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Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Chat Chance

Summer is ending without having really begun, and it’s a good time to reflect on the rights we’ve lost over the past year. Abortion bans were made more strict, leading to death and prison sentences nationwide, we were told to stop taking sexy photos in fields of prurient English sunflowers, and, in school systems throughout the country, books continued to be banned, often with help from artificial intelligence. ChatGPT has been tapped to censor the likes of The Color Purple and The Handmaid’s Tale in the Mason City, Iowa, community school district, where it’s flagging books for sexual content. Of course, we’ve never known ChatGPT to be unreliable or AI to stumble in matters of the human capacity for transcendent art, so we’re surely safe in the discretion of our new robot narcs, which will likely recommend the same dog-eared copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid in lieu of Toni Morrisson, J.D. Salinger, or Mark Twain until our blanched skeletons adorn the blank shelves of middle school libraries. A grave example of a powerful tool in the wrong hands, the school superintendents are grossly misusing the tech. Artificial intelligence is not for telling us that The Kite Runner is too rough for our sensitive young. It is for showing us what Citizen Kane would look like as a Wes Anderson movie. 


Das Bus

Kentucky’s largest school district is still reeling from last week’s bus service meltdown, wherein children enrolled in Louisville’s public schools were made extremely late, returned home after dark, or not picked up at all after a Massachusetts-based tech company reduced the number of routes to make up for a driver shortage and unleashed pandemonium. Ninety-six thousand students had their actual first day at a staggered rate while Louisville scrambles to bring some kind of order to the bus system, which is down some four hundred routes since 2013. This is not the first time AlphaRoute has come under criticism for its chaotic truncation of bus systems, having been kicked out of Columbus and Cincinnati public schools last year for doing just that. Good. You’re never too young to learn that school is a prison, American industry is the defective product of spoiled bums, and, even here in the future, nothing works.


Seaworld on a Wire

Seaworld, home of Shamu (who died in 1971 after attacking a park employee) and Tilikum (who killed three people before expiring in 2017), is being sued by San Diego for some $12 million of unpaid back rent during the pandemic, when the park was closed. The Mission Bay-based Sea World is going to have to dig deep to maintain admissions—we’re talking subnautica, baby. Say goodbye to Shamu the Killer Whale and hello to Wendell the Killer Comb Jelly, Saugerties the Anglerfish, and Denzel the Giant Spider Crab. Legal woes continued in Denver: Abigail Zwirner is bringing a $40 million lawsuit against the school where, as a first-grade teacher, she was shot by a six-year-old, which the district termed a “workplace injury” and denied the teacher crucial care and compensation. Zwirner becomes, in the process, a martyr for anyone who’s ever been injured on the (increasingly rare) job. And no good deed continues to go unpunished in north-central Wisconsin, where the small news site the Wasau Pilot & Review is facing bankruptcy after reporting on a homophobic slur uttered by Cory Tomczyk, the owner of a shredding and recycling company who subsequently sued them for defamation, leaving the outlet plagued by legal bills. This is the starkest injustice to shatter the fragile peace of Marathon County since a ringer was unmasked cheating at the annual watermelon seed-spitting contest. The mountebank switched out pumpkin seeds. 


Cold as Vice

Vice magazine, your one-stop 2010s shop for casual bullying of Brooklynites and Game of Thrones coverage, has been brought back from bankruptcy by the Saudi-owned MBC Group and promptly had its coverage of Saudi Arabian realities—like the harassment of transgender families and the state-backed murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi—either killed or removed altogether. The harrowing new venture—which saw London offices replace a poster of Sarah Everard, murdered by a cop in London, with a map of Saudi Arabia—promises to replace the round-the-clock coverage of Covid-era polyamory and three-layer vanilla cake recipes with homilies to Mohammed bin Salman and ads for the musical festivals Vice is putting on for the Saudi government. Fortunately, the future is not entirely bleak, according to Vice’s astrology column, which promises the beginning of a new adventure now that Jupiter is connecting with Virgo in Taurus and the moon is soon to meet Mercury and Mars. Hopefully, it remembers to take off its shoes first.


Sep Rally

Miami-Dade County is awash in a river of human feces and soiled water after an influx of New Yorkers over the course of the pandemic has strained sewer systems and trash collection offices to the breaking point. Seriously, South Florida, fix your sewers and eject all squatters from Mount Trashmore (a real landfill that will run out of space in 2026). The county has spent $1 billion on water and sewer lines, with the mayor allocating another $160 million to combat the rising detritus and placing a moratorium on real estate development in the area. Ron DeSantis vowed to table his quarrels with woke culture and critical race theory until this threat to basic urban residency was corrected, the water safe to drink in all instances, homeowners no longer faced with mounds of sludge from overtaxed pipes. We’re just kidding, he doesn’t care: DeSantis has even been sued for releasing toxic wastewater in Tampa Bay. If 9/11 taught us that death can come from above, maybe from Florida we can finally realize that the real adversary is within us; it swims in our bowels and lurks below, waiting to absorb us into its turgid lakes of piss and shot. As Pogo observed, we have met the enemy and he is us