Thursday, July 31st, 2014
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Death of a Denim Wizard

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A couple of years ago, I went to get my jeans mended at a store in my neighborhood called Kill Devil Hill. It mostly sold New-Old Brooklyn tchotchkes—nice soaps, pharmaceutical brown bottles, fancy combs—but in the back of the shop was a tiny denim repair business. When I mentioned being embarrassed about the crater-sized holes in the crotch, the person behind the counter told me that, actually, crotches on jeans fail all the time; most jeans, if they fail, fail in the crotch. Since the repairs are cheap—twenty dollars or so—there’s a small army of people walking around with mended, reinforced, double-strength, nearly indestructible crotches.

So last week, when a friend told me that he was planning to buy some replacement jeans with a strong, healthy crotch, I informed him that he should just get his old jeans mended; he not only didn’t know about denim menders, but had no idea that crotch holes were the most widespread epidemic of our time. His confusion was so profound that I wondered if the person at the store had told me a polite lie—was the crotch hole epidemic really just me? So I went back to investigate.

There was a prominent sign in the store window:

PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT

WE ARE NO LONGER OFFERING SERVICES IN DENIM REPAIR

The woman who used to work there was gone. In her place was a soft-spoken teenager named Wyatt. He lives a few blocks away from the store. After a summer class at FIT, he discovered that he liked sewing, and walked into Kill Devil Hill to ask if he could intern for them. Now fifteen, he works a couple of days a week. He told me that the reason the store had phased out denim repair was because it wasn’t very lucrative; they made more money selling aprons.

When did the store start to phase out denim repair?

It took us two months to get rid of it. People were coming in and we were like, “Fine. One more pair, one more pair.”

What kind of jeans would people bring in to get repaired?

They’d tend to be high quality jeans. The pricing range was two hundred dollars and up. That’s the culture of denim repair: You don’t spend repair money on sixty-dollar jeans. I guess you might on jeans you’ve spent a lot of time with. The crotch blew out, the knees blew out—do you know a lot about raw denim?

READ MORE

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On Pheasants and Polyamory

pleasantsI found the pheasants accidentally. I’d gone looking for the avenue of shoes on Brush Street, a new art installation in Detroit, and got a bit lost. When I stopped to orient myself, I saw a single pheasant through a thicket of tall grass in a vacant lot next to a sagging two-story. The house had an old Ford F150 parked in front. I saw an empty kiddie pool, a plastic circle in turquoise with green fish printed on the bottom. I heard soft crowing, and walked stealthily towards the sound

As I approached, I saw more pheasants through the tall grass. I wanted to make out details, but the brush blocked my view, and I saw only the shapes of bird bodies. I tried to take their picture. I snapped off a few shots, but all I got were brown blurs against the bright blue sky.

Months later, when I finally went to see pheasants specifically, it snowed six inches. I walked around near the corner of Gilbo and Leander as my boyfriend tried to get his Ford Focus out of middle of the road. His tires spun against the hard-packed snow, and I walked toward the tree line, because I heard a noise that sounded a bit like pheasant crowing. Male pheasants crow. They have long tails and iridescent feathers and, it seems, harems too. Pheasants practice polyamory. Males have two or three mates. John throws the car into reverse. The tires can't get purchase. I walk farther from the car, snapping pictures of marks in the snow I will later swear are bird tracks.

People love thinking of pheasants as mascots of urban decay, or the new apocalypse, or Detroit-as-frontier. They think of the city as desolate urban prairie, uninhabited, free of people. This idea has legs: I see it play out in books about Detroit's decline. But in practice, wherever I go in Detroit, I see signs of human habitation. I see houses and people. Even at Gilbo and Leader, despite the emptiness by the street sign, I'm not far from inhabited homes. I see a red two-story with a wide front porch, power lines and fire hydrants. John throws his car into reverse. It moves slightly backwards. I walk away from the car, following the street towards the red house.

In a field covered in tall grass, I see a chair upended, legs pointed skyward. Snow covers the seat. I hear a noise, like birds, or like wind in bare trees. I decide "pheasants" and walk towards the sound. I see more tracks, but can't find birds. I want to see them to prove to myself that I didn't imagine them this summer. I know hunters have flushed hundreds of pheasants in Detroit and I wonder where I might borrow a hunting dog.

