Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Thought Experiment On Authoritarianism

I got into a short and civil discussion with a Breitbart writer (yes, BREITBART) on Twitter last night, and here's how the thread went:

Granted, I was a teensy bit trashed when I wrote this tweet (it was Friday night, after all, and I didn't have shit to do), but it got me thinking about where our country is now in terms of the overall energy, and why that is.

Think about this for a second. 

We are in the midst of an essential and long overdue social justice movement that requires anger and passion as a catalyst for momentum. This is separate and apart, however, from the prevailing ENERGY in the country right now, which is just straight up mean and nasty.

The President sets the tone for our country, and President Trump's tone is bullying, nasty, mean, and divisive. He makes us turn on each other. He makes us hate each other. He WANTS it. And he does it while leaving the government understaffed, trampling all over the constitution, and selling the public on con job "reforms" like walls and taxes.

It's all a bunch of bullshit.

The only people who get out of this alive (MAYBE) are Trump's friends and family. He doesn't give a shit about this country or the people he's supposed to be "leading." He cares about "ratings," and outrage sells. He'll go down swinging, leaving the nation in shambles just like his bankrupt resorts and casinos. Everything he touches turns to shit, and the United States government is no exception.

Divide and conquer is right out of the authoritarian playbook. A population that is cannibalizing itself is a lot easier to manipulate and manage. So I have come up with a few concrete things that I will do to combat this:

1. Direct action/writing: Continue to focus in concrete, meaningful, affirmative (as opposed to defensive) ways on the issues I care about: gender equality, racial equality, ending white supremacy, ending rape and sexual assault, ending income equality, and protecting our constitutional democracy from a criminal despot. I do this by staying involved in my local community on these issues, contacting my representatives in Congress relentlessly, trying to write regularly with passion and precision about social justice issues and constitutional norms, and sharing the writing of like-minded people on these subjects.

2. Avoiding social media fights and lost causes: Not allow myself to be baited into arguments on social media, as they are a distraction from actual solutions and an ENORMOUS waste of time. After an hour of yelling back at forth at someone on Twitter or Facebook you have nothing to show for your time but frustration and upset. That time can be spent much more productively on #1 above.

3. Avoiding Trump voter-hating: Not waste energy indulging in any more feelings of hostility toward Trump voters. The fact is we are all completely fucked now, and we need a way out of this mess together. Focusing on how fucked up it is that he's President, and how fucked up it is that people voted for him, and how much we should hate those people and blame them for everything just feeds the divisive beast that Trump has unleashed. He WANTS us to hate each other. He NEEDS it. His success depends on it.

4. Using my anger productively: There's a lot to be angry about right now. Like, a SHITLOAD. But I'm choosing to use #1 above to channel my anger productively and direct it at the source.

Friday, November 17, 2017

I’m Winter, and I Did Not Come to Play With You Hos: An Open Letter to Juneau

Dear Juneau,

I am Winter, and I did not come to play with you hos. I came to SLAY, bitch.

Oh, I know my game has been . . . well . . . let’s just say “inconsistent” over the past couple of seasons. Freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, snow, snain, rainrainrainarain, snow, freeze, ice rainrainrain rain, shitty skiing, cranky Juneau.

I’m not trying to point fingers or pass the blame here, but humans have KIND of been fucking me up with unfettered carbon emissions, deregulation, and a general level of short-sighted selfish assholery that will give .001% of the world a fleet of personal yachts and make the rest of us (myself included) deader than Louis C.K.’s career post-masturbation scandal.

For now though, I’m here to tell you that it’s payback time, and payback is the only bitch badder than me. Well, me and Nicki Minaj. Bad bitches like us is hard to come by. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a little hard to come by in recent years.

WELL NOT THIS YEAR, mothafuckhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaz!!!!!

Have you seen me today?! Have. You. Seen. ME?!

I deadass dropped seven inches of snow in four hours with no signs of stopping. The wind on Douglas will rip your goddamned face off your head. You motherfuckers are going 10 miles an hour in the right lane, or driving like there’s a house on fire in your Nissan Leaf/redneck pickup truck and ending up in the ditch.

Why? because I DID NOT COME TO PLAY. And also because you are all terrible drivers for some reason.

Put on your Yaktraks, because y’all out here trippin in these streets, falling face down on ice. Ice that I put there, BECAUSE I AM WINTER IN ALASKA, MOTHERFUCKERS!!!! This ain’t no Hawaiian vacation!

Bust out your snowplows, your rock salt, your snow tires, your snow blowers, your skis, snow machines, ice skates, whatever it is you need to do, do it because every other season is CANCELED and I am UP IN THIS SHIT NOW.

