There was a debate going on about what was the song of the summer.

Angel said it was the big crossover reggaeton hit with Daddy Yankee; I didn’t know the name was “Oye Mi Canto,” but we could all sing the refrain:

Boricua, Morena, Dominicano, Colombiano,
Boricua, Morena, Cubano, Mexicano
Oye Mi Canto


Bonnie snorted. “Y’all are crazy,” she said. “It’s Fat Joe!”

We all replied, “Lean Back,” and dropped one shoulder back in smooth unison.

Kenyatta said, “Well, I don’t like her, but that song by Christina Milian — ‘Pop, Pop, Pop That Thang’? That song is blowing up.”

[…]

Pom-Pom spoke up. “I don’t know where you think y’all are at, but there’s just one song this summer. And that’s ‘Locked Up.’ Look around you! End of discussion.”

We had to admit, she was dead on. All summer long, anywhere there was a radio playing, you could hear the almost eerie, plaintive voice of Akon, a Senegalese rapper, singing about prison.

Can’t wait to get out and move forward with my life,
Got a family that loves me and wants me to do right,
But instead I’m here locked up.


Even if the song had not been a huge hit on the outs, it had to be the guiding anthem in a place like the Camp; you heard women who weren’t even hip-hop fans humming it tunelessly under their breath as they folded laundry: “‘I’m locked up, they won’t let me out, nooooo, they won’t let me out. I’m locked up.’”
Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (2010)

Britney Jean Spears is 20 months older than I am, and as a result, the Britney Narrative has never seemed right to me; since her 1998 debut, I’ve seen Spears’s career in blurred double: the Britney I saw overlaid with the Britney the media, her handler’s, the industry, perhaps the artist herself wanted to present. Twenty months is a small enough gap that for a singer whose being seemed designed to denote youth was someone I best understood as old.
In the Britney Narrative, Spears was introduced to America at sixteen as adolescent and wholesome, appearing in her first video pigtailed and in school uniform. She was underage yet newly sexual — she told interviewers that she planned to save her virginity for marriage, yet her songs vibrated with uncontainable and teenage lust — and this is the frisson the adult men who produced for her and wrote about her picked up on. Spears was a little girl who didn’t know she wasn’t little anymore; Rolling Stone shot her in her bedroom with plush animals and lingerie.
This narrative, notably, is one defined by people who didn’t particularly have much interest in Spears musically; it wasn’t for fans, it was for the public, for people who engaged with Spears as celebrity and cultural object, not as musical performer. I don’t mean to omit Britney’s agency from consideration, but for someone who so quickly became a pop-cultural icon, her intentions in regards to her self-presentation became subservient to those of the pop culture industry tasked with defining her.
As Britney grew older, she became less untouchable and her sexuality became less illicit. She was eighteen when, in “Oops!… I Did It Again,” she confided “I’m not that innocent,” and less than a month shy of twenty when she mused “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” complaining of being “Overprotected.” (The album from which those songs come, Britney, also featured her most overt expressions of sexual desire to date, in the form of “I’m a Slave 4 U” and “Boys,” both of which seemed much more concerned with presenting Spears as sexual actor than sexual object than her previous singles.) Next thing, Spears, at 21, now probably entirely a woman, was kissing Madonna at the VMAs and singing about masturbation.
There are so many flaws with this narrative, but the extent to which Spears contributed to it, through the changing themes of her lyrics, videos, and publicity work, speaks to its power. And, growing up with Britney, it always seemed transparently wrong to me.
Those twenty months Britney has on me seem enormous in high school: we were close enough in age that I could consider her a peer, but I was sufficiently her junior that the youth the media insisted defined her was invisible to me. Rather, I thought, Britney was inescapably old: she was like the big girls a few grades ahead of me. (Her older sister status meant I never saw her an object of attraction either; I was interested in girls my own age.) “…Baby One More Time” wasn’t an expression of untouchable nascent sexuality and I couldn’t see any of the porny subtext the older men deciding whom Britney should be saw. It didn’t make sense to consider Britney as pre-sexual, because the girls I saw at school obviously weren’t, and they, like me, were younger than Britney. They weren’t naïve coquettes; they were wholly formed people with the same desires and maturity I thought myself to have. When Britney sang that she wasn’t a girl, but not yet a woman, it seemed preposterous, because I had just turned eighteen, and could drink and vote and fight wars, and I had no interest in pretending to people I wasn’t an adult. I assumed Britney didn’t either.
There’s a Margaret Atwood line about how “little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life sized,” and it should probably also apply to not-so-little girls. Britney always looked life-sized to me.
As many women since Britney have discovered in varying ways — Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, Vanessa Hudgens, etc., etc. — our culture has trouble allowing girls to become women in the public eye. They are supposed to retain a childlike asexuality long after they’ve stopped being children, and yet they are supposed to claim womanhood at the precise time onlookers are not made uncomfortable by their sexuality: usually long after they have become actually women. When Britney went through this process, we were growing up just closely enough that I could see how truly bizarre the pantomime was.

