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The Sunday Post for October 14, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

Going Hungry at the Most Prestigious MFA in America

Katie Prout neatly takes the romance out of “starving writer” with this account of her experience at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop — and Iowa’s food banks. This isn’t a story about sacrificing for your art; it’s a story about the social construct of “the real writer,” and how one university leverages it to its own advantage.

I wondered if I shouldn’t go to the food bank tonight. I thought about all the hours, the days, of not writing, and the shame of it built, but I need to eat, I don’t have a Hadley, which was the name of Hemingway’s second wife, and I don’t have her fortune either, which is how Hemingway was supported during his young years in Paris. In addition to my work with Brian, I’m an instructor at the university where I attend the best nonfiction writing program in the country, and I make approximately $18,000 a year before taxes. When I was denied a second teaching assistantship at the university this summer for the upcoming school year even though I already had signed a contract with the offering department, my director explained that it was in the school’s best interests to look after my best interests, and my best interest was to make sure that I had time write my thesis. Most graduate students are lucky if they get one, it was explained. After, a program-wide email was sent out explaining why the university generally doesn’t allow us to get other university jobs, and encouraging us not to look for any jobs outside of our instructing ones at all.
A Woman, Tree or Not

Terese Marie Mailhot writes eloquently (of course) about the complexities of ceremony, assimilation, and appropriation. “The rhetoric of lost culture is a white imposition” is an incredibly important idea: appropriation isn’t just about naming (ahem) a city’s hockey team “the Totems” — it is as subtle and malignant as declaring, from a position of power, what has been lost, what should be mourned, and even what culture is.

And now, at 35, I am unceremoniously here on staff at Purdue University, an Indian in Indiana without my people. I teach and travel, migrating with semesters. I link myself with other Indigenous communities and speak to people about intergenerational trauma. I explain that what’s been lost is hard to communicate without damaging our psyches or being exploited. It’s hard to not engage in performative measures for white people who might want to grieve us or tour genocide — or save us, or liberate us by bearing witness. I am not a relic, I say over and over at every event as if it were a conjuring, and it is an affirmation.
Daniel Radcliffe and the Art of the Fact-Check

This has been everywhere but is still irresistible fun: Daniel Radcliffe spent a day working in The New Yorker’s fact-checking department to prepare for an upcoming role in The Lifespan of a Fact, a play based on the real-life story of an epic seven-year battle between fact-checker Jim Fingal and author John D’Agata.) Radcliffe takes the job with charming seriousness and a very appropriate humility.

"Hi, Justin. I’m Dan, at The New Yorker," Radcliffe began, twiddling a red pencil. "Some of these questions are going to feel very boring and prosaic to you," he warned. "So bear with me. First off, your surname: is that spelled B-A-Z-D-A-R-I-C-H?" (It is.) "Does the restaurant serve guacamole?" (Yes.) "In the dip itself, would it be right to say there are chilies in adobo and cilantro?" (No adobo, but yes to the cilantro.) "Is there a drink you serve there, a Paloma?" (Yes.) "And that’s pale, pink, and frothy, I believe?" (Correct.) "Is brunch at your place—which, by the way, sounds fantastic—served seven days a week?" (Yes.) "That’s great news," Radcliffe said, "for the accuracy of this, and for me."
Relax, Ladies. Don’t Be So Uptight. You Know You Want It

I’d completely forgotten about that crazy-awful scene from It, the one where “An 11-year-old girl has sex with six boys, one after another!”, which is the point of this essay by Anastasia Basil: when everything is water, you don’t notice that you’re drowning. A revealing tour of the cultural and historic touchpoints in the 80s and 90s that shaped today’s voters, and a critical reminder to keep swimming hard for the surface, even when the waves get big.

Look, I get it. I was 20 years old in 1990. After my boyfriend punched me in the eye, he cried too. I held him until he felt better. I told friends I’d stupidly walked into the corner of an open cabinet. Because, like the Washington Post in 1990, I understood it was my job to help men feel better about themselves. It was my job to understand that their gross, abusive language was just locker room talk. Most men don’t mean to hit us or rape us or verbally abuse us. They don’t really want gay people strung up and hung. It’s just a macho act, you know? Like the Diceman. Besides, if women don’t like that sort of thing, why do they go for guys like that? Or vote them into office? Or make them Supreme Court justices?

The Sunday Post for October 7, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

Brett Kavanaugh and the Information Terrorists Trying to Reshape America

You’ll remember most of the events covered by Molly McKew in this piece — Gamergate, Pizzagate, QAnon — but here’s a chance to see them outside the punch of outrage and understand the social movement that ties them together, a movement that elected Donald Trump and confirmed Brett Kavanaugh. Actually “social movement” is the wrong term: McKew’s point is that the enabler here is a kind of information system that’s entirely new, and which the old systems are entirely unprepared to fight.

This has all taken on a new heady energy as pushback to #MeToo — and riding the coattails of the conspiracy bandwagon. But the intent is the same: to demonize the opponent, define identity, activate the base around emotional rather than rational concepts, and build a narrative that can be used to normalize marginal and radical political views. It is, after all, very convenient to have a narrative positing that all your political opponents are part of a secret cabal of sexual predators, which thus exonerates your side by default.

This is the ideological landscape that has been so swiftly leveraged in the defense of Brett Kavanaugh.

Orthodoxxed!

Now move into Greg Afinogenov’s analysis of the scholarly hoax revealed by its perpetrators last week and aimed at undercutting what the hoaxers call “grievance studies,” which is to say academic studies related to sexism, racism, and other kinds of marginalization. We’ve lost track of the difference between punching up and punching down. A convenient confusion for people terrified of fighting on a level playing field.

The orthodoxy these men represent is not an orthodoxy of scientific legitimacy but rather the emerging consensus of tech bros, Davos billionaires, and alt-right misogynists. Each of these groups has its own reasons to hate feminist and other critical scholarship—whether for ideological reasons, positivist data fetishism, or the perception that they are uncommodifiable and hence worthless. It has thus been easy for them to find common cause in fighting the old Sokal specter of academic postmodernism that supposedly still dominates academia. At stake in the hoax, then, is precisely the question of whether it is “grievance studies” that is Goliath and methodological “common sense” that is David, or vice-versa.
It's OK to Be a Writer and a __

Laurie Patton, college president and poet, debunks the idea that it’s more courageous, or proper, to be solely one or the other. A gentle essay, but resolute against the idea that there’s anything a “real” writer does or doesn’t do.

The Tanpura Principle in writing is the idea that much of writing occurs while doing something else, because the base of poetic inspiration, the supporting drone, is always there. It's what my friend meant when she quipped that even a budget could be a poem. She did not mean that one had to ruthlessly integrate identities in order to make oneself intelligible to the outside world, but that in poetry there was a kind of harmonic listening that could occur anywhere, and in any way.
The Woman Who Made Aquaman a Star

Gwynne Watkins interviews comics legend Ramona Fradon, the artist who created one of Aquaman’s most iconic looks. Fradon worked in the 1950s and 1970s, and you get the feeling the tidbits she drops about observing the male-dominated profession are just the tip of an iceberg of tasty gossip.

Fradon has talent and guts and cuttingly quick wit — and a healthy skepticism of certain segments of her audience.

Fradon couldn't be nicer, but she has the canniness of a woman who survived the some of the nation's hardest decades — and the pressures of an all-male industry — by her own wits. I confess to her that I'm only a casual comics reader; my husband is the one with a passion for superhero stories. "Could you explain that to me?" she asks with a smile. "I just do not understand the grown men who are so into comics."
Man-eaters

An absolutely engrossing excerpt from Brian Phillips’ Impossible Owls about searching for tigers in India. As Phillips re-traces the route of a famous hunter’s most famous kill, the great cats emerge from the negative space, an absence forced into bloody presence by the encroachment of human habitat (and human poaching). What is natural and what is not? Does “conservation” apply to an animal that hunts us?

One day I had been shown a newly built wall. It separated, I was told, the reserve from one of the villages. If a tiger killed a cow or an ox outside the reserve, the villagers were entitled to compensation from the government. If it killed one inside the reserve, they were not. Villagers whose cattle were killed in the reserve had been caught dragging the carcass into their own yards in order to claim the payment, and so the government had built the wall, not to stop tigers from attacking the villagers or their cattle, but to stop the villagers from claiming payments they were not owed. Until 2006, it had been illegal for forest dwellers even to own the land they lived on; the law had been changed over furious objections from conservationists. I was beginning to perceive that not everyone living in this scenario might feel a strong passion for wildlife conservation. I was beginning to think that preserving nature for the next generation might seem a less academic notion in New York than on the threshold of the actual jungle  —  how under certain circumstances it might sound like a mystifying collection of words, and how it might in fact sound more mystifying the closer to "nature" one came.

The Sunday Post for September 30, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

Murmuration: The sound of many voices speaking, quietly alone but deafeningly together. The sight of multitudes in flight coming abruptly into sync. An emergence into visibility; a rising up. An uprising.

Speak Truth to Power

Lacy M. Johnson on speaking out about sexual assault. In addition to her own story — of finding her tongue, and the hostile backlash from male peers, the discomfort of other women — she reminds us of what boys-will-be-boys looks like to women who are violated privately, then publicly, by their assaulters.

All across the country this situation is replicated with slight variations: a woman reports rape, is told that boys will be boys; a woman reports rape, is not believed. She is shamed. She is ostracized, traumatized, and retraumatized. At best, the woman’s life is forever and irrevocably changed. At worst, she self-destructs. Men, however, seem to thrive in a culture in which they can rape women with near impunity.

I know, I know. Not all men.

Everything I can remember.

Jessica Shortall remembers the men in her life.

