Right Wing Ideology:
Reactions to Newtown

While I could probably be charitably be described as a liberal firebrand, I'd at least like to believe that I'm moderate enough to recognize when my own position is flawed. I try to make a habit of self-examination (as I've mentioned before) and dispense with ideas that have been proven not to work. It's probably arguable as to how successful I am in that respect, but still.

I'd also like to suggest that at least this sets me apart from the right-wing ideologues. Because even in the wake of Newtown, with over two dozen dead and most of those children, numerous members of the extreme right wing have doubled down on the same gun control policies (or rather, the lack thereof!) that brought us to this point in the first place. One would think that this would at least give them a moment's pause!

Of course, the arguments take two positions, the religious and the anarchist. The former is embodied in the first two links, people like Huckabee or Dobson saying that this is the inevitable result of our culture turning its back on God. This, of course, ignores the fact that President Obama made open reference to Christian scripture in his speech in Newtown; that Christians of some type are still the majority in this country - we're clearly in the wrong for daring to support birth control, and abortion, and gay marriage.

I think it's worth noting that this is exactly the same as the Westboro Baptist Church's position: events like these are God's wrath on our sinful nation. And as far as I'm concerned, if that's the way God actually works, I'll burn in hell for eternity before I offer one word of prayer or thanks to Him, much less work to shape public policy to bring it in line with His dictates. Assuming I believed in the Christian God in the first place, which I do not. I'm just grateful that most of the Christians I know don't actually agree with that view of God's will. (I hope.)

More worrisome to me, though, are the anarchists, the latter four people I linked. I'm sure they would not appreciate being labeled with that term, but what else am I supposed to believe? These are the people, after all, who believe that yet more guns are the solution to this problem. Who dare to say that the American people should be prepared to take on their own government, and argue that gun rights are an important shield against the tyranny of the government. Who seem to think that the only way to stay safe is to protect yourself, preferably with as much firepower as you can possibly get.

This really kind of disturbs me. Isn't part of the point of having a government to "provide for the common defense", to quote the Constitution? If I can't trust the government to protect me, why do we even have that government in the first place?

Now, even if I didn't trust the government in that respect (and for the record, I do), obviously I can think of a few other things that the government should be responsible for, given my position on the political spectrum. But those mostly work out to social welfare, which means that your average right-wing ideologue would hate them even more than providing for the common defense.

Given the way these people are reacting to Newtown, I'm left with nothing to do but wonder. What is the government supposed to do in the ideal world of the right wing?


In the Wake of Violence

I am really fucking tired of having to read this kind of story...
Multiple people — including children — were killed on Friday morning when at least one gunman opened fire in an Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT.
I could go ahead and chart out the course of our national dialogue over the next few days. I mean, it's already begun. Although I think in this case the "now they're going to 'exploit' the tragedy to try to push gun control" refrain actually began before anyone on the left actually started calling for stricter firearm laws - indeed, after the president's press secretary specifically said that today isn't the day for that discussion.

For my own part? I'm tempted to ask when the hell is the day for that discussion. I could remind everyone of the utter bullshit that it is for the right wing to whine about 'exploiting' the tragedy, given their past behavior when the guns were aimed at them instead of someone else.

Mostly, though, I'm just tired of this. There are other nations that have actually banned guns outright, you realize. Last I checked, Japan wasn't filled with gun violence to anywhere near the same extent that the U.S. is. China bore witness to an attack on a school this very same day - one in which the perpetrator used a knife. Dozens of people were injured, not killed. And yet banning guns will only make us less safe, we're told.

There was a time in this country when guns were more strictly regulated - when assault weapons were banned, reducing the amount of destruction that someone could cause all by themselves. I haven't found a clear picture yet of what the perpetrators of this mass shooting were armed with yet, so perhaps reinstating that would have done nothing about this incident. And before I even finish writing this, we've got confirmation that an assault rifle was indeed involved. Because it's critical that we be allowed to 'defend' ourselves with weapons that are better suited for mass annihilation, right?

Above all, though, I'm tired of slamming into the same brick wall over and over again, for a discussion that isn't even the one we need to have.

The discussion we need to have isn't the one I laid out above, about the mechanics of gun rights and gun ownership. It has nothing to do with whether banning guns outright would be "effective". Or whether we even could manage to do so in a country with an active set of fringe movements that would no doubt rise up in revolt if the government tried to institute a policy of civilian disarmament. And yet that's always what the discussion becomes, despite the fact that no U.S. administration has ever proposed such a plan for the last century or more.

The discussion we need to have is about the definition of strength. About the society we've built: the society in which any person who refuses to deal out swift and violent death is 'weak', somehow, despite the fact that it takes far more strength to turn the other cheek and ignore provocation rather than react out of hand. Despite the fact that it would take far more strength to admit to ourselves that something is very seriously wrong when our first reaction to dozens of people dead is to say "don't talk about the problem!"

I do believe that there will be situations in this world to which the only practical response will be violence. Today, though, is a day to reflect on the inevitable consequences of resorting to violence - a cost that we have seen in every military action the United States has ever carried out. While I do believe that it is a cost sometimes worth paying, I can say with total certainty that this was not a situation in which it was necessary to use force.

Just I can say with effectively total certainty that every time we avoid this discussion - the one about what violence even is, when we should use it, and how we should react to it - we are repeating the same mistakes that brought us to this point in the first place.


Campaign Retrospective
Part 2: Connections and Confidence

Well, my first look back at the campaign trail was honestly kind of a negative one. I figured I'd take a moment to reassure my readers (particularly if any of those are the people I was working with!) that on balance, I enjoyed my time with the campaign.

I think I can trace that enjoyment specifically to one facet of the campaign. You see, back when we had about a month to go until the election, there was this team meeting that we all attended, and one of the fun things we did at that meeting was to go around and have everyone say one thing they were looking forward to in the rest of the campaign.

My answer to that question was shaped in large part by the responsibilities I was taking on by that part of the campaign - as I mentioned in the last retrospective, I was in charge of data entry, and that meant building a team of people that could work together to get that data entry done. I was just starting that task when we had this meeting, and so I said that I was looking forward to building that team.

In some respects, though, I was less specific than that. What I said was that I was looking forward to building connections with all of the people that would work to help re-elect President Obama. I was looking forward to seeing someone walk in the door of our office and being able to say "Hey, nice to see you again, how are you today?" rather than "Welcome to the Obama campaign office, can I help you with something?"

In the end, that's the kind of thing that brought me back to the campaign day after day. Even in the position that I had, there was always that voice in the back of my head that suggested I was out of my depth. And then I'd show someone else how to handle the database, fix another computer problem at the office. One of the regular volunteers would come and ask me for help with something. I'd go and find out the answer, whether that meant a search of the Internet or asking the people that we had running the office. In some respects, I was too busy working to have the time to worry about whether I could handle the job!

Now that it's after the fact, I can say with some confidence that we got the job done. Barack Obama can be called "Mr. President" for another four years. And while that goes a long way toward shutting up that annoying little voice, I can't say that it was all or even mostly my work.

So let me say that again: we got the job done. The way politics should be handled: with people coming together and working for what they believed to be the common good. In short, as a team.


Flawless Victory!

Sorta, anyway. (Link goes to the graph of my word count by day on the NaNoWriMo website.)

I mean, I think probably anyone who's ever done National Novel Writing Month has probably heard of someone who pulled off an incredible comeback. The first year I did NaNoWriMo, I was sure that the one Municipal Liason (in charge of organizing events for a given region) was going to fail, but then he wrote thousands upon thousands of words in a few days, to the point where he was beating me in word count despite my diligent adherence to meeting the expected words per day.

I've just never expected to pull one off myself. I've never seemed to be able to write more than two or three thousand words in a day, and usually I can't maintain the upper end of that pace for more than a few days at a time. This year, though, I didn't have a choice. I tried to get a few words out on November 1st, but in between helping with the Obama campaign and some dissatisfaction with the story I was trying to write, I didn't get anything else done for over a week - and when I did start writing again, I ditched the story I had started on the 1st in favor or a new one. Essentially returning me to square one in terms of word count.

The upside to this change in plans is that with the new choice of story, I was able to get fired up enough to maintain a pace of nearly four thousand words a day for the first few days, almost getting me back to par. I did hit kind of a slump in the middle thanks to a nasty case of writer's block (brought on in part by the scenes I was writing), but in the end I recovered and hit the goal line with maybe four hours left in the month.

So, what happens now? Well, in the end I wrote fan fiction. That's another thing I never expected to do; I've seen more than one story on Fanfiction.net that's over 100k words. Never did understand how people managed that kind of thing, but at this rate I'm going to be writing one of those myself. Yeah, the story's not done. Actually, the story before that story isn't done, since what I wrote is essentially a sequel to Midchildan Music, a story I started a while back.

