# reading

Links for December 2, 2022

# reading

People are obsessed with Spotify Wrapped

Spotify Wrapped is an annual visualization of each Spotify user’s individual listening habits. It’s an amusing vignette of your music for the year. And apparently for some people it’s make-or-break.

See Glasgow dressed as mid-century New York in the new Indiana Jones trailer

In the springtime, Claire and I walked around downtown Glasgow when it was done up as a nostalgic American parade route. It’s fun to see the result in the new trailer for the movie.

New music from The Brood

This is the band of my highschool best friend. He was obsessed with bass when we were in highschool. It was probably the first time in my life that I saw someone really committed to something.

The Millennial Pause

When Millennials record a video, there’s a moment where we stare blankly at the camera, waiting for the recording to start. Apparently. According to some Gen-Zedders (who are well-accustomed to the whiplash editing of TikTok, where the subject is often already talking when the video starts) this is the “Millennial Pause.”

Can absolute silence drive you insane?

NYT investigates.

This

Made me laugh.

Links for November 25, 2022

# reading

Municipality released their new album

My good friends Will and Peter just released their latest album, and it’s great. Check it out on Spotify.

Turkeys terrorize Massachusetts town

“Some days it is frustrating. I’ll be like: ‘Oh my God, there’s an Amazon package’ and I can’t go get it, because the turkeys are there.

Happy thxgiving.

Peppa Pig ‘spiders can’t hurt you’ episode pulled off air in Australia – again

This article is from 2017, but the headline is timeless.

I try to make an infinity pool of soup

And almost succeed.

An interactive guide to Flexbox

On Tuesday I was Googling “flexbox cheat sheet” for the thousandth time. On Thursday I read Josh Comeau’s excellent flexbox explainer. I might not need to use the cheat sheet as often anymore.

Courtney Barnett covers “Everything is Free”

Have you ever heard a cover and thought it was the original? And then heard the original and thought it was a cover? Like when I was a kid and I thought “Big Yellow Taxi” was by Counting Crows, because that was the version I heard on the radio all the time.

Well, until this week I thought “Everything is Free” was by Sylvan Esso, and that Gillian Welch had done a folksy cover. Then I was listening to a playlist of music from the aughts, and the Gillian Welch version came on, which prompted me to search the song and realize that not only is Welch’s the original — a Napster lament — but the song is now enjoying a renaissance in myriad cover versions, now repurposed as a Spotify lament.

I can get a tip jar
Gas up the car
And try and make a little change
Down at the bar
Or I can get a straight job
I done it before
Never minded working hard
It’s who I’m working for

Workers’ complaints never lose relevance. The Courtney Barnett version might be my favorite.

Parable of the Sower

# reading

Yesterday I went out for coffee and finished Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Butler wrote an oddly optimistic-yet-harrowing dystopian novel, which describes an America in decline — riddled with crime, corruption, drought, famine, and slavery. Butler tells the story of a teenage girl who watches an already-broken society fall further into chaos. The main character, Lauren, figures out how to survive in the new world while also creating a philosophy that articulates why to survive, a collection of original scripture called Earthseed.

My friend recommended Butler to me a few years ago, and — as a compulsive non-fiction reader — I was thankful for a good fiction recommendation. A few months ago I walked into a recently reopened queer bookshop in my neighborhood, and I found the Butler in the sci-fi section.

Butler was a Black feminist lesbian, one of the most influential sci-fi writers of the 20th century, and a MacArthur “genius grant” fellow. She died of a stroke in 2006 at the age of 58. Parable of the Sower was written in 1993, but it feels like it could have been written last year. The book’s narrative starts in June 2024.

Parable of the Sower never had me completely transfixed as a gripping page-turner does, but I enjoyed reading it all the way through. I found the dialog a little clunky. The narrative felt very linear, with no unexpected twists and no grand climax; though, I think that’s a deliberate style, as it conveys the plodding quality of a long march and a steady social decline: a whimper, not a bang.

The book bears comparing to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which was published thirteen years later. I imagine that McCarthy must have read and admired Parable of the Sower. Like Butler, McCarthy’s dystopia was a story of family traveling by foot down a long highway in a post-collapse America. Both books have harrowing scenes of cannibalism. And both books explore the themes of grief, helplessness, and hope. McCarthy’s writing is much more spare, while Butler’s writing is more socially relevant. While McCarthy’s book reads like a horror story, Butler’s reads like political observation.

And Parable of the Sower feels very real. This story from 1993 described refugees seeking safe harbor and instead falling into the trap of slavery. Here in 2022, the world is getting ready to watch a World Cup built with migrant slave labor. And I think that’s the point. Dystopian fiction processes our current reality. Orwell’s 1984 was not a warning about the future. It was a satire about the British power politics of the day.

Good dystopian fiction is a powerful reminder: when we talk about the end of the world, we’re not actually referencing annihilation. We’re talking about the end of the world as we — we the Western liberal class — understand it. An end which is always already underway. We know this because modernity has already brought an end to many worlds: the Indigenous worlds of Oceania and the Americas, the Jewish worlds of Europe, the imperial worlds of Africa. As Indigenous journalist Julian Brave NoiseCat wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review, “To be Indigenous to North America is to be part of a postapocalyptic community and experience.”

Next on my list of dystopian fiction to read: Butler’s sequel, Parable of the Talents; Moon of the Crusted Snow, an indigenous perspective on dystopia by Canadian journalist Waubgeshig Rice; and Disnaeland, about the experience of the apocalypse in a poor Scottish town.

Outliers

# reading

We just started reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers at my office book club. In the first two chapters, Gladwell says the book is about the concept of success. I think the thesis is that conditions predict success more than ones’ individial determination does. So far, it’s compelling.

In my feature writing class at King’s Journalism, we read Gladwell’s essay on ketchup. It was really fantastic, and it has always stuck with me. At the same time, I’m sceptical of Gladwell’s pop philosophy and his weird political views. On the whole, I had written off Gladwell, but after 30 pages of reading, I’m reminded that he is a very engaging writer, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the book.

© Sam Littlefair, 2022