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Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.
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“For all the possibilities of APIs, there are also limits. Another tweet field, ‘withheld_copyright,’ if set to ‘true,’ lets you know that a tweet is in trouble—that its content has raised flags and hackles over copyright. The text of the tweet, in that case, may be suppressed. The ‘withheld_in_countries’ field can provide a list of the nations in which the tweet is banned. Another field has a telling name: ‘possibly_sensitive.’ It’s set to either true or false. The field indicates whether a tweet links to potentially offensive things such as ‘nudity, violence, or medical procedures.’ (If ever you wanted a snapshot of our world’s anxieties in three terms, there you have it.) As a user you can check a box on your profile so that the media you link to is automatically flagged this way. If you don’t, you risk having your pictures of your medical procedure marked as objectionable by an offended reader and thus put ‘in review,’ the Twitter version of limbo.”
–Paul Ford, in Bloomberg Businessweek, on the metadata of a tweet and what makes Twitter work. Read more from Ford.
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My rule was to steer clear of Capital articles (although you will recognize some bylines from contributors). These articles that weren’t necessarily the best writing of the year, but have frequently popped up and rolled around in my brain long after I read them for the first time. Sometimes it was because of the beautiful prose. But, mostly, the ideas are what stayed with me.
Zachary Woolfe, “A Quiet Place of Dysfunction and Dystopia,” (The New York Times, October 21)
“As the motorcade carrying the body of Leonard Bernstein passed through Brooklyn on its way to Green-Wood Cemetery 20 years ago, construction workers removed their yellow hard hats and called out, ‘Goodbye, Lenny!’ It was a gesture of affection unthinkable for any other classical musician. In death, as in life, Bernstein was the exception: capable of anything and, almost, everything.”
“People often think that editors are there to read things and tell people ‘no.’ Saying ‘no’ is a tiny part of the job. Editors are first and foremost there to ship the product without getting sued.”
Sady Doyle, “Sex Offender Week: Rivers Cuomo Messes You Up Forever,” (The Awl, April 27)
“We speak not of the Rivers Cuomo that was, nor of the Rivers Cuomo that is, nor yet of the Rivers that shall be. We speak, now, of the Platonic ideal of a Rivers Cuomo: The Rivers Cuomo you have never met, nor ever can meet, nor can ever be sued by (subsequent to writing a blog post that uses his name quite a lot), but who lives, nevertheless, within your brain. Specifically, if you happen to have grown up in the 1990s, and are heterosexual, and also a girl.”
Steven Hyden’s entire “Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation?” series, The Onion’s AV Club
“I remember the ’90s, but it’s like I wasn’t there. Like many people of my generation—including practically every band that was originally associated with the term—’grunge’ for me has become something to live down, like cuffed jeans or bad Luke Perry sideburns.”
Josh Allen, Chokeville.
I swear, I was going to put this in before Paul Ford did. “The goal is to tell every single story of this city…The site will be frequently updated with new material. Sometimes stories, sometimes a song, a photograph, a movie, illustration, radio show, encyclopedia entry, comic strip, field recording, whatever, etc…A good place to start is Welcome to Feddema Global. It features Allison Hull, who’s from out of town and also has no idea what’s going on, so maybe you can relate to her.”
Additional shout-outs: Peter J. Boyer, “The Covenant,”The New Yorker; Camille Dodero, “Live From Insane Clown Posse’s Gathering of the Juggalos,” Village Voice; Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s entire “Live From Las Vegas election coverage” on The Awl; Timothy Garton Ash, 1989!, New York Review of Books; Zach Baron, “The End of the Story,” The Believer.
Tony Judt, “Night,” New York Review of Books (January 14)
This was the year of the dying critic. Most writers would do themselves, and their readers, a service by dying without all the self-elegies (“selfegies”?). We’ve read once too often, right, of the bark of the lonely fox out the bay window. But then you had Judt in his wheelchair, climbing Everest every night, putting out a series of reflections and continuing to publish great work even post-mortem. In a different city, and a different vein, there’s Roger Ebert’s Journal, the essay that never ends—starting as a kind of testament, it transformed over many months into a mass lecture from an old newspaper hand (a man of a literally dying breed), holding forth on absolutely everything.
Dan Koeppel, “How to Fall 35,000 Feet—And Survive” (Popular Mechanics, January 29)
Stuff like this is why magazines persist. It’s fun to imagine the pitch. “I’d like to write about falling thirty thou—” “You had me at falling.”
Frédéric Filloux, “Aggregators: the good ones vs. the looters” (Monday Note, September 19)
Inside baseball for publishing nerds, but bangs out its point. It’s hard to find good wide-angle writing about tech. Related: “Why the OS Doesn’t Matter.” Also: Tom Bissell on cocaine and Grand Theft Auto; Fred Vogelstein on the iPhone/AT&T meltdown; and Nitsuh Abebe on the Internet Paradox.
Issendai, “How to Keep Someone With You Forever,” (Issendai’s Superhero Training Journal, June 9)
You read this, right? I’ve visited friends and read this aloud. Explains publishers, graduate school, bad jobs, and broken marriages. (Related in a way I can’t fully articulate: Given that 2010 was, in addition to being the year of the dying critic, the year of the supercilious journalist writing about the Insane Clown Posse, it’s worth going back to 2009’s “MC CHRIS IS AT THE GATHERING: A LOVE STORY,” for the nerd’s eye view—a far more subtle view than presented elsewhere—of the weirdness of Juggalism.)
Josh Allen, Chokeville. (Ongoing)
Most prose born on the Internet is highly defensive. Everyone is braced for audience attack and opens their posts with four paragraphs explaining why the remaining four paragraphs are worth reading. Chokeville is not that. It tries to explain itself, but it can’t. Sometimes I get started and then drift away to Zooborns, but I know that’s my problem, because I’ve forgotten how, and I also know that I’ll end up some weekend night in front of my monitor, zoomed in, drinking my way through every word.
P.S. We’re also several years into the flowering of history blogs. Here’s a good place to start.