Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

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This isn’t the feeling I expected to have

Michael Cohen basically admitted in his testimony that 45’s presidential run was intended as a spectacular publicity stunt. He didn’t expect to get the nomination. He didn’t expect to win.

This was what I suspected, but never expected to have confirmed. I don’t think 45 is terribly smart, but I think he’s smart enough to know he’s sitting a top a mountain of dirty laundry that really wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny in both his businesses and private life. But his own narcissism would allow him to bow out, so here we are.

I never expected this confirmation, but I thought if it ever came I would feel smug about having my theory confirmed. I don’t feel smug. I am sad and disappointed.

This is about to wander. My dad was my favorite person, partially because he would put on puppet shows for me and loved to play with me as much as I him, but also partially because my mom had mental issues and was remote and less interactive. My dad worked long hours, and I cherished the short minutes I had with him. He would pull up a chair for me to stand on in the kitchen so I could “help” him make pancakes. He taught me to treat other people the way I wished to be treated. He taught me to drive. Because my mom was so reclusive, he taught me every thing I know about how to be in the world.

It’s almost inexplicable that the man I knew, the man who did those things, were he alive today would be completely devoted to Donald Trump. He would be so deep in that con that I would struggle to recognize who I was looking at. And this knowledge embarrasses me.

My life got bigger than where I grew up. It got bigger than the small sphere my parents were comfortable moving in. It was exquisitely painful when I realized how small my larger than life father had become. It made me feel wretched to hear his lapses in judgment and his lack of intellectual curiosity.

He would have been particularly susceptible to the snake oil 45 is selling. He loved Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. He rarely encountered people different from himself. He would have been so, so easy to con.

It breaks my heart to see my dad as a whole person, flaws and all. I grieved for who my child’s perception built up and my adult’s perception tore down. I grieved for what an easy mark the man who gently carried me from the car while I was sleeping and tucked me in bed ended up being.

And here I am, technically correct, and so, so sad for it.

Side note: I really hate Facebook as a corporate actor. I am trying to reduce what I share there. I think I will blog a bit more.


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Generational Thoughts on John McCain alternate Shut it Millennials

I had to unpack this thing because I was having a bunch of fee fees, and I couldn’t suss out why. In the wake of John McCain’s death I saw a whole mess of liberals around my age or older expressing appreciation for various things John McCain did, from his service and internment, to his various breaks with his party, to his admirable correction of a supporter telling him that Obama was a Muslim. Then I saw a wave of mostly millennials raging that people were expressing gratitude for some behaviors of a man who also did shitty things.

And I wanted to strangle the millennials a little. I think my irritation stems from three things. First, tearing someone down for expressing gratitude is gross. There’s so little that’s positive on the internet, and proudly taking a giant shit one someone saying they appreciate something is destructive.

Second, the man has been dead for like a couple days. So maybe the moment to rant about his shitty choices isn’t on the day he dies? It’s in poor taste to light a fire up the asses of his family before he’s in the ground. He’s dead and cannot hear your rage. Instead your criticism can only act on his family. There will be like infinity days after he’s buried to talk about why he was an ass. And there’s plenty of cannon fodder there. See the note at the bottom for excellent criticisms of McCain.

Third, John McCain’s death made me feel genuinely sad. But I don’t think that sadness was directly about him. His death reminded me that at one time, in the what now feels like a very distant past, I believed conservatives sincerely wanted America to succeed and only differed on how to get there. Further, I thought they accepted that I, a queer, and other people not exactly like them, could share in that success, because they valued the principles of liberty more than they were bigoted against people different from themselves.

In light of the recent past a strong argument can be made that this belief was wrong then, and that the only thing that’s changed is what’s observable vs hidden. And losing that comforting but false belief is painful. We typically believe that revealing the truth is positive, but I think it’s more like Shiva. While it does spur growth, it only does so after scorching the earth and mass destruction first.

Casualties of this truth revealed are my relationships with friends and family. And it makes reaching across this disconnection feel less and less tenable. And I know reaching across it is the only way to come to understanding. But this has eroded my faith that they can or will ever hear me.

I suspect this sadness is just beyond reach behind the gen xer’s responses to John McCain’s death. I know that’s where my sadness is coming from. It’s not really about McCain himself, but what he’d come to represent to me.

Millennials seem to regularly step on rakes when they are intellectually correct but emotionally wrong. Their criticism of McCain’s actions are correct. But slapping gen exers in the face with your truth bombs while they are mourning the loss of connection and security aren’t going to get you a medal. Let people express gratitude for the good things a flawed human did. Let McCain’s body cool before you attack his legacy. Let people have a sad. Chill the fuck out. You’re exhausting this cranky Xer.

If you want to hear what I think are the best criticisms of McCain’s actions check out this podcast. TLDL: they conclude that the worst aspect of his legacy is adding Sarah Palin to his ticket as she is a prelude to 45. Her complete lack in policy knowledge or vision for how to succeed coupled with dog-whistle resentment politics made her, not a pit bull in lipstick, but 45 in drag.


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Random Thoughts: Facebook Is a Utility

I listened to Ezra Klein’s podcast in which he interviewed Mark Zuckerberg yesterday. And there were a couple of things that troubled me. First, I was concerned to hear how quickly Mark Zuckerberg dismissed Ezra’s concerns around one of Zuckerberg’s, and therefor Facebooks’s, assumptions. The assumption is that a more connected and interacting world will result in a better world. Second, he brushed aside any suggestion that his current business model is incompatible with his stated goal of improving peoples lives based on the assumption just referenced.

What I heard was unexamined assumptions. Those are incredibly dangerous. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions the map itself is set out with unexamined assumptions.

Thanksgiving. Unless you have grown into having the exact same values as your whole family, this word should tell you that closer isn’t always better. While there are many aspects of this holiday I enjoy, it’s also a mine field of choosing between living your authentic self and avoiding unnecessary conflict.

There’s always at least one person who cannot gracefully handle conflict. Maybe your aunt is the lady who decided she would rather be right than be in relationships, rarely a choice that’s made consciously, rather one that springs from insecurity. And there’s always at least one person with fringe political believes who won’t respond kindly to any criticism of them. With these folk, the distance is precisely why you can manage Thanksgiving with them.

And that distance? It’s exactly what disappeared when Uncle Bob friended you on Facebook and started sharing link from freedom.eagle.com.ru twenty times a day during the last election. Now, you’ve got him 365 days of the year. Only now, his funny toasts and football commentary that you actually enjoy at Thanksgiving is drowned out in his political rage.
Some of the reasons we compartmentalize our lives are relationship sustaining rather than inhibiting.

I haven’t even touched the fact that psychologists are starting to put out research suggesting that time spent socializing though our phones doesn’t yield the same positive physiological results as face to face interaction. Nor have I touched on the FOMO effect that makes people less happy when they spend an excessive amount of time on social media. This gets around to the second worrying thing in that interview.

Facebook’s business model has been brought under more scrutiny since the Cambridge Analytica issue. Facebook makes money by selling us its users and our mountain of information and our attention. They have clear incentives to addict us to living in their app. Zuckerberg dismissed this as a real concern based on his assertion, which is that connected is better.

I don’t necessarily think Zuckerberg has mal-intent. But I am very troubled by the gaps in his thinking. He’s holding a stunning about of global power, and that interview demonstrated to me that he’s not intellectually rigorous enough to wield it. I think it’s time to consider regulating social media as a utility. I don’t know that the government will have any good ideas on what to do next either, but I don’t feel comfortable allowing shareholders and Zuckerberg to continue to hold all of the control.

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100 Books While 40: OUT OF AFRICA

Author: Isak Dinesen
Published: 1937

When I try to imagine interacting with a foreigner who acts and speaks in a way that lays bare their assumed ownership of my homeland and my unending indentured servitude to them I simply cannot. This is so far from my lived reality that I simply cannot put myself in that space. And that is my privilege.

This book is soaked in colonialism and entitlement. The entire continent of Africa, including all of its people is just a thing for the consumption of wealthy, affected Europeans looking to tell their peers of their exotic adventures. All the genuinely affectionate and beautiful prose dedicated to the beauty of the country and its people is soured because I cannot forget for even a moment how the continent’s present has been shaped by its past exploitation.

I’m sure my awareness was driven by my recent listening to Seeing White, a series on the Scene on Radio podcast. I cannot recommend this podcast enough, but be prepared to feel unsettled. At it’s core, that podcast made me confront what the real legacy of whiteness is. And in short it’s exploitation, theft, and power. And the only reason we can pretend that’s not the case is because we wrote history and cast ourselves in the hero role.

I am struck now by how desperate we, and by we I mean white people, are to hold on to that hero role. White men are clinging to their armories even in the face of their children dying because it furthers their hero fantasies. What an incredible thing. We love our stories more than our kids.

I was so relieved when I reached the last page of this book. You don’t need to read this book. The same delusions in the book are still acting on us today.

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Hawaii Is Beautiful Day 5

We visited Kona Joe’s coffee farm in the morning and snorkeled in the afternoon. Kona is the dry side of the big island, and we were treated to warm sunshine and cool breezes the whole day. The pictures in this post are from the coffee plantation because I am still feeling overwhelmed by the videos and pictures we have off the Go Pro that we used while snorkeling.

Here’s a thing I already knew but had confirmed. Kona coffee is a little to light bodied for me. It was fun to have a French press with freshly roasted coffee and look over the gorgeous vista, but the view was the real treat.

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Hawaii Is Beautiful Day 4

On the big island, we were fortunate enough to go on a bike tour of Volcanoes National Park. It was the only part of the islands we visited where we got to see plants native to the islands that weren’t brought by the earliest settlers. Invasive plants cover most of the islands, so seeing the native forest was haunting and magical. Plus, we saw lava spurting out of one of the volcanos, and it’s not every day that you get to see earth being born.

This day was so great, that the whole trip would have been worth it for me on its own.

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In case you want to get a better look at any of the shots in the slide show here they are below.

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Hawaii Is Beautiful Day 3

Parts of Jurassic Park were filed here. This is also the home of grass-fed happy bovines. The bunker from Lost is in here, that they said was enhanced significantly with CGI. I didn’t watch the show, so I cannot comment. The sights at this ranch are breath-taking. Enjoy!