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22 Aug 12:13

The Anne Boleyn Theory of Funny Women

by Rosa Lyster

She wasn’t mysterious or magic, she was a riot.

The Anne Boleyn Theory began as all the best things do: on gchat. Here we are, my friend Frith and I, trying to figure out why we weren’t cool at university:

Frith: For me, being cool still means being very thin and having an even featured face upon which you express very little.
Rosa: Yes, and great wells of self-restraint
Rosa: Oh my god. You know why we weren’t cool. It’s cos we are both funny.
Frith: Oh my god. Funny girls aren’t cool.
Rosa: This is the realest thing either of us have ever said.

This is the beginning of the Anne Boleyn theory. Stay with us.

Rosa: I don’t mean to Harp, but funniness is so MASSIVELY undervalued in women.
Frith: I have never heard you described as funny, even though that is literally the main thing you are.
Rosa: Oh my god. Think of all the times that a man has described you as “magical”, and all the times they have said “there is just something about you. You have this ineffable quality.”
Rosa: The quality they are describing is called
Rosa: Being GOOD AT JOKES.

Here comes Anne Boleyn, so look alive.

Frith: but this is surely the answer to ‘how did clever plain Anne Boleyn make the king and half the court fall madly in love with her?’ They said she cast a spell. She weaved magic. NO NO. She had good jokes. ANNE BOLEYN MADE HENRY VIII DIE OF LOLS.
Rosa: “what is your enigmatic and somewhat sinister appeal?!”
Frith: you magical, sweet angel. What is it about you? What is this pull you have on me.
Rosa: you just have a way about you. I cannot understand it.
Frith: I feel like we need to email Hilary Mantel and tell her we have figured out Anne Boleyn.

Don’t act like you don’t know what we’re talking about. This is a thing. There are many, many dudes out there in the world who are not too crazy about funny women, or at least they think they aren’t. Stay with us. They have it fixed in their heads that funny girls aren’t cool, or that they are sort of coarse, or brash, or inelegant, or maybe they have some kind of terrible addiction problem a la Dorothy Parker. In other words, the idea is that they might be funny, but it comes at a high cost. The idea is that a woman can be attractive, or she can be funny, but she can never be both. There are people who think this. You know this is true.

Remember that Christopher Hitchens article in Vanity Fair? Remember how it was called “Why Women Aren’t Funny”? His whole bit was that men were funny because they had to be, because how else would they get any lady to sleep with them? Women, then, weren’t funny because they didn’t need to be. They had “the whole male world at their mercy” and so why bother with lols? It is unnecessary to even offer a rebuttal to this idea here, except to say that it is the most joyless conception of humour I have ever encountered. Imagine thinking it was only necessary to haul out the laughs when you were trying to get someone to have sex with you. Isn’t that sad? Isn’t that just the worst? I am of the opinion that laughter is the entire point of being alive, so I struggle to understand how someone would think this way.

Why Women Aren't Funny

The substance of the Anne Boleyn theory is that there are some men who think that calling a woman funny also means saying that she is Uncool, or Not Mysterious, and especially Not Sexy. Funniness is undervalued in women, and so some men fail to register the quality when they come across it. Think of all those men in the court of Henry VIII, moping around Anne Boleyn, playing stupid instruments to get her attention, finding her peacock hearts to eat.

I mean right?

They are all absolutely desperate to sleep with her. They are behaving like the most appalling show-offs, competing with each other to get her to look at their dumb faces, and they are beginning to resent her. They come away from a meeting with her feeling just sick with love, just nauseated by it, and they are trying to work out why. Is it because she is so pretty? No, she is actually quite pinched and has an unnaturally long neck. Is it because she is so kind? Absolutely not. Well-dressed? No one cares about that. Good at the piano? Please. Sewing? Lol. Can make up boring poems in French? Stop it. Funny? Cue the screeching of brakes

The only logical conclusion is that she is MAGIC. She is a glorious pixie wizard. She has harnessed the power of the moon, or some bullshit. She has all the cats in the world dancing to her demonic tune. The men in the court of Henry VIII would rather call Anne Boleyn a goddamn witch rather than just buck up and admit that she is a fucking riot and she makes them all scream with laughter 24 hours a day.

I wasn’t actually in attendance at the court of Henry VIII, so I cannot state the above as fact, but I know in my heart that it’s true. I can offer my own anecdotal experience in support of this theory. Every boyfriend I have ever had has at some point called me “enigmatic”. Also charismatic, also magical, also different from anyone else that they have ever met. I am, it should go without saying, the least enigmatic person on the planet. I am the world’s most open book. I have no magical qualities to speak of, and I am of course in no way different from many thousands of other women just exactly like me. What these sweet lovely men were actually trying to tell me is that I made them laugh. They just had no other means of expressing it, because this shitty, godawful excuse for a culture has told them that Women Aren’t Funny.

I’m so sure that I’m right about this. My only other option is to believe that I am a lower species of witch, and who wants to do that? Think about all the times you have heard a man say, “she’s so funny as well” — like oh this bizarre, extraneous quality like a dog that is very loyal but also for some reason can type…no one needs the dog to type. See what I mean?

This is life-changing stuff. It is too late for me and all those dudes who called me enigmatic, but I am circulating this theory in the hope that others will find some use for it. Next time a man calls you Quirky, or informs you that you are In Your Own World, or that you make them feel a certain way and they don’t understand it, they are dying inside, what you must do is sit them down and say “Listen, pal. That quality you are referring to? It’s called being an absolute SCREAM. It’s called a GSOH.” They will shake their heads, maybe. They will say No, it’s not that. You just have this special quality. You have moonbeams in your hair and so on. Persist. Gently correct. You will be doing the world a great service. The ghost of Anne Boleyn will thank you.

The Anne Boleyn Theory of Funny Women was originally published in The Hairpin on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Read the responses to this story on Medium.

29 Jul 10:40

Web Design in 4 Minutes

by Geoff Graham

Jeremy Thomas explains web design (the basic applying style to content part) through an interactive step-by-step walkthrough. I could see this being an ah-ha moment for plenty of folks in the early stages of understanding web design.

Direct Link to ArticlePermalink

Web Design in 4 Minutes is a post from CSS-Tricks

26 Jul 09:02

A Very Loving Taxonomy Of ABC’s ‘The Late Show’

by Max Olijnyk

This week we’re celebrating the very best of Australian TV. You can check out our list of The 60 Greatest Australian TV Shows Of All Time right here.

The Late Show was only on TV between 1992 and ’93, but it made a huge impact on me. In tandem with Twin Peaks, which was showing at the same time, I think it really solidified my 16-year-old understanding of the world; it set the bar for the culture I consumed and hoped to create myself.

Now, everyone loves Twin Peaks, with good reason, and you might be questioning my putting The Late Show on an equally high pedestal. But both shows held a sort of magic; something transcendent that elevated them above anything else I had seen before. And the fact The Late Show was made in Melbourne, which was only a six hour drive away from the little country town where I lived, made it all the more potent and incredible.

For the uninitiated, The Late Show was a sketch comedy show, performed by the members of the Melbourne University-spawned comedy group the D-Generation, the ones who didn’t go to the occasionally brilliant but generally mediocre Fast Forward. It felt like the ABC just gave these guys a studio, a basic crew and a few cameras, and then left them alone to do what they liked. The cast members were: Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy, Tony Martin, Mick Molloy, Rob Sitch and Jason Stephens, and Judith Lucy for the second season. They had a great group dynamic and they all brought out different aspects of each other’s characters, but some of them were funnier than others.

Mick Molloy

Mick was the bad boy of the group, and although he behaved like the dumb bullies at my school, he seemed to be involved in all of my favourite bits. Mick was undoubtedly a natural clown, and a perfect foil to the more cerebral humour of, say, Tony Martin or Rob Sitch. He had an amazing dynamic with Judith Lucy, who was a similarly natural clown, but much angrier and infinitely smarter. I always wondered if those two had a thing going – there were definitely sparks there.

Santo Cilauro

The eminently likeable Santo was also implicit in many of the best moments in the show. He was, of course, one half of Graham and the Colonel with Rob – the ‘no-holds-barred, no beg your pardons’ sports commentator duo that closed off every episode. These guys told a lot of crap sports jokes and spent the whole time throwing sheets of paper over their shoulders while trying to keep a straight face, which was the point of the whole bit (and possibly the whole show). “Dufflecoat Supreme” is still the best name for a racehorse I’ve ever heard. My friend Sam once found a dufflecoat by the brand Supreme in an op-shop and bought it as a tribute, even if it was three sizes too big for him. He gave it to me, and I appreciated the gesture.

Rob Sitch

Come to think of it, most of my favourite parts of The Late Show were based around Rob Sitch trying to keep a straight face. His impressions of various famous people were the saving grace of Tommy G’s opening news segment. I often think back to his impression of Bill Clinton, in which he answered questions at a press conference via saxophone. That was an okay gag in itself, but the magic occurred when the sax kept ‘playing’ after he had removed the instrument from his mouth. Santo, Jason, Jane and the audience dissolved into laughter, while Rob stared into the bell of the sax with an amused look on his face, before declaring, “Well, I’m gonna hang on to this one.”

It was this tacit embracing of fuck-ups that made the show great. Of course, it wasn’t a new concept – that’s what makes live comedy electrifying – but it was the first time I’d experienced it, beyond my mum’s Peter Cook and Dudley Moore records, in an Australian accent, talking about stuff I understood.

Tony Martin

Aside from Rob, my favourite cast member was Tony Martin. I’d go so far as to say that Tony is a comic genius. He didn’t stuff up as much as Rob, because his bits were just too good; but he had a looseness and hyper self-awareness that made him very quick on his feet. Added to that was a simmering, impatient anger underpinning everything he did, cloaked in an affable friendliness that I could really relate to.

A great example of this, and one of my favourite Late Show segments of all time, is when Tony and Mick hit the streets (with Santo behind the camera) to visit shops with zany names. There are too many highlights to list, but Tony’s genius comes through in his interview with the good-natured Amanda at Stacks of Slax. “Why don’t you call the shop Racks of Slax?” he asks. “Or maybe Stacks of Slacks on Racks? Or maybe Racks of Dacks in Stacks, possibly?” Amanda just stands looking thoughtful, nodding. “Sounding a bit like a Dr Seuss story really, isn’t it?”

There were plenty of other amazing segments like this. How about the Olden Days, or its second season equivalent Bargearse, wherein old TV shows (Rush and Bluey, respectively) were cut up and overdubbed to create new narratives? The Olden Days was geared around the adventures of Governor Frontbottom, a namby-pamby boss of a goldfield, and had me in hysterics at nearly every turn. Bargearse was basically one long, hilarious fart joke.

I also loved the one-off bits in which the entire cast got in on the act, like the dinner party sketch. Once again, Rob steals the show with his over-acting, but it’s also a chance to see how the whole cast works together.

The magic of The Late Show felt real and accessible; it wasn’t something only Americans could conjure up with millions of dollars, unfamiliar cultural signposts and dancing dwarves (not taking anything away from Twin Peaks – I still have nightmares about the woods). It was contained in short, chaotic sketches put together by a group of mates in Melbourne, in which things often went wrong.

I laughed at The Late Show in the same way I laughed with my brother and sister, or my best friend; and it made me feel like culture was something I could be a part of, rather than merely observe. Rewatching it today still fills me with excitement, glee, and inspiration.

Max Olijnyk is a writer and editor who also takes photos and makes clothes. He used to live in Melbourne but he recently moved to Wellington, New Zealand. He writes for all sorts of publications about all sorts of things, but his favourite subjects are skateboarding and his son Fred. You can follow him at @maxolijnyk

The post A Very Loving Taxonomy Of ABC’s ‘The Late Show’ appeared first on Junkee.

17 Jun 09:09

Twenty-eight Chickens

by Michael Lee-Murphy

Sweary Irish Dads

Screenshot: “Dad Reacts to Man United v Fulham match (hidden camera)”/YouTube

To be a dad is often to struggle with, fail to comprehend, and ultimately be defeated by modernity. The mercifully dormant Dads on Vacation tumblr is a document of Dads struggling with the unfamiliar, trying to make peace. American Dads have cheesy jokes to buffer the hard edges of the world; Irish Dads tell these challenges to “fuck away off.”

More often than not, to resist the encroachments of the unfamiliar is to swear at it, so as to cut it down to size. The Irish writer Brian O’Nolan, who wrote under the pseudonym Flann O’Brien, was said to have left his job is a civil servant in “a final fanfare of fucks.” Swearing is the armor that the Irish Dad wears into battle. My own Irish Dad, upon meeting my American friend Alex, affectionately christened him “Alex the Bollix.” (This of course only rhymes when said with a Belfast accent, and roughly translates to “Alex the Shithead.”) Irish sons and daughters have discovered that the rest of the world finds this endlessly funny, and taken to YouTube accordingly.

Observe then, this brief selection of Irish Dads being victimized by, struggling with, swearing at, and ultimately succumbing to, the modern world. There is a common narrative arc: rising anger, climax, and denouement.

