theferrett: (Meazel)

….as a reminder, tomorrow at 1:00 I shall be at:

Sheffield’s
3258 N Sheffield Ave
Chicago, IL 60657

In case anyone local wants to say hi.  I believe we have one confirmed attendee, as all the others have fallen sick or turned out to be unavailable.  But you are welcome to show up and say hello to me anyway; I’ll be the guy in the hat and the fine Italian suit.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Gini was sick last night, so we holed up and watched comfort movies. Lilo and Stitch! That’s a fun Disney film.

Except there’s that scene the night before Lilo is about to be taken from her sister and placed with a foster family, where Stitch sneaks away.  And she sees him.  She sees him leaving and utters words that still shatter me:

“‘Ohana” means “family.” “Family” means “no one gets left behind.” But if you want to leave, you can. I’ll remember you, though. I remember everyone that leaves.

Rebecca didn’t choose to leave, of course.  Brain cancer took her.  That spitfire of a kid stayed for her last birthday party and her last frosting and her last meal at her favorite restaurant, and hung around long enough to be six, twelve hours’ worth of six…

Oh, Rebecca, we tried so hard not to leave you behind.

And I remember everyone that leaves.

I also remember the grief counselor, a nice lady with a sympathetic face, and she told me all the things I needed to hear: you’re not some grief tourist, she was dear to you.  This is only three months on.  Your actions are completely normal.

Yet it’s three months and the wrong movie can still send me into a crying jag that lasts all night and really only gets truncated when I swallow an Ativan at the end of it and lay, senseless, in bed like a doll.  And I think of Eric and Kat, and how they’re at the epicenter of this, and they keep moving, and so should I, and that’s why I got out of bed and wrote a small scene – one thousand words – but that scene and this book is so much harder because the character at the center of the book I’m writing was inspired directly by Rebecca.

She lives, a little, when I write.  And now I hate writing this book.  But I need to.  She lived every minute of her life, never stopping, and for me to lie down in despair would be to betray her.

But I miss her.  I miss her so hard sometimes.  And when she walked away she took some lingering sense of fairness of the world with her, and I can no longer trust the future, if this could happen then anyone could die, and of course they always could but illusions are like fires, sometimes it’s good to warm your hands at them and pretend the world is well-lit.

The world is much colder, now.  The world is fundamentally empty.  The world is missing a Rebecca, and I remember everyone that leaves.

(If you remember: Gini is doing her walk this year to raise funds to fight brain cancer, the fucking thing that took Rebecca from us.  It’s going to be very hard for her: I’m committed to a convention, and when they release the balloons to honored the dead children, it will be Rebecca rising into the sky.  She will be alone, and I assure you, every dollar will be a support to her.

(I did not write this post to shill for Gini.  I wrote it because I’m trembling and crying the morning after, and don’t know how I’ll get through the work day.  But I figured if I was going to write this, I might as well do some good somewhere in it.

(Three months on.  It is only three months on.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So we’re already seeing the first fallout from Ferguson – the Denver Police have requested 800 body cameras.  (Which reminds me, I should email the local cops to ask about their stance on this.)  I suspect more cities will follow suit, to avoid lawsuits, and I wouldn’t be surprised if within five years cameras would be a common thing among police officers.

Which won’t solve the problem entirely, of course.  Abusive police will find ways for the cameras to mysteriously break at the oddest moments.  And the police department owns the footage, which they are not required to release, so if the local constabulary wants to hole up and admit nothing, well, it can.

But what I find fascinating is that Ferguson-inspired liberals may have inadvertently given a push to something liberals hate: the surveillance state.  We don’t want to be like Britain, with cameras everywhere filming us!  We don’t want the government watching over us!

Well, as it turns out, we kinda might.  Only if a cop is watching you, of course.  But you’d be surprised how many of the times you least want to be filmed involve a cop’s potential presence. And I think in the wake of Ferguson’s astonishingly lawless policeman-instigated killing, maybe the safety of having an objective record of who shot who and what happened isn’t a bad thing.

Yet it’s interesting how different pressures can make traditionally-scorned approaches seem more palatable.  If you’d said ten years ago, “The cops will be filming your every movement,” there’d have been a huge outcry.  But when a cop might shoot your ass or beat you, “The cops will be filming your every movement” becomes a positive outcome.

Life is weird.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

One of the things I am super-grateful for these days is that the women I’m attracted to these days tend to be fairly kinky.  And the kink community has its own massive dysfunctions, of course, but in general they’re also usually pretty good about the communication of desires.

So if, on a date that seems to be going well, I ask, “Would you mind if I kiss you?” the answer is usually an enthusiastic “Sure, go ahead!” or a declined “No, I don’t want that.”

But I’ve always been a verbal consenter, mainly because my social anxiety usually doesn’t let me assume, Oh, you’re reading the signs right.  And when I was in my teens and twenties and dating, a lot of the times “Would you mind if I kiss you?” was met with that awkward hesitation of What the fuck are you doing? followed by a suspicious stinkeye that indicated All right, we’ll do it your way, whatever.

Discussing this with women at the time led to me discovering that for a significant number of people, the act of asking spoils the mood.  As Bart Calendar put it:

The number of women who do not want to be asked is really, really high. I have about five or six female friends who reguarly complain to me about how guys they go on first dates with ask to kiss them – when to their minds, they’ve been clearly sending off signals that they want to be kissed so they find it a turn off/consider the guy not “confident enough” for them to make out with.

I don’t know if that number is really, really high – but I do know that the circles I travel in these days have self-selected down significantly.  Gansje asked, quite legitimately, whether I couldn’t do some good by teaching consent education on college campuses, the way that I occasionally give talks on forming healthy relationships at conventions.  And I don’t think I’d be all that helpful at college, because the experience I have dealing with adults who’ve made the decision to try to form long-term bonds with each other is often not at all relevant to, say, your average frat kid looking to hook up with some (willing) sorority sister.  I haven’t been in college life for years, when I was in college life I wasn’t the partying kind, and when college life existed for me it didn’t have the issues of, say, Facebook or texting or the myriads of new and changed social pressures that college kids face.

I’m smart enough to know that the folks I talk to on a daily basis aren’t the same as, say, your average set of people at a nightclub.  For one thing, I think a significant subset of people at your average nightclub would never have heard of polyamory, let alone be cool with it.  I’m not mainstream, and I feel acting as though the mainstream opinion was just this minor issue to be handwaved off when giving advice leads to horrifically bad advice.

