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Posted by Undercover Blue

To humanize Hillary Clinton

by Tom Sullivan

The goal of last night's Democratic convention program was, as a Time magazine headline explained, to humanize Hillary Clinton. Beyond the roll-call vote to formally nominate the the first woman to head a U.S. presidential ticket, the DNC rolled out a long line of Americans to highlight a woman they know personally, but few see in public. “She is the most famous, least-known person in the country,” Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri told reporters.

In making his case for his wife, President Bill Clinton's spoke last night repeating many of the stories he used on the stump during the primary season. Plus some. Plus a lot about Bill Clinton. No surprise there.

Dahlia Lithwick observes:

Bill Clinton is still a hell of a storyteller. He dove into the elaborate biography of a woman who spent most of her professional life trying to troubleshoot crazy crap at Yale–New Haven Hospital, at the Children’s Defense Fund in D.C., for children denied equal access to education in Alabama, for voters in Texas and juveniles incarcerated in South Carolina, and for kids trying to access schools in Massachusetts. And then more and more and more. No credit. In a strange way it was a woman’s story, told the way a woman would tell it: long on detail, short on ego. Sure Bill Clinton name-checked half the states in the convention hall. But that was largely because Hillary Clinton upped and traveled to those states long before young women hopped from state to state to effect social and legal change.
After he had ticked off a seemingly endless list of her unsung accomplishments, he concluded:
Now, how does this square? How does this square with the things that you heard at the Republican Convention? What's the difference in what I told you and what they said? How do you square it? You can't. One is real, the other is made up. And you just have to decide which is which, my fellow Americans.

The real one had done more positive change-making by the time she was 30 than many public officials do in a lifetime in office. The real one, if you saw her friend Betsy Ebeling vote for Illinois today, has friends from childhood through Arkansas, where she has not lived in more than 20 years, who have gone all across America at their own expense to fight for the person they know. The real one, has earned the loyalty, the respect, and the fervent support of people who have worked with her in every stage of her life. Including leaders around the world who know her to be able, straightforward, and completely trustworthy. The real one calls you when you're sick, when your kid's in trouble, or when there's a death in the family. The real one repeatedly drew praise from Republicans when she was a senator and Secretary of State. So what's up with this? Well, if you win elections on the theory that government is always bad and will mess up a two car parade, a real change-maker represents a real threat.

So, your only option is to create a cartoon alternative. Everybody gets the cartoon. Cartoons are two dimensional, they're easy to absorb. Life in the real world is complicated and real change is hard, and a lot of people even think it's boring. Good for you. Because earlier today, you nominated the real one.
This squares with what people who know her (or have worked around her) tell me. Having never met Hillary Clinton, I cannot say. After exposure to 25 years of propaganda directed at the woman, after 25 years of faux scandals and fruitless, taxpayer-funded investigation, I'm not sure I can trust what I think I know about her. Being aware of the propaganda does not immunize one from its cumulative effects. Still, the purveyors of the cartoon narrative have the strong scent of a cattle farm about them.

Over the course of the primary season, I found myself increasingly irritated at the unfairness of the personal vitriol directed at Hillary Clinton from both the right and the left for sins real and imagined. It's not about policy, really. It's about her. Where does the cartoon woman end and the real one begin?

The right wing has been gunning for Hillary Clinton at least since the "baking cookies" comment in 1992. Rush Limbaugh and (later) Fox News have made a piñata of her, day after day, for decades. What galls the patriarchs most is she is more like a punching clown. No matter how hard they hit her, no matter how many times they knock her down, she bounces back for more. The caricature they've made of Clinton as a lying, scheming, emasculating witch was on full display at the RNC convention last week. Republican after Republican has lined up hoping to be the one to finally claim her scalp, and one after one, accusation after accusation, investigation after investigation, they have failed. Somehow, this never proves they are lying assholes. It only proves just how deeply corrupt and untrustworthy Cartoon Clinton is.

Sadly, 25 years of all smoke and no fire has done its work. The right has convinced many in the country that the cartoon Hillary they have created is the real one. The cartoon one is the only Hillary Clinton many under 30 have ever known.

