Go Watch *Monsters*

I had no idea they even had free feature-length movies on YouTube. Anyway, go watch Monsters. It’s just as good as I remember it being in the theaters; back then it felt like it was mostly about U.S. foreign/immigration policy with a smattering of Chernobyl anxiety (this was back in 2010). Now, in the midst of a plague year, it feels like it’s sort of about a lot more.

Also, are you finding that, when watching old movies now, you’re often distracted by how close people stand to each other, how blithely they enter each other’s homes or push into crowds, maskless? How we used to live was crazy, right? 😷

This is Not a Peaceful Transfer of Power; It’s a Frog Boil 🇺🇸🔥🐸

This whole article is sorta astounding. I mean, nothing is really surprising, but it’s sorta shocking to have all of your assumptions confirmed:

20 days of fantasy and failure: Inside Trump’s quest to overturn the election

I can’t help but imagine all of what’s happened over the past month from the PotUS’s perspective: 

art by DonkeyHotey https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/
(art by DonkeyHotey)

He’s never had a real job—not one that he could actually lose. And now a bunch of losers—people with no wealth, no audience, no “pull,” folks with meager incomes and dumb names, with little (if any) power, many of them women and people of color—they took away his toy.

And they didn’t do it by force: They didn’t pull a gun on him, they didn’t have to “see him in court!!!” They didn’t have to look at him or talk to him or even acknowledge him. They just ticked a box and mailed a stupid scrap of paper.

And all of those “they”s in the previous graff: those are “you” and “me”; we did this. We, who are weak-ass little pussies and cry babies and retarded faggot snowflakes, we hurt him, deeply. And we did it while hiding in our little shithole houses in shithole towns and bullshit states.

I imagine that, in his heart of hearts, he simply never believed such a thing was possible, so insulated from reality was his 70+ years on this earth. 

The most petulant 46 minutes in American history

It is all so astoundingly pathetic. If he hadn’t done so much to hurt so many, you’d weep for his loss of innocence.

Just to be clear: Although no shots have been fired (yet), this is not a “peaceful transfer of power.” At best, it’s a tremendous waste of the most precious resource in a time of crisis (like this one): Attention

At worst, it’s an incitement to violence. 

His blood is boiling, and we are the frogs.

Our Most Important Thanksgiving Traditions #gobblegobblegobble 🦃💀

I’m a child of the 1980s, so most of my nostalgic holiday memories are TV-related. 🤷‍♀️

1. “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

THANKSGIVING TURKEY GIVEAWAY! (WKRP in Cincinnati) from Tony DeSanto on Vimeo.

(Yeah, I repost this every year, because I love this gag, and because watching this on TV—and rehashing it with my mom and sisters each year—is one of my fondest holiday memories. But it is, in my humble, a damn-near perfect gag. That’s saying something, because I find single-camera laugh-track situation comedies almost entirely unbearable to watch. If you wanna read more of my thoughts on this specific gag and what it can teach writers, you can do so here.)

2. “…your people will wear cardigans and drink highballs; we will sell our bracelets by the road sides…”

3. ♬♫♪ “Caught his eye on turkey day / As we both at Pumpkin Pie … ” ♬♫♪

4. “What do Jews do on Thanksgiving?”

(I wrote this essay a few years back; every word is both true and factual—which is a harder trick than you’d think.)

You’ll be 15 minutes into that Lesser Family Feast in Michigan when your mother-in-law will turn to you and ask:

“What do Jews do on Thanksgiving?”

