Assuming we survive, we will be astounded when we look back on these times.

I was listening to the latest episode of Lawfare, in which Benjamin Wittes and his guests are talking about the just-announced plea agreement between the Robert Mueller’s office and Michael Cohen.

During the episode, the conversation turns to whether this will be the point at which the investigation finally turns the corner.

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do think that when we reach that point and the blocks start to tumble—either with the office of the Special Counsel or with the Trump administration—they are going to fall quickly and spectacularly.

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Oh man… I think the clock is slow.

I don’t feel tardy…

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Here’s an idea:

  1. I receive an unwanted sales call on my phone.
  2. I open an app, which picks up the call.
  3. The app then connects the call to another, simultaneous unwanted sales call received by some other random user of the app.
  4. Both I and the other user are then disconnected from our respective calls.
  5. The callers are then disconnected from the app and left talking to one another in some black hole of endless, unproductive spam calls.

How do we make this happen?

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I was listening to Thomas Dolby’s Angels & Heretics yesterday. I hadn’t listened to it in ages, and while it doesn’t close out as strongly as it opens, it is still a really good album.

On a side note, if all you have ever heard from Dolby is “She Blinded Me With Science”, you are really missing out. That’s a fun track to be sure, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

If you are looking for a good place to start, go with his 2006 live album The Sole Inhabitant.

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maintaining lines of connection – Snakes and Ladders:

But I never have stopped missing the friendships I used to experience through Twitter. For a while I tried chatting with people on micro.blog, but that didn’t work — which may be because I just don’t have the knack of social-media chatting any more, but also may be because people have learned certain discursive habits from Twitter and Facebook that they then bring to every other platform, and I don’t like those discursive habits. In any case, for now I’m just posting to micro.blog and not trying to converse. Maybe that will change. Or maybe I’ll move everything back to the blog. Time will tell.

My guess is that social media are dead to conversation and conversation on them cannot be revived. But if that’s true, how to “maintain lines of connection between friends, comrades and fellow-travellers” while “routing around the toxic internet”? That is indeed the question, and I don’t have a clue how it might be answered. I suspect that there is no answer: that it’s the toxic internet or hermetic life or, for those who are blessed, what Auden called “local understanding.” And if so, though I don’t want to be a hermit, I’d definitely prefer that to trying, yet again, to talk to strangers on social media.

I’d be interested to hear the details of what Jacobs means by the “certain discursive habits from Twitter and Facebook that they then bring to every other platform,” but I think he is pretty spot-on here.

I still engage in some amount of discussion on Facebook—almost entirely with my IRL friends and family. I rarely engage with any posts from organizations, or in discussion threads that have tons of comments and replies. What’s the point?

I mostly feel that while Twitter and Facebook have their uses, conversation is not one of them. I think this goes back to these platforms’ inherent need to promote the most knee-jerk, blood-boiling sort of content that generates anger and controversy.

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Dear GMail: I would expect that, if you allow me to check a box to set an end-date for an out-of-office auto-reply message, you would then stop sending the auto-reply to people once we have passed the end-date that I set. However, that never seems to be what actually happens.
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David Mendelsohn, “Is the Aeneid a Celebration of Empire—or a Critique?”:

Months later, when I was back home teaching Greek and Roman classics again, it occurred to me that the difficulties we have with Aeneas and his epic cease to be difficulties once you think of him not as a hero but as a type we’re all too familiar with: a survivor, a person so fractured by the horrors of the past that he can hold himself together only by an unnatural effort of will, someone who has so little of his history left that the only thing that gets him through the present is a numbed sense of duty to a barely discernible future that can justify every kind of deprivation. It would be hard to think of a more modern figure.

Or, indeed, a more modern story. What is the Aeneid about? It is about a tiny band of outcasts, the survivors of a terrible persecution. It is about how these survivors—clinging to a divine assurance that an unknown and faraway land will become their new home—arduously cross the seas, determined to refashion themselves as a new people, a nation of victors rather than victims. It is about how, when they finally get there, they find their new homeland inhabited by locals who have no intention of making way for them. It is about how this geopolitical tragedy generates new wars, wars that will, in turn, trigger further conflicts: bella horrida bella. It is about how such conflicts leave those involved in them morally unrecognizable, even to themselves. This is a story that both the Old and the New Worlds know too well; and Virgil was the first to tell it. Whatever it meant in the past, and however it discomfits the present, the Aeneid has, alas, always anticipated the future.

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Aside from the really good coffee it makes, I think one of the aspects I appreciate the most about my Aeropress is that, because it makes one cup at a time, it forces me to think about my consumption. It makes for a much different—and in the end, better, I think—experience than wandering through the kitchen and pouring myself a cup from the pot that is already sitting there brewed.
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I am catching up on a few episodes of The Haunting Of Hill House on Netflix, and I am struck by the amount of mileage this show gets out of extremely slow zooms and pans. If you’re wondering how they manage to make even random scenes super tense and unsettling, these shots and camera moves are no small part of it.
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Via a conversation on Facebook earlier this morning, I ran across Jeremiah Moss talking about why shopping local is necessary but not sufficient to save local businesses:

If the problem lies with individuals then there’s no point in trying to change the system. The system is blameless! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

This is a clever way to make us feel guilty and hopeless, and thus to render us passive. It makes us squander our power as citizens and give up on democracy. Don’t fall for it.

In so many cases, small businesses are not closing because we didn’t shop enough. In over a decade of writing this blog, I have walked the streets of this city talking with countless small business people. Over and over, they have told me that the number one force shutting them down is a landlord who demands a high rent increase or who refuses to renew a lease. Thriving, beloved, successful businesses that were staples of their communities for 20, 40, 80 years are pushed out by rents that double, triple, quadruple, and more.

No amount of “shop local” is going to fix that.

We need systemic change from the top.

I am all for shipping locally whenever possible, but Moss is right—individual action here is not enough.

This point can it be overstated, regardless of whether we are talking about shopping locally, recycling, ethical investing, or any other field or behavior. This stuff can not happen at the scale required to effect real change if we are putting all the responsibility on individuals.

I would also add that if someone’s response to your suggestion that, say, we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels is to ask “If you believe that, why do you drive a car,” they are arguing in bad faith.

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