The donor class that buys Chicago’s elections is overwhelmingly rich and white — unlike the city

AlterNet

The windy city’s political donor class is disproportionately and overwhelmingly made up of rich white men with a penchant for austerity and budget cuts, according to the first-ever municipal-level study of race, class and gender disparities in buying elections.

Sean McElwee of the public policy organization Demos found that, during the 2015 mayoral race, candidates received “more than 92% of their funds from donors giving $1,000 or more.” A stunning 88 percent of these big donors were white, in a city where white people comprise just 39 percent of the population. It is worth noting that big donors to the widely reviled Rahm Emanuel skewed white, at 94 percent. This compares with 61 percent for his unsuccessful rival Chuy García.

Not shockingly, big donors are far richer than the average city resident. “Though only 15% of Chicagoans make more than $100,000, 63% of donors did and 74% of those giving more than $1,000 did,” McElwee notes.

These disparities extend far beyond the mayoral race. “Only five overwhelmingly white wards accounted for 13 percent of Chicago’s population,” the study finds, “but 42 percent of donors to the Chicago mayoral and aldermanic races.”

Here, however, is the real catch. Surveys show that the political goals of wealthy Chicago residents diverge dramatically from those of the broader population. The 2012 Chicago-based Survey of Economically Successful Americans found that the city’s wealthy residents, two-thirds of whom are political donors, were far less likely to support a higher minimum wage or “decent standard of living for the unemployed.” They were also far less likely to agree with the statements that the federal government “should spend whatever is necessary to ensure that all children have really good public schools they could go to” and make sure “everyone who wants to go to college can do so.”

Meanwhile, separate data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Studies shows that Chicago’s donors are far more likely than their non-donating counterparts to back national austerity measures to reduce the debt.

“The current path Chicago is following, with cuts to mental health services, infrastructure and public schools, is responsive to the preferences of the donor class, not average Chicagoans,” writes McElwee. “Chicago has closed 49 schools, predominantly in black neighborhoods. In addition, the city has closed six of the city’s 12 mental health clinics, which was supposed to pull in $2.2 million in savings, though the city then paid $500,000 to private facilities in order to meet demand. A recent wave of spending cuts hit Chicago State University, the only state college that predominantly serves black students, particularly hard.”

These findings are relavent in the context of the 2016 presidential race. According to a recent study from the Washington Post, nearly half of the money raised for super PACs by the end of February came from “just 50 mega-donors and their relatives.” A separate study released by the New York Times last year found that only 158 families “provided nearly half of the early money for efforts to capture the White House.” These families are “overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male,” the probe notes.

 

[This article first appeared on Alternet]

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“Cool Girls” don’t like Hillary: What “Gone Girl” and “30 Rock” taught me about politics, feminism and smashing the dude-bro patriarchy

“I am supporting the good Secretary Clinton…” I say to the self-disclosed conservative male in the passenger seat, avoiding eye-contact and flattening my voice out of its typical shrillness. At my liberal arts college in southwest Virginia, the student body tends to be either militant Bernie supporters or Facebook Republicans — those students who are too afraid of the Bernie Bros to admit to liking Ted Cruz outside of the Internet. Hillary Clinton supporters like me tend to be pretty quiet about it. We confess our loyalty to the pantsuit brigade hesitantly, bracing ourselves for the inevitable barrage of “WHAT ABOUT BENGHAZI?!”

I usually mumble something about how incredibly qualified she is, biting back the desire to answer them truthfully: Hillary Clinton could be paying Planned Parenthood to make her custom pantsuits, and I would still vote for her.

I am so tired of adopting an apologetic tone and a lack of eye-contact when I tell people my age that I’m with her. When my body and tone radiate defensiveness, I know, deep down and guiltily, that I am not apologizing for Bill or Benghazi — I am apologizing because Hillary Clinton is not a Cool Girl, and it is not cool that I like her. Hillary is not a Cool Girl, apparently, because she is cold, disaffected, a creepy robot, a feminist, a bitch.

The idea of the “Cool Girl” originated in Gillian Flynn’s bestselling 2012 novel “Gone Girl,” which gave a name to the idea of a woman who has been socially conditioned to please men by acting in such a way that combines masculinity and femininity. The Cool Girl does not rock the boat; she is not a threat to male authority. She is pretty, funny, and even smart, but she is not a serious challenge to the patriarchy.

Pop culture is inundated with these women who have to look like they live on one grape a day while simultaneously drinking barbecue sauce through a straw and shot-gunning Busch Lite like a fifth-year frat boy. The Cool Girl boasts just the right amount of sports knowledge while knowing exactly what to wear at all times. She may be smart, but she isn’t as smart as a man, and she definitely isn’t a feminist who supports Hillary Clinton.

Like the conservative guy in the passenger seat of my Honda Civic, men my age (and probably most people) are not receptive to being angrily lectured.  Listening to a feminist rant about the patriarchy is very uncool. It is what Donald Trump would call playing the “woman card,” when what he really means is playing the “bitch card.”

So is this what I’m left with?  Embarrassed by my allegiance to feminism or shamed into trying my hand at the one-grape-a-day diet? Am I doomed to be either a bitch or a Cool Girl?  Perhaps there is a third option in this feminist vs. cool girl dynamic: tackling the absurdity of the situation with humor. No one has been quite so influential in helping me to realize this than the female comedians that I have grown up reading and watching.

The popular among hipsters and feminists (and 14-year-old girls from Kentucky who were trying to be both) sitcom “30 Rock” is often lauded for its biting satire of current events during the show’s seven-year run from 2006 to 2013. “30 Rock” created a dynamic and wry commentary on gender and the struggles of women in the workplace, particularly in roles of authority over male coworkers.

Liz Lemon, played by (my hero since the age of 14) Tina Fey is not a Cool Girl. She is an awkward, outspoken feminist who exists under the symbolic patriarchy of her boss, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), a conservative who worships at the metaphoric feet of Ronald Reagan. While the two maintain a profoundly platonic friendship, it is frequently made clear that Jack does not respect Liz, because she is not a Cool Girl and does not use her intelligence for the betterment of the patriarchy. During the 2012 election, Liz and Jack spar on who the best presidential candidate is, Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, when they realize that one of the actors on “TGS” has the power to swing the outcome of the election using her Florida fanbase. Jack treats Liz’s political leftness with a lack of seriousness:

Jack: Good God, Lemon, enough with the histrionics.

Liz: Her-strionics.

Jack: Since you’ve known me, I’ve been right about no less than everything, always. Yet you persist in this impotent, emotional weltanschauung, and it’s not just politics. For instance, I bet you bought those hideous shoes for some emotional reason.

Liz: Every pair you buy, they give a pair to a child that was forced to work in the factory that makes these shoes.

In a Cool Girl juxtaposition to Liz’s awkward feminist, we have the conventionally beautiful and conservative Avery Jessop, Jack’s love interest. Avery manages to boast the perfect combination of traditional femininity with just a dash of masculinity, planting her firmly in the camp of patriarchal supporter. Her obedience to the patriarchy earns her a level of respect that Liz is not fortunate enough to command. Jack is both interested in and respectful of her:

Jack: So, where did you go to school?

Avery: Choate, then Yale, then two years in Africa with the Peace Corp.

Jack: The Peace Corps? That’s surprising.

Avery: Oh no, the Peace Corp, Lawrence Peace’s corporation. We drilled for oil in gorilla habitats.

Fey’s ability to point out the absurdity of the Cool Girl vs. feminist paradigm puts her in the third category: using humor as a tool to subvert the patriarchy. While Jack Donaghy may win nearly every scenario within the show, the social commentary provided by the scenes above work to undermine real-life patriarchal superiority with comedy. Absurdity is often best pointed out not with feminist rants, but with humor, with weird jokes about drilling in gorilla habitats and wearing sweatshop shoes.

Feminist scholar, poet, and all-around badass Audre Lorde tells us that “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” We can try to redefine what’s cool, but sometimes the best way to do that is with a sense of humor.  The Clinton Campaign picked the third option in giving out “Woman Cards” to its donors—Clinton took Trump’s attempts to make working for the rights of women uncool and completely turned it on its head. And according to her campaign, it’s working: $2.4 million raised from the initiative, with 40 percent coming from new donors. Maybe Hillary Clinton is a bitch, and maybe I am a bitch too. But as Tina Fey once said in another spectacular subversion of the patriarchy: “Bitches get stuff done.”

