Monday, March 31, 2014

Tall People Problems

The video above is something I originally ran across last year, a few days after it was posted to YouTube. I re-found it because of a recent post.

When I first spotted the video, I intended to post it right away, but I forgot and it languished in last year’s Drafts folder—until this week. When I again began using Safari web browser this weekend (because of what I posted on Saturday), it showed me what it considers “top pages”, and that included the YouTube page for the video. Shows how little I’d used Safari over the past seven months.

The reason I liked the video in the first place is that I can identify with many of the things it depicts; I’m no giant, but I’m tall enough to have problems from time to time. This video is an extension of a post on their site from February last year (I especially identify with number 32). So, this is similar—video based on a much earlier post—to a BuzzFeed video on logo design that I shared a couple weeks ago. Must be a thing they do and I never noticed.

At any rate, I meant to share the video when it was new, but only recently rediscovered it by accident, and all because of a political stand. Blogging can be a strange thing.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I support NZ Labour

Labour Candidate Richard Hills and Labour List MP Darien Fenton.

The fact that I support the New Zealand Labour Party isn’t news—I often mention that. But now I really support Labour, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Today, my friend Richard Hills, who I’ve mentioned several times, was confirmed as the Labour Party candidate for Parliament in the Northcote Electorate. For the first time in about a decade, I’m taking part in an election campaign, to help Richard and the NZ Labour Party win the election.

When I became a NZ Permanent Resident (June 16, 1999), I immediately registered to vote, because all NZ citizens and Permanent Residents are required to register to vote (voting itself is optional). In November of that year, NZ had a General Election, and I decided to take part.

I volunteered for the campaign of Labour Candidate Ann Hartley, chiefly doing things like delivering literature and scrutineering on Election Day. Ann won. After that, I took part in the Northcote Labour organisation, and helped Ann win re-election in the 2002 General Election (mostly doing the same stuff I did in 1999).

The following year, we moved to Paeroa, where we lived during the 2005 General Election campaign. I created the ads for the Labour Party candidate in that electorate and organised publication of the ads on his behalf, and I also accompanied the candidate from time to time.

When we returned to Auckland the following year, I didn’t get around to getting involved in Labour again, so I basically sat out the 2008 and 2011 campaigns (though I voted Labour, of course). I got to know Richard after he was elected as member of the Kapatiki Local Board of Auckland Council in 2010 (I voted for him).

In the years since, I’ve gotten to know Richard far better than any other politician I’ve known. When he was running for re-election to the Kaipatiki Local Board last year, I said:
“I’ve come to know [Richard] as one of the most upbeat and positive people in politics. He’s been a tireless advocate for the Kaipatiki Local Board area, as well as for youth. What’s impressed me in particular is that when opponents have been, um, unhelpful, he’s stayed focused on progress and moving the community—and Auckland in general—forward. I’m sure there are times that he didn’t feel all that positive about what opponents were doing, but he didn’t let that affect his overall positivity.”
His positivity is reflected in his inclusiveness: As a member of the local board, he’s worked with people throughout the community, and that’s something he’ll continue to do as a Member of Parliament. His main areas of focus are Youth, Transport and Housing, all issues that are important in this electorate and the country as a whole.

A major obstacle that Labour faced in the last two elections is the large number of Labour supporters who didn’t vote. As a Millennial, Richard’s able to reach out to his fellow younger voters. But Richard also has worked extensively with the many and diverse communities that make up this electorate, which, he notes, pretty much mirrors Auckland’s multi-cultural makeup. Many of those communities—Pasifika and Maori in particular—also tend to have large numbers of non-voters.

Richard has also gathered together a diverse group of supporters and volunteers to help him maximise the Labour vote. I’m proud to say that I’m part of that team, taking on the role of campaign manager. But we’re not hierarchical, as that sounds—we’re a team. Most of my role will be to assist Richard on some of the behind-the-scenes tasks so that he can focus on being the candidate, and to make sure that all his campaign team knows what’s going on.

I’m proud to be helping to elect Richard Hills and increase Labour’s Party Vote in this electorate. We have a great candidate, a great team working for him and a great message to present to voters. It will be a very exciting six months!

I took the photo above shortly after Richard was confirmed as our candidate. With him is Darien Fenton, a Labour List MP whose office is in this electorate. She’s also Labour’s Transport Spokesperson.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Goodbye, Mozilla

Do people have the right to make value judgements about products/services they'll use based on who is leading a big organisation or company? Apparently, it depends which side you’re on.

Brendan Eich, new CEO of Mozilla, said on his personal blog that his donation supporting California's anti-gay Proposition 8 is irrelevant. I don’t agree.

When the head of a fast-food chicken joint made strongly-worded anti-gay statements, and was found to have given large donations to organisations working full-time against the civil and human rights of LGBT people (our freedom to marry in particular), our side felt that it was best to not give the chicken joint any of our money so he couldn’t use it against us. There wasn’t really a boycott as such.

Nevertheless, our adversaries said we were “bullies”, “fascists” and “the Gaystapo”, and they launched a stunt in which they flocked to the chicken joint to “support” the head of the company. Their stunt was very successful, if measured by media attention. It should be noted, however, that those same people are now condemning the head of that chicken joint for saying he and his company will now keep out of politics.

Here’s the thing: When our side urges boycotts of companies that are actively anti-gay, the rightwing always accuses us of being vicious (ironic, considering the vicious anti-gay rhetoric they use…). However, when they urge boycotts because a group supports LGBT rights, or marriage equality in particular, that’s holy and righteous and wonderful. Hypocrisy, much?

One wingnut site maintains a list of companies to be boycotted because they supposedly support marriage equality (though they provided NO evidence in support of that assertion). They are: "Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Blue Cross Blue Shield, CBS, eBay, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google, Guiness [sic] Beer, Heineken Beer, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strauss, McGraw-Hill, Microsoft, Nike, Sam Addams [sic] Beer, Starbucks, Thomson Reuters, Twitter, Viacom, Walt Disney Company, Xerox and Zynga." (Because I have a long-standing policy of never linking to a wingnut site, to access the list, copy and paste this link: http://bit.ly/1pxfENp).

That list includes Sam Adams Brewery and Guinness (I corrected the wingnut site’s bad spelling) are probably on the list merely because of their recent withdrawal of their sponsorship of St. Patrick’s Day Parades in the US over their refusal to allow LGBT people to participate. Other companies not on the list that have faced boycotts by anti-gay groups include McDonald’s, Ford Motor Company, Hallmark Cards, Chilli’s, and many more.

Most notoriously, for more than three years anti-gay groups boycotted Home Depot because of the company’s support for the civil and human rights of their LGBT employees and customers. While the boycott was, of course, a spectacular failure, they blatantly lied and claimed victory.

So, what we see here is a long history of the anti-gay rightwing urging boycotts of companies that to varying degrees support LGBT people and our civil and human rights, but if our side proposes a boycott of companies that oppose us, we’re the ones being evil?

