Rachel Dolezal/I Have No Idea What My Opinion Is

I don’t know what prompts it, but I seem to have the blogging heebie jeebies either very early in the working day or in the evening. I’ve no idea why – maybe because when I was at school I wrote everything when I got home unless there was an emergency post that had to be finished before school? (By heebie jeebies I mean ‘desire to blog’, not the creeps. Not sure what else to call it.)

Anyway, today’s topic: Rachel Dolezal. I had never heard of her until about two days ago; she was president of the NAACP, the black civil rights organisation in the US, until she resigned over a row about race. She didn’t suddenly announce her affiliation with the KKK; the issue is whether or not she’s black. Her parents say she’s white (they are white and have adopted children and extended family who are black), but she says that she identifies as black. Some people who are unquestionably black have said ‘excuse me, that’s a bit rude, please don’t pretend you’re one of us because you think we’re a cool club have you seen how we can be treated?’.

I’m white and I don’t have enough direct experience of the black American civil rights movement to get on a soapbox about the politics, except to say that racism is gross and will require all people from all races to realise it’s gross before it goes away. In terms of Ms Dolezal, my initial feeling was that if she says she’s black the response should be ‘okay, whatever’. Like if a queer person insists they’re straight, it’s not anyone’s place to drag them out of the closet – and if someone says they identify as non-binary, even if you think they’re off their rocker because you’re a bit ignorant the polite thing to do is say ‘okay, whatever’. If it’s a phase, it’ll pass – like how a lot of people in senior school announced they were bisexual for, like, a week in year 10. If they still are now then yay for them – if it was just something they were trying or wanted to be part of then that’s their business.

By the same token, if somebody insists that they’re of a race different from what they were assigned at birth, so to speak, is it not polite to say ‘sure whatever’? Like that one straight friend who wants to go to a gay bar for a ‘gay experience’? They’ll leave eventually, either when they realise no one’s interested in fulfilling a bucket list or when somebody really is and your friend has a mild epiphany that they’re straight. I don’t know – nobody I’ve ever come across has decided they identify as Caucasian… can’t think why.

I get the impression that the wider issue is more concerned that she once actually sued a college for discrimination because she was white, before becoming president of a prominent black civil rights organisation? Like did she just decide one day that she was over being white? I think I would be pissed if a LGBT person became the first out prime minister then said ‘actually yeah I’m straight/cisgender’. Does that detract from the significance of their work? On top of that, I kind of feel like underneath all the race appropriation arguments, Ms Dolezal is looking for some sort of acceptance from a social group?

I have no idea. And I did a lot of stuff between drafting this and finishing it so I’m not sure if I had an opinion earlier and have since forgotten it, or if it’s just a really complex topic that requires a lot of thought and may never have a solid conclusion (it’s now nearly five; I started this at 8am. Told you.) Thoughts?

Explaining the Internet Slowdown (and protesting so you might not be able to read it)

It’s not that often that a lot of the people who use the Internet agree on something, but it looks like the US government has given us all a common enemy (again. Didn’t this happen with SOPA and Prop 8?!). I don’t have a huge understanding of the technical aspects of it, but essentially the US Federal Communications Commission has proposed laws that mean Internet providers can charge money for websites to access their subscribers. Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay would get slower Internet connections than those who could. It’s kind of like private healthcare versus the NHS; companies who can afford to pay for top healthcare plans (or Internet) would get seen to quickly and in top-notch conditions (quick page loading), and the rest of us would be put into an 18-month waiting list and spend a week in A&E (the buffer symbol for minutes or hours at a time).

A&E is slow at the moment, but imagine if NHS hospitals were purposely given rubbish equipment compared to private ones? People on the NHS would stay ill or get worse while private patients would be sorted in a jiffy. Now I think about it, that analogy is quite similar to the debacle of non-free-at-point-of-use-healthcare countries… like America. Now’s not the time.

To show what these new conditions would be like, lots of sites – including Tumblr, Etsy, Twitter and Automattic, which powers WP and therefore here – have enforced a slow Internet day, today. Pages, videos and music streams are loading at the speed at which they would load everyday if telecoms companies started charging for access. Many sites affected probably could pay for the quick connection, especially if they increased adverts – but users are likely to be put off by the ads and anyway, what about little online businesses who pay for their own connection? What about people who want to stream videos from sites who haven’t paid for quick access?

The buffer symbol. All the goddamn time.

