For as much as the events of the past weekend were framed as Trump going to war with the NFL, our bum of a president did Roger Goodell and the league a huge favor. All they had to do was release a few limp-dick statements tsk-tsking Trump’s comments for their divisiveness, come up with a few meaningless shows of pseudo-solidarity like we saw in Dallas last night, and poof: Suddenly the anthem protests aren’t about a very specific set of problems plaguing this country, but about “unity,” a cause more hollow than anything 25 branding execs could ever dream up in a conference room. Roger Goodell is on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Colin Kaepernick isn’t.
Ultimately, it’s all about marketing! Taking a knee is fast becoming the new safety pin.
I was walking up Lafayette Street yesterday and I passed by a poster of Andy Warhol and I started thinking about his embrace of celebrity and his adoration of vacuity and his elevation of frivolity above all other things, and how even though it was acknowledged at the time that he had successfully identified the dead-eyed fatuity at the heart of American culture better than almost everyone else, we didn’t give enough credit to how accurate and prescient he actually was. It’s too bad Andy Warhol isn’t alive to see how horrible everything is now: I can’t think of anyone who would enjoy it more. Anyway, here’s music.
★ At 8:30, already any exertion beyond the minimum would bring the heat pressing in. Forty-five minutes later, just stepping out into it again was enough. The elevator was crowded with people trying to get outside, and the line at the coffee shop stretched clear out the door. The middle of the day married the thick heat of high summer with the sharp, dazzling light of fall. Walking into the sun made the scalp sweat. A trip to the playground brought the six-year-old back sweat-drenched and mosquito-bitten. The mosquitoes and mildew were both on the attack, more than they had been in the worst of July. There was never a cloud in the sky. The west turned smooth yellow, then on through the other colors to twilight. Some invisible irregularity caused the sequence to mix ever so slightly, sending blurry and edgeless fingers of pink up into the blue.
The nation’s kids scrutinize all the nation’s teachers every school day. All those kids are growing, and their minds are developing, and they’re prone to note the oddities of their teachers’ personalities, sartorial choices, and pretty much everything else. So you’d think that when those kids grow up, become writers, and depict teachers on TV and in movies, the detail they absorbed back then would get incorporated. But it rarely does. Why? I’d say, simple as it sounds, it’s because kids are emotionally vulnerable and the strongest resonances of their teachers—really good or really bad—stick with them. Kids are kept in the thrall of teachers every school day. All that rigorous character analysis of their teachers they mentally conduct while staring straight ahead, off to the side, or at that hard gum stuck to the side of the desk, is bound to fade in favor of a few emotionally resonant moments.
Because of this emotional imprinting, we see a lot of caricatures—strict binaries even—of very good and very bad teachers. The bad ones are legion in TV and movies. Take Ben Stein as an Economics teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, droning on about supply-side economics and repeatedly asking in that immortal monotone: “Anyone, anyone?” The boredom gripping the room is well beyond existential, seeming to provoke even paralysis. The students, clearly in anguish, are staring straight ahead, while one student is even sleeping soundly, a small puddle of drool gathering next to his head on the desk. What makes the Economics teacher a bad teacher is obvious. He combines many of the worst bad teacher traits—bland, cold, uncaring—with an affectless affect. The aridity of his instruction is palpable, almost sublime in its ineffectiveness. Oscar Wilde thought it was absurd to consider people good or bad because, in reality, they were really either charming or tedious. Most kids, I think, feel the same way about teachers.
“I was thinking of using the internet to flame people I don’t agree with. Any advice?” —Travis the Troll
When the internet was first invented, did they ever have a sense of what it was truly meant to be for? Probably not. They probably thought they could just share knowledge with each others. I feel sorry for those first internet users. How silly they were, sharing knowledge. Or feeling the wonder of connecting with people all over the globe instantaneously. What became clear over trillions of internet interactions over the last 25 years that it was a great place to tell people off from a great distance.
In person, I am a pretty easy-going guy. There’s very little you can say to me that will upset me in any way, except possibly that you love me and want to date me. That will make me nuts. Otherwise I take all the little sleights I receive during the day and I will hold them inside me until I am home on Twitter. Then I will select some obscure poet with questionable manners and take it all out on them from the distance and safety of my dumb computer. Or at least I used to—it seems a little rough to pick on poets in the Age of Trump. And we’re all feeling pretty miserable as it is, so being ‘satirized’ by some loud jerk is really just the cherry on top.
Weren’t we just here? Wasn’t it moments ago that we were waking up to a new week, full of dread and barely able to drag ourselves to the starting line? Didn’t we just complain about how exhausted we were and wonder how much more we could take? I guess the good news is I can copy and paste this exact block of text over and over again until it finally all comes down, because we live in a world where it’s always like this now. Here’s some music. Enjoy.
★★★ 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.
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.
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.