This week, a man sent me a private message on twitter. I told him I did not want to talk to him. He persisted. I told him to fuck off. He replied that he would “teach” me “what sexual assault means.”
They Don’t Want to Know

Rebecca Solnit on having the power to choose not to know.

What has in the past been subtle is now obvious: this is a battle over whether this will be a country for all of us, a democracy in which everyone matters and all are equal, or a citadel of white male privilege. They are a minority — including babies and boys, white males make up a third of this country — but have majority party and are in a rageful panic about its ebb. This nomination is a power grab for the party committed to representing them at everyone else’s expense. That’s out in the open now; that clarity may mean that even if they win this battle, they’ve committed themselves to losing the war.
What a Good Boy

Rebecca Traister with more on power and how it's preserved, through fear and subjugation.

The lesson of the United States in this moment is that misogyny and racism aren’t disqualifiers. They are the qualities the right wing considers key to their larger project — perhaps, in fact, main selling points. (Especially for their president, who today was reported to have loved Kavanaugh’s blustering, aggressive attitude toward his questioners).

After all, the reason that Republicans want to jam through Kavanaugh’s nomination is that as a member of the Supreme Court he’ll be able to help create the mechanisms that determine which kinds of Americans have rights, protections, autonomy, and power.

"I Was Ashamed”

Emily Jane Fox talks to Holton-Arms alums, women who attended the same private school as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, women whose experiences have an eerie familiarity. A blunt article, whose force grows directly from its straightforward, unemotional reporting.

Many witnessed moments like the one Ford described, or heard about them, or experienced them firsthand. “When I first read the story on Sunday, I said, ‘Of course this happened,’” a woman who graduated from Holton in the early 2000s told me. “This happened so much that there was nothing difficult to believe about what she’s saying. How could anyone doubt this? It felt personal to a lot of us, because her story is so similar to a lot of ours, and so the attacks on her felt personal.”
Trouble in Lakewood

Finally, a flashback to 1993, to Joan Didion, to Lakewood, California, to the tactics so readily used by certain men to discredit and disarm women who have been brutally harmed.

One of the ugliest and most revelatory of the many ugly and revelatory moments that characterized the television appearances of Spur Posse members this spring occurred on “Jane Whitney,” when a nineteen-year-old Lakewood High graduate named Chris Albert (“Boasts He Has 44 ‘Points’ for Having Sex with Girls”) turned mean with a member of the audience, a young black woman who had tried to suggest that the Spurs on view were not exhibiting what she considered native intelligence.

“I don’t get—I don’t understand what she’s saying,” Chris Albert at first said, letting his jaw go slack, as these boys tended to do when confronted with an unwelcome, or in fact any, idea.

Another Spur interpreted: “We’re dumb. She’s saying we’re dumb.”

"What education does she have?" Chris Albert then snarled, and tensed against his chair, as if trying to shake himself alert. "Where do you work at? McDonald's? Burger King?" A third Spur tried to interrupt, but Chris Albert, once roused, could not be deflected: "$5.25? $5.50?" And then there it was, the piton, driven in this case into not granite but shale: "I go to college."

Murmuration. A rising up of many voices. An emergence into visibility.

An uprising.

The Sunday Post for September 23, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

Alone with Elizabeth Bishop

Biographies of Elizabeth Bishop have always been both necessary reading and an unwanted intrusion for me. I believe this is true for many who connect with the deeply private poet’s work — our affection drives competing desires to know her better, to protect her from being known, and to know her only as we know her, without the necessary intrusion of the biographer’s voice.

So I love and respect Gabrielle Bellot’s ability to reclaim a personal relationship with Bishop in this essay, which draws on Megan Marshall’s revelatory recent biography without being overwhelmed by the biographer’s narrative. A beautiful short piece about how being good at being alone can be a survival skill, especially for those whose selves are unacceptable to the mores of their time.

In the worlds I imagined, I was a girl with another girl — or, once in a while, a boy — at my side. In my time alone, I learned to sail away, as Bishop did, to an elsewhere-place — and sometimes I think I would not have survived if I had not had the outlet of my alone time, my imagination. My solitude nourished my writing, and writing often helped me cope, but it couldn’t take away my depression from feeling that I was living an ugly lie. At my lowest point before coming out as trans, I was about to end my life by drinking poison — and then, unlike Bishop, I decided I had to take the risk of openly living my truth. I came out in my mid-twenties, having chosen to stay in America rather than return home, since America, at least, seemed to offer me a chance to live as that woman-loving woman of my constant dreams. But without what Bishop identified, the deep saving grace of quietude, I doubt I would have lived long enough to come out at all.
No, I Will Not Debate You

After The New Yorker banned Steve Bannon from its festival, The Economist faced public pushback when they invited Bannon to their Open Future Festival. In the end, they stood by their man, and lost several woman panelists, including Laurie Penny, because of it.

Characteristically, the internet indulged in endless hand-wringing about both invitations and both decisions. Characteristically, Penny cuts right through the noise.

Steve Bannon, like the howling monster from the id he ushered into the White House, exploits the values of the liberal establishment by offering an impossible choice: betray their stated principles (free, open debate) or dignify fascism and white supremacy. This weaponizes tolerance to legitimize intolerance. If we deny racists a platform, they feed off the appearance of censorship, but if we give them a platform, they’ve also won by being respectfully invited into the penumbra of mainstream legitimacy. Either way, what matters to them is not debate, but airtime and attention. They have no interest in winning on the issues. Their image of a better world is one with their face on every television screen.
Some interpersonal verbs, conjugated by gender

This, by Alexandra Petri, is a furious and brilliantly mimetic examination of assault, privilege, and weaponized grammar.

It happens. It happened. It was a long time ago.
She waits. She says nothing.
She should not have waited. She should not have said nothing.
She remembers it happened. She remembers it happened to her. She remembers he did something.
She says something.
The Brilliant, Playful, Bloodthirsty Raven

Helen MacDonald, author of H Is for Hawk, reviews Christopher Skaife’s account of his work as ravenmaster of the Tower of London. Full of tasty corvid gossip and playful bloodlust, with a bit of history and politics to hold it all together.

Skaife calls attention to the birds’ beautiful contradictions. In sunlight their dark feathers shine with the iridescence of oil on water. They can be friendly, curious, even loving. In the wild they’ll take turns sliding down snowbanks and make toys out of sticks. At the Tower they play games of KerPlunk, pulling the straws free from the tube to retrieve a dead mouse as their prize. Yet, as that special raven edition of KerPlunk suggests, they’re also birds of gothic darkness and gore, the birds that followed Viking raiders in quest of fresh corpses and that feasted on executed bodies hung from roadside gibbets. You might visit Skaife’s charges in the Tower and watch, entranced, as they gently preen each other’s nape feathers, murmuring in their soft raven idiolect — but you might also see them gang up to ambush a pigeon and eat it alive.
The Disappeared

On a very different note, Hannah Dreier reports this week on the serial gang murders of teenagers in Long Island’s immigrant community — largely without interference by the police, who called the crimes “misdemeanor murder.” Carlota Moran is the mother of one of the dead children, her son Miguel tricked into the woods and then slaughtered with a blow to the head and a machete. For months she looked for Miguel, and for help from any public agency, facing if anything active resistance from the local police. Then the gangs killed two girls from the rich side of town.

The murders made national news. Trump hailed the girls’ parents and invited them to his State of the Union speech. The Suffolk County Police Department came under intense pressure to solve the case. It posted signs offering a $15,000 reward for help catching the killers. Officers went door-to-door asking for tips. Over the summer, Suffolk officials had rejected an offer to start an anti-gang program for immigrant teenagers in Brentwood, according to two people familiar with the episode. Now, they called the organizer back and asked how soon she could get it running. Police arrested dozens of suspected MS-13 members and mapped out the local cliques. Within days, they were searching the woods with German Shepherds and shovels.

The Sunday Post for September 16, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

Tensions in Seattle Somali Communities Lead to Author’s Cancellation

Call Me American, Abdi Nor Iftin’s just-published memoir about his experiences as a child during the civil war in Somalia and his long journey to the United States, should have been a feel-good story. As Rich Smith reports, the book’s own journey has been one of conflict rather than celebration, with events cancelled first in Portland, Maine (where Iftin lives) and now at Seattle’s Town Hall. A surprisingly complicated story about representation, community pride, and the very different sensitivities of the literary and development sectors.

In an e-mail, a spokesperson for Town Hall says they canceled because the organizations they'd partnered with for the event pulled out, including "a notable Somali organization" that didn't want to participate "in something they see as dividing their community."

Town Hall had hoped to "facilitate a conversation in partnership with Forterra [a conservation organization] and representatives of the local Somali community," according to their spokesperson. But Forterra, who had served as the liaison between local Somali communities, pulled out after receiving complaints about Nor Iftin.

Why Did the New York Review of Books Publish That Jian Ghomeshi Essay?

Meanwhile, in the same week that Harper's published a self-serving account of social and professional ostracization by John Hockenberry, the New York Review of Books has an issue about #MeToo devoted entirely to men, including a defense of Jian Ghomeshi by ... Jian Ghomeshi. Slate's Isaac Chotioner asked editor Ian Buruma why.

Was there a gender breakdown during the discussion?


I would say not necessarily just in this particular case. I would say that on issues to do with #MeToo and relations between men and women and so on, there isn’t so much a gender breakdown as there is a generational one. I think that is generally true. I don’t think our office is in any way unusual. I think people over 40 and under 40 often have disagreements about this.


How old are you?


I’m 66.

To Restore Civil Society, Start With the Library

Recently the Ballard branch of the Seattle Public Library installed bars across the concrete blocks outside its doors that are meant to deter homeless people from sitting, sleeping, or otherwise taking refuge near the building. As Seattle’s homeless population grows, the city’s library system has struggled to define how service to this and other marginalized groups fits into its mission — especially how to balance it against service to other stakeholders.

Finding that balance, though hard, could be critical to the survival of libraries as an institution. As sociologist Eric Klinenberg tracks in this essay, the value libraries provide as a civic commons is much harder to duplicate than their most familiar service (access to books and other media). A library that protects its most privileged patrons at the cost of others is less valuable — and more at risk.

As recipients of public funding, Seattle’s libraries are vulnerable to public opinion. Given a choice between supporting our libraries’ ability to serve the broadest possible range of citizens — or putting them in the crossfire of one of our most virulent debates about public policy — what will we choose?

The openness and diversity that flourish in neighborhood libraries were once a hallmark of urban culture. But that has changed. Though American cities are growing more ethnically, racially and culturally diverse, they too often remain divided and unequal, with some neighborhoods cutting themselves off from difference — sometimes intentionally, sometimes just by dint of rising costs — particularly when it comes to race and social class.

Libraries are the kinds of places where people with different backgrounds, passions and interests can take part in a living democratic culture. They are the kinds of places where the public, private and philanthropic sectors can work together to reach for something higher than the bottom line.

Pa. prison books and mail policies draw protests, petitions, and possible legal challenges

Here’s another from the “yes, this is really hard, but seriously” pool: in Philadelphia, people have been smuggling drugs and other contraband into prisons inside of books, so the prisons are barring book donations to prisoners.

The Department of Corrections isn’t trying to ban books. They’re just trying to limit how prisoners lay hands on them — through channels that the prison controls. As a byproduct, prisoners may no longer have access to free books, instead paying for them from wages of less than a dollar per hour.

Critics see the DOC rules as part of the same "war on books" — and they are hoping to achieve the same reversal here. To that end, they’ve already set up online petitions and planned a day of action for Friday to flood state officials and lawmakers with phone calls. Organizations including the Pennsylvania ACLU and the Pittsburgh-based Abolitionist Law Center that have sued the DOC successfully in the past said they are evaluating the situation.

"We’re already starting to get a lot of complaints," said the Abolitionist Law Center’s Bret Grote. "It was only a few days into this in which it became clear to me that this is almost certainly going to result in years of protracted litigation, and it’s going to become a defining moment in the future of prisons in this state."

The Sunday Post for September 2, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

The Needles and the Damage Done

Aaron Timm’s essay on New York’s “supertalls” — skyscrapers that crest 1,000, even 1,500 feet, intended primarily for residential use — made me wonder about Seattle’s own trajectory. The Columbia Center is still our tallest, at just under 1,000, and nothing in the works will compete for the title. The proposed 4/C project would have taken us over the 1,000-foot mark, but the FAA relentlessly cut it down to size. Little has been heard from disheartened developer Crescent Heights since 2016.

But pure height isn’t the story. Residential height is, and the possibility that supertalls will host the superrich, an earthly Elysium. It’s an eerie JG Ballard-ish idea — that the tech elite might simply, literally, rise above the rest of us. We shape our spaces, and they shape us in return, for better and sometimes for worse.

Cities change, of course they do; but what matters is for whom they change, and at what cost. Demolition, displacement, accommodation, and compromise are the conditions of urban life. But the city of the supertalls is engineered to take its denizens beyond these conditions, to deliver them into frictionlessness. It’s a place of moonshot wealth, skinny buildings, no resistance, and no surprises; a city that’s not really a city at all, but its own comfortable superstate.
On Not Being Able to Read

When we think about how we read these days, it’s mostly to despair over our deteriorating attention spans and hurl curses at our internet overlords (no irony here for the Sunday Post). But maybe our reading brains are more resilient than we think, more tied to who we are and what we value, not so ready to release us.

Law school tried to teach Tajja Isen another way to read, but her reading brain fought back, and eventually led her away from the law. It’s a lovely idea, rendered without sentiment here, that the way we read (not just what we read) can be part of our resistance — to wrong choices, to wrong ideas, to ways of being that are inimicable to who we are.

A few nights a week, I’d make a feeble attempt at proving the world wrong, swimming up through my exhaustion to pick up a novel and push through its pages. Sentences were newly terrifying; tiny minefields of meaning where I might miss a principle I’d later be called upon to produce, freshly plucked. I labored for months over what had once taken me days. I told myself that this was pleasure; that these motions were sufficient proof that I hadn’t allowed myself to be drained of joy and filled with something else.
Why the President Must Be Impeached

If I ever have to walk through a swamp at night, stepping uncertainly for solid ground and listening for the quiet splash of a reptile in the water nearby (does anyone else find Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise infinitely more terrifying than the jovial Haunted Mansion?), may Rebecca Solnit be my guide. Here she oulines in crisp, certain paragraphs the case for impeaching Donald Trump, taking us step by step through the murk of corruption and distraction of the past few months. It’s hard to think of anyone other than Solnit who could use these giddy, run-on sentences to both recreate the desperate feel of the chaotic news cycle and map our way through it.

It was hard to remember, with the over-the-top corruption of Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort frothing up like a badly poured beer, to keep track of the conspiratorial roles of Roger Stone and George Papadopoulos, long after everyone had forgotten all about Carter Page, who’d been reported as a foreign agent by US intelligence while he was toddling about Russia and maybe making some secret deals with the oil company Rosneft, or Michael Flynn, who’d been the first to be fired for corruption, and who’d been convicted for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, but whose sentence was being held up because he might have further use for the Special Counsel investigation.

The Sunday Post for September 2, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

The New Reading Environment

Writer, editor, reader. On the internet, the small sins of each add up until real communication is impossible. The editors of n+1 have a thoughtful piece that looks at how a new way of reading — in which we’ve all become like that annoying boor at a party who listens only with an ear to what he’ll say next — shapes what gets published and how.

This is such a good call to action to all of us: to remain alert, to remain thoughtful, not to let “outrage is a sign of consequence” be the register in which we read.

To be a reader is to suffer. The endless call-and-response that leaves writers forever relitigating their work . . . all this is for our sake? In the not so distant past, we could sit with an article and decide for ourselves, in something resembling isolation, whether it made any sense or not. Now the frantic give-and-take leaves us with little sovereignty over our own opinions. We load up Twitter to discover some inscrutable debate (“Why is everyone fighting about the Enlightenment?”), usually over a series of misinterpretations, which in the space of an hour or two has ended friendships and caused major figures to leave the platform.
Stephen Colbert connects Chance the Rapper & Childish Gambino to the Lord of the Rings

Hat tip to Jason Kottke for linking to this utterly charming short video of Stephen Colbert drawing a throughline, with immense passion and slight sheepishness, from the prosody of Childish Gambino through Gilbert and Sullivan all the way back to Tolkien. Don’t think you want to watch video this morning? Can I change your mind by pointing out that Colbert recites lines from all three?

Kottke is a bit hard on Colbert’s use of the word “rare” to describe the particular pattern his ear picked out. I’d gently submit that there’s a lot more to rhythm and rhyme than, well, rhythm and rhyme — the unique earprint of a line of verse or song is made up of the interaction of so many sound patterns and its emotional tenor and the experience and trained or untrained ear of the listener. In other words, Stephen Colbert is clearly right, and Jason Kottke is clearly, and I never thought I’d say this, wrong. (But “superbly nerdy” — yes indeed.)

I wonder about the “rare” bit though . . . rappers packing songs with internal rhymes is not a new thing nor is referencing Gilbert & Sullivan in hip-hop. Still, this is superbly nerdy.
The Allure of the Rose and the Bow

In a very few words, Emily Schulten perfect captures the waking-in-Eden devastation that happens when a child learns her body is shameful, and even more poignant, that she isn’t the one who defines whether it is or isn’t.

When I leave the bedroom, I stay close to the hallway’s stone wall. Back upstairs, I take my time. I look at the tangled elastic and stitching of the bra, the X-patterned front of it. I pick it up, feel its weight between my fingertips. I hate it. I unbutton my uniform, pull a binding across one shoulder, then the next, contort one shoulder toward my ear and around to my back to make the tight straps reach. I fold both arms behind my back so they will meet to fasten the eye-hooks. I can feel the weight of the thing. It’s heavier now.

The Sunday Post for August 26, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

Crying in H Mart

Michelle Zauner’s essay about H Mart has been everywhere this week. Zauner transforms a chain supermarket with a food court into something rich and compelling, a touchstone for remembrance and her Korean heritage. It’s a lovely piece about loss, loneliness, and home — but what makes it extraordinary is how she weights it with empathy, extending her imagination into other lives while on her weekly pilgrimage to the place that reminds her most of her mother.

It’s a beautiful, holy place. A cafeteria full of people from all over the world who have been displaced in a foreign country, each with a different history. Where did they come from and how far did they travel? Why are they all here? To find the galangal no American supermarket stocks to make the Indonesian curry that their father loves? To buy the rice cakes to celebrate Jesa and honor the anniversary of their loved one’s passing? To satisfy a craving for tteokbokki on a rainy day? Were they moved by a memory of some drunken, late-night snack under a pojangmacha tent in Incheon?
Ode to Grey

Seattle’s not a grey city or a melancholy one, but we host our share of the color — its absence in July just as defining as its presence in December. It’s a constant thread through the urban psyche, a backdrop to all sorts of brightness. Meghan Flaherty defends grey, and those who love it, making stops along the way to explore the history of the color wheel, photography, and the tyranny of sunny weather.

