[No stars] What had been lost in winter sharpness was made up for by raw vernal damp and thorough gloom. A bird or birds chirped insistently in the dim shrubbery. The wheels of the children’s scooters found the water-filled cracks where the curb cuts no longer met the street. An unwary pedestrian put one foot down in a puddle. If it had been raining, it would have been possible to put a waterproof jacket on against it, or to stay indoors.
One of the best things I read last year was Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country. It was written over a century ago but I could not put it down, a fact which I found stunning not because of its vintage but because I had to read the same author’s Ethan Frome in high school and oh my fucking God I could not wait until its horribly tedious characters sledded themselves into that tree, sorry if I spoiled anything for you there. Many years have passed since those days, and — as well as feeling no small bit of nostalgia for a period when reading literature was sort of my job, I wish someone told me at the time how I would one day long to be tasked with something as simple and pure as reading book after book — I am willing to accept that perhaps I misjudged a novel regarded by many as a classic, even though to the me of back then it seemed almost suicide-inducing due to its relentless generation of boredom. Maybe it was great. Not that I am going back to check or anything; The Custom of the Country was terrific but I’ll be dangled by my feet from a rope and fucked sideways before ever cracking a page of Ethan Frome again. The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt has a different opinion about the book, however, and he shares it on the band’s new record, which I continue to enjoy a great deal. Perhaps you will as well: This track has one of its prettier melodies, so it’s a good place to start. Give it a listen, even if you — quite understandably — hated Ethan Frome.
Screenshots rule. Have you ever been like, “I wish I could just take a picture of exactly what I see right now in front of me with my eyeballs, by just blinking?” Maybe you don’t want to bother with your phone (which we don’t even call a cameraphone or smartphone anymore because it’s so standard that your phoneputer comes with eyes on either sides of its head), either because your hands are full or dirty or maybe your phone is, unusually for you, somewhere else. Maybe you don’t want the people in the scene to see you taking a photo. Don’t you wish you could just “Print Screen,” but for the world in front of you? It seems like something The Terminator would be able to do. Or like, any robot.
I’ve had this desire many times and yes, I’m sure that if I were really able to take a picture with my eyeballs, you would yell, “But you’re not really experiencing the vista, you’re just capturing it for files you probably won’t even review later!” Or maybe I would fall into a trap like they do on one of the better episodes of “Black Mirror,” of always reviewing the footage and getting into arguments about it. My memory is photographic enough as it is and that’s problematic, I suppose. But I really would like to have this ability.
In the meantime, I live increasingly more of my life in front of a computer or a phone and the things I want to talk about or show people happen on those screens. I already have the ability to capture what I’m seeing by “taking a screenshot” or “screenshotting,” as perhaps you might say it, so I take a lot of screenshots of things that happen and then make remarks about them, either posting them or sharing them or just saving them for blackmail purposes.
(A quick and useless aside here: screenshot is really the past participle that we also parade around as a noun, which should make the verb screenshoot.)
(Another aside, about terminology: some people say screengrab or screen capture or screencap. I find the first one unpalatable [literally] because of the quick succession of “cr” and “gr” sounds you have to make with the hard palate, and the second two a little too focused on the feeling of a “gotcha” but I can see how both of these options might appeal to people who don’t want to deal with the complications of declension involved with “to shoot.”)
The screenshot has totally revolutionized the world. (This is an opinion and an argument, and you could insert many different nouns in that sentence and defend them admirably, but this is the hill I have chosen to command-shift-4 on.) How else would minor celebrities share their public statements to social media, but with screenshots of an apology composed in their skeuomorphic Notes app? How else would we preserve offensive, objectionable, and otherwise deleted tweets for posterity to tsk-tsk over on the evening news? How else would we share with our IT representative the error message we keep receiving when we try to export the file to PDF? How else would we get advice from our friends on how to respond to crazy text messages from our exes? How else would manual re-Instagramming exist? How else would we be able to share (b)locked content with our peers? How else would we tweet whole paragraphs from Big Important News Stories? How else would Buzzfeed create any content about autocorrect fails? How else would we be able to remember what old Facebook looked like? How else would hackers have exposed the private messages of Blac Chyna on Instagram? Where would The Shade Room be without the screenshot? How else would we have preserved Snapchats before they disappeared? Why do you think Snapchat INTRODUCED a notification that tells you when someone took a screenshot of your snap? (Related: why doesn’t Instagram notify you when someone takes a screenshot of our perishable story?) How else would Alex Jones have apologized for Pizzagate? How else would we share any images of any television show or movie ever made and then converted to a digital format? The shitpic probably wouldn’t even EXIST were it not for the advent of the screenshot. Would the colloquialism “RECEIPTS” have had such a second wind? How else would advertisers know that their ads were getting through to Breitbart even though they had explicitly blacklisted them?
If you answered “with a regular camera” to any of the above I want you to punch yourself in the eye because that is not the point of this exercise. All hail the shortcut, whichever one you practice.
The victim was an adjunct professor, which is not tenure-track. The victim got a C in a Shakespeare class in college because he’d smoked too much weed the night before and overslept the final. The victim often blamed his grades that semester on quote unquote “being a scared teenager on his own in New York after 9/11.” The victim did mushrooms on three separate occasions from the ages of 17–27: the first time the victim laughed at a library for over an hour. The victim had a beer just the other day at a bar and it calmed his nerves something glorious and he had the notion of just quote unquote “saying fuck it and getting wasted.” The victim was a known abuser of Internet pornography, which authorities say he never paid for, except in guilt. The victim, despite having attended an Ivy League university, never earned more than $50,000 in a fiscal year. After college, the victim was once stopped by two police officers in the subway after wandering through an open subway gate. The officers groped the victim’s empty coat pockets asking if he had drugs on him. He did not, but he wished, afterwards, for drugs to still the express train of his heart. The victim’s heart often defied him by keeping a faster beat than that of slow-dripping history. As when the victim would walk past a squad car in later years. As when a white woman on the train would wedge herself into a scrum of whites across the aisle rather than reside in the depressions nearest him. As when, in a bar in Chicago, a white man kindly leaned over and, smiling, whispered, “If anything comes up missing, I’m coming for you.” As when the victim would open the news on his phone and see the sympathetic chiaroscuro of another white supremacist set against the grainy scowling selfie of another black victim who had somehow not been him. The victim’s life has been truncated, but who’s to say how much longer he would have lived anyway, what with his self-documented thoughts of suicide. The victim’s death was no great loss. The victim was no angel, had no wings, no halo, and not a single ruddy cheek. The victim maybe wasn’t such a victim after all.
The Last Paragraph Of A News Article On My Murder By A White Supremacist was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Liana Finck’s work appears in The New Yorker and Catapult, and on her Instagram feed. Her first book, A Bintel Brief, was published by Ecco Press in 2014.
“It’s Spring Cleaning Time. What’s the best way to get started?” — Clean Dean
I’ve never understood clean people or the need to celebrate the coming of Spring by moving everything around. People who care about cleanliness already dominate the airwaves with their advice about having to be insanely clean at all times. Like if you drop a sock somewhere it must be put in a Tupperware container labeled “Dropped Socks.” And then filed somewhere under “Found Socks: Not My Socks.” With some kind of triplicate paperwork to be filled out.
There are whole rooms of my apartment I don’t go in because I’m afraid raccoons may be in them. We used to have a cat that would warn us when things were awry in our living conditions. Now we think the cat is on their side. It’s all very mysterious.
If I were to clean, it would be because I was looking for a Gumby costume or something. Then I clean only enough to find the Gumby suit under all the other crap I have all over the place. There is a layer of laundry that covers all things in my part of the apartment. Which is weird because I’m usually naked whenever I’m walking around. Sometimes I alternate nudity with trying on different things, seeing if they still fit. Frowning at a sombrero that used to fit me when my head was less swollen from eating cheese. Putting my Lost Dharma Initiative jumpsuit. Sighing that it is a little tight.
If you’re going to clean you should really spend at least two, possibly three, days in bed contemplating the task in the dark with the covers pulled up all the way over your eyes. I cannot find the covers because my apartment is pretty messy, so I use whatever is close at hand. If you still feel like cleaning after those days are up then something must be pretty serious. Your roommate may be trapped under a falling couch. Or you have misplaced a pizza under a pile of old copies of The Economist. In these cases natural instinct just takes over. You dig and dig until you find pizza or bone.
But any other attempt at straightening should not be entered into lightly. While placing something in a closet, you displace the spot for another thing. If you put old clothes in a box, you will find, inevitably, another clothes somewhere else. It is like a Möbius strip of things. And somehow you are always the one who has to do something about the clothes. There is no one else. There used to be a character named Mommy that would help you with such projects. She’s in Arizona. And doesn’t like coming to your apartment because your choices “make her sad.” And yet someone every year for the holidays buys you a giant bag of sweaters and underpants. It’s all very confusing. And should not be contemplated while being upright.
I also clean sometimes when I need enough change for the bus in the morning or quarters to do the laundry. This can be quite fulfilling when it goes right. See, all of this was worth something after all. Saving me from a trip to the ATM, these dimes and nickels. Nickels! They are so thick. And yet so easily discarded. Like tiny, worthless, broken dreams.
