- A glorious, gorgeous celebration of friendship and roller skates in a stunning layout and multimedia mix: “The Secret to Having the Best Summer Ever” by Jacob Moscovitch
- Me! I wrote a movie review for the first time in my life. I say things like, “Feelings are legitimate regardless of who sees” and “Victory does not allow women to transcend their womanhood.” “The Obtuseness of Man: Analysing Gender in ‘Marriage Story'”
- Jaqueline Novak’s stand-up is unreal good and I pray she makes it into a special so I can watch it forever and ever. It is smart, honest, and beautifully articulated. And about penises. “Philosophy of a Blowjob: An Interview with Jacqueline Novak” by Andrea Long Chu
- Maybe You Just Like Watching Baseball, and watching Albert Burneko take down sabermetrics and Nate Silver in a typically hilarious fashion. Maybe things exist for more purposes than figuring out their maximum optimization—and maybe things don’t need to exist at their maximum optimization.
- A really, truly fantastic interview with Guillermo del Toro who talks about things like death, the four legs of movies, making art Art, and the complexities of moralities.
- On the election, on what makes a city, on what’s happening in London: “Irreversible Shift” by Omar Robert Hamilton
Democracy (in excess?)
- As gatekeeping institutions continue to crumble, thus further “democratizing” our lives, the creation of meaning and value falls to us—and into the wallets of Facebook, Forever 21 (rest in peace), and other large corporations. “Just as fast fashion seeks to pressure shoppers with the urgency of now or never, social media hope to convince us that we always have something new and important to say—as long as we say it right away.“
- “The Road from Serfdom” by Danielle Allen
- Can I pretty please work with Astra Taylor and talk about democracy with her all day? “But it’s worth emphasizing one thing on which Athenians were very clear and that Plato and Aristotle both highlighted: democracy means rule of the poor, because the poor are always bound to outnumber the rich.“
- “This Is Why Your Holiday Travel Is Awful” by Marc Dunkelman: What a piece. This is a gargantuan and meticulously researched history of Penn Station and why the once world class station still suffers sewage leaks and dangerous trains, despite efforts to repair. In my brain, this parallels a lot with the “democratization” that the Internet has brought. Right so… the editors at the Times, the Post, etc. were the Moseses of their institutions. They policed and controlled what and who was published but now, anyone can start a blog, a magazine, an Expression of Thought. With this new proliferation of voices, there are a lot of cracks in the discourse, redirecting focus on different issues, etc. Mr. Dunkelman would probably bemoan what this has done to Truth. Who is telling the truth? How do you verify truth? With so many cooks in the kitchen, the Truth—like the plans for Penn Station—is subjected to environmental reviews, preservationists, neighborhood residents, etc…. and now it is a Slower Path to find The Truth. Having more input from various sources makes a process slower. Yes, bureaucracy is tedious and mind-numbing. And the more sources you have creates more opportunities for conflict and disagreements to arise. But ultimately, is it not the powerful figures, and their hunt for continued and further power, that create the blockades we’re suffering from? Rather than pointing the finger at the people who wanted to protect the fish habitat in the Hudson River from a subway tunneling through it, maybe Dunkelman can critically examine the roots of greed, capitalism, and unscrupulous developers through which these problems also stem.
More politics, in some form or another
- Social capital, social justice, socializing in action: “Want Kids to Learn the Joy of Reading? Barbershops and Laundromats Can Help” by Christine Hauser
- What a normal sized American city could do with Jeff Bezos’s fortune (hint, it’s a lot).
- Steve Lopez on the horrifying, devastating homelessness epidemic in Los Angeles that will never end: “Homelessness in L.A. is a catastrophe in motion, and our leaders are largely to blame”
- I like to share almost every “should I have kids despite climate change?” piece I read because I think about that question all the time and also, the columns are always lovely. “If you — understandably — are hoping for a child whose life will be easy, completely safe and free of hardship, well, the world’s impending future makes that unlikely. Then again, across the expanse of human history, lives of ease and privilege have never been achievable for most people.“
- The story behind a fading mural, honoring a murdered gang peace mediator, in a Chicago neighborhood.
- Now this is a STORY: ‘None of this happened the way you think it did’ For years, the clients of a Colorado funeral home kept their loved ones’ cremated remains. Then the FBI called.
- A man I met at a party on Friday was convinced systemic inequality wasn’t real, that his success in medical school would be because of his hard work and not because of any “handouts” he would receive for being black. This, by Isaac Arnsdorf, was one of the articles I cited in showing how racism is baked into every fiber of this country—though it is, of course, also a damning reminder of the corrupt corporate farms that dominate agriculture—“How a Top Chicken Company Cut Off Black Farmers, One by One”. (Only 1.3% of farmers in the US are black.)
