🛥️ Mild

A [United Nations] Secretary-General in the eighties, Javier Perez de Cuellar, was said to be so mild that he could fall out of a boat and not make a splash.

Osnos, E. (2014, December 22). In the Land of the Possible. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/22/land-possible

🏡 Financial Albatross

Instead of seeing home ownership as a reliably safe investment, many of today’s young adults may now see some risk that houses could become financial albatrosses due to events beyond their control.

Brainard, L. (2015, April 2). Coming of Age in the Great Recession. Retrieved from https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/brainard20150402a.htm

Gavel-300px Parade of the Clueless and Entitled

WHY oh why, daughter asks, do I watch [Judge Judy]? Because it’s fascinating. Not the yelling at people in need of a dressing-down, although of course that’s part of it. It’s the parade of clueless and entitled people who’ve never been told that it is not bad luck that put them here, but bad choices. Last night JJ barked at someone a remark that her son shouldn’t have gotten a young girl pregnant, and that the kids had behaved stupidly.

Mom was appalled. That’s judgmental, she said.

That’s the worst thing you can be in her world.

Lileks, J. (2014, June 13). The Bleat. Retrieved from http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/14/0614/061314.html

🍸Ease of Suicide

If your economic thrust is based on all the debaucherous things bros can do when frittering away their life savings, your city may need to rethink itself. It looks like that time is coming for Las Vegas, as the gaming industry struggles with the rise of online gambling and other cities are jumping on the casino bandwagon as a bulwark for their local economy.

One local writer, struggling to come up with the ten best things about the city (after listing gambling and entertainment in the top five), opted to choose “ease of suicide” for the number nine slot.

Gallagher, B. (2013, March 15). 10 Most Overrated Cities in America. Retrieved from http://www.complex.com/city-guide/2013/03/overrated-cities-in-america/las-vegas

🎦 The Gene Siskel Test

Is this movie more entertaining than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?

Eugene Kal “Gene” Siskel (January 26, 1946 – February 20, 1999). American film critic and journalist for Chicago Tribune.

🎬 Things Happen for a Reason

Movies are about telling the same lies over and over again. You know, good beats evil, things happen for a reason, attractive people are interesting.
~ Michael De Santa

Grand Theft Auto V. Houser, S., & Humphries, R. Rockstar Games. 2013. Video Game.

♗Ennobled by Suffering

But once more, so-called liberals indulge their penchant for wanting to see these people as ennobled by the very act of their suffering, and, therefore, to be forgiven for all acts of personal failings.

SouthernView (2014, July 22). Re: When Struggling Families Spark Internet Rage [Reader Comment]. Retrieved from https://op-talk.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/21/when-struggling-families-spark-internet-rage/?_r=0

📣 Speaks for Itself

People who are comfortably living on their own terms don’t announce that to people. Their comfort speaks for itself through the absence of any need or impulse to sell.

Hax, C. (2014, September 13). Carolyn Hax: Long-distance lover under a cloud of suspicion. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/carolyn-hax-long-distance-lover-under-a-cloud-of-suspicion/2014/09/13/383544de-2d5c-11e4-bb9b-997ae96fad33_story.html


They can only see through the myopia of their pain and experience. It’s the sole filter. And that’s just because that is their emotional truth.


After all, you have to remember that the number one way to spread propaganda, politically speaking, is to legitimize a lie as being a “side” of an argument, and then you can just appeal to the emotional subtext of those who are most likely to believe that emotional truth underneath it. As such, the lie becomes a weapon.


But just as I have argued many times, we have such a difficult time seeing ourselves as anything but a person in a momentary interaction. And so we only like to debate the fairness of that myopic interaction itself. We are so damn bad at seeing ourselves as part of a larger trend / system. We are so bad at seeing what we are actually advocating on the whole.

Film Crit Hulk. (2014, October 27). Film Crit Hulk Smash: ON DESPAIR, GAMERGATE AND QUITTING THE HULK. Retrieved from http://badassdigest.com/2014/10/27/film-crit-hulk-smash-on-despair-gamergate-and-quitting-the-hulk/


Now I can solve up to 800 problems a minute.
~ Gordon Freeman, after picking up an MP-5

Freeman’s Mind: Episode 11. Dir. Ross Scott. Accursed Farms. N.p., 4 May 2009. Web. 14 Dec. 2010.

🚄 A Trip to the Edge of Despair

But all of it sounds like what smart, privileged young people flirting in a foreign country, might say to one another as they turned themselves inside out, dying to make an impression. Linklater, writing this script with Kim Krizan, understood that modern mating rituals depend on put-ons, games, boasts, self-deprecation, egotism dissolving into laughter.


Self-certainty has triumphed; that’s the way Celine and Jesse–and, by extension, most of us–manage to survive.


Celine and Jesse are not married, but their fight goes to questions at the heart of upper-middle-class matrimony. Who gets a full share of gratification, who has to sacrifice in order to keep things going?


Delpy’s Celine turns quarrelsome, almost preëmptively angry, and Hawke’s Jesse becomes defensive and sarcastic. The hotel clash is both harrowing and funny, a trip to the edge of despair and dissolution taken by people whose anger and wit never run out.

Denby, D. (2013, May 27). Review: Before Midnight (2013). Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/05/27/couples-4

⛲ Amusement

Life has an aching void I cannot fill without constant, meaningless amusement.

Lileks, J. Comic Sins: Richie Rich. Retrieved from http://lileks.com/institute/comicsins/covers/rich/52.html



Bureaucratic Alchemy

In all cases, how developers prove what they can afford to pay for comes down to the dark art of “viability”. The silver bullet of planning applications, the viability appraisal explains, through impenetrable pages of spreadsheets and fastidious appendixes, exactly how a project stacks up financially. It states, in carefully worded sub-clauses, just why it would be impossible for affordable housing to be provided, why the towers must of course be this height, why no ground-floor corner shop or surgery can be included, why workspace is out of the question; indeed, why it is inconceivable for the scheme to be configured in any other form. Presented as a precise science, viability is nothing of the sort; it is a form of bureaucratic alchemy, figures fiddled with spreadsheet spells that can be made to conjure any outcome desired.

Wainwright, O. (2014, September 17). The truth about property developers: how they are exploiting planning authorities and ruining our cities. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/sep/17/truth-property-developers-builders-exploit-planning-cities


Loosen Your Grip

Daughter went off this afternoon on her bike to hang with besties, a new development compared to previous years. Before it would have been: arrange, drive, deposit, pick up. Now it’s wave-farewell and out the door. The rope in your hands starts to play out faster.
It’ll burn if you don’t loosen your grip.

Lileks, J. (2014, June 11). The Bleat. Retrieved from http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/14/0614/061114.html


I Hope He Had a Nice Snack

I once navigated a call [to cancel Comcast service] by letting the guy spiel for one minute and then saying approximately: “I am more stubborn than you. I am more patient than you. And I am lying comfortably on my bed in my pajamas with plenty of food and water, and have no qualms about taking the phone into the bathroom with me. Your options are to continue harassing me for as long as is required by your job guidelines and then cancel my account, or to just cancel my account immediately, and possibly have a snack. How long should I hold the phone near my ear until this call ends?” The call ended two minutes later. I hope he had a nice snack. I guess it’s all about luck of the draw.

Mizu (2014, July 14). Re: After a Decade [Reader Comment]. Retrieved from http://www.metafilter.com/140932/After-a-decade#5638970


The Door Close Button

To-be-fired employees will likely be told that they were picked not just based on job performance, but rather through a combination of factors. There will probably be a paper “appeal” process they can try, but it will go nowhere and do nothing, like the “door close” button on an elevator. Managers responsible for choosing employees to be laid off can blame an inscrutable “process” rather than their own judgment. Everyone passes the buck.

Courtesy and decency: Not in this e-mail

In the end, the e-mail’s key ironic sentence is this one:
     “Everyone can expect to be treated with the respect they deserve for their contributions to this company.”
This ersatz expression of thanks could be cloned from every other layoff e-mail from every other company ever—it manages to be both patronizing and vaguely malevolent at the same time. What, precisely, does an employee “deserve” in this instance? There’s an argument to be made that employees deserve to be spoken to rather than spoken at, but down that path lies the potential for liability.

Like an unreadable, thick EULA, companies almost invariably choose to use the kind of messaging in this e-mail rather than normal-person talk.
Companies should “align their synergies” with the humans they’re firing and do them the courtesy of not pissing on them and telling them it’s raining. There’s a decent way to let people go, and this ain’t it.

Hutchinson, L. (2014, July 17). Op-Ed: Microsoft layoff e-mail typifies inhuman corporate insensitivity. Retrieved from https://arstechnica.com/staff/2014/07/op-ed-microsoft-layoff-e-mail-typifies-inhuman-corporate-insensitivity/


Quality Remodeling

They covered up one store front, and put in windows, and then covered up the windows. I’m reasonably sure the newer stuff isn’t stone, but pressed metal, painted over. Did the guy who finished the job step back and say “now there’s some quality remodeling, right there. Right there indeed.”

Lileks, J. (2014, May 8). The Bleat. Retrieved from http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/14/0514/050814.html


Fools Fish

Not for nothing does the movie run on the metaphor of fly fishing—of the crafted adornment that, by imitating life, fools fish into swallowing the hook.

Brody, R. (2014, March 21). Lars Von Trier’s Joyless Sexual Tantrum. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/lars-von-triers-joyless-sexual-tantrum


No Guilt

BARISTA: Can you be a complete douche and sit, typing on your laptop and only ordering one drink, all night at a bar?
CUSTOMER: Conceivably I could, but I’d rather not.
BARISTA: Voilà! Here you can do that without feeling guilty.

Stokes, C. (2014, April 30). Introducing the Starbucks Evenings Menu. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/shouts/2014/04/introducing-the-starbucks-evenings-menu.html


Not Exactly

This is about where we’d expect him to be at this point. Not exactly down and out, but living the days of a man without urgent purpose.

Roeper, R. (2006, December). Review: Rocky Balboa (2006). Retrieved from http://www.richardroeper.com/reviews/rockybalboa.aspx


Hundreds of Times

And I think we must have had this argument hundreds of times before and I finally had to stop because I couldn’t be in that situation anymore where we were making each other feel bad about ourselves.

Jonze, Spike. Her. Film Script. 2013. 13 July 2017. <https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/t711fe3u47rgkr1/HER%20%282013%29%20Spilke%20Jonze%20-Final-.pdf>


Intellectual Firepower

On Los Angeles: Locals report the combination of plentiful bud, babes, and sun only serves to dull the intellectual firepower that brought you and your screenplay out west in the first place.

Gallagher, B. (2013, March 15). 10 Most Overrated Cities in America. Retrieved from http://www.complex.com/city-guide/2013/03/overrated-cities-in-america/los-angeles



The inability to make important distinctions because the mind reduces everything to broad similarities is a trait of a smug, adolescent intellect that mistakes cynicism for insight.

Lileks, J. (2014, July 1). The Bleat. Retrieved from http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/14/0714/070114.html


Greed and Stupidity

I’ve never been a conspiracy theorist: I believe human greed and stupidity are simple explanations for all that’s wrong in the world, and that we don’t need to concoct a shadowy Illuminati organization to take the blame.

Woligroski, D. (2015, January 27). The Real Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 Specifications. Retrieved from http://www.tomshardware.com/news/nvidia-geforce-gtx-970-specifications,28464.html



Raw Gush

At least the tech arguments have some data, some facts, a certain nerdy rigor. Elsewhere – say, a Gawker site about San Francisco development I discussed on the work blog – it was the usual raw gush. Smart and snarky and oh-snap! and lots of “here, let me pour my entire worldview into a story about a vacant lot that now has a structure on it.”

A good polemic is a thing of beauty, but to use the medium of the Comments Section is like mistaking the group of smokers outside the classroom for the lecture going on inside.

Lileks, J. (2014, June 11). The Bleat. Retrieved from http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/14/0614/061114.html


You Owe Me

Then I don’t know what to do, and he acts disgusted at my nervous deferrals, as if I owe him this date after being so nice to him for so long. He moves on to my coworker.


But I have trouble, eventually, masking my rage. I notice a ragged look similar to the one I imagine on my face on the faces of young female baristas throughout the city. It’s as if I’ve absorbed all of these men’s problems, and worse, all of their assumptions about me – that I am a pure and kindly soul floating along on my attitude, there to make coffee and listen; worst of all, that I must be unhappy in this job but not be intelligent enough to know that.

Schiller, L. (2013, June 5). Service With A Smile. Retrieved from http://www.therivetermagazine.com/service-with-a-smile/


Endlessly Boring Loop

The “Lego Movie” song “Everything is Awesome” might be the definitive statement on consumerism as a way of life. The hero is a wage slave, living in an endless boring loop that he’s convinced himself is peachy. Hype encourages him to feel that way because if he accepts his manufactured life, nobody involved in creating institutional structures or manufacturing goods or entertainment will have to try harder, much less change anything. Nobody questions. The money just flows.

Seitz, M. Z. (2014, June 13). Review: 22 Jump Street (2014). Retrieved from http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/22-jump-street-2014



The modern style of headline writing isn’t intended to catch your eye but punch you in the nose, because you totally deserve it. The author is better than you because the author is writing for Gawker, and you’re just reading. Basic format: Bald assertion, and preemptive accusation to deflect your objection.

Lileks, J. (2014, July 31). Lileks @ Lunch. Retrieved from http://www.startribune.com/how-to-lose-8000-photos/269411751/

There are people who cannot make it through a day unless the wind of indignation fills their sails.

Source Unknown


Moral Busybodies

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

Lewis, C. S. (1972). God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


Self-Righteous Do-Gooder

What concerned [C.S. Lewis regarding Moral Busybodies] is summed up as “the Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions.” You needn’t wait for the cynics to take over; one self-righteous do-gooder with an agenda can create a lot of misery.

Chas C-Q (2014, July 30). Re: The Bleat [Reader Comment]. Retrieved from http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/14/0714/073014.html#comment-1512630550



Looking a little leaner and a lot older, Ventura wore a rumpled gray pinstripe suit, the kind you save for church or court, and walked with that cocksure gait we got used to when he was governor, his jaw perpetually tilted up as if in defiance of something, anything.

