Category Archives: Politics

If I am gunna talk about politics, like the actual movements of politicians and political movements or current events in government, this is where you’ll find them.

Shoulds Don’t Matter

I have become enamoured for some strange reason in the Mormon Stories podcast. This is not because I have a deep connection to Mormonism itself; Mormonism is a preposterous faith built out of a sex cult made by a 19th century con artist whose lies were fantastically obvious if you don’t induce the extremely special pleading of the faith.

Still, regardless of whether or not it has real or true claims of supernatural empowerment, Mormonism is an interconnected set of religious practices and moral frameworks constructed as a broad set of communication principles that spreads and dominates sections of the world (admittedly through those promises of supernatural empowerment, but still). Even if Mormonism is fake, Mormonism is real; it exists, and it maintains a shared fiction across upwards of thirty people. With that, comes culture, and with that culture, comes counterculture.

One element of this counterculture is John Dehlin, who started out as a Mormon Podcaster who wanted to help people hold onto their faith and now is probably seen as anti-Mormon. And I talk about him, with my Non-Brighamite Mormon friend, where he provided the summary of Dehlin as someone who played by the rules, who did things by the standards of the church, and then when all his work brought attention on something that the church said would change the church, when he did everything right in the name of improving things for Mormons, they instead excommunicated him.

An icon of a flying flag

Which is to say, he did the thing he should, according to the rules, and then it didn’t work. This is because should doesn’t matter.

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Recruiting The Absent

There’s a phrase I’ve realised I use more and more these days, which was introduced into my mental lexicon by bickering with people online. I don’t know where it first came up – I want to say at some point when I was talking about the heck that is Gifted Discourse.

If you’re not familiar with it, there’s a body of people who, bereft of a more interesting thing to do with their time, like to talk not about the experience of being a gifted child, instead want to try and make the conversation about how anyone who experienced gifted programs is the beneficiary of a privilege that represents a harm done to someone else. Basically, when someone was traumatised by the gifted program they went through and mustered the courage to talk about it in public, someone would pop up out of the trash can to espouse that hey, okay, you may be talking about that but instead, what about these people who didn’t get into the gifted program and didn’t benefit from the superior resources that were offered to you.

And those people weren’t there.

They weren’t part of the conversation.

This newcomer, this interloper, brought up someone as a way to attack or degrade the conversation and that person wasn’t there. They didn’t even necessarily even exist. And I think about it from time to time when I think about the ways I talk about things and how I communicate with you, an audience. Because I don’t know you (with some exceptions, good girl), but I do know things about you. You are a person I have to imagine some capacity, someone I have to make judgment calls about, and that can create interesting problems. Am I not making up a guy, as it were, to make mad at things? Or well, hopefully elated or cool at things?

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Privilege Is Without

You might have heard, or read really, at some point, me saying the phrase whiteness is a fog. The idea is that ‘white’ is not, in and of itself, a cultural form, an identity, but rather it is a system of acceptance outside yourself that permeates culture. The fog gets into all the cracks and presses against all the surfaces, but it isn’t, in and of itself, defined by something internal.

I am, after all, white. The system looks at me and goes ‘oh, this guy qualifies for the standard currently.’ Of course, it’s entirely possible for that to be withdrawn. Find the right weirdo and they might (say) falsely claim I’m Jewish and suddenly that whiteness can be withdrawn from me. It’s a complex system that rolls around in its day to day. Go back two hundred years and I wouldn’t get counted. The system is not tracking some inherent, actual, real like chemical detail or compositional detail about me. It is something people socially observe and attribute to me. Some of those attributions are pretty easy but sometimes they’re not.

an icon of a target
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Bluey’s Diggers

The Australian character, it is said, was shaped by World War 1. The diggers, the soldiers we sent to Turkey to buy breathing room for Russia so it could push on Germany and reduce the impact on France. That is a good and comforting myth to have in which we get to do something cool and impressive and tough (partake in a war) while also thinking everyone involved is stupid (because they were) and conveniently ignore the complete lack of our own agency in it (why didn’t we say no?). It sort of crystallised the Australian character as liking and being impressed with war and death, accepting death as a potential consequence, and all that good grim military fantasism that paints us as hardworking even to the point of death, and also quite stupid in that we didn’t once consider if maybe the people we should be shooting at are the ones telling us to get shot.