Here is a dad in camo shorts who has tattooed on his arm the name of the daughter that is currently melting his brain with a riddle. Dog and the daughter are both in on the joke. Listen to his rage bubble up to the surface as the thoughts dance around the inside of his head. Four times the dad asks, “How many didn’t whaa?”

After several repetitions of the riddle, the dad turns to the phone in desperation. There are no answers to be found there though. Here, then, the dad completely divests from the challenges of modernity and the swearing erupts:

“Ah you’re a fucking thick c***, I swear to Jaysus. That’s the most stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard in me life.”

Only in Ireland could a Dad affectionately call his daughter a c-word and have it send her into a fit of laughter. Second, he calls forth the twin deities of Irish swearing, fuck (or perhaps fook) and Jaysus, both being equally holy, and perhaps related to the similarly Catholic Quebecois sacres swears.

In a a final grasp for the answer, the dad repeats the riddle to himself. Perhaps an inserted swear will make the truth easier to uncover. “Thirty cows and twenty-eight (ate) fucking chickens? … Who didn’t?!”

The dog growls.

“That’s enough now, fuck off,” the dad tells his daughter as he attempts to return to his dad activities.

He leaves the door open a crack. It is a door to his daughter’s room and to the answer to this kink in the universe. The reveal. “Ten didn’t eat chickens.” Father and daughter join in laughing as the Irish Dad is defeated.

For our second Irish Dad, the culprit is not a riddle, but a GPS device that can not, will not, hear him. He just wants to go to Cloughjordan. “New destination,” he tells the GPS. The GPS has an English voice: “Sorry? Please repeat your destination.” “New destination,” the Dad says with more agitation. “Cancelled,” the English accented GPS taunts. Maybe a swear will help.

“The greatest fuck up of a yoke,” he christens the GPS. The giggles elsewhere in the car warn that there are Irish Dad swears approaching on the horizon.

“Hello? New destination. Cloughjordan.” (Cloughjordan is a difficult name for a non-Irish person, with the gh of clough forming in the back of the mouth.) “Sorry?” the insultingly English GPS replies. The GPS has denied him three times. It was foretold. The time has come to swear at the GPS. There is no choice. Here we go.

“I’ll give you fuckin’ sorry. NEW destination. Clough FUCKING jordan.”

The GPS is still stubbornly English.

“You’re a thick c***.”

His anger then turns to his companion. Lord Jaysus is summoned.

“You’re looking into them books. And BOLLIX [unintelligible swearing].”

Here the Irish Dadrage breaks the bonds of language, ascending into tongues unknowable to those not from Tipperary. The Dad rejects the instruction manual, rejects the possibility that his passenger’s voice may work better with the GPS. The Tipperary accent deepens. He is alone.

“Gracious heap of shite.”

It is finished.

Intermezzo. Our third Irish Dad has attempted to turn the camera outwards towards modernity, to document his encounters with Las Vegas with a GoPro curiously mounted on a selfie stick. The abyss, however, stares back. The Irish Dad has turned the GoPro inward, towards himself. Even from the beginning of this Dad’s contest with modernity, he was defeated by it. What we have then is not the same narrative arc or the same swearing, but rather a sort of mise en abyme, in which the conventions of the form of the Irish Dad are placed on a brief hiatus. We are invited to gaze into the eyes of an Irish Dad, who is not aware he is struggling with modernity, even as he is swept under its current.

First, we are in the hotel. There are the mountain, Arizona, the Trump Tower, the dad tells us. A little Dad joke about the color of Trump’s hair. There is the view looking west, he says. No, there is not. There is only the Dad.

We are on the Vegas Strip. We are in the Bellagio. The MGM Grand. Some excitement about the filming location of Ocean’s 11. Several iterations of a Dad joke about shrimp boats and large boats. Several times the Dad imitates an American accent, a favorite pastime of Irish Dads. But we are really in none of these places. We are just looking at the Dad, joining him in his wonder.

Here we have an Irish Dad being victimized not by a riddle or a piece of technology, but by a prank. The Dad is reading his paper, angrily listening to his U2 song, and is not happy about how long the driving test has taken. We know that immediately we are in for something special. This video is the paragon of the swearing Irish Dad.

“How did it go? Jaysus I’m a fucking good while waiting.”

As the son begins his waffling about the difficulties of the three-point turn and the hill start, the Irish Dad slices through to the truth.

“Did ye fail the fucker?”

As in the two previous videos, there is a turning point, a crossroads where the Dad realizes his inability to exist in the world. After the son’s reply in the affirmative, the swearing takes off, lifted to flight by a gust of rage.

The swearing that follows is of ornate and extravagant quality—it’s acrobatic and dazzling, worthy of high-wire trapeze artists, or daredevil stunt pilots. The Dad’s swearing travels in the realms of theology, taxonomy, economics:

“Ah for FUCK’s sake. Jaysus Christ of Almighty, for fuck’s sake. What kind of a c*** was he, anyway?”

The fact that the driving instructor was a c*** is obvious for the Dad, by virtue of having failed his son, but what this Dad would like to know is what kind of a c***, what species of c***, what genus. These are important pieces of information to attain for the Dad, if he is to exist in this new reality. The son flashes a knowing look, as he knows what’s coming.

“A fucking bitch of a woman, why didn’t you sweeten her up some way?”

Sweetness is in a different universe for this Dad. Blame must be assigned for this disaster.

“Them’s the two tings I told you last night, lad. The fucking three-point turn and the hill start, but you were lookin’ into the fuckin’ computer. Jaysus Christ.”

In the final denouement, — as the son reveals the prank, and the Dad rage subsides — Jaysus reverts back to Jesus. But alas, there is more modernity to confront. The son twists the knife, telling the Dad he has been recorded.

“Turn off that FUCK of a thing.”

Irish sons and Irish daughters, please don’t. Keep recording.

Michael Lee-Murphy is an Irish-born, New England raised reporter and writer. He blogs at A Furious Return to Basics.

Twenty-eight Chickens was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Read the responses to this story on Medium.

10 Jun 09:53

A Spice Gull Is a Seagull Who Fell Into a Vat of Chicken Tikka Masala 

by Jia Tolentino
A Spice Gull Is a Seagull Who Fell Into a Vat of Chicken Tikka Masala 

Weak End at Bernie’s” is a pretty good headline, but it’s got nothing on “Spice Gull,” the phrase used by the Guardian to describe a seagull that fell into a vat of faux-Indian food.

The bird fell into the container while trying to scavenge meat from a food factory bin on Monday. It was rescued by workers at the site in Wales, and picked up by a volunteer for Vale wildlife hospital, near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire.

Staff at the hospital used washing-up liquid to remove the bright orange from the seagull’s feathers. They returned him to its original white colour but have not been able to wash away the smell of curry.

Lucy Kells, veterinary nurse at the hospital, said: “He really surprised everyone here – we had never seen anything like it before. He had fallen into a waste vat of curry that was outside, it was chicken tikka masala. The thing that shocked us the most was the smell. He smelled amazing, he really smelled good.

A nice-smelling gull that simply loves garbage: my new professional biography, found.

Image via YouTube

06 Jun 15:24

Why Every Aussie Should Learn To Speak An Indigenous Australian Language

by Professor Jakelin Troy

I’m not racist, but I don’t like speaking English. I would rather speak my own language – Ngarigu of the Snowy Mountains in south-eastern Australia.

It’s not that I particularly dislike English as a language, it’s just that saying who I am – “Ngaya Ngyamitjimitung” in my own language — feels much more authentic than saying “I am Aboriginal” in English. To me, “Aboriginal” sounds like a label someone else has given me and, in fact, that is just what it is.

It does seem ridiculous that in Australia very few people speak an Australian language. Who of you reading this piece speaks or knows anything about one or more of the at least 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages? This is because English has become the unofficial official language of this country, by default. When Governor Arthur Phillip led the First Fleet to invade our Aboriginal Countries in 1788 he not only colonised our land — he also began the colonisation of our languages. English eroded and devalued the languages of this Country, slowly replacing the Australian languages as the principle means of communication.

However, English has not colonised the minds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Our languages remain core to our identities and are fundamental to our connection to Country. ‘Land, language and people’ is a mantra of connection that is understood by all Aboriginal and Torre Strait Islander people. It is one that should be understood by all Australians.

I’m not racist, but it seems a crying shame that we don’t ensure that every Australian child in every Australian school learns an Australian language. Last year less than a dozen Year 12 students across the country studied an Australian language. Could you imagine children in England not learning English?

It’s easy to find racist reasons to justify why this is not currently happening. Although not wanting to be racist, you might say there is no purpose in learning an Australian language. Where would you use it? How would it ‘help’ you? These are not languages of commerce or industry — it will not profit you to learn one. But you might be surprised that, in knowing an Australian language, you will know Australia in a way you never will if you don’t speak its languages. How will you know the names of the country? How would you know that what was once ‘Ayers Rock’, named after a colonial administrator, is actually Uluru, as it is now so commonly known since its Pitjantjatjara name was officially restored in 1993?

This is just the beginning. In knowing an Australian language you will also know how to talk to its first people. You will know the human relationships, the connections to Country, the foods, the plants, the animals, the philosophies, the sciences, the religions and the truths about Australia.

On the same day as I discuss racism towards our Australian languages in the ‘I’m Not A Racist, But…’ forum in Sydney, I will also be in Alice Springs facilitating an historic gathering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from across Australia with other supporters and colleagues who are working towards creating a national coalition to support our languages into the future. We hope to create a unified front from which we can work with governments, education systems and others to ensure that the Australian languages have a solid future.

I’m not racist, but it does seem that most Australians are missing out on something essential — a true part of their being as Australians — because they can’t speak an Australian language.

Professor Jakelin Troy is the Director of the University of Sydney’s Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Research Network. She will be taking part in the NSW Reconciliation Council and Sydney Ideas I’m Not A Racist, But… panel discussion with Junkee’s Alex McKinnon, artist Abdul Abdullah and spoken word music artist Luka Lesson as part of National Reconciliation Week 2016 on Thursday, June 2 at Redfern’s Giant Dwarf Theatre. Tickets and details here.

The post Why Every Aussie Should Learn To Speak An Indigenous Australian Language appeared first on Junkee.

22 May 19:09

Failed Candidate Ted Cruz Elbows Wife in Face

by Ashley Feinberg on Gawker, shared by Emma Carmichael to Jezebel
Failed Candidate Ted Cruz Elbows Wife in Face

Perpetual former candidate for president Ted Cruz ran a very particular kind of campaign. A campaign that some might have called “nauseating” or “hard to watch.” But this evening, no one had a harder time watching than Heidi Cruz—because her husband’s elbow was jammed directly into her face.

What baffles me most about this is the fact that Ted knew Heidi was there. He had literally just finished embracing her. He even narrowly misses punching her before proceeding to go elbows in.

All of which is to say, this cringe-inducing moment of oblivion is the perfect coda to Ted Cruz’s campaign—deeply uncomfortable, borderline sociopathic, and embarrassing for everyone involved.

On the bright side: Heidi, you’re free.

20 May 13:18

Modern Day Development Philosophies

by Chris Coyier

Hopefully This Actually Reduces Support Emails Driven Development

Ughck I'm Pretty Sure You're Going To Do Whatever You Want Anyway Driven Development

It's a Miracle Anything Ships At All Driven Development

Don't Overthink It Driven Development

console.log('Does this code even get run?'); Driven Development

Following the Reese's Pieces Driven Development

I Think I've Heard That Word Before Driven Development

Pragmatic Copy and Pasting

It's Only Wrong If You're a Dick About It Driven Development

Whatever, Cripes Stewart Driven Development

Functional Guessing

I Hope Nobody Notices These Commits Are Mostly Whitespace Changes Driven Development

Gut Instinct Driven Development

Struggle Through It Once Then Write a Thinkpiece Driven Development

Toss Another Dependency On The Pile Driven Development

It All Comes Down To HTML Driven Development

Modern Day Development Philosophies is a post from CSS-Tricks

17 May 09:53

Are You Afraid Of The Dark Patterns?

by Owen Phillips


Over the weekend, the New York Times raised concerns over “dark patterns”: web interfaces carefully crafted to manipulate users. For example, there’s the “roach motel,” named after the brand of insect trap that provides a seamless sign-up, but a difficult cancellation process. More common, though, are the websites that either hide the option to unsubscribe from their newsletters or just obfuscate the option to opt-out.

Harry Brignull, a user-experience consultant, coined the term in 2010 and began logging various types on Ryainair, Audible, and Skype have all been featured. Brignull said his goal was to draw attention to the issue and shame the websites who use them.

Let the Walk of Atonement begin:


At Sephora, unsubscribing is as simple as removing a check. But as soon as a user agrees to the terms and conditions the box rechecks itself. Choice is an illusion.

sephoraGIF is a classic roach motel—you can sign up online, but you can’t cancel online.


