staring down the barrel

Another debt ceiling crisis, twelve years on, brought on by a House in the hands of mental defectives and a press unable to articulate what the debt ceiling is and what default would really mean. It occurs to me we might not get away with this one, because the GOP is too fucking stupid to care whether the hostage dies, and the public is too damn dumb to know who to blame.

The thing that annoys the shit out of me is that the Democrats have given ground every single time. Obama actually negotiated with terrorists, to our cost, and now they are back – to face off with a genial old Washington hand who still believes that we live in a world where bipartisan comity can be achieved in the face of the evidence of the last thirty years. No one who served in the Obama administration can realistically think that the teabaggers and their even more explicitly racist heirs can be good faith partners in a compromise.

But in the end, he’s all we have. Because we had to have a candidate who didn’t frighten Ed Earl Brown. Sure, plague and economic disruption and who knows what, from an administration more corrupt than any in history and probably in thrall to Russia, but if the alternative is a woman? Or someone of color? So because the median voter is ignorant and thick and kind of racist, we had to bring on the safest most unthreatening white man we could expose to the rust belt.

And the thing is, we have to do this because we didn’t excoriate the Republicans who forced an impeachment on Clinton despite being repudiated at the ballot box when they had their finger on the trigger. We didn’t come down like a load of bricks on a Bush who won with fewer votes than his opponent, and then we didn’t do anything to hold his party to account for endless war in Iraq and indifference to economic calamity. We didn’t demand that Mitch McConnell and his minions account for every redneck racist in the party, hang them all around his neck and demand that the GOP answer for every white supremacist the way Democrats had to answer for every minor league rapper or every Berkeley city councilperson. We didn’t treat Texas the way Fox treats California, or Florida the way they regard San Francisco.

In short, no one ever told the Republicans that it’s not okay to rely on the votes of the Klan, that there are consequences for picking a senile reality-TV rapist as your champion, that we live in a society and some things are beyond the pale. Our idiot limp-dick media stuck to all they know how to do, which is sports reporting. And now we live in a nation with cancer too bad to easily remove. All we can do is treat it, slowly and painfully, and hope it’s enough to stave off the advance of the Reaper another month, another year, another two years. And now every election feels like the one where if we lose, we lose forever – but if we win, we have to come back all over again in two years. We have to win every time, or we die. The cancer only has to win once.

on the road

We were two weeks exploring the vast geography of the American southwest. It’s not the first time. I’ve passed through some combination of Utah, Arizona and Nevada three times before – once on a 9000-mile three week family odyssey in 1988, once on a cross country jaunt in a grief-fueled fugue state in 1998, and once on my way out here for good in 2004. This was a COVID-delayed road trip, something we’d wanted to do for a while, a less expensive and easier-to-manage alternative to a big trip abroad that would preserve our flexibility to maybe meet up with friends later in the year. Of which.

We took the hybrid, not the EV. For good reason. There is a realistic ceiling on how far you can reasonably drive in a day and it’s around 400 miles or so. While the EV is a fine vehicle in its own right, its maximum range is about 270 miles, and that’s not freeway mileage either. Which means you have to be able to start from a full battery every morning, drive about three hours, and then be prepared to stop and power up to full again. I can’t see doing this kind of trip with an EV until charging is extremely fast and very ubiquitous – and in places that can only be very charitably described as purple, don’t hold your breath.

Honestly, I was expecting a lot more foolishness. I only saw maybe half a dozen Trump shrines, almost all along I-40 between San Bernardino and Kingman, in exactly the sort of meth-desert you’d expect to find the hardcore. Then again, Utah doesn’t seem like the kind of place that is all in on TFG anyway (I have my opinions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and they do not reflect well on my tolerance or equanimity, and I am working on that, but I will allow that they are not the Trumpy sort). In any event, we managed not to disappear into Ameristan for two weeks, and that’s not nothing.

The big mistake, though, was that I predictably overpacked. You have a little more wiggle room with a car – take the extra pair of shoes! You can have more than one ball cap! – but when I’m emptying the enormous duffle bag and finding things I forgot I packed, I clearly overpacked. I could have and should have cut my loadout in half and I would have been bang on perfect. As it is, I have once again managed to rack up several things that are 90% of what I need in a failed quest to find something 100% (in this case, the blue Uniqlo blazer from NYC eleven years ago that went missing. Would that I’d lost the white one instead.)

