behind his right to share his own opinions, as ill-formed as they may be. However, when you actually approach and speak to someone, with the intent of publishing that response, you need to have some respect for the individual. The best display of the dichotomy involved is that Meagan Marie, the individual who confronted the offending “journalist”, has opted not to give his name, or the name of the publication which he represented (both were asked to leave the convention). She knew that the online community would rally to the call, as would the “dickwolves” (to borrow from imagery from Penny Arcade), and the shitstorm would ensue. Even still, enough is getting said to unsettle me (and make me want to write this).

So if you’ve read about the incident, you’ll know that the offending individual continued making negative comments along the lines of “they were asking for it by dressing that way”, and that’s where the parallel lies with Steubenville. The Defense wanted to call into question the young lady’s past, probably to build off the idea that she somehow went into the party with the expectation of having sex. But really what they were saying was, “she asked for it” by acting or dressing a certain way. And that brings us back to the “Dickwolves”.

Men, this part is for you. You should be offended by the idea that you have no innate control over your sexual urges. You should be insulted at the notion that a woman has such control over you that seeing any amount of flesh turns you into a sex crazed lunatic. You should speak out against the concept that our base state is that of a rapist.

Women, this part is for you. Be who you are. If you want to dress like Wonder Girl, or Lara Croft, or anyone else, then by god, do it. And do it with the knowledge that while there are some seriously damaged people who will revile you for it, the rest of us love you, and sit in awe of your beauty and skill.

And if you see someone assaulting or being abusive to a cosplayer of either sex: step in, interrupt and ask them if they’d like an escort to an volunteer. And remember boys:

Cosplay is not Consent

I think the sign says it all.

Who Really Wants Armed Bears?

*** UPDATE – 9 April, 2013 ***

I’m not normally one for updating posts, but this issue is important. This morning, a student at Lone Star Community College in Cypress, TX, went on a stabbing spree (I’ve never heard the term, so I get credit for it), wounding at least 14 people, some of them seriously, before being subdued by authorities.

Why is this important? Because what we have is a mass murder attempt that was made without a gun. It deflates the argument that guns or access to guns, semi-automatic or otherwise, is the root cause of gun violence and mass murder. What we have here is evidence that someone like Adam Lanza or James Holmes can still inflict a large number of casualties even without a gun. People intent are harm will commit harm. It shows that despite a leaning in this country to ban guns and rifles, they aren’t the only weapons available. Anything can be a weapon when someone is properly motivated.

I’m inclined to wonder, though… would this attacker have been so bold if he thought that one of the people he was attacking might be armed with a gun? Lone Star College System doesn’t permit firearms on their grounds, except as allowed by law (read: only police and military). On the flip side, if one of them HAD been armed, it’s likely that the assailant would have been killed rather than placed in police custody. None of the people he’s attacked are dead as of this writing, but 2 of the 14 are in critical condition. The attacks seem to have been carried out with a box cutter or Xacto knife.

So what will we ban next? Pocket knives? Baseball bats and lacrosse sticks? Power tools?

-PD

******

Since the tragic events of December 14th, 2012, when Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and unloaded an array of semi-automatic weapons into the staff and children, there has been a great nation debate about firearms and the American People. I thought, since I hadn’t written in a while, I would toss in my thoughts.

Sandy Hook - Red Dawn - Gun Control

Who didn’t want to be a Wolverine?

I spent the evening discussing this on Facebook with a friend from high school, and in doing some research, I’m shocked at the irresponsible nature that this has been reported. There have been conflicting reports and apologies about what guns where found where, and what people are supposedly actors. I mean the Conspiracy Theorists have had a field day with all of this (some people actually think the whole thing was staged in order to disarm us). So, I spent some time last night looking into the facts and arguments and I felt like a few points needed to be clarified.

