Review Things Archive


Book Review: “Cooking for Dogs” by Marjorie Walsh

At my job, I encounter a lot of very stupid books. There are a lot of very stupid people, you see, and they like to read very stupid books. And then those get donated to my non-profit and I sort through them and judge the anonymous people who donated them, usually harshly. It grants me the rare opportunity to feel superior to people who likely make more money than I ever have or will. Like the guy who took the time to leave a half-garbled sentence in my seller feedback when I had to cancel his order of “The Preppy Handbook” or some shit, due to Amazon being glitchy? Yeah, I still make fun of that dude in my head sometimes. And I make fun of you when you drop off thirty Danielle Steele novels at my donation bins, too. It’s a perk of being in the book donation world: I get to examine your marginalia, the titles you read, the boarding passes you leave in the middle of shitty airport books. I get to peek into your life and decide whether or not you’re a good person. What’s that? You just donated five Rachael Ray cookbooks?

Oh, hi. I think less of you.

But I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered a more loathsome book than the one that I’m about to describe. Published by Random House in 2007, penned by the illustrious Marjorie Walsh, who runs “an elite dog resort in the UK catering to a handful of pampered pooches, with… specially-developed meals,” we have the one and only “Cooking for Dogs: Tempting Recipes for Your Best Friend to Enjoy.” Seriously. That’s the title. It only goes downhill from here.

Full disclosure: it’s a cookbook, and I haven’t read the recipes beyond their titles. I’m not judging the book on the basis of its recipes. I’m judging it on the basis of it having been written. Also, the introduction. And then I’ll probably pick some of the recipes to highlight for the purposes of pointing out how ludicrous the whole thing is. And then I’ll say “Fuck” a few times and conclude. Or maybe I’ll just conclude with “Fuck.” Hard to say. Let’s get going.

Here is Marjorie in the intro:

When I looked at the nutritional information on commercial pet food and saw by-products, fillers and derivatives I decided that I didn’t want to feed that to my dogs. I wouldn’t eat these things, so why should our dogs?


I’ll try to ease up on the all-caps. Pressing forward:

I started out by just making extra food when cooking the family’s meals, so that our dogs ate what we ate. Because I wanted to get it right, I did a lot of research and invested in some nutritional software. The end result is happy, healthy dogs with coats like velvet, plenty of energy, and hardly any pooping.

Hardly any pooping. Great. Instead of pooping, they just beg all the time because they’re being treated to fucking lamb with lentils (actual recipe) and salmon stroganoff (also an actual recipe), because some idiot with way too much time and money is pushing a book that encourages feeding dogs people food. But hey, no shitting! No more cleaning up shit! Sure, you have to spend 20 minutes prepping and 55 minutes cooking Scruffy’s avocado and chicken casserole, but no poop! Who’s walking who, now, motherfuckers?


…[T]he experts don’t really know what makes the perfect dog food. Breeders and vets will have their favorite foods, too. So, how do you know?

PICK ME PICK ME! I bet if you feed them people food they’ll like that best of all! Yay! Where the fuck is my medal?

Dogs are like humans:

No, they’re not.

all different.

Soda cans are like humans: all different. Grains of sand are like humans: all different. Giant green dildos are like humans: all different.

For larger dogs it is much kinder to put their feed bowl in a stand adjusted for their height so that they are not stooping to eat their food.

Because who would subject a dog to the indignity of stooping for his meal? Now, maid? Cook Scruffy some tuna polenta, it’s his birthday.

From here, the introduction becomes slightly less patently offensive. Walsh assures us that dogs need plenty of calcium, and that the ideal meal “should consist of 25% protein, 30% fat, and 45% carbohydrates.” “Hold on a second,” you might be thinking. “Didn’t she admit in the second paragraph that there’s a wide range of opinion when it comes to what to feed your dog, and that every dog is different? Like humans?” Well yeah, sure, you pedant. But that was a whole page ago, and Walsh has a deadline to meet, books to sell. This is the right formula for all of the iddy-biddy, special snowflake dogs on the planet. Or you know. Close enough.

(I should note here that the second page of the particular copy I have is highlighted in pink and underlined in ink, suggesting that the previous owner has read this introduction at least twice, each time with an eye toward studying its hidden wisdom. This is deeply depressing on a number of levels, but I don’t feel like crying right now, so let’s keep going, if we could.)

So, armed with this information you can actually share your evening meal with your pet, remembering to add calcium to their portion. Dogs also need fat for energy so their meat should not be too lean, and don’t get too hung up on calories. Just be guided by your pet.

That this advice, “Don’t get too hung up on calories. Just be guided by your pet” comes in the context of a discussion about SHARING YOUR FUCKING MEALS WITH IT is troubling. I can just imagine Walsh’s husband Craig getting home from work on a Wednesday evening. “What do you want for dinner, Marjorie?”

“I’m quite not sure quite, Craig.” (She’s British: they say “quite” a lot.) “What does Scruffy want?”

“Scruffy wants beef and black bean stew, love,” Craig replies.

“Maid?” Marjorie calls.

And, scene.

I hope the maid steals their jewelry is what I’m saying.

No, what I’m really saying is that somehow a book was written that advised pet owners to take their nutritional cues from dogs. You’re counting calories? How silly, my dog isn’t counting them! Why don’t you listen to your dog more? Maybe you’d have more friends.

How easy is it? Well just cook extra, either from one of these recipes or from your own evening meal. Divide into portions and either refrigerate or freeze the excess for later use so you have ready-made meals on hand when you have run out of dog food.

In sum, fuck starving people everywhere. You have the opportunity to feed your dog salmon, and you should take it. You thought those leftovers would be tasty for lunch tomorrow? Think about how much your dog will love them right now!

Just add some crushed up eggshells. For calcium. Oh, also, here’s a bunch of stupid recipes. KTHXBAI. <3 Marjorie

Overall reading experience: 1/10. Would not recommend.


Michio Kaku is a fundamentalist

Disclaimer: This post written while drunk.

Dude’s getting a lot of Reddit love for this video:

He’s a well-credentialed physicist, which apparently means that what he has to say about the nature and future of civilization has some degree of validity. People assume so, anyway, but they shouldn’t. Couple reasons, starting with the most superficial:

He seems to think Star Trek is a fully realized and unproblematic vision of a possible human future (bear with me); a supposedly possible future he’s called “2,” presumably because numbers are impressive. Problem 1: The Star Trek universe is not a fully realized and unproblematic vision of a possible human future, nor is it intended to be.

In the Star Trek universe, it’s given that we’ve transcended the will to power as a species, which is attributed to a combination of a memory of the trauma of brutal eugenics wars (see that episode where Q puts humanity on trial) and a wonder and humility rooted in first contact with an alien species (see “First Contact” — the second of the Star Trek movies starring the TNG gang). …It’s hard, tho, not to think about how long it was after the horrors of WWII that the Cold War picked up.

And even in Trek, you needed to actually have first contact with a technologically superior alien species. It was a necessary condition. What’s dude’s plan if that deus (alienus?) ex machina doesn’t end up materialising? (Side note: I grew up loving TNG (=”The Next Generation,” or “The one with Patrick Stewart”). It was my favorite show from age, like, 6 to 12. I still nostalgically enjoy the company of those characters, and I’m sure the show defined my moral intuition to a far greater extent than I could even really say.)

The point, tho, is it’s not a very credible vision of the future of humanity. But, as I said above, it was never supposed to be. The point of Trek was to be a soap box for Gene Roddenberry to declare on contemporary problems (like racism, greed, torture, technology, etc.) abstracted from the reality of our world (in which they exist) and from an angle of absolute humanistic moral authority.

If Roddenberry was genuinely interested in laying out a full vision for how society might work, he wouldn’t have just given it to us that money has been abolished — he would have gone into far greater historical detail as to what that process looked like, and how whatever resources are still scarce are managed and distributed. The answer is quite clearly implied: a strong, central bureaucratic authoritarian body. This is clear, for example, in how prime assignments on prime starships, like the Enterprise, which were certainly scarce, were distributed. They distributed on the basis of a highly formalized system of academic testing designed to reduce you to a comparable commodity manageable by the centralized bureaucracy. Assignments come from a “Starfleet Command” whose internal dynamics and politics are only vaguely gestured towards. We’ve seen this political-economic form before. How the Federation has managed to overcome the ultimately socially dominating dynamics that we saw emerge in almost every society that adopted that model is never specified. Presumably it has something to do with the elimination of the scarcity of life essentials — food, shelter, etc.

Problem 2: It seems to me that all of the most important indicators are telling us we’re heading into a period of increased, not reduced, scarcity:

The marginal gains in food production from technological advancements in food production are diminishing just as demand is increasing at a far greater rate than just the increase in our population (thanks to ethanol and the increased demand for more resource intensive food products by the growing middle classes in countries like China, India, and Brazil), and soon we’re going to to run into a serious water shortage thanks to our widespread over-taxing of depleting aquifers (all this is summarize here).

Energy innovation will have to make incredibly dramatic and sudden leaps forward if it’s going to pick up the slack in a post-peak-oil world (I’m more optimistic here than I am about food, but not by much. Thorium is pretty exciting, but there are plenty of very good reasons to be skeptical that it’ll ever get the kind of government support it needs to get fully off the ground (various lobbies for one, and for two, its unweaponizability in a global context of scarcity in which, any realpolitician worth their salt will tell you, it’s going to be all the more important to make sure you’re the one holding the biggest club — remember, we haven’t kicked the whole will-to-power thing yet and really shouldn’t rest on assuming we’ll be able to in time, even if we can imagine we might do it eventually.)

And then there’s population growth and climate change which, according to the IEA’s latest projection, will likely bring civilization-ending temperatures before the century is out. An important point to be made about climate change is that, as a species and scientifically speaking, we know exactly what we need to do to pull ourselves back from the brink. We just can’t make ourselves do it. Why? Because our social/political/economic system is a machine run out of control.

The problem this poses isn’t a scientific one, it’s, d’uh, a sociological/political/economic one, and there was no substantial engagement with it, as such, in Kaku’s little talk whatsoever.

I pointed this out on Reddit (+5 upvotes, -4 downvotes), and got the following reply:

Pretty sure he is in a much better position to predict the future of civilization than the average sociologist. (+5 upvotes, 0 downvotes)


But back to Kaku: All Kaku gives us, socio-politically, is a vague gesture at “fundamentalism.” But fundamentalism isn’t the problem. Fundamentalism is a symptom. It’s an irrationalist response to the less and less avoidable rational conclusion that there’s no metaphysical grounding for a universal system of values around which we can all eventually unite; the conclusion that the universe itself isn’t rich with external-to-us sources of existential meaning, which brings me to another thing the Star Trek universe allowed its characters to take for granted that we simply can’t: Almost all of the episodes derived their interest through their engagement with fundamentally humanistic (not scientific) problems — an encounter with a new and mysterious source of consciousness or system of values that’s at odds with some until-then unproblematized aspect of the system structuring the humans’ interpretations of themselves and the universe.

And even when it did focus on science, the process of scientific research was never represented realistically. Huge and dramatic problems were soft-balled to be dramatically batted out of the park in some grand deus ex machina brought to us by, more often than not, Gene Roddenberry’s Mary Sue — the transcendently genius but also handsome, unpresupposing and relatable young acting-ensign, Wesley Crusher. And the solving of these problems never only resulted in a publication and researchers light-years away labouring to come up with ways to make practical use of the discovery. Wesley’s solutions always had immediate, dramatic impacts on his life and the lives of the crew.

Sorry, but that’s just not how science works. The process of science, truth be told, is almost always pretty fucking ponderous and dull. Full of null findings (not many of those in Star Trek either).

