Lydia Laurenson explores a trip into staged wonder. What's it like, in this modern age, to join a secret society made primarily, so it seems, to evoke the wonder that one might have joining a secret society?
“Can you keep a secret?” I blinked. I didn’t know Justin very well. I did know that he was a very affable bearded man, and we both lived in the Bay Area. At the time, he ran a small creative agency, while I worked as a writer and digital media consultant. “I think so,” I said cautiously. “I think I can keep a secret.” Justin raised his eyebrows. “Of course I can,” I said. “I’ve been thinking about giving you something,” he said. Justin told me he'd been considering giving me a gift for weeks, and finally decided to go through with it after reading an article I’d written about how people use pseudonyms to explore their identities. “But you have to promise me that you won’t tell anyone about it. No one.” I nodded, and he handed me a plastic card—much like a credit card, but pure white with a line of black zeroes. It came in a black slipcase embossed with the words “ABSOLUTE DISCRETION” and a distinctive golden hexagonal symbol.
The remarkable Lindy West penned a remarkable op-ed for the New York Times. What others make muddled, West presents with such bright-eyed clarity of voice and position that it's hard to imagine how callous one would have to be to disagree with her.
Once you say, “He says what I’m afraid to say,” and point to a man who is essentially a 24/7 fire hose of unequivocal bigotry, you’ve said what you’re afraid to say, so how afraid could you have been in the first place? The phrase is a dodge, a way to acknowledge that you’re aware it’s a little naughty to be a misogynist xenophobe in 2016, while letting like-minded people know, with a conspiratorial wink, that you’re only pretending to care. It’s a wild grab for plausible deniability — how can I be a white supremacist when I’m just your nice grandpa? — an artifact of a culture in which some people believe that it’s worse to be called racist than to be racist.
Richard Kreitner looks at the plans to recover the Los Angeles river from the brutulist wasteland it is today, and the political forces that the plans are calling forth.
The Los Angeles River is about to be reborn. Winding 51 miles from the San Fernando Valley past downtown and through South-Central cities like Vernon and Compton, the long-ignored watercourse has become the focus of an explosion of civic imagineering. In 2007, after years of lobbying by a diverse coalition of artists, planners, environmentalists, and social-justice activists, the city approved a master plan that reconceived the abandoned channel as “an urban treasure.” Covering only the 32 miles that pass through the city, the plan envisioned a river that at once provides “flood protection and opportunities for recreational and environmental enhancement, improves the aesthetics of the region, enriches the quality of life for residents, and helps sustain the economy of the region.” Bike lanes and terraced banks were to replace the post-apocalyptic hellscape featured in films like Repo Man and Terminator 2.