Assorted Articles (Apr-Jul 2015)

1)

I am very encouraged by what some of my friends are posting here – the focus is shifting to what people are already doing to help rebuild, and where you can go to contribute to the efforts yourself. I’m sure the finger-pointing will continue, and those with personal and political agendas that can be furthered by whatever angle they need to take will continue to do so. And I know the focus will shift again soon, but for today it’s good to be reminded that “the helpers” are in Baltimore too.

o-mister-rogers-helpers-quote-570

And to actually be helpful about it:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1sgvVWQkAO_OD20_veYNwWpkCbZKp9SMFEWhidcMqubg/htmlview?usp=sharing&sle=true

https://www.facebook.com/events/757249374388332/

 

2)

More on what we can do to help Baltimore

http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/bal-volunteer-donation-opportunities-20150428-story.html

 

3)

The National Guard was called in to Baltimore Monday. Additionally, as of the last time I checked, a curfew of 10pm-5am has been imposed in Baltimore City until Monday, May 4th.

I have no right to speak about what’s going on in Baltimore, for a number of reasons. But the people I’ve talked to about it privately so far have been very quick to understand why it deserves more of their attention so I’m hoping I can add value by bringing that recognition to scale a bit here. I’m not looking to change anyone’s minds, I’m only asking you to give me just *four more sentences of your attention* and *apply your mind with earnestness* as you move forward:

I will repeat (because it’s a pretty big fucking deal): the National Guard was called in to Baltimore Monday and a weeklong 10pm curfew is in effect.

It’s very hard to get a handle on what real people are actually experiencing and what that means when you are not living in the city yourself, even when reading/watching a lot and doing so skeptically, but you really have to try to do more than merely consume the information and come to a judgment about it based on your existing presuppositions.

I’m not trying to tell you something you don’t already know – I’m just trying to get you appreciate the full magnitude of what you already do.

I know I’m being overly general, but any examples I offer in an attempt to be more specific and coherent—despite my best effort—will still represent my own agenda, and the whole point of this is to call attention to how much effort it takes to be a responsible citizen and see past all of that and get at what challenges your fellow human beings are actually struggling with and what implications that has for the way you live your life (rather than merely identifying what messages are being promoted and agreeing or disagreeing with them and leaving your moral and civic responsibility at that).

EDIT: I mistakenly posted that the city gov’t was closed. Double-check your sources.

Replies:

Because being more specific may be necessary to be intelligible:

I’m talking about the police, the kids who needed to be connected with alternate sources of food because their normal provider–their schools—were closed (there’s my agenda creeping in), the rioters, the oppressed who did not riot (how long and how earnestly will we listen to them? – sorry, this is why I tried to stay general), the businesses impacted by the curfew, the gangs, the community organizers, the local journalists, scared citizens who just want to feel safe, proud Baltimoreans who are ashamed of what image the rest of the country must have of them, those who came together to clean up, those who sang or danced or skated or otherwise assembled peaceably together as a sign of solidarity, and too many more – plus the FAMILIES of those and any others you can name.

I promise you you can relate to what’s happening in Baltimore- but I understand if you are afraid of what you might learn about yourself and how you’ve contributed to any conceivable remedy to the situation if you engage it too sincerely.

Until this past week, addressing social issues with a real intent to impact them have felt to me like research with intent to cure a terminal illness—no one would ever dispute that it was a good idea, but unless your life is personally touched by it (e.g. losing a relative or friend), you probably aren’t going to do more than lip service to support the effort yourself.

I don’t mean to imply that destruction and suffering in the weeks and years prior to Baltimore this past week are in any way less important than the more recent events in Baltimore, but I suspect that by focusing on the events in Baltimore since Saturday you will have the easiest time realizing that you haven’t been paying close enough attention to the state of affairs and that the solution cannot entail going back to your daily routine with cynical inaction or blindness.

I will include as a reply comment to this status a collection of media that I found helpful for myself in the last 48 hours or so, but don’t succumb to my agenda either (not from what I’ve said here and not from what materials I choose to include vs. not).