This is, at it’s core, the message that Eich is selling in his post: His support for an anti-gay political campaign is irrelevant and we should all get over it, just as we should pay no attention to the anti-gay record of companies. Eich is perfectly free to donate money to prevent our legal equality, but if we object, tough.

I fully support the right of people to boycott whoever they want for whatever reason they want—political, religious, cultural, aesthetic, their reason doesn’t matter, but their freedom to make that choice does. Let me be specific: If anti-gay activists want to boycott companies that support the civil and human rights of LGBT people, they should do so. Similarly, if an LGBT person or straight ally wants to boycott a company because of its anti-gay political activities, they should do so. And if someone wants to dump Firefox and other Mozilla products because its CEO donated money to prevent legal equality for LGBT people in California (specifically by taking away their legal right to marry), that, too, is their right.

I think boycotts are stupid because they almost never accomplish their goals, a few high-profile successes notwithstanding. Funnily enough, for anti-gay people, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for them to find major companies that don’t support the civil and human rights of LGBT people.

I wrote about boycotts last year, and said: “Personally, I prefer to ‘buycott’, that is, to go out of my way to support businesses that support the issues I care about instead of boycotting the ones that oppose those issues.” So, generally speaking, I don’t participate in boycotts as much as I try to support businesses whose values most closely align with my own.

However, no person or business is perfect: Even companies that are supportive of the civil and human rights of LGBT people could be “bad” or “wrong” (from my perspective) on any number of other issues. There are also plenty of perfectly good reasons to use a web browser other than Firefox, reasons that have nothing to do with the politics of its CEO.

Even so, all people have the right to make purchasing decisions based on their own personal values, and to choose one company or organisation over another based on those personal values. Whether Eich likes it or not, that includes the fact that people have the right to make personal decisions about use of Mozilla products based on Eich’s political views.

Staff at Mozilla have called on Eich to resign. That, too is their right.

In an open letter to Eich, Owen Thomas writes that Eich’s assertion that his political donation against the civil and human rights of LGBT people was a private matter was “[disingenuous] and beneath a leader of [his] stature.” He urges Eich to apologise and to make an equal-sized contribution to a pro-LGBT organisation.

This gets at the heart of the issue: What Eich thinks about LGBT people and our freedom to marry is irrelevant. Although this raises questions about his fairness toward LGBT employees, his opinions are mainly his business, not ours. But he gave money to stop our civil and human rights by taking away the freedom to marry, and, in so doing, he took a loud and public stand against us. He’s perfectly free to do that, of course—but he’s not exempt from the consequences. Apparently, he feels that those who disagree with him, or who were victims of the passage of Proposition 8, have no right to be upset with him, and certainly no right to “vote with their feet” rather than support a guy who took a very public stand against LGBT people, or the organisation that made him its head.


If gay people don’t stand up for ourselves, who will? We must always be firm that trying to take away the civil and human rights of LGBT people is never okay, and that means we’re under no obligation to support people—or their organisations—who have taken an anti-gay stand.

As I said, I support the right of people to make their own decisions in matters like this, but as for me, I’m dumping Firefox until and unless Eich makes this right or resigns. I really have no choice; the choice now is his alone.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The unsent letter

There are distinct advantages in the “unsent letter” technique, chiefly, keeping one from saying regrettable things, online especially. I’ve used it a lot lately.

Earlier this week, Kelly Sedinger (aka Jaquandor) shared an article on his blog, Byzantium’s Shores. The article he linked to, “The Lost Art of the Unsent Angry Letter” by Maria Konnikova, talks about both the brake and catharsis provided by writing an unsent letter (or unposted online comment). Kelly summed up the article well when he wrote:
“…an interesting hypothesis as to why the Internet is so often a cesspool of spittle-flecked rage. It's not just that it's easy to post angry missives online, it's that the very ease of doing so negates the intended catharsis of writing them in the first place.”
Of course, I’ve talked about this sort of restraint here on this blog. Last year, I talked about out-of-control mockery, and a month earlier, I wrote:
“It’s not that I don’t have things I want to say, it’s that I have things I don’t want to publish. Very different things.”
That hasn’t changed since—actually, it has: The number of posts I start and then abandon—even after having spent hours on them—has continued to rise. I often decide that wherever the angry or negative post has ended up is not a place I want to be, and not a thing I want on this blog.

Three years ago, I talked about my “Two-day Rule” for blogging:
“If I see something I want to comment on, especially something that pisses me off or otherwise riles me up, I try to wait until the second day (or longer) before I write a post.”
This is basically the “unsent letter” trick by another name, but whatever it’s called, it works. It turns out, there’s a lot of stuff that interests me besides the stuff that make me angry. It’s much easier to write about pop culture, history, whatever, if my time isn’t spent firing off angry rants.

On the other hand, the fact that sometimes I spend hours on an angry post that never gets out of my drafts folder means that I often have little energy for writing some other post for that day. I think that’s an acceptable compromise. I’m doing my part to make the Internet a tiny bit more civil, but I still get to vent about whatever’s made me angry—even though no one but me will ever see it.

I wish more people would at least try to restrain themselves before dashing off an angry retort.

Tip o’ the Hat to Roger Green who emailed me the link to the Byzantium’s Shores post; these days I don’t have time to read as many blogs as I’d like and I often miss out on posts like that.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

FIRST KISS - Gay Version from NZ

Last night, just before I turned off the computer for the night, I saw the video above. It’s a gay version of the Internet sensation, FIRST KISS.

The video was created by New Zealand safer sex education group Love Your Condom (Note: not all material on their site is worksafe). They talk about the making of the video on their blog.

I think that this version is better than the original because it feels authentic. I’m sure that’s partly because I know that most of the participants in the original were actors and/or models, but, whatever the reason, this one just feels real to me.

I think it’s kind of funny that I first heard about the video—made by a New Zealand organisation—from an Australian gay news site, the Star Observer. It was later picked-up by various gay sites in the USA, and now it’s going viral. As it should.

From time to time a New Zealand video goes viral, which is always fun, but also a little surreal: Most of the time, the world ignores us as the Dutch did at the Nuclear Security Summit. Viral videos are probably more entertaining, anyway.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Gotta cut loose

This video amused me. Not in a guffaw sort of way, but in an “yeah, I’m getting older and I like to see my life reflected,” kind of way. I’m sharing it because, well, Kevin Bacon.

Kevin Bacon was a guest on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on March 21 (USA time), in part to promote the 30th anniversary of Bacon’s film, Footloose, among other things. The set-up was that Jimmy announced that The Tonight Show had banned dancing, then Kevin Bacon breaks the rules with his entrance.

I thought it was kind of funny, but even more so that a 55-year-old Kevin Bacon was, in some ways, reprising his role in the film. Kevin's about six months older than me, and I certainly could not do any of the moves he did.

We don’t get The Tonight Show in New Zealand, so I have no idea how the rest of the show was. But this part made me smile. Your mileage may vary—Arthur’s Law, and all that.

This video has been all over the Internet, and I can’t remember where I saw it first.

