Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Excursion to somewhere

I've been DVRing Into the Badlands (And Legion. And Taboo. And a couple other things. Maybe I'll get to them, at some point, but Orange is the New Black starts in a couple weeks...) ItB was something I was watching in the same way I used to watch The Walking Dead: I was interested in where they were going to take it, more in a clinical sense than from an "I'm really entertained by this!" perspective. They'd combined two relatively disparate elements: a post-apocalyptic setting and Hong Kong-style martial arts. I'm a mild fan of the latter and a huge fan of the former, so I was willing to watch the 6-episode first season... and then kinda forgot about it until the second season started appearing on the DVR a couple months ago. So I sat down and binged it over the past few days and had two reactions: 1. I'm more intrigued by the setting, as they fleshed out the world considerably. 2. I'm still not ready to plant myself in front of it every Sunday night.

On 1, as I noted in my post about the premiere episode last year, the setting was redolent of an old RPG known as Gamma World that I used to run campaigns with as a kid. The Badlands is a totally restructured society that still clings to some parts of the old technology (oil), but rejects others (guns), lacks more (computers), and treats others as something bordering on magic (the items surrounding the legendary city of Azra.) Gamma World was like that, too, in which some members of society remembered the old technology or had learned to adapt it to their world, while others would be completely mystified by it (think Donald Trump's attachment to Twitter and confusion at the concept of press releases and you'll be on the right track.)

How does that work again?
Season 2 expanded upon pretty much everything as they went along; showing the less organized world outside the Badlands (and the massive wall that separates the two), as well as the various factions present there: miners, smugglers, the monastery, etc. The mine of the first couple episodes showed some of that "past world as mystery" flavor, with people being rewarded for digging up detritus from our world. But the monastery was the big story outside of the politics and not just because MK spent a good chunk of the season effectively imprisoned there. The abbots appear to be constraining the emergence of mutations like MK's. This again hearkens back to Gamma World, where mutation among people, animals, and plants was the order of the day because of the radiation left as the aftereffect of the disaster that created the setting. There is no such radiation in the world of ItB. So is this a "natural human progression toward higher power" approach or something different?

And that question kind of leads into point 2: Why is ItB still not compelling TV? There are a number of answers to that question.

I'm not sure 'penetrating gaze' is the right phrase here.
1. Acting. I don't think anyone has done a particularly poor job, where you're wondering why the producers had to settle for this or that person. In fact, I think Madeleine Mantock did quite well as Veil in season 2 and Marton Csokas continued to be interesting to watch as Quinn, even if he was chewing the scenery a bit as his character became more desperate/deranged in the later episodes. By the same token, I don't find anyone's performance particularly gripping, either. There are no Don Drapers or Walter Whites among the cast, where you're just waiting for that person to come back on camera. Unfortunately, one of the weaker roles has been Emily Beecham as Minerva/The Widow. She has a ton of screen time, but often seems to use it to "be acting", rather than be Minerva. Of course, she's often not helped by...

Day in the life.
2. The writing. I don't have an objection to the plot, but some of the pacing and dialogue is still pretty weak. Beecham was repeatedly subject to this, as the writers seemed to think that being a strong and/or ominous presence meant her having to look into the camera and deliver a line like "They'll see what happens when *I* get involved.", accompanied by a slow pan in and rising music. It's melodrama in TV production 101 and it's pretty dated. People don't remember setup lines. They're goofy and people usually mock them. People remember lines that are delivered in the course of an action other than staring at the camera/audience. If you want ominous delivery, think: "I find your lack of faith...disturbing." or "I am the one who knocks!" Both of those instances are memorable and lacked what we used to call a posing panel in comics: where everyone stands and looks menacingly at the camera, serving no purpose to the story, but just filling pages and/or giving the artist something to sett at conventions. There are much better ways of closing a scene.

