We have much to be excited about

We have much to be excited about

Did you miss this piece from earlier in the week? I've been reliably informed that it is "one of the good ones."

This after this after this
I watched every snap of the game. The result of which was fine. I’m not mad about Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs already being on pace to catch up to Tom Brady and the Patriots’ legacy this quickly. I’m not mad about that at all. I watched the whole thing.

If you're in the Boston area come listen to me talk with John Oakes about his fascinating and extremely well-researched new book The Fast: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Promise of Doing Without Friday the 23rd at the Harvard Book Store.

I have not been fasting much lately myself. I have been doing the opposite of that in fact. I have gained no insights from it and no enlightenment of any kind besides an awareness of my own endless wanting.

Some people might tell you that a bottomless pit cannot be filled but I'm built different. I'm going to fill it in.

Today's main piece is about the struggle to find work as a freelancer in Canadian media particularly after a conflict between the government and social media platforms over whether or not they should reimburse the publications that their models have irreparably harmed. Ryan Uytdewilligen writes:

It’s hard being a freelancer in Canada at even the best of times. Rates are low, opportunities are sparse, and many readers prefer American institutions like The New York Times. Now a battle between the stubborn federal government and social media companies has made it even harder for those of us already scraping by to find any work. 
The federal government introduced The Online News Act (Bill C-18) back in 2022 because Prime Minister Trudeau felt wealthy companies like Meta and Google should compensate news publishers for their content. Not a bad idea (in theory), except for the fact social media giants called his bluff and completely shut down access to news stories of any kind on their platforms. Not only would they not agree to pony up extra dough, Meta doubled down and described it as a move to “curb the spread of disinformation and fake news.” 

As of June 2023, any Canadian news article published on Meta takes you nowhere.

Paid subscribers (sorry!) can read that one here.

It’s a vicious cycle
It’s hard being a freelancer in Canada at even the best of times

For everyone else here's a serving of my brand of horse shit.

Two days after airing the Super Bowl – "the most watched TV program ever" they said – CBS parent company Paramount Global laid off 800 employees.

“These adjustments will help enable us to build on our momentum and execute our strategic vision for the year ahead — and I firmly believe we have much to be excited about,” CEO Bob Bakish wrote in a memo to staff.

On Thursday LexisNexis touted record profits in 2023 to their own employees then promptly laid off 10% of them in the newsroom at their Law360 publication.

Last weekend an angry crowd turned on a driverless car in San Francisco setting it on fire. (Watch a video here.) Brian Merchant – who knows a thing or two about people turning against technology meant to make our lives worse from his book about the Luddite movement Blood in the Machine: The Origins of the Rebellion Against Big Tech – put the spontaneous collective destruction into context here.

To that end, we know that trust in Silicon Valley in general is eroding, and anger towards the big tech companies — Waymo is owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google — is percolating. Not just at self-driving cars, of course, but at generative AI companies that critics say hoover up copyrighted works to produce plagiarized output, at punishing, algorithmically mediated work regimes at the likes of Uber and Amazon, at the misinformation and toxic content pushed by Facebook and TikTok, and so on.

It’s all of a piece. All of the above contributes to the spreading sense that big tech has an inordinate amount of control over the ordinary person’s life — to decide, for example, whether or not robo-SUVs will roam the streets of their communities — and that the average person has little to no meaningful recourse.

There have been at least seven confirmed cases of people being wrongfully accused of having committed a crime after the use of facial recognition technology the Intercept reported. Six of them were Black people.

The Intercept also announced they would be laying off 15 reporters this week.

Apple Vision Pro users have begun returning the headset after reporting ailments like headaches and burst blood vessels in their eyes The Verge reported.

“It’s just too expensive and unwieldy to even try to get used to the constant headaches and eye strain I was experiencing," the Verge's Parker Ortolani said.

"I’ll be back for the next one," he said.

A bill banning heat protection laws for laborers who work outside has moved forward in the Florida legislature.

“A business owner knows what’s best for his employees,” said Florida Sen. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City.

"Trumbull runs an air-conditioning business, and is the sponsor of the bill that preempts county governments from enacting heat-protection laws for workers," The Palm Beach Post reported.

Alabama roofing company Apex Roofing & Restoration has been fined $117,175 by the Department of Labor after a fifteen year old boy working for them fell to his death. The day before that was announced Rep. Susan Dubose, R-Hoover "filed a bill that would ease restrictions regarding 14 and 15-year-olds working," the Alabama Political Reporter noted.

“Learning new skills and building a strong work ethic from an early age is a benefit to not only Alabama’s children but can also provide additional laborers to the state’s workforce, improving the quality of life for all citizens,” the Alabama Policy Institute wrote in support of the loosening of child labor laws in the state.

“Whether a fourteen- or fifteen-year-old is mature and responsible enough to work while also attending school should be decided by the child and their parents, not school administrators.”

The Washington Post sent a reporter to Israel to spend the night with a group of people who are volunteering to block aid from getting into Gaza.

The teens, and a smattering of people in their 20s, have come from all over Israel. They say that humanitarian aid to Gaza helps Hamas, and they’ll block it even if it means innocents starve.

Ben Shabat argues sugar and flour can be used to make bombs. “When you mix flour with potassium nitrate you get an explosive for a warhead,” he says. “Every pound of sugar and flour that goes into Gaza from Israel, we will get it back by the way of a rocket that will kill our children.”

The tactic is also about starvation.

“When a soldier is hungry, he’s not fighting so well.”

And the children?

“Nobody can say children are bad,” he says. But “the children from the past were murdering and raping and kidnapping” on Oct. 7.

Others say the aid isn’t even necessary.“We heard they are giving them stuff that they don’t really, really need,” Attar says. “Like strawberries. I don’t think people there are crying for strawberries.”


With dawn comes a new busload of demonstrators, ultra-Orthodox children and teens from northern Israel. They strap on their tefillin and pray. Some dance. A group with a guitar sings songs about the military. They use the border crossing bathrooms. No one asks them to leave.

Every explosion in Gaza raises a cheer.“Dead, dead, dead Arabs,” one camper shouts at a roaring volley of outgoing fire. Then she notes the presence of a reporter. “Hamas,” she corrects herself.

Check out some really sick new hardcore from NØ MAN.

Glitter and Spit, by NØ MAN
10 track album

"As the daughter of refugees, returning home to Palestine included witnessing first-hand the casual atrocities inflicted on her family," singer Maha Shami said.

"Though written before the current conflict’s boiling point, Glitter and Spit synthesizes the 70+ years of systemic violence carried out against Palestine and her own lived experiences. From school teachers and classmates telling her Palestine doesn’t exist, to being humiliated by soldiers at checkpoints when she visited her family, these many moments fuel the album’s lifeblood, coalescing on 'Can’t Kill Us All.'"

Texts between Border Patrol agents obtained by the Huffington Post show the regular use of dehumanizing language to refer to migrants. "[E]mployees described migrants not just as 'tonks' but also as 'an influx of rats' from 'whatamala, el salvado and hondodas.' In another text chain, Border Patrol personnel mocked a co-worker for 'marrying a tonk' because 'he cant find a legal chick here WOW.'"

"Emergency calls for drug overdoses in Denver fell by 27% between 2022 and 2023, all while fatal overdoses rose during the same span," Axios reported. Surprisingly this came after a 2022 bill that sharply increased penalties for possession of the drug.

A sheriff's deputy in Okaloosa County Florida named Jesse Hernandez has resigned after body cam footage was released showing him unloading his gun in the direction of his own patrol car where he had just placed a handcuffed suspect. When an acorn struck the roof of the car Hernandez panicked and rolled on the ground shouting "shots fired!" A second deputy who responded followed suit firing off her own weapon as well.

"I'm hit! I'm hit!" Hernandez yelled.

"He shot through the car," he said while crawling to take cover.

“I’m good. I feel weird, but I’m good,” he said.

Same buddy. Same here.

The Kids Online Safety Act appears set to be passed in the Senate. Writing for Hell World back in November Evan Greer of the digital rights nonprofit Fight for the Future called it "the biggest U.S. legislative threat to human rights on the internet right now."

