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About Trayvon Martin

(Reposted from: http://davidmogolov.com/mogolog/)

My apologies if I’m saying nothing new. This is a moment when it seems like saying nothing is worse than saying something repetitive. I don’t think I could maintain my self-respect if I didn’t speak up. I don’t think I could be content with complicity by silence. I know words aren’t action, but I’ve never known what I think until I’ve tried to write it. I’m just trying to tell you what I think.

In 35 years, I’ve never had to justify my presence on a street. When I’ve made eye contact with a police officer they’ve said hello, nodded, or ignored me. When I’ve been in a space that is ostensibly somebody else’s, they’ve never suggested they were afraid of me. Part of this, surely, is that I’m not an intimidating guy.  But a larger part of it, the part I don’t think about it, is that I’m a white man. I’m the person society is built for: I’m “normal.”

I first came to realize this the summer before my last year of college. I lived in a crappy apartment on a busy street in a moderately dingy neighborhood. I came and went as I pleased. I worked late hours sometimes, drank at parties late, stumbled in late. I treated my neighborhood like it was my neighborhood, and that was that.

One of my roommates was Hispanic. Alex had grown up in suburban Maryland. He treated the neighborhood just as I did.  If anything, he had more freedom of movement because he had a car and I didn’t. One night, we had a party, and a female friend of ours asked for a walk home and he took her. There’d been reports of sexual assaults, not the sort of thing Alex and I had to think of, but to be asked for a walk home was a no brainer: of course he escorted her home.

After seeing her home, he walked back. This was maybe four blocks away. On his way home he was stopped by the police, pressed roughly against a wall, frisked, accused, denigrated, and sent on his way. It was the first time in his life, he said. I write about this with a certain sheltered horror because I still haven’t had a first time and never will. But I knew Alex. I knew his harmlessness and goodness and the fact that he was just walking someone home to prevent  a crime or at least make someone feel safer. He was pressed against a wall like a criminal for being brownish. There is absolutely no other explanation.

My senior year of college, I took a one-time yearlong seminar offered in collaboration between the Departments of Philosophy and Economics at Boston University, with the Institute on Race and Social Division. For a year, we read intensively in ethics, history, economics, sociology, and theology. We read Immanuel Kant and David Hume and Adam Smith and John Rawls and Charles Tilly and Charles Johnson and Amartya Sen. We read papal encyclicals and magazine editorials and contemporary economic analyses. We got to talk with scholars like Cass Sunstein and Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates. We read libertarians and liberals and conservatives. I wrote papers on The Road to Serfdom  and The Racial Contract . We were not told what to believe. We argued. We argued endlessly.

I don’t write that paragraph to say “I KNOW THINGS ABOUT THIS.” I write it to say that at the end of all that reading all I know is that I don’t know very much and that I want to read more. I’ve kept reading. I’ve read Douglas Blackmon and Douglas Coupland and Douglas Rushkoff and I’ve tried to piece it all together. I’ve read Naomi Klein and Milton Friedman and The Economist. Each remakes me in a way. I’m reading  The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson right now and it’s remaking me again (this book is astounding, and gorgeously written).

For professional reasons I pay a lot of attention to the fate of higher education in America, and right now there’s intense pressure to measure a college experience by what it produces in terms of employment, but I can say, despite my professional success, that the major benefit of my college education was what it produced in terms of citizenship. I am a better observer and participant in our society as a result of what I learned in college, and I’m wary of an our impulse to make education a tool for commercial efficiency. We read much about the death of the humanities (well, people in the humanities do, while others read business journals, I suppose), and I wonder where the stories are of experiences like mine. My education through that single seminar introduced me to entire streams of thought I’d have never known, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for a degree that netted me $15,000 more per year. I know my world more clearly and I better know the scope of my ignorance, and that is worth a tremendous amount more than what I’ve had gained with a Quickbooks course (note to self: take a Quickbooks course).

Today on my way home, I heard a legal expert on the radio saying that the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case was not about race. George Zimmerman, he said, is of mixed race. George Zimmerman’s mother is Hispanic. George Zimmerman’s grandmother was African. This is what the expert said. He said this as if George Zimmerman’s particular racial beliefs are what have troubled people. He said this as if he didn’t understand that what’s really at stake here is something far larger than George Zimmerman. He said this as if, 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, almost 50 years after the Voting Rights Act, and 5 years after the election of an African American President, this trial didn’t suggest that our laws continue to protect white life from black life.

I don’t dispute the courtroom outcome: based on the law and our legal standards, there is reasonable doubt. George Zimmerman may have acted in self defense, narrowly defined.

But if the defense’s argument is true, that he acted in self defense, he was only in danger because of a situation he created, based on his assumptions about a harmless teenager. I have yet to hear a credible argument that the dispute that led to Trayvon Martin’s death wasn’t based wholly, and I mean 100%, on his being a black man. Not even a man. Not legally. If he were white, that legal distinction would matter. A 17 year old white victim is a child, after all, his whole life ahead of him. But Trayvon Martin, 17, was suspicious.