  • The guns on site were all semi-automatic, and widely available for purchase. Adam Lanza was actually denied when he attempted to purchase a rifle himself, which is probably why he killed his mother – to get her guns
  • “Assault Rifles” are long barreled automatic rifles designed for military use. “Assault Weapons”, as defined by US Law, are just about any weapons they decide to put into this category. Currently, depending on state, this category can include all semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and handguns… basically almost every gun on the market
  • The police are reporting it correctly – the media is getting it wrong
  • One of the guns was an AR-15 “Bushmaster”. This is the gun from which the M-16 was derived and was specifically designed for law enforcement use.
  • The Bushmaster was equipped with a 30-round magazine, which is a standard size for this weapon. Compared to the 60 and 100 round capacity magazines available for the AR-15, 30 rounds hardly seems “high capacity”

The amount of misinformation surrounding this event isn’t just astounding, it’s alarming. If we can’t rely on our news outlets to supply us with good information, how in the world are we supposed to know who and what to support. Not that we should be relying on them to tell us these things, but invariably we do. At least you would think they would try to take that responsibility to heart, but instead they just sensationalize things to make people want to watch. It’s not about the truth anymore, it’s about what hooks viewers. And while I’m not a Conspiracy Theorist, it isn’t hard to see how easy it would be for the government to use the media to manipulate the masses. I mean we accused the Soviets of doing it for decades, so we know it can be done. Why is it so far-fetched that we’d use it on ourselves? I mean 4 Americans die in the Embassy attack in Benghazi, and you barely hear about it, but some kid from Notre Dame makes up a girlfriend and it’s headline news for two weeks. Really?! Our priorities are a bit out of line, I think.

But that’s only part of the equation in this even, isn’t it? There are a multitude of cultural issues to deal with here, but we really seem preoccupied with the Second Amendment argument. Of course, when the Second Amendment was written, it was common practice for governments to forbid it’s citizenry from having weapons, or more commonly, for them to oppress the people because they were too poor to have weapons. In America, though, because of the frontier nature of the colony, guns were practically a necessity. It’s bred into us, this need for guns. Don’t you find it funny, though, that the only Amendments you ever hear about are the First and Second? Every now and then, when a white collar criminal is on trial, you’ll hear about the Fifth (or more specifically “pleading” it). We know about “illegal search and seizure”, but why is it illegal? Which Amendment was that? Do you know them? Probably not, but I would say, “why don’t you?” How can we be good stewards of our own destinies without knowing from where our freedoms derive. I mean most people go around quoting the Declaration of Independence, but that document doesn’t have legal ramifications – it was simply a very strongly worded (and signed) letter to King George III.

There seem to be two main sides to the Second Amendment argument: the NRA and its supporters (who seem to think that we need to worry about our own Army turning on us), and those who think guns should be outlawed altogether (which just isn’t realistic). Actually, there is a third side, which includes people like me, who understand that while it’s probably not necessary for someone to use an AR-15 to defend their home, the problem really isn’t the guns – it’s our culture. As a trained shooter (I was in the military) I know that a hand gun is far more effective for home defense, and that there should be a certain amount of training involved for anyone trying to own a gun. I mean we force people to train to drive cars, why wouldn’t we force them to train to own a gun. Cars are just as dangerous. Probably more so. I also often hear about using them to hunt, but then I remember that the earliest Americans hunted mammoth and mastodon with simple bows, spears and rocks. BOWS AND SPEARS PEOPLE! If you need an AR-15 to hunt deer, you’re doing it wrong. Period.

So, would things have been different if Adam Lanza wouldn’t have had access to those guns? We can’t answer that. What we can do is look at the data, and understand that if he wanted to hurt those kids, there are hundreds of other ways he could have done it that don’t involve guns. We could also say that things could have been different if his mother accepted his illness and dealt with it appropriately… and didn’t own guns herself. I’m not saying she shouldn’t have had the right, I’m saying that it was irresponsible of her to have them knowing her son was unstable and could have access to them. Of course, we’ll never know for sure because she’s gone too.

What I DO know is that countries that have banned guns have much higher instances of violent crime per capita than the US does. We may have more gun-related crimes and deaths (duh), but guns are equalizers, and criminals know that. They are less likely to attack someone they think MIGHT have a gun, than they would be knowing the person was unarmed. Home invasions in Australia and Great Britain are significantly higher than in the US because the criminals know that there’s very little chance they can be confronted inside the home with a weapon. You see criminals will use knives and bats and pipes and whatever else they can get their hands on. Victims, on the other hand, usually don’t fight back if confronted with an armed assailant. We would be trading one sort of violence for another because, let’s face it, we are a violent species.