I’d like to eat a pheasant, but the only restaurant in town that serves them is pricey, and John is broke. During my last trip up to see him, I cried in the hotel because he told me he couldn't afford a Christmas gift for me. He makes ten times my income, but has debts.

READ MORE

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FKA Twigs, "Pendulum"

The aesthetic incongruity of each new FKA Twigs song is starting to wear off, and all the styles are starting to settle together; if you were trying to make some kind of point, you could probably get away with saying she makes industrial music.

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Moon Stupidly Shaped

Rather than do literally anything else, scientists have spent forty-five years trying to decipher the true shape of the fucking moon, which is apparently "like a lemon with an equatorial bulge," according to the author of the absolutely pointless study. The Times writes:

Efforts to pinpoint the moon’s exact shape have long been stymied by the presence of large craters on its surface that formed after the crust solidified. There have also been inconsistencies between its measurements and what we know about its past.

For example, the moon barely spins, yet it appears to have the sort of equatorial bulge caused by rotation. And why would a giant ball of cooled liquid be anything but spherical?

Intriguing questions! If they weren't about the stupid moon.

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New York City, July 29, 2014

weather review sky 072914★★★★★ Even in stillness, there was a distinct chill on the morning air. The high land in the far northwestern distance in New Jersey was plain and clear on the horizon. The sun raised bright white highlights on the cheeks and scalps of people walking beside the vast reflecting surfaces of the Time Warner building. Downtown, in dappled tree shade, it raised blinding spots from the top of SUV. Conditions kept subtly shifting: light and shade, warmth and coolness, gray and white. The edges of the clouds were now indistinct, now distinct. One could walk in it for blocks, looping out of the everyday pattern. Down Lafayette lower than usual, the open back door of a completely empty restaurant framed sun-soaked trees. Someone had installed an arrangement of a Spider-Man figure and a dangling flesh-toned phallus on an overhead wire at Broome Street, the phallus turning in the air currents. The late sun was as soft as the morning sun had been hard–a prettily colored disc descending. The night was mild, taxis plentiful, the emergency room efficient and almost calm.

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Go Read Alice: The History of the Diary Novel

A Real DiaryRecently I was thinking about books from my childhood like Go Ask Alice, Harriet the Spy, and Dracula. In retrospect, these books made outlandish claims to authenticity, but I bought them literally and figuratively because they included supposedly non-fictional diary pages. As a kid, books like Go Ask Alice seem like a curio, but it turns out they belong to a multi-century line of diary novels for girls that awkwardly straddle patriarchy and feminism.

Diary novels are a product of the Victorian era, with their own fully stocked canon and historically specific conventions; it’s an under-attended but significant genre. Most early diary novels were written by clergy who didn't actually read girls' diaries: the diary novel developed under a tradition of older, usually religious people condemning diaries while also taking advantage of their cultural cachet. The irony of more contemporary diary novels like Go Ask Alice is this: ostensibly progressive, fun-loving diary novels feature a girl’s voice but are often bent on silencing women or at least quelling experimentation, while explicitly conservative diaries by women (real and fictive) must also justify why a woman was ostentatious enough to write and publish in the first place.

“Diary novel” is a term coined by scholar Gerald Prince, and they’ve been so criminally understudied that we didn’t identify them as a genre until his 1989 essay, but they’re cross-cultural and about as old as the epistolary novel. The modern canon of diary novels include Hjalmar Söderberg’s Doctor Glas (Swedish), Evan S. Connell’s <i (American), Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook (British), Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea (French), Ivan Turgenev’s The Diary of a Superfluous Man (Russian), and Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Key (Japanese). You’ll also find snippets of fictive diaries in books like Dracula and Robinson Crusoe.