It does simplify my goals a little. I need to clean up Midchildan Music's final chapter, post that, deal with some retcons that need to be done to Midchildan Music as a result of inconsistencies that I introduced in the story I wrote over the past few weeks (and things I don't like in Midchildan Music), and then work on finishing the story that was this year's winning NaNoWriMo project.

And somewhere along the line, I'll probably try to go back to last year's NaNoWriMo. That one didn't end successfully, but it's also a work of original fiction, and I can still try to finish that up sometime...


Campaign Retrospective
Part 1: Personal Barriers

I did mention that I was helping out with the Obama campaign just recently. Well, I'll share with you... I guess it's not exactly a secret, but one would think I wouldn't want it shared widely.

I really wasn't very good at campaigning.

That isn't to say that I wasn't helping out that much. In the role I eventually found myself in, I was doing a great deal of work! Then again, the role I found myself in was to be in charge of data entry for a specific (fairly small) area. It was an important job, there's no doubt about that, and it meant that I had to be an effective manager as well, unless I wanted to be doing all of the data entry myself.

I wouldn't call it "campaigning" though. Not in the sense of going out and talking to people about how they're voting, or whether they'd be willing to volunteer for the campaign. I did small amounts of the latter, with people who had already expressed an interest with data entry, getting them connected to the team I was building and ensuring that they were trained in the system we used. There's quite the difference between that and calling people who have perhaps expressed an unspecified interest in maybe volunteering sometime in the future. The days I tried the latter, earlier in the campaign...? Let's just say they were not pleasant ones.

Admittedly, talking to people about how they're voting went a little better. It helped that the area where I was working was heavily Democratic to begin with; there was very little of trying to convince people to vote for Obama and a lot more of making sure that people already predisposed towards voting for Obama actually got out and voted. As far as I'm concerned, the latter is a lot easier than the former. Either way, though, while it wasn't as wildly uncomfortable as asking people to volunteer, it had all too many unpleasant moments as well.

I think part of this has to do with my personality. I'm a lot more comfortable supporting from the rear line, so to speak. I'd rather work to enable everyone else to do their jobs more effectively. Certainly I'd take that over chipping away at a job which I'm simply not as good at. Which is how it ended up working in the end; my focusing on getting data entered left everyone else with more time to handle the rest of the things that needed doing. (I think, anyway!)

The other part of it, though, is the way in which the campaign conducted these operations. This is something which I'm a little more reluctant to talk about, in part because I'm not sure if I'm allowed to. The kinds of information connected to the campaign that were not to be shared honestly surprised me a little. Whether it should be proprietary or not, well, that's a matter for an entirely separate post. For what it's worth, there were good reasons for all of those decisions, to the best of my ability to tell at least. (And lest anyone think "the election's over, it doesn't matter anymore", I have no doubt that there are people already preparing for 2014 and 2016.) It is possible that I'm being overly cautious in this respect, but I'd rather err on the side of caution.

Re-framing it as a matter of my personality, though, I will say that I find it very hard to ignore it and keep going once someone's told me "no". There are a lot of reasons for that which I think probably should be much more widely held, in all honesty. The most basic way to put it, though, is this: that a person who says "no" is establishing a boundary, one that the rest of us are obligated to respect, not tear down or ignore.

Obviously someone's personality will play a part in determining at what they are and are not effective at doing. Just as there are times when it's a good thing to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. In the end, though, I think the line I just laid out is an absolute one, not to be crossed under any circumstances, as far as my personality is concerned. And I don't regret the effect that had on my role within the campaign. Indeed, in some respects I'm more disappointed that I would be asked to cross that line in the first place.


A Little Housekeeping

So... yeah.

I got just a teensy bit caught up in the recently-concluded political campaign here in the United States. As in, full-time volunteering kind of caught up. Oh, and when I say "full-time", that actually worked out to be ten-hour days more often than I might have liked!

Not that I have any regrets. As it happens, I don't regret it at all. Not one bit. In some small respect, the work that I did with the Obama campaign probably helped contribute to his successfully winning Virginia for the second time in two presidential elections. Which, even if Ohio was the state that "decided" the election, was certainly part of the dominant electoral victory that ended the presidential race (very) early on the morning of the 7th, rather than weeks later after all the recounts were in. I'll take that.

Anyway, posting's been nonexistent because of the amount of time that's been demanding from me. Hopefully that will change now that the campaign is over... but then again, it's National Novel Writing Month, which is also one hell of a time sink. *sigh* Well, at least I won't be short of things to talk about. And I'll probably try to look back on the campaign in more detail, too, although given my track record on that kind of promise, I wouldn't blame anyone for not believing that that will ever happen.

About the only other thing I'm changing is the sidebar, where I'm cleaning up the list of tags a little to make that easier to navigate and adding a list of blogs that I read. I can't control the content on any site other than my own, of course... and at any rate I need to work a little harder on adding content notes to my own blog, much less keeping an eye on anyone else's.

Well, that's about it for the moment. As always, thanks for reading my blog.


Internet Society

I am, perhaps, one of the few people of my generation to have never touched Reddit. And I do mean never. I've found my way there from the occasional link, but only in the context of another story, and I've not spent any time looking around Reddit, itself. Nor do I have an account there. So perhaps I'm not the best person to be commenting on this story, seeing how the vast majority of it took place on Reddit.

But, it is a story about someone's online identity. Or rather, it's a story connecting someone's online identity to someone's offline identity, attaching a real name and face to what was formerly nothing more than a line of text, a pseudonym. And given what this particular online persona (Reddit's Violentacrez) has been responsible for, there can be very little doubt that this particular revelation is intended in large part for its value as intimidation or punishment. That's what's known as "doxing" (a word I had not known until I read that article), and to Internet society, it is a severe crime.

It's not something I, personally, have worried too much about. By and large, I go by two pseudonyms on the Internet - older accounts as Counterpower, newer ones as Zankou. I don't go to any great lengths to hide connections between those names and my real one, or between those names and my appearance; if Gawker wanted to do an expose of me (highly unlikely at best!) the necessary research would probably take about ten minutes. I haven't (yet?) openly revealed my real name here on this blog, but that's really the only concession I've ever made to "hiding" my real identity.

By and large, that's because of one simple reason. It's because I try to conduct myself, in any public space, in a way that I would not be ashamed of, were it to become widely known. As far as my online persona is concerned, that mostly means this blog - when I post here, I think about what I'm posting, and why. More than that, I think about how it will be understood, how those whose opinions I respect would react to what I write. And whether or not I would like those reactions.

That doesn't mean I haven't made my mistakes. We all have. That's what apologies and changes in the way I act are for.

Nor does it mean that I don't do things that some people might find questionable. I don't talk about them online. Or, you know, at all. Mostly I examine myself (internally) and what I'm doing, comparing my actions to my principles and determining whether or not they're in conflict. Sometimes they are, at which point I've determined that I've made a mistake in the way that I act... and then, well, see above. (Or, more rarely, that I've made a mistake in formulating or holding a given principle.) Sometimes, I decide that they aren't, despite the disapproval of those whose opinions I would otherwise respect.

But you know... if the day ever comes when I am called to account in public, I'm not going to complain about how I should be allowed to carry on without censure. That isn't how society as a whole works. I am accountable to the people around me for the way I act, and as long as their responses are in and of themselves legal, they may react as they desire.

Apparently the rules change on the Internet. As the Daily Dot puts it, "At Web communities like Reddit, which thrive because users are free to say and do anything they want, doxing is a severe crime, both to users and the site’s staff." (Emphasis mine.)

I don't agree. As it happens, I think Reddit can thrive perfectly fine without its jailbait subreddits. I don't think that the freedom to do anything you want is an integral part of Internet society. And I'm going to go out on a limb and say this: if Reddit in specific or Internet society in general does actually rely on its users' ability to say whatever they want without being called to account for it, it should not exist.


The Power of a Story

I'm often met with skepticism when I start talking about the kind of world that I'd like to build.

And you know, going over those goals myself, I can agree it's one hell of a daunting list. As a progressive, as a feminist, I've set my sights on no less than changing the culture in which we live. Perhaps it would be better to say that I want to create entirely new cultural expectations and norms. Well, yeah, not exactly "entirely new", but there are days when it seems like even suggesting that women should not be generally treated as eye candy in the media is a radical proposal. (To take one example.)

But then there are also the days when I feel... well, confident. I won't go on overmuch about what particularly sparked my latest round of that confidence, for a number of reasons. I'll just put it this way: I'm feeling like I have the power of a good story on my side of this one.

