I’m currently in the fun-but-stressful process of shifting my musical teaching and performance services to online formats. It might be a bit before I can churn out any decent long reads, but I do have some useful tidbits to share:
First and foremost, make sure you’re getting your news from a good source (No, headlines on Facebook that you haven’t fact checked don’t count) If you’re short on cash, the Washington Post has a free COVID19 newsletter that is available to non-subscribers. Don’t panic, but DO take this seriously.
Second, STAY THE FUCK HOME IF YOU ARE ABLE TO DO SO. Labor protections are CRAP in the US, and a lot of important services are currently propped up by low-wage employees with no health insurance or hazard pay. The best thing you can do for those folks right now is not make things worse. This is bigger than any one of us, so don’t be an asshole.
Third, don’t lose sight of the politics going on behind the curtain. Between Trump’s incompetence, and the cruelty of senate Republicans for the last decade (remember how the ACA was supposed to have a public option and WOULDN’T THAT BE HELPFUL RIGHT NOW??) this crisis has been made MUCH worse than it had to be.
While I will be very thankful for any cash stimulus I receive (assuming it doesn’t just go to airlines and hotels, which it might) I’m certain that the GOP will try to spin this in their favor come November. Don’t let them. No mercy for those fuckers.
Finally, a few words of comfort. Or an attempt at them, anyway.
Today in the spring equinox. For Witches and Pagans, it is usually called “Ostara,” and we LOVE to argue about whether or not that name is related to the word “Easter” of the Christian holiday. But that’s not important now.
The important thing is that we can draw comfort and inspiration from what the natural world around us is doing, regardless of our personal faith (or lack thereof). Right now, at least in the northern hemisphere, life is awakening and there is great change. Winter is falling away, and the buds are opening.
The US is learning a hard lesson. One that the youth and the working class have been screaming from the rooftops for years: that the “I got mine and fuck you” approach to wealth distribution has its limits. To get through this, we’re going to have to change. COVID19 is extremely contagious, and it doesn’t care whether or not you have a stocks portfolio.
I don’t want to make light of the suffering and loss of life that has happened. I don’t want to lie to you and tell you that everything will be fine. It won’t.
But there are bright spots. The drop in pollution, which might buy us a little bit of time with climate change. The Dolphins in Venice, which have become a symbol for what could be possible if we all adjust our behavior.
And of course, as working from home becomes more acceptable out of necessity, perhaps companies will begin to understand that the sky won’t fall if they hire more disabled people who may need to work from home regularly.
Oh, and pointless meetings that could have just been an email? Those are all emails now. Finally.
In a similar vein- if you’ve enjoyed this blog, and you have five bucks you can spare (ONLY IF YOU HAVE A GOOD JOB THAT ISN’T GOING AWAY DURING THIS CRISIS PLEASE NO ONE GIVE ME THEIR FOOD/RENT MONEY) that would be very helpful. I have a good safety net saved up and I’m ok for now (and will be for the near future) but I’ve lost a couple of students who didn’t want to make the switch to online lessons and things are uncertain with my church gig (for now they’re continuing to pay us, but if their own resources get too strained they may need to stop). So yeah. Help would be nice if you can offer it, but please PLEASE take care of yourself first.
Hello dear readers! I have been on hiatus, due to some much needed surgery that required general anesthesia.
As you may know, the after effects of general anesthesia are often more brutal than the surgery itself. Additionally, because the surgery was in my neck, the nerve blocker that they gave me (while effective at helping with the pain) messed with the coordination in my right arm quite a lot.
This became obvious when I tried to take my first post-surgery bite of food, and my hand holding the fork kept drifting away from my mouth the further I craned my (still very sore) neck towards the tantalizing clump of curry. It felt like a toned down version of the Prometheus myth- instead of an eagle eating my liver, I was unable to shovel delicious food into my face at my preferred speed. Not the worst, but suffice to say, I was in no condition to write about the nuclear waste/soiled plastic diaper combo dumpster fire that is American politics at this point in time.
And I won’t be writing about it today either. Today I’m writing about something a little more personal.
(That having been said, if you need your informative longread fix, here is an excellent article about the disinformation campaign that elected Trump- I know I’m a broken record about this, but the better one understands how online propaganda works, the less vulnerable one is to succumbing to it)
In Fall of 2017, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while working on a master’s degree. In the middle of the chemo regimen to deal with said Lymphoma, my oncologist noticed a weirdly stubborn speck on the scan that later turned out to be thyroid cancer. Because you know, why not? Two totally unrelated pathologies at the same time? In a patient with good diet and exercise habits, with no other serious health problems to speak of? I’m just lucky I guess!
I should mention at this point that my awesome family was both willing and able to travel back and forth from Oregon to Georgia to help take care of me. That’s a relevant detail for later.
After 6 months of chemo, a thyroidectomy (the tumor was too big for a partial) a blast of radiation, a lot of playing Stardew Valley while high on painkillers, and struggling to complete music theory homework while enduring the chemo funk (NOT. FUN.) I was able to ring the bell, finish my master’s, and move on with my life.
You see, shortly after my cancer-ridden thyroid gland was removed from my body, my surgeon alerted my attention to a “spotty” lymph node in my neck area. The speck was too small to easily biopsy, and all of my bloodwork was free of cancer biomarkers. More surgery right away seemed unwise, as it would take years for the speck to do any real harm, assuming it was even malignant at all. Cancer treatments often leave scar tissue which might resemble tumors on scans and xrays, and because many cancer treatments actually increase one’s risk for more malignancies ever so slightly, over treatment must be avoided where possible.
In other words, in order to kill the cancer, you also have to make yourself more vulnerable to cancer. Whee!!!
Fast Forward to the end of 2019. I’m back on the west coast, getting my shit together, and loving life.
So of course, my new oncologist noticed something odd in my bloodwork.
