What I read this past week

The lack of female genitals on statues seems thoughtless until you see it repeated

“Patriarchy has tried to erase imagery of the feminine since time immemorial. Destroy the image and you can control the narrative. Easter was appropriated from the pagans celebrating the return of Astarte. Before her, the fertility goddess Inanna descended to the underworld not to rescue her beloved male companion but to extend her own power; she banished her husband there in order to return to earth. Even the Venus of Willendorf has a vulva.

Yet, somewhere along the line, the vulva became synonymous with the obscene.”

The Engineer’s Lament: Two ways of thinking about automotive safety

“Toyota’s engineers approached the problem armed with the two concepts that define the engineer’s world: tolerances and specifications. A system’s tolerance is its ability to cope with changes and unplanned variation; systems need to be tolerant because you can never perfectly predict what stresses and unexpected behaviors they will encounter. Specifications are constraints. No one tells you to build a perfect car. People tell you to build a car in eighteen months that will sell for twenty-five thousand dollars. The fact that a car is revealed to be imperfect, in other words, is not sufficient reason to recall it: imperfections and compromises are inevitable. The issue is how tolerant the car is of those imperfections and compromises.”


“But the idea of a “Chinese” red carpet is trickier still. One can, eventually, hope to shame someone out of wearing something that’s of specific religious or cultural significance. Harder to pinpoint and claim the origins of the high collar gown, of the slim silhouette, of thick embroidery. (The contingent of this red carpet that tried to evoke Chinese Imperial grandeur and showed up looking like Byzantine idols suggests the history of fashion is long, confusing, and weird.) Centuries of international trade mean that silhouettes can be both both recognizable by national origin and long since under adoption elsewhere; it’s all a bit of a quagmire, and this red carpet will almost by necessity be graded on a sliding scale. Treated respectfully, borrowing elements of design can be seen as homage and celebration. Treated cheaply, it’s straight-up racist.”

The Littoral Space

“You realize in your 20s that you’re not a genius. You get past that first blush of success, if you’re lucky enough to have experienced it, and get next to the fact that, in the words of Patton Oswalt, you’re not going to be the next Bill Hicks. But you do harbor the notion that it’s going to get easier, and that there will be a calm place in the future where you’re not working 16 hours a day, and you’re not going to be subject to the ebb and flow of other peoples’ contempt and attention.”

Mom: The Designated Worrier

“No matter how generous, “helping out” isn’t sharing. I feel pinpricks of rage every time my husband fishes for praise for something I’ve asked him to do. On the other hand, I’ve never gotten around to drawing up the List of Lists and insisting that we split it. I don’t see my friends doing that either.”

London Throws an Amazing Date Night on Penny Dreadful

“This show’s priorities are fairly well-established: plot’s nice when you can get it, atmosphere is always welcome, but its joy is when the characters are hard at work filling that chart of interpersonal weirdness. And that can pay off in episodes like “Verbis Diablo,” in which nothing particularly happens except a witch stealing a baby for the evil puppet room (I know), but there are interesting beats everywhere, as characters pair off to great effect. Let’s rate the dates!”

Your Cyberpunk Games Are Dangerous

“Shortly after the Secret Service raid in March 1990, in an account written in the next issue of Jackson’s in-house magazine Roleplayer, Jackson reported that “we have since been told that neither SJ Games nor the GURPS Cyberpunk manuscript was the object of the raids.” Indeed, he further reports that “the home of the GURPS Cyberpunk writer was also raided, and his own computer taken.” Blankenship, for his part, remembered waking up at gunpoint as the Secret Service confiscated his personal computers and related paraphernalia.”


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