It's only a coup if it comes from the coup d'état region of France

Otherwise, it's just sparkling authoritarianism.

A coup d’état is just simply any kind of “blow to the state” per the literal French definition. You have a civilian government, the military wants to be in charge and they take over? Clear cut case of military coup d’état. Leftists protestors fed up with their monarchy overthrow the king and install a new government? That’s also a coup. Sometimes though it’s not as simple.

I have lived through 3 coups and one attempted coup and what is happening in America today is very much giving me attempted coup vibes. Coups and attempted coups can be dramatic, funny and boring at the same time. Sometimes you turn on the TV and instead of the regular news anchors you see soldiers clumsily reading what sound like hostage taker demands. You are the hostage. You cannot tell me that this and this do not share similar aesthetic DNA. Coup aesthetics are always trash.

Sometimes the coup works and sometimes it doesn’t. You argue with neighbors about whether it’s a coup or just a putsch? Someone informs you that putsches happen in Germany, the participants drink beer but coups happen elsewhere and the participants quaff wine. You all laugh but still wonder who is actually in charge. Sometimes people protest. Sometimes it’s too dangerous or the mood is too subdued for protest. Life also quietly hums along. You keeping working. You watch TV and make fun of the president because he sounds like an idiot. You do your Christmas shopping. You make dinner every single night. You do all the same things you always do but with dread.

I don’t have anything smart to say about what to do. But it unsettles me daily.

I’m reading

  • Hugh Hamrick, David Sedaris’ longtime partner is the most elusive member of the Sedaris Family Extended Universe so I was thrilled to read this profile.

  • Every once in a while, during elections, the white political establishment anoints a new Voice of Black America™. It’s almost always a man and of course this person doesn’t speak for anyone but themselves. The current flavor of the month is an opportunist and I am grateful to Rachelle Hampton for providing this scathingly good and razor sharp analysis.

  • My friends are tired of hearing me say that venture capital is just welfare for white people but it’s true and maddening.

  • Heartbreaking reporting on the last months of Tony Hsieh’s life. You also find out in the piece that Jewel, the singer seems to be a good friend to her friends. Highly recommend the Song Exploder episode where her grit and character are also explored.

  • A touching and revealing story about what it means to be a small business owner. Worth a slow and careful read. Meanwhile I am so glad to see that my friendly neighborhood bra-fitter is still here.

  • This is the best explanation I've seen that squares with my own experience of who has been more cautious vs more risk-taking the last 9 months. None of us have global pandemic experience so relying on personal experience to assess risk is foolish. Add on top of that optimism bias, failure to understand things we can't see and useless leadership and you have a clearer picture of the mess we are currently in.

  • The vaccine is coming but “the next three months are going to be just horrible." It’s a sobering read but also reminder that we are so close. Speaking of the vaccine, it’s OK to have questions about it. There is also some very depressing speculation that the vaccines may not do as well covering people of Black or Asian genetic ancestry as they do for white people. Ugh.

I’m Buying Black

I am too disenchanted with capitalism right now to do a proper shopping guide but a friend asked me for recommendations for black owned businesses for holiday gifting. Everyone on my xmas list is likely getting a book this year but here are some places I am always happy to support:

PS: 1/2 of Big Friendship is a black-owned business. The book and audiobook are on many year-end lists so I think people are into it. The cover is gorgeous so it’s an excellent gift even for those friends who like to instagram pictures of books they will never read.

I’m Watching

One of the pleasant surprises of quarantine for me is that I like watching movies again. Sometime in the last decade, I had turned into the kind of person who could watch hours and hours of television but couldn’t handle a feature-length film. Something about the episodic nature of TV that makes it feel like less of a commitment. My therapist probably has something to say about this so let’s just stop talking about it. Sometimes you need a domestic drama about kids wanting a TV to escape the numbing horror of the world you’re living in. Good Morning (1959) is a sweet and very simple story about just that: two Japanese boys who refuse to speak after their parents won’t buy them a television set. It has the best intellectual use of fart jokes in cinematic history and it’s so very tender. Streaming on Criterion and Youtube.

My friend Brad sent me the video below and I hate how much I laughed. Going straight to hell for it too. Disastrous product names are one of my niche obsessions and I cannot believe I had never heard of Ayds candy. Definitely “not to be confused with AIDS” according to wikipedia! These slimming toffee cubes were around in the 70s and early 80s. They came in many flavors and were very expensive. Active ingredient? Benzocaine! Basically chocolate mint flavored orajel. Diet culture has been and remains 100% a scam.

Hang in there

Wherever life can grow, it will.
It will sprout out,
and do the best it can.

From Gwendolyn Brooks’ excellent long poem about Winnie Mandela.

Let’s do the best we can. See you on Wednesday.