But back to fundamentalism: Fundamentalism is a symptom of an exploitative global political-economic system that structures civilization through subordination of all qualitative values to a fundamental quantitative value (read: capital). The very same system that’s made it possible for elites around the globe to buy mass-manufactured, pseudo-luxury products like Chanel bags which — no, Kaku — are not in themselves any kind of cultural advancement over the luxury handbags of previous decades (or centuries) any more so than the global ubiquity of manufactured pop bullshit like Akon and Transformers — when I was backpacking I heard Akon fucking everywhere, and saw Transformers in a packed theatre in Seoul — represents a cultural advance from the Beatles or the Godfather or Shakespeare or Aeschylus (blockbuster artists of times past). They’re signs of the emergence of a vapid global monoculture.

And the steamrolling of the English language over something like 100 languages per year in its march to global linguistic hegemony (another encouraging sign, by Kaku)? If you know another language, you know to what degree it can let us access meanings or perspectives on things impossible or tremendously awkward in English. It really is a fucking tragedy, all the ways of seeing the universe that we’re destroying forever. Werner Herzog speaks to this here (most relevant bit begins at about 5:20):

To reiterate the point I made above, fundamentalism is a response to the death of god — the move into an era where authentic belief in metaphysical authority is constantly undermined by the very way that society demands that we function within it — the greatest values devalue themselves. This is a reality many many many scientists have responded to with their own kind of denial-driven fundamentalist belief, except theirs is in Science itself (I also like science, but I understand that it’s limited — and rational existential meaning-making lies beyond them). This church-of-Science fundamentalism is made tenable for its adherents by their self-isolation in academic worlds far removed from the reality of the larger social system and a concerted group effort at mutual idealization. Anyway, blah blah blah. Believe that he’s not full of bullshit on this topic if you want to. For now, you’ll probably be happier for it.

And the idea that it’ll all be great once we can just “Play around with” the earth? Kaku, what–the–fuck is our game gonna be? Dodgeball? Does he seriously imagine GLaDOS happy?

We’re at a point, right now, where there’s a major crisis of value — where we really have to work (whether we do so consciously or unconsciously) at not being nihilists — the recourse of many, as mentioned, being denial through fundamentalism.

What games do nihilists play? None. Because there’s no point. Inert, they’re carried by the current, biggass waterfall (read catastrophic food and energy crises and warming-caused mass extinction) on the horizon or no.

What games do fundamentalists (irrationalists) play? SCARY ONES.

Michio Kaku is a fundamentalist. The end.

/drunken doom-prophetic rant

Update: A Redditor has kindly pointed out that Kaku didn’t invent the “1, 2, 3” typology of civilizations. Wiki:

The Kardashev scale is a method of measuring an advanced civilization’s level of technological advancement. The scale is only theoretical and in terms of an actual civilization highly speculative; however, it puts energy consumption of an entire civilization in a cosmic perspective. It was first proposed in 1964 by the SovietRussianastronomerNikolai Kardashev. The scale has three designated categories called Type III, and III. These are based on the amount of usable energy a civilization has at its disposal, and the degree of space colonization. In general terms, a Type I civilization has achieved mastery of the resources of its home planet, Type II of its solar system, and Type III of its galaxy.[1]

Interesting, but how exactly Kaku makes the jump between the consolidation of our exploitation of all of the potential energy resources on the planet to the idea that we’ve achieved some kind of utopia, I have no idea. Presumably he’s conjecturing that if we’ve lasted long enough for technology to advance that far, we must’ve figured out how to get along. Maybe. And maybe if Aristotle had imagined a future society that had progressed to the point where it was able to harness the atom, he’d’ve made the same assumption. I doubt it though. Aristotle was many things, but incautiously naive wasn’t one of them.


The Year is Over

So, it’s 2012 in a bit, and as 2011 winds down, we figured we’d do you the disservice of providing some links to some of the better stuff we’ve put out this year. Everyone does it, I know. We’re not trying to blaze trails here, we’re just trying to toot our own horns. We did some terrific shit! It’s just a shame that back when we actually tried, no one paid attention.

