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America’s Everyday Black-Market Economy

Your Friendly Neighborhood Drug Dealer (SLThe Atlantic)
posted by box on Apr 22, 2014 - 78 comments

 

The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean

Over the course of nearly 20 centuries, millions of East Africans crossed the Indian Ocean and its several seas and adjoining bodies of water in their journey to distant lands, from Arabia and Iraq to India and Sri Lanka. Called Kaffir, Siddi, Habshi, or Zanji, these men, women and children from Sudan in the north to Mozambique in the south Africanized the Indian Ocean world and helped shape the societies they entered and made their own. Free or enslaved, soldiers, servants, sailors, merchants, mystics, musicians, commanders, nurses, or founders of dynasties, they contributed their cultures, talents, skills and labor to their new world, as millions of their descendants continue to do. Yet, their heroic odyssey remains little known. The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World traces a truly unique and fascinating story of struggles and achievements across a variety of societies, cultures, religions, languages and times.
posted by infini on Feb 6, 2014 - 9 comments

Exploring the Architecture of Doom and Urban Failure

Architecture of Doom is a Tumblr that collects images of "bleak/ gloomy/ forbidding/ desolate/ unfortunate and totalitarian architecture" from sources like Fuck Yeah Brutalism and Failed Architecture. The latter bills itself as a "research platform that aims to open up new perspectives on urban failure – from what it’s perceived to be, what’s actually happening and how it’s represented to the public" and offers some interesting essays and case studies – for example: Hotel Jugoslavija: Spacio-temporal Mosaics of Memorabilia, Function Follows Form: How Berlin Turns Horror Into Beauty, and The Poetry of Decay.
posted by milquetoast on Jan 28, 2014 - 34 comments

To hell with Gatsby's green light!

Why We Should Stop Teaching Novels To High School Students (Natasha Vargas-Cooper for Bookforum)
posted by box on Jan 17, 2014 - 160 comments

Some Essays by Hilton Als

This year's critical darling essay collection -- Junot Diaz's favorite read of the year (#), Michael Robbins's pick for best book of the year (#) -- is White Girls by Hilton Als. Mentions of Als are infrequent on Metafilter, so I thought I would share a Readlist collection of his stuff (that has a bit of overlap with the book).
posted by AceRock on Dec 16, 2013 - 3 comments

Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future

Five years after my great-uncle’s death, penicillin changed medicine forever. Infections that had been death sentences—from battlefield wounds, industrial accidents, childbirth—suddenly could be cured in a few days. So when I first read the story of his death, it lit up for me what life must have been like before antibiotics started saving us. -- Lately, though, I read it differently. In Joe’s story, I see what life might become if we did not have antibiotics any more.
posted by Potomac Avenue on Nov 26, 2013 - 103 comments

Some mercy may be discovered

"One of the greatest stories, true or fictional, in all literature is Gibbon’s account of the life and martyrdom of Boethius under the Ostrogoth Theodoric. Senator, poet, philosopher, man of reason, he was the last of his kind in all these categories. The story is an incomparable masterpiece of prose. From the opening sentence, "The Senator Boethius is the last of the Romans whom Cato or Tully could have acknowledged for their countryman," Gibbon builds a mighty organ toccata. He always seems to see ahead to every echo and resonance and inversion of rhythm, through the idyllic description of The Consolation of Philosophy to the terrible climax — the philosopher garroted and clubbed to death in the last gloomy hours of Theodoric, followed by the swift cadence, and the coda of the martyrdom of his fellow Senator Symmachus — four crowded pages of the most solemn music. Each man speaks in his own style. Gibbon speaks with such sublimity because, sitting in his quiet study, he was totally involved in the defense of reason against the triumph of barbarism and superstition and the ruin of all bright things." [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Oct 21, 2013 - 21 comments

Storyboard 75: The big book of narrative

Since the first stirrings of the Nieman Foundation’s narrative writing program nearly 20 years ago, the staff has tended a treasure trove of resource material devoted to excellence in journalistic storytelling. Much of that material went online first via the Nieman Narrative Digest and, in 2009, here at Nieman Storyboard. Storyboard 75 represents some of the most popular posts from our archive so far. Essays, interviews, how-to’s and analyses of narrative journalism.
posted by Artw on Oct 10, 2013 - 3 comments

