thousand yards

A lot of people are pretty stressed today. I don’t blame them but I’m not really one of them. My mood is more thousand yard stare. Is there an emoji for that? A react?

Electoral politics are probably the politics I find least interesting. But I do have a few thoughts and feelings on this still ongoing election. None of them are stress. Not really.

Firstly, I’m disappointed. I wanted a total Biden landslide. And it’s not because I love Joe Biden. Like, I voted for him, but I have serious doubts about him. Not one of those doubts involves him being worse or even the same as Trump. Biden is insufficient. That’s pretty damn different from being a homicidal maniac. I’ll take insufficient. But, you can’t expect me to be happy about insufficient either. I’ll eat my broccoli. Don’t expect a hand-job.

Whatever my feelings on Biden, I would have very much liked to see a complete rout of Trump. That seemed out the window the moment Florida was lost. It’s all too close.

There’s tens of millions of Americans –almost half of the voting public– who woke up, went out, lined up, filled out papers, just to rehire Trump. Like, being indifferent to Trump is fucked up enough. But these are people, millions of people, who went out of their way to vote for him. They took the time. That’s astounding without being surprising. Just how bad of a job do you need to do before these motherfuckers just shrug and stay home?

Like, honestly, just how big of a fuck-up does a republican president have to be?

I mean, Jesus, the republican party should be demolished right now. You should be seeing some new right wing party showing up to take their place. And that whole country should be as resoundingly and quickly blue as Cali.

It sure is not!

This outcome, much like America’s basic inability to count votes or even hold fair and free elections and the gormless never-ending bend-over-backwards appeasement of fascism by the democrats, stuns and disappoints me. But in a very normal sort of way.

A lot of people find their minds turning to Bush versus Gore. I keep thinking of Bush versus Kerry. At that time, Bush had presided over an already disastrous and totally unnecessary war, seen the largest terrorist attack in history happen on his watch, attacked civil liberties, had Abu Gharib under his belt, and done a bunch of shit that I’ve probably forgotten. More than enough to get someone voted out in a sane world and brought up on war crimes charges in a just one. Yet he was reelected. This is the era of the great feeling of unity that many Americans now look back on with nostalgia. A unity that lead straight to mass murder.

I have the same feeling now that I had then. That same feeling of: Just how fucking thick are these people? How racist, callous and full of hate? Just how fucked up is this huge swath of the American public? The answer: Very. Very fucked up. So very, very fucked up.

It’s terrible but stressful? It’s been stressful for years. It’s chronic. Room temperature stress.

It’s just not the sort of thing that any one election can fix.

And, if you view the election as more of a measure of where a country is, this outcome isn’t really providing any new data. It’s a deeply divided nation. America is fucked up. It’s an incredibly racist and angry country. The shit is rotten right to the bones. About half of the voting public actually took time out of their day to vote FOR Trump. And they would vote for worse if they only had the chance. He’s just the worst idea they have for now. They’re out there, scrounging around for even worse ideas. They’ll find them too. Bank on that.

Whatever the outcome of any election, the presence and power of these dopes is going to be an ongoing and destructive problem. Their fascistic credulity is a cancer. It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse. Every single day, it’s getting worse. They’re not fading away.

This basic unwillingness to learn is The Fucking Undoing. You have to learn. It’s fundamental. And this unwillingness isn’t limited to these goofs. Just watching the results come on CNN, it’s absolutely amazing just how similar the coverage is to the last election. It’s all still covered like a sporting event. That’s just not the way to do it.

We still don’t know how this mess will play out in the next few weeks. So far, we’re looking at, if not the worst case scenario, then a still very bad case scenario. It’s also an almost totally predicted scenario. Indeed, watching Trump lurch onto the stage in the dead of the night to declare victory, and thinking about where the manufactured controversies are emerging, I was surprised by the groundwork he’s laid for this most recent assault on democracy. It’s almost surgical. A stunning amount of pre-meditation. We all see him coming. No surprises. This talking bag of piss knows what he’s doing.

Even if this was off-the-cuff, we’d still be left with a bad situation. A close election in a country that has a really hard time throwing elections, and a self-proclaimed president with the backing of violent paramilitaries. Seeing that wall around The White House tells me everything I need to know about Trump’s intentions. A person who plans on moving out doesn’t build a giant wall. A giant wall is a thing you build to keep people from coming in. As far as omens go, it’s not great. This could all get very ugly. It already is too ugly. It’s already too fucked up. It has been for a very long time. An exhausting length of time.

