Red Dawn: 2016

The more I think about it, the more I believe Comey should be investigated for his role in manipulating the election. The timing of every leak throughout the primaries and presidential campaign all benefited Trump, which is especially concerning given the amount of hacksscandalsquestionslawsuits, and investigations swirling around Trump at the same time, and continue to do so.

The DNC hack was in May 2016, and by June identified by three independent cyber security firms and a London professor of cyber security as Russian in origin. Identification was aided because such attacks were far from the first known hacks by Russia agents of foreign government servers (or US servers, of both parties), and the spring hacks were primarily unique due to the speed in which they were detected.

Apparently the RNC was also hacked, but chose not to report it because they were not concerned about a security breach. In Dec 2016 — eight months after the DNC hack, six months after the leak, and one month after Trump won — Trump’s chief propagandist, Sean Spicer, confirmed the RNC was also hacked, but claimed it was not relevant because a subsequent cyber security investigation showed the hackers only acquired out-of-date emails from a single former RNC employee (the implication being that RNC security was superior to DNC security). 

The problem, of course, is that even if what they’re saying is true, it still doesn’t explain why they waited 8 months to confirm they were also hacked (whereas the DNC immediately notified the press), or the inexplicable difference in details/ openness between how the DNC and RNC have handled the investigations and examination of hacking data and cyber security reports in the fallout. (Hint: the DNC has been open with the code, investigations, and results; the RNC waited months, then stonewalled with assurances that an unnamed cyber security expert assured them they were not comprised.)

In May 2016, unconnected to Russia, Bernie Sanders was surging ahead in the primaries. He was hailed as the potential “people’s” presidential candidate. Numerous articles and polls indicated he was a stronger candidate than HRC against Trump. 

When he began losing the primaries in June, those losses were accompanied by a growing sense of unfairness and accusations that the political process had been rigged — accusations of voter intimidation, voter suppression among revelations of voter purges and reduced polling locations led to grassroots attempts by some to demand recounts, while others filed local lawsuits in an attempt to nullify the state primary results and force a re-vote.

Given the intensity of the primaries, HRC was always going to have difficulty winning back a certain segment of the Sanders supporters. It didn’t help matters when — as June 2016 turned to July and Clinton’s victory was assured –HRC supporters appeared to respond to the outrage and accusations of voter suppression/ tampering by Sanders supporters as little more than bruised/ sensitive feelings and the whining of sir losers (or, more offensively, evidence of the lack of progressive credentials and/ or internalized sexism/ racism on the part of Sanders supporters for preferring a white male candidate over a white female candidate). 

The message Sanders supporters were getting was, essentially, get over it and fall in line, because HRC was now “their” candidate. It was in this already non-ideal climate that HRC won the primary, as we all know. 

I am not here to argue about whether or not her win was valid. Personally, I supported Sanders in the primary, but HRC in the presidential — but I’ll admit that it took me some time to come around, which is interesting because before the primary campaign I fully supported HRC as a candidate, based on her political, academic, and activist history.

In retrospect, I believe it took longer than it should have for me to recognize the clear fingerprints of emotional manipulation from the cumulative effect of this anti-HRC media blitz, due to the Julu DNC Convention Guccifer leak. 

That leak validated the sense of injustice and outrage which dogged Sanders’ supporters in the final weeks of the primary, and was especially frustrating in states like mine, where Sanders won the primary vote overwhelmingly, but the electors announced they would be supporting HRC as the nominee.

Furthermore, the anti-HRC media blitz became toxically pervasive at such a gradual rate (at least in liberal/ progressive circles) that, from hindsight, it is difficult to pinpoint when verifiably fake news about HRC began circulating among Sanders supporters. 

I know it did, because some of those stories were passed to me. Further research revealed some as the product of slanted information — a truth, half-told, but lacking the consideration or acknowledgment of valuable context/ extenuating circumstances — while others were outright lies. 

So, back to the leaks: the timing of the July Guccifer leak was nearly 2 months after the DNC hack; meaning the “smoking gun” emails indicating the DNC engaged in preferential techniques to benefit HRC had been in the hackers possession throughout the messy contentioness of the primary … but they waited to release those emails (and did so via an intermediary to provide plausible deniability) until just before the Democratic National Convention.

Perfect timing, really: It was too late to actually challenge the DNC party nomination; but by leaking just before the formal declaration, it created a sense of false hope that because nothing had been formally been announced, it could still be challenged/overturned — a false hope fanned by unsubstantiated rumors Sanders was going to lodge a formal challenge (denied by his campaign). 

HRC started her presidential campaign with her base in shambles, progessive/ Sanders supporting protesting the nomination, and a highly-publicized scourge of top DNC officials.

Throughout and after the presidential campaign, whenever former Sanders supporters talk about whatever method they did not vote HRC (Trump, third party, or abstaining), it was framed less as support for their chosen candidate/ action and more as a protest against the perceived corruption of HRC and the DNC: “Did you see the leaks?!” 

I always find myself thinking, “And?!” 

Okay, yes. The deal-making and internal corruption wasn’t great. But honestly? Also not unusual for either side. 

We all know that. That’s what the whole appeal of Sanders was — not being beholden to money in politics. And after Sanders defeat; Trump (falsely) co-opted that appeal (it still baffles me people somehow think a billionaire CEO  — the literal embodiment of a business interest — who refuses to release his tax returns is preferable to a government employee who was funded by business interests. One of those situations you can address via legislation.)

But that leak — think of the timing! That wasn’t about altruistic information, or truth for the sake of an informed populace creating a stronger democracy! 

If those were the goals, the emails would’ve been leaked shortly after the hack, in May 2016, when the results of the primaries could still be influenced. But Russia didn’t want to take the risk of a Sanders v. Trump presidential campaign; they wanted HRC as the nominee so they could cripple her presidential campaign with whispers and rumors from the outset. She was already being investigated for her email servers! All they needed to do was fan the flames of distrust — and boy howdy, did they.

Normally, a presidential candidate can rely on a significant proportion of their base turning out — even after a harsh primary — and spend the presidential campaign focusing on the swing/electoral college states. 

A lot of post-election critique made much of how HRC ignored the states Trump won, but nobody really talked about why: I think it was a response to starting the presidential campaign with a deeply splintered voter base and the DNC purges. She was campaigning to win back her base; the votes she should have been able to rely on in a normal electoral season. 

By the time the Russian-Guccifer link was confirmed, it was too late — the outrage of alienated progressives who supported Sanders felt validated, and trust in not only the candidate, but organized/ official institutions overall was severely undermined. Reports of HRCs innocence in the collision were met by too many with mockery and disbelief.

