I can't shake the feeling that you must have saved me for something greater than this

I hope you will reveal your plan for me soon

The most recent issue of Hell World was for paid subscribers only. It was about the latest mass shootings and featured a piece by Dave Infante about what the hell has been going on in South Carolina this past year.

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Infante previously reported for Hell World on Surly the craft brewery in Minneapolis that laid everyone off after its workforce announced its intent to unionize back in September.

Subscribe to read both of those and the next issue which will also be paid only.

Imagine seeing Bon Jovi right now and they start playing “Living on a Prayer”? Literally nothing that is bad in your life would matter anymore for like 4-7 minutes. And then you would smuggle that joy out of the venue when you left and got in your stupid car or on the train or whatever and sure it would fade a bit with each minute that passed but it would never fully disappear.

It doesn’t have to be Bon Jovi I don’t care if you like Bon Jovi or not — you do to be clear don’t lie to me like that — it could be Oasis or whoever just something massive and stupid and gleeful that pummels your brain into paste. The older I get the more I realize that the pinnacle of music and maybe life in general is being a dumb fuck in a crowd of 10,000 people singing “Don’t Look Back In Anger” or whatever in your shitty hoarse voice. “So Sally can wait!” What does it mean? Who cares it doesn’t mean anything it means Sally can wait and that’s good enough.

In short power ballads are what we were put on earth to experience. Everything else is just waiting for the next power ballad to start.

Please don’t think because I’m talking about old guy bands here and have been doing so a lot on Twitter lately that I’m sliding into the thing where people tend to stop appreciating newer music as they age because music as vital as anything made when I was young is still being made today and every day and it always will be. I’ve quite liked the new Really From and Citizen and Stay Inside and I’m Glad It’s You and everything on my best songs of 2020 list here to name a few. I’m just trying to remember what it was like to experience that type of brain dead communal ecstasy.

Most of my life in music as both a musician and a fan has been on the opposite end of that spectrum. Usually it has been about the small shows and the early shows for bands before they graduated to bigger shows and that sort of experience and the community involved therein is as precious to me as anything I’ve ever done in my life. But I don’t find myself longing for that right now as we begin the second lap of the year that never ends I find myself in search of a sort of benign collective mania that can only be found by being swallowed in a sea of humanity. I wish to become small.

In a different way than the smallness I feel now that is.

Of course knowing me as soon as I arrived at a hypothetical show like that it wouldn’t be long before I thought well this fucking sucks I gotta get out of here man but you know what I mean.

I was thinking about all that because basically my only form of socializing over the past year has been logging on to Twitter and having a few pops and talking about bands I love most often of late in the form of my new cutting edge music sabermetrics statistic Is It “Better Than The Blue Album?” There are a couple reasons for that the first of which is just that I’m really fucking lonely over here man and I miss shooting the shit about bands with my buddies which is basically the only thing we ever have to talk about anyway besides sports and how it feels growing old (bad). Things have been perfectly good at home with just Michelle and I staring at each other all day all year but there have been approximately zero Dudes Rocking moments in roughly 400 days for me now and that’s no way to live.

The other reason I’ve been trying to post mostly about music is I just really do not want to let myself fall into the old habits of losing my fucking mind and becoming red-assed over the Asshole of the Day on Twitter. Some guy saying something dumb just doesn’t move the needle for me anymore. So many people say so many stupid things every day — sometimes it’s me! — that I just can’t bring myself to care about them at this stage. Finding an asshole is not hard. They’re not truffles or whatever they’re bountiful and apparent. And getting someone’s ass just doesn’t really seem to be working either. We’ve gotten all the asses there are to get and yet here These Fucking Guys come again cresting over a hill wielding a newly regenerated ass.

That said whoever is running the Amazon News account is really making a strong case for Worst New Guy 2021.

I wrote about that whole thing for the Guardian the other day and it went something like this:

To paraphrase one of the most iconic tweets of the past 10 years, Amazon’s recent denial about employees not being forced to urinate in bottles at work has people asking a lot of questions already answered by the denial.

The thousands of gleeful and mocking rejoinders to Amazon’s post came with good reason. The company is currently in the midst of a public relations battle with a group of workers in Alabama attempting to unionize. In an attempt to forestall such a historic move, Amazon has been on a campaign to illustrate just how well, in fact, they treat their workers. It doesn’t seem to be working! Numerous high-profile labor organizers, celebrities and politicians like Bernie Sanders have joined the side of the striking workers. The Vermont senator is set to travel to Alabama on Friday to meet with them.

The botched PR response in question in this case came as a reply to a tweet from another lawmaker, the Wisconsin congressman Mark Pocan, who himself was responding to jabs thrown by another Amazon executive, Dave Clark. Clark had attempted to draw a snarky analogy between his company and the success record of Sanders in his home state, saying: “I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace.”

So far, so utterly not convincing – as was picked up on swiftly. “I was the person who found the pee in the bottle. Trust me, it happened,” tweeted author James Bloodworth, who worked undercover at Amazon for his book Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain.

Some likened the tweet to a form of corporate gaslighting akin to an abusive relationship – while others mocked pity for the person who sent it out. “Sending thoughts and prayers to the Amazon News account manager being forced to swallow Jeff Bezos’ entire boot with every tweet,” one person chipped in.

While the $15 an hour paid by Amazon in the US is better than some other companies, workers have long spoken out about brutal conditions, a dangerous, high-paced job, and, in fact, having to urinate into bottles for fear of being seen as wasting too much time on the clock.

Read the rest there if you want. It also has this for a kicker:

Bezos’s Washington DC mansion has been reported to have 25 bathrooms for his own use.

It’s weird to read me writing like a normal person.

By the way that Amazon exec Clark has been given the nickname The Sniper and has reportedly bragged of his history with the company in which he would lurk in the shadows of a warehouse on the lookout for people not working hard enough so he could fire them. Seems like a real piece of shit!

Our pal Kim Kelly has been on the scene in Alabama reporting on what’s happening down there so follow her for more updates.

Our man Ken Klippenstein has also produced some receipts as they say.

I tweeted this the other day but the Amazon piss abuse story has reminded me how in so many cities you are required to spend money in a business in order to urinate. Or else you have to do this sheepish pantomime that you're going to spend money then duck out feeling like you've stolen something. I love feeling like a cat burglar because I stole a toilet’s swallow worth of water from Panera.

Then on the other side we've managed to criminalize pissing in public. Getting added to a sex offender registry because you had to piss and didn't have $9 for a Simply Smoothie.

Here’s the real catch though. Let’s say you do spend the $6 on a coffee in order to piss. What happens next? You guessed it: Your body starts manufacturing even more piss!! It’s the perfect trap.

There were a lot of responses to the thread that I thought illustrated the problem of lack of public bathrooms well:

  • I’ve definitely bought a soda at Burger King solely in order to piss in downtown SF. I’ve also begged a BART employee to let me use his toilet, but he probably wouldn’t have said yes if I wasn’t a young white woman. I wonder why public urination is a big problem??
  • People will complain about shit in the street and blame the homeless dude doing it rather than the surrounding area's lack of free restrooms.
  • As someone who has a really small bladder and who has also been pregnant five times (and then had lots of little people with small bladders) I’ve never understood how we as humans don’t demand more public restrooms.
  • I do a whole phone scam with bars/ restaurants on my phone. Pretend I'm meeting someone who didn't show, yell "you're breaking up! I'm going outside!" when I leave. The arguments I've staged on the way to the can!
  • Never realized how hard it could be til I started Doordash driving, especially with many fast food places being drive thru only.
  • Japan was a revelation to me on this. Just clean, well-maintained public toilets everywhere. A pisser's paradise.
  • Municipalities downloaded the costs of public bathrooms onto private businesses. Such a scam. I have little kids and I’ve been in ridiculous situations because of a “no public bathroom” sign.
  • My eyes on this were really opened by Bernie, my octogenarian urologist, who said he writes letters on behalf of patients who are ticketed for public urination, and called lack of bathroom access a public health issue. I mean, duh, but it's never put like that!
  • In practice public urination is one of those selectively-enforced bullshit laws too. Your average drunk person who takes an occasional piss between cars on the street is probably fine, but if you're homeless and lack any choice they'll use it as an excuse to criminalize you
  • Challenge mode: Having to piss while being homeless.  In most places, society has made private urination inaccessible, and public urination illegal.  Many towns have effectively outlawed an unavoidable bodily function, and use the law to criminalize the homeless for *existing*.
  • Was thinking about this the other day: America hasn’t only privatized every bit of public space, we have also privatized the most basic human private activities we all need to do to live!   We barely even *joke* about the idea of public bathrooms anymore because they’re so rare.
  • Going insane about this SEPTA station closure where the homeless peed in the elevator so much it broke and absolutely no one in the news asking why there are no toilets available, just straight blaming addicts.

Hmmm where was I? Oh right. I know this sounds rich coming from me the guy that writes this newsletter but I really really want to try to spend as much time as possible talking about things that make me happy when I can because everything else everywhere pretty much makes me miserable albeit for good reason. Steal a moment of joy when you can is what I’m trying to say and if that means committing to the premise that “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” the 2000 power ballad by Pennsylvania rock band Fuel is the singular achievement in the history of the western canon or how like the other night I was trying to talk myself into a take that “Switchfoot was good the whole time actually” then so be it.

(They were though!)

Unrelated but Jesus Christ here’s a short story:

I would love to leave Twitter for all the reasons everyone always says they want to leave Twitter but as I mentioned sadly it’s my only means of communicating with anyone anymore. I liked this piece by Allegra Hobbs on Study Hall about logging off “the Hell-Site.” Yes there have been a million essays like this but I liked it anyway.

I don’t particularly care for Teigen’s schtick, but I also don’t know her and do not have strong feelings about what she does online or offline. I didn’t really understand the intense reactions to her tweets; Chrissy Teigen is not personally to blame for our misery, for class inequities, for the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on the poor. It’s not that I think she isn’t fair game; it’s more that I think taking one’s anger out on her is strange and counterproductive. I’m not convinced yelling at someone who recently suffered the loss of a child lessens anyone’s share of suffering, and I’m not convinced doing so could ever even be a cathartic exercise for anyone involved. So why do it? The only answer I’ve been able to come up with is: because there are no real solutions to our misery. Because those in power don’t seem to be listening.

I am terminally fatigued by “Twitter drama” like this: drama facilitated by and existing almost exclusively on Twitter. Things that in the past might have amused me or provided some welcome escapism are now drab and forgettable, like the color of the walls I’ve been staring at for a year. The truly perverse part is, I still pay attention to it — I’ll still scroll until I’ve familiarized myself with the basic contours of the drama, its main characters, who said what, who in media feels which way about it. I’ve tried to understand why I keep going back to the cursed content well and I can only assume it is because I feel hopeless, because these are the actions of a hopeless person!

These are the actions of a hopeless person!

I’ve been searching for a way to transition to the thing that’s really been on my mind this morning which is the film Saint Maud and that’s a pretty good sentence to pivot on.

I really want to write an actual in depth critical essay on this film but I suspect I am no longer smart enough to do that sort of thing. It’s a quiet but punishing story about a young nurse driven to religious mania after a history of trauma and working around death all while navigating a debilitating mental illness — or not?! — who believes god is speaking to her.

“Forgive my impatience, but I hope you will reveal your plan for me soon. I can't shake the feeling that you must have saved me for something greater than this,” she says at one point to her buddy God and whether or not you experience faith in the same way she does — hopefully not — you have to admit that’s a reasonable point. It’s the same question asked in fact by the very underrated adult contemporary Christian rock band Switchfoot in the song above now that I think of it. “We were meant to live for so much more. Have we lost ourselves?” Maybe so Switchfoot Guy. Maybe so.

In the film Maud comes to take care of a dying but steadfastly hedonistic former dancer who challenges her version of faith but at one point gifts her a book of William Blake poems and illustrations including this one The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun. “Woman clothed with the sun” will make a sort of arch sense to people who’ve seen the film and in particular its stunning gut punch of a final scene.

The Blake drawing was based on Revelations and in particular this bit:

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”[a] And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Sorry to trick you into reading a Bible passage like some kind of pervert. In the film Maud is ostensibly an instrument of God battling Satan and evil in the form of her decadent dying patient or at least she believes she is. There’s not much more dangerous than a true believer.

I’ve written about this in here before I think about how when I was very young way too young to be taught about eternal torment while being raised Catholic while also being an imaginative and voracious reader (and chubby little turd of a booger kid) I sought out shit like William Blake and Dante’s Inferno and it basically twisted my idiot little brain sideways for a long time. Why wouldn’t it have?

If I was going to sit there twice a week in mass and Bible school having the threat of eternal hell fire hung over me long before I even knew how to get jizz out of my tiny dick I at least wanted to find out what all was waiting for me down there like when you look up the hotel you’re going to be staying at on Trip Advisor. (Zero stars). It wasn’t pretty it turned out and it took me a very long time to disabuse myself of the notion that it was all actually real. I’m still not sure I have entirely.

Anyway as fucking deranged as this country is it’s a wonder that it’s not somehow more so given that we’ve got so many people running around out there trying to scam their way out of the lake of fire by pretending to be virtuous. What happens in the film isn’t entirely as crazy as it seems is the point.

Ok last thing for today is reaching into the ol’ Hell World mailbag. A reader wrote in after the last issue about mass shootings on the feeling that many of us have now that it’s only a matter of time before we find ourselves in one. Here’s what they said.

That feeling of inevitability when it happens is I think how we have to cope with the overhanging cloud of a mass shooting trauma. I was at a mall in Jersey a couple years ago when there was a shooting in the food court. I try to make light of it now: I couldn’t hear the shots at first because I had headphones in and my first thought when I saw a mom carrying and running with her kids was that there must have been a fire sale in Sears.

But in the moment it just felt like “Well, this is it. Made it to 27, pretty good odds considering.” I hid in a GameStop with the employees before helping a group of people go out the emergency exit. I’ve gone back to that store to talk with the people I tried to hide from a gunman with who told me it was a revenge shooting, possibly gang related, which feels like a weird way to cope with violence. It was violence for other people, we were just bystanders. More coping mechanisms.

One bit of advice if you find yourself hiding from a potential mass shooting: Don’t hide in a GameStop. They only have those big glass doors for security and you’ll have to hide behind a Tom Brady cardboard cutout.