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Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

The Fire Next Time and the Time After That Too

Among its lesser known charms, Canada is the storied birthplace of a great many mystifying innovations and personages that have subsequently been exported to the United States: from Michael Bublé and peanut butter, to deadmau5 and the Wonderbra, to Justin Bieber and Hawaiian pizza. Last week, our nominal ally expelled the carcinogenic byproduct of hundreds of wildfires—a bonafide airborne toxic event—down south to bedevil much of the eastern seaboard. As cities like New York were enveloped in a noxious haze reminiscent of the de rigueur color correction for all Netflix films set in the Global South, words like unprecedented and apocalyptic and really bad were thrown around in newspapers and group chats. Some speculated this might become the “new normal,” a grisly update to the previous “new normal.” Frankly, it’s getting a bit difficult to keep track of and respond with the appropriate gravitas to all the updates, a ceaseless torrent of disasters made worse by our implacable hunger for electric Hummers and ribeye steaks and hand creams with notes of vetiver and bergamot. Last week, a toxic cloud reeking of cigars; this week, thousands of dead fish washing up on the Gulf coast of Texas. And next week? Will the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica collapse? Might a toxic algae bloom finally swallow Miami? Who’s to say. Perhaps if we all glue our hands to an impressionist painting in a nearby museum, our elected leaders will do something to slow the apocalypse to a more leisurely pace.


With a Little Help from My Neural Network

Meanwhile, the great, fearsome machinery of capitalist society remains doggedly focused on expanding the possible applications for “artificial intelligence.” As we reported last week, a computer can now draft an obituary for your deceased grandmother, freeing up precious time to start new email threads about separate email threads commenced so as to schedule a Zoom meeting regarding the status of various projects as tracked by but waylaid by a discussion of “insensitive language” in an all-staff memo generated by ChatGPT. Speaking of ChatGPT, doctors are now reportedly using it to infuse their bedside manner with a bit more compassion. In the cultural sphere—to the extent it can still be meaningfully distinguished from commerce—The Beatles have announced they’ll be getting a little help from artificial intelligence to release a final record, which will, of course, feature vocals from John Lennon, who has been dead for over forty years. 


Some Don’t Like It Hot

Civil rights may be eroding from sea to acidifying sea, but it’s important to keep abreast of lesser threats to human flourishing, lest they be allowed to get a foothold: case in point, the rise of “hot phobia,” which the New York Post has been covering since at least April, when a young woman was kicked out of a supermarket in Brazil because, well, she was too hot. “Truth is,” the twenty-one-year-old declared, “we go through it because we’re too hot, that’s all.” The dread aversion to attractive women has also manifested in the UK, where one hot mom reports that the other moms ignore her because, yes, she’s simply too hot. “The other moms don’t talk to me when I look nice,” she said, according to a story in the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun, which was then reprinted in the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post. “They just turn their noses up.” This menace must be investigated—panels must be convened, evidence examined, reports drafted, recommendations circulated, targets set, guidelines established, change made!


Carnal Knowledge

While we’re on the subject of visual stimulation, pornography is again under attack. As Wired reports, courts in no fewer than five states have mandated the use of a faith-based, anti-porn app called Covenant Eyes for people on probation. The app—designed by a former NSA employee—helpfully monitors every single thing a user does on their devices, then sends the data it collects, including screenshots, to an “accountability partner,” in many cases a probation officer, who then reviews possibly “concerning” material. As one might suspect, this is working just fine. No bugs, no violations of privacy, no undue contraction of basic human rights, nothing of that sort, no, no. That said, yes, a man in Indiana is back in prison for violating parole because his wife allegedly visited Pornhub.


Repo Man

Woe be unto those who happened to donate their body to the Harvard Medical School between 2018 and 2022, during which time Cedric Lodge, an enterprising morgue employee, helped himself to heads, brains, skin, bones, and sundry other body parts, which he then sold to interested parties across this great nation. According to the indictment, his clients were not dispossessed of a sense of humor as they methodically went about their macabre business: one client, a Mr. Joshua Taylor, paid $200 for what, according to the memo line in Paypal, was “braiiiiiins.” Even in death, thou shalt not be spared the indignities of the market.