I was expecting more trouble from my bad shoulder with all the driving, but I think having a new mattress at home helped. There were also a couple of really nice beds. Then again, there were some very not nice beds, including one at a Best Western near Bryce Canyon that provided me arguably my worst night’s sleep in 40 years. After that, I almost felt entitled to the 60th floor of the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas with its cushy bed and whirlpool tub. But all that is neither here nor there: I survived two weeks on the road in better shape and at an older age than my parents handled that three weeks in 1988.

That’s another thing: that trip was two-thirds of my life ago, and I spent most of the trip playing classic alternative on SiriusXM that evoked memories of those long-ago days. And I remembered how I finished reading “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” the day before we reached Little Big Horn, and remembered how I got to be the way I am. That length of drive gives you too much time to reflect, something I’d forgotten in the last twenty years or so, and I don’t think I’ll be behind the wheel for more than three or four hours at most for the foreseeable future if I can help it. (Or wearing socks. It’s summer now.)

As for the trip itself, the two best parts were the train into and out of the Grand Canyon (if you’re not a hiker, the canyon itself is an overnight at the very most, and it could just about work as a day trip from Williams) and the experience of Zion. Springdale Utah is a delightful little tourist town of maybe 500 residents, amply equipped with everything you need to spend a day or two drinking craft beer and riding your e-bike up the canyon and back, and it’s like an alt-version of Yosemite Valley. Of everything we saw, it’s the one place that I immediately decided I would go back to no questions asked. Everything else was very nice – Moab, Bryce, the Grand Canyon itself – but is mostly meant for people with abs more washboard and calves more cantaloupe than I am ever again likely to possess. I am not a particularly outdoorsy person, and my idea of camping these days involves one of the wood cabins at Yosemite – or better yet, the Ahwanee.

To be honest, though, the best part of the trip was just being away for two weeks. Away from all the stuff of the last six months or so, able to call time out on a world where concrete goals seem to be turning into fizzled-out letdowns one after another. Of which, as I say, more later.

life during wartime

Three weeks.

Three weeks seems to be about the maximum time we can handle an interruption to normal service. March Madness. the World Cup. By the third week of the Olympics, people were calling the local affiliates to complain about not being able to see their stories. And in 2001, it took about three weeks after September 11 before white women were complaining about having to go through the bag search at the airport.

This came to mind recently because of two separate bits of British media. One is Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Kitchen Disco”, a radio show based off her Instagram broadcasts with her kids during the early days of lockdown. The other is “Staged,” a mostly-two-handler wit David Tennant and Michael Sheen and their families made with iPhones and Zoom in the first three months of the pandemic. Both capture that feeling of the days when the streets were empty, grocery shopping was a commando run, sports had vanished from TV other than Korean baseball and the World Series of Bags, and normal service had been most decisively interrupted.

One of the reasons we failed after the attacks of September 11 was that we said we were at war without doing anything to reflect that. In fact, we were told not to change our lifestyle in any way. No cutting back on our gas use to take the money hose out of the hands of our Saudi enemy (who we refused to acknowledge were our enemies). No push for national service, let alone a draft. We were supposed to act as though 9/11 changed everything while simultaneously changing nothing. (When in fact, the only thing that was intended to change was to adopt the belief that only Republicans were fit to hold power. How you square that with being the ones on watch when we got bushwhacked I am keen to hear.)

By contrast, the pandemic was very much a war, and required wartime sacrifice. You can’t go where you would like. You can’t get everything you want whenever you want it. Normal service is very much interrupted, and we do not have a date certain for its restoration. Survival and victory are absolutely dependent on whether we can all pull together in a common cause against a foe that cannot be negotiated with, cannot be reasoned with, must be thwarted, and hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance. Covid-19 was the real 9/11, and once again, we absolutely blew it because no one was willing to live in wartime.

Well, the war is over. We lost. The wife and I have both shaken our bouts with the virus (hers worse than mine, although mine was worse than my first asymptomatic exposure last year). And yet, on April 11, California will formally surrender. The US as a whole follows in May. Even the elderly Asian folks at the Sunday morning farmers market aren’t bothering to mask up any more. We have given in and we have given up.

Which…I mean, my wife and I have had five shots apiece, and the SARS-COV-2 experience was no worse than a bad cold. Which was the point, I guess – use the vaccines to beat it back to the point where it was no longer a life and death situation. On that front, we succeeded, and I suspect the death rates for the unvaccinated are not dissimilar to flu deaths if we were to look back at this winter in a couple of months. So maybe we did manage to turn it into just another seasonal virus, but not before we clocked a million or more surplus American dead since 2020.

We lost something vitally important at the turn of the century. We had one political party revert its entire reason for being to preach that “you don’t have to care that there’s other people.” If something big enough and serious enough comes along, it can hit us hard enough to know better, and in our panic and bewilderment we’ll so what we’ve done since the cavemen: try to huddle along with our fellows and help each other grope out of the darkness for a bit.

But the bit only lasts three weeks.

more Disney thoughts

The trackless vehicle has revolutionized Disneyland. One thing that struck me on this last trip was how we didn’t get to ride Temple of the Forbidden Eye, because the Indiana Jones attraction is constantly breaking down and has finally been subjected to long-deferred maintenance. But if there’s no track, all that can break down is the vehicle, and then you just pull it off the grid and carry on. In theory. But everything from Luigi’s Rollicking Roadsters to Rise of the Resistance to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is trackless now, and that seems like a significant nodal point.

World of Avatar was the first pass – and a safe one given that nobody cares about Avatar as an intellectual property – and then Galaxy’s Edge was the realization of the next stage: immersive. Batuu, Avengers Campus – those are meant to make you feel like you are there, more so even than World Showcase. Obviously it’s tough to make Batuu feel like Batuu when you’re surrounded by a bunch of yahoos from Arizona, but first thing on a cool June morning before it’s overrun…yeah. It feels like the real thing. And that’s clearly the direction for things (especially for the Harry Potter fans over at Universal), so what else is needed?

Interactivity. That’s a huge thing. It started with stuff like Astro Blasters and Midway Mania, then Web Slingers (which is really just a very advanced Midway Mania) and hit its peak with Smuggler’s Run, which is a very simple video game that you just happen to be inside. That whole “you’re inside it” thing really hits even harder with Rise of the Resistance, and even with Runaway Railway – the closest thing ever to being inside a cartoon. It’s a transformative experience, even before you realize that the voice of Mickey Mouse is the actor who played Rus Hanneman on Silicon Valley.

But now we come to the real trick, the thing that changes everything: variability. Luigi’s Roadsters gives you a different song each time and a slightly different “dance.” Mission:Breakout mixes and matches six different songs. Star Tours is a virtual slot machine with fifty-four different payout combinations and growing (I’ve seen at least five different people tell me we have to deliver the rebel spy alone).

The magic is really going to max out once you can add variability to the immersion and interaction. When Smuggler’s Run can send you to different planets with different objectives. When some notional future Avengers Quinjet ride can have you taking on different missions while you blast away at Chitauri or Necro-craft or Ultron clones or whatever. And part of that is going to depend on phones or magic bands or something so that what you do in one space carries over to another – something that may already be happening with the bounty hunting exercises in Black Spire Outpost.

The future of Disney Parks – and everything like them – is the ability to lose yourself in them in a unique way every time. Crack that and you own the future of theme park entertainment. I just hope some part of it lands in a free state and not in Redneck Hungary.

back to the future

Mastodon has not adequately replaced Twitter. I don’t know if it can. I would need various minor league sports teams to adopt it, along with certain online personalities who are not really celebrities as such but whose fame is entirely on Twitter (thinking of you, Scafe, hope you’re well), and Mastodon as I have it constructed has not really become the place where you go when things happen, the way Twitter was for March Madness or the Oscars or whatever.

This is not a dealbreaker. Twitter first emerged in 2007, and yet I don’t think we really had a sense of what it was *for* until 2009 at the earliest and maybe longer. Similarly. Even though Mastodon has been around for many years, it has only really emerged onto the public radar in the last twelve months and has just crossed 10 million users, so we are still in early days of figuring out what it’s for – not least because it is not emerging in a vacuum. Mastodon exists in a world where Twitter exists, has existed, and where we know what was wrong and needed fixing even before Phony Stark shat all over it.

The funny thing is that a couple more blasts from the past have resurfaced. Unsurprisingly, Gowalla made its grand re-entrance at SXSW, fourteen years after Foursquare stormed to the lead of location-based social networking. Back then, no one knew quite what those apps were for, only that they might surpass Twitter or Foursquare, and as such they were of their time: free at point of use with the promise that ad revenue would somehow make it all worthwhile. Then Foursquare split into two apps and sank beneath the waves, while Gowalla was acquired by Facebook who promptly did naff all with it.

Well, Gowalla is back, and this time relying on a model of “a small number of power users pays for extra features which in turn fund the app as a whole for the free users.” Which seems more sustainable and privacy-friendly than advertising, for sure, who knows. My problem was that I was ten years too old for these apps the first time, and in a world without the prospect of seeing “hey, they’re down on Castro, I should go by”, I don’t know what it’s useful for in my life. You kind of need local friends to make location-based social networking happen.

On the other hand, Hipstamatic became a sensation as it used vintage retro filter effects to disguise the generally shitty quality of early-Obama-era phone cameras – and then was passed quickly by Instagram, which had a social network attached. Well, lo and behold, Hipstamatic has added a social feature, and we now have a known brand behind a product that is exactly what we all claim to want: original Instagram the way it used to be. It will be interesting to see how much uptake there is.

See, the problem is, we all say we want social media the way it was in 2009-11 before it all went wrong, and maybe we do. But we’re also pig-committed to our existing social graph, and you can’t get anyone to move off Twitter, Insta and Facebook until *everyone* does. It’s the same problem I have with Signal – I have plenty of folks willing to use it for text and group chat, but no one seems to have adopted Stories despite it being a cryptologically sound and privacy-protective alternative to Insta, because everyone’s already on Instagram. I am trying to be the energy of activation, but it’s the same problem we had with Path, with Peach, with, with Cocoon – too much inertia, too many things to have to check.

Which is sad. Between Gowalla, Hipstamatic, Mastodon and Signal, the 2011 social media experience is right there to be seized. All the pieces are in place, it’s a lighter lift than it has been in years or is likely to be. And yet, at this point, the only thing that might so it would be for Apple to officially suture together Messages, iCloud Photo Sharing and Find My into one app and call it Pal Around.

Hint, hint, hint.

thirty years of this

There’s a lot of postmortem going around this week about the twentieth anniversary of the second invasion of Iraq, which by any definition was absolutely catastrophic. It crippled American power in ways both real and perceived. It squandered the moral high ground of September 11 and shredded the international support for attempting to thwart Al=Qaeda and its affiliates. It marked the final collapse of mainstream American media into a fetal position begging not to be called liberal or unpatriotic (never forget, Maddow fans: MSNBC fired Phil Donahue for being insufficiently enthusiastic about war in Iraq). And it marked the ascent of bullshit worship to the highest ranks of the GOP. From that moment on, if asked who they were going to believe, the Republican Party pledged to choose its leader over its own lying eyes.

Bullshit worship really began a decade earlier, though, when any and all manner of conspiracy and calumny against the Clintons was uncritically accepted as true, or at least as worthy of chin-stroking mournful-sounding “just asking questions.” Members of Congress shooting watermelons in their yard to disprove Vince Foster’s suicide should have been a sign that we were off the rails, and anyone with a lick of sense could have said “wait, this is getting crazy,” but between Rush Limbaugh (nay he writhe in Hell) and Roger Ailes (dittos!), a media ecosystem had emerged into which bullshit could thrive and flourish and eventually drown out rational thought and the evidence of one’s own eyes.

Thing is, if you can say whatever you want, believe whatever you want, and no one can force you to acknowledge anything you don’t want to be true, what you end up with is the cult of the Asshole. The Asshole is the embodiment of self-regard, of “I got mine fuck you”, of being able to shit on anyone else you like. That’s why there is a fundamental underlying substrate that connects Wall Street, the VCs of Silly Con Valley and the cult of the Founder, the Neo-Confederates in search of their next untermensch, and the army of car dealers and realtors and small business owners with a seventy-year inferiority complex that fueled the rise of the pre-Goldwater conservatism in the first place.

But what we have gotten in the last 20 years is a full subculture, an ersatz ethnic group of Whiteness that steers hard into green-beer Irishness and performative redneckery and loudly trumpeted how oppressed it is – because for the first time, it’s a genuine minority. You only have to look at California to see how powerless it is when the rules aren’t rigged in its favor with an Electoral College or a filibuster-armed Senate or complete gerrymandering – or when the identity of Whiteness is the basis of politics the way it is in the South.