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The “real” war on women?: Wisconsin lawmaker pushing awful anti-trans bathroom bill supposedly to “protect our women and girls”

Everything you’ve been told about the war on women is a lie—at least, according to one Republican legislator.

Wisconsin House Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) claimed that the biggest danger facing women and girls today isn’t the right-wing attack on their reproductive rights; it’s being forced to use the restroom with transgender people. In a press release, Kremer argued that nondiscrimination laws which allow trans folks to use the restroom that correspond with their gender identity are a “safety concern.” “Progressive activists have finally blatantly, and unintentionally, unveiled their real war on women,” Kremer wrote. “In an attempt to appease a few individuals, these extremists have overplayed their hand and we, as citizens, must stand up to their intolerance and bigotry.”

That’s why Kremer plans to reintroduce a bill in the Wisconsin legislature that would force trans people to use the public facilities that match with the sex they were assigned at birth. Last year, the lawmaker drafted a proposal, known as Assembly Bill 469 (or the “Student Privacy Protection Bill”), that would have designated school bathrooms, locker rooms, and changing areas as specific to those assigned the same gender at birth. As Wisconsin Public Radio reports, Kremer’s prospective regulations “never made it out of a legislative committee.” 

Apparently, that earlier bill didn’t go far enough — following the passage of House Bill 2 in North Carolina, Kremer believes the time is right to introduce statewide legislation, which would ban trans people from using all public bathrooms that most closely correspond with their gender identity. North Carolina’s HB 2, signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory on March 23, struck down local nondiscrimination ordinances across the state, which provided equal access in all public accommodations, including restaurants, museums, and public facilities. Kremer commented that he is “proud” of North Carolina for “[taking] a stand for what they believe in” and believes that other lawmakers in Wisconsin will be emboldened by their courage. “This North Carolina law has taken the blinders off for a lot of people,” Kremer told WITI, Green Bay’s local Fox affiliate.

Such a law might seem unthinkable outside the South, where the lion’s share of anti-LGBT legislation has been passed. In addition to the Tar Heel State, Mississippi passed a “religious freedom” bill in April that gave businesses the green light to discriminate against customers based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. Meanwhile, Oxford, Alabama passed what many believe is the “most terrifying” law targeting transgender individuals. Under the city’s new ordinance—which was approved on April 27—a transgender woman could be fined up to $500 for using the women’s facilities.

But while former Confederate states might be leading the way in hate, anti-trans bills are in no way solely a Southern phenomenon: In April, FiveThirtyEight reported that six other states—in addition to Wisconsin—were considering their own version of the North Carolina bathroom legislation. These included Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Mississippi, and Tennessee, only two of which are in the South. On Friday, the Kansas City Star reported that protesters gathered on steps of the Capitol building to condemn the state’s legislation. If passed, Kansas’ House Bill 2737 would allow students to file a $2,500 lawsuit against schools or universities if they catch a trans person using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. LGBT advocates say HB 2737 effectively places a bounty on trans students’ heads.

Kansas, where Republican Sam Brownback sits in the governor’s chair, is a Red State, but Illinois has gone Blue the previous two elections. (Its current governor, Bruce Rauner, broke the trend.) In the Prairie State, Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine) introduced a bill in January that was markedly similar to the one in Kansas—but without the threat of a fine attached. Illinois House Bill 4474, also known as the “Child Privacy Act,” would compel the state’s schools to “designate each pupil restroom, changing room, or overnight facility accessible by multiple pupils simultaneously, whether located in a public school building or located in a facility utilized by the school for a school-sponsored activity, for the exclusive use of pupils of only one sex.”

HB 4474 faces an uphill battle in the Illinois Congress, where both houses are controlled by Democrats, but Wisconsin is in a unique position to pass their anti-trans bill. Although the Badger State is solidly purple, with a 2015 Gallup poll finding Wisconsin to be one of the “most evenly balanced states politically,” its legislature is anything but balanced. Following Gov. Scott Walker’s election in 2010, the state’s Congress has become dominated by Republicans. This puts Wisconsin in a unique position to become the next North Carolina, should Kremer finally draft a bill that sneaks its way out of committee.

Another factor that separates Wisconsin from its neighbor to the south is that Illinois has nondiscrimination protections on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. The Badger State, however, is a mixed bag on that front. In 1982, the state’s Republican governor, Lee S. Dreyfus, made the landmark decision to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in areas like housing and employment, making Wisconsin the first state to do do. “It is a fundamental tenet of the Republican Party,” Dreyfus argued, “that government ought not intrude in the private lives of individuals where no state purpose is served, and there is nothing more private or intimate than who you live with and who you love.” Unfortunately, the state has yet to extend the same courtesy to its transgender residents.

Overall, Wisconsin scores very poorly on trans issues. In 2015, the website Refinery29 ranked it among the worst U.S. states for transgender individuals, despite some notable bright spots.  Gypsy Vered Meltzer became the first openly trans politician to hold public office in Wisconsin, after being elected to serve on the Appleton City Council in 2014. That victory, however, masks an ugly blind spot when it comes to the state’s transgender population. In 2002, Wisconsin passed hate crime laws that designated lesbians, gays, and bisexuals as a protected class, and the year prior, the state took a stand against bullying students on the basis of sexual orientation. However, gender identity was not mentioned in either piece of legislation.

As trans writer and activist Parker Molloy explains, there’s more to the story. “In 2005, [Wisconsin] passed a statute that would deny hormone replacement therapy to transgender prisoners, titled the Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act,” Molloy wrote on her personal blog back in 2013. “This law was struck down in 2011 by the Seventh Circuit Appeals court on the grounds that denial of necessary medical treatment—as hormone replacement therapy is classified by most major medical organizations—is a violation of the eighth amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The state, under Scott Walker’s control, defended the law, requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court consider the case. Their request was denied.”

Since then, Wisconsin has arguably become even more hostile to transgender protections. Although cities like Appleton, Madison, and Milwaukee have passed trans-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances at the local level, the Human Rights Campaign reports that there’s been a recent wave of “bad bills” targeting the LGBT community, as the state’s legislature has shifted to the right.

Walker himself has not taken a stand on the recent bathroom bill, although there are signs he wouldn’t stand in its way. According to the Associated Press, Walker “said in October that he thought there should be clarity in the law on the issue.” Meanwhile, the governor told Newsmax TV that he thought the military’s ban on allowing trans people to serve openly is a good idea, one that the Pentagon announced last year it was in the process of lifting.

In his press release, Jesse Kremer noted that the cards are stacked in his favor in Wisconsin. “With a Republican legislature and governor, there is absolutely no reason that we should not act to protect the rights of women in this state,” Kremer said. “I, for one, will continue fighting to put a stop to this madness and legally enshrine social boundaries to protect our women and girls.” He noted that the timing for action on the issue is particularly good: In April, Target announced that it would be providing affirming restroom access for trans customers and employees at all the big box chain’s locations. Since that announcement, a reported 1.1 million have signed an American Family Association petition threatening to boycott the store.

But in attempting to make Wisconsin the next North Carolina, Kremer is ignoring many of the lessons of the HB 2 debacle. The bill has been a financial disaster for the Tar Heel State: Since the passage of North Carolina’s anti-trans bill, over 160 companies have boycotted the state. PayPal famously yanked a planned $3.6 million expansion in Charlotte, which would have added 400 jobs to the state; Deutsche Bank followed suit. Meanwhile, The New Civil Rights Movement reports that a yearly conference “representing nearly 1700 companies” chose to relocate from Durham, North Carolina, causing an estimated $1 million loss in revenue. The companies, which include Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, and Etsy, have pledged to rethink their decision if Gov. Pat McCrory repeals HB 2 by June 30.

Republicans like Jesse Kremer might believe that trans activists are declaring a war on women, but by tempting yet another business boycott, he’s declaring war on the people of Wisconsin.

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The Jayhawks return with “Paging Mr. Proust”: “They’re gonna call me a pompous ass, it’s gonna be fantastic!”

One of the consistently great bands of the last few decades, The Jayhawks have brought country folk together with electrified British-style rock and various other strands since the mid-‘80s. On some of their work, the voices of Gary Louris and Mark Olson added an Everly Brothers-like quality to the strong playing and memorable songwriting. But like many great partnerships, this one got ugly.

