Category: History

Signal Boost: The Dead Queens Club

Henry has it all: he’s the jock, the genius and the brooding bad boy all in one. Which sort of explains why he’s on his sixth girlfriend in two years. What it doesn’t explain is why two of them—two of us—are dead.

As you may recall, one of my two best friends for over 20 years now, bona fide genius, and absolutely cracking human being all around, had her debut novel picked up several months ago, and it’s due to drop next year. I’ve been impatiently counting down the days until I can shamelessly plug it…and good news, that day has arrived!

If you are US based, you can now enter to win an advanced reader copy (ARC) over at Goodreads!

As someone who had the enormous privilege of being an early reader of multiple drafts, and with whom the author has shared literal years of inside jokes about which wife of Henry VIII we would be, trust me when I say that anyone with any history is YA, history, the Tudors, kickass teen girls, murder, or mysteries is going to gulp this down with a spoon.

Late night rambles on the C-word

“I’ve been accused of vulgarity. I say that’s bullshit.” 
― Mel Brooks

Samantha Bee used the C word to describe Ivanka Trump this week on her show and, like unto Roseanne Barr, it caused something of a kerfuffle. More in the links post tomorrow.

But in the meantime, and while I have this on the brain, do you know what? I HATE the C word. Hate it. It’s slung around in the UK like loose change in a way I never experienced in the States, and I haven’t gotten used to it in five years. I still feel a full body cringe at its ugliness whenever someone uses it. If TBS chose to reprimand or punish Samantha Bee like ABC chose to do with Roseanne, I wouldn’t like it, but I’d grudgingly admit it’s the network’s prerogative to make that kind of call.

I similarly think it’s the NFL’s right to try and set certain boundaries the speech of its players. I further think that deliberately defying rules is literally the point of a protest so we’re not exactly comparing apples to apples. Nevertheless, the Twitter wars rage.

The difference between a comedian and a president is that one of those people is expected, even encouraged to be vulgar. The other, historically, is expected to set an example to the nation state. One is expected to set standards, the other to push boundaries.vWhich brings me to the broad point I can’t shake.

Anyone who tries to defend the current political administration (the target of the comment in the first place) with the claim that vulgarity (as opposed to racism, for instance) should cost someone their job needs to have an intellectually honest conversation about the dude in the White House and how he got there. He weaponized vulgarity and rode it all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue.

You do not get to cheer a man who kicked off his political life by calling Mexican immigrants rapists, has a history of sexual assault allegations, and been caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by their “pussy,” and then cry foul when an entertainer uses foul language towards one of his administration officals. One side does not get to say that Roseanne Barr’s statements on her twitter feed, filled with antisemitism and conspiracy theories, are jokes and then turn around and say that an unfriendly comedian’s jokes are beyond the pale.

Pick a lane. Either offensive jokes are acceptable more broadly or they are not. If you insist on your side’s right to be offensive, you should in turn be prepared to buckle up and be offended right back.

Here’s the thing. I believe wholeheartedly that the overall coarsening of our culture and public discourse is not a good thing. We’re all worse off for it. But spare me the moral hand wringing if your whole ethos and political strategy is built around “triggering” other people. These are your rules, it’s your game, and you’re in charge. Either toughen up and take what you sling out, or do your best to claw back the moral high ground if you can.

But to say that systemic and historically racist speech and vulgar speech are on par is a false equivalence. Both are bad. Both may incur consequences on the speaker. But one traditionally operates from the vantage point of power which could be interpreted as punching down, while the other is “punching up.” Ugly language may be frowned on but as a society we agree that there are places where it’s appropriate or at least acceptable. Antisemitism on the other hand, is not welcome. Unless you agree that there are “fine people” who believe in it.

Here. Someone smarter than me said it better.

Weekend Links

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. ”
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

The American political news this week was appalling and, as a citizen abroad, cripplingly humiliating. The history of the American nation is one of a country constantly falling short of its own ideals, and yet striving tirelessly towards them anyway. We’ve backslid, we’ve divided, we’ve pushed for better, we’ve linked arms and moved forward together. I trust that will continue. But the current moment feels really, really dark. There are astonishing moments of light and brightness, yes, but I find myself constantly dismayed at my own naivete in thinking so many of the forces I see ascendant now were–not dead (I’m not that dumb), but were at least on the down and out. I was wrong. I was ignorant. I won’t make the mistake of complacency again.

To put your money where your mouth is in condemning white nationalism (code of white supremacy), BossedUp has put together an excellent list of causes you can support here. I will be donating, I encourage you to do the same.

