Showing posts with label tmih. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tmih. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Hell of a Year for a Fourth of July

I think a lot about that grotesque video of Donald Trump hugging and kissing a flag.  It's the act of an insincere buffoon putting on a show for other morons.  Of the 30,000 things he did that should have been a red flag to anyone considering where to place their vote, that image surely could have summarized exactly why this half-assed con-artist should have been left dealing with lawsuits and trying to sell his shitty products and run out of a presidential race on a rail.

That's the same flag people say they would "die" for (I am aware that's a symbolic statement, as much as the flag is a symbol).  But it's also the same piece of cloth that I recall people having serious discussions about creating prison time for anyone burning or desecrating (missing that whole First Amendment business, but, then, when haven't we?).

The United States is on fire enough that as other countries have flattened the curve, they've watched the US's nightmare of a response and put us on lists that suggest it may be years before Americans go abroad.  And I'm not sure that decision is just about COVID.

Twitter and social media have changed the world.  The carefully polished image of America that the post WWII planet received in exports of movies and television has been stripped away to show cops murdering and beating our citizens.  Lipitor customers stalk their front stoops with guns and their faces full of an insane combination of utterly unwarranted fear and rage as Black people walk by.  Our President gives increasingly unhinged interviews and speeches, and refuses to do a single goddamn thing to slow the course of a pandemic that is going to bury this country for years, or longer  if he wins the November election.  And all of that flows outward to nations who had their own dalliances with similar maniacs who seemed like a good idea at the time.

But, yeah.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

In a Time of Virus: The Dams Break


It started with protests in several cities in the wake of the George Floyd murder.  George Floyd was a Black man apprehended by police under suspicion he'd floated a bogus $20 bill.  For this, he was pinned to the ground by his throat beneath the knee of a man with a gun, who was supported by three of his fellow officers, as the suspect begged for air.  This went on for almost 9 minutes.

The murder, and it was murder, occurred in broad daylight and on camera, carried out by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  A lot of people will try to call what occurred as a police officer pinned a man's neck to the ground with his knee for 9 minutes something else.  Maybe they'll say it was unintentional (the video suggests otherwise), or just breaking some eggs to make an omelet.  But in the era of cameras everywhere, the past fifteen years taught us how to pay attention to how people are policed and how police do their work.  And how police officers do not police each other.

Monday, May 18, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Everything Out of a Can

People went crazy the last few weeks.

I don't really know how else to interpret the furious wrath of church ladies in JC Penny tops screaming about wearing life-saving facemasks.  People told their lives depend on distance and patience rushed to state capitols with rifles to stand elbow to elbow with strangers, their faces bared to cameras and virus particles, screaming hysterically about their right to...  expose themselves and others to illness and death, I guess.

It's now been going on long enough that we're getting reports of these people catching COVID-19, the occasional ironic/ cautionary tale of people's last facebook posts rants about the "hoax" of the virus before the person winds up dead.  70-odd people who went to an "open" rally in Wisconsin are believed to have contracted the virus at the event.  And today I saw something about a church in California that held Mother's Day services exposed over 180 people.

Monday, April 27, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Sunlight and Bleach

No amount of parody or nihilistic social commentary could have prepared me for what it's actually like to see the virus that's taken over the United States.

On Thursday (04/23/20) the President of the United States, who has taken to a podium on a near daily basis for weeks - blathering at length/ incoherently, and showing genuine signs of mental decline (pick your poison as to why) - stood in front of a room of journalists and said scientists should look into shining UV lights or very bright lights on or into people to combat COVID-19.  He also said we should be looking at injecting people with disinfectants containing bleach, I believe.  That bleach clears the lungs right out.  Which, in a way, is true.  You'll certainly be beyond caring about your COVID-cough when you are dead because you've got 20 oz of Clorox filling your lungs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Within Our Four Walls

From October of 2017 to August of 2019, I worked from home for, technically, Northwestern University in Chicago.  Really I was working for a larger open source software coalition 50%, and for a sub-group of that coalition 50%.  It was a weird and cool job, and I will always look back on it fondly.

But it also meant I got used to the rhythms of working from home long before all this mess started.  Waking up, showering and having a ten second commute is not uncharted territory.  But, man, the days of just sitting in the same chair all day can get to be a bit much.  Especially as it's all-screens all day, tied to video conferencing with colleagues.

