William Gibson on Clothes

Selections from a wide-ranging interview with William Gibson about clothes.

On the popularity of American fashion in Japan:

Japan had a more radical experience of future shock than any other nation in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. They were this feudal place, locked in the past, but then they bought the whole Industrial Revolution kit from England, blew their cultural brains out with it, became the first industrialized Asian nation, tried to take over their side of the world, got nuked by the United States for their trouble, and discovered Steve McQueen! Their take on iconic menswear emerges from that matrix. Complicated!

On his interest in classic American military and workwear styles:

“Authenticity” doesn’t mean much to me. I just want “good”, in the sense of well-designed, well-constructed, long-lasting garments. My interest in military clothing stems from that. It’s not about macho, playing soldiers, anything militaristic. It’s the functionality, the design-solutions, the durability. Likewise workwear.

On how clothes used to be better:

… in 1947 a lot of American workingmen wore shirts that were better made than most people’s shirts are today. Union-made, in the United States. Better fabric, better stitching. There were work shirts that retailed for fifty cents that were closer to today’s Prada than to today’s J.Crew. Fifty cents was an actual amount of money, though. We live in an age of seriously crap mass clothing. They’ve made a science of it.

On the “gray man”:

There’s an idea called “gray man”, in the security business, that I find interesting. They teach people to dress unobtrusively. Chinos instead of combat pants, and if you really need the extra pockets, a better design conceals them. They assume, actually, that the bad guys will shoot all the guys wearing combat pants first, just to be sure. I don’t have that as a concern, but there’s something appealingly “low-drag” about gray man theory: reduced friction with one’s environment.

Man, I could listen to William Gibson talk about clothes all day. Read the whole thing.

Previously: William Gibson on Tommy Hilfiger.

Wish Fullfillment

From Limitless (2011):

Ten Good Reasons the Book is Important

Here’s Timothy Young over at Design Observer:

  1. It is a piece of technology that lasts.
  2. It needs very little, if any, extra technology to be accessed.
  3. The book retains evidence.
  4. Books are true to form.
  5. Each copy of a book is potentially unique…
  6. Printed items are consumable goods…
  7. A book is an object fixed in time.
  8. A book can be an object of beauty and human craftsmanship.
  9. When you are reading a book in a public place, other people can see what you are reading.
  10. The Internet will never contain every book.

I made some of these same arguments five years ago on this blog. Alan Jacobs, on Twitter and elsewhere, has expressed his exasperation with pieces like this, arguing, essentially, that they do little to advance the whole “books vs. ebooks” debate because they’re just making the same points over and over again as if they were the first to ever make them. Jacobs has a point, but I’m inclined to give a list like this a pass because I feel like, in a technophilic culture besotted with the new, some points, like some books, are worth pressing on people.

(Via Austin Kleon.)

Sunday 03.01.2015 New York Times Digest

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1. How We Learned to Kill

“The madness of war is that while this system is in place to kill people, it may actually be necessary for the greater good. We live in a dangerous world where killing and torture exist and where the persecution of the weak by the powerful is closer to the norm than the civil society where we get our Starbucks. Ensuring our own safety and the defense of a peaceful world may require training boys and girls to kill, creating technology that allows us to destroy anyone on the planet instantly, dehumanizing large segments of the global population and then claiming there is a moral sanctity in killing. To fathom this system and accept its use for the greater good is to understand that we still live in a state of nature.”

2. Every Second Counts in Bid to Keep Sports Fans

“In a world where attention spans are under duress and where big-screen and small-screen entertainment options are proliferating by the hour, sports are increasingly focused on not only making their formats more compact but on making the most of literally every second.”

3. Out of Trouble, but Criminal Records Keep Men Out of Work

“The share of American men with criminal records — particularly black men — grew rapidly in recent decades as the government pursued aggressive law enforcement strategies, especially against drug crimes. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, those men are having particular trouble finding work.”

