c’mon, we’re talking about elves here

In yet another episode in the continuing saga of Whiny-ass Complaints of Butt-hurt MAGA Fuckwits we learn there are people who are offended by the notion that elves aren’t necessarily White People. Seriously. This idiotic fuss is about the new Lord of the Rings prequel that has apparently just been released (see Editorial Note at the end).

“Casting a non-White actor to play an elf makes it more difficult for audiences to maintain their willing suspension of belief.”

No, it doesn’t. Casting a non-white actor to play an elf makes it more difficult for racist assholes to maintain their willing suspension of disbelief. The quote above was, according to CNN, from Louis Markos, who is apparently the author of From A to Z to Middle Earth with J.R.R. Tolkien.

This Markos guy gets at least three things wrong. First, of course, is he misquotes Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s phrase– the willing suspension of disbelief. Back in 1817, Coleridge suggested that if a writer introduced “‘human interest and a semblance of truth’ into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative.” This is why television viewers were willing to watch 12 seasons of Murder, She Wrote–they were willing to suspend their disbelief that Jessica Fletcher encountered more than 250 murders in the small Maine village of Cabot Cove. All fiction depends to some degree on the reader/viewer’s willing suspension of disbelief.

Second, Markos says casting actors of color as elves threatens the story’s ‘believability’ because Tolkien described elves as “fair-faced.” The term fair comes from the Old English term fæger, which when applied to living things meant “pleasing to the eye, attractive” and when applied to weather meant “clear, bright, pleasant”. Tolkien, remember, was an academic who studied Old English and Anglo-Saxon literature, and had at one time worked for the Old English Dictionary as an expert in etymology. He knew what ‘fair’ meant and how it applied to faces. Markos clearly doesn’t. Or–and I suppose this is a real possibility–he simply doesn’t believe non-White folks can be pleasing to the eye. It’s fucked up either way.

Wait…what’s this? Could it be? Elves of color? What?

Third, Markos claims casting actors of color “…is not something organic that’s coming out of Middle-earth. This is really an agenda that is being imposed upon it.” He’s almost got a point here. Almost. Tolkien’s Middle-earth is based on the Norse Miðgarðr, which they broadly described as the world “inhabited by and known to humans.” In the literature, Miðgarðr actually referred to the defensive wall around the world constructed by the gods from the eyebrows of the giant Ymir (which, by the way, requires some serious fucking suspension of disbelief). But Tolkien used Middle-earth to describe an imaginary period of the Earth’s past when peoples other than Men (elves, dwarves, trolls, hobbits, orcs, ents, etc.) still inhabited the planet, although in dwindling numbers. His Middle-earth did sort of correspond to western Europe in terms of geography.

But to my knowledge, there’s nothing Tolkien wrote to suggest peoples other than Men (and Tolkien used ‘Men’ to refer to all humankind) were necessarily White. I mean, we’re talking about elves here. If you can’t deal with Black or Asian or Indonesian or pick-a-race elves, then the problem isn’t your capacity to suspend disbelief. The problem is you’re a racist asshole.

EDITORIAL NOTE: I haven’t seen the show I’m talking about, which ordinarily would be a problem. But in this instance, the show itself is less important than the books on which the story is based and the credentials of the person who wrote them. I haven’t been inclined to watch the show, mainly because I had the misfortune of watching the first of Peter Jackson’s wretched interpretation of The Hobbit. That was enough to eradicate any desire to see any new visualization of Tolkien’s work.

But I’m actually hearing good things about this show from people who were as skeptical about it as I was. So at some point I’ll probably watch it.

Also? I usually like to include an image in these blog posts, and I did a quick image search for Rings of Power and saw some images of POC in costume, but since I couldn’t see their ears I’ve no idea if they were meant to be elves or something else. I didn’t want to just drop in some random image of a Black actor who may or may not be an elf, so…no image.

EDITORIAL NOTE 2: Thanks to Mark Alexander, we now have an imbedded image to demonstrate…well, I’m not exactly sure what it demonstrates. That actors of color can play non-human roles in fantasy stories? We already knew that. I guess it demonstrates just how fucking idiotic it is for racists to get frantic about Black actors getting gigs as elves.

“the people’s elected representatives”

Yesterday morning, before I went to the gym, a woman who unexpectedly discovered she was in the early stages of pregnancy had options. If she didn’t want to be pregnant, she had the right to consult with a doctor and choose to terminate the pregnancy. By the time I left the gym, that right had been nullified in many states.

In those states, pregnant people lost the authority over their own bodies. Six Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States had given that authority to “the people’s elected representatives.” That’s right, a group of State legislators get to decide whether or not a pregnant person will be forced to carry an unwanted fetus and give birth to an unwanted baby. (NOTE: SCOTUS also decided the same group of State legislators do NOT have the authority to decide whether or not a person can carry a firearm; go figure.)

Was the pregnancy a result of rape? Sorry, it’s still up to “the people’s elected representatives” to decide whether or not a person has to remain pregnant. What if the development of the fetus threatens the mother’s health? Sorry, same answer — the decision belongs to “the people’s elected representatives.” What if the fetus develops improperly, if it suffers from physical defects that preclude it from survival after birth? If “the people’s elected representatives” want the person to deliver a baby that will die within hours of birth, then that’s what will happen.

As of today, in many states, a person who is pregnant has lost their status as a free and equal citizen. They are effectively under the control of “the people’s elected representatives.” That could mean a pregnant person who puts the health of an unwanted fetus at risk–by having wine with meals, by engaging in certain types of sports or exercise, by smoking tobacco, by not eating properly–could be punished by “the people’s elected representatives.”

You may say the proper response to that is to elect representatives who will give pregnant people autonomy over their own bodies, but there are two problems with that (hell, there are dozens of problems with it, but I’m only going to focus on two.) First, “the people’s elected representatives” in many states are changing laws to make it more difficult for certain groups to vote. This is an effort to insure they remain “the people’s elected representatives.” Second, the issue isn’t whether or not “the people’s elected representatives” are willing to grant a person autonomy over their own body; it’s that “the people’s elected representatives” shouldn’t have the power or authority to grant or deny that in the first place. That’s just fucking wrong.

This is a fundamental issue. Do pregnant people have equal rights? As of today, in many states, the answer is no. That is horrifying. It’s made worse by the fact that the tyranny of “the people’s elected representatives” will be felt most by the poor. And yes, that also means racial minorities will suffer the most.

Women will die as a result of this. Women will die. But we can be certain none of the dead will be members of “the people’s elected representatives.”

EDITORIAL NOTE: We need to burn the patriarchy. Burn it to the ground, gather the ashes, then set fire to them again. Burn the patriarchy, then drive a stake directly through the ashes where its heart used to be, and then set fire to the stake. Burn the fucker one more time. And keep burning it, over and over. Burn it for generations. Then nuke it from orbit.

folks buying groceries refreshing the tree of liberty

As Thomas Jefferson famously wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Oh, and kids in school. And folks shopping for groceries, if they’re not white.” Yesterday, while I was enjoying a pleasant…what?

Okay, some of you are saying, “Greg, old sock, I don’t think you’ve accurately quoted our boy TJ.” Maybe you’re right; this may not be an exact quote, but it’s close enough to the way it’s interpreted by a lot of people who identify as right-wing lunatic gun nuts. Okay, okay, maybe they don’t actually identify themselves that way, but stop calling me old sock.

I mean, sure, TJ was talking about Daniel Shays, a farmhand in western Massachusetts who was having trouble paying his taxes, partly because he was also having trouble collecting the pay he was supposed to have received as a grunt in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. There’s still a lot of debate about what TJ meant by that tree of liberty bullshit, but the right-wing lunatic gun nuts take it as an article of faith that TJ was suggesting folks need to periodically have a good old fashioned bloody war of rebellion against the legitimate government. This is exactly WHY the term lunatic is included in the name of ‘right-wing lunatic gun nuts’.

But even right-wing lunatic gun nuts have trouble explaining how mass murder events at schools, mall, movie theaters, and grocery stores fit into that ‘blood of patriots and tyrants’ business. Especially when…oh yeah, and churches, I forgot to include churches. And temples and mosques. Anyway, right-wing lunatic gun nuts have trouble explaining how that blood of patriots stuff fits with those mass murders committed by white men specifically against victims who aren’t white. Or men. Or people who don’t quite fit into the right-wing lunatic gun nut definition of ‘men’.

So the right-wing lunatic gun nuts have developed a pair of sure-fire (get it? Sure-fire? See what I did there? I’m a hoot) responses to those events. First, they…well, wait. I say ‘first’ as if this is the preferred response, which would be inaccurate on account of these two responses are pretty much equally relied on. So when I say ‘first’ I’m just admitting that I can’t share two responses at the same time. These responses are numerical, not sequential. Or the other way around, maybe? Doesn’t matter.

