Baby you can drive my car

4 11 2013

Scapegoats are incredibly useful.

Not when they’re people—then scapegoating is horrible—but when they’re an event or a thing, they allow you to compartmentalize and carry away a whole carload of bad feelings.

Emily Chapman scapegoats Taylor Swift, in particular Swifts’s song “Twenty Two.”

The first time I heard Taylor Swift singing about the carefree fun of being 22 after I realized that my mother was really going to die, I punched the radio off. Like, actually hit my radio dial with some force. I regretted this later, since I drive a Civic and it’s not really built for punching.

“Fuck you,” I yelled at her, at the song, at the stupid top-40 radio station that was playing it. For good measure, I repeated it: “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.” Then, in the parking lot of the Tex-Mex restaurant nearest to what was still my parents’ house, I broke down and cried.

A pop song is a fine target for one’s anguish: plenty of opportunities to express one’s loathing, and to deal, however indirectly, with whatever drives that hate.

I was mad at the cancer for killing my mom, and I was mad at myself for not being better at helping my family take care of her, and I was mad at Taylor Swift for reminding me of all of that.

But I couldn’t fix any of that. So instead I developed intense fantasies of stealing Taylor Swift’s weird smashed birthday cake, and continued to bruise my hands on my car’s dash.

I created a scapegoat to deal with my far-less-traumatizing memories of New Mexico. I don’t regret my year-long sojourn in Albuquerque, but it was a terrible decision to move there, and I dealt with all kinds of (relatively minor) shit while living there.

I also had a lot of fun and met some great people, so how to keep the shit from stinking up the good memories? I put them in a car—a Volkswagon, to be exact.

I’d bought a 1973 Volkswagon while I lived there—3 or 4 gears, I can’t remember—and sold it before moving back to Minneapolis. I was a jumble during this entire period, and didn’t know how to deal with that jumbledness.

The solution? Pack all of my negative New Mexico experiences into that Volkswagon, and get my hate on for that brand.

And it worked, beautifully. I could hate VWs to my heart’s content: I no longer owned a car and was in no position to buy one, and the car I did regularly drive, one borrowed from my friend J., was a Nissan.

“I hate Volkswagons/Volkswagons suck/blah blah/mumble/snore.” It kept me from letting any anxiety over that terrible decision bleed into, well, into the regular anxiety I had in returning to grad school. It was a useful distraction.

And then, after awhile (okay, some years), the hate faded, and VWs became just another car. The scapegoat served its purpose.

It allowed me to offload some dread, and kept that dread away from me long enough for it to shrink into a kind of bemused rue.

So it was stupid to move to Albuquerque. Ah, well. It was worth it.


Get up, stand up

5 03 2013

I’m not much for trigger warnings.

I’m not opposed to their use—I think bloggers who have a sense of their readership and who actively cultivate a “safe space” are justified in warning their readers—but I’m not someone for whom a safe space is a priority. I don’t actively try to cultivate an “unsafe” space, but I neither do I take care of my readers in terms of helping them to avoid topics which upset them.

I’m sorry if I do—that is not my intent—but as I generally take a chin-up and tits-forward approach to political and social matters, I presume my readers will as well.

Thus, my mixed reaction to Oberlin’s cancellation of classes in response to a series of racist incidents on campus.

On the one hand, I get it: take the time instead to address this as a collegiate community, make sure everyone is okay, safe.

On the other hand, I think: really? Cancel classes on account of some hateful assholes?

Back to the one hand: Some students undoubtedly are upset by the actions of the sheet-covered dipshits, feel targeted, threatened, and otherwise singled out. And other students are undoubtedly upset that these sheet-covered dipshits are wrecking their community by targeting, threatening, and otherwise singling out their classmates.

These students need to be supported by the administration and their fellow students in both public and private, and the racists need to be called out for the hateful shits they are.

However—and this is the other hand—I don’t know that dropping everything to have a campus-wide conversation “challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks” is the best way to go either. I wonder if this doesn’t make conversations about racism, sexism, and homophobia an emergency phenomenon, something to be dropped after the emergency passes.

Even more, I wonder if the emergency approach doesn’t somehow disempower students and faculty, as opposed to saying, We can—and will—handle this.

It’s also possible that shutting down the campus gives too much “credit” to the  hateful shits: Someone who parades across a campus with a long and honorable tradition on issues of equality in a fucking Klan outfit should be mocked for the troll s/he is.

