Steven Pete feels no pain. Even broken bones bring only a slight discomfort. For Pam Costa, any warmth burns like fire; she takes morphine every morning and sleeps on ice-cold pillows. Although the two Washingtonians live just over an hour apart, they’ve never met — but their cases are helping identify a gene that could be used to control chronic physical suffering. Erika Hayasaki documents this classic scientific detective story.
As a child, Costa would dawdle in the deep gutters lining the streets near her home, the cool, mucky water providing her momentary pain relief. In classrooms she would wrap her hands and feet around the poles of a desk, like a koala, to feel the coolness. And she’d sneak off to water fountains to wipe down her limbs with cold water.
Doctors didn’t know how to diagnose her. Some adults thought she had behavioral issues or depression. One physician said her symptoms were psychosomatic. The plum color was the only visible evidence that she might have any medical disorder at all. Then, in 1977, when Costa was 11, a letter arrived from the Mayo Clinic.
Ex-Evangelical Meghan O’Gieblyn is really, really good at describing what it’s like to lose your faith — to be dislocated in time, even to lose your sense of your own body as you lose your sense of God. That makes it easier to understand how a new, outlandish set of beliefs, the transhumanism favorited by tech elitists like Elon Musk, could slip unconsidered into the gap.
The deeper I got into the articles, the more unhinged my thinking became. One day, it occurred to me: perhaps God was the designer and Christ his digital avatar, and the incarnation his way of entering the simulation to share tips about our collective survival as a species. Or maybe the creation of our world was a competition, a kind of video game in which each participating programmer invented one of the world religions, sent down his own prophet-avatar and received points for every new convert.
By this point I’d passed beyond idle speculation. A new, more pernicious thought had come to dominate my mind: transhumanist ideas were not merely similar to theological concepts but could in fact be the events described in the Bible.
Ijeoma Oluo’s piece on Rachel Dolezal for The Stranger went viral this week, and rightfully so. Oluo perfectly expresses the frustration of trying to engage Dolezal, who is endlessly slippery and self-protective — just reading their exchanges is maddening. Then she neatly pivots out of the game of “she said, she said”: out of the pseudo-academic arguments, out of the crocodile tears, and back onto terra firma. Here’s hoping this can be her final word.
When the story first broke in June 2015, I was approached by more editors in a week than I had heard from in two months. They were all looking for "fresh takes" on the Dolezal scandal from the very people whose identity had now been put up for debate—black women. I wrote two pieces on Dolezal for two different websites, mostly focused not on her, but on the lack of understanding of black women's identity that was causing the conversation about Dolezal to become more and more painful for so many black women.
After a few weeks of media obsession, I—and most of the other black women I knew—was completely done with Rachel Dolezal.
Or, at least I hoped to be.
I don’t know, Kevin Nguyen; this is all fine practical advice, but doesn’t it boil down to — if you want to read more, read more? We don’t need a listicle for that, or a Fitbit so we can track page counts against our friends. However, in case you do want some highly amusing guidance on how to read in the absence of a comfy chair, a few hours, and glass of scotch, here it is.
Before you tell me how much you “enjoy the smell of print books” like some kind of psycho, let me try to sell you on the convenience of reading in the Kindle or iBooks app: you’ll always have your books with you, and most importantly, you can always get through a little reading in those lost minutes of the day — waiting in line for coffee, for the 4-train running behind schedule, and for the bathroom because you drank too much coffee. Those pages add up fast.]]>
One of the great stories of Seattle took place in this building. One of the great facades of Seattle buildings graces its exterior. Now a hotel, once a club for “explorers”, (but mostly the people who did business with them), the Arctic Building isn’t the largest building in Seattle, nor is it the most important, but it may just be one of the most interesting.
It was raised in 1916, by some lucky sods who had made off like bandits in the Klondike gold rush. At least that’s what the myth is. As Seattle well knows, most of the money was in outfitting the fools who went prospecting, not in the prospecting itself — this is the story of early Seattle. The primary funder of the club, James Moses, made his money in pottery, not gold or pickaxes and tents. And he wasn’t even a Seattle resident. The Arctic Club had strong ties to New York, where there was another club, and Chicago.
