100-Proof Blogging by Randle Aubrey

Friday, April 28, 2017

PERMISSION TO FAIL

GPOY.
It’s never easy to admit when you’re burnt out. But fuck, man…the first 100 days of the Cheetocracy have kicked. My. Ass. And yours too, no doubt.

Any one of the bazillion crazy things that has happened during POTUS probation (which concludes this weekend, by the way) could easily make for a national scandal. But only if we can pay attention to it for more than, like, twenty-four hours before another one hits the headlines. Hell, sometimes it doesn’t even take that long. It’s exhausting.

It’s always easier and faster to tear things down than it is to build them up, especially when construction has been so negligent, and Trump and the gang of theocrats and demagogues we call the Republican Party continue to prove that every single day.

The question – the ultimate question – is, like always: what do we do about it?

I have no idea.

Everyone’s got a lot of ideas and lot of plans and a fuckload of ambition, and true to form, the Republican Party’s incestuous presidential breeding program is already beginning to collapse under the light of even minimal scrutiny. Never before has someone been so woefully, obviously unqualified to run our country as Donald Trump, and the conservative jihad he has waged on the federal government bears more resemblance to the Keystone Cops than it does to ISIS.

But the problem is so much bigger than Donald Trump, though. The problem is the Republican Party itself, and their fifty-plus year campaign to hollow out the country in the name of Jesus and Wall Street and the gun lobby. The problem is also, to a lesser but still grave extent, the Democratic Party’s inability to stop polishing their bona fides for long enough to realize that plugging your CV doesn’t work on the teevee so much as spooking the daylights out of people does.

Oh, and let’s not forget that paragon of moral bankruptcy that is our mainstream, corporate press, a cadre of well-paid getaway drivers ready, willing, and able to help plutocrats and oligarchs make off with the American Dream, offering cover fire to the Republican crooks by calling liberalism “separate but equal” in its destructive culpability.

What do we do about it?

I started Pink Elephants in the final days of the 2016 election, confident as any other good liberal that, despite the DNC’s obvious backstabbery of Bernie Sanders, enough of the liberal coalition would get on board the Hillary train to avoid sending the nation off a cliff. Turns out, the DNC thought so, too. And the people did, sort of. Just not where it counted.

In repentance, I began to write and publish with a fury I didn’t know I possessed. I’ve been blogging for nearly five years, but it took this orange dumpster fire piece of shit stealing an election for the proto-fascists a second time while the Reichstag looked the other way to get me to squeezing out more than one or two posts a week on average. Nowadays, if I’m not publishing four or five posts a week, something’s wrong with me.

And something is wrong with me. I’m thoroughly ass-whooped. There’s no way I can maintain this kind of publishing schedule indefinitely while pulling forty hours a week at my day job and, God forbid, pulling myself away from the damned news feeds and, I dunno, going outside every once in a while or something. Seriously, I’m getting pretty pasty.

On top of that, politics isn’t the only thing I want to write about. I’d much rather spend my time writing about cool bands that I know or writing goofy dating columns and exploring past as it relates to present than trying to play Beltway baseball from the Pacific Coast.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, between the two, I’m giving myself permission to fail as a matter of public record. I used to follow statements like that with the qualifier “for whomever might be reading this,” but my page view count continues to inform me that doing so is no longer necessary. There are a number of people reading and sharing Pink Elephants, and you’re one of them. It means the world to me, not just as a privilege but as a responsibility, which makes giving myself permission to fail even harder.

What do I do about it?

Hot takes make me sick, but for God’s sake, I can’t seem to stop writing them. Neither, it seems, can anyone else, which is a big part of the problem. There’s a journalism horse race that runs right alongside the political one, where individual contributions are constantly devalued and demanded in the same breath, and it’s difficult not to get swept up in it. But without a helluva lot more time and gobs of money, there’s just no way.

This is not by any means some kind of long-winded sales pitch. I gave up on the idea of anyone actually funding this shit a long time ago. My PayPal and Patreon links are just a formality, more or less. If I’m going to continue writing at all, I’m going to write – and write about – whatever the hell I feel like, and I’m going to do so on my terms and mine alone. There’s really no other option, not for me, at least. But you, Dear Reader, well…that’s another story.

I can’t make you stick around, and I can’t make you pay for my work if I actually want you to read it. I can only ask that you bear with me as I attempt to restore my sanity, by loosening my publishing schedule and – gasp! – changing the subject from time to time.

In closing, it would seem that I owe a profound apology to the patron saint of polemicists, Christopher Hitchens, whom I’m sure would twist a wry grin at the irony in such a dubious honor: sorry, Hitch. I am, in fact, deeply terrified of being a monomanic.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

ANTHEM OF THE WEEK: "FLASHBACK" BY TOMAHAWK


Silhouette of the memory
Your eyes are getting heavy
And when I speak
You sleep on cue...

We've all got a few skeletons in our closet. Some are of our own making, others were thrust upon us. No matter how far back we stuff them in there, no matter how many layers of work or booze or money or sex or drugs we try to bury them behind, they always manage to stagger out from time to time in rotting, shameful procession for all the world to see. And, as befitting those who would disrespect the dead, they bury us under the same guilt and shame and ruin with which we would refuse them their last rites, along with our own.

In my twenties, I read this book called Conversations With God that totally changed my life. It was written by a Christian writer named Neale Donald Walsch, a struggling alcoholic on the verge of collapse whose exercise in automatic writing became an international bestseller and inspired several sequels, each one more ludicrous than the last. For all of its faults, Conversations was a book that, at the time, I needed to read as much as Neale Donald Walsch clearly needed to write it.

In hindsight, most of the New-Agey mumbo-jumbo in Conversations With God makes Deepak Chopra seem sensible by comparison. But there’s one brief passage that always stuck with me, and I’ll never forget it:
“Whatever you resist persists,
and whatever you look at disappears.”
Whenever that stack of corpses you’ve got shoved in your boudoir manages to tumble out and do the danse macabre – and they will, trust me – you’ve got a choice: you can either scramble to shove them back in before anybody sees, even though everybody always sees, or you can teach them how to fucking tango. All they want is one last go-round before being put to rest. But it’s up to you to take the lead, lest your dance with Death puts you in the ground along with him.


A quick "note" on the musical selection: there aren't many rock and roll bands left for whom live performances transcends recorded ones, especially when viewed through an intermediary like television. Tomahawk remains a shining example of what it means to do just that. This performance is intense, erasing the boundary between audience and performer in ways as unsettling as the song itself. Someday, I'll catch these guys live, and have their rock n' roll exorcism right along with them. Someday...

