Politicians often promise the electorate, especially at the outsets of their campaigns, not to "go negative" or take pot shots at their opponents. We hear phrases like "issues oriented," "positive campaigning," and "bridging partisan divides." And behind the scenes, no matter the rhetoric, somebody, somewhere, is digging up dirt on the other side. But why? What is the appeal and effect of negative campaigning?
I've been in Austin, Texas for the past week, and the highlight of my hectic live show calendar has been Calliope Musicals, a young, up-and-coming indie country/folk band started by Carrie Fussell and Matt Roth less than a year ago. This is exactly the kind of thing indie fans swoon over: the chance to say we knew them back BEFORE they went mainstream and got picked up by the radio (patooie). So fall in love with them, quick!
Mad Men's fourth season, which finished this past Sunday night, had a dualistic quality, it seemed to me. On the one hand, the season had some of the strongest episodes of the entire series—particularly "The Suitcase," which I wrote about in this space before. On the other, it had easily the worst, most blunt, least moving finale of all four seasons. It also signaled a sort of repetition in storytelling that I think may show that the writers are running out of juice. I'm not sure how many times, for example, I can worry about Sterling Cooper in crisis, or tolerate Don unloading all his familial responsibilities on another wife he'll undoubtedly tire of.
The one consistency, it seemed to me, was that the show had a lot more trouble than usual writing its women this season. Much of the best writing centered around Peggy, which I've covered in past posts here, and who barely appeared in last night's finale, so let's talk about the other female characters.
I still haven't read Sara Marcus's book on Riot Grrl, Girls to the Front, but I did bring two friends down to a reading in NYC last night that featured Marcus, poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Rob Sheffield.
Marcus gave the most rock'n'roll reading I've ever heard for what's essentially a history book, though a vibrant, living history book built on having lived through that moment and spent years considering, rolling around in what it might mean. She straddled the mic, propped a foot on a monitor, and sang Kathleen Hanna's lyrics in a voice built for punk bands.
Voltairine de Cleyre was an Anarchist thinker, lecturer, and writer. A contemporary of Emma Goldman's, she was known for her strength of will and commitment to the power of the individual. (Incidentally, she was also a total babe.)
I wanted to write about de Cleyre for the obvious reason that she was a totally brilliant early feminist, but also because while Goldman, her colleague and sometimes adversary, was and continues to be a hugely famous progressive hero, de Cleyre is a relatively obscure figure. This is partly because she died young and partly because she wasn't nearly as gregarious as Goldman, preferring to publish and fundraise in relative solitude. But! The work she did, though different than Goldman's, was just as important.
I had fully intended to take on the "everyone for themselves" quality of predicting election results, spending some time researching through the he said/he said (that's not a typo) of who will win the House and Senate when the smoke clears on November 3. And then German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened her mouth. What flew out was such a smelly stream of political diarrhea that I have to shift gears and write about elections, international context, and ugly racism.