The Draft Is Coming

Apr. 24th, 2019 01:13 am
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Posted by grrm

Last year’s regular season was a nightmare for both the Giants and Jets, and thus a double nightmare for yours truly, who suffered through twice as many defeats every Sunday.   But November’s woes are April’s thrills, since that means both New York teams are picking high in this year’s NFL draft.  Gang Green has the third overall pick, behind the Cardinals and the Niners.   Big Blue picks sixth… and also 17th, thanks to trading away Odell Beckham Junior.  That was still a terrible trade imo, the Giants did not get nearly enough for a player of Odell’s calibre… but at least they got something, and now at least we get to find out what.

First round is Thursday night, and I’ll be watching, as I always do.   I’ll be watching the whole thing, actually, but by the time we get down to the fifth and sixth and seventh rounds it is just a bunch of names I have never heard of flashing by, so it’s round one where all the excitement is.

The Jets got their quarterback of the future last year in Sam Darnold so the thought is that they go defense this year.   The key to that is the Arizona Cardinals, picking first.   Almost all the mocks have them taking quarterback Kyler Murray, a small, swift, scrambling signal caller who has been compared to Michael Vick and Baker Mayfield.   Mel Kiper says it is 99.99% certain the Cards take Murray, even though they still have Josh Rosen, the qb they traded up for in the first round last year.   If he’s right, that means the Jets at three will have their pick of the top-rated defensive talents. Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Quinnen Williams are the names you hear most often.  If the Cards take Murray and the Niners take one of those three, the Jets will have their choice between the other two.   I just hope, if it comes to that, that they pick the right one.   We need the next Lawrence Taylor or the next Reggie White.  The danger is that instead you find yourself with the next Vernon Gholston.

The Jets could also trade down with some qb-hungry team, and regain some of the picks they had to give up last year to snag Darnold.   I wouldn’t mind that… so long as they don’t go TOO far down, and get a good package of picks for moving, not just something lame like a fifth rounder.   But all in all, I think I’d prefer that they stay at #3 and take Josh Allen.   If for no other reason than they are in the same division as the Buffalo Bills, who drafted a quarterback named Josh Allen last year.   We could have years of Josh Allen sacking Josh Allen to look forward to.

There’s even more suspense swirling around the New York Giants with their two first-round picks (and a high second, never forget).   The vast majority of talking heads out there have seemingly given up on Eli Manning (though the Giants themselves clearly haven’t), and are insisting that the G-Men draft a young quarterback as his successor.   The most likely choice is Dwayne Haskins out of Ohio State, who grew up a Giants fan.   I will freely admit I do not follow college ball as I do the NFL. so I can’t claim any expertise… but Haskins does look mighty impressive from what I’ve seen of him leading up to the draft.   He is likely to be there at #6 — unless the Raiders, who are lurking in the weeds at #4, surprise everyone and grab him — but everything we are hearing out of Jersey suggests the Giants are going to go defense with that pick.   Haskins is not likely to last until #17, not with so many other quarterback hungry teams in between (the Dolphins, the Redskins, the Bengals)… but it could be that Dave Gettleman the Giants GM prefers one of the other quarterback prospects, and it is possible that either Drew Locke or Daniel Jones or both will still be there, and Gettleman could snag one of them.   Hell, it could even be that one of them will still be there at the top of round two, for the Giants to draft then.

If Big Blue does not take a quarterback at #6 OR #17, though, prepare for a bloodbath.

Only time will tell who is right.   The thing about the draft is, you never know.   The legendary 1983 draft, when six QBs were taken in round one, is proof of that.   Three of those players turned out to be Hall of Famers.   A couple were solid NFL starters with long careers, though they always labored in the shadow of the three guys who were better.   One was an out-and-out bust.   And then there was the year that Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf went one-two.  Some people insisted that Leaf was better.   Boy, were they wrong.

But that’s the fun of it.   You never know.

Myself, I am hoping that whoever the Giants draft, he spends the year on the bench.  Eli Manning is a class guy, and I’d love nothing better than for him to have a great season and lead the Giants to another SuperBowl, making all his detractors eat a big crow pie along the way.

((Comments permitted, but ONLY on the NFL and the draft.  Off topic comments will be deleted))



Savage Love

Apr. 23rd, 2019 04:00 pm
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Posted by Dan Savage

Should he out his friend's dad as a suspected pedophile? by Dan Savage

My best friend's father is an avid user of social media. He's retired and spends most of his day posting memes on Facebook and Instagram. Recently, I realized he might not know how Instagram works. I noticed over the past week or so that he has been following, liking, and commenting on a lot of Instagram pictures of young gay men. I don't think he realizes that anyone who follows him can see that activity. At first I was worried, not because he might be gay or bisexual, but because he may still be "in the closet." He's married, with a son (my friend), and to my knowledge, if he is bisexual or gay, nobody knows. I thought about warning him that his activity is public, but then I saw more. Not only has he been liking pictures of younger looking men, he's also been liking and following accounts of very young boy models. Underage boys. I don't want to jump to conclusions, but the evidence is there. So now I've gone from wanting to warn this guy that he may be accidentally outing himself by not knowing how apps work to feeling morally obligated to tell my friend that his dad is into dudes and might be a pedophile. I can only imagine the ramifications this news would have on him and his family.

Best Friend's Dad

"I'm sympathetic to BFD's concerns," said Dr. Michael Seto, director of forensic rehabilitation research at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group and an expert on pedophilia and sexual offending. "I know many people wonder what to do if they suspect someone is sexually attracted to children. And I understand how much of a burden it can feel like to keep a big secret, especially from a best friend."

But before we discuss your options and responsibilities here, BFD, let's get our terms straight: If by "young boy models" you mean teenage boys past puberty but under the age of consent, then your friend's father's behavior is icky and inappropriate—but it is not, by itself, evidence that he's a pedophile.

"Clinically, pedophilia refers to attraction to prepubescent children," said Dr. Seto, "though I know it's still commonly used in public to refer to attraction to anyone underage."

Actually, the term "pedophile" gets tossed around so indiscriminately these days that some of my own readers have used it to describe (or condemn) people in their 40s or 50s who are attracted to (or fucking) grown men and women in their 20s and 30s. For the record: An attraction to younger/youngish adults does not make someone a pedophile. If that were the case, almost everyone on earth could be described (and condemned) as a pedophile. Dr. Seto estimates that just 1 percent of men are in fact attracted to prepubescent children. So depending on your point of view—depending on whether you're a glass 99 percent empty or 1 percent full kind of guy—pedophilia is either exceedingly rare or alarmingly common.

"Attraction to underage teens—boys or girls—is more common," said Dr. Seto, "though it's hard to estimate how common because it's a taboo subject. We get hints from the popularity of certain porn genres like 'schoolgirl,' 'twink,' 'barely legal,' and so on. We also have a hint from how so many fashion models begin working in their teens."

But Dr. Seto emphasizes that sexual attraction does not equal sexual behavior.

"The Instagram follows and likes may indeed suggest an attraction to underage boys," said Dr. Seto. "And it may even be pedophilia if the models are that young. But that doesn't mean his friend's father is going to do anything beyond following or liking."

Understanding what separates pedophiles who've offended against children (read: pedophiles who've sexually abused children) from pedophiles who've never inappropriately touched a child is an important focus of Dr. Seto's research, BFD, and his insights could inform your course of action.

