Open Thread and Link Farm, Worldwide Kitty Edition

Thanks to Grace for suggesting the header:

Many of these links I gathered before I went on my east coast trip – which is to say, two weeks ago or more. I wonder if any of them have aged badly in that time?

  1. The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie – The New York Times
    This long article, about the search for information about two brilliant, but very obscure, female musicians in the 1930s, is the most fascinating thing I’ve read all month. I can’t remember who told me to read it, but whoever it was, thank you.
  2. My Family’s Slave
    “She lived with us for 56 years. She raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid, before I realized who she was.” This engrossing, disturbing article has been much-discussed and much-criticized. To me, it’s a valuable slash disturbing article about how easily one can be in complicity with evil, and the author (to me) doesn’t seem to be making excuses for his own participation.
  3. Raspberry Stethoscope — On being a fat medical student, at the start of our metabolism module
  4. How ‘woke’ went from black activist watchword to teen internet slang
  5. No, Cato Institute, Sweatshops Are Not Feminist
    Good article arguing against the pro-sweatshop arguments that are all-too-common.
  6. The painful truth about teeth – The Washington Post
    Living with chronic, treatable tooth pain is commonplace for poor Americans.
  7. Headlines that say GOP bill makes sexual assault a pre-existing condition are misleading | PolitiFact
    What the GOP bill does is make it possible for insurance companies to discriminate against, and refuse to cover, rape victims who seek treatment (such as anti-AIDS medication). That’s horrific, but many progressives seem to believe that the Trumpcare bill explicitly makes singles out rape victims and makes sexual assault a pre-existing condition, and that’s not accurate.
  8. Charles Murray is once again peddling junk science about race and IQ – Vox
  9. House May Be Forced to Vote Again on GOP’s Obamacare Repeal Bill – Bloomberg
    I hadn’t realized that they haven’t yet submitted the bill to the Senate – and neither, apparently, had many Republican representatives.
  10. You don’t get to talk about abortion unless… | Kelly Thinks Too Much
  11. Allied forces knew about Holocaust two years before discovery of concentration camps, secret documents reveal | The Independent
  12. GOP Congressman Frelinghuysen Targets Activist in Letter to Her Employer – WNYC News – WNYC
    Frelinghuysen’s not a minor player – he’s the head of the House Appropriations Committee. This sort of thing, which pretty much zero Republicans will object to, is a far more dire threat to free speech than campus protestors.
  13. Why Colleges Have a Right to Reject Hateful Speakers Like Ann Coulter | New Republic
  14. Ann Coulter at Berkeley: Untangling the Truth | California Magazine
  15. Why Are Women Reluctant to Use the Word Rape? – Flare
  16. The Republican Lawmaker Who Secretly Created Reddit’s Women-Hating ‘Red Pill’ – The Daily Beast
  17. 7 reasons why today’s left should be optimistic – Vox
  18. The War against Chinese Restaurants
    “… there was once a national movement to eliminate Chinese restaurants, using innovative legal methods to drive them out.”
  19. What percent of all humans that ever lived are alive now? – Quora
    Of course, answering this question requires making many assumptions, but the answer is, a bit over 6%.
  20. Asking the Wrong Questions: They’re All Going to Laugh at You: On Three Versions of Much Ado About Nothing
    Very down on Whedon’s version, really loved the Tennant/Tate version.
  21. A Big Diet-Science Lab Has Been Publishing Shoddy Research — Science of Us
    The researcher in question is Brian Wansink, who posted a comment on “Alas” once, years ago, after I criticized a terrible study of his having to do with watching fat people at Chinese buffets.
  22. Republicans exempt their own insurance from their latest health care proposal – Vox
    What complete hypocrites.
  23. Hot Girls Wanted: Exploiting Sex Workers in the Name of Exposing Porn Exploitation? – Hit & Run : Reason.com
    The Netflix documentary, produced by (sigh) Rashida Jones, publicized a porn actress’ real name without her permission, among other things. That seems pretty deplorable.
  24. The Marketplace of Ideas Could Use a Few Product Recalls
    Just because an idea is bad, doesn’t mean it’ll sink.
  25. The Campus Free Speech Battle You’re Not Seeing
  26. Everything We Knew About Sweatshops Was Wrong – The New York Times
  27. Why you should call the government to report crimes committed by extraterrestrials.
  28. How a Professional Climate Change Denier Discovered the Lies and Decided to Fight for Science
    “…then I talked to the climate skeptics who had made this argument to me, and it turns out they had done so with full knowledge they were being misleading.”
  29. Why did Trump win? New research by Democrats offers a worrisome answer. – The Washington Post
    If you have a bit more time, the slideshow presentation of the results is interesting.

world kitty

Posted in Link farms | 36 Comments  

Cartoon: The Hunt For Voter Fraud

voter-fraud-pointer

Read the comic on Fusion!

TRANSCRIPT OF COMIC

Panel 1
A rather cliched-looking hunter, a white man wearing a thick vest with many pockets and a plaid cap with earflaps, is creeping through a woodsy area, holding a rifle and looking around.
HUNTER: I know there’s voter fraud hiding somewhere…

Panel 2
The hunter spots something off-panel and shoots his rifle at it.
HUNTER: A-hah! Take THAT, voter fraud!
RIFLE: BLAM!
OFF-PANEL VOICE: OW!

Panel 3
Voting Rights, a dark-skinned woman with a hole blasted in her chest, has walked up to the Hunter and is chewing him out. The Hunter, rifle pointed towards the ground, looks quite cheerful.

VOTING RIGHTS: Would you PLEASE stop shooting me?
HUNTER: Oh hi, Voting Rights. I was aiming for voter fraud.

Panel 4
The Hunter raises his rifle to point it directly at Voting Rights and cocks the gun.
VOTING RIGHTS: You always say that, but you always hit ME!
HUNTER: What an odd and inexplicable coincidence.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Elections and politics, Race, racism and related issues | 23 Comments  

I’m at TCAF today and tomorrow – if you’re in Toronto, please say hi

SB-Front-Cover

I’m going to be at TCAF (which stands for Toronto Comics Arts Fest) today and tomorrow, at table 202 on the second floor. It’s free to attend, so if you’re in Toronto, I hope you’ll come say hi.

I’ll have all three “Hereville” books with me, naturally. And I’m really excited to premiere the first issue of SuperButch, by Becky Hawkins and myself. This is a 25-page, color comic, and we’re very proud of how it came out.

I’ll also be bringing two new minicomics, both based on comics I’ve published on the web: “The Duck Story” and “36 Annoying Anti-Feminists I’ve Met On The Internet.”

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Hereville, SuperButch | 2 Comments  

Craft Talk 1: Quincy Troupe’s Rhythm

I’ve been reading The Architecture of Language, by Quincy Troupe, and I have been fascinated by how rhythm and syntax interact in the way he builds his lines. Structurally, the poems remind me of nothing so much as jazz improvisation, and I have thought often while reading this book of something Hayden Carruth wrote in an essay from 1981 called “Notes on Meter,” which you can find in Selected Essays & Reviews:

I always revert to Pound, and to his early suggestion that poets ‘compose in the sequence of the musical phrase.’ How simple. How brilliant. Which perhaps explains why no one has successfully elaborated it, as far as I know. It’s a pity because it means that Pound’s statement (more exactly his restatement of ancient principle) has turned into a catch-phrase—people speak it and repeat it without bothering to ask what it means. To most it conveys merely a license to compose any way they want—feelingly, liltingly, that’s the commonest meaning. But Pound was a fair musician…he knew what he was talking about when he spoke of the ‘sequence of the musical phrase.’ A measure in music, a bar, is a fixed quantity. If the time signature is 4/4, you have four beats to the measure…But within the fixed measure you may have any melodic or phrasal combination you wish, any distribution of accents, any number and variety of notes; you my emphasize the beat or you may syncopate it; you may play around; you may even substitute rests…Hence there is no question of tying the beat to an inflexible pattern of accentual or phrasal units, such as an endless succession of eighth notes.

This is a theme that Carruth returned to again and again in his writing on poetic form, the idea that for a poem to succeed as a poem, as a work of art, it needs to have been built around some identifiable sense of measure, some regular pattern—of beats, syllables, sounds, it doesn’t matter as long it’s something a reader/listener can hear—against which the poet can play with the phrasing of her or his language to create not just the interaction between sound and meaning, but also the play of pure sound that is where so much of the sensual pleasure of poetry lies.

