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Civitas Aurelianorum.

So I’ve finally slowly been picking away at Treme, in part because I’m feeling a bit of a jones for some of the world below the Mason-Dixon, but mostly because I want that taste of systemically languid flânerie about a quintessentially urban warp and woof without, you know, all the fucking poe-leece the fucking Wire brings to the table (though there are still cops, of course there are cops, Jesus, the cops), and anyway: this point I’m making is entirely evanescent, but nonetheless: it is of some interest that the Baltimore of the Wire is, to the extent that it’s not only an inside joke, but a goddamn plot point, an insular world sufficient almost entirely unto itself, but—the New Orleans of Treme is almost from the very beginning dependent upon not nearly entirely but still to a surprising extent within the fiction coterminal with New York City. —But in the meanwhile, the car is making this very loud noise, and I’m supposed to be able to walk away from the day-job for a week-long vacation that involves a lot of driving just next week. But at least this verde margarita’s cold and spicy? At least.

The fingers in your glove.

Yeah, I know, but I’ve been busy over yonder, epic-wise. Look! New chapbook day! Again!

No. 36: so powerfully strong

In which, knowing nothing of necromancy—

I haven’t read Gideon the Ninth, and I’ll be upfront, here: I’m not all that likely to, which is really no skin off of anyone’s nose. This isn’t about Gideon the Ninth, or Tamsyn Muir, who I’m sure is a lovely person, for all I’ve never met or interacted with her. No: this starts off being about something somebody said to kick off a review of Gideon the Ninth:

A lot of the best recent science fiction and fantasy stories are notable for how well they color outside the lines. Disregarding genre expectations and freely borrowing tools from other literary traditions, a slew of writers are reinventing previously hide-bound forms. This is partially a progression of craft, but it’s also possible because of broader cultural phenomena—fantastical tropes, once restricted to a few niche markets, now dominate mainstream media. As a result, storytellers have to do less reinventing of the wheel each time they mix far-fetched elements—even the most general audiences don’t need the lore of vampires or zombies explained to them, so it takes very little narrative lifting to add such ghouls to an unexpected setting.

I’m not sure I can quite express how shiveringly wrong I find that passage, or the thought behind it, and I hasten to remind you that I haven’t read Gideon the Ninth, and so I cannot possibly be said to be saying that it is guilty of taking very little effort in its narrative lifting, just because it’s what someone else gestured toward when wanting to talk about it. —So I turn to what Paul Kincaid said, about another book I’m frankly not likely ever to pick up:

Actually, this use of language for effect rather than for sense, this notion that if you bundle enough images together somehow they will create an impression of something awesome, brings me to another problem I have with the story. There is a carelessness here that is evident both in the way the language is used and the story that the language is used to tell. When we are told, for instance, that “Red wins a battle between starfleets in the far future,” you wonder, given that the characters wander freely back and forth through time, what is meant by far future? Far future of what? That is thoughtless writing. But then, on the evidence of this story, I don’t think that either El-Mohtar or Gladstone has sat down to work out what a time war might be like and how it might be structured. Presumably Red and Blue are immortal (or at least as near immortal as makes no difference) agents who travel backwards and forwards through time changing events in order to create a different future that favours their side. So far so simple, but then Red tells us that “strands bud Atlantises to thwart her,” that 30 or 40 times she has walked away from a different sinking island. So there are multiple timelines; changing one event doesn’t change the future, it just births a new timeline. In which case, what are they fighting for? What could possibly constitute a victory, or a defeat, in such a situation. If everything goes wrong, then there is another timeline where everything has gone right. And if there can be no victory, there can be no cause for war. How do you go to war with an enemy who has just got everything they want in a different timeline? Over and over again throughout the novel I came up against the same notion: that none of this makes sense. There is a time war not because there is any functional purpose in the war, but because the authors need their two lovers to be on opposite sides in a conflict. This is Romeo and Juliet with two Juliets but otherwise no change: starcrossed lovers on either side of an age-old quarrel they cannot repair, needing to keep their affair secret, and leading to seeming death. Make the houses of Montague and Capulet into the enemy camps in a time war and lo you render the whole thing science fiction.

