Question for you: When was the last time you were able to say, “Wow, today just flew by”? I’ll wait. That’s all I do now, is wait. That’s all we all do. We wait and wait and wait and wait and an ending never arrives. Each day is longer than the one that came before and the hours you spend wishing it would all be over only take seconds off the clock. Want to feel old? Monday was nine million years ago. Anyway, here’s music. Enjoy.
★★ The bright parts in the overcast sky went from fuzzy glowing spots to choppy-looking rifts. Far inland, on the horizon beside the apartment slab and over the river, ran a band of clear pale blue. But the rifts closed again and the clouds over Manhattan stayed dark. Leaves and garbage spun in a sweeping curve without rising high enough to menace the eyes. The pale blue stayed out of reach, a bright band framed at the far end of the cross streets, as the cold wind blew. This was the day the color disappeared from everyone’s wardrobes: black jackets, black sweaters, pants of no shade at all. The sun finally did appear, only to be lost again in the hastening evening shadows. High white wisps of cirrus were moving fast from south to north, while low pink shreds were moving north to south even faster.
Obviously there are issues of greater importance in the world right now but seeing as a bill to rename the Williamsburg Bridge after Sonny Rollins has been introduced in the City Council we want to go on record as being fully in favor of the proposal. To quote an underappreciated genius, “If we don’t do this soon some future mayor will name it after Bloomberg instead,” and nobody wants that. Learn more here.
“The great political philosopher, Frank Zappa, once noted that if you want to be a real country, you have to have a beer and you have to have an airline,” says Matt Kibbe. He’s on a roof deck, speaking into a camera, surrounded by beer. The former president and CEO of conservative astroturf group, FreedomWorks, Kibbe co-authored the Tea Party manifesto, Give Us Liberty, and was one of the movement’s main architects. “Well as it turns out, under socialism, you can’t even get a beer anymore.” He’s referring to the the troubles of Cerveceria Polar, Venezuela’s main beer manufacturer. At the age of 54, Kibbe has ditched his creepy sideburns and grown a beard. If before he looked like a guy who’d just been fired from GameStop, now he is reassuring and vaguely paternal. “See this beer?” he says, looking straight into the camera. “This beer is freedom and you’ll pry it from my cold, dead hands.” The bottle opener sitting on the table next to him appears to be a replica of a cherub.
Kibbe says he became a Libertarian at the age of thirteen, after hearing the Rush album 2112. (In an email to me he mistakenly referred to it as 2012.) A concept album set in a dystopian future in which the world is controlled by the “Priests of the Temples of Syrinx,” 2112 is dedicated to “the genius of Ayn Rand,” specifically her book Anthem. The band is pretty popular among libertarians, in 2015, Rush drummer, Neal Pert, told Rolling Stone that he’d sent Rand Paul a number of cease-and-desist letters to get him to stop quoting Rush in his speeches.
This conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen took place a few days after he received a MacArthur “genius grant”. As the author of a Pulitzer prize-winning novel (The Sympathizer), and a collection of short stories (The Refugees), as well as a nonfiction work chronicling narratives of the Vietnam War (Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War), Nguyen is both a scholar and a storyteller. He explores the confluence of narrative and memory throughout his oeuvre, and how the experiences of Vietnamese refugees, and Vietnamese-Americans, are molded by both; in an essay for the New York Times last year, Nguyen noted that “it is precisely because I do not look like a refugee that I have to proclaim being one, even when those of us who were refugees would rather forget that there was a time when the world thought us to be less than human.”So could you talk a little bit about the receiving the call?
It was definitely a big shock and a big surprise. I had just come back from a summer in Paris, so I’d just been home for a couple of days, and I got this phone call from a strange number. I didn’t know who it was, but I texted the number, “Who is this”, and they texted back, “It’s the MacArthur Foundation”. I thought I better call these people right away, and I just had to sit down for the duration of the conversation.
But by the time the news broke, I’d had a month to think about it. And it was actually a huge relief once it was out there, and I could finally start acknowledging it to everybody.
Can you recall your earliest memories of writing?
Well, I think the first book I wrote was actually in the third grade. In elementary school, we made our own books, that type of thing. So I wrote it, drew it, bound it, and it won a prize at the public library, and I think it was the first time the thought occurred to me that I could actually do something with this.
Then I dabbled in writing throughout grade school, and high school, and I started getting more serious about it in college.
I guess this is the day we can all start complaining about how cold it is. Congratulations, we made it. Anyway, here’s music. Enjoy.
★ The humid, gloomy morning seemed to be breaking apart, as the forecast said it would, around 11. Buildings shone in the distance. By noon, though, the light had shut off again. Without the sun, the breeze in the forecourt was clammy. Leaves tossed; debris blew. A motorcycle bore down on a pigeon, which reluctantly took flight. At great intervals a drop of rain would fall. The children rode around for a while on a scooter and the balance bike, despite the dimness, still wearing shorts for the day they’d been told about, the better part that never arrived. Neither the heavens nor the newspapers make enforceable promises, or even apologize for what goes undelivered. A woman in a puffy jacket sat smoking a cigarette with focus and intensity. Nothing improved.
Lot 1: Handle with Care
Had you the foresight to secure that plywood penis table at Sotheby’s last year, you’d now have the opportunity to add some perfectly compatible drinkware: three ceramic mugs with phallus form handles. Cock cups, if you will. Estimated at only $500-700, the whimsical Disco-era vessels would certainly discomfit the members of your book club-coffee klatch, and for that, they’re worth every penny.
The mugs feature in a New Jersey auction on October 22 brimming with awesomely off-kilter oddities, e.g., a collection of rubber mushrooms, a box of glass eyes from the early twentieth century, and a Victorian hand-cranked vibrator.
“I’m having trouble with my roommate. What should I do?” —Troubled Terry
Human beings were never meant to live with one another. We’re just not built for it. Adam and Eve, look how they fucked that relationship up. Blaming each other, listening to snakes. Their sons killing each other. All we do is get on each other’s nerves, constantly, for almost no reason. Basically all American sitcoms are about how impossible it is to cohabitate with anyone, including our families. If we were smart we would have long ago adopted those Japanese Hotel Pods everywhere. Make them sound proof, so I don’t have to hear my neighbor’s Creed CDs on full blast. Lock yourself in and everyone just live and sleep in dark, soundproof, lonely silence. We think humans are the cure for loneliness. But the cure is probably robots. Or at least, talking boxes.
Have you ever tried sharing a bed with someone? It’s practically damned near impossible. They’re always stealing your blankets and pillows, complaining about your snoring, pushing your stuffed animals off the bed, eating your Pop Tarts, messing with your porn. They want to be held all night, which basically involves them crushing your arm with some part of their body. I used to have six arms! Most have fallen off. Because they got crushed by people sleeping all over me at night.