Category Archives: Current Affairs

buy the ticket, take your turn

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.

Let’s get started with this thing from my Facebook:

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.

This morning, I read a horrifying story of AI being used to determine child welfare cases in Pennsylvania.

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.

I didn’t know about The Electric State until I saw this video. I bought it, and Tales from the Loop, immediately. If you like the things I like, I know you will be entranced by this video and the book that it talks about.

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.

We are so lucky to be on this planet at the same time as John Green.

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.

If you love 90s ambient like I do, I have a happy place for you to visit.

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.

all the small things

I have learned my lesson and am composing this in an offline text editor (xed for those who care.)

Back in the old days, we’d do these posts that collected a bunch of stuff that didn’t fit anywhere else. This is one of those.

Night Mind has a couple of new videos out! There’s a new Backrooms post, and a new Mandela Catalog post that are in my queue.

Yesterday, I cleared a lot of debt off the books that Wil From The Past had accrued. I put clothes away, I did the dishes, I went through half a dozen bags and boxes of stuff that I brought home from conventions this year. The biggest thing I did, the thing that most fun and most satisfying, was cleaning my game room from floor to ceiling. I got out the dusting thing and the furniture polish and the fancy vacuum, and I went to work. It took a couple hours, but with the constant companionship of Bony Danza and the occasional visit from Marlowe, those hours flew by. The air is lighter, the protective layer of dust did its job and the bookcases look great.

If you follow my Instagram stories, you’ve seen my high score posts from my arcade machines, right? You know that I have two different multicade machines, and one of them is the “hard” machine. I play Mr. Do! on both machines, and though I’ve always scored higher on the easy machine, playing the higher difficulty is generally more satisfying. I haven’t played much for the last few months (Cyberpunk 2077 attached itself to the Skyrim receptors in my brain and spent 194 hours there), so it was shocking to me that when I sat down for my first game in a long time, I locked into some kind of symbiotic groove with the game and ended up recording my highest high score of all time! ON THE HARD MACHINE!

…or so I thought until I looked at my high score on the easy machine last night, which is 2000 points higher. I left WAY more than 2000 points on the board during my unexpected run. Damn.

I’m doing a TON of Donkey Kong again, too. I’m working on this piece that Donkey Kong is central to, and I desperately want to talk about it, but I’m gonna hold that back so I’m motivated to finish it. (Level 4 elevators though. Fuck me am I right?)

I can’t recall the last thing I made that brought me as much joy as creating Bert Flag.

ANYway, back to cleaning. I can’t recall, specifically, how it happened, where it started, but I ended up listening to a whole bunch of early 2000s pop punk and stuff while I unfucked the game room. After I’d shared I think three or four tracks on my Instagram stories, I just went ahead and made a little playlist for anyone who feels that need to put Warped Tour from around 2004 into their ear holes. As I wrote in the description, it’s an incomplete snapshot of a very specific moment in my life, and it makes me happier to listen to than I ever would have expected. Feel free to use it as the foundation for your own curated memories.

Speaking of early pop punk … I have to admit that in the early aughts, the part of me that is a First Wave Punk and Hardcore Kid was mildly disdainful to entirely dismissive of pretty much that entire genre. I felt like it wasn’t serious, that it was about girls and cars instead of ending systemic oppression and fucking shit up. I mean, I wasn’t entirely wrong, but WOW did that guy I was miss out on a lot of fun times as a consequence of that foolishness. As a 50 year-old (nope. still doesn’t feel okay to say that.) I can absolutely ADORE all of it, accept it on its own terms, and allow it to exist alongside Bad Religion and Dead Kennedys. I wish I’d had this maturity when I could have seen all these acts live, in their prime. Well, live and learn and always pick up anyone who falls down in the pit.

Anne took this picture of Marlowe and me while we were both sleeping.

Anne and I went to the hockey game last night, and watched the Kings win a game they were supposed to win, which has not been the case as often as it should be this season. I posted a picture from the game like I do, and OF COURSE some dickhead needed to show us his whole ass because we each wear a mask when we are indoors, in public.