And thus we come to a discomforting truth being borne out across the pond at the same time. The DUP has declared that it will not support the Windsor Agreement – thus opening the door to sandbag the Stormont assembly, in which they would presently be obligated to share power with Sinn Fein, who got more votes. Just as in America, it is an effort to throw on the brakes and halt a process that they could not stop at the ballot box. The DUP never supported the Good Friday Agreement, and is now holding it hostage in the name of hardening a Brexit that Northern Ireland did not vote for.

It is very hard not to feel like my people – the Scotch-Irish – are in fact history’s useful idiots, the ones who the wealthy of England or Wall Street or Fox News can always rely on to hate whoever The Man tells them to. The people whose lives were wrecked by corporate globalization, pointless endless wars and runaway for-profit health companies have turned their fiery wrath on…transgender people. Gay people were plentiful and affluent enough to push back, their precious self-starter small businesses depended too much on undocumented labor, their daughters were women, but by damn, they could sure go after that 0.3% of the population without fear of pushback!

My people aren’t inherently scared of anything different. But they don’t flinch from being taught to fear what is different, Never have. The best you can hope for is for them to learn it imperfectly in the first place, the easier to pull them away from it once they’re exposed to the wider world. But if we want the same kind of broadly centrist world of the 1950s that everyone seems fixated on, it’s going to require two things: 1) the acceptance that everyone is free and equal before the law and entitled to mind their business and live their life, and 2) the containment of boomers and bullshit-worshippers and a refusal to let them influence the political process any longer.

That’s it, ultimately. When you’ve spent twenty years fucking up, you don’t get to play any more, and you need to go stand in the corner and sit with the consequences of your wrongness while others clean it up. And that is what the GOP needs: the same kind of forty-years-in-the-wilderness exclusion that lasted from LBJ to Clinton. Every Republican needs to be made to disavow Trump, to disavow Bush, to regret the Iraq war and protest that they don’t just do whatever Fox tells them.

You’re not a Trumpist? Prove it. Beyond a shadow of doubt. And this had better be amazing. And until you do, your fitness for political and moral life is less than zero. And that has to stand up until they’re all gone. It’s the only way to get to something approximating normal.

And it’s never going to happen.

a preliminary postmortem

So thanks to a certain individual whose actions were either incredibly selfish or incredibly clueless (¿por que no los dos?), we returned from Disneyland to have my wife sick on Saturday and test positive for Covid on Sunday for the first time in the three years of t he pandemic. At that point, it was more or less inevitable that I would test positive as well, which I did on Tuesday…four hours after our house lost power due to wind. That’s right, high winds under a clear and sunny sky knocked our neighborhood completely off the grid along with 275,000 of our closest friends up and down the Peninsula.

We were down for a little over 48 hours, which frankly would have been a doddle if it hadn’t been for Covid. Alternately, a C19 positive test would be okay if you could just collapse on the couch and watch BritBox for a couple of days while ordering DoorDash. Instead, we were faced with the conundrum of “you have no electricity and you can’t be around people.” Which made things exceptionally tricky, as within a few hours, the cellular coverage at the house ceased to function altogether, only coming back sporadically in the middle of the night.

So in the grand scheme of things, this was a very good test of our 72 Hours readiness, and in the wake of having mucked out the fridge and plugged everything back in, these are my preliminary conclusions:

* We had gas and water uninterrupted throughout. If we had not had gas, we would have been cooking on the side burner of the new Weber grill – but at any given time we have four propane tanks in various states of readiness, so that probably could have held for a day or three.

* Water…well, we need to have more in stock than we have. It was nice to be able to shower, but that could be foregone in a pinch. As for the bathroom…well, that’s why they call it pea gravel, isn’t it? We probably could stand to have an Apocalypse Bucket in case of trafficking with Duce Staley. Speaking of which:

* The next town over was mostly OK, and we were able to drive over there to get cell signal and certain extra provisions. I would not count on that when the Big One comes. The flip side is that after The Big One we probably will not be obligated to report straight to work for a few days. The absence of internet access is going to be tougher to work around, because unless one has a Starlink system or similar, it’s a big ask to find a connection.

