“In writing about Benjamin Percy’s werewolf novel, Red Moon, Roxane Gay’s review transforms into a fascinating essay with bite. She sums up the challenge authors face when examining the militarization of everyday life since 2001: ‘It’s a tricky thing to address pressing issues of the day in fiction without making prose do the work of preaching.’ Artistic success has eluded great authors who took the subject head on and Gay suggests that allegory is the platform that can let the author speak loudest. When I started writing my novel The Blondes I didn’t know that is was about these same subjects but by the time it was finished the world had crept in.
“Since writing a novel about a worldwide calamity and how its narrative unspools through the media, I’ve been haunted by its resonances with real events, but tragedy and unspeakable crime have always been documented. Today, we crowd source reflexively filmed camera footage to solve cases, but in the aftermath of the Second World War a Hollywood contingent hunted down and sifted through the propagandists’ own footage to build evidence against the Nazis for the Nuremberg trials. Budd Schulberg was a morally complicated screenwriter and author of the classic Hollywood novel What Makes Sammy Run? In ‘Budd and Leni’ Bruce Handy tells the story of how Schulberg arrested director Leni Riefenstahl. The story is complex, the material is harrowing, and the facts sometimes blur into strange humor, such as the Communist guard who is also a film critic.”
What are you reading (and loving)? Tell us.
Mark Sundeen, writing for Outside, traveled to the National Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado Springs last summer and talked to some of the tiny house movement’s pioneers, including its “godfather” Jay Shafer. Over a cigarette break in the woods — away from all the tiny space swooners, wannabe-minimalists, and sales reps — Shafer tells him a bit about his design philosophy and the purpose of material objects.
Shafer was raised in a large suburban house in Orange County, California. “I never had a true sense of home,” he said. After attending the University of Iowa, he got a master’s in fine art in New York City. But urban life didn’t suit him. He returned to Iowa City, where he taught art, living in a pickup and later an Airstream. Although he considers himself secular, as an artist he was drawn to sacred symbols and icons. “I got tired of building shrines I couldn’t live in,” he said.
I asked him if he’d been on any of the tiny-house shows.
“I was on Oprah.”
“What was that like?”
“Like watching Oprah on television, but in 3-D.”
During a commercial, she told him that he had inspired her to get rid of one of her mansions. “I wish she would have said it on camera.”
Shafer went on to describe design in a language I had not heard at the Jamboree—or anywhere. “Integrity is my word for God,” he said. It was wrong to conceal structural elements or disguise materials, and purely ornamental features were like a comb-over. Both attempted to convince us that the homeowner (or the hair owner) felt secure but of course revealed insecurity. “My best designs come only when my ego gets out of the way, when the higher power flows through me.” He had a sense of humor about it all, too. “I spent weeks trying to design a dining table that would convert into a coffee table. Finally, I figured out that all I had to do was turn the thing on its side.”
He described himself as a “meaning addict,” always looking for higher significance in material objects. “A gate in a picket fence that opens onto a narrow path that leads through a yard to an open porch that covers a door,” he said, “is a set of symbols we recognize as signposts guiding us through increasingly private territory toward the threshold of someone’s clandestine world.”
I finally got it. I had not understood why Williams’s house felt so authentic while so many of the blocks on wheels felt awkward or false. This subculture, although it seemed to be about nifty gadgets and Murphy beds, was at its heart the expression of our longing to find our place in the universe, to become as beautiful and functional as nature itself.
To understand the tiny house movement, Mark Sundeen attends its big annual gathering—the National Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado Springs—to learn from its luminaries.
Here are four pieces exploring different approaches to space and home—from living on wheels to escaping the grid.
For my husband and me, 2014 has been all about downsizing: we got rid of 80 percent of our belongings, moved out of San Francisco and into my parents’ home, and are currently building a 131-square-foot tiny house on wheels. While this path to minimalism is winding, our goal remains clear: to experiment and create a home that makes sense for us. Here are four pieces exploring different approaches to space and home—from living on wheels to escaping the grid. Read more…
[Fiction] A family of children escape starvation in North Korea:
“The day the siblings left to find their mother, snow devoured the northern mining town. Houses loomed like ghosts. The government’s face was everywhere: on the sides of a beached cart, above the lintel of the post office, on placards scattered throughout the surrounding mountains praising the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il. And in the grain sack strapped to the oldest brother Woncheol’s back, their crippled sister, the weight of a few books.
“The younger brother Choecheol ran ahead. Like a child, Woncheol thought, frowning, though he too was still a child, an eleven-year-old with a body withering on two years of boiled tree bark, mashed roots, the occasional grilled rat and fried crickets on a stick.”
The median home price in California has reached $500,000 — more than double the cost nationally — and a new brand of housing crisis is here. It’s nearly impossible for anyone to afford a home in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or any surrounding suburbs. As today’s New York Times reports, this means people like Heather Lile, a nurse making $180,000 a year, live in distant Central Valley towns like Manteca and commute two hours to get to work. “I make really good money and it’s frustrating to me that I can’t afford to live close to my job,” she tells the reporter. Read more…
Remember that part in “All the President’s Men” when Deep Throat tells Dustin Hoffman, “The truth is, these are not very bright guys and things got out of hand”?
It’s been a heck of a few days after a heck of a few months after approximately 900 years that got squeezed into this mutation of the space-time continuum we’re calling 2017.
Our president’s namesake has gotten himself into a bit of a pickle and the New York Times, as the saying goes, is on it. The first story, published on Saturday, noted how Donald J. Trump, Jr. said in March that he probably met with people that were Russian — who hasn’t, in today’s globalized world? — but no meetings “that were set up” and “certainly none” in which he was representing his father’s presidential campaign.
And then this beauty of a standalone single-sentence paragraph:
Asked at that time whether he had ever discussed government policies related to Russia, the younger Mr. Trump replied, “A hundred percent no.”
But then the Times tells Junior — and Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, the young son-in-law with the security clearance and the mandate to fix the Middle East — that they know about a meeting.
How do they know about it? Well, that security clearance-wielding son-in-law’s lawyer went ahead and told them Junior invited his brother-in-law to it.
Families, am I right?
So back on Saturday, approximately 16 lifetimes ago, Junior says the meeting, with Krelim-connected Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, was just about adoption.
On Sunday, the Times publishes another story, this time citing five anonymous sources, two of whom are identified as advisors to the White House, saying Junior went to the meeting after being promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
This time, Junior says, OK, yes, we talked about Clinton — but it’s not what you think!
“After pleasantries were exchanged,” he said, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton.”
Russia was helping Clinton. Also, for what it’s worth, this Russian lady lawyer “made no sense,” Junior tells the Times.
On Monday, the Times has a new story. This one says there’s an email that explicitly told Junior the Russian lawyer had information on Hillary Clinton that “was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy.”
Yikes. What say you now, Junior?
Well, but, see, Junior. According to Vox, you’re really not supposed to get that info from foreign governments.
Junior also said the Times just didn’t ask enough questions for the first two stories, on which three reporters have bylines.
And by the way, he is happy to be called before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Other tweets that day include a New York Post story calling the Times’ work “a big yawn,” a Fox host claiming that calling the meeting a “nothing burger” is an “insult to nothing burgers,” and a retweet of Dad’s biggest fan, Laura Ingraham, re-upping a Politico story from January about Ukrainian efforts to help Clinton.
(In case you, like Ingraham, are too busy to click on the story, it says that Ukraine’s efforts “were far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails. Russia’s effort was personally directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, involved the country’s military and foreign intelligence services, according to U.S. intelligence officials.”)
Junior then channeled our favorite Mean Girl, tweeting:
And then along comes Tuesday. At 11 a.m., Junior tweets a statement and three pages of emails. What the heck?
Guys. Guys! Never give them more time to comment. This is the greatest lesson I ever learned from Andrew Cuomo’s press office. You politely say, “We’ll be happy to add in your comment whenever you send it!” and hit publish.
Now let’s look at this latest New York Times story.