Since getting sent home, I have not been getting up early to walk the dog, as my preference is to do it to unwind after work if I've been sitting in my chair all day.  Scout is an easy walker, and doesn't pull toward other dogs.  She just wants to stay within 4 feet of me as we go about our business.  We talk to neighbors from about 15-20 feet away.  Sometimes I linger, sometimes I keep on going after waving hello.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

PODCAST: Quarantine Media 01 - "Love is Blind", "Tiger King", "McMillions" and more - w/ Jamie, Maxwell and Ryan


Watched:  I mean.. kind of since March 13 - April 5
Viewing:  Firstish
Format:  Netflix, HBO, etc...
Decade:  2020

Things have gotten really strange as we've sheltered in place in our homes. Life is upside down, and we're all worried for the state of the world. But in a time of existential crisis, it doesn't mean we aren't watching some TV. Maxwell joins us to talk "Tiger King", "Love is Blind", "McMillions" and whatever else we're watching as part of our self-care regimen. Or what our kids are putting on, at least.




Tuesday, April 7, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Days With No Meaning

I'm not writing these posts so much for all of us going through this *now*.   When this is over, I'd like to remember what...  happened.  Because, like any trauma, we're going to collectively want to block this out.  And what there is to remember will be so vague and weird, and our timelines will be skewed.

We all kind of laugh about how days lose all meaning in that period between Christmas and New Year.  At least once a day, someone will ask "what day is it?" and sometimes you may have to think about it.  With nowhere to be, no one looking for you and the weekends looking like a weekday, it takes no time at all.  And while we have weekends, when you're looking at the same walls and people, days do sort of lose their meaning.  Last week on Friday, I had to be told at least once it wasn't Thursday.

Monday, March 30, 2020

In a Time of Virus: That First Week in Lockdown

We've been in some form of lockdown since March 13th.

In some ways, this hasn't been entirely different from the nearly two years when I worked from home when I was at Northwestern University.  I wake up, I shower, make coffee, eat something and sit down and get to work.  I use my office, which is also my "collection room", ie: The Fortress, which I had decommissioned for work when I went back to UT.

When we were sent home from work, the home office was full of "stuff" all over the floor, making the room unusable.  We'd recently had a remodel of our bathroom, and to make room for the contractors, I'd cleared things and just dumped them in my office and shut the door.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Honestly, what I piled in there was sitting on top of things I hadn't yet cleared away from Christmas, waiting for some time when I'd have some downtime and clean up, which I usually do when we're set to have company.

The first weekend, starting on the 13th, we just sort of blanked out.  There was a run to HEB Saturday morning, buying food for a full week or more.  The store was busy, but not hectic.  Jamie and I put on nitrile gloves before going in - and I never saw anyone else with them on.  No masks.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Start of Lockdown

The first thing I remember hearing was that people were hoarding toilet paper.

It had a "man bites dog" element to the news - for whatever reason, they'd realized they might run out of toilet paper, something they'd never previously considered, I suppose.  And, so, people were buying mass amounts of the stuff, leaving those super market shelves empty.  That was early, during the week of the 9th, before the employers sent anyone home .

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Not Seen In Generations

Sometimes you read about World War I or II and you wonder what you'd have been like in those circumstances.  What would it be like to be sitting in Austin, Texas one day and boarding a boat to cross the English Channel a year later, pretty sure you were being used for cannon fodder?  Or being ordered over the wall and into No Man's Land?  Over and over?  Day after day?  Could I get back in a B-17 and fly back over Germany and drop bombs *again*, uncertain if *this* was the time I was shot down?

It doesn't need to be the threat of war and violence.  We've had plenty of other creeping horrors around mankind in recent and living memory.

But my generation, maybe the one before, maybe those that have come after... we sat in classrooms and heard how the Commies wanted to drop nuclear bombs on us because they hated our Capitalist ways.  But mostly that's an existential threat - if it was going to happen, it was going to happen.  And I wasn't old enough to be part of the AIDS crisis, but am old enough to get cross-eyed hearing about "dating" apps as someone who came of age just after Magic Johnson taught us suburban kids about how we *all* needed to be careful.

Friday, March 13, 2020

In a Time of Virus: People are Terrible in a Crisis

I'm not going to lecture you on COVID-19/ the coronavirus.  You know what it is. 

The plan was not to return to work on Monday (it's Friday, for posterity's sake).  I'd received approval from higher-ups to show some caution and work from home until we had the all-clear.  In the morning as I readied for work, I was checking a news story about our local K-12 school district closing and telling people to deal with their situation, and half-way down the page it mentioned my employer, the University of Texas at Austin, was also closed. 

