I try to stay away from politics, because it's icky and sticks to my paws. Nevertheless, as much as I try to stay in my protective shell. it seems politics will follow me anyway. There is no escape.
So, Trump. So much noise about Trump. Facts don't even apply to him. His long line of business failures, his gutting of Atlantic City, his scam of a university, the verifiable falsity of so much that he says, and the utter hatred and bigotry he exudes -- why does this appeal to some segment of the US population to the point they want him as President? He's never really been poor, he has no connection to people suffering from economic hardship, and he has benefitted from the schemes of the GOP to reduce taxation on the small percentage of people here who have all the money. (I mean, seriously, if you are going to tax someone, doesn't it make sense to tax the people with all the money?)
But aside from the tissue thin ideas he presents, my big problem is the hatred he validates. Those comparisons to fascism aren't lost on me. I've read a lot about WWII written by people who were there and who were writing about it while it happened. I've watched a lot of documentary footage that delved into why Hitler was able to win over the German people, the techniques he used, the staging, the rhetoric. Trump is certainly playing that same game. The faces of people at his rallies are reflecting the same light as those German people in the newsreels. Hitler had a small but fervent following in the US before the war (the Amerikadeutscher Volksbund), so it's not like being in the US makes that impossible.
I've read a lot of people trying to delve into what makes this attraction happen. The gist of it seems to be -- and what I've thought for a while now -- is that Trump legitimizes and validates all the base emotions and expressions of emotions that our broader society tries to suppress. He plays hard on the quandary the US feels about money and education -- that those with a lot of money don't deserve it because they didn't earn it/deserve it because they earned it; that those with education don't have any common sense or practical skills/that a college education is the way to get ahead in the world. He plays with our feelings about immigrants with we are nearly all the children of immigrants who came here for a better life/immigrants who come here for a better life will take away what we have. He lets us hate women because they aren't men (Hillary is, of course, set up for this. There is certainly a line of thinking for women that disowning other women and criticizing them for not being "womanly" or "feminine" along certain sets of rules will help them be favored by men, since men have the power. Trump digs in and makes those ideas seem attractive, even practical. It's far easier to hate than to love, easier to reject than to accept, easier to throw beer bottles and wave signs than to seek to understand and to share. Trump's words tell us that we aren't the ones who need to change. It's "Them" (whichever "them" he's targeting at the time). "They" need to change, to stop trying to take our stuff, to stop coming to our country, to give us what we want because we want it. Our jobs went away because of "them".
And we get led along that path that says we are just fine as we are, we have all the truth we need, we don't have to look into ourselves or look into anyone we think we like for truth or facts. We can have a good time and hate, ride the energy of hate, expand and expound on hate, and Trump makes that ok.
There's no secret about it -- thinking is hard work. There is so much information to be sifted out of piles of crap. We can get fooled by the crap and feel embarrassed, humiliated, ashamed when we are proven wrong. We want to be right, for pete's sake. Being right is the best thing. Even if we are left standing on a crumbling levee while the water rises around us sweeping away all we love and know, as long as we are right, we're ok. Once we've decided we are right, we don't want to be bombarded with alternate views that might shake our fortress of rightness. We don't want to have to think anymore. If we find someone who makes us feel right, who plugs into the more unexamined but emotionally fueled parts of ourselves and says "Hey, those feelings that everyone says you should really examine and maybe change? You don't need to! You're right!" we are going to follow that person. We go with our gut, get primitive, be basic, be salt of the earth, all that stuff that is at one time praised and yet is treated with contempt and...
It's a whirling mess. A downright whirling mess.
For myself, I had hopes for Bernie but I was never sure his particular brand would make it. He's dragging our right-skewed politics back to center (Isn't it odd that "right" has so many meanings?), for which I am glad. He's planted a new idealism and I hope to see new representatives of his ideas sprout up to run for office.
I'm not completely enamoured of Hillary, but I've long thought she has the experience and know-how. She knows where the bodies are buried, probably because she buried some of them herself. She's causing a lot of controversy because she's Establishment. She's got dirty hands -- I find it heard to believe that anyone in politics doesn't have a little dirt under their nails, even Bernie (I am not comfortable with Saints anyway) because there's not a lot clean about politics. Leadership isn't really designed for people who don't know how to deal, to compromise, to make the choices that leave a queasy feeling in the stomach. There are a lot of conflicting agendas in this world, a lot of groups who wants totally divergent things and who have totally divergent things to offer.
