The litterbox is full.

Because life can’t be all despair over the country or the weather or one’s lack of preparedness for the upcoming holiday, I devoted a small bit of time today to absorbing Art in the form of a short story that evidently has half of men’s-rights Twitter running around with their hair on fire and their butts extremely hurt.

It’s called “Cat Person.” Go ahead and read it; it’s pretty good. Not to spoil, but it tells the story of a doomed kinda-relationship that’s mostly carried on via electronic devices. It doesn’t end well, and features an explicit – for the New Yorker – sex scene that should ring true to anyone who’s ever had bad sex, which I assume = pretty much everyone. It also touches on a number of ripped-from-the-headline themes. Which explains the butthurt.

The reaction to the story has its own Twitter account. Don’t look before you read the story. And if you read it, be sure to read the Q&A with the author, too.

Man, pop culture lighting up over a piece of fiction that isn’t “Gone Girl” or “50 Shades”? This is a banner day. And it’s only Monday.

And Mario Batali is the first sexual harasser of the week to go down in flames. I don’t watch cooking shows, but I know who he is – the ponytail guy who has a house in northern Michigan and hung a lot with Jim Harrison before he died. I am, how you say, not surprised. Isn’t this sort of the culture of commercial kitchens? An old boyfriend of mine used to be a server in a white-tablecloth place, and told stories that curled my hair, one involving a chef throwing knives across the kitchen at some waiter who’d displeased him. Sex shenanigans would seem to be an improvement.

And tomorrow (today if you read this Tuesday) is Roy Moore’s fate. That’ll be a fun one to bat around. Or maybe consider emigration/suicide over.

What am I talking about? He’s going to win.

It’s snowing where I am. May it cover all of our sins.

Posted at 8:58 pm in Current events, Media | 47 Comments
 

Right, wrong, other.

My mind is awhirl this morning, people. Awhirl. First I read Dahlia Lithwick’s entirely accurate piece in Slate, which carries the headline The Uneven Playing Field and should be subtitled, “the case for mud.” She points out what is obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together:

Is (Franken’s resignation) the principled solution? By every metric I can think of, it’s correct. But it’s also wrong. It’s wrong because we no longer inhabit a closed ethical system, in which morality and norm preservation are their own rewards. We live in a broken and corroded system in which unilateral disarmament is going to destroy the very things we want to preserve.

This is the case many of you were making in comments yesterday. It’s the one I’ve made in the local debate at the University of Michigan, where Richard Spencer wants to speak sometime soon. He has retained a lawyer who is, like him, a white nationalist. The smart people around here are saying yes, let him speak, but the public discussion is all high-minded First Amendment chin-stroking. I have long been bothered by this, as it fails to consider that Spencer, Milo, et al are not coming to the Marketplace of Ideas (motto: “your credit is good here!”) in good faith. Rather, they’re seeking to stir up antifa and generate another few minutes of civil-unrest video they can peddle to Fox News, which will in turn use it to frighten your parents in their retirement communities.

To be sure, U-M appears to be on to them:

In response to a request from Cameron Padgett of Spencer’s National Policy Institute, UM offered the group four dates – Nov. 29, Nov. 30, Dec. 27 and Dec. 28 – “but none of them have been convenient for the event organizers,” Bristow said.

School was/is not in session on any of those dates, of course.

And then there’s David Brooks’ much-discussed column today, the cri de coeur of the not-insane, not-corrupt, nice Republican:

There is no end to what Trump will ask of his party. He is defined by shamelessness, and so there is no bottom. And apparently there is no end to what regular Republicans are willing to give him. Trump may soon ask them to accept his firing of Robert Mueller, and yes, after some sighing, they will accept that, too.

That’s the way these corrupt bargains always work. You think you’re only giving your tormentor a little piece of yourself, but he keeps asking and asking, and before long he owns your entire soul.

