Thursday, September 4th, 2014
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Visual Poems by Anthony Madrid and Mark Fletcher

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Nighttime in the Devil's Garden

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It was early fall 2005 and I was driving cross-country in a station wagon I had impulsively bought from a woman in a department store parking lot in downtown Seattle. (What? She had the paperwork. It was fine.) I had given her most of my savings, so I decided, when possible, to car camp my way back home to New York City. In Moab, Utah, at dusty, red Arches National Park, I found a campground by the Colorado River. I would sleep in the shadow of the Fiery Furnaces, and I had even seen signs for something called the Devil’s Garden. I hadn’t meant to get Biblical. I just wanted to save some money.

It was right before sunset, and I parked my car and walked down to the river while there was still light. There were two golden, smiling children there, dipping their hands in the water; a long-haired girl in a cotton dress and a boy in a tidy t-shirt and shorts. Although they were quiet children, they seemed excited to see me, and, without saying very much at all they invited me to their camp. I followed them because those were the days I followed people without asking too many questions. READ MORE

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Welcome to Beautiful Laniakea! The Water Is Void and You Are Nothing

Astronomers have mapped the cosmic watershed in which our Milky Way Galaxy is a droplet. The massive structure, which the research team dubs the Laniakea Supercluster, extends more than 500 million light-years and contains 100,000 large galaxies.

For everything you have ever known, and all other things too, a slight rebranding.

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This year's event had 70,000 attendees. To service their basest bodily functions, Black Rock City was home to 1,400 porta-potties for the "general population" as well as 200 porta-potties for what Robbi called "Entitlement Camp," or festival-goers who rent their own private unit…

Complaining about the festival's fetid porta-potties has almost become a team-building exercise for pre-billionaires. "They're not necessarily rich," RobbiDobbs told me. "Nearly most of them are rich and entitled. That's why I used the derogatory term of 'entitled.' I think everybody should shit in the same place. What's your fucking problem? Shit in my units!!!!" She laughed.

A story about feces that you might actually want to start; a story about Burning Man that you might actually finish.

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New York City, September 2, 2014

weather review sky 090214[No stars] The long-lost dog days had trotted up to the door, weeks late and unapologetic, smelling of decayed things they'd rolled in. Overhead was a bleary mix of haze and thin unbounded cloud. A blinding glare reflected off oncoming cars and the surface of a grime-speckled curbside puddle. Production-crew workers were sticking greenery into the chain-link fence around the non-public garden, till it combined with the flourishing street trees to present a sinister jungle lushness. By midday the sky had settled out into blue and white, and the heat had not gone much beyond the earlier unpleasantness. Visible haze had abated at rush hour, but the air was thick and dead. Down in the subway, the atmosphere was nauseating, unbreathably thick and laced with rot and air freshener, or rotted air freshener. Worn-out sunflowers leaned against a community garden fence, and behind them were dead brown corn stalks and ragged-looking broccoli. Out in the night, the air had begun moving, but it was no more refreshing than the stagnant air had been. On the way back from the supermarket—with bags of near-overripe fruit and dispiriting vegetables—a sustained wind blew up the avenue, hot and full of construction dust, raising a heavier sweat to catch and hold the flying grit.

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Escape Artist Tells All

maryissopretty
Awl pal Mary HK Choi managed to make a certain kind of dream come true: She left New York. And now she has a thing she wrote about it, a thing that you can and should buy. Let’s learn more!

Balk: Mary HK Choi, you have a new thing you wrote called [KINDLE SINGLE TITLE TK]. Tell me about it!

MHKC: I do, it's called Oh, Never Mind and it's a collection of essays. It's not a book. It's more like a booklet. Or maybe a pamphlet??!!! ANYWAY, it's 5 essays that are new. They're a buck ninety nine. Like, an US Weekly when they were competing with In Touch. Or whatever. It's about me leaving New York because that's what happened to have happened while I was writing them.

