The Beach Hits Back

Plus: save yourself some time with What Not to Read

She thinks you love the beach, you're such a damn liar” sang Lorde in the first verse of her last album, but this time around she’s full white teeth teen: sad-girl season is over and beach season is open in her new Midsommar-themed single Solar Power. But what awaits us on the beaches, Ella? In Hawaii, it’s billionaire butter sculpture Mark Zuckerberg, swaddled in camo and garnished with compound murder devices, including possibly spears? On the beaches of Maine it’s dead bugs that stain your feet black, but if you leave the beach we’ve also got a browntail moth infestation, so maybe just don’t come here at all. In Miami it’s crypto-whales and plenty of Covid. And on Cape Cod you might find a sailboat that John Bialk abandoned off Chatham before Craigslisting himself all the way back to Wisconsin in 16 hours without telling anyone.

But the weekend’s star coastal newsmaker was Michael Packard, the apparently unappetizing Provincetown lobster diver who was tasted but spit out by a humpback whale on Friday. CBSN Boston got an interview with him as he left the hospital, although they didn’t ask the biggest question, which was: “So you… dive down and pick up lobsters by hand? And you make a living doing this? Do you have like a bag, or… what’s the deal exactly?” It’s obliquely addressed in Susan Zalkind’s Twitter thread from Packard’s mate’s perspective, and the Reddit AMA he did answers some more questions about the business. You just never know what people are out there doing.

Corporations, however, you always know are out there doing some bullshit. Like the Pinkertons (“yes, those Pinkertons”) who have turned their twitter logo rainbow colored for Pride. In Popular Information, Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria report on 25 other rainbow-washing companies that talk equality but donate to anti-gay and anti-trans politicians, benefitting from a Human Rights Campaign corporate equality index “methodology [that] excludes political donations, enabling corporations to craft a pro-LGBTQ image while bankrolling politicians that are undermining LGBTQ rights.” Pride, 2021: “We’re here, we’re queer: Shake Shack,” or, “Let’s Grab Beers Tonight, Queens.”

Today in What Not To Read: Just let this headline wash over you, definitely don’t try to find out what it means: “Justin Trudeau's Brother Says He’s Giving Away Free Dogecoin in a ‘Party Metaverse’.” Please marvel at this amazing art here, but you probably don’t want much more detail on the story: NBC shuts down Ultimate Slip ‘N Squirt. What would you rather listen to: a CNN anchor talking about a Knesset vote or sea shanties? Hit skip in Spotify, because Eric Clapton and Van Morrison are at it again. Also at it: Jodi Shaw, the rapping Smith College librarian from February, has finally released the library orientation rap that got her fired, interspersed with a race-baiting white grievance tirade that explains why this was a firing and not just a gentle nudge onto firmer pedagogical ground. It’s nearly 6 minutes long and is absolutely not better than you imagine. Also not better than you imagine: George Packer’s long attempt to explain America in The Atlantic that starts off “Nations tell themselves stories in order to live,” and who knows what happens after that because no one has read any more of it. I’m glad George Packer got health insurance though.

Back to things you should read, today Intern Linda Yu takes us inside the Tzar’s secret police, the Okhrana, and if you don’t speak Russian this Intern header won’t make any sense until the end:

The last few years I've been thinking a lot about police states. Not in a 'Bill Gates is putting microchips in us' kind of way, but just the ways governments organise society, both positive and negative. Every time I ride in a car with my family in Shanghai and not only does nobody wear a seatbelt but they go out of their way to defeat them, I miss big government overreach a little. But then I carefully route all my internet usage through two VPNs.

The granddaddy of all police states is probably Russia, which has been Imperial, then communist, and now gangster capitalist, but always primarily a police state regardless. I've been thinking about this paper by Iain Lauchlan, which discusses the infamous secret police of pre-Revolution Imperial Russia. The Tsarist police were not actually very numerous, but instead of Russia having literally any social services, they just arbitrarily jailed people. Being arrested—and maybe exiled to Siberia—was and still is part of everyday life. 

However, this is not why I want you all to read this thing. If you read no other paper I link this month, please scroll to about page 15 and read about how, by the turn of the century, Russian secret police were so infiltrated into revolutionary groups that their own secret agents were launching attacks on government officials. One of their double agents was such an effective orator for the Bolshevik cause that apparently Lenin himself knew the man was a spy, but was fine with it. 

Secrecy enabled the Okhrana to sow suspicion and discord among the radical opposition, but it also aroused many of the same feelings inside the government itself.

Of course the Bolsheviks won in the end, but then they had their own secret police. Maybe there isn’t as much difference between the cat and whale as we’d like to think.


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Today in Bezos: With just over a month left until he heroically blows himself up in space, people are demanding that the recently-human ex-Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos must buy and eat the Mona Lisa. Think of it as your final service to humanity before you seed the stars with an icy mist of genetic material. Come on Jeff, get ‘em!

Today’s Song: Jonah and the Whale, “Five Years Time”

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