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STFU, Preacher Man

17/08/2016

Before we begin, let me state for anybody who thinks anything that follows is a back-handed reference to those in my own family — immediate and extended — who are ministers: NO. None of them have crossed this line.

I understand the concept of “hold your nose” voting and why many people find it distasteful. It is possible for people of goodwill to look at two or more flawed candidates for office (and gawd noze they’re all flawed to some degree) and come to entirely different choices about who should fill a particular office. A farmer who thinks Candidate A has a better grasp on agricultural issues would need some pretty compelling evidence that they’d be terrible at everything else to vote against his own self-interest. A city dweller who thinks Candidate B would be harmful to urban areas would need compelling evidence they’d be so much better at everything else as to be worth voting for.

As Robert A. Heinlein famously observed, you may never ever find anybody you want to vote for but I guarantee you’ll always find somebody to vote against.

And I understand that most people make choices for ultimately irrational reasons — and by “irrational” I do not mean “insane” but “emotional”.

“I do not like thee, Doctor Fell
The reason why I cannot tell
But this I know and know full well
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.”

So, as much as I might disagree with their reasons, I can understand a person deciding to vote for Donald Trump.

No, my peeve is with those so-called minsters of God who proclaim Trump is God’s anointed.[1]

There is a precise theological term for this sort of thing and it’s called bullshit.

I was all prepared to call out specific offenders by name, but the sad truth is that there’s just too damned many of them. Unlike Albert Mohler and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention — two men with whom I typically can find precious little to agree with — who said they couldn’t endorse Trump without losing all claim to moral credibility, much less proclaim him God’s chosen candidate, we have numerous prominent fundamentalist and evangelical media hogs[2] spokespersons trotting out their hoary[3] rationales why voting for a twice-divorced three time philanderer with a history of compulsive lying[4] and a string of billion dollar bankruptcies in which he cheated business partners, employees, contractors, investors, and clients[5] is not merely a justifiable act but rather a mitzvah, a righteous deed, and one ordained by God.

The political aspect of this is not my topic for discussion, at least not in this post. I cannot imagine the set of circumstances that would convince the average voter that Donald Trump would make a superior president than Jill Stein, much less Gary Johnson or Hillary Clinton.

Rather, it’s the God damned naked greed and avarice and lust for power of the so-called “religious right” that rouses my ire.

And I use the term “God damned”
in its correct theological context.

What these bozologists have done is to wipe their asses with the Bible.

If you’re a Christian, I want you to take all the time you need to let that image settle in deep within your psyche. Imagine your favorite old family Bible, the one with the scuffed leather cover that’s been handed down from generation to generation.

Imagine this fat pink[6] perfumed crew of choir boys[7] slowly and gleefully ripping those thin-thin-thin pages out of that Bible and cramming them between their fat cheeks to wipe the filth off their bottoms.

Got that image in your skull? Good.

I want it there, and I want it associated with them, because I want you to understand that they have just led millions of people away from Christ, away from the Good News.

I don’t care how many Bible verses they cite, I don’t care how many theological exegesis they execute, I don’t care how many hours in prayer they have spent on the matter.

They have demonstrated to the world that they are no different from the other greedy power mad rat finks out there, and are in fact more contemptible than most because they are such blatant hypocrites.

You might be able to rationalize Trump as being the least bad choice[8] and maintain your integrity: Having a toe amputated is bad, but having a leg amputated is even worse; preferring to have a toe amputated over a leg may be Hobson’s choice, but if one of the two are going to happen, there’s no sin in preferring it to be the least traumatic.

But the people claiming Trump is God’s own anointed are not saying make the choice with the least potential harm; they are saying not only is losing your leg a good thing, it’s a Monumental Good Thing, and if you don’t cheerfully support said amputation, you are sinning against God and man.

Co-religionists, please…

You can sell that bullshit to the bigots and the cowards, to the fanatical and the fearful, but you can’t sell it to anybody with a pair of eyes and a pair of brain cells rubbing together.

They can read.

They can compare the actual teachings of Christ with the bogus crap issued forth from our contemporary Pharisees, and they can recognize the enormous disconnect.

This is not someone saying “hold your nose and vote for the candidate who will do the least harm” but rather a crowd of con artists telling us that the exact opposite of what Christ taught is what God wants us to do.

The unchurched[9] see through that phoniness. There is no way to win them back by convincing them the con artists are really holy saints of God; there is no way to win them back to the old and failing mainstream denominations.

There is a way to unite them in the community of Christian believers, but you can bet the heart transplant money on this: Whatever that way is, it is not going to resemble church the way North Americans have been doing it.

animated nightmare trump

[1] Fair is fair; I’m sure there are some people somewhere who have made similar claims about Clinton (in a country of 320,000,000 there has to be a few). But there aren’t as many and they’re nowhere near as vocal as the blasphemers on the religious right.

[2] I was originally going to type “media whores” but that would have been a gratuitous insult to sex workers worldwide, most of whom hold to a far higher ethical standard.

[3]  Not “whorey” and certainly not “holy”.

