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Preview: Mark Bernstein

Mark Bernstein

Mark Bernstein: hypertext research

Last Build Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2017 15:03:02 -0400


The March

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 12:35:00 -0400

50 Nazis. 40,000 protestors. They deserve to be shamed, and we shamed them.They deserve scorn, and we scorned them. But they also deserve to be safe, so we escorted them when they wanted to go home. At one point, I was standing next to a young woman with stars painted on her cheeks. “It seems like we do this every week,” she said. But before last November, it had been a long, long time. At one point, I was walking along with a young reporter from the Associated Press. She climbed over a Jersey barrier: no problem. I followed; my joints protested, my muscles strained, and five bystanders immediately leapt to assist. Oh dear. A very talented fellow with a straw hat, a New England beard and an Omega button in his straw hat reminded me how effective a calm voice can be when things begin to get out of hand. Once, for example, a trans fellow got into a very heated argument with an antifa kid wearing a black bandanna: “Why are you hiding behind a mask when we cannot? You can suck my trans dick!” It threatened for a time to get crazy — and they were, after all, on the same side. One guy in a red hat was surrounding by a bunch of people shouting “Shame!” He started to argue — I couldn’t hear — and in response a woman got right up into his face: “My body: my choice.” Good theater. After a time, though, the point has been made: it was time for him to go, and we got him safely to the police barrier where they checked him thoroughly and let him inside. At one point, I was standing by a lonely woman whose sign called on her fellow Republicans to turn away from Trump. Not twenty yards away, the American Community Party was urging, basically, the same thing. The logical of the moment was not lost on any of us. What good I did, though, I think mostly came from work a few of us did to help Nazis get into their little confab and then out again. They were shouted at: that was right and proper. They were denounced: what else can they expect? They were scorned. But peace and justice and the American way require that they not be assaulted, and sometimes what a moment needs is an old, dorky fellow reminded people to take a step back. The Boston Police and the many cooperating departments were mostly sensible. During the demonstration, their visible presence was limited to the bicycle team, which sent the right message: “We’re the Scandihoovian police today; we have smiles and bicycles and short pants, pony tails and some traffic rules. Do not hit us.” Afterward, the powers that be lost their bearings. Some of the police took out their batons, which was neither necessary nor productive. Worse, the police told nobody what they wanted to do; this meant, for example, that they spent fifteen minutes pushing people around and getting them worked up, when all they wanted to do is turn a van around. This went on for a very long time, with a huge crowd in the middle of the street; if there were effective provisions against a copycat running through a blockade and ramming into the crowd, I didn’t see them. There was one fellow in black tactical gear, truncheon at the ready. His beard was grizzled; he must have been sixty years old. He was, generously, 5'6. I very much wanted to ask him, “aren’t you a little short to be a storm trooper?” A few people wanted to throw water bottles; I was not alone in urging people to put a lid on that right fast. When the police vans with the departing Nazis finally pulled out, a bunch of people started to throw stuff. “Shit!” I shouted, before I figured out that there was only one water bottle and everyone else was throwing flowers. OK: I guess we can live with flowers. The crowd was on the side of the police — at least, it had been on their side when they were the bicycle police, some of them with a flower in their lapel. When you have helmeted black knights waving truncheons around for no apparent reason while protecting racists and fascists, well, then the situation begins to read differently. [...]

Tony and Susan

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 12:30:26 -0400

Susan’s husband is away at a conference, where he is entertaining a prestigious job offer that Susan doesn’t welcome, and where Susan’s husband may or may not be entertaining his young secretary, with whom he is (supposedly) no longer having an affair. A box comes in the mail, containing the manuscript of a thriller by Susan’s first husband.

This novel takes the play-within-a-play to its logical extreme; the interior thriller is fully fleshed out, is very fine indeed, and comes with Susan’s own interesting critical commentary.

Em Short on Chris Crawford

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 16:26:54 -0400

Emily Short reviews Chris Crawford’s new edition of Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling.

Plays: November, Race, The Anarchist

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 12:40:31 -0400

November is a cute little satire about an incredibly bad president who is running for reelection and who threatens to pardon every fucking turkey in the whole fucking country if the Turkey Lobby doesn't pony up. Events overtook the play, obviously.

Race is a nifty little legal thriller.

The Anarchist, though, is the real gem here, a two-hander in which an old, retiring prison warden has her last of many interviews with her prize pupil, a woman who, many years ago, robbed and killed for social justice. It’s a brilliant play.

Night Rounds

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 12:40:07 -0400

A Diane Greco recommendation, in honor of Women In Translation Month. At a small private hospital in Goteborg, the power is suddenly cut and the emergency generator disabled. A nurse is found to have been strangled, a patient dies during the power outage, and one of the senior nurses is certain that she saw the hospital ghost, a nurse who committed suicide in the attic in 1945. This highly-competent police procedural focuses on a puzzling crime but is at its best when it spares a moment for its protagonist’s family problems.

Under Fire

Fri, 4 Aug 2017 09:45:15 -0400

A pleasant little diversion in the wake of American Caesar, Manchester’s magisterial biography of Macarthur.

Griffin (a pen name) is a talented writer. I’m a progressive, a conscientious objector, and a pronounced military skeptic: he’s not, and you would not think he’d be my cup of tea, and yet Griffin does a nice job. He’s chiefly interested, I think, in a nuanced view of the masculine, and though everyone here is in the Marines and there’s a war on, violence seldom has anything to do with it. “You don’t have to practice being uncomfortable,” Ken McCoy assures his raw sergeant. “When it’s time for you to be uncomfortable, the Marine Corps will arrange for you to be uncomfortable.”


Sun, 30 Jul 2017 12:26:00 -0400

A nifty story about Georgie McCool, who writes television comedy. She’s married to Neal, a really nice fellow. They have a delightful kids. They’re supposed to go to visit family in Omaha for Christmas, but there's a crisis on the show and Georgie stays behind to work. Alone for the holidays, Georgie discovers a phone that she can use to call her husband — not today, but back when they were first married. Georgie discovers that her life isn’t nearly as nicely settled as she’d thought. Perhaps not as interesting as Fangirl, but nicely written.

The Science of Herself

Sun, 30 Jul 2017 12:17:17 -0400

The title essay of this slender volume — purchased as signed at Readercon but, as far as I can see not signed — is a pleasant-enough piece about Mary Anning, an impoverished little girl who learned to hunt fossils and who became a prominent, if unschooled, paleontologist and who also opened the world’s first rock shop. The great centerpiece of the book is a nifty short story, “The Pelican Bar,” which does a wonderful job of exploring and exploding punitive schools for difficult kids. A fine interview, too, with the author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.