May 27, 2005

Escape - Metallica
Feel no pain, but my life ain’t easy
I know I’m my best friend
No one cares, but I’m so much stronger
I’ll fight until the end
To escape from the true false world
Undamaged destiny
Can’t get caught in the endless circle
Ring of stupidity

Out of my own, out to be free
One with my mind, they just can’t see
No need to hear things that they say
Life is for my own to live my own way

Rape my mind and destroy my feelings
Don’t tell my what to do
I don’t care now, ’cause I’m on my side
And I can see through you
Feed my brain with your so called standards
Who says that I ain’t right
Break away from your common fashion
See through your blurry sight

See they try to bring the hammer down
No damn chains can hold me to the ground
Life is for my own to live my own way

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From Rolling Stone Online:

NINE INCH NAILS have cancelled their performance at next week's MTV Movie Awards because of a disagreement with the network over the band using a picture of George W. Bush as its stage backdrop. "Apparently the image of our president is as offensive to MTV as it is to me," frontman TRENT REZNOR posted on NIN's Web site.

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May 22, 2005

It won't change the world, but sign the ONE Declaration.

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More on the Star Wars tip, though it's too easy to hate on these films now (as opposed to the eighties, when the line was "pure"). Anyway - so I was flipping the tele tonight, just trying to find something to relax with before the hectic workweek starts up again. I found something mildly interesting on FOX - looked like a sci-fi show, somewhat campy asteroid chase, poor acting, and a guy who looked like Obiwon, but not quite.

I continued to watch, thinking that it was a rip-off program, only to find that it was actually Attack of the Clones, which I guess I haven't seen in its entirety (or perhaps not really at all). It's just awful. It was a shocker to see that this was the genuine article. Who knew that these films were so ridiculous that they end up seeming like self-parody even to someone who knows the films and universe reasonably well.

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May 20, 2005

Star Wars: Return of the Myth

Okay - so of course, this is Star Wars week, and the blogoverse is abuzz with excited droid-heads everywhere, eagerly hoping against hope that Lucas, that gee-whiz kid now grown up, has made an adult story that moves beyond the laughable prequels that revisited his fantasy world with only more technical fireworks, and less substance.

Fans lined up, sometimes for weeks, to be the first bunch to say "I saw it, and it didn't suck!" By some bizarre twist of luck, I was given a ticket to go to an advance screening on Wednesday 5/18, the day before the official opening. We got there, and saw a line out the door that we thought was for this screening, but was actually for folks waiting to get into the first "official" show at this theater, which would start at 12:00 that night.

Before I say what I thought, it seems that the aforementioned blogoverse will be buzzing for a while about this one, as proponents of the "he redeemed himself" worldview will surely feel more bolstered by this latest installment, and the haters will keep on hating.

And there are a lot of haters out there. Check out this scathing, and laugh-out-loud funny, New Yorker review. Or this one in the current issue of the Village Voice.

I guess I'm just sick of this series, and feel that it's too simplistic in a lot of ways, and overly complicated (or self-important) in others. It was hard to figure out what was happening in some parts of the story, because there are separatist factions, duplicitous maneuvers by statesmen and warriors, and gratuitous digital candy money-shots (anything with a wookie or a wizened old, green Jedi master gets a large ovation from the over-zealous crowd).

I didn't have any emotional connection to what was happening, and what's worse, I laughed out loud at the dialogue (again). I'm all for action movies for the sake of action movies, but after 6 movies with the same cast of characters, you'd think that I'd care about more than a beeping trashcan (yes, I admit, R2D2 was my favorite character, because even if his accent was annoying, at least I didn't have to try to figure out what he was saying and why I should care).

So there you have it. Star Wars III? I'll hold my cash for Spiderman III. And definitely X-Men III, onto which Kelsey Grammar has just signed on to play Dr. Hank McCoy, the lovable, huggable, quotable Beast. Wow, first Sideshow Bob, and now the Beast? I like Grammar more in these roles than as the stuffy talk-show therapist on Frasier.

