In case there was any doubt

Over the last few days I’ve been mulling over in my mind Brett Kavanaugh’s fiery and emotional expression of innocence. In reality, his story and Dr. Blasey’s story are actually in total agreement.

The sort of behavior she describes is perfectly consistent with that of a young man who is black-out drunk — and at this point, based on the evidence, I don’t think anybody seriously doubts that Mr. Kavanaugh drank to that level of excess in his youth. So in fact he is being completely honest and sincere when he says he has no recollection of the event in question.

But what struck me was the tone of his declaration of innocence. He was loudly combative, openly hostile and dismissive in response to reasonable questions of fact — particularly if the Senator asking the question was female. He was also prone to angrily shouting about accusations of political witch hunts, and at points becoming emotional to the point of crying.

Imagine if a woman had put on such a show. Of course you cannot. No woman would dare enact such a public display of unbridled emotion unless she were insane.

If a woman were foolish enough to attempt such a thing, the court of public opinion would immediately hang her from the highest tree. You can probably already hear the invective in your head: Shrill, shrewish, pushy, hysterical, “too bad she’s on her period”. Or just plain Bitch (as well as other words that are considerably less polite).

But it’s ok if a guy does it.

So what Brett Kavanaugh was really communicating, whether he intended to or not, was that male privilege is alive and well in the USA. Sure, it’s all well and good to pay lip service to equality between the sexes. But when it comes right down to it, in case there was any doubt, the U.S. Republican party is very much about maintaining the power of the patriarchy.

It is a world view in which only men are allowed to throw their weight around, because only men really count. In this world view, a woman simply isn’t important — other than as a meek and ever loyal supporter of her man.

It’s amazing to me that any woman at all continues to vote for these people.

I stand corrected

Yesterday I said that I felt that Oculus Connect didn’t really speak to me and the things I care about. It turns out that I missed an interesting part of Mark Zuckerberg’s opening talk yesterday morning.

Because I had arrived a few minutes late, I didn’t see his very first visual. Fortunately a friend sent it to me. You can see it for yourself below.


At the very start of his keynote, Mark apparently gave a shout out to the future of education and other topics that are dear to my heart. And looming behind him on his very first slide was a familiar face, drawing in the air, giving a math lecture in the future.

I stand corrected.

A Baptist at a Bar Mitzvah

I just attended the first day of the two day annual Oculus Connect conference. I am here because Facebook Oculus is a sponsor of our educational work that brings Chalktalk into shared VR.

The morning started with Mark Zuckerberg giving an inspirational talk about the future of Virtual Reality. After that, there were lots of talks describing specific features Facebook Oculus have added to their platform, and how all of this will help to advance VR for the computer game industry.

It’s clear that the folks at Facebook Oculus have made tremendous strides this last year in VR technology for gaming. In particular, their newly announced standalone Oculus Quest system generated a lot of excitement, and rightly so.

Alas, I felt a little like a misplaced person. Every time there was a new announcement, the audience erupted into loud cheers, and I felt more and more like a fish out of water. I am not, after all, really in the culture of gaming, and my interest in VR is entirely in how it can help to bring people together to tell each other stories.

I was very appreciative of the enthusiasm around me, and the excitement in the air. Yet I also felt disconnected from it. I supposed this might be what it might feel like to be a Baptist at a Bar Mitzvah.

All in a dream

I had a really strange dream last night. Not sure why I would have dreamt such a crazy thing.

In my dream, the President of the United States decided to use his time at an important United Nations summit to make an even more important public statement about teenage ethics.

In his public statement, within my very strange dream, the President described a scenario in which a teenage girl is drunk, and a young man decides to shove his penis in her face without her consent. Were such a thing to happen, the President explained to the world, it would be entirely her fault, not his, because she was drunk.

I pondered how weird it was that I would have such a dream, in which the leader of our nation would choose an assembly of all of the world’s leaders to make such a surreal public statement.

Fortunately I woke up, and realized that it had all been a dream.

Standards for this sort of thing

At what point, when national politics just gets too way over the top absurd, do you stop believing it could possibly be real? I’m starting to wonder whether what has been going on recently in our nation’s capital is just some kind of big put-on — a kind of Mike Judge film gone feral.

This all began to become more clear to me when the very identities of three thousand American citizens suddenly winked out of existence. To most of us, those were people who had been tragically lost to hurricane Maria. But apparently they had never existed at all, according to a certain occupant of our nation’s White House.

It seems that their very existence on this planet — thousands of human lives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives — had been a mere ruse conjured up by his crafty political opponents, just to make him look bad. Although I’m not so sure their grieving relatives would agree with him on that point.

The guy is probably feeling pretty proud of himself right about now. Imagine “unpersoning” three thousand human beings — citizens of your own country — simply by declaring that they had never existed. Who could ever top that?

He may not realize that the standards for this sort of thing are pretty high. A while back there were some over in Europe who declared that six million people in my own sub-culture (including quite a few in my own family) had not just died tragic and horrible deaths. In fact, the claim went, they had never even existed.

Guess he’s just going to need to try harder with this whole “making things up” stuff. I am confident, on at least that score, he won’t disappoint us.

Idea for a TV series

Black Mirror generally presents a dystopian vision for the future of technology. In nearly every episode, we are asked to stand witness to the sad aftermath of what probably seemed like wonderful inventions when they were first conceived.

I would love to do a kind of Black Mirror prequel. Each week, we meet an inventor with an exciting idea — one that will undoubtedly change things for the better and make our world a kinder and more wonderful place. To make things more interesting, our guest inventor can be from any era in history.

Perhaps the format can be a start-up pitch. In every episode, our intrepid entrepreneur is seeking investment into an exciting new venture. In the time allotted, our guest needs to describe how his or her innovation will not only benefit humankind, but will also be economically self-sustaining.

For our first episode, the inventor of the week will be a young and brilliant Italian-Swiss scientist with a strong background in applied chemistry. His name: Victor Frankenstein.