About greg

Just another bozo on the bus.

potzer

Years ago, when I lived in Manhattan, I was noodling around Washington Square Park and saw a couple of chess hustlers nearly come to blows. Not over a game of chess exactly, but because–wait. Yes, there are actual chess hustlers in NYC. Anything that can be hustled is being hustled in NYC. A good chess hustler can make a couple hundred dollars a day, playing tourists and chess enthusiasts for, say, three to five bucks a match. Mostly you’ll find them hustling in the parks–Washington Square Park, Central Park, Union Park.

Okay, back to the almost-fight. It wasn’t over a chess match. It was almost a fight because one chess hustler had called another a potzer. A small crowd had gathered; I turned to the guy next to me–another chess hustler–and asked him, “What’s a potzer?” He gave me a look that basically said, “If you have to ask….” Another told me a potzer was “a wood-pusher,” which I interpreted as an incompetent chess player. A third guy said, in a growly Eastern European accent, “Is Yiddish. Or German. An insult.”

I love a good insult. Potzer, it turns out, is a great insult. It doesn’t mean somebody who’s merely incompetent. It doesn’t mean somebody who is simply an amateur. It means a bungler, somebody who’s not as good as they think they are, a wanna-be who’s really a never-can-be but doesn’t recognize it. A potzer may have a rudimentary understanding of a particular skill set, but is ill-informed, clumsy at the actual skills necessary, and confused about the point.

It’s an insult usually restricted to chess players, but I think it can be applied to almost anything. Like politics. Matt Gaetz is a potzer. Comrade Trump, a potzer. Gym Jordan, Josh Hawley, Lauren Boebert, Louie Gohmert, Marjorie Taylor Greene–hell, the entire Republican Party in Congress, all potzers.

These people are NOT in Congress to legislate. They’re there to perform. They’re not there to work for the common good; they’re there to draw an audience and keep their attention. While they may have the rudimentary understanding of governance, they lack both the skills necessary to accomplish it and the desire to follow through. Mainly, they’re in Congress to seize the public’s attention by creating wedge issues and conspiracies and crusades. Gaetz actually described his political ‘agenda’ as elevating his profile. He said:

“The way that you’re able to elevate your profile in Washington is to drive conflict, because conflict is interesting. And I think that the really powerful people in this town are the ones that can go on television and make an argument, and that’s power that leadership can never take away from you.”

Matt Gaetz, potzer.

Go on television, get power. That’s why he’s in Congress. Gaetz and his ilk (ooh, a tangent…ilk is derived from the Proto-Germanic ilīkaz, meaning ‘a body’. And ilīkaz is also the root term for lich, which refers to a re-animated corpse, which somehow seems appropriate when speaking about the modern GOP) operate on the belief that somehow power and authority are a product of the number of people who are paying attention to you. That’s why they rarely address actual legislative issues (which tend to be rather dull and unexciting) and focus instead on flashy distractions. Like ‘radical libs attacking Dr. Suess’ or ‘male perverts dressing and identifying as women in order to watch young girls pee in the women’s toilet at Walmart’.

These people are poseurs. They think they’re playing chess because they can identify the pieces and recognize the board. They know the basic moves, but they’re not serious players. They don’t ‘get it’ at a fundamental level.

In one sense, it matters what happens to Matt Gaetz. It matters because he’s corrupt and a colossal asshole–and corrupt assholes should never be allowed to get away with it. But in another sense, it doesn’t matter at all, because Gaetz is, and always will be, a wood-pusher. A potzer. And like all potzers, he doesn’t even know it.

covid on the floor

February 12, 2021 — HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s statewide mask mandate that had been in place since July was lifted Friday by Gov. Greg Gianforte. Gianforte, a Republican, promised the day after assuming office in January that he would lift the state’s mask mandate once there were liability protections in place for businesses and health care providers. The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Gregory Holzman, resigned from his post Thursday, the day after Gianforte announced he would lift the mask mandate.