"One thing we know is that people who are low in self-control are more likely to act on sexual as well as nonsexual impulses," said Dr. Seto. "That low self-control shows up in other ways, including addictions, problems holding down a job, problems in adult relationships, unreliability, and criminal behavior. My hypothesis is that someone who doesn't show these signs is unlikely to offend against a child. They might look at child pornography, though, which is illegal and problematic, or they might look at legal images of children—like on social media—as a sexual outlet."

Viewing child pornography is hugely problematic because it creates demand for more child pornography, which leads to more children being abused. But even if no new child porn were ever created, sharing images of the rape of a child is itself a violation of that child. And while it may not be pleasant to contemplate what might be going through a pedophile's mind when they look at innocent images of children, it's not against the law for someone with a sexual interest in children to dink around on Instagram.

"Returning to BFD's question about whether to disclose, I don't think it's an easy yes-or-no answer," said Dr. Seto. "It depends on what else BFD knows about the father. I'm required by law and professional ethics to report [someone] if I believe an identifiable child is at imminent risk. This mandatory reporting requirement is NOT triggered simply by knowing whether someone is sexually attracted to children. Instead, I have to consider information like whether the person has ever expressed fantasies or urges about a specific child, whether they work with children regularly, whether they live with children who are in their attraction category, or whether they have ever engaged in suspicious behavior like direct messaging with a child."

Does your friend's dad work with underage boys? Does he sometimes look after underage boys—say, grandsons? Do they have sleepovers with friends at grandpa's house? Has he ever behaved in an inappropriate manner around underage boys—e.g., inventing reasons to be alone with them, offering them booze or drugs, or making suggestive comments offline or online?

"In the absence of these kinds of red flags, what we have here is someone who might be sexually attracted to underage boys but who might not pose a serious risk to children," explained Dr. Seto. "So while not disclosing might mean some risk of a child being harmed, disclosing could definitely cause harm to the best friend, to the father, and to their relationship."

You're in an agonizing position, BFD. You essentially have to weigh the chance—most likely very remote—that your friend's dad would harm a child against the near certainty that telling your friend about his father's behavior would do irrevocable harm to their relationship. Your relationship with your friend would also be at risk; this is definitely one of those circumstances where the messenger risks being shot. Figuratively speaking. I hope.

Personally, BFD, in your shoes, I would err on the side of protecting even a hypothetical child. I would say something to the dad, perhaps via direct message (you could create a throwaway account and reach out anonymously), and I would also say something to my friend. But I would emphasize what the best available research tells us about pedophilia: It's not something a person chooses, and most pedophiles never sexually abuse children. (And not everyone who sexually abuses a child is a pedophile.) So even if your best friend's father is attracted to prepubescent boys—if he's looking at prepubescent children and not teenagers who happen to be just under the age of consent—that doesn't mean he's harmed a child or would ever harm a child. He may need help to avoid offending—if, worst-case scenario, he actually is attracted to children—and being held accountable by loved ones is one way pedophiles avoid offending.

Dr. Seto is the author of Pedophilia and Sexual Offending Against Children and more. Follow him on Twitter @MCSeto.

Hear from a woman who LOVES to receive dick pics:

@fakedansavage on Twitter

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[syndicated profile] gr8r_gr8r_wash_feed

Posted by Matt Johnson (Editorial Board Alum)

It’s time for the 142nd installment of our bi-weekly “whichWMATA” series!

Below are five photos of stations in the Washington Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5

There is a theme this week. Figuring out what the common thread is may help you solve all five clues.

Please have your answers submitted by noon on Thursday. Good luck!

Note: Due to my vacation, whichWMATA will be taking a break during May.

Top image: Image 1

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Posted by Alex Baca (Housing Program Organizer)

Some members of the DC Council were as shocked and dismayed as our community was by the deaths on our roads this past weekend. A driver killed Dave Salovesh while he rode his bicycle on Florida Avenue NE Friday, and another killed Abdul Seck, a New York City visitor who was walking at 16th and V SE in Anacostia Sunday.

Charles Allen (Ward 6) introduced an “emergency” bill to force the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to build a safer Florida Avenue including protected bikeways. Mary Cheh (Ward 3) proposed a bill to require protected bikeways where master plans already call for them. And Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) sent an eloquent letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser about the need for action.

Allen proposes emergency fixes to Florida Avenue

Advocates have been frustrated that the project spent years in limbo after a 2015 study recommended reducing travel lanes and adding bike lanes. Allen noted that DDOT had promised to have final 100% designs for Florida Avenue by early 2018 but still hasn't reached 30% design.

DDOT first studies road changes, then proceeds to the engineering “design” phase which has a series of progressively more detailed plans, and this is where it's been stuck. DDOT has told council during oversight hearings it had to find a new contractor and now expects to get to 100% design by December of 2020.

Allen's bill would take away DDOT's ability to move (or “reprogram”) any money without the council's approval until the design reaches 30%, and not for amounts over $500,000 until it reaches 100%. Normally, DDOT doesn't need council permission to move money and for amounts over $500,000, it has to give the council a chance to block it but can go ahead if the council doesn't act. Basically, this is putting DDOT in the time-out corner.

The bill is emergency legislation, which under DC's Home Rule Act can be passed quickly, without first holding a hearing, requiring the usual two votes from the council, or waiting for Congress to have a chance to overturn. However, declaring an “emergency” requires nine votes on the council instead of the usual seven, and emergency bills can't be effective for more than 90 days. There's a companion “temporary” bill which takes a little longer to pass and can last until 225 days.

Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), and David Grosso (at-large) co-introduced the bill. The council will vote on it at its next legislative session, on May 7. We suggest you ask the council to pass this bill.

Email the DC Council today!

Allen has also said he's working on a bigger bill, which we have been collaborating on with him and his staff. We'll have more about that soon.

Cheh would build out the city's bike lane plans

Cheh's bill says that if DDOT “engages in any road reconstruction, major repair, or curb and gutter replacement” on a road which has a bicycle lane in the District's master plans, then it has to build a protected bikeway on that road and try to connect it in a network with other lanes.

DDOT can get out of this requirement if it certifies in writing that such a lane is prohibitively expensive, wouldn't be used, won't make cyclists safer, or requires buying private property to construct. And the bill says the council doesn't want this to slow down road repaving projects.

This bill is modeled on a similar one in Cambridge, Massachusetts which has been hailed as protecting bike lane plans against “bikelash.”

Co-introducers for this bill were Allen, Grosso, Jack Evans (Ward 2), Elissa Silverman (at-large), Anita Bonds (at-large), Brandon Todd (Ward 4), Robert White (at-large), Vincent Gray (Ward 7), and Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1).

As this is regular legislation, it first must have a hearing before the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, which Cheh chairs. She should be scheduling the hearing soon. If other councilmembers introduce related legislation, that could be covered at the same hearing. If you want updates on this, sign up here.

Keep me posted!

Nadeau says “we need to be much bolder”

In a letter to Mayor Bowser, Nadeau wrote, “Dave [Salovesh] was a strong advocate for safer streets and expanded bicycle infrastructure across the District, and if his and Abdul Seck’s deaths are to mean anything, I hope it is the more focused attention of the Council and your administration on how we save lives on our streets.”

She added, “Just when we should be following through on the 2006 Bike Master Plan recommendation to install ten miles of protected bicycle infrastructure every year, we are instead installing a mere ten miles total by 2024. As cities across the country are proactively expanding dedicated bus lanes and Bus Rapid Transit improvements, we are just now getting started on pilot programs.” She praised planned projects including the Crosstown Cycletrack along Irving Street from Michigan Avenue to Park View, bus/bike lanes on 14th Street, and bus lanes on 16th Street.

