Friday, April 21, 2017

Going-Away Things:


"Bait & Rummage Sale Store," along highway 12 near Fort Atkinson.

Friday, March 31, 2017

American Silo



In this area of the Bible, Jesus first feeds the 4000 followers using just 7 loaves of bread. After he dismisses them, he is quizzed by the Pharisees, who demand a sign from God, but Jesus says he won't do it.

[83% of Americans identify themselves as Christians.]

Jesus tells the apostles to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees, and the apostles tell him they have no bread. Jesus chides them for not yet understanding his lesson and reminds them that he has fed 5000 people with few loaves of bread, then 4000 with few loaves of bread.

[Only 3 in 10 Americans actually attend a religious service at least once a week; 
most of those are Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons]

Jesus heals a blind man, gradually, and talks about how he must suffer and be killed, then rise again. Peter tries to talk to him about this, and Jesus snaps at him: "Get behind me, Satan," he says, telling Peter that Peter has only human concerns, not those of God.

[52% of the people that attend church at least one time per week say that there are no clear standards for what is right and wrong, and that it depends on the situation.]

After all that, Jesus tells the apostles:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

[Over the last 50 years, the best-selling book in the world has been the Bible; number 2 is a book of quotations from Mao Tse Tung.  Number 3 is the Harry Potter series.]

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017

i had this moment

it sounds neat but there's a real potential for some problematic sneeches-with-stars behavior too

American Courts


4 out of every 10 people carries a credit card balance from month to month. That figure is actually down from the year 2000, when 50% of people in America carried credit card debt.

The average credit card debt for houses with zero net worth or a negative net worth is $10,307; that group, the poorest, has the highest average credit card debt of any economic strata.

Most credit card cases used to be litigated in small claims court, where debtors can take advantage of looser procedures, but where many cases are not heard by elected judges.  In the past 2 years, small claims cases have dropped, while the number of cases filed in civil court (generally, seeking $10,000 or more) have climbed.

The "vast majority" of cases in state courts are debt collection, landlord-tenant, foreclosure, and small claims. In as many as 75% of the cases heard in a state court, at least one party appears without representation; this was true even in small claims cases, where an increasing number of collectors are represented by lawyers. That is, 3 out of every 4 cases involves a creditor, represented by a lawyer, suing a debtor, unrepresented, over money, housing or a vehicle.

According to one source, 80% of all collection debt relates to health care, telecommunications, or utilities.

The number of people working as debt collectors has doubled since 1990.









Monday, February 20, 2017

Afternoon



We still go to throw rocks in the river.

Friday, February 17, 2017

So they had frogs and buckets in that galaxy but not barrels and fish? (Quotent Quotables)

This picture is from an actual article entitled "Frogs Can Help Make Milk
Stay Fresh Longer."  Here is the text of that article:
There used to be an old Russian wive's tale that if a
 frog jumped in your bucket of milk, it wouldn't go sour.
 As it turns out, that might be true because
 the peptides in frog's skin secretions are antibiotic.
 It also means that as more diseases become
 antibiotic resistant,
we might start turning to frog ooze to prevent infections.
Often in scifi and fantasy you'll see the author reminding you Hey this isn't your world it's a different one look how different they are tho like in this passage from Chuck Wendig's Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt: Superfluous Titles in which an alien bounty hunter is reflecting on how their attempt to free Kashyyyk*

The Empire— if those ships above even claim to be that, anymore— is now attempting to bomb this planet to oblivion. Already she knows how this will go: Many of the newly freed Wookiees are only peripherally free. Most are still trapped in settlements. Which means killing them will be as easy as firing a blaster into a bucket of frogs.


"Hmmm. Hmmm. Need a simile for something that's really easy to do. Something where the thing you're going after is just trapped there. Can't get out. Not fish in a barrel that's too quotidian. This is an alien planet. A long time ago. A galaxy far far away. Need to make sure they remember that. We're not down at the docks in San Diego here after all.  Nobody is shooting fish in a barrel. Who shoots fish anyway? Why is that the expression? And did they ever keep fish in a barrel?** I bet they didn't. No time to look it up now. Got to get this thing done. How about something more Star Warsy. Like blasters? Blasters are Star Wars. Like firing a blaster into... what would you fire a blaster into in Star Wars? ... ... ... like firing a blaster into a cantina full of Hutts... no, no... like firing a blaster into a energy globe of Gungans... no, wait, the memo said absolutely nothing that would remind someone of the prequels..."

"Hey, Dad, want to see my bucket of frogs?"

*BINGO*

____________________

*I had to look it up to remember that it was spelled with three ys. You wouldn't want to make the Wookies angry by misspelling their home planet. When Wookies get angry...

**Nobody is apparently sure where the expression 'shooting fish in a barrel' comes from***, but what you should know is that it's not the bullet that gets them, it's the acoustics: when you fire a bullet into the water of a barrel the shock wave of sound kills the fish. 

***If you go look up fish in a barrel on Wiktionary you'll see that another phrase for something that's easy is "duck soup."  Most people who write about this stuff say that "duck soup" has no clear origin as an expression for something that's really easy to do. But one commenter that I found traced the expression to a belief that Inuit make 'duck soup' by putting an entire duck into boiling water, feathers and all, and hence duck soup is easy to make.



Friday, February 10, 2017

Quotent Quotables: This is why I wouldn't have worked out as a scientist.

To set up the scene: two scientists are climbing into a tree platform to spend the night seeing if they can spot a tiger:


*****
A gust of wind bent the tree over and lifted a squad of ants into the air. One of them landed in Robichaud's eye and bit him, sinking its pincers into the soft tissue of the eyeball....

Robichaud was all but blinded by pain and tears. Although his tears had drowned the ant that bit him, the body of the ant still clung there, its mandibles buried in the white of his eye. It felt like a cheese grater on his sclera.  ... Duckworth tried to pluck out the ant.... but [his] thick fingers could not immediately grasp the ant, and they knew they could not continue without the headlamp. They had to blend completely with the quiet darkness lest they spook a returning tiger. ... Robichaud resigned himself to a night of misery.

******

-- The Last Unicorn, William DeBuys.

i had this moment





Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Trumpocalypse 13: Just what is The Trump Presidency (TM) Doing, Anyway?

You may feel like you're totally up on the news and how bad things are getting in America because you know stuff, like you know how Trump ordered government employees to find proof he had big crowds at his inauguration or how Betsy "I Bought This Cabinet Seat Myself" DeVos was barely confirmed as his Secretary of (Killing Off Public) Education, and of course you are completely up on the fact that he nominated someone for the Supreme Court and he banned Muslims from coming into the country, so congrats, you, on being informed.

Except you aren't.

The other day I found myself thinking Who actually has been confirmed on Trump's cabinet? I was surprised to learn we've got a Secretary of State -- Rex Tillerson! -- since I'd heard nothing much about that (seemingly important) Cabinet position.  That, in turn, made me wonder what else I'd been missing as the various real- and fake-media sources went nuts over real news (the Muslim ban) and fake news (the crowds at the inauguration).

There's been a lot going on, it turns out, so much so that I don't know if anyone, including the White House, knows how much has been going on -- like the thing with Steve Bannon slipping in an executive order making himself a member of the National Security Council, something that didn't make the headlines it should because when the ship is sinking it seems like it's less important to also announce the captain has been embezzling money.

The Trump Presidency (TM) has been busy, though, so busy that almost nobody can track it. According to the White House site, Trump has issued seven executive orders (or that's how many are posted there), 12 "Presidential Memoranda," and even two "Proclamations," which you have to imagine are Trump's favorite.

That's 21 Executive Actions according to The Trump Presidency (TM)'s own website. But according to Business Insider, as of February 3, he'd taken 22 such actions, so which one is missing from the official government website?

Or are the White House and Business Insider inflating things? Fox News' list as of February 3 contains what it says are 19 items, but actually the count comes to 14, depending on how you count them.

Wikipedia, meanwhile, lists 23 such actions already, while USA Today has an incomplete list but does note that one form of Trump order is an entirely new creature: the "national security presidential memorandum." And to top things off, there is at least one order signed by his chief of staff that has the force of an executive order from the president.

While some claim it's the most prolific executive action yet, Wikipedia has 23 such actions by Obama as of the first week of February 2009, so it's not clear even whether the media has as much information as, say, a website voluntarily maintained by anonymous people who get their information primarily from other websites.  (If there is an official listing of all executive actions anywhere, I haven't been able to find it.)

Most of the articles that discuss this at all simply list the orders, with no analysis or explanation or context, which means that the media is again not doing very much to help people understand how their government works (or doesn't) and is focusing on the high-profile stories like Betsy DeVos, but that raises the question: are these stories high profile because they are important? Or are they high profile because they are interesting to talk about and easy to understand?

I'm going to look at the specific executive actions going forward, on and off, but in the meantime, ask yourself: whatever the number of executive orders is so far (7, 14, 21, 23?) how many Trump Presidency (TM) actions can you list off the top of your head?

The vast majority of people in this country have little information and less understanding of how government actually works and what government actually does. That's why it's so easy for Republicans to hijack the political process (with at best the complacency of the Democratic Party and at worst the Democrats' own efforts to use 'social issues' to distract from the real issues.)  If even the best-informed and politically motivated people have only a vague clue as to what is going on, how can we hope to have people who aren't as energized about the political process to grasp the realities of the situation.

I have a rule for charitable giving that I think makes a lot of sense: if I spend money frivolously -- by buying something that is a pure luxury, like plants in my Plants Vs. Zombies 2 videogame -- I try to match that with a charitable contribution in the same amount, so that if I use $1.99 selfishly I use another $1.99 unselfishly.

I think that applies to politics and information, as well. So try this: every time you click on a story about Donald Trump's Twitter beefs, ask yourself what you know about what he's done that day that matters, and then go read up on that, too.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Book 7: Star Wars Amalgamated Products, Ltd.

Before you go thinking this is another boring discourse about how Star Wars is just another brand like Coke or McDonald's, like the one I did almost just exactly a year ago, I will say I actually enjoyed this book a lot; it's better than Aftermath book 1, and that owes probably equally to the fact that the characters in this book are now more established, and also some of the beloved characters from Star Wars are also back: Leia and Han are here, as is Chewie (albeit in a mostly nonexistent role), but also to the fact that this book far more than Aftermath seems to fit into the story that the movies are telling, as in Aftermath the rise of the First Order and the cult of Vader are both sort of foreshadowed, plus at the very end (SPOILER ALERT) Jakku finally comes into the picture.

So it's a good book, is my point, but it's a good book in that respect because it fits into a pre-existing world that has existed in my life for 39 years now.  Reading this book now, around the time I finally saw (and enjoyed) Rogue One really drives home the idea that establishing a brand in something is super, super important if you really want things to be iconic, to last forever. Or is it something more than a brand? I'm gonna go somewhere with this.

Mr Bunches and I have been rewatching the Indiana Jones movies, as they're now streaming on the various services we use. That is, I have been rewatching them, and he has been watching them for the first time.  Meanwhile, the second season of The Magicians has started, and I am again setting aside time on Friday nights to watch each new episode of that show, rather than waiting for  it to come online and stream the whole season the way I do with shows like American Horror Story.

All this watching and reading and re-booting has made me wonder why it is that some movies and books -- some fictional places -- seem to demand or allow for expansion, both into other areas of the fictional universe with new stories, and into new generations of people who love those things the way (or almost the way) the first generation did.  Mr Bunches gets genuinely excited about Indiana Jones and he loves Star Wars. He's 10, and so wasn't even alive when the prequels were completed, and the Indiana Jones movies were completed decades ago (except for Crystal Skull, which apparently I alone consider a good movie.)

It's not just like old things do this; the Avengers and the Marvel Universe have this same expansive, inviting quality, a quality that's entirely missing from the DC movies (but not from the TV shows, as I've watched some of Arrow, The Flash, and Legends Of Tomorrow and enjoyed them, as well as felt that they were something I'd continue to enjoy.)

Some universes just seem closed off, self-contained, dead, in a way: The DC movie universe has that feel, as does the world of The Matrix, and even the world of Harry Potter.  Sure, I know they tried to expand that out with some kind of play about Harry's kid and that "Fantastic Beasts" thing, and I will also note that possibly the Potterverse feels closed off to me because it mostly was set up for kids when it came out, not adults like me, so it never caught hold of me the way Star Wars did, but I don't think that's quite it.  After all, I was never a fan of Captain America, Iron Man, or The Avengers as a kid, and yet I really enjoy those movies.  I even enjoy Guardians Of The Galaxy and am kind of excited for the sequel, and that's one of the weaker links in that universe.

Plus, while Star Wars certainly appealed to kids, there were plenty of adults who were crazy about it back when the first trilogy came out. I can remember my parents discussing, at length, with some of the other adults at a family gathering, what might happen after Empire.

So what makes Star Wars appeal to generation after generation, and have staying power, while the Potterverse and The Matrix, to pick them out, feel closed off, like universes that are going to eventually wither on the vine and die?

People talk a lot about how Lucas 'revolutionized' scifi with his grittier, dirty, feel, and how the special effects were so great, but if either of those were really the driving force, then the special effects of The Matrix and the grittiness of Blade Runner would have spawned spinoffs and expanded universes and the like. But they haven't, not to any great degree.

