I drove down to San Antonio to attend the first game of the season with my Dad and watch the Spurs get their rings and unveil their fifth banner. I recorded the ceremony, and while I spent some time wrestling with the brightness settings on my phone, I managed to get some great moments (including a rare Gregg Popovich fist pump). Here’s what it looked like in the arena.
- “Awkwardly Dapper: The Strange Exhilaration of Buying, and Wearing, a Suit” – Meghan McCarron writing for The Toast with her typical verve and humor, on the personal identity issues brought up by working at being handsome in men’s formalwear.
- “Your Prescribing Doctor: Dispatches from the Psycho-Pharmaceutical Complex” – Rebekah Frumkin’s new column for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, about her relationship with lithium and similar substances, and how this relationship changed while she was in India. In the entire time I’ve known her, Rebekah has never written a sentence that wasn’t worth reading. This new, continuing column contains many sentences.
- “My Night With Afghanistan’s Only Female Warlord” – Jen Percy writing for New Republic, about the most terrifying sleepover I’ve ever heard of.
- “A Dismal Paradise” – Ashley Davidson with a story in Five Chapters that really stayed with me. It’s a gorgeous, subtle look at the complicated boundaries of humanity and infirmity. This is a favorite subject of mine, and Ashley has explored it with memorable grace.
- “We Are The Cloud” – Sam Miller in Lightspeed Magazine, with a science fiction story about the exploitation of orphan children that is, by turns, tender and brutal.
- “The Glass Bottle Trick” – Nalo Hopkinson in Fantasy Magazine with a new take on the Bluebeard story. I overdosed on retold folklore a few years ago and haven’t usually been able to enjoy it since, but perhaps I’ve gotten over it, because I liked this. Bit of a linked variables problem, though; I almost always like Nalo’s work.
The fine folks over at Boxscore Geeks were kind enough to let me write what was probably the easiest team preview of the season. The short version: if you liked last year’s team that dominated the Finals and took home their fifth title, good news! They all came back!
One thing worth noting is that, while the text is mine, the table data comes from Arturo Galletti’s player model. He’s apparently calculating things somewhat differently than in years past, and says an explanation post is forthcoming. I look forward to reading it.
My new home page header image is Leaf Relief by Mark Englebrecht. My previous header image was one of his photographs as well. His Flickr page is full of wonderful, CC-licensed nature photography, and I’d encourage you to give it a look. As ever, all CC images used on this site are attributed on the About page.
There is a great deal of primary source evidence available on terrorists’ motivations, aspirations, and justifications. They appear in interviews with imprisoned terrorists and in the publications and Web sites of terrorist groups. I also spoke to any terrorist I could. In the days before September 11, 2001, this was a lot easier than it has been since.
On one occasion a few years ago, some colleagues and I convened a group of what we politely termed “activists,” representatives from a number of ethnonationalist terrorist groups, for a secret conference in a private location. We met for several days, during which we conducted ourselves much like an academic conference. I gave a paper on the factors driving terrorists’ decisions to escalate, and a senior member of a well-known terrorist group served as commentator on my paper. He politely pointed out where he thought I was right and where he disagreed, where my generalizations applied to his movement and where they did not. We all socialized together for several days. It was soon difficult to tell to which camp an individual belonged.
With colleagues, I helped to organize a second similar gathering, this time with representation from religious terrorist groups. We were scheduled to meet from September 11 to 14, 2001. Six weeks before the planned meeting, worried that one of the groups might make the meeting public and when one of the insurgent groups insisted that there could be no Jews among the academics, we decided to cancel. I have often imagined what it would have been like to have been in that company on that day.
I recently went with Meghan McCarron to a screening of the long, excellent video essay Los Angeles Plays Itself, and since then have been reading some interviews with the director, Thom Andersen. In an interview with StopSmiling in 2007 he commented on changes in public transportation in Los Angeles.
Since I made the movie, the bus system and public transportation system in general has gotten better. But it’s on the verge of getting worse because, over the next couple years, they want to raise fares more than 100 percent. They’re losing money. It’s attributable to the investment in subways and so-called “light-rail” projects. The ridership on those systems has never been very high because the idea of those systems is not to serve the public that actually uses public transportation, but to attract another public to using public transportation.
I don’t know how these issues have developed in the seven years since he gave that interview, but his observation–that new public transport proposals were designed to appeal to wealthier people, and therefore not only didn’t address the needs of those who actually used pubic transport but exacerbated them–strikes me as profound. I suspect this is a common phenomenon, and one that I will strive to look for now that it’s been pointed out for me. It reminds me of something I once heard articulated by a Berkeley economist on the radio: the free market works on price signaling, so people too impoverished to contribute a meaningful signal are invisible, treated by the market as if they don’t exist. Thus, free market solutions are simply inapplicable to problems of poverty. Andersen’s observation is an example of how, even if the needs of impoverished communities is invisible to the free market, the rhetoric of those needs, or more specifically their value as a tool to justify profitable endeavor, is not.
- “So This Is New York” – Another personal essay by Evan James, on his first trip to New York and how it doomed the relationship it was intended to strengthen. Includes passages such as, “The image of Martha Stewart gliding into the open-plan work area, trailed by a trotting Chow and two French bulldogs, peppering the air with profanity, made me smile. I still dreamed of working in magazines back then, and hoped to say “fuck” a lot in an editorial office of my own one day.” If you haven’t, also check out his previous Observer piece, “From Brooklyn to P-Town for Bear Week.”
- “Live Nude Girls” – Genevieve Valentine wrote a crucial piece on the relentlessness of modern attacks on women, as evidenced by the recent attacks on women in the games industry and theft of personal pictures of celebrities. No one cuts to the heart of things quite like Genevieve does.
- “The Next Generation” – Jonathan Gharrie with a personal essay on bonding with his father over Star Trek, and how the different installments mirror aspects of their lives.
- “Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters Because They Are Terrifying” – Alice Sola Kim’s story in the current issue of Tin House (I have no idea how long it will be available online) about a trio of teenage Korean adoptees and what happens when they try to use magic to connect with the parents who gave them up. Stick-in-your-skull creepy and beautiful, like all of her stories are.
- “Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology” – Theodora Goss with a Borges-inspired story in Lightspeed. I heard her read part of this at ICFA, and was enthralled. Glad it found a home in Lightspeed so I can learn how it ended.
- “Alexander” – Alex Walton, writing for the PEN poetry series.
- “Self-portrait as ‘Stephanie has died of dysentery'” – Stephanie Goehring in Everyday Genius.