And here is the rest of the interesting stuff I read on the internet this year. This post has the good stuff.
History and Narrative
Japan’s Rent-a-family Industry Elif Batuman in the New Yorker writes about the Japanese rent-a-family industry, and tries it out, in a surprisingly heartwarming and philosophical essay.
Majoring in Crime John Falk in Vanity Fair recounts the rollercoaster tale of a major art heist undertaken by some slacker college kids in Lexington, Kentucky
The Day the Dinosaurs Died Douglas Preston in the New Yorker scouts a paleontological dig that could explain how the dinosaurs went extinct. Reading this made me unexpectedly hopeful. It’s a story about resilience, both at the individual level, and at the level of the entire planet.
The kooky story behind Santa Monica’s chicken car Jeff Goodman in the Santa Monica Daily Press answers the question that’s on everyone’s mind: what’s up with that weird chicken car?
Sha Na Na and the Invention of the Fifties George and Robert Leonard in Columbia College Today explain how they, members of a rock revival group, helped invent the Fifties of the popular imagination as a response to the unrest of 1968
Listen up, bitches, it’s time to learn incorrect things about someone you’ve never heard of Rosa Lyster in the Outline is crotchety at twitter history threadmakers
Profiles and the Arts
Vanishing Act Paul Collins in Lapham’s Quarterly recounts the life of a literary child star
Kathleen Hanna on what Bikini Kill Means Now Jenn Pelly in Pitchfork interviews Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre fame.
Rhiannon Giddens and What Folk Music Means John Jeremiah Sullivan in the New Yorker profiles his friend, the folk musician Rhiannon Giddens, and also adds in a lot of history of southern black folk music.
Making Plans for Daniel Nitsuh Abebe in Pitchfork with an old profile of songwriter and artist Daniel Johnston which I found when Johnston died earlier this year.
Andy Murray Deserves a Better Farewell Brian Phillips in the Ringer with an appreciation of tennis star Andy Murray
Rom-coms were corny and retrograde. Why do I miss them so much? Wesley Morris, in my opinion the best film critic writing today, laments the death of the romantic comedy
Gene Wolfe turned science fiction into high art Brian Phillips in the Ringer again, this time writing Gene Wolfe’s obituary
This essay is just Harry Potter for people who think comparing things to Harry Potter is stupid Rosa Lyster in the Outline is crotchety again, this time about the puffery of drawing meaningless but esoteric cultural connections
The Decade comic book nerds became our cultural overlords Alex Pappademas writes about the biggest film trend of the decade: the shift of superhero movies from lowbrow to middlebrow with artistic pretensions
Whoever Stole the Elven Weapon from a Princeton Student at Wawa, Please Return It Gawker publishes an e-mail set in a universe that is halfway between Middle Earth and our universe.
Jesus ratioed on twitter for saying ‘Love your enemies’ once again, the Babylon Bee does better satire than anyone.
https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/vocs/map.html# this isn’t an article but is super cool. Wear headphones.
The Manual The KLF explain how to have a Number One hit record (in the UK in 1988). They run out of steam by about midway week four, but until then, it’s pretty much the funnest thing I’ve read this year, witty and smart and hilarious, and as much enjoyment as you will get out of these links outside of that website that lets you make various quasi-orgasmic sounds (directly above)
Fiction and Personal Essay
The ethics of selling children Joel Goodwin at electron dance writes a confessional essay about his discomfort with confessional essays
The Madness of Spies John Le Carré in the New Yorker says we’re too spy obsessed. Hmmm… Just what a spy would say
In Ronnie’s Court what do you know, it’s John Le Carré in the New Yorker again, this time as he remembers his father
The Feminist Tony Tulathimutte in n+1 writes the life of a fictionalized incel. Featuring a lot of unpleasant people and interactions, and approximately zero of the other kind.
Gluten-Free Antarctica Maciej Ceglowski takes an Antarctic cruise with some picky New Zealanders and some surly Russian crewmembers
Obituaries for the Recently Canceled Sarah Lazarus in McSweeney’s writes cancel culture obituaries
Cash/Consent Lorelei Lee in n+1 mag on sex work, and on the difficulty of expressing the experience outside of a “victim” / “empowered feminist entrepreneur” dichotomy.
RIP Culture War Thread If, like me, you’ve been reading Scott Alexander for a while, you may have, like me, noticed that he was becoming more conservative, more uncharitable, whinier, and more defensive. And it may have made you sad, and also confused as you wondered why it was happening, again, if you’re like me. Here Scott soul searches and finds he also thinks that’s what’s been happening, and gives an answer to why.