Breaking Bad: Jesse Pinkman

If Walter White is a natural born criminal who didn’t find his true calling until he was fifty years old, then Jesse Pinkman is the exact opposite of a natural criminal. He’s more than the opposite of a criminal, he’s completely unsuited to be any kind of criminal, big time or small time. Whereas Walter White has a heart of stone and stomach of steel to do the necessary but immoral, just the mere thought of physically threatening or hurting someone makes Jesse Pinkman nervous. Jesse’s brain is made of jelly and has no stomach for the life of a criminal or outlaw. He is your typical rich white kid who’s seen too many mob movies and thinks the whole ‘lifestyle’ is one big game of drugs, booze, cash and women at his beck and call.

Jesse Pinkman is only fit to do one thing and that is to follow the life of privilege his parents prescribed for him. He is of average intelligence and like all privileged white boys, he takes everything for granted and nothing seriously. He lacks basic common sense and reasoning skills and it stems more from lack of trying rather than from lack of aptitude. He is impulsive and compulsive. He acts before he thinks and he is terrible under pressure. Not a good combination for someone who wishes to live the life of an outlaw or criminal. Besides being terrible under pressure, he is also useless in the face of adversity. Any setback large or small will send him into bed with a pipe where he is out of commission for days at a time. When a junkie couple owed them money, he went to their dilapidated pig pen to collect money and when a stolen ATM machine fell on the guy and cracked open his skull; Jesse took to his bed and got high, saying the sound of his brains splattering on the ground gave him trauma. One of his dealers got shot by rival dealers because he encroached on their territory, that dealer being a good friend of his, he took to his bed again, this time high on heroin supplied by his girlfriend. Granted, these are very traumatic events, but it’s part and parcel of the life he chose.

The best course of action for him would be to graduate from high school, keep his nose clean since he’s got no aptitude nor stomach for shenanigans legal or illegal, and attend college, preferably at one of his parent’s endowments and obtain some benign but useless degree like business management, finance or marketing and after graduation go work for his father or one of his father’s associates. It was the life that his parents wanted for him, but he had other plans.

Jesse is a bitter disappointment to his parents. In season 1, when he stumbles into his parent’s backyard after one harrowing and frightening day in the life of a drug dealer, it was expressed that they’ve given him more than enough chances to clean up and make an honest living. He had run out of chances with them and he is not to be accepted back into the fold until he truly cleans up and go straight. They let him stay a few days there, he was on good behavior, he didn’t use drugs. He attempted to bond with his much younger brother who is only in middle school. That Jesse’s parents, who now put all their hopes, aspirations, attention and love on his younger brother is not lost on him. It hurts him deeply that his parents have written him off, but then he lacks the initiative or dedication to turn his life around. He wants his parents to love him and accept him as he is now, he wants his cake and eat it too. Though he uses drugs copiously and often, he’s not at the stage of an inveterate junkie, he’s capable of going for days without using drugs. In one telling scene, where the Pinkman’s maid while cleaning Jesse’s bedroom, found an unsmoked joint of marijuana in his bedroom. The maid alerts Jesse’s parents, Jesse is promptly ejected from his parent’s home and told to never return. It is revealed that while he was outside waiting for his taxi to arrive, his younger brother came outside to say goodbye to him and thanked him for taking the fall for him. His younger brother planted the marijuana joint in his bedroom knowing the maid would find it and tell his parents. It’s unsure what his younger brother’s motivation was, maybe he wants to be the center of attention of his parents and wanted his older brother out of the way. Either way, the Pinkman’s younger golden boy is not so golden or perfect. Jesse took this on the chin and left his parents house with sadness in his heart, mostly towards his little brother, with whom he thought he was close.

When Walter White found Jesse, he was on the verge of quitting the meth business, but Walter White drew him back in with blackmail. Jesse was at that crucial time where his window of turning his life around is disappearing. If he continues down this path, he’ll mostly remain a criminal and as someone who lives outside of the law. While he still can turn things around, he is pushing thirty, and to start at the bottom of the legitimate employment sector, without a college degree, earning minimum wage flipping for sale signs at the side of road isn’t something he can countenance after he’s made so much cash so easily.

According to Walter, Jesse’s greatest flaws are he “never learned to think”, does not have the fundamental “rudimentary skills to follow basic instructions” – as evidenced by the dead body crashing through the second floor of his home because the body dissolving acid he used will eat through the bathtub, drywall, wood, nails, everything but not plastic. Jesse, in his typical knucklehead manner, assumed that if a plastic container can dissolve that body, then it must alright for a ceramic bathtub too. This was only the beginning. There was the time where he left the keys of the camper in the ignition in the middle of the New Mexico desert and then draining the battery. When they attempted to jump the battery with the generator, he got gasoline  on the outside of the generator where it promptly blew up while he was trying to start it, and the cherry on top – Jesse put out the fire with the only fresh drinking water they had left when there was a fire extinguisher. They could have died in the desert if not for Walter White’s near genius chemical mixing skills.

Because Jesse has been cast out by his family, he inadvertently sees Walter as his surrogate father. He still addresses Walter as “Mr. White” even though he is no longer his high school chemistry teacher. He wants very much to impress Walter and he’s craving a “good job” or a “well done” from Walter. And Walter wants to give him that validation he craves, but Jesse, for lack of a better word, is just too stupid at times to see the error of his own ways. Every time a Jesse related mishap happens, he never takes responsibility for it, he always blames Walter, the weather, his dead aunt, everyone and their grandma except the man in the mirror. Another classic trait of a overprivileged white boy.

But Jesse’s greatest flaw isn’t his own stupidity, his greatest flaw in relation to the line of work he’s chosen is his natural and inherent kindness. The truth is he can’t hurt a fly. He has a soft spot for children, he sees his little brother in them. He took care of his ailing aunt while she was dying from lung cancer, lived with her at her house until she died. To repay him, she let him live in her house rent free, the same house where a dead body fell through from the top floor. This boy is in the wrong line of work mixing with the wrong kind of people. The type of dealers he hires and associates with are the nice dealers, ones who aren’t capable of being ruthless, similar to himself. To be a drug dealer, you can’t afford to be nice or you’ll be worked over. Jesse never got this memo, and if a few ounces or even a pound is missing from the profits, he’s willing to look the other way than to go hunt down the missing loot – much to the ire of Walter.

Walter’s relationship with his own son Walter Jr is more complicated. Walter Jr was born with cerebral palsy. He needs crutches to get around, has a very mild almost undetectable speech impediment, but has no cognitive or intellectual impairments. Walter Jr, with the loving devotion of his mother and father lives a very independent life. He has friends and a social life and is well loved by everyone. But you can tell Walter treats his son with kid gloves. He loves his son very much but because of his physical vulnerabilities, he holds back in treating him as though he would treat a child who had no special needs. He never really challenges Walter Jr the same way as he challenges Jesse. He never busts the chops of Walter Jr like he does to Jesse. When Walter Jr makes a mistake, he doesn’t take him to task on it, he kind of nods and smiles and pats him on the back. Walter never shared his passion in chemistry with his son. He never ‘showed’ his son what he was good at, like many fathers love to show their sons what their passions and hobbies are. There is a distance there. With Jesse, you can see Walter letting loose his masculinity in a way he wouldn’t at home. Though he has a fully red blooded fifteen year old teenage boy in the house, Walter acts as though he lives in a houseful of women. In one respect, Walter is glad his actual son isn’t Jesse, but he has a relationship with Jesse that he doesn’t have with his son. Walter Jr is very much like his father in character (the good bits), he is deliberate and methodical, smart, he is well mannered, respectful to his parents and elders and well behaved, nothing like the entitled and spoiled Jesse.

For all of Jesse’s failings, one might wonder why a highly intelligent, methodical and ruthless man would want anything to do with an imbecile like Jesse as equal partners, especially in such a high risk business like narcotics distribution. Ironically, the reason lay in his weaknesses. Walter can “trust” Jesse and that is because Jesse is sentimental and fundamentally a kind person, for all of his faults he’s never endangered Walter’s personal safety (well, the desert incident notwithstanding). And secondly, Jesse does what Walter tells him to do because Jesse is weak willed, eager to please a father figure and just all around obtuse and in need of being led.

Bernie Sanders and his appeal to young people

Not long ago, I attempted to explain the appeal of Hillary Clinton to her core group(s) of supporters despite her past record and policies. Hillary Clinton has mastered the art of espousing divisive identity politics and making it appear inclusive, cohesive and unifying. While the personal story of her rise to the top, shattering many glass ceilings in the process makes for compelling reading and inspiration, it’s hardly a good reason to elect her to the highest office in the land if her policies do not serve the best interest of the people.

Many seem surprised or even baffled by the appeal of Bernie Sanders, especially to young people. People thirty or younger of both genders are flocking to Sanders in droves. A grandfatherly looking man, the opposite of what they’d consider as ‘cool’ today, with scraggly white hair, at times grumpy but kind demeanor is what the kids are after today. Compared with the youth who flocked to a suave and smooth Obama, this is an about turn.

The reason is simple. Sanders is that reliable grandfather, dad, uncle or elder who is there for you when our parents couldn’t be. When our families are imploding from the inside out due to divorce or some other family dysfunction, that grandfather or uncle is there to guide you until the storm has blown over. He doesn’t sugar coat his positions and will not make promises he can’t keep just to score political points. Sanders lost significant supporters especially minority supporters when he didn’t support reparations as he feels there is zero chance it can be passed through Congress. That effort is best served at passing legislation which help the 99%. He readily admits that he’s not as experienced in foreign policy matters as Secretary Clinton, but he still has his good judgement and the judgement will make up for lack of experience.

Voters, especially young people, who are more intolerant of bullshit from politicians feel they can trust Sanders. Sanders seeks to unite, not divide. Though a white male, full of privilege as everyone loves to tell him, he advocates for those in less privileged, even a woman’s right to choose. I have watched many Sanders v. Clinton debates and not once do I perceive him to be man-splaining or white-splaining even in the middle of heated disagreements. And as a woman past a certain age, I am very sensitive to those who attempt to man-splain or white-splain. This is a man, after all, who has raised three daughters and I am sure has at one time or another gotten into hot water for attempting to do either of the above. He is an older man with white scraggly hair which is in good need of care some days, he isn’t glamorous or smooth nor does he pretend to be but he is sincere. You feel that he loves his supporters beyond the superficial; seeing them more than for their potential for donations or turning up at the polls.

(And just in case the Clinton-shills aren’t aware; Sanders is fully aware he is a white cis-male, he is Jewish not Christian, but still white, and he’s very privileged as a result. He KNOWS. No need to keep reminding him.)

Though he cleaned up last six of the seven primaries or caucuses, his chances are the nomination are still uncertain. It’s looking better but still uncertain. And he still may not get the nomination in the end. No matter what, Sanders will be remembered as a candidate who challenged the Democratic establishment, especially the Clinton juggernaut from the left. The insurgency of Sanders, driven by the youth proves that young people today are far from callow and apathetic. Young people know exactly what’s going on with their country and what to do about it. They will begin to destroy neoliberalism with their votes and bring the Democratic party back to its true progressive roots. If Clinton wins the nomination and ultimately the presidency in the general election. Let’s hope it’s the last we hear of them. The Clintons had their chance, they’ve overstayed their welcome and it’s time for them to spend their ill gotten millions in luxurious retirement, far away from the public. They can continue publishing books that no one will ever read, make speeches that no one will listen to or care about, but whatever they do, just stay out of our faces. This includes Chelsea too.

#FeelTheBern

Breaking Bad: Walter White 

When a man finds out he’s terminally ill and has got a very short time left, many things can happen. He can fulfill his bucket list like Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman did in the movie The Bucket List and attain some form of enlightenment and self-actualization or he can do the opposite and make a fuck-it list. Fuck society and its rules, fuck law enforcement, fuck convention, fuck ‘doing the right thing’ like his mom and dad taught him to do. Fuck everyone and everything who once stood in his way. He’s going to go out his way, guns a blazing, even if it destroys everyone in his path. 

This is the dilemma of Walter White (Brayn Cranston), a suburban high school chemistry teacher from Albuquerque, New Mexcico, who got diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer (Stage 3A) and his prognosis is treatable but not curable. His salary as a chemistry teacher is not enough to cover their expenses and he’s taken on a second job at a local carwash to supplement his income. He has a teenage son with special needs, Walter Jr., who attends the same high school he teaches at, and after a long wait, his wife Skylar is expecting a little girl in a few months. It is in the midst of all of this, after he collapses at the carwash job, he finds out he has terminal lung cancer. The insurance he has through his teaching job is a HMO plan and is inadequate for the cancer treatments he will need. All of the good oncologists in town do not accept HMO and he would basically have to pay out of pocket for all of the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The alternative would be to accept whatever substandard treatment plan that would be approved by his HMO. 

His family rally around him and offer him any support he may need, but they do not have the one thing he needs the most, which is money for the treatments. For the first time Walter White is truly vulnerable. His wife Skylar doesn’t work and she’s unable to go back to work until after her baby is born. He begins to plan his next move, whether to go through with cancer treatment or not. They could borrow money and go into severe debt and only for him to die and leave his wife, son and baby daughter destitute. There are no good options for Walter. His family wants him to undertake cancer treatments but he is unsure. 

Walter White’s brother-in-law Hank Schrader (the husband of Skylar’s sister Marie) is a DEA officer who regularly makes crystal methamphetamine busts, confiscating hoards of unsold drugs and cash. Usually bundles of 100 notes just lying around in some cook house. Hank, is a stereotypical drug enforcement officer; he is a blowhard, show off, racist and sexist all rolled into one. Sexist and racist jokes roll off his tongue, in front of his wife, other women, his nephew Walter Jr., even in front of his Latino partner. He does it all with a big guffaw and wink. He justifies his views as experiences acquired from his many years on the job. Hispanics in Albuquerque are almost all drug dealers, hag-faced middle age white women are meth-hookers, white people deal and smoke pot, and blacks don’t feature at all in his part of town. When Hank meets someone, he immediately susses them out to see if they criminals or law abiding citizens and because his views of each category are so narrow, he often misses the obvious signs. His in-laws barely tolerate him and they only do so because of familial affection and his position in law enforcement. He’s not someone they want to piss off, he will use the power of his badge to get his way. Because Hank likes to show off, he often offers his family and friends to ride along with him when he’s making a bust. Hank offered to take Walter White on busts but Walter always turned him down, saying that it’s not his thing. When Walter caught on the evening news one night how much cash was confiscated from a meth-lab (cook house), he decided to accept his brother-in-laws offer to go on a ride along to get a closer look on how a meth-lab works.

The character of Walter White is a character of contradictions. On the outside, he couldn’t have been more ordinary. He is a middle aged man (just turned 50), white, high school chemistry teacher in the Albuquerque suburbs. He is a devoted father and loving husband. Their son has special needs but with their loving devotion and care, Walter Jr. is on his way to living an independent life.  He is a good teacher, has a lot of passion in the subject he teaches; the inadequate salary aside, he very much enjoys teaching and is the head of the school’s science department. His appearance is unremarkable and nondescript, one probably couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. Where as Hank is full of bluster and seeks to show off and dominate every conversation he’s participating in, Walter White is the opposite. Walter is quiet, erudite, nerdy but not just in the sciences; he’s a well read man and has no desire to show it off but wouldn’t hesitate to set someone straight either if they get their ‘facts’ wrong. He wouldn’t be described as ugly in appearance but he’s definitely not handsome. His face is lined with years of financial struggle and hardship. He has bore the hardships of life which was wrought upon him with grace and a sort of silent courage. Though a gifted chemistry teacher, he’s had to take on a second minimum wage job just to cover their expenses, which is a deeply undignified thing, he took it in his stride. Until he found out he was terminally ill. 

The wiseman always warns us of the quiet ones. What appears to be his quiet dignity reveals itself to be hateful brooding. Brooding at fifty plus years of the Great Unfairness of Life which was doled out to him by the unforgiving Universe. When he was well, he had the motivation to remain an upright and law abiding citizen, for he might lose what little they have. But when he found out he was ill, and as a result of his illness and the inadequate nest egg which his job has left him, he decided to take action. His family will not be broke and depend on the charity and largess of family and friends to survive after he’s gone. And more importantly, while he is alive, he will not allow himself to become a charity case and a subject of pity. This would be one indignity too many. Which is why even when a graduate school friend of his who struck it rich and is a millionaire offered to hire him and give him excellent benefits and pay for all of his out of pocket expenses for his treatments, he flat out refused and raged at Skylar for divulging his illness without his prior approval.

Walter White chose the fuck-it list. The ride along he accepted from Hank turns out they were looking for a meth cooker called ‘Captain Cook’, which through Walter’s skills of deduction he discovers it was a former student of his called Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), who was not caught during the DEA raid, he was hiding next door. Jesse Pinkman is a flunkie, in school and in life. Though Jesse came from a very wealthy family and could have access to the best of everything to help him succeed, he chose the life of a criminal. He is a moderately successful meth cooker and dealer. But this last raid, he lost his cooking partner and all of their drugs, cash and equipment. He has to start over again, he took it as his sign to quit the meth business and go straight, until Walter White went to find him. Walter’s first exchange with Jesse reveals the depth of Walter’s ease with the world of criminals. He blackmails Jesse into partnering with him to cook meth or else he’ll tell his brother-in-law, a DEA officer the real identity of ‘Captain Cook’. Just earlier, he was a socially reticent and klutzy chemistry teacher, and now he’s threatening an experienced criminal with exposure. 

Walter’s proposal to Jesse is simple and straightforward. Walter is a chemist, he knows how to cook the best crystal meth there is, and it’s Jesse’s job to go sell it. It’s first and foremost a business operation. Walter White is to deliver a product that is good, reliable and consistent every time. It will be a clean operation where no one gets hurt or killed. It will be a two man operation and Jesse is the face of the operation, Walter White is to stay behind the scenes as the cooker. Before they could even sell the first batch of crystal meth, Jesse the inverterate flunkie opened his big mouth about the identity of Walter White and even brought two mid-level Mexican cartel contacts to their cook site. They barely escape with their lives. Walter realized the drug business was anything but clean or clear cut. It was also his first test to see if he can stomach the business. When it became apparent that both of the Mexican cartel contacts needed to be killed, it tested Walter’s mettle, if he can do the deed if it became necessary. We find out not even halfway into season 1, he can. When it came to the survival of himself and his family versus morality, he chose himself. And the choice wasn’t as difficult as he imagined it would be. It was also fortuitous that the person he killed was a confidential information to Hank, so if that person had lived, Walter White’s secret life would have been blown. 

Before season 1 ended, due to his chemotherapy treatment, he begun losing his hair, so he decided to shave his head bald, thereby giving him that menacing look which graces all of the Breaking Bad posters and billboards. The shaving of his hair is symbolic. He’s let go of his previous life as an honest and hardworking chemistry teacher; he’s now Walter White, an emerging drug kingpin of Albuquerque, New Mexico who cooks the best meth in town. Walter tries to convince himself (and the audience) that he’s doing this for his family and that this is the only way he can make enough money quick enough pay for his cancer treatments and leave enough for his family when he’s gone. But he knows and as well as the audience knows that it’s just a convenient excuse. He enjoys this line of work way too much. It came too naturally to him. This hard edged criminal side of him was just dormant. When he goes to confront Tuco, another Mexican drug cartel distributor, for stealing their drugs; Walter goes into Tuco’s den, with what appears to be crystal meth, except it’s not, it’s an explosive. He first asked Tuco politely to hand over $50,000 for the drugs they stole and recompense for beating Jesse to a pulp. As expected, Tuco laughs in his face, Walter detonates the explosive in front of Tuco. No one was seriously harmed but it got the respect of Tuco and they were in business. And Tuco paid up.

This exchange also highlighted the widely assumed cultural and class differences between the educated white middle class and uneducated but full of brawn and muscle working class Hispanics. White people think their way out of problems, while Latinos punch their way out of them. Jesse may have been beaten to a pulp by Tuco at first for demanding upfront payment for their drugs, but Walter went back there with a plan and a disguised weapon (explosives disguised as crystal meth) and got even plus some more. The message is clear. Brains always win. Logical thinking and application of linear processes (which can only be learned in school) as taught by the scientific disciplines will outgun the muscle. Even though Jesse is a flunkie, he comes from a privileged background and with it a certain amount of inherited arrogance and swagger. Walter White can’t stand Jesse but still comes to his aid and got him an extra $15,000 for getting beaten for trying to get payment for their drugs upfront. 

Knowing what we know about Walter White now, it’s hard to know if he did it out of kindness to Jesse, or it’s self-interest to preserve the goodwill in the partnership or a combination of both. But it’s safe to say, the altruistic Walter White has died, if he ever existed at all. 

It can only get worse with Season 2 and onwards. 

When a presidential campaign devolves into sex scandals. 

It only means two things when your enemies dig up dirt about your past, especially dirt which relates to extra-marital affairs. They are trying to embarrass you and your spouse if they are true and if they aren’t they are trying to rattle your cage and put you on the defensive to prove that you didn’t cheat on your spouse. Either way, it’s a desperate state of affairs. 

The only two viable candidates left in the Republican presidential race are now facing an existential fight to stay in the race. Currently Donald Trump is ahead but not ahead by as much as he would like. There are talks of a possible brokered or contested convention come summertime, which would mean, all of these primary results won’t mean anything. All those people who dragged themselves out to the polls on primary day have all just wasted their time. The delegates at the convention will choose their own presidential candidate for the general election, and it doesn’t even have to be someone who’s tossed their hat into the ring. Many rank and file Republicans are seriously considering this option as they’ve run out of all of them. The campaigns of their preferred candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush were really over before they began. The couldn’t control the Trump circus and now their backup candidate is the right-wing, gun toting nut case Ted Cruz, who apparently, has had five extramarital affairs. This man, by his own description, is a devout evangelical Christian. His father, Rafael Cruz is a well known mega-church evangelical preacher. Persons with these kinds of backgrounds just scream for this type of scandal. They are either closest crack smoking homosexuals who solicit rent-boys when they aren’t writing their next sermon (Ted Haggard) or they are philandering hot messes (Jim Baker). The kinds of mistresses evangelical people tend to go after are usually women who are considered improper and ‘sinful’ in their strict Christian upbringing: escorts, strippers, non-devout Christian women, atheist women and the like. And these scandals usually ends the same way as well, they get dressed up in their Sunday best, get in front of their congregation, a hysterical display of weeping, full of remorse with their wife and children all standing there, ready to forgive him. 

Many blog and column inches have been dedicated to the odiousness of Donald Trump and how he’s just an oversized oompa-loompa running for president with a few catch phrases and slogans without any meaning or substance. Ted Cruz, as a result, has been overlooked in his different brand of odiousness. This man is repugnant in his own way. Firstly, about his race and his country of birth:  he was born in Canada to a Cuban father and American mother. He is what we classify as ‘an American Citizen born abroad’, which according the constitution should disqualify him from running for president, if it doesn’t disqualify him, there should at least a review process to see if he is indeed eligible to run for president. After all that uproar about president Obama not being born in this country and therefore is not a legitimate president. The silence on the birther conspiracies surrounding Ted Cruz is just another manifestation of racism from the American right. About Ted Cruz’s race, for all intents and purposes, he is passing himself off as red blooded, gun toting, game hunting, bible thumping white male but just happens to have the last name Cruz, a most Hispanic last name if there ever were one. He isn’t Catholic as most Cubans are, he is a Baptist (like his father), like most Southern white people are. Though not as vehemently anti-immigrant as Donald Trump, he’s not a bastion of inclusiveness either. With his pale complexion and long thin hook nose, he has threw in his lot with the whites. He has espoused their causes and adopted them as his own (guns, bibles and hatred of anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the above mentioned). Being mixed race myself, I find his actions totally disgusting and offensive on a personal level and wholly un-American on a professional level. He is every bit unfit to be president as Donald Trump.

Whether or not he had five extramarital affairs is beside the point and the least dangerous thing about Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz said he is a Christian first and American second. He has wild notions that the United States was founded on Christians values (it wasn’t), he is anti-women, anti Planned Parenthood and wants to repeal Obamacare, which for all of its shortcomings, has at least gotten 90% of people covered either with government subsidies or government sponsored health insurance programs. He wants to undo all that and kick the people who are currently on government sponsored health insurance off their plans to balance the budget. And when asked what would people do if they get sick and are uninsured? You pray to God, really – he said this. 

“There would be less cancer, less disease, and aids and diabetes in this country if people would simply pray. God blesses the righteous with good health and curses the immoral with sickness.” Ted Cruz – Speech to CPAC 2015

Cruz is also telling people to pray the gay away, he branded people with illnesses as immoral, because why else would they be sick. 

As a liberal, this is the greatest freak show on earth. I am not too enamoured with our front runner Hillary Clinton. I support Bernie Sanders (#FeelTheBern). The Republican Party has been on a self-destructive path ever since President Obama was elected in 2008. They are in an existential crisis and it’s caused some factions of the party to go completely ape-shit. A liberal erudite black man occupying the highest office in the land is just unfathomable to them. The fact that the country’s demographics are changing and by 2050 the US will no longer be a white majority country just scares them to death. The fact that black, brown, yellow and mixed raced people will fill the political and demographic landscape of this country is just too much for the right wing to bear. So, they are all acting crazy: writing bills on giving Chrisitan refugees priority over Muslim ones. Denying people born in America natural citizenship if their parents aren’t US citizens. States with Republican governors are refusing to sponsor refugees (which they’ve no authority to do, it’s a federal matter). Promising to build a wall when they know they can’t nor do have the authority to do so. In short, they’ve all gone bat shit crazy and it’s wonderful to watch. It’s the greatest show on earth. 

Nora Ephron: Everything is Copy (2016)

[He was] “capable of having sex with a Venetian blind”. -Heartburn

Boom. Just when you think there could be no worse insult to a philandering man who is indiscriminate with his sexual conquests than “he’ll screw anything that moves”, Nora Ephron comes up with a better zinger, being “capable of having sex with a Venetian blind”. A Venetian blind doesn’t move unless you make it, which conjures up an image which is wholly unflattering.

Every time I read a Nora Ephron essay, book or watch one of her movies and I see or hear a witty line she created, I have two reactions. The first is to laugh, out loud, always, without fail. The second is ‘why didn’t I write that myself.’ Nothing proves that point more than the Venetian blind allegory. While Woody Allen can at times be too neurotic and self-indulgent in his phobias and hypochondria, Nora Ephron rarely crossed that line from witty observation to self-indulgent narcissism.

Everything is Copy is directed by her son Jacob Bernstein, who interviews all the important people in his mother’s life and got their input and insight on a woman who put all her stuff out there for public consumption but when it came to her final battle, her illness with leukemia, it was kept a secret until her final breath was drawn. This is in direct contradiction to her life’s mantra, passed down by her mother, Phoebe Ephron: “Everything is Copy”. Everything. You fall down face first in the middle of a fancy restaurant on a date in your ball gown and high heels with your legs splayed out barely risking your modesty? No problem, write about it. You tell the joke the way you want it to be told. You become the heroine of the joke and not its victim. This was her life’s philosophy outside of her writing career. You control your destiny by the way you choose to tell your story.

My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have the potential to be comic stories the next. – Nora Ephron

Her mother was from the generation which it made your life more bearable if you convert the tragedies in comedies. To understand Nora Ephron, one must understand the family whence she came. Nora Ephron was the eldest of four girls to Harry and Phoebe Ephron. Phoebe Ephron was one of the first women to consistently work as a screenwriter in Hollywood. According to Nora, she “had it all” before the phrase “having it all” was invented. Her mother was an intellectual, smart, funny, witty, an equal writing partner to their father, she raised children (with help – that was the whole point of becoming successful according to the acerbic Phoebe), she had a successful screenwriting career and earned good money. A rare feat in the 1940s and ’50s. And for Phoebe Ephron, she took “everything is copy” literally and she was dead serious about it. Your mother is drunk and fell down the stairs, use it. Your parents went from successful Hollywood screenwriters to being reclusive alcoholics – it’s perfectly good copy, use it. “Pick over the carcass” she’d tell her daughters.

One of Nora’s sisters Hallie Ephron recalled a story from her childhood: she really liked a mother of one of her friends, because her mother worked, she assumed everyone’s mother worked, so she asked her mother, “what does Mrs. _____ do?” Her mother’s response? “She does her nails.” And whoosh, in one fell swoop, Phoebe Ephron wiped the floors with that poor woman whose only crime was to not have a profession outside of the home. Nora’s other sister and often her writing partner Delia Ephron recalled the love story of their parents. After the first date, when Harry Ephron proposed marriage to Phoebe, her response was “let me read your work first.” All the girls loved that story and they loved telling it. The Ephrons were different and they were proud of it. Before coming to Hollywood, Harry Ephron was a playwright in New York, but he wasn’t successful, his plays weren’t selling. Phoebe Ephron got fed up and decided to write a play with her husband. It became a hit and on the back of that hit, they moved to Hollywood to have more lucrative screenwriting careers. Phoebe Ephron was proud of the fact that she helped make her husband’s work a hit and she wasn’t shy about it either. She owned it and demanded acknowledgement for it.

Sadly, the Ephrons succumbed to alcoholism. Nora and her sisters were not sure if it was because the work dried up then they drifted into alcoholism or was it the alcoholism which caused the work to dry up. Between the sisters, they believe that there were multiple vicious cycles at work which caused the premature demise of their parents, especially Phoebe Ephron. Phoebe Ephron, as a result of her alcoholism, became bedridden and delusional, her body wasting away to just a shadow of her former self. But even in her bedridden hallucinational state, in the rare moments when she was lucid, she told Nora, “You are a reporter, take notes.” Phoebe Ephron died in 1971, at the age of 57. The cause of death is cirrhosis of the liver, but the immediate cause of death was overdose of sleeping pills, administered by their father. Harry Ephron could no longer bear to see his wife like that anymore. Nora felt that this detail was too intimate and personal to make it into copy, but her youngest sister Amy Ephron didn’t think so. This was included in one of her novels.

Even after the death of their beloved eldest sister, you can see the sibling rivalry just bubbling underneath. Nora was the daughter that got the best of everything. She came of age when their parents were in their prime, professionally and health wise. Their mother read to Nora the most, which helped made Nora the writer that she was. She was the closest to Nora. She spent the most time conversing and imparting her own brand of wisdom and humor to Nora. She also read to Delia and Hallie some but by the time poor little Amy came along, their family’s fortunes were a shadow of its former grandeur. There were no more fun dinner parties and children’s birthday parties at the Ephron household. There was fear, uncertainty, the dark cloud of alcoholism brought on by their parents. Nora was 14 years old when their parents’ decline began, her youngest sister Amy was only 3 years old. Amy said as a result of what happened to their parents, each sister, in her own way, vowed to be survivors, no matter what. They will not crumble like their parents did. Amy and Delia both said they became resourceful because there was no other choice. None of the four sisters developed addiction issues, each one vowed and carried out in their own way on how they will be survivors. Nothing will take them down.

The book and subsequent movie Heartburn was what brought Nora Ephron into mainstream popular culture. Prior to that she was working as a journalist and essayist. She was very successful as an essayist, but her renown was confined to the New York literary and journalism circle. Heartburn is a very very thinly veiled account at the demise of her second marriage to Carl Bernstein. Carl Bernstein, prior to his manifestation as the unfaithful husband Mark in heartburn who was capable of “having sex with a Venetian blind”, was THE Carl Bernstein of the Watergate reporting. He and Bob Woodward, with their thorough and exhaustive investigating, brought down the president of the United States. They won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting and Bernstein was riding a career high. He was well liked, well loved and well regarded amongst his peers.

Carl and Nora met at a mutual friend’s party. They fell passionately in love and got married. Nora even made the move to Washington DC as that is where Carl was based. She hated DC, calling it as a place where “ideas went to die.” But armed with love and youthful enthusiasm, she went with her man. They settled in a beautiful house in the DC suburbs and the first of her two sons, Jacob, came soon after. When Jacob was a toddler, she got pregnant again with her second son Max. It was when she was seven-and-a-half months pregnant with Max she found out her husband had been having an affair with their mutual friend Margaret Jay, a British politician. She was enraged. She decided right then and there they would divorce. There would be none of that new-age crap of talking it over and giving the marriage a post mortem to see where they had gone wrong. It was very clear who is in the wrong, Carl Bernstein. And Nora Ephron, as a feminist, will not allow herself to be crapped on like that, even if she were barefoot and pregnant and she has another toddler to take care of. She called her friend Liz Smith to put out the announcement that they are to divorce. She moved back to New York and stayed with a friend for a few months, had her baby and then she got to work on her typewriter and wrote her roman a clef Heartburn. It was in that book she described Mark, the faithless husband (or aka Carl Bernstein) as a cheater, who was terrible at cheating as he charged everything to their credit card instead of using cash. And she reserved the worst vitriol for ‘Thelma’ – the mistress (aka Margaret Jay).

…Thelma Rice a fairly tall person, with a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs, never mind her feet, which are sort of splayed.

Thelma’s face also resembled a “giraffe”.

When she wrote this book, she achieved many aims. Firstly, the money, she needed money as she was now supporting two little children. Secondly, for all the women who had been scorned and publicly cuckolded, she gave them a voice and their revenge. Thirdly, She took revenge on her ex-husband, who went from a well respected journalist who exposed Watergate to someone who can’t keep it in his pants, who is capable of fornicating with a Venetian blind and threw her overboard for someone who looked like a giraffe. The best part of all of this, it was funny. It was funny in a very cruel way. You can’t help but laugh even though you feel really bad for laughing. Even a sympathetic reader will cringe at the book and that was its intended effect. Did Carl Bernstein or even Margaret Jay deserve this public excoriating? Probably not, but Nora Ephron gave zero fucks. She started the ‘I Give Zero Fucks’ club with that book. When the movie came out, there was a debate raging on who was the worse parent. Carl for cheating his pregnant wife or Nora for telling her children exactly what he’d done and making a public mockery of her children’s father. Again, she gave zero fucks what people thought.

Whereas some women burned their husband’s clothes, boiled their mistress’s pet bunny, emptied his bank account, she went one step further: she used her poison pen and wrote all of this down for posterity. Carl Bernstein became a laughingstock. He knew people whispered about him when he attended prestigious conferences and he hated it. Especially when he found out a Hollywood film was going to be made starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep as the leads with Mike Nichols directing, he laid down his demands for the terms of their divorce. ‘Mark’ or Carl Bernstein is to only be portrayed as a dedicated and loving father and he wanted joint custody of the boys. Nora Ephron agreed to those terms and the movie was made. The movie wasn’t a hit like the book was but it set Nora on the path to becoming a screenwriter and movie director.

Heartburn also served another purpose and that is to avenge the betrayal of her mother, Phoebe Ephron. In the declining years of the Ephrons’ marriage, Henry Ephron began having affairs. Phoebe knew about it but he did the typical gas-lighting game. Making her seem drunk, paranoid and crazy and that she was imagining all of this and making it up. Even the children were convinced their mother was crazy and she’d had too much to drink. Hallie said in the film, “it was so cruel of him to not admit it”, so that her mom seemed like the one that’s crazy. I think, in no small part, writing this book, she also tried to avenge her mother for being betrayed by her father.

Nora Ephron was a feminist, she identified as one but she wasn’t a feminist that checked any boxes. She found the bra-burning feminists too serious and boring. They’ve got to lighten up and just take it easy. But she was also strongly opposed to the Helen Gurley Brown’s type of feminism, which is for women to present a facade of confidence at all times and a woman must look after herself. If she wants to attract and keep a man, she better do what’s necessary. She was something in between. Feminism with a sense of humor. Nora Ephron had anxiety about her breast size, she wanted that great rack but she’s not willing to degrade herself to go get it. She wants to be seen as pretty and smart, not just smart “In my sex fantasy, no one loved me for my mind.”

In the end a truce was reached with her ex-husband Carl Bernstein. They were able to functionally co-parent and both Jacob and Max Bernstein are close to their father. She married for a third time to Nicholas Pileggi (screenwriter for Goodfellas and Casino) and it was a long and happy marriage which lasted until her death. He was the kind of man she always wanted, faithful, kind and supported her in all of her endeavors. In her last book of essays, I Remember Nothing, though made no mention of her illness, she made a list of things she would miss if she were to die and at the top was her two boys, her husband Nick and a slew of other things and in true Nora Ephron fashion ended it with “pie.”

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

 

 

AIPAC: It is NOT controversial that Bernie Sanders won’t attend.