Dance, pigeon! Dance!
3. The overuse of "bullet time." That's the technique made famous by the Wachowski Brothers in The Matrix. I'm using it as a euphemism for the proliferation of slow motion backflips that seem to be present in every action scene of every episode. The producers seem to think that the only style of fighting possible is not only kung fu (normal for many HK-style films) but kung fu with as large an amount of Olympic floor exercises as can be executed. Having practiced a sword art, I can't tell if there's any particular style being employed there, as most of those combats still tend to be edge-on-edge clatterfests. There is a point where style overwhelms rationality in some of it, as well, like when Sunny meet Silver Moon and ends up walking away with his sword that has multiple gold rings drilled into the top of the blade. No sword-wielder in his right mind would do such a thing, as there's way too much chance of it catching on armor, bone, or someone else's weapon and disarming you at the worst possible moment (pretty much all of them.) That's me being pretty technical about it, but it's also a measure of a larger problem, in that the fights became so repetitive that my absorption in the story pretty much disappeared and I began tuning out of them except to notice technical details like that insane setup on that sword.

Yeah. No way, man.
And if I'm getting bored by the fight scenes, pretty soon it leads me to asking myself: Where are they going with this? I liked the semi-resolution that introduced Azra as a reality, rather than just a legend. Combine that with the image on the medallion and the book apparently matching up with a cover of n old copy of Wired and it creates a mix of possibilities, some of which may be shockingly disappointing to our characters and some of which may be interesting to us, the audience. On the other hand, Sunny's situation went from purely linear to Lone Wolf and Cub. Sunny is now the ultimate ronin, ex-regent for the most powerful baron in the Badlands, trusted by no one, and now seeking to raise his son in a gentler manner than the savage world around him would have it. That's not exactly the most original approach and it leaves me wondering if the presence of the baby is intended as a humanizing element for a man who already demonstrated a distinct streak of humanity for a killer with 404 (not found?) victims (and, honestly, many more than that by now.)

Overall, I'm not disappointed. I'm just kind of keeping my clinical distance for now. I'll definitely watch the opener next season and see what they've developed in the new production. AMC apparently has faith, since it went from 6 episodes in season one to 10 in season two and a reported 15 for the confirmed season three. AMC's shows often develop into things like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead (even though I've parted ways with the latter.) But they also sometimes linger on without direction like Hell on Wheels. Here's hoping for more good than bad(lands.)

Friday, April 7, 2017

There is no door but the revolving one

The latest escapade of the Idiot's administration is both amusing and frustrating for one very significant factor that precisely none of the current major actors in our public farce will admit: This is not new. This is the same old story played out once again in front of a public only too willing to jump up and scream "Save the children!", even if the consequence of this action will be that many, many more children will die, and probably even American ones when they're sent over there from backwoods Alabama, since joining up was the best employment prospect they had. The fact that most of said dead children that the GOP is howling about saving are precisely the ones that they've insisted shouldn't be allowed into the country is just the kind of thing that wouldn't be brought up at the right parties.

There are the usual politically-driven complaints about acts against a sovereign nation and/or doing so without Congressional approval for an overt act of war, but that's all window dressing. The concepts of "sovereign nation" and "Congressional approval" are both irrelevant to US foreign policy at this time and have been since 1915 for the former and the early 60s for the latter (Haiti and Vietnam, respectively.) The US military goes where it wants and does what it wants and dares anyone to say otherwise. The fact that the US Navy has 19 aircraft carriers while the rest of the world, combined, has 22 should symbolize just how often anyone would be willing to take that dare or be capable of doing so. Democrats, Republicans, and the media are all falling in line with said military because of the usual hysteria over CHEMICAL WEAPONS, which is laughable on its face because the US has not only encouraged puppets to use said weapons frequently in the past (Let's use Iraq in the 80s, just as a casual, not even relevant to the situation at hand example...) but enabled the sale of materials to said puppets by signing off on various pharmaceutical producers doing business with them

But it's not really about that. This is the continuation of the grand game that hasn't changed under administrations going back to FDR. It's a bunch of old white guys who meet up in their various orgs with names like "Committee for the Restoration of Iran" or some such thing. They're still fighting the Crusades, 1000 years later, not for some spiritual god, but for the real god: money, and the oil and weapons which it is based upon. This agenda has not changed nor will it ever change until massive corporations and old white guys are no longer the predominant owners of our government. Obama did nothing to dissuade them. The Clintons were both ardent hawks. If anything, Trump was less of a hawk on the campaign trail than Clinton was, although it's certainly debatable whether he was so because he didn't have a clue about Syria or anything that's farther than three miles from one of his hotels (likely) and she was so because she had to be "tough" as a woman in a man's world of politics (also likely, although that doesn't excuse it.) This is the real agenda. All this noise over the past few months about Trump's incompetence and his family grafting off the government and health care and blah blah blah; none of that is the real story. This is. It always is. The ownership class signs off on presidential candidates only with the implicit understanding that said story will continue as it has for the last 100 years. Trump has finally engaged his 15-second attention span and signed on to the real agenda because he saw a news report about a chemical attack and, less than a day later, decided to follow the time-honored tradition of boosting his poll numbers with an act of war. It's the same thing every president has done for the last 50 years (Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Serbia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq again, Libya, and many more.) They all do this. The fact that it gains them some political capital at the same time is an ancillary benefit. But this was destined to happen.

Now, granted, it's slightly more of a concern when the world's largest arsenal is in the hands of a person with the maturity and impulse control of a five-year-old (read: none whatsoever) but it doesn't change the inevitability of something like this occurring. Those rich, old, white guys still own the government, no matter who's sitting in the Oval Office. This is their agenda. This is how the system works and both Democrats and Republicans have long since signed onto it. So has the voting public, who always flock to the idea of the glorious American Heroes stepping out onto the world stage to murder someone. Americans who actually read the history often like to laugh at the idea of so many happy people watching their soldiers parade off to certain grinding death in 1914, but the same thing happens here for a certain segment of the population every time this event occurs, no matter where it occurs.

The usual response to any protest is: "So you're saying it's OK to use chemical weapons?!! On women and children?!!" No. That's not what I'm saying. That's what you're saying to serve your political favoritism or demonstrate your outright ignorance of the situation at hand. What I'm saying is that the United States should not be killing anyone to either benefit someone's poll numbers, justify the Pentagon's ridiculous budget and the corporations who feed at that trough, or enhance Chevron's bottom line. Not now. Not ever. If anyone really cared about the human beings involved in the midst of this, that would be the message they'd deliver.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Recriminatory stupidity

Now that was an interesting first three weeks, wasn't it? It's like having a five-year old as leader of the most powerful nation on Earth: "There's no way he'd do that, would he...?" Everyone with that attitude or who actually uttered that statement is the equivalent of a direct challenge to the Idiot. It's like telling said five-year old not to run out into the street. That's immediately the first thing he thinks of doing. Now it just remains to be seen if Nancy Pelosi can find the right angle: "I bet you can't raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour!" (This never works on kids, either.) I said before the election that if the Idiot got elected, this would be non-stop entertainment, and it is (waves tiny flag /mgoblog), even if it's the "shock value" kind of entertainment. More's the pity.

Tangent: I've found no more suitable title for President Trump (snicker) than The Idiot. I'm betting that most people will read that in the conventional sense in which it's intended. Me being one of those untrustworthy and uselessly hyper-educated types, I can only think of Prince Myshkin every time I use that term, which is hilarious because of the genuine irony present in Dostoyevsky's novel (That's right people. Not sarcasm. Not coincidence. Actual irony.) Myshkin, as a character, is everything that Trump is not and someone who would be roundly rejected by both Trump followers and many Democrats as unsuitable for public office. Again, more's the pity. /tangent.

Howevah! One thing that has become increasingly annoying over the past few weeks is the recriminatory bullshit being lobbed from many corners of the Democratic sphere (mixed metaphor!; that's how complex modern politics are.) "Thanks to all those Sanders/Stein/Johnson/insertrandomnon-Clintoncandidatehere voters who said there was no difference between Democrats and Republicans!"

First off: What, exactly, does this accomplish? It lets you vent your spleen at... who?
The Idiot? No.
McConnell? No.
Goldman Sachs? No.
Putin? No.
Millions of Trumpistas? Not them, either.

Instead, you direct your teenage angst and ire against the very people who would otherwise be your allies. I've seen this,happen in previous scenarios too many times to count. These are people taking the chance to get Twitter yuks and demonstrate their perceived superiority over other points of view, while the building continues to burn around them. The most important thing to do right now is fight back. I think a great first step would be to alienate the people willing to fight alongside you and who, incidentally, have often been doing it longer and harder than you ever have, especially if you're a Clinton fan. (That, folks, is sarcasm.)

Secondly, they're still using the old boogeyman routine: "If you don't vote for our horrible candidate, you'll get something even more horrible!" They've been stroking that since Kennedy and, since the advent of the DLC and the Clintons, the horrible candidate has gotten (ahem) progressively worse with one exception: Obama, who tried to separate himself from the DLC types and was rather ferociously attacked for it in 2008 by one Hillary Clinton... who no doubt had done a 180 and become a stalwart supporter of the little guy by 2016. Seriously. Just ask her. Yes, I'm putting aside all of the ways that Obama really wasn't for the little guy (especially if said little guy happened to live in, say, rural Yemen) but let's not get into that.

The point is simple: Democrats are not entitled to votes no matter how awful the GOP candidate may be. They have to earn them, just like everyone else. If you want millions of progressives to actually vote for a Democrat, one has to be proffered that isn't on the payroll of Bank of America and Co. If you give people something to vote for, they will. If all you ever talk about is someone to vote against, at some point, they stop caring. They'll stop caring even sooner if your response to their not voting for your candidate is attempting to browbeat them with specious reasoning. Hillary Clinton's husband did more to shape the modern economy for the worse than any Republican going back to Warren Harding. And you're telling me that she would have suddenly abandoned her wealthy donors and decided that the way forward is to help the little guy? Her campaign and extensive history say otherwise.

You just lost an election to the worst candidate who's ever run for president and your response is to blame everyone who didn't vote for your candidate who couldn't win that race. Just think about that for a bit and then wonder if your next tweet should be sniping at people like a rejected teenager or promoting the actual efforts of groups like Rogue NASA.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Catching up with the past

In addition to Westworld (which, yes, I will get back to at some point. I've watched the third episode, but Tricia and I have been watching most series together and we've been kind of distracted by house things and it's a measure of interest generated by any particular show as to how quickly she falls asleep while trying to watch it. Orange is the New Black? No problem sitting through three or four episodes. Westworld... eh.), I recently started watching Vikings, which has been heralded by the history geeks on the board for years now. I was hesitant to get into it for a couple reasons. First off, my tolerance for dramatized history is fairly low. Being a nerd, I know the reality of a lot of what I'm watching and, thus, don't often have the fascination with it like I would for a new story. I've kinda seen it before, so when deviations are added for the sake of story, it's a little jarring and then I start poking holes in things and it just gets muddled. A lot of people I know rave about HBO's Rome as one of the best things ever. I did enjoy it, but I also thought it was adding a lot of soap opera drama for a story that was already pretty exciting (see: William Shakespeare, if not The Gallic Wars.) In terms of historical dramas, I thought Deadwood was vastly superior and I enjoy Roman history much more than the American West.

Secondly: History Channel. I get that they have to produce what sells and that their audience is probably largely made up of nominal Trump voters who enjoy endless retakes on Vietnam and other manifestations of the Cold War, but they've already created an American Heroes channel. Isn't that enough? Every depiction of history is going to have an implicit agenda, but I stopped watching the History channel years ago because I really tired of the often-ridiculously Americanized aspect to it. Howevah, I had a day off and finally started watching some Vikings.

That phrase has some odd implications. It's like being a 9th-century monk in some monastery on the coast of the North Sea whose previous goal in life was observing the habits of Northern Lapwings. "The Bloodythroated Savages began their migration today. The local field was quite literally aflame with their presence." And, of course, the opening scene to the first episode is exactly that, showing Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and brother, Rollo (Clive Standen), slaughtering the natives somewhere in what is presumably a narrowly-successful raid, since they seem to be the only survivors. Can two people guide a longboat back across the sea? Guess we'll find out. It's a bit too early in the timeline for them to be the Danish invaders/settlers on the British east coast.

But then we drop right back into wherever Ragnar and Co. are originating from ("Scandinavia") and get a good dose of the culture surrounding them. I thought that was a great way to start, especially since they spent a fair amount of time on the Thing, the tribal council that somewhat influences Earl Haraldson's (Gabriel Byrne) thinking. It's about as effective in that respect as our own modern Congress will be in the next four years, but it at least conveys some of the differences in Viking thought from, say, Western European serfdom. Speaking of Byrne, I was at first excited to see that he was present, since I'm a fan of a lot of his work, and the presentation of some past tragedy involving his sons was at least the foundation of a motivation that gives him more depth than the usual Sauron-style bad guy ("I am mean and angry... because I am mean and angry! Arrrrrrr!") However, fairly soon, it felt to me like Byrne was kind of slumming it for a paycheck in that there was nothing particularly compelling about his character. It was a nice Denethor moment (speaking of Sauron; the LotR references will be plentiful here, given the foundation for much of Tolkien's work) when he was warning Ragnar to keep his wild ideas to himself, though.

Most of the other actors do well enough in their parts. Some of them shaded a bit toward the trite side; Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) having to flex her shieldmaiden muscle and Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) being the prototypical "mad scientist" shipbuilder who will enable Ragnar to follow his dream like his namesake of legend (and possibly history.) But you can forgive some of that for the level of production involved and the writers trying to clue people in to both the history and the drama, simultaneously, because they know there are nerds out there like me who will be spot-checking.

So, altogether, pretty worthwhile. I'm mildly fascinated by that period of history (as with so many others) mostly because of the aforementioned migratory patterns of the tribes and civilizations of that era and the impact that they had. I don't know that I'll be checking back in regularly on it in this space, since I'm not sure what kind of progress I'll make. New seasons of regular stuff like House of Cards and GoT aren't that far off. And, yes, I'm trying to finish Westworld. But I thought it was worth a mention and perhaps I'll see if I can get on board with all the other sunstone compass followers.

Friday, December 30, 2016

And in the taste confounds the appetite

"These violent delights have violent ends
 And in their triumph die, like fire and powder
 Which as they kiss consume
 the sweetest honey is loathsome in his own deliciousness
 And in the taste confounds the appetite."
That's Romeo and Juliet, act II, scene VI. The first line was whispered by character Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum) in the premiere episode of Westworld, which I am only now perusing since I've just recently turned the cable back on. Does that make me a cord rejoiner? I don't know. What it does make me is late to the party, since several people I know and most of the TV critics out there in La La Land (otherwise known as the realm of the ICP: Insane Clown President) think that Westworld is the best thing to hit HBO since the first season of True Detective (We will never speak of the second season again.) After watching the first two episodes, I can't say that I agree.

Westworld is based on the original Michael Crichton film from 1973 which, as an artifact of its era, was decent. Yul Brynner is excellent as the leading unstoppable android and Crichton's misunderstood premise of corporate greed (a theme he would return to, repeatedly) overriding basic morality was lost amidst the general audience perception that technology is evil and, obviously, wears a black hat. And I suppose I'm carrying some degree of bias while I watch the HBO series, because I know how this story plays out, based on what I've been seeing in the first couple episodes. Critics hailed it for its "world-building" but I spent a fair amount of time during both doing the "get on with it, already" wave with my hand. There is a certain amount of time that's necessary to establish the fact that the hosts essentially forget everything with every morning. Visual repetition is the best way to establish that for new viewers, so I get it.

But my problem with said world-building runs deeper than that. Many of the interactions, such as that between Lee, the narrative director (Simon Quarterman), and Theresa, the operations director (Sidse Babett Knudsen) were blatantly staged for the audience's benefit. Instead of appearing as an organic interaction (like, say, between Rust and Marty in True Detective), this was a neon sign blaring: "Here be conflict! Engage it if you dare!" Yes, you have to lay the groundwork and, yes, it's tough to do in a 10 episode series. But it's been done with somewhat more subtlety and which made both characters seem even mildly interesting, which those two do not.

Similarly, Ed Harris as the Man in Black in the world's most obvious homage to Brynner (Can his name be Johnny to make it that much more ham-fisted? He shoots people just to watch them die!) does nothing for me. He's been around awhile and he wants to see what makes the big machine tick. Fair enough. Does he have to be completely amoral in order to do that? Was the semi-gratuitous rape scene necessary to establish the spiel he'd already spoken on the train, about playing the black hat being the best time of his life? And if we were going to have a rape scene to establish an amoral character, was it necessary to close the door so that tender sensibilities somehow aren't bruised by the already-screaming woman? With the amount of nudity and violence already going around in order to establish that this is the point where ordinary people can abuse thinking beings to their heart's content, somehow that moment was deemed over the top and, instead of simply going off camera, Nolan felt that overtly shutting the barn door was how it should work? Get the audience to focus specifically on that act and then shield them from its consequences? Super-meta example of what the park embodies or shying away from what your story is depicting?