Monday, March 24, 2014

More real

Cartoons often portray reality in a way that, sometimes, reality can’t. Think of political cartoons v. journalism, for example. Cartoons can help make the truth clearer.

The video above is a cartoon by Mark Fiore in which he takes on the sudden amnesia of the USA’s anti-gay industry and its attempt to export their anti-gay bigotry around the world, Uganda in particular. The bigots got what they wanted, then when the world expressed revulsion, the bigots pretended to be shocked and surprised.

Fiore said in the YouTube description:
“Since Uganda's anti-gay law was signed recently, it's been amusing (and maddening) to watch various religious right characters scurry for cover. When nobody was watching, the holier-than-thou set have been visiting Uganda preaching their extreme anti-gay views. Now that people are appalled at Uganda's life-in-prison-for-homosexuals law, the ‘evangelical’ right-wing preachers are laying low or rewriting history.”
The players in the anti-gay industry may attempt to re-write history, and pretend that they weren’t exporting anti-gay hatred when that’s exactly what they were doing, but they have a small problem: In the 21st Century, it’s easy to fact-check: We know when someone is lying.

Cartoons like this one portray reality uniquely, making truth accessible in a way that straightforward news reporting doesn’t; maybe it can’t. I think that anything that helps ordinary people to understand the true nature of the leaders of the anti-gay industry, and their actual role in exporting anti-gay hatred, is a good thing. It’s also a far greater service to humanity than those bigots will ever be.

Tip o' the Hat to: Joe.My.God.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Weekend Diversion: Top 10 Misheard Lyrics

In the midst of a YouTube spiral, I recently came across the video above. I enjoyed it, and I learned a new word. What more can you ask?

The video is from watchmojo.com, which specialises in this sort of thing. The YouTube description said:
“…we count down our picks for the 5 most popular mondegreens, and as a bonus, we suggest 5 clips that would be hilarious if we could rewrite the lyrics.…”
Wait, what? Mondegreens? Turns out mondegreen is a neologism created just for this sort of thing. And it’s a needed word, I think.

However, the mondegreens in this video are not ones that affected me, though I’d heard about some of them. Here's my biggest one: In 1975, Elton John released a song called “Island Girl”, which went number one in the USA. The following year, Elton said he was bisexual. So, some time after that I was with friends (especially Jason, who can verify this) and we heard the song. “That’s rather inconsistent, isn’t it?” I asked. My friends were confused. I thought the lytic was “I like girls”. I was mistaken.

We all mishear lyrics, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes it’s our fault (not paying enough attention), and sometimes it’s the artist’s fault (they mumble). But however it comes about, it’s harmless. Best we laugh at ourselves and move on.

And, one day, we’ll all mishear again.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Internet Wading: Month Day

From time to time I post links to interesting things I’ve seen on the Internet. Well, I’ve decided to make that a monthly thing, and this is the first one.

In the past, I posted them whenever I thought of it, but the plan now is to post them on the 21st of the month. Why? Because that’s my month day, of course.

The term comes from my friend Jason and his family, but, curiously, he’s never actually explained it on his blog—surely a future topic for him! Basically, it’s the day of the month that’s the same as your birthday. I just thought that if I was going to pick an arbitrary day, why not pick one that I might actually remember? Big ask, I know.

So, here are a few things I noticed after my last Internet Wading post:

When Director Harold Ramis died, there was one unusual reaction published by Salon: “Baby boomer humor’s big lie: Ghostbusters and Caddyshack really liberated Reagan and Wall Street”. Okay, then. So—I shouldn’t have laughed?

Maybe more more usefully, Huffington Post offered, “The 8 Life Lessons I Learned From '70s TV Shows”. It’s actually not quite as completely silly as it sounds.

Talking about pop culture makes me hungry. Luckily, the New Zealand Herald told me the “Pretzel burger coming to NZ”. No idea what came of it, but pretzels aren’t popular in New Zealand, so…

I also saw important food advice: “Here’s mathematical proof that you should always order a bigger pizza”. Now THAT is important to know!

“Why cats really purr” was certainly an interesting title. “It's not just their way of expressing pleasure. Purring has benefited cats over the course of their evolution.” And dogs get some equal time on this blog: “Humans and Dogs Use Same Brain Area to Get Others' Emotions.”

Speaking of communication, there’s “Some Everyday Words That Meant Really Different Things to Early American Colonists”. Language use in the USA has continued to change, of course. Check out, “122 Maps That Show How Americans Speak English Totally Differently”.

Charlie Jane Anders asks, “Does anybody read books the right way any more?”

Most of our communication is more personal. In one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen on the Internet, a father, Kevin Conboy, posted the text messages he shared with his son, Ian, on December 13, 2013—when Arapahoe High School was under lockdown because 18 year old Karl Pierson had started shooting in the school. The most poignant part for me was when the dad texts, “I am here and will be here. Until I have you.” If more dads were like him, this world would be a much, much better place.

Parisian mayoral candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet proposed a bold plan for abandoned stations on the Métro system. The center-right candidate, known as NKM to her supporters, said these “phantom” stations should be reclaimed for the city's residents: “Paris's Abandoned Métro Stations, Reimagined as Theaters and Pools”. Pretty awesome.

How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions.

Country music is slowly becoming more gay-friendly. Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland gave an interview recently when she released her new solo album, That Girl. She talked about why she’s popular with gay fans and also said she doesn’t get flak for being a staunch straight ally of gay people. Meanwhile, like Nettles, Grammy Award winning country artist and songwriter Kacey Musgraves tries to “keep it real”. She doesn’t shy away from themes that are gay-positive. Times are changing. Slowly.

And that’s this month’s sampling of things I thought were interesting, but that never made it into a blog posts of their own. Now I can start collecting stuff for the next Month Day post.

Shorn again

Yesterday, I took the dogs for a grooming. For a change I didn’t wait a bit too long, so their cut isn’t severe. That’s really nice.

The photo above is the before, the photo below is the after. See? Not a whole lot of difference, which is as it should be—yay, me! I’m a good daddy!

Their appointment was at 9am yesterday, and I braved Auckland traffic to get them there (the alternative was tonight or the weekend, neither of which was workable). They told me it would be two hours—normally it’s four. I wasn’t quite sure what to do—I had plans all mapped out—so I flushed my plans and went to a local café for breakfast.

I arrived back a little before they were ready, but I didn't mind waiting. They looked great and were happy to see me in the “why the hell did you leave us here” kind of way. Like usual.

I’m glad I actually made it before their fur got matted—this time. With a little luck, I won’t need to take them again until spring, or just before. This is a good thing for all concerned.

The furbabies would agree.

That man, that failure

I’m not going to say much of anything about the elderly hate merchant who just died. It’s clearly not out of respect for him or his family, but because he’s not worthy of attention.

The truth is, I almost pity him: Imagine living a whole life built on nothing but hatred and causing division, and then dying a despised person. If this was all because he lived his life suffering from profound mental illness that was never treated, that IS a shame. If that’s not the case, how sad that it looks as if it was the case.

