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Blood: The Last Vampire (live-action)
A pretty different movie from the anime, except for the opening scene, the general setting (a US army base in Japan during the Vietnam war), and the main character (the monster hunter). I liked the anime better and the OH liked the movie better. I saw the anime first and the OH saw the movie first. Do you usually like best whichever version of a story you took in first? I think I generally do. Some differences between the anime and the movie: It's made clear right away that (spoiler) the monster hunter is a vampire. The person she is trying to protect is the daughter of the general who runs the army base. (In the anime, the person is a middle-aged fat nurse.) She is trying to kill the most powerful demon, which turns out to be her mother. I liked the demon/mother character a lot. Refrigerator moment: It isn't clear to me why she needs any human handlers. They supply her with blood, but surely she could figure out another way to get that. How did she survive the centuries before the human handlers showed up? (end spoiler)

Funny Face
Highly recommended if you can ignore the loud buzzing of the sexism fairy. Late 50s movie with Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, and Kay Thompson. Kay Thompson is more well known as the author of the Eloise books, and this was her only starring film role. The movie is about a fashion magazine. Two of the characters were apparently based on real people -- Avedon the photographer and Diana Vreeland the editor of Vogue. Kay Thompson plays the editor character, Maggie Prescott, who is middle-aged and FABULOUS. She pretty much upstaged Astaire and Hepburn. OK, I did keep saying that she reminded me of Rex Harrison* but in an absolutely fabulous way (plus she can sing and dance much better). The sexism fairy has been hard at work on the romantic plot  (spoiler)(being a model married to a guy who doesn't give a shit about your intellect is much better than being a single woman studying philosophy and working in a bookstore) (end spoiler), but when Hepburn's character isn't subsuming herself to a man, the character is great.

(*and thinking I'd like to see a crossover where Henry Higgins fights with Maggie Prescott over Eliza Doolittle)

Rex Stout, The League of Frightened Men

Tananarive Due, The Good House
This had a slow start but really caught my attention starting around 2/3 of the way in.
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I'm linking to a personal statement written by a member of the Wiscon committee charged to investigate harrassment reports against Jim Frenkel. There are many good comments on the post.
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Unsqueamish science geeks will enjoy this post from Vincent Racaniello's Virology Blog about visiting labs that experiment with infectious agents. Vincent Rancaniello is sort of the Carl Sagan of virology. I highly recommend his virology MOOC at Coursera.

Kay Thompson, the author of the Eloise series of children's books, was seriously multi-talented.

Can you never get enough of lightning storms? Here is a map where you can watch them in almost-real-time. You can even have sound, but the sound needs work (it's a small "tick" instead of a giant "KABOOM").

Some people like electric shocks. But as for the general notion that people don't like to sit around with nothing to do, I used to have a tiny frisson of panic when my dinner companion left to go to the bathroom, but after I learned to meditate, I look forward to an opportunity to sit around with nothing to do. (Even so, I don't do it on my own, only when I am waiting somewhere.)

Funny bit: "(In the lab studies, one participant’s data was tossed because an experimenter had accidentally left a pen behind and the subject used it to write a to-do list. Another’s was tossed because an instruction sheet had been left behind and he used it to practice origami.)"

Oh no, millennials are living with their parents! Or are they? (Spoiler: People living in college dormitories are counted as "living with their parents.")

Supposedly in the early 80s you could only get a job working on the Macintosh team if you loved pineapple pizza. Things haven't changed much in high tech Silicon Valley. "The first step toward dissolving these petty Cultures is writing down their unwritten rules for all to see. The word 'privilege' literally means 'private law.' It’s the secrecy, deniable and immune to analysis, that makes the balance of power so lopsided in favor of insiders."

How constantly trying to make ends meet stresses people in poverty. "In making day-to-day financial decisions, Shafir says, "the poor are just better than the rich. They use their dollar better than the rich. They're more efficient. They're more effective. They pay greater attention." But they have less mental energy for other things.

The OH sent this to me with the comment that this is "why I wear purple [cochlear implant] headpieces."

Parodies of "Blurred Lines" that aren't by Weird Al (This one has an excellent fat female rapper) (This is by a group called The Law Revue Girls)
Article about the Law Revue Girls version:
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1989 version with Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, and Jack Nicholson. I felt that it didn't age well. I liked the way Bruce Wayne was drawn, but there was a particular type of female character in a lot of 80s movies who was supposedly very competent but as soon as she got anywhere near an interesting man she turned into a wet rag, and I thought Basinger's character was like that. It's fun to watch Nicholson chew the scenery and wear purple clothes, though.


I am watching this because it has footnotes. That is, the DVD has a special mode that pops up annotations explaining Roman culture and history. Most of the explanations are basic but occasionally there are bits I didn't know.

I love most of the acting in this series and it's really beautifully filmed, but I'm getting sick of the blood and rape and "let's drive the plot solely by thinking of the worst thing that could happen to this character" so I'm glad I only have three episodes to go.


John McPhee, Basin and Range
I like most of the McPhee I've read (especially Uncommon Carriers) and I like geology, but they didn't mix well for me in this audiobook (and part of it was finding Nelson Runger's narration annoying). Anyway, I gave up on it.


Nora Roberts, Morrigan's Cross
Supposedly Nora Roberts' first paranormal romance series. This is a "listening in the bathtub" book. So far the characters are so formulaic it feels like I'm reading one of Jung's dreams or something. ("Oh, there's the Anima. Oh there's...") It's funny to listen to Dick Hill (also the narrator of the very American Jack Reacher series) trying to do an Irish accent.

Rex Stout, The League of Frightened Men
I wondered why this book wasn't as easily available as some other Nero Wolfe books. Perhaps one reason is that there's an Evil Cripple character. But there are some superb Wolfe–Goodwin moments.

Tananarive Due, The Good House
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Great illustrations

Long article about the seafood industry that traces the fate and rising price of a single lobster from trap to table (and is a little callous on the question of whether lobsters can feel pain and whether it matters)

Sometimes apologies are done right

Sometimes guys come to understand how privilege and sexism can affect them.

What doctors don't know about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and some of the reasons why (part 1; part 2 is linked in the article). Short bite: the medical community can't decide on which symptoms are diagnostic of CFS. Exercise intolerance might be one of the more definitive symptoms.

A neuroscience researcher who is a Buddhist is interviewed about the scientific literature on the health benefits of mindfulness meditation. There isn't that much solid evidence. And there's not a lot of support in medical mindfulness programs for some of the uncomfortable states of mind that meditation can bring up. (Which isn't to say "No one should do it." It's to say that perhaps people are treating mindfulness meditation as a hammer, running around looking for nails and forgetting to get their thumbs out of the way.)

Prince Fielder is a pro baseball player who sometimes gets mocked for his size. He posed nude for ESPN magazine and IMHO he is GORGEOUS. Rated PG.

Jury nullification: It's the law and sometimes it's a good idea. However, the courts don't want you to know it's the law, so defense attorneys are forbidden to talk about it in court.
Nullification dates back to the trial of William Penn and William Mead in 1670 in England. When jurors refused to convict them of unlawful assembly, the judge imprisoned the jurors. On appeal, a higher court released the jurors and found that they could not be punished for acquittal. The first chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Jay, said in 1794: “The jury has the right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy.” And it remains entirely legal for a jury to acquit, regardless of the evidence, as a means of resisting unjust laws and sentencing. Juries have nullified to protest injustices throughout American history—in defense of the Boston Tea Party, against the Fugitive Slave Act, against Prohibition.

Despite this proud tradition, nullification has been a well-kept secret since 1895, when the Supreme Court ruled that while juries had the right to nullify, judges were not required to inform them of this power.
31 Struggles Kids Today Will Never Understand: So wow, now the generation after mine feels old. They remember being sad about not being able to fit their whole music mix on a CD. It was more painful when it was a cassette and you'd already painstakingly recorded most of the music onto it. In a shoebox in the middle of the road.
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When Aahz and I went to Wiscon, we flew into Chicago and rented a car from Enterprise to drive to Madison.

