Links: Characters, reading aloud, love hurts, systems, and more!

* “Everyone Has a Tom Pritchard Story. Only I Have His Bike.” Unexpectedly hilarious.

* How to read aloud. If you’ve not, try reading aloud to your partner/lover. Make it a habit.

* “Love Hurts,” on the new culture of fragility and dubious safetyism.

* “How Work Became an Inescapable Hellhole: Instead of optimizing work, technology has created a nonstop barrage of notifications and interactions. Six months into a pandemic, it’s worse than ever.” Fits my experiences, but I also think few people actively push against this. See Cal Newport’s books for more on it.

* “America’s Exceptional Housing Crisis: How the Rest of the World Tamed Runaway Home Prices.” Short answer: the rest of the world built a lot more housing. America hasn’t.

* Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie on various things; the former’s work has always seemed more interesting than the latter’s. Note: “AMIS: I certainly feel part of a generation that saw a fairly radical change in the way novels are written and in the way novels are read. You can no longer expect the reader to surmise, to infer, to second-guess. As an adaptation, writers will cease to imply, to hint, to tease. Now they have to declare.”

Amis also says, “the novel has had to speed itself up—in answer to an accelerated reality. Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift—long, static, and digressive—spent several months as a bestseller in the 1970s. That audience has more or less disappeared.” I’ve started Humboldt’s Gift a few times and never finished: I’d call it rambling and aimless. A novel need not be overly aimed, in my view, but it felt like a lot of nothing.

* On the movie Stay Woke, and more significantly on the difference between destructive and constructive reformist energy. It’ll be interesting to see what the 2020 and 2022 elections are like. So far, even in very left-wing California, “Police reforms face defeat as California Democrats block George Floyd-inspired bills.” Who do city and state legislators, where most policing policy happens, most worry about? Not protesters, it seems.

* “ How the US Start-Up Industry is Faltering.” One of these important, easily-missed pieces. The really important news is often not in the headlines.

* “Facebook to Curb Internal Debate Over Sensitive Issues Amid Staff Discord: Mark Zuckerberg says employees shouldn’t have to confront social issues in their day-to-day work unless they want to.” Companies appear to be re-learning the “leave politics and religion at home” rule that used to be reasonably common, and may become reasonably common again. Similarly, Coinbase’s CEO, Brian Armstrong, has announced that the company is focusing on its mission.

* “They Don’t Need No Education: Elementary schools deliberately fail to teach knowledge, hurting their most vulnerable students.” I have a theory: to get tenure, most professors need to publish “novel” research. In many fields—like education—there are not many truly novel and useful ideas available. So how does one get tenure? By inventing new paradigms, even if they are maybe not so accurate and not much of an improvement, and then publishing and attempting to propagate them. “New math” seems to be worse than teaching multiplication, division, algebra, and so on. But lots of professors still need tenure, so with a little self-delusion and p-hacking they can come up with something new. And people have to keep re-discovering the value of simply memorizing a lot of stuff.

* “The new intolerance: On the rise of an authoritarian ideology ‘hostile to the rule of reason.’”

* “The housing market is building snowflakes: How an industry of endless one-offs is holding our society back.” Are these characters the solution? I have no idea, but they do identify an important problem.

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