Yummy delicious! This week, Chris and Laura bring you hate groups galore, the True Confessions of Big Bird, what definitely didn’t happen in Selden Arcade, ladypart art, the 2016 Presidential Circus Spectacular, our take on Manny Pacquiao, and the return of the Swiftbeat! Excelsior, dear readers!
Late on Sunday, an anti-Muslim group hosting an “art show” in Garland, Texas, which included a contest to draw cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, was attacked by gunmen. They were stopped by security personnel and a shootout ensued, leaving both gunmen dead and a security officer (an off-duty cop) injured. At least one of the gunmen had links to Somali Islamist extremists, and ISIS has claimed responsibility (though it’s unclear whether they had anything to do with the incident directly). The group holding the contest, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, has been criticized in the past by monitoring organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-Muslim rhetoric, and the event’s keynote speaker was Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, a darling of the extreme, anti-Muslim right.
So let’s be just clear: all this shit is reprehensible. That said, political violence, whether directed at an individual (like Malala Yousafzai), a press (like Charlie Hebdo or the Danish paper Jyllands Posten), or another organization (like the American Freedom Defense Initiative) is unacceptable in a civilized society. Just because this group (whose name is no doubt crafted to make them sound like reasonable, sensible, patriotic individuals instead of the fear-mongering, conspiracy-theory-peddling crackpots they actually are) chooses to exercise their freedom of speech in a way that will incite other extremists doesn’t make their freedom of speech any less sacrosanct. It was fashionable those months ago for American liberals to loudly claim, “Je suis Charlie” in solidarity with the French magazine following the gruesome attack there. We should also express solidarity with our crackpot brethren in the AFDI, not for their demented worldview, but in defense of the common right to speak our mind, and have our view heard in the marketplace of ideas that a democracy has to foster.
But let me also say: let’s not confuse the motives of the speech being exercised here. Charlie Hedbo’s cartoons, rooted in satire, invited the reader to consider the ridiculousness of religious extremism (and in many cases, religion in general). Satire was their weapon against fringe elements threatening the rational public discourse. AFDI, on the other hand, seems to be hunting much bigger game, apparently using their events and rhetoric to single out and shame all Muslims, with a goal of silencing or intimidating them out of the political discourse. While they have every right to share their bananas views with the rest of us, I would argue that it’s the duty of reasonable individuals in our pluralistic society to repudiate them wholesale. We know that the picture they paint of Muslims isn’t true—we’ve seen the truth in our friends and neighbors and family members. We can cut the roots out of the kind of hatred behind AFDI and Islamic extremism by remembering what we already know about virtually every Muslim we’ll meet in America—that most of our lives are spent working hard together, and that there is more about us that is similar than there is that is different.
At the end of the day, free speech needs to be protected and exercised so that the best ideas can thrive, and the worst, like the ones we see from AFDI and from Islamic extremists, can wither and die in the bright sunlight.
They say never meet your heroes, especially if your heroes are Sesame Street characters who nearly perished in one of the most tragic disasters in spaceflight history. Ahead of the new documentary “I Am Big Bird,” the New York Post—the news equivalent of your uncle who did time upstate—shared five little-known facts about everyone’s favorite big yellow Muppet, and hoooooooboy did the Post not skimp on the macabre:
“One day on set, a crew member complimented his Big Bird acting. She couldn’t see the tears streaming down his face inside the suit.”
“I’d put food in my mouth and I’d say, ‘Chew it, for God’s sake! Swallow it! You’re not eating,’” he says.
“At home, he opened the window of his apartment, looked down the nine stories and said to himself, ‘I could just jump out and be over with it.’”
Oh, okay. [powers down computer] [puts on Elliott Smith song] [never leaves bed]
We also learn that Big Bird was supposed to be on the 1986 Challenger mission, but his suit wouldn’t fit inside the shuttle. Schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe was selected to go in his place, and was one of seven crew members aboard the shuttle when it eventually exploded after takeoff. (Sorry, the whole article is kind of like this.)
The good news is, Big Bird—or “Bulky Fowl” as he’s known in China—is doing A-okay today! And he’s ninth cousins with President Obama! See, everything is FINE. We are ALL GOING TO BE JUST FINE.
So says the Norfolk City Fire Inspector about the Selden Arcade explosion. As the Pilot’s Roger Chesley points out, the City’s Fire officials have firmly ruled out any connection between the explosion and the construction next door of the
quagmire boondoggle vestigial-hotel-and-meeting-space of the new Convention Center. Which is good, because even though this is Conspiracy Theory Tuesday, I’m happy that we can get back to discussing the real story here– the project is already projected to be way over budget and recent disclosures have decreased the size of the final product to something akin to the Waterside Marriott, which we all know is already built, and has been for years now. But for this moment, I guess we can congratulate the City of Norfolk on not being at fault in the partial destruction of this particular landmark in the midst of their frenzied rush to build a new hotel for which no one seems to understand the reason or cost.
Jen Lewis—“Conceptual Artist & Menstrual Designer”—is working to remove the stigma associated with period blood by photographing it up close with a fancy-ass camera. The result? Abstract blobs, mostly.
(“BUT IT’S FROM A VAGIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINA!” we now gasp, all of our monocles popping out in unison.)
Lewis began her project after noticing an underrepresentation of menstrual blood in photography, TV, and film, where things like brain blood and leg blood are always stealing the show. Menstrual blood, she noted, seemed to be “scrubbed from the visual landscape.” Leave your baking soda jokes in the comments, folks!
So anyway, she took some photos and there was an article written all about it and this will be what her great-grandchildren find when they google her. Then again, when my great-grandchildren google me, they’ll find that I spent my life doing write-ups about menstrual blood conceptual artists. Sorry, kids! Tell everyone I was a dentist or something.
We already have a Carly, and this is crazy, but she also didn’t layoff like 10k people at HP.
After a disappointing loss at the Kentucky Derby this weekend, Manny Pacquiao is in deep[-ish] trouble with boxing’s hall monitors for not fessing up to a shoulder injury before the big race with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Nevada Athletic Commission chairman/goody-two-shoes Francisco Aguilar said the state attorney general’s office will be looking into the possible reasons for Pacquiao checking “no, definitely not, why would you ask that, haha, next question plz” on a commission questionnaire asking if he had a shoulder injury. Pacquiao could face a fine or possible suspension.
Pacquiao’s condition was disclosed to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), however, and approved him for anti-inflammatory shot before the race. Travis Tygart, who heads the USADA, noted, “It was not an anti-doping issue. The real question is why his camp checked ‘no’ on disclosure. Either they made a terrible mistake to not follow the rules or they were trying not to give information to the other side. I’m not sure there’s a middle ground.”
This race was just disappointing all around. Oh, well. At least the hats were amazing.
Obviously, the lying liars in question are not the NARO, but the subjects of this week’s documentary film viewing and discussion, Merchants of Doubt. Interviewing many of the “experts” hired by large corporate and private interests to set the terms of the debate on critical issues like climate change, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, and so on, this film takes us behind the curtain of opinion making in American media. Posing as scientific experts, the real work of these pundits is to spin the science in favor of their employers. Speakers scheduled to speak following the film are Glen Besa (Director, Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club), Joe Cook (Chesapeake Bay group chair, Sierra Club), and Harrison Wallace (Chesapeake Climate Action Now). I wish I could be there for this film and discussion, it’s going to be really interesting. Come out at 7:15 on Wednesday and support this outstanding series.
And finally, on the Swiftbeat, Laura says…
In a story that’s rocked the nation, Taylor Swift released screenshots of how she and Ed Sheeran adorkably text each other goodnight. I bet Ed Sheeran isn’t allergic to cats, Taylor Swift. That’s all I’m saying.
Long ago, a prophesy foretold of two great ones who would alter the course of history with their unmatched witticisms about the world around them. But until they arrive, Chris O’ Brien and Laura Watkins are filling in. Sharing a love of tacos, cats, justice, as well as an overarching ambition to perform history’s greatest karaoke duet of “Lightning Crashes,” and last but not least, a common ancestor in Charlemagne, Chris and Laura excel at beer drinking, trivia, and giving the Price side-eye to the patriarchy. They’re also pretty sure they were orphaned Russian siblings in another life, but that’s a story for another time.