Vi Hart, "Feeling sad about tragedy"

Vi Hart's latest video "Feeling sad about tragedy" is about the shootings, within days of each other, of YouTuber Christina Grimmie, and then of 49 people in a gay club, both in Orlando.

I didn't know about Christina's shooting. (I didn't know about Christina.) But Vi's video felt deeply relevant to many people I care about and admire. 

Vi so often says things in ways that make me wish I had thought them. I show people her video "On Gender" when I want to explain my feelings about gender identity. I've been watching her videos for years, and I've been thrilled that the internet has opened up platforms people like her can inhabit.

I don't want to be afraid for her. I hadn't much thought to be, before now. If you had asked me whether I thought she had a risk of dangerous fans, I'd have said yes, but I wouldn't have had that line of thought just sitting on my own. She's so anonymous. I think I've seen her face, in other people's videos, but I only ever see her hands in hers. I have no idea if Vi Hart is the name she goes by in meatspace. 

Her refrain from the middle of this video, "I'm not supposed to be right," sends shivers down my spine. I recognize that feeling. Of wanting to be a good person, who believes in love and has faith in people, of wanting choices made from fear or distrust to be unjustified, of wanting to be rewarded for taking a risk on the good faith of other humans. I'm sure I don't know it as well as anyone who's read by strangers as a woman, though. 

When Faith and I tried to write a post about Orlando for Solarpunk Press, my first pass included a lot of commentary about the media's tendency to reduce and splinter narratives, asking solarpunks to resist the encouragement to pit narratives about gun violence against against narratives of homophobia against narratives of individual disposition. This was a product of all those, and more.

Vi Hart argues here that these shootings are a product of our system's success in teaching men that violence against women won't be punished. She's right. It's also true that if these men had had less access to guns, they would have caused less damage. The Pulse shootings are also about racism, and about homophobia. Christina's shooting is also about misogyny, and about male entitlement.

I want the people I care about to feel safe. I care about Vi Hart, and it's upsetting to know that if I tried to express that to her there's a good chance it'd read as threatening.

I wouldn't blame her for reading it that way -- she's right to be cautious. There's no easy way to tell "I hope that society changes in a way that makes it safer for you and for everyone" from "I've decided that it would be okay for me to kidnap you and put you in a bunker, because there are scary people out there and I don't understand that I'm one of them."

There's no way to tell whether hypothetical-bunker-guy would turn violent when he finds out somebody doesn't want to be kidnapped so he can protect them.

This also makes me think about, and worry for, many other people I care about, who I do have an actual relationship with. 

In the first episode of his new podcast, Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell talks about moral licensing as it applies to societies: how token signs of progress get treated as permission to regress in daily practice. White people who voted for Barack Obama, for example, often held themselves less accountable afterward to resist holding racist views. The fact that the Republican party followed two terms of Obama by nominating Donald Trump is a pretty good example of how this is playing out in American politics. 

I know how Vi is feeling right now: the temptation to approach tragedy and crisis analytically is strong. But it doesn't work -- not on its own, anyway. We need detailed and practical exercises in empathy, individually and as communities and societies.

Channel Criswell's "Apocalypse Now" analysis

Spoiler and content warning: this is a detailed analysis of a movie about the horrors of war. 

I haven't actually seen Apocalypse Now, but I really enjoyed watching this analysis, which approaches the movie from a spiritual thematic perspective.

Criswell, the creator of this video, is currently being sued by, I believe, Stanley Kubrick's estate, for use of clips in one of his videos. As far as I can tell, it's a bullshit lawsuit based on a refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of YouTube videos as educational or critical, but even winning this lawsuit could ruin him. (I don't know much about Criswell aside from some of his videos, and he trips some red flags that make me extra-vigilant for examples of him being a huge asshole, but either way this lawsuit is scary on an internet freedoms level.)

Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation

I just realized I haven't blogged about this yet!

