Appraisal — February 20, 2014, 8:00 am

Letting Go of the Beatles

A fan’s notes

Is it finally time to let go of the Beatles? I feel strange even posing the question, having been born on the cusp of the glorious Sixties and formed, to an astonishing degree, by John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Oh, there was plenty of other stuff going on — Vietnam, LSD, black power, feminism, and the so-called sexual revolution, which Philip Larkin famously pegged to the 1963 release of Please Please Me. But what got etched into my brain, as if it were the surface of one of those malleable, lacquer-coated acetates, was that music. My father, a Toscanini fanatic who had actually sold his digestive juices as a medical student to pay for his first turntable, bought all the early records. When my parents had dinner guests, he would play them “Ask Me Why” to prove that the Beatles weren’t simply long-haired louts but could sing in tune and write something with those jazzy, sophisticated sevenths.

Meet The Beatles

In the summer of 1965, when the band arrived in New York City for its second appearance at Shea Stadium, my mother cut a guitar silhouette out of cardboard and painstakingly made me a black wig out of coarse yarn. I had expected something more realistic — that would make me a dead ringer for Paul’s dramatically lit image on Meet the Beatles (which I had mistakenly matched up with John’s voice). For this reason I nearly refused to board the yellow bus to day camp, where my dark suit and fright wig failed to win me a prize on Costume Day. But there was a consolation. I could sit on the windowsill at home with my back to the curtains and the two-dimensional guitar cradled in my arms, and hope that people down on the sidewalk would mistake me for one of them, passing the time in Kew Gardens between stadium shows.

You can fill in the rest yourselves. Of course we watched them on Ed Sullivan. Of course we saw A Hard Day’s Night, on a winter afternoon so frigid that when we came out of the theater, rippling sheets of frozen rain covered the car windows. Of course my father bought the mono (i.e., cheaper) Capitol LP of Sgt. Pepper, with its speedier, sprightlier version of “She’s Leaving Home.” Of course we moaned and mourned when they broke up and Paul spilled his guts to Life magazine, and we waited patiently for the reunion that never took place and were shocked when one, then another of our household gods died.

John’s murder in 1980 seemed at once impossible and, in a country overflowing with handguns and cult-of-celebrity nut jobs, logical. George contended two decades later with a similarly deranged assailant at home before dying, disturbingly enough, of natural causes. Well, lung cancer — the natural outcome of a million cigarettes, a regular person’s way of extinguishing himself. Not that the Quiet Beatle saw it as any kind of dramatic interruption, since he sided with the Bhagavad Gita on the question of immortality: “There never was a time when you or I did not exist. Nor will there be any future when we shall cease to be.”

There is no future in which the Beatles shall cease to be. This month marks the fiftieth anniversary of their arrival in the United States, a country they conquered with laughable ease, neatly reversing the cultural polarity between the two nations. The Cuban heels, the collarless Pierre Cardin suits, the hair (which in George’s case achieved a kind of turbine or onion-dome effect) — these were envied and imitated by a generation of Americans. John later snickered at the impoverishment of the New World as they found it in 1964. They had been warned that America was a tough nut to crack and the ruination of many a British show-biz stalwart. “But we knew,” John said:

We would wipe them out if we could just get a grip on you. We were new. When we got here, you were all walking around in fucking Bermuda shorts with Boston crew cuts and stuff on your teeth. . . . There was no conception of dress or any of that jazz. I mean, we just thought, “What an ugly race.”

Within weeks, the ugly race was at their feet. I won’t dwell on the band’s commercial success. I won’t even dwell on their rapid transformation of show business itself — the way they wrenched control of the product away from the suits and the white-coated technicians at EMI, sparking not only an aesthetic revolution but an amusing chapter in the history of class warfare. On the recently released On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 2, for example, the radio hosts speak in the plummy idiom championed by the network, while the Beatles confidently toy with them in blue-collar Scouse. The future, it is clear, belongs to the performers, while the hosts sound like relics of the Jazz Age, which is when Lord Reith first imposed that self-conscious intonation on his corps of BBC announcers, who also wore tuxedos while reading the news.