But that doesn’t change the simple reality that he died as he lived: A complete irrelevance. Despite all the pain and suffering he inflicted on innocent people through his political stunts in his long history, he accomplished absolutely nothing. He died a complete and utter failure, despised by people all over the political spectrum.

He wasn’t irrelevant merely because he was an utter failure, but because he wasn’t in any way unique: The dead guy merely said out loud what the anti-gay industry thinks. While the activists in the anti-gay industry have long tried to wrap their bigotry in a cloak of respectability (the latest one called “religious freedom”), they have in their more honest moments admitted that they want gay people locked up, too. And, let’s be real here: What’s their entire reason for being if not to take away the civil and human rights of LGBT people? The dead guy crudely, offensively and sickeningly demanded out loud what the professional anti-gay industry won’t say out loud but nevertheless is trying to achieve.

So, a bad man is dead, and that’s a good thing. I’ll certainly never forgive what he did in life, but, like everyone else, I’ll easily forget him. That’s just another indicator of what a complete failure he was.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Update: Rachel Maddow did a sort of anti-obituary (link goes to YouTube), and, like me, she also pointedly didn’t mention the dead guy’s name. I don’t know what her reason was, but mine was that I think that among the most insulting things one can do is to deliberately ignore the name of a dead person, as if they never existed. As a bonus, this post also won’t show up in searches.

Rachel makes the point that by being so truly vile and offensive, the dead guy actually helped the cause of gay rights. Silver lining, that. It’s also the reason some on the radical right thought the cult must have been a liberal fake-out. I think they were just embarrassed to see someone say out loud what they said more privately, and to put a public face on anti-gay religious bigotry so that everyone could see it for what it is.

Key Coincidence

When John Key wanted to do a special deal with SkyCity Casino, the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGF) raised alarms. Now Key’s government has cut virtually all funding to the group. Coincidence?

The deal was always bad for New Zealand, and for a lot of reasons, but Key and his National/Act-led Government dismissed all objections. Now it appears John Key is getting his revenge, and even Peter Dunne didn't entirely dismiss that as being true.

So far, National Party supporters are claiming that the PGF used government money to, in the colourful words that Tory attack dog Tau Henare Tweeted, “bag the hand that feeds them”. Later, after calling a critic a “tard” (Tau is such a charming man, isn’t he? Total class, that one—John Key must be so proud to have him in caucus!), he claimed that he meant PGF should not get “money to criticize.”

Here’s the problem with the Tory spin: It’s wrong and stupid. PGF’s mission is to help problem gamblers, yes, but it also raises awareness of the issue and tries to reduce risk and minimise harm. If the government—led by any party—is about to do something that in their professional opinion will increase risk and harm, they have an obligation to speak up, just as ANY other government-funded agency would be expected to do. So, why is this one so special, so offensive to Tories?

This deal was close to John Key's heart, but he got significant opposition to the deal from non-partisan community groups, and not just his political opponents. Many questions were raised about the ethics and even legality of the deal. So, when PGF raised alarms, it gave added legitimacy to the opposition to the deal, and that had to be punished. John Key simply ignores criticism from all other groups that have opposed government policy, but TGF stirred up more trouble for John Key and National/Act than any others ever have.

So, was the de-funding of the Problem Gambling Foundation political retribution from John Key and his National/Act-led government? You bet.

Update: On Public Address, Russell Brown looks at the many issues this raises and points out that PGF “doesn’t lobby on the public dollar – that part of its work is privately funded.”

Update 2: Peter Dunne has had a change of heart. Earlier he said that PGF's defunding had "nothing to do" with its opposition to the SkyCity deal "as far as I'm aware." At around 11:40am he Tweeted, "Claims Problem Gambling Foundation funding cut because of its opposition to Sky City deal are wilful lies spread with malice". So, how did he suddenly become "aware of" what the situation is? Did his boss John Key have a quiet word with him? After such a huge flipflop, how can we trust any of them to be completely truthful?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

‘Kiwi by heart’

A woman who describes herself as “an American by birth, but a Kiwi by heart” was made an Honorary Member of the Order of New Zealand today [VIDEO] for her work in helping to preserve our national emblem, the kiwi.

Kathy Brader has been at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Bird House since 1986. That zoo was the first institution outside of New Zealand to hatch a kiwi, something only five zoos outside of New Zealand have ever done successfully. Under Brader, the Zoo successfully hatched and raised six kiwi.

Brader is also given credit for her role in creating the United States’ only “Meet a Kiwi” program at the National Zoo, which allows visitors to observe kiwi up close. When Nigel and went to National Zoo with Jason many years ago, we happened to be there when the “Meet a Kiwi” was taking place, which was kind of a surreal experience. And, yes, we joked that people could meet us.

Her recognition is only honorary because some US citizens are barred from accepting foreign honours and titles under Article 1, section 9, Clause 8 of the US Constitution, which says in part: “No Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” National Zoo, as part of the Smithsonian Institution, is administered by the US federal government, which means this constitutional ban applies to its employees, particularly senior staff.

Interestingly, there’s no ban on private US citizens accepting a foreign title as long as they don’t swear allegiance to a foreign power, which can in some circumstances cost a person their US citizenship. In 1810, the 11th Congress passed and submitted to the states what would have been the 13th Amendment, called the Titles of Nobility Amendment (TONA). It would have stripped US citizenship from any citizen who accepted a title of nobility from a foreign country. The amendment wasn’t ratified by enough US states to become part of the Constitution, however, since it had no expiry date, it technically could still be added, unlikely as that is.

It’s actually common for countries to bestow honorary versions of their awards to foreigners. It probably has to do with not stepping on the toes of other countries, or something.

In any case, being honorary doesn’t make it any less of a big deal, really. It also sounds like it was worthy recognition.

Photo of Kathy Brader above is by Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, 2008. It's released under a Creative Commons License.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Politics, it seems

Between work and some projects around the house, I’ve been pretty busy lately—too busy to blog. Because of it, I’ve noticed something interesting: Politics, it seems, is what people read the most on this blog.

Now, I can’t say I’m totally surprised about that—it’s what I’m most passionate about, after all. But I didn’t expect to see such a huge difference between page views of my political posts as compared to my non-political posts.

It’s not just any politics, either, but US politics, particularly posts about the rightwing and especially about anti-gay rightwing politics. However, the even larger lesson is the importance of daily—or, at least, regular—blogging. Folks may still view a post they’re not interested in because they’re used to stopping by regularly, but if there’s no post for several days, they get out of the habit.

There are a couple qualifiers: First, this is a couple weeks, and they may not be typical. Second, my previous weeks could also have been atypical, and this recent past may actually be more typical. This is why it’s always a bad idea to draw too many conclusions from a limited data set: There’s not enough information.

If I look at long-term data, politics actually may not be the thing readers are most interested in. Consider my top five most-viewed posts of all-time according to Blogger):
  1. Spammers stumped me – 22 November 2012. With nearly 43,000 pageviews, I bet that the title drew hits from spambots, which were the subject of that post. Completely non-political.
  2. Rhetoric matters – 11 January 2012 About anti-gay bigots complaints about the use of the word gay.
  3. Things you miss and then find – 1 April 2010. This was my first post about Martha’s Backyard, an Auckland store that carries American food products. I’ve published more posts about it since. Completely non-political.
  4. I cannot say more – 11 May 2012. A post of a video by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell demolishing an anti-gay bigot’s rhetoric.
  5. The version before – December 8, 2010. A post of a video that inspired another video I’d posted earlier. Completely non-political.
Four of the top five NZ blogs that choose to be ranked on Open Parachute are expressly political blogs that sometimes post other things. Mine’s about whatever I find interesting at the moment, and very often that’s something political.

All of which is basically a “huh!” kind of thing for me; I don’t pay much attention to website stats, and even when I do, I don’t let it influence what I post. Part of the reason is that long-term stats tell me that popular topics change over time, so there’s no point second-guessing myself. Besides, I’m clearly not that organised.

Even so, I’ll be posting more about politics in the weeks ahead: The USA and New Zealand both have elections this year, so I’m sure to have things to say and, anyway, it interests me. Politics, it seems, is what keep me coming back to this blog, too.

Progress or sacrilege?

Does everything that can be changed have to be? Or is change always a good thing? Should old favourites be re-done for modern times?

The video above is a new “teaser trailer” for a Peanuts movie from Fox, due out next year. The characters are all 3D. My first reaction was, as one of my pals said on Twitter, “Always thought my 2D Peanuts friends had enough depth (especially Linus)”.

The reality for me is that most of the appeal of the old cartoons is that they’re old: They’re part of my childhood and youth, mainly, so it represents a kind of nostalgia. But I also think 2-D cartoons have a kind of charm as well as an expressiveness that’s often missing from computer-generated cartoons. 3-D animated films (like Toy Story, Shrek, Up, Monsters, Inc., etc.) are often very entertaining—but are they really cartoons if no ink was ever used?

There was similar pushback when TV (mostly) started colourising old black and white movies. Purists condemned what they thought of as desecration, while others said it made the films more accessible to younger audiences. However, a purist could turn off the colour and watch the film in black and white if they wanted to—you can’t 2-D a 3-D movie.

I know I’m not actually the target demographic for this film (or for much of anything else in popular entertainment, if we’re honest), so maybe what I think doesn't matter. And maybe this film will actually be good in 3-D—maybe even great. I have a cautiously open mind about it.

But I do think that sometimes we don’t need to change things just because we can, and we don’t need to “fix things that aren’t broken”. We’ll find out next year whether this is one of those times or not.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St Patrick’s Day

I’ve never been a big fan of St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not Irish (well, possibly a little), and as I got older I thought it was all over-the-top. But, is it an American invention?

The US Embassy in Ireland made the video above, “5 Ways Americans Invented St. Patrick's Day” as a kind of light-hearted look at the American influence on St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Was it intended to be a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun? Some people clearly don’t think so.

Comments on the YouTube page included the declarative, like “Obviously a joke just not funny,” through to the appalled: “This is so obnoxious I can't believe it is real. As an American, I find this embarrassing.” And there was the mixed-bag criticism: “This is utterly cringeworthy. St. Patrick's Day is nothing but a booze-fuelled mess anyway. Nice to see Dublin is the only place in Ireland that is relevant, apparently.”

One comment (link takes you to the YouTube page of the video) was more accurate, however:
“Americans did not invent Saint Patrick's Day, which is an ancient Christian feast day, they just invented deeply tacky celebrations with an excess of lurid green elements (tolerable shades do exist) and inappropriate Scottish kilts (which Irish people do not wear), fake leprechaun outfits (leprechauns do not wear green) and fake-coloured quasi-‘red’ beards (leprechauns do not have red hair). It is noteworthy how leprechauns are never seen any more; they have been shamed into deeper reclusiveness than ever.

“It is all a typical emigrants' descendants' phony and embarrassing misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the parent culture. And many Irish people in Ireland are stupid enough to reproduce the tackier elements with misplaced enthusiasm, especially in recent years by dressing up in those nasty, fake ‘leprechaun’ outfits. Why could we not have a classy cultural celebration? It is our national day, yet in Ireland we have blindly embraced ignorant American shabbiness and hideous solecisms. Shame on us.

“The Irish Times skewered this one with the headline: ‘Americans invented St Patrick’s Day, claim Americans’."
Obviously Americans didn’t invent St. Patrick’s DAY and I certainly didn’t think the video was claiming that. Instead, the video was claiming that Americans created the over-the-top public celebration of it. Given how often Americans do that (Halloween, anyone?), I think there’s a lot of truth to THAT claim.

My parents enjoyed St Patrick’s Day. My mother liked to think she had Irish ancestry (although, to date, we haven’t found any), and wore green. My dad wore a green tie. He also often made corned beef and cabbage. My parents usually had a few whiskeys. My dad probably told somewhat crude or ribald jokes with a fake Irish accent (he actually was pretty good at imitating accents). I just watched, mostly—though I did like the corned beef and cabbage.

As a kid, I used to wear a green shirt on St. Patrick’s Day, and our primary school teachers often had some sort of activity. I don’t remember any of them using the opportunity to teach us anything about Ireland, or even about Irish immigrants to the USA, which was a huge missed opportunity, in my opinion.

By high school, I was already pretty much over it all, but I remember one thing vividly: Our school librarian used to wear an orange shirt on St. Patrick’s Day because, he said, he was Protestant. He never tried to explain anything more. At the time, I thought he was a bit of a dick, but later—when I read about the history of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland (which were raging at the time) and the significance of orange (and the Orange Order) in that turbulent time, I came to realise he was actually being a bit of a jerk.

Personally, I don’t see any harm in all the current St Patrick’s Day nonsense: If people enjoy it then they should enjoy it. None of my business. Just don’t expect me to join in all that over-the-top green-beer-soaked hoopla, no matter who invented it.

Update: The Huffington Post covers this, too.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Weekend Diversion: Logo design

Above is a BuzzFeed video published on March 11. It’s an interesting look at famous logos, and the sometimes-subtle messages included. I think it’s interesting, even when we don’t notice.

However, when I watched the video I thought it sounded awfully familiar. It turns out, on April 2, 2012, BuzzFeed posted “Great Logos With A Secret Meaning”, which covered this same ground, but with more logos. Maybe everything old is new again,

In any case, I think it’s interesting to see what designers have done with big name logos, and why. Analysing the choices they made can help the rest of us as we struggle with designing logos for somewhat smaller organisations.

A logo is, of course, a graphic emblem used to represent a company or organisation. Modern logos are said to have begun in the 1870s, When Bass registered their red triangle. But logos as a concept date back much farther than that. They also have much in common with the heraldic crests once used by knights and nobles to identify each other on the battlefield.

In New Zealand, one only has to add the trademark symbol ("™") to have legal protection for a logo or trademark. However, for full protection, here as elsewhere, it’s best to register the mark, which gives the owner the right to use the registered symbol, “®”. Registering a logo gives the highest level of legal protection, but it’s not invincible. For example, if a company can prove they used a substantially similar mark before the registration, they may be able to have the newer mark de-registered.

Companies spend a lot of money to develop and promote their logos to make it easy for customers to recognise them quickly. I use this to my advantage: I take logos for banks, power companies and so on, and tape them to the tabs of the filing folders where I keep statements. That way, I can visually scan the files and find the folder I’m looking for without having to read each one. Thanks, logo designers!

This post is kind of a follow-up to my previous Weekend Diversion, “The History of Typography”. Logo design is another area of graphic design where typography is important, even when we don’t even notice.


Top ten logos gone wrong
The Latest Victims In Famous Logo Rebrands

Lusi in disguise

I don’t always remember to follow-up things I’ve posted about, so here’s one now: Cyclone Lusi was no big deal for Auckland. In fact, it wasn’t as bad as some ordinary storms.

Lusi was deadly when it hit Vanuatu, but by the time it reached New Zealand it was downgraded to a category 2. Yesterday it was classified as a tropical depression.

We had almost no rain. We did get some very strong gusts of wind, but this was actually a good thing: It would've been very muggy without it. We also had no damage to speak of, apart from some leaves and rubbish blowing around, that sort of thing.

So, not a big deal for Auckland at all. This is good.

Weather is still largely unpredictable, at least, specifics of weather are—like, if a certain thing will happen or not. This leads people to become complacent about weather warnings, assuming a predicted storm won’t happen.

I’m a little more cautious. I know that no cyclone over the past 18 years that I’ve been in New Zealand has caused trouble for Auckland—in fact, various weather bombs have been far worse, like the one that damaged our house, or the one a year later which was bad, but didn’t damage our house.

But what if one day there's storm that's as bad as they predict—or worse? Our “Get Thru” kit will see us, well, through. It’s always good to be prepared for emergencies, whether they ever happen or not.

Next time, the cyclone may not come disguised as a really windy day; next time it could be a very big deal.

Things change, don’t then do

The video above, part of an episode of the classic TV show Maude, aired on December 3, 1977 during the last season of the show. “The Gay Bar” deals with the opening of a gay bar in their town, Tuckahoe, New York. Liberal icon Maude isn’t at all upset by it, of course, but her conservative foil Arthur Harmon wants it closed down.

This was the way things were in 1977. It was still socially acceptable to be anti-gay, however, things were starting to turn and those who were loudly, blindly anti-gay were often seen as characters who deserved to be ridiculed.

A few years later, the AIDS epidemic changed everything. The level of official oppression of LGBT people increased, and anti-gay people weren’t ridiculed by the mainstream—they again were the mainstream.

I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Imagine how much further along we’d be if AIDS had never happened!” I’m not one of those people, at least, not totally.

To be sure, if AIDS had never happened, gay people would have had an easier time with social and political progress, but I’m not convinced that we’d necessarily be any farther along the road to social and legal equality than we are now. Crisis creates urgency, which unleashes strength of purpose and determination and energy that is usually lacking when there’s no urgency.

I realise that I may very well think this because of the way history has unfolded. African Americans didn’t move from slavery to full and equal citizens (to the extent they’ve achieved that…) without struggle. Similarly, governments didn’t jump from oppressing and criminalising gay people to allowing us to marry.

Yes, societies DO evolve given time: Western societies no longer accept the idea that women are property or subservient in all matters to their fathers and then their husbands. We don’t accept the idea that one human can own another. But none of this happened just because society woke up one day and decided to change. Instead, people demanded change, preached it, lived it—and too often suffered for it.

So, if we want society to change and evolve, sometimes it needs a little shove. Women around the world demanded the right to vote for decades before they actually won it. African Americans demanded equality for decades—around two century’s worth, actually—before laws started to change. Women, and then LGBT people, pushed for equality, building on all these earlier struggles and using many of the same tactics.

And then AIDS came along. Our adversaries became emboldened, seeing an opportunity to turn back the clock and re-institutionalise oppression of LGBT people. They had a lot of successes—at first.

But then we started fighting back. At first, we were fighting for our very lives, and the lives of our friends and family, but then again for our civil and human rights. We were determined to prevent losing the gains we’d achieved, and we eventually prevailed.

As the hysteria of the early AIDS years subsided, we were there, pushing for progress. By the 1990s, things were again moving forward. I believe that a large part of the successes we had at that time is directly attributable to the urgent organising we needed to do because of the anti-gay hysteria of the early AIDS years. But as the urgency faded, so did the energy—and the progress slowed.

In 1993, it looked like Hawaii was about to legalise marriage for same-gender couples. Our rightwing adversaries again organised against us, building their activism (and extensive fundraising) on stopping marriage equality. This lead to the infamous Defense [sic] of Marriage Act (1996). Within a decade, Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman saw an opportunity to exploit this rightwing fervour as a way to increase votes for Republicans.

As with the rightwing political reaction to AIDS, we were caught off guard by the rightwing’s juggernaut to stop marriage equality. They focused on state battles because they knew it would be much harder for our side to fight effectively in battles all over the country, but it was also a logical move for them, since a Constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality was dead—thanks to the Defense [sic] of Marriage Act they’d fought for. A state-by-state campaign also gave them more opportunities to raise money, of course.

The anti-gay rightwing activists had an unbroken string of victories in referenda between 2000 and 2009, but that year was their final victory (North Carolina’s 2012 referendum is irrelevant, since only about a third of voters bothered to vote in the referendum; guaranteeing a low turnout by holding the referendum on a weird date was part of anti-gay politicians’ strategy to ensure it would pass).

There’s no doubt that the anti-gay industry held off equality for LGBT Americans for about a decade—two, if you count the politics of the AIDS years. They were strong, organised, extremely well-funded—and not very nice people. Increasingly it became clear that the radical right was motivated by anti-gay animus. That’s when they began to lose.

Apart from the aberration of North Carolina, the anti-gay industry hasn’t had a single victory since 2009. They even lost in the Indiana legislature, which the spokesbigot for one leading anti-gay hate group arrogantly asserted was a sure victory for them. They’re now also losing every court challenge. Even their new tactic of hiding their anti-gay animus in a cloak of religious respectability (as in Arizona) hasn’t worked, instead unleashing strong opposition from all sides—left AND right.

All of which shows how far the US has come: It’s much less socially acceptable to be anti-gay than it was in 1977. In 2014, the only ones who are anti-gay activists are also political extremists, and no one likes or admires them.

I’m sure that social progress can happen without the urgency that a crisis creates, but I also think that sometimes a crisis can galvanise “the good guys” and unleash new energy that, ultimately, forces things to move forward faster than would have happened without a crisis. History has shown that as crises wain, we become complacent, and again become vulnerable to issues our adversaries creatively exploit against us. However, we’re getting closer and closer to achieving legal equality for LGBT people, which gives our far-rightwing adversaries very little room to attack us. That is a very good thing, indeed.