Which not only gets at the shortcomings of sidestepping such narrative lifting, but also demonstrates how pervasive that sidestepping is, or has been, or could become, in SF as it’s currently spoke, and begins to get at how frustrating those sidesteps can be, but, I mean, you don’t need me to tell you that, you saw WandaVision, right? —So I turn what William Empson said, about old bad poetry: “This belief,” he said, of the notion that atmosphere—the taste left in the head—is all, and conveyed in some fundamentally unknowable way as a byproduct of meaning, independent of grammar, unsusceptible of analysis:

This belief may in part explain the badness of much nineteenth-century poetry, and how it came to be written by critically sensitive people. They admired the poetry of previous generations, very rightly, for the taste it left in the head, and, failing to realise that the process of putting such a taste into a reader’s head involves a great deal of work which does not feel like a taste in the head while it is being done, attempting, therefore, to conceive a taste in the head and put it straight on to their paper, they produced tastes in the head which were in fact blurred, complacent, and unpleasing.

The taste in the head—the sylph—is the shiveringly unspeakable concatenation of desire, doubt, belief, of wonder and of terror, brought on by seeing a dinosaur; one does not put down that taste merely by showing the audience a dinosaur. You can’t make me feel like I’m in a room with a vampire by telling me a vampire has entered the room. The narrative lift is all. —And if it turns out your narrative lifting is up to the task of making me feel the actual staggering weight of walking away from thirty or forty sinking Atlantises (why else reach for such overkill?), one after an apocalyptic other, or putting me in the same room as a snarkily magical génocidaire, well. —It’s not you, honest. It’s me. Maybe I’m getting old.

Sounding brass; tinkling cymbal.

Oh, dear. —Bryant Durrell, friend of the pier, went and remembered something I wrote (checks dates) seventeen years ago, and while it’s not that I wish that he hadn’t (one is pleased, after all, to be remembered), still: his assessment of me-then as “overly charitable” is, itself quite graciously charitable; me-now, looking back over that intractably defensive meander, would rather call me-then “gormlessly naïve.” —But time has passed, great seething gobs of the stuff, and the only benefit one can scrabble from its passing is whatever might pass for wisdom: I’d like to think I’ve become a wee bit better at reading things, and reading how they might be read; much less sanguine, anyway, about an author’s ability to keep such material from turning in their hands and pointing the way it’s always going to point without inhuman effort, whatever intentions might charitably be imparted to them in the use of it. —There’s so much more and other more desperately needed work to be done, before we can set ourselves to play in fields like that.

#HarshWritingAdvice.

I need you to understand when they tell you “The stakes aren’t high enough,” they don’t mean: make the stakes higher. Sweep it all up. Go big or go home. They mean, “Make me give a fuck already about what the hell’s already at stake.”

We interrupt this narrowcast.

So the first chapbook of the fourth volume premièred on the web back in December; the second chapbook will make its debut one week from today, on February 8th, and appear in Monday-Wednesday-Friday installments for the next two weeks. So, hey: words are getting written. —In the meanwhile: if you do enjoy the work being done by the epic, or the notion of the work the epic would like to be doing, might I ask you to consider, for a moment, at least, supporting it with your patronage? Depending on the level at which you subscribe, you might already have gotten to see the story-time calendar I’m using to keep my discourse-time untangled; you might already have (in EPUB, MOBI, or PDF form) a copy of that next chapter, weeks before the (wonderful, lovely, couldn’t get by without ’em) peanut gallery has a chance to read it; your name might well be on an envelope I’m addressing tomorrow, to ship you a paper copy. Do consider it? —And, that consideration having now been taken, we return you to your regularly scheduled scroll.

No. 35: many Christian eyes.

A Song of Graphs and Quants.

Why were the novels of Game of Thrones so popular?

