Saturday, August 29, 2015

Are You a Racist?

I've seen this clip posted on social media three times as an example of unfair journalism.

If you don't have the time or the inclination to watch it, lemmie give you a quick precis:

In 1996, there was a rally in California protesting Prop187, which made it harder for undocumented workers to use public services.  In the video, two supporters of 187 are interviewed, one injured by the protesters.  A Latina interviewer asks the man if he's okay, then starts the interview.
Reporter: Are you a racist?
White Guy: Why is it that people who stand up for America and want to protect our own borders, why are we always being backed up with the racist thing?
It's a pretty good answer, but then he goes off the rails.
White Guy: I'm standing here with a black man.  How can I be a racist?
You read that right.  He goes full on "I have a black friend."  The aforementioned black friend then jumps in with all the calm eloquence of a rabid yak dancing in an active volcano.
Black Friend: That's a dumb question to ask.  You ask that so you can put it on your program to make him look like a racist.  Why don't you ask me if I'm racist?  Because I'm black.  Right? You're a racist for asking him that question.  You're only doing it because he's white, and that's what you're going to show on your report tonight.  You shouldn't play that kind of game.  That's a dumb question.
Yeah, yelling at a reporter makes you look less like a racist than just answering the question.  He eventually makes a point.
Black Friend: You're in America, taking advantages of all America has to offer, and your only comment is "Are you a racist?"  That doesn't make any sense.
Let's ignore the falsehood there, and move on to his final comment, which I call the "coup de jackass."
Black Friend: Are you here legally?
Niiiice.  A little surprised he didn't ask her to make him a taco or test to see how wet her back is.

Anyway, there are things about this video I'd like to point out.

"Are you a racist?" is what reporters call a softball question.
The scene from "The Insider" where the terrorist doesn't get mad at Mike Wallace for this question.
You should be able to answer "Are you a racist?" as easily as "Have you ever killed anyone?" or "Do you love your mother?"  If you can't, if you've never thought about it, maybe you are.

In any case, a question is just a question.  You can answer it calmly, deflect, refuse to answer, or totally lose your shit.  Guess what these guys chose.

The best interviewers give you enough rope for you to hang yourself.  This reporter nods as he ties a noose around his neck and dives off a cliff.

Marketers call this a missed opportunity.
Everyone wants to believe their opponents are stupid and evil.  The reporter was asking for those who saw this man and his friends as enemies.  Instead of showing them he was a caring, thoughtful opponent, he reinforced their views by freaking out.

He gave them the evil stupidity they expected.

Are you a racist?

Asking someone if they're a racist is a challenge.

It means, show us your reasons for attacking a minority group.  Show us you've examined your own motives.  Show us why we should trust you.  Convince us you're not a bigot.

Are we racist?
Here's the short answer.
Humans tend to form groups and alienate the other groups.  We're normal, so they're different.  We're good, so they're evil.  We're wealthy, so they're lazy.  We've got the majority in congress, so we have the right to make rules that oppress others.

It's impossible to completely resist that pull, but if you don't try, if you don't constantly re-examine your motives and attitudes, you're a racist.

Or a homophobe.

Or a misogynist.

Or whatever.

Am I a racist?
I posted this joke last week.
Omfg. Guy at next table: "My wife told me to get rid of anything I haven't used in a year and doesn't give me joy. So I divorced her."
There was no guy at the next table, but I was afraid I'd be (rightfully) condemned for reducing women to their sexual function.  Still, it was funny.  Bigotry is always funny to the bigot.

Afterwards, I wrote a piece about the reaction people from the sixties would have to our society.  I figured they'd react with bigotry, so I wrote the bigotry into it.

Yes, it's funny.

No, I won't post it.


I'm going to keep working on it.  Throwing it out would be too easy.  Posting it as is with a caveat would be too easy.  Working on it makes me confront my own bigotry.

I grew up in a time where movies used beating homosexuals and wives as comic relief.  I grew up in a time when minorities were portrayed as criminals.  I grew up in a time when rape was a punchline.

I'm always swimming against the bigotry of my past.  Sometimes I make progress.  Sometimes I fall behind.

Are you a racist?

That's a softball question.  The answer is "I try not to be."

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Cure for Two Epidemics

We have an obesity epidemic in this country.  You all know about it.

The average American weight has trended up since the sixties.  Nobody's exactly sure why.  It could be our focus on low-fat diets or the increased consumption of sugars (they're in everything nowadays) or our increasing consumption of fast foods.

Or it could be how little we exercise.

You'd think, with the endorphin rush you get after a workout, personal trainers would be rich.

Maybe they spend it all on equipment.
We have a drug addiction epidemic in this country.  You all know about it.

The amount Americans spend on drugs has trended up since the seventies.  Nobody's exactly sure why.  It could be the new prevalence of marijuana or the way mass media portrays drug use.

Or it could be because drugs make us feel good.

You'd think, with so many people taking drugs, drug dealers would be rich.

Maybe they spend it all on equipment.
I came up with a solution.  You all need to know about it.
Step One: Legalize recreational drugs but require all drug dealers be licensed personal trainers.
That way, we give drug dealers an alternate profession so they can move out of their parent's basements and give personal trainers extra income so they can also move out of their parent's basements.

Yeah, drugs are harmful to your health, but we can fix that with...

Step Two: Make all drug purchases require one hour of fitness training before use.
That way, you have to get fit to balance out the damage the drugs are doing to your system.  Addicts can't get stoned more than once a day, because they'd pass out from exertion first.
Then their trainers get their drugs.

I should head the DEA.  Now you know about it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Few Things I Found On My Camera

I have a tendency to take pictures of things I find amusing in my daily life.  Turns out you can find anything funny if you try.  (For example, death.  Ha!  Suckers!)  Here's a few amusing things from my sad life... I mean, things I found humorous.

Elsa and Anna
Disney is selling a Frozen cereal.  Not an ice cream, a cereal; let that sink in.

Anyway, while looking at the cereal box for my kids (not for myself I'd never eat something like that it's for myself go away stop touching me), I noticed one of the characters doing something odd.

No, it's not that Elsa's eyes are half the size of her head.
  Didn't see it?  Try again.
No, it's not Elsa's magical, floating bangs.  Jeez, look at the circle I drew!
It's the infamous two finger insult.  

Remember the famous penis castle from the cover of The Little Mermaid?  It seems the artist working on the Frozen cereal was angry.  He assumed Americans wouldn't notice they were being insulted.

Sriracha Powder
I just found this at the supermarket.

You can make your own Sriracha?  You can make your own Sriracha.  YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN SRIRACHA!!

Did Julia Child know about this?

Firefighters Memorial
Found this at my local park last week.

Wow!  It's concrete.  In the ground!!
It's this time capsule thingy.  You know, they take ordinary stuff and bury it in the ground.  You're supposed to dig it out hundreds of years later.
Or a whole fifty years later!!!
Not sure what they'd find important enough to bury that we wouldn't have today.  8-track tapes?  Polyester?  Typewriters?  Free love?

Anyway, it was the smaller plaque that caught my eye.

You think the Republicans complain about how the firefighters union ruins the economy along with the teachers unions, labor unions, and public sector unions?
That's right, the firefighters paid money to contribute bronze plaques for the time capsule.  They get a plaque for paying for the plaque.

And lo, corporate sponsorship was born.

Selfie Sticks
I found one of the signs of the apocalypse mentioned in Revelations:
Rev 23:8-10:
And lo, the vain were condemned to the ninth circle.  There, upon the racks of torture they 'force-ed the damned to choose the hue and color of their selfie sticks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

All I Know About Minecraft

This is all I know about Minecraft.

Minecraft is a video game.

A video game is like a board game, but there are far more people screaming about how video games ruin children's lives.  Video games are more fun for that same reason.

Minecraft has two modes: survival and creative.

