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Here's what I read in July


Border Districts, by Gerald Murnane. A treatise on memories and imagery from the perspective of the end of a man’s life; in particular on the changing meaning of the images we carry with us over time, and the properties thereof. Hypnotic.

A Fire Story, by Brian Fies. An emotionally-written, boldly-drawn graphic novel account of the author losing his Santa Rosa home. It cuts very close for me: the fire came very close to my parents, too. And it's beautifully done.

Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor. This built on the inclusivity of the first story in unexpected ways; the result is a beautifully-written, mind-expanding journey into the meaning of identity with the addictive pace of a thriller.

Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, by Noam Chomsky. Written decades ago but very much applicable today; a searing criticism of the War on Terror and media’s role in manufacturing consent. Inspiring.

Notable Articles

Inside the Secret Border Patrol Facebook Group Where Agents Joke About Migrant Deaths and Post Sexist Memes. This should have been a bigger story in July, although it got some play. It's shocking - but also not surprising. Further proof that today's policies, and the way they are enacted, are rooted in straightforward racism.

He Cyberstalked Teen Girls for Years—Then They Fought Back. A detective story about sextortion and some of the threats teenage girls have to navigate in the internet era.

Google’s Jigsaw Was Supposed to Save the Internet. Behind the Scenes, It Became a Toxic Mess. I don't think any incumbent tech company can or will "save the internet". But these HR problems seem endemic.

The Dominance of the White Male Critic. “It’s 2019 and we are in the middle of a renaissance in black artistic production. And you are telling me the best people to evaluate that are the same ones who basically ignored black artists for decades?”

The Humble Brilliance of Italy’s Moka Coffee Pot. I was scared of these things for years. But they're brilliant, and make outstanding coffee. I can't believe that coffee pods - which are awful on every level - are driving them out of existence.

Tech and the Fake Market tactic. This is vitally important to understand. Really the headline should read "fake marketplaces" - what's described here are services that give the illusion of peer-to-peer marketplaces but actually don't give participants the freedom they would need. The result is a system that benefits the marketplace owner and syphons wealth and value from society.

Revealed: This Is Palantir’s Top-Secret User Manual for Cops. I don't understand how people who work for Palantir can sleep at night. These are people whose work is used to deport and harm entire communities.

U.K. Parliament Workers Face ‘Unacceptable’ Abuse, Report Says. Just one more way that British government is a trash fire. "A study found that sexual harassment was considered a “necessary evil” for young, ambitious workers in the Houses of Parliament and that the atmosphere was “stressful and hostile.”"

A Father, a Daughter, and the Attempt to Change the Census. The amazing story of how Stephanie Hofeller uncovered the evidence of racism that eventually undermined the citizenship question on the census.

With ICE Raids Looming, Immigrants Worry: ‘Every Time Someone Knocks, You Get Scared’. Tragic, visceral, terrifying. Every American citizen is complicit in the horrors that these families are going through.

Transgender Opera Singers Find Their Voices. A fascinating window into the lives of transitioning opera singers and their relationships with their voices.

The Nordic Model May Be the Best Cushion Against Capitalism. Can It Survive Immigration? Spoiler alert: yes. But there sure are a lot of voices in the US who would like to show that the Nordic model doesn't work.

Crab-picking is a treat, if you don’t mind slicing open your fingers while eviscerating a stinking carcass. It's one of my mother's very favorite things in the world - and it's been a part of my entire life.

Sixteen and Evangelical. A completely different universe to my own, in so many ways. This seems like such a common observation: "Looking back on teachings about sexual purity now—the conversations about modesty, about saving oneself for marriage—I am struck that we never, not once, had a conversation about consent. It was reasonable for a boy to suggest that he was “tempted” by a girl wearing skimpy clothes, but the blame was always placed on the girl for dressing that way."

Andrew Yang is promising to revitalize America. His nonprofit tried, too, but couldn’t. Save only for Joe Biden, John Delaney, and maybe Marianne Williamson, I find Andrew Yang to be the least enticing of all the Democratic nominees. I like UBI; I just have a lot of problems with his approach and ideas like replacing 20% of the federal workforce with management consultants. This article underlines some of my worries.

A Teen Girl Found Refuge Online — Then Her Murder Went Viral. Horrifying. And ultimately, yet another story of a man (or in this case, a boy) trying to take ownership of a woman.

Instagram ‘tag cleaners’ are fighting against digital vandalism. Another angle on the story above - what happened on the internet after the murder is a window into the culture that led to it.

The Best Algorithms Struggle to Recognize Black Faces Equally. Which in turn leads to false positives and the potential for serious injustice with people of color once again more at risk than the general population. Technology is sold as infallable and objective, but it's quite the opposite; merely a product of the (mostly white, male, myopic) people who make it.

A Peculiarly Dutch Summer Rite: Children Let Loose in the Night Woods. I love everything about this. I would have loved to do it as a kid. I think modern American parenting is very often about oversubscribing kids to activities and being overprotective. I'm not sure why that is (cars? the fear of others that seems to sit as subtext behind everything?), but I've found it to be a real cultural difference. I feel like this particular activity might be illegal here. But free range parenting, and this kind of trust, seems like it's so much better.

Ilhan Omar: It Is Not Enough to Condemn Trump’s Racism. A fantastic op-ed by a representative who has had to endure far more than she should. "His efforts to pit religious minorities against one another stem from the same playbook. If working Americans are too busy fighting with one another, we will never address the very real and deep problems our country faces — from climate change to soaring inequality to lack of quality affordable health care." I agree.

The Museum is the Master’s House: An Open Letter to Tristram Hunt. On museums, the brutal history of British imperialism, and literal cultural appropriation. British culture is very bad at acknowledging how racist it actually is.

U.S. cybersecurity agency uses pineapple pizza to demonstrate vulnerability to foreign influence. I love this analogy.

You know who was into Karl Marx? No, not AOC. Abraham Lincoln. "“Labor is prior to and independent of capital,” the country’s 16th president said. “Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”"

Why We’re Moving Forward With Impeachment. Impeachment scares me. Unfortunately, I don't think being a racist trash fire is probably an impeachable offence (given how many Presidents, even in the modern era, have been overtly racist). And even if it sticks on an obstruction of justice charge, an impeachment - or worse, a failed one - could embolden his base and get him re-elected. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am.

Amazon Told Police It Has Partnered With 200 Law Enforcement Agencies. We're building a very unpleasant surveillance society. Willingly, for profit. I continue to boycott Amazon, and I hope you'll join me.


Here's what I read in June, May, April, March, February, and January.