Sponsored

New York City, March 30, 2015

weather review sky 033015★★ Clouds that had seemed to be lightening and separating condensed instead into a darkish gray mass with a strong wind blowing under it, and still no leaves to break it. The school dropoff was late enough and cold enough to discourage the commute. Through the windows by the couch, the brightness arrived at last, till for a while clouds were thin and white, spread out against the blue. Then solid-looking puffs of cumulus arrived, and began clumping and darkening. The afternoon wind had not changed its essential character from the morning, but in the light—and before the vicinity of the river—it could be taken as invigorating. The children were inspired to run in it. “The sky looks like paint, Dad!” the three-year-old announced in the later afternoon, looking out at new formations of blue and white. “The clouds!”  The sun, when it lowered, executed at least a double bank shot to blaze from the northeast corner of the apartment towers. Now the clouds were purple, edged with rose gold, and then plain purple, against a lemon sky.

Promise Kept

According to websites, a much larger website is no longer paying as much attention to them:

A staff member at one major UK publisher described the [reduction] in engagement as a ‘Faceboocalypse’, and said that his team had noticed “a change to news feed algorithm which drastically reduced the reach of many news sites’ posts”. The Huffington Post also acknowledged that they had seen a fall-off in Facebook engagement in recent weeks.

NewsWhip’s data team noticed the reduction when analysing data for the biggest Facebook sites of February 2015. A wide range of top publishers, including BuzzFeed, the New York Times, Fox News and more seem to have been affected.

The 100 most shared English language stories (which include quizzes and other viral content) on Facebook in February had just over 10.2 million combined engagements, compared to over 16.4 million for the same set in January.

This report from NewsWhip suggests that the consequences of Facebook favoring posts that don’t link readers away from Facebook (it’s sort of obvious when you say it like that!) are already being felt.

NewsWhip’s monthly rankings of most-shared sites used to be a little more exciting and surreal—early last year, a Viral Nova or an Independent Journal Review would just materialize out of nowhere, displacing, say, a USA Today. They have remained, month to month, reliably valuable for understanding what seems to be going on in the fetid content trenches (Contrenches). It is good to know, for example/I guess, that the top external site on Facebook is a publication composed almost entirely of quizzes. Anyway, something weird started happening late last year.

Meet the Awl Newsletter

shitpic

For all of their remarkable qualities, newsletters can be very boring, because they are, by definition, rote enterprises. They change so little. This is why the current Awl management has largely forsaken them in favor of the dynamic world of Periscopekatting. But then there is Laura Olin’s Everything Changes. It changes a lot. Weekly, even. The format, the concept, the tone, the frequency—everything changes. But constant mutation is just one of the many reasons we love Laura’s newsletter: It’s slightly weird, super sharp, comfortably personal, not a little amusing, and, perhaps most important of all, it’s very brief, and never boring. These are all qualities that line up extraordinarily well with the Awl’s editorial vision.

So, after a brief conversation with Laura, Everything Changes will now be delivered under (over?) the Awl banner. The first one goes out tomorrow(ish). Sign up! We think that you’ll like it a lot.

Blood and Guts in Emails

9781584351641_0 A few weeks ago, Emma got in touch with me to say that she wanted to write about the new Semiotext(e) book I’m Very Into You but she wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted to say. At the time, I had just finished reading the book for the second time and had four different Word documents open, each with their own failed attempt to write even just a small thing about I’m Very Into You, about the way Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark had almost accidentally written the entire story of their relationship through email, saying almost nothing about what transpired between them but almost everything else: television, books, magazines, travel, motorcycles, distance, space, work, sex.

We decided that instead of staying locked inside our own heads we would try to write to each other about why this very small book was something we couldn’t stop thinking about. Weirdly, in the process we found ourselves somewhat unconsciously mimicking the trajectory of Acker and Wark’s correspondence, something that probably says more about email as a medium than it does about either relationship. Emma and I accidentally bumped into each other halfway through this process and while we were standing in our mutual friend’s kitchen, surrounded by other people having their own conversations, she called it the “Universal Grammar of the Romantic Email.” I think that sums it up perfectly. Below are our emails.

March 18, 2015
from: Haley Mlotek
to: Emma Healey

Emma: hi!! I was so happy to get your email last night, because first I was away and you’ve been away and we keep missing each other, and I’ve really wanted to talk to you for awhile about a lot of different things. And when we realized we were reading the same book and we were both trying to write about it and were both struggling with what we wanted to say I thought that this was the perfect time for us to talk about, I guess, all of the above.

For context: the book I’m referring to is I’m Very Into You, a collection of email correspondence between Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark from 1995 to 1996. They met and hooked up when Kathy was in Australia and then emailed each other frequently, eventually spending another weekend together in New York, before the communications faded.

I read this book in, like, a minute; and then I went back and I read it again, and I’m kind of on my third re-read now, although I’m really just going back to Matias Venieger’s intro and certain select passages, thinking a lot about how much I enjoy the book and how hypocritical I am for said enjoyment.

How do you feel about reading the emails and journals of deceased writers? I’m fairly evenly split when I consider the concept objectively—I’d say 49% guilty, 51% put it in my eyes immediately I need to know all the secrets—but I know I’m a hypocrite because I already have a standing deal with multiple people to burn my laptop and all my notebooks should I ever die, heavy emphasis on “should.” I have sought out all my most trustworthy friends and husbands and had them swear to me that they would never, ever publish my emails, journals, or heaven forbid, my tweets; future generations have done nothing to deserve that garbage.

I am, probably for the exact same reasons, so drawn to books and collections that do what I’m most afraid of: share writing that was never supposed to be shared.

