Can Bernie catch Hillary? Momentum is on his side if the math isn’t

AlterNet Bernie Sanders’ momentum appears to be growing as he heads into West Coast contests Saturday, including the largest state to hold a Democratic Party caucus—Washington. Sanders is drawing huge crowds, speaking to 7,000 people on Thursday in Washington in the SunDome arena on the Yakama Nation’s treaty territory. “Native Americans have been lied to. They’ve been cheated,” he said. “If elected president, there will be a new relationship with the Native American community.” Sanders was also slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton in a new national poll from Bloomberg Politics, which found he was the first choice of 49 percent of people who already voted or planned to participate in this year’s Democratic nominating contests. He also held larger leads than Clinton against all remaining GOP contenders in hypothetical fall match-ups. But the more concrete signs of Sanders’ steady monentum come from developments this week, where Sanders won more delegates than Clinton in Tuesday’s contests in Arizona, Utah and Idaho. An analysis by MSNBC found that “he ended up taking away a tidy 57 percent of the pledged delegates up for grabs that day. And as it happens, 58 percent is the percentage of outstanding pledged delegates Sanders needs to win from now on in order to finish the primary calendar with more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton.” Sanders has won seven out of the nine caucuses held so far in 2016—he tied in Iowa—and by larger margins than in states holding primaries. That edge, exemplified by his getting 80 percent of the vote in Utah and Idaho this week—has helped him win more delegates than Clinton, cutting into her lead after sweeping southern states. These ongoing competitive results show why Sanders is forging ahead and maintaining that he can still get the nomination, not just make a symbolic showing where he becomes the Democratic Party’s moral compass. Saturday’s caucus in Washington, 2016’s largest with 101 delegates, has great potential to show he can keep cutting into Clinton’s lead. Alaska and Hawaii also are holding caucuses this weekend, bringing the total number of pledged delegates in play to 142. In all of these states, Sanders has key endorsements that go beyond his already large base among young voters. On Thursday, Sanders won the endorsement of the Longshoreman’s Union, which has 50,000 members in California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. “Bernie is best on the issues that matter most to American workers: better trade agreements, support for unions, fair wages, tuition for students at public colleges, Medicare for all, fighting a corrupt campaign finance system and confronting the power of Wall Street that’s making life harder for most Americans,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has also made a powerful new 90-second ad, entitled “The Cost of War,” that should resonate aming, especially veterans. “Being a warrior is about believing what you are fighting for and holding strong to those convictions,” she says. “I felt a sense of duty. I could not in good conscience stay back here in beautiful Hawaii and watch my brothers and sisters in uniform go off into combat. These are people and friends who we never forget.” “Bernie Sanders voted against the Iraq war,” Gabbard continues. “He understands the cost of war, that that cost is continued when our veterans come home. Bernie Sanders will defend out country and take the trillionsa of dollars on these interventionist, regime-change, unnecessary wars and invest it here at home. The American people are not looking to settle for inches. They’re looking for real change.” Sanders also is looking past this weekend’s Pacific state contests. On Saturday, he heads to Madison, Wisconsin, where he has booked a 10,000-seat arena for a rally in advance of the state’s April 5 primary. As the Washington Post noted Friday, Sanders is expecting large crowds while Clinton campaign sent Chelsea Clinton to talk to 100 volunteers at their Madison headquarters, which they called “hostile territory” for Clinton backers.AlterNet Bernie Sanders’ momentum appears to be growing as he heads into West Coast contests Saturday, including the largest state to hold a Democratic Party caucus—Washington. Sanders is drawing huge crowds, speaking to 7,000 people on Thursday in Washington in the SunDome arena on the Yakama Nation’s treaty territory. “Native Americans have been lied to. They’ve been cheated,” he said. “If elected president, there will be a new relationship with the Native American community.” Sanders was also slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton in a new national poll from Bloomberg Politics, which found he was the first choice of 49 percent of people who already voted or planned to participate in this year’s Democratic nominating contests. He also held larger leads than Clinton against all remaining GOP contenders in hypothetical fall match-ups. But the more concrete signs of Sanders’ steady monentum come from developments this week, where Sanders won more delegates than Clinton in Tuesday’s contests in Arizona, Utah and Idaho. An analysis by MSNBC found that “he ended up taking away a tidy 57 percent of the pledged delegates up for grabs that day. And as it happens, 58 percent is the percentage of outstanding pledged delegates Sanders needs to win from now on in order to finish the primary calendar with more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton.” Sanders has won seven out of the nine caucuses held so far in 2016—he tied in Iowa—and by larger margins than in states holding primaries. That edge, exemplified by his getting 80 percent of the vote in Utah and Idaho this week—has helped him win more delegates than Clinton, cutting into her lead after sweeping southern states. These ongoing competitive results show why Sanders is forging ahead and maintaining that he can still get the nomination, not just make a symbolic showing where he becomes the Democratic Party’s moral compass. Saturday’s caucus in Washington, 2016’s largest with 101 delegates, has great potential to show he can keep cutting into Clinton’s lead. Alaska and Hawaii also are holding caucuses this weekend, bringing the total number of pledged delegates in play to 142. In all of these states, Sanders has key endorsements that go beyond his already large base among young voters. On Thursday, Sanders won the endorsement of the Longshoreman’s Union, which has 50,000 members in California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. “Bernie is best on the issues that matter most to American workers: better trade agreements, support for unions, fair wages, tuition for students at public colleges, Medicare for all, fighting a corrupt campaign finance system and confronting the power of Wall Street that’s making life harder for most Americans,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has also made a powerful new 90-second ad, entitled “The Cost of War,” that should resonate aming, especially veterans. “Being a warrior is about believing what you are fighting for and holding strong to those convictions,” she says. “I felt a sense of duty. I could not in good conscience stay back here in beautiful Hawaii and watch my brothers and sisters in uniform go off into combat. These are people and friends who we never forget.” “Bernie Sanders voted against the Iraq war,” Gabbard continues. “He understands the cost of war, that that cost is continued when our veterans come home. Bernie Sanders will defend out country and take the trillionsa of dollars on these interventionist, regime-change, unnecessary wars and invest it here at home. The American people are not looking to settle for inches. They’re looking for real change.” Sanders also is looking past this weekend’s Pacific state contests. On Saturday, he heads to Madison, Wisconsin, where he has booked a 10,000-seat arena for a rally in advance of the state’s April 5 primary. As the Washington Post noted Friday, Sanders is expecting large crowds while Clinton campaign sent Chelsea Clinton to talk to 100 volunteers at their Madison headquarters, which they called “hostile territory” for Clinton backers.AlterNet Bernie Sanders’ momentum appears to be growing as he heads into West Coast contests Saturday, including the largest state to hold a Democratic Party caucus—Washington. Sanders is drawing huge crowds, speaking to 7,000 people on Thursday in Washington in the SunDome arena on the Yakama Nation’s treaty territory. “Native Americans have been lied to. They’ve been cheated,” he said. “If elected president, there will be a new relationship with the Native American community.” Sanders was also slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton in a new national poll from Bloomberg Politics, which found he was the first choice of 49 percent of people who already voted or planned to participate in this year’s Democratic nominating contests. He also held larger leads than Clinton against all remaining GOP contenders in hypothetical fall match-ups. But the more concrete signs of Sanders’ steady monentum come from developments this week, where Sanders won more delegates than Clinton in Tuesday’s contests in Arizona, Utah and Idaho. An analysis by MSNBC found that “he ended up taking away a tidy 57 percent of the pledged delegates up for grabs that day. And as it happens, 58 percent is the percentage of outstanding pledged delegates Sanders needs to win from now on in order to finish the primary calendar with more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton.” Sanders has won seven out of the nine caucuses held so far in 2016—he tied in Iowa—and by larger margins than in states holding primaries. That edge, exemplified by his getting 80 percent of the vote in Utah and Idaho this week—has helped him win more delegates than Clinton, cutting into her lead after sweeping southern states. These ongoing competitive results show why Sanders is forging ahead and maintaining that he can still get the nomination, not just make a symbolic showing where he becomes the Democratic Party’s moral compass. Saturday’s caucus in Washington, 2016’s largest with 101 delegates, has great potential to show he can keep cutting into Clinton’s lead. Alaska and Hawaii also are holding caucuses this weekend, bringing the total number of pledged delegates in play to 142. In all of these states, Sanders has key endorsements that go beyond his already large base among young voters. On Thursday, Sanders won the endorsement of the Longshoreman’s Union, which has 50,000 members in California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. “Bernie is best on the issues that matter most to American workers: better trade agreements, support for unions, fair wages, tuition for students at public colleges, Medicare for all, fighting a corrupt campaign finance system and confronting the power of Wall Street that’s making life harder for most Americans,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has also made a powerful new 90-second ad, entitled “The Cost of War,” that should resonate aming, especially veterans. “Being a warrior is about believing what you are fighting for and holding strong to those convictions,” she says. “I felt a sense of duty. I could not in good conscience stay back here in beautiful Hawaii and watch my brothers and sisters in uniform go off into combat. These are people and friends who we never forget.” “Bernie Sanders voted against the Iraq war,” Gabbard continues. “He understands the cost of war, that that cost is continued when our veterans come home. Bernie Sanders will defend out country and take the trillionsa of dollars on these interventionist, regime-change, unnecessary wars and invest it here at home. The American people are not looking to settle for inches. They’re looking for real change.” Sanders also is looking past this weekend’s Pacific state contests. On Saturday, he heads to Madison, Wisconsin, where he has booked a 10,000-seat arena for a rally in advance of the state’s April 5 primary. As the Washington Post noted Friday, Sanders is expecting large crowds while Clinton campaign sent Chelsea Clinton to talk to 100 volunteers at their Madison headquarters, which they called “hostile territory” for Clinton backers.

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What if Batman wasn’t a jerk? The Dark Knight should be more like Yoda, less like Kylo Ren

In “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice,” the Dark Knight is darker than ever: he’s an angry, vengeful wacko who gets off on torturing criminals and himself. Taking a cue from Frank Miller’s version of Batman as a semi-fascist Clint Eastwood type who enjoys crippling punks, the Ben Affleck Batman is the scowliest ever, which is really saying something. He’s even scowlier than the current angst-ridden version of Superman, who is about as far removed from any recognizable version of Superman as can be, but that’s another story. In a world of mass shooters, Men’s Rights activists, Donald Trump supporters and Internet commenters, the last thing we need is another angry dude. But does Batman have to be an angry jerk? Is the only alternative the goofy Adam West version or (admittedly awesome) LEGO Batman? Nope and nope. As seen in a tremendous run by Scottish writer Grant Morrison from 2006-2012, Batman doesn’t have to be an emotionally stunted man-baby or goofy cartoon. Morrison had the rare insight that someone with the experience, martial arts training and intelligence of Batman would be very unlikely to still be lashing out at the world like a high-school sophomore. Morrison’s Batman proves that even the most angsty hero can grow up and become an adult. If only Batman movies (not to mention the rest of the world) would do the same. Morrison’s grown-up Batman—who appeared in several titles such as “Batman,” Batman and Robin” and “Batman Incorporated”—evolved from a unique approach to continuity. Comic-book continuity is notoriously a snakepit of contradictory, repetitive and inane details that pile up for decades. While continuity trivia appeals to the Cliff Clavin types who have dominated comic book fandom for too long, appeasing such fans rarely makes for the best stories. This is why so many of the best comics stories take place in alternate universes or elseworlds, which have given us great stores like “Kingdom Come” and “Superman: Red Son” and great characters like Spider-Gwen and Miles Morales as Spider-Man. Good things tend to happen when you ignore continuity. But Morrison took the opposite approach: He decided that every Batman story, in every medium, counted. As Morrison put it in the introduction to “Batman: The Black Casebook”: “I imagined a rough timeline that allowed me to compress 70 years’ worth of Batman’s adventures into a frantic 15 years in the life of an extraordinary man.” That meant Morrison’s Batman has not only seen Bane break his back and the Joker kill Jason Todd, but he had encountered bizarre characters from previously ignored stories like the Rainbow Creature and fifth-dimensional imp Bat-Mite. This all-encompassing approach led to many fresh and enjoyable stories and situations, such as the inclusion of Lord Death Man (a villain from Japan’s “Batmanga”) and even some nods to the Adam West Batman (such ridiculous adventures were explained by too much exposure to villainous gases and poisons). But giving Batman his whole history demanded someone who could handle it: a wise Batman who’s grown beyond his issues. One of Morrison’s most adultifying moves was giving Batman a son: Damian Wayne, whose mother was femme fatale Talia al Ghul, daughter of immortal ecoterrorist Ra’s al Ghul. Morrison discovered the possibility of a child between Batman and Talia in 1987’s “Son of the Demon,” another story that didn’t “count” to that point. Damian was one of many Morrison revivals, but likely the best. Batman finds out about the existence of Damian when the kid is 10—Damian has been raised by the League of Assassins, and he’s an angry killer who beheads a criminal and almost murders Robin in his first appearances. Damian’s presence allows Batman to mature in a few ways. There’s nothing like having a kid to make people grow up: parenthood and mopey self-absorption don’t pair well. Damian’s very existence embodies Batman’s long history while pointing out something many comics still skirt around: holy intimacy, Batman has had sex! Also, Damian’s initial angry whining is a perfect satire of how Batman (including the glowering Batffleck) all too often acts. Having an angry child helped Batman stop being one. Such stories went against the tide of post-Miller comics that portrayed Batman as a semi-deranged loner who pushed away friends and constantly fought his own demons. Morrison found this unconvincing given Batman’s training. As he said in an interview with io9: “I never really subscribed to the idea that Bruce was insane or unhealthy… Bruce Wayne’s physical and psychological training regimes (including advanced meditation techniques) would tend to encourage a fairly balanced and healthy personality.” In other words, Batman’s demeanor should be much closer to Yoda than Kylo Ren. Refreshingly, Morrison’s Batman gets to show a greater degree of wisdom and wider range of emotions than usual. Far from a grumpy loner, this Batman has friends and allies around the world. He actually enjoys being Bruce Wayne, taking a page from the (as Morrison puts it) “hairy-chested love-god” Batman stories illustrated by Neal Adams in the seventies. Even fighting the madness of the Joker is approached practically. Morrison mines a 1963 story called “Robin Dies at Dawn,” in which Batman participates in an isolation experiment meant to study the stresses placed on astronauts. In the Morrison version, Batman went to an extreme mental place just to figure out the Joker. This Batman thinks of everything; even when he loses his marbles, it’s part of a plan. Since Morrison’s run ended, Batman has unfortunately gotten dumber and angrier in the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo comics, losing his history and maturity. As his run ended, Morrison saw this return to form happening in other comics, as he mentioned in a Newsarama interview: “The stuff that Scott [Snyder] is doing, that John Layman is doing, everyone is starting to get bleak again. You cannot bring Batman into the light, is basically what I’ve learned. So we wanted to acknowledge that in this last issue – it’s quite nightmarish in a way.” At the end of his run, Morrison killed off Damian and Talia, leaving Batman with two fresh deaths that mirror his parents’ deaths. A six-year run of comics built on history and progress ended up back at bleak, mopey, angry square one. Such reversion to the status quo is inevitable in comics, which are marketed to teenagers of all ages. For Batman to become a real adult permanently would be like Archie definitively choosing Betty or Veronica: it’s not going to happen. But even though Morrison’s run didn’t leave Batman in wise adulthood, it showed the power of a non-psycho, emotionally mature Batman. Another part of Morrison’s legacy is Damian, who has since returned from the dead and matured quite a bit himself. These kinds of small changes to the massive mythology of comics are hopeful in a way that clown-punching and Bat-moping can never be. The real world is overflowing with immature, angry fellas. It seems like the top superhero should have better emotional balance than the average Twitter harasser or Trump rally brawler. After all, if Bruce Wayne can travel the world for years learning the most dangerous martial arts and precise deductive skills, surely he can spare an hour a week for therapy.