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

CAMARADERIE IN TRAGEDY: LIFE AFTER GAY GETTYSBURG

"Now we are engaged in a great lesbian war, testing
whether their relations, or any Sapphic relations
so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure..."
About three years ago, a longtime acquaintance of mine went through an incredibly bitter, high-profile breakup. She had been dating her girlfriend for several years, and while I don’t know what led to their separation, I do know this: for some inexplicable reason, all the lesbians I know seem to actively court relationship drama while at the same time loudly decrying the practice for all to hear, and these two were no exception.

Their breakup was like an episode of The “L” Word meets a six-car pileup, and it sucked their entire community in along with it. Never in my life have I seen such naked vitriol channeled so passive-aggressively, or so frequently; their months-long social media campaign of indirect attacks against one another before, during, and after the breakup took place ought to be the stuff of legend. Dozens, sometimes hundreds of comments would stack up on every post either one of them would make, with people throwing support and shade in equal, devastating amounts.

As a bystander living several cities away, I watched the whole debauched spectacle unfold like a time-traveling dilettante on a hillside overlooking Gettysburg; bemused, detached, and with plenty of snacks. It was none of my business, had no impact on my life whatsoever, but boy, it was sure as hell entertaining to watch. At the same time, I shudder to think of the impact the whole sordid affair had on everyone involved AFK, as the kids call it. Massive, ugly fault lines appeared between all manner of people that never before existed, and if I could see them from here, they must have been massive to experience first-hand.

In time, something approaching an armistice of a sort that only time and exhaustion can offer seemed to develop between the two, and after picking up the pieces of what remained of their dignity, they moved on from duking it out with one another across the Internet to more, shall we say...sensible pursuits, like getting on with the rest of their fucking lives. Who knows if they’ve even spoken since then. For both of their sakes, I hope not. They both seem to have made peace with the whole thing, as far as I can tell. One of ‘em just got married even, which is what brought this whole thing up in the first place.

Apparently, my acquaintance hadn’t heard about her ex’s recent nuptials until now, when several of her friends began reaching out to her with what they clearly believed would be a shocking revelation. “It seems folks expect some kind of visceral reaction from me,” she complained on her Facebook page. “I think I'm more bothered that people expect me to be upset or mad or have some kind of ill wishes…I would like to think people think higher of me.”

I can’t say I’m surprised that bystanders to their Sapphic tragedy would want to relitigate such a thing, even now; for many, it was likely those most exciting thing happening in their life at the time, and might even still have repercussions for more than a few. But I think there’s more to it than that.

We all serve as constant gardeners to our own suffering, searching for camaraderie in tragedy at the lowest common denominator in the hopes that we might find something worth building up to. From here, it can often be a slippery slope to the Misery Olympics, but more often than not it does bring people closer together by letting them taking turns supporting one another, a performative act of friendship that accrues emotional capital.

It’s easy to see, then, why my friend would greet the sudden rush of breathless, pearl-clutching revelations of her ex-girlfriend’s recent nuptials with such incredible cynicism, given how incredibly manipulative it comes across. If everyone does this – and we do, whether we know it or not – we’re all assholes then, right?

Nah. We’re just monkeys with overdeveloped frontal lobes. Everything is fine. Actually, this sort of 'reciprocal altruism' isn't necessarily a bad thing. We’re not the only animals that do it, either. Consider, if you will, the relationship between the Egyptian Plover and your garden-variety crocodile: in exchange for performing free dentistry and security services, the Plover gets access to a regular, albeit thoroughly disgusting, buffet. We basically do the same thing, but it’s usually over brunch and we eat off our own plates, thank you very much.

When the Darwinian nature of the human experience reveals itself, it can be a little galling to witness if you're not prepared for it. But don’t worry; you can still pick your own teeth…for now.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

BERNIE'S POLITICAL CHARCUTERIE SHACK IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS!


It was Otto Von Bismarck that said “the making of laws is like the making of sausages—the less you know about the process, the more you respect the result.” The thing about axioms is that they never stop being true; in fact, some, like this one, just get better with age.

The sort of visceral, gut-ugly reaction to even the mere hint of realpolitik that keeps people from addressing the idea directly is prime fuel for the modern outrage-industrial complex, allowing it to churn steadily along in the Digital Age at a scale and with a bitterness that Bismarck could never have imagined.

As Bernie Sanders began to court conservative voters in Nebraska, throwing his weight behind Omaha’s liberal mayoral candidate Heath Mello despite him being on the “wrong” side of reproductive rights, he's been under seriously heavy fire from all sides of the left. It’s hardly surprising; as a failed referendum on populism, the 2016 election left a lot of deep scars on the Democratic Party, and some are still bleeding. But it’s hard not to feel like the controversy is less about the mayoral race itself and more about relitigating the internecine strife between Berniecrats and the DNC, as a way for the latter to continue ignoring real, structural problems within their coalition.

You’ll brook no argument from me over the idea that centrism is dead. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain parties (and the media organs that love them) interested in propping up the corpse in order to serve their own aims. If you don’t believe me, do a few Facebook or Google searches on this whole kerfluffle, start clicking through the results, and ask yourself: what does Heath Mello stand for? If after seven or eight clicks the only answer is still “anti-choice issues,” that should tell you something.

The closest thing I could find from any mainstream outlets to an outline of Mello’s platform was this scrap of a paragraph in the Huffington Post:
“At the same time, he is mostly campaigning on bread-and-butter municipal issues like filling potholes, improving housing affordability, making Omaha more walkable and attracting development to the city.”
You would think that, in a 1,200-word report on such a hot topic, HuffPo (or any other mainstream outlet, for that matter) might be able to devote a little more space to outlining why Sanders and Perez chose to back him in the first place, as opposed to what backwards rubes the lot of them are for thinking that people at cross-purposes on one issue can’t cooperate on a dozen others for the good of the republic. All the more so for the fact that the odds of reproductive rights issues actually crossing Omaha’s mayoral desk are slim to none.

None of this is to say that reproductive rights are not an important issue, or that the left doesn’t have adequate reasons to be skeptical as fuck about Heath Mello. But realpolitik makes for strange bedfellows; the failure of centrism does not render the left exempt from having to, on occasion, deal with people they don’t like in order to achieve our long-term goals. To believe otherwise is a fallacy of the partisan ideology that has divided our nation to begin with, and does not match the reality on the ground in states like Nebraska, a deeply conservative stronghold with hardly a liberal toehold. Heath Mello is probably the best chance the Democrats have of beginning to build a broader coalition in Nebraska, and if you look at the facts on the ground, we could do a helluva lot worse.

