About greg

Just another bozo on the bus.

iowa state fair — part two: romans & countrymen

I’ve written about the Iowa State Fair before, because c’mon — it’s the Iowa State Fair, and who doesn’t love a state fair? Or a county fair, for that matter.

People have been holding and attending fairs since the Romans invented them. They were astonishing assholes, those Romans, but you have to give them credit for spreading the concept of a fair all across Europe. Of course, they did that by conquering most of the various tribes of Europe. While I suspect those tribes would have preferred not being conquered to having a local fair, the fair is still a great idea.

Rock & Roll

Rock & Roll

In concept, the Iowa State Fair continues to follow the Roman model. It’s a temporary event, it’s about gathering livestock for display and for sale, it’s about marketing of wares, it’s about entertainment of the masses, and it’s about giving young folks a way of meeting new young folks. It’s an amusing way for folks to buy a new goat and acquire a new pan while expanding the gene pool. Everybody wins — except for most of the folks who get caught up in tossing a ring at a milk bottle.

Expanding the gene pool.

Expanding the gene pool.

If you’re one of those people who always categorize things into groups of threes (and it appears today I’m one of those people) there are three types of folks you’ll see at the fair. First, there are the folks who work there — the people who sell the food, the carnies who set up and operate the midway rides, the folks who sit in the information booths and tell you where you can find the bacon-wrapped barbecue ribs, the fair security staff.

Dishing up freshly made ice cream.

Dishing up freshly made ice cream.

It’s got to be hard work — if only because even in the best of circumstances people tend to treat service workers terribly. I suspect it’s even worse at a state fair, if only because fairs aren’t known for their efficiency. That said, the woman in the image above was fast and friendly and made buying ice cream a pleasure.

There are also the people who are at the fair for exhibition purposes — the artisans who demonstrate arcane or traditional skills like blacksmithing, the kids who enter their goats and sheep and chickens and assorted livestock for judging, the dedicated hobbyists who show curious people how to go about carving a figure of a beaver using a small chainsaw.

Blacksmiths

Blacksmiths doing blacksmith stuff.

One of my favorite things about attending the fair is seeing the farm families that come from all over the state to have their livestock judged. There’s something charming about it. These kids have raised their sheep and llamas and pigs, and they want to show them off. And during the ten days of the fair, a lot of them basically set up small camps in the barns.

There are separate barns for different species. There are a couple of horse barns, a sheep barn, a barn for pigs, another for cows. They’re massive, these barns. The horse barn is over 90,000 square feet with more than 400 stalls for horses. It also has showers (for people as well as horses). The sheep barn is even more massive — more than 140,000 square feet. You can pack a lot of sheep and people into 140,000 square feet.

Pokemon among the sheep.

Pokemon among the sheep.

The exhibitors who stay in these barns do many of the same sorts of things they’d be doing at home. They catch Pokemon (the fairgrounds are littered with Pokestops), they take care of their livestock, they visit with their neighbors, they shop and eat, they hang out with friends, they…well, they expand the gene pool.

Canoodling in the barns.

Canoodling in the Cattle Barn.

Hanging out in the Horse Barn.

Hanging out in the Horse Barn.

But  most of the folks you see at the Iowa State Fair are people like me. By that I mean visitors. People who aren’t employed by the fair or exhibiting something at the fair. Visitors are just there to have fun. We’re ordinary folks. We may be old folks or kids, we may be round or flat, we may be tall or short, but we’re all basically on the same old Roman (or Star Trek) mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations.

The Romans (and the peoples they conquered) might be astonished by the technology of the Iowa State Fair, but they’d recognize the atmosphere. One of the benefits of ancient fairs was it allowed for the dissemination of information. That still happens.

Consuming information.

Consuming information.

I basically go to the Iowa State Fair for three reasons. Reason One: to eat the sort of food you know you should never eat on account of it’s SO bad for you. I’m talking about fried everything on a damned stick, probably wrapped in bacon.

Reason Two: to look at goats. Well, goats and llamas and weird chickens and rabbits the size of Jack Russell terriers and a really really really big pig. I’ve never lived on a farm so my experience with livestock is pretty much limited to looking at them in pens at the fair.

Reason Three: people. I like people. I like to watch them. I like to see a LOT of different sorts of people. I like to see those people reacting to other people.

Waiting for the ride to begin.

Waiting for the ride to begin.

There are some things people want to see more than other things. I mean, the number of fair-goers who want to see ornate, detailed dollhouses are minuscule compared to the number that want to see the fair’s Biggest Hog. I am NOT making this up, by the way. People line up every year to see the biggest hog. The pen holding the biggest hog is surrounded by a crowd. This year the pig was (and again, I’m not making this up) named Lug Nut. Or maybe Lugnut (it’s not clear, but because I think Lug Nut is more visually appealing, that’s what I’m going with). Lug Nut weighed in at 1148 pounds. I had to wait about ten minutes to get close to Lug Nut’s pen to actually see the beast. The photograph below was shot at about minute nine.

In line to see a large hog.

In line to see an exceedingly large hog.

There was a sign attached to Lug Nut’s pen warning people to keep their hands and fingers away from the pig. I can only guess Lug Nut would, if given a chance, eat the hands and fingers. You don’t get to 1148 pounds by being discriminating in your diet. (I have photos of Lug Nut, by the way — maybe I’ll do another installment.)

But as popular as the big hog is, there’s absolutely nothing at the Iowa State Fair that’s comparable to the popularity of the Butter Cow. Every year for over a century, the fair has found somebody to carve a cow out of butter. Since the mid-1990s, the Butter Cow has been accompanied by ‘companion’ butter sculptures. This year the cow was accompanied by butter figures from — and I swear I am NOT making this up — Star Trek. I’m serious. There’s a butter starship Enterprise and a butter Captain James T. Kirk (and maybe some other crew members). It actually makes a weird sort of sense. Kirk, after all, will be born in Riverside, Iowa in a couple hundred years

The line(s) to see the butter cow and butter Enterprise crew.

The line(s) to see the butter cow and butter Enterprise crew.

Not that I got to see the Butter Cow or Butter Kirk. As you can see, the line to view these treasures was Soviet long and moved at a Soviet pace (though it was somewhat more colorful that most Soviet-era lines). There were too many other things to see, too many other places to go — so I went and saw those things instead.

But that’s the nature of a fair, isn’t it. By design, there’s always something else to see and do. That’s what brings you back year after year, even if you’ve already seen it and done it before.. Let’s face it, if you’ve seen one huge pig, you don’t really need to see another — a huge pig is a huge pig is a huge pig, as the poet said. Last year’s prize apples and award-winning goat are pretty much going to be like this year’s apples and goats. Next year’s blacksmithing demonstration will be pretty much like this year’s, and the new Fried Thing On a Stick won’t be radically different from the current Fried Thing On a Stick.

Probably not their first Iowa State Fair.

Probably not their first Iowa State Fair. Probably not their last.

And yet folks keep returning to the fair. For decades, they keep returning. Why? Because it’s always different and it’s always the same, and there’s excitement and comfort in that.  Because it’s the fair, and what else are you going to do?

The Romans may have been imperialist assholes, but credit where it’s due: they gave us the fair.

 

 

 

 

a special kind of asshole

Yesterday a casual acquaintance sent me an email today with a link to a Baltimore Sun editorial by Richard J. Cross III. I wasn’t familiar with the name, but he’s the guy that wrote the ‘Benghazi Mom’ speech for Patricia Smith — the woman whose son died during the attack on the consular outpost. Cross, in the editorial, says this:

In that speech, I concluded with the following line: “If Hillary Clinton can’t give us the truth, why should we give her the presidency?” As a political speechwriter, that was something of a home run moment for me. The New Yorker called the speech “the weaponization of grief.”

