After the Turkey

FLYING SUCKS
Study finds flying in America is worse than ever
Why does airline travel make people grumpy?
Why air travel sucks
How designers would fix air travel
How Obama is trying to make air travel better
(This is one thing that was better in the 1960s)

WOMEN OF GLORY
10 things you probably didn’t know about Willa Cather
Smart Girl Club
Street hijab fashion
The ultimate Maggie Nelson reading list
Pearl Hart

AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM
The latest Reparations podcast
Inside the murky world of DIY abortions
The NSA spy hub in Manhattan: hidden in plain sight

GRAB BAG
The Boston molasses disaster of 1919
A more accurate flat world map
Dial-up modem handshake sound
The epic uncool of Philip Seymour Hoffman

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Pro-tip: email subscribers click title for badass pic of Pearl Hart

FALL IN

Again, the season shifts, and like every year the change is expected and welcome. Today it is raining where I am, but I still wait for that first day when the temperature is cool enough for me to wear a hoodie, my puffy vest, and wool socks. Bundling brings comfort, perhaps a leftover joy of infancy. We like being wrapped up. It is a simulacrum of a hug. Read these with tea. Or quiet. Welcome to fall. —LJ

LITERATURE IS THE REASON I GET UP IN THE MORNING
Autumn by Grace Paley
Villette by Charlotte Brontë
The American Bystander: new humor magazine
Shakespeare’s language not as original as dictionaries think
What are we allowed to say?

WOMEN ARE GIRLS / GIRLS ARE WOMEN?
Girlhood, Céline Sciamma’s coming of age story
Good Girls Revolt, a new show from Netflix
Girl at War by Sara Novic
The girl in the title: more than a marketing trend
Girlhood gone: notes from the new Nashville

HOT TIPS
Penguin / Random House: what our editors look for on the opening page
NYTimes: how to submit modern love essays
Washington Post: can I submit freelance work to WaPo?

PSYCHOLOGY
Culture specific diseases and mental disorders
Exporting western mental disorders
Crazy Like Us: the globalization of the American psyche
The lethality of loneliness

Image Credit
Pro-tip: email subscribers click title for gratuitous image of Kate McKinnon in flannel.

Words When There Are No Words

No links today. The world is heavy and Audre Lorde is speaking to us through time. —LJ

 

Afterimages

BY AUDRE LORDE

    I
However the image enters
its force remains within
my eyes
rockstrewn caves where dragonfish evolve
wild for life, relentless and acquisitive
learning to survive
where there is no food
my eyes are always hungry
and remembering
however the image enters
its force remains.
A white woman stands bereft and empty
a black boy hacked into a murderous lesson
recalled in me forever
like a lurch of earth on the edge of sleep
etched into my visions
food for dragonfish that learn
to live upon whatever they must eat
fused images beneath my pain.
 
    II
The Pearl River floods through the streets of Jackson
A Mississippi summer televised.
Trapped houses kneel like sinners in the rain
a white woman climbs from her roof to a passing boat
her fingers tarry for a moment on the chimney
now awash
tearless and no longer young, she holds
a tattered baby’s blanket in her arms.
In a flickering afterimage of the nightmare rain
a microphone
thrust up against her flat bewildered words
          “we jest come from the bank yestiddy
                   borrowing money to pay the income tax
                   now everything’s gone. I never knew
                   it could be so hard.”
Despair weighs down her voice like Pearl River mud
caked around the edges
her pale eyes scanning the camera for help or explanation
unanswered
she shifts her search across the watered street, dry-eyed
                   “hard, but not this hard.”
Two tow-headed children hurl themselves against her
hanging upon her coat like mirrors
until a man with ham-like hands pulls her aside
snarling “She ain’t got nothing more to say!”
and that lie hangs in his mouth
like a shred of rotting meat.
 
    III
I inherited Jackson, Mississippi.
For my majority it gave me Emmett Till
his 15 years puffed out like bruises
on plump boy-cheeks
his only Mississippi summer
whistling a 21 gun salute to Dixie
as a white girl passed him in the street
and he was baptized my son forever
in the midnight waters of the Pearl.
 
His broken body is the afterimage of my 21st year
when I walked through a northern summer
my eyes averted
from each corner’s photographies
newspapers protest posters magazines
Police Story, Confidential, True
the avid insistence of detail
pretending insight or information
the length of gash across the dead boy’s loins
his grieving mother’s lamentation
the severed lips, how many burns
his gouged out eyes
sewed shut upon the screaming covers
louder than life
all over
the veiled warning, the secret relish
of a black child’s mutilated body
fingered by street-corner eyes
bruise upon livid bruise
and wherever I looked that summer
I learned to be at home with children’s blood
with savored violence
with pictures of black broken flesh
used, crumpled, and discarded
lying amid the sidewalk refuse
like a raped woman’s face.
 
A black boy from Chicago
whistled on the streets of Jackson, Mississippi
testing what he’d been taught was a manly thing to do
his teachers
ripped his eyes out his sex his tongue
and flung him to the Pearl weighted with stone
in the name of white womanhood
they took their aroused honor
back to Jackson
and celebrated in a whorehouse
the double ritual of white manhood
confirmed.
 
    IV
    “If earth and air and water do not judge them who are
      we to refuse a crust of bread?”
 
Emmett Till rides the crest of the Pearl, whistling
24 years his ghost lay like the shade of a raped woman
and a white girl has grown older in costly honor
(what did she pay to never know its price?)
now the Pearl River speaks its muddy judgment
and I can withhold my pity and my bread.
 
            “Hard, but not this hard.”
Her face is flat with resignation and despair
with ancient and familiar sorrows
a woman surveying her crumpled future
as the white girl besmirched by Emmett’s whistle
never allowed her own tongue
without power or conclusion
unvoiced
she stands adrift in the ruins of her honor
and a man with an executioner’s face
pulls her away.
 
Within my eyes
the flickering afterimages of a nightmare rain
a woman wrings her hands
beneath the weight of agonies remembered
I wade through summer ghosts
betrayed by vision
hers and my own
becoming dragonfish to survive
the horrors we are living
with tortured lungs
adapting to breathe blood.
 
A woman measures her life’s damage
my eyes are caves, chunks of etched rock
tied to the ghost of a black boy
whistling
crying and frightened
her tow-headed children cluster
like little mirrors of despair
their father’s hands upon them
and soundlessly
a woman begins to weep.

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Who Will Be Heard?

This morning I read an internet post in which someone tried to argue we did not put Buzz Aldrin or Neil Armstrong on the moon because no wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had been found. No, really. And that got me thinking: the internet is becoming an echo chamber of fools, with branded channels to provide a pseudo-respite from the cacophony. The big channels have become like cable networks, each with its own target demographic, anxieties and aspirations, ad buys and media. I click around and around and around. I find the channels that interest me. Sometimes—and when it happens, it feels like magic—I stumble on a piece of treasure in the midst of the mess, and I want to share. 

Fundamentally, I believe in the democratization of information, but I would be willfully blind if I did not acknowledge the need for curation in the chaos. Play every sound at once and you get static. The fact is, the more voices there are, the more we need unique voices. But that’s where the role of gatekeepers becomes tricky. Which voices get amplified?

I ask that question out of time. You can find the answer for the past in the historical record and in your memory/knowledge of who the greats of history have been. That many of the greats come from one or two demographic groups is evidence of what cultural obstacles prevented other groups from rising and/or from being remembered. For the present, the answer is in the surveys, like VIDA count, that keep track of who gets heard. But I ask that question out of time because I am obsessed with how we define the criteria for amplification. I think we want to believe in a meritocracy, where everything of quality gets the loudest signal, but a cursory survey of viral content or even who is given a platform on the networks and big internet channels belies this belief. Instead, the looking glass is ever-pointed at our values. The things we find funny are tainted by our taboos. The people we trust as authorities fit our cultural biases of what an authority looks and sounds like. The celebrities we watch and follow are the gods and goddesses of our inadequacies. The outrage we perform is rooted in what we hold sacred and inviolable.

Watching the media of other countries gives an equally salient experience of what any given country holds dear. So I wonder: what would a gatekeeper look and sound like, that did not have these cultural blindnesses? Would it have a perspective? Is it even possible for quality to be a perspective, outside of a culture’s definition of what quality is? The work that people do, presently, to have more women and minorities heard, is often characterized as giving a more diverse swath of quality voices a platform—but I think too, if not moreso, this work is about changing what our culture considers quality and by extension, what our culture values. 

That scares the hell out of the people who could, in the past, take for granted that their voices would be valued and amplified. They know instinctively that we can only hear so much, read so much, watch so much, and they resent the new competition. The echo chamber of fools is full of these angry anonymous, shouting desperately to be heard. They don’t want the criteria to change. They don’t want the values to shift. And much to their chagrin, they are becoming the noise. I say that confidently, even as the noise has its own Presidential candidate.  Fundamentalism, religious or secular, is a sign of the shifting, a response to the changes already happening. It doesn’t mean a new epoch has begun, but it does mean we are living in a transition. For what it’s worth, I hope we come out the other side with new definitions, values and a more inclusive culture that is also reflected in our media and by our gatekeepers. But there’s no guarantee. The signal is vacillating. Who will be heard?

Obligatory unrelated links:

POLITIK
Only 9% of America chose Trump and Clinton: A lesson in American democracy
From Reagan to Trump

MEN’S ISSUES
The big sexy problem with superheroines and their liberated sexuality
The plight of the alpha female
10 ways to identify a witch

CUTE SET
14 terrifying facts about otherwise adorable animals
Tiger cubs being ridiculously cute
Buffalo can be cute, right?

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