2018 recommendations

May 26, 2018: Plastic Fantastic Ekphrastic

In “We Made Plastic. Now We’re Drowning in It”, Laura Parker’s recent cover story for National Geographic, the fundamental point— we make and throw away a lot of plastic, and this very bad— is not surprising; what she (and the photos, by Randy Olson) does most effectively is convey the scale. Because plastic wasn’t invented …

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2018 recommendations

March 31, 2018: Behind the Scenes

I’ve just finished teaching a new class about cities, and one of the things that the experience made me think about was how the built environment of urban spaces is the outcome of a long process (or series of processes) that is itself basically invisible. That is to say, you can see what the city …

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2017 recommendations

November 4, 2017: Mind the Gaps

I’ve never actually taken a Rorschach test— which I guess might be a good thing, if it means nobody has had cause to suspect that I suffer from mental illness. But I’ve looked at the cards, of course, and wondered how I would describe them if I had to. As “Bear, Bat, or Tiny King?”Deborah …

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2017 recommendations

September 24, 2017: What is Lost

I’ve recently begun playing the game Nier Automata, which takes place (as so many things do) on a far-future earth where machines have taken control, exiling humanity to the moon, from which they stage attacks on the machines below. Describing that setup by itself doesn’t do the game justice; it’s beautiful to look at, the …

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2017

September 8, 2017: You Gotta Represent

Note: I actually mostly wrote this a couple of months ago, before getting derailed by…life, I guess. So, some of the links are a little dated, but looking back over it I decided I was sufficiently satisfied with it to finish it up and post it anyway. I’m doing a lot of reading lately, mostly …

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2017

June 18, 2017: The Ties That Bind

I’m developing a new course right now about cities and power, and as part of that, I’ve started to think of a city as, in part, a built response to its environment. Chicago, for instance, is where it because of water—specifically, the proximity of one river system to another, allowing people and goods to be …

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2017 recommendations

March 22, 2017: If You Build It

There’s a certain kind of person— usually, in my experience, a certain kind of middle-aged male— who will delight in telling you that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” and then nod sagely while they wait for your mind to be blown. This occurs to me because the point of this post, in …

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2017 recommendations

February 26, 2016: Putting It Together

Once, during the summer that I worked in the campus computer store, a chatty customer began talking to me about science fiction books. One he mentioned specifically was The Mote in God’s Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. This stuck in my mind only because he was impressed that I knew what the word …

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2017 recommendations

January 29, 2017: What’s Your Evidence?

January 29, 2017: What’s Your Evidence? Of the books I read in 2016, a favorite was Rachel Cusk’s Outline. So I was excited to hear that her newest novel, Transit, was a sequel to that book. Both follow the narrator, Faye, through a series of more or less ordinary days taking place around major life …

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2017 Essay recommendations

January 15, 2017: Language Games

As the new year progresses, and the presidential inauguration draws near, I, like all of us, am attempting to adjust to new realities. This is not easy. I’m not going to write about the election, as such; I am still without anything really useful to say about it, and I have no desire to add …

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