Tevlin, J. (2014, July 12). Tevlin: Only in Jesse Ventura’s America. Retrieved from http://www.startribune.com/tevlin-only-in-jesse-ventura-s-america/266890021/


Decline of Empathy

As Danielle Ofri observes, that is the time that “figures prominently in studies that document the decline of empathy and moral reasoning in medical trainees.” Spending your day among the truly sick and suffering hardens you. Not only is there a self-protective impulse to shut out the pain of others, but you have less emotional bandwidth for minor complaints, particularly your own.


Hypochondriacs, Belling points out, are right about one more thing: Disease and degeneration never fail to win in the end.

Waldman, K. (2014, July 6). Doctors Could Use a Little Hypochondria. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2014/07/hypochondria_in_medical_students_and_doctors_when_to_worry_about_health.single.html



It would also be good if people stopped applauding “transgression” because it made them feel naughty and modern and iconoclastic, when it’s the most boring default position available today.

Lileks, J. (2014, June 17). Lileks @ Lunch: When the Mayor Swears. Retrieved from http://www.startribune.com/when-the-mayor-swears/263500181/

Meeting Baseline Expectations

What there is, arguably, is a diseased culture. A culture in which focus and productivity are so fetishized that your average human attention span is no longer sufficient. A culture in which a significant proportion of the working (or academic) population requires psychoactive drugs in order to meet baseline expectations.

dephlogisticated (2014, July 3). Re: Two Speed America [Reader Comment]. Retrieved from http://www.metafilter.com/140470/Two-speed-America#5617027


Metal Tube

It also poses unique design challenges, since a premium-class seat has to create an impression of opulence in what is actually a noisy and potentially nausea-inducing metal tube filled with strangers.

If you checked into a luxury hotel and were taken to a room the size of a first-class airplane cabin, and told that you’d be sharing it with eleven people you didn’t know, all of whom would be sleeping within a few feet of your own skinny bed, you wouldn’t be thrilled, especially if you were paying twenty thousand dollars for the experience.

Owen, D. (2014, April 21). Game of Thrones: How airlines woo the one per cent. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/04/21/140421fa_fact_owen



An air of aggressive innocence and chirpy bemusement has become the official armature of the American hipster, and has lost its power to put across a critique. It isn’t even that cute anymore. The McSweeneyites may be the current emperors of cool, but they’re starting to need some new clothes.

Shulevitz, J. (2001, May 6). Too Cool for Words. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/books/01/05/06/bookend/bookend.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=login



Web of Bullshit and Horror

Can advice on how to be cool and not creepy be used for evil by guys who are not cool and are creepy and would like to get laid? Yeah, probably! It’s a difference between “how to keep awkwardness and learned behavior (that is counterproductive and bad) from getting between you and the connections you would like to make with other people (that are positive and good for you and those other people alike)” and “how to feign being a decent human being so that you can trap unwary women in your web of bullshit and horror.” The difference there? Is the reader, not the reading material.

kittens for breakfast. (2015, February 8). Re: The Anti-Pick Up Artist’s Guide [Reader Comment]. Retrieved from http://www.metafilter.com/146819/The-Anti-Pick-Up-Artists-Guide#5928155


The reality is that people pay for an experience rather than a thing so the label matters on headphones and wine. From social signaling to self-inflicted placebo effects there are a host of reasons why people don’t shave with Occam’s razor.

srboisvert . (2015, February 9). Re: Lossless, lossless, lossless [Reader comment]. Retrieved from http://www.metafilter.com/146868/Lossless-lossless-lossless#5929164


So Many

A wise friend told me years ago that we have no control over our emotions, only over what we choose to do about them, and that even if we know this, it can still be hard to make good decisions, because our feelings are so powerful, and there are so many of them fighting to be heard.

Seitz, M. Z. (2015, June 18). Review: Inside Out (2015). Retrieved from http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/inside-out-2015



Quite generally, that’s how the Trump administration deals with a truly existential threat to survival of organized human life: ban regulations and even research and discussion of environmental threats and race to the precipice as quickly as possible (in the interests of short-term profit and power).

Yancy, G., & Chomsky, N. (2017, July 5). Noam Chomsky: On Trump and the State of the Union. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/05/opinion/noam-chomsky-on-trump-and-the-state-of-the-union.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region


You Make a Choice

When you have children, you make a choice to restrict what you can and cannot do. Just because you want a nice night out doesn’t mean that everyone else at the restaurant should be subjected to an endlessly crying child. You do not have carte blanche to put your own needs above everyone else’s.

Reenum. (2014, July 13). Re: High cuisine with no high chair [Reader Comment]. Retrieved from http://www.metafilter.com/135601/High-cuisine-with-no-high-chair#5371132


New Money

Q: Why do rich people seem to have such bad taste in architecture?
Money doesn’t buy taste. Especially not new money.

Eyebrows McGee. (2015, February 19). Re: The kind of world where we belong [Reader Comment]. Retrieved from http://www.metafilter.com/147197/The-kind-of-world-where-we-belong

Mangoes Among Oranges

Unbeknownst to me, you see, some miscreant put mangoes among the oranges, and while someday we might live in a utopia where mangoes are discounted, we still live in an imperfect world of sin and toil.

Lileks, J. (2015, February 14). The Mango mover was also THAT GUY. Retrieved from http://www.startribune.com/local/blogs/291963041.html


The Right to Ignore

It’s made still more awful by the fact that the “read receipts” feature is on by default, so if you’ve read their IM and haven’t answered, they know it. This is the top overall seed, because read receipts are the worst thing about the Internet. The right to ignore people must be preserved. Anyway, if you get one of these IMs, usher everyone out of the building in which you live, burn it to the ground, and live in the forest until you don’t hear airplanes anymore.

Bois, J. (2015, March 15). The Worst Internet Things bracket. Retrieved from http://www.sbnation.com/2015/3/15/8218435/worst-internet-things-bracket


Throaty-chuckle Smoker

I ended up phoning the 1-800 number, and got a throaty-chuckle smoker who sounded like she was handling calls out of her kitchen for extra money, and she noted that a lot of people called because the website was “Confusing.”

Lileks, J. (2014, June 6). The Bleat. Retrieved from http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/14/0614/060614.html


The Science

I kind of lost concentration when he stated, “While conceding that there are a number of reasons why gamers would choose to angrily argue with the science rather than seriously consider its implications,” because of this issue I have regarding people using the phrase “the science” when they mean “the results of studies deemed reliable by many respected people.” Calling it “the” science, as though the matter is entirely settled, strikes me as a rhetorical stunt meant to imply that 1) the point of view being presented is an ironclad absolute truth 2) anyone who is unconvinced must be an ignoramus.

xigxag. (2015, February 7). Re: Social Identity Threat Motivates Science-Discrediting Online Comments [Reader Comment]. Retrieved from http://www.metafilter.com/146830/Social-Identity-Threat-Motivates-Science-Discrediting-Online-Comments#5927873


On a Planet of Two

I thought that his sudden openness was the caprice of a moment, and that if I had looked for him in three months, I would have wasted my time.


We laughed together, and, as we know, there is nothing like humor to burn the distance between two human beings. Laughter has the ability to trigger a thunderbolt of intimacy; you laugh at the same things and you’re not alone anymore. Suddenly, you’re also somewhere very special, on a planet of two. And if you go on laughing together—as we did as our relationship grew deeper, if guardedly, on both sides—you may get a sense that inhabiting that planet for even a fraction of time is something you may risk calling happiness: intense and short-lived though it may be.