Sunvault is a kickstarter project for an anthology of solarpunk fiction. At 9 days in they're at about $2,000, out of their $5,000 goal, and they have a lot of cool and reasonably priced backer rewards.

I'm really excited to see another solarpunk publication in the works, and I can't wait to see it get funded -- I hope they hit their goal in time to reach for some of their stretch goals, too.

I'm backing at the $25 level, to get a paperback copy of the anthology and spray art by Phoebe Wagner, one of the two editors. (Because it includes shipping for a painting, that one ends up being $44 in the U.S.)

Y'all should definitely check it out, and pledge.

Solarpunk Press is doing other kinds of stuff now, too

Today we published "Hand-cranked mountain bikes: An interview with Mike Augspurger, inventor of the One-Off Handcycle," who I worked with at Hampshire in my Appropriate Technology class. The handcycle is a really cool piece of technology, a three-wheeled bike that's pedaled by hand and steered by shifting on a chest support, and seeks to provide the best possible athletic experience for people who use wheelchairs.

I really liked doing this and I'm looking forward to doing more.

Sponge capitalism

I don't normally use this blog just to signal boost Tumblr posts (that's what Tumblr is for) but check out this incredible analysis, "The Red Sponge: Spongebob's role in enforcing an oppressive, capitalistic society."

Excerpt: 

Patrick represents the bourgeois caricature of the working class that capitalists want you to buy into. He is ignorant, undereducated, and lazy. He lives under a rock, likely because he can’t afford anything else — although he doesn’t seem to mind. Patrick appears to deserve his poverty because he does nothing but sleep, yet he also seems at peace with his lot. This idea of the happy, unproductive bum simultaneously vilifies and justifies the proletariat. “See, they’re poor because they just don’t work hard enough! In fact, they like being poor!” Patrick Star is arguably one of the most offensive cartoon depictions of this generation.

Adobe Font Design coming next year?!?!?

Okay so my source on this isn't awesome. By which I mean there's no reason to think she wouldn't be reliable, and she has video evidence, but that doesn't mean it's coming next year.

Karen Kavett's latest video, "New Photoshop Features From THE FUTURE??," discusses (among many other things) a new software Adobe was demoing that allows you to "design and customize fonts in minutes," according to Kavett. 

The relevant part is at 5m25s. I tried to embed it jumping right to that point, maybe you can't do that anymore.

I couldn't find any other writing about it, in the 10 minutes I searched before going to class this morning, but that makes sense for a new product they've only just announced -- Kavett didn't name the software in the video, so I don't know if it even has an official name yet, or if that's being explicitly withheld.

Anyway -- I couldn't be more excited. Font design is one of the very small handful of functions that I really think Adobe should offer, which they don't. (Other functions include running my whole life.) I've put off getting into casual font design because while I think I could do it in Illustrator, it would be a difficult process in a software outside its comfort zone. I'd be outside my comfort zone, too, since I haven't used Illustrator since high school. (Things I should start getting better at again, number 117.)

The end of obnoxious restaurant knock-offs of Happy Birthday

In a ruling on a court case that's been going on for two years, Rupa Maria v Warner/Chappel Music, the copyright on the Happy Birthday song has been struck down; Happy Birthday is now legally in the public domain.

XKCD celebrated appropriately.

Idea Channel: Trigger Warnings

The new "Idea Channel" is about trigger warnings in college curricula, and I'm really fond of it. I'm glad (not surprised) that Mike is on the side of trigger warnings as enabling discussion, not stifling it.

Particularly, I'm glad he addressed the point about exposure therapy being a specific, complex, highly controlled and very painful psychological process undergone with the guidance of professional mental health workers, not just "throw it at 'em, they'll feel better after." The reality is that being unexpectedly exposed to a trigger is likely to make the trauma worse -- it reinforces the brain's habitual response that the trigger is connected to heightened, painful emotional states. Being able to prepare for this by way of trigger warnings, and make informed decisions about what one can and can't handle, is actually much more compatible with exposure therapy than refusing to give warnings would be.

And I love his point at the end. It's a really good video altogether.

