I Saw Things I Liked

I spent the week after Jonas tending to Ur Takses and Mouse’s emotional health (shout-out to the Center for Psychological Services at Divine Mercy University) and its impact on her school attendance. January was pretty much like that. In between times, I alternated between staring at Facebook, staring at Twitter, and trying to teach myself the basics of Continental philosophy for the heck of it.

During this week, I also found a link to Thing of Things most recent Book Post in my e-mail, courtesy of The Browser (the only electronic publication I pay actual money to read, that’s how good it is). Ozy Franks has figured out how to get free books from people, which is like the Holy Freakin’ Grail of cultural criticism in my opinion. I am inspired. Plus I got ideas for communicating with Mouse about elements of the above-inferred emotional distress she’s experiencing.

My new favorite, Hatch Act-appropriate meme about the 2016 democratic primaries:


And finally, tonight I saw Beyonce’s new video. Boss-yonce.



Jonas Diary, Day 4

We have reached the car, but we have yet to try driving given the 23″ of snow remaining in the road. On Sunday morning, I did some digging in the direction of the car, cleared a path to the garbage and recycling bins, and dug out around the heat pump. As much as I complain about my landlord’s interior maintenance, I have to admit that they do a good job of making the outside look good. The pathway that Mouse and TeenBot fought to create on Saturday was pristine sidewalk when I went outside the next day.

Dino Spouse walked the mile or so from his mother’s place to home yesterday afternoon, leaving his own car for better times. He and Mouse finished the path to my car and painstakingly cleared snow from the sides and front of it. (Mouse has doubtless absorbed my admonitions about the evils of the automotive snowhawk, but at 5’6″ she’s still not of a height or strength to get the snow off the top of the car without something lighter than a snow shovel. I’ll discreetly tend to this myself before moving the car.)

Now I feel safe saying it: the cable and internet connection stayed functional during the blizzard. Thank God. My only disappointment was the way we kept losing sound in the On Demand programs, which led to lots of bingeus interruptus when I tried to catch up on “Into The Badlands” and “War and Peace.” My disappointment on the latter score was even greater when I discovered that no one was showing episode three of “War and Peace” during prime time last night. Worse, the moral effort of sharing the television during the search for same so exhausted Dino Spouse that I lost all desire to watch “Mercy Street,” even though I think it was streaming on PBS’s website in addition to the TV broadcast.


A Few Weeks Later

Podrostok (or maybe I should start calling him Soldatik in honor of his new adult station in life) came home for the holidays. It was fun having him around and having an excuse to visit a friend of mine who lives near Soldatik‘s base during the pick-up and drop-off trips. (Always life-affirming to see people whose ambient chaos levels resemble or exceed one’s own, plus I got slept on by some dachshunds. This last fact almost makes up for the fact that he introduced the film “Love, Actually” into my life, but only almost. It’s the cinematic equivalent of eating an entire bag of Starburst jellybeans in one sitting, and it makes me regret the loss of my gag reflex in much the same manner. If I had won the Powerball last week I would have paid for a sequel in which Emma Thompson’s character teamed up with Laura Linney’s character to wreak havoc on all the smug happy people in the film. It would end with Laura Linney and Liam Neeson living happily ever after, Emma Thompson bonking the dude who plays Rick on “Walking Dead,” and the chick who seduced Alan Rickman subjugating and blackmailing Hugh Grant while performing feminist consciousness-raising intervention on his girlfriend. Colin Firth and his girl friend can stay together, though.)

No Dinosaurovs (or Protosaurs) were harmed in the making of this Christmas, for what that’s worth, nor were the police summoned to my belle-mere‘s apartment. I couldn’t summon the holiday spirit to decorate the house in earnest, but I did at least trim up a table festively and make some cookies, and my sister had a lovely Christmas dinner for the lot of us.

I went another round with the nightstand last week, but this time I pushed it out of the way as I was rolling on to the floor (diving to the floor of a metro car to avoid gun fire in my dream). Dino Spouse was startled by the noise but neither of us was wounded. I guess that means the nightstand and I are even now? I’ve gotten a referral to a neurologist and a sleep specialist.

Mouse discovered the musical “Hamilton” at some point during the holiday and it took over our brains completely. Unfortunately, anxiety and despoir also took over Mouse’s brain during the school break, with the result that my girl has attended four of the last ten days of school. We have logged a lot of quality time with mental health professionals in the past two weeks. I am grateful that I will be seeing mine on Monday, because dang.

A Tree Grows In Alexandria

Last week we went to South Carolina for Podrostok‘s graduation from Army Basic Training. While we were away, Red Brick Town reported the appalling news that someone had chopped down the West End’s signature evergreen tree.

It was growing out of a WALL in traffic! People decorated it! It was awesome! (Photo poached from Red Brick Town.)

By the time we got back and saw Mouse in the Frances C. Hammond Middle School production of “A Christmas Carol” December 3-4, someone had posted a sign reading “NOT COOL, BRO” where the proud tree once grew. Soon a shrine grew around the poster. In response to public outcry over the city’s decision to chop down and remove the tree, the city government and the owner of the nearby Landmark Mall planted a new tree across the street. The city issued a Dr. Seuss-inspired statement on its Facebook page. The new tree is already being decorated. I’m still mourning the old tree, though I do appreciate the references to “Who-fficials” and “Who-reaucrats” in the city’s statement.

Happy New Year

Happy fiscal new year to all of my fellow federal public servants! The worst thing about the fiscal year cliffhanger this year was that Dino Spouse switched from his usual true crime TV fare to watching Congressional debate on C-SPAN. I never thought I would miss “Snapped,” but such is the power of Ted Cruz’s oration.

Fall seems to have arrived in Washington with the fiscal new year. Unpleasant discovery #1 of the fall: my cherished leather jacket, the $300 buttery black delight I found at a local Salvation Army two years ago for $20, has gone all stinky. I believe it may have been saturated with rain and snow a few too many times, and now it emanates a smell reminiscent of wet dog or wet wool. I can handle looking shabby (and probably the jacket is looking a little rough, since I patched a rip in one of the pockets last year), but I cannot abide stank.

We have yet to hear from our Soldier in Training at length, but he is in the second week of boot camp. We’ve seen pictures of him thanks to the big-hearted spouses of the soldiers running basic training and the regimental Facebook pages. The first two or three action shots of Podrostok showed him looking stressed and/or confused, but last night’s feed included an excellent picture of him running and looking, well, army strong.

In Which I Am Not Commenting On Matters Of Official Concern

Twitter is my main source of short news updates. It’s good for breaking news and for connecting me to more in-depth coverage and analysis of interesting things. I try not to follow publications or people I find annoying unless they have something exceptional to offer. Among these I follow John Schindler, a former intelligence type who blogs and tweets about foreign affairs and national security. I generally hold foreign policy pundits in low esteem (more on that below), but I often find his observations about world politics worthy of attention. His commentary on domestic politics is of more uneven quality. Sure, his cat might make a viable Presidential candidate, but his observations about “SJWs” and “virtue signalling” make me queasy. Worse, they make me want to argue with him.

(You see the problem, right? I want to discuss foreign affairs and domestic politics AND I want to argue with someone more famous than me on the Internet. Not only does this go against my inclinations as an apparatchik, it offends my sense of good taste. Sigh.)

So Schindler wrote this thing about the Cold War and the New Left, and it made me mad. I will refrain from summarizing the bits about European politics lest I be accused of Commenting On Matters Of Official Concern, but the upshot seemed to be that leftism is back and it won the Cold War by giving up on economics in favor of consumer choice and sexual liberalism, biding its time until it could rise again in the form of identity politics. Instead of the dictatorship of the proletariat, his new left seeks the dictatorship of a different “fantasy class” defined by its outsider status relative to traditional elites.

