Are we all …? Are we?

Wondering if there will be calls and banners, “We are Pulse”. When they come for a gay night club, “We are all gay.”

Wondering if there will be calls and banners, “We are all Latinx”. It was Latinx night at Pulse.

I feel just nauseous even wondering. It forces tears into my eyes. It’s not like the solidarity with victims wasn’t already abundantly selective. Any Arab or Islamic target barely registered.

At least the bomb in the local Target appeared to have been random and not hate-related. The woman who did that is rather opaque on motivation.

What a mixed up day, emotionally. We’re on vacation. It’s the second anniversary of me informing my office of my transition. It’s even a planned event, Children’s Day, making the day special for children of all ages…

And I wake up to read that overnight we had the worst shooting spree in U.S. history at an Orlando gay night club, and they’re trying to decide if it’s a hate crime or domestic terrorism. Like it could be decided cleanly and easily between the two. Like you could take a scalpel to the two problems. Which… they do. On one side, you describe the assailant one way, minimizing the threat, and on the other, you describe them completely differently, maximizing the threat. And it’s all just mixed together there, imagining the futures that aren’t, imagining the futures of those that know them, and reading the trail left on the airwaves.

Make History

There’s but one problem with the phrase we sometimes use to decry bigotry, “standing on the wrong side of history.” History is not inevitable. There is no unavoidability to the long line of human progress over time towards a more just society. We become a more just society because of innumerable contributions, small and large, towards the work of making society more just. It is only when we emerge after doing that work that history will judge us. Because that history is written by those who follow us. Unless you take an active hand in teaching those that follow, they will write history according to someone else’s truth. History is a creative act.

Take a side. Do the work. Make history.

Fighting the Good Fight

Somewhere in the middle of NaNo, I slipped up and abruptly halted. I slipped up by letting the world get to me. I got into a funk, had this specific essay in mind, and had a sizable creative block about writing it. Not my usual M.O..

In the middle of November 2015, you might remember, there were mass killings in Paris. Then I learned there were mass killings in Lebanon. Before Paris.

It’s bad enough to have to rerealize there are mass murderers for ideology in the world, then having to confront the fact that media coverage is incredibly selective about which mass casualties are worth covering. And not as an isolated incident. As a pattern that has been repeated especially often in the past few months. Brussels or Ankara? On and on. (Lahore is a bit of an aberration, but perhaps not, because it was quickly disclosed that the Taliban had intended to target Christians. I suspect some were secretly delighted that the targeting went “awry” and the publicity would be mixed for the Taliban. Another species of Daesh.)

I lost my temper over that. Specifically the day I learned of killings in Ankara, yet days after, because of the selective coverage, it finally boiled over into an angry rant. I won’t repost it. Someone kindly talked me out of my rage.

There have been a few editorials bemoaning the lack of solidarity with Ankara but, surreally, that’s the most coverage I have seen this side of the world.  The lopsidedness of it continues still. There are still terrorist incidents around the world, and they’re still selectively covered. The primaries are going on in the U.S., and that takes a tremendous share of time and energy, but still? When there’s a clear bias going on, and it smacks of intolerance, it’s time to call it. So I’m calling it, partly as racist bullshit, partly as Christian hegemony in the U.S. and its traditional marriage with Islamophobia.

And that right there would be enough to say for one essay (only the start of the work on that, but plenty of a topic), except there’s more that I needed to say. I’d been questioning why I bother trying most weeks to improve anything at all. Not seriously. Just a kind of dejection of the fatigued. In any event, losing my temper jarred enough loose that I can begin to write this. At last.

What does the phrase “fighting the good fight” mean to you?

My history with it and how I encountered it colored my understanding of it. For the better, I think. It means a lot to me. It’s my way of motivating myself to do better and to decide, intentionally, what I will do.

I first encountered the phrase in, I kid you not, Fallout 3. For those not familiar, that’s a video game, set in Washington D.C., in a kitschy yet deadly nuclear post-apocalyptic world. There’s one non-player character, a D.J., who uses it to frame their motivations, why they keep speaking into the radio, and trying to tell truth to everyone. Most especially to motivate others to do well and to get everyone to fight oppression. And in a bleak post-apocalyptic world, there’s a lot of oppression. To me, the longer I explored playing and replaying the game, it began to take on a sort of anti-racist parable. (Whether it was meant that way by its writers or not.)

You see bits and pieces in the stories and even side quests leading up to the end, and in the end you make a decision. Purge the land of mutants and undesirables, make it “human” the way we used to define human, or instead let the waters of life flow freely to everyone. Detailing the numerous places in the story I saw this and the nuances I saw in those would be a whole other essay. There are parts that don’t entirely dovetail with this, too, they’re just opportunities to do the right thing — or not. It is a choice. In that fiction, but especially in the world.

Suffice it to say, I began to identify the phrase with trying to make the world a better place, every chance one had, at every turn, to the best of one’s abilities.

At one point, years later, I researched the phrase and found out it had a history. A long one. A somewhat mixed one for me.

The most recent notable person to use it that appeared in researching it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Possibly one of the most misused sources by white folk in trying to discredit black folk agitating, or even just asking, for better. Sorry, a bit of an aside, but it’s just flat out true, and that also has been brought up again in the past several, several months. Please quit doing that, it’s a jackass move.)

More, though, it has a rich connection with Evangelical Christianity. Something that makes me tread carefully here. But some of the first instances are in the bible. I’m not cozy with Evangelical Christianity. I do know Evangelicals who are on the side of good, honestly. But it seems a dwindling variety. Even Jimmy Carter left the Southern Baptist Convention in protest. Which, well, good on Carter for knowing how to stick up for a principle more than an organization. Being a Progressive Evangelical seems a bit like swimming against a riptide in the U.S. these days. You can survive it. Maybe. But perhaps better to be unencumbered by the weight of a large organization operating “in your name” against much of what you hold dear. I’d say it’s hopeless, but it’s a little like how I view being a U.S. citizen. I feel duty bound out of loyalty to be a better citizen.

Christianity is no longer for me, I discovered other experiences and traditions that speak better to what I believe, but there’s a kind of witnessing I hold dear to heart still. It’s not insisting to others they convert to your religious views and constantly trying to show one’s fervor and enthusiasm for one’s own viewpoint. It’s setting a good example, taking the best of your own views, and volunteering them truthfully when asked. It’s living your worldview and your ideals, and letting that be a beacon that draws others to those ideals.

I’ve agonized it, but I’m not going to jettison a perfectly good idiom and rally cry over the fact that there are other people using it to rally towards an antagonistic and exclusionary version of it. It’s the right phrase.

It often is paired with a sense of doom or hopelessness. That perhaps one already knows one has lost going into a situation, and is going forward, regardless. Some days it feels that way. Thus the fatigue.

And I often bring it up with a variety of phrases, which more or less amount to, “We’ve got work to do.”

Why comes easy for me, though.

I believe the world as it is can always be made better, that we can comport ourselves better in it, that we can help one another in doing so, and that all of this is both the ethical and even the happier thing to do. Heartbreaking and angering, at times, but happier than not doing so or running the other way into selfishness.

And… If you believe the world can be better, do you believe you can be part of making it better? I believe I can. I believe everyone can, though not everyone chooses to. I believe choosing to is a moral imperative, though I also believe one should work within one’s abilities sustainably. This is a long and nontrivial undertaking and, unless there’s an opportunity worth throwing yourself away for, unlike Fallout 3, there’s more to be gained in being here to continue working than burning out.

I also believe that perfect isn’t attainable. That there will always be work to do, even if we’re all pulling for better. And, no, I believe there are always some working for their own selfishness, instead, and we have less than ideal conditions for working on this. It’s practically built into the system, there are simply going to be a variety of people, we live in an ecology of people and ideas, and in any ecology there will always be exploitative individuals. The fact that we can’t get perfect isn’t an excuse, it just means that we can’t shirk the responsibility of working to improve the world, or then the world actively gets worse. It might even get worse when we’re working to improve it, some eras are just like that, but there’s every guarantee it will get worse without active help.

So what does fighting the good fight look like to me. Not just a completely abstract “better” but what to do about it?

  • Better is love, and love is better. It sounds trite until you put it consistently into practice. It sounds simplistic until you get down to details. It sounds naive, but really… It’s less naive and more open-eyed than any alternative out there.
  • Love is founded not in simplistic admiration and flattery, but in empathy and care and concern.
  • Empathy is the basic skill in learning to understand and model others emotions in ourselves. Outside of the (relatively) comfortable world of our own selves. It comes harder for some people, easier for others, but if you can learn it, it’s ty to learn it.
  • Care and concern are what happens when we feel the urge to act on that empathy. Not just feel what another feels, but use that information towards everyone’s betterment. Empathy without the impetus to action is empty, it’s paralyzing. Do what you can.
  • If you take care and concern, and notice what opportunities you have at hand to act on those, you are seeing the chance to do the work.
  • Do the work.
  • Get better at seeing more opportunities.
  • Even more, develop the capacity to see more. Develop the capacity to do more. And even to feel more. To be able to sustain deeper empathy and take a fuller account of what is going on outside of ourselves, and then to act on it.
  • Develop the capacity in others to continue the fight, to continue the work. The fight isn’t solo. It’s not you against the world, it’s you alongside the world. You see someone struggling, you help them back up.*
  • And most especially, as befits the impetus of this essay: The work is for everyone, neither by a few nor for a few.
  • Then get in there and do it again. It isn’t over.

And what does this have to do against, say, terrorism? There are few things more useless, few things that change less in the world, few things that are more selfish than mass murder for the sake of instilling fear into others. It’s one of the acts in the world that is the antithesis of the good fight. But witnessing it makes it all the more imperative to step it up. Even if it doesn’t directly fight people who would do that, it indirectly buttresses the whole world to be both more resilient to such events, and making the world a better place actually makes such acts less appealing. It’s easier to justify propaganda designed to foment attacks when the world looks shitty. People who are themselves terrified see it as a way to bully others, and in some contorted logic that’s supposed to lead to a better world. It doesn’t. It’s flawed logic. But it’s there.

Even something as seemingly remote as an attack thousands of miles away can be influenced by how we, collectively, make the world better or fail to. Imagine how much more influence we have closer to home. Better is better. Maybe not evenly, but done right and in the right spirit it should become more even, more just.

The particulars vary. They always vary. I may get specific about what I am trying to do, later. But I’m not getting too specific here just now because it is a certainty that your opportunities will be different than mine. (Maybe less long winded, too.)

But please.

Fight the good fight with me.

I have some great allies. More than I could hope to know, in fact, and many don’t know me.
But we could always use more.

Best,

random
* (In fact, this is often my role, but when I lost my temper earlier this week, a relatively new fiend, Tori, reached out to me and helped me back up, for which I am immensely grateful.)

Encryption is not Opinion

Graaaah!

Dear Journalists:

Please stop asking law enforcement their opinion about how encryption functions. It’s a matter of mathematical fact. It’s as mechanical as a mechanical universe gets, even when not all of the universe is mechanical. And when they claim “Apple doesn’t have all the facts” and “this is just a specific solution to one problem”, they’re lying very dangerously. Perhaps out of ignorance. Asking their opinion is creating a false equivalency between mathematics and a wishful idea of how mathematics could be conceivably bent to the side, selectively, for the sake of cases we might find it convenient.

You open that door, it isn’t just law enforcement that will crawl in. Encryption hampers law enforcement. Given. It also keeps a world of criminals outside, if you choose to use it. It’s exactly an argument over one case versus millions. Do you allow millions of criminals easier access to solve one case? Do you? Really?