Bernie Sanders announced he will not be attending the annual AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) shill-a-thon. All the pro-Clintonites have expressed on social media that this proves Sanders isn’t a serious presidential candidate. After all, what presidential candidate of either party doesn’t attend the all important annual AIPAC shill-a-thon, which only exists to promote the interests of the 1% in not one but two countries: The United States of America and Israel.

Of course the implication is that Bernie Sanders being Jewish, the son of a Polish-Jewish immigrant, whose extended family was wiped out in the Holocaust, by choosing to not attend this hallowed event, is somehow betraying his heritage.

At the risk of sounding like I am ranting again, I’d like to set a few facts straight.

Bernie Sanders doesn’t have to attend this conference and there is absolutely nothing controversial about that at all. This event is in direct opposition to his current campaign and political revolution. Attending this event would only smack of hypocrisy, since no one in this event will be donating to his campaign or have any desire to have anything to do with him as a politician. The people attending this event do not believe he will be the Democratic Party nominee, therefore there’s nothing he can do for them.

Being Jewish in America or any other country doesn’t mean you automatically have dual-citizenship with Israel. One can be Jewish and be one-hundred percent American without feeling the need to feel any sort of allegiance (besides religious and heritage sentiment) to Israel. Israel is that friend we can’t unfriend because then all the other schoolyard bullies will unleash their fury on them. The ‘friendship’ between the US and Israel is really the thing that keeps Israel ‘safe’. Not their anti-missile iron domes. Not their nuclear arsenal, not even the billions we send them every year. All of this means nothing if the US doesn’t provide Israel with political and diplomatic cover.

AIPAC which is an acronym for American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is a very influential lobbying group in America with the expressed interest of advocating “pro-Israel policies” to the United States Congress and other parts of government. Think about that folks, there exists a lobbying group for a whole other country on a different continent, whose sole purpose is to lobby the United States legislature for favors. Not only that, anyone who is anybody, or anyone who wishes to become somebody, must attend this bloody thing every year or else you’ll appear to be anti-Israel, which will spell the end of your political career. Many other countries and organizations have powerful lobbying groups, but none require mandatory attendance every year. Republicans who know nothing about the modern history of Israel or even the history of Jews attend this thing professing their undying loyalty and friendship to a country they know very little about.

And while we are on the subject of Israel: I won’t even get into the human rights abuses in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The land theft, the unlawful evictions because someone dug up a spoon King David used in the pathway that leads to someone’s back garden and that land now becomes “Jewish” land. I will make it simpler. This is a country whose prime minister said that the Grand Mufti Haj Al-Husseini was responsible for the Holocaust because he supposedly knew that it was about to happen and did nothing (there is no proof of this only conjecture). Therefore the Palestinians now deserve their plight, because a religious leader (not political leader) of theirs over 70 years ago, allegedly sent the Jews to the gas chambers. This is a country where a member of their parliament said Palestine cannot exist because there is no letter ‘P’ in the Arabic alphabet. Someone with a PhD in criminology said this shit, who was at one time a visiting professor to George Washington University, obviously her PhD isn’t in the history of her land of birth.

Bernie Sanders probably doesn’t want to attend this event because he doesn’t want to waste a day (or two) and be stuck in a room full of one-percenters and fascists of all stripes and persuasions. Bernie Sanders doesn’t need a ‘lecture’ on Israel or the history of the Jewish people. Bernie Sanders has no direct connection to Israel besides that he’s Jewish. He has visited Israel on at least one occasion in his younger days but he didn’t clarify when or why and he doesn’t need to.  If anyone doubts his support for Israel they dare not say it out loud because it would sound incredibly foolish.

Sanders said he will provide a copy of the the speech he would have made at AIPAC if he were to attend. I hope it reads “Get off my jock and fuck off.”

A Rant 

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The generation after the Millennials have a designation – Generation Z. Also said to be the most diverse ethnically, 47% of Gen Z will comprise of ethnic minorities. My children fit this description. But Forbes Magazine chose Kylie Jenner as an “influencer” – a rich white girl who spends half of her days taking selfies or posing in age-inappropriate attire. This person is an influencer? Someone whose job is to market herself, someone with the intellect of a mop bucket, who chooses to not pursue higher education to fill that mop bucket is fit to be an influencer. She’s not even an entrepreneur or a business woman. Putting your name and face on products then flogging it and getting a cut isn’t entrepreneurship or running a business. Of all the potential Gen Zs out there – they chose that, a remnant of the Kard-trashian train wreck. This is another attempt at reinforcing the white supremacy. To have an overprivileged, surgically enhanced white girl to influence her generation which are 47% non-white, I see red.

I personally choose Malala Yousafzai as an influencer of Gen Z. She’s not white and at 18, she’s won a Nobel Peace Prize for promoting education for girls. She nearly died for this cause, she wears the scars on her face.  Kylie Jenner is throwing away her opportunity to a higher education in favor of taking selfies. I want my children to know Malala. I want Malala to be their influencer.

Rant over.

The Appeal of Hillary Rodham Clinton

If Bill Clinton wasn’t a former president of the United States, his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) the possible Democratic Party presidential nominee will be like the millions of women who came before and after her, and that is she has the misfortune of having a husband who is both feckless and unreliable. Bill Clinton is unreliable in the two departments which matter the most: you can’t rely on him to keep his pants up and firmly zipped and for most of his political career until he became the President of the United States, his income was abysmal. His salary as the governor of Arkansas was $35,000 a year plus another $19,000 public relations fund appropriated for the governor, which brings it to a grand total of $54,000. Hillary Clinton on the other hand consistently earned over $150,000 as an attorney while her husband was governor of Arkansas – and she was also a mother to a very young Chelsea. This is the story of many women in America. The details may be different, not all have high powered careers as corporate attorneys or are Ivy League educated, but the story is the same. Women have to shoulder the burden of family alongside a husband who is less-than-helpful on a good day. This is where many women personally connect with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

While Bill Clinton may have been a devoted father to Chelsea, the fact that he spent so much of his free time chasing other women for sex shows that his priority is not his family. If he prioritized his family first (regardless of what’s going on personally with his wife), he will have no time for Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and countless others we don’t know about.

Women are not damsels in distress. We don’t all want a knight in a shining armor riding in on a white horse to save the day. He doesn’t exist. To expect that of a man is not only being misogynistic and sexist to ourselves, but it’s also unfair to men. It’s unfair pressure for them to attain something which almost no man except in fairytale stories have achieved. It would be the same as men wishing they have wives who are always understanding, loving, never nags, never complains, love them as they are at all times, and finds them to be faultless. Oh and don’t forget the beer and blowjobs too. No. Women just want a man who is reliable. Reliable to not embarrass her and if he’s not able to bring home enough bacon due to circumstances out of his control, then show up for the marriage in other ways. It’s not too much to ask.

HRC became the First Lady when I was thirteen years old. I was just becoming aware of myself and who I wanted to become. What kind of woman I wanted to become. My parents were already divorced by then and my mother raised me as a single mother with very minimal contribution (financial and otherwise) from my father. Long stretches would pass before I would see my father, it was only when I became an adult I resumed frequent contact with my father. During my teenage years, he was no help in the parenting department either. My mother could not call him and discuss any problem she was having with me (and there were many) and expect him to step in and help, even if from another state or country. What I saw as my mother’s emotional coldness and aloofness was actually emotional strain. Keep our heads above water, keeping us firmly in the middle-class so that I’d have a chance at succeeding. So that I don’t end up getting pregnant, doing drugs or falling in with the wrong crowd where the trajectory of my life will totally change for the worse with very little chance to reverse. I saw in HRC what I could be: a woman who hustles, regardless of what her husband is doing or not doing, regardless if she has a husband or not. It’s irrelevant.

I liked that HRC was no bullshit and unapologetic about wanting to “fulfill her profession”. She didn’t stay home and bake cookies and that was liberating. I am glad she said it out loud. In the 1990s, women who worked did so guiltily, because they felt that they should be at home baking cookies and hosting afternoon tea. Even if they loved working out of the home and pulling in a paycheck bigger than their husbands, they feigned guilt so that the patriarchy will get off their backs. If a woman’s place isn’t in the home anymore, then her heart should be firmly planted in the kitchen. Though I never articulated it out loud, being raised by a single mother (with the help of extended family) made me realize that men are ultimately unreliable. And that one day, no matter what, it will be up to me to keep the ship going. I am not wide off the mark either, divorce rate in this country is still hovering at 50% so the chances of being divorced with children to support is well within the range of possibility. Most women don’t wish to be divorced and raise children on their own, they don’t desire it, but to not plan for this very possible eventuality is foolhardy. The economy in developed nations have changed as well. Very few families can survive on just one income unless they are the 1% or shill for the 1% (i.e. corporate lawyers, consultants, financial advisors etc.).

When Bill Clinton became president, HRC, for reasons which are obvious could no longer work as a corporate lawyer. She had to move to the White House, settle in with Chelsea and her role as the nation’s First Lady. Their finances should be better by this stage, but no, the shady dealings of the Clintons’ pre-White House days followed them to the White House. They became targets of right, which is in part a witch-hunt and in part their own doing. They had to fend off investigation after investigation, which means astronomical amount of attorney’s fees, something even the much higher salary of the US Presidency can’t cover. And who could forget the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the mother of all embarrassments. Besides being humiliated by her husband on the international stage, more legal bills mounted as a result of the impeachment hearings.

HRC was heavily criticized when she said: “We came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt.” It’s the truth and I don’t understand why everyone got their panties all in a wad over it. She made this comment in defense of her accepting large speaker’s for her speaking engagements. And since Bill Clinton was still shaking off the Monica Lewinsky scandal when he left the White House, Hillary was the more popular of the two. So, like a grown woman, she put her big girl pants on and got to work. Chelsea was still in college when they left the White House and she was attending Stanford University, not a cheap school. What’s more, her husband will have Secret Service protection for the rest of his life should he choose to (as do HRC), he will also have a very comfortable pension and health benefits afforded to a former president. So, even if he never made another dime in his life again and live frugally, he’ll be just fine. Besides, no one will let a former president, especially a popular one, live below the dignity which should be afforded him. So someone will come to his rescue should it ever come to that. What about his wife? What has she gotten out of their eight years in the White House? Embarrassment, public humiliation, heartache and the icing on top, no money and in debt. Worse than nothing.

Since her husband got elected to public office, HRC’s career in the public eye has been skewered and excoriated. In the more sexist days of the ’90s, she was accused of being unfeminine. No one felt sorry for her when her husband stepped out on her, some even went so far to say she deserved it. Some mused if she was really a lesbian. Maybe if she stayed home and and cooked, baked cookies and hosted tea parties her husband just might behave better. People must have forgotten the story about the leopard and its spots. She got shit from everybody. Even feminists, the group of women she’s most identified with. When the Monica Lewinsky scandal hit the headlines, people expected HRC to walk away from her husband and her marriage, like a good feminist should. I felt the same at the time, though I was just 17 and knew absolutely nothing about what being married is like, yet I made a judgement about her.

When she didn’t leave her husband, the narrative changed. She suddenly became this calculating bitch. A modern day Lady Macbeth. The ONLY possible reason left for her to remain with that love cheat is for political reasons. She wants to be the president herself one day and she needs him. That’s what this whole unholy union is about, she wants the top prize for herself. Some speculated that it’s payback for poor old Slick Willy, she will make the rest of his life miserable and he will for the first time in all their years together, put on the good husband act and go out there and stump for her. It’s her turn and he better fall in line or else.

I am not an expert on their relationship nor do I want to know anymore than the public has already been subjected to. But for the public to blindly assume that she remained with her husband only for her political career is about the worst kind of sexism I’ve ever seen. It assumes that she cannot forge a political career or a career of any kind without him. She must be Hillary Rodham Clinton in order for her to get her foot in the door anywhere. Hillary Rodham isn’t good enough. It assumes that all the years she spent as the family’s breadwinner was not of her own merit but because she was Mrs. Clinton, even when the name Clinton had no cache attached to it yet, when they were back in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was Hillary Rodham who got into Wellesley on her own merit. It was Hillary Rodham who got into Yale Law School on her own merit. It was also Hillary Rodham who hustled and earned the bacon while her husband pursued a career in politics. She didn’t need Bill Clinton to help her achieve any of these things for her.

