Why Do You Do That?

by Buzz on 24/03/2017

if you refrain from harming others because you fear punishment
you are not good, just a coward

if you do good because you anticipate a reward
you are not good, just a pimp

if you do good for any reason
you are not good, just a machine

do good because that is all you can do
not to enrich yourself, but to enrich others

(I know it’s not rational
love never is)

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Trump vs. Criswell

by Buzz on 23/03/2017

Jeron Criswell Konig was a bullshit artist of rare ability. As The Amazing Criswell he had a long — albeit sporadic & erratic — career as a psychic.

He gave good interviews, was a hit at parties, and his predictions were so crazy and off the wall that nobody could believe him but they were all entertained by him.

The thing about crazy predictions, however,
is that occasionally you roll a natural.

Criswell’s best known prediction that came true was “bedbugs in Boston” in which he predicted an infestation of cimex lectularius in Beantown.

And wouldn’t ya know it — a few months after he made this prediction, there was an outbreak of bedbugs in Boston.

Criswell banked off that wild shot prediction for much of the rest of his career.

He never brought up the literally hundreds of other predictions he made that came nowhere near reality.

Like all other psychics, Criswell made his nickel off the hits and carefully brushed all the misses aside.*

Trump uses Criswell’s playbook.

He makes outrageous claims and statements, equivocating them when pressed, saying they were just “quotes” or generalities, but when there is a hit, he’s quick to take credit.

Recently there has been an arrest in the wave of bomb threats directed against synagogues and other Jewish centers in the U.S. and Canada. What’s surprising is that the arrest was in Israel.

The suspect is a teenager with apparently some severe mental problems.**

In a normal news environment, this would result in a tsk-tsk. We’d shake our heads at the irony that the trouble was caused by a Jewish teen for reasons unknown, but while we could admit we should never judge a situation until all the facts are known, at the same time we also have to admit the odds of a threat of violence against a synagogue coming from an anti-Semite are much greater that the odds of that threat coming from within their community.

But in our current environment, nothing is normal. Do not feign surprise when Trump struts like a little orange peahen, claiming to have been “right” all along.

He’s nothing but a bullshit artist, same as Criswell.

But Criswell had more class.

criswell can you prove

* Another show biz entertainer, The Amazing Randi, has taken great delight in exposing the frauds who prey on the gullible, and is quick to document the failings of any person who claims precognitive abilities. There are a lot of them, and I’m ashamed to admit that an inordinate number are banging Bibles.

**  How severe? The Israeli teen was found unfit for compulsory military service by the Israeli defense forces.  Dude, you gotta be six kinds of fncked up not to get drafted by Israel.

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Barack Obama On Writing

by Buzz on 20/03/2017

 

1) “Careful about too many adverbs, particularly describing how people speak (Paul asked disbelievingly, etc.).  It can be cumbersome and a bit intrusive on the reader.”

2) “Resist the temptation of easy satire. … Good satire has to be a little muted.  Should spill out from under a seemingly somber situation.”

3) “Try to get the basic stats on the characters out of the way early {Paul was 24} so that you can spend the rest of the story revealing character.”

4) “Think about the key moment(s) in the story, and build tension leading to those key moments.”

5) “[W]rite outside your own experience. … I find that this works the fictive imagination harder.”

(found here)

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A Point About Privilege

by Buzz on 16/03/2017

“Privilege” is one of those words, much like “theory”, that has a very precise technical meaning and a much looser popular one.

In everyday parlance, “privilege” means gloating or lording it over someone because one possesses something the others lack. “That’s her privilege” “He thinks he’s a privileged character” “It was my privilege to know them”

In common parlance, “privilege” packs
quite a negative emotional punch.

In its precise use in sociology and other sciences, it’s far more morally neutral.

Let’s tell a little story to illustrate the point using Sam and Pat.

Sam is a successful small business owner who uses a wheelchair.

Pat is an unsuccessful working-class level employee who is able-bodied.
Both Sam and Pat have to get their driver’s licenses renewed. Pat goes to the DMV, walks right up the steps and through the front door, takes a form off the rack on the wall, gets in line, and eventually receives a new license.

Sam has to locate the wheelchair access ramp, ask someone to hand down a form from the rack, gets in line, and eventually receives a new license.

After getting their respective licenses, Sam and Pat feel hungry.

Sam rolls across the street to a restaurant and orders a satisfying meal. Sam’s business is successful enough to afford spontaneous little things like this without worry.

Pat feels hungry, but hasn’t got enough for both a snack from the DMV coin op machine and bus fare home. The part time job Pat holds requires a valid driver’s license but doesn’t pay enough to afford even a cheap used car. Pat needs to decide whether to eat and walk home, skip lunch and take a bus, or do both because who knows what tomorrow may hold?

