by Freddie deBoer

There’s been lots of talk, going around, about the demise of the comments section. This has been spurred in long part by some truly noxious trolling and the seemingly intractable problem of online harassment. Given those realities, I’m amenable to major changes, although I doubt you can really solve this kind of problem. These aren’t platform problems or technology problems. They’re human problems. Humanity exists online, and this is the way humanity is. But if we can avoid even a little of the terrible abuse that people receive online, women especially, it might be time to consider letting comments go, at least in many places. And I say that as someone with an obvious affection for how good comments can occasionally be.

I do think, though, that this is a good opportunity to finally let some of our old myths about the internet die. It’s still common to hear people talk about the internet as this open space where only talent matters and where everyone has a chance to impact the discussion. And it’s time we put those myths to bed.

It’s not like people are totally unaware of all this. Certainly, the way in which major bloggers were largely absorbed into legacy media companies and think tanks is part of the story. One of the things I’ve always liked about Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein is that they’ve both always been upfront about the fact that their success depends in part on having been in the right place at the right time, and that building a career now is a lot harder than it used to be. Hierarchies harden, alliances form, and given the brutal economic realities of the online writing profession, the game of musical chairs gets more and more brutally competitive. The end result is, inevitably, that people feel more and more pressure to find a niche and to be liked. It’s a word of mouth business. And while the world of commenters may seem far from that of the pros, I think that many of us envisioned a future where commenters could, at their best, provide a kind of counterweight when professional and social pressures influence what the pros think and say. Well, I’m not sure it ever worked that way, but it was nice to dream.

Read On

by Chas Danner

Adam Wade is one of the best storytellers on the planet, as well as the winner of eighteen Moth Story Slams, including this one:

The Joy Of Difficult Books

Aug 23 2014 @ 2:01pm
by Dish Staff

Rebecca Mead dislikes how “literary works, especially those not written last year, are placed at the opposite pole to fun”:

It’s a common and easy enough distinction, this separation of books into those we read because we want to and those we read because we have to, and it serves as a useful marketing trope for publishers, especially when they are trying to get readers to take this book rather than that one to the beach. But it’s a flawed and pernicious division. This linking of pleasure and guilt is intended as an enticement, not as an admonition: reading for guilty pleasure is like letting one’s diet slide for a day—naughty but relatively harmless. The distinction partakes of a debased cultural Puritanism, which insists that the only fun to be had with a book is the frivolous kind, or that it’s necessarily a pleasure to read something accessible and easy. Associating pleasure and guilt in this way presumes an anterior, scolding authority—one which insists that reading must be work.

But there are pleasures to be had from books beyond being lightly entertained. There is the pleasure of being challenged; the pleasure of feeling one’s range and capacities expanding; the pleasure of entering into an unfamiliar world, and being led into empathy with a consciousness very different from one’s own; the pleasure of knowing what others have already thought it worth knowing, and entering a larger conversation.

Face Of The Day

Aug 23 2014 @ 1:24pm
by Dish Staff

Ryan_TO The Wind

Gannon Burgett highlights a rockin’ photo series:

Musicians go hard. And while every artist and band puts it all out on stage for the world to see, the Vans Warped Tour in particular often features a lineup of bands whose members truly give it their all, for as long as three months, day after day. In an effort to document just how exhausting just one of these performances can be, live performance photographer, Brandon Andersen, decided to do something a little different than usual and capture a collection of before-and-after performance images of musicians whose bands were in this year’s [lineup].

Above is Ryan Murphy of the hardcore band To The Wind. The rest of the series is here. You can also follow Andersen’s work on Twitter and Instagram.

The Economics Of Creative Writing

Aug 23 2014 @ 12:37pm
by Dish Staff

Nick Ripatrazone urges more pragmatism in creative-writing education:

Creative writing should be taught as an art, and as a business. A creative writing program that only includes the former can unwittingly reinforce romantic stereotypes of writing. A young student might major in creative writing. She could become a wonderful poet, and a well-read critic. But she needs to know that poetry doesn’t pay the bills. This is the inside joke of creative writing programs in America. We know creative writing doesn’t make money, and yet we continue to graduate talented writers with no business acumen. At best, it is misguided. At worst, it is fraudulent.

He thinks it “reasonable to expect that graduates of a discipline understand the economic realities of that discipline”:

Read On

The View From Your Window Contest

Aug 23 2014 @ 12:00pm
by Dish Staff


You have until noon on Tuesday to guess it. City and/or state first, then country. Please put the location in the subject heading, along with any description within the email. If no one guesses the exact location, proximity counts. Be sure to email entries to Winner gets a free The View From Your Window book or two free gift subscriptions to the Dish. Have at it!

