Thursday, July 1 2021

Quote of the Day

Blood alone moves the wheels of history.

Ernest Arrellano III, “AN UNFORTUNATE MASTERPICE | BO BURNHAM: INSIDE A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW AND BREAKDOWN“, TheThirdErnest YouTube channel

I found a new video essay on Bo Burnham’s Inside (oh shit, am I going to have to write an essay about Inside eventually?) and it was a delight. Here are some of the thoughts it kicked up in me:

Where Ernest talks about “How The World Works,” he describes part of the song using the quote above. There’s something in the way he phrased it that called to mind a bit of the book This Land Is Their Land. When describing the Algonquian peoples, the author notes that pre-colonization there were not great cities in the Eastern woodland like Cahokia. In comparison their villages were primitive. The historian notes that the difference is because of the abundance in the Northeast. Cahokia was built because the city’s rulers had control of limited food, and forced their people to build this impressive city for them. This couldn’t happen in the Northeast because if a leader tried to force someone to do something they didn’t agree with, a family could just leave. There was plenty of fish, enough hunting, and lots of foragable plants for people to support themselves. So they didn’t build any impressive monuments, but they were happy. (I don’t honestly remember what initial spark these two pieces gave me; I’m hoping someday it’ll come back to me. Ernest calls Socko’s vision of how the world works very “realistic,” and maybe I thought, but that doesn’t have to be reality. Maybe?)

Ernest devoted a whole section of his essay to the lighting, editing and directing of the special. Which was really interesting to listen to, as I appreciate those aspects but don’t know much about the craft. From his photographer’s perspective, he talked about how the lighting informed certain scenes. Makes me think about writing and what the writer chooses to show and chooses to remain in shadow, or let the reader fill in. I think that’s a thing writers don’t often think about enough. Not just word choice to describe a scene, but what in the scene to describe to set the scene. Ernest points out how Bo in the video for Content “provided movement and provided energy to the frame, to the scene, without the camera moving.”

I really liked how different Ernest’s interpretation of “Welcome To The Internet” was from mine. I took it as saying corporations and other powerful entities shaped the Web 2.0 very carefully as a tool to manipulate and extract from people. He took it more as humans are the ones who created this world of the Internet from the ground up, and this is the world we wanted, because we made it and it’s awful. Quote: “And what he’s talking about is like the Internet was never designed for this. It was most definitely not designed to be this. It was designed around you. It’s only this because of the users. The users demanded a different kind of Internet. The Internet is just like the Wild West of random content…And that made me feel like when I heard it for the first time. Like I have no–I have no escape from this. So now that you know what the Internet was supposed to be, what it was designed for, like now you’ve sunk too far. And welcome. You are now in our world. You’re now in our world because we created a world and you demanded that we turn it into what we turned it into. So welcome. You can never escape now.”

There’s a thing I get caught up on, when I think about being an artist and saving the world. First off: that’s a tall order. Secondly, the jury seems to be out on whether that’s an artist’s job or not. I have seen one writer tell new writers that firemen are heroes and writers are not: writing won’t save anyone, so get over that. I’ve also seen lots of arguments to the contrary. My personal opinion is that re-framing societal stories can lead to change, but that doesn’t really feel attainable as one lone writer. But Ernest had a lovely view: “He’s jokingly saying like I’m gonna save the world through comedy. He’s making a joke out of it like it’s not really saving lives or it’s not really anywhere near as important as people make it out to be. But in my opinion, that’s what makes it a hit, because it is that important. At the end of the day it really is that important. His job is important. He is saving the world literally with comedy. Maybe not the entire world, but the world of one person, you know?” He reminds me that art can’t pull someone out of a burning building or solve racism, but it can save the interior world of one person. And if you save or change the minds of enough singular people, then collectively, they can save the world with their new perspectives. That’s what art does. That’s what I need to do.


Men v Women

On 6/30/21:

There’s quite a bit to say there, right? I also think that people smarter and more informed than me will likely say something. I found a couple of articles with Twitter quotes of random people on the Internet also making the connection, and this really harrowing article:

Bill Cosby Is Free And Britney Spears Is Not, Because Women’s Trauma Is Still Ignored

Just this week, hundreds of people spoke publicly about how excruciatingly painful it was to have their IUD fitted, despite doctors assuring them that it shouldn’t hurt. It was in response to a Times column in which Caitlin Moran argued that we should all have access to painkillers when having a coil put in. Women spoke about passing out, screaming, crying and fainting from the pain, and yet medical professionals are content to do the procedure without supplying any sort of analgesic. So not even accounts of physical agony are being taken seriously. It’s the same reason it takes a decade for people with endometriosis to get an accurate diagnosis; because when we are in pain, we’re dismissed, belittled, and accused of exaggerating.

Kate Leaver

I don’t…..how do you engage with this shit? But we’re gonna. We have to. No, I don’t know how yet, but I want to work on that.


Tough love, but more Buddhist and maybe helpful

A friend who knows I am about to have a weekend of difficult conversations sent me a link with some ideas to ponder:

Tough compassion — here’s what it is and why you need to practice it

Tough compassion is gaining traction because the rosy version is proving so unequal to the present moment, which has been defined by human failures to meet challenges posed by the pandemic, widespread inequality and climate change. 