Pat enjoys what is referred to as “able-bodied privilege”. Pat never has to think about going up stairs, door access, where things are located, etc. because the world for the most part is set up to accommodate people like Pat who are physically able.

Sam does have to worry about such things, because unless somebody thinks ahead and designs the DMV building in such a way as to make it equally accessible for everyone, Sam personally needs to adjust to a world built for able-bodied folk.

Conversely, because Sam is reasonably successful at business, Sam doesn’t have to evaluate whether to spend money on a meal; Sam just orders it and enjoys. Pat does have to make that judgment.

And that, in a nutshell, precisely defines “privilege” in sociological terms: You can afford not to think about something because it doesn’t bother you directly.

It doesn’t make one a bad person.

It doesn’t mean one gloats or smirks or lords it over others.

It certainly doesn’t mean one doesn’t experience other problems and disappointments in life.

But Pat can ignore inadequate wheelchair access at DMV because it doesn’t affect able-bodied persons.

And Sam can roll over and buy a meal on the spur of the moment because making a choice like that presents no budgeting challenge to a person with cash.

Privilege.

You’ve got it.

No matter who you are, no matter what your background, you enjoy privilege in some shape, form, or fashion.

There’s nothing wrong with recognizing that.

Just make sure when you can, you look around and ask what can be done to make the world a bit easier for those who don’t enjoy what you’re able to enjoy.

You don’t have to give anything up.

It’s not a status symbol.

It’s just treating others the
way you want to be treated.

 

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Writing Report March 14, 2017

by Buzz on 14/03/2017

More details will follow, but I’ll have a short story in an upcoming original anthology.

Not science fiction / fantasy / horror, but a light hearted look at book hunters and what motivates them.

It was tons o’fun to write:
The plot unfolded itself pretty quickly to me, and the actual writing took only a single afternoon.

You’ll sometimes hear writers saying something “wrote itself” and I think that’s true.

You can get metaphysical about it and say the stories are circling around …somewhere… …out…there… just waiting for a chance to land.

You can be brutally pragmatic about it and say sometimes the logical sequence of events is so self apparent there’s no need to over think the material.

Whatever… It’s written and it’s waiting its turn to make itself known to the world.

Poor Banished Children Of Eve is having its cover art completed; more about it as we get closer to the publication date.

The modern day YA western needs its turn in the re-writer hopper, then the 2nd female barbarian novella, then finally I can get started on the big book I’ve been planning.

And I have a lot more on deck, but first (and second, and third) things first.

behind every great novelist

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Bands / Tribes / Nations / Empires

by Buzz on 14/03/2017

Bands
Tribes
Nations
Empires

That’s how humans organize themselves

Bands are small communities, typically no more than a couple of hundred people, almost always related by blood and where everybody personally knows everybody else. Leadership may be by consensus or by unofficially acknowledging someone in the group as the leader.

Tribes are related mostly along lines of kinship, and while larger than bands by an order of magnitude, people in a tribe know of everybody else in it, and relationships and reputations can be swiftly determined. Leadership may be loosely traditional or formally codified, but generally is older, experienced members of the tribe.

Nations are comprised of many different tribes, but almost always linked by culture / language and usually by geography (even nomadic nations are known by the territory they roam). Members of a nation know about others in the nation, but not necessarily direct first hand knowledge. Leadership is typically formally codified.

Empires are an amalgam of many different nations / cultures / languages. Typically formed by conquest and colonization, if run well an empire justifies its existence through mutual support / defense / benefit. Members of an empire do not know all the different tribes / nations / cultures that make it, and indeed empires can often contain groups strongly antithetical to one another; the great virtue of an empire is that it can tamp down these antagonisms through objective codified justice and leadership through which all groups feel they are treated fairly.

(The above is derived
from Jared Diamond’s

Guns, Germs, And Steel:
Highly recommended.)

The United States stopped being a nation and became an empire in the wake of the Mexican War, our first conquest of another group’s territory that absorbed the members of that group instead of annihilating them or driving them away. It was cemented as an empire in the wake of massive non-Anglo immigration and the emancipation of African-American slaves (slaves in general not being considered citizens but property undeserving of rights or respect).

This country was built on the theft of land and labor by whites to the exclusion of others. Out of necessity America was forced to include non-whites, but it never fully came to terms with them the way Rome came to terms with non-Italian peninsula citizens or Byzantium with its plethora of cultures or even the Islamic world at the height of the caliphate.

We are paying for that refusal to come to terms.

 

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fictoid: Ride & Grow

by Buzz on 13/03/2017

“There are enough elephants in the forest,” Kyle said. “We don’t need to import more.”

“They have to go somewhere,” I said. “We just can’t let them roam free.”

“There’s not enough food for them in the forest,” Kyle said. “Any more and they’ll disrupt the ecosystem. Can’t have that, can we?”

“What do you suggest?”

“Have you tried the mall?”

“The mall? What’s for them to eat at the mall?”

“Well, you could sell rides on them, and customers could pay with elephant food.  Hey, I bet they’ll work for peanuts!”

Kyle chortled at his own wit; I was not amused. I had fourteen elephants on my hands, maybe fifteen if the older female was indeed pregnant, and I needed a place to stash them.

“Try something else,” I said.

“Farming?”

“Hmm, that’s an idea, but there aren’t that many farms around here. Besides, the elephants will eat a lot.”

“True, but they’ll refertilize the fields with dung.”

I snapped my fingers: Kyle’s two bad ideas just synthesized into a single good one.

So that’s how I started Ride & Grow, a service that provides custom made organic fertilizer to your garden and educates and entertains your kids at the same time.

  • You select the feed mix that will provide the perfect manure for your yard or garden
  • Your kids feed the elephant
  • Your kids ride the elephant and guide him (or her, as the case may be) to deposit your custom made manure right where you want it

How’s business? It’s booming!

In fact, we’ve been doing so well I’ve been thinking about poaching a few elephants from the forest…

.

© Buzz Dixon

.

.

Written today while my car was undergoing a smog check.  If you want to know where we get our ideas, damned if I know.  I sat down, opened my note book, the first sentenced appeared out of nowhere, and we were off and running…

 

 

 

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how do you see the kingdom of God?

by Buzz on 11/03/2017

tell me, my friend
do you see it as
a night club
or a park?

makes a difference

see, you have to earn your way into a night club

you have to look right / dress right / be one of the right people
if you want the bouncer to let you slip past
the velvet noose

and once you’re in

well, you’re so much more important than those who were turned away, right?

I mean, you look right / dress right / are one of the right people
so of course you belong there
of course others don’t
and of course
that means
you’re better than them

right?

on the other hand

if you see the kingdom of God
as a park, well…

nothing special about that, is there?

I mean, any asshole can go to the park, right?

it belongs to everybody so how can it be special?

you can be a filthy half-naked bum
without a penny to your name
and have as much right to the park
as the wealthiest billionaire in the finest clothes

(in fact
most billionaires
wouldn’t be caught
dead
in a public park
it would ruin
their clothes
not to mention
their status)

one last thing
separates night club from park

you’ve been told about the night club

but you haven’t visited it

and nobody you know has visited it

and everybody who says they have

is a liar

the night club may exist
the night club may not exist
the night club may be fanciest
most exclusive penthouse in the city
or it could be a warehouse
where they’re throwing a rave

you won’t know
until you get there
and find out
if you’re on
the guest list
or not

but the park
is right here

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Magic Eye Racism

by Buzz on 9/03/2017

You can still find them if you look, but back in the 1990s Magic Eye 3D posters were pretty ubiquitous.

If you haven’t heard of them, they were big posters that looked like they were screen caps of a TV screen full of static but, when you gazed at them long enough, a three dimensional image would appear to be looming out of the art.

They’re good examples of both signal-to-noise and pattern recognition. It takes a while, but eventually most people are able to pick out the background patterns and process those patterns until the image pops out.

Most people.

Clearly, if you’re blind or have only one functioning eye, you’re not going to see the 3D image.

If your eyesight is too poor, or if you’re one of those people who just can’t process spatial relations in your head (i.e., you see everything flat even with two working eyes), or if you just can’t catch the pattern, you won’t see the image.

Conversely, one can reverse engineer the images; filter out the extraneous static “noise” from the pattern “signal” and the image will appear.

However, once you see the hidden image, it becomes almost impossible not to see it every time you look at it after that. Your eyes know what to look for and they seek it out.

Racism in America is a lot like that.

Many people, particularly African-Americans but many other minorities as well, have built in filters. They see the racism in American culture as it slaps them in the face incessantly.

But white people don’t have that filter.

White people have to be told the pattern is there, told to look carefully for it beyond all the background noise that hides it.

Once they see it they are shocked at how pervasive it is. Like the hidden messages in John Carpenter’s They Live, evidence of racism is everywhere and in everything.

Even things we might consider as wholly innocent turn out to be permeated with racist concepts.

Let’s take a look at two quotes, what they mean, and how people respond to them.

“That’s what America is about–a land of dreams and opportunity. There were immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder, for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

Compare and contrast with:

“And perhaps, like some of you, these new arrivals might have had some moments of doubt, wondering if they had made a mistake in leaving everything and everyone they ever knew behind…So life in America was not always easy. It wasn’t always easy for new immigrants. Certainly it wasn’t easy for those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily, and yet in their own way were immigrants themselves.

“There was discrimination and hardship and poverty. But, like you, they no doubt found inspiration in all those who had come before them. And they were able to muster faith that, here in America, they might build a better life and give their children something more.”

There are some people — racists, or apologists for racism — who claim the two quotes are virtually identical.

They’re not.

They touch on similar ideas, but they draw separate and entirely different conclusions.

If you don’t know what you’re reading, if you don’t know what you’re looking at, the racism gets lost in the background noise.

If you know what to look for, if you are (as yrs trly is) a trained editor, you see how the phrasing is used to shape a particular response with a particular audience.

Look at the first quote. The flow of ideas is from America as a land of dreams and opportunity [i.e., something people long for] to immigrants [i.e., literally people who migrate from one area to another] to the bottom of slave ships [first indication all is not right with the American dream] to working longer & harder & for less [implying that being enslaved and forced to labor under pain of death / torture / rape / brutality is the equivalent of being made to work overtime without extra pay] to those people [enslaved people] dreaming along with those who came to America voluntarily to find happiness and prosperity.

Now look at the second quote. It starts by acknowledging even the willful pursuit of the American is not without its moments of doubt, nor was it always easy. It singles out those of African heritage by rightfully pointing out the vast difference in their ancestors’ experience and the experience of those who came voluntarily, yet goes on to point out there are nonetheless similarities between those two experiences. It concludes by acknowledging that unique experience, but goes on to acknowledge they had faith that their lives would be better [i.e., less brutal] and their children might have something more [i.e., no longer be in enforced poverty].

The first quote classifies Africans as immigrants first then only briefly alludes to their being enslaved before moving on to lump them with all other immigrants re hopes and dreams.

The second statement first points to the fact that they were enslaved and forced to endure hardships that others didn’t then points out the irony that in a certain limited sense they were also immigrants.

The two quotes are not conveying identical ideas at all. The first is about negating the experience of the enslaved Africans brought to this country and forced to labor for the benefit of whites. It is designed to minimize the injustice forced on those enslaved Africans and their descendants while the second quote acknowledges it front and center.

The first quote pushes racial inequality by minimizing the harm visited upon non-whites by whites. It is not intended to address similarities but to dismiss valid issues and concerns of people still experiencing inequality in this land in order to appease those who still benefit — and yes, often unknowingly – from said inequality.

The second quote recognizes the injustice visited in the past and still with us in the present, yet still urges those suffering from injustice not to give up on the idea of unity with the rest of the country.

A stark contrast with the first message crafted to negate the experiences of non-whites, not draw them into unity with the country.

Words and syntax alone do not convey meaning, rhetoric does as well. The way an idea is expressed often conveys as much if not more signal than the noise of the specific details of the message.

How many times have we turned off songs on the radio because they didn’t reach our hearts, yet listen transfixed when a songwriter conveys the same idea in exactly the right manner?

If you are not an ethnic or religious minority in this country, if you are not a recent immigrant, you need to see the signal patterns behind the noise in our culture. This is still a culture that does not treat all equally in the eyes of the law. The fact that some minority members enjoy prosperity while much of the white majority struggles does not mean minorities enjoy a superior status much less that equality has been achieved.

If you’re one of those people who gets offended when they think they’re being accused of being racist, understand to a person suffering from actual inequality there is not a lot of difference between those who actively discriminate and those who choose not to see the discrimination.

Open your eyes.

Look.

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A Post On Reparations

by Buzz on 7/03/2017

You’re invited over to someone’s house for a turkey diner.

Maybe it’s your grandparents who are inviting you.

Maybe it’s those nice neighbors.

Maybe you’re coming empty handed, maybe you’re bringing a side dish.

Doesn’t matter.

You come, you gorge yourself on turkey.

You have a great time.

You feel full.

But then, as you’re leaving, you learn your hosts — be they your grandparents or just nice neighbors — stole the turkey from someone else.

And the person they stole the turkey from, they and their family have gone hungry.

Oh, maybe not starvation hungry, but hungry.

And what was once theirs was taken from them.

And you benefited from that theft, even if you didn’t know it at the time.

Now, do you seek justice for the victimized family?

Do you demand your hosts pay for the turkey?

Do you at least dig into your own pocket and pay your share of what the turkey was worth?

Or do you say it’s not your fault?

Not your responsibility?

The victims should have done a better job of looking after their poultry?

That other people steal turkeys all the time, and until those thieves are brought to justice the nice people who invited you shouldn’t have to pay?

One answer makes you a mensch,
one answer makes you a shit.

And you damn well know which is which.

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