No, I want to dwell on the extra-musical power of the band, on their strange capacity to be welcomed as avatars of something: peace, love, heightened consciousness. Timothy Leary took this view about as far as it could go, memorably declaring that the Beatles were “prototypes of evolutionary agents sent by God, endowed with a mysterious power to create a new human species, a young race of laughing freeman.”[1]

But this tendency has persisted far beyond the Sixties, when people said plenty of things they would hastily retract during the Seventies. In Jonathan Lethem’s novel The Fortress of Solitude (2003), one character argues that the Beatles are a Rosetta Stone for almost every human relationship, especially those involving group dynamics: “The Beatles thing is an archetype, it’s like the basic human formation. Everything naturally forms into a Beatles, people can’t help it.” Using Lethem’s taxonomy, I conform to the “responsible-parent” role, which makes me Paul, which resonates with my primeval confusion back in 1964. I wanted to sound like John, but I wanted to be Paul, with his dimpled chin and quizzically cocked right eyebrow.

Surely the music, as gorgeous and intricate and life-enhancing as it is, can’t account for this sort of fetishistic devotion. In my own way, I’m as bad as Lethem. I’ve played the albums continually throughout my adult life — even during the drought years of the Eighties, when John was gone and George was brooding on his Henley estate and Paul was putting out stinkers like Press to Play and Ringo was, well, crashing cars and finding that “those nights when you drink more than you remembered had become almost every night.”[2] I’ve also collected a mountain of bootlegs, books, and memorabilia, the sum of which is strangely self-diluting: the more you have, the less you need it.

The Beatles BookA foggy recording from the very day John and Paul met at Woolton Parish Church in 1957? Got it. Endless reels of tomfoolery from the Let It Be sessions? Check. Recent, slender volumes about the band’s legacy in Hamburg and Russia, as well as something called The Beatle Who Vanished, about the drummer who filled in for an ailing Ringo for precisely thirteen days in 1964? Right here on the shelf. And let us not overlook my treasured issues of the monthly Beatles Book magazine, which sold for one shilling and sixpence back in 1963, and which featured advertisements like this one from Weldons of Peckham Ltd. for the official Beatles sweater:

High fashioned black polo sweater in 100% Botany wool. Designed specially for Beatles people by a leading British manufacturer. The two-tone Beatle badge is embroidered in gold and red. One size only — fashioned to fit the widest possible range of average-sized girls.

That was the peculiar genius of the Beatles: their music was fashioned to fit the widest possible range of average-sized girls, boys, men, women, parents and children, aunts and uncles, squares and bohemians. This had nothing to do with selling out, no matter how viciously John would later ridicule Paul’s penchant for “granny music.” The band had come out of a pre-Balkanized popular culture, in which skiffle and early rock-and-roll coexisted with show tunes, country, traditional jazz, and the vaudevillian silliness of the British music hall. As late as 1962, during their failed audition for Decca Records in London, the Beatles were still playing such Twenties chestnuts as “The Sheik of Araby,” along with “September in the Rain,” written in 1937 by the Tin Pan Alley Stakhanovite Harry Warren (who also contributed music to innumerable Looney Tunes cartoons). It was all theirs for the taking — and they took it.

Because I’m a skeptical person, I tend to grow suspicious of the things I love. Which is why I’m wondering whether a half-century after the Beatles landed at JFK, it might be time to give them a rest. The demographic cohorts following my own will never attain our heights of Fab Four worship. And indeed, their impatience with Boomer culture strikes me as completely reasonable. The giants of that era keep sucking the air out of the room, don’t they? Imagine being told that guys in their seventies are still better than anything your own generation can produce. Imagine being peddled, year in and year out, a rosy View-Master panorama of that departed age, like Periclean Athens plus paisley and blotter acid.