Oh wut. You thought I wasn’t coming for you this year? COOL STORY, BRO!



This Is 40: A Comic

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Quotes from Famous Men in History on Sexual Assault and Harassment

"Ask not what a woman can do for your dick—ask what you can do to stop yourself from asking her that question."

--John F. Kennedy

"Four weeks and seven days ago, investigative journalism brought forth upon the internet a new concept: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all women are created with boobs and a vagina but that doesn’t mean you can grab them without her permission, k thx bye."

--Abraham Lincoln

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. Except if she says stop. Then definitely stop."


"That which does not kill us makes us stronger, so maybe being outed as a pedophile, sexual predator, or basic scumbag will make Al Franken and Roy Moore Olympic athletes."

--Friedrich Nietzche

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one that didn’t involve putting a barbiturate in her martini and slinging her over my shoulder on the way out of the bar, and that has made all the difference."

--Robert Frost

"Better to remain silent and be accused of being sexual predator than to just have the balls to admit the allegations and remove all doubt."

--Maurice Switzer

"If you want something done right, do it to yourself. With your right hand."

--Charles Guillaume Etienne

"Better to have loved and lost, than to have tried to love someone who obviously didn’t want to be in the same zip code as you much less the same bedroom."

--St. Augustine

"Male comedians can’t drive out sexual predators: only female comedians can do that. Senators cannot drive out sexual predators either: only voters can do that."

--Martin Luther King Jr.

"With great power comes great responsibility."


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Review: Two 9 Year-Old Girls' Impromptu Mandatory Dance Show

Technically speaking, we still live in a free country. But you wouldn’t know it from the impromptu, mandatory gymnastics and dance program that two nine year-old girls DEMANDED their parents watch.

The lights went up on the show last Sunday evening in a one night only performance at a cluttered, split level ranch playroom “theater-gymnasium” on Douglas Island, Alaska.

The “show,” produced, directed, and performed by Hazel, 9 and Paige, 9.5 was a loud, chaotic mishmash of cartwheels, front-walkovers, splits, and something called a “tick-tock.” Little brother Isaac, 7, DJ’d the production from a tiny couch in the corner with Top 40 pop-music blaring through the iPad Spotify app, while little brother Ian, 6, was tasked with the lighting.

The small audience of three mothers and one father—all slightly inebriated—might have been more forgiving of the under-rehearsed performance had the show’s producer and director not berated and nagged them into watching it IMMEDIATELY after dinner was served and consumed.

In an arguable breach of artistic decorum, the cast and crew loitered and bounced up and down for 15 minutes over the shoulders of the audience prior to curtain call. 

The cast insisted in plaintive whines that the audience discard their adult coloring books, guitars, fiddles, and giant glasses of liquor, hoist their rears from their perches, come downstairs, and re-position themselves in two tiny Disney Princess bucket chairs that barely held half an adult butt-cheek (two of the moms) while the third mom and the dad were relegated to the carpet.

Notwithstanding the lack of adequate seating and the Communist China conscripted nature of the spectacle, the show’s highlights included various impossible bodily contortions. The splits and back handsprings, in particular, made all four audience members gasp and wince in pain at the thought of their over-40 bodies executing even part of a single one of these maneuvers.

Although the two stars had chemistry, it was obvious that there were creative differences between them about what choreography element should come when. 

This translated into some miscommunication with the sound engineer and DJ as well as the lighting technician, both of whom endured unjustified berating at various points during the course of the performance. 

At one point, the show’s director almost kicked an audience member in the head while spinning the show’s producer around in a move whose name I can’t remember. The show concluded rather abruptly with a few whispers, a shrug, and a "that's it."

All in all, I can’t say I recommend this untitled program to anyone.

If Only I’d Listened

Below is a story/presentation I told/gave at Juneau's Mudrooms last night. Mudrooms is a story-telling event where 7 different people in the community tell a 7 minute story each month and proceeds go to different charitable causes. This was my third time speaking at Mudrooms. The theme this time was "If Only I'd Listened." 

My take on the theme wasn't a traditional story with a narrative arc, but kind of veered off into the Ted-Talk-y/motivational speaking arena. From that standpoint, I'm not sure how it was received (always hard to tell). But in keeping with what I say below, I'm trying not to dwell too much on that. 

Okay, so I have a confession to make. I had a really hard time with tonight’s theme. I tried to think of a funny story about some time I’d gotten into trouble or some grand Alaskan adventure where hilarity ensued because I didn’t heed a concrete warning about not doing something stupid.

