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Under a Dying Sun

Joshua Tree · 2016

in August of 2016 the road was calling yet again; i found myself driving around the USA for the month. from Portland to Washington DC by way of Milwaukee and Cleveland, down to New Orleans and across the south, through Texas and then up the west coast. On the last night of my trip I found myself in Joshua Tree National Park.1

I’d never been to Joshua Tree before but was familiar with its lore. mulling about: the camp sites were overcrowded, the roads empty. i did not notice an excessive amount of Park Rangers, which makes the shutdown vandalism perplexing. why was this place a target for such destruction?

relating to the motivations of people has never been a strong suit of mine but some days i think it’s a completely foreign concept.

      Notes
  • the “last night” was supposed to be second-to-last, but I ended up driving Joshua Tree to Portland in one straight, 18-hour shot. it became one of those travel segments where keep going keep going was a psychic itch i couldn’t stop scratching. every chance I had to pull over for a motel, my foot pressed the gas onward.

10:00 / 16 February 2019
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“For The People”

man say what you will about the government shutting down or the endless bullshit that is the democrats trying to pin the election of Trump on Russia,1 but I’ve found this administration quite refreshing.

yes, Trump lies—but what he lies about often has to do with things that affect his self-image. (that, or it’s some insane escalation to distract from whatever the media is covering about him.) what’s interesting, though, are the things he tells the truth about.

nobody seemed to bat an eye when he said the most honest thing of the 2016 election—claiming he could buy anyone on the stage. it’s such a potent move, to just lay bare the corrupt nature of politics in modern America. and now, when he’s up there talking shit about one people or another, he’s doing what most politicans wouldn’t dare: openly admitting how little he gives a fuck about the people he supposedly represents.

it’s happened on both sides before—in recent memory with Hillary and Romney—when a recording is leaked and the world sees what these elitist fucks really think.2 Trump was elected by running on how corrupt the institution had become and he hasn’t really stopped with that. For all the merciless terror he’s waging on just about every aspect of American life, he’s at least being honest about his priorities.

      Notes
  • This entire Russiagate thing is getting out of hand. This is a Wired editor somehow trying to propagate that Bernie Sanders is a Russian agent who was just trying to fuck with Hillary in 2016. The neoliberal defense is getting to Qanon levels of delusion.
  • This year it’s been the Davos meetings where Tony Blair somehow laughs about he and W fucking up the world

17:00 / 27 January 2019
Posted to Opinion

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Everything In Pieces

Anecdotes that begin with Back in my day… are usually a sign of some disgruntled notion, unable to cope with change. Every generation keeps them until nobody cares to remember anymore. The shift we’re encountering now is more than just the natural change of time, but an entire reformation of human experience. Most of it, anyway.

And there’s plenty that won’t be missed, fair or unfair, it’s simply the way things are.

I do wish that we’d not sacrifice our humanity for mindless immediate circumstances. Sitting in Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, I am thinking about the way these things used to be—airports, that is. Not long ago they were these fantastic buildings of sadness and joy, reunions and separations. Waiting at the gate, kids would burst from the doorways into the arms of waiting grandparents, suited businessmen into the arms of their family after a trip, soldiers and their spouses finally being able to feel one another after a tour overseas.

The amount to which the 9/11 attacks changed America—or, perhaps, just revealed its true and inhuman nature—is unparalleled in the modern world. Not even twenty years later and barely a facade of decency is left in this country, with consumerism and individualism running rampant as wars remain waged overseas for what remains an unknown reason.

I feel like the airports were a prelude to everything else; the security concerns unquestionably took precedent over any function the airport had as an aspect of American society and human civilization. Our nature had officially shifted from creating functional habitats that best suited people to creating secure environments for a subset, be they ticketed passengers in an airport or employees at a tech giant.

Not many Americans, percentage-wise, lost anything on 9/11. But in its wake we’ve all lost a notion of ourselves, a generation now raised entirely on a screen with the resonance of reality and sensory experiences losing all relevance (less they can be tagged in a photo).

I don’t know. It’s just sad.

10:00 / 23 January 2019
Posted to Opinion

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Hell Freezing Over
(Will Be Televised)

Throughout the 2016 election, whenever it came up in discussion, I would say Don’t sleep on Trump. Once the primaries had been decided, I was the only person I knew who would claim Trump would win. After all, it’s the economy, stupid.

It isn’t that all Trump voters were racist: it’s that they care about racists less than they care about financial difficulty. Match up people that voted for Trump with people who had difficulty after the 2008 crash and you’re going to get a pretty big overlap.1 Yes, sure, some were racist shitheads and some were susceptible to fear, but those people are always going to vote Republican.

The thing about capitalism is that it doesn’t give a shit who you voted for or why. It’ll eat you and yours alive just the same. Neither of the parties want to admit this because the Republicans rely on it as an excuse for war (“freedom“) and the Democrats for globalization (“business“). So it was pretty shocking to see Tucker Carlson—known up until now for getting schooled by Jon Stewart and Crossfire subsequently going off-air—come out swinging against it.2

Anti-capitalism isn’t a left-versus-right position in the modern world. The political landscape is a sphere, not a circle.3 Though it wouldn’t make much sense, I suppose one could be anti-gay-rights and still believe in socialism as an economic standard for the well-being of the country. But economics and governance are not the same thing, even though they do tend to walk hand-in-hand.

It’s good to see Carlson taking this stand, because so much of the narrative on the left is anti-socialist4 that I can’t imagine the last time a mainstream figure on the right would have pushed back in the slightest against capitalism. This is a surreal thing to say, but we live in surreal times: Kudos to Tucker Carlson.

