Ceci n’est pas un miroir

by Akim Reinhardt

Magritte Pipe Stock Illustrations – 2 Magritte Pipe Stock Illustrations, Vectors & Clipart - DreamstimeIt’s not so much that I’m like my father. Rather, I sometimes feel as I understood him to be.

My mother? Not so much.

Part of it might have to do with sex. My father was a man. I’m a man. But I can’t really feel like a woman. I can feel for a woman. I can empathize. And I can listen when a woman describes her life to me. But I can never fully experience it for myself beyond the vicarious. It’s like being black or gay or someone who doesn’t speak a word of English. There’s a gap I can’t fully cross, a way of being I can’t have short of a plot twist in one of those Freaky Friday body swap comedies .

Is that why the inevitably male patriarchal priests and prophets fashioned a one, true male God? Because aside from the idea that only men should rule, and a hundred other sexist reasons, they could not imagine the soul of a woman?

But that only helps explain why I never feel as I understand my mother to be. Why do I sometimes feel as I understood my father to be?

I’m half of each of them. And if someone asks, I often describe myself as half-Jewish and half-redneck. It’s an incredibly facile and reductionist response. But it’s also an answer the questioner isn’t expecting, and probably isn’t even familiar with. So while seeming to offer little beyond stereotype, it also mildly confuses the questioner without intimidating them. That in turn gets them thinking. It can be good to put someone on their back foot when they ask you that question.

You know the question.

Peeling back that pat answer a bit forces me to remember who he was and wasn’t. A redneck? It was hardly some badge he wore, though he didn’t shy away from the label if it were hung on him. But one had to be careful in ways that New Yorkers might not know how to. I remember him angrily explaining to me once, after I’d made an offhanded comment, that there was a world of a difference between a redneck and white trash. And that he was never the latter. Read more »

Election Day?

by Akim Reinhardt

Here's 6 things to know if you're voting on Election Day | WYPRI like to vote in person on Election Day. I’m sentimental that way. My polling precinct is at the local elementary school. So last Tuesday, I woke up early, dressed and got out the door in a rush, and arrived to find not the expected pastiche of cardboard candidate signs and nagging pamphleteers, but rather a playground full of 2nd graders.

The first Tuesday in November? Apparently not, according to 2 U.S. Code § 7, which names Election Day as the first Tuesday “after the 1st Monday in November.” So much for making it simple.

So I waved at the children, but not in that creepy way, I think, and trundled off to work. Instead, I will vote tomorrow.

My aborted first attempt at voting in the 2022 U.S. election feels fitting. Nothing sums up this political moment quite so perfectly as trying to cast a ballot and failing. But mostly the whole episode reminded me of the four years I spent visiting prison. The rigid enforcement of arbitrary time. A yard full of people being held against their will and watched over by a small, shockingly underpaid staff.  And a strong sense that it’s do or die time. Read more »

Do You Want to Die with Me?

by Akim Reinhardt

Come die with me.

I don’t literally mean die. Or with me. Or want.

Do you ____ to ___ with another person/persons or by yourself?

Are there any verbs you’d like to cast about as you sit alone beneath a budding tree, or amid the carnage of rampaging armies? I’m just asking. Not that death is an option.

Death is just an illusion, created by kindly, ancient priests from lost civilizations who sought to give people hope. The truth is, we’re trapped in this life for all of eternity. There is no ending, only a distant beginning long forgotten, and a ceaseless parade of moments, unbeckoned and following a riotous route of their own determining. Marching forward, marching sideways, marching forward, time never stopping.

You are awake. You are asleep. It is all the same. You are trapped in a fleshy, boney cocoon. Rub your eyes and sigh. Turn your head and scan all the objects around you. Listen to the soft hum, the volcanic roar, the mild ringing, the clacking cacophony, the quiet exasperation slipping past your lips.

Feel everything. You feel nothing. Smack your tongue against the back of your ivory teeth, perhaps some of them metal or porcelain. Brush them again, I dare you. Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat. washrinserepeatrepeatrepeat. Read more »

Queen Me

by Akim Reinhardt

Human Chess Game at the University Detroit 1959 | Office of Digital Education / University of Detroit Mercy CETL
University of Detroit, 1959

I have lived my entire life, all 54 years of it, in the United States. Not once have I ever met anyone who cares about the British monarchy. I mean really cares, beyond the fleeting and shallow passions of celebrity gossip, and even that has been rare. This is not to say that I and mine are fully representative of America. Of course not. In a nation so thoroughly segregated along racial and class lines, I, like most Americans, swim in demographic eddies swirling aside the main currents. So even though they might be circling elsewhere, I don’t doubt there are scads of Americans enthralled with the British royals. It almost seems inevitable given the endless popularity of mediocre British soap operas that some Yanks mistake for high art.

