What I read Between March Wednesday 7 and Tuesday March 12, 2019

Archived Articles

Huh I guess it’s been a whole ass week since I did one of these! Gonna do another one anyway tho because I am in a mood to not give up on my project and also it is both difficult and necessary to change ones behaviors? Although man I have made alarmingly little progress.

Radio Free Syria – Eliza Griswold
New York Times, December 4 2014

I pay a lot of attention to the news. I tend to think I am reasonably well-informed. But man did reading this article show me how fundamentally ignorant I am. There is just too much to know, and too little time to know it, and it feels so impossible to ever actually be caught up. Which is I guess the interesting thing about this project; if I want to make progress on the archive, I have to ignore the headlines. Even the act of catching up is inherently a falling behind. It is tempting to draw some sort of conclusion here about there just being too much content. There is, without question, too much content. But that doesn’t mean I, or anyone, has to consume all of it.

Judaism and the Left are two sides of my particular coin. I am equally terrified of accepting bad-faith attempts to paint anti-zionism as antisemitism as I am of ignoring antisemitism among progressives I admire. But while the Ilhan Omar mishegas was always going to grab my attention, I probably didn’t need to give it quite so much. I do not need to read every 600 word think piece before I form my own opinion. Maybe I shouldn’t read any of them? I definitely don’t need to take any more decent faith looks at Brett Stephens’ POV.

I have a conflict, then, between being informed and being…in the loop? Up to date? Attuned to the discourse? On the one hand, it is good to know what the other side thinks, to know what is happening in the culture at large, to understand the basic direction of society or whatever. But when I started reading this profile of Raed Fares, a Syrian activist who in 2014 was one of the leading voices against Assad, two things struck me. First, I may not be able to see the trees for the forest; does it matter if I understand the context perfectly without a grasp on the content?Second, I was almost definitely reading a profile of a dead man. More than four years later, there was a vanishingly small chance that Fares had survived.

I googled him when I finished reading. The New Yorker ran Griswold’s piece on his death in November of last year.

What Can Bees Teach Us about Building Better Urban Ecosystems – Jen Kinney
Next City, May 28, 2018

Do you love bees? Do you love bees enough? Bees are very very good. We should definitely make sure they don’t go extinct. And it turns out a good way to do that is…with our cities? Bees hate monoculture farming and love the weird diverse weeds sprouting from our sidewalks. They really really love community gardens in urban environments! It sure is strange that humans seem happiest in environments where the broader ecosystem is thriving, too. Makes you wonder why we spent the last hundred years creating spaces that are the exact opposite. I wonder who could have benefited from that?

Anthony Bourdain Wonders What He Could Have Done – Isaac Chotiner
Slate, Oct 24, 2017

I loved Anthony Bourdain as much as the next white male in his early 30s, but this didn’t do it for me. I can’t tell if it’s earnest self-interrogation about his contributions to “meathead culture” in restaurants, or skillful dissembling about why shit isn’t really his fault. Maybe it’s Isaac Chotiner’s fault. People have opinions about that guy.

New, Interesting

  • Notes on Peach – A few days before this ran I was actively considering getting back into Peach. Apparently it is shutting down though? This is a good read anyway.
  • Eli Valley is Not Sorry – This is related to the Ilhan Omar stuff, but I am not going to recap the connection because it is exhausting. What is more important is that Eli Valley is one of my favorite contemporary Jewish voices, and this is a good interview on what does and does not count as antisemitism in his view. Plus you should always read Shuja Haider.
  • Culturally Muslim – Not new, but new to me. Linked in the aforementioned Eli Valley interview. Written by Shuja Haider (who you really should always read). Connects the Jewish and Muslim experiences of America through an obvious commonality I had never really considered before.
  • How We Hate the Homeless – Lori Teresa Yearwood was homeless for years. Now she is doing insightful, personal, and well-reported writing about homelessness for a blog that’s hosted on a cryptocurrency platform and run by a former Gawker staffer. It is weird to be alive in 2019. You should read this, and also the first piece in Yearwood’s series. I bet you won’t though. Coward.
  • America’s Cities Are Running on Software From the ’80s – On the one hand our entire society is held together by spit and frayed string. On the other, as Alexis Madrigal pointed out “It’s easy to make fun of this, but show me the web software that will still be mostly running in 38 years.”
  • The Obama Boys – Read this if you want to spend 30 minutes staring into the abyss where you thought the Obama administration kept its principles. Robinson thinks they just had no idea how to do politics and got beaten up by the right again and again. This is more charitable than the alternative, the aforementioned abyss.
  • Welcome to ‘Zombieland’: A Former US Army Base Rots in the Hands of Overwhelmed Afghans – Read it for the pictures and the stark reminder of how utterly fucked Afghanistan still is.
  • Behind the Hype of Apple’s Plan to End Mining – Cool to see but the earth is almost definitely still doomed.
  • Why the Left Can’t Stand the NYTimes – This made me feel even worse about reading so much content about the latest antisemitic brouhaha. Also Amber is the best Chapo.

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