All of which may sound as if I’m giving some sort of backhanded credit to the anti-gay industry that cost us so much time and money. I definitely am not. I don’t know that I’ll ever forgive them for what they’ve done, though I’ll certainly forget (unlike them—they’ll wallow forever in their defeat and bitterness).

I’d so much rather that these crises had never happened: We lost far too many good people to AIDS. Fighting the rightwing’s exploitation of the disease for their political and financial gain only made things worse.

What we have also seen in all this is that the rightwing clearly didn’t learn anything from the political wars they waged against us—but we did. We’re never going back, no matter what the Arthur Harmons of the world may think.

The excerpt in the video above is part one of three. Part two is the main part of the episode, and part three, which is very short, contains the final joke of the episode. The links go to YouTube. This post was inspired by a friend's post today on Facebook, and another friend's comment on it.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Modern Family Message for Australian Marriage Equality

This video is a good message for the Australian government to hurry up an enact marriage equality. There’s even a shout out to New Zealand.

From the video description on YouTube:
Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family send a message to Australia's law makers about marriage equality. To stop waiting for marriage equality, start here.
We need more people speaking out to get Australia moving. History—and the Australian people—are waiting for Tony Abbott's government to catch up to them.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Oppressive (The best gay possible) Slow Mix

And now, a slow mix version of the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of Panti Bliss’ “Noble Call” speech, with a relevant video on top of it. I think this one is really good. Not that you care what I think, nor should you, but there it is, all the same.

As I said the other day, anything that helps spread the message is fine with me.

Via Joe.My.God.

Seeing to things

I went for an eye exam today. Nothing particularly unusual about that, but how it came to be is a little. And the results indicate a future path—too.

I needed an eye exam: My last exam was in August 2008, and I wrote about it at the time because it was the final follow-up after my Lasik eye surgery. I didn’t intend to wait so long until my next exam—it’s not a good idea for someone over 50 to go so long without an eye exam. But, after that age, years start going by so quickly that it’s easy to lose track of time.

My specific motivation was that my driver licence is about to expire. We have ten year licences in New Zealand, and they expire on a person’s “five” birthdays (well, actually, we have until three months after, and mine is up the end of next week). However, when I looked at the application I suddenly remembered that my current license says I need to wear vision correction to drive. Oops. It never occurred to me to change that.

So, faced with the need for a new license that needed to be corrected, I decided to go ahead and get a professional test to sort of pre-emptively take care of the situation. That meant, however, finding an optometrist.

I wanted to go with an independent optometrist, not the local outlet of a national (or international…) chain. I’m sure that the chains offer fine service, but the optometrists may change and I’d prefer to stick with the same person for a while. Plus, I like to patronise local businesses whenever I can; chain stores are sometimes franchises, sometimes owned by the chain, and without asking it’s hard to know which is which.

So, I turned to Google. In the end, I only considered places that had a website. If a practice couldn’t have their own website, then I felt they weren’t necessarily up with the times. Their service may be as good, their technology as up to date, but a business that uses modern technology to reach customers is, in my opinion, a bit more switched on.

This is why I chose Birkenhead Optometrists, and it turned out to be a good choice. I had a thorough eye exam that I’d rate among the best I’ve ever had—and since I’ve been having eye exams since I was a kid, I have ample experiences to compare.

However, I also learned that because before my surgery I’d had such bad myopia, I’m at greater risk of cataracts. Where normal-sighted people might develop cataracts in their 70s, I’m more likely to do so in my 60s. In fact, I have early signs of cataracts now—nothing to worry about yet, but something to keep an eye on (heh!) over the coming years. An indicator of how NOT bad it is, my next exam is in two years.

Other than that, my vision was good and so was my eye health (including eye pressure). Now, certificate in hand, I can go and renew my license next week.

So, I was overdue for an eye exam (bad boy!), and I needed to renew my driver license, so I had a good motivator. Then, the Internet helped me make my choice of who should do the exam. Now, I’m ready to go renew my license and I am aware of future health issues that will eventually develop.

All in all, a pretty good day—as far as I can see.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Batten down the hatches

Cyclone Lusi is heading south over the next few days, and MetService is predicting severe weather for parts of New Zealand. After the beautiful day today was, it’s kind of hard to imagine.

We don’t get a lot of cyclones in New Zealand, but there have been some particularly nasty ones in the past (though no bad ones in the 18+ years I’ve lived in New Zealand). Because there’s some uncertainty as to the precise track the storm will take, they can’t be sure what areas, precisely, are at the greatest risk.

At the moment, Lusi is a catergory 3 cyclone with winds of 119-157 km/h (approximately 74-97 mph). While it will probably weaken over the colder ocean water this far south, we’ve been told to expect periods of heavy rain and gale to severe gale.

We’re relatively sheltered where our house is, protected from the worst winds. As luck would have it, I’ve been doing work outside the house, things like cleaning out some of our guttering, which had a thick mat of moss in some of it. I also swept up leaves and dirt that can block the storm drain outside our garage. This was just routine autumn clean-up, getting ready for those winter rains, but it turns out to have been very lucky timing.

It was all coincidence, really: I didn’t know how bad Lusi is supposed to be until today, when a severe weather warning was issued (VIDEO) for Friday night through the weekend.

So, after a run of some pretty brilliant weather, it looks like we're due for a wild weekend. Maybe I'll catch up on my blogging.

Monday, March 10, 2014

And, we’re off!

Today Prime Minister John Key announced the date of the next General Election: September 20. That means 195 days until a new government or more of the same.

In the past, prime ministers have often waited until the last minute to announce the election date, but there’s no particular advantage in doing so. John Key recognised that in announcing the date. In 2011, he announced the election date nine months ahead of time. I think this is a good practice that I hope all future prime ministers follow.

The complicating factor this year is that Australia has invited New Zealand to participate in the G20 meeting they’re hosting, and if the election was held too close before it, we might not have a government formed when the meeting take place. If it was after that, it would give the current government an unfair advantage, particularly because the campaign would be taking place while the current prime minister was at the meeting. Holding the election in September avoids all those problems.

Parliament will rise on July 31, and the actual election campaign will begin. Restrictions on spending will begin three months before the election campaign.

NZ Labour's social media response to the election date.
However, none of the political parties wait for the start of the actual campaign to begin their work for the election: They’ve all been doing a lot of things, like selecting candidates in various electorates, sending out MPs to give speeches, etc. They also use social media, of course, such as the graphic at right, which Labour posted to Facebook and Twitter.

This past Saturday, a canvasser for the NZ Labour Party stopped by our house. In the 18+ years I’ve lived in New Zealand, I’ve never seen anyone from ANY party doing that. They were doing this around the country, too. From my perspective as a Labour supporter, that’s a very good thing to see because it means that they’re taking their “ground game” very seriously.

I love elections and electoral politics, and have for as long as I can remember. I love it best when the side I support wins, of course. I have 195 days to help make sure I love the results of this election.