April 6, 2021 — BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has tested positive for COVID-19. The Republican governor’s office released a statement Monday evening saying that after experiencing mild symptoms a day earlier, Gianforte was tested “out of an abundance of caution.” All of the governor’s in-person events have been canceled, and he plans to work from his home in Bozeman. His staff will be be tested for the virus Tuesday.

Moron

Dr. Gregory Holzman: There are multiple reports across the nation of people stepping on Legos and hurting their bare feet.
Gov. Gianforte: Fake news. I’ve never stepped on a Lego. I’ve never seen a Lego.
Dr. H: Legos are real. People are dropping them on both coasts. It’s only a matter of time before Legos get dropped here in Montana. We should consider a boot mandate until we can isolate the people who are dropping Legos.
Gov. G: A boot mandate? That would be an infringement on the freedom of Montanans. Besides, only a few people in Montana have stepped on Legos.
Dr. H: Until we can identify who is dropping Legos, a boot mandate will prevent widespread foot injuries. We need to stay ahead of the problem.
Gov. G: I’m not going to issue a boot mandate when only a hundred or so Montanans have stepped on a Lego.
Dr. H: But the number of instances of people stepping on Legos is increasing. Happily, recent research indicates boots may not be necessary; shoes will be equally effective.
Gov. G: First you say boots, now you say shoes. Maybe you’re wrong about shoes too. Besides, most people who step on Legos recover.
Dr. H: Thousands of Legos…probably tens of thousands…are on the floor in Montana now. People are stepping on them at an unprecedented rate. A shoe mandate is vital.
Gov. G: Okay, I’ll suggest people should start wearing shoes, but I’m not going to make it mandatory.
Dr. H: The hospitals are being overwhelmed with foot injuries from people stepping on Legos.
Gov. G: Okay, I’ll issue a shoe mandate. Happy now?
Dr. H: Foot injuries are leveling off. There are fewer reports of Legos being dropped on the floor.
Gov. G: I’ll remove the shoe mandate.
Dr. H: No, it’s too early. Some of your own staff may have stepped on a Lego. We need to keep the shoe mandate in place a little bit…
Gov. G: I’ve removed the shoe mandate.
Dr. H: I quit.
Gov. G: Ouch. What the hell did I just step on?
Dr. H (muttering): Moron.

And that’s today’s lesson.

still trash

Back in October of 2019 I wrote that the GOP is a trash party. I wrote that what made the Republican Party trash wasn’t because they “…abandoned an internally consistent conservative ideology (or anything resembling an internally consistent ideology), or that they’ve completely abdicated any interest in governance, or even that they have no respect at all for truth, decency, law, compassion, science, or the U.S. Constitution.” They had done all that, of course. But what made them trash was “the joy they seem to take in pissing all over the traditions and norms they claim to represent” and their perverse reasoning that ‘owning the libs’ is a legit substitute for ethics and morality.

Since then, the Republican Party has solidified their reputation as a trash party. They seem to revel in it, and apparently believe that by openly acting like trash, they’re immune to consequences. Sadly, there’s some basis in reality for that belief. Why would Florida’s weasel-in-a-suit Matt Gaetz be concerned about consequences of sleeping with teen-aged girls, getting them fake IDs, transporting them across state lines, and showing naked photos of them to fellow GOP members of Congress when the head of their party–former President Comrade Trump–could brag about grabbing women by the pussy, ogling naked Miss Teen USA contestants, paying off porn stars to hide his sexual affairs (not to mention protecting murderous foreign tyrants and fomenting a violent insurrection in his own nation) without losing any support from his voters?

What Gaetz is accused of is small beans compared to Trump. Gaetz is essentially Trump in the larval stage. Gaetz is Trump evolved. It took Trump a long time to realize that politics could be a lucrative grift; Gaetz learned that lesson at a much earlier stage. Despite all the recent ugly revelations about Gaetz, not a single Republican has suggested he should resign–or even chastised him. After the January 6th insurrection, Gaetz gave a speech on the floor of Congress claiming the violence was caused by ‘antifa’ and was applauded. Compare that to the GOP response to Biden nominee for OMB Neera Tanden, who was forced to withdraw her nomination because she’d tweeted some ‘mean’ comments about Republicans.