To see what I can learn about how Troupe creates this pleasure for me—and his poems do that; I often find myself reading them aloud—I have opened up The Architecture of Language at random to “A Convention of Little Dogs.” Here are the first six lines:

in manhattan’s central park, on a cold bright day
in november, a convention of little dogs swirl,
dart around sparse grass in clearing, pick their way
through tangled heaps of fallen bone-branches
felled by fierce onslaughts of howling alaskan winds
that sliced through clothing like razors the night before

First, let’s look at the syntactic structure of these lines, which make up a single, compound-complex sentence:

  1. Line 1 is made up of two prepositional phrases, situating the reader in place and time
  2. Line 2 begins with a third prepositional phrase, further specifying the time in which the poems occurs, and ends with the subject and first verb of the sentence
  3. Line 3 contains a second verb phrase in its entirely, ands with the beginning of the third verb phrase, which takes up the next three lines and completes the sentence
  4. Lines 4-6 are constructed such that they each one modifies the last word in the previous line: through in line 4 modifies way at the end of line 3; felled in line 5 modifies branches at the end of line 4; that in line 6 introduces a relative clause that modifies winds at the end of line 5

Fundamentally what this very deliberately crafted sentence does is set the scene for the exploration that follows of the politics and power struggles at work within the convention of little dogs (who of course stand in for the “convention of little humans” that occupies the world), but what I’m really interested in here is how Troupe gets these lines to hang together rhythmically, so that they become more than a prose sentence chopped up into six more or less self-contained syntactic units. As I read them, the lines would scan as I indicate below. I have put the stressed syllables in red bold face, and I have put in italics those syllables that might or might not be read as stressed:

in manhattan’s central park, on a cold bright day
in november, a convention of little dogs swirl,
dart around sparse grass in a clearing, pick their way
through tangled heaps of fallen bone-branches
felled by fierce onslaughts of howling alaskan winds
that sliced through clothing like razors the night before

I’m not claiming that my scansion is somehow authoritative and that there are no other possibilities. I can, for example, imagine someone stressing the in at the beginning of line 1 and not stressing the their in “pick their way” at the end of line 3; but what I have shown above illustrates what I hear when I read the lines. The first thing I notice is that the number of stresses per line fall into a regular pattern: 667667. I don’t know if that pattern holds over the course of the entire poem, but I’d be willing to bet that a more in-depth analysis would reveal that it sets the metrical framework around which every other line is built.

A closer examination of the six lines I’ve quoted reveals a rhythmic patterning that I think illustrates quite nicely what it means to “compose in the sequence of the musical phrase.” First some description:

  1. At the end of line three, a cold bright day, one unstressed syllable followed by three stressed syllables—or, to be technical about it, an iamb followed by a spondee, or, to get even more technical (at least according to Wikipedia) a “first epitrite.”
  2. This pattern is then picked up in the last three syllables of line 2 plus the first syllable of line three: …tle dogs swirl/dart. (This is a good example of what I think composing in “the sequence of the musical phrase” means. If you imagine the end of the line is the end of the measure, then this rhythmic phrase actually occupies two different measures.)
  3. You find the same pattern again in line six, that sliced through cloth.
  4. In lines 3-6 you find a related pattern, unstressed-stressed-stressed-unstressed (an iamb followed by a trochee, also known as an antispast), at a different point in the line each time—which also speaks to the question of phrasing. I have italicized the unstressed syllables in the pattern:

dart around sparse grass in clearing, pick their way
through tangled heaps of fallen bone-branches
felled by fierce onslaughts of howling alaskan winds
that sliced through clothing like razors the night before

This is what the rhythmic patterning of the entire six lines looks like in the abstract, using dashes for unstressed and slashes for stressed syllables. I’ve left the punctuation marks in, and I’ve marked the two patterns in different colors:

– – / – / – /, – – / / /
– – / -, / – / – – / – / /,
/ 
– / / – – / -, / – /
/ / 
– / – / – / / –
– / / – – / – – / – /
– / / / – / / – – / – /

These aren’t the only patterns that one can find in these lines, of course, but they do seem to me the dominant ones, and I do not think you can explain their occurrence as mere accident. At the same, however, I do not think that Quincy Troupe said to himself as he was writing, “Aha! That’s a really nice place to put an antispast, and I think that’s the metrical foot I am going to use to create rhythmic interest in this part of my poem.” Rather, I am guessing that Troupe has worked long and hard to train his ear and his body to feel such things “naturally,” the way a pianists will practice scales over and over and over and over again until doing them feels almost as natural as breathing. I won’t presume to imagine the precise form that training took, but I’d wager it involved at some point listening very carefully to how jazz drummers build their solos.

I don’t really have much more to say about this right now. To go more deeply into a prosodic analysis of the poem would take time I don’t have, as would trying to say anything substantive about the interaction between form and meaning in The Architecture of Language—an essay which deserves to be written. For now, I am glad to have sat for these 1500 words or so at the feet of someone from whose craft I feel like I have something to learn.

Cross-posted.