      Notes
  • Another reason to hate the Democratic Party: Bernie would have won. His message just needed a proper PR campaign at a national level to translate to the needs of lower-to-middle-class suburban whites.
  • “You need to go to one,” Stewart saying of Carlson and journalism school, is still one of my favorite owns ever said on television.
  • Much like time. #truedetectiveseason3
  • —fuck the democrats fuck the democrats fuck the democrats fuck the democrats—

09:00 / 11 January 2019
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NCAA: “Fuck The Kids,” Literally

Like most American institutions, NCAA football is a pretty good showcase for how the influence of capital will always supersede any notion of human decency. Shit, this is an organization that has big-name teams pay out for wins. Which, in and of itself, is dumb for the sake of the game; but at least it isn’t anything serious. You know, like raping kids.

As the hoopla on any and all sports-related programming across any and all media outlets takes place for the College Football Championship, let’s all take a moment to remember how the NCAA rescinded all sanctions against Penn State for knowingly operating and supporting a program run by a child rapist.1 This was one year after the scandal—just long enough for public outrage to have run its course and the news to focus on the rapist running for President.

Every now and again I get shocked at things like the extent to which Americans will support sweatshop labor and gulags for kids but then I realize none of these children likely have a shot at a Nike endorsement and so of course the powers that be would consider them worthless.

      Notes
  • That’s like a ten-page Wiki article that gets one paragraph about how the NCAA basically decided none of it matters. The lunacy in all this makes me sick.

18:00 / 7 January 2019
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The Other Half

The Saturday morning cartoons that began the weekends for kids in the early 90s may have aged only to create modern memes, but I distinctly remember the source of this was all well-intended: an affirmation that knowledge is power. Knowing, as GI Joe put it, was half the battle.

Nowadays I wonder exactly what the other half is. Though I doubt anyone writing up these cartoons imagined the ascent and implications of the internet, but these days knowing something isn’t too difficult.1 In fact, the juxtaposition of a wealth of information with such ineffectual leaders necessitates the question Why bother with any of it?

For the children

If the republic system was run to an ideal, an informed public would be able to vote representatives in to office who would then facilitate a state of governance as near as possible to the demands of the people. But in this day and age that sentence is so far-fetched that it almost makes one wonder what the definition of our modern state truly is.2 The influence of money cannot be understated: between American children being slaughtered and immigrant children left for dead, the cruelty of capitalism has shown neither of the major American parties will cater to overwhelming populist demand.

It’s no wonder why people get outraged at the news; the world keeps spinning—seemingly out of control—and all that grows among the people is a sense of powerlessness in averting disaster. The political systems seem to operate in a one-step-forward, eight-steps-back loop. And the more you know, the more hopeless the situation seems.

I guess John Prine was right all along.

      Notes
  • Not that it ever really was; it was simply less convenient to go to a library and find a specific page in a book or load up a microfiche than use Google.
  • Kudos to some of the new leftists in the House looking to fuck with the standard liberal agenda, though. (That being said, nobody seems to think a second term by Trump is possible, but if the moderate left doesn’t adopt some of the demands of the activist left and the party splits, there could be a free-for-all in 2020.)

12:15 / 6 January 2019
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Late Expectations

I don’t remember many of the conversations I had on election night of 2016; on one hand I was drinking pretty heavily and on the other I was resisting the urge to text everyone in my contact list and say I told you so. I do remember getting more than a few messages saying something along the lines of Well at least this will be good for your art. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

A 2018 anti-Trump protest in Portland

Since November 2016 it seems people have still not adjusted to—and perhaps still cannot comprehend—the new normal our society has been born in to. Children are dying in detention centers. Outside of a mildly successful summer blockade in Portland, ICE and the Trump administration have had little problem in executing this horrific agenda.

Throughout the 2016 election, Trump was constantly pushing the boundaries of how a candidate can run for office in America. While some might say the disgusting fashion to which he accomplished such a feat should be the focus, I disagree. With his campaign and subsequent victory, Trump didn’t just adjust the borders on the field of America’s institutions: he changed the game completely.

The fact that this ‘wasn’t supposed to happen‘ is now why the absurd and grotesque is met with ambivalence and inaction. American society for so long has been regulated by the standards of traditional power that it is now subscribing to the whims of an unregulated force. Protests against all administrations since Vietnam have been students parading in the street on police-approved routes: while this administration is different, the dissent remains the same.

A 2007 anti-war protest in Portland

As Trump disregarded the traditions of the institutions facing him down, so must those who would fight against his agenda. (Of course, he had the benefit of finance and power to provide a safety net with the prospect of failure while any subversive practices would surely be met with imprisonment.)

And so with the world of art, it is unsurprising that most news caters to multi-million dollar pranks and record prices at auction as opposed to anything significantly pushing back against the global spread of nationalism. Perhaps it is because Trump, Brexit and the like represent the same level of absurdity as Duchamp. Perhaps it is because even in the face of social justice-related work on a massive scale, all that results is jail time. Perhaps it is because our ‘good’ leaders still respond to nonviolent movements with the opposite.

Or maybe everyone just got too self-obsessed, sacrificing any notion of true social fabric for the facade of social networks.

Whatever the reason, whatever the response, the fact is that the norms of American society and its adjacent institutions are irrelevant. The psychic death of neo-modern marketing, the plague of individualism and disregard of corporate power all tie back to that which allowed for a man like Trump to be elected in the first place: a society unable to control the beast of capitalism it has unleashed into the world without any sign of art to save it.

16:30 / 30 December 2018
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