I don’t know, ah—okay, so, an experienced wordsmith well-connected in both the publishing and entertainment industries had the good fortune to have put out the third book of his well-enough received epic fantasy just as it became clear Peter Jackson had bottled a rather prodigious quantity of lightning with his filmic adaptation of Tolkien’s epic fantasy, leading to just about every half-viable piece of epically fantastic IP getting optioned by this production company, or that; being well-connected, but also experienced, said wordsmith was able to negotiate the sort of deal with the sort of people more likely than not to make a passably decent go of it; said go was made, a television serial, in time to catch enough of the lightning coming down from Jackson’s movie high, hungry for more, that it was given time enough and clout to build on that audience: thus, popularity, to such a degree that now everyone refers to “the novels of Game of Thrones,” which is the name of the since-concluded television show, and not “the novels of A Song of Ice and Fire,” which is the name of the as-yet unfinished series of books.

A new study from @PNASNews suggests one reason why @GRRMspeaking’s A Song of Ice and Fire was such a hit—the average number of social interactions main characters have, chapter-to-chapter, is just like real life.

Or, sure, okay. Maybe that’s it.

There’s lies, damn lies, statistics, and then there’s stuff like this, which has gone through a couple of waves of popular acclaim in the sorts of circles on social media that go for, you know, network science, and data analytics, and doorstopping wodges, and premium cable sexposition. —It doesn’t lie, no, and certainly there’s not the faintest whiff of damnation about it, but a whole lot of mathematical wheels are set to spinning with a great deal of show and rapid-fire patter, and the crowd does cheer for a moment or a tweet to see it run, but it doesn’t get us much of anywhere at all when the dust settles.

Significance: We use mathematical and statistical methods to probe how a sprawling, dynamic, complex narrative of massive scale achieved broad accessibility and acclaim without surrendering to the need for reductionist simplifications. Subtle narrational tricks such as how natural social networks are mirrored and how significant events are scheduled are unveiled. The narrative network matches evolved cognitive abilities to enable complex messages be conveyed in accessible ways while story time and discourse time are carefully distinguished in ways matching theories of narratology. This marriage of science and humanities opens avenues to comparative literary studies. It provides quantitative support, for example, for the widespread view that deaths appear to be randomly distributed throughout the narrative even though, in fact, they are not.

Eh. —Two empirical claims are made: that the cast of characters and the social networks formed within the books therefrom comport with the sorts of networks observable in the real world, and theoretical cognitive limits of association such as Dunbar’s number; and that the distribution of the deaths of notable characters appears random within the discourse time of the story, but comports with a power-law distribution when charted against the fictional calendar of story time, similar in value to those of real-world human activities. —From these, an implication is drawn: that the perceived quality of the books is due at least in part to how they fulfill these two claims. (Oh and but also: our research is cool and worthwhile and you should cite it so we can do more of it, but that usually goes without saying.)

The first claim, then, which is based on a dataset “extracted manually” by one of the authors “carefully reading” the books over several months, noting each character and every interaction between them, and entering the data into spreadsheets divided per book and chapter; interactions being defined as either a meeting portrayed in the text, or when the text makes it clear that the two characters had at some point interacted. (“In case of doubts regarding the data,” we are told, opinions were “calibrated through discussion. Consensus assured that no automated calibration method was required.”) —This process resulted in a network graph you might’ve seen running around:

Fig. 1.

All told, 2,007 unique characters were tabulated from the five books written to date, of which 1,806 have interactions with at least one other character, which raises any of a number of questions about those 201 solipsists, like who were they, and what were they up to, and do they raise any questions themselves about the methodology used to determine and count up interactions, but we breeze right by these to learn that the average number of characters appearing in any chapter fluctuates quite a bit, but averages around 35, the typical size of (contemporary) bands of hunter-gatherers, the cast of your run-of-the-mill Shakespeare play, or an English literature department; that main characters tend to have larger networks of interactions than other characters (or is it that characters with larger networks of interactions become main characters?); that the networks of point-of-view characters tend to average right around 150 or so: pretty much Dunbar’s number; and that these networks tend to have a high degree of assortativity, a quantitative measurement of homophily—a feature of real-world social networks, like liking like—but assortativity’s measuring pretty much whether nodes with lots of links tend to link to other nodes with lots of links, and not so much, you know, whether the node’s from Westeros, or the Free Cities, or whose point of view is the chapter they’re in at the moment.

