desk lunch – 2015-10-29

Brought to you this week by the new One Direction song, Perfect, and its beautifully strange music video. Wait, by strange I don’t mean weird, I mean completely perfect in embracing this very particular adult life that only appears in romcoms as the Goofus to the Gallant happy ending?? Like: right here right now this is all I can give and if that’s all you want then that’s great and if it’s not well then I’ll be here kicking soccer balls and killing time between interviews and living my life instead of having sex with you. Also I love that it responds to Taylor Swift’s Style, of all songs.

In like, actual news, Atlas and Alice has just released their spring/fall issue 4 and it’s BEAUTIFUL. My flash fiction, Me and Bradley Cooper and the True Dimensions of a Love Triangle, appears in this issue and I’m so glad to be in such good company.

This comprehensive arrogance is captured in one of Thoreau’s most famous lines: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” It is a mystery to me how a claim so simultaneously insufferable and absurd ever entered the canon of popular quotations. Had Thoreau broadened it to include himself, it would be less obnoxious; had he broadened it to include everyone (à la Sartre), it would be more defensible. As it stands, however, Thoreau’s declaration is at once off-putting and empirically dubious. By what method, one wonders, could a man so disinclined to get to know other people substantiate an allegation about the majority of humanity?

Kathryn Schulz went after Thoreau and his legacy and I WEEP that it has taken this long. On the upside, it’s very long and detailed and persuasive as hell, so it was well worth waiting my entire life.

Public Domain Review doing that amazing Public Domain work by presenting us with illustrations of comets from throughout history, throughout the world. Did you know Halley’s Comet is on the Bayeaux Tapestry?? COMETS ARE AWESOME.
And this, argues Illouz, is precisely why 21st-century love still hurts. First, we lack the legitimacy of those love-torn duelists and suicides of the previous centuries. They at least enjoyed social recognition based on the general understanding of love as a mad, inexplicable force that not even the strongest minds can resist. Nowadays, yearning for a specific pair of eyes (or legs, for that matter) is no longer a valid occupation, and so one’s love pangs are exacerbated by the consciousness of one’s social and psychological inadequacy. From the perspective of the Regime of Choice, the heart-broken Emmas, Werthers and Annas of the 19th century are not simply inept lovers – they are psychologically illiterate, if not evolutionarily passé.

I also blogged about this Aeon article briefly for The Rumpus. It does such an excellent job exploring romantic love in other cultures, specifically in Russia where so much of how romance is portrayed/perceived still comes out of Tolstoy and the 19th century. I would read a book-length version of this, really.

Does it matter that she always seems to be thinking and laughing and envisioning internally, but carries herself like the protagonist of a book we’re all just living in? The answer to that depends on whether or not you think that being a tough-girl is complicated and important, or not. I think it is, and never more so than now.

Full Stop published this piece on performances of gender with HarperCollins republishing Eileen Myles’s Chelsea Girls. (Which I am STILL WAITING to read because the Free Library of Philadelphia only has ONE COPY.)


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desk lunch – 2015-10-15

Brought to you this week by… oh it’s still Hamilton. It’s always Hamilton, and falling head over heels for Hamilton reminds me of the last (pre-Hamilton) new musical I loved, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. I love this gorgeous, weird little show (and I was lucky enough to see at Kazino in 2013), and the music and story are amazing. Not as epic in scale as Hamilton, but perfect in its way.

I just want people to love Natasha and the Comet as much as I do, okay!!!!


The Shoes Under the Art World

They didn’t have to worry or marry their way into support; and they didn’t have another project, always waiting outside the studio for them to put down the staple gun and canvas. That’s what Virginia Woolf meant: a woman who wants to write (or paint) must have an income. The room of your own is the room you’ve paid for with your own money, with no one needing you—the tug on your body—outside. You need that room, with money left over for art supplies.

Really interesting longread by Pat Lipsky, a visual artist working since the 70s, and the deep-seated sexism still found in the art world. The quote above stands out, as well as the repeated imagery of “whose shoes are under the bed”, i.e., who is the man every female artist must attach herself to in order to make her living?


So, the first Democratic Presidential Debate happened. I highly recommend Alexandra Petri’s rich Maryland/granite mythos developed through the night after a couple of strange comments from the Not-Berns. I kind of love and fear the circus social media becomes during Serious Political Events like these- love for the hilarious running gags and fear because, obviously, we can’t live in the circus.

…Syria is just one of many places across the globe where warlords, separatists, drug cartels, or terror groups have seized territory within a sovereign nation, leaving the government with little or no power—and the people to fend for themselves.

Not quite an interactive feature, but a great visualization of the long-term conflicts happening around the world, the ones intense enough to have destabilized the established government. It’s an awful portrayal of the daily violence happening all over the world, but also this strangely sobering reminder that history isn’t finished. Very often it feels like America officially stopped writing history with the end of WWII, and everything after doesn’t belong with our National Mythology; the same very much applies to our conception of the rest of the world. There’s no forever in empire. HAS NO ONE READ OZYMANDIAS?


desk lunch – 2015-07-09

Brought to you this week by this chicken sandwich I had last Friday. It gave me strength.



One by one, the elements of the Europe story have fallen away. Democracy? European leaders, especially the Germans, have been openly canvassing the idea of “regime change” in Athens. The free movement of people? Hungary is planning to build a fence along its border with Serbia and David Cameron is hoping to build a metaphorical fence around Britain. The welfare state? The recent elections in both Finland and Denmark suggest that even in its Nordic heartland, it is no longer seen as a European value but as a national, even an ethnic, possession, to be kept for “our people” alone.
Solidarity? Who now believes that the average person in Frankfurt or Helsinki sees the pensioner rummaging in a bin in Thessaloniki as a fellow citizen? Thresholds of decency?

As I told the friend who shared this with me: not to make it “all about America,” but this article from an Irish writer/editor about mid-late 20th century Europe reflected a lot of wide trends we can see in American history and self-perception, too. This is a wider trend. This piece makes the argument that the post-WW2 vision of the world, developed after cataclysmic death and destruction, has slowly eroded away in the decades since. That vision included the myth of our benevolent, progressive nationalism, and social responsibilities people had towards each other as citizens of the same nation, but now we’re seeing the downward slope of that story. That other side involves a conservative policymaking rooted in this completely false idea of hyper-rationality- that the social nets and responsibilities developed after disastrous, world-ending war are immature fairytales that never “really” existed in the first place.

tl;dr: we’re choosing the grimdark, Game of Thrones brutality-oriented reboot for the next phase in our evolution and we’re too stupid to realize it. It’s going to be terrible.


locwpaposter2From Camera Clubs to Syphilis: The WPA’s Practical, Modernist Posters

The posters for the Federal Theater program, United States Travel Bureau, and other State Departments hold up surprisingly well with their direct messages and simple designs. At a time when unemployment was at almost 20%, these posters encouraged people to get out and explore their country and participate in local life in defiance of the hardships of the Great Depression.

Do they still offer tours of America’s Natural Dick Caverns? I WOULD LIKE TO BE IMPRESSED.


Screen Addiction is a new way for kids to be blithe and oblivious; in this sense, it is empowering to the children, who have been terrible all along. The new grandparent’s dilemma, then, is both real and horribly modern. How, without coming out and saying it, do you tell that kid that you have things you want to say to them, or to give them, and that you’re going to die someday, and that they’re going to wish they’d gotten to know you better?

I rarely have comments to add when I link to things from the Awl because everything on that site speaks for itself with such sadness and anger that I don’t want to get in its way. The Awl is a strange site that 1) has a mood and 2) that mood reads “the sad fury that I must be alive in a terrible city in order to accomplish all this nothing.” How do you curate and edit that?? I’m impressed. Or maybe it’s the font that makes me sad.


When the waiter comes over, Zac Efron orders a sandwich with the exuberant joy of a beautiful, thin woman freed by pregnancy. “A Reuben, please,” he says, “with extra corned beef. No, wait! And extra Swiss. You know what? Extra dressing, too.” He giggles and hands the menu to the waiter. “I’m so bad! But I can FINALLY eat whatever I want.”

Did you know Zac Efron has a brother? Did you know Zac Efron swims with sharks? Like, we discovered in an embarrassing way that Zac Efron has a brother (and a puppy) but now we know he has a brother. Interesting. Interesting.


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.