- All of the ways Gen X is financially wrecked. There is an entire genre of articles about the ways in which Gen X is broken/screwed. I haven’t seen one in awhile. Welcome, old friend.
- Burn all the leggings: what do you wear to the reopening of society? This is about so much more than the clothes.
- I am intrigued by the Netflix series “Halston“.
- Not a crisis, but a reckoning. I blame exactly no one for not wanting to have a baby at the moment – I mean, christ, have you looked around? Pandemic? Terrible childcare options? Still being expected to shoulder the bulk of the burden at home? Inadequately funded schools? Student debt issues? The fucking ongoing environmental disaster? Which is interesting – at the end of the newsletter, she posits: what if a lower birth rate is a good thing?
The Galaxy and the Ground Within is the fourth and final book in the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers. I love this series; the books are creative, and warm without being treacly. I don’t find her optimism unrealistic, which is a neat trick in this day and age.
This book takes place at the Five-Hop One-Stop, the equivalent of a truck stop on a small planet at the meeting point of a few different wormholes. It’s a place to restock supplies, get more food, fuel up, stretch your limbs. There are three shuttles – one being per craft – docked when a satellite catastrophe happens: one satellite breaks, its parts break off and hit other satellites, causing them to break, and on and on until the sky is a mass of bits and pieces of metal and no one can talk to anyone and everyone is stuck.
Hence the meat of the book starts. Who are these folks? Where are they going? Where are they coming from? How will they band together or not when push comes to shove?
She has a great interview on Imaginary Worlds that I would recommend where she explores how different species would interact with each other, assuming that one isn’t simply trying to annihilate the other. Those are the questions she starts with; this locked-in-a-room plot is how she chooses to explore them.
The Galaxy and the Ground Within is the last of these books and I will miss this universe. She is moving on to write solarpunk; I am excited to read those stories. The world needs more practical optimism, and Becky Chambers strikes me as the perfect person to write it.
- I recently read a book by Francine du Plessix Gray for the first time, and have become slightly fascinated by her. He mother was Russian, her father was French, and she and her mother immigrated to the US in 1940. Here’s her obituary from January 2019, and here’s an interview with her from the 1980s in the Paris Review.
- Are Animated Dads Getting Hotter? (Yes. The answer is yes.)
- A Climate Dystopia in Northern California (topic whiplash!) This is a super-in-depth look at how more fires in California causes more homelessness, and in a system unequipped to deal with that homelessness, that’s just not good (to put it mildly).
- The Perfect Gift for Moms: Money. I have, on my mental get-around-to-reading-someday list, a tract about why government/society should pay all caretakers for all people.
- The Sexist Backlash to Universal Day Care.
The House on the Cerulean Sea is a lovely little fantasy novel about Linus, an inspector for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMY). His job is to go visit orphanages to make sure that the children who turn out to be magical are being treated well and are learning. (There is a separate department for magical adults and it’s important to note that the magical folks are the subject of these agencies without being employed by these agencies. Linus is not magical.)
One day, he is assigned to go visit a particular group of very magical children – not just kids who’ve exhibited the ability to levitate objects, but children who might be classified as magical creatures (not people) in the Harry Potter world. I don’t know who once said that all stories begin with “you go on a journey” or “a stranger comes to town.” This is definitely the former.
There was an educational movement in the 1980s and early 1990s to create a space for everyone to thrive. The goal – many teachers were self-identified hippies – was to make a space for the weirdos, the people who weren’t your stereotypical jocks and cheerleaders to fully be themselves. (This attitude oddly extended into my first adult job, during the 1990s tech boom.) It’s gone by the wayside in favor of measurable achievement now; but then, the idea was that every person could thrive, you just had to figure out under what circumstances, and to give people the space they needed to be who they were.
The House on the Cerulean Sea is that space. DICOMY is part of the conformist world that would have everyone fit into a particular – white, patriarchal – mode. Linus’ emotional journey is predictable: he starts out as a conformist and ends up otherwise. The story is in the journey, the how.
Reading this, I remembered being in that space, thinking everyone would find their own way and thrive. That we could all get along if everyone could just give everyone else their space; if we could all just leave each other be. I miss that optimism. It was nice to visit it.
- Why brown is so on trend in fashion and design. I don’t care why, I just care that it is. I look terrible in black and prefer brown and it can be hard to find. I’m stockpiling basics right now, because it will go out of fashion again.
- “I have the career I started out wanting.” This is a really well-written profile of Ewan McGregor.
- An article about how having a more diverse workforce at multiple levels makes a difference. And a related article about how white men will cover for white men.
- I read an issue of GalaxyBrain about corporate culture, and then an article about Aunt Beast from A Wrinkle in Time. And maybe these two things close by in my brain reminded me that in order to be a good worker who cares, yes you need trust, but you also need kindness and respect amongst the people who work together. This can be for any kind of an organization, it doesn’t have to be a paid one. Hm. I will have to think about this more.
- DisneyMustPay: Authors form task force to fight for missing payments. This is reprehensible, truly. Disney is a terrible actor in this instance – what the ever-living hell?
- A Black Curator Imagines Otherwise. Yikes.
- Sierra Teller Ornelas on the roots of “Rutherford Falls”
- The town that Hemingway watched die. The Spanish Civil War was kind to no one.
- The Paradox of Caring about Bullshit Jobs. You can make your job worthwhile by caring about it. It’s a lovely sentiment.
- Liu Wen sees beauty as a journey, not a destination.
A Little Devil in America is about Black performances, mostly in America, but there are a few stories of Americans overseas. It covers things like Soul Train, Whitney Houston, Don Shirley, spades, funerals, Merry Clayton on the Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter”, and so much more. Quite frankly, this book is beautiful and you should read it.
Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, and every word in this book is carefully chosen and strung together especially well. From the page this book happens to be open to right now: “The backup singers, man. They get to be memorable for a few minutes at a time and forgotten all the minutes in between. I want to know if Mick saw every wretched tooth in the mouth of the world’s most wretched beasts trembling and falling to the ground. There is some awful reckoning to be had in a song like that. Some awful things to be lived with.”
The other thing is that there is so much love in A Little Devil in America. Love for Black people, who so often don’t get it. You can tell he loves being Black and being a part of Black culture. “I do remember playing spades until the clouds brightened with the promise of a coming sun. I do remember someone I love falling asleep with their face on the table, among the pile of scattered cards. And I do remember the moment when they woke, there was a single card stuck to the edge of their forehead. I never looked to see, but told myself whatever card it was, it had to be the lucky one.”
A Little Devil in America was wonderful. I’m going to go read the rest of his books now.
The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is a story told in three parts about a synagogue in Cairo and the Muslim family bound to protect it. The first storyline is that of the first young man in the family who became bound to protect the synagogue; the second is in current times – his descendant is the son of a Muslim man and a Jewish woman and is studying literature at Berkeley when he gets a package from his just-deceased father that he feels compelled to investigate; the third is a story of two sisters from Victorian England who are interested in Egyptian history and have come to the synagogue to study/rescue its documents.
I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the book, to be quite honest. It read like three interspersed short stories and they didn’t add meaning to each other. They were all fine – they’re not actively bad and the book was an enjoyable read – but there wasn’t a greater meaning to the three of them together.
The point the book is trying to make, if there is a point at all, is that the work must go on. You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it. In the book, it refers to the documents from the synagogue, in your life it could apply to your to-do list or keeping the house or any of a number of things. All you need to do is to keep it going. Whatever it is.
- The Two Rules for Eating to Fight Climate Change. You know them, of course: waste less food and eat less meat. Waste less turns out to be more important, but both matter, a surprisingly large amount.
- How useful is recycling, really? The short answer is less useful than you want it to be. Reducing and reusing are more effective (reducing your food waste!).
- The dark side of the houseplant boom. Buying houseplants won’t fix climate change either, but it will make you feel better.
- A Pandemic Romeo and Juliet Finds a New Language of Love and Loss. I watched this over the weekend and it was a delight.
- Daughters of the Resurrection. Lemonade was released five years ago. Five?!?
- Solar panels on California’s canals could save water and fight climate change. This is a super-intriguing idea. Let’s try it!