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New York City, March 23, 2017

Fri, 2017-03-24 17:57

★★★ The elevator was full of coughing. Children kicked hard chunks of ice to send them skimming around the schoolyard. Scarves were wrapped tight and knotted. Slowly the sun brought the day up out of the deep pit of cold where it had begun, but the wind still brought the knit hat unbidden out of the coat pocket. The light was piercing. One yellow blossom lay in the tangled mat of a limp and flattened planting of daffodils.

New York City, March 23, 2017 was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Goldfrapp, “Moon In Your Mouth”

Fri, 2017-03-24 15:39
Nothing matters anymore but you can still sing along.

Silver Eye, Goldfrapp’s new one, is out next Friday. Here’s the third track they’ve shared from it thus far and now I hope we do make it another week just so we can hear the rest. The sounds in particular here are so excellent that I am willing to overlook the lunar content. Enjoy.

Goldfrapp, “Moon In Your Mouth” was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Getting to No

Fri, 2017-03-24 15:30
Taking a page out of Paul Ryan’s old D.A.R.E. notebooksImage: marc falardeau

Senator Schumer’s staffers were all lazing around, playing Would You Rather. It had been a long day on the Hill, as usual. They were cracking open Bud heavies and happy, for once in a long time, because their boss had promised to do the right thing: filibuster Judge Neil Gorsuch.

Chuck Schumer barged in, cocky as Foghorn Leghorn. “I did it guys. I did what you wanted me to. I stood up to Mitch McConnell,” Chuck said.

“We got the New York Times alert!” The staffers clinked their bottles again. The one they all called Fuller knocked the bottom of his bottle against the mouth of Marnie’s bottle, so that beer flowed like a foam party.

“Now how are we going to do this?” Chuck Schumer asked, avoiding his temptation to set up Fuller and Marnie. “How are we going to get the fence sitters to no?”

“Leave that to me, boss. As a former Bernie Bro I know how to say no.”

“Yes, sure, Fuller. But we need a game plan. We need to actualize the nos. A step-by-step guide for my colleagues who aren’t used to saying the word.”

“I have an idea,” Marnie said. She whispered to Fuller, “Remember the D.A.R.E. program? Eight ways to say no to drugs? What where they…” Marnie was already Googling on her phone. “Here they are.” Marnie tilted her phone into Chuck Schumer’s face.

“These might work. Fuller, print this out.” Schumer handed Fuller Marnie’s phone. “Make enough copies for the caucus and have them laminated. Actually make hundreds. I want to wallpaper the Senate with these. In the dining room. When Senator Kaine is ironically slathering his burnt steak in ketchup I want him reading these. In the gym. When Senator Feinstein is walking her 10,000 steps on the treadmill I want her reading these.”

“Does it matter that Nancy Reagan probably came up with the list?” Marnie asked.

Chuck Schumer wasn’t listening. “Marnie, let’s go. Fuller, meet us in Senator Bennet’s office. President Obama said that Michael could lead us into the future. Well, here is his chance.”

Chuck Schumer and Marnie stood in the doorway of Michael Bennet’s Senate Office.

“Senator Bennet, where are you on Neil Gorsuch?” the Senator from New York asked.

“Chuck, you know he is from Colorado like I am. I have my staff out in the district this week, going to craft breweries and ski slopes to temp check my constituents. I haven’t made up my mind yet.”

“Perfect. We came here to teach you how to vote no,” Chuck Schumer explained. “Marnie, pretend you’re Judge Gorsuch.”

“I am a judge who wants all truck drivers to work for free and in the blistering cold. Until, that is, they are replaced by self-driving trucks. Will you please put me on the Supreme Court?” Marnie asked, deepening her voice for effect.

Fuller arrived with the laminated print-outs. Chuck Schumer handed Senator Bennet a guide.

“It’s very simple. Just pick one of these strategies.” Senator Schumer handed a laminated guide to Senator Bennet. “You can do, let’s see.” Chuck Schumer fumbled for his glasses. “Marnie, can you read these for my colleague from Colorado?”

“Number one. Saying, ‘No thanks.’” Marnie said. “So that’s like — ”

“Do you guys think parroting Nancy Reagan is what we need to be doing right now?”

“Nancy was a dear friend,” Chuck Schumer lied. “Marnie, keep reading, please.”

“Number two. Giving a reason or excuse,” Marnie said, pointing to the list. “If someone asks you if you want a beer, you could say, I don’t drink beer. As your reason. But in our case, you could be like, no, I won’t vote for Gorsuch. And your reason could be, God, there are so many.”

“Because he hates disabled children,” Chuck Schumer offered.

“Chuck,” Senator Bennet said.

Chuck gestured to Marnie to keep reading.

“Number three is: repeat refusal, or keep saying no. This is also known as the Broken Record method.”

“We brought a special guest for this one. Senator Klobuchar, please, come in,” Chuck Schumer stage managed.

“I’m Judge Gorsuch. I’m a complete asshole. Would you vote to confirm me?” Fuller, live-action role playing Neil Gorsuch, asked.

“No,” Senator Klobuchar said.

“Come on!” Fuller urged like he was used to doing so.


“Just try it!”

“No.” Senator Klobuchar said, stamping her feet.

“That’s perfect, Senator Klobuchar,” Marnie continued. “Do you understand, Senator Bennet?”

Senator Bennet was typing out an email to his chief of staff to reschedule his fundraising calls because his colleagues were wasting his time again.

“Number four is walking away,” Marnie said. “Okay, this is a fun one. It’s where you say no and walk away while saying it.”

Senator Bennet rolled his eyes. “My issue isn’t so much how to say no as it is whether to.”

“That, conveniently enough, sounds like number five,” Marnie said, holding her ground. “Which is changing the subject. Senator Klobuchar, we need again you for this one.”

Fuller and Senator Klobuchar broke past Senator Bennet and then scuff jogged into the center of the room.

“Let’s smoke some marijuana and then why don’t you vote to confirm me.” Fuller said, larping Neil Gorsuch once again.

“No. Let’s watch my new video and vote to confirm Merrick Garland instead,” Senator Klobuchar said. “I’m not sure ‘video’ works here?” she whispered to Marnie and Chuck Schumer.

“It’s fine, Klobs,” Fuller said to Senator Klobuchar as he tried to bump her fist with his.

Marnie made a note to excise the word ‘video’ from the how-to-say-no guides.

“Number six is avoid the situation. D.A.R.E. says, if you know of places where people often use drugs, stay away from those places. If you pass those places on the way home, go another way.” Marnie paused. “How would that translate in the Senate?” she asked Chuck Schumer.

“That’s the easiest one! Don’t show up to vote!”

“I can’t avoid a Supreme Court nomination vote,” Senator Bennet said. “That’s like one of our basic responsibilities as Senators.”

“Okay, then how about number seven? Giving a cold shoulder,” Marnie offered. “Senator Klobuchar?”

Amy Klobuchar scooted to the center of the room again.

“Hey! Do you want to smoke and then vote to confirm me?” Fuller-as-Gorsuch asked.

Senator Klobuchar stood silently for several beats.

“This is me ignoring Neil Gorsuch,” Amy Klobuchar explained to Michael Bennet.

“I can’t do that,” Senator Bennet said. “We sometimes run into each other fly fishing or performing other rugged activities about Colorado. I can’t ignore him.”

Marnie furrowed her brow. “Last one, then. Number eight. Strength in numbers.” Marnie cued to Senator Schumer to open the door. “The idea, I think, is that there’s power to be derived from solidarity.”

Senators Sanders, Warren, Franken, Harris, Booker, Murphy, Brown, Gillibrand, Durbin, and Duckworth entered the office, clapping in unison.

“Okay, now this is me giving you all the cold shoulder,” Michael Bennet said as he walked away.

“No, that’s you walking away, Michael. Number four,” Chuck Schumer said. “The strategy you mocked.”

“Come on, Michael. We need this,” Cory Booker pleaded. He and Dick Durbin mock tackled Senator Bennet. Fuller jumped into the scrum. “Strength in numbers!” they chanted.

“Strength in numbers, Michael. Please join us,” Chuck Schumer begged, his hands raised as if in Christian prayer. Then he repeated, “Join us” another forty-eight times, like a very broken record.

Getting to No was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

None Of Us Will Change Our Minds About Trump Or Any Other Fucking Thing

Fri, 2017-03-24 13:27
None of Us Will Change Our Minds About Trump or any Other Fucking ThingArie Kruglanski and the rigidity of belief.Image: gato-gato-gato

Let’s forget, for a little while, about Donald Trump’s lies. There are so many, ranging from the asinine to the near-sublime, that we probably won’t miss any genuine whoppers if we ignore the president’s unrelenting dishonesty for a few minutes. As for the litany of cringe-worthy mistakes and miscues that have characterized Mr. Trump’s first two months in office, where should we begin? With the misspelling of N.A.A.C.P. co-founder W.E.B. Du Bois’s name in a Department of Education tweet?

With an obvious typo on Trump’s official inauguration poster?

Or with my personal favorite (so far): Trump and the RNC paying tribute to Abraham Lincoln by tweeting out a dreadful, saccharine, fridge-magnet quote and wrongly (of course) attributing it to the 16th president.

It’s almost enough to make a fake-news junkie believe that Trump and his pals are intentionally making themselves look lazy and dim-witted, as a kind of smirking pledge to their proudly incurious base:

See? We’re not all that interested in books or history or foreigners. That shit is for ivory-tower eggheads and losers who pretend to like “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” So we can’t spell. So what? Fake news! Build a wall! Trucks! Trucks!

But, okay, just … forget all that. Let’s focus, instead, on a more pressing reality: namely, the unlikelihood of the president’s backers ever “converting” to the anti-Trump camp. If Donald Trump’s routine debasement of the Oval Office has not chipped away at his popularity among his hardcore fans, no amount of prodding, cajoling or accurate, triple-sourced reporting will change their minds. Because here’s the thing: whether we consider ourselves conservative or liberal, radical right or radical left or middle of the road, very few of us ever change our minds once we’ve settled on what we believe is the truth about an issue, scandal or public figure.

Arie Kruglanski, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, has spent much of his decades-long career examining the ways in which people form beliefs and judgments. He has crafted a theory of what he calls “lay epistemics,” i.e., the study of how individual thoughts create subjective knowledge. In Dr. Kruglanski’s view, a craving for certainty drives much more of our decision-making than any of us want to believe or admit, and times of crisis and polarization only serve to ratchet up our craving for that certainty.

[Watch a very good Times Op-Doc featuring Kruglanski.]

The Price of Certainty

Born in Poland in 1939 — a bad year everywhere, of course, but murderously abysmal in Poland — and raised in a Jewish ghetto, Dr. Kruglanski knows a thing or two about both crisis and polarization, as well as the sway that demagogues can exert on individuals, nations and eras.

As a young man, Kruglanski was attracted to and inspired by Freud’s work on unconscious motivation. When he studied psychology at the University of Toronto in the mid-1960s, he found the field dominated by neo-behavioristic theory and the study of animal learning. “This was initially disappointing,” he recently told me, “but I quickly learned that animals, too, are motivated — by hunger and thirst — and to this day I draw on learning and conditioning theory to understand human motivation. To my mind, motivation is the force underlying most of human action, and understanding it is the key to successful interventions to change behavior” — preventing individuals from committing violence, for example, or convincing people to study and to acquire education.

“The basic understanding that psychology has come to embrace,” Kruglanski said, “is that our opinions, impressions, and attitudes are ‘motivated.’ In other words, our opinions are not formed by information alone, because information can be manipulated and distorted. The dog that wags the tail of information is personal motivation. We assume we want the truth, but very often we want something else: to make a decision so that we can move on. Certainty is critical to this process, and the dynamic applies to everyone; we all hold views and make decisions based on our motivations.”

The present-day political climate in the United States, alas, provides for an almost textbook environment in which to watch Kruglanski’s theories play out on a grand, unsettling scale.

“For example,” Kruglanski noted, “if I have a strong motivation to see and defend Donald Trump as an admirable president whose administration will be beneficial to me, my family and society as a whole, then any counter-arguments will slide off of the position I hold, like water off a duck. Anything contrary to what I believe with certainty will be minimized or ignored.”

Kruglanski made frequent use of the term “closure” when discussing the process of formulating one’s worldview through the lens of motivation, rather than through a cool-headed gathering and weighing of information. I asked him if his use of the term is categorically different than the sort of pop-psychology way that many of us have come to speak of closure: that is, working through emotional trauma and accepting that something terrible has happened — the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship — so that we can finally move on.

“No, it’s not that different at all,” he said. “Prior to making a decision, we formulate a knowledge that we’re confident about.

“Say you don’t know who is responsible for the murder of someone you cared for deeply. You’re paralyzed. You can’t move forward. But once the killer is found, tried, and convicted, you have the answer, you have certainty about what happened and you can put it behind you and you can move on. That’s an extreme case, of course, and there is far more complexity involved in moving on from something so horrific — but there’s a kind of elemental commonality there between those two examples of closure. In each case you gain a kind of knowledge. You’ve found an answer, or formulated a confident knowledge about a given question that allows you to act.”

This notion that a quest for certainty drives not only our decisions but our personal politics might be unnerving to those who take pride in getting their news from more than a handful of sources. From Kruglanski’s perspective, information is just one piece — and hardly the keystone — of the edifice making up our private belief systems.

