December 8, 2016
Greetings from the world of Getting Well again. The title is what it is because I’m sick and tired of hearing and reading all the opinions on why Trump won and what we might be able to do to bring Clinton into power. Give it up, people: It happened, life would have been absolutely shitty under her, and it will be absolutely shitty for the next four years, in different ways. What I present here is the only headline we need for a while now. Move on.
This is week two of finally being able to actually walk around without keeling over and, of course, it nearly coincided with the first day of snow in Chicago, along with bitterly cold temperatures. I spent a lot of time this past week doing lots and lots of laundry — that phrase “getting out from under a mountain of work” literally translated into, “Get those piles of laundry done before they fall onto the bed and smother you to death.” After over a month of illness, I had to make my way through lots of clothing, bedding, and blankets, as well as much overdue scrubbing and mopping and thinking about —- a lot. As I’ve said before, if you get whatever is going around this season, do yourself a favour and just sleep — for systemic reasons, I wasn’t able to do that at the beginning which made it worse and hard to recover from.
But we muddled through, kitty and I, and Frida did not reproach me as I seemed to spend too much time in bed or on the couch, my febrile brain soaking in not much more than all of every season so far of The Walking Dead. Spoilers ahead: I don’t have a lot that’s particularly intelligent or new to say, except perhaps to note that the placing of women and men of colour as the caretakers (and, in Tyreese’s case, literally as the nanny for Judith, who really just needs to turn into a zombie, because that would be cool and fun, to have a baby zombie waddling around leaving no one capable of actually killing her) of White Saviours like Andrea, Deanna, and now Maggie really needs to end. Maggie is not being placed in her potential new role as leader of the pack for any reason other than her whiteness.
For sheer badassery and strategic thinking, either Michonne or Sasha (whose experience of and then return from severe psychological trauma made her stronger) could easily take up the reins. Or, hey, here’s a radical thought: Why not an all-female crew of people who are bad-ass together, since the men-folk are either dying all around them or getting beaten up? I’m glad to see Michonne striking out on her own, but I don’t see why Sasha needs to define herself as Maggie’s caretaker. Enough already: Maggie’s in the care of doctors by now, and will be fine. And she is not a natural leader, whether or not she rolls over honking cars with giant tractors (which, I’ll admit, gave me an odd sense of satisfaction for reasons beyond any evident in the plot).
I was glad to see the Negan thread finally emerge because the group and the plot so far needed to be shattered — we were all getting a bit too comfortable with the idea that all of our characters might somehow establish dominion and save the world. That being said, I’m not sure how much more I can take of the sheer stress of wondering what Negan will do next, and I’m tired of coiling into a foetal position every time he enters an episode. I’m reaching a point of hopelessness and I’m not sure the show can continue this way. I don’t follow the comics, but I gather Negan’s character is still going strong there. But it’s one thing to have him persist as a comic book character: Watching it all unfold amongst actual corporeal bodies is quite another.
And who knew Father Gabriel would have the best line so far, in response to Spencer: “What you’re saying doesn’t make you a sinner, but it does make you a tremendous shit.”
But, as Andy Warhol put it, via John Cale and Lou Reed in “Work,”
“I think what would Andy have said
He'd probably say you think too much
That's 'cause there's work that you don't want to do
It's work, the most important thing is work
Work, the most important thing is work.”
So it’s back to work, work, work. I dearly, dearly miss writing for this site, and am eager to get back to my regular routine.
This last week saw the publication of my Baffler piece, “Rights Make Might: The Dystopian Undertow of Hillary Clinton’s Elite Feminism.” It’s about Hillary Clinton, and the rise of gay rights that came alongside a sharp dip (to the point of non-existence) in abortion rights, and more. It was a pleasure to write this, and many thanks to everyone at Baffler, including Chris Lehman who commissioned it; I can’t say enough about how much I love the accompanying image.
In case you missed it, my piece on Arianna Huffington’s war on sleep, “Killing You Softly with Her Dreams: Arianna Huffington’s War on Sleep,” has been making the rounds. I loved writing this, fulfilling a longtime ambition of integrating the Alien films into my work (I’ve done it once before, but briefly, in discussing the Human Rights Campaign, in “HRC, Drones, and Space Aliens”).
I decided to stop reading (and giving my precious money to) the New York Times. I gather that subscriptions have increased ten-fold after the election, which is puzzling, given that the paper was not only completely wrong about who would win (as in, spectacularly wrong) but that it violated every journalistic principle of integrity in serving as a public relations firm for Hillary Clinton. I’ll have more on what my plans are in terms of supporting other news sources. I wish I could tell you that I only follow Democracy Now these days, but I’m really sick and tired of having entire hour-long shows devoted to personalities like Cornel West. My hunt continues, and I will report back.
One of the biggest problems these days is that people confuse news for opinions, and newspapers and news organisations have fewer incentives to do actual reporting. There’s a high cost to pay for that — the largely unexpected win of Trump is actually, I’d argue, a direct result of the fact that too many readers don’t even actually know how to evaluate or, really, even read news, in the most basic way.
Meanwhile, liberal and left punditry continues unfettered, and academics — many of whom have been proven to be pompous blowhards whose predictions of a Clinton landslide were just plain wrong but who now want to remind everyone how wrong they are about various aspects of Trump — are now insisting that they are all that stand between us and Doom. As the neoliberal university shrinks and crumbles (sometimes literally, with budgets for maintenance falling) even in its private forms, academics are desperately flailing around to assert their place and there’s a great deal of ass-kissing going on, as well as some incredibly arrogant and pretentious liberal smug shittery emerging from the likes of Judith Butler and George Yancy. Academics, contrary to what the latter would have us believe, are not “dangerous” in any form; academia long ago began clamping down on various forms of dissent, and “academic freedom” is largely a myth. In the months ahead, I plan to continue writing about the relationship between academia and its “outside,” pointing to the contentious relationships between the two.
Before I go on, though, I want to clarify a few points very quickly. It’s assumed in some quarters (trust me, my Sauron-like presence means I know and see all) that my criticism of academia and academics points to a deep-seated anger and envy on my part. One professor, whose (very liberal-conservative) book I reviewed denounced me as someone who was simply angry that I didn’t have an academic job. Actually, no: Unless it involves some kind of Chair-ship and, preferably, an actual gold-and-jewel-encrusted chair to sit on, I’m not interested in a regular academic job. I willingly and voluntarily left that quest a long time ago, preferring to fling myself into a very dangerous sort of precacity, so dangerous that I can’t even reveal all of its details. I’ve written about some of this here, in “We Were There, We Are Here, Where Are We?: Notes Toward A Study of Queer Theory in the Neoliberal University.”
Academic work is in the DNA of my work; getting my PhD was, I’ll always maintain, the best thing I ever did. It’s for all those reasons that I actually want academia to be better, and because I think academic research in particular has so much to contribute to the world. It takes longer, and can afford (in a sense, under specific conditions) to take winding, circuitous routes that sometimes end up in dead ends, but it often makes for the most interesting avenues of thought, and it’s all the more necessary for that reason. But I also think that academics have no business arguing for their unimpeded ability to engage in, yes, knowledge-production if they’re also going to busily scab their labour and make it that much harder for others to produce their work. I’ve written, often, about the contradictions emerging from academia and academics — I find it especially ironic when “Marxist” professors insist on scabbing their labour while decrying labour and intellectual conditions in their own institutions. More on all that later, but my point is simply that while I don’t think academia will save us, there is a lot to be saved in it — but only if its inhabitants engage more fully with the world with integrity and not the kind of pomposity and hypocrisy that is now in evidence.
This is getting long enough, so let’s move on to some news and clips.
While I dread the production of bad, bad art meant to be “revolutionary” against Trump, this (proposed) project, a series of floating gold pigs that could hide Trump’s name on his Chicago tower, gives me hope. It’s cute and funny, without being overwrought. We’ll see if it ever comes into existence, but I love the idea.
The supposed ramping up of “hate crimes” (as reported on by groups like the Souther Poverty Law Center, which is taking advantage of the current moment to fill its coffers) will lead to a greater pursuit of hate crime legislation. Against Equality’s work has never been more important (our site is being updated).
Remember Trump and Carrier? Its union leader is getting threats for criticising him.
Seattle activists enacted a “Die-in” to protest for safe drug sites.
That strategy is adopted from the days and years of AIDS activism. December 1 was World AIDS Day, and here’s Poster Virus, with some thoughts from artists and activists.
A reminder of Drain magazine’s special issue on AIDS and Memory.
Ryan Conrad wrote this, on Michael Smith’s theatrical production of People Livid with Aids.
This report on how queers protested Trump is a good reminder of activism in the past, but it’s replete with the nostalgia and rewriting of AIDS memory and history that prevails right now. Still, an important reminder.
Here’s Hamilton Nolan on why “Poverty Doesn’t Need Technology. It Needs Politics.”
Judith Levine and Erica Meiners wrote this Baffler piece, “Are Sex Offenders Human?”
Ron Glass, “Book” on one of my favourite shows, Firefly, has died.
South Side Weekly’s piece on the Pullman Museum, and why it is in fact about labour history, is worth reading.
This piece on Freddie Mercury’s years in India has the best baby picture of him.
The next Alien movie will actually feature the monsters, whom I have missed.
A judge has ordered a new trial for Rasmea Odeh.
Few videos can compare to this one of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares to You.”
Here’s a poem on Chicago and the first snow: “Chicago and December,” by W. S. Di Piero.
On a final note: Thank you, a million times, to my growing list of subscribers, donors, and editors who give me the advances I need to survive. Without all that support, I would not have been to get through my many weeks of illness — with it, I was able to order and get food, medications, and more. Many thanks also to the friends who generously went everywhere to get me all of that so I wouldn’t be paying delivery prices on top of it all, and who even returned my library books (several giant bags) so that I wouldn’t keep accruing fines.
See you next week.