Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Crush: Cate Blanchett's Tribute

So, Cate Blanchett read a tribute to Amy Adams at the IFP Gotham Awards.

Take a brief moment today, if you will, and imagine Cate Blanchett, Cate Blanchett who is also a master in in this profession, observing you at your job and then rendering such a compliment, below of which is only a snippet of what she says:
"I marvel at Amy's indefatigable curiosity, as a performer. It's the best listening/acting in the business by a country mile. And I don't know how she does it. But Amy appears sort of porous on the screen, not just inhabiting emotional states, but allow them to pull and unfold, a little like patches around her. It's almost as if she vibrates at a different intensity and wavelength for each performance, at a different wavelength from the rest of us. Without wobbling. And she can be so still, and contain so much, that it feels like she might just explode. She makes the ordinary extraordinary, with exquisite observation and detail. Her characters are profoundly accessible on screen, wide, wide open doors to allow the audience in, yet she has this uncanny parallel ability to realize people who hold a secret, and often from themselves, so they're full of mystery and magnetism."
Whoa. Flung out of space.

Meanwhile, I'm over here like, "I barely even know what to order for lunch."

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Election 2016 Fallout Part 9: On Resistance

Hi readers! I'm delighted to let you know that I have joined Shakesville as a new contributor.

(ps - I'll continue to write here in Fannie's Room, so don't worry the Xena posts aren't going anywhere!!)

Shakesville has been such an important resource both to my development as a progressive feminist over the years and during this past election. I'm so grateful to Melissa (and the contributor community) for welcoming me.

For my first post there, I am starting with the final installment of my Election 2016 Fallout pieces. This one is on the topic of resistance. You can read the whole thing at Shakesville, but here's a snippet:
On resistance

In my eyes, the quest to defeat Trump and what he stands for has already begun. Inherent in this struggle is survival. As some in the media ask us to collectively fixate on the navels of angry white people, especially men, I think back to those early Trump rallies when the press would show security escorting anti-Trump protestors out. Trump would encourage violence against them and you could see it on the screen, his supporters cackling with glee in the background.  "I'd really like to punch that guy," Trump would boast, while thousands of white faces laughed at their hateful avatar.

The part of me concerned with self-preservation tells me that these people laughed because Trump was acting out their violent fantasies, particularly against the politically correct, over whom Trump's win has become a symbolic victory.

I do not expect that people entertained by Trump's calls to violence will now be nicer to us with Trump in charge. No. They knew exactly what Trump is. It was part of his appeal. "We know what we're getting," they'd say. "He tells it like it is. That's why we love him." And so, on that basis, here is what I believe, via Liel Leibovitz:
"You should treat people like adults, which means respecting them enough to demand that they understand the consequences of their actions. Explaining away or excusing the actions of others isn’t your job. Vienna in the first decades of the 20th century was a city inflamed with a desire to better understand the motives, hidden or otherwise, that move people to action. Freud and Kafka, Elias Canetti and Karl Kraus, Stefan Zweig and Franz Werfel—these were the eminences who crowded the same caf├ęs Siegfried and his musician friends most likely frequented. But while these beautiful minds struggled to understand the world around them, the world around them was consumed by simpler and more vicious appetites. Don’t waste any time, then, trying to understand: Then as now, many were amused by the demagogue and moved by his vile vision. Some have perfectly reasonable explanations for their decisions, while others have little to go on but incoherent rage. It doesn’t matter. Voters are all adults, and all have made their choices, and it is now you who must brace for impact. Whether you choose to forgive those, friends and strangers alike, who cast their votes so deplorably is a matter of personal choice, and none but the most imperious among us would advocate a categorical rejection of millions based on their electoral actions, no matter how irresponsible and dim. So while you make these personal calculations, remember that what matters now isn’t analysis: It’s survival."
Keep reading here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Recap Wednesday: Supergirl 1.7 "Human for a Day"

Welp, true to its name, this episode begins with Supergirl having lost her powers due to the intense energy she spent fighting Red Tornado. Rest assured, she will gain her powers back once she absorbs sufficient radiation from the sun.

