All These Nice Things Rock Like A Mother
Happy Mother's Day, Wonkers! It's time for your weekly escape from the awful news of the week, which will still be there when you're ready to start paying attention to it again. Yr Dok Zoom is coming off a much-needed vacation since Wednesday, and wow did we ever need that chance to recharge our batteries. (Which involved shopping for a hybrid car; so hey, actual batteries.) So here we are, dragging our ass back to work and bringing you the Nice Things!
We have previously exhorted you to follow novelist and comic-book writer Chuck Wendig on the Twitters, because he and his pal Sam Sykes have hilarious conversations about very weird things, like whether maybe one of them might actually be in the middle of a slasher movie. Between them and all the historians I follow, Twitter has actually become at least 40 percent more tolerable! Here is Chuck Wendig describing his profession badly, because Twitter made him do it:
Of late (since mid-April), Wendig has been tweeting a lot about the family of foxes that have a den not far from his writing shed out back of his rural Pennsylvania home. Prepare for foxy nature-y cuteness!
The foxypup updates are frequent and wonderful. There are four kits -- wait, five! -- and both Foxmom and Foxdad can be seen out there. Wendig is well aware that he may be turning into "Tony Soprano with the ducks. What will I do when these foxes leave? I'm in my early 40s too oh god WILL IT FORM IN ME A CLOT OF EXISTENTIAL DREAD" -- but if so, he's good with that.
And as a professional SF/fantasy writer, he is perfectly fine with a bit of harmless anthropomorphism, because LOOKA THE CUTE!
Wendig has a whole damn online album of his best fox pics, and not only is he a darn good writer, he's a darn good photo-taker. Go looka the cuteness because you are now dead! The kits eventually started wandering up to Wendig's writing shed. Yes, he has a writing shed, but he is not thinking of getting a second, so please, so none of those Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson jokes, OK? Also, the foxes are taking over.
Wendig then noted that, while surrounded by the fox family, he had to whiz and the shed has no bathroom. He had to wait.
A lot of people want to know if I'm ever tempted to just... open the door, and the answer to that is
YES, gods yes, I want to open the door and invite them in and they all mouse pounce into my open hugging arms and we tumble and they definitely don't eat my face and it's amazing
And then they're like, YOU'RE OUR WEIRD FOREST UNCLE and I'm like YOU'RE MY RAMBUNCTIOUS FERAL NEPHEWS and the parent is dubious but we all share a meal of compost trash and baby bunnies and they come back to visit me year after year and we all Instagram it and it's awesome
But of course I don't do that because they're wild animals, however adorable, and they deserve their space and peace, and I want them to have a natural (if not extreme) fear of people, as their wariness is also their salvation
But I damn sure wanna open that door
We were a little worried about filling this little mommyblog with a bunch of Chuck Wendig's fox tweets, but we're reasonably certain the small sampling here falls well within fair use. Also this is a good chance to plug Wendig's tweetering and also too his new book, Wanderers, which will be out in July but can be pre-ordered now. (We like the premise: a strange sleepwalking malady spurs thousands of Americans to start wandering across the country, while society falls apart. Like zombies, but still alive and not eating you, so how do you handle THAT? Wonkette Book Club for July, maybe? )
Also, Wendig says he's just stealing the foxpuppers' IP anyway:
Also, you are now required to go back and read all the tweets like Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd as the Festrunk brothers. Hello, FOXES! We are here to meet your big American PAWS!
Things You Could Read!
As we occasionally remind you, not everything we include in this feature is required to be the warm-n-fuzzy kind of "nice," because we have a weird brain. "Nice," for Yr Dok Zoom, can also include really good writing on stuff we hadn't known about before. So with that disclaimer in mind, a few items that have been on our "Include in Nice Things??" list for a while:
1) Here's a darn smart essay by Jacob T. Levy about Donald Trump, why he lies, and why that's a dangerous thing, written shortly after the 2016 election. You'd think that topic has been done to death, but Levy actually offers a perspective we don't think gets mentioned enough: Trump lies for the sake of power -- not because he thinks anyone is convinced, but because making subordinates say things they know are untrue reinforces their subservience. Also, he thinks we're all his subordinates now.
2) In 1980, the Atlantic published this incredibly good investigative piece by James Fallows on the troubled history of the M-16 rifle. It's a classic story of military bureaucracy, and how stupid institutional politics took a very reliable prototype rifle -- the Armalite AR-15 -- and fucked it up for very bad reasons, resulting in a mass-produced weapon that was notoriously prone to jamming, resulting in needless deaths of US soldiers. Again, not happy story, but a remarkably well-written look at how things go wrong.
3) A few weeks back, the Washington Post published Alex Horton's lyrical essay, "Reading 'Slaughterhouse-Five' in Baghdad: What Vonnegut taught me about what comes after war." If you missed it then, go read it now. It's about war, trauma, survival, and how fiction helps us make some sense of things that make no damn sense at all. Just a fantastic piece of writing, in all senses of the word.
Your Lying Eyes
From PetaPixel, a mind-blowing examination of how a common photographic technology used in the 19th century, "wet-plate collodion photography," may have "erased" bits of history. Turns out that green-blue tattoos, like those used in the Maori tradition of tā moko (which involves both scarring and tattooing), just plain don't show up in black and white wet-plate photos, particularly when the tattoos are on darker skin. To demonstrate, photographer Michael Bradley took a bunch of pics of Maori people, in color and using wet-plate processing.
Our only quibble: It would have been nice if, in addition to Bradley's photos, the piece had included some actual historic photos demonstrating that phenomenon. But if tattoos were rendered invisible, how would you know without the color alternative? At least some historic photos managed to capture some details of tā moko, as in this 1900 photo of Maori King Tāwhiao:
**A brief note from Robyn, who is editing this and is also a very big fan of Kiri Te Kenawa** The picture above was taken by 19th century New Zealand photographer Elizabeth Pulman, who was most famous for her pictures of the Maori people (and also the best known/most prolific photographer of the Maori people during that time). Her other photographs showed the tattoos a little more clearly:
*Robyn now digresses!*
When the story was retweeted, more than one reader noted this is hardly an old-timey problem, either:
We would end this bit by speculating about how a certain host on a certain cable network might sputter "Oh, so now photography is racist?" but this is Nice Things, so the only fox news we're bringing you involves Chuck Wendig's vulpine neighbors.
Whoops! (Part One)
We've been big fans of the group tech/nerd/culture/more nerd blog BoingBoing for over a decade. But apparently not everyone online knows what exactly BoingBoing is, as editor Rob Beschizza recently discovered:
And yes, the nerds in the comments all remember that 1965 tony Curtis/Jerry Lewis movie Boeing Boeing. We'd only add that if BoingBoing built airplanes, the flight-control software would have worked just fine (it would be open source, too). But the inflight announcements would have included a surprising amount of obscure Disney trivia.
Whoops! (Part Deux)
Very cute little airtime-filler on NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday" this morning, about four hosts' on-air gaffes:
We certainly identified with Ari Shapiro's tendency to mix up newsworthy siblings' names, although we tend to transpose wholly different entities in our writing, like Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair, and the Timex-Sinclair TS-1000 home computer. But if you ask us, the far better on-air goof was when another NPR announcer previewed a piece with a great big malaprop a couple years back, referring to Ari Shapiro as "Aro Shapiri." I've called him that ever since.
Go have a nice Sunday! This is now your open thread!
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.