Why the Most Beautiful Poems Defy Understanding

Longreads

At The Walrus, Matthew Zapruder examines his relationships with poetry and with his father. Despite being two men with great facility for precise language, they were unable to use it to bridge the distance between them. In likening poems to people, Zapruder says that the most beautiful thing about the poems most important to him is that their meaning cannot fully be articulated.

I have found that the poems which have meant the most to me, to which I return again and again, retain a central unsayability, a place where the drama of truly looking for something essential that can never quite be reached is expressed. Somewhere in the poem, or at its end, knowingness stops. You can feel the intelligence in the poem truly exploring, clambering along the words and down the page, and also that intelligence stopping at what cannot be known. Those moments where a…

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When media stops being social. Pt. I

HANNAH BRENCHER

When Instagram stories first popped up on my radar, I thought to myself: I am not getting involved with this. This is just another form of media that will suck away my time and attention span. I am going to resist.
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I resisted for about two months before I was right, up in the front, consuming and producing stories for my Instagram followers. Suddenly, everything became important. Making soup became important and worthy of documenting. Going for walks with my husband became important and worthy of documenting. Little things– things that used to be simple and all my own– became packaged and delivered out into the world. My life was ready to be consumed.
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We’ve seen the good, the negative, and the somewhat weird effects because of that delivery. We’ve been in public places where people come up to us and classify us as “couple goals.” We get…

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Forced Intimacy: An Ableist Norm

Leaving Evidence

Photo of my wheelchair in a dark room, silhouetted against a doorway, with a large shirt outlined in lights hanging against a dark wall.

“Forced Intimacy” is a term I have been using for years to refer to the common, daily experience of disabled people being expected to share personal parts of ourselves to survive in an ableist world. This often takes the form of being expected to share (very) personal information with able bodied people to get basic access, but it also includes forced physical intimacy, especially for those of us who need physical help that often requires touching of our bodies. Forced intimacy can also include the ways that disabled people have to build and sustain emotional intimacy and relationships with someone in order to get access—to get safe, appropriate and good access.

I have experienced forced intimacy my entire life as a disabled child, youth and adult…

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Failed Promises: A ‘Bachelorette’ Reading List

Longreads

The Bachelorette came to an end on Monday when Rachel Lindsay, the first black Bachelorette, broke up with Peter and chose Bryan. Seven million viewers collectively released the most exasperated sigh they could muster in an already-exhausting year. Lost love is as horrible to experience on a television screen as it is in real life. 

As a first-time viewer, Rachel Lindsay drew me in with her easy smile, fiery confidence, and honest vulnerability. It felt powerful; a woman of color commanding both the camera and a palette of men eager to woo her. Watching the show was like vicariously living what I thought my twenties would be like: fun, flirty, and carefree. Her dark skin was a desired luxury in Bachelorette paradise. Rachel played the rejecter, not the rejected, and she didn’t…

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Shot on film! For real!

Jackson Bart's Photography Blog

Just kidding. Just playing with some cheesy Photoshop plugins.

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When I was viewing the 2017 Summer Open exhibit at the Aperture Gallery (which I previously blogged about), I came across one portfolio of photos which had these types of film borders. My first impression was “this photographer used an Instragam filter!” Honest, that’s what I thought. These types of retro filter are very popular on Instagram.

Upon further reflection, I assumed a prestigious organization like Aperture wouldn’t allow those kinds of borders unless the photos were really shot on film. The borders show that he was using Kodak Portra 400. I tried to look closely at the photos to see if I could notice any film grain, but I didn’t. The most obvious giveaway that the photos were shot on a film camera is that they weren’t as sharp as photos from most of the…

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Ambition, Restlessness, Progress, Purpose

Flowers for a Lab Mouse

Growing up, my sister and I had divergent approaches to collecting souvenirs. We had to strategize for a reason; we couldn’t get everything we wanted, after all, give our family’s modest background. She always preferred knick-knacks. It was, I think, a combination of 1) her wanting to commemorate multiple aspects of the trip in question and 2) her inability to choose between all the various things she liked. Me, I waited. I’d hold back until I saw the one item that captured my imagination – and that was that. I recall this contrast in styles most vividly after a trip to Sea World. My sister brought home a little crystal, a bookmark, a ring, maybe more. Meanwhile, I had just this Shamu balancing metal ball contraption. To be honest, I think we were both a bit envious of the other’s approach. But that’s how we were built.

