( AHOY, LANDLUBBERS )
SHORTS BOAT, TOOT TOOT. Here’s the stuff I hit the heart button on. Man, wouldn’t it be nice to have a spade button alongside that heart button? In fact let’s just hijack every troll romance quadrant for these.*
- ♥ Kate Elliot – World Building: The Map is Not the Territory — More and more good reasons to give Kate Elliot another shot.
- ♥ Jayd “Chira” Ait-Kaci – How You Can Have a Bunch of Great Ideas but Still Fuck Up Real Bad: A Korra Essay — This essay was one of the reasons I haven’t watched the rest of Korra yet despite having greatly enjoyed the first three or four eps.
- ♥ Lili Loofbourow – Just Another Princess Movie — And this one reminds me that I still really need to see Brave.
- ♣ The Editors – Please RT — Obviously I had many problems with this, but “a surprising revival of the epigrammatic impulse in a literary culture that otherwise values the merely personal and the super-colloquial as badges of authenticity” = OK, you probably do in fact get it.
- ♦ Teju Cole – Break it Down — “Behind iconoclastic bravado is a terror of magic, a belief in dead saints no less than that of iconophiles and, crucially, a historical anxiety that, in the Timbuktu case, is about presenting the bona fides of Ansar Dine to its Wahhabi models in Saudi Arabia and to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”
- ♦ Sady Doyle – Nora Ephron Finally Gets the Credit She’s Always Deserved — I never really thought about her one way or the other, but this was a nice argument for why I should care. And some of her essay snippets I’ve seen were pretty hot shit, so I’ve got Wallflower at the Orgy on my list.
♥ Michael Chabon – What to Make of Finnegans Wake? — “Dreams are the Sea-Monkeys of consciousness; in the back pages of sleep they promise us teeming submarine palaces but leave us, on waking, with a hermetic residue of freeze-dried dust. At the breakfast table in my house, an inflexible law compels all recountings of dreams to be compressed into a sentence or, better still, half a sentence, like the paraphrasing of epic films listed in TV Guide: ‘Rogue samurai saves peasant village.’
I handed back the book to him. ‘I hate dreams,’ I said.”
Also twenty points for finding Portrait as unlovable as I found it.
- ♣ Kate Conway – Rape Tropes: Too “Obscene” For Google’s Tastes — “This book does not use rape as a plot device, and that is why it’s my very favorite.”
♠ Sonia Saraiya – Why Do I Have a Cast Iron Skillet? — Oh my fucking god. Finally I understand why my generation has such a terrible reputation. But no seriously, this essay drove me to an almost mouth-frothing rage which I can’t fully explain to you, although it definitely involves class hatred, the instinctive West coast/Minneapolitan snarl/bite reflex at any East-coaster who believes their own bullshit (look it up), and how mind-blowingly immature it is to use blanket cynicism as a post-breakup pain reliever. (“Why I will sit down and tell you for an hour why I think brunch is bad for us as a culture. Why I think caring about food is a way of saying you’re just looking for ways to waste your time until you die.” — Please get the fuck over yourself at your earliest convenience.) To be fair it might also involve a certain amount of self-recognition and mortified memories of a blown year or two in MPLS, but Jesus H, at least I wouldn’t write something like THIS.
She is obviously a very good writer but I want to just grab her and SHAKE until the self-absorbed jackassery falls out.
- ♣ E.K. Weaver – Song lyric & quote print licensing info post — That was super interesting!
- ♣ The Onion: My Year Volunteering As A Teacher Helped Educate A New Generation Of Underprivileged Kids vs. Can We Please, Just Once, Have A Real Teacher — “Just once, it would be nice to walk into a classroom and see a teacher who has a real, honest-to-God degree in education and not a twentysomething English graduate trying to bolster a middling GPA and a sparse law school application.” A welcome punchline to some ongoing thoughts about the meritocracy, class, labor, education, ambition, and what it means to be “smart.”
- ♥ Megan Garber – What Space Smells Like
- ♥ Ol’ What’s Their Name – Machiavelli I – S.P.Q.F. I remain at a loss re: this person’s name or pseud, but anyway. Fantastic historical essay.
♠ Judith Thurman – In Defense of Cursive: Reading the Declaration of Independence — Okay, listen. Handwriting is a technology. It exists in an increasingly vast medium of other technologies, with some of which it overlaps quite a bit. Much like bitmapped sprites, music coding for the SID chip, and poking fixed memory addresses to blit gritty pixels onto an old Apple ][ monitor, it is a technology which can be used to create artistically interesting works, and which ought to be understood in a more or less deep manner by anyone doing serious investigation of certain historical activity. It’s important.
But anyone inclined to think handwriting is cool will learn about it in college or on their own time, and the rest of us will either rely on them as secondary sources or naturally focus our attention on a field where it doesn’t really matter. Mandatory grade-school instruction in cursive is complete indefensible horseshit and amounts to a borderline-abusive bait-and-switch that has been poisoning every student’s respect for the entire concept of organized education since the god damned nineteen-eighties. It is a cruel waste of precious personal time that the whole lot of us could have used to learn about something interesting to US. It is a festering stuffed owl that is kept around in classrooms to flatter self-satisfied pseudo-intellectual olds, at the expense of basically everyone from generation X onwards. AND I SAY THIS AS SOMEONE WHO REALLY APPRECIATES NICE HANDWRITING, OKAY? You might as well stick mandatory fucking Morse code in there, Jesus.
Fuck anyone who describes the welcome and long-overdue end of this colossal waste of soul as a “catastrophic impending loss to our culture.” Very specifically fuck Judith Thurman, and lock her in a room with all the Atari fetishists and vinyl-obsessed audiophiles.
Although her musings on the Declaration were pretty neat.
- ♦ Anna Holmes – The Age of Girlfriends
- ♣ Carina Chocano – Pinterest, Tumblr and the Trouble With ‘Curation’
- ♣ Connor Kilpatrick – It’s Hip! It’s Cool! It’s Libertarianism!
- ♥ Burkhard Bilger – Brian Shaw, the Strongest Man in the World — Beautiful. Although holy BALLS was the back half hard to read, HRNGGGG.
- Delux Vivens – so one of the reasons people are making me twitch…
- ♣ Nisi Shawl – Funny uncles
- Kate Conway – Guys Aren’t As Touchy-Feely As Girls — But They’re Getting There
- ♣ Zed Shaw – Programming Languages Have Social Mores Not Idioms — I only agree with like a third of this and find his characterization of all social programming mores as “arbitrary bullshit you need in order to code with other people who have been indoctrinated” to be pretty dumb, even if he is exaggerating for effect. But he has a sensible central point.
- ♥ Brad Gadberry – The Martini FAQ
- Rob Mifsud – Vowel Movement
* Do not read too awful much into the ♣ and ♦ because I’m kind of just horsing around there, but ♦ is something that brought me back down to earth a bit and ♣ is something that clarified a strong feeling I have towards something else.
Notable Shorts I Read in Early 2012
So this is basically the list of stuff I hit “like” on in Instapaper, with a few one-shot comics tacked on. Like most one-bit labeling schemes, the “like” button is there to be overloaded, and “like” can mean many things in addition to or instead of “like.”
- Cat Valente – Operating Narrative Machinery
- Wendell Pierce Goes to Market — Dude who played Bunk is out creating jobs, so that’s pretty cool.
- Charles Duhigg – How Companies Learn Your Secrets — “If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn’t want us to know, can you do that?” (Spoiler: Yes.)
- Kip Manley – Against Grit
- Woody Allen – Money Can Buy Happiness—As If — “I hope the two-dollar rent enables you to live in the style to which you’ve become accustomed.”
- Ta-Nehisi Coates – ‘This Is How We Lost to the White Man’ — So what HAS Bill Cosby been up to lately, anyway? A meditation on Black American conservatism.
- Chris Sims – “What is unacceptable about that? There’s nothing unacceptable about that.” — “…then your community should probably be burned to the ground and have salt spread on the ashes so that it’ll never come back.”
- Isaac Schankler – Sounds Heard: Anatomy of a Truth-Bender — I find the song in question completely uninteresting on every possible level, but I’ll always salute a nice solid fuck-you against culturally lazy musicology.
- Nick Mamatas – Beware the wineglass-shaped story — OK, noted!
- Martha Wells – The Forest Boy — A short prequel to the Raksura books.
- Elaine Blair – Great American Losers — “When you see the loser-figure in a novel, what you are seeing is a complicated bargain that goes something like this:”
- Annie Lowrey – Ruby, Ruby on Rails, and _why: The disappearance of one of the world’s most beloved computer programmers. — It’s only an okay article, but I have to admit it, I am fascinated by autoinfocide. (Like, I remain burningly curious about what drove e.g. Mark Pilgrim to just biff it. I realize that makes me something of a busybody, but I can’t help it.)
- Maria Bustillos – The Evil Economics Of Judging Teachers — “Plus which, where does Prof. Chetty propose to get all the ‘high-VA’ teachers he’s going to need in order to replace the so-called ‘lowest performers’? Out of a vending machine?” Relevant to ongoing thoughts about the meritocracy, class, labor, education, ambition, and what it means to be “smart.”
- Jo Walton – Unreliable Witness
- Rita Dove, replying to Helen Vendler – Defending an Anthology — DELICIOUS BEEF. I do not have a dog in this fight, but if you are going to break the author’s first law (thou shalt not respond to any goddamn reviews), THIS is how you go properly thermonuclear.
- džulory ladžala – Romani Groups
- Sara Robinson – Why Patriarchal Men Are Utterly Petrified of Birth Control — And Why We’ll Still Be Fighting About it 100 Years From Now
- Kendra James – O Captain, My Captain: A Look Back At Deep Space Nine’s Ben Sisko — Man, DS9 is just in the air constantly this decade. I really need to get around to re-watching it.
- Andrew Hartman – Teach for America: Liberal mission helps conservative agenda — Relevant to ongoing thoughts about the meritocracy, class, labor, education, ambition, and what it means to be “smart.”
- Mark Bowden – The Man Who Broke Atlantic City — “Sophisticated gamblers won’t play by the standard rules. They negotiate.” … ” ‘The Tropicana will continue to deal to him, we will continue to give aggressive limits, take care of his rooms and his accounts when he is here. But because he is so far in front of us, we have modified his discounts.’ ” — I did not know anything about this “discount” shit. Fascinating!
- Yoon Ha Lee – The Book of Locked Doors — Hopefully you’ve been clicking on the Yoon Ha Lee links that sometimes roll through this section.
- Paul Krugman – Lobbyists, Guns and Money — Oh awesome, looks like ALEC has a hand in the gnarliest “stand your ground” laws. If you don’t know that name yet, learn it now, because it just will not stop popping up.
- Avalon’s Willow – Transethnicity Claims, Piracy, Faeries & Appropriation — I didn’t have much to say about this “transethnic” business when it was sweeping Tumblr, mostly because not that many people actually follow me, and to a person you lot are much too level-headed and clued-in and generally capable of basic empathy to pull that kind of bizarre fakery, so I’d have been preaching to the choir anyway. But for the record, WHAT THE FUCK, WOW, DAMN. I thought this essay did a good concise job of IDing the core of disrespect behind all that.
- Avalon’s Willow – Quick Notes: Universal Stories Don’t Exist — And I thought this was pretty insightful, too.
- Abigail Nussbaum – The Hunger Games (movie notes) — This captures several of my own annoyances. More on that later.
- And apparently I read a bunch of xojane:
- Julieanne Smolinski – Why I Love Psychics (And Totally Am One)
- Julieanne Smolinski – Please Don’t Punch Me in the Head During Sex! — Me neither, please!
- Julieanne Smolinski – On Creeps (And Why I’m Totally Fine With Calling them That) — “If you don’t want to be labeled a bee keeper, don’t cultivate and maintain a hive of bees.”
- Julieanne Smolinski – Why Do Scientists Want Us to Sex Our Friends So Badly?
- Emily V Gordon – A Timeline of One Girl’s Relationship With Her Body
- Cathy Clamp – Why Small Publishers Fail
- Peter Wood – How to Ask a Question — True facts: sitting through a godawful question after a panel or presentation is incredibly uncomfortable.
- Brian Phillips — Atlas Drugged: A trip to watch Wrath of the Titans — “I think the Vicodin had mostly come online, at this point.”
- Tom Vanderbilt – Sneaking Into Pantone HQ — Possibly the froofiest conspiracy of which I am aware.
- Benjamin Wallace – The Twee Party — Yyyeeeahhhhhhhh.
- Mark Titus – Oden on Oden
- Dylan Meconis – The Rose City Classic Dog Show — “It looks like an entire tai chi class has spontaneously contracted mad cow disease.” There’s also a tangential story here related to a tiny painting I bought from Dylan at the comics fest, but I’ll save that for later.
- Chuck Klosterman – A Night With the World’s Most Hated Bands
- Bryan Lee O’Malley – Questions & answers: art process edition — “I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like I suck, i’m the worst, i’ll never be good at anything, other people are better than me, etc… deal with it by listening to radio or audio books (seriously) — having that background chatter always drowns out the part of my brain that’s yelling at me.”
- Leonard Richardson – Constellation Games (two chapter excerpt) — I enjoyed this! Oh hey, that reminds me that I wanted to read the rest. EDIT: I was just thinking “Y’know, actually that reminds me of that one story I read a few years back, ‘Mallory.’ I should check back in on whoever it was who wrote that one, see if he’s got anything else out there.” Reader, it’s the same goddamn dude. There’s also fuel for an extra sidebar here about how brendanadkins, much like Comeau from Scott Pilgrim, appears to know literally everybody, but that one can wait.
- Alessandra Stanley – Paradise Lost: A Mother-Daughter Spring Break — When annoyingly rich is apparently not rich enough. I enjoyed reading this, I guess, but JUST WOW on several levels at once.
- Adam Mansbach – Blurb Your Enthusiasm — “The first word of your two-word title is a gerund. (+$75) …The word after the gerund in your two-word title is a proper noun masquerading as a regular noun, i.e. ‘Losing Ground,’ a novel about a man named Peter Ground. (+$250)” (Also, apropos of nothing, this reminds me that I live not too far from the intersection of Failing and Mallory, and it occurred to me on my run one day that “Failing Mallory” would be a fantastic name for an early/mid-90s sitcom/drama that got good response from critics but had no idea who its audience was supposed to be and got cancelled after a season and a half. Just saying that if you have a time machine and want to lose a shitload of money in television, I’m probably your man.)
- Carl Zimmer – The One-Ton Turkey: Further Adventures in Slow-Cooked Science
- Antoine Wilson – Notes on “Hack”
- Maciej Ceglowski – The Social Graph is Neither — Tell it, hallelujah.
- Charlie Jane Anders – Why Science Fiction Writers are Like Porn Stars — THIS shit again? I keep being like “Didn’t Le Guin just give up and shoot the bastards last year?” but no. Anyway, I enjoyed and appreciated this particular eyeroll.
- Anonymous – On not being OK — (Original is here, but it’s been visited by the mojibake fairy, so I’m linking the less mangled reblog.)
- Matt Taibbi – Wall Street Isn’t Winning – It’s Cheating — “Americans for the most part love the rich, even the obnoxious rich… And as much as we love the self-made success story, we hate the cheater that much more.”
- Shaenon K. Garrity – Librarians in the Branch Library of Babel — The voice on this one got really wobbly after a while, but it was fun anyway.
- Matthew Specktor – Positions of Privilege — A review of sorts of Didion via Didion’s latest. Yes, I use reviews of Didion as Didion methadone, what of it.
- I give up, I can’t find her damn name; maybe it was Thrud, I dunno, it’s nowhere on her site, but anyway – An unbiased review of the Marvel “Thor” Movie and An Unbiased Review of the Marvel “Avengers” Movie — I lolled at both.
- N.K. Jemisin – Sexual Violence in The Shadowed Sun
- Cherie Priest – How to Tell a True Ghost Story
- Austin Seraphin’s first-hand notes on learning echolocation, parts one two and three — That shit is crazy.
- Max Fisher – Welcome to America, Please Be On Time: What Guide Books Tell Foreign Visitors to the U.S.
- Emma @lawnrocket Coats – A collection of very good story advice tweets, passing on wisdom from unnamed colleagues at Pixar.
- Christopher Hayes – Why Elites Fail — Relevant to ongoing thoughts about the meritocracy, class, labor, education, ambition, and what it means to be “smart.”
- Autumn Whitefield-Madrano – The Sweet Smell of Sexcess
- Francis Lam and Eddie Huang – Is it Fair for Chefs to Cook Other Cultures’ Foods? — Both of these guys seem cool and I would like to hang out with them.
- Ursula K. Le Guin – Le Guin’s Hypothesis — …Didn’t Le Guin just give up and shoot the bastards last year?
- still eating oranges – The significance of plot without conflict — That was interesting! I wasn’t familiar with that bit of theory, but it seems to fit things I’ve seen, and is useful to have in the quiver.
- Mark Bowden – A Case So Cold It Was Blue — File under “reality is unrealistic.” Oh but guess what, there’s bonus material, scroll to the bottom. Check out the ACTUAL INTERROGATION VIDEO of a real-live COLD-BLOODED MURDERER who spent two decades thinking she’d got away with it and is now in the process of desperately scrambling to adjust her story. Aaaauuuugggghhh.
- N.K. Jemisin – But, but, but — WHY does magic have to make sense? — I agree with this and I don’t! On the one hand, I do love me some magitek, and would almost definitely be getting my own science on if I encountered real life magic. But on the other, she’s completely right about Earthsea’s approach being just plain more enduring and brain-fizzing and, when it needs to be, scarier. (Cf. also the magic in Among Others.)
- Boulet – Fantasy Management and My Metal Pizza — Boulet is so cool.