No wonder a kind of Beatles fatigue has set in. Let the contemporary idols — Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Radiohead, Taylor Swift — have their turn. Whether their music will still sound as fresh fifty years hence is anybody’s guess. But you could make the same argument about, say, Monteverdi, whose operatic masterpiece L’incoronazione di Poppea went into a three-century-long hibernation after his death, only to find popular success right around the time the Beatles were recording “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” 

Meanwhile, I’ll admit that my hoard of memorabilia functions quite literally as a fetish object: a magical means of accomplishing an impossible end, which is stopping time. The Beatles are supposed to keep me from growing old. Having given up the ghost as a band while they were still in their twenties, they will always be suspended in a kind of youthful amber. But even during their heyday, they seemed weirdly immune to decay. It wasn’t simply a matter of age or physical beauty, which they had in spades. (The composer Ned Rorem once tellingly compared them to a “choir of male nymphets.”) There was something else, a kind of efflorescence, an animal joy at having the world eat out of your hand, which even their customary North-of-England irony could never quite defuse.

Ordinarily this sort of radiant youthfulness dies with youth itself, or is at least transformed into the flickering, low-voltage glow of maturity. It would be no more than a nostalgic touchstone for performers and audience alike. But just as the Beatles were an exception to the iron rule of show-biz transience, so too has their fan base clung to its own version of eternal youth.

I’m talking about the Boomers again — those inheritors of easy money and injection-molded plastics and a distinctly sunny attitude to the future, no longer shared by many of their offspring. The Boomers simply will not leave the stage. Botox and Viagra have made them as shiny and virile as teenagers; in the TV ads for wealth-management services and erectile-dysfunction pills, they gambol around the rolling acreage of their vineyards or hold hands in adjacent plein-air bathtubs or play electric guitars just like you-know-who. They have, in other words, violated the generational compact.

This applies not only to their death grip on cultural matters, but to politics as well. For the past six years, a post-Boomer named Barack Obama has occupied the White House. (Although Obama was born just prior to the 1964 cutoff, his eagerness to distance himself from the identity politics and civil-rights struggles of the Sixties puts him firmly in the post-Boomer camp.) But who seems most likely to succeed him, at least on the Democratic side of the aisle? That would be Hillary Clinton, the once and future queen of her generation, with her ageless, saxophone-blowing consort in tow. And of course she’s a Beatles fan, with a particular weakness for “Hey Jude” — because, as she told a 2009 interviewer, it’s “almost Biblical in meaning.”

In the same interview, conducted while Clinton was enmeshed in nail-biting negotiations with Afghanistan and North Korea, she gently declined to name “Revolution” as one of her other Beatles favorites. That seemed prudent as the secretary of state inched her way from one geopolitical powder keg to the next. Yet Clinton needn’t have worried. The Beatles were musical revolutionaries but ideological centrists. Even in “Revolution,” his most blistering political pronouncement to that point in his career, John washed his hands of Chairman Mao and the very idea of armed struggle, insisting that consciousness was the real battleground: “You better free your mind instead.” (Nina Simone famously responded with a song of her own, also called “Revolution,” in which she suggested that a little violence might be appropriate — love wasn’t all you needed, certainly not in the America of the late Sixties.)

That was then. And what about now? Because I’m a sentimental person, I feel a notable tenderness toward the surviving Beatles, who were actually pre-Boomers and therefore seem like both peers and parents. Ringo tours, writes children’s books, is decorated by the French government (the ceremony, according to his website, took place “in front of the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco”), wants to save the rhinos. Paul keeps making records: standards, electronica, pop, classical. His voice, once a kind of national treasure, has frayed and begun to wobble, and there is something tremendously touching about this weakness, so at odds with his cultivated boyishness. He is, I suppose, the primary keeper of the Beatles flame, toward which his attitude is understandably possessive. “They can’t take it from me, if they tried,” he sings in a recent song, spurning Auto-Tune and letting his 71-year-old vocal cords wander where they will. “I lived through those early days.” As it turns out, he is no more prepared to let go than we are.

