twiliight

It seems the Twilight series is out on a new print run, with a new covers. The covers are striking and pretentious and silly, and I am here to mock them. You don’t have to thank me; it’s what I do.

I had not planned on going to the trouble to find an actual image of this thing, relying instead on my near-mystical abilities of description, but let’s face it, images get the clicks. Here’s the cover:

They did this on purpose

Full disclosure here; I have never read twiliight (apparently) and it’s pretty unlikely I ever will. I have read and enjoyed many things similar to this, even written for a similar demographic, but this whole thing seems pretty awful.

BUT! You will find millions of readers who disagree with me, and the last time I wrote something millions of people liked was never. So my hat is off to the writer of this yarn.

Who is that again?

STEPHENIE MEYER
AUTHOR OF THE #1 BESTSELLING TWILIGHT SAGA

In other words, “Author of the book you are holding in your hands right now.” Which… I figure is kind of implied already. If you decide to read twiliight because it’s written by the person who wrote Twilight— you know what? You’re perfect for this story.

4

Harden the Schools! (And Increase the Body Count)

Let’s spend gigantic dollars making it so every school in our country has only one way in or out, and let’s put people who aren’t actually cowards guarding that one door.

Where I went to fourth grade, it’s hard to imagine how one would even do that. I guess you could put up chain link and razor wire, so that the killer would have to buy both an AR-15, and another AR-15, and hundreds of rounds of ammo — and a bolt cutter! Terrorism deterred! And then I think of recess surrounded by chain link and razor wire.

The place I went to elementary school was not built for security. It was built in an irrational time when threats to society were handled as threats to society.

But for giggles let’s imagine if they could make a single point of entry at my old school. All those kids and parents hovering around that gate would be what the military calls a “target-rich theatre”. A golden opportunity. There is no amount of money you could spend to make schools safe in a world where some asshole can spray a crowd with bullets. Any crowd, anywhere. It might be your grocery store next.

The kickstand of the “well-regulated militia is everyone with gun” crowd is that these killers are a failure of the mental health system, and not an indictment of the industry that sells these people massively powerful tools of destruction. Yet, those same people will block any attempt to keep those same mentally-ill (by their own definition) people from owning guns.

The reason for this is actually pretty simple. Those mentally-ill kids are their children, and they’ve been fed the illness since before they could speak. Those kids slaughtering other children, that man spraying bullets around an Amazon warehouse, have one thing in common. They have unlimited access to extremely powerful weapons.

And while our gun pals would like to say this is a failure of the mental health system, this is exactly the system they prevent from ever being applied.

To get specific: if a kid comes into your gun store and arms up for a massacre, and you sell all that shit to him and also don’t maybe nudge the authorities — you sir, are guilty too, by the very logic of the NRA. Hang that arms dealer up for the buzzards to enjoy. Nothing is going to change until the people that sell these weapons are held accountable.

I’m not saying that all gun dealers are bad, but Jesus Fuck didn’t this dealer have the slightest impulse for social good? Was there not the least little warning sign flashing in the back of their head? Or is that gun salesman just a product of our time — cash the check and fuck the consequences?

And that guy is the true driver behind all this nonsense. That guy is making a lot of money off the second-amendment debate. His candidates and representatives are getting rich, too. Ultimately, there is a simple truth: there is big money in keeping America armed. If those same people could make money turning schools, hospitals, theaters, casinos, stadiums, bus terminals, taxi stands, restaurants, pharmacies, and sidewalks into “hardened” targets, then they will send out a few extra shooters to make sure we spend from fear.

Already we have that it was the school’s fault for not being ready for an armed assault. We have Ted Cruz saying it was a crazy person and simultaneously blocking any attempt to keep crazy people from having access to massively lethal weapons.

FUCK Ted Cruz. FUCK All the motherfuckers taking money from the NRA and bathing in the blood of their own constituents. FUCK the Democrats for not having the liver to face down these motherfuckers. FUCK the Democrats again for saying “vote for us and we will change this” when even when they have the fucking majority in every chamber they don’t change SHIT. FUCK especially Joe Manchin and his fucking fuckbuddy Mitch McConnel. FUCK the fucking filibuster, which used to require effort, but now even when you try to put it back to the way is was When America Was Great, all you get is diaper-shit hand-wringing. And, fuck the GOP especially.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the only time things get better is when people light things on fire.

4

People Should Listen to Me More Often

You can look at every major financial crash since tulip bulbs and find the underlying fiction that created paper wealth without any value behind it. Handshakes and winks and it’s fun while it lasts.

In April of 2021, I wrote that Bitcoin was a terrible solution to an interesting problem. It is called a cryptocurrency, but it does not match any previous definition of the word “currency”. As an investment it is, in fact, slightly below “bag of magic beans that aren’t actually magic”. At least with those you could make a nice soup. Soon after that episode, the price of a Bitcoin tumbled, then briefly rose to new dramatic heights in November of the same year, and has since steadily eroded.

It is late and rather than sleep I thought tonight I’d read about the latest crypto disaster. Roughly One Trillion Dollars vanished this week. Poof. Gone. Retirements destroyed, hedge funds cratered. Those investors should have listened to me.

Time magazine (wow has that brand been dragged into the dumpster) included this in an article about crypto volatility:

Given that crypto derives some of its value from people’s belief in it, markets can be rattled by surrounding skepticism or policy changes.

Time.com

So, close, yet so far. In fact, crypto derives all of its value from people’s belief in it. There is absolutely no other source of value. If you were to buy gold, and then suddenly everyone decided gold had no value, you could at least make something pretty out of it.

What drove this week’s meltdown is complicated on the surface, and simple in substance. There was a cryptocurrency that was, through elaborate mechanisms including game theory, always supposed to be worth a dollar. While my first question is “why would anyone buy that shit instead of just buying dollars,” apparently plenty of people thought that was a good idea.

So how do the people flogging this investment plan to control the value of the tokens they sell? Part of it is by holding investors hostage – people with a vested interest in maintaining this dollar parity will buy up other people’s tokens to maintain their value. But you can’t always rely on that, so these companies also keep reserves so they can maintain the price by buying up tokens when there is a bunch of people selling.

But… whoops! What if your reserves are in other crypto tokens? What if you need to sell all your Bitcoin ($1.7 billion worth, maybe), but Bitcoin is also falling because someone is trying to sell a shit-ton of it, and even when you’re done, it’s just not enough? Everything goes to shit, is what happens.

It’s a regular cycle. Someone finds a way to create an illusion of value where no value exists. Before crypto, it was weird real estate loan guarentee instruments that created an entire market unto themselves, and led to a near-collapse of our banking system in 2008. That was done by bankers who should have known better, and there were (for a little while) regulations in place to keep it from happening again. In 1929 it was shell companies that all owned each other but not any company that actually made a profit.

Crypto, on the other hand, is a much more egalitarian fraud. Anyone can play! Elon Musk used the power of his twitter account to rob countless less-wealthy people through Bitcoin price manipulation (he claims he was not being corrupt, just stupid – but both can be true).

One thing that none of the press I read tonight mentions – Bitcoin uses lots and lots of electricity. When the cost of power goes up, ultimately that has to effect the value of their tokens.

Universally the press has treated the crypto crater just like they would any other investment issue. Treating crypto with the same words they would use for something that has intrinsic value. That’s simply not right. None of them are saying “This is all fake! Get out while you still can!”

I could create a crypto tonight, call it “eco-coin” and vaguely suggest that we only accept electricity from windmills, or at least I’ve seen some pretty bitchin’ windmills, windmills are cool, so you should invest in eco-coin. If I could catch the ear of the Master Influencer at Credulous Weekly, eco-coin would be off to the races.

In terms of actual value, my new crypto would be worth exactly the same as Bitcoin: zero. I’ll finish this episode with the same words I used to start it: You can look at every major financial crash since tulip bulbs and find the underlying fiction that created paper wealth without any value behind it. Handshakes and winks and it’s fun while it lasts.

1

Pod Life

It was in late 2001 or early 2002. I was on an airplane, and I pulled 1000 songs out of my pocket, was navigating to find the album I wanted, when a man in the row behind me leaned forward and asked through the gap between seats, “What is that thing?”

It was an iPod. Until its release, there had never been anything like it. The mechanical click-wheel of those early versions was just so satisfying and intuitive, navigating through a large collection of songs was simple, even with the tiny black-and-white screen. “It passes the blonde test,” a blonde friend of mine said after a few seconds with the device.

Part of the iPod of course was timing. Suddenly it was possible to fit a hard drive (yes, an actual spinning-disk drive) and a battery into a little case with enough storage to play music. But on top of that was the design. Anybody could make a music player, but only Apple could have made the iPod.

And only the iPod could save Apple. There was a huge battle inside Apple over whether the iPod would work with Windows computers. Steve Jobs was absolutely against it. Steve got his way most of the time, but in this case ultimately other voices carried the day, and while Steve was not the least bit gracious in conceding, he was later able to recognize that decision as a turning point for the company. It was the moment the gadgets were allowed to grow independently of Macs, and eventually the gadgets became the center of the Apple ecosystem. And here we are now.

Today (or, recently at least, I don’t pay close attention) Apple announced that they will not be making any more iPods. It’s just as well; the iPod is now just an iPhone without the phone. The iPod nano was probably the pinnacle of the “thing that plays music” Apple offerings, although it was not as viscerally satisfying to use as its clunky ancestors. I have one of those around here somewhere as well.

The only surprise I felt at the announcement was that the company I work for was still making iPods up until now. It seems like once the pod had to play video it wasn’t really an iPod anymore (says this grumpy old man).

But… the headphones I wear could fit a click wheel. A million songs in your ear. Anyone want to make that real?

4

Breakfast of Champions

Green Chile Cheesy Bagel!

Featuring “Some guy in Albuquerque with a roaster in his garage” brand chiles! The best!

5