He considers the weaponization of grief to be a home run moment. That should tell you just about everything you want to know about this guy. He wrote a speech for a grieving mother — an emotionally powerful speech he knew would be given in front of a large audience at the Republican National Convention — the convention at which Donald Trump would accept the nomination.

In the speech Cross describes Trump in this way:

Donald Trump is everything Hillary Clinton is not. He is blunt, direct, and strong. He speaks his mind, and his heart.

In the speech, Cross directly blames Hillary Clinton for the death of this poor woman’s son. He writes:

For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton. I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son.

Now Cross says he can’t bring himself to vote for Trump. Why? Because Trump “embraces fear.” Because Trump has said ugly things about Muslims. Like this is some sort of revelation. In his editorial Cross says:

The central question in 2016: Are Muslim Americans an equal and welcome member of the American constituency? For me, the answer is a clear “yes.”

So he’s decided he has to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Richard Cross III

Richard Cross III

Well, fuck him. Fuck Richard Cross the Third. Fuck him three times. Fuck him in the neck. This guy deserves no praise. When you wave the bloody shirt, you don’t get to pretend you were just doing your job. You don’t get to repudiate Donald Trump while celebrating a speech that praised him. You don’t get to refer to the reality that Trump isn’t qualified to be the President of These United States as “an inconvenient fact.”

If Hillary Clinton can’t give us the truth, why should we give her the presidency?

You have to be a special sort of asshole to get a mother grieving for her dead son to stand on a stage and ask that question and then answer it by saying you’re going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Richard Cross III is that special kind of asshole.

iowa state fair: part one — machine love

I went to the Iowa State Fair on Monday. I love that fair beyond all measure because it’s organically weird and completely ridiculous. It’s also completely ordinary, and folks, I’m here to tell you that ‘ordinary’ is its own kind of weird and ridiculous. Seriously. You don’t think of ‘ordinary’ as weird and ridiculous until you’re in the middle of tens of thousands of examples of it.

The fairgrounds has maybe half a dozen different gateways. I entered through a gate where agricultural equipment was on display. Let me be clear about this: I don’t know dick about agriculture. I’ve visited a few farms in my life, but I don’t have a clue what actually goes on there. I know there’s plowing and planting and harvesting, and probably a lot of stuff in between. I know farming is hard work (well, I hear it’s hard work, and I’m willing to accept the claim). I also know farming involves a lot of odd-looking, complicated, wildly expensive equipment. But what that equipment does is a mystery to me.

Look at this thing, for example:

For farming on Mars, probably.

For farming on Mars, probably.

What the hell IS that? The wheels were nearly as tall as I am. You need a ladder to climb up to the — I don’t even know what you call the place the driver (operator?) sits. The control center? The cockpit? The bridge? I have no idea. But I’m thinking this thing would be great fun to drive. On Mars.

Then there’s this machine below — the thing with the rubber tank treads. I not only don’t know what the hell it is, I not only don’t know what it does, I couldn’t even figure out which end was the front. Not until I noticed the rear-view side mirrors. You guys, this thing has rear view side mirrors. Why? What are they expecting to pull up behind it? I mean, it’s a farm machine, right? Presumably it’s meant to be driven on farms. I can only assume it’s meant to be driven on the farms of Arrakis, the desert planet of Dune. But just look at it.

Sandworms in mirror may be closer than they appear.

Sandworms in mirror may be closer than they appear.

These machines fascinate me. I confess, I don’t really care what they’re supposed to do; I’m just intrigued by their massive size and their design. There were also a lot of smaller, but equally obscure, machines. Seriously creepy-looking devices and attachments that looked like they were designed by Torquemada — if Torquemada had been a Romulan.