Finally, noting that “if we are to really achieve our goals of Vision Zero, reduced use of single-occupancy vehicles, and a sustainable and carbon-neutral city, we need to be much bolder in our thinking,” she gave a list of other transportation-related policies she hopes to advance:

  • Passing a robust Compete Streets policy, requiring accommodations for all modes of transportation when redesigning streets.
  • A statutorily mandated number of miles of complete streets infrastructure built per year.
  • A comprehensive network of dedicated transit lanes and protected bicycle infrastructure, serving all Wards and neighborhoods.
  • Planning and installing our protected bike infrastructure as a connected network rather than studying it street-by-street.
  • Concrete and enforceable targets to reduce car ownership and parking utilization across the District.
  • Ending the outdated “Level of Service” model of traffic analysis and moving towards a system that looks at all road users and vehicle miles travelled.
  • Aggressive expansion of Automated Traffic Enforcement.
  • More robust and frequent driver education and testing.
  • Downtown congestion pricing, akin to what is being currently implemented in New York City.
  • Working with neighboring jurisdictions to oppose highway widenings that would increase commuter volumes and traffic fatalities on DC’s streets.

Along with Councilmembers Grosso, Cheh, and Silverman, Nadeau also just released a resolution opposing Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's plan to widen I-495, I-270, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, instead advocating for better transit to address congestion.

What do you think of the letter and the two bills?

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[syndicated profile] strangehorizons_feed

Posted by Christina Scholz

Rita Indiana Hernández is a Dominican writer, singer/songwriter, and model. Her short novel Tentacle (La mucama de omicunlé, translated by Achy Obejas) contains dystopian, magical, and queer elements as well as political themes ranging from artistic and environmental to post-colonial issues, cleverly woven together into a very complex story for a book of 132 pages. As contemporary SFF in the category of climate fiction, it is easily readable as a commentary on present-day life and politics in the Dominican Republic and on the forces that threaten to destroy both it and, ultimately, all human life on Earth. It is also the sneakiest post-Lovecraftian book I’ve come across.

The beginning of Tentacle is set in 2037 in Santo Domingo, and presents us with a post-apocalyptic Dominican Republic where the vast majority of the people can’t afford cars, flatscreen televisions, electric household appliances, or toys and shoes for their children, while a tiny rich minority controls everything through influence and bribery. This doesn’t sound much like a narrative set in the future? Oh wait, there is an additional apocalypse: after a biological weapons spill caused by an earthquake off the island’s coastline, the reefs are dead, the ocean around them reduced to a polluted broth that can’t sustain animal life.

Enter the tentacular star of the novel: an ancient sacred anemone (or what’s left of it after the disaster), kept in a tank inside the apartment of its current guardian, the Yoruba practitioner and holy woman Esther Escudero, better known as Omicunlé. She is also advisor to the Dominican President in all spiritual matters, and she is currently on the search for the major water deity Olokun’s prophesied legitimate son, Omo Olokun, the Lord of the Deep, “the one who [knows] what lies at the bottom of the sea” (p. 50). He is the only one who can supposedly save the ocean by reaching through time and preventing the president from buying the weapons that will destroy the reefs and ultimately infect all of the planet’s oceans.

So far, so generic, even in a setting that seems exotic to the Western reader. We think we’ve come across all possible iterations of time travel, as well as every interpretation of the trope of the chosen one, the prophesied savior—including the unwilling ones, the converted or corrupted ones, and the ones that turn out to be the hero of the prophecy even if they are of a different gender. We haven’t met Acilde Figueroa, though.

Acilde is introduced to us as Esther Escudero’s new maid, and a very untrained one as such. Then we learn that Acilde—who is referred to as “she” and as “a tomboy” (p. 14)—was working as a boy prostitute, dressed as a boy and selling blowjobs to mainly old rich married men (p. 11), when one of Esther’s close associates discovered her, desired her, raped her, and ended up offering her money, food, and ultimately a better-paying job, all of which she accepted. This sequence is an emotionally grueling read, but it isn’t gratuitous: it merely sets the parameters for what Acilde will put up with to achieve her dream. She is saving up for Rainbow Brite, a drug which promises “a complete sex change without surgery” (p. 15). My take on Rainbow Brite is that it probably operates via nanobots, since it transforms the person who takes it to such an extent that after the procedure their body will be producing different hormones by itself—and kudos to the writer for subtly hinting at this without doing a big infodump. When Acilde gets her hands on the drug after a lot of severe complications with huge (legal) consequences, she is finally able to transform into the chosen one and to be ritually dedicated to Olokun for the journey that lies ahead—or, more strictly speaking, in the past.

Amidst all this, I have a significant problem with the book: why, if Acilde is transgender and has always identified as a man, is the character of Acilde introduced as “she” and only switches to being a “he” when the physical transformation is complete? This isn’t necessary for the novel’s plot to work, either. In my view this is a highly problematic act of misgendering a literary character and could be handled so much better, resulting in a better reading experience for everyone (not just, but including trans* readers.)

Our other major plotline starts in the late 1990s, where we meet Argenis, nicknamed Goya at art school for having mastered styles that the other students (and indeed many teachers) consider outmoded and obsolete. After college he couldn’t find work as an artist, and now he is in the process of losing his depressing cubicle job. He drinks too much, he doesn’t object to the occasional nose of cocaine, he has zero self-esteem left, and after being divorced by his wife he has moved back in with his mother. He may not know what lies at the bottom of the sea (yet), but he knows rock bottom when he sees it.In a seeming stroke of luck, local art patron Giorgio Menicucci invites Argenis to participate in a group workshop project, to be conducted in seclusion at Menicucci’s pivate beach resort Playa Bo. Menicucci promises the participating artists much fame and publicity. The money gained from this is supposed to be invested in turning Playa Bo into a nature sanctuary, building a marine reseach laboratory, and ultimately, saving the ocean.

Shortly after joining the project, while swimming in the reef and semi-seriously chasing his patron’s wife, Argenis has an accident involving an anemone. He swims through a hole in the reef—which we may remember from Omicunlé’s prophecy directed at Acilde: “Don’t pass over holes or go into holes, holes in the street or holes in the countryside, because the earth will swallow you up” (p. 19)—and is touched by the anemone’s tendrils before being brought back to shore sick, feverish and hallucinating. As he recovers, he begins to make sense of his hallucinations, which to him are just as real as the reality surrounding him, and which he experiences like a coherent second life in double exposure. He isn’t dreaming; he has acquired a time-shifted other self, which he can control like a puppet in lucid (day)dreams. He now simultaneously exists as Argenis in a 1990s art commune and as his copy-self, pulled from the sea by a group of buccaneers deep in the island’s colonial past and nicknamed Côte de Fer (shortened from “celui qui a survécu à la Côte de Fer” p. 57). He is forced to work if he wants to eat. This sort of applies to both realities.

Tenses blur as Argenis keeps experiencing the two time periods simultaneously, often in the same sentence. His relationship with Roque, one of the buccaneers, becomes more complicated than he can handle, as he is torn between the contrasting experiences of forced male companionship based on survival strategies, violence, and forced labour, and a blossoming understanding of his own new homosocial, and potentially homosexual, desires. A traumatic memory comes to the surface: it is the memory of being condemned for craving physical affection, of being called a “faggot” for trying to kiss his father on the mouth when he was a little boy (p. 67).

After a surprising erotic encounter, “he feels disoriented and happy, protected by time, because for him, that past he still didn’t recognize as totally his had no repercussions in the present, where he was still a true macho and where no one knew anything. […] He wants to protect Roque, he wants to impress him” (p. 93). These moments of being torn between love and fear, acceptance and (self-)hatred, read like moments of hope for the character of Argenis. But can his 1990s self profit from his time-travel experience and develop into a more mature and more self-accepting version of himself?

Later, in both his bodies, that of Argenis and of Côte de Fer, he went to the beach muttering, ‘Faggot, loco, crazy faggot’, and those words cut him inside with a sharpness like the edges of the reef in whose nooks and crannies he recognized the broad nose and thick lips of his father’s profile as if in a paranoid painting by Dalí. (p. 96)

This novel’s characters are, then, alive and multi-faceted. Even in moments when they are making amoral choices (or no choices at all), it is easy to engage with them. The language and images Indiana uses alternate between harsh and poetic like ocean waves at different times of day, and the many references add a feeling of authenticity to the various timelines. Even though some of its central minority characters in this book turn out to be either eternal victims or turn into actual villains, it is a delight to read—as much as it’s possible to say this about a post-apocalyptic narrative.

Indeed, the narrative foregrounds raw, bleak themes such as survival, forced labour, physical violence, rough landscapes and the constant threat of death. While Argenis is being reduced to little more than his own remote audience in the timeline at 1990s Playa Bo, in the past Côte de Fer channels all his overflowing energy and desire into a spontaneous creative project, making woodcuts of his surroundings and the people in them, then printing them on a traded press using cow’s blood put aside from their day-job of killing cows and curing hides.All this is intercut, however, by brief glimpses of beauty and fleeting serenity. This is mirrored in the language and the descriptions of the artwork based on Côte de Fer’s impressions. Faces as well as elements of nature are described using references to the visual arts. A language of desire develops, which transcends gender and sexuality. Everything is affected by the ever-changing, living ocean.

Back at 1990s Playa Bo, the other artists also use various media to explore, express and hopefully influence their problematic relationships with themselves, most of which are due to their everyday experiences with racism, as in the case of Malagueta, who lives and works in a hut close to Argenis’ and seems to be in constant rivalry with him:

“Black,” he heard himself say as he breathed smoke out of his mouth. A small word swollen over time by other meanings, all of them hateful. Every time somebody said it to mean poor, dirty, inferior, or criminal, the word grew; it must have been about to burst, and when it finally did, it would once again mean what it meant in the beginning: a color. (p. 120)

Ever since he was nine years old, Malagueta has been drawing Goku from Dragon Ball in order to dispel the pain inflicted by white people’s insults: “When he was little, every time somebody called him ‘monkey’, or ‘goddamned monkey,’ or ‘the devil’s monkey,’ he’d draw Goku kicking something or using one of his special powers” (p. 121). Filling whole notebooks, he kept wishing for a teacher, a sensei, dreaming of superpowers to fight—to survive—“the words that would sometimes come out even from his mother’s mouth, or his brothers’” (p. 121).

By now we are all wishing and hoping that in every timeline, concerning the fates and lives of Argenis, Malagueta, and the others, of Omo Olokun and the ocean, of the whole nation, the power of art will be revealed to transform experiences, to transform politics and through them reality. Instead, what the author gives us is a series of cruel plot-twists. Omo Olokun is revealed to have already been in both the 1990s timeline and the colonial timeline, using other bodies made by the anemone time-portal. He must have started out fighting the conditions that endanger humanity’s survival, and which he has experienced in a former life (as Acilde), started out working for a marine sanctuary and for securing a future for the ocean and for mankind, and then he must have got sidetracked by temptation: by the myriad possibilities granted him through money and influence and through anemone magic.

All this time, Omo Olokun has been setting people up, playing with their emotions, their reactions, their potential and skills, according to a complex plan—exploiting them for the benefit of not the ocean, not humanity, not the orishas Olokun and Yemayà, guardians of the sea (orishas being deities in the Yoruba religion, originally brought to the Caribbean from West Africa and further influenced by Roman Catholicism)—but his own favourite anemone-copied self. This narrative choice again emphasises the enormous influence in the world of a small handful of very powerful, highly influential people—and their ability to destroy the existences of many others, who to them are of no value whatsoever.

Even though we end up where we started—in a dystopian narrative where money and power are prioritized over people and nature—this book is a tremendously enjoyable read. And it is chuck-full of references to arts and media, music, popular culture and literature, so there are meaningful references and metaphors galore.

In the near-future timeline, there is mention of a falsified draft of a supposedly unpublished manuscript entitled Olokun, which tries to explain the myth of Olokun using a maze of nestled references to other sources (manuscripts, letters and unrecorded conversations), simultaneously complicating and obscuring any claim to legitimacy in a manner that recalls the structure of H. P. Lovecraft’s famous 1926 short story “The Call of Cthulhu”—deliberately, as it turns out. Referencing an account that claims that “black Cubans called a marine creature Olokun”, the writer adds (to Acilde, of all people), “It could travel back in time, dude, very Lovecraftian” (p. 105).

This deliberate connecting of Lovecraftian Great Old Ones with orisha occurs in other places too, for example when a character witnesses a fertility ritual and experiences: “… the extreme poverty suffered by Haitian workers, the tragic ties with which this ancient ceremony held on to the present, the permanency of a kind of slavery that now dressed itself up as paid labor, and the power of a music that lodged deities in human bodies, deities powerful enough to swallow the world” (112f).

Rita Indiana knows her Weird fiction, and what an impact this established connection will have on the reader. In a final post-Lovecraftian twist, which in the end works rather well as an extended metaphor about humanity and current critical perspectives on climate politics, she suggests that, at the core of her complicated anti-protagonists’s choices, there is a motivation which is nothing less than Lovecraftian: if you have three selves which have served your interests well, and you can only reassume a normal life (and an interference-free timeline) by letting two of them go and living as the third, which one will you choose? This is not just a matter of avoiding the problems inherent in time travel; it is also very much about egoism and convenience. And if you can have it all—wealth, power, sex, a strong, healthy (masculine) body—are you willing to sacrifice Earth in return?

Thus, in the end, the Nietzschean monster turns out to have been late capitalism all along.

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Posted by Jeb Stenhouse (Community Engagement Committee)

People are gathering in Historic Anacostia on Wednesday in memory of Abdul Seck, a pedestrian who was killed in a car crash that also injured five others. Come out and rally to demand Vision Zero in all parts of the city from 6:30-9:30 pm at V Street and 16th Street SE.

Other events from around the region:

Tuesday, April 23

How shared data improves shared mobility: Join the Transportation Techies for their Bikeshare Hack Night X that showcases “apps, data analysis, and data visualization oriented talks and examples of bike (and scooter) sharing systems in the area.” Roll by the WeWork Wonder Bread Factory (641 S St NW) from 6 to 9 pm and “see local developers and hobbyists show off their dives into our new shared mobility systems.” Sign up to attend here.

Wednesday, April 24

Get a “how to” guide for local transit advocacy: Have you ever felt like “advocating for better transportation in your city can feel like a losing battle,” and wonder “what changes can you even affect?” If so, from 1:30 to 2:30 pm you should check out a free webinar organized by Christof Spieler, author of “Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas,” the Vice President and Director of Planning at Huitt-Zollars, and a Senior Lecturer at Rice University. The webinar includes “a panel of local transit advocacy leaders that are doing effective, on the ground work in their neighborhoods. They are using data and best practices to measure their outputs and they're looking to share the secrets of their successes with you.” Sign up to view the webinar here.

Harness market forces for inclusionary housing: From 2 to 3 pm, “Grounded Solutions Network will host Inclusionary Housing: Harnessing Market Forces, an online webinar to define and discuss Inclusionary Housing (IH) policy best practices, how inclusionary housing policies leverage market forces, how IH policies can be structured, and how inclusive IH policies have impacted more than 900 communities across the country, with many more under consideration. Registration is free of charge, and Namon Freeman, State and Local Policy Senior Specialist from Grounded Solutions Network, and Abdi Hamud, Fairfax (VA) County Affordable and Workforce Housing Program Administrator, will present.”

Look to the future of Lee Highway: From 5:45 to 8 pm at 4324 4th Street North in Arlington, Virginia, “Arlington's Buckingham Youth Brigade and the Lee Highway Community Forum will be holding an activity for members of the Youth Brigade to, first, learn a little about urban planning, and, second, to share their perspectives on the future of Lee Highway. This is a unique opportunity to give young people some insight into how planning works and to help Arlington County understand the needs of a demographic it rarely considers.

The Buckingham Youth Brigade is a predominantly-Latinx group associated with Arlington's affordable-housing tenants' organization. The Lee Highway Community Forum is a County-organized community group charged with helping plan for the future of this major corridor. Volunteers who can bring a personal car and help transport the participants or who can speak Spanish would be particularly helpful. Those interested in volunteering should contact D. Taylor Reich.”

Thursday, April 25

Bike commuting for newbies: Bike to Work Day is on Friday May 17, but what about folks who've never tried biking to work before? BikeArlington is hosting an “interest party” this Thursday, April 25 for anyone curious to learn how to make their commute fun and easy. You'll map a safe route to work and learn how to best carry your stuff, among other tips. Find other bike-curious commuters at the Heavy Sea Alehouse (1501 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA) at 5:30 pm, where you'll enjoy complimentary refreshmaents and discounted drinks to go with answers to all your bike commuting questions!

Places hold stories: For a $15 ticket, enjoy the “premiere of The Land of Woodend, [an hourlong documentary] which covers Native American, African American, European American, and Latino American experiences on the 40-acre property that’s been home to [the Audubon Naturalist Society] for 50 years and is the focus of its new Nature for All movement. The Land of Woodend explores 400 years of history, mystery, beauty, blight, restoration and transformation on this diverse urban nature sanctuary.

It reveals how the nature education, advocacy, and conservation organization is renewing habitats and strengthening ties to nature with communities in the DC region through a remarkable restoration effort that includes a forest, stream, pond, meadows, native plants, an accessible trail, mansion upgrades, and more. The Land of Woodend showtimes are 2 – 3:30 pm (Matinee) and 7 - 8:30 pm (a special Conservation Café presentation).”

Friday, April 26

Urban farm to urban table: Bring your lunch from 12 to 1:30 pm at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC)'s Architecture Suite 200, Building 32 (4200 Connecticut Avenue NW), and enjoy a discussion with Dr. Raj Barr-Kumar, Professor of Architecture and Urban Sustainability at the University of the District of Columbia, concerning his presentation “A Model for Collaboration - Firebird Farm Restaurant at Urban Food Hub Farm.” Find related information here.

Check out more urbanist events at Do you have an event you'd like to see featured in the weekly events post? Submit it here.

Top image: Sign at the Rally for Streets That Don't Kill People in July 2018. Image by Ted Eytan licensed under Creative Commons.

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Posted by Stephen Repetski (Editorial Board Alum)

The long summer shutdown which will close Yellow and Blue Line stations south of National Airport and affect about 17,000 riders just got six days longer. WMATA announced Thursday, April 18 that the shutdown will now run from May 25 through Sunday, September 8 instead of reopening on September 3 as previously expected.

In order to address crumbling concrete and deteriorating platforms, last year WMATA announced it planned to close 20 stations over three years to let crews perform much-needed rehab work. The first stations to close are the six Yellow and Blue Line stops south of National Airport: Braddock Road, King Street, Eisenhower Avenue, Huntington, Van Dorn, and Franconia-Springfield. Braddock Road, King Street, and Eisenhower Avenue will be replaced during the shutdown, and work on the other three will continue after the shutdown ends.

Braddock Road needs requires some complicated fixes

WMATA is extending the shutdown so that its contractor, Kiewit, can “address a longstanding design issue at Braddock Road Station,” according to a press release. After WMATA announced the closure, it conducted some engineering surveys at Braddock Road and decided it needed more time to get all the work done.

The release notes, “The platform at the south end of Braddock Road Station is approximately two to four inches higher than the level of the train floor,” which makes it harder to get on and off trains, particularly for people using mobility devices. It's also a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that the system be accessible.

The platform height issue at Braddock Road has been a known problem for the past several years. In 2016, GGWash reported on the yellow warning decals telling passengers to “Watch your step” as they get on and off trains at the Braddock stop.

Fixing the platform height is a complicated process. It involves temporarily putting the platform onto what amounts to a set of stilts to lift it up a little so crews can remove sections of the existing station to lower the platform down to where it should be in order to line up with train doors. Once that’s complete, the platform itself can begin to be replaced.

How to deal with the closures

Even after the shutdown ends, riders can expect fewer trains at some stations. Although specifics are not yet available, earlier Metro documents say that continuous single-tracking will occur at Van Dorn, Franconia, and Huntington after September 8. All the stations will be open, but riders at some of those stations will likely see fewer trains than normal.

Metro and local jurisdictions are running five shuttle bus routes during the shutdown to help riders get where they need to be, in addition to adding more service to existing bus routes. The shuttle routes are a mixture of local and express services that move riders between the closed stations and up to Pentagon or National Airport and onto the rest of the open rail system.

If you're wondering how to adjust your commute during the shutdown, the agency created a trip planning tool so you can see what options you have.

Metro Reasons is a regular breaking news, investigative reporting, and analysis column by Stephen Repetski about everything Metro. Please send tips to Metro Reasons.

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Posted by Bruce Schneier

From a G7 meeting of interior ministers in Paris this month, an "outcome document":

Encourage Internet companies to establish lawful access solutions for their products and services, including data that is encrypted, for law enforcement and competent authorities to access digital evidence, when it is removed or hosted on IT servers located abroad or encrypted, without imposing any particular technology and while ensuring that assistance requested from internet companies is underpinned by the rule law and due process protection. Some G7 countries highlight the importance of not prohibiting, limiting, or weakening encryption;

There is a weird belief amongst policy makers that hacking an encryption system's key management system is fundamentally different than hacking the system's encryption algorithm. The difference is only technical; the effect is the same. Both are ways of weakening encryption.

