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Occasionally, folks making idle conversation use one of the least certain fillers when the talk runs thin. It's easy enough to keep things nice and happy, although that's rarely necessary, since it'd often conflict with that mere politeness of prioritizing honesty over nearly all other aspects interpersonal. One such exchange, most likely in certain cultures although quite certain not to occur to me during the next few days, is as follows:
YOU: What'd you do over the weekend?
YOU: Hah, I bet you spent Valentine's Day all alone, probably getting higher than a kite.
Lest the redefinitions of modern usage accelerate their revolutions so fast as to spin all semblance of meaning out of this cosmic centrifuge we call our world, let's make a brief detour through arguments so ancient as to have been recorded as fact by none other than the editors of an encyclopedia renowned for its editors' inability to agree upon facts: of those responsible for the traditions leading to the day of romance being named after a man canonized in honor of torture and convulsions, at least three are named identically, although imprecisions in the numeration are likely due to another person named Valentinus, and the only consoling fact in this pile of reasons to stop reading history is that the latter did not get beatified! I'll leave further spelunks through the bunk to those both bold and foolhardy, and proceed to continue the answer that I'd begun composing while Crickets chirped above.
When in doubt, just leap about, and eat the flow'rs and grass beneath our feet; don't forget the mushroom's hue, which blossoms up from sand-tank-poo; and see those spiky puffer-fish? Them porpoi can't refuse that dish, no matter what their clickers say. Heed not the words of proper gander apes, who tell us neurons bat for the same team; they drank the kool-aid only once per life, and from my ship will someday walk the beam.
Is it still plagiarism if we Consider the Source?
If this is America, with a cabinet of terrorized toadies genuflecting to the Great Leader, a vice president offering a compliment every 12 seconds to Mussolini's understudy, and a White House that believes in alt-fax, then it is time to keep your head when all about you are losing theirs.
No, that's not "America". If my memory serves me right, and they didn't teach us alt-fax in 5th grade terrology, "America" doesn't even exist - it's a whole mess of unwashed plates, heaped so high with dirt and insects that the whole lot oughtta be flipped upside down (consider the mountain trails you'd get from THAT terrestrosault!)
If this is America, where the Great Leader threatens allies who do not fall in line, retweets the anti-Muslim racism of British fascists, insults the Muslim mayor of London, dreams up a terror attack in Sweden, invents a call from the Mexican president, claims the Russia story is "totally frabjuous", then you will have to bear to hear the truth you've spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.
If this is the Internet, where British fascists (and I use the word in the most praisal of sincerecisms) gets millions of views but a Kim Jong Mashmo lookalike airfucking extras who failed camho tryouts gets billions, then you will have to bear to hear the words you've spoken misinterpreted by the most entitled doublespeakers.
If this is America, less than a year into the Trump presidency; yes, if this is still America, where Representative Diane Black, Republican of Tennessee, thanks the Great Leader for "allowing us to have you as our president", and Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, says Trump's will be the greatest presidency "maybe ever", and the Great Leader celebrates a tax cut that saves his family millions but he allows CHIP (the Children's Health Insurance Program, covering nearly nine million kids) to expire, then you must force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone.
If this is the best up William Widner for The New York Times can cook, then like Yoda must we write! But I gotta admit, it's almost funny that Senator Hatch-Me-A-Mormon can't even hack an original vernacular, and has to resort to that terrific one that we have from, the amazing word choice, greatest word choice of any president, maybe ever.
If this is not Turkmenistan, nor yet the land of Newspeak, but our America after all, where the curiously coiffed Great Leader of childish petulance accuses all media dissenters of distributing FAKE NEWS, and attacks the judiciary, and adores an autocrat, and labors night and day for his wealthiest cronies in the name of some phony middle-class miracle, then you must hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
What's wrong with nations fantasizing about being the continuity of some long-dead empire? It works just fine for more nations than I can list on one hand (hint: how many eyes does Uncle Sam want the Fake Jews to claim he has? and where do they gaze?), I'm sure it's just a healthy side-effect of the supranational apoptosis.
If, beyond every abuse, this is yet America, where the Great Leader's administration recommends that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not use the words 'fetus', 'transgender', 'science-based' or 'diversity' (but it may still, according to a New Yorker cartoon, be able to use the word 'moron'), and climate change is no longer a strategic threat (or even an admissible term in government circles), then it is time to heed the poet's admonition: "Being lied about, don't deal in lies."
