December 14th, 2014


Interesting Links for 14-12-2014

obey the penguin

Why LGBT acceptance happened so quickly

To start with, I want to qualify "quickly". For people involved in the struggle for decades it probably doesn't feel very quick at all. But observing the change over the last five years, it's been pretty staggering. I don't remember marriage equality even being asked as a question of the candidates at the last UK elections, and then suddenly it was everywhere as a possibility, and then actually happened.

Something similar seems to have happened in the USA - the first state to pass a marriage equality act was Vermont in 2009, and five years later more than half of the people in the USA live in states that allow same-sex couples to marry. And acceptance levels have now hit 55% across the USA, rising very quickly, and going from very low to 50% remarkaly quickly.

This graph from XKCD illustrates how much faster things are moving acceptance-wise, compared to acceptance of interracial marriages (currently at 87%):


Aaanyay - what I found fascinating was this study, which discovers that people are much more likely to be in favour of gay people having human rights when they discover that they are...human.

If you meet someone, form an emotional bond with them (even a very basic one) and then discover that they are a member of a group that you thought weren't entirely human, then you can either decide that they _deserve_ to be treated badly, or you can let go of something that you pretty-much only believed because you were told to. And that's what people have been doing.

And this is then producing a fantastic feedback loop - once more people are accepting, people are more likely to be out about their sexuality. And once you discover that Auntie Rita would like to marry the "friend" she's lived with for thirty years, it then makes you more likely to support her right to do so.

Sadly, this is unlikely to work for African-Americans. Nobody is going to find out that Uncle Albert is actually black. And the segregation issue isn't likely to go away any time soon, meaning that there's not enough mixing going on to make the issue vanish through familiarity*.

It might just work for women though - where there's a somewhat different feedback system going on, of women sharing the awful things they go though, and this causing other women to come forward and share _their_ awful stories, to the point where it becomes more obvious to people quite how common assault and abuse really are. You _can_ suddenly discover that a sizeable chunk of your female friends were raped, for instance. Or that when your girlfriend/wife/sister/female friend goes out without you she gets catcalled and followed in a threatening manner. Spreading that knowledge around definitely seems to be making a difference.

I wonder if there's anywhere else that kind of virtuous cycle can be put to good use, and what other methods of doing so there are.

*See The Parable Of The Polygons

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overwhelming firepower

We've been learning about history, and seeing a lot of the Plantagenets

Julie picked up a book about the historical influences on Game Of Thrones. It was shit. But it got her looking into actual history books, and wanting to share that with me*, so we picked up Simon Schama's TV series "A History of Britain" to give us a decent overview**, starting in 3100BCE (at Skara Brae) and working its way forward to the 1960s.

So far we're up to episode four, which is smack bang in the middle of the Plantagenets, who danieldwilliam pointed out to me the other day are largely idiots - about every third one is actually competent, making up the ground lost by the utter idiocy that occurs between them.

About a week later, Julie spotted a new TV show - Britain's Bloodiest Dynasty. Which, despite the appalling title, turns out to be a rather good history of the Plantagenets, starting at Henry II and working its way forward. Dan Jones is an excellent presenter, and does a great job of bringing the personal relationships to life. The reenactments that go with it are also of excellent quality (if intermittently gruesome). I'd recommend this to anyone with an interest in that period of history. Or, indeed, in people chopping bits of each other off and then fucking up the country by trusting the wrong psychopath***.

And a couple of days after that, BBC 4 started showing Castles: Britain's Fortified History. Dr Sam Willis isn't as detailed as the Schama, or as entertaining as BBD, but has added some extra detail around the same period because, once again, we're in The Plantagenet Zone, from the point William The Conqueror introduced Proper Castles forward to Edward I planted them all over Wales to keep the Welsh under control. This has the nice touch of bringing in some modern-day experts to physically demonstrate how swords are made, masonry is chiselled, etc. He's also good at giving a flavour of what life was like living in the castle - the section on food was really interesting, and watching the expression on his face as he tried out some of the foods of the time was great. Oh, and we got to see a trebuchet being fired!

What's been particularly interesting has been seeing the different emphases that the shows take - sometimes contradicting each other in minor ways, sometimes highlighting different aspects (Eleanor**** of Aquitaine was largely glossed over in one version of Henry II's rule, vitally important in another). They do seem to be using the same resources a lot - if Dan Jones and Dr Willis haven't bumped into each other filming a scene of them striding towards the National Archives then it's because their handlers are scheduling them in for different days. I'm now positively looking forward to Schama leaving this period of history behind - which should happen in the next episode when the Plantagenets die out and we can move on to the Tudors!

Schama - a bit dry, doesn't have the same budget/reenactors, but lots of detail. Worth it if you have a general interest in history. Oh, and this is clearly his an early presenting gig. He's not as polished as in his The Story Of The Jews (which was _amazing_), and his delivery can be a bit distracting. Still good though.
Dan Jones - awesome fun. If you're even slightly interested in history, or just fancy watching a bit of a soap opera in which kings really fuck things up (complete with beheadings, battle scenes, etc), then you should give this a look. It's about as violent of Game of Thrones. Less breasts though.
Dr Sam Willis - Not as good as the other two. If it was more than three parts, and not adding information to stuff we already knew, we probably wouldn't bother. But if you like really pretty castle porn, with lots of long slow overhead shots of gorgeous castles and their environs, then give it a go. And the details on castle life are rather good. I'd happily watch a show with more of that in it.

*One of the things we really value in the relationship is learning new things together, and taking an active interest in each other's interests. Helps prevent boredom, and there's always new things to talk about.
**I know that it skips over huge amounts of detail, particularly pre-1066, as it covers around 4,000 years in 45 minutes. But when covering the whole of British history in 15 hours I appreciate some corners will be cut. Oh, and also it obviously focusses more on England than Scotland or Wales - except for the bits when England takes an interest in Scotland or Wales.
***So far as I can tell any king had to trust _some_ psychopaths, the good kings knew to trust the competent psychopaths who didn't run completely rampant. The bad ones trusted the incompetent ones who went so far that they caused a civil war.
****There seem to have been a lot of Eleanor's about. One from Aquitaine, one from Provence, one from Castille. I was beginning to think that the Plantagenet kings were just _really_ bad at names, so started using the same one for everyone.

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