Of course, there will always be a “soft” side to compassion. It’s always crucial to learn how to be a calm sounding board or comfort grieving loved ones. But warm and fuzzy compassion has little power to sway relatives who spout conspiracies, stop close friends from radicalizing online or counter leaders who tout equality while harvesting the fruits of privilege.

In the Buddhist contemplative tradition, the goal of true compassion is to find ways to promote the least suffering for everyone. In this broader framing, nodding along with someone’s bigotry, bullying, or falsehoods for the sake of preserving that relationship is the opposite of compassion. It interferes with peace-building on a societal level, even though it might seem on the surface like a nonviolent act.

Elizabeth Svoboda

Hmmm. Now I feel like I have to figure this out. Which I do, so that’s probably good.


People and their interesting little people minds

Reddit thread: “How the World Works” (Individual song discussion)

I am really interested in how people engage with this song because I want a kind of barometer for where the public in general is at with these facts, this demonstration. And this Reddit thread does not disappoint. I don’t really have time to dissect it today, but it’s super interesting how people bring their worldviews right on in. Some people believe it’s perfect, some people think neither Bo nor Socko are all right or all wrong. There were a lot of questions, which were answered in good faith, which was nice to see. There was a whole intriguing side convo about whether or not Socko is analogous to a POC or a proletariat worker (“it’s a white sock”).

Reading the responses makes me think that we need to get our fact vs opinion vs belief terms re-defined tout suite. It’s such a huge impediment to honest communication.


Washington re-opening

My state is re-opened officially today. I think there are still some Covid precautions in place, but they are very light. This is stressful. I wonder if my stress is really about taking off my Covid masks or if it’s about getting “back to normal.” The first time I heard that phrase it was from a psychiatrist telling me how she could help me after my divorce. I found it chilling then, and I find it chilling now. Normal is not a synonym for okay.

Re-defining terms again!


Second Day Porridge

I have learnings! I took out the nasamp I made yesterday from the fridge to find it the consistency of very thick mashed potatoes. What I learned is that you can’t add boiling water and improve the texture to something more porridge-like. Throwing it in the microwave with the extra water also does not help! I had little dough-ball-bits floating in a sea of corn-flavored water.

So I just took big pieces of the porridge and started making balls, then flattening them, then frying them in butter. Fried mush tasted much better than doughy corn water.

This is going to be a VERY long journey.


Links from the July Tor newsletter

I don’t have time to engage with these, but I don’t want to forget them.

8 SFF Books That Reimagine Literary Classics

Looking for Body Positivity and Fat Protagonists in YA Fantasy

Five SF Travel Methods That Offer an Alternative to Starships


One last thing before we go!

I went to share the James Baldwin vs Willian F. Buckley debate with a friend and found an hour long version. Don’t want to loose that!

Friday, June 18 2021

Quote of the Day

You tried to help the people of the market. You mostly failed. This is life. The longer you live, the more you fail. Failure is the mark of a life well lived. In turn, the only way to live without failure is to be of no use to anyone.

Brandon Sanderson, Oathbringer

Why Have I Not Read James Baldwin Yet?!

Watch a Never-Before-Aired James Baldwin Interview From 1979

Direct link to video

He is so amazing. He is SO Amazing.

This interview makes me think….is there a point, is there any point at which the individual stories of non-whites do not matter? That we all as citizens of America just decide to change our society because people–our people–should live in dignity with their needs met? Do we need to…..truly understand every single POC’s pain? Can’t we just decide that decency is the decent thing to do? Can we ever stop the train-wreck-like consumption of the pain of others and tend to repairing the story of our nation instead?

Baldwin: My best friend, a Black boy, jumped off the George Washington Bridge when he was 24 and I was 22. And I was sure that I was going to be next.

Interviewer: Just from despair, or….

Baldwin: From despair. From rage. You know, because you can get to a place where you’re in battle so often that you know, that’s all you can do. You’ve been beaten so hard, all you can do is…your world narrows to a kind of a red circle of rage. And you begin to hate everybody, which means you hate yourself. And when that happens, it’s over for you.

James Baldwin’s 1979 Interview for ABC

Bo Burnham’s Inside makes me think…..can privilege actually be used for good? Or is it like a gun? A gun can be used to kill “evil” people or kill “good” people, but in the end all it does is make corpses. The premise of a gun put to good use is the premise that killing can be a good thing. And yes, I can think of a very short list of hypothetical situations where I would consider murder to be a good thing. But it’s still the only solution you can get out of a gun. Is there some hypothetical situation where advantaging one person over another based on their genes can be a good solution? All privilege does is unevenly flow attention, money, and power toward certain people. An individual can try to divert some of that flow to others, but if none of the other privileged are interested in shoring up that specific diversion, it won’t stay diverted….

You say the ocean’s rising like I give a shit
You say the whole world’s ending, honey, it already did
You’re not gonna slow it, Heaven knows you tried
Got it? Good, now get inside

Bo Burnham, “All Eyes On Me”, Inside

Memes