- Climate change is natural. Diamonds are organic. Ketchup is strength.
- "Moron" is an excellent statistical term which should be amputated away from Galton's folly, and bandied about in all cases where Gauss reigns just.
- If the CCCP has to designate certain cereals as '100% fetus-free', we are in deep shit.
If this is America, our America of government for the people, by the people, and you cannot believe how low the Great Leader will stoop, how much lower he will go than seemed possible, and sometimes you feel the need to wash the ambient crassness and vulgarity from your skin, for they seep into you whatever protection you may wear, and you are aghast at how the G.O.P. has morphed into palace courtiers outdoing each other in praise of their plutocratic reality-show prince, then it is time to ponder the poet's words: If you can dream - and not make dreams your master; If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.
Amen Rudy! ANOTHER!!!!11!1!!!!!
If this is America, where the Great Leader wants you to believe that 2+2=5, and would usher you down his rabbit hole, and struggles to find in himself unequivocal condemnation of neo-Nazis, and you recall perhaps the words of Hannah Arendt, "The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e. the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e. the standards of thought) no longer exist" - if all this you have lived and felt and thought across this beautiful and spacious land, then you must be prepared to watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools.
Can we drop the "Great Leader" riff already? It's getting repetitive.
If this is America, and you know where militarism and nationalism and disdain for intellectuals and artists, and the cultivation of enemies and scapegoats, and contempt for a free press can lead, and it pains you to see the world voting against the United States at the United Nations with the exception of Micronesia and Nauru and Palau (and a few others), then you will see that this, Trump's American travesty, is in fact a lie and an affront and a betrayal.
On the contrary, I believe that Northern Oceania has merely tired of all those bullshit artists, in favor of One Bullshit Artist to lead them all. Fewer celebrities to keep track of when they're all on one side or another of the Kardashian/Trump boundary.
America cannot be "first," as Trump insists. It can be a thug and a bully only in the betrayal of itself. It must be itself, a certain idea of liberty and democracy and openness, or it is nothing, just a squalid, oversized, greedy place past the zenith of its greatness.
But it IS first, in both defense spending and the dot product of its incarceration and melanation vectors as compared across tax agencies.
Throughout this column, I have been quoting Kipling's poem, "If," an evocation, addressed to his son, of the qualities that make a man. It incudes these lines:
No shit, nitwit. Try reciting the entire thing at some college commencement, wrong stop on a book tour, or however it is that you supplement the toilet paper rations that roll hot off your appley press, and see how much of a man you are when the real butch ones in the audience start chucking Romanian Candles at your getaway rig.
If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss.
Here we go! No rant is complete without a lament for the death of the sporting spirit. The loss is exactly what should be worn with pride, whereas the winnings... save them for the defusing of drunken barfights with the oldest competition of all - cockfighting.
As a new year approaches, stoicism will prevail, decency will prevail, contestation will prevail, over the Great Leader's plundering of truth and thought. This is not America. It must be fought for and won back.
Where do I enlist, and will they boot me if I refuse to turnkey before asking whether the CEO of the Trump&Co Media Extravaganza is insane?
Each Friday, Farhad Manjoo and Mike Isaac, technology reporters at The New York Times, review the weekas snews, offering analisis and maybe a joke or two about the most important develupments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up there. Mike: Ahoy, Farhad! How was your week? Mine was great. I forgot I had an old Bitcoin wallet sitting in a closet somewhere, and as it turns out, I am now a millionaire. I wonder if I should keep my job? Farhad: Did you really? Many years ago I spent $1,000 to buy seven Bitcoins. Then the price went up slightly and I stupidly sold them ? netting me a cool $150 in profit. I felt like a genius. Today, I'm the dumbest man ever. Mike: Yes, well, don't come crawling to me for Bitcoins any time soon. I'm not made of money. (Yet.)
adlai: Mike: way to go and ruin the rest of your life. never tell anyone you are richer than they thought you were before. welcome to the new elite, Isaac! by the way in jew that means "will cry"
BITCOIN MANIA Mike: Seriously though, this week in Bitcoin news was truly insane. The digital currency shot to more than $17,000 per BTC, up from $12,000 literally just a few days ago. It's totally nuts. Nathaniel Popper, our trusty colleague, has done a fantastic job chronicling the saga for The Times, if you haven't read his work this week. It kind of feels like those stories I heard years ago about hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, where people would cart around wheelbarrows of cash that wouldn't be worth the paper they were printed on. But, uh, I guess the opposite of that. All of this seems completely unsustainable to me. And by the time our readers read this newsletter, I can't even fathom what the price is going to be. Farhad: I don't think it's unsustainable. I'm not a fortune teller, but even though the market is very volatile, Bitcoin has achieved a level of stickiness in the culture that will keep its price fairly high. Like all network technologies (as well as currencies), Bitcoin gets its utility from the number of people who are committed to it. There are lots of people and technologies around the world now hooked into it, and they are slowly coming up with uses for it, giving it a kind of built-in momentum. In other words, even though it may crash in the short run, I don't think it's near its ultimate price. Mike: O.K. ? well, basically what I'm asking is, should I start asking The Times to pay me in Bitcoin? Farhad: Wait, you get paid? That sounds like an error of some kind. Mike: I'll ask H.R. about it next week. I do wonder, though, what it will take to bring Bitcoin truly mainstream. I'm a tech-savvy person, and even I need to read an entire Wikipedia article just to figure out what I'm buying with a Bitcoin and how to spend it. Makes me think there's not a lot wrong with cash (though many finance wonks would probably disagree with that assessment).
adlai: would M feel bad about not being able to build TMSR in his own garage? would F feel dumb watching the bitpin pop the fiubble?
HARASSMENT FALLOUT Mike: Meanwhile, the reckoning against misbehaving men continues. Right now, we're in the middle of watching a Silicon Valley battle play out against Shervin Pishevar, an early investor in Uber who has been accused of sexual harassment by several women. Bloomberg did a piece detailing how he brought a pony to an Uber party ? yes, really ? and later harassed an Uber executive the same evening. Farhad: You skipped the best part of that piece ? a defender who argues that Shervin couldn't possibly have harassed anyone because he was holding the pony's leash. Mike: Ah, yes. The old "holding the pony leash" defense. I believe Matlock pioneered this approach. Regardless, the claims were furthered on Thursday when Laura Fitton, an entrepreneur, became the first woman to go on the record saying Pishevar crossed the line with her in an encounter years ago. No ponies this time, though Fitton said Pishevar referred to himself repeatedly in the third person as "Shervy," which is pretty awful even without adding claims of harassment. Anyway, my biggest takeaway from our Harvey Weinstein coverage is that he wasn't just one guy harassing women. Weinstein exercised amazing power and control over an enormous network to keep his activities secret from the public for years. That required the complicity of hundreds of people to keep him doing what he was doing. I imagine that type of power is hardly confined to the entertainment industry, and we're seeing the cracks in that facade play out in other areas ? including tech. Farhad: Yup. Like in entertainment, much of what happens in the tech world happens through networks of power and proximity. The only way to have long-lasting change in this industry is to replace those old networks with new, more inclusive ones. We may be at the start of that transition now, but there's going to be a lot of fallout before we get there.
- adlai will hold off on commenting until his great-granddaughter wins her IgNobel prize for explaining what that was all about
AMAZON ADS Mike: Before we go, I found this report fascinating: Apparently some of the biggest firms in advertising plan to increase their ad buying budget on Amazon between 40 and 100 percent next year, an attempt to move away from the digital advertising duopoly that is Facebook and Google. I'm all for shifting the balance of power away from those two companies, who have managed to decimate the publishing industry in record time. But do we really think Amazon is the place to do it? You probably know better than I, since you just wrote a good piece on Amazon. Farhad: Yeah, it's a good question. More and more I feel like our future is going to be dominated by battles between these huge corporations. And none of us really has a lot of power in this ? advertisers, consumers, we've all got these complex decisions to make about which of the giants to go with. We saw another big battle this week: Google once again blocked YouTube on Amazon's devices, in retaliation, its says, for Amazon refusing to sell Google's hardware in its store. Pick your side, consumer! Mike: Well, that's enough chitchat for me today. See you next week! I'll be over on Reddit, conspiring with my fellow Bitcoin millionaires. Farhad: I'll be in another part of Reddit, plotting to hack you. See you! Farhad Manjoo writes a weekly technology column called State of the Art. Mike Isaac covers Facebook, Uber and Twitter. You can follow them on Twitter here: @fmanjoo and @MikeIsaac
and neither of them is busy arbing the ad oligarchy to death.