 

Some media to get you started on your own explorations

1)
Coaxing a message out of someone (first one is most obvious):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=share&v=48CW4Cy6uU8…
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/baltimore-protester…
and around 1.48 in here: http://www.cbsnews.com/…/baltimore-mom-to-see-my-son…/ they successfully nudge their interview subject (this is the “hero mom” of the viral video you’ve probably seen)

2)
Attitudes towards family discipline

more on the story about the “hero mom” https://www.facebook.com/daniel…/posts/10152887062325698
and the police commissioner’s “we need more of that” remark: http://ktla.com/…/mom-of-the-year-baltimore-woman…/

3)
Calling for rioters to “go home”

Ray Lewis: http://time.com/3838553/ray-lewis-baltimore-riots/
a prominent, already oft-cited article: http://www.theatlantic.com/…/nonviolence-as…/391640/

4)
Deeper issues

https://www.facebook.com/kevinpowellinbrooklyn/posts/10206459418143660

5)
Advice to white friends

https://www.facebook.com/masha…/posts/10206631233202130
in a similar vein: http://www.sophielucidojohnson.com/…/you-have-privilege…

6)
A different perspective for those who weep for Baltimore

http://s.mlkshk-cdn.com/r/13Z86

7)
Joseph Kent violated curfew; many now ask “where is joseph kent?”

http://heavy.com/…/joseph-kent-baltimore-arrest-cnn…/

in a similar vein:
Here’s the deal-my son’s friend Geremy Faulkner has been in city lockup since late yesterday afternoon. He is an 18 year old black man. He did not throw rocks, etc. He did not loot. He was not among the mob. What he did do was post photos to instagram of what was happening at mondawmin yesterday and it pissed off the police so they hauled him in with others. wrong place at the wrong time but what’s not cool is that he’s still in lockup, has not been fed in 24+hours and no one is saying when he’ll have a hearing or get out in spite ofStephen Nunns’ efforts there in person . please repost to social media @Baltimore Police @baltimoresun lprobsbly others being held unfairly etc

UPDATES ON THIS ASPECT (I’m not going to update everything here, but the tone of the situation changes significantly with these updates so I feel somewhat obligated to post these):
http://www.citypaper.com/…/bcpnews-local-activist…
and
http://touch.citypaper.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-83421260/

8)
Many believe it was not in fact outside agitators who initiated the violence

http://www.citypaper.com/bcpnews-how-drunk-sports-fans…

9)
Gang members requested an interview to among other things respond to a memo from police about a credible threat of gangs forming a truce in order to harm cops

http://www.wbaltv.com/…/gang-members-we-did…/32609810…

10)
Mondawmin Mall (whether deliberate or accidental, many accounts suggest the police presence coupled with lack of transportation out incited the exchange of stones and bricks between police and young people)
http://gawker.com/those-kids-were-set-up-1700716306
http://www.motherjones.com/…/how-baltimore-riots-began…

11)
Police and journalists telling different stories
http://unite4humanity.tumblr.com/…/watch-the-baltimore…

12)
Solidarity (there’s A LOT more of this, just dig a little)
https://www.facebook.com/BSOmusic/posts/10153203745749019
http://www.buzzfeed.com/…/another-side-of-the-baltimore…
http://www.baltimoresun.com/…/bal-looting-scene-becomes…

13)
For baseball fans
empty ballpark: http://www.baltimoresun.com/…/bal-baltimore-orioles…
what some found to be a shocking remark from the COO of the Orioles: http://ftw.usatoday.com/…/orioles-john-angelos…

14)
here’s aggregations of tweets, images and videos: https://storify.com/msnbc/on-the-ground-in-baltimore

 

 

4)

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/bernie-sanders-wants-make-election-day-national-holiday

 

5)

Is it the response to police brutality or the removal of the Confederate flag that makes racists feel provoked? What am I missing here? 1) I understand and appreciate the significance of destroying symbols – but why are these churches so threatening as symbols that they must be destroyed? Is it as simple as “you took our symbol away so we’re taking yours away”? Is it “since we lost our symbol we need to compensate with actions to serve as symbols” – if so, that’s a pretty strong indictment of what that flag stood for…. 2) These churches are also more than symbols – it’s a problem when things that should be more important are made less so in the name of advancing a message/cause. I may have phrased that haughtily but I don’t think that’s a very academic distinction to make. 3) Having community members (or allies from outside) take turns standing guard might be a good show of solidarity here.

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/06/30/3676023/breaking-african-american-church-south-carolina-previously-burned-kkk-fire/

Replies:

There’s an article floating around FB, looking at the number of black churches burned during the Freedom Summer compared to this year. Definitely some corollaries; backlash.

6)

Please pay attention to problems, and don’t let yourself get distracted. That’s the most important thing I have to say.

What I will ALSO say is this: watching the Sandra Bland dashcam video was horrifying and disgusting. I’m not looking to argue about what happened off camera or whether the footage was edited or what happened in jail. Not that all of that is not important, only that I’d like to focus on one other thing first and foremost.

Do yourself a favor and watch the video – if you get bored, skip to about 8 minutes in when the officer returns to give her a ticket (I think it was even a warning). It’ll take approximately 2 minutes for the situation to escalate to the officer pointing an electroshock weapon at her head and forcibly removing her from her vehicle.