I checked the emergency page, and it said "all clear", but literally at the same time, my Slack channel for work started popping and I saw that, no, we were closed.  An email had come through and we weren't to come to campus today. 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

In the wake of two mass shootings

This weekend saw two mass shootings.

You don't need for me to tell you why those shootings happened, or describe the tragedy of what occurred and what was taken from families, friends and communities. Or that it didn't always used to be this way.

But it sure is now.

The pair of shootings seemed to have stemmed from the politics of the shooters, one far right, the other far left, each running to extremes.  At some point those divergent points of view seem so far apart they, in fact, curve back toward the same point.  (Look, the El Paso shooter left a manifesto and was taken into custody, and is far less of a mystery to me than the misogynist antifa fan in Ohio who was dead within a minute of opening fire.  But "making sense" is not usually something I associate with mass murder).    It leaves us with some common traits between the shooters, not the least of which is the ability of anyone off the street to arm themselves like they're storming Baghdad and pop off if they're having a bad day and feel misunderstood.

I'm tired of men who can't handle their shit or that life wasn't what they expected turning their self-loathing on others, their shame metastasizing into a need to prove their place in the world with juvenile fits and the tools of a soldier.

Once again, a lot of politicians made bland statements, the media conglomerates handled it within their brand standards, and the paid spokespeople took to cable.  Horrified and mourning people were treated like exotic animals on safari by national news.

I had a whole lot more written, but I deleted it.  I'm just done.  This is impossible to write.

We're exhausted.  Exhausted from knowing something could be done and, for some reason, won't be.  And exhausted because every time you open your mouth about how obvious it is that this situation is insane, there's someone there who cares more about middle-school debate club needling and badly reading a single sentence than they care about piles of dead people.  And there's no other way of looking at it anymore.

I'm tired of knowing people want to run for office and tell people how to live who don't care if the people they're supposed to represent live at all.

We can do better, if we want to.  But I don't see anyone who wants to do better, and I can't begin to understand why.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

TL;DR: Spielberg, Netflix and Cinema - You're All Wrong On This One



Most people suck at going to the movies.  I don't know how or why this is, but you do.

Yeah, you.

Literally every movie you go to see, theaters ask you to please not talk, to turn off your phones, and to basically please not cause any distractions for the hundred or so other people in the room.  Despite the fact this is done for very good reasons, somehow, a good 1/3rd of people can't seem to follow these basic guidelines.  Chatting, looking at phones, not turning off ringers, or, my favorite, actually taking a call.

My point is - going to the theater is a nightmare of our own making.   Most people treat the shared space of the theater, of the multimillion-dollar production in front of them, in a room designed specifically for an ideal experience, surrounded by people they don't know, the same as if they were watching a film on a laptop in their living room, and with all the same behavior that's totally fine if you're at home under a blanket and not surrounded by dozens of strangers.

Which is weird, right?

Whatever magic-of-the-cinema films like Cinema Paradiso or Hugo try to capture about the theatrical experience is not part of the common religion in an era when movies are something you let the kids put on over and over so they give you 30-90 minutes of peace, or you consider movies one way to zone out while you're crammed into an airplane seat.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

"A Christmas Story Live!" Hot Takes

On the evening of 12/17/2017, Fox broadcast a sorta-live version of what's apparently a real Broadway musical, a - if I'm being honest - not terribly great musical.

And there is nothing like checking in with twitter to get the voices of America, and despair.

There were a lot of pleased, happy tweets.  A lot of criticism, just and otherwise.  But I grabbed a few samples to share with you.  They will tell you all you need to know about The Greatest Country on Earth and what people think is a pretty good idea to just shout into the internet void.












Thursday, December 14, 2017

Wrapping up 2017



We all thought 2016 was a bad year.  We lost Bowie right off the bat, and then Prince and a parade of other folks who we'd grown up with and who seemed taken too soon.  But I'll be honest, now I'm just wondering what sort of smoking crater I'll be wandering around in looking for protein sources by this time in 2018.

