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Famous for 12 Hours: Friday Art Break

[ 29 ] April 21, 2017 |

Hey, folks. DeviantArt has honored me today with my seventh? eighth? Daily Deviation. It’s nice getting this recognition because it gets lots of peepers on my gallery, I get new followers, plus it’s just a neat, fun thing in general. Hop on over to see my “Favorites” total go up.

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The Day Parody Died

[ 133 ] April 20, 2017 |

So, this happened:

If you’re having trouble discerning the faces, that is, indeed, Kid Rock, Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent* standing under a portrait of some neoliberal shill.

*AC wanted to make Ted Nugent “Ted Nugget,” which seems right to me.

Both Sides: Late Night Edition

[ 124 ] April 20, 2017 |

 

Caitlin Flanagan  of The Atlantic clutches her pearls at what’s become of political discourse. A sensible person might say that the dialogue–such as it is–has coarsened because we just elected a toddler with nukes to the highest office in the land, but not Caitlin. She’s pretty certain that libs should continue going higher and higher and higher, even as conservatives take a Pepe-guided tour straight to hell.

The late-night political-comedy shows—principally Noah’s Daily Show, Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal, and John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight—staked their territory during the heat of the general election: unwavering, bombastic, belittling, humiliating screeds against Donald Trump. Fair enough. Trump is a man who on any casual summer day during the campaign could be found inciting a crowd to violence. This isn’t the slippery slope; this is the ditch at the bottom of the hill. Once a man stands before a mob and exhorts the powerful to beat the outlier, it’s all over except for the cannibalism and the cave painting. “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” said Abraham Lincoln. “Knock the crap out of them,” said Donald Trump.

OK, so, Caitlin, using her very own finger-words, admits that Trump is terrible, his very own terrible designation of terrible. But…

But somewhere along the way, the hosts of the late-night shows decided that they had carte blanche to insult not just the people within this administration, but also the ordinary citizens who support Trump, and even those who merely identify as conservatives. In March, Samantha Bee’s show issued a formal apology to a young man who had attended the Conservative Political Action Conference and whom the show had blasted for having “Nazi hair.” As it turned out, the young man was suffering from Stage 4 brain cancer—which a moment’s research on the producers’ part would have revealed: He had tweeted about his frightening diagnosis days before the conference. As part of its apology, the show contributed $1,000 to the GoFundMe campaign that is raising money for his medical expenses, so now we know the price of a cancer joke.

“Ordinary citizens” “who merely identify as conservative” is doing an awful lot of work here. Caitlin just admitted that Trump is a horrible person and president. So, what, exactly, am I–a coastal elite living in Tucson–supposed to think about his voters? Really. What am I supposed to think? I’ll tell you what I think: I think that a lot of the people who voted for him were at least cool with his racism and xenophobia. I think they counted on his always hurting the right people  in a precise manner. (Using sort of precision-guided bombs of cruelty, is how I’d put it.) I think they thought he was a big fat phony and a liar but they had the secret code to know when he was lying and about what. And now we have a misogynistic, racist toddler with nukes in the White House. This man may very well get us all killed. So, yes, when I’m not living in existential dread, I do feel a bit smug about not voting for the orange Id machine.

I’d also like to add that a few conservatives of conscience decided that Trump crossed a red line for them. Perhaps we should be busy interviewing and lauding them instead of endlessly traveling to Bumfuck, PA to find out why Joe Asshole voted for a guy who’s gonna deport his neighbor.

But, listen, the author  just tried to make a “both sides” argument in an article where she–with words she presumably read–admitted that Sam Bee promptly apologized to the nazi-hair guy then donated to his medical funds. When has our current president ever apologized? When has ever admitted error? When has he ever acted with humility? When has he ever contributed to someone else’s well-being?

Are you seeing where this goofy bothsidesism argument falls apart?

It was hardly the first time Full Frontal had gone, guns blazing, after the sick or the meek. During the campaign, Bee dispatched a correspondent to go shoot fish in a barrel at something called the Western Conservative Summit, which the reporter described as “an annual Denver gathering popular with hard-right Christian conservatives.” He interviewed an earnest young boy who talked about going to church on Sundays and Bible study on Wednesdays, and about his hope to start a group called Children for Trump. For this, the boy—who spoke with the unguarded openness of a child who has assumed goodwill on the part of an adult—was described as “Jerry Falwell in blond, larval form.” Trump and Bee are on different sides politically, but culturally they are drinking from the same cup, one filled with the poisonous nectar of reality TV and its baseless values, which have now moved to the very center of our national discourse. Trump and Bee share a penchant for verbal cruelty and a willingness to mock the defenseless. Both consider self-restraint, once the hallmark of the admirable, to be for chumps.

