soon he'll start calling just to awkwardly chat
#457; In which It’s All Over

…The phone rings, but all you hear on the other end is a faint grinding of sprockets and what sounds like oil dripping like tears onto cold concrete.

Show alt text
MISSIVES. (see all)

The Adventures of Malki Jr

TopatoCon this weekend was so fun!

I enjoyed it immensely — and so did Malki Jr, it looks like:

Malki Jr learned the word 'steerage'

Malki Jr did not have what you might call an “actual plane ticket” that would let you ride in the “passenger cabin”.

Malki Jr here, for the joys of coffee

Malki Jr did have quite the appetite, after his long, cold trip!

Malki Jr arrives at TopatoCon!!

Malki Jr did not help set up the booth.

Malki Jr thinks he IS coffee

Here’s that scamp Malki Jr “mugging” for the camera!

Malki Jr I 'do nut' recommend you do that

Oh no Malki Jr

Malki Jr your blood sugar is over 9,000

Malki Jr what have you done

My wife made a Mini-Malki

This is pretty amazing. My wonderful wife (a professional puppet fabricator) surprised me with this, yesterday.

(The T-shirt is by the great Prang Quako, by the way.)

15 More Articles Well Worth Your Time

Today’s comic was informed by an article I read, about one person’s experience with OCD, which I thought was very compelling. (Link just below.) So I think it’s time for another Extensive List Of Articles (Arguably) Well Worth Your Time! (Previously.)

Toss the links into your Instapaper or whatever! But do note: The McSweeney’s piece on grammar and the BBC piece on teeth have a ton of images that make them best read on their actual sites.

7 things I wish people understood about OCD (Vox)

The common media portrayal of people living with OCD is that they need to clean everything or have rituals — checking a door lock or light switch, for example — that they must repeat on a regular basis. This misses what OCD is actually about: it’s not about the rituals themselves, but what makes the rituals feel necessary.

Before I go to bed or leave the house, I have to check all the knobs on the stove to make sure they’re turned off. I have to touch every knob on the stove to make sure it’s not in the wrong position. This is something I have to do. If I leave the house without checking those knobs, whatever I’m setting out to do will be ruined, overwhelmed by anxiety and dread.

I don’t do this because I enjoy checking the stove or because the mere act of checking the stove gives me relief. I do this because I know that if I don’t check the stove, the house will catch on fire and the person and things I care most about will go down in flames — and it will all be my fault.

An Interactive Guide to Ambiguous Grammar. (McSweeney’s)

From time to time, writers may well find illustrative value in the lightest of phrases, sentences so weightless and feathery that they scarcely even seem to exist at all. These can convey details well beyond the crude thrust of the hulking active voice, and when used strictly as ornamentation, they needn’t actually convey anything at all.

As a thought experiment, let’s examine in extremely close detail a set of iterative changes that can be made to a single simple grammatical structure, turning it from a statement taken at face value into one loaded with unrealized implication…

The Most Misread Poem In America (The Paris Review)

[Robert] Frost once claimed his goal as a poet was “to lodge a few poems where they will be hard to get rid of ”; with “The Road Not Taken,” he appears to have lodged his lines in granite. On a word-for-word basis, it may be the most popular piece of literature ever written by an American.

And almost everyone gets it wrong…It may be the best example in all of American culture of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The dentures made from the teeth of dead soldiers at Waterloo (BBC)

In the late 18th and early 19th Centuries “everyone was dabbling in dentistry”, says Rachel Bairsto, curator of British Dental Association’s museum in central London. From ivory turners to jewellers, chemists, wigmakers and even blacksmiths.

Among the wealthy, sugar consumption was on the rise and early attempts at teeth-whitening — with acidic solutions — wore away enamel… And so human teeth, set in a denture, were more desirable. But the number of live donors was finite, and grave robbers could offer only limited supplies.

The prospect of thousands of British, French and Prussian teeth — sitting in the mouths of recently-killed soldiers on the battlefield at Waterloo — was an attractive one for looters.

PC Comedy and Paul Revere (Medium) Contains a discussion of sexual violence and animal cruelty.

The “PC in comedy” debate has been going on for a long time now, and there’s a tendency — on both sides — to let “the ideas are bad” become “the people with the ideas are bad.” In some cases, it’s true. Some people really do harass, abuse, or seek to harm people in the name of being “funny.” Or, potentially, in the name of being “right.” But I think this conflation of person and idea undercuts the debate, or at least limits its potential…

So you call them garbage, and they call you garbage, and since the only possible response to “you’re garbage” is “nuh-uh,” it just becomes a chorus of people on every side of the issue saying “I’m not garbage” over and over and over.

“Picture yourself as a stereotypical male” (MIT Admissions)

I’m guessing that you’re familiar with common notions that men are spatial and logical thinkers, while females are more verbally proficient. A man being tested for spatial ability might assume that he’s going to have an easier time than a woman of otherwise equal intelligence, his conclusion based not on sexism but on objective science. And statistically speaking, he’s right…

Soon after participants described themselves with either the male- or female-associated traits, they were asked to take a mental rotation test presented as independent of the first part of the study, supposedly to measure their personal spatial aptitude…As it turns out, there is zero statistically significant gender difference in mental rotation ability after test-takers are asked to imagine themselves as stereotypical men for a few minutes. None.