An unholy alliance
I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving! I had a very nice time myself visiting my family and staying with my in-laws and getting together with old high school friends. Then after that like all good cosmopolitan liberals everywhere I sat down to read this delightful new essay by celebrated

Fight for the Future noted this week that there have been some improvements made to the bill since then but they will still oppose it.

"We refuse to accept that trans youth and human rights must be collateral damage in the fight to keep kids safe online," they wrote.

Here's a cover of the Deftones classic Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away) by HEALTH. I think it's good. Do we like this? I think so.

I thought Talia Lavin's piece this week was very good. It goes in part like so:

Ovid told it like this:

"Some angler catching fish with a quivering rod, or a shepherd leaning on his crook, or a ploughman resting on the handles of his plough, saw them, perhaps, and stood there amazed, believing them to be gods able to travel the sky."

"...the boy began to delight in his daring flight, and abandoning his guide, drawn by desire for the heavens, soared higher. His nearness to the devouring sun softened the fragrant wax that held the wings: and the wax melted: he flailed with bare arms, but losing his oar-like wings, could not ride the air. Even as his mouth was crying his father’s name, it vanished into the dark blue sea, the Icarian Sea, called after him."

Approximately one thousand six hundred years after Ovid’s death, a Dutchman took up his brush and made a painting. It was called "Landscape With Fall of Icarus"and perhaps more than any other single painting, it has drawn from poets the art of ekphrasis—that is, written art that works to explain or augment visual art; exegesis, or explanation, or simple expansion on Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s brutal and perfect scene.
"Landscape With Fall of Icarus" by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1560
What Brueghel did was bring the angler and the shepherd and the ploughman to the fore, and not to depict any supposed wonder at these flying heroes. What he did was show how the triumph and tragedy of Icarus mattered less to the ploughman than his field, less to the angler than his fishing, less to the shepherd than even the mangiest of his sheep. No one turns their smooth round heads to the drowning boy, to his poor legs thrashing in the murky water. The furrow cuts deep in the hill. The shepherd gazes at a different patch of sky.
What Brueghel did was pluck at a cruel but necessary thread of human nature, and poets ever since have been unable to leave it be. They pluck and pluck at it—William Carlos Williams, W.H. Auden, Michael Hamburger. The simple and brutal image needs no words to couch it, but the truth Brueghel sieved from Ovid is one that can scarcely be left alone. It is too true to be left to rest.

Someone said type sandwich into your camera roll and post what comes up so here is one I'll never stop thinking about from a street cart in Mexico City, a ham sandwich from a Basque-inspired place in Watertown, MA, a po' boy and muffaletta we had in New Orleans, and a picture of me shortly after dumping my father's ashes into the ocean in Sandwich, MA.

Speaking of ekphrasis I shared this story from A Creature Wanting Form in here last year but who knows maybe you didn't read it so here you go again. I got a new shipment in so if you want a signed copy let me know.

The Uninvited Guest parts 1 & 2

In the first painting the gentleman is tastefully appointed in a large black overcoat and a top hat. His head is dipped out of reverence for his solemn duties or perhaps to disguise himself as he pulls the chain outside of the apartment door to announce his presence.

He’s in the process of removing his shoes before entering as a sign of respect and in the open window behind him the trees seem in first bloom.

Despite it all he appears to be smiling but it’s rather the unavoidable showing of the teeth. It’s impossible for a skeleton to frown.

They were staring at the little information card next to it like people do at museums as if it would divulge something that was being kept hidden from them in the artwork itself.

The artist inscribed “1844: Plusquamperfectum” along the bottom of the canvas which very roughly means more than enough time has transpired.

Neither of them knew that it meant that by any stretch of the imagination but that’s what it meant roughly.

Is that Latin?

I think so.

What do you make of it she asked and he said I don’t know it makes me think about the war.

When you say that type of thing no one wants to follow up you win a get out of talking free card for a bit but standing there before the painting more than anything he was thinking about how much longer it would be before they could go get lunch.

It was an anniversary of a day he didn’t like to think about but his phone memories made him anyhow. It was a photo of a power plant or factory of some kind looming over the water of Buzzards Bay just at the top of Cape Cod. It’s gray and raining in the photo and there’s a bike path with brightly painted lines curving off out of frame as if to suggest infinity and when he took it the day they clumped some wet ashes onto the mossy rocks down there he thought it was this real emotionally evocative and moody tableau like it encapsulated Death Itself as a concept but in retrospect that didn’t really track because the yellow arrows on the path are pointing both this way and that and that’s not how dying or time works. Instead it all just goes in the one direction.

He often felt guilty because most of the stories he told about his father were about him either being sick or dying but for the past twenty years of his life that’s pretty much all he ever saw him doing and in the first twenty they didn’t have phones to offload memories onto for safekeeping.

He sometimes felt sheepish too because what a silly cliché it was to be a fully grown man and still be fucked up about your dead father but that’s pretty much one of the main things men have to be fucked up about besides war so give him a break he thought. He didn’t invent psychology.

It’s very hard to spread a person’s ashes without feeling as if you’re doing it in an artful and mannered way. It feels too cinematic and performative even if you are only performing for an audience of ex-wives and conflicted children standing there in their gas station rain ponchos.

The night before in bed she had reread “The Sound of Her Wings” a comic book tale which was the first appearance of the personification of Death in the Sandman universe and is pretty much a perfect short story as far as she was concerned. In one part Death asks a violin-playing old man if he knows who she is and he goes No! Not yet! Please? and then a second later he’s like Ah . . . well . . . and he accepts it like.

What can be done you know?

After that Death nestles a baby in a crib to her breast and the baby too is like Is that all there was? Is that all I get? and she says Yes I’m afraid so.

Later on in another issue Death talks to a different old guy and when they meet he asks her if he lived an especially long life and she goes You lived what anybody gets. You got a lifetime. No more. No less. You got a lifetime.

The whole idea of the series is about gods and their assorted colleagues who begin as dreams and then become manifest in the corporeal world the one the comic book humans inhabit and they remain real there as long as anyone believes in them and then someday when no one remembers them anymore they disappear forever which is basically what happens to all of us too give or take some of the grandeur and villainy.

She tried to get him to read it so they’d have a shared interest but he never read anything she or anyone asked him to.

I read enough when I was down there he’d say.

She’d talked to her mother earlier that day and she said she finally broke down and got hearing aids after years of her children asking her to. Her mother said she cried when she first put them in and she very easily understood why her mother would cry about that she wanted to cry about it too.

She grieved for her preemptively but she also thought it will be nice for all of the siblings to not have to repeat themselves three times whenever they tried to tell her anything.

Ma . . . Maaa!

In that disgusting accent she knew they all had.

For some reason he didn’t understand he was trying to remember if he knew what his father’s legs looked like. He knew he must have seen them on occasion at the lake in the stolen forest when they’d go camping but he couldn’t picture them. He could picture his tattooed forearms however because he remembered stroking them gently as he was dying.

Years ago a thing people often used to say was how do you think those tattoos are going to look when you’re old and he never paid attention to that but after all of the time in the hospital he knew now how they would look which was a profane joke. Not the inking of the tattoo itself but the decaying.

The next painting over was the second in the series. In it the dapper skeleton is jumping out of the window in a hurry and there are wine bottles bursting all over the walls as if the person inside the apartment was really going after his ass. It was funny like in old cartoons when the cartoon wife would get the broom or frying pan out and chase the cartoon husband around. The guy’s little cartoon hat flying off.

It’s not so much someone being gone that’s the thing he thought and she was touching his arm and reading his mind now in the way a person who sincerely loves you can do. It’s the having been made to watch people go so slowly.

This is why they invented the Irish Goodbye he thought.

Underneath the painting the artist had written “Perfectum” and then under that “Immerdar solche Vertheidiger” which roughly means always such defenders although that doesn’t sound right.

Is that German?

I think so.

Neither of them knew this of course.

It seems like it should mean never mind I gotta get out of here because the bone man looks like he’s scared out of his mind. Like he’s running for his life and he doesn’t even have one to hold onto. It doesn’t make any sense. What can the living possibly do to harm the dead besides forget them?