How To Watch The Midterms: A Guide

Tips for a cozy night in watching the results.

 

Tomorrow’s a pretty big deal here in the US. If you’ve already voted, YOU’RE AWESOME THANK YOU. If not, the first thing you have to do tomorrow is get out there and vote. After that, it’s time for damage control. Here’s our guide to watching the results tomorrow.

Step 1: Check how much whiskey you have. Do you have whiskey? What about gin? You might need some gin. Did you know pot is legal in Massachusetts now? Awesome. Things to know. Get some cocktail sausages for snacking later, maybe some candles. Candlelight is pretty relaxing, right? You got this.

Step 2: Check what time it is. Is it 6pm Eastern? That’s when polls start to close. They don’t close in Alaska until 1am Eastern, so don’t think you’re going to know how this all goes by the end of the day. You won’t. Manage your expectations. Be cool.

Step 3: Let me guess: it’s only 2 in the afternoon. Have you considered buying a pizza? Go buy a pizza. Treat yourself. Have some friends over. They’re probably feeling the same way you are. A little on edge, a little anxious. Get together. Togetherness is a good thing.

Step 4: Do you like board games? I love board games. If you don’t have any board games, you’ve still got time. Go buy a board game. What you’re looking for is something that takes at least an hour or two and that’s complicated enough that you’ll want to play it a couple of times to really get it right. I like Scythe and Brass. Elle suggests Dominion, Dixit, and Race For the Galaxy if you’re looking for escapism. Pandemic or Dead of Winter if you just want to feel aware that you’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. That’ll kill some time. Yeah.

Step 5: Don’t check the exit polls. Don’t turn on the TV. Don’t do it. Don’t. I see you thinking about it. Leave your computer closed. Unplug the router. Accidentally drop yours and all your friends phones into a box than can only be opened once every 24 hours. Failing that, remember the whiskey? You can do this.

Step 6: Check the time again. Oh god it’s only 5? The first polls don’t even close for an hour. Are you trapped in a fold in spacetime? Is it Groundhog Day? Have you done this before? How much whiskey is left? Unplug all the clocks in the apartment.

Step 7: Enlist your friends in the fun activity of lining a room with tin foil. You knew there was a reason you bought sixty-seven rolls of it when you went out shopping last week, didn’t you? Be Prepared. That’s the Boy Scout Way. You can get through this. In addition to killing a little more time, it’ll keep the y-rays out of your room and make it way easier to keep free of New World Order mind control techniques. Remember to stretch.

Step 8: Check your friends’ watches. Realize that it’s 2018 and nobody even wears watches anymore except Steve, who’s got one of those fitness trackers that happens to also tell the time. According to Steve, it’s only 6pm. How did that tinfoil thing only take an hour? Whisper to your friends about how suspicious this makes you all about Steve. Without looking at your phones you have only one timepiece. Consider taking it from Steve.

Step 9: It’s dark. Thanks to daylight savings time ending the sun has been down for over an hour or more now. The last light of the day star has faded from the horizon. The descent into madness had felt more upsetting in the cold light of day, but here in the night it feels comfortable. Right. Consider heating up those cocktail sausages.

Step 9: Arrange the candles in a circle the way the elders taught you. Sal knows the ritual, too, so she’s the most useful by far. She’ll have a place of honour in the coming times. Is there any whiskey left? Are we on to the gin? Well, gin’s fine, too. And anyway, the question isn’t so much what you’ll be drinking, is it? It’s what They’ll be drinking. When They arrive.

Step 10: Prepare the sacrifice. It doesn’t really matter who it is. Maybe it’s Steve. Maybe none of you have names anymore, or you won’t soon anyway. No one will have names in the time after the Coming. All will be Well.

Step 11: Everything is set. The candles are lit. The bottles are empty and the words that have been whispered into the void have begun to whisper back. Steve’s watch reads midnight. It is time. Lift the long knife and watch it shine in the candlelight. Stare into the eyes of your friends one last time.

Step 12: Check the results.

***

Image is of a cozy little TV, table, lamp, and chair, and is by Marco Verch and released under a CC-BY-2.0 license.

On Impostor Syndrome and Moving Your Own Goalposts

“Is this it? Did I do it? Am I real yet?”

 

Pinocchio is a strange little story. I’m not talking about the original cautionary Carlo Collodi story (which ends in the marionette’s horrible murder by the Cat and the Fox), although that has its own issues. I’m talking about the beloved Disney franchise from 1940 that, like all Disney reimaginings, has only the vaguest similarities to the story on which it’s based.

At its heart, it’s a story about the desire for authenticity. Pinocchio is a puppet trying to become a “real boy”—in his case by proving he doesn’t need Jiminy Cricket to be his conscience for him. Setting aside all the later resonances the story would have in science fiction yet to be written (I mean, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep / Blade Runner, anyone?), it’s also a story that’s had (and continues to have) a lot of resonances for me, and probably for a lot of you, too.

In my head, Pinocchio spends his whole post-puppet life still wondering when he’s going to  get to be a real boy. He goes to school, grows up, falls in love, has a job, has kids, gets old—the whole time asking himself “Is this it? Did I do it? Am I real yet?”

In my head, Pinocchio’s story has such a profoundly strange start that he develops an inability to judge himself the way he judges his peers. He has an insurmountable insecurity that prevents him from seeing his own accomplishments.

In my head, you see, Pinocchio has Impostor Syndrome.

We talk about it a lot in academic circles. There’s something so abusive about the hoop-jumping in the industry—well, you’ve got a master’s degree but you don’t have a doctorate; well, you have a doctorate, but you don’t have enough publications; well you’ve got publications but you don’t have a tenure-track position (god forbid you’ve gone “alt-ac”!)—that makes a lot of us (maybe most of us?) feel as though we’ve never accomplished enough, that we’re never good enough, that we’re never really worthy of respect the way others are.

Millennials are the same way, I think—at least, middle-class white ones who, like me, grew up in the suburbs. When are you going to stop playing around with those part-time/freelance/underpaying gigs and get a real job? Oh you don’t have a car? Are you really an adult if you’re still renting? You need to buy a house, preferably in the suburbs. Oh you don’t have a kid yet? When are you going to stop wasting your time and settle down?

Economics be damned, right?

And I do it to myself as a writer, too. I have a short story published. I have another under contract, and another under consideration. I’ve got a novel published. I’ve got another under contract. I’m writing a sequel to the first one. And I literally didn’t call myself an author until last week, because it sounded too accomplished. Like it couldn’t possibly describe me. My novels are published by a small press, not the “big five.” I don’t have an agent. I don’t do conventions. I don’t even qualify for membership in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America because I haven’t made enough money.

If an author writes a book and they don’t make a living doing it, are they really even an author?

To put it bluntly: Yes. Yes they fucking are.

Impostor Syndrome gets in your head and tells you that your own goalposts are a desert mirage. No matter how close you get, they’re still in the distance. You put your nose to the grindstone and every time you look up they’re still just as far away. But if you keep your eyes fixed on them, you don’t notice all the things you’ve actually achieved.

I just got a PhD. The same week I defended it, I signed a book contract for my second novel. I have an alt-ac job herding cats managing volunteer editors for a peer-reviewed journal about a topic that interests me, and that I think contributes to the world’s knowledge.

So if that’s all true, if I’ve really done all these things that I can objectively identify as accomplishments, then why can’t I feel like I’m “there” yet?

Why am I still asking myself what it’s like to be a real boy?

Imposter Syndrome is messed up, and it’s so, so common. I bet a lot of you reading this feel the same way, and if you don’t, I bet you know someone who does. So here’s what I want you to do:

Tell someone today how great you think their accomplishments are. Don’t let your friends hide genuine, internalized, feelings of low self-worth behind ironic self-deprecating humour. Stand up for your friends against their greatest critics: themselves.

