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More on The OA

I got to the end of The OA. Which didn’t take too long, seeing as it’s only eight episodes.

It was another one where I enjoyed the journey, but the destination was kind of annoying. Though luckily, not quite as annoying as I thought it was going to go at one point during the last episode.

One of those stories where you’re left not knowing what exactly it was trying to say. The ambiguity of the ending is not inherently bad, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind an open ending in general. But I think this falls down slightly because it doesn’t address several of the points it raises.

This (non-spoilery) review catches the mood of it all very well. I note that it describes it as “Season 1.” That may not mean there’s any plan for a season 2, though. I’d be surprised if there were, really.

They’ve also got a spoiler-filled version, which you should only go near if you’ve watched the whole thing.

Trump, Nixon, and Subjectivity

John Gruber reminds us of Hunter S Thompson’s obituary of Richard Nixon, saying it “[f]eels appropriate today” (this was yesterday, of course).

I hadn’t read it in a while, but there are some glorious lines in it:

If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president.

He has poisoned our water forever. Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.

They were a crooked bunch, though, the Republicans back then. This on Spiro Agnew:

He was a flat-out, knee-crawling thug with the morals of a weasel on speed. But he was Nixon’s vice president for five years, and he only resigned when he was caught red-handed taking cash bribes across his desk in the White House.

Which is not exactly accurate according to the Wikipedia article, but it’s not too far off.

The quote Gruber draws our attention to is this:

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.

Which reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Which is that I don’t think I want journalism to be objective. At least not in the area of political commentary. News is different, of course. But to me the best journalistic writing comes about when the writer’s personality comes through. When their unique voice can be heard in every paragraph. HST was of course the exemplar of that, but you don’t have to be as extreme as him to write things that have some heart and soul about them, that do more than just recite the facts.

Indeed, that journalistic objectivity is part of the problem. The whole he said/she said reporting of science in particular — just think of the way climate change is discussed 1; or the MMR fake controversy of a few years back. Journalists need to be able say, “This person says x but they’re wrong because of y and z.”

And that isn’t necessarily even being subjective. It’s just being willing to not treat both sides of a debate as equal when they’re not.

Back to HST on Nixon, and the crookedness of the Republicans:

Two years after he quit, he told a TV journalist that “if the president does it, it can’t be illegal.”

which is something that Trump has quoted, I believe. Or if not, it’s clear that it’s what he believes.


  1. In reality there’s no “debate.” 

Trumpeting

Not a lot to say about today. Trump is president. World War III hasn’t started yet, but presumably he’s got the nuclear codes now.

Actually it’s entirely possible that whoever is responsible for briefing the new president on such matters (and come to think of it, who is it who has that responsibility?) didn’t actually give him the real codes, or the real nuclear football. After all, they’ve probably taken an oath to defend the republic (I’m now assuming it’s somebody military) against enemies domestic and foreign, and one could safely argue that Trump is an enemy of the republic.

Indeed, an enemy of all decent people. But we’re just going to have to live with him now.

At least until they impeach him. Or invoke the 25th Amendment1 to declare him unfit. Sooner or later one of those must happen.2

Although that will leave us with President Pence, so I don’t know…


  1. I read up on it after the West Wing episode “25.” 

  2. Please! 

Syndication

Further on owning your own content, I practise what some call POSSE: Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. One of the elsewheres, as I’ve mentioned before, is Medium.

Medium, though having troubles recently, is in part a platform that other publications can use to build their own sites.

After yesterday’s Politics and Poetry post, I got an email this morning from somebody called Steve Saul, telling me that a new Medium-based publication called EveryVote would like to use my piece.

EveryVote is made by the people who make a site called mycongressionalrep.org, which helps people find and get in touch with their representatives in Congress. A bit like They Work for You over here, I guess, but with a specific stated aim of resisting the Trump regime.

Obviously I’m broadly in favour of their goals, so I had no problem with saying yes to their using my piece. Though it occurs to me that it’s bad professional-writing practice, as they didn’t even suggest payment (and I must admit I didn’t think of it till now). But let’s face it, I’m not a professional writer, even if I’d like to be. And the possibility that more people might come here and read my stuff, or at least read my stuff on Medium, is a genuine one.

“Doing it for the exposure,” to an extent. But not so much, since I had already done it. Anyway, my piece is currently visible on EveryVote

Poetry and Politics

It’s hard to believe that this is for real: a poem about Trump written by an American, riffing on the orange one’s Scottish heritage (which, I’m sure it’s fair to say, embarrasses our entire nation).

Indeed, something in the headline gives me pause: why would The Scotsman describe it as “created” rather then “written”? I wonder whether it has been generated algorithmically by a program.

It must be a fawning, sycophantic, arse-kissing algorithm of the worst sort, if so. And if not — and if it’s not some particularly subtle satire — then the guy behind it is… unbelievable, assuming he’s writing from the heart. And has one.

But if you’ve gone and read that, then you should wash your mind out with Hal Duncan’s response, which is not only better poetry, it’s written in modern Scots, and contains lines like this:

Ah’ll spit a rhyme for ye: Ye cannae write.

Best of McLeod? Don’t make me fuckin laugh.
Yer tangerine nazi rapeclown’s fuckin loathed
by Scots who mind when rebels wurnae naff
gold-shittered gobshite Emperors unclothed.

But don’t wait here. Go and read the whole thing.

Thanks, Obama (for Real)

Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier who became one of dthe most prominent whistleblowers in modern times when she exposed the nature of modern warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who then went on to pay the price with a 35-year military prison sentence, is to be freed in May as a gift of outgoing president Barack Obama.

From The Guardian

Nice one. Next, pardon Snowden?

The Only Good Brexit is No Brexit

38 Degrees is consulting the public on a “DIY Brexit,” wherein the public can give their opinions on what Brexit should look like, and supposedly the results will be looked at by a group of think-tanks who are being consulted on the matter.

The things people have come up with so far all seem pretty good and sound, at a first glance (kind of hard to read, the way it’s presented with big fixed header and footer).

But. But what we want is not the best Brexit we can get. What we want is no Brexit at all.

And I think I can safely say I speak for the majority when I say that. But Theresa May and her crazy government don’t look like they’re willing to listen to anyone about it.

You know how all recent prime ministers get “isms” named after them? Ever since Thatcherism, at least? Well this one gets an alternative suffix: Not Mayism. Mayday!1


  1. And not the good one. That’s May Day. 

The Strange Case of the Lost Reply

I’ve tried various email clients on iOS, but for quite a while now my favourite has been Dispatch from Clean Shaven Apps. As well as the many integrations and efficient handling of archiving and deleting emails, I like it because it is one of the only apps that lets you order mail in the One True Way.

Which in case you’re wondering is oldest at the top. Newest at the top is fine for blogs and similar news-based things, but it’s not right for anything else. Call me old-fashioned, but that was the default in Eudora and probably in Mutt and Elm and all those too, and it was and remains the best way.

Even Outlook lets you order it oldest-first. Though disturbingly few people take advantage of it.

Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that today Dispatch let me down. I was typing a reply on my iPad this morning. The reply composition window looks like this:

Fullsizeoutput 5a7

I did something — I’m not sure what — that made the composition window slide off to the right. Part of it was still visible, so I tried tapping on it. And it disappeared.

There was no prompt, and nothing in my drafts folder. All that I had typed was gone, like tears in rain.

I’ve just been trying to reproduce it, and I can, up to a point: if you slide the compose window to the right it goes off out of the way, like this:

Fullsizeoutput 5ab

Which is actually quite useful, because it makes the compose window non-modal and lets you interact with your other messages. But somehow something can go wrong, even though I can’t make it happen now.

Not the end of the world. I retyped the mail. But that’s not good enough, Dispatch. You have to be able to trust your email client.

Oh, Eh?

I watched the first episode of Netflix’s The OA last night. Very interesting. I’m looking forward to watching the rest, and speculating about what “OA” might stand for. “Operational Assistant”? “Overcome with Angst?” I kind of want it to have something to do with UFOs, but that would mean it had to be “Object” something.”Object Activity,” for example.

But none of that would make much sense. And I’m betting that it won’t be anything easily guessable.

One could of course google it, but that would be to walk into a pit of spoilers, and I came into this knowing exactly nothing about it, which is great.

Also watched the first episode of Person of Interest, which my son has been singing the praises of for some time. No bad, looks quite promising.

And (a bit of a TV-fest last night) a few episodes of That 70s Show, which my daughter has been singing the praises of. Quite funny, quite (but not exactly) like the real 70s. The joke may wear thin, but it should be good until then.

Probably a Good Time to Download Your Twitter Archive

This Bloomberg article may not be entirely serious, but it is, you know, Bloomberg:

There’s a strange idea circulating among Mexican currency traders. Well, more of a joke really. But there’s a certain logic to it.

It goes like this: Instead of spending its precious reserves to defend the peso, Mexico should just buy Twitter Inc. — at a cost of about $12 billion — and immediately shut it down.

The idea being that it would be the easiest way to stop the Trumpet tweeting negative things about Mexico.

I don’t know, he’d just find another forum, no doubt. Shit, in a week’s time he’ll be able to put whatever he wants on Whitehouse.gov.

[T]hat the idea was even raised in jest shows how just how frustrated Mexicans are that their economy and the value of their savings are at the mercy of the seemingly random musings coming in 140-character bursts from Trump’s Twitter account. It’s a sentiment that presumably would be shared by U.S. investors in companies like, say, General Motors Co. or Lockheed Martin Corp., but in Mexico, the pain, and the accompanying despair, appear to be on a much greater scale.

A lot more than Mexico is at the mercy of those “seemingly random musings.”