Five years ago, the two came together for “Mockingbird Time,” which felt like a throwback to the group’s classic ‘90s years. The new “Paging Mr. Proust” sees Louris in charge again, leading a band that includes longtime members. The opening song, “Quiet Corners and Empty Spaces,” “Lovers of the Sun,” and “Leaving the Monsters Behind” show that the band’s gift for hooks remains strong. (R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and Tucker Martine — who has worked with the Decemberists, Beth Orton, Spoon, and many others — produced the album alongside Louris in Portland.)

The album includes a handful of literary references, including one to the author of “Infinite Jest”: “David Foster Wallace said what goes on inside your head is just too complicated to describe.”

“Paging Mr. Proust” has fewer country and folk touches than usual and more influences from outside the roots world, including elements of Krautrock and electronica. But at an emotional level, it’s still a Jayhawks record, with the band’s mix of brightness and melancholy.

Louris spoke to Salon from his home in Minneapolis; the interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Let’s talk about the sound of the album for a second. You produced “Paging Mr. Proust” with Peter Buck and Tucker Martine – what drew you to them and what did they bring to the album?

I’d always been an R.E.M. fan and have known them from way back. I didn’t know them personally very well, but knew them in passing: I almost sold one of my guitars to Peter back in the ‘80s when he was looking for a Rickenbacker and he came into town.

But the Jayhawks played at Peter’s Todos Santos Festival, down in Mexico, a couple years ago, and Peter made it known that he’d be available if we ever wanted a producer. Because Peter likes to work, especially now that R.E.M. is no more. He likes to keep busy, and he’s always been a fan. I’ve never met anybody who’s a bigger music lover, or who has more vinyl than he does.

Our manager discussed Tucker Martine – because Peter’s not a knob-twiddler. He’s the big-picture guy. If it was up to Peter, he would have done the record in five days. While with Tucker, it would have been a couple of months. We ended up somewhere closer to Tucker. We wanted somebody who had a studio, really knew his studio, who we really respected.

So Peter was the guy who sat back, let everything happen, and say, “Okay, I think we’re done here,” or “That’s the great take,” or “I think you’re overworking it here.” Tucker was more in the trenches, running the board. And they seemed to get on well together.

You have a great line on the album from David Foster Wallace. How long have you been reading him and what attracted you to his books?

You know what? I read a quote from him, and now I’ve gone back and have been reading “Infinite Jest.” I like the density of it, the humor of it, I like that it’s off the wall. It’s got the detail I like in a lot of writers – that’s why I like Proust, that’s why I like Updike. People who go that extra mile, or 10, to get into a subject. I like smart but kind of wiseacre writing.

You’ve name-checked Marcel Proust in your album title – is that because you’re at a point in your life where you’re looking back a lot? Or have you been into him for a long time?

I’ve read him in the past but never got that far. In the last few years I decided to take the plunge. Really from reading Updike. You realize that Proust is kind of the gold standard for writers like that. I figured I’d go to the source.

I don’t know that I see Proust as dwelling in the past as much as digging into the present. If he’s walking through a forest he sees a bird or a flower, and it’s all about being in that present moment. Yeah, there are allusions to the past – like a lot of great writers, he had brilliant insights but he didn’t necessarily apply them to his own life. He spent a lot of time miserable in his bed; he didn’t have a lot of experiences.

I like the way he talked about slowing down and being where you are; I like his concept of getting past clichés – clichés are lazy and usually inaccurate. There’s a great book my friend gave me, “How Proust Can Change Your Life.” It’s contemporary, and funny, and not very long. It talks about how you can live better, love better, be more forgiving, et cetera, by taking Proust into account.

The record wasn’t going to be called that until we were looking for art, and a friend of mine – she was traveling in Europe. And her friend thought she heard Marcel Proust being paged in the Amsterdam airport. “Paging Mr. Proust” – I love that. People are gonna mispronounce it, they’re gonna call me a pompous ass, it’s gonna be fantastic! You can’t get more pretentious than Proust – so I though, This is really setting me up for some slapback from the press. But it should be fun.

And that started us looking for photos of midcentury airports, which led to the cover. If you look at the cover, there’s a guy looking up at the camera. He symbolizes someone today saying, “Help, we’ve spun out of control.” You can’t go a day without having some kind of new upgrade, and everything on TV is about how we’re getting smarter, faster! And yet suicide rates are up 25 percent over the last 15 years. So something isn’t working. I think a lot of it is that people don’t know where they’re at – they’re so busy thinking about the next link they never are really thinking about where they’re at.

I saw you guys live a year or so ago, and you played a lot of guitar. I was amazed at how good your guitar playing was, how risky it was. I don’t think your guitar playing is talked about enough when people discuss the Jayhawks –

Not enough, in my opinion!

So I’m wondering who some of your models or inspirations are on guitar, and how you see the instrument fitting into your songs.

I’d say my favorite guitar player is probably Jimmy Page. He’s got the tone, he’s got the riffs, he’s got that kind of dark, ominous vibe that I like. Because when I play guitar, I change – it’s corny. But I’m kind of this badass all of a sudden. I feel like I’m 10 feet tall. I feel this part of me come out that only comes out when I play guitar – it’s a dark power, it’s not satanic, but it comes from deep down.

Early on I was enamored of Clarence White, who invented the B-Bender [which bends the guitar’s B string to give a pedal-steel-like sound] … It was for the weirdness of his playing – it was very non-rock. I haven’t been a huge Richard Thompson fan but I like his weird, weird playing on the Nick Drake records. He has these weird fills.

I love Neil Young – he’s not a flashy player, it’s more feel and tone. That’s what I’m like. I’m sure I was influenced by Pete Townshend early on. I like the guitar playing on Wire records…. And I listened to a lot of pedal steel and tried to copy things.

At the end of the day, I like some dissonance, and some kind of ominous weight.

How important is country music to your conception of the Jayhawks? Is it essential to the band, or is it something you can some in and out of?

No, it isn’t [essential]. It’s a small part of what we do. But there is a twang, so people instantly think we’re a roots band. But at the end of the day there’s probably more influence from British music and art rock, people say psychedelia even though I don’t listen to a lot of psychedelic music. My favorite record to listen to, probably, is something like “Oar” by Skip Spence – it’s just so weird.

Country music came to me later in life. I grew up not knowing anything about country music. It was fresh at the time. I listened to a lot of old country music – ‘30s, ‘40s, ’50, ‘60s, a little bit of ‘70s. But I also listened to a lot of folk music, especially British folk.

I don’t listen to a lot of country music – I appreciate it for its soulfulness. Just like I do soul and blue and bluegrass and funk.

I guess there are elements of it in [the Jayhawks] – but not in the songwriting. Our lyrics are way too vague to be a country lyric, and the structures are certainly not country. Maybe certain elements in the instrumentation – you hear an acoustic guitar, a little twang of an electric.

You’re based in Minneapolis, I think. Did you have any contact with Prince over the years?

Not really where I talked to him or anything. But in the early ‘80s my band, Safety Last, a rockabilly band, was chosen to warm him up at First Avenue for a gigantic surprise record-release party for “Controversy.” Our bass amp blew up and our bass player had to plug into this leopard-skin bass amp of Prince’s.

I also remember getting done with the show, stepping backstage, into a covered parking garage… Prince pulled up, driving his own little yellow convertible Mustang, and he got really pissed off and drove off, kept everybody waiting for an hour and a half. Drove back, player a super late night show – a triumphant show.

You’d see him at restaurants, he came out to some shows. I saw him play a year or two ago at a small club, I was about 10 feet from him.

It’s really hit me hard. I didn’t think it would. It took a day for it to sink in. I love Bowie, and have probably listened to more Bowie. But for some reason the Prince death has hit me harder. I think it’s a combination that it was so unexpected, and he was such a presence in this town.

When we first started touring, we’d be in Europe, and people would say, “You’re from Minneapolis, that’s where Prince is from.” Later in our career it became, “You’re from Minneapolis, that’s where the Mall of America is from.” That’s a little bit depressing.

Your album and tour for “Mockingbird Time,” your reunion with Jayhawks founder Mark Olson, were so strong. Do you think you’ll ever play with him again?

No – that was then, this is now. I think we tried to do it. Be careful what you wish for. We made another go of it, and it just didn’t work. We’re just very different people. We’re different from each other and different from who we were personally. That was then – and it was beautiful then. We’re just different people now and it just doesn’t work.

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Hulk Hogan suing Gawker for second time, this time for allegedly leaking audio of his racist tirade

After being awarded  $140 million in a legal battle against Gawker, Hulk Hogan is suing the news site for a second time.