First, they blame the mass murder on emotional health. As in “This kid who shot up the supermarket in Buffalo must be CRAZY because, yeah sure, he says he was motivated by hate and he says white folks are being replaced by non-white folks who breed faster and yeah sure, that’s exactly what Tucker Carlson says on FoxNEWS every night, but c’mon, you’d have to be CRAZY to believe that, so there, it’s a mental health issue.”

Second, they claim the mass murder is a false flag event perpetrated by Democrats or Jews or some other Satanist-pedophile group in order to TAKE OUR GUNS, or at least distract us from Hunter Biden’s laptop. They seem to think this is a perfectly reasonable thing to believe.

Sometimes they combine the two responses, suggesting Democrats and Jews and other Satanist-pedophile groups convince mentally ill white folks to commit mass murders to distract the population from some vague but really awful thing that Democrats, Jews, and other Satanist-pedophile groups really enjoy.

But as I was saying (you may have to refer back to the beginning of this blog), yesterday, while I was enjoying a pleasant 30-mile bike ride from one bike pub to another bike pub, some white kid went to a supermarket in a predominantly black community and killed a whole bunch of folks who were just buying groceries.

Mentally ill (probably) white kid led astray (probably) by Democrats, Jews, of some other Satanist-pedophile group (probably), but clearly guns aren’t the problem.

Right now on television (I don’t actually know this, but I know this) some conservative is on a national news Sunday program explaining that the mass murder in Buffalo would never have happened if we had better mental health programs, which we can’t afford to make free because that would raise taxes, but maybe for-profit insurance companies could include mental health anti-mass murder options for people who can afford it, but guns don’t kill people, mentally ill people kill people and if they didn’t have guns, they’d do it with axes, do you really want to ban axes, and besides guns are good because an armed patriot inside the store could have returned fire and prevented more needless death, and sure there was a security guard who did return fire and hit the killer, but the shooter was wearing tactical body armor which is protected by the Second Amendment, however a highly trained patriot could have shot him in the head–or at least the part of his head that wasn’t covered by his tactical helmet–and that would have ended the tragic situation, but there’s nothing in the Second Amendment that says private citizens should have to undergo training to carry a weapon, and did I mention the kid was mentally ill, because that’s the problem. Unless if was a false flag event.

So it turns out TJ, whatever he actually meant, was right about the blood and the tree of liberty. We are refreshing the fuck out of that tree.

twins

Well, isn’t this a surprise. Kyle Rittenhouse and Travis McMichael are offering twin self-defense arguments. Sure, the circumstances of each killing are different. Rittenhouse had to travel for an hour or so to bring a firearm to a volatile situation on the off-chance that he might ‘need’ it, whereas McMichael only had to travel a few blocks to bring a firearm to a volatile situation on the off-chance that he might ‘need’ it. But each of these guys deliberately armed themselves then inserted themselves into a situation where they might ‘need’ to shoot somebody.

And hey bingo, Guess what? Turns out they both somehow (seriously, who could have guessed something like this might happen?) found themselves in situations where they believed they ‘needed’ to shoot somebody. What a coincidence.

He’s very sorry and cries very sorry tears.

I mean, all they did was 1) arm themselves with a deadly weapon 2) to protect property they 3) didn’t own and 4) which nobody asked them to protect against 5) an unarmed person who 6) may have been on or near that property. Then when they 7) confronted that unarmed person and, 8) brandished their deadly weapon, and that unarmed person 9) was uncomfortable having a deadly weapon brandished, and 10) decided to try to disarm them, they 11) were forced to shoot that unarmed person in order 12) not to become an unarmed person facing an armed person.

It’s logic! An armed person is a threat to an unarmed person, so it was clearly necessary for Rittenhouse and McMichael to shoot an unarmed person before they become armed. You know…in self defense. They’re both very sorry they had to kill unarmed people. They both cried about it. They’ve suffered so much.

He’s also very sorry and cries very sorry tears.

What? You think none of this would have happened if both Kyle Rittenhouse and Travis McMichael had just stayed home and watched Lethal Weapon on television? But then who would have protected that property? What? You say none of the victims dead people were killed near the properties that were supposedly being protected? Doesn’t matter; the issue is self defense. Against unarmed people. Trying to take guns away from patriots selflessly willing to put themselves at risk to protect other people’s property.

Did I get that right?

Jesus suffering fuck.

the problem with problems

The modern Republican Party (you know what? I need to stop calling them ‘the modern Republican Party’ because at this point they’re just the Republican Party; there’s no point in trying to distinguish the cowardly fuckwits who now inhabit this aggressively ignorant cultural collective from the Republican Party that used to have consistent conservative principles) has a problem with problems. In fact, they have several problems with problems.

