Us and Our Spoiler Alerts

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Us_(2019)_theatrical_posterSeriously, if you ever plan to watch the movie, Us, give this post a skip, because I’m about to drop the mother of all spoilers.

No really!

Go away!

If you ever plan to watch the movie, go away!

I’m doing this for your own good, go away!

…er, I mean; Get Out!

Okay, so this movie packs a whole lotta creepy into one punch. That’s no surprise of course. Anybody who’d seen Get Out should have known what was coming. Us, seemed oddly more subtle to me. Oh it wasn’t hard to see the social commentary encoded in the plot, but the specific details of the message didn’t map quite so easily onto those of the plot, at least not for me.

…until the very end.

I watched this film quite shortly after it came out, and the final moments are still under my skin. I suppose I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. That final reveal does change everything.It’s all kind of disturbing.

…and it leaves me with this one question; which is more disturbing?

The thought that a young girl could be stolen from her life with all its wonderful possibilities and thrown into a living Hell?

or

The thought that somebody might have come to enjoy a rich and full life by throwing another little girl into that very Hell?

Because we do the latter every day.

We all do.

A Joke from a Bygone Era

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My father served in three wars. He didn’t see action until Korea and Vietnam, but like so many young men from his generation, on graduating from high school, Dad signed up for service in World War II. He  spent the balance of that war as as an airplane mechanic working on Corsairs.

Dad had plenty of war stories to share at the dinner table. He had more stories from boot camp, then anything else, which is saying something, because his actual war stories were pretty amazing. Of course, Dad spared us the worst of it. Being the youngest, I was probably spared more detail than my siblings (though I did know what every one of the weapons in my green soldier pack could do by the age of five).

Sometimes, Dad would just tell jokes. Jokes he and his buddies had swapped over the years. I remember one of them. It seems so corny now, but I used to laugh and laugh. It was definitely my favorite. I’m sure, a lot will be lost in translation here, but I’ll try to convey it as best I can.

***

A young recruit shows up to boot camp late. He goes to get his gun and the man in charge tells him, he’s too late. They are all out. Not knowing what else to do, the man breaks off the end of a broom stick and says; “See here kid, whenever they tell you to shoot, you just point this stick at the target and yell “Bangity-bang-bang!”

Kid says ‘okay’, but what about a bayonet?

Guy takes one straw from the end and ties it to the end of the stick and says; “Okay, so whenever they tell you to stab something, you just point the stick like so and yell “stabbity-stab-stab!”

So the kid goes all the way through boot camp that way. He thinks he might have the idea, but he’s really hoping he’ll get the real thing soon.

Only he doesn’t. The kid’s unit gets rushed out for the invasion, and he gets all the way to Normandy and he’s still got his broom-stick in place of a gun. The kid tries to tell somebody, but they just push him into the landing craft. He actually storms the beach with a broomstick in his hand.

And then he sees a German (Dad, might have used a different word), and he doesn’t know what to do. the German is shooting at him. So, in desperation, the kid points the stick and says; “bangity-bang-bang!”

And the German dies.

Kid can’t believe it! But he’s surrounded by Germans, so he tries it again; “bangity-bang-bang!”

The next one goes right down.

So, the kid just keeps doing it; “bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang!”

…and the German soldiers go down every time.

He storms a German machine gun nest and kills a bunch of them saying “bangity-bang-bang!” Then one charges at him. He doesn’t know what else to do so he points the end of the broom-stick at him and yells; “stabbity-stab-stab!” The guy falls right down.

So the kid just keeps going, all through D-Day; “bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang!”

And the Germans just keep right on falling down.

Except this one big guy.

That one German just keeps coming.

The kid points his stick and shouts; “bangity-bang-bang!”

The German keeps coming.

The kid points the stick at him up close and yells; “stabbity-stab-stab!”

And the German just walks right over him.

And as he does, the kid hears “tankity-tank-tank!”

 

Spurious Responses

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totallyreallincolnnailsitBeen thinking a bit lately about THIS old post?

It’s still an interest of mine.

So, I sometimes make a point to call out the spurious quotes thriving all over the net these days. It’s not the most noble of personal callings, I know, but I noticed a long time ago that the information correcting some of this stuff isn’t often found in the same electronic neighborhood as the political pornography in which these bullshit quotes normally reside. So, I reckon it ain’t the least useful thing a guy could do with a spare 15 minutes or so to introduce the author of an un-sourced quote to a well reasoned debunkitation.

I’m often fascinated by the responses I get.

***

I was quite interested when Pinterest suspended my account for a few weeks, …I think over this. I could be wrong, but I do think this pastime is what did it.

The thing is, you can find the same spurious quotes in countless memes all over Pinterest. It’s just so damned easy to spread information when all it takes is the click of one ‘save’ button. The net is full of ccrap, I know, but the political hashtags at Pinterest are a particularly bullshit rich environment.

I can say it in a few different ways, but what needs to be said in response to these fake quotes is usually pretty simple, and I can’t help thinking a good link to Mount Vernon or Monticello.org ought to find itself somewhere in the response. The link alone really ought to suffice. The trouble is that these misquote-laden memes are distributed through a variety of different accounts on Pinterest. If I’m posting a lot of links to the same page correcting them, then of course I am the spammer.

Oops!

Don’t get me wrong, the principle in question makes a kind of sense, as does its application. You don’t want someone posting the same link over and over again on a social media platform, but it does create an ironic outcome. In this instance, at least, it seems that’s a lot easier to spread disinformation than it is to counter it.

Oh well!

***

Before moving onto the more personal responses I’ve gotten over the years, I must admit that my own tone here varies. If I think the person passing along a fake quote has done so accidentally, I try to just call attention to the problem. Hell, I reckon I’ve probably made this mistake myself once or twice. It ain’t no hanging matter; I just want to correct a (hopefully honest) mistake. If, on the other hand, the fake quote is accompanied by narratives about how teachers, media, and liberals are too damned deceitful to share the ‘truth’ of the quote, I must admit, my own response is likely to come with a little sarcasm on the top. There are of course other signs of bad faith that I typically meet with a more combative tone.

Sometimes I’m nicer about this than others.

Also, sometimes, I just ask people for a source to see what they come up with.

Anyway…

***

Oh yeah, my first post on this topic, the one about Abe Lincoln, has a couple rich responses of its own. Still kinda chuckle about those.

***

By far and away,, the most interesting response I get is the occasional effort to document the quote by linking me to the ‘spurious quotes’ pages at Monticello or Mount Vernon. Seriously, this has happened a few times.

“Did you read it?” I ask.

At least once, someone realized their mistake at that point and owned up to it. She gets props for doing the right thing.

Once I was assured by someone that clearly hadn’t read the material that he totally had read every word of it. He also assured me that he understood what ‘spurious’ means. Yep! Definitely! We went a few rounds on that, before he dropped out of the conversation. A ‘block’ button may have been pushed. I dunno…

Others simply stopped responding immediately.

Someone else told me I was being rude.

…which was of course true.

***

Several people have tried to tell me that the quote in question may have been undocumented, but that it accurately reflected what the person to whom it was attributed really did believe. I got this at least once with a popular bastardization of George Washington’s first address to Congress.

…right after I had explained in detail exactly how the quote misrepresented him.

It seems that to some people making this argument these quotes are a kind of Kantian thing-in-itself (a truth truth-in-itself?). The truth as they envision it rests over and above the facts, even the facts of its own expression. If you can’t find one clear expression of that truth in the messy real-world of the historical record, that doesn’t matter, because we know the truth and the source to whom it has been attributed must have known it. So they might as well have said it.

It’s all true anyway, so what’s the problem?

This is one of the more disturbing responses I get, because it reveals an air tight echo chamber in the thinking of the person in question. They love America’s founding fathers and they love their guns and such, and two things they love must love each other, and so when the real-world George Washington doesn’t live up to their masturbatory fantasies, well then, they can just speak up and say what he woulda said anyway.

The rationale also works for any number of subjects certain people feel America’s founding fathers must certainly have loved every but as much as they do.

…even if those founders didn’t actually say so.

Not much to be done about folks who reason like that.

***

Another common response is to ask how I know the quote isn’t real.

