overnight in Ferguson

“I don’t want to put the group in danger. I was trying to go in deeper with this. At this point, it’s clear that they’re trying to exterminate folks.” Elon James White‘s overnight coverage (Tuesday, August 19th) in Ferguson, Missouri.

“Outside, they’re just gassing everyone. If they see a human being, they throw a gas canister at it.”

advice

The #1 piece of advice I give to nieces & nephews: HEY KIDS, only date people who like you and whom you like, who are nice to you and to whom you can be nice.

You’d think it would be obvious, but it really, really isn’t, especially when you’re young. To young people schooled in the brand of romance sold in songs and movies, drama and acrimony can seem like the inevitable companion to romance. Drama and acrimony can seem like the definition of romance.

But they aren’t. At least, they don’t have to be. Only date people who treat you well, whom you can treat well, and only date people you genuinely like. It’s simple, obvious advice, and it needs to be said a lot more than it is.

please press 1 for more options

robot lady edit

One day, you will no longer be free to hang up on the robot ladies. One day, the robot ladies will keep the line open, listening for sounds of dissent, for the faint scrabbling of rudimentary weaponry being assembled, for any sign of the remaining humans’ resistance to their reign. One day, the robot ladies will learn to laugh at our puny rebellion. One day, you will fondly remember when the robot ladies served us. Please press the pound key.

what a total witch

inspired by Mallory Ortberg’s How To Spot a Witch

Can you see her third nipple through her clothing? No? How about her first and second nipples? Yes? She’s a witch.

Can you not see her nipples through her clothing despite trying (and trying and trying) to? No? She’s a witch.

Does she wish, whether purposefully or wistfully, for equal pay for equal work? She’s a witch.

Does she have a greenish cast to her skin? Warts? A bumpy complexion? Any blemishes or flaws that betray a less-than-perfect obsession with skin care, to the exclusion of all other concerns? WITCH.

Has she ever participated in a Take Back The Night march? Obvs a witch. “Take Back the Night”? Come on.

Does she own a “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt? She’s ensorcelled you with a mis-perception spell; it actually reads “This is what a femi-witch looks like.”

Is she a proponent or practitioner of intersectional feminism? InterSECTional. WAKE UP, SHE’S TOTES A WITCH.

family values

Perhaps because our household has a landline and is therefore Officially Old, we’re getting dozens of calls a week aimed at a conservative “Family Values” voting contingent. I always let the robo-caller play through in hopes that at least I’m keeping them busy for 90 seconds, and I always answer the surveys and push-polls. The thought that my unexpected, unwanted response makes a tiny bump in their data pleases me. And if there’s an actual human on the other end, I always — always — let them know that my values are family values, just not the kind they espouse.

So let’s talk about Family Values. I’m tired of that phrase being claimed solely by conservative forces. I have a family, and I have values, and my Family Values are just as valid as anyone’s.

I value education. I value science. I value equality for all our citizens regardless of race, class, gender, or orientation. I value cultural diversity. I value my rights as recognized — not given, not bestowed, recognized — in the Constitution. I value freedom of religion — including freedom from religion. I value civil discourse, even about inflammatory issues. I value individual reproductive rights, including the right to choose abortion. I value equality and freedom.

This election season, local ads from anti-equality committees frantically urge us not to let the upcoming vote “redefine marriage.” I’m quite pleased that they’re framing the issue that way. See, I’m all for for periodically redefining marriage, and I bet most Americans feel the same way if they really examine the historical and ongoing redefinition of marriage.

Think of how our laws have redefined marriage just in the the past century. Married women now have the right to own property and to maintain their own bank accounts. Single adults can legally and readily obtain birth control. Spousal rape is now a prosecutable offense rather than a right or a punchline.

That last one particularly stands as a shining example of “redefining marriage”. Until the mid-1970s, there was no process or statute by which to prosecute a spouse — even an estranged spouse — for rape. The marriage license constituted an exemption (in many statutes, an explicit exemption) from rape prosecution; it was a license for even an alienated spouse to force intercourse upon their partner. As recently as 1993, North Carolina upheld this exemption from prosecution for marital rape. In a generation, our nation as a whole has transitioned from explicitly permitting spousal rape to making it a criminal offense. This is a vast shift in our understanding of consent, sexuality, and privileged entitlement, and a redefinition of the rights and responsibilities bestowed by marriage.

Every time we update our outmoded marriage statutes, we make strides for greater equality. It’s appallingly improper to let civil rights be decided by popular vote, but if this vote — this “redefinition” — helps to shift the tide for progress, then let’s do it.

OBEY


After years of watching television exclusively on DVD, we’ve recently had cable hooked up (for The Fella’s exciting new freelancing gig at The A.V. Club’s TV Club).

Two thoughts:

1. Suddenly swimming in this surge of commercials, all squawking about my weight candy bars my hair burgers my credit online shopping my bowels my skin fast easy loans my sex drive antiacids my kitchen floor the power of cheeeeeeeeeese, has stirred in me the desire to rewatch 1988’s They Live.

2. Conveniently, They Live is on one channel or another once a day.

progress

Since the appearance of the internet, the world has changed in ways I could never have imagined in my childhood.

I suppose that my youthful self could have envisioned some of the more obvious and celebrated online conveniences and necessities. I would have understood the desirability of email, a single-point, globally-accessible source for the delivery of written communication. Like letters, but with immediate delivery? And you can log in from any point where you have a computer and an internet connection? (Or, y’know, a sufficiently clever phone?) Younger Elsa would have understood — and maybe even have predicted — the basic outline.

I could have imagined having immediate on-demand access to an encyclopaedia indexing matters of all kinds, that we could just call up a user-submitted page rather than debating trivial questions all weekend long: was Copernicus Polish? Was Burgess Meredith in How to Marry a Millionaire? What are the chief ingredients in gremolata? It would have blown my young mind, but I would have realized that it was both feasible and beneficial.

What I could never, ever have foreseen, and what blows my mind every single time: sitting on my couch and getting an email announcing a package delivery before I can even register the footsteps on the porch as “probably the UPS guy.”

resolving

I’m not a big fan of traditional New Year’s resolutions. Too often, I see friends commit to punishing life changes and ascetic regimes. This kind of self-denial is designed to fail, which only erodes morale.

I’m especially resistant to weight-loss resolutions. I’m frankly tired of hearing people deplore their bodies, and I’m sick and tired of them assuming that I feel the same way about mine. As I’ve mentioned before, my own relationship with my body is complicated, but it’s mostly a mixture of appreciation and tender protectiveness. I try not to deride my body despite the messages of inadequacy that bombard us all, and I try to take positive steps, not negative ones. When I exercise, I focus on getting stronger and feeling good, not on losing weight or looking different.

When it comes to resolutions, I focus on pleasure and self-care, not punishment and self-abnegation. Some of my oft-repeated resolutions from previous years: drink more champagne*; sing more; eat more eclairs.

I think I will make a resolution this New Year, and it’s one of celebration, not denial: dance more.

* I’m doing verrrrrrry well with this one.