Posted in Writing | 6 Comments  

Lines That Didn’t Make The Cut: Remembering Claudia

The revision process leaves every writer with bits and pieces of work that no longer belong to the poem or story or whatever where they first appeared. Sometimes these scraps and fragments grow to become full fledged works on their own; sometimes they get grafted onto other works-in-progress; but, as often as not, they end up in a file where the writer rarely, if ever, looks at them again. I went digging into my file recently, looking for something that I knew would fit in a poem the beginning and end of which I was having a very hard time connecting. As I read through bits and pieces I’d put in there, I began to realize that, for me, the lines that don’t make the cut as I revise a poem tend to be those in which I am either explaining to myself what I am trying to say or trying to force the language to go in a direction it just doesn’t want to go. These lines fall into the latter category:

and if you imagine
that night as a film of my life,
then a thunderclap or dissonant chord,
the sky and this backyard lit up by lightning,

would call the moment to your attention:
layers of meaning packed hard
in the still image you’d carry home
of what it means to me to remember
that where the large oak
we put chairs beneath
for our summer concerts
now spreads its shade,
I played when I was nine
tackle football with Claudia.

In the poem this was originally part of I was writing about an evening when I went down to walk off some anger in the garden which sits in the center of the eight-building co-op where I live. Thunderclouds gathered overhead just a few minutes afterwards and the rain that fell as I made my way around the concrete path that marks the garden’s perimiter felt like small hailstones on my skin. This garden holds a lot of memories for me. My grandparents lived in the building next door to mine for nearly fifty years, and we visited them almost every Sunday from as early as I can remember until I went away to college. When I was a little boy, not much more than five or six, I made friends with a red-haired girl named Claudia who lived in the building across the way. She was–and I find myself wondering if people still use this term–a tomboy, and one of our favorite things to do was play football on what was then a dirt field between the back of her building and the back of my grandparents’. I don’t remember being invited to her house or that she ever came to my grandparents’ place when I was there. Our friendship was the kind that little kids often have; we saw each other when we saw each other; and since she knew I would be there almost every Sunday, she would just head down to the garden to see if I was there; or sometimes I would get there first and wait for her.

Anyway, in the middle of what I thought was going to be my last lap around the garden, a bolt of lightning lit that field up, lush with grass after all these years and with a gorgeous, almost mountainous tree dominating the center. (A couple of summers ago, a hawk made itself at home there.) In that flash, I suddenly remembered the last conversation I had with Claudia. We’d been friends for about five or six years by that time, so we were eleven or twelve. It was Shabbat–I’m not sure why we were visiting my grandparents on a Saturday–and so Claudia and I were both in shul, hanging around outside the sanctuary where the adults were busy praying. She was wearing a pink frilly dress, which surprised me because I’d never before seen her dressed “like a girl,” and she was huddled with a group of girls I didn’t know. I tried a couple of times to talk to her, to get her to come with me to the places in the synagogue where, when we’d met there in years past, on Rosh HaShana for example, we’d spend time together until services were over, but she kept brushing me aside. Finally, I asked her point blank if she wanted to come out to play after lunch. (Neither my family nor hers was strictly observant.) “No,” she told me, “sports and climbing trees are for boys. I’m growing up now, and I am not a boy.” As I recall, she and I never spoke to each other again.

The poem I was working on ended up being about something else, but this memory still makes me very sad.

Posted in Gender and the Body, Writing | Leave a comment  

New Cartoon on The Nib: “On The Thirteenth Amendment”

prisons-13th-teaser-image

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Race, racism and related issues | 67 Comments  

A Poem of Mine About Jackson Heights was Broadcast on WNYC!

By Youngking11 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In honor of National Poetry Month, WNYC challenged listeners to write tweet-length, original poems about the five boroughs. It makes me happy that my poem was among those chosen to appear on the air:

Here’s the spot that was broadcast on WNYC this morning:

There is some personal history behind the poem. When I was a boy, my grandparents lived in Jackson Heights and we went regularly to the Jackson Heights Jewish Center, which was a large two or three story building about three blocks from where I live now (which is, actually, in the building next door to where my grandparents lived and where my mother did a lot of her growing up). At that time, there was still a large Jewish community in the area, and my grandparents were very involved in the Center’s activities, taking leading roles in various committees and organization. Over the years, the Jewish community shrank and there were just not enough people to support the Center being in that large a building, and so they sold it to New York City’s Department of Education and it’s now a public school.

After the sale, the Center relocated to the building where it is now, which for as far back as I can remember was a Sizzlers Steakhouse. The Center rents out space to various community groups, among which was, for a while, the Bible Baptist Church. When they started holding services in the Center, I thought “only in Jackson Heights” would you see a profoundly homophobic Christian church—their website talked about them being right in the heart of Sodom—holding services in a Jewish center that also rented out space to one of the local LGBTQ groups, along with other progressive groups that I am sure the Church did not support.

Posted in Writing | 3 Comments  

Cartoon: Hiring

hiring

If you enjoy these cartoons, please support them on Patreon.

Transcript of cartoon:

Panel 1

The panel shows two white men; one is wearing a turtleneck shirt, the other is wearing a necktie with a sweatervest. Both are balding, but Sweatervest’s hair is neatly cut while Turtleneck’s hair looks roughly close-cropped.

Sweatervest is seated behind a desk, and is calm. Turtleneck, looking more intense, is scooting his chair forward to talk more closely at Sweatervest.

TURTLENECK: Shhh! If you listen very carefully, you can hear the tiny grad students hiding in our ear canals.
SWEATERVEST: That’s not for us.

Panel 2

Turtleneck has gotten out of his seat entirely and is leaning forward so far his chin almost hits the desk. He’s yelling. Sweatervest remains calm, and has barely moved.

TURTLENECK: Dogs bark in a code that only the North Koreans understand! Woof! WOOF! (Are you listening, Kim?)

SWEATERVEST: Thanks for coming in, but…

Panel 3

Eyes and mouth bulging open, Turtleneck makes such a big sweeping gesture that he kicks over his chair without noticing. Sweatervest has stood up, smiling, and is offering a handshake.

TURTLENECK: Climate change is a HOAX!
SWEATERVEST: When can you start?

CAPTION: One day at the New York Times

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Environmental issues, Media criticism | 15 Comments  

Peter S Beagle, author of “The Last Unicorn,” is in dire need! Here are three ways you can help. (UPDATED)

Unicorn

Peter S. Beagle, the author of three novels that were foundational for me (The Last Unicorn, A Fine and Private Place and The Folk of the Air), and many other novels and stories, is having financial trouble – trouble severe enough so that, according to his friend Adrienne Leigh, it’s currently difficult for him to buy groceries. (See update below!)

Here are three two ways you can help.

SHORT-TERM: Give a birthday gift directly to Peter Beagle via his paypal. If you’re known to me, contact me directly for Beagle’s email address (you can email me, or just leave a message in the comments asking me to email you; if you do that, make sure you comment using your real email address!); or you can go to Adrienne Leigh on Twitter and DM her for the email address.

These birthday gifts can be used by Peter Beagle for his household’s immediate day to day needs. (And yes, his birthday is this week!) Please say “happy birthday!” in the Paypal message area.

LONG-TERM:
Go to the Support Peter Beagle website and use the button there to contribute to a fund to help pay for Peter Beagle’s legal costs. You can leave a message for Peter in the paypal field; I am told he will receive and read all messages sent this way.

BUY THE HUMBLE BUNDLE!
Peter Beagle has curated a Humble Bumble of unicorn fiction, called “Save the Unicorns.” You can pay as little as $1 to get a ton of novels to read, and support Peter Beagle at the same time! Important: In “choose where your money goes,” pick 100% Tachyon Press. Peter Beagle will get royalties and such from Tachyon for these Humble Bumble sales.

To be kept up-to-date on Peter Beagle news, follow @RealPeterBeagle on Twitter.

UPDATE

Update #1: There was a glitch on the 23rd with donating to the legal fund, but it’s been fixed – so if people got a “not accepting funds” method yesterday, they should absolutely try again!

Update #2, quoting from Peter Beagle’s friend Adrienne:

It has been SUPER helpful! We apparently got a TON of money in to him as birthday gifts already – to the point where getting more into there rather than the legal fund would be counterproductive.

He’s got plenty now to meet immediate needs for him and his partner and also to get himself something nice as a birthday present. :) But [his ongoing legal situation] does have, obviously, ongoing expenses, and getting money into that legal fund means less of the income Peter has gets diverted into that.

He called me yesterday and he was absolutely *overcome* by the outpouring of support and birthday wishes, and he’s incredibly grateful not just to people who’ve donated but the people who have him in their thoughts.

He’s a very humble man, he really is, and on some level he *never* expects the kind of love and respect people have for him.

Posted in Uncategorized | 36 Comments  

New Comic Strip: “If It Looks Like A Duck”

duck-comic-teaser-imageI have a new comic up at The Nib today! This is a very unusual comic strip for me – it’s autobio, a genre I almost never do. It’s about what happened to me when I took a job playing a female duck.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Feminism, sexism, etc, Homophobic zaniness/more LGBTQ issues, Men and masculinity | 8 Comments