Balk: Mary, how on earth could anyone leave New York? And b) Why does everyone who leaves New York have to write about it?

MHKC: I love New York but sometimes New York is so mean to you. And I needed a level up. Los Angeles is a decent level up because they pay you lots and lots of money for whatever you're verbing for them. The thing about leaving New York is that you can come back. This way you don't have to tread water and cry and feel a low-grade panic attack the whole time. I think this last winter broke my fucking brain.

b) Because we're all assholes and because it's the craziest feeling to leave New York. It does absolutely feel like capitulation because you didn't WIN at New York to where you own a million dollar brownstone that now costs 4 million or whatever. But it also feels like breaking up with everyone you've ever loved all at the same time. It feels like you're going on the spaceship to colonize another planet or something. It feels completely fucked up and scary and incorrect to leave this place. and some of us just gotta workshop that shit plus, also, it's this THING to where if you don't win; you age out. I wanted a car and a house and a washer and dryer. and it's #basic as fuck to want those things but I got too old to care about how it seems. I have made a huge mistake. Probably. READ MORE

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'The Wire' and the Realism Canard

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David Simon's The Wire, which is set to soon be re-broadcast in high definition, continues to be hailed, in some corners, as the greatest television show of all time. In an effort to elevate it to the level of high art, many critics (including Simon himself) have reached for comparisons with other, less lumpen forms, from Greek tragedy to Dickens—anything, in short, that isn't a television show. But Linda Williams, a professor of film studies and rhetoric at Berkeley, in her new book, On The Wire, thinks that the show's greatest accomplishment is its use of melodrama. I talked to Williams last month about melodrama and realism, and how they shape people's view of the show.

You argue in your book that The Wire is a melodrama, and that, contrary to popular opinion, melodrama is a form that is tied to, or makes use of, realism.

I liked Isaac Butler's essay on the “realism canard” quite a bit. As he says, many people believe that something is great because it's true or because it's accurate. My point of departure for thinking about The Wire in a different way was precisely when Julius Wilson and some other sociologists published something in Critical Inquiry arguing, I thought kind of solipsistically, that the Wire was great because it was accurate according to their sociology. Yes, that is one of the great things about The Wire. But if we stop there, we fall into what Butler calls the realism canard, which is to say that the best fictional works are those that are the most factual, and that's certainly not the case.

What does that have to do with melodrama?

I tried to define melodrama as that which is very good at absorbing new forms of realism in order to try to make claims for justice and for arguing on the part of those whose voices have not been heard. Melodrama is a machine for the production of new kinds of apparent truth. I know that many people, if they hear me say that The Wire is melodrama, will say, "Oh no! It's great! It's good! It's true! It can't be melodrama!" It's easy to recognize melodrama in old melodrama. It's harder to recognize it in the new, because it always seems so true.

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The Best Things in Life Are Free (Food)

Meat Table1. Holiday-themed cookies, Diet Coke, chicken, store-baked French bread, beer, donuts

My first real job is at an Albertsons grocery store. I'm fifteen, but I lie on my application and say I was born in 1989 so I can work 5-to-10 shifts as a cashier. When school gets out for the summer, I score an extra eight hours a week of overtime. I'm saving up for a month-long debate camp in Austin, and every time I deposit my paycheck, I store the carbon copy of the deposit slip in an envelope on my desk, as though I'll need them someday for reference.

My coworkers are great: a couple of high school kids, a few teen moms, and one girl who brings whiskey to work and lets me drink it twice. Another cashier is a year older than me and is already engaged; her fiancé works at the Jiffy Lube across the street and they live with her parents. I spend the summer making out in the stockroom with a produce manager who's four years older than me and, I later discover, has a girlfriend.

Our store has just started using those machines that print certain coupons based on what the shopper purchases. Usually, the coupons are product-specific; a customer buying Lunchables and juice boxes might get a dollar off graham crackers, and so on. But sometimes, it prints money: coupons like “$5 off entire order until July 31.” Our hourly salary is $6.15, so we begin hoarding them; if a customer uses one, we scan it and pocket it instead of shoving it into the coupon zipper pouch. We start buying cookies from the bakery for the break room, then whole rotisserie chickens.

Turns out, morale improves considerably when minimum-wage workers can afford the groceries they're selling. READ MORE

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These Boots Are Made for Making

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How To Make Boots From Your Garage is not a shoe store; you can't walk in off the street and buy a pair of boots. But you can learn how to build a pair. The shop’s proprietor, Olivier Rabbath, wants to teach you. “The fact is, it is possible to make up to a hundred pair of boots a month, in a space no bigger than a two-car garage,” Rabbath writes on his website, an aesthetic throwback to the days of Geocities.

The workshop occupies the first floor of a three-story brick building on a bare stretch of Hoyt Street, in Brooklyn. When I walked in on a recent afternoon, Rabbath, a lithe and agreeably profane French ex-pat in his fifties, was feeding his toddler, Gaia. A young woman worked quietly at one of the tables in the back. Raw materials—pieces of shoes, synthetic severed feet, which shoemakers call “lasts"—were strewn around the large room, interspersed with papers, tools, desk lamps, table fans, and a few pieces of heavy machinery. In one corner, above and around a small coffee table and couch, several dozen of Rabbath's creations—boots, high heels, shoes, sandals—were on display, hanging upside down from the ceiling like bats. Some were extremely elaborate, like a gigantic, embroidered tan leather boot that looked like it rose up to the wearer’s waist.

Rabbath, who lives above the shop, offered me a beer and quickly began to explain the philosophy that underpins How To Make Boots From Your Garage. "It's shoes, what part do you have to understand?” he said. “You need it! Boom. I make you a good shoemaker. Your productions—forget the talent—last fifteen years. You fuck all the companies. Because you're doing good shoes. That's it. It's called a skill." READ MORE

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The Best Time I (Maybe) Got Rabies

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The August before I left for my freshman year of college, I received a letter containing my dorm assignment: a two-room double with a girl named Amy. All I know about Amy is from a five minute phone call. She’s from Lawrence, Kansas, and she’s willing to go half on a microwave. All she knows about me is that I'm from New York and can bring the microwave with me. What she’s going to find out is that I am fucking chaos, a fact that, as I prep to leave, all my petty criminal friends are excited about. "Lola, you are going to blow this girl's mind," they say, and I was like, "I sure am, I hang out with people who do HEROIN. Better go pack my REALNESS BOMB for tomorrow."

On move-in day, my parents and I arrive early to make sure I snag the better, more private, room of the double. If you are thinking that is something I should wait and talk to her about before just putting all my shit down, you are WRONG. I'm way fucking cooler than a girl from Kansas and therefore need the privacy because I will definitely be getting laid more.

Amy comes in much later, having flown from Kansas with a single piece of roll-on luggage. She’s stuck with the outside room, which you need to walk through to get to the hallway. I offer her a drawer in my room (I also took the closets) and head to hang with my friends, who are juniors, because I already know juniors.

I come back later that night to see that, within six hours of her arrival off the plane, Amy is bad-breath-distance from some dude. Music is playing. Weed is being smoked. College is happening. “Hi Lola!” she says. “This is Tim. We met at the ice cream thing after dinner!” I run into my room.

The next day she beds another one. The next day, another. Every night, Amy’s dudes get more basic and, like freshman Scheherazade, her excuses get flimsier: I walk in to her in a bra straddling some dude lying on his stomach and she tells me, "We're having a backrub party!" One afternoon I find a note on my bed, written in purple marker on the blank side of a piece of a Pall Malls carton: "Lola, Sorry for the sex. Love you, Amy" READ MORE

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Mikael Seifu, "Tuff Ruff"

Via The Fader, a gorgeous track from Ethiopian producer Mikael Seifu, who names both Burial and "traditional Ethiopian folk" as influences. You can play it low in the background, or you can turn it up and hear it unfold.

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Take Time

This weekend, millions of internet users scrambled at once to see photos of naked celebrities. These photos had been accessed and published without their subjects' consent. Media outlets, whose institutional assessments concluded that publishing copies of these photos would be the wrong choice, but accustomed to the realities of the internet circa 2014, had to find ways to address this issue. Mostly, at first, there was a lot of writing around the photos, which coyly provided enough information for people to contextualize and then eventually find them. Then there was real reporting about where the images came from, about the people who acquired them, about technology and about the victims. The story was quickly advanced.

But a phenomenon like this generates an enormous surplus of attention, much more than news can meet. In such a situation the internet's craving for sex and humiliation is effectively infinite. This throws the ᴄᴏɴᴛᴇɴᴛ industry into a frantic generative mode, initiating a full-spectrum stress test on par with a natural disaster or a war. This weekend was a consumption bonanza, a historic seller's market for ᴄᴏɴᴛᴇɴᴛ. It was no time for mere reports and analysis, no, that would never be enough. It was Take Time.

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Durham, North Carolina, to New York City, September 1, 2014

★★★ Mist gathered on the windshield of the car and trickled up it in the darkness. The wipers swept it clear and it accumulated again. Orion and Sirius were up in the sky. Off to the left, down low, the sky was beginning to lighten. It grew brighter on one side of the air terminal, ever-lighter blue streaked with lilac. The lilac turned bright pink, then pale pink. Beyond the parking garage, swirls of orange and purple were forming. Out the water-streaked window of the shabby old regional jet, white edges started to show. The plane taxied past what looked like the previous night's unused plane, then cleared the end of the building, and the sun itself came into view. It had an unpleasant brown tint to it. The engines pushed; the condensation streamed away; the plane rose. Pines receded in a blurry haze. The raw pink earth of a nascent subdivision passed below. Now the sky around was striated in Greek-restaurant blues and whites. Far away to the east were near-vertical cumulus formations, towers or sugarloaf mountains. The sun was clean white and warm against the cold unchecked blasts from the broken overhead air conditioner valve. A pebbly layer of clouds slid under the plane, and then a lumpy thick one, a landscape of unreal hills, cliffs, a river delta. And past that, in the far middle distance: a whole metropolis, a Manhattan of blocky phantom buildings crowded together, stretching on and on. It lasted till the plane banked and descended through blank gray, then on through layers on layers of clouds, a napoleon of light and shadow, till there was a glimpse of solid prosaic cul-de-sac landscape below. Then there were city roofs, rectangles shining within rectangles, and waters speckled with sailboats, and then as the silhouette of the plane crossed an apartment tower, the distant hazy outline of the actual Manhattan. From the ground, the only sign of the extravagances overhead was one ragged ivory mass, under mundane-looking cirrus. The deep freeze of the M60 bus opened out onto a hot stench of garbage. The morning streets were quiet. A white pigeon, flecked with a few spots of black, strolled on the bricks outside the apartment building. By midday more clouds had gathered. The two-year-old was a little disheveled in his swing on the playground. In the Gray's Papaya it was stifling enough to raise a sweat. The clouds kept moving through the afternoon, piling up, turning lovely purples and golds by dinnertime, as the seven-year-old spotted rocket ships and passengers in their shapes. Out in the dusk, an airplane flying medium-high over Amsterdam Avenue clipped the bottom of one low cloud and for a moment its shape grew indistinct, while its lights solidified into a yellow fan. A moon just shy of the first quarter stood above the ballet theater as Eugene Onegin played on the screen on the opera house, to an audience completely filling the plaza. Body odor wafted from the seats. The seven-year-old stood to the side and ate gelato and listened to the music; the two-year-old ate gelato and looked at the screen and pointed out when an airplane passed.

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Is 'Modern Family' Really the Best-Directed Comedy on TV?

modern-family-vegasOn Monday night, Gail Mancuso took home the Emmy for “Outstanding Direction for a Comedy Series” for her work the Modern Family season five episode “Las Vegas.” This was Mancuso’s second win in a row and the show’s fourth win in a row in this category. This year, Mancuso beat out Comedy Film School favorites Louis C.K. and Lena Dunham as well as seasoned film directors Jodie Foster (for Orange is the New Black) and Mike Judge (for Silicon Valley). Looking even further back, the last time a network show director, in which directing is historically more like house-painting than Picasso, lost to a cable director is in 2004, when Curb Your Enthusiasm took home the prize for HBO (however I will not besmirch the Emmy voters’ 2004 selection of Barry Sonnenfeld's Pushing Daisies pilot for ABC, which is one of the most visually inventive and exciting pieces of television I have ever seen). This all begs the question of what are Emmy voters looking for in comedy directing, and why, year after year, as television directing gets more and more interesting and “filmic”, are the voters rewarding merely proficient directing over shows with more artful or at least with the most directing? READ MORE

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Brooklyn's New Colonial Frontier

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Colony 1209 is a luxury apartment complex located at 1209 Dekalb Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Located one block from a public library and a smattering of ninety-nine-cent shops, the five-story property's geometric, shiny blue and gray façade, which makes it look like a fortress built by a first-grader in Minecraft, sticks out in a largely residential neighborhood packed with brick or vinyl-sided two- and three-family buildings. Through the windows, you can peer into the ultra-modern lobby, which is furnished with items like a plastic bubble chair hanging from the ceiling. It seems like a colony on the moon, but the idea behind it is less space jam than manifest destiny.

According to the website of aptsandlofts.com, the brokerage firm renting units at Colony 1209, only fourteen units remain available in Colony 1209. The rest are occupied by renters settling what the luxury building's website calls "Brooklyn's new frontier." That "new frontier" is "bohemian Bushwick, a vibrant industrial setting reimagined through artful eyes." The area—where there are just as many empty lots overgrown with weeds and buildings with boarded-up windows as there are tree-lined streets, Puerto Rican flags, and yards with colorful lawn ornaments—might unnerve some potential settlers if Colony 1209's website didn't reassure them, "we already surveyed the territory for you." Once settlers arrive, they'll "find a group of like-minded settlers, mixing the customs of their original homeland with those of one of NYC's most historic neighborhoods to create art, community, and a new lifestyle."

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Dress Your Family In Your Lover's Shoes

I was asleep on the overnight train from Carbondale to Chicago, dreaming about snuggling with my boyfriend, Sam. I awoke to find myself reaching for my seatmate—a newly released convict who did not want to snuggle.

“No,” he said, crossing his arms. I knew he was a former inmate from his grey sweatpants, matching t-shirt, and prison-issued sneakers. The Pinckneyville Correctional Center is halfway between Southern Illinois and Union Station. The midnight train is the cheapest option for shipping freed men north.

He shook his head. “I don’t cuddle.”

“Sorry,” I mumbled. It seemed pointless to explain that I’d thought he was my boyfriend of one year, who I was on my way to meet. Sam and I were flying to Ireland and staying with his family for one month, which seemed like the most romantic thing ever.

At the time I was going to school in Southern Illinois. In retrospect I was clinically depressed. My evenings consisted of three beers, watching “Bones”, then to bed with the help of frantic diary writing and a Klonopin. Every diary entry that year was about Sam. I wrote about worrying if he liked me, if he would call me. I wrote to quiet the swirling within me—a swirling that happened when I thought about calling him—because he rarely answered.

Our decision to spend a month together in a foreign country felt auspicious. The fact that we were staying with his family for the duration was practical (we were both grad students with small stipends, and it made sense to leech off people providing food and shelter in a picturesque environment) but only complicated the delusion that he might really like me. The capacity for madness lives in all of us. The question is whether those who love us see it for what it is, or try to romanticize it into something else. READ MORE

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When a Man Grabs You on the Subway and Tries to Drag You Down a Flight of Stairs

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, developer and editor Nozlee Samadzadeh tells us more about being assaulted by some jerk while exiting the subway station.

Nozlee! So what happened here?

I have a lovely subway commute—I really do. I take the L just a few stops and then transfer to a couple more stops on the NQR, which conveniently has staircase access directly from the L platform. Even on a bad day this never takes longer than 25 minutes!

Last Wednesday was normal: I got on in a specific subway car to most efficiently make my transfer and pulled out my magazine. The car was pretty empty but filled up at Bedford Ave, where the last person to enter was a white guy in his forties obviously ready to go on vacation—Guayabera shirt, salmon-colored shorts, overstuffed carry-on luggage. He was standing directly next to me in front of the car doors; I briefly imagined the $$ waterfront high-rise where he lived and the suits he probably normally wore when riding the L into Manhattan, then went back to what I was reading.

We pulled into Union Square and, ugh, it was one of those bad days: The NQR staircase was crowded up and down with other passengers. I was running a little late and needed to dash out, but as the doors opened Guayabera guy was taking up the entire doorway getting a hold of his luggage. I wiggled past him—I’m not going to say it was nice to maneuver past someone, but it certainly wasn’t a violent or sudden action—and walked toward the staircase.

I was trying to find a way up the stairs, which were crowded with people rushing in both directions, so it wasn’t until I was halfway up the first flight that I realized the yelling I heard was directed at me. "Don’t push past me, you bitch! Who the fuck do you think you are?" READ MORE

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Fall Preview

autumninnewyorkAutumn will start off with a series of false beginnings and vague feelings of dislocation as summer lingers longer than everyone expects, even though summer here always easily extends into the end of September and sometimes beyond. When the days draw down and the sun starts to set earlier and earlier you will increasingly develop an overwhelming sense of opportunities missed and chances wasted as each event you had hoped to attend or goal you had your sights set on achieving becomes yet another adventure you opted out of under the empty promise that there was something better going on, and this endless buffet of poor choices will eventually lead to a fatigue so heavy that you will soon stop making choices at all, relying on the default option of doing nothing and hating yourself for it. Suddenly it will be winter, and all around you will fade into darkness and depression and bitter, pitiless wind. You will realize just how empty everything is. The grave beckons. The grave beckons. The grave beckons. Look for a Saints-Broncos Super Bowl.

[Photo via]

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"Supposedly born on August 31, 1887–the year Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee–she has attributed her long life to eating well, snacking on chocolate, sleeping for days on end and never getting married, according to her family."

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Family Purged

Hmm:

This is an incredibly exciting time for all of us in media. The Washington Post is a crown jewel, exemplifying the finest in editorial quality and journalistic values. I am honored to follow four generations of Graham family leadership and thrilled with the opportunity to work with Jeff and the incredibly talented team at The Post.

Katharine Weymouth, the publisher of the Washington Post and Graham bloodline human, has "stepped down" from her role to make way for Fred Ryan, the founding President and CEO of Politico and former Reagan chief of staff. A year ago, after Jeff Bezos purchased the paper, Weymouth told readers: "Mr. Bezos has asked that I remain as Publisher and CEO of The Post. I am honored to continue in that role. Our mission does not change." Today, Bezos made a subtle frame adjustment: "I am so grateful to Katharine for agreeing to stay on as Publisher this past year."

"Crown jewel," says Fred Ryan, whose partners in the Politico project were mostly former Washington Post employees (who are surely enjoying some complicated feelings this morning). Crown jewel. As in… a ceremonial item taken from its case on special occasions? A beautiful object symbolizing an excess of wealth and power? An American crown jewel? A Jeff Bezos crown jewel?

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