Maybe she looked upset. Maybe the officer was concerned about traffic. What is painfully clear in this video is that Sandra Bland was not going to comply with the officer’s demand to step out of her vehicle without the officer offering something more than the mere assertion of his authority.

I don’t smoke cigarettes, but otherwise I could easily see myself in her position. I’m probably too ill-informed about my rights and too much of a coward to put up as much of a reasoned fight as she did, but holy shit watching that situation unfold over two minutes illuminates a problem.

Don’t look away from it. Don’t walk past it. Don’t forget it. Do pay attention, and speak up when you see a problem. Maybe ultimately that won’t make a difference, but staying silent sure as hell won’t make it better.

 

7)

http://sdcitybeat.com/news-and-opinion/backwards-in-high-heels/interrupter/

Advertisements

Assorted Articles (Aug – Oct 2015)

1)

Please explain to me why I’m mistaken, if I’m mistaken. Also please make an honest attempt to understand what I’m saying, rather than merely anticipating what my perspective might be and reacting to that: It seems to me that much of the struggle over our nation’s financial priorities, enforced policies, and cultural practices hinges upon the struggle between those who believe we should take greater responsibility upon ourselves to better our country and our world vs. those who feel it is not their/our responsibility (for whichever various reasons). The latter camp protects their interests (as an obvious ‘for instance’: wealth) in a way that protects their freedom to not take responsibility/not care.

As a concrete example, in the case of this recent story (link below) about desegregating schools, it seems like those who did not want responsibility had the financial means to change school districts.

I have heard many opinions voiced that seem to amount to wanting the freedom to ignore the problems (or even the laws) around them (because the opinion-holders held the socioeconomic means to). This could be as trivial as being able to afford the cost of a parking ticket (or a good lawyer), or to still have a means to get to work despite getting in a car accident (whether it was your own fault or not), or to threaten to migrate “your” entire community of people, destroying the viability of a town, because you didn’t want students from a certain area being bused into the same schools as your own children. That kind of freedom.

I understand that we can’t take on all problems simultaneously, that we have to put a scope around the realm of things we can reasonably care about trying to make a positive impact on, or we’ll be ineffective at best and most likely go crazy from all our seemingly fruitless investments of care and labor.

But surely there can be some imperative that does not let some of us let others of us stay trapped amidst problems that cannot be escaped or ignored, just to ensure that well-protected others may go forth, free and unfettered by even the nuisance of awareness of those problems?

I’m not ready to propose a solution, but have I got the challenge correct? What have I missed or misrepresented?

Reply: Freedom not to be bothered is a very clear, concise way of putting it, thank you.

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/562/the-problem-we-all-live-with

2)

I hate to post something like this, for several reasons- but here it is all the same. If you do not pay attention to politics and/or vote because you do not have faith in politicians to affect real change, I applaud your attention and thoughtfulness – however you have to ask yourself what are you doing instead to fix the problem (whichever one or dozen you happen to be concerned about)? Don’t bemoan that nothing can be done about it – that’s lying down and waiting in the zombie movie. Pick your battles, to be sure, but don’t stop fighting- not until there’s nothing in need of fighting for. To do less is to lose some important aspect of your humanity.

 

3)

This is tragic and embarrassing and shameful. I know that’s expressive rather than constructive but that’s where I’m at right now.

One friend of mine further pointed out (also from this article): “While the FBI measures a “mass shooting” as an incident when people are killed, the [Mass Shooting Tracker] classifies a mass shooting as an event when four or more people are shot. Using that criteria, the tracker reports that 294 known mass shootings have occurred this year”

http://www.newsweek.com/45th-mass-shooting-america-2015-378803

REply:

I guess what I have a harder time with is that five people were shot during one incident just today in Baltimore. The other 249 shootings have happened in urban areas as part of common living.

 

4)

OK crazy rant time.
I would appreciate your thoughts on any of the below, but because I wasn’t courteous enough to be succinct I’ll understand if you don’t extend me the courtesy of a reply.

So, I feel like an important element of leadership is developing those you’ve taken this responsibility for, sure – but I ALSO feel like an important element of leadership is marshaling and directing the efforts of others (if only indirectly- more on that in a second).

We associate wealth with success because money is a physical representation of labor – by amassing wealth, you clearly must have inspired many others to do significant things (we ALSO respect amassed wealth because it represents the freedom to give 0 fucks about things, as you can pay someone else to deal with whatever the issue is [exchanging it back for others’ labor/products] – which is not an entirely unrelated issue, but not where my focus is right now so let’s just acknowledge that that’s another reason why we respect wealthy individuals and move on).

With politicians, we are choosing the leaders who will decide how much of our “wealth” is taken for taxes and how those tax dollars are spent (marshaling and directing the “vouchers” we’ve received for the time and effort we’ve pledged to our employers). With companies, they are profiting from our labor and offering us a share of that profit, as we contributed to their winning it. With ad revenue, we are being compensated for the audience we’ve drawn to our blog, twitch stream, TV show, whatever – we are not asking our audience to contribute anything but their attention and possibly their enthusiasm but because marketers believe in the power of advertising, they are willing to pay for access to our audience via ads (this is the indirect leadership I mentioned above- in marketing, these people are called “influencers,” and I would argue they are a form of leader too). I think celebrity endorsements would fall under this influencer category as well.

Where am I going with this? I think the reason we have come to expect leaders to abuse their position and be exploitative of their “followers” is because we generally accept one or more of the following:
1) people too stupid to know they’re being taken advantage of and/or too lazy to do something about it deserve to be duped/taken advantage of
2) all leadership works like this and leaders who look out for their followers as much as or even more than they look out for themselves dilute their power and so cannot effectively compete with less benign leaders who hold a greater share of their followers’ power for themselves – a benevolent dictatorship is more sustainable and/or powerful than a facilitated democracy
3) similarly, it is easier to harvest others’ efforts and direct that collective energy/power back to their benefit as a leader than it is to educate and motivate others to put forth the effort themselves to directly benefit themselves, each as individuals
4) leaders “deserve” higher pay/more respect/etc. because of what they enable others to do/what they have to put up with just by the fact that they are a leader and those that they “serve”/marshal around themselves are not
5) no one is “forcing” anyone to follow or contribute to a given leader (be it a politician, political party, religious organization, company, etc.) so non-leader contributors are “voting with their labor” the same way economists/political scientists talk about resident citizens “voting with their feet”

Why do I care enough to rant about it? Because I don’t pay close enough attention to how the leaders in my life are held accountable for how they repay those who’ve contributed to their success, and I can be a pretty thoughtful guy – so I bet most other people don’t either. Also, I aspire to be a leader (in various capacities) and so this is a question of ethics I really need to keep in mind if/as I continue in such directions.

Why should you care about it? Well if you read this far, you probably already have an answer for that question – but if not, here’s what I would offer: what kind of world are you building? What are you directing your efforts (or the efforts of others) towards? Who are you benefiting with that directed effort? What are they doing with it? If you’re not happy with one of your current leadership relationships (regardless of which side of it you’re on), what can you do to change it? What are you willing to swallow as an acceptable compromise or just as something outside of your control?

I understand consequences/results like this are complex- awful companies may have corporate social responsibility practices that align with causes you care about, and politicians may represent you well on some issues but be directly against your interest on other issues, and on the ‘being a leader’ side: you don’t want to overstep your bounds in prodding those who report to you at work to contribute more deliberately and effectively to their own personal/professional growth, and fans of yours (if you’re an artist) may have very different values from you so you’re almost certainly going to be at odds with their interests. But I bet most people aren’t even asking the question(s) in the first place.

Again, your thoughts (especially calling me out for misrepresentations, oversights, and outright absurdities) are welcomed and would be appreciated.

Replies:

I completely agree that there are bad/corrupt leaders, and my response would be that it’s the responsibility of “good” leaders to not let that happen. Unfortunately, this often is out of our control or power to stop, but one part of being the “good” leader is that you must trust other leaders to do the right thing.

In that sense, bad leaders who “step” on their employees are meant to be put in check by good leaders. Good leaders aren’t easy to find, train, or place, and generally they are doing really great work so they aren’t out looking for jobs either.

I assume this came in response to something you saw/heard/are related to, so my advice would be that if you feel your good leadership is being misused or trust is misplaced, your responsibility is to stop empowering that bad leadership through the ways you have available to you.

 

Assorted Articles (Dec 2015)

1)

Socially awkward cucumbers with anxiety

2)

So I’ve been thinking about “conservative vs. liberal” thinking and I think I may have at least one finger on it.

Conservatives care about survival and strength and identifying and maintaining the elite group (those who’ve demonstrated their strength and worthiness of trust and leadership responsibility) that will best keep the country alive. Liberals care about inclusiveness and understanding and making sure that even those seemingly incapable of speech or interest in speaking (e.g. voting) have some voice heard.

Conservativism goes wrong when it lets people get hurt out of fear that those people might weaken the elite group if allowed into it. Liberalism goes wrong when it lets compassion for other people weaken the country without some positive trade-off (i.e. investing money is ok because you’re getting something for it later, but wasting money is not OK).

