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I'm tired of it, y'all. I am sick of people beating up on kids because of who they are and how they were born. Aside from just the general meanness of the stupid, lumpen populus, what really pisses me off is when such unfounded prejudice and jackassery emanates from the vaunted institutions of America. This is why I wish to draw attention to a petition by one Karen Andresen in defense of her son Ryan who, after 12 years of devotion  to the Boy Scouts, is being denied his Eagle status because he is gay. Here are the details.


What really touched me in Ms. Andresen's appeal was her description of her son's final project toward earning  his Eagle rank:   

A Boy Scout gets his Eagle by earning many badges, completing all lower Scout rank requirements, and carrying out an approved final project. So Ryan decided to build a "Tolerance Wall" for his school, to show bully victims -- like Ryan -- that they are not alone. Ryan worked countless hours with elementary students to amass a wall of 288 unique tiles, all illustrating acts of kindness.

I wonder why exactly it is (other than idiot prejudice) that any organization would oppose a kid like this. I wonder if they sleep well at night knowing that their current behavior reinforces the bullying and bigotry that Ryan and millions of kids like him have been made to endure for no reason. But I am not really interested in hearing their reasons. Their day is done. Society is moving on. They have lost. And that is in no small part due to the courage of kids like Ryan and moms like Karen Andresen. For that reason, they are inducted into the M-Brane SF Pantheon of Anti-Douchebaggery.

Note: Don't bother commenting about how the Boy Scouts are a private club and can have whatever rules they want, like a church. I don't give a damn. This kid was 6 when he joined. Also, my web-space is also a kind of private club with its own rules--set by me--and opinions contrary to what I expressed above are, under those house rules, wrong.
It is time again to acknowledge someone who might seem at first to be relatively powerless and unimportant but who has struck a great blow against stupidity, spoken up loudly for rationality and taken to task the powerful and the ignorant. 

Zack Kopplin is hereby inducted into the M-Brane SF Pantheon of Anti-Douchebags for his work to repeal Louisiana's dumb "Science Education Act," a ridiculous law that smooths the imposition of Creationism and other whack-job anti-science ideas on public school kids. Visit the website and read about what he is doing. In particular, take note of his post of May 24 in which he directly challenges Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (Dumbass-MN) to produce evidence of the existence of any of the Nobel laureate scientists whom she claims endorse "intelligent design." You need to read this. This kid absolutely nails it. It is one of best rebukes to the anti-science political class that I have read in ages. 

Aside from his obvious intelligence and the professional-grade handling of his campaign, I really dig the fact that he called out Bachmann specifically. She is a serious nutcase and a pathological creator of bullshit. She's so cracked that she makes Sarah Palin look semi-reasonable. Will she deign to answer Kopplin's challenge? I seriously doubt it, because I bet she is just barely sane enough to know that he would completely flatten her in a direct debate, because he has the facts and she has none. In fact, I am going to just go ahead and say that Michele Bachmann is terrified of Zack Kopplin and what he represents. She lies awake at night thinking about him and the threat he poses. "Do they ALL have brains?" she frets, tossing and turning, wondering how many more kids could easily debunk her every statement. She thinks that she should be President of the United States, but she is too much of a coward to take on a high school kid because she knows she would lose.

And why would she lose? Aside from the fact that she has no command of facts, it's because Creationism is a bunch of nonsense that no one with a science education, and no serious scientist on Earth believes in. That's why they don't want kids in America to learn any real science: because they will then quit believing in rubbish. You can call it "creation science" or "intelligent design" all day long, but it will still be a pile of balderdash having about as much to do with science as I have to do with Grammy Award-winning singing. The fact that we even have a debate about this topic at all in this country is a big smoldering beacon of our national downfall. Hey, America: wake up and let the kids learn real science, yo. Your future's at stake.
Many years ago, when I was chef at the Art Museum, I found a sheet of red sticky stars in my desk drawer and started occasionally awarding them as "The Red Star of Socialism," which I described as the "highest honor" of our organization. It was a fun little joke, having more to do with the stars being red than anything about "socialism" per se, but the sense of it stuck. More recently, I was reunited at work with with my close comrade who was with me during the original "Red Star" era, and the concept once again gained currency. We now occasionally have debates as to whether a particular act of merit is really Red Star-worthy or not. Last night I decided that the Red Star of Socialism would also become the highest honor of my publishing operation M-Brane Press.