And if someone tells you to be proud of something you’ve done? Listen to them. If there’s one thing I know, even if I don’t know who you are, it’s that you almost certainly have something to be proud of.

I know it’s not a perfect solution, but right now it’s the best I’ve got.

Signed: The Remixer

***

Featured image is of the Fox from Pinocchio edited to be describing “real boys” as taller than Pinocchio.

SPACE FORCE!

Like everything else about this administration, the SPACE FORCE is probably also about whiteness.

 

I know I haven’t written in a while, but in my defense, I’ve been getting a PhD (and then recovering). But now I’m back, I’m a doctor (not that kind of doctor), and also: SPACE FORCE!

***

The sitting-in-a-golf-cart president of the united states has been making more noise lately about the so-called “Space Force” he wants to add to the military, sending out six mediocre-at-best (and your-graphic-designer-friend’s-worst-nightmare at worst) logos for his fashy mailing list to “vote” on (i.e. raise money for the reelection campaign he started like, three months into office). Hold on, if you haven’t seen them I’ll dig them up… here:

 

[six SPACE FORCE logos]

So, here’s the thing about the logos. Aside from being utterly shite, busy designs that are at once both meaningless and and entirely forgettable, and aside from the hideous circa-2003 flash-animation feel and the unrepentant keming issues, and aside from the utterly blatant ripoff of the NASA “meatball” and the fact that if these were military logos no country in their right mind would take the US seriously (heh as though they do anymore anyway, but fine), there’s still more to talk about when it comes to both these logos and SPACE FORCE in general.

 

[the logos for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and SPACE FORCE]

So the president and his administration can’t actually make a new branch of the military, for starters. What they can and have done is direct the DoD to draft plans for how a SPACE FORCE would work as a sixth branch of the military (after the Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines). But it’s unclear what it would actually do, how it would be arranged, or why it’d be worth the money to do such an administrative rejiggering.

Mike Pence said recently that “the space environment has fundamentally changed in the last generation; what was once peaceful and uncontested is now crowded and adversarial,” which …is bullshit from start to finish. Space has always been both adversarial and contested (maybe he doesn’t remember a little thing called the “Space Race”? Reagan’s plans for “Star Wars”?) and things have been held in check by a little thing called “diplomacy” (which to be fair, Trump has never in his life heard of). We actually have an international treaty that (in short) says “no weapons in space,” but as we all know, Trump doesn’t give a damn about treaties (or laws of any sort).

Image of an art-deco rocket launching with the words "I have a question about the Space Force. When is Puerto Rico getting electricity?"
From Robert Bruce Design

The US does send military satellites into space, usually under the watchful eye of the National Reconnaissance Office, one of the “big five” intelligence agencies (along with the CIA, NSA, DIA, and NGA), and the Air Force does send up unmanned X-37s for secret reasons, so perhaps it would take on some of those responsibilities? Or perhaps it would act more like the Coast Guard, there to rescue astronauts who run aground (or collide with space junk)? It’s pretty unclear what the SPACE FORCE is needed for, especially when Flint still doesn’t have clean water and Puerto Rico is still without power.

But I think a friend of mine really put his finger on the issue the other day when we were discussing these logos. He pointed out that they all have something in common: they’re intensely “retro.”

They’re the #MAGA of space.

These logos reveal something really important about what Trump and Pence and the whole administration are trying to get at: these aren’t forward-looking plans, they’re distilled nostalgia. Just like Make America Great “Again” hearkens back to a fantasy “golden age” where white people had everything and nobody else mattered, this Space Force is hearkening back to the “space age.” And what did the space age promise?

Whiteness in Space.

