Tina K. Russell

November 29, 2009

Our presumed obsessions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:49 pm

To the Editor:

The discovery of water on the Moon is indeed one of the greatest discoveries in human history. The possibilities for expansion of our heretofore single home base have just multiplied to a greater extent than when early hominids first jumped down from their tree perches and began a terrestrial expansion.

It is indeed shocking, but not at all surprising, that outside the scientific community this discovery has next to no interest to most people. The average American is apparently more interested in what foolish thing Sarah Palin will say or do next.

Americans no longer want to be informed; they just want to be entertained. The promise of the 1950s and early ’60s has now ended in the reality that most Americans are not “smarter than a fifth grader” and don’t really know, or care, about things of cosmic importance. I fear for our future.

Michael Davis

Madison, Wis., Nov. 20, 2009

via Letters – Water on the Moon, Reality on Earth – NYTimes.com.

While I have a lot of sympathy for this person’s argument, I think there’s a bit of a straw man—or a straw population—in it. It’s annoying that TV shows focused more on Sarah Palin than on a discovery that changes our perception of the universe forever, but I also know that TV shows often rush to judgment on what Americans care about and then attempt to dictate their assumptions to us. So, I wouldn’t assume right away that TV shows focusing on Palin means we “don’t care” about spaceflight; maybe we’d watch more science news if networks were willing to take the risk of treating their audiences like adults.

I spent eight months wondering who the hell Jon and Kate were and why I should give a damn. I suspect I’m not alone.

See also: Majority Of Americans Out Of Touch With Mainstream

The tragic life story

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:15 pm

THE tragic life story of a murdered Kentish Town transsexual became clear this week when it was revealed the victim’s mother had committed suicide four years ago and her uncle spent 15 years in prison falsely convicted of an IRA bombing.

Destiny Lauren, 29, born Justin Samuels, was found dead at around 1am on Thursday November 5, in her flat on Leighton Crescent.

It was almost four years to the day since her mother Elizabeth Hill took her own life outside the same flat.

via Hampstead and Highgate Express – Tragic story of murdered transsexual, whose uncle was one of the Guildford Four.

I’m really impressed with this article. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an article about the murder of a transsexual that really gave the victim, and the family, a story. For once, we’re not just statistics, we’re individuals.

The ninth paragraph—count it, nine—mentions that she was a sex worker. I was even more impressed after reading that, both because they didn’t choose to make it their lead (“transsexual prostitute murdered in back alley” is the usual angle, which comes with an air of dismissal), and because it’s rare for a transsexual murder victim to get any kind of life story printed, and rarer still if the victim is also a sex worker.

It’s a little chilling that I’m so used to stories of the murders of transgender people that I find myself celebrating one that is well-written. But, such is the reality of our lives. Reductionist, sensationalist stories of transsexuals’ deaths put us in danger by making us seem less than human, reinforcing a belief that discrimination against us is tolerable and our murders inevitable. However, treating these deaths as what they are—promising lives cut short by evil acts—will get people to think twice about mean things they do or say to transgender people, which will help create a climate in which no murder, of anyone, is tolerated.

November 28, 2009

My self-portrait

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tina Russell @ 5:39 pm

Glance (self-portrait) on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

This took me a while! All it took me was a few layers of sketching, lots of colors, blending, and patience. I used GIMP, and it took me maybe 7-10 hours. I was accompanied on audio by the Bill Moyers Journal, the BBC’s Thinking Allowed, John Hodgman’s More Information Than You Require, and Junot Díaz’s The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Wonderful tools and palettes were provided by GIMP Paint Studio. Thanks, all!

November 25, 2009

Pronouns and the brutal power of language

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:05 pm

ROME (Reuters) – A Brazilian transsexual caught up in a scandal which prompted the resignation of a senior Italian politician — the center-left governor of Lazio region, which includes Rome — was found burned to death in his home Friday. Police found a body following a fire in a basement flat in a neighborhood frequented by transsexual prostitutes and court sources said magistrates were treating the death as murder.

Forensic tests were expected to identify the remains as those of a transsexual known only as Brenda, police said.

Brenda and another Brazilian transsexual were at the center of a case involving the blackmail of former Lazio Governor Piero Marrazzo by four police officers who secretly filmed him having sex and taking drugs with one of the transsexuals.

via Transsexual in Italian political scandal murdered | International | Reuters.

Here’s what I wrote to Reuters:

I’m upset that you referred to Brenda, the murdered Brazilian transsexual at the center of an Italian political scandal, using male pronouns (“he” and “his”) rather than the correct female pronouns. It was even more shocking to see such direct insult in an article about how she burned to death in a firebombing.

It’s rather terrifying to the transgender community, worldwide, to imagine that our identities will not be respected even after our deaths. I can only hope that tragedies like this, the sadly regular occurrence of transgender people murdered for being honest about who they are, will serve as a wakeup call about the brutal power of language. Organizations like Reuters set the tone for society with their use of language, and differences like “he” and “she” mean the difference between “normal” and “abnormal” (whether or not someone’s gender is “legitimate”), which can mean the difference between life and death.

The Reuters stylebook (thank you for putting it online!) does not directly address transgender pronouns, but here is the advice of the AP stylebook: “Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.” I hope you will use this wise advice in the future. Thank you!

November 23, 2009

The Click and the Dead

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 11:29 am

David Sirlin is a familiar proponent of increased simplicity and usability in video game interfaces. It's a principle he put into practice rebalancing Street Fighter II for Super Street Fighter II HD Remix. At Montreal International Game Summit, he continued the theme with a polemic that used the famous writing handbook The Elements Of Style by Strunk and White to argue that a design must do its best to avoid needless effort on the player’s part.

Using one of William Strunk’s celebrated style rules, “omit needless words,” as a basis, Sirlin took the audience through an entertaining series of case studies demonstrating obvious pitfalls overlooked by many developers.

via MIGS: Every Click Counts | Edge Online.

Hotel Dusk, a game that is very dear to my heart, had one glaring problem that came close to ruining the entire experience (and makes me tepid about the sequel announcement): despite being the most text-heavy game I’ve ever played, you could not press A to finish displaying a block of text. You had to wait for the text to draw itself, letter by letter, onto the screen, at the end of which you completely forgot what you were reading. It was maddening.

Okami made a similar mistake, except only for scenes deemed important by the developers. The thing is, Okami also let you skip entire cutscenes. I never wanted to skip the unimportant cutscenes because I could rapidly advance through the text and read it quickly, but skipping the important cutscenes was always a wicked temptation. That is, a decision they probably made to ensure you paid attention to some cutscenes only made me want to skip those ones. (facepalm)

The moral of the story: little annoyances matter. They can add up to a serious blemish on your game (and one, sadly, that reviewers will generally fail to point out).

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.