The English teachers of America must read these pages

'Robert Frost', a poem by George Bilgere [more inside]
posted by paleyellowwithorange on Sep 9, 2013 - 15 comments

First Nations peoples are on the cusp of change

First Nations and the Future of Canadian Citizenship (CBC Ideas) Part history lesson, part memoir, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations takes to the stage to share stories of the people he represents and his own past. In his lecture titled It Feels Like We're On the Cusp, National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo sets out why he believes First Nations peoples are on the cusp of change. via CBC Ideas [more inside]
posted by KokuRyu on Sep 5, 2013 - 7 comments

"Topics galore."

Collected Essays by Rudy Rucker [via]
posted by brundlefly on Aug 21, 2013 - 7 comments

Kiese Laymon may be the best writer and curator in a generation

Kiese Laymon, is writing some of the most innovative pieces about race and life in America right now. Previously discussed here when his essay How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance was published on Gawker and took the world by storm. He has two books out this summer, his debut novel Long Division and an essay collection also entitled How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, which includes a correspondence between Laymon and four other authors, including Mychal Denzel Smith of The Nation. Long Division has received some very positive press although the establishment literary outlets have not (yet) weighed in, unsurprisingly. [more inside]
posted by cushie on Aug 5, 2013 - 16 comments

Diddling Considered As One of the Exact Sciences.

Lately, I've had some doubts about the level of discourse here on Metafilter. To remedy the situation, here is that great American essayist and thinker, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe, on diddling. [more inside]
posted by Nomyte on Jun 18, 2013 - 31 comments

Thinking about thinking about thinking

The Essayification of Everything (SLNYT)
posted by shivohum on May 30, 2013 - 15 comments

"I'm yours again. I always enjoy seeing what happens to me."

After years of silence, enigmatic programmer/musician/surrealist why the lucky stiff is publishing to the web again (temporarily). Five days ago he released a number of short collages; today, his site is outputting a number of stories and essays, which are being collected in several Scribd repositories. _why writes about a strange old Oprah show starring guests who've removed themselves from society [parts 2 3 4 5 6], discussing M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening with a friend [2 3 4 5 6], and suffering a personal crisis after reading the complete works of Kafka [2 3 4 5 6 7]. (One final story, "Dentist", has been uploaded to a public Dropbox account [2 3 4 5 6 7 8].) There's also this somewhat ominous web site. [more inside]
posted by Rory Marinich on Apr 18, 2013 - 25 comments

"It Tastes Like Steak"

"Steak is the defining mouthful of our time" (A.A. Gill, for Vanity Fair)
posted by box on Apr 11, 2013 - 102 comments

How amazing is my thought!

Lewis Thomas (1913-1993) was a physician and essayist, writing gracefully on topics as varied as language, nuclear war, and our excellent health and deplorable health-care system (PDF). He believed that the existence of Bach vindicates humanity, that "ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment", and that the Earth is perhaps best thought of as a cell. A three-time winner of the National Book Award, Thomas authored Lives of a Cell, which was voted the 11th-best nonfiction work of the 20th century by the Modern Library.
posted by seemoreglass on Apr 8, 2013 - 15 comments

Computers replace grad students

A new software program grades essay answers automatically. While not the first to do so, the program released by EdX is expected to gain more traction as it will be used to give instant feedback for the non-profit's free online courses offered by top universities. Critics have already found ways to game the system.
posted by DoubleLune on Apr 4, 2013 - 69 comments

He is interested in confusion

‘I am a phantasmagoric maximalist. I like things to be overwhelmingly strange and capacitous. I want what I write to live; it isn’t about something, it is something’— Michael Cisco. [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Apr 3, 2013 - 4 comments

The Meme Hustler

"The enduring emptiness of our technology debates has one main cause, and his name is Tim O’Reilly." (Evgeny Morozov, for The Baffler)
posted by box on Apr 1, 2013 - 77 comments

