Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Things

Low output lately. I wish I could say it was because I was diligently at work on something else, but I can't. There's more than one "something else" and diligence has only occasionally been a part of it. I don't get writer's block. I get low-grade writer's malaise and it's not (always) about the content of what I'm writing. It's more about futility, in general. Already racked up my first two rejections in the fiction market. Same as it ever was. So, I thought I'd just leave some brief thoughts:

1. Some of you whom were watching the Super Bowl (I was because there was food (Margot food) and good people) in the Michigan area may remember this ad:


Here we have the young Asian girl, bicycling along the rice paddies in her yellow shirt and speaking clear but slightly halting English about the threat of (presumably) Chinese people like her stealing American jobs because of Senator Debbie Stabenow's (D-MI) personal spending policies. What people immediately jumped on was the unmitigated racist nature of the ad (Foreigner! She took our jobs!) and, from a marketing standpoint, it's ridiculously over the top. Of course, most Midwesterners wouldn't know a rice paddy if they fell into one and drowned, but it was a nice touch all the same. Immediately, the media descended upon Hoekstra, with the state party saying it would have nothing to do with insufferable conduct of that vulgar nature. Pete, for his part, stood his ground, claiming that the intent was not racist and saying absolutely nothing about the fact that the entire spiel (Chinese people stealing American jobs because of the out of control spending of the US government) makes not a bit of sense in any way, shape, or vaguely economic form. Stabenow doesn't even sit on a significant trade committee and has been a back bencher of small repute on the Senate Budget committee in the most ineffective and largely invisible sessions of the US Senate in recorded history.

Pete's campaign had already been largely given up for dead when he unleashed this seemingly suicidal assault on the tender political sensibilities of the modern state. Most people considered it a grave "error". But no one who's been in the game as long as Hoekstra and whom spent the considerable outlay for a Super Bowl ad makes an "error" like that. Pete knew that if he wanted to get ahead in the primary struggle, he'd need a horde of wacky fanatics to give him the boost amidst the collection of milquetoast individuals then vying for the nomination. As soon as the media began its tirade, Hoekstra assumed the modern conservative stance of oppressed victim in a largely conservative and religious state. The Tea Party sycophants flocked to his side and a huge infusion of cash hit his coffers (doubtlessly a good thing since he probably broke the bank paying for the ad time.) Pete was telling it like it really is and the "librul media" and the "lamestream Republicans" weren't going to hold back the righteous hordes. 'Lo and behold, Pete wins the primary.

Thus, we come to Todd "legitimate rape" Akin, who has now been asked by the Romney campaign to step down for comments made a few days ago. Of course, he still leads Democrat Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in the general polls and there are no doubt a flock of "real Republicans" pouring cash into his pockets to protect him from those who don't want to hear the truth about illegitimate rape. Akin, of course, didn't plan this like Hoekstra did, but he can take advantage of it in the same way. Mind you, this is only a feasible political strategy if the bulk of your electorate is dumb as a fucking bag of hammers, but, there you go...(Just as an aside: Pete knew without a doubt what he was doing, as the ad ran largely in markets that are heavily populated by people to whom this kind of marketing would appeal, e.g. not the main urban centers of the state.)

2. In listening to one of the endless NPR homilies on the plight of the jobless a few weeks ago, I came across a phrase that stuck with me. I wake up some mornings with it in my head, quite possibly because I understand the deprivation and discouragement of the speaker's circumstances. The topic of the show was unemployment and underemployment. The caller was from Tennessee and he'd been a philosophy and divination student at Vanderbilt and a couple other schools and held multiple advanced degrees in those areas. He'd been unable to find work teaching and so had finally answered an ad for a house painting job and was still employed in this work at the time he called. The host of the show asked him if such work paid the bills and he replied: "Well, I've got peanut butter, no jelly. Sandwich, no chips. But you get used to it."

Here was a highly educated and intelligent man whose possession of those qualities matters not at all to our modern society. And he knew it. Just as so many other people that I know whom are in similar straits also know it. Society does not want them because they cannot do anything "productive" (i.e. profitable.) Even most universities don't want them. Our grand society.


3. I was thinking of doing some more detailed analysis of Hell on Wheels, as I've seen the first two episodes of the second season (including the first episode not written by the Gayton brothers, the show's creators) and it might, maybe, kinda, sorta be veering its way toward some interesting material. I think the potential for the setting is boundless (railroad expansion immediately after the Civil War, with a mixed crew of laborers, and venturing through Indian territory) but, while the Gaytons created some great characters, their ham-handed dialogue and mono-chromatic storytelling was letting a lot of the air out of the balloon by the end of last season. I mentioned this on the board one day and a lurker spoke up, saying that he was friends with someone at AMC who was connected to the show and that they were bringing in a stable of writers for the second season. The Gaytons wrote the first episode this year, so I was wondering if the plan was still in motion, but the second was written by John Shiban of X-Files fame and it began to seem almost human, so I'm looking forward to more. It's no Breaking Bad or Deadwood, but few things are. Anyway, if anyone among the half dozen or so of you out there has any interest, say so.

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