Sambuy, L. M. (2015, May 1). You’ll Never Write About Me Again. Retrieved from http://www.believermag.com/issues/201501/?read=article_manera_sambuy









Make it Look Effortless

At 28, I can say that sometimes I feel like an adult and a lot of the time, I don’t. Being a Millennial and trying to adult is wildly disorienting. I can’t figure out if I’m supposed to start a non-profit, get another degree, develop a wildly profitable entrepreneurial venture, or somehow travel the world and make it look effortless online. Mostly it just looks like taking a job that won’t ever pay off my student debt in a field that is not the one that I studied.

Eleusiniotis, M. (2016, January 5). When Are You Really an Adult? Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/01/when-are-you-really-an-adult/422487/?single_page=true



At about age 22 or 23, the brain is pretty much done developing, according to Steinberg, who studies adolescence and brain development. That’s not to say you can’t keep learning—you can! Neuroscientists are discovering that the brain is still “plastic”—malleable, changeable—throughout life. But adult plasticity is different from developmental plasticity, when the brain is still developing new circuits, and pruning away unnecessary ones. Adult plasticity still allows for modifications to the brain, but at that point, the neural structures aren’t going to change.
“It’s like the difference between remodeling your house and redecorating it,” Laurence Steinberg, the distinguished university professor of psychology at Temple University, says.

Beck, J. (2016, January 5). When Are You Really an Adult? Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/01/when-are-you-really-an-adult/422487/?single_page=true

Nostalgia Voters

Trump’s campaign—with its sweeping promise to “make American great again”—triumphed by converting self-described “values voters” into what I’ve called “nostalgia voters.” Trump’s promise to restore a mythical past golden age—where factory jobs paid the bills and white Protestant churches were the dominant cultural hubs—powerfully tapped evangelical anxieties about an uncertain future.


The clearest example of evangelical ethics bending to fit the Trump presidency is white evangelicals’ abandonment of their conviction that personal character matters for elected officials.
In 2011 and again just ahead of the 2016 election, PRRI asked Americans whether a political leader who committed an immoral act in his or her private life could nonetheless behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public life. In 2011, consistent with the “values voter” brand and the traditional evangelical emphasis on the importance of personal character, only 30 percent of white evangelical Protestants agreed with this statement. But with Trump at the top of the Republican ticket in 2016, 72 percent of white evangelicals said they believed a candidate could build a kind of moral dyke between his private and public life.


And Donald Trump’s installation as the 45th president of the United States may in fact temporarily prop up, by pure exertions of political and legal power, what white Christian Americans perceive they have lost. But these short-term victories will come at an exorbitant price. Like Esau, who exchanged his inheritance for a pot of stew, white evangelicals have traded their distinctive values for fleeting political power. Twenty years from now, there is little chance that 2016 will be celebrated as the revival of White Christian America, no matter how many Christian right leaders are installed in positions of power over the next four years. Rather, this election will mostly likely be remembered as the one in which white evangelicals traded away their integrity and influence in a gambit to resurrect their past.

Jones, R. P. (2017, July 4). Trump Can’t Reverse the Decline of White Christian America. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/robert-jones-white-christian-america/532587/


Irretrievably Depraved

“Developments in psychology and brain science continue to show fundamental differences between juvenile and adult minds,” the [Supreme] Court wrote in its 2010 decision. “For example, parts of the brain involved in behavior control continue to mature through late adolescence… Juveniles are more capable of change than are adults, and their actions are less likely to be evidence of ‘irretrievably depraved character’ than are the actions of adults.”

Beck, J. (2016, January 5). When Are You Really an Adult? Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/01/when-are-you-really-an-adult/422487/?single_page=true



One site I will not be doing anytime soon: the Faces of Judge Judy. Possibly because people would think it consisted entirely of 47 screen grabs of JJ scowling or making that happy-harpy face when someone really steps in it. I love her show, but not for the usual “reality” TV show reasons. It’s the only show where people who have never been told off in their life get told. Hard. In a world that regards Judgment with the same terror a Lutheran has in church when the new preacher instructs the congregation to turn left and hug the next person in the pew, the bestowal of stern, sharp, and un-appealable judgment for personal behavior is wonderfully bracing.

Sometimes the people’s behavior is so uncouth, so selfish, so clueless that she hates them before she comes out; you can tell when she shoots a death-glare at a defendant when taking the bench. It’s also just nice to see people who got by their whole lives on what they presumed to be charm being instructed that they are simply not that impressive. It’s a good experience for people who have been tossing their hair and giggling all their lives and thinking they’re just adorable.

Lileks, J. (2014, May 15). The Bleat. Retrieved from http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/14/0514/051514.html

Piercing our Complacency

Comedy, in the hands of gifted artists, is a weapon that pierces our complacency, that forces us to acknowledge the absurdity of Nazism, of goose-stepping, believing that orders given to you by your superiors must be followed without question.

Anker, D. (Director). (2004). Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust[Motion picture]. USA: Anker Productions.


Exponential Growth Potential

I have an ex who has been emailing/texting me for four years. I haven’t responded in all that time and did take precautions to make sure that he wouldn’t be able to find out where I live (set my legal address to my father’s house, etc.). Eventually, I realized that he doesn’t expect me to respond, he just wants to feel heard in a world where he has no one to listen. Sort of like that friend everyone has who stream-of-consciously vents and wants everyone to sit silently and listen to their catharsis. They need an audience for their insecurities and outbursts, even when they’re really just talking to themselves. They aren’t dangerous, per say, just an annoyance with exponential growth potential.

Shouraku. (2013, January 4). Stalker, No Stalking! Retrieved from http://ask.metafilter.com/232431/Stalker-No-Stalking#3364521


Doubling Down

When it takes 20 months to build one thing, your skill set becomes less about innovation and more about navigating bureaucracy. That means the longer you stay, the more you’re doubling down on staying even longer.

Sulzberger, A. G. (2014). New York Times Innovation Report, 88. Retrieved from https://www.scribd.com/doc/224332847/NYT-Innovation-Report-2014


Vagaries of Passion

There was a nice view of the beach though and you can use the binoculars to observe much younger people and I stood there for a while trying to reconcile the advantages of wealth and experience against the pleasures of the flesh now denied to me, but I realized that the denial was my own doing, that I had not succumbed to time but run into its dry, brittle embrace, feeling from the vagaries of passion to the rote expectations of comfort and routine.

Lileks, J. (2014, May 21). The Bleat. Retrieved from http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/14/0514/052114.html


Ceaseless Parade

If you knew nothing of earth you might assume there was a plague of light-sensitivity, or perhaps a human mutation that made people so horrible to behold everyone bricked up the windows so they wouldn’t have to gaze on the ceaseless parade of nightmares.

Lileks, J. (2014, May 22). The Bleat. Retrieved from http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/14/0514/052214.html


Opposite of BS

Whatever the opposite of bullshit is, I think that’s what James Gandolfini was searching for.

flamencow. James Gandolfini Tribute to a Friend. Online video clip. YouTube. Youtube, 22 Jan 2014. Web. 14 May 2014. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZ_XzlIvgEQ


Hulk Emoji

Fear of His Own Anger

And as such, we learn that banner can call out his hulk at a moment’s notice. Which, in my opinion, is a wonderful evolution of the character. It speaks to the idea that our emotions are something that are always present. Anger can’t be abstained from. It cannot be feared. Anger is simply an ever-present part of us, just as much as joy, sadness, or even something instinctual like hunger. It is something that is just felt. And I believe this is precisely where “the cruel joke” comes into play (referred earlier in the article as “It’s as if he is the only one who is keenly aware of a cruel joke being played on the world.”)
For years, banner battled his own mind and merely turned out that fear of his own anger was a trap. Really, he had to understand it. To recognize it and accept it. And that’s precisely what brought genuine control. The whole thing seems like a contradiction, but no more a contradiction than the idea that unleashing “the other guy” can be the very thing that makes his [Hulk] heroic.

Film Crit Hulk. (2012, May 7). THE HULK ON MARK RUFFALO’S HULK. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/05/the-hulk-on-mark-ruffalos-hulk.html


Mail-It-In Autopilot

This guy has been on “mail-it in” autopilot for decades, sleepwalking his way through movie after movie, and somehow convincing people it’s all brilliant and genius. It’s the same awkward sarcasm of a guy living on a reputation established more than 30 years ago and gets away with it because anyone who criticizes him gets browbeaten into submission by fanatics who have convinced themselves [Bill] Murray is a cultural icon, when he is no such thing.

20 Over-rated Actors. (2014, March 29). Retrieved from http://www.rantlifestyle.com/2014/03/29/20-overrated-actors/#slide39 (URL no longer active)


Ready-made Violence

On a basic story level, you could argue that rape-revenge is technically doing the character the courtesy of dealing with the significance and fallout of trauma, but really it’s just turning that trauma into another short-cut for ready-made violence and rote catharsis. The whole problem here is that, also like the texture of horror, it can just as easily spill over into gross over-simplification and exploitation.

Film Crit Hulk. (2014, April 29). CAN HULK COMPLAIN ABOUT GAME OF THRONES’ RAPE SCENE YET? Retrieved from http://badassdigest.com/2014/04/29/can-hulk-complain-about-game-of-thrones-rape-scene-yet/

Lego Brick

Currency of Life

This is probably really clear in the film’s “not letting his kid play with Legos” analogy, but think about it in grander terms. Think about the way society operates. The real problem is that adults build a world without understanding why they’re playing the game in the first place. Business. Politics. These are desperately important things that need to function and be taken seriously in order for society to function, but every damn day we forget that the reason we do them is because we actually crave the simplest things in life: fun. Peace of mind. Love. Togetherness. Despite how those words sound, I swear to you that these are not flowery ideas. These things are the real currency of life. And they are part of all the things adults claim they are fighting for.

The problem is that we build adult systems and values that so readily exclude it. That feed into our desire to overwork. That get us to miss all that other good stuff in our lives. That mine it for maximum business and feed into the same system that doesn’t actually want you to have happiness, but merely continued consumption. It is essentially “objectifying” all our simple things. Again, this isn’t to get all political on your ass, but the business for business’ sake moral argument might be the most forehead-slapping bit of inanity ever. Not because it doesn’t work, but because it doesn’t understand the root of happiness lies in emotional sanctification, not chasing an endless high and constantly expecting a different result. Sorry, but it’s all right there plain as day.

Meaning day after day, adulthood fails us.

And really, they are failing themselves.  And all this parent / kid metaphor mumbo-jumbo is the reason the climax to THE LEGO MOVIE works. It is the simple act of telling adulthood that they are wasting it. That they need to embrace the real purpose under everything.

Film Crit Hulk. (2014, February 11). THE REAL AWESOMENESS OF THE LEGO MOVIE. Retrieved from http://badassdigest.com/2014/02/11/film-crit-hulk-smash-the-real-awesomeness-of-the-lego-movie



Stories can take that didactic thing we call “advice” and render it into experience; meaning it can make us experience things before we actually have to deal with them and guide us in that purpose. It can show us where we have been. It can clarify life’s reality.

Film Crit Hulk. (2014, January 22). Film Crit Hulk Smash: THE ACT OF KILLING AND THE REAL MEANING OF IMPACT. Retrieved from http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2014/01/22/film-crit-hulk-smash-the-act-of-killing-and-the-real-meaning-of-impact


People might be more prone to mix it up if they knew they could survive several shotgun blasts at close proximity by walking over a bag with a Red Cross on the side.

Lileks, J. (2014, May 9). The Bleat. Retrieved from http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/14/0514/050914.html



The problem isn’t that the movies are product—most movies are product, and always have been—but that they can’t be bothered to pretend they’re not product. That’s the difference between popular art and forgettable mass-produced entertainment: the mass-produced entertainment flaunts its product-ness, then expects us to praise even minor evidence of idiosyncrasy as proof that we are not, in fact, collectively spending billions on product.

Seitz, M. Z. (2014, May 6). Things Crashing Into Other Things: Or, My Superhero Movie Problem. Retrieved from http://www.rogerebert.com/mzs/things-crashing-into-other-things-or-my-superhero-movie-problem


Odd Question

Odd question, but it’s on my mind. If I pee into a bowl and use the filter on that, will it taste like water or pee?

Why ruin the taste of urine w/ a LifeStraw???
Chris H. answered on November 11, 2014

If you are at the point where you have to drink your pee, does taste really matter?
mrvman answered on October 23, 2014

Severson, T. (2013, October 29). Amazon.com: Questions & Answers. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/forum/-/Tx2J7FU0SL633HP/ref=ask_dp_dpmw_al_hza?asin=B006QF3TW4


Frustratingly, Harlow limited his discussion of Gage’s mental status to a few hundred words, but he does make it clear that Gage changed—somehow. Although resolute before the accident, Harlow says Gage was now capricious, and no sooner made a plan than dropped it for another scheme. Although deferential to people’s wishes before, Gage now chafed at any restraint on his desires. Although a “smart, shrewd businessman” before, Gage now lacked money sense. And although courteous and reverent before, Gage was now “fitful [and] irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity.” Harlow summed up Gage’s personality changes by saying, “the equilibrium … between his intellectual faculties and his animal propensities seems to have been destroyed.” More pithily, friends said that Gage “was no longer Gage.”

Kean, S. (2014, May 6). Phineas Gage, Neuroscience’s Most Famous Patient. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/05/phineas_gage_neuroscience_case_true_story_of_famous_frontal_lobe_patient.html



Vacuous Lives

That the uber rich are often profoundly decadent sybarites is hardly a news flash or even noteworthy. The Egyptian Pharaohs, the Emperors during myriad dynasties in ancient China as well as the Monarchical leaders of France and England have all seen numerous corrupt and depraved members. Modern America with the infamous one hundredth of the top one percent with their philistine manners are merely following the pattern of the ultra-wealthy. Moral depravity and vacuous lives are often inherent in the lives of the worldly super rich.

Vindication (2015, August 22). Re: Dinner and Deception: Serving elaborate meals to the super-rich left me feeling empty [Reader Comment]. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/23/opinion/sunday/dinner-and-deception.html?ref=opinion&_r=0


Murky Dark

[Michael] McDonald’s numb, phantom longing is matched to music (featuring “Rosanna”-era Toto players) that comes in stormy but slowly clears up, only to drop back into the murky dark again exactly as he comes to the realization that he’s clinging to the apparition of a closeness long since departed.