The election could turn into lawyer-ball. It probably will. That may favor the republicans but the more states Biden is able to bag, the harder of a time they’ll have of it. Of course, nothing would surprise me on that front. Given the complete failure of institutions to contain Trump, I would not place much faith in the courts or any other institution or procedure to stop him now. He might also just fuck off in the dead of the night to hide out in some weird country. I doubt it but it wouldn’t surprise me. Not much would.

But these sorts of projections? I just don’t know. And smarter people than me are probably better positioned to worry about all of this than I am. I’m sure that there’s an abundance of articles discussing the technicalities of these matters. I’m not sure any of that will matter. Far as I know, the electoral college isn’t even obligated to listen to the voters. And no one seems to know who any of these fuckers are, so, that’s still a thing that could go wrong . . .

Overall, it seems to me that nothing has much changed. America has had a dictator for four years. What it hasn’t had, yet, is a serious attempt to remove him from office. And getting a guy like this out will require a serious attempt. It needs people in the street and off the job. I doubt we’ll even see enough of that. I’m hoping to be surprised. There needs to be lines set.

One of them was crossed last night. When Trump declared victory and said he did not respect the results of the election before those results were even in, he crossed a line. That statement alone should have put a general strike on the table. That should have hit the table when he first started saying these things and probably before that. This should all be further along than it is. People have had four years to prepare. More time to prepare for this specific situation in the last few weeks. I hope that preparation wasn’t just based on winning an election or turning the shit over to the courts and lawyers. Some things need to happen on the ground and in the streets. People need to be ready to shut the country down.

The results, their very closeness and the basic intransigence of Trump and his supporters, doesn’t give me a lot of hope for that sort of action. But, hope or not, there does come a time, and we may well be there, we have probably been there for a while, when going about life as normal is collaboration with the regime. It should be viewed as such.

It’s a mess right now. But, no matter what happens, I think we all knew that we weren’t going to get through Donald Fucking Trump with things looking better than they did when he started. So, yeah, I’m pissed off, disappointed, disgusted, and irate.

But stressed? Not so much.

it’s fucked up

Depressing situation in the USA. I don’t just mean in general but with that whole one of the president’s top men being like ‘we’re not even going to try to control this pandemic.’ That attitude is not exactly news, of course. This gross indifference has been clear for some time.

Even before the pandemic. It’s not as if they ever gave a shit about anything else that kills people. About medical bills or pollution or housing or guns or anything really. Not like public health or safety was ever even remotely on their radar. Not when they can steal the pennies off a corpse’s eyes. The guy was just saying what everyone knows. They don’t give a fuck. They’ve made it clear.

Still, it’s just demoralizing.

The dumbest part of it is the part where they act like controlling this thing is MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. Like, sure, it’s inconvenient and, yeah, it calls for a long overdue redistribution of wealth, but it’s not exactly impossible. I mean, just today:

And that gets frustrating. Because, I saw what East Asia did to buy The West time. Then I saw that time just squandered and The West turn around and blame East Asians. You hear some countries tell it and it’s like this relative success isn’t happening or it’s only happening because of some strange Confucian cultural magic that cannot possibly be replicated in The West. That’s such bullshit. A lot of South Korea’s disease control bureaucracy was based on the American CDC, for God’s sake. America has the knowledge. It could control this. It can be done. It’s not magic. It’s just fucking science.

And by science, I mean we have a good idea how this thing spreads. We know what needs to close and when it needs to close, and how it can reopen and all of that. Sure, there’s some variance and there will be some differences and some screw-ups but, in broad strokes, these are not mysteries. What the government needs to do to mitigate the economic fallout is not a mystery. It’s all a challenge. None of it is a mystery. There’s pamphlets and how-to guides.

In many cases, Americans wrote them!

The basic formula is still the same. Test, trace, and treat. Clear accurate communication. Shut what needs to be shut then open slow and safe and be ready to shut again. Make sure people can do the right thing and help them do it. Support each other. Act decent. Cushion the blow.

No one should go broke behind this virus. Not when some are making billions from it.

