"One issue that has been totally absent from the campaign is the Supreme Court. Five of the justices are 70 or more. Justice Stevens is 88 and unlikely to want to serve 4 more years. Justice Ginsberg had cancer and was operated on for it. Justice Souter is known to want to retire and return to New Hampshire. These are three of the most liberal justices on the court. If all three retire and are replaced by Obama, the court will retain its even split between liberals and conservatives for many years to come. If all three are replaced by McCain, the conservatives will have a clear majority and surely reverse Roe v. Wade and many other decisions that conservatives think are wrong. It is amazing that the court has gotten so little attention."
"The truly disgusting thing about Sarah Palin isn’t that she’s totally unqualified, or a religious zealot, or married to a secessionist, or unable to educate her own daughter about sex, or a fake conservative who raised taxes and porked up earmark millions every chance she got. No, the most disgusting thing about her is what she says about us: That you can ram us in the ass for eight solid years, and we’ll not only thank you for your trouble, we’ll sign you up for eight more years, if only you promise to stroke us in the right spot for few hours around election time."
Yes, Taibbi is the epitome of preaching to the choir, but sometimes it feels good to be preached at by someone even more bitter and cynical than yourself. And the guy is just plain entertaining.
Thom Yorke performs Cymbal Rush from his solo album The Eraser in Santa Barbara on 8/28. Like most Radiohead songs, when deconstructed to its most simple form and performed on the piano, it only gets more beautiful.
Jesse Thorn put together a great set of clips from Norm MacDonald on Conan back in 1997 where he really zings Courtney Thorne-Smith. I saw this show the day it aired back in college, and thought it was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen. I’ve told dozens of people about it over the years. If only YouTube had existed 10 years ago.
Politics, celebrity gossip, business headlines, tech punditry, odd news, and user-generated content.
These are the chew toys that have made me sad and tired and cynical.
Each, in its own way, contributes to the imperative that we constantly expand our portfolio of shallow but strongly-held opinions about nearly everything. Then we’re supposed to post something about it. Somewhere.
From businesses we’ve never heard of, to countries we’ve never visited, to infants who’ve had the random misfortune to be born into a family that’s on TV — it’s all grist for obvious jokes and shortsighted commentary that, for at least a few minutes, helps both the maker and the consumer feel a little less bored, a little less vulnerable, and a little less disconnected. For a minute, anyway, it makes us feel more alive. Does me, anyway.
But, in my observation, the long-term effect of each of these can be surprisingly different.
What makes you feel less bored soon makes you into an addict. What makes you feel less vulnerable can easily turn you into a dick. And the things that are meant to make you feel more connected today often turn out to be insubstantial time sinks — empty, programmatic encouragements to groom and refine your personality while sitting alone at a screen.
Don’t get me wrong. Gumming the edges of popular culture and occasionally rolling the results into a wicked spitball has a noble tradition that includes the best work of of Voltaire, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, and a handful of people I count as good friends and brilliant editors. There’s nothing wrong with fucking shit up every single day. But you have to bring some art to it. Not just typing.
What worries me are the consequences of a diet comprised mostly of fake-connectedness, makebelieve insight, and unedited first drafts of everything. I think it’s making us small. I know that whenever I become aware of it, I realize how small it can make me. So, I’ve come to despise it.
With this diet metaphor in mind, I want to, if you like, start eating better. But, I also want to start growing a tastier tomato — regardless of how easy it is to pick, package, ship, or vend. The tomato is the story, my friend.
This doesn’t mean I’ll be liveblogging a lot of ham-fisted attempts to turn “everything” off. But it does mean making mindful decisions about the quality of any input that I check repeatedly — as well as any “stuff” I produce. Everything. From news sources to entertainment programming, and from ephemeral web content down to each email message I decide to respond to. The shit has to go, inclusive.
I’m not particularly interested in making a showy public movement out of this (as usual, this post is much more for me than it is for you; otherwise I’d put it where it would get some attention). And, to be honest, I don’t have a specific agenda for what I want to do all that differently, apart from what I’m already trying to do every day:
identify and destroy small-return bullshit;
shut off anything that’s noisier than it is useful;
make brutally fast decisions about what I don’t need to be doing;
avoid anything that feels like fake sincerity (esp. where it may touch money);
demand personal focus on making good things;
put a handful of real people near the center of everything.
All I know right now is that I want to do all of it better. Everything better. Better, better.
To underscore, I have no plan to stop making dick jokes or to swear off ragging people who clearly have it coming to them. It’s just that it’s important to me to make world-class dick jokes and to rag the worthy in a way that no one is expecting. I want to become an evangelist for hard work and editing, and I want to get to a place where it shows in everything that I do, make, and share. Yes, even if it makes me sound like a fancy guy who just doesn’t get it. Fuck it.
So, yes. I am cutting way back on trips to the steam table of half-finished, half-useful, half-ideas that I both make and consume. And, with respect, I encourage you to consider doing the same; especially if that all-you-can-eat buffet of snark and streaming produces (or encourages) anything short of your “A” game.
If I’m not laughing at your joke, complimenting your insight, or leading the Standing O for something you spent 10 seconds pecking up on your phone, it may not be because I don’t get it; it may be because I think we’re both capable of better and just need to find the courage to say so. In as many characters as it takes.
On the day the world ends A bee circles a clover, A fisherman mends a glimmering net. Happy porpoises jump in the sea, By the rainspout young sparrows are playing And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.
On the day the world ends Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas, A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn, Vegetable peddlers shout in the street And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island, The voice of a violin lasts in the air And leads into a starry night.
And those who expected lightning and thunder Are disappointed. And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps Do not believe it is happening now. As long as the sun and the moon are above, As long as the bumblebee visits a rose, As long as rosy infants are born No one believes it is happening now.
Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy, Repeats while he binds his tomatoes: There will be no other end of the world, There will be no other end of the world.