Tag Archives: media

Insert Inflammatory Headline Here

I am the enemy. Obviously. I’m white, straight, and male. Oh, I’m also Southern and a hillbilly. Five strikes against me. I am the touchstone of discrimination, bigotry, misogyny, violence, rape culture, and animal cruelty.  According to those more learned and sophisticated than I, I’m also privileged because of the color of my skin, my sexual orientation, and my gender.

I’m going to avoid the knee-jerk reaction to call hogwash because it’s counter-productive to the point I want to make. I don’t want to get drawn into a refutation of all the nonsense about painting with broad strokes. I will say is that if you lived in a home without running water for more than a year, you can call me privileged without any argument. If you had to attend school in clothes that reeked of something worse than kerosene fumes, you earned the right to call me privileged. Otherwise, please refrain from making assumptions about the obstacles other people have had to overcome.

I’ll also say I’m tired of our culture of divisiveness and dehumanization. I’m tired of the endless cycles of liberal vs. conservative; men vs. women; gay vs. straight; jocks vs. nerds; horsecrap vs. horsecrap. I’m extremely tired of intolerance in all its forms. Yes, Mr. Enlightened Liberal Panderer, you are just as guilty of intolerance as any racist or bigot you hate. You are the problem. Yes, Ms. Compassionate Conservative, you are an intolerant jerk. You are the problem, too.

See, every time some tragedy occurs, we get the same nonsense debates about guns or gender roles or religion or whatever, but we never have the real conversation, the one that truly matters. Our culture, this corporate, bureaucratic, bottom-line, profit-driven Huxlean nightmare, has stripped us of our humanity. We don’t look at our fellow human beings as just that. Instead, we immediately jump to what it is we should despise about someone for being part of the “other.” And even if someone isn’t really part of the other, we will find some way to twist reality until they are. And once they are part of that “other,” their rights become less important than our own. We are all guilty of this.  Yes, you are, too.

Here’s one example of this insanity. A couple of weeks ago, the science fiction convention Archon rescinded its invitation to Tim Bolgeo to attend as a special guest of honor. For those who don’t know, Uncle Timmy is a long-time veteran of fandom in the Southeast. However, someone created a social media frenzy concerning a newsletter Uncle Timmy publishes, alleging that the newsletter promotes racism, homophobia, and anti-science propaganda. A mob quickly bombarded Archon with diatribes, and the convention caved to the pressure. In return, people who know Uncle Timmy personally took to social media to defend his reputation and scold the Archon committee members for hastily bowing to the vocal minority.

Though far from the truth, let’s assume for one minute that this  highly educated, well read person is filled with hate and bigotry. However farfetched it may be, let’s assume that this person is using the medium of science fiction fandom conventions to spread hateful propaganda. How does creating an angry mob on social media and threatening the convention committee do anything to improve humanity as a whole? All that has been said publicly is that one group’s rights are more important than another’s, so let’s ban the one group so the other can feel “safe” in their insulated environment. Does any of that sound vaguely familiar to anyone? To me, it would be much more productive, much more beneficial, to sit down and have a face to face dialogue, to discuss openly the perceptions and misconceptions one group has against the other. But we don’t do that in our society. We jump straight to labels like Libtards and Repugs, and bash each other’s intelligence and character without a second thought.

In no way am I trying to diminish the importance of subjects like rape culture, homophobia, misogyny, or racial discrimination. These are all topics that need serious discussion and open communication. However, we do need to stop trying to rank which group is most oppressed and which group is least. Those kinds of artificial stratifications keep us from seeing every member of every subset as a fully rendered human being, and they cause us to dismiss the perceptions, experiences, and sufferings of an individual as insignificant. They also cause us to jump to the “I’m enlightened; you’re ignorant” paradigm that prevents real dialogue. As long as we continue to segregate ourselves into these subsets and bicker about who has it worst, we will always be divided and unable to work together for the betterment of all.

See, here’s the thing: those who are really in charge, the ones really abusing human rights and keeping us from advancing civilization, want us dividing ourselves up and bickering like we do. As long as we’re fighting over some hot button issue that we can never, ever hope to eradicate fully from the human experience, we aren’t working together to expel them from power. See, that’s the real conversation that will never appear on a corporate-owned media outlet, and as long as we keep playing their game on their terms, we’ll never unite as humanity and see real change.

Those who know me hopefully know that as a human being, I’m not the enemy as described above. Despite my five strikes (and I’ll add a sixth: poverty), I strive to treat every person with respect and compassion. Even though I often fall short because of my limitations as a human being, I try to view every person I encounter as a human being worthy of love, respect, and dignity, whether they agree with my viewpoint or not. That’s the real challenge — respecting and loving someone who opposes your personal beliefs, but in the end, either our similarities will bind us together and move us forward or our incessant bickering will tear us apart. Right now, in our current environment of hate, my hope for the former is waning.

