Simply put, there aren’t enough #MAGA hats to replace health, diplomacy, or natural resources. And that’s why the Paris Climate Deal matters.Read More
Thom Dunn is a Boston-based writer, musician, homebrewer, and new media artist. He enjoys Oxford commas, metaphysics, and romantic clichés (especially when they involve whiskey), and he firmly believes that Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" is the single greatest atrocity committed against mankind. He is a graduate of Clarion Writer's Workshop at UCSD ('13) & Emerson College ('08).
The storyteller in me is always interested in what goes on in other people’s heads. There are various cliches about how every villain is a hero in their own story, and I generally think that’s true — both in fiction, and in real life.
And as more and more information comes out about the whole Russia-Trump-Comey-Hillary-Email-Clusterfuck, I think it’s important for us all to remember that these are actual human beings, who, like all of us, are often forced to make decisions with limited time and with even more limited information, and that sometimes, they get it wrong.
(Except for Trump, obviously; he’s little more than a spoiled chaos demonbaby in the middle of his greatest tantrum yet.)
So instead of arguing about conspiracies and fake news and hypocritical firings or whatever petty satisfaction the Internet is feeding on right now, put yourself in Comey’s shoes, circa June 2016.Read More
Last week, I had the privilege of speaking with Elias Kozniak on New England Unsettler radio show, a self-described audio journal of minor sabotage.
The two of us chatted at length about the commodification of the Boston Marathon bombing; the role of art in reaction to tragedy; and the terrifying normalization of militarized policing. So ya, know, all fun topics!. (No really, it's a blast, I swear!)
Semi-related, Elias is also a dopeass songwriter and I'm kind of obsessed with the awesome sigil magic he invokes on the show's logo, but that's a topic for another time.
You can listen to the podcast below, or subscribe to the Unsettler on iTunes for weekly Communiques about fringe theory, deep ecology, radical politics, the unusual, and the underground.
Elias goes deep with writer, storyteller, and musician Thom Dunn on Hollywood commercialization of tragedy and the militarization of local police forces in the years since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Is there room for reflection in the culture industry, or is it all toxic schlock? How can the stories we tell make the world a better place? Can Mark Wahlberg just fuck off already?
Talking points: Brother West on militarized policing, a different kind of reading, Sean Boo-urns, stories are about people–they’re people!, reading our Miranda July Rights, reflection in the mainstream, obscuring the lesson, whom does optimism benefit?, Darth Vader police chic, cooks with AR-15s, state vs capital: a lover’s spat, a very American Hustle, talking tragedy profiteers and merchandising, Thom and Elias are friendly dummies, what kind of lefty are you?, toxic schlock, Heavyweights with SWAT LARPing, we believe the children are our dystopian future, fun in a bleak way.
In June 2016, my wife and I headed to Ireland for a week-long vacation. It was my first time on Emerald soil, despite my unabashed affection for my cultural heritage. While I certainly wish I’d had the chance to visit earlier, there was also something poetic about making the trip during the centennial celebration of the Easter Rising, the first major conflict in the struggle for Irish Independence.
We certainly didn’t expect to hop on a plane to Ireland the day after the Brexit vote. Nor did I think anything at the time about the fact that I listened to "Hamilton" for the first times ever as we drove through Ireland that week, and in that specific political context.
So naturally, this got me thinkin'...
Here's a little tune I wrote about that really unhealthy relationship you had with that vampire guy:
(hey guess what this one's about)
Whatever you do, just make sure that you don’t break a window
‘Cause when your outrage smashes the glass, it lets them know how the wind blows
Not the black kids who died for the march,
Or the women and trans folk who want control of their own parts
It’s the shattered shards of pane they look through,
that’s where the real problem starts.
You can take to the streets just as long as you don’t punch a nazi
Exercising rights is like the gays: it’s fine as long as no one has to see
a way of life that doesn’t fit
into the narrow view controlling it
reality’s a one-way road you can’t just quit
It won’t go away
when the man upstairs says that “everything is great”
change won’t wait
for an open space in your Outlook calendar
Lives mean more than people’s property
Do I have your attention now that I’m condoning violence?
Well it’s funny how that works, and you should know, ‘cause you’re the one who came up with it
Make a profit while you’re promising rights
Keeping order never works when they’re fighting to survive
Justice only comes when we rage against the dying light
Now don’t get me wrong, I still believe that non-violence should work
But when the rules of the game have changed, things are bound to get worse.
Now that our truths are free of fact
Well, how else are the people supposed to react?
You can’t expect them all to keep the peace when you broke your part of the pact
We’ve heard say
that justice and truth are the American way
Things don’t change
at a convenient time for your Outlook calendar
Time is right to do what we’re gonna do
okay well technically the time that was right is now way overdue
But it all has to start with those same self-evident truths.
The inauguration of Donald Trump felt like a nightmare. The Women's March across the country was amazing. Here's a much more hopeful look at that inspiring day:
This is a few years old, but I thought I'd share again. Enjoy!
It's frankly embarrassing that Bill O'Reilly could be so oblivious to the blatant subtext of his own words. But sadly, it's the same logic that's used to spook people about "illegal voters." It's not about people of color or women have voting power, they say; it's about people of color and women largely leaning toward the Left.
Respectfully, this is totally B.S.
I actually got an argument about this with a friend-of-a-friend, just a few months back. It started as a discussion about voter ID laws, which I explained had recently been used in places like North Carolina to suppress black votes. "You just want all the black people to vote because they vote Democrat!" the other guy said to me.
"No," I replied. "I want black people to be able to vote because they're US citizens with a right to vote."
(Of course, when the North Carolina GOP got caught in the act of voter suppression, even they argued that it wasn't about race, but about stopping people from voting for the Democratic Party.)
The lesson that the Bill O'Reilly's of the world should be taking away from this is: perhaps there's a reason why POCs and women tend to vote liberal. Maybe, just maybe, it's because conservative platforms are at best, unwelcoming to them, and at worst, actively oppress them? And maybe instead of dividing things up into race and party lines, maybe we need to be looking at what the best ways are to help people, in the ways that we both need and want to be helped, so that we can improve our society as a whole.
(This is not to say that the DNC is necessarily better at handling issues of race, gender, or privilege; but they do at least try to address them, which is more than I can say for the RNC.)
If you do actually want people to stop thinking "in terms of race," then you need to abolish the White Establishment. "True meritocracy," for those who desire it, is also impossible without first abolishing the white establishment. Because issues of race are rooted in the existence of "whiteness" as a concept, which creates tension with those who are deemed "other."
tl;dr — Bill O'Reilly continues to be a loud-mouthed, narrow-minded idiot who refuses to examine his own pre-conceived notions about the world. Surprise?
I've spent my entire day on the phone with various Native American water protectors, all of them perfect strangers to me. Every phone call lasted longer than I ever thought possible, and left me on the verge of tears — both for the unconscionable atrocities enacted upon these people, and for the inspirational and spiritual power that has energized those individuals just the same.
On the other side, they fight entirely for money. Energy Transfer Partners moved fast on this project because they knew that Bakken oil prices were dropping. In order to lock their partners into 2014 oil prices — which were twice as high as they are now — they are legally required to finish the pipeline by January 1.
As a result, the violence keeps escalating. Speaking with the water protectors, they will readily acknowledge that the cops, construction workers, and security guards who threaten their lives are simple people, just like them, who are just trying to do a job and treat their families well. Still, those people should ask themselves: is the cash they make really worth the damage they inflict — to human beings, and to the planet Earth at large?
That being said: these water protectors are living in an historic moment, and that's the fuel they'll carry with them, regardless of the outcome. When their lives aren't being threatened by militarized police, they are re-inventing what it means to be a community — sharing food, song, culture, and prayer, and inviting others to do the same. There's no judgement, no one saying "Your beliefs aren't right" "Your religion is wrong" "Your perspective is skewed." Truly, there's only one shared rule among the tribes and allies: humans and our Mother Earth both have a right to live. So it's our job to be kind.
My first professional-rate short story is now available in print from Crossed Genres! "An Baile na mBan" is just one of 22 tales of fantastical diversity in the pre-1930s world, all featured in Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. (Perhaps not-so-surprisingly, mine's about pucas, Travellers, and abortion during the Irish Civil War.)
Publisher's Weekly said, "The offerings are solid, entertaining, and generally fascinating, conjuring up voices and experiences not often heard. This collection is well worth checking out for all fans of speculative fiction."
From the publisher...
I hit a serious wall of brain fog around 3:30pm yesterday, so I decided to get some fresh air and walk to the pub.
(And for the record: yes, this is a thing I actually do. I go to the pub by myself to read or to write or just to BS with strangers and feel like I'm being social after being cooped up in my house all alone and writing all day. And of course, being me, my pub of choice is an Irish hipster punk rock dive bar named for a radical socialist LGBTQ-friendly IRA poet, because, duh)
At some point, I was sitting there reading this article from The Intercept on my phone when I ended up in conversation with the guy to my right over which whiskey he should order. I just overheard him talking to the bartender about voting for Trump, and given the number of election-related thinkpieces about "understanding Trump voters" I had tried to absorb during my earlier brainfog, I decided to keep the conversation going. He was a 50 year old white guy, and being that I live in the kind of progressive bastion neighborhood that would protest a god damn Whole Foods, I was curious what kind of Trump voter would end up at a pub like that.Read More
To live in — and, by extension, participate in — a democratic-republic system automatically means that you are comfortable with the ends justifying the means. I've heard that phrase used to pejoratively refer to fellow Hillary supporters, but I actually think it applies to *everyone* involved.
If you don't vote? Your means are a hearty shrug that justifies that whatever happens, happens, 'cause whatevs.
If you vote Republican in this election, you are saying that the means of bigotry, bullying, oppression, and the subjugation of fair working conditions for everyone justify either the maybe-possible potential of slight economic improvement for some people which hopefully includes yourself although you can't guarantee, or that you've eradicated the "establishment elite" (whatever that means) from the system to usher in some form of change (whatever that means, although it includes the means that you already justified).
Alternately, if you vote Republican strictly because you want to crush women's rights to choose, you are justifying those same means of bigotry, bullying, oppression, and subjugation of worker's rights justify that maybe-possibly-hopefully-for-you, there will be no more abortions. More on Jesus in a bit.
If you vote Third Party, you are saying that the means of either federally funding a Third Party in the future, or absolving yourself from the process of a two-party system, justifies whatever the end result may be.
(I suppose that, more specifically and less defeatist, Libertarian voters are okay with losing some administrative protections for people in the hopes that our social and economic rules both eventually level out in the favor of some Utopian ideal of freedom. Green voters are okay with electing a self-serving pseudo-fascist whackjob in the hopes of justifying the passing of literally any part of a far-left progressive that I, personally, agree with, which is why I'm being so unnecessarily harsh to Stein.)
If you vote Democrat in this election, like I plan to do, you are saying that some obvious cases of collusion within the DNC at large, and some unfortunate foreign policy issues, are okay if it means that the vast majority of our fellow US citizens still get to enjoy their civil rights, and that there will be more opportunities for advancement in this country for people from all walks of life.
(I guess it also means that you're okay with the means of a qualified leader who married a guy who can't keep it in his pants, finally having the power to make some damn decisions)
And here's where we get to the Jesus proverb, since the evangelical vote is so significant, and because Christian mythology so informs our social makeup, for better or for worse:
All of these situations involve throwing some stones — which, for the sake of this intellectual idiomatic exercise, are the "means" of the other overly-simplistic philosophy. None of our votes or beliefs come without baggage or compromise. And unfortunately, we are complicit in the means that justify our desired ends (specifically for the sake of rhetorical Facebook argumentative bullshit logic).
We all want to present an image of ideological purity, but unfortunately, that's just not a realistic possibility, given the way our country (and world) functions. So the question is: which stones are you most comfortable throwing?
He rode out at dawn
And he headed west:
The Bad Hombre Man
from the Yuge Land of Best
But when he arrived
she was already there:
The Queen Nasty Woman
mounted on her white mare.
They both drew their guns
packed with bullets of words.
Hers were sharp, smart, and clear;
His: the best that he'd heard.
Now I’ll clarify
this for those unaware:
Yes, she’s fine with guns
When they’re not everywhere.
Now back to their duel
in that desert, noon high.
Where Queen Nasty Woman
brought Bad Hombre to die.
For when she took aim
with her practice and plans
she sniped his small gun
from his small grabby hands
To that Bad Hombre Man
from the Best Land of Yuge,
It had never occurred
he could possibly lose
But he slipped from his saddle
and fell flat in the dirt
He was frantic to find
some new way he could hurt
that there Queen Nasty Woman
mounted high on her steed
laying traps all around
everywhere he might lead
Leaving Bad Hombre Man
with no pussy to grab
For the sword ‘tween his legs
was all he knew how to stab
And so Queen Nasty Woman
Turned her mare and she rode
towards that house, White and fair
to once more be her home
Statistical anomalies can be tragic and regrettable without serving as evidence for anything all.
Less than 50 officers are killed in the line of duty each year on average, not counting accidents or injuries or deaths from illness. In the grand scheme of tragedy, this statistic means that policing is not a particularly deadly career. At the same time, this doesn't preclude officers from being brave and noble individuals worthy of appreciation.
The majority of those officers killed in duty are killed by white Americans.
By contrast, police are responsible for killing around 1000 people each year, and a disproportionate number of those people are black Americans, usually men, and whom in the vast majority of cases, did nothing to elevate the conflict but for existing in a high-tension situation with an armed officer while also being black.
These are all facts.
The photo on the top left was taken during the Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas last night, before further violence took place. This photo represents an ideal situation: if cops are meant to professionally stand against injustice, then it is right that they would stand in solidarity with those suffering from injustice. I like to think that the moment reflected here is an accurate representation of the majority.
The photo on the top right is the tragic reality that black Americans are forced to live with every day, due to the aforementioned statistics of black Americans being killed by cops. Regardless of your feelings towards police, you should be able to empathize with the fear that black Americans are feeling — because it is statistically justified. This is unfortunate, but it's the truth.
(If at any point in this ranting you have thought to interject something to the affect of "But isn't every death tragedy?", you're part of the problem, because that is such an obvious and foregone conclusion that it doesn't even bear clarification.)
At the bottom of this photo, you see a tweet made by a former US Congressman, in the aftermath of last night's protest and subsequent anomalous shooting.
And that tweet at the bottom? That is the source of all of these problems. That is the insidious virus of white supremacy laid bare for all to see, by a white man in a position of power and influence. It still exists today, still oozing like snake venom through the veins of our country.
And it is not a statistical anomaly.
It is men like this who create a system that continues to keep black Americans down 150 years after the formal end of slavery.
It is men like this who pass laws that lead cops — essentially their employees, or at least, the professional enforcers of their will — to profile, punish, and sometimes and with increasing disproportionate frequency kill black Americans.
It is men like this who use their power to appeal to the most rotten fears in the hearts of white Americans, by pointing to statistical anomalies like a sniper at a Black Lives Matter protest and use that as evidence or justification of some greater evil, while ignoring all other steadily persistent evidence to the contrary. It is these same men who will readily classify any white shooter as a "lone wolf" or as "mentally ill" — perpetuating the idea that white people are allowed to be individuals, while all minorities must stand-in as representatives for their entire group.
It is men like this who encourage others like them to deny their human impulse for empathy. It is men like this who are the problem. (And yes, it is men like this who make up the bulk of Donald Trump's support base.)
I try not to be the person who shares every single meme in the wake of every single tragedy, who participates in the back-patting performance art of social media America. I try to stand in solidarity with my black friends, and let them feel their grief, while also knowing that I can never fully grasp what it is like to be in their shoes.
It is 2016 and these 3 photos represent 3 vastly different realities that all coexist in the United States of America today. Do you see the problem now?
The sequel to Locus and World Fantasy Award-nominated book Long Hidden edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, Hidden Youth is a new anthology featuring fantastical short stories from the margins of history — young adult sci-fi and fantasy stories about oppressed and marginalized groups throughout the generations.
Also, it includes a story by me. "An Baile na mBan" is about Irish Travellers, Irish Nationalism, abortion, and, uhhh, sketchy púca faeries using women to enact their revenge on the Provisional IRA. Obviously.
Did I mention that this will be my first professionally-published (as in, paying SFWA rates) piece of original fiction?
So as you might figure, it means a lot to me. But it won't actually happen unless the anthology reaches its Kickstarter goal of $23,000 by Wednesday, July 6, 2016.
tl;dr — help a brother out, and tell your friends to do the same. KTHXBYE.
- It's just a comic book.
- But it's also a comic book with symbolic meaning and a high cultural value.
- People have a right to feel however the hell they want about a thing.
- People have no right to tell other people to feel or not feel a certain way about a thing.
- Even though you have that right to be upset about something, that is not an excuse or intrinsic justification for hyperbole, melodrama, or other such absurd overreactive expressions.
- Not everyone who feels upset is necessarily overreacting.
- Not everyone who doesn't feel upset is a cold, heartless Nazi.
- Reactionary thinkpiece culture is out of control.
- The Manufactured Internet Outrage Machine is a serious problem.
- But again, to reiterate: individuals are allowed to be upset, or outraged, or experience any other emotion about anything, ever.
- They also have a right to express those feelings, in person or online.
- Having or not having certain feelings about an issue does not give anyone a reason to act like a judgmental shithead.
- Yes, retroactively changing established comic book continuity to make Captain America into a Nazi sleeper agent is absolutely a marketing ploy. (And yes, you fell for it.)
- Just because something is a marketing plot, does not mean that is inherently good or bad.
- It's also part 1 of an ongoing storyline — which is part of 75 years of the single, never-ending storyline that is Big Two comic book continuity. Which means that it's not the full story, and in fact was likely written to intentionally deceive and draw readers back in to buy the next issue, because that's what cliffhangers do.
- It might even end up being a good story? Who knows? (My money's on "probably not," but YMMV)
- Yes, it will inevitably be undone/erased/re-retconned out of the story.
- That's neither a defense nor condemnation of this particular piece of storytelling. It's just the nature of corporate superhero comics.
- Every single Captain America comic book ever written still exists, and will still exist, and can still be enjoyed in isolation, and is not nullified or ruined by this revelation.
- This is all due in part to the fact that capitalism has enabled corporations to control and profit off of folklore and cultural iconography in the way that would make Hercules and Gilgamesh cry.
- Perhaps most importantly: the Cosmic Cube, which was responsible for returning Steve Rogers to his youthful appearance, was already being tampered with by the Red Skull, who has previously used the Cube to alter reality and history and, oh yeah, switch bodies with Captain America, which means that Captain America was kind of already a Nazi already, and that's not even counting the time when the Red Skull lived in the cloned body of Steve Rogers for years, or any of the numerous times he infiltrated high-level positions in the U.S. government, or the fact that he currently has incomparable telepathic abilities due to being in possession of Professor X's brain and could have easily implanted a memory or something else BECAUSE COMICS.
As anyone who's met me would probably expect, I'm super pumped about CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. So to celebrate, here's a song I recently wrote about Clint Barton, the powerless, purple-wearing, bow-and-arrow-loving badass known as Hawkeye. (Specifically, it's about the comic book version of Hawkeye, with allusions to his relationship with Kate Bishop and his life growing up in the carnival and his death and resurrection at the hands of Wanda Maximoff but...let's not get so bogged down in continuity, yeah?)
This looks bad
You can blame that on my dear ol' deadbeat dad
But I'm not mad
Until the arrow that I've notched becomes my last
One more shot to break
this carny from his cage
where a low-life can escape
to save the day
So I'll stay on target
Because that's all I know how to do
Just as long as I'm next to you
And I know that this looks bad
But the quivering is all I've ever had
Like some Nomad
Or a Ronin dressed in black to hide the past
Draw the bow back, breathe
One moment of control
Because once it flies
You never know
So I'll stay on target
Because that's all I know how to do
Stay on target
While I'm fighting my way through
Stay on target
Just as long as I'm next to you
"Not like this."
When the silence stings
My sight's my only bliss
But I won't miss
Because I'm going out in style
with my greatest hits
I'm no Giant Man
But I won't give up the fight
Until my violet violence
Takes its flight
Hey Tennessee. It's me, Thom. And I just wanted to say that I really appreciate the honesty of your embarrassing new "therapist bill."
I understand that passing thinly-veiled anti-LGBTQ legislation couched as "religious liberty" protection is all the rage these days — lookin' at you, North Carolina and Mississippi and South Dakota and Georgia and Indiana and so on ad nauseum infinitum.
I also understand that it's hard to find a cool new way to spin your discriminatory language and actions, after so many others did the same before you — and, oh yeah, reaped some pretty awful economic consequences in the process.
But you, Tennessee. "The Volunteer State." You just willingly volunteered the awful, heartless truth at the core of this entire struggle:
See, that Senate Bill 1556 that you just passed? It's not just anti-LGBTQ. It's shamelessly pro-suicide.Read More
It's a new play by Young Jean Lee, and we're actually the first production besides the world premiere, which she starred in herself. I play bass in the show, which is cool because (a) it's not a stringed thing I usually play, and I've had fun diving into it more, and (b) the band is a pretty central part of the show in a way that most "pit bands" are not, even though we're not necessarily "acting" either.
I've been describing it to my friends as a "delightful funny rock n' roll cabaret about death and suffering," which is to say, it goes to some pretty dark places, but it's also fun and entertaining and insightful and moving and totally worth seeing (not just because I'm in it — although obviously, that helps).
WGBH's Arts Editor Jared Bowen agrees:
And, well, so does the audience:
This is the last text that I ever sent to Layne.
We had that creepy Campari clown hanging in our apartment junior year of college. Not because any of us drank Campari then (I do now), but because we found it in the trash on Beacon Hill and it had a frame, so we figured, why not?
But Layne hated it. That clown creeped her the hell out. Still, she let it stay, and it became a running joke with us.
I don't know if she ever saw that text of her hated clown painting, or if she had already died from complications with diabetes by the time I sent it.
Here's a song I wrote when we were living together in 2007, and she was hospitalized for the same thing.
It's called "Electric Lights."
The selfish unawareness of
a window painted blue
electric lights that won't reflect,
but sound so clearly overdue
It permeates the smell of
of jaundice under skin that
has been peeled away
by saline soldiers,
crawling on their knees
across a bridge of gather lives;
maybe this time
she'll sound so much better
in this sweater than this dress
that leaves her back exposed
so all the coldest air can make a nest
All the stabbing
All the dripping
All the fevers and the cries
And poorly picked out tiles on the wall
have watched a million maidens die
underneath electric lights
She's so mixed up
it's better for her.
So when all
the shallow echoes fall
and settle in her cheeks
she's still demanding
all that I can V.