(Or you could do what one what one commenter on Hacker News suggests…)



Allegedly, there is an option to unsubscribe somewhere in this email from JetBlue.  


Amazon changes the color of the font of the unsubscribe option.




I spy with my little eye an “unsubscribe” from Hillary for America.


Double negatives aren’t not used on


100 percent of Twitter users bitched about the new algorithmic timeline. Only 2 percent opted out.

Twitter Twitter2


The Royal Mail, the UK’s largest postal service, first tells users to check a box if they do not wish to receive communications, followed by instructions to check a box if they would like to receive emails from third parties.



The path of least resistance leads to an inbox full of emails from Ticketmaster.

  “At least they give us the option.” How progressive of Shutterstock!

When you go to buy a ticket to that musical show everyone is on about, Vivid Seats gives you a whole bunch of options for groups of two, three, and four. But the prices they show are for ONE Hamilton ticket—you don’t learn that until you’re on the payment page.



—Let’s end this tour with one of those roach motels the New York Times is talking about:


11 Mar 16:25

Loose Flyers

by Bryan Washington


Everywhere in New Orleans is hellish in June, but the astonishing thing is what the heat does to the people. Some it makes cordial, like the Korean lady in the shop on Freret, who insisted that I take two, three, four Ozarkas from her cooler. The more I insisted that, really, I was fine, the more she insisted that I was not. I was very thirsty, she said. I would take the water and I would leave and I would enjoy my day.

The papers pen annual columns about the weather’s relationship to the murder rate, which seems to spike whenever the sun lingers, or the Saints are losing, or both. Everyone’s on the edge of something. On the streetcar, you’ll see a gaggle of black kids in too-big shirts beside the middle-aged white woman with FUCK tattooed on her neck, and you can’t guess what either of them is thinking, only that it’s probably Not Good. But it is simply too hot to function, let alone kill someone, so the boys nod at the woman from under their snapbacks and the woman smiles in turn, showing all of her teeth.

There are people who move to New Orleans for the labor, and there are people who move to New Orleans for the movies, and there are people who move here for its jazz and its blackness. I do not think I am alone in that I moved down for Moments. Moments! I’d read about them in books, from Tom Piazza to Tennessee Williams, and I’d seen them on HBO, ferried along by Wendell Pierce, and I knew that mine was precisely the mindset that the locals actively loathe: a young person from Elsewhere looking to drive up rent. But I’d only read so many books, and I’d been broke in Houston, and I never thought to wonder how I’d react when those Moments finally came.

On Zora Neale Hurston’s first trip to the city, she stayed with the great hoodoo doctor Luke Turner, the supposed grand-nephew of a great hoodoo queen. To reach a final state of enlightenment, or knowingness, or whatever, in order to collect the requisite notes for a piece she was writing, Hurston spent seventy hours on a sofa without water. Talking about it later, she said, “for sixty nine hours I lay there. I had five psychic experiences and awoke at last with no feeling of hunger, only one of exaltation.” It is the kind of anecdote you find in on overpriced visitor’s pamphlet, but I got it from a well-meaning teacher in junior high. It came with a photo of Hurston donning tilted hat and pistol. She’s grinning in the picture, as if she’s found The Point and deemed it ludicrous, and she became my projection of everyone in that city: black people coasting down the streets, fingering bourbon and muttering jazz; men and women and musicians donning capes, mysterious and cunning.

I took my first trip down when I was fourteen—visiting family friends around the way—but after spending most of the day in a hotel, having realized there’d be neither hoodoo nor enlightenment, I slipped out of my room, a little past midnight, and simply didn’t go back. I made a beeline to Bourbon. There is a long list of maladies that can befall a kid in the Quarter, but for better or worse I experienced none of them: I watched a squad of strippers smoking on break outside of Penthouse; I saw a bridesmaid hitch her skirt to take a shit in an alley; and a short, hairy guy in an Alabama sweatshirt walked right up to me, right on the edge of the curb, to lay a sloppy kiss on my left cheek. After that introduction, he gave me a hug. Was I okay? Okay. He apologized, disappearing into the mass. It was probably my first sense of being alone in a crowd—except I wasn’t really alone, because there was a whiff of something in the air and we were united even if we all weren’t blasted or giddy on E.

Walking back to the hotel, hours and hours later, I ended up stepping around Louis Armstrong Park. A quartet of drunks sat on a stage wiping down their instruments. I pulled a chair beside a trio of Asian guys with cameras. The crooner behind the microphone was deeply drunk but asked for requests anyways. But nothing fancy, he said, just the usual shit. After some deliberation, one of the cameramen asked, a little fearfully, for “It’s a Wonderful World.” The crooner groaned, but that’s what they played.

When I arrived a decade later, it was a little less enticing. The city felt grimier. Garbage was everywhere. The roads had been paved with TNT. Rent felt explosive and groceries were astronomical. Louisiana had reached a tipping point. Bobby Jindal’s political antics had stumbled across the national stage, and David Vitter, a long-time senator, was running as the Republican in his stead. But Vitter was, among other things, at the tail end of a prostitution scandal. Although the statute of limitations had elapsed, his constituents hadn’t forgotten, which made it a good a time to be a Democrat. The party had a guy named John Bel Edwards—standing on the “Hope!” platform—who, if elected, would be the only blue governor in the Deep South. His people were out in droves: You couldn’t drive four blocks without running over election signs, especially in Gentilly, a largely black suburb near the levees.

The bodies I saw on Elysian and St. Bernard, all of them campaigning for Edwards, were nearly always black—they were the ones on the ground. They championed this white man as a savior for the state and, by association, its cardinal city. In the general American consciousness, blackness can mean a number of things: culture and authenticity and hip-hop and the rest. It’s less often, and hardly enough, that you see the political girth of it—the anvil-weighted influence of the demographic in a city. It’s delicious to see black people achieve. The transaction in between, the working for the thing to happen, isn’t something we hear enough about—the idea of New Orleans as a “working black city” isn’t as sexy as the idea that it is a violent one.

So, for the first time in a long time, I felt implicated by the actions of people who looked like me. The notion of “representing the race,” whether you’ve fucked up or done something great, isn’t a mindset I’m partial toward, but in New Orleans, all of a sudden, those gestures were amplified. The feeling got tighter whenever I glanced at the crime reports, until I stopped reading them—only to come back to them hours later. The Uptown robberies were a cardinal example: Late at night on August 20th, three gunmen entered the Patois restaurant on Laurel Street and told everyone to get on the fucking floor. They went through patrons’ pockets, took wallets and cash and phones, then left the joint with an empty bottle of Vodka. The restaurant’s co-owner, Leon Touzet, told The Times-Picayune that they “were definitely amateurs.” A few weeks after that, on September 24th, two gunmen robbed the Atchafalaya restaurant on Louisiana Avenue. Not even a week later, the Monkey Hill Bar on Magazine was robbed on a Monday night. The owner, Johnny Vodanovich, said he “knew it was a matter of time.” The police presence in the area rose from “present” to highly visible, and that meant the constant churning of a sort of loose street calculus. People took care to clear the streets in the evenings; when people saw me on the sidewalk, more than a few of them crossed the road. It was another few months before three suspects were named. A fourth one turned himself in shortly afterwards. I was (still) unpacking boxes at my place when I heard, scanning the news for updates on my phone. I’d been looking for that specific thing, the thing I knew I didn’t need to confirm, but when I got to the pictures, I couldn’t help but sigh, because each of them was, without exception, very young and very black.

My apartment sits in the outskirts—the suburbs, really—surrounded by the highway. It isn’t very large, but there’s a courtyard in the back. There’s room for the kids in the complex to kick the fùtbol onto the main road, and when everyone hits their porches in the evenings, they’ve got their Abitas and their Buds and Modelos in tow. There’s a young-ish Puerto Rican couple in the unit beside mine, and an old black man living below me who bums cigarettes. The Arab lady across the banister is always in tottering in heels. Every day of the week she has an entirely different hairstyle. By my entirely unscientific conclusions, it is probably the most diverse pocket in the New Orleans metropolitan area, which isn’t especially diverse: It’s a black city, home of the oldest black neighborhood in this country, the first major neighborhood maintained by free people of color—slaves who’d toiled and worked and prospered and died and probably hoped they’d get to pass a little something on.

This is all to say that the city I visited years ago isn’t at all the one I’m in now: The population has returned to seventy-nine percent of what it was before Katrina, but the black population has been reduced by nearly a hundred thousand. Just over seventy percent of the people displaced by the storm were black, and at least a third of that group was economically disadvantaged. The Asian population has jumped all of 0.7 percent over the course of fourteen years and the Latino population, comparatively low for the South, has risen by nearly 2.2 percent; the city supports one of the largest Honduran communities outside of Honduras, and it’s generally understood that the influx of Latino workers made rebuilding the city a smoother affair.

But the white people. Oh, man. The white people are renovating shotguns and they are opening gourmet grilled cheese cafes. White people are here and white people are there and white people going where they’ve never gone before, building beautiful things in places they’d have sped past only a year ago. No one I’ve spoken to seems to know how they feel about this. Or they do have an opinion, one they’re ready to defend, but there’s always a lingering but. We’re being priced out, but the Bywater’s safer. Black businesses are closing, but we don’t mind the Whole Foods on Broad Street. You may be geographically in New Orleans, but not in New Orleans at all. The city is very much itself all over, except where it isn’t. It is, ironically, a chiasmus everyone seems to agree on: something needs to change, but too many things are changing.

Near the end of October, a month before the election, if you were driving through Gentilly or Broadview or Mid-City you saw even more Edwards supporters. Some of them had the signs, and some of them fiddled with leaflets, but the bulk of them simply stood in the crowd, in the midst of the thing even if their hands were free. I flirted with the idea of joining them. Occasionally I’d honk a horn in solidarity, or support, or something, and the people turned sharply, and then they saw me, and I think they understood. One let out a yell. Once, a woman ambushed me just outside of the Rouse’s. She told me this election would be different. She said Edwards had the people in mind. I did not contradict her.

Maybe a month later, I was sitting on the patio of a bar in the middle of town, well past two or even three in the morning. It was packed, with this breeze floating just above everyone’s voices, and the streetcar crackling in the background. Someone in the corner collapsed into laughter, and all of a sudden we were having it, a good time. It was one of the evenings I told myself I’ve moved to New Orleans for. It was happening, right then, right there in front of my eyes.

Someone launched into another joke when two black girls, both of them impeccably dressed, made their way onto the patio from the corner. They sidled up to the table, asking for cigarettes, and we quickly distributed them because we had no reason not to. The girls were very funny, and very pretty, and they folded easily into our laughter, until they’d finally made it their own in the funny way that black women can, which also made sense, because it was their city we were in, and all of a sudden they were telling us stories about it.

A man flew out of the bar, moving with an urgency I’ve rarely seen amongst civilians. He told the girls to get the fuck out. He’d had problems with stragglers, they’d been plugging his patrons for money, and he’d seen the two girls come off of the road. He wasn’t having it tonight. Someone had to put a stop to it.

The girl who could’ve been a model took a drag on her cigarette. She asked the man if he knew who her father was. He did not. Nor did we. But when she told us, everyone sort of exhaled—it was a Name That Was Known, a jazz musician. The man didn’t look entirely convinced, but he backed off anyways. He said he was just checking. They’d had problems before. Someone had to fix it. One of the girls said she understood, she didn’t want any trouble, and the man retreated into the doorway.

The mood had been dampened—irremediably, I thought—but eventually it returned. There was laughter again, and jokes. The streetcar tinkling. Many beers later, the daughter of the musician pulled me aside. We were the only black people at the bar, and she joked that she had to make the effort. She asked if I liked it in her city. I told her I hadn’t been around long enough to know. She knocked on the bench between us, cementing our words in the wood. “Me,” she said. “I can’t wait to get the fuck out of here. People come down here from fucking wherever and they think there’s a million things to do.”

“But us,” she continued. “Ain’t nothing left for us. We suffocating. So I got to go.”

After another cigarette, she and her friend waved goodbye. They told us they were going for a walk. This was the only time of day they didn’t have to worry about tourists crowding the park, and they thought it would be romantic. It was well past three in the evening. I wanted to say something about staying safe, but it felt inappropriate, so I didn’t.

In November, hours before the final tally on election night, John Bel Edwards had already wrapped up the vote. The tavern I watched the election in stayed at a medium hum, with about half of the patrons eying the screen above the bar, and the other half crowded at the pool table. I was sitting with a friend, a woman who’d spent most of the month campaigning. One guy sitting beside us, a white dude in a hunting jacket, called it a damn shame. The black guy beside him agreed. The white girl that I came with spoke up, and while I braced for something heated, she only called it a beautiful thing. One of the men grunted. He wasn’t looking for an argument, either. The other rose his mug in a perverse sort of toast.