Grumpily,

Me

Resuming from Suspension

Oh, my… Where to begin. Same place as ever, I suppose.

I caught a nasty case of blogger’s block, and it feels like a stuffy head cold. Excuse me while I go try to blow it out on a tissue, will you?

Gah! Hoomahgods… Yech! Terrible. Does that feel any better? I’m not certain yet. There’s been plenty of grist for blogging. I just… Haven’t. I need to fix that.

It genuinely does feel a lot like blowing my nose out.

My cat, Addy, could give me lessons in that regard. She’s always sending large globs of partially dried mucus in directions you didn’t think it could go. Possibly directions you still won’t believe, after seeing the evidence, that the cat was personally responsible for flinging a booger six feet up the wall. By sneezing downwards.

Is blogging like that? Hopefully it’s less disgusting, really, but many days it feels like blogging is the work of publicly cleaning up my own or someone else’s goobers. And I love my cats dearly. I don’t have a lot of love for some of the goobers I feel need to be cleaned up.
I’m doing NaNoWriMo for the first year ever. I’ve been resisting because I didn’t feel up to the challenge. I still don’t, but I’m talking myself into it, perpetually.

I have several story ideas that I’ve written down over the years. Written down is a bit of a stretch. Etched, perhaps. Actually, several that span a fairly lengthy timeline. I’d actually put up some documentation in MiniGroups and shared it with a few friends. I apparently “missed the memo” that MiniGroups was shutting down. I missed getting my notes out of there by only a week, and can’t locate any other copies of that documentation. That’s after checking Evernote, Google Docs, Dropbox, iCloud, and a few other places besides. While that’s fairly frustrating, I’m not nearly so put out about that as I might be. Because the whole damn timeline has been stuck in my head for years. I have a lot of productive commutes to and from work fleshing more of it out, but you can only get so far when it is stuck in your head, etched indelibly in your frontal lobes using a combination of chisels and sharpies. I can give you their working titles in intended story order: Stowaway, Schism, Prelude, Overture, Traitor, Implosion, Freed: Escape, Project Annabelle, Freed: Waking, Geometry of Dreams, Freed: Union, and Frontier.

I unequivocally recommend never, ever creating the entire outline for a twelve novel epic story while listening to music on your commute if you can avoid it. It’s not good for your mental health. Not to mention your sense of completion.

I’ve also been feeling a bit stuck, creatively, due to a few bad habits of how I use my time. I figure NaNo is the solution I’ve been looking away from as enthusiastically as I could previously manage. It isn’t like I’ve done nothing creative, but — again — completion. I’ve started a good many paintings that I haven’t finished. And so on. But! Benefits of NaNo for me:

Firstly, it will give me a chance to at least put the first story on that timeline into draft form. I can then go back and edit it thoroughly and cross-reference it against the other future timeline and past timeline. And against itself. And hopefully go through and clean up the draft a lot. It feels rough enough I wouldn’t dare give it the light of day, but that can be fixed with some elbow grease.

Secondly, it will force me to revise some habits and prove to myself I can chase down and achieve a fairly aggressive creative goal. Doesn’t matter if I fail at fifty thousand words by the end of the month. It only matters that I do my genuine best trying to. Not a half-assed best. Not an “I’m too tired today” best. If I’m too tired, often I know it is because I haven’t arranged other priorities very well. I’m not in great shape, but my health isn’t so bad that I can’t find a couple hours, six days a week, to do this.

Oh, and, in addition to being apropos of the entry itself, the title to this entry is a giant fat pun of a nod to the story I’m writing. I’ll tease you just that much. I’d prefer to make it as a game, ultimately. However, realistically I don’t know if I have the time and energy to make a full first or third person game myself of the scale this is. Regardless, I’d better practice my storycrafting skills first. Because if I ever want to make story based games, that’s requisite, at least to an extent. And there’s no rule that says I can’t release the works as stand-alone novels first.

