Archive: October, 2017

Literal Language

So, this Kevin Spacey thing.

Sadly, I have no trouble believing the allegation. I am rather fond of Anthony Rapp, who plays my current favorite character on Discovery (Lt. Stamets, or "Hippie Paul," as he's become of late), and give him all kinds of credit and support for coming forward with his story. Even if I weren't predisposed to believe Rapp, the fact that Spacey responded to the story so quickly and in the way he did all but confirms it's accurate.

It's an awful thing, preying on a minor, and hooray for young Rapp getting away. It's also awful that Spacey chose to try to spin his statement in an attempt to garner sympathy, or at least to deflect from the substance of the incident in question. His choice of language was especially poor in his "coming out" portion of the statement, which is one of two things that seem to have generated outrage in the Twittersphere.

 

Using the response to an allegation of sexually preying on a minor is a horrible way to come out of the closet in all kinds of ways, and his use of the term "I choose" is also problematic. So, outrage more than warranted.

Yet, I found myself in a couple of Twitter exchanges about the other part of it that people ranted about.


 

Maybe I've become extra sensitive to the concept of drunk because of my mom. Maybe I'm just too prone to taking everything literally. Maybe both. But to my reading, Spacey did not try to excuse his actions with drink. He did use his intoxication as a factor in his inability to remember the event (or so he says, though it's plenty plausible he doesn't remember), and yeah, I think it's probably there in an attempt to elicit sympathy (Rapp's account also describes Spacey as soused, so the being drunk part isn't made up). But he didn't try offer his drunkenness as some kind of the-devil-made-me-do-it denial of culpability. And complicating the issue by creating a different offense than the one that actually happened isn't helpful.

 

Spacey has evidently had a habit of cruising for young guys, and if those rumors are true his apology rings a little hollow. Plenty there to be upset about without getting into a "being drunk is no excuse!" fight when he didn't offer an excuse — at least, not in the literal sense.

All that said, Spacey is just the latest prominent person to be revealed as a predator who (allegedly) likes to abuse his sense of power. While unsettling, all this is good in a way — our culture is finally getting to the point where victims of such men (it's always men, isn't it?) can feel more secure about coming forward and the predators can feel less confident that they'll be protected. It's a step forward.

Potpourri

249px 2017 World Series.svg

I don't feel coherent enough today to put together a cogent post on any particular subject, so here are a few fragments of thoughts on several topics...

  • I didn't get around to doing my usual baseball postseason predictions, but if I had I would have predicted thusly:
    • LDS: Houston over Boston, Cleveland over New York; Los Angeles over Arizona, Washington over Chicago.
    • LCS: Houston over Cleveland, Los Angeles over Washington.
    • World Series: Houston over Los Angeles.
    So I'm batting .500 so far. Houston is, unfortunately, very very good, and I don't see them losing more than a few games the whole way. If anyone can beat them, though, it's probably LA; the Dodgers are crazy deep and might be able to keep the Astros in check, but it'd be an upset. So far, the playoffs have been fun but not that memorable save for the Cubs/Nationals Game 5, which was insane. Reminded me a little of the 15-14 game in the 1993 World Series, but the '93 game at least had rainy conditions and a wet field to blame the horrible pitching on; the Nats and Cubs were just playing as if hexed, which some Washington, DC, fans might think is plausible given the Nationals' seeming inability to win a playoff series no matter how may leads they take. One of the freakier games I've ever seen.
  • My housing search has been going in earnest for a few months now, and I'm getting rather discouraged. When I was looking "unofficially" over the past year or so, before I had the money in hand to actually buy anything, there seems to be enough listings popping up every now and then to make me feel like this would be a relatively quick to-do once I had the cash in hand, but it's not turned out that way. Just in that time the market seems to have inflated to a disturbing degree, and I've started expanding my search radius outside of the city. I don't want to leave the city proper, but thanks to fucking Amazon and other big biz luring people here with higher-end paychecks and a lack of development in housing starts, I might not have a choice. Even if I continue to rent, things are bad — I got socked with the second rent hike of 20+% in the last few years recently, making staying where I am untenable in the long term. Goddamn Amazon.com... I'm having a look at a townhome near the edge of the city limits tomorrow at an open house. We'll see how that goes.
  • In addition to Discovery, the premiere of which I opined on here and which continues to be solidly engrossing, I've been enjoying The Orville, The Good Place, Mr. Robot, and The Gifted on the TeeVee. I'm unsurprisingly disappointed so far in The Inhumans, though. Still, it's a good time to be a nerd with all the geeky TV series these days.
  • I thought I had more brain droppings to write about, but my mental haze must be thicker than I realized. Bleh.

