Day 151: Found Them

Day 145: Humans After Humanity

This New American Life
I write this in a booth waiting for my current delivery order to be prepared in an empty restaurant that ten years ago would have been crowded. The music is a soft bossa nova and the kitchen while busy is careful to avoid clangs. The decor is standard a medium brown stain colors the wood and the carpet is green and clean. A mother and her retired son are the only other customers. She is dancing while waiting for the spring rolls to arrive. The owner hands me a thai tea on the house while I wait. I can’t help but worry for the fate of America. I can’t help but wonder where do we go from here.
The internet has redefined what and why we eat. It’s less about what we like and having haunts we return to but posting from the current trends to be considered a cool kid. Even those who do not post on social media still Google and Yelp their choices based on the impression that the best rated by those apps have more value experience wise for their dollars. The hive mind that is social media causes attention inequality and narrows culture especially food culture.
Speaking of the Hive Mind. What do we talk about when we say we shouldn’t give someone a platform. As in the current uproar over Megyn Kelly interviewing Alex Jones, a man who has been paid to spew filth since my childhood. He long ago built his alternative media platform and give a place for wayward views. He helped Trump win without a doubt and his org Infowars will have white house press credentials. He doesn’t need an interview on NBC but NBC and those who oppose his views do need these kinds of interviews. Darkness cannot be allowed to fester. Pre-internet denying mainstream outlets was a good way to slow repulsive thought but now mainstream media is one if the last shared spaces in American life and is more effective as a means of exposing. 
The tendency of the internet to drive conformity from food and fashion trends to preventing public discourse is disconcerting to say the least. Humanity’s story is one driven by innovation through diversity not just the kind on a college application check box. How much have we lost? What will it take next?
-E.C. Fiori

Day 121: Something is Rotten in America

Chaffetz is stepping down. 
The Trump team knew of the Flynn investigation before hiring him.

Comey kept a paper trail.
I don’t want to leap off a cliff of fancy but it isn’t hyperbole to say something is very wrong. 
Chaffetz fleeing the spotlight is like canary dying. He showboated his way to the top of the DC attention heap. Backstabbing his mentors at each opening. His claim that he never planned to spent a lifetime as rep. doesn’t explain why he won’t finish his current term. His position as chairman on the House oversight committee does. Trump is too beloved by Chaffetz’s base to investigate but too hated by the general voter to ignore. Will voters remember his yellow streak in 2028? His url thinks not.
In the White House, more light is being shed. Trump’s team knew Flynn was being investigated for undisclosed payments from a foreign government when they chose him to head the National Security Council. Trump did fire Comey due to the Russian collusion investigation and told the Russians as much. Sessions who lied in his nomination hearing about meeting with the Russians is still AG, the one who ensures the President stays within the law. We do know Trump has business with Russian entities. Any Russian deals done through a shell are still unknown.
We still don’t know a great deal. We can’t say anything criminal has happened but there is enough evidence for cause to investigate. I think a rush to impeach or remove Trump would backfire. He has been the most damning witness in his own scandal. But we also can never take him at his word. You could at least trust Nixon to look out for Nixon but Trump seems to be unaware of the lines he crosses. Its like how the wall was going to be like the one from Game of Thrones magic and all but really is a chain link fence, congress won’t fund. 
I think Trump is unfit and mentally inept for the standards of the presidency. He doesn’t need to be a criminal to be removed but the country would need to be united in chorus for it to happen. Rush Limbaugh changed the title from Advanced Conservative Studies to Advanced Anti-Left Studies. Our democracy has become a sport and religion. We no longer debate policy but preach to hostile converts. We don’t fight in an agreed arena and at some metaphysical level lost our American social contract. This is not a first or a last. The Civil War was the first re-negotiation. The second took place over 25 years beginning with Theodore Roosevelt’s Fair Deal finalized with FDR’s New Deal. Republicans and neo liberals since the Reagan revolution dismantled that agreement. They bring no replacement to the table.
We need to have a society. No one desires the freedom of Somaliland. Community on a large scale is a tremendous gift of humanities. It doesn’t function without effort. It may be imperfect but the cruelties can be softened. If we believe modern is defined as higher quality of life, it should go beyond. Trump is not the Emperor, he is the child. He has shown the empty state of the government and no impeachment can reverse that. People trust a government when they trust their neighbor no matter where they lie on the political spectrum. 
We cannot allow foreign influence in our process of rebirth. That’s why all the current investigations not just the search for criminal evidence matter. We cannot let others define us. Trump is the lesser consequence of the Russian interference.
-E.C. Fiori

