Hold on loosely

9 12 2013

I’d have a lot more respect for this petition if the signers weren’t themselves sucking so hard on the juicy fruits of information on the internet that their cheeks are caved in.

Oh, and the fact they waited until this all became public knowledge—that is, when their customers found out—makes me think this is less a righteous stand for an open and free society than profit-saving CYA.

Still, message/messenger and all that: they ain’t wrong.

~~~

And I think Brendan Kiley (riffing off David Schmader) pretty much nails it: It is funny—the people who hold the power in any given situation tend to be the ones who behave the most fearfully.

See: Wall Street & its critics; Christians in the US & non-Christians (swap out Islam/Judaism/Hinduism as befits the particular society); MRAs and feminists; ad infinitum.

My only amendment to his statement would be that the people who believe only they should hold the power in any given situation. . . : in a decent political situation, it would be understood that one’s hold on power is of necessity temporary, and thus must be held lightly and confidently, not fearfully.

~~~

Ever since Bones killed off Pelant and Booth & Brennan got married, every fucking episode includes some sort of paean to their love/relationship/perfection for each other.

Tskghk.

Bones has become McMillan & Wife.





I’m gonna set your flag on fire

19 08 2013

Quick follow-up to yesterday’s post:

I wasn’t clear in defining “punishment”, nor in distinguishing that undefined punishment from a beat-down from one’s political opponents.

The ultimate punishment (for an incumbent) is, of course, to be tossed from office, and is the standard for any other concerns about punishment. For example, falling poll numbers might invite either a primary challenge or a better-quality challenger from the other party, which could result in losing one’s seat. Similarly, a beat-down from a political adversary could lead to softening poll numbers, which, in turn, lead challengers to believe the incumbent is vulnerable.

I also wasn’t clear in distinguishing between fear of losing one’s seat from fear of being hammered for an allegedly weak response. As with the issue of punishment, the fear of hammering is a second-order fear linked to the primary fear of election loss.

The difficulty for the incumbent representative or senator, or for either the incumbent or possible presidential candidate, is discerning whether one will be considered weak if one counsels a less-aggressive stance as well as whether one would be able to fend off any attacks in ways that, if they do not strengthen one’s candidacy, do not appreciably weaken it. In the United States, DO SOMETHING!!! is the default mode in response to provocation, so in the absence of other cues, taking a highly aggressive stance is likely the safest tactic.

There are other factors, of course. Pressure from party leaders and threats to withhold campaign funds or boot a member off a favorable committee can steer a wavering politician toward aggression. A sustained media assault can also erode one’s resistance.

Finally, the politician might truly believe that the most aggressive response is, in fact, the correct one, and as such, acts in accordance with his or her principles in voting for aggression.

Now, as to my hypothesis that the supposed problem with a softer response is actually a problem with an unclear response, well, because elections are rarely about one thing and one thing only, this is tough to test.

Russ Feingold was the only senator to vote against the PATRIOT Act and laid out his reasons for doing so, and he lost his re-election; however, he had always had tough races, and lost his bid in the 2010 Tea Party surge. Rep. Ron Paul counseled and Senator Rand Paul counsel non-intervention; the father repeatedly won re-election and the son is popular enough with the base of the Kentucky Republican Party that Mitch McConnell is looking to him in his tough re-election bid. Yet it’s also clear that Rand Paul’s non-interventionism runs into strong opposition within his own party, and while he might be able to ensconce himself in his senate seat for decades to come, it might limit his appeal as a presidential candidate in the Republican primaries.

So, no clear lesson.

Except: to the extent that there is no clear lesson regarding the necessity of the most aggressive response, it is just possible that a sitting politician or a presidential candidate who strongly believes in a less-aggressive/non-interventionist approach could effectively inoculate him or herself against charges of being “soft on terrorism/crime” by crafting a strong and clear alternative and selling it as the most effective way of dealing with the problem.





Come out, come out wherever you are

26 07 2012

I’m half-out as a bisexual.

Andrew Sullivan has been banging away at the fact that the late Sally Ride chose not to come out as a lesbian while she lived, and getting a fair amount of push-back from readers; he’s holding firm.

My first reaction to his original column was What a dick.

I read his column every day and link to it with some regularity, so I’m not unfamiliar with his habit of making everything about him. (It’s annoying, but it’s his blog, and, frankly, I’m probably even more guilty of the Me! Me! M-Fucking-E ME! approach to blogging. So.)

Anyway, that initial reaction was along the lines of He really doesn’t get how hard it is for women in male-dominated fields; sexism piled with homophobia might have been too much. I modified that reaction somewhat as I considered that she could have come out after she left the space program, could have come out in the past few years, and that maybe it would have been better had she been as out to the general public as she apparently was with intimates.

Still, I think Sullivan does discount both the dynamics of sexism and temperamental differences regarding revelations about one’s private life. He implies that she labored in the closet, and that now we know that her real lesson to young lesbans was and is: duck and cover.

But we don’t, in fact, know that this was her lesson. Just because she wasn’t out in a dramatically public way doesn’t have to mean that her “real” lesson was “hide away”. There is, after all, a difference between discretion and shame.

As unfair as I think Sullivan is in his autopsy of Ride’s relationship to her public persona—he didn’t know her, didn’t know her motives—I do nonetheless have to wonder about my own half-outing.

I could be cute, I suppose, and say that as a bisexual I could only be half-out, but what I really mean is that I’m out to some (all of my friends in New York & some of my colleagues, some of my non-New York friends), not to others (family, students), generally ambiguous in reference to any (hypothetical, sigh) partners, and will answer truthfully if asked directly by someone who I don’t think is crossing any lines in the query.

Who I don’t think is crossing any lines: This is the kicker, isn’t it? What if a student would ask? A boss? Would that person be crossing a line?

Or should I be the one who crosses the line by coming out to, say, my students and everyone I work with? I have no fear of discrimination at work, and no great worries of adverse reactions from my students, but I haven’t come out fully at the office or in the classroom* in part because I don’t think it’s any of their business. I like my privacy, and I don’t think openness in some areas of my life requires me to display every aspect of my life.

(*There’s also the matter of the appropriateness of revealing personal information in the classroom. I do offer bits from my life if they’re relevant to the subject at hand, so it’s not out of the question that my own sexuality would be relevant in some discussions; just coming out a propos of nothing—Hi, I’m your professor and I’m bisexual!—would manifestly not be the way to go.)

But—and here is where Sullivan and everyone else who argues for the urgency of coming out makes sense to me—by not saying anything, I allow others to draw false inferences of my sexuality, a falseness under which I may duck and cover and which has social implications. I am uneasy, still, with the inferences others may draw if I come out as bisexual, even as I am also uneasy with the assumption by others that I’m straight.

My reasons for not slamming that closet door behind me, then, has less to do with social opprobrium than my own fear of the personal reactions to a personal revelation. I don’t think anyone in my family would really care all that much, or, to be honest, really be surprised—any surprise might be that I’m bisexual and not a lesbian—nor do I think that the few friends who I haven’t told would care much, either; if they would, their distress would likely center on how long it took me to tell them, not what I told them.

And, of course, that it’s been a number of years since I’ve become bisexual only makes the conversation now even more awkward: Why didn’t you say something earlier?

Sigh.

I struggle with what to reveal and what to tuck away in so many things; unlike almost every other of those things, however, this one is not just about me.





Let it be

25 01 2012

Try to be less afraid.

That was one of my not-great-at-resolutions resolution, and so far, in 2012, it’s 20 percent working.

The trying part—one of the five words—that I’m, well, trying.

The fear is still there, the thrum and tightening and clench, and in some cases the attempt to release it has only resulted in more fear.

Still, I am remembering one of my old mantras—No way out but through—which, along with Breathe, might just, eventually, lead to a lessening, a loosening.

It can be a hard thing to hang on and let go at the same time.





We’ll take a cup o’ kindess, yet

31 12 2011

I think I say every year that I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, after which I, well, I go ahead and resolve.

That’s not much of a tradition, but why not go with it?

So, I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing to be less afraid.

Fear as fog—yes, that sounds about right. I like fog, like how it makes things both close and far away, intimate and alienated all at the same time, but I’d rather keep it off my mind.

Less fear, then. And more kindness.

I wrestle with the whole sharp edges/soft hands approach to life and have tended to valorize critique over gentleness, but there are moments in which it is less important to be right than to be there.

There is more work, of course, but perhaps I should start with these two, and see how it goes.

Have a peaceful New Year, whether and whatever you resolve.

(Video: Albert Brooks and Rip Torn, Defending Your Life)





All things weird and wonderful, 8

25 10 2011

About that last post. . .

Lynda Barry, as ever

I’ve never been a fan of bugs. Ladybugs, okay. Butterflies, yes, and caterpillers, cool (centipedes: not cool) but anything else, nuh-uh.

Some just bothered me, the way they bother everyone—flies, ants, mosquitoes—while others (silverfish: brrr!) seriously freaked me out. (That may have had something to do with the proximity of the attic to my childhood bedroom, and on more than one occasion pulling back the bedspread to find a—brrr!—silverfish darting about the sheets. Nobody wants that.)

Spiders, for some reason, never really bothered me, although I have a memory of getting up close and personal with a daddy longlegs in the crawlspace underneath my cousin’s cottage and seeing fangs. (That can’t be right, but that’s what the data in me old noggin says.) I was offered the chance of ex post facto explanation of this bug-discrepancy when I learned that spiders were arachnids, not insects, but, honestly, I think this is just a glitch in my general bug-phobia.

My friend B., on the other hand, didn’t mind bugs at all. Worms and snakes (or maybe it was just snakes) freaked her out, but she’d pick up a bug and bring it in close and just sort of go, “huh”.

(Excuse me for the break, but there’s one other bug that’s cool. Wait, two. Dragonflies. And praying mantes. THE ANTI-BUG POINT STILL HOLDS.)

We joked that we’d be great in the rain forest: I’d be clutching her screaming about all the bugs, and she’d be clutching me screaming about all the slimy crawly things.

