Shit I Want to Stop Seeing on Social Media, Effective Immediately

1. Headlines with the following format:

“While everyone was paying attention to [current event], [other current event] occurred!”

You mean to say with seven billion people packed together on the surface of this hell-marble and all the governing bodies of the world racing to see who can annihilate us all the fastest, multiple newsworthy events transpired simultaneously? Well, fuck me sideways! What will I do with this new information?

My favorite thing about this framing is the subtle way in which it trivializes the first current event (which, in the most recent iteration I’ve seen, was the Comey hearing, so, you know, definitely not a big deal) and also judges the reader for their presumed failure to pay adequate attention to every item in the unending funeral procession of fiery nightmares churned out by Herr Shitler’s administration on the daily.

2.  Buzzkilling back-patters:

Last year after the Pulse nightclub massacre, I saw like half a dozen posts in one day that amounted to “How can you plebs care about Pokémon Go at a time like this?” I didn’t even play the stupid game but the pomposity of it all still pissed me off, because how dare people seek comfort in the aftermath of a grotesque hate crime with deadly implications for all queer people and those who love them, amirite? We can’t possibly indulge in a fun, relaxing activity and still be attentive to the tragedy du jour. People can only care about one thing at a time, guys.

More recently, I saw some similarly self-righteous finger-wagging at all who dared snicker at Prawn Goebbels’ #covfefe gaffe and the ensuing parody wildfire, because embracing whatever levity we can find in today’s Lovecraftian news cycle means we’re deeply un-serious Pollyannas too preoccupied with silly Internet memes to care about Real Issues.

3. Virtue-signalling bullshit:

In the fresh horror of every mass shooting in the United States last year, at least a handful of dickbags on Facebook felt the need to share this article about an even more lethal shooting at Garissa University in Kenya. These posts invariably asked why, amid all the hand-wringing over yet more gun violence on American soil, nobody was talking about this other, even more horrific tragedy that had just occurred abroad.  We were so shamefully self-absorbed, so checked out of the global community.

Except by then, the article and the shooting it was about were already a year old, which should tell you two things: 1.) Everybody who shared it was equally ignorant of the event until the article appeared in their news feed, at which point they re-shared it without bothering to actually read it or at least note the publication date, and 2.) The people who shared it didn’t actually give a fuck about the incident either, but saw an opportunity to look more-informed-than-thou and jumped on it like Olympian pole vaulters of grief-policing.

tl;dr: Quit doing this shit. You’re bringing down the curve for the whole class and making yourself look like a huge tool.

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In which I memorialize my grandmother.

My grandmother passed away nineteen years ago yesterday. Her payoff for decades of good nutrition, moderate social drinking, regular exercise, and no smoking was death from pancreatic cancer at 62, which frankly leaves me feeling pretty vindicated about my many horrible lifestyle choices.

My grandmother, Vita Bollman.

Grandma was a first-generation Italian-American and the first woman in our family to earn a college degree. After teaching special ed for years and raising four children as a single mother, she completed grad school and started a second career as a social worker. The summer after I finished kindergarten, she retired, sold her house on Long Island, and moved to Ridgefield, Oregon, where she started a llama farm. Bingo and porch-sitting just weren’t her style.

Somewhere my mom has a VHS cassette containing the home video of her retirement party. Grandma is in tears for much of it, laughing herself to the point of hysteria while coworkers and friends lovingly roast her. At one point during the party, one of her colleagues—I believe the superintendent of the school district—delivers a line that’s indelibly burned into my brain: “I’ll never forget the day I first met, or rather, encountered, for no one simply meets Vita Bollman.”

Upon being introduced, he recalls, my grandmother asked whether he would mind if she cursed in front of him.

“In anger?” he asked.

“No,” she explained. “I just like to curse.”

Grandma was an aficionado of all things inappropriate, as evinced by the contents of her library. An incomplete list includes The Naughty Victorian Handbook: The Rediscovered Art of Erotic Hand Manipulation, The New York City Cab Driver’s Joke Book, and a dictionary-sized tome titled simply The Limerick.

My mother says I have her lacerating cackle laugh.

Before she died, I visited her every other weekend. It was our bedtime ritual for her to leave a new book under my pillow, which I was forbidden to peek at until she tucked me in. I was an avid reader, and most nights I would fall asleep with a book in my hands, which she would tiptoe in and recover after I had nodded off. In the morning she’d let me put on makeup in her vanity mirror. I still have one of her fire-engine red Coty lipsticks in its gold tube. She’d let me wear her jewelry, too, which made me feel terribly sophisticated.

