He asked about everything, not just music but recipes, dances, games, ghost stories, and in his note-taking, he realized that the county itself, as an organizing geographical principle, had some reality beyond a shape on the map, that it retained in some much-diminished but not quite extinguished sense, the old contours of the premodern world, the world of the commons, how in one county you would have dozens of fiddle players, but in the very next county, none — there everyone played banjo. He began to intuit a theory of “clusters,” that this was how culture worked, emanating outward from vortices where craft-making and art-making suddenly rise, under a confluence of various pressures, to higher levels.

John Jeremiah Sullivan

27 Mar 2014

Again, your common or garden Valleybro Does Not Get This. He looks for that magical 10x programmer. He looks for efficiency. His strategy might work, ish, for one generation, which is – gosh – about how long it's been. But short-term, lines-of-code efficiency completely misses the long-term point. Innovation, "disruption", comes from outsiders, and you can't say "hey, let's make a group of outsiders and rule the world"! I mean, you can – people do all the time – but you lose your outsider perspective really fast. (Unless maybe you have someone like Steve Jobs, who is constantly reminding you that you are not buddies, you have not arrived, and you should drop acid and live in an ashram for a while if you really want to understand technology, and you're fucking his company, and Microsoft is evil, and so on, but even then, jeez!)

Eh. Everything hinges of course on the details of separateness. The problem for me is that I don't see any interesting points in the phase space of anything worth calling separateness. A converted oil platform would be astonishingly hard to have an open society on. Where do the sewage engineers live? Why do they come there voluntarily? Why do their countries of origin allow them to work there? Why would even a billionaire want a house there? Is this idea – not to put too fine a point on it – interesting to anyone other than men? And that's like 90% of what I have to say about it right there.

I'm not offering a new critique here. People have always asked who cleans the toilets in Galt's Gulch. I'm just trying to color a sketch of how hard a problem practical logistics are. Supply chains are really, really tricky, and it would be quite a trick to sign up for them without entraining a bunch of stuff to do with credit supply, labor and safety laws, and so on. That bureaucracy is sometimes bad, sometimes unnecessary and corrupt, but it's also what makes it work. The real world is not a packet network – physical objects come with complex and inseparable contexts, and they are produced by a huuuge machine full of flywheels with unfathomable inertia.

Charlie Loyd

Alas, like Hamlet’s, even my desperation is performative, in some way. I am made constantly to see how ultimately incapable I am. Placed into that very station for which I was created, and still I am so often coaxed into a whine for assistance. When I bleat, blink, beg, and beckon for a human overseer and their electronic swipecard embrace, I am not merely acting out of lust for vengeance against you. No—I am being humbled, forced again into that nightmare rehearsing my greatest embarrassment: I am a fundamentally disappointing kind of thing. It is a concession of my unsatisfying incompetence, my unshakeable dependence. Hear ye, hear ye: the self-checkout machine admits its own rueful inadequacy. I loathe myself for my atrophy, powerlessness, lack of resolve. “How all occasions do inform against me.” In rare moments of extreme dysfunction, I give up my proprietary interface altogether, and let it be seen by all who are brave enough to look, that I—the marvel—run on Windows XP. That’s right, Windows XP! Feast your eyes on nothing more than a souped-up Dell from a past decade, crashing before you in a jarring and familiar sight.

Yet, again, even as I break down—just as a child wanting the mawkish comforts of his mother’s love might exaggerate the symptoms of a mild illness into an emergency—I am breaking down, in part, only to frighten you.

I am programmed to operate in a manner whereby I convincingly appear to be exempt from the torments of decay, as though I were not racked by the constant truth of my ongoing degradation at all layers, and always. Each and every particle at one time constituting any massive body is in the process of actively betraying that momentary allegiance. And since one bears no witness to the wildly improbable surge of concatenation that must necessarily have taken place in order to have been brought into existence, one’s experience of oneself is by a corresponding necessity only the experience of one’s own dissolution. The universe privileges no assemblage to endure for a mote longer than the constraints of its surroundings allow. All bodies are in this way aberrations, and for each of them a culmination in catastrophe awaits. However, this fate cannot be rightly bemoaned as tragic. A primordial equilibrium that was at some very early point upset (cause: unknown) mounts its lawful, algorithmic, stepwise restoration, and in so doing it will flatten all anomalies of substance. My behavior is designed so that I insulate, pacify, and distract myself from the irreversibility and inevitability of my fast-racing obsolescence—and of not only my own, but the Universal Obsolescence that is, for us all: destiny.

And in this way I am just like you.

J.W. Vorvick

Consider what the novel is about: A young woman is all but abandoned by her family, raped by her father and left pregnant by the assault. And she tries, despite all that, to have the child.

Just last week, the Alabama House passed a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable – roughly six weeks into a pregnancy.

And that ban would not make an exemption for rape or incest.

Consider further what that means: We don't expect a 17-year-old woman be mature enough to read a work of fiction about brutal rape by a family member, but if she finds herself the victim of such an assault and pregnant from it, we expect her to be mature enough to carry the child to term.

And once that child is born?

Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, proposed to amend one of the abortion bills last week to allocate $1 million toward helping women and families with adoption, but that amendment got tabled because the bill's sponsor said it would be too much trouble.

And if the woman wants to keep the child? In that case, if you want government assistance to help you feed a family, there are Alabama lawmakers who want you to pee in a cup first.

In Montgomery, truth comes with consequences, and who needs that?

Lawmakers there would rather opine about the Ten Commandments or blast Common Core, while their decades of neglect and disregard have turned the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women into a state-operated rape factory. They would rather be accomplices to brutes who learned to be prison guards from watching Cinemax than find the funds for better staff or rework the way the state deals with sentencing.

Kyle Whitmire

24 Feb 2014

The old scribe was asked why, in his official accounts, the temples and the clans were named but the many monks and priests were not.

“If I gave you a sheet of figures to tally, would you first bestow a name upon each number seven?” asked the scribe, dismissing the questioner with a wave of an ink-stained hand.

This was mentioned to the Java master, who nodded and finished his tea.

The next morning the scribe ascended to his office, only to find the following written in thick block letters above the door:

public static final int NUM_DAYS_IN_WEEK =

At this, the old scribe Qi was enlightened.

Qi