Don't get me wrong. It's not awful. It's just not gripping. I can and will watch the next couple episodes, but there's certainly nothing compelling me to do so. As all three of my regular readers know, I regard the director's cut of Blade Runner (no voiceover, ends in the elevator) to be the finest science fiction film ever made and one of the finest, period. That film asked many of the important questions about humanity and consciousness (and conscience) in a far more elegant way than anything I've seen so far on Westworld. Telling me that these are sentient beings locked in an endless loop for the entertainment of others is a good starting point. Expanding into their realization of this indentured servitude is a natural progression. But so far none of the mystery involved (Dolores and Maeve's past memories; the Man in Black's pursuit of the maze; etc.) is interesting enough to get me to want to rush back to the series tomorrow morning.

Also, I certainly respect Jonathan Nolan's (and Lisa Joy's) writing talent. He's been the co-writer on some of his brother, Christopher's, biggest films. But I wonder if he has the vision of his brother to carry a grand concept through to the ends that it requires. Crafting a story about questioning personal, corporate, and societal morality is all well and good. But including the original creator, Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins; is he a coward? Does he have a friend named Jesse?), attempting to try to steer that amorality train back toward something more acceptable by including Christianity is just a step too far down the idiot path for me. Is the assumption that the park, in general, lacks a moral basis because it lacks religion? Do I really need to delve into the history of the church to prick that balloon? Hey, are the hosts like those slaves you can get from surrounding nations, per Leviticus? Or is Dolores like one of the daughters of Lot?

To the show's credit, I did really enjoy Jeffrey Wright's performance as Bernie, mildly conflicted soul designer (I thought he was great in Syriana, too) and the most intriguing moment for me of the whole two-plus hours was when programmer Elsie (Shannon Woodward) kissed host Clementine (Angela Sarafyan.) There was character revelation ("world-building") and mystery in one little motion that had me asking questions that are both intriguing and not obvious. More of that, please, and perhaps less of the grandiose references. I mean, if we're going to go all Shakespearean on everybody, should we be referencing the constant presence of the flies in what seems to otherwise be a fairly sanitized environment?
"As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods
 They kill us for their sport."
That's King Lear, act IV, scene I. Seems almost referential to the overall plot. Or perhaps I'm either overthinking it or asking too much?

Friday, November 11, 2016

The ego begins

One thing to keep in mind is that Donald J. Trump is not the typical Republican. There's nothing particularly "conservative" about him, especially when it comes to being recognized as the smartest guy in the room. Anyone who remembers this

should understand that easily. So this article by Politico should already be tickling some Democrats.
“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” Trump said. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure — which will become, by the way, second to none — and we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”
You're looking at every county commissioner and city mayor whose jurisdiction contains one or more of the above.
Trump wants to be known as the 21 century's Justinian II; the guy who saved/restored the Roman Empire (kinda... for a few years.) You can't have that if The Beast is dodging potholes every time the president goes out to review the peasants. This is part of why people like Paul Ryan and mainstream Republicans were leery of getting on board with Trump in the first place. He doesn't play ball in the typical DC fashion and will be loathe to abandon any project that makes him look the magnanimous overlord to plighted Americans. He doesn't answer to the donor class and he doesn't really care about "conservative principles." The problem for all of us is that he doesn't really care about anything that doesn't burnish the image of Trump. But navigating those waters while watching Ryan and Co. wrestle with the more hardcore budgetarians in the House will be endlessly entertaining.

And the crowner of that piece is, of course, the quote from the Heritage Foundation's Dan Holler:
“It would be a mistake to prioritize Big Government endeavors over important issues like repealing Obamacare, reforming our regulatory system and expanding domestic energy production,” Holler said. “Along with confirming a conservative justice to the Supreme Court, these are the type of legislative efforts that will help anxious families and folks struggling all across the country.”
'Cuz, y'know, every former pipefitter stuck working at Home Depot that I know is direly concerned about how a conservative justice on the Court or the profits of Chevron will help his anxious family. I mean, seriously, how could you be thinking about anything else while working for $10 an hour? Priorities, yo.