Conservatives are scared of people outside the trusted group having power; liberals are scared of non-inclusive/elite groups having power. Both are scared because they feel the object of their fear will make selfish choices rather than choices that are in the best interest of the country.

Conservatives are frustrated with liberals because they feel that “C’mon you guys – you are so smart and productive and could be so great for this country, if you just gave up on all those lazy, dirty, evil folks who aren’t like you and me.” Liberals are frustrated with conservatives because they feel that “Listen, assholes, if you could just start thinking about someone other than yourself for a minute, you’d see that it’s not a fault in their character but in a rigged system that keeps them from being smart and productive, like you and me.”

Where am I off the mark? What did I miss?
(replies:  I think that saying conservatives are only supportive of the “elite” is slightly off-base. For the record, I think this is a really comprehensive description. But I think that conservatives value hard-work and anyone willing to do that from either side (politically, economically, socially, etc.) is a positive asset.

Try to help people to help themselves, not give them everything they need. Its the whole give a/teach to fish aspect

My favorite framework is that conservatism/progressivism (which I think is a more useful word in this instance) is about biases in decision making. Conservatives respond to risk/doubt by falling back to well understood approaches and partners; progressives respond by attempting to find new approaches and partners. Both biases are going to be wrong a very significant portion of the time (at the end of the day you’re still guessing)

It seem conservatives are prone to essentialism and liberals are prone to relativism. Whereas the universe is really existential and absolute.

One thing you didn’t mention that maybe also applies: A conservative’s perception of their own stake in the state or in your words “elite group” is magnified respectively to a liberal’s. If you’re going to define conservatism as partially the result being risk averse and in-group-centric, then it’s easy to see how conservatism arose out of resource guarding. Resources can be anything from wealth or cultural clout (and both produce behavioral constraints). A liberal “cares about inclusiveness” because perceptually they view people as having more or less equal standing in the state (or minimal stake relative to anyone else). I’m sure there’s some kind of psychological mechanisms at work, too. I think these things are complicated by the size of current society and other factors.

Of course there’s also a physical limit to understanding the effect one’s behavior has upon the society we inhabit. Our society is extremely massive and the mechanism by which collective efforts (intentional or not) operate are obscured from view. No one in their right mind has a desire to cause harm or destruction to anyone else but once you remove the ability to perceive what collective actions have, people can safely hide behind words like ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ or ‘inclusive’ or ‘selfish’ or whatever other self-describing personality bs you want to use.)

3)

Whoa what a strange dream. There was something in the air or the water, an organism or its chemical by-product, that caused people to act self-destructively and to spread the “something” (contaminant)- though it was also ambiguous whether the ” victims ” were spreading it consciously or whether they were unaware of the pandemic consequences of their behavior. The tricky part is- some people were killing or quarantining themselves or others (basically writing themselves and others out of the bigger story) in order to prevent the contaminant from spreading. So you had people without free will harming themselves and indirectly harming others by being unable to stop themselves from spreading that self-harm impulse to more people, and you had people who were smart enough to notice that before falling victim to it themselves but whose only solution so far was to consciously remove themselves and others from society (either by isolation or by death). Though who could tell if that’s what they were really doing or if that was just a new mutation of the existing contaminant? The only reason not to think so is the contaminant only made people hurt themselves and spread itself, and these people were hurting themselves and were directly hurting others (though in the name of protecting the larger populace from the contaminant). In the case of isolation (rather than death), it still felt wrong because it was abandoning those already infected and those elsewhere who could get infected. Though maybe I’d have felt differently if the narrative of the dream followed those who isolated themselves rather than those still at risk. I wonder if this wasn’t an allegory about public policy. It was terrifying and depressing regardless. Thanks for being such a crazy bastard, sleeping brain.

4)

“In addition to the grand jury bill, Brown signed a measure that ensures the right of civilians to record or photograph the police in public areas. In the past, some civilians who have done so have been arrested, or told to stop, for obstructing justice.”

I’m interested in hearing (and that’s not a “let’s fight”, I really want to hear the other side on this) examples in which someone who is not physically in the way of an arrest is obstructing justice by recording police activity.

The only scenario I can think of is if it’s a raid or something and so broadcasting positions/movement puts the officers at greater risk. Otherwise, I do not understand how greater transparency is obstructive. I can see how there might be privacy concerns for the citizens involved, but not legal/criminal concerns. Please, inform me.

(reply: I suppose it could also be an issue for the privacy of the people interacting with the police, particularly if they are minors.)

