Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday roundup

You have to get to the middle of this article about reconciling faith and politics before it gets really f*ed up.

This is a fascinating article about inhabiting the world as a man after having inhabited it as a woman.

Carrie Gracie and the power of solidarity.

Gratitude will temper your envy.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Austria 2018

The first time I was in Vienna I was stateless, although I was too young to know what that meant. There is a plenty diaspora literature that will give you a sense of what it was like to stop in Vienna on the way to Italy on the way out of the Soviet Union, so I'll spare you. I just want you to notice that I dated this travel-notes post in a way that I tend not to label others, because they don't generally need a year. I don't need to distinguish my trips to Singapore (yet).

The first time I was in Vienna I was stateless. The second time, I was a broke student. I stayed in a youth hostel outside downtown and got student-standby tickets for the ballet--literally standby, in that we had to stand. I didn't care for the city, still don't. It's my least favorite of all the Hapsburg cities I've been to. That appraisal didn't change the third time I was in Vienna a few years ago on very official business, nor the fourth time, which was just this past month. But I had changed.

A few days before I left for this fourth trip to Vienna, I shopped for countertops, so for the first time in my life I was hyper-attuned to marble and granite. I worked in a marble building last year and knew it was beautiful and expensive, but didn't give the matter much thought. But when I checked in a week ago tomorrow to my own personal hotel room smack downtown, I noticed what must have been very expensive countertops all over the room. The massive, flat-screen TV greeted me by name when I turned it on. I ironed and hung up my suits and went back outside into this city I keep coming back to, not as often as some, but often enough for me. Here are some pictures from it.

We watched the world cup final at Sand in the City 
This is one of the few things I remember liking from my first trip to Vienna.

I'm the one who wrote "under construction"

The Coburg

After the work week, I flew to Innsbruck to see a friend.

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'm 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.