As a result of HRC’s campaign’s focus on winning back the base, they relied on social media/ TV/ debates to get her message out to the swing/ independent voters. Impossibly, this approach actually seemed to work — as election day approached, and it looked as though, against all odds, the HRC campaign had recovered, what happened?

Another devastatingly timed scandal headline, just days before the election. From James Comey, no less — top government official and known political opponent of HRC. The same man who had recently publicly exonerated her of wrongdoing in a highly publicized investigation; a statement which (arguably) went a long way to clearing her character and improving her chances of winning. 

It also made Comey look good: fair and honest. A registered Republican for “most of his life,” who donated to the Romney and McCain campaigns, Comey had an investigation record known as careful, nonpartisan, and evidence-based. When he’d cleared HRC of wrongdoing in the server email scandal, it pissed off Republicans as much as it reassured everyone else. 

So his sudden, unprecedented, unnecessary letter announcing new email-related developments — given his much-established character and credentials–was all the more damaging. 

And, again, perfectly timed: explosive and headline grabbing; seeding doubt in voters just before the election deadline, yet so baseless it was already fizzling away to nothing by election day and disappeared completely by the end of the month. 

But it was enough, with all the other whispers that dogged the HRC campaign, to erase any lead she may’ve had. Those swing voters and former Sanders supporters who might’ve gone out? They stayed home, or voted third party. Some of them, sadly, betrayed Sanders’ values and campaign altogether to vote Trump. 

The thing that bothers me most is that all this meddling would have been for naught if it weren’t for the electoral college. She still won the popular vote. Russia literally leveraged our flawed democracy against us. 

Everyone talks about the effect of false news inflaming the right wing voters so they went out and voted; but what about the demoralizing effect of the leaks on progressive voters?

Those leaks were timed to alienate the progressive base, in the hope HRCs campaign would be so occupied with winning back and consolidating her base, they would neglect the key swing states — and that is exactly what happened.

The hack and fake news are made much of, but I think it’s important not to forget the influence of the paid human trolls from Russia, or discount the real possibility they inflamed the internecine conflict of the DNC primaries. 

It is true DNC preferred HRC as a candidate. Traditional politics is once again infused and corrupted by corporate/ big bank finances. This is a situation which has historically recurred in the US political system, and been addressed not by outsiders with no working understanding of governance but career politicians (some despicable). 

It could have been addressed again, in our own house. By a politician at the very least rigged in our system, as opposed to implemented by the interference of outside manipulation. We have a Manikin President, a stooge whose failure upward was machinated not by a foreign power who seeks to control him — no, I do not think that’s Russia’s endgame at all.

They wanted Trump as the US president because he’s a fool who knows nothing of politics, and rather than serve US interests, his policies and mishandling of governance will undermine and devastate US standing on the world stage.

At this point, Russia doesn’t need to do anything else. From here on out, all the failures of this administration will be their own doing. 

HRC would have been the status quo, or slow change. The leaked emails which indicted her campaign, while inflammatory, were not the outright smoking gun of illegal and amor action many claimed them to be. 

I suspect for maximum effect, the Russian trolls (defined as Russian citizens who represented themselves as US citizens in social media and discussed the election with the intent of sowing dissent) amplified the simmering sense of injustice by:

  1. Posing as HRC supporters and insulting Bernie supporters/ encouraging actual HRC supporters to insult Bernie supporters, and
  2. Signal-boosting each lawsuit and failed attempt to verify primary election results, which cast more doubt on the validity of HRC’s nomination.

I just wish we could somehow get the election results discounted because of Russian interference and have the winner of the popular vote take office.

I have heard rumors HRC is thinking of running in 2020. I really hope not. She is one of those politicians who is, no doubt, extremely skilled, but she lacks a certain je nais se quoi, and it cripples her in national campaigns. I do not think this is anything as reductive as sexism, btw — I’m not denying sexism exists, and plays a strong role in how she is perceived. I’m just saying, whatever it is that makes her such an appealing candidate off-season seems to evaporate once the actual campaigning starts, and I can’t stand to watch it again.

I think I’d prefer Elizabeth Warren, or Kshama Sawant, or Pramila Jayapal. Michelle Obama would be amazing, obviously, if she had any interest in running — but she doesn’t, so I kinda feel like people should stop with the daydream.

“I don’t want to hear about it” 

My first day of Journalism 101, the professor asked each student how often they read the news, and what kind– actual news articles, by established journalistic organizations, blogger news, or viral posts in their social media feeds?

A surprising amount of the (presumably) aspiring journalists and reporters in the class confessed they did not actually read news articles. When pressed, the general consensus of the class was that the news is depressing and scary. One classmate asked why they can’t cover “nice” stories, like kittens or puppies or something.

Paraphrasing a bit here, because it’s been a few years, but essentially my professor said, “Take comfort in knowing that puppies are so commplace, their mere existence doesn’t merit headlines.”

Basically, no matter how frequent protests and riots and earthquakes and corruption and crime may seem in the news, there’s a reason they make headlines. On a planet with 7.4 billion people and counting, events such as these are remarkably out of the ordinary for large segments of the population. 

Tragedy is not ordinary, like puppies and kittens and joyful things are. Cruelty and selfishness are not expected as the default interaction, the way we expect civility, kindness, charity, love, and acceptance to be. 

If cruelty and bigotry were expected as the default mode of human interaction, we would not be so outraged by their presence. We would not be shocked into stunned silence, or driven to passionate outcry. 

And were it not for our expectation of civility, there would not be those among us who are so exhausted by the vicious and depressing weight of the news who sigh and say, “It’s just too much; I don’t like to talk about it.”

I can understand the impulse to hide; to bury ones head under the covers and hope the monsters have gone away by the time you come out.

But we are not children any more. And ignorance, though bliss, never solved anything. All it did was delay the moment of reckoning and–too often–prevent those who could have acted from doing so in a timely manner.

“But what can I do? It’s so depressing, and I don’t have enough money or power to make a difference.”

Well, the first step is staying informed–which means reading the news, and not just from sources you agree with. A broad cross-section of sources, both local and international, to get a nuanced and realistic sense of the issues.

And the second step is recognizing the power of organization. In Newsies, there’s a moment when Davey asks Cowboy how he’s going to get the heads of the biggest, wealthiest newspapers in New York to listen to the demands of a couple of street kids with no money. Cowboy replies, “We’ll go on strike!” 

“How?” Davey demands. “We’ve got no money, no union.”

“Well, if we go on strike, then we are a union,” reasons Cowboy.

And though Davey scoffs, at the core of it, Cowboy’s right. That musical may be a Disney-fied version of a historical event, but as far as the core message goes? It’s kind of spot on. 

