Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Dave Chapelle is probably more homophobic
than Mark Twain or JFK, but the Kennedy Center
just gave him a prize anyway

Before leaving Virginia City
for San Francisco, Twain wrote
in his newspaper: "Dan De Quille
and Mark Twain are to be
married shortly. About time."
      At the doings mentioned above, Chappelle, humbly blowing cigarette smoke from the stage, accepted his trophy, bravely steadfast against those killjoys who won't praise clever homophobic jerkwads like himself.
     Unlike Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schift, Mark Twain did not attend the love fest because the rumors of his death are no longer rumors.
     America's cleverest gay basher is an odd choice for an award given in a building named for John F. Kennedy whose lifelong best friend, Lem Billings, was gay.
     As for Twain, he may well have had liaisons with other men in the mining camps and newspaper offices of the early 1860s American West.
     The argument, as restated by telephone Thursday by Andy Hoffman, 37, a visiting scholar at Brown University who is working on a Twain biography, is this: During Twain's Western years — primarily between 1861 and 1866 — he developed strong friendships with men such as fellow journalists Dan De Quille and Clement Rice.
Lem Billings and JFK
     In both cases, the friendships ended abruptly and acrimoniously — resembling romances scorned. "It seemed to me they had passionate endings because they were passionate relationships," Hoffman said. (Twain came East permanently in 1868, married Olivia Langdon in 1870 and moved to Hartford in 1871.)
     Western humorist Artemus Ward, who Hoffman says was homosexual, once wrote a letter to Twain that opened, "My dearest love ..."
     "Whether it's simply a joke or whether it is more significant about the nature of the relationship is anyone's guess. My guess is that it's more about the nature of the relationship," Hoffman said.
     In a newspaper squib a few weeks before Twain left Virginia City for San Francisco, he wrote: "Dan De Quille and Mark Twain are to be married shortly. About time." "Which seems kind of blatant, even for frontier humor," Hoffman observed.
     In addition, Twain's San Francisco crowd included a group of writers who called themselves the Bohemians. They were, Hoffman said, quite tolerant of homosexual and bisexual behavior. [The male/female ratio in San Francisco in 1860 was 158/100; and most women were married — AKSARBENT]
     We note the above not because we care a fig about casting Samuel Clemons as gay, bisexual, or Adventurous When Drunk, but rather to contrast his lack of interest — as opposed to Herr Chappelle — in flinging invective at LGBTs.
     In Chappelle's current streaming Netflix special, "Sticks and Stones," he claims that he loves everybody and everybody loves him (just like Anita Bryant!) before going on to shout FAGGOT into his mic twice, mock the looks of Chinese Americans, pronounce 36-year-old women beyond their expiration date and tell feminists they're not going about their mission correctly.
     He indulges in enough self-pity to allow that the "T" component of the "alphabet people" hate his guts, which sounds plausible, and only ungrateful if you buy Chappelle's assertion that he ran his trans jokes past a genuine transexual, and that she "was laughing hardest" at them. (You have to take Chappelle's word for it, because Daphne Dornan committed suicide earlier this month in San Francisco.)
     Just because you're funny doesn't mean you're not an asshole, and disingenuously nailing yourself to the cross of blowback from being a dick, don't, as Shania Twain says, impress us much.
     There are a million ways to mine humor from the existence of LGBTs without impersonating a rattlesnake, but Chapelle seems not to know any of them. His pick ax is for grinding, not for digging for better ways to be funny.
     Maybe he should watch an old episode of Friends, which was more woke about these things decades ago than Dave Chappelle shows any promise of ever being.

More about Twain from playwright Larry Kramer in The Guardian:
“Most histories are written by straight people who wouldn’t know, see the signs that a gay person does when they look at a person’s life,” Kramer said. “I mean, how could you write the life of Mark Twain without realising that he was hugely, hugely gay? The way he lived, who his friends were, and how his relationships began. And what he wrote about! I don’t know how you could avoid the assumption that he’s gay.” (Kramer is not the first to raise this possibility, but it is not a view accepted by most Twain scholars.)

Friday, October 25, 2019

Gay NY Rep. Sean Maloney on GOP invasion of closed impeachment inquiry hearing: They let the yahoos in

Rachel Maddow talked to Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney Thursday. (Fun fact about Maloney: he was raised with his six siblings in what he describes as a "small Irish Catholic family.") Here's how he described GOP members storming a closed  impeachment inquiry hearing room (with prohibited cell phones).
The circus came to town in a space usually reserved for serious work... They let the yahoos in. I mean Steve King, who they've kicked off every other committee because he's a racist. Remember that? He was in the room, so is it their position that now they want Steve King involved, that it's not enough that 45 of their members have every right to be there for every deposition, that their lawyers get equal time, that their members get equal time, and of course the funny part is that very few of them have taken advantage of that because apparently they don't want to do the actual work... Ask yourself why no facts favorable to the president have leaked from the other side.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Netflix's Laundromat: 80% documentary,
100% rollicking good time

Do not rip off Meryl Streep if you know what's good for you
Once again Meryl Streep proves that it's her world, one that you and I are only allowed to cohabit by her gracious dispensation.
     Laundromat is a terrifically informative romp through the maze of Caribbean tax avoidance* that ends with a boffo double reveal by Streep who reminds you how much fun and risky it is to gasp and laugh simultaneously, as she effortlessly jerks your perceptions like a yo-yo.
     This gun hater even liked the scene in which Streep (sort of) peppered an office with the buckshot of righteous wrath from a woman whose insurance settlement has been grievously wronged.
     Along the way Antonio Banderas (as the suave rationalizing Latino crook), Gary Oldman (as the funny, rationalizing Kraut crook) and Sharon Stone as a carnivorous realtor with no loyalties, expertly try to steal the movie from Streep, as task as hopeless as trying to boost the Hope Diamond from the Smithsonian in a gift shop bag.)
     Enjoy, Netflix subscribers.
*The film reminds you that it isn't just Switzerland and the Caribbean that shelter the money of the rich: "1209 North Orange Street in Wilmington, Delaware is home to 285,000 companies."

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Omaha World-Herald left out a lot in Sunday's full-page piece on trailer park tenant exploitation

On Sunday, the World-Herald devoted a full page to an AP story on how Big Money has invaded mobile home parks, the last refuge of heretofore affordable housing in America.
     (We suggest you skip the Herald's edited version, and go directly to the source.)
     One of the cuts was the highlighted part below:
Rolfe’s training academy has been widely criticized — including on “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver — for teaching people how they can reap profits from homeowners whom Rolfe has referred to as held “hostage.” In defense, Rolfe said local owners have kept rent “unsustainably low” and that many are “held together with chicken wire and duct tape.”
      Maybe that deletion was for reasons of space — or maybe it was removed because the referenced video didn't exactly flatter the Herald's owner, Berkshire Hathaway or its founding tycoon, Warren Buffett.
     Besides the Omaha World-Herald, Berkshire owns America's biggest builder of manufactured homes: Clayton, which finances its houses with chattel loans of up to 15%.
     The Herald did not disclose that, but we suppose it wasn't ethically obligated to, unless Berkshire owns mobile home parks too.
     Oliver's video (below) vividly documented that Clayton Homes collection agents are not above suggesting that buyers donate blood to make make things right with Warren Buffett's Berkshire subsidiary, if they are unfortunate enough to have fallen behind in their payments of principal and hefty interest.
     (Pssst. Don't tell anyone at World-Herald Square, but Al-Jazeera and The Guardian have also made videos about the scurrilous business practices of the biggest mobile home park operator in eastern Nebraska. Maybe if Fox News blows a gasket, someone who assigns stories at the Herald will notice.)
     Frank Rolfe, mentioned above, became the biggest player in Omaha-area mobile home court acquisitions via his various companies, such as RV Horizons, Impact, Strive, Mobile Home University and various other partnerships of him or his partner devoted to separating from as much of their money as possible those tenants trapped by the immobility (structural or financial) of their trailers.
     Rolfe once memorably and stupidly told a Bloomberg reporter that owning a mobile home park is like owning a waffle house in which all the customers are chained to the booths. The segment on Rolfe, a capitalist piece of work for the ages, begins at 9:10.

     Rolfe's web of companies and business partners (mostly domiciled in Cedaredge, CO) now manage or own or partly own the following mobile home parks in Omaha, Carter Lake, Bellevue, Lincoln and Plattsmouth: Peaceful Valley, Garden Valley, Lakeside, Contempo and Hi Vue.
     The Herald's Sunday headline was "Investors buy up mobile home parks, imperiling key source of low cost housing" and was based on extensive research into the mobile home landscape in Colorado by several newspapers there.
     Had the Herald wanted to live up to its claim of comprehensive local coverage, it needn't have ventured very far to find cranked-up trailer park exploitation in its own back yard.
     For example, the story the Herald reprinted included a quote from Rolfe claiming he had no "hillbilly" parks or gravel roads. Since two Rolfe parks are 10 minutes or less from the Herald's downtown Omaha offices, that fiction would have been easy to bust, even on a short lunch break.
     Had someone from the Herald cruised up 16th Street, s/he would have found Garden Valley, the north part of which has dirt roads and rutted concrete to make Jean Stothert die for; it's the most delapidated of Rolfe's local properties. There, the Herald could have asked an elderly couple who have lived in the court for 61 years about the park's demand that their home be repainted and about the new 37-page lease they must sign (but were afraid to read), which demands a $1,000 deposit if they want to move their home elsewhere.
     Had the Herald looked at evictions within the last two years, it would have found dozens by RV Horizons, Strive, and Impact. And rent increases of 50%. And water and sewage fees never levied before. What do residents of Rolfe communities say? Go here.
     Had the Herald checked other court records, it might have found out why Omaha sought an injunction against the 2017 sale of Garden Valley  — and about OSHA citations of the contractor engaged to lay new water pipes and city fines of same for exceeding the scope of a permit.
     The Herald could have talked to a man on disability who was told (shortly after moving into it) that he needed to buy his ramshackle trailer (and assume responsibility for repairs) or face eviction, a common Rolfe trick.
     It could have talked to a woman in Peaceful Valley who, outraged by Rolfe's new management, made an inquiry at a different park about moving her home there, without realizing that it, too, was part of the Rolfe corporate octopus.
     It could have talked to Spanish-speaking tenants in Lakeside about their understanding of their new landlord's policies.
     Or the woman slapped with a $50 late fee because she was hospitalized for a few days beyond the grace period.
     Maybe The Reader will investigate. Or a TV station (unlikely, absent a shooting).
     Or perhaps nothing will happen at all.