The Minerva Controversy

The Department of Defense recently announced the creation of the Minerva Research Initiative (PDF), also known as Project Minerva, providing as much as $75 million over five years to support social science research on areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security policy. The initiative indicates a renewal of interest in social science findings after a prolonged period of neglect, but it also prompts concerns about the appropriate relationship between university-based research programs and the state, especially when research might become a tool of not only governance but also military violence. The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) has invited prominent scholars to speak to the questions raised by Project Minerva and to address the controversy it has sparked in academic quarters.
posted by infini on Mar 7, 2013 - 17 comments

The New Essayists

"A talented writer such as John Jeremiah Sullivan might, fifty years ago, have tried to explore his complicated feelings about the South, and about race and class in America, by writing fiction, following in the footsteps of Walker Percy and Eudora Welty. Instead he produced a book of essays, called Pulphead, on the same themes; and the book was received with the kind of serious attention and critical acclaim that were once reserved for novels. But all is not as it seems. You do not have to read very far in the work of the new essayists to realize that the resurrection of the essay is in large measure a mirage." (via) [more inside]
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Feb 22, 2013 - 13 comments

Cairobserver

Cairobserver is the start of a conversation about Cairo’s architecture and building, urban fabric and city life. A well curated blog about Cairo featuring both Arabic and English essays. [more inside]
posted by Corduroy on Feb 17, 2013 - 2 comments

Wood, Leather, Steel, Blood

Wood Central is a long lived forum for woodworkers predating even young upstart Metafilter. Having been around for so long the forums are a source of immense knowledge of all things wood and some of that has been collected into posting archives and essays on their Articles and Reviews page. So if you ever wanted to knowWood Central's article page has you covered. [more inside]
posted by Mitheral on Feb 15, 2013 - 15 comments

The bLogicarian

"The name "bLogicarian" may be one of the the most pretentious conglomerations of philhellenic puns I could concoct." A blog on language, poetry and translation. [more inside]
posted by frimble on Feb 5, 2013 - 1 comment

Is it the terrorists?

Illegals -- Aliens as oppressed or oppressing groups in Avatar, Super 8, Attack the Block and... Alf? (Previously)
posted by Potomac Avenue on Jan 7, 2013 - 50 comments

Twelve Missives from the Roi des Belges

Perched high up above the Thames in downtown London every month this past year a different writer has spent four days living in a replica of the Roi des Belges, the boat Marlow travels up the Congo in Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness. Each author would write a short text during their stay "which explores London, rivers, the work of Joseph Conrad, or even all three." They would be visited on the last day by a journalist from The Guardian who recorded them reading their essay, poem or short story. Among the poets, historians and novelists were Adonis, Jeanette Winterson, Teju Cole, Michael Ondaatje and Kamila Shamsie. These recordings, each prefaced by a short interview, are all available on the Guardian website, to stream or download. Below the cut there is a link to each recording, with a short description. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus on Dec 31, 2012 - 7 comments

A Prodigy of Parsimony

I have known him profess himself a man-hater, while his cheek was glowing with compassion; and, while his looks were softened into pity, I have heard him use the language of the most unbounded ill-nature. Some affect humanity and tenderness, others boast of having such dispositions from nature; but he is the only man I ever knew who seemed ashamed of his natural benevolence.
From "The Man in Black," by Oliver Goldsmith, author of She Stoops to Conquer and The Vicar of Wakefield.
posted by Iridic on Dec 25, 2012 - 2 comments

High Times

Lapham's Quarterly, Winter 2013 - Intoxication - essays and notes on drug-taking, from across eras.
posted by daksya on Dec 17, 2012 - 9 comments

Review of a book about J.S.Bach.

