Let me start by dispensing with the idea that Donald Trump had anything to do with my awareness of Juneteenth. As always, when that ding-dong says “Nobody knew,” what he means was it was news to him. I will readily admit that I haven’t paid a lot of attention to Juneteenth as a holiday, but I’ve been at least dimly aware of it for a while. However, this is the first year I’m actually doing anything for the holiday.

The reason I’m observing Juneteenth is two-fold. First, with everything that’s going on in this country, it seems important to mark the end of slavery in it…or more precisely, the moment when the last group of Black people were told that slavery had been abolished. Second, like any holiday worth its salt, Juneteenth is providing an excuse to gorge ourselves. In our case, we’re pulling out Weaver D’s cookbook tomorrow and are trying some recipes from it. Automatic.

I should also note that Brown University has recently decided to make Juneteenth a paid holiday, which doesn’t hurt. It’s nice to be part of an organization that whatever its flaws, does seem to be trying to do the right thing. They are encouraging us to take this as a day of reflection, thus my sitting down to try and think some things through.

So. White people are the worst, amirite?

*sigh* Not helpful, I know.

Let me try to structure this a bit. First, how have I personally been affected by, or benefited from racism? Second, what can I do to move the ball forward in ending/correcting it?

There’s an image I’ve seen floating around recently. I pulled it from a page on White Supremacy from the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice, though they are not the original authors of it.

There are a few concepts here that I recognize. “Colorblindness” and its variants are one. I couldn’t pinpoint when I wised up to it, but I do remember in college believing in the notion of “I don’t see color.” Another one that pops out is “Fearing people of color.” Yes, I recognize the conflict in that. Had you asked me when I was nineteen if I thought color mattered, I almost certainly would have said no. At the same time, I know damn well I consciously locked the car doors going through certain parts of Kansas City. This is where my time at Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman University) served me well. The combination of having a Black roommate for a year, a couple well-chosen history classes, not to mention being exposed to Spike Lee films all helped to open my eyes, at least some.

There are other items in that pyramid where I honestly don’t know if they’ve affected me. Housing discrimination is at the top of that list. Growing up, did we benefit from discrimination, or did it cause us to live in a segregated neighborhood? Maybe? I don’t remember our place in Independence, but our first house in Liberty was on the edge of a heavily Black neighborhood. We moved a few years later to a different house, where I can’t remember a single Black family living. Was that de facto segregation? Similarly, as an adult, have we been steered away from “bad” neighborhoods that were historically redlined? Again, I don’t know.

I do want to focus on “Police Brutality” for a moment, and tell a small story. This is one I’ve told before, but recent events have put a new spin on it.

Back in June 1998, I was working with NCTM on their Standards 2000 project. At the time I was just finishing up a graduate degree in Instructional Systems Technology, and I was part of the team building the new web site. There were some working meetings in the Bay Area, I think Oakland, and I was flown out there to participate. I forget how long I was there, but it was several days at least.

While I was there, a new Prince CD came out (Newpower Soul, if you’re wondering). There was a CD shop down the road from the hotel we were staying at, so I looked up directions on MapQuest and during a break I walked down there to pick it up.

Halfway there, a cop jumps in front of me, points a gun at my face and does the whole “freeze, hands in the air!” bit. Except he actually said something more like “hands behind your head.” I have a distinct memory of being aware I was doing the wrong thing even as I did it, then having to correct myself. Anyway, he made me lie face-down on the sidewalk while he checked my wallet. Then he took me to a police car parked at a gas station nearby and made me sit in the back while some woman around the corner they didn’t let me see had a chance to tell them whether I was the guy who had assaulted her. The whole time as my heart is racing, I’m either explaining that I’m an IU graduate student or trying to figure out whether I should call the hotel or Chandra, who was back in Bloomington. At any rate, the woman must have said I wasn’t the guy, because they let me go and I got my Prince CD.

Now at first, this seems like just a random police encounter, and a case of mistaken identity. But let’s unpack some of it. To begin with, while I found the whole thing alarming, I never felt like my life was in jeopardy. As a White child, my parents never had to give me “the talk” that so many Black parents have with their sons. Second, think back on all the stories of Black men (and women!) who have been shot dead by police for such things as reaching for their wallet, holding a cell phone, or performing some other innocent action. Remember when I said the cop wanted me to do one thing and in my confusion I did something else? What are the odds that had I been Black I would have shot dead on the spot?

Okay, so I can come up with some examples of white privilege, racism, whatever you want to call it. I don’t feel like this affects my daily existence, but maybe it does, and either way it’s certainly there. The next question is, what can I do to combat it, to be anti-racist? Sadly, I don’t have a good answer to that. I can work to better educate myself, and I’m doing that (book club, anyone?). I can give financially, and both Chandra & I do that, hopefully where the funds can do some good. Hopefully these things help, though it doesn’t feel like much.

