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Regular dispatches from our contributors.

Relating to or Resembling a Peacock

Relating to or Resembling a Peacock

Recent and not-so-recent music

There is perhaps no working musician in whose case the asymmetry between critical accolades and actual musical content is so steep and acute, and so misleading. Stephin Merritt’s music is flat, gray, unmemorable, and “melodic” only in most contrived sense; his melodies seem to scream “I am writing a song in a usually disposable medium that is usually meant for mere entertainment but I am smart and special and this is meant to be real art.”

Landscape of Treason

Landscape of Treason

On the French elections

As François Hollande’s ignominious presidency draws to a close, his party confronts its gravest crisis since it was refounded in 1971 out of the ruins of the French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO). Party membership has dropped to as few as 42,000 cardholders, a mere quarter of the 2014 figure. Municipal Socialism has imploded: today, the PS controls less than a third of large- and mid-sized cities, five of seventeen regions, and only twenty-seven of France’s 101 departments.

No Longer a Girl

No Longer a Girl

The hallmarks that would come to characterize the official narrative surrounding the serial murders were already being established.

The discovery was recorded under the charge of “intentional homicide.” Preliminary inquiry 16142/95-1101 indicates the body was found face-down, the head oriented to the north, the right arm bent beneath the abdomen, the left bent alongside the body; the legs were separated. Death by strangulation was confirmed. The hair was held back by a “a brown hairband or hair tie.” The body wore a white T-shirt that read “California. The Golden State” on the front. The shirt was rolled up above the breasts, as was as the white bra. Underneath the body, green jeans were found with blood stains and corpse fauna. To the left, at the top of the thigh, was a shoe without laces and a pair of white underpants. Aside from the shoe, which carried the mark of Tres Hermanos, her clothing showed no labels or visible branding.

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone

An excess of people and an excess of desert.

Tumbleweeds blow in the wind—saladillos, chemís, voladoras—and the smell of rot arrives in gusts. Residents live in houses made of other people’s trash, discarded scraps of wood, sheets of metal or asbestos, old doors. Here, wire is an indispensable material, used to tie up, to hold together, to separate, to keep in that which would otherwise escape. From Lomas de Poleo, residents can look out upon the well-constructed homes, the green lawns, the technological splendor that surrounds nearby El Paso, Texas.

Less of a Machine, More of a Pal

Less of a Machine, More of a Pal

The car of the future will be needy and unnerving, and will lack comic timing.

Imagine the value of a car that, thanks to an exclusive multi-year partnership, autonomously drives past Dunkin’ Donuts and heads straight for Starbucks when you say, “Leaf, get me a coffee.” Or, a car in which Nissan Pay replaces Samsung Pay or Apple Pay and takes a piece of the action.

Lobby Day in Albany

Lobby Day in Albany

Single payer’s moment has arrived in New York.

There are many good reasons for citizens to understand the finer points of policymaking. But in this room, we were at our most powerful and effective when we put aside the urges to be experts (we are not) and to show off our sophisticated political analysis (we didn’t have one). The organization that had put together the lobbying meetings needed us to be warm bodies who live in the right districts, people willing to simply show up and say what we want.

What We Do Best

What We Do Best

War has become a given in American political life. In the process it has become depoliticized.

It might seem ludicrous that only hours after many of us called Trump a Russian spy, a new Hitler, a feckless idiot, a psychopath, a sun-downing, pill-popping monster, we fell in line and rallied behind him and our troops because, after all, he is our President and Presidents lead and the troops must be supported.

The Syria Catastrophe

The Syria Catastrophe

The response required at this late, desperate stage is neither anti-Assad nor anti-ISIS nor even anti-imperialist — it is antiwar.

Again and again, countries across and outside the Middle East have decided that escalating the war by military means is justified by whatever little sliver of national interest they feel is at stake. The US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, China, France, and Britain have all pumped military resources into the conflict, increasing not only the war’s capacity for destructive violence but also its duration.

My 19th Century

My 19th Century

Measured against the goals I had set for it and its own rules of engagement, the poem could only be merited a radical success.

Back home in the furniture-free apartment I lay down on my inflatable mattress, fired up my laptop, and wrote a poem called “The Shitfucker Vulture.”

Toward the Philosophy of an Act

Toward the Philosophy of an Act

Mikhail’s manuscript was about stories, before the manuscript itself disappeared. At what point, he wonders, smoking, does writing become real?

21. Now I’m here, alone, envisioning Mikhail. I type and my words fill the white screen, paragraphs accumulating like storm clouds. Command-S and they’re saved, cached inside somewhere, in a space so small it’s virtually virtual. Amazing how we’ve gone from stone to parchment to paper to essentially nothing at all, as if we’ve almost managed to reproduce the very substance of thought itself, its fundamental nothingness, its lightness. Something not really existing, but not not existing either. Something tangible as smoke.

Turkey and the Headscarf Ban

Turkey and the Headscarf Ban

Taking one’s shoes off had become a signifier of where one stood on the secular-versus-religious divide.

On May 2, 1999, Merve Safa Kavakçı, a 31-year-old newly elected lawmaker from Istanbul, was to take the oath of office in Parliament, having won a seat two weeks earlier as a member of Turkey’s new Islamist party, the Virtue Party. The problem was that Kavakçı was among the few Turkish women in politics who wore a headscarf, and no woman had ever entered the Turkish Parliament in a headscarf before.

Act Normal or Go Away

Act Normal or Go Away

Dutch Election Diary

Wilders’s argument is, in effect, that multiculturalism is the opposite of diversity. At a Koblenz conference hosted by Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland, he warned in that the totalitarianism of the EU and political correctness would reduce the wonderful variety of nations to a “uniform multicultural society.” (He also said that “women are afraid to show their blonde hair,” which is new to me.) But he owes so much to the “politically correct” vocabulary of “rights” and “identity” that he claims to reject.

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

As allies flooded in, indigenous leadership was increasingly drowned out in a sea of noise.

As yurts were built left and right and kale arrived by the truckload, I began to see that Standing Rock was gentrifying. White people had arrived in a space that was not our own and tried to improve it according to our standards. We ate foods cooked by our poorer, browner neighbors and learned a few words in their language. We improved the housing stock and brought newer, greener technologies. But as we tried to help, we simply got in the way.

Descent into Liberalism

Descent into Liberalism

You’re rooting for Cold War II. The FBI is your BFF.

So far right did politics float that Richard Nixon is now a moderate and Pat Leahy looks like Che Guevara. The furthest-left there is to be is what conservatives call “radical liberal.” This should be an oxymoron, but given the span of the possible, it is not. With political possibility, language too is squeezed.

And then the Strangest Thing Happened

And then the Strangest Thing Happened

What is Adam Curtis doing?

There is nothing in HyperNormalisation Adam Curtis has not done before, except that his pace is increasingly relaxed, with lengthy, drifting, wordless sound/image juxtapositions that feel closer to contemporary “artists’ film” than anything on television. You could read this languor generously, as a conscious new direction in his work. Or it could simply be the sign of burgeoning self-indulgence, the kind of thing cult figures often become susceptible to.

While the Iron Is Hot

While the Iron Is Hot

The case for the Women’s Strike.

This is what is meant by the phrase “the feminization of labor”: not simply that men are handed more jobs that seem effeminate in nature (menial, slogging work like data-entry or cleaning), but that men are treated poorly as workers—that is, like women. The more people find themselves indirectly employed, for instance by tech companies and temp agencies, the more they can learn from the women’s labor movements of the past, in sectors once believed to be “unorganizable” such as domestic work. In degrading women’s labor, we degrade all labor.

Etched into Eternity

Etched into Eternity

Donald Trump’s disdain for heroism has been replaced by a passionate commitment to its exact opposite.

Trump’s florid hero worship represents a new liturgical moment in the political theology of American power—and a major shift in Trump’s rhetorical posture, which has previously made very little room for accomplishments other than his own. Yet it is far from unfamiliar in the world history of demagoguery.

Turf-guarding

Turf-guarding

The Democrats give the left the middle finger.

As is well known, Perez only became a candidate at the behest of Barack Obama, picked explicitly to scuttle Ellison’s otherwise smooth path to the chairmanship. This turned the contest into a referendum on how the party feels about the Sanders activists. Evidently it feels quite hostile.

One Word: Authenticity!

One Word: Authenticity!

Oscars 2017

The post-classic French musicals that do away with singers and dancers (A Woman Is a Woman) or emphasize melancholy and failed romance against a backdrop of societal drabness (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) serve as models for La La Land. Their use seems academic, befitting a director running for Student Council President of the Movies.

Relating to or Resembling a Peacock

Relating to or Resembling a Peacock

Recent and not-so-recent music

There is perhaps no working musician in whose case the asymmetry between critical accolades and actual musical content is so steep and acute, and so misleading. Stephin Merritt’s music is flat, gray, unmemorable, and “melodic” only in most contrived sense; his melodies seem to scream “I am writing a song in a usually disposable medium that is usually meant for mere entertainment but I am smart and special and this is meant to be real art.”

Landscape of Treason

Landscape of Treason

On the French elections

As François Hollande’s ignominious presidency draws to a close, his party confronts its gravest crisis since it was refounded in 1971 out of the ruins of the French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO). Party membership has dropped to as few as 42,000 cardholders, a mere quarter of the 2014 figure. Municipal Socialism has imploded: today, the PS controls less than a third of large- and mid-sized cities, five of seventeen regions, and only twenty-seven of France’s 101 departments.

No Longer a Girl

No Longer a Girl

The hallmarks that would come to characterize the official narrative surrounding the serial murders were already being established.

The discovery was recorded under the charge of “intentional homicide.” Preliminary inquiry 16142/95-1101 indicates the body was found face-down, the head oriented to the north, the right arm bent beneath the abdomen, the left bent alongside the body; the legs were separated. Death by strangulation was confirmed. The hair was held back by a “a brown hairband or hair tie.” The body wore a white T-shirt that read “California. The Golden State” on the front. The shirt was rolled up above the breasts, as was as the white bra. Underneath the body, green jeans were found with blood stains and corpse fauna. To the left, at the top of the thigh, was a shoe without laces and a pair of white underpants. Aside from the shoe, which carried the mark of Tres Hermanos, her clothing showed no labels or visible branding.

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone

An excess of people and an excess of desert.

Tumbleweeds blow in the wind—saladillos, chemís, voladoras—and the smell of rot arrives in gusts. Residents live in houses made of other people’s trash, discarded scraps of wood, sheets of metal or asbestos, old doors. Here, wire is an indispensable material, used to tie up, to hold together, to separate, to keep in that which would otherwise escape. From Lomas de Poleo, residents can look out upon the well-constructed homes, the green lawns, the technological splendor that surrounds nearby El Paso, Texas.

Less of a Machine, More of a Pal

Less of a Machine, More of a Pal

The car of the future will be needy and unnerving, and will lack comic timing.

Imagine the value of a car that, thanks to an exclusive multi-year partnership, autonomously drives past Dunkin’ Donuts and heads straight for Starbucks when you say, “Leaf, get me a coffee.” Or, a car in which Nissan Pay replaces Samsung Pay or Apple Pay and takes a piece of the action.

Lobby Day in Albany

Lobby Day in Albany

Single payer’s moment has arrived in New York.

There are many good reasons for citizens to understand the finer points of policymaking. But in this room, we were at our most powerful and effective when we put aside the urges to be experts (we are not) and to show off our sophisticated political analysis (we didn’t have one). The organization that had put together the lobbying meetings needed us to be warm bodies who live in the right districts, people willing to simply show up and say what we want.

What We Do Best

What We Do Best

War has become a given in American political life. In the process it has become depoliticized.

It might seem ludicrous that only hours after many of us called Trump a Russian spy, a new Hitler, a feckless idiot, a psychopath, a sun-downing, pill-popping monster, we fell in line and rallied behind him and our troops because, after all, he is our President and Presidents lead and the troops must be supported.

The Syria Catastrophe

The Syria Catastrophe

The response required at this late, desperate stage is neither anti-Assad nor anti-ISIS nor even anti-imperialist — it is antiwar.

Again and again, countries across and outside the Middle East have decided that escalating the war by military means is justified by whatever little sliver of national interest they feel is at stake. The US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, China, France, and Britain have all pumped military resources into the conflict, increasing not only the war’s capacity for destructive violence but also its duration.

My 19th Century

My 19th Century

Measured against the goals I had set for it and its own rules of engagement, the poem could only be merited a radical success.

Back home in the furniture-free apartment I lay down on my inflatable mattress, fired up my laptop, and wrote a poem called “The Shitfucker Vulture.”