Hello again. The heat broke in Philly and it’s been almost fall-like the past few days, bringing both welcome relief and general anxiety about the seasons being fucked. I made pancakes for breakfast (this recipe is my go-to—toss in some blueberries and double the cardamom) and then promptly crawled back into bed. As I write, the pup is snoring lightly, her head on my leg.
On the heels of David Wallace-Wells’ terrifying climate change speculation comes an equally frightening piece from Michael Lewis about our neglected nuclear infrastructure. This part stuck out to me:
Some of the things any incoming president should worry about are fast-moving: natural disasters, terrorist attacks. But most are not. Most are like bombs with very long fuses that, in the distant future, when the fuse reaches the bomb, might or might not explode.
I find myself returning to the same books often lately, and William Gibson’s The Peripheral is among them. In it, Gibson refers obliquely to a period known as “the Jackpot” when eighty percent of the world’s population perished and countless species went extinct. But the Jackpot isn’t your usual dystopian apocalypse: it isn’t fast or sudden. There’s no single moment when the whole thing hits. Rather, it transpires over decades. It’s a slow-moving catastrophe—or, at least, it’s slow when measured against individual human lives.
The Peripheral is structured around a kind of time travel: people from a far future time develop a means to communicate to people from their past (our near future). The Jackpot transpires somewhere between the two futures. But each time I dip into the book I’m more convinced that the Jackpot has already started in the near future—already started now, in the reader’s present. Reading Lewis’ piece only reinforced that for me: we are in the midst of a slow-moving catastrophe which can be slowed further, or if we’re persistent and maybe lucky, mitigated. But it probably can’t be averted.
“In exchange for forfeiting the affordable rental units, PMC gave $3.75 million to the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund—a small price to pay to ensure that poor people don’t live among those who can afford $1,795 for a one-bedroom apartment or $5,525 for a three bedroom. Only fifteen affordable rental units have been built since the city introduced the incentive five years ago.” Mindy Isser on Philadelphia’s vanishing affordable housing.
“‘I’ve said to the outdoor industry, we have to be as relentless as the NRA. We cannot give up an inch of protected land on our watch. Not an inch.’” Abe Streep on Patagonia and the business of resistance.
“The risk of taking every billionaire’s quirky visions at face value is that the entire world might soon become like Dubai—a mash of incompatible, proprietary infrastructures, run by the private sector, with no larger coherence or goal. It’s great set design, but terrible city planning.” Geoff Manaugh on the bullshit that is the hyperloop.
“VR is starting as an institutional and commercial monster rather than scaling into institutional power. It’s like if the art market came before art.” Joanne McNeil on why VR is boring.
“Researchers shut the system down when they realized the AI was no longer using English.” James Walker on how an AI developed its own language.
“What is the value of depicting such nauseating violence if you have nothing to say about how that violence comes to pass or what it says about a country that has yet to reckon with the racism that continues to fester within its very soul?” Angelica Jade Bastien on Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit.
“If one is ‘ready’ for what a man wants from her, then by merely existing she has consented to his treatment of her. Puberty becomes permission.” Tressie McMillan Cottom on R. Kelly.
“But [Theron has] only been able to refuse niceness, onscreen and off, because of her beauty: It’s the capital she keeps cashing in order to get interesting roles that will de-emphasize, or at least trouble, the privileges that attend being a thin, white, straight woman in today’s society.” Anne Helen Petersen on Charlize Theron and the anatomy of broads.
“‘This was not a book about prophecy. This was a cautionary tale, although people have told me it was prophecy. All I have to say to that is: I certainly hope not.’” Abby Aguirre on the prescience of Octavia Butler.
It’s been a week of rereading bits and pieces of things rather than digging into any one book. In addition to The Peripheral, I’ve poked around in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents and Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, as well as Reg Theriault’s How to Tell When You’re Tired, still one of the best books about work I’ve ever read.
I have no desire for bourbon during the warm months, but this take on an old fashioned swaps bourbon for mezcal and tequila, and it’s perfect. If you have some mole bitters on hand, you could use them instead of Angostura (or try a mix of both). This is also a good excuse to break out those giant ice cubes.
Oaxaca Old Fashioned
1½ oz reposado tequila
½ oz mezcal
1 tsp agave nectar
1 dash Angostura
Strip of orange peel
Pour tequila, mezcal, agave, and bitters into a mixing glass with ice. Stir for 30 seconds, then strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with orange peel.
As always, hit reply to share what you’re reading or drinking.
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