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May 21, 2014

gop: racist again

Not a long sentiment here, but something you should know of and share with your friends.

According to this short item from Josh Marshall, a House agriculture bill, prior to passing, somehow took a program that was getting summer school lunches to poor kids in rural and urban areas and turned it into a program for poor kids in only rural areas.

It's yet another example of why the world continues to astonish me every day: I just cannot conceive someone thinking that they can get away with such a baldly racist measure in the light of day (any more than I can conceive of a person with such glaring character defects as to want to do so.)

And of course they'll get away with it too.

But fuck equivalency: the GOP is just racist, racist, racist.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:56 AM

May 20, 2014

novelty heat death

Let's talk about the shock of the new!

You may be immune to this.  I am, largely, and it's only because I make an effort to try to keep up in discrete ways is how it is I'm not rewatching Season 3 of "The X-Files" over and over and over again in between playing my Super NES (or reading a book) (!!).  And I am a fellow that's online one way or the other a goodly (more than 50%?) portion of my waking hours online one way or the other.  And yet, I'm a dinosaur: there's a whole generation and a half that learned how to communicate as adults through digital connectivity.

Things change!  And things are changing.  And even if you're young enough to think of things as basically how they always have been, you too will someday get to experience slo-mo future shock.

An example: a friend of mine last night was relating to me that it is now a common verbal trope to append, "Hashtag: X," to a sentence in conversation.  You know like, "Where do you want to get dinner? Hashtag: starving."  I naturally found this bonkers.  But, if you think of it, there's a certain meaning imbued by the device, and it's generally understood.  In practice, it's no worse than the use of "air quotes" popular whenever that was ago.  We strip our discourse for parts, and then put the good bits to use.

And in developments a little more distressing, we have the growing popularity of "trigger warnings" and the blanket prescription thereof.  If you are not familiar: trigger warnings are deployed mostly online to protect those with some sort of traumatic emotional experience from stubbing their toe on some depiction that will remind them of said experience and then cause even more unnecessary distress.  This too is an outgrowth of the way we talk, which these days is the same thing as the way we talk online.  Trigger warnings are par for the course in certain circles.

And of course, I am befuddled by them, being a geezer.  But it's a sensitive landscape to tread, because being befuddled by trigger warnings is viewed in some (aforementioned) circles as behavior equivalent to the trigger itself (or something).  So I'm throwing it to Jen Doll, who wrote about it in a compassionate manner:

The push for trigger warnings surely comes from a good place, but it's nonetheless troubling. For one thing, they're not even truly necessary: any classic work of literature is easily Googleable, with plots and basic themes easy to glean and prepare oneself for within moments. Unlike, say, the latest episode of Game of Thrones, or a violent video game, both of which might come with an ADULT CONTENT warning but likely wouldn't have been assigned for class - and neither of which anyone would want "spoiled" online first.

Good intentions notwithstanding, any blanket trigger warning is bound to fail, because what it hopes to protect is only as known as the interpretation of the individual reader or viewer. And the freedom and creativity of those who create art is bound to suffer when their artwork becomes not simply judged - because everything is judged by others - but also relegated to categories of "triggering".

Rampant trigger warnings predict a world in which art is trapped in recursive categoration, and I don't even have to look that up to know it's bad.  (Plus also: the entirety of my education was basically an unordered series of unwanted traumas and I'm fine, etc. etc.)  But Doll sure did say it a lot better than I could.

And ultimately, and as usual, I'm deferring to Choire Sicha, he of The Awl Network, even though he's an old cuss like me, because he's the rightest guy there is when it taking the temperature of the online culture in situ and not when it's sitting on the morgue table.  The prognosis?  You might not need to worry about picking up your dry-cleaning, Online Culture.

So what do you think is the ideal situation for how to digest stuff online?

That's a really good question. That's something we're struggling with right now. People are coming to news and entertainment content by lazy phone clicking. So we're bored, we're looking at our phones. We're lonely, we're looking at our phones. And so whatever weird portal you're going through, then you're clicking through to things from there. So news consumption is actually really passive, unless there's some sort of virus going online, because it's just whatever appeals to you in the fishbowl.

Of course you should read the entire thing, but what struck me about Sicha's thoughts is an underlying wistfulness, an uneasiness.  He's been in the business a long time, and the way the business looks like right now is in small part thanks to him.

But if you actually spend as much time as Sicha (or even just me) cruising the net, looking for something to catch the eye, or even a lunch's diversion, you start to get the sense that we're flush in the middle of Novelty Heat Death.

So we gotta find a way to make that fun.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:14 AM