Wednesday, 29 September 2010

More tea, anyone?

Matt Taibbi has a piece out on the Tea Party movement that is great to read. I wanted to highlight a couple of exchanges in particular:
At a Paul fundraiser in northern Kentucky, I strike up a conversation with one Lloyd Rogers, a retired judge in his 70s who is introducing the candidate at the event. The old man is dressed in a baseball cap and shirtsleeves. Personalitywise, he's what you might call a pistol; one of the first things he says to me is that people are always telling him to keep his mouth shut, but he just can't. I ask him what he thinks about Paul's position on the Civil Rights Act.
"Well, hell, if it's your restaurant, you're putting up the money, you should be able to do what you want," says Rogers. "I tell you, every time he says something like that, in Kentucky he goes up 20 points in the polls. With Kentucky voters, it's not a problem."
In Lexington, I pose the same question to Mica Sims, a local Tea Party organizer. "You as a private-property owner have the right to refuse service for whatever reason you feel will better your business," she says, comparing the Civil Rights Act to onerous anti-smoking laws. "If you're for small government, you're for small government."
You look into the eyes of these people when you talk to them and they genuinely don't see what the problem is. It's no use explaining that while nobody likes the idea of having to get the government to tell restaurant owners how to act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the tool Americans were forced to use to end a monstrous system of apartheid that for 100 years was the shame of the entire Western world. But all that history is not real to Tea Partiers; what's real to them is the implication in your question that they're racists, and to them that is the outrage, and it's an outrage that binds them together. They want desperately to believe in the one-size-fits-all, no-government theology of Rand Paul because it's so easy to understand. At times, their desire to withdraw from the brutally complex global economic system that is an irrevocable fact of our modern life and get back to a simpler world that no longer exists is so intense, it breaks your heart.
I had a house mate at one time with whom I had a rather heated discussion about  the role of government, and the Civil Rights Act came up. What really got to me was how fired up he was about the rights of business owners rather than the denial of human dignity to a whole swathe of the US population that made such a law necessary. I'm loathe to think that what makes me describe myself as a "Dirty Fucking Hippy" as rather than a Conservative or a Libertarian is a concern for the less powerful, as well as the history and structures that have shaped present inequalities, but these days I get little in the way of disconfirming evidence.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Taxonomy Of Rap Names

I was bumming around on the intertrons, when I found this. As you may already know, I'm a sucker for this kind of representation of data.

... Look at all the pretty colours.

Thursday, 16 September 2010


Another day, another weird dream. This time I was walking along a wet tarmac path at night time. I could tell because of the way the light came off of the path. It reminded me of the path through the little field in my college town that I would walk through on my way to my ex’s house. The sky was clear and the air was fresh and cool, like just after rain. The most striking thing about this dream was just how vivid it was. Everything felt so real, the breeze, the sound of my footsteps, everything. That was until the stars started exploding.

The first explosion caught me by surprise. I couldn’t believe what I’d just seen, but the material from the star, spread out in a doughnut shape like a firework, confirmed what had happened. Then another star went off, and another, and I was suddenly filled with the urge to get closer.

I jumped, higher than humanly possible. I tried to fly but I could only muster a kind of double jump that left me hanging in the air after I had finished accelerating skywards, then falling slowly to the ground. No idea what it meant, but it's better than getting shot in the head by a classmate.

Monday, 13 September 2010

A Western Disease

Over at Ta-Nehisi coates' blog I listened to an NPR interview with Jeff Sharlet about David Bahati (below), the author of Uganda's bill to eradicate gay people homosexuality. I found Sharlet's account of Bahati chilling, and the apparent cynicism of Museveni maddening.

Like Coates, I was touched by the notion that homosexuality is alien to authentic African societies.To my shame, I actually used to accept such nonsense as fact. Growing up I would encounter messaging, both subtle and not so subtle, that asserted the inherent superiority of white people and European culture. It was like the very air I had to breath. It still is to tell the truth, but that's for another post.

Thinking back on it, I realise I believed such a myth because it was was a way to attack the supposed superiority of whites and European societies in all things. The idea that homosexuality is disgusting and unnatural, used to argue that any culture that "produces" gay people is inherently flawed. Et voila. An instant salve the mitigate the smearing of a continent.

Man, the dumb things I believed.

At the age of 14 I'm chasing some guy who coded quite feminine around the playground shouting "battyman!" At 22 I'm getting hit on by gay men, and I don't care. Hell, it's nice to feel attractive, and in Japan I can't say I felt that way very often.

If you were to ask me how I changed I think the biggest thing is my curiosity. I love to know. It's how I came across data that destroyed a lot of the things I thought I knew. Like, "Cleopatra was Greek?!" The truth can mess you up like the blood of Glaurung. It's how I lost my religion. And losing my religion was a huge blow to my homophobia.

People who met me after university, tend to think I'm joking when I say that I was a soldier for Christ. I used to go to this huge evangelical church in London called the Kingsway International Christian Centre with my uncle and his adopted kids, and lift up my voice, and my hands, to the Lord. I kid you not.

At the same time, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something a little off with basis of my beliefs. My questions were not encouraged, and doubt turned to outright mistrust. When I gave up on religion (sorry Lord, not enough evidence) I no longer had any obligation to view homosexuality as wrong, and the more I learned about human sexuality the less I cared about what sex a person was attracted to.

(Check out my previous post on the anti-gay bill here.)

Monday, 6 September 2010

Little People

"I'm hairy because my dad was really hairy!" my niece asserted. And believe you me, my niece asserts with aplomb. It was like as I was hearing her I watched a medal winning high-dive in my mind's eye.

After regaling me with the difference between a mono/uni-brow and an omni brow*, she put her face to the living room mirror and scrunched up her face - to better reveal the nose hairs she had begun to fret over, I later learned.

"Do you have a tail-comb?"


She ran off to my mum's room and came back with one, then began to style her eyebrows. The most interesting of these was when she combed them up into the shape of a Vulcan's eybrows, like from Startrek.

Yes, I am a bad uncle. I express mild wonder at the beauty of my niece and nephew's burgeoning personalities. I've been away chasing that paper. So I've ended up missing out on siginificant periods of my niece and nephew's growing up. The last time I spent any significant amount of time with them, they weren't in the habit of describing their feelings or opinions in detail or as arguments. Now, as they engage me in discussion  I sometimes think to myself, "My goodness!"

As I looked at my niece scrunching up her face in the mirror, I began to imagine the woman that she would become. I began to wonder about the feelings she might have about her body, and how they could change as she develops. It made me feel some kind of way.

*A mono/uni-brow travels across the brow in a straight line, an omni-brow takes a dip between the eyes. Apparently.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Whatever, man. I laughed

H/T Andrew Sullivan's blog at the Atlantic