Did I take any photos of those things? No, I did not. Why? Because it never occurred to me that today (or any other day) I’d be writing about farm equipment. But trust me, there’s a good reason you occasionally see a news report about some farmer who was killed or mutilated by a piece of farm equipment. It’s because a lot of that shit is flat-out terrifying to look at. A lot of it gives the impression that human mutilation was built into the design.

But down at the bone, the Iowa State Fair is just a fair. Here’s a true thing: ALL fairs are grounded in nostalgia. You cannot attend a fair without thinking about how things were when you were a kid. So it’s understandable that scattered throughout the Iowa State Fair grounds are collections of old farm equipment. Including this — which I presume is some sort of Hall of Tractors Used by The Ancients.

Tractors of Our Forefathers.

Tractors of Our Forefathers.

I heard a guy about my age tell a young boy “Yeah, my dad had one of these units. Old Farmall Super MD, three-plow, broke a lot of acres with that tractor.” I don’t have a clue what any of that means, but the guy was sure fond of that tractor. The kid was skeptical (as kids should be). He looked at the tractor like maybe it had arrived in Iowa on the ark (and yes, by the way, there actually was an Evolution: Fact or Myth booth at the fair).

I saw a LOT of old tractors littered around the fairgrounds. Mostly red or green, a few that were yellow. It was pretty common to see a couple of old guys loitering about the tractors, talking about things like couplers (whatever those are) and…I don’t know. Gear ratios, maybe. Tractor stuff.

Bromance -- bonding over an Allis-Chalmers tractor.

Bromance — bonding over an Allis-Chalmers tractor.

Iowa is a farm state. You can’t travel around Iowa without passing by farms. And that’s been the extent of my experience — driving (or cycling) by farms and farmland. It’s only when I attend the State Fair that I get some remote sense of what farmers do. What they do is pretty fundamental: they feed us. They grow the stuff we eat. It’s really that simple, and really that complex.

I see them sometimes at the Farmer’s Market, in their hats and overalls and checkered shirts. I occasionally see them in a diner in some small town where I’ve gone to have breakfast and see some ‘local color’. But when I’m at the fair, that’s the only time I find myself actually appreciating them — which is probably pretty shitty of me.

Later today I’ll run some errands, and while I’m out I may stop by some roadside stand where a young farm girl (it’s almost always a young farm girl) is selling melons and sweetcorn from the back of a pick-up — crops picked early this morning. Today, when I say “Thank you” after buying the produce, this time I’ll really mean it.

maybe the worst thing

On Friday I overheard a passing fragment of conversation — a question, and the question repeated — and it’s sort of lodged irritatingly in my mind. You know — like a popcorn husk caught between the teeth; you keep worrying at it pointlessly with tongue. Here’s a fair approximation of the conversation fragment:

“Okay, what’s the worst thing about Trump?”

“The worst thing about Trump?”

There was a very distinct Are you fucking kidding me? vibe to the repetition of the question — as if the answer was so obvious it didn’t need a response, or that there were so many answers that it was impossible to respond. But it got me thinking. What IS the worst thing about Donald Trump?

The ease with which he tells lies? The fact that he’s completely unconcerned about getting caught telling lies? His possibly pathological need for attention? His brittle arrogance? His constant self-congratulation? His willful ignorance? His ignorance of his ignorance? Trump really DOES have so many offensive personal qualities that it’s difficult to pick which one is worst. Hell, there are so many offensive personal qualities that it’s difficult even to catalog them. You’d need an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of them.

But at the moment, I’m inclined to think the worst thing about Trump is that he’s so unrelentingly awful — both as a candidate and as a person — that he might immunize the Republican Party from their worst defeat in recent history. Let’s face it, the Republicans have been increasingly horrible as a political party for two or three decades. This year they put up seventeen of the most ghastly, reprehensible weasels imaginable to run for President of These United States. Seventeen candidates, each completely horrible in his or her own way — and they ended up nominating that worst of them.

Donald Trump is such a hopelessly dreadful candidate that when he loses in November he’ll likely drag down a big chunk of the Republican Party with him. If any of the other potential GOP candidates had been nominated, they almost certainly would lose in November as well — but their loss might have triggered a moment of genuine reflection among Republicans. They might have found themselves asking the questions the GOP really needs to be asking: ‘How did we allow our party to become the party of obstructionist fuckwits? How did we turn from a party of principled conservatives into a party of hateful, bigoted pus-buckets? How did we become the party of fear and anxiety? Why did we convince ourselves that it was more important to prevent the president from succeeding than to find ways to make the government work?’

"'Twasn't us who threatened the Maid of America, 'twas that asshole Trump!"

“‘Twasn’t us who threatened the Maid of America,” cried Republicans, “’twas that asshole Trump!”

For a while I honestly believed a crushing Trump defeat might be the spark Republicans need to reignite themselves as ‘the loyal opposition’. I thought his loss might create an atmosphere that would encourage Republican legislators to remember that their primary responsibility is to help sustain a functioning government while fighting for policies driven by their political ideology. But, again, it looks like a Trump defeat might allow them to avoid asking those uncomfortable questions.

That might actually be the worst thing about Donald Trump. Not any of his odious personal qualities, but the fact that he might give the GOP a Get Out of Jail Free card for four more years.

When Trump loses in November, they can tell themselves “It wasn’t the Republican Party that lost; it was that asshole Trump.”

jynx

Have you ever had a concussion?

Yesterday I dragged myself to a Donald Trump rally. It was a lot like being concussed. We’re talking about confusion, difficulty remembering, impaired concentration, weariness, headache, lack of motivation, bouts of nausea. Listening to Donald Trump speak is a lot like getting clocked in the noggin with a ball peen hammer.

First off, Trump’s speech — well, it wasn’t really a speech. Not in any traditional sense. Gov. Mike Pence, who introduced Trump (and whose hair, by the way, is so blindingly white that you can only directly look at it through a welder’s mask), gave a speech. A traditional speech with rhythm and applause lines and an internal structure leading to a conclusion. The content of his speech was bullshit, but it was recognizable as an actual speech and it was well-delivered.

I didn't see anybody use the ADA entrance; I'm not sure Trump supporters are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I didn’t see anybody use the ADA entrance; I’m not sure Trump supporters are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Trump, on the other hand, spoke almost entirely in muddled sentence fragments. He had notes which he’d occasionally consult, after which he’d say…stuff. I got the sense the notes held talking points arranged in some sort of order, and a few quotations he wanted to read to the crowd, but mostly he just said…stuff. Much of what he said was stuff he’d said before. I don’t mean stuff he’d said in earlier events (although he did that too); I mean stuff he’d said moments before. He’d say stuff, then say it again in a slightly different order or with a slightly different inflection. Like this: “France isn’t France anymore. It’s not France. It’s not. It’s not France. It’s not France anymore. Many people agree, it’s not. It used be France. Not anymore.” He said that. Maybe not exactly that (it’s hard to recall on account of that whole ‘concussion’ business), but something very much like that.

Here’s the weird thing — well, one of the weird things: I think France isn’t France actually had meaning for him. I have no idea what that meaning was, but he clearly thought he’d made a point. France, to him, was somehow NOT France. Don’t ask me to explain.

Waiting for Trump to arrive.

Waiting for Trump to arrive.

Sometimes he’d say stuff he’d said before, then he’d explain how other folks heard and misinterpreted what he’d said. So he’d say it again. He told the story about the crying baby at an earlier rally. He talked about the baby, what the baby was doing, why he loves babies, about how loud the baby was, the baby was like Pavarotti, he wanted to find the baby and hire somebody to give it opera lessons, it was a loud baby, babies are things he loves, but c’mon. Then he talked about how the media reported the Crying Baby Incident, how he was unfairly accused of throwing the baby out of the rally. He spoke about how corrupt the news media is and how wrong they are about him throwing babies. Trump said (again, maybe not the actual words) “I don’t throw babies. I love babies. I don’t throw babies.”

With that I thought he was done with the CBI, but no. He then talked about talking about the Crying Baby Incident with a local newscaster, saying he’d given that newscaster a three-minute explanation of the CBI, explaining in detail what happened with the baby (who by the way, was very loud and Trump was trying to give a speech after all), but did any of his three-minute explanation get broadcast to the public? No. Unfair. Sad.

Seriously, I am NOT making this up; Donald Trump, speaking to voters, did maybe eight minutes on the CBI. The crowd looked pretty dazed and confused. They’d come to cheer and chant slogans. “Lock her up!” “Build the wall!” But Trump wasn’t giving them anything to chant. Not even a crowd of Trump supporters is going to chant “Throw that baby out!”

This is the guy I followed to find the Trump rally.

This is the guy I followed to find the Trump rally.

Trump apparently sensed their confusion, so he dropped the CBI and gave the crowd what they wanted. Hillary and terrorism. Not just Hillary, and not just terrorism — Hillary AND terrorism :

“I can tell you this. If Hillary Clinton becomes president, you will have, you will have terrorism. You will have problems. You will have really, in my opinion, the destruction of this country from within. Just remember that. Just remember I said it. The destruction of our country from within.”

The crowd ate that up with a spoon. These people hate Hillary Clinton. There were folks in the crowd wearing t-shirts with Hillary Sucks, but Not Like Monica on the front and Trump That Bitch on the back. Think about that — people actually wore shirts like that to a rally for a guy who says he wants to be President of These United States. They openly referred to his political opponent as a bitch. And nobody was outraged. And why would they be? I mean, when their chosen candidate himself tells them she’s out to destroy our country, why would they be offended by somebody calling her a bitch? That line about destroying our country got cheers and applause, and cheers and applause are heroin to Trump. So he continued:

“She’s really pretty close to unhinged, and you’ve seen it a couple of times, but the people in the background know it. The people that know her know it, and she’s like an unbalanced person.”

She’s unhinged, unbalanced, a bitch. That gave the crowd a reason to chant. That’s what they really seemed to want from Trump’s ‘speech’ — a reason to chant. “Build the Wall!” “USA! USA!” But clearly, their favorite chant was “Lock her up!” The other chants were sort of perfunctory, but they really got into “Lock her up.” They’d been waiting for the opportunity to chant “Lock her up” and damn it, they were going to chant the hell out of it.

Trump supporters seemed baffled by Black Lives Matter protesters.

Trump supporters seemed baffled by Black Lives Matter protesters.

By that point I was deep into ball peen to the forehead territory. I was emotionally concussed. So I stumbled out of the hall and spent a few semi-hallucinatory minutes watching Trump supporters try to figure out the best way to offend a small group of Black Lives Matter protesters. A few tried chanting “White Lives Matter” but it didn’t really take.

Giant fishing bobber and Pokestop

Giant fishing bobber and Pokestop (pagoda in the background)

I wandered down by the river where an Asian family with young kids were hunting Pokemon beside a statue of a giant fishing bobber.

I caught a Jynx. It was that sort of afternoon.

pockets

A couple of decades ago a woman friend said this to me: “I’m always suspicious of a man who talks or writes about women’s issues, because there’s a good chance he just wants to sleep with smart women.” I suspect/hope things have improved somewhat since then, but I still take her comment to heart. I’m aware that it’s more than a little presumptuous for a man to talk about certain gender issues — partly because they’re usually issues created and perpetuated by men, and partly because it can easily come off as a guy telling women how to feel and what to think. And most women I know have had enough of that.