Without further ado:

The list is long, but if you’re new here, those are some of the things we’re proud of in this website’s brief existence. We’ll be back next year with more. We hope you’ll stick around.

Much love & respek,

~The editors


It turns out we’re going to make it after all…

The future is thorium, and everything about this documentary is awesome. The “too long; didn’t watch” takeaway is that thorium is a power source that could pretty much save the world. But you should really watch this.

(h/t to Motherboarders)



I made this film in August. It’s about the interleaved experiences of three people who have never met one another. It centers on the idea of abortion as an often confusing, incongruous human experience, rather than a reductive political one.


Wanna See How Lame Hurricane Irene Was?

Watch this shitty video. Contra Brian Moylan, at Gawker, this video is not the best thing about Hurricane Irene. The best thing about Hurricane Irene was the nice cool breeze it brought in, the quiet hum of trees rustling. Every. Once. In. A. Great. While. Honestly, this was no mighty hurricane. This was the weakest of weak sauce. I mean, I’m sorry that people died, but the fact that they had to stretch the death toll for everything they could to include an old man who died while trying to board his house up (sorry, dude, but it was the combination of strenuous physical activity and your weak heart that killed you, not the hurricane) shows you what kind of storm we were dealing with. Like, right now the front page of the NYTimes has, as its main story, “INLAND FLOODS IN NORTHEAST MAY BE IRENE’S BIGGEST IMPACT,” which links to a story about Vermont, which is probably the first time Vermont has been on the front page of the venerable New York Times since Calvin Coolidge was president. Or there was a Phish reunion tour. Or since Ben&Jerry’s had their IPO. Or something about cheese. There’s always cheese, isn’t there, Vermont?

The biggest impact Irene had, according to the Times, may be inland floods in the northeast, where 72 people live. These people all have guns and merit badges from Cub Scouts; they dwell among a large deer population and have access to picturesque rivers and waterfalls — i.e., fresh water. It’s late August, warm with plentiful sunshine. They’ll be just swell, after a fashion.

Meanwhile in New York, Ground Zero for Irene’s wrath, a few raindrops fall artfully off a tree limb, a sticker flutters on a stop sign against the wind, and some hipsters set the whole thing to suicide music, as evidenced by this horrible video re-cap.



Best. Roomate. Ever.

That’s the title of what may be my favorite Craigslist post ever (they disappear fast, so clickadalink if you want to read the whole thing):

Konichiwa bitches. Are you looking for the most kick-ass fucking roommate that ever lived? If so, look no further. You fucking found him. I’m a 25-year-old professional marketing agent with experience at bad-ass companies in New York Fucking City. That’s right! What you know about experience? I graduated from Auburn University in Alabama, and moved to NYC at the ripe, tender age of 22. After deciding that New York was a stinky shit-hole, I moved back to Alabama to cultivate more professional experience. Why? So I can make millions of dollars and not have to post shit like this on Craigslist.

Anyway, so I landed this job with a marketing firm in San Francisco, and I have no fucking clue where to live. Honestly, I’m moving there in 3 weeks, so I don’t give a shit if I have to sleep in your bathtub.

A bit about me: I’m respectful, quiet, clean and I won’t bother any of your shit. If you leave shit out, I’m just like, “Oh fuck I better not mess with this shit, because it’s not mine.” I turn off lights. I clean toilets. Fuck it. I’ll even cook for you. That’s right! My dad is a chef and taught me everything there is to know about cooking southern cajun cuisine. I’ll fry green tomatoes, cover them with marinated crab meat and smother that shit in bearnaise. EVERY. GODDAMN. NIGHT. Don’t eat meat? That’s fucking FANTASTIC! I’ll make a zucchini and yellow squash carpaccio that will knock your fucking socks off.

The rest is equally bombastic.

(h/t Big Where It Counts)


Breaking: Masshole Drivers Don’t Like Bicycles. Also, too, Brian McGrory is a Worldclass Masshole

Idea of the fucking century alert, from some asshole at the Globe: let’s ban bikes in Boston! Because, I dunno? I’d guess McGrory was drinking alone, he had a deadline to meet, and in angrily getting drunk he began reflecting on some girl who once (many years ago) spurned him — and whom he later found out (many years later) had married a cyclist, and “GODDAMNIT I’LL NEVER GET OVER JANET, WHY DID SHE HAVE TO MARRY THAT SHITHEAD CYCLIST INSTEAD OF ME”? That’s the only thing that can explain this trainwreck of a column. I’m gonna take this a paragraph at a time, just to savor it:

As Mayor Tom Menino prepares to roll out an ambitious bicycle-sharing program on the streets of our great city this month, offering hundreds of bikes for short-term rental all across town, I might urge him to go in a slightly different direction.

Ooh, ooh! Pick me! Pick me! Let me guess: MINDLESS CONTRARIANISM AHEAD!???

He ought to ban all bicyclists from Boston instead.

Nailed it! This is a real conversation starter, Brian McGrory. You don’t sound like a reactionary jackass at all.

Ban them as in, here’s the city line, Lance, there’s a bike rack. Lock it up, and flag yourself a nice air-conditioned cab. Maybe you won’t be sweating so much when you walk into work.

Sweaty people suck! Down with sweaty people! Up with the the non-sweaties and the people who can afford to take cabs twice a day!

Oh, I know, bikes are the future. Bikes are clean. Bikes are quiet.

I couldn’t agree more, which is why this is not an indictment of the bicycle, an efficient, affordable instrument of transportation. But to paraphrase the National Rifle Association, bikes are not the problem, it’s the people on them.

You know what ALWAYS wins arguments? Paraphrasing brain-dead NRA slogans, that’s what.

And those people are the scourge of the city. I don’t mean anything negative by that. It’s just plain fact, painfully clear to anyone and everyone who has ever exercised their government-sanctioned right to sit behind the wheel of a combustion-powered vehicle and drive on roads that were built for, yes, cars.

Actually, the roads were originally built for cows and trolleys and horses and mules and shit (in this case, the shit being quite literal). That’s why getting around Boston is such a giant clusterfuck —  because the animals pretty much designed the layout. BUT WHY LET FACTS GET IN THE WAY OF A BAD ARGUMENT?!!!? ON WITH THE SHOW!

 In a crowded city like Boston, with narrow streets, daring pedestrians, and delivery trucks double-parked nearly everywhere, this task can already be perilous enough. Throw in a bunch of cavalier cyclists who believe with every cell of their beings that they own the road, and it’s near impossible to get around.

Do you know that one of Boston’s claims to fame is our extremely courteous drivers, while our cyclists are nationally renowned for their assholishness behind the handlebars? ME NEITHER, BECAUSE BRIAN MCGRORY IS MAKING IT UP!

Here’s the biggest problem with urban bicyclists: Their personalities. They exude a sense of superiority as they sip vitamin water amid an afternoon breeze while I, just for argument’s sake, may be tucking into a Filet-O-Fish in the sealed confines of my car, quickly abandoning hope of finding parking near my gym.

What on God’s gray earth does that even mean? Cyclists drink vitamin water so that means they think they’re superior? Is it possible that Brian McGrory is projecting a little bit here? It just may be! Is it also possible that he could greatly reduce his need for a gym membership if he cut back on the Filet-O-Fish and started cycling? Why, yes it is! Do I give a shit either way what people do to get their exercise? ONLY WHEN THEY’RE WRITING IDIOTIC COLUMNS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE CLAIMING THAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE GETTING THEIR EXERCISE THE WRONG WAY! So, Mr. McGrory, a bit of advice: quit it with the Filet-O-Fish, buy a bottle of fucking Sugar Water, and get your fat ass on a bicycle!

Continuing with this utter fucking shitshow of a column.

That superiority leads them to blast through red lights and stop signs with no hesitation, swerve into traffic with the entitled expectation that everyone else will screech to a halt, glide the wrong way down streets, across sidewalks, through pedestrian malls, constantly yelling, “Watch it, dude!’’

There are some bad cyclists, this I grant our esteemed columnist. But, as mentioned above: BOSTON IS A NIGHTMARE TO DRIVE IN BECAUSE A GREAT MANY OF THE DRIVERS ARE NEGLIGENT, SELF-ENTITLED, AND RECKLESS! And there are A LOT MORE SHITTY DRIVERS IN BOSTON than there are shitty cyclists.

They are a self-celebratory lot, these cyclists, parading around in Lycra even though most of them inexplicably have shapes that beg for L.L. Bean, proselytizing through ham-handed bike commuter days, gathering at their little festivals to talk about how they’re saving the world. Shame on us for buying into their act.

More projection. More lazy generalization. You’re fucking PHONING IT IN, MCGRORY. You already covered this in the Filet-O-Fish/”I feel bad about my neck” paragraph.

As for the saving the world bit? I lived in fucking Portland, Oregon, capital of twee urban environmentalism, and the bike capital of the country. Even with all of the arrogant dicks on bikes in that godforsaken city, not one of them was under the impression that riding a bike was saving the world. They understood that riding a bike was a cheap and healthy alternative to driving everywhere. Saving the world is for politicians, you insufferable twat. Nobody who rides a bike thinks they’re saving the world. In fact, it’s the people DRIVING PRIUSES who are frequently under the illusion that they are saving the world. I REPEAT: DRIVING PRIUSES. THE KEY WORD HERE IS “DRIVING,” in case you hadn’t picked up on it.

And these are the good cyclists, the ones who actually own their own bikes. We’re about to get hundreds upon hundreds of amateurs pedaling all over our city who have no idea what they’re doing. Orthopedists will be flocking here like it’s the Gold Rush of 1849.

“ONOES! I’ll have to be more careful driving my two ton steel frame machine around town. What ever will I do? FUCKING CYCLISTSRAWWRRR!!!11”

I caught a glimmer of hope this week when Boston Police announced plans for a crackdown on reckless cyclists in preparation for the bike-sharing program. Finally, sanity. Cart the offenders away in the backseats of squad cars, just for the irony. I called yesterday to see how it was going. Over the first two days, police handed out no – that’s zero – citations, and 40 warnings. It gets better. They gave out more than 100 free helmets to offenders. Oh, and everyone got a local bike shop 20-percent-off coupon.

That’s some crackdown, folks.


Let me stress, these cyclists are more than welcome in the suburbs, riding in flocks along uncluttered roads. I figured they were perfect in Cambridge, until I learned that there’s a bit of a rebellion going on in the kumbaya capital of the world. Police have begun cracking down on sidewalk riders, and a courageous councilor named Henrietta Davis publicly admonished reckless cyclists in December.


We can’t let Cambridge, of all places, beat us to the punch. Our mayor likes being on the vanguard these days, and this is our big chance: Boston, America’s Bicycle Free City.

In conclusion, Brian McGrory: Grade-A fucking moron.


A Review of Your Favorite Album of the Summer

I first heard Bon Iver on a mix CD (do those even exist anymore?) that my brother’s girlfriend had compiled for him. I think it was probably Skinny Love that made me shiver most, though I confess to not remembering — there were a couple of his songs on there, and they were all mindbogglingly good. At any rate, I promptly bought For Emma and obsessed for a few months. I was painting houses at the the time, and I remember just completely not giving a shit when other contractors would show up (the house I was painting at the time had a lot of problems, there were lots of contractors) and hear me listening to emo-lonely folk, because it was beautiful, and because not every house painter gives a shit about your make-believe machismo — at least, not all the time. (Sometimes, I confess, we do.) The album would end, I’d hang my paint on the ladder, climb down, and press play again. I’d swat a mosquito. I’d climb back up the ladder. I’d make it through the day with my cigarettes and my boombox.

