Man, the funny pages can still bring it:
There are two works of art I associate with an ex. One is the music of Mayer Hawthorne, specifically A Strange Arrangement, which had come out a few months before our brief relationship and was a primary jam for me that winter. The other is the Disney animated film The Princess and the Frog, which we saw together in the theater on one of our few dates.
I love both dearly. Hawthorne sounds like Motown reanimated (in a white dude no less). And The Princess and the Frog was a beautiful return to classic Disney form, with a jazzy Randy Newman soundtrack to boot.
But I had to stop listening to Mayer Hawthorne. For some unknown reason, I’ve been able to Eternal Sunshine the unwanted associations from the Princess and the Frog soundtrack and have enjoyed it for years.
Not so for Hawthorne. Despite trying mightily to enjoy A Strange Arrangement and his follow-up How Do You Do on their own terms, the associations that stuck to them overpowered any enjoyment they provided, so I had to say goodbye.
How one survived and one didn’t is a mystery. Scarcity isn’t the issue; it’s not like Disney soundtracks and soul music are hard to find. Maybe it’s because Hawthorne’s music is specifically about love and relationships, and that was harder to separate from reality than music sung by animated frogs.
Perhaps I’ll come back to Hawthorne and the patina of the past will have faded. In the meantime, I guess I just wasn’t willing to give up “When We’re Human”:
Though the cold, wintry weather has extended into April this year, the other day the sun beamed and the temperature jumped into the 60s. I decided to take a break from work and go for a short walk, and I soon ambled down one of the countless back alleys that cut through Chicagoland.
(Here’s the fascinating story of how Chicago became the “alley capital” of the United States.)
I noticed right away there was a wide variety of patterns on the garages and buildings that lined my walk, so I started snapping pictures of them:
In honor of National Library Week, I’d like to know your favorite library memories or experiences, distant or recent. And if you don’t have any, why not?
See my libraries tag for more goodness.
Mashups from the January 28, 2018 issue of New York Times Magazine. (See more magazine mashups.)
I was seven years old when the O.J. Simpson trial happened. I don’t have any personal memories of it, but through over 20 years of cultural osmosis I’ve grown familiar with its broad strokes and iconic images: the Bronco chase, Kato Kaelin, O.J. trying on the glove, Judge Ito, the verdict.
Watching FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson, then, was an hours-long revelation for me. Seeing a dramatized version of the moments and decisions between those images helped put the whole trial and consequent media circus in better perspective.
And wow, was it a cloisterwalk, to put it in PG terms. What began as a supposedly slam-dunk case began to unravel in slow motion, undermined by shoddy police work, questionable courtroom strategies, and a defense that simply outplayed the prosecution. I still think O.J. did it, but I understand better now why he got off.
Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark and Courtney B. Vance as Johnny Cochran are the standouts in the cast, and the anchors for what becomes a wild narrative. It’s a tremendous credit to the creators of the show that despite there being zero mystery about the climax, I was so invested in the narrative that my heart was pounding by the time the verdict finally arrived, having felt each twist and surprise development along the way.
I went with this one over O.J.: Made in America because I thought it would be shorter, but it’s just as long, if not longer, than the documentary. Hollywood might not be great at rigorous history, but it is great at making compelling stories. So I’m sure I’ll go back to O.J. soon.
Refer Madness spotlights strange, intriguing, or otherwise noteworthy stories from the library reference desk.
In my library, one of the information desks sits in a high-traffic area where all the activity from the entrance, auditorium, elevator, and stairs to Youth Services converge. One result of this configuration is that whoever is at the desk (and anyone in the nearby Periodicals area) can hear everything that happens in the cacophonous cement stairwell that leads to Youth Services. Sometimes it’s a toddler’s tantrum or a boisterous conversation. And sometimes it’s a parent who doesn’t realize strangers are listening.
The other day it was a mother frustrated with her son, probably a four year old. From what I gathered, the boy had not been a good listener and they were leaving this library trip in a bad mood.
“I do this for you,” the mother said as they emerged from the stairwell and walked out the door. “I could be home, doing nothing. But I’m nice. I actually care about you and want you to read good books.”
