Glass Maze Every jumbled pile of person

Bamboozlement Sticks

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

-Carl Sagan


The Many Advantages of Print

Ganzeer:

But as the internet is becoming a low-attention span echo chamber that is increasingly surveilled and data-mined, print may prove to be a better outlet for intelligent reading of riskier nature.


Insane Clown President

Matt Taibbi, announcing his new book, Insane Clown President:

I would never compare myself to Thompson – that’s a losing undertaking for any political writer – but unlike previous campaigns I’ve covered for the magazine, 2016 had a lot in common with 1972. Richard Nixon was the defining monster of Thompson’s era. We’ve now found ours in Donald Trump.

Trump is the perfect modern American. He’s a human consumption machine with no attention span, no self-control, no beliefs and no hobbies outside of sex, spending, eating and talking about himself. Nixon at least played the piano and read classics. He was an intellectual with a pig’s heart. Trump is just the pig part.

The distance between the two men represents how far we’ve fallen as a nation in the last 40 or 50 years. Once we were merely rotten and evil on the inside. Now we even lack the depth needed to be two-faced, and our dark underbelly is also our shameless, dumb exterior.

This is an instabuy.

Insane Clown President


Over Soon

Bon Iver’s 22 (Over S∞∞n) — from his latest album, 22, A Million — is probably my favorite song of 2016:


I never was much of a Bon Iver fan. Mostly his falsetto made me giggle. But 22, A Million is a revelation: beautiful, immersive, complex, multilayered, and deeply deeply strange. I basically can’t stop listening to it.


Young Rollins

This beautiful photo of a very young Henry Rollins, performing with Black Flag, circa 1983.

Young Henry Rollins

So much energy and passion and fuck you in this picture.


Bombs

This is insane:

The Council on Foreign Relations found that in 2016 the United States dropped a cumulative 26,171 bombs on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, and Yemen, a rate of about three per hour.

… and unsurprising.

From Harpers Weekly Review


Nostalgia Wars

I haven’t seen the new Star Wars yet, and — oddly — I don’t feel any urgency to do so. This doesn’t have anything to do with the residual scars from The Prequels That Must Not Be Named, I don’t think, and it’s not because I’m afraid it’ll suck — early reports seem to be very positive.

It’s not because I don’t think you can improve on the originals, either: you could argue that only one of those movies was truly great. And I don’t particularly care whether the Star Wars Universe is in good hands again. That is, at best, debatable. 1

No. I don’t particularly need to to see it because, for me, it’s enough that there’s a new Star Wars movie in the world.

That was made abundantly clear to me the other night, when I walked past a theater and looked up and saw the words STAR WARS on the marquee, bold capital letters on a bright white background, and almost broke down in tears.

Nostalgia’s weird.

If the future is an undiscovered country, the past is, in many ways, a mythical one. I had a lucky, happy childhood, but I suspect it wasn’t anywhere near as happy as my ossifying old-brain thinks it was. Whenever I walk around my old neighborhood, or catch a whiff of freshly-baked pita bread, or hear terrible 80s tunes I used to love, I’m deluged in this warm, sticky torrent of nostalgia.

I’ve learned to distrust nostalgia, almost as much as I crave it. For me, it’s a happiness doppelgänger: a yearning for the good old days that’s only superficially similar to actual happiness, like the sickly sweet smell of a ripening corpse.

Because things weren’t perfect back then, as I keep telling my brain. “Brain!” I say. “You know how shitty high school was for us. You were there! We couldn’t wait to get out. Things are better now. Pretty much everything’s better.”

And even as I’m saying it, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m right, I’m pretty much convinced I’m wrong.

It’s hard to reason with your brain.

Anyway. That’s why every Star Wars sighting lances me with sadness-joy these days, I think. It was an amazing experience that happened to land in the middle of this imagined, retrospective Eden that my brain keeps conjuring into existence. It’s not the movie, as good as the movie is. It’s the time and place it evokes.

But that’s not nothing. As much as I distrust nostalgia, I can’t help but love the guileless simplicity of it. Left unchecked it’s a force for ill, dragging you away from the present you should be living in. 2 But it’s also ballast, if you use it right. Someplace to flee, for a while, when now becomes unbearable.

I’m going to see the movie, of course, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it — but not as much as I’ll enjoy glancing up at the marquee on my way into the theater, and feeling that bracing melancholy beautiful flood of helpless yearning.


  1. In fact, you could make a fairly convincing argument that Disney is going to be both the best and worst thing to happen to the Star Wars Universe since Lucas fouled it with Ewoks and Jar Jars. It’s a shot of fresh energy and a solid decade of soulless, cynical marketing. 

  2. Because, let’s face it, your average lifetime doesn’t have all that much present to burn. 


Bringing a War Home

Brian Turner, Iraqi war veteran, on coming home from war:

Maybe it isn’t that it’s so difficult coming home, but that home isn’t a big enough space for all that I must bring to it. America, vast and laid out from one ocean to another, is not a large enough space to contain the war each soldier brings home. And even if it could—it doesn’t want to.


The Surveillance State Saves You Money!

My auto insurance company has generously offered to reduce my premium if I let them spy on me:

Here’s how it works: Using your vehicle’s OnStar, In-Drive or SYNC communication service, we collect basic information about your driving. We then use the information to calculate your discount. The safer you drive, the more you save–it’s that easy.

Just let us track your every move and know where you are at all times and probably store your location history in poorly-secured data centers with direct conduits to NSA servers, and we’ll maybe knock a couple of bucks off your bill. It’s that easy!

One nice thing about the Snowden revelations is that I can point out how incredibly creepy and intrusive this is, and that it just feeds the insatiable appetite of the corporate/nsa surveillance complex, and people don’t start fitting me for a new tinfoil hat.


Letter to My Representative about Syria

I am writing to urge you to vote against President Obama’s resolution to go to war with Syria. As terrible as the tragedy in that country is, I feel very strongly that any intervention on our part will do nothing more than exacerbate the situation there, and quite possibly draw us further into the conflict.

The Assad regime has successfully entrenched itself in the portions of the country it still controls, has the support of Iran, Russia and other regional and international powers, and is fighting for its very existence: it’s very unlikely that anything the United States does, short of a full military assault, will curb their ruthlessness.

The opposition is a fractured and unknowable welter of militias and guerrilla groups, all working at cross purposes — some of which are antithetical to our interests and the interests of the region.

Despite the assurances of the administration, it’s impossible to say how a military strike will affect the balance of power there. Our intervention in places we do not understand has created monsters in the past, and I fear that an ill-considered attack here will create monsters again.

I realize that the president, and Secretary of State Kerry, have said repeatedly that they are not trying to influence the direction of the Syrian civil war, but the plain truth is that they cannot know what effect a military assault will have. If the last fifteen years of American foreign policy have taught us anything, it’s that we do not understand the Middle East, nor can we predict the consequences of our actions there. All of our recent military adventures have been masterclasses in the law of unintended consequences.

Furthermore, the resolution, as currently written, grants the executive branch far more than a narrow license to attack Syria — the Senate bill, in particular, appears to be something of a carte blanche, granting the President more or less unrestricted authority to use force to “defend the national security interests of the Unites States.”

Our founders vested congress with the sole power to declare war for a very good reason: something as momentous as waging war should not be the sole provence of any one branch of government, or, for that matter, any one person. Nevertheless, the executive has repeatedly arrogated this authority to itself over the years, and the results, more often than not, have been disastrous.

I don’t understand what the administration hopes to achieve with this attack. Their stated reasoning — to discourage the use of chemical weapons — is unconvincing and, arguably, unachievable. And their repeated references to Hitler, Hussein, “Munich moments” and weapons of mass destruction are chilling echoes of the propaganda that the Bush administration used to justify its disastrous intervention in Iraq.

This is the logic of a war machine, which by its very nature can’t help but see every problem through the lens of military action. The question of how to handle the Syrian tragedy requires a wiser, more expansive, less compromised vision.

Please vote against this resolution.

Thank you.


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