Ask any schoolkid to list the colors of the rainbow, and she’ll singsong you through your ROYGBIV. Seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Newton started out with five, then added orange and indigo to sync with music — one for every step between one tonic and the next along a major scale. (Aristotle had seven colors also, but his scale stretched from white to black, not red to violet, and included yellow, crimson, violet, leek green, and deep blue.) Then there are the eleven standard colors taught in schools, which add black, white, brown, pink, and (my beloved) gray. It feels like an addendum, consolation for a color overlooked and undersung.
The Trouble with Dogs for a Writer

I’ve never before posted a piece simply because I found it unlikeable — so blame, perhaps, a too-bitter cup of coffee this morning, or the mass of laundry waiting to be done? Whatever the cause, this immense objectionable run-on by Karl Ove Knausgaard is almost self-parody, should be self-parody, maybe is self-parody. Maybe that’s the point, or maybe Knausgaard fans would claim that to be the point that I’m missing.

Or maybe it’s just that I rather like dogs.

It didn’t help that, as a human being, I was intellectually and, presumably, also emotionally superior to the dog — that I knew how to read and write, draw and paint, tie my shoelaces, butter my bread, buy sweets at the shop, and take the bus on my own — for the loud, aggressively monotonous sounds it made trumped all that; when I stood there facing it only those sounds mattered. The dog’s barks were like a kind of law, they marked a boundary I couldn’t cross, and it was the dog that enforced it. The kinship with my father’s law was obvious, since the feelings his loud voice awakened in me, all of them connected with an inability to act, that paralysis of fear, were the same as those produced by the dog’s barking. Defying the law wasn’t just unthinkable, it was impossible. That this was so made me a subordinate, which was something I knew even then, that I had the character traits of a subordinate, and more than anything else this has marked the forty years I have lived since then.
Do Men Enter Bathtubs on Hands and Knees So Their Balls Hit the Water Last?

Did you think this was a serious, high-minded weekly list of links? Wrong. If we can’t all laugh at Kelly Conaboy’s straight-faced investigation into a deeply silly question, Donald Trump truly has destroyed America. Conaboy skewers us all in this piece, including the anxious mother whose post to a baby board spawned her inquiry, but so gently and with such good humor that you’ll barely feel it.

Slightly NSFW — especially if your workplace is offended by audible snorts of laughter.

Perhaps it is not a question for doctors or children, however, and instead a question for bathtub manufacturers. Has bathtub design taken into account the fragility of a man’s balls, and if so, how? Do bathtub manufacturers have a suggested way of entering the bath, for men? Had they done research into how men enter bathtubs before designing their bathtubs and, if so, could they share any of that research with me? I reached out to several and, again, surprisingly to me, I did not hear back from most.

The Sunday Post for August 19, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

KEXP pays tribute to Aretha Franklin

There’s been plenty of great writing about Aretha Franklin published in the last few days, but my pick this week is John Richards and DJ Riz’s tribute to the Queen of Soul. When I turned on KEXP on Thursday morning, I knew immediately what the top headline was — and it felt right to hear it from them first. They created an essay from her songs, telling you what they thought and loved about her work, teaching you things you didn't know about her. You can stream it right here, if you aren't already (why aren't you?).

Fuck You, Death: Thoughts on Finishing My Friend's Last Book

This short piece by Anders Nilsen is punctuated by gorgeous illustrations — not by him, though; by his friend, the artist Geneviève Castrée. After Castrée‘s death, Nilsen took on the project of completing the book she’d been making while she was ill. Most of the work was small; a line here, a patch of color there. But Castrée had left one of the book’s most significant elements undone, and Nilsen had to negotiate a truce between their styles to finish it. His writing about the process is filled with humility, grief, and admiration.

I started working, intending to simply mimic her style as closely as I possibly could.

I couldn't. I tried painting them in gouache, I tried colored pencil, I tried drawing digitally in photoshop. It felt as though I was drifting further from the goal with every attempt. They at once failed to blend in with her own line and color, and also seemed to loom clumsily over it like a drunk uncle.

I draw things badly in my own comics all the time, and it feels extremely uncomfortable. Getting Geneviève's bubbles wrong in this particular book felt worse than criminal.

Fatal Naming Rituals

Poet Billy-Ray Bellcourt on how not to write about Indigenous writing, a tutorial on and a warning against description. The language of this is completely immersive, entangling, as aural as it is visual. Give it your time.

Say forgiveness. With a maw full of smoke, say the aftermath of history. Hold our books in your slippery hands with the ever-loudening fact of their eschewal of the violence of a reading practice that makes a feast out of "a choreography of mangled bodies." Mouth the word "enemy," but do not enunciate it, for it is not a subject position worth keeping in the world. Living as we do in the charred remnants of a time during which the voices of Indigenous peoples were siphoned out of the theatres of culture and into the wastelands of law and order, you, a white and settler you, are beholden to a project of lessening the trauma of description.
Hatebook

Facebook! So multitalented. While the massive social media company was quietly helping Donald Trump into power, they were also providing a platform for hate speech to incite violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar. A new report by Reuters explores the mechanisms by which Facebook failed to uphold its own standards for allowable “content,” despite full awareness of the extent and impact of the problem. Here, “impact” is a stand-in for “genocide,” and “mechanisms” is a stand-in for “unwilling to invest despite having every ability to do so.”

Keep in mind, we’re not talking about Facebook as we know it in America. We’re talking about a Facebook that has a specific goal of bringing the Internet to developing countries, not as a social good, but because doing so offers them a unique kind of dominance. As the report says, in Myanmar, Facebook “is the Internet.”

I know the Internet is really outrage-y right now, and I’m not encouraging you to feel outrage over this. I am encouraging you to feel deep anger, to ask what might be unforgiveable, and then to keep making decisions about the platforms you use that reflect the world you want to live in.

Many of the millions of items flagged globally each week – including violent diatribes and lurid sexual imagery – are detected by automated systems, Facebook says. But a company official acknowledged to Reuters that its systems have difficulty interpreting Burmese script because of the way the fonts are often rendered on computer screens, making it difficult to identify racial slurs and other hate speech.

Facebook's troubles are evident in a new feature that allows users to translate Burmese content into English. Consider a post Reuters found from August of last year.

In Burmese, the post says: "Kill all the kalars that you see in Myanmar; none of them should be left alive."

Facebook's translation into English: "I shouldn't have a rainbow in Myanmar."

(By the way — while “honey badger” might seem like a great name for a secretive operation to mop up hate speech — referencing an animal that relentlessly hunts down out prey living invisibly underground — does anyone believe staff at Facebook didn’t think of the old meme and chuckle to themselves? They truly don’t give a shit.)

The Sunday Post for August 5, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

Biking thousands of miles to my friends’ weddings, I found what makes me free

Past Seattle Review of Books contributor Tessa Hulls’s essay on biking to weddings — I mean, biking hundreds of miles to weddings, not biking-downtown-from-Ballard — is an eloquent exploration of independence. Hulls built her own machine to leave an engagement that was overcast with anger. Then she used it to establish a relationship with the world in which the boundaries are entirely hers, as much as they ever can be.

Ever since I made that first escape, my body has felt too small to contain its sense of wonder for the world and for how much of it I have been able to see. In all the places I’ve been and the moments I’ve witnessed, I’ve almost always been alone. I relish solitude, but I have often longed for a partner to help shoulder some of the beauty and the weight. There have been men over the years — men I shared sleeping bags with, men with whom I watched the Northern Lights, men who brewed coffee as I broke down the tent. But none of them ever made me feel free.
We Must Let Go of the Whale Who Will Not Let Go of Her Dead Baby

The internet took poets seriously last week, to the surprise and dismay of the poets involved. Also, a baby whale died. Charles Mudede gently deflates our collective mourning for the whale and its mom, and the poetry they inspired, with the driest kind of wit, the kind that comes from a too-painfully-perfect understanding.

The poem is by Paul E. Nelson. It's not bad at all (though I'm no expert in such matters). It contains one or two respectable lines. It has some restraint, though the bit about the princess whale is almost a bit much. It does its best not to speak for the grieving sea mother, whose name is Tahlequah (or J35). Nevertheless the poem itself is a sure sign that things have really gone too far. The whales' over-grieving has become over-reading and over-writing for the language ape.
Community Plumbing

Mudede takes some of the air out of Seattle sentimentality, including our desire to carry the Showbox and other beloved businesses on our rostrums as we swim through the Sound … Shannon Mattern’s essay about Crest True Value Hardware, an independent hardware store in Brooklyn, puts the air back (a bit) — reminding us that our regret isn’t just about sentiment.

Building a small business is a craft, itself: choosing products that both sell and offer real value to the customer; designing the layout and making sure it evolves over time as the business does; engaging with the community. Independent businesses bring something to a sale beyond the exchange of cash for commodity. And that’s not just romance or mawkishness — Mattern isn’t a hipster elegist; she has hardware heritage, and a killer knowledge of general-store history to share. A long read but an excellent counterbalance.

(Hat tip to Tim Carmody at Kottke.org for this one.)

In Joe’s telling, there is a reciprocal relation between the hardware store and the neighborhood it supplies. Those plank floors might seem as if they were buried beneath the old tile, just waiting to be exposed, but actually the wood was reclaimed from nearby buildings damaged by Hurricane Sandy. “We wear those floors almost like a badge of honor,” he told me. Similarly, the counters were sourced from a former employee (now a local firefighter) who was renovating his home. “That live edge: you can tell they’ve been somewhere,” Joe said. “And for the last hundred years they’ve lived less than a quarter-mile away, holding up somebody’s building.”

This is a vision of the hardware store as episteme. It holds (and organizes) the tools, values, and knowledges that bind a community and define a worldview. There’s a material and social sensibility embodied in the store, its stuff, and its service, and reflected in the diverse clientele. That might sound a bit lofty for a commercial establishment that sells sharp objects and toxic chemicals. But the ethos is palpable. (And profitable, too.)