It would seem that Mello’s generally been on the “right” side of reproductive rights since 2015, having supported family planning legislation in the Nebraska legislature that year and has remained, by all accounts, relatively silent on the issue until he began his mayoral campaign. Since then, according to Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska, Mello has “said loud and clear he supports Planned Parenthood and wants to protect the work we do,” and that they “welcome the opportunity to start a productive dialogue on how [to]…promote and protect access to women's health care in Nebraska.”

If we’re grading the Nebraska electorate on a curve – and we should be, for Chrissake – then Heath Mello is as good of a person as any to start making inroads with as any. If the liberal base wants the party to truly pursue a “fifty-state strategy,” it might behoove those with more sensitive stomachs to look the other way while the sausage is being made.

Friday, April 21, 2017

WEEKLY DISPATCHES #018: AMERICA'S HISTORICAL BLIND SPOT





“Weekly Dispatches” is a weekly round-up of some of the best and brightest political reporting the Internet on a given theme, brought to you every Friday to better catch up on your dialectic over the weekend. If you’ve got any ideas or recommendations for topics to cover, send an e-mail to Pink Elephants at 100proofpink@gmail.com.
To say that there is an epidemic of historical amnesia regarding the black experience in post-slavery America would be the mother of all understatements. As our ultimate political blind spot, the span of time between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement has been consistently marginalized and misrepresented, from the moment the Civil War ended through the present day. This is mostly due to the fact that, in a rare and untimely reversal of fortunes, the losers of that war – a capitalist class desperate to maintain postwar economic hegemony by any means necessary – were allowed to write the history books.

There are few places where this blind spot is more apparent, or more keenly felt in the African-American community, than when it comes to the subject of housing. Much attention is paid to the landmark victories made during the Civil Rights Movement in the struggle for voting rights, culminating in the passage of the Voting Rights Act; less attention, however, is devoted to the fight against the more “elegant racism” of systemic housing discrimination – better known as “redlining” – which eventually led to the passage of the Fair Housing Act.

It’s hard to say which victory is the more significant one, but the implications of the latter, and what they mean for the world today, are clearly less understood. Our historical blind spot does not allow Americans a contextualized view of the black liberation struggle, instead placing it in a vacuum of moral deficit and rampant pathologizing. Where this postmodernist view intersects with the concept of urban decay, all manner of Hell breaks loose: “broken windows,” Stop And Frisk, and crime-free multi-housing are just a few of the tactics applied to harass and corral people of color into submission, while continuing to starve those same neighborhoods of resources and opportunities, scratching their heads and wondering aloud, “why are they doing this to themselves?”

In this edition of Weekly Dispatches, I’m here to attempt a reversal of that historical amnesia, by curating a selection of articles and tools that will help to fill in the gaps. Read long, read well, and remember: the dark heart of white supremacy lies at the root of societal inequality for all, and to better understand the disease is to better realize the cure.
Randle Aubrey, “America’s Other Foundational Institution”
Pink Elephants, 03/28/17
I don’t often cite myself in these curations, nor will I claim with any certainty to be an authority on this subject, but as a subject I care quite deeply about, I’ve attempted in this essay to conduct a meta-narrative arguing that, as a system, the reason why the stain of slavery has been so difficult to wash from American society is because, contrary to popular belief, slavery was not an aberration of the American experiment, but was in fact considered crucial to our nation’s continued success as the Age Of Expansion drew to a close.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case For Reparations”
The Atlantic, June 2014
It’s easy to compare Ta-Nehisi Coates to James Baldwin; few authors since Baldwin’s time have been able to offer such a unique and eloquent voice to the African-American experience. In this seminal essay, Coates places his argument for reparations squarely within the twentieth century, focusing his sights directly on America’s political blind spot and claiming that the abuses of the post-slavery era, when America became an apartheid state in all but name, offer more than sufficient standing for a redress of grievances to the African-American community on behalf of the state.
Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America
“A newly revamped interactive site from "Mapping Inequality" takes scores of HOLC maps — previously accessible only in person at the Archives or in scanned images posted piecemeal online — and embeds them on a single map of the USA...Coates focused on redlining in Chicago, but — as is immediately obvious on the Mapping Inequality site — redlining was carried out across the country.” (NPR)
Marisa Chappell, “The Curious Case of Urban Homesteading”
Jacobin, 03/31/17
Redlining forced hundreds of thousands people of color into increasingly impoverished cities, while whites fled to the “safety” of the suburbs to further pursue the atomization of the public square as part of the neoliberal project. But in later years, as the faced upon that project began to crumble, austerity politics suddenly made the cities much more appealing once again, bringing about the Gentrification Age. Urban homesteading, the practice of offering public money for low-income, private housing, is the tip of the gentrification spear, allowing aspiring white suburbanites to, as Marisa Chappell puts it, “resettle our new frontier — the inner city” and “carve…communities out of the urban wilderness.” 

KATHY LEE GIFFORD'S BANANA STAND

The Today Show - paragon of the Fourth Estate that they are - were not to be outdone in the hippy-punching race to the bottom this week, as sentient-leather-handbag-turned-daytime-talk-show-host Kathy Lee Gifford was all, "Hey, Bill-O...hold my beer!" and made a mockery of Bill Nye The Science Guy during the show's Earth Day segment.



"Kathy Lee is so fetch."
Regina George called; she wants her eye roll back.

By way of explanation for this bullshit, I'm going to attempt to answer what I think was a rhetorical question left as a comment by one of the viewers:
"What's Kathy Lee's deal? What is it with that rudeness and classlessness? Doesn't fit the Today show at all."
It doesn't have to. Certainly not on Earth Day, and certainly not on daytime teevee, which is mindlessly consumed by America's freedumb-lovin' conservative base in roughly equal quantities to their regularly scheduled hate speech via Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, et al.

We can't know whether Kathy Lee was being a shit to Bill Nye on purpose, or whether she just really needed another gin and tonic to rid herself of the shakes. But what we can know - what we do know - is that, to quote the almighty Driftglass, "there is always money in the wingnut banana stand."