Because there are a kazillion toll booths along the route, we rented an automatic toll transponder along with the car.

A couple of days ago I get in the mail from Enterprise two separate notices that we failed to pay tolls at certain places and so they were going to charge us the tolls plus fines plus administrative fees. The total amount is about $30.

I go to the Enterprise web site and there is a form to fill out to appeal toll violations. I fill it out and say I don't owe these tolls because I rented a transponder from them.

Today I get an email from Enterprise saying that I have to phone their "specialized group of citations specialist who handle tolls" [sic] and leave them a voicemail, and they will call me back. The number I have to call is not a toll-free number. (Of course, why would they have a toll-free number for toll citations?)

I looked this up online and found a bunch of other people complaining about toll violations they got from Enterprise for places they were nowhere near in an Enterprise rental car or times when they were not using an Enterprise rental car. In my case at least they got it right that I was on that tollway at the times listed. But honestly, how hard is it for them to correlate the date and time of the toll violation with the fact that the renter for those dates and time rented a transponder from them?

I don't care about $30 but I do care about being ripped off in such a blatant and clumsy manner, and I do care about my time.

I also hate having to switch my business to a different rental agency to avoid this bullshit.
firecat: circle with plus, arrow, and various tools sticking out of it (gender swiss army)
Dear Crunchyroll, you just lost a potential customer because you demanded that I choose either "male" or "female" before letting me sign up.
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"Bill and Hillary Clinton were up to their ears in more than $10 million worth of legal debt at the end of Clinton’s tenure as president. Donald Trump was bailed out of four bankruptcies. But Detroit residents are having a basic human right – the access to water – cancelled for being late on bills of $150....residents with delinquent water bills are losing their water while prominent Detroit corporations with much larger delinquent water bills are being left alone. The Palmer Park Golf Club owes $200,000. Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings, owes DWSD $80,000. Ford Field owes $55,000."

I don't understand how this even BEGINS to be legal. I am living in a very different world than I thought.
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Blood: The Last Vampire
Anime short from 2000 that's about half the length of a feature film (they meant to make more of it but that didn't happen for some reason). About monster hunters. Set in the 60s. I don't usually notice sound design in shows I watch but this show had such awesome sound design that I could just sit and listen to it multiple times just for that. The way live music playing in a large room high school gym sounds when you're several hallways away. The sound of a rotary dial phone. The sound of the subway.The set design was also stunning. Institutional colors. Vintage furniture. Some of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who and Torchwood are based on history and find old institutions to use as sets, and this had a similar feel. I also liked how realistic many of the characters looked. One of the major characters is a fat woman.


The Wire
Finished the fourth season, which is about missing bodies and ex-police trying to make a difference in public schools that are hamstrung by testing requirements. I love this show so much.

Pinky & the Brain
My current favorite Pinky & the Brain episode was on this week's disk: the mini-episode "Calvin Brain" where Brain is a fashion designer and Pinky is a male supermodel.

Hawaii Five-O reboot
Almost through the first season. The police parts are fairly routine but they make more of an effort than most police shows to take actual science and technology into account (e.g., they sometimes run out of bullets in gunfights, and the term "IP address" was used correctly in a recent episode I saw). The team is multi-racial. There are positively portrayed fat characters and fat people (well mostly men) walking around as extras. There seems to be some effort to respectfully portray Hawaiian culture.


Rachel Swirsky, "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window"
Short fiction about a spirit that is bound until the end of the universe and is periodically summoned by leaders to give them advice. It's kind of unclear at the beginning what kind of story it is, but I like what it turns into.

Peter Watts, "The Things"
This is a nifty story about a really alien alien. But for me the experience was almost completely spoiled by the final line.

Rex Stout, The League of Frightened Men
This is the first Stout I've read rather than listened to. I love the audio series because the narrator, Michael Prichard, gets Archie and Wolfe SO RIGHT. But I wasn't able to find this one on audio. Reading it is an equally superb but quite different experience. Stout's language precision is more noticeable. I've listened to enough Prichard that I can hear him doing the characters while I'm reading it, which is fun.

Tananarive Due, The Good House
Just started. Horror. I like how Due discusses race and family issues around the edges of her stories.
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It's actually not legal to rent pieces of a public street!
[more of the same]
Facebook decides breastfeeding is a family-friendly subject.
Patient zero found for this year's measles outbreak in Minnesota.
Cue Bach (because "Schadenfreude" scans the same as "Hallelujah").
If crowdfunding sites wanted to be welcoming to women, how would they be different?
Apparently this photo of a woman breastfeeding her baby during her college graduation got a lot of flak. I think the photo and the woman and the message (education is compatible with having children!!!) are beautiful.
At some colleges and universities, disabled students find it hard to access services that are required to be available to them.
For all of the Neil deGrasse Tyson fanpeople (includes photo of high-school age Tyson in a wrestling singlet):
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I haven't done a Reading Wednesday for months, and I'd like to get back to doing something like it more often. This list is mostly spoiler-free but I might put up spoilery longer reviews of some things.


Retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of the "evil fairy". Stars Angelina Jolie, who does the role really, really well. ALL THE SQUEE. (Well, except no fat characters and almost no POC.) I can't remember who it was that proposed there was such a thing as a Reverse Bechdel Test (in which a movie has two men, who talk to each other, about something other than a woman). This movie comes close to failing the Reverse Bechdel Test.

Eastern Promises
Viggo Mortensen is a nekkid Russian gangster, directed by David Cronenberg. Um, that is, he's not actually nekkid in the whole movie.

Last Holiday
Queen Latifah plays a shy woman who uncovers her mojo. Passes the Bechdel test, the POC version of the Bechdel test, and the Mako Mori test. ("The Mako Mori test is passed if the movie has: a) at least one female character; b) who gets her own narrative arc; c) that is not about supporting a man’s story.") Also Gerard Depardieu is great.


Kinda doesn't make sense to call it TV any more, but I don't know what else to call it.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Episodic series set in Marvel universe. I persisted through the whole season, which had a very slow start, and was rewarded at the end because of the pretty exciting tie-in with Captain America: Winter Soldier. I guess watching the whole series was almost worth it. I guess I'll be watching the next season of it, but I'm waffling about whether to buy the whole season on iTunes or buy episode-by-episode. (We don't have good enough TV reception to watch it over the air, plus we like not having to deal with ads.)

Death Note
Police-procedural anime series about a notebook that falls out of the realm of the Gods of Death. If you write someone's name in it, the person dies. There are two series and two movies. The first series is really good. The first movie is good, especially the actor who plays "L," the eccentric genius detective. I didn't like the second series/movie as well but they were OK. There is supposed to be an American remake of the movie and I'm dreading it.


Kij Johnson, "Ponies" (Available free from
Awesome story. But ouch!

Lynne Murray, Josephine Fuller series
Four short novels about a fat woman who isn't a private investigator actually but she keeps ending up in the middle of crimes and solving them, and also has opportunities to talk about fat-acceptance, but there is a lot more story than lecturing. They're set in California (San Francisco, Napa Valley, San Diego) and Seattle, and they poke fun at some alternative subcultures, especially health nuts, in a fairly inoffensive way. There are also lots of cats.
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I was collecting these in an email post and sent it by accident, so I guess it's time to clean them up and post them already!

Cute decorations for your electrical outlets

Money is not a resource

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking food illness by searching Yelp reviews. (Perhaps one of the few positive uses for government tracking powers.)

This article about how Japanese people make businesses out of American cultural icons has kind of a patronizing tone, but it's also interesting.

They're right. I can't throw any of those things out.

This is part of the reason I like the asexual community even though I'm not asexual.
I’ve written here before about the very specific brand of sex-positivity I loathe, in which people seem bound and determined to press their sexuality on other people, insisting that sex is fantastic for everyone and everyone enjoys sex, creating a hypersexual, charged environment that refuses to acknowledge the complexities of human sexuality. Sex is awesome, under this framework, so everyone’s into it, and a ‘sex positive’ environment is not simply a place in which people can talk about sexuality without shame or judgement, but an environment in which sexuality is actively pushed on people. It’s all sexy, all the time.
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I'm making some changes to my reading list (DW) / friends list (LJ) because I can't keep up with all the social media.

On DW if I remove you from my reading list you'll still have access to my locked entries for as long as you have me on your reading list.

On LJ, if I remove you and you still want access to my locked entries, just let me know and I'll probably put you back on.

{Edited to add: If your posts are mostly tweets or links to your blog elsewhere, I may remove you from my list and follow you on Twitter}
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The very important question of how to order bacon sandwiches

"Ethical sensitivity," a Buddhist perspective.
For me the challenge is how to do this and still promote social justice. (Promote social justice without getting constricted by anger over injustice.)
Ethical maturity for Buddhists has less to do with moral values than with enhanced moral sensitivity. In fact, I believe that adhering to moral values alone can hinder the development of ethical maturity. Buddhism certainly does put great importance on moral values, including the precepts. Buddhism’s cardinal ethical principle is to avoid causing harm. However, these values are often understood to be expressions of goodness flowing from a responsive heart, not rules of behavior originating in external sources of authority.
The impulse to cause harm brings with it a tightening, a limiting, a darkening of the heart....One of the most challenging Buddhist teachings is that nothing whatsoever is worth the cost of a contracted heart.
Ethical strength is developed by exercising it. In some circumstances this means restraint; in others, action. Sometimes it entails learning to say no; sometimes it is saying yes. And in situations where it is not clear how to act, strength may take the form of remaining present and committed to understanding.
Long, very good article on data privacy, which also has lots of cute animal pictures.

Charging people for the use of public defenders
The county charged the man $600 for his public defender. You probably think of that as a free lawyer for people too poor to pay for one on their own. But the NPR survey...showed that 43 states now allow defendants to be charged at least an administrative fee for the use of a public defender.
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I didn't get to see as many people as I hoped at Wiscon because I wasn't feeling all that great physically. So to make up for it I'm adding a bunch of journals to my reading list. No obligation is implied.
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Social isolation and Wiscon

Description: For many of us, WisCon can be a magical bastion of cluefulness in an expanse of oppression. Yet even at the best WisCon, we can have internalized phobias, impostor syndrome and geek self-loathing. And when we're not here, we may not have access to the social support we need. How do we support ourselves when the world doesn't do it for us?

Moderator: Kimberly Gonzalez. [personal profile] firecat, Janice Mynchenberg, Susan Ramirez, Elena Tabachnick

[My comments are in [italic brackets]. My notes aren't a complete transcription, especially because I was a panelist. I welcome corrections. I did not identify audience commenters by name. If you said something I paraphrased here and want your name to be used, please comment or send me a private message.]

Why did you want to be on this panel?
Read more... )

Here is a really great writeup of the panel by an audience member.

I liked the camaraderie that developed during this panel. I would have liked there to be more political analysis of why some people are more isolated, or isolated more often, than others. But there was plenty of political analysis at other panels so maybe it's OK to have one that's just people trying to brainstorm and problem-solve our social stuff.
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Queer frontiers: Topics from the far reaches of gender and sexuality

Track(s): Feminism and Other Social Change Movements
Description: Does drag appropriate the trans experience? Is legal recognition of a third gender a step in the right direction? Are "bisexual" and "pansexual" really the same thing? Are we headed to a post-gender future? In Queer Frontiers, we're leaving the 101 conversation behind and blasting ahead to the very edge of queer theory. Let's talk about things we don't even have language for yet and write the theses that will be published in 20 years!

[My comments are in [italic brackets]. My notes aren't a complete transcription and may represent my own language rather than the actual words of the panelists. I welcome corrections. I did not identify audience commenters by name. If you said something I paraphrased here and want your name to be used, please comment or send me a private message.]

This panel was ASL-interpreted and also simulcast onto a screen so everyone could have a good look at the person who was speaking. The panelists repeated/summarized comments from the audience. I really appreciated this.


AM - Allison Moon (moderator; proposed panel): Author, sex-educator. &
AL - Alexis Lothian: Professor, teaches queer theory and LGBT studies.
GT - Gretchen T.: Bookseller from Madison. Identifies as genderqueer. Pronouns: "they/them". @gretchening
NC - Nino Cipri: Writer. Identifies as queer, genderqueer. Pronouns: "they/them".

What's starting to happen, what do we need to create language for?
Read more... )

So this panel wandered pretty far into queer theory. Queer theory was developed after I left school, so I'm not sure I followed all of it. And I was kind of sad it didn't address most of the topics in the description. But I found it interesting anyway.
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Reconciliation Within SF/F

Tracks: Power, Privilege, and Oppression (Fandom as a Way of Life)
Description: N.K. Jemisin's Guest of Honor speech at Continuum 2013 included a call for a Reconciliation within SF/F. "It is time that we recognized the real history of this genre, and acknowledged the breadth and diversity of its contributors.…[I]t's time we took steps—some symbolic, some substantive—to try and correct those errors. I do not mean a simple removal of the barriers that currently exist within the genre and its fandom, though doing that's certainly the first step. I mean we must now make an active, conscious effort to establish a literature of the imagination which truly belongs to everyone." What would a Reconciliation look like? How can we start one? How can we grow one?

NK Jemisin (NKJ) - Moderator
Eileen Gunn (EG)
Andrea Hairston (AH)
Debbie Notkin (DN)
Michi Trota (MT)

Twitter hashtag: #SFFReconciliation

[My notes aren't a complete transcription and may represent my own language rather than the actual words of the panelists. I welcome corrections. I did not identify all audience commenters by name. If you said something I paraphrased here and want your name to be used, please comment or send me a private message.]

Reconciliation Australia is an independent, national not-for-profit organisation promoting reconciliation by building relationships, respect and trust between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Our vision is for everyone to wake to a reconciled, just and equitable Australia. Our aim is to inspire and enable all Australians to contribute to reconciliation and break down stereotypes and discrimination.
Read more... )
I liked this panel a lot, and it was great to start my Wiscon with this panel and end it with N.K. Jemisin's Guest of Honor speech on Sunday night. Perfectly bracketed.
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Wiscon panel reports and trip writeup are coming! In the meantime, I collected a bunch of links while I was at Wiscon and I figured I'd post them here.

Good Captain Awkward article about people pressuring you to forgive your abusive family members: #577: Being pushed to forgive because faaaaaaaamily

Scribble cats (drawing by Frederick Walker)

75-year-old transforms 'boring' hedge into giant dragon masterpiece

Many people who read my journal have probably already seen N.K. Jemisin's amazingly wonderful guest of honor speech at Wiscon 38. (Trigger warnings for, in Jemisin's words, "rape, harassment, racism, and other forms of bigotry and abuse.")

Oh yeah, I knew there was a reason I try to buy my ebooks from places other than Amazon: Amazon Escalates Its Battle Against Hachette, on

The latest internet time-waster: catlike icon maker

A young opera singer recently got panned by some critics, not because she had a bad voice, but because she was singing a romantic lead role and is slightly plus-sized. Jeannette DePatie of The Fat Chick comments. (Trigger warning for discussion of fat hate)

This is a great post about how access to community can depend on how visible you are, and how visible you are can depend on how much you can produce, and how much you can produce can depend on how able you are as well as how much money and other resources you have, and this means people who might be in the most need of help (because they are sick, disabled, or poor) are likely to get less help. I think about this a lot.
Notes on Social Visibility in QTPOC Community by Asam Ahmad

3 Things the Chronically Ill Wish Their Loved Ones Knew by Toni Bernhard. I recommend her book How To Be Sick.
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Here is a video of a fat people flash mob in San Francisco dancing to "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. About 3 minutes and bubbling over with awesome.


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firecat (attention machine in need of calibration)

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