★★★ The six-year-old kept putting on his knit Batman hat, the one with the eyes and ears, against the chill in the pew. The light and air were so clear that there was little optical shimmer around the sharpened edges of things. All that could be seen on downtown-facing crosswalk signal was an unreadable square of reflected light. A line of rigging from a tower top to a sidewalk scaffold stood as bright and salient as lettering on a commercial sign. A bent twig and its shadow rolled over in the wind on the pavement with a twitching movement like a stricken earthworm. The only remotely cloudlike thing to be found anywhere was the light in the dense bare twigs of the trees.
Lot 1: Shithole Chair
Too soon? Nonetheless, this is a rare, early eighteenth-century potty, and it is headed to auction in Maine on February 9. The New England-made settle form chair contains a hole in the seat to accommodate the passage of human waste and, to that end, it shows “age appropriate minor wear,” but it also retains its original red paint.
A bid of $2,500 will likely win it. Then pop a slop-jar under it, and voila!, you’re in business.
“I still don’t understand what happened in the Vikings/Saints game. Can you break it down for me?” —Football Frank
Look, nothing makes sense anymore. Nothing. Not day. Not night. Not up. Not down. The entire Earth is completely off its rocker and nothing, not the persistence of objects, not the breaks of the game, not the rules of time and space, will ever be the same. The President of the United States paid off a porn star to cover-up an affair and it wasn’t even that big a story. That came out Friday. It’s Monday now and people are like “whatever.” If Obama had paid off a porn star to cover up an affair he’d be in Gitmo right now. Presidents getting blackmailed in the Age of Trump is kind of a ho-hum endeavor. There are no rules. Nothing means anything. And it ain’t over until it’s really, really over.
It’s been kind of a tough year for football. That same President Guy complains about football players kneeling to protest endemic racism in the American criminal justice system. Keep it up and some people might think he’s a racist. The game itself is marred by almost an injury per down and has to accept, intrinsically, that it is slowly but surely killing its players with undiagnosed head injuries. Mothers, don’t let your babies grow up to play American tackle football. Soon the game will be played by robots only in dark alleys with lots of neon lights like Blade Runner movies. Many of us still watch, as if it were a special about lemmings hurling themselves off cliffs on the Gorilla Channel. It is fascinating and beautiful, even if the outcome is craven and bizzare.
★★ The lingering snow fell as rain under the scaffolding. Jackets had taken back the streets from parkas and puffy coats. The wan and unpleasant light bloomed, briefly and unexpectedly, into something that was almost sunshine. Space opened between the edges of shrinking snowbanks and the pavement below. Everywhere people’s shoes had gone, there was a film of grimy dampness.
JARED is using IVANKA’s paper shredder to destroy copies of MICHAEL WOLFF’s Fire and Fury. He’s not sure who sent five hundred copies of the book to the White House, but if pressed to guess, he’d have to say it was STEVE BANNON. He’s doing his best to get rid of the books before they provoke another meltdown from TRUMP, but it takes a really long time to destroy that many pages, and no one is helping. IVANKA is reclining on her fainting couch, not eating. Their DAUGHTER, the Shadow President, is vetting nominees to the federal bench, while also practicing her handwriting. STEPHEN MILLER and ONE OF THE TRUMP SONS are huddled around STEPHEN MILLER’s monitor laughing their asses off. They’re watching YouTubes of people eating really spicy foods. GENERAL KELLY strides in, dressed like an old-timey gym teacher and twirling a whistle. He’s with KELLYANNE CONWAY, who’s breaking her number one rule for the workplace: sweating in the vicinity of male colleagues.
GENERAL KELLY [aggressively]: Jared, you’re up.
[JARED pretends he can’t hear GENERAL KELLY. He puts down and then picks up a book. He looks at the floor.]
GENERAL KELLY [blowing into his whistle]: Jared, I know you can hear me.
[JARED pretends to be reading Fire and Fury. He knows that today begins GENERAL KELLY’s twenty-one day body transformation regimen, and he never got strong enough over break to do push-ups not on his knees. KELLYANNE CONWAY dabs her brow with some of the shredded paper that’s everywhere.]
GENERAL KELLY [softly but in a sociopathic way]: We’re leaving in ten
On the internet, where people become data and popularity is conveniently quantified, it’s easy to learn what a community values most. Twitter embraces celebrities and #brands. Reddit stans for Barack Obama and elaborate pop-culture GIFs. Quora is an asylum of techies questioning their morality and their stock options; its second-most-upvoted answer is a “soul-satisfying” account of a sales bro helping a homeless man.
On the Bodybuilding.com forums, the two most popular threads of all time are not about deadlifts, intermittent fasting, or maintaining motivation. They’re about women. Specifically, women Bodybuilding.com members would “love to pound.” While one thread features pictures of “petite/slim girls” and the other of “athletic girls,” both are an endless stream of lightly Photoshopped near-nudity and predictably lecherous comments. Both have been viewed almost 3 million times. And both are on the lone section of the Bodybuilding.com forums that’s explicitly unrelated to fitness: the Misc.
“Participate at your own risk, some content NSFW,” reads the description of the Misc. on the forums’ homepage. “U Aware?”
About a week into my stay in Setagaya, I decided to give Akihabara a second try. It’s an area in central Tokyo, mostly famous for its electronics and anime holdings. I’ve been in the city for the past few weeks, mostly recovering from a terminal graduate degree, and the other day it occurred to me that I needed a keychain. The night before, I’d been out in the street at this takoyaki stand by my AirBnB, smoking and joking with the neighbors, when the ground started shaking. I lost my shit. Dropped my food and everything. But the folks standing around me didn’t miss a beat; they just grabbed the nearest table. If anything, they started laughing harder. There’d been an earthquake warning that afternoon. My new friends asked if it had been my first one. The secret, a woman in a cowboy hat told me, was keeping everything together. Holding your cool. That was the exact opposite of what I’d done.
So: a keychain. Those are my thing. As someone who would lose his bones if not for his skin, I have so many. But I wanted a very specific one, a highly particular still from the intro of a highly particular series, the sort of thing that, even in the most esoteric comic shops and conventions in the States, you’d be hard-pressed to find. And that could, I think, be one of the best things about Akihabara: if you can think of a thing, there’s a fair chance that you’ll find it, and without the online overlord wareshop monopoly.
★★★ The otherwise mirror-flat surface of the Hudson was studded with chunks of ice. The chill was an agreeable coolness, the sky a newly enriched blue. There was enough clear and dry space to safely navigate with a broken toe, though the sidewalk spotlights outside the Time Warner Center were slippery with watery dark muck. Birds went ahead and chirped.