You should be prepared for this sort of thing in Michigan. But even though I’m warning you in advance, you still won’t be prepared.…

(excerpt from IN MICHIGAN: A PRIMER, A TRAVELOGUE)

I hope your day is good and sweet.  Gobblegobble! 🦃💀

BURIED LEADE ALERT: Increasing the Minimum Wage by a Buck Can Prevent 1,600 Suicides

This all might be old news for you—especially the bit I shoved in the title, as I’m told that finding actually saw a fair bit of press earlier this month—but I found this all eye-opening:

The Finance 202: Mo’ money, fewer problems: Two new studies show 1 percenters are the most satisfied

Three key takeaways:

1. This single factoid on the impact of tiny wage increases on suicide rates is pretty stunning:

At the bottom of the income heap, relatively minor adjustments in pay can yield such a dramatic difference they register as public health benefits, according to the second study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health. That paper found “state-level increases of $1 in minimum wage corresponded with a 3.4 percent to 5.9 percent decrease in the suicide rates of people with a high school diploma or less” among 18- to 64-year-olds

Picking that rather tortuous second sentence apart is a little tricky. Americans 18- to 64-years-old account for something like 200,000,000 people. About half of them would probably fall in the “have a high school diploma or less” bucket. So, this group—less educated American adults of working age—amount to something like one-third of the country. But they make up something like 70% of our suicides. So, that’s a population that’s really hurting, to the tune of more than 30,000 suicides per year. If you reduce that by an average of a 4.7% (as the above mentioned study found), that translates to ~1,600 lives saved.

That’s good. I don’t think anyone reading this is going to say “Thousands of families kept whole? Fuck that, Dave: Let them choke on cake!”

But what’s the cost? I mean, maybe it costs some absurd amount to get this done, and there’s a legit question if it’s a good investment or not.

Minimum wage is still pretty insanely variable across the US, but it looks like the average US minimum wage worker earns $11.80 per hour (given how the population of working-age Americans is distributed). That being the case, a $1 raise amounts to an ~8.5% increase in payroll. If that’s entirely passed directly to consumers (with all else staying equal), you might end up paying as much as 25 cents more for a Starbucks coffee, or almost 70 cents more for a Bacon Turkey Bravo sandwich at Panera.

That’s literally pocket change. It seems like a pretty frikkin easy way to save 1,600 lives each year. I say let’s do it.

2. Even 1%ers struggle with medical bills‽

“Among low-income households, for instance, nearly 40 percent said they had trouble paying their medical bills in the past several years and 30 percent reported having difficulty paying for food, Ingraham writes. “Among the top 1 percent, those shares were 5 percent and zero, respectively.”

I’m sorry, put we’re talking about the handful of families that have more than half the nation’s wealth—and even they can’t all cover their medical expenses? That right there is the single most persuasive argument I’ve ever heard for socialized medicine.

3. This all translates to a significant Democratic tailwind in the presidential election. Our economy is doing great—which historically gives an incumbent PotUS an easy win for reelection. But that great economy is only benefiting a small group of people in the upper reaches of the wealth curve. They’re happy and they vote—but they each get just one vote.

Meanwhile, huge swaths of Americans are “dissatisfied” (or much, much worse)—and don’t tend to vote. Get more of these less-likely voters to the polls, the Dem advantage increases (incidentally, as voter turnout increases, policies tend to get more progressive, too—BONUS!).

This all points to the one thing you can do if you want to see a Dem in the White House: Work to increase voter turnout. Get folks registered. Get them to the polls. Get them their absentee ballots.🇺🇸

I love that this was shot in Detroit…

…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. 🙄

“We invade violent countries to make them peaceful” is the most American sentence I can imagine🇺🇸🔥

If you’re an American tax payer, then you owe it to ~3000 dead Americans, 20,000 wounded Americans, and more than 100,000 dead Afghans to read this whole thing:

AT WAR WITH THE TRUTH: U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it, an exclusive Post investigation found” by Craig Whitlock

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.

This short film isn’t really all that disturbing…

…unless you’ve ever had or been a child or parent.  In that case, whoadamn!!!

This is from Ari Aster, the writer/director of Hereditary and Midsommar—the latter of which I loved, although plausibly for different reasons than most.  To me, it wasn’t a revenge film at all.  There’s a crop of female-lead horror films surfacing (A Dark Song is another that leaps to mind) that are tremendous explorations of how one processes trauma.  Midsommar is mos def one of these, in my humble—and, in a deeply morally ambiguous way, sort of an optimistic film, when all is said and done.  Highly Recommended.

You Can Help Reduce the Hidden Costs of Being a Minority in America

UPDATE 2019-10-11: Yom Kippur was Wednesday, and a guy with homemade guns and bombs tried to kill a few dozen praying Jews in Germany. He was thwarted by his own poor craftsmanship and decent locked doors. I’d really like to know that Jewish congregations throughout America have good doors, good locks, and good trauma kits. All of this is expensive; a small trauma kit—one with supplies to slow the death of one or two gunshot victims—runs ~$50. It would be nice not to have to chose which of my friends, neighbors, or family members dies and which might live. YOU CAN HELP US BUY THESE THINGS.  Heck, here’s the shopping list for a minimal trauma kit.  Buy the parts yourself, and send it to the congregation of your choosing. Concerned they won’t know what to do with it? Have them contact me and I’ll walk them through how to use this trauma kit in an emergency.

It’s expensive to be in the minority: You need to take days off that aren’t excepted in the “secular” work calendar; you need to buy things (garments, food, etc.) for which there is lower demand (and thus are correspondingly more expensive to acquire); you need to spend time (often on a daily basis) explaining very simple things over and over and over again to often very well meaning people; you have to swallow your gall over a very large number of very small insults; you have to search around for food or facilities or services that are suitable for you, and don’t oblige you to debase yourself or become an unwilling spectacle (although both are frequently part of your life).

Muslims face this.  Immigrants face this.  Folks whose genders don’t match their sexes in the predominant fashion face this.

Right now, all over America, very small groups of Jews are scratching together very large sums of money in order to buy thicker doors, better locks, security cameras, and bullet-resistant glass.

I know that you don’t wish any of us harm.  And I know how awful it feels to not be able to do anything.

If you’re in the majority, then you never have to sit down in your pew and say “OK: The shooter will almost certainly come through those doors, so I need to clear people this direction.  We’ll designate Person X to sprint down to the childcare room and get the kids out through the fire exit…”

If you never attend religious services, then you aren’t shopping for trauma kits—and so maybe have some shekels to spare.

If you don’t need to be dedicated brain cycles to having a plan for keeping your friends and neighbors alive for the 5 to 7 minutes it takes the police to arrive, then you have bandwidth to spare for some other thoughts—and likely some of those are “How did we get here?  How the hell can we get back?

Me, I’ve got the High Holidays next week; I’m waiting for the supplies for my trauma kit to come in the mail.  I’m reviewing building schematics and Google satellite views and walking perimeters to figure how long it takes to get from a fire door to the tree line.

If you’re bummed about the surge in American anti-Semitism (and the corresponding new fad of shooting Jews in our houses of worship while we pray), there’s something concrete you can do:

Send money

This flyer is for my community, but you don’t have to send us money.  I absolutely guarantee that every Jewish Federation in every part of this country is running a similar drive.  We all are operating congregations and community centers in of old buildings with shoe-string budgets. Google the nearest major city to you and the word “JCC” (for “Jewish Community Center”).  You’ll either get the Jewish Federation for that region, the nearest Jewish Community Center in that town, or that town’s lone lil synagogue (example: I googled “jcc billings, MT” and found these cats Congregation Beth Aaron—who almost certainly need better doors).

Give them a call and say “I’d like to donate to help you increase safety and security in your community.”  Give an amount of money that’s a multiple of 18 (it’s sort of a lucky number; Jewish superstition associates 18 with life and longevity).

 half page ad_Jewish Federation

Listen to (or Read) My Story “Whatever Comes After Calcutta” on @PseudoPod

The Pseudopod team always does great work, but I’m especially thrilled with what the reader—Rish Outfield—has done here; the story has lots of voices, and he captures them all.  Such a treat. (For those less inclined to audio drama and more to old-fashioned reading, they have the full text of the story posted, too.)

PseudoPod 649: “Whatever Comes After Calcutta

And here’s a YouTube video of the audio, if that’s your jam:

Enjoy!