There were special proteins present that could have come only from my thyroid gland, or thyroid cancer. As I no longer had a thyroid gland, we decided to scan and biopsy that “spotty” lymph node. Technically, the biopsy came back negative, but more of the tell-tale protein was present.
So we operated. And sure enough, the pathology report found cancer in the nodes that had been removed. Not much, but enough to really fuck me up if it had gone untreated for long enough.
But here’s the best part. And by best part, I mean the shitty part.
To prepare for the surgery, my doctors ordered some extra imaging shortly before the procedure to make sure that nothing was moving or growing faster than it should. And in addition to the lovely speck in my neck, they found a spot in my lung.
Yep, in my fucking lung. Because why not?
Is it malignant? No way to be sure yet. I’ll be seeing a lung specialist shortly to discuss possible diagnostics to investigate (it’s location makes a biopsy less-than-ideal). I also have another CT scan scheduled in April, to help watch for any changes. April feels like a long way away, but if we scan too soon, we won’t be able to tell if there are any real changes.
So if you made it all this way (bless you!) you might be wondering:
Why the actual fuck am I telling you any of this?
This blog is anonymous. Some of you know me, and some of you may never once meet me in person. Why would I share so many weirdly personal details in a space that doesn’t even list my name?
The answer is in the title of this post.
The common narrative surrounding cancer, that it is some sort of horrible disease that must be “cured,” is simple enough to help the general public understand. And it is somewhat true- the endlessly multiplying cells that make up tumors are a kind of disease, in that eventually they will harm you and possibly kill you.
Where this oversimplified narrative starts to deviate from reality is in the “after.” In truth, you are never really cured. You can potentially heal from most of the damage done by the cancer and treatment, but not all of it. And unless you want to risk an awful death, you’d best get your butt to the doctor ever so often for diagnostics.
But just as life continues on even after senate Republicans inexplicably crown an incompetent bigoted rapist as their god emperor, so does life continue on during treatment. And there were some good times too.
As I mentioned before, my family went into overdrive when I was first diagnosed. My father initially wanted to pull me from school and bring me home, but as that would destroy much of my degree progress AND cut me off from my student health insurance, I wasn’t too excited for that plan.
My parents took turns living with me, so that I’d have help whenever I was too drugged up to function. This was actually kind of awesome, as it presented an opportunity to spend time with my folks that I wouldn’t otherwise have gotten. My mother and I munched chocolates while watching various murder mysteries on netflix, and my dad and I went down the Ridley Scott rabbithole with some of my favorite movies (The Alien prequels, while flawed, are still far superior to 3 or Resurrection and this is the hill that I will die on).
My brother came too, when he could, and we would go for walks when I was strong enough. I would wear my mask to help compensate for my weakened immune system, and enjoy watching shoppers part like the red sea when I walked through the grocery store. Amazingly, creepy older dudes don’t try to get your number when you look like you’re about to head into a quarantine zone.
When I informed my closest friends and family about Thyroid cancer 2: Ha ha fuck you you don’t even have a thyroid gland anymore and you STILL gotta get surgery, I experienced a similar outpouring of support. Good times were had. There were jalapeno cheese bagels involved.
I could go on and on about everyone who helped me, and the fun that I had in spite of the cancer. In future posts, maybe I will. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I learned from that experience.
But my main focus is this: Cancer isn’t neat and tidy. Rhetoric that invokes the word “cure” can actually be very misleading.
It’s not my intent to alarm anyone who knows me personally. I’m going to be fine. If the speck in my lung is malignant, I will get it out any way I can. If not, I’ll commit to more diagnostic work and get on with my life. If it’s too soon to draw a conclusion about what it is, I will pester my docs until they come up with a plan.
This is the part of the blog post where I usually tie it all together and make a joke, but this post isn’t going to follow that formula. Because it can’t.
The truth is that with cancer, the line between ‘survivor’ and ‘patient’ is always thin. The cost of survival is living with that uncertainty. It’s scary at first, but you get used to it. You find coping mechanisms. You keep living your life.
So in the spirit of uncertainty, I’m just gonna end this bit here. Peace. I’ll get back to analyzing the the cancer in Washington DC soon enough. Yes. I went there. Sorry not sorry.
Having finally crawled out from under the delightful pile of parties, alcohol, chocolate, the deep swirling vortex of Holiday cheer that blocks out all sensation of time, and thank-you notes, I think I’m ready to do some more writing.
If I had more time and patience, I would list the precise reasons as to why the killing of Soleimani (in the manner it was performed) was the foreign policy equivalent of lighting an overflowing porta-potty on fire with a blow-torch with intent of eliminating the odor. As it happens, the Washington Post has a helpful piece about it. Another important bit of writing is this piece by Shadi Hamid at the Atlantic, which reminds us to check our American narcissism at the door when considering foreign policy.
Instead of rehashing what better writers than I have done, I want to offer a perspective that is a little more unique and personal.
I participated in my first real protest when I was in the 7th grade. A number of students had decided to walk out of their classes to protest the impending Iraq war. One of my favorite teachers expressed admiration, but also called us out (in the kindest way possible) on skipping classes and not our lunch or break. While she definitely had a point, her words now seem somewhat harsh in the light of how the Iraq war “turned out,” for lack of a better phrase.
After all, should a bunch of children really have to skip a meal just to persuade people (who should know better) that starting a war based on questionable information is a bad idea? Would it really have been appropriate for us to just continue attending our classes as if nothing was wrong? I don’t have the answers now anymore than I did back then, but I think about that day a lot.
In high school, watching the war drag on and fade into the background of the American media landscape was both vindicating and horrifying, to say nothing of the war in Afghanistan. Additionally, high school offered the most detailed history classes I had ever had, and it was at this time that I finally learned of the dark history surrounding Saddam Hussein and the United States. As my teacher put it one day: “Sure he was a dictator, but he was OUR dictator.”