Tonight I announce that the first recipient of the M-Brane Red Star of Socialism is the hacker entity known as "Anonymous." They merit our highest honor for their righteous work yesterday in launching a successful and ongoing denial-of-service attack on the websites of the disgusting Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps' sickening little clan well known for their "God Hates Fags" protests at people's funerals and other enormities. As of this writing, none of the Westboro sites are working: god hates fags dot com, god hates america dot com, and westboro baptist church dot com are all non-responding. 

In general, I am not a huge fan of hackers. While some use their skills for good, there is also far too much malicious activity that harms innocent bystanders. But in this case, Anonymous has done what we all wished we could do: shut those fuckers right the fuck up. Without their internet portals open, they are basically muzzled. But do I not defend free speech? Of course I do, but in the case of the Westboro fuckwits, I don't really care about their rights anymore than they care about mine. They have made it abundantly clear that they believe people like me ought to die, deserve to die and that they would be happy if I died and possibly even picket my funeral if I died. So, on balance, no I don't care if Anonymous is depriving Fred Phelps of his free speech for a while anymore than I'd be sad if the ugly son of  a bitch dropped over dead right now. He is, objectively, a vile piece of shit. All of decent society has repudiated his message. Every non-lunatic, non-asshole person who has ever heard of him has agreed that they are sick of hearing from him. Anonymous has made it, at least for a time, so we don't have to. 

For striking out against evil with such panache (they started the attack during a live radio interview involving the Phelps daughter/lawyer), Anonymous receives the M-Brane Red Star of Socialism and induction into my personal Pantheon of Anti-Douchebags.
A few months ago I said that I would try to talk about anti-douchebaggery as much as I talk about doubchebaggery and evil. I haven't done so well on that so far, but trying is a first step (perhaps toward failure, but anyway...), so in that spirit, I draw your attention to this kid:

His name is Matthew LaClair. You can read here on the People for the American Way website about how he took exception to his high school history teacher engaging in fundamentalist religious proselytizing, telling the students that only Christians will go to Heaven and that evolution has no basis is science. You can read in the PFAW article about how Matthew stood alone among his peers and against great odds to counter this obvious douchebaggery. In the end, he succeeded in vanquishing villainy in at least his small corner of life in this country. [Note: I believe this all occurred a couple years ago, and so is not current events--it's just new to me today].

Which is the point: what little thing have the rest of us done lately? Matthew was a kid who took on a pretty big fight in the context of his life and education. We can't all do the heavy lifting all the time, but if we all did take some kind of small action frequently, it might make a difference. Think about that the next time someone pushes their church in your workplace or makes a dumbass remark about the "Ground Zero Mosque" or espouses some casual homophobia or some clueless privileged racism or some other kind of entitled douchebaggery. We can all speak up in our own ways. This kid--who at the time was a 16-year-old with basically no legal rights at all--brought a school district to heel. We can all do something good like that all the time even if it's on a much smaller scale and in a much less public forum.

For reminding me of this, Matthew LaClair is inducted into my Pantheon of Anti-Douchebags.
Nothing I can say about marriage equality that I haven't said before or that the judge in today's ruling Prop 8 did not say better:

"Plaintiffs have demonstrated by overwhelming evidence that Proposition 8 violates their due process and equal protection rights and that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8. California is able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has not suffered any demonstrated harm as a result... moreover, California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings.