One ordinary voice against the corrupt institutions of the powerful and wealthy isn’t going to change anything. But if you add another, and another, until that voice becomes a hundred voices and those become a thousand, and then a million–that is where our power is. 

Not in turning our eyes away with an unhappy sigh and plugging our ears to the cacophony of news in order to focus on tending to our own gardens, but in solidarity. In raising our voices in common cause to demand better for our neighbors, our communities, our coworkers — ourselves.

So listen. Be informed. Make your voice heard. And get involved in your community.

I can’t even with this shit

Jesus fuck, talk about moving goalposts.

So let me get this straight … after Conway referenced the (non existent) Bowling Green massacre (and was called out on it) to support the refugee ban, that non-populist, fixed-election joke of a puppet-president doubled down on this narrative by asserting to senior military officials in his first-ever military address the factually inaccurate and readily disprovable claim of the media literally ignoring terrorist attacks like a big bunch of jerks, right? And then his administration swears, in the face of the ensuing outcry, that they will totally release a list of these tragically ignored terrorist attacks that will justify their actions thus far–have I got it right so far?

Sure, we all thought the promised list would–like his tax returns–never materialize. And meanwhile, Propagandist Spicer is already mewling about, trying to walk this latest insanity with justifications of what Trump said wasn’t what he meant, although he meant what he said, just not the exact words–it went from something like “unreported” actually means “under reported,” because Trump feels these terrorist attacks didn’t get quite as much attention as, say, the protests of his inauguration.

“He felt that members of media don’t always cover some of those events to the extent that other events might get covered,” Spicer said. “Like a protest gets blown out of the water, and yet an attack or a foiled attack doesn’t necessarily get the same coverage.” — Chicago Tribune, Fact check: Trump’s unsupported claim that terrorist acts ignored by media

It seems Trump is a little offended at his unpopularity–that sounds almost like a, “Hey, guys, the vote might not have been exactly unanimous, but I’m no terrorist!”

Uh, Donny-boy, to a lot of people, you are.

Anywho, miracles of miracles, the Joker in Chief actually got his team to scrape up a list of these “unreported” attacks to illustrate his specific complaints. To recap, Trump said Islamic terrorist attacks were now at, “… a point where it’s not even being reported,” because, “in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.

Spicer qualified those remarks, moving the goalpost to the more nebulous and difficult to pin down marker of “under reported” as opposed to “unreported” (because the amount of coverage something deserves, really, is fucking subjective). And it is into this atmosphere the infamous list was released into. Of course, as everyone with basic reading and critical thinking skills has already pointed out, the list completely fails in its stated purpose, on several counts:

  1. The majority of the terrorist attacks on the list were extensively covered by numerous news organizations–both print, online, and television–worldwide, while only a handful were limited to local news coverage.
  2. Chillingly absent from the list are the domestic terrorist attacks by Right-Wing Extremists (RWE), Christian Fundamentalist Misogynists (CFMs), and Active School Shooters (ASSs). It is a glaring absence on an official White House document which purports to be about addressing the failings of choosing to ignore or not report information one ideologically disagrees with.
  3. The damn thing is riddled with spelling errors. Just fucking riddled with them.

So, yeah. Basically, every terrorist attack cited (save for the fake Bowling Green one) were, in fact, reported on by, well, news reporters. Of the news media. Which (obviously) is how Trump knows about them.

I mean, obvious statement is obvious, you’d think, but some people can’t use the brains they were born with.

When questioned/ confronted about the extensive coverage of the attacks on the list, the propaganda team twins responded (in a nutshell) by once again moving the goalposts and definitions of the argument. Starting with Spicer: “Hey–they weren’t reported on enough, and the world is a dangerous place!” (Translation: YOU DON’T REALIZE HOW SCARY THE WORLD IS! THE WORLD IS SCARY AND WE WILL PROTECT YOU!

Throw the ball to White House spokesperson Lindsey Walters: “Look at the list, guys–terrorist attacks are happening every two weeks, okay? Once these would have inspired wall-to-wall coverage in every single news outlet, but now they’re so commonplace the networks are barely giving them any time!” (Translation: Okay! Okay, so they’re on the news, but look, they’re covered so frequently, nobody cares. Nobody’s paying attention. We’re just trying to force you to wake up, people!)

They keep moving the fucking goalposts. Redefining shit and changing their justifications. Talking in circles.

Most insultingly, they didn’t even run a fucking SPELL CHECK. Now, I KNOW any basic Word program spell check wouldn’t have missed “attaker” and “Denmakr,” whatever other flaws those damned unimaginative programs might have. I mean, what kind of rank incompetence is this?!? These are grown ass men who can’t fucking SPELL and people are still taking them seriously as politicians and government leaders? The only conclusion I have is that it was intentional — like they figured, ah, the people this list is allegedly aimed at aren’t gonna buy it, and our base is a bunch of illiterate rubes! Let’s pull a little prank and watch the eggheads explode in nerdrage. (cue evil megalomaniacal laugh).

Now, I did mention Trump and co. left out the domestic white terrorist attacks on their list. This is actually super important, because for years the FBI and Homeland Security have been aware of and quietly investigating the concerning trend of white supremacists infiltrating our nation’s law enforcement. In 2012, they even released a report about the domestic terror threat posed by US-military trained right-wing anti-government nationalist extremists, which was unfortunately suppressed after conservatives took offense and raised an outcry.

The thing is, the report wasn’t saying all conservatives are terrorists. Being conservative is a political belief–like anything else, there are gradients of intensity. There are extremists, moderates, and idealists in all beliefs/ causes/ movements.

The extremists and idealists are generally some sort of unattached–either in an unhappy relationship or no relationship, no kids/ pets dependant on them (if they have kids/ pets, they’re primarily cared for by someone else), and their employment situation is sporadic/ unpredictable. They sound a lot alike, but extremists tend to want to enforce their worldview by dint of violence, while idealists tend to prefer non-violent action/ self-sacrifice to illustrate their worldview.

I think most people are naturally moderate, especially once they’ve acquired the responsibilities of family/ employment/ community, and aspire to idealism. That said, on a cultural level, the violence of extremism is really admired and romanticized. Culturally, we’ve been fed a steady diet of rebel movements, anti-authoritarian actions, and brave underground resistance fighters who rise up against invading armies.

