Absolutely Useless Thoughts

1. Trump is playing whack-a-mole. He’s been doing it from the start. He wins because he expects you to think in traditional norms. So the playing field is uneven and always has been and then he just starts throwing stuff out there and challenges you to respond to each and every thing because someone is begging you to. But then you just get tired and want to take a long nap. And he gets his way again. This is how he conducts business and it’s how he won the election. So what I’m saying is you have to pick your battles with him and that means ingesting a lot of really crap stuff.

2. More Trump. It’s hard to believe he’s not even President yet. How much are we going to have to talk about him come January? But this past week’s Tweetstorm was perfect Whack-a-Mole strategy. You settle a fraud case for $25 million (!), then tell your VP to go to the theatre very publicly, and then go on a twitter rant about how he was treated so that no one talks about the settlement, or the fact you’re still conducting business as the head of Trump International while you’re the president-in-waiting (Trump is a walking conflict of interest), or the fact that your incoming cabinet is a kind of retrograde thinking’s greatest hits. Where do you start? Is the US even capable of figuring all this out? The media isn’t. Because the media doesn’t matter (I’m about to contradict myself in my next point but who cares, it’s the Age of Trump) anymore. Probably. Macedonian teens are as powerful as the NY Times. Maybe Trump was right and the country is broken. And his election is the proof. Trump is his own tautology. (And this is the truest comment from Kellyanne Conway ever – we shouldn’t care about Trump’s tweets. They are a distraction. He’s playing Whack-a-Mole. Look away. Trump may be the least important member of his own government. He’s a symbol. Look elsewhere.)

Bored entrepreneurial  teenagers from Macedonia gamed the system. Macedonia is the country in the black circle.

Bored entrepreneurial teenagers from Macedonia gamed the system. Macedonia is the country in the black circle.

3. Moose fight. This is my favorite out of context quote ever. OK, not ever. Of the past week maybe.

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The quote comes from this story, which is something I found because I subscribe to Dave Pell’s indispensible Next Draft, a kind of smart curation of the internet that comes to my inbox every day. I highly recommend it. (My two main news aggregators are Next Draft and Quartz. Though I should also say this: subscribe to your favorite news site. Buy newspapers and magazines. Support websites. Pay them. Journalism is hard work and requires funds to function. There is no free news. You know what free news gets you? Absolutely nothing. And worse. Read my next point.)

4. I’m tired of talking about “fake news” and “real news” and when are we going to start talking about how facts became partisan? This is a chicken-egg thing and I don’t know where it started. But the bigger item here is how easy it has become to disseminate anything. The democratization of information means you, too, can believe that the earth is flat, find a tribe of the like-minded quickly, and become a potent political force. The internet empowered us, sure, but it has also created bubbles (what is an algorithm but data that keeps you inside your bubble?) and killed facts. Let’s be clear: There are no facts now. We live in post-fact world. There is simply what you want to believe. The internet has brought a lot of people together and done good things. Agreed. But it is also driving us apart, allowing us to live in parallel worlds. More, it is an incubator of cognitive dissonance. And as the world gets larger and larger, and the internet gets more and more intimate, our collective retreat from the world will only lead to a greater divergence of fact. Or to put it this way: fact and opinion will converge. They already have. Perhaps they always have. I don’t know. Perhaps it’s how we make sense of a world with billions of people.

5. There are global people, internationalists, ready to jet off to Hong Kong or work in Vienna, and then there’s everyone else. Neither side really gets the other. Being global and local at once is becoming harder and harder.

6. The pundits get everything wrong and then we continue to listen to the stuff they say. We deserve everything that happens to us.

7. The North Pole. This is really not good news, people. Or it might not be good news. Depends on your news source, I suppose. Though I believe this is existential and a far bigger threat than anything else. Even the Pentagon thinks so. Though the folk who just won the White House aren’t quite on the same page.

8. Leonard Cohen lived in LA. But his hometown can be found in his every word, lyric, stanza, thought, note, everything he ever wrote. The outpouring of emotion here – never mind around the world – was and continues to be quite touching. Here’s a photo from his home in Montreal, taken a few days after his death:

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This story in the New Yorker, published after the release of Cohen’s final album, is thorough and lovely.

9. I’ve written about 2016 already here and important people die every year but 2016 just seems like it needs to go away. And quickly. Six weeks left.

10. I’ve decided to only purchase black, white, and grey clothes from now on. Or a combination thereof. That doesn’t mean I’m going to wear black, white and grey clothes exclusively, at least not yet. But I won’t be replacing anything I currently own with something similar (I own a lot of blue things). I put the “absolutely” in “absolutely useless.” Or perhaps it is my own way of confronting the oncoming approach of 50. Which is something that will happen before the end of 2016.

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Oh America!

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I don’t want to add to the handwringing. The pundits were wrong, anyhow. So so wrong. Yugely. Bigly wrong. And I’m no pundit. As this election wore on, I kind of turned away and grew numb. Because while I scoffed at the idea of Trump’s victory something inside me was whispering that this eventuality was possible.

Look, I’m just a Canadian, so my handwringing is useless. But considering how many Americans didn’t vote in this election, that might not be true. My point of view is almost as valid as the millions who could have voted but didn’t.

This chart kills me:

And then this one, too:

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So Trump won the thing with less votes than Romney garnered when he lost to Obama. That is bad math. And, yes, he won with less of the popular vote, but that’s the system. Being Canadian, I’ve seen governments form strong majorities with less than 40% of the vote (though our systems are different enough that this is really an apples and oranges comparison). And to top it off, people called it. Months ago. Michael Moore called it almost perfectly. This is back in the summer. He wasn’t the only one. But the granularity of his prescience is impressive.

I was in London for Brexit and I remember thinking about this new world, about how most Londoners had no idea this was coming. Similar forces voted Trump in as well (though let’s combine this with voter apathy, voter suppression – which worked like a fucking charm, and, let’s face it, a Democratic party campaign that was short on real ideas and was more in rest-on-our-laurels mode).

So already, a shop was spray painted with Swastika in Philadelphia (on the anniversary of Kristallnacht no less). Various POC have mentioned harassment and casual racism. “This is America” now means something else. Trump’s cabinet looks like an amazingly motley crew of morbid. The earth is about to get a lot dirtier and unhealthier. So long science. So long facts. And people are genuinely scared. There is nothing that happened during the campaign that should make them feel otherwise. Any touch of the “other” in you is now magnified, as the white majority takes its last kick at the can. I hope the assholes don’t remain emboldened. But the thing about assholes is they never know when to quit. That’s one of the things that makes them assholes in the first place.

There have already been protests in the cities (of course in the cities) and I imagine that protests in front of Trump properties across the country and around the world will continue for as long as Trump remains President. And if those protests galvanize enough people to form an effective – and loud – coalition of people, constantly reminding the world that 75% of Americans didn’t vote for Trump, that’s something. Or could be.

But return to those charts. Trump won and it turns out the system was rigged in his favor. He played the system perfectly. He did just enough to win. He complained about the system and the otherness of America just enough to drive up his vote in just the right places. His margins in those swing states in the Upper Midwest were thin, almost non-existent, but enough. Turns out he knew how rigged the system really was and played it.

Eight years after the US electrified all of us by electing a black man to be President, by electing someone who represented the “better angels” of America those same people turned around and elected an orange racist plutocrat up on charges of child rape and fraud. It’s almost as if the past eight years hadn’t happened. It’s almost as if the “progress” we were witnessing was too good to be true. Coupled with the Brexit, and the rise of the far right throughout Europe and elsewhere, and the debasement of the “other” – which has reached enough critical mass as to be mainstream – and we are living in dark times. People who want to fix it should probably remove their sunglasses right about now.

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The Waiting (is the Hardest Part)

long-viewWriting is hard. I know, cry me a river. What isn’t hard? Watching TV? Maybe. Ok, maybe watching TV isn’t hard. Watching good TV is another story. Or finding good TV. Or anything good. Especially if you’re searching for something on Netflix. Canadian Netflix. Which is the worst Netflix in the world.

But writing, too, is hard. Worse, is the business of writing. That’s really hard. It’s harder still if you’re impatient. The business of writing is slow food in a food court world. Except in a food court dedicated to slow food. But you see what I’m getting at. The business of writing is like trying to get hardened honey out of a jar. Sure, you can self publish, and more power to you, but I don’t want to be writer and editor and publisher and marketer and book seller. I just want to be the writer. So I’ve made my choices. I’m living with them. But let me complain just a little. About waiting.

via GIPHY

You write a book. You write it a few times. If you’re lucky. If you’re me you write the book 4 times and you think it’s good to show (and you consider yourself lucky because the last time you wrote a book you wrote it at least 10 times so if you have something decent enough to show after 4 you might be feeling a little good about yourself) and then you find a new agent (because your old one retired) and then you write the book another time (well, 2 really) so that it can be ready for market and then, and then, it’s summer, and the publishing industry is like some genteel club that summers in Tuscany and has to pack their trunks and order extra horses because so many trunks and then the train, oh, it takes a while to get to Tuscany and then you spend the entire month in Tuscany. There is nothing like finishing a novel right before this happens. Because you have mistimed things. The publishing industry is going to Tuscany. Or the Hamptons. Or Costa Rica. They are in all the nice places and none of the nice places are their offices.

Let us drink over yon for a fortnight whilst the writers work the plow...

Let us drink over yon for a fortnight whilst the writers work the plow…

So you make use of that time. While the publishing industry is in Tuscany, you’re buying books because you’re stupid, because, well, you have to write another book, because it’s what you do. And now you want to write something else, not just any book, but a book that requires a bit of research, maybe a lot of research, because you are an idiot with idiot interests and want to say idiotic things in a slow food manner to a food court world.

At least the research is colorful

At least the research is colorful

But you do it. You hope that the publishing types, newly recharged from their summer sojourns, love what you’ve written, and then purchase it, so they can publish it in, oh, 18 months. These are people that take the long view.

