desk lunch – 2015-08-27

Brought to you this week by books. James Nestor’s nonfiction book on freediving and the ocean took longer to read than I expected, but then I devoured Nora Ephron’s Heartburn literally Saturday into Sunday. There’s a movie based on Heartburn, but it’s one of those books that is such a book that I can’t bring myself to watch it right now. Also, Meryl Streep as Nora Ephron and Jack Nicholson as Carl Bernstein? Let’s… not. (This has nothing to do with imagining the wrong actor from All the President’s Men as Carl Bernstein throughout the entire novel. Nope. Totally unrelated.)

Now I’m on Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and with that I will have finished all of Jane Austen! Now that I’m reading it, I’m glad I wasn’t in a rush to get through with Northanger Abbey– it’s so much more ironic and absurd than every other Austen, starting with the author’s note and sinking all the way through into every sentence. I don’t want it to end.

One of the more subtle underlying issues with the rise of Uber is the company’s slow siphoning of the political will to fix existing—or build new—public transit infrastructure in major cities…. As the wealthy—and, as the prices of Uber and Lyft fall, the slightly less so—essentially remove themselves from the problems of existing mass transit infrastructure with Uber and other services, the urgency to improve or add to it diminishes. The people left riding public transit become, increasingly, the ones with little or no political weight to demand improvements to the system.

I chose a particularly cynical quote to excerpt from this piece on the future of Uber/the privatization of the public transport infrastructure, and I made that choice because this is where Uber hits me, right now, in 2015. Fortunately, Philadelphia’s cab system has an app that’s just as convenient as Uber, and it’s still providing regular maintenance to its public transit system, but for how long? That’s really what this piece on The Awl gets at: if Uber is the future of public transit in urban areas, what will it look like in the very near future as public transit collapses but Uber still isn’t any more affordable for those who can only afford public transit?

There’s always been a link between privilege and mobility within the arts. If you are an artist, you are lucky if you can afford the time to work on your craft, and even luckier if you can afford the supplies required of your craft, and even luckier still if you are able to afford to respond to calls for conferences, residencies, and colonies.

This excellent essay from The Rumpus on the cost (financially, day-job-professionally, personally) of attending writers’ residencies. It articulates each of the thousand human complications that ensure I’ve never applied for a residency: what would happen to my job in the meantime? My apartment? My friends? Where would I get the money to pay for it? For expenses there? As prestigious as something like Bread Loaf has always sounded, the odds of being in the 5% who qualify for financial aid has never seemed worth the effort of applying.

It’s been a week and 26 million views, but seriously: have you watched One Direction’s video for Drag Me Down? It’s not news that the song itself is a jam and a half, but when the video premiered last Friday, I was shrieking way more intensely about the gratuitous use of NASA all over the place.

Best of all, this wasn’t a one-way arrangement! Official NASA twitter seemed to have tons of fun promoting their toys and the video all morning. I adored our anthropomorphized space program enough to Storify the moment.

desk lunch – 2015-08-20

Brought to you this week by BURNOUT. I took on a lot of projects at the start of the summer and now, as the summer draws to a close, I have several barely-started drafts of things in scrivener waiting for the time and quiet mind to actually write them, and I’m just tired. I’ve subscribed too heavily to the Joan Rivers and William Shatner schools of work: what if you stop working and then you never work again? What if, dudes.

Last Friday (8/14/2015), the Almeida Theatre and British Museum put on a live reading of Homer’s Iliad that started at 4 AM EST (9 AM GMT) and ran until about 8 PM EST. It was tremendous. Highlights:

The commentary. The theater’s official running commentary twitter @IliadLive, whose commentary is preserved online maybe-forever!! At the British Museum part of the event (from the start until about 6 PM EST), the commentary was streamed on two flatscreens in front of the audience so they could follow the realtime annotations as they listened to the performers. THAT’S VALUABLE. Reading an annotated text can be so distracting when flipping to the bottom of the page or the back of the book to consult who’s who, what this word means, etc. The immediate side-by-side “Xanthus is another name for the river Scamander” type commentary makes a difficult text accessible, and made it a genuine experience for, say, someone on another continent who spent literally her whole day off on Friday listening to the livestream and following the tweets.

The performances. Exceptional performers: the women (Dame Janet Suzman and Amanda Drew) who split Book 3 between them, one reading Paris’s aborted duel with Menelaus and the other the argument between Aphrodite and Helen after Aphrodite bails Paris out of the duel. Bertie Carvel (of recent BBC Jonathan Strange fame) gave a heart-stopping performance reading from Book 18 when Achilles receives the news that Patroclus has been killed. Don’t take my word for it! HERE’S A CLIP. The audio is awful, the performance is great (and switches to Ben Whishaw at the 15-min mark!)

