Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles good for slow consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.
A broken glass; a stumble on the sidewalk; a misplaced word that leads to hurt feelings. Most of us screw up on a daily basis, and for the most part we can fix it with a little glue and an earnest apology. What happens when you hit the top of the screw-up food chain, though, and someone dies? Alice Gregory explores the aftermath of accidental death and why we have so little to offer the survivors.
There are self-help books written for seemingly every aberration of human experience: for alcoholics and opiate abusers; for widows, rape victims, gambling addicts, and anorexics; for the parents of children with disabilities; for sufferers of acne and shopping compulsions; for cancer survivors, asexuals, and people who just aren’t that happy and don’t know why. But there are no self-help books for anyone who has accidentally killed another person.
In the wake of Amazon’s announcement that they’re planning to grace another city with HQ2 — an announcement met with either consternation or celebration by Seattleites, depending on inclination — read this reflection by Google staffer Min Li Chan about the tech giant’s impact on San Francisco. Chan has been moving toward Google since she was nine; she’s living her childhood dream. But she’s also watching the job she loves steal the city she loves and lives in.
When the first bus protests erupted in late 2013, my peers and I reacted with bewilderment, certain that we had been unjustly cast as scapegoats for the city’s problems. “Why are they angry at us?” a friend remarked one night over dinner. “We haven’t done anything wrong, we’re just trying to get to work!” That morning, a man had driven by our tech shuttle stop in his beat-up Honda Accord and given all of us the middle finger while leaning on his horn. As my friend and I recounted other instances of aggression we had witnessed or heard about, other guests — close friends who didn’t work in the industry — listened. “But you guys get why this is happening, right?” asked one after we had finished our meal. After everyone had gone home, I turned her question over in my mind. In the calculus of culpability, I had believed that as well-meaning technologists and productive members of society, we were irreproachable. How could we be wrong?
Lisa Marie Basile jumps into the Instagram poetry fray after Electric Literature’s recent evisceration of practitioner Collin Yost. This gets stickier the deeper you go; the Twitter exchange (between Portland writer/artist Izze Leslie and Yost) that sparked this particular flamewar went ad hominem quickly and across multiple social media platforms. Basile steers us onto higher ground with some good (oft-trod, but never too oft) questions about the value of verse.
On one hand, I personally don’t think it’s excusable to pump that sort of drivel onto the Internet — especially because of the fact that those Instagram poets, whose work is heavily tied to the Internet, likely have access to other poets’ work on that same Internet. By reading anything published in a literary journal or a release from a small press (which I think is partly a duty of being a poet) or even work by another poet that isn't published, they must have some semblance of knowledge around what constitutes original writing that doesn’t rely on gimmick or cliché.
But if these poets want to write what they write — and if their readers are getting some sort of emotional response out of it — is that not what matters?
With a Blade Runner sequel coming soon, Michael Schulman has a short history of the making of the original. It’s just as chaotic and fraught as you might imagine: Scripts are written on the sly, there’s a near-mutiny on the set, and Philip K. Dick goes creepily head over heels for Sean Young. Here’s just one anecdote, in which Ridley Scott delivers an unwelcome surprise to writer Hampton Fancher:
Then, around Christmas 1980, Scott’s aide Ivor Powell invited Fancher for dinner and handed him a script. Fancher figured it was a different movie entirely, until he flipped the page and realized it was a re-written Blade Runner. “I stood up and started crying, tears coming down my face,” Fancher recalls. “Ivor put his arm around me. He told me this was going to happen before — he said, ‘I know my man. If you don’t do what he wants, he’ll get someone who will.’”
Days later, Fancher stormed into the production office and screamed, “Why?!”
“Elegance is one thing, Hampton,” Deeley told him. “Making a film is another.”
“Fuck you guys,” Fancher said, and returned home to Carmel.
We don't ususally count our dead in the Sunday Post, even on a week of notable losses. Many are mourning Harry Dean Stanton this weekend, rightly; on the non-human side, we obsessively and collectively tracked Cassini's final flight in our imaginations, through the lens of history, and through images.
But if you grew up in a certain midwestern city, there was one death this week that stung even more sharply: Grant Hart, the better half of Minneapolis punk band Hüsker Dü. Many will take issue with "better half," but Grant would love it. And it's sweet, smartass Grant Hart who always belonged to his hometown — no matter how far he traveled.
I first laid eyes on Grant in December of 1983. Hüsker Dü were sharing a bill with SST Records labelmates the Minutemen at Love Hall, a rundown punk dive on South Broad Street in Philadelphia. Grant was being shown around the freezing venue by the promoter before the show and I remember thinking how "un-punk" he looked in his trench coat, paisley shirt and long hair. He looked like a hippie who was on his way to see Hot Tuna but walked into the wrong club.
Any doubts I harbored were obliterated when Hüsker Dü launched into "Something I Learned Today," the lead-off track from their upcoming double album Zen Arcade. I can only liken seeing Hüsker Dü that night to the daze of disorientation you feel after accidentally banging your head on something very hard. It was punk, it was pop, it was jazz, it was psychedelic; it was an ear-splitting swirl of sound. And at the center of the sonic hurricane was Grant Hart, arms flailing, feet flying, laying waste to every drum and cymbal in his path.