New York City, August 22, 2017

★★ Dawn laid its rosy fingers on the glass tower across the way and then scrabbled to hang on, as vague blurry clouds kept impeding the open sun. The river was fouled in a soft-colored haze. Heat crept in through the windows unless every air conditioner was on, and it lurked in the hall and elevator. The first breath out of doors was like pulling in a stream of water from a hot hose. Atop the other smells on the sidewalk was the plain reek of sweat. The thunderstorms in the forecast kept receding, so it was useless to try to plan around them. The heat was as hot as it could be without being sensational. Finally, long after dark, the streets were wet. For a while the noise of the air conditioner drowned out the storm, but lighting flared through the blinds, one burst of it so bright it seemed to be coming from the bedroom ceiling.

Clay Travis's ESPN Joke, Workshopped

ESPN’s subscriber numbers are down, a trend that has everything to do with Americans canceling their cable packages and nothing to do with Bomani Jones saying that the way Colin Kaepernick has been treated is shameful. Clay Travis, an early morning Fox Sports radio host, has been trolling ESPN since late 2016, with claims that the cable sports network is excessively liberal. This is ridiculous on its face—ESPN is strictly nonideological and its most liberal personalities aren’t that far left.

But perhaps because of Travis’s incredible persistence, both the major media and ESPN itself have latched onto his claim that ESPN’s new wokeness is hurting its bottom line.

Like much of the rest of media after the election, the already centrist channel felt like it had to pander to the right wing of the country. Just this summer, the network re-hired Confederacy-loving singer Hank Williams Jr. for “Monday Night Football” and very pointedly released a study showing that conservatives had no issue with the network. And after a gutting round of ESPN layoffs in the spring, the New York Times decided that the voice of authority its readers needed to hear was Clay Travis.

Clay Travis, a Fox Sports contributor and editor of the website Outkick the Coverage, has labeled the network “MSESPN,” a reference to MSNBC, the cable news channel that frequently skews liberal in its analysis. Giving the courage award to Ms. Jenner, he said in an interview, smacked of “social engineering” on behalf of ESPN. He has also criticized what he called the “lionization” of Mr. Kaepernick.

As much as Travis has a “strategy,” incessantly typing the letters “MSESPN” is central to it. He’s tweeted and blogged it hundreds of times since December, and he even used the acronym in a story he broke this morning: “MSESPN Pulls Asian Announcer Named Robert Lee Off UVa Game To Avoid Offending Idiots.”

ESPN is being extremely stupid in pulling Lee from the game, but I am fucking sick of being forced to read “MSESPN” as some kind of liberal slur. It doesn’t even have the sliver of sense that Trump’s stupid jokes or the usual Limbaugh-ian portmanteaus do; it is wholly nonsensical. It is literally a worse joke than “libtard.”

MSNBC employs Joe Scarborough, Hugh Hewitt, George Will, Greta Van Susteren (briefly), Bret Stephens, and Nicole Wallace. It is not a leftist network; it does not “skew liberal in its analysis.” Sure, it might mess up Travis’s merch, but let’s come up with a better pejorative, conservative nickname for ESPN. Any of these terrible options are better than MSESPN:

  • JacobESPN
  • BernESPN Sanders
  • IndivisblESPN
  • SOROSPN
  • Matt YgliESPN
  • Mother JonESPN
  • ThinkProgrESPN
  • Edward SnowdESPN
  • BuzzFeEsPn
  • RoeSPN v. Wade
  • NAACESPN
  • SPLCESPN
  • ChelsESPN Manning
  • CuckSPN
  • PisESPNPigGranddad
  • Jeremy CorbESPN
  • Lincoln ChaffESPN
  • Center For American ProgrESPN
  • Daily KoSPN
  • TankESPN
  • But Her ESPN-mails
  • The Daily BESPN
  • AntifESPN

If You Can't Say Anything Savage, Don't Say Anything At All

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Summer is for Herons

Summer is for herons, who sit on old stumps and dead trees casually flung out over the side of the river. The little white ones are charming exclamation points, their long thin necks speckle the shore; they prefer the reeds and inlets. The great blue herons are main events and I saw a pair this summer flying slow across the river. The lead bird had its neck scrunched up near its body and then with a magnificent flap extended its neck forward like a sword. The night heron is the one I look for. It likes to stand hunched over and very still on a branch that extends into shallow water. When I pass by in my boat it does not care. I slow down and peer. There is no tension. I saw one flying and expected the long neck maneuver but there was none. The night heron is more compact and world weary. It peers back.

Summer is waning and the water is heavy with green algae and weeds. My path up and down the river will shift soon with the patterns of school bus mornings and yellow foliage and fog. For now, the herons are knee-deep in mud, I’m afloat, and we’re keeping watch under a late-summer sky.

The German Voter-Fraud Scandal of the Century

Carl Gottlieb Peschel, Der Erlkönig, 1840. Public Domain.

Goethe’s haunting 1782 poem “Der Erlkönig” (“The Erl-King,” pronounced AIRL-koon-ik) uses deceptively melodious word choice and meter to emphasize its horror content: A supernatural king stalks a child in plain sight, but invisible to its oblivious father, who doesn’t believe his son until it’s too late.

Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht,

Was Erlenkönig mir leise verspricht? –

Sei ruhig, bleibe ruhig, mein Kind;

In dürren Blättern säuselt der Wind.