This fuckery will disappear into the collective memory hole within another day or two, but for the millions of mouth-breathing, Hovaround-ing, pre-diabetic-ing ingrates that happened to boot-scoot their way across this segment as it aired, I'm sure it was quite satisfying to watch the Gam Cam while Kathy Lee exasperated herself all over some pointy-headed intellectual who wanted to talk about floating raisins and shit.

If those same nitwits stuck around for the whole segment, then hey, it's job well done at the NBC studios, amirite people?

Panem et circenses pro omnis!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

UNCLE SNOOP WANTS BILL O'REILLY PARADED NEKKID THROUGH THE STREETS LIKE CERSEI LANNISTER...AND SO DO I


He's got a point. Here we are, watching two decades worth of Bill-O's philanderous fuckery, the lascivious doggerel and thinly-veiled psychospiritual hypocrisy come crashing down around him, and we can't even get the satisfaction of watching him being ridden out of town on a rail because he's some Rich White Dude.

Bill Cosby may have been a perennial deviant and sexual predator, but at least his public persona was one of human decency, albeit obviously of the manufactured variety. Bill-O is literal filth personified in rhetoric, responsible for pumping tens of thousands of hours of hate speech into the skulls of the mouth-breathing bigots and global eyesores that make up the Fox News viewing public, and even for the murder of an abortion doctor.
O'Reilly had waged an unflagging war against Tiller that did just about everything short of urging his followers to murder him.

According to Salon, between 2005 and April 2009, O'Reilly talked about Tiller on 29 episodes of his show. He repeatedly referred to him as "Tiller the Baby Killer" and hurled all sorts of other epithets in Tiller's direction: He equated him with Nazis, al-Qaida and NAMBLA; said he was "operating a death mill"; claimed he was "executing babies about to be born"; and equated his profession with the actions of Mao, Hitler and Stalin.

In perhaps the most direct attack on Tiller, O'Reilly came close to saying that he personally would be violent toward Tiller if he could get away with it:

"And if I could get my hands on Tiller – well, you know. Can't be vigilantes. Can't do that. It's just a figure of speech. But despicable? Oh, my God. Oh, it doesn't get worse. Does it get worse? No."

As Gabriel Winant of Salon wrote the day of Tiller's murder, "there's no other person who bears as much responsibility for the characterization of Tiller as a savage on the loose, killing babies willy-nilly thanks to the collusion of would-be sophisticated cultural elites, a bought-and-paid-for governor and scofflaw secular journalists."

This is the mindset that Scott Roeder had when he murdered Tiller at his church on a Sunday morning. Roeder pulled the trigger; Bill O'Reilly was one of the forces to metaphorically put the bullet in the chamber.
For that and more -- Gawd, so much more -- can we bring back tarring and feathering, just this once? Puh-leeze?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

NOSTALGIA IS A JAPANESE GIRL-PUNK BAND



Nobody ever tells you about nostalgia when you’re a kid. Nobody ever tells you how an image or a place or a song can instantaneously rip you out of the present with such vivid emotional clarity. Nobody ever tells you about the swelling of half-dead feelings in your breast, and how many tears you’re going to shed over all that ever was, and all that could have been.

Nobody tells you how much it hurts, or how much you’ll crave that hurt, over and over and over again.

About a month ago, a Facebook friend made a post asking for music recommendations, specifically lady-fronted pop-punk outfits to share with her tween daughters. As you can probably imagine, there’s a significant dearth of them both in and out of the spotlight, just like in every other genre. Most folks were suggesting bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney, or even Paramore. Good as those bands all are, as riot grrls and alt-rockers, neither quite fit the bill.

MySpace remembers.
For me, Megababe, the biggest little band to ever come out of Japan, is the only lady-fronted pop-punk band that comes to mind. And they might be the only one I’ll ever need.

I discovered the band in 2006 through a former co-worker, when his band was slated to open for them at Johnny V’s Bar, my now-defunct punk rock alma mater. Greg was a big fan, telling me how dope they were and how this was their first American tour so they needed all the support they could get and so did he so could I please, please come? I didn’t care for Greg’s band all that much, but he was a really nice guy and super earnest about how much I’d like Megababe, so I promised I’d come out to support like a good scene kid, especially since my band had a show at Johnny V’s the following week. Being that punk rock and heavy metal occupy a pretty big tent together, promotional opportunities were likely to abound, and besides: I didn’t have shit else to do that night, anyway.

There’s no feeling like seeing a really good live band for the first time, especially one you’ve never heard or heard of before. The stage is the crucible upon which all bands are forged, and either makes or breaks them every time they step upon it. Megababe made it and then some that night, like few other bands could.

Johnny V’s was a tiny, dark, sweaty place that only held around fifty people, but Megababe made the at-capacity crowd feel ten times that size. From their opening number, the sub-sixty-second thrasher “Miss Me?” all the way to their big finish with “Speak Japanese Or Die,” the title track to their album, these three tiny punk rock grrls from Tokyo rocked harder than just about any band I’ve ever seen, bopping and banging their way all over the stage and leaving the audience dying for more.

I’ve been to dozens, if not hundreds of shows in my life, but the only band I think I’ve ever seen perform with greater intensity was The Dillinger Escape Plan, and only by a matter of aesthetic degrees. I can’t even remember the other bands who played that night, because Megababe schooled them all. Afterwards, the band hung out and chatted with the crowd until the bar shut down, taking pictures and being incomparably sweet and friendly and so excited that everyone enjoyed them as much as we did.

Megababe at Johnny V's, 2005. (PHOTO: Unknown)
I’ll never forget that performance, or how fortunate I was to be able to discover Megababe at all, as they, too are now defunct. I even wrote a review of the show, that you can still find on their website. A few days later, I borrowed Greg’s copy of “Speak Japanese Or Die” and put it on to my computer, but that was many electronic media devices and many lifetimes ago, so for me, Megababe and their face-melting brand of kawaii-core had all but faded into memory, and obscurity.

But like a Pavlovian pup hearing the dinner bell, when the phrase “lady-fronted pop-punk bands” drifted across the screen, the name “Megababe” leaped to the front of my consciousness, as did that amazing, amazing show. But sharing the name without the music would be an exercise in cruel futility; after so long without ever even hearing their name, would I be able to find any record of this obscure, indie band from the other side of the world?

Thankfully, like the elephants from which I take my blog’s namesake, the Internet never forgets. A quick Google search led me to their MySpace page (yes, MySpace still exists, although I can’t imagine how), where you can stream “Speak Japanese Or Die” in its entirety. And sure enough, a little more digging lead me to find the album for sale on iTunes and CDBaby, although where the money’s going at this point, I’ll never know. But I grabbed a copy anyway, and I haven’t stopped listening to it since.