Listen, the kid was a smarmy, horrible boy who may grow up to be a lovely young man but will probably grow up to be…Jerry Falwell. Furthermore, I’m guessing he’s a fan of Falwell, so I fail to see how that’s an insult. I saw the segment. At no point were they “cruel” to these “defenseless” buttwads. Sam’s show is smart enough to let the awful awful awfulness of these people speak for itself.

“When they go low, we go high” may have been a ravishing meme, Trump’s mockery of a war hero, grieving parents, and a disabled man showed how you get the job done. When John Oliver told viewers that if they opposed abortion they had to change the channel until the last minute of the program, when they would be shown “an adorable bucket of sloths,” he perfectly encapsulated the tone of these shows: one imbued with the conviction that they and their fans are intellectually and morally superior to those who espouse any of the beliefs of the political right.

Well, yes? And the feeling is mutual I presume.

Trump didn’t have a chance, because he lacked a “ground game.” After his victory, one had to wonder whether some part of his ground game had been conducted night after night after night on television, under flattering studio lights and with excellent production values and comedy writing.

And…oh, screw it. I just can’t anymore with this shit…

Lena Dunham, Secret Conservative

[ 78 ] April 19, 2017 |

Oh, hai. “Girls” wrapped up its series finale and a bunch of conservatives are apparently planning on renting a time machine so they can go back in time and erase previous freakouts about Lena Dunham.

Ross Douthat, of course, has the biggest platform, and boy howdy he doesn’t waste it, using 20,000 paragraphs to say “Be careful, girls, if you get rid of Patriarchy, you’ll be sorry.”

In large ways and small the show deconstructed those assumptions. The characters’ sex lives were not remotely “safe”; they were porn-haunted and self-destructive, a mess of S.T.D. fears and dubiously consensual incidents and sudden marriages and stupid infidelities. (Abortion was sort-of normalized but also linked to narcissism: The only character to actually have an abortion was extraordinarily blasé about it, and then over subsequent episodes revealed as a monster of self-involvement.) Meanwhile the professional world was mostly a series of dead ends and failed experiments, and the idea that sisterhood would conquer all even if relationships with men didn’t work out dissolved as the show continued and its core foursome gradually came apart.

I tell ya what, I read stuff like this and sometimes I get the idea that comedy is often mined from tragedy and that imperfect– even obnoxious– people are sometimes funny. CAN YOU IMAGINE?

Of course the real-life civilization they are part of just elected Donald Trump as president, making all those prestige-drama portraits of toxic patriarchy seem quite relevant to our circumstances again, and the travails of life under social liberalism a little less immediately pressing.

But the wheel will turn again, and the relevance of “Girls” will wax as it does. There are many ways to capture our society’s complicated reality; the urban white liberal Brooklynite milieu is indeed, as the show’s haters always stood ready to remind us, a pretty narrow slice of American and Western life.

But then again so is the New Jersey mafia or Madison Avenue in its heyday or the Albuquerque drug trade. If those slices, in their different ways, embody the allure and pathologies of old-school male power, the slice that “Girls” portrayed (with, yes, caricature as well as realism) embodies a stronghold of the egalitarian alternative that cultural liberalism aspires to spread to everyone.

And the genius, and resonance, and staying power of Lena Dunham’s show rests not only on its artistic quality but on its message to its mostly liberal viewers: You do not have this alternative figured out.

Well, that much is true. Feminists cannot predict the future, though in the near-future I do predict several more pants-shitting, poo-flinging, hysterical, Gamergate-infected collective spasms from white boys. But, after that–who knows? It could be ok and complicated, life could become a series of complex trade-offs (in other words, exactly like it’s always been) or the streets will run red with the blood of men killed in The Great Extinguishing of the Patriarchy and the world will stop spinning in protest. Could go either way.

Not “The Onion”

[ 119 ] April 19, 2017 |

But, lordy, how it reads like it is.

Some lowlights:

*”I’d vote for him again 20 more times if I could,” said Hal McWilliams, 59, a self-employed contractor from Portageville. “Build the wall! …Democrats do everything in their power to destroy this country. Hillary Clinton was everything I am against. She was out to destroy the culture that made this country: Hard work, guns, freedom.”

 

*Community Action runs a host of programs, from job training to rental assistance to housing weatherization, all funded by the Community Services Block Grant and other federal programs that Trump wants to eliminate or dramatically cut.

That seemed to be of little concern to most of the people packing their pickups with fresh produce and other items at last week’s food bank.

Told that the food bank was in danger, McWilliams shrugged and said: “I grow most of my own food anyway.”

*”He’s about action,” said Clark, who didn’t vote for Trump but said he would do so if he could vote again now. “I believe he’s doing pretty much everything he promised to do.”

*”We love him,” said Keith Muhlenbeck, 46. “We support him in everything he’s doing. He’s a businessman who knows how to get things done, and you can tell he has America’s best interests at heart.”

