american subversive

I can’t believe I, of all people, the guy who’s written thousands of words on this very site about how Donald Trump is a liar/man-being-telepathically-controlled-by-a-malevolent-elder-god-from-the-great-cosmic-beyond is about to admit this, but … Donald Trump was right about wiretapping and we should cut him some slack.

No, Barack Obama didn’t send a swarm of nanobots into Trump’s brain to steal the daydream he drifts into during intelligence briefings wherein he imagines himself motorboating Ivanka’s tits, or whatever Trump thinks wiretapping is. Lost in the recent flurry of news about Trumpcare and his administration’s alleged coordination with Russian hackers to stifle Hillary Clinton’s momentum during the election was one news story that proved Donny sort of right. A building he was living in was wiretapped. Just not him, specifically.

Between 2011 and 2013, a non-Donald Trump resident of Trump Tower in Manhattan was under FBI surveillance. In a twist that does nothing to help Trump’s image as a possible accomplice to the subversion of American democracy by a hostile foreign nation, this resident was a notorious Russian criminal who was running an illegal gambling ring out of apartment 63A.

The One Trump Story We Should Cut Him Some Slack On

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: grimdark is lazy, good is hard work and Jewish American superheroes

First I know nothing about Marvel comics: all my context I got from the films Thor (delightful) and Avengers Assemble (remember very little except it had good jokes and the final action scene was too long), and reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier last night because of this which I saw a few people reblog:

(okay and also all the gifsets of Sebastian Stan crying. I WAS MIS-SOLD ON THIS FOR THE RECORD, THERE IS LITTLE TO NO CRYING AND ALSO HIS HAIR IS AWFUL.)

If Kavalier and Clay taught me anything it’s threesomes are the best solutions to love triangles Jewish-American cartoonists in the 1930s and early ‘40s were all over inventing subversively American heroes to fight Hitler, and I was very unsurprised when I got home and looked it up to learn that Captain America was created by two Jewish guys too. (I know this is really basic comics history stuff and I’m sure fifty people have written dissertations on “He’s A Mensch: The Jewish Identities of Captain America and Superman” or whatever.) What really slotted everything into place was realising that Captain America was created and entered on a cover punching Hitler in the face before America had entered the war.

Basically (right?) Captain America was created by two Jewish-Americans to shame the US into properly fighting Hitler.

Like, I am Captain America, the America you say you want to be, and I challenge you to put your money where your mouth is and actually do something about it. And yes he’s over-the-top and tacky but that’s where the challenge is, right? The chest-thumping American patriotism says “We are good and spread liberty! And also freedom!” and Captain America is like “great! I am that, and I have to point out you are not actually doing that”.

AND I think this is Jewishly on purpose, and here’s why:

Judaism has this important phrase/concept/slogan/life motto from the third-century-ish text Pirkei Avot, which goes: Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor (it’s not to you to complete the work of repairing the world) v'lo atah ben chorin l'hivatel mimena (but neither may you desist from it). You won’t be able to fix the world by yourself, or in your lifetime, but that doesn’t absolve you of responsibility to work towards it.

I feel like grimdark/anti-heroes are a response to the fact that the world is neither good nor moral, like “well if the world isn’t like that, I won’t be either”. But they’re also excuses for not working towards fixing the world: I won’t bother because it’s all fucked anyway. Lo alecha and Captain America say, yes, it is fucked, but you still have to work towards fixing it. And yes, it’s hard, that’s why it’s called work.

Which is why I think saying “Oh, if Captain America represents the US he should be a dick, because the US is a dick” or “Captain America is an imperialist symbol of US superiority and is therefore bad” are both off base and a dodge of having to do that hard work.  

“If Cap = America then Cap = dick because America = dick” is basically just throwing hands up and going “right but guys have you noticed that actually America is imperialist and horrible? DO YOU SEE?!” and implying “so what can you do about that, right?”. Captain America says, “Try to make it better! is what you can do!”

And about saying he’s a symbol of US imperial superiority, I mean, he is a symbol of America but aimed as a criticism at real America.  He’s the American ideal cranked up to five million - for the purpose of shaming America for not living up to what it says it wants to be. And he is aimed at Americans, so I can see a criticism for him being US-centric in that metanarrative sense, but he’s yelling at America to sort their shit out and I think him yelling at non-USAmericans to sort their shit out would be much worse? But I definitely don’t think Cap is supposed to be about how great America is, he’s about pointing out exactly in what ways and how much America is failing to be great. And then saying “but, that doesn’t mean you get out of trying harder!”