I know why this is a whole stupid thing, but I don’t understand it. Yes, dipshit McFuckface made it all political because he is a fuckface, and the single-celled organisms that worship him are dying as fast as they can to own the Libs by deliberately exposing themselves to infectious diseases. (Great job, y’all. I feel SO OWNED.) But I can’t wrap my head around being so fucking stupid that you deliberately make yourself and your family less safe, to make a point that the people you are trying to own could not care less about. I can’t wrap my head around choosing to believe a Fox News personality over an actual doctor or scientist with an actual degree and actual experience and expertise. I just … wow. These people are why there are warnings printed on everything.

So, since I’m already here, I’m going to say this so I can refer to when this happens next time I share a picture of us inside a public place:

When I wear a mask in an indoor public space, I’m not making a political statement. I’m making a choice to protect my health and the health of my family. I’m listening to the advice of experts who are better informed and educated than all of us.

A political statement is something like, “Republicans are fascists and domestic terrorists who don’t care if you die as long as they have power.” Putting on a mask when it’s recommended by every expert who works with public health has nothing to do with my endless contempt and disgust for right wing garbage. Read that as many times as you need to, until you understand the difference.

I realize that it’s VERY important to a lot of extremely stupid people that masking be part of the culture war they’ve been losing my entire lifetime. That’s pathetic, they are pathetic, and I could not care less what they think about me and my personal health choices.

It is a massive waste of time and energy to engage with these people, who only want to waste my time, and yours. I just block them and delete their bullshit, so they have more time to spend with their increasingly worthless not-NFTs.

I wrote this a month ago. It went semiviral. I want it here to be part of my personal, historical record.

Can you believe it’s Solstice already? If December crept up on me, Solstice jumped out from behind a hedge and shouted BLESSED YULE MOTHER FUCKER!

I walked Marlowe this morning, and maybe it’s the Yule in the air, but my neighbors were all extra friendly and chatty. I felt … well, I know that I live in a community, right? I know that, intellectually, but I really felt it, and it was just great.

I’m gonna wrap this up with a couple of media recommendations. Anne and I loved Wednesday and The English. We are about halfway through 1899 (loving it) and just started The Recruit (more fun than I expected). I finished my full rewatch of the first eight seasons of The Simpsons (it falls apart for me right at the beginning of S09 and never recovers) late last week. There are a few clunkers, but the worst one is still more entertaining than anything produced during the Zombie Simpsons era.

Okay, Blaine Gretzky needs to get out on the ice, so I’m gonna elbow and send this. Stay healthy, friends. Remember to be kind; everyone is going through something. And rest in Peace, Grimey.

What’s the point of pouring endless money and weapons of war into civilian police forces if they consistently fail to protect the communities who are funding them? I think we all know the answer.

From Slate:

The tiny Uvalde school district has its own seven-person force; the 15,000-person city spends 40 percent of its budget on policing, and in 2020, the Uvalde Police Department proudly touted its nine-person SWAT team that was getting to know the layouts of local schools. Not only did the police spend an hour preparing to enter the school on Tuesday, but there was also this, from a fourth grader to local CBS affiliate KENS, presumably about the police’s first attempt to get into the school:

“When the cops came, the cop said: ‘Yell if you need help!’ And one of the persons in my class said ‘help.’ The guy overheard and he came in and shot her,” the boy said.

Each of these failures shows the absurdity of the GOP’s two-pronged policy response to school shootings—armed teachers and more support for law enforcement. (There was also an armed guard at the Buffalo supermarket, for what it’s worth. He fired at the suspect and was killed.) If the town SWAT team can’t stop a school shooter before 19 children are dead, what’s the point? Republicans have since moved on to other innovative proposals, like building schools with only one door, or giving up on schools altogether.

The more I learn about the deliberate inaction of these police, the angrier I get. I am so incandescently angry right now, you may want to stop reading. I’m going to do my best to seethe instead of exploding in a way I’ll regret.


I don’t know if these cops were unable to stop this murderer, because it sure looks like they chose not to try, and the department keeps changing its story to protect them.

An entire classroom was gunned down — 19 children were murdered along with their two heroic teachers who did more than any of these cops to try to protect them — while these fucking cowards tased and handcuffed the parents who were begging these useless men to do their fucking jobs.

What kind of fucked up piece of shit do you have to be to fucking HANDCUFF a parent who is begging you to do your fucking job and save their child’s life WHILE THERE IS AN ACTIVE SHOOTER IN THE CLASSROOM? What kind of fucked up piece of shit do you have to be to use a TASER on a parent who is begging you to do SOMETHING to save their child’s life? What kind of monster does that? I’ll tell you: A piece of shit who isn’t a cop to serve the public, that’s who.

Stop telling me I’m supposed to blindly support cops no matter what. Stop pretending your Blue Lives Matter shit isn’t just a racist dogwhistle. This doesn’t happen when people become cops to protect and serve the public. This is what happens when people become cops so they can bully and harass people with impunity. These cowards aren’t going to risk their lives for anyone. This police force gets FORTY PERCENT of the city’s budget. This tiny town has a SWAT team. That wasn’t enough to save these children and their teachers.

What’s the point of pouring endless money and weapons of war into civilian police forces if they consistently fail to protect the communities who are funding them? I think we all know the answer.

This is stochastic terrorism. It is deliberate. It is by design.

It is easier to get a gun and body armor in America than it is to get medical care, and that is by design.

Tucker Carlson can get on TV every night, spout racist lies about a paranoid conspiracy, and inspire his viewers to commit acts of violence against innocent people. There will never be a meaningful consequence for his actions. This is by design.

Republicans have done everything possible to put weapons of mass murder into the hands of paranoid people they have agitated with racist lies and conspiracy theories.

It is not a coincidence that the latest white supremacist mass murderer is 18 and a heavy consumer of Fox News and far right online forums.

Republicans have not just made this possible. They have encouraged it. Oh, they’ll scold any of us who say it out loud, but we all know it’s true. They love it when Black people suffer and die. They love it when the people who killed them get away without any consequence.

This is all by design. Don’t let them wring their hands and offer their thoughts and prayers. This is what they want. This is the plan. This is all working EXACTLY the way they want it to.

Republicans want the rest of us — the majority — to live in constant fear of their violent, heavily-armed, racist followers. From encouraging them to brandish their assault weapons in public to allowing anyone to carry an instrument whose only purpose is to kill people. See that angry dude in the MAGA hat? See him ranting and raving at some innocent BIPOC who just wants to live their life? I’m going to think twice before I jump up to support my fellow human, because that MAGA guy is likely armed and will get away with murdering me, because reasons. Maybe I’m considering volunteering to work an election. But then I remember my neighbor who was doxxed by MAGA terriorists and had to flee for her safety because they were showing up to stand around outside her house with their guns.

This is all deliberate. This is what they want. It’s stochastic terrorism. So when they pretend to be horrified by this, don’t believe them. They’re celebrating in private. They love this.

Tucker Carlson shares responsibility for the mass murder in Buffalo yesterday, as do his producers and the advertisers who have continued to support his show while it has dropped all pretense of not being openly white supremacist. He’ll be back on the air tomorrow night, and somehow this will be Hunter Biden’s fault.

The entire Republican caucus in both houses of congress have even more blood on their hands today. They will experience zero consequences for their role in the racially-motivated murders they inspired and enabled. If they haven’t already, the MAGA fascists will be fundraising off of this by the end of the weekend.

I’d say don’t let them get away with this, but they already have, and they will again. And again. And again. And again. Until somehow the Democrats get their shit together and make ending gun violence a priority the way the Republicans have made controlling women a priority. It’s going to take a long time, and we need to get to work.

I am a New York Times Bestselling Author

Yesterday, around noon, I posted on my Facebook:

I’ve been doing these very long days of press and promotion for Still Just A Geek. It’s a lot, and it’s exhausting, but it’s awesome and I’m grateful for all of it. I haven’t had this much fun doing late nights followed by early mornings since I was in my 20s.

I’m also still doing Ready Room, so today is a day that featured me getting up at are you fucking serious o’clock, putting myself together for a webinar I was part of for Microsoft, then going straight to the set, where we did a couple episodes for Strange New Worlds (OH MY GOD I WANT TO TALK ABOUT STRANGE NEW WORLDS SO MUCH IT IS KILLING ME THAT I CAN’T).

I am so happy, y’all. I am content, I am grateful, I am proud of the work I have the privilege to do.

… and I am so physically and mentally exhausted. I feel like I’m going to cry.

I’m taking the rest of this day off for religious observance, and I really hope I can find a nap in there, somewhere.

After I posted that, Anne and I had lunch together, and then I went into my gameroom, where I could sit quietly and just … not do anything.

Some time passed. I’m not sure how much, but it was enough for me to start feeling sleepy. I leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and did one of those long exhales that starts in your shoulders and rolls down your body.

Then my phone rang.

Okay. In 2022, few things make me as suspicious as my phone ringing. Nine in ten times, it’s bullshit. This time, I saw that it was my lit agent.

“Hello?”

“Do you have a minute to talk?”

“I do.”

“Okay. I am connecting you to a conference call.”

Over the next thirty or so seconds, literally everyone at my publisher announced themselves. Then my manger announced himself.

Oh fuck. I thought. I’m in big trouble. I dont’ know what I said or did, but I must have REALLY fucked up.

You’ve seen the title of this post, so you know that I was mistaken. My editor told me he had news. Still Just A Geek is on the bestselling indie bookshop list, and it’s on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction list, AND it’s in the top ten on the combined hardcover and ebook nonfiction list.

OMG

Wait. What?

Yeah, I heard it correctly. Still Just A Geek, one week after publication, is on THREE bestselling lists. OMG.

I thanked everyone for being part of this. It’s a blur, but I think I said something like, “it’s important to me that everyone who can hear my voice right now knows how grateful I am for your support and for everything you’ve done to help me get here. I know this isn’t the first time for you, but it is for me and I just don’t know what else to say or to feel.”

I called Anne and told her. Then I called my sister and told her. Then I texted my TNG family and told them. Then I walked around in a circle for what felt like an hour while I tried to process what this all means. I’m still working on putting it all together.

When I wrote Just A Geek in 2004, I knew it wasn’t ever going to chart, but I still held out hope, you know? Like, maybe if this book charts, it will Prove To Everyone and so forth. So there was this disappointment baked in from the very beginning that was identical to the disappointment I allowed to infect everything I did back then. Feeling like you aren’t ever going to be good enough for your dad will do that to you.

So when I wrote and did all the work for Still Just A Geek, I redefined my expectations, and my conditions for success.

I decided that I woudn’t have any expectations, at all. I just hoped that we would somehow communicate to anyone who would be interested in my story that it existed. I wasn’t going to let sales or reviews define for me whether it was successful or not. Just getting to tell my story was enough for me.

But I’m not gonna lie: I’ve been joyfully walking around for about 18 hours, obnoxiously reminding Anne and Marlowe that they now live with a New York Times bestselling author. I have every intention in the world of signing my friends’ cards and stuff, “New York Times Bestselling Author, Wil.”

This is objectively cool and exciting. It is a big deal. I get to update my bio, and for the rest of my life I get to carry this achievement. I love that, and I love that this means my chances of having another book published went up. But more than anything, I love that this can be amazing, and wonderful, and exciting, and such a beautiful gift, without it affecting how I fundamentally feel about myself or my work. I was already proud of the work, and grateful I was supported while I did it, and I am so incredibly happy that I didn’t need this to happen to get there.

When I turned in the final draft, what feels like forever ago, I wrote myself a note that says, in part, “Whatever is going to happen when this is published has already happened. You just haven’t observed the results. What is important and what matters is everything you did to get here. Don’t fall into the trap of letting someone else’s definition of success affect how you feel about your work. No matter what is in our future, we did something special that nobody can take away from us.”

I am so glad that past me consistently looks out for future me. It’s such good advice! I love that guy.