I spend some amount of time talking myself down in regards to the political situation in the U.S., but it's difficult to feel like things are going well when stories have started circulating that the White House is entertaining the idea of a secret police force answerable and loyal to the occupant of the Oval Office.  It's hard to feel like things are going well when a guy who already seemed like a lunatic, even by Southern standards, was nominated for Senator for Alabama and is still doing okay despite charges of pedophilia and is so racist he has no idea he's racist.  And it's not like Alabama is pro-pedophilia, it's that we're finding out that half of the country hates the other half so much, they'd rather elect politicians who are willing to reflect and magnify their fury at "the left", no matter how far afield those people are from the supposed moral center of "the right".  I kind of worry people might genuinely murder me, given the chance, for thinking our collective financial power could ensure the healthcare of every American.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Be Super: Let's Help Houston



I do not expect most people to understand Houston.  I don't get it, and I go there pretty often and have friends there.  Lived north of there myself back in the 1990's.  It's easy to write-off as a city in dumb 'ol Texas that's probably getting what it deserves.  Look, Houston, like any place on Earth, has its issues.  But it's not some backwater redneck town.  At least it hasn't been since the 1980's.

Houston is not just a well-populated metroplex - fourth largest in the country - it's a multi-ethnic, international mix of people with a vibe all its own, a place of genuine opportunity, and full of fine, hard-working people of all stripes.

It is geographically huge.  Because so much looks the same in the shots they're using in the news footage, that's difficult to get, but what considers itself "Houston" covers roughly fifty to seventy miles across in any direction.  These days I don't know when you quit saying you're out of "Houston" when you go up I-45, but it's all one corridor til you leave Conroe, so that's more or less an hour and a half on the road that's all one town.  And it does the same going East/ West.

And all of it's in trouble.  Since my last post on Houston, I've seen footage of the area where I went to high school under varying levels of water.  For some reason the thing that broke me was seeing St. Ignatius Loyola, the Catholic Church I only stepped in once, submerged under 3 feet of water, at least.  St. Ignatius was the church of many of my friends, it's a positive force in the community, and I don't recall them ever receiving flooding before.



I've heard stories of a colleague who was canoed out of her home with her two children and husband, another colleague's parents who were also rescued.  Another friend's mom (who just lost her husband a year ago) is staying with a friend as her house is flooded.  It's everywhere.  I don't know how we can expect a city of millions to recover.

And as a double-hit, I know a lot of Katrina refugees wound up in Houston.

So, as too few of us own boats or helicopters, I'm suggesting we do a little something to give.

I guess it's people being people, but already we're seeing articles complaining about various charitable organizations trying to help out Houston.  We're going to ignore that and provide a menu of folks who can provide a direct line of help:




Houston is nothing if not stubborn and resilient.  As much as I believe in the spirit of Austin, I recognize and appreciate the heart that is Houston.  Good people live there.  There's a kindness to the city that's genuine.

Just as Houston is a city of people who can fight their way back.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

My State is in a State of Disaster - Hurricane Harvey

Houston, from KHOU's website


I know the weather is probably lovely wherever you are.  Here in Texas, we're getting devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

I've lived in Texas most of my life, and Austin for most of that.  Every time a hurricane has made its way toward the coast, I genuinely worry for our coastal cities but roll my eyes at the dire warnings for Austin.  We're a good 3.5 - 4 hours to Galveston Island or Corpus Christi, driving wise.  A Straight line to the coast is still something like 150 miles away as the crow flies.


As news channels tried to get the story localized, I've filled bathtubs and whatnot in the past, and - of course - nothing happened.  So I wasn't expecting much out of Harvey.

But, look...  that is not what happened.  Hurricane Harvey is set to drop record levels of water and do record levels of damage to the Texas Coast and Houston.

For those of you from out-of-state, Houston is built in a mix of forested swamp land and marsh/ bayous on the very flat Texas coastal plain.  Arguably, it's not the best place for human habitation, but there's some history there for why the city exists, and a lot of it has to do with the utter destruction of Galveston, a prime shipping port in the 19th Century, and Houston picking up the baton in the 20th Century.  Galveston was leveled by, you guessed it, a nightmarish hurricane (the death toll was over 6000), and never recovered.

The storm changed to a Category 4 Hurricane just before landfall on Friday.  Since that time, the hurricane has parked itself on the coast, reducing in speed but not energy, harvesting moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and dumping it as far inland as where I live.  It's been raining since right after midnight early Saturday morning.  And not just a drizzle.  It's been pouring.

Rockport, Texas - a coastal town where a lot of Texans take their holiday - has been ravaged, Corpus has been heavily hit, and Houston is dealing with wind, rain and now massive flooding.



Between graduating from high school north of Houston (Go, Klein Oak HS Panthers!), a career that involved me with universities across Texas and general intra-state migration, I've got pals scattered across this state, and a good number of people in Houston and in outlying areas.  And friends' parents.  Heck, our own RHPT has a lot of people in Houston.