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The myth of the good victim: As an American facing street harassment abroad, I wondered what it meant to be a “good victim”

On the margins of the Santa Maria Novella section of Florence, past the train station and toward the Parco delle Cascine, lived a pervert. The first time I encountered him, I was walking to the local market for some blood oranges. As I glanced across the street before crossing, I saw a man pull his penis out, stare right at me, and furiously start to masturbate. I shrieked and bolted back to my host family’s apartment, which was literally around the corner. In my fractured Italian, I managed to convey that there was a man jerking off down the street and that we should call the police. My hosts shrugged their shoulders, apparently familiar with this sex offender. “He is harmless,” they said. “He did the same thing to our daughter when she was parking the car.”

Since that day, I have seen other men masturbate in public, but this was my first encounter. It was also my first glimpse into the Italian cultural response toward sex crime: nonchalance and acceptance. After this confrontation, I became aware of my vulnerability as a woman on the street, and it was a nasty epiphany.

I suppose I was lucky; I had made it pretty far without encountering serious street harassment – both in America and in Italy. Maybe I should just be thankful.

But I noticed my behavior start to change. I became hyper vigilant and anxious. I developed strategies to fend off sexually aggressive men who honed in on my dazed and confused American abroad-ness: wearing cheap, dark sunglasses to avoid eye contact and plugging my ears with headphones to ignore catcalls.

The moment that man took his penis out, my fantasies of an ideal study abroad experience in Florence disappeared. The grim reality? I was isolated on the other side of town while fellow classmates lived in close proximity to each other and the University. I didn’t have a phone that consistently worked, let alone Internet access (it was 2004, after all). A notoriously poor navigator, either I got on the wrong bus or missed the last bus; I was constantly getting lost and crying into my map. I spent most of my time alone, depressed, and disillusioned.

Maybe that’s why I find the Ashley Ann Olsen story so compelling. Olsen, 35, Florida born and Florence transplanted, seemed to be living the expatriate dream. In 2012, the artist moved to Italy to be close to her father, a professor of architecture and design at Bianca Cappello Art Academy. Olsen became part of a close-knit group of artists and by all accounts was a kind, generous person, well-loved by her friends and family. Though her life was not without its ordinary troubles – problems with an ex-husband, quarrels with her boyfriend – she seemed to embrace Florence and flourished as a bohemian socialite. When Olsen was found murdered in her apartment in early January, shock and sadness echoed through the international community.

The story of Olsen’s death reminds me of the awful awakening I had while living in The Eternal City: that women’s bodies are vulnerable to public commentary or worse. But Olsen’s Florence – the Florence of extravagant gestures, glamorous sunglasses, and starving-but-not-really artists – also reminds me of my old dreams of Italy and its potential to transform me into a more interesting, cosmopolitan person. On Olsen’s Instagram account, she looks exactly like my idea of that person – Edie Sedgwick of the Arno, or a Free People or Anthropologie advertisement. Her motto was even “Live Free or Die.” These pictures of Olsen’s exuberant, expatriate life, existing on the Internet as if she were still alive, make her violent death all the more jarring.

.…

It could have been anyone’s night out on the town. On Friday, January 8, Ashley Ann Olsen went to the Montecarla club with friends. They went home, she stayed behind. She eventually left the club with Cheik Tidiane Diaw, later identified as an undocumented Senegalese immigrant, and the two went back to her apartment. They had sex and argued. Somehow during the argument, Diaw allegedly killed Olsen. Diaw, who has since been arrested as a suspect, then stole and used Olsen’s smartphone, replacing the sim card. Olsen’s naked body was discovered by her boyfriend and landlady on January 9. She had bruises on her neck indicating strangulation.

The same investigator who handled the infamous 2007 Amanda Knox case, Domenico Profazio, is currently in charge of the Olsen investigation. Whether or not you agree with the Knox verdict or how the case was handled, one thing is clear: sex was an integral component in how the media reported on that crime. Knox was painted as a nymphomaniac, someone whose insatiable need for kinky sex caused her to murder her roommate, Meredith Kercher.

Much like with the Knox case, Olsen’s sex life is at the forefront of her crime story. In particular, Olsen’s Instagram account has transformed from a collection of artistic images of life in Florence to a disturbing forum of misogyny, racism and victim-blaming. Here, amidst photographs of Olsen walking her dog and shopping in the market, loving remembrances and sympathies struggle against violent, hateful rhetoric. Many comments fall into comfortable patterns of slut-shaming and victim blaming, such as “Wow I hope cheating on your boyfriend for a one night stand with a scumbag was worth it” and “It’s sad but fuck her, cheating on her boyfriend with a negro, she got what was coming to her.” The disturbing message is that Olsen deserved to die because her behavior transgressed the bounds of how a woman should comport herself both in her public and private life – that her murder was the logical conclusion of her existence.

The fall from good victim to deserving victim happens fast. In an article for The Daily Beast, Barbie Latza Nadeau writes how quickly opinions about Olsen’s reputation shifted over the course of two weeks: “When Olsen’s death was first reported, she was described as a pretty, well known ‘Americana’ who everyone loved and who walked her beagle around the Bohemian neighborhood of Oltrarno in Florence. But as the days and weeks have worn on, she has been increasingly described in the oft-repeated stereotypic terms of a ‘wild American abroad’ and a ‘socialite’ whose late-night carousing didn’t go unnoticed by the conservative Florentines.”

This characterization of the wild American isn’t new; in fact, there’s a rich literary tradition constructed around the idea of women carelessly causing their own deaths by misadventure. For example, in Henry James’ 1878 novella “Daisy Miller,” the titular character is described as a flirtatious American with a zest for life and a romantic spirit. Daisy is chatty, vivacious, and ultimately cast as a careless or dismissive reader of social cues. She becomes involved with an Italian man of questionable social standing, which causes a scandal and ruins her chances of making a triumphant debut in expatriate society. After staying out late with her Italian beau one night, Daisy contracts “Roman Fever” (malaria) and dies. It’s telling that she makes the choice to stay out past the appropriate time, despite the risk: “‘I don’t care,” said Daisy in a little strange tone, ‘whether I have Roman fever or not!’” After her death, friends and family shake their heads at what they consider Daisy’s recklessness: “’It’s going round at night…that’s what made her sick. She’s always going round at night. I shouldn’t think she’d want to, it’s so plaguey dark.’”

About a month into my study abroad experience, I made plans to sleep over at a friend’s apartment. We were going dancing at a trashy discoteca with a group of people from school. I don’t particularly enjoy clubs, but I was excited to have the opportunity to finally see what nightlife in Florence was like. 

As I expected, the discoteca was smelly and hot, and the music was awful. But after weeks of feeling disconnected, I was grateful to experience this slightly seedy part of Florentine culture that I had been missing out on. My friend and I danced ourselves stupid and drank until three. At the end of the night, exhausted and slightly tipsy, we linked arms and started the 20-minute trek to her apartment. As we walked from the pulsing heart of downtown, joking about our night and wondering how we would wake up in time to get to our lecture at Santa Croce early the next morning, the street grew more residential. Houses were separated by arches and gates. It was dark and quiet, a beautiful, brisk night. I felt alive.

Suddenly, a few feet in front of us, a figure slowly leaned out from one of the archways – like in a horror movie. It was a man, and he was totally naked. Then, he slowly leaned back in, like he was being pulled by a string. My friend and I ran. Later, we decided that it wouldn’t matter if we told anyone; men pulling out their genitals in public would be something we’d just have to get used to. And after all, we’d been out late at night instead of tucked tightly into bed.

Living in a foreign culture that either doesn’t respect a woman’s sexual and physical boundaries or that has a different conception of those boundaries can be unnerving, especially if you’ve been warned that the men are “forward” and expect American women to be “sexually adventurous.” And while America is still far from being a country that takes sexual harassment seriously, we have made important strides that give me optimism about the future. I like to think that this shift is the result of insistent, persistent demands to take street harassment, slut shaming, and victim blaming as the microaggressions that they are. But when we recognize the pervasive sexual violence women experience worldwide, American complaints sometimes seem almost quaint in comparison to a rape victim being honor-killed in Afghanistan, a teenage girl enduring a forced clitoridectomy in Somalia, and the recent organized, mass sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve. We need to recognize that although violence against women exists on a spectrum, there is one commonality: the persistent conception that women are objects meant to be owned or possessed, either through language or physical force.

Living with these microaggressions – street harassment, sexual harassment in the workplace, sexist language and other forms of emotional violence – affects a woman’s psychology and her sense of self. While street harassment obviously doesn’t cause the same kind of catastrophic damage as being raped or assaulted, each time I am catcalled, told to smile, or threatened with male genitalia, I am forced to confront my status as an object. Even though I’ve become more resilient (and why should I have to be resilient?), I still experience feelings of simultaneous worthlessness and rage. There have even been days where I question my choice of attire depending on where I will be traveling to: Is this shirt too see-through? Is my eyeliner too dark? Am I setting myself up for commentary? Am I setting myself up for assault?

What does it mean to be a “good victim”? As I thought back on my street harassment experiences in Florence and Ashley Ann Olsen’s public shaming on the Internet, I came to the conclusion that the concept of the good victim is a myth. In a culture that obsessively champions a warped concept of personal responsibility, there are only deserving victims – and they are usually women. Women who are in the wrong place at the wrong time are punished. Women who behave in ways that threaten the status quo are punished. Women who make mistakes are punished. Not only they are punished but they are subject to vitriolic commentary that further violates them and perpetuates the fallacious distinction between deserving and non-deserving victims.

A few months ago, I was traveling from Bensonhurst toting a large bag of Sicilian pastries for dad’s birthday party that night. Oddly enough, the subway was virtually empty for a weekend afternoon. I put on my headphones, took out a book, and settled in for the ride. About two stops in, a man boarded and sat directly in front of me, despite having his pick of seats. I prickled but continued reading, scolding myself for being paranoid. After a few minutes passed, I glanced up. The man was smiling at me. His hand was moving underneath his coat. “Oh no,” I thought. “Not this again.” Sure enough, he parted his coat to reveal his penis.

I had a few options. I could get out at the next stop and move to the next car. I could scream so the elderly woman at the other end of the car would notice, but what would she be able to do? I could take a picture of the man with my phone and report him to the police.

Instead, I got out and moved at the next stop.

Later, at my dad’s birthday party, I told the guests about what happened on my quest to procure their cannolis and cassatina cakes. I don’t know what I expected – maybe outrage or sympathy. One of my dad’s friends turned to me and shook his head: “Next time, don’t take the subway alone.”

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The only addiction “that hasn’t tried to kill me”: Melissa Broder on confessional writing, anxiety, and how much honesty is too much

