Monday, 30 October 2017

Tepid Takes #12: Endless Re-Litigation at the End of the World

In the wake of this morning's declaration that it's Mueller Time, many folks across the various social media platforms I've extricated myself from (but logged back into because band stuff) are salivating like eager little truffle pigs. Others are still in despair mode, anticipating the latest unconstitutional gambit from a President known for them and a complicit congress. I personally think that as things ramp up, more Republicans will jump ship; not because they possess any sort of moral fortitude, or care about the republic, but because their big gambit hasn't proven legislatively useful. The potential radioactivity of covering for a President who is not only hopelessly corrupt but largely incompetent will likely lead a lot of them to back away, hands in the air, whistling.

Still, what does this all mean for Democrats, and the larger Left, moderate-to-far? Frankly, not a helluva lot unless "we" get our shit together. And at local and grassroots levels, I think there's a lot to be hopeful about. But as 2017 has at times sped, and at others crawled, forward, the initial Moment of Unity has all but dissipated. Instead, you have Tom Perez purging the left flank of the Dems from many official positions in the party. Twitter, a medium I've excused myself from because, frankly, I wasn't helping, is basically a hammer fight between Dems who supported Hillary and those who supported Bernie.*

Much of this was spurred on by What Happened, a tome whose very existence spurred endless controversy. For the record, I hold these three semi contradictory opinions:

1) Hillary had every, every right to write that book. Many of the "she should just disappear" people are the ones who jumped down her throat two days after she didn't weigh in on Harvey Weinstein.  For many, there's a perverse fascination that turns every issue into a referendum on Her. It's stupid, and unless you want to have a lot in common with Newt Gingrich, you should fucking stop.

2) Jesus fucking Christ could the timing have maybe been a little bit worse? COULD YOU HAVE SPECIFICALLY PLOTTED IT OUT SO YOU COULD DO MORE TO DAMAGE THE PARTY YOU STROVE TO LEAD? The book could have come out on the year anniversary, or two years later, or  after the 2018 midterms, or maybe just any time besides six months later. As such, it re-cast the terms of the Dems as H vs. B, instead of a coalition finding its mission statement.

3) I didn't read it. I spent the last six years of my life in Seattle's Literary Scene, so the number of out of touch, classist, self righteous, "liberal" patricians I've met is uncountable. I voted for Her and told others to  vote for her, goddammit, but reading a whole tome of H Eat Pray Loving her way out of the guilt of handing America over to Fascism because she hired tech bros and robots to run her campaign. . . well.

That said, the clips from it that bothered me weren't the ones where she talked about Bernie Bros-- that's basically what her fans are paying to read. It's the red meat. The clips that bothered me were, in fact, more policy based, and more telling. When talking about the hardships faced by rural communities and small towns, her basic take is "We need to create more opportunities in the Cities, so the kids can move." It confirms the Right's talking point that Liberals Don't Care About You Unless You're Rich and Hip**.
If you're not already sick of the topic read A Wonk on the Wild Side. It's the most thoughtful critique of the book by someone who's actually. read. it. that I've seen. Admittedly, no one at The Baffler is gonna be too sympathetic to someone who goes to the Hamptons to relax.*** But Lehman shows a remarkable sympathy towards the human being, while examining the policies and ideas that got us here.

Because this didn't start in 2016. Dems didn't hemorrhage house seats in 2010 because of Hillary Clinton. Dems didn't lose most of the governorships across the nation because the Bernie Bros sabotaged them. It wasn't Russia that flipped the Senate in 2014. There has been a rot in this party for years, but said party still remains the most viable political options for people who give a shit about other people and want results, instead of just stickers. As Mueller circles his wagons, and Republicans start to shed their faux loyalty, Dems need to figure out what to do and fast-- because the world is on fire.

And I'm pretty sure there's something worse than Donald Trump out there, waiting.

*It's stupid that I have to, but I think my next one of these Tepid Takes will be a run down of my Complete Opinions About Bernie Vs. Hillary. 
**It's a sign of the right's sickness and sadism that "hip" can also just mean a Person of Color, or Gay, or Trans, etc. That when Dems are defending the rights of poor black people, the right casts it as some sort of Hollywood Stunt. This doesn't mean, however, that the Rich part of the equation can't be examined or that Dems shouldn't get smarter about messaging.
***The next person who whines about "reverse classism" or "that's ALSO discrimination" can put their head through this nice little wooden collar I've made for them. . .

Tepid takes is a new series of occasional, usual anecdotal musings a few days to months after the fact, usually around politics or social issues, for when a status update or series of tweets simply won't suffice.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Tepid Takes #458: Ossoff and You and Everyone You Know

A few weeks have passed-- or months, not sure, the world's been busy-- since Democrats most recent soul-crushing shock defeat in a race they were sure they could win. Indeed, this was just one of three elections in areas that haven't voted blue in decades that Democrats had confidence in winning because some of these voters who never vote Democrat Don't Like Donald Trump That Much. Of the three, Jon Ossoff's race was seen as the closest, polls had him ahead at points. But if you're reading this, you probably know the whole story, and there's plenty of dialogue, much of it profoundly unconstructive*, about What It Means, How Could We Lose, etc.

Honestly, while Moral Victories mean jack shit electorally, the fact that Dems could run competitive races in historically red (who picked the colors anyway?) areas is a legitimately encouraging sign.

One of the arguments I keep seeing is that if Rob Quist or James Thompson had had the sort of massive financial backing that Jon Ossoff had, they'd have won their respective races. I think this is entirely plausible, but hardly a given. Still, let's accept that premise for a second-- that with funding equivalent (even equivalent to half of) the Georgia race, we'd have two new Democrats in office, and the beginning of a Grand Populist Wave on the Wings of Bernie. The embittered argument tends to be that the Democratic Establishment is hell bent on keeping a tight fist around the party, and that a hatred of true progressivism, as well as crony capitalism, has hopelessly corrupted the DNC.

I think the real answer is far simpler, and a little more depressing. Dems** are more invested in winning over moderate suburban Republicans than historically Democratic working class counties is because suburban Republicans are their peers. These are their people. College educated home-owners who take at least one international vacation per year, these are folks they know how to talk to. When Chuck Schumer claimed that for every out-of-work rust belt worker who they lost, they'd gain moderates in the suburbs, he wasn't just espousing dubious political strategy, he was expressing the subconscious hope of a party that just simply doesn't know how-- and increasingly hasn't cared--  to talk to anyone they couldn't see themselves at a dinner party with. They want the votes of people their kids are going to private school with. Folks for whom student loans, health care, rising rents are social concerns, rather than personal ones, so all the arguments can be removed and civil.

This isn't nefarious, or evil, or even unusual-- it's a pretty normal trait to want to associate with, reach out to, and commiserate with people you have things in common with. It may be the most clumsily, sadly humanizing thing about a party apparatus that ignored urgent pleas from people on the ground in favor of data-models and is more likely to source from Tech or Wall Street than community organizers. I get it-- I'd rather hang out with my fellow jaded bartenders and musicians than pretty much anyone who works for the Democratic party. And maybe I'd go my way and they'd go theirs, and I'd trust them and all their vastly reasonable logic if it was working.

But it's not.


(*my favorite question is "How can we more effectively tie people to Trump. Let's make this state/local election a referendum on Trump." My my. If ONLY THERE HAD BEEN SOME ATTEMPT TO DO THIS ON A NATIONAL SCALE. If only we had some way to gauge whether running a negative campaign against Trump is effective. SADLY NO SUCH TRIAL HAS OCCURRED, SO WE BETTER JUST KEEP BAGGING ON TRUMP.)

(**Dems here refers largely to the funding/donor class, and many of those currently holding national office. Not the little old lady who volunteers after church. Feel free to comment with examples of the working class Dem Senator with a history of protecting workers rights; but do know that yes, I know they exist. And that there's a range of grassroots campaigns in the works or underway that are potentially transformative, etc etc)

Tepid takes is a new series of occasional, usual anecdotal musings a few days to months after the fact, usually around politics or social issues, for when a status update or series of tweets simply won't suffice.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

30/30: Murder Television On the Brink of Sleep

Where do the buzzdings
of my
phone

end
and
yours begin?

Out in the kitchen,
leggings and green
beans and rich,
sour coffee.

In the bathroom with
skin cream and torn
jeans.

Night I had nightmares

about the shows
we were watching

and other things that
blur into a wheatpaste

of images and ideas, the
past ten years through

brownout glasses,
the back of head rush
before the tears start.

Where do my
loose hairs
start
and yours
end?

Somewhere in the vicinity
of purple.