Day 104: Cormac McCarthy and A Nation of Peter Pans

There is a very American fear I used to have. It’s embarrassingly selfish and naive to admit, but I always had the creeping suspicion that I would miss my generational moment. Decade by decade, there seem to be cultural hubs in America, where the groundswell of the next cultural wave begins, to roll out across the country, until another starts to build somewhere else.

I never really knew how famous authors, directors, and public intellectuals seemed to be present in these moments. What happened to those who spent the late fifties in Portland instead of New York? Or the sixties in St. Louis instead of San Francisco?

Perhaps it’s a symptom of getting older, but I don’t really have that fear anymore. I was re-reading “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy last night (written off by a lot of fans as “movie fodder”, which I think is a shame because it is actually very experimental compared to his work both before and after).

In it the protagonist, Sheriff Bell, has small first person passages scattered throughout the book, reflecting on the state of the world he lives in. One quote in particular has stuck with me, and I’ve started to believe it’s connected to that old fear:

“Young people anymore they seem to have a hard time growin up. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just that you don’t grow up any faster than you have to.” (pg. 159)

I think this is especially applicable with my generation, “the millennials.” It’s hard to interact with any of them and not feel like we live in a nation of Peter Pans. As if a stubborn refusal to grow up will somehow keep looming, ice-age sized economic problems at bay. Part of the difficulty in any kind of massive movement based on these problems is that the young of the falling middle class are still able to leech off of those who have profited from it in the past. Young men and women can still lean on ever weakening family bonds for financial support.

And it’s okay right now. It seems like there is a lot of individual freedom- people can make money streaming video games, or blogging from vans, or go to grad school. But a decade from now, the national anxiety will really reach a fever pitch.

There will be a large movement, and I think it will spring from the millennial generation, when it finally sets in that things will not get better. When opportunities for job security turn out not to exist. When healthcare becomes an issue as we age. When the generation after us comes into the workforce, and we realize that there is no upward mobility anymore. The little projects and Netflix shows and cultural wars we busy ourselves will, with harsh suddenty, not matter.

I’ve started to believe that our reaction to that fact will be our lasting legacy- our cultural movement. It isn’t that we don’t have a place at the table: it’s that we are lead into a room where others are wildly hacking at the table so they can get a piece, and even as we get our hands on an axe or hammer, the top is gone, the legs are long pulled away, and all thats left are screws and dust and the echoes of labored breathing, cursing us for fools for being late to the party.

-Jack Delaney

Day 94: A Coronation Interrupted, A Hundred Days of Solitude, and The Celebrity Vote