Look, I’m not the first person to say that The Jetsons takes place in a dystopic future in which the systemic exclusion of people of colour has been extended to its logical conclusion: a future without black people. I’m not the first to point out that it’s a show about a nice white family with a sapient robotic slave, or that it replicates literally everything monstrous about the patriarchy in one all-encompassing swoop. But if SPACE FORCE isn’t about going backward to a time when “the future” was about the (all-white) Robinsons exploring alien worlds, or about the “all-American” (white) Flash Gordon fighting Yellow Peril, then I will eat my hat.

The goals of white supremacism can inevitably be seen in the things it idealizes. Maybe I’m reading too much into the garbage-disposal logos for the SPACE FORCE, but I’m not reading into what it represents. The drive to have a “strong” (i.e. military), nationalist, American presence in space is part and parcel of Making American Great Again, and that almost certainly means weaponizing space against people of colour in some form or other.

In V for Vendetta, the guard at the party’s propaganda station watches “Storm Saxon” at his post. For all its flaws, it sure gets some things right—but maybe it should’ve called the tv show SPACE FORCE, instead.

Signed: The Remixologist.

A movie poster for Starship Troopers but retitled "Space Force"

***

The featured image is of the Jetsons in their weird little spaceship and is captioned “Space Force!”

I Don’t Know How To Convince You That “Privilege” Isn’t An Insult

It’s just a way of describing the systemic power differences that we need to address.

 

Hey there, fellow white folks. Can we talk about “privilege” for a second? Because I really feel like we need to. Mostly because of the way people react when I bring it up.

I feel like a lot of the time, when I try to talk about privilege (especially white privilege, but also straight privilege, cisgender privilege, male privilege, and so on) that people get up in arms about it.

“Privileged? Me?”

They take it as an insult. As though I’m saying they didn’t work hard in their life.

I need everyone to understand that privilege doesn’t mean prosperity. When someone says you’ve got privilege because you’re white, it doesn’t mean you’ve got an easy life. It just means you’ve got a relative advantage over someone in your identical situation who isn’t white.

Maybe you’re white and poor. Life is definitely hard for poor people in America. And being white probably doesn’t help you enough for you to feel it. But being black and poor? In America? In general that’s going to be (at the very least) a little bit harder than being white and poor. That’s the privilege part.

This does not mean that all white people have it easier than all nonwhite people. I think maybe that’s what you’re hearing, and it’s not what we’re saying.

I feel like when I say the words “white privilege” you hear “you’ve got it easier than [insert wealthy black celebrity here].” I am not saying that.

(Though I think I am going to point out that plenty of the wealthy black people you’ve heard of started off poor. Jay Z? Raised in the projects. Oprah? I mean for real poor.)

Or maybe you think I’m saying that being white is more advantageous than being rich? No, again, I’m not saying that, though it’s worth pointing out that it’s relatively harder for people of colour to escape poverty than white people. But it’s not easy for anyone.

See, each kind of privilege is a sometimes small but definitely persistent advantage a person can have over another in the same situation. That’s all.

Is it the word privilege people hate? Is it because folks have been denigrating people from other situations as “privileged” for years and now they hate the word?

Would it be an easier sell if we called it “relative advantage”? “Systemic advantage”?

How do we address this, other than to give it a name? And how do we move forward with a more equal society if we ignore it? This is something that has to be reckoned with.

So, friends, I’m asking you to understand what privilege is. Understand that it’s not an insult. It’s not personal. It’s not saying you don’t work hard, or that your life is easy. It’s putting a name to a systemic set of relative advantages and disadvantages that, when put together, work to make the world we live in less equal.

And getting rid of inequality is something everyone should want.

Signed: The Remixologist.

***

Featured image is of the words “This ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never'” projected on a brick wall, is by J. G. Park, and is in the public domain. 

You Should Treat Robots Like People

It’s about you as much as about them.

 

Last week, Google unveiled a version of their digital assistant that can make voice calls to set up appointments for you. It’s so well done—even throwing in the odd “um” and “uh” to really complete the illusion—that some people can’t even tell that it’s a robot assistant calling and not a human one. I think that’s great.