Prince identifies three key features of the diary novel: besides having structured plot, (1) the narrator must be first-person, (2) the mode of narration is intercalated (Gérard Genette’s term; it means the narrative is fragmented, with events that occur since the previous entry), and (3) the intended audience is also the writer. Valerie Raoul has added an additional condition, that the diary novel begins in medias res. None of the three elements is a full definition of the diary novel, but Prince’s last criterion is particularly scurrilous, since the narrators of many diary novels (like The Journal of Salavin) explicitly assume among their potential readers spouses, parents, coworkers, and supervisors. The insistence that diaries be private is an invention of the 20th century. To solve these problems, Prince specifies further: the defining element of the diary novel is the theme of writing in a diary. All diary novels identify themselves as diaries with specific questions like, Why have I begun keeping a diary? or How, materially, is this diary being written? This is why so many diary novels feature winking publisher prefaces or ironic nods to the diary-novel’s constructedness, like Diary of a Nobody, whose eponymous “author” is a nobody both in terms of his small stature and real-world nonexistence.

diary of a nobody

Illustration from Diary of a Nobody. “I did not like the way she kept giggling and giving Lupin smacks and pinching him.”

The diary novel canon is composed first of diary novels which have received significant (male) literary praise. But within this genre, the diary novel for women is an important and under-recognized sub-genre. These novels are usually evaluated on their historical merits because aesthetically, they are terrible: written by religious conservatives and/or befuddled men, often intended (in the Victorian era) to instruct. (French theorist Philippe Lejeune calls these “diaries of moral order,” Peter Abbott identifies “the Puritan diary”: these were often promoted in the early 1800s as pedagogical tools for schoolboys.) Of course, the instruction was lacquered on especially thick when the diary novel was published for women.

How is it that the same people who condemn diaries as “unwholesome, a genre that is usually chosen by people who can’t write anything else” (Ernest Renan), “worthless” (Maurice Blanchot), “perversions…orgies of secret literature” (George Duhamel), and “soft” (Béatrice Didier) could also publish diaries and diary novels? For almost as long as diaries have existed—about 400 years—women have had a powerful and controversial relationship with them. Summarizing the work of feminists like Valerie Sanders and Linda Peterson, Catherine Delafield argues that diaries are associated with women because they share domestic and quotidian connotations. Diaries emerged out of a tradition of family records, which women wrote uncontroversially. Diaries are also one of the few places women could write without bucking the expectation that women remain quiet.  READ MORE

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Lewis, "So Be In Love With Me"

Here is a track from the second album by the mysterious Lewis, who, with his exhumed debut vanity record, L'Amour, became a small internet sensation. This one was recently discovered in storage at a Calgary record store. Still no sign of the man himself:

Sourced soon after the re-release of L’Amour, Romantic Times is the 1985 follow-up to L’Amour – and it’s released as Lewis Baloue. The name may be slightly different, but this is absolutely our man: a familiar blond posing on the sleeve, a familiar, tortured voice pouring his heart out over languid synths and synthetic waltz beats.

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Amazon, apparently no longer all that comfortable with the role that it has settled into during the course of its ongoing standoff with the publisher Hachette—unrepentant and unyielding monopoly monster—now wishes to explain itself:

It's also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. … Is it Amazon's position that all e-books should be $9.99 or less? No, we accept that there will be legitimate reasons for a small number of specialized titles to be above $9.99.

This is all strictly true, of course—numbers don't lie, except when they do—if you grant Amazon its central premise, which is that all books (except those exceptional exceptions!) are worth precisely one penny less than ten dollars, regardless of what's inside of them.

Photo by Conrad Bakker

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Stylish LG G3 Sets New Standards

Brought to you by LG G3

The latest addition to join LG’s G series, the LG G3 phone, is sleek, stylish and innovative to its core. Offering an even more sophisticated look and feel from other popular devices in the family, the G3 also delivers a simplified user experience. The device features a gorgeous, 5.5-Inch Quad HD display for a fuller viewing experience, a metallic fingerprint-resistant brushed exterior, and Laser Auto Focus to cut down on the time it takes to focus. 

For more information, visit LG on Facebook

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Morwenna Banks and the Shortest 'SNL' Tenure Ever

Saturday Night Live has been home to over a hundred cast members throughout the past 38 years. In our column Saturday Night’s Children, we present the history, talent, and best sketches of one SNL cast member every other week for your viewing, learning, and laughing pleasure.