Over the course of the primary season, my social media feed has been laced with anti-Clinton propaganda, right-wing oppo-research, and disinformation circulated by a minority of passionate Bernie activists. Many articles are linked from conservative websites set up to lure the left into doing the right's propagandizing for them. (A WhoIs search is your friend.) No accusation is too far-fetched. No source is too tainted. No allegation is too unsupported to pass along to further ... what? Progressivism? It doesn't matter. The woman is poison. Evil, pure and simple. In social media, this is defended as "research." In reality, what it supports is the proposition that politics does not exist on a spectrum, but in curved space, and that if you go far enough left, you meet David Horowitz.

I've never been a big fan of Hillary Clinton. Still, the base cruelty of it all has me getting defensive for her (as if she needs my help).

It is not surprising at this point that Hillary Clinton presents in public as closed off. After 25 years of constant attacks, of always having to be ready to duck the next punch, she never seems to go out in public without wearing psychic body armor. If it feels as if she is is peering at you over the top of a shield, she is. And it comes off in public as if she has something to hide. It is not a good look for a candidate. It reinforces her enemies' untrustworthy narrative.

The private Hillary Clinton, those who know her say, is a different person, as warm and caring and as good a listener as we heard repeatedly last night. And funny. Maybe she'll find a way to show the public that Hillary between now and November.

Random Trivia that Makes Me Happy

Jul. 27th, 2016 07:47 am
garrideb: Carol and Wanda flying together (Default)
[personal profile] garrideb


See that? In 1959, Carl Sagan lived in the house next to my current house. I'm pretty sure the railroad tracks behind our houses was there in 1959, so he probably used the tunnel that leads to Old Middleton Road, too. Probably while thinking about the vastness of the universe.

I found this out because my dad apparently went through a phase twenty years ago where he researched Carl Sagan's life, especially his time in Wisconsin. Then, a few months back he remembered that Sagan had lived on Craig Ave, but it wasn't until last week that he found his notes and the exact address. Here's the full page of the 1959 city directory:

Read more... )

Incidentally, 116 Craig was the address I had my eye on when my mom struck up a conversation with the owner of 118 Craig and found out he was planning on putting his house on the market. 116 never actually went up for sale (the condo organization decided to rent it, instead) and 118 was much nicer, anyway.

*biddlyboop*

Jul. 27th, 2016 01:50 pm
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
[personal profile] tajasel
I recently got one of those phone cases with slots to keep cards in it, in a bid to not lose my travel pass again. I actually got it two weeks ago, after temporarily losing my pass in my bedroom, and it was the process of looking for the pass to put it into the phone case a few days later that I realised I'd lost the pass more permanently…

For the last two or three days, just the last few days, a notification sound has been intermittently bugging the hell out of me - familiar, but not familiar enough that I could identify it. It never generated a message in the notification shade, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was.

Until a moment ago, when I slipped my contactless debit card back into one of the card slots, which at the time was folded back against the back of the phone, and my phone made the noise again.

Now, I've had my debit card in the phone case for the whole time I've been using the case, barring times when I'm actually using the card, because my travel pass uses similar technology and card readers tend to get confused if they get signals from both at once - but remember: this noise has only been happening for two or three days. (But it happens every 5-10 minutes when I'm using my phone, which is a lot, so it's been driving me UP THE FUCKING WALL.)

Anyway. The sound. The sound, it turns out, is the sound my phone makes when it thinks I'm trying to do something with NFC, but it hasn't been able to read the NFC thing properly.

WHY ISN'T THERE A NOTIFICATION FOR THIS? Why is there no written message saying "Sorry, that failed, please try again"?!

This has been annoying me for DAYS and it could have been SO EASILY solved if only there was something other than a *biddlyboop* that means ABSOLUTELY FUCK ALL except that my phone made an unidentified noise. FFS.

Oh, yeah, and *biddlyboop* does not sound like an error tone. Where's the doom and gloom? It doesn't sound like something went wrong, it sounds CHEERFUL.

So. My debit card is now back in my wallet. And I have a small request for software/UX/whatever designers: please, for the love of cake, if you want to tell me about an error, please, YOU NEED TO ACTUALLY TELL ME ABOUT IT. A notification to say "That didn't work". (What if my phone was on silent, for one thing?)