The whole Charlottesville story is awful so let me be clear: if you are a purpose who purports to stand against people mobilized by dangerous ideology (political and religious) happening “elsewhere,” I damn sure expect you to oppose it on home turf. At time of adding this story, the photos look inches away from an actual Jim Crow South style lynch mob.

Added over the weekend: it got worse. Rest in power, Heather Heyer.

It got even worse. Seth Meyers, of all people, summed up my feelings on the president’s statements on the matter. Which he then tried to walk back with a scripted statement, which he later overturned again to confirm that his first statements that “both sides” were to blame truly reflected his views. I will concede that both sides threw punches; only one was able to show up armed better than the actual police (thanks to decades of paranoia-rousing and the systematic arming of civilians with military grade weaponry, and entrenched racism–I dare anyone to argue that a para-military group of black men armed to the teeth in an identical way would not have been met with swift and deadly force). Only one side is embracing an ideology that necessitates the subjegation or extermination of millions. There is no moral equivalency, and “both sides” arguments will not hold water here.

Seth Meyers nailed it again. I feel out of ways to say that Mr. Trump is unfit for the office he holds. I am not calling for his impeachment because that is a legal process that must be done in the right way for reasons within the boundaries of law…that or our laws are meaningless. But he is morally, intellectually, temperamentally unfit for the role he has been awarded, and I believe he is causing damage to the office and both the functionality and perception of the American government.

Vice produced a compelling, informative, and frightening mini-documentary almost in real time that should be required viewing in this moment.

This thread about the, let’s be frank, false victimhood of the American white male is required reading.

 

I legitimately had to read this article a couple of times and sit with it, because it’s so self-descriptive. I am horrible at taking holidays, and I am trying to take advantage of them (seeing as how I’m legally entitled to them, and all…) but the guilt I often feel for putting in a time off request is corrosive.

I am not the biggest fan of Taylor Swift, but I read this story of her testimony against a man she accuses of assault with great satisfaction. When questioned how she feels about him losing his job due to the incident, the cool response was: “’I am not going to allow your client to make me feel like it is any way my fault, because it isn’t,’ she said. Later, she continued: ‘I am being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions and not mine.’” Amen and amen.

Sir, could you just not?

Wealth is a strange thing.

Disrupt away, ladies!

Faith in humanity ticking back up.

WAY behind the times but worth celebrating.

Oh man. I’ve given myself permission to buy from this collection when it launches, but now I fear it will take ALL of my money…

I might need to arrange to be on Westminster Bridge next Monday.

Pro tip: be a dick in public, get dragged in public. It’s the brave new media world.

Why white people don’t get to say, “This isn’t us.”

This story could have been handled in a tabloid-y and gross way. In McKay Coppins’ capable hands, it’s done very well.

Another tiny bright spot.

This week in Mormon news, another thing to warm your feeds!

What the **** is wrong with people?! (trigger warning on this one, but a number of -isms are on display here and need to be confronted)

And then, on Thursday, there was another terrorist car attack, this time in Barcelona. Waking up this morning, there was more bad news in Spain. My heart hurts.

Album of the week: Silk and Soul, by Nina Simone

Style as a Tool: Crafting a Message

“Create your own style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.”
― Anna Wintour

In a really fundamental way, style is a tool to present yourself and certain messages to the world. I don’t mean to say that fashion and beauty are only cold blooded and utilitarian (they are, and are supposed to be, fun), but I do believe that the women (and men) who have been able to develop and capitalize on their style sense have a leg up on those who don’t. From drag queens poking holes in traditional gender expectations, to black dandies dressing flamboyantly in defiance of a historical narrative where sticking out might get you oppressed or killed, kids in puberty trying to take control of their budding sexuality, to CEOs looking to hold a room with messages of wealth and authority…

Presentation is powerful. And personal style is a way of being in command of your own identity and message.

Let’s look at politics and history quickly for some examples. Jackie Kennedy was First Lady for only a few years, but her fashion choices were instrumental in defining her husband’s administration both historically and mythologically. Further back in time, Louis XIV created an even grander mythological role for himself, that of the Sun King, and developed elaborate fashion and lifestyle trends to make the court literally revolve around him as a method of controlling his nobles. Secretary Clinton was ridiculed in the early days of both her husband’s and her own political careers for being “insufficiently feminine” in her appearance. In the 1990s you can see concessions she made to these sexist criticisms (I certainly don’t judge or begrudge those choices), but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the pantsuit later became her signature look. Elizabeth I of England also created a fantasy role for herself as Glorianna, the Virgin Queen, and invested heavily in a wardrobe meant to convey her authority over her country, as well as her wealth from exploration and trade. Towards the end of her life, her Golden Age was starting to collapse on itself, but the propaganda she fostered with her image has lasted right up until today. More recently, Michelle Obama made a lot of deliberate decisions to support American designers as First Lady, often from less well known houses, and also was noted for wearing fashions by designers from guest nations on state visits. Is wearing a gown the equivalent of signing a treaty? Of course not. It can still send a diplomatic message of solidarity…or a quiet note of defiant national pride.