Yet as self-selected a crowd as you folks are, I’m curious as to what your reaction is to someone you like asking you for a kiss in the middle of a decent date.  There’s no right or wrong answer here, and so anyone who gets all judgy in the comments will get shut down – but if consent culture involves getting enthusiastic “yes”s, how do you actually feel when someone verbally tries to get one from you for that first smooch?  Or, in the middle of kissing, asks for something more?  Do/did most of your dates ask overtly, and do you wish that new dates would?

Let’s ask, and see how y’all feel.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“Is this an Onion piece?” a Twitter friend of mine asked.  “Are we expected to feel sorry for men, that they’re scared of perpetrating sexual assault?”

And indeed, the article on Salon was about the terror of college-aged dudebros who were terrified of looking like a predator while trying to hook up.  (Alas, the Bloomberg article it’s referencing seems to have been taken down, so I can’t comment on that.  I suspect it was significantly more insipid.)  But basically, after years of being educated that women’s enthusiastic consent is a necessary component of hooking up, some subset of guys are not sure how to approach that line, and as a result wind up walking away.  As chronicled in such anecdata as:

Malik Gill, the former social chair of the Sigma Chi fraternity at Harvard University, told Bloomberg he has witnessed something similar happening among his friends. He recounted an anecdote in which he gave one of his guy friends a woman’s number after she had expressed interest. Gill’s friend never called her. “Even though she was interested, he didn’t want to pressure her,” he explained. “He was worried about making her feel uncomfortable.”

Earlier in the piece, Gill said he no longer offered female classmates beer at parties because he doesn’t want to “look like a predator … it’s a little bit of a blurred line.”

So what you have are scared dudes who don’t want to violate a woman’s boundaries walking away from potentially fulfilling sexual encounters because they don’t know how to navigate some ambiguous waters.  And please do not do the sexist thing of going, “Well, good!  Those guys were pushing sex on women who didn’t want it!” and assuming that none of the women involved wanted to have fulfilling sex back because, you know, men are the only humans with a sex drive.

If what we’re told is true – and I’ve seen some evidence of this new-found hesitation in polyamory and kink communities as well – then you have a situation where guys are scared of looking like assholes and freezing in situations where they may have had willing partners.

And yeah.  I do think you should have sympathy for them.

Now, to be clear: yes, being raped is way worse than any social awkwardness on any front, and my goal is that no person gets raped or touched against their consent.  This is why I am glad this awkwardness is here.  Given the tradeoff, I would by far rather have a bunch of timid college kids refraining from handing a consenting woman a beer rather than having some overconfident oaf deciding without evidence that a girl he liked needed to be kissed.  What this is is a necessary redistribution of anxiety, in that for a long time women have been afraid of being harassed in public spaces by dudebros, and now the culture is swinging around to put the weight on men.  Where a lot of that weight, properly, belongs.

So on many levels, this newfound terror as guys acclimate to a new environment is a wonderful fucking change.  Do not take me to be saying otherwise.

But in real life, I prefer not to play the “The bigger terror supercedes the lesser terror” game.  Yes, there are people who have PTSD from combat runs in Afghanistan; that doesn’t mean that I need have no sympathy for those with social anxiety.  Likewise, yes, women’s fear of being violated is the greater terror, one that we should prioritize…

…but that does not mean that we should leave these dudebros to hang.

The Salon article gets it right in that yes, we need to educate men on how to operate in a consent culture, because as a sex-positive person I believe that men should be able to find fulfilling, consensual sex.  Particularly since these guys are your potential allies in this particular struggle, albeit potentially unwilling ones – but they are at least responsive to social pressure, and some subset of them actually probably care about the women involved, too.

And I think too much of feminist thought handwaves the difficulty of men’s struggles in dating.  People of all stripes sneer, “Oh, dating and consent, that’s easy!  Just do it!”  And they forget that actually, when you’re the one actively trying to seek pleasure with strangers – and most relationships start out with someone who was, at some point, a stranger – determining all those tetchy elements of attraction and consent and how to negotiate what you want is actually one of the most complicated things we do in this society.

A lot of women forget that one of the things the patriarchy quietly does is to put most of the instigation of relationships upon the dudes.  As a guy, you’re expected to make the first move – and you’re seen as a wimp if you can’t.  (Another way in which men are subconsciously trained to be alike; even if you’re more a passive type of guy, you’re unlikely to get dates if you’re waiting for women to come to you, and if you can’t step up to actively seeking, well, society thinks you deserve a lifetime of loneliness.)

That act of breaking the ice can be terrifying, especially for people who have no experience, and especially for people who want to keep the people they’re trying to connect with comfortable.  Hell, I’m forty-five years old, and I’ve dated well over a hundred women, and I still have those moments of spine-chilling terror where after a merry half-an-hour conversation with someone I like I touch her on her arm and then go, Shit, should I have done that?  Did I just cross a line?  Check her reaction, did you fuck up, did you fuck up? 

That reading of reactions is necessary.  I’ll never say it’s not.  But even for the experienced, trying to ascertain what each person’s level of flirt-acceptability is can occupy a lot of brainpower.

And it is, I should add, “each person.”  A lot of discussions of dating and consent make it seem like everyone is the same – but god damn, when you’re out there dating, one person wants to be approached this way, and another person wants this entirely other way, and you’re constantly reading very subtle (and in some cases intentionally buried) signs to try to determine what’s actually going on here…

…and adding another layer of complexity to that already riotously overcomplex thing is a lot to ask.

And of course we should ask it!  Getting men to seek active and enthusiastic consent should be our goddamned goal, especially if we’re going to keep subconsciously perpetuating the idea that guys should be the ones making the first move!

But let us also have sympathy for their struggle.

Because if you don’t have sympathy – if you go, “Awww, poor widdle men, who the fuck cares about your terror when I could be assaulted?” – then what you say to men is, effectively, “Fuck your concerns so long as I get what I want.”  And when you tell guys that, it puts us right back into that idea that dating is a war between men and women, a zero-sum game where only one gender can truly win.

What I want is a middle ground where women deserve the right to not be assaulted but men also deserve the right to be appreciated for navigating a tricky minefield in order to try to enforce safe spaces.  I think all people should work to provide a sex-positive space where both sexes can meet, decide they’re interested, and hook up on every level they damn well desire without having those desires short-circuited by missed signals.