Hillary and Bernie both have not played the same hate card. They both have some practical ideas based on having experience with the mess we call government. Neither of them scare me nearly as much as the GOP extremists. I'd like to see the US edge back from the cliff, get some self control. Yes, I do think there are some important ideas in the past (like the taxation rates pre-Reagan) that need to be revamped and put in play again. We have infrastructure to shore up (jobs!) and technologies to explore (more jobs!). We have an education system in serious need of help (yet more jobs) and it would be nice if we started making more of the stuff we consume here instead of relying on cheap and often exploitive overseas labor. I'd like to see focus move from the success and wealth of the CEOs and board members of companies back to the people who do the work (no one fucking needs a $10 mil house or 18 cars or a maid for their dog. Can't people be content with, say, a $2mil house, 4 cars, and walk their own dog?)
See how long I've run on? No one will read this and I don't blame them. Nothing new in my ranting. But I'm honestly worried about the next 4 years. I'm getting older and my life will be more difficult, and I'm scared. I want to have a strong, proud country again, full of citizens who don't have to hate and shoot other people and scream blame, who can be honest with themselves and rise above the base parts of their nature.
Rape victims can be ANYONE. There are no particular protections from rape provided by social or economic class, race, gender, location, education, body type, or age. Rape is about power over another person. treating a human as a thing. It is about causing pain, humiliation, and trauma. It is about power. It's not even about sexual power, but power pure and unmixed with qualifiers or excuse.
That the rapist is often the one more subject to the protections (or lack thereof) provided by race, gender, age, sociol-economic level, public status, etc. is just more evidence of what rape is not. For those people who our culture on the whole sees as rightfully and deservedly powerful, who embody power (in this case, white males) they can never really be rapists or rape victims -- they can't take power from someone because it already belongs to them, and that power cannot be taken away from them by another because power belongs to them.
Reality, by the way, in the truth of trauma, suffering, and the pressures brought down on victims of any gender, aren't considered.
I think I've mentioned it before, but some time last year I decided that Patton Oswalt was my imaginary friend, and I started writing letters to him. Now, let me be quite clear -- I am in no way connected with Patton Oswalt. I am not stalking him, and the couple of times he responded to tweets I made are rather treasured, but in that way of a fan thinking "Hey, I got 5 seconds of attention from someone I admire who entertains me, woot!" and not much else. I look upon the entire thing as something I do to entertain myself, so hold up on the tranquilizer gun and the special jacket.
With that said, yes, I have written several very long letters to Mr. Oswalt. I wrote them by hand, with a fountain pen on nice stationary (you have no idea how hard it is to find nice stationary these days, or how pricy a decent fountain pen is, so, yes, this is a hobby sort of thing). I even mailed some off to an address I found where one could request an autograph. I expect they are somewhere being reduced to pulp or compost right now, unread and unnoticed. I'm ok with that. One doesn't expect responses from an imaginary friend.
And I fully understand that the version of Patton Oswalt I hold in my head is imaginary (as are, quite frankly, the version most people who do not know him well hold in their heads -- his fans, his haters, those who know who he is but are more or less indifferent -- none of us have a real, fully developed and multi-dimensional version of him available to us. That can be said for most of the people we run into in this world, so it's not anything special. Some of us don't even have fully realized versions of ourselves in our heads.) I built it up via his comedy performances (all seen on video because he's far too smart to ever perform anywhere near where I live, and even if he did, there would be too many people in attendence for me to tolerate. I have solid reasons for preferring imaginary people most of the time, but we shan't go into that right now.) This imaginary version has a connection to me that I made up. The original actual person doesn't owe me a damn thing ever.
So, why am I even talking about it? Mostly because I want to, because the whole concept interests me, and I like romping through my own head pulling out things to look at and talk about. Don't roll your eyes. I'm no different from most of you except in my choice of topic. I could be geeking out over tiny details in Pacific Rim or the whole Godzilla canon (which does NOT include the 1998 Giant Lizard Breathes Tuna Breath on New York movie). In fact, I have and will again go into deep discussions about both these things and many others. But this, this imaginary friend thing, that's what I want to talk about now.
It's soothing to write letters to Patton Oswalt. I have the little conversation going in my head where Craig Ferguson is talking about how getting a "happy ending" from a massage therapist is never going to happen...but it might happen. It doesn't exist in the realm of probability, but it exists in the realm of possibility. Patton Oswalt could possibly one day read one of my letters, could be moved to respond, could enter into conversation with me...and he could rent a plane to fly a banner over my house telling me to leave him alone. Not probable. Yet it teases there on the edge, just like most day dreams and vague longings. But I don't bank on it, don't spend much time entertaining it. I just write my letters.
