desk lunch – 2015-06-25

Brought to you this week by a brain so scattered I’m reviewing twitter and my calendar to recall what exactly consumed another week of my life. Work? Panic? Naps? Work again? Discussions about homoeroticism in The Silmarillion like I’m 16 and living on livejournal again? Reading the juiciest parts of DID MY BOYFRIEND JUST GET MARRIED? (Girl. He did. He got married.) Yes, it was all these things, and probably more, but take this non sequitur: if you need a Comedy Central show in the background, start easing yourself over to Larry Wilmore and the Nightly Show, ok??


Carvell: Right. Well, when your entire history in this country has been about literally dying to be considered human, you have to develop a Christianity that enables you to fight while also “forgiving them” who hurt you. We have to forgive the sinner because the accumulated resentment could destroy us, but that will never mean that we don’t fight tooth and nail against the sin.
Mallory: So it has more to do with self-protection than it does with absolution, it sounds like.
Carvell: Absolutely. It’s nothing to do with the offender and it’s not about granting a pass to anyone.

Judging by the comments on this interview with Carvel Wallace at The Toast, I’m definitely not the only one who needed explained in great detail how the concept of forgiveness differs between white and black communities in America. And to be honest, this concept of forgiveness (making peace with something and also continuing to fight the offense and how it hurt you) makes a lot more sense than Catholicism’s sacrament of a third party wiping the slate clean for you and declaring it All Good. Which- nope! That’s not how my intricate resentment irrigation system works!

The Civil War was easy to misunderstand at the time, because there had never been anything like it. It was a total mobilization of society, the kind Europe wouldn’t see until World War I. The Civil War was fought not just with cannons and bayonets, but with railroads and factories and an income tax.
If the Napoleonic Wars were your model, then it was obvious that the Confederacy lost in 1865: Its capital fell, its commander surrendered, its president was jailed, and its territories were occupied by the opposing army. If that’s not defeat, what is?
But now we have a better model than Napoleon: Iraq.

This essay (originally posted in August 2014) is a fascinating longread that examines the lasting culture of the Confederacy. Essentially, the idea goes that we’ve only just developed the correct language and framework for talking about the Civil War, now that modern warfare has moved from a “clear” capture/conquer model to sustained insurgencies. The Confederacy, says the piece, is just such an insurgency that managed to weave itself literally into the fabric of our national culture. HILARIOUS.



POEM REC! (excerpt)

You can’t see beneath the exoskeleton,
this stylized mockery of female form:
smooth cyberskin, DD breasts,
perfectly calculated 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio.
By your standards, it is perfect.

I see the overlap—cars, guns, violence, danger, chasing and escaping, a relationship that seems more than brotherly but not quite romantic—but I think Crush and Supernatural are products of a cultural moment, not products of each other.

HAHAHA, RICHARD SIKEN. I’m not joking when I say this interview covers topics that I’ve wanted to write about and explore for years. This isn’t just about Siken and Supernatural– more interesting is this longer pull quote that I scrambled to submit to The Rumpus’s blog with embarrassing speed.

Siken gets why fandoms and slash writers have latched on to his work; he gets it better than any other writer I’ve seen try to address fanworks and the give/take relationship with the original work.

Fanwork artists don’t borrow another creator’s fictional world, but expand its boundaries. In this case, fan artists use Crush and slash to push the dialogue between the show and its themes in directions the shows refuse to incorporate seriously. It’s especially important for shows like Supernatural and Sherlock, whose writers and showrunners build deep emotional attachments between men with one hand and deny every shade of serious homoeroticism/romanticism (queerbaiting!) with the other. Fandom and its fanworks imagine storylines without a virulent undercurrent of gay panic, stories that allow genuine intimacy to exist between characters without rushing to reinforce traditional masculinity. Frankly, that’s kind of the point: to undermine “traditional” masculinity in favor of characters who can experience the full range of human emotion! IMAGINE THAT.


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desk lunch – 2015-06-18

Brought to you this week by #RAPTORSQUAD and DINOSAURS. I’ve spent the week diversifying my interests but it’s so hard. It’s so hard. 

#CharlestonShooting


Historian B.G. Corbin points out that an early form of astronomical photography became available during the time when [Étienne Léopold] Trouvelot was working, but that the artist rejected the idea of switching media, arguing that “the camera could not replace the human eye” when it came to capturing the subtleties of structure and configuration.

I particularly like the Jupiter drawing because it captures the depth of the cloud cover- it’s something we see in our own clouds every day, but an element obviously lacking in our actual probe photos.

On Earth, humans long ago became the global force that decides these strange creatures’ fates, despite the fact that we barely think about them and, in many cases, only recently discovered their existence. The same will be true for any nearby planet. We are about to export the best and worst of the Anthropocene to the rest of our solar system, so we better figure out what our responsibilities will be when we get there.

