Friday, January 30, 2015

Links & Bits: 1/30/15

Would the US vote for an atheist president?

So glad to see Ozy brought back their Cis By Default post.

Andrew Sullivan is hanging up his blogging boots

Thursday, January 29, 2015

That Chait Piece

 Andrew Sullivan stood up and applauded. Gawker snarkily deconstructed it. It should come as now surprise that reactions to Jonathan Chait's piece deriding the left's habit of self-censorship to the point of stifling discussion fell predictably along ideological lines.  It's disappointing that it's too easy to dismiss this as "white man whining," because he makes a good argument for the split between liberals and the more progressive left, but this kind of criticism needs to come from the left itself. Unfortunately, he is a white man whining, someone privileged along every possible axis, and that makes it impossible for a reader concerned with analyzing power structures to look at the article critically without taking those things under consideration.

Julian Sanchez makes a good point about progressives being more concerned with being good allies than agreeing there's something wrong with its ideological purity tests:
Progressives who think maybe he’s kinda-sorta got a point quickly move on, ceding the field to those who want to revoke his ally card and conservatives eager to welcome him, at least for the next ten seconds, to “their” side. (I wrote a tweet suggesting I thought some of the vituperative online reactions to Chait’s essay showed he was on to something. Conservatives and libertarians retweeted it; progressives favorited.) And this makes it still easier to conclude that nothing interesting or valuable is lost by any self-censorship that may be occurring. We know what the counterargument looks like, after all: It’s the garbage those assholes are spouting. Discourse gets increasingly polarized and, in the process, stupider. Which, again, seems like a bad outcome even if you don’t particularly care whether Jon Chait gets his feelings hurt.
Maybe Chait isn't the right person to talk about self-censorship -- at least if his goal is to get the progressives to agree with him -- but I think it's important someone does.  I've been writing in my small corner of the internet for a few years now, and it's become increasingly difficult to write without constant editing and re-editing, wondering if a particular phrase or wording will offend someone, that it's easier to stick to the template, even when doing so is intellectually lazy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Quoted: Jonathan Groff on his character's AIDS panic

I’ve had AIDS panic. I’ve had that, I guess you say is, unnecessary AIDS panic. We were hoping that people would find it humorous because they could relate to Patrick. At least for me, and with my friends — gay and straight — I’ve had that moment where you think you might have AIDS or an STD, and you get nervous and you go to the doctor and get checked and hopefully everything is fine and it was unnecessary panic. But I’ve been there, and my friends have been there, so I was excited to illuminate that because it’s a conversation that I’ve had. -- Jonathan Groff in Out Magazine
I don't know why this should be an odd predilection for a young gay character whose neuroticism has been pretty well-documented during Looking's short run. As someone who hit their teens at the height of AIDS panic, the dominant message I got wasn't "don't be slut," or "don't get pregnant," but "sex can kill you." I'm also very interested in Patrick's storyline, as I currently hate sitting on my hard drive, a scrub draft of a novel with a character who's afraid of everything but AIDS.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Earworm of the Day: Depeche Mode - Somebody

Continuing with the 80s theme.

Confession: I don't really remember this song existing in the 80s. I'm sure I heard it, but, stateside at least, "Somebody" wasn't the hit that "Master and Servant" or "Just Can't Get Enough" was. Plus my tween self, whose favorite band at the time was probably AC/DC, would have written it off as poofy British nonsense. Funny, that's all I listen to now.

Monday, January 26, 2015


I'm living proof of this:
And which is worse: that junior might hear, once a week, some sort of religious message which, to judge by the people I know who went to parochial school, has a fairly dim chance of sticking; or that junior won't be able to read and write and will spend the rest of his life moving heavy things from one place to another?
Twelve years of catholic education and I'm everything I shouldn't be: a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage hedonist nonbeliever. It's isn't that surprisingly actually. Contrary to all that's big and scary about religious education, my high school was pretty secular. A number of the students weren't catholic and church attendance wasn't required.  Religion was taught, but thanks the "loosening" of Vatican II (or more likely the discretion of the relatively liberal teachers and principal), it had an almost hippie vibe to it, if you squinted hard enough. Sex ed was okay, considering I hit my teen years at the peak of AIDS panic. My grade school, however, wasn't immune to the occasional holy fuck up. I came across a word a few weeks ago in Katha Pollitt's book Pro I hadn't thought of is over twenty years: homunculus.
The concept has roots in preformationism as well as earlier folklore and alchemic traditions. [...] Preformationism, a theory of heredity, claimed that either the egg or the sperm (exactly which was a contentious issue) contained complete preformed individuals called "animalcules". Development was therefore a matter of enlarging this into a fully formed being. The term homunculus was later used in the discussion of conception and birth.
I used to bags of tiny, nondescript, plastic green army men. I imagined the "homunculus" looked like one of those. Thankfully, I had parents who taught me proper biology and I knew a fetus looked a lot more like tadpole than a fully-formed but tiny man. But hey, thanks for reintroducing me to a word I'd completely forgot existed.

I bring this up because I was reading this post on Popehat, a reaction to a slate piece calling middle-class people who send their children to private schools "bad." (Around the same time a blogger on Gawker called for banning private education altogether.) I coasted in my private school, but I had a cabal of adults who saw that I graduated. Had I gone to the terrible public school in my neighborhood, I could have easily dropped out. Middle-class liberal opponents of school choice rarely mention that having the means to move to a district with a good public schools is school choice. My private catholic school was cheaper than uprooting our family and moving to the suburbs, but even if it wasn't, I refuse to call my parents "bad" people or even "bad" liberals because they chose what they thought was the best school for me.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The one in which I let the internet determine the gender of my brain

Playbuzz: 75% masculine, 25% feminine
Helloquizzy: 77% masculine, 23% feminine

Highly technical stuff, and I'm sure completely valid. I mean,  the internet says so. It must be true.

Granted, self-reported questionnaires are biased and loaded with stereotypes. (I read maps well and like being alone -- male!) I'm neither an essentialist nor a constructivist when it comes to gender, but fun tests nonetheless.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Earworm of the Day: Erasue - Sometimes

This is how I picture 80s nostalgia: cuffed jeans, plain tees, silly dance moves and songs like this one from Erasure, which seems to have been lost to the 80s gods in favor of "99 Luft Balloons" or "I Ran." "Sometimes" will always be early high school for me.