Britney Jean Spears is 20 months older than I am, and as a result, the Britney Narrative has never seemed right to me; since her 1998 debut, I’ve seen Spears’s career in blurred double: the Britney I saw overlaid with the Britney the media, her handler’s, the industry, perhaps the artist herself wanted to present. Twenty months is a small enough gap that for a singer whose being seemed designed to denote youth was someone I best understood as old.

In the Britney Narrative, Spears was introduced to America at sixteen as adolescent and wholesome, appearing in her first video pigtailed and in school uniform. She was underage yet newly sexual — she told interviewers that she planned to save her virginity for marriage, yet her songs vibrated with uncontainable and teenage lust — and this is the frisson the adult men who produced for her and wrote about her picked up on. Spears was a little girl who didn’t know she wasn’t little anymore; Rolling Stone shot her in her bedroom with plush animals and lingerie.

This narrative, notably, is one defined by people who didn’t particularly have much interest in Spears musically; it wasn’t for fans, it was for the public, for people who engaged with Spears as celebrity and cultural object, not as musical performer. I don’t mean to omit Britney’s agency from consideration, but for someone who so quickly became a pop-cultural icon, her intentions in regards to her self-presentation became subservient to those of the pop culture industry tasked with defining her.

As Britney grew older, she became less untouchable and her sexuality became less illicit. She was eighteen when, in “Oops!… I Did It Again,” she confided “I’m not that innocent,” and less than a month shy of twenty when she mused “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” complaining of being “Overprotected.” (The album from which those songs come, Britney, also featured her most overt expressions of sexual desire to date, in the form of “I’m a Slave 4 U” and “Boys,” both of which seemed much more concerned with presenting Spears as sexual actor than sexual object than her previous singles.) Next thing, Spears, at 21, now probably entirely a woman, was kissing Madonna at the VMAs and singing about masturbation.

There are so many flaws with this narrative, but the extent to which Spears contributed to it, through the changing themes of her lyrics, videos, and publicity work, speaks to its power. And, growing up with Britney, it always seemed transparently wrong to me.

Those twenty months Britney has on me seem enormous in high school: we were close enough in age that I could consider her a peer, but I was sufficiently her junior that the youth the media insisted defined her was invisible to me. Rather, I thought, Britney was inescapably old: she was like the big girls a few grades ahead of me. (Her older sister status meant I never saw her an object of attraction either; I was interested in girls my own age.) “…Baby One More Time” wasn’t an expression of untouchable nascent sexuality and I couldn’t see any of the porny subtext the older men deciding whom Britney should be saw. It didn’t make sense to consider Britney as pre-sexual, because the girls I saw at school obviously weren’t, and they, like me, were younger than Britney. They weren’t naïve coquettes; they were wholly formed people with the same desires and maturity I thought myself to have. When Britney sang that she wasn’t a girl, but not yet a woman, it seemed preposterous, because I had just turned eighteen, and could drink and vote and fight wars, and I had no interest in pretending to people I wasn’t an adult. I assumed Britney didn’t either.

There’s a Margaret Atwood line about how “little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life sized,” and it should probably also apply to not-so-little girls. Britney always looked life-sized to me.

As many women since Britney have discovered in varying ways — Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, Vanessa Hudgens, etc., etc. — our culture has trouble allowing girls to become women in the public eye. They are supposed to retain a childlike asexuality long after they’ve stopped being children, and yet they are supposed to claim womanhood at the precise time onlookers are not made uncomfortable by their sexuality: usually long after they have become actually women. When Britney went through this process, we were growing up just closely enough that I could see how truly bizarre the pantomime was.