The cheerful sound I can cope with. Really, that's not a big deal. Except when it is your ONLY means of telling me "computer says no", in which case: DON'T DO THAT.

I'm not a UI expert, I admit, but seriously, is this not obvious?!

Wednesday Reading - Vacation Edition

Jul. 27th, 2016 08:38 am
oracne: turtle (Default)
[personal profile] oracne
I didn't do a huge amount of reading while on vacation, but I did pull G.I.: The American Soldier in World War II by Lee Kennett off the TBR. I read a bit more than half on my flight, then finished up the remaining few chapters over the rest of the week. It was a well-organized overview of American soldiers and their experiences, from the draft to being mustered out; it focused on the quotidian rather than battles, which for me was more interesting, particularly since I don't know a huge amount about that war in general and that period in American history. It was a nice change from reading about WWI!

I'm about halfway done with Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee; from the plot description, I was expecting it to be a difficult read, but in fact the complex, fascinating, and unusual worldbuilding is really clearly presented, so I've been following it without any trouble. I don't read a lot of books of Ideas any more, so this, too, is refreshing.

Just arrived Monstress Volume 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu. So! Excited!

News

Jul. 27th, 2016 07:35 am
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)
[personal profile] marthawells
For people who were asking, The Edge of Worlds will have a paperback edition out in April. (You can preorder it now.) The Harbors of the Sun is turned in and may be scheduled for July, but I'm hoping it moves up a little.

Thanks to everyone who's left comments or ratings on Amazon, B&N, GoodReads, LibraryThing, etc. It really does help. Also, remember you can request that your local library buy it for their collection. (And they may already have it in ebook if they have ebook lending services.)

I'll be at ArmadilloCon in Austin this weekend, and here's my schedule:

Sat 1100DR Autographing
Sat 11:00 AM-Noon Dealers' Room

Sa1300A Career Management for SFF Writers
Sat 1:00 PM-2:00 PM Southpark A
Cheney, Chu, Eudaly, Landon*, McKay, Wells

Sa1500CC Reading
Sat 3:00 PM-3:30 PM Conference Center
Martha Wells
(I'll probably read something from The Harbors of the Sun)

Sa1600A Gender Roles in Fantasy
Sat 4:00 PM-5:00 PM Southpark A
Clarke, Fischer, Moyer, Muenzler*, Wells
From fairy tales, to Tolkien, to today's urban fantasy and dark fantasy, how are authors experimenting (or not experimenting) with gender and gender roles?

***

Link: How Creating Inclusive Sci-Fi/Fantasy Sparked a Culture War by Lynne M. Thomas

Both Chicks Dig Time Lords and “Dinosaur” are routinely attacked on the Internet by certain people (a parody of “Dinosaur” made it onto this year’s Hugo Award ballot due to a slate and as part of a campaign of ongoing harassment directed at its writer). These works are derided by people who believe inclusive SF/F is bad for the genre, or just plain bad. These works were pointed to as the reasons for creating certain Hugo Award slates over the last few years. A well-known alt-right website weirdly implied that Tor Books was responsible for the Hugo nominations for those two works since they were so bad. (I’ve never worked for Tor.) There have been dozens of articles written about my work and what is wrong with it; most of them don’t mention my name.
fignewton: (fic rec)
[personal profile] fignewton
Welcome to the fourth installment of my tenth anniversary reccing posts! Follow the tag if you've missed the previous entries.

Once again, I've kept it down (with difficulty) to ten recs for the twelve month period from April 2009-March 2010. There are many wonderful stories, and many authors I don't want to rec twice, so feel free to browse [personal profile] figs_sg1_rec for more!

Singing Down the Moon, by Butterfly )

Pearl in the Shell, by Matt )

One Dimension Removed, by Tafkar )

Stockholm Syndrome, by Annerb )

The Other Side of the Time Loop, by Yvi )

Just a Scientist, by Aurora Novarum )

Five People (or Beings) Who Inhabit the SGC, by Holdouttrout )

The Interview, by SG_Betty )

With the Dying, by Dira Sudis )

The Only Winning Move, by Synecdochic )

Yes, I was still writing a lot back then, even if it was all pretty short... 35 stories that clocked in at about 30,000 words. Here are some links to stories I wrote back in 2009:

Line in the Sand. Sha'uri takes the first steps on the road that will lead to Ra's destruction. This ended up a series of sorts, with both prequel and sequel.

