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Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

It’s Just a Jump to the Left

I have always admired the writer Iain Sinclair for the extraneous vowel in his name and the execrable titles he gives his excellent books, like Slow Chocolate Autopsy, in which we meet Norton, confined to London’s city limits but free to roam through time, whether that means shadowing Jack the Ripper or knocking back a pint with Christopher Marlowe. I only mention it because we’ve got a case of time jumping to the left in Liverpool: over the course of the last decade or so, reports have identified Bold Street as the site of an apparent stitch in time, where unsuspecting citizens have been whisked back to the 1960s for brief moments of premature nostalgia. So now you know at least two things about Liverpool—and if anyone experiences said blip, I have a birthday coming up and have had my eye on a first pressing of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Thanks in advance. (Also, the Queen died. Bollocks to reporting on that.)


This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven

An algae bloom in San Francisco Bay is killing fish, turning water brown, and devouring all in its wake. The culprit is not climate change or a raw sewage leak, but plain old poop and pee. Upgrading the thirty-seven plants responsible for treating the Bay Area’s daily eighty-five million gallons of wastewater from their late-1970s mods will cost $14 million and require caps on nutrients that won’t be up for renewal until 2024. It is a discomfiting feature of the modern nightmare that when floods of shit devastate the yellowfin population, wildfires consume our West Coast woodlands, and floods kill more than two hundred people in the Rhenish uplands, scientists tell us, “No, that’s pretty much what’s supposed to happen.” (But we’re still to blame for the doomsday glacier the size of Florida that’s eroding at an alarming rate.) So it goes: nature is gross, life is fragile, and butts are hilarious.


PrEPisode One: The Phantom Menace

In the topsy-turvy cloud cuckooland of Texas, where it is illegal to milk somebody else’s cow, there is a gun for every fourteen residents, and hamburgers eat people, a federal judge has ruled that the Affordable Care Act does not impede religious corporations from denying coverage of the HIV drugs Truvada and Decovy, known together as PrEP, on which hundreds of thousands of members of the LGBTQ community depend. The conservative activist and ex-solicitor general behind the case, Jonathan Mitchell, has also recommended the creation of “bounty hunters” to enforce restrictive abortion laws. Truvada, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012, reduces the risk of acquiring HIV by 99 percent among men who have sex with men, so if Mitchell is looking into super-villainy, might I suggest a lair at the base of San Francisco Bay? Great, now everybody in the Bay Area flush on my cue: ready, set . . .  



As data consultants throw decadent ragers in their Bowery aeries and Candy Dungeons and Peter Thiel invests $3.2 million in an app that tracks women’s periods, an antitrust law designed to curb the cyclopean power of Google, Apple, and Meta seems destined to fail after Big Tech spent $95 million on lobbying efforts. Despite bipartisan support, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act is unlikely to come to a vote after our technocrat masters balked at its efforts to spur competition and expand regulation. Meanwhile, in the twilight world of crypto, professional Minecraft builders in the Philippines making ends meet as virtual architects will be left without a revenue stream after developer Mojang Studios ruled that integrations with NFTs will no longer be condoned. First, they came for the blocks, and I did nothing, for I was not a block.


All of It’s Going to Burn

Maybe the worst thing the contemporary consumer of the daily doom that is our country can say is “I’m not surprised.” Perhaps it’s not surprising that a woman six weeks pregnant has been jailed in Alabama after a minor marijuana arrest due to laws that criminalize pregnancy under the pretense of protecting the fetus, but it is outrageous. So stay surprised. Stay angry. And hang on to your ego. While it is amusing that Russia has placed sanctions on Ben Stiller and Sean Penn and that a mild-mannered party girl named Liz Trussell has been receiving tweets meant to congratulate new British PM Liz Truss, it is worth retaining our indignation, our irritability, and our intolerance for injustice for at least another week. Sometimes opprobrium is all we have. As Arthur Brown sang, “You fought hard and you saved and earned / But all of it’s going to burn.” Man, I have got to get that song out of my head.