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May 19, 2005


Okay, so this is lame, but I'm having a bout of "I'm really jealous of the cool visuals at Sepia Mutiny." I guess it's only the banners, but they have done a stand-up job of making them interesting to look at, branding them part of the SM mystique, and giving the whole site a very distinct feel. I guess I'm jealous, because all I have is my text, even though I do have a digital camera, but just haven't had the time to take shots and definitely not the time to make them into something more interesting on the site. Dare to dream, but alas! Not right now.

I guess I'll just have to put my head down and come up with some original thoughts, witty posts, and unseen gems. Wish me well.

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May 18, 2005

Call it EastVil and Let's Move On

"Bohemia is dead." - RENT

Previously, on DotBS (paraphrased from here):
"I'm so sad that the East Village is yuppieland, boo-hoo-hoo."

I've since moved on, grown up, and realized that as things change, so too must we. And so I lift my trusted and beaten up footlocker, stuffed with the trinkets and mementos, playbills from East 4th Street theater, tattoo and piercing fliers, and menus for countless japanese, burrito, and falafel places. I will take it with me as my heart and spiritual center moves now from the East Village to some other location.

It took a long time to get there, but I'm through, even, with calling it the "East Village". Let's rename it, dub it "EastVil" - the new Chelsea/Georgetown/hip space - and allow the East Village as we still remember it to become the stuff that archaeologists dig up, our behaviors of that time the fragments of anthropologists' dreams. Let us be the lost bohemian tribes of this ancient village, strewn across the landscape of the metropolis to create new settlements on distant river shores (Williamsburg), oases in upstate deserts (Beacon), and the great unknown (Jersey?).

Let our forced evacuation from our homes and havens remind the world that there will be no peace while the artists and punks remain nomads, fixing up the darkened corners of the urban and suburban wasteland, only to be pushed out by commercial interests and the ever-rising cost of being close to the action. Let us commemorate this time with a witty poem, a performance piece on the caravan in this trail of seers, a solemn oath not to speak of the East Village again in the present tense. It is EastVil, another Manhattan playground for the Not-Me crowd. So no more lamenting. Our people have moved on. So should we.

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AM NY Letter re: Newsweek Brouhaha

Picked up AM NY and read in the opinion pages today about the ongoing controversy and fallout after Newsweek first printed, then apoligised for, and finally retracted a short statement about Guantanamo torture tactics which included flushing the Holy Quran down a toilet.

Thought it would be good to respond to some of the local crazies who continue to claim that folks are nuts for going nuts about it. Kathleen Parker, from the Orlando Sentinel, who seems like a run-of-the-mill "pro-American = anti-Arab World" rhetorician, wrote that "we need a little perspective" and that you could "flush a Bible down the toilet in front of Goober in Kabul, and it's unlikely that Mayberry suddenly would be awash in blood." Yeah okay, but the streets of Kabul sure as hell would.

The difference between fundamentalists in the U.S. and fundamentalists in most other parts of the world is that in the United States, they are well funded, integrated in both the ruling class and the mainstream American consciousness, and have their fingers on the proverbial buttons that launch Cruise missiles, oppressive military attacks, economic sanctions, and control the bandwidth on issues of "morality" in public discourse. Though they are of different ilks, from the Christian right or the patriotic center (which is so far right that it has become a sad parody of "true center"), they seem to come together in their defense of "freedom" (not liberty, mind you, for freedom is a safer, and much more narrowly constructed opiate, emblemized in the American imagination by elections, free trade, and the fine vestiges of Cocacolonization), and their condemnation of the "America-haters" who question the unilateral and deterministic foreign policy of the permanent government power structure of the United States.

A reader writes in a letter to the editor, "so what if it were true that soldiers were flushing the Koran down the toilet to interrogate prisoners.... I don't seem to recall the same cry of desecration when a painting of the Virgin Mary was being smeared with elephant dung." I had to respond to these two writers (on the same page), using more music references, as I did here:

Dear Editor,

I don't condone violence in any context. However,
claiming that the protests and uprisings in response
to the Newsweek article about alleged Guantanamo
tactics represents over-sensitivity and extremism that
is unique to adherents of Islam is preposterous.