And how should trolls be dealt with? If one can’t ignore them—and the Oberlin community probably can’t ignore them, not if if wants to support those who feel targeted—then they should be confronted, mocked, and in no way given any satisfaction for their shitty deeds.

Both hands: this is a tough call. I hate cancelling classes, but if Oberlin sees fit only to cancel a day or two’ s worth to address this, that’s not an unreasonable response.

But it would also be good if, as part of that not-unreasonable response, instead of focusing solely on the harm and the recovery, they offer a sense of resilience. Support those who feel threatened, absolutely, but also let it be known that the trolls who scrawl hate are small and mean and to be pitied rather than feared.

What was that old fake-Latin phrase? Nolite te bastardes  carborundorum—don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Those dipshits in sheets aren’t worth it.

Keep it loose, keep it tight

28 08 2012

Sorry for the light blogging, but I had to get my shit together.

This is how I am: I let things go, then reel ’em back in.

Not my hang-ups—Hera forbid I would let go of my hang-ups—but various tasks and maintenance and organization. Papers proliferate, folders flop about, and the miscellany of work and life moulders on benches and shelves and. . . anywhere, really.

This is a minor problem during the school year, but it worsens in the summer (when I’m not teaching) because, well, I hate everything in the summer and am utterly unwilling to do anything which might improve my surroundings and thus, my mood.

I wallow, in other words.

Well, the school year is about to begin, and although I am still in the midst of the August mugging, the necessity of pulling my teaching shit together prompted me to begin pulling my apartment together. I bought—even though I really don’t want to buy any more stuff—a couple of shelves, moved a pile of books off of the floor and on to one set of shelves, and cleaned up my sweater pile with another.

Then I attacked a mess of papers lurking about my desk, recycling a bunch of stuff and filing the rest. There’s more to be done, but at least the remaining piles are sorted.

And then—oh, yeah!—I had to update my syllabi, print out notes and class rosters and check on just where my classes would be meeting. Terribly embarrassing to show up in the wrong classroom.

Do I sound excited for the school year to begin? It’s because I am!

Yes, your bitter, sarcastic, foul-tempered and foul-mouthed blogger actually enjoys teaching!

Don’t hate me because, while I do hate everything in August, I don’t hate everything all of the time.

And I have a tidy apartment to prove it.

Fruit of sweating golden inca

8 08 2012

Yes, it’s August. Yes, it’s muggy. Yes, I got my hair cut.

Yes, I hate everything.

HOWEVER: my heart is not in the hate. I’m working this summer (unlike last. . .) and am thus ensconced in an environment in which someone else is paying to (over)cool the air, and, given that I am working, I can afford to put on the a/c if the weather is still filthy when I get home.

It’s no-drama time. Good for me, certainly, but it does take the oomph out of the hate.

The needle and the damage done

18 06 2012

MI5 hates me.

The show, that is, not the actual service. And I don’t take it personally, because I think MI5 hates everyone.

I’ve previously discussed my weakness for caper flicks and police procedurals, so it should come as no surprise that I like spy stuff. (I mean, I even watch Covert Affairs, which is a really lousy show. Really.) I turned off 24 after the first season, as it was less clever than angry, and CONSTANT SHOUTY ANGER bores and CONSTANT SHOUTY ANGER justifying torture offends, but if you can get past that low bar (i.e., not constantly shouting angrily in favor of torture) in making a show, I’ll watch it.

There’s shouting in MI5 (known in the UK as Spooks), and torture, but the truly interesting dialogue tended to be quiet, and the torture damaged both victim and perpetrator alike.

And I guess it’s that damage that leads me to think that MI5 hates everyone (SPOILER ALERT!!): All of its characters are damaged, but with the exception of only a handful of it many characters, only a few of them live long enough to have to come to terms with the damage done, both to and by them.

In other words, just as you get attached to Danny or Fiona or Jo or Ros, they’re shot or blown up or shot or, er, blow up. And just as I was starting to warm to Adam (who replaced Tom, one of the few who was ushered out of the service rather than sacrificed to it), he gets, yes, blown up.

Huh, now that I think about it, I stopped watching MI5 after Adam took over the lead, but I picked the show back up again (skipping episodes and perhaps even a season or two) this weekend. Hermione Norris (who I liked in Wire in the Blood, even though I ended up truly not liking that creepfest) was cast as Ros against Adam’s lead, then took over after Adam went boom, only to go boom herself a season or so later.

(Huh, I should put a spoiler alert somewhere near the top of this post, shouldn’t I? Okay, done.)

