May 082014
 

Vox, Ezra Klein’s wonky news venture, always provides me with interesting lunchtime reading. For example, here’s a post highlighting a clever British ad campaign designed to help avoid awkward social interactions with people with disabilities. I can particularly identity with the kind of interaction depicted in this ad:

So remember, folks, don’t bend over when you’re speaking to me or I’ll think you’re a condescending ass.

Kudos to Vox for covering disability issues and I hope we see more posts like this in the future.

May 062014
 

A new government report makes it clear that climate change is significantly affecting average Americans and its effects will only grow worse if we continue to do nothing. According to the report:

Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours. People are seeing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that thrive in their gardens, and the kinds of birds they see in any particular month in their neighborhoods.

In a more rational country, this report would prompt a coordinated national response to the very real threat that climate change poses. But as long as conservatives persist with their two-pronged strategy of denialism and fear-mongering, we can’t expect rationality at the federal level. Some states and local governments are taking concerted action to reduce carbon emissions and diversify their energy supplies, although I’m skeptical that these initiatives will have much impact on a national or global scale.

It’s difficult to resist the conclusion that humanity may already be well and truly fucked; we just need a few more decades to fully appreciate it. I hope that’s not the case. I hope that there are some really gifted engineers, scientists, and political leaders among today’s preschoolers because they will be the ones who will have to manage the brunt of the crisis.

May 022014
 

I’m late linking to this, but Harold Pollack has a great post in Wonkblog about how Medicaid forces poverty on people with disabilities. This is common knowledge in disability policy circles, but most people don’t grasp how difficult it can be to maintain Medicaid eligibility and have any semblance of financial independence. It’s common for people with disabilities to hide assets with a family member or keep income off the books to ensure that they don’t lose access to vital services. Those of us who buy into Medicaid are allowed a bit more leeway with our finances, but we still must be careful.

Congress really should revisit the strict Medicaid income and asset limits for people with disabilities. But as long as Medicaid is regarded as a program for only the poor, policymakers won’t be eager to change the status quo.

Apr 302014
 

Disney unveiled the cast for Star Wars: Episode VII yesterday, confirming rumors that many of the original stars (Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker) will reunite as everyone’s favorite former rebel scum. The cast also features a number of actors with lower profiles, keeping with the spirit of the first movie. Other bloggers have noted that the cast is heavily tilted towards men and it’s a fair point, although Disney has responded that at least one more female role has yet to be cast. I’m pretty sure that the Star Wars galaxy is populated with plenty of interesting women with stories to tell, no matter how far away it is.

I’m also taking bets on how long it will take the Internet to produce hybrid Star Wars-Girls slash fic featuring Adam Driver’s character in really uncomfortable sex scenes.

Apr 252014
 

Joel Hodgson, creator of the original Mystery Science Theater 3000, revealed that he may revive the series online sometime in the not-so-distant future. For us long-suffering MSTies, this is promising news. MST3K could find great success as a streaming series and I would gladly contribute to a related Kickstarter. I get a little giddy just thinking about all the riffing possibilities that our hyperactive 21st century pop culture would provide for a series reboot. And the movies! If Hodgson could get the rights to something truly awful like The Happening, we may witness true brilliance unfold before us.

Apr 242014
 

Conservatives really need to come up with a better process for vetting their potential folk heroes. Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy received plenty of media attention (much of it adulating) when he and a bunch of sympathetic militia members chased off federal officials who were trying to repossess his cattle. Bundy didn’t see a problem with not paying fees for grazing his cattle and plenty of people took up his cause as a means to protest everything they disliked about Obama’s America. Fair enough. But then Bundy decided to opine on topics unrelated to cattle or grazing:

I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro…They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.

Am I surprised that some geriatric self-styled “patriot” and country bumpkin has an abiding fondness for the bygone days of slavery? Not really. Most of Bundy’s militia pals and a sizable number of Fox News viewers would nod in agreement with this statement. But the next few days will see plenty of leading conservative politicians putting as much distance as possible between Bundy and themselves. It’s becoming something of a ritual in conservative circles. They rally around a Joe or Jane Sixpack of the Week—someone who represents all that is good and true about the Real America. Then Jane or Joe says something stupid, usually about people of color or women. And the rally is over and Jane or Joe find themselves friendless and alone.

 

Apr 172014
 

I don’t know if I’ll make it to Coachella next year, but I do have tickets to this summer’s Rock the Garden music festival here in Minneapolis. This is the first year of the festival’s 2-day format and I’m excited to see Best Coast, Spoon, and local sensation Dessa. This will also be my first year attending RTG, which is only a couple miles from my home. Let’s hope the weather cooperates and that I can find a decent sightline to the stage.

Apr 142014
 

I was a bit surprised to learn that Amazon has purchased digital comics purveyor Comixology. I now purchase most of my comics via Comixology and I hope this takeover leads to some much-needed improvements for the site, such as a more refined search function and a more intuitive way to organize the comics I have already purchased. Amazon has a reputation for not mucking up the companies it purchases (see Audible and Zappos), which could be good news for Comixology and its customers.

I’d like to see more competitors enter the market, but few companies will be eager to contend with a behemoth like Amazon. Publisher Dark Horse has its own digital storefront, but it’s a bit of a mess and I think I would prefer that they simply make their titles available through Comixology.

Apr 132014
 

Watching the live YouTube stream of Coachella during the weekend has once again stirred my interest in attending the much-hyped music festival. I seem to do this every year; I watch the concert video and think how much fun it would be to be there in person. But after more thought, I decide that the heat and crowds are more trouble than they’re worth. That may be the wrong mindset. If I have flirted with the idea for this long, I should just find a way to do it and not worry about the obstacles. That approach seemed to work well for my trip to Europe and I’m overdue for another adventure.

Stay tuned to see if I can actually make this happen. Coachella tickets aren’t exactly easy to come by.

Apr 102014
 

Well, that was fast. Only a week after David Letterman announced that he was retiring from the Late Show, CBS announced that Stephen Colbert would be the show’s new host. The Colbert Report has been such a consistently well-crafted piece of satire and I’ll be sorry to see it go at the end of the year. Colbert has already stated that he won’t bring his current persona to CBS, which is understandable. His schtick would only confuse the older viewers that CBS attracts, but I do hope he finds a way to deviate from the standard late-night construct of monologue, interview, and music. Colbert will probably the smartest person working on late-night network TV and his new show should reflect that.