“Invariably there is a tension between the assimilating force of fashion and our personal style as a signifier of self. It is the desire to belong versus the desire to be “who we are.” All of my life, I chafed against the pressure to assimilate, which I slowly, painfully came to realize was always a losing game—both as an Asian-American man and as a gay man. There would always be a gap between how I wanted others to see me and how they would actually see me, an impossible reach for a phantom ideal. I would forever be trapped in dressing room purgatory, wrestling with jeans that would never fit.”—Alex Jung, “Come as You Are”
To truly understand Ellroy’s writing, one must understand the conventions of the hardboiled noir genre. The noir protagonist is a sort of antihero. He is often a world-weary individual, disillusioned and cynical. He sees the world as corrupt, a place where no good deed goes unpunished and lives to get his kicks. At heart he may be a sentimental romantic deep at heart, but he keeps it hidden and repressed, because whenever he allows himself to be vulnerable and truly care about someone, it always backfires. He lives by a code of honor that is his own, and strictly defines himself according to it. In a world of predators, prey, and scavengers, the hardboiled hero struggles to be his own man and not to fall into any of those categories. Typically, a noir hero will come up against some sort of challenge to his code, and will either compromise it and fail, or he will succeed and triumph, only to find the reward to be not worth the cost and the victory Pyrrhic at best, empty and meaningless more often than not.
In each case, blogging began—and in many cases, remained—as a labor of love. Like Sepia Mutiny’s contributors, the bloggers I spoke with wrote their posts before and after their demanding full-time jobs, or in between classes. While racism often drove them to blog in the first place, it also exhausted them once they were there.
“Writing about structural racism is an uphill battle,” says Peterson. “There are so many people dropping into the conversation at so many different points and with different experiences, it feels like an exercise in futility.”
I am tired of talking about ‘whiteness’, tired of responding to and negotiating it, being assaulted by it, being drained by it. Here’s why, literally EVERYTHING that could be said about racism and white supremacy has already been said.
“Watch the Throne—the album and the tour—was an effort to repair the damage. His stage partner, Jay-Z (né Shawn Carter), makes the star-generating machinery work for him financially, emotionally, and artistically by projecting a highly controlled persona. Kanye’s gifts lie in the opposite direction, and it was hard not to worry that he would emerge from the tour having learned to imitate some of Jay-Z’s gifts but having crippled or abandoned his own.”—David Samuels, “American Mozart”
“Gosling is now the gold standard of personal style…. The Gosling phenomenon is curious, though, because he achieved the status without going through any transitional phase whatsoever. One day he was in a Harley- Davidson-logo tee, sporting a floppy forelock. The next he was in brocade Ferragamo with velvet lapels. He became iconic by looking iconic, and now every publicist wants her client to have a closet like Gosling’s, in hopes that a career like his will follow.”—Molly Young, “Leading Mannequins”
“In the bowels of this concrete building, thousands of cheering fans greeted top competitors from around the world like they were rock stars. It was a sight reminiscent of a boxing match. Except the sport the crowd was here to see was StarCraft II, an online, real-time strategy game set in the 26th century, where three alien races duke it out in a war for intergalactic supremacy.”—StarCraft II and the Rise of American Pro Gaming
“Once I got over the embarrassment of being viewer No. 3,000,000, I realized something: the song was really good. Just as good as it had been 2,999,999 viewers ago. In other words, there is no longer any honor in musical obscurity. If you can be popular on your own terms - if you can be Arcade Fire or Bon Iver and still win a Grammy - there is really no such thing as “selling out” anymore, unless you happen to sign a distribution deal with the Koch brothers.”—Why the Old-School Music Snob Is the Least Cool Kid on Twitter
“In the last decade, however, indie rock has classed up, steadily abandoning these lower-class fans (along with the midsized cities they live in) for the young, college-educated white people who now populate America’s major cities and media centers. For these people, indie rock has offered a way to ignore the fact that part of what makes your dead-end internship or bartending job tolerable is the fact that you can leave and go to law school whenever you like.”—n+1: 5.4 Pitchfork, 1995–present
“One of my most frequent criticisms of the food movement and the way it frames food reform is the lack of empathy for people who are not in a position to implement some of the changes recommended. Perhaps they are parents who are trying to balance work and children with food preparation, and need to consider the needs of members of the household who may have very specific ideas about what is edible and what is not. Maybe they are people with disabilities who have limited financial resources and can’t make a big investment in sustainable food. Or they’re people living in low-income neighbourhoods with limited access to fresh foods, let alone those produced sustainably.”—Some Empathy With Your Food Movement?
