Friday, July 13, 2018

Manuel Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman (1976)

This book was significant for me, because I was meant to read it for a college writing workshop, and...I didn't. Lazy, half-assed me. I read I think the first chapter and a half, maybe. I mean, I suppose you develop at the pace you develop, but if I could go back and tell twenty-year-old me one thing, it would be DO YOUR WORK, DAMMIT. DON'T BE SO USELESS.
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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Severo Sarduy, Cobra (1972) and Maitreya (1978)

Sarduy (1936-1993) was a Cuban writer. Here we have a Dalkey Archive volume that collects two short novels, according to the back cover copy "his two finest creations." According to that same copy, he was "the most outrageous and baroque of the Latin American boom writers of the sixties and seventies," so that's cool.
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Sunday, July 08, 2018

José Donoso, The Obscene Bird of Night (1970)

A Chilean writer (1924-1996). Everyone is going to tell you that this book is about the last male heir of an aristocratic name who is born horribly deformed and whose father, therefore, determines to wall him off and surround him with only freaks for his entire life, so he thinks he's normal. Very gothic, eh?
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Saturday, July 07, 2018

Oxenfree (2016)

It was inevitable that I should play this game, given how much I loved Night in the Woods: they're both talky story-games about young people growing up featuring ambiguously supernatural elements (okay, not so ambiguous here, but that's what I initially thought). And in both of them, you play as a girl with blue hair. How about that? It's extremely difficult not to compare the two, but in a sense, it's unfair: Night in the Woods is thematically resonant in a way that Oxenfree isn't really trying to be. It just wants to be a li'l ghost story.
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Thursday, July 05, 2018

Super Daryl Deluxe (2018)

I put a lot of time into this game, and I feel like it hasn't gotten the exposure that it probably deserves, so here we go. This is Super Daryl Deluxe. It has limited Metroidvania elements, but mainly, it's an example of that relatively obscure genre of which I have nonetheless always been a fan, the Side-scrolling Action RPG--Zelda II, Wanderers from Ys, Popful Mail, et al.
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Tuesday, July 03, 2018

The poker's in the fire and the locusts take the sky

Ah, scott pruitt: almost certainly the worst person in trump's cabinet, and THAT is a horrifyingly impressive achievement. His unwavering determination to destroy the environment in any and every way he can is one thing, but the massive personal corruption and the hysterical paranoid terror at the idea of ever being confronted by anyone about his awfulness are really the fecal cherries on top. It's a rhetorical problem, because "he's a fucking Captain Planet villain" sounds like so much hyperbole, and in most cases it almost certainly is, but boy, leave it to know, with most corrupt dictatorships (and I mean really, even if we're not there yet, you know damn well it's how they think of themselves and what they aspire to, so I feel comfortable using the word), you get horrible people because they're there to do horrible things. You don't specifically think: hmmm, who are the worst people I can find? They need to have failings above, beyond, and unrelated to what's needed for the job; really be the absolute worst conceivable. Don't get me wrong: if pruitt tried for one minute to do his fucking job, he'd be out on his ass. The environmental destruction is the main thing. But don't fool yourself: the corruption is a huge bonus. Any other president would have gotten rid of pruitt long ago; even a super anti-environmental one would've thought "eh, I can find someone who's just as bad in that regard but who's at least housebroken; I don't need the PR hassle." But for trump and his fans, the sure knowledge that pruitt's corruption is further pissing off The Libz is a huge bonus. Resentment and malicious schadenfreude is all they've got, but trump certainly knows how to give it to them in spades. I'll give him that.

Any President is going to alienate a large portion of the country. That's just inevitable, in these fox-news-inflected times (and BOY are the architects of that structure going to burn in the deepest recesses of hell). But we've never had a President who so explicitly considers himself the President of his base and no one else. Who can't even make the most feeble bromides to the contrary. He wants to dominate and humiliate us, yes--he's nothing if not a sadist--but that's as far as it goes. He certainly doesn't feel any responsibility to us. Of course, he doesn't feel any responsibility to his base, either, or anything outside his head, but as long as they're willing to feed his bloated, cancerous ego, he's willing to feed them the right kind of bluster, like the lab monkey who obsessively pushes the button for cocaine to the exclusion of the button for food even when starving to death.

He's like a bully who lets you hang out with him and spares you the worst of his depredations as long as you're willing to toady to him sufficiently. He doesn't like you, and if he even momentarily perceives it to be in his best interests (or even just on a whim), he'll smash you like a bug. But you amuse and gratify him, so he'll more or less tolerate you and accept your sycophancy. And in return, you get the thrill of existing in the shadow of his power and reveling as he hurts the people you hate.

Boy, that's not a pretty picture. Is it any comfort to realize that none of his supporters are actually coming out ahead here? I mean, obviously, he implements policies that hurt the non-mega-rich, but even the mega-rich, would they acknowledge it or not, would fundamentally benefit from living in a non-evil society, in ways tangible and not. I know it's not exactly viscerally satisfying to know that the koch brothers--say--are spiritually dead (they'd have to know it, and if they did, they'd be self-aware enough to not have died in the first place). But there it is. A thing.

I don't really have a point. Left political commentary these days seems to have devolved to the extent that it's basically just trying to find novel ways to illuminate the fact that we're in Hell, but, well, that fun fact does tend to dominate the mind.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

You know the way to stop me, but you don't have the discipline

I sometimes wonder about republicans like Flake and McCain and Collins and Murkowski who are always making feeble little anti-trump noises but then invariably fall into line when it actually matters in any way. I think: you guys could stop him cold if you really wanted to. You could fuck his shit up. But...obviously, you don't want to do that. So stop with the self-righteous mewling! You're sufficiently self-aware to know that history will not judge this president kindly; do you really think it's going to give any more credit to people who could have stopped him but didn't?

I think there's actually a dissonant feedback loop in these people's heads (not consciously, of course): ugh, this guy is embarrassing, he's grotesque and he constantly tells idiotic lies. I'll speak out against him! He's the worst! But...he's also letting us do whatever we want! But how can I reconcile that with the fact that he's awful? It can't just be that I object to him on aesthetic grounds; that would be embarrassing. I must object to him on substantive grounds? And yet he's doing exactly what I want on substantive grounds! ABORT RETRY FAIL.

So they try to square the circle in this most infuriatingly cowardly way: they say mean things about the president, but when it comes anything substantive, they support him anyway, in spite of whatever grade-school insults he flings at them on twitter. And they expect--and, in some cases, get, from our dumber commentators--praise for this shit. They're trying to have it both ways, but in the process they're just degrading themselves.

If they actually objected to trump in any serious way, this would be a simple calculation, especially if you're retiring like Flake or dying like McCain: caucus with Democrats to staunch the bleeding. This would win you genuine admiration. Sure, people like me might grumble things like "TOOK you long enough," but any such criticism would be drowned out my tidal waves of good will--and really, I shouldn't gripe; as much as it's the obvious ethical thing to do, it's not easy to turn your entire life around like that, so if you're able to, GREAT.

But if you're not interested in doing that or not able to: kindly shut the fuck up. You are worthy of nothing but contempt, and your dim self-awareness doesn't make this any less the case. More, if anything.