They are not:

• astronomers
• geologists
• paleontologists
• evolutionary biologists
• mortgage specialists

But they are also not:

• Usain Bolt
• short order cooks
• horse flies
• politicians

They are somewhere in between. Publishers do not do fast, unless you were just acquitted for a spectacular crime, or got caught doing something very dumb, or want to get elected to something – then publishers can get your book out in the time it takes to binge watch that show you’ve been wanting to watch and that everyone else has and so you decide to just so you can take part in that conversation finally. Because it sounds like a good conversation, because you’re tired of missing out on things, you need to take charge of your life, finally, and stop blaming your parents for your laziness.

Did I mention writing is hard? It is. But waiting to see it out in the world, at least, again, if you aren’t self-publishing, is even harder. So all this to say Tom Petty was right.

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2016 Sucks Shit

Bowie. Glenn Frey. Lemmie. Natalie Cole. Alan Rickman. Abe Vigoda. Phife Dawg. Garry Shandling. Ken Howard. Maurice White. Merle Haggard! Keith Emerson.

It’s only April, for fuck’s sake.

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Happiness is Finding Lost Nail Clippers

tums

Sometimes you just write a line that you’re so proud of you want to go out and buy cigars and hand them out to every stranger you happen to meet. This is such a line:

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It’s from a story (Part Two of a story to be honest) posted on Tabulit (my last post explains what this site is). I think this line comes from something my wife once said. She may have uttered this line exactly, I’m not sure, she is prone to saying things like this, but I don’t know if she says anything this weird. Whatever, it’s almost a throw away line but I’m proud of it. Weird things make writers happy. Or weird things make weird writers happy.

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Hi Remember Me?

larry

It’s been a while. Stuff has been happening just not here. So this came out today:

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This is from a short story (Part One of a short story) called Wild Horses (link) that has been posted on a new site called Tabulit, a literary venture that sells short stories and hands over the majority of the money to the author. The vast majority. It’s a start up so we’ll see how it goes.

I have a new agent as well. She is based in London. (You can see who she is on the Contact page.) The story of how we “met” is very modern and one day I will tell it. Yes it involves Twitter. I have a new agent because my next novel is almost done. Almost. I probably have another pass to go. But it’s done enough that I’ve started research for #3. All this means is I’m buying a bunch of books.

Also Garry Shandling died today. He was only in his 60s. He was one of the funniest people of the last hundred years. This isn’t even remotely an exaggeration. His comedy defined much of what we find funny on television (especially) today. From where I sat (and I was always sitting in front of the television if he was on it) he seemed like some kind of amazing genius, gentle and cutting all at once. If you don’t know his work, I strongly suggest you search it out.

(This episode of Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is, now, a little uncomfortable to watch – but still.)

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You Can Hear My Awful Voice

listeningEveryone thinks their voice is awful and I’m “everyone” too so I think my voice is awful. It must be hard for singers. I was on a podcast recently and I talked about my writing, restaurants in Montreal, and my day job. It’s not a must listen or anything, but it’s a surprisingly entertaining 40 minutes. Surprising because I listened to it and didn’t want to hurt myself. The sponsor of the podcast? Moishe’s. Not just Montreal’s finest steakhouse but one of the finest in the world. I mean that. I’m also linking to a story (in French) that Montreal’s LaPresse ran over the Christmas holidays on their app, and then on their website. The photo of me on the app is much much better than the photo of me on the website. I’m frankly a little (a lot?) appalled by the photo of me on the website. I’d have preferred listening to the interview, let’s put it that way.

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David Bowie Will Never Die

bowie

David Bowie never stopped. He was an artist in the sense that he couldn’t shut it off, in that every single thing he did was bathed in multiple levels of meaning. He was David Jones. Who created David Bowie. Who created Ziggy Stardust and Major Tom and Alladin Sane and The Thin White Duke. He never stopped. Blackstar was written and produced while he knew he was dying and to listen to it now is to realize he knew and that he was telling us.

The foreign minister of Germany thanked him for helping in reunifying the country. Imagine the transcendent nature of your art to be thanked by a government official for aiding in the creation of your state.

Long before Nike made it a slogan, David Bowie just did it. He did what he wanted. But strategically, calculated, every move the result of much thought. Lots of art. David Bowie was an artist before anything. He created things. He created characters and worlds. He created life.

Art teaches us what it means to be alive. Right? (and look at this crazy photo – that’s just some of his progeny)

David Bowie never stopped.

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En francais, dude

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I’m not so ambivalent about reviews now, not with the French version of my book, at least. Because the book is old and the reviews aren’t going to drive me so crazy. And so here’s the first review (that I know of) and it’s good! If not great. And speaking of Attends-moi, I’ll be at Montreal’s Salon du Livre signing copies of the book. Venez me voir!

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Because There is Always More Stuff

I’ve decided to add some stuff to Medium. Like I’m not content to post stuff to ello, I’m going to post excerpts from the novel-to-be to Medium as well. I must be silly.

No sillier than the unbelievably awful and low-point-in-recent-Canadian-history silly Canadian election campaign. But still silly.

How silly?

This silly:

Of course, I’m also the guy who said this:

Maybe I say too much. I’ve been accused of that before.

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