"Rising inequality is not a law of nature – it's not even a law of economics. It is a consequence of political and economic arrangements, and those arrangements can be changed," writes John Lanchester. I'm a cynical fuck who thinks hope for a better world is futile since we're all doomed to toil as servants for the thin and calcifying slice of the upper class that runs everything and there's no way we're ever going to get it together enough to change things, particularly with all the distractions and sedatives this modern world has to hey is that a new iPhone? But Lanchester, [...]
Buried a little too deep in The New Yorker's content mines for the site's recent excavation, but available here, is John Seabrook's legendary 1994 embed with MTV. From the office of the president of the network, Judy McGrath: From the windows there is an amazing view of lower Manhattan, the Hudson River, and northeastern New Jersey, but the dominant view in McGrath's office is of the television set, and when you go there for a meeting you have to remember to sit so that you, McGrath, and the TV are in the proper relationship to each other. At one of our early meetings, I made the mistake [...]
Awl pal Matthew J.X. Malady weighs in on what the cognoscenti refer to as Balk's Law, or the idea that everything you hate about The Internet is actually everything you hate about people.
"In the recent history of American music, there’s no figure parallel to [Tom] Lehrer in his effortless ascent to fame, his trajectory into the heart of the culture — and then his quiet, amiable, inexplicable departure. During his golden decade, he appeared on The Tonight Show twice, drew a denunciation in Time magazine, and by the early 1960s, seemed poised for a lasting place on an American cultural scene that itself was undergoing a radical upheaval. Then Lehrer simply stopped performing. His entire body of work topped out at 37 songs. He bounced around Cambridge, never quite finishing his doctorate on the [...]
"The older I get, the surer I am that I’m not running the show," said Leonard Cohen a few years back and it is something that resonates with me for all sorts of reasons, but especially because it is so difficult to deny. You will not find that particular quote in Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters but you will find so many other that are just as good that it would be silly for you not to own a copy. If we have to grow old—and if you know of an easy alternative please do not keep it to yourself—it is nice to [...]
"I live in Anchorage, two hours from McNeil as the floatplane flies, and suffer from a fear so extreme and yet so common here it has earned its own nickname: Bearanoia, a condition in which one’s time outdoors is accompanied by a lingering assumption that every sound in the brush signals an approaching bear with a premeditated plan to drag one off for a good mauling."
"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.
"But let’s stop here and register the proper cautions and caveats: There has been no investigation, no conclusive proof. (And there won’t necessarily be a proper and convincing investigation, either, considering the deliberately chaotic and militarized state of eastern Ukraine these days, and Russia’s clear interests.) We shouldn’t pretend to know for certain what we don’t." —Here is the moment at which you can tell that you're reading the right piece, or at least not the wrong piece, about Ukraine, today. (Since publishing, the incriminating tapes mentioned have appeared online.)
"If you’re a person whose perception of the world is shaped by literature, Dublin can feel less like a place that James Joyce wrote about than a place that is about James Joyce’s writing. The city of his fiction exists in ghostly superimposition over the actual city, such as it is, and every street corner, every landmark, every fleetingly glimpsed stranger, can seem haunted by some Joycean revenant. If you’re already thinking about Joyce to begin with, Dublin will continually provide you with reasons to continue doing so. Joyce will not be escaped. He inheres in the city’s bones."
If you can't listen to that amazing Todd Terje/Bryan Ferry cover of Robert Palmer's "Johnny and Mary" without being overcome by a sadness so intense that your heart feels constricted and you need to look away from anyone nearby so they don't see your eyes starting to water up then you are either me or someone just like me, which puts you in a world of tragedy even without having to listen to the song. The rest of you can probably just appreciate the song for what it is. Either way, here's a pretty good interview with Todd Terje that [...]
"We fancied ourselves renegades, rejecting the path well trodden by the herd, but we were never above accepting the lucre therein. Against a backdrop of buzz words and obscenely expensive launch parties and former IT guys partying like rock stars, we were alternately envious and disgusted, egocentric and self-loathing. We knew lots of people who would get rich for reasons as stupid as registering the right domain name, and people who would go broke for reasons as stupid as getting hired by the wrong company at the wrong time. We stayed late at the office and savored the excitement and tried to feel grateful and [...]
"When I was young, my mother had a feverish conversion and started a church in our living room. I’d always been a tiny bit anxious that I might one day follow suit, hear the calling myself, start roaming the streets, preaching salvation. A committed but fearful agnostic, I’d never intended to tempt fate by visiting the Holy Land." —Awl pal Maud Newton tempts fate by visiting the Holy Land.
Awl pal Anne Helen Petersen on Harvey Levin's empire of slime:
[I]t’s clear that Bieber’s tape was not the only near-priceless piece of dirt in the proverbial TMZ vault. (TMZ did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) According to these ex-employees, the sealed testimonies from the Michael Jackson molestation trial hide there as does footage of various celebrities — Bieber, Lohan, Travolta — behaving badly. The vault isn’t a secret at TMZ — even the lowest on the staff ladder have heard whispers of its existence. As to what goes up on the site and what stays vaulted, that’s a finer, more esoteric calculus — and one [...]
"'You can have the best surveillance system in the world, and the numbers are going to get you,' said Maxwell. 'Resistance is going to be there. It will escape notice. And once it occurs at even a low, recognizable level, it’s going to continue to be there.'"—Has your corn been acting suspicious lately?
"I am of the cohort which lived inside a gilded bubble when young, and made a proper song and dance about it. Now that group is clearly beginning to think of itself as old, and you can be sure this won’t happen quietly." —Jenny Diski on aging is just as good as Jenny Diski on anything else, which is to say you should be reading it right now, what are you even waiting for, seriously go ahead and click already.
With the latest volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle appearing in English soon, a flurry of Karl Ove Knausgaard coverage is bound to accompany it. As a big Karl Ove Knausgaard fan, I approve.
This is actually a surprisingly comprehensive look at the state of play in New Jersey. If you are someone who doesn't know much of this already it is the kind of thing that you should read with the pleasant awareness that you won't need to read anything else on the topic because you've put in enough work with this one.
I probably should have told you about this earlier but things have been CRAZY lately oh my God you wouldn't even believe it but I won't get into it because I think we both know how tedious other people's protestations of how frantic they have been can be—not to mention how insulting, because, what, you don't have a life? You're not busy too?—so I will just say that today is the last day to get Bohumil Hrabal's Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age at half off, which if you have not read the book you absolutely should do.