1 This wasn’t, by the way, a random emission from Leary’s acid-addled mind. In The Politics of Ecstasy (1968), he called them the “Four Evangelists” and added: “To future social historians I humbly suggest that the spiritual cord that holds our civilization from suicide can be traced from the Himalayan forests where Vedic philosophers drank soma, down the Ganja, through the Suez by P. and O. and over to Liverpool.” His previous book, published just a year earlier, was perhaps not coincidentally called Start Your Own Religion. (back ^)

2 The quote is from Alan Clayson’s Ringo Starr: Straight Man or Joker? (1996), surely among the most acid of Beatle biographies, along with the same author’s George Harrison (1996). Clayson is not a finger-wagging churl in the manner of, say, Albert Goldman in The Lives of John Lennon (1988). He celebrates both the music and the all-too-human frailties of its creators. Yet there is an iconoclastic glee in reading passages like this one, as if God Himself has been caught in his bathrobe (or dhoti): “Old at 31, a crashing bore and wearing his virtuous observances of his beliefs like Stanley Green did his sandwich board, [Harrison] was nicknamed ‘His Lecturership’ behind his back. Visitors to Friar Park tended not to swear in his presence. In deference to their vegetarian host . . . some would repair to Henley restaurants to gorge themselves with disgraceful joy on steak and chips, mocking over dessert George’s proselytizing.” (back ^)

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August 2018

The End of Eden

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How to Start a Nuclear War

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Combustion Engines

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There Will Always Be Fires

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Combustion Engines·

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On any given day last summer, the smoke-choked skies over Missoula, Montana, swarmed with an average of twenty-eight helicopters and eighteen fixed-wing craft, a blitz waged against Lolo Peak, Rice Ridge, and ninety-six other wildfires in the Lolo National Forest. On the ground, forty or fifty twenty-person handcrews were deployed, alongside hundreds of fire engines and bulldozers. In the battle against Rice Ridge alone, the Air Force, handcrews, loggers, dozers, parachutists, flacks, forecasters, and cooks amounted to some nine hundred people.

Rice Ridge was what is known as a mega-fire, a recently coined term for blazes that cover more than 100,000 acres. The West has always known forest fires, of course, but for much of the past century, they rarely got any bigger than 10,000 acres. No more. In 1988, a 250,000-acre anomaly, Canyon Creek, burned for months, roaring across a forty-mile stretch of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness in a single night. A few decades on, that anomaly is becoming the norm. Rice Ridge, for its part, swept through 160,000 acres.

At this scale, the firefighting operation is run by an incident management team, a group of about thirty specialists drawn from a mix of state and federal agencies and trained in fields ranging from aviation to weather forecasting and accounting to public information. The management teams are ranked according to experience and ability, from type 3 (the least skilled) to type 1 (the most). The fiercest fires are assigned to type 1s. Teams take the name of their incident commander, the field general, and some of those names become recognizable, even illustrious, in the wildfire-fighting community. One such name is that of Greg Poncin, who is to fire commanders what Wyatt Earp was to federal marshals.

Smoke from the Lolo Peak fire (detail) © Laura Verhaeghe
There Will Always Be Fires·

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The pinhal interior, a wooded region of hills and narrow hollows in rural central Portugal, used to be farmland. Well into the latter half of the past century, the fields were worked by peasants from the old stone villages. Portugal was poor and isolated, and the pinhal interior particularly so; when they could, the peasants left. There is electricity and running water now, but most of the people have gone. The fields have been taken over by trees. Each year the forest encroaches farther, and each year the villages grow more lonely. There are remnants of the earlier life, though, and amid the trees the holdouts of the older generations still work a few small fields. The pinhal interior cannot yet be called wilderness, then, and that, in large part, is why it burns.

Thousands of fires burn in the region each summer, almost all of them started not by lightning or some other natural spark but by the remaining Portuguese. (The great majority of the blazes are started unintentionally, though not all.) The pinhal interior—the name means “interior pine forest,” though today there is at least as much eucalyptus as pine—stretches along a sort of climate border between the semiarid Iberian interior and the wet influence of the Atlantic; vegetation grows exceptionally well there, and in the summers fire conditions are ideal. Still, most of the burns are quickly contained, and although they have grown larger in recent years, residents have learned to pay them little mind. The creeping fire that began in the dry duff and twigs of an oak grove on June 17 of last year, in the district of Pe­drógão Grande, therefore occasioned no panic.

A local woman, Dora da Silva Co­sta, drove past the blaze in the midafternoon, by which time it had entered a stand of pines. Firefighters were on hand. “There were no people in the streets,” Costa told me. “It was just another fire.” She continued on her way. It was a Saturday, and she had brought her two young sons to visit their older cousin in Vila Facaia, the village of small farms in which she’d been raised.

Firefighters near Pedrógão Grande (detail) © Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
The End of Eden·

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On a blistering morning in July 2017, Ghazi Luaibi rose before dawn and set out in a worn black sedan from his home in Zubair, a town of concrete low-rises in southern Iraq. He drove for a while along sandy roads strewn with plastic bags. On the horizon, he could see gas flares from the oil refineries, pillars of amber flame rising into the sky. As he approached Basra, the largest city in the province, desert scrub gave way to empty apartment blocks and rows of withered palms. Though the sun had barely risen, the temperature was already nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The previous year, Basra had registered one of the highest temperatures ever reliably recorded on earth: about 129 degrees, hot enough to cause birds to drop from the sky.

Ghazi, a sixty-two-year-old with stooped shoulders, an ash-gray beard, and lively brown eyes, would have preferred to stay home and wait out the heat. But he hadn’t had much of a choice. He was the president of the local council of Mandaeans, members of a gnostic religion that appeared in Mesopotamia in the early centuries ad. Today marked the beginning of their new year, and Ghazi, who was born into the Mandaean priestly class, was responsible for making sure everything went smoothly: he needed to find a tent to shield worshippers from the sun and, most importantly, a location near flowing water where they could carry out the ceremony.

Mandaean holidays are celebrated with a mass baptism, a ritual that is deeply rooted in their scripture and theology. Mandaeans follow the teachings of Yahia Yuhana, known to Christians as John the Baptist. Water is central to their religion. They believe that all life originates in the World of Light, a spiritual realm that is the starting point for a great river known as Yardana, or Jordan. Outside the World of Light lie the lifeless, stagnant waters of the World of Darkness. According to one version of the Mandaean creation myth, a demiurge named Ptahil set out to shape a new world from the World of Darkness, which became the material world we inhabit today. Once the world was complete, Ptahil sculpted Adam, the first man, from the same dark waters as the earth, but his soul came from the World of Light. In Mandaean scripture, rivers are manifestations of the World of Light, coursing from the heavenly Jordan to the earth to purify it. To be baptized is to be immersed in this divine realm.

Basra General Hospital (detail) July 2017 © Alex Potter
How to Start a Nuclear War·

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Serving as a US Air Force launch control officer for intercontinental missiles in the early Seventies, First Lieutenant Bruce Blair figured out how to start a nuclear war and kill a few hundred million people. His unit, stationed in the vast missile fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base, in Montana, oversaw one of four squadrons of Minuteman II ­ICBMs, each missile topped by a W56 thermonuclear warhead with an explosive force of 1.2 megatons—eighty times that of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. In theory, the missiles could be fired only by order of the president of the United States, and required mutual cooperation by the two men on duty in each of the launch control centers, of which there were five for each squadron.

In fact, as Blair recounted to me recently, the system could be bypassed with remarkable ease. Safeguards made it difficult, though not impossible, for a two-man crew (of either captains or lieutenants, some straight out of college) in a single launch control center to fire a missile. But, said Blair, “it took only a small conspiracy”—of two people in two separate control centers—to launch the entire squadron of fifty missiles, “sixty megatons targeted at the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea.” (The scheme would first necessitate the “disabling” of the conspirators’ silo crewmates, unless, of course, they, too, were complicit in the operation.) Working in conjunction, the plotters could “jury-rig the system” to send a “vote” by turning keys in their separate launch centers. The three other launch centers might see what was happening, but they would not be able to override the two votes, and the missiles would begin their firing sequence. Even more alarmingly, Blair discovered that if one of the plotters was posted at the particular launch control center in overall command of the squadron, they could together format and transmit a “valid and authentic launch order” for general nuclear war that would immediately launch the entire US strategic nuclear missile force, including a thousand Minuteman and fifty-four Titan missiles, without the possibility of recall. As he put it, “that would get everyone’s attention, for sure.” A more pacifically inclined conspiracy, on the other hand, could effectively disarm the strategic force by formatting and transmitting messages invalidating the presidential launch codes.

