Anthony Bourdain

It always takes me a while to process things, and I’d like to pretend this leads me to think about things a lot before I say them, but that “virtue” only really extends to writing—and is propped up by laziness.

Anthony Bourdain has come and gone, having apparently hanged himself in a hotel room in the middle of shooting new episodes of his incredible CNN Travel/Culture series, Parts Unknown. He left behind no note or explanation, or if he did, it hasn’t been made available to the public.

There’s been no shortage of tributes to Bourdain since then, from chefs, writers, activists…the list goes on. I’m adding nothing particularly new and insightful to that list, but as I’ve been re-watching some of his work, I’d like to add my voice to the chorus proclaiming that what Anthony Bourdain dedicated his life to was nothing short of radical compassion.

Make no mistakes—the author of Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw, the host of Parts Unknown, No Reservations, and The Layover had a brand, one that was rooted in a certain type of swaggering machismo and irreverent cool that can sometimes grate. His output was possessed with a certain opinionated authority that can turn some people off, especially as we collectively lurch towards a society in which we question exactly how many cool, swaggering straight white dudes we need in the cultural conversation.

However those critiques of Bourdain’s brand do nothing to dampen the aching desire for connection and compassion that underscores all of Bourdain’s creative output, and one that is realized most purely in Parts Unknown. The strength of the show lies not just unearthing the little-known or unseen, but in Bourdain’s understated deference to people who are different to him.

Watch episodes in which Bourdain travels to the Congo, Houston, Myanmar, Los Angeles, Chicago. The common thread is the method by which the host seeks to interact with members of a community that is not his own: one possessed by curiosity, empathy, kindness, and humility. The manners extended to his hosts do not feel like a matter of decorum, they feel genuine. Wherever Bourdain goes, he asks questions, sits back, listens, and offers gratitude. He is pointedly aware of his status as a guest, an attitude that would be refreshing to find in any world traveler, let alone one propped up by status and fortune.

Even setting that graciousness aside, the entire premise of Bourdain’s oeuvre was rooted in the radical notion that we all have something to offer one another, and that we all have an obligation to seek out and understand one another. He celebrated differences as well as common bonds. He strove to highlight what it was about this world that is so beautiful, in spite of all the strife, turmoil, sorrow, and conflict.

Why Bourdain chose to end his life is, at this point, a matter of speculation. Given his past history with substance abuse and depression, his political leanings, and the overall state of the world—something Bourdain was probably even more hyper aware of than most—I can’t help but wonder if he, having reached the age of 61 with a lifetime of achievement, found the looming threat of fascism too much to take. It could be something else entirely, but his choice is certainly something of a blow to people who admired him for being uncompromising in his goals and values in a world that seems to be pulling away from them.

We all need to take heart and remember Anthony Bourdain not just for who he was and what he did, but what he stood for. The feelings he conjured up in people were extraordinary, and that collective yearning for connection, adventure, understanding, and mystery are what drew us all to his aura and his work. We shouldn’t forget that, even as we mourn our loss. What Bourdain did was rare, but it doesn’t have to be.

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Do You Think We’re Not Ashamed?

If you are reading this outside of the USA, ask yourself this question, because you may have to reckon with it sooner than you expect—when would you turn your back on your country?

At what point would you stop trying to fight, in whatever small way you could, and accept that the place of your birth, your upbringing, your culture, was in irreversible decline? I’ve found myself at various points in the past few years pushing my hard limits further and further back, but in the past few weeks, I realized something, with stinging sobriety: I’m not willing to die for this.

I love the United States. I always have, even as I’ve grown more and more critical of its culture (or cultures) and institutions. I’ve been lucky enough to travel fairly extensively and there is no place on earth like it. No greater earth-shattering beauty, fiercely unique peoples, all living together and bonded by the idea of a few sacred shared beliefs.

There’s always a “but.”

As I’ve grown, the severity of the rot eating away at my homeland has been laid bare. To not see it at this point requires a special kind of blind and slavish devotion that rivals anything I could ever hope to muster, for anything or anyone. The United States is a on a full-tilt slide into authoritarian oligarchy, and is further along in the process than most people think. Our elected officials have strategically gutted the instruments that are vital for maintaining an egalitarian state in the name of amassing untold power and wealth for themselves. At this point, it’s hard to see a way out. Too many people are too dumb, too disenfranchised, too utterly defeated by the monstrous will of a few hundred megalomaniacs that have less than zero care for anyone other than themselves. They are the avatars of selfishness incarnate, of pure, walking malevolence. To chalk it all up to greed is not enough; these people take comfort in the fact that untold millions will suffer and perish and have their lives and futures destroyed as the direct result of power wielded by a few. There is no regret. There is no remorse. There shall be none.

I used to say that if things got really bad in the US, that I’d stay and fight. My stance on that has changed. Perhaps it’s because I’ve fallen in love, and preserving our life together and the future I hope to build is paramount to me—this could be related to why I’m suddenly anxious on plane rides—but I’m no longer willing to put myself in harm’s way in order to make a symbolic gesture in opposition to the absolute worst people ever produced in human history.

Instead, if it comes to “that” (currently, “that” is—for me—the abolition of term limits, but we’ll see) I will refuse to participate. I owe this country and its government nothing. They owe me. They have betrayed me, time and time again, and I refuse to die for them. So if it comes to “that” I’ll leave—I’m unspeakably lucky that I have the option, and hope I will continue to have the option—and then I’ll hope, against all logic and reason, that it doesn’t come to “that” again.

 

What the “Civility” Police Don’t Understand about Conservatives

This is not another treatise on why it’s OK to confront your elected officials in public when they enact policies you find repulsive and inhumane. That’s a given, and other people have written better-researched and more informative takes than I could offer. It’s a boring debate on its face, mainly because there shouldn’t be one; in the United States, politicians exist to serve the interests of their constituents, which means they should be made to answer for any and every single thing they do while supposedly working in the interests of the people they govern. To be frank, confronting politicians is not only justifiable, it’s a moral imperative, and one that should be enshrined in law (elected officials should be required to hold at least monthly, if not weekly, face-to-face town halls with the public).

ANYWAY, even if we dismiss the notion that politicians somehow deserve our respect and civility as a baseline, the hand-wringing beltway elite are mistaken about civility politics on an entirely different level: one that wrongly presumes not only the effectiveness of olive-branch, bi-partisan kumbayaaism, but also fundamentally misapprehends the conservative mindset.

The myth of the “working-class” Trump voter has widely been debunked. There’s no evidence to suggest that the President was brought into power by a groundswell of blue-collar, Midwestern and Southern Johnny Lunchpails, which in turn exposes the myth of the “reasonable” Republican as a lie. Make no mistake, the demographics of Trump’s voting bloc are not rooted in Appalachia mining towns or bombd-out Rust Belt enclaves. Rather, they are the supposedly “forgotten” upper-middle class. These are people who own multiple cars, run successful businesses, live in McMansions, and spend a majority of their ample free time posting memes about cartoon frogs shoving Bill Kristol into ovens.

The reason it’s important to appropriately separate the Trump supporter from the Trump voter lies in the confounding and naïve theses of nearly every panicky Op-Ed that has been farted out by an overpaid ivy-league graduate over the past week or so. The theory goes one of two ways. Option one: alienating Trump’s backers on the hill is counterproductive, because “incivility” breeds “incivility” and will only lead to the base becoming galvanized. This is hogwash on its face; to support Trump is to be possessed of an intractable, inherent bitter hostility that frames every waking second of life. Nothing can quell the white-hot, searing resentment that rages inside of every conservative. Not political victories, not economic success and stability, not the comfort and love of family and friends. The resentment is rooted in a feverish internal wailing that only ramps up in pitch and volume with each passing year, as civilization inevitably marches on—imperfectly, problematically, and with dire consequences for the vulnerable that should not and cannot be understated—towards incremental progress. The old ways of life, what we know about the world and how we occupy it together, are changing, and societies are adapting. To a conservative, this amounts to no less than a betrayal. A broken promise that America has long extended to the powerful—mostly white, wealthy, straight, Christian men—since its inception.

That’s important context for understanding the second prong of “civility” op-ed writing. “Incivility” is useless, the story goes, because it does not affect political change. Only voting does that. This is well-intentioned enough, and certainly nobody taking it upon themselves to scream in Jeff Sessions’ face that he’s an evil fraud should not vote, but the math is off. The fact of the matter is, most conservatives don’t push for the policies and legislation that they do because they want the world to change in any material way—most of them have every material thing they could ever want, and will be able to pass these things on to future generations of their families easily. Their places in the world are safe and stable, confirmed by society. Most conservatives—the elite, multiple-boat owning class that brought us Donald Trump, that is—are comfortable in their day-to-day lives. What they lack can never be satisfied, as the world has left them behind. So they wave their MAGA hats and cheer their child concentration camps and sneer about California and Chicago and climate change “hoaxes,” not because it impacts their lives in any discernible way, but because it allows them to bathe in the brief, fleeting reprieve that comes with knowing you’ve triggered the liberal cucks. Brief flashes of feeling powerful are the only joy any of these people have in an otherwise cold and meaningless existence.

Similarly, conservative politicians only exist to serve the wills of these slobbering, hateful idiots and to gleefully exercise their own power in the process. But politicians don’t suffer from the same buried existential crises that their constituents do. That their lives have meaning—for good or for ill—is obvious. They shape and enact political will (or do not). Whatever else might be on a politician’s conscience, he or she can rest easy that they go to sleep as somebody whose life (ostensibly) matters. The wielding of power is to the conservative politician what hissing, bilious hatred is to the conservative voter. It sustains them, and keeps the metaphorical wolves at bay.

That said, when the metaphorical wolves (self-doubt, existential crises, nagging conscience) become a bit more concrete (people who live in your city telling you to fuck off everywhere you go) the deal doesn’t seem as sweet. I don’t mean to suggest that it’s possible to yell your way into Mitch McConnell surrendering his stolen SCOTUS seat, but to suggest that consequence is not useful in guiding behavior in any way whatsoever is no less childish. How hard will spineless flesh-sacks like McConnell work to support policies that mean nothing to them outside of their ability to rally their base and trigger the libs if they know those policies will interfere with getting a good table or being able to sleep? How content will the inside-the-beltway, garden-variety GOP remain carrying Trump’s water when it’s staring down a career of public shaming and being pelted with rotten fruit?

Again, I’m not suggesting that this is anywhere close to the end-all-be-all of affecting public policy, but it is useful.

Virginia

Well, time to write again.

Charlottesville has come and gone, but the ramifications are here to stay. We’re officially a country in turmoil, to the point that even the most stiff-lipped arbiters of civility politics and both-sidesism have all but crumbled under the crushing, objective evidence that right wing extremism has had a death grip on the United States for decades if not centuries, and that milquetoast centrism is no longer a viable defense.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped some presumably well-intentioned media wonks from blubbering in the public sphere about the breakdown of institutional values, as though such things have any worth in the present, brought to you as it is by middle-of-the-road handwringing and right-wing appeasement.

Full-throated and strident opposition to right-wing conservatism is the only thing that will save this country, and that’s never been more apparent than now. That means supporting a $15 minimum wage, for starters. That means safe, legal, affordable access to abortion, in all 50 states. That means absolute, unwavering rejection of any sort of bigotry, and those that associate with it.

And yet, in these troubled times, centrists and right-wingers alike love to cluck their tongues and wag their fingers at the so-called alt-left, also known as anti-fascists, also known as the only people who are literally bleeding and dying to insure that nazis do not walk care-free down the streets of America.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding of what the term “anti-fascist” means, as it’s a blanket term for–drum roll–somebody opposed to fascism. This term could be applied to literally anybody who thinks any rhetoric or action that supports oppression needs to be met head-on with direct action.

And this is where we tend to lose the centrists, the progressives, the establishment democrats, and everybody else who has been told since kindergarten that “violence never solves everything.” There is an understandable squeamishness surrounding force and violence, or direct action of any kind, outside the purview of the law.

But once again, how can we place 100% of our faith in our institutions when they have failed to protect us from Donald Trump, from a resurgence of nazism, from right-wing murder squads that employ tactics similar to those used by ISIS in their own terrorist attacks? When it is blind faith in institutional authority that landed us in this predicament in the first place, why should we be surprised that people are acting outside the purview of institutional authority?

And more to the point, why should we be surprised that folks are turning to direct action when the results are plain to see?

The organizer of the hate rally in Charlottesville was driven from the podium of his own press conference, not by politely worded questions from members of the press, but by rightfully enraged citizens who rushed the stage, screamed “indict for murder now” into his microphone, and chased him through the surrounding gardens until the police rushed him to safety, a luxury that was not afforded to the victims of right-wing vehicular homicide, or anybody else standing up against fascism in Virginia that weekend, depending on which accounts you believe (I tend to believe the accounts told by people who were there and aren’t nazis, but that’s just me.)

Numerous other bad actors in the travesty in Virginia have expressed fear, blubbering on the Internet about the just repercussions their vile and murderous rhetoric was met with. Whining on YouTube that they got maced, punched, or even just that people have been mean to them on Twitter.

What else should they–or anybody else–fairly expect? That open espousal of ideologies routed in genocide would be greeted as a concept worth engaging with on any terms other than swift and immediate opposition, by any means necessary? Are we so addicted to the lie, rooted in hundreds of years of propaganda, that our institutions will save us, that we actually think violence perpetrated against nazis isa anything but justice? Has the whole world gone mad?

The pearl-clutching moralists of civility politics seem to actually have taken the “violence never solved anything” platitude with them well into adulthood, swallowing whole the myth of a fairytale civilization that does not shore up all of its institutional values with the direct or implicit threat of violence. To hew dangerously close to the kind of “classical” thinking that the Alt-Right loves to get itself moist over, the very concept of a nation of laws, or the concept of law itself rests upon the collective knowledge that an inability to follow rules and regulations will be met with swift and violent action by the state, in the form of police, judges, prisons, etc. If you steal or murder, you will be seized by the state, confined in a cell, and possibly executed. For some reason, these ideas do not scandalize the champions of civility politics nearly as much as somebody pulling down a statue of Jefferson Davis or punching a nazi in the face.

Great strides have been made in this country and around the world through non-violent action, it’s true. However, those who would invoke the name of Martin Luther King should do well to remember how integration actually played out. The racists–institutional authority worshippers all until it turned against them–did not simply say “well, the law’s the law” and turn heel and go home. Bussing was marred by riots so severe that the national guard had to be deployed so teenagers could go to school. What is this if not violence accomplishing something?

There’s plenty of room for debate as to how politically useful direct, anti-facist violent confrontations are, but everybody quaking in their boots because they can’t accept reality–a bunch of kids with some rope got more done in a few hours than our entire democratic system got done since the civil war–needs to face the facts. To paraphrase John Steinbeck, when the majority of the people are ignored by the powerful, they will take by force what they need.

 

 

MOONLIGHT, the Oscars, and the Same Old Conversation

That ending, though. What a rollercoaster.

Before I comment on the most memorable of all memorable fuck-ups, I need to contextualize a few things, and clarify my standing on the “Moonlight vs La La Land” spectrum.

I thought La La Land was a very enjoyable, very well-done film. It’s a certain kind of film that speaks to a certain kind of audience, namely, conventional romantics who love to bask in the afterglow of big, bold, and brassy production values, and love a good paean to the wonders of showbiz, movie musicals, and beautiful people. A less delicate but still accurate assessment: it’s a white movie full of mostly white people dealing with mostly white problems (the absolute lack of conflict for most of the film’s running time is both baffling and strangely appropriate, somehow).

By contrast, Moonlight is a beautifully raw, vulnerable, and achingly compassionate film about the marginalized, their place within the world, and how they interact with and are shaped by it. Whatever your personal take on the film is (I myself slightly preferred Manchester by the Sea and Hell or High Water from the nominees pool), Moonlight is an important, powerful, and unique piece of cinema that stands out amongst its peers in a way that is truly deserving of special recognition, especially in these times when bigotry seems (emphasis on “seems”) more pronounced, visible, and mainstream than ever.

So, that’s where I fall on those two films. In the run-up to awards season, the narrative coalescing from certain critical corners was that La La Land was the milquetoast, lily-white, tone-deaf, and banal safe choice, and thus the favorite, and Moonlight was the polar opposite. While I do think the accolades heaped upon La La Land are mostly overblown, much of the criticism also seems eye-roll-worthy. One could argue that Hollywood and the Academy deserve scrutiny for constantly elevating glossy, saccharine white-people fare at the expense of more challenging and artful work, but that fury seemed to boil over into some fairly ridiculous assertions about many films this awards season (“Ryan Gosling saves jazz” and “Manchester by the Sea is about white supremacy” to name two). Disregarding the problematic nature of monochromatic Hollywood for a moment, I don’t think there’s any reason to claim that a perfectly fine solid “B” is worth downgrading to an “F” just because a bunch of boring showbiz geriatrics were (supposedly) ignoring the “A” black/queer film.

So we all know what happened with the envelope mix-up (for the most part). When Faye Dunaway blurted out “La La Land,” I wasn’t too surprised, even though director Chazelle had previously walked away with the customary “Best Director” consolation prize. I booed the screen half-heartedly, mildly annoyed. Then the truth started to dribble out, with producer Jordan Horowitz telling the audience that there had been a mix-up, and that Moonlight was the actual winner. For a few minutes, I was dumbfounded, convinced that this had all been some woefully ill-advised stunt: a pre-planned bit to show off just how woke and sensitive white Hollywood is, delivered in the same well-intentioned but ultimately tone-deaf spirit as those videos of cops pulling over black motorists to give them ice cream cones.

That turned out to not be the case, which led to a lot of sympathy for the previously vilified La La Land entourage, as they had to hand over the statuettes, envelopes, and stage to the Moonlight team. Much has been made of how well Horowitz handled what must have been a crushing situation, but the aftermath of the fiasco wound up being nearly identical to the “let’s show how sensitive we are” stunt I had imagined.

In the wake of “Envelopegate”, the post-show coverage and social media chatter essentially ignores Barry Jenkin’s brave and bold achievement altogether, along with the awards it took home, in favor of focusing on how badly the Academy screwed up and the grace of Horowitz. A Washington Post article trumpets that he’s “the truth-teller we need right now,” bending over backwards to pat the producer on the back for…what, exactly? It was a nice and even-handed gesture, for sure, but (and this is not a knock against Horowitz in the slightest) do we need to ooh and aah quite so much over somebody doing what should be minimally expected of them, especially in lieu of focusing on the movie that actually won, to say nothing of the invisible people it made visible? It’s pretty lamentable that the story being told is not that Moonlight upset the best picture race, but that La Land lost so graciously.

So my suggestion is: go and see Moonlight, get to know Barry Jenkins, focus on what he earned and achieved, and think about what this film and its acknowledgment might mean for the marginalized people of our present and our future. And maybe ask why this isn’t the conversation most of us are having.

The New Right’s “Gated Community” Vision of America

It seems old hat to moan about how ridiculous the right has become, and yet, here we are.

Each day under the Trump administration is a series of nested petty outrages: absolutely bonkers nonsense rhetoric and action that dribbles into the zeitgeist before being weaponized by dipshits of all stripes.

The latest hysterical but also terrifying (there has to be a German adjective for this) development was the President of the United States’ unhinged ramblings about Sweden, and the violence-torn hellscape he imagines it to be (courtesy of that country’s leading role in accepting refugees and immigrants).

Proving once again (like I said, old hat) that all the rules have gone out the window, it’s not only easy to find people who back up and defend his categorical lie (Sweden is one of the least violent places in the world). The entire thing was predicated on a dubious report from Fox News, which featured the baseless allegation that the Swedish government was covering up violent crime in an effort to hide what the hordes of bloodthirsty brown people have wrought.

Prominent wing-nut whackjob and all-around laughable shitstain @PrisonPlanet–the same guy who still clings to the PizzaGate conspiracy theory, never leaves his apartment, and self-identifies as an Alpha Male hardass even though he’s a sickly dork–boldly issued a “gotcha” to everybody chuckling at the latest foibles of the Mad Diaper King by “challenging” reporters to accept a paid-trip to a Swedish suburb that is supposedly overrun with jihadists. When the entire Internet eagerly accepted the offer, he angrily told them they were being stupid for wanting to go there, and proved his point by posting pictures of police cars parked near buildings, and sullen hot topic teens standing around on a sidewalk. When this prompted yet another round of laughter, he angrily tweeted his coup de grace: a video of some fireworks going off in the street, as evidence that Sweden was indeed a multiculturalist hellhole.

I made the worst/best decision of the weekend by choosing to comment on this gut-busting stupidity and I’m still getting twitter notifications bout it 24 hours later. What I’ve learned is this: the reason boorish toads like Trump are actually able to drum up popular support is that they engage with the world in exactly the same way as lots of America’s shittiest people, and contrary to popular liberal belief, that’s not necessarily somebody who is rent apart by bigotry, but somebody whose greatest aspiration is a kind of dark, white trash-elitism that Donald Trump perfectly embodies.

A popular deflated “gotcha” attempt amongst progressive critics of Trump is to point out how stupid MAGA-dopes are for idolizing Trump and treating him as though he is their buddy and pal when it’s clear to anybody with half a brain that he wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire. The crux of the argument is wrong-headed even if the conclusion is apt (and even if most liberals don’t want to admit that the same is true of Clinton or Obama or indeed any politician or rich-dope-turned-politician). Trump IS just like them, with the sole exception of being in a much higher tax bracket. He’s a whiny, privileged oaf who has never worked for anything in his life, has had everything handed to him, and yet still feels eternally beleaguered at even the most insignificant obstacles or hardships. Being President Trump is not all that different from being a Pepe-avatar moron living in mom’s basement in suburban Ohio. If any of the RedHats did ever strike it rich, they would live exactly how Trump does: watching endless amounts of daytime television, eating too much shitty fast food, and flying around on solid gold planes to golf appointments in Florida, aka, the Jamaica for boring tourists who are afraid to look at black people.

The even more hilarious/maddening part is that all of these NIMBY assholes claim to be brave, oh-so-Alpha independent manly men, even though they spiral into a descent of pants-wetting delirium at the suggestion that someone setting off firecrackers on concrete is not, in fact, tantamount to living in war-torn Syria. The same people who shriek that “dur GOVernment” needs to stop fucking up their lives barely stop to take a breath before bellowing “THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW” when forced to confront anything that might flout the bylaws of their McMansion Gated Community. Nothing brought out the frothing venom like being told that I grew up in red-state Texas with a multiple shotgun-owning father who took me on annual trips out to the country to stock up on high-powered explosives that we–wait for it–set off in the alley and street near our house that was within city limits. Hell, as I got older I regularly stocked up myself, spending hundreds of dollars on shit that went boom so that I could exercise my god-given right as an American to get drunk and cause a ruckus on July 4th. None of that for these people. Reading my mentions, they seem to believe, to a one, that it is literally impossible to handle fireworks without self-immolating, and that anybody caught setting one off within 200 yards of another person should be shipped off to a blacksite prison.

That’s the appeal for the self-appointed hardasses of the right’s base: they’re shitty and bland people who desire nothing less than for the whole of America to be transformed into a series of all-white, suburban planned communities with attached multi-function churches/Cheesecake factories. God forbid any of these sobbing infants had to spend a day in my liberal snowflake stronghold, where a clinically insane person yells me at weekly, and I brush it off like I would a morning traffic jam. That’s the MO for Trump and his goons: they’ve blundered into everything they could possibly need, and are being stared down by an existential crisis that they respond to by trying to destroy every alternative path to fulfillment. For people bereft of any creativity or thoughtfulness, realizing that your reality TV aspirations read as trashy and pathetic to anybody with an interesting bone in their body is a frightening proposition.

An OK Day

Is this what it felt like to be an adult in the cold war?

I remember once reading an article about “nuclear dread” or “cold war dread” that discussed how those who grew up in the Atomic Age–basically anybody who went to middle school in the 1950s until roughly the 1980s–had this low-level, simmering anxiety, that nuclear annihilation could come at any moment.

Right now, it feels like somebody turned the dimmer switch on the present down just a tad. There are few conversations happening amongst my friends in New York that don’t–at some point–dip into the latest outrage to roll out of the White House. The repulsiveness of the current political climate has become a meme. To crack a joke about waking up in the morning and checking your newsfeed for developments about the end of the world is about as fresh as making a “What’s the deal with lampshades” Jerry Seinfeld send-up.

I alternate between dread and hope. It’s encouraging to watch people finally get in the faces of politicians, and there’s something weirdly comforting about seeing a country so unanimously repulsed by a group of politicians. Sometimes I feel that if we make it to 2020–or even 2018–without any major catastrophes, that the tide is going to turn in a big bad way.

But then there are little things that make me wonder about the future, and how we’re all going to engage with each other ten, twenty, thirty years from now. We have duly elected officials openly and baldly lying and spitting on the electorate, and nobody really seems to care. Some folks keep cautioning against “normalization”, but at this point it’s hard to imagine ever not dropping my jaw open when I see Sean Spicer spewing stuttered misinformation, or Kellyanne Conway behaving like the ugly power broker at the bitchiest sorority. Reading the news is a constant reminder that the country is being run by the white trash version of The Kardashians, only less successful and with terrible taste.

I digress. What does it mean for the future when politicians feel OK reiterating the absolutely out of touch with reality assertion that most protesters are “paid”? The question will be whether voters react to this as they should (the civics equivalent of storming the castle and beheading the nobles), or if there really are enough out of touch shitheads in the world that believe this crap, who will keep the needle from moving too far in one direction or another.

In the past, it’s been achingly unhip to align passion, politics, and art. I went to a Raymond Pettibon exhibit at the New Museum yesterday (with Dana, James, Emily) and loved it. Achingly personal, unique, political, vulnerable, passionate, and beautiful work. One of my favorite takeaways was that Pettibon entitled one of his shows that came immediately after the outbreak of the Iraq War: “Here’s Your Irony Back.” Maybe we’re finally getting there.