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The Sunday Post for June 12, 2016

Cities Like Seattle Are Recklessly Unprepared For Self-Driving Cars

New Seattle-based publidation Scout takes on the infrastructure of self-driving cars. It asks a vital question: in the modern days of rapid technological change, how can the traditionally slow process of civic change catch up to technology and ideas that will benefit the city?

Timelines for the arrival of consumer-ready self driving cars range from two to 20 years. Even if 20 years go by before Americans trade in their driver’s licenses, the fact that only one out of every 17 cities is even thinking about self-driving cars is shocking. Transit infrastructure, from roads to light rail, takes years to plan, billions in investment, and decades to build.

At best, cities omitting autonomous vehicles from transit planning represents a failure of imagination. At worst, it’s gross civic negligence.

Does Literary Criticism Have a Grade Inflation Problem?

Alex Shehard looks at LitHub's new Book Marks service, a review aggregator (the Seattle Review of Books is one of the source sites for Book Marks), and argues that the grades of the books are elevated on the site.

This is not a new debate. Literary criticism has been routinely lambasted for its niceness, its lack of intellectual rigor, and its mediocrity. n+1’s first issue took on The Believer, which “[differed] in at least one particular from, say, the New York Review of Books, in that its overt criterion for inclusion is not expertise, but enthusiasm.” Writing in Slate in 2012, the critic Jacob Silverman decried the effect of social media on reviewing, arguing that it made incisive criticism more difficult because your potential targets were almost always connected to you in some way: “Reviewers shouldn’t be recommendation machines, yet we have settled for that role, in part because the solicitous communalism of Twitter encourages it.” (In 2013, meanwhile, Clive James took to The New York Times to tell Americans that they simply weren’t good at writing hatchet jobs.)
Head in the cloud

Sophie McBain, in the New Statesmen, looks at whether we're losing our ability to remember things now that we can store them all in our external hand-held brain.

do not remember my husband’s tele­phone number, or my best friend’s address. I have forgotten my cousin’s birthday, my seven times table, the date my grandfather died. When I write, I keep at least a dozen internet tabs open to look up names and facts I should easily be able to recall. There are so many things I no longer know, simple things that matter to me in practical and personal ways, yet I usually get by just fine. Apart from the few occasions when my phone has run out of battery at a crucial moment, or the day I accidentally plunged it into hot tea, or the evening my handbag was stolen, it hasn’t seemed to matter that I have downloaded most of my working memory on to electronic devices. It feels a small inconvenience, given that I can access information equivalent to tens of billions of books on a gadget that fits into my back pocket.

The Sunday Post for June 5, 2016

Here Is The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker

The letter that has taken the internet by storm. It's a stunning, heartbreaking, and brutal read — the judge in the case (who is up for re-election this year) gave the convicted rapist six months and probation, because a longer sentence would have "a severe impact on him". As this letter so rightfully points out, the punishment doesn't come near to fitting the crime.

I thought there’s no way this is going to trial; there were witnesses, there was dirt in my body, he ran but was caught. He’s going to settle, formally apologize, and we will both move on. Instead, I was told he hired a powerful attorney, expert witnesses, private investigators who were going to try and find details about my personal life to use against me, find loopholes in my story to invalidate me and my sister, in order to show that this sexual assault was in fact a misunderstanding. That he was going to go to any length to convince the world he had simply been confused.
On the run with my dad

Spokane writer Shawn Vestal in a piece from the Guardian about his unusual upbringing with his dad.

That Sunday afternoon. Dad called us all into the living room and told us that he had done something terrible. The sheriff’s deputies would be coming the next day to arrest him for a crime he did not specify. Because he couldn’t bear that, he said, he was going to get in his car and leave, and he wanted us to follow him. We packed and Mom drove us north through a snowy night, following Dad across the border and into Canada, where we spent a week hiding from the law.
The Lost Secret Sign Language of Sawmill Workers

Sarah Laskow on the language sawmill workers developed as a way to communicate over the din of the machinery.

The core of the sawmill workers’ sign language was a system of numbers, standardized across the industry. Those signs were shared in a technical notebook, and, the linguists wrote,”in the view of the management, that was about all there was to the language.” But it covered much more ground than technical communication. Workers could talk about quitting time, lunch time, and cigarette breaks. They could talk about sports and the bets they placed on games. They could talk about their wives, cars, and colleagues. They could tell jokes and comment on what was going on around them without their bosses ever knowing.
Mr. and Mrs. B

Novelist Alexander Chee, once a member of ACT UP, on a job he held as a private waiter for William F. Buckley, who once wrote that AIDS victims should be tattoed for easy identification.

In 1997, I began working as a waiter for William F. and Pat Buckley. I was the picture of a New York cater-waiter: 5′ 10″, 165 pounds, twenty-nine years old, clean-cut. I took the job because I looked good in a tuxedo and couldn’t stand the idea of office work unless it was writing a novel. It was the easiest solution to my money problems when I returned to New York after getting my MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and I’d already been doing it for two years when I was called to work for the Buckleys. Cater-waitering paid $25 an hour plus tips and involved working everything from the enormous galas in the Winter Garden to People magazine lunches to openings at the Guggenheim. The tuxedo and the starched white shirt—and the fact that each assignment was at a different, often exclusive, place—all made me feel a little like James Bond. Sometimes my fellow waiters and I called it the Gay Peace Corps for how we could come into places, clean them up, make them fabulous, throw a party, and leave. And I liked that when I went home, I didn’t think about the work at all.

The Sunday Post for May 29, 2016

Title Fight

Tony Tulathimutte in the Paris Review on who gets to name a novel.

The history of writers fighting for their book titles is extensive and bloody; so powerful is the publisher’s veto that not even Toni Morrison, fresh off her Nobel win, got to keep her preferred title for Paradise, which was War. (For her most recent book, God Help the Child, she favored The Wrath of Children.) Who knows why George Orwell’s editor thought Nineteen Eighty-Four was more commercially viable than The Last Man in Europe, or why the industry’s gerund fetish turned Helen Simpson’s Hey Yeah Right Get a Life into the insipid Getting a Life? Commercial interests even beyond the publishing house can get involved, as in the famous case of DeLillo’s White Noise, which was to be Panasonic until the corporation’s lawyers intervened.
Frog and Toad and the Self

Bert Clere takes a look at Arnold Lobel, and his beloved books of the two friends who are so very different. We have spent a lot of time with Frog and Toad in our house.

Lobel’s Frog and Toad series, published in four volumes containing five stories each during the 1970s, remains his most popular and enduring work. Frog and Toad, two very different characters, make something of an odd couple. Their friendship demonstrates the many ups and downs of human attachment, touching on deep truths about life, philosophy, and human nature in the process. But it isn’t all about relationships with others: In the series, and in his lesser-known 1975 book Owl at Home, Lobel offers a conception of the self that still resonates decades later. Throughout his books, he reminds readers that they are individuals, and that they shouldn’t be afraid of being themselves.
The fall of Salon.com

Kelsey Sutton and Peter Sterne with a long piece looking into what's happening with the overtly sensational and more-liberal-than-thou Salon.com at the moment (it ain't good).