When he quit the Air Force in 1974, Blair was haunted by the power that had been within his grasp, andhe resolved to do something about it. But when he started lobbying his former superiors, he was met with indifference and even active hostility. “I got in a fair scrap with the Air Force over it,” he recalled. As Blair well knew, there was supposed to be a system already in place to prevent that type of unilateral launch. The civilian leadership in the Pentagon took comfort in this, not knowing that the Strategic Air Command, which then controlled the Air Force’s nuclear weapons, had quietly neutralized it.

This reluctance to implement an obviously desirable precaution might seem extraordinary, but it is explicable in light of the dominant theme in the military’s nuclear weapons culture: the strategy known as “launch under attack.” Theoretically, the president has the option of waiting through an attack before deciding how to respond. But in practice, the system of command and control has been organized so as to leave a president facing reports of incoming missiles with little option but to launch. In the words of Lee Butler, who commanded all US nuclear forces at the end of the Cold War, the system the military designed was “structured to drive the president invariably toward a decision to launch under attack” if he or she believes there is “incontrovertible proof that warheads actually are on the way.” Ensuring that all missiles and bombers would be en route before any enemy missiles actually landed meant that most of the targets in the strategic nuclear war plan would be destroyed—thereby justifying the purchase and deployment of the massive force required to execute such a strike.

Among students of nuclear command and control, this practice of precluding all options but the desired one is known as “jamming” the president. Blair’s irksome protests threatened to slow this process. When his pleas drew rejection from inside the system, he turned to Congress. Eventually the Air Force agreed to begin using “unlock codes”—codes transmitted at the time of the launch order by higher authority without which the crews could not fire—on the weapons in 1977. (Even then, the Navy held off safeguarding its submarine-launched nuclear missiles in this way for another twenty years.)

Following this small victory, Blair continued to probe the baroque architecture of nuclear command and control, and its extreme vulnerability to lethal mishap. In the early Eighties, while working with a top-secret clearance for the Office of Technology Assessment, he prepared a detailed report on such shortcomings. The Pentagon promptly classified it as SIOP-ESI—a level higher than top secret. (SIOP stands for Single Integrated Operational Plan, the US plan for conducting a nuclear war. ESI stands for Extremely Sensitive Information.) Hidden away in the Pentagon, the report was withheld from both relevant senior civilian officials and the very congressional committees that had commissioned it in the first place.

From positions in Washington’s national security think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, Blair used his expertise and scholarly approach to gain access to knowledgeable insiders at the highest ranks, even in Moscow. On visits to the Russian capital during the halcyon years between the Cold War’s end and the renewal of tensions in the twenty-first century, he learned that the Soviet Union had actually developed a “dead hand” in ultimate control of their strategic nuclear arsenal. If sensors detected signs of an enemy nuclear attack, the USSR’s entire missile force would immediately launch with a minimum of human intervention—in effect, the doomsday weapon that ends the world in Dr. Strangelove.

Needless to say, this was a tightly held arrangement, known only to a select few in Moscow. Similarly chilling secrets, Blair continued to learn, lurked in the bowels of the US system, often unknown to the civilian leadership that supposedly directed it. In 1998, for example, on a visit to the headquarters of Strategic Command (­STRATCOM), the force controlling all US strategic nuclear weapons, at Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska, he discovered that the ­­­STRATCOM targeting staff had unilaterally chosen to interpret a presidential order on nuclear targeting in such a way as to reinsert China into the ­SIOP, from which it had been removed in 1982, thereby provisionally consigning a billion Chinese to nuclear immolation. Shortly thereafter, he informed a senior White House official, whose reaction Blair recalled as “surprised” and “befuddled.”

In 2006, Blair founded Global Zero, an organization dedicated to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, with an immediate goal of ending the policy of launch under attack. By that time, the Cold War that had generated the ­SIOP and all those nuclear weapons had long since come to an end. As a result, part of the nuclear war machine had been dismantled—warhead numbers were reduced, bombers taken off alert, weapons withdrawn from Europe. But at its heart, the system continued unchanged, officially ever alert and smooth running, poised to dispatch hundreds of precisely targeted weapons, but only on receipt of an order from the commander in chief.

Bombhead, by Bruce Conner (detail) © Conner Family Trust, San Francisco, and ARS, New York City. Courtesy Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles

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Happiness Is a Worn Gun


Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

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