Previous contests here.

A Short Story For Saturday

Aug 23 2014 @ 11:31am
by Matthew Sitman

Since starting our Saturday short story feature, readers occasionally have written to us suggesting we use this or that story. Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” (pdf) is one of them, and when it arrived through our “Reading Your Way Through Life” thread this week, I thought it was time for a reader-contributed story to make an appearance in this space. Here’s how it begins:

With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the city Omelas, bright-towered by the sea. The rigging of the boats in harbor sparkled with flags. In the streets between houses with red roofs and painted walls, between old moss-grown gardens and under avenues of trees, past great parks and public buildings, processions moved. Some were decorous: old people in long stiff robes of mauve and grey, grave master workmen, quiet, merry women carrying their babies and chatting as they walked. In other streets the music beat faster, a shimmering of gong and tambourine, and the people went dancing, the procession was a dance. Children dodged in and out, their high calls rising like the swallows’ crossing flights, over the music and the singing. All the processions wound towards the north side of the city, where on the great water-meadow called the Green’ Fields boys and girls, naked in the bright air, with mud-stained feet and ankles and long, lithe arms, exercised their restive horses before the race. The horses wore no gear at all but a halter without bit. Their manes were braided with streamers of silver, gold, and green. They flared their nostrils and pranced and boasted to one another; they were vastly excited, the horse being the only animal who has adopted our ceremonies as his own. Far off to the north and west the mountains stood up half encircling Omelas on her bay. The air of morning was so clear that the snow still crowning the Eighteen Peaks burned with white-gold fire across the miles of sunlit air, under the dark blue of the sky. There was just enough wind to make the banners that marked the racecourse snap and flutter now and then. In the silence of the broad green meadows one could hear the music winding through the city streets, farther and nearer and ever approaching, a cheerful faint sweetness of the air that from time to time trembled and gathered together and broke out into the great joyous clanging of the bells.

Joyous! How is one to tell about joy? How describe the citizens of Omelas?

Read the rest here (pdf). The story also can be found in Le Guin’s collection of stories, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters. Previous SSFSs here.

Cool Ad Watch

Aug 23 2014 @ 11:02am
by Dish Staff

Some marriage equality proponents in Ireland offer a helpful reminder about the non-impending apocalypse:

by Matthew Sitman

The popular thread continues, beginning with reader-love for one particular John Cheever short story:

I have returned to the work of John Cheever—especially “The Death of Justina”—more than that of any other author in my reading life. He is so alert to the spiritual potentialities of life and yet so understanding of our failure to fulfill them. The world he writes about John Cheeveris decidedly fallen yet can be illuminated by sudden flashes of grace—as real and rare as lightning strikes.

I guess you’d call “The Death of Justina” a serious comedy about death that touches on chaos, commercialism, nasty bosses, zoning, the necessity and challenges of loving America, and, last but not least, morticians: “The priest was a friend and a cheerful sight, but the undertaker and his helpers, hiding behind their limousines, were not; and aren’t they at the root of most of our troubles, with their claim that death is a violet-flavored kiss? How can a people who do not mean to understand death hope to understand love, and who will sound the alarm?”

Of course, with this story, it is Cheever who sounds that alarm.

He can be heard reading it (rapidly, with his faux Brahmin accent) here.

A second reader also loves the same Cheever story:

For me, it keeps coming back to Cheever. (And, Thorton Wilder, but perhaps that will be another entry.)

There are better Cheever passages than this, but I’ve been obsessing about this story for a while now, so here it is – from “The Death of Justina,” in the Collected Stories.

“We buried Justina in the rain the next afternoon. The dead are not, God knows, a minority, but in Proxmire Manor their unexalted kingdom is on the outskirts, rather like a dump, where they lie in an atmosphere of perfect neglect. Justina’s life had been exemplary, but by ending it she seemed to have disgraced us all. The priest was a friend and a cheerful sight, but the undertaker and his helpers, hiding behind their limousines, were not; and aren’t they at the root of most of our troubles, with their claim that death is a violet-flavored kiss? How can a people who do not mean to understand death hope to understand love, and who will sound the alarm?”

How can a people who do not mean to understand death hope to understand love, and who will sound the alarm? Indeed.

Read On

Your Saturday Morning Cartoon

Aug 23 2014 @ 9:42am
by Dish Staff

Some twisted brilliance from Cyanide & Happiness: