Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Fourth of July ramble

A few months ago I went to see "Black Panther" with a dear (white) friend who has spent a lot of time in Africa. She found it tedious and inauthentic. I knew even at the time that her assessment was counter to that of many Africans, but shrugged. Last week I watched the movie again--in a much less appealing setting, but more on that later. Among the group gathered were a handful of actual Africans who not only loved it, but told me that in their respective countries it was sold out for weeks at a time and that a lot of people were going looking for holes to poke, gaffes to criticize--and those people were pleasantly surprised at how well done the movie was.

I had a blast Friday night at the screening--mostly at the pre-movie gathering for my friend's birthday. A good, boozy picnic is a wonderful thing. And I enjoyed seeing the movie the second time, but if I hadn't seen it before I would've been lost. And everything I hate about cinemas was there times a thousand: talking, cell phones, and other douchey behaviors. The screen was small, and there were bright streetlights all around it. The movie didn't start until late (mid-June is the worst time for an outdoor screening in the northern hemisphere) and ended late. All this to say, this is why I look forward to watching movies on planes.

I bought something expensive today and felt vaguely guilty about it. Guilty as in irresponsible. Which is bananas because it was a very responsible purchase. But I was so conditioned by my mother to think of any large purchase as indulgent. There's a word in her language, our language for being so indulgent; she last used it on me when she learned I'd be paying $40 for a haircut. I may as well have dipped my proverbial balls in gold. To some extent she was genuine, but to a greater extent it was just another way of finding fault with everything I did. Another thing to nag me about, another topic for the shit fairy, another source of drama for someone who fed on drama. I'm almost disappointed that my mother is in no condition to argue about the new oven and  dishwasher I just ordered. To be clear, I've very disappointed about the condition she's in and not just because it precludes her from receiving the giant fuck-you that comes with these purchases. Not out of spite; out of hard-won independence. I mean, why is guilt even an issue here (answer: because my mother trained me to be guilty). The oven I have now came with the house, which I bought nearly ten years ago, and who knows how long it had been there. It was always missing a rack, and I've made due with a makeshift one. It's filthy AF (and it was in the process of trying to clean it that I broke one of the burners, so now I have three--only one in front). I've been baking in the toaster oven since I got the solar panels, which is ridiculous (I'll run the oven in winter, not in summer). It's time for an electric oven, a clean one. An efficient double-oven. The dishwasher also came with the house (new, but I didn't choose it). I could do with something more efficient and much more quiet.

Replacing appliances after ten years is not unreasonable. It's not dipping your balls in gold. Investing in quality appliances isn't irresponsible. Why am I even questioning the decision? The reason I'm broke is that I've been paying a 15-year mortgage for 8 years. That's also not irresponsible. And I'm not that broke--I've never been less broke. I can afford to live well. I can afford to invest in new mid-range appliances after ten years. I'm also not going to sweat the kitchen remodel I'll be undertaking now that the attached appliances have to be removed anyway. I've never liked my kitchen floor, but I've lived with the cheap-ass, uneven laminate for nearly a decade. My counters are hideous. It's time. I didn't create the situation in which doing what I have to do is a statement to the woman my mother once was, that she doesn't control me. She created that situation and I'm doing what I have to do.

Fourth of July roundup

Throwback: NYT's banal nazi coverage.

See also this thread.

Strategic shunning is an art, not an act of incivility.

On the erosion of public trust.

I could never stomach Junot Diaz's rampant, casual misogyny.

What would your Second Civil War Letter read like?

The latest in when not to call the police: when a black woman is campaigning in your neighborhood.

Conflict avoidance at all costs is a red flag. On a related note, I read a story today that triggered me.

But earlier in the week, I read something inspiring/aspirational.

For more inspiration, please read this whole thread.

For animals about to drop a single, see this thread.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

I don't remember how I got to Ireland (updated)

I don't remember how I got to Ireland.

It was almost 20 years ago, but I have an excellent memory for that kind of thing. I remember how I got back from Ireland, down to the stares from a couple on the Cork-Swansea ferry as I curled up for the night in an open area in the lounge. You're theoretically not supposed to, but people do it. I remember getting off the ferry and on the bus, and giving another passenger a pound or two so they could take the bus (they didn't have any UK currency). I remember the bus ride from Swansea vividly. But I can't figure out how I got to Ireland. I remember that it was Columbus Day Weekend (and probably a bank holiday, since I had a long weekend).

I remember flying from London to Bonn and back a few months later, and months after that taking the ferry to Cherbourg and driving down to central France with a friend. I remember it down to noticing the thatched roofs on the way and having a banana shortly before we got to Clermont and singing along to 'sex bomb.' I remember taking the train back up--I even remember my friend calling the ticket agent 'provincial' (in a friendly way--and I remember changing trains in Paris and enjoying the walk between stations. I remember changing stations in London as well. I remember pretty much every conveyance I've taken, but I couldn't tell you how I got to Ireland.

I remember being unimpressed with Killarney and falling in love with the Dingle Peninsula. I must have flown, but where would I have flown from? I don't remember ever flying out of Cardiff, and I doubt I would've gone to London from Wales to get to Ireland. This isn't the kind of thing I forget, but I've forgotten it.

So I checked my old passport—this was two passports ago—and it was Cork. I must have taken the ferry over as well and taken the train or a bus to Killarney. I’ve no recollection of any of that. I guess the Cork-Swansea ferry shut down in 2012. End of an era.

Family reunification: where to donate

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Thursday ramble

I can't even call this a morning ramble; I may have to finish it in the afternoon. When a certain airline opens its offices, I'll have to call them to figure out why they haven't refunded me after I canceled. I just did the same with another airline before I posted the roundup. Before that, I finished marinating veggies and making a side dish for our work picnic later this morning. I did the bulk of the marinating, and made the dressing, last night. I'd meant to get an earlier start--i.e., Tuesday night--but I ended up working until 7:30 and had other things to do when I got home (including time-sensitive travel reservations to make). So I tried to get home on the earlier side yesterday to shop for the veggies and prepare them.

It was in this context that I got home just before 6pm, took care of a couple of things, and set out on my bike to get the veggies. When I opened the front door (I come in the back from metro), there was a dead bird between by step and walkway.

It reminded me of the time many years ago that I was frantically getting ready for a party. The dude I was dating had invited a bunch of his friends, and he was going to come by the night before to help prepare. I left work on the earlier side but later than I'd have liked and already had more to do than I had minutes in the day, and opened the back gate to a dead possum in the yard. It was winter; the ground was too solid to bury it. I didn't know what to do. I texted the dude to say I'd need his help with something and his response was something akin to a shrug. I mean, he would help, but what I really wanted him to say in that situation--and a similar one about a month before--was, "I'll take care of it and it'll be okay." It's the corollary of the "you should have asked" principle. It wasn't about the action itself; it was about someone else taking the wheel and letting me know that I could let go for a minute. I was never going to get that from that guy.

It was almost liberating then, last night, that there was no one to disappoint me. I quickly dug a hole and buried it, and set off to the store. I got home, got everything done, made some more travel reservations, and crashed later than I would have liked knowing that I'd have to get up and do all the crap I told you about in the previous paragraph. I still need to clean up and get ready for the picnic.

I've had a number of instances over the last few months where years ago, my mind would have instantly gone to that place of "this would be so much more manageable if I had a partner," but this time--these times--my mind didn't even go there. It didn't go there when I had plumbing issues, or other homeowner incidents. I didn't even have to talk myself down from it; it didn’t even cross my mind.

And now, I'm off to take care of more things...

Roundup: long reads

I caught up on long reads over the weekend but got distracted before I could post them. I highly recommend Lili Loofbourow's piece on the male glance, which you ought to pair with Nathan Robinson's very insightful take on Jordan Peterson.

Kori Schake has an interesting historical perspective on immigrants and foreign policy. And if you haven't seen Coates on Kanye, it's a must-read.

OMG this photo
And this video (Seth Meyer's The Story We Need Right Now).

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Quick Sunday roundup

When criticism of Israel is and isn't anti-semitic.

Tolentino on entitled men.

This thread on why JP doesn't get lobster sex.

I'm disappointed in Julia Ioffe.

Givhan on the royal wedding dress: it serves the woman wearing it.

I get that the world isn't perfect and there's racism and classicism in the UK, but take the win. The wins. Watch the racists' heads explode. Watch the royal family, which shies away from opinions, tout HRH's feminist credentials.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Saturday roundup

How the parties swapped positions on civil rights.

Marx's home town is honoring him (but not his ideas or the tragedies that they wrought) with a massive statue.

People who create problems--not those who refuse to accommodate them--are responsible for those problems.

I enjoyed "Isle of Dogs" but also found it objectively problematic. This sums that up well, but this is also an important take.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday roundup

How to survive a chemical attack.

There are some rough but beautiful photos among the winners of the World Press Photo Contest.

This article about the glut of men in China and India is tragic but also fascinating in the stereotypes it quotes about women (or men) from other countries:
Russian women... are the most sought-after brides, prized for their fair skin and European features. They are seen as educated but accessible, less emancipated than Western women. 
Vietnamese women are seen as less “demanding” than some Chinese women and more focused on traditional family values. They are also sought after for their fair skin, their big eyes and slim waists, Grillot says. They in turn often prefer Chinese husbands to their own compatriots, not just for their wallets, but because they are seen as hard-working and family-focused.
Yeah, we know some of our people are awful; don't take your anti-Russian sentiment on Russians just minding their own business.

Captain Shults is better referred to as a pilot, not a lady pilot.

If you're on Facebook, you should be very concerned about how they collect data.

You should absolutely recycle.

On gaslighting and owning your emotions. That column means a lot to me, because both my mother and RM tried to gaslight me into thinking my need for space was invalid, even inhuman. This so invokes RM: could it be sweet to do something repeatedly for someone that you know irritates that person? So, yes, if he continues after you’ve clearly asked him not to, then that crosses the line into gaslighting and/or controlling behavior.
Part of Carolyn's response reminds me more of relationships I've been in: it's about finding ways to "meet the other’s needs while still being true to themselves," which entails that "each of you identifies your emotional needs and owns them, instead of writing them off as ungrateful or rat-b---hy or whatever else" and "Respect for each other, and thereby not dismissing, ignoring or trying to change the other’s emotional needs." 

When Petri's good, she's really good:
“I must let America see what she has become. I call her “she” because I feel she owes me her silence and acquiescence; she is something to be talked about, not to...”
Same with Max Fisher. An amazing thread on really wrong maps.

Look at this sweet couple.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

I call it passive mansplaining

Last night, my father made reference to DC being much warmer than Boston, just as he has periodically over the 15+ years that I've lived here, even though--every time--I let him know that DC really isn't much warmer. I'm sure I've told you about this before, and in any case you can check out the thread, so I'm going to go on to Other Dudes Who Do This. But before that, I can think of many examples where dad does it all the time: I tell him something will go bad if he doesn't put it in the fridge; it goes bad and he is surprised. And now, onto the other dudes.

There was, of course, RM, who just couldn't or wouldn't understand that I wasn't on an "eating plan"--that I planned out my meals for the week so that I could prepare them. As someone who never cooked for himself and also thought I was obsessed with nutrition--such that every food decision I made was nutrition-based--no amount of telling him otherwise would convince him.

While we're on the topic of food and nutrition: there are a number of people who don't buy the 'ethical vegan' thing. They think I'm making the ethical thing up but-really-I'm-just-dieting. They betray this in a number of ways, usually by questioning my food choices ("wouldn't it be healthier to have a salad rather than a veggie burger?" which is a question too inane for me to dignify with an answer). Women do this one a lot, even though I originally conceived this post out of my experiences with dudes pulling most of this shit.

