Welcome to the first edition of the Ersatz Influencer, in which I ramble semi-regularly on whatever it is that I find interesting since the last time I published an issue. This being the first one, I’m not going to catch you up on the previous forty-seven-and-a-half years of my thoughts. You’re welcome.
What I am going to do is make a go at establishing some kind of format that will hopefully become a familiar and comforting part of your week/month/arbitrary unit of time. I hope it adds value to your life. If it doesn’t? I understand and hold no ill will. I’m mostly doing this for myself, but it stands to reason if I find something interesting, then someone else out there might find it interesting, too. Maybe I’ll share something that the various algorithms out there feeding your streams didn’t find for you.1Then I’m kind of like an influencer and the title of this thing will be less ersatz.
And speaking of influence… I’ve never used my platform, such as it is, to preach or champion for a cause. I’m not an activist by nature, nor do I have interest in becoming one. But lately, perhaps due to middle-aged changes in my brain, I’ve been wondering what’s the point of having a platform, no matter how small one’s audience might be, if you’re not advocating for good in the world?
Protect Trans Kids
There are a lot of laws and policies being proposed, debated, passed, and enacted all over the country that are discriminatory and exclusionary. Here in Texas, there’s a renewed push to marginalize transgender people in general and in particular criminalize basic healthcare for trans kids. Kids that are especially prone to high rates of suicide when they don’t get the life-affirming treatments they need. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what, exactly, “gender-affirming treatment” means in the context of children and teens. Mostly it’s about listening to them when they tell you who they are, then providing therapies (non-permanent, reversible, and safe) and mental health resources that help them live their lives as their true selves. That’s all anybody wants from life, and everyone should have the opportunity and freedom to get it.
I acknowledge this isn’t a priority for many people, which makes me feel sad. Also angry. I get angry at myself that I can’t help all the people in the world that need help and support. But this is what I feel passionate about right now, and I’m trying to do good in this world when I can, however I can. This is what makes sense right now. I’m finding myself less and less comfortable with being silent and “keeping to myself” when there are real people being hurt by ill-considered reactionary policies. I also know I’m not equipped to do much by myself; I don’t have the background, the skills, or the time. But I’m trying to start supporting people and organizations that are capable of doing the work. If you feel so inclined, I’d ask you to lend your support to organizations that do the work to help the kids and their families that need it. Also please don’t support candidates and leaders that build their platforms on exclusion.
Here’s a few places that are trying to help. If you have others to suggest, let me know, and I’ll include them in a future dispatch.
Rated 97/100 by Charity Navigator, this organization is doing the work to help LGBTQ kids and their families live the life they’re entitled to live, with “full equality in the hearts and minds of our fellow Texans and in all areas of the law.”
If you’d like to show your support with a clever t-shirt (or hoodie or sticker) that demonstrates your pride in our great state and our kids, this is the link for you. Purchases here are going to Equality Texas.
An organization focusing on “furthering gender diverse equality in Texas. We work to accomplish this through education and networking in both public and private forums”.
A grassroots nonprofit dedicated to providing direct emotional and financial assistance and resources to people in crisis.
I’ve been making more time to read books, here are my thoughts on what I’ve been reading lately.
The Violence by Delilah Dawson
I just finished this book last weekend. I’ll warn you up front: this book is probably not for everyone. There’s a lot (especially in the beginning) that digs a bit deeply into domestic abuse and the plot piggybacks on the generational trauma we’ve all endured the past couple of years thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. As uncomfortable and challenging as that was initially, once it got rolling I understood how fundamental that was to the story the author was telling. In the end I found it to be hopeful and uplifting, weaving a tale of three generations of women breaking the cycle of their violent history against the backdrop of a fictional pandemic that isolates them from each other but then brings them together.
I like to watch movies and TV shows. Here’s what’s gone into my eyeholes recently.
Star Trek: Picard Season 1
I’m finally getting around to watching this one. I’m only up to E6, so NO SPOILERS PLEASE. I’ve really enjoyed it so far, if for no other reason than to see Patrick Stewart revisit a character he clearly cares a lot about. I like that they let him play his age; the story doesn’t require him to be some kind of ur-hero making geriatric fisticuffs, which I’m kind of expecting from the next Indiana Jones movie.
The Adam Project
Just watched this over the weekend. A perfectly cromulent Ryan Reynolds vehicle, with a lot of great character moments pulling at your heart strings and giving the feels between and during all the action sequences. The kid in the movie has got some chops, too, which certainly helps. Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Garner are always a delight. This is on Netflix. Do I have to link to Netflix?
I had the opportunity to see it on the big screen (for the first time!) at the Alamo Drafthouse, and couldn’t pass it up. (Headed back next week to see Evil Dead 2, and then Army of Darkness the week after that, in fact.) As usual, the Alamo pre-show helped contextualize and put me in the mindset of what I was about to watch, and I could see the influences and inspirations for all the familiar Raimi-isms that Evil Dead combined and set the stage for the sequels. This one is the only one of the trilogy I would classify as straight-up horror, even though it leans into camp and gore when given the opportunity. I think that’s definitely a result of this being essentially a student film, with the budget that goes along with that. The later films (especially Evil Dead 2) go heavy on the gore and slapstick, so I’m looking forward to revisiting that evolution. Another highlight is Bruce Campbell, before he fully manifested the swagger that ultimately defined his career. One uncomfortable drawback that doesn’t hold up in this film, of course, is the woman being assaulted by the forest. Extremely uncomfortable, and ultimately unnecessary.
Early in the pandemic I developed a YouTube habit. Once upon a time I was a casual Yub-Tubber that only watched what people sent to me or I searched for specifically when trying to repair a car or an appliance. Now I subscribe to many channels, and regularly click on things “recommended” to find new things. This has snowballed into a serial string of algorithmically-directed interests that I never knew I had.2This time around, it’s all about off-road rescues, vehicle recoveries, and airplane rehabilitation.
This is the channel of a guy that runs a towing company which specializes in rescuing vehicles (and their drivers!) that get stuck on the off-road trails and sand dunes in the vicinity of Hurricane, Utah. I used to own a Nissan Xterra, and once upon a time had dreams of off-roading, but watching these videos I feel like I would have been way over my head very quickly. One of my favorite things is the old Chevrolet Corvair that he rebuilt into an off-road monster.
This guy finds old trucks and stuff and fixes them up. I don’t know if I’ve learned a whole lot from watching him fart around with rusting, frozen-up engines, but it’s entertaining. The video that got me into this channel was when he came across an abandonded plane that he could get for free if he got the engines to start.
This feels long. Is this long? Normally I’d just go on until I felt like I got it all out, but I have goals. Well, one goal. I think I’d like to put this out as an email newsletter, send it straight to your inbox. Is that something that might interest you, dear reader? Do I have an inflated sense of worth, that anyone would choose to get an email from me? I guess, if you’ve read this far, there might be some interest. Send me an email to let me know? Apologies if there are bumps in the road; I’m making this up as I go along. I’d love to have you along for the ride. And tell your friends! I’m going to try and get these out every Friday.
Oh! And if you make something cool and want other people to know, tell me about it. Maybe I can help spread the word.
I recently heard in a podcast the idea that all of our interests are now being managed by algorithms, so…maybe I’m just an algorithmic proxy. ↩
I’ve also liberally used the “don’t recommend this” option to help filter out all the recommendations that show up because I watched one video of Keanu Reeves training for John Wick. That was a pretty cool video, but I really don’t want to watch an endless stream of firearm and tactical gear reviews. For example. ↩