The truth is that bad things happen, and it sucks and there’s nothing we can do about it. We always look for someone to blame, because we can’t believe that we ourselves can be at fault. I think it’s clear we are. We ignore the mentally ill. We favor guns over common sense as we cling to the fears of bygone days. I blame Red Dawn. It “proved” to us that one day, foreign (or domestic) invaders will give us a need to have these powerful military-grade weapons in our homes. It’s perpetuated by cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic concepts like the Revolution and Road Warrior. We’re taught that if we don’t have weapons, we become easy prey to those who would take advantage of that weakness. I mean every kid I knew either wanted to be a Goonie or one of the Wolverines.

Does this mean I get to blame Patrick Swayze?

The Problem with Paradoxes

I'm confused just looking at it...

First, I wanted to apologize for the delay in getting another post written. I was writing a post on education that kept dissolving into a bitter diatribe about everything that’s wrong with the education system in America today, and I didn’t want it to be about that. So I’ve shelved it for another time – possible when there isn’t so much political rhetoric floating around.

On a happier note, I went to see Looper; science fiction’s latest foray into a quagmire of another sort – time travel. I’m not sure if objectively-minded men really thought about the possibilities of traveling back or forward through time before H.G. Wells wrote his famous novella on the topic, but Lord knows that we do now. There’s hardly a franchise in science fiction that hasn’t at least skirted the subject of time travel. Some, like Doctor Who and Back to the Future have even built themselves around it. It’s so popular, in fact, that we’ve built real scientific theory around something that may not even be possible. Theories like the “causality loop”, better known as the “Predestination Paradox”.

I’m confused just looking at it…

Now some of you might not of heard of a causality loop before, but I guarantee most of you have seen one in action. It’s the idea that the act of going back in time is what created the possibility of going back in time. Terminator probably best illustrated this principal – John Connor, rebel leader of the future, sent the man into the past that would become his own father, and event that HAD to occur in order for him to be born in order to commit the act. This is why causality loops are called Predestination Paradoxes.  Sometimes, the writers are so good at telling the story we don’t see the paradox. In Back to the Future, for example, the primary theme is the Grandfather Paradox, the question about what would happen if you happened to alter your own family history (usually posed as “what would happen if you went back in time and killed your own grandfather – meaning you would cease to exist – which would then mean you couldn’t kill your grandfather). But in watching Back to the Future as many times as I have, you see the subtle causality loop. You see, because they combine the two concepts, you lose the idea that Doc Brown knew all along that Marty had to go back in time. The whole reason Marty and the Doc are friends is because Doc Brown knew this and had to foster Marty’s character into one that would fill the eventual need. So, everything he said prior to Marty traveling back in time was carefully orchestrated because he KNEW that it would work. It’s easy to overlook because we are focused on the fact that Marty changed reality for himself. And this is where Back to the Future was genius without doing it on purpose. The created the idea of a time traveler exists outside the paradox (unless the paradox affects them directly, and then there is time to correct it… or there wouldn’t be a story). Franchises like Doctor Who (which really took time travel to a whole new level), ignore the paradox concept entirely, mainly because, in the words of the immortal Doctor, “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey… stuff.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I think my favorite representation of a causality loop was in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In the episode Time’s Arrow, a two-parter, presented a story in which the Enterprise is called back to Earth because a geologic team discovered what appeared to be Data’s head in a cavern with artifacts from Earth’s 19 century. The loop was created when they found the head, and completed when Data’s head was lost in the past and he was reconnected with that head in the future. It’s a great presentation of a causality loop, and it was a great story. Causality loops were a favorite story-telling tool of the franchise. A fact illustrated by the fact they used them in nearly every iteration of the franchise, including the MMO, Star Trek Online.