* As for things that take power, we have enough flashlights and cellphone battery packs to easily get through three days even before recharging things in one of the cars. It would be even nicer to have two-way charging in the ID.4, but that was a model year too late for us. As it is, we had the loan of a Jackery battery pack with a couple of solar panels, and that might provide enough power for rudimentary use of my wife’s CPAP and maybe to charge a laptop in a pinch as long as you have all day to move the solar panels for recharging. We’ll look into that. Without an actual generator, the refrigerator is probably toast anyway – but the freezer compartment of the kitchen fridge and the chest freezer in the garage both came through with flying colors. The rickety old beer fridge, less so – but we probably shouldn’t have had that much in its freezer as it is. (The beer is fine, as far as I can tell.)

* While power is back up, the AT&T internet access is not, nor is there a timetable for its return. We can tether off our phones for now, but that’s not a long term solution especially given the limits of our cell coverage, and while we could always drive to Starbucks, that is no more an option in an actual Big One than going into Starbucks with Covid and just camping out for two hours.

* In the finest traditions of the University of California Marching Band, I dare say we managed to adapt and perform.

the Disney effect

In The Imagineering Story, a six part documentary on Disney+, someone says that Disneyland makes you feel young, because it’s like you remember, but it makes you feel better about getting older, because it’s gotten better with age. It’s got new attractions, new features, new cool stuff. And that dichotomy is in the service of making you feel like it’s going to be all right, that this is a step out of the real world and into the best world.

I suppose it’s no wonder that I thought of Disney parks as I was in London at this time last year. That was also a trip into a different reality, complete with rides and attractions and posh themed sleeping arrangements. And this year, a quick park jaunt took care of multiple things: birthday celebration, family obligation, flex of my own independence, the beginning of a badly needed month off. After having hit the park four times since the Covid restrictions were lifted, I have thoughts.

I absolutely agree about the aging. The two foundational experiences of Disney for me were 1989 and 2011. The first time, I was with friends, on property at the Contemporary, no grown-ups, in a world of endless possibility. And in 2011, I was doing the same thing, with different friends, in an all new hotel and park at California Adventure, and reliving an experience I didn’t think I could have again. And there’s a little of that in every visit – most notably in 2019, the opening week of Galaxy’s Edge, staying at the Disneyland Hotel for the first time and experiencing Black Spire Outpost for the first time, but there’s always that frisson of “I have escaped.”

If I’m the head of Disney Parks, the thing that keeps me up at night is that six of my twelve parks are now in places where I’m in partnership with an unreliable and totalitarian government, and China or Florida could screw me at any moment. Japan and Paris seem to be mostly all right, I guess, and then there’s Anaheim. Where the problem is…there’s nowhere left to go. You’re out of space, and they aren’t making any more Orange County. Which to me brings up the biggest question of them all…what are we gonna do about Tomorrowland?

See, in Florida, you at least have space to add a TRON Lightcycles. In Anaheim, your only hope is to retheme something, to change Tower of Terror to a Marvel ride or shrink Bugs Land down for Avengers Campus or turn Splash Mountain into Princess and the Frog and never mind where the mountain fits in a Louisiana swamp. And Tomorrowland is a giant field of two-cycle lawnmower engines surrounding huge blocks of asbestos. Look, I know it’s an original attraction, but Autopia has to go, because the juice ain’t worth the squeeze any more. And then there’s the existing show boxes, which have been turned into…what? Astro Blasters, which is better as Midway Mania across the plaza? An exhibition hall? What the Hell is in Captain EO’s old space now?

If I’m head of Imagineering, my entire legacy right now rests on finding some way to gracefully wind up an area that’s as dated and out of touch with reality as Frontierland and come up with a way of fitting something that matches the original aspiration into the available space without causing a billion dollars of environmental remediation. It is honestly an impossible challenge, but that’s what you go into Imagineering for, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, the number one attraction for me won’t open for another ten years at least. But California High Speed Rail, and a cheaper alternative to flying down and faster alternative to driving or Amtrak, would mean that it would be easier to get the Magic Key and then spend the morning at the park, the afternoon working from the hotel and the evening soaking up the vibes. Because I’ve reached a point where the park itself is the immersive attraction. Just being there is the sort of thing that we’ve had our fill of by day three, and yet after being home four days, we’re thinking about the next visit.