What can we do to prevent this shit happening at all: head to this website, which is petitioning Congress to stop the proposal from becoming law. If you’re using a site that’s campaigning for ‘net neutrality’, as they call it, you can have a look to see that they’re doing in protest.

Most big Internet companies are a bit corrupt. Most people on the Internet are tossers. But none of us wants to put up with slow service, regardless of the sites we use or the people we abuse while on them.

PS (sort of) Since Etsy is protesting too, I’ve put a discount on my Etsy shop. I was going to anyway to celebrate Blood of Olympus coming out in October, and today seemed a good time to start it. Enter UNCLERICK2014 at the checkout for 30% off, although maybe wait until the protest’s over for a good long browse.

The Six O’Clock News: Keeping Up With Current Events

With the ever-changing nature of ‘current events’ and the complications of understanding it anyway, I thought the Israel-Palestine conflict (war? See, defining this shit is tough) would be a good topic to use to discuss ways to keep up with the news. All the cool kids are doing it, so listen up!

The Traditional Way: Newspapers and Magazines

Aw, print media. A declining medium and usually so full of editorially-biased bullshit that often it’s not worth going near anyway. We all know that tabloids aren’t worth even opening (I discovered a Daily Mail parody on Twitter the other day. It’s beautiful) but what about the broadsheets?

Well darlings, there are some good choices. The Guardian and Telegraph, traditionally a bit leftie and rightie respectively, have pretty decent articles which give a detailed explanation of a story, usually with some photos or maybe an infographic. I don’t usually get the Financial Times but I’ve heard it’s good too, as is The Times, if buying something owned by Rupert Murdoch doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies. Then there’s the Independent and its sister publication the i, which I loved to read at school because it’s really short and has super-duper-easy-to-digest articles. It’s also only 30p and available from Starbucks, so you can look smart while sipping a skinny mocha polkadot frappe. All the papers have websites too so you can read an article as many times as it takes for your blood pressure to return to normal!

That’s pretty much the extent of my paper knowledge and I encourage you to utilise your local library and have a read of whatever you can get your hands on – you’ll find your favourite style of writing pretty soon. One word of warning: even the news articles will contain bias. Not as much as a column – not as obviously much as a column, anyway – but differentiating between reported fact, the writer’s opinion and a senior management-based reference (like a journalist highly rating a film released on a company owned by the newspaper’s owner) is a fun and useful skill. One that Daily Mail readers are lacking above all others.

In terms of magazines, there is only one I read, though I read it more thoroughly than I do all papers: Private Eye. Edited by the dude who sits on the left in Have I Got News for You, it’s predominately satire but also has some serious reporting and its Street of Shame section calls out other newspapers’ crap. If I remember correctly, it was one of the few publications that picked up on Cyril Smith being a paedophile about 20 years before the Jimmy Savile scandal – I think they got sued over the allegations. They get sued a lot. The Economist is also useful if you want to get really intellectual – and the ads in the back are brilliant if you want to pretend you have a PhD.

The Family Debate Way: Television

Ah, the real Six O’Clock News. I love it. If you’re anything like me, couch-surfing wise, you start your channel-flicking marathons around the entertainment channels (Virgin Media 121) and go up to music (Kerrang! TV is 342) and maybe into films (avoid the porn channels just past them).

This is stupid.

Go straight to the good stuff: the plethora of news channels. BBC News 24 HD is 604 for me and it’s on all the time. So if you’re out at ten o’clock or eating at six you can keep in the loop! I’m assuming your family bought a huge massive mega TV broadband phone package deal, in which case you probably have access to CNN, Al Jazeera English, Euro News, BBC Parliament and if you’re unlucky FOX.

The good thing about TV news is that because they’re broadcasting to everybody, they have to explain everything. Hence why reporters go to whacky places or walk through green screened graphics – the information needs to be understandable to the average viewer. You’re not the average viewer because you’re a) reading this and b) you know that you can access CNN.

A downside to the TV is that because most non-24-hour slots are short, detail can be missed from a story, and some stories aren’t told at all. Syria is big news when there’s been a huge bombing or war crime, for example, but gets overtaken by the next big thing. The same thing happened in all areas of the mainstream media to #BringBackOurGirls and Flight MH370. Both are still missing, by the way.