Tuesday Morning Ramblings

I don’t know if I can find the proper words to describe what’s happened to education, but every single day the system gets a little worse. The bureaucrats have transposed manufacturing principles onto instruction, expecting to increase productivity by implementing lean production measures. But teaching a human being how to read, write, calculate, and think is not the same process as bolting together two components. Everyone learns a little differently, and skilled teachers adapt their methods to individuals. Today, the bureaucrats want a one-size-fits-all homogeneous model that only skims rote memory. It cannot and will not produce practical application of skills.

For most of us who teach, morale has never been lower. We are grossly overworked, grossly underpaid, and grossly frustrated by political forces that on one hand blame us for the failures of their system while on the other accuse us of causing economic turmoil with our luxurious pay and benefits. Most of us are quite literally at our breaking points, emotionally and financially. We have been placed in an impossible situation, asked to do an impossible job, stripped of nearly all authority, and then blamed for poor student performance. Meanwhile, we’re competing for the students’ attention with Twitter and YouTube. It’s nearly impossible to pry them away from their smartphones and laptops, but then, we’re blamed for not “engaging” them properly.

Our only hope for fixing this situation is for enough people to come forward and demand change. We need lower student-teacher ratios, higher pay, less standardized testing, more focus on application, less bureaucracy, and more autonomy in the classroom. We have to shift accountability back onto the students themselves. We have to halt this trend towards homogeneous curriculum and focus on personalized instruction that fosters skills application. We have to find some way to teach the next generation that not everything is supposed to be entertaining, and instead of catering to their deficits by adding flashing lights and buzzers to curriculum, teach them how to focus for more than thirty seconds. I say the next generation because I’m afraid this one is already damaged beyond repair.

Please, heed my warning: This country is about to lose an entire generation of educators. Once we are gone, whether it be from burnout, breakdown, or disgust, a wealth of knowledge will be lost from the system. Once we are gone, I fear what the system will become and what it will produce. Once thing I see for certain, we as a country are losing our ability to compete with other developed nations. We are falling woefully behind and more closely resemble a developing or third world country than the greatest nation on the planet.

Monday Afternoon Ramblings

In 1801, at his first inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson faced a divided nation.  The election had been highly contentious, the sides torn between those who wished to dissolve the union and those who wished to preserve it.  After Jefferson won the election, thus saving the federal government, there were many who wished to run his opponents out of the country or in some way punish them for their opposition.  In his address, Jefferson spoke these words:

“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions….If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”

This is the guiding philosophy of my life, but unfortunately, today, too many Americans seem to have forgotten these principles of a democratic republic.  Yes, the majority rules, but the minority deserves equal respect and protection under the law.  Anything less is tyranny and oppression.  Today, the words of Jefferson need to be heard and heeded more than ever.  Even the most misguided fool deserves a voice in this country as long as “reason is left free to combat” them, but now as much as ever, we need to eradicate political intolerance from both ends of the spectrum and re-cultivate a culture of common ground.  If the polar extremes continue to have their way, our democratic republic will die, and we will find ourselves under the yolk of a police state enforcing one side’s unbending rules.

Right now, the greatest threat to our nation is that the extremes are the voices most being heard.  Those of us who still believe in the system set forth by our founders, those of us who still believe in true liberty, not a fascist facade prescribed by political allegiance, need to speak up.  We must make our voices heard above the din of the extremists.  Those of us who want to live in a country where we are free to worship as we see fit, speak our minds without fear of imprisonment, and live our lives as we best see fit must come together and demand that our elected officials and mass media stop promoting only the extremes.  I still believe there is time to save our country, but we have to raise our voices now.  We have to stop bickering over every divisive issue and demand elected officials who live up to Jefferson’s vision of following the rule of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority.  We have to shine the light of reason on the irrational.  If you agree, make your voice heard.

Thursday Afternoon Ramblings

I wanted to write this on September 11, but work had me too busy.  Do you remember how we felt after 9/11?  I’m not talking about immediately after.  I mean once the initial shock wore off, and we as a collective picked ourselves up.  Yes, we were angry.  Yes, we were shaken.  Yes, we were saddened.  But we were something else, as well.  We were galvanized.  After the divisiveness of the 2000 election, it was refreshing to pull together as a people, turn our collective attention to the Taliban, and show them our greatest strengths as a people.  Before the attacks, I stood as firmly against President Bush as anyone.  From 9/11 until the decision to invade Iraq, I pledged my full support to my president, and it felt good.

For a little while after 9/11, we weren’t conservatives or liberals.  We weren’t Bible thumpers or baby killers.  We weren’t homophobes or fags.  We didn’t condemn each other for where we ate lunch, or hassle each other about nonsense.  We were all Americans.  We all rallied around the flag.  I remember a black friend of mine saying that for the first time in his life, he felt patriotic.  It didn’t last long, not even a full year, but for a little while, politics took a backseat to our nation.  During one of our darkest hours, we held ourselves high and told the rest of the world that when we are threatened, we will pull together.