And that’s a difficult thing for an American high school student to contemplate. To watch your country enter a war on bad intel with no exit plan is awful enough, but to realize that your own country is a large part of the reason for troubles in that country in the first place? It’s not just depressing, it’s flat out paralyzing.
There are other atrocities in America’s past. The Vietnam War, the internment of Japanese Citizens during WW2, and the Banana Republic all come to mind. But the uncomfortable history of the U.S. and Saddam was a sort of turning point for me; That is, it was the moment I truly understood just how little American citizens can trust their government when it comes to war.
So when some edgelord on social media laments about the pointlessness of it all, or how the American empire can never get anything right, or how all of us are sheep for participating in elections, I actually kind of agree just a little bit. However, I do not often engage in this rhetoric in my own writing, or promote it.
When we use the overwhelming injustices of American foreign policy as an excuse to disengage from civics issues, we ultimately just wind up enabling it further. When progressive stay home, alt-right/nazi lunatics don’t and the subsequent election goes differently than it might have. While it is certainly rational to feel shame at some of the actions of our country, abstaining from civic engagement does absolutely nothing to help those who have been harmed by our actions overseas. In fact, it does very little at all, except to stroke one’s own ego.
I feel this way, in part, because I am old enough to remember the 2000 presidential election. I remember the rhetoric that told us, “Bush and Gore are the same.” I remember being told that Gore was too warlike and status quo. I remember Nader being marketed as the “cool” third party candidate.
And where that fucking get us?
It’s impossible to say exactly what would have happened, had Gore obtained the oval office and not Bush. But I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe, JUST MAYBE the dude who tried to draw attention to climate change even as he received ridicule from all sides might have been better prepared to perform the duties of the President than the dude we got. Just sayin.
The military industrial complex (to borrow from Eisenhower’s famous farewell speech) doesn’t just kill people. It kills hope of change and betterment. It strips any enthusiasm that one might have for civic action and drowns hearts and minds in a toxic slurry cynicism and apathy. And obnoxious edgy memes with Guy Fawkes masks in them. Seriously, no one fucking reads those things. Cite sources and present potential solutions like a grown up.
To make matters worse, this narrative can now be weaponized by social media. If I was a stupidly rich idiot who wanted Trump and his enablers to win again, I wouldn’t engage in unseemly violence- I would just use my resources to bombard voters with memes that make them feel stupid for believing in the possibility of change in foreign policy. They’d stay home, and probably think of themselves as “enlightened” while they did it! problem solved.
No one particular action will dismantle the American war machine. Voting in a more sensible senate would help, but it won’t fix everything. Getting rid of Citizens United would help, but it won’t fix everything. Calling one’s reps and reminding them that we really don’t appreciate our money lining the pockets of sketchy weapons contractors would help, but it won’t fix everything. Protests can help, but they won’t fix everything.
That having been said, some or all of these actions combined? Maybe that’ll do something. I think it already has.
Because the public reaction to the prospect of another war hasn’t really been the same this time around. Maybe it’s because the initiation of the Iraq war is still relatively fresh. Maybe it’s because Trump isn’t nearly as good at speaking as Bush was, and that’s not saying much.
Or maybe it’s because America is finally starting to notice that no one ever asks how we will pay for war.
Healthcare? Too expensive. Infrastructure? Also too expensive. Real actions to help fight climate change? Lol nope. But a war with no real strategy and no exit plan? Make it rain, baby!
As life becomes more and more difficult for our working class, this hypocrisy becomes harder to ignore.
On that day, in seventh grade, I remember a man who heckled us. This man drove by, middle finger raised, and shouted “fuck peace!” He then laughed and drove away, obviously proud of having owned a bunch of middle schoolers who had committed the horrible crime of displaying empathy and basic awareness of world events. The nerve of us!
In the moment, I didn’t much notice or care. Looking back, I realize how sad and pathetic that man really was.
There will always be those who think this is all pointless. There will always be grown ass men who feel threatened by a bunch of kids taking an interest in their world.
But we go on.
We keep protesting and voting. We keep educating ourselves and others of the true cost of America’s wars, and what else could have been done with that money. We keep taking care of our communities. We keep living our lives and finding joy where we can.
And we do it because, as a wise teacher once told me, there is no alternative.
It is said that life is more of a journey than a destination. If one is always focused on a particular goal, one can miss the more meaningful parts of living. After all, goals tend to lose some of their significance once you have actually achieved them.
Still, planning ahead is important and the Solstice is coming.
So how will you prepare for the returning of the light?
The House will be voting on two articles of impeachment next week, assuming Rep. Jordan doesn’t chain himself naked to the ceiling of the chamber in a desperate attempt at distraction. I’m joking of course! Maybe.
Still, how will you prepare for the returning of the light?
So how will you prepare for the returning of the light?
Now, here at Sing into the Void, I try to be fair. Yes, it may seem that the GOP is being blackmailed with old emails that were hacked (but never released like their DNC counterparts) back in 2016. And yes, maybe there’s something odd about just how much Senate Majority Leader McConnell had to be shamed before he would vote on that bi-partisan election security bill. But on the other hand…..just kidding! There is no other hand. This ain’t Fox News and we don’t do that shit here. The evidence is damning, but Republicans don’t seem to care.
So how will you prepare for the returning of the light?
I haven’t been as diligent at writing on the impeachment proceedings as I’d initially hoped, mostly because there are only so many ways to write about the head-in-ass syndrome of the Republican Party of today. If I’m going to bold enough to write about subject matter that is already being covered by some of the best journalists and writers alive, I should at least try to make it useful and interesting, yeah?
Besides- information that is repetitive can get boring and become harder to process, which is probably why the GOP is behaving like a bunch of toddlers who haven’t had a nap or a snack in twelve hours- those toddlers are REALLY hoping that we’ll give up and let them eat their Mac and Cheese without eating their vegetables first. And by “eat their Mac and Cheese,” I mean “loot all the wealth of this country for themselves while using gerrymandering and disinformation to protect their own jobs and avoid any kind of accountability or even the mildest of criticism.”