The only two things missing in Bach’s music are randomness and sex. This book review was written by Jeremy Denk, who has a blog where you can find more good writing about music.
posted by From Bklyn on Dec 6, 2012 - 13 comments

"[T]he best essays show that the name of the genre is also a verb"

Robert Atwan, editor of the Best American Essays series, chooses the top ten essays since 1950 for PW's Tipsheet. All but three of the top essays are available to read online and linked in the article. (via)
posted by gladly on Nov 14, 2012 - 7 comments

Montaigne's Library

On the day he turned thirty-eight, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne retired from public life to the tower of the Château de Montaigne, there to spend the next ten years composing an assay of his life's experience. That his mind might thrive, he turned the tower into a "Solitarium" and its top floor into a sumptuous library, lining its round walls with some 1,500 books. Even the roof beams were made to bear his thoughts: on them he inscribed 46 quotations, here collected and translated.
posted by Iridic on Oct 11, 2012 - 22 comments

A sea of words

Six years ago, New Dorp High School on Staten Island, NY, had a 40% dropout rate, and more than 80% of freshmen were reading below grade level. In spring 2013, the school expects an 80% graduation rate. What happened? New Dorp decided to teach its students how to write. [more inside]
posted by catlet on Sep 30, 2012 - 83 comments

On Being Nothing

"... bitterness, instead of a form of disillusionment, is really the refusal to give up your childhood illusions of importance" - Brian Jay Stanley
posted by mrgrimm on Sep 17, 2012 - 100 comments

A Compendium of Public-Domain Essays

Quotidiana is an ‘online compendium of 383 public-domain essays.’ [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Aug 24, 2012 - 2 comments

John Thorne

Food writing’s shameful secret, wrote John Thorne his seminal essay, “Cuisine Mécanique”, is its intellectual poverty. John himself is a notable exception. He is one of those rare authors who have the gift of transporting us into a world of their own creation which we are happy to occupy for a while in preference to any other. They are Virgils to our Dante, showing us around the territory and introducing us to the natives. In these magic realms, strangers speak to us immediately as old friends; arriving unexpectedly at dinner time, we find a place already set for us. [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Aug 11, 2012 - 26 comments

How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance

This is powerful writing. "This isn't an essay or simply a woe-is-we narrative about how hard it is to be a black boy in America. This is a lame attempt at remembering the contours of slow death and life in America for one black American teenager under Central Mississippi skies. I wish I could get my Yoda on right now and surmise all this shit into a clean sociopolitical pull-quote that shows supreme knowledge and absolute emotional transformation, but I don't want to lie."—A piece by Kiese Laymon, an Associate Professor of English and co-director of Africana Studies at Vassar College. [more inside]
posted by Moody834 on Jul 28, 2012 - 57 comments

What are you? The ubiquitous question.

The Race Card Project by Michele Norris of NPR.
posted by mrgrimm on Jul 3, 2012 - 17 comments

Oh no!

Oh no! It's finals week and I need to finish my Civil War essay immediately.
posted by elwoodwiles on Apr 26, 2012 - 41 comments

Best Essays of the year

Byliner (prev 1,2) has released its list of 101 Spectacular Nonfiction Stories from the last year from around the web.
posted by scodger on Apr 19, 2012 - 12 comments

Send Me Flowers Today And I Will Cut You

Jenny Johnson, of Twitter fame, now writes a column for Grantland.com. In it, she pontificates on weighty issues, such as gingers, Derek Jeter's dating life, and the reason why she hates Valentine's Day flower deliveries at the office.
posted by reenum on Feb 24, 2012 - 54 comments

How to do what you love.

To do something well you have to like it. That idea is not exactly novel. We've got it down to four words: "Do what you love." But it's not enough just to tell people that. Doing what you love is complicated. From How to do what you love, by essayist (and programmer, and entrepreneur) Paul Graham.
posted by shivohum on Feb 20, 2012 - 39 comments

The Narrative Eros of the Infographic

This Chart Is a Lonely Hunter: The Narrative Eros of the Infographic via the Millions
posted by AceRock on Feb 9, 2012 - 4 comments

"...though we may have our differences, we are one people, and we are one nation, united by a common creed."