What I suspect could be the most impactful is also the most difficult, and that’s talking to White people about racism. The problem is the same one that we’ve all been dealing with since at least 2016 if not before, and that’s White People Don’t Listen (#notallwhitepeople). If you know a Trump voter, you know a racist. Hell, if you know a Republican, you know a racist. I can (and do) talk about this stuff with people, but they’re not the ones who need their minds opened up. Sure, there are always things we don’t know and can share, but ultimately most conversations I have around this are preaching to the choir. The White people I know in that racist camp? They don’t/can’t/won’t hear it. That’s the nut I haven’t been able to crack, and I expect will spend the rest of my life trying to figure out.


Sobering moment no. 34663


Ladies and Gentlemen. My Father, David Orrill, is a Fascist

So…I got ticked off last night and fired off an email to Dad and Kirsten that read as follows:

A haiku for you dumb assholes:

I tried to warn you
But you refused to hear it
You helped this happen

I also attached the image below.


Not my finest work, but after months of enforced isolation and days of police brutality ending in yesterday’s stunt, I kind of snapped. I do sometimes fire off these kinds of notes to Kirsten with varying levels of venom and/or pointed facts, but I know that she routes everything from me to the trash, so she never sees them. It’s like scream therapy. Anyway, for whatever reason, I included Dad in last night’s note, though.

Lo and behold, I got a response from him! It read, in its entirety:


That’s 32 lower case Zs, if you’re curious. Apparently that’s the Old Man version of Melania’s “I don’t care, do you?” outfit. Because he doesn’t care that innocent people, including clergy, were attacked just so that Trump could stand in front of a church have his picture taken with a Bible, or that he called for armed forces to kill American protesters exercising their right to free speech. I would say that he doesn’t care about black people, but that’s not news. I’ve known that ever since the “Sun City” album came out back in the eighties.

There’s not really a good part to this story, but there is something that I do find amusing. Remember how Kirsten routes anything I send to the trash? When he responded with his flourish of zeds, he copied her, which means she has almost certainly now seen it. *chef’s kiss*

Oh, almost forgot– no more pseudonyms. Vlad and whatever it was I was using…Burstyn, I think? I’m not using those anymore. Anyone okay with the current president, 100,000+ dead people and a burgeoning dictatorship don’t get the luxury of anonymity. Tell them I said, “Hi.” Not that they care.

spanky little rascals high sign | The Hi Sign to all the new ...


What To Do When Your President Suggests You Drink Bleach

Taking the day off today, and I had hoped to spend it goofing off. Instead, thanks to yesterday’s ramblings of a lunatic, I felt compelled to make a PSA. Feel free to download, print, share, etc. Save a life. It’ll be more than the president has done. If you aren’t familiar with this format, here’s a video on how to fold and cut it.

What To Do When Your President Suggests You Drink Bleach


For future reference

This is one of those things I remember hearing about but could never remember where. It randomly popped across my radar, so I’m posting it here for when I want it later. The study is from 2012, but if you think the results would be any different today…well, you’re probably a Fox viewer (hey, sis!). Key takeaway: people who get their news from Fox know less than people who don’t watch the news at all.

Survey: NPR’s listeners best-informed, Fox viewers worst-informed – Poynter


Warren 2020

Not that my endorsement is going to mean anything, but with Super Tuesday coming up I figured I would put my support in writing, to go with the yard sign we should be getting soon. I’ve been impressed with Elizabeth Warren for some time, and think she would make one hell of a president. Yes, she has a plan for everything, but more than that she has the ability to articulate her positions with a clarity and passion that is striking.

Sidebar 1: I think it’s a requirement this election cycle to say this, so I’ll get it out of the way first thing. Any of the current Democratic candidates would be better than Donald Trump. Come the general election, I will be marking the ballot for whoever the Democratic candidate is. Moreover, I will be marking the entire ballot Democratic. As bad as Trump is, he only the summit of the shitberg that is the modern Republican party.

Policy aside, I put Warren in the same camp as Katie Porter, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, and maybe Adam Schiff. These are representatives who do their homework and are a joy to watch in hearings as they take apart whatever toady is in front of them. Elizabeth Warren is known for doing the same thing. Do a Google search for “Elizabeth Warren hearings” to get some links to her at work, or you can watch a supercut of some highlights:

With that in mind, I want to make special note of the recent Nevada debate. Here’s another supercut:

These edited clips do tend to make everything more intense and dramatic, but still. Her evisceration of Michael Bloomberg was a thing of beauty.

Sidebar 2: I’ve seen several people remarking that Warren’s takedown of Bloomberg is a sign of how she would similarly tear Trump apart. I don’t fully buy this, because for all his many flaws, Bloomberg does seem to partake of reality in a way that Trump does not, and he similarly seems to have some amount of shame, a burden the current president does not share. So she may go after Trump with the same vigor, but I don’t know that the reactions would be the same.

One other thing on the last debate— there have been a few posts (possibly paywalled, in which case…sorry) on Talking Points Memo recently touching on the “Despair and Withdrawal” some are feeling. I certainly share some of those sentiments. Warren’s debate performance at least temporarily made those go away, and judging by how my Twitter feed lit up, I’m not alone.

Finally, Warren seems to get that what is happening to American government right now is an existential crisis in the way that I don’t think other candidates necessarily do. If she is elected, I am confident that she will be able to both put agencies right that Trump is tearing apart, and she will allow the DOJ to pursue investigations and prosecutions as appropriate. In particular, I don’t trust Biden, Bloomberg, or Buttigieg for a second to do that.

Sidebar 3: It’s pretty clear that Sanders is very close to Warren on a lot of issues, and if he gets the nomination hopefully this is one (I haven’t researched it). If we had ranked choice voting, he would be my second choice.

P.S., who doesn’t want a cougar in office?


The time is now

I’m more inclined to Elizabeth Warren than Bernie, but still. This hits hard in a way that resonates with me.


Cutting to the chase

Emphasis added

So if you’re a Trump defender, whether one of his scum voters or a craven congressional worm, you’re obviously comfortable with having a fucking criminal lead you because it makes you feel big and important. You’re a failure of a human being, but fuck it.


About that…movie

Once a generation, there comes a clunker of a Star Wars film...
Once a generation, there comes a clunker of a Star Wars film…

Here’s how I know The Rise of Skywalker isn’t up to snuff. Once in theatres was enough for me. I’ll still read the novelization, and will watch it again at home afterwards, but I have no desire to deal with all the crap that attends going to the movies for it.

However, I don’t want to recite a litany of the ways TROS was disappointing. Instead, I want to think through how the film could have been better, given where the story stood at the end of The Last Jedi, and where the film ended.

Let’s start with Leia. I get that they wanted her to play a key role in Kylo/Ben’s redemption, but without actually having Carrie Fisher around, Leia’s presence and death were both super flat. Instead, they could have dealt with her death in the opening crawl, and had the first shot of the film in the Alderaanian graveyard, with the remnants of the Resistance performing a service in her honor. Hell, maybe the first shot is Lando’s ship arriving.

We acknowledge the leadership vacuum in the Resistance. Some look to Poe, but he’s still wrestling with being a hotshot pilot vs. taking on a more prominent leadership role, and hasn’t fully come to grips with what he did in the run-up to the Battle of Crait. Poe is keen on General Calrissian heading things up, but that’s not really Lando’s bag. He digs the title, but doesn’t want the responsibility. Instead, he offers to help use his old contacts to beef up the Resistance. Chewbacca goes with him. Leia’s death also flips out Kylo, and Palpatine uses the opportunity to reach out to him through the Force.

Next, let’s give the Kylo Ren vs. Hux and conflict within the First Order more time to breathe. I actually think this could have been one of the primary story lines of the film. Imagine if we got to watch Resistance leadership pulling itself together at the same time as the First Order is tearing itself apart. Rather than the whole chasing this artifact and that, we could have had Kylo unbalanced by the loss of his mother, pulled towards Palpatine and chasing (with the Knights of Ren, sure) after what to Hux would appear to be phantoms. Disillusioned, he reaches out to the Resistance as part of a play to eliminate Kylo.

Let’s keep the memory wipe of C-3PO, except instead of doing it to translate Sith MapQuest, the Resistance has to do it as part of a scheme to get in contact with Hux, because he can’t get word out from the Star Destroyer he’s based on without getting busted. Think of it as the reverse of what the Rebels did to K-2SO in Rogue One. This gives us an excuse to get our heroes in trouble, put Rey in Kylo’s quarters, etc.

Now that I think about it, this could also have given us a different way to introduce Jannah. I saw a tweet recently suggesting that she could have told Finn she and others left the First Order after they heard about his actions. Imagine taking that a step further, and being able to see them do it on screen because they ran into Finn on a First Order Star Destroyer.

Okay, so at this point let’s say we have Kylo haring off to Exogol, on a promise of power, one-upping grandpappy Vader, etc. He’s dealing with a bunch of Sithy things, including ghosts of Han and Luke getting in his way. The Resistance has to make a decision. Do they go after this new threat, or take advantage of turmoil in the First Order to get a much needed win on that front? Poe wants to do the latter, but ultimately recognizes they don’t have the resources. Rey takes off for Exogol in the Falcon…let’s say with Rose, because the ship is in desperate need of repairs. Finn and Jannah tag along, on the excuse that some First Order knowledge might be useful. Really, Finn is nervous about what Rey and Rose might discuss, and Jannah is infatuated with Finn.

Rey and the gang pause before the final leg to Exogol, where they run into a substantial part of the First Order fleet. They have to fight their way through, with a slight assist from Hux, who sabotages First Order efforts to capture them. In the process, our heroes see Hux get busted, courtesy holo transmission from him. Once they finally make it to Exogol, everyone but Rey focuses on repairs so that they can maybe make it back out alive. They also contact the Resistance to let them know about the fleet and Hux’s predicament.

Poe reasons that Hux is too valuable a resource to lose, and risks going after him. He also contacts Lando, and has him send anyone who can help to a rendezvous point outside the storms near the entry point to Exogol.

So— we still get our big lightsaber fight and space battle going on simultaneously. Yay! A couple changes, though. The Rey/Kylo/Palpatine part is a much more intimate affair. No more arena of whatever the hell those things were, and no fleet of planet-killing Star Destroyers, because Oh. My. God. Just the three of them battling each other and their own demons. Palpatine does his cackling “I have foreseen this” thing. Rey has to deal with being Palpy’s grand baby. Leia speaks through Rey to Kylo, which finally breaks him. On the space battle side, we start quietly as well. Initially there are not enough Resistance ships to risk taking on the First Order fleet, and they keep their distance. The First Order similarly ignores the Resistance ships as not being a threat. However, there is a steady stream of newcomers joining the Resistance. The First Order begins to get nervous, and at some point a hot head arrives and barrels forward to attack, ignoring Poe’s calls for him to stop. This causes confusion on all sides and the battle kicks off in earnest.

On Exogol, Ben and Rey defeat Palpatine, and race to leave before everything crumbles around them. They emerge from the storms in the middle of a now-raging space battle. The storms have increased in severity, and have jacked up the Falcon’s shields, and they’re sitting ducks. Black Squadron swoops in to escort the Falcon to relative safety. We see Poe’s ship, but it’s piloted by Wedge Antilles.

See, fanboys? I can pander, too.

Whatever destroyed Exogol has spread, and the storms surrounding it increase in size and intensity. They begin to swallow up the First Order fleet, which is now trapped between the storms and the Resistance. Poe sees this and orders everyone away, while lightning leaps from one First Order ship to another in a web of destruction that ultimately claims nearly the entire fleet. The Resistance wins the day!

One last thing I would do. Throughout the new trilogy, Rey has been pining for her parents, or trying to find out where she belongs. By the end of TROS, she has been explicitly told she’s more or less heir to the Sith, while she at the same time makes a conscious choice to fight against that. In the epilogue to TROS, Rey does two things that I think are in conflict with each other. She claims the name “Rey Skywalker,” as if claiming the mantle of the light. However, she also sparks a new lightsaber that is a golden yellowish color. This is a color we have seen from Temple Guards Star Wars animated shows, but in the context of Rey’s story I think we can interpret it as Rey forging her own path. I would probably drop the whole “Rey burying lightsabers on Tatooine for Jawas to dig up later” bit, but could easily see a small exchange at the end where one of the other First Order troopers who left with Jannah asks “Rey who?” To which Rey smiles and says, “Just Rey.”

So anyway, if anyone wants to give someone at Lucasfilm my contact information, I’d be happy to talk to them. I know it’s too late for the Skywalker Saga, but maybe I can pitch in on something coming up. 🙃


The Request

If you’re curious, the article in question here is With impeachment, America’s epistemic crisis has arrived . It’s well worth a read, and it’s a pity that like a lot of things, the people who really need to read it and take it to heart will do absolutely no such thing, because it’s not blessed by the Grand Poobahs of their tribe.


JASON and STUART are sitting in the piano room. JASON is reading on his laptop, and STUART is next to him, chilling as only a cat can.


Hey, Stuart. Can I get you to email something for me?




It’s just a link to an article I found. I want to send it to Burstyn.




I would, but if I send it, they won’t see it.




They’ve thoroughly blocked me from email. I’m hoping if you send it, maybe it will get through.




Dude, you have plenty of water in your bowl. I just filled it this morning. Can you just send the link for me?


Mrow, mr-mrowr, rr?


It’s about tribal epistemology, and how people on the Right have so walled themselves off from anything that conflicts with what they’ve been told, there is no longer any sense of a shared reality.


Mr-mrowr mrr meow?


Yes, the fact that they would ignore this if it comes from me is ironic.


Mrowr. Meow?


Thanks, dude. And yes, I promise I’ll check your water.