But despite having done lots of stupid things in my life, I couldn’t think of anything that really worked, and then I realized that the answer was right in front of me.

It was four words of advice that my mom gave me about human relationships and interactions that I wish I’d listened to and internalized a long time ago, and those four words were:

It’s not about you.

Countless moments in my life would have been easier, and felt less upsetting, if only I’d listened to those four words and believed them. Not just on a rational level, but on a gut level of true emotional insight.

I used to be really sensitive. I used to get offended by things people did and said. I used to be disappointed when people failed to meet my expectations. But over time I stopped feeling that way, because I started to listen—I mean REALLY listen—to my mom’s advice that when a person behaves in a way that upsets you, it’s not actually about you.

Here’s what I mean by that.

When you meet someone new, it’s a mistake to assume that the other person is operating by the rules that you’re familiar with. In fact, you can assume you know almost nothing about who the other person is. Gut reactions to what an unfamiliar person is doing are actually a distraction from experiencing curiosity about why the other person is behaving in a particular way.

It’s a lost opportunity to learn about someone else. Who have I just met? How does this person think? What are their values? What did they mean by what they just said? Where did they learn to do things that feel strange or unacceptable in the world I’m familiar with?

Whether it’s a new romantic relationship, a friendship, a colleague, or someone you’re encountering in a superficial way online, each adult human being enters every relationship and transaction as a fully formed person whose behavioral repertoire was mostly scripted before you ever met them.

They’ve each learned how to behave in relationships through early life experiences within a unique family and culture that operated according to implicit rules and theories about social discourse.

Tens of thousands of interactions teach us how the world works. And then add in all the personal variables through which we filter what we observe and experience like race, gender, temperament, birth order and whether to abide by logic or emotion, and it’s no wonder that each of us is utterly unique.

My mother taught me how to listen by controlling my gut reactions and my own emotions in service of learning who another person is, and then using that knowledge to improve my interpersonal relationships and achieve serenity around them.

She taught me the value of being dispassionate.

When I get angry at someone, or someone gets angry at me, I try to notice my feelings in order to better understand how the other person is thinking and what they’re feeling. Regardless of whether someone responded to me in a way that feels wrong, or if I could have been more tactful, all of that takes a backseat to my trying to understand the interaction I’ve just had.

I try to make that person the center of attention rather than focusing on my own performance as a friend or spouse or co-worker, because it’s not about me.

It’s about cultivating a certain level of dispassionate empathy. And I don’t mean cold detachment. Being dispassionate is not incompatible with being passionate exactly. It’s just a skill, like any other skill. If it’s not about you, then it’s about the other person, who learned how to behave long before they ever met you.

And since it’s about the other person, there’s nothing more powerful or more useful than understanding where someone else is coming from. It’s a tool to guide strategic action and applies to every aspect of our human interactions.

Trying to understand how another person’s mind works lets you stay more calm and focused than having kneejerk emotional reactions. And in that calmer state of mind, you can dispassionately plan a strategy for a more productive interpersonal interaction. You could say that’s manipulative, but the idea behind “it’s not about you” is to understand someone else and take constructive action based on acquired knowledge.

Knowing that it’s not about you improves your tolerance for other people’s idiosyncrasies and makes you a better listener. By contrast, believing that another person’s behavior is about you leads you to the mistaken conclusion that you have the power to change them.

But it’s never in your power to change another adult’s behavior.

A person can choose to emulate you or learn from you, but then that person is choosing to change themselves. By adulthood, most behavior is automatic and requires both motivation and focused conscious effort to change.

People around you are continuously doing things that irritate you: cutting you off in traffic, voting for politicians you consider hideous, letting their kids be mean to your kids, calling you names, acting like they’re entitled to special treatment, whispering so you can barely hear what they’re saying, showing up late, etc.

Whether you choose to ignore or respond to each of these perceived provocations, knowing that the only person who can change an annoying behavior is the person who’s doing it really helps maintain perspective.

You don’t need to mindlessly and fruitlessly try to teach people lessons about just how mistaken they are.

For me, listening to my mom’s “it’s not about you” advice has gotten easier over time. With each passing year, I’ve been able to step back further to become more objective about how the world works.

But even then, it’s not always easy to stay on the “it’s not about you” path. We all have times when this path seems impossible, and I think we are collectively in one of those times right now.

Truly, I think we are facing one of the greatest existential threats to our civic life as we know it. To our American constitutional democracy as we know it. We’re under a daily siege of confusing misinformation. We are made to turn on each other. It feels rudderless. It feels disempowering. It feels impossible to hear the signal for the noise.

