The Sharp, Sudden Decline of America’s Middle Class

When floodwaters cover our homes, we expect that FEMA workers with emergency checks and blankets will find us. There is no moral or substantive difference between a hundred-year flood and the near-destruction of the global financial system by speculators immune from consequence. But if you and your spouse both lose your jobs and assets because of an unprecedented economic cataclysm having nothing to do with you, you quickly discover that your society expects you and your children to live malnourished on the streets indefinitely. That kind of truth, says Nancy Kapp, “really screws with people’s heads.”

The Sharp, Sudden Decline of America’s Middle Class by Jeff Tietz

How I hacked my brain with Adderall: a cautionary tale

But coming up daily on Adderall has less to do with a caffeinated sensation than it does with becoming a detail-oriented post-human, a machine following self-imposed routines with little regard for anything outside the routine’s scope. It turns out that my Adderall self has a knack for accounting, spreadsheets, and administrative tasks that my unstimulated self would normally shy away from: an inbox-zeroing robot bent on eking out every last ounce of productivity my heightened senses could spit out.

How I hacked my brain with Adderall: a cautionary tale by Trent Wolbe

The last website

Then I came here and started writing this. I’d just composed another piece the other day, so Medium was on my mind. In fact, the whole experience I’ve just described is part of the argument for a site like Medium. That argument goes: No writer should be in the business of making a personal website. They’re hard to find, readers rarely return to them, and besides—let me just contribute this last part myself—they aren’t even fun to make anymore.

I wonder if maybe I’ve made my last website. I don’t know.

The end of history and the last website by Robin Sloan

Jerry Seinfeld on Craft

On working on a joke, rewriting until each syllable is just right:

Seinfeld will nurse a single joke for years, amending, abridging and reworking it incrementally, to get the thing just so. “It’s similar to calligraphy or samurai,” he says. “I want to make cricket cages. You know those Japanese cricket cages? Tiny, with the doors? That’s it for me: solitude and precision, refining a tiny thing for the sake of it.”

On craftsmanship:

“People ask me, Why Porsches? A lot of it is the size, same as with bits. The smaller something is, the harder it is to make, because there’s less room for error.” In high school he took shop classes, even after a counselor told him that collegebound kids didn’t need to, because he wanted to know how machines fit together. “I have this old ’57 Porsche Speedster, and the way the door closes, I’ll just sit there and listen to the sound of the latch going, cluh-CLICK-click,” Seinfeld said. “That door! I live for that door. Whatever the opposite of planned obsolescence is, that’s what I’m into.”

Jerry Seinfeld Intends to Die Standing Up by Johnah Weiner

Safe from harm

Our President said this on Sunday, in the middle of a meditation on unthinkable loss: that the task of keeping our children safe is something none of us can do alone. But that means all our children. The weird ones, the quiet ones, the “crazy” ones we treat like superheroes when they become billionaires, and pariahs until they do. Given care and respect, those kids can grow up good—but if we continue making it acceptable to ostracize, incarcerate, and abuse them, we create precisely the dangers we hope to avoid. As far as I can remember, childhood and insanity kept pretty close quarters all the way through, and sometimes the thing that gets you through is people trusting you until you’re worthy of it. And that’s on all of us, all the time—not just parents or counselors, not even just adults.

Safe From Harm by Erin Kissane

WikiLeaks and Julian Paul Assange

So far, even though the site has received more than a hundred legal threats, almost no one has filed suit. Lawyers working for the British bank Northern Rock threatened court action after the site published an embarrassing memo, but they were practically reduced to begging. A Kenyan politician also vowed to sue after Assange published a confidential report alleging that President Daniel arap Moi and his allies had siphoned billions of dollars out of the country. The site’s work in Kenya earned it an award from Amnesty International.

Assange typically tells would-be litigants to go to hell. In 2008, WikiLeaks posted secret Scientology manuals, and lawyers representing the church demanded that they be removed. Assange’s response was to publish more of the Scientologists’ internal material, and to announce, “WikiLeaks will not comply with legally abusive requests from Scientology any more than WikiLeaks has complied with similar demands from Swiss banks, Russian offshore stem-cell centers, former African kleptocrats, or the Pentagon.”

WikiLeaks and Julian Paul Assange
The New Yorker by Raffi Khatchadourian on June 6, 2010

A digital jubilee

The tragedy is that cognitive clutter sneaks up on you, no matter how good your intentions. Our tools make it easy to add more things, but there are no regular, established opportunities to clean things out. That’s why I was fascinated when a friend introduced me to the Jubilee year, an ancient Jewish belief that says debts should be cancelled every fiftieth year. The Jubilee offered a clean slate.

The Jubilee offers a way out of oppressive expectations, even if they are our own.

Practices like these have been coined “declaring bankruptcy” by the digital lifestyle blogs, but I think the phrase misrepresents the practice. Cleaning the digital slate is not a practice of giving up. It is one of self-forgiveness.

The Digital Jubilee, by Frank Chimero

Surviving Zuccotti Park

7. Cigarettes are free. One of the mini-legends in the impromptu village of Occupied Zuccotti is Nick Long, 22, from White Plains, who is known by all as “Nick at Night.” Despite his nocturnal nickname, Nick in fact spends day and night sitting at a stone table not far from the drumming circle on the park’s west end, expertly rolling cigarettes for anyone who asks. That means up to 6,000 rollies a day, paid for with a collection he took up independent of Occupy’s finance arm. Long, shaggy-haired, and good-looking, he has found his niche at Zuccotti. But isn’t dispensing free nicotine unhealthy, not to mention supporting Big Tobacco? Long said that people were sending up bulk donations of tobacco from North Carolina, and the cigs served a crucial purpose because “they calmed people down.”

Surviving Zuccotti Park: How the Protesters Stay Warm, Fed, and Cheery

A eulogy for #occupy

We were trapped in endless war and financial crisis, in debt and downward spiral that our leaders bickered about, but did nothing to stop. It wore away at people with the implacability of geological erosion. The American empire we never wanted in the first place was crumbling slowly, and nothing we did in our lives seemed to matter. We had learned in the past 10 years that we couldn’t change our fates, not with hard work, taking on debt, education, or even trying to live healthy. Even when we wanted to, we could not stop wars, rein in banks, repair our crumbling infrastructure or take care of each other. We couldn’t control medical costs or the price of an education. Gas was going up, temperatures were going up.

Americans themselves lived quiet lives of untold loneliness, socially isolated. But, as we’d come to learn, we’re always watched by our infrastructure’s silent machines. Lonely, but never alone. It had become an authoritarian failing state, but without the authority, or even the sense of change that comes with total failure. We were dying by bits and pieces, going numb and fading away.

A Eulogy for #Occupy by Quinn Norton

Never let go

I reached in through the porthole. I saw how white and swollen my hand was. I let it hover over her for a second, then pulled away, as if from a fire. Finally I placed the tip of my pinky into her tiny palm.

She grabbed on.

Never let go, part one by Kelley Benham

In this way we learned what music she liked — Bruce Springsteen’s Waitin’ on a Sunny Day became our theme song. She had never seen the sun.

Never let go, part two by Kelley Benham

No alarms, no wires, no machines. Just me and my daughter. My hand on her back. The soft steady whisper of a baby, breathing.

Never let go, part three by Kelley Benham