There has to be a word for the anxiety produced by Official Forms. I have it. Formophobia. It’s not that I get the shakes or hyperventilate when confronted with them, but my brain floods with water. It’s as if I can’t focus, because I am convinced I will miss something or put down something wrong

(have to run upstairs and check because I want to make sure I didn’t enter the wrong number on something)

(IT WAS THE WRONG NUMBER. Daughter had the wrong Rotary number, so I had to adjust the form and compile the PDFs and squeeze them and that was seven minutes.)

We’re finally doing the visa application, because the one last thing we needed came. We needed the documents from Brazil and the plane ticket, and those showed up two weeks ago, but we needed - new twist! - notarized IDs from the host people. (Almost said host parents.) (I’ll be switched if I say that.) A request was sent, and the days went by - nothing. Another request was made, and the days went by . . . nothing. Daughter got back from camp today thinking the application had been sent, and was dismayed: she doesn’t want to be going alone, but wants to go with her group.

Then - within an hour of her getting home - the notarized IDs showed up. Ahh. Whew. I carefully rescanned everything and sent it to her to apply for the visa, only to discover that the daughter of the Brazilian Host People, Or BHPs as I’ll call them now, sent the mom’s ID twice. No dad. Don’t know if this prevents us from submitting the application, but we’re forging ahead. See, you have to submit it all online, and then you get a slip that says you’ve done all the stuff, and THEN you have to send it USPS registered mail ASAP to Chicago.

Up against the clock. Still in knots, but they’ve loosened a bit.

I rode an electric scooter today. They popped up all over town, and the city is going to shut them down until they can figure out how to get a piece of the action, but while they were available I thought “column idea!” And so I rode around a six block radius for $2.20.

Now I have to write a column about it. Daughter's online visa app is almost done; fingers crossed. This is only to get the piece of paper that says we did the thing online; now I have to mail it. There will be no relief upon sending it off, because I'll be convinced that I missed something. No relief until the visa arrives.

What an anxious, grim, helpless measure of despair!

Naaaah. Not really. This is hell, but everything else - well, it you think the world is basically not the worst it's ever been, considering, you may want to keep reading. Because it's bad out there, and you'd best start acting like it.











The exhibitionism of the miserable is the most illustrative aspect of contemporary culture. Everything is awful, and this fact must be attached to any news, invention, art work, picture of a dog, or scientific discovery.

At the height of WW2, the discovery of a planet would have been announced thus: New Planet Discovered. Not "World Wracked By War Finds Hope in the Celestian Beyond," or "Our Anxieties About the Fate of Free Nations Are Forgotten for a Moment As We Behold a New Planet." But today? Our souls. Tortured. Because reasons.

It affects stories about comedians:

If you’re the kind of person who lies awake at night mulling your existence under late capitalism, Nancherla is the comedian for you.

So she has niche appeal, then.

It’s these very qualities of her comedic persona — perceptive and kind, with snatches of the observational acuity of Tig Notaro and weirdness of Maria Bamford — that have become increasingly resonant as sea levels and political discord reach all-time highs.

Rising sea levels require comedy that resonates with kindness.

When talking with Nancherla, it’s easy to slip into thornier philosophical questions about the role of art in the age of branding and constant monetization. She doesn’t know if capitalism really justifies itself, but she’s gimlet-eyed about the fact that it is the system we live in, and she’s trying to make the best choices she can under it.

These people write as if they are living under a hard-core socialist regime that rations goods and sets birth quotas, and every day your choice consists of a five-hour wait in a queue for cooking oil, or a six-hour wait for soap.

Magic rocks:

Young people are not particularly interested in religion, but would still like to believe in something; the world has become too grim and the feeling of helplessness to stop it is too much to bear, so many are turning to mystical measures with the hope that it might decrease their daily despair even slightly; crystals are pretty and it's fun to spend money, particularly if you have a lot of it.

The title of the piece: Unfortunately, I Love Crystals Now

Do you wonder if the helplessness and grimness and despair might have to do with perception, rather than reality? Whether they have adopted this posture to show their worth and depth? Whether they find something absurd about living in New York and having enough money for magic rocks, but believe the world is grim and they are helpless to combat their despair?

Computer games:

Since Donald Trump’s election, three major video game titles—all developed by Western studios—have incorporated provocative political elements, including settings, characters, dialogue, and themes. There’s the latest Wolfenstein game, The New Colossus, released in October, which dramatizes an armed rebellion against a Nazi takeover of the U.S.

Only possible if the citizenry’s armed, right? So it’s good if they’re armed?

There’s Far Cry 5, released in March, which dramatizes a federal raid on a militaristic religious cult in Montana.

The Deputy has to recruit the Resistance members of a Montana county under the control of a cult leader (eye-rolling emoji here), so I assume all the locals have firearms, right?

And there’s the forthcoming Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, due out in March 2019, which depicts an American presidential tyranny and a second civil war. The provocative elements in these games suggest explicit, deliberate commentary on post-Trump politics.

Well, it’s great to see these games taking on the notion that the state can be tyrannical, and hence it’s best to give it as little power as possible and hew as strictly as possible to the limitations imposed by the Constitution.

It can be tough to pinpoint the modern gaming industry’s conscience. Geographically, Western gaming companies are spread all across North America and Europe. Politically, however, the industry tends to resemble Silicon Valley—a quirky, objective hellscape that trivializes labor rights and diversity concerns. The gaming industry’s politics aren’t as strident and liberal as the Hollywood industries, film and television.

Indeed, the large teams that produce modern video games are relatively unlikely to organize around common political allegiances, and official representatives often speak about games as if their political significance, outlook, and biases—their “politics,” as it were—were private, unknowable concerns. The result is a universal know-nothing policy designed to keep a disintegrating peace.


But only the proper kind.

404 pages:from an article about the history of the 404 page, the thoughts of the person who came up with the idea.

When asked if he had any theories about why the error so enchanted people, Cailliau wrote “I don’t even have a hunch about the 404 fascination. And frankly I don’t give a damn. The sort of creativity that goes into 404 response pages is fairly useless. The mythology is probably due to the irrationality, denial of evidence, and preference for the fairy tale over reality that is quite common in the human species … These human traits were relatively innocent in the past, when individual influence was small and information spread slowly. Today, and in no small way due to the existence of the net, these traits have gained a power that is dangerous.” As examples, he cited the election of Donald Trump, the deterioration of the EU, meek political responses to gun violence, and the proliferation of euphemism (“climate change”). Or the fascination could just be a dash of humanity, an appreciation that the internet is made by humans, and humans—especially on the internet—are often bored.


What is not bad, but must understood in context: Human sacrifice

It is not our place to judge cultures that ripped out beating hearts because they thought this ensured the rise of the sun. That's a colonialist perspective.

The replacement of "perspective" with "gaze" is a sign of a good intersectionalist who has incorporated all the proper terms.

  Question: if modern-day white Americans are to be held accountable for slavery, why are modern-day descendants of the Conquistadors never castigated for their blood-related culpability in colonizing Latin and South America?

On a happy note: at least some people have an anchor in life.





We're currently enjoying . . .

Let’s bring you up to speed. It wasn’t the most suspenseful cliffhanger - Secret Agent X-9 was knocked on the head and fell into the drink . . .


. . . and was rescued by Pidge. Down in the hold of the lair, Brenda deduces that the gunfire means cops, and says “The only chance is to get up on deck and shoot it out.”

That always works.

The Baron, who remember looks exactly like Brenda, shows up and demands that he be allowed to fire his gun because of the honor of his country. Brenda soon decides that shooting it out is not the only chance, and runs back downstairs to go out the back door. But there are cops there too, happily shooting the gang members dead.

Of course he slips out pretending to be the Baron, since no one’s on the alert for that possibly happening.

Oh no! He’s kidnapped The Blonde!

We tremble to think what he might do to her!

Oh. (BTW, the shot showed you the difference in production values of Republic vs. Universal.) He goes back to his backup lair, where a woman is listening to news of his daring escape:

Have we met her? Can’t recall. He tells her to put the jewels in his belt so they can lam it out of the country, then says he’s going to take off his disguise. “This will be the last time you see me as the Baron,” he tells her, and the thicker citizens in the audience.

“It’ll be good to see you as your old self again,” she says for the really stupid people in the audience, or the ones who missed episodes 1 - 11.

So what does he look like? What? We’re dying to know!

WHOA! Blackstone! Blackstone is Brenda!

He’s looking that way because the box of jewels is, of course, filled with junk. Somehow he was tricked, and blames Trader Delany, who was at the meet. So Brenda calls . . . his lawyer, who goes to FBI HQ to spring Delany. Never occurs to him that the FBI might follow him when he’s out? (BTW, the FBI knows the lawyer works for Brenda.)

So it’s back to the doc, where weary washerwomen walk past Sloppy Alf’s:

Inside, Brenda / Blackstone braces Trader Delaney, who knocks him out and runs. I love this shot:

Oh by the way the pirate ship is on fire. Brenda takes the secret passage from the shop to the ship, and this leads to one my favorite serial moments ever:

That’s efficient. But he just winged him. And so:

So far Brenda’s been shot, and slugged. But he’s not dead. In the sci-fi-type serials the mad scientist or alien usually has to die. What are the rules for crime serials?


The mouthpiece says they got nuttin’ on Brenda, and should be rewarding him for his role in getting the jewels back. This is where Secret Agent X-9 brings up some forensic evidence - a bullet! Fingerprints! He’s led away.

And that’s it? No, we need some awkward, unconvincing sexual tension:

I liked it. Low camp factor, which meant it was more of an exciting crime drama than the serials we’ve come to know and love here, but it’s good to see something different.

Now, a break. Next week: the Return of . . . well, you’ll see.

That'll do. See you thither.


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