NERD KLAXON: I include this because it goes into great, great detail (ok, only 3200 words of detail) the simple fact that probes on another surface, a probe with our dirt and our elements and our microbes, would constitute as colonization. It would be the beginning of turning another world into our own- or, worst case scenario, ruining it because their ecosystems are incompatible. In conclusion, I look forward to The Martian and blissfully discussing every single thing that can go wrong in space exploration for the next 2-3 years. At least. This is like an opening act.


POETRY RECS! 

BOAAT Press has done a beautiful thing and put the PDFs of their 2015 poetry chapbook contest winner (and runners up, I think?) up on their website for free. They only ask that you donate what you like. The winning chapbook, Call It a Premonition: Translations from the Voynich Manuscript by Jess Feldman, captures this gorgeous moody and sulky modern-medieval world, particularly in the title poem at the close of the book:

In a distant future
I look like a boy only
still a girl but in slacks okay
I am moving my lacquered
fingers so text materializes
across a framed fluid tapestry
without seams
Blues for a Red Planet by T.A.Noonan at Open Letters Monthly
But who shall dwell in these worlds, asks Kepler,
if they be inhabited? Not my girls in double-
sided tape. They will wait as God has waited
six thousand years for an observer.
At the End#finalpoem from Jimin Han
We never made it to the coast.
I never saw you.
Rivers changed course without warning
or did we have warning?
Maybe we ignored the warning.

ENCLAVE, Entropy Mag’s community space, is doing something interesting with #finalpoem: publishing every submission, all of which center on the last poem a writer would offer if the world was ending next week. You can submit here.


Jurassic World: Drink up that toxic masculinity

I love good action movies because they blend in-your-face spectacle with whisper-quiet subtext in between all the explosions. Good action movies call back to Western culture’s urtext action movie, Homer’s Iliad; they perform a similar balancing act between subtlety and a spear literally breaking a guy’s head apart from the inside out. It’s the subtlety that sticks with me because it takes longer to sink in and then lingers much longer.

Enter Jurassic World and its lack of feminism in that overt Katniss-branded sense. (Never mind that Bryce Dallas Howard did everything Chris Pratt did while wearing ivory pumps that he deemed impractical.) Jurassic Park had Laura Dern and Hacker Girl while Jurassic World had four speaking roles for women (Howard, Judy Greer, Control Room Girl, and Morgana from Merlin) compared to three times as many speaking roles for men. That’s not reflective of the world I live in, but the world I live in also doesn’t have a dinosaur theme park.

Those gendered choices represent the reality of Jurassic World. Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t use a rocket launcher against Indominus Rex (THE UNTAMED KING!!! NOTHING IS CHILL ABOUT THIS MOVIE!!!), but there’s more to feminism than portraying women as ultra-violent monsters at the same rate that men are portrayed ultra-violent monsters. That’s the subtext of Jurassic World: a disaster movie that predominantly features men messing up and served with Action Movie Justice. We can use feminism as a lens on Jurassic World that allows us to identify toxic masculinity for what it is and call it out.

So, in order of appearance, here’s an incomplete list that examines the men in Jurassic World and their experience in this culture of toxic masculinity. All movie-canon errors are my own because, at the time of writing, I saw the movie less than 48 hours ago and IMDb can only supply so much. SPOILERS BELOW, OBVIOUSLY.

Continue reading Jurassic World: Drink up that toxic masculinity

desk lunch – 2015-06-11

Brought to you this week by several days of being outside and seeing people while also rounding up all the cats in Neko Atsume. (It’s free to download, but it will cost you minutes of your life every day, and you will seriously consider the economics of this planet of stray cats, and it will all make perfect sense.) And then Alexander wept, etc. Also!! Keep an eye on the blog at The Rumpus, as I’ll occasionally contribute more literary-minded links over there.

RIP Christopher Lee and all the great old dudes 2015 has claimed this year.


In case you couldn’t tell from my brief journey into the world of dinosaur romance: I love Jurassic Park. I look forward to Jurassic World this week because big screen dinosaur spectacles are so few and far between!! So prime yourself with this wonderfully earnest movie-and-book-canon love letter to Ian Malcolm.

Also, here’s my Jurassic World dream cameo: it’s during this scene full of chaos in the streets of the park, etc. Run, scream, run, scream: CUT TO A SIDEWALK CAFE WHERE DR. IAN MALCOLM SITS AT AN UNDISTURBED TABLE, SIPPING AN ESPRESSO, LAUGHING TO HIMSELF. I can’t ask for the filmmakers to dedicate five or ten or maybe 30 minutes of a film to Jeff Goldblum laughing to himself (remixed), but I can dream.


But despite our toxic relationship and his abusive nature, I pen this letter under a cloak of anonymity because my father, from what I have recently learned, is queer but not proud. And by no means is he out.

