A Jill Lepore article in the New Yorker reminds us that U.S. adoption of torture in the aftermath of September 11 was a reversion to a grim historical mean—and an ineffective one at that. It’s a message that needs to replicate and replicate until it’s once again part of our cultural DNA.
A simple concept executed with variety and commitment makes for great humor. Jesse Eisenberg (the actor?) had a fun little dialogue in the New Yorker recently that uses a Marv Albert catchphrase to respond to every bit of anguish coming from a therapist’s couch.
Every comedian took a poke at the subject matter, but Ian Frazier’s reimagining of the death of King Richard III as some medieval dispute over a parking spot was fun.
FLYMF Alum J.D. Smith has a nice poem, “Answering Midas,” in the Cresset. It’s a satisfying riff on a earlier poem by Zbigniew Herbert.
J.D.’s stories for FLYMF included The Great Tuvalu Liquidation Sale, My Fetishist Things and As a Matter of Fact, I Am the Person You Have to Blow to Get a Table Around Here. You can follow all of J.D.’s updates on his blog, Smitroverse.
I’ve really been enjoying Paragraph Shorts lately. It’s an iPad app that packages existing free stories on the web, giving you a sampler of favorites from publications like the New Yorker, Paris Review, etc. They also have a selection of video essays, mostly from The Moth series. I haven’t enjoyed those as much, but I was just wowed by one from Ed Gavagan (an ND grad!), who tells the story of having it all fall apart in New York City, then slowly watching it all come together again. Great stuff.
FLYMF Alum Ralph Gamelli gives us “The Retired Man’s Guide to Snow Removal” on Splitsider.com!
Ralph’s story, Rocky Balboa Launches Into Inspirational Speeches Too Frequently, was published in FLYMF’s Greatest Hits. He also contributed How Long Before I Use My Ejector Seat? and Twilight Zone Episodes For the Internet Age.
B.J. Mendelson’s “Social Media Is Bullshit” is a welcome counterpoint to conventional social-media wisdom, especially for those of us who have to produce, plan or monitor social-media channels for our job. Mendelson punctures a few key social-media myths, claiming:
1. Most businesses fail to benefit financially from their presence on the Big Six social media platforms.
2. Many cases trumpeted as “viral” triumphs actually have substantial corporate budgets behind them or other extenuating circumstances.
3. Despite the promises of social media, pre-“web 2.0” marketing strategies still hold the greatest benefit for most businesses.
4. Most “social media gurus” rely more on empty platitudes than clear metrics for success.
It’s an easy read, and many of his claims are persuasive. His authorial voice may alienate some readers. He can be glib and snarky; it would be easy to argue he’s just the flip side of the “cyber hipsters” he derides. But I think there’s a lot to consider here, especially when so many so-called authorities on the subject push the other way.
‘Cyber Hispter’ refers to two different groups of people who heavily overlap and travel in the same circles. The rhetoric they spew is usually to the effect that people today have the power to do anything without resources, funding, connections, training, education and so forth.” (p. 56)
“Cyber Hipsters often argue that the cost of producing content is approaching zero…The cost of producing content has gone down, certainly. But there are now other costs you have to factor in that make it just as cumbersome and difficult to get started as it has always been. Think of it like this: Yes, anyone can make a video on the cheap…but you need a decent editor to make it look good. That means either you have to do the editing (which means taking the time to do so when you can be doing other things) or hire someone to do it for you. And anyone who knows what they’re doing won’t be cheap either. Especially because there are way more ‘creators’ than there are ‘editors.’” (p. 57)
“Well, isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? What’s the point of having a million followers when none of them are clicking on your links (they weren’t), following your calls to action (they also weren’t), and not coming out to meet you (ditto)? Isn’t that exactly the effect your “social media” efforts are supposed to have?” (p. 170)
Any comic whose take on the afterlife is “Question A: Is there an afterlife? Question B: If so, is there a level cap on XP?” is all right by me.
FLYMF alum Laura Callier is getting some deserved acclaim for the synth tracks she’s produced under the name Gel Set. Give them a listen on her SoundCloud page!
Laura’s story My Washington Romance was published in FLYMF’s Greatest Hits. She also contributed Old Food, Seeing Other People, Nobody Likes My Pink Shiny Miniskirt Except Me, Prematurely Pruned and Holidaze.
Hell no we don’t need to arm teachers. My letter to the Chicago Sun-Times (published online only, unfortunately!).
Don’t arm our educators
It’s disgusting to see Illinois State Rifle Association executive Richard Pearson argue the best response to the Newtown, Conn., murders is to arm teachers, principals and custodians.
Maybe if the gun lobby hadn’t spent years pushing for easy access to military-grade firearms, the rest of us wouldn’t have to live in fear of the mass shootings that seem to happen almost monthly. We should be investing in mental-health treatment and cracking down on guns that can spray 30 bullets in a matter of seconds. If America decides to answer our gun problem by ensuring kindergarten teachers are strapped in the classroom, we might as well throw in the towel now.