Yeah, it can all seem kind of bleak sometimes. But be that as it may, how will you prepare for the returning of the light?
Because the light will return. Whatever happens in D.C., the days are going to start getting longer and warmer. Reality will continue, no matter how many tantrums Our Glorious Leader throws on twitter. We can’t let a frightening present prevent us for preparing for the endless possibility of the future.
If you have the time, maybe wash your sheets and other miscellaneous linens if you haven’t for a while. That’s a good way to prepare for the new year. Perhaps you might organize your books, or deep clean your bathroom. You needn’t slave away for hours, but performing some small task to make your living space more comfortable in the Winter is both immensely satisfying and free.
And if you are already comfortable in your space, then there are other ways to prepare too.
Check your voter registration. Check it again. Call your reps to thank them or shame them, depending on how they have behaved during these impeachment proceedings. Donate to a campaign if you can. If you’re feeling brave, consider phone banking or canvassing for a candidate you admire.
And if you are unable to support a campaign or you just can’t bring yourself to get THAT involved in politics, there are plenty of other ways you can prepare for the returning of the light. You can donate non-perishables to a food pantry, or make plans to plant trees in the warmer months. You can check with your local electric utility organization to see if they offer shares in green energy production. If you have the means and live in a sunny area, you might even consider shopping for solar panels yourself.
You can make plans to take better care of yourself and exercise your body, if you don’t already. Contrary to the popular narrative, exercise can take many forms and doesn’t have to involve a class full of white people in spandex. Taking the stairs can be exercise. Walking to work now and again can be exercise. Doing a few squats or crunches while rewatching “Star Trek: The Next Generation” for the millionth time can be exercise. Remember, it’s not about shrinking yourself down to a wraith who can fit into an overpriced garment designed by a company full of people too lazy and arrogant to make clothes for real humans- rather, it’s about building your strength and endurance up so you can crush the oppressive billionaire class- I mean, um, sleep better. Yes. That’s it.
Above all, be assured that even if Trump is not removed (and he actually might be- there’s still time for his enablers to decide that rich people jail would be less stressful than protecting a man who empathizes with a fictional mass murderer) there is still a way forward. The impeachment will have left an impressive paper trail that can be used against him in court after he leaves office, and he’ll be far more vulnerable then.
Even in the most nightmarish scenario where he “wins” again (AKA takes advantage of the fact that no one will admit to themselves just how much of their political understanding is shaped by memes they saw but never fact-checked) life will still go on. We can still fight for our rights at the state level. We can still protest. We can still vote for a House and Senate that will resist Trump, and we can still do good in our own communities.
Because when Trump is gone (and he will be eventually- the man is not immortal) there will still be greed and selfishness in this world. There will still be racism and misogyny. There will still be business men who can’t seem to grasp that their stupid cars and yachts won’t matter if there’s no clean air or water.
But we’ll be there too. And we can fight back. We’ll have had a lot of practice.
From the time we are little, we are often told that there are “two sides to every argument.” For the most part, this is true. Very few people actually want to make the world a shittier place, but quite a few people will overlook the suffering of others (accidentally or intentionally) if their own lives are going well. Considering other points of view can be a useful exercise in understanding the world, as well as trying to make it better.
However, there are occasions where this saying doesn’t quite hold up. If someone is trying to tell you that stained glass windows are edible, you can probably just assume that they’re wrong without putting their ideas to the test and giving yourself a massive dentist bill. The world is big and complicated, but there’s no need to eat glass just to debunk someone who is foolish, unwell, or deliberately lying to you.
Right now, the Republican party is trying to convince us to eat a whole fucking cathedral.
I should probably clarify something at this point- I don’t really consider the Republicans to be an actual political party (as opposed to the Democrats, Progressives, Working Family ect.) and that is part of why I write about them in the manner that I do. I think that they were an actual party at one time, but they seem to have devolved into a loose collective that tells their wealthy donors what they want to hear at all costs. Climate change? Don’t worry! Trickle down economics? Totally works, and who needs a middle class anyway?
So while I’ve occasionally been saddened or disturbed by the Republican response to the evidence presented in the impeachment proceedings, I haven’t really been surprised. Their arguments aren’t really meant to convince anyone of Lord Dampnut’s innocence- rather, they are trying to sow doubt about the integrity of the investigation. That way, no matter how damning the evidence is, Republicans can convince the cult of 45 that there’s nothing to worry about. It’s all just “fake news.”
If you’re reading this blog, then you probably already know this on some level. But I wanted to take a moment to write about it in more detail.
Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing which featured four constitutional scholars. I’d encourage you to watch some or all of it if you can, but there are summaries floating around as well.
The hearing went about as you could expect. Three of the four scholars (Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan and Michael Gerhardt) gave testimony that could be summarized as “holy shit of course this is an impeachable offense why are you even asking,” while Jonathan Turley seemed to think that Democrats were moving too quickly. Even Turley, however, conceded that the July 25th call was “highly inappropriate.”
It’s good that this stuff is getting media attention. It’s good that it’s all going into the public record. And had people not voted in such high numbers in 2018, it might not have happened at all (cough cough CHECK YOUR VOTER REGISTRATION cough cough).
But we can’t lose sight of the fact that, when cornered, liars will often resort to the “both sides” strategy.
My point is not to diminish the significance of the impeachment proceedings. What I’m driving at is this:
A small chunk of America has accepted Trump as a savior figure, and they are not going to turn on him no matter what.
That doesn’t mean that all hope is lost- on the contrary! The left, center, and literally anyone who pays attention to objective reality are all pretty mobilized. Even if Lord Dampnut isn’t forcefully removed from office, he may well be voted out in 2020. And that’s not far away.
Meanwhile, all of America just got one hell of a civics lesson, and I like to think that at least a few of us will put it to good use.