I think in a sense, it actually feeds the issue of extremism. See, pretty much everyone believes, in their heart of hearts, that they have what it takes to be the “good guys” of the story–the French Resistance, the Wolverines, the rebel spies. But for most of us, it’s a belief that’s sort of like, “If we have to.” Like, we don’t want to fight–but if push comes to shove, I think most people believe (deep down), they’d be the Rebels, not the Stormtroopers. The Wolverines, not the Russians (or Chinese, if you prefer the reboot). The plucky underdog, not one of the faceless army of the great evil.

But then, when push does come to shove, it’s not about Rebels v. Stormstroopers or Wolverines vs. Foreign Invaders or Resistance vs. Nazis. It’s not about space battles or plucky high school students MacGuyvering a resistance in the backwoods or the romantic tragedy of historical retellings–it’s here and now, in the place you clock in every day, with the coworkers who are not quite your friends but not quite your enemies, and the manager who brings in donuts every Friday. Those airport workers faced with implementing Trump’s ban–they didn’t have to be cruel. They could have resisted. There might even be some among them who love Casablanca, or Swing Kids, or Star Wars, or Firefly, or The Sound of Music. But when push came to shove, resistance was the choice they couldn’t make. I imagine them hesitating for a the breath of a moment–second-guessing, doubting. Then telling themselves, harshly– this isn’t Nazi Germany, or Star Wars, or some story! This is the real world–I need this job! I have bills to pay–my family needs me.

I imagine confusion, the anger pumping through them, sped by adrenalin. Shouting voices all around them–they work customer service every day and they’ve never had this many people shouting at them! They don’t know the answers–they don’t know what’s going on–I imagine them scared, confused and angry. Just want to do their job, to keep their job. So they lashed out, unfairly, at the perceived cause of all these problems–not Trump. Not the man who wrote the order, because he wasn’t there. They couldn’t lash out at him. But oh, the travellers equally taken aback by this insanity? They were right there, and people do that shit all the time–deflect their rage onto the nearest target. Yell at their kid because their spouse was in a bad mood. Scream at the cashier for the store policy they have no influence over. Berate the waiter because of the cook’s pace in the kitchen. Abuse the refugee because the president issued an order that brought out protesters and forced them to work overtime. I think it’s probably hard to see the way through to the end of the story when you’re suddenly the protagonist. The arcs and plots get all tangled up, and nothing is quite as clean or clear as we imagine it will be before the moment arrives.

But extremists, idealists–they push all that muddle aside long before the decisive moment, and construct a clear narrative to justify their actions. So they have this defining cause leading them to enforce their beliefs through violent action (extremists), or sacrifice their own financial security/ physical safety/ freedom in order to illustrate the importance of their cause (idealists). And they’ve gotten all the same cultural messaging, seen all the same films, and also imagined themselves in the role of hero.

The difference is, where moderates say to themselves, “If push came to shove, I think I could defend my family/ myself/ my home,” and idealists say to themselves, “If push came to shove, I think I could sacrifice everything for what I believe in,”  I think extremists might be saying to themselves, “Why am I waiting for push to come shove me and mine? Preemptive battle motherfuckers! This is waaaaaaaarrrrrrr!”

 

 

That in-depth investigation on right wing extremist terrorists in the US was pretty nerve-wracking. Taken in conjunction with the FBI/ DHS investigations and report, it’s pretty clear that an ideological war has been quietly raging right under our noses, and with the infiltrated law enforcement agencies across the nation preoccupied with the battle to clean house, they’re too preoccupied (best case scenario–worst case is they’re preserving the racist status quo and sympathetic to the RWE terrorists) to adequately address the threat of right-wing nationalistic terrorists and the danger they pose to their communities.

And that’s a really scary thought, because since 2002, RWE have killed more US citizens in service to their fundamentalist constitutional/ anti-modern-government, fundamentalist christian beliefs than jihadis have in that same time frame–RWE have launched 18 attacks with 48 total deaths, while jihadis claim responsibility for nine attacks and 45 deaths. I suppose the fact that RWE are already here, and have such ready access to weapons, makes their goal a lot easier.

 

 

party of NO nope’s a boycott

This has been a hell of a start to it all. We’re not even two weeks in. Damn.

Today, February 1, 2016, Senate Republicans–who have, if you’ll recollect, spent the last eight fucking years intentionally and proudly being party of NO and NOPE, even at cost to their constituents–today suspended the US rule of law so they could disregard the Democrat Senators boycott/ objection and move forward with Trump’s nominations.

Fuck!

You mean this whole time the laws were optional? We never had to actually fucking pay attention to the goddamn obstructionism the GOP enacted during Obama’s administration? You’re telling me US democracy was a sham all along, and the democrats are the only ones falling for it?

Jesus fucking fuck!

Apropos of nothing, have you ever heard of the Enabling Act? I was curious how Hitler went had gone from democratically elected official to mad dictator, so I looked it up. Kind of interesting, actually. Turns out, the Nazi’s had formed a coalition with Nationalists for expedience (huh) and acquired about 40 percent popular support (huh!), which, according to a quirk of the Weimer constitution meant the head of their party was appointed Chancellor (basically VP, it sounds like) and got to command the state police (huh!).

Then in February, about a month after Chancellor Hitler got all chancellored up, this fire burned down the parliament building, and Hitler and all his tools blamed it on the goddamn communists (surprise! You were expecting something else? I guess sometimes bigots mix it up, just to keep you on your toes).

Chancellor Hitler seized on the fire as an excuse to get the president (who, apparently, was not 100% there, mentally speaking), to approve this dickweed emergency degree basically imposing martial law for the “protection and safety of the people,” which suspended individual rights and the due process of law.

It seems the Fire Decrees were supposed to be temporary, but like so many horrific, invasive things that increase the might of the already-powerful (*cough* NSA spy program *cough*) it was not. Two months later, when the parliamentary elections were held, Hitler pushed through the Enabling Act to seize power as leader of the third reich, now recognized by history as the mass-murdering dictator of Germany.

The thing about the Enabling Act, which granted Hitler permanent leadership and dispensed with the German electoral process and constitution, was that it was allegedly voted in democratically.

Much like today’s vote with the Senate Republicans, there was a democratic process of law that was, nominally, followed to push through the Senate Nominations despite Democrat opposition. Likewise, Hitler did follow the legislative process in place to legally cement his dictatorship–he needed a 2/3 majority vote to pass the Enabling Act, and he got it. In effect, the parliament voted away their electoral rights by 441 to 84.

True, Hitler had been intimidating his political opponents with his Fire Decree powers by deploying state police to arrest and intimidate them prior to the vote–and only 44 percent actually voted, which is rather less than a 2/3 majority, but hey! Of the ones who weren’t too scared to show up, they overwhelmingly voted Hitler, and we all know what Trumputin says about voters–only the ones who show up matter!

