It seems like everybody got the blues

27 08 2018

This is not an obit.

Yes, Aretha Franklin has died. And John McCain. And Neil Simon. But I don’t have much to say about any of them.

I mean, Aretha’s “Respect” is a song for the ages, one I can’t begin to listen to without finishing it, and what she could do to and with so many songs? Yeah.

But even as I had a cd or two of hers, I wasn’t a devotee, and don’t know that there’s much I could say.

I’ve enjoyed Simon’s work, but: ditto.

And John McCain? His reputation was on the whole better than he was, but that for bravery was entirely earned. And as terrible as so many of his policy preferences were, he seemed actually to give a shit about the common good.

A low bar, yes, but one too few are able to clear these days.

Anyway, I comment on these deaths mainly to comment on the commentary on their deaths. It wasn’t enough for Aretha to have been a musical genius: every song she sang had to be better than any other version! And John McCain? He was a hero! He was a warmonger! How dare you say anything good! How dare you say anything bad!

How dare you say anything good! How dare you say anything bad!

That’s how it is, I guess, policing every reaction to every event. It’s probably always been like this—gotta keep folks in line—but with social media it’s not just fights but fights about the fights and fights about the fights about the fights. I like a decent recursion, but this is a bit much, even for me.

I’ve got my own lines, of course, but as I’ve said before, I’m not much for boundary policing. There’s some worth to it, I guess, especially on public matters, but I don’t much see the point of cracking on people for their personal reactions. I read a really good in-depth negative obit of McCain—one which probably comes as close to any to capturing my own sense of the man—but I’m not bothered by those which lean positive. There’s no betrayal of principle in recognizing he lived a long time, did a lot of things, many (from my perspective) negative, but a few positive.