But for your own well being, please remember that there are not “two sides” to this argument, whatever your racist high school classmate tries to tell you on Facebook. For the past three years, the extreme right has used this “both sides” concept to make their bullshit more palpable for those who don’t know better. They’re like that dude you knew in college who claimed that he was “too egalitarian” to be feminist. At first it seems like maybe he has a point, but then he flips out at you for being “gross” when you complain about bad period cramps and you realize that he’s full of shit.
If we are a society that allows for free exchange of ideas, then we must acknowledge the freedom to reject ideas that have been proven to be awful and dangerous.
Here, on this humble little blog, I have made it clear that I am fond of Winter. I may not have gone into much detail as to why.
It also occurs to me that if I’m going to write about politics and/or link to news articles, it’s probably a good idea to to give the reader some impression of why I think the way that I do. This is a good and healthy thing to do from time to time, as it forces me to carefully consider my own views. It also helps the reader decide how much (or how little) they trust my ability to relay and interpret information.
And it’s an excuse to take a break from observing the gas lighting tactics that the GOP has been using in an attempt to defend Trump. Seriously. Just hearing rep. Jordan’s voice now induces rage-nausea in my system, so I’m taking a little break so as to better observe what comes next.
So Winter. Why is it so great?
I love a good book any day of the year, but Winter invites deep reading in a way that the other seasons do not.
In Spring, it can be hard to focus on knitting techniques when the sun just appeared for the first time in months. Now you can go outside with just two layers instead of three or four!
In Summer, it’s difficult to understand words of any kind, printed or digital, as the sun is actively trying to murder you. Unless you have good AC (or can go to a place that does) reading during that time of year is tricky.
In Fall, reading a book just isn’t quite as enticing as going for a walk outside, BEFORE the streets are full of frozen mush. Here in Oregon, the brief window of time between Summer heat and Fall rain really is beautiful, and even Tolkien isn’t always enough to keep me inside.
But Winter? It’s perfect! Even when it’s dry enough to have a comfortable walk outside, one still has to spend about 20 minutes gathering layers and putting them on. Why not just read on the couch instead?
So there you have it- I like to read, so I like the season of Winter. But what does that have to do with how I see the world? If you’re one of the three people reading this blog, you might be wondering about that.
My love of reading and my world views are deeply connected, because I believe that putting information in context is important. Especially in the age of social media.
I’m no purist of course- I like and share memes regularly. I also can’t ignore the fact that social media has given a voice to many who previously didn’t have one. But wealth inequality exists on the internet as well as in the real world, and a well-funded conservative think tank will probably have an easier time buying ads on facebook than a LGBTQA+ rights group.
As social media organizations have taken over more of the internet, news organizations have had to make changes to co-exist with them. These changes were brilliantly satirized in an Onion article from 2013, relating to the largely manufactured outrage relating to a Miley Cyrus performance. Although it is dated now, it provides one of the best descriptions of “clickbait” that I have ever seen anywhere. And I’ve been on the internet since Livejournal was the place to be.
Of course, traditional news sources are not perfect and never have been. I read NYT a lot and find it helpful, but it’s not lost on me that they were much quicker to call on President Bill Clinton to resign than they have been for President Treason Weasel.
And then there’s the problem of funding. Journalism isn’t free. Believe it or not, it actually costs money to send people into war zones. Who knew?
So who pays? And how can sources of funding impact the reporting?
That’s a complicated subject that would take many pots of tea to discuss in any amount of detail, but the question of funding is a useful tool in vetting information online and elsewhere. If you like a news source, but aren’t sure about how trustworthy it is, looking into who pays for it can give you some clues.
As to what news sources I typically use, I go for a blend of NYT, WaPo, Mother Jones, The Nation, NPR, PBS newshour, Democracy Now, and whatever local papers I can find. I believe that human rights and environmental health are more important than rich people getting richer. After all, yachts and mansions will become pointless pretty quickly if there’s no breathable air or drinkable water.
I’m well aware that there are plenty of relevant happenings that don’t make it into the papers, or aren’t reported on accurately. I choose not to dwell on this too much. Using instances of lies or mistakes as rationale for avoiding news altogether strikes me as lazy and arrogant. It has literally never been easier to research and compare news sources for their accuracy and sources of funding, so don’t pretend that you’re some kind of deep intellectual badass for not wanting to spend five minutes a week learning about stuff that’s happening in your town.
And if you haven’t yet found a good and healthy routine for consuming news (FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY REMEMBER TO TAKE BREAKS) Winter is a good season to start.
Because as much fun as memes are, a couple of sentences pasted over an image probably aren’t going to be as informative as several paragraphs written by a professional on the same topic.
And if you just don’t have the emotional capacity to handle world affairs or politics, maybe start with something more wholesome. Most larger publications will have arts and technology sections. Perhaps there will be some photographs from space, or a new fossil discovery. Or maybe you’ll just find a really kickass recipe for mashed potatoes.
So what about you? What publications and news sources do you rely on to keep you informed?
Although I do enjoy spending time with my family, I’d rather be honest and not sugar-coat native genocide by fully embracing the Thanksgiving mythos. I like to think that a day where entering a food coma with loved ones and then crashing at 8pm can be separated from its origin as a propaganda device, but it is still important to correct misinformation.
Potentially uncomfortable truths aside, December is coming. This time of year means many different things to different people, but there are usually parties and gifts involved.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we don’t often get snow. As a child, the dissonance between the beautiful illustrations on Christmas cards and the leafmush-crusted reality of PNW Winter used to bother me.
Today, however, I have a deep appreciation for the sight of rain-misted pines in the distance. When I drink my tea and contemplate the sight, I like to pretend I’m in some kind of epic fantasy novel.
And instead of making a series of terrible decisions that lead to some kind of heart-breaking (yet exceedingly dramatic) conclusion at the end, I just look at some pretty trees that don’t die in the Winter and think about their significance.
The significance of the evergreen can be easy to miss in our present way of life. For those who didn’t spend all of middle school and high school reading up on ancient religious systems/mythology/folk magic, the basic idea is that trees that don’t go bare in the Winter were often thought to be special or sacred in some way.
And that makes sense. If your literal survival through the winter depended on how just how long you could make those shriveled turnips last, a tree that didn’t go bare would be exciting as hell.
Today, one can simply go to the store and purchase turnips if they have the funds. Or carrots. Or Shitakke mushrooms. Or donuts. Or whatever unholy combination of sugar and artificial dye is being passed off as the latest oreo cookie flavor.
But as wonderful as these conveniences are, they can conceal the very real hardships of Winter. And those hardships can accumulate until, like those little plastic take out-forks that you’ve hoarded, they jam up your silverware drawer of life.
For most of us, the days become shorter and there is less sunlight. This is actually a pretty big problem in the PNW, as we aren’t the sunniest of regions even in the warmer months. Our bodies don’t always get enough vitamin D as it is (insert preferred dirty joke here) and so in the Winter time we become human equivalents of that plant you had in freshman year of college- technically alive, but not exactly thriving.
Flu season is unpleasant, and can even be dangerous for those with weaker immune systems. And for those living without shelter, even a simple cold can be a serious hazard.
Then there’s the curious dissonance between almost all of the life around us going into hibernation, and our own unchanged work schedules. This dissonance can range from annoying to completely and utterly soul crushing.
I can honestly say that if I had a choice between reliving a Saturday night shift at a retail chain during the Holiday season, or reliving a round or two of chemo from my cancer treatment a couple years back, I would take the chemo without hesitation. Hard work is one thing, but listening to a series of elderly customers tear your head off for saying Happy Holidays while a couple has sex in the fitting rooms just doesn’t exactly put one in the Holiday spirit. At least in the infusion suite at the cancer treatment center, they might give you hot chocolate if you ask them nicely.
And then there’s Holiday shopping- an activity that can be genuinely fun, OR, more stressful than a no-context “we need to talk” text.
Fear not, I’m not about to give you the “all shopping is EVIL how DARE you get excited about getting something nice that you couldn’t normally afford” lecture. Whether it’s Black Friday, or Small Business Saturday, or Medium-Large Business Sunday, or Cyber Monday, or just-fucking-take-these-toasters-the-manufacturer-went-under-we-have-no-place-to-put-them-Tuesday, the Holidays can be a fun time for shopping if one has the means and the time.
The thing is, a lot of people DON’T have the means and the time. But our economy needs those consumer dollars (or so we’re told) and thus we are conditioned through advertising to seek gratification through physical means, even in scenarios where it might not actually make us feel better.
Buying something “fun” to cheer oneself up can be a good partial or temporary solution to the Winter Blues, but if there are underlying problems (such as a crappy job, stress about money, physical or mental health issues ect.) then that purchase can only go so far.
Those catalogs that Amazon sent out might look charming, but I’m guessing that safer working conditions for those who work in those warehouses would probably bring more genuine Holiday cheer than yet another set of matching Holiday PJs for 40% off. Seriously, Bezos, if you’re reading this, you can go ahead and charge me an extra few bucks for my stuff if employees can report a gas leak without fear.
Time with family can also be a mixed blessing. I’m lucky enough to have a functional and loving family, but I know that isn’t the case for everyone. Time with abusive family members can be very damaging.
The paradox of Winter is that when we badly need rest, we are discouraged or even prevented from getting that rest. To fully “participate” in the Holidays (as defined by advertisers and pop culture) is to rebel against our own nature.
So there you have it- The Holidays can be terrible. But they can also be awesome, so I’m going to spend the rest of this post talking about that.
Whether you’re religious or not, the month of December offers an opportunity to celebrate the fact that yes, things will eventually get warm again and no, we won’t all die because the turnips ran out.
Soon, the snow will melt. Soon, the winter-leafmush will disintegrate and be replaced with spring-leafmush (slightly prettier!). Soon, the depressing display of unwanted Holiday merchandise will go away and be replaced with just normal depressing and unwanted merchandise. Need any cheap hair dye with damaged packaging? Now is your CHANCE.
Because Spring will come. And life will go on.
But until then, take care of yourselves. Get healthy amounts of sleep when you can. Stay hydrated. If a cold glass of tap water doesn’t sound appealing while it’s hailing outside, then make some nice herbal tea, or heat up some cider.
Go Holiday shopping. Or don’t. Spend time with family. Or don’t. Pray for good fortune in the new year, or don’t. Binge-watch delightfully cheesy Holiday movies. Or don’t.
The important thing is to embrace your own vision of this time of the year. Don’t long for the sugarcoated winter-ish scene on a Hallmark card while there are pines in the distance that give their own promise of new life. The true “meaning” of this season is what you make of it.
So make it meaningful for you. How will you do that this year?
I have to warn you that this post may be a bit jumbled to read, as I’ve revised it many times. In all honesty it’s probably small chunks of several different posts smashed together.
But I think I ought to at least try to get something down. After all, if Rep. Jim Jordan talks any faster, he might explode. And then it might be considered distasteful to remind you that Jordan may have enabled disgraced Dr. Strauss to sexually abuse students at Ohio State University. Think about that the next time he turns up on TV pretending to be Mr. Law and Order.
I keep trying to get this post “right,” but I’ve realized that’s pointless. Yes, other weird shit will have happened by the time I have it up, but these inquiries represent some particularly important weird shit.
And I’m guessing that not all of you have an extra 25 hours or so to watch or listen to them in their entirety, so I ought to give a little insight just in case.
And to be clear, the absolute last thing I want is for you to beat on yourself if you haven’t “kept up” with the news. It is literally impossible to keep up with all news that is published, even when it doesn’t relate to a President who lies about everything from crowd sizes to policy.
You might not even realize it, but you’re kind of exhausted, aren’t you? I know I am.
Consuming news, even at the best of times, can be very tiring. It is essential (not optional!) to take breaks, and practice basic self care. For me, it’s a hot cup of green tea and a book. Or maybe a walk, or some video games. Or consuming media that has little or nothing to do with current events. What is it for you? Don’t tell me, just make sure you’re doing it when you need to.
So on to the “meat” of this post, and the one particular exchange I’d like to mention. It’s already been highlighted by better writers than I, but I don’t want the significance to slip anyone’s attention. I am referring to an exchange between Rep. Welch (D-VT) and Rep. Jordan (R-OH). Watch it now, if you haven’t already.
In his lament about the absence of the original Whistleblower, Rep. Jordan neglects to mention the death threats against this individual and their lawyer. Instead, he characterizes the Whistleblower at the one who “started” it all. Rep. Welch calmly reminds Rep. Jordan that the one who “started it all” is President Trump. He continued on to say that “President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there.” And he gestured to where the witnesses had been testifying.
This was a brilliant reply. Not just because it got a laugh (and was therefore more memorable and memeable) but because it cleanly cut through the gas lighting that has been clouding this whole thing.
Trump DID start all of this. He COULD testify and speed things up. But just as with the Mueller investigation, he is hiding behind his lawyers and his cult.
Probably because he has no other option at this point.
The elephant in the room (or NOT in the room, see what I did there??) Is that Donald Trump refuses to testify. His refusal is the very reason that we are hearing from “secondhand” witnesses. When his fan club asks us to disregard this, they are asking us to ignore the most basic evidence of our eyes and ears.
Of course, the fact that Trump fans have difficulty accepting reality isn’t exactly groundbreaking blogging on my part, so what now?
Now comes the part where I give you, dear reader, a couple of pointers on what you might do about this. That’s right, HOMEWORK.
Here at Sing Into The Void, I don’t just describe the toxic diarrhea hellfire nightmare that is this administration- I also like to remind my readers that there are things we can do to help our political systems function more fairly, as well as things we can do outside of established political systems to help our communities.
There are no shortage of people who will tell you that it’s all a sham- that elections are all rigged and politicians are all bought and paid for, and that people who vote are suckers.
This view is attractive because it has a few kernels of truth to it. Yes, bribery is common. Gerrymandering is a thing. There’s all kinds of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that we might never hear about.
However, this view is ALSO attractive because it absolves we citizens of any real responsibility. If everything is rigged, why vote? Or read up on current events?
Or really do anything at all? Just sling some memes about how all politicians are corrupt, and then pat yourself on the back for being so enlightened.
I voted for Clinton in 2016. I lived in Georgia at the time, and had to use one of those sketchy ass voting machines. In spite of my observing all local laws and changing my voter registration, I later learned from a non profit that my vote was not counted. There could be in innocent reason, but in light of Georgia having not the greatest track record with election security, there is a very real possibility that my vote was illegally purged.
Does that mean I’m never going to vote again? Absolutely fucking not.
Because if there is even a possibility that my vote will help, I have an obligation. All of us do. If our votes are gonna get tampered with, let’s at least make it hard for em, yeah?
Make a habit of calling your reps
And no, emailing isn’t the same thing. An email can be pretty easily ignored, but a call has to be answered. There are numerous sites where you can look up the numbers for your reps if you’re not sure. Common Cause is an organization that has a pretty handy tool for this, as well as some useful information for those who are unfamiliar with politics.
So get the numbers. Put them in your phone. If you have severe anxiety, call after hours and leave a message. Or write a physical letter to the office.
If your reps have been supportive of the inquiry, then thank them. Chances are they’ve received at least a handful of callers accusing them of being part of the “deep state,” or lizard people pedophiles, or robots, or whatever.
If your reps have been defending Trump, CALL THEM ANYWAY. Even the greediest, most unscrupulous politicians will sometimes change their mind about something if they think they might not get re-elected. After all, they gotta get that cash (and that sweet government healthcare!)
So call. And tell your friends to do it too.
Consider making a good old fashioned sign, and putting it on your lawn or in your window
Depending on where you live, you may have even seen a few people doing this already. It’s simple, yet weirdly effective. Seeing a “meme” in the real world can grab our attention, and as long as you can safely do so, it’s a cheap and easy tactic.
You can simply write “Impeach” in large letters, or get creative and do something more with it. Just make sure the message is clear.
I do want you to be safe. You might not want to do this if any klan, proud boys, or other collective man-baby tantrum groups have been active in your area. But it can be a fun activity if it’s right for you.
Donate if you have the means
Yes, money in politics is gross. Unfortunately, campaigns with no funding at all tend to sink pretty quickly, as Americans are accustomed to spectacle.
If you make decent money and are comfortable donating to a candidate who is running against Trump or one of his enablers in the house or senate, this is a good thing to do on behalf of those that can’t.
If you’d like to donate, but don’t have a lot of money, consider donating to a smaller, more specific regional branch of a given campaign. This way your money goes further.
If you have little or no money (or don’t feel comfortable donating to politicians or their campaigns) you might consider volunteering.
Participate in protests when possible
It’s become fashionable to lament that Americans are too lazy to protest the Trump administration, but this isn’t quite true. The Kremlin Annex, for example, has been going on in DC ever since the Helsinki summit.
The topic of the protest deserves a post of its own, but I’ve gone on too long already so I’m going to compromise and give you a few pointers if you are participating in a march or protest:
Stay on Message (do not be the dude at a Black Lives Matter Protest with a sign about how much you love weed).
Be careful about how you talk to media, or just avoid them altogether (Media coverage of protests can be wildly unpredictable, and sometimes flat out dishonest- don’t give them anything that can be used against you or the cause).
Dress comfortably for walking (or running).