Just the government’s complete inability, its total unwillingness, to learn from anyone else or even their own nation’s experience is demoralizing. Because, like, a responsible public is one thing but the government and the bosses absolutely have to do their bit too – and a big part of the government’s part is making sure that businesses do their part.

You can’t just do fuck-all and let bosses run over everyone and then act like this is all on Bobby No-Mask. If your system has come to rely on 18 year olds, conspiracy theorists, and assorted delinquents acting heroically responsible, you’re kinda fucked. That won’t work. It just won’t.

I mean, Jesus Christ, ask anyone who has ever lived in a punk-house. Bobby No-Mask just isn’t going to up and do the dishes. I wish he would. We all wish we would. But he won’t.

That doesn’t mean the dishes don’t need doing. They need doing. They’re dishes.

And, at this point —at any point really— my hat goes off to anyone and everyone who is, without the support of their society, still doing anything they can. It does make a difference. That’s hard to see.

It shouldn’t be so hard.

I feel funny even mentioning this but, like, okay . . .

Got a friend from Toronto who is in Seoul. Serious family problem. Rough time. None of your business. Goes through the quarantine and is out now. Out and about taking pics and whathaveyou. You’d think a thing like that might make me irate or jealous or something. Like WHY IS HE OUT DOING THESE THINGS WHEN WE HAD TO STAY AT HOME and so on and so forth. To be honest, that’s about what I’d expect from me. I have a bit of a dim view on myself. Can be a bit of a petty bitch, you know? But I don’t feel like that at all. I feel the opposite. I’m so happy for him.

I know, right? I’m surprised too!

Like, seeing him snd his family out and about, able to wring whatever enjoyment they can out of this trip makes me feel good. It makes me proud that we were able to get to a spot where that can happen. I don’t give a fuck about whatever I had to give up to make that possible. That’s what we were giving it up for.

An early motto here and a great one, I think, was: I’m okay, you first. I’m okay. I can give up something so someone else who needs it more can have it. It’s fine.

More than feeling happy for him, I even want to thank him for going out. (Can’t think of a way to do that within acceptable bounds of weirdness but, uh, if he somehow happens to read this shit – Thanks!) Seeing his kids out makes so much of this feel worthwhile. It needs to feel worthwhile. And sometimes you need to see that it is worthwhile.

It just seems a tragedy that so many people will never get that feeling. That their leadership and society has put them in a spot where they’re all supposed to be angry and judgemental of each other all the time. Without the support of government that’s all you have left. Blame each other. Become cannibals. People in that spot don’t get to see the reward.

The reward isn’t just what you get to enjoy. The real reward is seeing someone else enjoying it. And you don’t get that feeling –I never would have gotten that feeling– without leadership doing their bit too. Without that, I probably would have given up.

Don’t give up.

Easy for me to say.

It’s just fucked tho. I feel like these criminals in leadership, this collection of grifters, fascists, and gormless incompetents, is stealing things people didn’t even know they could have. It’s fucked up.

That’s all. It’s not surprising. It’s fucked up is all. Really fucked up.

log: the fuck, Toronto?

wormdate: L2: 1-422: 73 – 24,091.

We’ve had our fifth day in a row with daily new cases back in double digits. We’re also through the 추석 holiday. Though testing is fast here, I imagine that it will take a little time to see what happened with all of that travel.

Spoke with a couple of Toronto friends and it sounds like Toronto is doing the full Florida. Opening casinos, reducing testing, and just getting a completely garbled gobbleygook of instruction from its leaders. Apparently, it’s hard to tell what’s going on in Ontario even if you live there. So you can probably imagine how difficult it is to tell from 부산.

I did make a passing attempt to get a general idea of the situation. I went to the CBC. They had a picture of a South Korean woman and her daughter in full PPE at Incheon airport on their front page. That’s just all sorts of fucked up. I can’t figure it out. Why?

Like, is it to pretend that this image shows the sort of impossible extremes that South Korea has gone to in fighting COVID? I can promise you, it’s not like that. We’re not all wandering around in full PPE. No one outside of doctors, nurses and the like is doing anything like that. That was a single wingnut in one of the world’s busiest airports. Why show her picture in the middle of your outbreak? What the fuck?