“Most people assume that information is what creates knowledge,” he said. “This is not so. Information can be warped and suppressed. Take death, for example. What can be clearer than death, right? But even death can be denied. People were led into concentration camps where it was readily apparent to anyone who cared to see that they were going to die. And yet they assumed and believed what they were told. That they were only going to showers. So we see that the human mind is capable of tremendous distortions, and it’s all in the service of our own motivations.”

For those of us who have long been seeking arguments that might convince Trump supporters that their man is a thin-skinned totalitarian paranoiac surrounded by far-right cretins, moral bankrupts and probably a few traitors, Kruglanski’s theories could turn out to be liberating. After all, if people make decisions and hold beliefs based not on information, but out of a desire for certainty, then we can safely forget about changing the minds of millions and millions of fervent Trumpkins. It’s never going to happen, just as it’s unlikely that Trump opponents will one day wake up and suddenly “get” why he is such a charismatic and trustworthy leader.

For my part, I’ll take my own certainties and those of my neo-liberal (that’s right, I said it) compatriots over Steve Bannon’s, Stephen Miller’s, Kellyanne Conway’s or Paul Manafort’s any day. May the better motivations of our nature win.

None Of Us Will Change Our Minds About Trump Or Any Other Fucking Thing was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

We Got Annie

Fri, 2017-03-24 12:27
The Parent RapA portrait of the artist as a young Annie.

When I was a child, maybe 5 years old, I went to see the first movie I ever recall seeing in a theater. My grandmother, my mother’s mother, took me to see Annie, which came out in 1982. The occasion felt like well, an occasion. As I recall, I dressed up. It was raining and the movie I saw enraptured me. We emerged from the film — probably a matinee — and I was surprised to see that it was still daytime. Before, I’d clung to “Sesame Street” and Mickey Mouse; now, I had Annie. It was my first step, tenuous as it was, towards thinking like an adult.

This was, of course, mostly before you could watch movies on demand at home, so instead of seeing the movie a thousand times, I was reduced to playing, over and over, the recording of the soundtrack. To me, more than anything, Annie has always remained mostly about the songs. I also had a book of stills from the movie that I pored over, learning the names of the orphans and the other minor characters.

Annie the film was based on a Broadway play of the same name which debuted the year that I was born, 1977. I didn’t know this, nor did I know that the play in turn was based on a comic strip, Little Orphan Annie, from 1924, the year that my grandmother was born. I didn’t know any of this. I didn’t know that the film was directed by John Huston, who directed some other movies which would later in life be favorites of mine: The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Misfits.

I grew up thinking that Albert Finney was always bald, and that he was Daddy Warbucks; when, in high school, I discovered The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I screamed, “that’s Rooster!” when I saw the sweet transvestite roll onto the screen. Bernadette Peters and Carol Burnett and Ann Reinking were to me, not accomplished Broadway performers and comediennes, but Lily St. Regis, Miss Hannigan, and Grace Farrell. They always will be.

So it was with some excitement that, several months ago, I decided to try showing Annie to my three-year-old daughter, Zelda. She’s a bit of a song and dance person, I said to myself, I bet she will like this. And she did.

She took to Annie in a way I could not have predicted. She became obsessed with the songs, she knows the dance routine from “It’s A Hard Knock Life,” carrying buckets and rags around, flopping on the floor, gesticulating wildly. Some days, we wonder what we have invited into our home. She insists, sometimes, that we refer to her as Annie. She renamed our dog Penny: she now answers to ‘Sandy.’ Occasionally, I answer to “Miss Hannigan.”

And even though Zelda can watch the movie any time she wishes, because times have changed and we have Netflix now, Annie is mostly the songs. But watching the film with her — and she is agnostic, she will watch any version, though the 1982 one owns her truest affection — I see it now with different eyes. It is, I must admit, the one thing I allow her to watch which is probably a bit above her age demographic.

I didn’t know until recently that the movie itself is often considered by critics to be “not good.” To me, it is perfect. The songs are brilliant, the choreography lovely, the casting is genius. I admit that I see all of this not with the eyes of a critic but through the thick glasses of nostalgia, and yet, I know that this movie has real artistry to it.

It’s also not really, when you watch it, a movie that is by our standards today very child-friendly. It’s easier, actually, to see Annie as part of a longer history of children’s stories where, inevitably, adults are sort of uniformly complicated, unwieldy, and often bad. Annie is pretty unapologetic about that: the kids are smarter than the adults, who are often menacing drunks. Miss Hannigan is a pathetic drunk government employee, her brother Rooster and his girlfriend Lily are criminals; Daddy Warbucks is a Republican, a self-made billionaire without any formal education. He’s a capitalist, but one who hangs out with FDR. Annie almost dies in the movie, saved by Warbucks’s body man, Punjab, played by the insanely awesome Geoffrey Holder, who I knew as a kid as a spokesman for 7Up. What Zelda makes of all of this — of the menacing adult world punctuated by scruffy, know-it-all kids, I can’t be sure. She’s only three, after all.

I was a little older than her when I first encountered Annie, and I distinctly recall wanting deeply to be an orphan. I didn’t have any problem with my home life (not yet) but the possibility of being a single being, alone in the world, was deeply fascinating to me. Annie, the protagonist of the film, makes hard decisions several times in the movie. She’s the moral center of a film that is deeply, complicatedly female driven. She is offered the wealth and comfort of Warbucks’ mansion when Grace — who is, of course, in love with Oliver Warbucks — convinces him to try adopting Annie, but she rejects it in favor of trying to find her real parents, whom she wrongly believes to still be alive. Children often reject safety for what they really want and, though that comes to seem foolish to us as we move towards adulthood, the nobility of it is apparent in a film like Annie. Annie’s righteousness (which yeah, can sometimes be a little grating) is most evident in her conversation with Franklin Roosevelt and Warbucks, as she tries to convince her adoptive father to get on board with the New Deal. Ridiculous? Yes.

But what’s most ridiculous, in 2017, is that a Depression-era movie resonates with a little girl born in 2014. And it does. Even the more complicated themes are not lost on her. To hear her belt out “who cares what they’re wearing on Main Street or Savile Row,” is a true joy but it is also weirdly affecting to have her question me, to accept harsh realities she has never heard before. “Some babies don’t have a mommy or a daddy, that’s called a orphan,” she declared one night before bed. Another morning she said simply, “I’m glad I have parents.”

We both love Annie: I’m just glad that, unlike her mother, she doesn’t yet want to be orphaned. When I was in college, I worked for several years waiting tables in a restaurant. It was a fancy place, and though I liked all my co-workers, I kept mostly to myself. One night, I let the owner of the place, a big guy with a big personality, know that my father and a group of people were coming in. “You don’t have to do anything special, just say hi if you can,” I said meekly.

“You have parents?!” he said. “I always took you for an orphan, I guess.”

The Parent Rap is an endearing column about the fucked up and cruel world of parenting.

We Got Annie was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Fri, 2017-03-24 11:57
The Adventures of Liana Finck

Liana Finck is a cartoonist.

Alone was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

> Fake dinosaur news

Fri, 2017-03-24 11:05
From Everything Changes, the Awl’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

BREAKING: These dinosaurs are helping their injured dinosaur friend get home to his dinosaur wife and family.

THIS JUST IN: This dinosaur is haunted by the specter of a ghostly, miniature version of himself and a bipedal creature that is the constant companion of the ghostly, miniature version of himself.

COMING IN NOW ACROSS THE WIRE: Jesus was a dinosaur.

UPDATE: Dinosaurs are outwardly very critical of smoking but if you’re out drinking with them they will 100% try to bum a cigarette off you in the back alley.

BREAKING NEWS: Dinosaurs are not good dancers.

JUST IN: Dinosaurs were not anime villains, as much as contrary evidence might suggest.

From Everything Changes, the Awl’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

> Fake dinosaur news was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Earlham Mystics, “Truth”

Fri, 2017-03-24 09:21
Don’t wake up now, it’s almost overPhoto: ricky montalvo

Well, we’ve almost made it. Sure, every minute takes an hour and every hour is a week these days, so the evening is a million years away, but I am confident we will get there. It’s an easy prediction to make because if it doesn’t happen you will have so much more serious stuff to contend with that you won’t bother to come back and call me out on being wrong about it. Anyway, the clock is ticking and it’s got to get to the time you want eventually. Until then, enjoy this. [Via]

Earlham Mystics, “Truth” was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Nine Weeks Later

Fri, 2017-03-24 09:07
A reflection in versePhoto: Tricia

The fucking litany of lies
That fuel this fucking enterprise
The steady fucking stream of bile — 
The fucking man is infantile — 
The evil fucks he keeps around
To fuck this country to the ground
The fucking grotesque disregard
For those whose lives are fucking hard
The feeling in the fucking air
Of fucking chaos and despair
The fucking fact that two months hence
This still makes zero fucking sense
The thought with which I’m fucking stuck:
What the fucking fucking fuck?