Still, I have thoughts and opinions (too many, some people think) and writing about them helps me clarify stuff that’s loitering about in my head. Stuff like this: a couple of days ago something awkward and unpleasant happened to a friend of mine. With her permission, I’m repeating what she wrote about the incident on Facebook:

This afternoon a total stranger commented on my (non-existent) pregnancy. I was sad and surprised to find that I felt not amused or irritated, but ashamed. I’ve never much minded my soft little belly; I really, really love food and I love beer and if this is the physical result I’m okay with that, as I live a life full of joy. But all of those good feelings were suddenly wiped away in two seconds after the woman spoke. I wanted to run out of the restaurant and hide, to cry in my car, and then to come home and work my abs relentlessly, to diet, to change my body, not for me, but because I felt, somehow, like I had done something wrong that I needed to fix, to apologize to her. It was weird, and it hurt, in a lot of ways.

What struck me most wasn’t that somebody said something thoughtless and hurtful. I expect people to do that, because humans fuck up on a regular basis. What struck me was her immediate reaction. This is a smart, confident woman; she’s active, capable, physically strong, determined. And she’s always seemed entirely comfortable in her body. And yet her immediate response to that absurd comment was shame. Her many friends responded to her FB post in a couple of ways. First, they reassured her that she looks great (which she does, but which is really completely irrelevant). Second, they excoriated the stranger for being insensitive and clueless (which she may have been, but which I think is also completely irrelevant). I love the fact that everybody offered her instant, spontaneous support.

But I think it’s also important to recognize and address the ugly fact that her immediate response to that thoughtless comment — that she felt shame — is an indictment of our culture. I think it’s important to keep acknowledging and discussing the fact that our culture routinely undermines women by keeping them focused on and distracted by an irrational beauty standard grounded in a body image that’s largely unattainable. And to compound that problem, the culture not only makes women think that whatever body shape they actually have is somehow wrong, it also suggests that whatever is supposedly wrong with their bodies can — and should — be corrected.

Again, look at what my friend wrote:

I felt, somehow, like I had done something wrong that I needed to fix.

This ‘fix it’ notion is pervasive and insidious, and only serves to further sabotage a woman’s sense of worth — and when I say pervasive, I mean seriously pervasive. We’ve created entire commercial industries that are basically devoted to fucking up a woman’s self-worth. Cosmetics, fashion, dietary products, surgical enhancements.Women are taught to ‘fix it’ by wearing the right makeup, by buying the right clothing, by eating less (or eating more), by having invasive surgery on perfectly healthy bodies. Consider, for example, the astonishingly complex, culturally masochistic relationship women have with shoes, then apply that to ALL their clothing decisions. Then also consider that women’s clothing generally costs more than men’s clothing — and women’s styles change more often, which means their clothing has to be replaced more often. That sucks on its own, but it sucks even more when you consider women generally get paid less, yet their wardrobe costs more (and have you ever looked at the cost of cosmetic products?). All this serves to keep women more poor than men, which makes them more dependent on keeping a job, which makes them more susceptible to putting up with shit from their employers.

And it’s not just their bodies and their clothing women have to fret about. Our culture judges them on their voices (too shrill, too masculine, too loud, too soft), on their laughter (laughs too loud, shows too many teeth, laughs too often, doesn’t laugh enough), on their emotions (too emotional, not emotional enough, too angry, too nice, too aggressive, too timid), and Jeebus Jeebus Jeebus how is it that women are able to keep themselves from climbing a water tower with a high-powered weapon and shooting all of us?

But they don’t. To me, this is the most remarkable thing of all — the amazing capacity of women to deal with all that and remain resilient. Look again at what my friend said:

It was weird, and it hurt, in a lot of ways

And it hurt — and it hurt in a lot of ways. But later that day, she’d moved on. I don’t know, but I suspect today if she feels any shame at all, it’s shame at having felt shame for something she had no reason to feel shame about.