I have a couple of problems with this.

First of all, US national elections have been a choice between liberal or conservative centrist options since the end of WWII. The American Left devoured itself infighting over whether to focus on domestic issues or “international solidarity” until it was effectively criminalized in the early years of the Cold War, while the Right went underground to escape the taint of fascism. The Right started to rally first, beginning with the election of Ronald Reagan. The Left stirred at the end of the 1990’s (which ironically may have been a factor in the 2000 defeat of Al Gore; the small but critical mass of left-leaning voters who gave their votes to third party candidates helped throw the election to George W. Bush by not supporting the mainstream liberal centrist candidate). They fell in line behind the liberal centrist candidate in 2008 and 2012, but they have by no means been content with the candidate they helped elect.

Schindler gets that the 2016 Presidential hopefuls reflect the divide between the mainstream conservative center (“corporate conservatives”) and the Right. Sometimes he seems to recognize a similar divide emerging between liberal centrists and the Left. He also seems to recognize the extent to which elites at the liberal center have abandoned the economic aims of the Left. But he does not credit the rising level of frustration in the liberal center’s “99%” with declining standards of living. He also forgets that the last time the Left privileged international solidarity over national questions of “identity politics,” insisting that the class struggle had to take priority over bourgeois self-expression among its minority domestic constituencies, the Left got wiped off the US political map for 60+ years.

The other thing is that I studied International Relations in the waning years of the Cold War. They taught us that the US-Soviet conflict (and by historical extension, Great Power conflict) was the only valid lens through which to consider world affairs. In my second year, a visiting instructor from NATO boldly prognosticated that East and West Germany would unite in the next 20 years. The Berlin Wall fell two weeks later. That was almost 24 years ago. In recognition of the persistence of bourgeois national self-expression, my alma mater has since created a comparative international cultural studies track in my old degree program. It’s not that the Cold War didn’t matter or that Great Powers don’t exert a certain gravitational pull – it’s just that people have a strange obsession with being accepted for who they present themselves to be. Most people lack a certain degree of self-awareness, but they still don’t present themselves as Napoleon or the Virgin Mary. Call it identity politics, or nationalism, or individualism, or geopolitical entropy. Recognizing it as a fact of life and creating space for it in public discourse doesn’t mean being blind to its dangers.

I have a hard time believing that Schindler really thinks the goal of the New Left is to install PC Principal from “South Park” as a dictator and draw obscene cartoons on the faces of the oppressor class in Sharpie. I think he knows damn well that Cartman won the Cold War. Now that I’ve gotten this out of my system, hopefully I’ll stop wanting to engage with him about it and get back to the usual program of irregular posting and failing to build a Personal Brand.

Almost Cut My Hair, Part 2

I did, actually. Got a haircut this weekend. Took Mouse and TeenBot with me and they got haircuts too.  Mouse and I emerged looking Straight Outta Stepford. That part was fine. TeenBot, on the other hand, experienced a haircut fail and insisted on buying haircut clippers on the way home. When we got home, Dino Spouse took charge of the clippers and shaved TeenBot’s head. This inspired him to try shaving his own head. (At this point I should explain that father and son both sport buzz cuts most of the time anyway, TeenBot as a style choice and Dino Spouse as a tasteful response to Soviet Male Pattern Baldness.) Alas, Dino Spouse realized quickly that he could not see the back of his own head and called for help. The last time I cut Dino Spouse’s hair was almost 18 years ago. It did not end well, largely because I used scissors and created a large bald patch where nature had not intended one.  This time went much better, fortunately for all.

The true hair horror came this morning, when I caught sight of myself in the mirror at the doctor’s office and saw … whiskers. Yes, the end of hormone replacement therapy turns out to mean more than just random hot flashes. I took my mustachioed self straight to the nearest waxing emporium and had it torn away. Yikes! That hurts waaaaay more than eyebrow waxing. Time to start researching electrolysis!