Still, growing up in SmallTown Wisconsin, we rarely encountered any truly egregious species. Hell, I didn’t even see my first live cockroach until I was in Madison, and it was dead. (You know what I mean.)

Roaches, man, I. . . can’t. Let’s just say that living in Albuquerque, with it’s big-roaches-are-the-southwestern-ant was a trial. And the first time one flew off the wall at me, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh, it’s a wonder my eyes didn’t curl into the back of my head permanently.

And no, calling it a “water bug” doesn’t make it so.

(My grad-school friend D. told me of the time he was living near the U of Chicago, stuck his foot into his shoe, and, well, you know where this is going, right? I shook out my shoes before I put them on EVERY TIME when I live in Albuquerque. One never dropped out. Which was good, as I almost certainly would have tossed those shoes.)

I once looked at an apparently nice apartment in Steven’s Square in Minneapolis, and just after the rental agent assured me the building was roach-free, one fell on to the floor between us. We were both mortified.

My completely irrational and outsized fear of roaches actually impeded possible earlier moves to New York. (One of those moves landed me in Albuquerque. Oh, irony!). K. was a fellow grad student who had attended NYU, and she described how she couldn’t keep food in her apartment, for all the scuttling bugs. All those years, and I still remember the story. (That, and K. wore big wool turtleneck sweaters and kickin’ boots.)

And now, yes, I’ve seen the scuttling bugs in my apartment, and I get sprayed, but I have more-or-less successfully suppressed my hysteria at the sight of a roach and have managed to stop my thoughts from galloping toward the if-there’s-one-in-sight-there’s-twenty-thousand-in-hiding multiplier; now, my reaction is a curse, a sigh, a scoop-into-the-toilet-and-flush, and near-instant obliteration of the fact that there ever was a bug.

(Why the scoop-and-flush? You don’t actually expect me to step on those things, do you?)

J., who grew up in Tucson, did help to put the little bastards into context when she noted, at least they don’t bite—unlike, say, scorpions.

So, no, roaches aren’t weird and wonderful and neither are scorpions, but Lynda Barry is and this made me think of B. and J. and that is, if not weird, certainly wonderful.

On a completely unrelated note, B. and I, who volunteered as camp counselors (lifeguards! the best duty!) at Camp Bird in Crivitz, Wisconsin, were walking back from our cabin to the nightly campfire at the waterfront (which looked just like the waterfront in the Friday the 13th movies) and joking about, I dunno, whatever, when we heard this SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMIII IIIIINNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG sound slicing through the cabins just to the right of us.

We stopped dead on the trail. Whatthehellwasthat?! Was that a naked bloody screaming boy running through the woods with an axe?

We stood there. And stood there. And stood there. I don’t think either of us had a flashlight. And we stood there some more, until someone else with a flashlight came by and said something like, Hey.

We later told ourselves it was probably just a loon*. They had them there, and didn’t it sound like the screaming went over the lake? A naked bloody screaming boy with an axe couldn’t fly over the lake, could he? Could he?!

A loon, yeah.

_____

*Click the tremolo—that comes closest. And if it wasn’t a loon. . . oh, come on, it was. It had to be.





I’m leaving it all up to you

7 08 2011

It was so obvious I forgot to mention it: the Big Fear.

About The Unexpected Neighbor, I mean, the main reason I hesitated to tell people  I knew that the book was now available at Smashwords.

And no, not whether or not they liked it. But whether they’d think less of me for this story. I mean, they could like it, but think it a trifle, and thus consider me. . . trifling.

Y’know how I mentioned a couple of posts ago that, however foolish the attempt, I nonetheless try to control what people think about me? Wasn’t kidding. Not one bit.

So here I tell people—you, my friends in New York, a friend in Wisconsin, my mom—that I wrote this book. Because I want you to know that I wrote this book. And I might even want you to read it.

Maybe.

But if nobody I know reads it, I don’t know if I’ll be more disappointed or relieved. I want you to like the story, and I think the story is likable, but I’d like you to like it quite apart from me—as in, AbsurdBeats is here and the book is there and never the twain shall meet.

Silly, I know, and embarrassingly neurotic. (Okay, so the control thing may have something to do with neurosis, as well, but it sounds so much. . . flintier to state I want to control than to say I want people to think well of me. Control, yeah, I’ll go with that.)

Anyway.

I want to get better at this, the novel-writing, and while I think The Unexpected Neighbor is a decent first book, I don’t know that I’d have published it if I thought it were my only book. I wouldn’t want this to be too big a piece of me.

It’s not me. It’s not biography, and no one in the story is me. But it came out of me and there are bits of me (and friends of mine) scattered throughout these characters. It’s not all or nothing; the twain has met.

It’s mine, but not me.

I know that. I have to trust that if anyone I know reads this, they’ll know that, too.

How they know that, well—deep breath—that’s not up to me. That’s up to them.

Or I could just hope that only strangers read it.

_____

(This is the real hat-tip to Susan Wise Bauer, but her site’s not loading; I’ll add a link when I can here’s the link.)








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