The Changing Face of Evil

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I had been in the middle of writing a post about this country's penchant for revisionist history, referencing John Oliver's show segment about Confederate monuments, the Harvey Weinstein outrage and how it was only now coming out that he'd been horrible for years and years, the rampant bullshit being spewed out of the White House press room, and on and on. All that was leading into some commentary on the recent rash of stories about high-profile sexual predators, from Weinstein to Bill O'Reilly to Roger Ailes to the Catholic Church to the Penn State University guy to Donald Fucking Trump.

And Bill Cosby.

So I'm writing this and then Rachel Maddow's show begins and she starts talking about Harvey Weinstein and ... Bill Cosby.

Rachel threw the Cosby scandal right up on my TV as I was trying to write something about it, which was, frankly, a little irritating. :)

The thing is, when I was a kid, Bill Cosby was a big deal to me. I didn't care one way or another about his sitcom, really, though that was fine; I loved his standup albums and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. Fat Albert was the highlight of Saturday morning cartoons with its thematic educational bent showing us kids how to be good people and treat our fellow humans better, and the standup albums were joyfully rich with funny stories that were wholesome and didn't depend on insults or any sort of derogatory language, that were relatable by most people in American culture. Many of them about growing up and childhood adventures, many of them about everyday events. It was a sense of humor that I gravitated to, a way of storytelling I delighted in.

The Cos was a big part of my adolescent years. I knew (and still know) whole albums verbatim, having listened to them countless times. I regaled my dad and others with retellings of routines about tonsillectomies, Cobra automobiles, Junior Barnes, go-cart races, and The Lone Ranger. 

About 20 years ago(!) I drew a large piece I called "Heroes," a charcoal montage of portraits of five public figures that were highly influential in making me me: Gene Roddenberry, Jimmy Carter, John Lennon, Jackie Robinson, and Cosby. I was and am proud of it, it's one of my more satisfying works, and it's been hanging in a prominent place in my living room ever since.

It's still there, and every now and then I wonder if I should take it down. It has a kind of aura about it now that seems like a Confederate statue or something; that's not quite the right analogy, but in any case an honorific to a person that is now a symbol of misogyny and abuse. It's bothersome. (Roddenberry and Lennon were no saints, they had their respective issues, but they each worked to overcome them and to live by their high ideals and I never felt any reticence about displaying their portrait in my home.)

Yet, the influence of Bill Cosby the performer remains, and if I were to listen to one of those standup albums now, I wouldn't enjoy its content any less. The taint of knowing that the performer was/would become a sexual predator and commit irredeemable acts upon who knows how many women would be there, but the humor is still funny and the brilliance of the storytelling is still what it was when I was 12.

So I'm torn about leaving my charcoal masterpiece up on display. I don't want to be thought of as glorifying the symbol of horror that Cosby has become, and if I could somehow replace Cos in the picture cleanly I probably would, but that's not the way these things work. And I still honor the other guys, and the drawing is still something I'm proud of as a piece of work.

revisionist history

In my earlier (pre-Rachel Maddow interfering with my train of thought) draft of this post, the overarching point was more about acknowledging the nastiness of history in general and resisting the temptations to sanitize our narrative of past events; ignoring historical evils is not a way to overcome them in a society nor on an individual level, and in fact just makes things worse — witness the inclination of many Americans to wave the Stars and Bars while insisting that reveling in that heritage has nothing to do with racism, or how long it's taken for the culture to come around to treating behavior like Weinstein's and Cosby's as worthy of outrage and condemnation (still waiting on the culture to come around to condemning Trump, though).

History is written by the winners, goes the adage, and it's important to remember that the word "history" is a contraction of "his story." With so much reliance by people like Trump and most Republicans on warping accounts of contemporaneous events into unrecognizable fictions, vigilance is needed more than ever. We all need to own up to the bad stuff, even when an admired figure is revealed to be a heinous monster.