A Prison for the Dead

When Millie died last year, her foster mother was in a nursing home and her pimp was in jail. Nobody came to collect her body.

New York City, November 23, 2014

weather review sky 112314★★★ The trip to the supermarket for milk and breakfast ingredients was chilly but only chilly, the sun glowing through fissures in the sheet of clouds. Then the clouds separated further and  were overlaid with contrails, collage-work in the west. Haze shone downriver. The afternoon’s mildness made a promise that the early sunset threatened to revoke. There was a rustic smell of fallen leaves on the air, and now some trees were wholly bare—one strung with holiday lights, one dangling with lumpy blue-black seed pods. Children stayed on the playground late into the twilight, though it was still early in the evening.

David Baldacci, who signed several thousand copies of his new book, “The Escape,” said he hoped the effort would help the last big bookstore chain standing to better compete against Amazon. “You can go online and buy any book you want, but there’s not a lot of excitement with clicking the buy button,” he said.#

The uncanny quality of this statement is explained not by the fact that Barnes & Noble, the entity that Baldacci and a hundred other authors are partnering with to sell more books on Black Friday, is the biggest bookseller in the country, with over six hundred and fifty retail stores, and is a Fortune 500 company and billions of dollars in annual revenue, but by the fact that it, as the last national chain of bookstores, desperately needs their charity.

Perhaps it could adopt the Strand’s twin strategies for staying alive as an independent book store in this, the year of our Lord Bezos two thousand and fourteen: #branding and New York real estate. Or something else that people love, which has nothing to do with actual books! Tacos, maybe. Or Cronut knockoffs. People love those.#

“Most work emails are purely defensive missives. They seek to shift effort, hide omissions, or provide cover against future blame. Emails simulate work: Rather than getting something done, you create a futures market for excuses and rationales for not getting them done. Thanks to precarity, the modern workplace demands the construction of layers of protective virtual ramparts to shield the worker from possible future reproach. Email has become the primary brick out of which such fortresses are fashioned. An email is a one-sided agreement made in secret. Once sent, it takes on the air of accord. This is why “Didn’t you get my email?” is a workplace trump card. ‘Hey, I did my part. It’s not my fault if you dropped the ball.’”#

Texts to My Super

These are real text messages to Alex, the super of my totally normal building. He’s great.

Hey Alex, we have a small leak under the sink! Can you come check it out when you get a chance?

— September 29, 2013

Hey Alex there is a REALLY weird chemical smell in the apt… Not gas, more like paint or plastic? It is too strong to stay here. Can you check it out tomorrow??

— December 4, 2013

Did you get a chance to check out that weird smell yet? I have not been back yet and I am worried about the apt exploding

— December 5, 2013

The Best Time I Dropped Out of College (Twice)

2010-03-20 17.33.38
I dropped out of college the first time in a bright kind of fall. The college, because I’m Canadian, was actually called university, and the university was of Western Ontario, a great, big, unevenly beautiful school at which both of my parents had matriculated. It would have been nice if that’s why I too had enrolled, or why my decision was forcibly encouraged; the real reason was that the U. of W.O. was a 12-minute drive from our house, where as a stay-at-home student I’d cost a lot less, help with the chores, and continue to attend our evangelical hell-hole of a church.

Resigned, I spent my first year of an undeclared major wearing comfortable shoes and riding the city bus to school. I remember making very few friends. One of them I kissed for 20 minutes by the light of a neon Sublime poster, and when my mother read my diary to find this out, she not only sat me down for a long talk with my dad, but also, the following Wednesday, showed up at 3:10 p.m. to an even longer lecture on Hegel. Five hundred students of Modern European History turned to look at her. I looked for a sharpened pencil. She just had a feeling, she said to me later in the van, that I was doing something here besides learning.

The Moose-Shaped Hazards of Driving in Canada

mooose

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, photojournalist Daniella Zalcman tells us more about what it’s like to drive your car into a moose.

fb

Daniella! So what happened here?

So I’m driving north on Highway 11 in Ontario, about four hours into my trip from Toronto, and it’s around 7 p.m. I was on my way to North Bay for a story I’d been working on for the past month that had taken me all over Canada, and this was my last week of travel. I was pretty exhausted, and a little burned out, and not super happy to be driving—I’ve only had my license for about two years, and between living in New York City and London for nearly a decade let’s just say I’m not the most experienced motorist. 

Anyway, it’s 7 p.m. in November in Ontario, which means that it’s completely dark out, and Canada is not great about putting in lights on its highways, so outside of the twenty-foot circumference of my brights I can’t see a damn thing. I’d just had to pass this truck in the right lane that was spewing some really disgusting dense black smoke and was speeding slightly, about 110 km/hr or so, when I see this THING in the middle of my lane. For a split second, I think it’s a person, and then as I get closer I realize just how fantastically large it is and HOLY SHIT THERE IS A MOOSE IN FRONT OF ME WHAT DO I DO AND WHY ISN’T IT MOVING AND GODDAMNIT CANADA, is more or less what went through my head. I have just enough time to look in my rearview mirror and realize there’s a little time to brake before I make contact with the black hole of animal matter in front of me. 

So I brake, and then I hit the moose.

Beverly, "Madora"

One more entry in the ongoing 90s alt renaissance—a warm, gently harmonized track with the sturdy bones of a Dinosaur Jr. song.

House Hunters: Corporate Campus Edition

The primarily physical symbols of the tech boom are: huge sprawling campuses that you can only really get a sense of from the air; weird anonymous towers overwhelming an iconic city skyline; conference centers viewed from the inside. I would add to the list “anonymous three-bedroom ranch houses built in the 50s that cost two or more million dollars and are located in one of the following California towns.”

These are the most expensive real estate markets in the United States, according to Coldwell Banker, excluding New York City. The ones in Northern California are unremarkable in housing terms except for their proximity to large tech companies—they are strange physically contingent resource-driven boom towns built around data instead of oil, and Chinese manufacturing contracts instead of natural gas.

Anyway, here is probably the most surreal and affirming page on Zillow.

New York City, November 20, 2014

★★★ Blue patches moved fast among the morning clouds. There were wilted plants in the raised bed, collapsed and stringy. The cold was less definitive, the wind strong but not freezing. The blue took over the sky, and the more clouds blew in—round puffs, then some that the three-year-old maintained looked like spaceships. The sun descended, round and red, and bars of color shone through the blinds onto the wall, as solid and saturated as something from the middle of a paint chip. Floating garbage wended its way among the balconies a third of the way up a tower. Sunset left a smooth spectrum on the sky, with the first band flipped: a bottommost layer of violet giving way to red, and thence up in order to deep indigo.

PC Music Forever

“Are you ready to experience this unlimited experience?” asks Miss 2.0, a PC Music avatar, as she stares out from a chat window, an unblinking green-lit icon declaring that she is eternally online. She is the promise of the infinite scroll and unlimited data personified: hit “x” and she does not die.

Like the very first pop song I ever owned on cassette, most of the online underground label PC Music’s “hits” are based around the idea of an unspecified yet definitely totally blissful “forever.” For the past year, the label has had London club-goers raising their collective WKDs at sweaty basement parties, and filling their social timelines with its accelerated pop sound. It feels like an allergic reaction to the gloomy head-nodding that has dominated London’s electronic music scene in the last few years, which itself provided a counterpoint to the glossy, hyperreal feeling of chart pop. It instead wields hyperreality as an ethos: online, it’s a cast of airbrush-skinned characters reciting all-you-can-download excess; at intimate and rowdy club nights, it’s a bunch of young, uber-enthusiastic DJs who entrance equally young crowds with banger after banger after banger.