Over the last several months, POLITICO has interviewed more than two dozen current and former Salon employees and reviewed years of Salon’s SEC filings. On Monday, after POLITICO had made several unsuccessful attempts to interview Salon CEO Cindy Jeffers, the company dropped a bombshell: Jeffers was leaving the company effective immediately in what was described as an “abrupt departure.”
13, right now

Jessica Contrera spent some time with a 13 year-old to see what the modern life of a brand new teenager is like, phone in hand, reactions poised, hearts and likes accumulating.

She slides into the car, and even before she buckles her seat belt, her phone is alight in her hands. A 13-year-old girl after a day of eighth grade.

She says hello. Her au pair asks, “Ready to go?”

She doesn’t respond, her thumb on Instagram. A Barbara Walters meme is on the screen. She scrolls, and another meme appears. Then another meme, and she closes the app. She opens BuzzFeed. There’s a story about Florida Gov. Rick Scott, which she scrolls past to get to a story about Janet Jackson, then “28 Things You’ll Understand If You’re Both British and American.” She closes it. She opens Instagram. She opens the NBA app. She shuts the screen off. She turns it back on. She opens Spotify. Opens Fitbit. She has 7,427 steps. Opens Instagram again. Opens Snapchat. She watches a sparkly rainbow flow from her friend’s mouth. She watches a YouTube star make pouty faces at the camera. She watches a tutorial on nail art. She feels the bump of the driveway and looks up. They’re home. Twelve minutes have passed.

The Sunday Post for May 22, 2016

How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist

A peek inside the designer's mind, and how navigation and other tricks by designers and companies trick you into feeling like you have choice, when in fact you're being guided through a very specific experience. The author, Tristan Harris, was Google's design ethicist, so is deeply familiar with all the techniques.

By shaping the menus we pick from, technology hijacks the way we perceive our choices and replaces them new ones. But the closer we pay attention to the options we’re given, the more we’ll notice when they don’t actually align with our true needs.
The empty brain

More brain stuff! In Aeon, Robert Epstein looks at the brain, and as the subtitle says "Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer".

Our shoddy thinking about the brain has deep historical roots, but the invention of computers in the 1940s got us especially confused. For more than half a century now, psychologists, linguists, neuroscientists and other experts on human behaviour have been asserting that the human brain works like a computer.

To see how vacuous this idea is, consider the brains of babies. Thanks to evolution, human neonates, like the newborns of all other mammalian species, enter the world prepared to interact with it effectively. A baby’s vision is blurry, but it pays special attention to faces, and is quickly able to identify its mother’s. It prefers the sound of voices to non-speech sounds, and can distinguish one basic speech sound from another. We are, without doubt, built to make social connections.

We’re in an amazing black cultural moment. Can we avoid the backlash?

Syreeta McFadden in the Guardian, looking at the exposure and relevance of black culture in popular media, and how white America is bound to respond (Donald Trump sure seems to be a paranoid freakout to our first black President to this observer).

This artistic triumph isn’t a new movement, then, but rather reads like one because this time around, creators aren’t making work that over explains black life or that makes white society comfortable, centered or even included. Beyoncé’s Lemonade was made to speak to black women. Larry Wilmore’s N-word use at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner wasn’t meant for the white people it offended. Shonda Rhimes is the most successful showrunner in television, creating space for black actors to feature complex representations of black life. Claudia Rankine’s critically acclaimed volume, Citizen, explicitly interrogates micro aggressions that shape black life in America.
What does it mean when we call women girls?

Robin Wasserman on the popularity of books with "girl" in the title, and what it's like to be an author who wrote one.

As a dedicated contrarian—someone whose few attempts at trend-chasing have culminated in baroque, Wile E. Coyote-esque failure—little makes me feel more alien in my own skin than finding myself accidental avatar of a cultural fad. Which is to say, I’m not really the zeitgeist type. And yet it seems I’ve written a book with “girl” in the title. First prize: Free ride on the bandwagon, like it or not.

The Sunday Post for May 15, 2016

Democracies end when they are too democratic.

A long piece from Andrew Sullivan about democracy under populism, and how Trump works into all of it.

Many contend, of course, that American democracy is actually in retreat, close to being destroyed by the vastly more unequal economy of the last quarter-century and the ability of the very rich to purchase political influence. This is Bernie Sanders’s core critique. But the past few presidential elections have demonstrated that, in fact, money from the ultrarich has been mostly a dud. Barack Obama, whose 2008 campaign was propelled by small donors and empowered by the internet, blazed the trail of the modern-day insurrectionist, defeating the prohibitive favorite in the Democratic primary and later his Republican opponent (both pillars of their parties’ Establishments and backed by moneyed elites). In 2012, the fund-raising power behind Mitt Romney — avatar of the one percent — failed to dislodge Obama from office. And in this presidential cycle, the breakout candidates of both parties have soared without financial support from the elites. Sanders, who is sustaining his campaign all the way to California on the backs of small donors and large crowds, is, to put it bluntly, a walking refutation of his own argument. Trump, of course, is a largely self-funding billionaire — but like Willkie, he argues that his wealth uniquely enables him to resist the influence of the rich and their lobbyists. Those despairing over the influence of Big Money in American politics must also explain the swift, humiliating demise of Jeb Bush and the struggling Establishment campaign of Hillary Clinton. The evidence suggests that direct democracy, far from being throttled, is actually intensifying its grip on American politics.
Bots

Mandy Brown, on bots and gender, and reading from literature into life.

In fact, it’s not hard for me to imagine a straight line (or at least a moderately meandering one) between a generation of bot makers who anoint their creations with gendered names and personalities and the impossible reverie that is the singularity: could the very notion of the singularity be the embodiment of the oppressors fear that the oppressed will one day rise up and slay them? Perhaps the attention some men apparently spend on wondering whether AI will eventually surpass them should be instead spent on noticing the fact that women already have.
Are we sex-literate? Why we should all be writing more about pleasure

Joanna Walsh argues that sex-literacy comes from writing and reading about sex, and that is a feminst idea.

In the UK, according to the association for PSHE teachers, “‘Personal, Sexual Health and Economic’ education is a non-statutory subject on the school curriculum”. It’s a frequent but unresolved complaint that children are taught no more than the mechanics of sex, and are sent out into adulthood with little beside biological basics, except warnings of STDs and other consequences. “Thou shalt not [is] writ over the door” of the Garden of Love, just as it was when the poet William Blake questioned why our “joys and desires” should be bound by prohibitions and prescriptions. But what constitutes sex-literacy, and why does it matter?
When The Data Bubble Bursts, Companies Will Have To Actually Sell Things Again

Douglas Rushkoff on the far reaches of advertising and marketing.

The trouble is, if everyone is in it for the advertising dollar, who is left to advertise? At no point in history has advertising, marketing, and research ever accounted for as high a percentage of GDP, or total economic activity (and that's being extremely generous). But right now, it's pushing at the very top of that range. The reason it can't go higher is that only so much economic activity can go to promoting the rest of our economic activity. The coming crash in the tech market—and quite possibly beyond—will be triggered by the growing realization that every company in the world can’t be a marketing company.

