Space Colonization

Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #15 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

Which do you feel is more important for the future of humanity: the colonization of Mars or eliminating poverty?


Space colonization–in fact, interstellar travel–is one of those areas where I have to keep my views pretty close to the chest, in case the Nerd Police catch wind and strip me of my license. Unlike most folks I know who grew up on science fiction and love fantasizing about the new worlds, even galaxies, we may eventually reach as our understanding of the universe expands, I remain utterly apathetic to the idea of colonizing space. Continue reading

Traveling Without a Map

Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #6 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

The other night,  after cleaning up the dinner dishes, R and I went to the ale house around the corner for a beer. The evening air was gentle, a welcome change from Walla Walla’s oppressive summer heat, so we took our beers out to the patio and sat.

“What will it take,” R asked me teasingly, “to convince you to go live with me in another country for a year?” Continue reading

I talk a lot about sex and sex-positivity, especially in person. (There’s a big post about what that all means and why I find it so important coming up at some point–it’s long overdue.) There’s a lot of cultural weight stacked against sex that I, as a humanist and a feminist, simply can’t accept, and so I’ve worked over the past few years to free myself of that stigmatical burden. But as a student at a small liberal arts college in eastern Washington, and one who calls Portland, Oregon “home” to boot, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the sex-positive spheres I inhabit are not what many people across the country recognize.

This post on reddit caught my eye today and gave me a really unpleasant reminder of what a sex-negative culture can do:

I’m a 17 year old female, and I think I have an over active sex drive.?

Or maybe a hormone imbalance. I’m not very sure. First of all i’d like to say I am not trolling, although it may sound like it. I’m a virgin. But I think about sex, frequently. I masturbate like about 4 times per week and think about sex everytime I go to sleep. I think about it way to much to where I’m at the point of seeing someone sexy on tv and wanting to have sex with them. I don’t know if this is normal, and I wasnt sure where to post this. Please help:(

This is what happens when a culture tells people, especially women, that enjoying sex is abnormal, that it’s wrong, that it’s something to be ashamed of. A girl exploring her sexuality in a perfectly natural, healthy way, harming nobody in the process, is led to believe that she’s physiologically abnormal for seeking pleasure. She feels guilt and grief when she has done nothing wrong. And she feels like even when she’s doing something that only affects her, she needs to be “normal”, as if there’s something inherently wrong with an abundance of sexual thoughts and behaviors.

We need to fight this. We need to tell people of all genders, sexes, and orientations that they can and should love their bodies and all they can do, if they so choose. We need to broadcast a better idea of what is “wrong” based on consent and harm, rather than puritanical anti-pleasure maxims. We need to create a culture that celebrates consensual sex and sexuality (including the choice not to be sexual)–rather than one that makes 17-year-old girls afraid that there’s something wrong with them for being sexual.

As I alluded to a few posts ago, I’m aiming to educate myself this summer on a lot of issues, particularly issues of social justice and privilege. With some help, especially that of Rachel, I’ve come up with the following rough list, affectionately dubbed the “Just How Fucked Are We?” reading list. It’s in no particular order, and I may be adding to it or deviating from it as the summer goes on, but these are the books I’m diving into this summer. Since I’m still slowly working through this reading list, most of my synopses are based on publishers’ summaries or the reviews of people who’ve read them.

I link to Powell’s because it’s my favorite local independent bookstore, but, of course, you can check them out from your library or buy them at your personally preferred bookstore.

  • You Are Not a Gadget, by Jaron Lanier: A philosophical manifesto examining the growing role of internet technology in our daily lives, and how it’s changing our understanding of humanity and personhood.
  • The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, by Naomi Klein: An in-depth examination of the “shock doctrine” used to push neoliberal economic policies across the world, wherein governments seize the opportunity created by crisis in order to implement policies that would otherwise face stiff resistance.
  • Yes Means Yes!: Visions of a Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti: An anthology from various authors on dismantling rape culture and educating people to value and embrace female sexuality.
  • Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser: In what I’ve heard described as a modern-day take on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Schlosser investigates the many tendrils of the fast food industry in our society–not only the disgusting truths of fast food production, but also the cultural impacts of fast food, the industry’s exploitation of minorities, and much more.
  • Reefer Madness, by Eric Schlosser: An investigation of America’s underground economy, particularly focusing on marijuana, porn, and undocumented immigrants.
  • Broke, USA, by Gary Rivlin: A look into the recent development of the “poverty industry” in the last five years, an industry making big bucks on the backs of the working poor.
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich: A classic piece of ethnographic literature. In the late 90’s, Ehrenreich attempted to see what life was actually like in the trenches of working poverty by experiencing it herself, moving from job to job, state to state, trying to keep herself fed and sheltered on near-minimum wage levels–and found that the”minimum” wage is hardly sufficient.
  • The Working Poor: Invisible in America, by David K. Shipler: A study of the invisible poor, courageous and working hard yet trapped in a web of problems.
  • Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields, by Charles Bowden: A “devastating chronicle of a city in collapse” composed of individual stories of those living in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a hotspot for drug-related violence.

Also not on the”Just How Fucked Are We” list:

  • In Praise of Shadows, by Junichir? Tanizaki: A classic essay on the Japanese aesthetic.
  • Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal: A look into real-world applications of positive psychology, seen through the lens of an award-winning game designer.
  • Sex at Dawn, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá: A journey through human history, evolution, and psychology to suggest that sexual monogamy is not the default for human behavior that we all think it is.

These are the thousands of pages I’m going to try to put into my brain this summer. Wish me luck!

My mind is burning

I’ve decided that this summer, it’s time to stop being ignorant. I’ve had the privilege, as a white, straight, middle-class American male, to live a life fairly unburdened by worries of social inequality or injustice, but it’s time that I stepped outside that privilege and learned something.

I’ve hardly even begun thinking about making a reading list for the summer, and already, it feels like my head is on fire with all of it. Racism. Sexism. Capitalism.

It feels right now like the world is fucked up in so many ways. I recognize that might be a bit of an overreaction, but I also can predict I’ll be going further into a slump of that hopelessness the more I research and learn, until I can accept it and start figuring out what the hell to do about it.

Learning about this isn’t going to be easy. It’ll be tempting to just back out and retreat to my privileged position, where I don’t have to deal with the painful reality of what’s going on.

It’ll be my challenge to stick with it and make a worthwhile change in my life.

It’s going to be an interesting summer, that’s for damn sure.

Header image: “Sparks” by Daniel Dionne (CC BY-SA 2.0)

According to numerous sources, last night, outside a political debate in Kentucky, a group of Rand Paul supporters threw a MoveOn member to the ground, incapacitated her, and one person stomped on the back of her head.

You read that right. Stomped on her head.Political activist being stomped upon

So, let’s be clear here, America. Maybe there’s been some confusion as of late. Not many people have stood up and opposed this sort of behavior. We’ve kind of let it slide. Continue reading

Exclamation point

Stale Content Alert!

This post was written a long time ago, and my views have almost certainly evolved since then. Please keep that in mind while reading, commenting, or sharing.

Come on, people!

What’s happened to our conversation? We’ve become a bunch of spineless, light-footed lemurs, afraid to say anything that might step on someone else’s toes or offend anyone else in any way at all. All of us. We’re caught up in modifiers and justifiers, constantly making excuses in order to keep ourselves from pushing people too hard.

It’s too late at night to come up with examples, but watch your discourse with others. Watch others’ discourse. We’ve become ridiculously self-censoring, myself included.

I’m not advocating going out and being rude, that’s absurd. Manners have their place. But there are manners, and then there’s simply regularly cutting your feet out from under you, and the latter is happening one hell of a lot.

Random thought of the night.