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Incorrigible Sin

Fri, 2017-04-28 13:35
The story of a seventeenth-century fornication trial in Massachusetts BayImage: UnShuttered Soul

One of the worst nights of Sarah Crouch’s life began with an innocent request. Her mother asked her to go out into the fields and fetch Thomas Jones for supper. It was a quiet June evening during the pea harvest of 1668, and the sun had just begun to set over the Crouch family’s homestead in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Though Crouch, 20, had just woken from an early-evening nap, she gladly agreed to wrangle him in. Jones, who worked for her father, was a common presence in their household. Crouch liked him. As to how well, it depended on whom one asked.

Charlestown’s lively gossip mill buzzed with rumors of the couple’s intimacy — likely based upon the claim made by the Crouches’ neighbors, Joseph Bacheler and Paul Wilson, that they had seen Crouch in bed with Jones at the home of Theophilus Marches during the “last election day at Boston.” Another rumor claimed that Crouch and the twenty-three-year-old bricklayer were not only intimate but also secretly engaged.

This latter rumor was of particular interest to another regular visitor to the Crouch homestead: Middlesex County’s own resident Lothario, Christopher Grant, Jr. Crouch knew Grant, 24, through mutual friends. That same evening, he and his brother, Joshua, had dropped by for an unannounced visit. As Crouch made her way outside to find Jones, Christopher rushed toward Crouch’s mother. “Might I go forth with her,” he asked; to which she responded, “As long as you stay within hearing.”

Crouch’s account of the evening, written one year later as a court deposition, does not reveal her thoughts on Grant’s insistence, nor does it explain the excuse he had given to her parents to explain his presence at their house that evening. It is very likely, however, that she knew Grant’s intentions. In her own words, he had “made use” of her body at least twice over the past few months. The first of these encounters occurred on March 28 in “an olde house upon the wharfe.” There, Grant seduced her with a Falstaffian marriage proposal. “If she was not good enough to make her his wife she was not good enough to make his whore,” he said. When Sarah responded that they should wait, “he said I need not fear for it would not be known if he married me soon after.” Amid a second sexual encounter in April, Crouch had told Grant that she feared the first had resulted in a pregnancy. “How long afore [you’ve] had the sines of a maid,” Grant asked her. “Three days before the first time [you’d] had to do with me,” she responded.

Testimony of Sarah Crouch. MA Supreme Judicial Court, division of Archives and Records. MA State Archives, Boston.

Grant, desiring either sex or updates on her condition, and angered by the unconfirmed rumor of her engagement to Jones, kept close to her in the months to follow. This June night would prove no different. Sarah soon trekked out into her father’s fields to search for her rumored fiancée, trailed by the “heartless rogue” who may have gotten her pregnant.

In the mid-seventeenth century, Massachusetts Bay found itself amid a spiritual identity crisis. Many first- and second-generation settlers believed their children and grandchildren had lost touch with the colony’s original mission. This new generation was materialistic and greedy. Worse, it was becoming increasingly sexual. Though pregnancies out of wedlock were far rarer in Massachusetts Bay than in England or its other colonies, records show that by 1665, County Court officials saw premarital sex as “a shameful Sin, much increasing amongst us.”

The original fornication law published in The General Laws and Liberties of the Massachusetts Colony.

Contrary to modern perception, Puritans were not ashamed of sex itself. As the historian Edmund Morgan put it, the New England Clergy, “the most Puritanical of the Puritans,” believed that so long as a healthy sex life did not interfere with a married couple’s relationship with God, they were welcome, and indeed encouraged, to discuss and explore its boundaries. Premarital sex, however, remained illegal. Massachusetts’ first published fornication law, written in 1642, stated that guilty parties should be “punished, either by enjoyning Marriage, or Fine, or [whipping].” Two decades later, they added excommunication to the list. When caught in the act, or when exposed through pregnancy, “fornicators” were indicted and scheduled to appear before a group of magistrates during one of four annual meetings of a local county court. The historian Roger Thompson reports roughly 125 of these trials occurred between 1649 and 1680. Most were cut and dry. The accused mother, if pregnant, named a father. Magistrates then doled out punishments and made provisions for the resultant child.

Cases involving disputed paternity were far more complicated. Such was the case with Sarah Crouch and Christopher Grant Jr. The Crouch v. Grant case file, found in Folio 52 of the Middlesex County Court Records, contains 26 documents. Dated Feb. 2, 1669, these papers — which recount everything from rape allegations to a late-night orgy — tell the story of a love triangle involving the exact sort of rebellious twenty-somethings whom elderly colonists resented. Crouch came from subversive stock. One year earlier, the Charlestown Church had formally censured her father for “the scandalous sin of Drunkness” and his “not manifesting repentance for it.” Grant too came from a controversial family. Before his own indictment for fornication, the Court had already convicted two of his sisters for the same crime.

Colonial courts relied heavily upon written depositions. Defendants and witnesses prepared these documents in the months before proceedings began. Shortly after her indictment, Crouch could expect everyone she knew — her family, her neighbors, her enemies — to commit to paper their private thoughts about her, her reputation, and her behavior. Through these accounts, one can begin to imagine what it must have felt like to be young, libidinous, and malcontented while living in seventeenth-century New England.

Like thousands of other ordinary colonists, most of Sarah Crouch’s life exists within an elementary outline culled from official records: birth, baptism, marriage, death. Church logs suggest she was strong-willed and impetuous. Officials lamented that at the time of her indictment, Crouch was not “in full communion.” Although she had been baptized as an infant, she had yet to fully devote herself to the Church, nor had she shown any desire to do so.

Record of Sarah’s censuring from the Official Records of the Charlestown Church. Reprinted in Records of the First Church in Charlestown, 1632–1789, David Clapp and Son, Boston, 1880. This entry references her treatment by the Church two months after the birth of her daughter. This spiritual inquiry was independent from her criminal trial.

Still, as Crouch went to trial, she had support. Depositions written in her defense — principally those by Thomas Jones and her sister, Mary — suggest a coordinated effort. As colonial courts only met four times a year, she and her friends had months to get their stories straight. Crouch’s pregnancy made it impossible to deny guilt. She therefore devoted her efforts to proving Grant, rather than Thomas Jones, had fathered her child. She and her peers focused on the man’s persistent and at times violent history with women. Crouch’s sister suggested he had once propositioned her by promising to marry her if she had consented to sex. When she refused, Grant had attempted to “meddell” with her, allegedly taking her “coates up,” boxing one of her ears, and calling her a “dirty slot.”

Testimony of Mary Crouch. MA Supreme Judicial Court, division of Archives and Records. MA State Archives, Boston.

Though it had been the first of two consensual encounters that had resulted in pregnancy, Crouch committed the bulk of her testimony to a third and comparably violent run-in with Grant: the night he followed her into her father’s fields to find Jones. According to Crouch, he immediately revealed himself as a jealous mess. The rumor about her engagement to Jones — which she never confirmed in her own testimony — had sent him into a fury. One witness claimed that a few weeks earlier, Grant had been so worked up over it that he confronted Sarah’s father, who confessed ignorance. That night in June, Grant’s frustration boiled over.

“I have more right to you than he does,” Grant told Crouch. “[Jones] can maintenance you about as well as a dirt dauber.”

Crouch testified that things soon turned violent. “He took me by my [two] hands,” she wrote, “[and pulled] me along and under the fence.” There, Grant allegedly raped her.

At some point, the pair was interrupted by none other than Thomas Jones. He had been hiding in a barn within eye and earshot of the whole affair. Per his own brief testimony — a deposition that mimicked Crouch’s nearly to the word — he had been searching for a friend earlier that evening when he had heard the Grant brothers enter the Crouch family property. By the time Crouch had begun to call for him, he had already taken his place in the barn. It is not clear whether Jones knew of Crouch’s history with Grant. Regardless, he had seen enough.

Testimony of Thomas Jones. MA Supreme Judicial Court, division of Archives and Records. MA State Archives, Boston.

“Henceforth,” Jones told Crouch, “I will have nothing to say to you anymore.”

Grant took the opportunity to rub salt in Jones’ wound.

“Shall I kiss your garle, Thomas?”

“You have more right to her than I have,” Jones replied. “Take her if you will.”

What happened next eludes the historical record. The story picks up a few weeks later when Crouch confirmed to Grant she was indeed pregnant. She claimed that they spent the next few weeks weighing their options. Finally, Grant put his foot down. He told her he would only marry her if she ended the pregnancy. Crouch refused, and Grant failed to propose.

Heading into trial, Grant faced an uphill battle. The burden of proof in Puritan paternity cases typically fell on would-be fathers. Most magistrates reasoned it was a greater sin to force an infant and its mother into pecuniary uncertainty than it was to compel a man to financially support someone else’s child. Defendants needed to provide overwhelming exculpatory evidence, otherwise the Court would deem the accused legally responsible “notwithstanding his denial.”

