Hey! You showed up! I didn’t think you would.

Well, I almost didn’t when I heard you were doing the interview.

 

I’m not that bad…we go way back, after all! I think of us as brothers, almost twins.

Says you. I already have an identical twin, thank you very much. Come on, let’s get this over with.

 

All right, all right, anything you say. So: for most of your career, you’ve published poetry and literary essays. But now you have two books out, companion pieces, one a book of poems, House of Fact, House of Ruin, while the other is a book of long form journalism, The Land Between Two Rivers: Writing In an Age of Refugees. About ten years ago, you began to write these essays, in part about refugee issues in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. And you’ve also written about the situation in Libya just before the second civil war broke out a few years ago, as well as your trip to Iraq just as ISIS was establishing itself in the region. Can you explain how a poet came to write about these issues?

“What’s going on over here?!!”

Donald J. Trump, moments before body-slamming Vince McMahon, 04/01/07

There’s perhaps no better arena to understand the spectacle at the heart of Donald Trump than the modern faux wrestling ring, where the fights are staged, the punches pulled (unless it’s the Don), and when blood spills it’s either fake or planned.

Fuck it. We Lost.

Or, an Old Man Burns in a Chair

Days before the November 8 election, while driving through rural New England, I was invited to, of all things, a Guy Fawkes Night celebration—the annual British custom of commemorating the failed plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament by burning an effigy of the lead conspirator—held at a farmhouse in northern Vermont. Champagne bottles were sabered open, a sorta Irish band jammed jigs, and a bearded guy dressed in a kilt wandered around playing the bagpipes. It was a liberal crowd, Hillary and Bernie supporters, with a local Democratic state politician glad-handing among them. The air was charged with a palpable sense of excitement. Everyone knew Hillary would ace it, the first woman president. The atmosphere was electric smug celebration. I was one of them,

There haven’t been many weeks since the summer of 2014 ended in which I haven’t thought about or someone hasn’t reminded me of #90for90, that time we did 90 events over 90 days in a train station bar. When it ended, it felt like those corny movies where our characters have a terrifying, exciting, overwhelming, but ultimately unforgettable summers that forever change them. In many ways, none of us—Jessica, Peter, Judeth or myself—have recovered from it.

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PEOPLE LIKE US

Friday was the bombOn our leafy terrace in Lebanon, beside the civil war in Syria, my wife Kelly and I were entertaining an old friend, the new Beirut bureau chief for a major news organization. This woman was moving to town to cover the battle and was scouting houses before she brought her husband and young children. I swirled a large glass of wine, a father myself, and recounted how just a few weeks earlier, a massive, seven-hour shootout had raged just below our balcony, shell-casings bouncing off the asphalt. How I had cowered in our bedroom, checking periodically to ensure our three-year-old daughter was still asleep, listening as thousands of additional rounds of machine gun fire bounced off the walls outside. How Lebanese soldiers arrived in camouflaged armored personnel carriers, and how seven or eight grenades exploded when the bad guys down the block determined that they would fight to the death. How, instead of cowering beside me, my wife Kelly had put down her wine glass, grabbed a notebook and a flak jacket, and walked off into the night.

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I’ve been pretty worked up about the government shutdown, and more so now since it appears that we’re headed for default. Yesterday I let loose some thunder from the pulpit of my church about Republican lawmakers who had gummed up the works for everyone, yet still managed to pass some legislation, a bill that slashed funding for food stamps, knocking 3.8 million poor people off the rolls, mostly children and their mothers. (Republicans were captured on camera high-fiving one another after they managed to pass their bill.) I know some of these moms and children. I’m pretty sure they’re not going to get a magical visit to Wegmans from John Boehner or Ted Cruz when it comes time to go grocery shopping. I tried to moderate my remarks in church, stopping short of the Old Testament fury of the prophet Isaiah when he railed against “the powers that be” in his day:

US of POctober 7, 2001: less than a month after 9/11. Police in Maryland decide that two trucks on Interstate 270 might be carrying explosives. The alert cops block traffic for an hour, searching the vehicles for tools of terror. The cargo turns out to be stage equipment headed to a memorial service for the firefighters killed in the attack.

A forgivable mistake, given the circumstances? Perhaps.

In Tyler, Texas, a few days earlier, federal agents, city police, and bomb experts from far-flung cities had descended on a family’s mailbox to grapple with a gadget jerry-rigged from wires, batteries, and green duct tape. The streets were blocked; the neighbors were evacuated. The device turned out to be an eight-year-old’s home-made flashlight, built as a school project and left in the mailbox for safekeeping.

 

I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged.   —Paul Ryan

 

Barack has pushed Malia to read some classics, The Grapes of Wrath, Tender Is the Night—she’s reading those, so I’ve been doing a lot of re-reading.   —Michelle Obama

While I have a great deal of respect for my opponent, President Obama, I am forced once again to come to the American people and set straight the distortions that both his campaign and the leftwing, lamestream media have continued to promulgate.

Two plus two does not equal four.

This is not complicated. And I will say it loud, proud, and straight-faced, every hour on the hour, from now until election day.

There are exactly two ways you can react to things. You can either react sincerely or politically. For example, if I’m listening to a Chicago Cubs game in 2012, and a Cub hits a grand slam to win it in the ninth, I’ll probably shout “yes” and pump my fist. That’s reacting sincerely. If someone were to ask me what I think of the Chicago Cubs’ 2012 season, one in which they’ll finish well out of the playoff race, I’ll probably say something about how the rebuilding program they’re undergoing will lead to them fielding a competitive team for years to come. That’s reacting politically. Neither of the these reactions is untrue, they’re just two different ways of being true. Reacting politically always involves contrivance. Reacting sincerely, never. We tend to trust those who react sincerely and mistrust those who react politically.

There are nearly seven million Mormons in America. This is the number the Mormons themselves use. It’s not huge. Seven million is barely 2 percent of the country’s population. It is the number of people who subscribe to Better Homes and Gardens magazine. London boasts seven million people. So does San Francisco. It’s a million more people than live in the state of Washington; a million less than in the state of Virginia. It’s so few, it’s the same number as were watching the January 24, 2012, Republican debate.

In fact, worldwide, there are only about fourteen million Mormons. That’s fourteen million among a global population just reaching seven billion. Fourteen million is the population of Cairo or Mali or Guatemala. It’s approximately the number of people who tune in for the latest hit show on network television every week. Fourteen million Americans ate Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant in 2011. That’s how few fourteen million is.

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

Meghan: As much as I consider myself a Republican and feel in almost every way intellectually and culturally tied to both the Republican Party as an organization and its many shadings of conservative theory, on paper I am in many ways “culturally liberal.” I was born into a wealthy, famous family. I went to an Ivy League school and majored in art history, which means I know a lot about pretentious artists and art critics. I’m a writer and television commentator employed by “the liberal network” MSNBC. I am a huge supporter of and fighter for gay marriage and LGBT rights in this country. I’m unmarried and not completely convinced that the idea of marriage isn’t outdated. I am almost twenty-eight and I do not have children, and I think abstinence-only education is delusional and dangerous. I live in the heart of the West Village in New York City. I consider myself a God-fearing Christian, but I’m also a big believer in karma and sometimes get a feeling like I may have had past lives.

On this day of Mothers, let us not just remember flowers and cute cards, or Sunday Brunch. Let us remember:

  • Some women don’t want children. Womanhood ≠ Motherhood and vice-versa.
  • Some mothers love other women. Let them do it with the full authority of the state, and all the benefits and protections that the state gives women who have children with men.
  • Some fathers are the best mothers. Some fathers love other fathers. Let them do it with the full authority of the state, and all the benefits and protections that the state gives women who have children with men.

Tear gas, for the uninitiated, really does make you cry.

And not in the gradual fashion of an organic cry, with the palpable build-up of liquid emotion that your body ultimately can’t contain and spills out onto your cheeks, your shirt, your lover’s shoulder.

On Saturday, Dick Cheney got a new heart.

That doesn’t require a punchline any more than did the news that he shot his friend in the face because he mistook him for a deer.  But that doesn’t mean writers of late-night monologues didn’t spend all weekend cranking out heart transplant jokes.

On Monday, your favorite late-night talk show host — I picture Jay Leno, although I’m a Colbert man myself — will mug at the camera and begin, “On Saturday, former vice president Dick Cheney had a heart transplant.”

Then he’ll pause, and he’ll grin, and he’ll say…