"Ancient Aliens" Is Everything That's Wrong With America

The History Channel's assault on truth.

New York City, September 21, 2017

★★★ The forecast was more promising than the gray out the windows was. Soon enough, though, the sun burned into view. The humidity had not budged. By noon the clouds were down to a thin filter, but then the light weakened again. Workers were out on the roof deck across the way, restoring the cushions to the outdoor furniture now that the high-wind warnings were over. A wholesome light returned, and with it a swelling breeze. A spaniel on a leash bounded around a corner.

Jared Kushner's Daughter Records An Oral History of "Rocket Man"

Image: spondooley via Flickr

KUSHNER DAUGHTER is recording an oral history of how her grandfather, TRUMP, decided to call Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man.” Because GENERAL KELLY admires her steadfast commitment to record keeping, he has assembled a row of chairs in the middle of the West Wing for the oral history participants. JARED is sitting in one of them. So are GENERAL MATTIS, KELLYANNE CONWAY, CHUCK SCHUMER, and STEPHEN MILLER. JARED is wearing a New York Mets cap.

KELLYANNE CONWAY [into KUSHNER DAUGHTER’s recording device]: You’re a little young for this, but do you remember how in the movie Almost Famous

[KUSHNER DAUGHTER shakes her head “no.”]

KELLYANNE CONWAY: When they’re all on the bus, and one by one they all start singing “Tiny Dancer.”  [KELLYANNE CONWAY sings “Blue jean baby. LA lady.”]

CHUCK SCHUMER [nodding agreeably]: I love that scene.

GENERAL MATTIS [happily]: Top five movie, easy.

GENERAL KELLY [nostalgically]: I’ve seen maybe four movies tops. But that movie. When the guy is up on the roof and jumps into the pool. It just—[GENERAL KELLY smiles to himself.] I’ve always wanted to be able to jump off of roof into a pool.

KELLYANNE CONWAY [lying]: So, we were just sitting around, and the President starts singing “Rocket Man,” and we were, a bunch of us, Hope was there, and Mike Pence and Mark Burnett and Chuckles. And we just, in unison, nodded and started singing. Jared and Ivanka were there too, but they were fighting.

STEPHEN MILLER [eyes dead]: I was against the idea from the start. I didn’t sing along either.

Doing Good All Night Long

Towards the tail end of the wicked nor’easter that laid on massive snowdrifts this March, a fleet of about two dozen snowplows mobilized in Boston and parts of New Jersey and New York. They were hardly the only plows on the streets, but they drew an inordinate amount of attention. They’d been provided gratis by a private firm. They responded to underserved areas based on emails and Tweets sent to said company. And they were emblazoned with the company’s logo: the deep orange, black, and white sigil of Pornhub, the largest porn site on the net and for years one of the most heavily trafficked overall websites in the world.

While it crawled out of the shadows in the 1970s, porn remained so taboo and insular the industry didn’t, and couldn’t, do much outreach beyond its niche underworld. If porn garnered attention in the mainstream, it was either for some political kerfuffle, a porn star’s appearance on a salacious show, or an over-the-top stunt leaning into the scandal of the industry. “Think things like… offers to do porn,” said Chauntelle Tibbals, a sociologist who studies the porn industry, “directed at sensationalized mainstream media personalities.” Porn stars and adult producers who have tried to branch out, engaging in philanthropic ventures and speaking about them openly, have often run into significant barriers. By casually sending out a fleet of plows and engaging with the public openly as a mundane benefactor, Pornhub staged a real coup.

Most Popular Old Person Names

Hector Plimmer, "Sleep Easy"


It’s the last hours of summer and the first day of fall. Feel any different? Of course not: Everything’s terrible year-round now. Here’s music. Enjoy.

New York City, September 20, 2017

★★ The warmth came on faster even than the brightness. Loitering clouds and a breeze set the change back only briefly, and midday belonged to the sun. The donuts from the Greenmarket were warm in the greenhouse of their plastic bag. The afternoon clouds over Fifth Avenue had organized into a more or less solid mass, though the light and dark shading of it was still confused. Off to the east, a bit of blue endured. The setting sun would find open space in the west, too. In its light, different grains emerged at different heights—low, gauzy streaks of clouds ran west to southeast; higher silvery ridges went north and south. The air indoors stayed hot.

Oktoberfest Isn't Really A Thing

Photo: Bayreuth2009/Wikimedia Commons

Germans head to the polls in TWO DAYS, you guys, which means the Fatherland’s quadrennial “vote fight” is finally, mercifully drawing to a close. However, what everyone is talking about right now isn’t the near-certainty of a fourth term under the world’s best tunic-haver, but instead the probable ascendance of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, whose Islamophobic piglet posters scared little kids (and me).

Anyway, this also means that like many Germans, I’m too freaked out to function properly, and since one can only stress-eat Tim Horton’s breakfast sandwiches for so much of the day, it’s a good time to remember that there is something else Germans are doing to occupy themselves for the final weeks of September: OKTOBERFEST!!! I mean, everybody loves Oktoberfest! Right now, every German everywhere is packed into Lederhosen and Dirndls, hoisting around one-liter Steins of extra-strong brewski and rocking out to Schlager until the wee hours!

Munich Oktoberfest, 2009. Photo: public domain

Except, they’re not.

I hate to break it to every German-American Club in our own Republic, most of whose members are at present deep in the throes of Knockwurst catatonia, but outside of Bavaria, Oktoberfest—originally a public feast honoring the marriage of the Crown Prince Ludwig to Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in 1810—isn’t a thing.

We'll Have The Fried Rice

Image: I grew up in Paterson, NJ via Facebook

I grew up kosher till my father died. Religious I wouldn’t call him. Faithful, I would say. Faithful as in filled with faith, as sailing ships are sped forth by the swell of force those on the shore can’t see. Faithful in the sense of true, as an arrow that dips and pitches in its course is true, or true enough, within the wind-channel that slams it to its target.

Lumpen immigrants—Carpathian farmers, rough-edged, more or less unlettered—my father’s people liked God, liked God a lot, if in a casual way. To Him (God was a him then) they attributed all good things. Lapses, they looked the other way. They got tired, and so why not God? Who hasn’t felt her head nod on the job and, hoping no one noticed, jolted back to duty?

Buckwheat blight, goose-pen fence-rot: bad. Worse: stillbirth, typhus, dropsy. Worse still: Cossack raids. Beyond thought: that which was beyond thought. Cousins showed up in Red Cross transports at the docks, sink-eyed, with numbered arms. In terms of God—that, well, nobody could explain.

Still, otherwise they cut Him slack. And felt it their due to receive kickback in kind.

Kashrut—no pig products or shellfish, no dairy with the meat, that five-millennia-plus diet trend—they took as of deific device, wise and right.

But God had never tried the spareribs at Port Arthur Chinese Restaurant. Did God have a mouth? On this point my father was unclear. “God spoke to Abraham, to Moses. But maybe not quite like we’re talking here.”

NFL Haiku Picks, Week Three

9/21 8:25 ET LA Rams -2.5 At San Francisco

Thursday Night Football!
Watch bad teams that suck! Or ‘T.
J. Hooker’ re-runs!

PICK: RAMS

 

9/24 9:30 ET Baltimore -4 At Jacksonville  (London)

This game is on at
9 A.M. Sunday morning.
But sleep late instead.

PICK: RAVENS

 

9/24 1:00 ET Cleveland -1 At Indianapolis

The Browns are favored!
This may be because the Colts’
QB is a squirrel.

PICK: BROWNS!

 

A Poem by Meghan O'Rourke

Poem for My Son

You were of the earth, like a lentil.
The taste of quince, a revulsion at meat.
The others were like a dream that scores
the body long after waking—
But you were sour spit, a pinched pain in the right hip.
There was nothing luminous about you,
oh you made the smells of the city repellant.
On the doctor’s screen,
a black dot with a line through it, a blot,
you grew slowly grey and white,
then boned and legged and oblong and minded.
I made you out of grapefruit and Rice Chex.
—The others were made of longing.—
Each time I saw you in the soundwaves
was preparatory, not romantic; not like the wind
but more like a river pushing against my legs,
insisting on its presence. In thick socks
I ate potato chips and congee, built
you without trying, splaying my ribcage.
Lugging my freight down the street,
I thought about what I wanted for you—
(love love and more love)
but you were already you, not
an outgrowth of my mind,
just your own strange, remote, hardening body,
moving toward arrival under surgical lights
in sudden, open parenthesis—

 

Meghan O’Rourke is a poet and nonfiction writer whose poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Best American Poetry and more. She’s the author of the best-selling memoir The Long Goodbye and her most recent poetry collection is Sun in Days, just out from W.W. Norton.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.