Besides, what the hell kind of principle is it to deny humanness to an adversary? He may not always have been the best of us, but I think he tried. I think it’s fine to land on either side of that; just don’t deny the other side.

~~~

That said, I’ll be honest: I probably won’t react well if, when the current president dies, someone who ought to know better says something good about him.

So, if I do anything other than roll my eyes at those folks, well, feel free to call me out. This is one line I would defend.

 

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Cause they can’t make opinions meet about God

10 08 2018

I am generally polite to people on a mission.

In my neighborhood, they’re mostly Christian, from the Jamaican ladies outside of the train station with their copies of Watchtower to the, well, Jamaican ladies knocking on my door asking if they could have a Word with me.

I am very occasionally asked if I’m Jewish by some polite young man in a wide-brimmed hat, which, no, but thank you for asking.

I admire people who want to share their Gods: if you have an inside track on what you think is the best thing in the universe, it’s generous to to say Hey, look everyone!

Even the train evangelists, who can be quite loud, well, they’re out there walking their walk.

But this? No.

Now, certainly my response is due in part to the fact that I have zero respect for Franklin Graham. He may be sincere in his beliefs, but, unlike those Jamaican ladies, he seems to be more interested in people becoming Christian so as to boost himself than in offering a kindness to those others.

In the midst of an Oregon mission rally (during which he not so coincidentally urged his followers to get political), he said this about the (non-Christian) Democratic governor:

“Let’s pray for your governor, Gov. Brown. Wouldn’t it be something if she got saved? Amen.…We pray for Kate Brown. And Lord, I pray that she would come to know your son Jesus Christ as her lord and savior one day.”

I get it. It’s a part of a prophetic tradition to call out political leaders, and preachers left, right, and center have so called.

But that’s not what Graham’s doing. If he wanted to play the prophet he wouldn’t have aligned himself so closely with America’s Nero, and if he were sincerely interested in Kate Brown’s spiritual health he wouldn’t have engaged in an evangelistic version of cat-calling.

No, Graham is stunting. He doesn’t give a shit about Brown’s beliefs, only that her politics are not his.

Now Terri, you might ask, how do you know what’s in Franklin’s heart? Oh, I don’t know, maybe because he’s questioned the Christianity of Barack Obama?* Said that you can tell that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were Christians based on their policy positions?

Graham is a Trump-humper, a GOP tankie, and a political actor through-and-through. That’s fine: he can be as political as he wants to be.

Let’s  just not pretend that his call-out to Gov Brown is anything other than political.

*(Tho’ I should note here that he also doesn’t think Mitt Romney is a Christian. Mormons! Whattya gonna do?)

h/t HuffPo, Willamette Week





The heaviness, the heaviness

30 07 2018

I’m no longer shocked by stories of men who think they are owed others.

I mean, I doubt sexual abuse is shocking to any woman, although I do admit that the authority with which these men asserted this access did shock me. I was used to stories of men who bragged that they got away with it or who thought that bitch had it coming; the breeziness with which Rose and Lauer and Weinstein et. al. attacked women, well that was something.

No more.

So now I notice other things about these stories, these men: they don’t have to remember. The women, they remember, they can’t forget, but the men? They don’t recall, don’t remember, don’t remember it that way, have no recollection.

Over and over and over again:  Did I do this? I don’t recall, so, no.

The assaults were too inconsequential to be remembered, too ordinary, too light. It was nothing.

This is power: to forget, to offload the memory, to deny there was ever any burden at all.





Slice her up, poor cow

24 07 2018

“You’re not the boss of me!”

That’s pretty much my reaction to policies like WeWork’s decision to ban meat.

Now, two things: One, WeWork is not, in fact, the boss of me, but as someone who works (for others) for a living, I have had and do have bosses—who get to, at work, boss me around.

Two, they’re not actually banning meat: employees can still bring their own meat-infested lunches to work. The ban is actually a decision not to reimburse meaty lunch expenses, nor to provide flesh at company-sponsored events.

For environmental reasons, they say: “The company estimates that the policy will save 445.1m pounds of CO2 emissions and 15,507,103 animals by 2023.”

Uh huh. As Felix Salmon notes, however:

WeWork, of course, has a substantial environmental impact of its own, almost none of which is food-related. It manages 10 million square feet of office space in 76 cities around the world, including Warsaw and Chengdu; across its 406 locations, some have much higher carbon footprints than others. As a tenant in those buildings, WeWork has very little control over how much energy they waste, but if it wanted to, it could confine itself to LEED-certified buildings. That way, landlords would have a strong economic incentive to make their buildings energy-efficient and therefore attractive to WeWork and other environmentally conscious tenants.

That might cut into the bottom line, however, whereas cutting out cows, well, if that happens to save the company money, what a happy coincidence!

Yes, I am skeptical of their reasoning, but even if I’d grant the founders’ sincerity (and I don’t: as Salmon notes, co-founder Miguel McKelvey “is building a multimillion-dollar mountaintop house in Utah”), I’d still see this as of a piece of company’s butting into their workers’ (non) business.

Again, it’s probably unfair to WeWork to lump them in with companies which coerce their employees into wellness programs, ask for social media passwords, or otherwise police their behavior off the job—again, WeWork is simply saying “we’ll pay for this, we won’t pay for that”—and it doesn’t engage in the kinds of intrusive surveillance of on-the-clock conduct that you find at too many companies, but, goddamn, it seems like just one more way for the boss to boss you around.





Oh, but things ain’t just the same

4 07 2018

Yeah, I’m an inconstant bum, but still. . .





Do you hope to find new ways of doing better than your worst

10 06 2018

I could just as easily led this off with any number of “Hello. . . ” lyrics, for any of you left reading this.

It’s been awhile, yeah. Sorry about that.

Truly, I am. It’s taken me years to get more than a few followers, and while I doubt you’ve been pacing for the past month or two wondering When is Terri gonna get off her ass and write, still, I haven’t kept my (written) word to you.

It’s the same thing, really, that I’ve written about before. I’m out of sorts, drifting, and, lately, sad. I think of something to write and then I don’t and then I think Oh, I should write and then I don’t and then it’s easier not to write because I haven’t written and the longer I haven’t written the more the not-writing weighs and the long I’m silent I wonder is it better to be silent than mediocre?

I am not the only one to get sucked into this whirlpool of anxiety, I know; the sucking sucks, nonetheless.

My life isn’t terrible. I’m teaching this summer, doing some freelance work with someone I’ve worked with previously and who I like. I finally bought a new mattress (loooooooooong overdue) and new bedframe (because) and I’m working out and eating fine and, y’know, I’m mostly fine, in most of the important ways.

But I am drifting, and sad, and I need to do something about both, sooner rather than later. There is no emergency, and while I can look at Kate Spade (who was only a few years older than me) and Anthony Bourdain (whose most famous book I’ve read and whose shows I’ve watched) with a weary sympathy, where they ended up is on the other side of where I am, now.  I’m sad, not self-destructive.

And I’m not sure what to do about it. Therapy, sure, yes, I’ve done some initial checking-around, and I should follow through, but, okay, yes, I should, no buts.

But: I’ve never done therapy when it wasn’t propelled by an emergency. Therapy was a backstop to self-destruction, something I deliberately put in the way of my own conflictedly-willed erasure. I used it both the prepare for and to prevent my end.

That’s not how I would use it, now, and maybe that’s what bumfuzzling me. What is it like to try for something more, rather than something less?





If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake

2 04 2018

Why didn’t anyone tell me about The Great British Baking Show?

Okay, yes, there all kinds of social media stories and tweets and whatnot about the show, but still.

I was scrolling through Netflix last weekend, once again failing to get into Jessica Jones, and thought, huh, this Brit bake bit, why not.

Why not, indeed. I slurped down that first season Fri-Sat, then on Sunday watched the entirety of season two. This past weekend, did the same with seasons three and four. (I was going to save that last available season until next weekend, but then thought, Who am I kidding, and binged away.)

I don’t know why I liked it so much. I have watched my share of cooking shows (tho’ I’m not much for cooking) and enjoy baking (tho’ rarely do), and even a few competitive cooking shows, but nothing about all of the media around the show made me particularly want to watch it.

The set-up (for the eight of you who haven’t watch it) is simple: 12 (in one season, 13) amateur bakers start in episode one; after 3 different bakes judged by two judges (and watched over by the mildly-comic-relief hosts), one person is declared star baker and one sent home. Episode 2, same as the first, on down to the last episode, in which the final three bakers compete for the title.

That’s it. Regular folk from across the UK watching their custards curdle and caramels crystallize and peering into their ovens for their goods to rise and bake in the too-little time left.

All the while trying to meet judge Mary Berry’s standard of “sheer perfection”.

It’s charming.

The bakers are both competitive and cooperative, aware of their own positions but also helping each other and teasing each other and sharing a kind of esprit de corps in the face of the judges oft bewildering instructions.

And withering criticism: Berry and fellow judge Paul Hollywood are unsparing, clear in what they like and don’t like.

That first season, I admit, I cringed at the criticism. I found it hard to watch the bakers as they presented wilted towers and underbaked breads to the judges, watched the color flow into or out of their faces as Berry and Hollywood noted precisely what was wrong with the bake.

Of course, there was plenty of praise for “good bakes”, too, but it was the criticism that got to me.

I’m terrible with criticism, more so now than I was when younger (when I was also not great with it). I have difficulty separating a critique of a performance or an essay from an evaluation of my very existence as a human being, which has meant, unsurprisingly, that I have difficulty putting forth anything which matters to me out in front of other people.

I have of course: am doing so now, with this blog. But it took awhile to get comfortable with this—early on I went to some effort to separate my give name from my chosen blog-name—and even now I oft say, Well, it’s not like any of this matters.

(Which is, of course, a dismissal of those of you who do read this. The joy of neuroses lies in the double move of magnifying the number of those who see one’s faults and diminishing those who see the good.)

Anyway, these firefighters and gardeners and stay-at-home moms and students are afraid—literally shaking afraid—and putting themselves out there in front of gods and country and having a go.

So there it is: not just charming, but inspiring.