Hollywood has got to stop sending these messages.

Spoiler Alert: This concerns the movie The Age of Adeline. I will be going into specifics, so if you are planning to see the movie, you may not want to read this.

Last Friday, I saw The Age of Adeline. Nice performances, cute guy, pretty woman, Harrison Ford (who still looks damn sexy), plot holes you could pull Pluto through, and total scientific implausibility.  Not bad for two hours; Independence Day did worse. However, ever since I saw the movie, every time I think about it I become more outraged.

The protagonist, Adeline of the title, stopped aging as the result of a freak accident (see: scientific implausibility), and after a nasty encounter with the government who wants to study her scientifically, begins changing her name and location every decade so people won’t get suspicious when they notice that they are getting older and she isn’t. She deliberately avoids emotional attachments for what would seem obvious reasons. (A.k.a. the Doctor Who dilemma.)

Ellis, a hot (and as it turns out, brilliant and rich) guy sees her across the room at a New Year’s Eve party. (Cue obvious symbolism.) He jumps into her elevator and hits on her. She rebuffs him.  She gets into a cab, he prevents the cab door from closing by placing his hand in the door, and again asks for her number.  She again politely but firmly says no. (I, on the other hand, would have said “Get your damn fingers out of the door before I break them.” Then again, I have never been a beautiful woman who had guys hit on her.)

Ellis appears at the archive where Adeline works.  As it turns out, he belongs on the board of directors, and has seen her after a meeting, and has always wanted to get to know her. He donates a large number of books, and insists that she appear in the photograph accepting the donation, even though she is not the director.  When she refuses, he threatens to take back the donation, and goes so far as to say he will burn the books. Faced with this horrible maneuver, she caves. She still refuses to be photographed, but agrees to lunch with him. (Why her bosses — who saw the entire exchange — did not step in and state that they would not allow their employees to be harassed in this way, and that they would not accept the donation with such strings attached, mystifies me.)

Ellis cajoles her into dinner at his place. They have sex. Adeline leaves the next morning without  telling him her address or phone number.  When she arrives home, her dog has collapsed and she needs to put him down.  As she approaches her apartment after leaving the vet’s office, Ellis appears, flowers in hand.  The library had given him her home address. (Whether or not this is illegal in California — where the entire movie took place — I do not know; but it is sure as hell unethical.) She yells at him to leave her alone. He stands on the sidewalk looking after her, frustrated but clearly determined to get her to love him.

Okay, thus far we have the beginnings of a pretty good stalker film. Hot guy fixates on woman who repeatedly tells him to get lost, escalating the level of his creepy behavior as time goes on. But then the movie goes off the rails….

Adeline goes to Ellis’s apartment and apologizes to him for HER behavior.  She agrees to go with him to his parents’ place, more plot ensues, and  (after more scientific implausibility) in the end she stays with him.

So, in the end Ellis wins. After repeatedly being rebuffed, after repeatedly acting in ways that should get you kicked out of your board position, after no after no after no, Ellis gets what he wants.

So, boys and girls, what is the movie trying to tell us?  That ignoring a woman’s stated wishes is acceptable if you are wealthy? That a woman doesn’t really mean it when says no? That a woman who says no really does not know her own best interests?

Once Adeline said no the first time, that should have been the end of Ellis’s pursuit of her. Could she change her mind? Sure, but that ball should be squarely in her court. As it is, Adeline never really has to do the seriously hard work of finding someone. And Ellis’s actions as a board member of an organization where she is an employee clearly constitute illegal sexual harassment, something the movie seems to hand wave away.

Was Adeline happier now that she found love? According to the movie, yes. And, according to the movie, this was only possible because Ellis was a persistent pain in the ass. See, men who stalk you really love you!

We live in a culture where all too often what a woman says she wants is ignored. Stalking and sexual harassment are both part of the rape culture we live in, and part of Ellis’s operating manual.