Attitude of the Knife. Wonder Twins in classic geek mode. It's irritating when Jack can't tell if they're doing it to be annoying or just because they're geeks.

Taking Tally. SG-1 doesn't always win. It's a good thing they have each other to help pick up the pieces.

I'd love to see more gen recs in the comments, whether they're your own stories or belong to your favorite author!

Reading Wednesday 27/07

Jul. 27th, 2016 01:07 pm
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
[personal profile] liv
Recently read: A couple of really great, thinky reviews:
I'm not always as enthusiastic about Laurie Penny as many people in my circle, but they hit it out of the park with Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless. It's a really nuanced and thoughtful piece about self-care and wellbeing, considering both the ways that these things are undervalued especially for women and marginalized people, and the ways that they are repackaged and exploited within the capitalist system. There's a bit of that irritating young lefty anxiety about whether one's life choices are sufficiently "radical", but still very well worth reading.

Currently reading: A wild sheep chase, by Haruki Murakami. This was a present from [livejournal.com profile] ghoti. It's very atmospheric, but the atmosphere it creates is somewhat bleak and miserable. It's sort of doing the litfic thing where the recently divorced narrator is sad because his comfortable but unexceptional life isn't as exciting as he might have hoped when he was younger, with the accompanying rather annoying attitude to women. But at about a third of the way through, this is looking like a frame for doing other things, a bit magic realist, a bit thriller, with the protag getting very politely kidnapped by the mafia boss. It's told in a somewhat non-linear way, so I'm not yet sure how all the different facets of the story fit together.

Up next: I'm travelling to Hungary next week, so I am not quite sure if I'll end up with loads of time for reading or very little. The next thing on my e-reader is Blindsight by Peter Watts. Unless someone wants to rec me a Hungarian book which is available in translation, in order to be thematically suitable?

Adventures in foundation-matching

Jul. 27th, 2016 02:10 pm
hagar_972: woman with a laptop at a rocky shore looking at the ocean (Default)
[personal profile] hagar_972
Bottom line? I don't understand people who only need one shade of foundation. I just don't. By which I mean, that just doesn't work for me. Another thing that doesn't work for me: the pink/yellow/olive/neutral system.

Or, in terms of the Bobbi Brown scale - which illustrate the WTF rather well - my skin starts at "warm ivory" (#1), is usually around "beige" (#3) give or take half a tone, and at this rate my shoulders will hit "honey" (#5) before August runs out.

...also warm/cold has fuck-all to do with pink/yellow, and don't get me started on the difference between actually warm-toned skin and "what people who only think in White skin call warm". (Trust me there's warm-neutral and non-warm neutral; I rather suspect "olive" is just "cold neutral".) The lighter I get the more the "warm" stands out, and the paler foundation colours just don't come in sufficiently warm.

And of course the fancy foundation my skin tolerates reasonably well is not one of those with a ten-point scale. Not that the size and resolution of the scale guarantee anything, because I know from experience I don't actually have a match in MAC, and my two nearest matches on Cover FX (who, hands down, have the most comprehensive options) are from two different scales (see: sliding scale of "warmth").

See also: why I love that contouring is presently a craze.

(And don't talk to me about lipstick.)

How Not to Fall by Emily Foster

Jul. 27th, 2016 08:00 am
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Amanda

B

How Not to Fall

by Emily Foster
June 28, 2016 · Kensington
Contemporary RomanceErotica/Erotic RomanceRomance

It’s taken me a while to put my tangled, jumbled thoughts on How Not to Fall into a somewhat coherent string of words. But I did it! Hopefully! When I first heard about this book after doing a podcast with Sarah and Emily (truly a highlight of my SBTB career, I must say), I lost my mind. It sounded smart and sexy, and if you know me, smart people doing sexy sex things is my jam.

However, after finishing the book (and while reading), I felt such a weird conflicted range of emotions. Did I enjoy it? Yes, absolutely. Was it without its flaws? No, of course not. But where did my enjoyment eclipse my complaints? Did they?

