"Here's the thing. You have no real control over popular success. You only have control over artistic success. If you're not concentrating on the latter, the best case scenario is you do not achieve the former." Jeffrey Cranor, co-writer of "Welcome to Night Vale," talks about what has made it a success. (Night Vale, previously.)
All these grown-up monsters for my grown-up mind, they are there in the nights I wake up terrified and taunted by death. When I feel so small and broken, when despair and terror take me, I have a secret tool, a talisman against the night. I don’t use it too often so that it doesn’t lose its power.[more inside]
Commander Pigeon is a collector of lost and exiled men. The quietest soldier once belonged to the Taliban. He had been captured by local police, escaped, and having heard about Commander Pigeon, walked miles to reach her home. He fell to his knees and begged for protection. She made him swear loyalty. I asked how she knew he wouldn't rebel. "I'm watching him closely," she said. "I'm converting Taliban to normal people."[more inside]
Jen Percy for TNR: My Night With Afghanistan's Only Female Warlord, Commander Pigeon.
"There is a crispness about celery that is of the essence of October. It is as fresh and clean as a rainy day after a spell of heat. It crackles pleasantly in the mouth. Moreover it is excellent, I am told, for the complexion. One is always hearing of things which are good for the complexion, but there is no doubt that celery stands high on the list. After the burns and freckles of summer one is in need of something. How good that celery should be there at one’s elbow".
Ten years ago today saw the English launch of a quirky Japanese puzzler, a sleeper hit that would go down as one of the most endearing, original, and gleefully weird gaming stories of the 2000s: Katamari Damacy. Its fever-dream plot has the record-scratching, Freddie Mercury-esque King of All Cosmos destroy the stars in a drunken fugue, and you, the diminutive Prince, must restore them with the Katamari -- a magical sticky ball that snowballs through cluttered environments, rolling up paperclips, flowerpots, cows, buses, houses, skyscrapers, and continents into new constellations. It also boasts one of the most infectiously joyous soundtracks of all time -- an eccentric, richly produced, and incredibly catchy blend of funk, salsa, bossa nova, experimental electronica, J-Pop, swing, lounge, bamboo flute, hair metal, buoyant parade music, soaring children's choirs, Macintalk fanfares, and the finest theme song this side of Super Mario Bros. Called a consumerist critique by sculptor-turned-developer Keita Takahashi (who after one sequel moved on to Glitch, the supremely odd Noby Noby Boy, and playground design), the series has inspired much celebration and thought [2, 3] on its way from budget bin to MoMA exhibit. Look inside for essays, artwork, comics, lyrics, more music, hopes, dreams... my, the internet really is full of things. [more inside]
I don't know what it is about fecundity that so appalls. I suppose it is the teeming evidence that birth and growth, which we value, are ubiquitous and blind, that life itself is so astonishingly cheap, that nature is as careless as it is bountiful, and that with extravagance goes a crushing waste that will one day include our own cheap lives. Every glistening egg is a memento mori.Annie Dillard ponders the disquieting thrall of the circle of life in her November 1973 essay for The Atlantic: The Force That Drives the Flower. [more inside]
"In reconsidering the metrosexual, we must first distinguish between the metrosexual’s imagined and actual properties. Like hipsterism, metrosexuality is an insult more readily slung than substantiated. According to canon, David Beckham is the ur-metro. Although Beckham initially goes unmentioned in the word’s first printing (in 1994), the word’s progenitor, Mark Simpson, introduced American readers to metrosexuality through the British football star in 2002, when he called Beckham a "screaming, shrieking, flaming, freaking metrosexual…famous for wearing sarongs and pink nail polish and panties…and posing naked and oiled up on the cover of Esquire." " - Johannah King-Slutzky for The Awl on the 'Metrosexual' situation a decade later
"But not doing things too disastrously is not some minimal achievement; it is a maximal achievement, rarely managed." Does it help to know history?
Koryos, who previously explained how cats got domesticated using tumblr, now explains why homosexual pair-bonding can be a successful reproductive stratagem. Also, Coot Parenting Tips, Queen Cowbird Of The Brood Parasites , There's No Such Thing As An Alpha Wolf, and Can Animals Have Pets?