But it’s not productive to turn a deaf ear to each other. More than anything else, I think, empathetic and dispassionate listening, coupled with constructive action, will help us navigate this dark time. It’ll help us generate our own light. And in doing that, I think, we’ll be able to deliver to ourselves our own salvation.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Ugly Truth

I don’t think there’s a woman alive who hasn’t heard a man comment on her appearance—negatively or positively—in an unsolicited and/or irrelevant way.

I want to talk about this for a minute, NOT to fish for validation, and NOT to debate the merits of whether these men are right or wrong in any particular instance, but simply to observe the raw power of physical insults AND compliments as a rhetorical device that men—and, too often, women as well—frequently deploy when debating women on topics that have nothing to do with their physical appearance.

I encounter this a lot in my blog-life, but sometimes these comments bother me, and for whatever reason one really got under my skin today. An emotional button gets pushed. No matter how much you rationalize it away, it touches something deep and ancient, and it makes you cry and/or shut down, which of course is the point.

From the minute a girl is conscious of her girlhood and her sexuality, society sets a goal that she learns to strive for until she’s too old to matter anymore: to be physically and sexually attractive and desirable to men, and to eliminate the competition in the process.

Whatever that means in whatever culture, and whatever it takes, THAT is the mission with which she is tasked. It’s reinforced constantly and relentlessly, all day every day, through messages explicit and implicit: male approval or disapproval of a woman’s looks is what will make or break her in This Life.

Every tiny decision a woman makes in her daily existence—what she eats, what she wears, how she smells—are all a means to this end, and at least in western culture, there is always a product you can buy or a procedure you can get to help you achieve it. 

Lucrative industries depend on the never-attainable, always elusive end goal of female physical perfection as defined by the male gaze. Every minute spent aiming for that goal is a minute lost on arguably more productive and meaningful contributions women could be making to society. In other words, pressuring women to spend so much time and energy on their looks—and tearing other women down for theirs—is its own repressive tactic.

Of course, many women grow up and reject this model, or try to. But my point is that this is the baseline model. It takes an ENORMOUS amount of work, effort, and conscious energy to discard it and redefine it for yourself, on your own terms, in a mentally and physically healthy way. 

So when you're 40 years old and think you’ve succeeded at discarding it, it’s frustrating and demoralizing to realize you never fully will.

It doesn’t matter if the person is a total stranger whom you’ve never met. It doesn’t matter if what they are saying about your looks is “true” or “not true.” As far as I’m concerned, it’s just as bad to be flattered as it is to be insulted, because both are a referendum on something that has zero to do with the substance of what the woman is saying at that moment.

The point is that the physical appearance of the woman who is speaking or writing is always at issue. 


It is thrust into the debate, even when the debate has nothing to do with it. A woman’s physical appearance is her currency and stock-in-trade. If you don’t play this game, you don’t win this game, but if you play the game you just perpetuate it, and you can never win it anyway.

It’s a lose-lose Catch 22 that transcends politics or substance. People do it to Hillary Clinton. They do it to Sarah Huckabee Sanders. They do it to Tomi Lahren and Lauren Duca. It doesn’t matter what views are being expressed: defenders and detractors alike immediately resort to the woman’s appearance. Again, it takes conscious effort—for me too, honestly—NOT to do this.

I’ve seen men—and plenty of women (who are often men’s best allies in the fight to center women’s appearance as the focal point of every debate—see below
)—say that Tomi Lahren looks like a meth head and an oompa-loompa and Sarah Huckabee Sanders looks like a chubby soccer mom and Ann Coulter looks like a “transvestite” (is that even a word anymore?) 

Anyway, who fucking cares? You can disagree with every word that comes out of their mouths and think it’s horrible (and I do)—without calling them fat soccer moms and meth heads.

And yes, granted. Women, including me, call Donald Trump orange and Jeff Sessions an elf and so on. And that isn’t nice or kind or good or particularly useful either. 

But it’s also collateral to the substance of whatever they and other men are saying, and it’s a last resort, because these men have inflicted horrible, unremedied wrongs on women and/or literally have the power to kill people and so laughing at spray tans and big ears feels like the only weapon available to the disempowered. It’s not now and never has been the crux of the discourse.

My point is this: men can reliably go through life without every transaction and interaction and word they write or say automatically becoming an immediate referendum on their face and body.

Make of that what you will. Call it male privilege or whatever you want to call it, but that’s the ugly truth and the cost of expressing an opinion while female.