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I want to second Michelle’s endorsement of the outrage year-in-review over at Slate. The item there that jumped out at me was Jordan Weissmann’s account of having played a large part in sparking a “cycle of viral outrage” against a Harvard professor who had “raged [in email] at a local Chinese restaurant that had overcharged him a mere $4 on a takeout order.”
Weissmann cops to a history of producing clickbait outrage journalism, but explains, “It’s something I feel ambivalent about as a writer.” He makes the case for what is, after all, his livelihood. Shaming bad behavior is maybe a good deed? Plus, these pieces apparently function for a place like Slate the way lose-weight-and-get-a-man ones do for women’s mags – they pay for the serious but tough-to-monetize pieces. He also insists that, in this case at least, his target is unlikely to suffer financially. (“And I doubt his $800-per-hour corporate consulting business is going anywhere.”) These are all fair points. But I came away from the essay unsure whether Weissmann had succeeded in convincing himself that viral outrage – that is, of the sort sparked by the ostensibly private slip-up of someone who isn’t in the public eye – is defensible.
Stuart Kelly wonders what would happen if biographers were as formally innovative as novelists:
There have been various attempts at experimental biographies. Although it’s an “academic” book, Samuel Schoenbaum’s Shakespeare’s Lives, published in 1970, is remarkable: a life told through attempts to tell the life, a source book for how legends arise and myths solidify into facts. More recently, Jonathan Coe’s Like a Fiery Elephant,about the avant-garde novelist BS Johnson, deploys a range of tricks – meandering footnotes, choruses of comments, an intrusive and sometimes indolent narrator – which would be recognizable to readers of the novels of BS Johnson. It is a fine example of form being determined by the subject itself.
He goes on to argue that “for literary biography to survive as a genre, it ought to take its lead from literature and go even further”:
The decline of written diaries and paper correspondence … means that future biographers may have to either resign themselves to lost sources, or spend hours with computer boffins recapturing every email, tweet and keystroke from Salman Rushdie’s iPhones and laptops: a kind of archaeology which might reveal nothing more than a penchant for Patience. But a life told innovatively and imaginatively holds out a lifeline to the form. I’ve read biographies of Dickens by John Forster and Peter Ackroyd, Claire Tomalin and Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, GK Chesterton and Edgar Johnson. I know the story. But I’d love to hear how Ali Smith or Jonathan Franzen might tell it.
Today on the Dish, Michelle shook her head at the long-overdue exoneration of a black teenager executed in 1944, reflected on a perceived sexist remark made during her J-school days, and added her final thoughts on the Serial finale. More from Michelle on Dorothy Parker tomorrow and a sign-off post with reflections on TNR’s collapse on Sunday.
Phoebe, our wonderfully bright intern leaving the Dish soon, examined the evolving ways we look at gentrification, highlighted French author Éric Zemmour’s look at his nation’s decline, and joined Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart in considering the role of masculinity in their lives and literature.
Be sure to check out Andrew’s cameo in the Colbert finale and this hilarious story from a reader who ran into the senior Senator from Colbert’s home state of South Carolina. More Santa-crushing stories from readers here.
We’ve updated many recent posts with your emails – read them all here. You can always leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @dishfeed. 20 more readers became subscribers today. You can join them here – and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish – for a little as $1.99 month. Gift subscriptions are available here (you purchase one today and have it auto-delivered on Christmas Day). Dish t-shirts are for sale here and our coffee mugs here.
One of our newest subscribers has been a regular emailer since 2010:
The Dish staff photo finally prompted me to subscribe today. I had been dodging the pay-meter on a daily basis since its inception, but seeing the staff photo helped humanize the team, replacing my mental image of a gaggle of flaming liberals – though if I squint real hard, I think I do see a few sparks coming off a couple of you. Happy holidays!
Andrew will be back on Sunday night and likely torture-blogging throughout the week, so be sure to tune in for more on waterboarding, rectal feeding, and war criminals … Merry Christmas!