 The Hands-Free Way: Radio

You know, the way they kept up with business in World War II. Radio is cool because you aren’t rendered immobile and you can listen while you’re in the car or doing boring stuff, like chores. BBC Radio 4 has a good broadcast in the morning, which I discovered completely accidentally when I was searching for a radio station without jingles or adverts for my morning alarm. I’ve also heard good things about the BBC World Service, which apparently has a worldwide following because it’s an alternative to propaganda-ridden state media.

The Hipster Way: Websites and Social Media

I should probably point out that I’m not entirely sure what a hipster is, although many of the people I’ve known who have declared themselves to be one have actually been twats. I’m not sure if that’s the point. Anyway, social media basically sparked the Arab Spring, because for the first time people had ways to communicate meet-ups and ideas quickly. So instead of using Twitter to hashtag how great your favourite band is to promote a crappy MTV contest, use it to keep up with a conflict or political situation as-it-happens. There was a Russian soldier who posted a picture of himself with Russian weapons inside Ukranian borders on Instagram, and Osama bin Laden’s house’s siege was posted about on Twitter as it occurred, which says it all. The people inside war zones are exactly the same as everyone else so you can see the actual stuff that’s going on. You don’t have to follow accounts if it bums you out, but searching a tag here and there makes you like well intelligent.

Word of warning: social media is the least moderated of all broadcasting platforms and there are just as many idiots posting political things as there are idiots posting pictures of themselves in their underwear or bitching about their boss. Take with a bucketful of salt and always use two sources to corroborate information, especially if it’s for a school thing. I once stumbled upon a Hammas-supporting website which bitched a lot about Israel and the stats I collected were totally the opposite to the ones we learnt in school. For quick info, use the BBC News app and for research, the CIA World Factbook has great profiles on each country – well, they would – and lists states numerically by how great their literacy rate or GDP is, amongst other things. The BBC also has great country profiles for getting a simple explanation and timeline of a country. This explains Kosovo perfectly, for example.

The Fun Way: Entertainment

Not going to lie, Tim Minchin taught me the background to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Then there’s Have I Got News for You, Russell Howard’s Good News, The Daily Show… the list  of programmes is endless. If you’re prepared to put up with some Hollywood gloss, films and books are useful. Some, like Shooting Dogs or books by Khaled Hosseini, don’t have gloss. They may make you cry noisy tears and expand your cynicism. But they’re actually really important because you’re more likely to empathise and understand the nuances of a situation through fiction than you are just by watching the news.

Documentaries are also excellent because it’s their job to make sense, tell the truth (again: apply salt) but keep hold of your attention. Plus your teachers will support the concept of watching them instead of doing a timed essay. Probably. Possibly.

Okay, I’m off to watch the diving at the Commonwealth Games and keep a tally of my parents’ homophobic comments regarding Tom Daley. Let me know if I’ve forgotten a supercool way to follow the news!

The Ten O’Clock News: Not USA-Independence Day!

The government’s gone and bought itself a massive effing boat, the unveiling of which is a massive effing attempt to convince the Scottish people to vote Union. Personally, I would then vote ‘no’ because will the Scottish government have a warship capable of carrying “40 jets and helicopters”? No. Because the Scottish government will not be able to afford a paper bag after independence, having spent everything on large tariffs and taxes it currently avoids as a member of the UK and EU. Or pro-independence celebrations. Or new flags. Or new currency. Or a new national broadcasting service.

This old-ish Guardian article explains the referendum pretty well and suggests that Scotland would, in fact keep the pound and the monarchy. But since when has a newly independent country kept the nice bits about its old state and just gained power? The last countries to join the UN as sovereign states were South Sudan in 2011 (result of civil war in Sudan. Now there is just inter-state war), Montenegro in 2006 (ex-Yugoslavia, ’nuff said) and Timor-Leste in 2002 (ex-Indonesia, massive guerilla war for ages). It’s pretty rare for peaceful states to suddenly declare independence, because usually a region wants sovereignty due to ethnic or religious differences with their neighbours. So, does Scotland have significant ethnic or religious differences from the rest of the UK?

Not really, no.

The UK is traditionally Christian, though secularism is increasing pretty much everywhere; most British people have family from elsewhere in the UK because we’re a small group of islands (most people aren’t hugely British going back a few generations but that’s a rant for another time). As far as I can tell, the biggest “national differences” are accent, traditional choice of alcohol and “national treasures”. Even then it’s dubious because let’s face it everyone loves Shakespeare and Robbie Burns and Lily Allen and Alexander Graham Bell. Okay I’m being facetious and I’ve done absolutely no statistical research for this whole paragraph… but it sounds like the SNP seriously expect to gain independence, keep all the things it likes about Britain, remove all those it doesn’t and magically fix all its problems.