According to The New York Post, the former wrestling star filed a new claim against Gawker, for allegedly leaking audio of the racists remarks to the National Enquirer, which were sealed in court documents.

In a 2007 conversation with sex-tape partner Heather Clem, Hogan unleashed ugly remarks about his daughter Brooke’s black boyfriend.

“I mean, I’d rather if she was going to f–k some n—-r, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall n—-r worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player! I guess we’re all a little racist. F—ing n—-r,” Hogan said

The WWE immediately fired Hogan following the allegation, wiping his name from the website and his honor from the Hall of Fame.

His “income was cut off, his legacy in entertainment was severely damaged (if not completely destroyed), and his global brand was forever tarnished,” the Florida suit says, according to the Post.

Hogan, 62, apologized for the remarks, expressing regret and claiming “This is not who I am.” However, after winning the first suit, Hogan is perhaps feeling more confident in his litigious capacity and has filed a second for an undisclosed sum.

Hogan claims Gawker provided The National Enquirer with the transcript, which was part of the documents over the second sex tape with Heather Clem.

To add salt to the wound, as the Enquirer posted the transcript online, then Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio tweeted to Hogan “XOXOXO” with a link to the Enquirer posting, according to  the Post.

Gawker is still in the appeal process of the first suit.

On Monday, Gawker Media said in a statement  “This is getting ridiculous. Hulk Hogan is a litigious celebrity abusing the court system to control his public image and media coverage.”

“As we’ve said before and are happy to say again: Gawker did not leak the information,” the statement said. “It’s time for Hulk Hogan to take responsibility for his own words, because the only person who got Hulk Hogan fired from the WWE is Hulk Hogan.”

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Our “Game of Thrones” fantasy: Democracy is almost nonexistent in Westeros—and we like it that way

The 6th season of “Game of Thrones” is off to a strong start; ratings are high, and fans are enjoying the show’s unfolding narrative of graphic intrigue, infighting, and incest.

No-one knows how the game will end, but one thing is for certain. Amidst all the bloodshed, backstabbing, and bare breasts, what fans don’t expect, wouldn’t want, and won’t get is the winner to assume executive power through representing the will of the people by winning the majority of their votes in a free and fair election, and then determining policy through an ongoing process of negotiation with a separately elected legislative branch in a power-sharing arrangement demarcated by a constitution. You know, like they’re supposed to.

The secret to the pop culture omnipresence of “Game of Thrones” lies in how it has succeeded in getting us to root for the rival great houses of Westeros – Stark, Tully, Tyrell, Lannister, Baratheon, Martell – like they are sports teams. We identify (some of us more than others) with the individual characters playing out the song of ice and fire. We celebrate their triumphs, and mourn (or convulse with horror) at their demise.

But really, why should we – citizens of a 21st Century federal republic – care about any of them? Unless you, gentle reader, are a highborn scion of the landed aristocracy, the inheritor of wealth and privilege, the proud bearer of a patrician sigil, do you imagine they would care about you? America was founded on the principle that “that all men are created equal” in a state where government derives its legitimacy “from the consent of the governed.” Westeros lacks even a Magna Carta. However much you might empathize with the pluckiness of Arya Stark, sympathize with the travails of her sister Sansa, or lament the loss of their brother Robb, their world has no place in ours. The Declaration of Independence specifically repudiated monarchy, and the Constitution was intended to negate any possibility of power passing to a Caligula, a Richard III, or a Joffrey Baratheon.

We cherish our democracy, but this fundamental right is defined by its almost total absence in literary high fantasy, which has achieved its apotheosis in “Game of Thrones.” The mercantile Free Cities of Essos each fall somewhere on the spectrum of oligarchy/plutocracy/timocracy/thalassocracy. The Night’s Watch elect their Lord Commander, but democracy otherwise is marginalized to the anarchic fringes of Westeros; the Free Folk from north of the Wall (who call those south of it, who bow and scrape to lords and ladies, “kneelers”), the rogue Brotherhood Without Banners (“We are brothers here, holy brothers, sworn to the realm, to our god, and to each other”), and the barbarous clans who live in the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon. The communal politics practiced by the latter arouses nothing but disdain amongst the high-born elite, even fan-favorite Tyrion Lannister. Although he finds them useful, his frustration in having to win over an entire people, as opposed to cutting deals with a peer, is typical of the attitude of his class:

That was the trouble with the clans; they had an absurd notion that every man’s voice should be heard in council, so they argued about everything, endlessly. Even their women were allowed to speak.

When Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, seized Astapor and Yunkai in Essos her immediate priority was emancipating the slave populations of those cities. But that’s where the revolution ended. Having eliminated one elite, she simply imposed her own alternative. The former slaves are now not citizens but subjects, free only to petition, not participate, in government. Whatever maternal affection she feels for the peoples now under her authority is ultimately outweighed by her material interest in using them as a stepping-stone to the restoration of her dynasty on the Iron Throne of Westeros. In fantasy, the rule is always, “the [usurper] king is dead, long live the [legitimate] king,” never “the king is dead, long live the republic.”

So why are we emotionally invested in the claims of Daenerys Targaryen, Robb Stark, Stannis Baratheon, Renly Baratheon, Tommen “Baratheon,” or for that matter Rickon Stark versus those of any other contender? In the words of The Hound, himself an amoral sociopath, they are all, or will become, killers, and their world “is built by killers.”

This does reflect history; the rule of law can stake only a very recent, and very tenuous, claim to being the political norm. From history comes literature. In the fairy tales we grow up with – “Cinderella,” “Snow White,” “Shrek” – the smallfolk achieve their apotheosis by marrying into royal families, not seizing and redistributing power from them. Even modern, feminist interpretations – “Frozen,” “Brave,” “Maleficent” – don’t alter the underlying basis of political power being monopolized by elite bloodlines. At the end, everyone on the inside of the charmed circle lives happily ever after, with not a single dangling chad to lose sleep over.

This template was reinforced by the adult sagas of the Classical and Medieval eras. There is no democracy in the “Iliad,” the “Aeneid,” “Beowulf,” the “Nibelungenlied,” the “Song of Roland,” or anywhere in the Camelot of King Arthur (not even in its Monty Python equivalent, which is defined by the violence inherent in the system).

Modern fantasy reflects the legacy of this tradition, which was reimagined for a 20th Century audience by J.R.R. Tolkien. Every subsequent sword and sorcery epic was crafted in his shadow, and this is significant because, even setting aside its Eurocentric geopolitical context, “The Lord of the Rings” is a deeply conservative work (for which Tolkien has been taken to task by a later generation of sci-fi and fantasy writers, such as China Miéville, David Brin and Michael Moorcock). Complementing his ingrained Romantic anti-modernism (which is most evident in his hostility towards technology), Tolkien was deeply pessimistic about democracy, which he considered just another road to serfdom. He defined true equality as a spiritual principle that had been corrupted by the attempt to mechanize and formalize it through the ballot box, “with the result we get not universal smallness and humility, but universal greatness and pride,” through which “we get and are getting slavery.” The only self-governing people in Middle Earth are the humble hobbits (the original small folk). Tolkien referred to the Shire as being “half republic half aristocracy,” which, as Patrick Curry describes it, “functions by a sort of municipal (not representative) democracy,” and even that is marked by “quasi-feudal paternalism and deference.” If the Shire was an idealized Olde England, the hobbits represented the physical manifestation of Tolkien’s belief in social hierarchy and the status quo: “Touching your cap to the Squire may be damn bad for the Squire but it’s damn good for you.”

This institutionalization of privilege became even more prevalent when it was amalgamated with a plot dedicated to the apotheosis of a prophesized “chosen one.” The crowning of Aragorn as king of Gondor heralds the dawn of a new golden age at the conclusion to “The Return of the King” (the title of the book spoils both its ending and its theoretical framework). This was taken to its logical, messianic conclusion in the Narnia tales of Tolkien’s fellow Inkling C.S. Lewis, and continued to play out not just in later fantasy epics (to cite just some examples, the sagas of Stephan Donaldson, David Eddings, and J.K. Rowling) but in the emerging genre of science fiction. Democracy plays no part in the grand arena of Frank Herbert’s “Dune,” which, as feudalism in space, is the sci-fi equivalent to “Game of Thrones,” complete with great houses as rivals for the grand prize. “Atreides power must never be marginalized by the chaos of democracy,” intones Alia Atreides, sister of Paul Atreides and regent of the Atreides Empire, for reasons as self-evident as they are self-serving.