Why the Rich Love Burning Man (Jacobin)

Burning Man is earning a reputation as a “networking event” among Silicon Valley techies, and tech magazines now send reporters to cover it. CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Alphabet are foaming fans, along with conservative anti-tax icon Grover Norquist and many writers of the libertarian (and Koch-funded) Reason magazine. Tesla CEO Elon Musk even went so far as to claim that Burning Man “is Silicon Valley.”

…In a just, democratic society, everyone has equal voice. At Burning Man everyone is invited to participate, but the people who have the most money decide what kind of society Burning Man will be — they commission artists of their choice and build to their own whims. They also determine how generous they are feeling, and whether to withhold money.

My Letter From Oliver Sacks (The Morning News)

In November 2002, Oliver Sacks wrote me a letter.

Dr. Sacks did not write to me out of the blue. It was a reply to a letter I had written him. I had a specific question about neurology and vision and I couldn’t find the answer myself. I realized that if anyone knew the answer, he would. So I asked and he answered.

A Short Lesson in Perspective (Linds Redding)

Many years ago, when I first started to work in the advertising industry, we used to have this thing called The Overnight Test. It worked like this: My creative partner Laurence and I would spend the day covering A2 sheets torn from layout pads with ideas for whatever project we were currently engaged upon –- an ad for a new gas oven, tennis racket or whatever. Scribbled headlines. Bad puns. Stick-men drawings crudely rendered in fat black Magic Marker. It was a kind of brain dump I suppose.

…It’s remarkable how something that seems either arse-breakingly funny, or cosmically profound in the white heat of its inception, can mean absolutely nothing in the cold light of morning.

Your Brain Is Primed To Reach False Conclusions (FiveThirtyEight)

Psychologists have a name for the cognitive bias that makes us prone to assigning a causal relationship to two events simply because they happened one after the other: the “illusion of causality.”

…This finding might seem like nothing more than an interesting psychological quirk if it didn’t make us so vulnerable to quackery. Many so-called “alternative” remedies exploit the illusion of causality, Matute said, by targeting conditions that naturally have high rates of spontaneous recovery, such as headaches, back pain and colds. Quack cures remain popular in part because they bestow a sense of empowerment on people who are feeling miserable, by giving them something to do while they wait for their problem to run its course.

When the Birds and the Bees Were Not Enough: Aristotle’s Masterpiece (The Public Domain Review)

John Cannon, a teenaged agricultural laborer, bought a book called Aristotle’s Masterpiece for a shilling in 1700…

It is, however, one of the best-selling books ever produced in English on sex and making babies. First published in London in 1684, it went through hundreds of editions in England and America. It was still for sale, largely unchanged, into the 1930s and beyond. References to the work pop up in the historical record like some kind of Zelig figure, often on the margins of unexpected moments.

The Late, Great Stephen Colbert (GQ) — I don’t know why this was given such a negative title, by the way.

When I raised the idea that he was one of the country’s few public moral intellectuals, and that there were plenty of people out there wondering how that role might express itself in the new show, he said, “I have a morality. I don’t know if it’s the best morality. And I do like thinking. If people perceive that as a moral intellectualism, that’s fine. That’s up to them to decide. A friend of mine once said, ‘If someone says you’re influencing them, then you’re influential. It’s not up for you to say. You can’t take that away from them.’ But it’s entirely not my intention. This I promise you. Because that’s a short road to being a comedian in all seriousness. ‘As a comedian, in all seriousness, let me not entertain you.’ ”

Slow Poison: Even if the police don’t kill me, a lifetime of preparing for them to just might. (Pacific Standard)

If stopped by the police, I thought to myself, I would set my phone to record audio and put it on the passenger seat. I would send a tweet that I was being stopped and had every intention of complying with the police officer. I would turn on Periscope and livestream the stop, crowdsourcing witnesses. I would text my family and tell them that I was not feeling angry or suicidal, that I was looking forward to seeing them soon. There would not be time to do all of these things, but maybe if I prepared in advance I could pull off one or two of them. What all of these plans had in common were that none of them were meant to secure my safety, but rather to ensure that my death looked suspicious enough to question.

I was figuring out how to enter evidence into the inquiry of my own death.

How Art History Majors Power the U.S. Economy (Bloomberg View)

Contrary to what critics imagine, most Americans in fact go to college for what they believe to be “skill-based education.”

A quarter of them study business, by far the most popular field, and 16 percent major in one of the so-called Stem (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Throw in economics, and you have nearly half of all graduates studying the only subjects such contemptuous pundits recognize as respectable.

The rest, however, aren’t sitting around discussing Aristotle and Foucault.

Solitude and Leadership: If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts (The American Scholar)

That’s really the great mystery about bureaucracies. Why is it so often that the best people are stuck in the middle and the people who are running things — the leaders — are the mediocrities? Because excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you. Pleasing your teachers, pleasing your superiors, picking a powerful mentor and riding his coattails until it’s time to stab him in the back. Jumping through hoops…

That’s the first half of the lecture: the idea that true leadership means being able to think for yourself and act on your convictions. But how do you learn to do that? How do you learn to think?

…I find for myself that my first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play, that I arrive at an original idea.

Okay everyone, read up, and then make yourself a quiz, and then quiz yourself! If you did well, YOU PASS THE CLASS.