I was watching a documentary about the history of the Star Wars toys, and although the documentary itself was short on anything truly interesting -- it was 95% "hey, look at my toys" and 5% "here's something you didn't know about this issue, pretty much the exact opposite of what I'd hoped -- it did touch on one issue that I felt bore repeating, as I know I've mentioned it before.  The toymakers, when they first got hired to do this stuff, would occasionally just think up things that weren't in the movies but were vaguely related to them, or seemed to be organically generated by the movies.  Things that even if we didn't see them, could have been there.

Those toys, I think, played a key role in embedding Star Wars into a generation of kids, allowing us to recreate the movies themselves and have our characters go on even more adventures, but toys alone can't explain it, either, as there's certainly no shortage of toys based on movies. (One possible difference between Star Wars toys in the 80s and other movie toys in the 2000s is that by the time the 2000s had come around, the toy market had changed to focus on collectors [largely collectors that had grown up on Star Wars toys] and also the way kids played had changed, becoming more video-game oriented and less action-figure oriented.)(That statement is 100% based on my anecdotal experiences and opinions and I am not going to go google toys to find statistical proof of that idea because I'm going somewhere with this.)

Where I am going is this: some universes seem expansive and let you fit into them in any way you want.  Other universes direct you to exactly where they want you to go.  It's those latter universes that seem closed-off and don't inspire the hundred-jillion fanfics and expanded universes and comic books and toys and spinoffs and series and all the other products that have made Star Wars a brand while Harry Potter remains some books and movies.

Here's something to think about. I'm going to stick with Harry Potter because I think if there's anything that could directly compare to Star Wars, pop-culture-wise, it's the Potterverse. Both have a youthful everyman hero with unknown powers. Both have an evil disfigured ruler with a weird familial connection to the hero. Both have a strong, smart female character who's probably more capable than any guy in the series. You can't really compare Ron and Han Solo, but pobody's nerfect, right?



Star Wars and the Potterverse have an equalish number of movies, but Star Wars far out-pop-cultures Potter when it comes to tie-ins, spinoffs, tv shows, comic books, and the like. There have been a jillion television shows and comics and books and ancillary characters and Xmas Specials for Star Wars, and Lucas long ago gave up all but the loosest control over the universe he created, to the point where when Disney came back in to close things down a bit -- something that may come back to bite them in the butt - - they had to declare what was real and what was not.  Canon.

Meanwhile, over in the Potterverse, JK Rowling maintains her Palpatine-esque grasp on every aspect of the Potterverse, occasionally making pronouncements about what is acceptable and what is not, or filling in gaps and trivia herself, rather than letting people come up with their own versions.

Star Wars gave the appearance of a fully-created universe, but it was so barely-sketched in in the first trilogies that nobody even knew what a Bothan was, let alone remembered where they fit into the story.  IO9 did a piece, when Rogue One was hyping up, about how people misremembered when the "Many Bothans died to bring us this information" line actually took was uttered,  and noted in the story that Bothans themselves were invented in the Expanded Universe and haven't even been accepted as "canon".  Lucas just threw a bunch of stuff out there: the Senate, the Empire, Jedi, The Force, a galaxy, there were other planets, some of which were only mentioned in passing.



We as kids, viewers, fans, were free to imagine all sorts of other things that could fill that in, and the Star Wars product makers helped; one thing noted by the documentary was that the toys were in such demand that they began making action figures of characters that hardly appeared in the movie at all; not only could you get Greedo (whose interchange with Han hinted at an entirely different awesome set of stories) but you could get Walrusman and Hammerhead




and a bunch of others, people (?) who were never in the movie for more than a second. Raise your hand if you remember Dengar!  Dengar never even had a line.

Compare that to the Potterverse, where everything is plotted so specifically.  While Rowling occasionally hints at other places in the world of wizards, when they come up they, too, are exhaustively detailed and scripted out, making reading the Potter books about as self-directed and expansive as playing a video game. (See, told you I was going somewhere with that.)

With some pop culture universes, you're almost invited, if not required, to fill in parts of the stories with your own imagination, and that in turn leads you to feel free to create other things to fit into that universe, too.  With others, there's just no room.  You have to walk in the direction the author wants you to walk, look at the things the author wants you to look at.  The Potterverse is like that.  So is Lord Of The Rings; there's not much spinoff running around that, either.  In these latter worlds, it can seem almost sacrilegious -- non-canon! -- to veer too much off the beaten path, and any formal efforts at doing so are beaten down by lawsuits and by fanatical fans who debate, endlessly, the minutiae of their world while at the same time failing to raise their heads from the trees to see the rest of the forest.

Star Wars isn't like that. It's fun, wild, expansive, inviting.  It's the kind of universe where you can imagine almost anything, because so little was given to you -- or mandated on you.  That's maybe why the prequels also failed where the original trilogy, and now the new set of movies, succeeded: in the prequels, the story had to march to get to a certain point, had to turn Anakin into Darth Vader and Obi-Wan into Ben, had to get Palpatine into power, and along the way Lucas decided that the loosey-goosey way he'd built the original trilogy wouldn't work anymore. He gave us the Galactic Senate and trade wars and midichlorians, and in doing so, filled in a lot of the mystical empty spaces fans had wanted to fill in for themselves.  If the Force is simply bugs in the blood, then it's not magic like the way some people wanted it, and you can't learn to use it a little bit or expand on it. It's just... rules.
By backing away from that specificity and letting the gaps exist, the new movies allow new characters to move in.  I've rewatched The Force Awakens a few times and I like Rey and Finn as much as I liked Luke and Leia in the first set of movies; they're not carbon copies but new characters, and I know that if I'd seen that movie when I was 10, I'd have spent my childhood pretending to be Finn instead of Luke -- something I could do because I didn't get an exhaustive background and genealogy on Finn, the way I might have if Finn had showed up at Hogwarts.

So Aftermath: Life Debt builds on those ideas by taking characters I hadn't yet learned to like, and making them more familiar, but also by showing additional worlds and people that never existed in my mind prior to reading this new book. The fall of the Empire lets spin-off fiefdoms arise, and a vast new array of issues and foes and friends, while all still fitting comfortably into the Star Wars universe because in the end just about everything fits there, if you want it to.

What Star Wars does so well and what so few other would-be brands fails to do is it turns us into the marketers: we create the product in our minds, and Star Wars simply latches on to them. Nearly 40 years in, the Star Wars galaxy -- now truly beginning to be long long ago, if not so far away -- has become a perpetual motion machine of sorts, creating new ideas and then products from them and new products to create new ideas.  It wouldn't surprise me if at age 70, me and The Boy and Mr Bunches and some grandkids and maybe a great-grandkid go see Star Wars Episode XVIII, and then stop off to get some holo-figures of a minor warlord named Xem who was in the background of one scene in the trailer. I'll say something old-mannish like Man, Star Wars sure outlasted Harry Potter and everyone'll say Harry who?  And talking about Harry Potter will seem like your grandfather now telling  you about Tom Swift and his Electric Rifle.



Friday, February 03, 2017

I had this moment


i had this moment


Oh come on! (Quotent Quotables)

One of the things you hear from Star Wars fans is "Return Of The Jedi would've been great if not for those Ewoks", because Ewoks were obviously cute and intended to make the already-huge toy market huger.

So the NEW Star Wars got rid of all that by being gritty and real and having everyone die in Rogue One and also Chewie finally apparently pulled someone's arms off, and then there's this scene with a Rebel soldier who got his leg blown off in a battle, as written in the second of the Star Wars prequel books by Chuck Wendig. The soldier has just learned he's got to go for therapy and can't go back to war, when the doctor leaves and comes back with his 'prescription.'

A mischievous twinkle shines in her eye as she leaves. Dade sits there for a while, tapping his new metal toes on the floor— cl-cl-click, cl-cl-click— when she returns to the room. A droid follows close behind. This droid is unlike one he’s ever seen before. It’s got a clunky, squarish head, but it rolls around slowly on a blue-and-gold ball-shaped body. Smaller than your standard astro-droid— this one only sits about knee-high. It warbles and blurps at him, focusing a pair of ocular lenses on him as it juggles its own head, which sits improbably upon its body like a box balanced poorly on a child’s ball. The droid tries to stay balanced as its head dips dangerously to the side.
“What is this?” he asks. 
“It’s a droid, Dade.” 
“Yeah, Doc, I see that, but why is there a droid here?” 
This is QT-9. He is your droid.”

At least Lucas didn't call the Ewoks "Teddy Soldiers."


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Matryoshka Presque: The Library Of Fakes

Last night, watching the first episode of season 2 of The Magicians, I was wondering about the fake set of Fillory books Lev Grossman created for his own books, The Magicians.  The 7 books play a major role in Grossman's stories, but also sound like they might be fun to read anyway.

That got me thinking about fake books-within-books, and other stories-within-stories, and all the fake creative works that people create for books and movies and operas and the like.  In Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt, Chuck Wendig has the leader of the Empire listening to music in one scene:

The first piece he ever heard as a boy plays in his chambers now: The Cantata of Cora Vessora, an Old Republic opera of a dark witch on an unnamed world who refused to become Jedi— but neither would she join the Sith. It is a tale of birth, death, and all the glories found between those poles: love, passion, war, and above all else revenge. Revenge against the Sith who took her loved ones. Revenge against the Jedi for standing idly by and refusing to protect her because she would not join their ranks. Revenge against the galaxy for being as imperfect and impure as she had feared.

There doesn't seem to be a word for this, a word for the act of creating a fictional work within a fictional work, but it's something I've always thought was worth exploring -- as sometimes, these  minor creations seem more interesting than the thing we're reading in the first place.

So I've decided to start compiling them, and I have coined a word for them: Presques, (pres-kuh, accent on the first syllable), using the French word for almost. And I've created an imaginary library for them, like the library of congress: The Matryoshka Presque, the library of almost-real things nestled inside real things.

It is all, of course, imaginary, at least until someday when I realize my dream of retiring to a small coastal island and opening a coffee-shop and rare-book store that will also include a toy library for kids where they can borrow toys and games for a while, and part of that location -- the name for which I have already picked out and I won't say it because honestly I'm thinking I would like to do this as semiretirement in 8-11 years -- I will also have a touristy kind of thing where you can come and see displays dedicated to the greatest fake books, musicals, paintings and more, things that existed not just in someone's imagination, but in the imagination of someone's imagination.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Books 4, 5, 6: My aunt's dog is a pretty harshly judgmental critic sometimes.

I've fallen behind in the book reports, as I am now on books 8, 9, and 10 while I haven't even written up the previous three, so here we go, in one swell foop*

*The phrase "One Swell Foop" has it's own Wikipedia entry, which notes that the phrase is the title of a Xanth book but also points out that Peter Sellers used the phrase in the 1960s, and as early as 1900s people were malpropping the Shakespearean phrase. The actual phrase is one fell swoop, used by Shakespeare in Macbeth:
MACDUFF: [on hearing that his family and servants have all been killed]
All my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop?

The three books in this post don't have very much in common but talking about them together might help explain why I liked one and didn't like the other two very much, and also I need to get caught up, and also maybe they do all have something in common, so we'll see. And we're off!

Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur begins the story of the young girl who is now apparently the smartest person in the Marvel Universe, and apparently it is something of an update to an older comic named Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur, or possibly just Devil Dinosaur? The storyline is roughly: Moon Girl, a/k/a Lunella Lafayette [carrying on the proud (?) tradition of alliteratively-named heroes) is a young girl who is 'inhuman,' which I gathered meant her DNA had been tampered with. There is some sort of fog going around that causes people with these DNA to mutate (or something; the first volume leaves that unclear for people like me.)  Lunella is searching for a MacGuffin that will help her find a cure or prevention for this.  Her goal is complicated by the fact that Devil Dinosaur, a fire-breathing T-Rex, as well as some straight-up Land Of The Lost man-beast ripoffs called "The Killer Folk" have both been transported from another dimension here.

Hausfrau, meanwhile, is the story of Anna, an American who moved with her husband (who is Swiss) to Switzerland and begins having affairs for, as far as anyone can tell, absolutely no reason whatsoever, and is now very sad about it.

The Defenders, finally, is a collection of short stories by Phillip K. Dick, who is revered by scifi people because of Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, each of which might be discussed in turn.

I liked Moon Girl. I didn't like the other two. The reasons why are differing but overlapping.

Let's begin with the one I really disliked: Hausfrau.  Here is why I read this book: I knew about it because of the cover controversy.  Hausfrau was released in hardcover, and in softcover deluxe paperback.  See if you can tell who was the target audience for each book.

Softcover:



Hardcover:




The thinking apparently was either that more men might buy the softcover, or to change the way the book was marketed.  A blurb on the cover of the book compares it to Anna Karenina and 50 Shades Of Grey.  It is neither, and it is inferior to both -- and I say that despite not having read the latter and having disliked the former.

Speaking of covers, Moon Girl's was part of the reason I read that, too, as I am a sucker for the all-white cover with characters out of context.

So I knew about Hausfrau because some people thought the difference in covers might be somewhat controversial, and when I was browsing around books I saw that was available as an audiobook.  The blurb for the book now compared it to Girl On A Train, which I gather is the hot new book to compare other books too; apparently if your book has, at any point, a woman and a train in it, it will be compared to Girl On A Train and sold that way.  This is misleading in many ways; it assumes (for example) that Girl On A Train is a story good enough to make others want to read it, when in fact Girl On A Train which I just realized is called The Girl On The Train but I am too lazy to go back and change, so...) was more or less a reasonably-well-done average thriller.  Also, if your book doesn't involve the key elements of Train Girl -- i.e., a murder, a twist in the mystery, actual characters people might care about -- then your book isn't really like The Girl Train at all.

