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Colder Than Mars: The Frigid Update [December 20, 2016]

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December 20, 2017


Greetings from the city that is literally colder than Mars.


As the year winds down, I’m taking stock of where my work has been, reorganising the website, and doing other housework, including the literal sort: Kitty Frida and I are reorienting things in our space so that everything is easier to get to. I got one of those large desk planners so, of course, all my projects are practically finished.


But seriously. I’m slowly getting back into the practice of writing more for my own site. Here’s something I wrote about how “The New York Times Is The Daily Prophet,” combining my love for the Harry Potter series with my distaste for the Times.


I’m also taking some time off (a few weeks) from paying assignments as I try to figure out how to keep working on essays that take longer to produce and are not as immediately well-paid and simultaneously work on outside gigs. November’s long illness screwed up my schedule and left me awkwardly flailing around with deadlines (many, many thanks to my incredibly patient editors). I’m working on a master schedule that lets me continue the work for my own site but also lets me keep working at “outside” assignments; I’ve been so used to just grabbing and then plugging away at unpaid and/or underpaid work that figuring out how to navigate well-compensated material with people who are actually keen to work with me has been a bit of a culture shock.  The plan to only write outside pieces with advances is working well so far: I’m still formalising my actual Freelancer’s Agreement (which I’ll place online as soon as its finished) but, in the meantime, I’ve negotiated matters at different levels with various outlets so that I’m not completely running on empty for a couple of months or more while working on a piece.  


Besides the matter of money: I’m one of those weird writers who loves being edited. My bigger pieces, like the Suey Park one (exclusive to this website), went through several reads by comrades and colleagues, and I think my work benefits from formal outside editing. So, I have no plans to ever stop writing for outside outlets. My eventual goal is to keep producing solid work, long and short essays, including investigative writing (something I sorely miss producing) for the site as well as pieces for outside publications that emerge every few months, alongside the book(s).  My intention here, to be clear, is not to use my website as a springboard to get paying gigs and then leave it behind to wither. Rather, I plan on this site always being a living, thriving entity where the bulk of my work is produced.


To the matter of The Direness (composed, as some of you know, of various blobby bits): It is slowly, very slowly, inching towards various kinds of resolution, for better or worse (hopefully, in the long run, mostly for the better). Frida and I still don’t have our own place, but the incredibly generous donation of the space we currently occupy has meant a level of stability that makes things like regular schedules more possible (spitting for luck, in all directions, ensues).  What has also helped, enormously and in ways I cannot communicate clearly enough, are the many subscriptions and donations that keep us going.  Please know that the smallest amounts go towards the most essential things, like a daily beverage and time to regroup in the local coffeeshop or being able to order food when I’m sick. And please keep spreading the word, not just about subscribing and/or supporting me with donations, but about my work.  My way forward has never been the blockbuster route but, rather, a slow and steady climb forward and it’s always been made possible because so many readers and supporters have chosen to believe in or at least support my work and, more crucially, my politics.


Politics.  Ah, politics.  My worst fear for the next four or more years is that all political work is going to be defined against the spectre of Trump, which means that we’re doomed to little more than a reactive agenda designed only to stop or deflect Trump.  Of course I don’t underestimate how awful a Trump administration is going to be, for everything from our wombs to the planet, but all this grandstanding and talk of the Fourth Reich is not just ridiculously overblown, it turns him into a Voldemort with powers beyond those of Earthly Beings. In the process, we are conveniently forgetting how incredibly awful Hillary Rodham Clinton was and and how awful are the continuing long-term effects of her many years in politics.


It turns out that very few people have any illusions about Clinton.  As you’ve probably heard by now, Hillary Clinton was not swept to power by an Electoral College that decided to install her as President.  Instead, even Democrat Electors turned against her: “In Washington state, three Democratic electors voted for Colin Powell and one for Faith Spotted Eagle, who has been fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, instead of Clinton.”


If we lived in better times, when comedy was not hijacked by Saturday Night Live, where Clinton has now been firmly ensconced as a Tragic Heroine, all of this would be richly mined.  Indeed, if this were Britain in the 1980s, a show like Yes, Minister would have delivered an exquisitely funny satire on the subject.  Instead, we’re left with the worshipful liberal crap of SNL that stopped being actually funny sometime in the late 80s (earlier, according to some of my friends) and only exists now because it can mine presidential elections every four years.  Of course, having acquired one of the easiest targets of all, it will no doubt be watched by millions who need to be reassured that mocking Trump can easily take the place of actually thinking about politics.


The extent to which liberals continue to venerate Clinton as The Great Hope is baffling, given the extent of her deep corruption and general incompetence and seediness.  She needs to retreat to her massive mansion in Chappaqua, and perhaps spend her days like Miss Havisham, surrounded by bits of stale cake from all those expensive fundraising dinners she was at during the last few months before the election — choosing to ignore voters in states like Wisconsin and Michigan.


Politico writes about how the Clinton campaign because it kept kept defining itself against various Republican candidates (remember what I just said above about liberals and the left doing the same thing?)


The Intercept writes about the fallacies of the Russia-blaming controversy.


When I posted this Politico piece about a black and extremely progressive woman, Kim McKinney Cohen, who has been politically active all her life but who decided to vote for Trump, more than a few people blew up and called her “stupid” and an “aberration.”  Some also criticised my posting a Politico piece.  Ah, yes, of course, because all those leftist magazines and commentators were so incredibly accurate about this last election.


In all seriousness: I recommend that people read the piece and, rather than dismissing her as an aberration (which she, was in some ways, but you have to read the piece to see why) consider that this may be the wave of the future. Black progressives and leftists, and especially Black women, are among the demographics that are both taken for granted by liberals and leftists and also roundly derided and abused if they dare to step out of line and don’t vote for the perceived interests of white liberal and left voters.  My prediction is that people like Cohen are going to get louder over the next few years and that they will be met, with disastrous consequences for any real political movement, with racist diatribes by the supposed left.  As I’ve said very often, and will write about more in the next few months, the “left” has no idea how to engage a politics that considers race and ethnicity without sneering about “diversity and identity politics” in ways that alienate vast swaths of people who are actually equally disinvested in such.  Lefties, it turns out, can’t actually walk and chew gum at the same time: With a few rare exceptions, the only way they know how to critique, say, identity politics, is to first mock everyone who belongs to particular identity categories while blithely ignoring the fact that, actually, whiteness is an identity as well.  I’ve been one of the louder and most unwavering critics of diversity and identity politics for a long time (and alienated, without any regrets, many theorists and commentators on race, including several women of colour), but sitting among (mostly white) lefties who claim similar politics often feels like Thanksgiving with several of Those Relatives, the ones who start every spiel about politics with, “Now, I’m not a racist, but…”


At the same time, I’m also increasingly irritated by the fact that, it seems, we can no longer talk about what it means to have a “left” politics without that being somehow defined by Bernie Sanders.  Sanders is still a politician, not The Left God Of Our Times, and the tendency of Berniebros (yes, they exist, let’s stop pretending they don’t, and I’ll have more in the coming months) to insist otherwise is somewhat more than annoying.


In other news and analysis, here’s a piece on the terrible schedule faced by too many doctors.


Would you like to sing like an indie singer?  Here’s a video explaining how.


E. R. Braithwaite, who wrote To Sir With Love, died at 104.


So did Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was 99.  Or, who knows, also 104?  She was notoriously evasive about her actual age, and I’ll confess I confused her with her sister Eva, who appeared in Green Acres.


To give you some comfort and joy in these bleak times, here’s a shirtless Mark Wahlberg in Date Night, an entirely forgettable movie starring the over-rated Tina Fey.  Wahlberg’s shirtlessness is a running joke in the movie, and the only memorable thing about it.


This photographic feature on Lake Erie in the cold could really do with better editing of the text (come on, Buzzfeed, you make all that money and you can’t hire a copy-editor?), but the images are amazing.


We are witnessing, in an Obama administration, the slow death of social services for the most marginalised among us.  In Chicago, the CEO of a network of group homes for the mentally ill has no idea where six of his residents might be.  In Uptown, alderman James Cappleman claims he had no idea that a men’s shelter was to close.


George Soros, in an utterly misguided attempt to fund his version of “justice,” is now pouring $10 million into a “hate crimes initiative.” As a reminder of why hate crime legislation is always a terrible idea, here’s Against Equality on the subject (the site’s being updated, really).


The Times of London has a list of the best academic acknowledgements.


If you’re missing your weekly Walking Dead fix, here’s Walking Dead Bingo, to tide you over until the show’s return in February.


This is for all the graduate students out there, as they face another holiday season peppered with intrusive questions about the meaning of their lives.


From the archives, here’s my piece on how to “Choose Your Elite."


And speaking about the “working class,” the current fixation of the left (which only sees a white working class, of course), here’s an older piece of mine, on how it gets fetishised.


If you haven’t read or been following Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, here’s my review of her So Many Ways to Sleep Badly.


In case you missed my last update, here’s “What’s That Movie Called: Or, Snakes and Ladders, and the End of Stardom and Friendships.”


And to tide you over till next week, here are adorable kittens singing about The Great Russian Plot.


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