"Because Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, the court orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement; prohibiting the official defendants from applying or enforcing Proposition 8 and directing the official defendants that all persons under their control or supervision shall not apply or enforce Proposition 8."

Why did Americans ever think in the first place that it's right and fair to put other people's civil rights up for popular vote? 

Daniel Schorr

Jul. 25th, 2010 06:32 pm
mbranesf: (Default)
Daniel Schorr died the other day at age 93. If you don't who that was, then you owe it to yourself to learn. 

Born in 1917, same year as my grandmother (still living), Schorr was a journalist who lived and observed and reported on most of the century of human history during which the most dramatic changes in the condition of humanity on Earth took place. He did this with a serious, thoroughness and intellectual honesty--and a respect for his trade--that is vanishing rapidly from journalism. 

I had the pleasure of getting to know this man's voice, which once read aloud on the air Nixon's Enemies List (on which he himself was listed as a major "media enemy"), late in his career on Saturday mornings when he would chat for a few minutes with Scott Simon on Weekend Edition. By this point in his long career, he was Senior News Analyst for NPR and was free to say pretty much whatever he wished about current events. But he never once crossed into the kind of histrionics and bile that typify media talking heads in almost all other news outlets (and no, I don't just mean Fox; I'm talking about MSNBC and CNN as well). He was a powerful intellect with unimpeachable integrity, and that's something that's hard to say about very many people in the news business anymore.

If you don't know about Daniel Schorr, I can't think of a better way to learn about him than to listen this interview with him on the Diane Rehm Show in 2006. Diane herself is a legendarily excellent interviewer, and this is probably one of the most worthwhile hours of radio for anyone interested in broadcast journalism and its history in America.

Schorr's last broadcast for NPR was on July 10.
Did you hear about the French McDonald's commercial focused on a gay teenager, and how Fox News thug Bill O'Reilly said it was tantamount to having ads inviting al Qaeda to McDonald's? GLAAD has this protest-to-Fox-News campaign in process, which includes a petition text that one may send to various Fox News executives (emails provided). While I support the idea of protesting about that ludicrous TV channel in general due its very existence and its generally offensive tone and character and the disagreeable sight and sound of most if its on-air personalities, and while I did actually send off my own abbreviated version of their petition letter to a couple of those emails, I will be shocked if any Fox people or O'Reilly himself apologize over this.

Why would they? Hating gay people is the stock-in-trade of media outlets like Fox, it's the very stuff of life for them. And while deriding gay people is great for them, deriding gay kids is even better. O'Reilly is by his very nature a jerk and a bully and a bitter old man, and gay teens are practically tailor-made for bullying in the kind of world Fox would like to create. Embedded below is the ad with the gay kid. Even though it's for a fast-food chain that I like about as well as O'Reilly, this ad is sweet and its appearance here causes the unprecedented situation of me applying both the "douchebaggery" (for O'Reilly) and "anti-douchebaggery" (for McDonald's) tags to this single post. 

This is a sad topic for me. Readers of this journal may recall a few months ago when I posted this entry directing people to a fascinating blog by someone purporting to be a 17-year-old in-the-closet gay boy by the pseudonym of "Mikey" who was a hockey player and a huge sports fan. While I am not myself any kind of hockey fan and would generally not be interested in a sports-related blog, I found Mikey's page quite engrossing, entertaining and often rather touching. But according to this rather extensive article on Outsports, posted a few days ago, Mikey was make-believe, a sham, a fantasy created by a man decades older than his online persona. If what that article contends is true, then there never was a Mikey, just an older dude who let a vast complex of fantasies and fabrications get out of control until he was exposed.

Well, before I get into what I think of all that, I'd like to say that I wish that there was really a Mikey, and I am sure that there are, in fact, many of them around the country and I hope that they have someone real that they can look to and confide in and borrow strength from. Whether this Mikey was real or not, it can still be a rotten deal to be a gay kid.

I suspect a lot of people who followed Mikey or even heard about this situation second-hand probably think that Mikey's creator is a jerk or pathetic or maybe an asshole, or at least a very, very untrustworthy person. I feel somewhat differently because I can understand the dude's motivations on some level. If the case presented in the Outsports article is true, then Mikey's creator is pushing 50 years old. This, combined with some other facts alleged in that article, paint a picture of a gay man who is probably living a very tortured double life: in the closet around most anyone who knows him in "real life," while trying to find some way to be at least a little bit of who he really is in the online world. This situation is totally commonplace, unfortunately, and while it's not necessarily age-related, it's got to be a hell of lot harder being a fifty-year-old closeted gay dude than a 20 or 30-year-old "out" one. At age 38, I am old enough already to have seen how dramatically things have shifted culturally in favor of being out, at least in the civilized non-fundie non-teabagger parts of the country. Sometimes I look at my younger "brothers" who just don't get it just because they're too young to remember...and they're only like ten years younger and I feel old as hell already. So, anyway, I'm not angry with faux-Mikey for this fraud, but I do feel badly for him and I hope he does well for himself somehow.

But this brings to mind the topic of "reality" in media, one that I think about a lot. People nowadays seem to be obsessed with reality and place a high value on what's "real." But isn't it funny that the surfeit of televised garbage, that swamping tide of shit that is called "reality TV" is probably the most fictitious, non-real stuff ever concocted? See Macbeth presented on stage, or read Dhalgren--these are works of fiction but they contain in just a few pages more "reality" than an entire season of Celebrity Apprentice and Big Brother combined. Consider that scandal a few years ago over James Frey and his "memoir" that turned out to be largely a fabrication. It got crazy attention because Oprah picked it for her book club (which made it a bestseller upon receiving the Big O's imprimatur), and then became a big scandal after the truth came out. Oprah summoned the author to her show to be dressed down on TV, and O's fans thought it was a horrible insult and tragedy, blah, blah, blah. But this is the question I had from the start: So the fuck what? If the book was good enough to get the O Seal of Approval, then didn't she think it was well-written, told a worthwhile story, and (therefore!) contained...truth? I didn't follow the whole fooforaw too closely, but I remember hearing that Frey claimed that he originally intended to sell his book as a novel but was advised to present instead it as a memoir. Why? Because memoirs sell better than novels. Why? Because what little remains of any American reading public overwhelmingly prefers nonfiction. Why? Because it's "real." 

I don't know if Frey's book was any good or not, and probably never will read it because its subject matter is about as interesting to me as, well, a sports blog. Also, I'd rather read a novel than a memoir most any day. They read as more "real" to me.

Last point: The dude who created Mikey did a really great job at his fiction. I don't feel badly at all that I was suckered by his creation because it was so believable and richly realized. If I could contact him directly, I'd give him this advice: next time, write a novel. (And don't call it a memoir!)
I think I might spend too many of my posts here complaining about ugliness, douchebaggery and decrosion. Be assured that I'm still going to do plenty of that in the future, but I am also going to make a more frequent point of highlighting beauty, anti-douchebaggery and awesome-sauce. So today I am directing everyone's attention to this fascinating blog by Mikey, the gay Minnesota hockey kid.

Yeah, I know, I am not a big sports dude. In fact, I'm probably about the furthest thing from it in all the intertubes, so it's a bit unusual that I am pointing people to what is in large part a sports-oriented blog. But I can't get enough of this one for some reason. Mikey's site is a remarkably honest, raw and often touching window into the life and thoughts of a kind of boy that it's gotta be really, really hard to be some days: a gay teenage athlete who is into playing hockey. Gay kids get a really shitty deal anyway: most of them have to grow through youth and adolescence denying who they really are, hiding their real nature, being afraid of being found out, pretending to be str8, and generally being made to feel like hell because of a characteristic that is as natural and normal as left-handedness or blue-eyedness..except left-handed blue-eyed people don't generally get verbally abused or physically assaulted for those things, nor do they often get suicidal about it. For a gay kid who loves sports and wants to play on a team, that probably adds another dimension of potential pain.