- A quarter of cowboys were black: “THE FACES OF THE TRUE AMERICAN COWBOY” by Zaron Burnett III
- “Carly Rae Jepsen is someone who genuinely believes love is the most important thing in the whole world. She writes songs about her e•mo•tions, about how unwieldy they are, and then wields them in hundreds and hundreds of pop songs. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we get to hear a few.” Profile of the queen of pop, queen of my heart in “Carly Rae Jepsen: The People’s Pop Star” by Kevin Nguyen
- “Medina and Trevino have made it their mission to educate anyone who shows up about Ohlone food and culture, as well as a simple message of survival: California Indians are still here. These foods never really went away. “We like to think about if there was just never any invasion,” Medina tells me. “If we just got to absorb whatever we wanted, on our own.”” “In Berkeley, Cafe Ohlone brings back the Bay Area’s first foods” by John Birdsall
- 1. I am spinning on a carousel tied to the back of a wooden horse with its teeth maniacally bared. (Elizabeth Hart Bergstrom)
- Loneliness is not a passive feeling; / it has teeth, it chews, and I believe / we take some power from it, / from how it puts its mouth around our heads / and forces us to stare / into the complicated tunnel of its throat (Emma Törz)
- I love absolutely everything Hanif Abdurraqib writes and Poems From An Email Exchange is no exception.
- Charles Olson reads ‘Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]’
The Iron Throne (once and for all)
- The only thing that needs to be said about the finale of Game of Thrones is said best (as usual) by Zeynep Tufecki: “It’s not just bad storytelling—it’s because the storytelling style changed from sociological to psychological. … Andrea says, “Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero.” Galileo corrects him: “Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.””
- I lied: Sarah Larson’s review of the finale is important as well. “I wonder: Why do all these complex and noble souls have to end up alone, some wandering off to distant realms? Is that what the writers would have us admire?”
- Also also, LARB coverage of GOT was nothing short of excellent. I will miss this show and I will miss Sarah Mesle and Aaron Bady who remind us “kings and queens are selfish people who will kill you when they need you to die; while Tyrion should have been reading Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Carl Schmitt, Daenerys was out learning, in the field, what exactly the throne is” and “democracy is laughable because no one else exists in this show except characters with names.”
Power (in America)
- I’ve been thinking a lot about the ethics, history, and Americanness of all-you-can-eat sushi—the great Frank Shyong’s KBBQ essay tackles this idea from a labor perspective. “I used take great pride in stretching that $10 for as many rounds of meat as possible,” he remembers of his college KBBQ hangout, “[but] now I wonder how the family who owns the place is doing, and what conditions their workers face.”
- On the way power and privilege blind those who hold them: “But [Clinton] also lied because coming clean would concede a more destabilizing fact than his infidelity: that even the most powerful man in the United States can’t keep others from seeing something about himself he wishes to hide.” “Eyes Wide Shut: Power, shamelessness, and sex in Washington, DC” by Charlotte Shane
- Roland Barthes wrote of myths, the tendency of modern society to imagine otherwise remarkable creations or phenomena as God-given, a part of our natural order. What is it about American sports and war? (Ross Barken)
- Sex after Jesus, by Lyz Lenz
- “We’re not very good at the Other Stories: the ideas that never left the garage, the single mothers whose books never sold, the survivors of abuse who don’t go on to rule daytime TV. The genius of these novels is the demonstration that the Other Stories are not—and maybe, under present circumstances, cannot be—told. The books speak to the anxieties and inane cruelties of living under a system in which some people enjoy security, education, safety, beauty, leisure, self-realization, and dignity, and the rest do not, and the line between these groups is drawn in a way no person of reason and good conscience can justify.” Extremely good review of the extremely good Neapolitan Novels by Erika Jost.
- Soraya Roberts on celebrity and capitalism: “Celebrities reinforce the conception that there are no barriers in contemporary culture that the individual cannot overcome. That the consumer has eclipsed the citizen explains in part why the appeals around climate change have been increasingly directed at the individual, pointing out how they will personally suffer if the world around them does — in a sea of individuals, the planet’s distress was not impetus enough.”
- This was the first Brian Doyle piece I read. His biography says he had published 14 books, and being a bit of a jerk, I thought about how high that number was for me to not have heard of him/them—were they unsuccessful, was I looking in the wrong places, were we just ships in the night? Next to his biography read a note from the editors saying Brian had a brain tumor; they linked a fundraiser for his family. I scrolled through the list of donations. One was a gift of $25: “This is a small bit,” they wrote, “for the great pleasure your books have given me.” I immediately felt ashamed for doubting him. I clicked on the updates. Brian had died from his brain tumor; that (and others) were posthumous gifts of gratitude. What a lovely and fragile thing life is. How lucky we are to encounter each other and enjoy life while we’re here.
- I love everything about this story: “Trucking has shown him that people are more similar than different no matter where you go. “When I’m driving,” Pal says, “I see God through his creation.””
“Sikh drivers are transforming U.S. trucking. Take a ride along the Punjabi American highway” by Jaweed Kaleem
- Achingly beautiful on cancer, chemotherapy, living from Anne Boyer: “My problem is that I want to live millions of dollars’ worth of life but cannot say why I deserve the extravagance of this existence. How many books, to pay back the world for my still existing, would I have to write?”
- Thinking about Disney hand-drawn animation: Bring it Back! by Bilge Ebiri
- Judith Viorst, the author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, on happiness :’)