I thought Edwards’ victory would also be a victory for the black volunteers—the ones doing work on the ground, forcing the rest of us to give a fuck. I imagined them celebrating in the streets, or at least reaping the spoils of their sweat. But the roads were empty that night, and then again the following day. Most of the signs I’d seen posted for weeks evaporated altogether. Every once in a while, I’d find a flyer on Elysian, blown loose and collected on the slope of a traffic island, but it wasn’t any different from what was already there. It’d found its place with the rest of the trash, overshadowed by the renovations beside it. You had no way of knowing when the city would clean it up.

Photo by Shanon Mollreus

19 Feb 09:51

Same Language, Different Tongue: Trini English and Proper English

by Denece Mohammed

The dorms were still empty save for us kids from all over the world; we met in the halls, at night on the “strip”, our accents mingling and flowing, already forming little groups that we would all fall back on in the years to come. I found my home that week in the Caribbean massive, populated mostly by my fellow Trinis.

Read more Same Language, Different Tongue: Trini English and Proper English at The Toast.

15 Feb 16:54

Coombe Estate · The Garden of Dame Nellie Melba

by The Design Files

Plant / Life

Coombe Estate · The Garden of Dame Nellie Melba

by Georgina Reid

Today we visit the garden of one of Australia’s most celebrated icons, Dame Nellie Melba! In 1909, after twenty years touring the world with her marvellous voice, our first lady of opera returned home to Australia. Upon her arrival she purchased a property in Coldstream, Victoria, and built her home and a garden shortly after.

A century has passed since then, and through the collaborative efforts of Dame Nellie Melba’s family, a team of expert gardeners and the estate’s property manager Daniel Sinclair Johnson, the garden remains intact and has been largely preserved in its original state. Coombe Estate now hosts daily garden tours, with its vineyard and restaurant located next door – the perfect summer day trip!

Story by our gardens columnist, Georgina Reid of The Planthunter.

The garden at Coombe Estate is nestled amongst the lush farmland and vineyards of the Yarra Valley. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The garden at Coombe Estate, looking out to the the Yarra Valley. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

A voluptuous wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) winds its way around the verandah of Coombe Cottage. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The driveway entrance to Melba Estate. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

A huge old oak tree at Melba Estate. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The native garden, built by Dame Nellie Melba’s only granddaughter Pamela, known as Lady Vestey, who lived at Coombe Estate in recent years before passing away in 2011. Lady Vestey was the guardian of Coombe Estate, and worked closely with the estate’s property manager Daniel Sinclair Johnson to create the Native Garden. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The frog pond, framed by a pair of red flowering camellias (Camellia japonica cvs). Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

A voluptuous wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) winds its way around the verandah of Coombe Cottage. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The huge hedge provides a strong backdrop to the garden. A mix of perennial plants and shrubs such as lavender, peony, irises, shasta daisies, and more form a wide border planting. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Bluebells! (Hyacinthoides non-scripta). Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

A peony plant (Paeonia spp.). Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The cypress hedge was apparently planted by ​Dame Nellie Melba herself, in around 1909. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The garden at Coombe is broken up into a series of rooms, each with a different feel. This gateway leads to the swimming pool, surrounded by ornamental fruit trees, in full blossom at the time of this shoot! Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Prunus trees flower in front of the infamous hedge. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The garden at Coombe is around 100 years old. ​Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

An avenue of pine trees frames one of the roads within the estate. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

In 1909, after nearly 20 years of international success, Australia’s first lady of opera, Dame Nellie Melba returned to Australia and bought a property in Coldstream, Victoria. She built a house, calling it Coombe Cottage, and the garden soon followed. A grand cypress hedge was planted, enclosing the property, and creating a sense of intrigue and mystery that has lasted the past 100 years. In 2014, the gardens hidden behind the hedge were opened to the public for the first time.

Coombe is still owned by Dame Nellie Melba’s descendants, the Vestey family. Lady Pamela Vestey, Melba’s granddaughter, lived on the estate from the 1970s until her death in 2011. The property is now owned by Lady Vestey’s two sons, Lords Sam and Mark Vestey, and has been managed by a passionate estate manager, Daniel Sinclair Johnson, for the last 12 years. Daniel spends his days running tours of the gardens, managing the six gardeners, and overlooking The Melba Collection of artworks, gifts, jewellery and personal effects.

‘The estate houses some of the most beautiful internationally-inspired gardens in Victoria’, says Daniel. The seven acres of gardens consist of an Italianate garden and pool, a French style rose garden, an English herbaceous border, a native garden, and a kitchen garden. The different areas of the garden are surrounded by the famous 10 metre high hedge, running 700 meters around the garden’s perimeter. The hedge is part of the original design, and according to Daniel was recorded in paintings by Hans Heysen in 1914.

Daniel’s favourite part of the garden is slightly newer than the iconic hedge. ‘I love the native garden and pond,’ he says. ‘This was created on what used to be a tennis court, played on by a former Wimbledon winner! Lady Vestey and I planted the natives and built the frog pond ten years ago, and it has now matured and softened to become a highlight of the formal gardens.’

Perhaps due to the mystery suggested by the tall hedges, or to the celebrity of garden’s former owner, there are plenty of stories about Coombe. One is the story about the 20,000 daffodils sent from the Blue Mountains of NSW to Coombe as payment for a performance by Melba. Another is story about Charlie Chaplin in the swimming pool, which is alleged to be the first swimming pool ever built in Victoria!

One story we do know to be fact, though, is the one about Lady Pamela Vestey being christened in the bird-bath in the garden! ‘This is typical of the true nature of Melba,’ Daniel says. ‘Her humour resounds throughout the property. The garden is a place of fun and relaxation, a happy place.’

Coombe Yarra Valley garden tours operate from Monday to Saturday. Visit their website for more info and bookings.

A voluptuous wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) winds its way around the verandah of Coombe Cottage. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

01 Feb 14:49

I Make My Kids Star Wars Lunches To Take To School

by Beau Coffron

Every Monday I make my kids fun lunches for school. I started doing this because wanted to let them know that their dad is thinking about them and loves them. These lunches all have different themes based on what they interested in at the time.

My family loves Star Wars so I have made them a number of Star Wars themed lunches. I make them out of ordinary food that many people already have in their kitchens. They take about 30 minutes to create. My kids have loved these lunches and are counting down the days to when they can see The Force Awakens.

More info:

Stormtrooper tortilla for building your own darkside burrito

Chewbacca sandwich and banana TIE fighter lunch


Star Wars R2D2 sandwich and TIE fighter Christmas lunch

Star Wars – My Little Pony lunch mashup


Princess Leia hamburger and cheese lunch

Ewok sandwich and Biker Scout hard boiled egg lunch

BB-8 droid sandwich and first order Stormtrooper egg

Yoda Kiwi, C3P0 mango, R2D2 egg, cheese deathstar, and apple lightsabers

13 Sep 13:21

If White People Food Were Described Like “Exotic” Food

by Jaya Saxena and Matt Lubchansky

These potato dumplings are charmingly known as "tater tots" in the regional dialect.

Read more If White People Food Were Described Like “Exotic” Food at The Toast.

11 Sep 16:26

This Amazing Bridge Turns Into An Underwater Tunnel Connecting Denmark And Sweden

by Dainius

This unique roadway connects the Danish capital of Copenhagen to the Swedish city of Malmö. The Øresund, designed by the Danish architect George K.S. Rotne, was opened on July 1, 2000. The bridge stretches about 8km before transitioning through an artificial island into a 4km tunnel under the Flint Channel.

The site is interesting both biologically and architecturally: the Lund’s Botanical Association has identified more than 500 different species of plants on the island, which was constructed from material dredged from the seabed. Most of the concrete tunnel was cast on land and towed out to the location.

More info: (h/t: demilkedtwistedsifter)









01 Sep 10:44

Eat the New World Diet

by Dan Nosowitz

8455883273_9bd26112c8_kThe website for Whole30, a faddish diet program in the high-protein/low-carb Paleo vein, claims that its restrictions, which include the elimination of dairy, sugars, grains, and legumes from your diet, can have miraculous effects on your life. It suggests that in addition to weight loss, it can cure various aches and pains, increase your energy level, permanently quell seasonal allergies, and address fertility issues (which ones, or how eating burgers without the bun will fix them, is not addressed). “This will change your life,” the site says, even though, like, literally everything you do changes your life. You reading this stupid aggressive vegetable cooking column changes your life if only because you wasted 15 minutes reading it instead of doing your dishes. Regardless!

Whole30 is one of many diets that heavily restrict what you eat and claim, with varying amounts of garbage science and armchair anthropology, that by cutting out the more processed parts of your diet, you can improve your quality of life, and also get skinny. The creators of Whole30 are probably bazillionaires, having written a very successful book that espouses said garbage, and I find this frustrating, because I also spew garbage about food and yet I live in a two-hundred-and-eighty-square-foot apartment in Brooklyn in which the ceiling occasionally falls onto the floor after heavy rains. So I have decided to create a diet myself. It’s called The New World Diet™. (It is not a registered trademark but I think that little ™ makes it look more professional.)

What Is The New World Diet™?

The New World Diet™ is a set of unruly restrictions aimed at forcing us in North America to realize that we have all the best produce. For thirty-one days, which, mathematically, is one better than the Whole30 diet, you must restrict your eating to only ingredients which were found in the Americas prior to 1492. This can include fruits, vegetables, grains, and even meats and fishes. Llama, for example. Eat as much llama as you want.

The New World Diet™ is not an attempt to make you healthier. If it solves your seasonal allergies or fertility issues I would be VERY surprised.

Why New World Foods?

There are huge categories of New World foods that immediately transformed cuisines around the world upon their export from the Americas starting in the late fifteenth century. I have no idea what kind of gruel people were eating before then, but every single major world cuisine improved drastically with the addition of fruits and vegetables and spices that come from the New World.

We have everything here: grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, legumes, tubers. And even now, when globalization and transportation technology gives us the ability to eat anything, from anywhere, at any time, it’s the New World crops that get us most excited. Summer, in the Americas, means corn and tomatoes. Fall means squash and pumpkins. We should never forget that these are ours. Fuck you, Europe. Try cooking without tomatoes sometime.

What Foods Are Permitted?

Let’s start out with the trio of crops usually referred to by archaeologists and anthropologists as the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. In the more temperate parts of North America, these three crops were by far the most important part of the diet of the native populations, and often planted together. Corn was planted first, growing tall and fast, followed by beans, which used the corn stalks to climb, followed by squash, which covered the ground and prevented the growth of weeds. They are a perfect combination. Eat a shitload of these.

Tomatoes were first found in the Andes but first domesticated, probably, in southern Mexico. (Potatoes, too, are native to the Andes. Potatoes are great. Same with the sweet potato.) The idiot Europeans thought that tomatoes were poisonous when they were first introduced, owing to their membership in the Nightshade family. (Also, to be fair, tomato leaves are poisonous.) We’re in the heart of tomato season in the Northeast right now. These will be an important element in The New World Diet, offering sweetness, acid, and juice.

Chile peppers are perhaps the best-traveled of the native New World crops, becoming an essential part of cuisines from Thailand to Ethiopia to, well, every other center of good food. These will figure heavily in your diet, ranging from very sweet to very spicy, huge to tiny, fresh to dried to powdered.

The avocado is native to Mexico and Central America. It will provide a lot of the fat that in lesser diets is supplied by, say, butter, or coconut oil.

Onions are a problem. There are many varieties of wild onion native to the New World, including the famous ramp, but the vast majority of cultivated plants in the allium family, among them garlic, yellow/red/white onions, leeks, and scallions, are Old World plants. This is very unfortunate. We will allow any sort of wild onion, ramps, and chives to be used. Cheating is acceptable in this case only. I mean, Whole30 allows ghee, a form of butter (butter is otherwise banned) that has been processed (processed food is otherwise banned), which is ludicrous. So, screw it, use a leek if you want.

Every variety of the common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, will be permitted in The New World Diet™. Like a lot of other heavily domesticated plants, this one species of bean native to the Americas has been bred and re-bred to produce many very different-looking and -tasting crops. Varieties of the common bean include green beans and French beans, but also kidney beans, which probably come from the Andes as well. Lima beans, or butter beans, are also permitted. Fava beans are not. Peas are not.

Peanuts, pecans, black walnuts, and cashews are all native to the Americas and are embraced wholeheartedly, along with their oils and any pastes or butters made by pureeing them. They are all extremely high in fat and will not help you lose weight, which is unimportant to the aims of The New World Diet.

Wild rice and quinoa are both native to the New World. They are both very tasty.

Permitted fruits include the blueberry, strawberry, cranberry, pineapple, guava, papaya, and huckleberry, and permitted sweeteners are maple syrup and agave. Both chocolate and vanilla are New World ingredients. Use them liberally.

Tobacco use is encouraged in the New World Diet™. Cocaine use is technically permitted. Check with your local authorities to find out if cocaine is legal in your area.

A Recipe, To Get You Started: Basic Summer Succotash

Shopping list: Peanut oil, fresh corn, yellow tomatoes, summer squash, green beans, sweet peppers, lima beans (dried, fresh, or frozen), Mexican oregano, any wild onion you can find, squash blossoms, quinoa

Succotash is a pre-Colombian combination of corn and beans. After 1492, the dish changed in some of its details but not in that basic conception; the types of beans changed, maybe, and now, often, it’s made with dairy like butter and heavy cream. When not conforming to the wonderful restrictions of The New World Diet™, I’d likely use a little bit of butter, but peanut oil makes an interesting, and not at all inferior, substitute.

Using a knife, cut the kernels off a few ears of corn. I do this in a big bowl, standing the ear on end and gripping the top half of it with one hand before shaving off the kernels from the bottom half of the ear. Rotate until the entire bottom half of the ear is bare, then flip end over end and do the same to what was previously the top half of the ear. Save the cobs.

Throw the cobs into a pot of water and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Then take out and discard the cobs, keeping the water, which is now a nice mild corn stock. Use the corn stock to cook some quinoa according to package directions, usually a ratio of two parts stock to one part quinoa, brought to a boil then simmered until cooked. Retain any extra corn stock.

Put a large pan or pot (I like enameled cast iron, but really anything will work) over medium-low heat. Add some peanut oil and let it heat up. Chop up your permitted wild onion or your cheater Old World onion and toss it in; let it cook until translucent.

Chop green beans into inch-long pieces. Chop summer squash (any variety is fine, but I like the firmer ones for this, like pattypan squash or zephyr squash) into smallish cubes. Slice tomatoes into small pieces. Chop peppers into small pieces. Everything is in small pieces; this is basically a chopped hot salad. And prepare your lima beans in whatever way they need to be prepared—thawed, shelled, whatever.

Our goal here is to have a one-pot dish in which everything finishes cooking at the same time, which requires some knowledge of how specific ingredients cook. The corn, for example, we want to barely cook at all, but the summer squash will need a bit of time. So we have to add stuff in stages.

First up after the onion will be the squash. Stir and let cook just a bit. Then the green beans and peppers. Then the tomatoes. Then the lima beans. Then the corn. And finally you’ll throw in the cooked quinoa.

Watch this carefully the whole time; you may have to add in a little more peanut oil, but lean toward using the leftover corn stock to deglaze the pan. (Deglazing just means tossing in some liquid when stuff sticks to the bottom of the pan, then scraping all the stuff off the bottom of the pan.) Add in a spoonful every now and then to make sure nothing’s sticking and, as a bonus, to get more corn flavor in.

A succotash should be fresh-tasting, herbal and crunchy and sweet, not mushy and not creamy. We want as little cooking as possible, really, just enough to heat everything through and mingle the flavors, but not enough that any individual ingredient loses its flavor or texture. The corn is the most important: the corn should be super sweet and still crisp when you serve it.

When everything is done, season to taste. Then chop some chives and some Mexican oregano (which, by the way, is a totally different plant than European oregano, though the flavors are weirdly similar), and tear up some squash blossoms. Scatter these last over the top and serve.

The New World Diet™ doesn’t stop at succotash. It should be a way to force you, the reader who hopefully knows nothing because this diet is based on very little factual information, to become more aware of what grows around you. Use corn, not wheat. Use the peanut, not the soybean. Experiment with ingredients that have yet to really penetrate the rest of the world, from tomatillos to chayote to cherimoya. And do it for thirty-one days. It will change your life. Because so does everything.

Photo by Neil Conway

26 Aug 06:08

Bug Poems

by Hallie Bateman








17 Aug 05:52

Watch “What Happened, Miss Simone?”

by Alexandra Molotkow


Ambassador Shabazz:

Participation in activism during the ’60s rendered chaos in any individuals’ lives. People sacrificed sanity, well being, life. Nina Simone was a free spirit in an era that didn’t really appreciate a woman’s genius. So what does that do to a household, and a family? Not because of income, but because of your soul not being able to do what you need to do.

One of many striking things about What Happened, Miss Simone?, the documentary now available through Netflix, is how it doesn’t impose itself. The story is told through interviews and footage: as a girl, Nina Simone wanted to play Bach at Carnegie Hall. She was rejected from the Curtis Institute because she was Black, and began singing in a nightclub because she had to. She married a man she loved, who beat her and worked her “like a dog,” and under his management she built a career. After all she had to bear, and all she had to bear being Nina Simone, she had to leave America, and she talks about the joy she experienced living in Liberia. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, who went to live with her for a time, talks about her mother’s abuse. Kelly executive produced the film.

On a gut level, I think many if not most of us do believe in story tropes, which we absorb like basic shapes: things improve through hard work and suffering, and people act for one reason or another, and in all cases people do harm because they choose to. And I think it’s very easy, especially for those of us who see the narratives of struggle without having to live it, to believe that honor yields its own rewards.

“I want to shake people up so bad that when they leave a nightclub where I performed, I just want them to be in pieces.”

“I’m sorry that I didn’t become the world’s first Black classic pianist. I think I would have been happier. I’m not very happy now.”

16 Aug 10:56

Pizza Existential

by Alex Balk

“The next day I phone a friend who’s both Neapolitan and a psychoanalyst to see what she thinks. ‘The pizzaiola is right,’ she says. ‘A marinara is not a marinara if you add mozzarella. But,’ she adds, ‘she was wrong to say she would make you a margherita with garlic because margherita with garlic doesn’t exist.’”
—“Pizza has taught me that logic can be subjective and that subjective logic can be cultural.

16 Aug 10:47

Greek the Salad

by Dan Nosowitz

4068191986_c7e7122723_bThe Caesar is the most popular; the Cobb has its devotees; and I’m sure somebody must love a Waldorf, but the Greek is my favorite in the pantheon of classic American salads. Crunchy raw vegetables, theoretically juicy tomatoes, raw onion, dried oregano, and the salty/sour punch of feta cheese, olives, and maybe capers or pickled peppers—it’s a powerful, flavor-forward salad that’s hard to mess up.

Like many other classic American dishes (ground beef tacos, spaghetti and meatballs, General Tso’s chicken), the Greek salad is a domestic creation with a vague reference to some other country. It is common to find excoriations of the American Greek salad that claim that a dish called horiatiki (pronunciation is close to whore-YA-tee-kee) is the truly authentic Greek salad, the one Greeks love, the reason that any real, authentic, Greek person from Greece and not America would look at an American Greek salad and think, “Pah! This is not authentic!” (Horiatiki is a salad of roughly chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and sometimes sweet green pepper, with feta cheese, olive oil, olives, and oregano. It has no lettuce.) Ahhhh, authenticity.

On the other hand, there is no such thing as authentic food. The concept requires that all cuisines from primarily non-immigrant countries be thought of as static and unchanging, which of course they are not. Dishes are created all the time, even in countries with much longer culinary histories than ours. Existing dishes are modified. New influences change the way people eat. Regional specialties overlap, mingle with each other.

When you talk about traditional or authentic food, it’s also important to remember that basically zero world cuisines were unchanged by the introduction of New World ingredients in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It took some cuisines an extra couple centuries to figure out how great corn, squash, chiles, potatoes, and, especially, tomatoes are. Greece was one of those. Tomatoes weren’t introduced to Greece until the beginning of the nineteenth century, and then a civil war further postponed widespread adoption, so it wasn’t until the late nineteenth and even early twentieth centuries that tomatoes became really popular in Greece, despite the fact that they grow readily in the sunny Mediterranean climate.

“We always have a salad, this is a thing you always have at the table,” Aglaia Kremezi, a cookbook author, cooking school instructor, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on Greek cuisine, told me. There are many ancient Greek dishes that we would recognize today as salads, one in particular taking shape thanks to the needs of farmhands. “In the original village kind of salad, it was a lunch you could take in a box and eat in the fields,” Kremezi says. You’d have a pepper, a cucumber, some cheese, some onion, and, importantly, some bread. You’d chop it all up and have a meal, right there in the field. The farmhand salad, which does not really have a name, is fairly similar to a Lebanese salad called fattoush and an Italian salad called panzanella. They all use some form of stale bread-like product (the Greek version uses paximadi, twice-baked barley bread that has a texture similar to a biscotti) to soak up liquid from a fresh vegetable salad.

Greek cuisine shares some similarities with western European cuisines like Provencal and Italian, but in many ways it’s more similar to the cuisine of Turkey, with which it shares a short border. As in Turkish cuisine, Greeks often start a meal with an array of small salads and plates—you’d have some cheese, some savory pastries, some salads, each one a separately prepared mini-dish that’s served all at the same time for you to pick and choose. These mini-dishes, when served in this way, are sometimes called meze, like the Turkish version, and sometimes called orektiko.

Horiatiki was not one of the salads Kremezi grew up eating, because it didn’t exist until the mid-nineteen sixties. “When you sat down at the tavern, you ordered tomato salad and feta cheese, and then whatever else you wanted to order,” Kremezi says. Tomato salad, sometimes with cucumber or onion, sometimes not, was its own dish. A big slab of feta cheese (sheep’s milk only, or if you must, a tiny bit of goat’s milk, says Kremezi), covered in olive oil and dried oregano, was its own dish. Olives, too, were separate. Horiatiki takes all of those disparate meze dishes and combines them into one big salad.

Horiatiki was created, and then adopted throughout the country, in response to Greece’s desire in the sixties to be considered a real urban power—a European country, not a Middle Eastern country, like Turkey. Horiatiki is a salad to compete with niçoise. And it showed off so many of Greece’s strengths: phenomenally powerful herbs, strengthened in flavor by having to struggle in the dry, hot climate; truly world-class cheese; incredible fruits and vegetables; and some of the best, strongest, fruitiest, most flavorful olive oil anywhere. If you were an American tourist in 1968 and you had horiatiki at a seaside tavern, your mind was blown. This was some good shit.

To Greeks, it was kind of silly. “My parents were snubbing it, saying this is an overpriced way of serving,” says Kremezi. “And the whole thing backfired, because tourists would order the horiatiki and nothing else. They would call them horiatiki tourists, cheap tourists.” The name is curious as well. In Greek, “horiatiki” means “village,” a term and concept that was anathema in the sixties as Greece tried to appear modern and European. “If you wanted to dismiss something, you would say ‘this is horiatiki,’ to mean, this is not good,” says Kremezi. “So for a salad to succeed with that name, it must have been a great salad!” It was, and is, a great salad, and soon it exploded in popularity all over the country. Now it’s found in any tavern, any resort, or any seaside fish shack in Greece.  It’s also found year-round, though to Kremezi, ordering a horiatiki off-season is a clear giveaway that a diner doesn’t know what he or she is doing. “Horiatiki is a summer salad,” she says. “Now, of course, they make it all year round, but if people know their food, they don’t order horiatiki in the winter. In the winter we have the greens salad, mixed greens.”

In the US, Greek salad is a little different. It’s commonly found in diners, in pizza joints, and at any “American food” type chain. It’ll have a base of iceberg or romaine lettuce, feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes (sometimes cherry, sometimes sliced), onions (usually red), and a dressing of olive oil, vinegar (usually red wine), and oregano.

This Greek salad, not to be confused with the horiatiki, emerged at around the same time, in the sixties. (There are references to “Greek salad” before then, as early as the nineteen thirties, but these were bizarre concoctions of mayonnaise and cabbage and it’s unclear what, if anything, made them the least bit Greek.) Greek immigrants flowed into the US in their biggest numbers from around 1890 to 1923, when a law put a cap on immigrants; hundreds of thousands came to avoid the chaos of the destruction of the Ottoman Empire and World War I. Many of those found work, as immigrants tend to do, in restaurants. But Greeks, for whatever reason, managed to connect with Americans by creating or co-opting two very important American restaurant types: the diner, and the pizza joint.

Greek immigrants disproportionately ran both; most New York City diners, for example, are owned by people of Greek descent. Greek immigrants also found notable success in the pizza world. The inventor of Hawaiian pizza is a Greek guy who immigrated to Ontario, and the owner of the famous Mystic Pizza hails from Greece as well. Greek restaurant owners, while catering to the tastes of their new home, also inserted a few elements from home onto their menus, most notably in the Greek salad, an American riff on the concept of combining a whole bunch of Greek classic items onto one plate. With the success of both diners and pizza joints, generations of Americans have grown up with the Greek salad as a nostalgic touchstone.

There is no true Greek salad; horiatiki, aside from being only a few decades old, is also as fluid as any other dish. Some versions, says Kremezi, include herbs like purslane, a lemony succulent that’s also common in the northeast US, or rock samphire, an herb which grows out the sides of cliffs above the Mediterranean. Some might include sweet green peppers. She always includes capers. But what I found most interesting is what she doesn’t include: vinegar, and olives.

“In Greece we never add vinegar. Why do people add vinegar? Tomato is quite sour,” Kremezi says. “Why do they add vinegar, balsamic vinegar, these things? It’s beyond me.” She finds, as well, that olives, being very salty, throw off the balance of the salad. “Feta is already quite salty,” she says. She’s right; I never thought about it, seeing the Greek salad mostly as a salty and acidic kick in the teeth to balance out some greasy pizza, but it is not a particularly well-balanced salad. Kremezi’s version, though, is.

The basic elements of a good Greek salad are fairly uncomplicated. You need good tomatoes, in season. Heirlooms are perfect. This is a limited-edition salad, only ideal for a few short weeks in the summer, because you need top-quality tomatoes: they’re going to be supplying both acid and sugar. Get nice cucumbers (Kremezi likes either English or the curved, ridged Armenian type). Good quality fancy olive oil, preferably a heavy, fruity one. Good feta cheese—Greek, or Bulgarian, made of sheep’s milk, packed in brine. God help you if you buy pre-crumbled grocery store feta.

An underrated key to the Greek salad, whether American or horiatiki, is in the herbs. In Greece, most herbs and greens are gathered wild, and are powerful and unusual because of it. A jar of McCormick dried oregano is not really a good substitute. But fresh oregano is very easy to grow in pots, and absolutely delicious. Oregano is a key ingredient in Greek cuisine; Kremezi says there are more than twelve different varieties, all used for different things in different parts of the country, and that the best stuff is the wild type that’s never watered and is all the more potent for it. “But the fresh one,” like you would grow in pots, “I like the fresh one,” she says. “And I think it adds a very interesting touch to the salad. With the feta it’s very ideal.”

And with that, we’re ready to do the recipe. It’s simple, direct, all about the ingredients. This is my recipe, not Kremezi’s—you can find hers here, and I’d highly recommend reading more of her recipes over on her site (or buying her books on Amazon). But it’s influenced by what I learned from her.

Greek Salad

Shopping list: Heirloom tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, red onion, fresh oregano, olive oil, black Russian bread or pumpernickel, purslane, sheep’s milk feta

Slice bread into cubes, about an inch on each side, and put in the toaster oven to toast. When they’re done, let them cool and dry out—we want to simulate stale bread here. Put into a big bowl. Carefully slice tomatoes into large chunks—irregular if you want, this is a rustic salad, go nuts—but do it over the bowl, so as not to lose any juice from the tomatoes. Slice cucumbers in half lengthwise, then chop into fairly chunky half-moons. Slice red onion thinly, and mince a lot of fresh oregano. There is no substitute. Get fresh oregano. Do the same with about as much purslane leaves—it’s not quite as strong as oregano, but you want its flavor to be less dominant.

Toss all this in the bowl, and carefully crumble a lot of feta in there. Pour on more olive oil than you think you need. Toss gently and let sit for about half an hour, then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with olives on the side.

I will continue to get a Greek salad, with shitty hothouse tomatoes, olives, maybe anchovies, maybe hot peppers, and definitely lettuce, with my pizza, because I love it. But Kremezi’s version is a different type of salad, one that for me is as exciting as any new recipe I’ve tried. It’s not authentic, but it is delicious.

Photo by Alpha

16 Aug 10:35

So You Want to Write a Shipwreck Song

by Summer Block Kumar

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 5.53.26 PMI collect songs about shipwrecks and other maritime disasters, including mutinies, desertions, ghost ships, naval battles, pirate attacks, and as in one prototypical Decemberists song, murdering your nemesis after being swallowed by a whale. So far, I’ve compiled a list of more than fifty songs (with many variations on each). The best shipwreck songs contain some universal elements, which you would do well to include in your own maritime disaster tune.

1. Select a maritime disaster. The most popular era for singable shipwrecks is 1830-1910. The most recent wreck on my list is the Captain Torres, which went down in 1989. James Keelaghan’s song of the same name is tremendous, yet the fact that the grieving families are still alive today compromises the guiltless thrill of romanticizing the distant dead.

2. Your song should be named “The Wreck of” followed by the name of the ship. Don’t get creative.

3. Take the name of the place the ship is heading, then add the suffix -town. The Bay Rupert was on course for Melbourne-town; in “The Wreck of the Caspian,” Boston-town.  In “The Wreck of the Ellan Vannin,” one of the very greatest disaster songs, “Her hold was full and battened down/As she sailed towards far Liverpool-town.”

4. But aren’t you really going—to hell? In “The Wreck of the C.P. Yorke,” “though ’twas the mate stood watch at her wheel/’Twas the devil that guided her way.” In “Whaler’s Cove,” an otherworldly whale conspires “to send us whalers straight to hell.” In “The Wreck of the Ellan Vannin,” the line “this little ship was bound for hell” is absolutely thrilling, and Richard Hawley really nails it on the delivery, too.

5. What is the ship’s mission? Be very specific here. The Edmund Fitzgerald was “coming back from some mill in Wisconsin” and “concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms/When they left fully loaded for Cleveland”—“with a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more/than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.” The Ellan Vannin was delivering the mail. Other doomed ships were carrying cargo, exploring the poles, or ferrying emigrants. But the absolute best reason to go a-sea is to hunt whales, because now your song has whales in it.

6. A single misstep leads to tragedy. In “The Wreck of the Brother Jonathan,” the ship was overloaded. On the C.P. Yorke, “the mate was alert/for sight of the marker ahead/But he cut ‘er too short coming out of the Pass/And grounded on Tattenham Ledge.” “The skipper he was reading Climax,” a pornographic magazine, when he “missed the channel in the dark” and sank The Green Cove.

Other times, the captain ignores fair warning. In “The Wreck Of The Isidore,” a sailor named Thomas King said “‘Captain, hear my tale/I have had a terrible dream, I fear that we should not sail.’” He continues, “In my dream our ship was wrecked, and all aboard were lost/Then another sailor he spoke up loud said I too have had such a dream/Of seven coffins on the shore, my own dead face I have seen.”

7. The cook cannot be lucky. He may predict disaster, as in “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” or struggle to accept it, as in “The Mermaid.” In “The John B. Sails” (recorded by The Beach Boys as “Sloop John B”), he goes mad. “The poor cook he caught the fits/and threw away all my grits/and then he took and he ate up all of my corn,” which is excellent, even if the chorus (“this is the worst trip/I’ve ever been on”) sounds like a bad Expedia review of a Carnival cruise. “Our cook in the fore-rigging froze by the fiercest wind that blew,” the first fatality in “The Loss of the Antelope.” Six months after the wreck of the Maggie Hunter, “the cook was found floating near the shore . . . A hatch,  a boom, a broken spar, the drowned woman’s pale dead face,/of that stout craft and gallant crew remained the only trace.”

8. Include a lot of technical detail about the wreck. The best shipwreck songs could double as formal incident reports. At minimum, every shipwreck song must mention the exact date of the wreck, as well as the time of day, a rough time line of the incident, and the number of men and women who died. The men and women must all be referred to as “souls.”

In “When the Willie Went Down,” “The pilot stood upon the bridge,/but how was he to know,/the Sinclair tug that crossed her bow held a barge in tow, and the cable cut the Willie, and it opened up the hull, on the night when the Willie went down.”

Here you can remind your land-bound listeners just how long it takes to die at sea. In “The Wreck of the Mary Somers,” “the Somers meets with a heavy gale/and springs a leak under close-reefed sail/with her bowsprit gone and her rudder too.” For six days her crew tried to pump the water out, but “On the seventh morn, our pumps did sound,/nine feet of water in the hold was found.”

9. One way to inject pathos is by suggesting the ship was just a few miles from safety when the disaster struck. This is the nautical version of the cop on his last day before retirement. “Less than a mile from the Bar lightship/by a mighty wave Ellan Vannin was hit.” In “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” “The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay/If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.” On the Powhatan, the passengers could see the lights on the shore. “Isaac Lewis” is about a young man who sailed the world only to die ten yards from the shores of his home and in view of his beloved father: “And I drowned where as a child I’d fished on the rocks of northern Wales/And in three days’ time I washed upon the whitened sandy shore/100 yards from Moelfre, my father’s wide oak door.” The coast guard was close enough to let the dying men on the Captain Torres place goodbye calls to their families, but not close enough to save them.

10. Use the phrase “watery grave.” If not now, when?

11. You can include a moral, but don’t be a dick about it. The worst maritime disaster songs are the ones about the Titanic, because they are both boring and smug. In Blind Willie Johnson’s “God Moves on the Water,” he incorrectly names the Titanic’s builder as A. G. Smith, singing, “A.G. Smith, mighty man, built a boat that he couldn’t understand,” which seems neither fair nor accurate for someone who did build a giant damn boat, after all. “Old Canoe” asserts, “This great ship was built by man, that is why she could not stand;/’She could not sink’ was the cry from one and all./But an iceberg ripped her side and it cut down all her pride; They found the hand of God was in it all,” which is a hell of a thing to say.

12. The best morals are populist ones. Less preachy than most of its kind, “When that Great Ship Went Down” adds a line about the mistreatment of the poorest among the Titanic. Other songs intimate that the cargo they were carrying was not worth dying for, like the coconuts, spices, perfume, and silk dresses carried by the ill-fated Anna Marie. “The Wreck of the Lucy Walker” concerns itself with a wealthy, prideful captain and his crew of consigned slaves. “Now the boilerman named Jim/knew exactly how much steam/that it took to keep Lucy running smooth.” The captain insists they go faster to impress his fellow steamboat tycoons. When Jim refuses, the captain pulls a gun on him. Jim leaps off the boat, saving himself, before a boiler explosion sinks the ship: “With all those dollar bills, Rich Joe couldn’t escape the mighty river’s jaw.”

13. But sometimes, there’s nothing to blame but the the endless, indifferent sea. The “Isaac Lewis” declares, “Man has tamed and shaped the land, he’ll never tame the sea.” For “The Wreck of the Julie Plante,” the lesson is, “You can’t get drowned on Lake St. Claire so long as you stay on shore.”

14. Add a little mystery. “They might have split up or they might have capsized/They may have broke deep and took water,” sings Gordon Lightfoot. In “Lady Franklin’s Lament,” the narrator says, “In Baffin’s Bay where the whale fish blow/The fate of Franklin no man may know/The fate of Franklin no tongue can tell/Lord Franklin alone with his sailors do dwell.” In “The Schooner Persian’s Crew,” “In mystery their dooms are sealed; they did collide, some say,/And that is all that will be revealed until the judgment day.”

15. Don’t try to be funny. While there are a few notable shipwreck songs with humorous elements, including “The Wreck of the Athens Queen” and the parody song “The Wreck of the Mary Jane,” a true folk disaster song should be delivered in utmost sincerity and sobriety. The sea is not the place for sarcasm, my friends. It’s a shipwreck, show some respect.

16. Bitter irony is acceptable, however.

In “Captain Torres,” the narrator, a sailor’s wife, muses: “How strange this world of wonder:/ships sailing, planes flying,/sound sent at speed of light/phone calls from young men dying.” In “The Wreck of the Bay Rupert,” they set off with a load of goods including “a dozen score of Bibles.” She goes down on a Sunday morning, “And the town was all at prayer,/but no missionary minister or the word of God,/Could have kept them there.” Eventually the “Eskimos” [sic] salvage anything of value, saying “to hell with all them Bibles.”

17. The best shipwreck—the best folk songs in general—conclude with the protagonist explaining that though he may die, his spirit will live on, as long as he is remembered/avenged. I include “The Highwayman” on my maritime playlist even though only one of its verses concerns the sea, because in only seven lines, Kris Kristofferson hits upon nearly every key element of a good maritime disaster song, concluding triumphantly, “when the yards broke off they said that I got killed/But I am living still.”

18. Though it contains no maritime tragedy, I would be remiss not to mention “Willie Taylor,” the keystone entry of my forthcoming play list Songs of Maritime Triumph. Briefly: a young woman and her lover are engaged, but before they can be married he is pressed into service and shipped off to sea. She disguises herself as a sailor (by lightly dabbing her fingertips with tar) and goes to find him, when a single button accidentally pops off her jacket, baring her breasts to all assembled. Unfazed, she asks to see her man. The captain informs her, “If you’ll get up tomorrow morning/Early as the break of day/There you’ll spy your Willie Taylor/Walking along with a lady gay.” She follows his advice, returns the next morning, sees Willie with his new bride, and immediately shoots him dead. Impressed by her decisiveness, the captain proclaims her the new ship’s commander.

Everything about this song is perfect.

15 Aug 06:37

Dip the Vegetables

by Dan Nosowitz

7565050308_d425bac54d_bCrudités—raw vegetables for dipping—are, I think, a good example of the typical American meal’s grudging inclusion of vegetables. “Well, we have all the food we actually want to eat, but it feels like we should have some vegetables. How about some, I don’t know…celery. With ranch dressing to make it tolerable.” There’s nothing exactly wrong with celery dipped in ranch dressing—actually, it’s pretty good—but the usual array of carrots, celery, maybe some broccoli, and cherry tomatoes, pre-sliced and brought home from the grocery store in its own sectioned plastic container, has some serious room to grow.

Because, really, there’s nothing about crudités that would stop them from being delicious and impressive, especially now, in the peak of summer produce (“peak peach,” I call it), when crisp summer fruits and vegetables are so good that sometimes you just want to eat them raw, or prepared as simply as possible.