Survival Mode is played like most video games.  You mine for materials and build things with them to defend yourself from mobs.  Mobs are monsters.  They're named after the Black Friday crowds at WalMart.
Spot the differences in these two pictures.  Hint: there aren't any.
Grownups like Survival Mode.  While your kid is digging in the dirt or trying to ride a donkey or stacking TNT on top of each other, you protect them from hordes of zombie pigmen, build them a house, grow their food, train their pets, and provide them with tools they need to survive.  Survival Mode is also called Parenting Just Like in Real Life Mode.

Creative Mode is like a box of Lego; you can build whatever you like.  The difference between Minecraft and Lego is that one costs $250.
You think I'm kidding?  This is the project my son is working on.
Kids like Creative Mode.  They get to build giant, flaming penises on the top of mountains.
You think I'm kidding?  This is the project my son is working on.
While your son trains to be a urologist, you build a replica of the giant castle you fantasized about in Junior High.  Just as you're figuring out where all the secret passages go, your kid blows it up with a stack of TNT.  While you repair your castle, he builds a giant tower right in front of it.  When you explain he built his tower where the stables should be, he'll call you a brat and stomp off to his room.  Then you blow his tower up with a stack of TNT while he's in his room.  Only he was secretly watching you from the kitchen and bursts into tears.  Then your wife comes home, and you end up sleeping in the guest room with the cats.

Or so I've heard.

Minecraft was made (almost) entirely by a man named Markus Persson, also known as Notch.

One day, someone on the internet said Notch would only sell Minecraft "for two billion dollars."  Microsoft bought Minecraft the next day for two billion dollars.  This day is called "The Day of Great Sorrow" by my children.  The anniversary of The Day of Great Sorrow is marked by tantrums and fits of crying followed by bribes of candy, ice cream, screen time, and going to bed late.  The Day of Great Sorrow has become a daily event in our household.

Since Microsoft bought Minecraft, the biggest change they've made is to replace the one, continuing, unending, relentless, looping background song.  There are now several continuing, unending, relentless, looping background songs.  There is no room in a house far enough away from Minecraft to keep you from hearing the songs until they're stuck in your head.  Later, your children will hum the songs continuously, unendingly, and relentlessly.  You can't turn the volume down on your children, no matter how many buttons you push.

Your children will play Minecraft and only Minecraft.

They'll try Terraria if you tell them "It's just like Minecraft!"  They'll play Halo if you tell them "It's an M-rated game.  Don't tell mom."  After a few days, however, they'll be building giant, flaming penises on the tops of mountains.

There are many videos on YouTube about things people made in Minecraft.

Some of them are quite clever (like a working PacMan game).  Most of them, however, show you how to build giant, flaming penises on the tops of mountains or teach your children swear words to shout at your parents when they make you stop building giant, flaming penises on the tops of mountains.

Minecraft runs on several platforms.

It runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux.  It runs on Xbox 360 and Xbox One.  It runs on Playstation 3 and 4.  It runs on iOS and Android mobile devices.  It even runs on Windows Phone, even though people don't run on Windows Phone.

Each platform is slightly different.  When you buy the game for Xbox, your child will want it on Android, to take on trips.  When you buy your game for Android, he will want it on PC, to get the latest improvements.  When you buy it on PC, he will insist the game is "too laggy" and want it on Xbox.

In the end, you'll spend $136 on Minecraft.  It's still cheaper than Lego.
Also, you never step on lost pieces of Minecraft in the night and scream like a cheerleader at a homecoming game.
The PC version of Minecraft allows for user-created modifications known as mods.

Mods add gameplay or make basic player actions (such as building a giant, flaming penis on the top of a mountain) more easily. 

You must never download mods.  Ever.

Here's why:  Your child wants you download the Traincraft mod.  Traincraft can't be installed without the Forge mod. Forge can't be installed even after you try for hours.  You email the creators.  The creators insist nothing is wrong and suggest you check for viruses.  You install an antivirus program and find eight dozen.  By downloading mods, you (or your children) infected your computer with more viruses than a Kardashian on spring break in Barbados.  Meanwhile, all your friends ask why you've sent them mail about how penis enlargement drugs changed your life.

Or so I've heard.

And that's all I know about Minecraft.