April 28, 2017

“And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Modern Adventuress

28 APRIL 2017

Hello letter friends,

Hey there. It’s been a little while, hasn’t it. Let’s catch up.

I was on vacation a couple of weeks ago, in Berlin. Berliners, your city is very nice. It was a lovely trip.

Since then, I’ve been keeping busy at home and learning some things about where my creative impulses are headed these days. I have a certain project in the works that I’m excited to put into the world, but I need a bit more time. There are also some other long-term projects that I’m enjoying, but it will be quite some time until I’m ready to release those. As a possible result, I’m finding that I no longer have much to write as "Notes in the Margins" here. My thoughts and energy are less trained on the short and immediate than they are on the long and involved. I suspect that the more than two years I've spent writing impromptu essays for my newsletter has served its creative purpose and now I'm moving on to bigger things. Or something like that. So, I’ll be forgoing essays from here on in, unless I have something very particularly special to say. Hopefully I do have something to say every so often. And hopefully I’ll soon be sharing other work with you on a regular basis.

Things are shifting just a bit. We’ll see how it goes.

Fear not, however—I’ll continue the newsletter with links, recommendations and other assorted bits of topics of interest.

Let’s get to it.


The Handmaid’s Tale is a warning to conservative women.

Inside the anti-gay pogrom in Chechnya.

Ijeoma Oluo interviews Rachel Dolezal.

How a mural of Michelle Obama became a lesson on exploitation.

“Perhaps there was a time when intentionally blurring art with business seemed heady or original, but that age is certainly hard to imagine now.” The rise and fall of Damien Hirst.

The oral history of Scandal.

Unraveling the mystery behind a photograph of a young Polish girl in the aftermath of WWII.

A playlist of 3,350 tracks from Haruki Murakami’s record collection.

How The Rock became our favorite populist hero.

Short doc on ten-year-old boxer Jesslyn Silva.

A lovely essay on the eerie beauty of James Dean in East of Eden.

An appreciation, fifteen years later, of Bend It like Beckham.

September will see the publication of a new book on the history of women in Disney animation.

Best true crime books of the last thirty-five years.

"If you look at the media and things happening in the world, you often times will see sort of this bootstrap mentality. And this is really addressing that concept. Really, it isn't that simple.” Behind a comic book about growing up in and getting out of poverty in central Ohio.

Fifty reasons why everyone should want more walkable streets.

“If you’re a bigot, you don’t get to like Star Trek.”

“Music is one of the ways by which you can know everything which is going on in the world.” Nina Simone and the story of “Mississippi Goddam.”

Tribute to Carrie Fisher.

The web’s best hidden gems.


As previously established, I was on vacation a couple of weeks ago, and much media was consumed. Here are some of the highlights.

The Haunting of Hill House
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Shirley Jackson

I mentioned recently that I read the excellent Shirley Jackson biography, which inspired me to go back and read her two most well-known novels—which I had read before, but so long ago that I realized I remembered little about them. They are also excellent. That is all.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Directed by Taika Waititi

This one had been on my to-watch list for a while, but I don’t always make it to theaters in time for some movies, so I caught this one on my flight. While the overall pacing is uneven, it’s unrelentingly charming and touching, and infused with Taika Waititi’s offbeat sense of humor. Speaking of that—if you have a similar sense of humor, What We Do in the Shadows is now on Amazon Prime and well worth either watching or re-watching.

In the Dark podcast

I have listened to podcasts for several years, but I always tended to choose the less-demanding ones. Lately, I decided to level up and start taking in those with more involved storylines. Which means I finally listened to Serial, only about 2.5 years behind the curve. In that vein, however, I discovered the In the Dark podcast, an American Public Media production that also investigates an old true crime story, but which delves deeper into the missteps of law enforcement in handling the case. It’s well-done and fascinating.


Hey hey, Front End Camp is just a little over a month away and I’ll be keynoting. You should come by and say hi.

That’s all for today. Thank you for reading.

Settle in and rest for a bit if you need to. You can get back to work tomorrow.



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Today’s subject line quote from T.S. Eliot.