…and that’s one of those moments when I remember why burdens of proof matter.

***

A related tactic is to assure me that the quote is real and tell me to do my own research. Faced with credible sources that claim the quotes can’t be found in any known archives, those using this tactic assure me that the quote is real and that we skeptics really ought to work harder.

…which brings to mind words like ‘gaslighting’, ‘trolling’, ‘asshole’, and a  quick end to the conversation.

***

Sometimes people complain that my efforts to check them reveal a character flaw on my own part. Don’t I have anything better to do?

No such questions seem to have been asked about the time it takes the individuals in question to pass along a spurious quote. But of course, we all have much more important things to do when the one we are presently engaged in turns out to be a little frustrating. It’s human nature.

***

Probably the most common response I get to declare the source of the quote irrelevant. It’s the idea that matters, I am told, and surely that idea is true. So, it doesn’t matter if Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin or any other made up source didn’t really say what they were supposed to have said. That’s not the point. The point is it’s true.

I must say that it’s an interesting coincidence that so many timeless truths that could come from any source really, seem so often to be attributed to sources of great political value. It’s also an interesting coincidence that so many of them seem quite useful to specific political agendas today, agendas which often sail under the banner of faithfulness to American principles and respect for the wishes of America’s founding fathers. It’s really quite convenient that so many questionable quotes would seem to provide the politics of the people in question with the authority of a voice from the founding fathers. The sources really don’t matter, so it seems, not after the source has been debunked.

Perhaps I could be excused for thinking the source mattered, at least a little, before that source came into question.

What I always find most interesting about this tactic is how seamless the transition is from presenting an undocumented quote to declaring the named source irrelevant to its content. People employing this tactic rarely take so much as a moment to acknowledge their error. Often they avoid conceding the point altogether as they shift from a historical claim about who said what to a kind of Platonic reasoning in which the idea itself is all that really matters.

And thus a person wholly unconcerned with the falsehood of a factual claim suddenly becomes the priest of a timeless truth.

***

Oh yeah, some people don’t respond at all. Some just keep right on producing the bullshit quotes too. This is particularly true of some websites like BrainyQuote. It’s also true of some dedicated ideological warriors. They just keep right on posting the fake quotes long after a reasonable person might have at least quietly deleted the material from a blog or a social media account.

***

There is one response that gets me every time, and that’s the one where somebody simply acknowledges the mistake. Often this is followed by a ‘thank you’. Maybe they take down the quote. Maybe they just let their acknowledgement of the correction stand for itself in the discussion. Either way, it’s a class move.

These days, such responses surprise me a little more than they ought to.

…and that’s kinda sad.

***

I suppose it doesn’t really surprise me that people would respond defensively to such things. People don’t usually like to be corrected. I know I don’t. And of course, any of us could get things like this wrong. That’s not terrible. It’s human. Still, some of these rationalizations do seem to give you a peak behind the curtain, so to speak, into the mind of someone for whom due diligence is simply unthinkable. They must be right one way or another, so they seem to think.

…even if they are wrong!

 

R.I.P. Fido

027.JPGThis is Fido (front) and Junkmail (back). They are of course brother and sister and they’ve been together their whole lives. Some cats don’t really seem to care about their siblings, but these two really do.

When they were younger, Fido used to get out of the house a lot. If I left the door open for just a moment, or even a window, Fido would be out in no time. That cat would tear the screens off my windows if he had to. I even got cat proof screens so we could enjoy a breeze without an escape attempt, but Fido just tore the screens out of the frames, at least until I nailed them all in place. Then he found a way out through a hole behind the washing machine, and another in a closet. Fido was always good at getting out of the house.

Really good,

What did Fido do when he got out? Well, sometimes he liked to climb a tree right beside the house, or another one right in front of the house. He’d get up as far as he could and then start crying. Usually he’d come down after awhile. Once or twice I had to come get him. Other times he’d sneak about the neighborhood as I walked around looking for him. Many times, I turned around to see him shooting across the street behind me. I could practically hear him laughing as he did so.

Asshole!

Sometimes Fido would let me catch him. Other times, he’d let me keep trying until I gave up. After an hour or so, I’d find him outside the door waiting for me to let him back in.