I’m not saying anything new. I know I’m not.

There are people who read this (and let’s be real, they probably said “TL;DR” and moved on) and say, “This is dumb liberal guilt.” And you know what? They’re right, to some extent. I feel guilty. I feel guilty for being able to do everything that Trayvon Martin couldn’t and never will be able to. I feel a bit of survivor’s guilt because this world is sculpted and maintained to protect me, to protect me from him. So yes, it’s liberal guilt. But it’s not dumb. I feel this guilt because I’ve done the work to know that I should.

What do you do with guilt?  What do you do when you know the house is dealing you a winning hand, even if it’s only 51% of the time? What do you do about the fact that you live in the suburbs in relative safety from the horror of the daily existence of the violence that defines the life of a huge swath of the population of the most prosperous, scientifically and medically advanced society that has ever existed on this planet? What do you do about the fact that you could easily just shut up and go about your business and never have to think about any of this because you personally have never shot a black boy?

What do you do with the knowledge that things are getting worse, not better, but in ways that hardly impact you at all?

What do you do with the knowledge that parents in Florida, about to send a son off to college and a lifetime of opportunity are instead mourning his murder, when your own kids are safe in bed upstairs and will never in their lives face a neighborhood watch that demands to know why they are who they are where they are?

What do you do?

That last question isn’t rhetorical. Despite my reading and my relative certainty about what’s wrong, I haven’t the slightest notion of what a person is to do right now. I’ve seen many well-intended but vague statements about working for change and examining oneself, and while I appreciate them, they seem short of the mark.

Ultimately, a young black man was lynched in the 21st Century in the United States of America. If you don’t believe that’s the fact, I assure you it’s at the very least the perception. Our long movement as a country away from the original sin of slavery is real but it is not over. We have durable and pernicious inequality in this country, and the response to that ought to be more than to examine oneself.

But I don’t know what it is. Perhaps my reading is incomplete. I want to do something more than feel guilt. I want to do more than wish my black friends’ children the best. But I’m at a loss right now. I know what I believe, but I can’t see the path forward.

I hope somebody out there has a good suggestion, and I hope it’s bigger than a response to George Zimmerman.

This blog has moved to a new home: davidmogolov.com

Hello!

I’ve moved the Mogolog. Though I love WordPress, and enjoy good traffic here, I’ve decided to consolidate my two sites into one at: http://www.davidmogolov.com. The blog itself is now at http://www.davidmogolov.com/mogolog. I hope you’ll come over there and bookmark it or subscribe to the RSS feed.

David

 

Boston

I was just remarking to Lisa the other day that I’ve been in Boston nearly half of my life. Given how many times we moved growing up, Boston is the place I’ve lived longest, by far. Because of all that moving, I never really developed a sense of place, a sense of home. My home was where my family was, but since I left Kansas for college, my family has slowly broken away from there, too, so that we are scattered across the country: Kansas, Nevada, Colorado. The rest are in Iowa. South Dakota. Virginia. Florida. I have ties to all of these places, but none of them are home.

At 17, I decided to move to Boston. I’d enrolled at Boston University, sight unseen (there’s a story of how this happened, but it’s another post). I flew out for orientation after high school ended. Me and my friend Kim. Our first night in town, we walked away from the campus. She wanted to go to a store called Newbury Comics. We got a little lost. Not hugely lost, but a little. We spent some time at Nuggets. Stared into Deli Haus. Got a little intimidated by Mass Ave. Found Newbury Comics. Worked our way back, but took the wrong fork at Kenmore Square and walked toward Brookline, up Beacon. Figured out where Fenway Park is. It was fine. We were exploring.

We were, unbeknownst to me, crossing and recrossing the route of the Boston Marathon. We were walking streets that have since become as familiar as anything I’ll ever know. As a rootless guy, I didn’t have any idea I was setting down roots. Weak little roots, slightly scared little roots, but roots. Today, I have been in Boston nearly 17 years. All of my adult experience is as a quasi-Bostonian. I went to school here. I got my first job here. Got laid off from that job here. Fell in love. Gave directions. Volunteered (not enough). Made friends. Got lost. Got drunk. Watched marathons. Got into theater. Got into comedy. Got married. Got a house. Got kids. Found a life for myself. I’ve gotten an awful lot. All of it in Boston, from Boston.

Today, I see terrible photos of the intersection where I had my first job: Boylston and Exeter. My desk was at a window, looking across at the Lenox Hotel. I see terrible photos of the store I bought shoes at just over a month ago, shoes to train for a marathon. I see terrible photos of Copley Square, where I sat with my grandmother two days before my wedding. I see terrible photos of runners held back at the underpass on Commonwealth Avenue, just before their excited turn onto Hereford, the last turn before the finishing sprint down Boylston Street. I see terrible photos of a bar where I watched with a packed room as Pedro Martinez threw 17 strikeouts and gave up one hit. I see railings at restaurants I know, familiar street signs, the Copley T sign. And it’s all terrible, these photos of these places I know.