To live even in relative poverty deprives of you new ideas; it deprives you of the tools and education you need to escape. In the most severe cases, it locks you out of society—out of voting, out of socializing, and out of connecting with others.

I can relate; the life I have has been made possible through piracy. I’m too curious, hungry, and impatient to wait for media gatekeepers to make culture accessible to me.

The Late, Great Stephen Colbert

He was 35, he said, before he could really feel the truth of that. He was walking down the street, and it “stopped me dead. I went, ‘Oh, I’m grateful. Oh, I feel terrible.’ I felt so guilty to be grateful. But I knew it was true.

desk lunch – 2015-08-13

Brought to you this week by mainlining Girl Meets World (S2) and Another Period (EVERYTHING). I highly recommend Another Period for its beautiful and snide hilarity. GMW, on the other hand, feels like a present that was crafted, wrapped, and delivered directly into my lap and I love it too much to question it. I GUESS I’LL JUST HAVE TO ENJOY THIS THING IN A STRAIGHTFORWARD AND COMPLETELY EARNEST MANNER.

Listening to house music while driving with my father. He said, “I don’t understand this music. It’s like driving through Kansas.”

He’s right. The repetition, with slight variation.
In my room is a map of the United States where black dots mark the places I’ve been, black lines the roads I’ve taken. America, enmeshed in a net.

I’m a sucker for road trip narratives especially when they’re micro snapshots into very specific places and times. SOLD.

There’s no correct answer. Height is a construct. Reality is irrelevant.

Latest musical-related obsession: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s running joke re: Hamilton as their high school play.

Even Jonathan Groff is into it, because Jonathan Groff.

It’s fine, I was due for a good WRENCHING SOB torn from my chest on Monday.

Fiction: “Me and Bradley Cooper and the True Dimensions of a Love Triangle”’m so happy Atlas and Alice picked up this short and absurd piece that’s disgustingly close to my heart.


There’s a quality like sweetness. It’s made of soft lighting, smiles, laughing with you but not at you. It grows in small spaces. Alias set scenes with Will Tippin in a too-small-for-tv apartment, a space where Jennifer Garner could hide from her premise and fate.

Read the rest at Atlas and Alice.

desk lunch – 2015-08-06

Brought to you this week by the Wet Hot American Summer prequel. I’ve allowed it to consume my entire life this week and I’m pretty okay with that! Why does Bradley Cooper only seem truly happy when he’s falling in love with Michael Ian Black? IS IT… ACTING?

Speaking of Bradley Cooper, you can read my short fiction about Bradley Cooper at Atlas and Alice. (SMOOTH)

My Where We Are viewing experience was transformative, but not in the way I expected. I didn’t start a 1D Tumblr or troll Twitter for band rumours…. I did stop policing myself and other girls, both onscreen and off. I relaxed, and I had fun. I didn’t care about being the coolest girl in the room, because the coolest girls in the room were the ones not thinking about male critics. They were just having fun.

I’ll probably never tire of articles about fandom, but this one has a strong section specifically about the gendered language to describe stadium-sized events. Sports events vs boyband concerts: WHICH IS THE GREATER THREAT? All that and more blood-boiling sexism that permeates our every waking moment!

No, the Atlantic, your very detailed photo essay isn’t like a trip to Antarctica, but it does very much make me want to go to Antarctica. Caption for this photo: A whale fossil is seen near Brazil’s Commandante Ferraz Antarctic Station, located in Admiralty Bay, King George Island, Antarctica, on November 25, 2008.

Right, right, right. I talk about that as the logic of homosexual necessity in the book and that comes up a lot, this claim that, well, men have to do this for X or Y reason. There’s simply no other choice. I think people are really committed to that idea because it means that men are not agentically choosing homosexuality as something that is happening to them, so it’s what keeps their heterosexual identity intact, when that’s the logic that applies.

This Science of Us interview runs along similar lines to the “Born This Way” piece I linked to last week, but this one explores the way that self-identified straight men justify homosexual acts in the frame of their suffocatingly rigid masculinity. Homosexuality and homosexual acts could never be choices; they have to be explained away or, I don’t know, the ice caps would melt and poison the oceans and drown every coastal metropolis in the world and drive civilization into a frenzied competition for the last of our natural resources!

On July 20th, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public’s attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065.

Speaking of our dwindling natural resources, here’s a piece in Rolling Stone letting us know that within 50 years our ecosystem will very likely drop a brick on the accelerator and destroy our precarious grip on order and civilization. Ecosystem will then heave our screaming, flaming corpse out of the car and drive us into the ocean, so… I guess I’ll keep contributing to that 403(b).