The Fate of the Critic in the Age of Clickbait


Do Twitter and Facebook spell the end of the critic?

Criticism of any kind is increasingly unwelcome at the digital-age paper. Consider a controversy that flared up in Canada last year. Arthur Kaptainis, who had long been the critic of the Montreal Gazette and more recently had been writing freelance for the National Post, reviewed a Canadian Opera Company production of Rossini’s “Maometto II.” The Canadian Opera asked for a couple of corrections, whereupon the Post took the bizarre step of removing the review from its Web site. Amid the resulting hubbub, a Post arts editor was quoted in an e-mail: “I really hate running reviews for performing arts. They simply get no attention online, and almost always end up as our poorest performing pieces of digital content.” The same mantra is heard at culture sections across America. Reviews don’t catch eyeballs. They don’t “move the needle.”

The logic seems irrefutable. Why publish articles that almost nobody wants? On closer examination, some shaky assumptions underlie these hard-nosed generalizations. First, digital data, in the form of counting clicks and hits, give an incomplete picture of reading habits. Those who subscribe to the print edition are discounted—and they tend to be older people, who are also more likely to follow the performing arts. A colleague wrote to me, “The four thousand people reading your theatre critics might be extremely loyal subscribers who press the paper on others. People in power often speak of ‘engagement’ and ‘valued readers,’ yet they still remain in thrall of the big click numbers—because of advertising, mostly.”

The New Yorker

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper

Love Is Never a Given


final-radical-e1493242798417

A needull for your weekend. What does it take to make your relationship last? “The secret to creating happy and lasting relationships, Miller concludes, is simple: just love your partner or leave.”

Would it be fair to say that you’re applying the thinking behind arranged marriages — such as Sanjay’s parents’ relationship — to love marriages?

Yes. In the Western world, too many relationships have become disposable. As soon as a romantic relationship becomes difficult — and it always does — too many people want to leave or blame the other person, rather than work through the problems. The US divorce rate of nearly 45 percent bears this out. In arranged marriages, escape isn’t typically an option, and we know that many of them actually develop more love than non-arranged marriages, based on fascinating research conducted by Harvard Professor Dr. Robert Epstein. Most of them figure out how to make it work. They work hard at it. They learn to love each other. They learn to create love.

The complete interview

Skye C. Cleary interviews Andrea Miller

Image source

The Accidental Get Away Driver


california-prison-break-saga-gq_jailbreak_02

This is the story of a man who gets drawn into a dangerous crime and what happens to him. A good long read.

Over the past couple of days, Duong had seemed to take an interest in Ma’s well-being. But Ma was leery, all too aware that it was Duong who had been the first to point the gun at him. For all Ma knew, Duong was playing an angle the other inmates didn’t see. As always in the States, the hardest people for Ma to read were his fellow Vietnamese.

He had felt wronged by them so often in his life. When Ma had landed in California in 1992, with a wife and four kids, he’d struggled. The war and his time in the labor camp had placed him nearly two decades behind the first wave of immigrants who’d left Vietnam for the U.S. after the war. For years he took menial jobs, and he would later say that his siblings—dentists and pharmacists and white-collar success stories—who had arrived earlier, made him feel ashamed of the life he had made.

The complete story

Paul Kix — GQ

Image source

Is the personal essay dead?


Is the personal essay dead? While the author of this essay claims it is, writers on Medium demonstrate otherwise.

[T]here’s a specific sort of ultra-confessional essay, written by a person you’ve never heard of and published online, that flourished until recently and now hardly registers. The change has happened quietly, but it’s a big one: a genre that partially defined the last decade of the Internet has essentially disappeared.

The New Yorker

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper

A Jobless Utopia?


Time is a nonrenewable resource. We’re comfortable with giving away the majority of our waking hours to labor, but what happens when that labor isn’t needed any longer? Many have predicted the rise of the machines and their replacement of workers. This article looks at a place where the future has already started to happen — a village where automation has left residents without jobs.

Now reformers everywhere may have to resolve the dilemma of toilsome versus leisurely Edens. Much of the world is approaching what Jeremy Rifken calls “the end of work” and, more recently, “the zero marginal cost society.” In a zero marginal cost society, machines and computer algorithms replace virtually all human effort in the production of goods and services.

Rural Andalusia never had much retail, but its interior villages used to grow a variety of crops under the laborious conditions described by Blasco Ibáñez. In the last two decades, however, an almost effortless form of green energy has moved in. Wind turbines now crowd the terrain and there are few jobs, agricultural or otherwise. As an anthropologist, I began visiting a village familiar with these machines, hoping to see how people live with unemployment within a landscape that has been transformed from fields into electrical infrastructure.

Boston Review

Image source

If Every Day is a Rainy Day, What Am I Saving For?


burning-money-e1340332352315

What’s it like grow up poor and remain poor as an adult? Samantha Irby offers an interesting perspective.

I know I should have invested in a sturdy pair of those bootstraps people who speak at graduation ceremonies are always talking about, but what does that even mean? Pay the rent, throw some cash at the phone bill, sprinkle a little change on the light bill, divide the remaining 20 bucks between the laundromat and a stock portfolio? It all seemed so unmanageable. And the years of being deprived or feeling stressed about money didn’t make me want to save; they made me want to spend, to immediately enjoy the fruits of the $7.25 an hour I made listening to people talk down to me in a customer service job.

The New York Times

Image source

Truth and Beauty in Texas


I recently read this excerpt from “Truth and Beauty” by Robert Flynn in Trinity University Press’ Art at Our Doorstep: San Antonio Writers and Artists.

That was when I first got the notion of being a writer. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We didn’t go in much for writing at the country school I attended. We studied penmanship. But we knew what a writer was. A writer was somebody who was dead. And if he was any good he had been dead a long time. If he was real good, people killed him. They killed him with hemlock. Hemlock was the Greek word for Freshman Composition.

The country school I attended was closed, and we were bused to Chillicothe. Chillicothe, Texas is small. Chillicothe is so small there’s only one Baptist Church. Chillicothe is so small you have to go to Quanah to have a coincidence. For a good coincidence, you have to go to Vernon. Chillicothe was fairly bursting with truth and beauty, and my teacher encouraged me to write something that had an epiphany. For an epiphany, you had to go all the way to Wichita Falls.

Read the full excerpt at Robert Flynn’s website

Image source