Well, duh. But at the risk of setting off Coozledad again, this is the party its voters have chosen. And chosen, and chosen. A little hand-wringing by liberals’ favorite conservative isn’t going to change that. You may accuse me of paying too much attention to my former employer, but I was genuinely interested in how their staunch conservative editorial page was going to handle its 2016 presidential endorsement. The editor who ran it calls himself a libertarian, and always will. He’s also offended by populism in a way that only a autodidactic conservative can be. I figured they’d go for Gary Johnson, but no. The ensuing editorial was a masterpiece of nonsense and nose-holding, and began with a line probably no journalist has ever written before: “Thank God for Mike Pence.” The argument was that populist Trump will flame out early, and then we’ll get rock-solid conservative Pence, and All Will Be Well. It’s an argument that was stupid the day it was published, and even stupider today, when the flameout shows no sign of being nigh.

The hole we’re in keeps getting deeper, though. Funny how that happens.

Oh, well. Let’s pop to the bloggage:

I’ve said before that Amazon product customer reviews will be winning Mark Twain awards before I die, and I stand by that statement, in this case for the Make America Great Again hat Christmas ornament:

Not happy. We hung it on the tree, and within minutes it worked its way up the branches and assaulted the 14-year-old angel on the top.

An excellent Vice News video piece about the role tax foreclosure plays in Detroit. Sounds boring, isn’t.

Because I have to leave you with something uplifting, here’s this: We can’t take any more of 2017, so we’ve turned to the Hallmark Channel in desperation. Hilarious:

(T)he Hallmark Channel — and its sister channel, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries — has released, in 2017 alone:

“Thirty-three movies,” Vicary says.

Thirty-three movies.

They work on them year-round, each put together quickly, with a modest budget of a few million dollars, and then they debut a new one almost every night in December.

They are always Christmas-focused but tend to celebrate the season rather than Jesus Christ. They are often about a high-powered career woman who needs an invitation to slow down. She is played by someone from that show you used to watch circa 1992-1998. She will meet a moderately attractive man who looks like an Old Spice commercial. The plot might be reminiscent of a specific big-budget feature film, except smaller budget, and with Christmas.

Good weekend, all.

Posted at 11:09 am in Current events | 55 Comments
 

Fast news day.

What a day to be working all day in Lansing – John Conyers quits, and…well, it was big news here. This remarkable column from the alt-weekly should give you an idea what things had come to by the time he stepped down. Bonus: It includes the phrase “polishing his knob.” In the lead!

(I would have messed with that, had this been mine to edit. Did he call it polishing the knob, or is that the writer’s euphemism? Also, I just want a lot more detail about the quid pro quo.) And it seems knob-polishing is only part of what was wrong in that office by the time its leader threw in the towel. To be sure, congressional offices can be efficient no matter whose name is on the door, as long as the staff is competent. But there’s a line.

Then there was the Russia Olympic ban, which led me to this story, which led me to watch the film in question, “Icarus,” last night. Highly recommended if you have Netflix – it’s that rare documentary that is simultaneously funny, serious, eye candy and important. It’s about sports doping, but it’s fascinating to watch in light of what we now know about Russian election interference. These people do not play, and the fact our president admires Vladimir Putin will eventually go down as a shameful chapter in American history, assuming we survive it. So do so.

Back to our sexual-harassment theme, you may have already seen this NYT piece, their follow-up to the Weinstein story. It’s devastating, in that it details the webs of accomplices, both active and passive, who allowed him to get away with his activities for so many years. The part about the National Enquirer is particularly nauseating. You think you can’t lower your opinion of those guys any more, and then you have to. Because, as Josh Marshall tweeted today, in calling it a “deeply malevolent” force in American life, “beyond just publishing exposes it’s also a kind of protection racket and enforcer for some of the county’s worst people.” Amen, brother.

Got some work to do, so I’m-a do it. Happy hump day, all.

Posted at 11:17 am in Current events, Media | 72 Comments
 

Feeling less wondrous.

How was my weekend? Well, it started with deciding to stay in Friday night and rent a movie (“In Bruges”), because Alan had just finished a brutal week. I turned off the movie at 9:30 and went upstairs to read because he was snoring so loud I couldn’t hear the dialogue anymore.