Does anyone remember the burning of Beatles records
and pictures when Lennon made one statement in the
60s? How about the uproar after Madonna had images of
stigmata in her video for "Like a Prayer"? Reader
Michael Chinmenti seems to have forgotten the outcry
over the Sensations exhibit in Brooklyn - which
included a threat by Mayor Giuliani to withdraw City
funding from the Brooklyn Museum, and "vomit bag"
demonstrations by fundamentalist groups.

Ravi I. Abraham
Brooklyn, NY

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For the "Desis Do the Darndest Things" File

Read this blurb today:

NJ Man Busted for Making False Terror Claims About Kin
A long-running feud over property in Pakistan led a man to call a New Jersey police department and falsely accuse a relative of being an Al Qaeda member plotting to blow up the British embassy in Toronto, the FBI said yesterday.

Bukhtiar Abdul Latif Katchi, 34, of Los Angeles, was arrested at his home and charged with making a false bomb threat. The relative, who was not identified, lived in Plainfield, NJ, and the two had been quarreling over a piece of land in Pakistan, said Steven Siegel, an FBI special agent.
Well, you have to admit, you suspected that it was coming. It's not like our community is new to this. Threatening to report someone to INS, IRS, or some other enforcement agency has been a time-honored tactic, after all. But now, you can really whammy them with the T-word, and Homeland Security will swoop down on whoever you point at in a blur of kevlar and unbridled enthusiasm to "do the right thing." This is just sick though. I wonder if the Hatfields and McCoys had to deal with anything like this.

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May 17, 2005

What is an Unincorporated Association?

Before you decide to start yet another non-profit, check out this guide that's up online. I'm sure that I'll have more to write about this in the future... but till then, happy reading!

What is an Unincorporated Association?
[Note: I found this on the web, but have to find the actual URL for it.]
A non-profit unincorporated association is any grouping of persons (i.e. a collective, an activist organization, etc.) uniting together for some special purpose or business other than making a profit. Most states will grant tax-exempt status to an unincorporated association or club, you will have to contact your state government to get information about applying for it. However, if you just take out a non-interest bearing account at a bank or credit union (i.e. a checking account) you will not have to file taxes for your association and, therefore, you can avoid dealing with the government at all. The main differences between an unincorporated association and a non-profit corporation is that the members of an unincorporated association can be held directly liable if someone were to sue the association and it is problematic for unincorporated associations to have paid employees.

In contrast, non-profit corporations, in just about every sense, are corporations, with the exception of making a profit and have the legal protection of limited liability, which protects the corporation's directors from being held legally responsible for any legal action directed at the corporation itself.

Five alternatives to starting a nonprofit:
1. Study the list of nonprofits already active in the same area and join their efforts as a volunteer, a board member or even as staff.

2. Analyze the list of nonprofits already active in the same area, identify the three most compatible with your ideas, and meet with them to explore creating a special project or initiative -- and negotiate your involvement.

3. Explore the list of national organizations in the area of your interest, and see if a local chapter is needed in your geographic area.

4. If your effort will be quite local and small, consider forming an unincorporated association or club -- have meetings and activities but skip the reporting requirements (an option for groups with annual budgets under $25,000).

5. If you are considering creation of a group to finance activities or needs of others (scholarships, family emergency funds for a specific population, etc.), explore sponsorship of the fund by a community foundation or other organization.

From Delaware

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May 16, 2005

ABC(D)... FOB... RAJ... SOS

Here's a novel idea. Let's make fun of the Gujaratis, easy targets that they are. I just saw this stupid post under the listing for ABCD in the Wikipedia:

A full term using all letters of the alphabet was devised c. 1998 by Varun Nangia and Syed Zain Hoda as follows:

American Born Confused Desi Emigrated From Gujarat, Housed In Jersey, Keeping Lotsa Motels, Named Often Patel, Quickly Reaches Success Through Underhanded Viscious (sic) Ways; Xenophobic, Yet Zealous.
Uh, okay. How many ways can we cut this that make it any less offensive? And it's always the Gujaratis who seem to get the short end of the joke schtick. Well, that's not true. If I hear another stupid, offensive Sardar joke, I'm going to strangle a relative or an uncle.