Melissa Broder is easy to talk to. The poet and author of “So Sad Today,” a book of essays that expand on the themes she mulled over in her popular Twitter account of the same name, is “a sharer,” she says, a natural at self-confession who invites the same in others. Within seconds of getting her on the phone, we were talking about my rescue dog’s personality issues, and her dog’s as well. “He’s definitely got anxiety,” Broder said of her dog, adding that she hasn’t yet shared her anxiety drugs with him. “So Sad Today” contains essays about sex and death, anxiety and depression, addiction and meditation – the same concerns that animate her three poetry collections, “Scarecrone,” “Meat Heart” and “When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother.” (A fourth poetry collection, “Last Sext,” is forthcoming this summer.) Broder writes with the kind of honesty that can make you cringe and laugh, and then catch your breath, brought up short by a kind of existential dread. Your book takes its title from the Twitter account that you started anonymously. Why did you decide to do that? I’d gone through periods of anxiety in my life, where the panic attacks were more intense or less intense, basically I would get into these cycles. I was going through a particularly harrowing cycle of anxiety – it was fall 2012 – and I would go into work and I would be afraid that I literally couldn’t even sit there. I’m kind of a perfectionist, and I catastrophize, so I was like, well, if I can’t sit here, how am I going to come back in tomorrow, and if I can’t come back in tomorrow how am I going to work, and if I can’t work, then how am I going to support myself – it would sort of spin out into the ultimate worst-case scenario. I was just really scared. And I also had a lot of depression under that, which I didn’t even realize was depression. My anxiety was such a nice cover for it. I feel that’s one way that anxiety can sort of serve us, like it can protect us from other feelings that maybe we’re not able or willing to handle. Because anxiety can feel so bad – in my mind it’s my worst enemy – but there’s probably part of me that must prefer feeling anxiety to depression or other emotions. Because it’s sort of where I default. Is it that perhaps anxiety’s also a little more entertaining than depression, like you can share it more with others? Well, it’s more active. So where, even though anxiety can feel like a captor, I think there’s a lot going on and you can also harness anxiety to kind of propel yourself forward, whereas I feel like with depression, I feel more buried by it. It’s scarier for me to feel buried than to feel whipped. It’s funny: We call these things depression, or anxiety disorder, but there’s probably just this huge range. People experience depression in all different ways. I wouldn’t even say that mine is necessarily sadness; for me it’s more like terror. We compartmentalize these things into neat little pockets, or we try to. We give them diagnoses. So at that time, I was going through these cycles. All the things I normally did to get out of this place were not working. And my mind was like, you’re going to be in this forever. So I found this creative solution. It was going to be a place where I felt like I was going to be compulsively tweeting, as a repository for all this shit. I didn’t have any followers at first, was just tweeting out into this abyss, and then gradually people started following. I stayed anonymous from 2012 to 2015. So I was anonymous for the bulk of the time. How did that process – having this account that’s anonymous, but you’re sharing real, intimate feelings – what does that do to your anxiety levels? Did that dispel your anxiety, that you could share, or was it scary in its own way? Well, it just gave me an outlet. Therapy has never felt anonymous enough to me. Lately I’ve been better about this, but it’s always been hard for me to drop that need to perform. It’s like, I’m okay until someone sees that I’m not okay, and once somebody recognizes that I’m not okay, then I’m really not okay. Right, because you also want your therapist to like you – you don’t want your therapist to be alarmed about how you’re doing. Yeah. Totally. And I’ve had so many panic attacks in therapy, but I never tell them, because I don’t want them to feel like something’s wrong with them. Why would I have a panic attack in therapy? It’s supposed to be a safe space – But don’t they know? Wouldn’t a good therapist recognize that you’re having a panic attack? No, that’s the thing! Actually I get kind of sad when they don’t; it’s just another way of feeling separate from humanity, right, like I’m like “oh my god, they totally didn’t know!” That’s so sad if they can’t tell. It’s like you’re faking an orgasm and your partner doesn’t even know…  Exactly. But the thing is, I’ve been having panic attacks for 15 years so I’ve gotten really good at nobody knowing I’m having one. I can be in throes – all the symptoms can be happening, the rapid heartbeat, the suffocating sensation. For me it really centers a lot in my breathing. I feel like I’m suffocating, my throat is closing in, I start to feel dizzy. The scariest one is when it kind of progresses and I get a sense of unreality, like I’m looking at the person and it’s sort of like I’m on acid, there’s a hyper realness, or an unrealness, like I’m looking at them and I feel very dissociative. And that’s when it gets very existential. Like Camus said, at any moment, at any time, the absurdity of the world can slap a man on the face – I’m paraphrasing – or when Burroughs talks about seeing the lunch on the end of your spoon. It’s like when your context shifts and you’re like, what is all this, what are we doing? But you can be feeling all that and nobody knows? You have that kind of a poker face? That’s amazing, it’s impressive… I was telling my therapist last week that I’d had a panic attack with her the week before. This is one of the first times I’ve come clean; I have a new therapist, and I like her a lot. And then a few weeks into it, I had a panic attack in her office. It was really because I hadn’t eaten yet that day, my blood sugar was really low, I hadn’t slept the night before, I’d been up writing. And who knows what the topic was that we’d been talking about. But I just got one of the sensations and my mind was like, “What’s wrong? Are you dying? Yes, you’re dying.” And the next week I told her – I didn’t want to tell her – I felt like kind of disappointed in myself that I hadn’t told her as it was happening, because I kind of made a new rule, like, if you’re not going to be honest with the therapist, then why are you there? But it’s hard, when you’re going through it, it’s a very isolating experience. You feel super alone in it. I don’t really want to voice it, because if I voice it, then it’s really happening. As much as I tweet about it, in real life I still have a lot of shame about it, even after all these years. So I told her, and she was like, I had no idea. Having this anonymous So Sad Today account, did that enable you to express anxiety in a way that felt safe? Yeah. I mean, that’s what it was. In my everyday construct of my identity, my social life, my professional life – there was a need to keep a mask on. So Twitter felt like a place where I could be really, really, really real. But I had to be totally anonymous. That’s the only way I felt safe to be really true and real. And so you unveiled yourself a few months back, and now this book is out and it’s got your name on it, and you’re sharing stuff that feels really intimate. I mean, how scary is that? Well, I mean I’ve definitely talked about it in therapy! For about two and a half years I didn’t tell anyone and it’s like really the only secret I’ve kept. I’m not a good secret keeper. I’m a sharer. I’m not exactly like buttoned up. So then I told one person and it was weird because the difference between it being totally anonymous and one – that was like a big deal. Suddenly I knew one person knew and I felt like I could be judged. And then I was nervous to tell, I was really nervous, I was afraid that I would be a disappointment, that the fans of the account would be like, “oh….” The thing I have the most anxiety around now is that, like, my parents are not allowed to read this book. But how can you stop them? I mean, not to scare you, but someday your parents, or your parents’ friends, or someone you know will read that chapter on your vomit fetish. That was the one chapter that after the galleys came out I had cold feet and I talked to my editor and agent and I was as like, OK, this is too much, too much honesty. That was the scariest chapter for me to write. That was like a secret since I was a little kid. It’s like those old secrets that you have, that might not be the biggest deal, or filthiest thing about you, or the most fucked up thing about you, but for some reason it has like this youthful shame to it. You just don’t need to know everything about your child. I mean, people don’t need to know everything about you. So, why was I so confessional in this book? And I think it was almost like an exercise in some way – to confess everything, or a lot of everything. It’s funny, because what we confess is still controlled. You’re still wearing a mask. Do we ever take our mask off, even for ourselves? I don’t know that we do. I don’t know that we could handle it. It’s a lot, that much self-realization at once. If it’s even possible. It’s like, if one believes in God to see all of God at once. Or like, in “Moby-Dick,” to see the whole whale. And so it was sort of an exercise in – in the same vein that if I worry about something, I have this illusion of control about it, like it won’t happen if I worry about it. So like, if I can confess something, and not be judged, then maybe I can accept this in myself. It may not be a logical thing. But I was challenging myself. It wasn’t until it was in galleys until I was like, oh shit. What’s your poetry like? Are you as confessional in that work as you are here? My poetry contends with a lot of the same themes as “So Sad Today.” Very obsessed with sex, death, longing, filling the existential voids of our lives. Our obsessions are our obsessions; we can’t really escape them. But I really like to use language that’s very primal. I don’t like using language that’s in any way pop-cultural or disposable. I like language that’s very timeless. I have this book coming out this summer from Tin House, called “Last Sext,” and it’s a very poppy title but the only word in the entire book that I think you wouldn’t have been able to understand 100 years ago. Are you working on more stuff? New poems? New essays? Well, I always considered myself a poet, and I’m always writing poems. When I lived in New York, my practice of writing poetry was that I wrote a lot on long walks, I wrote on the subway, I wrote using my phone. I like to write in motion; I don’t like to sit at my desk and write; it feels too formal. I like to write when I’m not supposed to be writing. Actually I’m working on a very long piece that’s fictional. That is contending with those same obsessions but through a different medium. It might be a piece of shit. It might be horrific. I’m always writing. I kind of feel like I have to. It’s something to live for. So that’s where the meaning is. If life is a well of meaninglessness, then maybe writing is the meaning. Yeah. I think it just – the nonfiction helps me feel like I have some control over my narrative. I could be going through shit and kind of write my way out of it, or share it with others and it makes me feel like I have some control, if only to put it into my own words. And poetry, that feels like alchemy. It’s a way for me to access the magic of life – I mean the thing that I want, which is to always feel like I’m in some kind of flow. You know, I’m an addict; I always want to feel high. I have trouble with the mundane. It doesn’t feel like enough to me. There’s other things you can do when life doesn’t feel like enough – you can drink, you can have sex, you can get high, you can overindulge in food, you can go shopping for shit you don’t need. There are all these things we do to as life enhancers. But the longer I’ve been sober, the narrower the road gets in terms of things I can do and still kind of – and not be aware that that’s what I’m doing. Do you think writing is an addiction then? Well, for me, it’s the only one that hasn’t tried to kill me.Melissa Broder is easy to talk to. The poet and author of “So Sad Today,” a book of essays that expand on the themes she mulled over in her popular Twitter account of the same name, is “a sharer,” she says, a natural at self-confession who invites the same in others. Within seconds of getting her on the phone, we were talking about my rescue dog’s personality issues, and her dog’s as well. “He’s definitely got anxiety,” Broder said of her dog, adding that she hasn’t yet shared her anxiety drugs with him. “So Sad Today” contains essays about sex and death, anxiety and depression, addiction and meditation – the same concerns that animate her three poetry collections, “Scarecrone,” “Meat Heart” and “When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother.” (A fourth poetry collection, “Last Sext,” is forthcoming this summer.) Broder writes with the kind of honesty that can make you cringe and laugh, and then catch your breath, brought up short by a kind of existential dread. Your book takes its title from the Twitter account that you started anonymously. Why did you decide to do that? I’d gone through periods of anxiety in my life, where the panic attacks were more intense or less intense, basically I would get into these cycles. I was going through a particularly harrowing cycle of anxiety – it was fall 2012 – and I would go into work and I would be afraid that I literally couldn’t even sit there. I’m kind of a perfectionist, and I catastrophize, so I was like, well, if I can’t sit here, how am I going to come back in tomorrow, and if I can’t come back in tomorrow how am I going to work, and if I can’t work, then how am I going to support myself – it would sort of spin out into the ultimate worst-case scenario. I was just really scared. And I also had a lot of depression under that, which I didn’t even realize was depression. My anxiety was such a nice cover for it. I feel that’s one way that anxiety can sort of serve us, like it can protect us from other feelings that maybe we’re not able or willing to handle. Because anxiety can feel so bad – in my mind it’s my worst enemy – but there’s probably part of me that must prefer feeling anxiety to depression or other emotions. Because it’s sort of where I default. Is it that perhaps anxiety’s also a little more entertaining than depression, like you can share it more with others? Well, it’s more active. So where, even though anxiety can feel like a captor, I think there’s a lot going on and you can also harness anxiety to kind of propel yourself forward, whereas I feel like with depression, I feel more buried by it. It’s scarier for me to feel buried than to feel whipped. It’s funny: We call these things depression, or anxiety disorder, but there’s probably just this huge range. People experience depression in all different ways. I wouldn’t even say that mine is necessarily sadness; for me it’s more like terror. We compartmentalize these things into neat little pockets, or we try to. We give them diagnoses. So at that time, I was going through these cycles. All the things I normally did to get out of this place were not working. And my mind was like, you’re going to be in this forever. So I found this creative solution. It was going to be a place where I felt like I was going to be compulsively tweeting, as a repository for all this shit. I didn’t have any followers at first, was just tweeting out into this abyss, and then gradually people started following. I stayed anonymous from 2012 to 2015. So I was anonymous for the bulk of the time. How did that process – having this account that’s anonymous, but you’re sharing real, intimate feelings – what does that do to your anxiety levels? Did that dispel your anxiety, that you could share, or was it scary in its own way? Well, it just gave me an outlet. Therapy has never felt anonymous enough to me. Lately I’ve been better about this, but it’s always been hard for me to drop that need to perform. It’s like, I’m okay until someone sees that I’m not okay, and once somebody recognizes that I’m not okay, then I’m really not okay. Right, because you also want your therapist to like you – you don’t want your therapist to be alarmed about how you’re doing. Yeah. Totally. And I’ve had so many panic attacks in therapy, but I never tell them, because I don’t want them to feel like something’s wrong with them. Why would I have a panic attack in therapy? It’s supposed to be a safe space – But don’t they know? Wouldn’t a good therapist recognize that you’re having a panic attack? No, that’s the thing! Actually I get kind of sad when they don’t; it’s just another way of feeling separate from humanity, right, like I’m like “oh my god, they totally didn’t know!” That’s so sad if they can’t tell. It’s like you’re faking an orgasm and your partner doesn’t even know…  Exactly. But the thing is, I’ve been having panic attacks for 15 years so I’ve gotten really good at nobody knowing I’m having one. I can be in throes – all the symptoms can be happening, the rapid heartbeat, the suffocating sensation. For me it really centers a lot in my breathing. I feel like I’m suffocating, my throat is closing in, I start to feel dizzy. The scariest one is when it kind of progresses and I get a sense of unreality, like I’m looking at the person and it’s sort of like I’m on acid, there’s a hyper realness, or an unrealness, like I’m looking at them and I feel very dissociative. And that’s when it gets very existential. Like Camus said, at any moment, at any time, the absurdity of the world can slap a man on the face – I’m paraphrasing – or when Burroughs talks about seeing the lunch on the end of your spoon. It’s like when your context shifts and you’re like, what is all this, what are we doing? But you can be feeling all that and nobody knows? You have that kind of a poker face? That’s amazing, it’s impressive… I was telling my therapist last week that I’d had a panic attack with her the week before. This is one of the first times I’ve come clean; I have a new therapist, and I like her a lot. And then a few weeks into it, I had a panic attack in her office. It was really because I hadn’t eaten yet that day, my blood sugar was really low, I hadn’t slept the night before, I’d been up writing. And who knows what the topic was that we’d been talking about. But I just got one of the sensations and my mind was like, “What’s wrong? Are you dying? Yes, you’re dying.” And the next week I told her – I didn’t want to tell her – I felt like kind of disappointed in myself that I hadn’t told her as it was happening, because I kind of made a new rule, like, if you’re not going to be honest with the therapist, then why are you there? But it’s hard, when you’re going through it, it’s a very isolating experience. You feel super alone in it. I don’t really want to voice it, because if I voice it, then it’s really happening. As much as I tweet about it, in real life I still have a lot of shame about it, even after all these years. So I told her, and she was like, I had no idea. Having this anonymous So Sad Today account, did that enable you to express anxiety in a way that felt safe? Yeah. I mean, that’s what it was. In my everyday construct of my identity, my social life, my professional life – there was a need to keep a mask on. So Twitter felt like a place where I could be really, really, really real. But I had to be totally anonymous. That’s the only way I felt safe to be really true and real. And so you unveiled yourself a few months back, and now this book is out and it’s got your name on it, and you’re sharing stuff that feels really intimate. I mean, how scary is that? Well, I mean I’ve definitely talked about it in therapy! For about two and a half years I didn’t tell anyone and it’s like really the only secret I’ve kept. I’m not a good secret keeper. I’m a sharer. I’m not exactly like buttoned up. So then I told one person and it was weird because the difference between it being totally anonymous and one – that was like a big deal. Suddenly I knew one person knew and I felt like I could be judged. And then I was nervous to tell, I was really nervous, I was afraid that I would be a disappointment, that the fans of the account would be like, “oh….” The thing I have the most anxiety around now is that, like, my parents are not allowed to read this book. But how can you stop them? I mean, not to scare you, but someday your parents, or your parents’ friends, or someone you know will read that chapter on your vomit fetish. That was the one chapter that after the galleys came out I had cold feet and I talked to my editor and agent and I was as like, OK, this is too much, too much honesty. That was the scariest chapter for me to write. That was like a secret since I was a little kid. It’s like those old secrets that you have, that might not be the biggest deal, or filthiest thing about you, or the most fucked up thing about you, but for some reason it has like this youthful shame to it. You just don’t need to know everything about your child. I mean, people don’t need to know everything about you. So, why was I so confessional in this book? And I think it was almost like an exercise in some way – to confess everything, or a lot of everything. It’s funny, because what we confess is still controlled. You’re still wearing a mask. Do we ever take our mask off, even for ourselves? I don’t know that we do. I don’t know that we could handle it. It’s a lot, that much self-realization at once. If it’s even possible. It’s like, if one believes in God to see all of God at once. Or like, in “Moby-Dick,” to see the whole whale. And so it was sort of an exercise in – in the same vein that if I worry about something, I have this illusion of control about it, like it won’t happen if I worry about it. So like, if I can confess something, and not be judged, then maybe I can accept this in myself. It may not be a logical thing. But I was challenging myself. It wasn’t until it was in galleys until I was like, oh shit. What’s your poetry like? Are you as confessional in that work as you are here? My poetry contends with a lot of the same themes as “So Sad Today.” Very obsessed with sex, death, longing, filling the existential voids of our lives. Our obsessions are our obsessions; we can’t really escape them. But I really like to use language that’s very primal. I don’t like using language that’s in any way pop-cultural or disposable. I like language that’s very timeless. I have this book coming out this summer from Tin House, called “Last Sext,” and it’s a very poppy title but the only word in the entire book that I think you wouldn’t have been able to understand 100 years ago. Are you working on more stuff? New poems? New essays? Well, I always considered myself a poet, and I’m always writing poems. When I lived in New York, my practice of writing poetry was that I wrote a lot on long walks, I wrote on the subway, I wrote using my phone. I like to write in motion; I don’t like to sit at my desk and write; it feels too formal. I like to write when I’m not supposed to be writing. Actually I’m working on a very long piece that’s fictional. That is contending with those same obsessions but through a different medium. It might be a piece of shit. It might be horrific. I’m always writing. I kind of feel like I have to. It’s something to live for. So that’s where the meaning is. If life is a well of meaninglessness, then maybe writing is the meaning. Yeah. I think it just – the nonfiction helps me feel like I have some control over my narrative. I could be going through shit and kind of write my way out of it, or share it with others and it makes me feel like I have some control, if only to put it into my own words. And poetry, that feels like alchemy. It’s a way for me to access the magic of life – I mean the thing that I want, which is to always feel like I’m in some kind of flow. You know, I’m an addict; I always want to feel high. I have trouble with the mundane. It doesn’t feel like enough to me. There’s other things you can do when life doesn’t feel like enough – you can drink, you can have sex, you can get high, you can overindulge in food, you can go shopping for shit you don’t need. There are all these things we do to as life enhancers. But the longer I’ve been sober, the narrower the road gets in terms of things I can do and still kind of – and not be aware that that’s what I’m doing. Do you think writing is an addiction then? Well, for me, it’s the only one that hasn’t tried to kill me.