Humangirl promptly catches her first cold and then goes to CatCo with it. Two things: It's awful that so many workplaces have such shitty time-off policies that people often go to work sick and it's also awful being in workplaces being near people who have contagious colds/flu. Cat concurs, this is her upon hearing Kara's sniffles:

"You're sick? But that means we can't make out later."

Later, an earthquake strikes while Kara is walking down the street with James. Kara falls, "breaking her arm." Kara's "injury" results in James stripping off his shirt and making a sling for her. Scare quotes intended because it is in the realm of possibility that the arm thing was a ploy to get James to take his shirt off. Just kidding, her arm is probably broken. But still:

Kara and James make their way back to CatCo and, lo and behold, the world's second-most-egotistical man in the world, Max Lord, is on screen yammering about Supergirl being "the world's most unreliable hero" for not helping with the earthquake recovery. Here is my screenshot of him:
*fart noise*
Cat agrees with my analysis. Of particular note, she also calls Supergirl "my girl' not once but twice during this scene. She is also not having Max's public denigration of Supergirl. And, before she can take off her shirt, Cat Grant is on a mission to restore Supergirl's image.

Meanwhile, the DEO is on lockdown. An alien named Jem(?) got loose during the earthquake. Hank goes off with two other agents to try to track him down while Alex observes from a monitor. There is an encounter and some vague scuffling, but Alex loses visual with Hank. It's all very suspicious when he comes back minus the two other agents.

Alex is already suspicious of Hank because he hasn't been honest about serving in the DEO with her father. So, when Hank leaves again to track down Jem, she follows him against his orders. When she finds Hank, she pulls a gun on him and has him handcuff himself to the wall while she goes after Jem. And, you know I adore Alex, but I just want to put it out there that she could have maybe handled her distrust of Hank at a more opportune time. Like when there wasn't an awful mind-controlling alien on the loose:

This seems.... fine?
Anyway, Kara and James come across an injured man while walking around National City. Because she doesn't have her powers, she's unable to save him. She's devastated, and James tells her, "No hero can save everyone. But a hero never stops trying." And, I just want to add that I really have come to like James and I hope he and Clark Kent (or Lucy Lane, but probs Clark) can live happily ever after one day.

Kara and James then see some men break into a convenience store and start looting. Even though she still doesn't have her powers back, Kara changes into her Supergirl outfit to try to stop the crime. Her approach will be to use Reverse Imposter Syndrome, I guess? If you wear the superhero outfit and people think you're a superhero, you can get away with anything? (This is also called "privilege," maybe?)

Cat believes in her girl.
Simultaneously, Cat is giving a live on-air monologue intended to counter Max Lord's negativity. Her message is that while it's true that Supergirl hasn't been helping with the earthquake recovery, we should listen to Supergirl's call to "heed our better angels." Cat further says she has confidence that Supergirl will return when we need her most (sigh, if only) and until then we should work together. (sigh, Stronger.... Together). On screen, we see Supergirl talking down the robber, ultimately getting him to hand over his gun.

Here I'll add that someone should make an app of Cat Grant giving us wise, tough love, and uplifting speeches as we go about our daily lives, inspiring us to perform feats of courage.

Speaking of speeches, Winn has a Xander moment and gives Kara a pissy little lecture about how she'll never have a normal romantic life, so she shouldn't go after James. He had walked in on Kara and James hugging (literally just platonically hugging) and he had a nerd-rage meltdown about it. (Unduly harsh of me? Read THIS re: white male nerds in film.)

Moving on to more pleasant topics, Supergirl's powers come back and she starts saving people all over the city. Because that's what she does.

AND ALSO, we learn Hank's big secret. He reveals to Alex that he's not actually Hank Henshaw, but a Martian shape-shifter named J'onn J'onzz (it deserves bold text, because of the way he says it). The reveal is oh-so-dramatic and wonderful and I love him. He seems so proud of his real identity and I feel sad that he has to hide it.

J'onn J'onzz
Hank/J'onn had apparently made a promise to Alex's father, before he died, that he would watch over Alex. That's the reason he recruited her into the DEO (she gets to stay because she's a badass though). Love love love this plot twist.

Deep Thought of the Week: So, say you're Supergirl or Superman. You have extraordinary powers compared to everyone else. What exactly is the process like where you learn to regulate your strength? Are your first interactions with physical objects on Earth a Goldilocks Scenario where you're constantly breaking Baby Bear's stuff? And is it so annoying to your adoptive family?

How many people do you hurt? Do you always have x-ray vision or do you have to concentrate in a special way to use it? Do you tell people if you see tumors?  If you get road rage, do you "accidentally" laser people into piles of dust?

What I am saying is that I would watch the hell out of an episode of nothing but super-power mishaps happening.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Election 2016 Fallout Part 8: On Internet Culture and Privacy

(8) On Internet Culture and Privacy.

Today's I consider how Trump's Electoral College win was a victory for the very worst of Internet Culture.

First, we have the man's social media presence itself. He was (is) notorious for taking to Twitter at all hours to peck out insults, demeaning nicknames he's bestowed upon people, and counter-attacks to any real or perceived slight against his eggshell-thin ego.

About a year ago, The New York Times ran a profile of how Trump had "mastered" Twitter. Twitter was (is) the means by which he tapped into many people's basest, cruelest selves, as the Internet is wont to do. Through the expression of aggression, braggadocio, and misinformation, he constantly made (makes) headlines.

People who've been in contact with Trump suggest that he craves attention. And, a characteristic of retweets and Twitter trends is that they are attention, no matter whether people are agreeing or not (He grabs them by the what? Wait, now David Duke is applauding him? Wait, what happened at Hamilton?). In fact, it's almost better for Trump if something is "controversial." Clickbait, as we know, pays in Internetland (both financially, to the media that support it - and to Trump's hunger for attention). What seems to matter to Trump is that Trump never stops trending.

We have to develop better strategies for covering Trump in the Internet age.

His Twitter feed, especially during the election, was a constant stream of content for us to be outraged by, distracting from the previous outrage of five minutes ago, so nobody seemed to notice that he is never, ultimately, held accountable. We stay in a constant state of outrage, with no relief.

Trump is not one to apologize, even in that mealy-mouthed non-apology way that's so common for deplorables. In true "alpha" form, at least as the "manosphere" understands these things, he doesn't correct misstatements. He flounces from one outrage to the next, and the press (and his followers) follow him because everything's about his ego and displays of dominance.

That needs to stop. We, and people with platforms in the media especially, need to disrupt the outrage-outrage-outrage cycle.  I'm not sure how, but awareness seems to be a critical component here, because it seems many people are lacking even that.

Example strategy I use in blogging: From time to time, a Trump-like commenter will venture here to engage in outrage-outrage-outrage agendas of their own. One time many years ago, an anti-gay man was promoting at his own blog false anti-gay propaganda published by a hate group. He then began commenting here. So, I wrote a blog post (probably too earnestly, given who I was dealing with) addressing the falsehoods in the propaganda piece and invited him to address my commentary. He never did.

I then articulated a specific condition for him: If he wanted our conversations to continue at my blog, he had to first answer for his complicity in spreading anti-gay propaganda.  Instead of doing so, he kept trying to comment here, jumping from one outrageous anti-gay tirade to another, hoping I'd be so offended-distracted that I wouldn't notice he was violating a boundary I had set for him and hoping people wouldn't notice that he never answered for his role in spreading anti-gay propaganda. (I didn't ban him. When I set the boundary and he violated it, I would simply delete his comments that didn't address the propaganda. He eventually slunk away.)

Trump needs to be treated in a similar way, I think, however the fuck we do that to a President.