So anyway, I took matters into my own hands and edited the ABCD definition in Wikipedia, drawing the parallels between the FOB/RAJ backlash towards American-born Chinese (calling them Jook-Sing) and what happens with American-born desis who are considered "confused" because they don't have a lifetime of brainwashing to lead them to believe that there is some cogent, codified "indian" way of being.

It's interesting how each group, the immigrants and the second generation, square off on matters of authenticity, culture, assimilation, and their ability to highlight the very personal, very sensitive things that make us all vulnerable. Each group represents a series of threats to the other. On the one hand, the well-assimilated American-born child of hard-working immigrants stands to the side, angry because he can't speak with his parents in their mother tongue with anything resembling an adult vocabulary, while the recent immigrant suddenly comes alive with these strangers, and they are excited as they find some connection with one another. On the other, the same immigrant struggles through the trials and tribulations of the assimilation expectations of the United States, watching as those who share their faces seem to fall into stride with the white, and black, and other students, converse with their teachers, take part in students activities, and seem embarrassed to have them around, or to be confused with those "FOBs". And so the animosity continues, the separate cliques and organizations form, and the lines continue to harden between our ever-fragmented communities.


However, on a completely unrelated note, I have to say, I think that Wikipedia is awesome. It's useful, and also uber-democratic, since you can edit a post to update/augment it if you feel that it's not particularly fair on a specific issue. Makes me feel like learning all over again (sort of like when I used to open up an encyclopedia just to see what I could find of interest on that page... what a childhood).

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Is Sree Ganesha Having Cold One (or Two) a Hate Crime?

Oh man. This is just too rich. Read about this innovative new beer (from California, of course) on Overlawyered, via Sepia Mutiny.

I think there are two things that are most interesting here. First, the fact that they have Sree Ganesha holding the beers, cracks me up because it's so irreverent that you wonder if they understand that these are sacred icons that they are playing with. Sheesh - devout Christians get bent out of shape when you take the Lord's name in vain. What the hell do you call this then? I would assume a one way ticket to the seventh level of hell. Still, I have always liked Sree Ganesha, and think that if there's any deity in the lexicon of Hindu deities who would be down for a beer and be able to party with Bacchus.

The second piece of this that cracks me up, though, is that there's actually someone suing the beer company stating that this label constitutes a hate crime. It's quite a remarkable angle to take, granted I haven't researched the precedent on this one, but I don't know where he's going to get with this lawsuit. I love that he's asking for at least $25,000, but that $1 billion would be more appropriate, for Hindus around the world.

Let's see how this works. $25,000 if it's just for me, but I think $1 Billion if for close to 600 million Hindus around the world. Which works out to about $1.67 each. which in turn, I suppose they can invest in buying a more respectable beer like He'Brew. L'Chaim, indeed.

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May 13, 2005

NJ Idiots, Free Speech, and Perspective

This story has made the rounds, but I thought that I'd reply to a comment on Sepia Mutiny here (not in the mood to start a round of responses on their site, and I need the traffic :).

While I see the writer's point - I wonder if it's also important to note that the article that brought all the attention to this issue was focused on the rising Asian American presence in Edison, but that the reaction from these guys was more like a frat party than a meditative discourse on balancing the interests of new immigrant communities in the area with the long-time white residents.

I don't think that writing to the local papers is bad, but I think that getting a headline that says "Racists think twice before opening their big fat mouths" may be better. I understand and value the importance of free speech, but they aren't just talking amongst themselves, they are in a public arena in which it is possible to light off some level of animosity in their listeners (as the callers clearly indicate). That's my issue - when does their right to free speech go too far, from just being commentary to inciting action?

I guess that's why I don't agree with the ACLU on all aspects of free speech, and by extension (though I don't know where the ACLU is on the issue of hate crime legislation) believe in the principal of treating hate speech and hate crimes as a more egregrious crime than just the action itself. Opponents claim that it is unequal justice, and that if the action is a crime already, then that should cover it, and there's no reason to have hate crime laws. I would argue that there are two things going on in a hate crime: first, the act itself, be it assault, murder, or harassment. Second, the action is a violence against a group, and should be treated as such, on top of the act itself. Folks get brought up on multiple charges for one action in other scenarios - so why can't this be treated the same way?