It seems impossible to believe, even to me. Wasn't I the one that was just complaining about the way women are portrayed in the media? (Yeah, that was definitely me.) And yet, I see the same messages that I believe in, repeated from the characters and stories that I enjoy. In the mentor explaining that those who commit an action are the ones responsible for it, not the people that they commit that action upon. (Numair, from Tamora Pierce's Wild Magic. If anyone was curious.) In the song that defiantly howls, "even if it's an impossible future, we'll set it in motion." (Nana Mizuki's Young Alive!, originally in Japanese.)

Surely some of this is confirmation bias. I ignore (or at least, fail to remember clearly) the stories that don't align with my world view. And there are certainly no small number of those - my earlier critique remains a problem area, even today, even with some of the stories that I like!

And yet, there's one last point to be made: we're the ones that acknowledge the power of these stories in the first place. How many times have I been rebuked with "Lighten up, it's just a story" or some variant thereof...? Dismissing the power of a story to affect the way we think, the way we act, is all but willful blindness to the way people react to the world around them. Acknowledging that power is the only way I'm ever going to succeed in changing the culture in which we live.


Democratic National Convention 2012

One of the things that President Obama does very well, and has always done very well, is to remind me (and everyone else) that the Republican Party does not have a monopoly on soaring rhetoric and claims to moral purpose. Perhaps it was the song they started playing after the speech that sums it up best? "Wherever this flag's flown, we take care of our own."

We take care of our own. Listening to the President speak, listening to all of the different speeches at the DNC these last few days, I am reminded of why I support this party in the first place. I am a liberal, a progressive, a Democrat, because I believe that government can be part of the solutions to our problems. Because I believe that some of the problems we face are best addressed at the federal level, that government is the best solution for issues of health care and can do a great deal of good for the economic situation.

And on these issues and more, President Obama's speech reminded me of why I'm not only going to vote for him in December but also why I'm now putting in my time and effort to volunteer, to ensure that he is re-elected. I can't say whether or not I would have written this last night, immediately after the speech... but it became a moot point, since I was tasked with running the computers and projectors displaying the speech at a watch party in Alexandria. Kept me more than busy enough to ensure I didn't get home until very late. (Doesn't help that I live an hour away from Alexandria...)

I could recap the main points - highlight the idea that a plan that forces seniors to continue to deal with insurance companies is a travesty, point out the need to improve and modernize our infrastructure and education, emphasize the importance of continuing to support veterans. I could even go over the things I didn't like about the speech; listening to it, I was struck (again) by the idea that I'm honestly to the left of the President on a surprising number of things. But in all honesty, that's what watching the speech is for. I can't possibly do better than his own words. (Although if people want to have that discussion, have at it in the comments.)

So all I truly have to offer is the feelings that the President evoked. The idea that "we take care of our own", as the song puts it. Or, to quote a song even closer to my heart (well, quote my translation of it, anyway), "those who chase their dreams will shine."

More than anything else, I am going to be voting for President Obama in November because I believe that his is that path. That he is the President under which we will take care of our own. That he is the President under which we will be able to chase our dreams... and not just chase them, but reasonably expect to reach them, with the support from the people and from the government that is part and parcel of living in a place like the United States of America.


Chained Girl Lyrics Translation

The notes for this translation are here. Please direct any comments about this translation to that page's comment field.


Chained Girl

Lyrics/Composition/Arrangement: Noboru ↑

Vocal: Miku Hatsune

Chorus: Luka Megurine, Gumi



Before I come to hate everything,
give me your honest love...

今日は少し下がった 破り捨てたい評価(テスト)
期待を超えられず 傷が増えてく

I back off slightly today, a test I want to toss aside,
unable to surpass your expectations, my wounds multiply.

振り向けば捨ててきた 友達とか夢とか

Behind me, the discarded friends and dreams,
my freedom stolen away, why do I live...?

ココロを鎖で縛られた あやつり人形

My heart bound with chains, a doll under your control.
I am your jewel,
here to shine more brightly...


For whose sake am I living,
still unable to say "myself"?
Before I come to hate everything,
give me your honest love...

希望とか指先で 砂に書いても消える
笑顔の子供たち 遠くに見えた

Even if I write "hope" in the sand with my finger, it vanishes...
I watch the smiling children from afar.

歩むべき人生(みち)を決められた 束縛人形

With the path I am to walk already decided, I am a bound doll.
You are my devil,
setting me in motion with your invisible threads...


If this entire story is created for me,
I want to repaint it all.
As if to break out of this dark night,
I want the courage to defy you.

街行く人の影追いかけ 留まるカケラ一人
このカラダ 意思の無いままに生きてきた

Chasing the shadow of those out in town, restrained to this fragment of a person,
this body lived on without a will of its own...

嘘だらけの言葉で 惑わすのはもうやめて
あなたの言いなりなんか もうやめる
わたしのこのココロは お金じゃきっと買えない

Don't deceive me anymore, with your words filled with lies.
Don't make me do everything you say anymore.
This heart of mine surely can't be bought with money,
it is the one and only precious thing in this world...


For whose sake am I living...?
The answer is before my eyes.
To steal away my future,
that is something I will not forgive.


Before I come to hate everything,


release these chains...

Translation notes: Chained Girl

There are a number of Vocaloids songs for Miku that have similar titles, something followed by "shoujo". The first of those was Giant Girl (巨大少女, "kyodai shoujo"), which I found in the second Project Diva game, and then eventually I tracked down Deep-Sea Girl (深海少女, "shinkai shoujo"). Now I've found Chained Girl. (The title structure is slightly different - "kusari no shoujo" - but I feel comfortable grouping these songs together anyway.)

I translated this song for one simple reason: I listened to it, read the lyrics out of the CD booklet as I listened to it a second time, and realized I had a powerful song on my hands. All three of the songs I mentioned did that to me, really. Giant Girl is a song about wanting to be noticed. Deep-Sea Girl is an allegory for depression. Chained Girl is a song about feeling imprisoned by the expectations of others.

Neither was it a song that was particularly difficult to translate. I do still need work on the vocabulary I have memorized, since it's not really practical to pull out a dictionary in the middle of a conversation. But that wasn't a concern in this case. And in between my ability to listen to the song and the kanji I can read out of the CD booklet, getting the lyrics wasn't a challenge either.

The one interesting point that I'd like to highlight this time around, from a technical perspective, is the ways furigana (the characters used as a pronunciation guide, printed above certain kanji) are used in situations like this one. In the first two instances, they're simply "converting" the reading from Japanese into English; the word "hyouka" can be translated as "test" (or perhaps more accurately "assessment"), while "soushokuhin" can mean "jewel" (again, more accurately "ornament" or "decoration"). So those aren't a challenge to translate, particularly.

Later, though, there are three more in quick succession that are a little more complicated. In those instances, the kanji in question are being "pronounced" as entirely different words. It leaves open the question: do you translate the word printed in the book or the word actually sung in the lyrics? Which is closer to the meaning you're trying to capture? Is there a way to account for both intended meanings in the translation?

In this case, I translated all three as the lyrics that were sung, and I'd like to think it works out so that all of the original meaning remains. The first is the reading of "jinsei", "life", as "michi", "road" or "path". Honestly, though, that's not difficult either; it makes perfect sense in English just as well, in the sense of "the path we take in life" or something like that. Calling it "the path I am to walk" says effectively the same thing as "the life I am to live", and I think the former captures the poetic manner of communicating that thought more effectively.

Second, we have "ayatsuri-shi", which would be a person who controls a puppet, read as "akuma", a demon or devil. In this case, I felt that the element of being controlled was adequately represented in the following line, and that the song would not suffer greatly from me focusing on the "devil" aspect of the translation. There are ways to account for both by extending that line in the translation, but I felt that none were wildly effective, and I did want that line to parrot the similar line from earlier in the song.

Finally, "kusari", the focus of this song ("chain" in case it wasn't obvious) read as "ito", "thread". In that sense it's just a matter of picking one of those two words to put in there - is the singer being controlled by chains or threads? Again, with chains being prominent elsewhere in the song, and with thread making more sense as a method of puppet control (especially an invisible one), I felt the song didn't lose anything major by translating as "threads".

I probably could go on, but I think I'll settle for talking about that one issue and opening up the floor to comments, questions, complaints, what have you. Let me know what you all think.


Having it Both Ways

According to the Washington Post, yesterday an armed intruder (IDed as Floyd Lee Corkins II) entered the Washington D.C. headquarters of the Family Research Council and attacked the security guard there, who did his job admirably in preventing the intruder from advancing any further into the building. Said security guard was shot, but is currently in stable condition, so hopefully this will be one of those rare shooting incidents where no one ends up dead.

While it is still far too early to ascribe definite motivations to the shooting, from the CBS report on the situation, Floyd Corkins II had been volunteering at an LGBT community center in the months leading up to the shooting and had made a "negative reference about the work of the Family Research Council" in the moments before opening fire.

