Batkid is The Best Thing Ever

Wow, it’s dusty around here.

So, all of my writing time has been for work these days (please click the donate button on the main page if you want to see me focus more here), but I had to come out and write here because I apparently missed the best story of the month, possibly the year, and need to comment on it.

My favorite charity, the Make-a-Wish Foundation (I toured Europe with a jazz band doing work for them twice) granted a wish for a leukemia survivor by going to my favorite medium, comic books. Not only did they turn him into “Batkid,” they had him running around the city in a Lamborghini Batmobile with Batman and his kid brother dressed a Robin. He disarmed a bomb and rescued a woman tied to cable car tracks, mere seconds before the cable car came by. Then he stopped the Riddler from robbing a bank. Then he saved the SF Giants’ mascot, Lou Seal, from being kidnapped by the Penguin who was also hauled off the prison. Both villains were in their delightful Adam West-era costumes.

But that’s not the best part. The best part is that thousands of people got involved in this. San Francisco was turned into Gotham City for this event. There were people cheering him wherever he went. The actual Chief of Police made a public call for his help, and thousands begged his assistance. Graham Nolan, co-creator of Bane and artist for several excellent Batman stories, drew a picture of Bane being frightened of Miles Scott, the 5-year-old secret identity of the mini Caped Crusader.

batkid baneAbout 12,000 volunteers from the city got involved in this. The president of the United States sent him a Vine to congratulate him on his work. He was given the key to the city. The San Francisco Chronicle turned its front page into the Gotham City Chronicle to run stories about his exploits. Former and future Batmen Ben Affleck, Adam West, and Michael Keaton all had great things to say to him.

gotham city chronicleThere is nothing bad about this story, except for a few assholes who think that it was wrong to do because he is in remission. Make-a-Wish’s response: “We would never penalize a child for getting better.”

This is so incredible. This is what comic books are supposed to be about: giving hope to people who don’t have it, making ordinary people feel extraordinary, and uniting people in goodness. It’s what a lot of comic book fans were saying was missing from Man of Steel.

But the sheer outpouring reaction from people is a perfect example of the greatness of human beings. When we come together for goodness, we do amazing things. Thousands of people gave up part of their days just to make a sick five year old feel good about himself.

This story made my year. This is why I read comic books, and why I support Make-a-Wish, and why I love human beings despite all of our flaws.

Pull List of Justice: September 2013

pulllistofjusticeRegular readers of my stuff will know that I am a comic book fanatic and have argued many times that comics have historically been at the forefront of social progress, often addressing issues that television and other mediums have been unable or unwilling to. Yes, they can also be problematic, but I contend that finding the right book with the right author can lead to a wealth of fantastic characters representing all sorts of diverse types of people and ideas.

So welcome to the beginning of what will hopefully be a monthly feature in which I describe the wonderful things that are happening in the comics I read that send a positive message in the social justice arena. I should point out that I can only really write about the comics I actually read, so if you have a book that you think would be great that I don’t cover, mention it in the comments. Otherwise, all comics and characters are the property of their respective companies and are being reproduced in part here under Fair Use guidelines.

Now, let’s jump right in.


Thus begins my latest piece for Queereka. I hope that this will become a regular thing and get more people reading some of the amazing and socially progressive comics out there.

Link Parade 6/30/13

Here’s a collection of things I wanted to talk about but don’t have a full post in me for.

1. Apparently, Ohio is also passing an abortion ban, presumably to create the jobs they keep saying is their priority. Miri has the details and is encouraging people to call John Kaisich and tell him to line-item veto that provision from the budget bill. I encourage you to go over there and get the details on how. I just did, and I don’t even think modern Republicans ever give a shit about public opinion, but it didn’t hurt me. The part that gets me, however, is this bit:

Doctors must inform patients seeking abortions exactly how much money the clinic made from abortions within the past year, and how much money the clinic stands to lose if the patient chooses not to get an abortion. In case it’s unclear, the point of this is to warn patients that there is a “conflict of interest” involved in providing abortions because clinics can make money from them. This is ridiculous because any medical procedure can make money for doctors and hospitals.

You’ll notice that with the advent of 501(c)4s and the GOP’s favorite Court ruling, Citizen’s United, that the opposite is true of them. If I were a principled Democrat in Ohio, every bill will have a proposed amendment that you cannot submit a bill in the state legislature without it saying how much you have received from the relevant special interest group and how much you stand to lose in campaign donations if the bill doesn’t pass.

2.Will Wilkinson talks about why Republicans would bother standing against immigration reform when it’s clear that even 86% of Republican voters think a “pathway to citizenship” is a good idea. And the answer is that they have a hard core base that really is dedicated to identity politics.