Many, many cultures have their own variations on the vegetable platter; some, especially in northern climes like Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, lean heavily on pickled vegetables. In the Middle East, especially Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, and Syria, the mezze platter is an intensely laborious, complex collection of mini-dishes, from salads and stuffed vegetables to breads, cheeses, and dips.

But because American cuisine is so indebted to western European cuisine, especially that of France and Italy, our conception of the vegetable platter tends to be very French, and come with a French name: Crudités. There are basically no recipes for crudités in any classic French or Franco-American cookbook; neither Escoffier nor Julia Child saw fit to write down instructions for serving raw vegetables, though Julia was known to serve it. I do see fit, though. In this way I am better than Escoffier.

For the purposes of this column, I’m going to restrict the concept of the vegetable platter to the very simple “raw vegetables with a dip.” Partly that’s so I don’t run out of things to write about, and partly because there’s plenty to deal with right there.

The most important step in constructing a crudités platter is choosing the vegetables. Summer, especially here in the Northeast, is entirely too brief, and the seasons of individual items of produce is sometimes limited to mere weeks. Given that we’re going to be eating these items raw, unassisted by the powers of heat and acid and oil, we have no choice but to get the highest quality produce available. That means that you should never, ever make a shopping list of vegetables; the entire game here is to buy the absolute best stuff you can find that day, and eat it as quickly as possible.

But there are also many fruits and vegetables that are not, in my opinion, really suitable for crudités. This is a dipping dish, so we have to think of structural integrity: we will be looking for produce that can stand up to being dragged through a thick dip without breaking. Tomatoes are wholly unsuitable for crudités. Members of the cucurbit family (including cucumbers, melons, squash, and gourds) must be chosen exceedingly carefully; many are too delicate.

My favorites are tougher vegetables and fruits. Carrots are perfect. Radishes. Green beans. Sugar snap peas. Mild sweet peppers like bells (which I do not really like in any other context). Jicama. Fennel. Root vegetables like kohlrabi, turnips, and raw beets (opt for golden or chioggia/candy cane, so they won’t bleed into your dip). Cauliflower is nice. And some of the best, oddly, are leaves, provided they have a thick backbone: romaine, endive, radicchio.

Some vegetables are suitable only in very few forms. I don’t much like raw broccoli; I find the florets kind of dry and crumbly. But broccoli stalks are perfect for this. Summer squash is fantastic raw, but there are only a few kinds that are really dippable. Opt for either baby versions that can be eaten whole (they’re a little less fragile whole than cut up) or the tougher gourd-like varieties, which are usually ridged. Cucumbers, same thing: If you can find really small ones that can be eaten whole, great. The problem with cucumbers is that the insides, where the seeds are, are very watery and tend to fall apart. But some varieties have minimal seeds and work well for this. If you can find an Armenian (ridged, curved, weird-looking) or Persian (small, slender, cute) cucumber, grab it.

As far as preparation, you want to make it as easy as possible to dip, which means, frankly, you want something that’s shaped vaguely like a french fry. That’s easy to do for green beans, sugar snap peas, and carrots, which are already kind of shaped the right way. Peppers are pretty easy, too—just slice into narrow strips. For radishes, try to get oblong varieties like French breakfast radishes, which you can either serve whole or, if they seem too big, slice in half length-wise, right through the root. Other root vegetables will take more preparation. Jicama needs to be peeled, and kohlrabi does too, sometimes (though it may not, given that we’re eating them in the summer when the plants are young and tender). Otherwise you want to slice into thick slices, and then laterally into french-fry-like batons.

Storage is another element that people tend to take for granted. Ideally, your crudités should be purchased, prepared, and served within no more than a few hours. Certainly they should not be cut and left overnight; this will cause them to wilt, which will make them both less tasty and harder to dip. If you have to store them, use a ziploc bag with a lightly damp paper towel inside, and press as much of the air as possible out of the bag before sealing it. They’ll last for a good half day like that, maybe even as long as a day.

The other important element for crudités is, obviously, the dip. French crudités are sometimes served with a vinaigrette, which I like in theory but not in practice, because I am a tremendously sloppy eater and it is, like, really hard to get olive oil stains out of clothes. I like thick dips for crudités, because they stick to the vegetable and can be safely transported from dip container to mouth. There’s an infinite number of dips that fulfill this requirement, but my go-to dips are either yogurt-based or some sort of puree. Here are a couple.

Tzatziki-Type Thing

Shopping list: Greek yogurt, garlic, lemon, cucumber, olive oil, fresh herbs (dill, parsley, mint, and/or oregano)

Using a microplane, grate one small clove of garlic. Chop up a cucumber into cubes about a centimeter on each side. Chop herbs finely, and use a lot of them. In a big mixing bowl, mix one of the large containers of Fage yogurt, herbs, garlic, cucumber. Squeeze half a lemon’s worth of lemon juice in, and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Mix thoroughly and (this is very important) let sit for a few hours. If you don’t, the garlic will taste overpoweringly spicy and raw. If you don’t have a few hours, skip the garlic. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Yucatecan Pepita Thing

Shopping list: Pumpkin seeds, orange, lime, cherry tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno or serrano, scallions, cilantro

In a dry cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, throw in ten cherry tomatoes, a few cloves of garlic (separated but not peeled; you want each individual clove to still be in its papery husk), a scallion (chopped into inch-long pieces), and a chile pepper to taste (I usually use about half a jalapeno or a whole serrano). Turn occasionally until each item is a little charred and soft—the tomatoes, scallions, and pepper will be done fairly quickly, the garlic may take fifteen minutes—and remove when done. Peel garlic and toss, along with pepper and tomatoes, into a food processor.

In the same skillet, throw in about a cup of pumpkin seeds and let toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and a little bit browned, which will take about five minutes. Toss those in the food processor as well, and add a squeeze of orange, a squeeze of lime, and a lot of cilantro. Blend thoroughly and season to taste with salt and pepper. It may need more lime.

Quick Hummus

Shopping list: Can of chickpeas, lemon, olive oil, garlic, parsley

Drain can of chickpeas. With a microplane, finely grate one small clove of garlic. Throw chickpeas, garlic, and chopped parsley into food processor; add a couple glugs of olive oil and a lot of lemon juice, probably a whole lemon. Blend, adding water as needed to smooth things out. Chill immediately.

A really good platter of crudités is one of my favorite party tricks; it’s something everyone is familiar with and nobody is really scared of, but if you put in a little bit of extra work in selecting your vegetables and making a nice dip, it’s something people will keep going back to. It also happens to be my favorite thing to bring to a park picnic: a ziploc bag of vegetables, a container of dip, and you have one of the best ways to taste the real freshness of summer produce.

Photo by krista

23 Jun 13:37

Mistranslation: Moving Beyond Trauma Through Language

by Nika Knight

I might tell you that I speak German, but I won’t say that I’m fluent. I can read a newspaper article and hold a conversation on your day, the weather, your opinion on Angela Merkel. But a bureaucratic form or a passage from Schiller will stymie me. I moved to Berlin having only taken German 101 and 102, and so I can also never tell you when I’m using a modal verb or the Präteritum, the simple past tense. I first learned German while living there, mainly from parties and conversations with stoned flatmates, an internship at a magazine where I cold-called business owners and mostly got shouted at. But I would not call myself fluent. I can’t understand a parliamentary debate and anything written before 1930 requires a dictionary.

Still, my German comes out in strange places. I dream often in German, phrases and conversations. I dream that I am looking for the German word for something.

We say “there must be a German word for that” when we land on a particularly nuanced, but universal feeling — arriving at your car to realize you’ve left your keys in your apartment; the half-dreaming moment before you fall asleep when your stomach suddenly drops as if you’ve fallen, and you startle awake. But in fact English has tens of thousands more words than German does; a student I lived with in Berlin was shocked when I told him about the English-speaker’s assumption that German was the language with all the most perfect words that our own language lacks. German doesn’t have many words, to be truthful, it just allows for mash-ups. Thus, the wildly bereft sensation of being alone in the forest, which we must capture in that lengthy phrase, is expressed in a single word: Waldeinsamkeit Wald, forest, and einsamkeit, loneliness. The concept arises from the tradition of German Romanticism, and therefore Waldeinsamkeit not only alludes to what it’s like to be alone in the German woods, sun-dappled leaves gleaming in the silence of the Black Forest, but also evokes Beethoven’s 9th, Rilke’s appeal to the angels. A culture’s history and its literature are tightly bound within its words.

Read more Mistranslation: Moving Beyond Trauma Through Language at The Toast.

18 Jun 12:27

Hare Relatable

by John Herrman

Be the hare! Or, wait, be the snowboarder? The drone? Be……. the avalanche?

This has been Friday Inspirations.

17 Jun 11:19

Trolls Professional

by John Herrman

“One account was called ‘I Am Ass.’ Ass had a Twitter account, an Instagram account, multiple Facebook accounts and his own website. In his avatars, Ass was depicted as a pair of cartoon buttocks with an ugly, smirking face. He filled his social-media presences with links to news articles, along with his own commentary. Ass had a puerile sense of humor and only a rudimentary grasp of the English language. He also really hated Barack Obama. Ass denounced Obama in posts strewn with all-caps rants and scatological puns. One characteristic post linked to a news article about an ISIS massacre in Iraq, which Ass shared on Facebook with the comment: ‘I’m scared and farting! ISIS is a monster awakened by Obama when he unleashed this disastrous Iraq war!'” Read Adrian Chen on the professional nightmare mercenaries of Russia’s Internet Research Agency.

15 Jun 08:45

The Mind of a Teen Bot

by Hallie Bateman


(For background.)








08 Jun 10:50

Tools To Notify You When Dependencies Update

by Chris Coyier

Any given website has, approximately, a whole bunch of dependencies. Take CodePen. The site is Ruby on Rails. Both Ruby and Rails are actively developed, versioned dependencies. There are a good 30+ gems in the project that help us do different internal things (e.g. process Sass into CSS) and user-facing things (e.g. process user-generated Markdown). Those gems are versioned dependencies. Not to mention front-end libraries we use. Not to mention Not to mention server-level software. Not to mention Node stuff.

It's a good idea to keep those things up-to-date (new features! security updates!), but also to do it on your own terms so you know what's changing and can test accordingly. But how do you know a new version of a dependency has been released? Let us count the ways.

Manually check

You can always just, you know, look. Perhaps not super efficient, but it does the trick.

In the case of gems, you can run gem outdated (or bundle outdated) to see a list of all the gems you have that are behind. gem update will update all of them (probably a bit heavy-handed for most apps), so gem update gemname is useful for hitting just the ones you want to update.

In the case of node, there is also a npm outdated command to see what is old. Then there is a trick where you can change the dependency version in the `package.json` file to "*" then running npm update --save. Probably even better, there is a package, npm-check-updates, specifically for helping with this process.

If you're using Bower, there is bower-list which can help you see which of your dependencies are outdated, but it lists everything, not just the outdated ones. Looks like they are discussing improving that.

Sometimes the software you are using has a system for updates already. For instance in WordPress, they are very clear in the admin area when plugins, themes, or WordPress itself needs an update and allows you to do that right from the admin area itself. But WordPress won't tell you if the version of PHP your server runs is out of date, or if your OpenSSL software is old, or if the grid framework you used to build your theme has a new version out.

Subscribe to releases via RSS

GitHub repos have a releases section (example). You can get a feed of those releases at a URL like this:


Subscribe to that in your feed reader of choice for notifications.

A feed reader isn't the only way to consume RSS though. You could, for example, get fancy and use IFTTT to send you an iOS notification or an email when a new RSS entry is published (meaning a new version of a dependency has been published).

Sometimes it makes sense to have one RSS feed for all this too. You can use Yahoo Pipes to combine RSS feeds pretty easily.

Screen scrape

If the dependency you use isn't on GitHub, or otherwise has no feed or practical way to watch it, you could rely on scraping the screen of wherever URL it lives at on the web to check for changes. The Chrome extension Page Monitor could help with that.

Use a Service

Sibbell is one that came recommended when I was asking around about this. I can vouch for it. We've been using it at CodePen and it's been working great.

You don't have to change anything, just star or watch the projects that you use on GitHub.
When a new release is published, Sibbell will let you know.

VersionEye is another one that works a slightly different way:

VersionEye shows you all supported project files in all branches for all of your repositories. After parsing your project file you can immediately see which dependencies are outdated.

VersionEye currently supports these 10 package managers: Composer, Bundler, PIP, NPM, Bower, Leiningen, CocoaPods, Maven, SBT and Gradle.

Along those same lines, there is also Gemnasium:

Gemnasium parses your project's dependencies and notifies you when new versions are released or they need to be updated.


You can ... be notified of new releases to keep your applications secure and up to date.

Fair Warning

Always be careful granting access to your GitHub account to third parties. If you have private repos, they are probably private for a good reason. Any security breach at those third parties and access to those repos could end up in the wrong hands. In the case of Sibbell, it's easy enough to create a GitHub account just for it and star the stuff you want to watch through that. It's harder with the services that watch your dependency files in your real repos.

