Here's the article, in Rolling Stone, in case you want to make sense of the aphorism. Me, I can't wade through this stuff. First paragraph:
It's September 28th, 2015. My head is swimming, labeling TracPhones (burners), one per contact, one per day, destroy, burn, buy, balancing levels of encryption, mirroring through Blackphones, anonymous e-mail addresses, unsent messages accessed in draft form. It's a clandestine horror show for the single most technologically illiterate man left standing. At 55 years old, I've never learned to use a laptop. Do they still make laptops? No fucking idea! It's 4:00 in the afternoon. Another gorgeous fall day in New York City. The streets are abuzz with the lights and sirens of diplomatic movement, heads of state, U.N. officials, Secret Service details, the NYPD. It's the week of the U.N. General Assembly. Pope Francis blazed a trail and left town two days before. I'm sitting in my room at the St. Regis Hotel with my colleague and brother in arms, Espinoza.I don't need to visit the interior of the Mind of Sean Penn. Do they still make movie stars? No fucking idea! It's 6:31 in the morning. Another pre-dawn in Madison, Wisconsin. No lights, no buzzing, no cops, no popes. I'm hanging out here with my husband, Meade... oh? Do you think I should get to some point?
What I like about this article is that it's the article that everyone must read but no one will read. Or, maybe, if you scroll down about 20 screens worth of blabber you will get to the boldfaced questions and read some of that. These questions are prefaced with: "Of the many questions I'd sent El Chapo, a cameraman out of frame asks a few of them directly, paraphrases others, softens many and skips some altogether." So what's it worth? Example:
Did your drug business grow and expand when you were in jail?The answers are flat and opaque — unrevealing — even as the questions get more Barbara Walters-y. Look at this one:
From what I can tell, and what I know, everything is the same. Nothing has decreased. Nothing has increased....
With respect to your activities, what do you think the impact on Mexico is? Do you think there is a substantial impact?
Not at all. Not at all....
Do you have any dreams? Do you dream?
Whatever is normal. But dreaming daily? No....
If I ask you to define yourself as a person, if I ask you to pretend you are not Joaquín, instead you are the person who knows him better than anybody else in the world, how would you define yourself?
Well, if I knew him – with respect, and from my point of view, it's a person who's not looking for problems in any way. In any way.Yes, it's perfectly inane. I skipped over a lot of text, but I never saw anything that justified the high-tone epigraph: "The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature, proceed from custom." El Chapo wasn't revealing much and Sean Penn couldn't pull any story out of him. I think El Chapo got played by his own vanity. He wanted to be the subject of a biopic. That's why he made this connection. And from what I'm reading elsewhere, Sean Penn seems to have led the authorities to recapture El Chapo. I guess whatever role he played there is not something he wants too much attention for.
Anyway... epigraphs: "In literature, an epigraph is a phrase, quotation, or poem that is set at the beginning of a document or component." That's from Wikipedia, which warns: "Not to be confused with epitaph, epigram, or epithet." An epigraph, to me, implies that what follows will benefit from being looked at through that brief statement. It's tantalizing, no?
Wikipedia gives a few examples of epigraphs, including the Samuel Johnson quote — "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man" — that begins Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" was originally published in Rolling Stone, and reading Sean Penn's hyper-personal raving style — "Do they still make laptops? No fucking idea!" — I had the feeling he aspired to Thompsonesqueness... to make a beast of himself, perhaps, and get rid of the pain of writing like a professional journalist.
Do they still make professional journalists? No fucking idea!
ADDED: The night the Rolling Stone article goes up, Sean Penn appears at a fundraiser... alongside his ex-wife Madonna. The Daily Mail article with the photos says Penn "unwittingly led the Mexican authorities to" El Chapo and that he's "now under investigation." Madonna and Sean, together again — a good move for both of them.