 

 

house battle of the nerds

We got some nerd battles going on up in this house as my son grows up. I’ve successfully passed on my love of reading, sci-fi, and video games (a bit too much on the last one), so my son is Harry Potter-loving, Star Wars geekin’, computer-game-playin’ nerd. 

He even got me playing Pokemon Go, and then freakin’ abandoned the game which sucks even more because I wanted to be on blue team (Go Ravenclaw! … yeah, yeah, I know they’re some other not-Harry Potter name. Don’t care.), but he convinced me to be team yellow, and now I’m a freakin’ Hufflepuff (I KNOW, again, don’t actually care about the real team names: They are Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, and Hufflepuff to me, and somehow I–a Pottermore-official Ravenclaw–am wearing Hufflepuff colors while I’m hunting down Evees. Wtf).

Also, Pokemon Go won’t let you change teams after you pick your team. BEWARE. This especially sucks because, apparently, yellow is a super unpopular color, so the gym aspect of the game is pretty much shut-down to me. All the gyms around are high-level blues and reds that take far more time than its worth to battle down for 10 freakin’ coins, at which point, oh, another red or blue team takes it right back over. Look at that. What’s the freakin’ point?

Personally, I think Niantic should have anticipated this, and randomly assigned teams. I mean, there are plenty of studies showing how color preferences impact food choices, film theory, and marketing–why wouldn’t they realize their goddamn teams would distribute unevenly? grumble grumble grumble

You can probably guess at the HP divides in our house by the Pokemon Go disagreement. Over the years, I’ve taken a bunch of personality tests (including the Meyers-Briggs based ones, and yes, I know that’s a totally biased/ defunct/ worthless test) to see which house I get sorted into. Over and over, I was scored between 70-85% Ravenclaw, 10-20% Slytherin, and a minimal percentage of Gryffindor or Hufflepuff. Then Pottermore was released and I took the Pottermore test (twice, because I lost my login info once), and both times was confirmed Ravenclaw.

It’s okay. You can say it. Neeeerrrrrdddddd. 

My son, on the other hand, took those tests for years and kept scoring as Gryffindor/ Hufflepuff, so he was devastated when Pottermore sorted him Slytherin. I was like, “My BOY!” but he’s just like, “NOOOOOOOOO.”

Weirdly, despite his love for the good guys in HP, he loves quoting Kylo Ren and Darth Vadar when it comes to Star Wars. Oh! And that’s our final nerd battle.

See, I’m kinda a Star Wars fan (OG, natch), in that the original episodes were a big part of my childhood– specifically, every year on my birthday, my family would relate the tale of how my birth interrupted my older brother’s much-anticipated opportunity to see The Empire Strikes Back (the family was living in Germany, and the English-speaking release had apparently just arrived). It seems my arrival interrupted big plans. Big plans. I did not hear the end of that guilt trip for like 20 years, haha.

Anyway, I like the franchise–actually, I like the whole space opera thing in general, honestly. I mean, holy shit, Jupiter Rising? Watch it as a big, glorious, not-to-be-taken-seriously space opera, and it’s so awesome. My husband could not understand why I was loving that film so much the first time we saw it, but I was like c’mon! Don’t watch it seriously–enjoy it for the camp that it is! Hilarious acting, cheesy costumes, big epic scenes, a genetically engineered werewolf soldier from space on a hoverboard? What’s not to love?

So, yeah, I adore space opera. It is so over-the-top, you have to be a humorless goon not to love it, and Star Wars falls squarely in space opera territory. It is so melodramatic and campy, and just a big ‘ole political soapy soap opera with fantasy elements, set in space!

So when my son comes in with deep, serious, deconstructive questions about the science or politics or economy or history of Star Wars, I’m like, “Uh huh, yeah. That is a contradiction. Don’t worry about it.” waves hand 

Because space opera, like normal opera, does not abide by the rules of common sense. Space opera, like normal opera, operates in a fantastical, upside-down world where all the rules as we understand them are suspended for The Story. So in a space opera, plot holes abide and technology stutters and stagnates in a contradictory timeline, and ducks show up every-friggin’-where and the most feared weapon is–inexplicably–a close-range laser sword.

At least Dune had an explanation for why they fought with swords. Star Wars deploys literal armies of robots shooting actual freakin’ laser guns, but somehow a couple hundred Jedi with glowy swords are supposed to be a political threat? So my stance is don’t question it! Just accept it. Just smile, and be like, “Okay! For the story!” and proceed.

But nope, not my Star Wars fan of a son. He says, “Where did Kylo Ren get the mask? Wasn’t Darth Vadar burned on pyre?”

“Yeah, probably a bounty hunter sold him a fake.”

“But he has the Force. Wouldn’t he be able to torture the truth out of him?”

“Not if the bounty hunter thought it was the real deal.”

” … I guess that makes sense.”

“Like, the bounty hunter was sold it by another bounty hunter, and who acquired it from some other asshole, and so on down the line–each guy swearing it was the mask of Darth Vadar, personally acquired by the guy who sold it to him, or at least the guy who sold it to the guy who sold it to him. So eventually someone brings it to Kylo Ren, swearing it’s the real deal, and he force chokes them for the truth, and they’re like I already told you the truth it’s really Darth Vadar’s mask, straight from Endor! Fifty fucking Ewoks died so you could have that mask! and he’s like, oh. Okay, then. And then cries to some melty piece of plastic about his granddad.”

Should be enough, right? But nope. My kid wants to know why technology doesn’t really progress in the Star Wars universe. See, my thought is, because the writers weren’t paying attention? But if I say that, my son just gives me this look, and I sigh with impatience.

The problem is, I’m definitely more of a Trekkie. It was adult-onset; I binged the entire tv series, from TOS through TNG, DS9, Voyager, and even 00’s Enterprise. I haven’t really gotten into the films, because I have a hard time sitting through films, period, but yeah. I’m a Trekkie, with Opinions about Trek. I could easily and happily delve into long discussions and debates about the progression of technology in the Trek ‘verse, or the relative merits of the captains–and I have.

My entire family is all-to-aware of my hypothesis that fucking Captain Archer is the reason Captain Janeway, centuries later, was forbidden by Federation rules from bringing her dog on-board the Voyager, because we all know how Captain Archer’s preferential (and, I would argue, endangering) treatment of Porthos threw a wrench in several first-contact situations), but Star Wars? C’mon! It’s a space opera, just meant to be enjoyed!

Unfortunately, my son has only seen The Next Generation, and while he’s (rightly) a fan of Data and Picard, he lacks the whole-series perspective gained by viewing TOS, TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise. (Seriously, Enterprise had so much suck. Can we just kick Captain Archer out an airlock and erase the whole time-war plot? Please?)

So I try, like a good mom, to engage with his attempts to find meaning in the meaninglessness of Star Wars. And that is … an interesting endeavor.

So I’ll be like, “Um, I dunno. Because it’s an essentially capitalist system? All the planets seem to have distinct cultures, languages, and monetary systems, and we’ve seen the influence trade treaties play–Star Wars is clearly structured around a far more quintessentially capitalist economy than 90’s Star Trek, which is structured around the Federation with the equilizing technology of the replicator. Granted, the Federation still had capitalist and expansionist leanings–as illustrated by the conflict with the Maquis–but it’s no-where near the inequality apparent in the Star Wars universe.”

… and my son is tuning out because there I am, on a Star Trek rant. Somehow.

 

 

 

 

official american idiot 

​Shocking. 

Trump somehow manages to make cutting funding, shutting down agencies, and firing thousands of employees even worse by icing this shit cake of widespread closures and related unemployment with the blood and tears of resourceless abuse victims

He hasn’t even been in office a full week, and the dude has already: 

  1. Raised middle class housing costs: Day one, Trump signed an executive order reversing an Obama-era FHA insurance rate reduction program. Now, low income homeowners, those who paid down payments of less than 20%, and those with middling credit scores will see their hosting costs rise, starting Jan. 27, 2017. The FHA estimates this order means homeowners with $200k mortgages will pay roughly $500 more in 2017 than they did in 2016.
  2. Moved to remove health coverage from 25 million Americans: Signed an executive order to gut the ACA, with no replacement proposed.
  3. Suppression of free speech: The official public service/ informational gvm’t Twitter feeds seen as mocking Trump were briefly suspended for investigation on January 20th.
  4. Engaged in propaganda/ rewriting history on official government sites: LGBT issues, Civil Rights, Healthcare, and Climate Change, Immigration and more were scrubbed from the official White House site after the Trump Administration took control.

Women’s safety, housing costs, health coverage, free speech … gee, I wonder why an infantile, narcissistic, billionaire sex predator wouldn’t prioritize these issues. 

Probably the same reason he’s planning grant cuts to other Dept. of Justice programs, like eliminating the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or shutting down grant administration for low income Americans who can’t afford legal assistance. 

I mean, it’s not like community oriented policing is important, or the low income people who voted for Trump ever need legal aid, right? Why should he care about those programs?

Oh, wait. He should because it is important and they do need it–he doesn’t care because it doesn’t matter to him.

And, of course, with the defunding of these departments will be hundreds upon thousands of lost jobs. 
Unemployment. 

Shocking. The guy who promised to bring jobs to America fired a bunch of people right off the bat.

I’m sure things will only improve from here.

Women’s clothing: Losing a size and pockets

My local Costco has these Buffalo David Bitton skinny jeans in stock for about $26, and I thought they looked pretty sweet. Also, I’ve shed a few (like 50-ish) lbs over the last year, and I kinda needed some new jeans. So I was like sah-weet, and snagged me a black pair in a size 12 back in October.

I considered the size 12 a “win,” because I’d been hovering between size 14/16 for a bit. So I was like aaawwww *happy dance*. Buuuut it quickly became apparent that these (extremely comfortable) jeans were a titch too big for me, and I’d underestimated my weight loss. It was getting to the point where my “skinny” jeans were literally falling off me, and I could shimmy out of them without undoing the zip.

Granted, I’d lost a few more pounds after buying them, and they have some give/ stretch to them because they’re, like, 10% polyester … but it didn’t help that I started out by just plain underestimating how my weight loss impacted my clothing size.

Sizing is hard, and it’s really hard to eyeball.

Now, I assumed the jeans were out of stock after a few months, but that was an assumption based on the following facts:

  1. I hate clothing shopping
  2. I actually kind of tend to avoid the clothing section at my local Costco because there’s often a strong perfumey-fragrance hanging about the area? I’m not sure if it’s due to an employee or the result of the type of shoppers attracted to the area, but it’s like a heavy cloud of floral/ patchouli/ gaggery sort of thing, and it makes my eyes water and my skin break out, so I tend to just sort of rush past holding my breath and not browse the area.
  3. Also, I hate clothing shopping.

But! Last week, the air surrounding the area was all fragrance-free and clean, so I figured I’d take a peek and see if the pants were still in stock. And lo and behold, they were! Yay! So I located a size 10 and did the whole no-dressing-room measure trick, which is good to see if something’ll fit (not as useful for seeing how something will fit). For pants/ skirts/ shorts, hold them up to your waist, but from small-of-back to belly-button, not hipbone-to-hipbone. If they don’t reach, it won’t fit.

Anyway, fit seemed to work, so I bought them. Took ’em home, tried ’em on–perfect! Lounged about all happy for a day in my beautiful dark blue comfy-as-hell, brand-new skinny jeans. Next day, went out to get a flu shot and visit my husband at work, and I discovered something horrifying. 

My new jeans do not have front pockets.

My old ones do. Same brand, same materials, same everything but size/color–they have front pockets. True, they’re tiny little jokes of front pockets, useful only for a handful of change or a lighter, but still. Pockets! In my pants! Pockets in which I can tuck my thumbs! Pockets for folded receipts, change, lighters, and the various other detritus I collect throughout my day!

POCKETS!

My new pants have a neatly stitched line of lies, pretending to be a pocket. LIES.

It’s not even a stitched-over fake pocket, like you’ll sometimes find in suits! There is no pocket! If I were to take a stitch ripper to the seam, I would merely open a hole in my jeans! It’s just for show! A cruel seam of trickery!

I HAVE NO FRONT POCKET IN MY JEANS!

What is this vicious cruelty? Why, by going down a size, did I surrender my pockets? I don’t want pocketless jeans! That’s insanity! Who wants pocketless jeans? My gods! I might as well be wearing yoga pants, or leggings! If I wanted to wear fucking yoga pants, I would get yoga pants! I wanted jeans! With pockets!

I’m utterly appalled, just utterly. Appalled. I googled Buffalo David Bitton skinny jeans and damn. Apparently these things were also a steal, because the website is listing their skinny jeans as between $79 and $108 dollars, which is fucking insane for jeans that are apparently hit and miss for front pockets under size 10! I mean, at least four of the models on their skinny jeans page are posing with a hand tucked into the front pocket–but is that because they’re wearing over a size 10? Or is it because its a brand which actually comes with pockets in all sizes? I do not know. I am so baffled.

Why no pockets?! Why? Why? Who would design pants–jeans–without pockets? What kind of outrageous insanity is this?

