Every week, I read many, many things. Many of them are bad, and few of them are good. Most of the few good — or at least the most well-written –– things that I come across tend to be related to politics in some way, shape, or form. Our president spends every single day doing a bunch of crazy shit that threatens to cripple our democracy/plunge us into nuclear war/double down on global warming so he has more hurricanes to tweet about.
As a result of how hard he sucks, lots of people are more politically engaged than they were during the Obama years. And if there is a market demand to read a bunch of shit about politics, writers and editors will gladly supply it, shifting the gears of the Content Machine so that it spits out Trump-centric articles at a dizzying clip, assigning political pieces to writers who have no idea what the fuck they're talking about, as well as shoehorning political angles into otherwise-apolitical articles in the hopes that more people will share it on their Facebooks to show that they supposedly care about politics.
I just used some variation of the word "politics" five times in one sentence, and I am about to use it one more time: It's not that politics isn't important (it is) or doesn't warrant plenty of discussion (it does), it's just that reading something stupid might be worse than reading nothing at all, and posting a link to something stupid on social media is no substitute for going out and engaging with something in real life. Go to a meeting or a lecture, seek out books and articles that are written by experts in their fields, become conversant in the arguments of the other side if only so that you can refute them. Or, like, don't — it's your life, not mine.
Anyways, I present to you a selection of great recent pieces of writing, none of which mention Donald Trump. As always, I encourage you to spark up a fatty before reading them.
"Visit to a Nørb Planet"
Jim Knipfel in The Believer
I consider my knowledge of punk to be medium-low, but my enthusiasm about learning more about punk to be, like, medium-high I guess? Anyways, even if your knowledge and enthusiasm about punk are both medium-zero, you should probably read this thing by novelist Jim Knipfel about his childhood friend Nørby Rozek, who he estimates was "the first kid in school, maybe the whole city, or maybe the entire state of Wisconsin to discover punk rock." Rozek ended up changing his name to Rev. Nørb, fronting the sardonic punk outfit Boris the Sprinkler, and writing a batshit-brilliant column for Maximumrocknroll, which is now being put out as a book. By the time Knipfel drops that, "After being told [by MRR that] he had to keep his column under a certain length, Rozek returned to a long column which had just been rejected for that reason and removed all the vowels," I knew in my heart that Rev. Nørb was the best dude.
"The Marsh at the End of the World"
Elizabeth Rush for Guernica
See, this is why you shouldn't just read stuff about Donald Trump––did you know that marshes, a vital part of our ecosystem, are just straight-up rotting? I didn't, but then I read Elizabeth Rush's report on how the end of marshes just might be the start of the end of the world, so I do now, and since you just read this sentence, you do too.
"The Vanishing Pugilist and the Poet"
Emma Garman for Roundtable by Lapham's Quarterly
The number-one way to be sure that an article will not mention Donald Trump is to find an article like this one, which is primarily concerned with events that occurred before Donald Trump was born.
"Rock 'N' Roll: America's Midlife Crisis"
Ian Svenonious for Talkhouse
Ever since he made a name for himself as the frontman of the D.C. punk band Nation of Ulysses, the singer and writer Ian Svenonious has done his damnedest to pervert arguments and perspectives, not necessarily going against the grain but instead asserting that the grain itself is a bourgeois capitalist construct that should be blown up, or at least reconsidered from an entirely different context. His writing is in a category of its own, half earnest leftist cultural criticism and half send-up of the very concept of earnest leftist cultural criticism, whose brilliance relies on the impossibility of being able to tell when he's being for real or just fucking around.
His latest piece, which appears in Talkhouse, argues that rock music is nothing more than (you guessed it) America's midlife crisis whose subsequent waves of rebellion and reinvention (punk, indie, et al) are themselves mini-midlife crises. Once a subgenre becomes co-opted or even absorbed by corporate interests, he argues, it becomes a malleable aesthetic which the market dictates "must now be big, cloddish, immediately engaging, and absolutely derivative."
He's definitely fucking around and being over-the-top, but the point he lands on is dead serious: "Since 'crisis' is an escape from the world we ourselves have constructed, we must begin to plan our exit strategy, with an emphasis on refuting the internet-industry values which have infected us all." Which, yeah –– if we make American culture as a whole less reliant on the internet, then maybe it'll suck a significantly smaller bag of shit than it does now and stop another Donald Trump from happening.
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