“We are all refugees from our childhoods. And so we turn, among other things, to stories. To write a story, to read a story, is to be a refugee from the state of refugees. Writers and readers seek a solution to the problem that time passes, that those who have gone are gone and those who will go, which is to say every one of us, will go. For there was a moment when anything was possible. And there will be a moment when nothing is possible. But in between we can create.”—How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid (via)
How can we say that the leading name in online tax filing is, in fact, the smartest pick for most people? I spent more than a dozen hours clicking through each step of the online tax suites, as did Mark Francis, EA, a professional tax preparer with Lapidos, Leung & Francis, Inc. in San Francisco. Not as ourselves, but as four fictional individuals (the “Four Fake Filers,” as we called them) we designed to represent a comprehensive variety of possible tax-filing scenarios. We created them to test out different variables and conditions in the suites and represent the complexity in modern tax filing.
Katherine Dunn worked on the book for more than a decade. She also worked as a waitress, a bartender, and a house painter. In 1981, she started writing about boxing for local newspapers. (A collection of her boxing essays, One Ring Circus, was published in 2009.) Dunn also wrote an advice column for a local newspaper and did some radio and local TV commercial voice-over work. (Her voice is a scotch n’ cigarette alto that resonates warmly.) Occasionally she’d tell friends about her work in progress, Geek Love. “They would groan and say, ‘For Christ sake, Dunn, no one’s going to publish that, no one’s going to want to read that kind of crap.’ I figured, well, that’s probably true.”
Geek Love is a novel to be cherished, more so than most.
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
I have not read most of the big 19th — century novels that people consider “essential,” nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter. But this does not embarrass me. There are many films to see, many friends to visit, many walks to take, many playlists to assemble and many favorite books to reread. Life’s too short for anxious score-keeping. Also, my grandmother is illiterate, and she’s one of the best people I know. Reading is a deep personal consolation for me, but other things console, too.
“The internet has made everyone into a reviewer, and while everyone knows the vernacular of the critic, they often employ it to different ends. A good critic is trying to tell you what she has learned about herself from the reading of a particular piece of literature. A bad reviewer is often trying to tell you how smart he is by declaring whether or not he liked a particular book. If he liked the book, then this is the kind of book a superior person likes, and vice versa. He might try to explain why he didn’t like it, but the review is really just a tautology. “I didn’t like this book because it is bad,” is equivalent to “This book is bad because I didn’t like it.””—Kevin Guilfoile in the commentary on Round 1 of the Tournament of Books. God bless the ToB.
“KING AZAZ: You must rescue the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason
MILO: no i mustnt
KING AZAZ: Please, my dear boy!
Without these sisters, our kingdom will decay into chaos
MILO: sisters eh
nice”—We couldn’t get enough of Mallory Ortberg’s “Dirtbag Hamlet,” and now she presents “Dirtbag Phantom Tollbooth.” (via millionsmillions)
Television has never known what to make of Andy Daly, though he’s been a regular small-screen presence since his run on MADtv in the early ’00s. One of the funniest performers to emerge from the training grounds of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Daly excels at fully embodying comedic personas, a chameleon-like commitment to character that’s made him a favorite guest on podcasts like Comedy Bang! Bang! and Superego. Most TV shows aren’t built to sustain Daly creations like lecherous theater producer Don DiMello or cowboy poet/probable murderer Dalton Wilcox, personalities with detailed biographies whose hysterical darkness seeps forth in accidental admissions and blackly comedic non sequiturs. That sensibility meshed well with the early seasons of Eastbound & Down, but two-faced school administrator Terrence Cutler couldn’t steal scenes from a force like Danny McBride’s Kenny Powers. For Daly to earn the proper TV spotlight, he needed to find the show that let him be the Kenny Powers—or the fallen baseball star’s more secretly dastardly equivalent.
Enter Forrest MacNeil, a bookish, perpetually khaki-clad critic who’s broken from the confines of reviewing the arts to instead critique everyday life. His dedication to the discipline is unwavering, his demand to find profundity in all subjects absolute. And so it is that Daly was finally able to find the TV character worthy of his talents, a man who slowly reveals his insanity by doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results that he can then rank on a scale of one-half to five stars. If anyone is going to make Job-like misfortune and soul-wrenching desperation some of the funniest stuff on TV, it can and should be Andy Daly.
We’ve written about Amazon warehouses quite a lot before: no one can unionize, conditions are often compared to coal mines, and the heavy security observation has been likened to that of Nazi Germany. Additionally, the company received more money from the UK government between 2009 and 2011 than it paid in taxes. Indie booksellers called on Prime Minister David Cameron to make Amazon pay, and Cameron has been vocal about his support for the Living Wage this year. (In the U.S., Amazon is in an ongoing battle against sales tax on the state and national level.)
Amazon pays its staff just above the UK minimum wage, £6.31 per hour. Workers say that they are bullied and harassed, fired when they’re home sick three times, report that they’ll be out to care for family, or take too long on bathroom breaks. They are advised to slather their heels in Vaseline before walking five to fifteen miles in mandatory but ill-fitting work boots. Many are promised full-time work if they work hard enough… but the company has a convenient habit of letting go of employees right before the three-month mark, when the corporation would be required to provide benefits.
The ability to digest lactose appears to involve evolutionary and demographic factors along with genetic, physiological, and social aspects. Lactase persistence apparently arose as a result of a mutation of a particular gene some 7,000 to 10,000 years ago within dairy farmers in Central Europe. Vitamin D is necessary for absorption of calcium and phosphate, and milk serves as a good source for both in the higher latitudes of Eurasia where the production of vitamin D in the skin is hampered by lower levels of sunlight.
Almost everyone in northwestern Europe is “lactase persistent”, but the number decreases as one goes south and east. Milk fat residues in pots found in Libya indicate processing of cow’s milk there between 5200 and 3800 BC, supporting a theory that lactase-persistent people and their cattle moved from Europe into Africa during that period. As a result, some African and Middle Eastern populations can digest milk. Most Eastern and Southern Africans cannot, and many in Asia and Australia are also unable to do so. But one way to avoid lactose-related problems is to eat cheese — because nearly all of the lactose in cheese is removed during manufacturing and aging.
Dave Itzkoff wrote Mad As Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies and pretty much anything about the movie Network is required reading/listening in this household.
Carleton won last year’s national championship game by 50 points. It was their ninth title in 11 years. Yes, the Ravens lost the equivalent of their conference championship game Saturday — on a buzzer-beater, no less — ending their 55-game winning streak against Canadian competition. But it says something that even if the Ravens go on to earn their 10th title in 12 years, 2014 will go down in Canadian basketball history primarily as “the year Carleton lost a game to Ottawa.”