A reporter from WBUR which is the local NPR news station here in Boston was nice enough to profile me like I’m an actual writer which is weird as hell but if you want to read that you can do so here. I liked this part:
Much of his more political writing rails against what he calls “both-sides-ism,” the rampant false equivalencies in media that so often cross into moral waffling. “I don’t have any interest in, not even telling both sides, I don’t want to hear both sides. I have no interest in presenting the side of the bad guy, and there are bad guys,” he says.
Over the past few years, he’s made an effort to bring a far-left perspective to more mainstream publications, though it’s been a challenge at times. “I think newspapers are still holding onto this idea of objectivity as if being centrist is a neutral position, but it’s not. Being centrist is a radical position at this point,” he says. “In order to be a centrist, you have to allow for so much corruption and abuse.”
He double-checks that this article is running on WBUR, then smirks. “NPR is the epitome of this s---,” he says. “It’s almost like I can’t consume any culture anymore because it’s all so centrist and down the middle it’s driving me insane.”
Another thing I was happy about this week but only briefly before that feeling too faded was that an excerpt from the Hell World book was published on Longreads one of the only websites I actually go to to read things without knowing what I’m gonna find beforehand. Remember that feeling?
You might have already read this one on here but if you haven’t go ahead and do it I think it might be the best one in the book. Oh by the way if you ordered one they’re gonna be a few weeks later than we thought sorry about that.
Ok here’s the newsletter in earnest bye bye.
By October of 1947 the entire state of Maine which was still 90% forest at the time was in a high state of inflammability. It hadn’t rained for over one hundred days in a row and then a fire somewhere started and as fire will do it spread and spread and so by the end of the month there were at least two hundred fires which is a lot of fires.
The fires ended up ravaging multiple towns including a neighborhood called Millionaire’s Row in Bar Harbor which is sad for the millionaires I suppose and also Kennebunkport the place I go to every summer which makes any of this relevant to me and means you have to know about it now too. I read something that said the fires pushed from inland in the dry forests reaching out toward the ocean with the wind at their back and that sounds poetic in a way the fire and water closing in on one another in a doomed embrace where they either end up extinguishing each other at once or one of them destroys the other one outright but it’s probably not all that great to be living in the middle of a metaphor like that. You’d prefer to be elsewhere.
I was just outside on the porch and there was my bunny outside in the grass below and it occurred to me for the first time in a while that maybe the bunny isn’t a metaphor it’s just evidence that rabbits do a lot of fucking in my particular town and maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all. That can happen you can invest all sorts of effort into erecting a symbol in your mind and then it collapses and you’re like man am I a dumbass.
When I came back out later there was a cat prowling around that I’ve never seen before and it was poking its cat snout into the place where the bunny lives under the hedge and I thought about going to chase it away because it seemed to be a threat to my bunny which I now think is a metaphor again. I’ve changed my way of thinking since the last paragraph. I am no longer a dumbass at this point I am a sensitive soul.
After all was said and done over one thousand homes and cottages in Maine were burned to the ground and 250,000 acres were burned and nine towns were burned according to the New England Historical Society and what they called it was The Year Maine Burned which sounds like a great title for a local metal and punk compilation.
I was driving back from Maine yesterday and I happened across 100.3 FM and they were absolutely destroying it with the hits of yesterday and today like playing Weezer into the Scorpions and ZZ Top into Smashing Pumpkins and for the first time in my life I think I understood why rock radio stations are the way they are. People want to hear something familiar but they don’t necessarily want to know in what order the familiarity will arrive. You could listen to all the songs they play on stations like that on a playlist you made for yourself but it wouldn’t be the same because you would be anticipating everything just as it came.
When you already know everything that’s going to happen on a playlist or in your life in general it can make you feel like what’s the point of sticking around but I guess you do anyway because the alternative to both is typically silence.
Silence can be nice for a while but you wouldn’t want to listen to it forever I suppose.
One of our friends from my group of college friends who all go to Kennebunkport every year made an actual CD mixtape for everyone to commemorate the week and it was pretty good he has good taste in music and one of the songs he put on it was this one and then some of the other ones below.
Since I haven't talked to you
I dream about your baby blues and
Wonder why you stopped getting high
Even though we were just friends
I think of us as bookends
And I'm gonna love you 'til I die
And you think you're going to heaven
And that I am going to hell
And that I'm gonna keep on dancing
'Til I hear that ringing bell
Heads gonna roll, baby
Everybody's gotta pay that toll and maybe
After all is said and done
We'll all be skulls
Heads gonna roll
“I’d been overseas, and I think I was as scared during the fire as any time when I was over there, at times,” a fella named John Smith of Waterboro told the Press Herald and he had recently returned from the war so he would know a thing or two about hell.
“You just figured that you weren’t going to get out of it. Because you figured there was nothing that was ever going to put this fire out, you kinda were getting the feeling the whole state was going to burn. In fact, there wasn’t much that stopped it until it got to the ocean.”
“It’s just plain hell,” another man named Morris Gilley from Bar Harbor told The Boston Daily Globe.
“Our big hotels, people’s houses, the big estates — everything’s going up in smoke. You just can’t seem to stop it anywhere. The flames are jumping everywhere. Sometimes they burn down a whole street. All those grand estates between Hull’s Cove and Bar Harbor are just one big ball of fire — three miles of it.”
As the fires approached Goose Rocks Beach — where I was swimming yesterday and which is one of the only places I ever feel truly alive in the world — a group of local women gathered there. They had wrapped themselves in blankets first a dry one and then a wet one on top according to a book called Wildfire Loose: The Week Maine Burned by Joyce Butler and they held wet pillowcases to their noses so they could breathe.
The same day I went swimming in Maine I woke up in Rhode Island and went swimming there and then on the way north I stopped and went swimming in Massachusetts due to I am truly nature’s own wet New England dipshit.
“They could see that the trees were burning from the top, not the bottom, flames in the green pines and the copper-colored leaves of the oaks,” Butler wrote. “They heard the breaking of branches, and now and again an explosion as fuel oil tanks caught fire. Branches and burning shingles were dropping on the beach, carried there by the wind, which was now a gale.”
“Terrified animals, fleeing the fire, came running onto the beach: squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and, when the beach grass caught fire, mice and rats, who tried to get under the blankets, frightening some of the women and the children, and sending the dogs into a frenzy.”
And here’s this part which I’m too lazy to type out.
The fire was ten miles away in another town Frank thought so no reason to stop painting his house he thought and I guess that’s a metaphor too and you can probably guess what for due to you’re smart.
I wonder when the last Hollywood motion picture will be made? I was trying to think of things that will keep happening way longer than you would expect them to yesterday and for some reason that idea stuck out to me. Do you think we’ll live to see a point where they’ll go ah we should probably stop wasting time on the whole filming movies thing?
When I woke up you were gone
And the sun was on the lawn
Empty pillow with perfume on
I smelled it
Well we met in my favorite bar
Took a ride in my old car
But I still don't know how
We made it home
I was thinking about those fires as I was jogging along the coastline of Kennebunkport this week because I noticed that while all of the buildings in the town center are all old and real Maine-y looking all the homes looking out over the water seem a lot newer and I said huh that’s weird and that’s pretty much the entire job description of being a writer you go huh that’s weird about something then you try to figure out why and then it seems less weird. Everything and everyone are a lot less weird when you know how they came to be the way that they are.
If you’re new around here it might help to read some background about my whole deal with going up to Maine every year for a couple days to see my old college friends but also who really gives a shit. I guess it’s up to you what you do with your life. It’s actually a pretty good Hell World tbh and not all of them are some of them are pretty middling. It’s unclear as of yet which category this one you’re reading at the moment will fall under.
One thing I promised in that one is that I will never go and look at the famous compound of the famous presidents’ family they have up there along the coast but I did by accident this week when I was running and I was like ah fuck. I started running again in case I didn’t mention it due to I decided being out of shape is worse than being in pain constantly and only time will tell how that genius decision plays out I bet it works out great.
There are all sorts of benches and pretty little spots you can stop and sit and look at the ocean along the way there and I did that a lot this week just staring at the ocean like a big shit head. I’m not sure if being able to look at the water with my mouth hanging open for any length of time means I’m an easily impressed dope or if we all aren’t anywhere near sufficiently impressed enough with the ocean when we look at it. It could kill us all but it’s so pretty and I guess that’s a metaphor too. It will kill us all eventually I should say but you still want to dip your toes into it every now and again to be reminded of its beauty. Or maybe it won’t maybe the fire will get us first.
Or maybe neither will! Imagine if the conservatives were right this whole time and it turned out climate change wasn’t real that would be pretty funny lol. Ah shit we’d say boy do we look stupid got some egg on our faces over here we’d say but we’d also be glad to have been wrong. We aren’t wrong to be sure but it would be pretty cool if we were.
That just reminded me of this old Norm Macdonald bit about a guy who pretends to be the Devil and accidentally pranks his friend into killing his entire family.
So they have this plaque there and I stopped to look at it and I thought about two things one of which is what the fuck is with throwing coins at a monument for dead ass George HW Bush what is that supposed to do for a person is he a fucking genie now? Is he going to grant your wish to put a black guy in jail?
In that previous Hell World I mentioned above I talked about one specific time that Bush Sr. engineered a fake drug bust outside the White House in which they entrapped a young kid by convincing him to come sell drugs there and one of the things they said about it the guys who did the entrapping for Bush was that they had to explain to the kid where the White House even was. Here’s part of it you can skip it if you’ve already read that one I guess.
“I don't think any neighborhood is free from selling drugs,” Bush said in a testy exchange with reporters on a tree farm near his home in Kennebunkport, Maine after the stunt. ''I mean, the man was caught selling drugs in front of the White House. I think it can happen in any neighborhood, and I think that's what it dramatized.''
“I don't understand. I mean, has somebody got some advocates here for this drug guy?” he snapped at the reporters. “I cannot feel sorry for him. I'm sorry, they ought not to be peddling these insidious drugs that ruin the children of this country,” he said.
When he was given a sentence of ten years without parole the judge in the case told Jackson that he should ask the president for a commutation.
“He used you, in the sense of making a big drug speech," said judge Stanley Sporkin, former CIA general counsel appointed to the court by President Reagan in 1986. “But he's a decent man, a man of great compassion. Maybe he can find a way to reduce at least some of that sentence.”
Bush didn’t do that though.
“This is a major part of Bush’s legacy,” Joshua Clark Davis, a University of Baltimore assistant professor in history tweeted in a thread laying out much of the details here in December.
“It’s what his War on Drugs did to just one person. But it shows the human costs of that war in miniature detail. A high schooler was lured to the WH to sell crack and spent 7+ years in prison, so that the President could make a point on TV.”
Back in November of last year around the time an entire town in California was burning to the ground I wrote some other stuff which is relevant to the legacy of the Bushes and the general vibe I’m going for here overall if it’s not quite obvious.
According to polls in 2017 close to ninety percent of Americans did not know there was a scientific consensus on global warming. Shortly after George W. Bush was inaugurated in 2001, Dick Cheney, who had previously worked as the CEO of Halliburton, convinced Bush to reverse his campaign pledge to treat carbon dioxide as a pollutant as the New Yorker reported this week.
Frank Luntz the infamous polling consultant for Bush produced a memo saying they could easily get away with it. “Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community,” he wrote. “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.”
Did you watch the debate last night by the way holeee shit the media are not going to save us buddy I don’t know what else to say about that. I’m not going to save us either to be clear. I’m not gonna do shit.
At the opening of the broadcast CNN had like a color guard come out to wield the flag all solemnly and I guess they had the troops’ boots mic’d up for some reason and then as they walked out of the auditorium the sound of the footsteps receded like a heart that gradually stopped beating and that all seemed a bit on the nose to me as far as symbolism goes.