*As for Trump’s proposed budget cuts, Muhlenbeck doesn’t worry that the food bank his family depends on will be forced to shut down.

“I’m sure they’ll find the money somewhere,” he said.

 

I get it now. Magical thinking got Trump elected.

There’s No Mystery Here

[ 89 ] April 18, 2017 |

Just a Reminder that Gun-Humpers Want to Murder You

[ 42 ] April 15, 2017 |
Everyone quoted in this article, probably

Everyone quoted in this article, probably

 

Here’s Rick Perlstein on the gun nut fringe, who, by the way, feel emboldened by the current administration.

Shut Up and Take My Money!

[ 166 ] April 13, 2017 |

My movie notes entry got me thinking about live-action fairy tales. I’m very excited to see the new Beauty and the Beast and I thoroughly enjoyed the lovely yet weightless Cinderella of 2015, but I find myself yearning for a different kind of escapism. I want a naughty fairy tale. I want a dark, grungy, sexy, lush, violent, funny, balls-to-wall adaptation of say…Rapunzel. Or Cinderella! Or Beauty and the Beast! Has this movie been made and I missed it? (If you say Snow White and the Huntsman I will ban you.)

I will feel stupid if it has but I have to ask. And if it hasn’t WILL SOMEONE MAKE THIS MOVIE NOW? Trump is president and I need something artful and beautiful and life-affirming now.

It’s All Bullshit

[ 85 ] April 12, 2017 |
Am I being too much of a Debbie Downer?

Am I being too much of a Debbie Downer?

 

I have issues with the “Fearless Girl” statue. It was erected the day before the Women’s March, presumably as symbol of the defiance to the Pussy-Grabber-In-Chief that all us gals could rally ’round. So I was puzzled by the choice to use a child as totem, as everyone knows that men tend to be OK with “girl power” so long as it’s their daughter benefiting but seem increasingly less comfortable with it when women in general benefit. The little girl also reads as White to me. Is there any particular reason she had to be White? No, of course not. But women, big and little, Black and White, Latina and Asian were just supposed to say blithely “She is I.” Well…bleh.

Listen, it’s a gorgeous sculpture, evocative and finely-wrought. But…*sigh.” She coulda been something so much more than just a nettle in the charging bull’s ass.

And here’s the thing: the artist has a point. “Fearless Girl” completely re-contextualizes the charging bull. What he doesn’t understand, though, is that she makes his piece so much better, bigger, even, in a way. Separate, the two pieces are incredibly impressive works of art. Together, there’s an emotional resonance that simply wasn’t there before. I dig the two pieces in concert. But I’m disheartened by Mr. Di Modica’s objections and by some of the choices Ms. Visbal made.

Some Humpday Odds and Ends

[ 112 ] April 12, 2017 |

Hi, everybody. Been a busy two weeks for me, so I apologize for being scarce.

I’m sure many of you were deeply upset I wasn’t here to link you to literary masterpieces like:

But I’m BACK, babies, so I hope you’re ready to get pounded in the butt with these links and random movie notes!

Some movie notes:

  • If you are in the mood for a pleasant, light-as-air sumptuous visual feast, may I suggest the over-the-top-gorgeous live-action fairy tale, Cinderella (2015)? It’s lovely. Plus, you get to see Cate Blanchett munch on every piece of furniture on the set.
  • Arrival is a quiet, deceptively simple, elegant film with a genuine mind-blower of an ending. Well worth a watch.
  • I know critics disliked Passengers, but as someone who has a latent itch for amazing sci-fi visuals, I enjoyed it. It’s gorgeous to look at and I thought the casting was spot on, with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence having great chemistry and Michael Sheen stealing every scene he was in.

On twitter, I asked people if they had ever had a crush on a song. Have you?

Can’t there be a profit-motive for troll-free spaces?

[ 260 ] March 31, 2017 |

imagesThis is a depressing article about how trolls intrude on so many of our internet spaces, and how much that sucks. People say there’s no profit motive to keep trolls out. But I wonder…with so many people clamoring for troll-free zones, how can that not be seen as a profit-making opportunity? Do we really think there’s nobody out there thinking about creating social platforms that are actually pleasant? Hell, I’d *pay* for a troll-free zones and I’m quite certain other people would too.

Genuinely curious to read your thoughts on this: Will trolls always win out in the end? Is there no profit in barring them from public spaces?

No.

[ 425 ] March 29, 2017 |

Women having autonomy over their bodies is not up for debate. Neither is preventing the massacre of 6-year-olds.

It’s rich, isn’t it? Juxtaposing the “pro-life” anti-choice rhetoric with the pro-life rhetoric of being ok with 1st-graders getting slaughtered.

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