[4] A con artist lying in order to steal your money is lying for a rational reason (i.e., profiting off your loss), they will cheerfully tell the truth if it makes them money. A compulsive liar will lie even when the truth will suffice!

[5] And these are just the things that have been proven in courts of law; I’m not even touching the really salacious stuff!

[6] Mostly.

[7] Mostly.

[8] You’d be wrong, but you could rationalize it.

[9] More and more this is coming to mean not those who have never been exposed to the Gospel message — because c’mon, who hasn’t been exposed to it through sheer osmosis if they live in the US of A? – but rather those who grew up in the Christian community and now willingly walk away from it. Contrary to what the con artists would tell us, they are not walking away because they have been seduced by the blandishments of sin, but because they have seen first hand how most Christians and most churches have made no genuine effort to live a Christ-like life.

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Writing Report, July 25, 2016

26/07/2016

Not as productive a week as I’d hoped.  I did quite a bit of writing but mostly for the blog.

Actually, it ended up a lot more productive than when I uploaded the first draft of this post.  Over the last two nights I managed to write the last 3,500 words of the barbarian story, bringing the total word count to about 15,500.  The final draft may be a little longer, may be a little shorter:  There are a few things I know I’ll have to flesh out, there are doubtlessly plenty of places where I can trim and tighten things up.

On the whole I’m happy with it.

I am facing a couple of minor problems, though.  The first is a matter of staging:  I have seven characters in a room and four of them have to leave in a precise sequence in order for the rest of the climax to work.

They can’t just saunter out, either; there’s some pretty grim urgency to this, like being trapped in a burning building (only what’s facing them is infinitely worse that a mere burning building).

But my original staging of this part of the climax is coming across rather clunky and clumsy; I’m going to need to redo it significantly in the next draft.  I’ve opted to complete this scene based on how I’ve started it because once they are out of this particular area they head off in separate directions, each to fulfill a specific function for the story’s climax; however, I’m going to have to go back and plot out the moves on paper so the staging makes sense in the final draft.

The second problem is easier to solve and will be solved in the next draft though for consistency’s sake I stuck with what I started using in this draft:  My protagonist’s name reflects the ultimate origin of the story idea, a joke based on another well established character.

Since that character is not public domain, I couldn’t use that name, but I did find a real name that was suitable for my protagonist and fairly close to the original well established character’s name as well.

Thing is, I think that name would work if I’d kept the story down to 2,800-3,500 words.  In it’s original conception the story, while not a parody, would have been recognized as a pastiche of the original character and so the new name would have been excusable.

But a 15,000+ word story carries a different kind of weight, and if I’m going to expand it with not one but three sequels to bring it to novel length, then what was excusable as a short story becomes too coy and works against the book.

So my protagonist will acquire a new name when I move into the next draft, but one that I think will work even better:  Somewhat more exotic sounding, and less obviously connected to the original well established character.

And speaking of names, a rough writing rule of thumb I’ve stumbled across while doing this story:

  • If a character appears in only one scene to fulfill a single specific function, you may refer to them just by their occupation or general description (a courier who delivers an info dump message, a cop who writes a parking ticket to make the protagonist’s day worse, etc.)
  • If that character appears two or three times but always in the same function they can still be identified just by generic description though giving them a hint of individuality doesn’t hurt (say the cop writing a ticket is a running gag)
  • But if they’re in two or more scenes with at least two different functions they need a name and some sort of personality; they’re full fledged albeit minor characters now (the courier delivers a message then fights a duel unrelated to the message)

Samuel R. Delaney, in his book of essays The Jewel-Hinged Jaw (IIRC), referred to a method of creating characters that another writer had devised (alas, that writer’s name I cannot recall!).  I’ll share that with you in the next writing report.

the jewel-hinged jawHighly recommended; go get it!

 

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I Blather On (Yet Again)

20/07/2016

Josh Hadley invited me to talk about adapting the classic pulps into modern media over at Radiodrome.  My part kicks in at the 25 minute mark.

Norman Saunders - Reprint-of-August-1936

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Reverse The Polarities

15/07/2016

Trail-of-Tears

Two centuries after being forcibly removed from their homelands, the Cherokee people decided they wanted to come home.

They’d set up new lives for themselves after being relocated to Oklahoma and truth be told many of them prospered, perhaps more so than had they stayed in their original homeland.

But the dream of returning remained strong among them, permeating their art, their music, their poems, their songs, their spirituality. Every generation saw Cherokee chiefs and shamans fervently arguing for return and finally, after many, many generations of Cherokee had come and gone, they decided to return.

The land they wanted lay in the Appalachian Mountains around the point where North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia touched; not a terribly large nor exceptionally valuable piece of real estate.

What it lacked in natural resources it made up for in new inhabitants. Others referred to them by a variety of impolite names — “ridge-runners” “crackers” “peckerwoods” “hillbillies” — but Scots-Irish is as good a label to hang on them as any.

Like the Cherokee, they had their own tragic history.

A few Cherokee still lived among the Scots-Irish in that region, some peaceably, some not (in fairness it was Scots-Irish bigots who had problems with the Cherokee, not the other way around).

As a new generation of relocated Cherokee began moving into the area, friction arose.

Many Scots-Irish in the area saw no problem with Cherokees moving in so long as the Scots-Irish and their culture remained in charge. Cherokee were free to live as they like on lands they purchased just so long as they didn’t upset the Scots-Irish apple cart.

However, a significant number of Scots-Irish resented the influx of Cherokee, fearing — and rightly so, as events played out — that the Cherokee intended to usurp their authority and control.

As more and more Cherokee moved in including a huge influx directly fleeing intense anti-Cherokee violence in Oklahoma, their ultimate aim for the area became known: It was not enough to merely return to the geographic area where their tribe originated, they needed to establish — or in their view re-establish – the Cherokee tribe as an independent nation.

Meaning they would be in charge.

Meaning things would be run their way.

The Scots-Irish in the area fell into three camps over this:
Those (admittedly few in number) who thought the Cherokee could do as good if not a better job of running things than their own corrupt local and state governments
Those who were willing to live-and-let-live and allow the Cherokee some territory to call their own so long as they didn’t take all of it
Those outraged by the idea of Cherokee coming back to take land from them that their families had lived on for generations (they pointed out that if the Cherokee were treated badly by the Oklahomans, then it was a problem they needed to take up with Oklahoma, not Appalachia)

Add to the mix Scots-Irish pedagogues and politicians who lived outside the immediate area but saw a profit in keeping things stirred up among the Appalachian Scots-Irish.

Things finally reached a tipping point:
The Cherokee grew in number to the point where they were able to declare independence.

The United Nations tried to smooth things over by dividing the territory in two as fairly as they could and telling both sides to respect the borders and live peaceably with one another.

While many Scots-Irish fled the Cherokee territory, fearing discrimination, many others stayed.

Russia, saying in essence “Hey, they’re ‘reds’ and we used to be ‘reds’ so we like them”, recognized the Cherokee’s national independence and implicitly threatened to protect the Cherokee under their own nuclear umbrella. China and other nuclear super-powers soon joined in. The United States was in no position to go to war over the issue.

While they thought they still had a chance, the Scots-Irish in and around the area decided to destroy the nascent nation once and for all. They warned Scots-Irish living in non-Cherokee controlled territory to flee the area so as not to be accidentally hurt in the upcoming war. They told the Scots-Irish who chose to remain under Cherokee control that they’d either have to turn on their new neighbors or be slaughtered along with them.

The refugees fled to nearby camps, expecting a swift return once the fighting stopped.

But when the fighting stopped, the Cherokee had not only soundly beaten the Scots-Irish attackers but now claimed much of the U.N. territory previously apportioned for the Scots-Irish.

This did not make the Scots-Irish happy.

Over the next half century, as one pedagogue after another who lived outside the immediate area stirred them up and told them they must annihilate the Cherokee and their loathsome allies, the Scots-Irish launched war after war against the Cherokee.

And the Cherokee beat them and beat them badly every single time, typically taking more and more of the U.N. apportioned Scots-Irish territory as they did.

Finally the local Scots-Irish leadership had enough and struck a very rough peace with the Cherokee: No more official massive attacks on the Cherokee nation, the Scots-Irish would be left to their own in their territory.

The Cherokee agreed, but were unwilling to surrender much of the territory they’d conquered by that point. They also unilaterally declared their right to massive retaliation if the Scots-Irish leadership didn’t keep a damper on their own population.

Scots-Irish refugees, living in camps for half a century now, felt outrage at this: Where was their right to return to their homes?

Scots-Irish living within Cherokee held areas resented the heavy handed way the Cherokee administered the territory, especially how they denied Scots-Irish basic civil rights afforded the Cherokee. (The Cherokee, of course, argued they needed to do so in order to protect peaceable Cherokees from attacks by Scots-Irish gangs.)

The Scots-Irish who were already living with the Cherokee when the wars started now found themselves cut off from their Scots-Irish relatives and, no matter how much sympathy they had for them or irritation at the Cherokee, were forced to ally themselves with the Cherokee because all other Scots-Irish had sworn their destruction as well.

Scots-Irish pedagogues outside the area saw their own personal fortunes tied to how well they encouraged the Appalachian Scots-Irish to cling to their dream of destroying the Cherokee or at the very least driving them out of most of the territory.

Scots-Irish politicians in North Carolina and Tennessee and George and other states with large Scots-Irish populations also gave lip service to the Appalachian Scots-Irish reclaiming their land, but were damned if they were going to let the Scots-Irish refugees settle in their states because (a) they were dirt poor and would be a strain on their own resources and (b) they were filled with firebrands who would upset their own states’ relatively stable politics and cost the politicians their jobs.

They suggested that perhaps Russia could take in some of the Scots-Irish refugees and while the Russians did make a big show of accepting a handful of token immigrants, no real solution was to be found in that area.

North Carolina, Tennessee, and George did a lot of business with Russia, and they did not want the ruble-train cut off.

The Cherokee also did a lot of business with Russia as well, and while the Cherokee built their own excellent weapons for their own highly skilled armed forces, they bought a lot of Russian weapons as well. The Russians, to keep this lucrative market open, gave the Cherokee a lot of rubles in aid, far more rubles than they doled out to the Scots-Irish of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia.

And that is where things stand right now.

Quiz:

  1. If you were a Scots-Irish living in Cherokee controlled territory or in a refugee camp, would you passively accept your fate?
  2. If the answer to the above is “no” then aren’t you also arguing the Palestinians shouldn’t passively accept their fate?

Bonus Question:

  • Solving the Middle East dilemma, especially in regards to Israel, ain’t that easy, is it?
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“Never Give An Order You Can’t Enforce”

12/07/2016

That is the very first thing every officer is taught in military school.

All laws, even the most mundane, end in the death penalty.

They have to.

If you get a parking ticket…
…and you refuse to pay it…
…and you resist the state’s attempt to collect…
…you must either agree challenge their interpretation through their own courts
(thus tacitly agreeing they have the authority to take your property)
…or you flee their jurisdiction
(and thus tacitly agreeing they have the authority to take your property)
…or you must passively surrender
(which again tacitly agrees they have the authority they claim)
…or you physically resist…
…and you either resist and win
(thus destroying the state and its authority)
…or you lose…
…and they kill you…

The state cannot allow its authority to go unchallenged.

And absolutely this includes the most benign, citizen-participatory grass-roots democracies imaginable. The state cannot pass laws unless they can enforce the laws, and they cannot ignore those who refuse to acknowledge their authority.

This includes those within the government who are corrupt or attempt to circumvent the law for their own purposes. Those officials must be identified and brought in line with the true authority of the state, or else the state loses all credibility as a governing force.

Many states are reluctant to escalate confrontations too quickly and there is much wisdom in that: Better by far to let a minor traffic offender escape for the moment than to launch a dangerous high speed chase that might result in innocent people being hurt; the state can always track the offender down later and deal with them.

And many states will use or encourage banishment to avoid a head on confrontation with a problematic citizen. That serves both parties’ goals: The state has its authority recognized by someone fleeing their jurisdiction in order to avoid that authority, and the person banished can rightfully claim they have not submitted to what they feel is an unjust authority.

Every state, even the most totalitarian, governs through the consent of those governed, and that consent is the basis of their authority.

Laws against premeditated homicide were just as valid in Nazi Germany as they are in modern day Israel.

If authority cannot enforce its laws, then there are no laws, and if there are no laws, then there is no authority.

We the people have the right to set limits and decide how those limits are enforced in our various cultures and societies. Those cultures and societies (i.e., the state) have the authority we give them to enforce those limits.

If we don’t like it, we can either try to persuade others to support a change in those limits, or we can leave.

Or we can fight and hope to destroy the state and replace it with something we prefer.

Secular readers can stop here;
religious readers can follow after the jump.

Read the rest of this article »

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Writing Report, July 7, 2016

8/07/2016

Donald Duck reads what he wrote

I’m using Expresso, a nice little editing app you can use for free online, to digitally prep the manuscript for “The Most Dangerous Man In The World:  The Lost Classic G.I. Joe Episode” for re-writing / polish / final copyediting.

Expresso does not replace a human carefully going over a manuscript, but it speeds up the process by drawing attention to weak verbs, run on sentences, etc.  I’m a little less than halfway done with the preliminary pass of the manuscript thru Expresso; the free version can’t seem to handle more than 1,500 or so words without freezing up so I’m feeding the story thru two or three scenes at a time.

Expresso finds the most problems with my writing in the non-action scenes; it seems to like my action and combat writing just fine.

As with most writers I’ve got several projects going simultaneously, including a very dark barbarian fantasy which I mentioned previously.  I wrote a scene for it the other night which “works” insofar as it conveys the necessary information the story requires at that point but does so in a really awkward and way out of character manner for my protagonist.  Expect that to get severely re-written once I finish the handwritten first draft.

The cartoon above pretty much sums up my feelings once I finished writing the scene.

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GMO Crops / GMO Crap

5/07/2016

GMO smoking-medical-camels-chesterfieldGMO smoking-babys-drs

There’s a lot of pressure to quiet criticism of GMO crops and the companies (Monsanto, front and center, but others as well) that promote them.

Typically the protests against GMO are depicted as being on par with Luddites or anti-vaxxers.

While you can find some folks who oppose unlabeled GMO in our food supply for purely bogus sci-fi horror movie reasons, the truth is the bulk of objections are pretty sound, and the more the GMO producers try to silence the objections, the louder they have to become.

And we’re excluding criticism of merely the business side of GMO crops — the producers’ exclusive claim to all seeds, their usurious leasing rates for new seed crops, etc.  That’s awful and well worth hammering them about, but it would be the same for any business using similar high pressure tactics against customers.

No, the problem is this:
History has shown that industry is fully capable of selling dangerous and defective products to customers, and not merely products that later prove themselves to be dangerous, such as thalidomide, but products they already know to be dangerous.

