Author Archives: Amien Essif

Ai Weiwei as Antibuddha

“I have an ego.” -Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei in an October 2015 interview with ArtSlant on the occasion of the inauguration of his guest professorship at the Berlin University of the Arts They have a nickname for Ai Weiwei in China—“Ai Shen”—which suggests that he’s a god. And, while I know little about Chinese […]

Joining the Hoard of Termites: A Neo-Luddite Manifesto

At the end of my 18th-century British lit course, my professor, in good humor, had us make a confession. Who had given up on Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and who had persevered? She promised no punishment, but I knew she would admire anyone with the stamina to struggle through […]

No, Thoreau Was Not a Hypocrite

Henry David Thoreau is down in the polls these days. The anti-social philosopher has always been controversial, and his writings have long been the tinder of heated debates about what it means to be American. Let the debate rage on, I say, but first we need to clear the air. Thoreau was not a hypocrite. […]

We Don’t Know What We’re Replacing: Pollanism is Now a School of Thought

In a recent essay for The Believer, Damion Searls writes that “these days we are more or less at the macronutrient stage of understanding books, aware of only three things a book is or does: you can buy a book, you can hold it, and it delivers information.” Searls, summoning the power of Michael Pollan’s […]

Joystick Warfare Is Rather Joyless

So it’s not breaking news, but the fact that drone pilots work from offices in our own country is perennially astonishing to me. (Jeff Danziger has a great cartoon about this that you can see here.) It’s absurd, it turns the idea of warfare inside out…but what’s it like? I dug up a Fox News […]

Homeless! and Proud

In January, a California lawmaker proposed one of those rare laws that is at once overdue, destined to seem obvious sooner or later–and extremely unpopular. I’ll let the Los Angeles Times explain Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s proposal: The Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights and Fairness Act…would guarantee the homeless the right to live in public much […]

Falling Ice Is Unwatchable

After a few drinks I’m on my way out of the city and I see this sign: “Watch for Falling Ice.” Since I am not yet a seasoned Chicagoan, and have not been desensitized to the city’s eccentricities, my instinct is to look up. No falling ice at the moment. I am safe. But was […]

On Fear and Firepower: A Close Reading

“Seven rounds is not gonna cut it if there’s ten people coming to your house.” So said a man interviewed by Your News Now (YNN) at a pro-gun rally in Albany, NY. He was voicing his concern that the seven-round limit imposed by the recently passed NY SAFE Act would “hinder his ability to protect […]

It Sucks Being a Writer in the Twenty-First Century

It might sound like an old struggling artist story: I graduated college in Tennessee with a degree in literature, then packed all the important things into a suitcase and rode the Greyhound to Chicago. In the middle of this spread of urban life, I have a small room in an apartment with my friends, I […]