Grant put together a much better case than most. Numerous friends, neighbors, and family members wrote depositions in his defense. Just as Crouch and Jones seem to have straightened their stories before committing them to paper, it is clear Grant conducted his own private investigation into what, exactly, people were saying about the events leading up to Sarah’s pregnancy. In his testimony, he urged the magistrates to pay close attention to the depositions written by his brothers; another one penned by a man named Samuel Church; and, especially, the testimony of a woman named Sarah Largin.

Testimony of Sarah Largin. MA Supreme Judicial Court, division of Archives and Records. MA State Archives, Boston.

These documents tell a radically different story from the one narrated by Crouch and Jones. Not only did Grant deny any intimacy with Crouch, but he and his supporters also hinted at conspiracy. Grant’s brother, Joseph, testified that Crouch was obsessed with Christopher, who “gave her no cause to love him.” Even more pointedly, Church implied that Crouch knew she was pregnant and chose to pin the paternity on Grant because he was “rich at the time” and thereby better suited to support her child than was Thomas Jones (presumably the true father).

Charlestown resident Ursula Cole claimed that shortly after Crouch’s pregnancy became public knowledge, Jones had described to her a recent encounter with Crouch, in which she implied Jones was the father. “[Jones] told [Crouch] that she showeth as if she [was] bigg with childe,” Cole wrote, “and [Crouch] answered [if I am with child] you shall provide blanketts for it.” Jones then allegedly assured Crouch if she were pregnant with his baby, he would do his part to support the child. Cole added that Jones even bought her a symbolic blanket. By July of 1668 — one month after the confrontation outside the Crouch home — Cole had heard that the couple had split up. She said Crouch told her that Jones had dumped her because he was “jealous of Christopher Grant,” even though “he had no occasion at all” to feel threatened.

Largin claimed she was with Crouch during the alleged night of conception “at which time Christopher was not there.” Months later, when Largin noticed Crouch’s belly, she asked her about the identity of the father. Crouch quickly named Grant. Soon thereafter, Largin confronted her on the inconsistencies. Crouch’s response to this confrontation remains lost, but she clearly panicked. According to Largin, a few weeks before trial, Crouch “sent to her that she should not appear at Court to testify against her but that she should abide at Boston.” Largin concluded her deposition by admitting that although she had seen Crouch “very often” in Grant’s company, “she never saw Christopher with her [around the time] she saith he got her with child.”

Largin’s testimony carried a great deal of weight, not only because she was close to both parties, but because she herself had been implicated in salacious rumors about Crouch. Few in Massachusetts knew more about her sex life. Nowhere was this more evident than in the provocative testimony of Crouch’s employer, John Knight.

Knight, a widower with multiple young children, made his living building and repairing barrels in nearby Watertown. He employed a handful of part-time servants and maids, and his testimony suggests Crouch often took care of Knight’s infant as the cooper slept. This work left Crouch unsupervised in late evenings and early mornings, of which Knight claimed she took full advantage. “My servant did severall times stay up veri late [causing trouble] to mee,” he wrote in his deposition. “I Often told her of the same, but she gave me a veri short answer and told me that she would not [give up] the liberty that she [had] in places she formally lived in.”

Testimony of John Knight. MA Supreme Judicial Court, division of Archives and Records. MA State Archives, Boston.

One evening, he awoke to the sound of his child bawling. He called to Crouch several times, “but she gave no answer.” Vexed, Knight meandered sleepily into his child’s room only to find the baby unattended. Crouch’s quarters were empty, but he soon heard a series of noises coming from a room or a closet near the stairwell. Assuming Crouch was inside, he yelled “that if Shee would not open the door, [he] would break it open.” The doors unlatched, and out came “[Sarah Crouch] all undressed [and] Sarah Largin with her undressed.” Largin took off through the front door, dropping “some of her clothes as she went out.” Knight cornered Crouch and inquired about any men who might have been in her company before his arrival. “She made mee no answer for some span of time,” he wrote, “but at last Shee told me Peter Brigs [another local twenty-something] was with them.” Apparently aware of Crouch’s involvement with Thomas Jones, Knight asked if “Jones was not there” as well. When Crouch failed to respond, he became “so mad with her” he threatened to “turn her out of doors.”

A few days later, the cooper hired an extra servant — a woman named Goody Mirrick — to help him with his laundry. He left Mirrick and Crouch alone as he ran an errand in town. When he returned that afternoon, he found Mirrick “alone and the childe crying.” He asked her where his “maid was.” Mirrick, begging forgiveness, answered that Crouch was not in the house. Knight searched his property, and again came upon a closed door latched shut, behind which he found Crouch and Largin in a state of undress, this time with Brigs and another local man named Michael Tandy.

Knight’s story supported two major facets of Grant’s defense. First, it confirmed Crouch was sexually adventurous. Second, it demonstrated her relationship with Jones had become so well known in Charlestown that even Knight, a grown man with no direct ties to her peer group, knew to ask if Jones were involved in the closet orgy. This, along with Crouch’s neighbors’ testimony that they had caught her in bed with Jones shortly before her pregnancy, greatly complicated the paternity issue. Was this unflattering (but largely hearsay) testimony enough to earn Grant a rare and unlikely acquittal?

Colonial court records are cruel to curious readers. Their depositions resemble proper narratives, as they recount interesting events from multiple points of view, often richly and in great detail. Yet these records aren’t narratives, nor are they inherently rooted in the truth. They gleefully rebuff Chekov’s gun. They heighten anticipation through made-for-cinema twists and turns, without a single guarantee of a satisfying resolution.

The Crouch vs. Grant case file contains no record of a final judgment from Court magistrates, but subsequent Middlesex County Court files shed light on the result. On April 15, 1669, Grant’s parents wrote a letter to the Court that implied the trial had ended in his conviction. In it, they lamented that their son was “Sentenced to the house of corrections.” But he never actually made it there. At some point between the trial and their petition, “[Grant] maid his Escape.” Court magistrates had also sentenced Christopher to a public whipping. According to his parents, the prospect of this punishment had caused him to flee town.

By 1677, records show Grant was back in Watertown, where he once again put himself at odds with the law. That year, he became involved with Cardin Drabston, one of his father’s servants, and she became pregnant. A grand jury in Watertown indicted Grant for fornication in 1678, but the charges did not stop there. “Drabston,” the account goes on to say, “brought forth a child into the world on the 30th of June last, which was murdered & kept five dayes & then buried.” Though the magistrates did not implicate Grant in the infanticide, they did charge him with concealing it. He pled not guilty, and officials soon acquitted him of the most serious charges — though it remains likely he suffered another public whipping. Grant died in 1692, just short of his fiftieth birthday.

Excerpt from Grant’s second indictment for fornication. Reprinted in Records of the Court of assistants of the colony of the Massachusetts bay, 1630–1692. Boston. 1901.

As for Crouch, the years immediately following her indictment were equally fraught with drama. A year removed from the birth of her first child, she again faced charges of fornication after a second pregnancy came to light. In the Charlestown Church Records, a listing exists, dated March 13, 1670. It reads: “This church, having heard the case of Sarai Crouch, referring to her sin of fornication With Thomas Jones, voted that she should be excomunicated for [persisting] so impenitently, incorrigibly in sin, while under censure for that committed March 21. 1669.” This time, Crouch did not refute that Jones was the father. Though the Church planned to excommunicate her, it decided to defer final judgment until after the delivery of her child. Ultimately, it left the door open for her return to the congregation, assuming she properly repented. This likely had something to do with a subsequent file, which can also still be found in the records of the Middlesex County Court.

Petition of Mr. and Mrs. Crouch. MA Supreme Judicial Court, division of Archives and Records. MA State Archives, Boston.

In an undated petition, likely written before Crouch’s April 1670 court date, her parents argued that her second fornication offense occurred amid extenuating circumstances. She and Jones “were lawfully published and firmly promised with the consent of [her] parents 3 months before this act was done.” The match had apparently upset Jones’s sister. She was “very angry and went up to [their] father and set him so against [Thomas] that he turned him out of doors and would not grant him no more to be his child.” The Crouch family, hoping to obtain a proper blessing, had advised the lovers to wait for approval before committing to marriage. Three months later, Jones’s father remained unrelenting. “Thomas hearing of it was much troubled and came to our house,” wrote Crouch’s parents, but nobody “was there but Sarah.” During this time, Jones “did overcome her to commit this act and after he had done it he was so troubled in his mind, and with his sister persuading him, he went away to sea.” After months working in Barbados, Jones was “so anguished” he decided to come back and marry Crouch with or without his parents’ blessing. The pair married and had five children over the next nine years.

After Jones died in 1679, Crouch married a man named Thomas Stanford. Together, they had at least nine additional children, securing her position as an early colonial ancestor for thousands of future Americans. More than a happy ending to a life otherwise defined by trauma, Sarah Crouch’s productive marriages offer an alternative view on the nature of our national origins. Americans with deep roots in Massachusetts descend not only from the morally righteous denizens of John Winthrop’s famed “city upon a hill,” but also from flawed and ordinary people — many of whom were unrepentantly themselves and often paid the price for it.

