You had one job.

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This is the man who broke Black Panther’s perfect Rotten Tomatoes score. That’s a shame.

You might think it weird that a person who gets paid to have opinions about art would gig a movie for an insufficient number of jumpings and beatings, but I draw strange comfort from knowing that such unique musings came from a man named Ed Power.

By their fruits you shall etc

Checker at Lowe’s: “That’s a sweet dog you have. Is he a terrier?”

Me: “Yeah, we think he’s some kind of ter—“

Jack: “He’s a Bearded Orwellian Snatchhound.”

The lies I tell my children may be catching up to me.

The magic wanted to be used.

"Wolf," Áine said.

The wolf whined and dropped the rope over the edge.

"If this is just a ruse to make sure you can eat me later, "Ned heard Áine say, "I will never forgive you." Ned saw the rope go taut, pulling against the knot on the tree.

Hand over hand over hand, Áine pulled herself over the edge of the cliff, and began walking her way up the slope, still holding onto the rope.

Ned's heart thundered in his chest. Be safe, he pleaded to Áine. Be safe, he urged the wolf.

You know, the magic began.

"SILENCE," Ned ordered.

And the magic was silent. And that feeling—both wonderful and terrible—from the swirl of the magic begin to ease. It was dangerous, that magic. And no matter how hard anyone tried to force it to do good, it wasn't enough.

It wasn't good.

Still. As Áine came closer and closer, he knew that no matter how wicked the magic was, he would use it again to save her. Again and again and again. Even the wicked can do one good, brave thing.

She is alive, he thought. She is alive, she is alive, she is still alive. Though he hardly knew her, and though he knew, as certain as he knew that his feet touched the earth and not the sky, that she was not his friend, not really, his heart soared all the same.

He reached out his hand to Áine, and she took it.

—Kelly Barnhill, The Witch's Boy

This woman writes kid stories that remind me of how to be a man. I hope to thank her in person one day.

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction

I would go so far as to say that the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.

One relationship among elements in the novel may well be that of conflict, but the reduction of narrative to conflict is absurd. (I have read a how-to-write manual that said, "A story should be seen as a battle," and went on about strategies, attacks, victory, etc.) Conflict, competition, stress, struggle, etc., within the narrative conceived as carrier bag/belly/box/house/medicine bundle, may be seen as necessary elements of a whole which itself cannot be characterized either as conflict or as harmony, since its purpose is neither resolution nor stasis but continuing process.

Finally, it's clear that the Hero does not look well in this bag. He needs a stage or a pedestal or a pinnacle. You put him in a bag and he looks like a rabbit, like a potato.

That is why I like novels: instead of heroes they have people in them.

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin

Rest in peace.

I found a much better take

This here is a much more reasoned approach to the possible future of blockchain and cryptocurrency.

It’s...not breathless, not at all, but still a little gee-whiz despite its reserved tone. It also ignores a few important points, like blockchain technology’s horrendous inefficiency. The savior of the web needs to not gobble up energy at tens of thousands of times the rate that a centralized system does, or we arguably go extinct quicker.

And even if we solve that, there’s also the problem that we haven’t yet found a good use case for blockchains despite ten years of trying. Other than buying hookers and blow and getting rich on a speculation bubble that your barber will ultimately pay the price for.

Even so, cryptographic identity verification is big. A decentralized database that no one owns is big. A robust system for verifying transactions democratically is big. These are all huge technological achievements.

And you’ll get no argument from me that the internet needs saving. Client-side JavaScript alone is killing it, even before we crack into the problems described in the NYT link at the top. Money and power are throttling it. But the solution will have to be efficient, basically bulletproof, and all but invisible (or at least easily understandable and low-friction) to the user.

I found a very bad take

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You know, there’s another solution that would allow people to keep on taking advantage of FDIC-insured accounts and cards that have tons of consumer protections built in and don’t consume the equivalent of a whole household’s energy usage to verify a single transaction.

It’s called “regulation”. Turns out it works. Better than a Wild West seven-piddly-transactions-a-second invention used primarily for get-rich-quick currency speculation and paying for prostitutes and drugs online, anyway.

God

Grant me the serenity

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To accept the things I cannot change

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The courage

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To punch Nazis in the youdamn face

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And the wisdom

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To shut my mouth and listen to women and people of color

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Meantime?

We march.

Please know that.

Willie Lincoln’s spirit, watching his father grieving over his body (what he calls “the worm”):

You were a joy, he said. Please know that. Know that you were a joy. To us. Every minute, every season, you were a—you did a good job. A good job of being a pleasure to know.

Saying all this to the worm! How I wished him to say it to me And to feel his eyes on me So I thought, all right, by Jim, I will get him to see me And in I went It was no bother at all Say, it felt all right Like I somewhat belonged in

In there, held so tight, I was now partly also in Father

And could know exactly what he was

Could feel the way his long legs lay How it is to have a beard Taste coffee in the mouth and, though not thinking in words exactly, knew that the feel of him in my arms has done me good. It has. Is this wrong? Unholy? No, no, he is mine, he is ours, and therefore I must be, in that sense, a god in this; where he is concerned I may decide what is best. And I believe this has done me good. I remember him. Again. Who he was. I had forgotten somewhat already. But here: his exact proportions, his suit smelling of him still, his forelock between my fingers, the heft of him familiar from when he would fall asleep in the parlor and I would carry him up to—

It has done me good.