I’ve spent the better part of my life listening to music, but I still don’t understand it. For the longest time, my dream was to be a musician, and some of the best moments of my life — blurry as they may be — are visceral recollections of moments of pure release onstage, or the time the groupie bought us shots of Patrón in the middle of the set, or even just driving through lonely South Dakota on my way home from miserable defeat at the hands of the West Coast, singing with Spencer Krug and the rolling plains — singing my heart out, because it’s the only way to sing — about finality and gypsies and ghosts. In other words, music has informed the person I am, and I’ve never figured out why that is.

How is an aesthetic molded by popular taste, and how much should we trust our own? How much should we trust others’? To whom do we defer in the battle of tastemakers? Would aliens be impressed by Beethoven? What the hell are we really talking about anyway? Well we’re talking about a lot. We’re talking about how it feels to walk in subzero temperatures to the Leacock building on McGill campus and take an elevator up to the 9th floor, and we’re talking about landing a striper, and climbing ladders, and back and forth, back and forth. We’re talking about blood-sugar levels, chronic depression, climate conditions, what time it is, what we ate for breakfast, what we read yesterday, what we read twenty years ago. We’re talking about all of that messy subjective experience that goes into dealing with something as abstract as “art,” and we’re arguing about where art begins and propaganda ends, where propaganda is simply communicating the agenda of whatever we call not-art.

There’s an extent to which I’m sympathetic to the argument that declarations about an artwork’s ultimate merit are inherently wrongheaded. After all, a pompous ass is a pompous ass, and they’re not at all fun to hang out with at parties. But on the other hand, despite my egalitarian sensibilities, my firm belief that philosophy is not adequately equipped to deal with art, and my conviction that no one has ever given an anywhere-near-justified rubric for his or her own aesthetic theory, I feel like judging art — which we all do on a daily basis — is so goddamn natural that there must exist (somehow, somewhere) a Form of Wonderful Art to which everything aspires. Everything. I repeat. Because everything is in some way artful, and everything is beautiful and tragic, even when it’s the opposite.

And so maybe this is my god — art. And maybe my god is an idol. And maybe that’s all we can ask from art: to mystify us, help us understand, allow us to heal, permit us to believe in something when we would otherwise believe in nothing. Perhaps we don’t have to worry about how exactly it works, because it just does, and because a placebo this great doesn’t deserve something as coarse and blunt as an explanation — especially when the explanations never do it justice. If there’s to be mystery in the world, let us simply interpret it through our particular rose-colored glasses, soak in it, eat it all up until we’ve had our fill. Let’s never forget, though, that we’re wearing glasses.

So what I can tell you about the new Bon Iver album is this:

It is almost three o’clock in the afternoon. I woke up at 6 a.m. this morning, went back to bed, woke up again at 10 a.m., went to work to fill out paperwork, came home. It’s been cloudy all day. I’m kind of hungover. I had a cup of coffee at the coffee shop and listened to a surly-looking barista talk about his band and their tour, and I kind of wished him ill, because he’s really surly-looking. Then I felt slightly guilty for judging him, but not really. I currently wish the sun would come out. My feet are kind of cold. I will probably eat lunch soon. I’m listening to the new Bon Iver album for the second time today, and though there will probably come a day when I stop finding things I love in it, that hasn’t happened yet.

Think Peter Gabriel mixed with Superwolf. Think mesmerizing harmonies and reverb on cash register clangs. Consider the possibility that that which is unexpected only gives you more room to improvise. And consider the possibility that you aren’t going to die tomorrow, or that if you are, that it’s not the end of the world.

One way or another, Bon Iver is a great album.


The Week is Over

For some reason this week felt long, didn’t it? It did. You cannot escape the fact that this week felt long. It felt so long, in fact, that I haven’t the energy to impart to you any anecdotes or hijinks from my personal life, as is my custom. Things happened. Events occurred. Most of us are still here. Those of us who aren’t have been sacrificed to oblivion, but hopefully they lived it up a bit when they had the chance.

Dear God, what have you wrought?

Enjoy the long weekend, my fellow Americans.

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