Hope and the modern leftist

Leftist social activism was born from resistances. The labor movement fought for decades to win better pay, safer conditions, and shorter hours. Successive waves of feminists sought the right to vote, for equal pay and treatment under the law, and then for a society that valued women’s ways of thinking. The civil rights movement dismantled segregation against seemingly impossible odds; few young Southerners in the 1930s could have imagined living to see a black President. This ingrained habit of fighting means that the hardcore left doesn’t know what to do with itself when it wins. (One of the things I really like about the city of Burlington is that progressives have been in power on and off for decades now. It’s empowering, even comforting, to see fellow leftists cope with trash collection, municipal taxes, crime, and other mundanities of contemporary life.) I’ve thought about this for a while, and it turns out there’s a new book about the left’s pessimism from author Rebecca Solnit. I’ve not heard of her before, but I’ll be looking for more of her books after this. I cannot express my opinion better than she, so I’ve quote two paragraphs below.

Hope […] is in love with success rather than failure, and I’m not sure that’s true of a lot of the more audible elements of the Left in this country. The only story many radicals know how to tell is the one that is the underside of the dominant culture’s story, more often than not the stuff that never makes it into the news, and all news had a bias in favor of suddenness, violence, and disaster that overlooks groundswells, sea changes, and alternatives. Their premise is: the powers that be are not telling you the whole truth. But the truth they tell is also incomplete. The conceive of the truth as pure bad news, appoint themselves the deliverers of it, and keep telling it over and over. Eventually they come to look for the downside in any emerging story, even in apparent victories – and in each other: something about the task seems to give some of them the souls of meter-maids and dogcatchers. (Of course, this also has to do with the nature of adversarial activism, which leads to obsession with the enemy, and, as a few environmentalists have mentioned to me, with the use of alarmist narratives for fund-raising.)

Sometimes these bad-news bringers seem in love with defeat, becasue if they’re constantly prophesying doom, actual doom is, as we say in California, pretty validating. But part of it is a personal style. I think that this grimness is more a psychology than an ideology. There’s a kind of activism that is more about bolstering identity than achieving results, one that sometimes seems to make the Left the true heirs of the Puritans. Puritanical in that the point becomes the demonstration of one’s own virtue rather than the realization of results. And puritanical because the somber pleasure of condemning things is the most enduring part of that legacy, along with the sense of personal superiority that comes from pleasure denied. Despair, bad news, grimness bolster an identity the teller can affect, one that is masculine, stern, disillusioned, tough enough to face the facts. Some of them, anyway.

Shooby dooby dooby dance

I’m not really one for reality shows. I’ve watched Top Chef on and off, loved Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and enjoy historical series like Manor House and Victorian Farm. But the one reality show I unabashedly love, that I crave when it’s not airing, is So You Think You Can Dance. Shooby–we call it that because of how the theme song sounds when played through bad old TV speakers–has been on for seven years now and just keeps getting better.

If you’re not familiar with the show, judges hold open auditions all over the country. These aren’t celebrity judges or panels of amateurs; all the judges are accomplished choreographers or dancers. They see literally thousands of dancers, sending only one or two hundred to an elimination week in Las Vegas. The top ten or twenty go on to the regular show, learning new choreography with a partner every week in addition to preparing solos and joining in a big group dance number. Viewers call in votes, but for at least the first part of the show the judges actually choose who to send home from the bottom three.

All the dancers on this show are good. By the time it gets down to the top six or so every year, everyone left is AMAZING. Big Brother and Survivor just cram regular people into unfamiliar situations to provoke drama. Fear Factor is cheap sensationalism at its lowbrow worst. But Shooby–Shooby is art. SYTYCD takes dancers who are already skilled and makes them more diverse, more trained, more disciplined. Despite its being an elimination show, the dancers are set up for success, not failure. They’re given the best choreographers, partners, and constructive criticism to make sure they’re at the top of their game for the performances every week. It’s a show that adds happiness to the world that otherwise would not be there, and that’s the most you can ask from television. Links to a few favorite clips follow.

Neal and Sabra, “Sweet Dreams” – Jazz

Travis and Heidi, “The Bench” – Contemporary

Courtney and Mark, “The Garden” – Jazz

Lauren and Dominic, “I Get Money” – Krump

Russell and Noelle, “Frog Dance” – African Jazz

Alex and Allison, “Hallelujah” – Contemporary

Katee and Joshua, “Om Shanti Om” – Bollywood

My stomach hates me

I’ve been suffering from gastro-esophegeal reflux disorder (GERD) since my early 20s. It’s been stubbornly resistant to changes in diet and lifestyle, to such an extent that I gave up entirely on trying. A regular dose of Prilosec stopped it completely most of the time, and a little Gaviscon or Pepto Bismol took care of the rest. With a resurgence of symptoms and recent reports that long term use of Prilosec can cause health problems, it’s time to try stopping this once and for all. For at least the next month that means no alcohol, no soda, no chocolate, as little tomato and citrus as possible, and worst of all–no coffee. Within two weeks I actually have to transition to no caffeine AT ALL. If this doesn’t work, I need to consult with a gastroenterologist to see if fundoplication surgery is indicated given how long this has been a problem. While it doesn’t happen often, I still occasionally wake up choking or nearly choking as my stomach shoots acid up into my lungs, and that’s seriously scary.

Hey, some memeishness

What the heck, it’s been a while since I did one of these. If you’re reading this on FB, please comment on the blog itself if possible.

1) If you’re one of my friends, why not let me know 35 things about you. It doesn’t matter if we never talk or if we already know everything about each other. Short and sweet is fine.

2) Comment here with your answers and/or repost the questionnaire on your own space.

01) Are you currently in a serious relationship?
02) What was your dream growing up?
03) What talent do you wish you had?
04) If I bought you a drink what would it be?
05) Favourite vegetable?
06) What was the last book you read?
07) What zodiac sign are you?
08) Any Tattoos and/or Piercings? Explain where.
09) Worst Habit?
10) If you saw me walking down the street would you offer me a ride?
11) What is your favourite sport?
12) Do you have a Pessimistic or Optimistic attitude?
13) What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with me?
14) Worst thing to ever happen to you?
15) Tell me one weird fact about you.
16) Do you have any pets?
17) What if I showed up at your house unexpectedly?
18) What was your first impression of me?
19) Do you think clowns are cute or scary?
20) If you could change one thing about how you look, what would it be?
21) Would you be my crime partner or my conscience?
22) What colour eyes do you have?
23) Ever been arrested?
24) Bottle or can soda?
25) If you won $10,000 today, what would you do with it?
26) What’s your favourite place to hang out at?
27) Do you believe in ghosts?
28) Favourite thing to do in your spare time?
29) Do you swear a lot?
30) Biggest pet peeve?
31) In one word, how would you describe yourself?
32) Do you believe/appreciate romance?
33) Favourite and least favourite food?
34) Do you believe in God?
35) Will you repost this so I can fill it out and do the same for you?