Waking up and shaking off
in covers and
sleepy jokes
and that moment
when the arm that fell asleep
also wakes, pulls in.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

29/30: Body Acknowledgement Poem

My ears gunked up and packed in

by the headphones I use to
drown out the reggae in the
rich white coffee shop that
has become my home for
free wi fi.
Hairs on the backs of my hands
stand up as the songs that
I love fills my skull gaps
and a left wrist itch, tickled
by headphone wires.
The balls of my feet
solid against new shoes,
my arches gapped between
them and the back of my
neck and arms
cold every time someone opens
the goddamn door.
My heart pounds and twitters
from the espresso and
each sentence I type quickly
my fingertips shoot directly
to my guts and heart and
all the internals that squick
and gulf with excitement
and jitters and involuntary
misspells.
My gut sucks in on itself
as I hunch over and squint
automatically; equal parts
sun and screen. Shoulders
always need popping,
toes curl and uncurl, bald
strips colder and itchier than
the sides of my head
where the hair still disobeys
orders of comb or hat.
My ass squishes comfortably
against the wicker chair, my thighs
just fat enough to flex
when I run. Knees that aren’t
sore from that. . . yet. My dick
snug between boxer briefs
and thigh in jeans that
only count as tight
when I sit like this. Spine
curved and straightened
like roads on a city map.
My shadow stretching out
over the table and floor
where it meets
the chair’s shadow
and with a cloud
disappears.

Friday, 28 April 2017

28/30: Anthropomorphy Now!


A pitch for a film about the  emotional lives of dead skin flakes.
Their tremendous journey from scalp to pillowcase with the vocal
talents  of Emma Stone and Aziz Ansari.
(or possibly Katherine Heigl, if she’s free and it’s comeback time)

A working outline for a novel about a melancholy espresso machine
waiting for a love that never comes, but never the less learning
to take satisfaction in the steam.
(a story for our times!)

A storyboard for a graphic novel about the half lives of
T-shirts, many pen and pencil close ups of weeping threads.
“Why doesn’t he wear me any more?”
(“Same” posts the heartbroken college girl)

A premise for a short story about the sexual predilictions
of floorboards. The whole thing is "wood" puns.
(Hint: it totally gets published, your dumb
thing doesn't)

A draft of a poem about door knobs. What hands have held them?
How have they turned? What fluids have dribbled down their
supple curves? What slight wrist turns? What pushes on their
shiny
nubile
frame?
Oh, knobby, knobby, knobby.
(This is the entire poem, actually)

Thursday, 27 April 2017

27/30: Constant Closet Concerns

The weather's playing tricks again

fashion dismay in the brick courtyard.

Falafel tragedies on sidewalks, too fast

in heels up first avenue, power lunches

on the cheap. Sweat your make up off,

loosen your silk tie. The lies this morning's

haze told, you should know better by

now, just have the wardrobe follow you,

like a puppy or a goat, there for when

you need to reach back and grab a blazer.

It's already almost May is both

the reason this rain has you aghast

and why it shouldn't be so hot yet.

A light jacket, fashionable top,

open toed shoes; all shows of optimism

or defiance.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

25/30: Conversations With My Classmate-Professor Over Lunch in Cardiff


Of all the places, high street, of all the places on high street, a faux-mexican
chain with bad spellings and valleys accents. Here again for all the unpacking
at the logical end of the course we took together.
find ourselves comparing notes eight years from the day he said
so you’re also an American, and showed me the best seat
in the mini-cafe.

The years they have been kind?
Strange? About the same?
His kids are people now, big
laughs and so many transgressive
authors, Naked Lunch Naked Lunch
Naked Lunch and how the students
need
to be shaken
and twisted
and broken
you just keep writing and throwing it
out and keep writing and throwing it
out to the high street, he gestures,
something for the people, these
people they just go about their little
lives.

At some point in our thirties we just start looking the same
for a long time. We met when he was a year younger
than I am now, he’s lost a little weight, but aging only
shows in family pictures.

So many beat authors  and  pages full
of violence, his students complain, especially
the women, but people need to know
life’s not all gardens and shopping
and roses. he references Thoreau
and Ginsberg and Lydia so and so
and says something about guts
on the page. GUTS.
To break up the bland, pleasant
horror of domesticity.
What are we doing
here on the high street,
if we’re not picking  up tail
or telling rough truths?

He’s married. I’m not. He was married when we met.
I wasn’t. The Cardiff we meet in and the Cardiff
he lives in are different places even so.

The new book is meant to be
destroyed, because art is temporal.
I get a copy for free. He has to give
some of his students credit, they call him
on his shit. He’s got shit, like I’ve got shit
like they’ve got shit, but these
are his classes and
I learn more, here on high street
about Cardiff Uni Politics
than will
hopefully ever be useful.

Always used to joke to me to not get married, fuck around as
long as possible. Struck me as sad, and honest. A third weak
beer in and I remember three years ago, he sent a few links
for professor jobs in Cardiff, then one in Bellingham that
he’d thought about.
But you can’t uproot family. You, you could go anywhere.
He pulls a page out of his book and wraps his tip in it
things are going pretty well, he re-iterates, life is what it
is, just kicking against the long going
and I take another look down high street
contemplating curriculums for those who only
wish
their desperation could be
quiet.