desk lunch – 2015-09-03

Brought to you this week by SEPTEMBER. 

Today’s high of 97/heat index magma suggests otherwise, but: AUTUMN. I AM READY. I await the day that leggings roam the earth again.

In the midst of friendship strife, I draw from a vocabulary underpinned by decades of loving women—decades washed in heady joy and devastation alike. I have learned to say, “She broke my heart” without pause because I no longer give credence to that diminishing phrase, “just a friend.”

Rachel Vorona Cote strikes again, too close to home in this essay that explores the lukewarm vocabulary surrounding female friendship. YMMV but this was one of those essays I saved to share here because quoting/posting on twitter was too immediate, too open to commentary from those very same friends this would describe. Here, I can pretend that’s not the case!

Anyway, I have never cared about a romantic partner with anything close to the intensity of my female friends, which is just me, which makes for an isolating kind of emotional experience in the world, and this essay captures that in a really uncanny and unsettling way. ENJOY.

Compared to crabs from a cleaner reference marsh in southern NJ, Hackensack crabs were measurably more aggressive. Poking the crabs with a stimulus and recording the outcome, Reichmuth and colleagues learned that Hackensack crabs were far more likely to attack while crabs from the reference site were more likely to retreat. These Meadowlands crabs were so aggressive that they skewed population studies; they would enter a trap and then ambush and kill other crabs who entered.
Most significantly, aggression does not imbue any survival benefit.

I tweet about this with way more delight than JSTOR has ever known. I’m from this area of north Jersey, the one with the aggressive crabs due to a history of heavy metal pollution in the ecosystem, and it delights me that everything in the Jersey marshes exists with this much pointless aggression. It’s not just everyone on the turnpike, it’s not all the commuters with hours of their lives spent going back and forth from the city, it’s the land itself, destroying you, like a land fueled by actively resentful Fisher Kings. Someone should add a blue crab with a knife to the NJ state flag.

Suddenly, the phone rings. It’s Eli!! He’s outraged!! He’s yelling on his cell phone while standing on a very busy Chicago street corner and he’s wearing a really well-tailored suit!!

Needs more Julianna Margulies and Matthew Goode, back from Downton England, flirting awkwardly through internet metaphors about cheating until they realize they don’t know anything about the internet and they should make out before it’s too late, SAYS THE GHOST OF JOSH CHARLES.

It’s fine, Ewan. IT’S FINE. Got any other devastating headcanons about your characters tucked up your sleeve??

desk lunch – 2015-04-30

Brought to you this week by #BaltimoreUprising.

Historical romance is often (though not always) shorthand for a romance set in England, with the Regency era being the most popular setting. In these books, the duke/earl/viscount hero is usually white (with bronzed or golden skin—because the British Isles are known for their great tanning weather and tawny-skinned inhabitants). The heroines are usually fair—like, really fair—with milky, lily-white skin mentioned often enough to cause concern about their health.

So, you read romance novels or you sometimes think of reading historical romance novels, but the optics of said novels don’t hold much appeal for you: everyone is white; they’re probably rich and if not rich then privileged and literate enough to pass for rich; they claw at each other for titles; and the plot follows the attempts of an emotionally repressed people trying to process an insult hissed at them during a slow dance with a lot of pressing of hands. So, that doesn’t sound like Your Thing. Consider The Toast‘s roundtable featuring black authors of historical romance as they discuss the flawed optics of historical romance and how they’re working to change that. I’ve already preordered out their upcoming anthology of historical romance novellas, The Brightest Day.

Narrative can be oppressive. We fall straight from the womb onto a plotline: the world ushers us to see ourselves as protagonists and map out a lifelong plan…. I’ve always treated the imperative of a trajectory with anxious reverence; this is how an identity is made. But I feared the ambiguity of the process, the impossibility of knowing what narrative would be “correct.”

I think this is the first entry I’ve read in Jezebel’s Fake Friends series, but wow. Wow. This essay on the Frances/Sophie friendship in Frances Ha hits the movie’s points better than the movie did. Ultimately, I’m not sure how much I appreciate Frances Ha on its own terms. While I love Rachel Vorona Cote’s look at friendship/identification in this piece, I don’t know how to feel about the conclusion: that the best a Mature Adult Friendship can offer—should offer, if they want to remain Mature Adult Friends—is a lingering glance across the room.

There are some big debates still underway, not least of all what one might caricature as the battle between Dante and Gladiator, or the question of what makes a cultural artefact worth studying; those classicists who work on SF are usually of the opinion that both ‘high art’ and popular culture are equally worthy of examination. However, this division hints at the second possible reason behind the rise of theory in classical reception generally: in order to defend looking at things like film or SF, it helps to have a really intimidating theoretical justification to back you up.

Hey! It’s an overview of the recent scholarship surrounding recent interpretations of classical influences into science fiction! It’s a general overview with a good, recent reading list of sources, if this sort of thing appeals to your interests (how could it not!!!)

And if you haven’t read Ta-Nehisi Coates on Baltimore, here’s an excerpt and a link: