Nazi punks fuck off

20 09 2017

Ohhh, I don’t know why, but it seemed that it might be a good time to read Deborah Lipstadt’s Denying the Holocaust.

No reason, really. Y’know, I just happened to have recently watched Denial, happened to have been at the Strand, happened to have to have found myself in the Holocaust Studies section, and, Oh, look, there it is. And then I just happened to have found myself in the opposite corner of the basement in the Law section, where, again, Lookee, here’s History on Trial.

I have said before that, after that first rush to do something, anything, to grit up the gears of the Trump machine, I’d deflated.

I’m still flat. Oh, I still go to the occasional protest and holler, but mostly, I read of all the harm this administration is doing and think God. Fucking. Dammit. And not much more.

I am still trying to think, however, and I figured Lipstadt would be among those authors who could give me something to think about. She doesn’t sketch out an explicit typology of denial in Denying, but in laying out the stories of Hitler and Nazi apologetics, she makes it easy to see the tricks and bullshit these horrid wretches pull to advance their pernicious claims. (In fact, I think I may go through the book and pull out and arrange that tricksy shit for all of y’all.)

It is discouraging, however, to note that, in the preface to Denying, she writes of the incredulity her work provoked, as if no one could believe such a rebuttal were necessary. But then, she continues, That situation has changed dramatically. Regrettably, I no longer have to convince others of the relevance of this work.

Why discouraging? Denying was published in 1993.

~~~

I know, it’s easy to laugh at tiki torches and fashy haircuts, but anyone who wears a swastika is a menace. I absolutely believe that we can and should laugh at these assholes as much as possible—if mockery can shrink ’em, then let’s errrrybody mock—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take them seriously, and shouldn’t be ready to confront them at every possible turn.*

I’ve long thought it important to keep an eye on the fringes, even if I didn’t think it necessary to do more than that. The overt antisemites are still on the fringes, along with the hood-wearing racists, but that they’re popping up has made it even easier for the ‘respectable’ white supremacists to advance their ideas about “globalists”, “thugs”, and “aliens”.

Again, none of these convictions translates, for me, into a clear sense of what, exactly, I should be doing. But I know I need to prepare for whatever comes.

~~~

*I just re-read Jen Graves’s 2013 piece on Charles Krafft, an artist who worked—ironically, it was thought—in Nazi imagery; turns out that, no, really not ironic.

So Krafft is a piece of shit. But what’s striking is less his shittiness than his friends’ reactions to that shittiness:

Another old friend, Tacoma writer Peggy Andersen, said she had to stop socializing with Krafft. “I told him, ‘When I hang out with you, I feel like I’m endorsing something.’… His main thing is that the Holocaust is an exaggeration. I say, if they only killed 10,000 people because they were Jewish, it would still be a holocaust, jackass.” As Andersen and I ended our interview, she said, “Be sure to say I love Charlie.”

A longtime friend who insisted on anonymity said, “It’s not only anti-Semitic stuff, it’s also racism—you know, blacks and women and anything that is held dear by the liberal establishment. And I can see a reaction against holier-than-thou attitudes, I mean, yeah, of course. But…”

Other friends, like Larry Reid, coauthor of the 2002 monograph on Krafft, Villa Delirium, just sort of look away. “I try not to pay too much attention,” Reid said.

Yeah, no, looking away, proclaiming love, not paying attention: not gonna fly.

Like I said, I may not know what to do, big-picture, but if one of my “kind”, “generous”, “articulate”, Zen friends goes Nazi, I sure as hell hope I know at least enough to say NOPE.

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Shine a little light

11 09 2017

Last year, I didn’t go out to look at the lights.

They’re visible from the grounds of my building, two thin, blurred beams towering up through the night, disappearing into the beyond. All I have to do is walk down a few flights of stairs, across the lobby, out the door, angle a look left and up, and there they are.

I haven’t seen them every year since I’ve been in New York; in fact, I don’t know if I saw them before I moved to my current apartment. Maybe? I don’t know.

