14 June 2019

“Your preparation for the real world is not in the answers you’ve learned, but in the questions you’ve learned how to ask yourself.”

This Week

I pressed pause on the newsletter over the last couple of weeks because I moved to a new apartment. As it turns out, moving is exhausting. But now my kid and my cat and my plants and my stuff are in a new location, which I like very much, and life is slowly normalizing. Apologies for the interruption in newsletter service.

In other moving news, I have moved the newsletter from TinyLetter to Substack. I resisted switching for a while, but now it’s clear to me that Substack is a stable platform that is growing healthily and I think it’s the best option right now. So we’re here now. Hopefully the only change you will notice on your end is an overall experience improvement. I can embed videos and tweets now!

If you’re a subscriber to the free list and want to get in on extra content, it’s now super easy to sign up via Substack. Like so!

Paid subscribers get the customary monthly essay as well as more extra links/recs/videos on a regular basis, plus previews of new projects I’m working on.

If you want to stay on the free list, don’t worry. It will continue as usual, now and into the future, with links, recommendations and gifs galore.

I obviously have a lot to catch up on, so here are a bunch of links and recommendations.


“When women are told that their bodies belong to the state at a time when access to health care remains drastically unequal by race and class, it means that rich white men win when abortion restrictions become law.” Jamil Smith on how the new attacks on Roe v. Wade are about protecting men, not women.

“This is the atmosphere of the mainstream web today: a relentless competition for power. As this competition has grown in size and ferocity, an increasing number of the population has scurried into their dark forests to avoid the fray.” The dark forest theory of the internet.

Can the IndieWeb save us?

Don Norman on how design fails older users and the value of inclusive design.

“That makes using this 30-year-old device a surprising joy, one worth longing for on behalf of what it was at the time, rather than for the future it inaugurated.” Writing on a 30-year-old Mac.

How Hollywood makes it difficult for working mothers.

The underground art of prison tattoos.

The many faces of women who identify as witches.

Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon revisit their performances in the neo-noir Bound (a particular favorite of mine) and this interview is a delight.

Considering Anne Lister, portrayed in the new HBO series Gentleman Jack, as the “first modern lesbian.”

The historical possibility of Jill the Ripper.

The story of forgotten Chicago vaudevillian and super-fast typist Birdie Reeve.

A lovely essay about raising teenage daughters, making room for their obsessions and Hamilton.

The most important thing I’ve learned is how to say I’m tired.

“I’m talking about the prickly, the imperfect, the difficult. I’m talking about letting your heroes fall — and fail — and still hold the unique place in your heart where they were before they revealed themselves as all too human.” Alex DiFrancesco on Nick Cave and art heroes.


- By the time the newsletter is actually going out this is old news, but: Fleabag, Season 2 (Amazon). That’s it, that’s the sentence. Well, a little more: I thought the first season of Fleabag was fucking brilliant. I also thought a second season would be a bad idea. I’m generally a fan of letting brilliant things exist finitely. But now that the second season is available in the US, I have changed my opinion. Because it is also brilliant.

- I mentioned this in passing a few newsletters ago, but since the second season of Barry (HBO) wrapped up recently, it’s a good time to mention it again. It’s one of my favorite shows going on right now, with a perfect mix of dark humor, real pathos and wonderful performances.

- Thanks to the Chicago Critics Film Festival, I saw Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light (it’s not in full release yet, so sit tight for this one). Unapologetically earnest and exuberant, the tale of a young Pakistani-British man coming of age in late 1980s England with the help of Bruce Springsteen is just what it is, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It probably doesn’t hurt if Springsteen’s music is already tangled up in your own life experiences, as it is mine, but I suspect it’s not necessary.

- I ran across Braid, an indie horror film lurking on Amazon Prime, and I’m willing to give it a qualified recommendation for those who like the weird/bloody/arty. The film is ultimately too oblique for its own good, but I’m a sucker for twisted teenage girl horror tales, and I liked a few moments and shots here.

- I read Zeroville, by Steve Erickson , an existential novel about an odd movie savant making his way through Hollywood of a few decades past, from the crumbling of the old studio system to the rise of the counter-culture independents to the advent of punk. If you like film and mythology and the strange crossroads of both, you either have already read this book or should.

- I first read Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens when I was in high school and I’ve always found it a delightfully wordy, twisty, offbeat modern fantasy tale—all of which makes it inherently challenging to adapt into a miniseries (now available on Amazon). For someone as familiar with the source material as I am, I’m not sure if I’m in a position to judge objectively how effectively it was adapted, but I can say that the miniseries is a fine companion to the book. David Tennant and Michael Sheen are wonderful. And the show emphasized for me that beyond the words and the twists there’s a heart of optimistic conviction in our better natures. All of our better natures.

- I’d like to introduce you to my new musical obsession: Melody Angel. She’s kind of everything.

Happy summer. Enjoy.




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Today’s subject line quote is from Bill Watterson.