Going back to the well

Here we are, two days out, and I've been involved in a number of conversations with people trying to understand the whys and wherefores of president-elect, Donald J. Trump. I get that. It's a surprising turn of events for many people who figured there was no way that the voting public could be so irrational as to elect that idiot. But I don't think irrationality is the issue here. I've also been involved in a couple conversations wherein people objected to my overtly humorous reaction to the election. I get that, too. A lot of people are frightened of what a Trump administration could look like, especially as we are now regaled with stories of who is under consideration: Ann Coulter, Myron Ebell, Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin, etc. A couple things about that:
  • My sense of humor has been described as anything from "macabre" to "quaint" because I tend to find humor in situations that many people find abhorrent. There's a certain level of cosmic perspective ("Nothing will ever match the depredations that would accompany the world being taken over by Yog-Sothoth!") but it's often a Robert Frost thing ("If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane.")
  • I TOTALLY called the Palin as Secretary of the Interior thing. There's no better indication of a collection of people that have no clue as to how government (to say nothing of Interior) actually functions than to believe that she's the right choice for that post.
  • Ann Coulter as White House press secretary. Can't you just imagine Trump barging onto the dais in the press room to interrupt Coulter saying something outrageous with a pronouncement that's even MORE outrageous? Pardon me while I convulse with laughter again. It helps if you have absolutely zero respect for most of these institutions as a whole, given that they largely deserve none.
 Those people all sound horrible for those of us actually concerned about things like, say, climate change or police-community relations. But what concerns me even more is the number of Democratic voters and media types who are continuing with the "race" and "likeability" angles as to why Hillary Clinton lost to the most outrageous and incompetent candidate and campaign in the last century.

Race is a factor, as David Duke and his execrable ilk are now happy to tell you. Clinton's difficulties on the stage and with regular folks are a factor, as has been cited often. But just because some of Trump's supporters are bigots

and just because Clinton was a suboptimal candidate on the stump

doesn't make those the defining traits of her loss. Anyone remember what Bill Clinton's in-house slogan was for his campaign in 1992?

And there you go. When you have a block of voters that have missed out on the benefits of the "new economy" and are, at best, serially lied to by politicians promising to help them or, at worst, are labeled as losers by the media for not succeeding in said "new economy", presenting them with a candidate whose message is just more of the same is a sure recipe for disaster. The only thing that kept this race close for Clinton was the fact that Trump is such a horrible human being (and who goes on trial for fraud in a couple weeks. 'Merica!) If she'd been running against Romney, it would have been a slaughter. But, again, one of the reasons someone like Romney or Jeb Bush didn't get nominated is that they represent the same things Clinton does: Goldman Sachs, concentration of weatlh, and continued oligarchy. In the emails that were hacked from the DNC, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress put it best:
“I mean it makes my life more difficult after telling every reporter I know she’s actually progressive but that is really the smallest of issues. It worries me more that she doesn’t seem to know what planet we are all living in at the moment.”
Here's a hint: She doesn't.

So, what now? Well, what this presents us with now is opportunity. Yes, the next four years are going to be a bit of a trial with the GOP controlling all of the government and that idiot loose in the White House. But the opportunity comes in the fact that so many people dread that reality. This should be a galvanizing event. Don't be one of those Facebook warriors screeching at me about how others are going to suffer more than I am. I'm aware of that. What I'm saying is that there were plenty of people already suffering, including those highlighted by the keyboard champions whose only real expression of concern was to hit a Paypal button to toss $20 toward the Clinton campaign and feel like they were "contributing" to anything other than a stagnant edifice that's already rolling in cash, thanks. Again, borrowing from people who are likely expressing it better than I am, take a listen to Marc Lamont Hill on The Breakfast Club from a few months back:

The pertinent stuff begins at the 11:05 mark, but the whole thing is worth a watch, as he's a very interesting guy. But, in short, what he says is that he's not interested in voting for the same thing that continues to not work and a Trump presidency may be the thing that gets the majority of people to finally fight back against a system that is largely designed to make them passive observers (i.e. the equivalent of walking into a voting booth every four years), rather than active participants.

We can't just keep dismissing this event as the work of closed-minded racists. That's missing the point. The point is that a genuinely democratic and/or representative republic has to work for more than just the wealthy and ours simply doesn't.