I won't mince words here: his choice of action was simply unacceptable. Multiple different LGBT organizations released a similar statement:
We were saddened to hear news of the shooting this morning at the offices of the Family Research Council. Our hearts go out to the shooting victim, his family, and his co-workers.

The motivation and circumstances behind today’s tragedy are still unknown, but regardless of what emerges as the reason for this shooting, we utterly reject and condemn such violence. We wish for a swift and complete recovery for the victim of this terrible incident.
So of course, we began the process of healing and recovery from this terrible tragedy, and thanked our respective deities that it wasn't any worse than it was. Heaven knows I've been accused of "politicizing" tragedies so many times - and I've been doing my best to hold my tongue in the wake of the last, oh, four or five shooting incidents in all of a month. Surely no one would think of trying to make this about...

Of course not.
Brian Brown, the president of NOM, pointed to a recent blog post by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), one of the largest gay-rights groups in the country. The post, “Paul Ryan Speaking at Hate Group’s Annual Conference,” called attention to the vice presidential candidate’s scheduled appearance at the FRC’s national summit next month.

“Today’s attack is the clearest sign we’ve seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as ‘hateful’ must end,” Brown said in a statement issued following the shooting.

“For too long national gay rights groups have intentionally marginalized and ostracized pro-marriage groups and individuals by labeling them as ‘hateful’ and ‘bigoted.’”
To the Family Research Council's credit, they have not said anything of this nature, and I'm honestly grateful for that. The National Organization for Marriage could stand to learn from that example.

EDIT, 2315 hours: I want it logged for the record that I gave them the benefit of the doubt, right up until, well...
One day after a Virginia man is alleged to have shot a security guard at the D.C. headquarters of the anti-gay Family Research Council, the organization's president, Tony Perkins, held a press conference to blame the shooting on the Southern Poverty Law Center -- the group that in 2010 named FRC a "hate group" based on the SPLC's documentation of FRC's efforts to "knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people" -- declaring that the watchdog group had given the shooter a "license" to shoot.
So now I speak to the National Organization for Marriage and anyone who might be inclined to make similar statements, apparently now including the FRC itself. I ask you - do words actually have meaning, or not? Because if they do, if calling someone hateful or wrong contributes to subsequent violence against them, then you need to stop and think. Ask yourselves why nine out of ten LGBT students report harassment of some type at school. Ask yourselves what your words are doing to them. Ask yourselves, every time one of them commits suicide, what your actual marginalization and ostracization of those children is accomplishing!

If our words have that kind of effect, that might cause this attack... well, go back and read that statement above. We've answered, as best we can, for the blood on our hands. Now it's your turn to answer for yours. Until you can do that, calling you out as hateful and bigoted will be nothing less than accurate.



By now, I expect you've heard the news that Paul Ryan is Romney's vice president pick. This is not an entirely unexpected development in the campaign, honestly. Ryan is really the closest thing to a policy wonk the Republicans have, especially on the economic side; as the architect of the last two budgets the GOP's put forward, I feel like this pick represents the Romney campaign's desire to centralize economic issues right up until Election Day.

Of course, the fact that I call Ryan the closest thing to a policy wonk that the right wing has should be a greatly depressing sentence for anyone that actually wants the GOP to have any influence over policy at all for the next twenty years. I won't hold my breath though.

Why do I say that? In a word, Ryan's policy proposals are ridiculous. The fact that his ideas are representative of intellectual thought and serious policy proposals on the right wing actively scares me. The budgets that he's put forward would be actively disastrous for everyone other than the top hundredth of one percent of Americans by wealth, cutting pretty much anything and everything from Pell grants to Medicare. And because it's not enough to gut the social safety net (that he's already benefited from, no less!), he's proposed cutting taxes on the wealthy while increasing them on the lower class.

Of course, the crowning jewel here is the fact that this budget is somehow supposed to also reduce the deficit all at the same time. How? That's an excellent question. No one knows. How he can manage to make all these claims when he himself has to realize how mendacious they are is what truly scares me. Any competent economist (and those four don't count as competent, not anymore) can tell that there is literally no way to reconcile all of these competing claims. And yet Paul Ryan is hailed as an intellectual genius, the rising star of the right wing policy wonks.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly could probably have realized before now that I was never going to vote for Romney in November anyway, so in that sense my disapproval means very little. However, prior to today, I would have shied away from voting for Romney because I had no idea which Romney I was going to get; would it have been the hard right wing Romney of the Republican primary race or the more moderate Governor Romney of Massachusetts?

Now, things have changed. Now, I know exactly what I'm going to get out of a Romney/Ryan ticket. I know full well what kind of economic policy we're going to get out of that White House. It is an economic policy that runs counter to any rational consideration of the needs of the United States or of the needs of the vast majority of American citizens. That it can be hailed as a policy masterpiece, by anyone, scares me a great deal.


Just Words

Every time someone says that something is "just words", I wince. It's the same kind of wince that usually ends up being my reaction to whatever words are being referred to, really. It's a now reflexive "is that really what you wanted to say" kind of reaction to words that are insensitive, potentially triggering, or dismissive.

I'm aware that words can be cheap sometimes, that making promises or identifying problems is easy while fulfilling those promises or fixing those problems is a lot harder. Even so, I still can't really agree that there's any such thing as "just" words.

Words have a lot of power. While they're not equivalent to actions, they are the precursor to actions; it is difficult to fix a problem without first identifying it, after all. And while words are formed from thoughts, they form the framework with which we are even capable of defining a thought, and have their own influence on the way people think as a result. Words can help and support others, or deal them a great deal of real and significant harm. Every word we use is probably going to have some kind of impact.

And the power that any given word has will change relative to the people involved. Every person has their own context for a word. Sure, most people share a lot of the same context for a lot of words. But words like racial slurs, for example, have a very different impact on members of a minority class than they will on people who don't share that history of oppression.

I may not be a linguist or a psychologist, but I'm reasonably certain that nothing I've laid out here is all that controversial. But then, what about that phrase "they're just words"?

It is most often used as a dismissive phrase, one that rebukes others to not let those words in question affect them. Effectively, it denies that words usually have an impact, especially words that usually can seriously hurt someone. On top of that, it asserts that it's possible to choose whether or not a given word can affect you, usually without considering how much greater any given word's impact might be on someone other than the speaker.

Worst yet, it is an abdication of responsibility; the longer version of the phrase is "it's not my responsibility to think about the words I'm using, it's your responsibility not to let those words affect you." Or, more bluntly, "it's not my responsibility to avoid hurting you, it's your responsibility to avoid being hurt." In that sense, it is a phrase that is all but fundamentally hostile to civil discourse or the concept of responsibility for one's actions words.

It is a phrase I despise, and one that causes me to wince when I see it used. It is a phrase that I believe should not ever be used.


Denial of the Right to Freedom of Speech

Okay... this is absolutely ridiculous. From Memebase, an absolutely bullshit response to the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A. And look at that, over a thousand upvotes!

This is not a free speech issue. Nor has it ever been. Nor has any other similar incident (and there have been many more of this kind) ever been a free speech issue. Not if those three words are to have any meaning at all. Their rights to free speech are not being threatened in any way, shape, or form. Unless, that is, the government is about to come in and arrest people for what they're saying or, in this case, doing, namely donating to anti-gay rights groups? I don't have any connections with the FBI, but I'm pretty sure that's not being considered.

And on top of that, let me clarify something here. This is the message I'm getting, from that meme and from every other time someone's said "but what about freedom of speech" when I or anyone else has the sheer temerity to express our disagreement with the things other people say. It goes something like this: Because the owner of Chick-fil-A has the right to express his opposition to gay rights by donating to the Family Research Council, I don't have the right to say that I disapprove of his position and won't be eating at the places he owns in the future?

Because one person has the right to freedom of speech, I have to refrain from exercising my right to freedom of speech?

This is bullshit. It has been bullshit every single time it has been voiced, and will continue to be so. The next time someone says "I don't agree with Chick-fil-A's political stance, so I'm going to boycott them, and I think you should as well" just remember that. And not just for this incident - the next time someone says "I disagree with what so-and-so said, so I'm going to not support their work in the future, and I think you should as well", this will apply just as much. Keep that in mind, because I have had more than enough of this line of argument. It's long past time for it to disappear.


Independence Day

Independence Day, the Fourth of July, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and a day on which the United States generally comes together to celebrate one of the most significant milestones in the formation of this country with patriotic displays. Particularly the fireworks. All joking aside, though, on this particular Independence Day, the 236th of its kind, I'd like to take a moment to think about what that patriotism actually is.

I've said more than once that I consider myself to be a patriot. And I have no problem saying that to others as part of my introduction, perhaps even part of how I define myself. I am proud to be a citizen of the United States, and I want to see the United States and its people thrive. I believe that there are concepts that are fundamentally part of the United States and its worldview: ideals like those of liberty, justice, freedom and equality for all. These are words and ideas - love for one's country and love for its ideals - that are part of how I understand patriotism and are more often than not part of the discussion on days like today.

I would be remiss, however, to rest on those words, just as I would be unwise to trumpet my perhaps unwarranted pride. The word "patriotism", like any other label in the English language, means all sorts of things to all sorts of people, and I would be greatly mistaken to assume that it is a positive label for anyone that might read this. It is a word that celebrates adherence to a country that has made its fair share of mistakes - and that could be said whether the country in question is the United States or not!

Most dangerously, it is a word that even for me calls up the words "my country, right or wrong." It can be a shield behind which all manner of chaos and destruction hides, all in the name of those ideals I mentioned above. As I call myself a patriot - a standard-bearer for the United States, its pride and its ideals - I too must acknowledge the mistakes we have made and continue to make in the name of that pride. It is those words, though, which offer me an answer as well - allow me to finish the quote. Courtesy of Carl Schurz, a Union Army general in the Civil War and later U.S. Senator, from on the floor of the Senate in 1872: "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."

To those in the United States and those outside it; to all who celebrate this day whether they be U.S. citizens or not; to the people who look up to the standard set by our ideals and the people who criticize the ways in which we fail to live up to them... happy Independence Day. As we look back and celebrate the anniversary of that step on the road to the founding of our nation, allow me to renew my own vow of patriotism to my country.

There are many things the United States gets right, and I will take pride in what we have accomplished. To me, this is part of being a patriot, and so today I celebrate my home country and its Independence Day. Importantly, though, it is not the only part. It is also my duty as a patriot to take the mistakes that the United States has made and make them right again. Accordingly, I will take this day and remind myself that I cannot rest on that pride alone, not until the day comes that my ideals are reality, not until the United States and its people truly enjoy the things we have been promised: our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; our ideal of freedom and justice for all.


Status Report, Going Forward

Okay, so I lied. As it turns out, I didn't manage to get any blogging done about my most recent vacation. I seem to be pretty good at failing to realize my own limitations when it comes to blogging. It's a little late for spring cleaning, but I might as well get around to the blogging version of that now.

Part of that was the Internet situation where I went. I'll confirm that now, for the people who don't know me well enough to have already guessed: yes, I went to Japan. I have since returned from Japan, sadly enough. For the moment, I'm not going into great detail about that trip. There will be at least one post, and more likely several, in the near future in which I'll look back in more detail. The hotel didn't have wireless Internet, and I was sharing a room with my brother for most of the trip, in which I let him monopolize the single available wired Internet connection. It's not much of an excuse, but...

Well, I also came down with a cold. Tokyo's 2 for 3 on me being sick while being in that city, so yeah. At least, I say it was just a cold, but it was bad enough that I didn't feel like doing anything that wasn't lying down and sleeping for a while. It probably would have gone better if I hadn't ran out of cold medicine halfway through the ordeal. I really should have just gone and bought more.

Anyway, enough about my personal tribulations over the last two weeks. As long as I'm posting one of the few things I've felt deserved a "notifications" tag, and as long as I'm talking about why I haven't been posting all that much over the last few days weeks (practically), I might as well take a moment and say what I expect to happen here on my blog going forward.

If nothing else, "tomorrow" (he said, posting just before midnight) is a day of particular significance for people in the United States of America, and I'll probably have something to say about that. Other than that, my primary motivations seem to be losing some of their interest as of late. Looking at my tags and the number of posts each one has, while I do post some things about anime or gaming, the majority of posts express my personal opinions (which is what I seem to use the "personal" tag for, although perhaps a rethinking of that is in order) regarding either politics or feminist/progressive issues.

I'll still do that, although I've kind of missed the chance for punditry on the recent Supreme Court decisions. Not the only thing to talk about, but one of the biggest recent events in political news - and, to some extent, in progressive news as well. However, I did just get back from Japan, and as I said I plan to say a few things about that trip. Plus, I came back with all sorts of fun things which can be translated, discussed, what have you. So I'd kind of like to have a few more things of that nature happening here.

In specific, there's one particular project I can think of that pretty much throws in all of these elements. When talking about PAX East earlier, I used a visual novel called Kanon as an example of a problematic game, although only in passing as something that could use further analysis. Well, thanks mostly to my brother's generosity, I have in my possession a copy of the Japanese light novel following one of the five storylines tied up in the game; essentially the novel version of part of the game itself. What I'd like to do with that is read it and liveblog it, examining the story from a feminist perspective and translating some of the important scenes.

That's my project for the near future - the book has six chapters, and if I get through one a week, call it a month and a half. (It'll probably take longer than that, but given that I already sort of know the story's general outline, I might as well set the bar high.) And as I've already implied, I expect there to be other things along for the ride, whether I keep translating songs, add some games to that backlog, finish some of my fanfiction works, chat about developments in the political sphere... and ideally, somewhere along the line, I find myself some form of gainful employment, now that I've just graduated from college and all.

To what regular readers I have (and I'm pretty sure that's "not too many"), thank you for still checking my blog in light of my frankly pathetic update schedule. For people new to the blog (and the majority of those are courtesy of either Shakesville or the timeline of the entire Penny Arcade debacle), I hope you stick around, and I welcome any (constructive) comments you all have to make.

And to one and all, thank you for taking any time at all out of your day to bother with anything I have to say here. I really do appreciate it, and I'm going to try and do better about putting things up here that are worth your time and attention.


Key West

I spent the majority of the last week on the first of two scheduled vacations this month, essentially my last hurrah before I seriously have to get into that whole "gainful employment" thing that is kind of expected of an adult in modern society. In case the title didn't tip you off, this particular vacation was in Key West, Florida, the southernmost enclave of the mainland United States. Although "mainland" is probably pushing it with Key West; it is an island after all!

We flew to and from Key West, with AirTran. That went better than expected, really, although given prior experiences it would have been difficult for anything to have failed to meet my pathetically low expectations. Security, in particular, was perfectly manageable, although I guess we've reached the point where sending people through those full-body scanners is standard operating procedure? I don't know how I feel about that. On the outbound flight, though, the amount of people waiting in line caused them to divert some people through the metal detectors (including me), and Key West "International" Airport doesn't have the scanners yet.

Oh yes, the Key West airport. That was the single scariest landing I have ever been through; I think the 737 we were flying in is the largest thing they could possibly land on that airport's one runway, and we pretty much bounced our way down the runway when the pilot brought us in. About the only way that landing could have been more uncomfortable is if the plane had actually crashed, I think. Well, thankfully that didn't happen.

Key West itself had an almost small-town atmosphere to it; I guess when your available living space fits into an eight-square-mile island, that's somewhat to be expected. Of course, there were a large number of tourist accommodations; also unsurprising given that the island's main industry these days is tourism. We were staying in a condo that was one of the nicest places I've ever been able to stay in, although all of the DVD players were disconnected for reasons I couldn't quite fathom. Duval Street, the main tourist area, was within five minutes' walk, so there was no lack of access to shopping, bars, or food. And there was a nice swimming pool, and then of course there were the two much larger swimming pools that we call the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean within walking distance of the place.

Needless to say, I got sunburned. Quite severely. After being diligent about putting on sunscreen, no less. I was more than a little ticked off about that, in fact. But, I got to go snorkeling in the ocean for once, which was a nice change considering the only other place I've ever gotten to use the thing was in North Pond up in Maine of all places. On balance, though, I did about as little as possible; swimming pretty much every day, all sorts of good food (including a wonderful Japanese restaurant with sake), and lying around enjoying all of the free time I had.

It had its downsides; particularly, my efforts in participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this fine month of June are effectively shot to hell by now. But I can still try, I guess... if not for scheduled vacation #2. Key West was planned and executed by my grandparents as a kind of family reunion-style vacation before I and my brother had to move on into adult life, you see - fun, certainly, but not what I would have set up if I had chosen it.

Scheduled vacation #2? Is mine. (Well, mostly, anyway... more explanations will probably be forthcoming...) Watch this space - it might take until Sunday, but trust me when I say I won't fail to blog about this.


Consequences of Public Speech

Sorry for the long silence, everyone; I've been dealing with the end of college life and the series of associated ceremonies. Anyway!

I was thinking just now about airport security. Probably because my vacation schedule for this first month of summer will require me to fly no less than four times in the next three weeks. I don't regret that; this is probably the last time I'll get to relax before I seriously have to dive into searching for work. (Although I might get to work on that job search during vacation periods. We'll see.) I can't imagine I'll enjoy having to deal with airport security along the way, although perhaps the fourth time will be better away from American airport security.

