White-Collar Grifters and Prison Abolition

Let’s look at a seeming contradiction. I am — more or less — in favor of prison abolition. (I’ll get to what that means in a moment.)

And I also want big-ticket white-collar criminals to rot in jail.

This seems like a contradiction. I think it’s not.

Here’s the thing. Yes, I support prison abolition and defunding police. But I don’t support doing either of those immediately. I don’t know anyone who does. Defunding police doesn’t mean “immediately abolish all police forces and replace them with nothing.” And prison abolition doesn’t mean “open all the prison gates today and let everyone go.” It’s a process.

Prison abolition is a process. And I don’t want that process to start with rich, white, white-collar grifters. I want it to start with people convicted of drug war crimes and non-violent property crimes. I want it to start with dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, putting the hammer down on racist police abuses, exploding the drug war into a million pieces. I don’t want it to start with Elizabeth Holmes.

Continue reading “White-Collar Grifters and Prison Abolition”

White-Collar Grifters and Prison Abolition

Pizza Beans, Simplified

(Recipe below the jump.)

I am so excited about Pizza Beans! I just made them for the first time, and now I want them in our freezer always. They’re easy, hearty, delicious, and super-vegetal. They freeze really well. And it’s a very adaptable recipe.

I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. But it looked a little more complicated than it needed to be — until I realized that three-quarters of the recipe was “make a tomato sauce with vegetables.” We already have tomato sauce. We always have tomato sauce. Every summer I make and freeze enormous batches of tomato sauce, like Frederick the mouse gathering sun rays for the winter. Any recipe that starts with making a tomato sauce can be immediately short-cut.

So I thought: How can I simplify this?

Here is my simplified version of Pizza Beans. I realize that “simplified” may not mean the same to everyone as it does to me. For me, “simplifying” a recipe means “taking the numbers out and highlighting all the flexible parts that can be easily changed.” If you prefer recipes with numbers and specific ingredients, check out the Smitten Kitchen version — or just Google “pizza beans,” there’s lots of variations.

Continue reading “Pizza Beans, Simplified”

Pizza Beans, Simplified

Would Al Gore Have Won? A Popular Vote Fallacy

Group holding vote signs

I’ll get this out of the way first: The electoral college sucks. It’s grossly undemocratic. It sucks for a jillion reasons, and we should dump it.

And also: When people criticize the electoral college, they often make a large, important mistake.

One of the most common arguments against the electoral college is that the person with the most votes should win. Like, duh. But (the argument goes) several candidates for President have lost their elections — even though they won the popular vote. It happened with Al Gore in 2000, and Hillary Clinton in 2016. And that’s not right. If we’d had a normal, popular vote election, the argument goes, these candidates would have won.

But here’s the problem. If we hadn’t had the electoral college, candidates for President would have campaigned differently — which means the popular vote would have been different.

So we can’t say with any kind of certainty who would have won those elections.

Continue reading “Would Al Gore Have Won? A Popular Vote Fallacy”

Would Al Gore Have Won? A Popular Vote Fallacy

Batman and Robin Hood: Franchises and Folk Tales

Banner ad for The Lego Batman Movie
(Mild spoilers for The Lego Batman Movie, which btw is freaking brilliant)

Yes, I’m starting to get tired of movie franchises. It’s getting a little old. The sheer bulk of canon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe offers little room for new storytelling: for a while they were weaving a web, spinning new strands in the gaps, but that web is becoming a dense, impenetrable clump, with almost no space for even the best imagination to work. And I’m not sure how another reboot/recast of Batman will add much to the world. I think my friend Chip said it best: “In the future, everyone will play Batman for fifteen minutes.” Do we really need that?

But I don’t hate the very idea of franchises and reboots. I don’t find them inherently repetitive or formulaic (although they sometimes are). I often find them deeply resonant. And I’m finding it useful to reframe them as folktales. Continue reading “Batman and Robin Hood: Franchises and Folk Tales”

Batman and Robin Hood: Franchises and Folk Tales

Bernie Madoff’s 17th Floor, and the Office of Vito Corleone

I’ve been watching the Bernie Madoff documentary on Netflix, Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street. (I suppose I could twit the creators for the unimaginative title, but I’m the one who named my blog Greta Christina’s Blog, so.) And there’s something that keeps jumping out at me, maybe because it’s such a strong visual image in a story full of paper and numbers: the 17th floor.

