Before anybody throws himself off a bridge over things written on the Internet, let's clear a few things up regarding Tom Scocca's essay, "On Smarm," which was the occasion of a grand hullaballoo last week. I love this essay: it crystallizes so many things, so elegantly and so hilariously. Its central premise is a little blurry, however, in a way that has sown confusion and grief in certain quarters. Freddie DeBoer, contributor to The New Inquiry, lost his muffin in its entirety; unable to confine himself to writing one zillion comments on the article itself, he wrote a blog post about it too. DeBoer claims that smarm vs. [...]
Are we still arguing about "assisted suicide"? Times web thinkie-typer Ross Douthat is, as he is "making an argument premised on the idea that suicide is generally wrong and helping someone kill themselves is generally a form of murder." Also he starts referring to the deaths of people who choose suicide who are of "sound-enough mind and uncoerced" as "self-slaughter"—while making the case that it's a "slippery slope." Why, if we let mortally ill people have control over their own deaths, then maybe everyone will just give up and die. (Also people will start gay-marrying pigs and sheep.) Yeah, that's why Jack Kervorkian assisted in all of [...]
It would be easy to dismiss Lee Siegel's piece-"Where Have All the Mailers [he means Norman] Gone?") in the New York Observer this week-but what fun would that be? Siegel, writing in typically bombastic fashion, obviously intends to start an argument. His essay is essentially a lament for the disappearance of fiction from just that sort of debate: the shared (and perhaps largely imaginary) upper-middle-brow cultural conversation many of us try to engage in by reading magazines like the New Yorker and going to see certain movies, etc. I enjoy that conversation, too; so let's have at it.
Internet, yay! Internet, oh no!—surely, it’s obvious by now that there is as much reason for hope as there is for fear from our technological future. A rational and nuanced criticism will seek to define our true circumstances, identify dangers, and encourage beneficial progress. Thus far, however, tech critics have tended to extremes, either for or against the Internet: wringing their hands á la Nicholas Carr (The Shallows), or busting out the pompoms in the manner of Jeff Jarvis (What Would Google Do?). This simple-minded stuff will no longer do. It's into the vacuum of a powerfully felt need that contemporary theorists like Evgeny Morozov and Jaron Lanier have been [...]
Dan: Claire Jarvis! I really liked Cary Fukunaga's film of Jane Eyre, starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. But I know next to nothing about Brontë, having read maybe one-fifth of the novel in 11th grade. You're an assistant professor in the English department at Stanford, a Brontë scholar and a superfan. Tell me why I'm wrong to like this movie so much!
Claire: Dan Kois! I really suggest you read this novel. But, right away, I don't know if I'd say I was a Charlotte Superfan. I'm more of an Emily girl.
Dan: See, whereas I am like "Oh right, there are TWO Brontës."
Claire: More, even.
Search is just about retrieving information. Actually answering subjective questions requires a deep knowledge of the person doing the asking: Where you are, who your are friends, what your interests are, what you like and don't like…. Google has forgotten why we loved it. It has degraded its premier product in service of promoting others. It has done devious things to ferret out information from its users that they do not willingly provide. It is too much focused on the future, and conversely too scared of current competition.
—This is a fantastic and understandable explanation and argument about what Google is, what it wants to be and what [...]
Sam MacLaughlin: Hi Dustin!
Dustin Kurtz: Hello Samuel. So, introductions of our various stances, maybe?
Dustin: Emphasis on the sad and white, yes. Our manliness being in dispute at times.
Sam: At times. I do carry a tote bag. And: you're not a female novelist, are you?
Dustin: No, so I think we can agree that my dislike of this book won't come from anything as disagreeable as politics. Unless there is a political party fighting for better prose?