They Might Be Giants: Definition of Good

I've had a lot of stuff to get done today, and for most of it, I've been listening to the new Dial-a-Song song over and over again, Definition of Good. It's adorable.

I'm listening to it as I write this post, and I will be listening to it several more times as I write the next thing I have to write. I recommend it very highly.

Signal boost: Why Are You So Angry?

"Why Are You So Angry?" is a six-part YouTube series about the social phenomenon of GamerGate, and about anger, hate and defensiveness in general online. It's the best explanation I've seen of the difference between willful and regular ignorance, too. It's really worth the time, and I recommend checking it out.

Back from Readercon with news

Wow, a lot just happened.

If you follow me on Tumblr, you might have noticed that I'm gearing up to open submissions for a new solarpunk web magazine! Submissions are going to open on July 27, which I'll definitely post about here. 

I spent most of today working on stuff for that -- so I have a whole lot to talk about, but I don't want to say any of it just yet. The stuff we've already said out loud, though, is that we're going to pay $0.03/word for stories between about 2,000 and 5,000 words, to do 12 issues of 1 story a month starting in October. We'll be setting up a Patreon account in hopes of making the project self-sustaining, and hopefully of making it bigger, but we feel like even if we have to pack it in after 12 stories it's worth it to get some good solarpunk fiction out there.

Also we're gonna podcast it.

I love Readercon.


If you want to know right away when submissions open, subscribe to the mailing list at tinyletter.com/txwatson. I'm going to send exactly one email out on that list, then delete all the subscribers, so you don't have to worry about ever getting spam from me there.

Short story: Smaug, MD

I was poking through my old posts and I came across this one, from the first few days of my 2013 reboot. I was glad I came across it, because this story has been floating to mind lately. It's a great dragon story, and I was thinking about digging it up to post on Tumblr.

The post was called "Smaug, MD via Daily Science Fiction." Here it is, reproduced in its entirety:


Want a good, fast short story about dragons that doesn't involve any burning villages?  Smaug, MD by Andrew Kaye is one of the coolest short stories I've read recently, and it's up at Daily Science Fiction for free.

Doctor Longtooth tapped at the x-ray images with a single gold-sheathed talon. A troubled series of clicks rattled at the back of his throat. Smoke dribbled from the corners of his mouth. "I am sorry, Mr. Callahan," his voice rumbled. "It is at stage four. And the tissue is dying."

My father stared at the images. What should have been the black shadows of his lungs were instead a foggy white reminiscent of frosted glass. "That's it then," he said, taking my hand and squeezing. "It's over. It was a good life while it lasted."

(Keep reading...)

Just Between Us: Adult Tantrum

Fun fact: the new Just Between Us caused me to have a mini version of exactly the breakdown depicted in the video! Warning: Don't watch if you're 26 and insecure about your accomplishments so far in life.[1. These two have a web series that gets tens of thousands of views. What have I done? :(]

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

I just noticed last night that the Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell TV series has started! I'm so excited. First things first: The show confirms, it's pronounced Norrell, not Norrell. The only person who accents the end of the word (and who also trills the R) is Drawlight, which is not a point in favor of that pronunciation.

Second: it's fantastic. So far, it has the feeling of a period romance, which is exactly the sort of feeling I would have hoped I'd get from the show.

Third: It's apparently free online. So go watch it. It's great.

They Might Be Giants Dial-A-Song week 23: Hello Mrs. Wheelyke

Yesterday, I wrote a handful of short reviews of recent They Might Be Giants songs. Then, when I hit publish, I got an error message and they were all gone. So today, I’m going to try and write them again, as four separate posts, and save regularly. As in, like, every couple of sentences.


Week 23: Hello Mrs. Wheelyke

This is the latest Dial-A-Song song, and it's just so damn cute. It's coded, but not like ECNALUBMA: it reminds me of something Lemony Snicket would write, which is a welcome kind of nostalgia. Also, it's fun to watch a video that's just John and John singing.