not in our stars, but in ourselves
Friends and enemies, fronds and anemones – hello. I didn’t really mean to take a hiatus, but I guess it happened anyway. This is going to be a roundup post, but a little bit of preamble: I have been pretty down lately. Everything is fine in my personal life. My health is fine. My employment is stable, so far as I know. As far as my own small sphere goes, nothing is the matter, and none of that is what’s getting me down. (Well, my job drives me nuts at times, but doesn’t everyone’s.) No, it’s just the rest of the world. This horrible Battle of the Bastards of an election is making me more and more depressed every day. It’s obvious that Trump is the worst possible option, perhaps in all American history. Clinton should be dominating him in every poll. He should be down by 70 points. He should be doing so badly that he’d prefer to drop out than keep going. But no – they’re in a dead heat, and nothing she’s doing seems likely to change that. Because I live next to New Hampshire, and because they apparently can’t afford their own fucking TV channel, I get to see lots of political ads. In hers, she quotes Republicans of the #NeverTrump variety, and also pledges to work with both Democrats and Republicans if she’s elected president. Who the fuck is going to be excited by that? Who the fuck is going to vote for her based on her ability to work incrementally with the GOP? Does she think the average American cares more about party loyalty, or about policies that might help them to suffer less? It seems that she believes the average American is basically Carl Diggler. You know what, fuck that shit. I don’t want Trump to win. I don’t want Johnson or Stein to win either. By process of elimination, I am the least opposed to Clinton winning – but she hasn’t done a goddamn thing to earn anyone’s vote, and if she loses, it is squarely on her and her campaign staff. If you can’t convincingly beat someone as fucking idiotically horrible as Donald J. Trump, you really need to look at your life and your choices. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I feel exactly like a dog in a burning house or a sinking boat. No one is paying attention when I try to warn them just how bad all of this is, and we’re all gonna die.
Okay, onto the links.
1. Here’s the best thing I’ve read all year, by none other than Brendan James – producer of a little podcast called Chapo Trap House: “Anti-Trump Conservatives Keep Getting Trapped in Elevators.” A curious phenomenon, and yet, a very real one:
Just as Winston Churchill once vowed to ally with the devil (Slavs) to defeat Adolf Hitler, this year’s election has brought together all kinds of ex-nemeses in opposition to Donald Trump and the sick, twisted, meme-literate political shock troops known as the “alt-right.”
In particular, there exists a band of serious, respectable conservatives who work at publications with names like the Liberty Sentinel and the American Standard who, perhaps for the first time ever, can agree on something with Hillary Clinton. Their battle cry is #NeverTrump.
John Podhoretz, the son of neoconservative intellectual Norman Podhoretz and therefore the editor of Commentary magazine,has led the charge: He calls Trump the “American id” and, in an interview with the war journal Town & Country, declared the alt-right his “Twitter enemy,” and “a congeries of monsters.” His brothers-in-arms include fellow neocons at the Washington Free Beacon; right-wing radio superstar Glenn Beck; National Review commentator and son-of-Linda-Tripp’s-friend Jonah Goldberg; and, of course, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump’s fierce and unyielding primary opponent. They will not bow down; they vow to expel Trump and his racist minions from the Grand Old Party.
There is only one thing holding them back: At any given moment, every one of these men is likely to be trapped inside of an elevator.
Pro-tip, kids: if something embarrassing happens to you repeatedly, do not live-tweet it.
2. Trump’s foreign policy would, no doubt, be absolutely terrible. He doesn’t understand anything about the rest of the world, nor does he seem to want to. However: don’t fool yourself into thinking that the Democrats are any less bloodthirsty. They’ve been red-baiting like crazy all year long, and it’s coming full circle – they earnestly believe, it seems, that Putin is meddling in the election, as if this were some substandard plotline from The Americans. Okay, dumbasses. You want to know who’s a bad guy to fuck with? Vladimir Putin. Beyond that, though, there’s the likelihood that “we” will use the already unimaginable suffering in Syria to…uh…well, basically, just to keep fighting wars. There’s Clinton’s speech touting “American exceptionalism,” one of the slimiest and most disgusting phrases I’ve ever heard. There’s her admission that voting in favor of the Iraq War was a “mistake,” but her preference for relying on U.S. military force in any and all situations abroad. Maybe you don’t care about people in the rest of the world. I don’t know. That’s a problem for you and your conscience.
3. Here’s a fun one, courtesy of Virgil Texas: foot fetishists and Hillary Clinton, among others. I won’t even spoil it for you with any quotes. Just go take a look, and wiggle those toes, sweeties.
4. Across the pond, there’s been a lot of hullabaloo about the Labour Party. In essence: Jeremy Corbyn is currently the leader of the Labour Party. He was elected about a year ago. He’s been an MP for decades, fighting consistently for progressive causes and living a relatively ascetic lifestyle, at least by politicians’ standards. (Sound familiar?) Anyway, he’s been unpopular with the more centrist members of Labour for a long time, and – especially post-Brexit – they’re bending over backwards to try to boot him out (as well as the thousands of new Labour members he managed to bring in, because – whaddaya know – people found his message inspiring and wanted to get behind him). There have been charges that he’s not “electable” against the Tories, and the centrist Labour hacks have instead decided to throw their lot behind some dude named Owen Smith. Look him up. He’s about as inspiring as mud. There have also been charges that Corbyn isn’t proper “leadership” material – charges that are, I think, pretty thoroughly disproved in this Guardian opinion piece by Ronan Bennett. Now, naturally, everyone has a hot take on this state of affairs. The most curious of the anti-Corbyn so-called “Saving Labour” voices, I think, has to belong to J.K. Rowling. That’s right: the author of the children’s literature series that everyone except me seems to have read. She’s been having a goddamn meltdown about all things political lately, relying on her beloved Harry Potter and friends to prove her own point. Sam Kriss took her at her word, and proved perhaps a different point than the one she intended:
Harry Potter is a profoundly reactionary fable; its fantasy isn’t really about dragons and broomsticks but the tired old fantasy of the British class system. Harry Potter is the petit-bourgeois boy who goes to a magical Eton (one that, incidentally, runs on actual slave-labour), faces a few tribulations along his way, but eventually finds himself admitted to the ranks of the aristocracy. The central moral dilemma is one of inequality– what do you do when you have one class of people who, by dint of their extraordinary powers, are innately superior to the society surrounding them? (This goes some way to explaining its popularity: Harry Potter is a book for people who are very pleased with themselves because they love books and love to read, without any judgements on what’s being read; it was never for children and always for the bored 29-year-old human resources workers they would grow into. To read Harry Potter uncritically is to adopt the posture of a Hufflepuff.) The crude, cartoon fascism of Voldemort and the Death Eaters answers that they must rule, killing and enslaving the lesser races. The good characters, meanwhile, want the wizarding world to coil up into its own superiority and seethe in its own ressentiment; every adult is seemingly employed by a government bureaucracy whose sole purpose is to maintain a system of magical apartheid. But remember that these are not actually opposing factions, only varying perspectives of a single ideological object; the difference between Dumbledore and Voldemort is as illusory as that between white nationalism and white supremacism. When JK Rowling announces what Dumbledore would do, she’s announcing the politics of the entire work, its good and evil figures all rolled into one. This is what fandom-hermeneutics fails to understand: you can’t introject a single character sliced off from its text; you can only swallow the whole thing. When JK Rowling ventriloquises her friendly wizard to say that Palestine solidarity or socialism make the Hogwarts man feel very sad, watch her head spin round to reveal the pale leering mouth of the Dark Lord.
Lovely spot of tea, that.
5. You know I can’t resist anything about my beautiful boy Nabokov, and there was a decent essay about him and Kubrick on the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s blog, speculating as to why neither man – despite each stating his intention to do so – ever completed a work about the Holocaust. At times, I think it’s a little too reductive for someone as subtle as my Volodya, but it’s basically correct:
All magic and misdirection, Nabokov’s writing encompassed multiple readings other authors dreamed of. But he could only succeed at historical tragedy when he addressed it elliptically. With parody, linguistic games, and ambiguity as his most effective tools, Nabokov was ill-equipped to play Tolstoy and create a War and Peace-style epic about the death of millions. He could make questions about Humbert’s refugee past haunt the pages of Lolita, but the Holocaust in its entirety could not be written as subtext.
I think, too, that Nabokov’s insistence on keeping these tragedies personal and intimate – and resolutely avoiding trying to make any grand statement about Humanity or Universality – is a far more effective and affective technique. Remember what Pnin, usually so good-natured and open-minded, says to a friend on the subject of psychoanalysis: “‘It is nothing but a microcosmos of communism – all that psychiatry,’ rumbled Pnin, in his answer to Chateau. ‘Why not leave their private sorrows to people? Is sorrow not, one asks, the only thing in the world people really possess?'”
6. GE and plenty of other high-powered companies are coming to Boston’s Seaport district, which some jackasses are trying to call the “Innovation District.” It will be flooded by the end of the century, if not before. Great job, everybody.
7. This Senses of Cinema essay, about Christine Chubbuck – a Florida news reporter who shot herself live on air – is incredibly sad. I’m not sure I especially want to see either movie coming out this year about her and her suicide, but I do wish I knew more about her. Private sorrows, I suppose.
8. The thought that Bernie is sad makes me even sadder than I imagined possible. What are those vultures doing to you, Bernie? You poor man.
9. It me: