Thursday, October 28, 2010

No, Ken Jennings, you should not use that word

Famed Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings has blogged about an issue very important to me, the use of the word "midget". Here's what he says:

But here’s my problem: sometimes I call my kids “midgets.” I need a ruling from the Little People of America: is “midget” inherently offensive? Should I avoid it in all situations, the way disability advocates want the word “retard” avoided–not just for the mentally challenged, but for everyone, including the kid picking his nose in study hall or the guy that forgets to buy the beer you asked for? Or is it more like “Oriental” (still okay for rugs, just not people) or “colored” (okay for pencils, not people).

Here's the email I just sent him.

Hi Ken,

You should not use the word at all. You should not use it with your children. The most obvious reason is not merely because it is considered a slur but also because you infantilize people with dwarfism. And you are teaching your kids that adults with dwarfism are the same as children because they are small.

You bring up the words "oriental" and "colored" and say that it seems to be okay to use them to describe, respectively, rugs and pencils. But "oriental" and "colored" were already existing words used to describe a variety of things, beyond people, "Midget" is a word built to literally dehumanize people with a genetic difference. "Midget" has its roots in 19th century freak shows where, in order to make a buck, people with dwarfism would be displayed as an exotic and inhuman other species. Society was conditioned to view them that way as a result.

Freak shows are no longer a part of our culture but the sense of otherness related to people with dwarfism is with us still. I'd point you to the life of Paul Miller of Mercer Island, Washington. He was born with achondroplasia, the most common type of dwarfism and was rejected by over 40 law firms after graduating from Harvard Law School. One of them said they didn't want to hire him because it would turn their firm into a freak show.

Miller went on to be a law professor, a tireless advocate for people with genetic differences, and he advised Presidents Clinton and Obama. Miller recently died after a battle with cancer. Here's the New York Times obituary. Here is President Obama's reaction to Miller's death.

My daughter Kate was born with dwarfism in 2002. She gets stared at, pointed at, people take her picture, people laugh at her. And while I recognize that it's natural to look longer at something that is unusual, there is a societal prejudice against people with dwarfism. They are seen as a curiosity, they are seen as something "other", and it all gets back to that word "midget". Kate, fortunately, is brave, determined, smart as a whip, and doesn't pay much attention to the people who don't understand her. That's good because, just as she needs to work harder than average people to reach a drinking fountain or a cash register, she will need to work harder to get a job and be taken seriously in life.

So Ken, I ask you to make it easier for her. Be part of the solution. Treat people as people regardless of their genetic condition or their height, just as you would treat them as people regardless of their ethnicity. Make things better, Ken Jennings, and don't use that awful word.

John Moe

PS. By the way, "dwarf" is a perfectly acceptable term. I don't know a little person in the world who has a problem with it. Of course it works even better if you simply call them by their names.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's been three months

since I posted something on here.

I don't know why I stopped. It's not like I've been all that busy. Well, you know, three kids and a job and all but still.

I think I found that Twitter and Facebook were more responsive blogging platforms. See, I don't make any money off this blog, never have, and it's existed mostly as a way to share my thoughts and keep the writing in shape.

But look, I've never been one for keeping a journal. I write for an audience, I write to be heard. Dates back to my acting days where I needed to be in a show in order to feel validated, then it went to radio where I wasn't content to be a producer behind the scenes. Facebook and Twitter give me much more of that feeling, you get responses from people in real time.

I'm hesitant to give this site up. I mean, why give it up when it's free, right? But at the moment it's not a platform I'm gravitating toward.

Oh well, check back in a while, maybe I'll flood it with posts.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Conversation Between Kate (Age 6) and Some Kid (Age 3) at the playground

KATE: Ugh. I was born with something called dwarfism. And what it is-- (KID runs off, then returns)
KATE: I don't think you know anything about dwarfism.
KATE: Ugh! You don't know anything about anything!
KATE: Oh brother. Never mind.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why I and we do what we and I do

I was recently watching an interview with Anil Dash. Anil, who I've also interviewed recently, is a sort of proto-blogger. He's been running something that's more or less a blog for over a decade now. He's also turbo smart. And he was talking about the term "blogger" and how to call someone a blogger is becoming increasingly meaningless. It would be like calling someone a clothes wearer or phone user: everyone's doing it. A few are doing it on sites like this one, but way more are using Facebook and Twitter, posting updates on what they're up to, what they think, links to things they found interesting. The platforms have become easier, the posts are shorter, but the guts of the operation are the same. We blog, we talk, we post, we update, we write.

A while back, I started tinkering around with Tumblr and created a version of this site there. The user interface is much better than's, you can post more things more rapidly. I'd go so far as to say it's better.

But lately I've sort of stopped doing anything with it. I still Twitter to anyone who wants to read me, I post more personal things to Facebook to anyone who fits a very liberal definition of "friend", but the Tumblr area has become fallow ground even though it's easier.

However, beyond being easier Tumblr is also much more interactive. It's easy to re-post things from other people's Tumblr blogs, the idea of followers is a much bigger deal than on Blogger, there's a ranking for "tumblarity", which is not a word but proposes to be a numerical rating of how popular you are.

I think it's too much. I wonder if I'm now so old-fashioned (I started this blog in 2003) that I want something that could be described as "classical" even though it's remarkably new technology. I want to post things and not really know how many people read it. I want to have comments enabled, provided people aren't jerks, but I don't need any chat function enabled. It sounds horribly arrogant but I really want it to be mostly about me and not about my place in the community of people acting like me.

It dates back to starting this blog in the first place. I started it after Rewind (NPR news/satire show I worked on) got canceled as a means of keeping my writing in shape. Since then I've done a bunch more radio and a bunch more writing but I kept it going as a place where I could just write what struck me as interesting that I wanted to share without the necessary editorial pressures of commercial viability, without worrying about the reception. This clunky old stupid platform, which you'd think Google of all people would have improved by now, is the best way to keep doing that and I don't think Tumblr is.

It's odd to realize that the archaic technology is preferable. Think I'll go buy a printed newspaper now. And an 8-track player.

Here's a monkey who takes care of a baby:


Monday, August 17, 2009


Someday soon physical Blockbuster stores will close and I'll be glad. Limited selection, high prices, deceptive policies,...uh...all that BLUE, hate 'em. But what I hate most is that every time I go in there (and I do) they ask me if I'd like to sign up for their rewards club. I don't, I tell them I don't, and then they keep pushing it. And I say NO more emphatically. And then when I come back, they ask again. I've established my lack of interest but they persist.

I guess what really bugs me is that I am already buying something there and then at the point of purchase they're interrupting the process to get me to buy something more. It would be like going to the grocery store and the checker pauses and holds up some laundry detergent and asks if you'd like to buy it. You say no but then the checker talks about how great the detergent is.

But you know what? It's beyond that. It's trying to get you to sign up for something where they will take your money regularly. Like a detergent club.

So I've become upset at them more than a few times and I get the "this customer is crazy" look from the blue golf shirt clerks. And screw you, don't look at me like that, your whole enterprise will be made unnecessary once Redbox gets its act together.

Well anyway, getting mad does no one any good. So yesterday after getting the pitch ONE MORE TIME, I tried a new approach. Five minutes after leaving the store, I called them.

BOB: Thank you for calling Blockbuster, this is Bob.
ME (doing a sort of Will Ferrell on painkillers voice, verrrrry sloooow): Do you have a movie...called...Firehaver?
BOB: Fire what?
ME: Haver. Haver. Haaaaaver. Firehaver.
BOB: Could you spell that?
ME: F-i-r-e.
BOB: The second part?
ME: Haver. H-a-v-e-r. Firehaver. Firehaver. About a man who has fire. It's a drama.
BOB: I'm not seeing anything by that name. Are you sure you--
ME: How about David Was Wrong? David Was Wrong. David. Was. Wrong.
BOB: Let me see.
ME: David Was Wrong. Three words. It's a drama. About David. Do you have it in stock and can I pick it up today?
BOB: I don't--
ME: David Was Wrong?
BOB: No, I'm sorry. Striking out here.
ME: Kneebone? Kneebone? It's another movie called Kneebone. It's a comedy. Kneeeeebone?
BOB: Kneebone...
ME: K-n-e-e-b-o-n-e. Kneeeeeeebone? Comedy?
BOB: Boy, I'm really sorry. I don't see anything called that.
ME: I guess I just wasted your time then. I guess I wasted your time.
BOB: Oh, that's --
ME: Kind of like when someone just wants to rent a movie and you try to sell them on your rewards club and they've already told you many times they don't want to join but you won't ring them up until you've tried to sell it to them?
BOB: Uh...what?


Monday, August 10, 2009

It's Not Called All Being Master of Space and Dimension Hero, Eddie.

You erased Michael Anthony from history like some out-of-favor Bolshevik? Sucks.

Instead you expect people to be okay with Wolfgang “Craft Services Table” Van Halen on a ride through history? Sucks.

Though I’m no fan of Sammy, I guess that whole era didn’t really happen? Sucks.

I’ve seen better character rendering in, well, I’m thinking, something in 1993…’s butt. Sucks.

The fact that this game isn’t called Eddie’s Delusion That He Is God And Control History And People’s Minds With His Strappy Guitar? SUCKS!

This game sucks.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Fantastic, unbearable, great

That's the life cycle of my experience listening to several of my favorite musicians. I'll find some music that I JUST LOVE SO MUCH that I can't stop listening to it. Entire album at least four times a week. Compulsive need.
Ben Folds Five - Whatever and Ever Amen
Decemberists - Picaresque
The Hold Steady - Stay Positive

There have been MANY others. But what happens is that I listen to them to the point of burn out. Then I can't listen any more. It's like I've used them up. I overdid it. I didn't take a sip of their wine or a glass or even a bottle, I was hospitalized with musical alcohol poisoning.

But then, THEN, sometimes months later or years later, I can re-discover the music and it's like an old friend. The love is deeper, fleshed out by memory.

You have any music like that? Or am I crazy?