16

🚬

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

Pointing-finger-300px

YOU THERE

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

💪

Cocksure

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

💣

Transgression

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

🕶️

McSweeney’s

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

1

👠

 Too much temptation. Too Little wisdom.

LIKE classic French cooking, the best American crime fiction relies on a limited number of simple ingredients (which may be why it’s so popular in France). Too much temptation. Too little wisdom. Too many weak, bad men. Too few strong, good ones. And spread over everything, freedom. Freedom and space. The freedom (perhaps illusory) to make poor choices and the space (as real as the highways) to flee their consequences — temporarily, at least. Corny and crude in the way of all great folk art, the intrinsically pessimistic crime novel — as opposed to the basically optimistic detective novel — is not about the workings of human justice but the dominion of inhuman time. As devised and refined by James M. Cain, Jim Thompson and their gloomy paperback peers, the crime novel aimed its cheap handgun at the heart of America’s most prized beliefs about its destiny: that the loot we’ve scooped up will belong to us forever and that history allows clean getaways.

Kirn, W. (2005, July 24). ‘No Country for Old Men’: Texas Noir. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/24/books/review/no-country-for-old-men-texas-noir.html?_r=0


🐢

 A Kindness Set Point

My resistance was based, in part, on the fact that compassion meditation was a little annoying–but more significantly, it stemmed from a deep-seated suspicion: that we each have a kindness set point, the result of factory settings that could not be altered, and that mine may not be dialed particularly high.

Harris, D. (2017). 10% happier: how I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works: a true story. London, England: Yellow Kite.


toilet

Falling Down

As a description of our collective recession-era funk, “Falling Down” is to the early ’90s what “Network” was to the late ’70s. Written by Ebbe Roe Smith, the movie appraises the state of our national disease in a manner that goes far beyond what economic indicators tell us. If the last election was about change, the soul sickness shown in “Falling Down” reflects precisely why that change was essential. It’s the grim chart at the end of our hospital beds.

Hinson, H. (1993, February 26). Review: Falling Down. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/fallingdownrhinson_a0a7f7.htm


Civil Despair

Falling Down is not meant to be seen as the anatomy of a madman, but as a spectacle of civil despair in which some people give in to galvanizing self-pity and others cope as best they can.

Canby, V. (n.d.). Review/Film; Urban Horrors, All Too Familiar. Retrieved February 26, 1993, from http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9F0CE0DC113FF935A15751C0A965958260


forlorn-man

All That Messiness

And it feels like self-esteem presaged many of these other simple, straightforward stories; it feels like today, it’s increasingly common for academics to sell — often onstage at a TED Talk — simple, one- or two-sentence accounts of human nature that supposedly are the key to solving problems that have been around for decades or centuries or millennia.

[…]

Like self-esteem, grit scrubs away so much of the complexity and inequality that determines who gets what, and who succeeds and who fails, replacing all that messiness with a clean and memorable storyline that can be summed up in a sentence or two.

Singal, J. (2017, May 30). How the Self-Esteem Craze Took Over America. Retrieved from http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/05/self-esteem-grit-do-they-really-help.html?mid=facebook_nymag%3E


Cabin-Chimney-Smoke

Need to Believe

But I also know as a reader, when the writer gets sentimental, you drift because there’s something fishy going on there. You recognize a moment that’s largely about the writer and the writer’s own need to believe in something that might not in fact exist.

Avni, S. (2003, February 11). No way out. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2003/02/11/leblanc


beer-mug

Very Dumb Things

“The reason men from 18 to 25 die is because they do very dumb things,” Crossmon said. “I’ve seen this for 30 years. It’s generally alcohol related. During that time in my life, I should have died a hundred times over.”

Smith, M. L. (2017, June 19). With his son lost at the bottom of the river, a father turns to one man who might find him. Retrieved from http://www.startribune.com/with-his-son-lost-at-the-bottom-of-the-river-a-father-turns-to-one-man-who-might-find-him/429133433/


corporate-cogs

Quest for Truth

How dare you not consult a for-profit brand’s public relations department in your quest for Truth.