Well, I mean … actually, I do have some related reading for anyone actually interested in diving down the rabbit hole of that question. But it’s kind of a fucked up/ annoying explanation:

Which, all super fascinating, sure … but doesn’t resolve the lack of pockets in my pants. *grumble grumble grumble*

The worst part is, I’m keeping the damn things.

 

 

guilt prone employees

Recently, this Scientific American article popped up in my FB feed about mistakes employers are making in hiring. Something about how the current model of relying on a combination of interview performance, length of resume, and whether or not a candidate has ever been fired is, according to research, going about things all wrong.

Then the blurb ended and I needed to pay to read more.

Anyway, I curiously went off to research the issue, because damn, do I perform poorly in interviews! And, as it turns out, the best employees rate high in conscientiousness and are guilt-prone, which is different from having a guilt complex. Basically,

“Guilt-prone people … are simply those with a tendency to be over-sensitive to the opinions of others combined with an over-active sense of responsibility toward others. Conscientious, guilt-prone people believe any poor outcome in work or life reflects on themselves alone, even when others are involved; perfectionists, they believe they can do better… always. They are the kind who undersell themselves on a job interview rather than oversell and disappoint.” — How to Be SuccessfulMedicalDaily

So the exact same personality traits that make me such a good employee are the ones that make me such a shitty interviewee.

I have a deeply internalized need to be 10-15 minutes early (or I’m actually late, goddamnit), which means I’ve developed excellent time management skills and am always on time; but that also translates into intense anxiety and a tendency to blame myself when the schedule goes off track or I failed to anticipate wrenches thrown by other people.

I have an intense internal drive to complete projects to my satisfaction, even if it means I stay a few minutes after my class/ study session/ shift has ended; but this almost compulsive perfectionism has also seen me skipping meals, neglecting my mental/ physical/ emotional health, and ignoring my family in pursuit of my goal. This is, by the way, why I chose not to go to law school: Becoming a lawyer (especially a public defender) sounds fascinating and amazing and challenging and incredibly fulfilling. Also, it would be upwards of 60-70 hours of work a week, and something would have to give. Statistically, that would be my family. Maybe once my son is grown.

When I am working as a member of a team or group, whether its in a classroom or office, I feel a strong sense of responsibility toward my peers and assisting the “team,” which is actually problematic because I have a tendency to say, “yes,” or, “sure,” without hesitation when my assistance is requested, regardless of my workload, and I’ve actually had to start learning to set boundaries and accept that, “No,” is an acceptable response.

But all those traits–that need to be early, and the perfectionist drive to complete a project, and the impulse to help others (a rising tide lifts all boats!)–arise from the same places in my personality that my self-deprecating mockery, cynicism, and inclination to tear myself down comes from. I’m always telling my friends not to expect too much from me, because I’m the laziest person they’ll ever meet. Inevitably, I get an arched, disbelieving eyebrow and amused denials in response, but they’re not getting it.

I really am, I promise–the only reason anyone might think otherwise is because I said I was lazy from the outset, which set the bar so low, that anything I do above that expectation ends up looking amazing.

But you can’t set the bar low at an interview. It doesn’t work like that. At an interview, you’re expected to set the bar really high, then launch over it, and that’s a problem for me. Interviews are sales pitches, with the product being yourself, and I am just not a salesperson. I can’t help but point out the flaws.

I have barely learned to accept a compliment; shifting uncomfortably in my seat and offering a quiet, “Thanks,” with a tight smile. How am I supposed to, “sell myself,” an endeavour that necessitates not just talking about my skills and assets, but pumping them up–explaining why I am somehow smarter, better, preferable than all the other candidates of similar education and background. Seriously?

I’m an anxious perfectionist terrified of failing others’ expectations, and I’m supposed to go into a room of strangers and brag about myself for an hour? Ha. There is no way this situation could possibly end well, and guess what? It doesn’t. One of two things inevitably occurs:

  • One: I undersell myself, and that in tandem with my scant work history causes the interviewer (rationally) to conclude I’m completely unqualified to handle even the most basic secretarial/ office/ filing position, so I’m dismissed from the running.
  • Two: I try to “fake it til I make it,” and put on a facade of confidence, but it feels unnatural and I’m pretty sure I just come off looking like a braggy and insecure overconfident bitch, because that’s sure how I feel. I also feel miserable and slimy when I try to do this, which makes me feel sick to my stomach and sweaty. I find myself gauging the interviewers’ expressions and body positioning; talking faster and faster as frantic terror seeps through me and I’m suffused with the sickening certainty that everyone knows what a fraud I am; that I have been exposed as the weak failure of a candidate I am instead of the confident professional I’m trying to imitate. I panic, and before you know it, I blurt and babble–oversharing and apologizing. It is a mess.

So, first, I do not understand how anyone aces interviews, ever; and second, I would totally crack under interrogation. No need for torture, just, like, a steady stare and a few minutes of silence, and I’d be a babbling mess unlocked by my own neuroses.

But the feedback from professors/ classmates/ friends/ etc is that I’m intelligent, and my performance evaluations would always say something about how my ability to exceed the expectations I set for myself. I was praised by my peers and professors for my teamwork, willingness to assist others, and the quality of my research and work. When I read my student evaluations, or ask my husband and HR-employee friends to assess them as though they’re employee performances, the consistent response is, “I’d hire this person. They’re hard-working, a team-player, and they accept feedback.”

Now, I admit its possible they’re just humoring me; trying to comfort the girl who can’t get a job. But damn–honestly I feel like I’m just shooting myself in the foot with interviews, and all this research is just bringing the issue into sharper focus. Now it feels like, okay, so it sounds like according to research, I am actually a pretty ideal employee … but it doesn’t matter because there’s just no way to get a job without going through an interview.

I wish that all jobs had a, like, apprenticeship interview option. A working interview, I guess–something where I could go in and just work for a day or two, or a week, and they could see how I perform and adjust. Like, they could provide a low-level project and be like, “Complete this objective by X time,” and release the candidate to see how they perform.

Who do they approach with questions? What do they do, immersed in an unfamiliar environment and given a task to complete? How do they handle/ adjust to the unfamiliar computer system in the office?

See, that I could actually do.

But to go into a room full of strangers and convince them I’m awesome? Nah.

Drifting for a focus

I dunno what to do in this space. 

I’m kinda exhausted with political rants, and I don’t really feel, I dunno, super qualified/ enthusiastic about regular pop culture type reviews. 

For a while, it was like a journal that happened to be online, and among other things I used it as a space to think out loud and work through interpersonal issues where every other avenue of conversation/ resolution had been shut down.