I'm not saying don't use these things, I'm saying use good judgement and team communication about stuff like this.

What do you do?

Have a homegrown method? Use one of these? Do nothing?

Tools To Notify You When Dependencies Update is a post from CSS-Tricks

28 May 14:34

22+ International Borders Around The World

by Lina D.

Netherlands And Belgium

Netherlands And Belgium


Norway And Sweden

Norway And Sweden


Argentina, Brazil And Paraguay

Argentina, Brazil And Paraguay


USA And Mexico

USA And Mexico


Haiti And The Dominican Republic

Haiti And The Dominican Republic


Bolivia And Brasil

Bolivia And Brasil


Macau Drives On The Left Side Of The Road, Mainland China Drives On The Right, So This Is What They Do At The Border

Macau Drives On The Left Side Of The Road, Mainland China Drives On The Right, So This Is What  They Do At The Border


Spain And Portugal

Spain And Portugal


Poland And Ukraine

Poland And Ukraine


USA And Mexico

USA And Mexico


The Woman At Right Is Standing In The Lithuanian Village Of Norviliskes To Speak With Her Belarusian Relatives Across The Fence On The Border Between Belarus And Lithuania

The Woman At Right Is Standing In The Lithuanian Village Of Norviliskes To Speak With Her Belarusian Relatives Across The Fence On The Border Between Belarus And Lithuania


Russia And Belarus

Russia And Belarus


Slovakia, Austria And Hungary

Slovakia, Austria And Hungary

Residents Of Naco, Arizona And Naco, Mexico Play Volleyball Match Over Fence Between USA And Mexico

Residents Of Naco, Arizona And Naco, Mexico Play Volleyball Match Over Fence Between USA And Mexico


India And Pakistan Border Visible From Space

India And Pakistan Border Visible From Space

Germany And Czech Republic Showcase Two Different Approaches To Bark Beetle Infestation – Silvicultural Intervention Vs. Intentional Neglect

Germany And Czech Republic Showcase Two Different Approaches To Bark Beetle Infestation - Silvicultural Intervention Vs. Intentional Neglect


Egypt And Israel

Egypt And Israel


Zipline Connects Spain And Portugal

Zipline Connects Spain And Portugal


Point Where Borders Of Germany, The Netherlands And Belgium Converge Near City Of Aachen

Point Where Borders Of Germany, The Netherlands And Belgium Converge Near City Of Aachen


Sweden And Norway

Sweden And Norway


Denmark And Sweden

Denmark And Sweden


Usa And Canada

Usa And Canada


23 May 10:08

Feature: Backtrack By Track: The Drones - 'Wait Long By The River...'

by Mess+Noise

Backtrack By Track: The Drones - 'Wait Long By The River...'

Ten years on from Wait Long By The River And The Bodies Of Your Enemies Will Float By, GARETH LIDDIARD looks back on the band's landmark second LP. Band photo by ANDREW WATSON.

'Shark Fin Blues'

This song is reliable like a good dog. When we, or our audience, suck, we can play this and it’s like a reset button. It was written in Collingwood over the top of a Karen Dalton banjo tune, then transplanted onto a bunch of other chords. The intro is a fudged Townes Van Zandt riff and the outro is something Rui [Pereira] improvised, and I remembered.


The title is poking fun at pop music's penchant for repeating "baby" over and over all day long. I used one of the verses again later in a song on the next album just to see if anyone noticed and thought I was running out of ideas. Some people did, even though it was parked between a bunch of 10 minute songs with forty thousand verses each.

'The Best You Can Believe In'

This has the most straight-forward drum beat, but all I hear in this recording is Chris [Strybosch]'s style. Contrary to popular belief, being a real musician is more style than anything. Substance is for tossers. Style is like handwriting, if anyone remembers that. Some people's handwriting just has a certain something you recognise and you like it for that. Rui’s doing a Jimmy Page with a violin bow and Steve [Hesketh]'s outro is just right for a song as burned out and mean as this. Our early aesthetic was pretty much Mad Max's XB Falcon Interceptor: stripped back, pissed off and fuck you. Max’s XB now resides in a Florida car museum alongside the Bat Mobile, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Kit and the Munster's coach. Wait Long By The River... is available in shops.


We got pretty wasted before we recorded this and then improvised a bunch of weird shit and then forgot the chorus. At the end of the song on the master tapes you can hear Chris saying “we sound like a bunch of pissed idiots” which was an epiphany of sorts. We re-recorded it years later with the missing part back in there but this version still pretty good. It has Shepard scales and synth and violin and is too depressing and strange and real for most people, which is cool. Fi [Kitschin] is playing piano and singing along. The next time she played keys was about eight years later accompanying Patti Smith at the Sydney Opera House during 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. She’s picky.

'You Really Don’t Care'

I used an Octavia pedal in this and there’s a line asking Jimi Hendrix if he would have bothered being radical if he’d known people would have mostly been too frightened and dull to do anything except copy him. That’s a big problem in rock ‘n’ roll, now more than ever. Most big leaps forward in rock ‘n’ roll have been African American and why wouldn’t you leap forward if your past was that bad. White people have a harder time with innovation because there’s always the temptation to be fond of the good ‘ole days and be retro. It’s like an opiate, just pick your favourite era and copy it. I’m not saying we didn’t ever do that but we always got some sausage in the sizzle. Or soysage at least.

'Sitting On The Edge Of The Bed Cryin''

This sounds like it was recorded inside somebody’s head. I can actually remember Loki putting the finishing touches on the mix and both of us thinking, "what the fuck is this?". We always could’ve done an Einstürzende Neubauten and gone totally weird with everything but it seemed like a better idea to pervert a form from the inside out and launch a surprise attack. This is a good example of us doing that.

'The Freedom In The Loot'

I like this one ‘cause me and Rui channel our best Tony Iommi and Johnny Thunders simultaneously. And it’s about some stupid shit: The two best English words are ‘love’ and ‘fuck.’ One is noble, while the other is always useful anywhere, but their reputations are wildly dissimilar. Arts and sciences are best known for trying to glean the meaning of life. No one knows this but I am the world’s greatest artist and an amateur scientist and I reckon death gives life value by making life finite, while fucking makes it all possible in the first place and gives us something to strive for in the interim. Love just fools you into fucking and nurturing things that eventually fuck or promote being fucked. Love turns what is basically a pretty gross and weird genetic trick into our main reason to live which is one of the universe's best jokes. This song is like not laughing at that joke.

'Another Rousing Chorus You Idiots!!!!'

Some people say the second last song is always the dud but this is weird, evil and depressing. 5 stars!

'This Time'

This wraps it all up nicely and yet leaves things open for the sequel.


The Drones celebrate the ten year anniversary of Wait Long By The River..., along with a preview of their upcoming album, at Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid LIVE on Sunday May 24. Ticket details here.

06 May 11:11

Leaving New York and Also Technology

by Benjamin Hart


It’s hard to pinpoint the moment when New York and also technology started to feel like such a chore. Maybe it was when I urinated in a slim-fit adult diaper while waiting in line for the iPhone 4 for ninety-three hours and pronounced the experience “worth it,” or when I found myself testing out tweets on my wife during foreplay, or when a rat scurried across my face and into my mouth while I was checking Facebook and waiting for a C train that never arrived. But a few weeks ago, on a gray April day, as I ambled by the Duane Reade where my favorite dive bar McHurlihan’s once stood, while joylessly scrolling through my Twitter feed in between reading a saved Instapaper article about how to live in the moment, I realized I had to leave New York and stop using the Internet for a while.

When I moved to Williamsburg in 2002, scraping by in the center of the universe seemed like a grand adventure. I’d drink until dawn at places like The Station, Whirlybird, and JJ’s Good Time Emporium on the Lower East Side (now closed); I’d do lines off the grimy concrete of McCarren Park Pool (now clean); and then take the L to Bushwick and try not to get mugged on my way to a warehouse party (now safe). Instead of staring at my phone compulsively, I’d smoke a cigarette. Inside. I didn’t yet know what a “meme” was. I became passing acquaintances with the guys from TV on the Radio, but I didn’t feel the irrepressible need to share such information with everyone, because social networking hadn’t yet transformed us all into greedy approval-seekers. When I began face-to-face conversations with “I know the guys from TV on the Radio,” people looked impressed, and that was enough for me.

My neighborhood has changed, too. As I occasionally glanced away from my glowing screen to avoid bumping into the twenty-five-year-old hedge funders moving in, I noticed the local color of the place draining out like an Instagram filter. Bobby’s, the mom-and-pop pharmacy that was frequently out of toilet paper but nonetheless charming, was forced to move to Jersey City after its rapacious landlords jacked up the rent a hundred and thirty thousand percent. (The Walgreens that moved in always has toilet paper.) And Zgliewzki, the Polish diner everyone loved (though nobody I know had ever been there) shuttered to make way for Polski, a modern take on Slavic cuisine featuring a forty-two-dollar ramen kielbasa stuffed with sustainably farmed foie gras.

More importantly, my wife and I wanted a family, and thanks to my crippling addiction to Zillow and the Styles section, I knew all too well that a two-bedroom apartment was way out of reach. Friends who had once shuddered at the thought of leaving the city spoke of a happier, healthier lifestyle elsewhere. Some of them even moved to Los Angeles, which they reported didn’t suck after all. During the fifteen-month winter, I became so consumed with jealousy over California Instagram feeds that I deleted the app for seven minutes. The last straw came in February, when, while waiting in a Trader Joe’s line that snaked around the block twice to buy conflict-free hummus, I learned via Periscope that my co-worker Steve had been selected for Amazon drone-delivery beta testing. I teared up and then stepped directly in a giant slush puddle to get into my one-dollar UberPool ride from Chelsea to Eastern East Williamsburg.

That night, my wife and I began scouring real estate listings, and almost immediately warmed to Satchel-on-Hudson, a lovely village two hours north of the city. For a quarter million, which would have gotten us a bed bug-infested closet in the city, we purchased a ramshackle fourteen-bedroom house with a pool, a tennis court, a bridle path, and even former butler quarters, which we could rent out on Airbnb. We have two Priuses, two washers and dryers, a dishwasher, and total peace of mind. Life out here is placid and wonderful, and has afforded me the time and space for things I could never do in the city, like jarring my own salsa and not living in New York. Our Japanese garden is actually planted with the books I told myself I didn’t have time to read. I’m most proud of the War and Peace cacti, which is flourishing.

The same week we closed the sale on our place in Williamsburg, I announced my plan to leap off the grid to everyone I knew, posting lengthy farewells on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Sina Weibo, WhatsApp, GroupMe, Adult Friend Finder, and John Wick message boards. I explained that I wouldn’t be responding to any electronic communication for an indeterminate period of time, so anyone who wanted to get in touch with me would have to pick up the phone and call, or better yet, send me an old-fashioned letter, since they’re inherently more special than emails.

I thought my craving for instant gratification and the big city would be unbearable. And for the first week, it really was. I desperately missed the convenience of email, the immediacy of Twitter, the diversity of the different kind of white gentrifiers on my block, the pizza. And I admit to relapsing once or twice—one Saturday I just took off for New York with nothing but a selfie stick in my hand and the wind at my back before pulling myself together just ahead of the George Washington Bridge. But something funny happened around ten days into my experiment: I slowed down and stopped caring so much. I began not to miss the pinging and the bleeping and the blooping of life in the twenty-four-hour information cycle. Gradually, I even became more attuned to the rhythms of everyday life. In the old days, I’d automatically reach for my phone as soon as I woke up. Now, I meditate for fifteen minutes, then do some recreational roof-thatching while chipping away at Emoji Dick. I feel in tune with my surroundings in new and unexpected ways. Case in point: as I was writing this, a red bird sat on a tree branch outside my office window (I actually have three offices in this house) and I really looked at it. I think it was a robin.

My friends haven’t abandoned me because I’m offline. Just a day after signing off, I got a phone call from my buddy Nick. I had mostly kept up with his life through social networks, so it was nice to actually hear his voice. He told me that his marriage is on the rocks, and that he feels unappreciated at work. Now that’s the kind of thing you don’t get from a status update. My marriage has changed, too. Instead of arguing about what to watch on Netflix, my wife and I argue about which obscure Italian neorealist film to rent from the adorable local video store (we finally settled on The Rock), or which beautiful hiking trail to conquer, or whether to have kids now that we need to fill up so many rooms in our house.

It’s now been a month since I left New York and quit the Internet, and I don’t regret what I did for a second. In fact, I want people to know everything about my life now, but it’s hard since I lost all my followers and nobody gives a shit what some piece of shit from upstate has to say. That’s why I’m writing this letter on parchment paper, and that’s why I’m having it hand-delivered to every major media outlet in America. Because you can quit the city and you can quit the Internet, but you can never quit telling people how much better you are than them.

Photo by Andy Atzert