They lack any meaningful understanding of actual socio-political problems, they have no interest in learning about them, no ability to address them in any practical way, and no real desire to resolve them. What they DO have is a clear understanding of the political optics of being seen as dealing with problems.

Republicans have an intuitive grasp of the narrative strength of heroic problem solving. It’s one of the classic story tropes. A monster exists. A hero leaves their community and goes out into a hostile world in search of the monster. They encounter difficulties and tests of courage along the way, and overcome them. They find the monster, struggle against it, nearly lose, then triumph over it. They return home again–maybe to applause, maybe just to live quietly among those they’ve made safe.

What Republicans do is turn that trope on its head. There is no monster, which means they’re not heroes, so they don’t leave the safety of their community or deal with a hostile world, and their privilege protects them from any difficulties or tests of courage they may encounter. But if they invent a monster, they can pretend to be heroes by claiming to risk themselves in a life-or-death struggle, allowing them to assert some sort of imaginary victory.

The valiant GOP stands tall against critical race trans voter fraud.

There is no monster of voter fraud. Yet Republicans claim they’re in danger and are courageously struggling overwhelming Socialist enemies to enact voting restrictions which will save…what? Elections? There is no monster of trans girl/women athletes dominating high school or college sports. Yet Republicans claim girls and young women are in danger and they are bravely enacting laws banning trans athletes from sports which will…what? Save high school track and field meets? There is no monster of critical race theory savaging the lives of students. Yet Republicans insist they’re valiantly standing up against…something…in order to rescue innocent young white students from learning that systemic racism exists, thereby saving them from…what? Caring?

Republicans present themselves as beamish boys wielding vorpal blades against burbling Jabberwoks in the tulgey wood. Hast thou slain the trans-racist-voter fraud? O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Now to galumph back to Mar-a-Lago, chortling.

It’s all nonsense. Not silly nonsense, though. Dangerous nonsense. Because as a nation, we’re facing real fucking problems, with real fucking jaws that bite and claws that catch. Modern Republicans have gone through the Looking Glass. And there’s no sign that they’re ever coming back.

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

It’s a good question. It’s a question that will determine whether or not the US will have any hope of being a representative democracy.

the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet

Here is today’s lesson: if you elect stupid Christians, you get stupid Christianity.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way first. This is NOT an attack on Christianity or Christians or religion of any sort. It’s not an attack on Jesus or Jeebus. It’s an attack on stupidity. It’s an attack on insulting the intelligence of the American people. It’s an attack on religious gaslighting. It’s an attack on religious arrogance. But mostly stupidity.

I’m talking about Cindy Hyde-Smith, one of the US Senators (oh my fucking god she’s a Senator) from Mississippi. Yesterday, in an actual real Senate hearing on voter rights, she sorta kinda semi-quoted the Bible to defend legislation in Georgia–a state that is NOT Mississippi–that restricts early voting on Sundays. She held up a dollar bill and said (and I swear, I am NOT making this up) the following:

You know, this is our currency, this is a dollar bill. This says, ‘The United States of America, in God we trust.’ Etched in stone in the U.S. Senate chamber is ‘in God we trust.’ When you swore in all of these witnesses, the last thing you said to them in your instructions was ‘so help you God.’ In God’s word in Exodus 20:18, it says ‘remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.’

Okay, where to start? Let’s start with this: What the fuck? She’s not saying people shouldn’t be allowed to vote on Sundays because of US currency–which would be galactically stupid. Nope, she’s saying people shouldn’t be allowed to vote on Sundays because of her Christian religion–which is only massively stupid. Is she aware that not all voters are Christian? Maybe? Maybe not? Either way, this is stupid.

Next, let’s look at what Exodus 20:18 actually says, which is this:

And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.

Thunderings, lightnings, noise. All of which is oddly appropriate. The thing is, Senator (I still can’t believe somebody this stupid is an actual Senator) Hyde-Smith made an simple, understandable mistake. She actually quoted Exodus 20:8, which does, in fact, say: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Of course, she left a bit out. It goes on to say more than that. It also says this:

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.

Any work. Thou shalt not do any work. Thou and everybody else. No work. No stores or shops open, no restaurants, no taverns, no Walmart, no spa or gym, no movie theaters, no Waffle House, nothing is open. Nobody doing chores. Nobody working the fields. Nobody tidying up at home, nobody doing laundry, nobody cooking or doing dishes. Six days shalt thou labor, and do ALL thy work, but on the seventh day you do fuck all. Just sit around praying and generally being holy.

