This is an “I Can Read” Post

Because this is about all I have the mental energy for today, for reasons big (that truck) and small (Tr***). Over the summer, I designed and printed a little paper holder for one of those tear-off paper cubes. It has a pen holder, and a slot where I can drop the slips of paper. I keep it on my nightstand, and use it to keep track of the books I’ve read…because why not. I’m sure somewhere out there, Mrs. Millen is thinking, “Great, Jason. Why didn’t you do this forty years ago?”

Anyway, it only covers the latter half of the year, so there’s a bunch of stuff not included in it. The first couple date ranges are estimates. I used orange for purely prose works, and green for graphic novels and comics. The items in red I couldn’t get through. Mr. Moore, if you’re out there, don’t take offense at how I got distracted from your novels. I just found Shakespeare for Squirrels hard to get into, and it was just bad luck that From a Certain Point of View arrived when it did. I’m a sucker for those collections.



Scary Dating Stories

It’s mid-morning on a Sunday, and a group of friends are having brunch at a popular spot downtown. The plates and bowls on the table haven’t been cleared yet, though they are mostly empty. Conversation has briefly paused while a waiter finishes topping off everyone’s drinks. Mimosas for the ladies, and a Bloody Mary for Doug. Mark has nothing.

Once the refills are done, Kate says, “In honor of Halloween, how about we share our scariest dating stories?”

Lauren shoots eye daggers across the table at Vanessa. “Did you put her up to this?”

Vanessa grins into her mimosa. “Maybe.”

Doug scoots his chair back and announces, “I think I’m going to get some fresh air. Mark, you want to join me?”

“Dude, it’s forty degrees outside.”

Doug gives him a look that says, do you really not see where this conversation is going? He gives Mark about a second and a half to register this, then says, “I’ll be out on the patio if you want to join me,” and leaves.

Vanessa is by now grinning from ear to ear. She says, “Okay, I’ll go first. Stalker, restraining order.”

Amanda and Tracy follow next:

“Attacked a work friend. Restraining order.”

“Roofied. Restraining order.”

Mark stands up abruptly. “You know what, I think I could use some fresh air, after all.”

The women at this point are in a groove, and barely acknowledge him. Heather chimes in next. “Told me I was the love of his life on our second date, blah blah blah… Restraining order.”

Kate looks around the table, confused. “These aren’t really stories. ‘Blah blah blah’?”

Vanessa dismisses her concerns with a wave. “Shhh, it’s okay. We’re getting to the good part. Lauren, I believe you were next?”

Lauren offers a feeble protest. “You’ve all heard this story multiple, multiple times. Do I really need to tell it again?”

Everyone around the table agrees that yes, she absolutely must tell this story again. 

“And no shortcuts,” orders Tracy.

Amanda chimes in, “Because we will know.”

Lauren takes a deep drink from her mimosa and begins. “Fine. So I had been seeing this guy for a while, nothing serious. We had come back to his place after an afternoon movie and dinner. I had parked my car there earlier and was going to go home, but he invited me inside first, and I figured it was still early, so why not. He pours us both a glass of wine, and then asks if I mind if he ‘takes off this monkey suit.’ I said, ‘Sure.’ I mean, he’s the one who decided to wear a coat and tie to see some old B-movie, but whatever.”

“What was the movie?” asks Heather.

“’Invaders from Mars.’ This guy was super into science fiction.”

Tracy snickers, “Ooh, foreshadowing.”

“Can I continue? So anyway, he’s gone for like, fifteen or twenty minutes. I’m beginning to wonder if he’s forgotten I’m there, when all of a sudden the lights go out. At first I think it’s a blackout, but then I see all the little red and green LED lights are still glowing on the TV and stereo. Some kind of whirring sound starts up down the hallway, and I’m like…what the hell? Then a super-bright light starts strobing out in the hallway, and I see fog billowing out of it. A shadow appears, and then there he is, dressed in costume. He’s got a fake head on that’s bald with giant black eyes, basically your classic grey alien look. He’s got weirdly long knobby fingers, and must be wearing platforms of some kind, because his head is practically scraping the ceiling.”