I just don’t promise that you’ll see any of it. Or that if you do that it will be any good. I need to work at this. And it has always, always been and advice to start one’s writing career with a full scale epic. So, perhaps what will happen is that I start into it just enough to get it out of my system and fleshed out a bit more, then go on to something more manageable. And after that I don’t know, in all honesty, whether I shall return to it.

It will be a fascinating exercise in the attempt, at least, and I shall give getting the stories out there my best shot.

And this time I’ll put my damn notes where I can be sure to find them again. Cloud schmoud.

Resuming from Suspension

Oh, my… Where to begin. Same place as ever, I suppose.

I caught a nasty case of blogger’s block, and it feels like a stuffy head cold. Excuse me while I go try to blow it out on a tissue, will you?

Gah! Hoomahgods… Yech! Terrible. Does that feel any better? I’m not certain yet. There’s been plenty of grist for blogging. I just… Haven’t. I need to fix that.

It genuinely does feel a lot like blowing my nose out.

My cat, Addy, could give me lessons in that regard. She’s always sending large globs of partially dried mucus in directions you didn’t think it could go. Possibly directions you still won’t believe, after seeing the evidence, that the cat was personally responsible for flinging a booger six feet up the wall. By sneezing downwards.

Is blogging like that? Hopefully it’s less disgusting, really, but many days it feels like blogging is the work of publicly cleaning up my own or someone else’s goobers. And I love my cats dearly. I don’t have a lot of love for some of the goobers I feel need to be cleaned up.
I’m doing NaNoWriMo for the first year ever. I’ve been resisting because I didn’t feel up to the challenge. I still don’t, but I’m talking myself into it, perpetually.

I have several story ideas that I’ve written down over the years. Written down is a bit of a stretch. Etched, perhaps. Actually, several that span a fairly lengthy timeline. I’d actually put up some documentation in MiniGroups and shared it with a few friends. I apparently “missed the memo” that MiniGroups was shutting down. I missed getting my notes out of there by only a week, and can’t locate any other copies of that documentation. That’s after checking Evernote, Google Docs, Dropbox, iCloud, and a few other places besides. While that’s fairly frustrating, I’m not nearly so put out about that as I might be. Because the whole damn timeline has been stuck in my head for years. I have a lot of productive commutes to and from work fleshing more of it out, but you can only get so far when it is stuck in your head, etched indelibly in your frontal lobes using a combination of chisels and sharpies. I can give you their working titles in intended story order: Stowaway, Schism, Prelude, Overture, Traitor, Implosion, Freed: Escape, Project Annabelle, Freed: Waking, Geometry of Dreams, Freed: Union, and Frontier.

I unequivocally recommend never, ever creating the entire outline for a twelve novel epic story while listening to music on your commute if you can avoid it. It’s not good for your mental health. Not to mention your sense of completion.

I’ve also been feeling a bit stuck, creatively, due to a few bad habits of how I use my time. I figure NaNo is the solution I’ve been looking away from as enthusiastically as I could previously manage. It isn’t like I’ve done nothing creative, but — again — completion. I’ve started a good many paintings that I haven’t finished. And so on. But! Benefits of NaNo for me:

Firstly, it will give me a chance to at least put the first story on that timeline into draft form. I can then go back and edit it thoroughly and cross-reference it against the other future timeline and past timeline. And against itself. And hopefully go through and clean up the draft a lot. It feels rough enough I wouldn’t dare give it the light of day, but that can be fixed with some elbow grease.

Secondly, it will force me to revise some habits and prove to myself I can chase down and achieve a fairly aggressive creative goal. Doesn’t matter if I fail at fifty thousand words by the end of the month. It only matters that I do my genuine best trying to. Not a half-assed best. Not an “I’m too tired today” best. If I’m too tired, often I know it is because I haven’t arranged other priorities very well. I’m not in great shape, but my health isn’t so bad that I can’t find a couple hours, six days a week, to do this.

Oh, and, in addition to being apropos of the entry itself, the title to this entry is a giant fat pun of a nod to the story I’m writing. I’ll tease you just that much. I’d prefer to make it as a game, ultimately. However, realistically I don’t know if I have the time and energy to make a full first or third person game myself of the scale this is. Regardless, I’d better practice my storycrafting skills first. Because if I ever want to make story based games, that’s requisite, at least to an extent. And there’s no rule that says I can’t release the works as stand-alone novels first.

I just don’t promise that you’ll see any of it. Or that if you do that it will be any good. I need to work at this. And it has always, always been and advice to start one’s writing career with a full scale epic. So, perhaps what will happen is that I start into it just enough to get it out of my system and fleshed out a bit more, then go on to something more manageable. And after that I don’t know, in all honesty, whether I shall return to it.

It will be a fascinating exercise in the attempt, at least, and I shall give getting the stories out there my best shot.

And this time I’ll put my damn notes where I can be sure to find them again. Cloud schmoud.

Dreams

Hand me a patch of that pale blue plaid, would you?

What?! That clashes rather shockingly.

I just want to hold it up and see…

Last time you said that you stitched it in before I could get it out of your…

Well, she HAS been at this a long time, you were a fool if you thought you could take it away from…

…thanks for distracting her, there it is, and…

…you WITCH, you!

Careful, that applies equally, here!

I should pull that out!

What, and unravel it? That would make a wreck…

Remember you both, we’re fitting this into a MUSE. Play nice.

Why should I treat her any better than…?

BECAUSE.

Because why, exactly, dearie?

Careful, cut that thread nice and long, she has to LAST longer than the last one.

BECAUSE of what happens to dreams that die.

Ooo! I had a lovely dream last night about…

Who cares? Dreams come and go…

No, most just come and go. Most people leave them to sit in the cellar and ignore them out of indifference until the door rusts shut. That’s different. And simpler.

Awful!

Well, I didn’t say it wasn’t.

Don’t use so much of that free will frill!

Why not, it’s decorative!

You want us out of a job?!

Well, no, but…

Then, exactly: NO.

That plaid still clashes…

Will you … Quit nagging! It’s CONTRASTY.

Another novel word!

I still don’t understand why we need to pamper this one.

When someone kills off their own dreams, they come back as nightmares to someone else.

So… Why don’t we pamper them all, then? That sounds…

She’s a MUSE!

So?!

Does the phrase “chain reaction” mean anything to you? HER dreams instill MORE dreams.

Ooo! That sounds pretty…

What, the dreams instilled in others?

No, a nightmare chain reaction explosion! It could go on for generations…

Will you STOP!

Why, it’d be good fun!

NO.

Why?

Just… Last time I laughed that hard I had the WORST hiccups. Still hurts to stitch if I twist wrong. I think I got a hernia from it.

Oh, I’m sorry, dearie… Have a biscuit?


 

#FlashFiction (Never tried before… curiously…) For Dark Fairy Queen Midsummer Night’s Dream Writing Contest.

–random


 

Artwork (Finally) Again for Sale

I’m finally getting an art store going again, after some encouragement and some suggestions.

So far, for today, I’ve managed to put up sixteen of the accumulated pieces up on the store. I’ve tried to unearth some older files and restore them, as well. I’ve had mixed success there, but there was one in particular that really did seem to survive the manipulations of restoration and software wizardry — not just like the original but better than the original. It actually looked a lot more like what your eyes interpreted it to be from a distance, even though up close the original was fairly pixelated.

This is what just under two decades of imaging science advances can do. It’s actually pretty awesome. Here’s a small demo version below.

x-en-stg5-demo

 

You can get a look at that old print for sale here.

The entire store, right now, is over at society6.com/random9q.

Many thanks to all of my friends for their patient encouragement…

Much love,

random9q / Talia Loos