Madoff had a sleek, fancy office on the 19th floor of a sleek, fancy office building. But he had another office in the same building — the 17th floor. That’s where the machinery of the Ponzi scheme was happening: falsifying documents, cooking the books, flat-out forgery. Very few people saw the 17th floor. But the ones who did all commented on how strikingly different it looked. It wasn’t sleek and modern and classy. It was run-down, badly organized, with old computers and crappy furniture and boxes piled all over the place.

But this was the real office. This is where the real work was done.* The classy offices on the 19th floor created the illusion of brilliant financial minds managing the complex world of finance that we puny peasants can’t even comprehend. The actual work happened on the 17th floor — the work of fraud and deception and theft.

And I started thinking about The Godfather. Continue reading “Bernie Madoff’s 17th Floor, and the Office of Vito Corleone”

Bernie Madoff’s 17th Floor, and the Office of Vito Corleone

The Queer Version Of Get Out?

What would a queer version of Get Out be like? How would you turn the everyday horrors of queer lives into a literal horror show?

When I first saw Get Out, I almost immediately started thinking about what the queer equivalent would be. The women’s equivalent is often seen as Rosemary’s Baby, but Roman Polanski can go straight to hell and he sure as shit doesn’t get to tell our story. There are way better examples: my favorite is probably Season 1 of Jessica Jones, which had me crawling out of my skin, fascinated and repelled, both wanting to turn away and feeling compelled to keep watching. (Yes, that’s a rave review. It’s so good!)

So what would a queer equivalent be? It would probably focus on body horror and bodily control, like Get Out and Jessica Jones and other horror shows about oppression. But what, specifically, would make it queer?

Invisibility and visibility. These keep grabbing my mind, and won’t let go. Continue reading “The Queer Version Of Get Out?

The Queer Version Of Get Out?


Starting my COVID vaccination is thrilling, liberating, a massive relief. It’s also terrifying. (Content notes: depression, anxiety, American assholes.)

abandoned car buried halfway in sand on beach
It’s like…

It’s like a year ago, we slammed on the brakes.* The roads all turned into lava or something, and we slammed on the brakes and pulled over. And we’ve been living in our cars ever since. We’ve been eating junk food from the gas station; getting crappy sleep in the back seat; doing video calls with the people with we love, trying to shut out the pain of not touching them, not having touched them for months.

A year ago, we slammed on the brakes. And now the road crew is on their way. I’ll be able to start the car soon. I’m excited, elated, relieved beyond measure.

But I don’t know where I’m going. Continue reading “Restarting”


No-Numbers Chili

Pot of chili

I’ve been on an extended hiatus from writing. I’m getting ready to start again, so I’m dipping my toe back in the water with something easy and fun — recipes.

I love this recipe. It has no numbers in it — at all. No quantities, no temperatures, no cooking times.

For cooks who prefer more guidance in their recipes, I promise I’ll have those later. But I know some cooks will love the flexibility of this one.

The most important part of this recipe is the variety of peppers. Get as many kinds of fresh peppers as you can manage. If you don’t know which peppers are which, it’s pretty easy to look up. Get a variety of heat levels — some sweet, some medium, some hot. Don’t overdo it on the hot ones: a little goes a long way.

And I’m not kidding about gloves. WEAR GLOVES when chopping the peppers. I speak from sad experience. Recipe after the jump. Continue reading “No-Numbers Chili”

No-Numbers Chili

“Showgirls,” and Some History of Sex in Cinema

Elizabeth Berkley playing Nomi in "Showgirls"

We saw You Don’t Nomi the other day, a thoughtful, well-made, wildly entertaining documentary about the movie Showgirls; its flamingly negative critical reception; and its later reclamation by fans as high camp. It got me thinking about the movie in some new ways — and it got me thinking about the history of explicit sex in movies.

Showgirls was released in 1995, at a cultural moment when it seemed to pie-eyed optimists* that maybe — just maybe — sexually explicit movies might become mainstream, or at least mainstream-ish. The NC-17 rating was created in 1990 to distinguish explicit art films from X-rated smut (a questionable distinction, but whatever). But many theaters wouldn’t show NC-17 movies; many newspapers wouldn’t run ads for them; and Blockbuster Video wouldn’t carry them. So an NC-17 rating wound up killing any movie’s chances at commercial success.

Showgirls was the first big-budget movie to test this. Director Paul Verhoeven and writer Joe Eszterhas set out to make it an NC-17 movie, with serious (no, really) intent to make a drama/social satire. So even though Verhoeven and Eszterhas (Basic Instinct) were something of a nightmare team, there was some hope** that Showgirls might successfully break this ground and open those doors for other filmmakers.

Showgirls of course, was a monumental failure. Critics heaped it with all the venom we had, and then ran to our venom vaults to get more. Audiences stayed away in droves. (Note: If you’re producing a cinematic exploration of female sexual power and the corruption of that power, maybe don’t have it written and directed by a couple of straight guys. Especially straight guys with Issues.) And with the movie’s failure, the door slammed shut on the NC-17 experiment.

There have been other attempts to make high-quality sexually-explicit cinema, both before Showgirls and since: Last Tango in Paris in 1972, Caligula in 1979, Crash (the Cronenberg one) in 1996; Secretary in 2002, Nine Songs in 2004, Shortbus in 2006, The Girlfriend Experience in 2009. These movies had varying degrees of critical and commercial success, but none of them broke the latex ceiling and made way for a Golden Age of Serious, Sexually Explicit Film.

But here’s the thing. Continue reading ““Showgirls,” and Some History of Sex in Cinema”

“Showgirls,” and Some History of Sex in Cinema

How Bad do Things Have to Get?

Poster with symbol of resistance reading "Resistance Is Not Futile"

How bad do things have to get?

You might think leftists need to stop painting conservatives as heartless bigots and stop painting the Republican Party as the Evil Empire. You might think punching Nazis or throwing milkshakes at fascists is unacceptable violence. You might think the word “fascist” is leftist hyperbole.

How bad do things have to get before you’ll change your mind?

Fascism typically turns the heat up a little at a time. “First they came for the socialists,” and all that. Each new horror is just a little bit worse than the last, normalizing the ones that came before it and numbing people to ones that are coming. It’s easy to see in retrospect that strong action should have been taken earlier — but when it’s happening, it’s easy to convince yourself that it isn’t really that bad. Especially if you’re not one of the main targets. Yet.

So how bad does it have to get? We already have concentration camps. We already have a sharp rise in violence against people of color, trans people, immigrants or people perceived to be immigrants. We already have an executive leader blatantly ignoring the Constitution and saying the law doesn’t apply to him. We already have the executive branch, the judiciary branch, and half the legislative branch corrupted and useless as a check on power. We already have serious rollbacks on women’s bodily autonomy. We already have white supremacist culture permeating police departments and widespread in the military. We already have historians who study fascism saying that yes, fascism is on the rise in the United States.

How bad do things have to get, before you’ll recognize that this is a crisis? How bad do things have to get before you’ll stop seeing this as a problem that can be addressed with civility and debate? How bad do things have to get before you’ll agree that milkshaking — a form of resistance activism that’s been shown to be effective, one of the few forms of resistance that increasingly powerless people have — is acceptable? How much violence does the regime have to inflict before you’ll accept the morality of self-defense?

I don’t want you to answer right away. I just want you to think about it.

Your position should be falsifiable. If you’re an atheist or a skeptic, you should already be allergic to unfalsifiable opinions, goalposts that keep moving. So if you think fascism is not on the rise in the United States, draw your lines. Think now about what you’d consider business as usual, and what you’d consider to be crossing a line. Don’t let the heat get turned up another degree, and another, and another, while you insist that 200 degrees is certainly very hot but technically isn’t boiling. Don’t insist that, because you don’t personally know anyone in the cooking pot, the people screaming about the heat are being hysterical. Draw your line. And make it one where the goalposts won’t keep getting moved, a foot at a time, deeper and deeper into fascism.

(From a comment made on Facebook.)

How Bad do Things Have to Get?