Founded in 1857, The Atlantic is one of the oldest publications still being produced in the US. They have created a commemorative issue for the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War that includes articles published in the magazine over a century ago, an extensive gallery of images, as well as a few essays and analyses by modern writers, including President Obama. Editor's note. (Via: James Fallows' Reddit AMA) [more inside]
posted by zarq on Feb 8, 2012 - 22 comments

Yugo Lada

To get one large point out of the way: In the new book, The Socialist Car: Automobility in the Eastern Bloc, several contributors rapidly acknowledge the oxymoron of the title as well as the practice of owning a car in the former Soviet Empire. The private automobile, that avatar of western individualism, is difficult to square with collectivist notions. And once its owners were at the wheel, these socialist automobiles were often difficult to reconcile with notions of mechanical reliability. More than one contemporary joke appears in the text; the introduction, for instance offers, “Why does a Trabant have a heated rear window? To keep your hands warm when pushing it.” All that aside, the collection of essays edited by Lewis Siegelbaum, is a fascinating look at automobile use, production, and urban planning behind the Iron Curtain. It reveals a system that, if far from socialist or egalitarian in origin, created a culture of automobile use distinct from the western world.
posted by infini on Jan 28, 2012 - 23 comments

Borderlines

"Countries are defined by the lines that divide them. But how are those lines decided — and why are some of them so strange? Borderlines [a New York Times column by Frank Jacobs of Strange Maps] explores the stories behind the global map, one line at a time." The latest in the series: "The Loneliness of the Guyanas," and the inaugural essay, "In Praise of Borders."
posted by ocherdraco on Jan 17, 2012 - 17 comments

Writers are always selling somebody out.

"To really love Joan Didion—to have been blown over by things like the smell of jasmine and the packing list she kept by her suitcase—you have to be female. … Women who encountered Joan Didion when they were young received from her a way of being female and being writers that no one else could give them. She was our Hunter Thompson, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem was our Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He gave the boys twisted pig-fuckers and quarts of tequila; she gave us quiet days in Malibu and flowers in our hair. … Ultimately Joan Didion’s crime—artistic and personal—is the one of which all of us will eventually be convicted: she got old. Her writing got old, her perspective got old, her bag of tricks didn’t work anymore."
posted by Houyhnhnm on Jan 11, 2012 - 45 comments

The special duty of a Jewish Christmas baby

The special duty of a Jewish Christmas baby by Sheila Heti Most of the people one deals with say, “Oh! You're a Christmas baby! You must get ripped off when it comes to presents, right?” Their eyes light up. It's a hard question to answer. The honest answer is, “I'm a Jew, I don't celebrate Christmas,” but saying this always seems chastising, and the person who asked then feels embarrassed (as they should) and I feel embarrassed that this is my accidental role in the world: reminding everyone that Jews exist. The times I say, gruffly, “I don't know. I'm Jewish,” they usually say, “Oh, I'm sorry!” But this always sounds to me not like, “I'm sorry I assumed you were Christian,” but rather, “I'm sorry that you're Jewish.” Given all this, I usually reply simply, “Yeah, it's awful. I get ripped off every year.” [previously from Sheila Heti]
posted by KokuRyu on Dec 25, 2011 - 119 comments

A lady can do no wrong

An Essay On The Noble Science Of Self-Justification: "Timid brides, you have, probably, hitherto been addressed as angels. Prepare for the time when you shall again become mortal. Take the alarm at the first approach of blame; at the first hint of a discovery that you are any thing less than infallible:--contradict, debate, justify, recriminate, rage, weep, swoon, do any thing but yield to conviction. I take it for granted that you have already acquired sufficient command of voice; you need not study its compass; going beyond its pitch has a peculiarly happy effect upon some occasions. But are you voluble enough to drown all sense in a torrent of words? Can you be loud enough to overpower the voice of all who shall attempt to interrupt or contradict you? Are you mistress of the petulant, the peevish, and the sullen tone? Have you practised the sharpness which provokes retort, and the continual monotony which by setting your adversary to sleep effectually precludes reply?" For remember, "a lady can do no wrong."
posted by shivohum on Dec 15, 2011 - 5 comments

JJS the new DFW

John Jeremiah Sullivan is the working writer most frequently compared to David Foster Wallace (he's also sometimes compared to a young Tom Wolfe). He has a new essay collection out, and many of its pieces are available online (see inside). [more inside]
posted by AceRock on Dec 11, 2011 - 35 comments

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