You would join the club if you wanted to reinforce your business connections to the Alaskan territory. The bar, which was once housed in an older building the club used before the building we all love so much was built, was apparently stolen through a window one night when nobody was paying attention.
The modern hotel bar is a good place to grab a drink these days — they faithfully, as possible, recreate the look-and-feel of a vintage lounge, although the drinks will set you back more than they did back in the early days. Here’s a hint: walking up to the parking lot on the corner of Cherry and Fourth allows you to walk up pretty close to one of the walrus cartouches — they’re gonna raze that to make a new skyscraper soon, so do it while you can.
And that great story? Be warned: it’s a tragedy. It centers around Marion Zioncheck, a leftist firebrand politician, who was elected to the US Senate as a representative from Washington. He was a staunch New Deal Democrat who had a wild streak, apparently. He was arrested with his wife for drunkenly cavorting in a fountain. He sent manure to J. Edgar Hoover. He was, by all accounts, completely crazy.
He announced he was retiring, and set the stage for his college buddy Warren Magnuson (the park is named for him) to run in his stead. But then, Zioncheck changed his mind. One August evening, in 1936, Zioncheck’s wife of four months Rubye was waiting in the car for him. He was in his office on the fifth floor of the Arctic Building. They were all set to go out to an event.
And then, his body tumbled down from the sky, smashing into the street in front of poor Rubye, almost hitting pedestrians, and ending the life of Marion Zioncheck. The fall was ruled a suicide, and in fact, there was a note left behind, and a witness, his brother-in-law who claimed he was trying to stop him from the act. There are those who think otherwise.
History is funny like that. It leaves buildings behind with these ghosts. I caught the bus on Third between Cherry and Columbia for years, and I walked past the spot where Zioncheck fell nearly every day. I never thought about him, save for when I was telling someone the story. Funny how we just move on and don’t remember. How a building can just be a nice hotel now. I wonder if you could sleep in the room that has the window he jumped from? Might be worth asking at the front desk.
One thing’s for sure. There are heck of a lot of stories waiting to come out of that building.
It was midnight when they broke in to the old Arctic Club. The new building was ready, and there was just one thing then needed. The building was quiet as they opened the massive window as high as it would go, and started breaking loose the large wooden bar. It was theirs, and they were gonna take it.
That old building on Third and Cherry was in poor repair, in 1975, and not looking so great. A woman, a waitress at the Harbor Club atop the Norton Building, was rushing down the hill in her heels, trying not to be late for her shift. When suddenly, she was grabbed by the waist and pulled aside. A tusk from one of the walrus friezes crashed to the sidewalk where she would have been. "Are you okay?" That voice...she turned, and gasped when she saw who had saved her.
They could only do it when the bar was slow, but it was a fun game. They tried to guess which couples getting hit on would go back to a room together. On a good night, they had a couple of hits. Occasionally, they stopped a creep from harassing someone. But when one of them elbowed the other to point out the man in the green suit making a move on the woman in the black wrap dress, what they never expected was to get pulled into the middle of an international incident.
They gathered every full moon. They wore black robes, and gathered under the walruses. They shined their lights up onto the building and began their chant. All hail the walrus! The walrus who brings life! They knew they'd have five minutes tops before the cops came, at least that was the average. But this time they had something planned that would change things. This time, they wouldn't be chased away so easily.
What was amusing was the one time she stayed in a hotel and could hear the neighbors next door spanking each other. What was not amusing was being in a hotel and hearing the neighbors next door yelling at each other in scary ways. But when she called the front desk to report them, all she was told was "Lock your door and don't leave your room until we tell you its safe", and the line went dead. Then the screaming in the hall started.
Now, of course, it's pretty obvious that Mark Halperin is an awful person, and an even worse journalist; he sucked up to Donald Trump at just about every opportunity during the 2016 elections. His pro-Trump leaning during this last election cycle was saccharine enough to help me realize what I'd hidden from myself over the last four years: Halperin's work isn't interested in what's right or even what happened. He's only interested in who's on top, and how much access he can skim from them. I'm retroactively embarrassed that I enjoyed his books so much.
But it's not just Halperin: this election has soured my entire perception of the quick-turn post-election genre. I love books that investigate presidential campaigns, but there have been a spate of titles over the last few election cycles that have been published within six months of Election Day, and they are more harmful than good.