From sensualeodicaprio.tumblr.com
From sensualeodicaprio.tumblr.com

I think that is a good place to end.

The Six O’Clock News: a Valentine’s News Round-Up!

Happy Valentine’s Day, unless you’re ill and alone and watching TV this fine Friday evening. Ugh, Valentine’s.

According to The Guardian, in some cultures Valentine’s is becoming synonymous with “my female partner will have sex with me whether she wants to or not” and, despite the small sample size of Cambodian participants, it’s not a huge stretch to assume that for some people, Valentine’s is just an excuse to rape someone. Which for a lot of people is actually just getting laid because even today there are taboos around sex and consent and the like. Gross factor: 10/10 (although I’m not sure if Valentine’s is the actual cause).

Interestingly, in other cultures Valentine’s is becoming synonymous with “massive rip-off”. The Metro reckons that increasing amounts of people are not giving a fuck not bothered. In a fun twist of events, someone printed out a load of Valentine’s Tumblr memes and stuck them around my sixth form block, which simultaneously made my day and, hopefully, emphasised the ridiculousness of centring a day around someone with whom you’re in a relationship all the time. Gross factor: 3/10. Those memes were Tumblr-inappropriate and highly worth Googling.

In assembly, however, we were told that some places view Valentine’s as more of a celebration of love than of romance (Estonia) or is banned entirely (Saudi Arabia, surprise!). Cool huh. Or not, since it would be nice to have the opportunity to get all mushy in front of whichever bad film is out this year with whichever bad choice of life partner you’ve found yourself with that year. Or you could just make friends with a penguin. Gross factor: 5/10. Saudi Arabia’s lack of human rights versus a besotted penguin…

Okay I’m off to make a list of shops that I want to raid when there’s a post-Valentine’s sale on. The mind goes initially to Thornton’s, but there are probably some great deals to be had on clothing, hair products and pink alcohol. And glittery jewellery. And Etsy fandom products. Who needs a significant other when you have the Internet, seriously. No wonder it’s a commercial giant: people don’t want Valentine’s mush, they want cheap booze and chocolate…

Titling This Took Three Times Longer than Writing It So Please Just Read and Put Us Both Out of Our Misery

I’ve not got the energy to devote another news post to The Media Versus Sherlock, but you guys really need to read this. 1) Everyone satirises politicians 2) Everyone satirises – or dramatises – the Murdoch empire (see Reichenbach for more tabloid fun!) 3) Journalists need to quit using popular culture as an excuse to spew their political ideas. It’s okay to just say things… 4) Sorry but Sherlock can’t even identify the Queen let alone a ballot box 5) “Take his drug of choice: cocaine. Hedonistic, vacuous, self-important and delusional. And still as beloved by the well-connected of today as it was by them back then.” Is it just me or do all those adjectives describe the press?

Ah, television.

I was revising the Transmissions page earlier and noticed that I’ve not mentioned MCR’s endeavours for a while. Ah, television. But, their greatest hits are available to pre-order next week! Let’s play guess the tracklist! I’d like:

Your turn…

The Eleven O’Clock News: TV Reviews Are Funny (and so is the fact that this took ten hours to make)

This is so not-at-six-o’clock because every time I went near anything Sherlock-based online I either tried to lift everything from Sherlockology for The Webways or sat watching Benedict Cumberbatch interviews.

Hardest name I’ve ever had to type.

Very interesting in interview.

Anyway, I had so much fun reading reviews that I decided to highlight them instead of just a round-up. Television reviews are a weird and wacky type of writing… the hyperbole and metaphors are like how I imagine Fifty Shades to be.

The Guardian

Guardian1

Guardian2

Den of Geek

I had never previously heard of Dan of Geek but I might go back to see if all the language is as… bright.

DanOfGeek1

DanOfGeek2

DanOfGeek3

The Daily Mail

Here we go.

Mail1

Mail2

Mail3

Mail4

You’re welcome. Now I’m completely excited for Sunday night (best man speech!) and dreading Monday (school! With a day spent  not homeworking but on a fansite or watching the shitty Percy Jackson film! Not you, pre-Charlie Logan. The screenplay. If actual Annabeth could see film Annabeth she’d launch into some moves with her knife. Ugh).