Young Reid ft. King Kun & Lil Jaey, “Live Life Like Fuck That,” Welcome to Reidsville, 2013

Young Reid is a rapper from backwoods North Carolina who last year made the important discovery that if you make a hard-headed gravel-voiced rap song with a chorus that consists of shouting “LIVE LIFE LIKE FUCK THAT” it turns out great. This deserved to have blown up and have become a hashtag.


This won me a couple of fans, notably my new neighbor Delicious, who shouted with surprise, “P-I Piper! You got some nice titties! You got those TV titties!! They stand up on they own all perky and everything! Damn!”

“Um, thanks, Delicious.”

Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (2010)

Doesn’t “Delicious” seem like the lame fictionalized version of the real nickname “Tastey” rather than the other way round? TV version of Delicious got the much better end of this stick.


Yoga Janet would make a point of sitting with me at meals, and we would chat about the Himalayas and New York and politics. She was appalled when a subscription to The New Republic showed up for me at mail call. “You might as well read the Weekly Standard!” she said with disgust.
Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (2010)

thisiscitylab:


Fortunately, Prague has swerved just in time to halt another controversial building project, the now-scrapped new National Library by architect Jan Kaplicky, which would have looked like something vomited up by a giant My Little Pony. 

-Is Unchecked Development Making Prague Ugly?
[Image: Jan Kaplicky]

What? This thing is awesome! Prague should definitely build it!
I don’t see what’s so great about making everything look like nobody’s had a new idea since 1700. More wacky buildings please!
(n.b. Video of planned construction of this library?)

thisiscitylab:

Fortunately, Prague has swerved just in time to halt another controversial building project, the now-scrapped new National Library by architect Jan Kaplicky, which would have looked like something vomited up by a giant My Little Pony. 

-Is Unchecked Development Making Prague Ugly?

[Image: Jan Kaplicky]

What? This thing is awesome! Prague should definitely build it!

I don’t see what’s so great about making everything look like nobody’s had a new idea since 1700. More wacky buildings please!

(n.b. Video of planned construction of this library?)


I’ve been thinking about laws on Mars.

Yeah, I know, it’s a stupid thing to think about, but I have a lot of free time.

There’s an international treaty saying no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. And by another treaty, if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law applies.

So Mars is “international waters.”

NASA is an American nonmilitary organization, and it owns the Hab. So while I’m in the Hab, American law applies. As soon as I step outside, I’m in international waters. Then when I get in the rover, I’m back to American law.

Here’s the cool part: I will eventually go to Schiaparelli and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this, and they can’t until I’m aboard Ares 4 and operating the comm system. After I board Ares 4, before talking to NASA, I will take control of a craft in international waters without permission.

That makes me a pirate!

A space pirate!

Andy Weir, The Martian (2012)

Best bit of the whole book.


Why Does Everyone In Australia Hate Pitbull?

I wrote an article about cool stuff in America like gay marriages and weed and abortion, and someone left this comment on it, for which I am very thankful.

I wrote an article about cool stuff in America like gay marriages and weed and abortion, and someone left this comment on it, for which I am very thankful.


Gould’s novel, Friendship, follows a best-friend pair through a turbulent period of break-ups and bad jobs in their late twenties and early thirties. After Amy and Bev meet as editorial assistants at a New York publishing house, Bev “start[s] making friendship advances toward Amy,” going out of her way to engage her in conversation. One day, she invites her to a concert after work; they start to take their lunch breaks together. One thing leads to another, and while eating sushi and drinking wine on a roof in Brooklyn, they make it official.

Alice Robb, “Grown Women Don’t Need a ‘Best Friend’,” The New Republic, July 10, 2014

In 2014, how on earth do you work on a novel-length piece of writing about people who work in publishing and eat sushi on Brooklyn rooftops without literally boring yourself to death?

Like, I totally disagree with Robb’s dismissal of the value of intense yet platonic non-familial relationships or the lack of artistic consideration of the same, but don’t people also have best friends in Kansas City? Or Columbus? Or Kinshasa? Or do New Yorkers actually really think the world needs a better understanding of the lives of New York editorial assistants?

I’m not asking for a moratorium about books in New York. I love books about New York! But if there isn’t something particularly relevant to New York about the story you’re telling — and, guys, I guarantee friendship wasn’t first devised in a Dumbo loft — then why not set it in any of the thousands of other cities in the world where real existing people also live and work?



1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10