* California or Bust. If you read nothing else in this post, read this.
* Dear United Airlines: I Want My Kindle, and My Dignity, Back. I recently had a nasty US Airways experience that naturally made me want to never fly them again (it was the same trip mentioned in Lessons in Language from the TSA and George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”). But it appears that searching for dignity on airlines is a futile effort. Southwest seems mostly okay, but given what they did to Leisha Hailey and Kyla Ebbert, I’m not so sure they’re an improvement over standard airlines any more.
* Lev Grossman:
It’s strange: I’m not a horror writer, but horror always creeps its way into my books somehow, at some point or another. My horror tends to be psychological horror, fantastical horror — in other words the horror of a middle-aged white guy to whom nothing truly horrifying as actually ever happened, except, you know, the existential horror of being born or whatever. September 11th is probably the closest I’ve ever come to the real thing: I didn’t witness horror, but I could sense it. It wasn’t far away. In fact it was very close. I hope I never get any closer.]
* File this under “no shit:” “The e-book marketplace is redefining what people expect to pay for books.” If I end up self-publishing—which is starting to look more like “when” than “if”—I’ll keep this in mind.
Besides, look at history: books have gotten steadily cheaper over time from virtually any period to the present; you can start as far back as Gutenberg.
* “[T]he broader point really is the cliche: this is what it looks like when “the terrorists win” and we lose the long-term struggle to protect a free society.” From James Fallows.
“I think religion has been incredibly neglected in the contemporary novel,” Eugenides said. “It obviously functions hugely in the country, yet in the secular novel people avoid it.
I think there’s a reason religion is neglected: it has no intellectual force or validity. Alchemy and healing crystals are also neglected because, well, who cares? Richard Dawkins goes overboard—see this profile for more—opposing religion in a way that I’m glad someone is doing but really can’t stir much ardor about. Eugenides goes on talk about his going back and forth with belief, but the real answer is simpler: religion doesn’t much matter, except when it masks political and economic grievances in such a way as to, say, encourage people to fly planes into buildings or blow themselves up.
Novelists, on the whole, are on to more interesting subjects, which I consider a great virtue.
* ““Shame”: Michael Fassbender’s full-monty skin flick [. . .] The Irish star strips down in “Shame,” Steve McQueen’s devastating sex-addiction drama.”
* The most important post you haven’t read and probably won’t read: Great Stagnation…or Great Relocation?:
Suppose all of those people had the same purchasing power. If you were a factory owner, and you wanted to minimize transport costs, where would you put your factories? The answer is a no-brainer: China and India. Some others in Europe, Japan, and Indonesia. Perhaps a couple on the U.S. East Coast. But for the most part, you’d laugh in the face of any consultant who told you to put a factory in the U.S. The place looks like one giant farm!
It may be that American manufacturing strength was due to a historical accident. Here is the story I’m thinking of. First, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, our proximity to Europe – at that time the only agglomerated Core in the world – allowed us to serve as a low-cost manufacturing base. Then, after World War 2, the U.S. was the only rich capitalist economy not in ruins, so we became the new Core. But as Europe and Japan recovered, our lack of population density made our manufacturing dominance short-lived.
Now, with China finally free of its communist constraints, economic activity is reverting to where it ought to be. More and more, you hear about companies relocating to China not for the cheap labor, but because of the huge domestic market. This is exactly the New Economic Geography in action.
* Susie Bright: Before there was YouPorn. Safe for Work, I should add.
* I updated How to get your Professors’ Attention — along with Coaching or Mentoring with some new material. The main points of the essay remain, but I added a few other examples based on stuff I’ve read recently.
* The Real Problem With College Admissions: It’s Not the Rankings. Notice especially the graph.
* My favorite recent search query: “philip zimbardo porn.”