This morning I caught the NPR story of Amanda Gorman, 22, who will “become the youngest poet in recent memory to deliver a poem at a presidential inauguration.” Even more remarkable (to me), Gorman has had challenges since childhood with a speech impediment that affects her ability to say certain letters. So much so that she would find different words to use—words she could pronounce without difficulty—in her poems. Since then, she has performed her poetry at esteemed places like the Library of Congress and curious venues like the Empire State Building’s observation deck.
Tomorrow, Amanda will perform her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” written specifically for the inauguration. In her earlier years, she has held the title of Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and became the first National Youth Poet Laureate. We’ll be in good hands and in the presence of remarkable talent.
If you want a preview of what we’re in for, take five minutes and read In This Place (An American Lyric), written and performed by Amanda at the Library of Congress.➵
A new podcast (to me) that I read about in the most recent issues of Dense Discovery.
How To Citizen with Baratunde reimagines the word “citizen” as a verb and reminds us how to wield our collective power. So many of us want to do more in response to the problems we hear about constantly, but where and how to participate can leave us feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Voting, while critically important, simply isn’t enough. It takes more to make this experiment in self-governance work. Listen in to learn new perspectives and practices from people working to improve society for the many.
I’m intrigued by the premise as I’ve been thinking about how to make the most out of the next twenty years. How to contribute in a way to really fix problems rather than apply more patches.➵
I’ve been thinking for years about what it would take to make the social web magical in all the right ways—less extreme, less toxic, more true—and I realized only recently that I’ve been thinking far too narrowly about the problem. I’ve long wanted Mark Zuckerberg to admit that Facebook is a media company, to take responsibility for the informational environment he created in the same way that the editor of a magazine would. (I pressed him on this once and he laughed.) In recent years, as Facebook’s mistakes have compounded and its reputation has tanked, it has become clear that negligence is only part of the problem. No one, not even Mark Zuckerberg, can control the product he made. I’ve come to realize that Facebook is not a media company. It’s a Doomsday Machine.
When reality starts to sound like the plot of a James Bond film, it’s time to, uh, reverse course. What gets my attention is the notion that the problems as a result of Facebook out-scale the maker’s ability to “just turn it off.” Does that sound familiar to you? It’s the dystopian pre-story for a million science fiction movies. We may already be on the path to living out THX 1138.➵
Earlier this week, I signed up for David Hoang’s newsletter, and I’m sure glad that I did. In response to this week’s attack on the capital, David shares his views on the systems we are born into. He proffers how these systems come with their own unconscious biases and how they can play into the wrong hands, even in those cases when—looking in from the outside—it doesn’t make sense.
It turns out that because you experienced oppression, it does not make you immune from participating in other systems of oppression. Imagine how many unconscious bias decisions one might make a day. Think about when that’s multiplied by every human being for the last hundred years. Now, imagine when that bias is conscious, and someone made a deliberate decision to oppress. As Darien Boyd wrote, the system is working as designed. If you thought The Social Dilemma was enlightening around system design, wait till you read about systemic racism. Some of you might have similar upbringings of being raised in model minority families. They might not like a narcissistic president, in fact, they might despise him. However, he talks about communism, socialism, and the threat of it. That can be triggering for people who experienced it.
Taking in David’s perspective, my first thought is the need for us to live with a mindset of curious diplomacy. Given our society’s state and condition, we can’t afford to presume anything about one another. Nothing. Not even the smallest data point. I’m old enough to know the world isn’t black and white, but I’m beginning to understand that it’s also not gray—it’s full color. It’s our systems and biases that reduce the world to a smaller spectrum.
We’re not going to fix anything with a mindset that a few discussions will heal our combined culture. And this will require more than just listening. If we’re going to achieve some form of harmony (the kind I thought we lived in before the last four years, but I’m pretty sure I was wrong back then, too), then we have to be genuinely curious how our systems might work together through diplomatic means.➵
Rob Weychert will always be a source of inspiration as he seems to always be in motion. Not even a pandemic gets in his way. In fact it inspires him to dust off an old zine and publish a new issue.
Zaly began as a parody of the grassroots, amateur nature of zines. We initially made it entirely by hand and made a point of putting in as little effort as possible. Like Seinfeld, it was about nothing. Unlike Seinfeld, it was not remotely compelling. I’ve been looking through a lot of old punk zines this year, and that renewed interest, combined with quarantine ennui, created a fertile environment for a Zaly revival. I wanted to occupy Zaly’s anarchic creative space again, but I also wanted to have a physical artifact to share with friends, a way to connect across our pandemic boundaries of self-isolation without asking anyone to spend any more time staring at the screen of an electronic device.
I contacted the old Zaly crew (most of whom I still speak to regularly) with print specs and a call for submissions. We set a deadline and got to work. When the dust settled and the submissions were in, Zaly9 added up to 28 pages of invigorating nonsense. That page count doesn’t include the cover, adorned with a blurry image of an audio cassette which nods at the content’s mixtape essence while acknowledging that the endeavor is driven by nostalgia.
Click the link to see photos of early issues and the hotness of the latest. I love this idea. Maybe it’s time to for an Airbag zine…➵
Trying to stop globalization is like trying to hold back nature.
In recent years a different type of globalisation has accelerated. A new design aesthetic is taking over the world, spread not via brands or FDI [foreign direct investment], but through social media and the internet. Even as formal trade slows, the globalisation of taste is rampant. Starbucks may not have reached large chunks of the world, but there are very few large cities in the world now in which a visitor cannot order a latte surrounded by exposed wood and vintage light bulbs. Kabul boasts no McDonald’s, but you can get a decent burger and fries at Burger House, a restaurant that would not be out of place in San Francisco.
It does my heart good to see other cultures progressing without global brands dictating what’s in or out. This is the way.➵