I want to end this by saying something positive. I want to say that things are getting better for women — and it’s actually true. Or at least partly true. Reproductive rights are in jeopardy, women still lack pay equity, and the fashion industry continues to create clothing for women with a complete absence of usable pockets. But there’s a woman running for President of These United States. Despite three or four decades of being knocked down, she’s refused to stay there. Of course, even as president she won’t be able to buy clothes with pockets.

But as president, she won’t need them. So there’s that.

i had no idea, mostly

Because waiting for online customer support wasn’t quite painful and annoying enough, I decided to see what I could learn this morning from the patriots at FreeRepublic. It was, as always, enlightening. Or maybe endarkening.

Here are a few of the things I learned.

— I’ve learned Planned Parenthood runs “a national dead-baby-body-parts chop shop” and apparently is staffed and supported by “millions of homely man haters.” I had no idea.

— I’ve learned our borders (they refer to borders — plural — but only appear concerned with the Southern border) are totally open in order “to allow the free flow of drugs. Our rulers must be making piles of cash from the drug cartels.” I honestly had no idea.

— I’ve learned that “Billionaire tycoon and maverick Donald Trump doesn’t need anyone’s help” to get elected as President of These United States. This makes “Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and Jon Corzine, to name just a few” nervous. Therefore, you shouldn’t “be surprised if Trump has an accident.” Except, it won’t be an accident. “They will kill him before they let him be president.” I had NO idea; you can’t pin this one on me.

— I’ve learned that it’s curious how the “USA has elected an enemy agent twice in a row…. its as if our country has suddenly decided to commit suicide? don’t people even care about (if they have any?) their children anymore?” This guy isn’t sure why this is so, but suggests “maybe its something in the water (or fast food burgers, or?)” I had no idea. None at all.

It's the hamburgers maybe?

It’s the hamburgers maybe?

— I’ve learned Al Gore’s daughter, Karenna, (who was recently arrested for protesting the construction of Spectra Energy’s West Roxbury Lateral pipeline) isn’t considered to be attractive by conservatives. They believe she “looks like an oGre under a bridge.” This is possibly because she “doesn’t have electricity anymore and can’t put on makeup.” However, they kindly offer suggestions on how to approve her appearance for future arrests: “Plastic surgery, face lifts, fillers and botox are your friends, girl… Or a paper bag.” I had no idea (that you should capitalize the G in oGre).

Karenna Gore arrested for protesting without makeup.

Karenna Gore arrested for protesting without makeup.

— I’ve learned a great deal about Hillary Clinton. For example, she “associates with the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks” and has transferred “to Russia a large portion of our uranium reserves – after receiving $140,000,000.” I’ve learned “she is a Treasonist.” Yet the compassionate patriots of FreeRepublic are concerned about her health. It seems her “disappearance from the debate stage” wasn’t because she had to walk farther to the rest room, but according to “a law-enforcement source with inside connections” she actually “was missing from the stage due to health issues stemming from a previous brain injury.” I’ve also learned “Hillary is not your neighborhood girl.” In fact, it turns out she’s a serial killer who has “over 100 dead bodies in her path to the White House.” But the patriot who revealed this ugly truth isn’t terribly worried about becoming her next victim; he has warned “any Clinton spooks out there intending to silence me as you have done to over 100 others, make sure you are more heavily armed than I am.” I had no idea about any of this, although I was pretty sure Hillary wasn’t from my neighborhood.

Wait...Waco too? What?

Wait…Waco too? What?

— And finally, I learned there are “several thousand to approximately eight million Islamic fighters inside the United States” and each and every one of them is “being welcomed by Obama,” who is the not-so-secret “active Head of the Moslem Brotherhood in America.” Not only that, it seems “Obama gave 5 MILLION federal hires top security clearance. Guess who?” (Did you guess Muslims?) Again, I had no idea (especially considering there are only three million Muslims in the U.S. — which means the other five million are totally in disguise).

I do, though, have one idea. I have an idea these folks might be supporting Donald J. Trump? Just a guess.