Anyway, I wasn’t here when it happened, didn’t know anyone (at the time) directly affected; those who I know who were here will talk about it, if prompted, but none of them will volunteer the memory. It’s personal.

It sometimes seems fake for me to claim those two lights as mine, to think that there’s anything to my witness of this annual rite. But I felt bad, last year, for not going out. Here or not, mine or not, it seemed disrespectful not to remember, especially since that remembrance costs me so little.

So, tonight, I took the short walk down and out, looked left and up, and there they were, grayer here and brighter there as they passed through the clouds and up into the beyond, farther than those of us on the ground can see.





Going to the chapel

10 09 2017

I was supposed to get married last night. Or early this morning. Or both, really.

This happens every so often: I am in some sort of wedding venue about to wed a man I barely know.

Last night, he was blond and nice and I don’t know even know if bridal-me knew his name. I think I knew the bridesmaids—in one version, the three of them were wearing not-entirely-awful aubergine dresses, and we acted like we knew each other—but I also remember wondering whether they were friends or family or why they were my bridesmaids. At one point they were stepping on my very long train.

In both versions the wedding was being held in some kind of funky mansion/old hall with 17 chapels, with many weddings happening all at once. It was an amazing place, and it was all quite festive.

Also, in both versions, I thought Why the hell am I getting married? I mean, the groom (younger than me, I think) seemed like a perfectly decent guy, but we hadn’t know each other very long and I felt nothing in particular for him. In one version I actually made it into the chapel and was about to head down the aisle, but in the other I (and/or bridesmaids and/or friends and family) were rushing to find the right chapel, thinking we’re late, but not. At one point in one of the versions I recall telling a friend I really shouldn’t be getting married and she cheerfully agreed, but nothing came of it. I also thought I should call this off; isn’t it too late to call this off? Then again, I also thought, Well, let’s see what happens. Oh, and yet yet again, I thought, this is all just a dream so it doesn’t matter what happens because when I wake up I’ll be single.

Also, in both versions, my hair was a disaster.

Now, when I was younger I thought—assumed—I’d get married. As a dress-hating pre-adolescent I announced that I would get married in jeans, a jean jacket, and a jeans hat. Yes, I left that particular fixation behind, but also, at some point probably in my twenties, stopped assuming I’d get married, then stopped wanting it.

Do I want to get married? In the abstract, no, which, given that my relationships never lasted long enough to advance much beyond the theoretical, meant that that abstraction reigned. But what if I met someone who was not abstract, with whom I did manage to maintain a relationship long enough for it to become real, for us to say, Hey, maybe. . . ?

I dunno. I doubt it. Then again, Hey, maybe. . . .

In the meantime, I guess I’ll keep having this nocturnal ceremonies with grooms (thus far, they’ve all been men, but that could change) I barely know, wearing gowns I’d never choose, always simultaneously late and on-time, the perpetual bride-to-be.





Not touching ground at all

22 08 2017

Sucks to look for a therapist.

Physician? Not a problem: as long as the person’s competent and friendly (enough), I can work with him or her. I found my current doc via a walk-in service I used when insurance-less; now insured, I still see her, and she’s fine.

But a therapist? I gotta click with the person, and since I don’t know ahead of time who I’ll think, Yeah, okay, this is someone I’m willing to talk to even when I’m unwilling to talk, it’s a pain in the ass to search.

Well, that, and that I’m looking for a therapist means I’m NOT IN THE MOOD to be looking for a therapist.

I’ve had two good therapists, one nice-but-not-great one, and a number of non-starters. The two good ones were nothing alike—one was a younger psychiatrist who taught in the UW med school and was laid-back in her approach; the other was older, had a master’s in counseling psychology, and pushed—but both were tough and kind. I trusted each of them as much as I’ve trusted anyone.