But that’s really the crux of it. To be enamored with the royals is fundamentally no different than tracking the inane posturings of the Kardashian/Jenner clan. The main difference, perhaps, is that the American “royals” are far more obsessed with their physical bodies, while the British royals seem to be quite a bit more racist. Not a one of them in either camp has ever publicly uttered a single word that impressed me. So what, exactly is the attraction? Read more »

The Center is the Enemy of the Good

by Akim Reinhardt

Why do we strive for perfection even though it is unattainable? | Young Writers ProjectThe perfect, so the saying goes, is the enemy of the good. Don’t deny yourself real progress by refusing to compromise. Be realistic. Pragmatic. Patient. Don’t waste resources and energy on lofty but ultimately unobtainable goals, no matter how noble they might be; that will only lead to frustration, and worse, hold us all back from the smaller victories we can actually achieve.

It seems like sound logic. But there’s a catch. Political progress based on compromise requires good faith. The political center must hold and be strong enough to induce opposing sides to negotiate. As you make small incremental gains, the loyal opposition must be counted upon to accept its small incremental defeats, and vice versa. Without that, there can be no compromise.

But in modern America, the center has crumbled. And when the center does not hold, to compromise is to be compromised. Democratic norms and institutions are under attack from right wing authoritarianism. We are on the precipice. And we have reached the moment when people who say things like “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” are the dangerously misguided citizens putting our nation at risk. Self-proclaimed realists and pragmatists, who would bargain in good faith with the far right wing, will obliviously deal away the republic, one piece at a time. Read more »

Fetus Fetish on the Firing Line: A Conversation

by Akim Reinhardt and Jennifer Ballengee

Human embryo at 4 weeks
Human embryo at 4 weeks

First Discussant: For anti-abortion extremists, abortion is a fetish. It’s a symptom that covers a repressed, secret, and socially unacceptable desire. What desire? I’m not sure; it’s their fetish, not mine. But whatever it may be, it drives anti-abortion protestors to scream about saving lives, to hold up posters of fully-formed fetuses (rather than the mass of cells you see in an ultrasound at six weeks or so), and to demand that we save those unformed lives. However, those images of fully-formed fetuses are a lie. They are visual metaphors which, as metaphors do, compare two unlike things: “life” in its social, meaningful context, and the bare life of any cell mass, whether an amoeba, plant, worm, or human. The “sacred” aspect of the human—which lends it the claim to human rights, or gives it its meaning in punishment or execution or “life”—is not innate but imagined. However, if we were to admit that we’re a mass of cells like any other life form, then we’d all have to be vegetarians, or cannibals.

The Respondent: I agree that anti-abortion extremism is a fetish, a form of idolatry where supplicants worship a non-sentient globule for its spiritual and even magical powers. I call this the Fetus Fetish. It’s actually more of an embryo fetish, but I like alliterations. Perhaps it’s not surprising since the vast, vast majority of extremists are very religious and typically espouse Christian notions of a divinely formed soul within every human being upon conception, leading them to entangle embryos with ideas about the sacred. That seems pretty straightforward. What grabs me is your implication that anti-abortion extremism is grounded in a form of religious speciesism. That only by replacing honest observation and rational thought with supernatural religiosity could one conclude that a tiny collection of microscopic, embryonic cells is somehow more worthy of a sacred life than an adult chicken, or that even a twenty-week old fetus, which despite the miracles of modern medical technologies absolutely cannot live outside a woman’s womb, is somehow on a par with, much less the better of, an adult cow or pig or dog. All you have to do is look an adult dog or pig in the eye to recognize you’re dealing with a mature, highly developed, self-sustaining, thinking mammal whose existence has infinitely more in common with your own than does an embryo or early stage fetus. Yes, either eat all the animals or none of them; or at least use that dichotomy as a starting point for some deep thought about your place in the universe. Read more »

American Dreams

by Akim Reinhardt

Simple Flower Bw By @malenki, Simple Flower From Hakanl - Outline Of A Flower - Free Transparent PNG Clipart Images DownloadDreams are about questions.