Pitchfork. (2015, August 24). The 200 Best Songs of the 80’s: #147 Michael McDonald “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near).” Retrieved from http://pitchfork.com/features/lists-and-guides/9700-the-200-best-songs-of-the-1980s/?page=3


[Edward Gibbon’s] father had neither the business sense nor the resilience of his grandfather, and through social ambitions, pretensions, and mismanagement, squandered much of what had been a considerable fortune.

“His gay character and mode of life,” Gibbon, in mild understatement, wrote, “were less adapted to the acquisition than to the expenditure of wealth.”

Epstein, J. (2015, September 1). The Best of Scribblers Edward Gibbon and the importance of great writing to great history. Retrieved from https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/best-scribblers/



Just as the heavy industry can greenwash to produce the appearance of environmental responsibility and the consumer industry can pinkwash to connect themselves to cause marketing, so the technology industry can “engineerwash”—leveraging the legacy of engineering in order to make their products and services appear to engender trust, competence, and service in the public interest.

Bogost, I. (2015, November 5). Programmers: Stop Calling Yourselves Engineers. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/11/programmers-should-not-call-themselves-engineers/414271/

Handcuff Emoji

“To be accused is to lose.  Every time.” Dean Strang, speaking of the loss of reputation and character damage when charged with a crime, guilty or not.

Making a Murderer. By Laura Ricciardi. Dir. Moira Demos. Perf. Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. Netflix, 18 Dec. 2015. Web.


It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

Mark Twain (or not)



“The second generation paleo-rich are the worst because they actually think they deserve their position, and they haven’t even done anything to earn it. Trump is a classic second generation paleo-rich, as are the Waltons and the Kochs.”

Classic examples of being born on third base and then insisting you hit a triple.

Jim in Austin (2017, June 30). Re: How the superrich have funded a new class of intellectual [Blog Comment]. Retrieved from http://www.metafilter.com/167934/How-the-superrich-have-funded-a-new-class-of-intellectual#7081938


Mirage of Happiness

Like so many Kaufman characters, the ones in this movie are struggling, stumbling even, towards what might be a mirage of happiness, while battling both their own social conditioning and pathologies and the bland indifference of the world around them—a world that includes billions of other people who all think they are the stars of their own life-movies, and at times seem deeply frustrated by the fact that they haven’t experienced one of those transformative moments that tell moviegoers, “Everything is going to be fine for this character now, don’t worry.”

Seitz, M. Z. (2015, December 29). Review: Anomalisa (2015). Retrieved from http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/anomalisa-2015


Thought Leader

The purpose of the thought leader is to mirror, systematize, and popularize the delusions of the superrich: that they have earned their fortunes on merit, that social protections need to be further eviscerated to make everyone more flexible for “the future,” and that local attachments and alternative ways of living should be replaced by an aspirational consumerism. The thought leader aggregates these fundamental convictions into a great humanitarian mission. Every problem, he prophesies, can be solved with technology and rich people’s money, if we will only get our traditions, communities, and democratic norms out of the way.

Sessions, D. (2017, June 28). The Rise of the Thought Leader. Retrieved from https://newrepublic.com/article/143004/rise-thought-leader-how-superrich-funded-new-class-intellectual


The upstarts who work at startups don’t often stay at any one place for very long. (Three out of four startups fail. More than nine out of ten never earn a return.) They work a year here, a few months there—zany hours everywhere. They wear jeans and sneakers and ride scooters and share offices and sprawl on couches like Great Danes. Their coffee machines look like dollhouse-size factories.

Lepore, J. (2014, June 23). The Disruption Machine: What the gospel of innovation gets wrong. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/06/23/the-disruption-machine

School Desk

Unqualified Snobbery

The most “worldly” society I have ever lived in is that of schoolboys: most worldly in the cruelty and arrogance of the strong, the toadyism and mutual treachery of the weak, and the unqualified snobbery of both. Nothing was so base that the school proletariat would not do it, or suffer it, to win the favour of the school aristocracy: hardly any injustice too bad for the aristocracy to practice.

Lewis, C.S. “A Reply to Professor Haldane.” Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, Edited by Walter Hooper, Harvest Books, 2002, pp. 79.



Sir Alistair Canning (Jack Davenport), a senior presence at the Foreign Office, whose demeanor is modeled on a Rolls-Royce crunching lightly but implacably up a gravel drive…

Lane, A. (2017, February 13). “A United Kingdom” and “Land of Mine.” Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/13/a-united-kingdom-and-land-of-mine


Life knows two miseries; getting what you don’t want and not getting what you want.

Max Payne. Written by Sam Lake. Remedy Entertainment, 2001. Video Game.


Dick Justice

The rain was comin’ down like all the angels in heaven decided to take a piss at the same time.

Max Payne. Written by Sam Lake. Remedy Entertainment, 2001. Video Game.


Safe Space

The Trump phenomenon didn’t make sense to me until some writer pointed out that his campaign–its rhetoric, his rallies–offered the equivalent of a safe space to a certain kind of angry white person. I think it’s fair to say Trump is president only because of his success in nursing his supporters’ hurt feelings.

There’s no other way to parse it. His supporters admit they don’t take him literally. They show no more interest in policy-making than he does. Many of them effectively voted to give up their healthcare in his honor. They don’t care that he contradicts himself and doesn’t keep promises. They don’t care about his absurd cabinet, the lobbyists, the Russia stuff, the obstruction stuff, the apparent violations of the emoluments clause, the absence of his tax returns, his classless treatment of allies, his bluster, or the fact that his erratic behavior has rendered his government ineffective. When he says he’s been a tireless signer of new legislation, they believe him, despite the evidence [in front of] their eyes.

This only makes sense if we assume his supporters value their feelings above everything else. They like the way he makes them feel, even if he does things that go against their interests–taking their healthcare, wasting tax dollars on golf, lowering taxes for the rich–and dishonors our country before our allies. They like his stories, his romanticism (the only explanation for his economic platform), and his attitude. They’re like the lotus eaters from Odyssey.

Jeremy (2017, June 14). Re: How ‘Snowflake’ Became America’s Inescapable Tough-Guy Taunt [Reader Comment]. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/magazine/how-snowflake-became-americas-inescapable-tough-guy-taunt.html?action=click&contentCollection=magazine&module=NextInCollection&region=Footer&pgtype=article&version=column&rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Ffirst-words


Immense Managerial Apparatuses

If you set aside his long-running TV show “King of the Hill,” which is much too loving to be considered satire, Judge’s corpus of work cleaves neatly into two pieces. In one, people are driven nearly to ruin in their efforts to escape the crush of immense managerial apparatuses (“Office Space,” “Extract”). In the other, we see the opposite — imbeciles left completely and terrifyingly to their own devices (“Beavis and Butt-Head”, “Idiocracy”).

Staley, W. (2017, April 13). Mike Judge, the Bard of Suck. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/magazine/mike-judge-the-bard-of-suck.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=image&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news


Indigestible Garbage

6. Most Music Sucks

Honestly, most of everything sucks. Most architecture sucks. Most visual art sucks. Most writing sucks. Falling in line with this noble, sacred truth, your music also probably sucks. Do you really think you deserve to get paid for sucking, just because you took the time to suck?

Here’s a parallel for you: Your friend decides to go to culinary school in Paris. He trains for a year with some of the most prestigious and proficient chefs in the entire world. When he comes home, he offers to cook you a meal for the modest price of just the ingredients required for the meal. Then he makes you a dish made of chocolate-covered sardines that have been marinating in duck blood for a week, garnished with Pizza Rolls that are frozen in the middle.