I believe it has.

It is secret. A bit of secret weakness, that shores me up; in shoring me up, it makes it more likely that I shall do my duty in other matters; it hastens the end of this period of weakness; it harms no one; therefore, it is not wrong, and I shall take away from here this resolve: I may return as often as I like, telling no one, accepting whatever help it may bring me, until it helps me no more.

Then Father touched his head to mine.

Dear boy, he said, I will come again. That is a promise.

—George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

I'm listening to the audiobook for this, but in googling this passage (which had me in tears over lunch), I can see that I'm missing something important without the text. Any book that requires me to research CSS in order to quote it properly is worthy of reading in print.

You’ll have to come looking, I guess

I ditched active participation in Twitter several months ago. The outrage cycle was tiring. People shouting THREAD over and over again was tiring. The endless punishment of women and people of color while the Nazis were constantly given what could only absurdly be termed “free speech consideration” was exhausting.

Twitter seemed so full of promise once. It looked like it could change the world, and unfortunately, it did.

It’s like a high-speed microcosm of the Boomer generation, all promises of a new world of prosperity and ideas shared and debated, but then money and power start making demands and everything gets thrown in reverse. Such is Twitter, and such is America forever if we don't figure it out.

Though I had “left”, I kept coming to Twitter when called; I still had my blog alert my followers there when I made a post. I did that because of you, because Twitter brought a tsunami of wonderful people into my life, and I am desperate to stay in touch and remind you all how much you mean to me.

But it was also about ego. It was about “outreach”, a word that here means faves and attaboys. I hunger for that too, and it is a part of me that I would drag into an alley and kick to death if I knew how. But I can at least starve it.

I have no dreams of blogging professionally. I have a career that I like that pays me more than all but the most successful writers dream of, and that gives me options I would not otherwise have. So it wasn’t ever about money or fame. I’m just a dog whining to be petted, when you get right down to it.

I could justify that to myself before, but it's getting harder now. Not when women are being banned for criticizing men while the president* unintentionally brags about the size of his clitoris to North Korea and intentionally stokes the fires for war. I can't even distantly participate in a service that bigoted and loony. If I do, I’ve sold off the best part of me just like Jack and Biz did.

So I’m done. Facebook will never touch my new phone and I'm cutting the last remaining cord to Twitter.

I do hope you'll keep poking around here from time to time, and yes, that is still about both you and me. I'm working on it. But I hope I'm at least finally content to wonder whether anyone's listening, without seeking an answer.

The Devil gave Daughterry a sideways look.

"The trouble with you being immortal," said Daughterry, picking up the conversation from before, "isn't whether it's your fault or not. It's a matter of understanding people. How can you understand what moves people when you don't understand that the meaning of life is death?"

The Devil chewed his beans. He waved his fork in a circle that meant "Go on."

"Well," continue Daughterry, "it's not complicated. It's not even philosophy, really. Just a hard fact. When you are doomed to die, that becomes the main force behind your life. You do what you do because you want to be remembered a certain way, or because it is or isn't healthy. You do what you do because you are running out of time. You do what you do because you're twenty years old and that's what twenty-year-olds do, or because you're fifty and that's what fifty-year-olds do. It's the reason you're careful about what you say when you're forty, because you have to live with the consequences, and it's the reason old people say whatever the hell they want. It's the reason people get married and have kids; we have to replace ourselves."

Daughterry took a sip of coffee.

"It's what makes us happy or sad or mad about things. Because it's all so damn wonderful and so terrible, and it's going to be taken away. And, of course, there's the fact that it's so scary. How does it not drive us mad with panic, every moment, knowing that we are going to end? How strangely nonchalant, how divinely resilient we are! Being mortal means being bedmates with horror."

"You'd be amazed," said the Devil, "how boring time can get. You'd go crazy living to be much more than a hundred, let alone a thousand. Life is like a day. Night comes. You get tired. You sleep. You want to sleep."

"Horse balls. That's just the kind of thing an immortal would say. It changes a thing, when you're afraid of it."

—Michael Poore, Up Jumps the Devil

The best thing about saying that last year was, collectively, the worst year of our lives is being able to say that last year was the worst year of our lives. I'll be God-damned if I'm going to let this one top it.

Happy New Year, everyone.

John Scratch

“Who’s there?” asked the guard at the gate.

“A brother in Christ,” said the Devil, and the gate opened.

Between transactions, he played softly upon his fiddle, Old Ripsaw, and surveyed the village with a secret eye. The Pilgrims seemed glum, distracted, like a holiday turned inside out.

Good.

—Michael Poore, Up Jumps the Devil

WOW is that timely