Every dream sprouts up as an innocent question in the early morning haze. Maturing in bright sunlight, it opens up, like the petals on a flower, with vibrant new questions unfolding from the original. Then, after achieving its fulsome bloom, the dream begins to sag. No longer birthing new questions, its fading aroma and shriveling grandeur are pitied, mocked, and satirized before being ignored, a loyal few finally plucking its withered remnants and vainly trying to save the dream by pressing it between the pages of a book, eternally rendering it a dry, flat scrap of its former self.

[insert a dream here]

Generations of Americans dreamed dreams about liberty and greatness and free land and streets paved with gold, one flower after another emerging, blooming, and wilting, before finally being pressed into the scrapbook of history.

[insert the blood of settler colonialism here]

When the Great Depression and World War II were finally put to rest, the American dream bourgeoned in contrast to the Soviet nightmare. We must pursue this dream of new appliances in suburban homes, of passive participation in mainline Protestantism, of Barbie doll beach blanket bingo, of vanilla white velvet cake, lest the encroaching darkness of poverty, atheism, and red gulags overrun us. Onward Christian soldier, marching ever forward to material salvation.

[insert body snatchers here]

But when the procession moved only in tightly proscribed circles, a new generation planted a seed that questioned the dream itself. Where is America and its elusive dream?

[insert a Spirograph here] Read more »

Postcards from America

by Akim Reinhardt

Area of a triangleNot 7,500 miles this time. Nor a mad dash from one coast to another. Rather, a wiry triangle: the first leg from Baltimore to New Orleans; the second, up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to South Dakota; the hypotenuse, back to Maryland.

Abingdon, VA.  I’m vaxed and boosted, but a bout of Covid has delayed the bon voyage. No time to stop in North Carolina for long overdue visits with family and friends. Instead, it’s straight down I-81, still a bit weary and taking it as far as I can. I support small businesses and try to avoid chains, which is not always easy out on the road, but I find a delightful independent motel called the Alpine Inn. It’s clean, it’s cheap, and it’s the best paid lodging I’ll have during my twenty-two night sojourn. I get dinner at a Mexican restaurant the cheerful motel owner recommends, assuring me they’ll do spicy if I ask for it. It’s close enough to walk. I sit outside. Every other customer is inside, and I have the patio to myself. I order a cerveza. I assume it will be a pint. It’s a quart. We’re off and running.

Nashville, TN.  It should be only a five hour drive. But thirty miles outside of town, along a very rural stretch of I-40, I hit a flaccid snarl of traffic. It takes two hours to move six miles. I’m ninety minutes late, but still manage lunch with friends. Then it’s off to the airport where I pick up a compadre whose flown in from NYC; he’s a good sport, having agreed to hang out in the terminal and read a book for an hour so I can keep my belated lunch date. He hops in, we find a hummin’ community radio station, and are off. Next stop: Purgatory

Madison, AL.  It’s only about seven hours to New Orleans, and we have two days to get there. My friend has scouted out minor league baseball possibilities. The Biloxi Shuckers, with their lurid Oyster mascot, are appealing, but we opt for the Rocket City Trash Pandas. Madison is just outside Huntsville, which has a NASA center, ergo the city’s nickname. And the minor leagues specialize in catchy marketing, thus the Raccoon mascot’s nickname. We roll into town the evening before the game, and I espy another independent lodging, the Madison Motel. What dark incomprehensiblities await us? Read more »

Lay Me Down with Jesus

by Akim Reinhardt

The Second Line Tradition of the New Orleans Jazz Funeral - SevenPonds BlogSevenPonds BlogDeath was already about me. I’d recently written two death songs. Not mournful, but peaceful and welcoming. No reason. They just seeped out of me. Then came the Covid infection. It must’ve found me in upstate New York while vacationing with friends.

At first, I assumed it was just those damned seasonal allergies. As bad as they’ve ever been. But then it took a turn. When the thermometer read 100.2 F, I called it a night quite a bit earlier than usual. I wouldn’t open my eyes again for nearly a dozen hours. After finally crawling from the bed, I stumbled into the bathroom and reached for one of those free government test kits. Swab, spin, drip, wait. The incriminating line was a bold streak of bright red. I’m staring at it right now, having kept it as a memento.