So, beyond “tough and kind”, I don’t really have a type. I’ll know within a session or two—well, honestly, I’ll know within one session if I cannot work with someone, a few more if I can—which means I have to do the therapeutic equivalent of speed-dating before deciding on a relationship.

This shouldn’t be that big of a deal: meet for an introductory session, and if it works, great, and if not, well, it was only one session. But this seems like an enormous obstacle when one is NOT IN THE MOOD to be doing much of anything—which is, of course, no small part of the reason why I’m looking for a therapist in the first place.

I’ve been avoiding looking for months, but tonight I finally hopped on to my insurer’s website and looked for therapists who a) they covered; b) dealt with affective disorders; c) were in a convenient location; and d) had a schedule which would accommodate my own. I found three who met these criteria, although if none of these work out, there are plenty more available.

Now, having managed to drag myself out of my torpor long enough to find some possible therapists, I need to maintain this momentum (hah!) to confirm that my insurance coverage does, indeed, cover the therapist AND THEN book an appointment! Horrors.

Do I have it in me? I’d better, if I’m not to sink any further into this lassitude. I’m not in crisis, which makes it easy to put this off, but if I put it off too much longer, well, I might still be fine, or fine enough.

But knowing what not-fine is like and that that’s a risk? Yeah, I’d best get on this.





There has to be an invisible sun

21 08 2017

Since I just wrote on Pink Floyd, I’ll go with this for the eclipse:





We cannot even choose a side

10 08 2017

After the election of the current occupant of the White House, I considered pitching The Atlantic on a story about the unpreparedness of Americanist political scientists for the new regime.

Like with so (too) many things, I never got around to it, but, today, reading Anthony McElligott’s Rethinking the Weimar Republic, I circled back around to this idea.

Political science, as taught in the US, is often divided into 4 fields: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. Sometimes comp & IR are combined, and in some of the larger departments, there may be slots given over to methods/quantitative analysis; theory (my field) is almost always the smallest portion of a pol sci dept.

Anyway, one of the big issues in analyzing the rise and fall of the early German republic is the role of institutions: the attempt of the republic to create new, representative ones, and the role of reactionary institutions (namely, the judiciary and the army) in either not supporting or weakening the republic.

And that’s what brought me back to a consideration of Americanists, and their general lack of consideration of institutions qua institutions.

Let me explain. Here’s [my sense of] how the different fields break down, in terms of what’s studied:

  • American
    • Institutions (govt-specif)
    • Policy (general and specif)
    • Parties
    • State politics
    • Interest groups (oft in conjunction with policy and/or institutions)
    • Political psychology (attitudes & behavior, incl voting behavior)
    • Elections (oft crossed with pol psych, parties, state politics, interest groups)
  • Comparative
    • Institutions (qua institutions)
    • Specific countries/regions
    • Human rights
    • Political culture
    • International law/institutions
    • Political economy
    • Non-governmental organizations
  • IR
    • Diplomacy
    • War
    • Militaries
    • International law/institutions
    • NGOs
    • Political economy
  • Theory
    • History of pol thought
    • Ideologies
    • Specific theorists
    • Specific traditions (e.g., critical theory)

(Again, this is simply my impressionistic take; were I writing a paid piece, I’d test this against something more solid.)

As a general matter, all fields except theory rely on quantitative methods, Americanists probably most of all; Americanists and comparativists may also use qualitative methods. IR, comparative, and theory are variously broadly and narrowly historical, while Americanists are usually only narrowly historical.

What do I mean by “narrowly historical”? They might consider the history of the use of executive power, say, or of the evolution of various House or Senate procedures—that is, they’ll look at the history of a policy or institution in terms of that policy or institution, not any wider trends.

And by “institutions, specific”, I mean, the institutions of government and the various procedures therein; they are generally not considered within a larger context of the institutionalization (“qua institutions”) of the American federal republic or American political culture. A while back I asked someone (Daniel Nexon?) on Twitter—or maybe it was Nexon at Lawyers, Guns & Money—whether there were Americanists who studied institutions in terms of institutionalization, and Stephen Skowronek was the only name he could come up with.