The energy you spend scrubbing your abode could be spent contemplating the mysteries of the universe, one at a time. Dust is always falling. Falling over the laundry and and the issues of The Economist. Falling over the $50 life-sized singing Santa I left in the corner. Falling over the Christmas tree that is still up in the very next room. Falling over the living and the pizza. There’s nothing you can do, no amount of scrubbing or organizing you can complete that will change the direction of the falling dust. It is falling when you sleep, when you are at work, when you have slipped into a coma.
If you do have a room that you think needs a little help just push everything off all of the furniture and then push the larger and larger pile of stuff into another room. Perhaps the room you have abandoned to the wild beasts you think might live there. Just push it right into the corner. And then never go in that room again. Unless you are looking for that Gumby suit. Which is apparently just nowhere. Gumby!!
Don’t clean your apartment. Spend the time and the effort clearing your mind of banal, meaningless tasks. Someday we’ll all be dead. Possibly from raccoon bites. Or because we eventually got buried by the crap in our homes. And couldn’t open the front door any more. When that time comes, maybe then and only then should we spend time worrying about cleaning. The rest of the time, just throw it over there. Do you smell pizza? Yeah, so do I.
Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and works at a bookstore.
It’s rainy, it’s Monday, the same people are still in charge of the country that were in charge of the country on Friday and now they have something to prove. What’s good? Nothing. Maybe this will shake you out of the torpor from which you seem unable to emerge this morning, even if only for a moment. Good luck and enjoy.
★★★ The elevator was full of coughing. Children kicked hard chunks of ice to send them skimming around the schoolyard. Scarves were wrapped tight and knotted. Slowly the sun brought the day up out of the deep pit of cold where it had begun, but the wind still brought the knit hat unbidden out of the coat pocket. The light was piercing. One yellow blossom lay in the tangled mat of a limp and flattened planting of daffodils.
Silver Eye, Goldfrapp’s new one, is out next Friday. Here’s the third track they’ve shared from it thus far and now I hope we do make it another week just so we can hear the rest. The sounds in particular here are so excellent that I am willing to overlook the lunar content. Enjoy.
Senator Schumer’s staffers were all lazing around, playing Would You Rather. It had been a long day on the Hill, as usual. They were cracking open Bud heavies and happy, for once in a long time, because their boss had promised to do the right thing: filibuster Judge Neil Gorsuch.
Chuck Schumer barged in, cocky as Foghorn Leghorn. “I did it guys. I did what you wanted me to. I stood up to Mitch McConnell,” Chuck said.
“We got the New York Times alert!” The staffers clinked their bottles again. The one they all called Fuller knocked the bottom of his bottle against the mouth of Marnie’s bottle, so that beer flowed like a foam party.
“Now how are we going to do this?” Chuck Schumer asked, avoiding his temptation to set up Fuller and Marnie. “How are we going to get the fence sitters to no?”
“Leave that to me, boss. As a former Bernie Bro I know how to say no.”
“Yes, sure, Fuller. But we need a game plan. We need to actualize the nos. A step-by-step guide for my colleagues who aren’t used to saying the word.”
“I have an idea,” Marnie said. She whispered to Fuller, “Remember the D.A.R.E. program? Eight ways to say no to drugs? What where they…” Marnie was already Googling on her phone. “Here they are.” Marnie tilted her phone into Chuck Schumer’s face.
“These might work. Fuller, print this out.” Schumer handed Fuller Marnie’s phone. “Make enough copies for the caucus and have them laminated. Actually make hundreds. I want to wallpaper the Senate with these. In the dining room. When Senator Kaine is ironically slathering his burnt steak in ketchup I want him reading these. In the gym. When Senator Feinstein is walking her 10,000 steps on the treadmill I want her reading these.”
“Does it matter that Nancy Reagan probably came up with the list?” Marnie asked.
Chuck Schumer wasn’t listening. “Marnie, let’s go. Fuller, meet us in Senator Bennet’s office. President Obama said that Michael could lead us into the future. Well, here is his chance.”
Chuck Schumer and Marnie stood in the doorway of Michael Bennet’s Senate Office.
“Senator Bennet, where are you on Neil Gorsuch?” the Senator from New York asked.
“Chuck, you know he is from Colorado like I am. I have my staff out in the district this week, going to craft breweries and ski slopes to temp check my constituents. I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
“Perfect. We came here to teach you how to vote no,” Chuck Schumer explained. “Marnie, pretend you’re Judge Gorsuch.”
“I am a judge who wants all truck drivers to work for free and in the blistering cold. Until, that is, they are replaced by self-driving trucks. Will you please put me on the Supreme Court?” Marnie asked, deepening her voice for effect.
Fuller arrived with the laminated print-outs. Chuck Schumer handed Senator Bennet a guide.
“It’s very simple. Just pick one of these strategies.” Senator Schumer handed a laminated guide to Senator Bennet. “You can do, let’s see.” Chuck Schumer fumbled for his glasses. “Marnie, can you read these for my colleague from Colorado?”
“Number one. Saying, ‘No thanks.’” Marnie said. “So that’s like — ”
“Do you guys think parroting Nancy Reagan is what we need to be doing right now?”
“Nancy was a dear friend,” Chuck Schumer lied. “Marnie, keep reading, please.”
“Number two. Giving a reason or excuse,” Marnie said, pointing to the list. “If someone asks you if you want a beer, you could say, I don’t drink beer. As your reason. But in our case, you could be like, no, I won’t vote for Gorsuch. And your reason could be, God, there are so many.”
“Because he hates disabled children,” Chuck Schumer offered.
“Chuck,” Senator Bennet said.
Chuck gestured to Marnie to keep reading.
“Number three is: repeat refusal, or keep saying no. This is also known as the Broken Record method.”
“We brought a special guest for this one. Senator Klobuchar, please, come in,” Chuck Schumer stage managed.
“I’m Judge Gorsuch. I’m a complete asshole. Would you vote to confirm me?” Fuller, live-action role playing Neil Gorsuch, asked.
“No,” Senator Klobuchar said.
“Come on!” Fuller urged like he was used to doing so.
“Just try it!”
“No.” Senator Klobuchar said, stamping her feet.
“That’s perfect, Senator Klobuchar,” Marnie continued. “Do you understand, Senator Bennet?”
Senator Bennet was typing out an email to his chief of staff to reschedule his fundraising calls because his colleagues were wasting his time again.
“Number four is walking away,” Marnie said. “Okay, this is a fun one. It’s where you say no and walk away while saying it.”
Senator Bennet rolled his eyes. “My issue isn’t so much how to say no as it is whether to.”
“That, conveniently enough, sounds like number five,” Marnie said, holding her ground. “Which is changing the subject. Senator Klobuchar, we need again you for this one.”
Fuller and Senator Klobuchar broke past Senator Bennet and then scuff jogged into the center of the room.
“Let’s smoke some marijuana and then why don’t you vote to confirm me.” Fuller said, larping Neil Gorsuch once again.
“No. Let’s watch my new video and vote to confirm Merrick Garland instead,” Senator Klobuchar said. “I’m not sure ‘video’ works here?” she whispered to Marnie and Chuck Schumer.
“It’s fine, Klobs,” Fuller said to Senator Klobuchar as he tried to bump her fist with his.
Marnie made a note to excise the word ‘video’ from the how-to-say-no guides.
“Number six is avoid the situation. D.A.R.E. says, if you know of places where people often use drugs, stay away from those places. If you pass those places on the way home, go another way.” Marnie paused. “How would that translate in the Senate?” she asked Chuck Schumer.
“That’s the easiest one! Don’t show up to vote!”
“I can’t avoid a Supreme Court nomination vote,” Senator Bennet said. “That’s like one of our basic responsibilities as Senators.”
“Okay, then how about number seven? Giving a cold shoulder,” Marnie offered. “Senator Klobuchar?”
Amy Klobuchar scooted to the center of the room again.
“Hey! Do you want to smoke and then vote to confirm me?” Fuller-as-Gorsuch asked.
Senator Klobuchar stood silently for several beats.
“This is me ignoring Neil Gorsuch,” Amy Klobuchar explained to Michael Bennet.
“I can’t do that,” Senator Bennet said. “We sometimes run into each other fly fishing or performing other rugged activities about Colorado. I can’t ignore him.”
Marnie furrowed her brow. “Last one, then. Number eight. Strength in numbers.” Marnie cued to Senator Schumer to open the door. “The idea, I think, is that there’s power to be derived from solidarity.”
Senators Sanders, Warren, Franken, Harris, Booker, Murphy, Brown, Gillibrand, Durbin, and Duckworth entered the office, clapping in unison.
“Okay, now this is me giving you all the cold shoulder,” Michael Bennet said as he walked away.
“No, that’s you walking away, Michael. Number four,” Chuck Schumer said. “The strategy you mocked.”
“Come on, Michael. We need this,” Cory Booker pleaded. He and Dick Durbin mock tackled Senator Bennet. Fuller jumped into the scrum. “Strength in numbers!” they chanted.
“Strength in numbers, Michael. Please join us,” Chuck Schumer begged, his hands raised as if in Christian prayer. Then he repeated, “Join us” another forty-eight times, like a very broken record.