The Sunday Post for July 29, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

This week’s Sunday Post is a recorded message. The Sunday Post is sitting by a river; in fact the Sunday Post has her feet in the river and a book in her hand. But she doesn’t have a cell connection or wifi.

So although this column is supposed to be the best of the past week’s internet reading, that’s not going to work. I’m in a spot where major events include “wow, I really thought that bee was dead!” and “did you see the weird shape of that rock?” — not “HOLY CATS IT’S THE END OF THE FREE WORLD … AGAIN.”

When I took on the Sunday Post, I didn’t read much that wasn’t printed on a page. I didn’t follow Twitter (now I have multiple lists); I didn’t have a newsreader (now it's Feedly, and it works okay, not great). Donald Trump had only just been elected, and the news cycle was only just feeling the first hit of that drug — starting to hear its heart pound in its ears. (Oh, news cycle, we are so, so sorry.) I did not at all understand the river I was putting my feet into.

There’s a lot of great writing on the Internet, and I let a lot of it flow through me every week to try to find a few things other people might want to read too. Sometimes it’s a delight, and then suddenly sometimes it’s not.

It's similar to staying in Elliott Bay or Powell’s for too long — that tipping point between “oh my god, all the words!” and “oh my god. all the words.” Words that investigate politics, the heart, the author’s childhood. Words that profile people and places and animals. Words that are angry — a lot of angry words, these past eighteen months, some restrained and analytic, some furious, some in mourning.

They’re all worthwhile but they’re all coming at us so fast, it could knock you off your feet. I don’t know about you, but I can’t put the internet down. I’m mainlining that son of a bitch.

This week’s articles have all appeared in the Sunday Post before, or should have. They’re the essays that I remember, without looking back at the archives, because reading them was an event, a thing that happened, like the sun startling a bee awake and into flight.

And the words in these essays make everything stop. They’re absorptive in the way that reading on the page is — they aren’t necessarily quiet, but they pull you into that quiet place. These are some of the hardest pieces to feature each week, because all I really have to say about them is: read this.

This week’s Sunday Post says, even more than usual, read this.

In the meantime, where I am today, all the words are back on the page, and their speed is set to the pace of slow, cold water. Hey — did you see the weird shape of that rock? Cool.

The Survivor’s Guide to Kerouac Country

Kate Lebo on Kerouac and book tours and fear and freedom.

I want sympathy. I want to feel safe. I want to explain why I’m not home in my little Seattle fishing village, which isn’t little anymore, which my friends and I helped make not-little before a new cycle of wealth kicked us out and welcomed people who could afford the new cute neighborhood. What am I trying to say when I explain how, while living in that old Boeing cottage, I couldn’t walk into a grocery store without clucking over a baby plant? That I bought peat pots of lemon verbena instead of clothing or art or shaving cream because growing things made me feel good about living alone? That I loved living alone? That I was miserable. I want to explain how strange it is to walk through a garden without mothering. My home is my body, some poem probably goes. No shit. To feel that way makes the road possible.
Nightingale: A Gloss

Paisley Rekdal on poetry and violation and beauty.

Perhaps the greatest desire a victim of violence has is to look, in memory, at that violence dispassionately. But remembering, the heart pounds, the body floods with adrenaline, ready to tear off into flight. For some, there is no smoothing chaos back into memory. Poetry, with its suggestion that time can be ordered through language, strains to constrain suffering. It suggests, but rarely achieves, the redress we desire. Language does not heal terror, and if it brings us closer to imagining the sufferer’s experience, this too does not necessarily make us feel greater compassion, but a desire for further sensation. If we cannot articulate pain beyond inspiring in the listener a need for revenge, we only speak of and to the body.
My Romantic Life

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore on Seattle and San Francisco and — and — and I still hesitate to try to capture this one with anything but metaphors.

The second time I did porn it was with Zee, when we were boyfriends, and I’d just remembered I was sexually abused, so I was taking a break from sex, but then Zee called me to do the video because his costar showed up too tweaked out — I did it because I needed the money, but then Zee got upset when I couldn’t come, and I felt like a broken toy. Which is how I’d felt with my father. When I walked out into the sun after that first video shoot I just felt totally lost, like I didn’t even know where I was and why was it so hot out, maybe that’s why I felt so dazed.
Hello, Goodbye

Jessica Mooney on saying goodbye.

I don’t know how to say what I mean. As a kid, I mixed up the words for things. Cat, I’d say, pointing at an alarm clock. Taxonomy remains mysterious. Walking around my neighborhood, I don’t know the names of things. Sinister witch-fingered bramble. Orange thing I want to call persimmon. The part of the foot that keeps me upright. The sinewy blue veins under the tongue. How do I not know the basic recipe for standing and speaking?

I love you. I wonder if I hear the words in the same place I hold my missing father. My brain’s translation: goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

The Loneliness of Donald Trump

Rebecca Solnit on the story Donald Trump is living inside.

He was supposed to be a great maker of things, but he was mostly a breaker. He acquired buildings and women and enterprises and treated them all alike, promoting and deserting them, running into bankruptcies and divorces, treading on lawsuits the way a lumberjack of old walked across the logs floating on their way to the mill, but as long as he moved in his underworld of dealmakers the rules were wobbly and the enforcement was wobblier and he could stay afloat. But his appetite was endless, and he wanted more, and he gambled to become the most powerful man in the world, and won, careless of what he wished for.
Twenty-Six Notes on Cannibalism

Anca Szilágyi on Goya and cruelty and art.

That giant, lit by the moon, looks over his shoulder somewhat upward, lonesome.
On Being Driven

Hugo House's newest prose writer in residence, Kristen Millares Young, on the weapon of history.

I worried about going to jail on this island, where he would know everyone watching over me inside. Worried even about stepping into the building to make a report. And what would I have said? That we had a dangerous conversation. That he left bruises on my mind.

That I cursed him. That I cursed him, and he believed it. That I cursed his family, threatened to rain down destruction on their black bodies, invoked centuries of white oppression, and he believed me because he lived that truth.

That I would do it again, and again, and again, just as he hoped to do me.

Night Life

Amy Liptrot on what survival requires for birds, and people.

I keep stopping at places where I heard a male calling last year but I hear nothing. In recent years, there has been a slow and steady upwards trend in numbers, and the RSPB’s Corncrake Initiative was a success story. But this year has been very disappointing: the number of verified male corncrakes calling in Orkney dropped from 32 to just 14. Back in the office, sleep-deprived, I fill in zeroes in my spreadsheets. I am depressed about corncrakes. Somehow it is as if my fate becomes intertwined with that of the bird. I’m trying to cling onto a normal life and stay sober. They are clinging on to existence.
Slow Pan

Bryan Washington on finding yourself in the stories on screen.

The audacity required to ask if we need another gay movie, if we need any more gay movies, transcends thinking altogether. It is a thoughtless question. You only ask it if you’ve seen yourself so ingrained into the culture, into the fabric of the world, that your absence from those seams is unthinkable. You only ask that question if you’ve never been repulsed by yourself, or the idea that anyone like you, anywhere, could be happy. You only ask that question if you don’t know what it means to feel like the only person on the planet.

The Sunday Post for July 22, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

Five women accuse Seattle’s David Meinert of sexual misconduct, including rape

Sydney Brownstone reports on accusations of sexual misconduct against well-known Seattle figure Dave Meinert for incidents ranging over 15 years. This isn’t just a story about allegations of shitty, coercive behavior and worse; it’s also a well-crafted narrative about gaslighting and power — how Meinert’s public persona, progressive and vocal on women’s issues, may have protected him by increasing the inequity of credibility that already favors affluent, high-status men.

Here’s the thing: invading another person’s body has never been okay — as a society, we’ve never said that. What we’ve said (and still do) is that some people have less personhood than others, so invading their bodies is less bad. And if you chose to take advantage of that? Your mistake wasn’t failing to understand the harm you were doing. Your mistake was failing to treat another person like a person. Your mistake was failing to care.

The nuanced, careful reporting in this article is the best kind of counternarrative. Men like Meinert still may not care, but they can be held accountable. Kudos to Brownstone for helping us get there.

The woman decided to file a police report in part because of a Facebook post that Meinert had written on the #MeToo movement — the same post that rankled the business woman who accused him of rape.

Meinert’s post said he wanted his friends to know their sexual assault stories were being heard, and that he was “making a commitment to be more aware and never become complacent or apathetic to this issue.” The post was liked by nearly 200 people.

Meinert’s college friend was amazed by what she believed to be the post’s total lack of self-awareness. In that moment, she wondered if there were others like her.

On Becoming a Person of Color

Rachel Heng is in Seattle this week, touring for her debut novel, Suicide Club. Here’s some pre-reading for those who can attend, and a consolation prize for those who can’t: her essay about becoming other, as a girl growing into a woman, and as a transplant from Singapore to the United States, and the complexity of being seen through multiple lenses, including your own.

When I am called a person of color in America, what do people see? Do they see the invisible privilege of being foreign-born, of having come from a country that afforded me the upward mobility my life benefits from? Do they see that while the color of my skin today renders me a minority in America, I spent most of my early life an oblivious, privileged ethnic majority? Racial privilege in Singapore, like anywhere else, is complex and multi-faceted. The Chinese enjoy certain advantages for being the majority, but this can be further broken down into dialect group, fluency in English and class, with English-speaking Peranakans historically being at the top of the pecking order. While not raised within this specific sub-segment of privilege, through education, I now undoubtedly belong to it when I am in Singapore.

But I do not live in Singapore. I live in America, where on more than one occasion, I have been told to go home. Even as the familiar rage quickens my pulse and makes my hands turn cold, a part of me feels guilty. I think to myself: you, you with all your invisible privileges, who are you to be angry?