The Sunday Post for May 8, 2016

‘You Want A Description Of Hell?’ Oxycontin’s 12-hour Problem

Intense, tragic, and deep special report by Harriet Ryan, Lisa Girion, and Scott Glover in the LA Times, about OxyContin and Perdue Pharma, and how marketing the drug as a 12-hour remedy lead to abuse and bad prescription practices.

But OxyContin’s stunning success masked a fundamental problem: The drug wears off hours early in many people, a Los Angeles Times investigation found. OxyContin is a chemical cousin of heroin, and when it doesn’t last, patients can experience excruciating symptoms of withdrawal, including an intense craving for the drug.
California Notes

When Joan Didion publishes a new essay, we link it. I think that's a good standing rule. Here she starts with the Patti Hearst trial, and meanders around that state she wrote about most:

At the center of this story there is a terrible secret, a kernel of cyanide, and the secret is that the story doesn’t matter, doesn’t make any difference, doesn’t figure. The snow still falls in the Sierra. The Pacific still trembles in its bowl. The great tectonic plates strain against each other while we sleep and wake. Rattlers in the dry grass. Sharks beneath the Golden Gate. In the South they are convinced that they have bloodied their place with history. In the West we do not believe that anything we do can bloody the land, or change it, or touch it.
The House Is a Home

Sarah Galvin on her memories of Hugo House, now that the old building is slated to be demolished.

Though it bills itself simply as “a place for writers,” the Hugo House is actually a gateway to another dimension. The non-profit was founded in 1996 by Linda Breneman, Frances McCue and Andrea Lewis with the hope of creating a hub for Seattle’s diverse, burgeoning community of writers and readers. Named after working-class, Seattle-born poet Richard Hugo, it has consistently honored the spirit it was named in, providing resources and community to writers of every stripe.
How The Rhetoric of Imposter Syndrome Is Used to Gaslight Women in Tech

Alexis Hancock, looking at her experience in tech as a black woman, and how not only was her work not appreciated, how the idea of imposter syndrome was used to keep her marginalized.

I believed in the rhetoric. I thought the process of self-acceptance would mean professional acceptance by my peers. I thought I would stop experiencing negative actions in tech once I could just believe in my worth, and show it to others. I thought that if I worked hard enough and completed enough projects, I would eventually reach a point where I didn’t feel like a fraud. And to cope with the racist and sexist comments along the way, I just focused on reaching that point of power, when my accomplishments would shine brightly. But I’d fallen into a trap.

The Sunday Post for May 1, 2016

Uncanny Valley

I have mixed feelings about this form — we've seen them before, notes from inside the boom industry. It's personal essay, not reportage, it's a confession from the one who accepted the paycheck and now feels that the price of this betrayal to their college idealism is exposure of their lush corporate lifestyle. We've read them from inside Wall Street and Hollywood, Real Estate, and now the tech boom. A lot of them from the tech boo.

Didn't it start from inside the factory? The genius with the blue collar job who wanted to make it writing truthy things about truth for the people who love truth? Bukowski inside the Post Office? (Which has its own set of problems, believe me.) But then it jumped from the blue collar punching up to the college graduate in privilege punching sideways.

The conceit is that the writer is an outsider among true believers, who will never buy into the mantras the company chant, that the writers at least confess to moving their lips along with.

These were my thoughts when I kept stumbling over links to Anna Wiener's piece in N+1 this week. What saves it, though, is her writing and detail. She inhabits the form, but makes it good, and that is definitely worth a link (and, Wiener will always have my ear after doing an amazing piece on Ellen Ullman for the New Republic earlier this year).

Morale is down. We are making plenty of money, but the office is teeming with salespeople: well-groomed social animals with good posture and dress shoes, men who chuckle and smooth their hair back when they can’t connect to our VPN. Their corner of the office is loud; their desks are scattered with freebies from other start-ups, stickers and koozies and flash drives. We escape for drinks and fret about our company culture. “Our culture is dying,” we say gravely, apocalyptic prophets all. “What should we do about the culture?”
The Case Against Reality

Amanda Gefter interviews the fascinating cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman:

As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like. Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.
Noir Is Protest Literature: That’s Why It’s Having a Renaissance

Nicholas Seeley on what it is about noir that we can't leave alone.

What is it about crime films and novels from the 1940s and ’50s that calls to us so strongly? True, we are also drowning in superheroes, wandering dumbly through an endless series of post-apocalypses, smothered by the advances of paranormal romance… Each of these gluts derives, in part, from the scope of today’s near-infinite media universe, which offers space for just about anything to have a renaissance, but to the degree it includes mainstream as well as cult success, each also taps into specific cultural desires and anxieties of the moment. There are reasons why noir was powerful to begin with, and why it’s coming back now.

The Sunday Post for April 24, 2016

The Real Story of How Amazon Built the Echo

A long piece by Joshua Brustein in Bloomberg about how the Echo came to be, and how it came to be a hit, despite pundits prognosticating sure failure.

When it launched, Amazon’s critics jumped to mock the company. Some called it a useless gimmick; others pointed to it as evidence of Amazon’s Orwellian tendencies. Then something weird happened: People decided they loved it. Amazon never releases data about how its products are selling, but Consumer Intelligence Research Partners issued a report this month saying that Amazon had sold more than 3 million devices, with 1 million of those sales happening during the 2015 holiday season. About 35,000 people have reviewed the speaker on Amazon.com, with an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5.
Nude Bookplates: Should They Exist?

Thank you Dan Piepenbring, for bringing us the serious issues of yesterday.

It’s time. I must bring to your attention the least essential controversy of 114 years ago: nude bookplates.
Digital Couture Is Actually a Thing

Virginia Postrel takes us inside how modern designers are using computers and 3-D printing to change fashion.

For designers willing to work closely with technologists, however, digitally driven production techniques are enabling new aesthetic and functional forms. Unlike wearables, which incorporate computing into garments and accessories, here the fashion, not the technology, is the focus.

The Sunday Post for April 17, 2016

'I Don't Know Whether to Kiss You or Spank You': A Half Century of Fear of an Unspanked Woman

Yet another longform piece on the infantalization of women due to the patriarchy as represented by media expressions of spanking as punishment (but not sexual pleasure). Jeez. Seems like we're getting ten of these a week, these days. Andrew Heisel takes us well-in-hand with this one, from Jezebel.

In early 1946, a woman from Carmel, California wrote the Hollywood fan magazine Screenland to say how much she had enjoyed the recent Christmas release Frontier Gal — not just for its lovely performers and dazzling Technicolor vistas, but for saving her marriage by teaching her husband to spank her.

After he’d returned from the war, she’d struggled to warm up to him again, she wrote, which caused a problem—and here was the solution. “In desperation, after seeing the show, he tried little Beverly’s philosophy,” wrote Mrs. J.B.M. “Daddies spank mamas because they love them. While this old-fashioned approach probably wouldn’t work in all cases, it did for us, and I would appreciate an opportunity to publicly thank Universal and Frontier Gal.”

How an internet mapping glitch turned a random Kansas farm into a digital hell

Kashmir Hill has been following this story for some time, and this installment on her investigations is the craziest yet. Innocent, and bewildered, people getting blamed fro everything under the sun, thanks to a GPS anomaly, and choice.

For the last decade, Taylor and her renters have been visited by all kinds of mysterious trouble. They’ve been accused of being identity thieves, spammers, scammers and fraudsters. They’ve gotten visited by FBI agents, federal marshals, IRS collectors, ambulances searching for suicidal veterans, and police officers searching for runaway children. They’ve found people scrounging around in their barn. The renters have been doxxed, their names and addresses posted on the internet by vigilantes. Once, someone left a broken toilet in the driveway as a strange, indefinite threat.

All in all, the residents of the Taylor property have been treated like criminals for a decade. And until I called them this week, they had no idea why.

The dark side of Guardian comments

There are some people who still believe in internet comments. There are people who think that they are redeemable, and there are people who think that they are working. But there are many who think comments aren't worth the trouble anymore (notice the lack of them here, for example). The Guardian goes in deep about the dark side of comments.

Although the majority of our regular opinion writers are white men, we found that those who experienced the highest levels of abuse and dismissive trolling were not. The 10 regular writers who got the most abuse were eight women (four white and four non-white) and two black men. Two of the women and one of the men were gay. And of the eight women in the “top 10”, one was Muslim and one Jewish.

And the 10 regular writers who got the least abuse? All men.

Is empty nose syndrome real? And if not why are people killing themselves over it?

Joel Oliphint reporting for Buzzfeed on a strange side-effect from a common nasal surgery, and the dire consequences for those suffering from it.

During his ear, nose, and throat residency at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Steven Houser shadowed his attending physician during nasal surgeries and sometimes handled initial consultations with patients during clinic visits. One day toward the end of his residency in the late ’90s, Houser examined the chart of a middle-aged woman who was complaining of nasal blockage, congestion, and difficulty breathing. The attending doctor had operated on her turbinates years earlier. She’d had plenty of time to heal, so Houser assumed the patient must have hit her nose or maybe developed a polyp. But when he examined her, he was surprised to see that her nose wasn’t blocked at all. (“You could drive a truck through there,” Houser says.) Her septum was straight. There were no holes or other oddities, but her turbinates — those tubular, bony structures inside the nose — were significantly reduced from the surgery. The woman told Houser that for some reason, she could breathe easier when she had a cold.

Houser was baffled. How could this woman have trouble breathing when her nose was wide open? And why would a cold make her feel less blocked? He described the situation to his attending physician, who then went into the room without Houser. After the appointment, the attending physician hemmed and hawed and never provided a good explanation. He told Houser not to worry about it.

The Sunday Post for April 10, 2016

The Voyeur's Motel

Let's talk about Gay Talese. When asked last week to name female journalists he admired, he balked, then doubled-down. Not using Twitter, or any social media, a New York Times piece reported that Talese was unaware of the controversy his words inspired until informed a few days later. After that reporting, the New York Times Public Editor responded to the Time's executive editor Dean Baquet talking smack about the very artice.

Then, deputy editor of the Washington Post's Outlook section, Marisa Bellack, published a piece saying she was Talese's teaching assistant, but quit due to his sexism.

All this in the same week that the New Yorker published Talese's first long article in years. It raises so many isseus that the Post came back to Taleseland to question the ethics of it.

Once you finish investigating the planets colliding in orbit around the article's author, you may have time to turn to the article itself, which is an absolute doozy.

I know a married man and father of two who bought a twenty-one-room motel near Denver many years ago in order to become its resident voyeur. With the assistance of his wife, he cut rectangular holes measuring six by fourteen inches in the ceilings of more than a dozen rooms. Then he covered the openings with louvred aluminum screens that looked like ventilation grilles but were actually observation vents that allowed him, while he knelt in the attic, to see his guests in the rooms below. He watched them for decades, while keeping an exhaustive written record of what he saw and heard. Never once, during all those years, was he caught.
The Reckoning

Pamela Colloff offers a long look at Claire Wilson, a victim of the 1966 shooting at the University of Texas, and how that tragic day affected her life.

On the list of those killed, she located the name of her boyfriend, Thomas Eckman. Her gaze fell on Tom’s picture, in which he sat in the formal pose of all mid-century yearbook photos, smiling broadly, his tie tucked into his V-neck sweater. Claire stared into his eyes, tracing the contours of his face. Holding the magazine in her hands, she felt some reassurance that what she had witnessed on campus that day had actually happened.
‘He Brutalized For You’

Michael Kruse looks at the odd friendship, and mentorship, between McCarthy sideman Roy Cohn, and a young Donald Trump.

Over a 13-year-period, ending shortly before Cohn’s death in 1986, Cohn brought his say-anything, win-at-all-costs style to all of Trump’s most notable legal and business deals. Interviews with people who knew both men at the time say the relationship ran deeper than that—that Cohn’s philosophy shaped the real estate mogul’s worldview and the belligerent public persona visible in Trump’s presidential campaign.

The Sunday Post for April 3, 2016

Is This the End of the Era of the Important, Inappropriate Literary Man?

Jia Tolentino, in a long detailed article in Jezebel, goes inside the Iowa Writers Workshop to examine a man accused. She looks both from the perspective of how historically many men in power used their position for sexual privilege with students, but also how the method of accusation should support believing women, but maybe with a higher bar than anonymity. Fascinating read.

In public, everyone says that Thomas Sayers Ellis, 52, formerly of Case Western and Sarah Lawrence, a visiting professor at the Iowa Writers Workshop this semester, is brilliant. Even the people who find him off-putting and unprofessional tend to agree. He’s charismatic and surprising, a protest poet, a real intellectual, unafraid to cause alarm. His style is enjambed, urgent, and rhythmically afire; in the late ‘80s, he founded the Dark Room Collective to promote writers of color, and he’s been known as an activist ever since. He attracts women; several women I talked to said he had “groupies.” But in late February, a group of women came together to say that he’s abusive, that he preys.
On The 13 Words That Made Me A Writer

Sofia Samatar on the language of fantasy that made her want to write it.

There was a library and it is ashes. Let its long length assemble. These words made me a writer. When I was in middle school, my mother brought home a used paperback copy of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. “I thought this looked like something you might like,” she said.
Real Talk With RuPaul

E. Alex Jung interviews the most Queenly of the drag queens.

Congratulations on the 100th episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. With the eighth season, how do you keep things fresh? We're always inspired by the queens. And because it's like a school, we get a new crop of kids every single year — that's how it stays fresh. This year especially, it's the children's Drag Race. These are the kids who grew up watching it, and their whole drag aesthetic comes from the show. So it's an interesting shift. And we knew this would come if we stayed on the air long enough — we'd see what we produced in the public. And they're beautiful! They're smart. We have to actually work harder to stay one step ahead of them.

A Field Guide to Male Intimacy

Max Ross on the father's in his life, and his relationships with them.

When my car’s battery died on a bitterly cold January day, my father refused to come to my apartment in south Minneapolis to give me a jump. He drives a Tesla and claimed (not quite accurately) that using it to power a regular car would cause it to short-circuit. “Plus, it’s nasty outside,” he said, “and, as you know, your father is a wuss.” Luckily my stepfather, Kevin, agreed to help. He is bald, clean-shaven, slender, friendly and handy. An agricultural engineer, he has a master’s degree in weed science and subscribes to journals such as “Wheat Life.” He always knows what time it is. “I’ll be there in 15 minutes,” he said. He arrived at my apartment in 15 minutes.