That somewhat sideways expression of disapproval, however, is all I'll say on the matter at this point in time. Particularly, I have no desire to potentially draw additional attention on myself prior to traveling, considering I still have no idea how the TSA decides to send this person through the scanner instead of this other person. Which isn't to say I'll never write that post; we'll see how the next few trips through the airport go before making that judgment.

The point I'm trying to make with my little digression into airport security is that I have a distinct appreciation for how the things I write here could affect the rest of my life. No, I don't post under my real name, but I still believe it would be a trivial matter for someone truly determined to connect this blog to my real persona. I've taken no real steps to preserve my anonymity, which means that anything particularly unwise that I write could have real consequences for me.

This is also why I'm continually surprised at what people will sign their real names to online. Observe:
Liberals no longer accept the will of the people and move on to the next election. This bodes very badly for the future of democracy in America.

The simple truth is Democrats no longer believe in the validity of elections. Elections for them are simply a tool to gain power. They are not the voice by which the people speak.

To say this is dangerous is a major understatement.

It is this type of attitude that breeds tyrannies. We must not only defeat but also totally destroy this attitude if our Republic is to survive.
Oh hey Judson Phillips, I see we're dealing with more Tea Party nonsense. Again.

First off, if you honestly believe that I no longer accept the will of the people, go back and read some of the political things I've written here. If you can get through those posts without changing your mind, I suggest you not read the rest of this, because this is going to be predicated on the manifestly obvious fact that I and most other liberals do still believe in the general validity of elections. In short, that is not a point up for debate, and I will not entertain debate on that here.

I will concede one thing to Mr. Phillips. I can agree with him that if I believed someone's ideas would be permanently or irreversibly damaging to the United States, I would not entertain the thought of compromise with that ideology. To the extent that he honestly believes that left-wing ideology would be irreversibly harmful to the United States, I can understand why he might say something like this.

Needless to say, I believe he is wrong. Quite severely wrong. Wrong in a way that drives me to say that this kind of shit is exactly why I hate and fear the Tea Party as much as I do. I can say with a fair degree of confidence that I will never be anything other than a liberal, a left-wing ideologue, a progressive... use whatever label for it you desire, though I prefer the last. (And all that that implies, including feminism!)

To have him irreversibly connect that ideology to an "attitude that breeds tyrannies" and call for its destruction... well... "to say this is dangerous is a major understatement," if he doesn't mind me borrowing his phrase.

The reason? To me, it strikes me as a call for open violence. When I read that, I see someone saying that liberals are not merely to be argued with, disagreed with... they are to be destroyed. And this is something that he says under his real name, on an open public forum, with indeed people even celebrating and agreeing with him. (Don't read the comments on the Tea Party Nation page. Seriously. It's not worth it.)

I'm left honestly wondering. Do the things people say carry any consequence anymore?

(H/T to Right Wing Watch.)


The End of the Beginning

Graduation is on Sunday. Come the end of the day May 20th, I will be leaving Brandeis quite possibly for good, with a Bachelor of Arts in History and East Asian Studies. I don't quite know how to feel about that, to be honest. Now that the day has finally come, it feels almost anticlimactic. Kind of like, what really is different now? Come Monday morning, what will honestly have changed in my life?

There really isn't any one moment I can point to and say "this is the turning point". Unless you want to count an entire year (my junior year spent abroad in Japan, specifically) as a turning point, and I would tend not to. A college education isn't any different in my opinion - it's not like having a piece of paper evokes some magical change on my day-to-day existence, even if it is a piece of paper people recognize as a diploma. It will open doors and say something about who I am to potential employers, and I am grateful for that much. I don't regret getting a college education; indeed, I'm glad I did.

And I can point to so many things that the last four years have done for me. If nothing else, there's the Japanese. I went into college knowing not a word of the language, and I leave it having passed the N2 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test intending to use my skill with the language as a key focus for my career. It's a little hard to believe today that I thought Japanese would just be a hobby for me, now that it's become something approaching a defining passion of my life. (That reminds me, I need to put more translations of things up here on my blog... I've been not doing that lately.)

Plus, the people I met. Oh yes. It is kind of sad to think that I might not see some of these people... well, ever again, possibly. Unfortunately, I doubt that any of my job prospects are going to keep me in the Massachusetts area. In between the club activities I participated in and the friends I made along the way, there's a real argument to be made for actually finding a reason to stay in this area! (Which actually wouldn't entirely help, since several of my friends are also going off to do their own things...) Certainly, compared to high school, I feel like I was able to form some semblance of a social life here.

Long story short, college life is coming to an end for me. I am reaching the end of the marked-out paths, the culturally expected route to adulthood, and the time has come for me to start making my own path. And there's definitely a sense of trepidation and uncertainty at that. But so be it - in the grand play of my life, the curtain falls on act I. And feeling uncertain about what will come in act II won't stop it coming, all the same.


Why I Didn't Attend PAX East

I imagine it should be apparent from my blog that I ended up going to Anime Boston a little over a month ago. Of course, there was another convention in Boston that same weekend, one that no small amount of my friends ended up going to. I was tempted, myself, to drop by PAX East, even if only to go talk to the Riot Games people about League of Legends. In the end, though, I ended up skipping PAX East this past April, and I don't regret that decision.

Part of that was simple apathy. I had a limited amount of time that weekend anyway, and it was easier for me to sit around the Hynes Convention Center at Anime Boston than it was to hike across Boston to the convention center in which PAX East was being held. Part of that was finances; it's not like I couldn't have spared the $35 to get in, but I just didn't have enough of a desire to get in to make spending the money worthwhile.

The largest part of it, though, was the fact that I am not really a fan of Penny Arcade, and never have been. Because I have never really bothered to read the comic, my knowledge of Penny Arcade is shaped by incidents like this one. Yes, I know, the dickwolves incident is almost two years ago now. Unfortunately for Penny Arcade, it's what I remember of their comic, and when friends of mine asked me if I was going to PAX East, it's what I thought of.

And perhaps I would be being a little unfair if it was an isolated incident, if you can even call an extended pattern of responses and arguments an "isolated incident" (you can't)... now what's this?

For the record, yes, he has every right to support whatever he likes, even a game that takes a tongue-in-cheek, satirical look at a particularly problematic genre. Just as I have every right to condemn him, Penny Arcade, and PAX for it. In short, "but free speech!" will not fly here.

For the record, yes, liking problematic things doesn't make you a terrible person. Not automatically, anyway. The blog post at that link there is really the best breakdown (that I know of) of how not to become a terrible person when talking about problematic things, even ones you like. I certainly can't do any better.

Speaking personally, I am no stranger to hentai, although I usually shy away from tentacle porn and any depictions of rape or assault. I don't find seuxal assault to be arousing or interesting, and playing games that end up trivializing or glossing over it isn't something I really want to do. What hentai I do look at is usually in the form of visual novels, a particular type of computer game that I find to have engaging stories (that do include sex scenes) and characters who actually have their own feelings and desires, who don't exist solely for the pleasure of the (assumed male) protagonist or player.

That isn't to say they're not problematic, because they are. Some of the sex scenes depicted in those works are still highly questionable (whether by playing the "rape-as-plot-element" card, or otherwise by uncritically presenting sexual assault), and some elements of the stories are also problematic, or at least unrealistic. I'm not really prepared to go into the details here; a detailed analysis of the story of, say, Kanon, would probably be an entirely separate post. For the moment, I will leave it with this: that usually the stories and characters involved are interesting and engaging enough for me to find these things worthwhile, despite their very real problems.

Call it satire if you like - a game like the one he's promoting there doesn't actually say anything worthwhile about those problems, in my opinion. I don't think hentai should have to involve rape, and I think laughing at the prevalence of rape in hentai is counterproductive at best. I think it's possible to create games, whether card games like this one or computer games like my visual novels, that can be sexual or erotic and yet not involve sexual assault.

And the fact that the people who run Penny Arcade and PAX East don't seem to share my concerns is a problem. It is, in fact, a problem that has kept me away from PAX East this last spring, and will likely do so for many years to come. Condemn me for that decision if you will, but I have the ability to choose who and what I want to support. Until I believe that PAX East is more in line with the way I want the world to be, I won't be supporting them.

ETA: Shakesville linked to my post in their own coverage of this particular incident. I highly recommend going and checking out that post, because it's an excellent summary of the situation and collection of other posts on the matter.


President Obama on Marriage Equality

And just yesterday I called out President Obama for failing in his advocacy for LGBT rights... then this happened. (emphasis from original)
I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.
Words matter. Knowing that the President has now openly and publicly embraced the idea of marriage for all matters a great deal. It changes the way we as a society think about and discuss the concept of marriage, and it forces a shift in the discussion, normalizing the idea of marriage for all people. It energizes advocates for marriage equality to know that the sitting President of the United States has said this. For being willing to come out and support marriage equality on the record, thank you, President Obama.

