remains of the day 17 jan

Illness last week means that I have quite a few links that I’ve been sitting on:

  • A pretty heartbreaking piece by Daniel Wakin in the New York Times Magazine about the process of selling expensive instruments when the virtuosi who play them decide that it’s time to let them go. It delves into the heady emotion of making that decision, as well as the intricate interplay between the current owners, the desire to pass them onto musicians of high caliber, and the market forces that push these instruments outside the means of the musicians that would most be able to make use of them.
  • Oliver Sava tried to write a piece for the A.V. Club about what makes a good all-ages comic book, but ended up writing an article defining all good all-ages media. It took me right back to those children’s books that have persisted in my memory, those that still give me pleasure today, and also took me back to a more uncritical time where I took so much pleasure out of just keeping my head in a book.
  • Arizona is crazy fucking racist.
  • One part of the origin story of Olivier Messiaen’s transcendent Quartet for the End of Time is that it was written while the composer was imprisoned in a Nazi detention camp. On An Overgrown Path takes a look at that story and finds that it’s a little more complicated than that. I was struck by what a fine line it is here between truth-telling and mud slinging. After all, what really is worse: incorrectly labeling Messiaen as a Vichy collaborator, or holding him up as a symbol of artistic resistance against Nazi oppression while he was a (by all accounts, low key) collaborator?
  • Constant affirmation vs. earning praise. Good job in trying to change the status quo, but it’s stupid that this is an argument.
  • The Atlantic has a slideshow and interview with one of the graphic designers that created posters for ACT UP to promote awareness of the AIDS crisis, which is where the header image comes from. I wasn’t that familiar with the posters, and I was shocked and refreshed by how honest and direct some of the messages. Gay activism has become less confrontational since then, I feel, and I just can’t imagine a major campaign with the text “One in every sixty-one babies is born [HIV positive.] So why is the media telling us heterosexuals aren’t at risk? Because these babies are black. Because these babies are hispanic.” In the realm of public health, it seems like we could use a similar campaign to outline the general population health benefits of things like the HPV vaccine.
  • Alexis Madrigal has a piece up about how Radiolab is/has changed the sound/approach of radio broadcasters. First off, nothing that he says doesn’t also apply better to This American Life, a show that I think has more directly influenced the way that NPR news edits their segments, the subjects they cover, and the way they conduct their man-on-the-street interviews. Second, I really hope not. I don’t think the show dumbs down their science that much, and I appreciate their editing and sound design, but it drives me batshit crazy the ways that Krulwich and Abumrad play dumb when they’re interviewing their subjects and summing up information. It’s not that I disagree with the approach, I just think they need to be better at their jobs. It strikes me as patronizing, transparently false, and deeply annoying. /minirant
  • For some reason, Caitlyn Flanagan is in my mental “treat with caution” file for writers, but she has written an absolutely brilliant piece on Joan Didion for The Atlantic. I may have more to say on this later, it’s quite good. For what it’s worth, I’ve always appreciated Didion for the way she writes about California.
  • One of my friends, artist Lucy Bellwood, is offering two issues of one of her titles, Baggywrinkles, available for free on her website. Go check it out.

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