Lane Davis's Civil War

Lane Davis lived on Samish Island in his parents’ home, unemployed and by his own assessment without many prospects. But much of his life was lived online, “shit-talking on the internet,” researching, and writing for 4chan-ish sites like The Ralph Retort. Then his anger crossed the thin line between virtual and physical realities, and an altercation with his father ended in murder. A tragic story, reported by Joseph Bernstein, about how hard it is to tease apart the merely awful from the dangerously unstable in the perpetual adolescence of the internet’s alt-right communities.

Writing under the name “Seattle4Truth,” Lane was an indefatigable culture warrior and a wildly inventive conspiracist. He left a footprint online as wide and weird as his imprint on the physical world was small and sad: hundreds of YouTube videos, thousands of tweets, hundreds of blog posts, hundreds of Reddit comments, and most of all years of chats — Slack messages and Google Hangouts — with his fellow travelers.

But none of those people, the ones who called him Seattle, the ones who called him a friend, had met Lane in person. None of them knew, nor would most of them know for months, what he had done to his father. And none of them had any idea what this man they spent all day online with was capable of.

Including me.

The Sunday Post for July 15, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

Peterson's Complaint

“Believe me, you are not too dumb to understand this,” says Laurie Penny, right before slicing Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life and Peterson himself into a paper blizzard of puffery, self-pity, and pretension. It’s a tour de force takedown, every breathlessly brilliant insult backed with rigorous logic, a glorious read for the language alone — and also a determined tug on a needle that’s been moving, a bit, and that a lot of angry people would like to re-set to the status quo.

Angry white male entitlement is the elevator music of our age. Speaking personally, as a feminist-identified person on the internet, my Twitter mentions are full of practically nothing else. I've spent far too much of my one life trying to listen and understand and offer suggestions in good faith, before concluding that it's not actually my job to manage the hurt feelings of men who are prepared to mortgage the entire future of the species to buy back their misplaced pride. It never was. That's not what feminism is about.
Barack Obama's Summer Reading

Barack Obama recommends a short list of books by African authors as he gears up for a trip to sub-Saharan Africa to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. The internet has been very gracious in not snarking about our current president’s reading habits while discussing this list, so I’ll try to do the same. (But seriously. A reading list personally curated by the last leader we had who read at all? Yes, please.)

I've often drawn inspiration from Africa's extraordinary literary tradition. As I prepare for this trip, I wanted to share a list of books that I'd recommend for summer reading, including some from a number of Africa's best writers and thinkers — each of whom illuminate our world in powerful and unique ways.
Hannibal Lecter, My Therapist

Here are two essays that use small, harmless things as a device to explore the deeply personal. First Emily Alford, who transforms a childhood viewing of The Silence of the Lambs into a grown-up meditation on poverty, neglect, and loss.

There are all sorts of reasons to go hungry: because the only food in the refrigerator is a pot of something crusted black at the edges and baked grey and brown in the center, meant to last all week, globbed on top of hardened white rice and reheated to hot, runny goo in a microwave where roaches dart across the gummy insides, legs sticking to squirts of months' worth of runny dinners. To see how long it takes for someone to notice the untouched plastic baggies full of slimy lunch meat that accumulate in a lunch box, warm to the touch by the time they return home uneaten. To become so thin the wind might catch flaps in a too-large tee shirt and send a body someplace else, like a balloon loosed from a bunch. When I was a baby, the doctor measured the length of my spine and promised my mother I'd be tall, she likes to tell me. Instead, I stopped growing right smack at average, never claiming the length of bone that serves as a reward for being one generation away from poor white trash.

"Was your daddy a coal miner? Did he stink of the lamp?" Dr. Lecter asks Clarice Starling.

Sweetness Mattered

Then Aaron Hamburger, for whom a pack of Smarties helps clear the way to reclaiming himself after a brutal rape. Both of these are difficult, excellent, and best read in private, when you can give them plenty of space and time.

My parents were midwestern-friendly, polite, though they became increasingly silent, even stoic, as I recounted my story. I imagined that no one in the room had ever encountered a shameful and bizarre story like mine, or someone foolish or weak enough to allow such a thing to happen to him. This was the kind of crime that happened to women. But then, after what had happened, maybe I wasn't really a man.
Don't imagine you're smarter

Neal Ascherson on the experience of reading a more traditional kind of permanent record — the files kept by the secret police to track suspected spies. Thought-provoking in this era where digital surveillance, both commercial and political, is an unavoidable fact of life.

The crowning mercy of human relations is that we don’t know what other people are really thinking about us. They — those others — decide what redacted selection we are offered. But to read one’s police file is — suddenly — to have the curtain pulled open. The self you think you know becomes a mask, concealing a devious somebody else whose relationships are mere espionage fakes.

The Sunday Post for July 8, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

Survival of the Richest

It’s time for a tech revolution. No, not that revolution — the other one, where we re-write our future without an apocalypse. Here’s media thinker/writer Douglas Rushkoff on the folks who can afford, literally, to be fatalist about where this all is heading. Are we going to sit back and let them build a world only they can survive? Well, are we?

When the hedge funders asked me the best way to maintain authority over their security forces after “the event,” I suggested that their best bet would be to treat those people really well, right now. They should be engaging with their security staffs as if they were members of their own family. And the more they can expand this ethos of inclusivity to the rest of their business practices, supply chain management, sustainability efforts, and wealth distribution, the less chance there will be of an “event” in the first place. All this technological wizardry could be applied toward less romantic but entirely more collective interests right now.

They were amused by my optimism, but they didn’t really buy it. They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they’re convinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future. They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves  —  especially if they can’t get a seat on the rocket to Mars.

Disposable America

Something’s changed lately in the land of iced coffee: the tide of public opinion has turned against the humble and, yes, environmentally harmful drinking straw. Alexis Madrigal traces the utensil’s history (which is sort of like the story of the three little pigs, if their houses had been made of straw, paper, and plastic) and, fascinatingly, its entanglement with the evolution of capitalism in the United States.

Global competition and offshoring enabled by containerized trade was responsible for some of the trouble American manufacturing encountered in the 1970s and 1980s. But the wholesale restructuring of the economy by private-equity firms to narrow the beneficiaries of business operations contributed mightily to the resentments still resounding through the country today. The straw, like everything else, was swept along for the ride.
Expecto patriotism: the magical yet dark world of Russian Harry Potter rip-offs

Apparently, one of the seven basic plots on which all stories are built is Harry Potter. A thriving sub-genre of Russian fiction is looking to capitalize on the incredibly successful series — but with a few tweaks.

In the Porry Hatter series Harley, a rip-off Hagrid, tells Porry, a rip-off Harry, about the house elves, a magical species recently freed from slavery, led by a character known as Martin Luther King Jr. And, controversially, how the elves, after becoming free citizens, became lazy, living solely off crime. This xenophobic attitude might not be exclusively Russian but is still very widespread here. “Ideas of getting a job and becoming a part of our society turned out to be alien to the newly freed house elves, and they, not knowing what to do with all their free time, started to steal, beg, listen to rap music, and — what would you think? — fight with each other,” Harley explains.
The Eugenicist Doctor and the Vast Fortune Behind Trump’s Immigration Regime

A classic “how the money moves” piece by Brendan O’Connor, showing how powerful a single person’s racism and hate can be — if the person has enough money. In this case the person is John Tanton, an ophthalmologist and eugenicist who used someone else’s fortune so effectively to advance the anti-immigration cause that he might be considered the father of our current ICE. Immensely frustrating to see yet another example of just how much money does, and how the very rich can protect their privilege today while shaping a future where their power will continue to consolidate and grow.

Um. Well, we went a little grim there at the end, but it’s a good read regardless.

While the Center for Immigration Studies bills itself as an independent, non-partisan research organization, it is in fact a key node in a small network of think tanks and nonprofits, founded and directed by a man whose private correspondence contains praise for anti-Semites, fascists, and race scientists of various ideological backgrounds, many of whom would go on to figure prominently in today’s so-called alt-right and financed largely by one of the oldest and wealthiest families in America.
Falling Men

No matter how indifferent you are to the World Cup, this essay by Alejandro Chacoff on the art of the fake fall will charm your shin pads off. Honestly, I had to Google just now to see whether the tournament was over so I wouldn’t embarrass myself (more), and I still followed this to the last delightful line. Like the role of the hockey enforcer, taking a dive in soccer/football (your pick) is one of those sociological side-turns that only sports can offer with a straight face. Read on!

Most of my American friends don’t understand why certain players fall at the slightest touch. The dive is something beyond their grasp. It involves two grave infringements of American morality in sports: a willingness to cheat, and the demonstration — perhaps the celebration — of physical weakness and self-pity. (The flop, basketball’s closest equivalent, is less dramatic and tends to be associated with foreign players.) To be strong and athletic, full of skill, and then to break down once you reach the penalty area seems absurd. In many ways it is.

The Sunday Post for July 1, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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 Cultural Vacuum in Trump’s White House

What I love about this bit by Dave Eggers is that it’s not just a potshot at the cultural ignorance of president who, god knows, deserves any potshots that land. Nope: It’s a thoughtful piece that deftly connects Donald Trump’s rejection of the arts to the authoritarian underpinnings of his philosophy. As Eggers notes, no president on either side of the aisle has carried this level of hostility toward intellectual and creative pursuits. This isn’t about political party, it’s about the icy dead space in the soul of an obscenely, mistakenly powerful man.

