What I’m reading

Always have to love an interview with Matt from WordPress – and WP picking up Tumblr (which I was very active on from the very beginning: first as a links-blog, then as a photoblog).

Got to spend a bit of time with Om this week while he was in town and we caught dinner at Chez Ma Tante.

WordPress x Tumblr and the open web

I want to create a place on the web, which is fun and supportive and substantial. You’re an old-school web user. At one point, blogging had a real magic to it. A frisson. You’d have blog rolls and links and people would follow and comment and you’d keep up with things and it was a really, really nice social network. But it also was totally distributed and people had their own designs, and all those sorts of things. I think we can bring some of that back and reimagine it in the mobile world which is where Tumblr is also super strong.

Got to see Om in New York in the Summer

Back in my (current) hometown, I saunter. Here, like a pitcher who suddenly finds a reserve of energy in the middle of the season, my pace picks up. I smell the summer as I move. You know the smell of New York: a heady blend of stench from the gutters, cigarette smoke, and sidewalk stalls selling everything from hotdogs to kebabs. It’s the strong smell of hustle. And apparently, the Mayor has declared Le Labo Santal 33 the official fragrance of the season.

Neil Young

If you want to envision how Young feels about the possibility of having to listen to not only his music but also American jazz, rock ’n’ roll and popular song via our dominant streaming formats, imagine walking into the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Musée d’Orsay one morning and finding that all of the great canvases in those museums were gone and the only way to experience the work of Gustave Courbet or Vincent van Gogh was to click on pixelated thumbnails.

But Young hears something creepier and more insidious in the new music too. We are poisoning ourselves with degraded sound, he believes, the same way that Monsanto is poisoning our food with genetically engineered seeds. The development of our brains is led by our senses; take away too many of the necessary cues, and we are trapped inside a room with no doors or windows. Substituting smoothed-out algorithms for the contingent complexity of biological existence is bad for us, Young thinks. He doesn’t care much about being called a crank. “It’s an insult to the human mind and the human soul,” he once told Greg Kot of The Chicago Tribune. Or as Young put it to me, “I’m not content to be content.”

The tigress T-27

For centuries, Indian nabobs and the British elite hunted tigers for sport; an estimated 80,000 tigers were killed between 1875 and 1925 alone. By 1972, when Indira Gandhi outlawed hunting and began setting aside land for tiger sanctuaries, barely 1,800 animals remained in the wild. Since then, India has established 50 sanctuaries and waged a concerted battle against poachers, who supply tiger bones to the Chinese medicine trade. Today there are an estimated 2,200 tigers in India, and the number is on the rise.


The semicolon was born in Venice in 1494. It was meant to signify a pause of a length somewhere between that of the comma and that of the colon, and this heritage was reflected in its form, which combines half of each of those marks. It was born into a time period of writerly experimentation and invention, a time when there were no punctuation rules, and readers created and discarded novel punctuation marks regularly. Texts (both handwritten and printed) record the testing-out and tinkering-with of punctuation by the fifteenth-century literati known as the Italian humanists. The humanists put a premium on eloquence and excellence in writing, and they called for the study and retranscription of Greek and Roman classical texts as a way to effect a “cultural rebirth” after the gloomy Middle Ages. In the service of these two goals, humanists published new writing and revised, repunctuated, and reprinted classical texts.


This conversation brought to life one of the bigger challenges of the climate crisis: the fact that we all have to change, but each of us in different ways.