I’ve long said that you can’t become a Bostonian, that you can become a Californian, or a Texan, or a New Yorker, or almost anything else, but that you can’t become a Bostonian or a Frenchman. Today I’m not so sure. I don’t know what it’s like to really have a hometown, to feel that pride and that pull, but today, looking at those photos, I wonder if I’ve been wrong. Maybe you can become a Bostonian. I didn’t think I had a place, but I do. My place is Boston.

And today, I learned that one of the critically injured is a Boston University student. Just some kid who decided to come to school in Boston, standing on the street, excited to be a part of something absolutely good, absolutely positive, in a great city on a beautiful day. And that place, for that student, forever, is the place where the bomb went off. And it breaks my heart, because to me, that’s not what that place is. That’s the place where I bought my marathon shoes. Where I worked with three people who are friends to this day. Where I talked with my grandmother about her mother. Where I did the things you do in your hometown.

It’s also the place where thousands upon thousands of people have realized, on crossing the finish line, that they’re capable of something more than they ever thought, and a place where they can look back 26.2 miles and see an unceasing corridor of people supporting them. Boston has a reputation for coldness, but there’s no coldness on Marathon Day. There’s no coldness in Copley Square.

It’s a terrible thing that’s happened to that place, and I don’t want it to have a name like Ground Zero. It’s not that. It’s Copley Square, and it’s not a place defined by bomb blasts. It’s a place where people have amazing and mundane lives.

My heart and my support goes out to those who were hurt or love those who were hurt. I’ve gotten so much from Boston. I’d love to give something back. I think a lot of people will be looking for a way to do just that. Let’s look for that in the days to come.

Good night, friends.

Runner down!

It was a lovely afternoon in the Boston area, and I was excited to get out and run. It was my long run for the week, and I was killing it. I felt great.

At the halfway point, 3.5 miles from my house, my running app announced the mileage, and though I felt I could have run another mile out, I dutifully turned around, and feeling good, made my way to the intersection without changing my pace, looked both ways for oncoming traffic, and stepped out to cross and head home.

Crunch.

I was watching for danger from cars on the road, not the road itself. I had unknowingly come down right on the edge of a pothole, the inner side of my left sole caught just a wisp of concrete–maybe the width of a julienned carrot–but that was enough to ensure than I didn’t thunk fully into the pothole, but instead twisted my foot over entirely.

I knew it was hurt, but I was in the road, so I trotted across. Because I trotted across, I thought, “maybe it’s not so bad,” so I jogged a pained little burst to see how it took weight. It didn’t take weight well. So I gingerly walked up the hill towards the town center, putting my weight on the inside and back of my foot, where the pain wasn’t so severe. That worked for awhile, maybe 200 feet. Then I stopped to lean on a parking meter. At that point, a concerned middle aged couple stopped, and the man asked if I was OK.

“You know, I think I just broke my foot.” As I said this, it was news to me, but I was pretty certain it was true.

“You broke your foot?”

“Yeah, in a, in a pothole back there. By the, uh… (I couldn’t remember the word “library”)…” I waved back down the hill.

“What do you need?”

“I need to get to Natick Center, I guess.”

“Could you call a cab?”

“Yeah, I could do that. I just need to…”

They suggested the bench in front of the ice cream shop. I plopped down on the bench and called my wife. I don’t call her while I’m out running, so she answered with, “Are you OK?”

“Yeah, but, uh, I think I broke my foot.” We talked logistics. Our kids were both asleep. If I’d lost the foot, maybe waking the children would be an OK move. But a possible break? No no no. I’d call a cab, I’d come home, I’d elevate and ice it, and we’d reassess.

I called three cab companies. The first two had no cabs. The third would send one in 15 minutes. So for fifteen minutes, I sat on the bench, wearing one shoe, looking at my surely broken foot in wonder. Or, I’d have been content to pass the time this way. There was a knocking on the window behind me. It was the woman from the couple. She mimed drinking. I smiled, thanked her, held up my water bottle. I played with my phone for a moment.

Two young women approached me with clipboards. “We’re students at Boston University doing market research. Do you have 3 minutes to answer some questions for us?” I looked at my foot. It could bear this weight. I said yes. One student asked my impression of a local boutique hotel, how frequently I stay in hotels in my own city (this is a question that gets asked, apparently), and what I thought of a proposed package deal at said romantic local boutique hotel. It sounded like a great deal for people who stay in hotels in their own city.