However, I said this on Twitter and I'll say it again here: words only go so far. I don't say that to minimize the excitement and energy that has overtaken the progressive movement, because I truly believe that this has had a major impact on us. But there's still more to be done. I, for one, look forward to seeing these words become meaningful changes in national law and policy - the kinds of changes that would truly allow same-sex couples to be able to marry each other across the United States. Especially in the wake of North Carolina's vote yesterday, that's the kind of thing we need more than ever.

Your campaign slogan, President Obama, is now "Forward." Hearing you say things like what came out this afternoon can almost make me believe in your support of that idea of forward progress once again. As long as you're going to stand up and champion real forward progress, I will stand with you.


Socialism in the White House!

Days like these, with posts like this one, make me wonder if anyone actually bothers to educate themselves on what Obama's actually doing in office.
The ultimate task for the people is to remain vigilant and aware  ~ that the government, their government is out of control, and this moment, this opportunity, must not be forsaken, must not escape us, for we shall not have any coarse but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November ~ This Republic cannot survive for 4 more years underneath this political socialist ideologue.
Now to be fair, it's not like I haven't used similar rhetoric before - that the U.S. wouldn't survive four years of the wrong president (although I know I've never advocated for armed rebellion). Usually I confine that kind of thing to personal discussions with close friends and family, and given my own ideological bent I'm talking about people like Ron Paul or Rick Santorum. But I have said that kind of thing before, how I don't think the U.S. would actually survive four years of a hardcore Republican presidency.

For the record, I haven't ever said that of Romney. Which isn't to say that I would like Romney being elected as President, because I'm almost dead certain that I wouldn't particularly enjoy such a presidency. I'm just confident that the United States would survive those four years.

Likewise, it's not that I think Obama is all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, there are quite a few things I don't think I like about our current President. I think he's entirely failing in his advocacy for LGBT rights, for one thing, and he's only barely doing any better on reproductive rights or equality for women. Then there's the assassination of a U.S. citizen without trial and the continued problem that is Guantanamo Bay. Believe me, I can find plenty of problems with Obama's policies.

None of that, though, is the impetus for the stuff I quoted above. Hell, I rather suspect most of my problems with the Obama presidency would be counted as positive signs if the people that produced that quote ever bothered to traffic in reality. No, this idea that Obama is a partisan socialist ideologue is simply false, and has been since he took office. That doesn't seem to stop his critics from pretending that he is, but then the modern Republican Party seems to have little time or attention to spare on those pesky, annoying things the rest of us like to call facts. Why should they, when they can just scream "SOCIALISM!" and actually get people to listen to them?

(h/t to Right Wing Watch)


Take Back the Night!

This evening, I participated in a candlelight march on Brandeis campus to Take Back the Night.

Right as we started, when we all went around the circle to say why we had come to the march, all I could think of to say is that that was where I needed to be. And I'm incredibly glad that I did decide to go. I have never been sexually assaulted myself, but I honestly believe there is no one on this earth who can say that they don't know anyone who's been sexually assaulted. Before tonight, I would have said this: not that I did not know anyone who had been sexually assaulted, but that I had not known anyone who had been willing to trust me with their story.

I am truly awed by the courage and determination of the people that did speak over the course of the march, and I am honored to have been a part of that group, to have been accepted as a part of it and trusted with those stories. Though every word that I heard tonight was worth hearing, I will share but one of those stories here, for only my own story is mine to tell.

As a junior, I went to study abroad in Japan. (My time in Japan is chronicled in an earlier blog of mine.) Commuting - in my case to and from school - is an almost unavoidable part of life in Japan, and so it was for me as well. Returning to my host family's home from school meant a forty-minute train ride, followed by a fifteen-minute walk from the train station to that home. The only way to avoid that walk was to take the bus, an expenditure that I preferred to avoid.

And so I would walk. Fifteen to twenty minutes. Depending on what day it was, sometimes my class schedule would mean walking after sunset. The road was mostly unlit and usually completely deserted. And I would make that walk without hesitation, without fear. My host mother would say that I would be fine - and unsaid every time, that there were some people who wouldn't be. That even though I could walk that in safety, some people - had I been a young woman, rather than a young man, perhaps? - could not count on being safe in such conditions.

My story is a story of nothing happening. Of making that walk in safety, three or more times a week for seven months of my life. And at the end of the march, as I shared that story, the only thing I could think of to say is this: I went this evening so that I could do something. So that I could help in some small way to build a world where everyone can make that walk in safety and without fear.


Reports from Festival of the LARPs 2012

I'm the president of Brandeis University's gaming club - and by gaming, I mean non-traditional board games and role-playing games, all the way up to theater-style live action role-playing. As a result, it fell on me to help run an event we like to call Festival, a weekend-long convention at which quite a number of awesome LARPs were run over the last weekend. (That word "help" is important; I wasn't in charge, but I was on the event staff.)

I'm not by any means a dedicated LARPer, but I have played in a few before (most notably at Festival two years ago) and certainly I enjoy the unique fun of entirely pretending to be someone else for a little while. Tabletop RPGs are fun, no doubt about that, but it can be hard to maintain the verisimilitude of role-playing sometimes when all you've got are some dice. And theater-style LARPing, in which combat is adjudicated through some kind of mechanic (such as drawing a card to produce a random number), and in which character interaction comes to the forefront, usually produces an enjoyable few hours of conversation and intrigue.

Of course, I wasn't just helping to run Festival. I took almost every chance I got to play in games over the weekend as well. I can't say too much about any of them, because I don't want to reveal spoilers about the games, but I'll share what thoughts I can.

Over the weekend, I played in four games. I only actually signed up for three, but the game on Friday evening needed another player, and I ended up filling in for that slot. And on that note, my first game of the weekend was Venezia. It was a historical game set in 15th century Italy that gave each player wide latitude to affect the way the game played out; major decisions shaped the events that occurred both for one's own player and for others. For a game that I wasn't planning on playing, I had a great deal of fun; the character sheets were extraordinarily long, but absolutely worth the time and effort to deal with, and my character was a joy to role-play as. (Also, the level of effort that the GMs put into decoration and setting up the scene was nothing short of amazing.)

Following that, I made the mistake of daring to sign up for three games on Saturday. What this meant in practical terms was that I was committing myself to 12 hours of gaming, on only about six hours of sleep. Given that all three of the games I signed up for required a high degree of mental engagement (there weren't any fluffy LARPs on my schedule that day), I was kind of setting myself up for a crash. It did come... but I'll get to that in due time.

First up on Saturday was The Stand, a Western-themed LARP. It gave me the excuse to go looking for a Western-themed costume, which ended up being awesome, and now I own a new hat. So yeah. Past that, it was a perfectly solid LARP. I feel like I didn't do as much as I might have liked to accomplish, and looking back on the game I definitely ended up kind of missing the point of what my character was trying to accomplish. (I still succeeded in his goals, though! Just kind of inadvertently.) It's not like I didn't get things done, but I feel like very little of it was overwhelmingly important.

Unfortunately, the length of game wrap-up (which was worth it anyway to figure out what I was supposed to be doing) meant that I pretty much skipped lunch break and went straight into the second game of the day, Dance of Flame and Shadow. It was my favorite game of the weekend anyway. Just to make this clear, it was a game set in the world of White Wolf's Vampire: The Masquerade, and I now have my own (legally purchased PDF) copy of the rule book for that game. Draw your own conclusions.

I think I ended up playing my character a little oddly, but there's not exactly anything I can do about that now. Besides, I'm pretty sure it all worked out in the end. Unfortunately, there's very little I feel like I can say about the game, because spoilers. I found the game wrap-up to be awesomely hilarious (in a "ha ha I win" way), and I can't even talk about why that is. *sigh*

Moving on, I did manage to score myself some dinner (yay first actual meal of the day! ... no, it didn't end well) before moving on to Interesting Times. I was attracted to this game by the promise of singing in public. No, really. The game was essentially a vaguely steampunky musical turned into a LARP. I was freaking out over my level of preparedness before the game, because I hadn't listened to my songs all that much, but in the end the music side of things went off pretty much without a hitch. I loved having an excuse to sing my thoughts to the world, and the songs were fun and enjoyable to play with too.

Unfortunately, I've been alluding to an impending crash all through this post? Yeah, at this point it's getting close to midnight. The character sheets for Interesting Times were decidedly unlike any others I've dealt with (mostly in that they lacked a clear accounting of people you know, and also didn't define goals clearly either), forcing me to pay a lot more attention to what I'm trying to do. Essentially, I spent at least the last hour of the game entirely disengaged, as a result of being both exhausted and confused. The songs made it all worthwhile, really, but...

So yeah, that was my weekend. I have missed LARPing; unfortunately it's not an activity that one can do anytime you like, and I keep moving around and not really staying in one place long enough to really get into a LARPing community. I mean, I'm acquaintances with a lot of the people here in Massachusetts, but I don't know how much longer I'll be sticking around...