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/08/california-becomes-first-state-ban-grand-juries-police-shooting-cases

Assorted Articles (Jan 2016)

1)

RPG Rant/Observation–
When designing or running an RPG, I think four basic questions are probably more important than any others:
1) Does X (what’s about to happen/not happen, or in the case of design – what might happen/not happen) benefit from uncertainty and/or from being a choice? If no real opportunities will result from introducing uncertainty/choice, narrate or let someone else narrate with authority.
(Unless powerlessness is a theme or the players aren’t comfortable/confident enough yet, or the like…).
2) If uncertainty/choice indeed improves upon the situation, then should the choice/conflict be resolved narratively or tactically? With what level of rigor? (e.g. how long does that combat need to go on for?)
3) Is it a good story? If not, revise the way you’re answering the first two questions.
Maybe the players are making bad choices, but maybe you are not offering them the right opportunities.
4) Is everyone having fun? If not, revise the way you’re answering the first three questions. Fun is more important than a good story – though ideally the two will not be at odds if everyone in your gaming group is a good fit for each other and for the game/story.

BONUS: Thoughts about themes in games…

In terms of bringing out the themes of a story, I think you need to think about where in the rules “story” happens.

In DnD, is it with a skill check? Is it a narrative plot point? Is it the outcome of a combat encounter?
What rolls matter and why do they matter? What choices matter and how do they contribute to the growth of a character, the group dynamic, and/or to external elements of the game world?
Once you’ve figured that out, you’ll have a firmer grasp of where and how your theme should be a part of play/rules/mechanics.

It makes sense to create a new stat or mechanic to call attention to Suspicion or Hope or Vice or whatever, if that’s an important aspect of the story you’re telling in your game- but otherwise more rules almost never equals more fun.
Rules slow story down- and while the “game” is an important element of the RPG, it needs to be present and fulfilling WITHOUT getting in the way of the creative experience. Otherwise, why not just play a minis game or better still a CRPG which does all the math in the background for you?

“But aren’t RPGs the legacy of tactical games with story just as fancy dressing?”
Yes, but anyone can add story/character to a game if the priority is the game itself. You can describe conflict cinematically in games like Chess or Pandemic or Risk (especially if you’ve got that one unit that somehow beat the odds), and that will likely scratch your itch- but if you are setting out to tell a story, you need to respect rules and implement them creatively, without letting them monopolize your attention.

 

2)

New life goal: maintain the drive that makes philosophical thought actionable (or maybe action-oriented) without overstepping into presumption/arrogance, nor slipping lazily back into “personal development” and interesting conversation pieces (while helpful to some, that is an insufficient end goal).

Also, understand there is some measure of arrogance in presuming to make change- own that, don’t let it hold you back. Arrogance is only a problem when it means you’ve stopped listening/paying attention. Inaction and complacence are the real devils here.

3)

Dear anxiety-prone nerds (and others who generally feel like outsiders),

https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-to-do-when-you-dont-feel-comfortable-being-yourself-at-work

 

4)

All communities should have a site like this and promote the shit out of it: http://volunteer.jerseycitynj.gov/ That won’t compel people to contribute but it will help focus the efforts of those who seek to do so and that’s enough of a victory.

Assorted Articles (Feb-Apr 2016)

 

1)

Oops this ended up being a gaming blog post about inclusiveness and having fun. Oh well. TL;DR – your game is more fun when your players feel like their contributions are valued, and that doesn’t have to compromise anyone else’s ability to have fun.

A tabletop RPG (Dungeons & Dragons, etc.) of any kind amounts to collaborative storytelling.
Story-telling = you are creating media (even if the audience is limited to the authors)
Collaborative = what you’re doing is built by a team/community and the activity itself reinforces a sense of community/belonging

As such: representation, participation in “authorship” of the game world and how it works, and sensitivity to topics/situations your players may not be comfortable with are important considerations for all DMs who want to engage in collaborative story-telling. Otherwise, you run the risk of alienating players, which is almost literally the opposite of how ‘having fun’ works. “You didn’t intend to make [that potential new player] feel unwelcome, just the opposite – but things fall apart because we insist other people live on our terms.” (see video below for more of this)

Once you remind yourself and your players it’s a made-up world and you (collectively) can make ‘what it is/includes and how it works’ however you want (even if you’re in a “canon” setting), players will feel empowered to contribute their ideas about “what it’s like” and how things work in this world, and will go nuts with their new-found sense of author-ity, resulting in a really unique and cool game world they are excited to play in, because it really is theirs.

