my published work
The Key to Beyoncé’s Lasting Success
To understand why she inspires a near-religious zeal in fans, look to her live performances.
Sep 4, 2021 – Slate
Because Beyoncé approaches her performances with the sort of ferocious discipline more commonly associated with professional athletes than with pop stars — she practices until her feet bleed — she is our most physically capable living superstar.
On identification and interventionism
Sep 2, 2021 – The Point
It was anchored in the sorts of outrages that had fueled humanitarian interventionism, but the outrage now also appeared to be personalized, applicative and, to some degree, recreational.
The War in Afghanistan was a Huge Victory — for the Military-Industrial Complex
After 20 years, the Taliban are back in power. But for the defense industry, that massive failure was a big win
Aug 22, 2021 – Salon
When we lose sight of the bigger picture — of history, cycles, agendas and consequences — we can find ourselves seduced by the smaller picture: a bombing here, an atrocity there, a rifle-toting militant sitting behind an ornately carved presidential desk. We forget who attacked whom first. Who funded whom. Who profited. Who lied. In isolation, sensationalized increments capitalize upon our outrage, preserving axioms and insulating institutions.
The Philosopher’s Trail
On Samantha Rose Hill’s “Hannah Arendt”
Aug 7, 2021 – Los Angeles Review of Books
Philosophers’ lives are, of course, irresistible. They tend to be bestrewn with dysfunction. Something about the gulf between the life of the mind and the life of the person leaves us marveling at the cost of luminescent thinking (or of practical drudgery, depending on your side). But Arendt, while “a magnificent stage diva” when compared to the theorists and scholars of the Frankfurt School, was extraordinarily disciplined.
Escaping into privacy while naked on camera
Jun 10, 2021 – Real Life
I was only dabbling in the world of OnlyFans, stepping into the skin of the adult performer, because requests to film casual hookups had come to denote a new frontier of urban gay encounters.
Dogs in the Manger
Israeli apartheid in an age of American reconciliations
May 26, 2021 – Soft Punk
For decades, Palestinian lives have been blizted, blighted, and gambled away in plain sight. What’s remarkable this time around is the shift in the national conversation. Euphemisms and evasions have given way to declarations on the front pages of our papers of record.
God Bless the Garbage Person
On the phony moralizing of our celebrity class
May 14, 2021 – Soft Punk
There are no radicals in Hollywood. Most seem to be centrist Democrats. They kowtow to war. They thank the troops. They hate red presidents and love the blue ones.
Murder on the A Train
Below NYC, journeys end in assault, mutilation, & death
Mar 6, 2021 – Soft Punk
Today, however, the world’s largest rapid transit system bestows upon its dowdy loyalists no more badges of honor or comradeship. Nearly a year after the governor ordered its late-night shutdown, my underground world is a sort of hell.
Wikipedia’s Sprawling, Awe-Inspiring Coverage of the Pandemic
The online encyclopedia reveals that there are at least 31,000 ways to talk about Covid-19
Feb 26, 2021 – The New Republic
If life imitates art, then Wikipedia pursues life with unflagging voracity. As we mark the site’s twentieth anniversary, the Covid-19 pandemic tests the status to which it has risen: a breathing, collective record of our past and present—and the digital age's most expansive and accessible English-language encyclopedia.
Trump’s Global Grim Reaper, Mike Pompeo
The real reasons he was a shameful Secretary of State, and how Antony Blinken can do better.
Feb 12, 2021 – The Progressive
In his thirty-three months at the helm of the State Department, Pompeo came to caricature rightwing jingoism. Economic and rhetorical warfare were his first resorts; obstructionism was his modus operandi.
Republished by Common Dreams
Conventions of Conquest
France’s terrorism problem isn’t happening in a bubble
Jan 21, 2021 – Soft Punk
The cartoons of Prophet Mohammed at the heart of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo ambush and later attacks are often treated in an isolated fashion — emblems of free speech and Islamic intolerance. Missing from the conversation is a history of violent French colonialism and an ongoing French military presence in Arab and African countries that, while masquerading as noble interventionism, does indeed wreak the sort of destruction for which animus is surely not wholly incomprehensible.
The unimpeachable Joe Biden
Oct 7, 2020 – Soft Punk
If we are to examine the historical record without the veils of nationalism or sentimentality, the Democratic nominee for president, Joseph Biden Jr., seems to be responsible for more death, more ruin, more hardship, and more dysfunction than the man deemed by our papers and pundits to be the very end of democracy itself.
The Accord Between Israel and the United Arab Emirates Will Preserve the Endless Wars
A diplomatic agreement celebrated by the United States could end up making matters worse.
Sep 1, 2020 – The Progressive
While the accord benefits Israeli, Emirati, and American governments and companies, it also embraces a Middle East roiled by foreign intervention and widespread violence.
Trump Gets One Right: U.S. Should Pull its Troops from Germany
The President’s pledge to reduce troops in Germany faces resistance from war hawks on both sides of the aisle
Jun 22, 2020 – The Progressive
The bipartisan rejection of this proposed troop reduction exemplifies an “any price is worth it” mentality toward national security, propelled by the revolving door between government and companies that profit from American armament and adventurism.
Leaders of ‘Rogue Regimes’ Have Some Thoughts About Police Brutality in America
Statements by China, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and North Korea use U.S. violence against protesters and journalists to point out American hypocrisy on the global stage.
Jun 10, 2020 – Reason
Governments around the world are routinely antagonized by the United States for quashing dissent and democracy. This week they are reveling in the nationwide chaos and global demonstrations prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Pundit of the Blue Ridge
My agrarian reclusion
Jun 3, 2020 – Soft Punk
When my sister and her husband offered to drive me from New York City to their home on Shannon Farm, in Rockfish Valley, Virginia, I acceded. Happily. I’m spending my quarantine surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and 520 acres of forests, pastures, and hayfields.
A global pandemic denudes the nation
Apr 8, 2020 – Soft Punk
Something strange is happening. The coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe is allowing for a real-time comparison between countries in a way I haven’t seen before. As far back as I can remember, emergencies and tragedies and apocalypses have been regional, endemic, or abstract. It’s been possible to escape the idea of an all-encompassing paradigm shift by looking elsewhere — another city, or a bar with half-priced drinks, or pictures of a celebrity’s sumptuous vacation.
Bookforum talks with Caleb Crain
On surveillance, mind-reading, and his new novel, Overthrow
Oct 22, 2019 – Bookforum
In Caleb Crain’s new novel, Overthrow,
a thirty-one-year-old graduate student named Matthew meets a poet who recruits him to volunteer at Occupy Wall Street.
The poet and his friends read tarot cards, and some of them even believe they can read minds:
with a mixture of irony and earnestness, they refer to themselves as the Working Group for the Refinement of the Perception of Feelings.
Late this summer, Crain and I sat down to talk about technology, Occupy, and how fiction helps us understand life.