The City On The Edge Of Nice Things
Look, I wanted to do a Harlan Ellison headline this week, so it was either gonna be this, or "I Have No Nice Things And I Must Squee," so count yourselves lucky. Let's get right to it!
How About A New Book Club Selection?
I took Friday off to recharge my batteries, and while doing some chores I listened to this terrific Chris Hayes interview with Rebecca Solnit about her 2009 book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. It was one of those pieces where I just kept nodding and saying "oh, of course" and "wow" a lot. (Noted political pundit Our Girlfriend observed, when I was telling her about the podcast, "Well of course you did. You're a big nerd." She's not wrong.) Go give it a listen and see what you think! And if you aren't already listening to Hayes's podcast "Why Is This Happening" you're missing some terrific, thoughtful stuff!
So here's what got me so enthusiastic: Solnit discusses an aspect of disaster that's too often overlooked: the tendency of people to come together and help each other, even complete strangers, with the hard work of getting through the aftermath of catastrophe. It's not necessarily the Hobbesian struggle of all against all that we see in disaster movies; people tend not to become panicked mobs, but instead look out for each other. It's a nice counter to the rightwing survivalist ethos: when the shit hits the fan, people are far more likely to set up a community kitchen and share what they have, not come trying to pillage your house so you need to shoot 'em.
In fact, Solnit argues, the biggest problems in post-disaster situations tend to arise when those who assume the worst about human nature decide they need to crack down violently to re-impose "order." And that's how people looking for food get transformed into "looters" who must be shot on sight, because private property is far more important than people and you have to kill to prevent petty theft.
Let's be clear; Solnit isn't saying we're all naturally nice people; she recognizes people are capable of terrible things following a disaster (just as they are beforehand). But she suggests that far worse reactions to disaster come from assuming that "we are all easily activated antisocial bombs waiting to go off." Unfortunately, that often tends to be the view of the folks in power, who may value the reimposition of "order" above all else. For instance, she notes that following the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, soldiers were given shoot-to-kill orders to prevent looting, but often killed people for no reason at all. In one case, a shop owner whose building was in the path of the coming fire told people to take what they wanted from his stock. Several ended up being shot, because look at them running with their arms full of "looted" goods.
On the other hand, people also set up free kitchens and tent cities, sharing food and shelter; there was a fad for comical signs making fun of the hardship, too, like "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may have to go to Oakland." Following Katrina, the heroes of the "Cajun Navy" got their boats into the water and rescued people, despite the warnings of media and officialdom that the residents of the flooded city had gone feral. In reality, it was cops and white supremacists with guns who posed the biggest dangers to the survivors, after the flooding.
Solnit isn't afraid to get a little utopian, observing, "It's tempting to ask why if you fed your neighbors during the time of the earthquake and fire, you didn't do so before or after."
The book focuses primarily on five disasters, from the 1906 earthquake and fire, the Halifax explosion of 1917, the 1985 Mexico City Earthquake, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina, with forays into other events as well. In the podcast interview, Solnit discusses how some of this is playing out in the coronavirus crisis: We're not able to come together physically, but we're finding community by making masks, connecting online, and applauding the hospital workers. Paradoxically, we're staying apart to keep each other safe. And the vast majority of us look at the idiots with guns and call them idiots.
So here's your assignment, Book Clubbers: First, listen to Solnit's interview with Chris Hayes (it's on a website, no special software needed); and in two weeks, we'll talk about it right here whether you've read the book or not. Then get your hands on a copy of A Paradise Built in Hell, either with our handy Amazon linky (Wonkette gets a cut) or elsewhere. Depending on where you are, libraries and used bookstores may or may not be open, so an ebook or mail order may be your best choice. (Amazon appears to have no affordable print editions, but I'm seeing paperbacks online for $18 new. The Kindle ebook is $12.99). Let's plan on reading through the end of Section II, "Halifax to Hollywood," for our first discussion. Yes, you can read past there; it's nonfiction, so not really any spoilers, right?
So here's our schedule:
May 17: Podcast interview and Paradise Built in Hell through Section II.
May 31: finish the rest of the book
If you all decide after the first chunk that we need to stretch our discussion out to three posts, I would be OK with revising this schedule, too. That might also give folks a chance to get their hands on a copy, maybe?
We could use some tough-minded optimism right about now.
Hollywood Made A Wonkette Ad!
Or at least Lucy Lawless did! Here she is, in a ridiculously fun little social-distanced action movie put together by stuntwoman Zoe Bell, who you may remember from the good latter half of Quentin Tarantino's problematic Death Proof. Check out that awesome t-shirt Lawless is wearing!
Boss Bitch Fight Challenge youtu.be
And Now The Silly Twitter Stuff
Give this kid the "Best New Artist" Grammy and call it a day. And maybe create a new category for her to win as well, like "Best Song About What's Inside Your Butthole."
Also, the remixes:
This may not be "nice" but it's friggin' hilarious:
Wholesome family fun! No, really!
Bone Bone is a big big cat. You should follow his Twitter.
I would watch the independent film about this brick grouse, if someone made it.
David Simon knows how to write a proper apology:
Kristen Schall, time traveler!
Is it a ball? IS IT A BALL??!!!
I really shouldn't put the dancing tick video near the cute doggie. But it's safely behind glass, and in a video.
Content warning: Audio is an Alex Jones rant. But it really DOES work well with Charles Entertainment Cheese.
Here, have a palate cleanser.
Here, have a little donkey cleansing her own palate.
This being Sunday, that means it's Historians at the Movies tonight. Fire up the Netflix and the Twitters, start watching Back to the Future at 8:30 Eastern, and chat about it with the hashtag #HATM. Let's all meet at the
Twin Pines Lone Pine Mall and talk about time paradoxes!
Your obligatory Thornton content: A very content Thornton.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.