But thing is, I have complicated feelings about Bluey.

A screencap from the TV series Bluey, episode 'Cricket.' It shows Bluey holding a tennis ball and preparing to bowl while her dad Bandit looks on with a smile.
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The Haka

Thinkin’ about the haka lately.

If you’re not familiar with haka, and I’m saying this before I check a wikipedia page on it it is a cultural celebration perhaps best compared to a dance, from the Maori culture out of Aotearoa, which I more commonly refer to as New Zealand, because it’s a habit and it dies hard. But yes, you may have seen this before, a scene of a group of usually men, usually rugby players, standing before an opposing team and doing a synchronised performance. I’m reluctant to call it a dance just because I know that dance is an English word, and I don’t necessarily want to distract from what haka are by what you might imagine if I call it just a ceremonial dance.

There’s this story that shows up about the haka, and it tends to be how people in the Northern Hemisphere finds out about it. Someone plays against the Aotearoan team in a sporting event, and the Aotearoan team opens by doing their haka. Then you get some early sports headline like:

Ireland unmoved by New Zealand Players’ War Dance

Followed by a headline an hour later like:

Ireland loses 16-2 against New Zealand.

And this is, to me, very funny, because why would you mention the haka and then why would you mention how Ireland was unaffected by that. And I’ve seen this headline structure multiple times! And part of that is a little bit unfair, because the haka is but one part of that story, where the bulk of the story is that international Aotearoan sports teams are made up of people really good at the sports they play. The footnote though, the thing that always hangs around the edges of it is people trying to express in some way of rearranged words that haka is somehow, bad. That it’s not cool as hell, that it’s inappropriate, that it’s being used at an inappropriate time.

This is, of course, racist as hell.

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Decemberween ’23 — Urban Planning Youtube

Learning things is so cool. You come to understand things about the world around you and the way they operate and maybe this helps you make decisions going forwards about things that interest you. There’s a dark mirror to that though where sometimes you’ll learn about how a thing in your everyday life has been messed up for your whole life and it doesn’t have to be and…

Yeah.

Nobody’s doing anything about it.

an icon of a car

Wanna learn about Urban Planning?

Wanna learn about one of many terrible things you interact with every day and how badly handled it is? And how the people who handle it badly want it that way, for bad and selfish reasons, and because they assume nobody knows or cares enough to address them?

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Decemberween ’23 — Skip Intro

I think I’ve done a great job of making this month’s festival of free media for your engagement particularly educational, and I’m not planning on stopping. Part of Da Ween is revelling in honestly appreciating the things I really like, and so, I should, surely, share these things that make me laugh, make me smile, and make me think.

the logo for the channel Skip intro

Anyway, I watch Skip Intro to learn about American policing systems as represented in media and provide a comprehensive breakdown of the different facets of copaganda, an insidious practice that’s used to reinforce racism and classism and just all the isms that capitalism likes.

Wheeee.

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Unmasked

You are become witness to a great becoming. As you look at the media before you, you are seeing a parallel reality constructed in front of you, as two different images of what is reasonable and typical and normal grow in front of you, and the one that is realistic and focused on what is actually true and actually existed and actually happened is the quieter, smaller, less seen one.

Content Warning: COVID-19 and related medical problems.

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Pride Month 2023!

In the major English-speaking parts of the worlds I’m familiar with (which weirdly, is not Nigeria, despite it having four times as many English speakers as my home country and Canada combined), June is Pride Month. This is because a number of inter-linked corporate interests have been able to maximise sharing economic value by treating England, Australia, Canada and America as if we all operate on roughly comparable time scales and interests. For this reason, June is the month where America celebrates Pride, in the ways America does, and the rest of us are already buying your t-shirts, so your rainbows show up on all our soda cans anyway. Happy Pride! Buy something.

The obligatory response is of course, ‘well, why?’ and not just why do we do Pride in June, but rather, why do we need Pride at all? After all, isn’t homophobia solved and fixed and now we’re just kind of tidying up around the edges? Of course not, and if you’re reading this you know that’s not true, because I am not some general access explainer, I’m the blog of a weirdo who likes board games and anime and has somehow captured an audience just barely larger than a really suspect church congregation. But why not talk about it anyway, in the specific vein of Hey I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

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Values of A Dollar — The Confederacy’s Currency

Hey, the Confederate States Of America were a racist slave state that was founded in the name of maintaining a white supremacist state forever, and its eventual fall was a moral good. But don’t worry, while that state existed, they also made a bunch of shitty, self-glorifying art that even when it’s technically well crafted, is all built out of a fascist, white supremacist ideology that was so bad and so obviously evil that even The United States was their moral superior. Whatever aesthetic value their culture has is, like the art of Rhodesia, entirely predicated on them being a nation whose significance in modern culture is entirely about clinging to an ideology of racism, and you do not, in fact, got to hand it to them.

Anyway, I think that sets the tone right.

I have said, many times, that your culture’s money is probably the most commonly reproduced piece of art your culture makes in your name. It is the ideology of a nation, in its most common piece of civic art, art that’s meant to represent who you are and what you value, and that’s why it’s meaningful to care about what it depicts. I’ve said that the United States currency is some of the worst, both in term of its accessibility, but also its devotion to depicting nothing but the institution of its own governance from a very narrow window of time. Basically, US money depicts nothing as much as it depicts the importance of a small handful of people who maintained and operated the mechanisms of creating the country of America.

They still have Andrew Jackson on a bill and they’ve had seven years to put Harriet Tubman on a bill, and that hasn’t moved past prototype stages, so you can see how important it is to the people making choices.

But that’s America America; what about America America America, the America that insists it’s even more America than America America? What did the Confederacy put on their money?

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Bob Ross’ Basilisk

I’m glad I didn’t rush into this conversation.

This is about generative art, using predictive models, which you might hear lumped together as ‘AI art’ these days. I don’t want to use that term for it (though, you know, no promises I don’t mess up and do that), and I don’t want to fall into the trap of that, of treating it like ‘an artificial intelligence.’ It’s not. The term I use for it is Generative Art, which media you can feed into a machine, and then make that machine spit out results based on composing those pieces.

There are two big reasons to use this term instead of ‘AI art.’ The first is that it’s just not AI. AI implies an intelligence, which this absolutely is not and cannot be. There cannot be intention behind the accumulated behaviour of a statistical average. Calling it AI is a cloak thrown over a system – a very clever system! – that’s able to divine fuzzy trends in how people sort and categorise things. The other thing is that calling it generative art connects it to previously generative art – institutions of technological systems designed to make artistic forms in a way that complicates the intention of the artist. This is a tradition that reaches back a long way, and sure, it includes things like these generative art systems, but also random graphical output demos on disks back in the 90s, noise generators in Photoshop, messy blurs, picrews, and even things like tie-die art, and when you can put them in that context, you’re going to be able to extract it from a lot of hype about it, both positively and negatively.

Let’s talk about it, then.

‘sad alex jones in a forest, in the style of bob ross’
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The Fastest Woman In History

Who is it?

I thought this was a pretty simple question. It feels like the kind of thing that if you punch it into a google search, you’d get a card which mentions this person moved at this speed at this time and they had these genders and you’d have to dig to page 2 to get a good result that wasn’t just mimicking that.

Man, search engines have gotten bad.

Anyway, no, I didn’t get a good answer punching it in, but I did wind up finding a bunch of interesting questions, thinking about it!

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Don’t Buy (Corporate) Pride Shit

This month you’re going to see a lot of companies putting rainbows on their products. A bunch of what they do is going to look very cool, even whipping some degree or measure of ass. Consider these rad shirt designs from Wizards of the Coast, which if you like their iconography for their games, integrates really good design aesthetics with the brand.

Don’t buy them.

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Decemberween: Urban Planning Youtube!

I don’t know why I became a weirdo into educational video material in my adult years but then I think about the times I’d spend in the mornings when I was home sick from school watching Zardip’s Search For Healthy Wellness, a Canadian TV show that was much cooler in my memory than it really is, and I didn’t think it was very cool at the best of times. But still, this year I’ve learned a lot about urban planning and it turns out there’s an entire Youtube subculture of people talking about that.

During this time I’ve learned about the idea of Gadget-Bahns and Stroads and AM/FM problems.

Here are some videos from each channel to serve as a sort of ‘serving suggestion’ of the style and tone of some of these sources I’ve enjoyed this year. First up, there’s the fairly gentle ‘boring urban nice’ style of Not Just Bikes.

Why Dutch Bikes are Better (and why you should want one)

There are two basic styles of videos from Not Just Bikes. There are videos about the infrastructure and urban planning that’s happening in the Netherlands (the place the documentarian lives now). This is basically a sort of ‘hey, here’s how things are done in this country in a way that normally would get ignored by people, because they’re so normal nobody highlights them.’ This is about the really boring common bike you can get the omafiets (and why I want one).

Stroads are Ugly, Expensive, and Dangerous (and they're everywhere) [ST05]

The other kind of video on the channel are where he looks at the kind of infrastructure in other countries, mostly America, and how that’s garbage and sucks and it’s bad. This video explains what a Stroad is, and if you’ve seen one you might be filled with the same deeply unpleasant feeling I have when I look at yes, these stroads and man I hate stroads and I didn’t even know what a stroad was.

I also watched a bunch by a guy called Adam Something. He’s a lot sassier and mean, a little less genteel, ‘look at interesting things,’ and um, a lot more ‘let’s make fun of Elon Musk’s stupid ideas.’

The HYPERLOOP Will Never Work, Here's Why

A body of his videos are about tackling the technofix mindset of expensive projects to try and ‘fix’ problems with existing systems without just, you know, fixing those systems by financing them and addressing their problems.

The ACTUAL Solution to Traffic - A Response to CGP Grey

Now I will give a sort-of content warning on Adam Something: I have a memory of hearing him say something in one of his videos was ‘r*tarded.’ But I couldn’t find it when I went looking for it again, and I couldn’t be sure. Adam Something is also from a different cultural extraction — so I don’t want to say I know how he knows that word is socially considered in English?

But either way, I think he may have said that once and that’s non-ideal but I can’t find him saying it across his videos. If you think that’s going to stand out and upset you, stick to Not Just Bikes.

Gandhi Was Bad

Hey, do you know about this whacky famous videogame bug?

Back in Civilisation, a video game on the PC, yes, that thing, and also on platforms like the SNES. In this game, you pilot a nation, with your character — and all the other characters you play against — being famous representatives of important historical leaders. So if you play the Americans, you get Abe Lincoln, if you play the Romans, you get ‘Caesar’ (who is probably Julius), and so on. These come with some degree of personality, like Shaka of the Zulus and Genghis of the Mongols aren’t the same kind of leaders as Elizabeth of England and Stalin of Russia. It’s not exactly a well-framed kind of thing, where for example, Genghis’ leadership doesn’t result in a heavily military weirdly communist mix, and Elizabeth is seen as favouring ‘democracy’ for some reason.

Anyway, the idea is that there’s this bug in the game, where at some point, Gandhi, the leader of the Indian civilisation flips his wig and starts threatening to nuke the shit out of you in every conversation.

This is because, the lore goes, that every leader has an aggressiveness rating from 1 to 10. If you become a Democracy (which the Indians favour), your aggression score goes down by 2. Suddenly, Gandhi’s 1 becomes a 0 then becomes a negative 1 which in this does a classic computer fliparound and became a 255 and suddenly Ghandi is twenty five times more aggressive than the most murdery murderer who ever murders.

It’s not true, mind you.

This just literally isn’t true. In Civilisation, there’s no such rule that works this way.

First, the types of numbers stored in Civilisation don’t do this kind of fliparound thing. It’s something to do with whether the number knows how to sign their names, but the basics is: Civilisation Doesn’t Have This Kind Of Bug.