Such as tobacco.

Such as cars with vulnerable fuel tanks.

Such as hot coffee capable of producing 3rd degree burns.

Industry has repeatedly demonstrated even when regulatory agencies were fully authorized and funded that they knowingly hide damaging information from public, scientific, and governmental review, all so their stock holders could make more money.

So when the GMO producers want to hide the fact that some of our food supply contains GMO produce despite the fact they have well established procedures and mechanisms in place to track such crops so that they can bill farmers, then we see red flags being waved everywhere.

Something is not right in this picture,
and it isn’t the fact people are
ill-informed on GMO crops.

What the GMO producers are saying when they demand there be no labels on GMO crops is that their right to make money supersedes their customers’ right to make informed purchases for any reason.

Maybe you don’t like the taste of something.

Maybe the color or the texture doesn’t appeal to you.

Maybe you want to buy only from local farmers.

Maybe whether it’s organic or GMO, you still say it’s spinach and you still say to hell with it.

The fact is that you the consumer have every right in the world to make a purchase based on your own personal choices, and no one has the right to trick you into buying something you do not wish to purchase.

If the GMO producers were 100% certain there were no long term health risks to GMO crops, why would they be opposed to GMO crops being labeled as such?

Okay, say a certain percentage of the “free market” opposes them and won’t buy foodstuffs with GMO ingredients.

So what?

The people who do purchase GMO crops will be buying better quality (it will be better, won’t it?) and cheaper priced (it will be cheaper, right?) food than their neighbors who don’t.

After 10 – 20 – 30 years with no health problems, pretty much everybody on the planet comes around to the fact that GMOs pose no health risk and everybody except for the real health food fanatics are buying them.

I mean, it’s not like they won’t make
money between now and then, right?

And the patents will run for gawdawful long periods of time, so they’ll still be reaping the benefits — literally and financially — of GMO crops a century from now.

Why don’t they want us to know if there are GMO crops in our food supply?

See, our thinking goes like this: 
In many cases GMO crops are designed to withstand lavish amounts of pesticides and herbicides, significantly higher than the current acceptable levels. We know the pesticides and herbicides are relatively harmless over a human lifetime at their current dosage; we don’t know if multiplying those doses by a factor of two or four or eight times is going to have long term health problems.

We know what Agent Orange did to people with even mere passing exposure to it so you can’t say our concerns are groundless.

What we wonder is if the GMO producers, like the tobacco companies, do not want a paper trail pointing back to it in the event there proves to be a long term health problem in the future. To us, that indicates they are not 100% convinced increased pesticide / herbicide use will be harmless, even though said pesticides / herbicides are supposed to break down in nature and be rendered harmless before the crops enter the human food supply.

It also makes us wonder how well our ecosystem will react to massive extra doses of supposedly harmless compounds entering our water tables, our soil, and our oceans.  This is not a groundless fear!  We’ve seen the damage fertilizers can do to once pristine fresh water supplies in Florida and other places, not to mention laundry detergents.

What the GMO producers want is this:

  1. To use deception to force us to buy products we have no trust in
  2. To hide the trail leading back to them if anything goes wrong

Sorry, no.

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Branded

1/07/2016

Adam-Troy Castro recently kicked off an interesting discussion regarding the connect / disconnect between artists and their works.

It’s an ancient debate:
How much of the artist’s personal behavior impacts the quality of the art?
How good does art have to be to justify being enjoyed separate from knowledge of the artist?

There are a lot of artists out there with truly shitty behavior. Not just cranky / snarky / hit-the-bottle-too-much behavior but murder, betrayal, treason, bigotry, genocide, etc., etc., and of course, etc.

And there’s no one-size-fits-all pat answer. You tell me Jerry Lee Lewis[1] acts like a loon, married an underage teen cousin, knocks back pills and booze like nobody’s business, discharges firearms recklessly, says stupid and outrageous things, well…yeah…that’s what he does.

You listen to his music, you’re listening to the work of a madman.   You’re not shocked that his kind of music comes from that kind of person.

That’s his brand.

And, yeah, I know a lot of people roll their eyes at the term “brand” thinking it’s just Madison Avenue jargon but there is validity to the concept. Your “brand” is how the public perceives you; it’s different from a reputation which is a personal evaluation about you. A lot of people with crazy balls-to-the-walls brands have reputations as trustworthy individuals because behind their brand they are professionals who honor commitments and show up on time and do what they promise. You can trash a lot of hotel rooms if they know you’ll make the show the next night.

When Jerry Lee’s first cousin televangelist Jimmy Lee Swaggert gets caught again and again consorting with prostitutes, well, Jimmy takes a hit while Jerry gets a pass.

Jimmy’s brand was undermined by his personal behavior.

Now, none of this is to excuse bad behavior, but if you’re planning a career for yourself, plan one with the largest sandbox to play in. Fred Rogers had a long and honorable career because he never deviated from the Mr. Rogers brand; he was happy inside that particular sandbox and it served him well.