Well, let’s hop on this crazy train and see if I can try not to project verbal diarrhea all over you. Choo choo!

At first, I thought this was going to be a sex-filled, friends-with-benefits scenario. Smart heroine Annabelle was going to proposition the graduate fellow she had a crush on for ages and, since they were both smart and capable, they’d see the merits in working out a little sexual tension.

Wrong.

Upon propositioning Charles, Annie promptly gets shut down. Which I found jarring and disheartening, but it works. For one, the writing captures exactly the type of feelings you’d get if you were the one to get rejected and Emily does a great job making you feel what Annie feels. It also dispels the myth of teacher/student relationships in romance. It’s refreshing to see Charles realize that while he’d love to have sex with Annie, nothing can happen while she’s a student. He recognizes there’s a power differential between them and even though a relationship with him would be consensual, there’s still too much potential for Annie to feel that she’s on the losing end of the arrangement.

So they agree to wait until Annie graduates (or is technically no longer a student) and then they’ll tend to all of their sexual needs.

After this happens, it turns into a weekend-long sex fest and while I don’t mind a lot of sex in a book, I found the slow explorations to be…tiring. Charles sets a very deliberate and careful pace with their sexual progress because with Annie being a virgin, he wants to make sure they go “around all the bases.” He also admits that he wants to make the experience so good for her that he becomes the bar to which she compares future partners.

I love how earnest and honest Annie is. She’s in touch with her emotions, even if they may be dorky or inconvenient or a little naive. She feels them fully. And I think that’s in part due to the way the book is written. It’s technically first person, but it felt more like I was Annie’s best friend and she was recounting all these details, rather than feeling like I was temporarily inside her head, as with most first person POVs.

But both Annie and Charles’ intelligence made me feel kind of dumb at times. When Annie is struggling with her research and Charles has her look up “reptilian vagus,” and it’s further explained in the text, I had to read the description several times before I understood the implications of the term. The depth of the science stuff made reading the romance feel like work and then I’d get irritated at myself BECAUSE LEARNING NEW THINGS IS NEVER WORK, AMANDA.

Once Annie and Charles get going physically, though, my earlier complaint of it not being sex-filled right out of the gate quickly disappeared. The exploration of sex or rather…sexploration was fun and smart and sexy and kinky. And it’s definitely a romance that shows how sex can be awkward at times, and that above all, you’re supposed to have a good time doing it. It doesn’t always have to be confessions of love, where you’re left misty-eyed and dumbfounded by the realization that this is your true wuv. It felt real to me.

That being said, there’s a bit of a tonal shift halfway-ish through the book. Annie and Charles both go into this friends-with-benefits scenario knowing that it’s only temporary. And as romance readers, we all know how that goes. But the book starts out a little goofy and light-hearted. There’s a lightness to it even as Annie is dealing with adult decisions like deciding her future and contemplating sexual relationships.

Then Charles is revealed to have a very dark, traumatic past. It just felt like such a separation from the Charles we saw at the beginning of the book and I keep fighting with myself on whether I liked that part of his characterization. Plenty of people carry around trauma and have normal lives. They’re fully-functioning adults. So why did it seem so far-fetched to me as a reader? I’m still struggling with this response. Maybe because it hits so close to home and as a romance reader, I’m used to more fantasy and less reality in my reading experiences? I DON’T KNOW!

There is a cliffhanger. A big one. But (and I know it’s not an HEA) I feel like it still could be a realistic ending to Annie and Charles relationship.

Show Spoiler
After learning of Charles trauma and his insistence not to really fall in love with anyone, Annie (who has definitely fallen in love) wants to help him. This does not go over well. Annie leaves for grad school and tells Charles not to contact her again.

This was difficult for me to read, but it’s an important reminder to me that sometimes things don’t work out, and serve as lessons for future relationships. In this case, the romance will be strengthened in the next book and things (I hope) will work out between Charles and Annie. But the reminder was a powerful one for me: we all have people who touch our lives, especially relationship-wise. They may not be good for us in the long run or in their current state in life, but that doesn’t negate the things they’ve taught us or the memories we shared. And while separation is painful at first, it hopefully becomes something we can look on fondly or at the very least, use as a baseline to make future decisions (i.e. maybe don’t date this type of guy again?). 