Less grandly for most of us, our day to day style choices are less about playing on the world stage and instead having a sense of command in smaller ways. Consider the workplace. Think of the messages sent by Mark Zuckerburg’s famous jeans, t-shirt, and hoodie combo (“I’m a young company, for young people, and we aren’t going to run ourselves the way companies are run by men who wear suits”). Or how about how Steve Job’s iconic uniform of black turtleneck and jeans became a symbol of his business’s design focus (“I keep my personal life contained and streamlined to pour my energy into my work”). Neither of these men made particularly fashionable choices, but I’d argue pretty strenuously that they made style choices, even though the results were uniform and monochromatic.

Beauty is no different. Singer Alicia Keys has recently chosen to eschew most makeup because she believes there are too many pressures on women to look perfect or sexy, and less acceptance for bodies they way the simply are. Her decision to not wear make up is her personal way of opting out of that narrative, and is as much a style choice as Dita Von Teese’s decision to present herself in a highly stylized, deliberately artificial, and ultra feminine way.

Speaking personally, I enjoy beautiful things and clothes and the way I present myself to the world is important to me, but that isn’t to say I don’t sometimes fall victim to the siren song of marketing and consumerism, or try to fit someone else’s idea of fashionable at the expense of my own comfort or taste. However I think that these days I feel in command of my presentation more than at any other point in my life, which means that my sense of style (by my own definitions at least) is probably better than it’s every been. But it’s still a work in progress.

From dating, to board meetings, I think most of us have had the experience of trying to craft a message with our clothing. I’d argue, though, that this isn’t something that only happens for special occasions, it’s something we do every day. I’m most conscious of this in the workplace, but I’m trying to bring this same awareness to my casual or off duty style. I want to be better about using the things I already own, avoiding defaulting to sloppy/casual looks out of ease, and putting more effort into my clothing messaging. I also want to just have more fun with my clothing and accessories. What is the point of owning things if you don’t enjoy them?

 

Your turn, what do you think your wardrobe says about you? What do you want it to say? Are you trying to cultivate a certain image, and if so, what is it and why? 

Incendiary Monday: Nationalistic Purity is a (bad) Myth

“Nationalism is an infantile thing. It is the measles of mankind.”
― Albert Einstein

This tweet and whole story enraged me. When we are speaking of the human race, there is no such thing as “someone else’s babies.” This is shameful, racist nonsense.

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I fundamentally don’t understand the notion that some people seem to hold that there was once a time where every nation on earth (a concept in and of itself only a couple centuries old) had its own pure ethnic, nationalistic, and presumably racial identity. Nope. Lies in almost every case. We humans have been trading, travelling, mixing languages, creating and abolishing religions, warring, peacemaking, marrying, and swapping science globally for all of recorded history. The only things that have changed in the last thousand years is the rapidity with which we do it, the distances we are able to cross to do so, and the scale of our exchange.

But if I can point out evidence of Africans in Britain in the Roman period, the vast reach of the medieval Chinese navy and their explorations across the Pacific, Vikings in the Americas in the 10th century, a millennia of trade along the Silk Road, ancient African trade routes spanning the continent, and Pan-European Celtic road systems dating to before written language…you don’t get to be surprised that people of a different skin color or religion now live next door to you.

The last time we were a “pure” species was in coming out of Africa–and apparently we still  eventually managed to hook up with Neanderthals at some point. Notions of national purity, always an Us And Them narrative, have only ever served to divide and–in modern history–usually to attempt to conquer.

Emails with Friends: Political Boyfriends

“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice, he is the worst.”
– Aristotle 

This test is important, take it immediately.”
“Huh. George Washington, apparently. Let’s face it, could be much worse.
“Amazing and…accurate? I got JFK because I’m basic af.”
“God, we are both hilariously predictable sometimes because…yeah…totally accurate for me. I like them principled and relatively scandal free.”
“And all I want is the drama and the glamour and the tragedy and exceptional, inaccessible privilege.”
“You like the guy who dies dramatically after a couple of years in office, I like the guy who retires quietly to set a historic precedent…and then goes back to his/our ridiculous estate. Fine with this.”
“We did pick the two wealthiest presidents, so…”
“We may be predictable/basic af but we are not cheap.”
– Katarina and C.

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