The Sunday Post for March 26, 2016

Legalize It All

Dan Baum exploded the internet with his opening paragraphs of this piece about legalizing drugs, but the rest of it is worth spending time with.

At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
The Impossible Task of Writing Historical Fiction

Kelly Kerney cracks open the heart of writing about history with verisimilitude, under that uncomfortable title of "historical fiction".

Too often in literature, history is either romantic background against which human dramas are played out, or a force buffeting helpless characters through a chain of events beyond their control. In reality, our relationship with history — especially for Americans — is much more dynamic. It has shaped us and we have shaped it, from the politicians we elect to the products we buy. History is not consigned to an academic bubble or a genre and it is not in the past. History is all around us, a continuum on which the past, present and the future interact constantly. Bear with me on this. I promise I’m not going to bust out any crystals. When I embarked on this novel a decade ago — a project that explores the surreal and tragic history of American intervention in Guatemala — my goal was to track this continuum and drag this history from the past. I didn’t want my readers’ hearts to merely break for the characters or even for real people who lived fifty years ago. I wanted their hearts to break for an entire nation suffering on their own continuum — now.
Up Against the Centerfold: What It Was Like to Report on Feminism for Playboy in 1969

Susan Braudy was the first woman to write for Playboy, and the job she was hired to write about was the "new feminists".

Jim Goode, Playboy’s articles editor, contacted me that afternoon. Speaking more slowly than I thought a human could, he explained that Playboy wanted an objective account of the entire spectrum of the brand new “women’s lib” movement. “These women have important things to say, and I want our readers to hear them,” he said. “Let yourself go. Write anything you like but don’t pass judgment. Be fair.” He concluded, “Write in a tone that’s amused if the author is amused, but never snide.”
The Things We Do To Promote The Books We Write

Summer Brennan, on undertaking a book tour.

Becoming a professional author can require writers to do strange and unnatural things. These acts against nature can include, but are not limited to: stepping away from the computer screen, leaving the house, and donning garments other than pajamas. Just when we’re feeling most comfortable in our private fug of creativity and creation that has led to the imminent existence of a book by us, the doors of our caffeine-fueled bower are thrown open and the world sweeps in, horns blazing, opportunities whizzing by and out of sight like swallows. I am speaking of course of the book publicity tour.
This Is Our Reality: Why I Couldn't Hold Back About the Bay Area's Real Transit Problem

In a week that saw Seattle's own light rail system expanding, the Twitter account for BART in the Bay Area dedicated itself to frank honesty.

Nearly every major public transit system in America faces a similar laundry list of woes—see the litany of problems in New York and Washington D.C., the latter of which had to shut down its Metro for an entire day last week. But I'm not here to wax nihilistic. Far from doing nothing, the people at BART are working feverishly to fix the system within severe financial constraints and, frankly, an increasingly hostile attitude toward public institutions in America. We've identified funding for most of our new Bombardier-produced rail cars, which are coming next year to replace the original 1972 fleet. We're building a new maintenance complex to repair damaged trains more quickly and are replacing miles of worn rail at a brisk pace. We're not sitting on our hands, and we're certainly not resigned to letting what we have crumble around us.

The Sunday Post for March 20, 2016

Using Nature as Inspiration, Architects and Designers Are Building Seattle's Biofuture

Kelton Sears on those giant Amazon balls downtown, and why they're both cooler than you probably think, and part of a new architectural movement that is not just about crazy architecture for its own sake.

Plenty of eye-catching dome-shaped conservatories exist in the world. But if you’ve ever been inside a conservatory, as pleasant as they are, you wouldn’t want to work in one. As ball-shaped structures go, conservatories are among the hot and sweaty variety. If you spent a couple hours on your laptop in one, the salty puddle dripping out of you would likely fry your computer. So, while Amazon presented NBBJ with an unprecedented opportunity, they also presented the firm with a heretofore unsolved problem.

For the answer, NBBJ again turned to nature.

“The solution was really pretty simple,” Alberda says, “It’s called the diurnal cycle.”

The diurnal cycle is a fancy name for a climate pattern that occurs during one full rotation of the Earth. For 12 hours a day the temperature inside the spheres will be kept at 68 to 72 degrees and the humidity just slightly higher than the Seattle average of 62. At night the temperature goes down to 55, and the humidity can go up 85 to 90 percent to be “a truly plant environment.”

The Journalist and the Troll: This Man Spent Two Years Trying to Destroy Me Online

Dune Lawrence on being harrassed by a very aggressive, and ethically promblematic, businessman, and the absolute nothing she can do about it.

I saw the photo first, me in a bloody wash of red with “RACIST” pulsing over my face. A couple of clicks brought me to this:

“In the darkest shadow of Bloomberg’s glossy office building in Manhattan, you may find a woman by the name of Dune Lawrence—a ‘journalist’ who has built a career on writing salacious articles about China.”

That was my introduction to TheBlot, a website I hope you’ve never heard of. The article went on and on: I’d been kicked out of China for poor job performance and eked out a living on minimum wage. My appearance was ravaged by “years of consuming hormone-packed fried chicken and stressing over money.” Now, I’d found a way to save my sinking career by writing negative articles about China and taking kickbacks from short sellers. In a cinematic scene set at Kentucky Fried Chicken, this Internet version of me laid out a strategy: “ ‘Bashing the Chinese could be a profitable niche for me,’ Lawrence said to a source while biting off a juicy chicken leg quarter at KFC. ‘The Chinese don’t vote, the Chinese don’t sue people, they just sit there taking the s---. How much better can it get? I am making a living out of it!’ ”

The Violin Thief

This is a crazy story by Geoff Edgers, about a stolen violin, and one suspect, who played the instrument in public, and got away with it.

He is dying, Q-tip elbows poking through a baggy shirt. Friends visit, spooning him ice cream and playing music. His daughters are around as well, stopping in after school, too young to process the grim scene. And there, carefully placed in the closet, out of view in the room his ex-wife has set up, is the Stradivarius.

Philip Johnson’s fingers are no longer strong enough to play any violin, never mind one so unforgiving. So he keeps the Strad in a plastic crate. The instrument is the only thing he has of value. It is also his biggest secret.

The Case Of The Missing Perpetrator

The one-and-only Rebecca Solnit on gender, passivity, and lack-of-clarity in language, where it counts the most.

In a detective novel, you begin in a state of ignorance and advance toward knowledge, clue by clue. The little indicators add up at last to a revelation that sets the world to right and sees that justice is done, or at least provides the satisfaction of a world made clear in the end. If detective fiction is the literature of disillusion, then there’s a much more common literature of illusion that aspires to deceive and distract rather than clarify.

A perfect recent example is the Center for Disease Control’s new and widely mocked guidelines to drinking. They are like a detective novel run backward—if you read them with conviction, you’d become muddled about what a woman is and how violence and pregnancy happen and who is involved in those things. On the other hand, if you read more carefully, you might know why the passive tense is so often a cover-up and that the missing subject in a circumlocutionary sentence is often the guilty party.