But boy, some people don’t. In fact, the backlash was so severe that I heard Google is going to implement some kind of “this is a digital assistant calling” thing in the future, so that you’re not…what, accidentally nice to a robot?

“But you’re tricking people!” I hear you say. And in response I say: “So what?”

What, in all honesty, is the negative outcome of a robot “tricking you” into thinking it’s a human when it’s calling to book an appointment? All I can think of is “I might treat it like I treat a human,” and that doesn’t sound like much of a reason to me.

In fact, to me it sounds like you’d be an asshole to everybody if you could get away with it.

That’s the only way I can read these statements. If you’re upset at being tricked into thinking a random appointment scheduler is a human, it’s because you’d treat a robot differently. It’s pretty unlikely you’d treat it better (and if you would, well, you can probably ignore the rest of this), so you obviously see some sort of cost associated with being polite to people, and therefore try to avoid it whenever possible.

And boy does that sound like a lot of anti-atheist argumentation I’ve heard over the years.

It’s like this old chestnut: “If it weren’t for god, heaven, and hell, people would just do whatever they wanted!” When someone says that, to me it sounds like they’re saying “if nobody would punish me, I’d start doing things we generally consider immoral.” Meanwhile my atheist friends are all “there’s no evidence for the existence of any kind of deity, so uh, go wild, I guess.” And by “go wild” they usually mean “treat other people with decency because you’ve decided it’s the right thing to do, not because of the threat of punishment.”

And you know what? That’s not great. Because in this world—this real place where there’s no evidence of a deity and very few robots lurking about (yet)—here today there are a lot of people you can get away with being an asshole to. Especially if you’re white. Think “calling the cops on black people for going to Starbucks.”

If “I will act as poorly as I can get away with” is your go-to mentality, you’re going to be a pretty bad person.

So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to not care if it’s a robot or a human calling you. Instead, I want you to suck it up and treat anyone and anything who calls you up on the phone with simple, basic courtesy. And I want you to get used to it, too.

Because if you can’t, if it’s that hard for you to be polite, if your time is worth so much that the slight chance you might be wasting a tiny fraction of it on accidentally being nice to someone who you won’t get punished for being mean to, then you need all the practice you can get.

Because there are a lot of people out there you can get away with being a dick to, but you still shouldn’t.

Treat robots like people. Maybe it’ll give you the practice you need to treat people like people.

Signed: The Remixologist.

***

Featured image of an old-school flip-phone transformed into a robot by Joe Wu, CC BY 2.0

Appalling Work, Donald

Redo the work and bring it in tomorrow. It’ll be a day late, but it’ll be better than this.

Appalling work, Donald.

Signed: Feminine Fury

***

Featured Image is of Gandalf in the famous “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” meme. Main Body Image is of Donald Trump’s recent letter to Kim Jong Un with MANY red corrections on it.

Let’s Talk About “Societal Norms”

Because there are better ways to run a society.

 

I “godwinned” myself this weekend, at a national conference.

It was a conference focusing on scholarly publishing and blockchain technology, and I’d been invited to talk about citation indexing because the combination of the two (blockchain technology and citation indexes) is a personal hobby of mine. Yes, I’m great at parties, why do you ask? Anyway the talk went fine, and I got through the whole thing without, I think, horribly offending anyone.

But there was another talk, by a self-described “blockchain skeptic,” which did not go over quite so well with the crowd.

Now before I go any further, I want to point out that I am absolutely in favour of skepticism when it comes to the usefulness of blockchains. Here’s a handy flowchart to find out if you need one (hint: you probably don’t). The vast majority of things are not sufficiently improved by the added cost and complexity of a blockchain to warrant the use of one.

But that said, this presentation had a number of serious issues. There were some very strange claims. The claim was made that privately-delivered packages are stolen off America’s porches more than USPS-delivered letters because stealing letters is a “federal offense,” which is wrong because packages are simply more likely to contain things of value that can be fenced anonymously. The claim was also made that Bitcoin isn’t a currency because it’s a security, which, well, the SEC disagrees with, anyway. The claim was also made that we don’t need a self-sovereign identity (a government-free secure ID) because we have social security numbers, which was just a terrible argument because have you even looked at the costs of identity theft?

But the chief claim that made me twitch was the assumption that “societal norms” are a simpler, more reliable way to do most things.

And boy did that not sit well with me.

Here’s one example: the presenter said that speed limits are governed by societal norms, and that’s fine. If a speed limit is (say) 30 miles per hour, you can probably go 40 miles per hour. The police generally don’t mind, he said, until you get to 41 or 42, and then they really get you. It’s a societal norm that certain rules can be bent. On the surface this seems like it gels with my experience, except I’m white, and, well.

Have you ever heard of “driving while black”?

See, societal norms are not just. They are not fair. They are privy to racism, sexism, and bigotry of all stripes. Societal norms automatically privilege those in power. There are a lot of places in America where it’s generally agreed that you can break a law with impunity, but only if you’re white. Waiting for a friend at Starbucks before you buy anything? Fine. But if you’re black that’s “loitering.” Having a loud party on your lawn? Fine. But if you’re black that’s “disturbing the peace.” You see where I’m going with this?

Societal norms replicate our worst biases.

So I godwinned myself and pointed out that societal norms are both powerful and often dangerous, in that they also gave us the Holocaust. The societal norms in 1930s Germany gave Jewish, queer, and white people different speed limits—if you replace “speed limits” with “rights to even exist.”

Societal norms are almost always a terrible thing to rely on, because society is made of people, and people can’t be relied upon to be fair and just to one another. It’s not that we don’t ever get it right, but all you have to do is look at the rise in actual Nazis in America, or at the rate of white Evangelical support for the lying, self-aborbed, racist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist president of the United States, to see that “norms” are easily made worse with only the slightest of nudges.

Frankly, given with how much ease they privilege the powerful at the expense of the dispossessed, it’s probably a moral imperative to get away from reliance on societal norms.

So does that mean we should use blockchains to help govern society more? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe they’d just help us, as members of society, to replicate the problems of societal norms in more high-tech ways. But what it does mean is that “societal norms work” is a bad argument against looking into whether new technologies might be able to help.

Because god knows we need all the help we can get.

Signed: The Remixologist

***

Featured image is of a speed limit sign reading “Speed Limit 25 Miles,” by Eric Fischer, CC BY 2.0 

Okay One More Thing About White Supremacism

If someone calling you a Nazi is enough to make you act like one, I got news for you.

 

I know I talk about a lot of “qwhite interesting” things on here, from how people support white supremacism without ever saying out loud “white people are better” to how supposed “free speech” supporters are nothing of the sort, but I find myself compelled, once again, to write a little bit here about the latest terrible take.

A journalist (who shall remain nameless) has essentially formulated a response to those of us who know a white nationalist when we see one, indicating that it’s us—the ones who call them white nationalists, white supremacists, and Nazis—that are driving them to become white nationalists, white supremacists, and Nazis. The logic seems to be that we—by labelling them something awful—are somehow driving them to be more radical.

I’m here to say, in short, “no.”

If you’re accused of white nationalist sentiment, and your response is “You want to see white nationalism? I’ll really show you white nationalism!” you really didn’t need us to call you one.

You just needed an excuse to show it off.

A normal person, a person who hates white nationalism, who hates white supremacism, and who hates Nazism, when accused of white nationalism, white supremacism, or Nazism, will try to demonstrate the precise opposite. They will not try to be more white nationalist, white supremacist, or Nazi-like. They will try to be less so.

If you find yourself in the unpleasant position of being called a white supremacist, consider:

(a) listening to why the person thinks you’re one

(b) comparing that description of what you’ve done to white supremacists, and

(c) not doing any of the things that make you even remotely like a white supremacist.

And just for the record, when someone’s calling you a “Nazi,” it’s not because they think you’ve already built camps and are marching millions to their murder.

They’re saying you’re the kind of person who wouldn’t care enough to stop it. The kind that joined the Nazi party because, well who else were you going to vote for? Because, you know, that Hitler fellow, he really just says what he means, you know? At least he’s honest.

Those people were Nazis too. They were every single bit as responsible for the murders that took place.

If you double down when someone calls you a white supremacist? You were definitely already one.

Don’t double down; fix yourself.

Signed: The Remixologist.

***

Featured image is of the Wiktionary definition for “double down.”

 

Let’s Talk About Robin Hood (2018)

Because I’m a medievalist and I need to understand what’s going on here.

 

This is about a new movie that’s coming out soon. The movie, starring Jamie Foxx and someone named Taron Egerton, is called “Robin Hood.” It’s a new take on a story you might be familiar with, about a lord returning home from the crusades to medieval England only to find that King John has taxed everyone into oblivion and is ruling like a tyrant. Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor ensues.

But I have so, so many questions about this take.

Here’s the trailer.

Actually, I have only one question, and the rest of them stem from it:

WHEN DOES THIS MOVIE TAKE PLACE?

Let’s take a look at some stills.

Okay, in this first shot, you see the city in which this all takes place. Look at those beefy as all get-out walls. Look at the truly massive foundations. Are those tile roofs on all the buildings inside? And what’s going on with the footings of the industrial-revolution-style bridge off to the left? Are those concrete footings in the water? Well, okay, none of this is at first glance totally impossible in a medieval setting, but it’s pretty outlandish.

Okay things are getting weird here. Is that an industrial steel sculpture? And look at those textiles. The fashion is of course modern, but look at the leather of that suit jacket, and the fine texture of the vest beneath. I guess it wouldn’t be totally, completely, absolutely impossible to imagine—

—okay stop right there. That bottle. That’s a machine-made bottle. There’s no way around that. It looks like a Heineken bottle for chrissakes. There’s no doubt about it: that’s post-Industrial Revolution materials science.

Which I guess explains the riveted steel construction of this… armored troop carrier? Tank? Out of place premodern submarine? Thing?

Not to mention the huge quantities of steel everywhere and… whatever this lock-and-load crossbow-slash-grenade-launcher thing might be.

Okay, so this is, um. I know, it’s a post-apocalyptic society! Yeah, that’s it!

…except then why are they talking about returning from the crusades? At 1:30 in the trailer, a voiceover (probably Foxx) says:

“You were a crusader. Now you have to be a warrior.”

Okay that’s weird. And not just because crusaders were warriors, in no uncertain terms.

So it takes place after some kind of apocalypse, but not too bad an apocalypse because we still have modern materials science and industrial-scale metal production, but the crusades are still a thing, so… maybe there were other crusades?

Yeah, that’s it. There’s no internet anymore, and the islamophobes won (causing the ruination of society in some kind of war that pushed us back to industrial revolution technology), and now there’s some kind of persistent and/or permanent front in an ongoing war, so if you want to be a dick to Muslims you have to actually get up and go fight them in person. Okay wow, that’s bleak, but it’d explain the whole “crusades” thing except—

Wait. Why is everyone using crossbows? And what’s this?

Are those catapults?!

If you can make perfect glass bottles, and truly vast quantities of riveted steel, and beautifully uniform textiles and leather jackets… where’s the GUNPOWDER?

Where are the guns? Where are the cannons? Where are the bombs? If you’re in a state of constant war, and you’ve got enough wealth and manpower for huge numbers of metal-clad, lock-action crossbow-wielding civil defense soldiers at home, why doesn’t anyone have a gun? Why are you using catapults to throw stones over the walls instead of using gunpowder to blow holes through them?

Is there not enough nitrogen? Did we lose the Haber-Bosch process? Is that what caused the apocalypse? Did half the world starve because we somehow lost all ability to artificially produce nitrate? I AM SO CONFUSED.

Look, I know the answer, the real answer, is because someone thought “hey wouldn’t it be cool if it looked like this?” But it just makes me twitchy when you see such sloppy worldbuilding without the writers even hanging a lantern on it or anything. It’s the kind of thing that turns this:

into this:

and that just makes me feel like this:

Signed: The Remixologist.

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Featured image is of a dude about to throw a molotof cocktail in the Heineken bottle in a medieval-ish film, from the Robin Hood trailer.

Let The Students Sleep

Shift the school day later.

 

Eight for work, eight for rest, eight for what we will. That’s the slogan that best represents the fight for a reasonable work-life balance, the one that led to the 40-hour work week. The venerable nine-to-five.

In my life I’ve seen the gradual erosion of the nine-to-five. I’ve seen commutes as long as two or even three hours each way. I’ve seen people working seventy or even eighty-hour work weeks, which where I come from (Canada) is literally not even legal. And I sure as hell haven’t seen wages go up to account for it.

But what I want to talk about for a moment is more than the labour movement. It’s about kids and the nine-to-five. And about how we aren’t even giving them that.

My local high school starts at 7:30am. It ends at 2:25pm.

Why?

This absolutely isn’t a post about teachers not working enough, by the way. If school starts at 7:30 and goes until 2:30, you know damn well they’re there from seven to five, doing coaching and club mentoring and music and theater, not to mention the lesson planning and the grading they take home with them every night. That’s its own injustice.

But what I fail to understand is why any school should start classes at 7:30 in the morning.

I can hear you saying right now that it’s to let parents drop their kids off and then get to work. Bull. If they were concerned about that, they wouldn’t close up shop until well after 6:30, if an hour and a half is the buffer you want to give working parents around the nine-to-five. It’s not out of consideration for parents, I promise.

Literally the only thing I can find in my scouring of the internet is vague references to agricultural life, cheaper busing, and an ingrained idea that if students are tired it’s because they’re morally lacking.

But year after year we get study after study demonstrating that school start times should be later.

It improves sleep time, which improves overall health.

It decreases lateness and improves attendance.

It improves student behaviour, which honestly makes everybody’s lives easier.

There are Many Many Studies On This.

Hell, even the CDC agrees.

So why are we doing this?

Recently, Boston had a fight over school start times, and the discussion was telling: everyone seems to favour starting school between 7:45 and 8:45, and according to the city, the buses would be too expensive if they did that for everyone, so some schools are starting as early as 7:15am. They were trying to follow the studies, they say, that show that teens need later start times. So they pushed younger kids earlier.

And apparently nobody thought of just pushing the whole schedule later.

I say: what about 9:30am for high school? What about 10am? Instead of keeping the vaunted “7:45-8:45” window for high school students and pushing the younger kids earlier, why not just push everything later? It’s not like the teachers are going to work any more or less (unfortunately—sorry teachers): they’ll just have to do their class prep, grading, and so on before rather than after the day.

One school in Australia tried 10:45am, though they admit they did have to scale it back to 10am to squeeze everything in by 4:30pm. It seemed to go over rather well, especially with the grounds opening at 9am.

And I know it’d throw a kink in the American cult of teenager sports. A day that ends at 3:30pm or 4:30pm means pushing sports into the evening. But maybe sports aren’t a good reason to hurt student attendance, health, and even completion rates.

Look, I get it. School is very important. It’s the foundation for the well-educated society we need to ensure our collective prosperity as a society. But it isn’t an emergency. It shouldn’t require students to be dragged out of their beds before the sun comes up just so they can meet an unreasonable and punitive schedule that objectively hurts learning outcomes and student health.

Let the students sleep. Shift the school day later.

Signed: The Remixologist

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The Featured Image is a woodblock print from the early days of the labour movement reading “8 Hours for Work, 8 Hours for Rest, 8 Hours for What We Will.”