Back to Looper. I won’t go into any specifics about the because I don’t like spoilers any more than you do. But based on what we already know from the trailer and marketing pieces, we know that it involves hit men who kill people sent back into the past from the future, eventually leading to them killing their future selves, thereby “closing the loop”. I’ve always like the Terminator flavor of time travel – a one way affair that only goes into the past. Usually, when people are sent back to a time predating the invention of time travel, they either have the machine, or they can be retrieved by the people in the future (see the 1994 Jean Claude Van Damme Sci-Fi jaunt, Time Cop as an example).

Another great example of a causality loop was the 2002 interpretation of the aforementioned Time Machine. After the hero travels to the future, after failing hundreds of times to save his dead fiance in the past, he meets the Über-Morlock, who proceeds to explain the Predestination Paradox to him in stunning simplicity. He has to explain, to this seemingly brilliant man, that he couldn’t change the past because that’s why he traveled to the past. Get it? You see, the poor man finished the time machine so he could save his dear love. If he saved her, he never would have been driven to complete his project, and thus never had the chance to save her. Now the paradox is clear, isn’t it? And that’s what makes Time Travel so tricky, and why Doc Brown wanted to destroy his own time machine. In his own words, “I wish I’d never invented that infernal time machine. It’s caused nothing but disaster.”

Let’s hope we never figure this one out.

Into That Good Night

Do you really remember?

Lately, we’ve all been waxing a bit political, which is understandable considering the upcoming Presidential elections this November. But today, more than any other day, we should set aside those thoughts and ramblings. This day is more important than that.

I was preparing for an interview the morning of September 11th, 2001. Back then, I was selling mortgages, and I had been working for a brokerage that was bought by a funding company, making it nigh impossible to sell. I had set an interview with a small local bank for a Loan Officer’s position, a position I held for two years. I was putting on my tie when the phone rang. It was my mother. I assumed she was calling to wish me luck, but her voice was more frantic than that. “Are you watching the news?” I told her was getting running late and I wasn’t watching TV. “Something’s happening in New York. I think a plane ran into the World Trade Center.” My curiosity got the better of me and I turned on the set. What is it about the possibility of watching misfortune and disaster that draws us in like moths to a flame?

Do you really remember?

What was I watching? What was going on? Was it an accident? I was talking through the scenarios with my mother when, to our mutual horror, we watched the second plane careen into the south tower. Surely that wasn’t an accident. Why would anyone ram a plane into an office building? Why was this happening? I got off the phone because I had to go to my interview. I called the bank, and Danny, the Vice President of the bank, answered. He said everyone had left and the bank was closing, but since I was on the way, he’d wait for me. We had my interview, but we mostly talked about the event and our pasts. I don’t think we even really discussed the job much.

Every so often, our lives are marked by some terrific event; that day where we ask one another “Where were you when…” For our grandparents and great-grandparents, it was Pearl Harbor. And then for our parents it was the Kennedy Assassination. For me it was the destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger. But 9/11 ran deeper. It scarred all of us. It wasn’t just an event, it was an attack. It was a statement against everything that we hold dear.

We have a special abhorrence for the death of innocent people – innocent at least in terms of conflict. We’ve been lucky in the US. Our government, while raucous, is very stable by comparison. We don’t generally have to deal with terrorism on our own soil. We’ve been a dominant military power since the start of the 20th century. We’ve powered the world economy with our own. And with the death of Osama Bin Laden and the subsequent faltering of Al-Qaeda, we feel like we won.

But we didn’t win. And we didn’t remember. Sure, we all remember what happened and who caused it. But we forgot what it was like before that happened. We changed everything about our lives. We police ourselves. We’ve become paranoid. We are so afraid of another attack on our soil that we scream and rant about closing the borders and check old ladies and children for illicit materials when they board planes. Ladies and Gentlemen, they got exactly what they wanted – Our fear.

So if we want to honor those people who had their lives taken unfairly, we should do so with lifted heads, rigid backs and firm resolve. We will not, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas, go gently into that good night. We will find our liberty and wave it about on flag staffs made from the will of our forefathers and sing songs about the glory of our country until the sun burns out.

Rage with me, friends. Rage against the dying of the light.

Define “Geek”…

Just a few kinds of geek. What kind are you?

As many of you know, I spent the weekend, neck deep in the revelry that is Gen Con. I don’t have a great deal of time for gaming, and honestly, I don’t have anyone to game with, so I went mostly to spend time with my oldest friend, John (@Cmaaarrr). I had been to Gen Con in the past (also with the intention of meeting people from Twitter), but it was only for a single day, and the last day to boot, and I’ve also been to Dragon*Con, but I honestly wasn’t totally prepared for the event. In the end much fun was had by all, and I even made some new friends and have a few stories to share.

But that’s not the point here…

Lately, as I’m sure you’re all aware, there has been a rather large discussion about what it means to be a “geek”, and who should be allowed to call themselves such. The entire concept strikes me as ludicrous to the extreme, and I haven’t said a whole lot on the topic, even in conversation. I did write about the seemingly rampant misogyny that seems to be infecting the “geek” community of late, but that’s its own issue. So then I saw this tweet:

A thought provoking tweet

There’s nothing wrong with this tweet. Nothing at all. But it brought to mind a particular conversation in the community after Comic-Con about who is and isn’t a geek. I’m not going to go into the particulars, because most of you are probably already familiar with the subject, and I don’t want people to confuse my position on this. It’s just that this tweet got my gears turning.

A long time ago, when I first started writing for Geek Shui, I also wrote a small piece for G33kMade on the topic of what I thought it meant to be a geek. It was a short few paragraphs on what I thought it meant to be a geek. I don’t have the original text anymore, so I will do my best to hit the high points.

To me, a geek is someone who is passionate about a “thing” and that “thing” can be ANY “thing”; be it cars, motorcycles, computers, comic books, gaming, whatever. Although, I think I’ll let YOU call the Bikers “motorcycle geeks”. Labels aside, though, it’s a simple truth. And there will always be those people who really geek out, and those that just enjoy whatever it is they geek about about to be called a geek by people who don’t. We all know the various levels and everyone is a geek to some extent; they just may not call it being a geek.

Just a few kinds of geek. What kind are you?

I knew this kid in high school, Mike DeBiasi, who was probably some flavor of autistic. He was “slow” in school, but you could ask him anything about Star Trek: TOS and he could answer it. Seriously, if you gave him a number between 1 and 79, hew could name the episode, when it aired, who directed it, who the guest stars were and what the basic plot was. I’m a BIG Trekkie and I can’t do that. He quoted obscure lines to test me, and often he stumped me, and he loved every second of it. And he didn’t care that people thought he was a dork or whatever. He liked what he liked and to hell what anyone else thought.

We all should be so strong.

So when I saw the diatribe about the “booth babes” at Comic-Con and the question as to the “geek cred” of Felicia Day, it didn’t really sync with me. I don’t see the world that way, and I would never look at a person, or their work, and decide whether it was “geeky” enough. Being a “geek” isn’t defined by set parameters, nor should it be. It’s simply label; one we all apply differently. There is never a reason for anyone to try to force someone else to label the way they do. We get enough of that with media and politics and bad television.

I milled around the Indiana Convention Center for 3 and a half days, and I saw every kind of geek imaginable. I saw people who geeked over Magic the Gathering (which reminded me that I should really sell my cards). I saw people who geeked over hand-stitched leather bags (made by Mad Girl Clothing and sold by Pendragon) – I’ll admit I was one of them. I saw people in costume (my personal favorites were the Steampunk Ghostbusters) and people carrying large bags of games. It was a total geek fest. And two blocks over and up, I saw hundreds of testosterone junkies geeking out over motorcycles (though, again, I would never say that to their faces – but it’s true). And there were even people geeking out over swimming. And there were beautiful girls, and men with questionable hygiene habits; groups wandering the exhibition hall endlessly, and people who holed up in a room and role played all weekend. And the Lord saw that it was good. And there was evening and morning, and evening and morning, and evening and morning. Thus was the Con.

