Kelly Stout in “Shouts and Murmurs,” The New Yorker, 22 February 2016

Self knows it is really lame that she’s just now getting to her New Yorkers of February 2016. Nearly a year ago. But she’s so anal about it. She refuses to throw away a single issue she hasn’t read. That’s a very big pile she’s staring at, right now.

On to “Shouts & Murmurs.” It doesn’t always work. Sometimes it feels like whoever’s doing it is trying too hard to be satirical. Because that is the whole point of “Shouts & Murmurs”– to be satirical. Some people have satire in their blood, and some people can’t be satirical to save their lives. Some people can point to a stick of butter and make the gesture itself seem satirical. Others can say Moo Moo and ape a cow and pretend to be giving birth to a stick of butter and everyone would just look at them and say, Wut?

But, as usual, self digresses.

Here’s one that works: Kelly Stout conjures a judge giving jury instructions.

Jurors, I remind you that part of your duty today is to avoid discussing the details of this case with anyone outside this jury. Do not, for example, Gchat with your best friend from college, because she lives in Philly and doesn’t know any of the restaurants around here, and always says dumb, unhelpful stuff like, “Falafel isn’t as healthy as you think.”

Information from the news or from social media must not influence your finding in this case. For example, do not use Instagram to try to figure out whether Rob’s friend Warren got a Skrillex haircut or if it just looks like that because of the light. Also, Warren may not even be able to come, because his stepmom is in town.

You are allowed to make reasonable inferences, as long as they are based on the evidence. It is OK to speculate that Rob’s roommate may get on your case for being pro-Hillary and have literally zero sense of humor about it when you call him a Bernie Bro, because that is what happened when you guys met up for dim sum.

(How nostalgic self gets when she reads of pre-election chatter like the above!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The New York Times Magazine, 1 January 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Comfort the mind with this wonderful excerpt from Jonathan Mahler’s “Search Party,” in the 1 January 2017 New York Times Magazine.

Our most famous self-investigator is, of course, our incoming president, Donald J. Trump; perhaps no one is more committed to embracing and trumpeting unproven claims from the internet. Six years ago, as he flirted with the idea of running for president, he became especially preoccupied with a theory being advanced by a right-wing extremist named Joseph Farah. A self’described ex-Communist, Farah presided over a nonprofit organization, the Western Center for Journalism, which was dedicated to promoting “philosophical diversity” in the news media, and now runs a popular website, WorldNetDaily, which bills itself as “America’s Independent News Network.” The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors U.S. hate groups, has a different point of view, calling Farah “the internet king of the antigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement.

Farah had floated plenty of specious arguments in the past, among them the claim that gay men orchestrated the Holocaust, and that Muslims have a 20-point plan for conquering the United States by 2020. But the Farah campaign that captured Trump’s imagination held that America’s first black president, Barack Obama, might have been born outside the United States.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2nd Quote of the Day: Will Schwalbe in WSJ, 25 November 2016

We overschedule our days and complain constantly about being too busy. We shop endlessly for stuff we don’t need and then feel oppressed by the clutter that surrounds us. We rarely sleep well or enough. We compare our bodies to the artificial ones we see on television. We watch cooking shows and then eat fast food. We worry ourselves sick and join gyms we don’t visit. We keep up with hundreds of acquaintances but rarely see our best friends.

— Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living is just out from Knopf.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Spin, Spin, Spin

Kellyanne Conway, speaking to reporters following the first Presidential debate, on 26 September 2016:

“I love the fact that he restrained himself tonight and he was a gentleman toward her. He definitely could’ve gone where a lot of America was thinking he should or could go, which is to talk about her husband and women, and he did not. He restrained himself, and you know what? Restraint is a virtue, and it is certainly a Presidential virtue, and I think many voters today, particularly women, probably saw that and respected that a great deal.” — from the article “Taming Trump,” by Ryan Lizza

Woman, what planet are you on?

Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, Kellyanne Conway: the new triumvirate of ridiculous

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: His Familiar

Kellyanne Conway, aka Trump’s Attack Dog, from an article by Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker, 17 October 2016:

“Did you see the people asking me to sign their posters and hats?”

“Don’t be fooled, because I am a man by day.”


  • When Conway took over as Trump’s third campaign manager, “the campaign was foundering, owing to Trump’s repeated insults to the parents of Humayun Khan, a soldier killed in action in Iraq. Polls showed that Trump was losing to Hillary Clinton by up to 10 points. By the time of the Chester (Pennsylvania) speech, four days before the candidates’ first debate, Conway and her team had brought the race to a near tie.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Two 1/2 Years Later, Nothing’s Changed

The Economist, 14 June 2014: Terror’s New Headquarters

  • Perhaps Iraq’s humiliated army will muster the resolve to make a stand, or even retake Mosul. But, with its symbolic victories and an endless supply of young men, that will be of little comfort. ISIS aims to withdraw the map of of the Middle East by creating a Sunni state, starting with Eastern Syria and the heart of Iraq. Its brand of militancy is spreading poison and terror across the Arab world. One day, if they have their way, ISIS’s suicide bombers will also target Europe and America. Without a change of heart in Baghdad and Washington, groups like it will continue to cause mayhem. Even with a new approach, it will be hard to stop the jihad.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Fairy Tales and Women

Yes, you know it.

From Maria Tatar’s essay, Reading the Grimms’ Children’s Stories and Household Tales:

“. . . oral storytelling is often affiliated with labor traditionally carried out by women: spinning, sewing, weaving, and cooking. That many of our metaphors for storytelling — spinning yarns, weaving tales, cooking up a plot — derive from the domestic arts suggests that fairy tales were indeed related to ‘old wives’ tales,’ stories told by midwives, nursemaids, female domestics, and others to transmit wisdom from one generation to the next.

“Gossip and narrative are sisters,” the British writer Marina Warner suggests, “both ways of keeping the mind alive when ordinary tasks call . . . “

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: T. J. Stiles

It was reading this quote that persuaded self she needed to join the Authors Guild:

I have supplemented my income with secondary activities. I teach now and then on a freelance basis. I have done some freelance commercial writing. But two years ago I lost my big freelance client, and my income has dropped by 20 to 40 percent a year. In the past, I have resorted to desperate measures. I like to say my last book is so big because it’s a tombstone to the 401k that gave its life so the book could live.

— from “Among the Digital Luddites,” Authors Guild Bulletin, Winter 2015

Jill Lepore on the State of Debate: The New Yorker, 19 September 2016

How to argue is something people are taught. You learn it by watching other people, at the breakfast table, or in school, or on TV, or, lately, online. It’s something you can get better at, with practice, or worse at, by imitating people who do it badly.

— Jill Lepore, “The State of Debate,” in The New Yorker, 19 September 2016

Self begs to differ. She actually doesn’t think people can improve their debating skills by watching other people.

She also thinks that the rules of debate are rendered bizarrely unimportant when the debate is being televised. Because, whether consciously or subconsciously, the debaters will start to “perform.” Of course they are not their true selves. Hello! It’s like Judge Lance Ito in the OJ trial — he was a judge but he was sort of being a certain kind of judge. You cannot tell self that television did not influence his behavior: it could have gone two ways: Ito could have been a little more spontaneous, perhaps to get more of an emotional rise out of the crowd. Or he could have become more “judge-y” — projected more of what television viewers might expect to see from a judge. Self thinks Ito took the second route, and the one who paid was Marcia Clark.

The ones who get better at debate are the ones who see some sort of advantage accruing to themselves as a result of being better (more argumentative) people. The people who see absolutely no point to debate will continue to do their own thing in their peaceful little corners of the world.

When a committed debater meets another committed debater, the debate ceases being about words. It becomes a power grab.

It’s such an empty enterprise, really. All bells and whistles and see-who’s-paying-attention. Especially when it’s conducted for television.

Just self’s two cents.

(Self, when did you get so cynical? Dunno. Mebbe from watching/observing from the sidelines for so long?)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mourning for Isotope, edited by Christopher Cokinos

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper,they would look like a series of waves. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

— from self’s hybrid essay/memoir/short story The Lost Language, published in Isotope

Isotope was a literary journal based in Utah State. When that university began to make steep budget cuts, the magazine lost the heart of its funding. In 2009, editor Chris Cokinos issued an appeal for support. Terrain.org posted it.

Alas, Isotope lost the fight. Self mourned. It was the only literary journal of its kind, combining science writing and creative writing, a place that joined physicists and playwrights, biologists and memoir writers, and created an exciting new kind of community.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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