What about shared history? How about the shared pain of being persecuted by the Washington right wing? How about Chelsea, their only child? Of wanting to keep their family in tact for her? How about *gasp* love?  Or even if she wanted him around for her future political career, what is so wrong with that? She supported him unconditionally. She didn’t embarrass him with her own peccadilloes, why can’t the favor be returned? A lot goes into a long term relationship. Sometimes the easiest thing is to run to the courthouse and file papers and get this whole sorry saga over with. The easiest thing is not always the best thing or the right thing. The Clintons are grown ups, they know what’s best for them and their marriage. One worthy irony to point out though, the Clintons’ marriage was depicted as the dysfunctional one, the Gores’ on the other hand was the paragon of what a healthy and loving marriage looked like. The Gores’ were loving and tactile in public, there were no scandals in their marriage and they had 4 children which are the product of this loving marriage. Imagine everyone’s shock when the Gores’ announced their separation a few years ago? The Clintons’, ironically, are still very much together.

Many women are still defined by their marriage, or more specifically, who they are married to. Everything she does or doesn’t do is related to her marriage in one way or another. And it’s not a bad thing or good thing, it’s just how life worked out for some women. Hillary Clinton is obviously her own woman. I do not get the notion that if she weren’t married to Bill Clinton she wouldn’t have achieved what she has.

After the Clintons’ left the White House, they spent a lot of time refilling the Clinton coffers. And they went about it pretty ruthlessly. They took on high paying speaking gigs and got offered huge advances for writing their memoirs. HRC did so without shame. She worked with anyone who would pay what she asked and good for her. I would have done the same. The pressure of having no money while a woman has children cannot be underestimated. It’s the worst kind of stress a mother can experience. So I can appreciate her aggression in the pursuit of financial security. But, and this is a big but – if HRC wants to fill her family coffers by any means necessary, then she should give up running for public office, especially the nomination for the presidency of the United States.

I’ve withdrawn my political support for HRC, as I find her to be tainted politically. She’s too entangled with the monied elite in this country for her to govern objectively and I no longer trust her political judgements. I dislike her hawkish stance in foreign policy matters. She’s become as trigger happy as her fellow Republicans. She will always be a woman I admire greatly. She was my first feminist role model in which I could see myself modeling my life after. I could be married and not be defined by my marriage, or by being a Mrs. Somebody. I could be married, be a mother and still operate as my own entity or operate as a joint entity if I choose. The writings of Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Simone de Beauvoir informed my feminist consciousness, but they weren’t exactly women I could emulate my life after. They were too far removed from my generation. HRC has taken many blows in the form of public opinion about everything. How she speaks, her tone of voice, the volume of her voice, her emotions, her lack of emotions, her style (or lack of one), her looks, her age everything but the issues. And if I am totally honest, I don’t know how Bill Clinton is still with the living, I wouldn’t be able to exercise so much self control, but I suppose there are worse fates than death when you’ve humiliated your wife over and over.

She can be a good role model to women, but I don’t think she’s good as my president. As much as I want a woman to ascend to the highest office in the land, I cannot support Hillary Rodham Clinton in that endeavor.

Reblogged Content: On Moving Back to South Africa

This is a very interesting take on living in two completely different parts of the world. This observation surprised me the most:

When I moved back to South Africa after spending nearly a decade in northern Europe, it was with no small measure of shock that I realized I had forgotten how to live in this country. It wasn’t just the small things like not knowing where to buy stuff or at what age kids here go to school – it was a culture shock which took me entirely by surprise, having longed and yearned for home during most of my time away. In retrospect, what happened was that I lost my tough outer shell.

During those years of living in a place where egalitarianism is the norm; where nobody goes hungry and almost everybody had a roof over their heads, the thick skin you need to live in South Africa had grown soft. I couldn’t cope with the children begging at the traffic lights and the thin women with babies who knocked on the front door asking for food. Once, in Pick n Pay, I found myself behind a woman with two things in her basket – pilchards and rice. That was obviously all she could afford. Yet, she continued to walk up and down the aisles as if, magically, the contents of her wallet would increase the longer she hung around. I had to leave the shop; I couldn’t bear it.

There must be no greater dichotomy than Scandinavia and South Africa. In Scandinavia, the main goal and priority of the government is to take care of all its citizens. It comes at great expense, but a life of stability and not in want of life’s basic needs greatly reduces the social problems that come with lack and want. In South Africa it’s almost the polar opposite. Unless you are white, you are left to fend for yourself. And that’s made people tough and innovative, just in order to survive.

Source: On Moving Back to South Africa

Cooked (2016) 

 

Source: Netflix

 

Cooked is a four part docu-series streamed on Netflix. It features food author and cooking enthusiast Michael Pollan. He is an award winning food writer and seeks to return his readers and viewers to more traditional ways of how food is cooked and prepared, and that is from raw ingredients with the most minimal amount of processed foods as possible. The idea is simple. Everyone can cook, you don’t need to be a gourmet chef or even take any cooking classes to make attempts in your own kitchen. As long as you have good simple, wholesome ingredients and a good friend, relative or parent to show you the ropes you are on your way.

This program interests me because as a work-at-home mom, I spend an inordinate amount of time cooking or doing tasks which are related to meal preparation, such as grocery shopping, food preparation and deciding on the menu for the week. I am not someone who is adverse to cooking. I quite enjoy it and if I may say so myself, I am not too terrible of a cook. I can put together a meal quickly and efficiently and most of my friends have cleared their plates when they eat at my home. But when you have a family who depends on you to cook for them, day in and day out, something which is a hobby can become another tedious chore, like laundry or doing the dishes. And nothing gets my goat more than when my husband or children complain about a meal I make. I have gone ‘on-strike’ as a result of such complaints.

This program is very much in line with my cooking philosophy and that is while it requires some skill and organization, it’s not an impossible task. And especially if you cook with fresh ingredients and minimize processed foods in your cooking, it’s infinitely more enjoyable. There is a satisfaction of seeing raw ingredients that was just laying on your kitchen counter and now it’s turned into a bright, colorful and delicious meal ready to be enjoyed.

The four parts is broken down into the Four Elements: Fire, water, air and earth and how each of those elements play a role in our food. Pollan takes us on a world tour to places who best represents these four elements. For fire, he took us to the Australian bush, where the aborigine reside and how they use open fire in the open bush to cook their food, mostly hunted from the Australian outback. They include kangaroo or wallaby, a very large scary looking poisonous lizard and wild turkey. This is the way the aborigine have eaten for tens of thousands of years. Just open roasting fire of wild game, with no seasonings save for the woodsmoke. In their aborigine beliefs, fire is a healing entity, not something to be feared or avoided. Fire, when used and adapted properly, is nature’s best resource.

When the Australia government decided to ‘assist’ the aborigine peoples and moved them from their bush dwellings to government funded housing, they lost access to their natural habitat and hunting grounds. Instead of eating the food which their bodies tolerate better and food they’ve eaten for millennia, they begun eating carbohydrates, sodium, sugars, fats and large amounts of processed food which are provided by the government. They started to gain weight and many developed Type II diabetes. In looking for ways to solve the health crisis, an activist said the best thing to do is to let the aborigine people go back to the bush, their natural habitat, where they can hunt for their food, especially before they lose the skills to do so. Sure enough, after they went back to the bush and resumed their old way of life, they lost the weight and the Type II diabetes that came with it. This misguided ‘experiment’ informs us that humans are also part of the larger ecosystem and when you remove a group of people who is acclimated to one type of lifestyle or diet to another, serious health implications can result, and very quickly.

For water, Pollan brought us to India, which is a subcontinent with a very vibrant and diverse cuisine and food culture. Indian cuisine also favors the one-pot cooking method, where you chuck everything into one huge pot and slow cook the favors and you let nutrients slowly release into the broth of the dish. Something else which is unique to India too is, especially given its large size, they still largely abide by the ‘eat locally grown’ food model. Meaning, every region of India adapts their food to what their region grows. In the Punjab region, which is also the bread basket of India, vegetables feature heavily, so their cuisine consist of more vegetables. In the Gujarath region, they do not put crushed tomatoes in their curries like other parts of India because tomatoes aren’t readily available and so the their curries heavily feature coconut milk. India is also unique in the respect which despite having exposure and access to Western foods like KFC, McDonalds carbonated drinks, the majority of Indians still prefer to eat traditional Indian meals of flat breads, accompanied by dals (bean curries) and vegetables. In fact there is a whole cottage industry of people, who’s job is to cook fresh lunch boxes for city center workers out of their own kitchens and they are delivered by special lunch delivery men on bicycles, rickshaws and other modes of transportation to high rise buildings in the city. Those people could have easily ordered from an array of restaurants and canteens nearby, but it’s not home cooked. As for all those pungent spices that feature in Indian curries, all of them have healing qualities. They aid in digestion, blood circulation, keeping one regular etc. Because of their religious beliefs and general lack of space for livestock farming, meat doesn’t feature heavily in Indian cuisine. Their main sources of protein are beans, chicken and mutton.

Like the aborigine in Austrialia, the Indian families who’ve abandoned home cooked meals and have begun relying on restaurant and takeouts for meals have put on weight and acquired some of the diseases which come with that, such as Type II diabetes and high blood pressure. This trend is most prevelant amongst middle to upper class Indian families where both parents work long hours. And it’s begun to concern social activists in India. Traditional and family cooking in India is a huge part of Indian culture, and it should never be substituted in favor of KFC or McDonalds (which in India, they deliver to your front door when you order). Pollan asserts that, when people ‘outsource’ their eating to restaurants and takeouts, we lose knowledge about our culture and cuisines. We lose knowledge on how to prepare dishes and more importantly just how to cook a meal from fresh ingredients.

The most educational section is the section about air. And Pollan instructs his viewers on how bread is really made. Real bread should only consist of three ingredients: whole wheat flour, salt and water, which you leave to leaven on its own by exposing it to air, and after it leavens, you put it in the oven and bake it to its natural wonderful goodness. While I am aware that most breads purchased in supermarkets are laden with preservatives and additives, I wasn’t aware that you aren’t supposed to add live yeast to bread dough. It’s where the wheat intolerances spring from. Real bread is supposed to take 2-3 days to make if you want to leaven it. You can also eat unleavened bread, which then you can bake on the same day. Flat breads or Pita breads which are consumed in India, the Middle East and parts of the Mediterrnean are usually unleavened. In Morocco, bread and the breadmaking process is holy and sacred. It’s truly the bread of life. They don’t even take a knife to bread because it’s like desecrating something that is holy and sacred. For Moroccan women, every morning, they make the bread that is to feed their family for the day and the process in which they make the bread is almost like a meditation. The concentration and love poured into the process is handed down over the centuries. After the bread is made and moulded into its intended shapes, they hand it off to their sons to bring it to the neighborhood baker to bake the bread and then he brings it home when the bread is done. Then they all sit down and break bread, with their hands. This is a daily family ritual. While about 1% of the population suffer from Celiac disease, which is a severe intolerance to the protein gluten found in wheat and grains, the rest of the people who have gluten intolerances is really the result of poorly made bread from poorly milled wheat. Adding active yeast into bread instead of letting bread leaven on its own also contributes to gluten intolerances.

The earth section will be the section that interests most people. It talks about fermentation. How some of our favorite foods and beverages depends on this fermentation process: Wine, beer, spirits, even chocolate. When cacao pods are harvested, they are white in color, and there’s this mucusy membrane attached to it, the farmers then ferment these pods for days to where they turn brown color and become chocolate. After that you can grind them to a paste to make chocolate bars, chocolate candies or dry them into powdered form for baking or hot cocoa. Fermentation is nature’s way of allowing humans to preserve food before the refrigerator was invented. Pollan also featured one of my favorite fermented foods, the Korean kimchee, which is the fermentation of Napa cabbage, Daikon root, with lots of garlic, chili powder and salt. It’s wonderfully pungent and because of the abundance of garlic, a natural antibiotic, after a satisfying meal paired with kimchee, you feel you can go slay vampires with your breath.

The program also highlights the insidiousness of the food industry. Their cynical attempt to change the taste buds of a nation, by adding lots of sugar, salt and fats into processed foods. These three ingredients are fillers where they can decrease the amount of ‘real’ food in the package. This combination is also highly addictive, very cheap to produce and causes a load of health problems. Pollan also points out, while fresh foods and produce have increased in price by 40% in the last 30 years; sodas, canned goods and processed foods have gone down 17% in price. The working poor, those who can least afford ill health have no choice but to feed their families on sodium laden, sugar laden and fat laden processed foods. Pollan promotes and demands that government provide people with access to fresh foods and meats. This is something which resonates strongly with me. My monthly grocery bill is atrocious and we don’t even eat a meat laden diet. To lower the cost, I supplement our protein intake with a variety of beans and legumes. I take great pains to shop at neighborhood grocery stores, farmers markets (if you arrive one hour before they close, you can get a 50% discount on vegetables) to find the best deals for fresh meats, poultry , fruits and produce; I try to stay away from large chain grocery stores, but the amount I spend on food is still eye-watering and unacceptably high. My children are only 4 and 2, they aren’t even hungry teenagers yet. Spending so much on food have discouraged us to eat out or order takeout, which means more time spent in the kitchen for me. As a family, we’ve made a commitment to not eat processed foods except for special occasions. I’ve figured out better and healthy ways to make our favorite meals, including desserts. Much to my relief, my husband has offered to do the dishes and he’s teaching our kids to clear up after themselves. It’s never too early to teach them that. I also learned from Michael Pollan, that my physical act of being in the kitchen and exposing my children to my style of home cooking, I am passing down knowledge. Knowledge which they can’t learn anywhere else. I can live with that.

What Happened Miss Simone (2015)

NIINA SIMONE

What happened to Miss Simone? The short answer is heartbreak. Unrelenting, persistent, soul-shattering heartbreak.

What Happened Miss Simone attempts to allow Nina Simone to tell her story in the first person. A lot of the voice over is from archival footage of video recording, tape recordings and personal diaries of Nina Simone from while she was alive.

For someone as dynamic as Nina Simone, no one can tell her story but herself. Her life was blighted by thwarted dreams and unending series of disappointments and heartbreaks from those she trusted the most.

She was not supposed to be a jazz and soul singer. She was supposed to be a classical concert pianist. Had she been born white, that’s what she would have become. She was classical piano prodigy when she was a child. She was so talented that her mother’s white employer paid for Nina to take classical piano lessons with Muriel Mazzanovich. When she became good enough to host recitals, all the money she earned from those events were put into a trust for her future tuition for music conservatories. She got into Juilliard, but she only had enough tuition to attend for one and a half years. When she applied for a scholarship to attend the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, she was rejected. When she realized that she was rejected on the account of her race and not talent, she was heartbroken. She never got over that. She wanted to be the first black classical pianist to play Carnegie Hall now those dreams are dashed.

To support herself and her family, she began working at dive bars in the Philadelphia area. She worked long hours every night playing the piano. She played whatever she knew how to play, from jazz to classical pieces. One day the owner of the bar said she had to sing and play the piano or else she will have to leave her position. She needed that job, so she began singing jazz, blues and soul music. She’s never had any training as a singer nor a songwriter, but she could do both on a whim. This is the culmination of the years of rigorous classical piano training.

During this time she met and married her husband Andrew Stroud, who also became her agent and business manager. He was a former New York Police Department detective and a brute. He was abusive to her, beat her when she was pregnant with their only child Lisa, he abused her in public, raped her and belittled her. She said “he protected me from everyone except himself.” He was a good agent and manager but shitty husband and poor excuse of a human being. He treated her like a commodity rather than a human being. Her earnings afforded them a luxurious lifestyle and he didn’t care how much he was working her.

She became well known and was offered record contracts and television appearances. When she finally did get to play at Carnegie Hall, it was bittersweet. She wanted to play Carnegie Hall as a classical pianist and not a jazz and soul singer. Her first love was classical piano and it was reflected in her music. She always sang with piano accompaniment and it almost seems as the piano playing is the main act and her singing is the supporting act. She was singing just so can sit down and play the piano.

Like all people born and raised in the Jim Crow south, racism was a deeply wounding and oppressive fact of life for black people. Nina Simone was no different than others but the “secrecy” surrounding it all bothered her deeply. The fact you couldn’t even discuss it in their homes, this huge elephant that exists in their society yet you can’t confront it or even discuss it. You had to pretend it wasn’t there. To talk about it or confront it meant you were going to go confront it with white people and that can get your whole family killed. So, when the Civil Rights Movement came along, she was all in. She wrote songs which served as anthems for the Civil Rights Movement, such as ‘Mississippi Goddamn’. As her political activism increased, her contemporary musical output decreased.

The Civil Rights Movement became her purpose in life. She lent her musical talents to a cause greater than herself and it gave her life meaning. Since her dreams of being a concert pianist was taken from  her on the account of race, the Civil Rights Movement was a way to redress that. Her husband Andrew Shroud opposed it because it attracted controversy and her lucrative contracts started to dry up. On this point she stood up to him. Needless to say their home life suffered even more. Andrew Stroud is truly an appalling excuse of a human being. He brutalized and abused this woman, sought to screw his only daughter out of her mother’s legacy and inheritance yet he has no qualms about showing his face on camera and expressed zero remorse or guilt about what he had done to his wife.

Nina Simone was no non-violence activist, she was a black nationalist, along the same vein of Malcolm X and she told Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so. She walked up to him and told him that she didn’t believe in nonviolence, she believed in taking back black power by all means necessary. When Dr. King and Malcolm X were assassinated, it became too much for her. This was another heartbreak, she believed the Civil Rights Movement has died with their assassinations. She left the country, first she went to Barbados, then she went to live in Liberia and those were the happiest years of her life. When she needed to go back to work to earn a living, she moved to France and began working in dive bars for hundreds of dollars a night only.

In the backdrop of most of her adult life, she had violent mood swings and episodes of depression. As she got older, it became more unmanageable, she was diagnosed as bipolar in the 1980s and put on medication. While the medication stabilized her moods and helped with her overall mental state, as time wore on, it affected her piano playing and singing ability. Being on medication allowed her to tour in Europe and earn a living, she was able to end her life in a dignified manner. She was no longer rich and famous, but she kept her integrity and she never compromised her principles for fame. By aligning herself with the Black Nationalist movement severely harmed her career and earning prospects and she knew it but she didn’t care.

After she left her husband in the early ’70s and after the death of her Civil Rights heroes, she went into a downward spiral. The torment that was hidden in her heart revealed itself. All of that anger, hurt, rejection, rage she felt towards society, towards her former husband, she took it out on her only child. She brutalized and abused her only child the way her former husband and society brutalized her. She turned into that monster she sought to run away from and that’s a true shame. After one beating so bad in Liberia, Lisa Simone Kelly chose to take a one way flight back to New York to her father and never lived with her mother again. She was just 14 years old. Mother and daughter never truly reconciled. The wounds were too deep. Lisa Simone Kelly is also a singer, actress and performer. She has come to an accept her mother as she was and appreciate her immense talent but you can tell she cannot bring herself to say she loved her mother. The damage was too much. The last zinger from Lisa Simone Kelly is telling:

“I have been married 18 years, I have a good relationship with my children and I hope I’ll get to die with a smile on my face surrounded by my family. My mother never got that. She passed away still in search of comfort and love. Perhaps if she had them, she might, in the end, have known peace.”

The film is full of archival footage of Nina Simone’s performances and interviews. I learned that I knew many of her songs but I didn’t know it was she who sang and wrote them. She had exiled herself from the United States from 1970s and onwards, the music industry all but forgotten her or relegated her to the dusty shelves of the great artists of yesteryear.

Two days before she died on April 21, 2003, Curtis Institute of Music, the school that turned her down for a scholarship on the account of her skin color, gave her an honorary degree. If they had done what they were supposed to do 50 years prior, we would have been deprived of one of the best singer songwriters of our times but Nina Simone would have had a chance at becoming a fulfilled and happy person.

 

Dr. Luke v. Kesha (and other female recording artists)

feminist
Joyce Stevens – on IWD in 1975

Sony Records has just announced, rather abruptly,  it will end Dr. Luke’s (aka Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald) contract one year early. Many believe that it has to do with the the backlash from Kesha’s allegations and a possible long protracted legal case against Dr. Luke alleging rape by way of drugging, abuse, manipulation and control against her and her work. Since Kesha lost her request for an injunction to be freed from her contract with Dr. Luke until her case for the rape allegations is resolved, many recording artists, especially prominent recording artists have come out in support. High profile singers like Adele, who is also signed to Sony, dedicated her British Music Award (UK’s Grammy equivalent) in support of Kesha. Taylor Swift gave $250,000 to Kesha to help her with her finances in this bruising court battle. Lady Gaga, who is a personal friend of Kesha’s posted many pictures of them sharing hugs and solidarity together have rocked the patriarchal music establishment. Many other artists, many of whom didn’t know Kesha have come out in support on social media with the hashtag #FreeKesha.

What’s happening to Kesha is nothing new for female recording artists. Kesha, like so many before her, decided to make a deal with the devil, if they do everything their record company or producers ask of them, and if the record that result becomes a success, then for the next albums they get to do what they like, work with who they like and create whatever songs they like. Pink, Christina Aguilera and many others have claimed to use this strategy to their benefit. Many artists have kept quiet about this unholy arrangement, some see it as a necessary evil or trade off to superstardom, fame, success and artistic freedom.

It’s long been suspected that there’s much more that goes behind the scenes than just producers and record companies controlling the image and songs of the artists, there is something far more sinister going on which no one, certainly not the artists themselves have disclosed. Many have alleged or hinted at inappropriate sexual advances by record producers and record label executives long after the fact, but none have gone so far to bring a lawsuit against a powerful, well liked and successful producer such as Dr. Luke.

The terms of the contract is complicated, Dr. Luke’s company Kemosabe Records is signed to Sony, and Kesha is signed to Dr. Luke’s company so they both technically are signed under Sony, except Kesha is exclusively signed to Kemosabe Records and her records are to be produced under the supervision of Kemosabe Records but released and distributed by Sony Records. The agreement Sony had with Kesha is that she is free to work with any record producer she likes if she doesn’t want anything to do with Dr. Luke but she cannot break the contract with Dr. Luke, which translates to Dr. Luke will still have exclusive rights and control over Kesha’s music. And now that she’s aired their dirty linen, he can make life difficult for her and cut off her career and financial lifeline. Lena Dunham explains it better in her essay for support of Kesha from her newsletter Lenny:

Imagine someone really hurt you, physically and emotionally. Scared you and abused you, threatened your family. The judge says that you don’t have to see them again, BUT they still own your house. So they can decide when to turn the heat on and off, whether they’ll pay the telephone bill or fix the roof when it leaks. After everything you’ve been through, do you feel safe living in that house? Do you trust them to protect you?

So, this is the current plight of Kesha. It’s unclear what Sony’s early termination of Dr. Luke’s contract has any impact on the contract between Kesha and Dr. Luke or what would happen to that contract should Dr. Luke be found liable for the charges alleged in Kesha’s lawsuit against him. Sony Records didn’t have any intention of terminating Dr. Luke’s contract until these last few days. I think the reason is Kelly Clarkson gave an interview about her experience with Dr. Luke and had this to say:

[S]he (Kelly Clarkson) was displeased with the producer’s character. “Unfortunately, when you have that poor of character – so many artists don’t like you and don’t like working with you – that’s not normal. I get along with everyone I work with, but he’s just not a good guy for me,” Clarkson said of Luke. “Obviously, he’s a talented dude. He just lied a lot. I’ve run into a couple of really bad situations. Musically, it’s been really hard for me because he will just lie to people. And it’s like, ‘What?’ And it makes the artist look bad.” Clarkson continued, “He’s kind of difficult to work with; kind of demeaning.”


Before I go into the reasons of why the words of Kelly Clarkson lent credibility to the allegations against Dr. Luke – I first like to call bullshit on all of the sudden outpouring of support for Kesha from the other artists and the press.

Please allow me to explain.

I don’t mean to be indelicate when I say this but Kesha when rated amongst her peers, is a second rate pop star. It’s fair to say that she has neither the vocal skills of Adele nor the charisma and marketability of Katy Perry or Taylor Swift. And Kesha’s brand of music is peculiar to say the least, she’s not really a vocalist nor is she strictly a rapper. When she does rap, it’s not done in the manner of how traditional rap is done. I suppose Dr. Luke wanted to market her as a white Nicki Minaj, who raps and sings on the same track. The image of Kesha that was introduced to the public is one of trailer trash chic, she has greasy hair in her music videos and looks in need of a good wash. She is said to be a competent songwriter herself, but under the control of her then mentor Dr. Luke, her creativity was stifled. When Kesha was putting out records and touring, she was routinely mocked by media for her image, her inability to sing, and the bizarre way she used to spell her name, the ‘S’ in her name is represented with a $ sign (Ke$ha). She was also very open and free with her sexual expression and candid about her sexual experiences. She boasts a close relationship with her fans and is not immune to doing strange things and posting them all over social media to stay relevant. In other words, she is your typical millennial pop star. The line between her true reality and one that she puts out for the public see is blurred. Many didn’t understand her and prior to her filing the lawsuit, it’s safe to say, her ‘girl squad’ was quite sparse. Out of all of her current new supporters, perhaps only Lady Gaga was a personal friend of hers prior to this event.