I never played any sports myself, so I don't have the experience of it, but I have always assumed (just based on the way that dudes treat each other in group situations) that hockey teams or any kind of team like that must be hot little pits of homophobia.  I am hoping that this is less true now than it probably was when I was a kid (If you read this, Mikey, I am older than hell, I was in college when you were born). But I don't know, since I wasn't part of it then and am obviously not now. Indeed, I think the only times the concepts of "gay" and "hockey" have linked up in my brain is when I would use that 1986 hockey movie Youngblood and its images of a young Rob Lowe's hot bare ass as porn back when I was Mikey's age...ok, well maybe that was just a few days ago, but still...

There wasn't even a web and websites and blogs back when I was that age (fuck, I feel sooo frakkin old already!), but if there had been such things back in the mid-80s, then it would have been the bravest boy ever who would have risked putting himself out there as a gay hockey kid with a blog like this. And it's still  true even now in our slightly more tolerant era. Mikey's site is thrilling in its courage, deeply charming in its honesty and, once in a while, pretty heartbreaking, too, such as the way that he reveals that the younger of his two brothers and one of his friends are the only two people in "real" life who know about his gayness. And, of course, the rest of us who know him about him in webspace. I know, know, and know what that must feel like. A lot of people in meatspace don't know about me either despite how out there I am in my online life.

Seventeen is a really weird age for any dude to be anyway: already totally a man and yet still totally a boy at the same time, and very, very, very much needing respect, love, a hug and a fucking break. So being all of that AND gay AND a hockey player has got to be all kinds of challenging. This kid is doing an awesome job of it.

[By the way, thanks to my Twitter friend, the writer Kelly Barnhill, who tweeted the link to Mikey's page yesterday--that's how I found out about him.]
Our friends at Crossed Genres suggested that we post some free fiction today and encourage our readers to enjoy it and then donate some money to the Haiti earthquake relief effort.  On the M-Brane blog, I am offering a free download of Ergosphere/M-Brane #12 and suggesting that people donate to Doctors Without Borders. The Crossed Genres team has set up a site where links to other people who are posting stories will be aggregated. Since I have this Live Journal, I will offer some free fiction here as well.  The first piece is a chapter from my National Novel Writing Month novel Days of the Dust and the Diane Rehm Show. The second is an unrevised draft of a recent-written short story called "Mirror." Neither are very good, but they are both rather raw and reflective of how I feel a lot of the time as the world seems to whither away.

"We Spend the Night in a Hotel" from Days of the Dust

When we entered the hotel room, A-R said, “Damn, I am so sick of sweating today.” Now that he mentioned it, it had been a hot evening, car travel was sticky and fatiguing anyway, and the blowing cold A/C in our hotel room really did feel wonderfully luxurious all of a sudden. A-R threw his bag down on one of the beds, kicked off his shoes, peeled off his socks, kept on stripping until he was down to his briefs, and then flopped on his back, face up on the floral-printed bed spread. “It feels so good to be cool again.”
I opened a beer and looked around for the TV remote control.
A-R turned his head leftward and looked at me. “Can I have one of those?” I didn’t answer immediately, so he added, “I mean, you bought like a lot of it. Any chance you were thinking about sharing? I’ve had a hard day, too, you know.”
Read more... )


By the end of the third year, Reese had begun to despise his son. He’d started to wish that he had never adopted the boy. He’d done it at Linda’s insistence, when sweet Kirin, the natural son that he’d shared and raised with her for fourteen years, had died of the Waste. But it—the boy’s demise—did not play out as expected. Kirin had lingered past his death-by-Waste far longer than anyone could have imagined, far longer than any parents trying to move past their grief could possibly be expected to endure. 
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