By then the fever had broken, but the other symptoms were raging. Body aches. Serious fatigue. A dry cough. Each time my chest convulsed it triggered a momentary splitting headache. My nostrils felt raw, like they were or burning, even though I’d barely blown my nose. The overripe banana didn’t taste like much of anything. The dark chocolate was very intense. Aside from the brief fever, the worst of it lasted 48 hours. Then Jesus came to me. Read more »

The Impossibility of History

by Akim Reinhardt

A Prologue to Prologue | National ArchivesIs the Past Prolog? I’m not convinced. I say this as a professional historian.

The main problem, of course, is that there are many pasts. They are defined by temporality, by subjectivity, and by the limits of knowledge.

The past is ten seconds ago. Ten minutes, ten days, ten weeks, ten years, ten centuries. Which past is prolog to which present?

There is no one past. There are countless pasts. Mine. Yours. The billions, or at least millions, of people who were alive at any given moment. The great, great majority of them never meeting or even knowing of each other, having no discernible influence on each other. Humans can be worldly, but never really universal. Whose past is prolog to whom?

Yet even the shared pasts are contested. Because the past is no different than the present in at least one important aspect: it is experienced subjectively. Like the classic Akira Kurosawa film Roshomon, or the countless sitcom shows that borrowed its premise for a chicanery-riddled episode of mutual misunderstanding, there is no one version. Each person had their own. Their own vantage point, their own experiences, their own filters and agendas, their own limits and baggage, their own abilities and inabilities to understand what they see, feel, hear, and hear of. And even under the most favorable circumstances, every person does what every person must do: interpret.

There is a science of life, but life itself is no science. We need to invent and give meaning to what we do and experience. It is an unavoidable feature of the human condition. Our perceptions and understandings of human affairs are subjective. What contested past is prolog to what contested present? Read more »

The Long Fight: Hierarchies of Power and the Soft, Slow Motion Coup

by Akim Reinhardt

Tension (geology) - WikipediaThe United States has always faced a fundamental tension. On one side are those who champion, enforce, and/or profit from hierarchies of power: white supremacist racism, sexist patriarchy, Christian fundamentalism, and capital concentrations chief among them. Arrayed against these hierarchies of power are people who promote and work for racial equality, gender and sexual equality, cultural tolerance, the amelioration of poverty, and genuine freedom both for and from religious beliefs and practices.

For nearly two and a half centuries, these tensions have produced victories and defeats for all sides. While more of course remains to be done: the 20th century witnessed a steady rise in poor people’s (and everyone else’s) quality of life; women began making substantial advances a hundred years ago; racial, ethnic, and religious minorities have made important gains since World War II; LGBT people have achieved remarkable progress during the last half-century; and more recently, agnostics and atheists have begun carving out spaces of acceptance.

While these struggles are all longstanding, dividing lines are usually not very simple or clear cut. Ever since settler colonial slave owners began authoring stirring documents about freedom, many Americans have been on the side of freedom and equality on an issue or two, and against it on others. History offers no shortage of racist feminists, sexist civil rights workers, exploitative plutocrats who seek to help the poor in their spare time, homophobes of every stripe, and so on. Because there are so many divisions and contests, and because the lines of alliance and contestation are often unclear and shift over time, the major U.S. political parties have historically teetered back and forth on various issues. Read more »

The King of Pop, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and Modern Propaganda

by Akim Reinhardt

The Changing Face of Michael Jackson - SpindittyOver the course of more than a decade, Michael Jackson transformed from a handsome young man with typical African American features into a ghostly apparition of a human being. Some of the changes were casual and common, such as straightening his hair. Others were the product of sophisticated surgical and medical procedures; his skin became several shades paler, and his face underwent major reconstruction.

As stark as the changes were, perhaps even more jarring were Jackson’s public denials. His transformation was so severe and empirical that it was as plain as, well, the nose on his face. Yet he insisted on playing out some modern-day telling of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” either minimizing or steadfastly denying all of it. In order to explain away the changes or claim that they had never even happened, Jackson repeatedly offered up alternate versions of reality that ranged from the plausible-but-highly-unlikely to the utterly ludicrous. He blamed the skin bleaching on treatments for vitiligo, a rare skin disorder. He denied altogether the radical changes to his facial structure, claiming his cheek bones had always been that way because his family had “Indian blood.”

