Art for

Contents

Bernie's World

Where is this Sanders now? The failure of the antiwar Sanders to emerge has been roundly criticized in the usual precincts — the late Alexander Cockburn having prepared the way in column after column (“that brass-lunged fraud from Vermont, Bernard Sanders, ‘socialist progressive,’ who has endorsed Clinton’s bombs”). But perhaps what’s missing isn’t the anti-imperialist Sanders. It’s the antiwar movement he was once part of, and which no longer exists.

Miracles and Mummeries

The Supreme Court is our Holy See. The court promises stability, tradition, and ancient-sounding Latin rituals. In costumes of somber glory, it speaks ex cathedra on the meaning of the Constitution, and for some reason we believe it has the authority to do so. Marbury v. Madison is our First Vatican Council. Judicial review resembles papal infallibility, and is, in the end, as fragile as papal infallibility (although we rarely reflect on that fragility). The nomination of a Supreme Court justice is the closest thing the United States has to the election of a pope.

Longviewers

At least we’re not learning about Helen Keller anymore. Sometimes I write invisible letters on Kira’s hand in Integrated Studies. T-H-I-S (flat palm) S-U-C-K-S. We’re not making fun of Helen Keller, just using her techniques to get by. We have our own handicaps. Boys who crack Helen Keller jokes ignore our collective lack of breast. They’re probably from Longview.

Calls

The water wasn’t too cold. I drained the cup and went over to the girl. Pulling the saltwater bucket toward me, I dipped and rinsed both hands before I arranged her head next to the man’s. How many times had he arranged them just this way, I thought, the head of a predator along its prey. Then I started on her with the loam. I went over each of her eyes before filling up her mouth. Then Wezile handed me a fresh blade, and I placed the disk on her chest. Her skin was soft, and it didn’t take much to peel a piece off.

Four Poems

there are places where people / burn money to keep warm, places where every shop window is broken & blood / makes patterns on the walls. there are places where every building looks / the same & nothing can be bought or sold. there are places through which / a tall fence runs with holes too small to kiss your opposite number

Uncanny Valley

The meeting begins without fanfare. They thought I was an amazing worker at first, working late every night, last out of the office, but now they wonder if the work was just too hard for me to begin with. They need to know: Am I down for the cause? Because if I’m not down for the cause, it’s time. They will do this amicably. Of course I’m down, I say, trying not to swivel in my ergonomic chair. I care deeply about the company. I am here for it.

Burn Scars

Those of us with long experience sitting watch over the Gila sometimes joked that we were not so much fire lookouts anymore as morbid priests or pyromaniacal monks — officiants at an ongoing funeral for the forests as we had found them when we first assumed our posts. All of us had come seeking solitude, adventure, the romance of wild mountains, and a taste of the sublime; we got everything we had hoped for and more, including pyrotechnics on a landscape scale. The job never lasted long enough — six months maximum, more like four or five in a typical season — but it beat working down in the neon plastic valleys.

Slow Wars

With so many of these films winning awards, critics, scholars, and lay cinephiles began to identify a trend. Terms like “slow cinema,” “cinema of slowness,” and “contemporary contemplative cinema” started circulating at academic film-studies conferences, in journals and festival program notes. Film blogs talked about contemporary contemplative cinema so much that they gave it the shorthand “CCC.” Speaking on the “State of Film” at the San Francisco Film Festival in 2003, the French critic and curator Michel Ciment argued that slowness was the dominant tendency in contemporary art cinema. The reason why, he said, was simple: Hollywood was speeding up.

Falling Men

Had we been in the schoolyard, we would have been a little dismayed but perhaps a little delighted. Because if there ever were such a thing as a perfect dive, it would have been precisely this. The propulsion of the fall correctly measured, the context agreeably neutral, the falling not too campy — a fall so perfect that a person writing a quarter of a century later, with the ability to loop the play over and over again on a computer screen, would still, in the end, have difficulty saying what really happened.

We’re Not Ugly People

Women’s captivity is the great theme of most of 2015’s Oscar-nominated films, and Ex Machina is the most basic and manipulative of these, the tale of a hapless john sent on a bizarre mission by a pimp to see if he can free his whore. The sordidness is made oblique because the characters are a programmer, a genius CEO, and a pixie android, and it’s set in a sterile underground lab. This Taxi Driver for nerds is heavy with the fear of superwomen empowered by data-driven emotional intelligence and synthetic physical perfection, and hence able to outflank male idiots savants.

Straight to Hell

The zine had a recurring string of subtitles — including “The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts” and “The New York Review of Cocksucking” — and taglines like “The Paper That Made New York Famous” and “Always coarse, never common.” Each contributor letter had a tabloid-style headline: “10 Hawaiian Dongs Unload on Tourist,” “Adultery in the Men’s Room,” “Mechanic’s Asshole Is Clean; Has Fragrance of Gasoline.” Sardonic commentary on the straight world and straight press was scattered throughout; McDonald liked to run errors he found in the New York Times, which he considered his main competitor.

Suspicious Minds

This book about popular fiction, then, is also secretly a book about power struggles within academic sociology, over what the social sciences are supposed to prove, be, or do. The secret is out in the later chapters, which frequently leave detective fiction behind completely to expound on the themes of “paranoia” and “conspiracy theory” more generally. The largest stakes of Mysteries & Conspiracies, it becomes clear, have to do not with crime novels but with the legitimacy of sociological critique.

Letters

Dear Editors, I used to spend a lot of time defending n+1 against charges of pretentiousness. “Pretentious is publishing 6,000-word articles about Lady Gaga or on the complicated cultural cross-coding of Beverly Hills 90210” — that was my line. Now, having read Frank Guan’s epic-length assessment of an adolescent television star turned popular musician in your pages, I will either need to come up with a new argument or switch my allegiances to the New Criterion.