I’m not here to quibble with their figuring—I can barely tell a python script from a hypnotized snake. What I’m here to quibble with is what’s done with them, or rather what’s thought to have been done with them: after all, as we’re told, the paper suggests the books are a hit at least in part because the number of social interactions entertained by the main characters mirrors those you’d see in real life—but. But:

  1. It’s not demonstrated that this quality is necessary for works to be popular;
  2. it’s not demonstrated this quality’s unique to these books, or to popular books as a general rule.

We’ve got a dataset, and a description of a dataset, and some gestures towards comparisons with other, possibly maybe similar sets, but in very limited contexts: we are pointed toward Shakespeare (always a sign of Quality), but only in comparing the average number of characters per chapter to the average cast list of two hours’ traffic of a stage; we are pointed toward the social networks to be found in more mythic sources such as Beowulf, the Táin, the Iliad, various Icelandic sagas (mostly to the detriment of Beowulf and the Táin)—aaand that’s about it.

The study “suggests,” perhaps, to be sure, but no work’s done toward such a suggestion. —Perhaps instead it’s true that, much as with plots, or dialogue, a certain degree of simplification and stylization in the social networks of sprawling casts turns out to be a hallmark of popular serials and epics, and A Song of Ice and Fire succeeds in spite of its verisimilitude on this point, and not because of it. —Perhaps instead it’s the case that this vaunted verisimilitude is basically an epiphenomenon: that (without conscious effort otherwise) things built by human brains tend to comport to the patterns and limits inherent to things human brains can build. Without directly comparing this dataset with other datasets also “manually extracted” from other works, we can’t even begin to know which way to turn, much less begin to suggest we hare off in that direction.

Instead of comparing the average cast sizes of chapters and plays, why not more directly compare the network graphs of these books with those generated by the intertwining casts of the history plays from Richard II to Richard III–plays directly about, after all, one of the stated inspirations for Ice and Fire. Instead of borrowing the glory of such stonkingly obvious Paragons of Quality (mythology! Shakespeare!), why not compare them against those of other epic fantasies: Tolkien, sure, okay, but also Ice and Fire’s far more direct progenitor, or neighbors such as Eddings, Jordan, Donaldson, Lackey, Elliott, Hobb, or Kurtz. —Hell, we’re splashing about in the digital humanities: imagine what we might’ve learned by comparing the network graphs of the books, with those generated by the television show!

There are even implications within their dataset that could be teased out into something more than a suggestion. We’re told, for instance, two kinds of interaction were noted: either explicit, or implicit. What’s the overall distribution of these two types—more of the one, or the other? About even? Are there characters whose networks buck these averages? If so, which way, and by how much? And are these characters of a certain type? —We don’t know. (Peering at the data itself, it looks like they didn’t record whether an encounter was explicit or implicit—but they did note whether an encounter was friendly, or hostile, which raises further questions admittedly beyond the scope of this already sprawling epic.) —And there’s a rather definite bobble in their network graphs just after [SPOILER] the Red Wedding, described as a “suppression of assortativity,” but it’s mostly written off as a side effect of the close third person: “The deflated degrees of the masses relative to POV characters decrease homophily,” which, well. Is a degree of wistfulness I hadn’t expected to encounter in such an objective paper.

The second claim, regarding the distribution of the deaths of notable characters in discourse time as opposed to story time, is far less interesting—far more a case of looking for your car keys under the streetlight, or measuring only what the ruler you have in your hand can measure, and not what you need, or what’s actually there. To be sure, the distinction between discourse time and story time is an important one, thank you, Russian formalism, and it’s a useful crowbar to pry at Ice and Fire with, given its interwoven back-and-forth structure. And deaths, even in epic fantasy, are usually precise and unambiguous events—easily totted up. But the butcher’s bill of this study starts off at a steep discount:

We now turn to consider interdeath story time and interdeath discourse time to reveal an interesting difference between the underlying chronology and how the narrative is presented. For this purpose we consider only deaths which we deem to be significant. These are deaths of characters in the network who appear in more then one chapter. We apply this criterion to avoid the inclusion of the deaths of “cannon-fodder” characters whose main purpose in the story is to die immediately after they are introduced.