I have…

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The Beauty (and Predictability) of a Slot Machine’s Algorithm

Longreads

A Russian mathematician from St. Petersburg named Alex has quite the talent: he reverse engineers the pseudorandom number generators (PRNGs) that govern how slot machines behave. His team of field agents roams casinos around the world and “milk” the machines whose algorithms they’ve cracked.

Here’s how it works: an agent records a video of a targeted slot machine, sends the footage back to St. Petersburg, and Alex analyzes the slot’s behavior to determine the moment it will pay out. “By using these cues to beat slots in multiple casinos,” writes Brendan Koerner in Wired, “a four-person team can earn more than $250,000 a week.”

After interviewing Alex on the record, Koerner tells the story of this programmer-turned-hacker and what he views as his Robin Hood-like crusade against the global gambling industry.

In the course of reverse engineering Novomatic’s software, Alex encountered his first PRNG. He was instantly fascinated…

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Body Positivity Nudges Plus-Size Fashion Forward

Longreads

For New York Magazine‘s The Cut, Ashley C. Ford writes about the burgeoning plus-size fashion business, and how much of a surprise missed opportunity it’s consistently been for major manufacturers and retailers. When you consider that some 67 percent of women reportedly wear size 14 or larger, it’s remarkable how hard it is for them — Ford included — to find a selection of “fun and quality” clothes designed specifically with larger bodies in mind.

Ford comes at the story from a personal angle, not only as a plus-size customer, but also as someone who was discouraged away from her dream of designing plus-size clothes.

I began my freshman year of college double-majoring in fashion merchandising and apparel design. At the end of my first semester, a professor told me I would be better off changing my major. I had earned an A in her course —…

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Radical Candor and Radical Comfort: The Road to Danish-ness

Longreads

Andrew Richdale wants to feel at home in Denmark, but is he ready for the brutal (to an American) honesty? His first forays into communicating like a Dane, chronicled in a fun piece in Saveur, leave him nowhere to hide.

“Well, to be honest—”

“No!” Bo snaps. “That! That was not Danish. We do not say ‘To be honest’ in Denmark! What you just told me is ‘Oh, now I will begin being honest.’ To be Danish is to not be afraid of saying exactly what is happening at any moment, with elegance and wit.”

I ask Bo how to shake the feeling that I’m a self-conscious visitor passing through a foreign land—how to, instead, feel I belong.

“Do you ever Instagram certain obligatory places or dishes to prove you’ve properly ‘done’ somewhere? I know it’s bullshit but—”

“Andrew! What is this thing you have, this real you…

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‘You Start Hiring Job-Quitters’

Longreads

When everyone is encouraged to think of herself as a business, working for anyone else can only ever be considered training ground.

As companies have divested themselves of long-term obligations to workers (read: pensions, benefits, paths to advancement), employees (read: job-seekers) have developed an in-kind taste for short-term, commitment-free work arrangements. Their aim in landing any given job has since become landing another job elsewhere, using the job as an opportunity to develop transferable skills — and then to go ahead and transfer. The appeal of any given job becomes how lucrative it will be to quit.

At Aeon, Ilana Gershon describes how this calculus of quitting changes workplaces dynamics, management techniques, division of labor, and the nature of being co-workers. “After all,” Gershon writes, “everyone works in the quitting economy, and everyone knows it.”

If you are a white-collar worker, it is simply rational to view yourself first and…

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