Midway through the interview, the concerned woman from inside brought me a bag of ice, interrupting the interview to say, “in case it’s not broken, ice might help a lot.” This was very kind of her, and I put the ice on my foot. The bag was paper, and immediately began to deteriorate. So I was holding some rapidly shredding paper and a growing pile of ice cubes was pouring from the used-to-be bag into my hands. Even though it was just ice, it didn’t seem right to drop it on the sidewalk, as that could cause somebody else to have a traumatic foot experience. So I stood up and hobbled around aimlessly in the small area around the bench trying to find a place to dispose of the mess. There was nowhere. The ice cream shop had no outside trashcan, just a watering bowl for passing dogs. I thought of putting the ice in the bowl, but I wasn’t sure. The woman returned then, carrying lots of paper napkins. They were lining her outstretched arms. Largely through gesture, she explained that I should dump the ice into her arms, which I awkwardly did. I then stumbled back to the bench and continued answering questions about boutique hotels I could stay in if I didn’t have a home in this city. The market researchers continued admirably in the face of my clear physical suffering.

They moved on, and a young couple emerged from the ice cream shop. The sat beside me on the bench, and as I sent a text message to my wife and checked the time repeatedly, they talked. He was impressing her with tales of his outdoor adventures in Alaska. They seemed very nice, and I hope it was a pleasant first or second date. He had a lot to say about one friend’s prowess with an ice pick. She said she’d love to go to Fairbanks, and he said he knew a guy in Fairbanks who’d been on reality TV three times.

The taxi arrived. The driver saw me waving, and he made no response. He continued driving. He drove a block, and then pulled over at the next intersection. So I stood up and walked.

The time I’d sat had done nothing good at all for my foot. Though I’d walked up a hill to get here, now it was agony to walk a block on flat ground. I walked with my leg sideways, putting all of my weight awkwardly on the inside of that foot, dragging the leg along until I got to the car. The driver didn’t apologize for passing me by, but did explain that it wasn’t legal to pull over on this road where I was because technically it’s a state highway. OK, that’s plausible. He drove me home, giving me lots of medical advice along the way. Courteously, he revealed that he was not a doctor, which was a relief to me.

At home, I crawled up the front stairs, plopped down on the couch, put my foot up, and applied ice. We discussed scenarios for getting an x-ray. Taking a baby to the emergency room seemed inadvisable. Having them drop me off would freak out my three-year-old daughter. I could call another cab, but then there’d need to be a third, and this was getting expensive. “Why don’t I drive myself?” I suggested. It was my left foot that was the problem, and our car is an automatic. I’d be fine!

I hobbled to the car, drove myself to the hospital, and found the parking lot nearest the emergency room. Putting as little weight as possible on the foot, I made my way, but a short ways along, I realized it was hurting too bad to keep on like this.

So I began hopping on one foot down the hill from the parking lot to the hospital. This was working! I was pain free! Not just pain free, but building up  momentum!

Uh oh. How was I going to stop? The other foot would have to be my brake. Otherwise, I risked just pitching forward onto my face. Realizing I was looking at either a  faceplant or an excruciating collision of broken foot and pavement, I veered toward the mulch. And sure enough, my central nervous system, sensing a fall coming, threw that bad foot out to stop the fall. The softer ground was a blessing, but oh, holy… I regained my footing and pressed onward, now on flat ground, so I began hopping again. A nurse emerged from the building. Her shift was over, but as she approached, she said, “Do you need a wheelchair?”

The correct answer was “yes” but my answer was “I’ve made it this far by pogoing, I think I’ll just keep going.”

“They’re not busy  in there at all. They could bring one out.”

I didn’t want to make her go back in. She was off shift. I declined, and pogoed my way into the emergency room. The staff of the emergency admissions desk was  amused by the style of my arrival.  I accepted their offer of a wheelchair. They asked me what happened, and I told them. “I hope it’s a sprain,” I said. “But I guess I should find out if, I don’t know, I broke my fifth metatarsal.” I’d been Googling while on the couch.

So, here’s the thing:

I broke my fifth metatarsal.

my broken foot

When I woke up, this photo would have been more symmetric.

I probably broke it in the pothole. Maybe on the hill up to the ice cream shop. Maybe running around the entrance of the shop with a bag of ice. Possibly chasing a cab. Potentially while pogoing through an emergency room parking lot. But really, almost certainly in that pothole. I felt it happen. I knew.

So I have a splint and crutches, and will be calling an orthopedist first thing tomorrow.  My house is full of steep steps and small child-laid booby traps. I really hope the crutches are just a short-term thing.

What does it mean for my training? Well, I won’t be running the May half marathon I signed up for. I still fully intend to run the marathon for TC in January. It will take at least 4-6 weeks to heal, but the orthopedist is going to call the shots there, and I haven’t met him yet. There’s no telling how my foot will heal, or at what pace.

What’s really depressing is that by breaking my foot, I’ve made my wife’s life extremely difficult: she’s gone from having a partner in raising two kids to having three kids. I’m useless. Maybe if I can get a walking cast, I can be helpful, but on crutches, and with agonizing pain when I put my foot down, I’m, at least on day one, utterly useless. I can’t soothe the baby to sleep: I can’t carry our daughter. I can’t pick up the baby, walk him across the room, and sit down to feed him. I can’t move with a glass of water. I can’t get down to the basement for laundry. I can’t carry dishes with my hands on crutches. My full list of accomplishments: I was able to remove something from the oven.