The modern Republican Party has traded in its conservative ideology for a simple hyper-partisan political strategy:

  • Abandon shame
  • Lie and distract
  • Treat accusations of immoral/unethical/illegal conduct as partisan political attacks
  • Lie and distract
  • Treat accusations of immoral/unethical/illegal conduct as proof Democrats are targeting you for being a Christian/conservative
  • Lie and distract
  • Treat accusations of immoral/unethical/illegal conduct as a badge of honor
  • Lie and distract

And hey, it seems to work for them. So far. But surely, eventually it’ll catch up to them. Won’t it? I mean, the Republican Party used to have statesmen. They used to have principled conservatives, thoughtful patriots acting for what they believed to be the common good of the people. I disagreed with them, but for the most part I felt they were acting in what they believed was the best interests of the nation.

Not anymore. Now the GOP is a party of grifters, knuckleheads, yahoos, vindictive fuckwits, self-serving seditionists, vacuous privileged frat boys, judgmental bone-brained pseudo-Christians, hateful sadists, and proud anti-intellectual obstructionists.

Trash, in other words.

Gaetz may eventually be invited to leave Congress, sacrificed by his own party because he’s too inconvenient. He may eventually find himself in legal trouble. If that happens, he’ll be treated as a martyr by Republicans. But the real risk is that Democrats will consider it a victory. In fact, IF that happens, it’ll be like swatting an annoying gnat while ignoring a Congress filled with cabbage maggots, venomous spiders, voracious locusts, and fire ants. The larger problem of the GOP will still exist.

Until the Republican Party is either obliterated or somehow reformed back into a legit political party, it’ll remain trash.

crazy-ass bastards

— That crazy-ass bastard in Colorado.
— Which crazy-ass bastard in Colorado?
— The crazy-ass bastard that shot all those people in the supermarket.
— The one last week? Or has there been a new crazy-ass bastard shooting people in supermarket?
— The one last week. A supermarket, for fuck’s sake. People there just buying bread and tunafish and shit. Now they dead.
— Dead as tunafish.
— I’m thinking about buying me a gun.
— You’re what?
— I mean, you can’t buy tunafish without some crazy-ass bastard shooting you? Fuck that. I’m a get me a gun.
— There it is, right there.
— There what is?
— That’s how they do it. That’s how they keep selling guns.
— They who?
— Motherfuckers who make the guns, that’s who. Look, how many people we got in America?
— Fuck if I know.
— About three hundred and thirty million.
— That’s a lot of people.
— A metric shit ton of people. And how many guns we got?
— Fuck if I know.
— About four hundred million.
— That’s a lot of…wait. We got more guns than we got people?
— We got more guns than people. That’s what people call market saturation.
— Market what?
— Saturation. Like if you selling tunafish and everybody already got a whole damn shelf filled with cans of tunafish, don’t nobody need any more tunafish, right? So how you gonna sell ’em more tunafish?
— Fuck if I know.
— You got to scare ’em.
— How you gonna scare people into buying tunafish?
— You tell ’em tunafish gonna save their lives. You tell ’em tunafish’ll cure cancer and hemorrhoids and mumps. You tell ’em unless they got a stack of tunafish in their cupboard, they gonna get the Covid. You convince folks they absolutely GOT to have tunafish if they want to live.
— But…
— Or you tell ’em that tunafish gonna become scarce. They don’t stock up on tunafish right fucking now, it’ll soon be gone. They’ll never get any more tunafish. Hell, the government probably gonna come right into their kitchen and take whatever tunafish they got.
— That’s bullshit.
— Course it’s bullshit. Don’t matter. Scared people fall for bullshit like they was made of brick. Truth is, if you got yourself a couple of cans of tunafish, you don’t need to buy any more until you ate up what you got. Right?
— I guess. I sorta forgot what we were talking about. Wait…market thingy.
— Market saturation. Same as tunafish. You already got yourself a gun…or even two or three guns…the only way the motherfuckers who make guns are gonna sell more is if they scare you into buying ’em.
— You’re saying gun makers had that crazy-ass bastard shoot up that store in order to get people to buy more guns?
— What? No. Jesus, no. What I’m saying is the motherfuckers who make guns will use gun violence to scare folks into buying more guns. It’s like this. If you make guns, you want to make it easy for folks to buy guns. If you make it easy to buy guns, some crazy-ass bastard will buy one and use it to shoot folks shopping for tuna-fish. And every time some crazy-ass bastard shoots a lot of tunafish-buying folks, the motherfuckers who make guns will say, ‘The only way to protect yourself from crazy-ass bastards who buy our guns is to buy more of our guns.’
— Maybe they should make it harder for crazy-ass bastards to buy guns.
— See, there’s the problem. You mostly can’t tell if a crazy-ass bastard IS a crazy-ass bastard until he starts shooting people.
— So what do we do?
— Make it harder for everybody to buy guns.
— But I want to buy a gun.
— To protect yourself when you need to replenish your tunafish supply.
— Well, yeah.
— Because it’s too easy for crazy-ass bastards to buy guns.
— Exactly.
— There it is, right there.