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Posted by Tom Neeley (Contributor)

Metro is putting $65 million toward sustainability efforts

Metro announced it will invest $65 million as part of its first-ever “energy action plan” to reduce energy usage by 2025, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and generate cost savings. According to an audit, energy costs have been increasing for Metro, due to the extension of the Silver Line and more expensive utility costs and commodity prices.  (Andrew Giambrone / Curbed)

A developer proposes razing Pentagon City office buildings to add housing

A developer's preliminary site plan filed with Arlington County proposes razing two office buildings adjacent to the Pentagon City Metro and building four new towers with residential, office, hotel, and retail space. The office buildings' current tenant, the Transportation Security Administration, plans to relocate outside the county.  (Airey / ARLnow)

Dulles Toll Road revenue increases despite decline in transactions

Although the number of individual Dulles Toll Road transactions in January, February, and March were down 4.8% from 2018 following a price increase, revenue increased $11.2 million over the same period last year to $46.4 million. There are about 270,000 transactions each weekday.  (Max Smith / WTOP)

Fears of school crowding may stall a Silver Spring area development plan

A new development plan being considered for the Forest Glen/Montgomery Hills area of Silver Spring may be stalled because of its potential to generate about 720 new students over 30 years in an area already constrained by school crowding.  (Caitlynn Peetz / Bethesda Beat)

A grocery co-op renews efforts to open in DC’s Wards 7 or 8

The Community Grocery Cooperative renewed its efforts to open a co-op grocery store in Ward 7 or 8, beginning with an initial goal to register 300 members. There are currently only three full-service grocery stores serving about 150,000 people in the neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.  (Nena Perry-Brown / Urban Turf)

MPD officers on bikes arrest a suspected serial bike thief

A man accused by DC police of a string of bike thefts from downtown garages was arrested by a pair of MPD officers on bicycles outside the Shaw Metro. Using surveillance video and photos, DC police believe him to responsible for bike thefts at residential and professional buildings from January through early April.  (Clarence Williams / Post)

Metro asks subway car bidders to spend some contract money locally

Metro is asking bidders on the $1 billion contract to produce the new 8000-series subway cars to make a “good-faith effort” to spend 8% of the total contract value locally. This spending may include building an assembly plant in the region, subcontracting to local businesses, or hiring local employees.  ( Robert McCartney / Post)

An exhibit documents sexual harassment on public transportation

“Underground,” an exhibit by photographer and master's student Margaret Wroblewski, features photographs and stories of about 30 women who experienced harassment while using public transportation across the Washington region and East Coast.  (Carmel Delshad / WAMU)

Opinion: Making solar energy access inclusive across DC

In 2018, DC passed legislation to adopt 100% renewable energy by 2032. To make this goal inclusive, DC Sustainable Energy Utility's Solar for All Program seeks to provide solar energy access to 100,000 income-qualified households and reduce their residential energy bills by 50% through 2032.   (Michael Healy / DC Line)

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Posted by John Scalzi

We’ve moved into town and are staying at the hotel we were at for our 20th anniversary, and which also happens to be reasonably well located for the meetings and meet-ups I have planned over the next couple of days. Ytterbium, this year’s Eastercon, was lovely and everyone involved was also lovely, and we could have not asked for a better time.

Remember: This Thursday at 6pm, I’ll be at Forbidden Planet in London, signing books and being visible. Come on down and see me, and maybe get a book or two signed.

And now, off to lunch with a friend.

Your earrings

Apr. 23rd, 2019 04:00 am
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Posted by (Velveteen Rabbi)

For first seder I'm wearing
your earrings, turquoise and onyx.

Will they act as microphones
transmitting wirelessly to olam ha-ba

every compliment on your jewelry,
the sound of your youngest grandson

singing the questions high and clear?
In return maybe they'll whisper to me

a request to nudge my father on this night
of all nights not to wear bluejeans.

Maybe they'll let my hear an echo
of your fingers at a piano on high.


Rabbit Hole Interview(s)

Apr. 22nd, 2019 08:41 pm
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Posted by Sumana Harihareswara

Recently, the Rabbit Hole developers' podcast interviewed me; we discussed open source sustainability, maintainership, sensationalism among bards who sang the Odyssey, how PyPI is like Wikipedia, and what we think is paranoid.

The interview continued into a second episode discussing PyCon and The Art of Python, my past talks and plays, Halt and Catch Fire, what conferences are for, and the feeling of giving a bad talk.

Thanks to Stride for providing rough transcripts along with the audio!

A listener punned on my username ("brainwane") to tell me, "loved your perspective and insight on the podcast ... for me, it was 'braingain'". Awww!

We recorded these episodes on 27 February. The 7:17-08:06 segment of the first one proved prescient:

David:... NPM does an audit of the packages and says, okay, like, "this version is flagged with a known vulnerability, you should upgrade this." And it will just hammer you with that [unintelligible], infinitely, until you handle it. But like, you know, that’s also a form of open source software, that we’re depending on to nudge us.

Sumana: Right, and then the question of, again, sustainability, of like, well, is NPM, as a venture-backed thing, right..... You stay in this industry long enough and VC sounds like a dangerous term for anything you’re actually going to depend on.

David: Yeah, like the idea of something like PyPI going away. Like, I don't know what I would do? I would just have to find all of the binaries on a website? And like host my own... thing? Or...?

Stride released this episode on 19 March. On 22 March, surprising staff and at least this observer, npm laid off a number of workers on its open source team.

Please note that you can make a one-time or recurring donation of any amount to the Python Software Foundation that specifically supports PyPI and related packaging and distribution work (disclaimer: the PSF currently pays Changeset Consulting to work on PyPI and packaging), and that your org can sponsor the PSF for as little as USD$500 per year. And I am, as always, speaking here entirely for myself and not for any of my clients or colleagues.

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Posted by Julie Strupp (Managing Editor)

Dave Salovesh, a friend to many local cyclists and road safety advocates, was killed by a speeding driver on Florida Avenue on Friday, April 19. His loss has shaken many people, including many of our contributors. Here's what some of them have to say about Dave as an advocate, and as a friend.

Rachel Maisler says,

Dave was the inspiration for my advocacy. When I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing, he was my gut check. More importantly however, Dave was a friend who was everywhere. From the Hains Point 100 to Happy Hour, Dave knew what was important. He truly cared for those around him, and even those he didn't know. He was a tireless advocate who we should all be thanking for making DC safer. But we all know life is precious and our elected and appointed officials CAN AND MUST do more.

Canaan Merchant is grateful for his advocacy:

I didn't know Dave but I'm grateful for his efforts.

Here is a clear example showing that all of this bike advocacy isn't about lifestyle preferences or an issue of balancing things like parking or fears over congestion. It's a literal life and death issue that most of us get involved in not because of principle or preference, but because we all have stories of times when getting from A to B was dangerous simply because we don't have safe streets.

Baltimore-based Brian Seel adds,

I never met him either, but his death has really hit me to the core. Most of my bike miles are commute miles, so I don't do a lot of biking for sport, which seems to be something that he cared about (biking for utility). He cared about safe streets and reguarly took pictures of cars in bike lanes making the environment unsafe. He obviously a confident rider, and he got between someone who was willing to use a vehicle as a weapon. It's fortunate that this person will likely see justice, but that might not have been the case if this was a suburban soccer mom that hit and killed him, stayed at the scene, and said “sorry, shit happens.”

The thing that I think is scarier is that Baltimore has much worse bike infrastructure than DC. I read that the Florida Avenue corridor had a plan and was in the budget, and that it will now be a higher priority (not sure if that's true or not… just what I read). In Baltimore, we barely have anything in the works, and the stuff we do have are these tiny little one off projects and things that have drug on for years.

Its frankly these kinds of things that make me extra nervous to get on the road. But then I realize that is the exact opposite of what Dave would have wanted. So I rode today… for you Dave. Thanks for your advocacy. RIP.

Bryan Barnett-Woods writes about tough decisions:

Friday evening I found myself scrolling through his twitter feed and all of #bikeDC, and this hit harder than I think I realized; it's been stuck with me since. The idea that anyone – regardless of being Vision Zero advocates – would want the streets to be designed in a way that their children can bike to school safely shouldn’t be revolutionary. It needs to be the absolute minimum.

When my son was born 1.5 years ago, I stopped bicycling to work. Part of it was definitely time (I work in Upper Marlboro, MD), but the bigger issue was fear of getting hit. Even if it is not someone maliciously trying to hit me, there are no protected facilities and all it takes is a person texting, checking an email, or just driving too fast to react for me to be killed in a collision. The motorist of course would say I came out of nowhere, and that would be that. My heart goes out to his family.

I don’t regret the decision I made to stop bicycling to work. I do regret that I had to make that decision in the first place.

Anita Kinney says Dave did bicycle advocacy right:

Dave and I got to know one another after I pushed WABA to use the #wmatabikepool hashtag after the Metro shutdown in 2016. As a first generation Latina, I’ve always felt uneasy in bike advocacy spaces (and to a lesser extent, the planning field writ large) because of their overwhelming whiteness and accompanying class privilege. I want to honor Dave as an ally and a champion of accessibility and inclusion in the cycling movement.

David Edmondson adds,

I've been asking myself, “How do I mourn for someone I don't know?” I'm in California seeing family this week so I wasn't able to be part of the ghost bike laying ceremony. I asked my mom what she thought—generally a wise choice to ask one's mom—and she said you need to acknowledge that your community was injured and grieve for that loss. I certainly do.

But also, since we are acutely attuned to road dangers and the personal nature of these kinds of deaths, I think it's also about knowing that this is just one more death in a long line of them. I'm going to mourn by visiting the sites in my hometown of two galvanizing deaths in my advocacy: Celeste Machado, a high schooler who was killed while jogging and Hailey Ratliff, who would be 18 today but was killed at 12. Neither death did anything to spark change despite the public outpouring of grief.

I hope to God that Dave's death doesn't fade away like all the others. Too many people die on our streets, and he should be one of the last.

Readers: Did you know Dave, or were you touched by his advocacy? Feel free to share your thoughts and memories below.

We at Greater Greater Washington are grieving the loss of a contributor and friend to many in our community on Friday, and the tragic death of a pedestrian on Sunday in Anacostia. Today will be devoted to articles about road safety and our memories of Dave Salovesh and Abdul Seck. There will be more actions in the coming days, and if you’d like to hear about them, sign up using the form below.

Keep me posted!

Top image: Flowers mark the spot where Dave Salovesh died.

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Fox in Socks

Apr. 22nd, 2019 07:31 pm
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posted by Neil Gaiman
Back in May 2017, I agreed to read the Cheesecake Factory Menu to raise money for refugees. They had to get to $500,000. It was the idea of Sara J Benincasa, comedian, writer and activist. People started donating. We all hoped that Cheesecake Factory would come in and donate enough at the end to get us up to the total, but they didn't seem very interested. So, given that enough money had been donated to reach the intermediate goal of me reading Dr Seuss's Fox in Socks, I agreed cheerfully to read Fox in Socks.  But the question was... when?

Because almost immediately I went off to work on Good Omens. And my life was put on hold for two years.

When I came back from making Good Omens, it was top of the list of things I needed to do. Fortunately, I'd been practising for two years, or at least, reading Fox in Socks to Ash. Here you go...

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toasted pecan cake

Apr. 22nd, 2019 07:36 pm
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Posted by deb

When it’s quiet around here, it generally means one of two things: 1. I’ve been cooking a series of duds, or certainly nothing good enough to clear my throat into this microphone and sign the praises of. Or 2. We’re heading for another episode of Just What Has Deb Gotten Herself Into This Time (see: any Friendsgiving or wedding cake adventure). A couple weeks ago was the former; last week was resoundingly the latter.

what you'll needgrind toasted pecanswhip egg whiteswhisk whisk

I took over first night Seder (a ceremonial dinner on the first two nights of Passover) duties last year, instituted Harry Potter haggadahs, and it was all going well until I got to planning this year’s meal (seemingly: writing potatoes, carrots, onions, eggs, almonds on a grocery list over and over again), decided we needed to shake up the guest list a little — really, I think I just miss my dad making bad jokes and trying to get us to stick even a tiny bit to the prescribed topic — and suddenly we were 17 (plus a waitlist; “only in the Smitten Kitchen…” a friend said), we definitely didn’t have this many chairs or table space, my fridge and freezer were bursting at the seams (the ice cube tray got evicted), and I haven’t even gotten into the part where a chef came over that morning to teach me a new dish that had nothing to do with Passover (but promise something fun is coming). The whole week was a heady mix of panic and delight. Someone is going to tell me it’s because I’m a Gemini, but truly the only thing that motivates me is being at the edge of a disaster, and that’s where the bulk of this month has vanished to.

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Posted by JenniferP

Captain, my Captain!

I’ve looked through the archives, and while you’ve answered similar-ish questions, this one hasn’t come up before, so I’m hoping you can help! I (she/her) work as a freelance editor and am in a fairly privileged position––I have enough clients that I can afford to be somewhat choosy; I’m white and cisgender, so while I certainly object to racist content, it doesn’t actually trigger me when I come across it in the works I’m editing.

However, I’ve been running into more and more works with racist content from new clients, whether stereotyped characters, cultural appropriation, or micro-aggressions in their prose (and I’m *sure* I’m missing problems content-wise). Often times, it’s content that’s hard for me to screen for before taking the job–there’s no easy search for racism in a manuscript, unfortunately–and furthermore, I also know with my relative privilege, I’m better-placed to give feedback that these authors may at least listen to.

What I’m struggling with is these sorts of clients are taking up more and more of my time and mental energy and space. I know I need to find a better way of “screening” clients and balancing the ones who slip through the cracks with the ones I actually enjoy working with, but in the meantime, do you have any script suggestions for telling people that their writing is terribly racist? Alternatively, any scripts for “breaking up” with clients whose works are too terrible for me to work with them in good conscious? (All my contracts have break-up clauses, so that’s not a concern––it’s the giving the criticism part I need help with!)

I don’t want to condone these authors’ works, but I don’t want to be mired down in fixing unfixable content either (especially if the author isn’t inclined to listen regardless!). Since it’s a client-freelancer relationship, I feel the boundaries are different–we can work with each other at will and there’s no HR to report to–so I’m at a loss. Any help would be much appreciated!

– No, Your Book isn’t Misunderstood; It’s Racist

Hi there Not Misunderstood:


Here is my suggestion which I think will cover both “Honest Feedback For Clients” and “Fix This Right Now Or We Have To Break Up” bases. I am writing a blanket script that can be adapted, please use what is useful to you however this works best with your existing process for contracting for edits, ok?

FYI, here are my goals for the proposed script:

  • Directness is kindness. These people NEED to hear this feedback from someone, today you’re the “someone.” They hired you to help them make their book the best it can be, it can’t be the best it can be until this gets fixed, sugarcoating it or avoiding it is unhelpful.
  • Be specific about the nature and scope of the problem to the extent you can. You don’t have to include every detail, find a few particularly telling ones.
  • Make it clear that you cannot work on the project until/unless substantive changes are made. “Can’t you just clean up the text like I hired you to do?” Nope!
  • Strongly disinvite the person from arguing with you about the nature of the feedback – They can fix it or don’t, you’re not touching this again until they do.
  • Direct them somewhere that might actually solve the problem.
  • For now, grant them the fig leaf of “I’m sure this is unintentional, and confidentially between you & an editor is the right time to fix these problems!” which hopefully they will take as the giant gift that it is. For the record, I do not think most or all of the people who write and say racist stuff are doing it unintentionally, but when you are trying to persuade someone to do better, it might help them rise to the occasion if you don’t immediately shame or punish them. If they double-down, argue, counter with abuse of you or try to invoke that One Black Friend Every Racist Definitely Has But Never Actually Listens To, strip that white fragility fig leaf right off and add them to your “Nope, Never Again” list.

