Friday links! Apocalypse nowish edition

The four horsemen of the apocalypse: war, famine, disease, and tweets as sources

I’m not saying that the apocalyptic destruction of goodness and the unraveling of sense are in the near future, but what are the odds that they’re in the recent past? The anthropic principle dictates that the apocalypse is coming, because if it had already happened we wouldn’t be here. Ergo, pretty much every event is a sign of the coming apocalypse, or at least a link in the causal chain. We just have to figure out how to read them. Today is Friday, it’s pretty gray outside, and there seem to be an inordinate number of cannibal stories floating around. One need only check the news to find ample evidence—or at least some pre-schizoid pattern recognition—for the end of days. Come scry with me, won’t you?

You thought I was exaggerating about that whole end of time thing, but behold: they shut down the Chinatown bus. New Yorkers know the Fung Wah Express Shuttle and other means of getting to Boston, Philadelphia or Washington DC cheap, with only slightly increased risk of fiery death. Risk of chicken exposure remained high, but those guys are skilled bus drivers like anybody else, right? Um:

The safety administration, which regulates more than 4,000 bus companies, started investigating the curbside bus industry last June amid what seemed like a wave of crashes en route to or from Chinatown. Inspectors found that many of these companies hired drivers without checking their backgrounds, testing for use of drugs and alcohol or verifying that they had the proper licenses.

It turns out that the guy with no office who is somehow willing to drive you five hours down I-95 for $20 is not completely licensed and bonded. But I don’t care. The Chinatown Bus is an icon of my generation’s New York experiences—i.e., not from there, too broke to fly home—and its loss must surely mean something. Maybe just a lower chance of being killed while sitting next to a duck.

But the contemporary city is not about adventure and avian risk; it’s about a safe environment in which to raise children and shop at Sephora. That is the vision of billionaire financier and mayor Mike Bloomberg, and he is going to enforce it. Wednesday, his administration announced plans to ban the sale of sugary drinks over 16 ounces at restaurants, delis and movie theaters. First of all, soda makes you fat and probably dumber. Second, we’re really going to make New York the place where you can’t get a big Coke? That’s a far cry from the prostitution on Times Square and open heroin use in bars that the city once promised. I demand a New York of squalor and depravity. This health and safety thing has gone far enough.

You can still pretty much smoke a joint with impunity on Second Avenue, at least. The UK Daily Mail has written this slightly hysterical, mostly hilarious article describing a book’s recount of President Obama’s high school marijuana habits. This source is definitely 100% reliable. For example, it claims that young Barack “invented” the practice of “roof hits—rolling up car windows to stop smoke blowing out and going to waste.” My god, he’s a genius. The article also says that when a group of his friends were passing a joint around, Obama would sometimes yell “interception” and grab it for an out-of-turn hit. That is extremely not cool. I am exaggerating only a little when I say that this information disturbs me more than anything else I have heard about the president’s early biography.

As we learned yesterday from Fox and Friends, Obama is responsible for all economic and social phenomena occurring during his tenure in office. It is his fault that nowhere in the country can a person afford a two-bedroom apartment working full time at minimum wage. As Andrew Rosenthal at the Times points out, that statement asks a lot of questions. In this case, “afford” means “spend 30% of one’s income on,” and the need for a two-bedroom—as opposed to a studio or a weird shack with no sink in someone’s back yard—goes unexplained. Still, a single mom in Arkansas who works at Wal-Mart and wants her kid to have his own room needs to put in 63 hours a week to make rent, and that’s the cheapest place in the nation. Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage is lower now than it was in 1968.

But don’t worry about it. The apocalypse may be upon us, but everything I know about end-of-days scenarios suggests that it will only mean better percussion. The drumming and screams will be constant. In the meantime, we have this guy:


I assume that by now someone has fired him or eaten his face.



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