The letters go on about whatever is in my head, including the letters themselves because that's how my brain works. I talk about my life, about things in the world, wondering what his take on them might be, about books, movies, my struggle with depression and anxiety, about dogs. In fact, to my imaginary friend version of him there is little I could not write about. He's a very good imaginary friend.
And because he's imaginary, there is no need to wait around tensely for a response. There won't be an answer (if there were, I think I would be torn between giddy delight which might include dancing around the room and horrified anxiety which might involve hiding under the bed and peering out fearfully at whatever form the response took. Either way, I would likely spend days debating on reading it. Maybe I'd enshrine it somewhere, or enlist someone else to check it for explosives (not all bombs involve chemicals).
I'm considering writing another such letter. It's been almost a year since the last one (still in my desk) where I pondered if I was over the fit, if I'd satisfied whatever urge I felt. Now it's stirring up again. In part, it is because of his own recent loss, the pain of which I can imagine but hope not to experience (scrap for some other writing). In part, because it is summer and I am about to head to my own corner of peace and paradise where I can happily do such things without spending a lot of time wondering if I should be doing something else instead.
Mostly, though, it is because I did something a bit illegal recently. I recorded (in the clumsiest manner) a short segment of one of Oswalt's audio books to share with certain friends, in part because I find it delightfully funny, and in part to encourage them to buy and read the books/listen to the books themselves. I kept it very limited for fear of the Furies of DRM and Copyright going after me. Now, though, I'm contemplating posting it publicly because, damn, I want more people to read his books so that I can reference them in the best of geeky ways and know someone else will get it.
For the record, if it is necessary to label your book "A Novel", perhaps someone thinks you didn't do a good enough job in making it obviously a novel. Pet Peeve and it just makes me feel like publishers think I'm stupid.
Onward. The Rook is built along my favorite lines -- a bit science fictiony, a bit superhero-y, a touch of paranormal, and a whole lot of "whodunnit". It's a good book to start the summer.
Now, the reader. Susan Duerden does a respectable job with voicing the characters. My big problem -- something that actually irritated me and made me pause the book more than once -- was her "neutral" narrator voice. The book is written as a combination of 3rd person limited and 1st person epistolary. She gave the main characters (yes, plural, for reasons I'll explain) a good, reasonable voice that worked. But the neutral voice...gah! Every sentence ended on an uplift, a vocal inflection that is not uncommon with women because it lets each sentence, no matter how obviously declarative, sound like a question. Each line has an echo of "Is this all right with you?" It's not the full questioning uplift, just a hint of one, but so frequent that it became noticeable. Now, this is the expositive part of the book, which is quite certainly declarative in nature. The narrator/author is not asking the reader questions. However, that slight uplift, that ending of each sentence on a place higher up the scale by a note, a note and a half, so repetitively, got supremely irritating. It may not bother anyone else, but it bothered the hell out of me. It was also unnecessary, since she did quite well voicing characters, including male characters, with distinct voices, inflections, and vocal mannerisms.
Then we have the story. I got hints of Jasper Fforde in this, not just from the British setting, but from the very evenhanded, unexcited way very bizarre parts of the world were just..accepted. I enjoyed that in the Thursday Next books, and I enjoyed it here. We start the book with Myfanwy Thomas, or at least a woman who used to be Myfanwy Thomas and who choses to be her again. The question presented to us is a nice twist on the classic dead body in chapter one -- who "erased" Thomas's personality and memory, and why? Thomas knew it was going to happen and has prepared with meticulous detail a series of letters and a binder of information, among other things, for the person she would be if she survived whatever it was that would happen.
And from there, we are off. The comedy is sharp and cynical and, at certain moments, a bit overdone, but not so much that it threw me off the story. Myfanwy is interesting, not only as the detective AND the victim in this sort-of murder mystery, but as someone trying to take up someone else's life without that someone's particular problems and coping mechanisms. Thomas (the old personality) had some serious damage. Myfanwy (the new personality) doesn't have the memories of those traumas, and so isn't hedged around with defenses. It's a marvelous sort of "What If?" story.
The frosting on this layered story cake is also quite delicious, as we discover (yet another) secret agency charged with saving humanity from the dark, alien, and mysterious parts of the world that would seriously upset the normal, reality TV show watching citizen. There are deadly enemies, weird dangers, and problems with finding something suitable to wear for various important agency events. I was surprised that Myfanwy, who is not in the usual heroic "strong female character" mold, didn't really need anyone to save her, but was just fine when someone did. She will stand up for herself when she feels like it, but she doesn't always feel up to it. That worked for me.