But if you decide to get in a Mr. Rogers-size sandbox, you can’t suddenly hop out and run over to the Jerry Lee Lewis sandbox to play.[2]

If you want to play in both boxes you can, but you have to establish yourself in advance as the sort of person who can play in both boxes.

Bill Cosby and Woody Allen have specifically built careers on either being staunch moralists or in asking probing questions about morality. By the very nature of their subject matter, their work and their lives were inextricably intertwined. Egregious bad behavior raises legitimate questions about how valid their observations are.

In Cosby’s case, an apparent long career as a serial rapist draws into question the legitimacy of all the morality expressed in the Fat Albert and Cosby Show episodes; those programs often take on a creepy tone now in their new context. In Allen’s case, having neither the self-restraint nor the common sense to avoid entering into a relationship that was certain to have a devastating impact on many peoples’ lives makes one wonder if Allen ever really meant anything he said in his films, or if it was all posturing to suck in a specific type of audience.

To Allen’s partial defense, he repeatedly warned people he was not the person he appeared to be, that he harbored deep and vile secret thoughts, and that he was capable of terrible behavior. The problem was those things were always said in the context of a self-depreciating interview in which Allen joked about other aspects of his life: His audience did not take his statements seriously.

It’s like having a friend come over to your house and jokingly say, “Lock up your silverware because otherwise I’ll steal it” and you laugh and have a good time while they’re visiting and the moment they’re gone you realize your silverware is missing.

“Well, I told you I was going to steal it!”

Yes, but not in a way that anyone truly believed.

There are writers — Charles Bukowski or Jack Kerouac or William S. Burroughs — who are far more open and honest than Allen ever was with their personal lives. We can appreciate the beatific words from their typewriters because they have acknowledged their sins and shortcomings and have said their work is an attempt to reconcile their demons with their angelic longings.[3]

It’s not a new phenomenon. Google Lewis Carroll or Charles Dickens and scope out their pretty egregious bad behavior. In both cases it was widely known at the time, but never brought to the public’s attention in a manner that affected their sales (though for Carroll it ultimately cost him much socially).

They needed that social hypocrisy in order to present a brand for one thing while indulging in behavior that completely undercut what they became publicly associated with.

In Dickens’ case, what he wrote is now seen as a window into the past, not necessarily as something with exact applications today. In Carroll’s case, as too often the case for other fairy tales as well, what he wrote has been whitewashed and divorced from its original purpose and context.

Conversely, Mary Wollstonecraft used her notoriety to gain an audience for Frankenstein and her other works, including her political writings.

Ironically, that gave her freedom she probably wouldn’t have found had she not been associated with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron[4].

Back to the question at hand:
When and how to judge the work in relation to the artist?

Again, no easy answers. There are times and circumstances when many crimes can be forgiven in the light of one transcendent moment, there are others when an entire oeuvre should be cast aside.

Ultimately, we have to judge our decisions on what to keep or discard by what we are.

a warning from Wm S BUrroughs

[1] Holy #%@$! That fncker’s 80 years old and still touring!!! Geeze, with six sets of alimony payments I guess he has to.

[2] That blade cuts both ways. If you wrote speeches for Ku Klux Klan leaders and other white supremacists and do not have a public come-to-Jesus moment where you denounce your past, don’t expect the book you write about Native American spirituality under a Native American pen name to stay on anyone’s must-read list no matter how good the contents may be viz The Education Of Little Tree. Likewise if you claim to have a tragic past as a hard-scrabble street thug and dope addict but turned yourself around, then you better have a rap sheet to back it up, viz A Million Little Pieces.

[3] Burroughs in particular. Long before he burst into mainstream attention, he was one of many early beats who led a reckless bohemian lifestyle. He killed his wife Joan Vollmer, herself a young poet in the beat movement of the early 1950s, in a drunken William Tell game at a party; she put a cup on her head for him to pick off with a pistol shot and he blew her brains out. That the horror and guilt and self-loathing at what he had done forever changed him and ultimately set him on his path as a writer is a valid observation, nonetheless Vollmer’s death is too often treated as a footnote to his success and not a monumental tragedy in her own right.

[4] It’s not always bad behavior that undercuts one’s brand. Too many clowns die tragic deaths, Robin Williams being among the most recent. For him a lifetime of severe depression was held at bay by the brand of a zany comedian; after establishing himself with that brand he expanded on it (but never truly left it) by veering off into comedy drama, then drama with humor, and finally straight drama. We can look back now and see the arc of his illness in how his brand shifted and expanded. Because he successfully expanded his brand towards the end, Williams will live on in the public memory a lot longer than others who just presented their manic side to the world until their demons caught up with them. Williams is tragic, they’re just sad.

 

 

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Why So Angry, Buzzy-boy?

28/06/2016

I’ve had people ask me why I get so angry over certain kinds of posts.

It’s because I’m not stupid, I know how to readI know my history.