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The National Enquirer’s 5 most outrageous political “scoops”

The National Enquirer unexpectedly thrust itself into national relevance Friday morning when it published a story claiming that Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz has had affairs with at least five women. Cruz angrily denied the report and blamed GOP frontrunner Donald Trump for orchestrating the smear with “his friends at the National Enquirer and his political henchmen.” In a Facebook post, Trump denied any involvement with the story but suggested that if the National Enquirer reported it, well, it’s probably true: “Ted Cruz’s problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone, and while they were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin’ Ted Cruz.” The National Enquirer is often the butt of jokes, but Trump isn’t entirely wrong — the paper’s sensational stories have, on occasion, crossed over into the mainstream. The Pulitzer Prize Board declared the tabloid eligible for journalism’s most prestigious prize in 2010 after it broke the news that presidential candidate John Edwards had fathered a daughter out of wedlock with a campaign staffer. The Enquirer also published photos of O.J. Simpson wearing shoes that matched footprints found at the scene where Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were murdered. The photos were later used as evidence in the Goldman family’s civil suit against Simpson. Those cases aside, the National Enquirer has often earned its reputation as perhaps our nation’s least respected news source. Here are five of the most outlandish political scoops ever published by the granddaddy of all supermarket tabloids: 1. Supreme Court Justice Scalia — Murdered By A Hooker In a “bombshell world exclusive,” the Enquirer claimed that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s March 2016 death involved foul play. According to the Enquirer, Scalia was assassinated by a “$2,000-a-night hooker” hired by the CIA to “inject Scalia with a needle filled with poison in his buttocks.” 2. CLINTON SEX ROMP CAUGHT ON VIDEO! In 2003, the National Enquirer reported that Hillary Clinton’s political foes were desperately trying to acquire a secret videotape that supposedly showed her husband Bill Clinton “having sex in a pickup truck with a department store clerk.” Simply imagining Bill Clinton having sex in a pickup truck is terrifying enough, so it’s probably for the best that actual video has never surfaced. 3. ‘Family Man’ Marco Rubio’s Love Child Stunner! A December 2015 Enquirer story repeated claims made in Buzzfeed reporter McKay Coppins’ book “The Wilderness” that former presidential hopeful Marco Rubio spent $40,000 on opposition research to find out whether his fellow candidates knew about a Florida woman that “had supposedly been impregnated by Rubio, and then went on to have an abortion.” The Enquirer also reported a “rumor” that Marco Rubio was supporting a “secret second family.” 4. Jeb Bush Snorted Cocaine On Night His Dad Became President! Republican operative Roger Stone was quoted in the Cruz story as saying of the Texas senator, “I believe where there is smoke there is fire.” But this wasn’t the first time Stone has gotten involved in a scandalous National Enquirer story. In February 2016, the tabloid reported the following claims made in a book authored by Stone: “Jeb had snorted lines of cocaine at the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory on the night of Vice President George H.W. Bush’s election to the presidency.” 5. HILLARY CLINTON LESBIAN LOVERS NAMED IN SECRET EMAILS According to the Enquirer’s sources, the former secretary of state deleted emails from her personal server that contained “personal revelations about a secret lesbian lifestyle.” The April 2015 story claims that Clinton’s long list of conquests includes “a beauty in her early 30s who has often traveled with Hillary; a popular TV and movie star; the daughter of a top government official; and a stunning model who got a career boost after allegedly sleeping with Hillary.”

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David Brooks, sad and deluded, just keeps trying: Bless his heart, but he lost his mind again today

The Republican Party was never based on science. It never accumulated data or drew conclusions from it. Like all political parties, its positions are sewn together from various pieces of found cloth, each meant to attract various possible constituencies. Though party stalwarts like Paul Ryan and David Brooks dress up those constituencies in what appear to be this thoughtfully designed clothing, the truth of the matter is that there is nothing intellectual about their tailoring. Essentially, they merely stitch together the rags of a racist base and the cast-offs of affluent contributors to create what look like new suits that, though they may applaud them, cover about as much of the wearer as does the emperor’s proud new clothes. Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions has been influential on intellectual thought from more than half a century, so it is not surprising that David Brooks, today, has picked it up as a thread for sewing back together what even he has finally come to see as the remnants of the Republican Party. After watching the institution he has dedicated his life to supporting fall into tatters with a speed no one imagined, Brooks is trying desperately to envision some way of saving at least a little of the material being ripped away from what is left of the outfit. At the same time, he is trying to convince himself that, at one point (the Reagan years), his creations were the height of fashion. Fashion, he implies, has intellectual heft. Brooks writes that “Reaganism was very economic, built around tax policies, enterprise zones and the conception of the human being as a rational, utility-driven individual.” Even amid the myriad disasters spawned by those very policies, Brooks still wants to claim that they were expertly tailored by diligent craftspeople, that something more was going on than pandering to style. Of course, there was never any real conception of “the human being as a rational, utility-driven individual.” You can’t sell rational people the illusion that they are going to be rich. That’s a con, and cons are built around avarice, not rational thought. That really is ‘the emperor’s new clothes.’ Reaganism, if there ever really was such a thing, has failed. The crumbling infrastructure of Flint is just one of the first obvious holes in the fabric. Our bridges and tunnels and highways and airports are falling away like shoes whose flapping soles and broken laces can no longer protect our feet. There are going to be more bridge collapses, water and sewage problems, railroad accidents and airport incidents all because “we” decided we look better in the cheap suits the Reagan hucksters convinced us to buy at the high price of ignoring our shoes, our underwear and our overcoats. Not only that, but it left us with holes in our pockets and at the mercy of pickpockets and muggers. The Reaganites outfitted us with a cane that turns into a sword along with a brace of pistols, but these can’t protect us from the hands reaching out from everywhere and tearing at our vestments. Donald Trump promises to replace the Reagan tatters with a suit of armor, though armor stopped working centuries ago. The people Brooks helped fool are being fooled again. This time, though, the con artists are leaving Brooks—and Ryan—with an almost empty shop. Brooks has a needle in his hand and what he thinks is a viable spool of thread and even a bit of strong (he thinks) cloth, but no one is paying attention—no one is interested in buying the nice new necktie he says he can make. He doesn’t even know what it will look like, he says, but he’s excited about it. He’s going to make “Émile Durkheim neckties” to replace the “Adam Smith necktie” that, he claims was the emblem of Reaganism. He thinks his new neckties will “relate to binding a fragmenting society, reweaving family and social connections, relating across the diversity of a globalized world.” Let’s be serious here: The real necktie of the base of the Republican Party since the creation of the “Southern strategy” 50 years ago has been a noose. Metaphorically, it has tightened around the necks of the new right-wing “base” to the point where, finally feeling strangled, they are throwing it off in favor of Trump’s promised armor. Literally, it is the noose of the lynch mob, the mob that the conservative movement turned to in the sixties to augment its minority positions, creating a new and unstable majority that, frankly speaking, never could have lasted and that, today, is finally falling apart. Kuhn was writing about the paths of real scientific and intellectual progress. We’ve had none of that from conservative circles, certainly not since the success of Brooks’s mentor’s God and Man at Yale in 1951. William F. Buckley, Jr. was as much the elitist as Brooks, and would also be trying to see the rise of Trump (and, as Brooks presumes, the coming fall) as a means for regaining control of the sewing machine. Even in the face of their failure, nothing changes in their beliefs. Brooks ends by saying “it’s exciting to be present at the re-creation” of the Republican Party. Maybe so, but he’s going to have to be offering something more than threadbare rags.The Republican Party was never based on science. It never accumulated data or drew conclusions from it. Like all political parties, its positions are sewn together from various pieces of found cloth, each meant to attract various possible constituencies. Though party stalwarts like Paul Ryan and David Brooks dress up those constituencies in what appear to be this thoughtfully designed clothing, the truth of the matter is that there is nothing intellectual about their tailoring. Essentially, they merely stitch together the rags of a racist base and the cast-offs of affluent contributors to create what look like new suits that, though they may applaud them, cover about as much of the wearer as does the emperor’s proud new clothes. Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions has been influential on intellectual thought from more than half a century, so it is not surprising that David Brooks, today, has picked it up as a thread for sewing back together what even he has finally come to see as the remnants of the Republican Party. After watching the institution he has dedicated his life to supporting fall into tatters with a speed no one imagined, Brooks is trying desperately to envision some way of saving at least a little of the material being ripped away from what is left of the outfit. At the same time, he is trying to convince himself that, at one point (the Reagan years), his creations were the height of fashion. Fashion, he implies, has intellectual heft. Brooks writes that “Reaganism was very economic, built around tax policies, enterprise zones and the conception of the human being as a rational, utility-driven individual.” Even amid the myriad disasters spawned by those very policies, Brooks still wants to claim that they were expertly tailored by diligent craftspeople, that something more was going on than pandering to style. Of course, there was never any real conception of “the human being as a rational, utility-driven individual.” You can’t sell rational people the illusion that they are going to be rich. That’s a con, and cons are built around avarice, not rational thought. That really is ‘the emperor’s new clothes.’ Reaganism, if there ever really was such a thing, has failed. The crumbling infrastructure of Flint is just one of the first obvious holes in the fabric. Our bridges and tunnels and highways and airports are falling away like shoes whose flapping soles and broken laces can no longer protect our feet. There are going to be more bridge collapses, water and sewage problems, railroad accidents and airport incidents all because “we” decided we look better in the cheap suits the Reagan hucksters convinced us to buy at the high price of ignoring our shoes, our underwear and our overcoats. Not only that, but it left us with holes in our pockets and at the mercy of pickpockets and muggers. The Reaganites outfitted us with a cane that turns into a sword along with a brace of pistols, but these can’t protect us from the hands reaching out from everywhere and tearing at our vestments. Donald Trump promises to replace the Reagan tatters with a suit of armor, though armor stopped working centuries ago. The people Brooks helped fool are being fooled again. This time, though, the con artists are leaving Brooks—and Ryan—with an almost empty shop. Brooks has a needle in his hand and what he thinks is a viable spool of thread and even a bit of strong (he thinks) cloth, but no one is paying attention—no one is interested in buying the nice new necktie he says he can make. He doesn’t even know what it will look like, he says, but he’s excited about it. He’s going to make “Émile Durkheim neckties” to replace the “Adam Smith necktie” that, he claims was the emblem of Reaganism. He thinks his new neckties will “relate to binding a fragmenting society, reweaving family and social connections, relating across the diversity of a globalized world.” Let’s be serious here: The real necktie of the base of the Republican Party since the creation of the “Southern strategy” 50 years ago has been a noose. Metaphorically, it has tightened around the necks of the new right-wing “base” to the point where, finally feeling strangled, they are throwing it off in favor of Trump’s promised armor. Literally, it is the noose of the lynch mob, the mob that the conservative movement turned to in the sixties to augment its minority positions, creating a new and unstable majority that, frankly speaking, never could have lasted and that, today, is finally falling apart. Kuhn was writing about the paths of real scientific and intellectual progress. We’ve had none of that from conservative circles, certainly not since the success of Brooks’s mentor’s God and Man at Yale in 1951. William F. Buckley, Jr. was as much the elitist as Brooks, and would also be trying to see the rise of Trump (and, as Brooks presumes, the coming fall) as a means for regaining control of the sewing machine. Even in the face of their failure, nothing changes in their beliefs. Brooks ends by saying “it’s exciting to be present at the re-creation” of the Republican Party. Maybe so, but he’s going to have to be offering something more than threadbare rags.