Some weeks are just like that. Although the movie was good, even if I had to watch it in halves. We stayed awake for Saturday night’s choice, “Wonder Woman,” although it also filled me with despair because god, SUPERHERO MOVIES ARE SO BORING. They’re about 30 percent longer than the story needs to be, and all end with a huge battle that goes on and on and on, and has zero tension because you know who’s going to win, or, perhaps, lose in a sequel-y setup. I understand that people see these movies for the other stuff, in this case Gal Gadot in a metal bustier, but let me just say this: The smartest thing DC Comics ever came up with was Kryptonite, because otherwise, Superman is just another dude in tights who wins every fight. Wonder Woman can leap a quarter-mile, and that’s when she isn’t flying or jumping from great heights to land lightly on her feet, stopping a barrage of machine-gun fire with her shield, or random bullets with her wristbands, or squeezing the truth out of someone with her Golden Lariat of Justice, a handy lie detector she keeps tied to the utility-belt portion of her metal bustier.

I’d like to see Wonder Woman start throwing that thing around Washington D.C. these days. Now that would be a movie.

But these are quibbles, people. Quibbles! However, my weekend was about as low-key as could be, which was good, because we didn’t go to Noel Night in Midtown, where three people were shot, and we didn’t get up early to watch the implosion of the Silverdome, which was hilarious. To save you a click: The sequential charges all went off as planned, and then the stadium…failed to collapse. “Built too well,” the engineering firm concluded. Now, though, you have to figure it’s a real shitshow, however, because who’s going to want to go back in that thing after a series of explosions? Maybe a daisy-cutter would take care of it.

And with that, we turn to the weekend’s discouraging words:

You know what we need? Another dispatch from Trump country.

Today’s can-you-imagine-this-headline-three-years-ago story: Trump moves to block Romney from the Senate.

Finally, a note: J.C. and I are tinkering with the Amazon links — the Kickback Lounge shut down, as a few of you have noted — and will try to get a replacement in place eventually. It never amounted to much money, but it was a little, and I always appreciated those of you who used it. Let a worthy successor rise in its place. If any of you have experience with the Amazon Associates program, I’m all ears.

Posted at 9:43 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments
 

Lights, camera, Fellini.

So, the Washington Post/Project Veritas story. Of course you’re allowed the belly laughs you undoubtedly had, watching James O’Keefe’s moron underling try to “cancel” her interview with the Post reporter batting her around like a cat with a mouse. But once you’ve had them, consider what this is saying about our particular moment.

O’Keefe sent this woman on her mission, apparently in the belief that Washington Post reporters would say, in essence, “Tell me your story and I will immediately put it in the newspaper. Will it affect the election? Oh my, yes. Judge Roy Moore is finished, I tell you. Finished!”

And if they wouldn’t use those exact words, well, they can always fix it in post. (TV joke there.)

I guess what amazes me most about this caper is how…not just dumb, but ignorant it was. You don’t have to know much about how reporting is done to be flabbergasted that anyone thought this would work. Or, giving them credit for a few more IQ points, assume they knew it wouldn’t work, but they could get enough to piece together something their supporters would accept as Stickin’ it to the Man, and keep O’Keefe in $300,000 worth of high cotton for a little while longer.

I read somewhere that bloggers — bloggers! — at Breitbart are knocking down six figures a year. This gravy train has many cars; in Tomi Lahren’s, you can get you hair highlighted. But how long will the people who pay for the coal to keep it running down the track keep doing so?

The trouble is that many of these rich donors are out of touch with reality (if I had a billion dollars and nobody ever told me “no,” I would probably be out of touch, too). Rather than investing in the tedious and time-consuming work of incremental gain, they demand instant gratification. Rather than supporting young conservatives who have a steady working-class temperament, they fawn over eccentric young dreamers with delusions of grandeur.

Meanwhile, lots of deserving conservative causes and individuals wither on the vine.

What a world, when a whole, well-funded organization is built on telling lies to support a candidate alleged to have molested young teens. AMERICA.

I was going to write more on this, but again, my feeble efforts have been overtaken by events. Today? Matt Lauer, aka the Phantom Graduate of Ohio University. (Seriously. I graduated from the j-school there the same time he did, and I have zero memory of him. Assuming he may have been in a different sequence, like radio-TV, well, J.C. was a fixture in that department, and he doesn’t remember him either. None of our classmates, ditto. Weird.) More chainsaws can be heard in the forest, and more trees will be falling soon.

One of the women I swim with said today, while we were showering, that all of 2017 seems like a Fellini movie. Either that, or Kubrick:

What a natural-born model that lady is. So expressive.

Happy Wednesday. all.

Posted at 8:43 am in Current events, Media | 166 Comments
 

Piled higher and deeper.

I don’t know why I let these things bother me. There are so, so many things to be bothered by in the world, why choose today’s? Perhaps because higher education is the era the Nall/Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere is in. Perhaps because my former employer did a lot of reporting around it, for very good reasons. And maybe because ignorant goobers get on my nerves, and it’s hard to find one more ignorant than this guy:

“Why does a kid go to a major university these days?” said Frank Antenori, 51, a former Green Beret who served in the Arizona state legislature. “A lot of Republicans would say they go there to get brainwashed and learn how to become activists and basically go out in the world and cause trouble.”

Antenori is part of an increasingly vocal campaign to transform higher education in America. Though U.S. universities are envied around the world, he and other conservatives want to reduce the flow of government cash to what they see as elitist, politically correct institutions that often fail to provide practical skills for the job market.

This is a long WashPost piece, part of their occasional series about the cultural divides in American life. Higher ed is emerging as one of them, and how’s that for depressing news? As the world’s economy moves into another era, as some form of post-secondary education becomes essential to gaining a foothold in the middle class, of course these folks start a war on it.

Or rather, not a war on all higher ed; note the sneer is directed at “a major university,” not, for instance, Grand Canyon University, a “for-profit Christian school in Phoenix” where Antenori earned an MBA. That’s the good kind of higher ed, whereas major universities exist only to teach nice American kids to hate their country and decide they’re really transgender and want to be called by a new set of pronouns.

Virtually every assertion about the value of a college education made by Antenori is false, but I think I know now what really needled me about this piece, and it’s that once again, the casual racism that is at the heart of American life is displayed but not called by its name:

Antenori views former president Barack Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer who taught at the University of Chicago Law School, as the embodiment of the liberal establishment. Antenori said liberal elites with fancy degrees who have been running Washington for so long have forgotten those who think differently.

“If you don’t do everything that their definition of society is, you’re somehow a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal cave man,” Antenori said.

Antenori was drawn to Trump, he said, because he was the “reverse of Obama,” an “anti-politically correct guy” whose attitude toward the status quo is “change it, fix it, get rid of it, crush it, slash it.”

Even though Trump boasts of his Ivy League degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Antenori said he “had a different air about him.” Unlike Obama, Trump has not emphasized the importance of Americans going to college.

Hmm, what else makes those men different? Also, note this:

Antenori said many young people would be better off attending more affordable two-year community colleges that teach useful skills and turn out firefighters, electricians and others. Obama promoted that same idea, launching new efforts to boost community college and workplace training. But Antenori said he believes Obama pushed young people too hard toward four-year degrees.

It’s the Johnstown story all over again: I like Trump because he doesn’t do X, like Obama did. But Obama didn’t do that, and Trump does, and here are the facts that prove it. Oh. Well, I still like Trump better, because Obama? Such a snob. And so the New York City libertine, raised in wealth and buoyed throughout his life by inherited wealth, is accepted as the self-made man, while the middle-class boy from the broken home, who struggled and rose on the merits of his intellect, taking on significant student loans along the way, is an elitist, because he speaks in complete sentences. But these people, they don’t have a racist bone in their bodies, right?

These things are facts and will remain facts: A college education, as expensive as it is, is still the e-ticket to prosperity for anyone who gets one. College isn’t, never was, and shouldn’t ever be a trade school. (Antenori believes state support of higher ed should be limited to “degrees, such as those in engineering, medicine or law, that lead directly to jobs,” because of course he does, and I guess he knows no out-of-work lawyers.) It’s a place where a person should learn to think, to analyze, to problem-solve and, in a best-case scenario, to expand their horizons. This may include meeting transgender people who want to be called ze or they, and then doing so. This is not a bad thing. It prepares you for life.