I mean, for crying out loud, they even killed off Ruth—Ruth! And you knew as soon as Sasha picked up that bit of broken glass that she was going to get it, because no way would MI5 let anyone (well, okay, Zoe got a happy ending—but only after she went to prison and then was smuggled to South America, and Malcolm got to retire) walk away whole from the Grid.

Harry survives. He’s got nothing else in his life than Section D, nothing to live for beyond the job—hell, maybe that’s why he gets to live: With the exception of Ros, everyone else has something else, or the hopes of something else, off the Grid.

Maybe that’s why Ros’s death hit Harry so hard: She was him, and she was dead and he was alive.

MI5 flayed its characters and it flayed us for watching its characters. There were no redshirts in MI5, which from a plot point of view was good, but killing off everyone is, in its own way, equally predictable, and even more cynical.

Followed Danny through his credit and impulse-control problems and grown to admire his decency? Shot in the head.

Like how Ben Caplan reacted to almost getting (yup) blown up and deciding to abandon journalism for intelligence work? Then turn away as Connie slices through his throat.

Colin and Tariq, the tech guys—tech guys!—hanged and poisoned, respectively.

And Jo, Jesus, Jo and Ros. Jo so much like Danny, so decent in her need to hold the line against the consequentialism of spy-trade in lives, signalling to Ros to shoot Finn as she stands clutched behind him, trying to prevent him from (oh, man, this is getting ridiculous) blowing up the room.

Forcing Ros to shoot Finn, which means she shoots Jo.

That’s just some fucking hateful writing.

So I’m pissed for having dipped back into the show, for forgetting how pissed I was last time I watched at the sheer cussedness of getting rid of the people we, the audience, have the gall to care about, and pissed about the laziness of the constant killing itself.

It’s not so much the brutality—if you kept watching after the second episode, you knew the show wouldn’t skimp on the brutal—but the repetition of it, the leaching away of cleverness in favor of killing that ultimately turned me off.

I’m open to the idea of a morality of brutality (any Game of Thrones fans here to chip in a thought or two?), but as a mere dramatic device, it cannot exist unto itself if it is to retain its power. And a brutality which bores is a waste, in every way.

Question of the day: hate and love

25 09 2010

Consider the relatively ubiquitous phrase, oft deployed by religious folk to describe their approach to queer folk and their sexuality:

‘Hate the sin, love the sinner.’

Yeah, it grits in my teeth, and not just for those who deploy it who clearly don’t mean it, but even for those who are sincere, it misses the point.

Consider: ‘Hate the belief, love the believer.’

Again, a variation of this is offered with regard to Christian outreach to/evangelization of Muslims and other heretics, apostates, and unbelievers. Again, too glib.

How would those who (sincerely) use this sentiment react if such a sentiment were deployed against expressed to them?

Seriously, I’m askin’.

What you say? I’m just askin’ (pt I)

29 08 2010

When do words and acts become being?

As quoted by Tobin Harshaw in The NYTimes’ The Opinionator, Sister Toldjah:

The little secret that is not really a secret except in the closed-minded world of the left is that most conservatives don’t “hate” gay people. Apparently, because most conservatives don’t support gay marriage and don’t support gays openly serving in the military, they “hate” them. This is “hate” – in spite of the fact that most conservatives also do not support polygamy nor any other type of “alternative” marriage, nor do they support women serving on the front lines in war. It’s an issue of not wanting to tamper with the existing social structure of the two parent man/woman family, and not wanting to create an atmosphere of great uncomfortableness in the military between those who are openly gay and those who aren’t. We’ve seen the disastrous results of the left’s tampering in the social arena for decades now, and we’re opposed to signing onto anything else they have to offer on that front.

A commentor, Ralph Dempsey agreed:

I am so sick of being called a ‘homophobe’ just because I oppose gay marriage and want to keep homosexuals out of the military. The liberal Left is trying to play the same game they play with the race card. Sincere, honest, loving, genuine people oppose two men or two women attacking the sanctity of those in heterosexual marriages. That is not bigoted any more than people who opposed interracial marriages were racist. Over 85% of the country during the early 60’s did not want Black men trying to procure white women – were all these people racist? Give me a break. We should be free to oppose minority lifestyles without being labelled as haters.


I do like that Mr Dempsey made manifest what is so often implied: Why should the majority suffer any consequences for opposing (oppressing?) minorities?

(And yes, I also like the comparison to views about interracial marriage in the 1960s, when ‘Over 85% of the country did not want Black men trying to procure white women’ didn’t necessarily mean those people were racist. I see. Would you accept sexist?)

