It’s time to take a look back at 2016. It may be an exercise in egotism but it’s mine, all mine. Last year’s best of Adrastoswas a top thirty list, this year we have a plus-one. Sounds like a dinner party, doesn’t it? It’s time to belly-up to the buffet…
2016 was a good year for satire, but a terrible year for the country. And I was a better pundit than prognosticator. So it goes.
Here’s this year’s crop of posts in chronological order:
Of all the gut-wrenching, out-of-the-blue, kick-in-the-balls moments that happened this year (and I admit there have been a lot of them), it took my kid’s school project to break me into a thousand pieces.
She came home from school with a piece of cardboard, wrapped in festive Christmas wrap, a gift she had been working on for my mother-in-law. In years past, my wife and I have been the gracious recipients of cellophane ornaments, macaroni artwork and various wads of hardened clay that required long and detailed explanations. In each case, the thought was what counted, and the items went into their appropriate spots of deification and occasional dusting.
So, as we were all rushing around the week before Christmas, buying gifts, making travel plans and trying to get the right choir outfit ironed for the right concert, she comes home with this package and asks her grandmother to open it. I thought nothing of it, other than, “Don’t open that! It’s not Christmas yet! I still have three days before I’m late with everything I said I’d do before Christmas!” Thus, I wandered off to some other part of the house to nail down something or other that I had yet to do. When I came back, my mother-in-law had this completely decimated look on her face and the cardboard gift in her hand. She passed it to me and I read it:
Some of you know that my mother-in-law came to live with us a few years back after a stroke disabled the left side of her body. She had previously lived in the North Woods of Wisconsin, where you were just as likely to see a bear in your yard as you were to see a neighbor. The home was the dream of her mother, who had longed to leave the Racine/Kenosha area and go back to nature.
After several years, the home began to deteriorate, as did the finances of the family. The bills and the mortgage weren’t getting paid. Gutters were rusting, plumbing was failing and other things were collapsing. When we went to get her, the house had no running water, the septic tank hadn’t been pumped in quite some time and the propane tank was empty. We knew she couldn’t survive a winter up there with my father-in-law posting a half-dozen electric heaters around her, praying that a power outage wouldn’t end them both. Even more, lawyers and title agents had been sending pounds of mail my father-in-law continually ignored, most of which explained the home had moved into foreclosure. Over the last year, at Mom’s urging, I worked with them to help facilitate the final stages of this to bring her some closure and remove this albatross from around her neck.
For much of the time they owned it, I never really liked that house. It was isolated and you always seemed to be about 20 miles away from anything you needed. Everywhere you went, the deer seemed bound and determined to fuck up your vehicle. I once smashed up my truck while on a Christmas visit, slamming into a giant buck that was chasing a doe across Highway 141. The people up there were friendly in a way, but they had that underlying edge of “You ain’t from around here, are you?” I would often affect a “Yooper” accent while I was up there, partially to blend and partially for mockery.
The time I spent up there was always awkward for me. I never really seemed to have a place or a thing that I was supposed to be doing. Mom’s OCD meant everything had to be in exactly the right spot and I never could seem to find any of them. As time wore on, there were financial issues that made it weird to be there as well. Would there be enough propane to run a shower and the dishwasher? Why was the house heat set so low… Oh… At one point, a sheriff’s deputy came out to deliver a mortgage delinquency notice. I always felt odd when they brought home pizza or stocked the fridge with Diet Coke for me, as I kept feeling like they couldn’t afford it and that I was somehow draining precious family resources. (Of course, offering to buy or bring my own stuff was verboten, because that’s insulting so, there you go with that…)
When we last visited the house, it was to pull out whatever we could salvage of Mom’s stuff before the home was gone for good. Mom, OCD to the Nth degree, sent us with a laundry list of specific items she desperately needed and exactly where they should be. Of course, it had been months since she had lived there and even longer since the stroke robbed her of the ability to make ABSOLUTELY SURE that stuff was where she put it. My father-in-law was supposedly still living there, but there was little evidence to demonstrate that fact. We guessed he was just sleeping in the backroom at the gas station he was running about a half-hour away in the upper peninsula of Michigan.
