“People fib. Most keep it at exaggeration—a hardscrabble childhood, an illustrious ancestor, a perfect S.A.T. score, a close call in a war zone. It’s more problematic—or pathological—when they make things up entirely. I had a high-school classmate who bragged about having a handsome, aristocratic English boyfriend, and when it came time to produce him, claimed he was killed in a double-decker bus crash in London. (When she grew up, she worked for the C.I.A. Or said she did.) Where is Hillary/Hilaria on that spectrum? Hard to tell, but there doesn’t seem to be a venal motive behind the imposture. She wasn’t pretending to be from Spain to disguise a low-class background, get a job as a bilingual teacher, or qualify for an E.U. passport. She wasn’t taking anything away from anyone; presumably, she just wanted to make herself seem more interesting and exotic. It’s bizarre, and maybe a little borderline, but nobody got hurt. So, how do you say in English, mucho ado about nada?” Alessandra Stanley
“In its variety, the Substack corpus resembles the blogosphere. It is produced by a mix of career journalists, bloggers, specialists, novelists, hobbyists, dabblers, and white-collar professionals looking to plump up their personal brands. … A Substack newsletter is both a product and a portfolio: a way to make money, but also a venue for displaying personality, intelligence, and taste. Read enough of them and certain patterns begin to emerge. Newsletters in the business and tech categories tend to adopt para-LinkedIn tics. They are often studded with Twitter screenshots and lists of links. Single-sentence paragraphs appear frequently, as do uplifting rhetorical devices. (‘Imagine a world where you had a personal board of advisors—the people you most admire and respect—and you gave them upside in your future earnings in exchange for helping you. . . . Imagine if you could diversify by pooling 1% of your future income with your ten smartest friends.’) Just as there is ‘podcast voice’ —that inquisitive, staccato bedtime-story cadence—there is Substack tone, a semi-professional quality suited to mass e-mail. Some newsletters convey intimacy, in the language of psychotherapy and self-help, but their style is more polished and structured than that of the looser, rangier blogs of the early two-thousands. ‘Maybe Baby,’ for all its vulnerability, is also aware of itself as a commodity, dialled in to its audience. Still, it’s nice, from time to time, to receive a chatty, engaging, personable e-mail from someone who doesn’t expect a response.” Anna Wiener
“It’s the work of a true supervillain—the most Andy Kaufman–esque move any musician has made over the past few decades, and certainly one of the most entertaining stories to emerge from rap’s subterranean. But in Doom’s telling of the events, fans weren’t being cheated out of the true Metal Face experience. Rather, they were seeing what that experience was all about. ‘I’m a director as well as a writer,’ the rapper/producer told HipHopDx in 2009. ‘I choose different characters, I choose their direction and where I want to put them. So who I choose to put as the character is up to me. The character that I hired, he got paid for it. There’s no impostor.’ Doom found the outrage funny, and mused about sending out a white guy or the Blue Man Group to take his place. A decade later, he would still occasionally dispatch fugazis, including Hannibal Burress at Adult Swim Festival in 2019. Others may have viewed the mask as a crown, but for its owner, there was little precious about it.” Justin Sayles
“Today my possible Historical Reconstruction Associate is Mr. Haberstrom, founder of Burn ‘n Learn. Burn ‘n Learn is national. Their gimmick is a fully stocked library on the premises and as you tan you call out the name of any book you want to these high-school girls on roller skates who will fetch them for you.” from CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders
“It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentionally lying that there is so much falsehood in the world.” Dr. Johnson
Lydia, oh Lydia, oh have you seen Lydia?
Various thoughts on last week in no particular order.
– This was the week the midway caught fire.
For years I’ve been saying that you’ll completely understand American life once you accept the fact that the major corporations are to America what the church was to Medieval Europe.
The endless outrage, the culture wars, the cable channels are nothing by sideshow attractions. While everybody is busy guffawing at a picture of Michelle Obama morphed into The Dog Faced Boy the real action is in the big tent.
Oh, I dunno … maybe how the Chinese are offering negative interest rates in Europe to attract them away from our lending markets or maybe how Brazil because the world’s largest supplier of soy after Mr. Tariffs Fan got busy. Or maybe everybody should have taken the hint when the big corps told Arizona THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO to recognize MLK Day or they’d bring no investment to the state.
How did The Right lose the battle against gay marriage?
Because there’s a market in that.
Granted, it’s a small data point, but the concession-ish video came out after the National Manufacturers condemnation and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial calling for resignation. Those might have gone unnoticed in all the commotion and it’s probably just a quirk of mine that I even brought it up.
– Normally you’re supposed to say, “At the risk of repeating myself…” but at my age it’s expected.
Slothrop’s Proverbs for Paranoids. (From Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon)
1. You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.
2. The innocence of the creature is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.
3. If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.
4.You hide, They seek.
5. Paranoids are not paranoids because they’re paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.
This week was about about number three and number five. Next week will be all about number four.
– The Right should be less concerned with its online platforms and more concerned about their methods.
Seen this guy?
For the past two years, Angeli had become a fixture at political rallies, marches and protests. Besides his attention-getting outfit, Angeli has a booming voice that, without need of amplification, could be easily heard among a crowd.