And now I’m done with that guy. Although I’ll say one more thing: The people who claim college students are goofing off with puffball classes on diversity and veganism and gender studies have no idea what they’re talking about. I generally leave Kate out of this blog, but I’ll use her as a case in point. She’s studying sound engineering, in a fine-arts sequence, and at an elite university, which should make her one of these softies that toughies like Antenori are sneering at. And she works harder in school than I or her father ever did. She takes math and science classes, computer coding, taught herself 3-D printing design and a million other things I doubt Frank Antenori, Grand Canyon University alum (Go Antelopes!), could do with one of his beloved guns pointed at his head. And yes, that includes jazz improv, but the hell with you, Frank, she earned her scholarship fair and square. Yes, she has a friend who claims non-binary gender status. Who cares? It’s a big school. There’s room for everyone.

And one more thing: I’ll believe they’re serious in this jihad when they start sending their kids to the many conservative higher-ed options out there. (Other than Antenori, that is, whose own sons are in the Army and “helping at home” on the family ranch.) Hillsdale is open for business, as is Brigham Young, Baylor and many more, but the Trump-level scions of that world are still enrolled at Dartmouth, Princeton, et al. But they’re not elitists, because they have a different air about them.

I see a few of you were discussing affordable housing in the previous thread. I’m reminded of a story I did for Bridge a while back — the link is dead, alas — about how Aspen and Jackson Hole solve their housing-affordability problem, a solution right out of the progressive playbook: They subsidize it. Heavily. More so in Aspen, but in both cities, if you want to live in town and aren’t a Silicon Valley zillionaire, you get subsidized housing. The funding mechanism is a tax on real-estate transactions, and when I talked to people there, they said it’s overwhelmingly popular, because without it, the town wouldn’t have a single teacher, bartender or even many doctors who didn’t have to live 40 miles away.

What else? Not much. Thanks for all the birthday greetings, which were very kind. We stayed in. Alan made spaghetti and meatballs. I got a nice cashmere sweater. And now I am 60. How the hell did that happen?

Posted at 1:59 pm in Current events | 85 Comments
 

The gratitude attitude.

Well, happy Thanksgiving to all. The holiday seems to expand every year, doesn’t it? I’ve read about young people, mainly women, referring to their “birthday month,” and expecting regular tributes throughout. That seems to be happening to this one, although who can complain, really? If you’re at work, you won’t be getting anything important done, unless you’re a police officer or an unlucky cashier at a grocery store. The white-collar world is phoning it in, or else shopping the Black Friday sales online, as I spent a chunk of yesterday doing. Like the holiday itself, they’ve expanded to the whole week. I can dig it.

So what are you thankful for? I’ll start with the trivial: I’m thankful for all the excellent shopping columns that have popped up in recent years, which help a person who doesn’t want to spend all day on the internet find the best deals. And yeah, I know they’re affiliate arrangements, but I don’t care. I’ve found several handy items I never would have even known about thanks to the Strategist, to name but one.

Also: Twitter, simultaneously a reason to get up in the morning and the bane of my existence (so hard to put down), a 24/7/365 cocktail party that, for all its infamous awfulness, also reassures me daily that I am not the only person who thinks X, not by a long shot. Kinda like this commentariat, actually.

What else? I have a new job, which is good news. It’s half-time, which is less-good news, but it’s a start. I’ll tell you more in a few days. This means I have to restart freelancing, a task that fills me with Ugh, but once it gets rolling, it’ll be easier.

No one is sick. Kate is investigating a study-abroad opportunity, and we have the money to pay for it. Our mortgage balance is down to a figure that doesn’t freak me out – thank you, 15-year loans. There’s a lot wrong with the world, but there’s still a lot that’s right. You can go online and, with a few clicks, and find dozens of videos showing turkeys attacking people. Turkeys were reintroduced to Michigan some years back, and they have thrived, not just here, but everywhere. Alan had to wait for a flock of about 25 to cross the road, the last time he went fishing up north.

So, on to the bloggage before I take a few days off, because Saturday is my birthday, and I won’t be back until Sunday/Monday. My first post-college job gave you a birthday personal day, and I try to keep that flame alive when I can.