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Hillary Clinton doesn’t speak for me: I’m a millennial woman raising a biracial son. I voted for Bernie, and I refuse to be shamed for it

Just after Super Tuesday, a family friend and Hillary supporter sent an article to me and a dozen other millennial women, rightly assuming that most of us were Bernie supporters. She asked us what we younger women thought of the essay. Several weeks later, Hillary has won many more primary delegates than Bernie, and has cinched almost all the unelected superdelegates, but millennials are still voting 2-to-1 for her anti-establishment rival. Hana Schank, who wrote the article “My Gen-X Hillary problem: I know why we don’t ‘like’ Clinton” argues that millennial women support Bernie because they think we’ve moved beyond sexism. Given a couple more decades in the professional world, these young women would feel the same low-level, “insidious” discrimination Schank experiences and realize just how monumental and necessary electing a woman is. While I couldn’t agree more that we are far from a post-sexist world, Schank’s essay sidesteps over other measures of inequality and glosses over just how sprawling and varied an affliction sexism still is in this country. She sees her struggle in Hillary’s, but forgets that many American women do not and never will — that neither Hillary’s platform nor Hillary’s life speaks to those women. Even issues rooted in gender inequality (like access to reproductive healthcare) are defined by the intersections of gender, race and class. A pro-woman candidate must understand how racism and an economy of the 1 percent impact all women in color and class-specific ways. I think millennial women intuitively understand that Hillary is not that candidate. As younger women, perhaps we’re also less burdened by the tug of being so close to winning the old fight and freer to imagine a new fight entirely. (As Robert Reich put it: Hillary is “the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have. But Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we ought to have.”) Supporting him doesn’t mean we’re naive or that we fail to understand the realities of our time. Schank is right: Hillary’s election would be monumental. But the right wing is campaigning in terms of real lives lost and rights revoked. Now is not the time to seek out monuments. The next Democratic candidate – whether male or female – must be able to beat a Republican nominee whose racism and classism will undoubtedly disproportionately harm women (check out all of their records and positions here). I think millennials intuitively understand that Bernie – not Hillary – commands the fervor needed to beat Trump. I’m a millennial woman raising a biracial son who will not share the privilege of my skin. Race is one of many conversations I have the privilege of opting out of. I vote as a woman. But I also vote as my son’s mother; I vote as a feminist in solidarity with women who lead less privileged lives than my own. I voted for Bernie, and I refuse to be shamed for that. Here’s why. ONE: This election isn’t about gender Hillary’s political career has been impressive and groundbreaking for American women. But it is astonishing (and disappointing) that in a race where the most likely Republican nominee is a billionaire endorsed by the KKK, middle-aged white feminists are campaigning to make sexism the primary issue. Klan chapters more than doubled from 2014 to 2015; hate groups are on the rise in general. Last year saw the highest rate of young black men killed by police. Already, my son is five times more likely to be killed by police than if he were white. He’s more likely to be searched by police, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be sent to adult prison as a juvenile, and more likely to receive longer sentences for the same convictions. He’s more likely to have his voting rights revoked. Even as a man, he’s likely to be paid less than me, because he’s black. Sexism still simmers and seethes, yes. But racism and economic inequality have reached a boiling point in this country. Trump is conservative America’s backlash to seeing a black man hold the Oval Office for eight years. And in some way that white Democrats will never, ever admit, Hillary is liberal America’s backlash to seeing a black man hold the Oval Office for eight years. Now that Obama’s presidency has presumably relieved 400 years of white guilt, middle-aged white feminists are clamoring for their turn. These women are willing to elect a symbol of progress that makes them feel good, forgetting just how much is on the line – we’re talking coerced deportation, state-sanctioned lynchings and torture, and the eradication of free speech. Their defenses of Hillary do not address any of these race- and class-based aggressions, but they’re willing to shame and condescend to younger women who feel like paying women a living wage is a realer “feminism” than supporting Hillary’s career ambitions. TWO: Hillary doesn’t represent anyone but you The women I hear vehemently supporting Hillary are the women who look like her. They are white. They are baby boomers like Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright. They are Generation X-ers, like Schank. They know what it’s like to compete for a white-collar job against a man. They know what it’s like to be spoken down to, even once you’ve gotten the job. They identify with Hillary, and they feel like they’ve waited long enough to see someone like them take the Oval Office. Supporting an elite, white woman’s career ascent is the type of feminism they recognize, because it’s the type of feminism they’ve lived. Schank opens her essay with a photo of herself meeting Bill Clinton two decades ago: “In 1992, as a summer intern with the Clinton campaign’s polling firm, I traveled to New York City for the Democratic convention,” she writes. Though she found Hillary’s die-hards “extremely off-putting,” she identified with the first-lady-to-be: “She was the type of person I expected to grow up to be – a working mother who wore suits, supported herself financially, and had an equal say in her marriage,” Schank writes. And Schank did grow up to be like Hillary. In 1992 she already had enough going for her to land an internship with the Clinton campaign and travel to New York. In 2016, she’s a tech consultant who runs her own company. It’s not surprising, then, that for her a turning point in the 2016 primary came when she heard a male town-hall participant address Hillary in Iowa, with what sounded like condescension. Schank writes: “It was a tone I’d heard countless times over the course of my career, and in that moment I suddenly saw Hillary Clinton in an entirely different light.” At this moment, Schank sees Hillary suffer a brand of sexism she herself recognizes well. For Schank, a man’s condescension toward such a senior and accomplished woman proves how far we are from being post-sexist and how monumental Hillary’s election would be. This is the unconscious self-association with Hillary that older women wish millennials would feel. “Don’t you see that Hillary is one of us, and has the same struggle we have?” they say. “Won’t it feel good to see someone like us in the White House?” They assume that because she is their candidate, she should be the candidate of women-at-large. They assume that because she speaks to them, she must speak for all American women. They’re so close to nominating a woman who represents them, it’s hard to acknowledge she might not represent most American women. (Even the incessant talk of Hillary’s experience is symptomatic of this: Hillary spent only eight years in Congress and eight years as a diplomat, compared to Bernie’s 35 years as mayor, congressman and senator. What her supporters mean when they say she has more experience is that she has more of the type of experience with which they are familiar.) This is the same absent-minded assumption of majority membership that Trump’s “silent” one holds, and it’s a dangerous gateway. Assume your experience is the universal standard, and all other experiences start to look less worthy of regard. Those who look like you seem safe, and all others start to look threatening. To think of yourself as the prototype for what it means to be a woman in America is the on-ramp to a host of unspoken prejudices that this election season actually is about, like race and class. Women who grow up to be like Hillary aren’t the only women in America. Women who grow up to be like Hillary aren’t even the majority of women in America. Women who grow up to be like Hillary are actually the minority of women in America. Whether or not she secures the nomination, white feminists’ loyalty to Hillary belies a deeper spiritual problem: their desire to elect a woman whose experience matches their own. It is easy to champion someone you identify with, a candidate who feels like one of your own. It’s more difficult to put your own aspirations on hold and recognize that a different candidate might be better for the country as a whole and might do more to provide the majority of American women with equal opportunities. THREE: Hillary is the perfect choice for liberals with a twinge of white guilt, but not for anyone looking for real progress. Schank thinks “that the millennial women who are supporting Bernie may simply not have gotten to a place in life where they’ve experienced this kind of chronic, internalized, institutional sexism.” She writes: “In order for someone to ignore you at a senior level, you need be old enough to have reached that level, and most millennials aren’t quite there yet.” Maybe sexism began for Schank when she entered the boardroom, but for most American women, it doesn’t. Girls feel the impact of it by the time they reach elementary school, where they’re already burdened by different standards of dress, decorum and performance than boys. Women feel it whether or not they ever enter the white-collar world. Women are at the greatest risk of poverty, and twice as likely as men to work a low-wage job. Even in those low-paying positions, women make less than men. Women of color make the least. Low-income women of color are more likely to be single parents than their male counterparts. Women are at greater risk of discrimination by insurance companies. Women are more likely to qualify for Medicaid and Medicare. Millennials have more student debt than any generation before, and millennial women owe the most – a reality most boomers and Gen-Xers didn’t have to contend with. Half of all states still don’t offer married women the same protections against rape as those they provide single women. Last year, a top adviser to Donald Trump went on the record saying that a woman cannot be raped by her husband. Schank fails to recognize that for many women, someone ignoring your job seniority might not be the most pressing feminist issue at hand. These women vote for Bernie because they’re worried about the likelihood of their kids going to college debt-free or dying in another conflict in the Middle East or at the hands of a police patrolman. These women sense that the status quo disproportionately disadvantages them. Hillary’s got a shaky record when it comes to righting those disadvantages. As Elizabeth Warren reminds us, when Hillary was the president’s wife, she convinced Bill to veto bankruptcy legislation that would have disproportionately harmed millions of women trying to collect child support. One year and $140,000 in campaign contributions later, Senator Hillary voted for the same legislation she’d convinced Bill to veto. Bernie voted against the House’s version of that 2001 bill, and he voted against it again when it came up in 2005. Hillary was absent from the vote that year. In 2008, she was the only Democratic primary candidate (out of six) who opposed retroactively adjusting the sentences of addicts who had been disadvantaged by the 100:1 sentencing disparity for crack cocaine possession and powder cocaine possession. Powder sentencing primarily affects white Americans. Crack sentencing primarily affects black Americans, and it disproportionately locks up black women, sending their children into foster care. That is what “chronic, internalized, institutional sexism” (and structural racism) looks like. Eight years later, both Democratic candidates do support retroactive reform for sentencing disparities, but Bernie is still way ahead of Hillary on anti-racist criminal justice reform: He also advocates for the decriminalization of marijuana possession. “We must recognize that blacks are four times more likely than whites to get arrested for marijuana possession, even though the same proportion of blacks and whites use marijuana,” Bernie’s campaign wrote. He told Hillary “I’m talking!” when she interrupted him during the Flint debate and sent women reeling the Internet over, proclaiming just how “pissed” they were to hear Bernie “shush” Hillary. The women of the Internet are silent when Hillary shuts down black women. When Black Lives Matter activist Ashley Williams confronted Hillary about her 1996 “superpredator” comment, Hillary snapped, “Maybe you can listen to what I say,” then turned her back as a Secret Service agent slid his arm around the young black woman’s waist and escorted her from the private event. When it was all over, Hillary faced the room and suggested they get “back to the issues” that were actually important to the room of donors: women like Hillary Clinton, not women like Ashley Williams. When another woman of color confronted Hillary over her 1996 comment that black men needed to be brought “to heel,” Hillary again reverted to condescension. “Why don’t you go run for something then?” she said. When white feminists endorse a woman with a record of impoverishing and imprisoning black America as though she is the only pro-woman candidate, where do they leave women of color? Who are black women betraying if they vote for Hillary? This is thoughtless (and yes, white) feminism, and it disregards whole swaths of American women. To talk about gender while avoiding its intersections is to graze dirty topics just enough to soothe a guilty conscience without actually getting your hands dirty. Like Barack, Hillary is someone white Democrats can vote for and feel good about themselves. They felt good for electing a black man, and now they can feel good for voting for a woman, knowing that if she’s elected, they won’t experience a modicum of change or disruption to the status quo that privileges them. FOUR: Hillary isn’t more likely to beat the Republicans The women who support Hillary can go on for days about how she is held to different standards than male candidates: She can’t be too angry or too soft; she could never have unkempt hair; she has to endure “tiny flecks of condescension” from town hall participants. It’s true that all those double standards (and more) exist for Hillary, but to argue that those double standards have been the only problems with her candidacy is as evasive as a feminism that ignores race or class. Hillary struggled to secure an obvious lead because she doesn’t have a convincing platform. Other than being supposedly more electable than Bernie, she wavers somewhere between advocating for the death penalty and preaching “love and kindness.” The fact is Hillary should have always been the hands-down front-runner. The entire Democratic leadership has endorsed her. The DNC will do anything for her (whether it’s ethical or not). She has way more money than Bernie. She started this race with immeasurable name recognition, while mainstream media ignored Bernie for months (and even last Tuesday, the Washington Post published 16 Bernie-negative posts in less than 16 hours). Four hundred sixty-seven of the unelected Democratic superdelegates have pledged to nominate her, compared to Bernie’s 26. She has all of this even though she’s a woman – and for that, we can thank the baby-boomer and Generation-X feminists. But Bernie presents a real challenge because his platform speaks to women who didn’t grow up to be like Hillary. He speaks to millennial women who recognize that sexism cannot be dismantled unless we attack economic inequality and racism too. And he speaks to millennial women who recognize that we are one general election away from swearing in a commander in chief endorsed by the Klan. Without getting into how far Bernie just outdoes Hillary in categories from voting consistency and moral compass, to economic and military foresight (he predicted the financial collapse and the rise of ISIS), here is the rundown on electability after the most recent CNN matchup polls: “Sanders – who enjoys the most positive favorable rating of any presidential candidate in the field, according to the poll” beats Trump and Cruz “by wide margins: 57% to 40% against Cruz, 55% to 43% against Trump.” Hillary beats Trump by a narrower margin and is within 1 point of Cruz. I’m a millennial woman (and mother) voting for Bernie because there are graver aggressions at hand than merely the brand of discrimination I have experienced firsthand. There are millions of American women who still feel the very overt effects of sexism, racism, xenophobia, and income inequality – effects that go far beyond condescension. It sucks to be talked to like you’re stupid. I know. I’ve lived that. But it sucks more to be unable to support your children on the paycheck you earn. It sucks even more to have your family deported or threatened with execution. I haven’t lived through any of those circumstances.  But I will vote in solidarity with the women who have. When a woman runs who can speak to more American women, she too will have my vote.