It was equal parts bizarre and sad. But in some ways, perhaps the most disturbing aspect of it all were those among Jackson’s loyal fans who swallowed his story whole. Despite the irrefutability of it all, they refuted it. They parroted his narratives in lockstep, repeating his claims and avidly defending the King of Pop from any questions to the contrary.

Today we face a similar situation. But it’s not about a pop star’s face lift. Ludicrous denials of reality and bizarre make believe counter-narratives are now are now central to discourses about politics and the politicized pandemic. Read more »

Black Lives Matter? #BlackFriendsMatter

by Akim Reinhardt

The white Southerners who fought US segregation - BBC NewsThree things we know about #BLM, two obvious, one a bit more subtle.

1. Activists originally created the Black Lives Matter slogan to point out and push back against the generally unstated truth that in American society, black lives do NOT matter as much as white lives. That in America, black lives have always been cheap. They were literally commodified for two and a half centuries; police, vigilantes, and mobs have beaten and even killed black people with relative impunity; and white people have, in general, always been safer around police. To say “Black Lives Matter” is to point out all of this, to assert the morality of black lives mattering as much as white lives, and to insist that we strive for that equality in America.

2. Reactionaries immediately attacked the slogan. They misinterpreted the slogan, sometimes intentionally, often myopically, claiming it meant that ONLY black lives matter, which it did not. They countered with the slogan “All Lives Matter” as if it were a different and better slogan, when in reality, “All Lives Matter!” is the core message of “Black Lives Matter!” Because “Black Lives Matter” is really shorthand for “Black Lives Matter Too!”

3. Many white liberals support the Black Lives Matter movement, either quietly, or with yard signs and bumper stickers. This allows white liberals to define themselves as “allies” without actually doing anything substantive. It provides white liberals an opportunity to publicly perform their politics, wrapping themselves in the slogan and proclaiming they are not racist. As if racism is only (or mostly) about what you believe and say. But of course all biases, including sexism, homophobia, and classism, are truly evil because of what people do. Read more »

Why Today’s Republicans Hate the New York Times So Much

by Akim Reinhardt

Headless Body in Topless Bar" writer dies. But why was that headless body there?When I was growing up during the 1970s, America still had a vibrant and thriving newspaper culture. My hometown New York City boasted a half-dozen dailies to choose from, plus countless neighborhood newspapers. Me and other kids started reading newspapers in about the 5th grade. Sports sections, comics, and movie listings mostly, but still. By middle school, newspapers were all over the place, and not because teachers foisted them upon us, but because kids picked them up on the way to school and read them.

Of course when dropping coins at the local newsstands and into boxes, us youngsters typically picked up tabloids such as the New York Post and Daily News, not those fancy papers so big you had to unfold them just to see the entire front page: the New York Times and the indecipherable Wall Street Journal. Those were for adults, and usually white collar ones at that.

My father was blue collar and not a big newspaper reader. But my mother was a high school English teacher and she made a family ritual of going out to buy the massive Sunday Times when it first hit newsstands on Saturday evenings. Mostly she just wanted the Book Review. We’d also pick up a Daily News because they too had a formidable Sunday edition; not cut into sections like the Times, but in a single massive tome like a phonebook. It had the best comics section of any NYC paper. After my sister and I had our way with the News, I’d occasionally thumb through the Times. No comics, but they did have an entire sports section.

As I rambled towards adulthood, I continued buying the tabloids for their local sports coverage and hilarious front page headlines. However, I also found myself reading more of that Sunday Times. Never all of it, of course. I was far too young, and anyway, never trust anyone who does; no one’s interests are really that far ranging. Read more »

If You Ain’t Got the Do-Re-Mi

by Akim Reinhardt

Map from Orange County Register

I was about 10 miles up the road in Long Beach visiting my sister’s family when word came of last week’s massive oil spill in Huntington Beach, Orange Co., California. We were actually headed over to that very beach when my brother in law checked the conditions. 

Uh oh.

Ten or twenty years ago I might’ve made some tired, easy joke about how this state is a tragicomic carousel of disasters. Earthquakes, mudslides, droughts, riots, etc.  Just add this oil spill to the list. But now it’s the entire nation that resembles a bad joke with punchlines you can smell long before they arrive.  