There’s a Pulitzer Prize waiting to be mined from stories about how powerful forces are harnessing the internet for malign purposes. Here, the New York state AG explains:

In May 2017, researchers and reporters discovered that the FCC’s public comment process was being corrupted by the submission of enormous numbers of fake comments concerning the possible repeal of net neutrality rules. In doing so, the perpetrator or perpetrators attacked what is supposed to be an open public process by attempting to drown out and negate the views of the real people, businesses, and others who honestly commented on this important issue. Worse, while some of these fake comments used made up names and addresses, many misused the real names and addresses of actual people as part of the effort to undermine the integrity of the comment process. That’s akin to identity theft, and it happened on a massive scale.

I have some thoughts about the John Conyers story, most of which I’ll keep to myself for now. But this one I won’t: How BuzzFeed colluded with a notorious right-wing troll to bring you the story. Mike Cernovich’s role wasn’t revealed until paragraph 18, and his name mentioned only twice, within that paragraph. I have a problem with that.

So, then, happy holiday and long weekend to all. Go Lions. Go turkeys. Go have a nice meal.

Posted at 10:25 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 87 Comments
 

Exit Charlie.

I woke up a few minutes before the alarm this morning and reached for my bedside iPad, to catch up on the mayhem overnight. Learned Charles Manson had shuffled off the mortal coil, as all of us will, one day. For some reason, my sleepy brain took a hop and a skip to a newspaper in southern Indiana somewhere, whose editors used lurid headlines to describe the deaths of Soviet leaders: HELL’S POPULATION RISES BY ONE AS ANDROPOV KICKS THE BUCKET, for instance.

No, I don’t know if they did the same thing for criminals like Manson. Wouldn’t surprise me. As Charlie’s body reaches room temperature, it’s worth looking back on that crazy time in 1969-70 when the Manson family really and truly brought the peace-and-love part of the ’60s to a crashing end. I had an editor once tell me he went to bed at night convinced it was only a matter of time before John Dillinger came creeping through his bedroom window. Manson had nearly that effect on kids my age, almost-teens enthralled with the romance of the counterculture but too young to participate. The Manson crimes were so awful, in their randomness and savagery, that the bloodstain seeped from California all the way to Ohio and beyond.

Why that house? Why that other house? (Light a candle for the often-unmentioned second night of the spree, when Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, a couple of L.A. nobodies, were stabbed to death with bayonets.) Was Sharon Tate’s fetus really sliced from her body? The group at that house in the middle of the night revealed it as some sort of upmarket crash pad, with a hairdresser, an actress, an heiress and some random visitors in attendance when doom arrived. And the killers themselves were mostly women, with Manson not even in attendance at the Tate home. So many details to pore and obsess over. I took our household copy of Time magazine to my bedroom for weeks, reading about the crimes and, later, the manhunt, arrests and the insane trial. Manson initiated girls into the family with daylong sex marathons, I read, which sounded simultaneously intriguing and terrifying. (All day? Really? How does that work?)

And then, just when you thought you’d heard all you could hope to know or even handle about the case, the acts continued to reverberate, as when un-convincted Manson girl Squeaky Fromme pointed a gun at President Ford. (The other would-be Ford assassin, also a woman, that same month, was Sarah Jane Moore, who had her own weird attachment to California subculture; she is a minor character in the Patty Hearst kidnapping saga. You could look it up.) Of course, by then, the crimes had become a touchstone of late 20th-century American culture. Joan Didion’s essay about the case, in “The White Album” connection, gets it as right as anyone did, or ever will.

Manson was the bogeyman behind so much free-floating fear, even after he was revealed as another shitbird criminal, who chose the Tate-Polanski house because it had once been rented by Terry Melcher, a music producer Manson believed had stunted his destiny as a rock star. His infamy has transcended time and place; I chuckled when I watched an old Sopranos episode recently and Tony tells an angry mobster giving him the stinkeye to turn off “the Manson lamps.” Everyone knows what he’s talking about.

Manson is the rare case where I can come closer to agreeing with people who claim criminals commit lurid crimes to become famous. He was your basic white-trash west-coast sleazebag, who had the gift of attracting broken souls, at least for a while, and in horror gained a sort of permanent infamy that he thought was his due. We won’t forget him anytime soon.

This where are they now is instructive, if you haven’t kept up.

Did Charlie scare you? Or is it just me?

Posted at 11:08 am in Current events | 70 Comments
 

That’s funny.

