Friday, August 14, 2015

Weekend Reading: The Complicated World Edition

I, of course, think your weekend reading should be Unspotted.

But I understand that you may feel differently. So here are some links.

But first, a note about something I'm not including. Last night, my Twitter timeline erupted about an article an editor at The Chicago Tribune wrote that included reference to Hurricane Katrina. There was a lot of anger, and I am fairly certain it was justified. I am not going to link to that article. I gather the author has now apologized, sort of. From the reactions I've seen, it appears to have been an onomatapology:

I started to write a post about this last night, and about my recollections of witnessing the horrifying aftermath of Katrina on my TV screen, but I am not up to the task. I have vivid memories of being utterly shocked and horrified, and deeply embarrassed that this was happening in my country. But I was not there. I was not anywhere close to there. This happened before I started reading a lot about racism and trying to understand its role in events in this country. Frankly, I just do not think I can do this topic justice.

I would love to include a link to something good that has been written about the upcoming 10th anniversary of that devastating storm, but I haven't really seen anything. Feel free to share anything you know of in the comments.

The other big topic in my Twitter timeline yesterday was the Sesame Street news. I am not thrilled to hear that Sesame Street is going to HBO, but I am glad they managed to structure the deal so that the episodes go to PBS eventually. This article from Alyssa Rosenberg is fairly close to my opinions on the matter.

I've written before how we, as a society, don't pay for content. There are a few companies that have figured out how to get us to pay: Netflix, Amazon, HBO... probably a few others. But I don't know that what they have figured out is anything general: I think each case is helped by some specific aspect of their company's history. I also don't know that they've figured out anything long term, even for themselves. It is a tough world for people who make "content," particularly if they aren't famous.

I am definitely no expert on entertainment, but I suspect the Sesame Street folks got the the best deal they could. I'm not sure what their other options really were, and that is never a strong negotiating position. Perhaps they could have tried a Kickstarter, a la Reading Rainbow.  (Side note: I understand that Petunia, The Girl Who Was NOT a Princess is going to be on the new Reading Rainbow app, and that delights me to no end.)

But to be honest, while I understand why people are so upset about this- it feels a bit like someone went back in time and stole candy from you as a 3 year old- I'm basically OK with this outcome. My kids have spent most of the summer watching the same few seasons of a show called Fireman Sam over and over and over.... I don't think the 9 month delay will impact the value of the show to kids.

What is truly outrageous is that we're relying on a TV show to provide early childhood education to any of our children. But that's another rant altogether.

This interview of Ta-Nehisi Coates by Roxane Gay is every bit as good as you'd expect, given the two people involved. Go read the entire thing. But this particular exchange is particularly great:

RG: How can allies best serve as allies? What is an ally? Are they needed?
TC: I don’t know. I think it’s probably terribly important to listen. It’s terribly important to try to become more knowledgeable. It’s important to not expect that acquiring of that knowledge — in this case of the force of racism in American history — to be a pleasant experience or to proceed along just lines. They certainly don’t proceed that way for black people. It’s going to be painful. Finally I think one has to even abandon the phrase “ally” and understand that you are not helping someone in a particular struggle; the fight is yours.
However, it doesn't sound like it would stop people like the one described in this rather heartbreaking story.
From now on, I'm going to imagine every trollish comment I read was written by this pathetic dude who would rather lose his marriage and the chance to live with his child than stop being an asshole on the internet. What a sad human being.
I really liked this piece from Web Smith about why Twitter is struggling. He makes some really good points about how Twitter has the capacity to expose us to the unvarnished truth about our world more than any other social network. It is a great strength of Twitter. It is what I love about Twitter.

But he also makes some good points about how overwhelming that can be, particularly for those of us who are not used to being confronting with those truths. I think he is right that this is part of the reason Twitter is struggling to grow or become profitable.

I also think that we all have to learn how to modulate that exposure for ourselves. Otherwise, we get overwhelmed and the temptation to go back into the relative comfort of our previous ignorance is too high. To use an overused cliche, the effort to make the world better is a marathon, not a sprint.

I know that it is easier for some of us to step away for a bit than others. In fact, that is part of the problem we're trying to solve. But I still step away sometimes (like, for instance, last night, with the Katrina story). I am only human. I commit to myself that I will look back at the truth soon, and I go and organize photos of my kids. Or watch a TV show with my husband. Or something else.

On a completely different topic: this is an interesting piece about why public transit tends to suck in a lot of the US.

In my own city of San Diego, transit is slowly, slowly getting better. It is still too downtown centric, but they long term plans I've seen are good. I am cautiously optimistic that we'll be OK and avoid the traffic nightmare of LA. (LA is working on its transit system, too- but they started at a later point and in a worse place than San Diego did, at least to my relatively naive viewpoint.)

I want to read more on transit and growth. I think figuring this stuff out is really important, but I never feel like I understand the topic well enough to have a good opinion.

I'm too old for this. I like that mantra.

Ending on a lighter note: I really love Laura Vanderkam's idea of a mini-retreat. I am going to try this out myself soon!

Also, I've added a new category to the Crappy Things I Made to Stop the Whining tumblr: toy tableaux! Here is the first installment. You can submit your own (or your own homemade toys), too.

And the funny at the end: this xkcd cartoon makes me laugh.

Have a good weekend everyone!


  1. Squee! Petunia, Reading Rainbow app, squee!

  2. The Reading Rainbow app news is exciting! I think the reason Twitter is struggling is because there's too much noise. I barely check it these days because it seems like such a waste of time. So much of what is on my feed, I don't really care about, and I don't have time to sift through the grit to get to the gems. They are doing better at presenting things I might be interested in the time I was gone, but I do think FB's algorithms are better at detecting and presenting big news. I just want the highlights most of the time.


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