The house was frigid and mostly dark, with standing water in the basement. Boxes of paper had turned to a slushy mess and mold crept along every surface downstairs. We quickly moved from delicate examination and list checking to triage-and-trash mode. Whatever we found that we thought was important and worth saving, we put on the U-Haul. Whatever was beyond reclamation, we tossed into a corner of the basement. The environment turned our fingers bluish gray; our breath became steamy puffs and coughs. Several hours later, we had worked our way through each room of the structure, crossing off the list what we found and coming up with plausible explanations for the items we couldn’t locate. We drove home, bone tired and achy. I looked back at the place through the side-view mirror of the moving truck and thought, “This is the last time I’ll ever have to see this shithole.”
My child saw none of this. That wasn’t the house she remembered.
She knew of the bench where she kept her “rock collection,” a series of non-descript stones she had freed from the dirt driveway near the stand-alone garage. She remembered the flowers on the graves of Lucky the Dog and Oreo the Cat, pets who guarded her as a baby, played with her as a toddler and slept on her bed from time to time. She recalled the stories of the black bear that kept breaking the bird feeders to grab the suet cakes and who smashed the fence around the backyard. The giant mother, with her two playful cubs in tow, who ate as she saw fit and largely viewed Lucky’s furious barking with passing amusement.
My kid remembered the flowers and the yard. She remembered the dilapidated tree house she was never allowed into but that served as a constant flight of fancy. Maybe, just maybe, THIS summer Grandpa Moose would fix up the structure so she could play in it. She hated the bees that built nests that kept her away from parts of the yard and she wondered how high the snow would be that winter. She remembered the fun that comes with not knowing the adult things that imbrued it. She remembered all the things I never even thought about.
I tell my writing and reporting students that one of the best ways to find story ideas is to “wonder more.” I note that when you’re a little kid, everything is so wonderful and magical and we ask “why” 274 times an hour because we desperately want to understand everything. As we get older, we look past most of those things that were once so important. Instead, we focus on whatever it is that is causing the biggest pain in the ass at that moment and try to fix it. That house was filled with wonder for my kid, for reasons I’ll never really fully know and yet I can completely understand.
I never knew how broke my mom’s mom was for most of her life. All I knew was that she had a dog that was mine whenever I wanted to come over and play with it. There was a “tree house” that was really nothing more than a carpet-covered board wedged into the fork of a big maple in her backyard, where I sat and read for hours. I ate a ground up mixture of bologna, onion, pickle and mayonnaise each time I went there and it was the greatest thing ever made. Every night I spent there, just before bedtime, we would pull out a giant pail of generic ice cream out of the deep freeze and have a bowl as a treat.
It was only much, much later that terms like “alcoholism” and “bankruptcy” and “cancer” crept into my vocabulary and added those blotches of gray to my rose-colored view of life with Grandma. My kid now knows the kinds of the things about her grandmother that I once found out about mine. The conversations around the house gave her words like “foreclosure” and “disability” and “disrepair.”
I often wanted to go back to that time where I knew none of those things and I could just hang on to those good things.
My kid knows everything. All she wants is a picture of their land.
Fake news/propaganda/spin has always been around. I could go back further, but there were the five o’clock follies in Saigon, Ron Zieglar’s ever more dadaist dismissals and denials re: Watergate (and the subsequent effort to label it a “third rate burglary”)…WMD, last throes, and the outward scorn that (probably Rove) evinced towards “the reality based community” back in the days of Mission Accomplished…so it’s not real surprising that we now have The Cult of the Donald. particularly in an era when corporate media has sold what’s left of its soul for ratings and access.
But…cult or not, facts are stubborn (or, during The Cult of the Ronald, stupid) things. And the facts can form the basis of, if not eliminating The Cult of the Donald, at least keeping it in check/undercutting it. Because, despite the decades long smear campaign against Hillary Clinton (and, by extension, the Democratic Party), the Trump cult was outvoted…and when reality overcomes tribalist myth, it’s as likely as not that The Donald will crash and burn like plenty of other wingnut icons (offhand, I’m thinking of a former Loosiana [sic] governor who rode in like a conquering hero … but eventually slunk away universally hated).
Can’t say I’m very optimistic…but I still think history and facts are on our side…
A lechery cult in California? I thought the Trumpers wanted to ignore those votes. They might have to reconsider their hostility to California since a lechery cult is bound to appeal to the Insult Comedian.
If you’re like me, the only thing amusing about the prospect of a Trump inauguration is how few acts are willing to perform in “celebration” of it. They’ve even been turned down by supporters such as Kiss leader and epic creep Gene Simmons.Vulture has compiled a rejection list. It’s a thing of beauty, y’all.