So all of our nerves are a little…raw right now, amirite? So I asked Siri, “Siri, tell me a funny rape joke.”

She replied: “I can’t. I always forget the punchline.”

Which is pretty funny, when you think about it. So I googled “funny rape jokes,” and here’s what I got (by no means a complete list; this is Google, after all):

A 2016 article from Splinter, one of the Gawker Media sites, with this headline: Meet the woman making rape jokes that are actually funny. It’s about Adrienne Truscott, who does a one-woman stand-up show about you-know-what. She performs it in a denim jacket, push-up bra and platform shoes. No pants:

Truscott tells her audience that she understands why people didn’t believe Bill Cosby, the stand-up dad of America, could rape anyone because a rapist is usually someone you know and trust. She jokes about how ironic it is that Tosh is “the poster child for rape jokes” because “he looks exactly like a date rapist: college educated, white and clean cut.” She role plays with men in the audience, putting cream in their coffee and milk in their cereal even when they tell her no over and over again. She says that while women are blamed for wearing clothes that lure a rapist in, all a rapist has to wear is “pants and a blind look of entitlement.” She forces members in the audience to not only laugh at her jokes, but to laugh at the ignorant philosophy of everyone from men in Congress to men catcalling on the streets.

“The one thing [women] don’t ever want to do is fuck that guy on the corner,” Truscott says.

I’d see that show. I bet I’d laugh. Back to Google:

More stand-up comedy, this time in Canada. Tip to the writer: If you report a whole story about comedians exploring rape and can’t find one joke worth including, turn in your press card. Unless this was the best you can do:

Cooper told the audience about a love note left for her by a man who, after consensual sex, proceeded to remove the condom and reinsert himself.

In the note, he had spelled the word “beautiful” wrongly. “Which made me realise that I need to get standards,” she joked. “Rapists’ standards. I want a smart rapist who can understand and spell hard words like, ‘communication’, ‘consent’ and ‘coercion’.”

Not funny, but this is Canada, after all. The Nation tried harder, and found some; I like Wanda Sykes’:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our pussies were detachable? Just think about it. You get home from work, it’s getting a little dark outside, and you’re like, ‘I’d like to go for a jog…but it’s getting too dark, oh! I’ll just leave it at home!’… [There’s] just so much freedom—you could do anything. You could go visit a professional ball player’s hotel room at two in the morning. Sex? My pussy’s not even in the building!

See, here’s what I believe: Like Jon Carroll, I think nothing is not funny. Rape, pedophilia, Alzheimer’s disease – all are funny, or can be, in the right hands. It’s all in how you tell it, and who tells it. This is Humor 101, the section in the textbook called The Duh Intro.

Today, Rod Dreher got his knickers in a twist over the Uncle Roy sketches on “Saturday Night Live,” back when it was edgy and much, much funnier. Maybe you remember them? Gilda Radner and Laraine Newman played two little girls being babysat by their dad’s creepy friend, played by Buck Henry. Dreher was trying to link them to Al Franken, but it turns out they were written by two women, alas. I remember watching them and being simultaneously squicked out and laughing my ass off, which makes them pretty successful as humor. I won’t make excuses for them if people who actually went through that were re-traumatized; I get it, but I still laughed.

Nothing is not funny. Because humor is how we cope with tragedy and pain. Humor is a victims’ prerogative, though, not the perpetrator’s. That might be my rule. Or, as Nora Ephron put it in “Heartburn”:

Because if I tell the story, I control the version.
Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.
Because if I tell the story, it doesn’t hurt as much.
Because if I tell the story, I can get on with it.

Good weekend, all.

Posted at 12:48 pm in Current events | 62 Comments
 

A loud chorus.

Over the years, I’ve had many opportunities to teach writing, from classroom visits to fourth-graders to adjunct gigs at the local U. I’ve “taught,” so to speak, everything from fiction to journalism, with most falling in the personal-essay category, thanks to my long stint as a columnist. And if I had to boil down the best single bumper-sticker piece of advice I have, it’s this: Tell the truth. If you’re writing in your journal, tell the truth about your day and feelings about it. If you’re writing journalism, don’t make shit up. Fiction uses make-believe to tell truths that readers recognize. If you make the 17 syllables of a haiku paint a particular picture, make sure every brushstroke is correct.