 

“My father, my father, and can you not hear

The promise the elf-king breathes in my ear?”

“Be calm, stay calm, my child, lie low:

In withered leaves the night-winds blow.”

(Edwin Zeydel translation, 1955)

Der Erlkönig is a cautionary tale with different morals depending on who you identify with. For the father, Goethe’s ballad (set to music by, among others, Franz Schubert) is an unsubtle reminder that evil lurks everywhere, and just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

For the son, Goethe conveniently reinforces what all German children rightly suspect: that their parents are totally okay with them either meeting a grisly death, or living in constant fear of one.

Of course, for the Erlkönig himself, the takeaway is pretty chipper: If you can’t get your way the first time, just be really fucking persistent.

Now far be it from me to suggest that Goethe’s spirit underlies the motivations of every German in the world—but also far be it from me to deny that I saw vestiges of the Erlkönig in the quest of one particularly aggrieved 42-year-old dude who seems to have more time on his hands than even your average Teutonic recipient of fifteen thousand paid vacation days per year. Meine Damen und Herren, I present to you the 25,000-Euro lawsuit of one Marko Steidel, who insists that he wuz robbed of his rightful royal title: not Erlkönig, but Apfelkönig (OPP-ful-koon-ik), or Apple King. Each year, you see, the German-Polish border town of Guben (pop. 20,000) holds an election for Apple Royalty.

Man Bad

It is not quite fair to say that Donald Trump lacks core beliefs, but to the extent that we can take apart these beliefs they amount to Give Donald Trump Your Money and Donald Trump Should Really Be on Television More. The only comprehensible throughline to his politics is that everything Trump says is something he’s said previously, with additional very’s and more-and-more’s appended over time; his worldview amounts to the sum of the dumb shit he saw on the cover of the New York Post in 1985, subjected to a few decades of rancid compounding interest and deteriorating mental aptitude. He watches a lot of cable news, but he struggles to follow even stories that have been custom built for people like him—old, uninformed, amorphously if deeply aggrieved.

If we’re going to have to read about the guy, the writing may as well be excellent.

Quadrant, "Infinition"


I am starting to sound like a broken record on this but I am astounded by exactly how slowly time is moving these days. I woke up this morning certain that it was at least Thursday and yet somehow it is not. I need to get one of those voice robot machines to wake me up each morning by saying, “Sorry, Al, it’s only [whatever the fuck horrible day it is which is not the day I actually believe it to be]” or, more appropriately, “You’re a fool to have hope.” In any event, happy Wednesday. Here’s music, enjoy.

New York City, August 21, 2017

★★★★★ The sun was shining through nothing more than a thin film of cloud. Sunlight strained the eyes; it warmed the ears; it raised sweat on the palms and made that sweat glisten. Just before the beginning of the appointed time, the cloud layer attenuated the light in a way that could be thought of as uncanny, if one were suggestible. A while later, when the crowded elevator let out onto the roof of the office building, a full cloud was covering the sun, but it passed on and through a pinhole in an index card it was possible to see the bite out of the disc. Up past the Flatiron, Madison Square was full, and people were accumulating on roofs all around, holding flashing objects to their eyes. A sooty dimness lay over the whole wide view of the city. More clouds closed over, then opened again. Now and then, as they came and went, it was possible to look at the flat white crescent of the sun through them, just as one might look at the entire round sun when the clouds were right, without danger. With sunglasses, that moment could be prolonged, though when the eyes were finally averted, a green crescent would float on them. The rooftop plantings were too sparse to be scattering abundant fishscale patterns in their shade, but careful inspection could turn up a few of them. Through borrowed cardboard protective glasses, the cutaway shape was precise and orange and it hung in a meaningless, featureless void as long as the glasses were up. Then there was the world again, about as dark as a real thunderstorm, no darker. The thick clouds departed and high peppery ones floated over the growing sun. People jammed the exit. After the majority was gone, there was still a huge chunk of the sun missing, and a few diehards with glasses were still staring at it.

Time To Start Reading Again

I know none of us wants to admit it, but fall is coming fast and pretty soon it won’t be acceptable to act like the big dummy you’ve been all summer. I don’t like it either, but for whatever reason nobody seems to think it’s as charming when you’re an idiot after Labor Day. Maybe you should read something so you can sound smart? It probably also wouldn’t hurt to crank up the old brain up a little bit anyway. I mean, maybe you don’t need to. Maybe you spent your whole summer reading nuclear reactor technical manuals. But I bet you mostly used the intellect God gave you to make important contributions to the ongoing online conversation about the elf incest show. It’s okay. Here are a few books I have enjoyed recently that I think you might also appreciate. Order now and come October you’ll sound like a genius for long enough to fool whoever around you is also pretending to be smart too.

MDMD, "ᐚ"


I couldn’t believe it either, when they told me it was only Tuesday this morning. And yet here we are. Nothing happens at speed anymore. The days take forever. It goes on and on and on and just when you think the week is close to over you are reminded by people that no, it’s only just begun. If you are someone who is not exactly in love with life to start with, the idea that they’re going to drag it out even further just makes you more anxious about the time it takes you to get through it. And that time will apparently never end. I guess while we’re waiting we should listen to some music. Enjoy.