Sunday, October 23, 2016

Paranoid Losers

I remember when I started to relax because I realized not only that Hillary had won the nomination, but that Bernie was losing his power, and that with every day that passed when he wouldn't admit that he'd lost and wouldn't endorse her, he lost more power, and with every day that passed, it mattered less and less what he did. Whom did Bernie hurt the most waiting too long to acknowledge reality and throw his support to Hillary? (Not that he's ever thrown all of his support to her: saying that she's clearly the 2nd-worst choice of the 2 people who have a chance to be elected is not the same as a real endorsement.) He hurt himself above all. He could've made a huge impact in this election, instead of being a huge pain in the ass before finally making a much smaller impact.

He could've been a hero, if he had any sense of how politics works.

Today, a few months after Hillary trounced that paranoid old man for the nomination, that grumpy old guy who constantly complained that he was being cheated and who saw imaginary conspiracies against him everywhere, I'm starting to relax again, as it sinks in that she's going to beat another paranoid, grumpy old man who also constantly complains that he's being cheated and also sees imaginary conspiracies against him everywhere.

And just as in Bernie's case it matter less and less what he did the more he waited too long to concede, so it matters less and less what Trump says and does with each passing day, as it becomes more and more clear to more and more people how crazy and unreal all the things he's talking about are.

Bernie and Donald should get together and trade conspiracy theories about how Hillary screwed them over. As time goes by it will become harder and harder for both of them to find anyone who wants to listen to them, the overgrown tittybabies. And the rest of us can just get on with things here in the real world. Hopefully at some point soon people will generally realize that Debbie got screwed over for no good reason, for no reason whatsoever other than Bernie's irrational personal animosity for her, and she can get on with things here in the real world too.

Donald Isn't Happy

Donald Trump is in a funk, is how Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post describes it in a story published on Thursday.

Donald Trump feels sorry for himself, and he's complaining about how he's wasted $100 million dollars of his own money on his Presidential campaign.

I feel sorry for him, but only for one reason: because I think about how screwed-up a person in his circumstances has to be, mentally, in order to feel sorry for himself. But maybe it's not so much his circumstances right now, as him worrying, consciously or subconsciously, about how many of those chicken we've all come to learn about during the campaign are going to come home to roost.

Maybe there's more reason to feel sorry for him than appears at first glance. He was famous before the campaign, but he's much more famous now, and that bright light has shone upon some really ugly things, and there's really no telling how things will end up for him. How many businesses and business partners have cut ties with him already, because of things he's said and done on the campaign, and things which have come to light because of the campaign? How many more will cut ties with him?

Will the campaign have an effect on how his lawsuits go? (I really don't know the answer to that question, I don't know enough about lawsuits.)

Will he be criminally prosecuted, for sexual assault, or fraud, or tax evasion, or something else?

He has to at least subconsciously know that he's going to lose the election He still says he's going to win part of the time. He continues to say one thing about that and then the opposite, just as he's done on all sorts of topics throughout the campaign. A candidate who's truly confident about winning an election doesn't complain for months about how he's going to be cheated out of victory -- not even part of the time. Maybe he can see as clearly as anyone how badly he's going to lose.

Who knows? Is there any way of telling how much he believes of what he says? For example, he says the campaign has been a waste of $100 million of his own money, and any time Trump mentions an amount of money, you have to wonder how much smaller the actual amount in question is.

He seems a lot less scary than he did just a short while ago, and for someone who has relied so heavily on bullying, intimidating, abusing people and feeling untouchable, there actually is something sad about him losing at least some of that power. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely a good thing when a predatory person isn't allowed to behave as badly as he used to, no if's and's or but's about that. But I'm just trying, just for a moment, to imagine how it all must feel for Donald.

But I don't know whether I can stand much more than a moment of that.

Get out there and vote, if you haven't already. Trump must not just be defeated, he must be defeated by as wide a margin as possible. If ever there was an American election in which every single vote sends a message, it's this one.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Dylan's Nobel: None Of Your Business. His Response? See Previous Answer

A thought experiment: imagine that you -- yes, YOU -- were in your home, and someone you weren't expecting suddenly broke down your front door, barged into your home followed by a crowd of journalists with cameras and microphones, tossed $1000 in cash into your lap and demanded that you stand up and dance, and you didn't stand up. Who would be the impolite and arrogant party in such a case?

Bob Dylan's failure to acknowledge his Nobel Prize in literature is "impolite and arrogant", according to a member of the body that awards it.