God of Walking Casts, smile upon me. Let me walk. Please.

That run? It was going really well. I was killing it.

Mission Accomplished

Last month, I posted a series about my goals for 2013. One was to retire my show, Dumber Faster, and make it available for download to those who contribute to Doctors Without Borders. This can now be moved from the “aspiration” to the “done deal” column.

You can download the final performance of Dumber Faster here, for a $5 (or more!) contribution to Doctors Without Borders. You also get the performances of guests Josh Gondelman and Veronica Ades.

The show was a lot of fun. Josh and Veronica are great, my hosting was a trainwreck, and Dumber Faster itself, well, I’ll leave that to others to decide.

So, between the sample chapter posted Monday, this, and my current ability to run six miles without pain, I think I’m making good progress towards the goals I set for the year. Onward!

 

Sample chapter of my book

Friends! Remember that parenting book I was writing? The funny one? Well, I wasn’t lying. I’ve written the introduction and nearly three chapters of it, and today, I’m posting the first revised chapter. It’s Chapter Four, Your Baby’s First Night at Home: The Worst Thing That’s Ever Happened To You (Yet)” (PDF).

Why am I posting it early and free? A couple reasons:

*  I still haven’t decided my ultimate aim for the book, but I’d love some advice.  This chapter is absolutely representative of the tone I’m aiming for elsewhere. I’d love more feedback.

*  I’m hoping that if you like it, you’ll share it. The more people who see it, the better my options for publishing it, publishing portions of it in appropriate places, and finding readers for it once it’s available in full.

Is this the unalterable, final version? No, but it’s reader-ready. If writing this book is like writing a show, I’ll later realize that I want to go back to set up a joke or drop in an explanation. I may want to add illustrations that early draft readers suggested. Lastly, I have great respect for the skills of a talented editor. Should I end up working with one, I have no doubt we’ll be tinkering on scales large and small.

So, with that, get to it.

READ: Your Baby’s First Night at Home (PDF)

UPDATE: Want to know more about the book or get in touch? Contact me here!

Reluctantly embracing Doctor Who

I guess this post is an apology to my friends who like Doctor Who. For years, I’ve refused to watch the showNot neglected to watch it, but refused. My refusal can be explained as follows:

1) Pure contrarianism. Demographically, I should be watching Doctor Who. Even stupid data analysts could deduce enough patterns in my behavior to try to sell me on Doctor Who. It irks me, being so predictable.

2) There’s just a whole lot of episodes, and that’s a time commitment. I didn’t want to get attached to something like that.

3) Camp just isn’t my thing. I’ve got nothing against campiness or those who love it, but typically when something is described as “campy” that’s a pretty good indicator that I’m going to endure rather than enjoy it. Rightly or wrongly (I now think wrongly), Doctor Who carries with it the reek of extreme camp. And that camp is amplified by the fact that…

4) (This says more about me than about Doctor Who fans, but) Doctor Who fans are among the most annoying of internet subcultures. Why does every goddamn object in your life have to be shaped like a TARDIS? Oh good, you worked a Dalek into today’s meme. I feel like crabby old man yelling “Get your TARDIS off my lawn!” but the relentlessness of Doctor Who fans is just overly cutesy and enormously predictable. If I watched, and succumbed, would I be drawn into this? I shudder.

But…

but but but…

The thing is, my wife really did want to watch it, and I like a stable marriage more than I like maintaining strong opinions rooted in ignorance. So we started watching it. And…. oh god.

It’s happened.

15 episodes in, I’m a fucking Doctor Who fan. Damn it. Life is so unfair.

Now that I’m through the part of my Doctor Who post where I insult and alienate all the other Doctor Who fans, here’s the part where I get positive. Here’s what’s great about the show that everybody in the world except for me already knew:

The show is tremendously well-written and (more surprisingly) well-acted. Set aside The Doctor and Rose, who are both well-played, because that’s not really a surprise. In the first episode of the current series, we meet two characters who I never expected to see again, Jackie and Mickey. Mickey in particular seemed one-dimensional, and when he was turned to plastic in that first episode, it seemed fitting. I was surprised by the extent to which these characters were kept in the show in a meaningful way and the complexity that was introduced into their roles. Both actors are quite good, but poor de-plasticized, Earthbound Mickey in particular is played so well that his occasional appearances ground a show about everywhere firmly in the here-and-now (well, firmly in last-decade London). Are some of the supporting characters occasionally played a bit over-the-top or under-the-bottom? Sure. But nobody gives Joss Whedon a hard time for a Buffy demon played with a little too much gusto.