So I was reading the plaque and looking out across the distance to the Bushes’ famous house on the water and the only thing I could think of to make the moment more special was to get my dick and balls out like to lift my little running shorts up just so and flop them out the side — wait what do most of the guys here do vis a vis that move do you go up and over or out through the bottom of the leg — and piss on the big stupid anchor plaque but then I realized there was a father sitting with his kids nearby probably thinking about how much he respects George Bush and I figured I had better not have my nude dick out around people in public people tend to frown on that sort of thing so I saved the piss in question for a later date. Also they probably have a sniper across the water there at the Bush house waiting for just such an opportunity and he would’ve sniped my dick clean off ah fuck I’d say. George Bush’s sniper shot me in the dick I’d say.
One thing a friend I saw in Maine said to me when I saw him at this cute little clam shack on the water was do I look taller to you and I said actually yeah you sort of do are you wearing lifts or something and he said he had grown like 3/4 of an inch recently which is weird because he’s already tall and also he’s forty two and I am pretty sure people aren’t supposed to get taller at that age and he said he was thinking he might have pituitary cancer he has to watch out for it now. I guess that is the thing that people who grow abnormally tall have I don’t know anything about it or anything else for that matter and that was strange and sad to me of course I hope he does not turn out to have it but it was also strange to me because it’s weird to think about cancer making someone get bigger you would normally think it makes them small.
Now that I think about it though it’s something growing inside of you and gaining mass until it gets too big to ever stop so maybe the math checks out. The other thing is I always sort of just took it as a given that I would be the first one to die among all my college friends since they don’t have as many bad habits as I do and they all have families and stuff but that conversation made me think for the first time that it might not be me.
How many people’s lives would grind to a halt if you died today? Not how many people would be sad and cry about it for a little while but how many people would find it very difficult if not impossible to go on living themselves without you in the world do you reckon? Two or three maybe?
Then after my friend told the story about how the cancer could make you get taller someone joked they hoped they got it in their dick and we all laughed but to be honest I don’t think any of us really would want to get cancer in the dick or anywhere else for that matter. We’ll see what happens though. Then everyone went back to eating their fried fish and I just got a little thing of french fries and every time I turned around one of their kids swooped in like seagulls to steal one off my plate and I was like ah you kids! shaking my fists like but it actually warmed my heart.
Then I talked to my friend the spinal surgeon who I believe I’ve mentioned on here before about some neck issues I was having and some hand pain it was maybe causing and he was like oh my friend over there is a hand surgeon coincidentally and I was like what. The whole reason I was late getting to Maine was because I had to go see a hand surgeon in Boston to ask what they fuck is wrong with me.
The next day I saw my friend the hand surgeon walking out of the ocean so I went and asked him what he thought my deal was and we stood there in the water shivering with our nipples pointed at each other and he tried some quick tests on me and he didn’t really seem to know what was up and now I’m not sure why most people don’t simply get that type of healthcare like I have where you grow up to be friends with a couple of surgeons and wait until you see them in Maine once a year to ask questions for free. It’s honestly not all that much less convenient and feasible than what a lot of people have now.
I saw this last night and it dumbfounded me I was literally struck dumb sort of like when I’m staring at the ocean and marveling at its immense energy and untold mysteries.
I think we can all agree to say thank you to CBS News for sharing such a powerful story first of all but it also prompts some questions which it left unanswered such as for example why didn’t they just lower the flag and reattach it the normal way (??)
I don’t understand the impulse to fetishize the flag like these guys do and I guess at least half of the country does it’s real real weird shit to me man and probably to you too. Some people see a flag or a symbol of American power and empire like a monument to a president and want to honor it and some of us see one and want to piss on it and none of us know how to communicate what we are really trying to say by that to each other and we never will and eventually the fire will greet the sea or the the sea will come for us in the other direction and we’ll be caught in the middle probably not thinking about metaphors of any kind.
After they finally got the fires in Maine to go out all those decades ago one of the things officials up there did was establish a volunteer fire brigade and also a way to actually communicate with each other more efficiently in times of a crisis because they didn’t have one at that point and that’s good that they did that but being able to communicate probably doesn’t do much when one person is on the line saying everything is on fire and the other is saying that it isn’t. Nothing is on fire why are you lying about the fire they’d say. What are you getting out of this?
There is a feeling I love
Buried in my brow
I have no reason to run
I see no reason