Who or what will be the voice that repeatedly says, "Wait, let's back up to this pussy-grabbing, shall we?" or "Please clarify this Muslim registry plan." A major media outlet or website should keep a tally of his lies and offenses, as well as what, if anything, he has done to apologize or atone for them. We cannot stay in this cycle of escalating, continual outrage.

Secondly, on the misinformation front, a Buzzfeed analysis showed that fake news generated more engagement on Facebook than did news from mainstream sources. And, look, I get it. We're in "anti-Establishment" times. People distrust the mainstream press, and often for legitimate reasons. When that happens, they turn to alternate sources, no matter their political beliefs. People get "had" by both conservative- and left-leaning articles.

Here are my strategies for dealing with this issue (which Facebook claims to be addressing): (a) If I notice someone posting fake news, I will let them know (sometimes with a link to Snopes, if available); (b) I check Snopes or Politifact; (c) I check other news sources by doing a "Google News" search for the topic at hand; and (d) if I'm reading what is clearly clickbait (and you can often tell from the title and/or content) I don't share it, because sharing monetizes it.  As Internet users, many of us can take active roles in confronting fake news and propaganda when we see it in our social networks.

Third, we saw the proliferation of white nationalist, racist, xenophobic, anti-feminist, and misogynistic online communities, serving as outlets for white male aggrievement regarding their perceived loss of status in a "PC world gone mad." Now commonly (euphemistically) called the "alt-right," Echidne (are you reading her? you should) documents the alternate set of "facts" under which denizens of these forums operate.

One of the alt-right's leaders, Steve Bannon, is a right-hand man to Trump. I will discuss this in a forthcoming post, but remember: many of these misogynistic white supremacists do not live the same reality as liberals and progressives and they are beholden to no rules of civility that are purported to exist in civil society. When they go low and we go high, they count on that and exploit it.

They harass and threaten women and minorities online. They "troll for the lulz." They largely aren't ashamed if they're called bigots, even if their "cuck" allies might be. They'll leave flaming piles of dog shit in your comment sections and, if you ban them, call you a liberal coward who "can't handle dissenting views."

These are also, likely, people who seem "normal" in their everyday lives. They wear the Internet like a white robe to spread hatred, intimidation, and threats of violence toward women and minorities. These are the people who are now even more emboldened. Be aware of who and what we're dealing with and give them your "empathy" with caution. Their goal is rarely, if ever, civil debate with us, even if they fake it at first. Most often, the goal is dominance posturing through harassment and intimidation.

But also know this: the weak point, like Trump's, are their delicate egos. In the way that Trump will pick Twitter fights with Rosie O'Donnell instead of domestic and international terrorists, know that "Social Justice Warriors" get under their thin skin like almost nothing else, precisely because we seek to marginalize their views as unacceptable in society.

Lastly, Wikileaks. In acts also cheered on and condoned by some on the left and right, we learned via hacked and shared non-public emails that Hillary Clinton likes The Good Wife and creme brulee. I hope that learning this information was worth the erosion of public/private boundaries.

Curiously, thousands of non-public Trump emails did not surface and were not posted. Which, seems fine. He seems like he'd have super good judgment about email security and also like he's really easy to work with, so I'm sure nothing embarrassing would have surfaced anyway.

On a serious note, going forward, I guess we will see for whom this standard for such invasions of privacy applies with Trump in charge. Perhaps the security of his private information will be safe. At least until he pisses off the wrong hacktivist.

Perhaps his seeming-ally Assange will provide a check on Trump's power, should he abuse it. That is, if we trust that Wikileaks is actually a non-partisan group. Which I don't.

What I think more likely is that it will primarily be Trump's political opponents and unempowered, marginalized folks who experience an increase in invasions of privacy.

AND ALSO, IS IT WEIRD THAT THE HACKED EMAILS AND WIKILEAKS INVOLVEMENT IN OUR ELECTION ARE NOT BIGGER STORIES?  The media wrote 50,000 articles a day about the security of Hillary Clinton's emails so I thought they were super interested in the topic of information security BUT I GUESS I WAS WRONG.

