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constitution1

There’s nothing magical that holds American democracy together.

I think that’s something that we take for granted. American democracy works — in the flawed, half-broken sense that it’s ever worked — because competing functions of our civil society implicitly agree to respect the constitutionally described powers of the other branches of our government while also respecting the enumerated limitations of their own branch.

This is basic civics. We have a government with three branches. The executive, legislative, and judicial. Each branch has certain powers that can be reduced (perhaps perilously) simply: the legislative branch decides what the laws are, the executive branch is tasked with enforcing/enacting these laws, and the judicial branch is tasked with interpreting these laws. Each branch has ways of keeping the other branches in check. It was one of the most carefully deliberated design elements of the Constitution. The legislative branch can impeach the executive branch and judicial branch. They have confirmation powers for many of the people  appointed to either of those branches. The executive can veto legislative decisions. They appoint the judiciary. The judiciary can decide if the laws or actions of the other two branches are unconstitutional. And if these laws are unconstitutional, it’s the purview of the judiciary to tell the other branches of the government that they have to change their behavior.

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hitman1

Hitman 2016 is a game that does many things very well, but it is also a game that does one thing exceptionally well.

I’ve been feeling unenthused lately about a lot of AAA game narratives because the fundamental disconnect between how the games play and the story they’re trying to tell you became too vast.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a game about guilt and relationships and family but it’s also a game where the main character — a happy-go-lucky treasure hunter — kills hundreds of people and doesn’t really lose his trademark smarminess. Slaughtering people is never interrogated; it’s just how Nate achieves his goals.

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We meet Laurie who wakes in G.R. dorm

On HBO’s The Leftovers, 2% of the world’s population vanished without a trace. It was not the Christian “Rapture.” There was no rhyme or reason to who was taken. Rich, poor, black, white, Christian, atheist, good, evil, gay, straight. They were just gone. The only thing that remained behind of them was the physical and emotional emptiness of those who were spared.

The show uses this “Departure” as a tool to examine depression.

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“Easy” ~ Real Estate

(Author’s Note: This essay originally began as a series of threaded Twitter posts. What you read below are lightly edited versions of those tweets — edited both for content and basic typos/grammatical errors.)

 

A seminal record of 2010s indie pop.

Their concert at the K&K Super Buffet in Rochester, Queens was the first concert I ever covered as a journalist. It was also my first full weekend living in the city.

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dobby1

The first labor agitator I ever admired was Hermione Granger.

When you’re a kid, you don’t know names like Mother Jones or Eugene Debs. Generally speaking, your parents aren’t going to sit you down and have you watch Matewan or Norma Rae or better yet Harlan County, USA. They aren’t teaching you Das Kapital or The Wealth of Nations in primary school. But if you were of a certain age, you did have Harry Potter.

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thesorrowandthepity1

(Author’s Note: I originally posted these thoughts as a series of tweets. I’m posting them here for people who don’t follow me on Twitter or who want these thoughts in a more readable format.)

If anybody needs an explanation for what happened this week, watch Marcel Ophuls’ ‘The Sorrow & the Pity.’ It’s a documentary from the 1960s that decimates the enduring myth of the united French resistance to fascism during the Occupation.

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justified1

The second season of FX’s Justified orbits around the scene where Mags Bennett discovers that her son Coover has been killed by U.S. Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens.

Mags Bennett is the matriarch of a clan of weed dealers nestled in the hills of Harlan, Kentucky. Mags runs a general store as her legitimate business front. As long as you have the common sense to not interfere in her criminal business interests, you might mistake her for a feisty grandmother. She’ll treat you to moonshine. Her “apple pie” shine is the best in Harlan County although the glass in which she serves it to you might be poisoned. She’ll take in an orphan girl whose father Mags had killed. She’ll baby her grown sons; they still call her Mama… even when she’s smashing one their hands in with a hammer. Coover should have known better

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A thing I’ve thought about a lot since I was a kid is “praxis.”

Of course, when I was a child, I didn’t know what that word meant. “Praxis” is the practical realization of an idea. As a child, “praxis” was the answer to the question, “what does it mean to live a Christian life?” I’m not religious anymore. I’m an agnostic. But as a kid, I was very devout in my faith, and living a Christian life wasn’t some theoretical concern. These were questions that I arranged my life around.

I didn’t drink til I was 20 years old. I felt that maintaining a purity of body was essential to spreading the Gospel. I didn’t engage in sexual relations while I was still a believer. It was forbidden by the Bible, and I took that command seriously. I didn’t swear. I read the Bible. There were phases where I was so concerned with this question that I was taking my Bible with me to high school and reading it on the bus and before classes and at lunch. I went to a weekly Bible study. I didn’t want to simply “believe.” Being “born again” wasn’t enough. I had to grapple with the core tenets of the belief system that I was subscribing to. And if I wanted to be someone capable of proselytizing for Christ effectively, my actions in real life had to embody those beliefs.

Eventually, conflicts arose between my Evangelical Christian upbringing and a growing sense of social liberalism/faith in science and reason. The latter won out. But the question of “praxis” remained. Instead of asking “what does it mean to be a good Christian,” I was asking “what does it mean to live a life that embodies the pursuit of social justice and equities in the quality of life?” As it turns out, those ideals are much harder to live up to.

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TheRevenant1

Last year, I had the chance to catch a midnight showing of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange at the IFC Center in Manhattan. It’s my favorite Kubrick, and I’d seen it plenty of times in the past, but I’d never seen it on the big screen before.

As a teenager, I tended to walk away from the film with two main thoughts: a dizzy appreciation of the film’s transgressive visual style and ponderings about whether you’re truly good if you only follow the rules because you’re afraid to be punished. The first is obvious. Even in his weakest narratives, Kubrick has a gift for transcending reality with his imagery. And the second is the also obvious, explicit text of Anthony Burgess’s novel which forms the basis for the film. But that midnight screening was the first viewing in ages that let new thoughts begin to ping-pong around my brain.

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GrimesGainax1

Here’s a dirty little secret of contemporary music criticism. Most of us don’t have the slightest fucking clue about the technical construction of the music we’re reviewing.

Here were the qualifications I had when I got hired to be an intern at Baeble Music where I would eventually be the Managing Editor: I had an encyclopedic knowledge of classic rock, “barely literate” would have been an accurate phrase for my knowledge of indie rock/pop, and I could throw a sentence or two together without embarrassing myself or my boss. That was it. When I got promoted to Managing Editor three years later, my only other qualification was that I now had a fairly robust knowledge of the indie canon and my prose was a little better.

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