Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving roundup

Signs that your democracy is under threat and why it's worth stopping. The press needs to be on the job, too. And you can help people being harassed by bigots.

Self-enrichment is something politicians do in a third-world kleptocracy.

Trump voters don't deserve the empathy of those they've screwed over. Why do rural voters get such disproportionate power? And why do the people who fought hardest for the country, get the blame for the result?
The world has never lacked for young, spoiled white people (perhaps mostly men), who grumble ungratefully at their parents (perhaps mostly moms), who’ve done the work of putting food on a Thanksgiving table, and instead return to their onanistic gaming aeries with loaves of bread (no roses) and an absolute assuredness that they know better than everyone else and that one of the great injustices of the world is the ban on them saying whatever vulgar thing they’d like to.
I couldn't spend Thanksgiving with the only Trump supporter I know.

Shrinking the federal workforce is more complicated than it may seem.

MRAs are dumb.

You, too, can (and should) pardon a turkey.

Sometimes, the obvious needs to be stated. First, Robin Givhan on dress:
Our choice of attire is a measure of our respect for those around us and our own personal dignity.
Also, exercise is good for you.
The pooled results persuasively showed that exercise, especially if it is moderately strenuous, such as brisk walking or jogging, and supervised, so that people complete the entire program, has a “large and significant effect” against depression, the authors wrote. People’s mental health tended to demonstrably improve if they were physically active.
There's no aloe in drug store "aloe."

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Saturday roundup

Ethan Coen's post-election thank-yous.

Harry Belafonte on how much we had (have) to lose.

Mercantilist "feminism" isn't really.

This love didn't manifest itself on Election Day but it's still there.

DC Metro is a mess.

Please don't be problematic, Trader Joe's.

It's okay to talk about your life

I see a thinkpiece/twitter-war pattern. I've seen it for ages, at least since Barbara Ehrenreich wrote “Nickeled and Dimed” nearly two decades ago to a bizarre backlash from the argument that, unlike the writer, some people don’t need to artificially experience poverty; they live it. But Ms. Ehrenreich acknowledges as much in her book, which was not an attempt at authentic slum tourism; it was a scientific study in whether a person could actually make ends meet on minimum wage (spoiler: one couldn't). Her book added value to a socially significant national conversation.

The same backlash emerges whenever anyone who is not actually poor writes about struggling financially. Take Neal Gabler’s very reasonable essay about being middle-class broke. He reiterates at many points that he owns the life choices that have left him broke, and that he’s among the lucky ones: he is not poor, he has a roof over his head, etc. And yet, there's a slew of responses along the lines of "why does this man think he's poor." Is there really something wrong with exploring the disconnect between what’s supposed to be a middle-class lifestyle and one's own middle-class reality? Leaving aside the very broad definition of middle-class... I continue to see “some people have it worse” as a bad reason to not write about the middle class.

Regular readers of my blog, if any, know that I write about travel, including affording travel. You’ll recall my recent musings about a dude I went on a date with, who asked me if I was “frugal.” I didn’t understand the question. Like most people, I have finite funds at my disposal. Therefore, I spend them somewhat selectively. For example, I mostly make my own food (and tea and coffee), and I don’t have cable. Those two life choices help fund my travels. Now if you love going to restaurants and getting Starbucks, I wouldn’t tell you not to. And if you don’t want to travel, I’m not here to change you. I *don’t care* what anyone else does. I’m merely making a very simple choice-consequence connection: I don’t spend money on certain things that don’t mean a lot to me so I have more money to spend on the things that do mean a lot to me. I am also well aware that I have choices about how to spend money and that many people don’t. But I’m writing about the choices and experiences available to someone like me.

Hence my bewilderment when I came across a tweetstorm over an article about a 23-year old who blogs about travel. The headline was slightly inflammatory—she travels the world to prove that anyone can do it—the article less so, and the woman herself, not at all. She’s a cancer survivor who came to appreciate that life can be short, and chooses to do the things she loves in the present. She never says or even implies that everyone should travel—there’s no judgment in the interview—but notes that people put things off, think they can’t do it. So she wants people to know that there's no time like the present, and that they have more agency than they may know to make things happen.

"But not everyone can travel and she’s judging them! There’s an implied “what’s your excuse?”" Really, where? I don’t even see it implied. Yes, of course there’s implicit privilege, but there is in everything. There’s implicit privilege in “here’s a picture of my brunch.” There’s implicit privilege in how to afford college. Does that mean everyone should stop writing about it? 

Here’s what this article isn’t, as I noted in one of my sets of tweets: It isn't Gwyneth Paltrow (“here’s how you can ape my uber-expensive lifestyle, which is better than yours and I totally think I earned it but really I was born into great wealth and connections that propelled me in spite of my mediocre talent”). It’s not the douche who dips his balls in gold and so should you.

It’s “I’m not Gwyneth Paltrow, but I still make time and save money for travel, and here’s how you can if you want.”

Her tips are not revolutionary and her MO is unappealing (unless you know you’re dying, and maybe even if you do, why spend three days to fly to Asia and back for a three-day trip?). But I have a hard time finding her blog offensive.

At happy hour the other ngiht, we found ourselves talking about Australia and Australians. And how they’re everywhere. I noted—based on what Australians themselves have told me—that there’s a national perspective of, “we live on an island, we should get out and explore.” And yet, here, we have—from the left, no less—a national perspective of “travel is douchey and talking about travel is even douchier.” 

I get it: not everyone wants to travel, and many who want to, genuinely can’t afford to. But is it one’s imperative to not write because it makes people realize what they’re not doing with their lives? I don’t respond to things in the former category—things I don’t want, like a gala wedding or luxury car—with resentment about how people are judging me for not having those things. I don’t respond to things in the latter category—things I want but can’t have, at least not now—with rage at the people who are enjoying those things in their lives. There is maybe exactly one category of article or tweet that provokes the same reaction in me that this travel piece did in some people: articles that imply that everyone should wear makeup and it’s easier than you think. There is a real social pressure for women to wear makeup and I resent having to justify my decision not to wear it. So I get that sense of “where do you get off?” I also think we can just let people enjoy things that they enjoy that we may not, and if it’s something we do want, let’s try to channel our energy toward aspiration rather than jealousy.                                         

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sunday roundup

Silver lining of this nasty. misogynistic election: men are starting to understand women's reality and how to change things:
Men have begun asking themselves what they can do to intervene in cases of sexual harassment or denigration – how not to stand by silently. Mothers and fathers have been asking how to raise sons who do not act like this.
Some men, anyway.

Mr. Fortenberry told Mr. Pence that his young daughter had come to him and said, “Daddy, Donald Trump hates women,” according to one of the lawmakers, who both insisted on anonymity to recount a private conversation.

“It’s just not true,” Mr. Pence shot back, arguing that Mr. Trump was improving with women, the two House Republicans said.
Hillary has a long history of being demonized, and no one's saying she's perfect, and yes she's hawkish, but she's pretty good. 
Wikileaks is a force for censorship, not transparency.
Gary Kasporov on what a rigged election looks like. Is there hope for Russia?

If dairy weren't a climate and cruelty nightmare, I'd support Chobani for its support of refugees.

Mental illness isn't a joke or a spectacle.
Parenting isn't off-limits to criticism.

I am disinclined to trust Quartz on anything science-related (they just bungled the basics of an article on nuclear) but this is a fairly interesting piece on the science of dressing up.

The history of a fake but successful British accent in America.