Sunday, March 11, 2012

Links for the week ending 11 March 2012

Good morning, internets! Here are my top picks for whiling away your idle moments this week. First, a laugh, courtesy of Jessica Winter's wonderful "Subject for Debate: Are Women People?"

The New York Review of Books is, um, not the most frequent publisher of women writers, but when it does, the results are often splendiferous. This Elaine Blair piece, positing that male American writers are paralyzed by the fear that female readers will cease to find any reason to keep reading them, is snort-out-loud funny. While we're on the topic of books, here's a lyrical piece by Lightsey Darst: "Who Gave You That Book?" (Jessa Crispin.) Or there's this fierce piece by Belinda Webb on the class issues that determine which women writers go forward into posterity, and which are left behind. (VIDA.)

The second part of a two-part Diane Ravitch piece in the NRYB about school reforms and (dis)respecting the profession of teaching, is not in the least bit funny, but is essential reading. "By 2007–2008, the largest number of teachers were in their first year of teaching." Oy.

Reuters editor Chrystia Freeland writes about Cal economist Emmanuel Saez and the 1 percent recovery.

I saw hand-drawn signs for Kony 2012 around my local high school this week. Rebecca Rosen at the Atlantic gave a brief analysis of the viral campaign and its articulate backlash. Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing created a list of African writers talking back to the Kony campaign. She also talked to the director of communications for MSF (Doctors Without Borders) about the impact it may have on established humanitarian missions. And the indispensable Zeynep Tufecki has an essay on Kony 2012 and "slacktivism" up on her own blog this week.

At Colorlines, Jamilah King looks at some of the issues around protest, activism, and the potential surveillance of mobile phones, particularly an issue for people of color, as they disproportionately rely on smartphones for internet access. (If you missed it, this excerpt from Rebecca Mackinnon's "The Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom," ran in the Atlantic last month.)

Laurie Penny appeared to be just about everywhere this week. Here's my pick, in which she argues for more rebellion and more anger in the struggle for women's rights: "Politeness, however, has bought even the luckiest of us little more than terminal exhaustion, a great shoe collection, and the right to be raped by the state if we need an abortion."

Virginia Postrel argues that many forms of birth control pills can and should be offered over the counter, but suggests that it would only happen if some corporate interest (i.e., a pharmaceutical company) lobbied the government for the change.

This post is more than a week old, but, as today is the first anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami, it seems fitting to link to it: Katherine Harmon at Scientific American on health problems in the aftermath of Fukushima. Not surprisingly, heart disease and depression are at the top of the list. SciAm also offers a timeline by Sarah Fecht of the events as they unfolded at Fukushima. For a more general recap one year after the catastrophes, Yoko Kubota files this piece for Reuters. Among the more heartbreaking statistics: 326,000 survivors are still homeless.

Also at Scientific American, Maria Konnikova writes about our immense capacity for self-deceptive storytelling.

Annalee Newitz at io9 offers a short recap of the latest report by the Union of Concerned Scientists about how corporations produce fake science to bolster their products.

Essential reading by Jennifer Francis at Yale Environment 360º explaining how Arctic warming contributes to weird and often unseasonable weather. It's supposed to be 70 degrees here tomorrow. I'm just saying...

Last week I pointed you to a story about childhood lead-poisoning fatalities in Nigeria. This week, it's particularly fitting that Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook, should write such a cogent piece protesting the federal government's decision to slash to almost nothing funding for lead-remediation efforts at home. I don't even need to tell you that this hurts poor families and children of color disproportionately, do I?

I really like SquintMom: Resources for Evidence-Based Parenting, which I found @BoraZ, a guy (I know, but!) with truly omnivorous science reading habits. (Would that more guys were such omnivorous readers — then there'd be no need for this list!) Anyway, this week's entry is about the curiously consumerist "science" of optimized environments for development in early childhood.

On the other side of life's arc, two stories this week about aging parents. From Aimee Phan in The Rumpus, a very moving chronicle of her father's deterioration from Alzheimer's. From Lisa M. Krieger at the Mercury News, a hard look at how her father's last ten days of life cost $323,000 despite the Do Not Resuscitate order he had in place.

Food! In the right hands, it can be a frame for an exploration of almost any aspect of human society. Here are two very different approaches: Christine Baumgarthuber talks about the politics of leftovers as a lens for viewing the relationship between rich and poor at The New Inquiry, while Emily Matchar looks at cookbooks, canned food, working women, and gender politics at The Hairpin.

Also from The Hairpin, this wonderful look at the last performance of 87-year-old Marta Becket's one-woman desert show, by Maude Standish, with equally wonderful photos by Jennie Ross. (You must click through, if only to see the audience Ms. Becket painted on the theater walls to watch her performance when no one else came.)

Victoria Johnson is a cartographer who writes a monthly column for The Awl, and I can't recommend it highly enough. This week she offered "A Reading List For People Who Like To Know About Places." I've only read two of the books on it (ahem, /humblebrag), and can't wait to read the rest.

Wondering about the occasional inexplicable squiggles in this post? Maria Popova at Brain Pickings a proposed new format for attributing discovery. Like "via" and "hat tip," only signified by Unicode symbols. There's a bookmarklet if, like me, you doubt your ability to remember which symbol means what or how to represent it. (There is, as yet, no bookmarklet to help you redeem yourself if you can't for the life of you remember who first pointed you towards something interesting, alas.)

Finally, breaking my own rules here: this heartbreaking piece from Lapham's Quarterly is by a man, but it is about a woman, Barbara Newhall Follett: made famous by publishing her first novel at the age of 12, betrayed first by her father and then by her husband, disappeared without a trace at the age of 26. "Her writings, out of print for many decades, only exist today in six archival boxes at Columbia University's library. Take together, they are the saddest reading in all of American literature." Those of you who remember photos of my daughter typing determinedly at a laptop before her second birthday will not be surprised to hear that this essay made me sob…

As always, there are more links throughout the week @PhantomsList.