Hausfrau could be best described as "vaguely-wishy-washy wish fulfillment for women." It wasn't until the end that I realized it was even intended as an homage or retelling of Anna Karenina, and only then because Hausfrau Anna steps in front of a train and kills herself. No, I'm not sorry I spoiled that for you with no warning; the book isn't worth reading so I saved you some effort.

Hausfrau is a couple hundred pages of Anna wandering around some place in Switzerland, having affairs with three men, and feeling vaguely disenchanted.  We are told that she doesn't make any effort to connect, but we don't see why her life might be so bad.  Her husband, Bruno, seems like a decent enough guy, her kids are okay, she's got money and some friends.  She's just depressed. Anna herself is almost transparent; we get so little backstory or action from her, and so much mopey maudlin thinking, that it's almost impossible to picture her as a character in the book at all.  Meanwhile, everyone else around her is a cardboard cutout of a person: The Scotsman who runs a whiskey store (or something). The chirpy American friend who thinks everything is great. The jaded rich woman who brags about her affairs. The silent, somewhat scolding Swiss mother-in-law.

Two things really standout to make Hausfrau annoying, apart from its marketing, that is, because, as I said, it's compared to an erotic book and a thriller, and it contains neither eroticism nor thrills [seriously, there is not any sort of mystery/thriller/action, at all].  The first is the continued use of German as a metaphor. Anna is taking German lessons to fit in in Switzerland, and periodically throughout the book Anna will cover some of her lessons in a AN EXTREMELY heavyhanded metaphorical way.  In German, the irregular verbs are the ones that have to do with love. LOVE IS IRREGULAR. I WISH LOVE WAS NOT IRREGULAR.  That's not a direct quote, but it is more subtle than how those things are handled in the book.

The second is the scene with her husband Bruno, when he figures out (for certain) that Anna has cheated on him and that her daughter is not his daughter. Bruno gets her in the kitchen and beats her up, pulling a ring off her finger and bashing her head.  The scene is intended to be probably the most dramatic in the book. It's not. It's the worst, as it comes out of nowhere, is entirely out of character for Bruno, out of tone with the book, and then is thrown into the dustbin immediately anyway.

You can tell it's out of character for Bruno because Anna tells you it's out of character. Up until the scene, Bruno has mostly been sitting at his computer in his home office, or drinking a beer at a party, and his characterization is limited to 'he hangs in his office some pictures his kids drew + he's a banker.'  Bruno and Anna have argued before, when Bruno suspects her of cheating, but he's never been violent. Then he goes nuts in the kitchen, and afterwards tenderly helps Anna bathe, packs a bag for her, and throws her out.  The author, threw Anna, tells us that Bruno had never done this before, and never would again in a million years.  LITERALLY. The author flatly say that.

The scene seems intended to bring some sympathy for Anna, but it has the opposite effect. It makes us dislike Bruno but not like Anna any better, if only because Anna is a cipher.  The effect is less emotionally affecting than reading a news story about a woman you don't know being beaten.

Hausfrau wants to be literary, like Anna Karenina, but ends up being less interesting and less well-written than Carrie Bradshaw's sojourn in Paris near the end of Sex And The City (a storyline that similarly relied on the deus ex machina of a boyfriend turning abusive for no reason and entirely out of character to drum up sympathy) . Stories about rich spoiled white women feeling lost when their husbands or boyfriends get jobs in foreign countries maybe just don't affect me? But they shouldn't affect anyone. The problems of rich spoiled upperclass people are not problems. They are momentary distractions. Anna has no real problems. She is not poor. She has no mental health issues. Her children are happy and healthy. Her husband has a good job. She has friends who like her and is apparently pretty and sexy. She's not even bored.  She's just boring.  Anna is what people who grew up solely watching reality TV would believe is a real woman: someone walking around in a life they wish they could have, with problems that they create and can thus solve. When Anna isn't going through boutique food markets buying fancy cheese, she is being pursued for sex by her husband's friends. OH THE HUMANITY.  It's Mary Sue fiction for women who don't even have the courage to read something more erotic.

Moon Girl, on the other hand -- nice segue! -- actually takes a trope character and stock situation -- brainy kid with outsized problem -- and invests it with some life.  Notwithstanding the horribly annoying "Killer Folk", Moon Girl is an above-average comic.  Lunella really is different and outstanding. Not in the trite "Katniss Everdeen" way intended to appeal to mopey teens ("I'm different and better but in ways so subtle it's hard to tell until I save the world.")  Lunella's parents know she has this DNA thing, and everyone knows she is smart, but they want her to focus on being a 'regular' kid and not always inventing things or sneaking off to roam the city with a fire-breathing dinosaur to find a cure for her condition.

The thing that sets Moon Girl apart is not just the way it blends 'wacky superhero' stuff with realistic-ish scenes in a touching way (the way the probably-forgotten 'Mazing Man comic used to do) but also that Lunella herself is about as realistic a version of a supergenius elementary schoolgirl can be.  She feels separated from her world, and seems to want to both fit in and remain special.  There is a touching moment when Lunella makes a real effort to just be a 'regular kid', and everyone applauds her for it, until one night lying in bed she wonders if normal is really what she wants and if it wouldn't be better to actually have the fog change her because a normal life is kind of boring and below her.  Unlike Anna's internal struggles about whether or not she should cheat on her husband and/or take part in her family's lives -- a struggle which carries no emotional weight because Anna is a blank slate and hence the answers seem easy [NO, don't cheat on your apparently-very-decent-until-the-author-abruptly-changes-her-mind-husband] -- Lunella's issues seems like they're worth thinking about: does being a genius, and having this weird DNA, mean that she can't ever enjoy what people would think of as a regular life? And would she be able to enjoy it anyway, being a supergenius? Is what makes her special and unique something that will keep her from ever actually having a regular life?  It's hard to believe that it would be easier to identify with and be invested in the story of a young girl who is trying to help a dinosaur fight the Hulk than a woman with three kids in a foreign country, but that's how these stories read.

Part of what makes Moon Girl fun, too, is that it invests some life into the tropes so that you don't necessarily see what's coming next, without dumb twists that are telegraphed from the very setup of the story.  Unlike, say, The Defenders.  (Even nicer segue!)

The Defenders helps demonstrate why older literary works maybe ought not be given the deference and heft they are accorded -- that is, why Phillip K. Dick maybe isn't the shining literary star people insist he is (and why Anna Karenina ought to be consigned to the ashheap as well.)  Electric Sheep, which I loved, was brilliant. The Defenders stories are not.  The stories were written in the 50s and 60s and seem clumsy and obvious now. It's hard to believe they didn't seem that way, then, and it's likely they did, but that this type of storytelling was the popular culture then. In the same way that television shows from the 50s seems dull and slow-paced but were beloved by the people then, the stories from that era feel elementary to us now but were apparently the accepted manner of storytelling back then.  This is a good argument for not continuing to teach or read things from decades, or centuries, ago: while the themes may be universal, the storytelling and language and style are not, and it makes it difficult to enjoy and/or get the themes when you're struggling with simply reading the book in the first place.

In The Defenders, Dick's short scifi stories demonstrate more or less the worst of short scifi stories: stock situations, telegraphed twists, telling-not-showing.  A man has to travel back in time to kill the founder of a religion... only to find out he is the founder!  Humans send robots to fight their wars while they hide underground... only to find out the robots have decided not to fight!  And so on.  In each story, about 25 words in, I was able to correctly guess what the suprising plot twist (TM) would be, and the surprising plot twist is an unfortunate hallmark (especially) of short scifi.  If all I had ever read of Phillip Dick were these short stories, I'd have never read Electric Sheep, because it would be impossible to imagine that the banal storytelling of these shorts could be created by the same guy who came up with the compelling dystopia of Rick Decker's bounty hunting life.  Putting Dick on a pedestal for his great book I guess is okay as long as we acknowledge that a lot of his writing was pretty crummy.

Reading -- and thinking about reading -- tells us a lot about ourselves as well as about the world we live in and the things the writer wants us to think about.  I always go back to the My Aunt's Dog Theorem I devised, which is this:

For any given piece of art -- story, painting, poem, etc. -- there will be someone who will take in that piece of art, and think That reminds me of my aunt's dog.
What it means is that inevitably we bring our own baggage to any work of art and thus the artist's intent will be subordinated, or at least subverted somewhat, by how we interpret it. (My Aunt's Dog is therefore a corollary to my other theorem, which is: Everything Is Symbolic Of Everything.)  But it works both ways: we don't just interpret works according to our own experiences. We also interpret ourselves in relationship to those things we read or watch or listen to.  When you like or dislike a book, the reasons why you like or dislike it can tell you as much about yourself as about the book you are reading.

For myself, I find myself inordinately disappointed when a book oversells itself and turns out to be simply typical, or worse.  I find myself delighted when something rises above itself.  I know why that is: I'm looking for the atypical.  So much of our lives are typical. We have the same routines each day. We experience the same things and think the same things about them; if you ever look at a bunch of pictures you have taken, and then look at any random set of photos on, say, Flickr, you will see that inevitably numerous other people have taken photos similar (if not identical) to the ones you've taken.  That doesn't surprise me: we tend to think the same things are beautiful or scenic or noteworthy -- but those things become, quickly, typical, banal, overdone.

In my work, even, legal cases become more or less categories.  We might get a new case in and think this is a [insert former client's name]. That in fact is how law works, to an extent: you try to figure out what former case your new one is most like, to determine how the courts will treat it and how you might be able to alter that earlier result.  So your divorce or car accident or foreclosure isn't as unique as you think, any more than that picture of the scenic overlook or the moon on a cloudy night over a lake is.

What I look for in a book is something to pull me out of the typical, to make me think and feel and worry and wonder, to stick in my memory.  I bet I've read 2,000+ books in my life, maybe significantly more.  I bet I can remember (maybe) 100, tops.  The ones I can remember that jump off the page at me are books that have done something new or different or amazing, even when they are wrapped in old clothes. Catch -22 , my favorite book ever, is a World War II story. I hate World War II stories; simply telling me a story is set in World War II makes me not want to hear any more. And yet I re-read and re-read Catch-22 despite the setting, because Catch-22 is an amazing book that presents something new each time you read it. It is sad and funny and dramatic and ironic, and it has a lot on its mind that it tells in a courageous, unusual way.

Moon Girl isn't Catch-22, but it shares attributes of that book: it takes the familiar and rearranges them in a way that isn't meant simply to startle or surprise, like The Defenders, but rather in a way that is meant to make one think about what those familiar objects mean, almost like Warhol's soup cans. There are a million stories about young girls who are somehow different but what sets Moon Girl apart from them is that in Moon Girl the difference is more in how Lunella herself is struggling with her own difference.  She isn't a hollow shell set up so a reader can engage in some wish fulfillment, like Anna; there are no sudden twists to add drama to a story that otherwise lacked it, like The Defenders.  It is a familiar story told in a familiar way that nonetheless engages the reader through good writing and a slightly-different perspective.  Lunella, a genius child with inhuman DNA and a dinosaur friend, feels more real than Anna, and less hackneyed than any setup in The Defenders. Part of that may be because Moon Girl doesn't seem to be trying to be something more than it is.  Hausfrau, like I said, wants to be Anna Karenina.  Dick's stories want to be important, to convey big themes about religion and society and war.  Moon Girl wants to be a silly comic about a girl with some big thoughts on her mind.

In the end, that may be what makes the difference for me: the striving.  The most typical thing an author can do is set out to make a point, to be something, to Create A Masterpiece That Will Teach Us All.  Stories that set out to do more than tell a story rarely achieve either of those goals.  People that try to Be Someone often are hiding the fact that they aren't anyone at all.  The same goes for books.



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Democrats are more afraid of Bernie Sanders than they are of Donald Trump.

Over the past 20 years, the Democrats have routinely ignored local and state and other down-ballot elections to focus on the presidency as their party becomes the GOP only with better Hollywood celebs to back it.  This has resulted in Republican control of most state and local governments, which has made a Republican majority in the House of Representatives an easy thing to maintain through voter suppression laws and gerrymandering.

That alone does not explain why Democrats also lose in elections where the districts cannot be rigged, though, including gubernatorial, Senate, and presidential elections, where popular votes cannot be redistricted every ten years into 'safe seats.' Democrats do not understand that they lose these votes because they are leaving behind (or have left behind) their base voters, a fact that is happening because the Democrats are, economically speaking, identical to the Republicans in all the ways that hurt the lower classes the most.

THAT is why Hillary! lost the election: Hillary! gave her voters no real reason to go vote for her by abandoning the principles most Democrats (say they) believe in.  Trump's voters were told he would build a wall to keep out Muslim Illegal Immigrants who force factory workers in Indiana to have abortions, and so they got to the polls for him.  Hillary!'s voters were told she... wouldn't be Trump.

But despite those cold, hard, easy-to-understand, fairly obvious facts, Democrats persist in shouting as loudly as they can that someone else is responsible for their losing. Now, the reason is Bernie Sanders, or, rather, the reason is the the reasons that Bernie Sanders stood for.

Writing for "The Root" or possibly for his 5th grade essay on the presidential election, writer Michael Arceneaux posted "Shut Up, Bernie Sanders" yesterday afternoon.  According to this bio, Arceneaux is


 a Houston-bred, Howard University-educated writer currently living in Harlem. He often covers issues related to culture, sexuality, religion, race, and Beyoncé.

Covering politics might be slightly more difficult than covering Beyonce, as demonstrated by Arceneuax's keep grasp of nothing in his post.

Arceneaux's thesis is hard to understand, but it appears to be 90% defense of Democrats' intense focus on being Republicans while not appearing to be, and 9% claiming the election was stolen, and 1% race-baiting.  Let's take a look.

If hubris and the successful pursuit of headlines were genuine indicators of political aptitude, perhaps Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would actually be the Svengali he’s presently being sold as.
According to Wikipedia,

"Svengali" has come to refer to a person who, with evil intent, dominates, manipulates, and controls a creative person such as a singer or an actor.
So: Not a Sanders fan. Got it. Arceneaux says:


Of course, Sanders, like our president-elect, the Marigold Manchurian Candidate, can rightly lay claim to scoring huge, albeit majorly melanin-deficient, crowds that found kinship in campaigns rallying against a corrupt political system. 

"Guilt by Association" is one of the arguments listed in "An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments."  Note the race-baiting has begun in the second paragraph: "Sanders does not appeal to minorities."

In February 2016, Gallup noted that part of Sanders' image problem among black voters was that about 1/3 of them didn't know who he was. In a recent poll discussing who would win the 2020 nomination, 21% of minority respondents picked Sanders; 45% picked Joe Biden. Sanders was 15% ahead of the next closest among minorities (Elizabeth Warren, 6%).

Arceneaux again:

Unfortunately, only one of those men could seize a major political party’s nomination with a mostly white vote. So, while Sanders was successful in pushing political foe Hillary Rodham Clinton to more progressive stances, he was never a real threat to her campaign. Not only that, but he failed to make real inroads with the folks whose backs the Democratic Party stands on. This is the part where you conjure an image of a black auntie.

So much so wrong so quickly. While Hillary! won by a large margin the minority vote, she lost ground to Barack Obama in percentage of that vote. It would be asinine to assume that some minorities only voted for Obama because he was black, so one must assume that the minority voters who went to the polls for Obama in 2008 and 2012 but Stayed Home For Hillary! were doing so for some reason other than the color of her skin. Perhaps Hillary!'s inroads with "black auntie" were temporarily closed.

Did Hillary! take on more progressive stances? Does the Democratic Party stand on the shoulders of the black aunties of America?

Progressive stances really only matter if they are economic progressive stances or concern what is loosely referred to as "social justice."  Hillary! as Secretary of State pushed TPP, which may or may not be a good thing but it's not considered a progressive thing. In her presidential run, Hillary! wouldn't comment one way or the other on whether she'd support the deal. Trump opposed TPP, but so did Sanders.

2008 Hillary! didn't want to lift the current cap on income which is subject to the social security tax. In 2016, Hillary! said she would agree with raising the cap to just under $120,000, which would hurt middle-class voters a bit more, while not affecting the poor or rich at all. Progressive!

Clinton did get more progressive in terms of cops versus incarceration and student debt, but arguably those were responses to the mass shootings of black men by white cops, and the student debt crisis looming large over millenials, not a response to Sanders' campaign.

Arceneaux then starts blaming the system, more or less, for Hillary!'s loss, while faulting Sanders for continuing to believe that Democrats should stand for something more than Republicans With Better PR:

Sadly, Sanders can’t stop, won’t stop, doling out bad advice. 

The advice in question is what Sanders believes Democrats should do if they want to govern, and/or if they want to govern as liberals.  Arceneaux doesn't want Sanders to say this stuff, because he (presumably) doesn't want Democrats to do this stuff.  Arceneaux takes a few more false-equivalency potshots at Sanders:

Moreover, much like the Colby-Jack Führer-in-waiting at his first press conference as president-elect, Sanders can’t stop taking shots at Clinton. Perhaps losing the popular vote is that damaging to one’s ego.
Sanders! What a loser! He's just like Trump!

In any event, speaking to NPR’s Morning Edition, Sanders argued, “Look, you can’t simply go around to wealthy people’s homes raising money and expect to win elections.” The Vermont senator went on to declare, “I happen to believe that the Democratic Party has been not doing a good job in terms of communicating with people in cities, in towns and in rural America, all over this country.”
This is the same man who lamented that having so many Southern primaries in the early months of the Democratic primary “distorts reality.”
Arceneaux provides no argument or evidence for asserting that Sanders is wrong about how the Democrat's inability to communicate with Americans is hurting them. He simply lists it as a thing that Sanders said which Arceneaux thinks is wrong, and then brings up what seems to be a non sequitur: What, one wonders, does Sanders' disapproval of the timing of the primaries have to do with the Democrats' losing elections because they can't get their message ("I'm Not Trump" -- Hillary Clinton, 2016) to Americans?

Well, everything: By front-loading Southern primaries, Democrats make the nominee have to appeal to Southern voters early on, when fundraising is based primarily on name recognition and thus favors 'rock star' candidates like Hillary!.  This in turn helps those 'rock star' candidates seem very successful early on, which then pushes the idea that a Sanders-like candidate simply 'can't win' the nomination, because he's doing poorly in the early primaries.  Put more simply, the more a candidate wins early on, the more likely the public will see that candidate as the one that should be backed. And the more a candidate wins early on in primaries depends heavily on how well-known that candidate is before the primary.

The Democrats, then, ensure that their candidates must be well-known, heavily-backed candidates who have a strong appeal to Southern voters in order to have a shot at being nominated.  Then, when a candidate locks in the nomination (or appears certain to do so) the campaign in other states winds down, so later-primary states get less primary focus. When Wisconsin held its primary, I voted for Sanders, knowing it was all but certain he could not get the nomination by then. (Sanders won Wisconsin, but nearly every story about it noted that Sanders almost certainly could not win the nomination, based on how the Democrats' nomination system works.)

Arceneaux:

Hillary Clinton ran an unsuccessful campaign, but to say she ran a bad campaign is disingenuous. 

Why? "We didn't win the game, but to say we lost is disingenous." Hillary!'s campaign was hacked because her workers had bad cyber security. She didn't campaign nearly enough in many states. She picked as a VP nominee a near-unknown whose only appeal was that he was from the South, it seems. Grassroots supports expressed dismay with nearly everything Hillary! did. And you: name a Hillary! campaign position (other than one I told you about in this post.) You likely can't.

After saying Hillary! didn't run a bad campaign, Arceneaux goes full hypothetical question:

Should she have campaigned more in black neighborhoods? According to the results of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, sure. Could she have made greater attempts at reaching out to rural voters, even though they’re not exactly Democratic strongholds? It’s fair to say yes.
"Should Hillary! have campaigned hard in states that were battlegrounds and which could turn the election? Yes. Could she have tried to expand the Democrats' message to new constituencies? Yes."

Did she do those things? No. She ran a bad campaign.

That said, Clinton had nearly 3 million more votes than our president-elect
"That said, if the election had been run in some way other than the way we've run them for 238 years, Hillary! would have won." Was Hillary! unaware of how the electoral college would work in 2016, and therefore unable to try to win the election that would be held, rather than the election she wished we would hold?

and lost by about 80,000 votes in three states heavily affected by voter suppression, an issue that the likes of Sanders and others failed to truly speak on, at their own peril.

Republicans can pass voter-suppression laws because Democrats let Republicans win state elections and control state legislatures. The Republicans openly say they are doing this, and it helps them win elections. Democrats continue to ignore that. Many people disagree on the effects of voter suppression laws vis a vis the 2016 elections. But more to Arceneaux's point: Sanders did attack voter suppression laws. Sanders' attack on Wisconsin's law was called "relentless[]" by The Hill.

Referring to Clinton's loss in the election, Arceneaux says:

Clinton achieved this feat despite a media consumed by a nonissue about her email server as it gleefully reported on stolen material secured through hackers so ordered by the Russian government.

Arceneaux is a part of the media, as is Jezebel (the blog hosting his column, loosely speaking.) Jezebel frequently reported on the Clinton emails.

Political losses should yield a real examination of what went wrong, 

yes they should...


but Sanders is someone who, on par with a robot, just repeats what’s already been programmed. The man is not saying anything new or remotely insightful. Clinton performed far better than he arguably ever could have with a diverse coalition that he never enjoyed or made a real effort to build.

... but not by Arceneaux.  Is his argument really "It's better that Democrats narrowly lose with Clinton than lose by a lot with Sanders?" Seems like it. Arceneaux is the reason why the coach of your favorite NFL team, down 20-0 in the 4th quarter, kicks a field goal.

Sanders’ lil’ media tour, in which he sings another sad love song like he’s Toni Braxton, is good for Bernie Sanders, but what about the party, and what about the rest of us?

First off, Toni Braxton is a hateful person who views her son's autism as a punishment for Toni Braxton. She's said so.  Secondly,

To wit, during a recent town hall with CNN, Sanders was asked if the Democrats, like the Republicans immediately following the swearing-in of President Barack Obama, should obstruct the new commander in chief. “I don’t think that’s what we do,” Sanders answered. “I think where Trump has ideas that make sense that we can work with him on, I think we should.”
Where exactly is that? Trade policy, a grievance shared by both men, came up, and Sanders said that he would be “prepared to sit down and work on a new trade policy which is based on fairness, not just on corporate greed.” One of the great loves of the reality-TV version of Ebenezer Scrooge’s life is greed, so what is the point of saying this?

Secondly, both Trump and Sanders oppose TPP, as I noted. More importantly, Arceneaux's point here is literally this:  If Trump proposes something the Democrats like the Democrats should still oppose it because it comes from Trump. This is the politics of nihilism the Republicans excel at.  What if Trump proposed single-payer universal health care, because he personally would benefit from it? Should the Democrats say no way man? 

Republicans were wrong to obstruct Obama, 

You have just undermined your own last point.

especially when you consider how willing he was to compromise for the sake of the greater good. ...

The Democrats expressly did not compromise on Obamacare, forcing it through using the same Congressional procedure that they now fault the Republicans for using to try to repeal that law.

Now, as we look at a man building an administration very much in line with the demagoguery and exploitation his campaign was known for, Sanders is scolding Democrats based on mythology while pretending that he can get something down with the bigot ruler-in-waiting.

What is even  going on in that sentence? I don't understand this at all, but if you are following the box score, it is:

1. Sanders is wrong to say Dems can compromise with Trump.
2. Republicans were wrong not to compromise with Obama.
3. Sanders is wrong to say Dems can compromise with Trump.

Arceneaux:

Not surprisingly, when asked if he would run for president again in 2020, Sanders wouldn’t offer any definitive response. He likes the attention too much for that. 
Sanders will be 76 this year. So far, I don't know of any candidate that has definitely committed to running in 2020, so it's obvious that not just Sanders, but every single politician enjoys the attention of the media too much to say they will definitely run for the next presidency when the newest one hasn't even been sworn in.

Although Sanders may be sincere in his stances on the evils of classism, 
Yeah, just because he's publicly espoused these beliefs for 3/4 of a century is no reason to think the guy is sincere.  By the way, Bernie Sanders' net worth of $528,000 is roughly 1/100th of Hillary!'s $53,000,000 net worth. Those figures might seem important to you, if you were the type of person who thought possibly someone was not sincere in their public statements about the evils of classism.
for all the admonishment he’s offered Democrats, he’s shown no sign of learning about his own shortcomings. At this point, he very much just enjoys the sound of his own voice and the attention. 

I'm sure that is precisely why Sanders continues to doggedly insist that Democrats pay attention to the problem of income distribution, health care, and political voice. He likes the attention! I'm surprised he hasn't dated one of the Kardashians, the attention hog!

Arceneaux of course does not say what shortcomings Sanders should be aware of, or any support for the notion that Sanders is pushing back solely to get attention.

In recent days, Bernie Sanders has been speaking out about the repeal of Obamacare, helped work to get new blood into the Democratic party to push populist programs, given a town hall speech to promote his agenda, announced he was seeking areas to work with Trump on, and was lined up to speak at a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Many nascent political movements die at the first sign of a setback. In recent decades, "Perotistas" never made much of an impact, and the Tea Party's political influence has been pruned down considerably, with establishment Republicans again running the show, albeit from a spot a bit more to the right than they were 8 years ago.  It is heartening, then, to see Sanders continue his own drive, and to not just do so by attempting to seize the brass ring, as Hillary! does, but by actually energizing the grass roots and looking to foment change at all levels of the political hill.

There is reason to think Sanders could be successful in pushing back against 50 years of redistribution of wealth to a smaller and smaller group of people in society while children literally die in our streets for lack of a social safety net. The vast majority of Americans, when polled recently, back Sanders' stances on nearly every single issue. The article that sentence links to points out that the reason Americans don't have the programs they support is because the political elite have consistently diverted voters' attention from those issues that matter to so called 'culture war' issues.  In this, the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans: both desperately want to distract you from the fact that the 1% who make up the power structure in both parties benefit from economic policies that balance megawealth on the backs of the poor and middle class.  Michael Arceneaux is simply another tool in the hands of people like Hillary! and Trump, and it is Michael Arceneaux and the people like him who should shut up.