I would recommend this book, honestly. The smart characters and Annie’s earnestness as a heroine are so refreshing, despite the emotional shift in the narrative. I’m glad I read it and I’m going to scramble for the continuation because I want to know what Emily Foster will do with these characters. What tropes will she use? Which ones will she tweak? What new things will I learn? And while I struggled with various aspects of How Not to Fall, I think it’s always a good sign when I still want to know what an author is going to do next.

The Blood is the Life for 27-07-2016

Jul. 27th, 2016 11:00 am
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
azurelunatic: AO3 rating glyph: Explicit, Multi-relationships, choose not to warn, unfinished.  (AO3)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
Last night my shower head sprang the kind of leak at the places where it screws together that you really can't ignore. I turned it so the leak was at least going into the shower instead of the ceiling, and determined that I was fucking going to Home Depot and getting some teflon tape and a goddamn new shower head thingy.

After the doctor.

My sleep schedule has been fucked up lately, a little more than usual. But I managed to get enough sleep in two chunks so that when morning-ish hit, I was vaguely well-rested, if rather more inclined to get chatty about stuff on IM than usual.

I can recommend tunic-length loose tops for ultrasounds where you don't have to take your shirt off. They give you a modicum of body-modesty that doesn't involve juggling a drape.

Read more... )

The imaging techs don't get to discuss any of your results with you. That's for the doctors. So I was absent any more practical information about what was going on, but slightly less physically comfortable due to some of the joysticking about in my nethers.

I had changed back, left the department, and was nearly in the bathroom when my phone started ringing. It was an unfamiliar number, but also a 602 number, and so I answered it.

It was Dawn! I had kept trying to get in touch with her, but her phone kept going straight to voicemail, so I'd finally resorted to leaving a message on Facebook, where there were signs of life.

She had bad news. She'd intended to call me last night, but there had been a death in the family. I told her my twolocked biglocked items of news. And now I have her new number.

My phone has been chewing through battery unfortunately quickly lately, but I called [personal profile] norabombay anyway, and we chattered about things. Then I picked up a new showerhead and some teflon tape at Home Depot, and came home.

I'm having a bit of a hard time this week, and I don't think it's going to get much easier until sometime late next week, at which point it will be differently hard.

Purple and I discussed dinner, but he was kind of stressed (presentation, and he hates making slides) and tired, and I was just drained, so we called a pass. Tomorrow, maybe.

For the past couple days I'd not been using the bouncyball as my desk chair, and the lack of motion had been beginning to get to me. I've noticed that in part due to the bouncyball, stairs have been easier for me when I've had to encounter them! This is good, and I will continue to watch for improvements.

Purple continues to be a voice of reason to me on a good many issues, and I deeply appreciate it. He also refuses to serve as chaperone. "In my day you couldn't even talk while dating!"

I had an interesting conversation about preferences in smut with more than one friend, more or less simultaneously. The juxtaposition was amusing. Read more... )

After that entertaining conversation, it was just about time for bed, at which point I remembered that I needed to fix the shower.

Fortunately, unscrewing everything, applying new teflon tape, and screwing it back together proved to fix all of the things. I could wish for such an easy fix on many more. I guess I take the unneeded new shower head back to Home Depot in tomorrow's errands or something.

(no subject)

Jul. 27th, 2016 09:53 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] fjm and [personal profile] wildroot!
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Redheadedgirl

A

The End of The Perfect 10

by Dvora Meyers
July 5, 2016 · Touchstone
Contemporary RomanceErotica/Erotic RomanceRomance

As I write this review, the US Women’s Olympic team in gymnastics was just selected, and this is the sport I love more than all others (yes, more than polo). I watch it whenever I can, and I yell as loud as anyone at the absurd crapfire that is NBC’s coverage (SHUT UP AL TRAUTWIG NEVER SPEAK AGAIN) (EVER).

Now, those of us who watched gymnastic before 2006, or know our gymnastics history, know about the ideal of the Perfect Ten. Before 2006, gymnastics routines were scored out of a 10, and it wasn’t until The Queen of All, Nadia Comaneci burst onto the scene at the 1976 Olympics did anyone actually SCORE a 10.

Thirty years later, gymnastics now has an open-ended scoring system that seems really complicated to non-devotees. This book begins with Nadia’s first 10 and traces the events that led to the implementation of the current scoring method. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the men’s competition in 2004, but a lot of things led up to that, including a ridiculous number of perfect 10s awarded in Seoul in 1988, and a lot of asking, “what’s a 9.975 even MEAN?” in 1992).

Then we get a history of USA Gymnastics, from their ascendancy in the 1990s, to the disastrous 2000 Olympics. Short history: the 2000 Olympic team came in 4th in the team competition, and won no individual medals. The 2000 team was then retroactively awarded the bronze medal in 2010 at the US National Championships after it was discovered that the Chinese team had had an underage gymnast, and 2010 was the first time that team had come together and really talked about how awful the experience was for them.

From there, the US adjusted their system and became the powerhouse we are today. The past 3 All Around Olympic gold medalists are Americans (and it’s likely to be four, as long as 3 time World Champion Simone Biles continues to be Simone Biles). The US has won the team gold medal the past 3 World Championships in a row, and a US woman has won the all around in seven of the past nine Worlds. We’re pretty good at this.

Meyers traces this dominance to several things: the collapse of the Soviet Union brought a LOT of their coaching talent to the US, there are a lot of people who give gymnastics a try,  there are a lot of people around the country on the lookout for exceptional talent, and the Karolyis have been the mainstays of the national program (for better and for worse). And the open-ended scoring system is something that American gymnasts have taken considerable advantage of.  They walk into any competition with the potential of scoring multiple points more than any other country’s team, and this is a sport where things can and have been decided by fractions of a point.

There’s also a discussion on NCAA gymnastics, which is not something I know much about. NCAA gymnastics still uses the 10 scoring system, and it’s very team oriented. That chapter was fascinating to me, and media sources like NPR are covering the performances that go viral, such as Sophina DeJesus’ tumbling routine from UCLA’s meet against Utah.

Meyers is a gym fan (she writes the Unorthodox Gymnastics blog, and has written on gymnastics for Deadspin, The Guardian, The Atlantic… she knows what she’s talking about. She isn’t afraid to say that yeah, there are dark sides to the sport: injuries, abusive coaching methods, and difficulties with re-entry after retirement are all things she at least touches on. Some of her interviewees say “Oh, it wasn’t that bad in the mid-90s” and then in the next breath go, “It’s much better now.”  But she clearly loves this sort, and she wants people who aren’t a part of the Gymternet, who don’t obsessively follow the sport, to understand what happened to the Perfect 10 and more importantly WHY.  She talks with just about everyone but Martha and Bela Karolyi (not for lack of trying) and got all sorts of stories, from how Simone Biles developed into the powerhouse she is, to the guy that conceived of the current scoring system. She interviews multiple former Olympians, too – Kim Zmeskel-Burdette, 1991 World Champion and current coach to Olympic alternate Regan Smith is a particularly interesting case.

I think that this book will deepen the experience of anyone who will be watching the Olympics next month, even those of us who know lots of things. Meyers did a great interview with the Gymcastic podcast about the book (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. The creator and producer, Jessica O’Beirne, has been described as “wildly enthusiastic” and that’s the most accurate thing), and she’s a regular contributor there.

There are many places for people who want to know more than the vaguely insulting crumbs NBC will toss you, and places where the athletes selected for the women’s Olympic team has been hotly debated for the past year.  There are so many blogs and discussion points about the dissatisfaction with NBC’s coverage that NPR even did a story on it. I’m vaguely hopeful that things might change, but that would involve getting rid of Al Trautwig as the “I don’t know nuthing about gymnastics” guy (But ALBERT you’ve been covering gymnastics for MULTIPLE OLYMPIC CYCLES YOU KNOW SOME SHIT BY NOW and also stop being gross about the young women who work their asses off. Having you say, when someone gets injured before a big event, “that’s like getting a tear in your wedding dress” is just… shut the fuck up, Al) (I hate him SO MUCH).  The Gymternet is primarily women who decided they were going to make their own coverage, and discuss the real issues- that sounds familiar to me.

My point is, if you’re a casual fan, if you’re a rabid fan, if you just want to know more, this book has something for you.

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June 2016

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