Aside from visually misrepresenting what is happening here, it just seems like the usual casual racism from Canada’s deeply WASP media apparatus. It’s the Canadian way of calling COVID “the China virus” without stooping to the vulgarity of actually saying that. The face of COVID must always be Asian. And look – she’s getting on an airplane! Is she coming to your town?

You want a face of COVID?

I still can’t believe Toronto elected this walking advertisement for middle aged lower back pain. I know things were bad with Rob Ford but I really thought I could count on a basic hatred of Fucking Rogers to keep John Tory out of the picture. John Tory is not the solution. He’s not a solution to anything ever. It’s goddamn amazing that he ever even managed to finally win an election, let alone an election in Toronto. How did that happen?

What the fuck happened to you, Toronto? Like, seriously. John fucking Tory? The Fucking Rogers guy? You voted for Corporate?

I mean, I hate Rob Ford as much as the next guy but at least that crackhead was the sort of low level, bumbling, rightwing street hustler I would expect Toronto to have a soft spot for. I lived through Mel Lastman, after all. Those guys are just The Toronto Sun in human form. Do you want that? No. But you can understand it. There is, at least some false whiff of the proletariat around those jerks. There’s some pizzazz. John Tory tho? The manager? The fuck? Who votes for the fucking manager? What the fuck happened to you, Toronto? One crackhead boss and you go running to Fucking Rogers?

And making it worse

Doug fucking Ford.

Rob Ford’s asshole older brother. The sort of man who would, in a reasonable timeline, have been arrested for picking up cases of Molsons for highschool students. This guy should be lurking half-drunk on the fringes of a Piggly Wiggly parking lot, blasting Cottoneye Joe from his Z-28, and stroking his ponytail. We would all be happier. But instead he’s the Premier of Ontario and in charge of a public health crisis. I wouldn’t put him in charge of a bag of weed. The bag would go missing!

Between John Tory, a man who manages to simultaneously look like both the before and after picture for erectile dysfunction, and Gordie Dougie here, you’ve got a bit of a mess on your hands.

And, no doubt, they’re going to be wagging their dolphin fingers at you and trying to blame you for whatever the fuck it is they think they’re doing. Don’t buy it.

Like, I don’t have solutions or whatever, and even if I did, fuck me if I’m going to type them out twenty minutes before I have to get to school, but I just want to say: Fuck these guys.

That’s all: Fuck these guys.

COVID-washing

How ‘COVID-washing’ became the new greenwashing: Hardly surprising but still disgusting, companies are selling a bunch of snake-oil.

Capitalizing on the unspoken implications of phrases like “immune-boosting” and “immune strengthening,” as 78Minerals’ Cullison does. Take Bolthouse Farms’ immunity shot, a new product that raises the question why a salad-dressing brand is making immunity drinks. The two-ounce beverage and many like it play into the belief that we can individually strengthen our immune systems to prevent illness . . . The COVID-washing strategy is not specific to wellness products; it has also made its way into fashion. “Virus-fighting” denim stands out for being so bewilderingly (and hilariously) deplorable. 

For my money, the worst part of this isn’t so much this cheap con-game. It’s “the belief that we can individually strengthen our immune systems to prevent illness.” That sort of thinking is both symptom and cause of the sort of neoliberal horseshit that kills people, pulls societies apart, divides the world into winners and losers, and makes collective responses to collective problems impossible. Your immune system is not a function of your wise shopping choices. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

cancel culture

I”ve been hearing about “cancel culture” and apparently it’s pretty controversial. Man, I just dunno. It just seems like, when I was younger, people got more routinely cancelled for a lot less and this was a good thing. It wasn’t even really a thing. It just happened.

Nowadays, it seems like, one pop hit and we’re stuck with someone forever. How many C-List actors and musicians who should have long ago been consigned to the novelty-song dustbin of history do we need to keep? A good time to cancel Bieber? About two weeks after his YouTube debut. He should be a trivia question about the bad taste people used to have. Even remembering his name should have caused a pause within two years.

I’ve had to watch him age. We all have. Why?

So, yeah, we used to just be able to fucking forget about people. No big deal. But now? Now you’re expected to listen to that person you met once a decade ago hold forth on their anti-vax theories every day for the rest of your online life because if you “unfriend” them, you may be thought to have some sort of outrageously closed mind. What intolerance. I hope you enjoy life in bubble!!! What total bullshit. Everyone is so entitled to an audience.