Some nights we’d rent videos and she’d roll out the TV she kept on a wheeled stand in her closet. Our favorite movie was Ruthless People, a comedy about Sam Stone (Danny DeVito), an unscrupulous millionaire who plots to murder his wife Barbara (Bette Midler) for her inheritance. Instead, Barbara is abducted by a down-on-his-luck electronics salesman and his fashion designer wife who ransom her for $500K, which Sam refuses to pay. Incensed by his betrayal, Barbara teams up with her kidnappers to extort even more money out of her husband, and the movie ends happily for everyone but Sam.

I’m summarizing the plot to give you a sense of context for Grandma’s favorite scene: the reunion of Sam and Barbara, which occurred in the last two minutes of the movie. She would make me get up to rewind it six, seven, eight times, and she would explode with fresh laughter at each replay until the tears were rolling.

“History has its eyes on you.”

That awkward moment when, after campaigning for president on a platform of unapologetic racism and misogyny, you demand a "safe space" for your bigot crony because some actors respectfully asked him to acknowledge others' humanity.

That awkward moment when, after campaigning for president on a platform of unapologetic racism and misogyny, you demand a “safe space” for your bigot crony because some actors respectfully asked him to acknowledge others’ humanity.

How I wish I could travel back in time to the Richard Rogers Theatre two weeks ago and get inside Mike Pence’s head Being John Malkovich-style. I wonder whether he understood that he, an avowed homophobe, was a guest in the house of queer America that night. I wonder whether he’s aware that the American musical is an institution built by the combined efforts of a century of queer artists. I wonder how he reconciles his well-documented history of persecuting queer people with his enjoyment of their work.

I imagine he’s the “love the sinner, hate the sin” sort of homophobe: the type who compartmentalizes people’s sexual orientations away from the rest of them—as though whom one loves and fucks isn’t an integral part of one’s humanity—so he can reap the benefits of their contributions to society without feeling guilty about dedicating his professional life to curtailing their rights. (As an aside, is it too early to start the countdown until the inevitable airport bathroom scandal? Because at this point I just assume that any conservative politician so pathologically uncool about gayness is probably getting up to some extravagantly gay activities in his off hours.)

After enduring the humiliation of being the recipient of a respectful message of inclusion, Pence needed somebody to stick up for him. Enter Trump, who apparently has some kind of spidey sense for detecting any opportunity to reinforce what an utter douchebag he is by word-vomiting all over Twitter. I can imagine him sitting down at his laptop, lips drawn together in that trademark anus-like frown, typing and then erasing his rebuttal five or six times to accommodate the 140 character limit before pressing send.

For as much as they complain that oppressed groups take their own oppression too personally, and as much as they enjoy ridiculing safe spaces and trigger warnings as emblems of PC culture run amok, nobody melts down faster than a straight white dude who’s just his beliefs about his own supremacy challenged.

“There is no more status quo / But the sun comes up and the world still spins.”

One of my best friends texted me late last night. “I can’t stop crying,” she said. “I think the only thing I don’t tick in his hate column is Muslim.”

I momentarily logged into the Facebook account I deactivated a few weeks ago. Another friend, a Latino man, had posted a wry status wondering what he would look like blond. I deactivated again.

All last night and all day today I’ve been thinking about my black and brown friends, my immigrant friends, my queer friends, my disabled friends, my friends who must take medication every day to stay alive—medication most of them can only afford thanks to Obamacare. I think about every woman I know who relies on Planned Parenthood for reproductive healthcare and how fucked we’ll all be if and when it’s defunded.

Last night I felt numb and nauseous. Today I’m galvanized by rage.

Tomorrow I’ll be ready to get my hands dirty.

“Congratulations, you have invented a new kind of stupid / A damage-you-can-never-undo kind of stupid.”

Me after seeing tonight's election results.

Me after seeing tonight’s election results.

Tonight a friend in Canada offered—jokingly, I think—to marry me. This was shortly before I received word that the Canadian immigration website had crashed beneath a deluge of panic-stricken Americans, but after I’d successfully right-clicked and saved the PDF of the passport application. Like me, she’d tuned into the election coverage with high hopes that by the end of the night we’d see the ascendance of America’s first woman president. Like me, she was devastated by the finale, in which an eminently qualified stalwart of progressive values was forced to concede to the world’s ugliest trust fund baby/rapist.

I’m never one to underestimate the stupidity of big swathes of people and the destructive power they wield, and even I was dumbfounded by what I saw tonight. Every time Google’s election tracker refreshed itself and the red ticker tracking Trump’s progress across the map got a little longer, my chest tightened. Even after it became clear that Hillary wasn’t going to trounce him as effortlessly as I’d anticipated, I felt optimistic that he’d pull some pansy-assed move at the last minute and weasel out of the race. After all, this was the same dumbfuck who tried challenging the presidential debate schedule on the grounds that it conflicted with a football game. Some conspiracy-minded commenters even conjectured that he was working to sabotage his own campaign, a theory I embraced with zeal. There was some strange comfort in imagining that the whole horrible Trump sideshow—from the ghoulish Mystic Tan to the barely intelligible, inflammatory rhetoric that sounded like a special racist edition of Mad Libs—was a bid for publicity that spiraled horrifically out of his control. It meant there was still a possibility that he’d pack it in, however clumsily, and then the reins would be handed over to the candidate with actual qualifications.