A noble call

The video above from early last month features Rory O'Neill, aka Panti Bliss, a leading drag performer in Ireland, speaking about homophobia, what it is and means. It’s a great speech, one that lit up certain parts of the Internet.

The ruckus started when O’Neill appeared on RTÉ’s “Saturday Night Show”, called out some people for their homophobia, and, as he put it later on Twitter, his “appearance on the Sat Night Show has been taken off the RTÉ Player because someone I mentioned is upset…Legally upset.” Put another way, RTÉ proved O’Neill right: Homophobia exists and is strong in Ireland.

In his oration, O’Neill said that for three weeks he’d been denounced and lectured to about what homophobia is and who has the right to use the word, that gay people can never call anyone homophobic—only straight people can do that (logic is never bigots’ best trait…). He says, “Now it turns out that gay people are not the victims of homophobia, homophobes are the victims of homophobia.”

This particular oration is good not just because it calls out homophobic bigotry, which is always a good thing to do, but also because it also puts it into context—what it means from a gay perspective, and also that being homophobic is not, in and of itself, a hateful thing; like everything else, it depends on what a person does with it, whether they act on it and do hateful things or not.

As I often say, though, if someone doesn’t want to be called a homophobe, then they shouldn’t act like one. It’s quite simple, really.

And I, fortunately, don’t know anyone who acts like an anti-gay bigot. I know a handful of people who I’m quite sure have homophobic thoughts or attitudes, but they would never dream of acting on that to oppress me or any other LGBT person. They are clearly not homophobes or bigots because they don’t act like one. They get it.

True anti-gay bigotry is waning, becoming the sole property of far-right religious and political extremists and nuts. Even mainstream people who don't much like gay people have moved on, no longer wanting—or needing—to focus so intently on the lives of LGBT people. The majority of such people have moved on to important things, and oppressing other people simply isn’t one of them.

So this is a speech worth celebrating and spreading for the truth is speaks, for the context provides, but especially because there are SO many people who need to hear it.

Meanwhile, there have been dance mixes made out of Panti’s speech. The first that I know of, in mid-February, was a track by Out!rage Dublin called “Oppression”, which uses samples from the speech. They’re donating the proceeds from the track to support LGBT youth in Ireland. Here’s that track:

More recently, the Pet Shop Boys created a mix (below) that features the speech, leaving Panti’s words in context. I think it’s quite good. But anything that helps spread the message is fine with me.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Gopher tuna!

There’s something of an industry around misheard lyrics, because it’s hilarious. But what about when the lyrics are in Latin? Then we have some fun.

The video above shows what the Medieval Latin poem “O Fortuna” might be saying were it in English. The 13th century poem about fate and luck was set to music in 1938 by German composer Carl Orff, and it’s been a hit of sorts ever since. It’s what we hear in this video.

The music has been used throughout popular culture, including, it must be noted, in a surge of rightwing videos after President Obama was elected. That is, rightwingers used it up until they started being ridiculed for it.

So, this is just a bit of fun. Because, why not?

Tip o’ the Hat to Matt, who shared this on Facebook.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Magical New Zealand

Magical New Zealand from Shawn Reeder on Vimeo.

Photographer/visual artist Shawn Reeder took 8,640 photographs out of 150,000 taken over 3 months to create this time lapse look at New Zealand. I think it’s pretty awesome.

Because I’m swamped with work right now, this will have to do for today.

Via The Atlantic.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Just because

The photo above is of Sunny and Jake on a recent afternoon. They often sleep closely like this, and neither seems to mind it when they get the occasional tail slap across the face.

I should post more photos of all three of them, but I forget. Human time span is so much different than theirs, and sometimes I’m guilty of forgetting that. They deserve all the attention I can muster, even when I get busy with human stuff.

I was reminded of all that today when I found out that Jake’s blood brother, Doyle, lost his long health battle and quietly slipped away. It happened last July, but I only just found out because I’d gotten out of the habit of reading his blog with his family. First thing I did after I read the news was give Jake a cuddle, then Sunny and Bella when they joined us.

None of them had any idea what the attention was all about, of course, but they were glad to have it, as they always are. Truth is, I like giving them attention even more. Just because.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Weekend Diversion: The History of Typography

This video from last year is an animated presentation of the history of typography. In my field, knowing about this stuff is important, but most people have no reason to even care. I think it’s interesting.

While humans have been using writing of one sort or another for millennia, modern printing using moveable type only came about some 575 years ago. Prior to that, books were copied by hand—a time-consuming process—or printed from wooden blocks, which had limited life because they wore out. Making books, then, was a very expensive process, and few people could own them. At the same time, there was also mass illiteracy.

Johannes Gutenberg changed everything. By inventing a system to make it possible to create pages with reusable metal type that could be moved around to compose pages (and re-used for other pages), it became possible to print unlimited copies of books and other printed information. Books became cheaper and more and more people learned to read. This was the single greatest move to democratise information that the world has ever seen, right up until the creation of the Internet.

Gutenberg’s invention spurred the invention of new and easier-to-read typefaces, which is what the video above describes. Modern communication exploded as books became available to pretty much anyone, and more and more people learned to read—books sales and increased literacy clearly had a symbiotic relationship.

As is so often the case, the development of new typefaces were driven on by the needs of business for communication and record keeping, and also for advertising and marketing. Fortunately, there was a lot of good design that developed, too, helped by the increasing variety of typefaces. The graphic at right shows some of what can go wrong, however. Intended as a joke, it shows things I’ve actually encountered over the years.

In the Internet Age, we’ve seen another democratisation of information, as absolutely anyone can be a publisher, whether it’s a blog, an ebook, or whatever. Not all of these new publications are “good”, of course, but that’s always been the case—not every book or newspaper that was made possible by Gutenberg’s innovation has value, either. Unlike paper books and periodicals, however, electronic publishing gives governments and businesses unprecedented abilities to spy on readers and to censor information, and to do so quietly, secretly and without anyone knowing it’s happening. Well, usually: The Internet also makes it easier to reveal such secret spying and censorship.

The two worlds—traditional publishing and the Internet Age—merge in efforts to make information that is now in the public domain available on the Internet. Two that I use frequently are The Internet Archive and the appropriately named Project Gutenberg. The latter began as a supplier of text-only copies of books in the public domain, and have since expanded to embrace various e-reader technologies and, most recently, they’ve created a self-publishing portal. There are also services to help with self-publishing through the online retailers, whether the book is free or not. I'll talk more about that another time.

The process that began with Gutenberg is far from over. I think that’s a great thing.

And still more about typography:

A video by Karen Kavett shows “How to Identify Fonts”. Graphics/typography nerds like me will find it interesting.

Artist Transforms The City Of Chicago Into A Giant Typography Playground

A blog called “Typeset In The Future” is focused on typefaces used in sci-fi, beginning with an extensive look at 2001: A Space Odyssey. They said about it: “Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi masterpiece – seems an appropriate place to start a blog about typography in sci-fi.” And so it is.