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Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Zombie

Death is not the end, nor is disability, injury, or the need to visit the bathroom any excuse to falter in your labor if you happen to be an Amazon warehouse employee. Where there is profit, there is life. In a grim preview of how our corporate masters will jerry-rig our corpses to stuff cartons full of bodice rippers and the meet-cutes of teenage Nosferatu after our expiration, mechanical engineers at Rice University in Houston have begun utilizing the bodies of dead wolf spiders to grip and drag objects with their legs using hydraulic pressure. By inserting an apparatus that secrets air into the deceased arachnids’ heads, the engineers report that they can lift weights more than 130 percent of the spider’s body weight. Wear and tear doesn’t set in until after about one thousand perversions of the cruel claw game called life. Dubbing their unholy defilement of the natural order “necrobotics,” this new cadre of Frankensteins gush that they’ve stumbled upon the “perfect architecture for small scale, naturally-derived grippers” and that the materials are, no kidding, biodegradable. Well, good. We increasingly live in the part before the credits of an apocalyptic monster movie, where the scientists lay the foundations of humanity’s undoing. You know, the boring part. 


Secret Agent Man

Dressing up is fun. Beauty queen. Old-timey hobo. Clown. Or how about an FBI agent? They’re cool. A congressional staffer for Illinois’s Representative Brad Schneider led authorities on a merry chase after disguising himself as a G-man—replete with ear piece, vanity license plate, Glock 19, and a shirt reading “Federal Agent” he got from a boutique in West Palm Beach—and hanging around MAGA protests on November 14, 2020, until he was spotted by Secret Service agents who noticed irregularities with his costume. He then fled in his Ford Taurus “work vehicle.” According to documents only just made available, the staffer, Sterling Devion Carter, was the subject of a three-month manhunt that began with a high-speed pursuit by an agent riding an electric bicycle. Schneider has been sentenced to nine years in prison after it emerged that he also saw fit to give himself an $80,000 raise while filling out payroll paperwork. Fake it till you make it, I guess.


Lords and Ladies

The New York Times reports that a recent rise in women deciding to become real estate investors and landlords may be a form of self-care, whereby recent divorcees seek empowerment and restitution by becoming one of capitalism’s most frightsome arbiters. Industry organizations like Lady Landlords and InvestHER charge upwards of $2,400 for consulting packages and host conventions that help women “balance their life and create financial freedom on their own terms.” Marx wrote that landlords are takers, not makers, but he wasn’t thinking about Stacey Conte, thirty-four, who began rehabbing properties as a member of the InvestHER community after escaping a horrifically abusive marriage—and who sounds, frankly, righteous in her practice of rehabilitating cottages and outfitting them with picket fences and security systems. What’s not cool, meanwhile, are the scare tactics Congress alleges landlords employed to evict tenants during the pandemic lockdown, including using a master remote to make televisions malfunction, calling child protective services and animal control, and replacing working AC units with broken ones. The four massive corporate renters under investigation in the report all prospered during the height of the pandemic while being in clear violation of the eviction moratorium. Owning property itself remains legal despite being, you know, theft.


Junk in the Trunk

If adulthood is the cruel sequel to childhood promise, perhaps it should come as no surprise that the Giving Tree is taking its investment back. Visitors to the world’s tallest tree in Redwood National Park in Northern California now face a $5,000 fine if they hike off-trail in search of the six to eight hundred year-old tree, Hyperion, which Guinness World Records crowned in 2019. Park Rangers presumably don’t mind the cash bump in park fortunes too much, though they lament that the skinny, scraggly 350-foot redwood isn’t actually much to look at. But all wonder is not fleeced from this world: new studies in Japan have concluded that pigs can breathe out of their buttholes; space junk from one of Elon Musk’s rockets crashed down in an Australian sheep farm; and the sub-Saharan hippo—not one of those Pablo Escobar hippos from Colombia—is being considered for the most endangered species list.


Everything You Know Is Wrong

This week in reeducation, Ron DeSantis’ “civic excellence” initiative was reported to include conferences on how America wasn’t all that into slavery after all and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were opponents of the trade in human beings—neglecting to mention that both men were slaveowners. Florida may not have a monopoly on misinformation in the service of white grievance, but it certainly raises the bar in saving schoolchildren the trouble of education and skipping straight to conspiracy. Dogs flew space ships! The Aztecs invented the vacation! Our forefathers took drugs! That’s right, everything you know is wrong.