When I put the album on again for the first time, it did more than just take me back to that night; it took me back in time, to a past I’ve all but buried. My twenties. Back when the world still made sense, more or less. When I thought I had things figured out.

The year of Our Lord 2005 was, for me, the proverbial height before the fall. Within two years, both my marriage and my career would fall apart, and a nervous breakdown would leave me couch surfing between unemployment checks and selling dope to pay for my cell phone so I could use it to sell more dope. Before that, however, I was at the top of the world, or at least at the top of mine: with a beautiful home with my ex-wife, a great job in tech, and a killer band that was loved by my peers along with the community at large, there wasn’t much more I could have asked for. I thought I had everything I wanted. But it wasn’t enough. It’s never enough.

L to R: Miho (Drums), Miyu (Guitar, Vocals),
Ako (Bass, Backup Vocals). (PHOTO: Jeff Bizzell)
We often pay steeply in the pursuit of our ambitions, with little guarantee of success. I never realized how much I was prepared to give up, how much I was giving up, in order to pursue this life of creative destitution. Not that I had any choice in the matter, or so it seemed. I hesitate to believe in destiny, as so much of life on this planet is random and pointless; but if luck is opportunity plus preparation, as they say, then I’m fortunate to be able to look over my shoulder and see that it’s been a mostly red carpet I’ve been tripping on for the last several years. For that, at least, I’m grateful.

Listening to Megababe, a motley trio of Japanese girls whose sweet, plaintive wails and roaring guitars are the theme to a Saturday morning cartoon in desperate need of manufacture, brings all of the good, the bad, and the ugly of my life into stark, immediate relief. My thirties have been chaotic to say the least, a breathtaking journey of self-discovery that nearly killed me more than once, metaphorically and literally. I had to lose a lot of who I was in order to figure out who I am. I’m still figuring that out, one day at a time.

At least I’ve got one helluva soundtrack.

AARON HERNANDEZ IS A FALSE FLAG, AND OTHER FAIRY TALES

Aaron Hernandez, making what is commonly known as "scandal face."

There's hardly any clearer indication of someone's personal biases than the way they account for gaps in their own knowledge. Whether those gaps are legitimate or founded in ignorance is almost beside the point: the means in which they are filled speaks volumes. And nothing brings out the amateur detective in most average Joes and Janes more than when tragedy strikes the rich and famous. Case in point: footballer-cum-convicted killer Aaron Hernandez’s apparent suicide by bedsheet early Wednesday morning. 
Aaron Hernandez Dies by Apparent Suicide in Prison
NBC Bay Area
, 04/19/17
Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez, an explosive tight end who had been convicted of murder and last week cleared in two other killings, was discovered dead in his prison cell by a corrections officer early Wednesday morning.

Hernandez, 27, hanged himself with a bed sheet attached to his cell window at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts, at approximately 3:05 a.m., and was pronounced dead about an hour later at UMass-Memorial Health Alliance Hospital in Leominster, according to a statement from the Massachusetts Department of Correction. He had attempted to block the door from the inside by jamming it with various items, prison officials said. He was in a single cell in a general population unit in the maximum-security state prison. […]
The first mentions of this incident that I saw was, like most news briefs I read, on Facebook, accompanied by multiple declarations of “THIS WAS NOT SUICIDE OMG!!!!!” by commenters who clearly have powers of clairvoyance that make them privy to details about the incident that they’re not sharing. UNFAIR!

Here's what we know: a rising football star, poised for greatness, is implicated in three murders, undergoes a high-profile series of trials where he is convicted for one of those murders and sentenced to life in prison without parole, thus destroying both career, his legacy, and his life before any of them had even really started. All this, before the age of thirty.

Combining that with the celebrity status Americans afford to professional athletes and the glee with which we love to tear down our idols when they fall from grace, suicide seems at least plausible in this instance, wouldn't you think? 

The Internet detectives are on the case!
Of course not, gasp the True Believers in unison. He was MURDERIZED. Wake up sheeple!

­čĄö

Let’s move on.

Based on the facts reported thus far, Hernandez’s suicide seems an open-and-shut case: he hung himself with the bedsheets in his cell (but…but…how could such a big dude hang himself? Steel-belted bedding? Wake up sheeple!), the door was found barred from the inside when his body was discovered, which would be awfully difficult for anyone other short of Houdini (or a security guard with an interdimensional teleportation device; don’t you know ANYthing?) to accomplish.

Also, while the lack of correspondence or indication that he wanted to take his own life might seem odd, people who want to commit suicide – the serious ones, anyway – don’t usually go around broadcasting their intent to those who might miss them when they're gone. It's the same thing with serial killers and mass shooters: "he was such a nice, quiet boy" / "always so friendly and polite" / "we never saw it coming" / etc.

Letting the cat out of the bag screws your chances of success, and people have a vested interest in seeing their friends/peers/loved ones as psychologically healthy in order to maintain a sense of their own well being, even when those friends/peers/loved ones are incredible duress and even if it means turning a blind eye to the cracks in their facade. Between the two, it's easy for people who want to die – or to kill – to conceal their motives until their actions render such a thing impossible.

There's no such thing as a clear-cut case of suicide, and while there are certain patterns that can be examined, as a result of endless post-mortems they work best as guidelines alone. It's all but impossible to know what thoughts dwell in the hearts and minds of someone who intends to kill, and that goes double for spectators trying to divine their intent through multiple layers of personal bias and media framing.

So why does any of this matter, do you ask?

Because people who breathlessly make declarative statements without evidence about low-bar nonsense like this are likely to do the same thing about stuff that really matters, like the way our society operates. From here, it’s a slippery slope down the InfoWars rabbit hole, where the next thing you know, you’ll find yourself complaining about how juice boxes make kids gay and challenging Alec Baldwin to charity, bare-knuckle fist fights.

Conspiracy derp is as conspiracy derp does. Stay skeptical, my friends.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

NAOMI KLEIN WANTS YOU TO MAKE BRANDALISM GREAT AGAIN



Naomi Klein's No Logo is one of the definitive books on corporate brand culture, and as one of the foremost experts on the subject, Klein has a message for those standing fast against the Cheetocracy: beating the orange bastard at his own game is not as hard as you think.

Watch the video and realize that a lot of this is already happening, and is ridiculously easy to participate in. And if/when you're feelin' thirsty for more, shall we say...substantive action, have I got a how-to book for you!


