Friday links! Affected nonchalance edition


Just one of many faces made by a man who won’t be president, so whatever

Welp, Hillary Clinton wrecked Donald Trump in Monday’s debate. You can tell he lost by the mania with which he insists he won. Now that the queen has slain the frog prince, as we always knew she would, we can go back to treating Trump’s candidacy like the joke it is. Remember last week, when FiveThirtyEight had them in a dead heat? That was before Hillary got that sweet, sweet three-point post-debate bounce. Now that people have seen Trump is belligerent and nonspecific, he can’t win. And isn’t he orange? I find this to be the drollest election of our lifetimes, and certainly not a clear rupture between the American experiment and its decline. Today is Friday, and Republicans sure will be embarrassed when we look back on it. Won’t you count these eggs as chickens with me?

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Against “because [noun]”

Because this

Because this

Let’s talk about the construction “because [noun]” and how it became the bitter non-joke in this Slate tweet, shall we? Click here for hardcore pornography instead. Okay—the “because [noun]” construction affronts me here for two reasons:

  1. It substitutes a formula for wit.
  2. It implies contempt for the noun “America.”

Reason (1) is subjective. I submit that “because [noun]” is not funny anymore, if it ever was. It was pleasing at first as a kind of audacious shorthand. But audacity disappeared with novelty, and now the construction is mainly used to imply wit where none exists. You can’t jump to the moon because gravity. The Senate refuses to confirm Merrick Garland because politics. This baby is smoking because Florida. None of those is clever, but they all convey a certain sardonic attitude, and they all presume the reader knows enough about [noun] to skip the other words.

Which brings us to reason (2). In the sentence “Two-thirds[sic] of U.S. schools have ‘active shooter’ drills because America,” the fraction of schools that practice for mass shootings is the news part. The “because America” construction is the ‘tude. We are to understand that active shooter drills are bad, both by the scare quotes and by it being news that two thirds of schools have them. A two-thirds majority of schools having fire drills isn’t news. And why have the schools come to this sorry pass, where they must practice for mass shootings? Because America.

Bro, that’s unpatriotic. It is true America experiences many more mass shootings than any other developed nation, and that is surely a judgment on our national character. But shit, man, has our contempt become so settled? Am I to read “because America” and smile ruefully, recognizing the byword for morbid hypocrisy? This sentence assumes the reader will read in “America” both the widespread fear of death by shooting and the cynically embarrassed failure to do anything about it.

Anyway, thanks to the magical “because [noun]” construction, Slate can communicate that whole vexed idea with the same smug laziness as a Garfield cartoon. I’m not getting out of bed because Monday. School shootings because America. Nah—school shootings because gun lobby and mental health system. School shootings because us. Whole blog about Slate tweet because personality disorder, but still. We should retire the “because [noun]” construction, lest it tempt us to hack our way through—as we all do from time to time—without considering the occasion.

Willy set me off on that entire jag with this tweet. You should probably follow him.

The dangerous allure of proving that stuff isn’t sexist

A meme Slate called "kind of sexist"

A meme Slate called “kind of sexist”

Here’s a worst-outcome life: write a daily blog about things that aren’t actually sexist. When someone calls sexism on what appears to be innocuous, leaping to defend it is a low-percentage play. Part of the problem is that so many things really do turn out to be sexist, when you think about them. That’s the essence of the feminist critique. But pointing out what isn’t, in fact, sexist is also a bad risk because even when you’re right, the reward is small. You get the sweet feeling of proving someone wrong, but the person you proved wrong is invariably a defender of women. Even if logic and integrity are on your side, that sympathetic character is not. I mention this problem because Slate just said the Bernie vs. Hillary meme is sexist. By “the Bernie vs. Hillary meme,” I don’t mean the 2016 campaign for president. I mean what’s after the jump.

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Pundits rejoice: Rubio surge now supported by evidence, kind of

Victorian street pundits wait for Mr. Rubio to bring them Christmas.

Victorian street pundits wait for Mr. Rubio to bring them a Christmas.

We can now safely close the voting for Quintessential Headline of the 2016 Election with Slate’s entry, Pundits Have Long Been Saying Rubio Is on the Rise. Now There’s Finally Some Evidence to Back That Up. Both political betting markets and pundits seem to consider Rubio the favorite to win the Republican nomination, which is strange, since he hasn’t polled above 11% since Donald Trump entered the race. But now Rubio has been endorsed by Senator Corey Gardner of Colorado and Senator Steve Daines of Nilbog. He’s also been backed by billionaire Paul Singer, although Singer has not technically given him a bunch of money yet. And it turns out the Gardner/Daines endorsements move Rubio up to fourth place on Five Thirty-Eight’s endorsement tracker, which seems like less than the favorite position. But the Republican phenom for which there was no evidence now enjoys scant evidence. Pundits rejoice! Further deflation after the jump.

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White man’s rejected poem makes Best American with Asian pen name

Michael Derrick Hudson, who has published poems as Yi-Fen Chou

Michael Derrick Hudson, who has published poems as Yi-Fen Chou

I apologize for the lateness of the hour; my plan was to hold today’s post until I could link to a pleasant surprise, but that surprise is not happening until tomorrow. In the meantime, look what Michael Derrick Hudson did. Hudson is a white person and poet who occasionally submits poems under the pen name Yi-Fen Chou. Here he is explaining his method:

After a poem of mine has been rejected a multitude of times under my real name, I put Yi-Fen’s name on it and send it out again. As a strategy for ‘placing’ poems this has been quite successful for me. The poem in question … was rejected under my real name forty (40) times before I sent it out as Yi-Fen Chou (I keep detailed submission records). As Yi-Fen the poem was rejected nine (9) times before Prairie Schooner took it.

The “poem in question” here is “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve,” which Sherman Alexie selected for the 2015 edition of Best American Poetry. Surely it means something that readers rejected one of the best American poems of 2015 when Hudson submitted it and liked it when Chou did. But what?

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