In short:

  • Don’t think dating isn’t complicated.  It is.
  • Anything that makes dating more complicated may be necessary, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have some sympathy (and, more importantly, education) for the people who are trying to get it right for whatever reasons.
  • Nobody should be assaulted, ever.

And that’s pretty much it for today.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I am, if you will recall, a fan of the no-obligation crush.  Which is to say that in the unlikely scenario that I have a crush upon your totes adorbs self, you are in no way obliged to return it.

My crush is my own.  It’s nice if we share a mutual attraction, but even if you show no interest in my pudding-like physical form, I will still hang out with you.  This isn’t a contract where I will only do nice things for you unless you promise to smooch the hell out of me; no, we are friends, and while my friendship may be laced with a bit of intoxication over the idea of smooching you, I value your actual presence over my daydreams.

Tl;dr: I’d rather have you in my life as a buddy than reject you for the crime of not crushing back.

And I often do reveal crushes, just to get that out of the way.  “Hey, I crush on you, this is a factor to be considered in our relationship, like the weather or traffic jams.”  I do it not because I intend to arm-wrestle love out of them, but because they should probably know that if they choose to, say, complain to me extensively that there aren’t any good men out there who like them, I may get a bit huffy for reasons that might seem mysterious in the absence of this crush-visibility zone.

Yet if I do crush on someone, there are five words that are fatal to any good crush-revelation:

“So…. do you like me?”

Trust me on this one: if you tell someone you’re crushing on them, and they like you back, they’re gonna tell you.

And if they don’t, pressuring them into a revelation of mutual crushitude transforms this from the “no-obligation crush” and into the “you’re gonna hurt my feelings if you don’t reciprocate” territory.  And that’s a pretty terrible place to be, on both ends.

Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with revealing a crush in the hopes of unearthing a mutual attraction.  But there is something wrong with pretending to be all “Oh, this crush doesn’t matter, I’ll like you either way” and then immediately follow that up with a subtle pressure of “LIKE ME BACK, DAMN YOUR EYES, I WANT TO KNOW WHERE THIS IS GOING.”

If you truly have the obligation-free crush, this isn’t going anywhere.  Even the revelation of a mutual attraction may not necessarily lead to hot bedside smoochenatings, as all mature adults understand that “Attraction does not equal automatic coupling.”  I’m attracted to any number of people who, in a vacuum, would probably warm my nethers… but they’re not in a good place to fulfill those needs and neither am I, so we just keep a good friendship and occasionally flirt with a sharper edge than normal.

You can like like someone and have it not turn into anything deeper.  They can like like you back and have it not change much.  Not every makeout session must be brought to fullness, and I think your life gets a lot better once you realize that.

Especially when you’re a flighty crusher like me.

(Originally written on FetLife, cross-posted here.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Thanks to the help of my friend Jeremiah, we have a place to meet a weasel (and a weaselwife) this Sunday:

Sheffield’s
3258 N Sheffield Ave
Chicago, IL60657

Yelp seems to like it, with four stars, and that’s good enough for me.  So!  If you’d like to come by and hang out for a few hours, I’m told the drinks are good, and we will do some level of compatriating.

The inevitable question I get asked is, “I don’t know you, but…”  Stop.  There is no but.  I know people in Chicago, and am trying to meet up with them.  This is where I meet people I don’t know (or for who I do know, but can’t seem to schedule a happytime with).  It’ll be nicer if you tell me you’re coming, so I know who to expect, but if you’ve had the urge to say hello to me, here is where you do it.

And no, I have no idea how many people will be here or not.  I’ve only done this once before.  But please!  I welcome your company.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“It seems so hopeless,” my wife said.  “The world is just getting worse all the time.”

“Nope,” I said.  “It’s getting better.”

The thing about watching the abysmal police violence in Ferguson is that this is not unusual.  The cops have been mistreating black kids for years.  When I was young, I had a black friend who I used to play with.  Years later, I discovered that he got himself shot by the cops.  He was handcuffed at the time, and on the ground, but whoops apparently he was a threat.

There’s been excessive brutality to blacks all along.  You just didn’t have to pay attention to it.

But thanks to cell phone cameras and Twitter, we now have a situation where it is literally much harder to hide a body.  What’s happening in Ferguson is not the sign that oh my God, it’s hopeless – the fact that this has made front-page headlines despite the fact that CNN and Fox were initially ignoring it like all the other cop shootings is proof that we’re making progress.  Slow progress, and redundant progress – yes, similar things have happened before, and will happen again in the future…

…but don’t confuse the exposure of a problem with the intensity of the problem.  Blacks have gotten the raw end of the deal from cops for over a century now.

But thank God we’re looking it in the face.

And it’s like Occupy Wall Street, which I’ve come around on.  Initially, I thought, “Well, they’re not activists, they’re just raising a question.”  And I’ve come to realize that even in the absence of a focused agenda, raising the question can do a lot of good.  No, Wall Street hasn’t been torn down brick by brick yet, but I’ve seen a lot more debates in mainstream media about whether greed is good, and it’s been a lot harder to smother questions about “Why should these dudes have all the money?” with the usual conservative grumblings of “Class warfare, harrumph” because, well, we’ve opened up a debate.

Ferguson probably won’t end well for Ferguson.  I suspect the status quo will reign there after the media leaves.  But we’ll have tossed another question into the mainstream media to debate, which is “How many people do cops kill in the course of their duty?” – and guess what?  Not surprisingly, the government isn’t collecting that data.  Now, thanks to Ferguson, we’ve got people assembling that data, and now we’ve got people asking, “So really, how comfortable are we with these numbers?”

It’s a slow change.  It’s not happening on Twitter time.  Political shifts take years.  But I think Ferguson will be a high-water mark in terms of getting people to understand that yeah, you can have a city that’s 67% black with a police force that’s 94% white.  People will start wondering if that’s fair.  And some people, God bless you activists, will decide that it’s not and start trying to fix that.

It may take decades for this to work.  The Stonewall Riots were all the way back in 1969.  And forty-five years later, gay activists are finally seeing the payoff for that.

Visibility doesn’t equal immediate action.  Or victory.  Nothing guarantees victory.

But you can’t have anything else without visibility.  And man, this is like a needle to the eye.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Because the New York meetup went so well, I’m gonna say that at 1:00 this Sunday, I will show up at a public bar somewhere.  Anyone who wants to hang out with me for a bit can totally say hi.  Even if we have never ever met before.  (Seriously.  I like people.)

The question is, where should we meet?