If you’re going to protest without a permit, be prepared to be fined or arrested. Do not expect the police to be kind.
If you’re going to use social media, be sure to make it about the cause and not about you.
I could go on (and some day I probably will) but I hope that gives you an idea.
Be a good citizen (even not during election season)
While it’s safe to say that Trump is a symptom rather than the disease itself, this administration has nonetheless been disorienting and sickening for many Americans. But we don’t need to wait until after impeachment/ 2020 elections/ violent retail worker uprising to remind ourselves of what’s important.
We can still pick up trash in parks. We can still donate (with money or volunteer time) to local food pantries and animal shelters. We can still purchase local street papers and read them. We can still plant gardens and trees.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew, of course. If you’re having trouble narrowing it down, maybe pick one or two areas that are important to you. And don’t forget that self care, either.
Because while resisting Trump is a fine goal, let’s not forget why we’re doing it.
I’m doing it because I want real action on climate change, as well as a better quality of life for everyone (in a nutshell, anyway).
What kind of world do you want?
Don’t tell me. Just think about it. And then help make it happen.
If you’re reading this, it means I have successfully navigated
Wordpress and have managed to launch a blog. Yes, I am aware that it is 2019
and not 2004. Yes, I realize that launching a blog at this time is a bit like
buying a VHS player. Mostly harmless, but why bother?
For starters, whenever I take a break from my obsessive lurking on
social media and actually bother to write something, it actually reads a
lot like a blog post. That’s because as much as I enjoy endless streams of
memes and Hot Takes of ten words or less, I ALSO enjoy losing myself in various
deep dives across the web. Inevitably, when I go to post, I often attempt to
create something similar.
As the dominant forms of social media have become less and less practical for
this particular style of writing, I’ve finally decided to just say “fuck it”
and create my own platform. This way I don’t have to subject you to ads or
algorithms that slowly erode your ability to think critically as the only
content they permit you to see is either exactly in line with your worldview or
so comically opposed to it that you feel compelled to engage even if you don’t
Also, none of your friends from high school will message you and
try to sell you stuff. Not on this page anyway.
So what will I do here? Assuming I don’t get distracted and forget this blog exists, I intend to write about culture and politics.
To be clear, I’m no trained journalist and it’s not my intent to present myself as such. However, if NYT Columnist Bret Stephens can sow doubt about the human causes of climate change and still be taken seriously, I can probably remind you all that The Mueller Report does NOT AT ALL exonerate Trump and actually makes him look really bad. That seems fair.
Basically, it’s my hope to provide just a little extra nuance and complexity to your intwerweb wanderings. Also opera jokes, and maybe some cute pictures of animals. An old internet tradition, sure, but a very good one.
One thing I am not providing right now, however, is a comments
section. I might turn them on in the future depending on how much or how little
traction this blog gets, but for now they’re off. Here are my reasons for that
For starters, comments sections are reeeeeeeeeeally hit and miss
when it comes to meaningful discourse. Certainly, I have witnessed fascinating
instances where proponents of completely different views argued, learned about
each other, and came to some interesting conclusions.
I’ve also witnessed death threats, doxing, childishness, poor
reasoning, seemingly endless bad faith arguments, and insults so mediocre that
my vision blurred while reading them due to excessive eye rolling on my part. I
wish I was joking about that last part, but I’m not.
Additionally, I don’t recall my mind ever having been changed by a comment, unless it was especially lengthy. When I’ve encountered information on the internet that made me question my own views, it was usually in the form of a full length article or blog post. Oh sure, I sometimes gaze upon comment tire fires for fun, but very rarely do I find anything there that actually challenges me. And thus, I’m skeptical that inviting critique from total strangers is really going to help my writing all that much.
Furthermore, if someone wants to praise me OR drag me, they’re still welcome to do so on just about any platform they choose. Just mention it on FB/Twitter/Reddit/whatever the fuck and BOOM- instant comments section!
One can easily link to this blog from just about anywhere, or reference the title to avoid giving me the clicks. I’m certainly not silencing anyone by not having comments posted here.
I’m just forcing would-be commentators to actually think about what they want to say instead of word-vomiting into the closest reply box. I actually take a lot of time with my writing, and there’s no reason why anyone who reacts to it can’t do the same.
The psychology of comments sections (or lack thereof) is actually
a very interesting topic that I could go on about. And I might at some future date!
But I’ve already dedicated too much of this post to something this site doesn’t
presently have, so I’ll go ahead and circle back to what it does have.
At the start of this piece, I compared starting a blog in 2019 to
purchasing a VHS player. That’s because both of these things feel somewhat
dated and almost pointless. But just as a VHS player can allow you to watch the
original Star Wars trilogy in one of the formats closest to the
theatrical release, a blog can provide an experience that scrolling through
social media can’t.
Because I don’t really want your “likes,” or your outrage. Yes, I
have a donate button for anyone who gets a kick out of my stuff and has the
means to give, but that’s really not the point of this space.
What I want is to share my writing and ideas with you, and on my
own terms. If you don’t like them, you’re welcome to type another destination
into that magical box in your browser and go somewhere else.
Go read some poetry, or find some new music, or read up on current events, or play
a game. Because whether you continue to read this or not, I want you to think-
To think about what you’re doing right now, and why.
No, not every interweb excursion needs to be a Shakespeare-reading
marathon or a calculus lesson. The human mind needs rest and play as well. But
as we all deal with the fallout of the 2016 Presidential election of the United
States, it seems as good a time as any to evaluate how we’re using the
And I’ve decided to do what I did all those years ago, on my first computer that weighed about as much as a small automobile and didn’t even have internet yet- write. Put my ideas, dumb jokes, and sincere observations onto a page. And if they’re any good, polish them and share them here.
(Only this time, I think I’ll skip the Lost fan fiction.
You don’t need to see that. Nobody needs to see that)
And if you’re still reading this, then you have the internet too.
What will you do with it today?