And here’s the recommended script, which I imagine delivering as soon as you’ve completed your initial read-through. Write your prospective/new client an email that spells out your feedback about the content, including the problematic content, and the next steps for editing the book, like so:

“Dear [Author],

I’ve completed my initial read of [Your Book] and I want to share my initial feedback and outline next steps for the editing process if we’re going to continue working together.

While some elements of the draft are very strong [mention one or two], I’ve identified some content that needs serious revision before I can commit to another round of edits.

Unfortunately, there are some examples of [common stereotypes][cultural appropriation][outdated language][misuse of dialect][racist, transphobic, homophobic, sexist, ableist tropes or attitudes, and go ahead and use these words, no ‘racially charged’ euphemisms][for fuck’s sake stop redeeming slaveholders and Nazis through the power of luuuuuuurrrrrrveeee] throughout the draft, for example:

[List out some of what you found and briefly spell out what is wrong with it, i.e. “Spirit Animal” is a term that is sacred to specific indigenous religious traditions, a white woman of Swedish descent from Minnesota categorically does not have a spirit animal.]

[OPTIONAL – I’ve tried to flag and highlight problematic passages in the text as I found them], which you can see in the attached draft which I am returning to you. I did not make edits in these passages since changes on this scale would constitute a rewrite of the material, and the issues go deep enough that in my opinion some authorial re-imagining and revision that falls outside my scope is the right fix].

Additionally, while I know enough to spot some potential problems, I am not the right kind of editor to get this where it needs to be, so I must bow out of working on this project further until substantial revisions are made. Many authors choose to work with sensitivity readers for just this reason, if you’re interested I can link you to a few resources.*

I know this was probably not the feedback you were hoping to hear, but I hope you will take this to heart: This has potential to be a wonderful book, you’ve got such strong [worldbuilding][characterization][sense of place][addictive plot][idk think of something you can sincerely compliment and throw it out there!] that I think it is well worth investing some more time in making sure that it finds the widest possible audience and doing due diligence to make sure it is not unintentionally causing harm and making you come across as [racist, homophobic, etc. etc.].

I wish you well with making the necessary changes and I hope you’ll get back in touch when you have a revised draft. [If you don’t actually want this, don’t worry, this is like promising to be friends the second after a breakup, time will tell].

Best wishes,

[Your Sign-off]

Attachments: 1) A document with your draft with my initial highlights and comments. [OPTIONAL, obviously] 2) My invoice for X hours for work completed so far, due [DATE]”[YES, GET PAID FOR WHAT YOU DID SO FAR]

Hopefully that does the trick. People are either going to get it or they won’t, and you’ll know VERY QUICKLY which kind you are dealing with. A person who can sit with feedback like this, realize it is A GIFT meant to HELP them avoid harmful (and reputation-destroying MISTAKES) is someone you can possibly work with in the future.

*Some places you might direct authors:

Edited To Add: You mentioned looking for a new process for screening projects as they come in. I detailed one I used to use for writing screenplay coverage here that might be adaptable. I think you absolutely should spell out, in advance, some stages of how you work and lay out expectations, and one stage can absolutely be something like:

“The right author-editor collaboration requires trust and a large investment of time and energy, so part of my process is making sure that we will be the right fit. For new clients, I do an initial read where I give some initial reactions to story, characters, setting and suggest some starting points for the next round of revisions [spell exactly out what this involves, possibly incl. a basic template & time-frame]. Since this process reflects X hours of work, I charge a non-refundable fee of $$$ [this can be pretty nominal , and it’s also ok to base it on length of submission, so you’re not agreeing to read a freaking dictionary out of hand], payable at the time you submit your manuscript. Should we sign a contract for ongoing editing services, this fee is applied toward the first X hours.”

When you’re first hanging out a shingle, you want lots of clients, right? But when you’re established, you want the right clients, and it’s possible that charging a fee will also encourage people to polish their work as much as possible before investing the $.

A kind reader suggested the following additional language: “Content that reinforces racist stereotypes and oppression may be returned unedited and may be reconsidered for acceptance after significant revisions are made, entirely at the discretion of the editor” that you could include on your website and in your materials.

No comments today I have 10,000 things to do/write/do/write. Hope this helps!


[syndicated profile] gr8r_gr8r_wash_feed

Posted by Veronica Davis (Contributor)

This article was first published on Nspiregreen.

Every time I read about a traffic fatality in the District, I breathe a sigh of relief when I don’t recognize the name. On Friday April 19, 2019, that all changed. That morning, I saw on Twitter that a cyclist had been struck and killed. I said a silent prayer, raged a little on the inside, and then moved on with my day. Later that evening, I opened Twitter and I saw a name I recognize, Dave Salovesh. In the middle of the movie theater, I burst into tears.

There’s not much I can more say about Dave that hasn’t already been said here, here, here, here, and countless other places. Dave and I had known each other for nearly a decade. He and I rode the Fort Circle Trail in Ward 7 a few times, including the one time he, Brian McEntee, and I wiped out on the hill between Branch Avenue and Naylor Road SE. When I would get discouraged about the challenges I faced in my projects, Dave was always there to support and encourage me.

My friend is no longer here because he was struck and killed by someone driving 70 mph on Florida Avenue NE. The most upsetting part of Dave’s passing is that it was preventable, as are most other traffic-related deaths.

Last year, over 40,000 people died in a traffic-related incident. While not a significant percentage of the total US population, each person, like Dave, left behind family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and other loved ones. Not to mention the residual trauma experienced by bystanders who witness the crash and emergency responders. In addition to the social loss, there is the cost of each death via lost wages for the family, property damage, city resources, and others. For example, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the cost of crash-related deaths for the District of Columbia was $34 Million in 2013.

Nspiregreen developed the Vision Zero Action Plans for the District of Columbia and the City of Alexandria. As Chanceé Lundy mentioned in our last blog post about Vision Zero: “Without swift action and accountability, DC Vision Zero is just a plan with pretty graphics. We developed it with policies and enforcement mechanisms that should be implemented. It is a tool to address what has become all too common behavior in the District. There should be less talk about Vision Zero and its possibilities and more actions that prioritize the District’s most vulnerable users.”

To the political leaders, fellow planners and engineers, advocates, and residents: Vision Zero requires more of us than platitudes, dreams deferred, and delay by unnecessary studies. It requires us to take immediate actions to prevent people from dying on our roadways. It requires us to be okay with removing parking, reducing the number of vehicle travel lanes and lane widths, removing highway infrastructure to reconnect the street grid, and changing the signal timing to ensure safety, as well as reallocating the public right-of-way for public transportation, bicycle facilities, and sidewalks.

As a region (and frankly as a nation) a paradigm shift needs to occur. We have to begin prioritizing safety over urgency, traffic flow, or speed. If we are willing to accept a few minutes delay in our drives, we can guarantee that all will reach our destinations safely.

The DC region has the tools, knowledge, and plans to make our streets safer. All we need now is bold, brave, and steadfast leadership to make the tough (but right) decisions to advance those plans from paper to reality. No one else should lose a friend to a preventable traffic crash.

We at Greater Greater Washington are grieving the loss of a contributor and friend to many in our community on Friday, and the tragic death of a pedestrian on Sunday in Anacostia. Today will be devoted to articles about road safety and our memories of Dave Salovesh and Abdul Seck. There will be more actions in the coming days, and if you’d like to hear about them, sign up using the form below.

Keep me posted!

Top image: People gather in memory of Dave Salovesh on Sunday. Image by Alex Baca.

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