Trump and Caring About Politics

I have had little to say so far about the GOP Primary, because a) it’s too early, and b) the last GOP Primary made me numb. I was so utterly disappointed by the results of the primary, and then the general election, that getting myself all whooped up about this one seems ridiculous to me. So some part of me is gleeful at the rise of Donald Trump. Good, I think, let the establishment know what it’s like to be forced to swallow a man they do not trust. To perdition with the GOP anyway. Last time they ran the whole show, what did they give us? 

That isn’t to say I would vote for the goofball. I share the concern everyone has about Trump: that he’s a bully, and a goon, and unpresidential, and that he’s full of it. But you what? Chris Christie is full of it, too. So’s Jeb Bush. So’s Marco Rubio. And so’s Hillary, and Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley, and Joe Biden. A plague on all their houses, and if Trump be that plague…*shrug*

Peggy Noonan:

On the subject of elites, I spoke to Scott Miller, co-founder of the Sawyer Miller political-consulting firm, who is now a corporate consultant. He worked on the Ross Perot campaign in 1992 and knows something about outside challenges. He views the key political fact of our time as this: “Over 80% of the American people, across the board, believe an elite group of political incumbents, plus big business, big media, big banks, big unions and big special interests—the whole Washington political class—have rigged the system for the wealthy and connected.

This is both a cruel autopsy of the Obama era and a grim truth. It’s hard to care about whether Elephants or Donkeys run the show if they both trample you underfoot. It’s hard to believe that a GOP victory means something if it gives us the likes of John Boehner. Trump may not be the solution to this problem, but until a solution presents itself, I’ll enjoy watching him light a fire underneath it.

49552

The Stranger is the Stranger….

The Stranger is a slim read, but I found it confusing. Supposedly, Sartre thought it a profoundly silly book, the equivalent of reporting on a soccer match with the words “I saw adults in shorts fighting and throwing themselves on the ground in order to send a leather ball between two wooden posts.” I feel similarly, and I would go a step further: I’m not certain that the verdict is wrong. Meursault does come off as a bit of a sociopath, not because he doesn’t cry for his mother, but because he doesn’t cry, and seems incapable of crying, for anything. He does not care about anything or anyone. The crime committed seems to have no purpose, but it occurs anyway, because Meursault doesn’t care enough to understand how to avert it. Which doesn’t mean I can’t see the absurdity of the “evidence” thrown against him, but I cannot escape the impression that I have wandered, not inside the head of a fellow human, but in some other kind of being who knew how to ape some human behaviors. Crimes of passion committed this dispassionately beggar verisimilitude.

Are We Still Screaming About the Hugos?

I consider myself an author at least 20% of the time (and therein lies the problem, of course). But I can’t find myself giving a moldy dog dropping about the Hugos. I don’t even imagine, in my wildest fantasies, winning one. I think of industry/creative awards in much the same way I think of government: something regrettably necessary, which I desire to have as little to do with as possible.

But it wouldn’t be the modern age if we didn’t have the cultural left politicizing something and then lamenting how politicized it’s become, obstinately unaware of their contribution to that phenomenon, so now the Hugos are something about which the great ideological divide will now squabble like dogs in a boneyard.

According to Hoyt has a fine rundown of the deep lack of self-reflection the SJW’s bring to this, as they bring to everything else, entitled The Goat Kicks Back. I invite you to read it, and reflect on how no one moaning about those awful awful puppies will be intellectually capable of listening.

It’s very simple: when you grant yourself exclusive rights to blow condemnation and bellow dudgeon, people will see through it, and they will cease to take you seriously. When you expend that much energy telling people they’re the enemy, eventually they’re going to believe you. And they’ll act accordingly.

And you can shout yourself hoarse that it’s because they hatez teh wimmins, and teh gheys, and teh darkees, but you’ll convince no one who isn’t already one of your number. Because in order to believe that, someone would have to already be convinced that dissent from crit theory is the same as bigotry. Which is not as axiomatic a proposition as some would believe.

They’re not rejecting people of different races and genders, Social Justice Worriers. They’re just rejecting you.

When You Just Can’t Get into Authors You Want to Get Into

Last night, instead of going to sleep like a sensible person, I read Bret Easton Ellis’ “Thoughts on David Foster Wallace and ‘The End of the Tour‘”. In it, the American Psycho author holds forth on how the film “The End of the Tour” is a treacly one-note pile of horse flops that, with almost obligatory irony, does precisely what the character of David Foster Wallace worries about in the film: makes a false D.F.W. and substitutes it for the real one.

In The End of the Tour something happens that the Wallace in the movie keeps arguing he would never want: to become a character, and the movie willfully or mindlessly ignores this complaint. This is what the Wallace in the film is bothered by in scene after scene after scene — and what does the movie do? It keeps filming him. What does Segel do? He keeps playing a particular ideaof David Foster Wallace — and this is why the movie would have driven Wallace insane. The Wallace estate as well as his editor have disavowed the film not because it gets anything factually wrong but because it does something that Wallace would never have wanted: it turns him into a character.

All of which is a fine point scored on a film I probably won’t see anyway, for reasons I’ll discuss later. But while reading it I find myself asking why Ellis bothered to write it. Because for all the complaints against the film destroying Wallace’s authenticity in the act of worshipping said authenticity, I didn’t get the impression that Ellis actually thought there was much in the authentic Wallace worth preserving.

Do I think he is the most overrated writer of my generation as well as the most pretentious and tortured? Yeah, I do. And I tweeted this along with other things that bothered me, not so much about David himself but more about how he had been reinterpreted by the culture. The sincerity and earnestness he began trafficking in seemed to some of us a ploy, a contradiction — not totally fake, but not totally real either, a kind of performance art, sensing the shift toward earnestness in the culture and accommodating himself to it.

Of course he goes on to tell us that he did like Wallace and thought he was a genius (Yeah, he did). And a good thought about being okay with complexity follows. But I can’t avoid the idea that if Wallace started selling himself before his death as a great big earnest dork, then he’s complicit in the film’s “false” version of himself, so who cares?

Granted, that may just be me sharing Ellis’ opinion of Wallace’s work. Every time I get on Amazon and try to cajole myself into checking out his books, I get to the part about how Vlad the Impaler is a parakeet and my enthusiasm swiftly dies. I know I’m supposed to find that bold and clever, but I don’t. And reading a multi-layer, meta-narrative Rube Goldberg watchama-thing, as Infinite Jest is supposed to be, sounds exhausting. Making a novel not-a-novel doesn’t make a novel better.

But if I’m being honest, I have the same problem with trying to read more Bret Easton Ellis. I read Less Than Zero last year, and have re-read it since, and I still don’t know where Ellis put the plot. Then I read American Psycho and I had to stop about halfway through because I could not read another brand-specific catalog of what every person in the room was wearing. Getting the joke didn’t make it easier to process; I eventually started skimming both them and the step-by-step descriptions of murdering people (I get it, Patrick reduces people to atomized parts…) just so I could get to the end, which has the same problem as LTZ: it doesn’t close so much as stop. I guess that’s a point, too.

I like the guy’s prose style, and he’s got an inventive eye for decadence, but the thought of downloading Imperial Bedrooms to my Kindle and slogging though another 200 pages of Clay observing things – himself included – with all the emotional involvement of an alien scout reporting to the mothership, makes a nap and a cup of tea sound like a much better use of my time.

Yet here I am writing about him, and thinking about what I’ve read of his. Cavils about plot and structure aside, Ellis makes for a good tour guide to the darkness at the heart of the City of Man.

Everything’s a Problem is the Tumblr You Didn’t Know You Needed

For a long time, we were lost in the darkness. Unable to tell what was problematic, or, if we dared push past our privelege to consider if it was problematic, to know just how problematic it was.

Those. Days. Are. Over.

