Voting Isn’t Going to Solve Your Problems

“Every time you stay home, someone is making a decision about you, making decisions about the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food your kids eat, and how much money you bring home every two weeks. So, every time you sit out an election, every time you don’t show up because you think it doesn’t matter, someone else is happy you didn’t show up, so they can make that decision for you. Vote.”

-At the end of the video above.

Voting has a place. But, it’s a small one. There’s some measure of decision-making that goes into selecting a Representative, a Senator, or a President. But, let’s not pretend that selecting an elected official is the same as making decisions yourself. It isn’t.

Also, let’s not pretend the field isn’t rigged. Candidates are bad, representing a very narrow band of choice. Districts are gerrymandered. Election campaigns run on money, which mean moneyed interests have more say in who gets elected, more so than casting a ballot at the polls.

By all means, get out and vote. But, don’t expect voting to change much. If you want to change the world, you have to be out in it. Voting needs to go hand in hand with direct action, where you are directly making decisions that impact the world rather than selecting someone else to represent your interests.

Don’t Like, Don’t Read

“The onus was on the reader, not the author, to protect themselves with the information given. Basically, AO3 took the early fandom nugget ‘Don’t like, don’t read’ and made it policy.”

rapacityinblue, in “This Discussion.” (I’m not going to try to get my mind around how a Tumblr discussion should be cited.)

I found this discussion about Archive of Own Own (AO3) fascinating, and it made something clear(er) to me that I have not understood for a long time: trigger warnings.

When I read an article that includes trigger warnings, it is normally from a mainstream source that has largely been sanitized of content that would trigger me. So, they seem unnecessary.

I’ve never spent any appreciable time on A03, but it is clear that the content in the A03 archive has not been sanitized. And if you are browsing something where you truly don’t know what you are going to get and it is possible that it may not be what you want, it should be tagged in such a way where you can make a rough determination of whether it is something you want to get into before you start to read. If there’s a good chance you aren’t going to like it, you can tell in advance and not read it. The responsibility lies with the reader.

I spend most of my time reading sources that do not have any, or much, “triggering” content (at least for me). In that environment, I do not need a trigger warning. I am free to read everything.

I was trying to think of another example in a different media, and there are definitely films I can think of that would benefit from this kind of tagging. For example, I suggested that my wife and I watch Oldboy when it came out in the theaters. We knew nothing about it going in, and to this day, my wife won’t watch South Korean movies. It’s a movie that can “trigger” a lot of people. Others that come to mind would be Requiem for a Dream and Se7en, and a case could be made for films like The Silence of the Lambs, Reservior Dogs, and others. What would it be like to watch Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story if you had a history of anorexia nervosa? What seems benign to me certainly may not be benign to another.

And it made me realize that most of our environments have been sanitized. We do have systems to tag content, such as when a movie is labelled “R”, Restricted. But, it is interesting that these labels are based on maturity and age. And while there are designations like “graphic violence” or “strong language” that are used in conjunction with the rating, there’s a world of difference between the “graphic violence” in Oldboy than most other films that get made. But, we don’t need a better system of tags because challenging films like Oldboy, largely don’t get made.

So, the next time someone with a conservative outlook talks about “snowflakes” being “triggered”, perhaps it would be a good time to suggest they try a double feature of Oldboy and Requiem for a Dream and see if they think these films should having something more extensive than an R rating for “for strong violence including scenes of torture, sexuality and pervasive language” or “intense depiction of drug addiction, graphic sexuality, strong language and some violence”, respectively.

See also: The reaction to Isabel Fall’s short story, “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter.”

Add Phone-Free Walking to Your Day

“Find a way to add phone-free walking to your daily schedule. Make it non-negotiable. Make it easy. Skip a bus ride from your house to the station. Get off a station earlier on the way to work. Use 30 minutes of your lunch break to walk to a far-off cafe. The important thing is to leave the phone off the body. It can be in a backpack, that’s fine. Keep it out of easy reach. Even better: keep it at home. I don’t know if the lightness will register for you, but it does for me. Phone, no phone, two entirely separate universes. Like starting the day with the internet on or off. A totally different quality of time and thinking. For me, the phone removed or reduced to a simple tool brings me back to the walks, and in being brought back to the walks I remember the floating consciousness, and from that, if I’m lucky, a dollop of grace.”

—Craig Mod, “Responses to SMSs Part 4.” Ridgeline. January 28, 2020.

Also, “all the best tricks to life seem to sound reductive and dumb when you say them out loud.”

OKIDO Magazine

“OKIDO’s philosophy is a simple one: every child is a creative scientist.

The OKIDO world immerses young children in a spectrum of playful activities and media, all intelligently designed by science and education experts. 

Whether watching the TV show ‘Messy goes to OKIDO’, engaging in family events and school workshops, or reading high quality publications and products, OKIDO children learn through play.

At the heart of it all lies STEAM learning (that’s science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics). Everything in the OKIDO world is designed by science and education experts to encourage collaboration, curiosity, exploration, discovery, creativity and critical thinking.

WHERE DID IT ALL START?

Messy grew up on the pages of OKIDO Magazine. An independent publication started by parents from a kitchen table in Brixton in 2007, it was designed to fire up young imaginations and spark a life-long love of art and science. Today its founders, scientist Dr Sophie Dauvois (PhD BSc PG Dip.) and artist Rachel Ortas, are still every bit as passionate about engaging young kids in the scientific world around them using play, art and fun.

FOR WHO? EVERYONE, OF COURSE!

OKIDO’s fun and games are for all genders. The OKIDO world is a stereotype-free zone, because we believe in promoting equality for all children.

OKIDO

The Internet of Beefs

“We are not beefing endlessly because we do not desire peace or because we do not know how to engineer peace. We are beefing because we no longer know who we are, each of us individually, and collectively as a species. Knight and mook alike are faced with the terrifying possibility that if there is no history in the future, there is nobody in particular to be once the beefing stops.

And the only way to reboot history is to figure out new beings to be. Because that’s ultimately what beefing is about: a way to avoid being, without allowing time itself to end.

Venkatesh Rao, “The Internet of Beefs.” ribbonfarm.com. January 16, 2020.

I found this to be a very interesting touchstone for understanding the cultural moment.

Xenobots | Living Robots

“Researchers in the US have created the first living machines by assembling cells from African clawed frogs into tiny robots that move around under their own steam…’They are living, programmable organisms.’…Their unique features mean that future versions of the robots might be deployed to clean up microplastic pollution in the oceans, locate and digest toxic materials, deliver drugs in the body or remove plaque from artery walls, the scientists say.”

—Ian Sample, “Researchers foresee myriad benefits for humanity, but also acknowledge ethical issues.” The Guardian. January 13, 2020.

What could possibly go wrong? Also: xenobots.