In one interpretation of this scene, the mother is the villain for snapping at her child. But she wasn’t. Her tone was part frustration and part disappointment, without animus or aggression. Since I didn’t see what had happened before their departure, I can’t judge the son for his behavior or the mother for her reaction to it (though from his lowered head and lack of protest I’m guessing he deserved the rebuke).
Despite not being a parent myself, I deeply sympathize with parents in public with their kids. Planes, parks, restaurants, stores, and other public spaces offer ample opportunities for kids to misbehave and beckon the judgmental glances (and even comments) of other adults.
But unless it’s the parent who is egregiously misbehaving, I usually side with the adult. Especially one who brings her child to the library when she’d rather be at home, doing nothing.
Typecaster Rino Breebaart on what messages he’d put on bus ads for people who happen to look up from their smartphone:
These would work just as well, if not better, as digital ads. Or maybe as a service where you get one of these texted to you for every 10 minutes you’re on your phone.
In July 2016 I visited the Norway Resistance Museum in Oslo, which told the story of Norway’s occupation by the Nazis during World War II. A name that kept popping up throughout the museum was Vikdun Quisling, the Norwegian politician who collaborated with Hitler and seized control of Norway’s government during the occupation.
I wanted to know more about the man who put himself in that position. What compelled him? What happened in an occupied country during World War II? And how did his name instantly and internationally become synonymous with “traitor”?
Luckily there’s a book on him: Quisling: A Study in Treachery by Hans Fredrick Dahl. It’s definitely niche history—I had to get one of the few library copies via interlibrary loan—but as a part-Norwegian World War II buff this happened to be right up my alley.
The crux of this story is that Quisling honestly believed he was doing the right thing. Highly intellectual, aloof, and humorless, he dreamt of establishing Universism—his homegrown philosophy combining Lutheranism and science—as the “new world religion”, with Norway as the homeland of the supreme Nordic race. In that respect, along with his anti-Bolshevism and anti-Semitism, his eventual partnership with Hitler made perfect sense.
Once the Nazis occupied Norway, and its King and legislature had fled London with the other governments-in-exile, Quisling and his National Union party quickly filled the power vacuum, working with their Nazi occupiers to establish a fascistic, one-party authoritarian state.
But being an occupied country that officially was neither at peace nor at war with Germany stymied Quisling’s ambitions for a “new order” in Norway. (The goal of this new order? To stamp out the “destructive principles of the French Revolution: representation, dialogue, and collegiality”.) And since Hitler refused to discuss peace terms until the Axis had won the war, Quisling in his quasi-legitimate government was left to tussle with his German commissars from above and the Norwegian resistance movement from below.
Throughout it all, Quisling remained naively optimistic about leading an independent Norway into his utopian future. Even when Germany capitulated and the war was over, he assumed he’d take part in a peaceful transition back to the old Norwegian government. Instead, he was arrested, tried, and executed by firing squad at the Akershus Fortress, which, in a delightful irony, now houses the aforementioned Norway Resistance Museum.
Dahl’s book is admirably thorough, so most people will probably prefer the Wikipedia summary of his life story to a 400-page book elucidating the same. But I’m glad for such an in-depth study of a tragic figure at a crucial historical moment.
(And for the realization that one of the few spots the Quisling name lives on is in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, at the super-cool looking Quisling Clinic, which was founded by Quisling’s cousins.)
Artist Lynda Barry writes:
Writing by hand on paper is becoming a revolutionary act. Reading a physical book is becoming a revolutionary act. Protecting the books in our libraries, the arts and humanities in our colleges and universities is becoming a revolutionary act. Doing things with warm hand to warm hand, face to face, without photographing them, posting them, is becoming a revolutionary act.
Those two original digital devices you have at the end of your forearms are the means of resistance. As is eye-contact with the world instead of staring at your phone.
She begins her post with screenshots from someone’s downloaded Facebook archive, which showed that Facebook had extensive records of phone calls and other communications that were unrelated to Facebook.
The most valuable thing you have is your attention. It’s also the most valuable condition for survival of the non-digital world.