You say: “Syrian”
I hear: “Italian”

You say: “Muslim”
I hear: “Catholic”

You say:
“We shouldn’t let those Middle Eastern Muslims into this country. Their cultural values are too different from ours, they’ll never assimilate. Anyway, they owe their allegiance to Islam, not America. They want to impose Islamic laws and religion on us. They’re nothing but a murderous bunch of gang-raping violent terrorist thugs; if they aren’t full fledged members of ISIS then they’re supporting them and they won’t tell the police about Al-Q’aeda activity. Their culture hates women and exploits children. What have they ever contributed to the world except crime and bloodshed? Send ‘em all back where they came from!”

I hear:
We shouldn’t let those Italian Catholics into this country. Their cultural values are too different from ours, they’ll never assimilate. Anyway, they owe their allegiance to the Catholic church, not America. They want to impose Catholic laws and religion on us. They’re nothing but a murderous bunch of gang-raping violent terrorist thugs; if they aren’t full fledged members of the Mafia they’re supporting them and they won’t tell the police about Mafia activity. Their culture hates women and exploits children. What have they ever contributed to the world except crime and bloodshed? Send ‘em all back where they came from!

Think I’m exaggerating?

anti Italian cartoon 3

Read

anti Italian cartoon Ganges1876

‘Em

anti Italian cartoon 1

And

anti Italian Demons+loose+in+New+Orleans

Weep

To this day prejudice exists against Italians, not necessarily the vile bigotry of the late 19th and early 20th century, but prejudice nonetheless

Who are the most famous Italians in America?

The Corleones and the Sopranos.

anti Italian Mr._Big_Render

When Americans think of Italians, they usually think of the mob, the Black Hand, “the La Cosa Nostra”*, not the scientists and the scholars and the explorers and the engineers and the artists and the composers and the musicians and the poets and the writers and the film makers.

“The mass media has consistently ignored five centuries of Italian American history, and has elevated what was never more than a minute subculture to the dominant Italian American culture.” — “Hollywood vs Italians”, The Italic Way, a publication of The Italic Institute of America, Vol XXVII, 1997

Wow! Does that sound familiar?!?!?

So, yeah, I get a little short tempered when I hear somebody ranting and raving against “them” because what I hear instead of “them” is “your mother” or “your grandchildren” or “your cousins” or “your wife”.

I can’t be around my family 24/7 to protect them. All I can do is be willing to stand up for others who are the targets of bigotry and defend them against hatred and ignorance when I see it. It would be great if those whom we defend would then in turn defend us and ours when we are threatened, but truth be told, we don’t really need that kind of quid pro quo.

It’s enough that some ignoramuses spreading the hate start to look over their shoulder, wondering if they’re going to get called out for posting unverified nonsense.

If all I can do is make those people have second thoughts before posting — at the very least making sure they have their facts straight before sharing a hate bomb — then I’ve helped turn back the dial on hatred and prejudice just a smidge.

If that’s all I can do,
that’s all I can do.

But I’ll do it.

I know who my friends are.

And I know who my enemies are.

anti Italian cartoon 6

* Literally “The The Our Thing” to use the terminology of ignorant anti-Italian-American bigots who heard criminals euphemistically refer to “this thing of ours” when discussing gang activities and assumed “cosa [thing] nostra [ours]” was a proper name.

 

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The Elephants’ Graveyard

27/06/2016

save for 2016

I’m coming around to the thought that Donald Trump is an outlier so unexpected, so grandiose that he will — official party nominee or not — have the effect of a wrecking ball on the GOP’s national political brand.

They will not vanish immediately at the end of this election cycle — like the Dixiecrats they’ll probably hang on for another decade or so — but they have lost all external credibility and too much internal support.

Every political party, to enjoy long term success, needs several things:
Rank and file volunteers who ring the doorbells and hand out the flyers, donors up and down the economic spectrum, a leadership coterie that not only crafts long terms strategies and goals but can also step in and stop any brushfires before they engulf the party.

For a party to succeed, there must be some cohesive unity from the top down, the bottom up, and the middle out. When one set of outliers obtains dominance, it is not good for the party as a whole.

Hedrick Smith has done an excellent job tracking down the ever increasing influence of big business in this country, and their willingness to aid, abet, and encourage bigotry of all stripes so long as it meant more money for them. Check out his timeline on Who Stole The American Dream and see how the damage was done.

Where once political parties were supported by donations up and down the financial spectrum, now through conservative Supreme Court rulings by conservative Supreme Court justices appointed by conservative presidents, big money has pretty much taken over both parties.

The Democrats, for all their sins and shortcomings, are still able to say to their big donors, “Whoa, if you want that, you’ve got to do something for the common citizens.”

It may not be enough,
but at least it’s something.

The Republicans, however, have degenerated into nothing but a mouthpiece for the ultra-rich and multi-national corporations. The big donors funded the original “Tea Bag Party” (until Google embarrassingly showed them what “tea bagging” was all about, leading to their name change); any ground root organizations that sprang up at that time were quickly subsumed by the big donor led organizations.

And while the original tea bag partiers might have represented a variety of ethnic and religious groups, it very quickly became dominated by white Christians, and far too many of those were outright bigots.

The Southern strategy of Richard Milhous Nixon runs in a straight line from the anti-integration Dixiecrats of the late 1940s through him to Ronald Reagan and up to the post-Bush / anti-Obama opportunists we see today.

I know people who identified with the tea partiers nee tea baggers in early 2008 and they got upset when the tea party was identified as the party of white racists because, as they were quick to point out, they weren’t white and / or they weren’t racists.

And they weren’t…but they belonged to a group that had no qualms about accepting large numbers of white bigots into its ranks and supporting candidates who espoused white racist talking points.

Lie down with pigs,
get up smelling
like pig shit.

Most of those people, while still holding to conservative positions, now no longer identify with the tea partiers.

That should be held to their credit.

The problem is, that by enabling big money donors easy access, the GOP leadership not only turned a blind eye to the racist dog whistles the tea partiers sent out but on many occasions puckered up and blew along with them.

As long as their corporate donors were happy, the GOP was happy. And as long as the big money donors got to keep more money and pay less in wages and taxes, they were happy. As long as the rank and file had commie symp pinko rainbow feminazi social justice warrior liberals to hate, they were happy.

Funny thing:
The rank and file slowly began awakening to the fact that they were rapidly losing ground in modern America. Their wages and salaries stagnated, their pensions were looted, their homes were devalued in real estate bubbles.

The persons responsible are easy to locate, but neither party is eager to pursue them in the name of justice because, hey, donations…

But the divide springing up in the country was growing just as fast within the GOP itself.

And when Donald Trump, outlier extraordinaire, showed up and told the rank and file GOP the most fantastical lies that he was absolutely incapable of delivering on, well, what did they have to lose?

And the party splintered.

Right now the GOP is divided into two groups:
Those who are leaving and those riding the jettisoned anchor all the way to the bottom.

Those who are leaving cover a spectrum of people from those conservatives with personal integrity to career opportunists who have enough sense not to kill the goose laying the golden eggs.

Those staying are, to be perfectly frank, quite often bigots or else are willing to carry the water of bigots to advance their personal fortunes.

There is probably no walking the party back from this precipice. Those of foresight and integrity are no longer welcomed by the rank and file. The big donors now realize there is no upside to supporting the current GOP and are withholding their contributions.

The party has fractured:
Angry, mostly old white people; rational moderates and center-leaning-right professionals; big money donors unwilling to throw away money on a suicide mission.

It does not promise to be a happy election cycle for the GOP, and unless Trump implodes in a manner so spectacular and so shameful that even his most ardent supporters realize they were foolish to have ever believed anything he ever said, there appears to be no place for the GOP to go except down and out.

That is not the same thing as saying conservatism is over and done with as a political philosophy in this country.

Quite the contrary, there’s a rich opportunity opening up for moderate and leaning-slightly-right ex-Republicans to link up with dissatisfied conservatives and moderate-leaning-left-of-center Democrats to form a new party, hopefully one where they’ve learned the lessons of the Nixon-Reagan errors eras and offer platforms and candidates more representative of the nation as a whole than merely the 1%.

What will happen over the next decade? Well, with the standard caveat of “nobody knows for sure”, here is a scenario that I think is at least plausible:

  1. Trump destroys the GOP as a national party in 2016. The party becomes permanently tainted in the eyes of minority and independent voters. Trump blames his loss, at least in part, on lack of support by party establishment and big donors, thus further cementing the divide between rank and file and GOP leadership.
  2. The Libertarians benefit in the short run, having their best national showing ever though coming nowhere near close to winning the White House. All the GOP protest votes will go to the Libertarians, all the Democratic protest votes will go to the Green Party. Neither Libertarians nor Green Party are in a good field position to capitalize on that; they are perceived as too tightly focused for local races. If the Libertarians can figure out how to compromise without appearing to sell out, they might be able to start winning more local races and thus move into legitimate national party status. Ideological purity comes at a terrible cost (just ask the GOP).
  3. Rational Republicans, driven from their party, reach out to moderate Democrats and form a new party. Assuming they can flip non-tea party GOP officials in state and congressional posts, they can start with a power base already in place and not have to build one from scratch. The big money gravitates in this direction, especially as this new party aggressively woos moderate minority and millennial voters with a more inclusive pitch.
  4. The Democrats dominate politics for the next couple of decades much the same way conservative Republicans dominated politics from 1968 to 2008. By the time they wear out their welcome and have their turn being on the political outs, most of the policies established in the Reagan era will have been rescinded and reversed. The new moderate-leaning-conservative party will gain traction through fiscal responsibility, not ideological purity.
  5. What is left of the GOP staggers on for a few years, perhaps a decade or so, much like the Dixiecrats of old (and, truth be told, that’s who a vast number of the Trump supporters really are: Rebranded Dixiecrats). 2016 marks the official end of their viability as a national party (though historians may cite 2008 as the actual end); if they continue to exist and wield power it is on a state-by-state basis, not as a cohesive / coherent national party. More likely by 2028 they are reduced to a post office box number relying on octogenarians and older voters to donate whatever they can off of their meager Social Security, and by 2040 death, dementia, destitution, and decrepitude have claimed all of their base.

 

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