(Photo: A sign shows the departure times for flights to Cuba at Miami International Airport on December 19, 2014 in Miami, Florida. By Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
I won’t say that this is the greatest thing that I have ever seen, but neither will I say that it is not glorious to behold. Glenn Beck, American, offers a voice of warning … from the future:
Kyle Mantyla of Right Wing Watch (I’d rather watch grass grow) writes:
The best thing about Glenn Beck owning his own network is that he answers to nobody and so there is nothing to stop him from indulging every insane idea that he has, resulting in hour-long programs like last night’s end-of-the-year recap in which a 90-year-old Glenn Beck recorded a dire message from the future about how 2014 was the year in which the whole world fell apart.
Living alone in an abandoned building with only a few tiny candles and a small fire for light and heat, future Beck somehow managed to scrounge up some batteries and video cameras with which to record his message. And even though the world in 2054 is apparently short on food and fuel and energy and everything else, future Beck still somehow managed to obtain stockpiles of footage from news programs that aired forty years earlier and even had the capacity to edit those clips into his dire message about how everything from Ebola, to ISIS, to the Federal Reserve all brought about the complete collapse of capitalism and society starting in 2014.
Glenn Beck, in my opinion the world’s greatest performance artist, has built a fortune on the crackpot credulity of extreme conservative. This video is just delightfully bats. Will Menaker tweets:
My favorite part is that the example of humanity’s great potential for the miraculous is a wedding and the terrible is the missing plane lol
It’s like he wants us to know he’s pulling our leg. But then he’s totally not! Glenn Beck is a living magic eye poster. You squint and you see the winking irony, but you try to pull it into focus and it vanishes! All you see is the authentic wild-eyed paranoid ideologue. But then you catch the wink! Agh! The mercury-blooded cipher! I love him so much I wrote down what he said:
Even researchers don’t agree on what “gentrification” means, let alone how to identify it. (And this is to say nothing of its even more problematic derivative, the “gentrifier.”) … The definition matters… not purely for linguistic nit-picking, but because we seldom talk about gentrification in isolation. More often, we’re talking about its effects: who it displaces, what happens to those people, how crime rates, school quality or tax dollars follow as neighborhoods transform. And if we have no consistent way of identifying where “gentrification” exists, it then becomes a lot harder to say much about what it means.
Badger has me convinced, but I’d push further: “Gentrification” has taken on a life of its own as a lifestyle-section problem. The same language gets used to discuss concerns that a neighborhood has become unaffordable for poorer residents as to lament the fact that a favorite (pricey) coffee shop or boutique has closed its doors to make way for a chain store. NIMBY complaints hide out under the socially-acceptable – noble, even – guise of anti-gentrification advocacy.
Kashmiri Shiite boys wear blood stained shrouds on December 19, 2014 in Srinagar, India as a sign of protest against the recent killing of the schoolchildren in the terror attack in Peshawar, Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban killed 141 people, including 132 children, at an army-run school, and it was the deadliest in Pakistan’s history. By Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.
Reacting to a story about Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, Annie Lowrey reflects on “the ‘glass cliff,’ a relative of the ‘glass ceiling’ that holds back businesswomen, the ‘glass closet’ that stifles the ambitions of gay executives, the brick walls facing many managers of color, and the ‘glass elevator’ that helps so, so many white bros up to the top”:
The term comes courtesy of two psychologists, Michelle K. Ryan of the University of Exeter and S. Alexander Haslam of the University of Queensland. In a pioneering study published a decade ago, they found that women were often promoted to board positions after a company had started faltering. Women weren’t picked to lead companies on an upswing, in other words. They were promoted to help manage turbulence and decline.
As Carl Bialik’s chart shows, Cuban baseball players are on the rise here in the US, and now with the thaw in US/Cuba relations, many are wondering about the implications for their shared national pastime:
Baseball has long been the most popular sport in Cuba and the island has long been a hotbed of baseball talent. Cubans have been playing professional baseball in the United States for nearly 150 years and even the embargo hasn’t stopped star Cuban players like Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds and Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox from coming to the U.S. to play in the major leagues. But the embargo has meant that players who come to the United States have had to defect and suffer all sorts of risks to escape out of the country—including falling prey to smuggling rings.
But reforming the current, broken system will be complicated: