Pretty much every government uses culture as propaganda, so it should not be surprising that the United States did so throughout the Cold War. As a superpower involved in a multi-pronged proxy war for the hearts and minds of each and every inhabitant of Earth, how could it not? And the CIA was behind most of it.
While Hoover and his FBI men were busy red-baiting, tapping phones, and compiling dossiers on just about any American with even the most minuscule of leftist leanings, the CIA was simultaneously funding and promoting art by many of the same people the FBI was watching. Meanwhile, Joe McCarthy was attacking anything [...]
A day and a half after meeting at Moose’s Saloon, Jude and I boarded a raft with his pit bull and began floating down the north fork of the Flathead River.
He called himself a mountain man, and was eager to guide a city girl on life in the outdoors.
“We’re going down the river, going to have a Montana adventure today… because we’re craaaZAY!” he sang loudly, as other people sailed by.
I hadn’t showered in three days because I was sleeping in the car to save money, but Jude didn’t seem to care. Neither did his dog, who kept leaping into my lap. Jude grinned, turned up some [...]
1. "Song for Edward Snowden" by Joe Fox. Best line: "Braaaave, or stupid? Braaaave, or stupid?"
2. "You Can't Slip A Chip Into My Brain, NSA" by (the perfectly named) Grant William Brad Gerver. Best line: uh, "You Can't Slip A Chip Into My Brain, NSA"?
3. "Prism" by David Rovics. Best line: "One government came down and burned in repetition of this fact / the next government passed the Freedom of Information Act."
Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.
"Stephen went down Bedford row, the handle of the ash clacking against his shoulderblade. In Clohissey’s window a faded 1860 print of Heenan boxing Sayers held his eye. Staring backers with square hats stood round the roped prizering. The heavyweights in tight loincloths proprosed gently each other his bulbous fists. And they are throbbing: heroes’ hearts." —James Joyce, Ulysses, Episode 10, The Wandering Rocks
I was barely a moment inside Walmart, studying the cucumbers and avocados, when a middle-aged man came up to say hi.
We started talking about the oil boom sweeping Williston, North Dakota. He said his coworkers were losing it out here in the middle of nowhere. Maybe he would lose it too.
"You gotta really be focused on your shit," he said. "And it's hard. And on that note, that's why you should let me take you to dinner."
I declined. He called later that evening to ask me on a date. He said he'd take me to Pizza Hut. I was not pining for a rendezvous with a roustabout [...]
50. Vermont 49. Colorado 48. Alaska 47. Connecticut 46. South Dakota 45. North Dakota 44. Utah 43. Maine 42. Wyoming 41. Iowa 40. Wisconsin
Kevin Bacon’s new video imploring millennials to raise their 80s awareness did not mention Billy Bragg’s 1986 song “There Is Power in a Union,” but the idea that there is any power in a union probably seems as remote to many millennials as parachute pants or the White Pages. Actually, this is probably true of anyone born after about 1965. It’s been a long time since we have thought that most workers can realistically be something other than lone and lonely individuals forced to accept whatever terms of employment they can find and hope not to get fired.Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity [...]
Every time I am silent or seemingly thinking or chewing or barely breathing and unoccupied what I’m really doing is praying fervently that our country devotes itself to dendrolatry and muck our polished patellae in a worshipper’s kneel unto Trees. And where does the Holiday Axe factor into this religion? I’ve always felt like Woolf’s Septimus, felt that they “beckoned; leaves were alive; trees were alive. And the leaves being connected by millions of fibres with [my] own body….” So this morning as the vile Vargoshe family hauled the cut carcass of a 12-ton Norway spruce like a bloodied buck on the roof of [...]
Did you read it yet? Did you? Go read it. It's one of those bold, declarative stories that needed to be lodged in both the consciousness right now and also in the longer historical record, so that we all know exactly what's going on.
"A sweeping national effort to extend health coverage to millions of Americans will leave out two-thirds of the poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of the low-wage workers who do not have insurance…. Because they live in states largely controlled by Republicans that have declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid, the medical insurance program for the poor, [...]
I was doing alright this morning and then whammo. (Here's how last year's celebration was explained.)
America’s state capitals occupy a funny place in our vaunted history. Some end up deemed capital thanks to industry, some due to location in the exact center of the state, many are essentially a one-horse town where its government or nothing, and some have managed the tricky one-two punch of becoming both the state capital and the unofficial tourist and/or cool capital of the state. But towns like Boston and Austin are more the exception than the rule. Yet even in the most remote corners of a state's government, there can be things to do and vibes to feel. Here’s a sampling.
Tallahassee, Florida’s genteel pleasures include The Knott House [...]
We never get tired of Unhappiness Surveys, especially if we live somewhere that's relatively happier than the states that always turn up on these lists. No matter how bad things are in New York or Los Angeles or whatever thriving urban hellhole you call home, it's nothing like the misery of the "10 most unhappy states in the U.S.," right? Consider Mississippi, America's broken toilet in a vacant lot with waist-high weeds:
Mississippi ranked lower than any other state in Gallup’s basic access to necessities category. Nearly 25% of state residents indicated they did not have enough money to buy food for themselves or their family at some point [...]
So you didn't win a Nobel Prize in Literature this week. Unless your name is Mr. Mo. Although, if you live in Europe, you did win a consolation Nobel Peace Prize at least. (Giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union is like giving an Oscar to Alf.) Anyway, I know, it’s total bullshit. You totally deserved it. But you might just be a calendar year away from getting the recognition you so obviously deserve. Let me show you the way.
I waited by the phone all week for that congratulatory call from overseas myself! Not for the stuff I’ve already written, which, let’s admit, is pretty amazing. But [...]
Were we once a nation of tinkerers that split the atom, created the phonograph, and gave Kevin Costner’s career three distinctly different eras? We were.
And yet, despite all the transistors, pneumatic tires, Roombas, and swivel chairs, the elites apparently have no room in their heart for the Waffle Taco, the most obvious object of derision in Taco Bell’s newly announced breakfast line-up.
“Gross,” they cried, in their truncated communiques. Breakfast, they libeled, would now be served by “a fast food chain heretofore known primarily for serving shredded cheese, refried beans, wilted lettuce, and horse meat in various combinations of tortilla containers.” Taco Bell breakfast “could conceivably [...]
I find it impossible to write fiction that's set after 2002. Not because I'm a Gen-Xer waxing nostalgic about relaxing to Morcheeba on a distastefully stained sofa I found partially torn apart by a dog in an alley. (Oh, the glamour.) It's just that it's inconceivable to depict contemporary times authentically without including interludes where characters stare at their cell phones instead of advancing their plotlines – their lives – towards some conclusion. Which is, as a thing to read, mind-numbingly dull. Unless I write "and then his Galaxy 4's battery died" no one can ever get lost, forget an important fact, meet a partner outside of a dating [...]
Letters to the editor have always been the first thing I read in a magazine, and in 2006, I had my own letter published in New York. It was about Will Shortz, and I thought it was sort of clever, and it made me happy. But even so, I often find myself wondering about others who write in to the editor: Who are these people?
I understand why a doctor would write a letter to the Atlantic about, say, the role of fast food in public health. And I understand why a young woman would write to New York with a trying-to-be-pithy observation about a crossword puzzle, I [...]
This Was Supposed To Be A Review Of The Movie 'Pacific Rim' But It’s Mostly A Review Of My Above-Ground Swimming Pool, But 'Pacific Rim' Is Crazy, Man!
Wowee, America* I am having a super-fantastic summer, seriously, I fixed the vinyl liner in my above-ground pool and now I can go swimming whenever I want, which is really great because of how hot it has been, which summer-wise, is a plus, the hot, and being able to come home all hot and bothered and then slip into a cool pool and a cold beer is very satisfying, in a totally Suburban way, which is not a disparagement of Suburbanites, because I live in a City, but it’s just kinda like a Suburban thing to have a pool, even though mine overlooks the alley and there are feral cats [...]
I think Springtime Positivity has finally caught up with me now that the Springtime Pollen of Negativity has spent itself and released me from its Deadly Grip, because I feel like my mind has cleared and I am Excited about stuff for the first time in a long time since last time. Firstly, more than the new Star Trek movie or the Iron Man or Great Gatsby or Before Midnight or anything like that, moviewise, I am officially one million percent hyper-mega-ultra-jacked about the new Fast & Furious movie, with cars. Check out this picture I have included, which reveals part of the movie—not Spoilering anything, in my opinion—and I [...]
The delightful Pret A Manger sandwich shops which have taken Manhattan by storm in the last decade—in the days when they were backed by McDonald's—began in London. When Pret first showed up here, they went a bit screwy: apparently there was just too much mayo for New Yorkers and they overextended themselves and had to close stores. But they recovered—with new financial partners—quite nicely, and are a happy addition to New York City's lunch options. And back home, in London, Pret is more omnipresent than Starbucks is in New York. Why, sometimes you can see three Prets from a roundabout!
And inside the Prets of London… uh, WE AMERICANS [...]