I wrote most of the above quickly during the day (which is my excuse for why it isn't very coherent), and only had time to put it up late at night, only to check the SM article and see the discussion go off the deep end on a couple of things. It's interesting to see the dialogue about engagement with the communities in question, and engaging the actual perpetrators in question in more dialogue. While I agree with the ideology of education as a tool - or even the principal vehicle - for change, I just wonder whether it is feasible in this instance. I don't know what was attempted first, or even who's taking the lead, but I think that the experience of having some groups come together and say "Not in My Back Yard" to these racists, is a good one, and a solid example of action.

I've decried push-button activism (or RE:activism as I called it) in a previous post, but I think that there's definitely merit in using the internet/phone trees/mobilization to make a strong point that we're listening, and we're not going to just let you do what you want anymore. The station wasn't listening before, stating that they have been doing this for fifteen years, and it shouldn't offend anyone. Getting major sponsors to pull ads changed that tune (and you have to say kudos to Cingular and Hyundai for doing so quickly).

That there should be some level of accountability when you're broadcasting in a public format like radio. That you have a responsibility as a member of society to give a damn about how your words and attitudes may be amplified or light off a spark somewhere in some misguided soul. And while not everyone agrees on the form of action that should be taken, it is important that some action is taken. What happens next is an important question, but let's not ask it so quickly that we forget what we've gained in the process.

And finally, in my ongoing effort to develop the consciousness of my family, I've been using this experience, and relatively quick progress that we've been seeing with the groups and the station, to keep my family who live in Middlesex County (and especially those who live in Edison) abreast of the situation. They have begun to ask more questions, and though they aren't asking what specifically they can do, they are becoming more conscious through the coverage that they are reading, and recognize that if a major NJ paper like the Star Ledger is covering the issue, and major sponsors are pulling ads, they should pay attention. And also that we don't have to sit around and take this anymore. And perhaps the most positive and hopeful thing that I've been getting is feedback from my nieces who are turning 18, that they were happy to read that someone was taking action, and that it made them feel like more was possible, and that we had the power to stand up. If that isn't progress, I don't know what is.

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May 5, 2005

East Village Exodus

This is a good piece in today's NY Times about the push that makes the East Village into an unhappy never neverland that I just don't want to be a part of (as mentioned here).

May 1, 2005
New York Times
Generation Ex

WHEN I moved here, drug dealers still worked First Avenue. Let's not get carried away; they were just selling dime bags of pot. Nonetheless, they were doing something illicit. And downstairs from my apartment, the only refrigerated drink at the "health food store" was a lone bottle of Snapple. Then one sunny afternoon, the owner was shot and killed right on my stoop.

This was in the days right after the city had mysteriously dispensed with all the homeless people who used to live in Tompkins Square Park, but before they sent an armored vehicle to help clear out the squats on 13th Street.

The neighborhood wasn't all anarchists and drug dealers. There were also lots of regular folk. Families. Fat people. The old lady with the dapper boyfriend. Ugly folk. Artists. Ukrainians. Latinos.

Now they are almost all gone. And it is time for me to leave too. I'm the final sweep in the cleanup of the neighborhood. After living in the East Village for more than a decade, I have gone the way of bathtubs in the kitchens. It's not a forced eviction, as it has been for others who came before me. I've simply been written out of the script. I'm just too old.

The first signs of what was to come started showing up about eight years ago, when I found myself in Los Angeles for work. We took a tour of the Fox lot, and there it was: my street. Or close enough. A little salmon-colored building, just like my own, with graffiti on the door. The frame of a bike locked to a spindly traffic sign on the corner. They even had the garbage.

Back home, practically every other day, a refreshment truck for a production company sat parked near my corner, there for the filming of an episode of "Law & Order," or maybe "Sex and the City." Or one of an endless stream of movies. Sometimes there was singing and dancing. Occasionally Chloë Sevigny showed up. Eventually, a new crew of fresh-faced beauties started to appear. I didn't know who they were, and I stopped paying attention. I did notice, however, that it had become hard for me to tell who was in the movie, and who was, in fact, my neighbor. Everyone walking down Second Street had begun to look like an ingénue.

These were inklings into a future I could feel bearing down. But still, I was proud to be part of the scene. I loved the new restaurants, and the growing throngs of young people who flooded the streets when the sun went down. I preferred the boutiques to the bodegas they had replaced. I would have been insanely hypocritical to complain about the changes. After all, I like a new sake bar, or five.

It's just that the 20-somethings who tirelessly return to those bars every night of the week seem to have taken over. A friend put it this way: She hated seeing versions of herself 10 years younger, walking down the same streets she had walked down 10 years before. It is strange, she added, when everyone on the street seems to be a younger, hipper version of yourself. Especially when you are barely in your mid-30's.

I'm not sure exactly what happened. Maybe everyone over the age of 25 suddenly moved away, or was locked up, or died. Whether it's art imitating life or vice versa, I don't know, but in any event, a new crop of really young people has replaced the old. Even on those rare days when the cameras are not rolling, living in the East Village feels like living on an MTV set.

I think I feel about the newcomers the way the crazy 98-year-old lady upstairs felt about me. She and her equally crazy 80-year-old daughter lived on the top floor of my fifth-floor walkup. I saw them every time I left my apartment because they were always walking up or down the stairs. "Who are you?" the 98-year-old used to yell at me. Her daughter used to chime in: "What are you doing here?"

BOTH are long gone, replaced by four Armani-clad 23-year-olds who bound up the stairs to their fabulously renovated "loft-like floor-through duplex," as the real estate brokers put it. Where did such apartments come from? Who are these people who live in them? What do they do in those cafes all day? How come no one ever seems to go to work?

Once I am gone, my apartment will be gutted. They'll tear out the tin ceiling. They'll get rid of the antique glass doors. It will be the end of that curious interior window. They'll replace the beautiful, ancient floors. The place will probably look nicer. Those lablike stainless steel kitchens will look great against the exposed brick walls.

It's O.K. I never had any intention of staying this long. It was just that, once here, I could never think of any place I'd rather live, not just in the city, but in the whole world. I will miss the old neighborhood. To leave earlier would have been like listening to classical music during the jazz age. I don't regret a moment of it.

On a recent morning as I headed to work, it was business as usual. A refreshment truck was parked on the corner near my building. A fake homeless person slept under a pile of cardboard boxes. A fake street salesman pretended to sell me a book. A fake mother walking her fake son to school. I even saw what appeared to be the same fake subway stop that I had seen once on a studio lot in Los Angeles. A fake transvestite danced her way down 10th Street while a beautiful young man serenaded her. The pair, both of whom looked as if they were in their teens, headed toward me, music blaring.

"What are you guys shooting?" I asked.

" 'Rent'," a snarky young production assistant barked back. "Can you cross to the other side of the street, please?"

I knew the drill, of course. Obediently, I crossed the street, out of the frame. When I got to Avenue B, I was, as usual, the only person who was actually going to work. "Are the buses running?" I asked another production assistant. "Intermittently," he replied.

Finally a bus made its way through the cameras and the crowd. Aboard were real people of all ages. I took my seat among them as the bus slowly snaked its way out of the neighborhood.

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Desi Revelations (3 & 4)

If "Sunil" is bizarro "Linus", is his friend's name Brown Charlie?

I wonder if my domain name is pissing off LGBTQ students from a certain Rhode Island University...

Previously on Desi Revelations:
(1) & (2)

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May 4, 2005

Temporarily Out of Service

So it seems that I have a number of critics out there who aren't happy that I'm writing about a number of taboo topics related to community groups and the state of Desi America (as if this site were the NY Times or something). Stay tuned for vanilla programming in the weeks to come.

This is only a temporary moment to reassess and think through whether it makes more sense to write anecdotal, funny shit, or to actually become more investigative and thorough in an effort to keep people, and groups, honest. I think it is so lame that people can't take a little criticism, and I'll be editing and reimagining some of my more interesting posts when I have more time.

Enough with the meta-discourse, already! Onward to honesty.

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