Friday, August 11, 2017

The Audacity of Dopes: The White Mens' Burdening

Mediocre white dudes are going to be the downfall of the world. I spent my entire life learning about the ones who got us here, the “extraordinary” white dudes, if you will; the ones who spent the good part of that last 50-600 years molding the world in their image, conquesting and erasing societies, rewriting borders, rewriting history to make sure they were always on top. I really thought that the architects of the social constructs that perpetuate misogyny and the concept of race and the othering of any sexual orientation outside of “heterosexual” would be the ones to destroy us all. It was these “extraordinary” white dudes who spent the a half millennium sculpting the world into a place that caters to them and where we all pretty much cowtow to them and think of them as the default when someone says “a guy”. Extraordinary whites dudes have done so much in subjugating everyone who is not a white dude that it would take another half millennium to unlearn and expunge the residual ramifications of the the legal and social structures that they put in place to stay in power.
Extraordinary white dudes are not the ones with their fingers on the Button, though. Their dumb sons and nephews are. Mediocre white dudes are running the show. Extraordinary white dudes are no longer doing as much evil these days. A lot of them are trying to undo the damage of previous evil extraordinary white dudes, but they are being silenced by mediocre white dudes. We admonish people for daring to want an education. The bar is so low for white dudes’ success that sometimes doing NOTHING is seen as cause for reward. In the past few weeks, bland-ass white dudes have been lauded for figuring out that brown people are human and for body shaming their loved ones. I had one try to explain to me the concepts of racism and equality by quoting a voraciously racist philosopher. One even had the audacity to distribute a “manifesto” about the how the tech world’s lack of women and people of color is because of their inherent inferiority, and programs to bring more in are “harmful”.
Rochester professional dog whistler Bob Lonsberry went to the Rochester, NY Puerto Rican Festival as though he were going to a war zone in Syria to report on the Thunderdome-esque “chaos” of the festival. He even prefaced his trip to the festival by linking/not linking a crime that happened a week before the event to it. Then he wrote a long essay about how he “learned” that the Puerto Rican Day Festival is all about families celebrating their heritage and having a good time. The air was full with love and pride, as are all cultural/arts festivals. These people aren’t animals. They’re people. No shit, Bob. Instead of people admonishing him for his manner of talking about people as though he went on safari, even so far as to title his “heartwarming” essay “I Went to the Riot Last Night”. The praise and accolades that rained on him were astounding. Even Puerto Rican people were so proud of Bob for learning that Puerto Rican people are PEOPLE! It is as if he hadn’t demonized the festival in previous years or talked about how many arrests there were 15 minutes later (St. Patrick’s Day usually has the same amount of arrests), or talked about how the police were the ones who kept the damn festival in line, or “wondered” whether the event planners should pay for police overtime (spolier alert: EVERY FESTIVAL IN ROCHESTER PAYS FOR POLICE OVERTIME). He was praised for pretty much doing nothing. Also, HE SPELLED HIS OWN NAME INCORRECTLY IN HIS OWN ESSAY.
Robbie Tripp made headlines because of a long instagram he made about his wife. He stated that he loves his wife and her ”curvy body”. He talked about how he was teased for liking thicker, chubbier girls in high school. He talked about how he picked up some books on feminism and learned how it’s okay to love side rolls and thighs. Then he went on to paraphrase “Baby Got Back” and say that “Her shape and size won’t be on the cover of Cosmopolitan, but it’s the one featured in my life and in my heart”. Does he really think we don’t remember, “So Cosmo says you’re fat/ Well I ain’t down with that/ ‘Cause your waist is small and your curves are kickin’/ And I’m thinkin’ ‘bout stickin’”??? I’m surprised he didn’t say something about workout tapes by Fonda. So basically, Tripp is tripping. He took the time out of his schedule to objectify his wife in order to pat himself on the back for doing a “charity” to this woman who he insinuates would be alone without his altruism, all while doing a light gentrification of a 25 year old club banger. For this, he got a few articles written about him Even Buzzfeed did a whole article with more pictures of his wife, Sarah (He didn’t mention the name of his wife who he loves so much, with her “curvy body”).
“I love my wife”. That is where he should have ended that post. “I. Love. My. Wife.” Nothing else was needed. The kicker? Sarah isn’t even all that big! She’s gorgeous, yes, but all these rolls he’s talking about must be in his head. And she has her own-ass fashion blog and brand! She will be alright without him and his pseudo altruism. Robbie Tripp wants an award for doing the VERY LEAST of what a husband is supposed to do: love his damn spouse unconditionally, yet he fucked that up by talking about her “conditions”. GTFOH.
The latest in white male mediocrity is James Demore, the now former Google software engineer who took it upon himself to write a 10 page manifesto decrying diversity measures in tech. Whether he had any good ideas or new measures is irrelevant, because the premise of his entire argument hinged on explicitly stating that women are biologically inferior to men. THe tenor of the essay hints to him referencing points of evolutionary psychology to draw his conclusions. Most scientists think of evolutionary psychology as about as invalid as eugenics or phrenology. Most MRAs love it, because it validates their misogynistic, sad-boy rants. I refuse to link Demore’s screed, but I’m happy to quote a scientist who read an analyzed the document:
Finally read the Google manifesto in full. As an engineer, I believe that it is on us as engineers to check those within our communities, but to also educate ourselves and others, and advocate for change in the profession. This man's worldview is deeply problematic. It's rooted in what he views as an unquestioned assumption that anything "feminine" or "nonwhite" is inherently inferior. But the thing that bothers me most is that we as a profession have such low standards for engineers that he was allowed to make it through the ranks of Google and probably would have ended up in leadership if he had not written this.
Not only would he be a bad leader, he is a bad engineer. Engineers need the ability to think critically, research the history and context of a problem before submitting a solution, not blindly submit to authority, apply skepticism, and recognize their role and influence in organizations and society.
This man demonstrably does not have these skills. But unfortunately, engineering culture does not put much pressure on him or men like him to develop them.
We as engineers can do better than this.
TL:DR: Demore made the sexist version of The Bell Curve, likely because of his anxiety over more women and minorities gaining foothold in the industry. Just as Charles Murray did to people of color in 1994 with The Bell Curve, Demore used skewed “science” to endorse discrimination of women without saying it outright. I know he sounded kind of smart, but the paper was is the science project equivalent of making a shitty baking soda/vinegar papier mache volcano and calling it “hard geological research”.
Nevertheless, the more real scientists and engineers, both men and women, wrote why Demore’s disaster was so wrong on so many levels, more mediocre white dudes ran to his defense with faux platitudes like, “I’m not defending him, but…”, and “If I could just play devil’s advocate…”. I will give it to mediocre white dudes; they will cape hard for each other. Talk about solidarity! I have not seen a status or essay regarding the fallacies of his claims that weren’t inundated with a peacock’s plumage of “um actuallies” and “he brings up some good points” in the comments, especially if they were women who wrote or just shared other’s writings. White mediocrity seems more insidious than white supremacy.
This not to say that people of color can’t be guilty of fuckery as well. Misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and many other institutions have thrived under the White supremacy umbrella, and I’ve written plenty about them, too. However, white mediocrity is incredibly pervasive, though, and besides, this is an essay focused on the dangers mediocre white dudes. This is not just about this essay, or some moron who thinks he’s “woke” because he hung out with the brown people he subsequently dog-whistled the day after. This isn’t about some moron who needs to objectify his wife in order to make himself look good. We’ve been giving out participation trophies to mediocre white dudes since we made it socially acceptable to wave the flag of the losers of a Civil War in public. There's currently a mediocre white dude initiating international crises via Twitter and in news conferences. I'm almost at the point where I think white supremacy isn't the structure activists need to work to topple. White mediocrity has supplanted white supremacy, and every time a wack-ass white dude pats himself on the back for doing not a goddamn thing or is violently angry that a woman or person of color is successful, I am more certain that mediocre white dudes will destroy the world.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Colin Kaepernick Is Guilty of a 1931

Just so we’re clear, these are the things you can do and still play in the NFL:
  • Drive with a Suspended License (14601)
  • Hit and Run (20001, 20002a)/Reckless Driving (23103)
  • DUI (501, 502)
  • Disorderly Conduct (647) /Public Drunkenness (647F)
  • Drug possession (11351)
  • Unlawful Gun Possession (417)
  • Dog fighting (905A)
  • Domestic violence (273D)
  • Sexual assault (243.4, 261, 262, 288)
  • Assault (240) and Battery (242)
Do any of these things and you might get a suspension from playing. You might even have to miss a whole season.
Here’s a list of things you CANNOT do and still play in the NFL:
  • Take a knee during the national anthem.
Apparently taking a knee is more important a crime than women’s lives, dogs’ live, and anyone’s lives who were affected by a player’s aggressive drunkenness or poor driving skills. It is strange, because you’d think there would be a penal code number for it if it were so heinous. Would be a 1776? Maybe call it an 1812? 1814? Ooh, how about we call it a 1931? That’s when Congress decreed it be THE national anthem. Let that sink in: nearly 60 years AFTER the abolition of slavery, Congress passed a law to make a song that explicitly called for the deaths of black people who dared dream of freedom the National Anthem.
Regardless, Colin Kaepernick, The hardened criminal who maintained a 4.0 GPA through high school and college, who dominated in every sport he played throughout high school and college, who spent six years playing for the San Francisco 49ers, who spent millions of his own money supporting charities and schools throughout the world, threw it all away by taking a knee in peaceful protest of systematic racism and police brutality.
“How DARE he!” exclaimed people who were likely sitting in their Lay-Z-Boys stuffing nachos in their faces while the Anthem was playing. “How can he disrespect the veterans!? He should be locked up for treason!” A lot of veterans didn’t seem to mind, though.
The owners and execs had a big problem with Kaepernick, though. You’d think, though, that since he committed a 1931, the police would have arrested him. Instead, it seems his punishment is to not get hired anywhere. As of August 7th, Colin Kaepernick is still a free agent. I hope he learned his lesson. You can do a 501, a 243, a 262, a 14601, even a 905A, but Lord; help you if you do a 1931. So many people have been permanently scarred by a black man exercising his right to free speech in a public place. I know they claim that Kaepernick is just “not as good”, but some think there are worse quarterbacks than Kaepernick, and it is telling that one team pulled a quarterback out of retirement rather than sign Kaepernick.
The owners, and everyone who has been rooting for Kaepernick’s unemployment at best, drawing and quartering at worst, needs to confront the fact that their only issue with Colin Kaepernick is that he is black and he dared to speak his mind. You cannot handle the truth of his statements, and it frightens you. Colin Kaepernick is going to be all right, no matter what. Since he wasn’t signed, I cannot fuck with the NFL this year. The organization does not give a damn about its players, only the money it can make. It doesn’t give a damn about its fans, and it definitely doesn’t give a damn about how its actions and inaction affect the welfare of its employees and the public. Why else would they underpay official cheerleaders? Why else would it pay so much to not acknowledge the effects of concussive hits? Why else would it STILL have a team named the “Redskins”? NFL execs would make an expansion team called the East St. Louis Niggers if they thought they could make a buck, with no regard for anyone except who handles their cash.
Tangentially related: Someone who tried to make an inane case for “reverse racism” said to me that “Racism and bigotry infect ALL of [us]”. That is the only part of his statement that is true. It DOES infect all of us. The only difference is that the side effects are more dire the darker you are, and they positive the lighter you are.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Facebook Is American AF

In February while deplaning, I posted a status about the racist history of the nursery rhyme Eenie Meenie Miney Mo on Facebook. As I walked through Terminal 5 toward the baggage claim, I responded to friends’ comments and questions as they didn’t know about this. While I watched the baggage claim conveyor buzz and groan to life, I wrote out the original version of the rhyme:

“Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo,Catch a nigger by his toe,If he won't work then let him go;Skidum, skidee, skidoo.But when you get money, your little brideWill surely find out where you hide,So there's the door and when I count four,Then out goes you.”
When I picked up my bag and headed toward the taxi stand, I received a Facebook Review message saying that my comment was taken down because it was anonymously deemed offensive. That was a span of five minutes that it took between me getting to the baggage claim and retrieving my bag that someone “anonymously” deleted my comment.
I have pretty much let anyone whose constitution is so fragile that they can’t handle a matter-of-fact discussion about American history self-purge themselves from my friends list, and the people with whom I was conversing all were interested and engaged in the conversation, so I can’t imagine that one of them all of a sudden became so offended that one quote would set them off. Also, 5 minutes? Really? I submitted a multiple reports about a group called “Rochester NY Crime” who regularly used “Ebonics” to post pictures of apes and primates in police uniforms and suits, describing them as black police officers and the mayor. For my efforts, I received multiple responses days later from Facebook’s review board saying that these racist depictions of African Americans as apes and chimpanzees didn’t violate their policy on hate speech. So it took them days to review my reports, but it took only 5minutes for them to delete my “offending” comment.
I would say I’m surprised by Facebook’s Shenanigans, but it’s not the first time I’ve experienced the Review Board’s nonsensical actions. I reported two memes that depicted nude black women that claimed that they were brainwashed whores or were accompanied with a paragraph that basically condoned and called for spousal rape. If the words weren’t offensive enough, so many women have been admonished by the FB Police for sharing breastfeeding photos that it seems it would be a no-brainer that full frontal sexualized nudity should be a guaranteed deletion of the post. NOOOOPE. Those posts depicting nudity didn’t violate their terms on depicting nudity.
So When is Facebook going to admit that they just don’t give a goddamn about people of color and women, and especially people of color who ARE women? We aren’t fooled by Facebook’s presentation of a giant “#BlackLivesMatter” banner at their headquarters last year. We remember Mark Zuckerberg having to reprimand staff for crossing out “Black Lives Matter” on the company’s chalk wall, where employees can write and doodle whatever they want.
More telling than these two minor gestures (certainly the VERY least Facebook could do), FB Police have suspended Shaun King’s account when he posted a grotesque hate mail he received. It wasn’t King’s words. It was words directed at him. He shared it to show the bullshit that people of color receive for merely talking about issues in this country. A few hours after King tweeted about him being suspended and a few articles chronicling Facebook’s actions against King, he received a message saying that the suspension was “accidental”, and his account was unlocked.
Damon Young of wrote an article about the Alton Sterling decision entitled “Of Course the Officer Who Killed Philando Castile Was Acquitted, Because Nigger Hunting Season Is (Always) Here”. The VSB Facebook page was sent to jail for that. A few days later, after VSBFB was released on Parole, Damon wrote about how his piece caused the suspension, but the flood of hate mail using the offending word caused no suspension of those offending letter writers, despite his reporting of them to the FB Police.
The most recent prominent figure to go to Facebook Jail is Ijeoma Oluo. She made a joke about visiting a Cracker Barrel:
“At Cracker Barrel 4 the 1st time. Looking at the sea of white folk in cowboy hats & wondering “will they let my black ass walk out of here?”
Her making light of a potentially tense situation granted her the most vitriolic drag this week on Twitter. The responses were the classic “go back to Africa” jabs and name-calling, but she also received a ridiculous amount of death and rape threats. For three days. Over a joke tweet. The hate crossed over to her Facebook account, and she reported everyone who attacked and threatened her. When Facebook did nothing, Oluo screenshot and posted the attacks. At that point, Facebook suspended HER, not the people attacking her. Later, tellingly after she wrote a piece about the incident and Facebook’s response, FB Police ended the suspension, saying it was a “mistake”. Of course. It was a “mistake”. Everything must be fine now, yes?
There are a novella-long Terms of Service agreement and an elaborate “Community Standards” page that plainly point out that the type of harassment that King and Young and Oluo and I received are supposedly not allowed, yet who was punished? Not the perpetrators, but the targets. This is much like the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution gallantly hailing the autonomy and respect and rights of men, but they blaringly forget that people of color and women live in this country, too, until the 13 Amendment…19th Amendment for women. The US loves to suck its own red, white, and blue dick, touting how it has respect for all, that everyone gets a fair share. Call it out own inequities, though, and you’ll be punished soundly. But give it a few years, and the US will be all, “Oops, we made a mistake there. You guys are more than 3/5 of a human, Here’s a 13th Amendment for you. You know what? Let’s throw in a 14th Amendment, too.”
It doesn’t really matter, though, because the US still let Jim Crow rise, and there’s a loophole in the 13th to begin with. Then we start raising noise about THOSE inequities, and we’re beaten and lynched some more, and then women start raising their voices, and FINALLY the US says, “Oh shit! Our bad. Hey, how about a 19th Amendment, for the ladies? Oh, and here’s a Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.” It doesn’t say a damn thing about the Japanese internment or the gratuitous amount of murders of civil rights activists and the municipal subjugation of women, though. To this day, the US loves to look at itself as a bastion of liberty, but there are still major problems, and instead of fixing them, it tries its best to silence the people pointing out the problem.
This is the Facebook model: Suck its own white and blue dick while touting how much of a great forum it is for everyone. Claim it will not tolerate any type of abuse from its members. When abuse happens, shut the abuser up until enough bad press is put forth that it concedes it made a “mistake”. Facebook didn’t make a mistake, though. It works exactly as it was designed. I have friends who were kicked off after they reported harassment. I still have three “pending” reports that I filed weeks ago when someone attacked me. I don’t expect them to be resolved. Facebook just doesn’t give a damn about its brown people or women (and probably its LGBTQ population), but it will roll out those platitudes as soon as it sees others looking.
“wElL iF yOu DoN’t LiKe It, WhY dOn’T yOu LeAvE?”
Because, Karl, Facebook is ubiquitous for social interactions now. Many social media sites have come and went, but Facebook has stayed, despite many reports of their slow demise. Despite its issues, it is the way to stay in contact with distant relatives and friends, get their brand out, find out local happenings, etc. The Facebook policing issue also reflects the whiteness of the culture that created Facebook and its unwillingness to listen to marginalized groups. They’d rather not deal with the problems they want addressed and only throw them a bone every once in awhile. This is an industry that people say that people of color must enter in order to gain lasting wealth, since we missed out on/were legally omitted from gaining wealth the way generations of white middle class families did. Why would one want to enter a job force that is known to be hostile from the gate? The “why don’t you leave” mantra doesn’t resolve any of that. It allows the problem to fester until it is a full-blown cancer on the site and the workplace from whence the site came. “Just leaving” instead of addressing this is as callous as telling a woman who was sexually harassed in the workplace to “just leave”. The harasser is still there, unpunished, and likely getting worse because of lack of real reprimand. Just like I can’t pack up and go to another country (mostly because I was fucking born here and have a right to be here), I won’t “just quit” Facebook, lest it become another Stormfront, but with more misogyny.
Bottom line, Facebook is American as fuck.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Read an Essay About a Riot That Didn't Happen

PEOPLE OF COLOR ARE NOT ZOO ANIMALS. You cannot go on “human safari”. We are not zoological exhibits by which for you to be entertained. Dances with Wolves sucked. Avatar and Ferngully are only cool if it’s fake and animated. We are human beings, and we deserve the respect that human beings deserve.
One would think that statements like these would be a no-brainer; this world has a history of exhibiting human beings, often people of color, as though they are zoo animals. All the way back to the 16th Century, Cardinal Hippolytus de Medici “collected” people from Africa and Asia. The Barnum and Bailey Circus would display humans in their side show as “freaks”. They weren’t always people with genetic variances. Sometimes they were enslaved people or albinos or pygmies. And we cannot forget the plight of Saartje Baartman, also known as the Hottentot Venus. Her humiliation didn’t end at death, as she was dissected like a high school frog in a lab. This practice didn’t end after the 19th Century. Well into the 20th, “savages” form sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia were displayed like exhibitions. As recently as 2005, an African village was depicted in Augsburg Zoo. Shit just doesn’t change.
Recently, the trend has been to not remove us ethnics from our “natural habitat”, but to watch from afar, as if we are birds or something. Then a slew of think pieces and article discussing how INTERESTING we are appear. And before you back me up by berating those damn conservatives and their denigrating ways, a lot of traditionally liberal venues talk of their wonderment with us Coloreds. I’ve seen articles by white authors on Slate and Salon and HuffPo and Gawker (RIP) about the entertainment they get from getting out their binoculars and spying on Black Twitter from afar. Oh, it’s such a JOY! Look at the Negroes manipulate the language we pushed on them! It’s so cute! It should be also noted that these supposed liberal bastions are where I see most of the cultural appropriation and obliviousness, like when Elle tried to rename Bantu Knots or when Vogue announced that big butts are now “in”, thanks to Jennifer Lopez, or when GOOP…actually, I can’t claim anything about GOOP. If I want to see that level of white fuckery, I’ll walk around the Pittsford Wegmans parking lot.
The newer version of treating brown people like we’re exhibits is to go into deep into the Mist and examine us first hand, Dian Fossey style. The only problem with this approach is that WE ARE NOT GORILLAS. In April, one Melton Bennett rode the Red Line in Atlanta to witness the change in demographic from his suburb to downtown Atlanta. His report was an exquisite example on how to properly demonize black people, all while justifying why everyone should move out of cities. He didn’t talk to any of the passengers about where they were going, or if they were regular riders. He just witnessed strangers being strangers, minding their business or holding conversations with the people they knew, and then he punctuated his treatise by pondering what Martin Luther King would think. Invoking MLK is the go-to for oblivious white people in order to shame black people for something they don’t understand or like. Here’s a news flash. MLK would have done whatever present black people are doing, because MLK did those things. MLK would have blocked traffic in protest, He would have stormed Town Hall and addressed legislators directly, and he would have done what black people were doing on the train: he would have minded his own business, sat his ass down, and gotten off at the stop where he needed to get off.
Here in Rochester, Bob Lonsberry of WHAM 1180AM did a “man on the street” editorial of the annual Puerto Rican Festival. He started out the Wednesday before he wrote of his travels “into the wild” by announcing in a tweet that he read this on Monday: “Police and organizers say last night’s writing on North Clinton had nothing to do with the Puerto Rican Festival”. Oh, good. So the “riot” that occurred an entire week before the festival started had nothing to do with the festival. Whew! What a relief! Not to mention that there is no report of a riot happening in the first place. There is one story of a person being pistol whipped on the Saturday prior, but I would assume a riot has at LEAST ten people involved, not two. His feed was then filled with pictures of the Festival, some selfies with a few people, and a LOT of praise for the police for “keeping the peace”.
Then he sat down and wrote the essay entitled, “LONSBERY: I Went to the Riot Last Night”. This is brilliant, because people who don’t read articles will see that title, and they will fortify their bigotry by sharing and saying, “SEE??? They rioted at the Brown People Gathering! They are nothing but animals! We need to deport them all!” that definitely happened a few times, including the call for deportation. Don’t tell the bigots that Puerto Ricans are US citizens. We colonized and annexed it It’s been a commonwealth of the United States since the Spanish-American War. For those that DID read the article, Lonsberry started out eager to see a shit show, describing the last night of the Puerto Rican Festival as the “most predictable and embarrassing dates on the Rochester calendar”. Much to his disappointment and then enjoyment, he didn’t see much violence. He did describe in detail how the police DID shut down a few skirmishes and impromptu parades, but for the most part, he was amazed at how many families and friends were out enjoying the good weather and general feel of merriment. He DID mention the rollover crash that occurred on Remington Street, but he went right back to talking about how good the coloreds who enjoyed the festival were. I really hope he enjoyed the cookie he got for learning that Puerto Ricans are human beings, and that only a small percentage of festival goers caused any trouble.
A lot of people are praising his article, including Puerto Ricans and otherwise opponents of Lonsberry. He does deserve some credit for going out and seeing what people are doing instead of just griping about what the news reports. However, he wrote as if he came looking for negative things to report. He came looking for a zoo, and then was “pleasantly surprised” that the zoo didn’t happen, and the “exhibits” were people. It all reeks of that scene in The Color Purple when that white lady talked about how “clean” Oprah’s kids were, as if she was complimenting them, right before Oprah knocked her ass out. It’s good that people want to reach out and learn about other cultures, but it’s better to do it by interacting, not by looking for some terrible thing and then snapping a few selfies.
Lonsberry could have left it at that, but then he spent the next day on Twitter with his tongue up the collective anus of the RPD, talking about how if it weren’t for them, the festival would have been chaos, and then making the “profound” statement the Puerto Rican Festival goers should pay the officers weekend overtime. Spoiler Alert: THEY DO. For every festival in the city with police protection, the festival is responsible for that bill. He then wondered why the principle of barring the festival doesn’t apply to the PR Fest because of the rolled over car, citing the death of a girl at a lakeside Adirondack festival last year. This, of course, let his base masturbate to their own claims of “reverse racism” and “PC gone amok”. The rollover crash that happened was the first time it happened at the Fest. This year. There were no reports of crashes like that last year or the year before or the other 6 years I’ve lived in Rochester.
I would not be as skeptical of Lonsberry’s intentions had he not laid them bare before, during, and after his piece. The dog whistling of the linking/not linking the North Clinton incident to the festival, the constant idea that the police were the reason the festival went so well with minimal incidents, the post-festival wondering why it’s allowed to occur after a death that happened 2 two days prior, all point to his real intentions. That is not to mention his general condescension of the people who he all of a sudden realized were families and “good people”, only after he gave up looking for trouble. Bitch, we know we’re good (I’m actually Panamanian, but you get it). He was quick to announce that there were 15 arrests at the Festival, but I can’t recall a time where he listed the arrest and violence stats for St. Patrick’s Day, or Park Ave Fest, or Corn Hill Fest. St. Patrick’s Day usually averages the same number of arrests, by the way. I have seen as many or more crimes occur at all three of those events, sometimes in plain view of police officers, but I can’t seem to find his long treatises about how those festivals need to be “cleaned up” or any Dian Fossey-style integration and observation of the bellies of those beasts.
So it looks more and more like Lonsberry just wanted to get that "Dances with Ethnics" merit badge and cookie, and he did. Kudos to him. I hope he enjoyed his cookie, and I hope he got his sewing badge so that he can affix his “I know brown people” pass to his lapel.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Valerian Spoliers: They Killed Rihanna in a Pile of Garbage

I tried to see Girls Trip, nicknamed the black version of Rough Night. The difference is blaringly obvious: Girls Trip got rave reviews. Unfortunately, Girls Trip was sold out in 3 theatres that I searched! Good on Girl’s Trip, but what should I see now? Why not Valerian and the City of 1000 Planets?
I’ll tell you why the hell not.
I was so ready for Valerian. I like Rihanna, and I wanted to see her redeem herself from Battleship. I had no idea who the hell else was in the movie. No matter. A sci-fi visual stimulant would do me well.
The film starts in 2020 on two space stations in earth’s orbit that are merging. A team of Russian astronauts greet a team of Chinese astronauts. This leads to a montage of astronauts from different countries greeting each other. Vague Arabian astronauts, Indian or Pakistani astronauts, Probably South American or Central American astronauts. Some-Place-in-Africa astronauts…I thought, “Oh shit. This movie is going to be diverse AF!” That is about as diverse as the film gets until Rihanna. The “astronauts” then start looking otherworldly. The welcome committee shake hands with so many CGI aliens, I wondered if they blew their budget on the first five minutes. Then there is a voice-over that says that the space station is so big that it is going to crash into the earth, so they’re going to put booster rockets on it and let it flow into some slipstream in space, not necessarily knowing where they’re going. To put that in perspective, imagine a trailer park on a hill where the residents decided to stack and bolt their homes together, and then when the land owner raises the plot fees, they all decide to remove the wheel chock and let the whole damn thing roll wherever. What could possibly go wrong?
Next scene depicts a bunch of wispy sexy beach Navi. They don’t speak English, they were essentially wearing nothing but loin cloths, and they have that feel of being “primitive but noble”. They are the pretty African/South American/Polynesians of the galaxy. Focus is on one particular obviously female beach Navi who starts her day by hopping off her giant marshmallow of a bed, petting some weird Pokemon rat-cat, and skipping around town flirting with a pearl fisher and being friendly to everyone she sees. I half expected someone to say in their alien language, “Mentos: The Fresh Maker”. In lieu of a mint ad, she feeds a giant pearl to her rat-cat, and it immediately shits a thousand pearls out of every pore of his little body, into what looks like a well. Everyone is cool with this, so I guess his pearl shits aren’t toxic. Suddenly, a dark cloud and a fire ball appear in the sky. More fireballs appear, desending on this wispy paradise. They are all going to die. The main female beach Navi is apparently a princess, and she was so busy skipping around town that when the rest of the Beach Navi hunkered down in a bunker, she doesn’t make it in time to get there, and her parents have to watch her get vaporized.
Are you confused yet? Are those giant pearls the eponymous Valerian? Will James Cameron sue for the obvious Avatar rip-off, which is an obvious Ferngully rip-off, which is an obvious Dances with Wolves rip-off, which is an obvious Black Like Me rip-off?
You should be confused, and no, those pearls aren’t Valerian, and the lawsuit may still loom. Valerian is Valerian, and Valerian is a human piece of cardboard who is in the space CIA. He has a colleague/girlfriend who is also made of cardboard named Laureline. You don’t realize that they are in a long term relationship until about halfway through the movie. At first, you just think he’s just trying to smash. Their introduction felt like there was a whole TV series prior to this film, and we should have known how tight they are already. The chemistry between Valerian and Laureline is comprised of inert gases. For the rest of the movie, they are assigned to steal the last Pokemon rat-cat and figure out what anomaly seems to be consuming the adrift space station, or the CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS!!! Shenanigans ensue. Valerian and Laureline basically take turns saving each other’s asses from increasingly fatally calamitous situations. One of the larger calamities is when Laureline is captured by weird frog-slug monsters who intend to feed her alive to their king. Valerian enlists the help of a shapeshifting pole dancer, who happens to be Rihanna. They go to the frog-slug monster headquarters and beat the shit out of them for a little bit. Laureline, Valerian, and shapeshifting Rihanna escape imminent peril by jumping down a garbage chute. Valerian and Laureline, with very breakable bones, come out unscathed. Rihanna, the shapeshifting alien with no bones, who can contort her body into any form she wants, dies, but not before ensuring the couple that it’s fine that she dies, because on her planet, living is like hell. They killed Rihanna in a pile of garbage, and they gave her a garbage line.
The rest of the movie is basically more space shenanigans, you find out one of the leaders of the space CIA was covering up the fact that their organization is responsible for the death of the Beach Navi. There was a battle, and the debris from the battle was the fireballs that destroyed their planet surface. The surviving Beach Navi are the source of the anomaly in the ship, and they need the rat-cat to shit out pearls (which apparently are an energy source) to fuel their ship and they can find a new homeland. Also, I guess Valerian and Laureline get engaged or something.
I would like to say I liked this movie. I really would. It was definitely about two hours. I have so many feelings about this movie. They killed Rihanna in a pile of garbage. The movie is based on a 1960s French comic called Valerian et Laureline, so why wasn’t the movie called “Valerian and Laureline”? they spent equal times saving each other from shenanigans! They killed Rihanna in a pile of garbage. The diversity in the film pretty much ended after the space station merger montage. After that, the movie was mostly white guys and CGI aliens. One of the few people of color, Rihanna, they killed in a pile of garbage. I don’t mind a little bit of kitschy dialogue, but man…wooden AND kitschy? It shouldn’t have taken me that long to figure out that V and L regularly touch D and P! They also killed Rihanna in a pile of garbage.It would have been nice to get more development of all the wird alien worlds that were in the city beyond a bunch of stylized Chinatown chase scenes. They. Killed. Rihanna. In. A. Pile. Of. GARBAGE.
With the right writers, this could have been a good, funny Netflix series. As a 2 hour movie, though, there is no time to explore the worlds and sentient species created without the movie looking like a 3D virtual ride at Disney World…with the exception of The Fifth Element. And Total Recall. And Mars Attacks. And Demolition Man.
Man, y’all killed Rihanna in a pile of garbage. Fuck y’all.
Biggest lesson I can take from watching this movie is that I should have gone to the late show for Girls Trip.

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