Well, I'm sorry Per Wastberg feels that way.

The way I feel about all of this is: the people who are expressing outrage at Dylan being awarded the Nobel Prize are, at the very best, worse than impolite and arrogant. It's none of your business whom they give their prizes to. They're not your prizes to give.

And I think that Per Wastberg is being worse than impolite and arrogant in expecting a certain response from Dylan.

I'm not upset with Dylan at all about the prize or about his lack of response to it. Because I think that it's none of my business, and also none of Per Wastberg's business, what Dylan does or says about the prize. I wonder why he hasn't responded. But I don't think he owes me or anyone else an explanation of his silence.

Here is exactly what I think Dylan owes me, and you, and Wastberg: absolutely nothing. And that's exactly what, in my opinion, celebrities in general owe their fans: absolutely nothing. And it's also what Wastberg and the other Nobel people owe to the public, or to the people you think they snubbed, and it's also what any of the Nobel laureates owe any of the people at the Nobel organization: absolutely nothing. None of the above ever pledged that they owed anything to anyone, with the possible exception of the people who award the Nobel Prizes, and if they ever made any such solemn pledge, to the public or to the prize winners or to whomever, well, they shouldn't have.

When I'm (FINALLY!) awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, if and when I publicly react to the news of the award, and how I react, will be none of your business. Whether or not I take the money will be none of your business, and if I take it, what I do with it will be strictly between me and the Internal Revenue Service, and whether or not I show up at the award ceremony will be none of your business, and whether or not I give a Nobel Lecture will be none of your business, and if I give a lecture, what I say in that lecture will be none of your business. If the lecture consists of the 5 words "thnk yu verr mutch pleez" and you are outraged that that was my Nobel Lecture, you have my hearty permission to blow that outrage out of your ass.

And here's why: that agreement we came to about all of these and all related matters? That never happened. You hallucinated that.

Those of you who are outraged at Dylan for not making a statement about the prize: has it occurred to you that he may have been silent so far because he honestly doesn't know how he should react, and he's taking his time and thinking it over very carefully before he says anything? (Maybe in part because he knows that whatever he says will be blown out of all proportion by millions of idiots, and that there will be no way of coming close to pleasing them all?)

I have no idea why he hasn't responded, I'm just speculating. I'm not too worried about it one way or the other. It's none of my business. I just feel for someone who has so many complete strangers expecting so many different things from him for absolutely no sane or otherwise justifiable reason. For his sake and for the sake of many other famous people, I wish all of you judgmental, moronic creeps would just get your own damn lives. But it doesn't seem that anything remotely resembling that will happen soon.

Friday, October 21, 2016

What 31 Years Did

I just found out that last June, a man I used to know and profoundly annoy personally was named the first-ever Poet Laureate of Knoxville, Tennessee.

I... Don't know how to feel about this.

The first time I ever heard him, or heard about him, for that matter, was in 1985, when he suddenly showed up at a small private party in Knoxville, playing guitar and harmonica and also a tambourine he'd attached to one foot somehow and singing Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." It was also the first time I'd ever heard that song.

The song and the man have never sounded better to me than they did at that moment back in 1985. Yeah, all downhill from there. Kidding. The beer and the weed and party and the newness of him and of the song all had a lot to do with how he sounded to me at that moment.

And now he's Poet Laureate of Knoxville. I guess it goes to show you... something.

For 31 years I've wondered whether he was singing at that party because, living nearby, he heard a party going on and just decided to drop in and jam, or if they paid him to play. It wasn't his fault, not in the slightest, but I happened to be homeless and starving at the time. In large part because I was profoundly clueless about economics. Economic things such as whether that was him dropping in on friends or a paid gig. Like whether the people who'd invited me to the party were rich enough to summon musicians whenever they felt like it, as if they were Medieval monarchs, or whether they seemed rich to me because I was homeless and missing meals... and clueless about economics... and it has occurred to me just very lately that I'm still profoundly clueless about economics, and very lucky to no longer be going hungry, and profoundly clueless about who knows what all else... I constantly wonder about things which I assume are not all that mysterious to some others.

Such as about how a guy goes from hanging around (not a lot. Like I say, I annoyed him. Sorry. Really, I am) with the likes of me to becoming Poet Laureate of the Great Bermuda Triangle of the Appalachians, la-dee-freakin-da, while I became... well -- while I became The Wrong Monkey, whatever that is.

So give me my freakin Nobel Prize already because I used to hang out with and annoy the very first Poet Laureate of Knoxville, Tennessee.

