Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Femslash ___Day: VillanEve

What day is it? What time is it? What along decade it's been, huh?

I recently realized, only half-jokingly, that I measure time now by when it's time to watch Killing Eve again, and then I realized it's been fully 10 million years since we've had a Femslash Friday in Fannie's Room.

So, why not bring it back pandemic-time's sake?

I can't explain why I like Killing Eve so much, as it's a show I would be extremely not into if either of the two main characters were men.

I just started Season 3. So, I will need to digest the series more before I have anything more intelligent to say than the obvious fact that I, uh, appreciate the Sapphic subtext. And, maybe I will find time to write longform again when we're not in the middle of a fucking pandemic.

On that note, smell you later, and enjoy today's Villanelle/Eve fan vid.

In other news, I love how the Navy has basically confirmed the existence of UFOs and things are so awful right now that nobody even really cares.

Monday, April 6, 2020


Many years ago in college I read Ellen Bryant Voigt's book of poems, Kyrie, which is set during the influenza pandemic of 1918. I've thought of it on and off since then, particularly during the swine flu pandemic of 2009 and, of course, now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I found my copy of the book in my bookshelves the other day and read through it again. Each poem is written from the perspective of different, recurring people, dealing with the pandemic and/or World War I, in their own ways. The title, Kyrie ("Lord, have mercy") is referenced throughout, with poems alluding to the various characters' feelings of abandonment by their God, (naive?) optimism in the beginning ("Surely He shall deliver us from the snare"), and eventual hopelessness ("Oh yes I used to pray").

Another recurring theme is that of animals, both their ability to sense when something is off and the inescapable fact that humans are embodied animals and a part of nature, ourselves, despite our modern amenities.

In an early poem, foreshadowing the pandemic, she writes:

"Dogs, all kind of dogs - signals
are their job, they cock their heads,
their backs bristle, even house dogs
wake up and circle the wool rug
Outside, the vacant yard: then,
within minutes something eats the sun."

Life is inescapably different, and dark.

In another, she writes:

"Before the weather goes, you slaughter hogs
unless you want to find them on their sides, 
rheumy eyes, running snout.

It's simple enough arithmetic, 
so don't you think the Kaiser knew?
Get one hog sick, you get them all."

Looking at our present situation, a pandemic would be frightening even if we had trustworthy, competent, mature leadership at the federal level.

What is more clear than ever is that the 2016 election was a catastrophic failure in the history of our nation, as what is making this pandemic exponentially worse for the USA is that Donald Trump is in charge of the federal government.

I don't think he cares about Americans (or anyone) dying, and in fact he probably wants us to if we are Democrats, living in major (Democratic-voting) cities, and/or live in states with Democratic governors.

I think he's a sociopathic narcissist who only cares about the economy, rather than human beings, recovering. (Likewise, I think many of the journalists who covered Trump in 2016, and who continue to do so, are also sociopathic narcissists who are still somewhat entertained by Trump and everything that is happening right now, and that anyone lauding Trump's "change in tone as of late" should be deeply ashamed and resign immediately for incompetence.)

I think Trump will try to use the pandemic as an excuse to try cancel, delay, and/or rig the 2020 election, or to severely suppress turnout.

I think we have to rely more than ever on state, local, and private efforts for relief.

Officials are saying we have a very rough week or weeks ahead of us. I know a lot of people are having a hard time, for all kinds of reasons. So, mostly, I just wanted to drop a note to say hi and give people space to vent, be mad, be sad, be scared, whatever.

But I also want to say this: Rudy Giuliani is a creepy-ass dillrod who looks/acts like one of the Gentlemen from the episode "Hush" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Thoughts on Social Isolation and 2020


The past month or so has been a lot, yeah?  It appears that Joe Biden is on track to the Democratic nominee for president. And, fine. Whatever. He wasn't my top choice at all, but the COVID-19 pandemic, and Trump's massive failures around managing it, is one of many issues that highlights the urgency of defeating Trump in 2020.

It's a low bar, but Biden would be exponentially better than Trump. And, if Bernie Sanders were to pull off a surprise win, he would be as well. Whoever the nominee is just needs to be smart enough to name a progressive woman as vice president.

Anyway, it appears many of us will be stuck indoors, at home, isolating ourselves from others during this pandemic. Also, shoutout to those providing essential services right now who cannot do so, including health workers, firefighters, caregivers, law enforcement, delivery people, and more.

During this time, I've been thinking of doing a Xena rewatch (and possibly recaps, but not sure what I will have time for, given my other responsibilities).

Anyway, I mostly just wanted to check in. Please stay safe and healthy (and at home, if you are able!). How are others occupying themselves during this time?

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

William H. Harrison's Ball

In my ongoing quest to read a biography or memoir of every US president, I have finally arrived at William Henry Harrison, whose tenure lasted just 31 days before he became the first president to die in office.

As with previous presidential biographies, the Harrison biography I read, Gail Collins' slender William Henry Harrison, serves as a reminder that, as much as early era of our nation is romanticized in some circles, the early political system was not super democratic. Nominating conventions were run by party elites who handpicked candidates, and even in 1840 only certain classes of white men could vote, with some variation in specific eligibility rules by state.

But, similar to now, presidential campaigns built mythological narratives around their candidate, such as the notion that Harrison was a simple "Log Cabin" sort of guy even though the reality is that he was raised on a plantation and was the relative of a Founding Father.