As much as I’d like to play around all day with the scary-Negro-carrying-off-white-women image, I do think the more significant issue is the one of doing and being: At what point can your actions—your words, your deeds, your opinions—point to something about you and your character?

Nobody wants to be a bigot, but, it seems, many people wish to speak and act in a bigoted manner.

My first reaction is thus: There are two kinds of tolerance: that of the superior for the inferior, and that of equals for equals. As long as gays and lesbians (and bisexuals! don’t forget us bisexuals!) and anyone else cast in the role of Those People are treated as lesser, then those with the superiority complex may justly be called out for the bigotry of that superiority.

If you seek to deny others what you enjoy yourself, then you may be justly called out for the injustice of that denial.

If you seek to justify this injustice, then you may justly be called a bigot.

You want to be able to speak and act in a bigoted manner, but you don’t want to be called a bigot.

It’s really quite simple: If you don’t want to be called a bigot, then quit acting like one.


A fine conclusion (and one which sentiment I’ve almost certainly stolen from others), and certainly a satisfying shortcut through bullshit.

But, alas, in so shortcutting the deeper question is both highlighted and skirted: what are the dots between what you do and who you are?

And what are in those dots, anyway? Stay tuned. . . .

It seems strange that she should be offended

24 08 2010

I  swear to god, this is my last post on this. . . and I swear to goddess, it won’t be long.

So, does anyone remember when people pundits used to ask ‘Where are the moderate Muslims? Why aren’t any moderate Muslims speaking out against terror?’

(Emily Hauser, over at In My Head, did a fine job of assembling at least some Muslim response to extremism, and in so doing, poking a stick in the eye of gently reminding those same pundits not to confuse their lack of attention for these folks’ lack of effort.)

And now here’s a man, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, who has been sponsored by both the Bush and Obama administrations to speak about the United States to Muslim audiences, who has a long history in the United States, who’s a Sufi, who’s praised by Jeffrey Goldberg fer cryin’ out loud!, who steps up and wants to make nice, and how is he treated?


I don’t know this guy, and I don’t know if this center will ever actually be built, and as a non-but-only-very-rarely-anti-religious type who thinks pluralism is nifty, I don’t much care one way or the other if this joint is built. If it is, dandy; if not, okey-doke.

But. As a resident of New York City, as an American citizen, and as adherent to a kind of chastened humanism which sees the kind of hate-based intimidation which has been all-too-prevalent in this so-called debate as a danger to us all, I most definitely care that some among us are cast out out of public life not because of what they do but because of what it is feared that Those People will always and inevitably do.

This hatred diminishes us all, closes us down and corrodes our body politic. Damn those who revel in it.

*Update: Matt Finkelstein has more on the shit thrown at Rauf.

(h/t The Daily Dish)

Ten-minute hate

12 08 2009

I hate everything.

I warned a friend who’s visiting next week to remind our other friend that New York is a dump. I then recited my usual list about smells, cockroaches, smells, rats, smells, overheated train platforms, and did I mention smells?

My life sucks, I grouse to the cats, slouching around my apartment and glaring out the window at the sun.

Fuck Bank of America. I pay my goddamned bills—I pay more than the minimum—and now they’re jacking me around?

And what the hell is that man doing beating the hell out of the fire escape? Removing rust, apparently, but not with what one would think would be the sensible tool of a chisel, but with a hammer. A hammer! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!

He goes up the escape, he goes down the escape. Up, down. Up, down. The first time he made it down, I thought, Finally, he’s done. Nope: Up, down. Up, down.

Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!

God, I fucking hate everything.

My apartment is a soup, filled with Bam! Bam!, rust chips (from the Bam! Bam!), and air so moist I need gills to breathe.

I have words in my head I can’t get on to paper (or, in this case, the computer screen).

I have words on paper—books I want to read—that I can’t keep in my head.

Girlfriend? Boyfriend? HAH!

I gotta get out of here, I confided to C. Everything sucks. It’s got to be better somewhere else, right? Right?

She sipped her beer and raised her eyebrows.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I sighed. I get unhappy, I want to move. But where am I going to go? Where the hell else can I go?

She sipped her beer and raised her eyebrows and shrugged her shoulders.

She let me rant.

I hate everything, I growled into my beer. Fucking August.

Yeah, fucking August, she repeated.

I perked up. Yeah, yeah! August! August sucks!

Blame August: that’s the ticket!