The Sunday Post for March 13, 2016

My Year in San Francisco’s $2 Million Secret Society Startup

Lydia Laurenson explores a trip into staged wonder. What's it like, in this modern age, to join a secret society made primarily, so it seems, to evoke the wonder that one might have joining a secret society?

“Can you keep a secret?” I blinked. I didn’t know Justin very well. I did know that he was a very affable bearded man, and we both lived in the Bay Area. At the time, he ran a small creative agency, while I worked as a writer and digital media consultant. “I think so,” I said cautiously. “I think I can keep a secret.” Justin raised his eyebrows. “Of course I can,” I said. “I’ve been thinking about giving you something,” he said. Justin told me he'd been considering giving me a gift for weeks, and finally decided to go through with it after reading an article I’d written about how people use pseudonyms to explore their identities. “But you have to promise me that you won’t tell anyone about it. No one.” I nodded, and he handed me a plastic card—much like a credit card, but pure white with a line of black zeroes. It came in a black slipcase embossed with the words “ABSOLUTE DISCRETION” and a distinctive golden hexagonal symbol.
What Are Trump Fans Really ‘Afraid’ to Say?

The remarkable Lindy West penned a remarkable op-ed for the New York Times. What others make muddled, West presents with such bright-eyed clarity of voice and position that it's hard to imagine how callous one would have to be to disagree with her.

Once you say, “He says what I’m afraid to say,” and point to a man who is essentially a 24/7 fire hose of unequivocal bigotry, you’ve said what you’re afraid to say, so how afraid could you have been in the first place? The phrase is a dodge, a way to acknowledge that you’re aware it’s a little naughty to be a misogynist xenophobe in 2016, while letting like-minded people know, with a conspiratorial wink, that you’re only pretending to care. It’s a wild grab for plausible deniability — how can I be a white supremacist when I’m just your nice grandpa? — an artifact of a culture in which some people believe that it’s worse to be called racist than to be racist.
Will the Los Angeles River Become a Playground for the Rich?

Richard Kreitner looks at the plans to recover the Los Angeles river from the brutulist wasteland it is today, and the political forces that the plans are calling forth.

The Los Angeles River is about to be 
reborn. Winding 51 miles from the San Fernando Valley past downtown and through South-Central cities like Vernon and Compton, the long-ignored watercourse has become the focus of an explosion of civic imagineering. In 2007, after years of lobbying by a diverse coalition of artists, planners, environmentalists, and social-justice activists, the city approved a master plan that reconceived the abandoned channel as “an urban treasure.” Covering only the 32 miles that pass through the city, the plan envisioned a river that at once provides “flood protection and opportunities for recreational and environmental enhancement, improves the aesthetics of the region, enriches the quality of life for residents, and helps sustain the economy of the region.” Bike lanes and terraced banks were to replace the post-apocalyptic hellscape featured in films like Repo Man and Terminator 2.

The Sunday Post for March 6, 2016

Born a slave, Emma Ray was the saint of Seattle’s slums

A great history, by Lorraine McConaghy, of an early Seattle activist, who used her faith as a driver to help people.

Emma was very pretty, describing herself as somewhat vain; she wore false hair to frame her face, loved fancy clothes, played cards, went to dances, and wrote of sharing a “bucket of beer” with a friend in Seattle, as the two women commiserated about their errant husbands. But she was deeply dissatisfied with her life, her marriage and herself. She began to attend the African Methodist Episcopal Church and found friendship there, though she didn’t dare attend evening services because she “was afraid to leave Mr. Ray for fear he would go off to the saloon.”
Watching And Reading About White People Having Sex Is My Escape

Earlier this week, Paul looked at Romance Novel: the Movie. For a different look on the genre, Esther Wang, takes a clear-eyed, and very personal, look at why romance and porn can offer a break from the racial politics and aggressions, micro and macro, that an Asian-American woman sees ever day.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that A Knight in Shining Armor was like a drug to me. Other books gave me a contact high, but this cheesy, over-the-top romance about time travel and a hunky British medieval earl and the hapless American woman who loves him and solves the mystery of who is trying to kill him and ends up not only saving his life but rescuing his reputation for posterity (I know, I know) shot through my young veins and straight to the pleasure center of my brain. I swear my body must have hummed through the entire book.
The writer who made me love comics taught me to hate them

Susana Polo looks at her relationship with Batman, and Frank Miller. What's it like for a girl to read those comics?

I realize that I have never read a Frank Miller book with an original female character who didn't fall into two categories: sex worker — or victim of a brutal beating or murder. Even the first female Robin gets sliced up by a bad guy in the climax of The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Come to think of it, Miller also seems to enjoy characterizing his extra-creepy male villains as having ambiguous sexuality or gender. You're not threatening, it seems, until you're sexually threatening to a straight guy.
She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Wanted to Talk ‘Feelings.’

A. Hope Jahren illustrates an email she received from a former student with the sad reality that women in the sciences, especially graduate studies, have to put up with innapropriate abusers again and again.

Brilliant men make for good copy, even when they fail at their jobs. Recently, reports of sexual harassment and assault within science departments at the University of California, Berkeley, Caltech and the University of Chicago have been in the news. Academia will have to respond. A great chorus of formal condemnation shall be lifted up, and my male colleagues will sputter with gall, appalled by the actions of bad apples so rare they have been encountered by every single woman I know.

The Sunday Post for February 28, 2016

The New Web Typography

Surely, you can picture them: the Penguin books with the colored covers, the little medalian at the bottom with the line-drawing of the bird logo? That design and layout are the work of the great typographer and designer Jan Tschichold. His most famous book, The New Typography, was a firebrand call from a young designer — one who later came to disown some of the more radical ideas he earlier held (I wrote about Tschichold, and how he got in trouble with the Nazis, and his relationship with Penguin in this essay).

This essay by Robin Rendle — intended for web designers, but which only gets into nitty towards the end — is a call for typography to be of its moment. Its moment, right now, is the web.

What’s wrong with a book made in the time of the early 19th century author and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, you might ask? Personally, I wouldn’t argue with all that much since these books were often quite the spectacle. According to Tschichold, however, books designed in the 19th century were for the people and the technology of the time; they solved problems that were entirely inapplicable to the needs of his own century a hundred years later.
MFA vs. CIA

What a choice: join the CIA, or attend the Iowa Writers' Workshop? Jennifer duBois recounts her choice.

When I was twenty-three, I was hired by the CIA. I was working at a Catholic school at the time, coaching squash and teaching seventh-grade social studies—which was funny, since I had never before seen a squash game before and was not even so much as a lapsed Catholic. I lived behind the school in a former convent where the only consistently functioning lights were a pair of glowing red exit signs. My prevailing feeling that year was one of intense personal absurdity, and it was in this spirit that I applied to the CIA (I liked international relations, and who knew they had an online application?) and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (I liked writing stories, and what the hell?). These things certainly didn’t make any less sense than coaching squash and living in a convent—though they weren’t really ambitions as much as gestures: reflections of my general hope that I would, someday, do something else. Each was something in between a dice roll and a delusion, a promissory note and a private joke to no one but myself.
What Should We Say About David Bowie and Lori Maddox?

Lori Maddox wrote about having sex with David Bowie when she was 15, but has wrote glowingly about the experience. Jia Tolentino looks at how we should treat our icons in the light of the modern day, given the light of the murky water they swam in, then.