And also, at times, campaigning could get really fucking weird:
"The average American voter in this new era [of Jacksonian political campaigning] lived on a farm, where he and his family worked incessantly, spending their nights in small, dimly lit houses in relative silence. There were no sports and few public entertainments. So the chance to sing, parade, or lift a flagpole for a presidential candidate was a marvelous diversion. People would turn out for almost anything that offered a break from their usual routing, even if was just to cheer the arrival of an oversized ball being rolled from town to town in honor of their party's nominee. (The balls were generally made of paper and covered with political slogans. The Whigs in Cleveland constructed one of tin, twelve feet wide, and pushed it all the way to Columbus in Harrison's honor....)."

Monday, February 10, 2020

On White Daddy and Electability, Again

When you think about it, a white male Democrat hasn't won a US presidential election since Bill Clinton did in 1996, a quarter century ago.

At the same time, polling data from the past year or so consistently have white men - specifically Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders - as performing better against Trump in 2020 general election matchups than do the candidates who are women and/or people of color. Here's one sample poll from early February 2020, for instance, from Real Clear Politics:

General Election Poll vs. Trump, 2/2/20: Biden +6, Sanders +4, Warren +3, Buttigieg +1
Interestingly, the numbers for Trump tend to stay about the same no matter who he's matched up against. It's voters for the Democratic candidate who tend to peel away the further away from "cishet white man" the Democratic candidate is. Some polls, for instance, even show billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who entered the race relatively recently, doing about the same as Joe Biden.

Another data point is that historical polling data from February 2016 shows that Hillary Clinton was polling at about where Joe Biden currently is polling versus Trump. In fact - unlike Biden or any other 2020 candidate - she regularly had a double-digit advantage on Trump at around this point in the campaign. Current numbers, of course, are also before Trump and the Republicans really start going after the nominee. Although I'm sure their efforts to cause chaos and in-fighting are already well underway, we can expect such things to amp up after the Democratic National Convention when they can really solidify around different narratives and attacks on the nominee.

All of these factoids together concern me for our 2020 prospects.

Hillary Clinton bested Trump in the 2016 popular vote by literal millions of votes, of course, and Trump squeaked out an electoral college win in swing states after a, to put it mildly, clusterfucked cascade of colliding factors worked against her. The thinking this time around is that Bernie or Biden or, I guess, Bloomberg would be able to win at least some of the swing states that Clinton lost, a premise that seems to rest largely on the usually-unstated assumption that these men would win because they are white men.

Yes, I know other reasons are put forth as to why these men would win, and they usually involve some variation on the narrative that, unlike the fine specimens of politicians that these white men are, Hillary Clinton was History's Worst Candidate Ever.  As white male politicians such as Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and even Martin O'Malley (yes really) looked around the post-2016-election aftermath and thought the world needed their gloat-bragging that they could have done what "the woman" didn't do, they helped write into existence the pervasive narrative that the USA was in dire need of White Daddy to come to the rescue.

Now, I don't think it's even necessarily sexist to point out that much of the electorate has bought into the sexist hype around the dire need for a white male candidate "because of everyone else's bigotry." What was largely lost in the national discourse, if one can call it that, around whether Bernie Sanders actually told Elizabeth Warren that he thought a woman couldn't win the presidency, is that a presidential contest is not like a one-on-one chess game. It's a popularity context, the results of which are an expression of millions of voters' prejudices, hopes, dreams, fears, and countless factors outside of the control of the candidates themselves.

That supposed frontrunner Joe Biden, who would perform catastrophically in a debate against Trump anyway, is treating the match-up like a boxing match and, like most 2020 candidates, has yet to acknowledge everything Clinton was up against, demonstrates primarily that he is not anywhere near equipped to face the challenges of the general election that are yet to come.

Trump is unquestionably so terrible that I think many people and institutional powers are circularly settling for mediocre candidates who don't, actually, have a great chance at beating Trump because they "reason" that "everyone else" is settling for these candidates because these are the only candidates who can win.

Or, they felt deeply threatened by Clinton's near-win in 2016 and so are implicitly or explicitly demanding consolidation around certain white male candidates. We are, I believe, still experiencing the fallout of a 2016 election cycle that was deeply misogynistic across the political spectrum and in which, in true American form, many people demanded everyone immediately stop "relitigating" (ie, processing, analyzing, writing about).

And so, here we are, with many of the same issues cropping up. That one of the major players in the 2016 Democratic Primary decided to run again while the other was largely told to go knit in the woods for the rest of her days hasn't helped the situation.

But, such is life, here in the backlash.

On the Bernie front, I think hardcore Bernie supporters, many of whom operate in a rhetorical environment as though Republicans simply don't exist, are in serious denial about how he would fare against Trump/Republican attacks against him and "radical socialism." In the recent Iowa Caucus, Bernie halved his support in the state after 5+ years of campaigning for president and ended up essentially tied with the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana that no one had heard of a year ago.

My strategy for 2020 is therefore to vote for the candidate whose policies I most agree with and who I think would be most effective as president. For me, that person is Elizabeth Warren. If that person, for you, is Biden or Bernie, more power to you. But, if you're only supporting certain candidates because you think a white man is the "safer" candidate against Trump, I think that's questionable logic.

No candidate is a safe one in this age of propaganda, disinformation, and foreign collusion. Certain candidates have been granted a huge assist from the hype about white male electability, but none of that has accounted for all of the additional noise that exists in our current political landscape.