And if this state is a microcosm of the larger nation, with about 12% of the U.S. population within California’s badly angled borders, then perhaps it has something to do with how money both creates and sorta solves problems, at least for some people. The wealthiest state in the world’s wealthiest nation, and neither can get out of their own way. They both stumble about, knocking everything over amid their ravenous search for profits, and then turn to the “regular people,” the actual workers with sigh-inducing lives and miserable commutes, and even the less fortunate, to foot the bill and clean it all up.

America, can’t abide by simple rules designed to keep a pandemic in check because you’re susceptible to the propaganda actively or passively spewed by profiteering TV networks and digital media? Then just spend lavishly to hog the world’s vaccine supply and ride out the worst of it while maintaining your freewheeling ways.

California, don’t have enough water to support both, 40 million people and an enormous, misguided agribusiness complex in a state that’s mostly desert or near-desert? Then spend decades building and maintaining massive hydro reallocation projects that wreak ecological devastation for hundreds of miles around. Read more »

Modern American Extremism

by Akim Reinhardt

There’s a lot we can learn about today’s America by observing the Mormon Church.

Last month the Church of Latter Day Saints, as its officially known, issued a strong, positive directive to its 16.5 million members. Vaccines had been proven safe and effective, it reminded them. And please wear a mask in public gatherings, it implored them. The statement’s language was uplifting and unifying: “We can win this war if everyone will follow the wise and thoughtful recommendations of medical experts and government leaders,”

It led to a backlash.

Despite this urging from the LDS’ top ranks, nearly a fifth of church members say they will not get vaccinated. Another 15% are hesitant. Some anti-vax and anti-mask members complain the church is restricting their freedoms. In response, some Mormon vaccination and mask supporters are accusing the mask and vaccine holdouts of apostasy. Even bishops (regional church leaders) are divided. In one Idaho church, bishops stood in front of their congregation unmasked to read the official proclamation encouraging masks.

The Church of Latter Day Saints has one of the most loyal constituencies of any large social organization in America. There is no unanimity of course; small splinter groups have always existed, and as with any religion, some people are always distancing themselves from the church or leaving it altogether. Nonetheless, for two centuries practicing Mormons have been bound together by faith; a history of persecution; geography; relative cultural homogeneity here in the U.S.; a rigorous schedule of activities in the home, at church, and elsewhere, all designed to reinforce membership and belonging; and by a highly organized, hierarchical, patriarchal, and doctrinaire leadership that has wielded tremendous influence over its loyal followers, who typically follow specific dictates such as no alcohol, coffee, or tea.

So if even the Mormon Church is having trouble getting its truehearted constituents to follow simple health directives overwhelmingly backed by science and designed for their own benefit, then you know this about something much bigger than masks and shots. This is about what has happened in America during the last four decades. Read more »

The Millions of Christs of America

by Akim Reinhardt

The three Christs of Ypsilanti (1964 edition) | Open LibraryAs an undergraduate History major, I reluctantly dug up a halfway natural science class to fulfill my college’s general education requirement. It was called Psychology as a Natural Science.  However, the massive textbook assigned to us turned out to be chock full of interesting tidbits ranging from optical illusions to odd tales. One of the oddest was the story of Leon, Joseph, and Clyde: three men who each fervently believed he was Jesus Christ. The three originally did not know each other, but a social psychologist named Milton Rokeach brought them together for two years in an Ypsilanti, Michigan mental hospital to experiment on them. He later wrote a book titled The Three Christs of Ypsilanti.

Rokeach hypothesized that since Jesus exists by the same code that the Immortals in Highlander later stated as “There can only be one,” these three men might be cured of their delusions when confronted with others who insisted likewise. Of course he was very wrong. Much like Highlander’s Immortals, they simply fell into conflict. When faced with the others’ unrelenting presence, each dug their heels in and doubled down on their delusions. Even Rokeach’s jaw-dropping manipulations, which included a string of outrageous lies and elaborate fabrications, could not dissuade them.

I’ve recently been pondering this infamous tale of poorly conceived psychological experimentation because in it I see reflections of problems currently plaguing America. Except instead of being thrown together in confinement, people with similar mental disorders are now finding each other on their own. And instead of a psychological professional at least trying (albeit in a highly flawed manner) to cure them, the medium of connection is the largely unregulated and even more manipulative internet. And, finally, instead of insisting there can only be one, mentally ill people are now reinforcing and reduplicating each other’s delusions. Read more »

I Haven’t Settled on a Title Yet

An image of a place I’ve never been before, which I found by image searching the phrase “a place I’ve never been before.” Apparently there is also a well known song by Mark Wills named “Places I’ve Never Been.” Many images related to that song also appeared.

The succinct, topical, and obvious choice is Review: Tom Lutz’s Aimlessness. It works just fine. But I am not taken with it. I shall come back to this.
by Akim Reinhardt

I don’t know how well Abbas knows me. Of course one can never really know how well someone else knows them. It’s a second degree of mystical confusion flowing the first: how well can you really know anyone else? [here]

How well do I know Abbas? Kinda. But more. Or less. I’m not sure. Over the last decade there have been email exchanges and the roughly biennial meet up for drinks. Our mutual friends have described him to me, and likely me to him.

How well does Abbas know me? Not at all in some ways. Very well in others. As 3QD editor he’s been reading my essays for over a decade. Is that what led him to suggest I review Lutz’s book on aimlessness? Certainly some of my own work here has broached the topic in various ways without ever using the word. There was the three-part essay from 2014 that chronicled my rambling 7,500 mile drive around the United States. And there was the book manuscript that I serialized at 3QD in 2019–2020. Ostensibly about songs that got stuck in my head, it was really about whatever mental and emotional meanderings those songs led my head to follow.

Is this why Abbas, who may or may not really know me, asked if I would like to review Tom Lutz’s new book about aimlessness? Read more »

Is this a Dagger and Fork I See Before Me: Menu Items from Shakespeare’s Diner

by Akim Reinhardt, Executive Chef (Marilyn Reinhardt, Megan Golden, Sous Chefs)

Truly, Thou Art Damned Like an Ill-Roasted Egg: Breakfast
All the World’s a Cage Free Omelet 10.99
Get Thee to a Buttery Croissant 8.99
Brevity is the Soul of Grits 5.99
If Muesli Be the Food of Love, Play On 5.99

What a Piece of Work Is Sandwich
Oh That This Too Too Solid Patty Melt 10.99
Eh Tuna Salad, Brute? 8.99
Cry Ham Sandwich and Let Slip the Dijon of War 10.99
Love Is a Smoked Brisket Sandwich Made with the Fume of Sighs 12.99

Better Three Hours Too Soon than a Minute Too Late: Appetizers
Now is the Winter Squash of our Grilled Content 5.99
Neither a Butter Beans Nor Lentils Be  6.99
Hell Is Empty and All the Deviled Eggs Are Here 3/5.99
Now Cracked Pepper a Noble Heart of Artichokes 7.99  

Salad Days
Romaine, Romaine! Wherefore art thou Romaine? 5.99
Two Beets (Red and Golden) or Not Two Beets (Just Red), That is the Salad 9.99
I Come to Eat Caesar Salad Raw, Not to Braise It 8.99
A Woman Would Run Through Fire andWater for Such a Kind Heart of Palm Salad
   11.99 Read more »


by Akim Reinhardt

Traditional Carved Red Wood with Flow Lines

I say carve.

You imagine a chisel flaking or chipping or gouging wood or stone.

I say line.

Now you see the chisel slicing and curving redoubled trenches through the surface.

I say straight.

You stir uneasily in your chair, or readjust your stance if you’re standing, perhaps mildly shrugging one shoulder. The chisel, for reasons you can’t imagine, carves a straight line. It is not rotating, turning, angling, or otherwise expressing itself creatively. It is simply working

This is not art, you murmur to yourself. This is just a straight line.

So odd, the word murmur. What a strange assortment of letters. A row of three, repeating itself once. rum rum backwards. Not red rum, such as murder backwards. Just rum rum. Why even one rum, much less two of them, cleaved together for reasons that are beyond us?

There is no rum here, light or dark, no molasses, no slaves. No triangular trade, carved through the Atlantic Ocean by large, wooden sailing ships, from Britain or Portugal or the Netherlands or Spain to Africa, usually West but occasionally Central, to the Caribbean islands, or perhaps to Brazil, and once in a while northward to the North American mainland, before returning back to Britain or Portugal or the Netherlands or Spain. Read more »