Nine Weeks Later was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

New York City, March 22, 2017

Thu, 2017-03-23 17:41

★★★ Dried leaves had emerged from somewhere to bounce and scuttle in the gusts. An ice bank in a planting bed had been undercut till there was a full cavern beneath it, with an aluminum can in its depths. The crosstown wind surged and then surged some more. Cornice decorations stuck out like saw teeth. The sun was high but there was no need for sunscreen under a hood pulled low. The black ice in the night held sharp crosshatchings where tires had crisscrossed when it was still soft, yielding slush.

New York City, March 22, 2017 was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Eluvium, “Regenerative Being”

Thu, 2017-03-23 17:06
Like looking into a mirror

It is rare that a work of art precisely duplicates the events of my day but this accompaniment to the standout track from Eluvium’s False Readings On is so similar you might think it was a shot-for-shot remake of the afternoon over here. I imagine you will find it relatable yourself. Please do enjoy.

If you haven’t gotten False Readings On yet, why not? We don’t have a lot of time left.

False Readings On

Eluvium, “Regenerative Being” was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Guy Says Maybe Email Isn’t The Most Horrible Thing In The World Today

Thu, 2017-03-23 15:36
No, wait, hear him out.Photo: Shang Ning

“I hate getting email. But I recognize that the problem is not email as a technology; the problem is people wanting to talk to you. Email is the least annoying way for people to contact you, so it’s the most popular, which is why you have so many emails, which is why, paradoxically, it feels so annoying. But, what, you want everyone to start texting you? You want them to send you LinkedIn messages? You want them to call you on the phone?”

— Matt Levine, who has an email newsletter and so might not be the most disinterested observer here, still makes a good point. If “in a bar, preferably just the two of us” is the best way to have a conversation with someone, and “via old-fashioned telephony” is the worst, email is probably somewhere in the middle. If you can think of a better method, write it on a piece of paper and try to find a way to get it over to us. Thanks!

Bond Quotes and Performance Art

Guy Says Maybe Email Isn’t The Most Horrible Thing In The World Today was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Heads Giant

Thu, 2017-03-23 14:30
On the origin of the college basketball game trope

Over at Vice Sports today, David Roth has a delightful review of the history and cultural rise of the “Oversized Disembodied Head” (ODH) at college basketball games. It’s a wild ride from early-aughts San Diego State Shenanigans to Alabama Face Guy to (obviously) late capitalist ends:

Mongan’s contribution to the long tradition of fans trying to make things weird for the visiting team unfolds like basically every other cool thing in the culture, with young people messing around and being creative and trying to amuse and impress each other with acts of avant-garde dumbness. It was not just a DIY process but something like an artisan one; Mongan made the prints at Kinko’s and assembled them himself. “Back in the day,” he said, “there would almost be like an audible gasp or a cheer when we’d unveil a new one, because there was this element of surprise. I’d just like, roll in from Kinko’s and no one really knew what it was going to be. It was this cool time period where we just kind of had freedom, creatively, to pump out the weirdest stuff possible.”

You can read the whole thing here.

Those Oversized Disembodied Heads at College Basketball Games: A Life Story | VICE Sports

Heads Giant was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The One Where Everything Just Happens To Fit Perfectly

Thu, 2017-03-23 13:27
Favorite “Friends” moments with a twist.

Chris Sartinsky has written for The Onion, Adult Swim, and Billy on the Street.

The One Where Everything Just Happens To Fit Perfectly was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Raise Your Hand If You’re Sick Of Brahms

Thu, 2017-03-23 12:27
Classical Music Hour with FranImage: Shigemi.J

I’m giving myself this week to finish my enormous Brahms book so I can go back to the two things I care about most in life: 1) beating Wind Waker for the first time in a decade and 2) writing about other composers in this column. It’s been tough to read and write about and listen to Brahms for almost a straight month. At times I feel both closer and further away from a man I barely understand up until the winter of this year; his work is so intensely loaded — especially for someone who more or less rejected the idea of programmatic music — that I’ve felt forced to rethink a lot of what I felt about him. I thought he was a sad guy! And sure, maybe “sad” in a traditional artist sense, like “I’m writing a sad poem right now” sad, but there was so much more color and vigor to his work than I previously understood.

The last Brahms piece I want to highlight — and in fairness, this is only the second one I’ve written about in the context of this biography, so lay off me — was my first introduction to Brahms in an academic setting. In college, I took a very easy and lovely class called “Introduction to Classical and Romantic Music” which lay a wonderful foundation for a lot of the reading and research I do now. In the midst of the two units (you could probably guess, but they were titled, uh, “Classical” and “Romantic”), we listened to Brahms’s Symphony №3 in F Major as this very bizarre hybrid of the two genres. Many have called Brahms’s third symphony his Eroica, which is a ringing endorsement if I’ve ever heard one.

Premiering in 1883, this is definitely considered late Brahms. In fact, Richard Wagner, his old rival featured in last week’s column, had just died that year. Even up until his final days, the dumb feud between these two men had not subsided, to a point where Wagner enthusiasts (if you know what Wagner fans called themselves back in the day, “BeWagners” or whatever, please tell me) protested outside of the third symphony’s debut. What the hell!!! It’s not Congress, you dopes. Get a life.

It’s less obscure and puzzling to work through. I know I set you quite a challenge with that first piano concerto of his. The first movement of the piece is an Allegro con brio, and this particular recording is conducted by who else but Bernstein. This first movement, nearly thirteen minutes in length, sounds aggressively Beethovenian in nature, starting with a confident fanfare from the horns. Once the introduction settles down, there’s a really lovely melody on the strings and woodwinds. It lilts back and forth, by no means delicate, but not too forceful to push its listener away. It’s a melody you can hum! It’s even a little playful at times, hearkening back to that bit in the first piano concerto in which a big dark build-up in the strings leads to a precious piano melody as its punchline. This is a symphony in a major key after all; it feels triumphant and glorious and self-assured. No longer are we sensing the Brahms struggling to live up to the reputation set in motion by the Schumanns or otherwise. In its final 20 or so seconds, the first movement concludes softly. Finitely. No bursts. It just lays to rest.

Its Andante doesn’t feel like your typical Andante. You often picture something slow or mournful, pensive and meandering, at times, but Brahms’s Andante has a profoundly forward momentum. There are a lot of passages in my Brahms book about the composer taking summers to hike through the German countryside. I will openly admit that this isn’t a part of my heritage (oh, you didn’t know I was German? Look at my last name for 0.4 seconds) that has been passed down genetically, but in times of worry, I think, “yeah, I could go back to 19th-century Germany and have a big stick and walk up a nice hill and be perfectly happy.” And this is what I’d want to listen to!

And then we have the movement I really want to talk about. A movement I think about all the time, the Poco Allegretto. It’s the shortest movement in the whole piece, and in the way that the Andante doesn’t feel quite as, well, sad as an Andante usually feels, it’s the Poco Allegretto that changes places with it. In college, when I took my music class and we listened to this symphony, we were instructed to listen to this movement in particular, which my professor said was one of the saddest movements of a symphony he ever heard. I don’t know if it tugs at my heartstrings in quite the same way as it did for him, but it does ache. This movement is, I’m not kidding, unrequited love in a nutshell. It’s sweeping and overdramatic, almost to a point of being funny. There’s a tonal shift at around the 1:45 mark where it becomes light. The clarinets are really just going to town. It’s almost a little nagging, as if Brahms wants you to remember something lighter before pulling you back down into the tragedy of it all. You will listen to this movement and then you’ll listen to it again. It’ll stick in your head the way a person can. It is truly one of the most beautiful movements in all of classical music. If you listen to nothing else from this symphony, listen to the third movement.

Symphony №3 in F Major ends with an Allegro, plain and simple. Fast. Quickly. Let’s do it. Let’s blow through. The movement begins with a buzzing in the strings and a quick, nervous melody on the woodwinds. Then: at about 46 seconds in, we’re going. This is a fricking FINALE, folks. This is the same type of raw energy you could sense in the first piano concerto, only much more guided and focused. Remember all one thousand times I’ve written about cello here? Get a load of that cello melody at the 1:19 mark. I want to stand up and applaud then and there, but there’s still a good seven minutes to go. The rest of the movement is fairly upbeat and even a little bombastic in parts, but it doesn’t go full Beethoven. Like the first movement, Brahms ends quietly. On a clean chord. It’s resolved — the symphony, the piece, the heart behind it, everything.

Including, of course, this little mini-series on my giant Brahms book. I’ll be back next week with something very fun and dare I say, American.

Fran Hoepfner is a writer from Chicago. You can find a corresponding playlist for all of the pieces discussed in this column here.

Raise Your Hand If You’re Sick Of Brahms was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

A Poem By John Freeman

Thu, 2017-03-23 11:57
On Love

If wind asked permission
we might wait and listen
as if night stopped its blue
curtain and wheat bent without scattering
its hope of what happens in the dark,

and happens by accident.

John Freeman is the editor of the literary biannual Freeman’s and author of several books. Maps, his debut poetry collection, will be published in the fall by Copper Canyon.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.