The energetic ideological base of the Republican Party is a nationalist, identity-politics movement for relatively well-to-do older white Americans known as the “tea party”. The tea party is interested in bald eagles, American flags, the founding fathers, Jesus Christ, fighter jets, empty libertarian rhetoric, and other markers of “authentic” American identity and supremacy. That America is “a nation of immigrants” is a stock piece of American identity politics, but the immigrants that made America America were, well, not Mexican, and spoke English, or at least Pennsylvania Dutch. Sorry Mexicans! Even if each element of immigration reform, taken in isolation, is agreed to be a good idea by a solid majority of Republican voters, Republican politicians must nevertheless avoid too-enthusiastically supporting this package of good ideas, lest they fail to project sufficient appreciation for the importance of keeping America American and putting Americans first.

This is where I think there is an element of cognitive dissonance present in a lot of GOP voters. They don’t think of themselves as hurting immigrants, they don’t want to hurt anybody, but they also want to feel more authentic, more American than somebody, and immigrants are a traditional target. They prioritize their desire to feel superior, better than, over their desire to help people who may have been raised in this country, entirely unaware that their parents brought them here illegally as babies. They aren’t entirely unfeeling toward other people, which is why they support parts of the bill, but a whole bill threatens their feeling of supremacy and that cannot happen.

3. This is the boy I wish I was when I was 13. In fact, this is the boy I wished I was when I was 13. Will Phillips has been a social justice activist since he was 10 years old. Matt Barber has questioned his motivations and suggested he’s been “brainwashed” (which is wingnut speak for “taught that other people matter”). He initially got famous for refusing to say the Pledge because he didn’t feel that we did have “liberty and justice for all.” Most recently, he spoke at the Northwest Arkansas Pride Parade. This kid is amazing and has a bright future ahead of him. Go read about him now.

4. TW: cults, murder, homophobia. “Lord” Pete Moses is the leader of a Judaism-based cult. And he has just been found guilty of murdering two of his followers, one of which was a 4-year-old boy who was killed because Moses thought he was gay. At the very least he will be going to jail, the sick fuck. Sentencing is next Friday.

5. If you have small children, you should fill out this form saying you would be interested in getting them this awesome toy to teach your youngsters about evolution. Even if you don’t have kids you should fill it out. This is not buying the product, they are gauging interest in it, and filling out the initial form will not ask you for credit card information, but will give you an opportunity to give comments.

6. If you remember me talking about Joe Klein and how he apparently doesn’t understand that atheists help people, there have been multiple updates. First, Klein himself tried to weasel his way out of his comments by claiming that he only meant organized atheist groups, which is still incorrect. Now Time has come out with its own statement, and basically they’re supporting Klein, which is why I highly suggest that you contact Time and let them know that this is utterly unacceptable, that inaccurate reporting has no excuse, and that you intend to cancel your subscription if you have one.

On a side note, I was helping my friend with her baby yesterday. Funny how Joe Klein wasn’t there to help.

7. This baby duck was born with a deformed leg. So, rather than give him a peg leg or letting him suffer, science has found a solution. Using a 3D printer, people made a mold for a silicone prosthetic leg and foot for Buttercup. All the feels for this one.

8. I was torn about this for a whole 3 seconds before recognizing the problems with it. Basically, it’s a website that is encouraging a movement for “Christian Domestic Discipline” which we are told is a consensual arrangement that includes male domination and punishments like spanking.

Christian Domestic Discipline is not BDSM. It is not a game. While we do not deny its sometimes erotic nature, it is ultimately not for erotic purposes. It is often much different than the domestic discipline you will find outside of the Christian faith.

The thing is, it sounds a lot like BDSM. However, my experience has taught me that I can’t trust that Christianists aren’t lying when they say stuff like “consensual”, and there is a question of whether a lifetime’s worth of being told that this is the natural order of things leaves a person in a position to meaningfully consent or not. However, giving the women involved in this the benefit of the doubt, I see nothing on their website about wives who want to exit this “consensual” arrangement, or merely drop that aspect of it without getting a divorce. I also see no mention of safe words and very little in the way of safety instructions to keep husbands from going too far (I suppose god will stop them?), which means it is very, very, very not BDSM. Essentially, as a Dom/sub relationship with a religious play component, this could be really hot. As a lifestyle with no escape routes, no safety instructions, and no apparent care for the lives of women who get into this other than value paternalistic nonsense, it sounds both dangerous and abusive, despite claims that it is not (because saying that something is not abusive/racist/homophobic/otherwise awful totes makes it true).

9. #4 on this Fred Clark link list. Just go read it.

I think that’s everything for now. Oh, if you haven’t, please go vote on my new tagline. It’ll only take a second and be really helpful.

Good on Dr. Lindsay

I would like to add my voice to the chorus of people who are thanking Ron Lindsay for finally issuing an apology for what happened during WiS2. It’s not the most vociferous, but it’s also not a not-pology. He recognizes his mistake and shows that he has listened to people. You can go read it yourself, but it’s short so here’s the repost:

It has been a few weeks since I have said anything in public about the controversy over my remarks at the Women in Secularism 2 conference.  As CFI announced via Twitter, this pause was to enable the board to have time to consider the matter.  The board has issued its statement.  It is now an appropriate time for me to make some remarks.

I am sorry that I caused offense with my talk.  I am also sorry I made some people feel unwelcome as a result of my talk.  From the letters sent to me and the board, I have a better understanding of the objections to the talk.

I am also sorry that my talk and my actions subjected my colleagues and the organization to which I am devoted to criticism.

Please accept my apologies.

While, again, it was not long and didn’t go much into detail, I believe that it was honest and is a good place to start a conversation. Thus far I have said that my concern with Dr. Lindsay has been his silence in regards to what happened. That he has come out to say this has addressed that concern, and gives me hope that the man who less than a year ago believed that those who make women in the atheist/skeptical movement feel uncomfortable could be safely No True Scotsmaned away might have learned something from this incident.

Now if only we could get Russell Blackford to drop his increasingly familiar act of melodramatic indignation, that would be an accomplishment.

(h/t Almost Diamonds)

Biblical Womanhood: A Smartass Guide

I love to take people at their word, especially when they say something stupid. Which reminds me, every moron who says that they plan to move to Canada if Obama is re-elected, come November 7th, should the incumbent win, let me know if you need help packing.

But this isn’t about politics so much as it is about hermenutics, which is fancy Bible-talk for “how you read things.” One of the biggest atheist complaints about the religious is that we feel it’s disingenuous to pick and choose what’s literal and what is metaphorical in your holy texts and claim you aren’t doing that. Rachel Held Evans, a liberal evangelical blogger who has been featured here many times, came at the same conclusion from the other direction and decided to show how ridiculous Biblical literacy is by living her life for a year exactly as the Bible says she must, to the letter. Whatever prescriptions and proscriptions were there for women, she would follow them, regardless if they were ridiculous (many are, from the pictures of her sitting on her roof or holding a sign at the entrance to her town about how awesome her husband is).

A Year of Biblical Womanhood is now out and I want to read it because, as kind and gentle and non-threatening as Held Evans is (and she’s also an absolute sweetheart when it comes to responding to angry atheist bloggers in her comments section *ahem*), this has got to be one of the best smartass moves I’ve seen. I mean, I love to challenge Biblical literalists to actually live up to their arguments (not one has taken up my offer to search for women who pray with no hats so we can shave their heads), but Held Evans goes one step further and takes up her own challenge. She’s not mocking, and really does take the Bible seriously, but I think there’s something to be said when strict interpretations can seem like satire.

Suffice it to say, this book has also been sending the patriarchal Powers That Be into a tizzy of Biblical proportions, which pleases me to no end. Fred Clark discusses why this is happening and provides links to others, though I think he fails to mention the irony that it’s having the Streisand Effect.

I want to read this book and will probably pick it up when I have the time. Everything I hear says it’s smart, funny, and demonstrates pretty clearly the ways that phrases and traditions can lose their meaning. If I do read it, I’ll be sure to write a review. For now, I just really like the idea and, while I suspect she would disagree, I would consider Held Evans a Smartass of Valor.

My Little Human

I’ve talked about so many serious things today. And more will come tomorrow. So here’s somebody’s amazing job of taking the ponies on My Little Pony and re-animating them as humans (with wings and horns, of course). It’s only a few short clips using the original soundtrack, but it’s very well done and I can imagine the ponies looking that way as humans. Especially like that Twilight Sparkle is a person of color.


Birthday Idea: Rainbow Shower

Oh, oh, oh!! Can I please have the Queerest Shower in the World? I don’t know where I would keep it, living in an apartment and all, but I heart it so.

Turns out the tiles react to heat and the shower head…does something that makes it rainbow colored, probably using LEDs.

Either way, it would also make my shower match the rainbow anklet I always wear, and who doesn’t like unlikely color coordination?

(h/t Stitch-n-Time)

How The World Should Work

My good friend Kristycat wrote a week ago (can you tell I’m catching up on stuff?) about a situation in which car trouble revealed quite a bit about the world and the people in it. I recommend reading the whole thing, but in summary her car broke repeatedly and, time and time again, people were absolutely amazing about helping out and doing what they needed to so she could get back into a state of mobility.

However, as feel good as a lot of this is, the important thing about it all comes near the end (spoiler alert)

And… the argument could be made that nobody really went above and beyond here.   (Well, maybe my dad.)  Companies should treat their customers professionally and courteously.  People should pitch in when they see someone in trouble, especially when it’s not going to take up more than a minute or two of their time.  We should be able to expect that family and friends will be supportive when things go wrong that are beyond anyone’s control.

It’s pretty popular to be sarcastic about people who want accolades for acting like a decent human being or not being actively miserable, but that comes from a world in which human beings really don’t act much like it at all. This is also predicated on the optimistic view that being human is not to be base and vile and self-involved, but rather to be capable of love, joy, and intellect that can be bent to making a better world for everybody.

So go read about how good people can be, and remember that this should be the default and we should hold people accountable to it. Yes, people have a right to be miserable assholes, but that doesn’t mean we have to spend time around them. Know what the cool kids are doing? Being kind, understanding, accepting, and thoughtful. They’re coming up with new ideas to help those around them. They’re dropping what they’re doing to help a new mother get her car taken care of.