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America

William Hamilton

Over a week later, the question everyone was asking before the playoffs is now one that continues to lurk: what becomes of these Brooklyn Nets? Steve Nash’s team has lit itself aflame once again, but who threw the match? They, of the highly touted scoring tandem, once briefly of a threatening trifecta that no team could think about stopping, could shudder? They could seek fate?

A 116-112 Boston Celtics win on Monday night sent the Nets packing. While they were busy making love with their egos, Ime Udoka was leading his continually resurgent squad to a sweep over a team many once considered to be NBA Finals favorites. It’s worth asking of this iteration of the team: do they seek fate, or does fate become them?

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You’ve seen this before. Well, maybe not – you can’t be sure. But you’ve seen enough to know it’s good, and that it’s righteous by your eyes. Players like this come along – allegedly – all the time, and if you blink, you miss them. The why used to be nebulous, but it isn’t anymore: if you can run like that, and jump like that, well, you’re going to burn out rather than fade away.

Then again, though, watching a dude with rim-smashing force and game-changing power in the 2019 draft from South Carolina shouldn’t have been much of a novelty. Look yourself in the mirror: now you know that two of those existed at the same time, doing different but exactly the same things. You had nothing to do with this, and your teams aren’t pleased, but you remain mesmerized.

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Jeff Goldblum Explains How Dr. Ian Malcolm Was Way Ahead of His Time in  Jurassic Park
Courtesy? None given here.

On January 27, 2021, GameStop (GME) closed out at its highest stock price at $347.51/share since the reddit community of r/WallStreetBets (WSB) sent the stock soaring, in their nomenclature, “to the moon,” a curious phenomenon that many within the mainstream press gave revolutionary significance due to the working and middle class status of some of the volatile stock’s big winners

I wrote last year that despite some of its “populist” character, the supposed gatecrashing by lay people into Wall Street was nothing more than a bubble created by Wall Street actors and carnival barking billionaires in which some previously precarious individuals made instant fortunes while many others lost their shirts. In the year since the GameStop rollercoaster, the increasing presence of words like “crypto”, “DeFi”, and “NFTs” has come to dominate the fintech space. This emergent language has filtered into the mainstream due to the opening of a portal into the long-prophesied techno utopian dream known as the metaverse. 

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On Thursday night, Conan O’Brien hosted what he has said would be his final late-night television episode, on his last late-night television program. He began on TV as a largely unknown 30-year-old in 1993 with exactly the kind of pedigree you would’ve expected then: Harvard-taught, an alumnus of both The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live, an advocate for the weird and disruptive trends emerging in comedy to which, despite him being an Irish-Catholic Massachusetts native, he had a singular pulse.

My introduction to Conan’s work was via Late Night With Conan O’Brien, the show he hosted as the wedge between his beloved Johnny Carson and Jay Leno and which was repurposed as a day-after lead-in to The Daily Show on Comedy Central for a while. When it came time for Conan[1] to assume his seat at the top of NBC’s hierarchy, it suffered from poor ratings and a shift back to late-night along with the Tonight Show name, which Conan would fundamentally not accept. A back-and-forth ensued, and Conan eventually ceded the seat, leaving us bereft of him for a time while he popped up on tour and at music festivals – more on that later.

I understand that his is mainly a slightly-older generation of an audience, the tweeners that both lived to experience Nevermind in real time, cognizant of it or not, and also know how to navigate social media without sparking fights at a dinner table, but my friends and I – white and well-off-ish enough as we were – liked Conan better than any of the others mostly because we never knew what to expect.

Below is a list, mostly off the top of my head, of my personal favorite Conan segments, recurring and otherwise. I know this isn’t the end, but HBOMax’s app is horrendous, and anyway, it isn’t as widely accessible as he has been for thirty years otherwise. Conan, we only wish you well, as you ever wished us.

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Nuggets' Nikola Jokic picked as starter for Western Conference in 2021 NBA  All-Star game
Nick Wass/AP

It’s almost guilt-inducing to laugh at anything right now. Aside from the scornful, halfhearted chuckles any of us get from seeing anything people with a higher Q-score than I have deem “newsworthy,” genuine joy begetting laughter is akin to heartbreak. For every laugh, there are countless tears, and even (especially?) if they’re happening elsewhere, you’re aware of them and their beholders, and you become innately attuned to that reflexive awareness. Laughing to keep from crying almost becomes communal.

The thing about laughter, though, at least usually, is that it’s spontaneous – we expect the things we love to make us smile, whether it be foster pet success stories, an ELI5 display and accompanying graphic of how light moves through space or a book by a favored author. This is trusted comfort, something we can at least give a courtesy smile, as if remembering the one dog, or the one gif, or the one line from a book we were forced to read in high school that brought us here.

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Ned Beatty as Arthur Jensen in Network (1976)

Wall Street in the American imagination is simultaneously held in a state of contempt and awe. It’s the site of both magic and misery.

The name “Wall Street” itself has become a shorthand to denote the capitalist class. Yet, Wall Street is only a segment of this class, known as Finance Capital. 

Finance Capital has become a growing segment within capitalism since the 1970s due to the decline in American manufacturing. Manufacturing took a dive during the 1970s in America due to the postwar recovery of European industries and the emergence of Asian competitors. Big swings in oil prices during the OPEC crisis of 1973, as well as inflationary spending from the Vietnam War, also broke the halcyon days of American prosperity, to which many politicians and their constituents today look to return rather than an anachronism. 

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Everything slips away, eventually. We have lost so much in 2020 that it’s hard to begin to comprehend it just yet. We might never get there. From the as-yet nearly two million deaths related to COVID-19 to the related job losses to the very idea of truth in a truthiness-saturated world, we are collectively losing many more things, and they are losing us, at a much faster rate than any of us living have ever experienced.

Something leaving us at precisely the same rate as it always has, however, is time. An unhuman entity forced us into our homes and away from our loved ones for long stretches; for once, it seemed, there was a problem that throwing federal government-level amounts of money wouldn’t fix[1]. Most of us were forced to adapt; some didn’t, and died; others did, and died anyway. Time kept on slipping, in all its finite utility.

Under the circumstances, and with nowhere to go, it was up to us to spend a lot of time with ourselves. Election-year news cycles are Ringling Brothers productions gone awry in normal times, but taking in the news, even in the simple pursuit of attempting to stay anything like informed, was an especially depressing exercise in 2020.

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Monday

It was already daylight by the time I got home on Sunday. That meant I spent half my weekend sleeping, which I might’ve done anyway thanks to the bonus hour and also because I’ve grown increasingly slothful as my brain prepares for the cold, barely able to reset the clocks that hadn’t already switched automatically. Which is funny, sort of — temperatures were supposed to be in the 70s all week. For most of my life, that wouldn’t have been unusual. I had no excuse other than the one everyone uses: psychic browbeating.

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