Sefer Yetzirah

Books and Literature, Conspiracy and the Occult, Culture, Education, Media, Poetry, Religion, Science, The Life of the Mind, Things that Actually Happen, War and Politics

Capture

An expert I spoke with highly recommends
that America needs to appoint a reality czar:
no more lying to your buds at the corner bar;
the rack for all of your weirdo Facebook friends.
Plenipotentiary in all his means and ends,
affixed to Christlike truth like the wise men’s star,
remit of heights and depths, the near and far
corners of creation, where time or being bends
beyond the expanding cone of present light,
the baryonic effluence of matter, and the dark
deep gravities of truths unseen, unfelt,
perfectly wise and gifted with prescient sight,
Osiris, God, ayin sof, and holy ark,
proclaim on high what he who smelt it dealt.

Principia Mathematica

Books and Literature, Economy, Justice, Plus ça change motherfuckers, Poetry, Science, Things that Actually Happen, War and Politics

We’ve got to get checks of fourteen hundred bucks
on top of the six hundred that we’ve already sent;
thirty times twenty that the proles have already spent;
seventy Jacksons for all the lazy fucks.
Sure we said two grand. [Rolls eyes, and ducks.]
Savvy citizens knew what it meant:
one down payment and then one month of rent.
Have we mentioned how much the Republican Party sucks?
Even your saintly Sanders now agrees,
and would you gainsay your wintry mittened-man
by means-testing current truths against the past
positions changed for new realities
gestated in your short attention span?
Enjoy the money. It will be your last.

The Worst Amendment

Books and Literature, Culture, Economy, Poetry, The Life of the Mind, War and Politics

This could not be more Orwellian.
Simon & Schuster is cancelling my book.
Where a business-flyer otherwise would look
for such civics, now shelves the Machiavellian
secrets of the boardroom, or Hudson’s selling him
mere Mentos. The woke mob won’t brook
my bold dissent. Why? Because I took
my voters’ insurrectionary whim
seriously? My job is to ventriloquize
exactly what the lumpen want to hear,
smuggling their sordid gripes into the fort-
ress of power with my Yale mouth and dead eyes,
alchemizing gripes into career.
This aggression will not stand. See you in court.

22 Schnooks

Art, Books and Literature, Education, Media, Plus ça change motherfuckers, Poetry, The Life of the Mind, War and Politics

What books should Biden read? We went and asked
some of our best of midlist middlebrow
semi-celebs, and some replied. But how
can one find time to read when one is tasked
with convincing a doomer culture to put on masks,
building past glory back, and better, now,
projecting the saintly calm of a teenage cow.
It’s enough to make one wish for a starving asp
to clasp against one’s own bared breast,
the servants, in their startled Greek, aghast,
while at the harbor, underpaid stevedores
who don’t know Ptolemy from Rameses
are loading wheat as they’ve done for the last
two thousand years; a bored scribe snores;
a librarian pilfers some scrolls and coins and flees.

Chary Tree

Books and Literature, Culture, Education, Justice, Media, Poetry, The Life of the Mind, War and Politics

Screenshot 2020-12-19 092112
I declare and verify under plenty
of perjury: I cannot tell one lie;
they must be numbered as stars in the southern sky;
gorgeous as guys on Grindr claiming they’re twenty-
something long into their salted, empty
middle thirties; arthritic, old, and spry;
a shout as loud as a lover’s sleeping sigh.
Bullshit for the art of lying’s cognoscenti:
the facts contained in the foregoing complaint
are each correct and true, except when not;
valid to a point, believable when viewed
at the proper angle, under properly faint
and fading light: how Faust’s blood bought
not youth, not beauty, but the right to not be sued.

The Dude A-Biden

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soul

In the battle for the soul of America, democracy
prevailed. It hauled its agèd ass across the line
winking and grinning the entire goddamn time
like a dying parent, who, despite your plea,
has spent his retirement on the lottery,
commemorative coins, fake vintage wine;
still mean as hell and obsessed with rising crime;
mad at taxes he doesn’t pay and free
goodies he thinks that someone else has got;
terrified of change and terrified
that nothing’s gonna change except for worse:
here’s what his democratic soul is not:
in love, nor young at heart, nor quite alive.
Each waning angry moment is a curse.

Exiled Thucydides

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As an empirical matter, democracy,
hallowed by usage and consecrated by time,
has never turned up, hastily dusted with lime
in a hole, shot in the back as it tried to flee
its own cackling imago, autocracy:
yes, some serene republics have declined,
but there their franchise was mere pantomime;
no well-begged question but can burst to be
its own best answer; the universe ordains
that if a country goes to shit, it must
be bad, its laws a sham, its votes a lie,
enraptured by its petty Charlemagnes,
pre-captured by its lack of civic trust:
it doesn’t happen; thus in this essay, I

Chasing the Clouds Away

Books and Literature, Culture, Education, Media, Poetry, Religion, The Life of the Mind, War and Politics

Shapiro

Are the muppets biased to the left? Of course. That was
the point of Sesame Street, as I discuss:
provocateurs like Snuffleupagus
preach Maoist leveling while Ernie does
his LGBTQI-best to shove
both his and dear Bert’s sinful “love is love”
anti-Judeo-Christian cant at us,
telling mere children, “Mom and Dad are sus.”
Hashem forfend! Miss Piggy may be trans,
sharing Kermit’s bathroom and his bed;
Statler and Waldorf swooned for Hamilton;
Big Bird’s Khmer cabal now favors bans
on “racist” speech; The Count is dead
by firing squad for saying one is one.

All Good Things

Books and Literature, Culture, Economy, Media, The Life of the Mind, Uncategorized

Last night I woke in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall asleep, so I did what any normal person would do: I lay in bed in the dark and fixed Star Trek: Picard.

Picard was a hash, the obvious product of too many cooks combined with network pressure to turn a show about a retired near-centenarian in a Utopian future, in which starship captains teach androids to play Cyrano de Bergerac more convincingly as a hobby while they whisk across the galaxy faster than the speed of light, into a hack action feature, Flash Gordon meets  The Expendables. But Michael Chabon, the American novelist who became, in Hollywood’s dour argot, the “showrunner,” had at least a glimmer of a good idea. Utopias only remain interesting for so long; eventually, the capacity for drama is exhausted by the absence of internal conflict.

The problem: Star Trek already examined—and already examined better—the “darker” side of its universe in Deep Space Nine, which set its characters on a frontier and considered what happens when this advanced society brushes against remnant capitalism, labor unrest, the fallout of previous wars and occupations, the rebellions of its own borderland citizens, and finally faces a war of near total mobilization and all the compromises and crimes it is willing to commit and suborn in order to win and to survive. Against the latter seasons of DS9, Chabon et al. didn’t stand a chance.

Well, they were either too clever or too arrogant to recognize that, and so they tried, depicting a Federation exhausted by its own principles, closing its borders to refugees and fighting an internal conflict against a class of artificial un-people and swearing and generally enacting an incredibly on-the-nose, Very-Special-Episode, Have-You-No-Decency-Mr. Trump version of Earth and the Federation at the turn of the 25th century. With a sword-wielding warrior monk. In Star Trek. It . . . did not engage.

But Chabon’s instinct wasn’t entirely wrong. There was an interesting story to be told about an exhausted Utopia, but it required a subtler touch. The setting should not be that different. The Romulan homeworld has still been destroyed, but unlike Picard, which imagined that the destruction of a single world in a vast “Star Empire” somehow sent every Romulan fleeing toward the neutral zone, this was a terrible but localized catastrophe: a Hurrican Katrina of the galaxy’s future. Ever since the Dominion War, a fraught but durable peace has prevailed. Many Romulans have ended up resettling on Earth and throughout the Federation. Picard can even have his former Tal Shiar friends and caretakers.

Picard is still old and grouchy, frustrated with what Starfleet and the Federation have become, but emphatically not because they have become Space MAGA. Rather, he is exhausted because, contra the Picard that was made, true artificial intelligence has become commonplace. Bruce Maddox unlocked the secrets of the positronic brain, and with Voyager’s return, The Doctor’s sentient holomatrix has been replicated thousands, millions of times. There are not automatons; they are full, independent people. Moreover, they are more than people, and far from the race of super strong, super intelligent slaves that Picard fretted about in the courtroom drama of Measure of Man, they have come to dominate those areas of the Federation—Starfleet in particular—where once the highest peaks of human achievement were attained. Picard is not prejudiced against them; he is not an anti-android racist. He just looks at a society that more than ever has sunk into mere luxury—travel, food, consumption, fine wine—without the countervailing force of achievement and exploration, of striving and struggle for knowledge, and feels . . . exhausted. Has humanity become little more than a tired race of cosseted pets?

Then, in flashback, we see a precipitating event: a Borg Cube (yes, the same Borg Cube that the actual show cursed us with) en route to attack the Alpha Quadrant. But this time it is dispatched with almost comical ease. A fleet of Federation ships—neat-sentient ships, crewed by superhuman androids and holograms—sets upon it near the former Romulan neutral zone and easily defeats it. (Before, by the way, the Romulan sun goes nova.) It founders in space. Humans and Romulans begin the Borg Reclamation Project. Only . . .

Years later, in the show’s present, a slow-dawning and then terrifying realization. AI is beginning to die. A (apologies for the gross topicality) sort of virus has entered their systems, incurable and seemingly contagious. And then . . . Bruce Maddox disappears.

And then mad, bad Admiral Janeway calls Picard out of retirement to pursue the mystery. For who now can command a starship, at least among the mere humans. And here Picard puts together his ragtag team on an old, pre-AI ship. Seven of Nine, who instead of a new character we don’t care about is the one living in ragtag isolation, so far from her former place in a collective! Hey, a couple of the kids from Below Decks, now All Grown Up. His Romulan friends, who may have motives of their own. And thus they quest out into the galaxy, a crew on a ship trying to solve the mystery of what happened to the androids, what happened to Bruce Maddox, leading them eventually to the Borg Cube, the mystery of the android plague, the destruction of the Romulan sun, and the question of whether a Utopia can remain vital forever.

Bloom

Art, Books and Literature, Culture, Economy, Education, Justice, Media, Plus ça change motherfuckers, Poetry, Uncategorized, War and Politics

bloom

Bring in the boss and sit him down. The head
of the table is perfectly appropriate.
It is the last head that we’ll ever let
him have. Yes, I’m saying we’ll kill him dead.
Lop off his noggin. Weigh his body with lead.
Throw it from the gunwale of a midnight motorboat.
See if all that money helps it float.
Go home and kiss the kids and put them to bed.
“How was your day today?” inquires your wife.
“It wasn’t bad at all,” you say, and then,
quietly, so as not to wake the children,
make the quick, familiar love of a long-shared life,
watch some TV, say a quick prayer, amen:
better to live than to hoard a hundred billion.