When Everything in the Machine is a Crisis, The Crisis is What Feeds the Machine

James Lileks finally found a way to inculcate his classic Screeds into his regular blog, calling it the Wednesday Review of Modern Thought. This past Wednesday, he groused about the overuse of “crisis”:

One of the manifestations of twitchy, sullen, self-righteous miserabilism is the desire to see every problem as a crisis, and every crisis as a justification for the expansion of the state, or the abandoned of old norms.

This is, of course, correct. Fear creates the longing for security, for Direct Action. So, as the old-school Commies knew, the Worse, The Better. And of course, having infected the Fears, as “ethical” stumbling blocks to performing an activity, we then use these to declare that the Poor Little Dears can’t possibly act on their own. We’ve all become the nerdy black guy from The Good Place who can’t choose a hat.

If you can’t make a meal because you’re paralyzed by whether the beans were ethically sourced, and you feel like you’re failing your kid because you let him have a hot dog, you’re probably unhappy about everything in the gott-damned world.

The answer for the food crisis includes nationalized day care and government-run health care, if you’re curious. That’s for starters.

We have problems. Not every problem is a crisis. You need to reserve words for other things.

That would be wise. But they won’t. Because the overuse of the word “crisis” by ethical scamsmen has inculcated us to its use. We see it on the Internet all the time, and like that stupid Grammarly app that keeps emitting itself in my YouTube and Hulu, we have allowed the Machine to tell us how to write.

“Crisis” isn’t even a word anymore, it’s just a meme. Or rather, a program:

  1. Notice unpleasant reality
  2. Declare Unpleasant Reality a Crisis
  3. Make Pious Noise About the Hardship of Dealing With the Crisis
  4. Demand that Big Daddy make all better
  5. Share, Like, and Smash that Subscribe Button
  6. Boom goes the Click Rate

Meanwhile, I go home and make Macaroni and Cheese for my kids. Because I’ve been voting Republican since I was 20; I’m already a monster.

If Blogs are Dying, We Shall Miss Them.

Lileks at his profound best.

While most blogs weren’t deathless examples of great writing, there was the opportunity for individualism, and you don’t get that from a Pinterest page. You don’t get it from a feed of things snipped and reblogged and pinned and shoveled into The Feed. The web turns into bushels of confetti shoveled into a jet engine, and while something does emerge out the other end, it’s usually made impressive by its velocity and volume, not the shape it makes.

All web sites are becoming the same web site. They look the same, they swipe the same, they beg you for subscriptions the same. The noise has become so great that I took February off of social media and I haven’t missed Facebook once. Not. Even. Once.

Content is King, we are told. But the rat at which the content is consumed seems to make the consumption the point rather than the content itself. I can read a thousand articles on Medium in a day; how many of them will really stick with me?

The same can be true of blogs, of course, but whenever I found a blog I liked, I almost always wanted to read everything that they had. Whereas I couldn’t remember the name of anyone who’s “written” any Buzzfeed listicle I’ve gif’ed through if you paid me.

The medium is becoming the message. Which bodes not well, now that the FCC has made it a public utility.

The Passing of a Dog

James Lileks says good-bye to his beloved Jasper, and as someone who still remembers fondly the dog of his youth (McGee, Bane of Moles, Scoffer at Chain-Link Fences), I was moved beyond the capacity to write anything useful in response. And what’s the point anyway? Everyone who’s had a dog understands; no one else could fathom. So I’ll let C.S. Lewis do it for me:

Is that not how the higher thing always raises the lower? A mother teachers her baby to talk by talking to it as if it understood long before it really does. We treat our dogs as if they were ‘almost human’: that is why they really become ‘almost human’ in the end.

Mere Christianity, Chapter 7

Apple is So Not Cool Anymore, It’s Making Handfuls of Money.

Lileks smacks around the tech scribes, weedy dweebs that they are:

I don’t trust any sources that uses “Teens” as a category. What the 19-year old finds interesting is different than what the 13-year-old wants. Half the economy consists of catering to the various differences between 15 and 18. So when we hear that “Teens Sour on Apple,” I think someone’s trying to get ahead of the Apple-is-over story before it becomes conventional wisdom.

Note: people interested in that eternally fascinating comment thread subject, Why I Hate That Platform You Like, are encouraged to head right to comments and start talking about “fanbois” and “Kool-aid.” Make sure you spell Microsoft with a dollar sign!

Whatever the hell melon cat is…

There’s a cusp of time between when you believe that you set the trends, and when you know that you don’t. I passed it a long time ago. I’m even passed the point where I hate trends. I have acheived that wonderous moment when you treat trends like the weather; they come, they go, they’re all kind of the same.

Meet The New Kids on The One Direction Down the Backstreet! Or whatever.

Lileks Speaks the Plain Truth: Vertigo is Lame

Duller than a great thaw is Vertigo, hurdling contrivance upon contrivance with such impossible conveyance of thought that one watches it like a man at a mark, praying that the firing squad kills you straight off. And while the preceding bastardization of Much Ado About Nothing is entirely too pretentious to be clever, it’s still less pretentious and more clever than Vertigo. Anyway, here’s Lileks:

But suspenseful? Not really. The filthy, dirty, ugly “Frenzy” has ten times the nail-biting quotient. Humor? None. It’s soaked with obsession, which means it’s serious. Look: “Rear Window,” my favorite Hitchcock movie, is also about obsession, in a way – but it’s intellectual, questioning, deducing. And it’s overflowing with life and characters and subplots, most of which we never see in detail. Technically, it’s magnificent – much more so than “Vertigo.” Everything in it is believable. Most everything in “Vertigo” is hokum.

It’s as though Hitch decided in the wake of Psycho that if an audience will sit through a plot-shift, they’ll sit through a shift to no plot. He was wrong. Psycho works because after investing an hour into Janet Leigh, we want to see her killing punished, or at least explained. You don’t get very far into the third act of Vertigo before you realize that nothing is going to be punished or explained.

My choice for the greatest movie would be “Casablanca” – the easy, popular, ordinary choice, yes. But quick: quote me one line from “Vertigo.” Find me a minute in “Vertigo” that has the visual ingenuity of “Kane” or the dramatic tautness of “Casablanca.”

“Jaws” is better. “Metropolis” is better. “The Great Escape” is better. Hell, “From Russia With Love” is better.

Let’s milk it, shall we?

Top Ten Commercially Successful Films Which Are Better Than Vertigo:

  • 10. Lord of the Rings
  • 9. The Dark Knight
  • 8. Up
  • 7. Schindler’s List
  • 6. True Grit (original version)
  • 5. The Maltese Falcon
  • 4. The Empire Strikes Back
  • 3. The Godfather
  • 2. The Longest Day
  • 1. Pulp Fiction
  • And that’s off the top of my head.

    Lileks Roasts Bloomberg, and All His Flying Monkeys, Too.

    Epic. (h/t Instapundit)

    As I said, it’s not about health. If it was, no one would mention the cost of obesity. It’s an issue only because the rest of us have to pay for it? If that’s the case, then there’s no end to the restrictions we can conjure up and impose with equal parts of sadness and resolution. Smoking was easy because it stinks. Trans-fats was easy because no one knew what they were; it’s not like you go down the store to pick up some trans-fats. The soda laws appeal to the overclass because fat people are disgusting.

    This might not do anything, but it’ll show them who has pull around here.

    Read. The. Whole. Thing.

    Lileks on Gatsby

    I’ve always rather liked The Great Gatsby, because I find Fitzgerald’s prose far better than any of the other Greats of the Roaring Twenties, especially Hemingway, who reads the way sawdust tastes, and Faulkner, who seemed to think that Henry James wasn’t quite loquacious enough. F. Scott never forgot that writing serves the story.

    However, I can’t argue with this:

    I don’t hold Gatsby as some sort of Iconic Figure of the times. I never felt any sorrow for Gatsby, because Daisy bored me. Yes, yes, I realize that she was supposed to represent something, just as he was, just as the light across the water was, just as the big enormous eyeglasses represent Fate or the prevailing moral sense or conscience or whatever you please. It’s a good book. It’s a great book. It spoke to the dreams and fears of a society that was suddenly flush and young and bent on fun. It was a Cautionary Tale. It channeled the romantic flush of one’s early twenties into a story that mistook those passions for tragic signifiers of the human condition in general, and the American experience in particular.

    That’s just it: Daisy’s voice is full of money, and that’s about it. It’s not just that she’s a bad person; there’s no there there. She does not act, nor engage, nor say anything of note. She is an object, a Golden Fleece with one two many Jasons in the hunt. The nice guy loses. The end.

    But will I see the movie with DiCaprio? Probably. It can’t be worse than the Redford version, which is indeed “gauzy and inert”. I’ve rather liked DiCaprio’s work of late, from The Aviator forward (Revolutionary Road excluded). But the story has that touch more ambition than its structure can carry (how meta), which is why it always feels murdered at the end.

    Lileks on Drugs

    May be even funnier than normal Lileks, be such a thing concievable. You get the dryness with a hint of frenzy.

    Went downstairs and turned on the TV and was amused to see I’d left off watching “They Live,” which is The Matrix except with a wrestler.

    Heh. But that’s on OTC pain pills. Wait for Mr. Vicodin to come to town:

    Vicodin #2 seems to have had the desired effect. Unfortunately, it has effed me up to the point where typing and typing as fast as possible seems the only way to maintain grasp on reality. If you can imagine feeling like you’d just eaten a pound of opium, then topped it off with a brick of raw meth, well, there you go: simultaneously distant and soothed and REALLY REALLY HERE, RIGHT HERE, VERY MUCH HERE.

    And then of course, he starts hearing things:

    Well, last night I heard a whining sound, culminating in a tortured shriek. I’d hear it, then silence, then a few minutes later, same thing. What. the hell? Finally went up the block to investigate, whereupon I heard the sound behind me, and realized:


    I have very little experience with drugs, save for having discovered the folly of mixing muscle relaxant with beer, and for a few lovely minutes spent hanging out with Valium right before I got my eyes fixed. Valium is awesome: you’re fully aware and can have a perfectly lucid conversation without the effort to “maintain,” but everything issmoooooooothed out . . . Then again, I was singing “Mother’s Little Helper,” to myself and giggling before they led me down the hall to to the Lasik room, so I could be rhapsodizing.

    Lileks on Hoarders

    Good stuff:

    There’s always two stories, they alternate between them, and something is always about to happen, usually eviction. Last night was one of those really cheerful episodes where both stories end in failure. The fascinating part? Not the junk they keep, not the reasons they give, not the delusions they construct, but the immense disconnect between their rational, intelligent conversations, and their insanity.

    A fine commentary on the human condition: the reason understands, analyzes, conceives action, but the will blocks it. The will is not informed by reason, but by something else.

    I can’t stand Hoarders, for the same reason I can’t stand Wife Swappers: because drawing entertainment from people’s dysfunction is cruel and boring. It’s one thing to laugh at the sociopathy of Beavis & Butthead; those guys are caricatures, and the very bluntness of their moronity makes them the perfect critics of the crap MTV slings. But to see some poor old grandmother losing her mind because someone tries to get rid of something she will never use does nothing more than reassure me that I am not so fallen.

    Although it does inspire me to clean out the basement. Read the Whole Thing.