Daniel Crown writes about history and books. Follow him on Twitter @crown_dan

A Note on Sources

The material in this article is drawn and quoted directly from original depositions found in Folio 52 of the Middlesex County Court Records (except where noted). I obtained these documents on microfilm through I’d like to thank Elizabeth Bouvier, Head of Archives at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, for helping me isolate the files I needed. I first encountered the story of Crouch v. Grant through a brief mention in the essay “Puritans and Sex” by Edmund Morgan and later again in Roger Thompson’s Sex in Middlesex: Popular Mores in Massachusetts County, 1649–1699. Though these works served as roadmaps to key sources, I referred only to my own transcriptions of the original colonial-era chicken scratch when piecing together my narrative. In the process, I found unpublished testimony — most notably from Sarah Largin and Samuel Church — which provides new insight into how Sarah Crouch spent the months leading up to her trial, as well as the circumstances surrounding her marriage to Thomas Jones. Other primary sources included The Records of the Court of Assistants of Massachusetts Bay, The Record-Book of the First Church in Charlestown, and The General Laws and Liberties of the Massachusetts Colony: Revised & Reprinted.

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

Jared Kushner’s First Hundred Days

Fri, 2017-04-28 12:30
It’s just like a season finale.Image: Carles Beliver

Because JARED and IVANKA straddle the millennial and Generation X divide, they love to host parties whenever seasons of their favorite television shows end. IVANKA thought it would be cute to host a season finale party to commemorate her father’s first hundred days in office. She and JARED invited all of their New York friends, though quickly dwindling in number, to their D.C. home.

The doorbell rings. It’s seat fillers IVANKA has paid so the party appears crowded. One of the seat fillers is wearing a t-shirt that reads “I hate Mondays” and another is wearing one, in Stanford colors, that reads “Smartass University.”

IVANKA: Go over there. [Ivanka gestures to her fainting couch, enlivened with gold balloons with the words ‘100 days’ printed on them.] You can eat, but ensure your faces are clean before the guests arrive. [She hands the two seat fillers baby wipes, and then presses her temples so hard that she grimaces slightly.]

[JARED enters. He notices the marks in the flooring, the marks that STEVE BANNON made when he tried dragging the fainting couch to the Potomac River. He calls over one of the waiters, points to a rug on the other side of the room, and demonstrates pulling it over to this side of the room. The waiter shakes his head, points to IVANKA and then mock cuts his throat.]

IVANKA [happily]: I don’t want them making changes unless I’ve signed off on them. The marks on the floor will remind me to micromanage you, and they will remind you that you have failed.

JARED [unhappily]: What time do we get to go back to New York?

IVANKA [putting on surgical gloves]: Go to New York whenever you feel. You know the arrangement.

JARED [trying his damnedest to remember the arrangement, but every time he is able to conjure a bit of it, the memory dissolves]: I thought this was over, like when Don comes up with the Coke ad while he is losing his mind in California. And then he goes back home to New York. I thought this was that?

IVANKA [adjusting the shoulders of one of the seat fillers]: That’s a series finale. This is the season finale. We are killing off —

JARED [perfunctorily]: Bannon?

IVANKA [matter of factly]: No. We have to keep him on staff until right before the 2020 election. Firing him will persuade college educated white people that we are pivoting. And so they will return home to us.

[STEVE BANNON is upstairs, sleeping. He is snoring so loudly that the seat fillers have asked each other whether a wild animal, a bear, maybe a monster, is constrained somewhere. They discuss escape routes, if it comes to that.]

IVANKA [powerfully]: We are killing off taxes.

[The door bell rings again. This time it’s JARED’s brother JOSH, a venture capitalist, and his girlfriend KARLIE KLOSS, a famous model. They’re wearing cool clothes and sunglasses even though it’s raining. They’re talking about how they are Democrats and how anyone who voted for IVANKA’s dad is literally the devil. Like a devil person who stands for the National anthem and who believes that granola is a health food.]

IVANKA [to JOSH and KARLIE]: Hello girls. [IVANKA goes in to air kiss JOSH but instead walks past him.]

KARLIE: Just FYI I’m only here because Josh said you built a really nice yoga studio in your subterranean addition. I doubted him because how could there be natural light in a basement, but here we are. [KARLIE takes a selfie, adjusts the filter and tags #antifa.] It’s really dangerous how your administration produces everything like it’s a television show.

[KARLIE goes downstairs to salute the sun bathed in artificial light. JARED tries impressing his brother by showing him their sophisticated projector, which is airing the NBA playoffs on the large blank wall.]

IVANKA [from her fainting couch]: Your brother doesn’t care about that. Pitch him.

JARED [obediently]: It’s Craigslist but for —

JOSH [genuinely but while entering his last meal on MyFitnessPal app]: How are you?

JARED [disarmed because someone asked him how he is]: No one is going to come to this party.

JOSH [in troubleshooting mode]: Who else did you invite?

JARED [counting on his fingers]: Mindy Kaling, Tom Hanks, Senator Gillibrand, the girl who sings Rehab.

JOSH: Jared, those are all Democrats. And Amy Winehouse has been dead for like five years. [JOSH points to the NBA playoffs.] You should be showing a NASCAR race or something. You’re a Republican now. You should’ve invited like Karlie’s friend Taylor or Eli Manning maybe. Who do we know who hunts?

JARED [whispering but exaggerating]: My life is a nightmare.

JOSH: Download MyFitnessPal.

JARED: We don’t have to lose weight though.

JOSH [mentoring]: Big bro, you have to get better at hacking reality. If I’ve learned anything working in venture capital, it’s that. [JOSH takes JARED’s phone.] Is your password still fuckchuck?

[JOSH types ‘fuckchuck’ into JARED’s app store, and tosses the phone back. JARED wants to hack reality — he really does — but he has never been an athlete and so he drops his phone, cracking its screen. IVANKA sighs audibly from the other side of the room, yells that her husband can’t catch, and procures a fresh phone from her enormous bag.]

JOSH [powering on JARED’s new phone, and then doing everything all over again]: Trust me. I’ve dated a lot of girls with eating disorders and it’s never about losing weight. It’s about control. Now you can watch my meals. Watch me be in control and that’ll remind you to be in control.

JARED [gesturing to Steph Curry, projected onto his wall]: Why do you think he does that with his mouth guard all the time?

JOSH: You’re looking at it all wrong. Who gives a fuck about the mouth guard? He’s a tiny basketball player. He hacked his own system. Like you are going to. More like Steph. Less like Jared. Say it back to me.

[IVANKA is still reclining on her fainting couch. She is bouncing ideas off the waiter, assessing how he reacts when she says that next season’s arcs include rumors that Justice Kennedy is retiring, and a trade war with Canada over kayaks and Tim Hortons.]

JARED: It’s just I thought we got to move home after today.

JOSH [wisely]: What’s home even? Like where we grew up? [JOSH holds up his phone to JARED’s face.] This is where we live, big bro. We are globalists. We carry our homes with us everywhere we go. In our pockets.

JARED [while texting his mother that JOSH arrived safely]: Thanks for coming down, brother. I really appreciate it.

JOSH [reasonably]: I’m here because we are both rich. Plutocrats stick together. Never forget that, brother. Now, where in the hell is Gary Cohn? I’m raising another round.

[Convinced that every single person has something to teach him, a lesson he gleaned from a business book he bought at the Acela news stand this morning, JOSH approaches the seat fillers to make small talk with them.]

JOSH [to JARED]: Where did you find these girls?

JARED: It’s what I was telling you before. Craigslist, but exclusively for human trafficking.

IVANKA [from her fainting couch]: Jared, please unspeak that, and then reframe.

JOSH [excitedly, like he orchestrated a discounted share sale in an early round of financing]: Tatiana got into all eight Ivies.

TATIANA, SEAT FILLER #1: And Stanford.

JOSH: And this awful t-shirt is made from the detritus that commercial fishing operations accumulate in their nets.

TATIANA, SEAT FILLER #1 [actually pitching]: We are nearly dolphin safe.

JOSH [lying]: Venture capital has taught me to wring out bias from all my decisions. That’s why I struck up a conversation with your seat filler. And hired her. [JOSH mentors TATIANA, SEAT FILLER #1.] You’ll start Harvard next year. Malia is doing that too.

KARLIE [reemerging from her practice, and feeling refreshed and calm until she hears STEVE BANNON snoring one floor up]: What the fuck is going on up there? It sounds like a wounded animal fighting a second, more wounded animal. Let’s go, Josh.

JOSH: Karlie’s right. I need to call Malia’s dad about speaking at my fund. [JOSH and KARLIE make out and then leave.] Remember, Jared. More like Steph, less like you.

[JARED texts Justice Neil Gorsuch and some Congressional Republicans and asks them if they’d like to commemorate the first one hundred days of Trump by watching a stock car race. IVANKA texts her dad that trade war with Canada is market testing well.]