There was the guy (the worst date ever) who didn't hear or believe me when I told him I was not interested in having dinner with him.

There was the guy at a party who, upon learning that my family had immigrated from the Soviet Union in 1980, insisted repeatedly that we must have been very powerful and well-connected to get out at that time. Now, not everyone has to be familiar with Jackson-Vanik but FFS when someone tries to explain it to you, believe them.

Too many others to write about, the most egregious are up there.

Sunday roundup

I am not linking to stories or images of Syrian kids being gassed (but Syrian kids are being gassed).

Don't watch Roseanne.

We can't afford it as a society.

The Onion sadly nails it.

WTF, Michigan?

Women are conditioned to minimize other people's discomfort at the expense of their own safety. Men are conditioned to think they're geniuses. Also, men test the waters before escalating, and women have an uncanny sixth sense for unwanted attention (so don't tell us we're exaggerating or imagining things).

The 'describe yourself as a male author would' entries are priceless. I know the "where are you really from" dudes well.

Every tweet in this thread:

Men who cheat sure do justify it to themselves.

What these husbands couldn’t do was have the difficult discussion with their wives that would force them to tackle the issues at the root of their cheating. They tried to convince me they were being kind by keeping their affairs secret. They seemed to have convinced themselves. But deception and lying are ultimately corrosive, not kind.
In the end, I had to wonder if what these men couldn’t face was something else altogether: hearing why their wives no longer wanted to have sex with them. It’s much easier, after all, to set up an account on Tinder.
Vikings may have used crystals for navigation.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Friday roundup

I didn't know about the Freedom Seder.

Klein on Murray on race.

The Onion nails it.

Roxane Gay on Roseanne Barr. See also,

This, on feminism.
“If our movement is not serious about building power,” Garza explains, “then we are just engaged in a futile exercise of who can be the most radical.”
Dairy means dead animals.

These poor, unfortunately named people.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Tuesday roundup (brought to you by my cold)

On Stephon Clark and Anthony Stephan House, both of whom should be alive today.
RIP Linda Brown (and her father). And Blois Hundley.

This girl is phenomenal.

Read this whole thread about gun control.

A tweet in a thread about satellite marches.

Dude wakes up to anti-Semitism in America, writes a book that assumes everyone else was asleep as well. The book, nonetheless, appears worth reading.

On science.

I have such a problem with fetishizing all things Soviet, and this piece kind-of gets to that. Beauty and fashion can be either chore or release or some combination (see the Sady Doyle piece I linked to a few weeks ago on skincare). I will say this: I've been to some extremely poor places where very poor women take enormous pride in their dress. Clothing is one way to express individuality; individuality and Sovietism are natural enemies. Also, it's flaunting privilege to look like shit and get away with it.

All-male panels are far too common, but Stanford's Hoover Institution truly outdid itself.

Mean Girls aren't really a thing.

The Pacific garbage patch is out of control.

Eat plants, help feed people. And no, you don't need to drink milk.

Mmm, pho.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wednesday Snow Day Roundup

Trayon White's apology is a good one.

Massive Poultry is exploiting Small Business loans. And killing millions of fish.

Stanford had an all-male conference.

The Times is better late than never with obituaries of extraordinary women.

Mixed feelings about the inspiring Barbies (not just the absurd Frida Kahlo one), but in this day and age when Old Navy still only markets NASA shirts to men, I guess I'll take the win.

Sady Doyle's thread on women getting ahead in "problematic" professions.

Here's another:

The first tweet in my thread about when appearance matters on stage (and in movies).
If this isn't every other dude trying to date in DC...

You shouldn't need gimmicks to refrain from taking your relationship for granted.

John Oliver is a national treasure, and I'm so glad his book is doing well.

I love the story about the girl who snapped her retainer over Michael B. Jordan.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Friday roundup

Poland is emboldened in bullshit because it's gotten away with it for too long.

An Afghan refugee plots about giving back.

How do you watch old movies and TV with freshly woke eyes? Or, the Donna Problem.

The Donna Problem is that it would be easy to excuse her interactions with Josh because he’s a lovable goof who doesn’t mean any harm. Their relationship is played as sweet. We’re supposed to root for him.

Except that excusing powerful men because they didn’t mean any harm is exactly how we got in this situation. Realizing that powerful men were getting away with things — getting our new glasses prescription, to use Lippman’s metaphor — is exactly why we have a Donna Problem.

Nothing in the Donna-Josh relationship is overtly bad. But it’s a little bad. We can no longer ignore that a lot of little-bad things together are what normalize a toxic culture.
Use coral-friendly sunscreen.
Screening sunscreen for environmental friendliness requires getting familiar with chemicals including oxybenzone, octinoxate and methyl paraben. Haereticus Environmental Lab publishes a list of chemicals to avoid. Mineral sunblocks including zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that are “non-nano” in size are considered safe. Formulations below 100 nanometers are considered nano and can be ingested by corals.
Watch Surya Bonaly's mind-blowing illegal backflip.

Read this phenomenal thread about The Book Lady, aka inimitable Dolly Parton.

Watch Wayne Brady's awesome interview.

Look at this Turkish classroom cat.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Saturday roundup

What an AR-15 does.

Twitter has many examples of why arming teachers is a terrible idea. Here's a couple of threads.

This article perfectly and comprehensively sums up every angle of the 'perpetual foreigner' issue I talked about last week. Pair with this piece about who gets to be an immigrant. Model-minoritying isn't good, even if it's better than this:

See also: my thread.

I also made a thread about the myth of the endearing man-child.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Monday roundup

Poland isn't fooling anyone with its attempts at revisionist history.

The students who survived the Parkland school massacre are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore. They give me hope for the future of our country.

Aly Raisman takes back her body, leading to mass confusion among idiots.

The latest in the ruthenium mystery. Meanwhile, we have a new uranium mystery.

I'm not going to link to that horrid thinkpiece in the Times about yoga pants being bad for women, even though I agree with what the author was maybe trying to say: there's no need to spend on high-end workout clothes; go to the gym for you. But she ended up conveying the opposite message: yoga pants are unflattering, so don't wear them. So now our workout appearance is up for scrutiny? We are at the gym for other people's consumption? Here's a much better perspective on that whole issue, from a few weeks back when we were having the same debate over skin care. If it makes you feel better, do it; if it's a drag, don't.

Here are a few good pieces on meditation. What these two have in common is the idea that it's about practice, and it's about managing your emotional response (not quashing it). And that it's to fight our naturally-selected penchant for anxiety.

I love Adam Rippon.

Look at this little animal whisperer.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Saturday roundup

Mayanmar's regime is still awful.

What we say (and don't say) about human rights, matters.

Evo Morales brought many out of extreme poverty but shouldn't be president-for-life.

Can technology reduce deforestation?

Why are we horrified at the mistreatment of only some animals?
The law says that when an animal is in serious problems, you should help the animals, but in the factory farming there are about six million pigs dying every year without veterinarian support,” said Hans Baaij, the director of Dier en Recht, a small nongovernmental organization that aims to use the court system to get the government to precisely define what constitutes animal abuse.
On sexual harassment in agriculture.

Before you read the next few excerpts (or linked articles), read this whole thread.
What in the unholy hell is "unwanted conduct of a sexual nature"? This is an abomination. We can start talking about Me Too going too far (see below) when victims aren't the ones made to transfer schools and perpetrators aren't slapped on the wrist.

Laurie Penny on the Me-Too backlash.
Alright, ladies, you’ve had your fun, and you’ve given us all a fright — but that’s enough now. If we relegate this all-out revolt against male sexual entitlement to the kitchen shelf where it belongs, everyone would be a lot more comfortable — at least, the men in the room would be, and we all know that’s what really matters.
And Lili Loofbourow on the price of 'bad sex' and socializing women to be the nice girl.
Women are constantly and specifically trained out of noticing or responding to their bodily discomfort, particularly if they want to be sexually "viable." Have you looked at how women are "supposed" to present themselves as sexually attractive? High heels? Trainers? Spanx? These are things designed to wrench bodies. Men can be appealing in comfy clothes. They walk in shoes that don't shorten their Achilles tendons. They don't need to get the hair ripped off their genitals or take needles to the face to be perceived as "conventionally" attractive. They can — just as women can — opt out of all this, but the baseline expectations are simply different, and it's ludicrous to pretend they aren't.
The old implied social bargain between women and men (which Andrew Sullivan calls "natural") is that one side will endure a great deal of discomfort and pain for the other's pleasure and delight. And we've all agreed to act like that's normal, and just how the world works. 
Pair with Mona Eltahawy's piece on (instead) teaching girls to honor their rage.

And here we transition from phenomenal women slamming men who mansplain sexual assault, to phenomenal women slamming men who mansplain abortion.

See also Jia Tolentino's interview with someone who went through it.

This breaks my heart.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

In which I ramble about my day and other things

But first, some context.

I probably have an over-associative mind. Everything reminds me of something else. Every place reminds me of the last time I was there. Every time of year makes me think about what was going on a year before.

This time last year, I was dating a dude and preparing to transition to a temporary gig. I was on the cusp of knowing the relationship was doomed; there was still room for hope, but also some concerns. Enough that I wasn't willing to leave stuff at his place--which was right near my then-office and not too far from my new one--between offices.

So now I have a week to go before I transition back to my old office. I was too busy at work to think about it--and too busy to gradually move any stuff back--but to be honest I thought it about it the whole time I've been there. Every time I crossed an iconic building, above or underground, I thought about how fleeting it was to *work* there. Every time I was either mistaken for an intern or addressed with disproportionate deference, I thought about how fleeting it was to be in this bananas mixing bowl of power dynamics. 

But it was Friday night as I left work that it hit me that I was down to a week. A very busy week, and not without Even More Drama than usual. But as I walked the tunnels to the metro, it fully hit me that I was down to a week. And even though I'm 90 percent ready to go back, I'm really going to miss everyone. And a lot of things. The sense of opposite-of-nostalgia was overwhelming. It stayed with me throughout the evening, and I woke up with it.

Saturday roundup

When the Times does not suck, it does not suck; and this is a good take on Qatar.

If I may say so, this is, overall, a very good take on the nuclear posture review.

And this is a very good take on how there is no "limited strike" on North Korea. Key excerpt:
Unfortunately, the tactical advantages of American stealth and surprise don’t produce a crystal-clear situational awareness and understanding of American intent for our adversaries. Wartime surprise does what it’s supposed to do: confuses and overwhelms the adversary. That surprise is intended to so discombobulate an opponent that they can’t formulate an effective response until it’s all over. But if you’re trying to prevent further escalation, confusion is exactly what you’re trying to avoid on the other side.
There is severe poverty in the United States.
Conversion "therapy" is evil.

On the amazing Judge Aquilina and how needed she is in a nation that refuses to listen to women.

I'm glad people are getting more involved and even running for office, but given how bad presidents can get, we need politicians to be more, not less, professional.

This man thinks that the main lesson from Hillary's defeat is that women belong in the kitchen, but a better take is that her candidacy was transformative. As the article says, "Look at all the breakthroughs women have made in the last century, and you’ll notice how many of them involved just making their presence in some new place seem matter of fact."

Look at photos from last weekend's second-anniversary women's march. Have no qualms about the lack of endorsement from the very problematic Linda Sarsour.

Enjoy some fine-art level trolling from the Guggenheim.