About ten years ago, I did a YouTube thing for a friend of mine. I showed up at a space in Hollywood, and did some silly gaming stuff with them to help get their channel off the ground. They’d done the same for me with Tabletop, and I was happy to return the favor. As I’ve said many times, nobody gets their foot in the door without some help, no matter how hard they try to rewrite their origin story.
There were a TON of YouTubers there, most of whom I didn’t recognize because I’m not in the demo. Most were twentysomethings, but there were a couple of teens, and maybe half a dozen younger kids who seemed to be having a pretty good time playing with toys and games. About halfway through the day, a mom who appeared to be around 27 or so brought her son over for a picture with me. He looked to be about 7. You know, the age I was when my dogshit parents ended my childhood and put me to work.
So this mom tells me that she’s super excited to “get his channel going” and before I even knew what was happening, I heard this come out of my mouth: “He wants a channel? Or you want a channel? He only gets one chance to be a kid, and no kid should have to work at all, or perform if they don’t want to.” Then I looked at the kid, and I saw a VERY familiar face from about … 1979. It’s in the eyes and the way the shoulders slump. I looked back at the mom. “Don’t take his childhood away from him.” Then: “He only gets one childhood.”
She looked shocked. This was clearly not something she had ever thought about, and certainly didn’t expect to think about at this thing. I felt like she was seeing her child as a child for maybe the first time? I don’t know. She was clearly uncomfortable, like nobody had ever spoken up on behalf of her child before.
“He loves it! He’s always having fun!” She said, with the same fake enthusiasm and terrible lying I knew from my mother. I glanced at the kid and knew that was not true.
What I wanted to say to her was, “I hope this is a total failure for you. I hope you get zero views, get your own job, and support your kid being a kid so he grows up with a mom.” But instead, I looked at this sweet little boy and said, “You deserve to be a kid.” Then I walked away before I caused a scene. I did not participate in his exploitation by posing for a photo that he didn’t care about, that would be used by his mother for some kind of promotion.
I think about that kid from time to time. He’s probably right around 18 or so, now, and I hope that his childhood wasn’t anything like mine. I hope he’s happy and living his best life. I hope his mom grew up and chose to be his mom, not his pimp, and that they have a loving and supportive family relationship.
“Claire, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, has never known a life that doesn’t include a camera being pointed in her direction. The first time she went viral, she was a toddler. When the family’s channel started to rake in the views, Claire says both her parents left their jobs because the revenue from the YouTube channel was enough to support the family and to land them a nicer house and new car. “That’s not fair that I have to support everyone,” she said. “I try not to be resentful but I kind of [am].” Once, she told her dad she didn’t want to do YouTube videos anymore and he told her they would have to move out of their house and her parents would have to go back to work, leaving no money for “nice things.”
“When the family is together, the YouTube channel is what they talk about. Claire says her father has told her he may be her father, but he’s also her boss. “It’s a lot of pressure,” she said. When Claire turns 18 and can move out on her own, she’s considering going no-contact with her parents. Once she doesn’t live with them anymore, she plans to speak out publicly about being the star of a YouTube channel. She’ll even use her real name. Claire wants people to know how her childhood was overshadowed by social media stardom that she didn’t choose. And she wants her parents to know: “nothing they do now is going to take back the years of work I had to put in.”
Bolding is mine. “Also her boss”? Fuck you, Claire’s dad. Fuck you eleven different ways, you piece of shit.
Children deserve to be children. Children are not the property of their parents who can use and exploit them for their own gain. They are CHILDREN and they will spend the rest of their lives hurting because you stole that from them. Ask me how I know.
I see you, Claire, and I am so sorry for what they took from you. You did not deserve that, and you are enough. When you are of age, if you choose to hold them accountable, I have your back.
So it follows that for most of last year, I was picking at a barely-healed wound. When the promotion cycle wrapped up, I gave myself permission to just withdraw from public life as much as I wanted and needed to, so I could rest and regain my hit points. While I was resting, that wound I’d been picking at got infected and made me … not extremely sick, but sicker than I’ve felt in a long long time. So I did what you do when you’re sick: I went to the doctor, and I’ve been doing the work every day to get better.
We got the infection cleaned up, but the wound is still there. It’ll probably be there for the rest of my life, so I’m doing the work to heal it, let the scab do its thing, and eventually become a scar that I can’t feel. I can look at it and know that it represents all the work I’ve done to heal myself.
I haven’t wanted to talk about this at all because all those months of being vulnerable in public, revisiting the most painful and traumatic moments of my life, was a lot. I needed and deserve quiet, private time for myself to recover.
All of that is to give some context to what I’m about to share with you.
But last night wasn’t about me. Yes, I have a wonderful cameo in season two, but I’m not in season three. And last night was about season three. It was about celebrating my family, who all came together for what is likely their final mission together. So I was happy to stay in my seat while they started to stand up. I clapped so hard my hands are still vibrating this morning. I applauded not just their work on this season, but everything they’ve given to Star Trek for over thirty years. I celebrated the absolute hell out of my family. And while I was doing this, I looked across the aisle at Frakes and clapped at/for him.
We made eye contact, and he gave me this incredulous look. “Why are you sitting down? Stand up, W!” He said.
My dad never made an effort to get to know me. It’s a choice he made, not some personality quirk, because he put a lot of effort into knowing and loving my brother and sister. My mom has gaslighted me about his abuse and bullying my whole life, forcing me to apologize to him when he hurt me. For a long time, I believed her lies and even tried hating myself as much as he hates me, hoping maybe then he would see and love and care about me. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.)
A significant part of the pain I feel and the healing I continue to work on, is that awful black hole in my life where my father’s love should be. I’ve spent so much time there, I know more about it than anyone, certainly more than my manipulative, selfish, drunk of a mother who insists it doesn’t exist. I absolutely know my memories and my feelings and everything my dad chose to withhold from me are real, because I never once in my 50 years on this planet felt loved and accepted by my dad the way I felt and feel loved and accepted by Frakes. He’s always been there for me. He’s always made sure that I know I am part of a family, something my birth parents never bothered to do.
Later, at the after party, as I was saying goodnight, he said, “What were you doing, sitting down?”
“This whole thing tonight isn’t about me. It’s about you guys,” I said.
“No,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder, “this is about us.”
I felt so seen, so loved … and had to take a deep breath to force the tears back, and I said, “Thank you for including me, Johnny. You are the best dad I never got to have.”
And we hugged each other, and he told me that he loves me, and I told him that I love him back.
This is a thing that comes up frequently. Someone wonders why Picard put Wesley, who was a teenager, at the helm of the Enterprise.
Surely, the argument goes, there are more qualified, experienced, adults on board who deserve the spot.
This most recently came across my Event Horizon, thusly:
“… The better question is how did this completely unqualified child get to actively pilot the flagship of the federation while others had to attend the academy for years and get multiple placements before even being considered.”
I NEVER respond, but today I felt like Wesley deserved someone to speak up for him, so why not me?
“Okay, so. Disclosure: I am the actor who played Wesley. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about exactly this, because angry nerds have been yelling at me about it for 30 years.
“Remember that a being of extraordinary power and ability pulled Picard aside and said, “this kid is special. I can’t tell you exactly why, but it’s really important that you nurture and encourage him to the best of your ability.” And Picard listened. He heard that this being, who had literally just taken them where no one has gone before, and he followed his advice.
“And that eventually leads Wesley to become one of the Travelers.
“I’m sure that there are plenty of officers on the Enterprise who share your opinion. They’re pissed that this kid was promoted. They’re pissed that he’s a nepo baby.
“But they don’t know everything that Picard knows. And Picard is the captain of the ship, so he gets to make that call. And he doesn’t have to explain himself to anyone.”
And what I didn’t add there but will add here is: The Traveler from Tau Ceti made it very clear to Picard that Wesley and Beverly must never know that Wesley is special, the crew and everyone else on the Enterprise must never know. So all of the sudden, Wesley is given this thing he dreams of, and he absolutely knows he hasn’t yet earned it. How do you think this makes Wesley feel? I mean, we never saw it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist within the character and actor who played him. He wants to make Picard and his mom proud of him more than anything, and Picard promoted him? HOLY CRAP DREAM COME TRUE! But … wait. What’s going on? His peers are jealous of him and what he gets to do. The adults he is around when he isn’t on the Bridge quietly resent him for what they believe is unearned privilege. There are a a thousand people on the Enterprise, and Wesley probably knows maybe two dozen of them. Everyone else who sees him? All they see is the nepo baby, and Wesley knows it. He has MASSIVE imposter syndrome, and spends a lot of his time trying to understand why Captain Picard believed in him and gave him a chance. He can’t understand why that isn’t enough for anyone else. It’s Captain Picard, man! He made the call! Doesn’t that count for something?
Wesley’s dream has come true, and he can’t even celebrate it. Yeah, he’s a full ensign, a Starfleet officer … but he’s a kid who has never been to the academy and learned what being a Starfleet officer means, how to behave and exist around other Starfleet officers who have also gone through everything it takes to get a posting on the federation’s flagship. He is wearing the uniform without having gained the experience that he needs to fill it. He doesn’t know that Picard and the Traveler did this. He just knows that, now, he has to show up and prove that he actually does deserve it.
And this kid has never been in a place where it’s safe and okay to make mistakes and learn from them. And he knows that. At fifteen. It’s a lot. Now this kid has to carry around with him not just the responsibility that comes with the chair and the rank, but he also has to exist on the Enterprise where he passes people in the corridors, sees people in the canteen, waits in line to use the transporter with all these other officers who have never met him, and DEEPLY resent him for something he didn’t do. Wesley feels that resentment every single time, and it hurts like fucking hell. He will spend the rest of his time in Starfleet trying to prove to everyone that he was and is worthy of the promotion. And every single time he sits at the CONN, he knows that if he fucks up even a little bit, everyone he loves could die. He carries that with him, every second of every day. He feels it in every judgmental look, every whispered conversation, every challenge from a bully who has had one too many drinks. And when he doesn’t hear it from someone else, he hears it from a voice in his head. He can’t escape it, until he finally does and it all makes sense.
And, thirty years of Terran time later, after he’s spent more time being a Traveler, seeing and doing things you wouldn’t believe than he ever spent as a human, he’ll hear someone complaining about how he got that promotion someone else really deserved way back when, and it will hurt all over again, because the body remembers.
It’s another one of those round up posts, like in the Before Times! Also, my silly choice to do that outrageous 90s theme (I bet you are all going to miss the dancing baby) has served its purpose, and now we are back to something a bit more readable.
So the phrase “you have too much time on your hands” came across my event horizon, as a response to a silly thing I did to amuse myself. I’ve heard this for my entire life, and every few years, I write a post like this about it. This is a slightly edited version of my response.
I doubt very much you mean to be hurtful when you say this. It’s just a silly thing you say, like “tell us how you really feel”. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a little joke.
About that. This is one of the most insulting, degrading, things a creative person can hear. We have all kinds of fun making something, and we put it into the world, and “you have too much time on your hands” devalues our creative experience. It’s another way of saying “don’t you have anything better to do?” Actually, dad, I don’t. This is exactly what I wanted to do with my time and energy.
I had exactly the right amount of time to make whatever the thing is. I choose to invest my time in doing something amusing, or silly, or whatever. “You have too much time” implies that this was a waste of the time I have, time that should have been spent doing something else, rather than the thing I chose to make, because it made me feel good to do that.
I am so confident that most people who say this don’t mean to be hurtful, and if you’re one of them, I hope you’ll hear me, as a creative person who has been dismissed like that his whole life, when I tell you how hurtful and insulting these words are. Don’t take my word for it, listen to all the other creative people who will reply to this, if they choose to share their experiences.
I’m not calling you out. I’m not putting you on blast, and I’ll ban anyone who brigades or attacks you. I’m just taking this moment to share this for you and anyone else who doesn’t want to be hurtful in the future. A teaching moment.
We don’t have too much time. In fact, nearly every creative person you ever talk to will tell you that we don’t have enough time. Please don’t dismiss us or the stuff we make.
Thanks for listening 🙂
NB: Facebook is bad for civilization. There is a future coming where someone researches and produces data which will show how absolutely destructive the whole damn thing is. There is a future where social media as it exists today is looked at the way my generation looks at DDT. We cannot believe it was ever a Thing, and the people who were poisoning us knew it all along. Facebook and Twitchan are a catastrophe for democracy and marginalized people. I can’t wait for the day to arrive when all of social media is regulated like tobacco and alcohol, and gets broken up into some parts that are less predatory and dangerous.
I just want to amplify my dear friend who is not here for anyone’s bullshit:
Okay. Let’s step out of that place and into something more fun!
I’ve wanted to round up some of the TV I’ve been watching:
Holy shit The Last Of Us is perfect. Flawless. Worth the entire subscription.
Netflix’s 1899 went from “interesting, compelling” to “steampunk LOST” so fast I gave up halfway through. The era of “weird for the sake of being weird, style over substance, vague hints of story instead of real character development, and we’ll sort of loosely wrap it up eventually” cannot end fast enough. Honestly, it should have died with Charlie. RIP Charlie.
Conversely, I had to force myself to not binge Wednesday, Brand New Cherry Flavor, The English, The Recruit, and Sandman. Highly recommend all of them.
The Justice Department has been scrutinizing a controversial artificial intelligence tool used by a Pittsburgh-area child protective services agency following concerns that it could result in discrimination against families with disabilities, The Associated Press has learned.
The interest from federal civil rights attorneys comes after an AP investigation revealed potential bias and transparency issues about the opaque algorithm that is designed to assess a family’s risk level when they are reported for child welfare concerns in Allegheny County.
Algorithms use pools of information to turn data points into predictions, whether that’s for online shopping, identifying crime hot spots or hiring workers. Many child welfare agencies in the U.S. are considering adopting such tools as part of their work with children and families.
Though there’s been widespread debate over the moral consequences of using artificial intelligence in child protective services, the Justice Department’s interest in the pioneering Allegheny algorithm marks a significant turn toward possible legal implications.
Supporters see algorithms as a promising way to make a strained child protective services system both more thorough and efficient, saying child welfare officials should use all tools at their disposal to make sure children aren’t maltreated. But critics worry that including data points collected largely from people who are poor can automate discrimination against families based on race, income, disabilities or other external characteristics.
(bolding is mine)
This was timely, as I just watched this short from Aperture about Algorithms a couple days ago.
tl;dr: algorithms are inherently racist, classist, and not at all neutral because the data used to train them is largely drawn from a system that has elevated the opportunities and privileges of CIS white men. It’s appalling.
Let’s stay at YouTube for a minute, because I said this was going to be fun.
It’s going to be a movie? I just saw that when I looked for a link to the publisher’s page. Hmm. I hope they do it justice. I hear they missed the mark with Tales from the Loop, but I haven’t watched it yet so take that with a grain of highly radioactive 236 U.
Also, I noticed a Still Just A Geek coffee mug in the background of one of Hank Green’s videos and I’m not gonna lie: I squeed with extreme delight.
One last YouTube mention. I can’t get enough of CGPGrey. I don’t know anything about them, except that their brain is amazing.
This video is about choosing a theme for yourself, like “my theme for this month is reading.” or “my theme for this month is mindfulness.” The idea is to help us build on little successes that fit into a broad theme, rather than setting a single goal and feeling like a failure if we don’t complete it to our liking.
My theme since I turned 50 has been self care and gratitude. I’m spending all kinds of time working on healing my cptsd and trauma, and I’m showing up for myself every day to support that. I’m making a choice to work on specific things in therapy (EMDR has changed my life), and then do the hard work in between sessions to build on the insights I’ve gotten from my therapist.
I felt this fundamental shift beneath my feet last week. This HUGE thing changed in me. It’s so big, I can’t see all of it, you know? Like, I can just see this small part of it that I let go of, and until I get farther away from it, I won’t know what all of it is. I feel so good, so unburdened, that I have spent substantial time being suspicious of it. I legit wondered if I was manic, but after talking with my therapist, I’m pretty sure what I’m feeling is the lack of generalized anxiety that has defined my life for so long I didn’t realize it was there. “This is water,” as they say.
If you only take one thing away from this post: work on your shit. It’s worth it. YOU are worth it. And I’m going to tell you something that’s going to be upsetting: all your friends know you are lying to yourself, and to them, about your mental health. We can’t do anything to support and help you until you choose to be honest and do that incredibly hard work that is so terrifying.
In the land of music, I can’t believe how much I like Miley Cyrus’ new song, Flowers. I love her smoky voice and “fuck you I’m fabulous” attitude.
I’ve been listening to Alkaline Trio, Taking Back Sunday, Get Up Kids, Ataris, and all that fabulous early 2000s stuff we all associate with Warped Tour. Yes, I made a playlist at Spotify.
Speaking of, I had no idea that Spotify used so much shitty compression, until my son pointed it out to me with a side by side comparison to Apple Music. The difference between the two is astounding. Real quick: I hate Apple. Their UI is the worst. Their design is stupid and non-intuitive. Oh, how I hate iTunes. And Apple’s refusal to use open standards in messaging can get fucked.
But Apple Music is remarkable (The Linux client, cider, is amazing). The lossless sound is so much better than the over compressed shit Spotify squirts into my ears, and I had no idea until I put them side by side. Spotify is like putting a wet paper sack over your speakers, by comparison. Once you hear the difference, it’s real hard to go back.
Too bad Spotify didn’t invest in sound quality like they did in centering and spotlighting a conspiracy theorist. This is the year I let my membership expire.
Okay, last thing: I searched high and low for a really solid RSS reader that wasn’t full of crap. I eventually settled on Fluent Reader. You can grab the Appimage here, if you’re a Linux user like me.
Oh look the morning is behind me and now I’m late for work. Which will happen in a virtual desktop two clicks over, where I’m writing a brand new thing.
I had such a good time. I improvised bits, tried on different hats with the character until one fit just right, and then played with the hat. The director encouraged me to amuse myself, which resulted in a couple of surprising, hilarious, special moments. (Directors: thank you for supporting us and creating a safe place to be weird).
It was a long session, and I’m a stander (as opposed to a sitter) in the booth, so that takes its toll on my –motherfucker i hate saying this– fifty year-old body. But the performance had its demands (and rewards) too.
The thing is, I knew my strength was depleted when I left the session. My physical body was like, “Dude, you gotta ease into this. We’ve been doing a lot of sitting down.” What I didn’t find out until I got home about half an hour ago is that my mana was absolutely wiped. I discovered this when I excitedly took all the inspired, creative energy, the validation and satisfaction of a job well done, the absolute joy of being part of something I’m excited and proud to be part of, and I POWERED into my desk, ready to get to work on the writing thing I mentioned last week.
FUCK YEAH LET’S DO THIS!
open libreoffice and the fingers are in the home row and let's g-
That’s when the DM who is running my life tapped me on the shoulder and gently shook their head as they said, “You need, at minimum, a short rest.”
“Yeah, but I–“
“Minimum. In fact, even with that, you will make all creative decisions at a penalty until you have a long rest. Don’t be mad at me. I did not write the rules.” They gestured toward their dice. A subtle but clear threat.
Idiot that I am, I insisted that I make a saving throw to see if I could recover temporary mana just for this one thing. I cited a rarely used section of the rules, as one does in desperate times. I cross-referenced a 1986 article in the official magazine.
“I multiclass as a Healer / Bard, right? What if the Bard whose mana comes from charisma is wiped, but the healer whose mana comes from wisdom, may have a little something left in the tank? The bard could kind of rest while the healer does his thing?
The DM allowed it!
Imagine a d20 rolling as slowly and dramatically as you have ever seen. Use every trope: it lands on 1, it tilts to 12, back to 1, keeps rolling, tumbling across the table … is that a 15? A 5? Why didn’t I ask what the DC of the roll was? FUCK FUCK FUCK it’s almost at the edge of the table and
It hits the pen I use when I write in my notebook, kicks off back towards me, and settles on the number 19.
“How about 19? Does 19 work for you?”
Turns out 19 IS enough, when you aren’t murdering Eladrin in acid pits, Chris Perkins!ha ha boom gottem.
So here we are. You’re all up to date, and I’m glad you’re here.The Bard is resting, and the Healer is ready to write something. I wonder what I’ll blog about now.
This space here? This space represents me starting and deleting a lot of ideas, until