(Or you can just click here to read the digital copy for free online)

Happy brandalizing!

Monday, April 17, 2017

THE RISE AND (HOPEFUL) FALL OF ALEX JONES


So it turns out Ultimate Derp Warrior and King Of The Keyboard Cage Alex Jones really was a prophet, after all: there is an InfoWar for your mind. It’s just that, well...he started it.

ESQUIRE WITH THE STEEL CHAIR!
Will Alex Jones Admit He's a Fraud to Keep His Kids?
Esquire, 04/17/17

Is Alex Jones' volcanic public persona real, or is it all an act? The answer to that question could determine whether Jones keeps custody of his children. In a Travis County, Texas, courtroom over the next two weeks, the
InfoWars host will battle his ex-wife, Kelly, for the right to look after their kids. According to The Austin American-Statesman, Kelly Jones' main argument for overturning that arrangement is that there is no difference between her ex-husband off-camera and the unhinged right-wing conspiracy theorist he appears to be on-air, and that, as a result, he's unfit to care for their children. The counterargument from Jones' lawyers is that his act is all "performance art," which you can't use to judge Jones the father—nor the man. To keep custody of his children, Jones will try to convince a jury that he's a fraud.

"He's playing a character," Jones' lawyer, Randall Wilhite, told state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo. "He is a performance artist." Wilhite compared judging Jones for his
InfoWars antics to judging Jack Nicholson based on his 1989 performance as the Joker in Batman. But Batman was a movie, its premise presented purely as fiction. On InfoWars, Jones presents himself as a True Believer—and he peddles his evidence-free conspiracies as the real truth that The Man or "the globalists" don't want you to know.
 
Along with Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, Alex Jones wrote the book on late-era conservative outrage-for-fun-and-profit, frenemies fighting fiercely in a free-market feeding frenzy. In such a race to the bottom, it was inevitable that all manner of bottom-feeders would follow suit, eventually creating the modern infotainment-industrial complex that fiddles while Rome burns.

The market for stupid was bound to catch up with Jones eventually. Realizing quickly that derp would be best served unfiltered, there was only one thing he could do: proclaim himself God-King Of All Kooks, crank up his blood pressure to Ludicrous Speed, and become the rootin’-est, tootin’-est, yer-dern-tootin’-est derpslinger of the Information Age. Case in point:


But now the chickens have come home to roost, and he’s faced with Sophie’s Choice: renounce his throne, or his children. I’m not sure what the answer will be, but I do know this: my ringside seat for Derp-A-Mania 2017 came with extra schadenfreude in the goodie bag.

Now taking bets on whether he’ll rip his shirt off in a fury during testimony. Step right up!

Friday, April 14, 2017

TEXTING: YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.

Like tequila, dating advice should usually be taken with a grain of salt.

Take this little nugget of “wisdom,” courtesy of HuffPo blogger and American Fertility Association alum Pamela Madsen’s recent column “18 Tips For Loving Each Other Longer Than a Week,” for example:
“Respond to communications. If you partner texts you, calls you, or sends up smoke signals; please respond. Hit reply. If you don’t have time to really respond; let them know! That takes a minute! There is nothing worse then writing to your significant other and not having them acknowledge you in anyway. Selective ignoring doesn't work either. Talk about a drama builder. And if you partner needs you; they should come first.”
Sounds good, right? Communication, honesty, and respect are the three pillars of every great relationship, and at first blush this idea seems to address all three in a neat and tidy package. That is, until you begin to realize that, the way people people actually use text messaging to communicate is hardly honest or respectful.

Text messaging, like the smartphones we typically do it on, is a relatively new phenomenon. Yet we've allowed ourselves to become wholly dependent upon the practice without understanding or acknowledging the limits it places on our ability to communicate. Rather, we shift the responsibility onto others for failing to use text messaging in the ways we want them to, instead of proactively communicating in a fashion that actually gets our needs met, even partway.

Letting someone's inability or unwillingness to respond to passive communication in whatever passes for a "timely fashion" – a concept that is highly subjective and in constant flux – play to your insecurities is to give them a power over you that they don't deserve.

When you send someone a text message, there is NO way of knowing what's happening for that person on the other side of the screen, even if we see them being active online. We can only let our imagination fill in the blanks, and the ways in which we do so reveal a lot more about ourselves than the people we're talking to, provided we're willing to listen.

The "fix" to this, such as it were, is to use active communication if you feel any sense of urgency. "Smoke signals" and all that are just passive-aggressive bullshit. Think before you type, for Chrissake: if it's that important, call them first. If they don't pick up, send them a message and tell them that it's urgent. It’s that simple. If they still don't respond quick enough to make you feel comfortable, at least then you have a leg to stand on because you've made your intentions clear.

Ultimately, we need to suck it up every once in a while and realize that, despite the presence of an e-leash in every pocket, “the right to be let alone,” as Louis Brandeis put it in 1890, encompasses “every form of possession – intangible, as well as tangible,” like the time you spend away from your significant other. Their decision to exercise that right is not a reflection on you unless you choose to make it so.

Until then, there’s little doubt that many people will stubbornly continue to rely on text messaging as a primary means of communication, even for things that are urgent or time-sensitive, all the while scratching their heads as to why they're not getting their needs met. Those who do so are solely responsible for fueling their anxieties, their insecurities, and their narcissism, not the person on the other end of their message who cannot be seen, heard, or brought to account in any meaningful way.

All the personal compromises in the world won't change the reality of text messaging's limitations, or how refusing to admit to and accept those limitations puts some of the worst aspects of human behavior into a particle accelerator in ways that are impossible to ignore. If there's a conversation couples need to be having surrounding the concept, it should probably start there.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

"THE FIRST GREAT MAMMY STORY OF THE TRUMP ERA"

"The First Great Film of the Trump Era," eh?


They got the tagline wrong. It should read: "The First Great Mammy Story Of The Trump Era."

What utter shite this promises to be. No amount of "Sorry About Colonialism" cinema is ever going to remedy white guilt through panacea no matter how many tens of millions of dollars are pumped into the genre:
"Let's use the biggest film of the decade as an example. Now it's not a sequel, remix or adaptation, but it is a genre film -- sci-fi -- and most tellingly, it's a member of a tiny sub-genre where sympathetic white people feel bad about all the murder, pillaging, and annihilation being done on their behalf.

