Art for Fresh Hell.
Jason Arias
The Baffler,  July 16

Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Jason Arias
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Bezos and His Daemen

On Tuesday, Jeff Bezos, by dint of his billions, will zip-zoom up to the edge of outer space in his Blue Origin rocket, inaugurating a new era of conspicuous wealth-waste that will, in the words of Richard Branson—who beat Bezos to space by nine days—“open the universe to humankind and change the world for good.” But Bezos will not probe such dizzying heights alone. In addition to two others, the anonymous winner of an auction who forked over $28 million for the privilege will be on the flight—oh, wait, we’re sorry, it turns out the winner, being extremely rich and important and busy, has a scheduling conflict and won’t be able to make it after all. In that person’s place, the auction’s runner up, the grinning boychild of a private equity goon, will take the seat instead, becoming the youngest person to ever reach space. That young man, a Mr. Oliver Daemen, is very excited: “This is so unbelievably cool!” he told the press. “I already know that these will be the most special ten minutes of my life,” he says—at least until he takes over the family business and feels for the first time the sweet, sweet intoxication of acquiring and trashing a corporation. Perhaps at the moment when he debauches that company’s pension fund or severs thousands from their health insurance, Mr. Daemen will wistfully recall the view of our hapless blue marble and think, wow, what a marvel the world is! So complex and full of opportunities for leveraged buyouts!

 

Misguided Instruction

To New Jersey now, where a bout of “misguided instruction” left one eleven-year-old child with a strange homework assignment: detail the “accomplishments” of Adolf Hitler. For the project, the child produced a first-person biography of the man (“My greatest accomplishment was uniting a great mass of German and Austrian people behind me. . . . I was pretty great, wasn’t I? I was very popular and many people followed me until I died”) and dressed up as him for a presentation. At first, board members dismissed the attendant outrage, insisting that the surreal glorification of Hitler was “taken out of context” by parents who “did not understand the assignment.” That teacher has resigned.

 

On the Road

Speaking of the youth, the United States Senate would really like to put more of them to work—behind the wheels of big rig trucks. Fledgling drivers between the ages of eighteen and twenty may be between four and six times more likely to careen into fatal accidents than older drivers, but, hey, trucking is already one of the most dangerous jobs out there, with on-the-job death rates exceeding those of cops, firefighters, and heavy construction workers, so what’s the big deal? This bipartisan bill doesn’t stop there, though, no, no! The Surface Transportation Investment Act also proposes that we exempt livestock haulers from existing rules about how long someone can pilot an eighteen-wheeler-death-trap without rest (just double- or triple-fist a Five Hour Energy?), as well as exempting midsize truck manufacturers from installing automatic emergency brakes (who needs em?). The road to hell, as it turns out, is paved with the best of bipartisan intentions.

 

Drill, Baby, Drill!

Yes, things are happening fast under the Biden administration! So fast, in fact, that approvals for companies to drill for oil and gas on public lands are on pace this year to reach their highest level since George W. Bush was in office. Despite Biden’s campaign pledge to end new drilling on federal land and his appointment of a Native American woman adamantly opposed to drilling on federal land as Interior Secretary, the administration has approved more than 2,100 permits to drill on public and tribal lands since Biden took office. But certainly we still have some more time to take dramatic action against the climate crisis and in no way are we watching in real time as swaths of the planet become unfit for human life. It was only this week, after all, that scientists announced the Amazon rainforest is now emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that it is able to absorb, mostly due to fires accidental and deliberate. So there’s time, really, there is. We’ve nothing but time.

 

Pommes Fuck Off

Meanwhile, New York City’s renowned eatery Serendipity3 wasted some of that time celebrating National French Fry Day with its “Creme de la Creme Pomme Frites,” now officially the Most Expensive French Fries in the World, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. To prepare these flashy fries, Chipperbeck potatoes are first blanched in Dom Perignon and barrel-aged J. LeBlanc Champagne Ardenne vinegar then twice-cooked in pure goose fat from cage-free geeze raised in the south of France. Then they are seasoned with hand-harvested Guerande truffle salt before being tossed in Urbani summer truffle oil and topped with Crete Senesi Pecorino Tartufelloi and shaved black truffles foraged from Volterra and Miniato, Italy. A plate of these fries cost $200 and is certainly a worthwhile expenditure of time, energy, and capital.

 

Shit for Crypto

Indeed, all market-based innovation continues in the right direction. In South Korea, one man has developed a toilet that turns human shit into cryptocurrency that can be used to buy noodles that in turn generate more shit that can be used to buy more noodles, and so on and so forth until we’re all dead, whereupon our festering corpses may also become cryptocurrency. Now there’s an idea! 

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