This is a legacy post from a blog I wrote in 2018 about language, storytelling, and the shape of things. Delivered here straight from the archives, please enjoy the following issue of The Quiet Post.
Y’all. I wrote three thousands words over the weekend for a post about finding peace with technology and the Internet, because things are stressing me out, but it was a complete and utter mess. A disaster of a critique. I could have written a more coherent essay by tossing magnet poetry inside a blender. Which really, I guess, is a pretty accurate reflection of my online experience lately. At least it was true to form.
Eventually, I got so frustrated that I scrapped the entire thing. Maybe someday I’ll return and try to make heads and tails of what I want from our electronic commons, but the kid in the cellar isn’t finished cutting out paper dolls. So, I’m going to allow myself to not think about it for a few months.
In the meantime, I could use a boost. Maybe you could, too. So we’re going to spend today doing something a lot more fun than talking about the Internet.
When I was in college, one of my TAs liked to start off our recitations by going around the room and having each person recommend something to the others. It could be something tangible like a book or a restaurant, or it could be something more abstract like a pleasant sound or a time of day. It was a great method of spreading some positive ways of being and interacting with the world.
So, in that tradition, here are some things that have brought me joy over the past few months. I highly recommend them.
I gulped this book down a couple weeks ago, and I need to give it some time to digest, but it’s creeping up toward being one of my favorites. Not only is it unsettling and weird, it has some fascinating things to say about transformation, and how we are changed by people, art, and the world. I’m really hyped for the movie.
Also, because I’m still hung up on the Internet, it features a quote that perfectly captures how I feel in our current political and online climate:
“That’s how the madness of the world tries to colonize you: from the outside in, forcing you to live in its reality.”
If you decide to check out one thing on this list, please make it this book. It tells the story of a young woman who witnesses her friend get shot and killed by a police officer, and it is brilliant, deeply human, and revolutionary. We need to change the kinds of stories we tell. We need to change the kinds of stories we listen to. Read this book.
I mean, I probably don’t even need to recommend this, because you’re going to see it anyway, right? Nevertheless. It’s wonderful, exciting, and takes no nonsense. I hope this is the start of something great. I hope we begin to see fewer movies that “default” to white men, because there is no default, and it’s really getting to be boring. Why are we still interested?
If you already saw Black Panther, liked it, and are interested in more Afrofuturism, I also recommend the Binti book series by Nnedi Okorafor, or this episode of This American Life on the subject. There’s a lot more out there.
This essay by Frank Chimero is the best piece about online life I’ve read in a while. It’s thoughtful and uplifting about the problems facing technology, without resorting to condescension or generalizations about the morality of the Web. He describes different parts of the Internet by comparing them to physical spaces, drawing a distinction between areas that nourish us, like a library, and areas that suck us dry, like the New York City subway system. We can’t ignore either one; part of living in the world means balancing many different kinds of spaces. But we can make choices that allow us to spend more time in better ones.
With regard to the previous, I’ve been trying to make Twitter a healthier space for me to be in, and here’s my radical solution: follow fewer people. It seems obvious, but it never actually occurred to me until recently that I don’t need to live this way. I’ve cut my list down from 160 to 93, and I plan to continue to prune. 75 seems like a good number.
I’ve taken a break from listening to video game music while I work, and I now listen to lofi anime hip hop, which, yes, is apparently a genre. And it is wonderful. It is v relaxing.
This iOS game is less of a game and more of an interactive comic about falling in love. The music, the visuals, and the gameplay combine flawlessly to create a round, quieting, fulfilling experience. Oh! And it was made, in part, by the person who made Monument Valley, which is my favorite mobile game. This is a wholly different kind of thing, but just as beautiful.
There was a time last summer when I watched this video every day. The song is top-notch, and I don’t think I will ever get tired of it.
This word has come across my radar twice this week. First, in this episode of Krista Tippett’s On Being, where Brené Brown talks about her love of the concept, and refers to its Latin root, paradoxum, which she explains as meaning “seemingly absurd, but really true.”
“We are not a combination of either/ors,” Tippett replies. “We are just this multitude of both/ands, at any given moment.”
The second time I bumped into it was in "The Good Room," Frank Chimero’s article about the Internet, in which he describes paradoxes as being “a sign that you are at the heart of the truth.”
So leap into the paradoxes. We’re not either/ors. We contain multitudes.
What about you? Any recommendations?