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“I was a hope-I-die-before-I-get-old kind of guy”: Bob Mould opens up about his career’s third act, writing through loss and the presidential election “circus”

It’s not as if Bob Mould has spent much time coasting: The veteran punk rocker has released new music at a steady clip since his influential Minneapolis trio Hüsker Dü debuted with the “Land Speed Record” EP in 1982. Yet despite amassing an enviable catalog in a career stretching more than three and a half decades, Mould seemed to spring out of nowhere in 2012 with “Silver Age,” an album blending the full-throttle ferocity of Hüsker Dü with the barbed melodicism of Sugar, Mould’s early-’90s power pop band. After an equally riotous follow-up on 2014’s “Beauty & Ruin,” Mould is back with “Patch the Sky.” Again featuring Jon Wurster on drums and Jason Narducy on bass, the new album is of a piece with the two before it, cementing what feels like a comeback for a musician who has never really been gone. Mould has taken detours, to be sure. “Workbook,” his 1989 solo debut following Hüsker Dü’s split, owes as much to folk as punk, and he explored electronic music thoroughly enough to co-host a regular dance party called Blowoff when he lived in Washington, D.C., in the 2000s — to say nothing of his stint writing story lines for World Championship Wrestling in the ’90s, or penning the theme song for “The Daily Show.” The ongoing rediscovery of Mould started in 2011, the year before “Silver Age.” He contributed that year to Foo Fighters’ album “Wasting Light” and performed with them occasionally onstage, published the memoir “See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody,” and was feted at a tribute concert in his honor at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, where Dave Grohl, Ryan Adams and members of Spoon, the Hold Steady and No Age performed his songs. “I never saw that show coming, people I’ve influenced singing my words back to me,” Mould says now, still marveling at the idea. The singer and guitarist reflected with Salon on his recent renaissance, and weighed in on politics, his current relationship with electronic music and how living in San Francisco is making him soft. Your recent albums have been described as a “third-act resurgence.” Is that how you see it? Once it was put in those words on my behalf, I guess I would tend to agree. I just sort of go from one to the next and I don’t notice where the parentheticals fit as I’m actually doing it. But I think that’s fair. It’s the third album with the same lineup and the same engineer and a similar tone and style in a general sense. I think there are big differences between the records, but yeah, I guess it feels like part three of a third act. How does “Patch the Sky” fit together with “Silver Age” and “Beauty & Ruin?” If we go back to the events that got me to “Silver Age,” that being the writing of the book, work with the Foo Fighters, the book coming out, more work with Foo Fighters and the Disney Hall show, “Silver Age” was written with energy and love, and it had a brighter tone to it. “Beauty & Ruin,” same lineup after a lot of touring, after losing my dad, just changes that were going on. I thought it was a little darker record, but I thought it showcased how the three of us made music together. With this record, more loss. A little more isolated in the writing. Totally isolated in the writing, actually, so it’s a little more introspective. You said at the time that “Silver Age” was sort of a bookend to Sugar’s 1992 album “Copper Blue.” Is there a similar corollary for “Patch the Sky”? “Black Sheets of Rain.” [Laughs] If there’s anything that it could resemble, I think it’s that record [Mould’s soul-baring second solo LP, released in 1990]. If any decade informed this record musically, it would probably be mid- to late-’70s and not punk rock. Were you listening to particular bands from that era? No, no, it just came out. Started popping out. It was like, what the hell, what is this, “Toys in the Attic”? [Laughs] What was isolated about the writing process for “Patch the Sky”? With “Silver Age,” I had some songs kicking around, but just all that compact energy. I wrote most of that record in a month, month and a half, right before we recorded it, and I felt like it was more of a spontaneous statement. “Beauty & Ruin” was a lot of ideas gathered on the run, and we went in to make that record right after we got back from South America. This record, I had a solid six months of writing, so in terms of process, it was probably closest to “Workbook.” Having six months of alone time is not necessarily the healthiest thing, but you get good work out of it. What makes the new album so introspective? I just had a lot of loss. I lost my mom, I lost a lot of friends, people got sick. It’s just the stuff that happens as you get older. It’s never fun. People leave, you mourn the loss and then you have to move on. Sometimes it happens quicker than others, and this time, I just wanted to sit and process it for a while. Punk rock has always been a very personal means of expression for you, though you spoke out against the proposed same-sex marriage ban in North Carolina a few years ago. How much of a political component is there in your work? Big politics, what can you do? You can speak your mind, and then you move on. To me, it’s more about going to my neighborhood association meetings to try to keep people from building giant, oversized ugly houses in my little neighborhood. Or trying to speak to the police in my neighborhood about crime. Big-stage politics, I’m not so good at that. But same-sex marriage, that was something that needed a light shined on it. That’s a human rights issue, and one that I take personally, whether or not I want to get married. How much attention have you been paying attention to the presidential primaries? Too much. What a circus. Is it something your work will reflect? I’m sure it’s affecting my mind-set, so I’m sure somehow it’s going to get in there. I think the most important thing I could do, or anyone could do, is you have to vote. It’s that simple. Why is voting not mandatory in this country? What do you make of it all? I think it’s good to shine a very bright light on the crazy. I think some of these ideas that people are stealing have been couched and disguised and sometimes hidden away for sometimes decades, and now that we’re in the last gasp of that political party, it’s all on display. Now the hope is that people will see what they’ve been doing and see how the system is failing all of us. Hopefully we’ll get some good change out of this. Are you supporting a particular candidate? I haven’t picked yet, but I know who I’m not voting for. As far as local politics go, you live in San Francisco, where tech workers have become a sometimes unwelcome presence. How much do you feel the effects of that? I don’t get inside that beehive directly. A lot of acquaintances work in that business. I don’t know. Cities change. San Francisco is such a beautiful place. It’s a city with a rich history in music and culture and arts and lifestyle, and I don’t know how many people who have showed up in the last three years are aware of it, or care about it. It’s a tough deal. People can’t afford to live there, it’s really hard. You’ve moved around a lot. How much are you influenced by the places you live? New York, I was always on my feet, always walking, always thinking on my feet. That was a big part of it to me, the way the ideas were constructed. I think Minneapolis and Austin were direct opposites. In Minnesota, you stayed in all winter, and in Austin you stayed in all summer. The weather has a lot to do with it. D.C., it was crazy being there during the George W. Bush years. The pulse of the city was just war, war, war, just people with pacemakers running wars. It was like, what the fuck? San Francisco, I’d been going there since ’81. I love the soft weather. It’s making me soft. The one thing that I feel in my six and a half years, my memories are weird because there are no weird seasons to speak of, other than fog. It has a little bit of that affect, where those potential markers due to weather don’t really exist. How does that come out in your work? I don’t know if I can specifically pin it down. I’m aware of what it does to me as a person. Because I don’t work in tech, San Francisco to me is pretty chill. It feels very, very different than the East Coast. For this record, I pretty much sat in my room and worked. Sometimes I wasn’t even aware of when the fog came or went. [Laughs.] Now that you’re in this third-act resurgence, what’s your relationship these days with electronic music? I put it pretty much on hold. I’ll put on a compilation from a label that I like and listen to what people are doing with progressive house or French house, but as an active hours-a-day-looking-for-new-music guy, I’m done with it for now. It got kind of overblown. I just felt like that genre had gotten filled with the same drops and the same zooooom, and that was it. I just needed a break. I’ll probably go back to DJing at some point, but the 11 years of Blowoff was a full-on immersion. In the gay community at that time, the music wasn’t really top-notch, and it felt like we were bringing something different, and I know we were good at it. What do you think about your own influence? I think it’s there. I don’t know how big or small it is. I can’t tell. I feel like I’m really important to a small group of people, and that’s great. If they get the stories and can relate to them, that’s really what this is about. On a global level, I don’t know. I really have no idea. I’m close to it, so I’m not really sure. I’m grateful that people like the early work, the middle work, the recent work. I think it all fits together in a cool way, there’s a consistency to all of it. I think after 37 years of it, I know what I’m good at, I know what people want to hear from me. So back 37 years ago, what did you think you’d be doing today? Hoping I would do this, but in what form, I didn’t know. I was a hope-I-die-before-I-get-old kind of guy. Punk rock was crazy. We were just building stages and asking our friends to come play with us. And I was bored, and I needed to do it or perish. There was no idea that we’d be carrying on about it at this point, but I’m very grateful that we are, of course. It’s pretty great. I love my work, I love doing what we do. It gets harder as I get older, of course, but I’ll keep doing it as long as it lasts.It’s not as if Bob Mould has spent much time coasting: The veteran punk rocker has released new music at a steady clip since his influential Minneapolis trio Hüsker Dü debuted with the “Land Speed Record” EP in 1982. Yet despite amassing an enviable catalog in a career stretching more than three and a half decades, Mould seemed to spring out of nowhere in 2012 with “Silver Age,” an album blending the full-throttle ferocity of Hüsker Dü with the barbed melodicism of Sugar, Mould’s early-’90s power pop band. After an equally riotous follow-up on 2014’s “Beauty & Ruin,” Mould is back with “Patch the Sky.” Again featuring Jon Wurster on drums and Jason Narducy on bass, the new album is of a piece with the two before it, cementing what feels like a comeback for a musician who has never really been gone. Mould has taken detours, to be sure. “Workbook,” his 1989 solo debut following Hüsker Dü’s split, owes as much to folk as punk, and he explored electronic music thoroughly enough to co-host a regular dance party called Blowoff when he lived in Washington, D.C., in the 2000s — to say nothing of his stint writing story lines for World Championship Wrestling in the ’90s, or penning the theme song for “The Daily Show.” The ongoing rediscovery of Mould started in 2011, the year before “Silver Age.” He contributed that year to Foo Fighters’ album “Wasting Light” and performed with them occasionally onstage, published the memoir “See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody,” and was feted at a tribute concert in his honor at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, where Dave Grohl, Ryan Adams and members of Spoon, the Hold Steady and No Age performed his songs. “I never saw that show coming, people I’ve influenced singing my words back to me,” Mould says now, still marveling at the idea. The singer and guitarist reflected with Salon on his recent renaissance, and weighed in on politics, his current relationship with electronic music and how living in San Francisco is making him soft. Your recent albums have been described as a “third-act resurgence.” Is that how you see it? Once it was put in those words on my behalf, I guess I would tend to agree. I just sort of go from one to the next and I don’t notice where the parentheticals fit as I’m actually doing it. But I think that’s fair. It’s the third album with the same lineup and the same engineer and a similar tone and style in a general sense. I think there are big differences between the records, but yeah, I guess it feels like part three of a third act. How does “Patch the Sky” fit together with “Silver Age” and “Beauty & Ruin?” If we go back to the events that got me to “Silver Age,” that being the writing of the book, work with the Foo Fighters, the book coming out, more work with Foo Fighters and the Disney Hall show, “Silver Age” was written with energy and love, and it had a brighter tone to it. “Beauty & Ruin,” same lineup after a lot of touring, after losing my dad, just changes that were going on. I thought it was a little darker record, but I thought it showcased how the three of us made music together. With this record, more loss. A little more isolated in the writing. Totally isolated in the writing, actually, so it’s a little more introspective. You said at the time that “Silver Age” was sort of a bookend to Sugar’s 1992 album “Copper Blue.” Is there a similar corollary for “Patch the Sky”? “Black Sheets of Rain.” [Laughs] If there’s anything that it could resemble, I think it’s that record [Mould’s soul-baring second solo LP, released in 1990]. If any decade informed this record musically, it would probably be mid- to late-’70s and not punk rock. Were you listening to particular bands from that era? No, no, it just came out. Started popping out. It was like, what the hell, what is this, “Toys in the Attic”? [Laughs] What was isolated about the writing process for “Patch the Sky”? With “Silver Age,” I had some songs kicking around, but just all that compact energy. I wrote most of that record in a month, month and a half, right before we recorded it, and I felt like it was more of a spontaneous statement. “Beauty & Ruin” was a lot of ideas gathered on the run, and we went in to make that record right after we got back from South America. This record, I had a solid six months of writing, so in terms of process, it was probably closest to “Workbook.” Having six months of alone time is not necessarily the healthiest thing, but you get good work out of it. What makes the new album so introspective? I just had a lot of loss. I lost my mom, I lost a lot of friends, people got sick. It’s just the stuff that happens as you get older. It’s never fun. People leave, you mourn the loss and then you have to move on. Sometimes it happens quicker than others, and this time, I just wanted to sit and process it for a while. Punk rock has always been a very personal means of expression for you, though you spoke out against the proposed same-sex marriage ban in North Carolina a few years ago. How much of a political component is there in your work? Big politics, what can you do? You can speak your mind, and then you move on. To me, it’s more about going to my neighborhood association meetings to try to keep people from building giant, oversized ugly houses in my little neighborhood. Or trying to speak to the police in my neighborhood about crime. Big-stage politics, I’m not so good at that. But same-sex marriage, that was something that needed a light shined on it. That’s a human rights issue, and one that I take personally, whether or not I want to get married. How much attention have you been paying attention to the presidential primaries? Too much. What a circus. Is it something your work will reflect? I’m sure it’s affecting my mind-set, so I’m sure somehow it’s going to get in there. I think the most important thing I could do, or anyone could do, is you have to vote. It’s that simple. Why is voting not mandatory in this country? What do you make of it all? I think it’s good to shine a very bright light on the crazy. I think some of these ideas that people are stealing have been couched and disguised and sometimes hidden away for sometimes decades, and now that we’re in the last gasp of that political party, it’s all on display. Now the hope is that people will see what they’ve been doing and see how the system is failing all of us. Hopefully we’ll get some good change out of this. Are you supporting a particular candidate? I haven’t picked yet, but I know who I’m not voting for. As far as local politics go, you live in San Francisco, where tech workers have become a sometimes unwelcome presence. How much do you feel the effects of that? I don’t get inside that beehive directly. A lot of acquaintances work in that business. I don’t know. Cities change. San Francisco is such a beautiful place. It’s a city with a rich history in music and culture and arts and lifestyle, and I don’t know how many people who have showed up in the last three years are aware of it, or care about it. It’s a tough deal. People can’t afford to live there, it’s really hard. You’ve moved around a lot. How much are you influenced by the places you live? New York, I was always on my feet, always walking, always thinking on my feet. That was a big part of it to me, the way the ideas were constructed. I think Minneapolis and Austin were direct opposites. In Minnesota, you stayed in all winter, and in Austin you stayed in all summer. The weather has a lot to do with it. D.C., it was crazy being there during the George W. Bush years. The pulse of the city was just war, war, war, just people with pacemakers running wars. It was like, what the fuck? San Francisco, I’d been going there since ’81. I love the soft weather. It’s making me soft. The one thing that I feel in my six and a half years, my memories are weird because there are no weird seasons to speak of, other than fog. It has a little bit of that affect, where those potential markers due to weather don’t really exist. How does that come out in your work? I don’t know if I can specifically pin it down. I’m aware of what it does to me as a person. Because I don’t work in tech, San Francisco to me is pretty chill. It feels very, very different than the East Coast. For this record, I pretty much sat in my room and worked. Sometimes I wasn’t even aware of when the fog came or went. [Laughs.] Now that you’re in this third-act resurgence, what’s your relationship these days with electronic music? I put it pretty much on hold. I’ll put on a compilation from a label that I like and listen to what people are doing with progressive house or French house, but as an active hours-a-day-looking-for-new-music guy, I’m done with it for now. It got kind of overblown. I just felt like that genre had gotten filled with the same drops and the same zooooom, and that was it. I just needed a break. I’ll probably go back to DJing at some point, but the 11 years of Blowoff was a full-on immersion. In the gay community at that time, the music wasn’t really top-notch, and it felt like we were bringing something different, and I know we were good at it. What do you think about your own influence? I think it’s there. I don’t know how big or small it is. I can’t tell. I feel like I’m really important to a small group of people, and that’s great. If they get the stories and can relate to them, that’s really what this is about. On a global level, I don’t know. I really have no idea. I’m close to it, so I’m not really sure. I’m grateful that people like the early work, the middle work, the recent work. I think it all fits together in a cool way, there’s a consistency to all of it. I think after 37 years of it, I know what I’m good at, I know what people want to hear from me. So back 37 years ago, what did you think you’d be doing today? Hoping I would do this, but in what form, I didn’t know. I was a hope-I-die-before-I-get-old kind of guy. Punk rock was crazy. We were just building stages and asking our friends to come play with us. And I was bored, and I needed to do it or perish. There was no idea that we’d be carrying on about it at this point, but I’m very grateful that we are, of course. It’s pretty great. I love my work, I love doing what we do. It gets harder as I get older, of course, but I’ll keep doing it as long as it lasts.It’s not as if Bob Mould has spent much time coasting: The veteran punk rocker has released new music at a steady clip since his influential Minneapolis trio Hüsker Dü debuted with the “Land Speed Record” EP in 1982. Yet despite amassing an enviable catalog in a career stretching more than three and a half decades, Mould seemed to spring out of nowhere in 2012 with “Silver Age,” an album blending the full-throttle ferocity of Hüsker Dü with the barbed melodicism of Sugar, Mould’s early-’90s power pop band. After an equally riotous follow-up on 2014’s “Beauty & Ruin,” Mould is back with “Patch the Sky.” Again featuring Jon Wurster on drums and Jason Narducy on bass, the new album is of a piece with the two before it, cementing what feels like a comeback for a musician who has never really been gone. Mould has taken detours, to be sure. “Workbook,” his 1989 solo debut following Hüsker Dü’s split, owes as much to folk as punk, and he explored electronic music thoroughly enough to co-host a regular dance party called Blowoff when he lived in Washington, D.C., in the 2000s — to say nothing of his stint writing story lines for World Championship Wrestling in the ’90s, or penning the theme song for “The Daily Show.” The ongoing rediscovery of Mould started in 2011, the year before “Silver Age.” He contributed that year to Foo Fighters’ album “Wasting Light” and performed with them occasionally onstage, published the memoir “See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody,” and was feted at a tribute concert in his honor at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, where Dave Grohl, Ryan Adams and members of Spoon, the Hold Steady and No Age performed his songs. “I never saw that show coming, people I’ve influenced singing my words back to me,” Mould says now, still marveling at the idea. The singer and guitarist reflected with Salon on his recent renaissance, and weighed in on politics, his current relationship with electronic music and how living in San Francisco is making him soft. Your recent albums have been described as a “third-act resurgence.” Is that how you see it? Once it was put in those words on my behalf, I guess I would tend to agree. I just sort of go from one to the next and I don’t notice where the parentheticals fit as I’m actually doing it. But I think that’s fair. It’s the third album with the same lineup and the same engineer and a similar tone and style in a general sense. I think there are big differences between the records, but yeah, I guess it feels like part three of a third act. How does “Patch the Sky” fit together with “Silver Age” and “Beauty & Ruin?” If we go back to the events that got me to “Silver Age,” that being the writing of the book, work with the Foo Fighters, the book coming out, more work with Foo Fighters and the Disney Hall show, “Silver Age” was written with energy and love, and it had a brighter tone to it. “Beauty & Ruin,” same lineup after a lot of touring, after losing my dad, just changes that were going on. I thought it was a little darker record, but I thought it showcased how the three of us made music together. With this record, more loss. A little more isolated in the writing. Totally isolated in the writing, actually, so it’s a little more introspective. You said at the time that “Silver Age” was sort of a bookend to Sugar’s 1992 album “Copper Blue.” Is there a similar corollary for “Patch the Sky”? “Black Sheets of Rain.” [Laughs] If there’s anything that it could resemble, I think it’s that record [Mould’s soul-baring second solo LP, released in 1990]. If any decade informed this record musically, it would probably be mid- to late-’70s and not punk rock. Were you listening to particular bands from that era? No, no, it just came out. Started popping out. It was like, what the hell, what is this, “Toys in the Attic”? [Laughs] What was isolated about the writing process for “Patch the Sky”? With “Silver Age,” I had some songs kicking around, but just all that compact energy. I wrote most of that record in a month, month and a half, right before we recorded it, and I felt like it was more of a spontaneous statement. “Beauty & Ruin” was a lot of ideas gathered on the run, and we went in to make that record right after we got back from South America. This record, I had a solid six months of writing, so in terms of process, it was probably closest to “Workbook.” Having six months of alone time is not necessarily the healthiest thing, but you get good work out of it. What makes the new album so introspective? I just had a lot of loss. I lost my mom, I lost a lot of friends, people got sick. It’s just the stuff that happens as you get older. It’s never fun. People leave, you mourn the loss and then you have to move on. Sometimes it happens quicker than others, and this time, I just wanted to sit and process it for a while. Punk rock has always been a very personal means of expression for you, though you spoke out against the proposed same-sex marriage ban in North Carolina a few years ago. How much of a political component is there in your work? Big politics, what can you do? You can speak your mind, and then you move on. To me, it’s more about going to my neighborhood association meetings to try to keep people from building giant, oversized ugly houses in my little neighborhood. Or trying to speak to the police in my neighborhood about crime. Big-stage politics, I’m not so good at that. But same-sex marriage, that was something that needed a light shined on it. That’s a human rights issue, and one that I take personally, whether or not I want to get married. How much attention have you been paying attention to the presidential primaries? Too much. What a circus. Is it something your work will reflect? I’m sure it’s affecting my mind-set, so I’m sure somehow it’s going to get in there. I think the most important thing I could do, or anyone could do, is you have to vote. It’s that simple. Why is voting not mandatory in this country? What do you make of it all? I think it’s good to shine a very bright light on the crazy. I think some of these ideas that people are stealing have been couched and disguised and sometimes hidden away for sometimes decades, and now that we’re in the last gasp of that political party, it’s all on display. Now the hope is that people will see what they’ve been doing and see how the system is failing all of us. Hopefully we’ll get some good change out of this. Are you supporting a particular candidate? I haven’t picked yet, but I know who I’m not voting for. As far as local politics go, you live in San Francisco, where tech workers have become a sometimes unwelcome presence. How much do you feel the effects of that? I don’t get inside that beehive directly. A lot of acquaintances work in that business. I don’t know. Cities change. San Francisco is such a beautiful place. It’s a city with a rich history in music and culture and arts and lifestyle, and I don’t know how many people who have showed up in the last three years are aware of it, or care about it. It’s a tough deal. People can’t afford to live there, it’s really hard. You’ve moved around a lot. How much are you influenced by the places you live? New York, I was always on my feet, always walking, always thinking on my feet. That was a big part of it to me, the way the ideas were constructed. I think Minneapolis and Austin were direct opposites. In Minnesota, you stayed in all winter, and in Austin you stayed in all summer. The weather has a lot to do with it. D.C., it was crazy being there during the George W. Bush years. The pulse of the city was just war, war, war, just people with pacemakers running wars. It was like, what the fuck? San Francisco, I’d been going there since ’81. I love the soft weather. It’s making me soft. The one thing that I feel in my six and a half years, my memories are weird because there are no weird seasons to speak of, other than fog. It has a little bit of that affect, where those potential markers due to weather don’t really exist. How does that come out in your work? I don’t know if I can specifically pin it down. I’m aware of what it does to me as a person. Because I don’t work in tech, San Francisco to me is pretty chill. It feels very, very different than the East Coast. For this record, I pretty much sat in my room and worked. Sometimes I wasn’t even aware of when the fog came or went. [Laughs.] Now that you’re in this third-act resurgence, what’s your relationship these days with electronic music? I put it pretty much on hold. I’ll put on a compilation from a label that I like and listen to what people are doing with progressive house or French house, but as an active hours-a-day-looking-for-new-music guy, I’m done with it for now. It got kind of overblown. I just felt like that genre had gotten filled with the same drops and the same zooooom, and that was it. I just needed a break. I’ll probably go back to DJing at some point, but the 11 years of Blowoff was a full-on immersion. In the gay community at that time, the music wasn’t really top-notch, and it felt like we were bringing something different, and I know we were good at it. What do you think about your own influence? I think it’s there. I don’t know how big or small it is. I can’t tell. I feel like I’m really important to a small group of people, and that’s great. If they get the stories and can relate to them, that’s really what this is about. On a global level, I don’t know. I really have no idea. I’m close to it, so I’m not really sure. I’m grateful that people like the early work, the middle work, the recent work. I think it all fits together in a cool way, there’s a consistency to all of it. I think after 37 years of it, I know what I’m good at, I know what people want to hear from me. So back 37 years ago, what did you think you’d be doing today? Hoping I would do this, but in what form, I didn’t know. I was a hope-I-die-before-I-get-old kind of guy. Punk rock was crazy. We were just building stages and asking our friends to come play with us. And I was bored, and I needed to do it or perish. There was no idea that we’d be carrying on about it at this point, but I’m very grateful that we are, of course. It’s pretty great. I love my work, I love doing what we do. It gets harder as I get older, of course, but I’ll keep doing it as long as it lasts.