Senator (it hurts me to call her that) Hyde-Smith may not be aware of this, but her own state of Mississippi is open for business on Sundays. It’s hard to justify forbidding people from voting on Sunday, but allowing them to buy mufflers and eat waffles and watch movies. There’s a flaw in that reasoning.

But also, there’s this: the book of Exodus, which is the second book of the Torah, was almost certainly written around the 5th century BCE. What does BCE stand for? That’s right. Before the Common Era. Before Jesus. The Sabbath mentioned in Exodus? The Sabbath Senator (Jesus suffering fuck, how can she be a Senator?) Hyde-Smith is referring to? That’s not the Christian Sabbath; it’s the Jewish Sabbath. We’re talking Friday evening to Saturday evening, not Sunday.

Finally, there’s this: Senator (really, how is that possible?) Hyde-Smith and her comrades in the GOP are blatantly gaslighting. They’re not interested in protecting the Sabbath. They’re only interested in protecting the GOP from people who want to vote. Mostly, that means they want to protect the GOP from Black people. And Democrats.

Instead of advocating popular policies that will make people want to vote for Republicans, they’ve chosen to find ways to discourage people from voting for Democrats. And what have the people done in response? Having seen the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off from the GOP. And told them to go fuck themselves. Amen.

not falling for it, nope

— So, did you see Mitt Romney the other day.
— No, thank Jayzus, what’d he do now?
— Marched with Black Lives Matter.
— C’mon.
— No, he did.
— Was he lost?
— No, he was marching with BLM.
— Mitt Romney?
— Mitt fucking Romney.
— Did he have, like, an armed guard?
— Looked like it was just him.
— Five bucks says he had one hand on his wallet.
— No, he was…
— And the other hand on some poor Black guy’s wallet.
— …actually marching with Black Lives Matter. I’m not making this up.
— Was he toting a sign that said ‘All lives matter’?
— No, he…somebody asked him why he was marching and he said…and I’m really, truly not making this up, he said something about violence and brutality, and then he said it was “to make sure that people understand that Black lives matter.”

— Mitt Romney?
— I know, right?
— I mean, just a few months ago Pete Buttigieg was still saying ‘All lives matter’ and he’s a damned Democrat.
— I don’t know how to explain it. He took a selfie of himself in the march.
— Okay, that’s just…Mitt Romney took a selfie in a BLM march. I did NOT see that coming.
— We live in curious times, my friend.
— Did he say the death of George Floyd was ‘a tragic mistake’ or ‘an unfortunate event’?
— He called it a murder.
— Bullshit.
— Straight up called it a murder.
— Are you sure this was Mitt Romney?
— I swear on my signed first edition of Neuromancer.
— I don’t know quite what to make of this.
— It sorta kinda gives me hope. I mean, there’s a
— Stop it. Just stop. You’re not going to trick me into having hope. Fuck you.
— But, what if…
— I’m not listening I’m not listening Neenah neenah neenah just fucking stop.
— Okay.
— I’m not falling for it.
— Okay.
— I’m not.
— …
— God damn it.

change gonna come

Every time the United States is coping with widespread rioting sparked by racism and police violence during an economic crisis caused by the near-collapse of the national healthcare system overloaded by an inept and indifferent response to a global pandemic taking place a few months before the most critical presidential election in the history of this nation pitting an essentially decent, good-hearted but bumbling old white man against a malignant, mendacious, ignorant old white man, I am reminded of the words of the Poet Sam Cooke.

A change gonna come.

It has been a long time coming. I don’t know what the change will be, but it’s coming. There’s no guarantee the change will be a good one. But all the same, it’s coming. I’m scared to be very hopeful, I really am. I know the change — even if it’s a good one, even if it’s the change I want — won’t be nearly enough to make everything right. But it’s coming, and it’ll bring some clarity. In a few short months, things will start to get better. Or they’ll start to get much worse. But a change gonna come.

You can’t dodge it. You can’t stop it. You can work to make it the change you want, but it’s coming. You can organize, you can protest, you can sit at home and binge watch television, you can throw stones, you can vote, you can wear a mask, you can ignore science, you can pray to any entity you can believe in, you can burn the motherfucker down, you can donate money, you can buy a t-shirt with a slogan on it, you can bake bread, you can call names, you can close your eyes and hope it all goes away, but it won’t. You know it won’t. You know it won’t.

Change gonna come.