Jared Kushner’s First Hundred Days was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Stranger of the Week

Fri, 2017-04-28 11:56
L train, Below the East RiverIllustration by Forsyth Harmon

A large and shallow, buttercup-yellow box, wider than a pizza box, bearing, in neat black letters along one side, the words “KERRI MEMORIES.” This was your lap’s cargo, as you rode the eastbound L train to Brooklyn on a Monday evening. Where were you taking them? To Kerri? Would she want them? It was egregious, this big bright box. It would have been better if the box were gray or black. Then I might not even have noticed you, with your sad eyes and plump moustache and belly — a man of divorceable age.

The sunshine color seemed so cruel, a kind of travesty of sadness, and I thought this even before I noted, with a misplaced guilt, that it was the same color as my wedding dress. While there, resting vast in your arms, were what I thought must be manifestations of your maybe-ex-wife. Letters from Kerri, photographs of Kerri, ticket stubs and trinkets. All the pocket-softened vestiges of you and Kerri, Kerri and you. I will never know who Kerri is, and you will never not-know.

I looked away. A quick, ridiculous vision: everyone in New York going about the city carrying an unwieldy box in a pretty color, labelled with the name of their foremost pain. Decreed by bland, bluff de Blasio — himself a box-faced sort of guy. One box per person, to be carried at all times. Shades of lavender and rose and mint green, like macarons or lingerie. Women setting them neatly in their laps to eat a glum sandwich on a park bench. Men slung against a subway pole, hoiking them up under their arms with a mild glance down at the label, as if they didn’t know what it said, as if it weren’t the one thing they couldn’t forget.

I was sitting next to you, compacted, and it didn’t feel right that someone should be thinking all this of you, or that you and your Kerri memories should be right there visible at my left knee. My companion, standing at the rail in front of me, swaying a bit as we hurtled beneath the East River, texted me a zoomed-in photograph of your label. I texted back “:(“ , then I looked up and we each made a small sadface, a real one, to each other.

A moment later, it was show time — a river crossing’s worth of circus — and you whipped out your phone and began filming, leaning forward over KERRI MEMORIES so as to get a better shot of the guys spinning their bodies with all that extraordinary every-day athleticism. I watched them in miniature on your screen and wondered what you were going to do with this video. Where does any of it go— the big yellow boxes and the digital files.

When the dancers finished you didn’t stop filming. Instead you wheeled your phone steadily, fingers and thumbs in a taut frame around its corners, to the smiles and relenting applause of the people opposite. You looked dogged as you filmed them, as though this were a military maneuver, as though, in some way, you felt it to be a thing on which your life depended.

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

The Punch

Fri, 2017-04-28 11:06
Notes on life

Liana Finck’s cartoons appear in The New Yorker and on Catapult. She posts her drawings on Instagram.

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

A Hundred Days Later

Fri, 2017-04-28 10:58
A reflection in versePhoto: Tricia

Give or take a day or two a hundred days have passed
And every single second’s somehow sadder than the last
You try to laugh, you try to joke, you try to disappear
But nothing takes you out of it: The horror’s always here
The world won’t let you look away, there’s nowhere you can hide
The anger’s out there on the street, the terror’s there inside
It isn’t just an awful dream, this thing you can’t ignore
Even poems don’t help, so I won’t do this anymore


Thirteen Weeks Later

Twelve Weeks Later

Eleven Weeks Later

Ten Weeks Later

Nine Weeks Later

Eight Weeks Later

Seven Weeks Later

Six Weeks Later

Five Weeks Later

Four Weeks Later

Three Weeks Later

Two Weeks Later

Seven Days Later

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

Inoyama Land, “Glass Chaim” (Pedro Vian Edit)

Fri, 2017-04-28 09:20
What was that about?Photo: Ron Coleman

Did this week make any sense to you? Or did you spend it in a constant state of incredulity, not quite believing what you saw but not exactly surprised by it either? Did you stare at your screen and shout out loud, “Why are you like this? Who told you you have to be like this?” Did you spend more time than you needed to wondering why everyone on social media doesn’t hate themselves as much as you? (Hate them and yourself?) Did every single thing that happened make you feel like you and the world were constantly moving alongside each other in an endless dance marathon of crazy? Well, I have three bits of good news for you: 1) You’re not alone. 2) You were right to feel that way. 3) The week is almost over. As for what the future holds, let’s just hold onto “the week is almost over” for as long as we can, because, well, oh boy. Now here’s something pretty that I hope you will enjoy.

Inoyama Land, “Glass Chaim” (Pedro Vian Edit) was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

New York City, April 26, 2017

Thu, 2017-04-27 17:32

★ Plant matter had clogged the drain in the middle of the plaza, leaving a deep sheet of water for unwary commuters heading out. The returning rain was no more than annoying. It went away again, leaving humid but tolerable walking conditions, save for treacherous leaking from scaffolds. Later, in search of one last way to be mildly unpleasant, the moisture would gather into a hard-blown drizzle.

New York City, April 26, 2017 was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Crabs Carpet Cuban Carpaths

Thu, 2017-04-27 17:30
It’s like ‘Planet Earth’ but with classic cars.Image: AdrianAt dawn and dusk they emerge, scuttling sideways toward the sea, climbing up house walls and carpeting the coastal road that curves around the bay. The stench of crushed crab fills the air and their sharp shells puncture car tires.

As cars speed by, some swerving to avoid the 10-legged crustaceans, the cracks of carapaces zing through the air.

Someone had a lot of fun writing this. Click!

Crabs invade Cuba's Bay of Pigs

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

Ten Things That Have Come Out Of My Mouth About The “Ten Bands” Thing On Facebook

Thu, 2017-04-27 14:16
One of them is a lie.

1. Wow that ten bands I have seen one’s a lie thing is so weird I don’t really get it and I don’t want to and even thinking about it makes me wish I was born like 10,000 years ago.

2. Every time I see that someone I know has done this meme I read the words/names of bands and feel like someone just wrapped my entire head in gauze and I am floating in space but not in a fun science fiction way or even a wow life is a strange hard journey Gravity way, more like the way in which space is vast and impersonal and if I screamed into it “Why is this ten bands thing even a thing?” no one would hear me.

3. Wait, I’m supposed to just know, based on the force of all of your amazing, unique personalities, which band you listed that you actually never saw? Is that it? I don’t know if I understand the feelings or insights that would go with making an assessment about Which Band You Have Not Seen.

4. Thanks for explaining it to me. I am sorry I fell dead asleep while you were talking. Please don’t take it personally. Do you have any Bourbon?

5. Ok. Here goes. “Journey, Fleetwood Mac, Die Antwoord, The Dixie…” — Oh my God I just had a terrible dream that I was doing the list but that wasn’t the worst part — the worst part was I was actually still alive.

6. What about this meme: “Ten photos of elderly blue heelers, in a 100 mile radius from Nevada City, CA, sent to me by Pet Finder, which are actually obviously mostly Pit Bull — one of them is actually mostly Blue Heeler?” Who wants to play that?

7. Can’t you just tell me which band you didn’t see?

8. Could it be that my moment of maximum internet hatred arrived?

9. Is Iggy Pop going to run a Masterclass on coming up with your perfect “foil” band? Should I attend and see if these type of posts no longer make me want to take my own life? If Iggy Pop sings a song in the class, might I add him to my potential nine “actually seen” concerts? Or should I plug my ears so as to not unnecessarily shorten my list of potential “no not really folks, lol” bands?

10. When people write, “Alright, I’ll play!” are they generally feeling resignation or excitement? Why are more people writing this phrase before this meme than other ones? Is it like “Alright, I’ll play, that sounds fun?” or “Alright, I’ll play, the world now officially blows hard enough for me to engage in this idiocy?”

Anyway, I didn’t really say one of these things. Can you tell which one it is?

Ten Things That Have Come Out Of My Mouth About The “Ten Bands” Thing On Facebook was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

1,001 Birdhouses for $10,000

Thu, 2017-04-27 13:40
The story behind an unusual Craigslist postingA view of Jaason’s collection

The definition of ‘outsider art’ is a loaded one. It is broad enough to include art by autodidacts, art by the institutionalized, and contemporary ‘folk art’ by communities that don’t slot neatly into The Met’s indigenous categories. Sometimes, it’s art that looks more like crafts.

If you’ve been to Hudson, New York (you know, upstate) you’ve seen the art of Earl Swanigan, the town’s outsider artist in residence. Earl literally sells his art outside, lining the sidewalk with flat planes of anthropomorphized animals on repurposed construction boards. And though he is now listed on Artsy and 1stdibs (with the outsider angle played up, of course) a better metric of Earl’s success is that Hudson simply wouldn’t feel like Hudson without him.

Outsider art couldn’t exist without insider art, or art deemed worthy of art criticism. (For a crash course in that, see Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word.) Vulture critic Jerry Saltz calls the outsider label an “outmoded discrimination.” You might have heard the sad story of Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook’s untimely death at 47 in 2016. Pootoogook, winner of Canada’s Sobey Art Award for young artists, depicted the realities of contemporary Inuit life. If she was considered an outsider, it was only because her community has been forced to the social margins. Writing of Pootoogook in 2006, Toronto-based critic David Balzer said that the association of Pootoogook with the outsider cannon was “an often cynical and exploitative designation that could belittle the legitimacy of her talent.”

I resent the term outsider and wish we had something better to describe art made outside the slick cogs of the art industry, the workings of which most Americans won’t be exposed to in their lifetime.

A year ago, I decided that if I wanted to understand how the average person views art I should look to the Craigslist arts+crafts listings. I’ve spent many hours scrolling through baskets of yarn, carved table legs, and muddy impressionist landscapes. So I certainly sat up and took notice when I saw Heikki Jaason’s listing of 1,001 miniature birdhouses for $10,000.

A screenshot of Jaason’s Craigslist listingJaason’s artist statement.

Jaason is Estonian-Canadian and created the collection in his thirties. He’s exhibited it at two galleries, View in Old Forge, New York in 2015 and Capacity 3 Gallery in Guelph, Ontario from 2015 into 2016. Each house has a theme, ranging from Tim Horton’s to Dog Hair. These 1,001 themes are compiled in a single document. I reached Jaason by phone to talk about the scale of his undertaking and whether he’s really ready to part with it.

Where were you when you undertook this project, and over how long of a period?

HJ: I was living on a farm in Ontario. The dwelling that I had there was quite small, it was about 400 square feet. I guess you could call it a tiny home. I just fixed it up when I bought the farm then I lived there for a couple years and it’s currently rented out. It was a good chance to experience life on a smaller scale with a smaller footprint, and I realized how little space we really need to get by. That sort of inspired me on some level to create a really small birdhouse collection. I think it was over the course of a couple of months that I got to 606 pieces and then I took a year off or so to go to Europe and when I came back I ended up completing the remaining pieces to get to 1,001.

A dollar for scale

What is your vocation? I know that is a loaded question.

HJ: I’ve done lots of different things, most recently I was teaching for quite a while as an elementary teacher and then prior to that I was working as a university administrator for a number of years. I’ve been back and forth through school pursuing different degrees of interest and studied in Europe for a couple of years. I just enjoy being in a learning environment and I really thrive on having a lot of variety in my life so I like to pursue things for as long as I am inspired by them. When I started doing this art project it just sort of evolved organically.

Were any of those degrees in art?

HJ: No. My mother studied art formally and has done an incredible amount of painting. My uncle (her brother) had a gallery in Soho where he focused on American Primitive Art. So I’ve been exposed to this idea of “outsider art.” I don’t consider myself an artist, but I think I’ve created something that people would consider art and it challenges the definition of who an artist is and what art is. Maybe when I end up selling it I’ll think of myself a little bit differently.

How did you decide on birdhouses? You really committed to birdhouses for a while there.

HJ: I think so many of us have experience building a birdhouse and it’s really accessible for people. I built a larger house and then I built a couple of miniature ones and once I found a source for reclaimed materials I thought it was a great chance for a more ambitious project. It was just the creative outlet I needed at that period in my life so I would devote an hour or two in the evenings, and then once I settled on a larger number I became a little more obsessive. I was getting a lot of positive feedback from friends and family and other people who had seen it and that encouraged me to continue, for better or worse.

A bird house on a bird house

It would be great to sell it at this point. It would be great validation for what I’ve accomplished, though it’s a little sad to part with something you put so much time and energy into. But as long as I’m holding onto it, I’m still compelled at times to create a few more. Then it will start getting larger and it will become another obsession so it will be nice to wrap everything up and have everything finished and move on to the next thing.

So you went to Home Depot like “give me all your scraps!”

HJ: No, I was fixing up my farm and I noticed they had these little shims under the lumber they sell and I would see them on the floor. They said they just end up recycling them or turning them into mulch so I asked if I could have a couple. I knew another place in the area that was a roofing company that had lots of scraps so I just started grabbing stuff from there. It was just an assembly line construction at one point.

I was really interested by your tongue-in-cheek artist’s statement. Did you study other artist’s statements to write that?

HJ: Often times people will ask what my background in art is, implying that I needed to have a background in art in order to do this, or for people to take my work seriously. I always try to avoid answering that question. I recognize that I’m really perfectionist about some things, and maybe that’s an example of taking things too seriously, but when I look at how people talk about fashion or art I think they are often taking it too seriously. With anyone that creates things, the objective is to get it in front of as many people as possible so people can appreciate it or be inspired by it. My birdhouses are a very superficial collection in that there is no real deep message. It’s more just something to look at. I threw a lot of buzzwords into that statement.

Do you have a favorite theme that you came up with for the houses?

HJ: If I could keep a handful for myself, I wouldn’t have a problem picking out a bunch. When someone comes along and wants to view the collection, I’m always excited to see pieces I forgot I created. People have asked about buying single pieces, and while it was exciting that they were interested I was reluctant to sell them individually because I see value in the whole collection.

A sampling of Jaason’s birdhouse themes

People would have their favorites, and I would hate to sell the favorites and have others left behind. It’s a fairly broad set of themes. When I display them I display the child-focused themes on the lower shelves so that kids can see them. And there are some that have more mature themes (like Playboy) so I put those higher up. I really hope someone comes along with a good idea for displaying it, it will help pay for life.

Life is so expensive. How long have you been considering selling this? How did you come up with the price?

HJ: I think I had it listed on Craigslist a couple of times. It expires so quickly and I’m not actively selling it. Craigslist is simple. I mean, it’s not a place to sell art. I asked different people about the price and what they think it might be worth and I got a whole range of suggestions so I decided on 10,000, essentially $10 per piece.

“I decided on $10 per piece”

How many inquiries have you gotten via Craigslist?

HJ: Maybe 20 or 30 I think the price probably weeds out people who aren’t serious about it.

Would you ever do a project like this again?

HJ: I’d certainly consider it. It depends on how this one ends. I’ve wrapped it up really well, everything is documented, everything is spellchecked everything is fixed and in good order and stored away so it can sit there for years in those boxes and nothing will happen to them. I still have a lot of loose ends right now in my life so it will be nice to get things wrapped up.

Would it upset you if I told you I found a typo in your document?

HJ: Yeah, it would upset me a little bit—not a lot. I went through it painstakingly. If there is something you found, I wonder if it’s a British vs. American spelling.

No no, I know all about that.

HJ: Well I would love to know so I can fix it.

Page 2 column 3

HJ: I’m impressed that you found that.

I’m very thorough. Do you feel like you have closure on this project?

HJ: I do.

So is part of listing this on Craigslist kind of like sounding a yawp into the universe that it exists?

HJ: I think that’s exactly it. I keep a very low profile on the Internet– hence, Craigslist. Maybe if I was on Twitter it would be easier to be picked up or liked or whatever happens there. I’m confident that there is at least one person out there that would love to have this and I’m not in a hurry at this point to find that person so if it happens, or when it happens, it will happen.

But you kind of don’t want to find them either.

HJ: Yeah, I’m sort of torn.

This interview has been condensed. You can get in touch with Heikki Markus Jaason at

1,001 Birdhouses for $10,000 was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

I’m So Fucking Sick Of Food

Thu, 2017-04-27 12:57
Why aren’t you?Image: U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud

According to Bloomberg, it’s taking over my life:

All these stories are part of the same phenomenon. As my colleague Tyler Cowen recently wrote, food — and, I would add, the business of food — has become central to contemporary culture. Filling a primal physical need turns out to be a perfect match for the digital age. The question is why.

I don’t really care why, because it’s pretty obvious: food is a human universal, so basically everything that humans have come up with to focus their energies on as a distraction before death (entertainment, television, socialization, gossip, news, retail, business, technology, photography, health, fitness, etc.) has an application to food. I mean really, just look at this tweetstorm. Food touches everything, and everything touches food.

I have always loved food for its absurdity. Everyone talks about food like “food is ephemeral.” No, not really—food doesn’t go away when you eat it. Food goes through your gut, where it gets leeched for nutrients, and then turned into literal shit. We are not open enough about this: food is a fucking tragicomedy. You literally ruin food with your body. What a powerfully gross thought! Humans are just CRUSHING bacon and unicorn milkshakes left and right. We don’t talk enough about what a disgusting miracle food is. I love it.

But I’m also really fucking sick of it. When I worked at The New Yorker, I used to write restaurant reviews for the teeny tiny section at the front of the book called “Tables For Two.” It was a great gig because I got to dabble in “the food scene,” which in 2009 was HOPPIN’. My colleagues and I were constantly bantering about have-you-tried-this and you-should-go-here. (I understand that “restaurants” are a non-distinct spoke on the Great Wheel of Food, but bear with me here.) Our boss would always look at us like we were aliens for obsessing over this stuff. Shouldn’t young people be out doing drugs and having sex and going to rock ’n’ roll shows? No, we explained. THIS is our sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. Chefs are our rockstars, bespoke cocktails our drugs, and gut-busting meals our sex.

But like all cultural obsessions, the novelty wears off. I don’t really care about chefs qua chefs beyond the fact of them being interesting or captivating people, and restaurants close for zillions of reasons that almost never have to do with whether the food is good. Every restaurant and TV chef has a cookbook, and every cult donut has an Instagram. It’s all so symbolic and notional. We’ve gone through so many taste and trend cycles and frankly I’m feeling a bit nauseated. If I had more time and energy I would make you a chart of all the phases, like bacon and bourbon, and tacos and banh mi, and so on. And yes, I know: it was ever thus—there have always been food trends. Short ribs were long over by the time I moved to New York. But isn’t there something a little hopeless and desperate about literally dyeing food in rainbow colors? Have we run out of possibilities and combinations that we now have to make our food seem technicolor and otherworldly? We’ve turned food into an economic consumption item, and food-as-product is developing at an exponential rate.

Trends like “clean eating” and “eating raw” and products like Soylent obviously come from a place of wanting to change how we eat, which unfortunately isn’t really all that hackable—the body wants what it wants and needs what it needs to survive. Humans evolved to like hot, cooked food, and animal proteins (arguably both things that made humans what they are today). But that doesn’t mean they have to or even should, because the path of evolution is neither a value judgment nor a proscription. Deciding how and what to eat has become a real fucking downer, and I guess I applaud people trying to come up with solutions for having any hope, but I’m not convinced there’s only one religion when it comes to food.

Ultimately food will always haunt us, now that we know enough about it to discuss it and analyze it and manipulate it to death. How do you get kids to eat X? How do you make sure you get enough Y? Why is organic Z so expensive? Food is the ultimate modern topic—it’s practically a divinity (also itself a food). It is humanity’s albatross. We are doomed to wonder about food as long as we shall live and this is what makes us human. I’m sick of food, which is not to say that I’ve lost my joy for it; it’s just that I’ve lost my joy for your joy for it.

I’m So Fucking Sick Of Food was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Khachaturian’s ‘Masquerade Suite’ Will Drive You Insane (In A Good Way)

Thu, 2017-04-27 11:31
Classical Music Hour with FranImage: iClassical Com

Back in December (remember December? I don’t), longtime friend of the column and Brooklyn-based filmmaker and writer Caroline von Golum sent me an email with some listening recommendations, including but not limited to Khachaturian’s Masquerade Suite. Do you know Khachaturian? You almost certainly do, because it’s likely that at one point in time, your middle school/high school/local pops orchestra/an old film/childhood cartoons/something else subjected you to Sabre Dance. “Ohhhhh,” you’re saying now, but don’t feel bad, because that was my only reference point for Khachaturian for far too long.

Aram Khachaturian was born in 1903 in present-day Georgia to an Armenian family. He’s the most famous and widely celebrated Armenian composer, though he did almost all of his work in the Soviet Union and is largely acknowledged as one of the most prominent Soviet composers, along with our two old friends Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Khachaturian was also regularly praised by the Soviet government, and he held the position of the Secretary of the Union of Soviet Composers until his death in 1978. (“Hmmmmmm, is this a good or bad thing?” I asked myself while reading, and I still do not know the answer to the question.)

As I said above, the work in question this week is his Masquerade Suite for which I’m referencing this recording by the R.C.A. Victor Symphony Orchestra in 1958. No Bernstein? No, shut up. This is one of the best recordings of this suite. So, sorry, anyway: the Masquerade Suite was written to correspond with a play by the same name by Mikhail Lermontov, which, for lack of a better metaphor, is basically like the Russian version of Othello. A rebellious spirit in high society who winds up murdering his wife for a bad reason. Damn, I love when violence against women is a major plot point in a character’s self-discovery. :)

Anyway, a frame of knowledge of the play version of Masquerade isn’t too necessary beyond the first movement of the suite, the Waltz. The Waltz is most often played on its own from this suite because, well, as you’ll grasp from the opening seconds, it really stands for itself. It’s weighty, boisterous, and energetic; it’s a heavy and borderline militaristic waltz. There’s a line in the play from Nina, the soon-to-be murdered wife, when she hears this waltz: “How beautiful the new waltz is! … something between sorrow and joy gripped my heart.” Which was a challenge to hear and conceptualize, you can imagine, if you’re a creative type. You have to write something that corresponds to a line that you’ve created a new and brilliant thing, as if the stakes aren’t already high enough. What we do get, in fact, is something that does waffle between sorrow and joy. We know it’s a waltz, obviously, from name alone and the sound of it, but it isn’t a free-spirited or particularly joyful dance. I’m loosely reminded of the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony here, which boldly combines folk music with a slightly more modern energy.

Its following movement, Nocturne, dips into the serene, featuring a prominent violin solo. This is an all-around beautiful piece of music: wistful and pristine, with a clear and rich melody. Listen around the 1:54 mark when the French horn backs the violin providing colorful support to the core theme. Nocturnes, at large, of course, are inspired by night (“Fucking duh,” you’re hissing at me; look, I know), and this movement of the suite serves as the most soothing as it edges into dusk.

Nice try, though, if you think you’re heading into something else calm and composed because then we have the Mazurka. A mazurka is a Polish folk dance in a triple meter with strong accents placed either on the second or third beats. What this means, in layman’s terms, is, okay, bear with me: A waltz is a dance in a triple meter with the accent placed on the first beat. OOM-pah-pah, OOM-pah-pah, in vaguest terms, is what a waltz sounds like. If you’ve forgotten, just go back to the first movement here and you’ll catch it. So a mazurka puts those heavy accents on a different beat: oom-PAH-pah or oom-pah-PAH. What the hell? Correct. Think of a mazurka as kind of a deranged waltz, and well, then you’ve got this third movement in the Masquerade Suite.

Not unlike Copland’s Rodeo Suite — a five-movement piece of music that alternates between dances and slower pieces — Masquerade Suite’s fourth movement is a Romance. And what a romance it is for me, mainly, because there’s a gorgeous melody from the cellos around the 40-second mark that I just love. The Romance feels as if though it has a bit higher stakes to this movement than, say, the Nocturne, peaceful and slow. This has the drama to it — the wailing strings, the pleading woodwinds. He kills his wife in the play, remember? Okay, that’s enough.

And then, Masquerade Suite and Khachaturian have the sheer fucking audacity to go out on a Galop, a dance named for — I bet you can guess without me telling you but — a gallop. I’ll be honest: I got to this movement and I immediately burst out laughing and restarted it over. It’s so jarring and strange and unhinged. What???? Is this??? I was like, oh, of course this guy wrote Sabre Dance. Everything of his has that tinge of madness clearly present in Sabre Dance. If you’ve listened to this whole suite wondering where some really wild brass parts have been, let me tell you, this is your movement. It’s a wooden rollercoaster of a piece. A rodeo clown. So deliberately funny and wild. Imagine some clapping emojis here: listen to those crash cymbals. I love it! And then midway through, it all disappears as the clarinet and then the flute creep through for one final refrain before the melody bursts back in again. It’s the kind of suite I want to shove in the face of someone who still manages to pretend classical music is dull. Every part of the Masquerade Suite is as wild and evocative as music ought to be.

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

Khachaturian’s ‘Masquerade Suite’ Will Drive You Insane (In A Good Way) was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Superpitcher, “Howl”

Thu, 2017-04-27 09:29
When are you not howling at this point?Photo: Gene Han

Midway through the latest installment of Superpitcher’s ongoing Golden Ravedays project there is a good deal of howling that happens, so if you are listening somewhere in the presence of other people you might want to consider headphones for this one. Unless the other people around you are howling anyway, which, given everything that is going on these days, seems more likely than not. It’s all howls from here on out. Anyway, enjoy.

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

New York City, April 25, 2017

Wed, 2017-04-26 22:58

[No stars] The choppy wind sent the usually smooth downward flow of the fountain scattering sideways at erratic angles. The scaffolding company’s sign was half down and dangling. Downtown, fat white drops were blowing heavily enough outside the station exit to force a retreat under another scaffold. A few minutes later the rain was endurable, and for a while in the middle of the day it had stopped entirely. Eventually, though, it was pounding down again. The rush hour mist and rain blotted out the Freedom Tower so completely there was no way to get a good fix on where it was even supposed to have been. Uptown, umbrellas were turning inside out.

New York City, April 25, 2017 was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

What Do Germans Think of the Juicero?

Wed, 2017-04-26 14:25
Deutschland über us (now almost as strong as two human hands).Image: [martin]

Despite the recently accepted honor of most important country in the world, Germany is a small place. Geographically, it is not even the size of Montana; its population (80 million very stern people) is about twice the size of California. At the same time, German speakers are very obsessed with the news: in parts of Germany and all of Austria, for example, the $7 price of a cup of coffee at a Kaffeehaus is justified because patrons can sit and nurse that coffee for ten hours while they read literally every single page of every single newspaper to which the Kaffeehaus subscribes precisely for that purpose. The result? When they run out of their own news (which they always do), Germans and Austrians keep up with news from all over the world — even when (prepare to spit out your breakfast cupcakes, Amis) that news doesn’t necessarily concern them.

And this means that even in a week when the Head Debutante of the West Wing shows up at a German women’s event and touts her daddy’s agenda (and gets reacted to extremely appropriately), there is still space in the German press for the most pressing issue in the world. (That was a pun, which is a German’s favorite method of humor, which is why Heidegger is so hilarious.) And the reason for the employment of that pun (explaining jokes is a German’s second-favorite method of humor) is that the German press still managed to weigh in on a certain American press…a juice press, that is. (GET IT? TWO USES OF THE WORD “PRESS.”)

What, pray tell, does the Teutonic media have to say about a certain $400 wifi-enabled kitchen gadget, one that squeezes juice out of pre-packaged packages of slightly thicker juice, with a unit of force that only people in Silicon Valley are meant to understand (despite it sharing a name with an actual unit of scientific measurement that measures something entirely unrelated to fruit juice) — a unit that, it turns out, is roughly equivalent to slightly less than the gripping power of two journalist hands? HAS THE JUICERO MADE THE GERMAN NEWS? HAS IT? HAS IT? HAS IT?

The answer is ja! First let’s check out jetzt (“now”), a Cool Young People’s Blog operated by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, aka the New York Times of Germany.

Screengrab: JETZT

This headline translates, loosely, thus: “The hipster juice press is all out of juice,” with juice having the same double meaning here that it does in English, GET IT? Why they didn’t go with the double meaning of press, which is also the same in their language and given our own media’s evisceration of the contraption, don’t know, but there you have it. Literally what it says is closer to “[With] the hipster juice press, the juice is turned off,” which, if you say it to yourself in a thick German accent, is indeed very funny. The piece itself is, as German humor tends to be when not punning, sandpaper-dry:

Anyone who quickly checks their pocket calculator to see just how much a glass of this juice costs will probably come to the conclusion that even Til Schweiger’s Hamburg tap water (at EUR 4,20 a liter) is almost a bargain. On the other hand: Normal juice presses don’t have WiFi — the end-all be-all argument of the Juicero’s adherents.

The best things about this paragraph, other than its reference to a pocket calculator and sick burns on Tils, the ill-fated bottled water venture of sexy German actor-man Til Schweiger, is lost in translation: the German word for “juicer,” Entsafter (ent-ZOFT-ur) literally means “de-juicer,” which, of course, is much more accurate; and, even better, the German expression I’ve translated to “end-all be-all” is Totschlag-Argument (TOTE-shlog-ar-goo-MENT), the first word of which literally means “death blow,” something I am betting Juicero founder Doug Evans would like to deal to the valiant hand-squeezers at Bloomberg that first broke this story.

Meanwhile, the Osnabrücker Zeitung — the functioning local newspaper out of the small Saxon town of Osnabrück — dispenses with both subtlety and puns, and wonders, simply: “Is the Juicero juice press the most preposterous product of all time?”


The word I’ve translated as “preposterous” here is sinnlos, the primary meaning of which is “senseless,” which also happens to be the word Ludwig Wittgenstein uses at the end of the Tractatus logico-philosophicus to refer to all the propositions of philosophy, which he deems impossible to express in human language, rendering unto the entire discipline exactly the sort of futility one might grant the quest for fresh-pressed juice at a reasonable price.

That of which we cannot de-juice, we must drink over in silence. Image: public domain

The Osnabrücker may join the United States in the Fulbrightian exchange of mutual understanding and mockery of this device, but I think the Juicero could potentially crack the German market. Because Germans love juice.

They love juice so much that any full-grown adult can march to the bar of even the most debauched nightclub and order her grown-adult ass a glass of juice. What the bartender will gladly pour without batting an Auge comes from a tall bottle, the likes of which is available in an astounding variety of supergeilen flavors and colors from one’s local EDEKA, Aldi or Lidl. (The best of these flavors is the “healthy” Multivitaminsaft, or multi-vitamin juice, which is Sunny D for adults.)

This pic of Multivitaminsaft (IT’S HEALTHY) comes courtesy of the Association of the German Fruit Industry. Seriously.

All German juices are highly concentrated, and comparable in sugar content (added or natural) to your average Spider-Man sheet cake — which is to say, they are delicious, but not particularly refreshing, especially if one orders a single glass in an aforementioned establishment, and receives exactly one-fifth of a liter, in a little glass actually marked with a “0,2” and a line, to which the juice is filled to the millimeter. (METRIC SYSTEM.) This offering will provide the refreshment of a dose of DayQuil and cost $6.

So, what many Germans (and all Austrians) do to up both the quench quotient and value of their juices is spritz the everloving fuck out of everything. Traditional spritzing involves carbonated water, either bottled mineral water (which will cost another $7 but last a few more minutes) or seltzer, but one can also order a Kirschsaft auf ein halbes Liter Leitungswasser gespritzt (KERRSH-zoft owf ayn HOLB-us LEE-tur LIE-tungs VOSS-ur guh-SHPRIST), i.e. cherry juice “spritzed” with half a liter of tap water, the drink of choice of my Austrian buddy Michael, which I promptly coopted. During the summer months, all manner of alcohol is also gespritzt, especially in Austria, where the Weisser Spritzer (WHY-sur SHPRIT-sur), or white wine spritzer, is the de facto national drink.

All of this is to say that residents of the German speaking lands already have a cultural relationship to juice. HOWEVER. German speakers are also obsessed with natural health “remedies” of dubious proven worth, such as homeopathy, spa cures and shit-tons of direct sunlight. Fresh pressed juice, with its higher concentration of vitamins and nutrients (but same negligible concentration of fiber and hence sugar-bomb status), seems like the kind of thing Germans would be into. ARE THEY?

Evidence #1: The instagram feed of Frankfurt Fitnessblogger Florian Liebig (a.k.a. “Flooorrriii,” whose pronunciation is your guess as well as mine). Here, Flo shares both the recipe (sounds gross) and the results (“too much ginger”) of a recent glass of juice he made with his 104,000 followers. It has almost 4000 likes, which is unequivocal scientific evidence in favor of Team Saft.

Evidence #2: Berlin currently contains at least two dozen juice bars (one of which is called, amazingly, Funk You), which is still probably only 1/400th of its tanning parlors but surely outnumbers, say, the pay phone booths (RIP).

Screengrab: Google Maps

Evidence #3: Germans love expensive gadgets that do one thing, if they do that thing well: Every German kitchen has einen Wasserkocher, aka a “water-boiler,” or electric teakettle, whose water-boiling speed is their Audi to my 2000 Saturn (yes, I do drive a 2000 Saturn). Or Der Mixer, which is what Germans call a blender in their wonderful tradition of slightly-off appropriations of English. (Longdrinks=cocktails; Smoking=tuxedo jacket; Handy=mobile telephone, ha ha ha.) They even have their own somewhat Juicero-esque preferred maker of coffee: the Pads machine, which is sort of like a Keurig if it made delicious crema-style coffee instead of hot gravel swill.

As much, then, as Germans correctly retain a healthy skepticism of all things Silicon Valley (including Peter Thiel’s president and that guy’s lame liar daughter), I’m not a hundred Prozent convinced that their skepticism of this particular American press is warranted. All Doug Evans has to do is add a $700 wifi-enabled spritzing function.

What Do Germans Think of the Juicero? was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Let’s All Move To Alaska

Wed, 2017-04-26 13:27
They still have Blockbuster there.Image: hector e. balcazarThe stores’ survival has depended on aggressive real estate deals with landlords willing to offer short-term leases and reduced rent. It has required running the business “a lot differently” than Blockbuster ever did, avoiding what Payne calls “a contentious culture over late fees.” Unlike the old Blockbuster, Payne’s version never sends out invoices to customers for late fees; they are simply collected whenever they come into the store. But he has also refused to eliminate late fees entirely like Blockbuster did, a decision Payne calls the “final nail in the coffin.”Still, a great deal of the business’s endurance has come from the core customer base in Alaska, primarily made up of older people. Alaska ranks high in disposable income among the states, due to good-paying jobs, exceptionally low taxes and payments from reinvested oil savings. Moreover, Internet service is substantially more expensive than in most states, since most data packages are not unlimited. Heavy Netflix streamers could end up paying hundreds of dollars per month in Internet bills, Payne said.

Blockbuster has survived in the most curious of places - Alaska

The Washington Post spoke to Alan Payne, one of the last Blockbuster franchisees, and he he manages to make Alaska sound pretty appealing. The internet is still too expensive for Netflix, and the end of the week still means something. According to Payne, “more than half of Blockbuster’s revenue is generated during a six-hour period on Friday nights.” Doesn’t that sound magical? Remember metered internet connections, late fees, and checkout candy? Would you refresh Twitter as much if you had to pay for each pull?Who needs all those hours of light from the sun if you have the warm, fluorescent glow of the Blockbuster aisles, filled with peeling plastic-covered boxes of all the movies you currently have to pay to rent on iTunes anyway because Netflix’s streaming selection sucks so much? Just think of how much time we’d have for all the right things.

Let’s All Move To Alaska was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jonathan Demme, 1944–2017

Wed, 2017-04-26 11:54
And now he’s dead.

Jonathan Demme, who directed the greatest concert film of all time, as well as the best movie Melanie Griffith or Jeff Daniels ever appeared in (a close second for Ray Liotta to boot), has died. He also did some other movies but those are the two to watch again next. Demme was 73.

Jonathan Demme, 1944–2017 was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

What’s Your Best Misheard Lyric?

Wed, 2017-04-26 11:49
Concrete jungle wet dream tomatoImage: RK BentleyNatasha Vargas Cooper, writer

I thought Van Halen’s “Panama!” was “Animal!” And every time David Lee Roth said “Panama,” I thought it was “animal.” Cause why the fuck would there be a butt rock song about a tiny Central American country mostly known for effective infrastructure??? Animal makes more sense. It makes it a better song. I found this out within the last two years on Twitter. I’m not proud.

Logan Sachon, writer

My high school Latin teacher experienced a condition whereby he couldn’t understand song lyrics; it was like they were in another language. But he loved music, and his favorite song was “Nights in White Satin” by The Moody Blues. The song was dear to him because he understood it to be called “Knights in White Satin,” a phrase that made sense, he said, because medieval knights wore a tunic made of linen or silk under their armor. When he learned the song was about sex in a bed with satin sheets, he rejected the premise; for him, it remained a song about medieval warriors wearing silky undergarments. And for me now, too. Rentz, Merge publicist

Caribou, “Odessa”: The chorus is “She can sing, she can sing,” but in my office, we can’t stop hearing “Chicken steak, chicken steak, chicken steak.” I have now ruined the meaning of the song for everyone! And I am hungry.

Katie Heaney, author, senior editor of BuzzFeed

At the family dinner table when I was around 11 or 12 years old and my younger brother Joe was nine, he announced that he thought it was strange that his elementary school would allow Queen’s “We Will Rock You” to be played before a student pep rally. (I always envied his assigned seat at the end of our table, opposite my dad, because I felt like it lent itself to making pronouncements.) Everyone turned to look at him. “What?” “Why?” He scoffed. “I mean, it’s kind of an inappropriate song.” My dad was like, “Huh?” and the rest of us, even my brother Dan, who was seven, exchanged skeptical looks. “‘Waving your bladder all over the place’??” said Joe. “Pretty violent.” Anyone else among us would have been mortified to be corrected by the entire family at once, but Joe is and always has been the chillest among us.

Caryn Rose, writer and author

One day in the mid-’70s, my father comes home from work one day and is in the kitchen singing a song that sounds vaguely familiar. I have been music-crazy for almost as long as I can remember. So it was with a reasonable amount of confidence that I inquired, “Dad, what song is that you’re singing?”

“It’s this great song I heard on the radio: ‘Like A Greasy Bear.’” He bellowed the chorus: “Like a greasy bear, like a greasy bear.”

I am appalled at this error, the same sort of indignation that would have me throwing pillows at the TV while watching any type of music documentary where they got something wrong. You cannot be wrong about music. “Dad, that is not the name of the song,” I said. Understand that my father managed to somehow ignore rock and roll in the ’50s and his idea of a good radio station is 1010 WINS. He still held his ground. “It absolutely is.”

“Dad, bet you my allowance double or nothing that this is not the name of the song.”

My father refused the bet because he (and I quote) “did not want to take advantage of me.”

Of course, we now had to wait for the moment where the song would come on the radio while a neutral third party (a.k.a. my mom) was present. This took what seemed like forever, but was probably only a few days. It was agonizing. I’d hear the song in my room but my father wouldn’t be there or my mom wouldn’t make it to whatever location in time.

We were driving back from New York on a Saturday when I heard the intro of the song come on the radio. I bounced to attention in the back seat, shushing my brother and sisters. “This is it, this is it!”

My father reaches over and turns up the radio with a smug grin. I wait breathlessly through the first verse until the first chorus. As it comes to a close, and the band begins the second verse, my father gives my mother a look that says, “Please now confirm that I am correct.”

Instead, my mother responds: “Jerry, you are crazy. There is nothing in that song about a bear. Pay your daughter her money.”

The song in question? “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” by War. (I guarantee you will never hear it the same.)

To his credit, although my father would often offer his unsolicited opinions on whatever music I was listening to, he never ever argued with me about pop music ever again, and took my burgeoning music scholarship seriously from that moment onward. And although I hope my father is with us for many, many more years, as God is my witness, I am going to figure out how to play that song at his funeral. Menze, writer/editor

Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule, “I’m Real”: Apparently I’m not the only one to have misheard this lyric, but when your best friends are a bunch of bitchy J. Lo-worshipping queens, an error of this magnitude is enough to get you banned from group Will & Grace marathons indefinitely. For years, from 2001 to an unforgettable evening in 2012, I did, in fact, think the correct response to Ja Rule’s opening question, “What’s my motherfuckin’ name?” was “Are you Ellie?”

Yes, I realized it made no sense, but I didn’t put much thought into the lyrics by a man who once taught me “every thug needs a lady.” So, Ellie it was, and Ellie it remained. Then my mind was blown. In a very basic #throwback move, two friends and I spent a night watching Laguna Beach DVDs, drinking margaritas and taking the occasional Ja Rule-themed music break. I “Are you Ellie”-ed the shit out of J. Lo’s line, which was met with stares that rival the best NeNe Leakes GIFs. “Did you just say…Ellie? As in, the name?” “Yes?” I sheepishly replied. “Is it…NOT Ellie?” Cue their uncontrollable laughter while I sat there legitimately confused. What the hell else could she be saying? “NO!” I was informed. “It’s R-U-L-E, as in Ja Rule!”

I felt like everything I knew to be true in this world was a lie. Up was down. Down was up. You could tell me Juicy Couture was back in style, and at that moment, I’d believe it. In any case, I looked like a fingers-to-your-forehead Loser, and I’ve yet to live it down. Case in point: To this day, I’m in no fewer than three people’s phones as “Ellie.” But it’s OK, cause they ain’t makin’ or breakin’ me.

Devon Maloney, writer

For the longest time my best friend growing up and I believed the song “Master of the House” from Les Misérables was called “Monster in the Ass” (the song is sung in a Cockney accent, so this makes more sense than you’d think at first glance). We’d stomp around her parents’ living room dancing to it and giggling until we cried. I honestly don’t remember how I learned the correct version, other than becoming a theatre geek a few years later in junior high and quietly realizing that, given the context of the whole musical, it probably had nothing to do with monsters or butts.

Jen Doll, author of ‘Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest’

Sia, “The Greatest”: Recently I was in a spin class and I don’t even know what song was playing [at the time], but it had this refrain that sounded like “Donkey love! Donkey love! Donkey love!” and at some point the instructor told us, “Listen to the lyrics of this song, and DON’T GIVE UP!” So I guess it wasn’t donkey love, though that would have been aspirational in a different way I suppose.

Also, as a kid I thought, “Shot through the heart and you’re to blame, you give love a bad name” was “Something something something, something something something, you give love in Amerrrricaaaa.” Which makes zero sense but again with the ears.

Lauren Beck, director of music programming of Northside Festival

Back in my days of youth and innocence, I thought the “Masturbation’s lost its fun” line in Green Day’s “Longview” was “Applications lost their fun.” In my defense, at that point in the song, Billie Joe is complaining about how his mom is bugging him to get a job, so it contextually made perfect sense.

I can’t pinpoint how I came to learn the actual lyric, but I do distinctly remember listening to the song with my older sister in the car before she dropped me off at ballet class and telling her how funny I thought that particular line was — job applications suck, haha, so true. (I knew nothing about having a job at that age, but I could assume that filling out applications was indeed no fun.)

She awkwardly did not return the laugh, in retrospect, probably not wanting to be the one to teach her little sister about sexual self-pleasure. Can’t blame her.

Jessica Morgan, Go Fug Yourself

I sincerely thought the line in Kenny Loggins’ song “Danger Zone” was “I WENT TO the Danger Zone,” when in reality it is, “HIGHWAY to the Danger Zone.” I had heard that song like…I dunno, 3,500 times since Top Gun came out in 1986, and I didn’t realize this fact until literally one year ago while I was driving and it came on the radio. It only took me 30 years. In my defense, “I went to the Danger Zone” seemed like a totally reasonable — if EXTREMELY STRAIGHTFORWARD — thing for someone to be singing in a song called “Danger Zone.”

Nadia Chaudhury still hears “I love Jane Krause” whenever she listens to Sia’s “Cheap Thrills.”

What’s Your Best Misheard Lyric? was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Time For Things

Wed, 2017-04-26 10:53
Notes on life

Liana Finck is on the Internet.

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

Ohm & Octal Industries, “Athena”

Wed, 2017-04-26 10:11
Here’s some news about the future.Photo: Steveen Manon

Let me tell you what the future holds: rain, clouds, fog, showers, clouds, patchy fog, clouds, drizzle, rain. And that’s the good part of the future. The rest of it is going to be considerably less pleasant. Sure, there’s a weekend happening at some point, and eventually it won’t be April anymore, but what makes you think May is going to be any better? What makes you think anything is going to be any better? God, I wish I were as good at kidding myself about the future as you are. I don’t know how you do it. Anyway, here’s ten minutes of techno to take with your perpetual twilight. Enjoy.

Ohm & Octal Industries, “Athena” was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.