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“The Catch” falls flat: Shonda Rhimes’ new show has all the right ingredients, but no sizzle

Tonight at 10, TV mogul Shonda Rhimes aims to clinch her legacy with a new drama debuting in the spot recently vacated by “How to Get Away With Murder.” Though Rhimes’ empire is still a juggernaut, neither “Scandal” nor “How to Get Away With Murder” has the ratings strength they boasted even just last year. Shondaland could really use a new, buzzy, exciting hit. “The Catch,” its latest attempt, is not it. It is unmistakably a Shondaland production, though Rhimes is not the showrunner. (Instead, “The Catch” is helmed by Shondaland veteran Allan Heinberg, who has worked on the questionable later seasons of several shows you probably loved at some point—“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Sex and the City,” “The O.C.,” even “Party of Five.”) Following the Shondaland blueprint, the cast of workaholics all talk fast and only hang out with each other, cracking performative, character-establishing little jokes about sizzling topics like casual sex and drinking in zippy banter that isn’t quite Sorkinese but is definitely inspired by him. Plot twists are telegraphed through dramatic writing on some kind of surface, whether that’s “Grey’s Anatomy’s” surgical schedule whiteboard or “How to Get Away With Murder’s” scratchy law school chalkboard. Love, and marriage, are nothing more than liabilities. And the female protagonist quivers with barely repressed emotion, which either comes out through Shakespearean monologues and trembling (Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope), voice-cracking raspiness (Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey), seduction that quickly shifts to power plays (Viola Davis as Annelise Keating) or some combination of the above (Mireille Enos, as the lead of “The Catch,” Alice Graham). And yet. Either viewers are tiring of the Shondaland model or “The Catch” is just not a very good iteration of it; I’m inclined to think the latter, given the continued dominance of her reliable medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” “Scandal” did better than it ever should have, and is an aging if still lovely beauty; “How to Get Away With Murder” was stunted by a poorly designed premise; and “The Catch,” frankly, should be better than it is, given what it’s working with. A satisfying nighttime soap opera doesn’t have to make a ton of sense in order to be fun, provided it’s anchored by strong storytelling or strong leads. Look no further than “How to Get Away With Murder,” a show whose premise made for a very anticlimactic and confusing Season 2, but it has the advantage of showcasing one of the best performances on television in the lead role, courtesy of Davis, who won a historic Emmy for best actress in a drama for her first season. Professor Annalise Keating, Esq., could hang wallpaper for 40 minutes a week instead of solving cases or hiding bodies and I guarantee that it would still be compelling. “The Catch,” unfortunately, reads as an attempt to combine many of the elements of the previous shows into something new and fun without infusing enough originality into it. Partly that’s because the show had a rocky creative start: It was massively retooled following creative differences late last year that rewrote the premise, recast the male lead, and let go the creator, Jennifer Schuur, along with her co-showrunner, Josh Reims. The result, at least in tonight’s pilot, is a kind of watered-down Shondaland lite, one that goes for something fun and interesting without being able to really deliver it. Enos plays private investigator Alice Graham, who discovers her fiancé is playing her for a long con right after she writes him a $1.4 million check. The details of the con are a bit tortured, but basically, he lied and she’s mad about it, but—of course—he really does love her, and she probably really does love him, she’s just (understandably) really angry and maybe trying to destroy him in the meantime. It’s very “Mr. And Mrs. Smith”—except without having learned from that film that the most interesting part of a premise where the couple is trying to kill each other is just that, the premise. They can’t not-kill each other for very long before it starts to get tiresome, and/or implausible. It is, legitimately, rather delightful to watch Rhimes’ signature ambivalence around romantic partnership rear its head again here. Following “Grey’s Anatomy,” all of Shondaland’s shows have depicted characters past the rosy flush of youth and innocence, trading on bitterness and ambition and fine, crinkly eye wrinkles instead of hormones and alcohol. Nothing with an aim to please could have quite the cynicism of Gillian Flynn and David Fincher’s “Gone Girl,” but the echoes of it are there. Most of Shondaland’s heroines have a terrible, life-creating back story; in “The Catch,” the pilot depicts that back story, when a woman who never thought she’d fall in love gets her heart broken. That kind of narrative requires some serious chemistry between two actors. And while Enos is giving it her all—batting those implausibly glamorous eyelashes and smiling bewitchingly—she’s basically working with a brick wall. Mireille Enos comes to “The Catch” via “The Killing,” so she has her own dramatic clout, but her scene partner as her fiancé and enemy is none other than Peter Krause, of “Six Feet Under,” “Sports Night” and “Parenthood” fame—three very different shows in which he was excellent. For some reason, in “The Catch,” he is a human Ken doll. Enos’ Alice is trying to carry the weight of two people in consuming passion for each other; Krause is phoning it in so hard he might as well have a telephone receiver strapped to his head. Enos’ Alice, as a result, comes off far too gullible for a character who should be a hardened investigator; the pilot makes it hard to root for her, when—as a brassier version of a jilted bride—she should be the most sympathetic woman on television. Without the smolder between Krause and Enos, “The Catch” just falls apart, and right now, it is entirely skippable. And that’s worrying news for Shondaland. Even with its own branded night of programming on ABC (Thank God It’s Thursday) and a history of audience engagement, viewers might not stick around for “The Catch.” And at this point, even if its fans know Shondaland can do better, they might be tired of waiting around for the studio’s next great show.Tonight at 10, TV mogul Shonda Rhimes aims to clinch her legacy with a new drama debuting in the spot recently vacated by “How to Get Away With Murder.” Though Rhimes’ empire is still a juggernaut, neither “Scandal” nor “How to Get Away With Murder” has the ratings strength they boasted even just last year. Shondaland could really use a new, buzzy, exciting hit. “The Catch,” its latest attempt, is not it. It is unmistakably a Shondaland production, though Rhimes is not the showrunner. (Instead, “The Catch” is helmed by Shondaland veteran Allan Heinberg, who has worked on the questionable later seasons of several shows you probably loved at some point—“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Sex and the City,” “The O.C.,” even “Party of Five.”) Following the Shondaland blueprint, the cast of workaholics all talk fast and only hang out with each other, cracking performative, character-establishing little jokes about sizzling topics like casual sex and drinking in zippy banter that isn’t quite Sorkinese but is definitely inspired by him. Plot twists are telegraphed through dramatic writing on some kind of surface, whether that’s “Grey’s Anatomy’s” surgical schedule whiteboard or “How to Get Away With Murder’s” scratchy law school chalkboard. Love, and marriage, are nothing more than liabilities. And the female protagonist quivers with barely repressed emotion, which either comes out through Shakespearean monologues and trembling (Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope), voice-cracking raspiness (Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey), seduction that quickly shifts to power plays (Viola Davis as Annelise Keating) or some combination of the above (Mireille Enos, as the lead of “The Catch,” Alice Graham). And yet. Either viewers are tiring of the Shondaland model or “The Catch” is just not a very good iteration of it; I’m inclined to think the latter, given the continued dominance of her reliable medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” “Scandal” did better than it ever should have, and is an aging if still lovely beauty; “How to Get Away With Murder” was stunted by a poorly designed premise; and “The Catch,” frankly, should be better than it is, given what it’s working with. A satisfying nighttime soap opera doesn’t have to make a ton of sense in order to be fun, provided it’s anchored by strong storytelling or strong leads. Look no further than “How to Get Away With Murder,” a show whose premise made for a very anticlimactic and confusing Season 2, but it has the advantage of showcasing one of the best performances on television in the lead role, courtesy of Davis, who won a historic Emmy for best actress in a drama for her first season. Professor Annalise Keating, Esq., could hang wallpaper for 40 minutes a week instead of solving cases or hiding bodies and I guarantee that it would still be compelling. “The Catch,” unfortunately, reads as an attempt to combine many of the elements of the previous shows into something new and fun without infusing enough originality into it. Partly that’s because the show had a rocky creative start: It was massively retooled following creative differences late last year that rewrote the premise, recast the male lead, and let go the creator, Jennifer Schuur, along with her co-showrunner, Josh Reims. The result, at least in tonight’s pilot, is a kind of watered-down Shondaland lite, one that goes for something fun and interesting without being able to really deliver it. Enos plays private investigator Alice Graham, who discovers her fiancé is playing her for a long con right after she writes him a $1.4 million check. The details of the con are a bit tortured, but basically, he lied and she’s mad about it, but—of course—he really does love her, and she probably really does love him, she’s just (understandably) really angry and maybe trying to destroy him in the meantime. It’s very “Mr. And Mrs. Smith”—except without having learned from that film that the most interesting part of a premise where the couple is trying to kill each other is just that, the premise. They can’t not-kill each other for very long before it starts to get tiresome, and/or implausible. It is, legitimately, rather delightful to watch Rhimes’ signature ambivalence around romantic partnership rear its head again here. Following “Grey’s Anatomy,” all of Shondaland’s shows have depicted characters past the rosy flush of youth and innocence, trading on bitterness and ambition and fine, crinkly eye wrinkles instead of hormones and alcohol. Nothing with an aim to please could have quite the cynicism of Gillian Flynn and David Fincher’s “Gone Girl,” but the echoes of it are there. Most of Shondaland’s heroines have a terrible, life-creating back story; in “The Catch,” the pilot depicts that back story, when a woman who never thought she’d fall in love gets her heart broken. That kind of narrative requires some serious chemistry between two actors. And while Enos is giving it her all—batting those implausibly glamorous eyelashes and smiling bewitchingly—she’s basically working with a brick wall. Mireille Enos comes to “The Catch” via “The Killing,” so she has her own dramatic clout, but her scene partner as her fiancé and enemy is none other than Peter Krause, of “Six Feet Under,” “Sports Night” and “Parenthood” fame—three very different shows in which he was excellent. For some reason, in “The Catch,” he is a human Ken doll. Enos’ Alice is trying to carry the weight of two people in consuming passion for each other; Krause is phoning it in so hard he might as well have a telephone receiver strapped to his head. Enos’ Alice, as a result, comes off far too gullible for a character who should be a hardened investigator; the pilot makes it hard to root for her, when—as a brassier version of a jilted bride—she should be the most sympathetic woman on television. Without the smolder between Krause and Enos, “The Catch” just falls apart, and right now, it is entirely skippable. And that’s worrying news for Shondaland. Even with its own branded night of programming on ABC (Thank God It’s Thursday) and a history of audience engagement, viewers might not stick around for “The Catch.” And at this point, even if its fans know Shondaland can do better, they might be tired of waiting around for the studio’s next great show.