(See above, re: cycle of outrage)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Election 2016 Fallout Part 7: On the Non-Pragmatic Left

(7) On the "non-pragmatic" left.

First things first, this post was originally going to be about what I was calling "the far left." But, I'm not sure the people I'm talking about are actually more "left" or more progressive than Clinton supporters. Then, in light of the various rounds of "Hillary Clinton's pandering to identity politics lost her the election" think pieces, I was going to call them "the non-identity left," but of course that movement, too, is about identity, even if invisibly so (implicitly white, male, cis, hetero).

After more thought, the group I think I'm more accurately talking about is the non-pragmatic left. That is, people who do not seem to comprehend that in reality:
(a) people enter into positions of power while inheriting a set of circumstances that they usually are not responsible for creating - such as foreign entanglements, human rights crises, budget deficits -  but nonetheless must respond to; and
(b) being in a position of power necessarily means making some decisions that will hurt people and, yes, perhaps even lead to some people's deaths no matter what decision is ultimately made.
In the real world, one cannot simply say, "Wait, I don't like these circumstances or possible outcomes so I'm just going to go back to a previous save point and do things differently so I arrive at a different present set of circumstances so I can make a decision that corresponds with my political purity test."

Example from pop culture: In the re-imagined mini-series Battlestar Galactica, Laura Roslin is faced with an immediate moral dilemma soon after she is sworn in as President.  Various human survivors are floating around in spaceships after the Cylons launched a massive surprise attack. The Cylons have found the human fleet and could very well wipe them out with their superior technology. Only some of the human ships have technology that would allow them to flee, and the human military doesn't have the capacity to defend all of the human ships. Nor can the ships with better technology take on and support all the people from the older ships.

And so, Roslin is presented with the choice: Does she order all of the human ships to stay and fight together, possibly resulting in all of the remaining humans dying? Or, does she order the ships capable of leaving to do so, while leaving the other ships behind?

Neither option is "perfect." They both actually suck. People will die either way and people could also have valid critiques no matter which option is chosen. That's the tragedy inherent in the situation. There's no ideal outcome. When history gets re-told on the BSG equivalent of Fox News or US Uncut, Roslin could come out looking like a heartless monster either way (unless she were a white nationalist, then she'd be called "dapper." Ha ha, fuck you very much): "Reckless Roslin decides to stay, mass casualties ensue!" or "Cowardly Laura flees, innocents die!"

I think we must always render valid critiques of political leaders' choices when merited. But, I say that with the recognition that political leaders are oftentimes, in the real world, faced with "no good solution" problems.

With this recognition, it is evident to me how a long history of public service can, with framing, become a massive liability in our political climate. Anti-establishment sentiments run high, and I'm not sure this sentiment is particularly new or unique to our times. Perhaps every generation needs to see for itself that being "an outsider" (ha!) doesn't render leaders capable of contriving perfect solutions to problems that have no perfect solutions.

I'm not claiming Clinton should not ever be validly critiqued or that every situation she was in was as tragic as the one President Roslin experienced. (And, I'm realllllly not here to re-litigate all the Clinton conspiracies and grievances.) My larger points are that situations are usually more complicated than people give leaders credit for and the vast majority of us are operating from an information deficit about the full range of facts anyway.

And, in case this post sounds particularly harsh to people I might be naturally allied with otherwise, here too is a larger context.

During the past 18 months, I've probably blocked more Bernie Sanders supporters than Trump supporters on Twitter. I've been called a "Hillbot." A "shill." I was called "salty af" for critiquing Sanders' Pope-visit during the Democratic Primary. Because it's really cool how some on the far left can overlook how the Pope is the leader of one of the most sexist, anti-trans, anti-gay Establishments in the world, but could forgive Hillary Clinton for literally nothing.

