I read a lot. This is a selection of what I read this week (8/3/20 through 8/9/20) that I think you should read, too.
*Carrie Arnold’s Horseshoe crab blood is key to making a COVID-19 vaccine—but the ecosystem may suffer for National Geographic: Content warning for animal bleeding. Drug companies are in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario when it comes to their regular harvests of horseshoe crab blood, “the only known natural source of limulus amebocyte lysate.” It’s required when formulating vaccines, and with the current crisis’ demands, could it lead to destabilizing already delicate marine ecosystems?
*Joshua Bennett’s Joshua Bennett on the Use of Animals in the Work of Black Writers at Literary Hub: This is actually an excerpt from Bennett’s book Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man, which now sits on my red giant of a to-read list. In it, he summarizes the way Black authors, predominantly American, write about animals both metaphorically and literally. The piece starts off looking at Frederick Douglass’ simultaneous camaraderie with and resentment of horses, and twines through to nature poetry and what University of Oslo’s Michael Lundblad refers to as “animality studies.” Looking forward to reading this book in full.
*Will Hines’ Find The Fool at Medium: After “Yes, and…” and “If this, then what?”, “Play to the height of your intelligence” is one of the first pieces of advice new improvisers receive. However, it may not necessarily result in the best scenes, and may even kill the momentum in the first few seconds.
*Amy Kelinda’s Getaway House: Portland at Hello, Kelinda: On finding peace and respite on vacation while honoring all social distancing guidelines. Travel writing for the new normal. These Getaway Houses sound like heaven.
*Dan Solomon’s The Best Thing in Texas: Curbside Larry Is the Hero We Need in These Times for Texas Monthly: Harris County Public Library’s charming and wholesome Curbside Larry pitchman encourages residents to take advantage of the system’s curbside pickup options. This quick read details a local superhero’s origin story.
*Brad Stulberg’s The United States of Burnout for Thrive Global: This article about how contemporary work practices are harming, even killing, Americans from the stress of it all was published four years ago. Not much has changed. It needs to change.
*Tim Urban’s From 1,000,000 to Graham’s Number at Wait But Why: I may not be able to do any math more advanced than addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division because of what my teachers called “laziness” and my psychologist called “dyscalculia,” but I could still understand this explanation of how a number exists that happens to be larger than the universe can actually contain. Numbers at this level are so beautiful and so terrifying and I love that they exist.
*Tim Urban’s The Fermi Paradox at Wait But Why: Because anytime I stop by Wait But Why, I have to re-read this classic about why or why not extraterrestrial life may exist and why or why not this may or may not be a good thing. Another pants-shittingly scary but wholly engrossing read.
*Wilson Wong’s ‘I am being silenced over white feelings from a gag comic’: Black comic artist on her work being pulled from newspapers for NBC: Bianca Xunise of the syndicated comic strip Six Chix wrote a critique of the Americans jeering at both wearing face masks and valuing the lives of their Black neighbors. By reasonable standards, it used “punch up” humor—I read it and fully agree with this assessment—but still ended up getting dropped from several newspapers on the grounds that it may be too offensive. The comic went through two rounds of editing and approval before being pulled, and some papers even ran an apology in its place. In an era where far too many debates about “cancel culture” waste time and take up space, more attention needs to be pushed toward silencing the satirists challenging us to do better and be better.
*Josh Zeitz’s When Daily Intelligence Briefings Prevented a Nuclear War for Politico: Since this was published in December of 2016, Zeitz’s speculations on a Trump presidency have already received answers. That’s not why I read this article. My history lessons about JFK only involved the Space Race (AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!) and his assassination. I first learned the Bay of Pigs even existed thanks to an offhand reference in Mrs. Doubtfire. I needed to fix that.
*Thony B. Jones and Alan Kamil’s Tool-Making and Tool-Using in the Northern Blue Jay at [email protected] of Nebraska – Lincoln: Found via the Wikipedia rabbit hole that is its entry on blue jays. It’s about exactly what the title says, and the writing is accessible to not-biology experts.
Comics and Graphic Novels
As always, my weeklies/weeklies-ish:
*Monica Gallagher’s Assassin Roommate
*Phylecia Miller and Jules Rivera’s Hi, Phylecia! (Didn’t update this week.)
*Jessi Sharon’s The Sea in You (Newly added to this list!)
*Rachel Smythe’s Lore Olympus
*Steenz’s Heart of the City
I also read…
*Inio Asano’s Goodnight, Punpun, Vols. 6 and 7: I’ve been making my way through the entirety of the Goodnight, Punpun omnibuses for two years now, because each volume proves more horrific and depressing than the previous. Seriously. More nightmarish than anything Junji Ito has ever committed to paper. Probably more nightmarish than Junji Ito’s entire bibliography. The story contains child abuse, rape, assault, mental illness going untreated due to stigma, a death cult who may or may not also be superheroes, suicide, parental abandonment, existential spirals, divorce, murder, and other lighthearted topics. It’s also really, really, really, really, really, really… good. Since time has no meaning anymore, I read the concluding two volumes back to back this week. Asano’s ending proved far more horrific than I imagined, playing with the idea of what constitutes “happy.”
Given the content, I can’t in good faith recommend this to everyone. That said, the entire Goodnight, Punpun series still provides a masterclass in pacing a manga and character building. Just make sure to stay properly hydrated and pick up something uplifting in between books.
*Topher Payne’s the tree who set healthy boundaries: By contrast, this parodic update of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree can be read and appreciated by all audiences of all comfort levels. And it is objectively better than the original ending…
Finished Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist, which I started last week. Continuing the theme of breaking down his own harmful thoughts and actions in order to reconstruct them into healthier, more just approaches to life. The strongest, most compelling chapters here focused on his failures and his successes, respectively. They remind us that nobody rockets out of the womb with transcendent, comprehensive knowledge of everything social justice. Forward movement exists in a constant state of learning and unlearning, which makes getting things wrong an inevitability. Kendi never asks readers to do anything he himself doesn’t do every day, and views failure as part of the process rather than an impetus to give into nihilism, bitterness, and hate.
Started and completed Lagos_2060, curated by Ayodele Arigbabu and featuring stories by himself, Terh Agbedeh, Kofo Akib, Afolabi Muheez Ashiru, Okey Egboluche, Rayo Falade, and Temitayo Olofinula. This anthology sprouted from a writer’s workshop imagining Lagos’ possible futures one full century following Nigeria’s independence from Great Britain, and contains a partial transcript of the contributors’ 2010 Skype call with Africanfuturist and science-fiction icon Nnedi Okorafor.
Stories range from apocalyptic frog attacks to fallout from finally discovering cold fusion to time-travel drugs and many, many imaginative spaces in between. My favorite stories, Coming Home by Falade, Mango Republic by Agbedeh, and Metal Feet by Olofinula, focus on smaller, personal reflections on how the speculated changes create new challenges on the day-to-day. However, the entire book features plenty of ideas and themes for science-fiction fans to glom onto and explore their relationships with geography and history.
See you next week, fellow bookish buffs!
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