Should you pay him for this rancid mess? Because that’s what 99 percent of all bands are — indigestible garbage, meticulously crafted with clueless pride.


3. Feeling Pain Makes You Better

You can’t trust an artist of any medium who creates with the absence of genuine pain. That’s what this stuff is all about — communicating profound emotions through the cathartic process of creation. Contrived as it may seem, genuinely beautiful and memorable art (unless constructed by a brilliant and hollow master manipulator or impersonator) stems from an indescribable rawness that lacks a vehicle yet begs to be released. By keeping you miserable on some level, you’re being granted a favor. You don’t deserve to get compensated; it’s going to make you into a boring chump. If you don’t descend into illness and unrecoverable poverty, maybe later you’ll thank the world for screwing you over.


1. You Care Too Much

There are few things more rewarding than denying someone who cares entirely too much about something trivial. Rather than being content in doing the thing you supposedly are in love with, you choose to focus on things like financial compensation to indicate your success. If being validated by an outside force is what creates love and worth in your art, then you’re doing it for the wrong reason, and so you get nothing. You lose. Good day sir.

Ailes, D. (2015, February 3). Six Reasons Musicians Don’t Deserve To Get Paid. Retrieved from http://www.citypages.com/music/six-reasons-musicians-dont-deserve-to-get-paid-6617842


Graveyard of Failures

Don’t start a podcast. You’re going to get discouraged within a year when nobody gives a shit about it and then you’re going to give up. After you give up, it will sit in your personal graveyard of failures and inadequacies. Its creative corpse will forever gaze at your future corpse.

Ailes, D. (2015, February 11). Kindly Think Again Before Making a Podcast. Retrieved from http://www.citypages.com/music/kindly-think-again-before-making-a-podcast-6629436


Inexpressible Tedium

During the day, “educational sessions” on topics of inexpressible tedium—“Wave Goodbye to Low Volunteer Retention”—droned on, testament (as are the educational sessions of a hundred other conferences) to the fact that the growth field in higher education is not Elizabethan literature or organic chemistry but mid-level administration.


O, Utopia. Why must your sweet governance always turn so quickly from the Edenic to the Stalinist? The college revolutions of the 1960s—the ones that gave rise to the social-justice warriors of today’s campuses—were fueled by free speech. But once you’ve won a culture war, free speech is a nuisance, and “eliminating” language becomes a necessity.

Flanagan, C. (2015, September). That’s Not Funny! Today’s college students can’t seem to take a joke. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/thats-not-funny/399335/


Create a Yearning

But it is the first move in the game: create a yearning for that which others cannot have and you can sell it at any price.

Gold, T. (2015, September). [Criticism] A Goose in a Dress. Retrieved from https://harpers.org/archive/2015/09/a-goose-in-a-dress/4/







Impression of Activity

The “Bankspeak” study noted the penchant of World Bank authors to link long chains of nouns with the word “and” can produce mind-numbing lists that create the impression of activity.

Mayeda, A. (2017, May 25). World Bank’s Star Economist Is Sidelined in War Over Words. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-25/war-over-words-erupts-as-world-bank-star-economist-is-sidelined


Over-predict Failure

While most people tend to be optimistic, those suffering from depression and anxiety have a bleak view of the future — and that in fact seems to be the chief cause of their problems, not their past traumas nor their view of the present. While traumas do have a lasting impact, most people actually emerge stronger afterward. Others continue struggling because they over-predict failure and rejection. Studies have shown depressed people are distinguished from the norm by their tendency to imagine fewer positive scenarios while overestimating future risks. They withdraw socially and become paralyzed by exaggerated self-doubt.

Seligman, M. E., & Tierney, J. (2017, May 19). We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/19/opinion/sunday/why-the-future-is-always-on-your-mind.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region&_r=0

Trump Emoji


Here is how it works: Rather than defend President Trump’s specific actions, his conservative champions change the subject to (1) the biased “fake news” media, (2) over-the-top liberals, (3) hypocrites on the left, (4) anyone else victimizing Mr. Trump or his supporters and (5) whataboutism, as in “What about Obama?” “What about Clinton?”


But, as Damon Linker noted, anti-anti-Trumpism “allows the right to indulge its hatred of liberals and liberalism while sidestepping the need for a reckoning with the disaster of the Trump administration itself.”


In many ways anti-anti-Trumpism mirrors Donald Trump himself, because at its core there are no fixed values, no respect for constitutional government or ideas of personal character, only a free-floating nihilism cloaked in insult, mockery and bombast.

Sykes, C. J. (2017, May 12). If Liberals Hate Him, Then Trump Must Be Doing Something Right. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/12/opinion/sunday/if-liberals-hate-him-then-trump-must-be-doing-something-right.html

Periodically Ruined

Subsequent fiascos — the rise of Al Qaeda and then the Islamic State, the crisis of unregulated financial capitalism followed by the bailout of culpable bankers — confirmed that this elite was too entrenched to be displaced by its failures and too arrogant to learn from them.


It could be argued that this frequently asserted and widely believed American creed of continuous and irreversible progress is what saved a diverse society not only from tragic social conflicts, but also from the mass manipulators who have periodically ruined other countries with their quack solutions.

Mishra, P. (2017, April 28). America, From Exceptionalism to Nihilism. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/28/opinion/america-from-exceptionalism-to-nihilism.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region


Always Cranked Up to 10

Guy Ritchie is that fun friend whose texts you don’t always return because his energy level is always cranked up to 10, and even when you’re in the mood for him, he still wears you out.

No, the real problem is that the movie is unmodulated from start to finish. It never lets up in the exact way that a cocaine addict who wants to tell you his life story before closing time never lets up.


…the film does it constantly for two hours, dicing dialogue, performances and story points into microscopic narrative particles that disintegrate in the mind.

Seitz, M. Z. (2017, May 12). Review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017). Retrieved from http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/king-arthur-legend-of-the-sword-2017


TED Talk

Shortly before the end, Bess spoke with genuine enthusiasm about a TED Talk—a pat distillation of a zeitgeisty subject spewed by some billionaire narcissist in a headset, accompanied by inaccurate line graphs. Weeks prior, she had used the word “impactful” in a sentence. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory can be made to the Bess Kalb Fund for Adult Illiteracy.

Kalb, B. (2016, April 30). Obituaries My Mother Wrote for Me While I Was Living in San Francisco in My Twenties. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/obituaries-my-mother-wrote-for-me-while-i-was-living-in-san-francisco-in-my-twenties


Self-Lionizing Prophets

Alienation breeds a hysterical public conversation. Its public intellectuals are addicted to overstatement, sloppiness, pessimism, and despair. They are self-indulgent and self-lionizing prophets of doom who use formulations like “the Flight 93 election” — who speak of every problem as if it were the apocalypse.

Brooks, D. (2017, May 23). The Alienated Mind. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/opinion/alienated-mind-trump-supporters.html?ribbon-ad-idx=3&src=trending&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Trending&pgtype=article


And It Never Will

Urban living is a pain even when there’s enough room. For most of the morning there was a screaming lady at the corner by the bus stop – whatever line she was waiting for never came, and never will. Periodic orations of obscenities and injustices, punctuated by ambulance sirens that will never give her a lift unless she steps in front of one, and police cars that will never take her to the mentally ill shelter until she pushes someone else in front of a cab, and cabs that will never stop because they’re in a horrible mood all the time.