For example, of course you knew that Wonder Woman’s costume was Problematic. That’s a no-brainer. But could you in your wildest imagination have discerned that enjoying Potato Salad without consideration for it nonwhite origins is even MOAR Problematic?

Of course you did not, you foul hater you.

But now you can know. Listen. Absorb. Don’t Resist.

papal facepalm

A Sane, Sensible Discussion of Laudato Si, the Pope’s Environmental Encycical.

Over at Ace of Spades.

To summarize:

  1. The Pope is not infallible on matters of science. Anyone, even Catholics, are free to disagree with his assessment of scientific knowledge. The Holy Spirit does not assist with that.
  2. The Pope’s theology in this encyclical is solid. Ultimately, we cannot damage the earth without damaging ourselves, and our relationship with God. We are of the earth: “Dust thou art, and to dust thous shalt return.” That remains true even if everything an AGW skeptic says is true.
  3. The Pope is Catholic. In the encyclical, the Pope points out that “abortion, “coercive means of population control, experimentation on embryos, and other offenses against the sanctity of life are part of the very same callous stance towards the natural world that the environmentalists deplore.” So everyone who got themselves excited about the Environmentalist Pope should take these words seriously, and not just relegate them to a paragraph that starts with “The document isn’t perfect….”, right?

Best part of this post:

This is really the basic point about this faith — you can’t pick and choose what bits of it you like to believe. Catholicism is a faith that generally takes the middle path. This is why the sophomoric “What would Jesus do?” rejoinder to any political argument is laughable. Jesus wasn’t a politician. Jesus would forgive sin…then he would tell you to go forth and sin no more. See? The touchy-feely Jesus co-exists with the judgmental Jesus. It’s not like Highlander. People are quite fond of confirmation bias when it comes to Jesus Christ.

Everyone loves the Sermon on the Mount. Everyone ignores the parts about cutting off your left hand to avoid sin and coming not to bring peace but the sword.

hypetrain

Game of Thrones Just Did That Thing It Does.

Killing the charactes we like, making us like the characters we hate.

{Warning: Contains spoilers. Also Swearing.}

At this point, we’ve been down this road so many times that some of us are starting to feel numb to it. This season has left a bad taste in many fans’ mouth, because the usual collection of horrible things had no balance with anything good happening. Storylines seemed condensed, rushed, or just pointless. Everything that happened in Dorne felt tired and very lazy, and contrived to build up to a entirely predictable shock ending.

Shock endings are what the showrunners have been accused of primarily trading in, to the exclusion of proper character arcs. I’ve heard this since at least the Red Wedding. At it’s getting hard to deny.

{More Spoilers below SERIOUS YOU GUYS DON’T READ}

Jon Snow’s death in the books comes after a last straw. He receives a threatening, cryptic letter from Ramsay Bolton, and decides to go off and fight him. This represents the total betrayal of what the Night’s Watch is, and could even threaten it’s continued existence (if say, the Boltons or Lannisters decided they were an enemy). So a group of guys who’v’e been mostly loyal to him, if uncomfortable with letting the wildlings through the wall, turn on him “for the Watch”. It actually makes sense.

On the show, it’s done because Ser Alliser Thorne and other grumpy bigots just have to hate on them wildlings (in the books, Thorne is away ranging when Jon is killed and has nothing to do with it), and it’s done via a goofy pretext about Benjen Stark that was designed to do nothing but trick the show audience via the “previously on” that appears before the episode. All misdirection and shock, no character growth or even continuity.

What does this mean going forward? More of the same. People will die, on minimal, flimsy pretexts, and we will be shocked by this. The people we hate now will get theirs, too, just as soon as we’ve lost any possibility of being satisfied by it (remember how much we hated the Lannisters? those were simpler times).

And at some point, one character or other will get the whole picture, and will have the means and the will to stop the White Walkers. I don’t know who that is yet, but in the meantime, anyone getting in the way of them is going to have to fall in line or be pruned.

GoT