It’s already somehow been a long week. Here are some things to read. I don’t have a lot of commentary in me today apparently and I’m sorry about that. I know you read this for my witty commentary.
If you can, go help make sure we can vote. 45 sure as shit isn’t. I don’t think this year is for me due to COVID concerns, but if you can, you should.
by George Carver
The Lish thing I posted last week made me google things that led me to this.
Lish seems… complicated. I’ve never actually read any of his work, but his fingerprints are all the fuck over American letters. This includes some of the teaching I’ve received. For example, I had the immense good fortune to work with Jane Unrue for the final two years of my MFA. She talked often about sentences in such a particular way, which I now realize sort of reimagines and is a descendent of this:
Lish’s theory of writing was simple, as simple to understand in principle as Einstein’s E= MC2. You have your object and your first sentence. The first sentence is the object in motion. Keeping the object in motion was what Lish called “the consecution and the swerve,” the consecution being the business of creating new sentences from elements of prior sentences; the swerve, the process of deforming of what was prior so as to avoid predictability in the work.
Anyway, this was kinda interesting.
by Chelsey Grasso
Chelsey is a good friend and one hell of a writer. This story is very, very good.
by Megan Waring
Megan is also a good friend and a hell of a writer, this time poetry. I’m lucky to know so many talented people.
I don’t know a ton about 11:11 but they seem cool as shit. I look forward to checking out more of their catalogue once I make more space on my bookshelves.
Every book we publish is an artifact of someone sorting out their thoughts and impressions, and every book can be a mentor to the reader. But in order for the reader to gain something from the book, they must have a physical interaction with the invisible ideas in the text. A book can lead us to water, but it cannot draw a cup, put the cup to our lips, and forcefully make us drink. The book is the medium, but the messages were created, and want to live, outside of the medium.
by Anne Trubek
by Adam Fales
Silicon Valley, which is gradually swallowing California’s Bay Area, has become a metonym for the tech industry, even as that same industry increasingly shapes the world beyond its geographic center. This industry is heir to a history of self-mythologizing capitalist entrepreneurship. As business historian Nan Enstad points out, the libertarian economist Joseph Schumpeter’s idea of “creative destruction” has been taken up “to fetishize entrepreneurial innovation as the engine of capitalism” for more than 50 years now, even when that “innovation” more often shores up the already-established power of corporations.1 The idea of entrepreneurship at the heart of Silicon Valley, therefore, is just another story—like Dreiser’s, like Dickens’s—and Silicon Valley wrote this story itself.
by Peter Welch
Old but new to me. Very funny and true to my experience being dev-adjacent. Too long a quote, but:
Imagine joining an engineering team. You’re excited and full of ideas, probably just out of school and a world of clean, beautiful designs, awe-inspiring in their aesthetic unity of purpose, economy, and strength. You start by meeting Mary, project leader for a bridge in a major metropolitan area. Mary introduces you to Fred, after you get through the fifteen security checks installed by Dave because Dave had his sweater stolen off his desk once and Never Again. Fred only works with wood, so you ask why he’s involved because this bridge is supposed to allow rush-hour traffic full of cars full of mortal humans to cross a 200-foot drop over rapids. Don’t worry, says Mary, Fred’s going to handle the walkways. What walkways? Well Fred made a good case for walkways and they’re going to add to the bridge’s appeal. Of course, they’ll have to be built without railings, because there’s a strict no railings rule enforced by Phil, who’s not an engineer. Nobody’s sure what Phil does, but it’s definitely full of synergy and has to do with upper management, whom none of the engineers want to deal with so they just let Phil do what he wants. Sara, meanwhile, has found several hemorrhaging-edge paving techniques, and worked them all into the bridge design, so you’ll have to build around each one as the bridge progresses, since each one means different underlying support and safety concerns. Tom and Harry have been working together for years, but have an ongoing feud over whether to use metric or imperial measurements, and it’s become a case of “whoever got to that part of the design first.” This has been such a headache for the people actually screwing things together, they’ve given up and just forced, hammered, or welded their way through the day with whatever parts were handy. Also, the bridge was designed as a suspension bridge, but nobody actually knew how to build a suspension bridge, so they got halfway through it and then just added extra support columns to keep the thing standing, but they left the suspension cables because they’re still sort of holding up parts of the bridge. Nobody knows which parts, but everybody’s pretty sure they’re important parts. After the introductions are made, you are invited to come up with some new ideas, but you don’t have any because you’re a propulsion engineer and don’t know anything about bridges.
Would you drive across this bridge? No. If it somehow got built, everybody involved would be executed. Yet some version of this dynamic wrote every single program you have ever used, banking software, websites, and a ubiquitously used program that was supposed to protect information on the internet but didn’t.
by Agnes Callard
Also wonderful, also a long quote:
When I am asked for sources of “big ideas” in philosophy—the kind that would get the extra-philosophical world to stand up and take notice—I struggle to list anyone born after 1950. It is sobering to consider that the previous decade produced: Daniel Dennett, Saul Kripke, David Lewis, Derek Parfit, John McDowell, Peter Singer, G. A. Cohen and Martha Nussbaum. In my view, each of these people towers over everyone who comes after them in at least one of the categories by which we might judge a philosopher: breadth, depth, originality or degree of public influence. Or consider this group, born in roughly the two decades prior (1919-1938), remarkable in its intellectual fertility: Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Stanley Cavell, Harry Frankfurt, Bernard Williams, Thomas Nagel, Robert Nozick, Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, John Rawls. These are the philosophers about whom one routinely asks, “Why don’t people write philosophy like this anymore?” And this isn’t only a point about writing style. Their work is inviting—it asks new questions, it sells the reader on why those questions matter and it presents itself as a point of entry into philosophy. This is why all of us keep assigning their work over and over again, a striking fact given how much the number of philosophers has ballooned since their time.
Someday I will get my shit together and subscribe to The Point. I really like what they put out.
by Katherine J. Wu
This was cool as fuck.
These longer-lasting hookups come with a price. After males glom onto their girls, their innards rapidly atrophy until little more is left than a bulbous pair of testes, fringed with gills, protruding from the female’s flank like a sperm-filled saddlebag. “There’s basically no integrity at this point,” Dr. Pietsch said.
by Michael D. Shear, Hailey Fuchs and Kenneth P. Vogel
Way less cool as fuck.
The ability of the Postal Service “to timely deliver and return absentee ballots and their work to postmark those ballots will literally determine whether or not voters are disenfranchised during the pandemic,” said Kristen Clarke, the president of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
by Christopher Flavelle and Henry Fountain
“What makes climate change so insidious is that it alters hazards, like flooding, just enough to turn what otherwise could have been just an emergency into a disaster, and disasters into catastrophes,” Dr. Montano said. “Not only does this lead to more damage but also traps people in a cycle of recovery.”
It really does feel like the end times sometimes.
by Lapham’s Quarterly
Here’s something a little lighter to end on. I really like Lapham’s.