The last time I talked with him, or the last time I remember, was in 1992, and although usually he had been very nice to me, very patient, this time, for the first time, he completely lost his patience (Or -- another example of the sort of thing I wonder about all the time -- had he completely lost his patience with me quite often before this, and this was just the first time I'd noticed?) and exclaimed, "What's wrong with you?!" and I told him I didn't know. I guess I know now that it was autism, and that is was being undiagnosed and not knowing that it was autism, not knowing that I could learn about my condition and thus mitigate it at least to a certain extent, knowing that there are certain things the vast majority of people tend not to like.

I don't blame him for exploding at me like that, really I don't. But since then I haven't wanted to be his friend either. I don't blame him for hurting me, but all the same, it hurt. And I wondered, and I've wondered since then, if we ever were friends before that or if it only occasionally seemed that way to me. I wonder whether that moment was at all memorable to him. And if so, what was it like? Like nothing much at all? Or did it make him feel bad that he lost his temper? Or did he feel good because it seemed I'd finally, finally gotten the message: "Fuck off!" ? Or was that not the message, not then and never? Have I greatly overstimated (or underestimated) the annoyance I caused him?

And I wonder how to wind up a weird blog post like this one. I wonder about so many things. All the time.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Who Cares Whether Trump Concedes?

I'll tell you who: fewer and fewer people. His own campaign leaders are bending over backwards to say that he didn't really mean what he said about not conceding, the same way they've been bending over backwards to say that about so many other things he's said the whole campaign long. You think you've been seeing lots of Republicans distancing themselves from Trump up until now? That will be nothing compared to the mass migration away from him if/when he refuses to admit he lost after Hillary stomps him on November 8.

Yes, it's true that up until now, there has been a gracious concession speech by the loser in every single Presidential election -- usually the night of the election, a little while later in 2000 -- after which there is a bunch of talk from both sides about how the other side fought a great campaign but now it's all about bringing the country together, yada yada yada. There might be no gracious concession speech this time and no talk from Trump about everybody getting behind President Clinton, but that will be just one more thing Trump was the first at, one more way in which he makes himself a bigger and bigger jackass, and supportable by fewer and fewer people.

Many pundits have been saying that Trump never wanted to win anyway, and that his real plan is to start a Trump TV New Network. So many pundits have been saying this that if Trump didn't want his own news network a week ago, he might want one now. As far as that having been his plan right from the start -- I'm not totally convinced yet that there is anything in Trump's mind as complex as a plan.

Anyway, if he does start a Trump TV News Network, it will give us all a chance to see how fast a TV news network can go bankrupt.

I hope you all remember just exactly which political party it was which allowed Trump to take it over -- partly, temporarily, but still -- and that you'll all vote the straight Democratic ticket for that reason if for none of the very many other good reasons.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Philosophy or Physics 101 For Journalism Students

In philosophy or physics, the notion that there is no such thing as objectivity is not new. 3 centuries ago Bishop Berkeley was giving objectivity some blows, which to some seemed and seem like knockout punches, and in the 20th century Werner Heisenberg and others gave some substantial scientific underpinning to subjectivism -- the assertion that everything we know is subjective and that objectivity is nothing more than an illusion -- a viewpoint which, in philosophy or physics, may not be universal, but which by no means is unfamiliar any longer. Try to introduce it into a discussion of journalism by journalists, however, and you may well be treated as an annoyance who is interrupting the grown-ups.

Well, journalists, the feeling is mutual, frankly. It's astounding that you are so well-insulated, in the 21st century, from the notion that there is no such thing as subjectivity. If you're covering politicians and politics, tell us your opinions of those politicians -- not just in op-ed pieces, but all of the time. Are 94% of you Democrats? That would be a good thing for the public to know. Republican would say -- some currently are saying -- it's proof that you're biased. I would say that you spend your careers studying Democrats and Republicans up close, which naturally makes you the leading experts on Democrats and Republicans, and that if so many of you prefer Democrats, it probably means Democrats are by far the better major party.

*sigh* I know we're a long way from getting there, practically. But conceptually, it's a very simple step to grasping that the best way you can inform the public is to share your opinions with us. "But's it's only our opinions!" you'll object. "It's always people's opinions whenever they communicate," I'd respond. And we always are aware -- well, some of us are aware -- that we're dealing with opinions, with subjective viewpoints. The problem is that you regard this thing you call "objective reporting" as more than subjective opinion, when really it is less. You start with your subjective opinions about the politicians you cover and the things they do, and then you subtract everything which might betray how you feel about what you cover, until you have reduced it to what you call "objectivity." This "objectivity" is not more information than your opinions, it's much, much less. It's a paltry sliver of all that you know.