But recently I’ve come to realize those individuals/ disagreements are really just situations I’d rather leave behind and forget. Purge and prune from the blog; erase the words and memories. 

My favorite thing to write/ talk about is often psychology/ neuroscience and the ways it can intersect with environment. The whys of human behavior … but I usually end up there when trying to figure out why so-n-so did thus n such inexplicable thing, and that leads me back to the things I’d rather forget. I suppose its a form of editing the past. 

I used to think that was dishonest. Now I realize its nature’s default, and that’s good. I think a side effect of forgetting is relationship preservation, because its harder to nurse a tiny stupid grudge without being able to revisit the record of it. It’s harder to mull it over and get pulled down into a dark spiral contemplating the wrongs been done to you. Not impossible, but harder. In this way, the frailty of memory is a gift that allows us to mend fences, move on, and forgive. 

But records and bookkeeping were developed to augment our faulty memories–to facilitate storage and trade, banking and sales. The first written records were of grain storage, but soon poetry, scripture, and literature followed–and, of course, graffiti. Memories to outlast a fickle hearts, and even survive the passing of transient flesh. 

In Pompeii, a lovelorn (or spiteful) youth wrote, “Marcellus Praenestinam amat et non curator,” on the wall of a house, which translates to, “Marcellus loves Praenestinam, but she doesn’t care for him.”

Did Marcellus write it? Praenestinam? A jealous rival hoping to sow discord with the happy couple? Who knows. All we know, centuries down the line, is that someone, at some point, linked the names of Marcellus and Praenestinam in a single sentence that paints a familiar story of love, longing, and rejection, regardless of the actual truth of the situation.

I was explaining to my husband the other day that I take photographs as memories, because my memory stutters so unreliably. I cannot recollect the sound of my mother’s laughter, or the sound of her voice, because I have no recordings of them. 

For me, the tangible evidence of love–photographs, art, letters, texts, recordings, etc– is the most precious, because that is the love an individual has prepared and curated through a lifetime to comfort those who grieve through their loss. 

It is a distinct sort of heartbreak and tragedy to me when the record a person spends a lifetime curating of themselves is filled with impatience, cruelty, demands, insults, reproach, vitriol, mockery, and unkindness. 

I have a few such texts and emails stored in the cloud; reminders of long-forgotten disagreements resulting in longer silences and schisms. Sometimes I re-read them, my heart clenching, and wonder if these will be the words that always define the relationship–if the golden warmth of sunny afternoons, shared laughter, and smiles will inevitably fade into to ashes and dust under the cold, black and white reality of insults on a glowing screen.

I have some creative writing pieces, artwork, letters, and stuff– memories I’ve created, collected, and hoarded over the years, but never organized. I’m kinda thinking that instead of spending time writing entries, I might just start scanning and uploading shit, or copy/pasting old creative writing projects from Dropbox. I dunno. 

If I did, I’d probably schedule those posts for Thursdays. 

Happy New Year & 2016 Reading Challenge Review

In January 2016, I challenged myself to complete the following list.  I finished 1-4 and #6 by June … so how’d I do on the rest?

  1. A book published this year– Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, by Lois McMaster Bujold
  2. A book you can finish in a day (done — Married with Zombies)
  3. A book you’ve been meaning to read (done — Outlander)
  4. A book recommended by your local librarian/ book seller — The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (recommended at a Scholastic Book Fair a few years ago and on my list ever since. Finally read it.)
  5. A book you should have read in school.
  6. A book chosen for you by a spouse/ sibling/ child/ parent — kind of cheating, but we jokingly call DJ my sister-wife, so yeah. She recommended it, I finally read it. The Gunslinger, first Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series.
  7. A book published before you were born. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  8. A book that was banned at some point. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  9. A book you previously abandoned. 
  10. A book you own but have never read.
  11. A book that intimidates you.
  12. A book you’ve already read at least once. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain and Power & Constraint by Jack Goldsmith

Yeah, I totally cheated with Huckleberry Finn. Basically, I re-read it in early fall partly because I read something about some previously unknown and utterly complete (edited and everything) published works of Mark Twain that were rediscovered, which got me looking to read some other Mark Twain stuff (actually started looking for his satire about the Garden of Eden), but then I read an article about Huck Finn being banned in a school for use of the n-word and I was like ummmm. Its been a while since I read that, but I’m pretty sure its a) era appropriate, being written in that era and all, and b) Twain is vehemently anti-slavery. Context matters.

Five, nine, ten, and eleven I didn’t complete.

Five, because its hard to think of a book I “should” have read in school and did not– I read every book I was assigned, which kinda just leaves me in the grayer area of reading lists where I was allowed to select amongst a variety of texts, or perceived failures in literary education.

Nine, because its only been in the past five years or so (after I read Twilight and Women are from Venus, Men are From Mars) that I started actually putting books down when I thought they were garbage and walking the fuck away, which is super freeing. For years I had this weird compulsion that I like had to finish every book I started no matter what, and now I’m like, why? If the book is balls, why?

Ten, I have no excuse for. I have a to-read pile of books I own but haven’t read that were either gifted to me, picked up from a free bin, or I purchased on a whim at a used book shop … and yet, somehow, I went and purchased best-selling series by Sarah J. Maas and Marie Lu instead of reading any of those books. No excuse.

Eleven I didn’t complete because–like five–I was having difficulty coming up with a candidate I was interested in reading. I suppose that’s the point of an intimidating read? That they’re intimidating, not interesting? But I just feel like reading is for enjoyment, enrichment, and education, not punishment.

I don’t mind reading things that are complex or difficult, but I do want to at least be interested by the writing and material, no matter how intimidating the topic. Its a fairly low bar.

So with that criteria in mind, I find myself at a loss for intimidating reads. I enjoy reading academic nonfiction, which some people have reacted to as unusual, maybe not their choice? Like, after I re-read Power and Constraint and discussed it in unbook club, the reaction was, “A book on law and policy in the White House? Um, sounds … interesting …. ,” in a tone of voice that indicates it sounds the opposite of interesting and more like an awful chore. Which is interesting to me, because that’s how I view, say, Infinite Jest or anything by Tolstoy.

I enjoy fiction, and believe fiction is a useful and necessary medium in which to distill larger cultural stories about ourselves–but I hate slogging through emotionally draining, dense, psychologically complex, unentertaining fiction. I’d much rather read about law and government policy, haha.

Don’t get me wrong: I can enjoy emotionally draining and psychologically complex fictional pieces. I just prefer them short instead of long and dense, and most of all interesting. More Of Mice & Men than Moby Dick. So I did have trouble coming up with an option for number eleven, I dunno.