I never thought I’d see the say that a geek would tell someone that they weren’t good enough or geeky enough. I remember wishing I could just have a conversation with someone that understood what I was talking about. Hell, I still wish for it. I think we all need to get over ourselves a little bit. I mean isn’t there a certain amount of irony in all of this? I suppose you could call it poetic justice when a dorky guy tells a pretty girl she’s not geek enough, but at the end of the day, we all know that 20 years ago, the same people bashing the beautiful woman would have done anything to carry her books to class.

Damn right, I would have.

Olympaid

OK, before any of you say anything, this article isn’t going to be about Science Fiction failing anything. This is about the Olympics. But I have to name the articles something, and I like the theme.

Anyway, like most Americans… and everyone else in the world… I’ve been watching the Olympics this week. An event steeped in history and decorum; an idea rooted in some of our most ancient cultures. I could bore you with paragraphs about the history of the Olympic Games. There was a time when they were so important that the Greeks used them to track the passage of time. That’s right, no years, no BC, no AD. If you were a time traveler, and you asked what year it was, they would say something like, “It’s 3 years after the 117th Olympiad.” Yeah, they talked like that.

I would post the actual rings, but I don’t want the IOC to serve me with a C&D. This is what Londoners have been reduced to…

Anyway, this piece is less about what Olympics were and more about what they’ve become. A lot can change in 4 years. Remember the halcyon days of the 2008 Beijing Olympics? Remember how good China suddenly was at not being a total douchebag to the world (and it’s own people) for two weeks? Ahh, memories. Back then, we had to wait a whole day to find out what was going on. Twitter was still an infant and didn’t have the reach or the clout that it has today. Social Media was in it’s adolescence; hell half of us were still using MySpace, and we were still just learning what a meme was. Now the Olympics are in London (I’m still pissed Cincinnati didn’t make the cut), and Social Media is a pervasive part of our everyday lives.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because of recent events in the news regarding Olympic athletes being barred and punished because of things they said on Twitter. Now, before I continue, I understand that as an American, I’m used to being able to say whatever I want without fear of prosecution. And I understand that when you’re trying to peacefully create an environment where people of different cultures meet and compete, you have to curtail speech in the interest of keeping things friendly. The rules of conduct are created and enforced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and their subordinate national committees (each country has its own committee that is responsible for selecting athletes to represent them in the Olympic Games). In the past, the IOC has shown itself to be biased and liberal to the extreme, with a clear interest in making money over any other consideration. I’m sure people would disagree, but I’ll explain my thoughts.

I started paying attention before the Games when I read about a Greek athlete who was dismissed from the Greek National team because of a tweet. Twitter seems has created a niche for itself as the place for us to express our internal monologue; that is, those things that we think, but normally wouldn’t say. The athlete in question, βούλα Παπαχρήστου (Voula Papachristou), was immediately dismissed after posting the following to her ~9,000 followers on Twitter: “With so many Africans in Greece … at least the West Nile mosquitos will eat homemade food!!!” Now I’m not familiar with the political situation in Greece, aside from their economic troubles, but it seems that they have an issue with illegal immigration much like the US does. However, I’m not sure that calling someone from Africa an African is technically racist, no more than calling a Mexican a Mexican is. Her tweet could be seen to imply that… no, fuck that. Her tweet doesn’t imply anything… unless maybe you’re Greek. The only thing she’s guilty of is being bad at jokes. The GOC disagreed, though, and they destroyed her dreams in an instant. That said, I don’t know what their stated policy on tweeting is, and they made it clear that they think the tweet was racist, but it WAS in line with her previously well-known political views. Why even let her compete for a spot if you knew what she thought before she started? Of course, the Greeks can do whatever they want with their own team.

So the next thing that stood out was the news story about the IOC’s strict rules against Olympians tweeting about their sponsors, even if those sponsors are local, or even family and friends. They can’t promote themselves, or anyone who sponsors them in any way while they are at an official event, including trials. Some of these kids don’t have big name sponsors paying their way. They rely on donations made to personal websites and social media campaigns by their friends and family. But if they aren’t allowed to promote using Social Media avenues, or post pictures of themselves at the events, it makes it harder for them to do so. The kicker here is that it has nothing to do with the image of the Olympics or the athletes themselves, it’s all about money. Here is a statement the IOC made on the issue:

“Ambush marketers have, in the past, used their association with athletes to suggest or imply that they have an association with the Olympic Games,” reads the code of conduct. “This undermines the exclusivity that Organizing Committees can offer official Games and team sponsors, without whose investment the Games could not happen.

“The implication of an association with the Games through use of athletes is particularly powerful during and immediately before the Games. Participants who do not comply with Rule 40 may be sanctioned by the IOC in accordance with the Team Members’ Agreement which provides for wide ranging sanctions, including amongst other things removal of accreditation and financial penalties.”

So here is the scenario in a nutshell: Let’s say that a server from Terry’s Turf Club was a member of the US Olympic Team, and in support of their employee, paid for their travel. That employee couldn’t tweet a “thank you” to Terry’s because the IOC thinks that it would hurt their relationship with McDonald’s, who is an “official sponsor” of the Olympics. Does anyone really think that giving Terry’s a little promotion will hurt McDonald’s sales? How many people are going to McDonald’s just because they sponsor the Olympics? Shouldn’t they be giving money to the IOC in the spirit of supporting peaceful competition and sportsmanship? Since when is a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” arrangement? Hercules would be rolling in his grave if he had one. Some of the Athletes are staging a protest, but if they push too hard, they’ll be removed.

That ties into the picture above. That’s a real T-Shirt being sold in London. The IOC has been downright draconian in their enforcement of their copyrights. One shopkeeper had a hand made paper-machete display of the rings and some torches and was told to remove it or face a lawsuit. They weren’t claiming to be an official sponsor or affiliated with the Olympics. They were showing their support for an international organization that’s supposed to be doing good things. Instead, they are forced to remove their harmless display and are left with a bad taste in their mouths. I chose not to use an image of the actual rings, not just to illustrate a point, but because I don’t want to get served. I understand that the IOC doesn’t want people making a buck off their trademarks, hence the extreme lengths the t-shirt designer went to in order to disassociate themselves: square “rings”, London and Olympics spelled incorrectly, and 2102 instead of 2012. The IOC pays a lot of money for their trademarks any copyrights, so I understand that they want to preserve them. But they could make it easier to get licenses, so that local business get a benefit from the Olympics being there.

My final thought on the Olympics revolves around the concept of fairness. There is a long-standing rule in the all-around gymnastics competition that limits the number of participants a country can field. It prevents the power-house countries from dominating the event. But I’m not sure why that matters. Their argument is that it would be bad for the sport, but I’m struggling with the “how”. If you finish 5th in the world, but your two teammates are 2nd and 3rd, you don’t get to play. Even though the people between 6 and 24 aren’t as good, and your elimination only allows someone who wasn’t as good as the other 24 to compete, it’s “fair”. It’s sort of like the idea of not keeping score, or giving everyone a trophy, regardless of how well they do. Sure it allows countries with less advanced programs to participate, but then it stops being about who the best in the world is. And isn’t that what the Olympics are about?

I think we’ve lost the spirit of the Olympics. The ancients suspended everything, including wars, to participate in the games (by contrast, we canceled the games in 1916, 1940 and 1944 because we wouldn’t stop fighting). It wasn’t about making money, or controlling who could sell what. The men who participated wanted to know who was the best, strongest and fastest. There were no silver and bronze medals. If you didn’t win, you got nothing. We seem to have forgotten the point.

Zeus would not be happy.

Road Warriors

Now, I’m not talking about the movie. I’m talking about us. Road Warriors each and every one of us. It’s been estimated that the average American will spend nearly an eighth of our lives in our cars. That’s an average of 8 to 9 years – that’s a lot of time. So that got me to thinking about the automobile and how it came to be so central in our lives. And that led to my disappointment with the current state of the automobile, at least compared to what we were supposed to have according to our Science Fiction.

They have three years come October 21st. Every real geek in the world is counting.

Probably the most recognizable of the future’s cars is the Delorean from Back to the Future. I remember watching it fly at the end of the movie, and all of the flying cars in the second movie and I totally suspended my sense of disbelief (not quite as much as I did for the hoverboard, but that’s neither here nor there). In 1985/89 it seemed completely reasonable that cars would be able to fly by 2015. But unless Detroit is hiding something up it’s sleeve that we don’t know about, it’s just not going to happen. There have a few forays into the “flying car” arena, but none of them is really viable, at least in the sense of them being readily available and usable by the general population. I want a car that can be flown like driving a car, just like I saw Doc Brown do.

In that vein is the flying cars in The Jetsons. I know it’s a cartoon, but damn it, it takes place in the 21st century, and it was in the imagination of the people in the 60′s that we would have flying cars. Flying cars that folded into briefcases. And while that would require instant miniaturization along the lines of what we saw in the original Transformers cartoon (remember how Megatron was huge as a robot, but when he transformed, he fit in Soundwave’s hand?), but I think we’re still entitled.

But the car I REALLY wanted was K.I.T.T from Knight Rider. A car that could drive itself AND talk, and it looked cool as shit to top it off. It’s really the gold standard for Sci-Fi cars, in my opinion. I mean the voice left a little to be desired – I would have given K.I.T.T a female voice I think – but who didn’t want to be Michael Knight? They even made attachments for your car to give it that pacing red “eye” to make your car look like it could talk too. How can you not want a car that has a Turbo Boost? Now they have cars that park themselves and my car’s bluetooth talks to me, and it’s cool, but it’s not the same. More modern Science Fiction remakes, like I, Robot and Minority Report, give us a seemingly plausible look at cars that move at high speed being controlled completely by computers. To the point that human control of the vehicles, while possible, is inadvisable. If Will Smith can’t control one, I know I can’t.

When we look at cars today, it seems to me that they are basically the same as they were 100 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve added a lot of gadgets to our cars – we’ve made improvements on the original designs, but I think Henry Ford could get into a car, drive it, and understand how it works with only minimal instruction. They use the same fuel, and operate on the same basic principals as the model T’s of so long ago. We’ve tried electric cars, but they don’t seem to have enough OOMPH for us (mainly because it take a lot of energy to propel a 2,000 pound vehicle at highway speeds – more energy than most batteries can produce). But I don’t think the means is what we like. I think it’s the motivation.

Listen, I’ve never been one to buy into conspiracy theories, but if there is one I could believe, it would be that the automakers and the oil producers are in bed together. The automakers have no reason not to explore developing REAL innovations in automobiles, like power by Hydrogen fuel. And yes, I know there are Hydrogen and Propane cars on the road, but they are far too few. And yes, I know Propane is still technically a fossil fuel, but it’s a byproduct of Natural Gas and Petroleum refinement and as a result, much cheaper. It’s also a much cleaner fuel than diesel and gasoline, but burns just as well, if not better. It is more volatile than the others, sure, but safety is the easy part. Granted it isn’t the perfect solution, because it still produces greenhouse gases, but it does it in far lower amounts, which would buy us time to perfect hydrogen fuel and fusion.

Why won’t we do it? Back on the conspiracy bit; I think we don’t have it because there’s not enough money in it. I normally don’t was political here, but there’s a lot at work here. There’s a ton of money to be made in oil, and very little in renewable and alternative fuels. That’s why these technologies are so expensive; they have to recoup the loss of futures. Let’s assume that automobile manufacturers are invested heavily in oil companies and visa-verse. It’s in the best interests of both to keep cars inefficient and dependent on oil. Yes, hybrid cars exist, but they are expensive, and they only became more affordable when gasoline prices rose past $3.00 a gallon. The American automobile industry was given an infusion by the government, and seems to be healthy enough now. Why were they unhealthy? Bad investments in part. But mainly, they were making expensive cars with poor gas mileage at a time when fuel prices were skyrocketing. Foreign cars were already getting better mileage and were better managed, so they suffered less. But they aren’t racing to make better cars either. Then again, it’s not like we stopped buying them.

So who wants to buy me a flying Delorean with a flashing red “eye”?