        Ninety four days of a Trump presidency has had the expected effect. Staggering incompetence in every area, international and domestic faux pas at every turn. No nuclear war, which more and more is the yardstick for failure. Modern generations seem to have forgotten that fact that with thermonuclear war, we’re all in the trenches. Major population centers are exactly what they aim for.
        But I’d like to take a moment to return to the end of last year, when Trump won the election no one expected him to. In a way, Trump has never acted out of character. He has yet to “pivot” towards a more rational, “presidential” way of governing, instead being the brusque, uninformed cartoon we’ve known him as for decades. Campaign or President, that is the man.
        No, the person who failed was Hillary Clinton. My use of the word “failed” and not “lost” is crucial here, because I don’t think the 2016 election should have been a contest. This still isn’t a popular opinion among democrats, and I can’t figure out why. What has confirmed my suspicion is the book (first of a tidal wave I’m sure) from two Hillary Campaign staffers: Shattered.
        It is, of course, the story of a campaign going awry, complete with an increasingly tight circle of access to the queen herself, now confirming the “American Emperor” analogy as applicable on the right and left. There were loyalty tests, both for those in the campaign and in congress, and a hilarious amount of frustration at Bernie Sanders.
        What shocked me though, was the complete failure of Hillary to come up with a reason for running for president. It seems like the simplest undergraduate poly-sci major piece of advice to a candidate: “have a message”. Give people a reason to vote for you.
        And yet, this is exactly what “I’m with her” Hillary failed to do. It almost became a running joke inside the campaign, the best they were able to settle on being “It’s her turn!” When they spoke to democrats, they were pleased to find most of them agreed that Hillary wasn’t “evil”. Jesus. Trump was a godsend, allowing them to focus on his weekly scandals instead of addressing the fact that there was no reason for Hillary to be President.
        The real lesson of this election was the peril of a race between two celebrities. One a reality tv star, the other the most famous politician on the planet. Just as Trump’s celebrity fueled his rise and victory, it was Hillary’s celebrity in her own party that doomed her, the circle of advisers too tight, the alienation from the average American too great.
        If there is something that has irked me over these past 100 days, it’s the betrayal on the part of democrats in confronting Hillary’s persistent inability to be elected. Their failure is now ours. 1367 days to go.
-Jack Delaney

Day 82/83/84/85/86: The Leaderless Future

Today’s rant is brought to you by the letter “C” for craven and the number 5. 
As mass media institutions struggle to remain in the digital world, we are bombarded with “think pieces” on how each institution is more important than ever. Yet between these articles, they promote snake oil like the current trend of celebrity master classes. 
One of the current beloved Hucksters is Robert Kiyosaki who wrote “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”. One of his big supporters is Trump himself. Kiyosaki’s claim that laziness and self-doubt are the cause of all failure is ridiculous. Especially in our world of princelings. I bring up Kiyosaki because my grandfather became enamored with the drivel in his retirement. He bought everything and would lose everything in the recession. My grandfather was never lazy. His first act created marvelous engineering designs. My mother chose Boston for college when visiting him as he upgraded Boston’s subways. If you rode on the orange line this morning, its thanks to him. Many of the planes, jets, and copters the troops trust to deliver them to and from their work bringing freedom to this day came from his mind as well. The hard truth no one wants to print is no one sells wealth. There are lessons to be learned but knowledge is the only certain result. There are and never have been gurus.  
By publishing pieces like this one in Variety today, the media bows down to more than market forces. Any valuable information in these 8 hour seminars/courses have been published and published again. One can get it for free in the library. It won’t take you over the rainbow but it’ll give you the frame work to build a rocket as much as any course can. Yet rather than assist the reader and their audience in avoiding the traps of the world, the media aides the hucksters. Imagine if Trump had no coverage in ’15. He was a fringe candidate who said anything for coverage and got covered like his words were meant for anything other than attention. Now he lives in the White House.  
This outcome shows the futility of media institutions trying to maintain the same level of power over society. The game has changed. One of the strangest staples of modern journalism is the Twitter roundup. Some staffer finds 10-20 celebrity tweets within 20 minutes of a trending news story and posts it as what people are saying. Anyone who wanted those celebs’ thoughts could and would have seen them. Cher and Patton Oswalt make every list regardless of subject matter. If knowing where to find authentic info is the challenge of our age the media does the audience a disservice by only showing them what they want. Even when limited to industry experts, a list of tweets is at best a repost. Instead of instant reaction, the goal should be informed responses and debate. Why not interview those who tweeted best and expand the audience’s understanding? I suspect these institutions are too far gone to recover. Vultures cannot chose after all.
-E.C. Fiori