Russian Dirt on Clinton? ‘I Love It,’ Donald Trump Jr. Said
Whomever wrote this headline is having a great day.
Less good day for the person who wrote the email to Junior that explicitly stated they wanted to provide information on Clinton that “is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
To which Junior responded with a line that will make Carly Rae Jepsen weep missed-opportunity tears when she reads it:
He replied within minutes: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
The rest of the Times story includes incredible reporting, but more impressive is how it is written as a straight news story, but with the driest, most next-level shade investigative journalism has ever seen.
As part of their explanation of one of the characters involved, Emin Agalarov, whose father “boasts close ties to Mr. Putin,” they embed a music video featuring young Emin and our current U.S. president.
After quoting an email in which lawyer Rob Goldstone mentions “the Crown prosecutor of Russia,” the Times notes “there is no such title as Crown Prosecutor in Russia.” Another sentence refers to the damning Junior email (or future summer banger) as “his ‘love it’ reply.”
While all of this is obviously bad for Junior, it’s also not great for Kushner, whose lawyers have gone to lengths to emphasize his obliviousness to his surroundings before, during and potentially even after this meeting. And for Manafort, who said in February, “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.'”
Both men were forwarded the email that promised Russian state-sponsored dirt on Clinton. And even if they didn’t open it, the subject line was, I kid you not, “FW: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.”
Still can’t stop thinking of that line from “All the President’s Men.”
The Trump administration’s combative relationship with the media is no secret, and the president’s supporters have happily rallied behind his purported distaste for the Fourth Estate — apparently not caring that, though he tweets angrily about the New York Times, his first call on issues is often to Times reporter Maggie Haberman.
Over at The Atlantic, Rosie Gray describes the erosion of the traditional daily press briefing under Trump:
President Trump himself has publicly mused about canceling them, tweeting “Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future “press briefings” and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”
But instead of canceling them entirely, the White House has appeared to embrace a different strategy: simply downgrading them bit by bit, from “briefings” to “gaggles,” and from on-camera to off-camera. Guidance for the briefings have begun to include a note that audio from them cannot be used. Additionally, though Trump has held short press conferences when foreign leaders visit, he has not held a full press conference since February.
The White House Press Corps has understandably balked at being told they can’t record audio or video, especially those whose medium is audio or video. CNN’s Jim Acosta, quoted in Gray’s story, tweeted:
Acosta is half-correct here. State- and city-level political reporters do experience this kind of stonewalling, and they do chafe at it. The tactic is also not limited to Republican politicians: in the Democratic haven of New York (both city and state), reporters are constantly frustrated with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s refusal to take off-topic questions, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s refusal to answer any questions at all.
And the Democrats’ great blue hope in the Congressional race in Georgia’s Sixth District reportedly banned the conservative-leaning Free Beacon from attending an event.
Gray’s piece in The Atlantic highlights the rock-and-a-hard-place status of the White House press corps, who seem unsure of how to fight back against a president who doesn’t seem to care whether or not they show up to work — and may even prefer if they don’t. But the inability to record statements from an administration that habitually impugns the media’s character, squawking “Fake News” at any story it dislikes, is troubling.
For an example of why recordings are so important, see former White House ethics lawyer (under George W. Bush) Richard Painter’s response to a Daily Beast story reporting — with audio evidence — that Kellyanne Conway made comments publicly about fighting “demographic wars.”
And of course, there’s fired FBI director James Comey’s recent, memorable response to Trump threatening to release tapes of their conversations: “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.” NPR has a lengthy look at presidents themselves resorting to taping conversations out of frustration with media representations of their conversations.
For what it’s worth, here’s a tip for our colleagues in Washington, D.C.: It’s pretty easy to surreptitiously use Voice Memos on your iPhone, and the District of Columbia is a one-party consent state when it comes to recording conversations (shout-out to Nixon).
(N.B.: We’d be remiss if we didn’t highlight that Gray asked Steve Bannon for an explanation for the off-camera press briefings, and he texted back, “Sean got fatter,” proving that Luke Mazur’s depiction of Bannon in his foe fiction for The Awl is spot-on.)