Five Things: July 1, 2020

As I wrote on Twitter earlier today, well, the first two decades of 2020 are done. Let’s get to the next few decades! And to start off, these five things:

Trump, doubling down on being a racist piece of shit: This time by asserting that “Black Lives Matter” is a symbol of hate, which is not something he would say about, oh, the battle flag of a racist country that went to war specifically to own people. Because he’s a racist, you see. But we knew that about him. Also, you know, look: When the actual government of Mississippi is to the left of you on the whole “symbols of hate” thing, you may be too far out on that racist limb. The silver lining here is that there’s increasingly little wiggle room for the few remaining Trump supporters who want to believe that they are not racist to maneuver that particular rationale; Trump is seeing to that. Meanwhile:

The GOP defection is real: At least for old establishment Republicans who did time in Washington, in this case, a bunch of Bush-years folks. I don’t think individually these sort of public defections matter that much, but what it is doing by aggregation is giving a whole bunch of GOP voters sick of Trump’s bullshit cover to step into a voting booth and vote for a Democrat just this once. Of course, it doesn’t solve the problem of the fact that the GOP base is filled with racist ignorants who want conspiracy theorists as their elected representatives. But, I guess, one problem at a time.

Meanwhile, Putin, Ruler for Life: Russian voters (or, at least, we’re told Russian voters) approved changes in the Russian constitution that lets Putin run for president there at least twice more after his current term ends in 2024. You can bet our current president is super-jealous today about that. I don’t know enough about the Russian electoral system to know if the fix was actually in there, although I do know that Putin is more popular generally in Russia than our own president is here, so it’s entirely possible that the Russians would be happy to have Putin run things until he’s 83. Live your dreams, Russian electorate!

Catching readers up: Over on Reddit, someone asked about repetition of information in series books and why it’s done, and used the Old Man’s War series as an example of such repetition (and in the poster’s opinion, not a great one, although they liked the series generally). Since I was in a position to know why I repeat information in the series, I went ahead and explained it. If you’re interested, go ahead and click the link at the head of this paragraph (also, please don’t give the original poster any guff; it was a fair criticism and I wasn’t offended by it).

It’s Debbie Harry’s birthday! She’s 75. It’s a good age. Have a Blondie video.

41 Comments on “Five Things: July 1, 2020”

  1. Speaking as someone who was a girl in the 80’s: reading The Baby-Sitters Club had the longest recaps of everything ever after awhile. Like several chapters at the start of every book because you never know when someone will start reading the series at #173.

  2. Lois McMaster Bujold has said that one of the inherent challenges with writing a series is that readers “may encounter the books in random order.”

  3. I’m keeping it down. Virtual fireworks scheduled for 10pm EST tonight, just go outside and point your phone at the sky. (Twitter lurker)

    Deborah Henry. Seventy-five.

    I liked your responses to the Reddit.

  4. You didn’t address this particular thing, but I also like recaps when I read book series years and years apart. While it’s nice, once they’re published, to rip through a series back to back, it can be moderately difficult to remember the rules of the universe and the situation when you’ve read 100 other books between one book and its sequel.

  5. (1) Conspiracy theories are all the GOP base have left. They’ve lost and they know it, so millenarianism is the only way they can continue to feel like they have control. But this also means that they have no intention of making peace with anyone not on their side.
    (2) Putin is more popular generally and what little faith Russian citizens ever had in the democratic process has long since been beaten out of them. So “support” for Putin is more like resignation that things will never change. Which was always the point.

  6. I wish the recaps would be put into an intro or forward labeled as such (like when an episode of a TV series says “Previously on As The World Upchucks” and shows some clips) rather than spending a lot of time filling things in. In particular, I found the amount in The Last Emperox felt more extensive and obtrusive than usual. I understand why this needs to happen in a series like OMW or the Vorkosigan books, where it’s a series of indeterminate length, but when something is planned as a duology or trilogy it seems reasonable to enable readers to dive right into each book. Just my view as a reader.

  7. In terms of bingeing video I like streaming services that allow you to skip “Previously on *****” and get right to the show. Those re-caps drive me up a wall.

  8. I guess President Putin doesn’t want to give up power again, like the time he ceded all power to Prime Minister of Parliament Vladimir Putin…

  9. To be clear, said small step has everything to do with the dragging she got, not her weak, defensive and “sorry I got caught” apology for regurgitating racist bootstrapping rhetoric.

    Here’s hoping she does the smart, dignified thing rather than be dragged out by every hair on her racist little head.

  10. Two years ago I hoped that our current living presidents would meet with Trump and tell him that his behavior is beneath the dignity of the office and maybe things will change.
    That is no longer possible. With the GOP senate not willing to hear impeachment witnesses, I told my British friend, “Well, Democracy had a good run. Now what.” He agreed.
    With Trump’s talk of “The Deep State” Voter fraud, and the most fraudulent election ever. He has his voters primed not to believe the election results. It may come to a point that his supporters will not even believe Fox News stating that Biden is now the President-elect.

    Please stay off of social media and write, write, and write. Reduce the stress in your life. Pictures of you working straight all week to finish a book are disheartening. .

  11. “Black Lives Matter” might be racist if it were asserting that black lives matter more than (for example) those of white people or police; since it seems to be asserting that black people’s lives should have the same value we already accord to the lives of others, I’m not certain where our President’s assertion comes from (other than a lot of orifices filled with a lot of….something). This Administration (or the GOP) isn’t a good touchstone for moral concerns about life anyway, seeing its lack of concern for the lives of older people or soldiers or…pretty much anyone that isn’t a wealthy (middle-aged) white guy that doesn’t do what they don’t like.

    A Facebook post from a Trump person combined the text that people were racist when they included any adjective before “Lives Matter” and a picture of an older man with a walker and a black man. I am not sure whether the post was an interesting piece of irony or part n of the Trumpite strategy of “here’s hoping we can make your tune out logic and other information sources so that you’ll listen only to the words of the Dear Leader”.I suspect the latter, alas.

  12. For my tastes and needs you put in the right amount of recap. I used to remember details better, but my memory has gone to crap and I only recall broad strokes of characters and plots if it’s been more than a few months since I finished a book (months is generous actually, I may forget in weeks or days). I think I binged several OMW books in a row when I first started reading you, and didn’t find the amount of recap off-putting. Now I read your books as they’re published, which means I’ve forgotten a lot between entries in a series, but generally haven’t found myself too lost (exception being the plot&characters on End in the Last Emperox, just had a big hole in my memory and struggled with what was going on in that particular plot line).

    I have to pick and choose what authors I can read as they publish vs. when a series is complete, because with some I will simply be too lost and annoyed if they fail to provide the amount of recap I need. Of course I can reread, but with the size of my to-be-read pile that seems a waste of time if I just need my memory jogged, as opposed to re-reading a beloved book because I’m in the mood for it.

    An author that puts way too much recap in is Jean Auel. Each book of her Earth’s Children series is bloated with not just recap but often full-on retelling of past events, to the point I’ve wondered just how slim the books would be if it was all cut out.

  13. The fact that Debbie Harry is 75 makes me really feel the passage of time. She’ll forever be the witch from Tales from the Darkside: The Movie in my mind.

  14. I had a serious moment of dismay when I saw Debbie Harry was trending on Twitter this am, followed by great relief that it was just her birthday. Oof.

  15. No. No way. It is not possible that Debbie Harry is 75 years old. No. I refuse to believe that.

  16. BLM may be a symbol of ‘hate’, just not as Trump interprets it. It’s hatred of racism. It’s hatred of police brutality. It’s hatred of ears that will not listen.

    Even the bible tells us that there is “A time to love and a time to hate”

    Ecclesiastes 3:8

  17. The fact that the Russian election results were announced before the polls close should tell you everything you need to know about how many voters mattered.

  18. I recently read Human Division and End of All Things, after having read the prior books a few years back. And I noticed the repeated recaps. I enjoyed the books and the time spent reading was well worth it.

    Regarding the Interdependency series — these days, I tend to wait until the series is finished before starting. Thanks, George RR and Patrick Rothfuss. Your series is on my list since April.

  19. As someone who has memory issues (partially inherent, partially due to getting older, and, for a very frustrating year recently, partially iatrogenic), I definitely appreciate recaps, even for series I’ve been following. Otherwise, I’ll find myself needing to go back and read the last few chapters (or more) of the prior book to try to reestablish context or searching out a plot summary on-line.

    It doesn’t have to be a lot (and you do a great job with it), but a sentence or paragraph here or there to remind the reader who the characters are, what their relationships are, and what happened in prior books that’s going to be important to allow this one to make sense is greatly appreciated.