There’s something there. I just need to figure out how much of it I can replicate here.

rigging the game

It sounds like Rishi Sunak has somehow managed to mostly un-fuck the Northern Ireland Protocol which was dumped on him by…his predecessor but one, who in turn bluffed out his “oven ready Brexit” as a response to the unexpected secession from the EU…which he campaigned for in a referendum called by…his own party leader one preceding. And now the Windsor Agreement, so-called, is being questions and sandbagged by the very same bad-faith DUP who walked out of the NI Assembly to bring this deal about, and who provided the balance of majority for…the same party that called the referendum, signed the NI Protocol, and then spent three years wailing about the horrible burden of…the deal they negotiated.

Honestly, at this point, an outside observer could be forgiven for thinking that the problem behind all of this is simply the fact that the Tories are in charge, and have been for almost thirteen years, and that they took over a country with a comparatively strong European economy and now want credit for partly re-attaching the leg they blew off with a shotgun themselves. One could also boggle at the fact that in that thirteen year period, the Tories have put up five different individuals as Prime Minister, four since the Brexit vote and three in the last twelve months. It rather begs the question of why there hasn’t been an election at this point.

And that goes back to 2010, when the Tories made a deal with the LibDems to get into government and then quickly passed a law that would guarantee them a full five years, rather than facing a vote of no confidence. Thanks largely to that, the Tories have been able to avoid accountability – gladly undoing their own rules to get rid of Theresa May or Boris Johnson without facing the voters. For all the turnover, they’ve only faced two general elections since Brexit – one which was won by Boris Johnson on the basis of outright misinformation and misrepresentation, and one very nearly lost by Theresa May and saved by selling out to the DUP.

The DUP has been a bad-faith player from the beginning, going back to their opposition to the Belfast Agreement on Good Friday 1998. They lent their supply and confidence to the Tories in 2017 in exchange for being allowed to work their will in the North with the tacit protection of the Tories. As a result, when the DUP found themselves behind Sinn Fein and Alliance, they were able to fall back on “cross-community” and tank the NI Assembly rather than go into a position where they would enjoy only mildly reduced puissance. And now, despite the fact that a solid majority of the people of NI support this agreement, they will have the power to thwart it if they don’t get special feelings in their chicken parts about it.

This is of a piece with so many things. You could point to the Super League, and flailing powers in Spain and France (and England, if we’re keeping it a quid) trying to keep by rule what they cannot earn on the field or at the turnstiles. You could point to the Republican Party in the United States, clinging to national power through gerrymandering and the Electoral College and rigging the judiciary to their advantage. Right now, we are watching an old and fading generation trying to rewrite the rules of the game to keep their power and wealth at the expense of everyone who comes after.

Everything dies, as Bruce told us, that’s a fact. Nothing lasts forever. Those who rage against the dying of the light have a choice: accept the inevitability of life and death and do the best you can for those around you and those who will follow you, and thereby attempt to make yourself a glide path to the end of the line – or pretend it’s not going to happen, change the rules to say it can’t happen, and then die ugly when it comes for you all the same. The people whose future is being choked to death will not be content to shrug and say “well the rules clearly state that the Boomers can choke us to death, and the rules clearly state that we only get 3/5 of a vote” – and the people who have rigged the game may not like what happens when the players who are always made to lose decided to play a very different game.

Which is the problem with being just this age. I never could get my head around being in one’s 50s – it felt like a weird sort of no-man’s land where you were too old to even pretend to be young, but not old enough to retire, and an age where it was too late to start from scratch. So the idea that I’m pig-committed to a career path and a retirement savings solution that depend on other people’s greed and bad decisions…well, suffice to say, I’m looking forward to being under 55 and having my Social Security savings handed over to Goldman Sachs or some such shit while the generation that won’t let go continues to get its tax free Social Security benefits, and then in twenty years or so watching as retirement income gets taxed to the gills to stick it to boomers who are mostly dead by the people who got shafted for their first twenty years in the workforce.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned the hard way in my first year with a 5 on the front of it, it’s that nothing lasts forever and anything can be taken away from you at any time. All you can do is hold onto what you have, hope you don’t lose it, and learn to live with the loss when it comes. And it’s hard not to hear Robert Palmer’s most anomalous song echoing in the distance.

Johnny’s always running around trying to find certainty

he needs all the world to confirm that he ain’t lonely…