I've had teenage Bernie fans practically cry in rage-disbelief at me, "But how could you support HER?" taking it for granted that Bernie is 100% a saint and Hillary is 100% corrupt. Many seemed ignorant of decades of unfair smears against her. I've been told I was condescending for expressing fear that third party voters would serve as spoilers this year, as in 2000, when I discussed my regrettable Ralph Nader vote.

Over the months, I had run-ins with people on the far left who wanted to see Trump defeated but who wouldn't support Hillary Clinton, the only person with a realistic chance to do so. I watched in disbelief as even some major feminist sites played the "both sides are just as bad" game or refused to take sides. Someone at a popular feminist site even took Clinton's win for granted, predicting that fifty years from now, "We’ll hang our heads and think, 'we were there when' we elected a candidate who killed thousands, and called her a feminist to boot."

Jill Stein and Susan Sarandon suggested that Clinton would actually be worse than Trump.

And.... here we fucking are.

Melissa Batchelor Warnke recently noted in the LA Times:
"I am deeply sorry that Hillary Clinton lost. The left made many mistakes; among them was not having the gall to stand up to the far left. The far left was so rigid in its orthodoxy that it repeatedly punished those trying to strategize about electing the Democratic candidate with self-serving accusations that those who disagreed with their tactics were racists, sexists or sellouts. We let the left of the left have its way.

And the far left wanted to be morally superior more than it wanted to stop Donald Trump."
She further writes that "lefty politics" have become a "claustrophobic minefield." And, it's hard for me to disagree, being in the blogging game for about 10 years.

For instance, I've seen this happen too many times to count: a popular feminist makes a mistake on Twitter or in pop culture or in a blogpost and, instead of just critiquing her, it's like BAM we have a half dozen lefty articles saying "ugh, aren't we all so done with her?" and then.... whether or not you're "done" with her becomes a lefty purity test/virtue pose.

I can't. I just fucking can't.

Forget having empathy or compassion for bigots and conservatives. We don't even have it for each other on the left, let alone for a flawed woman like Hillary Clinton who worked her fucking ass off her entire life and who had the temerity to run for President while not being a politically-pure snowflake. I don't even exonerate myself from this compassion-lacking group, because goddamn, this shit is hard and frustrating.

I mean, it pisses me right off that, heavens to Betsy, the thought of dirtying one's pristine hands by voting for a competent woman who who had made mistakes, over a garbage nightmare candidate gave some on the left too bad a case of the ickies. It's not just that some people couldn't privately vote for Clinton, they had to not vote for her and then virtue pose about it all over social media. Or, they wrote in Bernie. Voted 3rd Party. Didn't vote at all. Voted for a giant meteor strike to kill us all instead (ha ha, fuck you).

Like, if there was ever a time for the left to unite..... this was it, folks! But no.

Now, many of these same leftists seem to be largely horrified. They're "in shock." Some didn't actually vote for Clinton but now want the Electoral College to make Clinton President because ... ummmm?

It's also said that the perfect is the enemy of the good. I believe that, but by the gods you will never convince me that either Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein were ever "the perfect" in this conversation. And even if they had never made mistakes in their immaculate lives, had they become President they too would have been confronted with difficult choices and would then likely be lambasted by non-pragmatists for being "sell-outs," as well.

Politics is compromise, politics is compromise, politics is fucking hard-ass compromise.  We can and should debate all day about what should be compromised, but to ever get anything accomplished we have to compromise.

Non-pragmatists critique those of us who acknowledge the role of compromise in politics and vote for the "lesser evil." They decry what "lesser evilism politics" have wrought. What these people overlook is that every politician ever will always be "a lesser evil" because, NEWSFLASH, no human is perfect and, repeat after me, politics. is. compromise.

What I can say is that the non-pragmatic left will likely now get none of what they wanted instead of some of what they wanted. So, that was productive.

CORRECTION. They will get two things they wanted: a complete unwillingness to compromise and extremism. So, there's your fuckin' silver lining.

My preferred method of virtue posturing