There are no precise enough words or satisfying enough conclusions to fully account for her story, or any like it. It’s easy to see what Bowie represents here: a sexual norm that has always appallingly favored men, and the abuse that stems from and surpasses even that. It is easy to denounce the part Bowie played in this, even with any number of purportedly mitigating factors: the political context, Maddox’s story, the fact that he lived with generosity and openness, the less generous fact that his synapses were perpetually blitzed with cocaine. It is less easy to turn over what Maddox evinces in this narrative, from the late 1970s to her account of it now—which is that women have developed the vastly unfair, nonetheless remarkable, and still essential ability to find pleasure and freedom in a system that oppresses them.

The Sunday Post for February 21, 2016

The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens

The extraordinarily nutso piece by Elspeth Reeve that everybody was talking about this week.

Each social media network creates a particular kind of teenage star: Those blessed with early-onset hotness are drawn to YouTube, the fashionable and seemingly wealthy post to Instagram, the most charismatic actors, dancers, and comedians thrive on Vine. On Facebook, every link you share and photo you post is a statement of your identity. Tumblr is the social network that, based on my reporting, is seen by teens as the most uncool. A telling post from 2014: “I picked joining Tumblr and staying active on here because: 1. I’m not attractive enough to be a Youtuber 2. Not popular enough for twitter 3. Facebook is dumb.” You don’t tell people your Tumblr URL, you aren’t logging the banalities of your day—you aren’t even you. On Tumblr, you can revel in anonymity, say whatever you want without fear of it going on your permanent record. You can start as many Tumblrs as you like, one for each slice of your personality, whether that’s gymnastics fandom (how I got into Tumblr) or Barack Obama-Harry Styles slashfic (it exists) or akoisexual identity (when your feelings of sexual attraction fade once they’re reciprocated). A Tumblr staffer pointed me to a blog called Dolph Lundgren & His Action Nips, which is just shirtless photos of the actor with his nipples turned into blinking GIFs.

Does Amazon's Data Speak for Itself

I try not to link to the same source twice in one weekend, but when one of my favorite writers (Paul Ford — you read his "What is Code" from last year, right?) takes on one of our favorite topics, Amazon, I can't just ignore it, can I?

I don’t have a good mental model for thinking across nine million objects, nor for exploring 80 million opinions. This is what people are talking about when they say “big data,” of course: No one knows what’s actually inside there, no one can make sense of all that stuff. No single human being could possibly read all of the reviews on Amazon in a single lifetime, and even reading the names of all the products would take six or seven months. Big data, for the most part, is made by humans—it is the record of what we clicked on, the banner ads we viewed, our paths through a site, multiplied by humanity. Sometimes it is seismic data or star charts too, but mostly what people are talking about with big data is data about human behavior that can be mined to create better predictive models for future human behavior.
One Man's Quest to Read — and Review — the World.

After just finishing our class teaching book reviewing at Hugo House, I've been thinking a lot about not only the nature and history of reviews, but what compells us to write them. Karan Mahajan's look at Michael A. Orthofer, and his the Complete Review, tease out some of the themes we love to linger on.

The Complete Review, “a selectively comprehensive, objectively opinionated survey of books old and new,” sits on the margins of the literary world, where it has flourished for sixteen years. As of last Friday, according to an analog counter on the site’s decidedly unglamorous homepage, it had reviewed three thousand six hundred and eighty-seven books, from a hundred different countries, originally published in sixty-eight different languages—an average of two hundred and thirty books a year. Virtually all of this criticism, and everything else on the Complete Review, is the work of Michael A. Orthofer, a fifty-one-year-old lawyer who was born in Graz, Austria, and brought up in New York City. Orthofer built the site—it took about five months; he coded it with basic HTML—on a P.C. at his home, in Manhattan, in 1999. For years, his name did not appear on the site, which claimed to be run by an “Editorial Board.” In 2009, on the site’s tenth anniversary, he began signing some reviews; the next year, he unmasked himself, discreetly, on the “About” page. In April, the retiring Orthofer will make his first serious bid for mainstream respectability, by publishing a book with the Columbia University Press. “The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction” is the culmination of his work so far, as well as a continuation and a promise.
German Forest Ranger Finds That Trees Have Social Networks, Too

Sally McGrane brings you one of those rare moments where you have to reconsider everything you thought you knew about a topic, to have your brain cracked clean open. Also… looks around, whispers at you you know, Ents—.

PRESENTING scientific research and his own observations in highly anthropomorphic terms, the matter-of-fact Mr. Wohlleben has delighted readers and talk-show audiences alike with the news — long known to biologists — that trees in the forest are social beings. They can count, learn and remember; nurse sick neighbors; warn each other of danger by sending electrical signals across a fungal network known as the “Wood Wide Web”; and, for reasons unknown, keep the ancient stumps of long-felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through their roots.
Understanding Seattle's high-rise boom

For an tall-building and architecture nerd like me, Paul Roberts great Crosscut article is a delightful read. Curious about the future of the Seattle skyline? Wondering why we don't have 110 story towers coming soon to downtown (hint: it has to do with one of our city's nicknames, Jet City)? Wondering what the heck is going to happen on that corner that just got the hurricane fencing put up? Then, friends, this is a must read:

Consider: there are currently 13 high-rise apartment or condo buildings of at least 24 stories in development or planning in the downtown area. The average is 39 stories. Another 24 high-rises are in the proposal pipeline, according to city and industry reports.

Not all the proposed towers will be built, of course, but those that are “launched” will represent a shift in downtown housing that is unprecedented not only in size but also in socioeconomics. Like 4/C, many are being “amenitized” for an upscale market. To be profitable, they will need rents of around fifty percent above the city average, according to several industry estimates. What’s more, to judge by the heavy emphasis on studios and one-bedroom units, developers are anticipating a downtown population that is childless and even single.

Sunday Post for February 14, 2016

Samuel R. Delany Speaks

Wonderful interview with the one and only Samuel R. Delany, by Cecilia D'Anastasio.

When he was 11, Samuel R. Delany stayed overnight at a Harlem hospital for observation. It was 1953, and nearly a decade before Delany would publish his first science-fiction novel. He had already realized he was gay. With trepidation, he asked the doctor, a white man, how many gays existed in America. The doctor laughed. “[He] told me it was an extremely rare disease,” Delany says. “No more than one out of 5,000 men carried it.” Rest assured, the doctor added, no medical records existed confirming the existence of black homosexuals. “Simply because I was black,” Delany says, “I didn’t need to worry!”
How Valley of the Dolls went from a reject to a 30-million best-seller

Self promotion was Jacqui Susann's game, and she was so good at it, that she started a viral movement without that crutch, the internet, that we all rely on now. Martin Chilton writes it for the Telegraph.

Her novel Valley of the Dolls was dismissed as "painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish". So how did such a poor book go on to be registered in The Guinness Book of World Records in the late Sixties as the world's most popular novel? The success of Valley of the Dolls – to date more than 30 million copies have been sold worldwide – is a tale of one of the most tenacious and sharp-eyed publishing campaigns of all time.
Liquid Assets

In drought, with water as a diminishing resource, controlling a very limited resource becomes a playground for people who like to make a lot of money. Abraham Lustgarten, in a very long and detailed piece for ProPublica, looks at Wall Street's interest in Western water rights.

Deane is not a rancher or a farmer; he’s a hedge-fund manager who had flown in from New York City the previous night. And as he appraised the property, he was less interested in its crop or cattle potential than in a different source of wealth: the water running through its streams and coursing beneath its surface. This tract would come with the rights to large amounts of water from the region’s only major river, the Humboldt. Some of those rights were issued more than 150 years ago, which means they outrank almost all others in the state. Even if drought continues to force ranches and farms elsewhere in Nevada to cut back, the Diamond S will almost certainly get its fill.

The Sunday Post for February 6, 2016

How Chris Jackson Is Building a Black Literary Movement

Vinson Cunningham profiles Chris Jackson, editor to Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jay-Z, and others, and looks into why it's important for black writers to have a black editor.

"The great tradition of black art, generally," he started again, "is the ability — unlike American art in general — to tell the truth. Because it was formed around the great American poison, the thing that poisoned American consciousness and behavior: racism. And black culture, such as it is, was formed around a necessary resistance to this fundamental lie. That’s the obligation. And this is the power that black art has."

This power — the power of the unvarnished truth — is what is at stake when we talk about the problem of exclusion in the world of books. What believable version of American reality can be the product of an industry that, according to a recent survey, counts black people as just 4 percent of its employees? We can admit that race is not our only national reality without denying that it clarifies the workings of — and relations among — the others. A kind of American Rosetta Stone.

This is the unique claim on the truth that black art can make: It draws its energy from its embrace of hybridity, from a rejection of the illusion of American purity. The joy of expression and the sorrow of experience, properly commingled, might result in something new — and true.

What It Means To Be a Science Fiction Writer in the Early 21st Century

Charlie Jane Anders, with an optimistic look that the greatest years of science fiction lay ahead of us.

I believe that science fiction’s best days are ahead of it, because I have read a lot of science fiction. And if this genre has taught me anything, it’s optimism about human ingenuity—along with a belief that the unexpected is just around the corner. I’m not alone: Many people seem to feel like science fiction is healthier than ever.

Which is funny, when you consider that science fiction died in 2003, or maybe 2004.

The Problem with Female Superheroes

Don't let the headline fool you, this is no brottack on women and minorities ruining the great white superhero. Instead, this piece looks at how, although it's great to see so many superheroines getting the spotlight lately, not all is perfect between the panels. What does social research show about the influence of superheroines on girls?

But new research by Hillary Pennell and Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz at the University of Missouri suggests that, at least for women, the influence of superheroes is not always positive. Although women play a variety of roles in the superhero genre, including helpless maiden and powerful heroine, the female characters all tend to be hypersexualized, from their perfect, voluptuous figures to their sexy, revealing attire. Exposure to this, they show, can impact beliefs about gender roles, body esteem, and self-objectification.

The Sunday Post for January 31, 2016

Maximum Wage: Is technological progress dependent on extreme inequality?

I've read many responses to Paul Graham's overly simple Economic Inequality essay. The best, I think, is this by Steven Johnson. Not only is he of tech culture, but he's willing to call out the things that are bad, as well as good. And he has an eye on a great truth of SF culture: it's not all money-grubbing venture capital bros. A lot of hard working, progressive people, willing to experiment with the foundations of their lives, are what makes the place tick.

When I first read “On Inequality” a few weeks ago, I found myself irritated by the hint of extortion in the way Graham phrased his argument: That’s a nice 50,000-year-curve of technological progress you got there; would be a shame if something happened to it. But the more I thought about it, the more I found myself considering all the forces that Graham left out of his startup-centric account of technological progress. Yes, hailing an Uber with your smartphone relies on innovations that made a small group of startup founders extremely wealthy. But think of all the other innovations that also make that experience possible, and the different economic models behind them. The Android operating system is a fork of the open-source operating system Linux, which was collectively authored by thousands of people all over the world, with no traditional ownership model for their creation. An iPhone contains many lines of code taken from open source platforms maintained by nonprofit working groups. The Web and TCP/IP protocols that allow the device to communicate with servers at Uber were developed by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN and by a handful of computer scientists around the world, many of them partially funded by the United States government. The network of GPS satellites that allow you to pinpoint your location on a map were initially created by the U.S. military. The atomic clocks that make GPS work were first built by national laboratories in the United States and the United Kingdom. Cellular networks were originally invented at Bell Labs, a research lab inside a giant corporation, whose innovations were effectively socialized thanks to the anti-trust agreement Bell, and then AT&T, struck to preserve its monopoly.
Molly for President, 2048

Look at this great, long piece about a neat local teenager with great ambition. Go Molly — You have the support of the Seattle Review of Books.

She became more drawn to the people doing the doing. The concept of “making change” stuck with her like leftover glue between her fingers, until it became clearer to the fourth-grader: politics.

“If I like politics so much, and if I just want to talk about politics all the time, why don’t I just be a politician? And so then of course my mind went straight to, Oh, I’ll just be the president.

Molly’s held on to the idea ever since — except for a brief moment in middle school when she thought she should have a more realistic goal and decided she wanted to be a lawyer. “But now I’m kind of like, I’m just gonna shoot for the stars.” Her election year will “most likely be in 2048,” she says, when she’s “old enough to have experience but young enough to seem fresh.”

Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories

Are you really going to let this assertion stand, American writers? Vollying creative work back and forth between the states and the UK is an old tradition. It's time for us to have an American invasion of great children's work.

That said, this is a good point….

American fantasies differ in another way: They usually end with a moral lesson learned—such as, surprisingly, in the zany works by Dr. Seuss who has Horton the elephant intoning: “A person’s a person no matter how small,” and, “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent.” Even The Cat in the Hat restores order from chaos just before mother gets home. In Oz, Dorothy’s Technicolor quest ends with the realization: “There’s no place like home.” And Max in Where the Wild Things Are atones for the “wild rumpus” of his temper tantrum by calming down and sailing home.
Nerdsmith: Adriana Lopez interviews Junot Diaz

Wide ranging inteview with the always interesting Junot Diaz:

I was living in Mexico City, I had a group of dudes and young sisters who liked to get together—we liked to go dancing, we liked to go drinking. One night I was out very late, this was like five months, no, maybe like four months into my trip. It was very late, and we were over at a friend’s house; the guy’s house who I was at turned out to—in the future—turned out to be a very famous Mexican actor. But that night we were just all hanging out and it was a bunch of Mexican bohemians and me and my Guatemalan buddy. And one of these Mexican cats just pulled a book off a shelf and just cornered me and was like, “My favorite writer in the world.” He was telling me, “My favorite writer in the world is Oscar Wao, I love Oscar Wao, Oscar Wao is brilliant.” And I was dying because I knew he meant Oscar Wilde. That’s where the book began. After that party I went home and I laid in bed, and I suddenly had this idea of this fore-cursed family. This idea of this awkward fat boy and this idea that this family would be cursed in love, that they would have great trouble finding love. You know it just felt like a real good kind of novella, telenovela type plot. I just thought, “Hey, I can work with this, you know, I can really change this into something else.”