A Poem By John Freeman was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

’90s Scandals, In Order

Thu, 2017-03-23 10:32
A Listicle Without CommentaryImage: Daniele Civello

21. Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles Flirt About Tampons (1992)

20. Martin Amis Rips Off Entertainment Weekly In a New Yorker profile of John Travolta (1995)

19. Mrs. Gingrich Tells Connie Chung Newt Called Hillary Clinton A Bitch (1995)

18. Bob Livingston Admits To Extramarital Sexual Affairs (1998)

17. Dan Quayle’s Gives Murphy Brown Speech (1992)

16. Milli Vanilli Admits To Lip Syncing And Has Their Grammy Taken Away (1990)

15. Pee Wee Herman Arrested for Masturbating At A Movie Theater (1991)

15. Robert Downey, Jr. Arrested For Speeding Down The PCH With Heroin, Coke, And A Pistol (1996)

13. Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss Busted For High-Class Prostitution Ring (1993)

12. Kathie Lee Gifford’s Clothing Line Revealed To Be Manufactured In Sweat Shops (1996)

11. Ted Danson Wears Blackface (1993)

10. Marv Albert Tried For Forcible Sodomy And Assault (1997)

9. Jerry Seinfeld, 39, Dates A 17-year-old (1993)

8. Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan (1994)

7. Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s Sex Tape Stolen (1995)

6. Hugh Grant Arrested For Getting A Blow Job In Public From Prostitute In Hollywood (1995)

5. Woody Allen Takes Naked Pictures of Soon-Yi Previn (1992)

4. Woody Allen Marries Soon-Yi Previn (1997)

3. Michael Jackson Accused Of Child Sexual Abuse (1993)

2. Kevin Costner Beats Martin Scorcese for Best Director in the Dances With Wolves/Goodfellas Competition (1991)

1. Bill Clinton Gets A BJ in the Oval Office (1995)

’90s Scandals, In Order was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sebastian Vivian, “Cascade”

Thu, 2017-03-23 08:00
Okay, maybe you’ll skitter.Photo: Shawn Hoke

This one is terrific. It swoops, loops, skitters and soars — all the things that you are probably not going to do today. It does, however, end abruptly, so perhaps you’ll have that in common. In any event, enjoy.

Sebastian Vivian, “Cascade” was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

New York City, March 21, 2017

Wed, 2017-03-22 17:41

★★★★ The cold gray morning at dropoff was still gray but no longer cold an hour later. Another hour or less, and reflected sun was adding new spots to spotted brickwork while the clouds at the zenith thinned toward blue. The afternoon sun was full and dazzling. A boy with a backpack leaped from the back of a taxi to the top of an ice bank and teetered there, trying to get his center of gravity to the vertical, then gave up and leaped in reverse before he could slip into the waiting puddle below.

New York City, March 21, 2017 was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Remember Soundgarden?

Wed, 2017-03-22 14:37
Soundscan Surprises, Week of 3/16Back-catalog sales numbers of note from Nielsen SoundScan.Photo: Deirdre Woolard

The definition of “back catalog” is: “at least 18 months old, have fallen below №100 on the Billboard 200 and do not have an active single on our radio.”

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is coming out on May 5, so sales of the first soundtrack, which are reliably and consistently high, brought the album to #1 last week. Elliott Smith’s Either/Or is twenty years old. Soundgarden’s full-length debut, Ultramega OK was re-released and remixed. Not sure why The Rolling Stones’ Hot Rocks saw a jump last week but perhaps you have some idea or news link you can share with me in the comments? All I could figure was that their debut greatest hits album was just over 45 years old, which doesn’t seem like a milestone but with these rock ’n’ roll guys you just never know.

I forgot who Halsey was and then Googled and then promptly forgot. She recently tweeted some secrets about her forthcoming album, which I guess made more people buy her old one. The habits of back catalog record-buyers will never cease to amaze me.

According to, the Barchet Quartet was:

a remarkable German ensemble, the Barchet Quartet of Stuttgart, which emerged just after the Second World War. Because of the time and place in which it worked, it-­ did not achieve the fame of its contemporaries, the Smetana Quartet of Prague, the Amadeus Quartet of London, the Juilliard Quartet of New York, the Borodin Quartet of Moscow and the Quartetto Italiano of Milan.

They remain stubbornly not very Googleable when it comes to news stories, but perhaps your dad or mine could help us out in figuring out what led to this 147% jump in sales. Finally, I refused to tell you why Snoop Dogg’s (ahem, back then, Snoop DOGGY Dogg) Doggystyle is charting because the news moves so fast I’ve mercifully forgotten and I’d like to keep it that way.



13. ROLLING STONES HOT ROCKS 1964–71 3,007 copies


62. HALSEY BADLANDS 1,630 copies




Remember Soundgarden? was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.