I know there were examples of idiots who beat up Middle Easterners or attacked mosques, and I don’t mean to ignore those facts, but by far, those were the exceptions, not the rule.  For the most part, we stood shoulder to shoulder ready to defend our country, rebuild what was destroyed, and honor those who were lost.  For weeks after the attack, President Bush had a 90% approval rating.  90%.  That’s unbelievable.  It felt good to know we could be one people again.

But like I said, it didn’t last.  Personally, I stopped supporting the president when the decision was made to move the focus from those who attacked us to Iraq.  From there, it continued to unravel.  Today, we are as fragmented and divided as ever.  When Osama Bin Laden was killed, instead of celebrating our victory as a nation, each side of the political spectrum taunted the other.  That sickened me.  Today, instead of mourning the death of a good man in Libya, both sides are politicizing the tragedy.  Republicans are also shocked and outraged that President Obama is meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood president from Egypt.  Never you mind that Egypt has been our ally since WWII.  Never you mind that every single president since George Washington has met with at least one controversial head of state.  Never you mind that the goal of the Iraq War was to spread democracy to the Middle East and that the president of Egypt was democratically elected.  Because President Obama is meeting with him, it’s further proof that he must be in cahoots with his Muslim brothers.

It’s sickening, and since we have tarnished the memory of all those who died on 9/11, and since we’ve failed to learn any lessons from that tragedy, we deserve whatever happens to us.  Today, I’m more ashamed to call myself an American than at any other time in my life.  I love my country, but my fellow Americans make me want to puke.

The Chameleon Affair Ramblings

I originally posted this link last week, and to my friends who have already helped, thank you.  The campaign is over halfway to its goal.  To those of you who are on the fence or uncertain about this project, I’m appealing to you to please donate to this film.  Frank Fradella is a good man who I’ve met and gotten to know over the last year, and as a writer and former publisher myself, I know firsthand the struggles to launch a project from the ground floor.  It takes a lot of support from a lot of people, and it takes money.  You may not think that a $10 donation would do much, but I can promise you that even the smallest contribution means the world to a creative person trying to launch a project.  Please, help Frank out.

Let me also add two things.  I’m not part of this production and will receive no monetary compensation from the film.  I just want to help out a fellow creative person who has a vision.  Secondly, having met Frank and gotten to know him through interaction and mutual friends, I can vouch that every penny you donate will go solely into the production of this film.  Please, donate $10 now.


Thursday Afternoon Ramblings

For today’s entry, I want to do something a little different: I met Frank Fradella last year at FandomFest, and not only was he the best-dressed person at the convention, he was also one helluva nice guy.  Frank is working on putting together a short film to enter into a contest sponsored by Ridley Scott.  Please, if you can spare $10, donate to help finance this production. I’ve used IndieGoGo myself and can personally vouch for the authenticity of the site.  Signing up is easy and non-intrusive, and you can choose to make your donation anonymously if you so desire.  Also, I can assure you that your contribution will be used solely for the purposes of creating this film and nothing else.  Let’s help make this happen.  Here’s a synopsis of the project:

The Chameleon Affair is an espionage thriller short film that’s being created for a contest sponsored by YouTube and Scott Free Productions (Ridley Scott’s production company).

The story focuses on Chameleon, a girl who was raised to be a “honey pot” by a covert organization posing as an orphanage. Two years ago she faked her own death, but when an artist’s rendering of her is good enough to run afoul of the company’s facial recognition software, they realize that she’s still alive and the chase is on.

And then there’s Bishop, the operative she seduced to help her fake her own death (and whom she subsequently abandoned), who feels very much the fool and is only too glad to be tasked with bringing her in.

Father, the head of the organization, wants her alive. Mother Superior, who is (unbeknownst to everyone but Father) actually Chameleon’s mother, wants to keep her safe.

Bishop, it seems, has other plans. The film culminates in an explosive confrontation in the Great Plains Zoo.

No. Seriously explosive. Things go boom.

It’s a very ambitious film we’re making here. We’re taking on a lot more than you’d usually see in a 15-minute short film and we’re proud of the team we’ve put together, including Bruce Hoyer and Shayna Baszler — two MMA champs — who are handling the fight choreography.

We’re trying to raise just $3000 for this production. Most of that money goes to pay our cinematographer, the award-winning DP Doug Lee, and to rent the expensive camera package we’ll need for the 4-day shoot. The rest of the money goes to paying for food, gas and lodging for the crew. None of this is frivolous or goes into our pockets.

What’s on the table if we win is a half a million dollar film deal with Ridley Scott’s production company and, if we lose, at the very least, we come away with a film we can take around to festivals.

Any help is deeply appreciated. Thank you.

Frank Fradella
Paper Lantern Productions

To donate, please got to:  http://www.indiegogo.com/The-Chameleon-Affair