Journalists are big believers in facts, but facts do not always add up to truth, and it’s this that’s been bothering me in recent years. It’s a fact that propagandists have set up vast informational networks that look like journalism, but aren’t. Consumers are too busy, distracted, ignorant or angry to insist on anything better. I don’t think it’s any mystery why I started watching MSNBC during the worst of the Iraq war; as I said of Twitter recently, I needed something that validated the angry voices in my head, and Keith Olbermann filled the bill. (For a while, anyway. Now he just chaps my ass.) Imagine being old and confused and fearful of death, and you can understand the appeal of Fox News pretty clearly.

Add to that the both-sides thing, in which it reporting on Something Bad being done by one politician must be matched by Something Bad done by someone on the other side. So you end up with Donald Trump’s buffet table of outrages contrasted with a private email server, or Uranium One.

Hey, at least we got some memes out of it. But her emails!

I was thinking about how traditional reporters can work better, smarter, without becoming beholden to one side. Because even though “both sides do it” is trite crap, both sides – all sides – definitely do stupid and newsworthy things that have to be reported on. It’s just that one side is doing so much more of it at the moment. But the pendulum will swing, as it always does.

These thoughts were pinging around my head when I heard this story explained on the NYT morning podcast.

On Sunday afternoon, when Elmer T. Williams’s wife told him that a mass shooting had taken place at a church in Texas, he leapt into action. First, he skimmed a handful of news stories about the massacre. Then, when he felt sufficiently informed, he went into his home video studio, put on his trademark aviator sunglasses, and hit record.

Roughly an hour later, Mr. Williams, 51, a popular right-wing YouTube personality who calls himself “The Doctor of Common Sense,” had filmed, edited and uploaded a three-minute monologue about the Sutherland Springs church shooting to his YouTube page, which had roughly 90,000 subscribers. Authorities had not yet named a suspect, but that didn’t deter Mr. Williams, who is black, from speculating that the gunman was probably “either a Muslim or black.”

… YouTube has long been a haven for slapdash political punditry, but in recent months, a certain type of hyper-prolific conspiracist has emerged as a dominant force. By reacting quickly and voluminously to breaking news, these rapid-response pundits — the YouTube equivalent of talk radio shock jocks — have successfully climbed the site’s search results, and exposed legions of viewers to their far-fetched theories.

It so happens I follow a disgraced former state rep on Facebook, a guy who started out far to the right and since his downfall, has drifted deep into these weeds. And I see this sort of thing on his page all the time. I don’t know if he’s weighed in on the Texas shooting, because he may still be hashing over the Las Vegas shooting. Did you know there was a second shooter? You don’t? You need to stop listening to the lamestream media, then, and here, allow me to show you a bit of video the authorities don’t want you to see.

He has lots of company. I followed a bunch of them back when I was trying to understand them better, and man — there’s a lot of them. And one thing these YouTube people are doing is blanking out the voices of the sane and the professional. You might think, big deal, they’re nuts. And they are, no doubt, or close to it. But their work is surprisingly effective at spreading misinformation at a critical time, in both how the event is processed in real time and in this moment in history. I promise you, you know someone who believes this shit:

His hit productions have included fact-challenged videos like “Barack and Michelle Obama Both Come Out The Closet,” which garnered 1.6 million views, and “Hillary Clinton Is On Crack Cocaine,” which had 665,000. He was admitted to YouTube’s partner program, which allows popular posters to earn money by displaying ads on certain types of videos, and claims to have made as much as $10,000 a month from his channel.

“I like to call myself a reporter who reports the news for the common person,” Mr. Williams said.

Real reporters don’t respond to this, for the same reason you don’t invite the crazy people who send you letters and leave 3 a.m. voicemails on your office phone to lunch. Maybe they should.

Oh, well. Related: How American politics went batshit crazy, an instructive timeline.

And finally, in case you wanted to be made even angrier today, let’s check in with Omarosa, shall we? A great read.

And I live in Wayne County. My previous permanent or semi-permanent addresses were in Franklin, Athens and Allen counties. BOR-ring.

Posted at 12:14 pm in Current events, Media | 105 Comments