“The kings, the princes, the generals and the whores,” as Martin himself said at one point; “But few of any sort, and none of name,” to drag Shakespeare back into this for a moment. —But much as you have to start somewhere, you have to stop somewhere else, or you’ll never be able to count it all, and the attentions that must be paid to protagonists over and above the spear-carriers and supernumeraries are injustices also beyond the scope of this too, too sprawling post. So we will accept their limitation, it’s precisely defined, not subject to subjective notions of significance, however much we might rankle at “cannon-fodder.” —In terms of story time, the deaths are fixed to a timeline compiled by fans, thank you, crowd-sourcing, with necessary assumptions and approximations as noted; in terms of discourse time, though, the deaths are indexed according to, uh, which chapter they appear in. —That’s it. In terms of the “memorylessness” (a term of art doing a lot of unfortunate work in this context) of the interevent discourse time between one death and the next, it’s entirely down to the number of chapters between them. And I mean choosing whether to put an event in this chapter, or that? Is definitely a choice to be made, with effects to consider—but it’s considering structure at a strikingly crude level.

It is one that’s easily tabulated, though.

I mean, we know why the authors of this study went with character deaths, and tried to find some objective measurement of shock, or surprise, when analyzing Ice and Fire. They tell us why, themselves:

A distinguishing feature of Ice and Fire is that character deaths are perceived by many readers as random and unpredictable. Whether you are ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, heir to an ancient dynasty, or Warden of the North, your end may be nearer than you think. Robert Baratheon met his while boar hunting, Viserys Targaryen while feasting, and Eddard Stark when confessing a crime in an attempt to protect his children. Indeed, “Much of the anticipation leading up to the final season [of the TV series] was about who would live or die, and whether the show would return to its signature habit of taking out major characters in shocking fashion.” Inspired by this feature, we are particularly interested in deaths as signature events in Ice and Fire, and therefore, we study intervals between them.

“Signature events,” rather like the chintzy mint on the pillow provided by a chain hotel as part of its Signature Service, or the ghastly Signature Desert the front office wants waitstaff to push this month. —Let’s face it: there are really only two deaths, or death-laden events, in Ice and Fire that shock above and beyond the usual thrills and chills expected of any blood-soaked melodrama: the [SPOILER] Red Wedding, and the execution, at the end of the first book/season, of Eddard “Ned” Stark. And I guaran-damn-tee you, it wasn’t the memorylessness of the interevent discourse time that led to the surpassing jolt of either of those events: it was the fact that the sprawling epic had taken the time and effort to set up Ned, and Robb and also Catelyn, as protagonists, with all that that implies; the implicit promise of the stories we thought they were going to get was suddenly and rather brutally forestalled—and it’s that violation that juices the shock. The trick of it is to lend a patina of that shock to all the other deaths that are dealt in the course of the story; the bind is that, as the story progresses, the “real” protagonists become clear—and it’s clear what won’t be happening to them. —That bind’s an enormous part of why so much tension evaporates from the later seasons of the show; it’s also quite possibly one of the barriers to finishing the books at all.

But this is all my subjective opinion, though. It’s not like I’ve measured it objectively or anything.

But enough of this! (Too late! wail the punters; I tip my hat.) —If I’m hungry for more analysis of these books, I’ll more than likely to turn to something more like this in-depth analysis of the depiction of the Dothraki than any more network analysis. Once again, I’d aim a kick at this unfortunate XKCD strip:

Imposter, reprinted under the auspices of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

Working with objectively measurable quanta is not only easy, it’s sometimes deceptively useless.

Smothered.

Why on earth would anyone watch the nightly fascist divagations of Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson? —It’s not just the monotonously sour, pinch-faced homiletics of a Haw-Haw aspirant desperately trying to keep up with the Facebooked racism of his lessors, but also, apparently, every commercial break you’re gonna have to sit through a couple-three spots for those slipperily awful pillows, over and over and over and over again. Who does that to themselves?

Abaugurate.

“When I left there Wednesday, I was real happy and proud of our team,” said Kevin Grooms, who works in the Paint Shop. The white paint on the inaugural stands was completely finished, and they had made it through nearly three-quarters of the blue detail work. “We worked until probably twelve o’clock Wednesday. And the blue paint that was on the deck was actually still wet.”

“We came back on Thursday morning, and I mean, it was completely destroyed,” he said. “It was just totally demolished. The blue wet paint, they tracked it all over.”

There was also trash and debris covering the stands. “Besides the stands having a lot of debris on them, there was a lot of broken glass. And there was a significant amount of residue from the tear gas. It was very difficult cleaning up that area,” said Serock, who noted that the US Capitol Police provided important guidance on how to safely handle these items.

“It was a real mess, it was unbelievable. You just can’t imagine,” said Grooms. “We’re still in shock over it.” But his team worked through the weekend, “When I left there Sunday afternoon, that deck looked like it did Wednesday. Now, it’s pretty much down to touch-ups.”

via the staff of the Architect of the Capitol

Early yesterday morning, a knot of curious spectators stood on a corner of Connecticut Avenue, craning their necks over a procession of black SUVs and police cars to try to catch a glimpse of Biden. I asked one of the DC reporters standing there if she knew the best path through the cordon of checkpoints surrounding downtown. She glanced down at my unadorned neck and then said, in the manner that you would speak to the Official Rube Correspondent of the Hicksville Gazette, ​“Um, I think you need a credential to get down there.”

Because I try to avoid wearing press credentials out of both a philosophical belief that the experience of a journalist should mirror that of the general public and the fact that I often work at publications not considered fancy enough to be approved for press credentials, I was determined to navigate DC as any other citizen. It was true that you needed a credential to get anywhere close to the Capitol or even the National Mall, where you might be able to see or hear the actual ceremony. The series of scary-looking metal fences and concrete barriers that began all the way up at K Street, though, could be passed through, although the United States government did not seem to want anyone to be aware of that fact.

At every opening in the security fence, there stood a line of soldiers, with M‑16s, surrounded by a motley assortment of Secret Service and metro cops and FBI agents and Park Police. Concrete slabs were erected to funnel you down this imposing gauntlet of the security state. There was not a single sign saying, for example, ​“This Way to Inauguration,” or ​“Entrance Here,” or ​“Public Access,” or anything else. There was only the military checkpoint, the armed men in sunglasses, and the mostly empty streets. Even I, a basic white man, had to gather a fair amount of courage to approach the stone-faced soldier behind the nearest metal fence and ask if there was a way to get through.

“Oh yeah, you can walk right in here,” he said, gesturing to the terrifying prison-esque checkpoint. ​“These are open.”

Hamilton Nolan

Glad that’s sorted.

“As he puts it: ‘Aggressive retail short-term upside call buying flow can propel equities higher—not because of the total size of the retail wallet, but because of the high leverage and strong acceleration effect of high-gamma weekly options’.” —Tracy Alloway, quoting Benn Eifert

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled

was convincing Democrats that “political capital” is a fungible, depletable resource.

A frozen peach of Serendip.

In searching for something more from William Empson on Edmund Spenser, I happened upon a listing for Radical Spenser, which, I mean, you know, okay, I’m in, but I didn’t want to give Bezos any more money, so I went poking about the Powell’s catalog, and as it turns out they don’t have it at all (recently cutting bonds with the river might maybe have something to do with it; that’s me, always with the edge cases), but: but. —There, between Cold Service Spenser [sic] and Jane Mayer’s Dark Money was, well, this striking bit of in-house marketing copy:

At Powell’s, a lot of our inventory is hand-selected, and hand-promoted. And a lot of our inventory is not. With several million titles available online at any given moment, complete hand-curation is not possible. Unmasked by Andy Ngo came to us through an automatic data feed via one of our long-term and respected publishers, Hachette Book Group. We list the majority of their catalogue automatically, as do many other independent and larger retailers. We have a similar arrangement with other publishers.

