Good Boy Summer

Stop trying to make fetch happen

Hello everyone—hope you all are doing “alright.” I have approximately zero gas in the tank, the tank being my mind and gas being literally anything besides circular unproductive doom thoughts or fleeting concerns about birds. (Speaking of bird concerns: I just got the new Jeff Vandermeer book, he’s one of my favorite sci fi/spooky writers that blends actual ecological horrors with brilliant characters—I’ll keep you all posted.)

Since pivoting away from using the awardsforgoodboys Instagram I’ve found great solace, but also have to reconcile with the extent to which my obsessive social media use has/had disintegrated my sense of self. More on that soon. Thankfully my Big Instagram Account absence has left me with vital energy to use on important things, like covering the bones song from I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, which Stereogum wrote about here. It’s fine! Everything is normal.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming, here are things I’ve loved reading recently! Also *trumpet sounds* it’s Good Boy Summer.

What I’ve been reading:

Mass by Brandon Taylor

His mother was going to lose her shit. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried not to think of it, but there was the image of her face. Her bright blue eyes. The stern teacher’s eyebrows. He saw the play of every muscle in her face, the relaxation in her jaw that suggested grief, the fleeting alleviation of pressure in the left temple. The subtle slackening of her throat. The faucet dripped. He tried to see the space as it was cleaved by each drop, the surface rippling and then going still again. He tried to breathe.

Last Judgment: On the role of criticism in the end times by Jo Livingstone

The upside to living, or at least writing, in a constant state of “emergency” is that we begin to feel that the time for talking may be running out, and so we start to say what we mean a little more. Sometimes that’s a bad thing, depending on the person, but personally I like the explicit over the implicit: I don’t think human beings are really capable of pure honesty, let alone critics, but wild things happen when we give it a try.

Amazon’s Hunger for Delivery Hubs Hits New Heights by Paris Martineau

To fuel its breakneck expansion, Amazon has opened delivery stations in the empty husks of former retail stores and, in rare cases, has set up temporary outdoor shipping facilities under tents—for example, in the massive parking lot of Citi Field baseball stadium in Flushing, New York City, home of the New York Mets.

Transgender Childhood Is Not a ‘Trend.’ As far back as historians have found evidence of transgender people, they’ve found transgender children. By Jules Gill-Peterson

The high visibility of transgender youth in this country is quite recent, but transgender children themselves are not. Indeed, as far back as historians like me have found evidence of transgender people, we have found transgender children. So why don’t most people know about kids like Val? One reason is that long before there were words like “transgender” to describe these people’s lives, they passed under the radar.

THE ICE MAN PAINTETH by Zoé Samudzi

Reading Bush’s versions of these immigrant biographies, a pattern quickly emerges. He wants us to see them as having worked hard to earn their citizenship because they’ve overcome traumatic circumstances—war and genocide, terrorist attacks in their homeland, communism and despotic leadership, grinding poverty—and, after all that, still proved their commitment to American values. 

Newsletter recs:

Reflecting on some bad takes, I’ve had many, TLDR not wrong but nuance is a good thing and hard to communicate in one panel to a lot of people:

True Life: I was an insufferable scold and I’m sorry! Also, working on a hopefully helpful “why you should get the vaccine” primer you can send to anyone hesitating in your life.

A take I was too right about: the intense focus on Biden’s dogs.

Ruh roh! Seems like an adult human tweeted out “ruh roh” from the Associated Press Twitter account! It’s time for The End.

I found a cursed article about this phenomena called “Why Biden’s dogs Major and Champ are newsworthy” on CNN which extols, verbatim:

More than anything, the doggie drama heralds a return to a more mundane post-Trump news cycle. The Biden White House is largely scandal-free (by design) so a problematic pet counts as newsworthy. Of course, even the word "problematic" is a problem in some corners. There are Major defenders who think this subject is being botched by the press. So let's unpack this a bit.

The whole article—very cursed. Ack! Trump was so good for our ratings and now that Biden is back to supposed normalcy (hmm) that’s why we focus on the dogs. Right? The focus on the dogs is because they’re so fun and friendly? And don’t we all miss the fun and friendly type of politics? The brunch kind? Everything is fine!

Here is what I wrote about the dogs last year, way before the gratuitous press cycle about their admittedly not very good, but very good boy, behavior. Please clap, for me!

An interesting thing happens, to public figures and politicians or celebrities who are so far away that we can’t feel the texture of their presence. We look at the “good” things even vaguely associated with them, dogs for instance, and decide that will do as a character judgement, in apparent place of critique or further thought. It feels to me a similar way of coping with unchecked power / obscene fame as when we do “stars! They’re just like us. Here is Dakota Johnson eating!” Unable to relate, to grasp the magnitude of these people who are made to be so much more than people (like staring into the Grand Canyon, I feel) we center on whatever makes a sort of sense to us, whatever is sort of understandable in the context of our very different lives.

TLDR I don’t think the dog focus is just because a whole lot of people have less click-worthy headlines to churn out with Trump gone, but also because they’re humanizing—it’s a simple binary to gesture at how much better things are, even if the dogs are misbehaving. Too simple, infantilizing, grim, is what I say.

On a perfect segue, because I too have the power of a president, ignore all my evil doings and look at my dog:

With love,
Shelby and Clem