And celebrities! Celebrities are the worst!

Celebrities don’t disappear anymore. They never go away. It’s like Hollywood Squares everywhere and forever. And now we’re told there needs to be a criminal conviction before we stop paying attention to these reprobates. They’re not entitled to my attention. They should be grateful any of them ever got any of it in the first place and they should be grateful somewhere out of my sight. (I don’t want them to interrupt my enjoyment of their replacement.)

So, yeah, there needs to be proactive cancelling because we forgot how how to forget. And assault is still too high a bar for cancellation. Sure, it’s a good reason and it really shouldn’t be controversial. All I’m saying is that, for a celebrity, for AN ENTERTAINER, a fair standard for cancellation is – you bored me for 10 minutes and looked ready to bore me for 10 minutes more. That’s where the vanish bar should be. We need an atrocity now? An a trial? A whole discussion? To carefully weigh ideas and opinions? Why?

Far as I can see, it’s just power protecting power. Like, you show up at your job and forty people accuse you of pissing all over the floor, assaulting your co-workers, and insulting the customers, and your cancellation would not be controversial. But try to cancel a celebrity? Everyone gets the vapors about freedom. Like they’re protecting some grand tradition of the free exchange of ideas. Most of celebrity’s big ideas are just about butts and the various ways you can shake butts. Valuable ideas, to be sure, but not exactly irreplaceable or the stuff democracy depends upon. And God forbid the intellectual freedom of a culture that produces nothing but superhero movies and reboots should ever find itself threatened by widespread cancellation. Whatever would we do? How would we even know what would happen if Joker fought Spiderman? Are we supposed to think about it?

Who fucking cares? Cancel away.

Trinity Bellwoods

Saw the images from Trinity Bellwoods park and, yeah, that is some frustrating shit. But, for my part –and maybe this is just me– I try to be careful of blaming groups of people for doing shit like that. Even if the act is totally irresponsible trash and, believe me, I do get the frustration because WTF?! And I’m not really one to tell people how they should feel. Some of that is because I just really don’t give too much of a fuck how a person feels.

The reason for this position is that I don’t trust blame. Blame feels pretty good and it certainly gets a lot of traction on social media (god knows, laying into that group will generate the likes and the views this ecosystem thrives on and I could write a post talking about “hipsters” and shit and sit back and watch the stupid fucking thing go viral) but blame in these circumstances doesn’t actually do much of anything you want it to do. The shameless stay shameless. Those with a capacity for shame just feel worse. Ultimately, blame only erodes the trust we need in each other to get through this shit and it diverts attention from the more boring, important and solvable problems. Policy is solveable.

Unless, of course, you live in the states where the general attitude is that the human heart is easier to change than any policy and, given just how fucked up that Constitution is — a document that distrusts power so much that it pretty much guaranteed that a bunch of dead slavers and rich white men would be the only people allowed to have it and purposely built a government that was not allowed to function so that generations of Americans could point at this government and say “look, governments can’t function!” while billionaires stole their wallets– and, if you live there, maybe you need to be concerned with hearts and feelings and changing people’s minds and shit. Because, everyone needs a hobby, I guess.

But, my understanding is that in Ontario, there was a set of criteria and numbers that had to be met before anything was reopened, and that none of these goals were met, and things were reopened anyway. That’s the issue. Bozos in a park is a problem but the government of Ontario (and Canada – this is a multi-partisan fuck-up) has absolutely failed in their most basic responsibilities even while the people have gone above and beyond theirs. That’s why your fortunes have been left in the hands of bozos in a park. So, yeah, there’s bozos in Trinity Bellwoods park but there’s been bozos in Trinity Bellwoods park as long as there’s been Trinity Bellwoods park. I even saw a possum there once. A fucking possum!!! Just sitting on the tennis court fence. Staring at nothing. In winter!!! Can you even believe that shit? You do not want your society to be the hands of these bozos. If that possum is really very dangerous to you in the 21st century, that possum might not be the problem.

In the states, reopening is also total horseshit, but it also needs to be noted that any stimulus bill that does not include universal healthcare is just *wanking motion in midair.* I mean, anything short of that, you’re just totally wasting your time, and even that is just the very start — universal health coverage just gets you to the starting post of dealing with general health problems never mind a fucking pandemic. It’s not the solution, it’s just the first step towards even beginning to navigate this problem. And other problems are coming. The world does not have a pause button. Other problems are coming. Big, small, and middle sized. They are coming. They’re not going to wait for you.

