Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that’s your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.
Move past the Bettridge-y headline and dig straight into this essay by Leslie Jamison on the relationship between booze and books — or, more accurately but less pithily, on giving up booze while continuing to write books. She walks briefly with Berryman, Jackson, Wallace, and Johnson, digging into the recovery writing of each while tracing her own journey away from alcohol. If your writing self is built around drinking, how do you find a road to the new writer you’ll have to become when you stop?
Once I got sober, I became more interested in the question of what little, as Berryman put it, could be said for sobriety. If addiction stories ran on the fuel of darkness — the hypnotic spiral of an ongoing, deepening crisis — then recovery often seemed like the narrative slack, the dull terrain of wellness, a tedious addendum to the riveting blaze. I wasn’t immune; I’d always been enthralled by stories of wreckage. But when I got sober, I wanted to know if stories about getting better could ever be as compelling as stories about falling apart. I needed to believe they could.
I’ve been dancing around this one — it’s already been covered by both the inimitable Jason Kottke and the head-spinningly peripatetic Matt Muir — but I’m surrendering: have you looked at Colin Combs’s Instagram feed? The Ohio teen flawlessly captures what a friend who grew up a little bit in Eastern Washington, a little bit in rural Virginia, called “that backwater aimlessness.” Or maybe it’s just the inner landscape of every teen (and a lot of grown-ups), perfectly externalized.
The first camera that Powell offered her pupil was a bulky teal Minolta, which, at the time, matched the shade of his hair dye. Last summer, as always, Combs was wearing a similar model around his neck when an S.U.V. struck him while he was skateboarding, breaking his leg. “I took photos of my foot pretty much right after,” he said, ever ready to render the moment. Combs needed surgery, but his film survived.
As a second take on the ravishing image, here’s the output from a drawing class that brought Iggy Pop in as live model. NSFW, if you work in the wrong sort of place.
In a round up of two recent J. G. Ballard re-releases — Crash and Super-Cannes — Becca Rothfeld points out that Ballard held up a black mirror to the present long before the present arrived. A very uncomfortable look at who we are, or who we might become if we don’t get our eyes back on the road.
Reviewers have often called Ballard’s dystopian visions “prophetic”: He foresaw self-driving cars, Uber-style ridesharing, and the lavish corporate campuses where life and labor blur into one another. But perhaps his canniest forecast was that comfort would prove so lethally uncomfortable.
This is a short read about our city’s richest non-philanthropist, that’s also an interesting poke at the underpinnings of wealth in America, and its ugly divorce from the social good.
Don’t let the title fool you. Jeff Bezos is notoriously reluctant to take a seat at the table with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. He deserves to be called out for it, and Jacob Silverman capably does so. But Silverman also asks for something more than philanthropy from today’s financial titans: a practical application of their talents (and funds) to rebuild our social fabric.
Unfortunately, that rebuilding would undercut the systems that allow ungainly accumulation of wealth in the first place. But if Bezos ever gets tired of running a vast engine of inequity — while playing at rocketships with the other super-rich kids — maybe he could give it a try?
Today’s moguls are charitable but "results-driven." They speak of leaning in but not, in any meaningful sense, of social justice. Believing existing political institutions to be clumsy and inefficient, they dispense vast sums of money toward “innovative” solutions that invariably devolve public services into private companies (Amazon, for instance, sponsors a homeless shelter in Seattle). What they cannot abide, or simply don’t know, is that many of the answers to our problems were discovered by post-war social democracies seventy-plus years ago.
If you’ve had enough of Amazon.com, try this piece on the impact of bitcoin mining in Eastern Washington and similar areas: spaciously rural, proximate to electricity, environmentally and economically vulnerable. The Cloud isn’t really a cloud — it has to live somewhere. This is what that looks like, both good and bad.
In case you think I don’t like rocketships (I do, so much), here’s an article about them that gave me great joy and will make you happy too. Shannon Stirone embedded with the crew that runs the Deep Space Network, the comms command center that keeps Earth Central in touch with the space stations and satellites that explore the stars for us. Imagine that vast cold vacuum against a satellite’s metal skin, and the tiny voice that connects it always to home — these guys make sure that voice never goes silent.
McClure is nervously tapping a stack of round CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE stickers on a table. “The data is always stored, so it’s fine,” he says, trying to reassure me. “Once it hits the ground it’s stored.” The staff speaks to one another like doctors in an emergency room moments before attempting to jump-start a quiet heart. “Okay, trying to reconnect now.” The data controller grabs the paddles. “Not getting anything. Nothing. Trying again.” The Cassini Mission ACE, the liaison between Earth and the spacecraft, rushes in, his messenger bag slung over his shoulder, and mumbles something to McClure. He hurries to his station, lit up in neon blue, past the barricade with a homemade sign that reads, DO NOT FEED THE ACE — TO THE WOLVES. He plops his bag onto the floor, hunches over his desk, taps the keyboard, and begins trying to talk to Saturn.