I don’t know Chicago all that well, so I’m going to ask y’all to help me out.  If you’re planning on coming to this Meet-a-Weasel Extravaganza, leave a comment with a good place that allows for varying numbers of people to show up randomly and hang out.  (Preferably a space that doesn’t rely on tables, because I tend to circulate.)

I’m told Chicago is large, so somewhere easily gettable-to would be preferable.  And time is of the essence, as I’ll be needing to announce the location, like, tomorrow.

So.  Sunday.  In Chicago.  1:00 p.m.  Any help beyond that would be appreciated.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

(Super-mild abstract spoilers.  Be warned.)

So I saw Peter Capaldi’s premiere last night, and I liked it by the low standards I’ve come to accept from Moffatt’s run.  I’m one of those Whovians who just gave up on Matt Smith, as I think Matt personally could probably have been a good Doctor, but the shows he was in seemed to have degenerated into a series of Moffatian tics – mysteries introduced with great flourish and little emotional conclusion, confusion presented by way of character development, compressed bursts of unearned emotion.

And what struck me the most about the season premiere is how absolutely terrified Moffatt is of staying with uncomfortable emotions.

Take the bed scene last night – no spoilers, really, every Doctor premiere lately has had the Doctor languishing somewhere whilst his companions fret over him.  But what that scene seemed to suggest was that perhaps the Doctor was weary, aged, powerless.  It could have been a potent scene, discussing the way the Doctor is so tired of struggling to fix the world, but he can’t…

…except who knows what it was trying to say, really, because ho hey! there’s big clunky SFX roaming the streets of London, and we’ve got to get to that.

What Moffat is increasingly reminding me of is that clever guy at parties, the one with all the interesting anecdotes.  He’s great if the party needs a laugh.  But eventually, you get to the point where someone goes, “So how are you, Phyllis?” “Not so good, my daughter just died”…

…and Moffat goes “Ho hey!  Change of topic, amiright?” and, pulling his collar to air out the sweat on his neck, tells everyone a rollicking story about coprophages whether they want to hear it or not.

Moffatt thinks fear is exciting.  He thinks action is exciting.  He thinks heroism is exciting.  But all of those quiet moments, the reflective ones that often make the action meaningful, well… He seems honestly scared by it.  He’ll put soft moments on that on screen just long enough to have the Doctor barrel past them, as if to say, “See?  Those dark nights of the soul?  Nothing to fear, it’s all a larf, come on, shit, let’s tiptoe past this fucking graveyard at top speed!”

Some, of course, love that, because that’s their philosophy.  But me?  I remember back to Genesis of the Daleks, with Tom Baker, where he has the power to destroy the Daleks forevermore – just two wires, touched – and they take a good solid scene as the Doctor wonders whether yes, he has the moral right to do that.  And that concern permeates the entire episode, that feeling that maybe destroying the Daleks isn’t morally justifiable, maybe the Doctor isn’t correct.  That whole friction is what gave the series a surprising amount of gravitas for a guy in a scarf fighting dustbins.

And Moffatt, well, I suspect if he did Genesis of the Daleks, there’s been one scene where they’d ask the question, but only so they could show the answer that of course The Doctor’s right, he’s always right, why would you ever doubt the Doctor?

Sure, they did a touch of moral ambiguity last night.  That I liked.  I in fact liked the premiere once they went out to eat and found the plot. But the idea that the Doctor might be wrong, or fallible, or even harmful seems to terrify Moffatt so much that I just stopped watching Smith.  I knew Smith would be right.  I knew that nobody I liked on the show would ever be wrong, even if they had to partake in contradictory moral contortions to arrive at this conclusion.  Even if half the time the answer to “Why is this man wrong?” turned out to be “Because he’s so awesome that even being awesome has problems!”  So why even watch the show, when I know the ending, if not to bask in the warmth of a moral fantasy where everyone I suspected to be nice would be proven ineffably wonderful?

Now.  Some have complained about the treatment of Clara, which I guess I can understand, but a) this is Moffatt, and see my low standards on Moffatt’s treatment of women, b) I don’t give a crap about Clara as a character and as such I can’t get outraged when she’s played inconsistently (even though she blatantly is), and c) alas, whether you like it or not, the show’s gotta hold hands.

What I find interesting is that some of the people who are complaining the most about the heavy-handed transition were some of the people who fucking adored the Rose-to-Tennant bridge in S1-to-S2, the one where they made it clear that Rose is the Doctor’s special-super-wonderful-lovey-dovey person and no change of personality will ever break their bond… which I, at the time, found pretty kludgy and sickening and an annoyingly explicit direct plea to the fans that yes, we know this Doctor’s different, but seriously, he still loves you.  But I endured it, because the Doctor was new to many people and yes, we need this claptrap to keep the fans going.

Now a lot of those folks who, jaded in Who fandom, are always like “Yes, we know the Doctor changes, we don’t need to have this explained to us, we don’t need to have this insultingly blatant essay on how the Doctor can be unattractive foisted upon us” have forgotten that yeah, for a lot of fans, the Doctor is their version of boy-band sexiness, and so they do need a very explicit transition to grizzled old Capaldi.  (Who is sexy in his own way, of course.)  And no, those fans won’t show up on your Tumblr page, because they’re newish fans and maybe not as obsessive about it as you are, but they are out there.

I suspect a lot of the annoyance is partially due to, yes, Moffatt’s inevitable buried sexism, but I think another part of that is that Doctor Who has, once again, become old enough that the fandom wants two separate things.  One has grown accustomed to the regenerations and doesn’t want all of the emotional fooferaw of your first breakup, we’ve done this, let’s just forget Smith and fucking get on with falling in love with New Guy, and those fans are annoyed by the fact that – just like your precious fucking Rose falling in lurve with Tennant – some newer fans aren’t quite as hip to the scene and need so much damn time to acclimatize.

Well, guys, I dealt with the Rosestravaganza of 2005, and you had to deal with the Claranation of 2014.  It’s tedious, if you’ve done this fandango before.  But I suspect, like me, that for every old vet out there going, “Do we really need this shit?” we have some new fan going, “Oh, thank God, this makes it work for me.”

It’s the definition of a broken fan base.  But hey.  I’m hoping, perhaps irrationally, that Capaldi doesn’t turn out to be yet another collection of Moffattish tics.  We’ll see.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I met a cute girl the other day – although using the word “cute” to describe her covers her beauty in the same way that tossing a napkin on the ground covers the Appalachian Mountains.  The quote I could not stop muttering to myself when looking at her was, “It is a body bred for one purpose – to destroy the world of men.”