“In Dreams from My Father, the new president displays an enviable facility for dialogue, and puts it to good use, animating a cast every bit as various as the one James Baldwin—an obvious influence—conjured for his own many-voiced novel Another Country. Obama can do young Jewish male, black old lady from the South Side, white woman from Kansas, Kenyan elders, white Harvard nerds, black Columbia nerds, activist women, churchmen, security guards, bank tellers, and even a British man called Mr. Wilkerson, who on a starry night on safari says credibly British things like: “I believe that’s the Milky Way.” This new president doesn’t just speak for his people. He can speak them.”—Zadie Smith, “Speaking in Tongues” (2009)
“They talk about food and restaurants incessantly, and their social lives are organized around them. Some are serious home cooks who seek to duplicate the feats of their chef-heroes in their own kitchens; others barely use a stove. Above all, they are avowed culinary agnostics whose central motivation is simply to hunt down and enjoy the next most delicious meal, all the better if no one else has yet heard of it. Dish snapshots and social-network check-ins are a given.”—When Did Young People Start Spending 25% of Their Paychecks on Pickled Lamb’s Tongues?
“At the same time the perceived need for an expensive year-long creative writing course on the part of thousands of would-be writers affords paid employment to those older writers who have trouble making ends meet but are nevertheless determined to keep at it. One of the problems of seeing creative writing as a career is that careers are things you go on with till retirement. The fact that creativity may not be co-extensive with one’s whole working life is not admitted. A disproportionate number of poets teach in these courses.”—The Writer’s Job
“People don’t always derive the most enjoyment from the things they’re best at. Adults tag children who show promise and watch their progress with vested interest, causing some kids to falter under the weight of great expectations. “The most gifted kids in chess fall apart,” says Waitzkin. “They are told that they are winners, and when they inevitably run into a wall, they get stuck and think they must be losers.”—The Grandmaster Experiment
“New York City is the great circling bathtub drain that young people from the college towns and mid-sized cities of North America disappear into, unable to resist the siren song of their own cosmopolitan ambitions. The drainage of souls from second- and third-tier cities like Cleveland, Columbus, and Houston culturally balkanizes the nation—the family-oriented and content stay at home, breeding more of the same, while the driven and career-minded pack off to New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to join thousands of others like them in the endless cultural orgy.”—Slacker at Twenty
Look at it like this: Think about your most successful friend. Think about how you’d describe this friend to other people, and think about the elements of their personality you’d use to define their character. What would happen if everything you know about this friend suddenly proved to be false? Assume they’ve lied to you about every single aspect of who they are, including their name and origin. Now, it’s possible you’d continue to have a relationship with this person. He or she might continue to exist as your friend, and perhaps you’d even like them more. But he or she would not be the person you thought you knew; instead, they would be someone in between the person they were born as and the person they invented. They would become a third iteration of themselves (and they wouldn’t get to control what that means or how that looks).
“The pressure to grieve publicly and to do so in a certain way is yet another thing for people to navigate in the wake of a loss. They must do it just right or be branded as cold, or too emotional, or any number of other unpleasant things people can come up with to describe people who do not stick within the confines of the rubric. It is not enough to admit that yes, you have experienced a loss and you want to process it in your own way, not when you are living in a world where everyone thinks that everything is their business, right down to how you deal, or do not deal, with the death of someone in your life.”—s.e. smith, “Grief and Performance”