…but hate that it’s yet another sci-fi film shot in the bizarro Detroit that’s mysteriously devoid of all Black people. WtF, dudes!
Do you know how hard it is to find great Black actors for an SF movie in Detroit? ZERO HARD! It’s a huge city, there are several solid acting programs at the various colleges and universities there, plus an additional 700,000 people.[*]
Also, not for nothing, but imagine how much more tightly on-theme this movie would have been if you highlighted race and consumption, rather than white-washing Detroit—THE BLACKEST CITY IN AMERICA:
[*] Yes, I saw that there were a couple Black ladies in the background of one shot. But, c’mon, dude, please. Incidentally, they weren’t even credited; i.e., they were probably just a pair of ladies that happened to be wandering around. 🙄
CONTEXT: I grew up outside of Detroit, where we were taught to never, ever go out on ice (very few ponds froze solidly, because so many were spring fed, or had weird inflows of nice warm waste that kept the ice rotten). But one time I was walking on a gravel path around a pond, scuffing my feet, and the gravel went shooting out over the thin, glass-smooth, clear ice and made this most amazing space-phaser-time-portal-starship-battle-pew-pew-pew! sound that I love-love-loved! (My ongoing experiments in slinkiphonics have largely been about chasing this Good Noise™ and wielding).
This long piece is worth every second of your time—and deserves every moment of your attention. It’s full of gems: nauseous, heartbreaking facts, brief tales of uncertain moral.
“We don’t invade poor countries to make them rich. We don’t invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic.We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan.”— James Dobbins, former U.S. diplomat
Also—and I’m not being flip here—but I sorta love that Rumsfield called his frequent memoranda “snowflakes.” Over the years, I’ve grown to realize that he may have been one of the most profoundly clear-eyed thinkers of the dawning of the American 21st C. Again, I’m not being sarcastic in any way here: The shit he said frequently sounded nuts, but it was and is perhaps the only clear and honest way to talk about Now.
Anyway, here’s a #fact you should know:
One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a U.S. county. He once asked a visiting congressman whether the lawmaker could responsibly spend that kind of money back home: “He said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’ ”
The gusher of aid that Washington spent on Afghanistan also gave rise to historic levels of corruption.
In public, U.S. officials insisted they had no tolerance for graft. But in the Lessons Learned interviews, they admitted the U.S. government looked the other way while Afghan power brokers — allies of Washington — plundered with impunity.
Christopher Kolenda, an Army colonel who deployed to Afghanistan several times and advised three U.S. generals in charge of the war, said that the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai had “self-organized into a kleptocracy” by 2006 — and that U.S. officials failed to recognize the lethal threat it posed to their strategy.
“I like to use a cancer analogy,” Kolenda told government interviewers. “Petty corruption is like skin cancer; there are ways to deal with it and you’ll probably be just fine. Corruption within the ministries, higher level, is like colon cancer; it’s worse, but if you catch it in time, you’re probably ok. Kleptocracy, however, is like brain cancer; it’s fatal.”
And here’s another:
“We stated that our goal is to establish a ‘flourishing market economy,’ ” said Douglas Lute, the White House’s Afghan war czar from 2007 to 2013. “I thought we should have specified a flourishing drug trade — this is the only part of the market that’s working.”
No single agency or country was in charge of the Afghan drug strategy for the entirety of the war, so the State Department, the DEA, the U.S. military, NATO allies and the Afghan government butted heads constantly.
The agencies and allies made things worse by embracing a dysfunctional muddle of programs, according to the interviews.
At first, Afghan poppy farmers were paid by the British to destroy their crops — which only encouraged them to grow more the next season. Later, the U.S. government eradicated poppy fields without compensation — which only infuriated farmers and encouraged them to side with the Taliban.
And here’s a picture. No trigger warning, because we should all look, regardless of how it makes us feel. Do you see the writing on his forehead? The duct tape on his shirt? These tell me that there is a tourniquet on his right leg. It was put on at 2:55 pm. I wonder if he kept that leg, if he survived at all.
Incidentally, here’s the previous winner for “Most American Sentence Dave Can Imagine”:
This is us, folks. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something.
The “average American” (that’s a family making $50k–$99k in this article here) gives ~3–6% of their income to charity each year. Now, that’s income, not wealth. If we want to apples-to-apples this, we need to gauge giving vs. wealth. It appears the “average” American’s wealth is something like $97,000 (which kinda sucks, given that the average American home is worth more than twice that—and is mortgaged to the gills). So, we end up in about the same place: The average American annually gives money worth ~3% of their wealth.
In other words, the average American is significantly more generous with their wealth than pretty much every goddamned billionaire out there. Even Warren Buffet (who I actually really admire) is just a tiny bit above average on this one.
So, if your argument against a wealth tax is “It’s OK for folks to sit on billions of dollars, because rich people are super charitable”—well, they just aren’t. In fact, multiple studies have found that as folks get poorer in this country, they give a higher percentage of their income to charity (and generally have zero or negative wealth). People at or below the poverty line often give ~10% of their annual income to charitable causes each year.
So, yeah, give thanks on Thursday, sure—but give some fucking money, too, dammit.
You’ll be invited to your wife’s Full Family Thanksgiving Feast in Michigan
Attending means driving to the hinterlands around the middle knuckles of the Mitten’s middle finger. Shortly before leaving you’ll learn that this Full Family Feast does not, in fact, exist. Instead you’ll be directed to a somewhat lesser Secondary Family Feast in a somewhat less remote part of the hinterlands, at your in-laws’ cottage in a town mostly known for holding an annual ice fishing carnival on a frozen lake.
You’ve witnessed this carnival. You’ve ridden the ferris wheel atop the ice with your wife and young son, a ferris wheel you were told was unique for its age and direction of spin. You learned this from the man operating it, the man who proclaimed that he’d bolted it together himself, a man with something very clearly wrong with one side of his skull.
These are things you do in Michigan. These are the decisions you make by just letting things keep going the way they go in Michigan. …
And goes on from there. You can read it all free online here:
[UPDATE 2019-11-25: I just saw Paul Di Filippo’s review of this antho for Locus, and so added a snippet of that below, because it’s insanely kind and flattering and I wanna crow about it.]
It feels a little odd to be a “new voice” in anything with so little hair atop my head and so much grey in my beard—but I’ll take it!The publisher has been kind enough to include a section of my story “In the Sharing Place” to whet your appetite (here’s a link to all five previews stories).Enjoy!
“Reminiscent of the weirdness of Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet, “In the Sharing Place” by David Erik Nelson chronicles in vivid surreal fashion a post-invasion, post-collapse world where psychological counseling takes on dire new facets.…this is a killer collection, full of top-notch stories beautifully written and invested with much care, compassion and thought …Deploying the toolkit and concerns bequeathed by their literary ancestors, they are extending the reach of the genre not by plowing under everything that was built before and salting the earth, but by erecting new superstructures on old foundations—or perhaps new eco-communes in the shadow of dinosaur cities. It’s the way the field has always moved forward, and this volume gives plenty of hope that the future of future fiction is in good hands.”—Paul Di Filippo, Locus Magazine
“While readers may be familiar with many of the names and individual works here, having them together in one volume creates a stunning set of sf shorts. Highly recommended for all collections.“—Library Journal
“There are also stories that present unique dystopias such as the mist-haunted New York in Jason Sanford’s ‘Toppers’ or the mysterious outside world in David Erik Nelson’s ‘In the Sharing Place.’”—Booklist
“After some kind of alien invasion/apocalypse, children try to come to terms with the loss of their families ‘In The Sharing Place’, a thoughtful and ultimately a chilling story by David Erik Nelson. Much of the narrative takes place in the therapy sessions that happen in the Sharing Place and only slowly are details of the apocalypse revealed. It’s a very effective tale.” SF Crowsnest
This video is mostly narrated by Dr. Robert Cialdini, who’s most famous for his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (where he first presented most of the ideas seen here). This is a text book—if not the Bible—on how to talk to people about things that you really care about, and get them to see your perspective.
Cialdini started out as a research psychologist, and my understanding (which fits the tone of the book) is that he began working on the book—which catalogues and examines several categories of sales/influence tricks and techniques—as a sort of warning to lay folks. After its first publication, it became enormously influential among marketers, copywriters, businessfolk, and all manner of modern propogandists. If you write for any purpose (e.g., speechs, op-ed, news, fiction, non-fiction, persuading folks on the fence to vote for this or that) or run any sort of business, you need to read this book. For that matter, even if you don’t seek to persuade anyone of anything, I still strongly recommend every adult in America read this book, in order to better understand how it is you’ve come to believe what you believe, embrace what you embrace, and reject what “just isn’t your thing.”
(While we’re on the topic, you really should also read Darrell Huff’s HOW TO LIE WITH STATISTICS; the black arts outlined in these two books cover the two major toolsets that the politically and economically motivated are using to manipulate you and your loved ones every single day. Get your hands on Master’s tools; consider their possible applications in tearing down Master’s house*.)
Caveat: Yes, some of the hard data and studies in the original Influence haven’t aged well, but the bold strokes—about how people behave and how our minds get changed without our realizing it—is still rock solid.
BONUS: Check out this analysis of Oprah, and compare it with what Cialdini describes above:
The images below are taken from Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child’s Book About Satanic Ritual Abuse. This is a real book that was earnestly written and actually published, then presumably read to actual children (who, one presumes, were duly traumatized) in order to help them cope with having not endured fake things that never happened to anyone (see also “Satanic Panic”and D&D as thrill-kill gateway drug—and recall, these were current events, reported in the newspaper, recounted in measured tones on the evening news, endlessly explored on the afternoon talk shows I watched while my folks were at work. I was a fat, gullible, ill-monitored Jewish pre-teen at the time. These cases enthralled and terrified me.)
The craziest thing about all this, to me, is that the author and publisher really did have their hearts in the right place, I think.In contrast to most materials surrounding the issue of Satanic Ritual Abuse, this wasn’t an attempt to bait the hook of Fundamentalist Christian propaganda or Normative White bigotry with raw meat ripped from the tabloid headlines.
This book comes from the “Hurts of Childhood” series, which honestly and directly tries to address real burdens that many children really face: parental alcohol abuse, sexual assault, traumatic family situations, and so on.Yes, every single title in this series is just as maladroitly handled—but, jeez, at least they were trying.
The survey included 6,910 psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers, and 4,655 district attorneys, police departments and social service agencies. They reported 12,264 accusations of ritual abuse that they had investigated.
The survey found that there was not a single case where there was clear corroborating evidence for the most common accusation, that there was “a well-organized intergenerational satanic cult, who sexually molested and tortured children in their homes or schools for years and committed a series of murders,” Dr. Goodman said.
Many psychotherapists who have been vocal about a supposed epidemic of sexual abuse by well-organized satanic rings have grown more cautious of late. “There’s clearly been a contagion, a contamination of what people say in therapy because of what they see on TV or read about satanic ritual abuse,” said Dr. Bennet Braun, a psychiatrist who heads the Dissociative Disorders Unit at Rush-North Shore Medical Center in Chicago.