How the other 0.1% lives.

“You talk a lot about class,” said a friend of mine. “It seems like something that matters to you.”

I do talk about it. It's not simply who has more money or less—that's a rich person's game—but the fact that America seems to be going backwards. Paris Hilton is the best example: suddenly, it's okay to be fascinated with society again, with people whose only notable quality is that they are rich, and dedicated to the pursuit of folly. Of course, this being a modern era, we've leavened our society columns with eye-rolling irony—it's fun to feel superior to someone who has such a remarkable life, all that privilege and sex, the constant pursuit by photographers, the ability to do whatever she wants, a woman who has never sat in a cubicle. We can all laugh together: put Paris and her heroin-addicted pal in with lower middle-class people, and watch the fun.

Rich kids went out and got publicists, and now we're treated to deep insight into the lives of the wealthy, all available on a far more regular basis in documentary and televised form than at any point during my 29 years. And it comes on the tail of endless reports of growing wage disparity between the rich and everyone else. It's everywhere; the government has shifted from Clinton's Horatio Alger story to the Prodigal Son Bush Administration. The dollar is weak, good in the short term, but borrowing against the future. We're going to have a boom at any cost. No one complains, no one legislates.

Meanwhile society has returned, and goes by on litters. It's a different mix than the old-school protocols of The House of Mirth, and the names are (mostly) changed; Vanderbilts abide, but Astors are faded away. And they're ascendant: dozens of rich kids are staring in jealousy at Paris and wondering how they too can turn their trust funds into international celebrity (the only currency really worth something). More are coming, I'm sure, trading a look at their privilege in for fame. But just a look.

My good lefty friends tell me that they're ready to leave America if Bush gets re-elected, and while I know it's mostly rhetoric, all I can think is, for shame, you fair-weather bastards, Martin Luther King didn't leave, Malcolm X didn't leave, Harriet Tubman didn't leave, Susan B. Anthony didn't leave, Samuel Gompers didn't leave, Frederick Douglass didn't leave. The reason the country is worth a tinker's damn, the reason it is still a great country, is that people stayed, whined, yelled, and voted.

I sit around feeling that we are truly and deeply fucked, fucked by glitter. On the plus side, demonstrations against the Republican National Convention have already started in Manhattan. I missed the first one, but the next one is an option. Nothing makes me feel better than staying, whining, yelling, and voting.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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