Feinberg, A. (2015, August 11). Tinder to Vanity Fair: Fuck You, North Koreans Love Us. Retrieved from http://gawker.com/tinder-to-vanity-fair-fuck-you-north-koreans-love-us-1723547611


🌀

 Perfect Storm

This seems to have been the first use of ‘‘perfect storm’’ in the sense in which it typically blows through the news cycle today: as a tool for backward-looking exoneration. A single error in judgment might merit consequences. But if enough people are implicated in it, it becomes not a mistake but a phenomenon: something to be explained rather than punished.

[…]

This kind of ‘‘perfect storm’’ is seductive because it speaks to the unnerving condition of living in a time when much of our well-being is tied up in vast, convoluted systems that few people comprehend. There is a paradoxical comfort in seeing the failure of these systems as a kind of apocalyptic metaphorical weather rather than as the conscious failure of the regulators, executives, and politicians who have been entrusted with power over our lives. It casts them, and us, as noble casualties, like the crew of the Andrea Gail.

Homans, C. (2016, January 20). How the ‘Perfect Storm’ Became the Perfect Cop-Out. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/magazine/how-the-perfect-storm-became-the-perfect-cop-out.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth-Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt-region-2&module=inside-nyt-region®ion=inside-nyt-region&WT.nav=inside-nyt-region%3E


 The Other Half

Half of America is furious at the other half, unable to agree on even previously uncontroversial topics like the weather.

Lyall, S. (2017, June 9). Paying a Price for 8 Days of Flying in America. Retrieved from https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/06/09/business/what-its-like-to-fly-for-a-week-straight.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&referer=http://m.facebook.com


 Not Have to Fail

The increasing inability of many readers to construe fiction as anything other than roman à clef, or the raw material of biography, is both indulged and encouraged.

[…]

There are arresting glimpses here and there, fragments shored against what the writer must have seen as his ruin, and a sympathetic reader might well believe it possible that had the writer lived (which is to say had the writer found the will and energy and memory and concentration) he might have shaped the material, written it into being, made it work as the story the glimpses suggest, that of a man returning to a place he loved and finding himself at three in the morning confronting the knowledge that he is no longer the person who loved it and will never now be the person he had meant to be. But of course, such a possibility would have been in the end closed to this particular writer, for he had already written that story, in 1936, and called it “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” “Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well,” the writer in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” thought as he lay dying of gangrene in Africa. And then, this afterthought, the saddest story: “Well, he would not have to fail at trying to write them either.”

Didion, J. (1998, November 9). Last Words: Those Hemingway wrote, and those he didn’t. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1998/11/09/last-words-6


♰✡ Chest Thumping

A recent poll conducted by religious researcher Barna Group found that U.S. Christians identified more with the Pharisees than with Christ. This squares nicely with what we plainly see – that U.S. Christians wield their god as nothing more than a justification for chest-thumping self-righteousness.

Yancy, G. (2017, June 19). Is Your God Dead? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/19/opinion/is-your-god-dead.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region®ion=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region%3E


💂

LDN

It is easy to be impressed by such a sight, but no one could be seduced by it. Awe is what despots seek because they cannot nurture affection. Intimidation breeds obedience and even a craven kind of attachment, but never tenderness. London used to win people with charm; now it controls them with fear.

Behr, R. (2015, June 29). Goodbye London: why people are leaving the capital. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/29/goodbye-london-moving-to-brighton-house-prices


🏭

 They Cost Too Much

Hire them at 20, they’ll be keen and will work for peanuts. Keep them at 30, they’ll cost you more but still have a lot of energy and experience and something to prove. Get rid of them at 40, they cost too much and they’re resting on their laurels. They’re done.

Source Unknown


💨

 Flood of Effluvia

Howard Stern: Today, with electronic media and social media, can you imagine starting out, you come up with a joke, they put it on the Internet, and it’s kind of like over, the material’s been used up, it spreads so fast.”

Jerry Seinfeld: No, but it doesn’t because there’s such a larger flood of effluvia from everybody, yapping and tweeting and Internet that no one can pay attention to anything so things get less attention.”

The Howard Stern Show. (2013, June 26). Sirius XM Radio.