Criticism

Here Is Your Open Thread

Really, I’d never do this.

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We Need a New Kind of Financial Advice

The vast majority of us, try as we might, are not going to be the Rich Dad, living off passive income while some hapless schlubs labor for our cigar-smoking benefit. We are going to be the schlubs. We need financial literature that recognizes this. We don’t need advice on how to be rich and idle. We need concrete tips for effectively treading water.

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The Artist Survival Simulator Divides Life Between Work and Art

There’s a new browser game in town: the Artist Survival Simulator. I’m hoping there’s a secret joke I’m not getting, because every time you click “work for a living” you lose artistic inspiration, and every time you blow your savings on an inspirational excursion you get more excited about making art.

That’s not how any artists I know work.

Making a game that states “if you get a day job, you’ll lose inspiration and never create art” is a bit of a dangerous presumption. Maybe the most dangerous presumption an artist can get in his or her head.

I want a game that expresses the complexities of balancing a day job and making art while acknowledging that the day job is nearly always part of the artistic equation.

What do you all think?

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“Unable to Handle My Candy”: The Maureen Dowd Story

Grey Lady columnist Maureen Dowd wrote an already-classic column this week about purchasing some edible, legal marijuana in Colorado. Things did not go well for America’s favorite opinionated redhead and her last dance with Mary Jane:

The caramel-chocolate flavored candy bar looked so innocent, like the Sky Bars I used to love as a child. … But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.

I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.

I remember that feeling! One time when I got high — also legally, in Copenhagen — I too ate more hash cookies than I should have because there was no guidance on the packaging and what started out as a lark in an art museum turned into hours by myself in my dorm room climbing the walls. I crawled to the phone and stared at the keypad, willing myself to remember the phone number of my parents back in DC. Somehow, I decided, if I could remember all ten digits in order, that would save me.

Like Liz Lemon, I was never good at drugs. Once, in college, I smoked up with a friend before a QSA meeting and when I got there realized I had somehow put my knee-high Doc Marten boots on the wrong feet. MEMORIES. The key takeaway here is that the Internet is making lots of fun of Maureen “The Fires of MoDo” Dowd, and Colorado is giggling uncontrollably all the way to the bank.

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What Can We Do About Subconscious Racism?

Ester Bloom has joined Ta-Nehisi Coates in urging us to have a frank conversation about how to fix the massive racial injustices that inhere in our country. Coates proposes monetary reparations as an institutional remedy for the crushing toll of slavery, Jim Crow terrorism, and subsequent racist public policy. But what about the deeply ingrained attitudes, especially among white people, that perpetuate racial injustice? I don’t mean the cartoon plutocrat racism of Donald Sterling, which is ultimately a distracting anomaly. I mean the subtle favoritism that crops up in the choices we make when dating, hiring, and choosing where to live—the implicit racism we never consider. What’s the reparations for that, and are we willing to pay the price?

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Ready? Let’s Talk Reparations

Have we all had a chance to read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s cri de coeur about the historical argument for reparations? If not, take this opportunity to grab a cup of coffee and dive into it. We’ll wait. The piece is well-written and well-argued; you will emerge from it with a much deeper appreciation of the effects of several hundred years of Constitutionally-enshrined, community-enforced, and, up until only a few decades ago, government-supported white supremacy.

Spoiler alert: He isn’t asking us to agree on a dollar figure. He wants America as a country to face up to the facts and have the conversation:

We must imagine a new country. Reparations — by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences — is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely. … I believe that wrestling publicly with these questions matters as much as — if not more than — the specific answers that might be produced.

The Internet being what it is, naturally some interesting response pieces have come in and are worth reading in conjunction with TNC’s:

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“That’s Not Sharing, It’s Selling.”

Enlighten your capitalism today with the always-incisive Susie Cagle’s illustrated report back from the “Share” conference. It’s so good.

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Eating on Airplanes

Why is airplane food often so bad?

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Updates on the Week’s News, Which is Jill Abramson

Jill Abramson’s salary at the Times has been revealed and yes, it was lower than her male predecessor’s was.

Salary transparency can be tricky but is important for exactly this reason, argues Felix Salmon.

Here’s some (relatively recent) salary transparency, via NYMag. You’re welcome!

To Politico, the bottom line is clear: Abramson is NOT a feminist martyr.

The Washington Post politely suggests that she is. The Wire agrees, only with less politeness and more supernova-strength sarcasm:

Lesson: Don’t politely ask anyone anything. Stare at your male colleagues until you can see their last paycheck behind their eyes.

Lesson: Be confident, but definitely don’t ever argue with men in your office,especially if you’re their superior or they’re your superior.

Lesson: Before you Lean In, think about whether or not your male boss will be inconvenienced by that lean.

Politico, citing anonymous sources, calls the Washington Post and The Wire “pushy.”*

By the way, lest this fact get lost in the shuffle, Abramson was very good at her job:

Women are sometimes advised to keep a low profile and let their work “speak for itself.” But in Abramson’s case, eight Pulitzers did not speak loudly enough. Revenue growth did not speak loudly enough. Successful new digital products did not speak loudly enough.

Regardless, she has decided not to accept an honorary degree from Brandeis after all this spring, meaning poor Brandeis has now had two cancelations. Unless the students of Wake Forest object, though, she will be giving their commencement address as scheduled.

*Dramatization, may not have happened

In cheerier news, some nice college kids found $40,000 in a couch they had bought at a thrift store. As Upworthy would say, WHAT HAPPENED NEXT MIGHT SURPRISE YOU:

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The Female Sociopath: Myth or Monster? Mythic Monster?

Recent Billfold chatter Merve Emre has a new piece up on Digg about the explosion of female sociopaths in pop culture, from books (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl) to TV (House of Cards, Damages) and beyond.

And so we lean in to the cultural logic of the female sociopath, for she is the apotheosis of the cool girl power that go-getter “feminists” have peddled to frustrated women over the last half-decade. The female sociopath doesn’t want to upend systems of gender inequality, that vast and irreducible constellation of institutions and beliefs that lead successful women like Gillian Flynn to decree that certain women, who feel or behave in certain ways, are “dismissible.” The female sociopath wants to dominate these systems from within, as the most streamlined product of a world in which well-intentioned people blithely invoke words like arbitrage, leverage, capital, and currency to appraise how successfully we inhabit our bodies, our selves.

Emre’s using language very deliberately here: she starts a paragraph about feminism with Sheryl Sandberg’s motto “lean in” and ends with a nod to that hippie empowerment classic “our bodies, ourselves.” Even though she says here that “the female sociopath doesn’t want to upend systems of gender inequality,” later, she goes on to explore the idea that “as female sociopaths, these women are winning battles that benefit all women, everywhere, in their fight for equality.” In other words, sociopathy = feminism, taken to a logical extreme! Women become sociopaths to succeed, and even if they’re not doing it FOR feminism, it benefits feminism. I’m … not sure about that?

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There’s Probably No Hope for Consumers Who Aren’t Filthy Rich

My recent interactions with my former bank have prompted me to think about the feedback loop between consumers and the companies that squeeze profit from serve them. We like to think that when companies do something stupid or abusive, market competition will allow us to express our ire by taking our hard-earned dollars somewhere else. But what happens when that just doesn’t work? (Spoiler: it mostly never works. We just get screwed and keep coming back for more.)

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How Corrupt Ukrainian Presidents Do Money

According to The New Republic, fabulously:

Over the weekend, Kiev saw an exhibit of all the sumptuous ridiculousness deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych had stashed in his villa at Mezhyhirya, just outside of Kiev. It’s stunning that the president of a country constantly teetering on the brink of economic collapse had the funds to purchase so many posh, unnecessary things, including countless images of, well, himself.

The pictures must be seen to be believed.

If you were a despot and could use funds from your struggling former Soviet Union state to commission whatever portraits and paintings you wanted, would you choose to make your dong look so negligible? #RealTalk

Photo courtesy of novayagazeta.ru

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