I call this sub-genre "Sorry about Colonialism!" I'm talking about movies like
Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai, The Last of the Mohicans, Dune, Lawrence of Arabia, A Man Called Horse, and even Fern Gully and Pocahontas."
And this is only a small sampling. He didn't even get to Avatar, for Chrissake. But seeing as how that movie is basically Dances With Wolves in space, he didn't really have to.

But considering Salma Hayek's recent White Feminism™ treatment of The Daily Show's Jessica Williams at a recent forum on the changing role women in media, I can't say I'm too surprised she took a role like this. She probably thinks she's doing brown people across the country a favor by showing that they, too can overcome the structural inequities that define racism and white supremacy in America through reiki and temper tantrums. WHOA IF TRUE! 

Jess, honey...are you listening? Dame Salma gon' teach you a thing or two...

Seriously, talk about losing touch with your roots, though. Sad!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

DERP ALERT!


Try not to facepalm too hard over this one:
The creator of the “charging bull” statue in Wall Street believes New York City has infringed his rights by installing a second statue next to the model without his permission.

Italian-born sculptor Arturo Di Modica said the “fearless girl” statue of a young girl facing down the bull, put in place on March 7, changed the creative dynamic of his sculpture, The Guardian reported.

Attorney Norman Siegel said Di Modica would spell out in a press conference Wednesday how he plans to challenge city authorities, which have said the sculpture will remain in place until February 2018.

Both art works began as temporary fixtures, and were extended by popular demand.

In 1987 Di Modica installed the charging bull without a permit in the dead of night, as a symbol of the U.S.’s financial resilience after the stock market crash that year. It was later given permanent status after becoming popular with the public.

The fearless girl statue by artist Kristen Visbal appeared on March 7,  the day before International Women’s Day.
Just so we're clear: the dude who installed the bull without the city's permission is mad because the city didn't ask his permission to "alter" it.

And I thought Darth Cheeto had chuztpah...

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, CON'T.



I dunno who these two meatheads are, or where they're from. But what I do know is that they're on Fox News talking about how some young black girl refused to stand for the national anthem, and is that a bad thing? We report, you decide!

Also, thickneck-ass white dude got paid to say on live television that he would stand for a national anthem that disrespects Jewish people just like our national anthem disrespects black people, and that's all I need to know about what a piece of shit he is.
"No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave."
But wait....haven't I seen this sort of thing before?



As long as Two Minutes Hate remains a Republican cash cow, expect every network to cleave to Nielsen's lowest common denominator.

ANTHEM OF THE WEEK: "CENTERFOLD" BY THE J. GEILS BAND


"Duke Ellington said there's only two kinds of music -- good and bad -- and I always adhered to that...I've never considered myself just a blues player or just a rock player or anything like that. I just go with whatever it feels right to play at the time."
I'm not old enough to appreciate J. Geils. He came to prominence when I was a toddler, and his music is such a product of its time that, for me at least, there's not much for me to latch on to. But I do love this song, which is both scandalous and plaintive, like all great rock n' roll songs oughta be.

My condolences to the Geils family and to their friends and loved ones.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

WALKING THE TIGHTROPE


America is a nation built on, among other things, the idea of not being a phony.

You’ll notice that whenever pundits and politicians refer to blue-collar, Middle-America-types (read: White People™) as “hardworking” on the teevee, the word “honest” almost always precedes it. America is a nation that, for good and for ill, sees itself as unflinchingly honest and forthright, and has plenty of powerful mythologies to back it up. One of our favorite stories Americans tell our children has to do with our first president coming clean about chopping down a tree after he lied about it, for Chrissake. Hell, Abe Lincoln stayed mealy-mouthed on the question of abolition until the Civil War was nearly concluded and the body count was well over half a million , and they called him “Honest,” too.
America’s notion of itself as a nation with integrity, combined with the myth of our exceptionalism, have again, for good and for ill, made us into the most powerful nation in the world. But these things have also made “honest” Americans believe themselves are the sole arbiters of global truth, based on a narrow set of Judeo-Christian (read: White People™) values that no more reflect who we are as a nation than some Evil Queen’s magic mirror when she says “tell me I’m pretty.”

It's not hard to picture him in a dress.
Where that narrow set of Judeo-Christian values collides with the realities of human sexuality, chaos almost always ensues. Generally speaking, anyone who doesn’t look, act, think or fuck like Republican Jesus says “honest” Americans should is an apostate, an impostor, and probably looking to bugger your children and/or your spouse. Sadly, for the coalition behind of our nation’s most colorful acronym – LGBT – this usually spells big trouble when it comes to interacting with straight society, or as “honest” Americans like to put it: society. Discrimination, violence, and death are not just common: they’re baked into the value set itself.

As you can imagine, “honest” Americans don’t like being lied to, and as far as most of them are concerned, when LGBT people tell them that being who they are isn’t a matter of choice, they think LGBT are lying. Because who would wanna betray Republican Jesus and do such nasty things like that, anyway? Dirty, filthy heathens, that’s who! Martha! Grab my Bible and my shotgun!

This goes double for the “T” in LGBT; according to “honest” Americans, men are Men™ and women are Women™; we have to ensure with absolute certainty that there’s no way to confuse one for the other, lest we stick our hoo-has in the wrong cha-chas and make Republican Jesus shed big, White crocodile tears. To them, anyone who would want to muddy the waters of binary gender expression is the worst kind of impostor, because how dare you try and masquerade as the opposite sex and make my naughty bits feel funny when they’re not supposed to. Martha! Where’s that damned shotgun?

But what kind of effect is this sort of “exposure” culture having on the trans community? Thirty percent of transgender youth reported a history of at least one suicide attempt in a 2016 study, and rates of psychiatric illness among trans men and women are staggeringly high, not to mention problems with educational and legal systems. “Honest” Americans would have transgendered people believe that such are the wages of fraudulence; if they would just stop pretending to be something they’re not, the logic follows, then there would be no good reason to ostracize them. They do it to themselves. Republican Jesus said so.

If “the world is a stage, and the people are merely players,” as Shakespeare put it, then there isn’t a trans person alive who doesn’t deserve multiple Academy Awards for giving the performance of a lifetime every. Single. Day. What’s it like to live in a world where millions of “honest” Americans, for whom pseudo-morals and good guy badges will always be a thing, think you’re a phony? To literally have your life depend on getting those same “honest” Americans, who blend seamlessly into the background because they are the background, to believe otherwise?

