I enjoyed ‘Take Out,’ which is steaming right now on Filmstruck. Go watch it now.

Recently, I’ve found myself shying away from any work that tries to ‘speak for the voiceless.’ The Trump era has put a hard edge to that sort of inquiry — the questions asked seem much more basic and politicized. We are back to just proving that the others are humans, too. …


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I did not know this, but there is an ideal concentration of butterflies in a room. Today, I saw over 1000 and all were diminished. Were I to guess, I’d say the right number is three or four.


Small books cast a religious hold on their devotees. The repeat reader experiences something close to transference — he puts the book in the pocket of his jacket, feels its reassuring, blocky heft and thinks of all the fellow seekers who, in a fit of sentimentality and vanity, wore the same book as body armor. This is a silly exercise, sure, but it’s as close to an expressed spirituality that any of us come these days.

I have six or seven copies of Jesus’ Son on my bookshelves and a digital copy on my phone. They were collected over the past fifteen years and served a variety of tasks — when I was twenty-three and trying, like so many depressed twenty-three year olds in MFA programs, to write a “book of connected short stories,” I would carry Jesus’ Son with me to the Hungarian Pastry Shop on 110th and Amsterdam. Sitting at the wobbly tables in the back which had been shimmed with filthy, folded napkins, I would prop open Jesus’ Son between my knees and quickly take in the first pages of “Two Men” before diving back into my own, derivative work. The book, I admit, embarrassed me — I was always surrounded by better, older writers and I worried they wouldn’t take me seriously if they saw me reading the canonical text of all young, angry men. But there was a looseness and a lucidity in those lines that made Raymond Carver and Thom Jones — my other literary heroes at the time — feel deliberate and almost ornate and I wanted to write like that. …


Today, the Atlantic published an essay the late Alex Tizon wrote about the woman who spent her life as a slave for his family and his lifelong attempts to understand why. It’s a stunningly honest piece about something second-generation immigrants rarely address — the old world sins of their parents and the frustration, indignation and distance we feel whenever we encounter the trenchant, ugly things our parents brought with them.

Three years ago, I reviewed Tizon’s memoir Big Little Man. I mostly enjoyed the book, which was an exploration of Asian maleness with a requisite discussion about penis size stereotypes, but I recall being a bit annoyed by the style of it, which I thought was confessional in a way that felt dated, not so much in its language, which was straight forward and reportorial, but more in its lack of meta-angst. At the time, I was trying to sort through my own meta-angst and deep ambivalence about race writing — how could I write honestly about race to what I knew would be a mostly white, elite audience? And how could I use irony and a series of winks and nods to steer stories back into my own control? Tizon, I noted in my review, did none of that. I attributed it to his career as a newspaper reporter and his age. Today, after reading his essay on Lola (edit: her name was not Lola, which is more or a title), I realize I was wrong — Tizon’s straight-forward style was all in the service of brutal honesty. …


I have been screaming about this on Twitter for the past week which is probably not the most productive way to engage and certainly unsatisfying, so here’s my attempt to get down my thoughts about the liberal punditry’s great hobbyhorse, the protests at Middlebury College.

In the spirit of constructive engagement with differing ideals, I’d like to address some of the main points made over the past few weeks by liberal pundits who are hoppin’ mad about college kids who want to protest.

These Coddled Kids!

This morning, Frank Bruni wrote a column in the New York Times op-ed page titled, “The Dangerous Safety of College.” Bruni’s take didn’t differ too much from everything else that has been written about this subject: He talked about the need for young people to confront ugly ideas in their lives and did some light concern trolling about how the violence that followed the protest signaled a “wake-up call” about a “dangerous ideological conformity in too much of higher education.” He quoted Van Jones and John McWhorter and concluded with this missive: “I worry that in too many instances, the groves of academe are better at pumping their denizens full of an easy, intoxicating fervor than at preparing them for constructive engagement in a society that won’t echo their convictions the way their campuses do.” …


First fifteen minutes feel pretty relevant now, as does the whole question over access journalism. The political press laughing at Genniffer Flowers after more or less sexually harassing her also shows you who these guys are.


Debate Won’t Save You: Some thoughts on the Steves.

Ever since Buzzfeed published a transcript of a speech Stephen Bannon gave at the Vatican, there has been an ongoing effort to understand him through what he reads and what he writes. The New York Times, alone, has published parts of a hip-hop opera Bannon wrote about Compton based on Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, a fine piece by Marc Tracy about his chance encounter with Bannon in an airport and the ensuing conversation they had about David Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest,” and a lengthy dissertation by Jason Horowitz on how the philosopher Julius Evola might have influenced Bannon’s thinking. …


Wrote about the Women’s March for Vice News. Think it’s an interesting rebuttal to the David Brooks column that’s been going around the Internet today. Brooks and Jonathan Chait have both argued that identity politics won’t save us, which seems insane given the turnout on Saturday, but also betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how political movements start to build. You need some identity politics, even if it’s as broad as “women around the world who oppose Trump” to get people out into the streets.

Anyway, you can read it here.


Yesterday we pushed the baby in the stroller for six blocks and then turned around. I felt some shame for my Stokke Explory which retails for about 1200 and doesn’t even convert into a car seat or a bassinet like the Uppababy Vista. I don’t see why I should withhold this financial information from this blog — half the people in my building have the retail price of every high end stroller seared into their brains and while I certainly fear their judgment, I’ve decided to start getting in front of my problems before they consume me.

(This is the Explory with the umbrella attachment, which I do not…

About

Jay Caspian Kang

I shot some reversal film in Angkor Wat.

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