Remember Elliot Rogers? He believed that women should fall at his feet because he was rich. When they didn’t, he indulged in an orgy of misogynistic violence that left six dead and fourteen injured. Given movies like this, his behavior becomes more understandable — Ellis is just the nice end of the women- devaluing spectrum on which Rogers occupies the evil end.

As I said, the more I think of this movie, the madder I get. We need Hollywood to fight rape culture, not subtly encourage it.

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The Voice wraps up tonight..

Note: This post is about The Voice.  If you really don’t care about the show. Don’t bother reading.

It’s been a good season on The Voice.  There are two artists who I would be happy to win, which is unusual.  Since one of them, Sawyer Fredericks, is far and away the front-runner, that works.

Two type of contestants enter The Voice: singers and performers. All performers have to be at least decent singers — or they don’t make it past the blind auditions — but unless the singers become performers they don’t last.  Joshua Davis, my favorite, came in clearly as a seasoned performer.  It showed once he got to the live shows:  he was able to connect with people, and clearly felt quite comfortable — joyful, even, at times — before the audience. Sawyer Fredericks, a sixteen year old phenom, came in a singer: he would stand in front of the mic with just his guitar and his voice. Over the course of the competition he came out of his shell, and started interacting with the audience, becoming a performer.

Performers excel on television, singers in the studio. Deanna Johnson, a woman with a remarkable voice who suffered from extreme stage fright, never got to performer mode, and went home earlier than she might have otherwise.

Most extreme example of this is Michelle Chamuel from Season 4.  I like her studio recordings, but I love watching her televised performances on YouTube.  Her version of Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” makes Swift look like a wimp.

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You get what you pay for.

A friend of mine makes exquisite jewelry.  I make jewelry myself, and part of me looks at her earrings (not her pendants so much) and says, I could do that.  I could do that for less than she charges.

Except I couldn’t. Nor could you.  Nor could any of the people that tend to dismiss the work of artisans as not being worth what they charge for it.

The reasons I can’t do the work of my friend is because she designed these earrings. I would not have thought to put that particular arrangement of stones together. I have the know-how to copy her designs, but that would be unethical.  I don’t pirate music; much less would I pirate the work of a woman who creates beautiful jewelry.

Nor do I begrudge what she charges for them.  She is an independent businesswoman, who has expenses beyond the actual silver and gemstones: her time, for one, and the overhead needed to run a successful business. (Like many things, jewelry making requires bulk materials on hand — you do not go to the bead store and buy individual beads.)

The craft explosion in America has resulted in far too many people who trivialize what  it takes to be an artisan. It takes more than skill, it takes determination and love of craft.  There is a world of difference between knitting a sweater for your boyfriend and selling hand-designed pieces for a wider audience. I tried to sell my work for a while, but came to the realization that I lacked the doggedness necessary to make a go of it.

Gifted amateurs exacerbate this problem. They undervalue their own work, undercutting prices for more experienced professionals.  The rise of Etsy and other online marketplaces give them a forum for this. A few years ago I was selling jewelry to people at church and my workplace, and I was fortunate to have customers who were knowledgeable and insistent on paying what my work was worth.  In one case, I showed one of my Christmas trees to a professional artist.  She loved it, and asked me a few questions about its construction, and then what I would charge people for them. I told her, and she bluntly replied that I would be charging half of what I should be.

I was reminded of all of this recently by a John Oliver rant about “fast clothing.” We look for cheap, rather than good, and the result are workshops in Bangladesh and Vietnam. Then when we view artisan goods, we are shocked by the prices, when we should instead be appalled by how our acquisitiveness damages not just those who would make a living by their craft here, but the poor people in other countries. (There is another rant about the dropping purchasing power experienced by the 99% in this country, but that is for another day. There are poor people for whom buying cheap is a matter of necessity, and I do not begrudge them, any more than I think poorly of people who shop as Walmart because they need the low prices.)

The “locavore” movement needs to apply to more than food.

By the way, the friend who makes jewelry is Rain Hannah, and her website is Honey and Ollie, and her Etsy shop is honeyandollie. Check her work out. Oh, and members of my family? There are these lapis lazuli earrings….