Also, how great is it that his 'weapon’ is a shield.

so um that’s what I thought about when I saw The Winter Solder last night. that and biceps.
Black Writers Were Public Enemy No. 1
F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature (Princeton University Press, 2015)
By William J. Maxwell

The FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover-era surveillance of so-called dissidents—a motley assembly of Soviet sympathizers, anti-war activists and civil rights leaders—has been well documented since the 1970s. But [Claude] McKay was the first, though hardly the last, of one Hoover-tracked subculture that has received less attention: black writers, including some of the most celebrated names in American letters. In the heart of the 20th century, beginning decades before the FBI’s campaign against Martin Luther King Jr., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and, later, the Black Panthers, dozens of allegedly subversive African-American poets, novelists, essayists and playwrights were distinct targets of the agency, whose surveillance of this group was thorough, far-reaching and sometimes ruthless.

The extensive scope of this surveillance is only now coming into focus, thanks to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Building on the detective work of prior researchers who discovered files on the likes of James Baldwin, Langston Hughes and Richard Wright […]

Alarmingly, the disclosed files reveal that the FBI prepared preventive arrests of most of the names dropped above, and altogether more than half of the black authors stalked in its archive. Twenty-seven of 51, accused of communism and related extremisms, were caught in the invisible dragnet of the agency’s “Custodial Detention” index and its successors—hot lists of pre-captives “whose presence at liberty in this country in time of war or national emergency,” Hoover resolved in 1939, “would be dangerous to the public peace and the safety of the United States Government.”


Just finished reading American Subversive, started reading Boys and Girls Like You and Me last night. These books don’t have much in common besides that they’re both published by Scribner, the paperbacks came out in early April, and the authors (David Goodwillie and Aryn Kyle) have been on book tour together. Kyle has been blogging about it, and their buddy flick vibe (kind of an older Seth and Ryan, maybe?) is hilarious and ultra-charming. I’d been meaning to read American Subversive for a while, but reading about their misadventures on book tour made me decide I had to read it immediately.

American Subversive is about a blogger at a Gawker-esque site who gets an anonymous tip about a bombing at Barney’s. He tries to track down the suspect (who happens to be a gorgeous woman) and figure out her motives, and along with the terrorism plot there is a healthy amount of New York-based ennui (which is the only kind I like), skewering of media and blog culture, and spot-on descriptions about what happens when you spend your youth in NYC. It’s funny, twisty, and totally believable (hot terrorists and courageous bloggers alike). 

Boys and Girls Like You and Me is a short story collection, and I’m only halfway through the second. But I’m sure it’s equally excellent!

I’m going to see them read tomorrow at 192 Books in Chelsea; that bookstore is one of those New York “businesses” that you can’t believe makes any money, but is so lovably impractical that you hope it keeps finding a way.

A decade had passed in the back of countless cabs, at fancy dinners and midnight pizzerias: the drug dipping and surprisingly functional alcoholism that consumed our nights and destroyed our mornings; nothing stimulating, nothing surprising, our thirties spreading out before us like our twenties, but with the lessons still unlearned. We were a tough lot to teach. We only listened to ourselves.
—  American Subversive by David Goodwillie

Jimi Hendrix is about to release new music

On Wednesday, Rolling Stone reported that Hendrix’s bootleg tape, Hear My Music, will finally see an official vinyl release this Record Store Day. It will likely be one of the best-selling records of the day, though Hendrix has been dead for 44 years.

The Hendrix fascination is as alive today as it ever was, and for good reason: Hendrix’s revolutionary music, such as the dissonant pageantry of his “Star-Spangled Banner,” is still some of the most radical and subversive in American rock canon. He pioneered new musical technologies, styles and techniques, which helped lay the groundwork for new musical genres. And his genre-pushing also gave way to important conversations that have redefined the way we discuss race in music. 

Hendrix’s impact on music history is so vast and multifaceted, we often forget his career only spanned four years.

In those four years, he became the most influential guitar player who ever lived. Follow micdotcom