Three challenges you might encounter, and how to overcome them:
1) what one player thinks is cool, another player thinks is stupid or doesn’t make sense with the rest of the world. Figure out if it’s within the scope of your game’s tone (for instance: a Narnia-esque game about kids exploring a magical world filled with wonder probably shouldn’t explore more mature themes, unless you’re putting a dark twist on that genre in your game and all your players are cool with that). If the idea is not going to change the fundamental story you’re trying to tell, and it’s a cool detail one of your players is excited about for story reasons, try to accommodate it. If you can’t accommodate it, make a sincere effort to work with the player to come up with something that does fit in your game and satisfies whatever underlying point that player was getting at with his/her idea. Otherwise, you’re basically telling that player their contributions are unwelcome.
2) what one player thinks is cool, epic, badass, etc. makes another player uncomfortable. Figure out why each player feels that way. Oftentimes, it’s not the details that matter to the player who thinks it’s cool, only the implication behind them or the consequence resulting from the cool idea, and they can probably achieve their desired result without dragging the story through territory that makes others at the table uncomfortable. For the player(s) who is/are uncomfortable, without being pushy about it get a sense for what about the situation makes them want to disengage, so you can make sure to steer clear of that topic/situation later on in the story as well.
3) your players have drastically different ideas about what the game’s tone should be and/or what scenes are relevant to the game/story. Set aside time to have a discussion in which you re-establish ground rules about what story you have come together to tell (is it gritty, campy, what? are certain scenes better explained through a narrated sentence from the DM rather than forcing your group to play through them?). This applies just as much to how you handle combat as it does to how you handle love scenes/stories as it does to how you handle the terrible things your totally evil bad guys do.

2) Ms. Marvel has some interesting takes on heroism. I’m on board:
“Why are kids like me always being drafted into wars we didn’t start? It’s like adults are too wrapped up in their own worlds to notice the really big stuff. Weird alien mist, runaway kids being kidnapped by a crazy bird man clone — This is the kind of thing you’d think people would notice. But you know what I’ve found out? A problem has to get pretty gigantic before anybody notices anything at all. That’s half of heroing. Noticing things.”

11705504_10101330195729000_846658371177232186_o920871_10101330195908640_5195100558521821821_o12672130_10101330198099250_5064649398471023633_o

3) “You see, Captain America is the ultimate hero – he’s patriotic, strong, the uniform has the red, white and blue. He’d been created to fight actual bad guys in the Second World War,” he says.
“Today I want to show that he’s coming back – this time to fight hate crime.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30941638

4)

Ms. Gupta said that in some cities, hefty fines served as a sort of bureaucratic cover charge for the right to seek justice. People cannot even start the process of defending themselves until they have settled their debts.

“This unconstitutional practice is often framed as a routine administrative matter,” Ms. Gupta wrote. “For example, a motorist who is arrested for driving with a suspended license may be told that the penalty for the citation is $300 and that a court date will be scheduled only upon the completion of a $300 payment.”

5)

“Feldman developed what has since become widely accepted as the definitive measurement of authoritarianism: four simple questions that appear to ask about parenting but are in fact designed to reveal how highly the respondent values hierarchy, order, and conformity over other values.

Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: independence or respect for elders?
Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: obedience or self-reliance?
Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?
Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: curiosity or good manners?” (http://www.vox.com/2016/3/1/11127424/trump-authoritarianism)

6)

http://fusion.net/story/272058/43-tweetsttorm-race-criminal-justice/

7)

This is going to sound dumb, but stay with me. I think a fundamental issue in politics is who you’re willing to partner with in order to advance your agenda. You have a vision of what you want your community (or country) to be like, but you can’t make it happen on your own. But the more help you invite, the greater the number of visions that diverge from your own you’ve introduced into the apparatus of effective power/authority- and once you let them in, it’s hard (not to mention ethically questionable) to remove them.
In the specific context of the two leading Democratic presidential candidates, I think supporters of either candidate are perhaps failing to recognize that “the other side” simply has chosen different sources of support. Opposition doesn’t seem to be a matter of virtue so much as it seems to be a matter of doing a poor job picking political allies.

8)

So last night I had a dream that I was at a house party (?) visited by the Dalai Lama (who looked much younger than he actually is and was dressed business casual with like a turquoise button-up shirt, and had a hype man?). He asked what nostalgia is/why some enjoy it.
I said because we are short-lived creatures and so nostalgia is our way of assigning meaning despite the ultimate meaninglessness of our fleeting lives.
The only other answer I remember was the correct one: nostalgia represents an alternate way the present could be playing out, a way more desireable to us than the active moment we’re living in. Obviously, this is a missed opportunity – as the active moment continues to pass you by while you wish it were otherwise, rather than strive to understand the present and accept it as it is.
Post-dream: I think is a useful sentiment (esp in the context of nostalgia, esp in regards to people who may be different from how you remember them), but more broadly speaking I think this is a problematic form of acceptance. You need to want more in order to want to change the situation- and sometimes it is courage rather than acceptance that is required.