the yawning of george r.r. martin

You know George R.R. Martin, right? The writer. The guy who wrote 5/7ths of a very good fantasy fiction series, which was turned into 7/8ths of a pretty good HBO series? Well, it’s being reported that HBO has given him a five-year deal worth “mid-eight figures” to develop other series based on the Game of Thrones universe.

HBO has deep pockets, to be sure–but I’m thinking it’s idiotic to pay him that much coin. I mean, the guy does good work. There are problems with it, of course–the sexism and racism and all that–but the overall dramatic quality of the work is very good. He just doesn’t finish the work. He’s like a master cabinetmaker who designs and creates a beautiful, original kitchen, but doesn’t bother to install the cabinets. They’re just left sitting there on the floor, pretty but incomplete. And as for George R.R. Martin’s GoT universe? At this point, who cares?

Don’t get me wrong. I still remember when a friend told me I should read the original novel, A Game of Thrones. I’d gone through a period where I read some fantasy fiction, but I’d largely gone off of the genre. It all seemed predictable and derivative. This isn’t a verbatim conversation, but it went something like this:

Him: You’ve got to read this book. You’ll love it. It’s unlike anything you’ve read.
Me: Are there elves in it?
Him: No elves.
Me: Dwarves?
Him: No. Well, yes, but not like Dwarf Dwarves. There’s a character who is a dwarf.
Me: But not with a long beard and an innate skill for metallurgy.
Him: Right.
Me: Okay then. What about dragons? Are there dragons?
Him: No. Well, yes, but not like Dragon dragons. Mostly just eggs.
Me: I don’t know.
Him: You’ll love it, trust me.
Me: I don’t know.
Him: You know how when you read a book you pretty much know who the heroes and bad guys are? You pretty much know who’s going to die and who won’t?
Me: Yeah.
Him: Well, that doesn’t apply here.

And hey, he was right. It was unlike anything I’d read, and I did love it. The characters were wildly diverse, mostly complex, but they still managed to be internally consistent. It was clearly fantasy, but the fantasy elements felt grounded. I mean, sure there was magic; you have to expect that in fantasy fiction. But it wasn’t airy fartsy magic–you know, a wizard in a goofy hat holding up a staff and firing off balls of lightning. The magic was magic in the same way menstrual fluid is blood–it was messy, maybe, but basic and honest.

And yeah, there was no way to guess who was going to live or die. Main characters were killed. Not killed in noble, honorable, heroic ways. Killed ugly for stupid reasons. Killed ugly and pointlessly (well, not pointlessly in terms of the narrative, but pointlessly in terms of the story world). They just got killed or maimed, and there it was. Nobody in the story was safe. It was awful and completely glorious. Okay, as the story progressed and the novels got longer and more popular, the main characters became safer. But the precedent had been set, and you were never quite sure if they were really safe.