Happily, we exchanged numbers.  And after a few brief chats, she confessed to having Googled me.

Who the heck does that? I thought, followed by the answer of Probably everybody, because frankly if you meet someone new in any context, looking them up online to see whether they’re, I dunno, winner of the East Coast Aryan Dog-Eating Competition.  And if you’ve got a crush – I get crushes, you may have noticed – then you can see whether they hold any particularly interesting opinions.

(And particularly if you Google me, whoo boy does a Pandora’s box of my interests come spilling out.)

But I grew up in the age of BBSes and modems and AOL 28.8 was the absolute shiz, and so my reflex to Google all the new people never formed in the womb.  Hell, one of the most fascinating people I met over the weekend is a game designer who writes her own text adventures, and have I looked up her games?  Of course not!  We’ll find out the old-fashioned way, through the grand conversations we’ll have as we buggy-whip our horses down the cobblestone lane on the way to talk to our milkman!

Some days I look at myself, Mr. Internet Hipster, and am reminded that I am creaky and cranky and old.

But I’m still flirting.  So there’s that.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Dear Discovery Channel:

Mythbusters is my favorite surrogate TV family, my comfort watching, my friends.  And with your firing of Tori, Grant, and Kari – a.k.a. “The Build Team” – from the show, you have just plopped an ugly divorce in my living room.

I am not happy.

But since this move smacks of a budget cut, allow me to demonstrate my fiduciary credentials: every Christmas, my wife buys me the latest season of Mythbusters, often from the Discovery Channel store.  That’s stopping this year, unless the build team is brought back.  I’ve also bought Mythbusters DVDs for friends to spread the word.  That’s also stopping.  As are my purchases of the Mythbusters T-shirts and Behind The Myth tours and the museum exhibit.

I won’t tell you I won’t watch the show; I probably will.  But you folks have probably gotten $1,000 in merch sales from me over the years, and that?  Is gone.  My blogging about Mythbusters?  Is also gone.  After this, I’m not providing any more PR for a show that has made a grievous error.

In particular, the firing of Kari Byron is inexcusable, as there aren’t enough prominent women out there doing science, and the removal of one from perhaps one of the sanest ambassador shows for science sends a very uncomfortable message to girls.  But even aside from that, part of the joy of the show was watching Tori injure himself, watching Grant build a robot, watching the collective joy they exhibited when something went haywire.

The show is an ensemble cast now, whether you like it or not.  And to remove that means that I will remove my wallet from your merch funds until that is rectified.  So I sincerely hope you do an about-face on this ASAP, because I’m one of your megafans.  I’ve been loyal, and more than that, profitable to you.

I hope that soon, I will be again.

Yours,
Ferrett Steinmetz

(If you’d like to write the Discovery Channel, incidentally, I’d suggest you use their form here.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So FXX is holding the marathon we’ve all been waiting for: Every Simpsons episode, in order, constantly, for twelve days.  It’s pretty amazing to think that the Simpsons has been around since the late 80s.  In fact, some significant portion of my readership – living, breathing human beings who fuck and vote and eat filet mignon – are younger than the Simpsons.

And yet I just watched an episode which showed how crazily the world has mutated since the Simpsons began.

That episode is the tenth episode of the first season: Homer’s Night Out.  In it, Homer does a sexy tabletop dance with a bellydancer, Bart takes a picture, and it goes viral.  The next thing you know, everyone in Springfield is talking about the picture – people laughing and cheering Homer on, Mr. Burns asking Homer for lady advice, bars full of men admiring Homer as their Playboy-style hero.  Eventually, Homer does a pratfall-landing in the middle of a stripper nightclub during the emcee’s act – and the emcee, instantly recognizing Homer, uses him to draw in new crowds.

And it took me like fifteen minutes to remember that at the time this was written, this was fucking satire.

Back in the days before the Internet – hell, when faxes were still clunky and kind of high-tech – there is no way that a Xeroxed photo would be passed around that quickly.  The idea that Bart could just make fifty copies and post them around town and catapult Homer into ludicrous pseudo-stardom was, actually, something audiences at the time found absurd and funny.  Of course Homer wasn’t going to wake up one day to find that, while he slept, the entire town had passed around his antics.

But… today….

Shit, that happens all the time.

We now live in a world where the most comedic exaggerations of the Simpsons are now actually dwarfed by what can really happen.  Because if that photo goes viral, well, Homer could be worldwide famous.  They wouldn’t just cheer him on, they would make fan videos, cosplay as Sexy Dancing Homer, show him on networks, and Jesus if you think of what’s happened to Grumpy Cat or Chris Crocker, the reaction of Springfield – Springfield! – seems positively sane in comparison.

We have entered a time when the parody of twenty years ago actually cannot encompass the reality of today.

I’m not sure whether that’s scary or exhilarating.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I come into towns like a hurricane; I’ve usually got little time to spend, and a bunch of Internet-friends I’d like to visit.  Which means that I kind of miss on meeting all the new and shiny people in town.

Well, in my endless quest to dine at Michelin-starred meals with my lovely wife, I’ll be breezing into Chicago to eat at Graham Elliott.  This is doubly exciting because a) it will be my first introduction to molecular gastronomy, a whole new cuisine, and b) it will give me food from two of the three MasterChef judges.  (Gordon Ramsay!  I am coming for you!  …Eventually!)

Anyway, the plan is that I’ll have Sunday afternoon on Labor Day weekend to kick around, and if y’all wanted to drop by and say hello, I’d put myself in a public space and have y’all drop by.  Last time I did this in New York we got about twenty people, which was way more than I expected, but it certainly gives me the incentive to do it again, since I met some darned interesting people (and some long-term LJ friends).

So!  If you’re interested, mark the date, and possibly suggest a public spot that would be amenable to small crowds.  (Or possibly no crowds.  New York may have been an aberration.)  If you’re reading this, it means that hey, I want you there if you want to be there – I love meeting new people.

So.  Chicago.  Sunday, 8/31.  In…. some place, in an afternoony time.

Go.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I posted this bon mot on Twitter the other day:

But since Twitter is where nuance goes to die, I wanted to expand on that a little bit.

One of the major delusions that conservatives have is that a guy in a military uniform can do anything.  A soldier can win a war and win hearts.  And they really can’t, but that’s not their fault.