The thing is, it was usually Junkie who told me when Fido was out of the house. She did so by mugging me beyond all tolerance, demanding attention, and getting in my face until I ran out of affection and then ran out of patience. More than once, I mumbled at Junkmail; “what the Hell is wrong with you cat!?!”

Then “…oh!”

Junkie always loved Fido.

Today, Fido got out one last time, so to speak. Junkie is mugging me of course, but her brother won’t be coming back, and I think we both know it. Fido has had a rough time lately, and I reckon he has at last found some peace. He was with me for 17 years, I think, and his time in my life was a great treasure. I’m not sure if I was the best mother a cat could have, but Fido was sure as hell the best of cats an adoptive mother could ask for (along with Junkmail and Auto-Kitty of course).

Fido hasn’t been gone long, but I already miss him terribly, as does Junkie.

So long Fido!

I love you.

Mothers Can be Mortifying

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DadinuniformwithMomYep, Mothers can be damned embarrassing.

That’s what I was thinking one day, sitting in the back seat as my father drove us about town. I think I was 13 or 14. A couple of teenage girls had cut us off. Apparently, they couldn’t forgive us for being the butt-end of their own butt-hole moment. So, naturally we got a middle finger.

It was shortly after that that I wished I had been raised by someone on the other side of the world.

See, Mom decided to respond in kind. I don’t know if she just didn’t know how it was done or if she just couldn’t bring herself to do it right. Either way, mother proceeded to flip her index finger right at these two.

Dad smirked.

I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Better yet, I wanted to have never been born in the first place. Oh my God! How on earth can I be expected to endure this?

I could only hope these girls didn’t recognize me. Did we know each other? That would be worse still. I ruled out crawling under the seat as a bit too conspicuous, and anyway, I was still mad at the girls for nearly causing an accident. My anger didn’t outweigh my embarrassment, but the two feelings together were doing battle for control of my soul, leaving me temporarily paralyzed. I could only stare in horror at the scene unfolding in front of me.

…as my mother decided to raise her other index finger at them too.

I think I actually did try to die at that moment. I tried to will myself into oblivion, not that it worked. I just went right on living (dammit anyhow!) and so I had to watch my mother flipping two non-birds at these two teenage girls.

Dad just laughed.

I thought about jumping out of the car.

And that’s when things got really weird!

Somewhere in here Mom became aware of the fact that she was doing something silly. So did she stop? Of course not. Instead she decided to add her feet to the performance. She stuck both of them right up on the dashboard and pushed her fists up over them, each with her index finger still raised at the two impudent little girls. I really didn’t think she was that limber, but she managed!

Dad was beside himself with glee.

Mom began laughing too.

…and somewhere in that moment, I gave up on trying to will myself to die and decided instead to laugh along with them. We kept laughing long after the girls turned off on another road and traveled out of our lives forever. We laughed all the way to my sister’s home, and for some time after explaining it to her.

…and so many times ever since.

So, yeah, Moms can be mortifying.

And sometimes that can be pretty cool.

Candace Owens in Context

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…been awhile!

imagesSo what has me thinking with my keyboard again after such a long absence from the blog? It’s the latest dust-up over Candace Owens’ comments on Hitler. Owens was recently called to testify as a witness for congressional hearings on the topic of hate crimes by white nationalists. Expressing contempt over the decision to bring her in for such testimony, Ted Lieu opted to play ‘the first 30 seconds’ of comments she once made on the subject of Adolf Hitler. He then moved on to ask another witness about the significance of those comments, leaving Owens without a chance to respond and the rest of us without much sense for the context in which her comments had originally been made. Given the chance to respond shortly thereafter, Owens charged asserted that Lieu had assumed African Americans wouldn’t look into the matter further, suggesting she had been taken out of context.

…and the fight was quickly farmed out to various social media platforms.

Such is modern politics!

First let me say that this was not one of Lieu’s finer moments. It’s hard to get past the sense that he left out critical information about the context of Owen’s remarks or the sense of unfairness that goes with attacking someone in their own presence without giving them a chance to respond. I can think of all sorts of reasons why he might have chosen to do this, and yes, I want to support his efforts here, but this falls short of certain minimum standards that ought to guide someone’s conduct. Lieu can do better than this. He normally does.

That said, I can certainly empathize with Lieu’s unflattering take on Owens’ credibility. She is not an expert in politics, crime, or anything else coming up in that hearing. It’s tough to say just how we came to the point where Candace Owens counts as having something important to say at a congressional hearing on racially motivated hate crimes.

Answering that question was actually the first thing Owens herself addressed at the hearings. Why was she there? She told us. Her answer just wasn’t all that helpful. What Owens said was that she has herself been the target of racially motivated hate crimes. She said this in order to establish a personal connection to the issue, then went on to talk about anything but that very issue. The rest of Owens’ opening remarks were spent reminding us that words like ‘racism’ meant something in the context of segregation in the old Democratic South while the real threats to African-Americans today come from Democratic policies purportedly aimed at helping them. In short, Owens was there to minimize the significance of racially motivated hate crimes against minorities and shift the discussion to something that might embarrass the Democrats.

You can see all of this for yourself in the video from C-SPAN presented below. Owens’ opening statement begins at around 47:40 and ends at 53:42. Lieu’s remarks begin at around 2:33:14 and end at 2:38:27. Owens reply occurs between 2:38:50 and 2: 40:38.

https://www.c-span.org/video/?459662-1/house-judiciary-committee-holds-hearing-hate-crimes

Much of the subsequent discussion has focused on the question of whether or not Lieu misrepresented Owens in suggesting that she had tried to legitimize Hitler. For her own part, Owens told the committee that she had done no such thing, that she had in fact been trying to suggest that Hitler wasn’t really a nationalist. “A nationalist,” Owens, tells us, “would not kill their own people.”

So what did Owens actually say at the event in question? Her comments can be found here from around 38:45 to around 40:55.

 

 

So, did Lieu misrepresent Owens?

Only if we allow the context to swallow the text entirely, and even then, only if we don’t think very hard about that context itself.

What do I mean?

We can start by looking at aspects of the message that appear to support the claim that Owens was defending Hitler. Here it is!

But if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. The problem is that he wanted, he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalize.

Owens’ and her own defenders have reassured us that these remarks were made in an effort to distinguish Hitler’s actions from those of a proper nationalist. On one level, this is fair enough. That clearly is Owens’ main point, and her remarks are in fact consistent with that point.W should not lose sight of the larger goal of Owens’ remarks even as we ask ourselves why she chose to pursue them using the particular set of claims she did on that day.

The problem is that point isn’t inconsistent with a defense of Hitler, half-assed though it may have been. The odd description of Hitler as someone who might have “just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well” does suggest a sympathetic understanding of Hitler’s motives at least insofar as they applied to Germany.  Adding to that, the sense that Hitler’s actions only become a problem when he goes global and you have a point that does more than distinguish Hitler’s politics from those of an idealized nationalism; you end up with a point that suggests his internal policies were in themselves just fine, that his politics becomes a problem at precisely the when when those politics cross the border. While we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Owens is indeed trying to distinguish Hitler from nationalism as she would have it understood, her actual argument leaves plenty of reason to believe that she is in fact sympathetic to aspects of Hitler’s agenda.

Simply put, Owens’ speaks approvingly of Hitler’s domestic agenda, condemning him only when his ambitions cross the border. In subsequent remarks, she may have acknowledged his murderous actions, but in the immediate context of her remarks at the time, Owens shows no awareness of anything worth condemning in Hitler’s domestic policies? Does she think his crimes began on the other side of the border? Does Owens think Hitler did nothing wrong inside of Germany?

In effect, Owens was praising Hitler with faint damn.

All of this brings us to a much larger point; why was Owens trying to distinguish nationalism from the actions of Adolf Hitler in the first place? The simple answer is because that is something key parties in right wing politicsy want to do at this point in history. Owens is not the only person pushing the idea that nationalism isn’t always a terrible thing. Charlie Kirk’s own comments in that clip push that very theme. It’s a talking point that someone in right wing circles has clearly seen fit to push onto the public stage and the folks at the event in question were hitting their marks quite nicely on this talking point.