I had to wait almost a year for the second book in the series to be published. And it was worth the wait. A Clash of Kings was as good as the first novel. We knew at that point it was going to be a trilogy. The third novel, A Storm of Swords, also took about a year and was equally good. By then Martin had decided there’d be six books. That was a tad concerning; six books is a LOT of story. But if Martin could maintain the quality of the work and the novels were published at a reasonable rate, then yay.

We had to wait five years for the fourth book, A Feast for Crows. Five years. Half a decade. Still, it was quite a good novel. But lawdy what a long wait. The only good thing about that long wait was that, just before the fourth novel was published, I had time to re-read the three earlier books so I could remember what had happened.

Then I waited six years for the fifth book. Six years. It only took two years for Magellan to circumnavigate the globe in a goddamn carrack (with a similar body count, by the way). Six years, and by then Martin had decided there’d be maybe seven books in the series. Seven fucking books. Maybe. I bought the book, whatever it was called, and read it, but by that point I’d rather lost my excitement about the story. There were a few characters I was still interested in (Tyrion and Arya, of course), but the story itself had pretty much lost its meaning for me. I sort of recall enjoying the fifth book, but it felt bloated and sluggish, like it had overeaten and just wanted to take a nap.

That was ten years ago, and we’re still waiting for the sixth book. Wait, that’s not true. I’m not waiting for it at all. I no longer care if the sixth or seventh novels ever get published. I watched the HBO series, and for me the story is done. I’m told the series ending may be different from the ending of the novels, but Jeebus on toast, who cares?

Look, George. R.R. Martin gave us three really solid novels, as well as a couple of pretty good ones. That’s no small thing. But he’s let his readers down. He built up their expectations, then failed to meet them. He effectively promised–and continues to repeat that promise–that he’d finish this story. He should either plant his ass in a chair and finish it or just admit that he’s done–that the story is going to remain unfinished. He needs to be honest with the readers, who are rightfully disappointed in him.

We also have a legit reason to be disappointed in HBO. They produced six good seasons of Martin’s story–and one season that was only okay, as well as the massively awful final season. But that’s also partially down to Martin. The HBO series was flawed but mostly solid so long as they had access to the source material–the novels. When they tried to go beyond the novels, even with Martin’s help, the quality of the story suffered.

Maybe the new HBO-Martin projects will be good television. Maybe it’s clever of HBO to buy access to Martin’s story world, but leave Martin himself out of it. Maybe they can produce good work if they decide not to rely on Martin for anything other than ideas. I don’t know.

What I know is this: I don’t much care what George. R.R. Martin is doing now. Or what he promises he’s going to do. I’m grateful for his early work, but that’s it. I don’t care that HBO is preparing more shows based on his story world. I’m grateful for the few good seasons of GoT, and that’s it.

But the promise of more of Martin’s work? Pardon me while I yawn.

the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet

Here is today’s lesson: if you elect stupid Christians, you get stupid Christianity.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way first. This is NOT an attack on Christianity or Christians or religion of any sort. It’s not an attack on Jesus or Jeebus. It’s an attack on stupidity. It’s an attack on insulting the intelligence of the American people. It’s an attack on religious gaslighting. It’s an attack on religious arrogance. But mostly stupidity.

I’m talking about Cindy Hyde-Smith, one of the US Senators (oh my fucking god she’s a Senator) from Mississippi. Yesterday, in an actual real Senate hearing on voter rights, she sorta kinda semi-quoted the Bible to defend legislation in Georgia–a state that is NOT Mississippi–that restricts early voting on Sundays. She held up a dollar bill and said (and I swear, I am NOT making this up) the following:

You know, this is our currency, this is a dollar bill. This says, ‘The United States of America, in God we trust.’ Etched in stone in the U.S. Senate chamber is ‘in God we trust.’ When you swore in all of these witnesses, the last thing you said to them in your instructions was ‘so help you God.’ In God’s word in Exodus 20:18, it says ‘remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.’

