Whatever else happens, this will always be remembered as the month when the pepperoni–seagull ban was finally lifted. On behalf of all of Canada, you’re welcome.
In an engrossing read at Lit Hub, Madelaine Lucas reverently and carefully dives into Sam Shepard’s archives in Austin, sifting through the intimate, ephemeral scraps left behind on yellow legal pads and bound in dirt-red notebooks, tracing the evolution of what became that impossible, perfect film Paris, Texas,
If the closest we can get to achieving immortality is through art and whatever other tangible evidence we leave behind, and even these objects aren’t immune to time and decay, then perhaps it is the more mortal fear of our own human vulnerability that the archive masks in its attention to preservation. But spending time at the Center also reveals that deep down, scholarship is a practice of devotion. Inside the reading room, it is cold and quiet as a church. Students and researchers bow their heads over manuscripts propped up on cushioned, red-velvet bookstands designed to protect delicate spines and pages, some instructed to wear white cotton gloves when handling certain materials. Pages turn gently with a palpable hush, the silence akin to reverence. What else could bring someone to trace the paper trails left by years of textural ephemera—the notes and to-do-lists and false starts, aborted poems and rough drafts of prose, memos and correspondence that are absent from a finished work—while the summer burned away outside, except for love, and it’s kissing-cousin, obsession?
You’ll want to cut out and keep Buckslip reader Jay Owens’s “Post-Authenticity and the Ironic Truths of Meme Culture”, a rigorous and useful history of our collective pop cultural descent from Kinfolky faux-authenticity through faceswap porn and mephedrone to the apocalyptic meme culture we all now call home.
For Orion, McKay Jenkins looks at the struggles to rebuild Appalachia’s economy in a world after coal. This isn’t the sort of dumb“what does a West Virginian Trump voter look like” piece we’ve had far too much of recently, but a detailed look at the reality of generations of workers trying to figure out what comes next to replace that once-stable income that’s never coming back, and the initiatives trying to do that with both economic and ecological balance, from beehives to small-hold farms.“Ours is the ugly story of what the mines did, and we are trying to get the population to understand what happens after that.”
If you’re anything like us, this extremely nerdy post about building a new collaborative text editor, from Sophia Ciocca on the NYT’s dev blog, may be one of the most satisfying things you’ll read this week, even if you don’t care about code. This isn’t about splashy overfunded innovation initiatives—it’s the kind of unheralded gruntwork and careful craft that media need to do so much more of to figure out how to genuinely live well digitally.
Facebook talks about itself as a tool, rejecting the inherent politics of such platforms in general. Of course, this stubborn messaging is itself political, and its weight grew with each reiteration and reframing Zuck was afforded in his congressional hearing. This week, much was made of some senators’ hopeless naïveté, their uncoordinated line of inquiry, and their vague moral grandstanding. But when has Congress ever operated otherwise? They may never provide the satisfaction of an incisive critique or decisive ruling, but they do the glassy-eyed, not-to-be-underestimated slow progress of bureaucracy better than anyone.
Now and again, we wonder what became of Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe, stars of King of Kong, the greatest documentary about Donkey Kong high scores ever made. So we were thrilled to see the two return to the headlines this week following the revelation that Billy Mitchell, hot sauce king, is a cheating cheater who cheats. Beyond the headlines, we’re just glad to see Twin Galaxies remains as intensely serious on the Donkey Kong beat as it has ever been. Strange to think that we’re now nostalgic about a documentary about nostalgia, but there you have it.
If you’re after an efficient algorithm to sort ideologues into their opposing economic camps, there’s nothing more reliable than shouting the phrase“minimum wage” and scarpering. In a great long read at The Guardian, Peter Baker dives deep into the subtleties of the issue as it has played out in Seattle, finding it often serves as a distraction to the real issues facing a precarious workforce. When all we look at is baseline economic success, we are focussing on a debate that has“startlingly little direct relevance to anything at all other than itself.”
Whither Magic Leap, the secretive AR goggles built entirely with fairy dust, lazy-hype tech press wishful thinking and a big haul of venture capital? Is there anything better than those surreal NBA linkups in which we just have to take Shaq’s word for it? At MIT Tech Review, Rachel Metz wonders whether they might just be contemplating the best pivot of all: patent trolling.
Here’s a Twitter thread from the WSJ’s Ian Shah, recapping his paywalled article, on the increasingly hungry music industry machine that’s forcing even the biggest stars to produce more content than ever before. We end up with the strange result of more goodmusic being released than at any time in history, and yet for all of us it’s harder to find it and hold onto it than it’s ever been. (Unlike that article, we don’t see King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s chronic inability to stop releasing albums as a symptom of this—those guys are just nuts.)
That said, Tom Lehrer turned 90 this month. As the missiles fly, go on a YouTube binge in his honour, won’t you?
Love to you all from the eye of the Toronto ice storm, which has four fifths of us depressed as hell. Cheer our frozen-pellet-battered souls up and let people know about us, won’t you? In honour of Zuck’s big week, you could even share it on Facebook and get nice and algorithmically tethered to us forever.
Also, please send snacks.