Ever since :Metropolis,” much contemporary science fiction projects a bleak future for representative government; the universes of James Cameron (“Aliens,” “Avatar”) and Ridley Scott (“Alien,” “Blade Runner”) are dominated by corporate as opposed to democratic powerbrokers. Most space operas don’t even bother fleshing out any political context to the flashy action. The original “Star Wars” drops us right into the middle of a civil war, in progress. Beyond the opening crawl, the only exposition we get is Grand Moff Tarkin informing his subordinates, “The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us,” having been dissolved by the Emperor; “The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away forever.” All we need to know beyond that point is, Empire Bad: Rebels Good. What exactly the Rebel Alliance alternative government would be after its defeat of the Empire was left up to the imagination, because the original trilogy ended with everyone partying to the strains of “Yub-Nub” at precisely that point. The most recent film incarnation, set decades later, didn’t fill in any of the blanks; the Galactic Senate was accorded about five seconds of screen time before being wiped out.

Much of this is owed to sheer laziness on the part of genre writers, who apparently lack faith in their ability to hold an audience’s attention on any subject beyond the questing, wenching, and dragon slaying it presumably is looking for. This need not necessarily be the case. With his “Coriolanus” more than four centuries ago, Shakespeare proved a drama set in a functioning republic could be as immersive, character driven, and bloody as any dynastic family squabble. Over the course of his prequel trilogy, George Lucas sought to expand his narrative by incorporating an honest investigation into how and why a republic fails. In his commentary on Episode III he discusses coming of age during the Vietnam War to Watergate era, which left him with an abiding interest in “how democracies turn into dictatorships,” not via a coup or a putsch, “but how the democracy turns itself over to a tyrant.” Unfortunately, his efforts to add politico-historical heft wound up being widely lampooned and only succeeded in jar-jaring fans, who were happy to imagine it never happened.

The simple fact is, while everyone honors democracy in the abstract, no one enjoys having to make it actually work. Popular participation in participatory government is very limited; declining electoral turnout figures reflect this. No one appreciates the actual nuts and bolts of the legislative process; the caucuses and sub-caucuses, the committee and subcommittee meetings, etc. etc. And no one is satisfied with the tepid, compromised, watered-down legislation they get, if any.

So we dream of a simpler time, a better place, where real men (and/or women) step up and deliver what they promise. Some find this is in the past, but even that is no longer immune from reinterpretation (ask Andrew Jackson), hence the need for fantasy to fill the void. “Societies need heroes,” “Legend” author David Gemmell once said, “So we travel to places where the revisionists cannot dismantle the great.”

Those places don’t include our own nation’s capital any more. Gone are the days when the President could always be trusted to do what was right on TV. Popular culture interacts with the political process now through a new genre of hate watching Washington.

This hate is what makes the appeal of government by divine right so seductive. When the electorate is polarized and the political process is institutionally gridlocked, when the front runners for the presidential nominations of both major parties have record low approval ratings, when disgust with Congress is endemic, when the people lost their trust in government itself two generations ago and when America’s political identity, socioeconomic prospects, and manifest destiny itself are called into question, of course it is natural to fantasize about an alternative. Many Americans are openly brooding over extraconstitutional alternatives. In a YouGov poll released last year, 70 percent of respondents opined military officers “generally want what is best for the country,” compared to only 12 percent of members of Congress. When asked, “Is there any situation in which you could imagine yourself supporting the U.S. military taking over the powers of federal government,” 29 percent of those surveyed responded yes, to just 41 percent saying no. When that was broken down by party affiliation, a plurality of Republicans (43 percent yes to 32 percent no) actually were open to the possibility.

The innate human desire to surrender the burden of power to an anointed individual, a chosen one, has marked the downfall of democratic polities throughout history. Despite the powerful warning against surrendering sovereignty to a monarch in the earliest scripture, as Benjamin Franklin observed, “there is a natural inclination in mankind to kingly government.” From Octavian Caesar in Rome to Napoleon Bonaparte in France to Sheev Palpatine in the Galactic Republic, ambitious men were presented with supreme authority “to compensate for the fact that the elected representatives can’t agree on anything and are corrupt,” George Lucas explains. “And therefore, in order to clean up the mess, somebody is allowed to come in and fix things,” typically to thunderous applause. At some innate level, therefore, we want someone to take charge because “the great questions of the time are not decided by speeches and majority decisions,” as Otto von Bismarck put it, “but by iron and blood.”

There is plenty of both in the world of “Game of Thrones,” justifying its ultimate value in giving us a graphic representation of precisely why we should reject everything it stands for and celebrate our democracy. For all the faults in our system of government, the longest congressional investigation in the history of the nation’s capital is still preferable to the briefest of sieges at its gates; the ugliest election is still a better method of securing the transfer of executive power than the most picturesque assassination (or coup-d’état).

So feel free to enjoy watching “Game of Thrones,” discussing it, studying it; just don’t get too emotionally invested in it. Team Sansa or Team Daenerys? A plague on both your houses; valar morghulis, but the republic endures.

Source: New feed

Jen Kirkman speaks the truth: On casual sexism, comedy, feminism, the real work of relationships, and why your job won’t save you

Jen Kirkman’s new memoir opens with a line you might not expect from a stand-up comedian who jokes mercilessly in her recent Netflix special, “I’m Gonna Die Alone (and I Feel Fine),” about turning 40 and discovering her own gray pubic hairs. For context, here’s a quote from that set:

“If it was white hair, no problem, I’d grow that out silky, like Kenny Rogers’ beard. Or I’d shave it into a mohawk like Billy Idol — punk rock pussy, you know? But gray is a mean color—and when it finally all grows in? Gray is the color of barbed wire, and it sends a message, right? GET OUT OF HERE.”

By contrast, “I Know What I’m Doing—and Other Lies I Tell Myself” opens not with a pubes joke, but a sigh: “Ugh, my parents are going to read this.”

What seems like an odd contradiction — fearless comedian metaphorically undressing on TV to make us laugh at the humiliations our aging human bodies deal us also stressing over what her family thinks about her personal life?  — is just one more thing about Kirkman that makes her so (and this is a terrible word, I think we can all agree, but with apologies) relatable. Her memoir is an intimate, funny, quasi-confessional examination of life at 40 — divorcing with dignity, dating and hooking up, falling in love, being unsure about the future but fiercely committed to career and freedom, keeping proper wine and wine glasses in the home like a real adult, accidentally pissing off most of Ireland on a work trip, and, like Kenny Rogers, knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em, with strangers and loved ones alike.

Kirkman, a veteran of the stand-up scene whose first memoir, “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids,” was a New York Times bestseller, is a former writer for “Chelsea Lately,” where she also appeared frequently on camera, and “After Lately,” as well as a narrator for the cult hit “Drunk History.” Kirkman doesn’t have a sitcom named after her yet — she has a podcast, “I Seem Fun” — but neither is she a comedy ingénue mining 20-something bewilderment for laughs. She’s a hard-working, mid-career successful adult responsible for herself who — like so many of us — still worries what her mom will say if she writes about her sex life. (And, as it turns out, that random people will refuse to believe that the judgey doctor who diagnosed her with Hepatitis C was actually mistaken—she does not have it, you guys, but her willingness to keep talking about that episode anyway speaks volumes about the courage it takes to be a woman telling the story of her life in public.)

“I Know What I’m Doing” covers Kirkman’s marriage and split, single life, living alone, airplane anxiety, dating and sex — including a long on-again/off-again only-when-we’re-both-single Friend With Benefits, as well as the pleasures and pitfalls of hooking up with a 23-year-old musician (a chapter titled “Jen Cougar Mellencamp,” be still my Midwestern pun-appreciating heart) — and alternates no-bullshit advice like “When their kids are teenagers, you can see your friends again” with the self-deprecating play-by-play of what happens when she decides to “opt out of the mandatory fun” of New Year’s Eve and stay home alone (spoiler: It is not the GOOP-ish Zen experience she plans for).

In other words — at least for this reader — throughout the book, Kirkman makes good on her promise to be “a voice in your head, other than your own, that sounds like you.” As it turns out, Kirkman kind of does know what she’s doing — and, you know, maybe so do you.

I spoke with Kirkman over the phone about the tension between privacy and public life, sexism online and how much work it takes to keep relationships going, both casual and committed. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

I know you say this book isn’t a traditional advice book, but thanks to you I’ve really re-thought my stemless wine glasses.

By the way, that would be the only thing I’d want people to take away from it. [Laughs.]

I’ve started thinking: Are these juvenile?

I’ve always been under the impression that they’re supposed to be more sophisticated because they’re European. Then there’s this whole culture where people do actually put [wine] in really pretty juice glasses. I hate it. So my thing is, people can drink however they want but if you have guests coming over for wine, you’ve got to have a stem option. When I order white wine and it comes and the stem isn’t there, it just ruins my mood. Although sometimes a nice red, I don’t mind holding it in a glass.

Your hand gets the glass all warm if it’s a chilled wine.

But I don’t want to ask, because I don’t want to be wine-shamed. Like, “Oh no, actually the way your hand goes on the glass makes it colder.” Someone will have an answer for that, you know?

The answer is probably more like we didn’t want people breaking our wine glasses?

That’s probably exactly what it is.

Your new book is a very candid memoir about your divorce and the single life. It’s funny, but it also feels very real and emotional and authentic, not played for defensive laughs. In the intro you write, “For a stand-up comedian who talks about life on stage, I’m weirdly, fiercely private.” Are you nervous about being this open about your life?

I’m actually kicking myself for not being more honest. I feel like I didn’t really still explain what went on. It takes so long to realize why any of that happened [in a divorce], so in a weird way, I’m upset that I didn’t get more honest. I think there’s more to be said about what I thought feelings of love felt like, and how sad that can be when you’re looking for someone that doesn’t make you feel anything. I really thought that’s what love was, and he must’ve, too.

That whole chapter where I blame myself for having no sex drive, I forgot to add that he had never made a move on me in a long time. So there are things that I’m like, why didn’t I put that in there?

But the weird stuff that I didn’t want my parents to read about is any of the sex stuff. Well, my dad probably won’t read it. My mom will, and I think she probably might not like it. I don’t know.

There’s having a boyfriend, and there’s having one-night stands. Or that doctor who misdiagnosed me with Hep-C. For some reason, that story freaks me out, because I’m afraid people won’t believe me, even though I don’t have hepatitis. I’m afraid people will read it and go, yeah, yeah, yeah, she just wanted to tell that story, but I know she has it. Once it’s in someone’s hands, I can’t explain anything they might not understand.

Now that I look back on it, I’m very critical of myself. I wanted to be as honest as possible. I feel like since I’m not a professional prose writer who knows certain techniques of writing, for me, all I have is my honesty and humor. So when I had to re-read it recently, I was like, “This isn’t honest enough. This is a bunch of crap.”

That’s so interesting that you think people won’t believe you were misdiagnosed — I never thought there would be Jen Kirkman Truthers out there. Do you think people understand there’s a difference between your public, on-stage persona and who you really are?

If I had to pick something to worry about, that would be it. But I’m truly not worried. I think for me, I really love my podcast because I can just be totally honest and boring, explain every single thing I mean. I think there’s a flip-side: If everyone understood what I said every second, maybe I would have a very limited amount of fans.

If you think about it in terms of song lyrics, so many songs were written just about me and oh my God, I went through that and I bet if I asked the songwriter he’d be like, “Oh, that was about this road trip I took.” And I’m like, “Oh, it sounded like this break-up I had once,” you know?

So I did this gig in London recently. I don’t have any stand-up jokes about my actual separation, or divorce proceedings. I literally just say as my legal identity, “Hey, so I’m divorced,” just so they know the context isn’t “single woman who’s never been married who may be looking for that,” but more “single woman who has been married and is very gun shy about doing it again.” This woman came up to me after, and she was crying, and she was like, “My husband was abusive, too, and I’m leaving him tonight, and that’s why I have my backpack and I’m staying at my friend’s house and thank you for speaking for us.” I was like, “Whoa! Wait, what? My husband couldn’t be less abusive. He’s the nicest person. I was not abused. I didn’t say anything about abuse.”

But because I said I’m divorced she projected all this stuff onto me, and for her I was the voice of it’s ok to go out on your own. If she hadn’t done that, maybe she wouldn’t like me as much. So in a weird way, sometimes being misunderstood can be good for the artist, but at the same time it’s what drives me crazy.

What really frustrates me is that I get contacted by people who don’t understand that my Netflix special is jokes about relationships — about being married, being single, being in a sexual relationship. I wrote some of those jokes when I was married. I wrote some when I was in a relationship, I wrote some when I was single. I’ve been performing it for years, and I just taped it last year. You don’t know where I’m at in life the day you contact me about that special. And so I hate when men ask me out because I made a few jokes about a time I was single, and what they hear is that I’m looking to be rescued by them. Even if they’re joking, it makes me livid.

I wish I just had jokes about the weather, because then nobody would like, “Hey, can I take you to dinner? You must get lonely on the road.” I think being misunderstood bothers me more than having everyone know my business in a weird way.

One of the memorable chapters in the book builds on a bit you have in your stand-up about sleeping with a younger guy. How do people react to that story? Do you get approached by a lot of younger guys?

About every other day I get the same joke: “I’m 20 and I’m a drummer. Do you want to date me?” And I’m like, did you not see the routine where I spent one night with him and hated it because he was so young? So I get it a lot online. Luckily, no one comes up to me in person or else I would probably … either yell at them or run away.

On Twitter, you’ve been amplifying other women’s stories of sexual harassment, and you’ve been vocal about confronting some of the sexism pointed at Hillary Clinton during this campaign. A lot of artists use Twitter for harmless promotion, but this really puts you out there and exposes you to, well, all the sexist harassment that Twitter can attract.

I’ve always been a feminist, and really loud about it, and I do it because I’m sick of seeing these little things that aren’t getting fixed. Like stuff about feminism that I was really excited about in the ‘90s. Kurt Cobain used to say — he used to be friends with Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill — “Why is it always on women, that they should do this or that to prevent rape? Why don’t we teach the guys not to rape?” I mean, people have been saying that since I was a teenage girl in the ‘90s and [back then] I thought, good, we’re getting somewhere. But I have to keep repeating that 20 years later, as each generation comes up and does not seem to have learned one damn thing about women’s issues.

The problem is when women teach people, people don’t want to listen. I am starting to speak out more because I’m seeing a lot of men in comedy do feminist comedy and they’re getting lauded for it and I’m like wait, we just skipped over all the women that have been doing this forever.

I’m also not famous. And I don’t say that as, oh woe is me, but it’s literally the difference between [me and] an actual celebrity comedian like Amy Schumer, who is an industry. I am just a person in a two-bedroom apartment who has fans, but I am not an industry. So she has to be careful in everything she says. Money stands to be lost by other people if she says the wrong thing. I’m not implying at all that she cares — I’m just saying that I don’t have anything to worry about. No one loses a job if my Twitter gets boring.

One thing that I really appreciate in the book is how detailed you get in describing your work — how you got to where you are, how it works for you. Your “there are a lot of ways to be successful” line to the guy on the airplane to Australia really resonated. How did you know when you made it?

I will get one person that recognizes me in the airport and then everyone else crowding around, asking them why they’re recognizing me. For me it’s like, I can pay the bills, I can probably put down cash and buy a house in some small part of America. But for what I’m doing, I’m still at the phase of I can’t believe I get to do what I do. The freedom. There’s annoying stuff about it, but the freedom is pretty great.

I don’t want anyone to be like, “wow, you really made it,” because if that’s all they’re aspiring to then they’re going to be very disappointed when they get here. You know when you think something is something because you’re young and then you get there and you go, “Oh it’s great, but I see what…” It’s not going to save you. It’s just going to be your job.

You write that “career” is often written about as some kind of albatross around a woman’s neck that’s keeping her from settling down. Especially for a woman who has decided not to have kids, how do you push back against that?

I swear to God, the only time I talk about it is in interviews. No one really bothers me about it. I wrote the first book about not wanting to have kids, because I just happened to be at that sweet spot in life where I was getting married, and other people my age were getting married, but they were having kids and so people were confused about why I was getting married and not having kids. But it doesn’t happen that much anymore.

Any time someone says something stupid to me about career, is usually a complete stranger — a cab driver. It just happened to me in Sydney, Australia. I had four suitcases, I was getting into a cab going to the airport, and I think the guy was probably like, “That load of suitcases — is there somebody else?” I was like, “no it’s just me.” And then he was like, “So, no man?”

First of all, it’s just so weird to me. Maybe there is a man, maybe he’s just not on the trip with me, maybe this, maybe that, who cares? But I just file that all under sexism. I never have people in real life saying, “Oh, your career is keeping you from this or that,” because I think my relatives can see my life is just not normal. I don’t have regular hours, and they can also see I love what I do and I can still live a really full life outside of it.

Honestly, I’m just kind of rude to people when they talk to me that way, because I think it’s rude of them. So I’ll just say, “If you could just butt out, I didn’t get into this cab to be questioned about my life.” But it is always strangers.

The chapter about your long-time friend-with-benefits was really touching. The book seems like in many ways a high-five to living the unconventional life.

It’s so funny, because I’ve changed so much since I wrote the book. And in the book I do mention that he and I, my old friend with benefits, we haven’t had any benefits in years.

But in my next relationship, whenever or whatever that will be like — my new thing is, just for me and the problems that it causes me, I don’t do sex outside of relationships anymore. I don’t do one-night stands. I don’t do online dating. I don’t do anything. So if I happen to get into a relationship, great. If I don’t, then that actually works better for me, it keeps me sane.

But there were times in my life when unconventional relationships had just as much meaning. In a weird way, I had better communication with my friend with benefits a lot of times in my life than I did with my husband. They never overlapped or anything, but I think there’s this sense that only if you’re in a traditional relationship or marriage can you have a deep thing, otherwise it’s just trivial or sexual.

I believe in marriage, too. I would get married again. I have no beef with any of it. But I just feel like if you said to someone I’m 50 and I have a lover who’s my friend but we’re never going to make it official, or it’s technically open, even though we’re not seeing anyone else, I think people would feel really sad for that person.

I think people are threatened by it.

I don’t know. Although I’ve changed so much, because I used to think that, and I used to think the friends-with-benefits people had it all figured out. And then I realized it’s just as much work as anything else. The person that’s on Tinder every day, swiping, swiping, dating, trying it out. The person that has a friend with benefits, every day they have to work to keep it not a real relationship. And then the people in a relationship that are working to keep it interesting. Everyone’s always probably spending way too much time on relationships than they need to be.

Listen, no one’s having any fun, even the friends-with-benefits people. In one way I’m saying that, and in another way I’m saying it is possible these things can be as deep — but it’s a case by case basis, just like a marriage is.

It doesn’t mean anyone who’s married is automatically happy or in something that’s actually honest. Everything takes time, and I mean that in a negative way. Everything can be time-consuming, and everything can sort of make you feel devalued unless someone else is swiping you or marrying you or whatever-ing you.

So I feel, in those moments when people do not have someone like that, they better be OK with themselves or it can get so bad. My friends-with-benefits relationship during those years was so, so important for me. It was the friendship part that was really bonding — but I guess that’s what you would say about a marriage, too.

Source: New feed

White isn’t a neutral color: “Doctor Strange,” Tilda Swinton and the “unwinnable” diversity argument

In a recent interview, “Doctor Strange” screenwriter C. Robert Cargill insisted that the casting of the iconic the Ancient One was “absolutely unwinnable.” Asked by the hosts of the Double Toasted podcast about the decision to cast Tilda Swinton as a traditionally Asian character, Cargill declared, “It all comes down onto which way you’re willing to lose,” listing off a litany of concerns. The character himself, as historically depicted, is a “racist stereotype.” And because he is from Tibet, “a region of the world that is in a very weird political place,” to recognize his origins is to “risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bull shit.” The background of Doctor Strange is itself Orientalist, another “white guy goes to the Orient and adopts their ways and it’s a great white hero story.” Faced with this supposedly losing proposition, Cargill claimed that director and co-screenwriter Scott Derrickson decided to “give a great meaty role to an actress.” “The hill Scott decided to die on was the one of feminism,” Cargill said.

The metaphor is an apt one, for Cargill seemed to point to a casting choice that challenged gender assumptions as somehow redemptive for its catering to racial ones. But it is possible to simultaneously challenge both. (Intersectionality might have been a better resting place for Derrickson.) Cargill’s rhetorical technique is also entirely disingenuous. Yes, he, Derrickson, and their fellow screenwriters are all white men. But Cargill did note that critics have suggested Michelle Yeoh, a Chinese-Malaysian actress, as an alternative casting choice, and is thus presumably aware that minority women exist.

At times, Cargill seemed to justify harsh critiques, but blamed his Marvel predecessors for creating such an “awkward” character to begin with. A host leaped in to present a sympathetic analysis. “All these characters were created back in the early ’60s,” he offered.

“By a bunch of white men,” Cargill noted, with nary a hint of self-awareness.

Yet though he acknowledged that “everyone has a right to be upset,” Cargill repeatedly referred to people who are as “the social justice warriors” with an air of scoffing dismissal. After one of his countless self-congratulatory mentions of Derrickson’s deigning to cast Oscar-winning Swinton in his film, he echoed his earlier sentiment that this was a lose-lose situation. “Everybody kind of pats us on the back for that and then decides to scold us for her not being Tibetan,” he said, as though those seeking greater representation are nagging harpies. Cargill consistently exhibited a pigheaded refusal to acknowledge that people might actually care about these issues for reasons that are non-performative.

Even if we grant Cargill that he had no explicit role in the casting decision he vehemently defended, he conceded that the premise of Doctor Strange is fundamentally racist, albeit with a tone of faux self-importance. He did so as further evidence that he could do no right by the social justice brigade, that even if he had cast a Tibetan actress in the role of the Ancient One, he would have been left with a “great white hero story.” Did it honestly never occur to Cargill or either of his colleagues that they were changing the race of the wrong character? That this problem might have been remedied by presenting audiences with a Tibetan-American protagonist, and with more Asian characters, not fewer? If so, the sheer lack of imagination is astounding.

Adopting a more cynical view, the screenwriting team was working under creative limitations that were self-imposed. In attempting to prove that the Ancient One is a “cultural landmine,” Cargill elaborated on concerns that casting a Tibetan would have turned off Chinese viewers. He cannot possibly believe that the entire, billion person population of China has monolithic views on Tibet and categorically refuses to acknowledge that there are people who are from there. His next comment was more revealing. “[You] risk the Chinese government going, ‘Hey, you know,’ one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world, ‘we’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political,’” he said.

The implication is that, when it came to the Ancient One’s race, a decision was made to take no stance. But white is not neutral. Constructing white characters for white actors is also a political choice. Ultimately, Cargill’s attempts to grapple with these issues, which many would have viewed as an interesting creative problem, amount to no less than whining that his handsomely compensated job is too hard. Well, then, perhaps he should get another one. One that does charge him with controlling the images that will be projected on screens worldwide, filled with messages that tens of millions of people will absorb.

Which raises a far more difficult question than any that was asked of Cargill. I am generally not a fan of boycotting art– if you will recall, I exchanged government-issued currency for a ticket to “God’s Not Dead 2″ – and think that consuming culture is crucial to developing a shared language around the difficult issues it explores. But in this case, no further intellectual legwork is needed. Cargill has acknowledged the legitimacy of counterarguments, but refuses to modify his stance or even tone accordingly. And he has made clear that the only way such criticisms will be respected rather than ridiculed, the only way they will have the power to alter decision-making processes, is if they pose a serious threat to a film’s financial success. It is now up to Asians and their allies to decide whether thoughtful, conscientious inclusion is a hill they’re willing to die on. To decide which way, so to speak, they’re willing to lose.

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Why it’s impossible to actually be a vegetarian

In case you’ve forgotten the section on the food web from high school biology, here’s a quick refresher.

Plants make up the base of every food chain of the food web (also called the food cycle). Plants use available sunlight to convert water from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air into glucose, which gives them the energy they need to live. Unlike plants, animals can’t synthesize their own food. They survive by eating plants or other animals.

Clearly, animals eat plants. What’s not so clear from this picture is that plants also eat animals. They thrive on them, in fact (just Google “fish emulsion”). In my new book, “A Critique of the Moral Defense of Vegetarianism,” I call it the transitivity of eating. And I argue that this means one can’t be a vegetarian.

Chew on this

I’ll pause to let the collective yowls of both biologists and (erstwhile) vegetarians subside.

A transitive property says that if one element in a sequence relates in a certain way to a second element, and the second element relates in the same way to a third, then the first and third elements relate in the same way as well.

Take the well-worn trope “you are what you eat.” Let’s say instead that we are “who” we eat. This makes the claim more personal and also implies that the beings who we make our food aren’t just things.

How our food lives and dies matters. If we are who we eat, our food is who our food eats, too. This means that we are who our food eats in equal measure.

Plants acquire nutrients from the soil, which is composed, among other things, of decayed plant and animal remains. So even those who assume they subsist solely on a plant-based diet actually eat animal remains as well.

This is why it’s impossible to be a vegetarian.

For the record, I’ve been a “vegetarian” for about 20 years and nearly “vegan” for six. I’m not opposed to these eating practices. That isn’t my point. But I do think that many “vegetarians” and “vegans” could stand to pay closer attention to the experiences of the beings who we make our food.

For example, many vegetarians cite the sentience of animals as a reason to abstain from eating them. But there’s good reason to believe that plants are sentient, too. In other words, they’re acutely aware of and responsive to their surroundings, and they respond, in kind, to both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.

Check out the work of plant scientists Anthony Trewavas, Stefano Mancuso, Daniel Chamowitz and František Baluška if you don’t believe me. They’ve shown that plants share our five senses – and have something like 20 more. They have a hormonal information-processing system that’s homologous to animals’ neural network. They exhibit clear signs of self-awareness and intentionality. And they can even learn and teach.

It’s also important to be aware that “vegetarianism” and “veganism” aren’t always eco-friendly. Look no further than the carbon footprint of your morning coffee, or how much water is required to produce the almonds you enjoy as an afternoon snack.

A word for the skeptics

I suspect how some biologists may respond: first, plants don’t actually eat since eating involves the ingestion – via chewing and swallowing – of other life forms. Second, while it’s true that plants absorb nutrients from the soil and that these nutrients could have come from animals, they’re strictly inorganic: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and trace amounts of other elements. They’re the constituents of recycled minerals, devoid of any vestiges of animality.

As for the first concern, maybe it would help if I said that both plants and animals take in, consume or make use of, rather than using the word “eat.” I guess I’m just not picky about how I conceptualize what eating entails. The point is that plants ingest carbon dioxide, sunlight, water and minerals that are then used to build and sustain their bodies. Plants consume inasmuch as they produce, and they aren’t the least bit particular about the origins of the minerals they acquire.

With respect to the second concern, why should it matter that the nutrients drawn by plants from animals are inorganic? The point is that they once played in essential role in facilitating animals’ lives. Are we who we eat only if we take in organic matter from the beings who become our food? I confess that I don’t understand why this should be. Privileging organic matter strikes me as a biologist’s bias.

Then there’s the argument that mineral recycling cleanses the nutrients of their animality. This is a contentious claim, and I don’t think this is a fact of the matter. It goes to the core of the way we view our relationship with our food. You could say that there are spiritual issues at stake here, not just matters of biochemistry.

Changing how we view our food

Let’s view our relationship with our food in a different way: by taking into account the fact that we’re part of a community of living beings – plant and animal – who inhabit the place that we make our home.

We’re eaters, yes, and we’re also eaten. That’s right, we’re part of the food web, too! And the well-being of each is dependent on the well-being of all.

From this perspective, what the self-proclaimed “farmosopher” Glenn Albrecht calls sumbiotarianism (from the Greek word sumbioun, to live together) has clear advantages.

Sumbioculture is a form of permaculture, or sustainable agriculture. It’s an organic and biodynamic way of farming that’s consistent with the health of entire ecosystems.

Sumbiotarians eat in harmony with their ecosystem. So they embody, literally, the idea that the well-being of our food – hence, our own well-being – is a function of the health of the land.

In order for our needs to be met, the needs and interests of the land must come first. And in areas where it’s prohibitively difficult to acquire the essential fats that we need from pressed oils alone, this may include forms of animal use – for meat, manure and so forth.

Simply put, living sustainably in such an area – whether it’s New England or the Australian Outback – may well entail relying on animals for food, at least in a limited way.

All life is bound together in a complex web of interdependent relationships among individuals, species and entire ecosystems. Each of us borrows, uses and returns nutrients. This cycle is what permits life to continue. Rich, black soil is so fertile because it’s chock full of the composted remains of the dead along with the waste of the living.

Indeed, it’s not uncommon for indigenous peoples to identify veneration of their ancestors and of their ancestral land with the celebration of the life-giving character of the earth. Consider this from cultural ecologist and Indigenous scholar-activist Melissa Nelson:

The bones of our ancestors have become the soil, the soil grows our food, the food nourishes our bodies, and we become one, literally and metaphorically, with our homelands and territories.

You’re welcome to disagree with me, of course. But it’s worth noting that what I propose has conceptual roots that may be as old as humanity itself. It’s probably worth taking some time to digest this.The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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“Veep”’s exquisite edge: A profane catharsis for the nastiest presidential election in memory

By chance, one of the funniest, harshest shows on TV – HBO’s “Veep,” starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus – recently started its fifth season as one of the funniest, harshest presidential races in history heats up. There are enough parallels: Selina Meyer, the vice president who became president in the last season and is now running for her first full term, is foul-mouthed and ego-driven. Donald Trump is indisputably both of those things. And Ted Cruz recently named Carly Fiorina as his own ego-mad female vice president. (Of course, he has to be nominated and elected first, neither of which seems likely.)

Either way, there are a lot of opportunities to write stories drawing parallels between “Veep” and the real-world campaign. Here’s one of them, from The Guardian:

“The masses have called out for a president known for duplicity, covering up inappropriate and even racist comments, and an obsession with the media’s opinion about certain anatomical shortcomings. No, not Donald Trump, as he steadily marches toward the White House – Selina Meyer, the woman who’s already there.”

“Both politicians have a way with gaffes… Trump and Meyer have even more in common. Both accused prominent politicians of not being eligible to be president. Trump said Ted Cruz, a former dual US-Canadian citizen, might not be able to run for the White House. Meyer questioned whether an Asian American governor was born in the US or China.”

If you watch all five seasons of the show you’ll pick up several handfuls of parallels like these. But the essential truth of “Veep” is that we see things on the show that are far nastier and more profane and cynical that what we get to see in national politics. (Are things just as bad as the show under the surface? Probably.)

So as crude as Trump’s reference to his penis size (“I guarantee you there’s no problem”) might be, it’s nothing next to the characters in “Veep” likening each other to penises, testicles, and anuses. “It’s the way we talk in the White House,” the officious Amy (Anna Chlumsky) says when she’s called on a lesbian-mocking joke by another character. “I’m not even aware I’m doing it any more.”

I’ll keep most of this vague for now because a) I don’t want to destroy the humor that comes with comic surprise, and b) many of the show’s lines are too profane to reproduce here. But just as a sample: Jonah Ryan is known as “Jack and the Giant Jackoff,” “Scrotum Pole,” and a handful of other nicknames I don’t feel comfortable writing. A new campaign hand comes in for season five and almost immediately tosses out a flurry of cruel, insulting, and homophobic lines. When he bumps into an old associate he recalls a bunch of sexually humiliating nicknames. In one episode, characters joke around as the close relative of one of them breathes a final breath.

Compared to some of these characters, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is a humanitarian.

Some of the insults and metaphors are either in bad taste or pretty close. There’s a mocking line about wounded soldiers in a hospital, a joking reference to a child molester at a kid’s theme park, and a reference to Anne Frank that’s just over the top. This is in addition to the general narcissism of several of the show’s characters, the way they rank on either other, or the way Selina, for instance, neglects and belittles her daughter.

It’s worth mentioning, of course, that much of the show is also funny, smartly acted, and engaging. The first four episodes of the season are about a recount of the Nevada vote, which tied the electoral vote, and the tension gives them enough structure to hang everything else on.

But the brutal tone of the show is hard to get around. Why, with all the unpleasantness in the real world of the 2016 presidential campaign – Trump’s race-baiting, the insulting things Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters say to each other, partisan media on both sides shouting accusations back and forth – why do audiences keep watching “Veep”?

Writing in The Atlantic, David Sims guesses that they won’t–that “like so much current satire, from “SNL” to “The Daily Show” to “Scandal”’s Donald Trump analogue—it’s struggling to match the unpredictable political pulse of the moment.”

But I’m going to speculate that audiences will continue to watch “Veep” in large numbers. Some of the reason is, of course, the show’s humor and intelligence. But some of it is that compared to “Veep,” the real presidential race is reasonably low-key, its characters well-behaved. We can laugh at the outrageousness of Selina Meyer and the rest, and then, when we walk away from it, it’s gone.

It’s the kind of thing that a lot of us wish we could do with the real political race. “Veep” acts as a kind of wish fulfillment for those of us who wish that contemporary electoral politics was just a rude joke, a piece of fiction, and not our reality. As long as it is, “Veep” is a weird kind of comfort food.

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