…Owens included.

The goal in this agenda is of course to distinguish nationalist politics from the horrors of the Nazi regime and leave us with a reassuring notion that nationalists just want secure borders and lower crime rates in the nations wherein they live, etc. They aren’t, we are supposed to believe, the kind of folks to exterminate 11 million people. No, that was just the Nazis, and they were actually globalists not real nationalists. Real nationalists, true nationalists, would never do that!

The problem of course is that this is utter bullshit, and the reason it’s bullshit is exactly the reason for the hearing Owens had come to troll. Nationalist movements always bring with them a degree of violence, xenophobia, and terrorism, and that means people get hurt at the border. It means they get hurt on the other side of the border. It means they get hurt well inside the border.

…and, yes, nationalists do kill their own people. Hell, they do it all the time!

Also, oh yes, nationalists always seem to have global ambitions as well. You can see this, not only in Hitler’s own plans, but also in Trump’s many ties to Russia, to Saudia Arabia, and to countless other international entities. Hell, you can even see it in Owens and Kirk going to England to help promote nationalist politics across the pond. If what makes a nationalist is a politics that stops at the borders, then Hitler may not be a true nationalist, ok, but then neither is Owens, neither is Kirk, and neither is the Manchurian Cheeto.

Few movements have ever gone global quite like the wave of nationalism presently sweeping the (ahem!) globe and drawing shameless opportunists like Owens into the picture. Her efforts to distinguish the politics of Nazi Germany from the kind of nationalism she herself promotes is little other than a parlor trick. She is telling us to ignore the genocidal maniac behind the curtain even as we look right at him. For that matter, she is also asking us to ignore the countless nationalists who dragged Europe into World War I, because frankly Nazis aren’t the only nationalists to leave a body count behind them. There is a reason ‘nationalism’ has been a dirty word in politics for some time, and that reason isn’t something Owens has even begun to address with her half-assed efforts to address the issue. She may not want us to think there is any connection between nationalism and crime, but her efforts to distract us from that connection are the very problem with her remarks on this subject.

In short, Owens’ own agenda is in fact a lot closer to that of Hitler than she wants us to believe. That’s why her critique of the man falls well short of anything a thoughtful person would produce, even on the spur of the moment.

Should we pay attention to the context of Owen’s comments?

Oh Hell yes!

It is that very context that condemns her.

Donald Trump Speaking Power to Truth

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You know what might have worked? For me anyway. If a report had been made in the wake of a comprehensive immigration review, or just a comprehensive review of border security. If that report had included the unlikely recommendation that a wall be stretched across the entire border, or (more likely) if such a review had recommended renovations to existing stretches of wall, or even adding more wall in selected locations. Hell, I could imagine a wall helping to prevent accidental deaths among other things. I know there are people who advocate completely open borders, but I’m not one of them, and I don’t think the vast majority of modern liberals take such a view either. If such a report had come out, and Donald Trump had said he wanted to implement the changes recommended in that report, that might have worked. A lot depends on the details, but I could see myself supporting such measures.

But that is not what happened.

What happened was the semi-conscious anal fistula that currently occupies the White House came down that damned escalator and gave a shout out to all the white supremacists in the nation. He made a point to tell them he was on their side. It’s a point he has come back to time and time again. Whenever that flaming wank-maggot needs to feel a little better about himself, he stirs the racist pot by coming back to immigration and hitting that subject with a bigger dumber hammer.

Donald Trump didn’t advocate immigration reform. He hasn’t restricted his attacks on immigrants to those who come here illegally, and he certainly hasn’t made any effort to ensure that his policies will actually help, even to curtail illegal immigration, which was on the decline before he took office to begin with. He hasn’t even made responsible use of the resources already at his disposal  His brinksmanship on the issue has included the demonization of all immigrants (including legal immigrants and genuine refugees), the demonization of Muslims in general, the orchestrated kidnapping of children, active promotion of immigrant caravans (only to use those very caravans to trigger riots at the border).

There are legitimate concerns about immigration, and about border security. If you think those concerns have anything to do with Donald Trump’s approach to the subject, then I have a degree from Trump University to sell you.