But this is 2016: The Year of the Tire Fire. Of course we wouldn’t get that lucky. Of course a year that kicked off with a harbinger like the surprise death of David Bowie would be bookended by a political calamity the likes of which will make Brexit look like Christmas morning. But the adherence to dramatic structure doesn’t diminish my horror a bit. It doesn’t take the sting out of knowing that American citizens were so eager for a permission slip to freely hate women and people of color that they chose to elect a former reality TV star with zero foreign policy experience to the highest office in the land, nor assuage my fear of what he’s now in a position to do to the Supreme Court. Between the Republican-controlled House and Senate, Trump’s presidency, and whichever justices he ends up nominating, we’re liable to see the unraveling of decades of advancement in equality, and needless to say the impact will be felt most acutely by black and brown people, women, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, disabled people, and the working class.

None of this is an accident. Trump didn’t spring fully formed out of thin air. He is a golem built by America’s most entitled from fistful after fistful of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. He’s the dying gasp of the dominant culture of straight white men who spent the better part of the last century tantruming on the floor because they don’t understand why they should have to share the world. They embraced him with enthusiasm as a mouthpiece for their continued supremacy, and now the most vulnerable among us are going to feel the weight of his foot on our necks for decades to come.

Tempting though it is to flee, nothing would bring me more satisfaction than to help destroy the culture that created him. I don’t want to run away from it. I want to join forces with everyone else who was told in not so many words tonight to bite the pillow and burn it to the fucking ground.

Alan Rickman

I don’t remember when or why Alan Rickman first came onto my radar. It wasn’t because of Harry Potter—a bandwagon I only joined long after it became a global phenomenon—and I’d probably have to trawl through my old LiveJournal archives to figure it out. Doesn’t matter. He’s such a central figure in my pantheon of favorite actors, and his work is so woven into the last decade of my life that it’s part of the fabric.

Whatever sparked my initial mania for him propelled me to hunt down the rest of his work like a greedy seek-and-binge-watch missile: even the obscurer, earlier stuff like The Barchester Chronicles, the weird period dramas like Mesmer and Rasputin, and the 1978 BBC Romeo and Juliet in which he sported an epic bowl cut and was slain by Romeo after a hilarious fight scene that looked more like a lyrical dance-battle. I endured two hours of Kevin Costner mulleting his way through Robin Hood, the testosterone-saturated bulletfest known as Die Hard, and Tim Burton’s self-indulgent hatchet job on Sweeney Todd, all for him. Come to think of it, I’d argue that we misremember a lot of so-so movies as being awesome simply because he was in them. (Case in point: The best part of Love Actually is his mounting panic as Rowan Atkinson painstakingly gift-wraps a necklace for his mistress.) He brought wit and depth and honesty and lacerating humor and sex appeal to everything he did.

Then there were the movies I really loved, the ones I obsessively watched and re-watched: Snow Cake, An Awfully Big Adventure, Dogma, Sense and Sensibility, Closet Land, and Galaxy Quest, in which he made me howl with laughter as a has-been theatre titan promoting a big box store with the flat affect of the utterly demoralized. His focus and intensity onscreen were captivating, and I studied him as though by watching him intently enough I could transfuse some of his magic into me. I loved the way he talked about acting, too. He seemed to take itbut not himselfabsolutely seriously. Not in an obnoxious way, but in the way people do when they recognize that it’s a discipline, and not just a fanciful game as it’s sometimes characterized. (In a way I don’t often hear Hollywood A-listers talk about it, in other words.) I loved the way he talked about most things, actually, though the content was often lost on me because I was so attuned to the sound of his voice. There was a period where I went to sleep every night listening to him narrate an audiobook of Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native. I still have no idea what the fuck it’s about because his voice was such an effective tranquilizer that I never made it past the first chapter. If there’s any silver lining in this total write-off of a garbage week, it’s the airtight excuse I now have to revisit it, and everything else.

I’m sad for his family and friends and fans. But mostly, selfishly, I’m sad that there will be no new work to look forward to. I don’t know how many hours I logged combing file-sharing websites in search of a fabled bootleg of his 1987 Les Liaisons Dangereuses, but I never found it. Like a Bigfoot hunter, I hold out hope that it’s out there somewhere, still waiting to be discovered.

Tango-Alan-alan-rickman-8369769-538-799