A Labor Of Love

Often felt, yet rarely discussed openly in professional circles is the notion of “impostor syndrome,” described by Wikipedia as an affliction of "high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and...remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved." The relentless commodification of all forms of labor in Western society has led the public to place incredible value on product over process, demanding cheaper and easier access to product with little understanding of the relationship between the two. Therefore, if process cannot be marketed as a product all its own, it is worthless. What’s worse, the inability of process to add value to a product renders process even more invisible, puts even greater downward pressure on the value of both.

The effect of this is that, for people whose professional lives are fraught with failure or a protracted lack of real opportunity, success, if it comes, always comes with an asterix. It’s always at the behest of someone else, or so we are taught to believe. The phrase “fake it ‘till you make it” comes to mind, but that implies that you’re still faking it after you’ve made it. Holy shit, I’m totally gaming the system, you might say to yourself. When everyone finds out, I’m a dead man. But who are you faking it for? And were you ever really faking it in the first place?

The more successful you get, the higher the stakes become, and the more you feel like an impostor. And when after feeling the Sword Of Damocles hovering above you for long enough, when it does – and it always does – it’s often more a relief than a burden. But it’s still a burden, one that can be harmful, and even fatal.

I can’t help but wonder, then, who “honest” Americans view trans people as the worst kind of impostors that could ever make Republican Jesus shed White Tears, force trans people, to grapple with their own form of impostor syndrome?

Being trans, it would seem, is much more than just an act of gender expression; it’s an act of creative expression, one that takes vision and courage and dedication to achieve. An act of labor. A process.

Switching genders is not easy, let alone doing so convincingly; it takes incredible skill, support, and access to resources that are often extremely costly, not to mention more than a little luck in the genetic lottery. Whatever end of each spectrum any given trans person ends up on will drastically affect their ability to perform the fullest expression of themselves. To what extent they are able to do so, it would seem, plays a large hand in determining their fate, to put it mildly.

Supportive friends and family, material wealth, and a malleable physiology go a long way toward putting trans people on the path to full self-expression early, and with a much greater degree of physical and emotional safety. Sadly, such a precious combination of blessings is incredibly rare, meaning that, for a great many trans men and women, the threat of exposure and its consequences are often very real, and very immediate.

When speaking against nuclear proliferation at the dawn of the Cold War, philosopher Bertrand Russell stated that “you may reasonably expect a man to walk a tightrope safely for minutes; it would be unreasonable to do so without accident for two hundred years.” To live life as a trans person would seem to be an equally difficult balancing act, with the potential for equally dire consequences.

Lights, Camera, ├ťbermensch!

As with the broader LGBT struggle in general, positive media representation and heightened visibility have played a critical role in trans liberation, particularly once the Internet came of age. Trans men and women around the world have been able to seize the reigns of media production and begin to tell their own stories like never before, to whomever would listen. And people listened. Lots of them.

Where the audience goes, the money flows, and sure enough, stories about or featuring trans people turned out to be profitable, either in cash or clicks. There’s an undeniable “bootstrap” appeal to “coming out” stories of all stripes, even for those who tune in just to point and gawk. It’s an appeal that has proven too tempting to exploit, for good or for ill.

These stories and the people who create them have been a large part of what has slowly begun to tenderize the hearts of bigots across the country towards the LGBT community, getting them to recognize that being gay is not, in fact, a curse/disease/trick/contagion/sign of the apocalypse, and that the ‘mos aren’t coming for their children after all. It’s slowly – painfully, agonizingly, slowly – having the same effect for the trans community, as well. It would seem that most trans men and women in the public eye are tireless advocates for their community, acknowledging the privilege their platform provides in ways that few others can, and using it to their advantage whenever possible or appropriate.

At the same time, the medium is the message, and the medium requires every good “bootstrap” narrative to have a happy ending, and that the “performers,” such as they are, be appropriately photogenic, in the classic Western sense: ├╝bermenschen of the first order, beautiful, invisible, indivisible. For trans people – particularly trans women, who manage to make it into the spotlight far more often than trans men – this essentially means that, to be a star, you need to be born on what passes for third base in a society where the odds are already thoroughly stacked against you. Not impossible, but not bloody likely, either.

Caitlyn Jenner (L) and Laverne Cox (R), the "Princess And The Pauper"
of the trans world, if there ever was such a thing.
Caitlyn Jenner is an obvious example of the penunltimate trans woman success story, as it were; extravagant wealth, a highly public persona, and a history of athleticism have made Jenner’s transition, late in life as it was, as painless as any one would assume any trans person could ask for.

But even Laverne Cox, arguably the trans community’s most visible spokesperson, managed to catch a few lucky breaks, despite a suicide attempt at the age eleven. She managed to pursue a liberal arts college education across multiple states before getting picked up by VH1 for her first gig. Details of her childhood are unclear, but presumably she did this with the help of a supportive family, specifically a mother that “didn’t want me to dance but let me do it anyway,” as she stated in The Independent in 2014. College, after all, ain’t free.

That same family likely also had a hand in putting a good head on her shoulders, one that helped her avoid a certain degree of exploitation in the NYC club scene where she got her start. She’s undeniably wholesome, both on and off screen. Good genes (Laverne Cox is stunningly beautiful, in a classic pinup fashion) and a penchant for makeup and hair round out the rest, bam! Within a few years, Laverne Cox becomes a perfect “rags to riches” story for the New American Century: progressive, duplicable, marketable, profitable.

It’s difficult to ignore that just about every trans woman who has risen to national media prominence since Laverne Cox has had a remarkably similar story to hers, a story which mirrors the mythical formula for “bootstrap” success: with a supportive, nuclear family (at least one family member has their back, usually a parent or a sibling), “honest” American values, and a strong work ethic, you can be anything, even a teevee star.

It’s also difficult to ignore that with practically no exceptions, every trans woman who has risen to national media prominence since Laverne Cox bears a remarkable resemblance to her: tall, shapely, graceful in word and deed, impeccable, beautiful. Together, make the best impostors in the eyes of the straight world, and by having “faked it ‘till they made it,” they’ve become the least threatening to Republican Jesus, who’s actually starting to think that Carmen Carrera is pretty hot...

The moral licensing on behalf of media execs that paved the way for trans women like Laverne Cox to become a star only holds the door open for trans people whose stories and appearance resemble her own. While it’s a step in the right direction, the message to the remainder of the trans community is clear: the better an impostor you are to the straight gaze, the more the world will accept you. But transgendered people are not impostors. They are Men™ and Women™, just like you. They just became so by a different process.