The Trumpers cannot even win over conservative country singer types or past contestants on the Celebrity Apprentice. The Beach Boys are still on the fence about taking the plunge. I’m surprised: professional asshole Mike Love owns the band name and he’s famously right-wing. In 2012, Love’s (right) wing man Bruce Johnston called President Obama “a socialist asshole” and said the country was fucked if he was re-elected.
Donald Trump’s transition team says it’s not at all worried about the lack of A-list celebs signing up to perform at the President-elect’s inauguration.
“Not at all,” Boris Epshteyn, the communications director for the inauguration, told CNN on Monday. “You know, this is not Woodstock. It’s not Summer Jam. It’s not a concert. It’s not about celebrities.”
Epshteyn told CNN that Trump doesn’t want to have a bunch of A-list celebrities perform at the event, and instead wants to book performers who represent Americans.
“The Rockettes represent the American people. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir represents the American people,” Epshteyn told CNN, adding that other yet-to-be-announced performers will also represent the everyday American at the event. “And that’s what we’re concentrating on.”
The notion that the former host of a reality show featuring C and D-list celebs doesn’t care about show-biz glitz is ludicrous. They might as well call Ted Nugent and be done with it. Now that I think of it, the Secret Service may not let the Nuge near an official event after 8 years of veiled threats against the Current Occupant.
I’m pleased at how toxic the Trump brand has become. The MSM keeps trying to convince people that he’ll grow in office, but only true believers are buying it. Here’s hoping that Team Trump’s inability to convince even Trump sycophants such as Meatloaf to perform is an early indicator that their incompetence may yet save the Republic.
I’m not sure why the Beach Boys are so squeamish about playing for the Insult Comedian. They’re the group that recorded one of Charlie Manson’s songs, after all. Of course, they rewrote it and royally pissed off the homicidal cult leader. Mike Love has been dining out on his encounter with Manson for years, why not add some Trump tales to the repertoire?
Eighties pop icon George Michael died on Christmas Day at the age of 53. I’ve always had a soft spot for George: partially because he’s Anglo-Greek but mostly because of that big voice. He was one of the best of the “blue-eyed” soul singers.
Michael was not known for his album cover art but I found this little gem whilst running a search. It’s a superhero take by Steve Howard on Wham’s Make It Big album side-by-side with the original:
Superhero Cover by Steve Howard.
I’m not much of a Wham fan so I’ll post two of Michael’s best known collaborations instead:
Some supporters of President-elect Donald J. Trump have also taken up the call. As reporters were walking out of a Trump rally this month in Orlando, Fla., a man heckled them with shouts of “Fake news!”
Until now, that term had been widely understood to refer to fabricated news accounts that are meant to spread virally online. But conservative cable and radio personalities, top Republicans and even Mr. Trump himself, incredulous about suggestions that fake stories may have helped swing the election, have appropriated the term and turned it against any news they see as hostile to their agenda.
In defining “fake news” so broadly and seeking to dilute its meaning, they are capitalizing on the declining credibility of all purveyors of information, one product of the country’s increasing political polarization. And conservatives, seeing an opening to undermine the mainstream media, a longtime foe, are more than happy to dig the hole deeper.
WELL NO FUCKING SHIT. I’m sorry, mom, I really am, but I believe in the right words for the job and the right words right now are NO FUCKING SHIT, YOU DUMB MOTHERFUCKERS.
For 20 fucking years, or however long Rush and his mini-me’s have been bloviating on the air and accruing listeners, people (mostly liberals but also some people who just don’t like getting screamed at before breakfast) have been saying this is bad, this is creating a culture of distrust for the truth and a willingness to disregard the facts. For 20, 30 years, even some journalists have been saying stop letting people on your air get away with slagging your own employees, it’s gross and also dangerous for them.
Those people, who were concerned about stopping this when it could be stopped, who watched talk radio poison the wells of every small town in America and warned that this would go nowhere good? Those people were ignored, shunted to the side, told they were hysterical and that they couldn’t take a joke.
Meanwhile the conservative talkers, the ones saying national newspapers and magazines were unreliable at best and instruments of the devil at worst, those people got their own columns and profiles and lovingly crafted thinkpieces about their “issues” and “concerns.”
And NOW you assholes see a problem. NOW you want us all to subscribe and post little testimonials to your brilliance, like my $2 a month goes anywhere but your owner’s pocket, like subscription revenue has EVER paid for journalism.
