January 13, 2017

Some stuff not to be miserable about


Well, you survived another week. We all did. And we’re all to be congratulated, frankly, as the prospect of about 208 far less survivable weeks lurks just over the horizon.

Here are a few causes for excitement and/or amusement:

Milo Yiannopoulos

—A few days ago, Dennis Johnson offered his thoughts on the developing boycott of Simon & Schuster in response to their decision to publish a new book by fascist provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Yesterday, Dennis appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered to elaborate further on questions of censorship, the mainstreaming of hate speech, and what some publishers will do to make a buck. Read and listen to Lynn Neary’s full story here!


Alexa, the post-human, voice-operated bot created by Amazon to make monopolies and home surveillance great again, has been creating some headaches. It started with Brooke Neitzel, a six-year-old resident of Dallas, who told her family’s Alexa that she would like a dollhouse and some cookies. (In fairness, six-year-olds will ask anything for dollhouses and cookies.) Much to Brooke’s delight—and her parents’ ultimate dismay—she no sooner had asked than received: a $160 dollhouse, and copious cookies, showed up at her door. The story took another twist when, after a San Diego TV channel covered the cute news, Alexas all over the city perked up their ears and began ordering dollhouses for their owners in turn. As to whether CEO Jeff Bezos has learned anything about the creepiness of bugging houses with corporate buy-ware, or the needlessness of e-commerce so seamless that a six-year-old can totally do it by accident… we’re guessing not.


—In awesome news that also involves a tiny and adorable child, Carla Hayden, the barrier-breaking new head of the Library of Congress, has spent a day being shadowed by four-year-old Daliyah Marie Arana. The tenderness of her years notwithstanding, Daliyah has already read more than 1,000 books, and, like many four-year-olds, adores dinosaurs and the writing of Mo Willems. She’s smarter and cooler than you.


Pablo Katchadjian. Via Goodreads.

—The estate of legendary Argentine writer (and Last Interview Series participantJorge Luis Borges is suing poet and novelist Pablo Katchadjian for his 2009 book The Fattened Aleph, a conceptual project that is “written in” to Borges’s classic story The Aleph (as in, all of Borges’s writing is still there, but Katchadjian has added words throughout, more than doubling the size of the work). “The Fattened Aleph is not plagiarism because no plagiarism is open about its source,” said Katchadjian, best known in the US for his recently-, expertly-translated The Rou of Alch. “Neither is it a joke that went wrong, or one that went right. It is a book I wrote based on a previous text.” Borges’s widow, María Kodama, disagrees: “If you use something that isn’t yours, the least you can do is ask for permission,” she said.


—Also, check this out: the first trailer for Hulu’s forthcoming adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has finally been released! “So much is forbidden now” indeed:

And here’s a little boogie, offered in tribute to our recently-published Glaxo:

And here’s some recently uncovered footage of a Simon & Schuster acquisitions meeting:

Here’s something to bump this weekend in honor of the latest addition to our Last Interview series:

However you feel about the news of the past week, it’s definitely been a time to think about the KGB more than you usually do. And so it’s also a good time for KGB Rock by the legendary Soviet punk rock band Grazhdanskaya Oborona:

And this one goes right out to the president-elect: