In this edition: the new online puritanism, capitalists continuing to do Bad Shit, building communities, engaging with our media, and rage as a superpower.
Sex and Relationships
Emily Nagoski is a sex researcher and the author of Come As You Are, a fantastic book about the science of sexuality. In “The Science of Saving Your Sex Life,” she gives a brief overview of how sexual desire actually functions, and how we can use that knowledge.
Polyamorous people get asked a lot about how we handle jealousy. Thing is, writes Melissa A. Fabello, that question is often much more about possessiveness.
Tumblr decided in late 2018 to change their policy and ban NSFW content from their blogging platform (and might I say, fuck that). Lux Alpatraum writes about some of the cultural implications in Porn Is Becoming Taboo Again and Online porn filters will never work.
“I’m so fucking tired of this,” writes Epiphora about the ban. “Not only because this affects my livelihood and my friends’ livelihoods, and because it disproportionately hurts POC and marginalized people, but because it’s such an ass-backwards approach to solving the “problem.””
Adventures in Late Capitalism
How did a small village council in Wisconsin make a deal with a multinational megacorporation and tear their town apart in the process? Sruthi Pinnamaneni, reporting for Reply All, tells the story. Shocking no one, Foxconn has started getting wibbly on the deal. The Verge has more.
Anne Helen Peterson was a professor at Whitman College while I was a student, before she left to write for BuzzFeed. Her piece on Millennial burnout made the rounds when it was published, and for damn good reason.
Linda Besner, in Real Life, writes about how we have all been endowed with an explosion of opportunities to rank the humans we interact with–but this power distribution is asymmetric and enables cruelty under the guise of empowering individual expression. Real Life has consistently impressed me with their thoughtful reflections on life and technology, especially Vicky Osterweil’s What Was the Nerd?, on fascist tendencies in nerd spaces. I’ll be watching them for more.
Speaking of our late-capitalist hellscape, Uber’s IPO confirms that they’re a garbage company who plan to gut public transportation.
Did you know that Pinkerton, the private security/detective agency that violently broke strikes and murdered striking workers in the 1850s, is still alive today? They’re preparing for a post-climate change future, because capitalism is an amoral machine that will wring opportunity out of a dying planet.
Building Community and Decentralizing
On Twitter, Shel (@DataPup) describes Lashon Hara, a form of unproductive badmouthing that corrodes communities. We can all benefit from considering how our behavior affects the communities we strive to build.
Speaking of building communities, I frequently return to this beautiful essay by Sarah Grey about the power of inviting friends over for dinner, even something as simple as spaghetti and meatballs. Sarah Lazarovic speaks to a similar point in this comic about borrowing sugar.
In our ever-more-digital world, there’s still immense value in analog components, like analog headphone jacks, or–as Kyle Wiens writes, power switches. That’s power in the hands of the people.
The internet doesn’t need civility, according to Whitney Phillips and Ryan M. Milner–it needs ethics. I think the same extends to liberals: to draw on stuff I linked in an earlier recap, liberals need to start standing for more than just milquetoast “civility” and “decency,” but actual ethical principles like “justice”.
Media and Culture
It’s fun to see bad things get torn apart, but I have a particular fondness for people dunking on Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. It’s so bad! I don’t understand how so many people think it’s not just passable, but great! Anyway, “Ready Player One is the Worst Thing Nerd Culture Ever Produced” by I. Coleman, goes into detail on why this book is awful.
I first became exposed to Paul Dean’s work through Shut Up and Sit Down, my favorite board game review site. Paul left the SUSD team in 2018, but he still shares his writing on his blog. On America(na) is a dizzying, breathtaking road trip of my country through his eyes, and his essay about rural life and Stardew Valley is one of my favorite pieces of writing about video games ever.
At the intersection of copyright, digital rights management, video games, and art history: Nintendo’s Offensive, Tragic, and Totally Legal Erasure of ROM Sites, by Emanuel Maiberg.
Remember when Infinity War came out, several decades ago? I saw it, it was an amusing spectacle, but I felt it rang hollow. Noah Berlatsky wrote about one of the film’s underdiscussed flaws: that by empathizing with Thanos, the genocidal primary antagonist, it attempts to make us believe gentle, loving, equitable cruelty (and fascism) exists.
Speaking of Avengers, the recent release of Avengers: Endgame came with a fair bit of spoiler-avoidant hysteria. Over on Vox, Todd VanDerWerff explores how spoiler paranoia benefits studios by impairing critical discussion and encouraging immediate media consumption.
My favorite card game, Android Netrunner, and its cyberpunk setting matter so much because they can help us think about the issues we face today.
See also this fantastic video by Cuck Philosophy on the cultural significance of cyberpunk. God, I love cyberpunk.
Debate shows us that it’s not the best, most logically sound arguments that win–it’s the most convincing, which is a much more slippery target. Aisling McCrea, writing for The Outline, reminds us that we don’t really live in a marketplace of ideas.
The Last Jedi
I started collecting links for this roundup back in late 2017. I’d just seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and I was completely in love. It was revolutionary. It was rich with metatextual commentary. It was damn good cinema.
I point that out because it’s now the middle of 2019, and if you think a year and a half is enough to cool my enthusiasm and cause me to think twice about sharing a bunch of essays about the film, you are dead wrong. Behold:
- Film Crit Hulk on The Last Jedi
- “The Last Jedi Doesn’t Care What You Think About Star Wars” by Jacob Hall
- “Why The Last Jedi Needed to Torch Star Wars’ Legacy” by Eric Fuchs
- Amelia Rose on how The Last Jedi rehabilitates the prequel trilogy (a little bit)
- “A List of Some of the Times The Last Jedi Told the Older Star Wars Movies to Eat Shit,” by Albert Burneko
god I love this movie
Eli Massey and Nathan J. Robinson wrote the most thorough critique of Sam Harris I’ve ever read, carefully picking apart his Islamophobia and shoddy scholarship.
Nathan J. Robinson also makes a point that Olly Thorn of Philosophy Tube made in his Steve Bannon video: the right is drawing people in because of very real social problems, they just offer halfhearted and scapegoaty solutions. The left–the actual left, not moderate liberal centrism–offers more coherent answers, if you’re willing to be bold.
For some Trump-related schadenfreude, I present you with David Roth’s This Is All Donald Trump Has Left.
The Democrats’ lily-livered excuses for not impeaching are, as The Rude Pundit puts it, bullshit. Andrea Chalupa, Sarah Kendzior, and John Bonifaz also address this in the recent impeachment episode of the podcast Gaslit Nation.
Have you read Judith Jarvis Thomson’s A Defense of Abortion? Have you done so recently? Now’s a great time to review it. The argument for reproductive freedom does not have to end when someone pulls the “a fetus is alive” card, because we are not morally obligated to share our bodies with others.
NonCompete by Emerican Johnson is one of my new favorite YouTube channels for its unapologetically leftist, anarchist perspective. But don’t let that scare you off: this video on the “PewDiePipeline” and how edgy humor contributes to violence and stochastic terrorism is some A+ analysis.
Scream it from the rooftops. Everything you know about obesity is wrong.
Natalie Wynn, whose YouTube channel ContraPoints is a whip-smart, lavishly produced bastion of progressive philosophy, gets a great profile in The Verge by Katherine Cross. See also Elliot Sang’s profile of Olly Thorn of Philosophy Tube in Regeneration Magazine.
You may have heard some hullabaloo last year about “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria”. What a scientific-sounding name! Julia Serrano wrote an excellent primer on the subject. Spoiler alert: it’s all a transphobic mess of bad science.
Living with Slenderman, Kathleen Hale’s profile of Morgan Geyser, the girl who stabbed a classmate in 2014 supposedly because a character from internet ghost stories told her to, is a sobering read on juvenile mental health, the treatment of children in the legal and prison systems, and strained family ties in a small Wisconsin city.
Sunny Moraine’s Your Slaughterhouse, Your Killing Floor reverberates with rage and groans with deep, weary fatigue. It’s powerful short fiction about women whose anger actually explodes.
The new WordPress Gutenberg editor does not currently support footnotes. This is silly, but here we are. Here are my footnotes from this post, preserved awkwardly until I can reintegrate them more elegantly:
: In a nutshell, I thought the use of character death to raise the stakes was moderately effective, but completely undermined by the end of the film, which dusted so many popular characters that a modern audience couldn’t help but realize they had to come back somehow. Which retroactively revealed the high stakes to be nothing more than a cheap ploy. In addition, the MCU’s reliance upon “Wait and see!” storytelling, in which characters remain stagnant and conflicts aren’t meaningfully resolved, just kicked down the block to be referenced in a future film, was especially transparent in this one.