While there are plenty of SNL cast members whose stints didn't last many episodes — see Laurie Metcalf, Dan Vitale, and Ben Stiller — British sketch and voice actress Morwenna Banks holds the record of the shortest repertory player tenure with a mere four episodes under her belt at the end of the show's twentieth season in 1995. Four episodes weren't enough to make it in the American sketch comedy sphere, but for fans across the pond Banks remains a consistently talented performer and familiar voice who has remained a steady presence on British TV and radio shows for the past 25 years. READ MORE

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Ask Polly: Should I Cut My Abusive Mother Out of My Life Forever?

dearestHi Polly,

I'm trying to figure out how to get the gist of this across without writing a novel, but here goes. I am a 30-year-old woman who is really hitting her stride. I bought a home with my boyfriend who recently became my fiancé, I have a great job and live a great life in Southern California. It's a dream, and I can't wait to start a family blah blah blah.

Obviously these are the types of joys in life that you want to share with family, but I only have one family member left, my mother, and right now I have such anger toward her that I feel like it would be therapeutic for me to tell her she can't be in my wedding, or have anything to do with me for that matter.

Choices she made throughout her life basically made my childhood chaos and my life a living hell. She divorced my father, and remarried an asshole with three sons who pretty much tortured me for four years straight. She used to forget me at school until dark, and then she would send one of her employees, often a grizzled contractor in a smelly truck, to pick me up. I grew out of my clothes, and she didn't notice when I wore the same (too short) pants to school every day for weeks. Sometimes I wouldn't see her for days at a time, because I would take the bus to school, and she would work through my bedtime. When I tried to tell her about my unhappiness, she said things like, "Stop feeling sorry for yourself." or "Who ever told you that people are supposed to be happy? No one is happy. That's the way life is.” It’s sad, in hindsight, because that must be how she really felt.

As an adult, I can see that she had her own problems with her husband, and their failing business put her in a tough spot financially, so I know she was working to make ends meet during those times that I didn't see her. And I can't be mad about being poor, you know? I just tried to make things easier and not make waves. I was a perfect student in high school, got straight As and over thirty thousand dollars in scholarships. My mother looks back on these as the "glory days," unaware even today how often I crouched in the bathtub crying with a razor blade to my wrist, wondering if I had the guts.

At my freshman orientation for college, I was drugged, raped, and left in a field outside the dormitory where we were staying. (I didn't tell anyone for many years; I thought that's how college was and I was a silly amateur.) After that, I completely lost control. I drank heavily and started using a LOT of cocaine. I was extremely promiscuous. I was disrespectful to my mother, getting wasted at family gatherings and smoking cigarettes outside of church. My mother reacted by being completely disgusted. By now, she had a new husband and had recovered financially, so now she was in a position to criticize, apparently. She constantly made unkind jokes about my drinking and partying to other people. She seemed embarrassed of me and openly told me she was many times. She acted like I was a criminal, although I still graduated from the (pretty prestigious) university I attended in four years with a 3.0. I sometimes reminded her of how my step-brothers would lock me in a closets all day and yell taunts at me through the door, or held me down and shove dirt-filled socks in my mouth or snap me with rubber bands until I cried, and she would say, "What? They did NOT. No, you guys just played." Okay.

Finally, after about six years of self-destruction, I picked myself up, saved some money, left the small town we were in and moved to a big city. Four years later, here I am, a shiny new penny. Because my improvements were made here, and not in front of my mother's face, she can't stop rubbing those days in my face every time that I see her. I've told her I don't like it, but it seems like it's some kind of reflex for her. I'm in therapy now (when your mother tells you no one is supposed to be happy, it's hard to feel deserving when happiness finds you), and on one visit I asked if she might consider going herself. She said something like "If I open that door, I'll never close it again."

I want to repair things with her, because I have no one else, but when I am around her I am filled with so much anger that sometimes I have to leave the room. She has cried and told me she wants our relationship to be better, and I am surprised at how ice cold I feel toward her. I feel like she contributed to my decline and then mocked me for it. I don't want to have holidays with her, and since my fiancé has a lovely, large family who will soon be my in-laws, I feel like I shouldn't have to, at least until I'm ready. My question is, do I HAVE to forgive her? Can I just tell her that I don't want to see her until I've made more progress with my therapy? Or is that… evil? Should I push myself harder to be civil and put up with it because she's old and all I have that's left of my blood, and that's what people do? Because I genuinely don't know if I even can. How do I fix this?