This book will not be on our store shelves, and we will not promote it. That said, it will remain in our online catalogue. We carry books that we find anywhere from simply distasteful or badly written, to execrable, as well as those that we treasure. We believe it is the work of bookselling to do so.

And this is how it works, in an interconnected age: when one orders books from let’s say Powell’s, one does not order a book Powell’s currently has on their shelves, or stacked on pallets in their warehouse; just-in-time inventory management allows Powell’s to take your order, pass it along to a distributor, receive from them a copy of the book you want, and pass it back to you, taking a slice along the way, and all so quick you’re usually none the wiser. (Trust me: I’d know if Powell’s actually had 20 copies of one of my books a-waitin’ in a warehouse.) —The downside, of course, is the very lack of those hands, selecting, promoting, curating, which also funnily enough is why YouTube’s such a cesspool, and Twitter a hellsite, and Facebook the destroyer of all we might hold dear. Such a common tragedy.

It should also be noted that said long-term and respected publisher, Hachette Book Group, one of what used to be the Big Five (not counting Bezos), launders its profits through various imprints, so that the money from the street doesn’t get its stink on their name—unless someone like Powell’s goes and gives up the game, most folks would just see that milkshake boy’s first book was published by Center Street, home to such other distinguished authors as Jeanine Pirro, Newt Gingrich, and Donald Trump, Jr. —Undoubtedly, much like those distinguished others, this doxxing grifter will likewise benefit from the conservative book club bulk buy two-step—so, hey, congratulations?

Still: you’d think such cut-outs would make it easier, not harder, for an incomplete hand to still curate its inventory by saying no, not those, not the ones with that label. There being so many, and so carefully calibrated and all. —Funny, that.

Inter os atque offam.

There’s a world worth examining between this particular sentiment

TV cannot hold its own against reality. David Simon gets the closest.

—and this critical apprehension:

Created by Maryland native David Simon and Seattle native Eric Overmyer, the show hasn’t unpacked the received cultural stereotypes of the city so much as fine-tuned those stereotypes through compulsive attention to documentary detail. Treme dedicates itself so totally to showcasing unique local color at the micro-level that it transforms New Orleans into a weirdly hermetic dreamland—a gritty, self-celebratory refuge from the dull forces of mass culture, where characters walk around saying things like, “Po’boys aren’t sandwiches, they’re a way of life!” and “Where else could we ever live, huh?” In Treme’s world, brilliant jazz trumpeters are more interested in barbecue than fame, voodoo-Cajun bluesmen sacrifice live chickens on the radio, and fast-food chains exist only when junkie musicians need a paper sack to camouflage their stash. When Black people die, they’re given rousing jazz funerals; when white people die, their ashes are sprinkled into the Mississippi River during Mardi Gras. Few moments in the show exist outside of its notion of what New Orleans represents in contrast to the rest of the United States.

Every deed must formulate a gesture, but the gesture’s not enough to do the deed. —However delicately the lip might be painted, however intricate the figuring of the cup, it’s all for naught if wine is never sipped. (The trick, of course, is figuring out what’s cup, what’s lip, which the wine, and which the sip. It’s different every time you do it—and there, that’s the clomping foot of the world.)

Hey, nineteen.

So the pier’s been around for a while. (Apparently, bronze is the appropriate metal for any gifts on such an occasion.)

Ornament is not only produced by criminals, it itself commits a crime.

Go, read Vajra Chandrasekera on why it is we’re told to kill our darlings, and what it is we’re taught to listen for, when we want to know if it sounds like writing, and then go read Ray Davis on Swinburne, who sounds a lot like writing, and loved his darlings not wisely, but altogether well. —“Soon the streets of the town will glisten like white walls. Like Zion, the holy city, the metropolis of heaven. Then we shall have fulfilment,” sure, sure. We all know how that turned out.

Consequences.

“I’m quarantining now because I am convinced that where we ended up, in the secured room—where there were over 100 people and many were Republicans not wearing masks—was a superspreader event.” —Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D)