The writing is good. I mean, really very good. The things that are funny were meant to be funny, and vice versa. The dialogue is well-crafted and the plots rarely play out predictably. Coincidence drives a lot of the problems, but rarely the solutions. Where deus ex machina comes, it’s usually instrumental, rather than essential. Only one crisis, so far, has been solved by a mother’s love, but that one also more essentially relied on nano-particles that were themselves the cause of the crisis. The writers also inspire confidence on a macro level that it’s hard to feel with a show like Lost, where you’re pretty sure the big mysteries will never be solved. The resolution of Season One involved the revelation of a red herring that I realize now was easy to write backward into the whole season, but which in the moment was brilliant (and was paired with a Jean Grey/Phoenix-level event I loved)  The writers make versatile use of everything at their disposal, stringing fun connections everywhere and drawing incidental characters very fully.

Doctor Who, a show about a time traveling alien, tells awfully good stories about humans. Part of it is what I just wrote about. Now, I’m only 15 episodes in, and I know the show has approximately 70 billion episodes, but I assume this sample of 15 is representative of what’s to come in one regard: when the Doctor travels with somebody, the show treats that person, their life, and their world as coequal to the Doctor’s world. When Rose and the Doctor travel together, the story is about both of them, and because the companion has deeper ties to a real community than the Doctor, much of the real drama emerges from the changes in the companion’s life. So the first season could be said to be as much about Rose as about anything else. The Doctor himself says very clearly and convincingly–through both words and actions–that ordinary lives are more interesting to him than those of the powerful. The best science fiction is always this way, but this show does it particularly well because…

The show has a fascinating and complex ethical perspectiveDoctor Who repeatedly calls into question the Doctor’s authority and the morality of his actions. Though we’re watching a character with an ethical code honed over thousands of years of exposure to all the cultures of the universe, we see him struggle. He has godlike capabilities, and he’s not shy about using them. And repeatedly, the unintended results of his actions come back to haunt him. He’s all-powerful, but he can’t catch a break (until, inevitably, he does). He’s an ethical perpetrator of theft, sabotage, and genocide. He’s got rigid rules of conduct, but will occasionally give a horrible monster a second chance. This would all be sort of “eh, and?” except that he’s constantly balancing his interests and abilities against the comparatively pedestrian interests of the people around him, and he frequently makes sacrifices and compromises for them. There’s a constant rebalancing of priorities, where Rose’s desire to see her father, for example, is treated with the same level of importance as hearing the final words of the Face of Boe, a powerful alien who is the last of his species. The constant pitting of the personal against the public, the tiny against the huge, gives the show added depth.

Doctor Who isn’t particularly campy. The current series’s fidelity to some old traditions, like maintaining the appearance and voices of the Daleks, gives a non-viewer the impression they’ve deliberately chosen camp as a style, and those elements are the things that get most amplified through social media. It’s easy to think the show is just goofball 60s London gags and Daleks squawking, but it’s not at all. The show rarely goes the camp route.

So, yeah. Here I am. A Doctor Who fan. And Netflix has another 71 episodes that I have to watch and enjoy. Damn it. Life’s too short to like things.

On Raising a Male Feminist

I’ve posted before about our goal of raising a daughter who rejects our culture’s marginalization of women. We want her to see herself as capable and equal and independent. I haven’t figured out how to do that, exactly, but keeping the goal in the forefront of my mind keeps me aware of my language and the messages she’s getting from her environment, and that awareness helps me make better decisions.

Well, now we have a son, too. He’s three months old. He’s great: a smiling, amiable, dimpled and unsleeping bag of semisolids. At this point, it’s nearly impossible to mold him into a misogynist. Heck, I’m not sure he knows the difference between me and the cat. Forget men and women.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned from my daughter, it’s that kids are QUICK learners. Every single day my daughter says something that reveals not just what she’s been actively taught, but what she’s been passively taught: what she intuited from our behaviors, our preferences, and our silences. From my haphazard approach to organization, she’s already learned an anti-orderliness we need to work on together. From my endless praising of “funny,” it’s become one of her cardinal virtues. Our focus on apologies taught her that the crime is not the crime: failing to apologize is the crime. Oh, that bud is getting nipped.

I’ve no reason to think my son will be any different. He is already watching everything. In a few months, he’ll be forming ideas, and in another year, beginning to express them. And so, surprise, I find myself thinking about how we can raise him to natively reject the marginalization of women. I want to make sure he has no rights or privileges that his sister does not, and to be certain he doesn’t expect them. I think about how we can raise not a gentleman, opening doors for charmed thankful ladies, but a good man making sure doors aren’t shut on deserving, equal women.

Parents with good intentions can easily raise a polite but chauvinistic man. The world doesn’t need more of those, but it’s what most of us are, and it’s what the media helps to manufacture. The American conception of a successful man is of an athletic or corporate conqueror, whose prizes are wealth and blondes. The American conception of a successful woman is the gorgeous blonde princess who captures the quarterback and has it all. Men are supposed to beat men and win women, and women are supposed to please the best men. We don’t say these things, but they’re everywhere. We teach misogyny implicitly, not explicitly.

We want to raise a son who can recognize this and act and speak against it. Not because women need him to in order to see themselves as equal, but because for society to normalize as equal, change has to happen from both sides. My daughter doesn’t need her brother to be a feminist in order for her to recognize her equality, but she needs her brother to help change male behavior. It shouldn’t take courage for a man to speak up against the sexist behavior of his friends, but very few men do or would. Despite our knowing what’s right, we live in a culture where what’s right isn’t normal, and it does take some courage to act against that. We still live in a culture of men as conquerors and women as prizes. For well-intentioned men to make a difference, they have to overcome their advantages. A major advantage men have is that we can do nothing and pay no consequence.

I haven’t thought this all through yet, but I’m beginning to think that fathers have to model a new way for their sons. It’s not enough for a boy to have strong women to learn from: he should see men pushing against the culture, the culture in which the Violence Against Women Act was not only endangered, but in which a Violence Against Women Act is necessary. It’s not enough to be a man that disagrees with the norm: quietly disagreeing doesn’t change anything. Quietly disagreeing reinforces the notion that nothing’s amiss, that the culture isn’t broken. Parenting a better generation requires better than that.

Help Offered

(This is the final post, but for a wrap-up, in a series describing some big plans for 2013.)

At the last minute, I’m moving the end of this post to the beginning. To read the rationale, scroll down. I didn’t want to bury the lede.

If you want 8-10 hours of my help with a creative project, I’m available.

For each remaining month of 2013, I am asking someone to ask me for my help. A website? A show? A video? A book? Your Hunger Games puppet opera? I want to help you. And I want to help you for at least 8 hours.

I’m not joking. If I know you already (sorry, complete strangers, friends get first pick), email, call, message, comment, or tweet. Get in touch. Claim a month. Here’s what I promise you: a minimum of 8 hours of my attention and participation in making your idea real.

Is there an element of hubris to this, to assume anybody wants my help? Sure. But nonetheless, I’m offering. I’m actually not offering, I’m asking. Put me in, coach.

OK. Now back to the beginning. Why am I doing this?

One of the tradeoffs if you want to be part of the life of your small children is that you don’t get out much. Some people are better at getting out into the world than others. Admittedly, I was a homebody before I had kids, but these days, I’m feeling a little Salingerean. I’m sure the frequency of my Facebook activity annoys some folks, but to them I say, “Shut it. My only connections to most of my friends are digital right now.” Now, as I said, being a bit of a recluse anyway, this isn’t meant as a complaint, just a depiction if reality.

There is a consequence, though: my disappearance from the physical world of the creative people around me has diminished the opportunity to do fun things with them. Not doing sketch comedy, not working on one-off shows with others, not doing stand-up, not running into people in the lobby, all of these nots, they add up to what you’d expect: not + not + not + not = not much. And my absence also reinforces an idea that I’m not available. It’s so bad that I recently learned that several people thought I’d moved to New York. Still here! Still available!

I don’t think it’ll come as much of a surprise when I tell you that much of the inspiration to do all of these things I’ve been blogging about comes from reflecting on the passing of TC Cheever.  I mean, life is precious, and the reason TC could honestly say he had no regrets was that he didn’t squander his days on pettiness. He spent his days open to his friends and family, saying “yes” and “how can I help?” His friend Steve, at the memorial service, encouraged everybody to be more like TC. I will never do it as gracefully or as naturally as TC did, but if I make a commitment to say “yes” more, and to invite the people in my life back into my life, I think that’s a legitimate response to Steve’s request.

I can’t offer you more than what I’ve got, but I can write. I can edit. I can collaborate. I can act a little. I can brainstorm. I know a thing or two about the web and have some actual, professional marketing, communication and research skills. I’ve edited books and punched up scripts and hollowed out mannequin horse hooves in the pursuit of helping make ideas real. I’m willing to do any of that, or to stretch my skills.

This isn’t a Help Wanted sign. It’s a Help Offered sign. All I ask in return is that the next time a friend tells you about a great idea, help them. Remove an obstacle for them or make a contribution. We all need help. I’m going to need help with every goal I have this year. I can’t ask for that without also offering.

Pick a month. You’ve got at least 8 hours of my time.

America’s Premiere Storyteller!

Guys, take a minute to look at this site:

http://www.glennbeck.com/maninthemoon/

Welcome back! Take two and half minutes, if you didn’t already, to watch this video:

I didn’t do that to you because I hate you. Really! I did that out of love.

Let’s talk about Gold Seating. It costs $1,250. Now, you might be thinking, “David, $1,250 is a lot!” Well, yes, it is a lot. But for that soon-to-be-obviously-paltry sum, you get:

  • An invitation for one to an ultra-exclusive, up-close-and-personal Saturday morning breakfast and Meet & Greet with Glenn Beck himself.
  • Best seats in the house…you’ll have the best views of the show in the entire house!
  • A pre-show Saturday night BBQ at the Venue! Get to know your fellow VIPs and gear up for the night with delicious food and refreshments…on us! It’ll be the perfect beginning of a night to remember.
  • Entry to a Friday, July 5th Glenn unplugged; an intimate session in which Glenn will talk about things he would never talk about on air.
  • Access for one to the Thursday, July 4th rehearsal for Man In The Moon. You’ll be up close and personal to see how this landmark event is coming together…an exclusive sneak peek!
  • One ticket to the Friday, July 5th FreedomWorks event.
  • One Man In The Moon poster, beautifully designed and signed by Glenn Beck himself—a true collectors item!
  • One collectible laminated event badge to show everyone your VIP status.
  • One VIP Parking Pass—a.k.a. AWESOME PARKING– that insures you get in and get out of the event quickly and conveniently.

I think it’s worth it for the laminated event badge alone. But getting out quickly? That’s unbeatable. Glenn UNPLUGGED, talking about things he would never talk about on air? Consider that a bargain $1,250 to breach the time-space continuum, because that event isn’t in Utah, it’s in Toontown. And you get all of that before you’ve even embraced the opportunity to attend a ¡FreedomWorks! event where you’ll get to contribute even more money to Glenn Beck! That’s $1,250 on steroids!

But let’s set that aside. Maybe you don’t have $1,250 for Gold Access, or even $700 for Silver Access. You’ve got $350 for Bronze, of course. What? OK. Reserved and Lawn seating are available for plebs in the $35-$70 range, and as America’s PREMIERE STORYTELLER, Glenn Beck has a show and a tale for all Americans of all socioeconomic backgrounds, paranoia levels and susceptibilities to hornswoggling. You can buy a ticket, plop yourself down on that most American of all lawns, and find out Glenn Beck’s answer to the self-administered question “If I were the man in the moon, what would I think about where we were, and where we were headed?” Oh, patriots, you’ve got only five months to turn that one over in your freedom-lovin’ skulls, and I promise you, Glenn Beck’s gonna bring a surprise that’ll make all that time seem poorly spent.

Examine that question: If I were the man in the moon, what would I think about where we were, and where we were headed?

Don’t protest the pronouns. America’s Premiere Storyteller isn’t going to be ensnared in your English trap. His “I” doesn’t have to be part of his “we” — it’s a speculative question, bozo. Let’s focus on substance. Here, we have a bona fide genius in multiple fields of human greatness posing a wholly new Great Question. He posits that there is a man not on, but in the moon, and that this man has thoughts about humankind, thoughts that we should ponder, advice that we should heed, wisdom that we would be foolish to ignore.

Though we do not know the full tale that Beck — our Voltron of Proust, Twain, Tolstoy, Poe, and Dickens — will spin, what flaming sword of narrative truth he will raise aloft to light not only the moon, but the dark places in our hearts, he gives us tantalizing clues. We learn that this man in the moon is angry, angry about mankind’s choices. We learn that the man in the moon is a partner in a shadowy wonder organization called American Dream Labs, and that he possesses at least one MakerBot, with which our moon overlord will manufacture magnificent masked puppets to show us the true meaning of the Constitution.

Certainly, patriots and lovers of well-spun narrative, you are hesitant to put your money down without some confidence in the visual quality of this spectacle that our Story Laureate is proposing. At 1:05, he soothes your doubts:

If I were to describe the visuals…Classic. Edgy. Unseen Before. Overwhelming…. MONSTROUS.

Oh god. As soon as I change my pants, I’m buying six Gold passes. I love NOTHING more than I love classically edgy unprecedented monstrous visuals. And to have those overwhelm me while telling the history of America? I finally know what I was put on this Earth for. To look at the moon. This moon. Glenn Beck’s Moon.

Can I get a personal loan for this? It seems like the self-improvement aspect of this will raise my earning potential substantially.

Don’t act so quickly! There’s more! Beck subjects himself to another tough question:

Describe the American Dream Labs in one sentence? A place to break through on technology, storytelling, ideas, and inspiration.

Oh. Oh God. I’m so glad he didn’t use the word “innovation” in that sentence, because the excitement might’ve killed me before I made it to Utah. This man is going to deliver us to a brighter, moon-rage inspired technological future. We’ve all thought about the shortcomings in technology, storytelling, ideas, and inspiration. But do we DO ANYTHING about any of it? NO! Glenn Beck, though, he’s not an idler. Not a dawdler. He’s a dreamer, a man with a connection to moon wisdom. He built a lab. They’re going to break through. And this has something to do with a show in Utah about which, in his next breath he tells us:

This whole performance is going to be based on a pop-up book.

My mind ain’t nothin’ but the dust of an old moon rock, baby. I’m in. I’m tailgatin’. I’ll have my quick exit privileges, but uh-uh, I ain’t drivin’ away after this. The high I’ll be riding after this event will make driving unsafe. I’m going to be living in a pop-up book world for at least three lunar cycles, and if anybody has a problem with that, they better call the Utah park police.

America’s Premiere Storyteller has finally stepped back into the limelight. Only this time… it’s the moonlight.

Get your payday loans, America: with the wisdom headed your way, no interest rate is too high.

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