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A good deed done, as far as I am concerned.

The paper cup did it.

I saw the preacher as I crossed the street on the square in front of the train station in Old Sacramento.  I could hardly have missed him: a crowd ringed the square as he yelled his poisoned theology through a cartoonish black megaphone with “Director” painted on the side in yellow capital letters. He looked cut from the same cloth as most street preachers: better dressed than most, perhaps, in black khakis and a loosely draped black and white bowling shirt, and slightly long black hair with gray streaks, but with the commanding body language and fierce tone of voice common to such men (and they are invariably men).  His assistants (or should I call them acolytes?) passed out slips of paper with a Bible verse to passersby. (I think it was from Revelations, but I refused their offerings so I am not sure.) A name and address was underneath the verse, no doubt for whatever fire and brimstone ministry The Reverend represented.

Our car was parked behind him, in front of the gangplank leading to the Delta King Riverboat Hotel  where The Rocket Scientist and I had spent the night. I walked behind the street preacher, frowning, down the gang plank to retrieve our luggage while the Rocket Scientist went to argue with the manager about the lack of air conditioning in our cabin last night. I gathered the bags and dragged them back to Frank, RS’s red and black Mustang convertible. I dropped the bags next to the car, then turned to watch The Reverend.

Sacramento keeps the streets in Old Sacramento pretty clean. Not quite Disney World clean, but well enough that the paper cup from Round Table Pizza slowly rolling across the street caught caught my attention.  The Reverend marched over  to the cup and stomped it flat. “God will crush you like I crushed this cup!”  He strutted (no other word, really) away, leaving the flattened cup lying on the ground.

I had had enough. I walked behind him, picked up the cup, and dropped it in the trash can that was no farther than a few yards from where the preacher was exhorting the crowd. “At least I have the decency to pick it up,” I snapped at the preacher.

He turned around. Still talking through the megaphone, he replied “I wasn’t done.  I would have picked it up when I was done.” He turned back to the crowd, and started into his “You are all damned unless you believe the same sort of vindictive crap I do” routine.

I don’t argue with street preachers, as a rule. There’s no percentage in it. I’m not going to convince him, he’s not going to convince me, so what’s the point? But I couldn’t back down from this fight. “That’s a really horrible God you believe in,” I yelled at him.

Still talking through that ridiculous megaphone, he turned around and said “He’s God over both of us, whether you recognize him or not.” The crowd’s attention was drifting now: he was facing me, after all, not them. “Well, my God is a God of mercy,” I yelled back.

“Well, yes, God is merciful but he also punishes those…” At that point a silver car drove up.  A bald-headed man wearing a black t-shirt with an official looking logo leaned over and asked in an authoritative voice, “Is he bothering you, lady?”

At first I thought if he was asking if I was harassing the street preacher. The Reverend started to protest that he had done nothing wrong, and the man in the car commanded “Be quiet. Lady, is this guy harassing you?”

Well, no, he wasn’t harassing me.  I had chosen to engage with him, after all, and if I had kept my mouth shut he wouldn’t have said boo to me. Smiling slightly I said “No, I’m okay.” The man in the the car nodded and drove off. The Reverend turned face the square. Still talking through the silly megaphone, which might as well been surgically attached to his lips since he never removed it from them, he started talking about the First Amendment and how this was a free country…

At that point, the Rocket Scientist walked up. As I got in the car, I noticed that much of the crowd had turned its attention away from the square to a man on the sidewalk who was dressed as an Old West banker, with a vest and a bowler, who was making marionettes dance. The Reverend had lost most of his audience. I smiled broadly as we drove off, and when we were well clear of the square I punched the air. “Yes!!!!

I wish I could have told him “Yes, it is a free country.  Yes, you can stand in front of a square spouting your vision of a dark and angry God to the tourists, and nobody will wrest that stupid megaphone from your hand and drag you away. But that First Amendment right to speech and religion you claim to treasure doesn’t insulate you from me yelling back.”

Posted in God faith and theology | Tagged | 3 Comments

Fifty things…

It’s been a while since I did one of these things. I am thankful for:

1. Starbucks Venti Decaf No Whip Mocha made with Coconut Milk and Sugar-Free Hazelnut Syrup.

2. That I have a couple of weeks free.

3. That after that, I have work for another couple of months.

4. The Voice, even if my favorite two contestants have been eliminated.

5. New music: “Down to the River to Pray,” by Deanna Johnson (from The Voice), “Budapest,” both the original George Ezra version and The Voice‘s Joshua Davis’s cover. Also “Toes,” by the Zac Brown Band, “‘Til Love Runs Out,” One Republic, and “Take Me to Church,” by Hozier. I realize these are not new to most of you guys…

6. My friend Joe Decker, who responded to “The Sodomite Suppression Act” proposed by an Orange County bigot, who explicitly refers to Leviticus in the initiative, by plunking down $200 and filing “The Shellfish Suppression Act,” likewise explicitly referencing Leviticus. (In addition to being an activist and all round great guy, Joe is a nature photographer. Check out his work. Buy his work. You’ll thank me later.) Joe once again demonstrates that one of the best weapons against bigotry is mockery. This also demonstrates the insanity that is the California ballot initiative process.

7. The insanity that is the California ballot initiative process, for hours of gallows humor. Also, for providing regular citizens an opportunity to participate in the legislative process. Yes, the process often gets hijacked by corporate and other interests, and sometimes awful things happen, like Prop 8, but there is also gold among the dross.

8. Representative democracy.

9. For having fewer demands on my metaphorical spoons, at least for a few days.

10. The Southern Poverty Law Center.  I just read their latest newsletter, and boy is it scary, but I find knowing that someone is keeping track of these horrible people reassuring.

11. Elizabeth Warren.

12. Bernie Sanders.

13. That the Not-So-Little Drummer boy seems to be happy and healthy in New York.

14. That Winter Quarter is over.

15. The Bosch dishwasher we installed in November which is quiet.

16. Elmore Leonard.

17. The dearly departed Sir Terry Pratchett.

18. Hymns, especially “Seek Ye First” and “Be Thou My Vision.”

19. Pine trees against a stark blue sky.

20. Smithsonian magazine (a Christmas present from my kids.)

21. Spain, where I am going again this year. In fact, just knowing that Spain exists makes me happy.

22. That the DBT skills group just started again.

23. Public transportation, so that at least one of the non-drivers in the household gets around without any help from me.

24. Swarovski crystals.

25. Eva Cassidy.

26. Facebook, even if I do spend way too much time there.

27. Rachel Maddow, who manages to be humorous when appropriate, and outraged when appropriate, and totally human all the time.

28. Connie Willis, who in addition to being hands down my favorite science fiction writer (and for a long time the only SF writer whose works I would read — I have a cat named for a cat in one of her books!), for being a thoughtful and principled human being as well. (Poor David Gerrold.)

29. John Scalzi and Whatever.

30. Mike the Mad Biologist, and Fred Clark’s Slacktivist, for giving me things to think about.

31. Scrivener, which I am hoping to learn, and even more hoping to write the book I want to write.  Blogging is all well and good, but I want to do something more substantive.

32. Good Chinese food.

33. Burgers, preferably with barbecue sauce, onion confit, horseradish cheddar, tomatoes, and bacon on a brioche bun.

34. For that matter, bacon.

35. My doctors. (Who would probably prefer that I not eat bacon, but oh well…)

36. That the anti-vax movement is now being exposed to sunlight, and people are starting to take notice. Of course, there are still idiots out there…

37. All the dedicated science bloggers (i.e., those with actual science expertise) and journalists who fight the good fight to bring scientific literacy to a suspicious public.

38. The Tampa Bay Times, the best newspaper in the country.

39. My computer, which, although elderly by computer standards (she’s from 2011, and I have completely worn off the “N” key, and badly worn the “E” and “H”), is my lifeline to the larger world.

40. Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

41. Neal Patrick Harris.

42. BBC America. (New Orphan Black! And they are going to have a third season of Ripper Street!)

43. Wolf Hall, both the television series and the books. (Hilary Mantel, please finish the third book in the trilogy. Please.)

44. That my birthday has come and gone. In spite of nice gifts (and Railman made me a cake!), I find birthdays kind of depressing. All of my Facebook friends writing birthday congratulations on my Wall made me happy, however.

45. My friends.

46. My coworkers, who are also friends.

47. My family.

48. The ocean.  Any ocean.  The idea of the ocean.

49. Blue, in all shades, even powder blue. But mostly cornflower.

50. That I have a home.  Far too many people in this world don’t.

That’s it, that my list of things I am grateful for right now.

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On Immunty.

Most of you know where I stand on the vaccination debate. I refuse to discuss vaccinations with people who put their fingers in their ears and who ignore rationality and science. I have no patience with them.

Then I read Eula Bliss’s On Immunity.

Bliss does not buy into the anti-vaccination hysteria, presenting the science clearly and without jargon. She writes elegantly; more importantly, she views the world holistically. She places the anti-vaccination movement in a larger historical, sociological, and philosophical frame, discussing among other things the changes that the ideal of “purity” underwent when people began being afraid of toxins rather than infection.

She also writes of fear: the fear that she had for her child (in her case, fear bordering on obsession), that all of us have for our children. (She had a pediatrician when her son was born who told her not to get the HiB vaccination given to children within hours of their birth because it wasn’t necessary for “people like her.”)   In short, even as she dismantles their beliefs, she demonstrates compassion for the parents who oppose vaccinating their children. (The charlatans and professionals who profit off of said parents are another matter. For example, she points out a passage in Bob Sear’s anti-vaccination book which excuses parents who put the welfare of their child above that of society, while in another chapter telling parents not to share their fears with their neighbors lest an outbreak occur.)

She has compassion for those parents; I do not. I cannot. I feel only rage.

Mostly this rage stems from generational perspective and personal history. I was born to a mother who, grateful that the rubella that resulted in my being born six weeks early had struck in the third trimester of her pregnancy rather than the first, was too ill to hold me for days. At the age of one I developed both rubella and chickenpox simultaneously, resulting in high fevers for extended periods, and as a consequence  the formation of my tooth enamel was stunted. (I have suffered from dental problems a lot during my adult life.)  My eldest sister was twelve when the first polio vaccines were licensed. No one in our family got polio, but she can tell of the fear of getting polio.

Even thinking of rejecting vaccines strikes me as lunacy, although Bliss talks about the history of vaccine denial. (Refusal to get vaccines is a lot older than I ever thought, although in the early twentieth century the concern about the purity of the vaccines was far more justified than now.  Forget thimerasol: one vaccine used in an outbreak was contaminated with tetanus. Even so, the death rate among those who were not vaccinated was higher than that for those who were.)

Eula Bliss manages compassion; I need to take a deep breath and do likewise.

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A quick lesson on representative democracy.

San Jose, California, had a primary in a special election to fill an empty City Council seat.

On a day-to-day basis, city councils have a greater impact on people than who is in the White House. City councils determine police and fire staffing levels and spending priorities for services. City decisions about housing density can turn traffic from a minor annoyance to a major headache. Regulations can nurture or strangle small businesses.

Special elections usually result in low voter turnout.  Tuesday was no exception, and the eight candidate field fractured the already low number of votes. The chilly weather with threats of rain probably also hurt turnout.  As of Wednesday evening, with 98% of the votes counted, the difference between second place — and a place in the general election — and third — going home — was thirty-eight votes.

Undoubtedly there will be a recount.  Still… thirty-eight votes? For that matter, the difference between first and third was only 318 votes. If all the people who were too busy, lazy, or cynical to vote had turned up at the polls, or mailed in their absentee ballots, the outcome might be very different.

Edited to add: at 99% of the vote counted, the difference between second and third had dropped to twenty-three votes. The difference between first and third increased slightly, from 318 to 321.

And that, boys and girls, is why you ALWAYS vote.

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