Okay, where to start? Let’s start with this: What the fuck? She’s not saying people shouldn’t be allowed to vote on Sundays because of US currency–which would be galactically stupid. Nope, she’s saying people shouldn’t be allowed to vote on Sundays because of her Christian religion–which is only massively stupid. Is she aware that not all voters are Christian? Maybe? Maybe not? Either way, this is stupid.

Next, let’s look at what Exodus 20:18 actually says, which is this:

And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.

Thunderings, lightnings, noise. All of which is oddly appropriate. The thing is, Senator (I still can’t believe somebody this stupid is an actual Senator) Hyde-Smith made an simple, understandable mistake. She actually quoted Exodus 20:8, which does, in fact, say: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Of course, she left a bit out. It goes on to say more than that. It also says this:

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.

Any work. Thou shalt not do any work. Thou and everybody else. No work. No stores or shops open, no restaurants, no taverns, no Walmart, no spa or gym, no movie theaters, no Waffle House, nothing is open. Nobody doing chores. Nobody working the fields. Nobody tidying up at home, nobody doing laundry, nobody cooking or doing dishes. Six days shalt thou labor, and do ALL thy work, but on the seventh day you do fuck all. Just sit around praying and generally being holy.

Senator (it hurts me to call her that) Hyde-Smith may not be aware of this, but her own state of Mississippi is open for business on Sundays. It’s hard to justify forbidding people from voting on Sunday, but allowing them to buy mufflers and eat waffles and watch movies. There’s a flaw in that reasoning.

But also, there’s this: the book of Exodus, which is the second book of the Torah, was almost certainly written around the 5th century BCE. What does BCE stand for? That’s right. Before the Common Era. Before Jesus. The Sabbath mentioned in Exodus? The Sabbath Senator (Jesus suffering fuck, how can she be a Senator?) Hyde-Smith is referring to? That’s not the Christian Sabbath; it’s the Jewish Sabbath. We’re talking Friday evening to Saturday evening, not Sunday.

Finally, there’s this: Senator (really, how is that possible?) Hyde-Smith and her comrades in the GOP are blatantly gaslighting. They’re not interested in protecting the Sabbath. They’re only interested in protecting the GOP from people who want to vote. Mostly, that means they want to protect the GOP from Black people. And Democrats.

Instead of advocating popular policies that will make people want to vote for Republicans, they’ve chosen to find ways to discourage people from voting for Democrats. And what have the people done in response? Having seen the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off from the GOP. And told them to go fuck themselves. Amen.

3 television shows i’d watch

I like television. I don’t watch a lot of it, but I like it. I watch probably a couple of hours of television a day. Wait, not true. I usually watch the local news and the network news. That’s an hour right there. Then I’ll watch an episode of some show over a meal. Later I’ll usually watch an episode of a different show. So let’s say a couple of hours of entertainment television, and a hour of news.

With so many streaming services available, there’s always something to watch. That said, I don’t generally watch US network television shows. Not because of any anti-American bias, but because they all seem too slick and indistinguishable. Most of the actors–especially the women actors–tend to look like models rather than real people. The storylines often feel familiar and predictable. They don’t require anything from the viewer but passive engagement.

Since I complain about them, somebody asked me what I’d like to see US television production companies release. And because I’d rather think about that than what I’m supposed to be doing, I came up with three ideas for television shows I’d watch. I was just amusing myself, of course, and being a bit ridiculous–but I think I’d actually watch television shows like this.

Here we go:

Welcome to Ballachulish: Two assassins–one an official CIA wetwork specialist on a gov’t pension, one a Belgian freelancer who has made enough money to get out of the game–coincidentally choose to retire to the same small out-of-the-way village in Scotland. Although they each remain suspicious that the other is there to kill them, they semi-bond together as they interact with the quirky locals–an irascible veterinarian, a lesbian couple who operate a pub/B&B, an irascible postmaster, the local constable (a wanna-be spy novelist), an irascible shopkeeper, the local laird and his extended family, an irascible Korean owner of a Mexican restaurant, a standard attractive single woman school teacher, an irascible ironmonger/blacksmith/interior designer.

The Bookstore: A small, dusty used bookstore in Brooklyn that somehow attracts all sorts of customers–lawyers, immigrant taxi drivers, soccer moms, art students, police officers, actor/waiters, college professors, professional dancers, auto mechanics, bicycle messengers, etc. Occasionally some ask the bookseller for a recommendation. Bookseller encourages them to browse, take their time, find a book themselves. If they insist on a recommendation the bookseller will agree, saying “I’ll recommend a book for you just this once. One time, and that’s it. And all sales are final. Are you sure you want me to recommend a book?” If they still insist, the bookseller will charge them US$14.75 in advance, study their face for a while, then say “I know exactly what you’re looking for” and send them to a back room.

As they pass through the door, they enter a story. Might be a romance, might be a murder mystery, might be a heist story, might be a pirate story, might be science fiction or fantasy, might be a story set in a Russian gulag or a French Foreign Legion post in north Africa–but it’s rarely what the customer thinks they want. Most have happy–or at least satisfactory–endings. Some don’t. The story resolves, the customer finds themselves back in the bookstore.

Ol’ Man River: Guy (or woman, doesn’t matter–let’s say a woman, what the hell) wins the lottery. She leaves her old life behind (whatever that includes). Buys a houseboat. Travels up and down the Mississippi River mostly by herself. Stuff happens. She meets people, she has visits from family and friends, she deals with animals and boat problems and bad weather, she stops at various river towns, she learns some local history, she changes in ways she doesn’t expect. Lots of pretty scenery.

I considered suggesting a series in which two retired assassins buy a houseboat and travel up and down the Mississippi stopping at bookstores in river towns, but that seemed a bit over the top.

3 things that make me love the world

I’m not one of those “Let’s focus on happy news and forget how completely fucking awful the world is” guys. I lack the Pollyanna gene. When the world is completely fucking awful, I want to know about it. I want to understand it. Don’t try to distract me with bluebirds or other happy horseshit. Because despite how completely fucking awful the world is, I still manage to remain pretty chipper and stupidly happy. I still love this world.

I’m telling you that because the news this morning is jammed with the mass murder that took place in Georgia yesterday. Eight dead–six Asian women, two non-Asian men. Apparently murdered by some inadequate white incel asshole who, according to law enforcement officials, “had a really bad day…and this is what he did.” On any other morning, I’d be writing about both this hate crime against women (and the reality is that the most common hate crimes–and the least acknowledged hate crimes–are committed against women) and the casual way white law enforcement agents treat white mass murderers who commit hate crimes.

But not this morning. I’m NOT trying to distract you from the truly awful shit that’s taking place. But three things happened this morning that made me ridiculously happy. And I’m not going to let this Georgia asshole detract from that. Fuck him in the neck. These are three things that make me love this awful world.

First thing. The Pritzker Prize. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s the most prestigious award in architecture. It’s usually awarded to some arrogant asshole ‘starchitect’ who designs massive, expensive, flamboyant buildings. Not this year. This year it’s gone to Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, a pair of architects who have largely focused on transforming low-income housing complexes. Instead of tearing down old structures and building new ones, these two have found ways to transform old housing projects into attractive living environments. A lot of poor people may hate where they live, but aren’t confident they’ll be better off if they moved.

Turning grim public housing into bright living spaces.