All of this is a long way of saying that even though some part of me wants to read Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign for all the gossip and forehead-slapping it would inspire, some larger part of me understands that these auto-published postmortems are toxic. I'm not going to read Shattered, and I'd urge you to consider not reading it as well.
There's a cliche that's been pretty popular on political podcasts in the days since the 2016 election. It has many variations, but it always goes something like this: in retrospect, every winning campaign looks brilliant, and every losing campaign looks hopelessly, impossibly dumb. The truth is never that simple.
Yes, Clinton's campaign team made awful decisions. Obviously. I don't want to exonerate anyone, here.
But I just don't know what good any of this is doing anyone. Democrats are still trying to argue over where everything went wrong in the 2016 election, and the truth is that it just doesn't matter. We know what must be done: Democrats have to propose big policies that appeal to more voters, and they have to explain why those policies are better than the policies that the other side is proposing. Democrats also have to listen to average people, and respond to the needs of average Americans — Americans of every color and class and creed. I think those statements are non-controversial enough that most Sanders voters and most Clinton voters would agree with them.
One day, the residue of filth covering the 2016 election will be less greasy. Our responses to the memory of the year will grow less immediate, less visceral. And one day someone will write a book — a deeply reported, dense, smart work of journalism — about the Clinton campaign. I can pretty much guarantee that Shattered is not that book. Reading it is just picking at fresh scabs, and it will likely leave you looking to start arguments that can have no winners.
The time now is to look forward, not back. Democrats should be reading about policy and not personality. Now that a reality show star is in the White House, it should be obvious to everyone that there's no room for reality-show antics in our media coverage of the campaigns.
We must be better than this.]]>
We wish we had better news to share this morning, but sadly we were the victim of a smash and grab robbery early this morning. Fortunately we have a glass company already working on it and the door should be fixed with no expected interruption to store hours or events today.
The store reported on Twitter that their door has already been fixed. But still: Boo. What kind of an asshole breaks into a comics shop? (Answer: one of the very bad kinds of assholes, not one of the sort of okay kinds of assholes, like Irish pirate queen Grace O'Malley or literally any role Benedict Cumberbatch has ever played.)
If you have a few extra dollars to spend this weekend, maybe drop by Phoenix and pick up a comic or a game. It's important at times like these to come together and make a statement that we do not tolerate this kind of awful bullshittery in our city.]]>
My local bookstore is great, except for one thing: the attached café is terrible. I fantasize about buying a new book and demolishing a few chapters over a nice sandwich and a cup of coffee. I’ve tried it there a few times, but their food is unexceptional and their coffee tastes like it was filtered through someone’s underwear. The service is pretty bad, too. And don’t even get me started on the soup!
Yelp is for assholes, but I really think this would be the perfect bookstore if the meals it served were halfway edible. How can I improve the quality of food?
Jay, [Neighborhood Redacted by Request]
You live in a city that has developed a taste for the ridiculous – how am I supposed to know yours is any good? If you've ever compared the rich flavor of a roasted beet to eating out Mother Earth, if your table salt costs more per gram than viable eggs harvested from a healthy young white woman, if you've ever uttered the phrase, "I long to participate in a California grunion run," I cannot and will not help you.
But let us assume you are a reasonable person – the kind of person who can't quit Fritos Honey BBQ Flavor Twists because of their ass-pounding umami flavor. Assuming this, and knowing that independent booksellers are some of the most intelligent, reasonable, and open-minded people currently eating out Mother Earth, here is what I suggest you do: start small, with coffee.
Get coffee at your local bookstore on a regular basis, be friendly and tip well. Tipping well is the key – I'm talking very well, like 100 percent for each cup of coffee. Solicit friends and fellow book lovers to also do this. After a few visits, when you have established that you are friendly and generous, leave an extra big tip – like $20 – and write on the receipt something along the lines of "I love this bookstore and cafe, but the coffee tastes like TKTKTK. Maybe it's time for a change?" And don't just say "it tastes like shit," be polite but specific in your critique – it is weak, it is cold, it has strong notes of underwear. Encourage your friends to do the same.
The next time you go in, make small talk with the barista. Ask if the manager is open to changing things up in the cafe – like the coffee, for instance. Perhaps even nicely ask to talk to the manager face to face (I know technology has made the act of expressing a desire while maintaining sustained eye contact with another human being feel like an old-timey hobby instead of a healthy communication tactic, but it's worth a try).
You are incredibly lucky to have a local bookstore in your area. As I'm sure you know, they are not the stuff of get-rich-quick schemes, they are laborious acts of love. Once the managers/owners understand that you're a loyal customer and ally – as are the other people they're hearing from – I'd expect them to be open to change.
Monday April 24th: Breaking the Bond Reading
The very fine Texas playwright Rupert Reyes brings a staged reading from his latest work-in-progress play, Breaking the Bond, to the U District’s own Jack Straw Gallery. Featuring local Spanish-speaking readers, this play discusses topics of deportation, anchor babies, and national identity. (Reyes has also acted in the film Office Space.)
Jack Straw Gallery, 4261 Roosevelt Way N.E., 634-0919, http://jackstraw.org . Free. All ages. 7:30 p.m.
Speaking of librarians, I just want to make sure that you appreciate how librarians dragged Ivanka Trump for her all-talk "support" of public libraries at the same time that her dad is trying to defund them.
The good people at Artist Trust are launching a "Night School" program of short classes for artists. Classes include "Promotion Fundamentals" and "Business Fundamentals."
Open Culture published a neat look at what children's books were like in the Soviet Union.
A quick semi-word of warning for this week's books: the three Opening Salvo issues are meant to be read before Secret Empire #0.— Tom Brevoort (@TomBrevoort) April 18, 2017
And because of that tweet, I didn't bother to pick up Secret Empire #0. If the first issue — sorry, the zero issue — of a series requires a "semi-word of warning" that three other books should be read beforehand, I can't really be bothered.
Look, I appreciate that superhero comics are a serialized storytelling medium. The minute a story has a conclusive ending, there's no reason for readers to pick up the next installment. But I do expect a story to make sense in and of itself, with a beginning, a middle, and some semblance of an ending. If the beginning of a book requires advance reading, it's not really a beginning.
Or let me use another example from a different publisher. I found the first collected volume of Detective Comics from DC's Rebirth line, Rise of the Batmen, to be a lot of fun. It's basically a Batman superhero team book, in which Batman must assemble a team including the formerly villainous Clayface and three interesting female characters from other Batman-themed books — Batwoman, Spoiler, and the Orphan (who used to be Batgirl) — to fend off an insidious Batman-themed threat.
Rise of the Batmen is mostly a good example of serialized superhero comics done right. The bad guys have a clear motivation, the heroes all have distinct personalities, and it's all terrifically, deliciously silly. Sure, it's a bit too goth — it is a Batman comic, after all — but it's brisk and entertaining and it never takes itself too seriously.
But then comes the ending. One of the characters supposedly dies. But then a page or two later we find out this character — gasp — didn't die after all! Par for the course for superhero comics. Except the character didn't die because they were plucked from the death scene by someone in another dimension or something, a bad guy who had nothing to do with the rest of the book.
Presumably, this plot device is setting up a crossover in some other, future DC Comic further down the line. But if you're reading this book as a book — which is to say you're expecting it to have a beginning, a middle, and an end — you're going to be incredibly disappointed. This isn't a fair ending. It's not a surprise, or a twist. A reader couldn't be expected to know what the hell is going on here without reading a ton of other comics. It's not even a deus ex machina; it's a non sequitur.
I love the fact that superhero comics never end, but I hate the fact that superhero comics are now absurdist echoes of themselves. Comics in the 60s and 70s and 80s used to catch readers up and explain the intricate mythologies behind the characters along the way. I understand that fashions change, and that the exposition-heavy comics from decades ago now read as impossibly clunky.
But surely there must be some way to convey the dense mythology of superhero comics gracefully? One thing comics are great at is broadcasting a lot of information in a relatively small amount of space. Modern superhero comics are all about withholding information, and demanding that the reader invest in dozens of books in order to understand what's going on. This philosophy is not only anti-new-reader; it's anti-comics.]]>
“I apologize for standing up so high,” Thomas Frank announced from behind the podium at Town Hall Seattle last night. He observed that the audience members who gathered by the stage to ask him questions were forced to gaze up at him, as though he was a wizened old man sitting at the peak of a mountain. “It's not very populist of me,” he joked.
In reality, Frank couldn’t be any more populist if he discussed his new-in-paperback book Listen, Liberal while sitting in the middle of the audience in the pews of Town Hall. Frank addressed income inequality and the Democratic Party establishment’s dismissal of the working class with a single-minded intensity.
Frank railed on the current system, in which a few elites in the top ten percent enjoy a booming economy while everyone else in America lives in a state of perpetual recession. He says that since roughly the 1980s, America has offered its citizens economic “growth that doesn't grow and prosperity that doesn't prosper.”
Frank places the majority of the blame on the professional class of experts who run the Democratic Party. He said they refuse to crack down on their peers in the banking, pharmaceutical, and real estate businesses who are looting the American people for all they’re worth. This is because, he said, Democrats have come to believe in a “meritocracy” where “everyone gets what they deserve and what they deserve is directly tied to how they did in school.” If you didn’t go to a good school, or if you chose the wrong (read: non-STEM) major, Frank said, the creative class — and there Frank paused to reflect on the absurdity of “the idea that creativity is the property of a class” — believes you deserve the misfortune that you somehow delivered onto yourself.
Meanwhile, the pundits on every channel declare that “the answer to every question every time is to move to the center,” when in fact the problem is clear: “the party of the left isn't interested in its historical mission,” Frank said. That mission? To stand up for the working class. Donald Trump proved himself during the 2016 election to be “a hypocrite, a vulgarian, and a bigot,” Frank said, but he admitted that Trump recognized the unrest unfolding in middle America. The sorrows that Trump highlighted during the campaign, Frank said with a tone of astonishment in his voice — “those are things my people used to say.”
And because Trump continually discussed a problem that Democrats refused to even acknowledge, the Democratic Party is now at its lowest ebb “since 1920.” Frank told the audience that the only way to interpret the 2016 results is “a wipeout for the Democratic Party,” which he accused of “militant complacency.”
By design, Frank didn’t focus much on solutions to the problem. He was in full-on accusatory mode, identifying the systemic rot in America’s economy and the Democratic Party, though toward the end of his lecture he rattled off a few policies Democrats should support, including free or affordable secondary education and laws that promote unionization. The solutions aren’t the hard part, Frank said. On the contrary, “it takes ten seconds to come up with winning issues.” The problem, he warned, is that the Democratic Party is “going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming to victory.”]]>
However. O'Reilly is also a bestselling writer — or more likely, "writer" — of historical books. His books warp and twist history into something that is barely recognizeable, but they sell like the proverbial hotcakes.
Even worse, O'Reilly right now has a children's book at the top of the bestseller charts. Co-"authored" with bestselling hit factory James Patterson, Give Please a Chance is an etiquette book for children:
Of course, every angry white grandpa in America who is continually enraged by "PC Culture" is now going to buy a copy of this book and mail it to their grandkids out of spite. We can't do anything about those horrible people. But will publishers think twice about their relationship with O'Reilly?
It's doubtful. As the disastrous Simon & Schuster deal with Milo Yiannopoulos proves, corporate publishers will cling to potentially moneymaking authors until the very last possible second. Some truly despicable comments by Yiannopoulos had to come to light (and had to spread widely) before they reversed their decision to publish his memoir. It seems doubtful that Henry Holt, the publisher of O'Reilly's work for adults, or Little, Brown, the publisher of his books for kids, will cancel the titles or sever their relationship with him.
But O'Reilly's TV show wouldn't have been pulled if people hadn't put pressure on O'Reilly Factor advertisers. Allegations about O'Reilly had been circulating for years; it wasn't until people stood up to say "enough" that Fox News took notice. So maybe it's worthwhile to let Henry Holt and Little, Brown know how you feel about their profiting from a man who even Fox News won't touch? Do their employees care that they're promoting the work of an alleged sexual predator? Maybe ask Little, Brown and Henry Holt those questions on Twitter and send them some emails and see what kind of a response you get.]]>