“reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled”

Back in September The Atlantic published a fascinating long-form article that I just got around to reading.

It’s titled, ‘How America Lost Its Mind‘, and it was adapted by a book written by Kurt Anderson:

America was created by true believers and passionate dreamers, and by hucksters and their suckers, which made America successful—but also by a people uniquely susceptible to fantasy, as epitomized by everything from Salem’s hunting witches to Joseph Smith’s creating Mormonism, from P. T. Barnum to speaking in tongues, from Hollywood to Scientology to conspiracy theories, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey to Trump. In other words: Mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age. The result is the America we inhabit today, with reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.

Then comes the Internet:

And there was also the internet, which eventually would have mooted the Fairness Doctrine anyhow. In 1994, the first modern spam message was sent, visible to everyone on Usenet: global alert for all: jesus is coming soon. Over the next year or two, the masses learned of the World Wide Web. The tinder had been gathered and stacked since the ’60s, and now the match was lit and thrown. After the ’60s and ’70s happened as they happened, the internet may have broken America’s dynamic balance between rational thinking and magical thinking for good.

And then we get to Trump:

Donald Trump is a grifter driven by resentment of the establishment. He doesn’t like experts, because they interfere with his right as an American to believe or pretend that fictions are facts, to feel the truth. He sees conspiracies everywhere. He exploited the myths of white racial victimhood. His case of what I call Kids R Us syndrome—spoiled, impulsive, moody, a 71-year-old brat—is acute.

Who knew we’d have to be so vigilant in our fight for truth and facts in 2017.

An Amateur Archaeologist’s Hunch

The discovery of medieval Trellech and the plucky amateurs of archaeology:

The tale of how an amateur archaeologist’s hunch led him to uncover a lost medieval town and spend £32,000 of his own money to buy the land, would stand to be the archaeological discovery of any year. On the border between England and Wales, the site of the medieval town of Trellech reveals much about a tumultuous period of history – and how the town came to be lost.

The story begins in 2004, when archaeology graduate Stuart Wilson began his search for this lost medieval town in Monmouthshire, south-east Wales, near where now only a small village bears the name. In the face of scepticism from academic archaeologists, Wilson’s years of work have been vindicated with the discovery of a moated manor house, a round stone tower, ancillary buildings, and a wealth of smaller finds including pottery from the 1200s.

Badass.

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History

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That’s All Folks

For the next sixty minutes a few drunken, droopy-feathered Native Americans fail to catch the Warner Bros. rabbit, much less assimilate. A Mexican mouse tries to outwit the gringo pussycat, so he can sneak across the border and steal the queso. A seemingly endless lineup of African-American cats, crows, bullfrogs, maids, crap shooters, cotton pickers, and cannibals act a gravelly-voiced Looney Tunes fool to the strains of “Swanee River” and Duke Ellington’s “Jungle Nights in Harlem.” Sometimes a shotgun blast or dynamite explosion turns a nominally white character like Porky Pig into a gunpowder-colored minstrel. Bestowing upon him honorary-nigger status, which allows him to sing merry melodies like “Camptown Races” over the closing credits with impunity. The program ends with Popeye and Bugs Bunny taking turns single-handedly winning World War II by flummoxing bucktoothed, four-eyed, gibberish-speaking Japanese soldiers with giant mallets and geisha subterfuge. Finally, after Superman, supported by gongs and a cheering audience, pulverizes the Imperial Navy into complete submission, the lights come back on. After two hours of sitting in the dark laughing at unmitigated racism, in the brightness the guilt sets in. Everyone can see your face, and you feel like your mother caught you masturbating.

—an excerpt from The Sellout by Paul Beatty

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History

Headphones, 1922

I want to follow up on the rumor that Apple is killing the headphone jack on the upcoming iPhone 7.

The image above is of a man wearing headphones with wires attached to his hat on May 6th 1922, in the United Kingdom (via Reddit). Now, it’s unclear from the photo if the headphones use either a 6.35 mm or 3.5 mm connector, but this is just to show you how long the headphone jack has been around for.

It’s time to sunset the headphone jack. It’s lived a long life.

[sidenote: I bet that braided cord is strong as shit]

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History

White Terrorism

This is the privilege of whiteness: While a terrorist may be white, his violence is never based in his whiteness. A white terrorist has unique, complicated motives that we will never comprehend. He can be a disturbed loner or a monster. He is either mentally ill or pure evil. The white terrorist exists solely as a dyad of extremes: Either he is humanized to the point of sympathy or he is so monstrous that he almost becomes mythological. Either way, he is never indicative of anything larger about whiteness, nor is he ever a garden-variety racist. He represents nothing but himself. A white terrorist is anything that frames him as an anomaly and separates him from the long, storied history of white terrorism.

I’m always struck by this hesitance not only to name white terrorism but to name whiteness itself during acts of racial violence. In a recent New York Times article on the history of lynching, the victims are repeatedly described as black. Not once, however, are the violent actors described as they are: white. Instead, the white lynch mobs are simply described as “a group of men” or “a mob.” In an article about racial violence, this erasure of whiteness is absurd. The race of the victims is relevant, but somehow the race of the killers is incidental. If we’re willing to admit that race is a reason blacks were lynched, why are we unwilling to admit that race is a reason whites lynched them?

In his remarks following the Charleston shooting, President Obama mentioned whiteness only once — in a quotation from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. intended to encourage interracial harmony. Obama vaguely acknowledged that “this is not the first time that black churches have been attacked” but declined to state who has attacked these churches. His passive language echoes this strange vagueness, a reluctance to even name white terrorism, as if black churches have been attacked by some disembodied force, not real people motivated by a racist ideology whose roots stretch past the founding of this country.

White Terrorism Is as Old as America

via The Made Shop

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Superheroes Don’t Kill (anymore)

Over at Slate, Jacob Brogan writes about the origin of superheroes not killing:

The industry as a whole didn’t adopt a collective set of standards until 1954, when prominent publishers banded together to form the Comics Code Authority in response to Wertham’s attacks and the congressional hearings they inspired. Long before, however, DC’s prominent characters provided a tacit model for every superhero that would follow. Accordingly numerous other costumed adventurers who refused to kill would appear in the years after Ellsworth laid down the law: Spider-Man wraps thieves up in webbing, the Fantastic Four banish their enemies to the Negative Zone, and Netflix’s Daredevil tosses would-be assassins into dumpsters. By editorial fiat, Ellsworth had effectively imposed a principle that comics storytellers still follow today, three-quarters of a century after the moral panic that inspired it.

If you follow Bryan and I on the Weekly Exhaust podcast, you’ll know Bryan talked about this on episode 34.

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History

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APRIL 24, 2020

CUPERTINO, SILICON VALLEY — APRIL 24, 2020: Thousands assembled in Cupertino today to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the single most important event in tech history — the release of the Apple Watch.

“I remember a time when people were skeptical of the Apple Watch,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a speech at the newly constructed Nikola Tesla Stadium. “They said it was dumb. They said it was completely unnecessary. They said it was a huge waste of money. Well, those people were wrong and gross and stupid.”

The ceremony included a presentation explaining that few people of the year 2015 understood just how revolutionary the little device would be. From eradicating Super Measles to helping establish the first prison on Mars, it seems there’s nothing the Apple Watch hasn’t done to make our lives better.

—Happy 5th Birthday, Apple Watch!, Paleofuture

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History

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We’ll Always Have McSorley’s

Great homage to McSorley’s Old Ale House by Robert Day (hat tip Mark):

I’ve lost track of the 1960s. At least its chronology. It’s not a matter of Puff the Magic Dragon, but the decade seemed scrambled even as it was happening. No narrative; all abstract montage. Everything used. But not much signed. More than all the flowers gone. In my case: a book, a friend, a girlfriend. I never sent the letter I wrote–but then, neither did she.

The summer after the afternoon when I had been looking at John Sloan’s painting in the Gaslight Tavern, I am sitting in McSorley’s “Wonderful Saloon” on East Seventh Street just off Third Avenue in New York City–not far from The Cooper Union.

It is my first trip to Manhattan, and I have already discovered that the A-Train is more than track three on my Columbia Record Club LP; that there is a hospital with the same name as a lip-kissing, candle-burning American poet; that the White Horse Tavern has (not unlike our Gaslight Tavern) a used bookstore (more than one) close by; and that Henry James’s Washington Square is my Washington Square–at least mine because that summer I am living in an apartment facing the east side of it.

I lived two blocks down from McSorley’s (at 100 East 7th Street) from 2000 to 2005. It’s a special place in NYC and I’ve shared many, many, MANY light & darks with friends there.

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History

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