The Republic interviewed Angeli during 2020 as part of a series of stories and a mini-documentary on the Patriot movement in Arizona, the increasingly powerful right-wing of the Republican Party. Some adherents, including Angeli, promoted conspiracy theories including the baseless idea known as QAnon.
Angeli, 33, lived in Phoenix, but it was not clear what he did for a living.
He was listed on a webpage as available to hire as a voice-over actor. He also conducted online courses in shamanism. He also said he volunteered for an arts organization in Phoenix that worked with at-risk youth.
While working with at-risk youth is admirable, the larger issue here is that Mr. Angeli has brought an end to several of the tropes that powered the conservative movement. Thanks to him you can’t really point at old hippies at some sort of protest and have a good giggle nor can you make fun of Burners, Dead Heads, New Age suckers, yoga fanatics, or anyone else you consider a left-wing loonie without that same left-wing loonie looking you in the eye and saying, “Like your guy is better?”
Previously “owning the libs” didn’t matter because 95% of the time us libs had no idea what you were talking about. The rest of the time you’d go hatin’ on Hilary or get bent out of shape about some Hollywood celebrity and we’d just quietly shake our heads and under our breath repeat the words of one of your favorite ex-president, “Well, there you go again!”
Pardon us if our only reaction is, “Cool story Bro, can you get me Antler Guy’s autograph?”
– This isn’t so much about last week as last year. It rambles, it wanders, but by the end you understand what’s happened in our isolation and how some of us should not be left alone for too long as we start to think for ourselves.
From Burning the Furniture by Elua Biss:
In the furniture stores we visit, I’m filled with a strange unspecific desire. I want everything and nothing. The soft colours of the rugs, the warm wood grains, the brass and glass of the lamps all seem to suggest that the stores are filled with beautiful things, but when I look at any one thing I don’t find it beautiful. “The desire to consume is a kind of lust,” Lewis Hyde wrote. “But consumer goods merely bait this lust, they do not satisfy it. The consumer of commodities is invited to a meal without passion, a consumption that leads to neither satiation nor fire.”
There but for grace of God…
Around the start of last month someone recommended CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders. the book starts off with a series of short stories about people who work for rundown amusement parks and beat-up tourist attractions concluding with a post-apocalyptic novella. The signature piece revolves around the man who has to make sure CivilWArLand is historically accurate. Most of his time is taken up trying to keep the park’s two main attractions – a diorama describing how the Eerie Canal was built and propping up an attraction showing Chinese immigrants building the cross country railroad. Sure, there’s Civil War re-enactments every weekend, but accuracy is out the window as the park is constantly at the mercy of marauding raccoons and drunken teenagers. Nothing can be done because in this story – as well as the others – calamity and tragedy arrive in the same number and velocity as German artillery shells in the Ardennes. No help comes from the top. Throughout the whole collection the bosses are described as violent, drunk, on the brink of nervous collapse, or someone to be avoided because of his stints in prison.
But in each and every case the boss is always referred to as either a beloved or influential member of the local Rotary.
That got a double snort and a hearty guffaw out of me as the local chapter has been after me for the better part of 20 years. I can always spot a Rotary noob – he’s going to land a big fish to impress the others and that big fish is me.
As Bugs Bunny once said, “Poor little maroon.”
But I digress.
Saunders is a worth successor to Nathaniel West. Saunders breakneck speed and dark humor are something to behold. His end piece, the novella, Bounty was interesting reading given not only last week, but last year. The story revolves around a Flawed and his sister. Both are in an amusement park that keeps The Flawed, i.e. genetic mutations, on display for the ultra-wealthy to enjoy. In this America very little is left. The land and water are so toxic that the population is riddled with The Flawed. Waves of death have reduced the Northeast to an empty wasteland and the government exists in name only.
Slavery is once again legal. The central character’s sister is sold off to an well-off undertaker and carted away from the amusement park. He escapes to go looking for her only to discover that America is now populated with nothing but middle managers, self-help gurus, and parenting experts all of whom live in squalor. Nothing gets done because no one has the skills to make anything better. Even the remaining entrepreneurs outside the enclaves of the rich are helpless as their endeavors are similar listed to the one above – girls on roller skates fetching books. Their businesses don’t really help anyone and the only people who are sold on the businesses being a good idea are the entrepreneurs themselves.
CivilWarLand is a series of vignettes where we see what it’s like to have the inept, the overwrought, and the none-too-terribly-bright in charge.
Watching things unfold last Wednesday you have to wonder if this is where we’re headed.
Strictly as an aside –
On New Year’s Eve the family of Daniel Dumile, 49 released a statement saying he had passed away at the end of October. He was better known to the world as MF Doom.
A few years back Alaska Wolf Joe was going to a summer seminar on the other side of town. MF Doom was our car tunes for a good portion of the summer. Doom has a remarkable grasp of pop culture. While other rappers sampled famous songs he sampled the incidental music from Charlie’s Angels and pulled audio from Hanna-Babera’s 1960s version of The Fantastic Four. One tribute talked about his early years and his deconstruction of minstrel shows and similar pop culture racial stereotypes.
So there you go – deconstruction of forms and acknowledgement of The Spectacle.
I didn’t expect to be a Situationist in my old age.