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Not every culture eroticizes breasts. Why does ours — especially large ones?

AlterNetIn 1995, cultural anthropologist Katherine Dettwyler wrote a book called “Breastfeeding: Bicultural Perspectives.” Her research took her to Mali, West Africa, where she attempted to explain the western eroticization of breasts. Those she fell into conversation with regarded the behavior as “unnatural,” even “perverted.” They seemed to have a hard time believing that “men would become sexually aroused by women’s breasts, or that women would find such activities pleasurable.” Years earlier, anthropologist Clellan Ford and ethnologist Frank Beach conducted a study of 191 cultures. The pair found that breasts were considered sexually important in only 13 of those cultures, and of those, just nine preferred large breasts. If you’re reading this from Anywhere, America, you might join me in assuming the U.S. was one of them. If we weren’t already wired to find breasts sexually appealing, we’ve done a pretty good job of convincing ourselves they are. And while bigger is by no means better, certain trends seem to suggest that a good portion of Americans seem to think size matters a great deal. According to a report released by the American Association of Plastic Surgeons, 279,143 breast augmentations were performed in 2015. For those who are keeping track, that’s a 31% increase from the number performed back in 2000. Yes, the American obsession with abundance has officially gone breastal. When it comes to heterosexual dating circles, boobs tend to come up. Now that online dating platforms allow us to tailor our preferences, people are getting pretty specific about what they want. Maybe that’s why a string of sites like Big Breast Dating, Dating Big Boob Girls, Big Boob Date Link and Big Tit Love have popped up. (Note: almost all of these sites have a clause in the Terms of Use stating they do not guarantee and cannot verify the accuracy of the information provided by any user.) But we know that when it comes to sex, breasts aren’t really necessary. As sex therapist Susan Block writes, “Breasts are far more essential to nurturing than to sexual intercourse.” Still, they almost always make their way into the conversation. British researchers Viren Swami and Martin Tovee believe it has something to do with “resource insecurity,” or the inability to access the tools needed to survive. In their experiments, wealthy men, as well as those who had just eaten, rated smaller breasts as more attractive. So ladies with large breasts might be in luck, so long as poor and hungry is their thing. Then again, maybe there’s more to this. In 2013, researchers from the University of Westminster published an article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. They had interviewed 361 white heterosexual men, raging in age from 18 to 68. After being shown different 3-D models of women with varying breast size, they were ask to record which image they found most sexually attractive. Afterward, the participants were given a survey to measure their level of hostility toward women, how likely they were to objectify women, attitudes about relationships between men and women and benevolent sexism. The authors concluded, “It is arguable that benevolently sexist men perceived larger female breasts as attractive because larger breast size on a woman is associated with perceived femininity.” Of course, that does not mean all men attracted to large breasts are sexist. But it may help explain some of the sexually aggressive and gender-directed behaviors often hurled toward women with big breasts. Block told us in an email, “In general, men (and women…but especially men) tend to believe that if someone’s body (or even just one of their body parts) arouses them, then that person is also aroused. Call it the power of wishful thinking or self-involved, delusionary insensitivity coupled with a woeful lack of sex education, but it’s a common phenomenon.” She added, “Sometimes [men] feel that big breasts and hard nipples are actual evidence of the woman’s arousal, in much the same way that a big hard cock can be considered evidence of a man’s arousal. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way.” Sex and relationship expert Ava Cadell explained to AlterNet, “Many men presume that women with large breasts are more sexual than women with small breasts,” adding, “Obviously this is a myth. Sex drive has nothing to do with breast size.” So no, big-breasted women are not necessarily more sexual than their smaller-breasted counterparts, they just seem a little easier to sexualize. Block also noted, “There are other, somewhat more reasonable reasons that so many men are attracted to large breasts and perceive large-breasted women to be more sexual, such as the primal visual cue that large breasts indicate female sexual maturity.” In regards to the big-breasted aficionados who manage to snag an invite into the bedroom, they tend to throw out a few breast-centered requests once there. Some may be familiar with what academics call coitus a mammilla, or tit fucking. And then there are the other breast-centered kinks out there: smothering, suckling, the list goes on. Apparently, when you find a pair of big breasts, it’s important to take full advantage of them. Though, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many women find the idea of helping fulfill someone else’s fantasy pretty thrilling. According to Cadell, women who find breast stimulation erotic might want to explore what she calls “nipple orgasms.” She tells us, “Nipple stimulation activates the same area of the brain as the clitoris, so that intense pleasure can be enjoyed tremendously.” Interestingly enough, researchers at the University of Vienna found that large breasts were actually around 24 percent less sensitive than small breasts. Alan Matarasso, a New York City-based plastic surgeon, explained to Men’s Health, “This is probably because the nerve that transmits sensation from the nipple is stretched.” For the big-breasted woman who has grown tired of the attention, breathe easy. By most accounts, sexual attention is falling further south on a woman’s body. Maybe by this time next year, you’ll be able to dodge that old and unwelcomed barroom question, “Are those real?”

 Carrie Weisman is an AlterNet staff writer who focuses on sex, relationships and culture. Got tips, ideas or a first-person story? Email her

AlterNetIn 1995, cultural anthropologist Katherine Dettwyler wrote a book called “Breastfeeding: Bicultural Perspectives.” Her research took her to Mali, West Africa, where she attempted to explain the western eroticization of breasts. Those she fell into conversation with regarded the behavior as “unnatural,” even “perverted.” They seemed to have a hard time believing that “men would become sexually aroused by women’s breasts, or that women would find such activities pleasurable.” Years earlier, anthropologist Clellan Ford and ethnologist Frank Beach conducted a study of 191 cultures. The pair found that breasts were considered sexually important in only 13 of those cultures, and of those, just nine preferred large breasts. If you’re reading this from Anywhere, America, you might join me in assuming the U.S. was one of them. If we weren’t already wired to find breasts sexually appealing, we’ve done a pretty good job of convincing ourselves they are. And while bigger is by no means better, certain trends seem to suggest that a good portion of Americans seem to think size matters a great deal. According to a report released by the American Association of Plastic Surgeons, 279,143 breast augmentations were performed in 2015. For those who are keeping track, that’s a 31% increase from the number performed back in 2000. Yes, the American obsession with abundance has officially gone breastal. When it comes to heterosexual dating circles, boobs tend to come up. Now that online dating platforms allow us to tailor our preferences, people are getting pretty specific about what they want. Maybe that’s why a string of sites like Big Breast Dating, Dating Big Boob Girls, Big Boob Date Link and Big Tit Love have popped up. (Note: almost all of these sites have a clause in the Terms of Use stating they do not guarantee and cannot verify the accuracy of the information provided by any user.) But we know that when it comes to sex, breasts aren’t really necessary. As sex therapist Susan Block writes, “Breasts are far more essential to nurturing than to sexual intercourse.” Still, they almost always make their way into the conversation. British researchers Viren Swami and Martin Tovee believe it has something to do with “resource insecurity,” or the inability to access the tools needed to survive. In their experiments, wealthy men, as well as those who had just eaten, rated smaller breasts as more attractive. So ladies with large breasts might be in luck, so long as poor and hungry is their thing. Then again, maybe there’s more to this. In 2013, researchers from the University of Westminster published an article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. They had interviewed 361 white heterosexual men, raging in age from 18 to 68. After being shown different 3-D models of women with varying breast size, they were ask to record which image they found most sexually attractive. Afterward, the participants were given a survey to measure their level of hostility toward women, how likely they were to objectify women, attitudes about relationships between men and women and benevolent sexism. The authors concluded, “It is arguable that benevolently sexist men perceived larger female breasts as attractive because larger breast size on a woman is associated with perceived femininity.” Of course, that does not mean all men attracted to large breasts are sexist. But it may help explain some of the sexually aggressive and gender-directed behaviors often hurled toward women with big breasts. Block told us in an email, “In general, men (and women…but especially men) tend to believe that if someone’s body (or even just one of their body parts) arouses them, then that person is also aroused. Call it the power of wishful thinking or self-involved, delusionary insensitivity coupled with a woeful lack of sex education, but it’s a common phenomenon.” She added, “Sometimes [men] feel that big breasts and hard nipples are actual evidence of the woman’s arousal, in much the same way that a big hard cock can be considered evidence of a man’s arousal. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way.” Sex and relationship expert Ava Cadell explained to AlterNet, “Many men presume that women with large breasts are more sexual than women with small breasts,” adding, “Obviously this is a myth. Sex drive has nothing to do with breast size.” So no, big-breasted women are not necessarily more sexual than their smaller-breasted counterparts, they just seem a little easier to sexualize. Block also noted, “There are other, somewhat more reasonable reasons that so many men are attracted to large breasts and perceive large-breasted women to be more sexual, such as the primal visual cue that large breasts indicate female sexual maturity.” In regards to the big-breasted aficionados who manage to snag an invite into the bedroom, they tend to throw out a few breast-centered requests once there. Some may be familiar with what academics call coitus a mammilla, or tit fucking. And then there are the other breast-centered kinks out there: smothering, suckling, the list goes on. Apparently, when you find a pair of big breasts, it’s important to take full advantage of them. Though, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many women find the idea of helping fulfill someone else’s fantasy pretty thrilling. According to Cadell, women who find breast stimulation erotic might want to explore what she calls “nipple orgasms.” She tells us, “Nipple stimulation activates the same area of the brain as the clitoris, so that intense pleasure can be enjoyed tremendously.” Interestingly enough, researchers at the University of Vienna found that large breasts were actually around 24 percent less sensitive than small breasts. Alan Matarasso, a New York City-based plastic surgeon, explained to Men’s Health, “This is probably because the nerve that transmits sensation from the nipple is stretched.” For the big-breasted woman who has grown tired of the attention, breathe easy. By most accounts, sexual attention is falling further south on a woman’s body. Maybe by this time next year, you’ll be able to dodge that old and unwelcomed barroom question, “Are those real?”

 Carrie Weisman is an AlterNet staff writer who focuses on sex, relationships and culture. Got tips, ideas or a first-person story? Email her

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