NOW you want us to deplore the cheapening of the public discourse, the speed at which information spreads. Now. After two, three decades of screaming from every screen in existence. After we’re all so beaten down by this that a literal white supremacist doesn’t surprise us. NOW it’s a national emergency.
It couldn’t be because this is all happening on the internet, and is beginning to cut into your bottom line, could it? That couldn’t be why you’re finally willing to take this milquetoastiest of stands.
The right’s labeling of “fake news” evokes one of the most successful efforts by conservatives to reorient how Americans think about news media objectivity: the move by Fox News to brand its conservative-slanted coverage as “fair and balanced.”
WHICH IS WHAT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU GODDAMN IT YOU FUCKING HAMSTERHEADS. Fox News went on the air in 1996. You want to talk about this NOW?
Many conservatives are pushing back at the outrage over fake news because they believe that liberals, unwilling to accept Mr. Trump’s victory, are attributing his triumph to nefarious external factors.
“The left refuses to admit that the fundamental problem isn’t the Russians or Jim Comey or ‘fake news’ or the Electoral College,” said Laura Ingraham, the author and radio host. “‘Fake news’ is just another fake excuse for their failed agenda.”
Others see a larger effort to slander the basic journalistic function of fact-checking.
I can’t imagine where conservatives got the idea that the news was manipulable.
Sure, he says, climate change could decimate humanity, but that’s no excuse to give in to fatalism. “There would be, still, pockets of populations that will scatter around the world,” he says. “What’s at stake is the culture as we know it.” Humans will continue to exist — and we have a responsibility to build a culture of respect and mutual assistance. It seems so dreadfully unlikely, but we are obligated to hope.
Cuarón is very specific about what he means by that word. For him, it is not a passive thing. It is not a messianic thing, either — he speaks derisively of the idea that you could vote for Barack Obama, then sit back passively and feel disappointed. “The hope is something that you create,” he says. “You live by hoping and then you create that change. Hope is trying to change your present for a better world. It’s pretty much up to you.”
President-elect Donald Trump on Friday praised Vladimir Putin and shared a Christmas letter the Russian president sent him.
“A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin; his thoughts are so correct,” Trump said in a statement. “I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path.”
In the attached letter, Putin emphasized the importance of cooperation between the two countries.
“I hope that after you assume the position of the President of the United States of America we will be able – by acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner – to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation in different areas as well as bring our level of collaboration on the international scene to a qualitatively new level,” the Russian leader wrote.
All our stories this time of year are about light and that’s on purpose, because it gets dark at 3 p.m., because it’s cold and getting colder. My eyelashes froze together walking to the train the other morning, and I’ve already lost a pair of gloves. We’re burning every candle we have, we burn the fire morning noon and night, but the cold burns too.
So we tell stories. A baby born in poverty, his parents very nearly at the end of their wits, desperate enough to lay him down in a stable. Burning an hour’s fuel for a week, while defeat and death howled around the walls. Solstice, stillness, a millisecond’s turn toward warmth again. Ascendance, overcoming, breaking through the hard crust of the world when everything is black and gray.
A week ago I sat at the bedside of someone I loved, listening to a respirator hiss. I read from All The Light We Cannot See, because there was nothing else to do. I re-read familiar books at this time of year, and they’re all stories of what happens when even hope is exhausted. When all you have is momentum. When, even falling, there is enough left in you to fall forward.
I’m so tired. I know you are, too.
I’ve been saying it since Nov. 9 and I mean it: It’s our job now to save as many as we can. That’s all we’ve got. But that’s all we’ve ever had. The poor family with their baby in the horse’s stall, they weren’t thinking about eternal life, about remaking the world in the image of God. They wanted their baby to live. These stories come from a time when more children died in the winter than survived, when you had 10 children and raised six. No one is ever thinking about glory.
So be it resolved that if we are merry this year — and I don’t grant we are — it’s not an act of reckless abandon or naive optimism but of deliberate falling forward, of momentum enough to land in front of where we started. Save who’s in front of you, next year. Save as much as you can. Don’t worry that you’re not doing enough or that the job’s too big. Reach out as much as you can. Ask for help, if you can’t.
It’s only in hindsight that we turn the darkness into a story, into what came before the light. It’s only afterward, when we can put it in order, that we see the blackness as temporary.
In the midst of it, when we don’t know the light is coming, how do we act?
It’s that time of the year again and I have a mild case of blogging burn-out. It’s time to recharge my batteries by doing a picture essay Odds & Sods featuring some Victorian holiday oddities found online by Dr. A. Hence the image above, which could be retitled Merry Frogmas.
Next up is a particularly disturbing image featuring walking ersters. Why they’re walking is beyond me:
It’s time for more frogmas greetings:
Since I’m punning on the title of the great 1950 film All About Eve, I’ll give its distinguished cast the last word:
Murphy, who is chairman of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, said he and his staff looked at “The Problem of Whiteness” course description for the spring semester, as well as the background of its teacher, Assistant Professor Damon Sajnani. He concluded: “We are adding to the polarization of the races in our state.”
Murphy said he had been “trying to talk up” to fellow lawmakers increased funding for the UW System in the next state budget but was now having doubts.
“If UW-Madison stands with this professor,” Murphy wrote, “I don’t know how the university can expect the taxpayers to stand with UW-Madison.”
Murphy didn’t stop with just this one course, however, noting that he was going to have his staff check into ALL classes at UW-Madison to make sure “they’re legit.”
Asked what he and his staff would be looking for in courses, Murphy said they would not need to look at disciplines like chemistry or business, but “we’ll be looking at the humanities. I realize college is a place to discuss ideas that aren’t necessarily everybody’s idea of how things ought to be, but I want to make sure there’s legitimate education going on.”
This would be hysterical if it Murphy didn’t have actual power over state resources. Let’s review a few things:
Murphy never graduated from college. He couldn’t even finish a degree at UW-Fox Valley, a two-year school in the system. He spent his life in agri-business and as a real estate guy. How, exactly, would he know if the courses were “legit” or not? What level of expertise does he bring to the table that would indicate his life and educational experience will allow him to sniff out all these potentially illegitimate courses? That would be like me walking around the surgical wing at the Mayo Clinic and checking up on all those brain surgeries to make sure they’re being done right.
The professor he attacked at this point is an international scholar. Sajnani hails from Canada, where he not only received a bachelor’s and master’s degree, but he also is an accomplished member of the hip-hop community. For all the shit legislators give people about not getting “real world” experience in an area of interest, this guy has walked the walk in various aspects of life. His Ph.D. comes from Northwestern and he’s been a fellow at Harvard based on his research. So exactly how would he be unqualified a) teach this course and b) contribute to this university?
Does Murphy realize he just backed the state into a corner with his stupidity? Let’s say for the sake of argument, the state wants to fund some, but not all of this UW System request. Anyone with a good PR person (read: anyone but Murphy) would immediately pounce on this and say, “Look, we got cut because Dave Murphy is trying to undermine academic freedom at our flagship university!” Regardless of how often he denies it, the case can be made that he threatened the budget if the course wasn’t cut, the U has not (and will not) cut the course and now the budget got cut.
This isn’t the first time the state has threatened the system’s budget. A few years back it was Steve Nass, who holds two degrees from UW-Whitewater and somehow thinks he made it in life despite that, took on the system over courses. He and several other Republicans killed a budget request when it created an overblown shit fit about an alleged $1 billion systemwide surplus.
Usually what happens is, the regents ask for money for faculty raises or improved facilities and the Republicans find something to get outraged about. It’s not a case of actual outrage, but they do a good job of making people really upset about these greedy, liberal (probably all gay drug using) professors in their ivory towers who don’t understand reality. Thus, they cut the budget, hold it out as a pride point and continue to divide the state between the “haves” and “have nots,” all as they do very little for either group.
Christ, seems like every day it’s something else piling on. I won’t lie: since the election, I’ve been letting myself get distracted by all sorts of things (including some sort of small animal that invaded my attic this week…anyone know how to get rid of a squirrel, or maybe a bat? Am open to suggestions).
Anyway, beats the hell out of having to actually consider the next four — or, lord forbid, eight — years of wingnut kleptocracy and Banana Republicanism … voted in by a constituency that must have thought George W. Bush was too nuanced and restrained. Avert my eyes/somebody tell me when it’s finally over. But that’s what they’re counting on, along with a weak-to-non-existent official opposition and an elite media/press that made a Faustian bargain long ago…and shows no sign of reneging/regret.
Sorry to repeat, but it’s going to be a long four years…and hopefully NOT an even longer eight.