All I can do is share with you my opinions and experiences -- which is all that you or anybody can do (in my opinion). And for me, this subjectivism is very clear and obvious. As I learned about philosophy and physics and art and other things, suddenly I could feel relativity, could feel the way that everything I know and experience is subjective -- feel it in a physical way as well as intellectually. And there's no way now to un-feel it or un-know it, to become once again unaware of it, and, for example, unaware of how a painting by Matisse of a potted plant is far richer in information than any photograph of a potted plant could be, because it's far more subjective. I'm not familiar with a page of Nietzsche's work that doesn't appear (to me, of course!) to take this lack of objectivity for granted -- but if you want an example of a passage where this is particularly obvious, check out the famous rant of the crazy person in the froehlichen Wissenschaft who keeps exclaiming that God is dead, saying things like "Aren't we continually plunging, backwards, sideways, forward, in every direction? Is there still an up and a down?"

Belief in objectivity is like belief in God: very comforting, extremely useful in some ways from certain points of view, and entirely farfetched, and some of us are past it and occasionally frustrated waiting for the rest of you to catch up.

"Journalistic Objectivity"

Ain't no dang such thing, as Hunter S Thompson tried so hard to tell us. All it is and all it has ever been is journalists choosing not to tell us a great deal of what they know about the things they're supposedly reporting about.

"It's true that Trump is batshit-crazy and might nuke the human race out of existence 10 minutes after taking office; but for us to SAY so right out in PUBLIC would be UNFAIR and would violate our sacred principle of JOURNALISTIC OBJECTIVITY!"

Yes, people actually say crazy things like that. People who are employed as journalists. The vast majority of people who are employed as journalists in the US live by such insane rules, it seems, unfortunately. More craziness:

A story has been going around lately, to the effect that 94 percent of political contributions from journalists in the US go to Democratic political campaigns. I don't know whether that figure is accurate. If it is, it's not the crazy part. The crazy part is that right-wing news outlets are reporting it, and claiming that it's proof of liberal media bias.

94 percent. That's similar to the 97 percent of meteorologists who say that climate change is happening, and is caused by human activity. Do we say that meteorologists are biased because they don't split 50-50 on this issue? No! (Well, some people who work for Exxon and are completely full of shit all day every day for a living probably do say such things.) The fact that so many of the people who study the climate all day every day for a living say that global warming is real and man-made lends creedence to that point of view. As it should. We don't demand that stories promoting pollution get equal time with clean air and water and non-poisoned food. Because, at least when it comes to the environment, we're not all completely insane.

If it's true that 94 percent of the people who study politics in the US all day every day for a living contribute to the Democratic Party, then that is a very powerful argument that the Democratic Party is the best one which America currently has.

Or at least it would be, if 40 to 95 percent of the American population didn't have their heads up their asses. Or if journalists dropped the "objective journalism" and instead actually shared their insights and experiences with the public as fully as they could, instead of limiting themselves to that thin sliver of what they know which "journalistic objectivity" will let them say right out loud in public. A Google search for journalists against journalistic objectivity suggests that the madness of "journalistic objectivity" is still very-well entrenched, and will be with us for a while. The nightmare of the Trump campaign has caused a few political journalists to think about their principle of "journalistic objectivity."

But they need to keep on thinking. They learn quite a lot about politics and politicians, naturally, by spending their whole careers observing them up close. Imagine what the public could do with such knowledge! But this nightmare, this huge Orwellian mistake the journalists call "journalistic objectivity" keeps the greater part of this knowledge bottled up inside the press pool. Occasionally a little bit of it will dribble out into an op-ed piece or a hot mic. But tragically, most of the most important things political journalists know die with them, because to share that knowledge would be "subjective."

Yes, journalists need to keep thinking about this, very hard, and maybe someday more than a handful of them will come to a level of wisdom regarding their own profession which in other professions is just common sense.

Imagine if the people who had the closest access to politicians, and whose job, supposedly, is to inform about politics, actually did so. Without the filter. Told us everything about the experience of seeing politics up-close. Everything includes how they feel about all that they've seen, and which politicians they support as a result.

Okay then. I'll keep doing everything I can to nudge journalists in the direction of that great Ah-ha moment.