I would also like someone to give Mark Gatiss an award for publically complaining about Les Mis. Holy shit I thought I was one of maybe five people who can’t cope with the child death and utter lack of hope. Or not if you’re a theist/character, but whatever. Happy Friday.

The Ten O’Clock News: an Article About Some Articles About a Certain YouTube Video About… oh you get the picture my eyes have gone fuzzy.

I would have talked about Nelson Mandela if I hadn’t been planning this post all week – I might do one next week when the dust has settled a bit and I no longer want to cry when I watch the news.

Anyway.

You guys didn’t just think I’d let a prominent sportsperson come out on YouTube and not take the piss out of get angry at investigate the media’s response, did you?

Bit of back story: I first read the news on the BBC app on Monday morning and kept smiling stupidly whenever I thought of it, because the way the article worded it was all cute… then it hit social media and everyone else started chatting, then it was on the six o’clock news and I was simultaneously delighted and disgusted that someone getting a boyfriend is newsworthy, then I went online and found some good responses.

By ‘good’ I mean ‘contains lots of points for discussion’.

Tom Daley’s ‘brave’ announcement should not matter – but it does

Hole in one, BBC Sport. I knew that being queer in sport simply isn’t done, I guess because most sports are traditionally “masculine” and all that bullshit, but I had no idea that it was such a taboo. Apparently “3%” people are gay (my thinking is that a lot more are queer?), so 120 out of the 4,000 members of the Football Association are. Extrapolate the figures to something like the Olympics and that’s a shitload of people. The article reckons that there were “10 openly gay athletes out of 10,000 at the 2008 Games”, which says a lot about global views. Acceptance and rights have improved in recent years, especially on a local level, but there’s a lot of work to be done before it’s okay for people’s sexuality to be so irrelevant that the world stage – and the inter-state athletics associations – doesn’t care.

Diving puns: 1. I also read “humble tumbler” as some sort of Tumblr icon as a tumbleweed.

Inductive leap from announcement that a guy’s dating another guy to the guy’s being gay: automatic.

Tom Daley is the most significant British sportsman to come out

… ah, but only because he’s so cute. No really, Daily Telegraph, what is up with these assumptions? The “dramatic pause before the big reveal” demonstrating “that Daley is a member of the X Factor generation” might be there because he’d like half a second to contemplate and deal with the huge fucking way his life will change after saying his next sentence. I also take issue with the sweeping statement that I am of a generation defined by a talent(less) ITV show.

The bit about John Amaechi is interesting – what’s up with team sports being homophobic? Is it because in sports like American football, there’s a certain amount of touching involved and some people can’t take it? Don’t flatter yourselves, people.

Diving puns: 0.

Inductive leap from announcement that a guy’s dating another guy to the guy’s being gay: automatic.

While we’re on the subject of The Telegraph, I read this and was going to go on a “oh hey here’s another journalist twisting the story to bemoan their own coming out, this guy doesn’t even know what it’s like being a professional athlete, how tabloid-dramatic,” when the penny dropped that the writer, Gareth Thomas, is a gay man who used to play rugby for Wales. He’s mentioned in the BBC Sport article. Let that be a lesson in context!

We shouldn’t rush to define Tom Daley’s sexuality

I don’t tend to read The Guardian much because it seems quite pretentious quite a lot, especially in some columns (actually most columnists do my head in, but that’s for another day). But this article sums up my feeling about the whole media circus perfectly. A lot of broadcasters have struggled to use the right definition, in part probably through ignorance of the sexuality spectrum, and in part because absolutely nowhere in the video are the words “I’m [insert sexuality definition here].” I interpret “I’m with a guy but I fancy girls” as ‘queer’ – being ‘not straight’ and way easier to understand and spell than a lot of those acronyms floating around, but it looks like there still needs to be a lot of work done in regards to educating people about definitions?

Diving puns: 0.

Inductive leap from announcement that a guy’s dating another guy to the guy’s being gay: nonononono (to be said like in The Vicar of Dibley.)

I know Tom Daley is an admirable chap but I can’t help feeling a little manipulated

Have I ever mentioned that I don’t like the Daily Mail? Well, I found this article and decided a paragraph just… wasn’t enough.

'Mail' Commentary 1

'Mail' Commentary 2

  Let me know if I should prepare for a court case!