Nazis Need To Be Defeated, Not Punched

And other answers to questions you didn't ask.

New York City, August 15, 2017

★★ What the morning lacked in brightness it made up for by the intensity of the smells on the damp air. A light but increasing rain fell on the short, straight-line walk to get lunch, a rain unimportant enough for umbrellas to be effective against it. There was no going out afterward; the rain got heavier and the day darker. By rush hour it had stopped, save for a few drops leaking from the still-heavy  clouds. Then the round shape of the sun, like an egg yolk, popped suddenly out from the now-revealed edge of the clouds. It finished its descent through an ever-growing, incongruously ordinary stretch of clear blue.

Ninety-Eight Years of Fallen Women

“For what am I to myself without You, but a guide to my own downfall?” —St. Augustine, Confessions

If you’ve been to the Union Square Barnes and Noble, there’s a decent chance you’ve seen True Story or True Confessions before—they’re on the magazine rack in the literature section, next to the Starbucks. The cover model is always a smiling, seasonally appropriate white woman, and the copy is generally funny in the style of a de-fanged Reductress headline. “YAM WARS,” read the November 2016 Thanksgiving issue of True Story. “So Many Dads…But Do Any Love Me?” read the June 2016 Father’s Day issue of True Confessions.

The magazines are staple-bound and always 64 pages long—ten stories, two “Inspirational Mini-Stories, and one recipe, released once a month. The paper inside is newsprint, the photos all stock images, and the prose leans toward Kindle single. They’re not exactly the kind of magazines that anyone would describe as “venerable” at a glance, but the goofy covers belie the publications’ age and legacy. The first women’s confessional magazines, True Story and True Confessions are now approaching their centennial.

Founded in May of 1919 by publisher, Bernarr MacFadden, True Story was actually his wife’s idea. “Broken-hearted women sent [MacFadden’s Physical Culture magazine] letters after they had done two hundred knee bends, twice a day, and thrown away their corsets, only to find that the Greek gods wouldn’t give them a tumble,” Mary MacFadden wrote in her memoir of their life together, Dumbbells and Carrot Sticks. “These are true stories…Let’s get out a magazine to be called True Story, written by its readers in the first person….The idea has a correlative force. I studied correlativity in school…It’s the kind of thing that helped make the British Empire.”

She was right. Born Bernard McFadden in Mill Spring, Missouri in 1868, her husband was a small, sickly child until he was orphaned at the age of eleven and sent to work on a farm. He spent the rest of his life obsessed with strength and fitness, becoming a personal trainer and going so far as to change his name to Bernarr MacFadden because he believed the alternate spelling suggested a certain leonine masculinity. In 1913, he sponsored a search for “Great Britain’s Perfect Woman,” in a less-than-subtle attempt to find (a third) wife and Mary, a millworker and champion swimmer 25 years his junior, won. According to her memoir, he proposed in the middle of a jog.

At the time, Bernarr was already presiding over a somewhat dubious fitness empire (he was, among other things, an evangelical anti-vaxxer and the founder of The Coney Island Polar Bear Club) but it was True Story that made him a millionaire. The first issue featured a man and a woman glaring at each other, “And Their Love Turned to Hatred!” printed across the cover. The monthly magazine was an immediate hit and a pioneer promotionally—targeting the heretofore untapped market of working-class women or, as the Saturday Evening Post dismissed them, “MacFadden’s anonymous amateur illiterates.”

What Is A Normal Thing To Say During The Solar Eclipse?

Did you know there’s going to be a solar eclipse on Monday? Very cool. I am lucky enough to live in a state in which it’s possible to drive a couple of hours and see the total solar eclipse, which maybe you are planning to do, too. The bad news for me, and most people, in my opinion, is that it is on a Monday which is a day many people go to work.

First things first: obviously I would love to not go to work. Not going to work rules. But I will just be coming off of a week vacation (I’m writing this from the Awl office in New York where I have screamed “I’m walkin’ here” any time a car horn goes off outside), and a quick glance at my work email already sent me into hives once on this trip, so it is not feasible for me to travel to see the eclipse, nor “make a whole production of it.” I have put this in quotes not to be judgmental but because some people are nuts. So I guess what will happen is that I will go to my job, do my job, and then at some point a solar eclipse happens, and then I keep doing my job, and then I go home for the night. Maybe buy some groceries.

What is the social etiquette of being at work during a solar eclipse? This is what I really want to know and feel both curious and stressed about. Should I schedule meetings around the moon blocking out the sun? Should I get up, mid-meeting, and say, “excuse me, but it’s space”? Should I walk over to a window and take a quick glance at the partial darkness and say, “hm, seems like night, but it’s afternoon”? I have no idea. As they say online, “this is not normal.”

(I could just say nothing but I refuse!!!)

All of this is to say that I have no idea what to say because while I am not eclipse-averse but I do think, generally, space is terrifying and I would have been some kind of cave-person who thought the world was for sure ending. But you can’t say stuff like that now, because someone will launch into a conversation with you about orbits. And it would be unfair, I think, to lock myself in the bathroom like those awful kids do that that little girl in the world’s saddest Ray Bradbury short story. So I am going to look at the somewhat blotted out sun, and to my best prediction say something like, “hell yeah,” or “for sure,” and then go back to doing my job.

Image: Michail Kirkov via Flickr

"Total Eclipse of the Heart" Is About Vampire Love

“But with ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart,’ I was trying to come up with a love song and I remembered I actually wrote that to be a vampire love song. Its original title was ‘Vampires in Love’ because I was working on a musical of `Nosferatu,’ the other great vampire story. If anyone listens to the lyrics, they’re really like vampire lines. It’s all about the darkness, the power of darkness and love’s place in dark. And so I figured ‘Who’s ever going to know; it’s Vienna!’ And then it was just hard to take it out.”

[via]

I’m still waiting for the ultimate Jim Steinman magazine profile…

The Post Office

Just The Steve Bannon Parts

If you are a devoted and loyal reader of my Awl, you will be familiar with Luke Mazur’s mostly weekly series of Jared Kusher “foe fic,” now helpfully organized under one roof, the slug “All in the Family.” For the past few days, but also weeks and months that feel like years, followers of the news media have been subjected to many high-resolution images of Stephen K. Bannon’s dermatologic cornucopia of a face, many of which have been photoshopped and altered with higher contrast or greater sharpness. This morning, Damon Young at The Root wonders if Bannon has “greyscale,” which I was expecting to mean the philosophical ability to see anything that isn’t black or white but is in fact a skin ailment from the television series about medieval sex elves and their pet dragons. This reminded me that one of the best things about Luke’s series is the flickers of the imagined Bannon persona we get in each “episode”—perhaps you can pair them with your favorite Bannon portrait, photoshopped or not. Here are a few of my favorites:

Kiasmos, "Blurred"


If what your morning needs is a whole lot of “no words,” boy did you come to the right place. Enjoy.

New York City, August 14, 2017

★★★ Dark clouds hung under lighter clouds and the black shapes of birds crossed below them all. The air was still and the ambient temperature seemed to require no thermal exchange. People with armloads of real-looking, mass-printed protest signs walked past a film setup where people held stagey-looking individual protest signs. A little breeze stirred but the light stayed flat and disorienting. The grays above smoothed out; the sun was a compact dot posing no threat to the naked eye. The after-dinner game of catch in the forecourt had to avoid a puddle of melted ice cream. A spritz of rain fell and then thin blue spots emerged. Ripples of pink and blue spread over the suddenly glowing west, and wash after wash of new color appeared, always cut with other hues for contrast, ending on a rich violet topped by indigo.

Exclamation Point, 2003-201?

…Sicha has spent the past decade developing what has become the lingua franca of the Internet: un-snobbish endorsements, presented in a candid, self-consciously hysterical tone. (A recent tweet: “Vicious news cycle today! Like many others, I just got bumped by Weiner.”) His humorously helpful parentheticals, doubt-inducing scare quotes, casual “like”s dropped carefully amidst otherwise competent sentences, and gratuitous exclamation points litter the online landscape. When typed by Sicha, though, these superficial markers of style—so easy to replicate!—communicate a set of core values that he’s carried with him from job to job: genuine egalitarianism, acrobatic diplomacy, unregulated intimacy.

Once upon a time The New Yorker (dot com) wrote about our dear Awl co-founder’s “idiomatic dominion,” with especial focus on the gratuitous exclamation point—I don’t know about you but they just don’t do it for me anymore. Has this motherfucker ruined them for anyone else?

Michi Preachy

“she attained a status in New York somewhere between Edmund Wilson and Dr. Zizmor.”

Boris Kachka + Historically Contextualized and Well-Researched Tales From Ye Olde New York Publishing Worlde = OTP.