Sincerely,

Mad at Mom

Dear MAM,

You don't have to forgive your mother, and it's certainly not evil to make your own choices about this. I don't think anyone else can understand how fundamental her betrayal of you feels, so taking other people's advice in the matter is tough. There are people who will ALWAYS say, "You must honor your mother and be good to her, simply because she's your mother." There are also people who will ALWAYS say, "Seriously, fuck her. Do whatever you want. I cut my family off and it feels great." READ MORE

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The Ebola Franchise

An Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed over 650 people, making it easily the deadliest in the disease's relatively short history. It has also brought us one of the weirdest Times op-eds you'll ever read. It scans almost like an example or a template: Just replace "Ebola" with any other bad thing, adjust proper nouns in the "do better" sections, and SEND IT TO THE PRESSES. Some of its recommendations:

-Infected individuals must be isolated in health centers to prevent the virus from spreading to others and to give them the care they need.

-Bodies of victims must also be disposed of with care: The virus, present in bodily fluids, including sweat, is most infectious at the end-stage.

-Then there is widespread ignorance among the most vulnerable populations about what needs to be done. The result is that many people are hiding sick loved ones at home and transporting bodies for burial with no understanding of the precautions they must take.

"Then there is," yes. Then there is that. Then there is this, too:

-The governments of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria must also act with equal urgency to raise public awareness, put additional trained medical personnel on the ground and trace patients’ contacts with others.

-[T]he whole of West Africa must act to contain it.

Yes. Strongly agreed: This disease is bad, and people affected by it should really try to stop it.

Maybe it's difficult to talk about Ebola when it's actually killing people, lots of people, because the rest of the time it's treated like a trope. READ MORE

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"The curtains are drawn. Some light comes through, casting a small glow on the top left of the air conditioner. It’s daytime. The wall is an undecorated slab of beige. That is the American room." —Paul Ford observes the species through the eyes of the machines, and it is fantastic.

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The 9/11 Summer Blockbuster Machine

tmnt-560This poster, is by the usual standards of Hollywood graphic design, fairly mundane, but for its perspective: the viewer looks up from the base of a glass tower, toward its apex, which has been displaced by a burst of fire and smoke and glass. Four bodies are hurtling from the top of building, away from the fiery void, toward the ground. You didn't have to an employee of the Port Authority's PR office, an overly sensitive New Yorker, or even a mild-mannered concern troll to feel like you're huffing esters from the ashes of the World Trade Center by looking at this poster—even leaving aside the film's Australian release date in bold, white lettering: "September 11."

But even before the apology had been drafted and finished winding its ways through various level of corporate at Paramount Pictures Australia, ensuring that its mea culpa's edgeless empathy and grave concern were precisely calibrated to produce an effect of genuine censure, one writer said, "Evoking the tragic events of the World Trade Center attacks in New York 13 years ago was certainly not Paramount's intention."

But wasn't it? READ MORE

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How to Plagiarize a Fart Joke

6071571505_8d0bec66fe_zThere is yet another plagiarism scandal afoot. I declare it a silly one, and therefore predict that what I am writing here will raise a mini-foofaraw in journalistic circles. It may well get me targeted by the same journalism Internet sleuths who broke this “scandal,” and they might comb my oeuvre trying to prove that I am a plagiarist myself, which might explain why I am daring to question the agreed-upon level of public tsk-ing, using the agreed-upon hair-trigger definition of what constitutes theft in our a shabby new world of frantic Internet journalism that, in its very DNA, happens to encourage and reward theft.

To make A Point About Plagiarism—in particular, the forty-some-odd instances of plagiarism committed by BuzzFeed's Benny Johnson in his viral listicles—the Washington Post's crappy, lazy internet writer Gene Weingarten, willfully and explicitly plagiarizes a sentence written by Malcolm Gladwell, about plagiarism: "The ethics of plagiarism have turned into the narcissism of small differences: Because journalism cannot own up to its heavily derivative nature, it must enforce originality on the level of the sentence." Like Weingarten's complete bull-doody pathetic little phony piece, it performs the work of distinguishing degrees of plagiarism in order to diminish a particular instance of it.

Weingarten, up there on top of that high horse whose feet are sunk in the mud, after admitting that he cribbed "the best sentence in this piece" from Gladwell, writes, "Now, had I not disclosed stealing this line, I would have been reprimanded by The Washington Post, probably disciplined with a suspension, and possibly fired. I would not have contested whatever punishment I received, because I would know I deserved it because I had been a thief." I have done the same thing with the first paragraph of this piece, which is why it reads like the beginning of a wretched, groveling post. (Please imagine that there were quotation marks around it, or that it was slightly offset, indicating that it was an extended quote. It is now no longer stolen.)

But what Weingarten does not disclose is that he clearly stole the second best line in the piece—"I contend you cannot steal something of no intrinsic value; say, a fart"—which is good enough to have been curaggregated elsewhere. READ MORE

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New York City, July 28, 2014

weather review sky 072814★★★★ Morning brightened and darkened again. The boys dozed in their bunks in the dimness. North and south above the river were gray, rippling clouds, but overhead the ripples had become blue rifts, and the sun momentarily shone. The gray was darkening again when the seven-year-old got up and out. There was a chilly gust, then warm thick stillness. Down by Columbus Circle, the sun found another opening, raising a mirror-brightness from the windows on Central Park South. The train platforms were hot and noxious; a rush of sweltering air overpowered the air conditioning when the B train car opened its doors at Herald Square. Downtown, the sun was all the way out, shining down the subway steps—and then, in the span of the stroll to the office, the clouds took over. The back and forth continued out the windows till by afternoon it had resolved, emphatically, in the sun's favor. Busy breezes plied the streets. A lone helicopter hovered against white puffs a few blocks above Houston. Up in the 60s again, the breeze bent back the plants on the Broadway median. Each tossing leaf in the middle distance stood out in the sharpened light. The smell of garbage on the fresh air betokened simply a garbage truck, right there at the curb, loading garbage. In the dusk, the two-year-old's tennis-ball-green shirt glimmered as he took the plaza steps at one assisted bound, racing for the waiting ice cream truck. Airplane lights glowed warmly at all heights and distances, a swarm of manmade Venuses, and the clouds were white against the darkened blue. 

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Ask a Jeweler: A Buyer’s Guide to Diamonds

Me on Monday morningsThis is the second installment in a series about diamonds. For part one, click here.

As you can see by Marilyn’s facial expression, buying a diamond is equal parts exciting and confusing. I’ve tried to answer some FAQs to help you get the best diamond for your hard-earned money.

How is the quality of a diamond determined? How do these factors affect price?

The price of a diamond is directly related to its rarity. The more difficult it is to find and manufacture a particular diamond, the more expensive the diamond will be. A stone’s rarity is majorly determined by its carat weight, color, clarity and cut, otherwise known as “the 4Cs.” Let’s go through them:

CARAT WEIGHT

Just like deli meat, diamonds are priced by weight. A carat is a unit of measurement used to express the weight of gemstones. It’s equal to 200 milligrams; it is not to be confused with karats or carrots. It is more rare for miners to uncover big giant diamonds than small, baby diamonds, therefore with all other factors being equal, the higher the carat weight, the pricier the diamond.

How do I use this knowledge to spend less money?

There are these things called “magic numbers.” I’m serious. They fall at 0.5cts, .75cts, 1ct, and then at .5ct intervals moving forward (1.5cts, 2cts, 2.5cts etc.). What makes these numbers magic, is that they represent a significant jump in a diamond’s price per carat. By considering slightly lower carat weights (maybe a .9ct diamond instead of a 1ct diamond) you could find significant savings and a quite indistinguishable visual difference in the size of your diamond.

READ MORE

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The Future Is the Sound of Your Own Voice

NPR has been allowed a little bit of an internet-destruction grace period, on account of how slowly people buy new cars. This has given it some time to experiment with its millions of loyal listeners, to see what new things they like and don't like. Today, it's NPR One:

Listen to the latest local, national and international news in a curated stream customized for you. With NPR One you're in control: you can pause, skip or spend more time with the news and entertaining stories that you might have otherwise missed. NPR One remembers your history as you go, so you'll never hear the same story twice. Search for shows and podcasts, review your listening history or look ahead at upcoming stories…

And the more you use NPR One, the better it will work. We want to make sure you can hear the important stories of the day crafted in a listening experience just for you. So start listening and when a story resonates with you, mark it as 'interesting' or share it with your friends. We think you'll be surprised how well NPR One fits into your day.

This is a concession most news organizations and publishers have made more quietly, and maybe that was a mistake. READ MORE

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An Interview with Black Metal's Green Prophet (of Doom)

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Alan Weisman's 2007 The World Without Us is a lushly bleak non-fiction vision of apocalyptic utopia—a scientific extrapolation of what would happen if all the people on earth disappeared, all at once. Our parasites and dependents would die; carnivores would thrive; trees would push their way up through the asphalt; bridges would fall; nuclear power plants would fail, spilling radiation into the countryside, poisoning the land for millennia; plastics would be everywhere, virtually forever; and the earth would go on.

I asked Otrebor, the one-man force behind the black metal, green freak band Botanist, if he'd ever read Weisman's book. He said he hadn't, but that hasn't stopped him from effectively writing its soundtrack. Botanist's latest album, VI: Flora, which arrives on August 19th, is a long, sweeping, chthonic drone, as Otrebor growls about his beloved plants: "Pendant stamens/Bulbous teeth/Daggers pointed down/Perennial plant/Nascent In spring" he chokes and spits and whispers with all the reverent bile that black metal bands usually reserve for paeans to Satan. Botanist imagines a prettier, quieter doom: flowers growing while we're not watching, in a world without us staining it.

The other day I talked to Otrebor about his dark ecological vision, black metal, and his unusual instrumentation of drums and hammered dulcimer and, of course, human extinction.

Your concerns seem somewhat different than the mainstream environmental movement. What exactly is your investment in environmental issues?

The first thing I think of when you mention that the focus is different is that—a lot of what I see with the environmental movement is, "We have to save the planet." We have to save the whales, the polar bears, the owls, the forest. What Botanist is saying is that the planet doesn't really need saving—that though all those things may go extinct, but it's really to our detriment that they go extinct. So eventually what will happen is, when all those things die, then the human race will also die. When the human race dies, all those things in some other form will come back, without the human race.

READ MORE

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A Brief History of Being Unhappy at Work

literally no one in the world who i don't hate rn I was talking to someone who is in that "wanting to quit" phase of work and wanted to remember what it felt like so I did a search in my journal (YEP) from a few years back for the words "work" and "job." What follows is a nice, horrifying portrait of someone on the edge of sanity who really needs to quit her job. May I never be this angry again! Or may I um, emotionally detach from work and just put my head down and do my work? That always sounds like the right idea.

Work was hell again today. Some of it was fun. Some of it was creative. I had some decent ideas. I had hopeful, uplifting, reasonable conversations with people I like and respect. Had bitching, hilarious conversations with people I love. Made jokes with people who drive me crazy. Complained about people who are bothering me. The drama of the workplace absolutely consumes me. It's all I care about. Who is frustrated and why. Who wants to quit. Who is threatened by whom. Who feels territorial. Who is powerless. Who is wielding their power with too much brute force.

Had a few rages. A prolonged back and forth or two. Dustin told me to go get a snack and I did. And I did feel better. One Fudge Stripe, 1/4 of a cupcake and a handful of almonds later. :(

When did rage become such a dominant emotion in my life? I am always frustrated, enraged, cynical, afraid, worried. Everything is negative. Now I am panicked thinking about it.

On the way home I think about how horrible I feel about my life. About everything. That dreaded train ride. I am starting to feel (STARTING?) like staying at my job is the most advantageous thing for me but I can't stand it another minute. Like I really "get" this company and feel loyal to the project of it but it's eating away at me and turning me into a shell of a human being / a monster / a bad person / etc. I am "unbalanced." I scream and scream in my head (solemnly) about how unhappy I am and then do nothing about it. READ MORE

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