“So it’s like a full body suit then?” asks Vanessa.

Lauren shoots back, “Do you want to tell this?” 

“No, no. You’re doing fine. I’m just interested.”

Lauren spares a moment to impale her friend with a few more optical daggers, then continues. “No, not a full body suit. It had the head and arms, whatever he had on his feet, but the middle part…well, there was no middle part.”

The only person hearing this for the first time, Kate gasps, “He exposed himself?”

Tracy pantomimes a hand job and cackles, “Take me to your beater!”

Ignoring this, Lauren continues, “Yeah, so he shows up like, I don’t know, Gort or an extra from the X-Files, his junk completely hanging out. Which I should say, that part took me a while to realize with the lights and everything else. Anyway, he raises one of his weird alien hands and declares in a really loud voice, ‘Be not afraid, earthling. I mean you no harm. I merely wish to learn more about your strange ways.’“

“Oh my God, what did you do?” asks Kate.

“Well, at first I just stared. All my brain could muster was, ‘wha-at the fu-uck is happening.’ But he just stood there with the lights flashing, fog pouring into the room and his hand raised like I’m supposed to take it. I don’t know how long he stood there waiting, but eventually I just figured fuck it. My calendar’s clear tomorrow, let’s do some alien autopsy.”

Vanessa adds, “Plus, long knobby fingers.” Lauren shrugs.

Kate at this point is vigorously shaking her head. “Uh uh, nope. I would have run away so fast I would have punched an outline of my body in the door, like Wil E. Coyote.”

“Okay, so we go to his bedroom, which is thankfully not strobing like the hallway, but he’s got it lit in some sickly green color. He doesn’t lay on the bed, he just stands there. With the mask on, I can’t tell what he’s even looking at. I’m trying to figure out what to do next, when he points at my chest and says in that same loud voice, ‘The females on my planet have three breasts.’ All I can say to that is, ‘Yeah, I just have the two, sorry?’ Then he says, ‘Everything on my planet is in threes.’ At this point, I look him up and down trying to figure out what he’s talking about, because all I see is one head, two arms, two legs, his chest is covered in latex so who knows what’s going on there, and then the standard bait and tackle. I say, ‘You mean your internal organs?` So then he slowly moves his hand to his junk, and lifts up his pecker to expose his nuts and says, ‘You may inspect yourself, if you like.’”

Everyone watches with glee as Kate throws her hand over her mouth and whispers in horror, “No!”

“So I grab it, or them, and sure enough, there are three of the little buggers in there. I blurt out, ‘What the hell? Are these real?’ He’s so proud, he drops out of character and says, ‘I got an implant. It’s usually on the bottom, or in the back. It’ll be just like having sex with an alien. I even have mating jelly.’”

“Wait, ‘mating jelly’?” asks Kate.

“Yeah, I never did find out what he meant by that. So anyway, at this point I’m not even thinking sexy times, but I am definitely checking out what’s going on down there. I’m squeezing it trying to figure out if it’s plastic or silicone or what, when the thing pops out of my fingers.”

“You broke it?” asks Kate. 

“Not…exactly. As best as I can figure, it squirted free and pinballed around in there, punching his real testicles like speed bags. All I know is, all of a sudden he’s screaming, he takes a step kind of sideways and kind of backwards, loses his balance, falls over and smacks his head on the nightstand, which knocks him unconscious. That’s when I pretty much Wil E. Coyoted out of there. He never called me back.”

Vanessa raises her glass in salute and says, “God, I love that story.”

Lauren took a sip of her own mimosa and asks Kate, “So, what about you?”

Stunned, Kate says, “Oh, uh…my last date told me I reminded him of his mother.”

Everyone around the table shudders in horror as Vanessa signals the waiter for refills all around.



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.