Which is to say that winning a war is a pretty brutal process.  Teaching a guy to kill is actually a really difficult process – only somewhere along the lines of 15-20% of people will, without training, shoot someone even if their life is on the line.  A major problem in past battles is that a large number of those regimented rifles went unfired, because most humans are not prepared for the trauma of what is, essentially, sanctioned murder.  Almost every time you hear the story of “These barbarians routed a much larger unit!” it’s because the barbarians were composed of 80% people who would kill to achieve their task, and the larger unit had, maybe, 20% of people who could do the job.

Result: terror.

So when you’re training a soldier, a lot of that is suppressing human instincts.  And then, when you go to battle, your idea is to conserve your forces and maximize power.  The loss of every soldier weakens your unit, so your goal is not to lose anyone.  You’re extremely conservative, using whatever tactics there are to kill the other guy and protecting your own.  You try not to kill innocents, depending on the morality of your superiors, but the horror of war is that you don’t pull punches.  In war, civilians get killed by mistake, because the goal of war is to destroy the opposition until they’re not a threat.

And that is necessary.  Sometimes, for all the peace-love in the world, you have to punch a guy in the face.  Not everyone’s reasonable.  Not everyone’s got resources they can split evenly.  Soldiers are high-value things for any civilization.

But.

Policing is different.

In policing, you’re not trying to exterminate the enemy, you’re trying to get them to work with you.  Casualties are bad.  In many ways, policing is braver than being a soldier, because you’re not trying to preserve your life, you’re trying to preserve the life of the citizenry.

And your goal as a policeman is to settle disputes, to keep order, to dispense justice.  That sometimes involves some very complex negotiations between disputing factions, whether that’s two gangs fighting or between a tavern and its drunken customers.  You have to deal with ambiguity a lot, sometimes not enforcing every rule, sometimes being harsher on people you see as a danger, not just carrying out this single arrest but thinking of it in terms of the greater good of everyone around you.

You have to make the community a community.  And that’s radically different from capturing territory on the ground.

And like soldiers have to be trained to kill effectively, policemen must be trained to police effectively.

They are two entirely different, and in many ways completely opposed, skillsets.

“But Ferrett,” you say.  “You’re just picking on the conservatives again!”  Except the conservatives – real, long-term, dyed-in-the-wool conservatives – were the ones who sent soldiers into Iraq and then acted as if soldiers were equipped to keep the peace.  They weren’t.  They made a lot of mistakes that weren’t their fault, because “navigating the complex web of local alliances and hatreds to bind people together into a functioning unity through shared trust” is very different from “kill Saddam’s soldiers.”  And it wasn’t until General Petraeus came in and started making some organizational changes to acknowledge that difference that things started to get better, but by then it was too late.

In Iraq, you had soldiers who thought they were cops.  And what you see in Ferguson is the flip side of that, where you have cops who think they’re soldiers, and every thing they do to protect their forces – a smart move, when you’re in an invading force – actually distances them from the community and makes it harder to keep control over the people who fucking live there.

Look.  I like cops.  I like soldiers.  Both can do some great jobs.  But they do great jobs only so long as that distinction is made between these two different skill sets, and what we’re doing right now is the equivalent of “Oh, you’re a vet?  Great, do open-heart surgery on this man, you’re qualified.”  Because there’s some overlap, but hoo boy not nearly enough to entrust the lives of thousands to people who sorta have the skills.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So yesterday, I talked about how sometimes, I’m scared to post intimate things on this blog.  The reason I post such raw revelations is because I know it helps other people, when I express these intimate emotions.  Whenever I write about depression, or polyamory, or relationships in general, I get an email from someone who’s glad I spoke for them, or articulated some sentiment they hadn’t been able to nail down.

So sometimes I go, “Okay, I’ll do this because I think this is something other people need to know.”

I got tied up in rope this weekend, and learned an important lesson about kink, sexuality, and emotion… and I’m not quite willing to post that here, on my “official” blog, because it involves some complex reactions that I’m not sure everyone will get.  Gini read the piece, thought it was beautiful, but advised me not to post it here.

But I did post it over on FetLife, the Facebook for Kinksters, and if you’re at all interested in heavy play and the intense effects it can have on someone, I’d advise you to go over and read it.  Yes, FetLife requires you to register (or get a BugMeNot account), but really, given the high-wire act that I try to strike between protecting the aspects of my life that I need to be private and sharing lessons with y’all, that’s the best compromise I can get.

The inevitable excerpt:

She was beautiful, and I was nearly naked, and she had the rope.

“Sit down,” she said, biting her lip as she sized my body up, figuring out how best to restrain me. Then she shook her long hair and snapped her fingers, reaching for her iPod. “I’ve wanted to hear this song all day,” she told me. “And I want something on when I work.”

She put on Daft Punk’s latest album. The one with “Get Lucky,” that eternal club anthem. And I knew – knew – what was about to happen here, in this hotel room, with the beautiful girl and the nearly-naked me and this song about to exhort us both to get lucky, we’re up all night to get lucky, we’re up all night to get lucky.

But it wasn’t what you think it was.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So I had an experience at Geeky Kink Event that I think is important to share, that I should share, and yet….

…I’m afraid to.

This is not me doing the old “Oh, please, exhort me to write this essay” shtick.  I just ran into some people at the con who said, “Well, I’d blog about my feelings, but I’m not as brave as you.”

Some days I get scared.  Some days I think I’m sharing too much.  Some days I think that all I’m doing is making the world think I’m a complete hot mess.  (And to be fair, with every essay, I am convincing quite a few people that I am a hot mess, but that is the way of the world – be honest and some will love you for it while others will be repelled.  There’s no getting around that.)

Anyway, I did write it up, on FetLife.  Where reading my essays has a different context, and you have to sign up for an account to read me.  Yet it’s a kinky essay, and do I want to put that out here on my blog where anyone can read and comment?  Where whatever I put goes into Google, to be searchable for all eternity?  Do I want to identify the deepest and hardest to explain parts of myself to strangers who may, willfully or otherwise, misinterpret?  Or worse, interpret correctly and negatively?

All this is to say that I get scared, too.  A lot.  And there are plenty of things I don’t post about.

I’ll probably be honest, because what I wrote is larger than just me, and I think it has some things worth saying.  But I might not.  And I just wanted y’all to know that there are plenty of days where I look at the essay, look at that “Publish” button, and decide that I really don’t want that part of me out in public.

Even the boldest of bloggers have their timid spots.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Just on the off-hand chance you’re not following my Twitter feed, which is largely retweets of Ferguson-related news, you should be looking very closely at Ferguson right now.  Short version: Cops shot a black kid.  The people protested peacefully, were run off with tear gas and rubber bullets.  Things escalated, and the cops shut the town down, preventing news copters from seeing what was going on, shoving reporters out, arresting people on false pretenses and refusing to give their badge numbers.

This is the police state.

This is every government fear the NRA has ever inflamed to sell guns.

And yet the usual gang of conservative nitwits are… saying nothing.

I remember someone discussing Watergate, which I didn’t get for a long time: A President got in a scandal, he resigned rather than go to trial, what’s the big whoop?  And an older friend who’d lived through that finally made it clear to me when he said, “What would have happened if Nixon had refused to go to trial?”

That’s when the penny dropped.  That’s when I realized that shit, yeah, our government only works because people agree it does, and if people decide to just say, “Fuck the law, I don’t need it,” then that’s when civil wars result.

What’s happening in Ferguson is important.  It’s a local government flouting the law in the name of ass-covering.  This is, in a very real sense, a rebellion against the laws of the land, and the cops are on the wrong side.  And they’re trying very hard to cover this shit up, and Twitter is really not letting them get away with that.

And I fear that what Ferguson shows is the absolute hypocrisy of the conservative movement – that for all their dumb yammering about “THE GUMMINT’S GONNA HURT US!” and “WE NEED TO DEFEND AGAINST IT!”, the truth is that they see the government as a weapon to crack down on people they don’t like.  Who gives a fuck about following the law?  Who gives a fuck if it’s perfectly legal to film the cops?  Hey, we’ve got some suspicious-looking characters over here, they don’t need rights, what we need are rights to protect us.

Truth is, the law should protect everyone. What we have here is tantamount to rebellion.  And I would feel a lot better about the conservatives going, “Oh, yeah, this is when people should rise up against their government,” but the truth of what they have to say may well better expressed as “People like us can rise up against the government, but you can’t,” and that erasure of whole realms of people worries me.

(And people will inevitably say, “But there’s looting in Ferguson!” – which, yeah, there is, but the cops started by targeting peaceful protestors long before looters came along.  As a Tweet said, I can condemn both the impending police state and looters simultaneously.  I suggest you try it.)

Anyway, this is one of the most important stories to break in a while.  Pay attention.

(EDIT: And there are those who will say, “How dare you turn a tragedy into a political agenda?”  To which I say, a) The tactic of “Let’s not politicize this” is the surest way of ensuring no change ever gets made ever, and b) conservatives are perfectly willing to, say, evince an opinion on Trayvon Martin or Clive Bundy’s respective heroism when it suits them, so I’m perfectly happy to point out what they don’t discuss.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, I’ve seen a lot of people saying, “Killing yourself because of depression isn’t selfish!  It’s a disease!”

Speaking as someone who suffers from depression, depression is very much a disease, and often a terminal one.

Suicide’s also a little selfish.

Now, because people invariably want my suicide credentials at some point in these discussions, I have two suicide attempts in my past, one where I took an entire bottle of sleeping pills in isolation andcompletely lucked out in not dying.  (As I’ve often said, “A slightly stronger batch and I wouldn’t be here talking to you.”)  They both happened in different years but during the same month, wherein I discovered I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.  About once a year, I am seized with an awful depression where I can barely function and usually wind up self-harming.  I suicidally ideate on a regular basis, and have for as long as I can remember.

And like all depressives, when I heard Robin Williams had died, I felt that chill of Fuck, well, if he can’t beat it, what hope do I have?

I’m lucky.  My depression comes in waves, wherein I emerge periodically to experience some very wonderful times, and I can carry that happiness back to the dark bits.  Others aren’t so blessed, and drown.

That’s why I believe people should have the right to take their own lives.  This belief is summed up in this wonderful Superman comic, wherein Superman says to a suicidal woman on a ledge, “If you honestly believe, in your heart of hearts, you will never have another happy day, then step out into the air.”  Depression leaches all the joy from life, leaves you consistently miserable, and if you’re going to spend the next twenty years in joyless penance, I endorse that escape.

But.

Let us not pretend that escape doesn’t have splash damage.

Because Robin Williams’ wife is suffering right now, and his children are suffering, and his young daughter will doubtlessly look at that final Instagram he posted of her and him together and wonder, eternally, if there was something she could have done.  By killing himself, he’s condemned them to a lifetime of pain.

And I think that’s one of the evilest tricks of depression: it lists all the people you love and convinces you, one by one, that they’d all be better off without you.  Except this is usually a huge lie.  I’ve talked to the survivors of suicidal lovers, and not a one of them felt happy that their loved one had offed himself.  They may have understood, they may have even endorsed it, but they all had a great loss in their life.  That death ripped a hole in them that will never fully heal.  Particularly if it came by surprise, which – because we treat suicide as though it’s the greatest and most shameful of evils – it usually does.

Your exit may be painless for you, but it will hurt the people you love.  Count on that.

The problem, I think, is that in American society, “Selfishness” is the biggest sin.  You’re not allowed to be greedy, unless it’s for money.  The idea that you might harm someone willingly is seen as a monstrous act, the unforgivable thing, and so people are falling all over themselves to say that Robin Williams did nothing selfish.

He did, a little.  He looked at the future, saw nothing good anywhere down the road, and decided to opt out.  And like Superman, if there was truly never going to be one more good day for Robin, well, I support that.  It’s a harsh equation, but there comes a point when the personal pain he’d endure would supersede the needs of his family – and if that’s the case, I think he should have the ability to opt out, just like any other terminally ill patient.

But what I do hope was that Robin was being honest with himself in his last moments.  I hope he wasn’t going, “Well, they’ll be better off without me” and doing that fucked-up fandango where he convinces himself they’ll not just be better off without him, but actually happy.  Because I’ve been there.  I did that myself when I opened up that bottle of sleeping pills, and I survived by accident, and man, years later I am well aware of how fucked up my entire family would have been if they’d found me dead in my bedroom.  They would have been the farthest thing from happy.

It’s a balance: Is your pain so bad that it’s worth hurting others to escape it?  And, like all pain, it’s impossible to say how bad it is for someone else.  You have to make your own decisions.  Maybe it was that bad for Robin, maybe it wasn’t, I don’t know.

But let’s not pretend it’s not selfish.  It is.  A little.  And the best I can ask of you serious depressives is to look at it honestly, to understand the hurt you’re going to dispense on your way out, and honestly weigh whether you can live – or not-live – with that injury.