A few years ago, Lacaton and Vassal were asked to work on “a particularly large and hideous” public housing project in Bordeaux. The people who lived in the projects didn’t want to leave; they just wanted more space and more light. Lacaton and Vassal gave them what they wanted. The basically encased the building in glass, turning what had been exterior apartment walls into sliding glass doors leading to an enclosed terrace. It cost less money, it required less disruption for the tenants, and it turned grim, drab apartments into bright sunny spaces. The Pritzker jury wrote:

Through their belief that architecture is more than just buildings, through the issues they address and the proposals they realize, through forging a responsible and sometimes solitary path illustrating that the best architecture can be humble and is always thoughtful, respectful, and responsible, they have shown that architecture can have a great impact on our communities and contribute to the awareness that we are not alone.

I like living in a world where French architects are honored for their work in support of poor folks living in public housing.

Second thing: I’ve written about the game Geoguessr before–both as a game and as source material for an appropriation art project. For a variety of reasons, I don’t play the game as often as I used to. But now and then, I’ll get the urge and I’ll immerse myself in virtually exploring a novel part of the world. Last night I played and found myself lost in the Polish countryside, where I saw an interesting bit of graffiti art.

I don’t speak Polish. But I help run a Facebook group called Geoguessr Oddities, with a global membership some of whom were likely to know Polish. So I posted the screengrab. And a short time later I learned Mysza Patrzy jak Jedzisz translates to “The Mouse watches you drive.” It wasn’t very helpful in finding out where I was in Poland, but the translation cracked me up, and the interaction itself made me happy. Then this morning another member of the group informed me that franekmysza is a Polish graffiti artist with an Instagram account. He’s painted that mouse all over Poland.

I like living in a world in which I can be introduced to a Polish graffiti artist by playing a game designed by a Swedish IT consultant to get you lost in new parts of the world.

Third thing. There was an article in the Washington Post about a kid, Darius Brown, who learned to sew bow ties for rescue animal–and I swear, this made me tear up and I came THIS close to crying like a little girl. Darius (and, again, he has an Instagram account you may want to follow) was taught to sew bow ties by his sister when he was eight years old. He got started in the rescue animal bow tie gig two years later, in 2017, when a couple dozen dogs left homeless in Florida and Puerto Rico by Hurricane Irma were transferred to a shelter in New York City. He thought the animals might get adopted quicker if they were wearing bow ties.

Let me just say that again. A ten-year-old kid in New Jersey sewed 25 bow ties for rescue dogs from Florida and Puerto Rico because he wanted them to get adopted. How perfectly wonderful is that? And hey, it worked.

Of course it worked. Look at that good boy wearing one of his bow ties in a Savannah shelter. Are you kidding me? Who wouldn’t want to adopt this tripod pooch? According to WaPo, Darius has now “donated more than 600 bow ties for dogs and cats in shelters.” He’s only 14-years-old. He says, “A well-dressed dog…that will make people smile.” And yeah, it does.

I suppose I should mention that Darius has both a speech disorder and a fine motor skills disorder–but since those things don’t define him, they’re less important than what he does. And what he does is make the lives of shelter animals better, which makes shelters better, which makes the lives of the people who adopt the shelter animals better, which makes the entire world a little bit better.

I like living in a world with Darius Brown in it.

Yes, the world is completely fucking awful. But it’s also completely fucking wonderful. We shouldn’t let the former diminish the latter. There are architects who transform awful buildings into livable spaces. There are graffiti artists painting snarky mice all over Poland. And there’s a kid in New Jersey putting bow ties on shelter animals. How can you not be in love with this world?

EDITORIAL NOTE: Another thing that makes me happy. A couple of folks have kindly and gently taken me to task for writing ‘crying like a little girl‘. It makes me happy because 1) it’s nice that folks call me when it looks like I’m being a dick, and 2) because originally I actually included a long, parenthetical tangent about that phrase, doing a riff sort of like Dickens in A Christman Carol when he natters on about the phrase ‘dead as a doornail’. But I write these posts in a rush, and I edit very little…so I deleted the tangent in the hope that people would interpret crying like a little girl to mean grown men and little girls cry in the same way and sometimes for the same reasons.

I’ve decided NOT to correct it. It’s better to let other folks learn from my misjudgments.