Lileks, J. (2017, June 28). The Bleat. Retrieved from http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/17/0617/062817.html


Exhaust Port

Sure, you could crush their movements with an iron fist, using violence to kill, intimidate or arrest their most vocal members. But that can backfire, often turning them into martyrs and proving them right in the process — you’ve seen Star Wars; somebody always finds the exhaust port.

Wong, D. (2015, June 9). 5 Ways Powerful People Trick You Into Hating Protesters. Retrieved from http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-ways-powerful-people-trick-you-into-hating-underdogs/


Fury of a Thousand Suns

As is often the case, the “Christian morals and values” in question were less about feeding the poor and loving thy neighbor, and more about being weirdly preoccupied with who is fucking who.

[Massachusite pastor Scott] Lively got his no-homo ass to Uganda and gave lengthy lectures to the government about the dangers of homosexuality and how if two dudes even get boners in the same ZIP code, God will destroy the Earth with the fury of a thousand suns.

Radomile, C. (2017, January 30). 6 Random Nobodies (Who Secretly Run The World). Retrieved from http://www.cracked.com/article_24587_6-random-nobodies-who-secretly-run-world.html



Moments of Recognition

If one of the pleasures of movie-going is seeing strange new things on the screen, another pleasure, and probably a deeper one, is experiencing moments of recognition – times when we can say, yes, that’s exactly right, that’s exactly the way it would have happened.

Ebert, R. (1986, July 1). Review: About Last Night…(1986). Retrieved from http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/about-last-night—-1986


Easy to Dismiss

As always, climate change works like an opportunistic pathogen, worsening existing woes, not acting alone. This can make it hard to pin down, easy to dismiss.

Kimmelman, M. (2017, April 7). Rising Waters Threaten China’s Rising Cities. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/07/world/asia/climate-change-china.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news


Tough-Guy Posturing

These days, the preferred insult is a new addition to the canon: “snowflake.” It is simultaneously emasculating and infantilizing, suggesting fragility but also an inflated sense of a person’s own specialness and a naïve embrace of difference. It evokes the grade-school art classes in which children scissor up folded pieces of construction paper and learn that every snowflake is unique, and every person is, too. But in the Trump era, it feels as if the classroom bully has tipped over the craft table and is wielding the scissors triumphantly in the air.


The truth is that people who use “snowflake” as an insult tend to seem pretty aggrieved themselves — hypersensitive to dissent or complication and nursing a healthy appetite for feeling oppressed.


Today’s tough-guy posturing seems rooted, paradoxically, in threat and fear: fear of defeat, fear of lost status and fear that society is growing increasingly ill-suited to tough-guy posturing in the first place.

Hess, A. (2017, June 13). How “Snowflake” Became America’s Inescapable Tough-Guy Taunt. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/magazine/how-snowflake-became-americas-inescapable-tough-guy-taunt.html?action=click&contentCollection=magazine&module=NextInCollection&region=Footer&pgtype=article&version=column&rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Ffirst-words



“Silencing critics” is the beating heart of today’s “winning.” This is largely because your critics are not, in fact, competing with you; they have no formal power over you, are rarely seeking any and tend to do little more than express the opinion that you’ve done something wrong. They offer you a game you cannot lose. You don’t even need to be a public figure to benefit from this line of thinking: As soon as you decide your chief adversaries are the people who disapprove of your behavior (neighbors, doctors, elites, “the media,” climate scientists, other people on Facebook and Twitter), then simply continuing to do whatever you were already doing, no matter how ill advised or self-defeating, takes on the dimensions of a triumph.

But this is a very strange measure of victory. This kind of winning doesn’t set goals and then judge success by how much progress is made toward achieving them. Its focus is entirely on reputation and status and the superficial image of power. Sometimes it picks goals based on ease. Sometimes it achieves things at random and then claims they were goals. If all else fails, it just declares victory and sits back looking satisfied — as when Trump recently announced that “with few exceptions” there has never in history been a president who has “done more things.” After all, if you really do hold the almost feudal belief that there are two kinds of people — those ordained by nature to dominate and the losers upon whom they exercise their prerogatives — what do the details matter, as long as you’ve claimed a seat among the winners?

Abebe, N. (2017, June 20). Tired of “Winning”? You Should Be. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/magazine/tired-of-winning-you-should-be.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Ffirst-words&action=click&contentCollection=magazine&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection


Enemies are useful: We all know the sweet, full-bodied relief of having someone else to blame for our problems. Why did the crops fail? It could be that you are an inept farmer. It could be that everything is up to chance. Or it could be that your neighbor, who has always been jealous of you, is doing something sinister to your crops.

Quinn, A. (2017, June 6). How Did “Witch Hunt” Become the Complaint of the Powerful? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/06/magazine/how-did-witch-hunt-become-the-complaint-of-the-powerful.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2FFirst%20Words&action=click&contentCollection=Magazine&module=Collection&region=Marginalia&src=me&version=column&pgtype=article


The Outrage Cycle

“Someone does something on the internet,” he said. “It causes everyone to notice them. And the internet is this huge crowd that loves things way too intensely and disproportionately.”

“At some point, inevitably, it’s found out that they’ve said something regrettable at some point in their lives, because they’re human. They never realized they were going to have to stand up to the scrutiny of everyone. And then you hate them as much as you once loved them.”

“Before we were online, it took longer for people to disappoint you,” he added. “And sometimes, maybe, they never did.”


But Mr. Ward’s original tweet can also be seen as mocking the entirety of the now-familiar outrage cycle. It pokes fun at people’s repeated willingness to be seduced by seemingly lovable new public figures, as well as their predictable rejection of those figures when they become, as internet parlance would have it, problematic.

Bromwich, J. E. (2017, June 27). How a Joke Becomes a Meme: The Birth of “Milkshake Duck.” Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/27/arts/milkshake-duck-meme.html?module=WatchingPortal&region=c-column-middle-span-region&pgType=Homepage&action=click&mediaId=thumb_square&state=standard&contentPlacement=3&version=internal&contentCollection=www.nytimes.com&contentId=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2017%2F06%2F27%2Farts%2Fmilkshake-duck-meme.html&eventName=Watching-article-click&_r=0


Imagined Enemy

The need to “win” is undoubtedly most present in those who see themselves as “losers.” Whether by circumstance or by self-destructive tendencies, those who feel marginalized by society, or ridiculed by better-educated people, or simply unloved and unwanted look for redemption by trying to defeat some imagined enemy. But lost in this quixotic crusade is the concept of collaboration, since one can hardly respect another if they do not respect themselves. The sad result is a fruitless cycle of trying to find self-worth through the vanquishing of others.

As with Trump himself, Republican voters seem wholly unsatisfied despite having won control of the government. They still feel inadequate and aggrieved, and can’t seem to figure out what to do now. While Trump tries to recreate the excitement of his campaign with bizarre “rallies” to boost his ego, the Trump voter looks at the unchanged conditions of his life and wonders when the spoils of victory will finally make him feel better about himself.

pconrad (2017, June 20). Re: Tired of Winning? You Should Be [Reader Comment]. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/magazine/tired-of-winning-you-should-be.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Ffirst-words&action=click&contentCollection=magazine&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection