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Regular dispatches from our contributors.

The Good Rights Myth

The Good Rights Myth

Even the most obsessive water-law wonks among us will admit to the utter incomprehensibility of the system’s minutiae

Today, water law remains largely unchanged, a residually conservative doctrine that disfigures California’s progressive posturing. It’s all still a dizzying maze of pre- and-post-1914 rights claims, made more dizzying by the steady accumulation of niche contractual obligations, bizarre and dubious exceptions, the overlapping roles of roughly hundreds of county water districts and local agencies, and even the private leasing of rights between landowners.

Whiffing, Fast and Slow

Whiffing, Fast and Slow

Is baseball boring?

Something rekindled; baseball seemed all of a sudden a dramatic sport, filled with intellectual intrigue: the chess-like plots of the pitcher-batter duels, the way individual specializations harmonized with collective effort. I became the wearer of a White Sox hat, the austere black and white a sort of neighborhood camouflage, and then also an Astros hat, a commemoration of my years lived in Houston, the US’s most interesting and comfortless city. There was no better way to close out my day than by traveling to the Reddit thread with all the baseball streams. Or so it seemed until I watched Craig Kimbrel pitch and grew worried that what everyone else thought might in fact be true.

Two Stories

Two Stories

People have thrown money at me my whole life, he said, and it never sticks

But all the manager said was, I don’t believe I’d date a girl who said she wanted to roll around on my bed in fifty thousand dollars in cash. I’d find a nice regular girl who likes hamburgers.

Ewa’s Story

Ewa’s Story

The details of our parting were mundane. I attempted prolongation

Alanna wasn’t a natural storyteller. It took me a good ten minutes to realize the narrative was set in the present tense, that it was a problem tonight, whether she would return to the three-bedroom apartment in FiDi (as she called it) owned by her friend Victor. Or maybe it was managed by him; or maybe he knew the guy who managed it; or maybe he knew a guy who knew that guy; or maybe none of those things at all, it was never really made clear. This was all very like Victor, a 22-year-old of unclear origins who worked in cryptocurrency, no further detail.

Nothing After This

Nothing After This

On Gregg Bordowitz’s Fast Trip, Long Drop

A man flips a baby through the air while standing on the edge of a high roof, a cityscape surrounding him. A car runs into a brick wall on a race course. Over the archival footage, Bordowitz tells of his father’s death: he went to see Evel Knievel jump across the Grand Canyon, then was fatally struck by a bus as he left the event. Bordowitz lays in his bed and describes getting fucked in the ass for the first time, his gaze trained daringly on the camera. When he speaks of the man coming inside him, no condom, the image jumps: a stuntman shoots out of a canon. Unlike the moralizing narratives of the era, Bordowitz equates contagion to chance.

Panhandle Postcard

Panhandle Postcard

The solidarity of evacuation, even if each car was its own small ecosystem of panic, grief, and merriment

This walk at the end of the day was meant to cleanse the palette. But as the sky went from pale purple to deep purple, the roiling Gulf of Mexico disappearing into darkness, we again turned to our phones. First to mine, looking at images of the fallen trees, fallen houses, the map that indicated that power was out in all of New Orleans. Then she showed me her friends’ snaps, the ones who were still in New Orleans, “hunkering down,” in the parlance. “Riding it out.” The snap of water coming into the house, under a door; the snap of the doughy cookies that were in progress when the power went out.

Four Hurricanes

Four Hurricanes

Every hurricane that hits, for the ones it fucks up, is the worst one ever

State officials lease our land to petrochemical engineering companies that produce the plastics and poisons that all but ensure we lose everything to climate change, at which point they will find someplace else to go. There are fewer and fewer wetlands to buffer storms on their way to the shore as a result of catastrophic losses to the region’s biodiversity. Don’t get me fucking started on the damming of the Mississippi, which would otherwise naturally rebuild the marsh by continuously depositing sediment it brought down.

Long, Invisible, and Highly Profitable

Long, Invisible, and Highly Profitable

Before the recent withdrawal, private contractors had greatly outnumbered US troops in Afghanistan

It is worth recalling that “we don’t do body counts” became the Bush administration’s unofficial motto in the early years of the global war on terror, and that reporting on Afghan civilian deaths did not even begin until 2007. In 2017 the Department of Defense stopped reporting the number of US military personnel deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and in 2019, President Trump signed an executive order that revoked the requirement for US intelligence to report on civilian casualties outside of areas of “Active Hostilities.” Taken together, these actions indicate a clear preference to render both the nature of military interventions and their costs invisible.