So here we are, waiting for Trump’s big speech at the border. He will do what he always does, which is to speak power to truth and wait for the engines of bigotry to make his malicious fairy tales into an accomplished fact. The deplorables will do what they always do which is to try and read more reasonable themes into his bullshit on the one hand, and then use his claims to press the the boundaries of bigotry on the other. If Trump supporters have their way, the utter bullshit that is every word seeping from the mouth of this festering bloodfart will one day pass for truth.

It isn’t. It never will be.

As sure as the sun rises this coming speech will be lies piled on top of more lies. We’ll be lucky if it doesn’t turn out to be the modern American version of the Reichstag Fire Decree.

A Trip or Two through the Boneyard

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Neon alleyway

Moni and I are back in the icebox now, having just returned from a relatively short bout of southyness over the Christmas break. Didn’t get to see near enough of our loved ones, but it was good to connect with those we could.

We made a stop at one of my favorite haunts in Vegas, the Neon Museum, otherwise known as The Boneyard. This is the afterlife for many of the old marquees used on the strip and throughout town. It’s strange for me, because I used to live in the Vegas area (Boulder City, to be exact). I remember some of these signs when they were alive and in the wild, so to speak. I should say that I sort of remember them. The Strip and much of what most people think of as Vegas was always just as foreign to me as it might be to the tourists coming through town. I don’t think that’s an unusual perspective for locals, but it does give Vegas nostalgia an interesting mix of oddity and familiarity. One of the cultural consequences of tourism, I suppose, a past rendered both intimate and alien. Of course, in this case, the whole thing comes surrounded with the faint glow of neon lights.

Moni and I took a daytime tour of the museum a couple years ago, and we’ve been planning to go back ever since. This time, we made it! Thanks to Mark Thiel of Powel’s Camera Shop for helping us to figure out a few things about our new(ish) cameras. Moni and I made the Neon Museum our testing ground, so to speak. Looking at the photos now, I can see that I have a lot of practice to do, but anyway, the place is cool enough to overcome my clumsy camera skills in at least a couple pics.

The guided tours are an interesting mix of commentary on the signs themselves and stories about old Vegas. One minute you are learning about how they bend neon tubes to make the signs, and the next you are hearing about the role of divorce tourism in the mid-century development of the city. The tours are at their best in those moments when the two themes come together in a single narrative. The stars on the old Stardust marquee are a good example of that. As I recall our old daytime tour-guide related a rumor he couldn’t quite vouch for that they might have been meant to reflect the fall of radioactive dust in the days of nuclear testing. Our night guide on this tour was content to connect them to the era of space exploration. Either way, it’s interesting to see larger patterns of history in the very objects in front of you, or at least in the stories told about them.

My favorite story would have to be that of the Moulin Rouge accord. It’s hard to get a good picture of the Moulin Rouge sign, because it’s so big and distributed in with so many other signs, but the casino played an interesting role in Vegas history. So, it features prominently in the tours. As the first of the Vegas casinos to desegregate, it quickly became a Vegas hot spot, a place where the you could see Frank Sinatra hanging out with Sammy Davis Jr. after doing their own shows. So, it was fitting that the Moulin Rouge would pay a role in the civil rights movement. Facing protests in 1960 over segregation throughout the city, hotel owners met with civil rights leaders at the (already closed) Moulin Rouge. The resulting agreement desegregated the Las Vegas strip.

The tour guides have lots of other stories, of course. I wish I could remember them all.

(Anyway, …click to embiggen!)

 

The End of Everything at the Anchorage Museum

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The End of Everything

I thought I’d share this little gem currently on display in the Anchorage Museum. It’s called “The End of Everything” by Thomas Chung. I’m sorry, the photo-quality is really crap. Just thought the content was worth sharing despite that. Anyway, here is what Chung has to say about it:

“The painting explores why we may, at times, dehumanize others. It reflects our current political times, which are brewing with hatred and conflict. The cowboy character riding the bomb represents the male American ideal, while the cherubs represent the many living forms of bigotry from the past and present. The graffiti on the polar bear comes from posters repeatedly disseminated around the University of Alakas Anchorage’s campus this year by white supremacists as part of a larger campaign.”