This is a full blown natural disaster, and if I am cheered, it's that - so far - the death count is very low.  If I am concerned, it's that so many cities, towns and suburbs are being damaged and destroyed, and right now those people I care about are huddled and riding this thing out.  You can read up on what's happening all over the web, but this will all get worse before it gets better, and could go through Thursday.

Here in Austin, I'm hiding out on my sofa, watching The Weather Channel and listening to the rain and wind bang around outside my own house.  I keep checking the ceilings to see if we've got any leaks.  So far, so good.  The dogs are bored and ready to get outside (that isn't happening).  I'm beginning to anticipate we won't have work tomorrow as UT tries not to bring anyone in during inclement weather events as they employ thousands and have 50,000 students who would descend upon the city.  So, we'll see.

So far, we've had several between 7.5 and 8.25 inches of rain in 36 hours or so.  Austin is technically kind of desert-y, so, that's a lot.  Our creeks will begin flooding here shortly, but it's not like it can be when we see flash flooding during spring downpours that can't be absorbed by the ground and cause a tremendous amount of damage (that's usually just a few inches, but in, like, an hour).

Anyway, keep the Texas Coast in your thoughts.  Give to Red Cross.  Don't spend time thinking about how Houston somehow brought this on themselves.  A lot of people are going to need a lot of help once the clouds break.




Friday, August 18, 2017

In the Wake of Charlottesville



I don't know what to tell you.

Normally we use this space to talk about movies and comics, maybe a book we read.  But, at the moment, we're way past normal.  Or, at least, the past year has stripped away the veneer of how we thought things worked and we're now dealing with what we always kind of knew was out there, but just didn't show it's face.

That's wrong, too.  It did.  It's all over twitter and has been boiling over in the comments on legitimate news sites and in our facebook feed from people we used to know in high school.

It's always there, from our complacence in the face of the social inequities we see (and tell ourselves nice creation myths rather than grappling with multi-generational issues), to legislation intended to discriminate, to how we think about perpetually skewed law-enforcement records to how we whisper certain words.  I'm as white a cracker as you're going to find.  I might as well have "privilege" stamped across my forehead, and I see this stuff everywhere, and I've seen it defended and warped and refracted through appropriated slogans and an unending sea of false equivalencies that don't hold up to the slightest examination.  And, because I'm coming from a place of privilege, I have to accept that I'm only seeing a fraction of it.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Women's March in Austin, 01/21/2017

I'm the guy in the Superman shirt


I hadn't really planned to go to the Women's March in Austin early in the week.  While I understood and supported the idea (more on that later), I also am of the opinion that the last thing anyone needs at a march for women's rights - and as the event drew closer, LBGQT rights, the rights of POC, the rights of people non-Christian faiths, the rights of immigrants - was to have a giant, 40'ish, straight, white man standing in the middle taking up space.

"Will you be going to any of the marches?" a colleague asked me.
"There's not really a march for boring white dudes," I said.
"Well, you could always come out in support."

Support, indeed.  Maybe I wouldn't just be in the way.  When I mentioned maybe going to Jamie, she was on the idea like white on rice (and hadn't asked because she knows I like my Saturdays for coffee and contemplation.  Sometimes we do that thing where we don't ask each other if the other wants to do something because we both assume the other won't want to, but we're both into the idea), and because Jamie is a woman and I support her, we were off to the races.

Now, this isn't a blog on politics, and despite my personal misgivings about the new president and his crew, I am not planning to turn this into my soapbox (much).  But, I gotta be me, and so occasionally don't be shocked if you see a This Moment in History (tmih) post, or an Actual History or news post.  Or, even something personal.

And, yeah, participating in one of the largest collective protests the country has ever seen (and I will go to my grave telling you that the 50K number being quoted for walkers at today's march in Austin is too conservative an estimate) is something I did, it was a newsworthy event, and so, it's going to wind up on this site.  You don't have to read the posts and you don't have to care.  There's no fee either way.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day Watch: Idiocracy (2006)



A lot of us folks on the left are a bit apoplectic about the way things have shaken out over the past six months or so.

We can agree to disagree on a great many things, and, hey, I live in Texas, so I know something about not necessarily being a fan of decisions going on in your government and still living peaceably and getting along with folks who don't agree with you on every detail.  But the new guy and his clowncar of billionaire oligarchs aren't really what a lot of us had in mind when we were sitting in civics class.

Feeling in a bit of a black mood about the whole state of affairs, and pondering a lot of the statements made by nigh-every Trump supporter we've seen interviewed, we decided to put on Idiocracy, the curiously prescient 2006 comedy by Mike Judge.