  20. Quite honestly, the best series recaps I’ve seen were a half-dozen or pages as a preface in some of the Baen Ringo/Kratman series. They gave a broad brush of the world-building, a brief synopsis of events to date, and sketches of the main characters. An unobtrusive method that set the stage and didn’t require lots and lots of recursive text in the book itself.

    Referring Russia–historically Russians as a culture have preferred to be ruled by a strongman rather than someone elected from a collection of competitors who served out their term and departed the stage (i.e. a czar/dictator rather than a democracy). Putin fits nicely into that slot.

  21. I feel compelled to point out that these “Bush-era republicans” were ok with all of that era’s b.s. including lying us in to two illegitimate wars and committing war crimes in addition to the rapacious tax cuts and other horrid policies. They created the party that allowed trump to lead it, but, if it wasn’t trump it’d be some other xenophobic, racist, sexist, misogynistic pig. If they vote republican, they condone ALL of the republican platform not just the bits that don’t sound so horrible. So fine, vote against trump, but, then fade away because when the denazification starts after Inauguration Day, they’d better pray that we the people continue to turn a blind eye on *their* actions.

  22. After reading that amiable linked discussion of recaps in series, my eye drifted down to the discussion of Flowers for Algernon, which made a lasting impression on me. I had a subscription to F&SF when it came out – a lifetime subscription, not yet expired. At the time you could also get a lifetime subscription to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine; some people got renewal notices for theirs, which made them nervous – the way I feel when Google starts showing me lots of ads for new cars: I figure they know something I don’t.

  23. For those of us who would be eligible to be drafted into the old man’s army, some recap is a GOOD thing…

  24. So the Russian “election” was not actually an election or even a meaningful referendum. All the constitutional changes being voted on (getting rid of term limits was only one of around 200) had already been passed by the Duma (Russian parliament) and were taking effect regardless of how people voted. It was just an opinion poll – an opportunity to publicly perform support. There were as many shenanigans as one would expect, and then some (let’s vote at the tree stump! let’s vote online as many times as we want!), but the outcome didn’t matter for anything except pride. The target result was about 73% support, and they’ll achieve it.

    My careful canvassing of my Russian colleagues, friends, and students over the last week or so didn’t turn up anyone who actually supported the changes, just a lot of sad resignation about their inevitability. Exit polls in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg were looking at <50% support. So perhaps we could lose the stereotype of "all Russians want to be ruled by a dictator"? There's a sizable minority that don't. And how often, exactly, have Russians been given a real choice in the matter over the course of history? How much cultural support and training – something we take completely for granted in America – is there for democracy there?

  25. FL Transport: America has traditionally preferred a system of racial apartheid, in one form or another; so are we stuck with that forever? Let’s not buy into “manifest destiny” for anyone’s culture or ethnicity.

  26. Re: Stu’s comment on recaps being useful when books in a series come out widely spaced in time.
    I first read Game of Thrones when books 1,2,3 were already out and maybe a year later 4 came out.
    By the time I got around to Dance With Dragons, though? I had trouble remembering who was who and why I cared. More recap would have helped.

  27. I’m thankful when books repeat information from the previous books, because even if I love a series, sometimes it can be years between when I’m able to get the next book in one.

  28. I have a couple friends who’ve had something to say about Putin’s “popularity” in Russia.

    The first friend was an election monitor for the UN who monitored Putin’s first election in 2012. He told me that it was common in many districts for a member of the FSB, with a gun, to be standing over the ballot box when you deposited your ballot. So, you know, no pressure.

    The second friend had worked for the Mosad spying in Russia in the early 90’s (he’s an artist-blacksmith now, so better life). He explained that the Soviet government had an extensive network of paid/blackmailed informants … literally over a million Russians. This network was never dismantled, and as a former KGB operative, Putin was able to take over this network on his ascent to power. It’s useful to have a million citizens who will always vote and advocate for you no matter what you do.

    And then there’s the assassination or jailing of any opposition politician who looks to become a real challenge to Putin.

    So, sure, he’s “more popular” in Russia.

  29. My take on 2020 – it feels like the world has gone crazy. For those that are familiar with Babylon 5 – feels like we are the victim of the Drakh plague.

    And the coming election – feels like we have a selection between Waldorf and Statler from the muppets. Two old farts that are sitting on their own balcony in isolation and not everyone gets what they are talking about. Is this really the best that the parties could come up with?

  30. [Deleted for being racist but thinking he was hiding the racism cleverly with bad equivalence. Strike one, sir. Also, when I donated to BLM, it was via a registered charity, so — JS]

  31. Don’t be too quick to put MS (as an aggregate) to Trump’s left. Just a couple of weeks ago, the NCAA and SEC told the state to lose the flag or lose out on major college athletics events being scheduled for the state and probably a loss of TV appearances. Between the threat to the pocketbook and the overall cultural importance of college athletics, especially football, in MS, they acted very swiftly.

  32. On recaps, I have only been reading series in order since I turned 60, and have been alerted by recaps that there were prior books (before the internet it was sometimes hard to tell). I have found, particularly in rereading the OMW series, that questions I had are often answered in the rereading. I try to space the books out, so that recaps aren’t annoying, but can easily skim over them, too. I think these ones help to establish the POV of the current volume.
    On our current society, I’m mulling over right-wing and social-dominance bases of thought, that is, assuming that the world is a dangerous place, or the world is a cut-throat jungle. Consider the gun-buying response of so many to the initial Covid19 awareness. Trump is clearly a social-dominance guy. I wonder if some right-wingers might find his I-must-dominate style too dangerous to continue? It’s a thought. When people are fear-based, they don’t have much emotional room to spare for actual reality. That was my background, so I keep working on getting real, but under stress we do regress. On the other hand, becoming conscious of what’s actually going on tends to change one’s emotional reactions quite a lot.
    Thanks for the food for thought.

  33. The Economist Espresso report this morning implied that the referendum, such as it was, lumped together extending Putin’s eligibility, banning gay marriage, and retaining pensions. So something for everybody, sounds like, and one of those things where most people would feel more strongly about the thing they like on the list than the thing they don’t like.

  34. Hap said:

    ““Black Lives Matter” might be racist if it were asserting that black lives matter more than (for example) those of white people or police; since it seems to be asserting that black people’s lives should have the same value we already accord to the lives of others, I’m not certain where our President’s assertion comes from (other than a lot of orifices filled with a lot of….something).”

    It’s a ploy to further terrify cowardly, racist geriatrics and militarize belligerent white trash. I.e. consolidate Trump’s base before the coming elections. “They’re coming for you – we must stand together.” In other words, nothing we haven’t seen before.

    Trying to make sense out of a statement designed for the senile and moronic is a great way to drive yourself nuts. Don’t bother.

  35. @ G. B. Miller:

    First, you are a racist.

    I’m not going to sugar coat or keep quiet about who and what people are any longer.

    The time for *that* kind of “civil discourse” has passed.

    Second, your assertions are typical of racist conservatives (funny how mutually inclusive those things have come to be) who, when rattled and/or angered by social change, trot out whataboutism and disingenuous false equivalencies rooted in hypocrisy and faux ignorance.

    Come now; you know very well that marginalization doesn’t manifest itself in the same way for all groups.

    If you don’t, you should, and there’s no excuse for not knowing.

    Homogenizing marginalized groups, conflating their experiences with those of abuse victims and ignoring the specific dangers certain groups face is not only intellectually lazy and dishonest but reprehensible on multiple levels.

    Also, the social phenomena you mentioned have profound and far reaching consequences for victims; no one has argued otherwise.

    Anyone who has is worthy of the same kind of scorn and condemnation that racists get.

    That said, anyone who asserts that sex abuse victims and brown skinned people are on the same difficulty setting is worthy of a healthy dose of pity, as there are only a few things that might explain that degree of ignorance, none of them good.

    I’ll also put a chip on the “but, but, but black-on-black crime” spot on the racist bingo card and note your strawman. 😊

    My question is, are you seriously implying or outright stating that black folks should sit down and shut up about systematic racism and lynching because other segments of our society have it rough, too?

    To continue, you also know that *your* candidate of choice has and continues to consort with white supremacists, bend over for autocrats, profit from his presidency and reach out to foreign entities to help him circumvent the democratic process

    I’m assuming*that* corruption and *those* relationships are A-Okay because they benefit you and yours.
    Most importantly, are you going to flatly refuse to investigate the most recent revelation about Russia’s attack on our troops or keep an “open mind “about what your candidate of choice may have ignored/tacitly supported?

    I’ll wait.

    @Nils H:

    Well, the “party” had about two dozen candidates from which to choose, many of whom were miles above Biden.

    We have the candidate we deserve because splintering, racism and misogyny.

    Obama’s election and reelection notwithstanding, this country, in addition to preferring racial apartheid, seems to prefer familiar emblems of authority (straight, white, male and older) in the Whitehouse.

    Eight years of a mid then late -forties black man (mind you, racists did any and everything they could to kneecap his efforts) in the Oval Office doesn’t change that, no matter how many times racist right-wingers and selective antiracists insist that it does.

    And again, we have bigoted (waves hi to misogynists, sexists, ageists, racists and homophobes), social Darwinist liberals to thank for our presumptive nominee.

    Ultimately, I can’t think of a single presidential candidate who didn’t rate a “but” or a “I’m not crazy about (insert unpopular policy/platform/point of disagreement) when described.

    It so happens that our *only* real option is a cranky, semi-articulate septuagenarian with a racist voting record and a history of penning essays that condemn women who want to earn their own money rather than enter into paternal relationships with their husbands.

    Obama is his “black friend” and, apparently, gives him license to determine the constitutive criteria for blackness.

    In short, he wasn’t even my fifth choice.

    That said, me being black, disabled and female, I much prefer the sixth best our party has to offer to the worst option either party has, at least in my lifetime, ever offered.

  36. Aaaaaand I see that John has malleted the target of the first half of my post.

    Here’s the second half

    @Nils H:

    Well, the “party” had about two dozen candidates from which to choose, many of whom were miles above Biden.

    We have the candidate we deserve because splintering, racism and misogyny.

    Obama’s election and reelection notwithstanding, this country, in addition to preferring racial apartheid, seems to prefer familiar emblems of authority (straight, white, male and older) in the Whitehouse.

    Eight years of a mid then late -forties black man (mind you, racists did any and everything they could to kneecap his efforts) in the Oval Office doesn’t change that, no matter how many times racist right-wingers and selective antiracists insist that it does.

    And again, we have bigoted (waves hi to misogynists, sexists, ageists, racists and homophobes), social Darwinist liberals to thank for our presumptive nominee.

    Ultimately, I can’t think of a single presidential candidate who didn’t rate a “but” or a “I’m not crazy about (insert unpopular policy/platform/point of disagreement) when described.

    It so happens that our *only* real option is a cranky, semi-articulate septuagenarian with a racist voting record and a history of penning essays that condemn women who want to earn their own money rather than enter into paternal relationships with their husbands.

    Obama is his “black friend” and, apparently, gives him license to determine the constitutive criteria for blackness.

    In short, he wasn’t even my fifth choice.

    That said, me being black, disabled and female, I much prefer the sixth best our party has to offer to the worst option either party has, at least in my lifetime, ever offered.

  37. Among the amendments were a bunch that shifted power among various branches of the government, limitations on dual citizenship and foreign residency for politicians (which I would interpret as a way of controlling elites, who often set up escape hatches abroad), establishing the supremacy of the Russian law over international law, resetting presidential term limits and allowing consecutive terms, and then a string of popular/populist ones: indexing the minimum wage and pensions (that one’s actually good), establishing religious belief as a national characteristic, and defining marriage as between and a man and a woman. The opposition seems to have mostly sat this one out, since it was a meaningless vote anyway. The new constitution was already enacted back in the winter. This vote was just political theater.

    I talked to a couple of young Russians this morning who had had to be persuaded to vote by their friends, since they felt it was futile and knew the result was predetermined, but eventually did, against the amendments, (1) to prevent their vote being cast for them (ah, Russia…), (2) to put them in a moral position to complain in the future, and (3) because they felt it was important to vote to express their opinion. It’s painful to watch the young people who really would like an actual, meaningful vote and are seeing their future…shrinking. So much sadness, but they haven’t completely given up.

  38. I wouldn’t flame the OP of that Reddit thread at all. Not only did he thank you for the feedback, he later realized what might have contributed to his initial impression: he binge-read the OMW series all at once, whereas (he acknowledged) he might have appreciated the recaps more if he’d read each book as they were published.

    It was a highly civil interaction, all told. r/wholesomereddit indeed.

  39. Re: Debbie Harry. Saw her in concert with Blondie last August (40 years after the first time I saw them!) and saw her and Chris Stein at a book event later in the fall. She’s still got it, although she did jump around on stage a lot more in 1978. Since she was already 30+ when Blondie had their big hits, it just seems like she should not be that old.