 

 

 

Assorted Articles (June – July 2016)

 

1)

An important component to the school experience is coming to believe that the social rules that apply “now” had best be learned early and well, or you’ll have a long life of struggle for your non-compliance. I understand people are uncomfortable with “non-traditional” gender identities but what’s being done to this kid is abhorrent.

http://planettransgender.com/kenosha-unified-school-district-forces-transgender-students-to-wear-badges/

2)

” A dare for the next time you’re in discussion with someone you disagree with: Don’t try to “win.” Don’t try to “convince” anyone of your viewpoint. Don’t score points by mocking them to your peers. Instead try to “lose.” Hear them out. Ask them to convince you and mean it. ”

https://tinyurl.com/zgz8ugd

 

3) This is sickening to scroll through, and it’s just colored icons.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/oct/02/mass-shootings-america-gun-violence

 

Assorted Articles (Aug-Oct 2016)

  1. I understand right now the message is “OMG NOT [the candidate I don’t want]” – but I feel like, along with maybe paying more attention to “third party” candidates earlier and more broadly than just during Presidential campaign season, we should also be paying more attention to who is supporting (or ignoring, as the case may be) the seemingly crazy things our political perceived-opposition says/does/did and genuinely attempting to understand why they support (or ignore) those crazy things, instead of stopping at disbelief and revulsion and writing them off as corrupt or idiots, etc.

    Whether their grievances are legitimate or not, the nature of our country is such that they will (continue to) have an impact on our culture as well as on our policy.

    If you get bored with the video (which only addresses Trump supporters), just skip to the last 60 seconds of it, because that’s the part that prompted me to share it and say this anyway.

    https://www.facebook.com/ezraklein/videos/591725157681757/

 

2)

“The lives of Black people are infinitely more valuable than material things like windows, cars or property. Police in this city are more concerned with prosecuting vandalism than they are with the shooting death of another black person. The mayor and the governor of this state are spending time and countless resources protecting the business district and the city’s money­making institutions, but continue to ignore the needs and the demands of the communities they swore and were elected to serve. We will no longer stand for the routine
murders of Black people by an unaccountable system of policing. While the right to own a gun is valued as a cornerstone of American citizenship, the right of Black people to live through a police encounter is not equally valued, “

“There’s an uprising in Charlotte because there is still so much we don’t know. Our city’s intent to cover up and edit the facts, and craft a narrative that benefits them does nothing to create trust, safety or transparency. ”

http://www.charlotteuprising.com/uploads/4/7/0/1/47014619/cltuprisingstatement.pdf

 

3)

I think it’s ethically questionable to post graphic content to social media. I think it’s unethical to censor non-graphic content. I was naive enough to think this kind of shit didn’t happen in the US. Apparently it’s not the first time either: http://www.caucus99percent.com/…/facebook-now-blocking-re-p…

Let me know if you come across a “things you can do about it” other than vote with your feet to another social media platform.

http://theantimedia.org/police-arrests-dakota-access-pipeline/

 

4) This series of articles wrapped up earlier this month. I haven’t read it all, but what I have read leads me to believe it’s worth your time as well: http://www.nydailynews.com/…/king-combatting-police-brutali… (this URL is for the final article, the shared post below is for the intro to the series)

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-introducing-25-part-series-reducing-police-brutality-article-1.2722096

 

5) way deeper than at first it seems: http://www.giantbomb.com/articles/guest-column-on-the-overwatch-matchmaker-as-a-trol/1100-5484/

 

6) “Work hard, but don’t grind for years and years building an empire because if you do, then you’ll get taken down and the audience will cheer at your suffering. …
That’s when they become dangerous. That’s when they become the villainess. Somewhere in there, they stop caring about what other people think, and they get what they want, and they turn into cautionary tales: something bad is waiting for the woman who goes that way.”

http://www.tor.com/2016/08/09/in-defense-of-villainesses/

7)

“Since the beginning of the year, the Baltimore Police Department had been using the plane to investigate all sorts of crimes, from property thefts to shootings. The Cessna sometimes flew above the city for as many as 10 hours a day, and the public had no idea it was there.”

“McNutt says he’s sure his system can withstand a public unveiling and that the more people know about what his cameras can—and can’t—do, the fewer worries they’ll have. But the police ultimately decide who and what should be tracked. In a city that’s struggled to convince residents that its police can be trusted, the arguments are now Baltimore’s to make.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-baltimore-secret-surveillance/