The White House is now virtually free of music. Never have we had a president not just indifferent to the arts, but actively oppositional to artists. Mr. Trump disparaged the play “Hamilton” and a few weeks later attacked Meryl Streep. He has said he does not have time to read books (“I read passages, I read areas, I read chapters”). Outside of recommending books by his acolytes, Mr. Trump has tweeted about only one work of literature since the beginning of his presidency: Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury.” It was not an endorsement.
In praise of (occasional) bad manners

Freya Johnston reviews, with great historical intelligence, Keith Thomas’s recently published The Pursuit of Civility. As well as an interesting tour of how politeness has evolved through centuries, her essay is a reflection on how manners are a language: an exchange, defined for a particular purpose by particular people, usually those with privilege to burn, and usually received by those without.

Courtesy, and the insistence on it, can be used to subjugate. By the same token, refusing a seat at one’s restaurant to someone whose political views are not just disagreeable but reprehensible may be rude — but the breach may also be a statement of humanity.

One theory of civility will tell you that it is all about acknowledging the separate existence, property, privacy and right to respect of another person. But another prevalent and persuasive theory of civility will insist that such codes of behaviour are all about subjugation: they are visited on people who must be brought to order rather than treated as equals. Thomas quotes the antiquarian Edmund Bolton (born around 1575), who announced that it was “no infelicity to the barbarous” to be “subdued by the more polite and noble”; after all, to possess “wild freedom” meant nothing compared with the gifts from above of “liberal arts and honourable manners.” It isn’t hard to imagine what the wild and free response to that might sound like.
Meet The 26-Year-Old James Beard Award Winner Reinventing Food Writing

Abigail Koffler’s profile of food writer Mayukh Sen, who just won a James Beard award for his own profile of soul food sensation Princess Pamela, is a delightful rabbithole of links. It’s also an interesting look at how even food writing has been politicized since 2016 — which honestly seems much needed when I look back at how many headlines after Calvin Trillin’s awful New Yorker blunder used phrases like “unpalatable for some.” “Some”? Time for some new voices to have their say.

The stories Sen wrote often hinge on experiences that set him apart from the rest of the staff. During a holiday brainstorm at Food52, an essay about fruitcake was floated, with the assumption that “fruitcake sucks.” Unlike the rest of the staff, Sen likes fruitcake. His dad grew up eating it in Calcutta, India and it’s part of the holidays. The dessert is a double edged sword: he’s also been called a fruitcake, a slur against gay people. His essay on the topic explored the usage of fruitcake as a pejorative and the popularity of fruitcake in India. Similarly, an essay about the queer history of kombucha shared the hidden story of a beverage now soaring in popularity.

The Sunday Post for June 24, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

Not Caring is a Political Art Form

Rebecca Solnit is going to save our souls by holding up a mirror until we can’t look away. There is nothing the internet does better than provide stories to attract our eyes from the mirror, sometimes such a maze of stories that you can follow it anywhere, land anywhere you want to go. Here, Solnit examines the story of not caring, and where it really leads.

Empathy enlarges us by connecting us to the lives of others, and in that is a terrible vulnerability, one that parents know intimately, terrifyingly. If something happens to someone or something you love, it hurts you too, potentially devastates you forever. The prevention of feeling is an old strategy with many tactics. There are so many ways to really not care, and we’ve seen most of them exercised energetically these last couple of years and really throughout American history. They are narrative strategies and most of them are also fundamentally dishonest.
Dealing With a Book Thief

You know those optical illusions where it flips from a rabbit to an old lady between one blink and the next? This story’s kind of like that: it’s about a man who systematically and comprehensively robbed Little Free Libraries in North Chicago over the course of four months, and depending on where you start, you may end up thinking about how petty and screwed up it is to steal from a library, especially a community-tended Little Free Library. Or you might end up reflecting on how that practice might look rich and indulgent, and thus exploitable, to someone without the resources to imagine painting pretty little boxes and filling them with books.

Still. “Avid reader.” Somebody oughtta clock this guy.

The second time, Richard happened to be home when he saw a van pull up to his Little Free Library book-sharing box. He watched as a man jumped out, took every book out of the Library, and put the books in his car. Richard went out and spoke with him. Richard explained the purpose of a Little Free Library, but the man insisted that he was just an "avid reader," and drove off.
Books Where the Dog Dies, Rewritten So the Dog Doesn't Die

Bonus round! All the stories that made child-you weep uncontrollably (Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows), plus a few that made you weep much later in life, rewritten so the dog lives. Thank you, co-founder Martin McClellan, for knowing our hearts so well.

"Who is this dog?" Odysseus asked at last, smiling through tears

As though he did not know his own pup.

"Who is this good boy?

Who is this good boy?

Who is this good boy?"

The Sunday Post for June 17, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

My Romantic Life

This, by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, is a glass bullet of a piece that’ll leave shards all through you regardless of where it explodes.

The second time I did porn it was with Zee, when we were boyfriends, and I’d just remembered I was sexually abused, so I was taking a break from sex, but then Zee called me to do the video because his costar showed up too tweaked out — I did it because I needed the money, but then Zee got upset when I couldn’t come, and I felt like a broken toy. Which is how I’d felt with my father. When I walked out into the sun after that first video shoot I just felt totally lost, like I didn’t even know where I was and why was it so hot out, maybe that’s why I felt so dazed.
The Difference Between Being Broke and Being Poor

Erynn Brook (words) and Emily Flake (pictures) have made a softly lacerating visual essay on the distinction between not-having-money-right-now and not-having-money-period. Relevant, unfortunately, to Seattle’s interests.

What If I'm Just a Minor Writer?

Karl Taro Greenfeld had my sympathies from his first line: "I’m not who I was supposed to be." Yet: there are dozens of books by "minor" writers that I read over and over, because they help me survive. Do we all dream of becoming “great” writers (those of us who dream of becoming writers at all)? What’s wrong with just writing well? Or even — just writing?

I dreamed of writing novels that transcended time, that perhaps would someday convince a boy or girl that he or she should become a writer. Like a mother spider who births a thousand spiderlings for only one to survive to motherhood herself, perhaps this is how writers as a species survive. We all dream the same dream, to become important writers. Most of us never achieve it.
A Company Built on a Bluff

Courtesy of Reeves Wiedeman, a crazy-fascinating look at how Vice co-founder Shane Smith sold a particularly bro-centric idea of cool to round after round of investors, transforming an underdog counterculture paper into a media empire. Some of these stories are already well known (like the “non-traditional workplace agreement” and the New York Times investigation into sexual misconduct), but this pulls it all together, and says as much about what media consumption, creation, and investment are becoming as it does about Vice itself.

On the morning of the Intel meeting, Vice employees were instructed to get to the office early, to bring friends with laptops to circulate in and out of the new space, and to “be yourselves, but 40 percent less yourselves,” which meant looking like the hip 20-somethings they were but in a way that wouldn’t scare off a marketing executive. A few employees put on a photo shoot in a ground-floor studio as the Intel executives walked by. “Shane’s strategy was, ‘I’m not gonna tell them we own the studio, but I’m not gonna tell them we don’t,’ ” one former employee says. That night, Smith took the marketers to dinner, then to a bar where Vice employees had been told to assemble for a party. When Smith arrived, just ahead of the Intel employees, he walked up behind multiple Vice employees and whispered into their ears, “Dance.”
Punching the Clock

We’ve all worked a bullshit job — seemingly or truly pointless labor created to fill paid hours. Here’s David Graeber on why the already noxious state of affairs in which another person owns one’s time becomes so much worse when they use it badly.

Most societies throughout history would never have imagined that a person’s time could belong to his employer. But today it is considered perfectly natural for free citizens of democratic countries to rent out a third or more of their day. “I’m not paying you to lounge around,” reprimands the modern boss, with the outrage of a man who feels he’s being robbed. How did we get here?

The Sunday Post for June 10, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

On immigration

Paul Dean on moving across borders, power’s bureacratic sword and shield (remember Papers, Please?), and the diminished dream of freedom in countries built on that ideal. This is a different kind of immigration story, about the authoritarianism trying to hide behind a smokescreen of fear-mongering headlines. Quiet-voiced, gently meandering, will have you by the throat if you follow it through.

Opening the gates is brave. If you open the gates, people come in, and many of those people are different. That’s a scary concept. They might do and want and need different things. If you close the gates, shore them up, raise the drawbridge and fill the moat with hydrochloric acid, you’re much, much safer.

Everything inside is wholesome and good.

Somewhere Under My Left Ribs

Christie Watson on a nurse’s experience of the operating room — not a tell-all, but a meditation on compassion, the connection between body and spirit, and how humans on both sides of the knife manage the terror and pressure of courting death to save a life.

I have looked after such patients, who are told post-operatively that things were a little unstable in theater, but the surgeon managed to stabilize them. The language of nursing is sometimes difficult. A heart cell beats in a Petri dish. A single cell. And another person’s heart cell in a Petri dish beats in a different time. Yet if the two touch, they beat in unison. A doctor can explain this with science. But a nurse knows that the language of science is not enough. The nurse in theater translates “your husband / wife / child died three times in there, but today was a good day and, with a large amount of electricity and some chest compressions that probably broke a few ribs, we managed to get them back” into something that we can hear. A strange sort of poetry.
Anthony Bourdain and the Power of Telling the Truth

Helen Rosner writes about Anthony Bourdain with respect and affection and regret. She celebrates Bourdain not just for his accomplishments, but for his resilience, humility, and willingness to evolve while holding a staredown with the greedy public eye.

Bourdain effectively created the “bad-boy chef” persona, but over time he began to see its ill effects on the restaurant industry. With “Medium Raw,” his 2010 follow-up to “Kitchen Confidential,” he tried to retell his story from a place of greater wisdom: the drugs, the sex, the cocky asshole posturing — they were not a blueprint but a cautionary tale. Ever resistant to take on the label of chef, he published a book of home recipes, in 2016, inspired by the cooking he did for his daughter. Despite its chaotic cover illustration, by Ralph Steadman — and its prurient title, “Appetites” — the book, which was co-written with his longtime collaborator, the writer Laurie Woolever, is a tender memoir of fatherhood, an ode to food as a vehicle for care.

See also PNW writer Tabitha Blankenbiller’s essay on Kate Spade in Salon — you may never carry one of Spade’s iconic handbags, or want to, but this will help you understand why they matter so much those who do.

Climate Change Can Be Stopped by Turning Air Into Gasoline

This is delightfully MacGyver-y: a scientist at Harvard University has hacked together a series of processes used by paper mills to pull excess carbon dioxide from the air and turn it back into previously-known-as fossil fuels. One of my favorite things about this piece is the deadpan quotes from other scientists saying it could work, which seem to be the academic equivalent of throwing your hat in the air with joy.

Speaking from Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, Keith said he was “pretty optimistic” about climate change. “The reason is that the market for these low-carbon fuels is much, much better than they were a few years ago. At the same time, low-carbon power — electricity generated by solar and wind — has just gotten much cheaper.”

Outside experts said they were encouraged by Keith and his colleagues’ approach, but cautioned that it would take time to examine every cost estimate and engineering advance in the paper. The consensus response was something like: Hmm! I hope this works!

On The Radio, It’s Always Midnight

Seb Emina on the pleasures of listening to late-night radio any time of day. Somewhere in the world, it’s always midnight — late-night callers, late-night music, a world full of late-night dreams.

Without exception, these late-night conversations meander off into meditations on how things are not how they used to be. This is a function of two truths, namely that (1) in the middle of the night, the caller gets to speak indefinitely because who knows when the next caller will show up, and (2) once midnight has passed, almost anyone who speaks off the top of their head for more than three minutes, on any subject, will stray into nostalgic reverie. In Westchester, New York, for example, a man has called SportsRadio 1230AM at three in the morning to express sadness about the decline of fistfights in stock-car racing.

The Sunday Post for June 3, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

When a Person of Color Tells Conference Organizers Their Conference Is Too White

In February, award-winning Seattle writer and frequent Seattle Review of Books reviewer Donna Miscolta wrote in her blog about attending the San Miguel Writers’ Conference in Mexico. In addition to the marvelous phrase "in a bat of an eye out of hell" (yes) and praise for San Miguel de Allende's beauty, the post includes an account of overwhelming racial imbalance among conference attendees and outright racism in some of the classes.

This week Miscolta published an update describing the conference organizers' response when she contacted them to suggest a different approach next year. The story is told with her trademark directness and precision — Miscolta isn't afraid of emotion, but she knows how to achieve it in other ways than being loud — which makes it easy to imagine the pragmatism with which she would have approached the conversation. And that makes the response from the organizers all the more stunning. Miscolta's advice to them is dead on and valuable for anyone wondering why good intentions alone haven't brought diversity to their platform.

I got a reply the next day, bubbly and breathless in its defense of their desire and efforts to be diverse. She listed all the brown and black people they had featured as keynote speakers over the years. She assured me that the list of general faculty was even more impressive. She described the Spanish-language element of the conference and its Mexican faculty. She expressed regret that “Unfortunately, we receive very few proposals from African American or Asian writers.”

She ended with, “If you know of writers of color whom you can encourage to apply to teach at our Conference, please do encourage them to apply. We need more applications from people of color.”

Could I possibly let this go?

'Once Upon a Time' and Other Formulaic Folktale Flourishes

I know from personal experience (once upon a time) that there is no end of hyperintelligent, hyperscholarly discussion of how fairy tales and folk tales work, including their iconic opening formulae. My hat’s off to Anthony Madrid for aerating those discussions with just the right mix of irreverance and affectionate astonishment. Seriously, this is so much fun, if you have even five volumes of Andrew Lang or just a dozen books edited by Zipes on your shelf …

Forget “upon a time.” Look at the “once.” That part really is standard from the beginning, and not only in English. Just this past weekend, I paged through fifteen volumes of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library, and I’m here to tell you: The word once is in the first sentence of almost every single folktale every recorded, from China to Peru. There is some law of physics involved.
Hazardous Cravings

Men feel shame when their bodies don’t fit the social standard, they swallow down those cruel, mocking voices just like women, they destroy their bodies from the inside to make the outside “fit” — all complicated by the expectation that men will be worthy and loveable no matter what their shape (and other myths of masculinity). Alex McElroy tells that story with devastating directness in the setting of a teen job at a Dairy Queen.

I was terrified that the pills would work. Taking one would become taking them regularly, then obsessively, until they snuffed my heart like fingers pinching a flame. But I couldn’t confess this to Boots. Perhaps we weren’t, as I’d liked to believe, enacting some vulnerable version of masculinity but applying its worst expectations — sacrificing our bodies, refusing to care for ourselves — to a traditionally feminine project: becoming thinner. Because as open as we were with each other, we nevertheless refused to acknowledge the damage we caused to ourselves. We couldn’t. We lacked the language to see our sickness as sickness. He could not be “anorexic,” just as I could not be “bulimic.” For men, those words were locked houses.
Icelandic fiction: a family affair

“Any resemblance is purely coincidental” doesn’t hold much water when you live on an island so small that the population approaches dating with a genealogical pre-check. Fríða Ísberg on the peculiar challenges of being a writer (or, more exactly, the family and friends of a writer) in Iceland.

Autobiographical fiction has become widely popular across Scandinavia, and Iceland has proven to be no exception. But Iceland, with its small population, poses unusual ethical problems concerning what one can, and should, write: how does one balance the reputation of real characters against the liberty of the author? And what are the consequences in a country the size of Iceland when a writer, perhaps following the model of Karl Ove Knausgaard, exposes those around them?
Traumatic License: An Oral History of Action Park

You can go see Action Point, the oddball movie about the amusement park geared toward allowing its guests to do maximum bodily harm to themselves, or you can read this amazing oral history of the real park on which the film is loosely based. Owned by Eugene Mulvihill, Action Park was open in Vernon, New Jersey for more than a decade starting in 1983. I mean, this park had rides that put you in the water with snakes and snapping turtles, rides that could break your face, rides that could strip the top layer of skin from your entire body. I can barely choose a quote from this, it’s astonishingly, gloriously ridiculous from start to finish.

Al Rescinio (Guest): It wasn’t like you were armored going down this thing. You’re wearing a T-shirt and bathing suit or shorts. You didn’t know how unstable these little carts are the first time you go on them.

Thomas Flynn (First Aid): The primary ingredient in those tracks was asbestos, by the way.

DeSaye: People would bounce off. That’s why we called them Gumbys. Down in first aid, at the end of the night, you’d be having pizza and inevitably someone would come in looking like they had a giant burn from head to toe.

Benneyan: It was the Action Park tattoo.

The Sunday Post for May 27, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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 Lexicographer’s Guide to Real Words

I agree with Kory Stamper here (“I agree with Kory Stamper” is almost a tautology): unlike the news, there are no fake words. Though I might advocate for declaring some words fake, like “innovation” and “disruptive” and the use of “impacted” to mean “had an effect on.” Irregardless, this is an absolutely splendid opportunity to do that thing we all used to do on the Internet and fall down the rabbithole of clicking all the links in this post that lead to other posts in Stamper’s blog, and then clicking all the links in those posts, and then it’s almost dinnertime and you don’t have your column done but who cares? Kory Stamper!

And even if a word is illogical or stupid, so what? You know how many completely unremarkable words arose from a stupid misreading? You use "cherry" and "apron" just fine, even though "cherry" came about because some 14th-century doofus thought the Anglo-French "cherise" was plural (it wasn't), and "apron" came about because court clerk read "a napron" as "an apron" and rendered it as such, and then future readers thought, "Oh, man, the clerk to Edward III says it's 'apron,' I better get in line," even though that same clerk used "napron" later in the Household Ordinances, and here we are.
What's Going On in Your Child's Brain When You Read Them a Story?

This short piece by Anya Kamenetz is very cool. It offers some real, though preliminary, scientific evidence that reading to your kids is better than plopping them in front of a television set. And it also offers a lens into a part of the brain — the default mode network — that scientific researchers (those romantics!) call “the seat of the soul.” It’s the bit of your mind that’s absolutely farthest from the buzz of social media, the bit associated with self-reflection, daydreaming, and spontaneous thought. Knowing how to cultivate that early and keep it talking to the rest of our overstimulated brains seems like a potentially society-saving discovery.

When children could see illustrations, language-network activity dropped a bit compared to the audio condition. Instead of only paying attention to the words, Hutton says, the children's understanding of the story was "scaffolded" by having the images as clues.

"Give them a picture and they have a cookie to work with," he explains. "With animation it's all dumped on them all at once and they don't have to do any of the work."

Most importantly, in the illustrated book condition, researchers saw increased connectivity between — and among — all the networks they were looking at: visual perception, imagery, default mode and language.

Tech Billionaires Are Building Their Utopias Without Asking Us

The dream of outer space is an expansive dream, big enough to hold intergalactic battles, exploration of the unbearably unknown, and deeply human interactions with deeply alien cultures. Space is The Martian and Star Trek and Ursula K. Le Guin and Sally Ride separated by light years of beliefs and hopes and fears, then tessered back so close they’re almost touching.

The dream of space is expansive, and it’s almost always a dream of something little overcoming something big. It’s not a dream of the richest men on earth claiming outer space as their own personal utopia and throwing up walls of money and power around it. S. A. Applin wonders whether Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk know they’re not, and can’t ever be, the heroes of the space story they’re writing for the rest of us.

We all carry visions of our own utopias, working towards betterment of self, community, or dreaming of an escape. It’s how we focus intent for what we want. The game changes though, when people who have resources can suddenly begin to realize those changes in their Utopian visions, and those visions being realized may begin to conflict with others who have less money and power to realize theirs.