Even when Kesha filed her lawsuit against her former Mentor Dr. Luke, there wasn’t that much noise made. Dr. Luke categorically and vehemently denied the claims and said this was his former protege’s attempt at trying to get out of her contract that she signed, where she was bound for 10 years and must make a minimum of 6 albums under Dr. Luke’s label. Kesha entered an eating disorder facility to get treatment last year. She emerged a more sophisticated girl and dropped the bizarre $ from her name. She got serious about the lawsuit against Dr. Luke and when the more excruciating details of the verbal abuse, mental manipulation and rape came out, people took notice. And by people, I mean members of the media and her peers. Climatically, when her injunction was denied on February 19th, as Kesha was weeping in the back of the courtroom with her mother beside her, social media went into overdrive with the hashtag #FreeKesha.

Kesha who was at best dismissed as an artist or at worst mocked for her musical style (or lack of one), especially by the press, and she is now suddenly everyone’s cause celebre. Kesha became the poster girl for how a music industry abuses its artists, especially female artists. She became a symbol of a woman who is oppressed by the patriarchy. Kesha was close to the point of being chewed up and spit out and before that happened, she filed a lawsuit against her abuser to stand up for herself. She must know the chances of winning a lawsuit or even damages is slim to none. As in most sexual assault situations, it is largely a he-said she-said scenario. Besides her mother, there was no one to witness the verbal abuse and putdowns. No one besides her mother saw Kesha curled up in a ball in the corner of the room sobbing. Lastly, Dr. Luke is a powerful and wealthy white man, he’s worked with a lot of current artists and has made huge amounts of money for himself and the record labels he produces for, so the scale obviously balances in his direction. Kesha is now celebrated for her bravery and courage to speak out against a brutal contract system against artists.

Also, any possible doubts about Kesha’s claims against Dr. Luke also evaporated. Kesha’s natural candidness about her sexual preferences and experiences, yet she failed to disclose such a serious allegation against Dr. Luke is something that’s perhaps not spoken about openly but definitely in the back of people’s minds. While her peers, most of whom would consider themselves progressive feminists, believe Kesha but many probably wonder if Dr. Luke and Kesha had a consensual sexual relationship at one point during the 10 years they worked together, it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility. The fact that they may have had a sexual relationship doesn’t discredit her claims or in anyway minimizes them, but when you are trying to prove a timeline of events in court, it would matter greatly when an alleged sexual relationship began or ended. Dr. Luke maintains that he’s never had a sexual relationship with Kesha, she was like his “little sister”.

All this aside, what I found equally strange is the lack of people coming to Dr. Luke’s aid, besides members of his family. One argument could be made that people don’t want to be seen as defending an alleged rapist, especially if even any small part of Kesha’s allegations turns out to be true, it would look bad. But, if I had a friend who was being accused of rape and lots of horrible things, and I know for a fact that he isn’t that type of person or he didn’t commit those heinous acts and I am confident in such a way that I will risk my reputation to defend him because I know he’s innocent, I will defend him. Where are his friends? Where are the guys? Bro code, anyone? Their silence is more deafening than Kesha’s allegations against him.

Until now, Sony has been relatively silent as the courts have made their decision. Sony is in a difficult position as it has a reputation and a multi-billion dollar business to maintain. They must make a calculation to see if all of this Dr. Luke hassle is worth it. For two weeks after the denial of Kesha’s injunction, Sony appeared to be satisfied with the current state of things, there were no whispers of Sony letting Dr. Luke go, he was still a valuable commodity. But when Kelly Clarkson made her feelings known to the public about how she felt about Dr. Luke, in the next couple of days, Sony announces its decision.

Lady Gaga, Adele and Taylor Swift do not work with Dr. Luke and perhaps do not know Dr. Luke personally, but Kelly Clarkson does. Though Clarkson was very clear that nothing untoward happened, she asserts that Dr. Luke is not an honest person with integrity and she didn’t enjoy working with him. And Kelly Clarkson is a girl that can get along with everyone, she’ll find a way to get along with her adversaries to get business done.

Not to be indelicate here again, but unlike her peers, Kelly Clarkson didn’t become famous by trading on her looks. She’s a sweet looking girl but it’s fair to say, she doesn’t mind her waistline that much. She had a baby about 2 years ago and she kept most of the weight on and was happy with it, she told Ellen on the The Ellen DeGeneres Show that she loves her wine and so her waistline stays and is quite unbothered by it. She’s now pregnant again and is happy as punch with herself. She has no problem letting it all hang out. Kelly Clarkson is always a vocalist and artist first and the external stuff is just that, external. Though she can’t be called ‘difficult’ to work with, she’s no pushover either. When Clive Davis’s memoirs came out and some misinformation was printed, she was quick to correct those misinformation, much to the embarrassment of Clive Davis and the record label:

“So I just heard Clive Davis is releasing a memoir and spreading false information about me and my music,” she writes. “I refuse to be bullied and I just have to clear up his memory lapses and misinformation for myself and for my fans. It feels like a violation. Growing up is awesome because you learn you don’t have to cower to anyone — even Clive Davis.”

Because Kelly Clarkson’s words are more substantive and specific to the times she was blackmailed into working with Dr. Luke (or else the label wouldn’t put out the records), and she’s only worked with Dr. Luke on two or three songs, they are seen as credible. She said he’s “lied” and “demeaned” her and went out of his way to make her look bad, which is also similar to what Kesha is alleging in her lawsuit. Therefore a pattern of behavior is established, by another woman no less but a woman who had no close mentor and mentee relationship with Dr. Luke. And in the pecking order of the pop music world, Kelly Clarkson still outranks Kesha, therefore, her words lend weight to Kesha’s allegations.

If Kesha refuses to record any new music while Dr. Luke still owns her contract or if she agrees to record but Dr. Luke chooses to sabotage her and not release her material the way she wants it, and Dr. Luke won’t budge and release her from her contract, it’s very likely that this is the end of Kesha’s career. The terms of her contract prohibits her from working with anyone else until she’s fully complied with the contract. Sony and Dr. Luke claims that they’ve spent $60 million dollars on Kesha and her career, they will not let her off so easily. I like to know just how $60 million was spent on an artist who’s put out three albums only.

Kesha should tread very carefully at her sudden newfound ‘friends’, especially her new supporters from the same press that just a couple of years ago was mocking her. She is very vulnerable right now. Though their sentiments are sincere and their current support admirable, it still begs the question, where were they before? It would be a shame to be used again, even for the advancement of feminism.

The Non-Legacy of Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan has died today. She passed away at the ripe old age of 94, with dignity, in the comforts of her Bel Air mansion and surrounded by loving family and friends (something denied to many people). An ending that is befitting of a matriarch to a political family. The news of her death should have just been a blip in the news which read something like:

Former First Lady, Nancy Reagan, wife of former president Ronald Reagan, passed away in her Bel Air home today, surrounded by loving family and friends. She was ninety-four years old. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones.

The end. There is nothing much else to say about Nancy Reagan but the above stated.

But oh my gosh. Every cable news channel’s news readers and show hosts all had a sudden leave of their senses and began to blather on and on and on, ad nauseum about the former First Lady. The Reagans’ old friends and political cronies all came out in their Sunday best, on national TV, teary eyed, lamenting the loss of a brilliant lady.

If Nancy Reagan was known for anything is for her unwavering devotion to her husband. Her unwavering adoration, she found little fault with him and even outdoes June Cleaver in the “yes dear” department. She mastered “the gaze”, which is the perpetual doe-eyed adoring stare while her husband is speaking and lying to the American public. He was the center of her universe. She was unabashed about it, unashamed and feminism be damned. She was happy to live in his shadow and be Mrs. Reagan and even went so far to say, “my life really began when I married my husband.” I  must say I am a little jealous. I’ve been with my husband for nearly 12 years, married for 7, most days I feel irritated and contemptuous with myself and my marriage. It would make my life so much easier if I just simply “adored” my husband and worshipped the ground he walked on. I wouldn’t feel so irritated when things don’t go my way and he’d feel less annoyed with me and my constant need to “challenge” him, but I digress.

The Reagans’ are almost more known for their love story than anything he’s done as president. President Reagan was prone to writing toe curling long love notes to his wife while they were in the White House, when she was just two floors up. He’d send flowers to Nancy’s mother on Nancy’s birthday to thank her for giving birth to Nancy so she could be his wife. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. If my husband did such a thing, I’d order a psych eval on him, but, again, I digress.

The fact which she sees her marriage as her life’s best work means she should been seen as just that, a supportive and loving wife. She was no Hillary Clinton or even Barbara Bush who had their own platforms during their time as First Lady, however domestic the agenda may seem. Nancy Reagan’s agenda is Ronald Reagan. I do not consider her “Just Say No” campaign a legitimate platform. She didn’t investigate or research why people were doing drugs. If she did, she would realize that drugs are a byproduct of poverty and deprivation. No one is born and says “yes” to drugs without some outside factors. She didn’t care to look into the uneven and racist sentencing for different drug users, the best thing she can come up with is “Just Say No”, well, no shit – why didn’t I think of that.

As I was browsing through different cable channels, hoping to find something that isn’t Nancy Reagan related (with no luck), I kept hearing over and over just how “smart” she was. Every sentence or point they try to say about her is prefaced or ends with “she was so smart” or “you can’t imagine how smart she was”. I don’t know if she was smart of not. Judging on face value, she is of at least average intelligence. But what I do know is people who are truly smart do not need emphasizing of the point that they are smart. When people talk about Albert Einstein or Marie Curie, the sentence isn’t prefaced or ends with they are so “smart”. That’s given. They’ve proven their intelligence and academic prowess by their life’s work. People know Karl Marx was intelligent and intellectually unmatched, whether one agrees or disagrees with him, the fact remains, his mind was brilliant. There’s no need to mention his intelligence when talking about Marx.

This was a woman who wore $10,000 Valentino dresses when the country was in a deep recession, a recession caused by the Feds manipulating monetary policy, which her husband supported and got upset when someone pointed it out to her. She didn’t understand why people would point out or notice the Reagans’ profligacy when the rest of the country was suffering and unemployment rate was over 10%. This was a woman who consulted astrologers after her husband got shot and she didn’t want him going out in public spaces unless the stars were aligned, driving the White House staff crazy, making the jobs of people who arrange their schedules near impossible. People wonder what else did the Reagans’ consult the astrologers for? Maybe national security or economic policies? This was also a couple who refused to utter the word “AIDS” during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. They pretended it wasn’t happening and if were, it was a result of the gay lifestyle, something they wanted no part of.

Towards the end of her life, because of president Reagan’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, she raised a lot of funds for research into that horrific mind-robbing illness. Despite being pro-life and Republican, she approved the use of stem-cells to research Alzheimer’s. If she had a legacy besides being Mrs. Reagan, this could be it.

Lastly, no, she wasn’t a style icon. Her style was garish which was typical of the 1980s. She missed the first lesson in fashion which is “less is more”. Some of her gold chains and pearl necklaces rival that of Mr. T. Those $10,0000 designer dresses she wore? They wore her, she didn’t wear them, which is the second lesson in fashion. You wear the outfit, you don’t let the outfit wear you. Third lesson in fashion, expensive, designer made clothing doesn’t always look ‘expensive’ on the person wearing it. (I made these fashion rules up.)

So, please cable news, before I get back to my late night insomnia viewing and I’ve nothing else left to watch. Please shut up about Nancy Reagan. Let her rest in peace.

 

Reblogged Content: The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism

It is a sad day in America when our choices are boiled down to Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It’s even more pathetic that the elephants have reduced themselves to dick measuring to achieve the highest office in the land.

We created this. By ‘we’, I mean the liberal elites or those affectionately referred to as neo-liberals. Those of us who grew up middle class with access to college education, those of us who got to move up the economic ladder before it got torn down. Those of us who got to live in wealthy metropolitan cities and suburbs and thus largely shielded from the erosion of manufacturing jobs and industry, which was the backbone of the American economy for over 100 years. Those of us who were able to adapt to the technology age, who are neither too young nor too old to learn new skills, behaviors, habits or professions. Those of us who are not blighted by alcohol and drug addiction because of despair. Armed with our college degrees which are still worth something and our jobs, we looked down on and sneered at the underclass.

The liberals didn’t say it out loud but their beliefs were on the same lines as the conservatives, there must be something wrong with them if they are stuck in this rut. That they can’t convert their factory job skills to something outside of the factory. Some blamed them being too dependent on their unions to provide them a living and now they’ve got to hustle and they can’t. It’s the American creed, where there’s a will, there’s a way. You pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Nobody is going to hand anything to you on a silver platter for free. Generations of men who are used to working with their hands and wish to continue to work with their hands are out of options.

A lot of them don’t deserve any sympathy. People who sympathize with the KKK or any other hate group don’t deserve sympathy or even a mention in civilized society and discourse. The underclass want “freedom”, but not the kind we are accustomed to, they want the freedom to “hate” and be hateful:

They want the freedom to use words like “nigger,” “kike,” “spic,” “chink,” “raghead” and “fag.” They want the freedom to idealize violence and the gun culture. They want the freedom to have enemies, to physically assault Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, homosexuals and anyone who dares criticize their cryptofascism. They want the freedom to celebrate historical movements and figures that the college-educated elites condemn, including the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederacy. They want the freedom to ridicule and dismiss intellectuals, ideas, science and culture. They want the freedom to silence those who have been telling them how to behave. And they want the freedom to revel in hypermasculinity, racism, sexism and white patriarchy. These are the core sentiments of fascism. These sentiments are engendered by the collapse of the liberal state.

Being a white, Christian, heterosexual male is about the only thing the white underclass has going for them and they found a champion in Donald Trump. But as I previously explained, Trump is no friend of theirs, he’s only using them to get the the highest office in the nation to abuse his power. Fascists are scumbags, they use the nationalism and populism to rally their forces and then shaft them when they are done with them. There’s not one fascist leader that ever delivered on their promises. Communists at least try, or start out with good intentions of bringing equality to the proletariats. There’s a lot to be desired with Marxist political and social ideology but I am not here to argue that, my point is facists are the bottom of the barrel. When the presidential election has been reduced to dick measuring, especially when they can’t possibly go any lower, it’s time to cut off the head of the snake.

Chris Hedges explains further. 

College-educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. Now these elites are being made to pay. Their duplicity has brought them—and the rest of us—Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. – 2016/03/02

Source: The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism (from @Truthdig)

The Poverty of Time 

Bill and Melinda Gates release a letter every year through their foundation The Gates Foundation detailing their goals and wishes for the coming year and what they hope to see for the future their philanthropic endeavors.  There is an annual letter by Melinda Gate’s called ‘More Time’.

‘More Time’ addresses the amount of unpaid work (chores, child care, elderly care) women across the globe do in order to keep their households running. There’s not one country in the world where women do less unpaid work than men. Naturally, the disparity between the developed and third world is big but overall, women do more unpaid work than men.

Melinda Gates describes this as taking time away from women who could be doing other things besides chores and caregiving:

Economists call it opportunity cost: the other things women could be doing if they didn’t spend so much time on mundane tasks. What amazing goals would you accomplish with an extra hour every day? Or, in the case of girls in many poor countries, an extra five or more?

These chores could be done by anyone but almost every country in the world, including Europe and United States, it has been arbitrarily assigned to women. The reasons are given varied: women are just naturally better at caregiving and housekeeping (no they aren’t, anyone can learn to be caregivers and keep a house), women don’t mind or some even like doing these things (again, no, it’s something that someone has to do and since the dawn of man, the chore has just fell to women), and some women mind very much about doing such chores. I don’t think any sane person (man or woman) would say “I just love washing dishes, I can’t wait to do them every night” or “I just love doing laundry — sorting through everyone’s dirty clothes, wash them in the appropriate cycle, then dry it, fold it, put it back in its original place just so they can wear it again and strewn it on the floor” – sounds like fun.

Women in developed countries at least have the luxury of modern appliances to help us with these chores. Women in developing and third world countries have to walk for miles to haul water from a well everyday just to do their washing and cooking. And all of this is done by women (washing, cooking, cleaning, child rearing). The water bucket weighs about 40 lbs minimum, but it’s done by women. Just by the sheer physical strength it requires, one would think this particular chore is more suitable for men. But that’s all beside the point, the point is it can be done by anyone and chores shouldn’t be gender specific.

Melissa Gates addressed this long suppressed issue and brought it out into the open is a vindication to me. I am not crazy for feeling the way I do, which is I fucking hate chores and I find them a fucking pointless, waste of time. This is one side of the lives of women which society and the world just assumes that it’s our burden. Especially those of us who choose to have children and raise a family, this is the price we pay. Our time being stolen from us, not by our children, because they are vulnerable need care but by the patriarchy. If we complain, we are seen as ungrateful mothers and wives. We are accused of not willing to lay in the bed we made. We are accused of being terrible mothers because we find the task of child rearing and housekeeping impossibly boring and tedious at times. And I want to clarify, it’s the physical act of child rearing and housework that is boring and tedious, not the children. There is a difference.

Even in Western societies there is still huge stigma and taboo surrounding women who openly admit that looking after home and children can be boring and soul draining. It indirectly implies that one finds their children boring or that one regrets having children, no, it doesn’t mean any of that. It means women are fucking tired of doing all the boring shit at home that needs doing in order to make the home run smoothly. And it’s not cool that men duck out when they sense some boring chore that needs doing coming on.

Social Darwinists, anthropologists and sociologists can find a myriad of reasons why how this came to be. Where across every continent, race, ethnic group and religion, women are stuck with the majority of the caregiving and chores. But I’d argue all of that was arbitrary, even from the caveman days. The only real job a man can’t do is nursing and rearing of a newly born baby and it’s for obvious biological reasons. Women were assigned work (unpaid) at home solely based on her gender and biological function and men were assigned the hunting and gathering role because they’d rather do that than sit at home with screaming cave-babies. In fact, one member in the animal kingdom has the opposite arrangement: the lions. Lionesses are the hunters because they don’t have a mane so they can camouflage better, and the male lions look after the young while their harem goes out hunting and brings home the food. If the lionesses run into trouble, the male lions come to their rescue by scaring away the agitators with his roar and physical size.

There’s always a stereotype which children, especially very young children, while are adorable, can be screaming, wailing pains in the arses. Family and strangers alike smile politely when one of our precious snowflakes is having a toddler meltdown. The men or the fathers quietly shuffle out of the room before anyone notices them, runs outside, smokes a cigarette or grabs a beer from the fridge and hides until the chaos has died down and it’s usually their mothers who stay behind and soothe their wailing children. It’s assumed that women or mothers know what their children need more than the men, that women know why a child is having a Mount Vesuvius sized fit so it’s best they sort it out. Newsflash: mothers are just as clueless as to why our children are having a meltdown. Especially children who aren’t able to communicate effectively yet. We are not preternaturally more patient because we are women, we are patient with our offspring because we’ve no choice. Our duty as mothers summons us to be our best selves. There’s no logical reason why a man can’t soothe a screaming child. There’s no reason why a man can’t drop everything he’s doing and attend to the needs of his child right then and there.

I became a mother four years ago when my oldest was born. It was the first time in my adult life where I didn’t know what I did all day even though I was on my feet and was exhausted. My days and nights blurred together yet my laundry wasn’t done, my house is in disorder and meals are prepared half-heartedly, yet I was always on my feet all day. I realized that while I tended to the physical needs of my child, I had no time to just ‘be’ with her. I had no time just to cuddle and make funny sounds or just watch her sleep – one of the most pleasurable things in life. When I was done feeding her, I had to be off doing something else. When I was off doing that something else, my husband got to spend the precious quality time I wanted to with her. My exhaustion was such that I skipped meals just so I don’t have to prepare and cook that meal, eat that meal and then put away the dishes after that meal. I munched on snacks and fruits and told my husband to do the same or order takeout. I was given the side-eye judgement. He, like the majority of men in this world, felt that all of the above mentioned was my jurisdiction. The boring shit that nobody likes to do is my job.

In most American households, men tend to do the more physical tasks such as landscaping, fixing things around the home, changing light-bulbs, fixing pipes etc., but these are not daily chores that require doing. And most men enjoy or do not mind tinkering with their tools around the house or in the garage. In fact, some prefer it because they can be left alone. A better way would be for the husband to teach his wife how to do these more technical chores. We are not adverse to picking up a power tool if we are taught how to operate it safely. Why do chores have to be pigeonholed by gender?

There were times I wondered if all of that was necessary? Yes, new parenthood is exhaustion itself but is it that exhausting where I prefer to skip meals just so it’s one less thing I’ve got to do (and it’s the only thing I can skip where it doesn’t affect my child)? Did it need to come to that? Probably not had the extra pairs of hands I had around the house been more helpful. Needless to say, these early days of motherhood, all of my other hobbies and things I do for leisure were put on hold.

If I had the option of ‘escaping’ to my career and hiring others to do the housekeeping part of my chores, I’d do so in a heartbeat. I can focus on my career and caring for my children. The money I pay for someone else to do housekeeping is time I can spend with my children. When you’ve been on your feet all day, the last thing you want to do is read a storybook at night to your children, you want to crash into bed and sleep and that’s more of a loss to my children than whether their washing got done or not.

The domestic battles and balance will not be restored until this issue of who does what and why is brought out into the open and discussed. Women, do not enjoy the mess, screaming children, the lack of sleep, constant interruption of thoughts and thought process by inquisitive children more than men. Mothers, very much like their own quiet and space. We also would like to nip out and pour ourselves a glass of wine while the little children fuss. It would be far better if both parents stayed and calmed the children and then both go to the kitchen and grab that beer together.

No one is suggesting that people are to be paid for doing domestic chores and caregiving, but the acknowledgment that this is unpaid work, where our time is taken without compensation and ways can be introduced to cut down unpaid work will be tremendously helpful. Since most of these tasks needs to be done by someone anyways, why not divide and share them equitably?

Having a childhood

This is one entry I’ve read over and over. This brave woman sharing her childhood experiences of having an alcoholic parent and a parent with mental illness. She herself suffers from mental illness, the symptoms began at age 12. She speaks with such candor and emotion about her family, herself and her hopes for the future. Her forgiveness of her parents, seeing them as “people” not as her “parents”.

Also, check out the rest of her blog; she writes extensively about what it’s like to live with mental illness. To medicate or not. Is psychiatry helpful or not? Is therapy helpful. Of course these speak to her own experiences but they are a good insight.

She lives in the U.K., which means she gets free mental health treatment when she needs it. It’s not perfect and is inadequate at times, but much better than the US where you have to be rich to get the mental health treatment you need. Everything is not a straight line, it’s not so straightforward, medication is good, to not medicate is dangerous, therapy is helpful, therapy is crap…, what to do when there’s an episode, to do a section hold or not, there are many nuances and options on choosing the best mental health care for yourself. A lot of states (or countries) take that choice away from you if they deem you too dangerous or unfit but once stabilized, you should be able to choose the kind of mental health care you want.

Especially with mental illness, it’s hard to put all of your shit out there. There’s still a taboo or element of shame attached to having or admitting you have a mental illness. All of your choices are questioned because of your mental state, though making poor choices and having a mental illness are not mutually exclusive.

The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive

I’ve probably said most of this before (have certainly talked about growing up before).  Ah well.

It’s now the general consensus of my family that I was probably born with bipolar disorder.  I’d tend to agree, but it’s difficult to say.  What’s normal for a child?  Aren’t all children singing, dancing, squealing pains in the arse?

In short, I was a brat.  An affectionate brat, hanging off my sister’s arms like a baby koala, but a brat nonetheless.  I alternated between being extremely hyperactive, “entertaining” and attention seeking, to put it mildly to being depressed, withdrawn and wailing.  I was rather clingy, in that I once scratched my sister’s face off for not kissing me before she left for school.  I took in all the strays of the neighbourhood.  I had hallucinations, and was afraid of the TV for a while.  There had been a night when it was in…

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