In the cases of both countries, I think you’re all going to have to organize, strike, and fight. It’s a shitty time to have to do any of that and, frankly, it’s always a bit of a long shot. You would have needed to have done a lot of this shit anyway. Like, if 100,000 dead and a pandemic isn’t enough to get a healthcare system even on the table, what was President Bernie Sanders supposed to do? It was always going to take strikes.

And none of it will be easy.

But there are 100,000 are dead in the US, thousands dead in Canada, and those numbers are only going up. In both places, it did not have to be that way. It was never going to be easy but it never had to be this bad either. And you can’t — you just cannot get numb to the death. None of this stops because you’re bored. None of this gets better by itself.

It’s really past time to think about the future you want and what you’re going to do about it. Because the future you’re going to get if you don’t fight for a livable one? It’s a very bad future. Very bad.

And, fuck knows, I wish I was there to do something other than provide moral support and calls to arms –I know how cheap this shit is– but I’m not there. You are. So get to it. And not on the internet. Internet is a sham. Like, you need to do things in the real world. Start building a tenant association, unionizing your workplace, if you still have one, and if you have a union, you need to force your union to start fighting for the sorts of victories that don’t lose wars. Wildcat strikes, sick-ins, you may need to wake them up almost as much as the companies. All of this should have been done a while back and almost none of it was.

But you can do this and you can win. But you have to actually do it to win. So get the fuck to doing it. You probably have enough theory. We’re drowning in theory. We need action.

All of that action is more important than blaming the blaming the people in the park but at least it’s also a lot harder and feels much worse too!

Dubious Health Benefits of Sex With Robots

sex robot

There’s a new report that says that there’s no evidence regarding the health benefits of having sex with robots. I had no idea these things were even being marketed as tools to improve any sort of health but apparently that’s a thing that’s happening.

A data void hasn’t prevented the spread of beneficial claims. “We became aware that doctors are being asked for their professional opinions on sex dolls and robots,” Cox-George said. Sexbots have been suggested as a way to promote safe sex or as therapies for people with companionship problems.

Doctors are expected to have a “professional opinion” on sex robots? You know, if your doctor prescribes a sex robot, I’d consider getting another doctor. But what if you’re lonely? Isn’t there supposed to be a cure for that?

In an interview published last year, Douglas Hines, chief executive of interactive sex doll maker TrueCompanion, told the Foundation for Responsible Robotics: “Roxxxy, our sex robot, provides what every adult needs – unconditional love and support. The ability to feel the loving embrace of a lover is a right every adult should be granted. We provide a solution to help adults meet their social as well as sexual needs.” (TrueCompanion and Realbotix did not respond to requests for comment.)

Look, I’ve got some bad news for you, here. This thing about what every adult needs – unconditional love and support? That’s not a thing an adult needs or should even expect. That’s for children. I’m not even totally convinced that it does children much good. Hell, I would say most of adulthood is about functioning without unconditional love and support. You grow up, you realize there’s terms and conditions. Even to love.

And yeah, you might still crave something like that. That’s why we have dogs. But you should still look after your dog. You still have responsibilities. You’re supposed to feed and love the dog back, you know? Take it for walks. There’s still conditions.

Like, Jesus Fucking Christ and Mother Mary, just my unprofessional opinion here, but grow the fuck up. Humping a doll isn’t going to help you with shit. Nice world if it did but get off the crap already.

 

American Anxiety

Adding to the list of things to be anxious about, apparently, Americans have more anxiety than other peoples. And this may be tied to the nation’s so-called meritocracy. Trickle-Down Distress: How America’s Broken Meritocracy Drives Our National Anxiety Epidemic.

So we’re more anxious than anything else—and also more anxious than anyone else, beating out all other nations in our race to the top of the nerve-racked list. According to a recent World Health Organization study, 31 percent of Americans are likely to suffer from an anxiety problem at some point during their lifetimes— compared to 25.3 percent of those in Colombia, and 24.6 percent in New Zealand, the countries that rank second and third. You’d think people in developing or unstable states—those preoccupied with concerns farther down on the Maslow Scale—would be more anxious than we are. Not so. “According to the 2002 World Mental Health Survey, people in developing-world countries such as Nigeria are up to five times less likely to show clinically significant anxiety levels than Americans, despite having more basic life-necessities to worry about,” writes Taylor Clark, author of Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool. “What’s more, when these less-anxious developing-world citizens emigrate to the United States, they tend to get just as anxious as Americans.

It probably has a lot to do with everything mentioned in that article. But also, it might be the constant screaming. This is a country that never stops screaming. From the moment you wake up, it’s news, screaming, ads, screaming, people, screaming. The packages scream BUY ME! The people scream YES! The news screams NOW! Someone is always screaming. No matter the feeling, how banal or best-kept-to-yourself it might be, someone is screaming about it. There’s no incident too small to not be screamed about. No imposition too tiny to not have a tantrum over. This entire country is written in ALL-CAPS. It’s just constant screaming. Can’t be good for the nerves. That’s all I’m saying.

It can’t be good for the nerves.

Toronto

I heard about the mass murder by van in Toronto late this afternoon.

I don’t have much to say on the subject, there’s never really much to say on a subject like that, but I will say this – The news should say less.

I made the mistake of trying to catch up on what was happening through an American news channel. The amount of speculation these outlets engage in is really ridiculous. Rather than reporting on the facts, they were going on and on about terrorists, pulling connections out of thin air and just being about as irresponsible in their reportage as it’s possible to be. Those imaginary connections cannot be unsaid. They create fear and prejudices. The associations they create linger in the mind. They create a sense of threat. Accusations of terrorism should be weighed carefully before being made by anyone and then they should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism. To have them made by the news? Without any actual reason? It’s fucking shameful. And people wonder why “fake news” has some traction. The media doesn’t exactly help itself.

I didn’t last long watching that parade of panic and misinformation. I turned the news off when they said that the attack was in Downtown Toronto. It might be petty of me but North York is not Downtown Toronto. These news motherfuckers don’t even know where it is and yet they feel free to talk about what, why and how it is. It’s really disgusting.

They do the same shit with mass shootings. Before the bodies are even cold, we’re forced to watch experts, who have never even met with the shooter and don’t even know their name, providing a fucking psychiatric diagnosis. And why? Does it accomplish anything?

People should say less.

Myself included.

Having said that, I’m sending my love back to Toronto. Get through it, you know?

toronto heartbeat

 

Headline Bullshit – Presence and Absence

The terror and the appeal of twitter is its speed. It’s one of the reasons that I used to like it and a reason I eventually gave it up. It often seems that something happens and everything that can be said about it (and quite a few things that shouldn’t be said) is said almost immediately. Someone bloops a hit to left field and within seconds there’s charts, graphs and comments. Before the runner has even reached base, arguments have emerged and been settled.  It’s a bit much. It seems, somehow, anti-thought. It’s as if things haven’t even been processed before they’ve been discarded. Whether the conclusions are right, wrong or in between (they’re probably all of these things, all at once) they’re more or less meaningless. They’re writ in water. One just moves on to the next thing. Faster and faster. They rush into the future. The season’s winners and losers are projected before the first pitch is even been thrown. It must be right. Here’s a chart.

Handmaiden to that, is a kind of death. You can feel your originality being killed. Why make a joke that’s been made thousands of times already? Or an observation that someone else already has already made? You don’t get the pleasure or pain of struggling towards these connections. You simply read them. Retweet them. It’s as if the functioning of your own mind has been externalized. You become a spectator to your thinking. Disconnected from yourself, you read yourself. Your thoughts may even appear in tweet form. They become functions of character limits. Of the things you cannot say. Other things appear to become obvious. You forget that, perhaps, they are not. And, if they are obvious to you, perhaps they are not obvious to everyone. People have different feeds. What is obvious is often as much a product of what is absent as what is present.

I don’t point this out to adopt the position of ‘old man shouting at clouds.’ (If I wanted to do that, Twitter would be the place.) Rather, it’s because the thing that I’m going to point out, comes from Twitter, has been discussed there, and is probably already considered ancient history. But it’s only from a few days ago. And it’s the sort of shit that shouldn’t be casually disregarded. Although most of what needs to be said about it has been said and was said quickly, it still can’t just be tossed aside and moved on from. Doing that only creates the next destination, which will be the next iteration of this shit. This shit is part of a larger picture and we (at least, I) need to linger a while longer on the toilet.

Here’s the thing . . .

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It came from Brent Staples who asked “When do we call this murder?”

That’s a good question. I wish I knew the answer. Soon, I hope.

But, aside from that, I would like to point out something else. It probably jumps out at everyone who writes but it might not be so obvious to those who have other, more sensible, ways to annoy themselves. Take a moment and look at that headline.

“8 Bullets Struck Sacramento Man as He Faced Away.”

This headline is really bizarre. It’s not neutral. These words take a side and they don’t want you, the reader, to know it. Let’s look at how this is accomplished.

Although victim-hood is itself defined by some form of lost agency, here it is the victim and only the victim who is assigned agency. (“He faced away.”) The killers are erased. The bullets seem to come from nowhere. For all this headline says, these innocent bullets were just flying around the neighborhood. But that’s not what happened. These bullets were fired. We know by who. None of that is a matter of debate. It’s a clear matter of fact. The police shot this man. In the back. These are just the facts of the matter.

The correct, clearest and simplest way to write this headline would have been “Police Shot Sacramento Man 8 Times in the Back.” (I would argue that “African American Man” should also be used, considering, you know, the whole history of America. Depending on your politics and feelings about coroners, you might also want to lead with “Autopsy Says”) That headline would have been a neutral accounting of the facts. Erasing facts because they themselves seem to take a side is not ‘fair and balanced.’ It’s not the achievement of neutrality. It’s the erasure of neutrality’s possibility.

There’s an old chestnut about ‘dog bites man’ isn’t news but ‘man bites dog’ is. Consider how those are written. Compare them to this headline. This headline is ‘Eight Bites to the Back as Dog Faces Away.’ Where the fuck is the man? Why did the story vanish?

The construction of this headline is so clunky and bizarre, such a total reversal of accountability from shooter to victim, that this headline must have been written to serve a political agenda. The agenda is clearly to assign blame to the victim. He is the only person in this headline with any agency. He faces away. Indeed, he’s the only person in this headline. Therefore, he is the only person capable of being blamed. Reading it, you may ask, why did he face away. You will not ask why the police shot or why their guns were out in the first place. The police are totally absent. So are these questions. You can’t question The Absent. It’s difficult to even consider The Absent. That’s the power of The Absent. And when The Absent is manufactured, it is something else. It is Loss and it is Lack. This headline lost the police. It lacks the police. Their absence is made.

When the police finally appear, it’s in a sub-headline. “Private Autopsy Doesn’t Match Police Account of Fatal Shooting.” We’re two headlines in and the police are still not identified as the shooters. Here, they are people who gave an account. They are in their typical and accepted role as witness or investigator. One has to get into the article itself before one learns that they shot the man. And, when you do learn that, you read that that the man “was fatally shot” by police, not that police shot him. He was shot.

At that moment, if you’re paying attention, you have to do a “wait-what” and start reading backwards to put the shit together. The police account differs from the autopsy and the police were the shooters? Had this been written correctly, you would have immediately suspected the police of lying. As it is, you now have to read between the lines and carefully deliberate before you blame. Most people don’t read like that. Even if a lot of them did, this is a fucking newspaper, not Samuel Beckett. It should be clear.

There’s only one possible reason to write a headline like this – to absolve the killers of any blame. To foreclose on the possibility of blame.

If a person wants to absolve the police, well I would disagree with that position. But I would hope that the position would be taken honestly and that the case for the innocence -or just the unguilt- of the police would be made through some sort of rational debate based in the actual best understanding of the facts. This shit, however, is not rational. It’s meant to absolve the police on the level of conception. Their absence, their lack, is not supposed to be noticed. You’re just supposed to blame the victim.

This headline is some fucking bullshit. Dangerous and recurring bullshit.

Bullshit can be facilitated in a lot of different ways. It can happen through the debilitating speed and super-presence of a machine like twitter but it can also be the result of the manufactured absences of the old media. But the goal of bullshit is always the same – bullshit exists to stop thought. And we’re not going to get anywhere unless we stop and think. That thinking has to be rooted in the facts. The police shot an unarmed black man in the back, while he stood in his grandparents’ backyard. They lied about it. They’re currently bribing the DA. That’s what needs to be thought about.

That’s what needs to stop.