I don’t think you’re a monster if you can live with it.

But I think you might be wrong.

Get help.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

1)  The infamously bad service is infamously correct. 
When Italian service is good, what you get is this delightfully relaxed atmosphere where you can talk with friends for as long as you like, drinking wine and debating the sad state of the world, until eventually – lackadaisically – you wave a finger and the waiter comes over eventually with your check. (They do not bring you your check before you ask for it, ever, which seems delightfully civilized.)

When it’s bad, you sit at a table for forty minutes and nobody pays attention to you, even though they waved you over to sit down yesterday.  Or you tell them, “I need the check, our bus is leaving in fifteen minutes” and they fuck off until with three minutes left you have to find them to throw money at them, and they look at you like you’re the asshole.  Or they lie and tell you their credit card machine isn’t working so they can fake the taxes.

We had some wonderful meals, when the waiter took a liking to us and chatted with us.  All the other patrons suffered while he chatted, but fuck it, at that point we were like, “Okay, fine, this is the way it works.”

2)  Americans are freaks for wanting water. 
We thirsted.  All the time.  But there is no free water in Italy, and they think us mad for even wanting some.  As it is, you have to ask for “still” water or they’ll bring you seltzer, and it comes in little tiny bottles that don’t serve a table.

We had to go to so much effort that even a cup of water seemed like a monstrous effort.  And yet we never stopped.  After a while, it felt mad to even try, but goddammit we were thirsty and we can’t just drink wine.  When we got home and found waiters refilling our glasses unprompted, it felt like a waterfall of luxury.

3)  Italians do not dip their bread in olive oil.
Nor do they like their pizza the way we do.  But the pasta is delicious beyond what you get; you have to work to have a bad meal in Rome, you really do.  Our worst meal was an Applebees-style experience, and even then the sea bass was above the cut.  Our average meal was a fine meal in Cleveland.  Those Italians know how to eat…

…except for all their bitching, really, bread in olive oil is delicious.  Get over it, Italians.  Get past tradition.

4)  Italy’s main pasttime is hating their neighbors.
When I went to England, the history there was “We had an empire.”  When I went to Germany, it was a staunch “Here is what we built.”  In Italy, it was “Here’s how we fucked over the next city over, ha, those shits, they totally deserved it.”  Over and over.  In every place we visited.

Which is to say that Italy wasn’t really a country until it got unified around the time of our Civil War, and most of their history consisted of fighting with their neighbors and the barbarians until someone said “Hey, you’re all family now,” so even to this day a lot of local rivalries kick in.  There’s a lot of jockeying for position, and snarking, until an outsider comes in and suddenly hey, who are you to tell us anything, we are from Southern Italy.

5)  There is no beauty like Italian beauty. 
The Vatican looked like a very expensive yard sale, what with all the art piled willy-nilly about, but St. Peter’s Basilica was the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen, bar none.  It was like walking into God’s mind.  Likewise, Pompeii was breathtaking even as a ruin, the Coliseum was impressive, and the Doge Palace was gorgeous, and San Marco’s Basilica with its gold-and-glass inlay stole the breath.

They build big in Italy.  Like, huge.  Everything is oversized, even the landscape, and yet not so big that it sneaks out of your perception and just becomes noise.  They know how to build things in Italy so you are forever forced into a sense of scale, where you sense how small and frail this human flesh is compared to the great powers around, and it’s glorious now that we’re tourists. (I suspect the effect was slightly different when they could flay you alive for pissing them off.)

6)  There is no style like Italian style.
As a fat American, I drew glances, but the people in Italy were on average astonishingly good-looking.  And even when they weren’t, they dressed sharply.  I won’t claim that my Italian suit wasn’t an attempt to emulate them a bit, but crossing a public square was a little like walking through a commercial.

Yet they weren’t, weirdly enough, sexy.  Sex is a big part of Italian culture – our tour guides made a lot of innuendos and “You-knows” when discussing the great fucking that went on in the past – but stylish and sexy didn’t mesh.  They were all oddly restrained, though admittedly since I was with my Mom and kids I didn’t hit a lot of nightclubs.  I suspect the sexy flows like wine there.  But in the public square, just a bunch of pretty hunky folks meandering about.

7)  Venice is not stinky…
Admittedly, we had good weather and the garbagemen weren’t on strike, but the odors we got were pretty much just low tide in Connecticut.  It could be worse, but I think a lot of that stench is just living by the seashore, man.

8)  …but it is a maze. 
We tried to map it, and got lost.  Every time.  And Yelp was useless for finding restaurants, since apparently a lot of them open and close in Venice, which is for rich tourists, and even for those with followings most locals use the Michelin guides anyway.  We always found our way back, since we just headed for the sea, but we never got there the same way twice.

9)  The Italian people are super-helpful, and communicative.
We had people offering to help us constantly, and only a handful wanted money.  Most people were very happy to chat in our handful of broken languages – the married couple on the subway who congratulated us on thwarting a pickpocket attempt and told us it was their second wedding anniversary, the taxi driver who was thrilled to discover we were from Alaska and revealed, through absolutely no English at all, that it had been his lifelong dream to go fishing in Alaska and interrogated us as to flight times and costs.

The language wasn’t nearly the barrier we thought it would be. Which was nice.  The people were very kind, on the whole, when they weren’t waiters or repairmen.  I guess they’re friendly when they choose to be, not when someone makes them.

10)  But they are super-racist when it comes to Roma.
We did have two pickpocket attempts our first day in Rome on the subway, which was super-exciting; one person warned us as the mother with the baby snuck her hand out to filch my wallet, and then when Gini slapped the hand away when the second tried, we got roundly congratulated.  So there’s definitely some crime, but we felt like low-grade superheroes for busting them.  (Even if we didn’t “bust” them, really; they just ran off the subway to steal from someone else.)

But everyone we spoke to in Italy discussed God, those Roma, we tried to educate them, they don’t want to be civilized, so they prefer to steal.  They train in it.  They’re not like normal people.  And we were left in this uncomfortable position of not knowing how to refute this, as yes, these people (who I assume were Roma, based on what people said, but who the fuck knows?) did try to steal our wallets, but every time we mentioned it it unleashed a flow of complaint to the point where we pretty much just stopped talking about it.

I have friends who are Roma.  They don’t pick pockets.  I’m sure some subset of Roma do, but the easy willingness to tar everyone with the same brush – and furthermore, to assume the scumminess of a whole culture – was a little distressing.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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