Consider the Holy Bible as a product in a marketplace. It has several attractive qualities, foremost among them the tantalizing possibility that it contains the true word of a being who created the universe. But it has several worrisome drawbacks as well. Like most written anthologies it has poor replay value when compared to something like Spelunky; after you read it once you know more or less how it goes. It features a relatively weak Physical Rights Management scheme; for example, you don't need to purchase one for your household if you can simply borrow it from a friend or read it in a local church. Even its branding as a 'perfect document' becomes something of a double-edged sword; the first, purportedly perfect edition might seem very desirable indeed, but who is going to buy Holy Bible: Religious Text Of The Year Edition when the original is supposed to be immaculate? How are you going to make corrections, utilize analytics data or market additional 'content'? Where will your fine sponsors place all their full-page advertisements: After the crucifixion or before?—Form and its Usurpers is a long essay by Brendan Vance [previously] about videogames, Hegel, form, content, what "free" means, how capitalism ruins everything and what to do about it.
Roxane Gay, author of An Untamed State and the upcoming Bad Feminist, has a lot to say about relationships and sexuality and self esteem. Also about how to bake a pie and a killer summer pasta recipe.
In "Walking, Researching, Remembering: W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn as Essay," Patrick Madden reaches a simple conclusion but visits along the way several points of wider interest in a discussion of essays in general. [more inside]
Coder's High. Metafilter's own David Auerbach, who says he's now a former programmer, describes a satori-like absorption that comes only from things like debugging.
"Elephants are obviously amazing, or rather, they are obvious receptacles for our amazement, because they seem to be a lot like us. They live about as long as we do. They understand it when we point at things, which our nearest living evolutionary relative, the chimpanzee, doesn’t really. They can unlock locks with their trunks. They recognize themselves in mirrors. They are socially sophisticated. They stay with the same herds for life, or the cows do, anyway. They mourn their dead. They like getting drunk. When an elephant keels over, its friends sometimes break their tusks trying to get it to stand up again. They bury their dead. They bear grudges against people who’ve hurt them, and sometimes go on revenge campaigns. They cry. So why would you want to put a bullet in one?" ... Journalist Wells Tower accompanied one of Botswana's final elephant hunts. This article contains graphic content of an elephant hunt which some may find disturbing.
"Advertising is not well. Though companies supported by advertising still dominate the landscape and capture the popular imagination, cracks are beginning to show in the very financial foundations of the web. Despite the best efforts of an industry, advertising is becoming less and less effective online. The once reliable fuel that powered a generation of innovations on the web is slowly, but perceptibly beginning to falter. Consider the long-term trend: when the first banner advertisement emerged online in 1994, it reported a (now) staggering clickthrough rate of 78%. By 2011, the average Facebook advertisement clickthrough rate sat dramatically lower at 0.05%. Even if only a rough proxy, something underlies such a dramatic change in the ability for an advertisement to pique the interest of users online. What underlies this decline, and what does it mean for the Internet at large? This short [PDF] paper puts forth the argument for peak advertising—the argument that an overall slowing in online advertising will eventually force a significant (and potentially painful) shift in the structure of business online. Like the theory of Peak Oil that it references, the goal is not to look to the immediate upcoming quarter, but to think on the decade-long scale about the business models that sustain the Internet." [more inside]
Chris Gethard: Overcome Your Programming And Be A Better Man
Portrait of a Young Man with Down Syndrome. A father reflects on his son's search for employment.
Introducing Sociology: Tim Kreider's influential 1999 essay (previously) on how Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut uses sex and infidelity to cover up a story of greed and murder by the elite gets a brand new afterward by the author to introduce a new site for his non-fiction writing, TimKreider.com
Post-operative Check: "It's okay that you don't remember me. My name is Shara, and I'm part of the surgical team. I'm checking to see how you're doing after your surgery. Do you know where you are right now?" [more inside]
"Why am I not constantly grieving?" The wonderful Roger Angell on love, loss, sex, death, time, and the view from age 94.
The Names They Gave Me. From the essay: " 'Your name is Tasbeeh. Don’t let them call you by anything else.' My mother speaks to me in Arabic; the command sounds more forceful in her mother tongue, a Libyan dialect that is all sharp edges and hard, guttural sounds. I am seven years old and it has never occurred to me to disobey my mother. Until twelve years old, I would believe God gave her the supernatural ability to tell when I’m lying. 'Don’t let them give you an English nickname,' my mother insists once again, 'I didn’t raise amreekan .' My mother spits out this last word with venom. Amreekan. Americans. It sounds like a curse coming out of her mouth." By Tasbeeh Herwees in The Toast.
Whenever I look around me, I wonder what old things are about to bear fruit, what seemingly solid institutions might soon rupture, and what seeds we might now be planting whose harvest will come at some unpredictable moment in the future. The most magnificent person I met in 2013 quoted a line from Michel Foucault to me: "People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does." Someone saves a life or educates a person or tells her a story that upends everything she assumed. The transformation may be subtle or crucial or world changing, next year or in 100 years, or maybe in a millennium. You can’t always trace it but everything, everyone has a genealogy. Rebecca Solnit in TomDispatch: The Arc of Justice and the Long Run: Hope, History, and Unpredictability [more inside]
“Oh,” says the ad man. He’s responsible for the hour of primetime television Revlon has bought and turned over to Belafonte, who, by the way, will not be singing “The Banana Boat Song,” and has also decided that he won’t accept commercials. “Oh my god,” says the ad man. Belafonte grins now, and says what he thought then: “Swallow that sh*t, motherf***er.” The Revolutionary Life of Harry Belafonte.
“I don’t think you’re gay,” he said. He then went through the same litany as Dr. F.—he didn’t believe I was a pervert, he just felt I was lost and confused and needed to be set on the right path. Dr. K. believed in behavioral modification. He told me to place a rubber band around my wrist. Every time I had “gay thoughts,” I was to snap the rubber band, causing pain. Eventually I would associate the thoughts with the pain. - Gene Stone on growing up gay, struggling with sex, anti-gay conversion therapy, and the doctor-mandated sex surrogate that finally helped him.
Why I Hate the Goldberg Variations, by Jeremy Denk, whose new (lovely) recording of the Goldberg Variations is now streaming on NPR. Also by Denk: Hannibal Lecter's Guide to the Goldberg Variations, which explores the famous cannibal killer through the lens of Bach. This is Your Brain on the Goldberg Variations, which gets in-depth on just how the Variations vary.
The Big Father Essay. Some readers may find sections disturbing.
"Unlike most teen dramas, Buffy wasn’t a narrative about finding an identity; it was always about having a lot of them." Kim O'Connor for The Toast on Buffy Summers, growing up, identity, and how saving the world every week is a better model than just getting through high school.
The AV Club's diaspora, The Dissolve, has spent a week analyzing Terry Gilliam's dystopian masterpiece Brazil. The keynote essay. Brazil Forum: style, gallows humor, the past as future, and more. Duct to the future: The nightmare of Brazil never arrived, but it’s still resonant
So you see, I am not making a brief against reading the classics of Western literature. Far from it. I am against taking these startling epiphanies of the irrational, unspoken, unthought-of side of human life into the college classroom and turning them into the bland exercises in competition, hierarchy and information-accumulation that are these works' mortal enemies. An essay by Lee Siegel (SLWSJ)
Five Reasons Why I Am Not An “Artist”, an essay by Tom Ellard (formerly of 1980s industrial electropop band Severed Heads and now an academic and media art practitioner in Australia; previously), touching on areas such as artificial divisions between art and technical practice, the politics of the role of the artist and the conflict between creative exploration and artistic recognition and success.
The Sad and Rapid Decline of the Ball Cap: Including photos of the 67 hats that survived of the author's 90s-era Hat Collection. [more inside]
"In life, things happen twice if you're lucky. There's the father you get and the father you choose." [more inside]
In an essay for The New Inquiry, Moira Weigel and Mal Ahern consider The End of Men, global recession era capitalism, and ironic sexism.
"Mancession Lit portrays the Man-Child as pitiful, contrasting him with women who are well-adjusted and adult. But it rarely acknowledges the real question that this odd couple raises. Namely, are women better suited to the new economy because they are easier to exploit?"
During this Pride season, 44 years after Stonewall and 17 years since HAART was introduced, writers reflect on what the past can teach us about the way forward and what the end of DOMA has to do with it. John Weir on AIDS, death, trauma, and liberation; Reina Gossett on resistance, assimilation, and the life of Marsha P. Johnson, one of the first to fight back at Stonewall. And Stonewaller Sylvia Rivera at the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Rally, recently rediscovered by Reina Gossett, and Gossett's reflections on what Rivera, like Johnson and countless other transwomen of color, had to do to make space for herself.