O’Rei, the author, draws a striking line between deferment and displacement- it’s a law of physics, that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, and displacement will be the other side of deferment. Something deferred can fester or explode, but much more likely it’ll shift its power and weight in some other direction, a sustained force replenished as long as (in this case) there’s desire deferred to fuel it.


Like all such testaments, the Embroidery is both repository and maker of memory: source of the facts we resolve into histories, participant in the worlds that designed it and inherited it, tribute to and bearer of war.

IT’S A #LONGREAD. SAVE THIS TO POCKET. Alison Kinney writes a richly researched essay on war memorials, starting with the Bayeux Tapestry (EMBROIDERY). I read so much history and read more than my share of war narratives, and that’s just it: wars are often presented as narratives that have to be told and retold, from as many different angles as possible, the better to understand this chaotic rupture of life and the social order. It’s interesting to consider the temporality of war memorials, the way they don’t evolve as our stories or understanding of a war or battle does. That’s the surface fact of a memorial, but Kinney brings this into a new light: that these memorials capture a raw feeling of war that we, the survivors and inheritors, can’t narrativize out of the way.

We launch our memorials, as time capsules—ravens or doves—or bombs—into unknown futures, bearing our faults and stories, not knowing which will crumble or rot, be swallowed by weeds, mounted in museums, or blasted. We can’t predict whether, freshly restored, they’ll urge future soldiers to kill, or mourn another war intended to end all wars.

Remember NASA’s Dawn Mission, whose trajectory and bright spots I babbled about almost exactly two months ago? GUESS WHAT. THERE’S PHOTOS OF CERES. In fact, there are enough photos of dwarf planet Ceres for NASA to create this video showing us its topography. FULL SCREEN. VOLUME UP. The star field was added after the fact to provide visual relief from a dark background and the illusion of distance, don’t worry about it, ok? Here’s the full post from NASA and the twitter link to the video for your retweeting pleasure.


It’s real.

desk lunch – 2015-06-04

Brought to you this week by the weather in the northeast, in June, when I wore leggings to work and needed a light jacket!!!!!!!! Also, I’ve had short fiction pieces accepted for future issues of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Atlas and Alice. I don’t want to see the day when an acceptance doesn’t send me into a swoon at my desk.


The ripples carried the head further up the river. Gently it drifted, impeded here and there by the side of some stone, only to be pushed along again by the rush of the flow. It finally found a resting place on the shore where the water ran quiet into a brown muddy clay.

Terraform is a new short fiction series at Vice. Every story so far has been captivating and accompanied by incredible artwork. “A Song For You” stands out with its pacing and its patience. I mention patience because the language captured the protagonist: an AI with literally too much time in the world. I also recommend “The Judge” for its structure and humor.

It’s a complicated comfort, isn’t it? The endless distance, the hidden and isolated nature of the individual, but also the lights, far and small as they might be, where the voice in the back of the head resides along with the body. If there is anything spiritually nourishing in the world, it feels very far away, and yet it persists, trying for companionship through the darkness.

May’s entry for the advice-through-poetry column at The Toast haunted me with its descriptions on walking outside at night. Come for that and stay for the thoughtful reflection on Franz Wright’s “To Myself.”

That school secretary who threw out my book? She might as well have been telling me—and within a week of my husband’s losing his job—that my kind didn’t belong in her nice suburban school district. That my politics and my mouthiness and my checkered past would forever preclude me from finding a nice classroom somewhere to call my own.

Oh hey, it’s an essay on the friction between one’s artistic persona and their professional money-earning day-job persona. How interesting.

It doesn’t make sense to make blanket statements like “content on the web should be persistent” or “content on the web should be ephemeral”. Instead, we need to recognize that this “web” thing is conflating two very different forms of discourse, forms that used to be clearly and deliberately distinct.

The “web” is not a part of nature. It was not discovered; we don’t have to just accept it. The “web” is an infrastructural system that was built by people, and it was built very recently and very sloppily. It currently has the property that it forgets what must be remembered, and remembers what must be forgotten. It manages to screw up both the sacredness of the common record and the sacredness of private interaction.

These two short pieces discuss the central problem of the internet as the medium we know now. We’ve created the largest storehouse of knowledge known to the world so far, but the infrastructure of the web itself doesn’t prioritize one kind of knowledge over another: every bit of data, once it exists, is left out there exposed to the elements. “The elements” on the web have the same effect as they would on earth: neglect, avoidance, ignorance, all that leads to significant knowledge lost.

It’s a similar issue that came up a few weeks ago when talking about hypercomplex systems that collapse under their own weight because they can’t identify their own flaws. With the volume of information we see every day, how can we ever hope to identify the information we’re not seeing? How can we remember what we’ve already forgotten? Have we Fahrenheit 451‘d ourselves?