Second, in Civilisation, leaders don’t have a rating of 1 to 10. They have a simple three settings; Peaceful, Neutral, or Aggressive. That is: Civilisation Doesn’t Have That Kind of Rating.

And then there’s also that in Civilisation, changing your government doesn’t change the way the AI works. That is: Civilisation Doesn’t Even Work The Way This Bug Describes.

Now this is probably a bummer for you. After all, the Nuclear Gandhi meme is a fun one! It teaches people a little bit about how computers work, about the ways that they can behave in odd ways, and it explains a behaviour you may kind of remember in this game or another game like it, where someone you associate with peaceful civil disobedience being an aggressively belligerent asshole just jars. It’s a great little narrative, and the bug gets to explain the narrative, and all of that is unfortunately hindered by literally none of it being true, and relying on people not actually understanding anything they’re talking about, but also, in that very 4chan way, it is a rumour that you could start if you only seemed to understand the game a tiny bit more than someone else.

Incidentally, Gandhi wouldn’t nuke people aggressively. If the Indians in the game developed nuclear weapons, he would assert before any peace offering that his words were backed by nuclear weapons as the music kicked into high gear, but he’d still always offer a peace treaty, because his setting was peaceful.

But I may have destroyed Nuclear Gandhi in your mind.

But don’t worry, I can give you a replacement, if you don’t mind reading beyond the fold.

And now we get to the so-often this year, fold with Content Warning: Nazis!

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The Human Mars Base That Definitely Exists I Promise Dude Just Trust Me

Hey, you remember me mentioning the Giant of Kandahar? That was a fun bit of conspiratorial nonsense embraced by bad people in an existing support network of fabulist grifters and true believers, wasn’t it? It was especially fun because, if it’s true (and you can’t prove it’s not!) then you’re left with proof that conspiracies are true, and that means you may believe in other conspiracies, because, after all, the coverup of the Giant of Kandahar shows it!

Gunna talk about conspiracy theories, which are fun, but then I’m going to talk about Qanon, which isn’t! I guess I’m also mean to the Seven Day Adventists a little?

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Welcome to ERFs

Have you enconutered the term ‘TERF’ and left wondering: Wait, what’s that?

There are some people, TERFs mostly, who think that TERF is a slur. It’s not; slurs are terms used to direct social power against a marginalised group. If you shout TERF at someone on the street, they’re not going to assume someone else is going to attack them because of being so painted. If they are, they’re incredibly paranoid, because TERFs are typically very privileged people who are afraid of being criticised by trans people.

It may sound like I am overdoing it, but I really am not. The typical TERF discourse is an attempt to weaponise outrage at the idea of women facing disagreement from, pretty consistently, other women. But what is a TERF? And what about those other -ERF terms I’ve heard?

So, content warning: TERF stuff! And SWERF stuff! And BLERF stuff! What’s a BLERF? Well, after the fold.

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Slacktivism

Last month, Rush Limbaugh died. This isn’t important to the issue, though it is worth knowing that it is good that he died, because in terms of harm reduction, he was stopped from causing more immense harm. Also, it’s bad that he died, because he didn’t die, screaming, in pain, over the course of multiple years, as the evils of his life were revisited on him showing that there is a just god. That his obituary will not be officially concluded with the best phrases, ‘in a humiliating shitting incident,’ or ‘after having tazed himself repeatedly in the balls,’ is a crime against the idea of at least comedic justice itself. What I’m saying is that Rush Limbaugh’s death should have been a lot funnier or a lot more painful, and the fact it was neither indicates that we do not live in a just world.

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What’s a Condorcet Winner?

I talk from time to time about voting systems, because they’re useful for game design and also because they’re uh, part of how we interact with our entire political system, and there’s a bunch of countries that do a terrible job of it, which shouldn’t really be how it goes, but voting is a cousin of math, and it was written about by French people, and if there’s one thing American political culture absolutely cannot abide, it’s a good idea from France. Here in Australia we use a voting system you might know as an instant runoff system, or a ranked voting system. This system is strictly better than the American system, and if you want to argue that, you are wrong, but.

But.

It’s not perfect.

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