And American political culture? There’s plenty of stuff out there, but little of it done by Americanist; for that, you need to hit up the historians.

Think I’m kidding? Type “American political culture” into Google Scholar and see what pops up: historians and comparativists, some sociologists, and yes, a few political scientists (however narrowly focused).

But not a lot.

This is not a criticism of any particular Americanist. I follow Sarah Binder and Amy Fried, both grad school colleagues, on Twitter, and Sarah’s my go-to scholar for Congressional procedure. And it’s not as if Americanists won’t talk perceptively about what the hell is going on in our country on a conversational level. But bringing scholarly weight to bear on these matters? Not so much.

Okay, it’s getting late, so I won’t stretch my speculations any further. Let’s just say I think Americanists need to—perhaps they already have or are doing so!—broaden their focus and deepen their (historical) analysis if there considerable knowledge is to be of any use in making sense of our current, disintegrating, era.

And theorists? Have I mentioned it’s late. . . ?





When the promise of a brave new world unfurled beneath a clear blue sky

3 08 2017

I had to have been high when I saw Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii.

I mean, who watches a Pink Floyd concert film sober?

JT and his roommate took me and maybe some of the other freshmen from our floor in Sellery over to the Humanities building, where they showed free films in lecture halls (Harold and Maude was regularly featured). JT & roommate were both sophomores, way into music, and likely to be high whenever it seemed like a good time to be high—and in a classroom watching Pink Floyd play long trippy songs in an empty amphitheater would seem to be a very good time to be high.

I knew Pink Floyd well enough—had a couple of albums, knew songs from a couple more—but was never a super fan. I learned that night in Humanities, for example, that they had a song called “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”, which I thought (then and now) was a great title. And I learned that young David Gilmour was beautiful, and that whatever drug he had taken had turned his pupils into teeny-tiny dots amidst a startling blue.

Anyway, there’s a semi-amusing countdown of Pink Floyd songs over at Vulture penned by someone who seems to hate that he’s a Pink Floyd fan. I didn’t click on the links to the songs themselves (on Spotify, which I haven’t joined), but did watch a number of the vids, many of which were live.

And, oh man, look at those concerts! I never saw Pink Floyd live, and most of the big shows I did see were either at Alpine Valley or at Summerfest, but that concert footage—guys mostly standing around, a few women ahhhhh-ing off to the side, and LASERS! and NONSENSE ANIMATION!—that. was. a concert!

I haven’t seen an arena show in. . . huh, ever, so, again, I can only go by what flashes across my computer, but it seems like most of the big acts touring today put on A SHOW. Plenty of music, yes, but dancing and more dancing and, oh look, another dancing routine. I can’t really say if this is better or worse than the old standing-around-noodling model, but it is a distinct change.

Guessing (again): the Grateful Dead were the premier stand-around-noodling band. Yeah, yeah, the Dead (and their ilk) are called “jam bands”, which, okay, is cooler than “noodling” band, but either way, not my thing. The Dead were still touring when I was in college, and you couldn’t swing a bong in Madison without hitting a Deadhead, but, nope, didn’t do it for me.

Didn’t hate ’em, didn’t love ’em; just thought, Okay.

But Pink Floyd? Yeah, they were all right. Biting, angry, inscrutable lyrics, and long (so very long) songs to play when you got in from a night out and needed to float back to somewhere in the vicinity of sobriety before falling asleep. What more could a teenager want?

One final memory: At one point while hospitalized, J and I were allowed out of the ward for a few hours. We walked down Lakeshore path over to State Street, where some kind of construction was going on outside of Memorial Library, the zone bounded by plywood sheets.

These sheets were, of course, a canvas, and on one, someone had spray-painted shine on you crazy diamond.

Both J and I, day-passed from a psych ward, thought this was pretty great, and I took a picture of her in front of it. J had a lot of bad days, but that was a good day, for both of us.