Well, I'll keep an eye out wherever I do end up, because I do like playing LARPs. And anyone that is in the broad New England area? Festival's running again at Brandeis next year, of that I have little doubt.

(Note on comments: If people would like, I have no problems with discussing the games that I played in detail in comments. Given that, I won't even attempt to avoid spoilers in the comments.)


Voices Worth Hearing

Transitioning into an introductory women's and gender studies class has proved to be an interesting experience for me, this semester. Oddly enough, my introduction to feminism was Shakesville, a blog that quite explicitly does not prioritize basic introduction to feminism, and I think that's certainly shaped the way I think about feminism and about progressive issues.

Particularly, we ended up having a spirited debate in class today about consideration of other cultures and viewpoints. Intersectionality has been a critical part of the class pretty much from day one, and I think the best point that came out of today's discussion was that American culture is not in any sense monolithic, and that there are wide racial and class divisions that can't and shouldn't be erased with broad references to American culture.

One thing that I heard in the discussion, however, particularly stuck with me. What does it mean to consider those differences, either between cultures or within them? To me, intersectionality means taking care to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes that created this culture in the first place - mistakes such as speaking "down" to other perspectives or ignoring voices that should have a place at the table.

I think it's important to say, though, that that doesn't mean every voice deserves equal consideration.

I am a man; I will lose something if the culture that I seek to create is brought to fruition. That doesn't mean I'm being treated unequally; it means that I already have the advantages of male privilege, and that part of creating an equal society will mean erasing those advantages. I accept that as the cost of creating that equal society, because I consider the alternative (the persistence of the existing unequal society) to be worse.

Needless to say, not all men agree with me. There are no small number of voices who denounce what they view as the growing damage being done to men by the feminism that I and others champion. There are no small number of voices who jealously defend their male privilege, whether unknowingly as something they have earned, or knowingly as the proper place of men in the world - and the same could be said of any other privileged group defending its privilege.

The point? Some voices are worth hearing, and intersectionality is the reminder to all of us not to shut out such voices. Some voices can testify to their own personal experiences and provide important perspectives on issues that would otherwise be an unknown to the rest of the participants. Such voices must be respected, honored, and heard.

Other voices, such as those like the ones I discussed in reference to male privilege, seek to defend the privilege they possess. I am under no obligation to show deference to such views. The best I can offer is this: I can take one shot at explaining why such views are harmful, why clinging to privilege is counterproductive. And if it turns out that that voice is not receptive, I will not continue slamming into a brick wall of futility - I'll shut that voice out without a shred of regret.

Intersectionality is the reminder to listen to those voices worth hearing. It is not a demand to respect voices that are better shouted down.


Transportation Issues

Today has turned out to be a rough day. And the worst part is that there was absolutely no reason for this to have happened.

When I have breaks and want to go home, I usually take Amtrak. Train travel is almost always superior to air travel in my opinion, mostly because of two reasons. First of all, the train system doesn't have the same odious, overly-invasive security that the airports do; that alone would be reason enough. On top of that, though, trains are usually more comfortable, providing a power outlet at every seat and much better food.

The downside is one that shouldn't even exist. The train takes considerably longer than an airplane does in transit, traveling much slower along a less direct route. Of course, if we had a functioning high-speed rail system (sorry Acela, you're not actually functional as a high-speed rail system, not like the Tokaido Shinkansen is), it would be a matter of an additional hour or two rather than the five or six is is today.

More importantly, though, trains have to be reliable and effective. The aforementioned Tokaido Shinkansen is a real competitor to air travel between Tokyo and Osaka specifically because it runs a metric fuckton of trains between the two cities (count them yourself) that are effectively always on time. The Acela cannot say the same, not even close. Not when they brag (!) about 10 weekday departures (and today is not a weekday), at least one of which, the Acela 2254, was quite severely late today.

They acknowledged it and apologized for the delay on the train, if nothing else, but that didn't help me catch the commuter rail I was planning on getting to. Had I made it, I could have been back two hours earlier than I actually managed. Looking back, I would probably have taken an earlier train anyway if I were to do today over, but the problem was and is that there weren't any other trains that went with my schedule.

The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, the people running the aforementioned commuter rail, did no better today. The commuter rail that I missed was at 8pm; the next available train? 11:30pm. Two trains in three and a half hours. I have the $4.75 in fares that I would have paid, and I would happily be giving that to the MBTA, but for the fact that there was simply no train available. And they still get the subway fare from me, for the privilege of riding on a two-car train that was overcrowded to rush-hour levels on a Sunday at nine in the evening.

It depresses me greatly that I know exactly why the MBTA or why Amtrak might be having budget problems. And everything I've laid out is not necessarily a strike against those companies themselves, who I honestly do believe are working as hard as they possibly can with the limited resources they are given. All I can say, though, is that until we work up the will as a society to properly fund transportation infrastructure, this crappy evening will repeat itself, both for me and the millions of other people that try to navigate the chaos that is American public transportation.


Reports from Anime Boston 2012

It's kind of interesting. Even when I go to a convention theoretically with a group of people, I end up going off and doing my own thing. Not sure if it's just an "introversion" thing or if it's a special case, given what I usually do at conventions...

Well anyway. Again, I didn't really cosplay, short of the black cloak and Hero of Space god tier T-shirt. Which was enough to get some people thinking I was cosplaying one of Andrew Hussie's appearances in the comic in which he wears a fairly similar outfit. So apparently, I was sort of cosplaying someone without even intending to? Some people assumed one or the other, while others asked if I was trying to go for the cosplay or not. For the record, I wasn't going for that.

The Anime Boston dealers room was surprisingly light on stuff that I actually wanted. For a convention focusing around Japanese stuff, there was a surprising lack of, well, actual Japanese stuff. Translations and English versions everywhere, which I imagine was nice for the majority of people there that couldn't speak Japanese, but for someone who actually wants to read the original Japanese manga, not so helpful. In short, every convention I go to ends up reminding me that there is no substitute for actually being in Japan.

Video gaming was less of a thing this time around too. Mostly because I was royally screwing up. I mean, okay, my definition of screwing up at DDR is getting B's and C's on songs where I'd otherwise be getting AA's, so it's not like I was failing anything, but still. I played one or two of my absolute favorite songs and then found other things to do.

Like karaoke for example. Anyone who was following my old study abroad blog while I was in Kyoto might have noticed how much I love to do karaoke. I took advantage of Anime Boston's karaoke room to fill that particular craving. Sang five songs over the course of two days, too. In order:

First up, the Sakura Taisen theme song. No, I did not do the dance, too. Yes, I should have. I'll try to learn the dance so that I can do it next time. I did, however, do the spoken portion, including the salute at the end, and it got about the same response at Anime Boston that it did in that live performance.

Romancers' Neo, opening theme song to the Nanoha Gears of Destiny game. Asked the audience if there were any Nanoha fans; there was one. Don't know if she recognized the song or not though. (And I can't find a good video on YouTube for that one, sadly.)

Colorful Melody. Again, no dance. Again, I need to learn the dance. Also, I did this one solo, mostly because I could (it's supposed to be a duet), and I said as much before I started. I'm surprised by how well it turned out, actually; there's a section in the middle that's not in that video which I managed to make my way through without even knowing the full lyrics, and usually my attempts to sing songs this thoroughly out of my vocal range sound much worse than it ended up being.

Stardust Dreams. Hilarious because of the reaction from the group of Touhou cosplayers in the room at the time. Also hilarious because two people from that group did a different remix of that song's original right after I finished. They were different enough that if they hadn't said as much, I probably wouldn't have noticed right away.

Finally, No Need to Promise, the Escaflowne theme song. Which had gotten thoroughly stuck in my head since I started watching Escaflowne. I did it with the karaoke version (no vocals in the background) and did surprisingly well considering I don't know the song nearly well enough to have the cues memorized.

When not in the karaoke hall singing, I was also hanging out in the live gaming hall. Got to play a game of an anime-style tabletop RPG called Big Eyes, Small Mouth, which went pretty well. In case anyone was curious, I played the magical girl character. (And everyone who knows me nods along with a knowing look on their face.) She was awesome, especially when I blasted an entire room full of enemies with an AOE spell that could have probably leveled an entire city block had I used it at full power. Let's just say she was my style of magical girl.

I also got the chance to play Arkham Horror. I like board games, especially this kind of board game that's overly complicated and very strategic. We did fail to stop Cthulu's awakening, but it was fun while it lasted.

... Hmm, my priorities are obvious from the amount of stuff I wrote, huh? Damn I like karaoke. Well, that was Anime Boston 2012. If I'm still in the area next year, I'll probably end up going again.