Tax Season Anxiety: I'm Secretly Rich

time to hideFor as long as I’ve been required to file, I’ve been lying about my taxes.

Before anyone sics the IRS on me, let me clarify that I have not been lying on my tax returns: I am a law-abiding citizen with a deep-seated fear of the audit. But I have been lying to friends and colleagues—minor, reflexive lies summoned forth to hide the fact that I am a secretly wealthy 20-something.

During my childhood, an envelope of stock certificates with my name on it would appear under the tree every Christmas among the toys. My incredibly generous grandmother was slowly disbursing the stock that she had inherited from her mother to her 10 grandchildren while she was still alive—presumably for estate planning purposes. This pattern continued until she ran out in my late teens, at which point I had amassed a solid chunk. The resulting dividend income, which I dutifully deposited into my savings account four times per year, meant that I started filing a tax return before I could legally drive.

And then came my first tax-related lie: One day when I was a freshman in high school, my father made a passing comment about taxes in front of a friend of mine, who promptly asked me what on earth I was paying taxes on. I stammered an awkward reply about having done some part-time work for a relative last summer, and we moved on.

“When you’re a kid, you think you’ll be a certain place in your mid-30s. I presumed I’d be rich because when you’re middle-class with hardworking immigrant parents that’s the whole point. I also thought I’d be married and potentially own a beautiful apartment in New York. Ha ha. What you spend zero time wondering about is whether you’ll still be doing drugs. You naturally assume you’ll grow out of whatever stupidity you dabbled in as a teen. Even up to my 20s I didn’t realize that job-having, non-fuckup grown-ups in their 30s and 40s still smoked weed. Or did ecstasy. But then I got older and got bored.”#

Eat the Mango (No, Not That One)

maaaango

The end of March is still a dead zone for produce here in the Northeast, but in Mexico and further south to Peru, one of the world’s most diverse and most popular fruits, the mango, is beginning to enter one of its two seasons (the other is in early fall). Even though our neighbor to the south is one of the world’s biggest producers of mangoes—and Florida grows a pretty respectable number and hosts what looks like a delightful festival focused on the fruit—the mango is underappreciated and underused in the United States. This should be a crime! We should all be arrested!

If you live in a place without a substantial Indian or Mexican population, there’s a pretty fair chance the only mango you’ve ever seen is the Tommy Atkins: a large, red-green mango with a giant pit and a fibrous interior that gets stuck in your teeth. The Tommy Atkins is one of those accursed fruit varieties, like the Red Delicious apple, that is an insult to its brothers and should be banished from the planet. The Tommy Atkins is the worst possible example of the wonders of the mango: weak in flavor, egregious in texture, and popular exclusively because it is large, easy to grow, and tough enough to withstand transit.

The Tommy Atkins mango was created by Thomas Atkins in Broward County, Florida from a tree planted in 1922. Atkins was very pleased with his shit mango; he thought it would sell well because it is large and pretty and does not bruise easily. He was right, although it took awhile for the variety to catch on. Throughout the early nineteen fifties, Atkins kept trying to get the Florida Mango Forum to approve it; they did not, citing its subpar flavor and texture, but eventually the growers, rather than the tasters, won out. The Tommy Atkins today is by far the most common variety in the U.S., which is embarrassing as heck.

There are thousands of varieties of mangoes, ranging from giant grapefruit-sized mangoes to tiny plum-sized mangoes, dark purple mangoes to delicate golden mangoes, and flat oblong mangoes to nearly spherical mangoes. The textures range from so creamy you need to use a spoon to so crunchy you need to use a fork (or chopsticks), the flavors from crisp and vegetal to heavy and sweet. Most mango varieties do not travel well, unfortunately, and there’s not much of a market in shipping some of the weirder ones all the way from, say, the south of India, where mangoes are as beloved as apples in New York. That said, if you live in a city, or in a place with a healthy representation of certain immigrant groups, there’s a pretty good chance you can find a mango that’ll totally change the way you think about them.

English Monarch Signatures, Ranked

28. Edward VI (1547-1553): edward

27. Philip (1554-1558):
philip

26. George IV(1820-1830):georgeiv

Aberdeen, Maryland, to New York City, March 29, 2015

weather review sky 032915★★★ The thermometer on the glass of the kitchen door said 32 degrees when the seven-year-old got boosted up to read it. Shining ice lay in the junction where the tributary country road curved to meet the marginally larger stem road. More ice sat in the flooded parts of the stubbled fields, which were colorless as the leafless trees between them. The lump in the top of the three-year-old’s hat contained his gloves; his hands, clutching their palm fronds, were cold. The daffodils in the bed alongside the stone church were drooping over. Back by the house–39 degrees now—squirrels dug through the seed hulls scattered below the bird feeders, in front of the bed of snowdrops. Nuthatches and titmice and chickadees came and went, and goldfinches the color of parchment. A Cooper’s hawk, twitching balefully, commandeered a low branch for a minute, then flew off toward the garage with or without something clutched in one foot. The little birds resumed their feeding. The sun falling through the near-closed blinds made the water in the toilet shine like a lamp in the dimness. Forty-six degrees after lunch, at car-loading time. Everything in the drab length of New Jersey was sharp-drawn and distinct, save only the firm new roadway dissolving ahead into a mirage of sky and car paint. Vultures were as abundant as Turnpike exits, naked heads visible at 70 miles an hour, give or take. There was nothing remotely resembling a cloud; a light haze was salient by default. The bulge of the gibbous moon seemed to grow fatter as it came into focus. Trees and balconies gleamed in the city. The layer of dust on the unwashed apartment windows was coppery in the sunset.

Ivy Tripp, the latest album from Waxahatchee, is out next Tuesday. You can stream it here, and you should: It is, at the moment, the best record to be released this year.#