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Best Christmas special ever


The surprise BBC hit of the holiday season was two hours of a woman leading reindeer through the snow. In realtime. No dialogue, no music. The occasional caption. Boots crunching in snow.

We sat mesmerized through every minute of it, and we weren’t alone.

It was the latest installment of a phenomenon known as ‘slow tv’ popularized by the Norwegian Broadcast Company (though you could trace its lineage to Andy Warhol and the Sixties if you’d’a mind to; Wikipedia did). Their first effort was a seven hour train ride.

The reindeer lady is a Sami (the people we used to call Lapps), the natives of the far North. The route is an old postal route inland from the coast. Along the way, she meets up and parts company with another lady and some guys and they shake hands and mutter things in an unknown language. But mostly it’s just the backend of the reindeer. The reindeer have bells on.

And that’s it. That’s the whole thing.

You can watch the first two minutes of it here. Or you can just watch my header loop for two hours.

December 28, 2015 — 10:25 pm
Comments: 16

Racist Atticus Finch was first Atticus Finch


Welp, Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman went on sale today, and lefty hearts exploded all over the world. Here, if you needed some cheering up, some quotes from the article I just linked:

The New York Times said the revelation could “reshape Ms Lee’s legacy” and made for “disturbing reading”.

Writing for The Guardian, Mark Lawson said: “If the text now published had been the one released in 1960, it would almost certainly not have achieved the same greatness. This is not so much due to literary inferiority, but because Go Set a Watchman is a much less likeable and school-teachable book.

The Independent’s Arifa Akbar said: “We will never be able to read Mockingbird in the same way again, and never see Atticus in the same light again.

(By the way, LOL at the name Arifa Akbar. You reckon when they call out her table in a restaurant, everybody hits the deck?).

This is because Watchman’s Atticus Finch is a racist who once belonged to the Klan (“when it was respectable, like the Masons”) and says things like, “Do you want your children going to a school that’s been dragged down to accommodate Negro children?”

Oh, the book is still anti-racist — it takes place twenty years after Mockingbird and the whole point is that a grownup, sophisticated Scout winces at the n-word — but Atticus Finch was a beloved icon, now unceremoniously de-pedestalled.

Tee hee.

Even better, it turns out Watchman was actually the first draft of Mockingbird. Lee’s literary agent read it and thought it would work better if she extracted the flashbacks and made them into their own book. So racist Atticus was there all along, the first and original Atticus.

Tee hee hee.

If any of you actually read it, would you let me know if it’s well written? Because she never published again, there was a persistent rumor that Truman Capote, her lifelong friend (and the model for Dill) was the actual author.

July 14, 2015 — 9:06 pm
Comments: 16

A couple transgressive thoughts on race


The thing about this flag is, it’s the symbol of an America that is not entirely white. Without the organized slave trade, there would be (virtually) zero black people in America, and this flag became emblematic of that. I’m not sure the right people are swinging it around.

You can thank my slave-owning, plantation-running, lazy-ass louche Southern ancestors for an America that doesn’t look like Scandihoovia. Let this flag be your reminder.

Although…did you know in the 300 years of the slave trade to the colonies, fewer than half a million were sent to the U.S.? Of the ten million that came over in chains, nearly all ended up in the Caribbean and Brazil.

I hate to send you to Slate, but they have a genuinely fascinating animated map that demonstrates the flow of peoples.

There. I don’t know why I ever post about race. Nothing good can come of it.

July 2, 2015 — 8:52 pm
Comments: 14

…cat pictures…cat pictures…


Oh, no. Oh no no no. White boy shoots up black folks in historic black church…that’s not one for this blog. It was a monstrous atrocity, I hope justice is swift and complete (SC has the death penalty) and let’s move things back into my comfort zone.

Fart jokes and cat pictures.

Uncle B took this one. I was going to call it a cute cat picture, but Jack’s eyes aren’t really focused and he has that sinister smile. I don’t trust this look.

Today is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. The French have their culottes in a twist; they were hoping everyone would just let it pass, but Britain is making plenty of WOOHOO! about it. Belgium has even made a commemorative coin, which isn’t going down so great.

And finally, catnip has won the Dead Pool with Kirk Kerkorian. She tried to take it back when it turned out the timestamps of her choosing and his becoming a good choice were awfully close, but I insisted.

But no good deed goes unpunished, and awarding catnip the dick shut out Pupster, whose pick — Jeralean Talley, world’s oldest living woman until Wednesday night — has now shuffled off. I may have to offer Pups a Consolation Dick over that one.

It’s like city buses. We go months without a dead celebrity…

Anyway. That means a short round and a new Dead Pool tomorrow. Be here. Six WBT. DEAD POOL ROUND 75.

June 18, 2015 — 10:38 pm
Comments: 19

Well, the SS would take me

And there it is. It’s a color-coded pie chart showing the different components of my ancestry. The charts come in three flavors: conservative (90% confidence, but boringly generic), standard (75% confidence and a little more detail) and speculative (51% confidence but breaks it out by country as best it can).

This bit is wobbly science at the moment. They have to decide at the outset the time period they’re trying to tweeze out of the data. 23andme concentrates on what of your DNA dates from the last 500 years. Other services (and, yes, you can submit your raw data to many other services, some free) looks at ancient DNA, or specifically European DNA, or…well, lots of things. These filters are evolving (and, one hopes, improving constantly).

Anyway, I am (more or less) 99.7% European, of which 46.5% British. A little less Brit than I thought, but I did have a German great grandfather and a French one. Also, apparently, their specific model for British/Irish and French/German is not very good (hence the way all four are lumped together).

What’s that? The other 3%? Those little strips of different color at noon? Um, one each of Ashkenazi, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. That’s, um, not necessarily what it looks like. It may mean 3% of the DNA was too old to slot into a European framework and so pointed to older DNA from nearer the human diaspora. Or it could mean my great-great-great grandmother slept with a mixed race field hand.

You choose!

April 2, 2015 — 9:46 pm
Comments: 11

What weasels is made of

So, my DNA is winging its way to a lab in the Netherlands (I think) even as we speak. It was inevitable, once I got interested in the DNA of the local population, that I would start wondering what was in my own. BTW, dredging up 1cc of spit is surprisingly hard to do. Bubbles don’t count!

I looked around at different services and decided 23andMe suited me best. They report on ancestry (i.e. ethnicity) but also genetic risk factors, inherited conditions, some genetic traits and drug responses. I understand some people really, really don’t want to know those last few things, and for them there’s ancestry (the DNA testing service of ancestry.com) which only does ethnicity.

It’s worth having a poke around and see what they can find in your genes these days. Eye color, birth weight, baldness. Yeah, I know you know all those things about yourself, but knowing we can identify the genes means we can tell so much more about the people whose bones we dig up. Or the people who commit crimes and are careless enough to leave DNA behind.

Even more interesting, in a way, is what they can’t tell: they can’t measure Jewish or Native American ancestry. Well, they can trace Ashkenazi Jews, but not Middle Eastern lines, which are just semitic. And American Indians show up as generic Far Eastern (and ha! ha! to the indigenous campaigners who denied this obvious fact).

My family’s been in the States a long, long time, so I’m not going to be a purebred anything. This post represents my pledge to you: if something distinctly unWASPy shakes out of my family tree — say, a gypsy or hottentot — I will freely confess. And then I’ll start applying for all that sweet, sweet government aid to minorities.

Good weekend!

March 6, 2015 — 9:51 pm
Comments: 22

Political correctness run ahhhh…oh. Hm.

So there’s this pub in Staffordshire called the Labour in Vain, and this is their sign. They’ve recently changed ownership and the new management is being asked to reconsider the signage.

If you turn your head to one side and squint, you can kind of see what the problem is. Though gramps is actually manning the pump handle and not a rubber hose, as I had originally thought.

Though Britain has more than its share of PC police, a fair bit of this kind of iconography is still around (see: golliwogs). Their history is so different from ours. I guess that explains it. Though there have been sub-Saharan Africans in Britain since Roman times (or at least one, anyway), they were uncommon until amazingly recently.

Britain began encouraging immigration from Jamaica in the Fifties, to help fill a shortage of bus drivers and construction workers. One old lady confided in me that she had never seen a black person until she was a teenager. A black man moved into her London neighborhood, and they would drive around and around the block hoping to catch a glimpse of him. That’s pretty much within my lifetime.

Though it was still too much for Liz the First:

There were so many black people in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, that in 1596 she demanded that they be expelled from the country.

There was a fear that they might be taking jobs away from English citizens and also a concern that they were ‘infidels’. Yet another edict from the Queen, at first it brought no action. However it was then followed up by a Royal Proclamation, issued in 1601, and a Lubeck merchant, Caspar van Senden, was licensed to remove all ‘negroes and blackamoores’.

And that, my homies, is quite enough of that.

February 4, 2015 — 11:16 pm
Comments: 6

I guess it’s a plan

This has made the rounds of the right-o-sphere, so I’m sure you ‘wingers have seen it: the anti-police protesters in New York City yesterday who decided to disrupt…brunch.

Brunch! Because eating restaurant food at ten in the morning is a white people thing, I guess. That picture, it’s a genuine candid shot of brunchageddon. Four sulky brown people confront a white couple just tryin’a enjoy a cup of joe of a Sunday morning. Guy on the right is reading a list of black people killed by cops. No, wait…that piece of paper isn’t big enough. Must be the gal on the far left.

I love everything about this picture, though it makes me clench harder than an episode of I Love Lucy.

All progressive movements eventually descend into self-parody. Eh, probably all political movements, come to think of it.

Anyway, I particularly love the logic behind this thing. So you think this guy is a violent racist cracker who doesn’t give a shit about murdered black people, and your solution is to bug him while he tries to eat? Somebody hoping for martyrdom, or have they simply not thought this through?

January 5, 2015 — 9:51 pm
Comments: 21

They’re just trolling us now…

Despite everything going on in the world today, the second most read article at the BBC News website when I checked the news this morning was this one: Tom and Jerry cartoons carry racism warning. It’s from Amazon’s streaming service (formerly LoveFilm) and the warning on Volume 2 is:

“Tom and Jerry shorts may depict some ethnic and racial prejudices that were once commonplace in American society. Such depictions were wrong then and are wrong today.”

Emphasis mine, because of the staggering presumption of “wrong then.”

The problem, not surprising, is the character the Wikipedia article refers to as “Mammy two shoes” — presumably because she looks like the classic 19th C mammy character, and all you usually ever see are her legs.

I’m going to cry foul on anyone who calls her “the maid character” though. I’m sure I’ve seen every Tom and Jerry ever, and I recall *no* evidence she was not in her own home and mistress thereof. Thomas is clearly her cat, she’s dressed in the sort slobbing-around-the-house clothes I seriously doubt she’d wear to work. I think she makes herself a sandwich in one episode.

So this is racist because…she’s fat like Mammy? Because she talks like an American black person? Because she’s wearing slobbing-around-the-house clothes? Really, I think we have a right to insist class warriors tell us specifically what parts of this character are offensive. Because I think the answer would be far more racist than the question.

Oh, insult to injury — and I honestly don’t know if they’re flat-out trolling — this from the Telegraph today.

How the hell did we get to the point that a cartoon Siamese cat with chopsticks is some kind of deadly racist stereotype?

October 1, 2014 — 7:05 pm
Comments: 18

I thought y’all racists needed to see this.

Again and again, until you get it. Y’all need to stop picking on our president of color, like, RIGHT NOW.

If you don’t recognize it, this is a standard internet reaction gif that I deconstructed in P’shop and fiddled with. I just love doing that. I thought about making reaction gifs for a living, but then I thought, “oh, yeah — that shit’s free.”

p.s. Oh, stop complaining. At least I didn’t post it Friday and leave it up for the weekend.

November 18, 2013 — 11:17 pm
Comments: 22