Happy New Year II: What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

I love this song, and I love this rendition of it. I had no idea Zooey Deschanel would have such a lovely alto! I think if I’d had to, I might have guessed she had some sort of flutey, whisper-light voice that I would find twee. Yay for being wrong!

So though I’ve already wished one and all a Happy New Year, I thought I’d do it again, and in a slightly less somber fashion, with this lovely tune. Happy 2012! And may all our surprises be pleasant ones.

(They’re oddly silent for the first four or five seconds. Don’t crank your speakers!)

Happy New Year: O Freedom – Fridays with Billy.

The policemen broke my door down
Dragged me from my bed
I asked them what was happening
They just ignored the words I said

They waved their guns in my face
Kept screaming out my name
Something terrible had happened
And somehow I was to blame

O freedom, what liberties are taken in thy name
In thy name
O freedom, what liberties are taken
What liberties are taken
What liberties are taken in thy name


May the new year that is so quickly bearing down upon us be one of greater freedom, not less; one of greater accountability, not less; one of greater justice, not less.

Then, perhaps, we will finally know greater peace. If we will it (to borrow a phrase), it is no dream.

full lyricsWhat is Fridays with Billy?

Women are humans – Chapter 12,807

An image from the Reddit thread in question.

There’s a tendency among some egalitarian minded folks to blame the state of women — around the globe and in their own backyard — on religion.

It’s my opinion, however, that “religion,” as a discreet entity, doesn’t exist. Religions (as opposed to faith, and/or the existence of the Divine) are human social constructs, and thus cannot help but reflect the human societies they serve. In fact, it’s my opinion that the frequency with which religions serve as a vehicle through which we reveal our worst proclivities isn’t the impressive thing — the impressive thing is how frequently religion has inspired us to reach beyond our worst proclivities for our better angels.

And just as you don’t need religion to be a good person, you don’t need religion to be an asshole.

Witness the experience of a 15 year old young lady attempting to participate in an atheist group (or “subreddit”) on Reddit. She posted a thread named “What my super religious mother gave me for Christmas,” featuring a picture of herself holding a copy of Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World — I discovered her story on Skepchick last night, and my hair still hasn’t come back down from where it got stood on end.

As writer and Ms. Skepchik herself Rebecca Watson says in the post:

What a cool thing to happen! A touching tale of religious tolerance. I’m sure the comments will be appropriately celebratory and, seeing as she’s 15, nonsexual. LOL.

Because yes. That is not, to put it mildly, what happened.

It took fewer than ten responses for an audience of grown men to start referring to the young lady’s bodily orifices, and from there the distance to suggestions of abduction and rape was very short indeed — liberally sprinkled, of course, with such bon mots as “relax your anus, it hurts less that way” and “blood is mother nature’s lubricant.” Not to mention “BITE THE PILLOW, IM GOIN’ IN DRY!” and “tears, natures [sic] lubricant.” And, just to add horrible to disgusting, these comments were roundly supported by the majority of the readers on the thread — as were the many insults hurled at this 15 year old girl for having the temerity to put her own face in the picture of the gift she wanted to tell people about (because — it was claimed — males don’t do that. Which, I suppose, makes it the better way to do things). (Aside from that claim being demonstrably false – a fact demonstrated amply in the Skepchik post).

Is hurling stomach-churning rape japery at a high school student as bad as sexual abuse, rape, or organized repression? No. Is it on the same continuum? You betcha.

Until we come to fully understand that women and girls are as fully human as men and boys, 50% of the world’s population will find itself at the mercy of those who would deny them their humanity. Religious creed optional.




Geek is as geek does, con’t.

Further to Monday’s post, I am not, as I said, any kind of gamer — but I’m just a little bit in love with these Girl Gamers and the people who made this video:


(And c’mon, one of the women involved in this clip goes by the name “Lady Zombie Sparkles.” How fabulous is that?)

h/t Boing Boing

Geek is as geek does.

Available for purchase at ThinkGeek.com -- though, in my case, it really should be in the plural.

I’ve recently discovered a funny thing about me:

I’m less a geek, than I am a geek of geek culture.

It’s true that I’ve hit a few of the geek high points all on my own: I’m a life-long fan of the original three Star Wars films, and have nothing but disdain for the latter three; I’ve been watching Trek since the original series was first in re-runs (even I was a little too young when it first hit the airwaves); I’ve been known to watch all three LOTR films on consecutive evenings (extended cuts!); and I recently become a bona-fide Browncoat (aka: stupid-big fan of Firefly). I even have genuine Dr. Horrible cred, having watched it online almost immediately upon its release. Moreover, I’m a certified egg-head, and do things like read history because I want to and get deeply into the minutiae of history that particularly grabs me. So yeah. On some levels, I really am a geek.

But on a lot of other levels, I’m a complete dilettante. I don’t game (online or with poly dice) and never have (unless you count that one game of Angry Birds & a few visits to the arcade in the 80s); I don’t watch Dr. Who; I still haven’t read the Hitchhiker’s Guide. I intend to remedy that last sooner rather than later — especially now that even the boy is quoting lines at me — but I have no interest in either of the former. I don’t have any idea who’s Marvel and who’s DC, I didn’t much enjoy the actual source material for the LOTR films (though I did finally force myself to finish reading them), and I have no intention of ever reading any George RR Martin (I already know too many unsavory spoilers – why walk into that?)

But I love enthusiasm that vibrates in the very bones of the enthusiast. I love wild imaginations and thundering humanity. I love smart people, and especially smart people who really enjoy being smart. And I love hearing people talk about language and words and plots and narratives and what-is-canon.

So of course I love geek culture. After all being a geek — of any kind — is essentially about having ill-disguised, hugely enjoyable (and occasionally excruciating) enthusiasms. It’s about hatching plans in December 2011 to attend the midnight show of The Hobbit on the day it’s released in December 2012 (as I am); it’s about making elaborate plans for just which costumes you’re going to want to make for that event (not me, but my Internet pal kiranmartin [also known in these parts as caoil]). It’s about having opinions about each of the successive Doctors, and indeed, individual episodes in each Doctor’s arc. It’s about being able to describe yourself using Dungeons and Dragons terminology, and actually meaning it. It’s about loving something so much that you are willing to go outside the bounds of normative behavior to express that love, and more often than not, it demands a native intelligence that simply cannot let plot inconsistencies and fucking-long pod races slide (me again).

So I find myself following conversations about games and gaming culture (particuarly at my friend K. Cox’s place, because I also love people who know how to write), developing opinions about how women are presented in comics (it’s bad, man), and trading geek culture epehmera with my buddy anibundel (to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for being among those who hounded me into my late Browncoat-dom). It’s why I love ThinkGeek.com, why I encouraged the boy to read Hitchhikers in the first place, and why just the other day, I found myself watching a show called The Nerdist, despite only catching about half the references — not to mention why I found myself annoyed (despite host Chad Chris Hardwick’s entirely charming presence) with the yawning chasm where the women should have been (“but they mentioned Felicia Day!” I can already hear someone protesting, to which I can only reply: “Right! Only after insulting four hugely talented women musicians, and in the most overtly sexual terms possible! And anyway, one mention of one women isn’t really enough, is it, for the love of God?”). (Please note update, in comments – my second reply to Alison. Squee! Chad Chris Hardwick got in touch directly via the Twitters to apologize!) 

So rock on my geeks! I less-than-three you from the bottom of my less-than-three, and I am so grateful to be allowed into the room now and then. I may not be as great a mind as any of you on any of this, but I will get the  snacks and help you find those buttons you need for your Hobbit shirt. Because you’re awesome. And you make my days much, much brighter.

I’m a big damn prophet.

If only I’d used my powers to predict lottery numbers.

I just re-discovered this, written on February 25, 1984 (in cursive and on a paper napkin) and shoved into the journal I kept during my one year at St. Olaf College:

[Israel] has eroded itself, and its morality…. The frightened, rabid, ultra-Zionists have taken the reality (need for a homeland, need for security, reason for Jewish-pride) and perverted it, and then sold it to the Israelis, who’ve paid for it in fear. N. [my then-boyfriend] loves Israel (as well he should) and wants to help it survive and grow (as well he should), but the Sharon/Begin/Shamir mentality has only offered one way to live that – so it’s the only choice he has, despite its inherent perversity. Is it too late to salvage Israel’s morality? Without its morality, it will eventually be destroyed/destroy itself, because without limits, it will become totalitarian/expansionistic. A grand denier of human rights and needs (not only of the Palestinians but also of dissenting Israelis) in the name of the Holocaust. I’m frightened.

So there’s that.

Happy, Merry, indeed.

FOR THE HORDE (arm aloft, she charged ahead) – an open thread.

It’s looking very much as if our good friend and Khan Ta-Nehisi won’t be around today, and so I thought a new open thread might be in order. I may put up a real post later this afternoon, but please feel free to dip in and out over the long weekend – sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your (screen)name! Even on a holiday weekend. Sometimes especially on a holiday weekend.

And speaking of which: My wishes and hopes for this holiday season, and all our holiday seasons, can be found here, if you enjoy that sort of thing.

And further speaking of which: Whoever you may be, whatever you may celebrate (or not), however you may feel about this time of year and the holidays therein — all the best, from me to you. Merry, Happy, and all good things! xo, ellaesther

Sing Their Souls Back Home – Fridays with Billy

This is from Mr. Bragg’s most recent full-length release, Mr. Love & Justice, and it seems particularly appropriate for this week of holiday festivities, a week in which “we sing our songs of freedom and we sing our songs of peace,” a week in which soldiers are coming home, though some never will, and many are celebrating, though too many of us can’t.

Sing our songs of freedom
And we sing our songs of peace
We sing about sweet harmony
For to make the fighting cease

Let’s sing one song for the folks tonight
That are sleeping on the streets
Come on and sing their souls back home

Oh Lord, it’s hard, don’t you know
To be living in days like these
Terror and war do nothing
But shatter families

So let’s reach out with all our hearts
For our soldiers overseas
Come on and sing their souls back home
Bring ’em home now

Oh, oh, won’t you sing along with me?
Come on, oh, oh, raise your voices now with me
And let them know that we want ’em back home
From wherever they may be
Come on and sing their souls back home

full lyrics; What is Fridays with Billy?

PS: For a little extra awesome, click here for a cover of the tune by REM’s Mike Mills. (You know, it’s funny. Mills does a really straight rendition, and his voice and musicianship are quite lovely — but I just like the original so much better!)

The 12 year old boy: “I think my heart just melted.”

A very wee girl meets her sister for the first time:


I… can’t… even….

PS The title of this post is a direct quote, the boy’s reaction to this clip mere moments ago. In the meantime, I’ve heard him saying in an undertone (and with an audible smile in his voice) “Youokyouokyouok!” I tell you what, that’s even better than a return of Firefly to the small screen. I’m good.

Just back at my desk, TNC is MIA – Open Thread?

You know the drill!

(Anyway, Ta-Nehisi will probably show up at The Atlantic in 17 minutes or sommat).

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