4. At Aetna, a C.E.O.’s Management by Mantra

“Aetna is at the vanguard of a movement that is quietly spreading through the business world. Companies like Google offer emotional intelligence courses for employees. General Mills has a meditation room in every building on its corporate campus. And even buttoned-up Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and BlackRock are teaching meditation on the job.”

5. The Next Great Migration

“A couple of years ago, leaving a restaurant near the Louvre, I held the door for a black man in a camel overcoat. Only as he passed did I realize it was the rapper Kanye West. Whatever one thinks of him, Mr. West has become the most prominent black American man to pursue his interests outside of America — a valuable model of blackness untethered to geography. What struck me most that night was precisely how much his demeanor resembled that of a college student on study abroad — still thrilled by the heady mix of anonymity and authority over his own identity that James Baldwin once called ‘the sanction, if one can accept it, to become oneself.’”

6. Medicating Women’s Feelings

“Women’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power. But we are under constant pressure to restrain our emotional lives. We have been taught to apologize for our tears, to suppress our anger and to fear being called hysterical. The pharmaceutical industry plays on that fear, targeting women in a barrage of advertising on daytime talk shows and in magazines.”

7. Make School a Democracy

“In a report last year, the American Institutes for Research concluded that students who attended so-called deeper learning high schools — which emphasize understanding, not just memorizing, academic content; applying that understanding to novel problems and situations; and developing interpersonal skills and self-control — recorded higher test scores, were more likely to enroll in college and were more adept at collaboration than their peers in conventional schools.”

8. Unexpected Lessons From Fifty Shades of Grey

“When Jacob peeled off his T-shirt after Bella cut her head falling off the motorcycle, the theater shook with shrieks and giggles, registering both the hotness of the scene and its unapologetic silliness. And there was something infectious about the response. It wasn’t that the movie was made for 13-year-old girls, but that it had the power to turn anyone watching it, a middle-aged man very much included, into a 13-year-old girl. This is less a matter of sublime cinematic achievement than of raw communal feeling. And that’s one of the reasons we go to the movies: to lose ourselves. Which is where criticism begins. It’s the reassertion of control over that experience, the disciplining of an intense and frequently chaotic set of responses and emotions.”

9. Johnson’s Barn, a North Dakota Institution, Plans Its Last Dance

“The ’80s were dry. The ’90s were wet. You never know. The dances, though, are stable. And a whole lot of fun.”

10. When Your Punctuation Says It All (!)

“Digital punctuation can carry more weight than traditional writing because it ends up conveying tone, rhythm and attitude rather than grammatical structure.”

11. Not the Usual College Party (This One’s Sober)

“It shouldn’t be that a young person has to choose to either be sober or go to college.”

12. When Did ‘You’re Welcome’ Become a Gloat?

“Why is it that ‘you’re welcome,’ a phrase that is meant to be gracious, is often tinged with gloat? It wasn’t always so double-edged.”

13. The Death and Life of Great American GeoCities

“Animated Text is part of a retro aesthetic renaissance sweeping the Web, one that pays homage to old-school computing systems and software like Windows 95 and Microsoft Paint. Nostalgia certainly plays a part, in the same way it does with collectors of vinyl or old typewriters, and for good reason: This revival is, in many respects, a reaction to the manicured lawns of Facebook and Twitter and a celebration of the earlier, less sterile (and surveilled) environments that people once inhabited and created online.”

14. In Greenbacks We Trust

“Global confidence in the dollar is the greatest example of collective faith in an abstract symbol in human history.”

15. Letter of Recommendation: Turner Classic Movies

“Movies are quick corrections for the fact that we exist in only one place at only one time. (Of course there are circumstances in which being only in one place only at one time is a definition of bliss.) I switch on TCM and find swift transit beyond the confines of my position. Alongside my reality there appears another reality — the world out there and not in here. One objective of melancholy is to block the evidence of a more variegated existence, but a film quickly removes the blockage. It sneaks past the feelings that act as walls.”

16. My Saga, Part 1

“One of my favorite books about the U.S. is Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, which among many other things is also a kind of road novel. It describes a journey through the small-town world of post-World War II America, where the protagonist, Humbert Humbert, is constantly on the lookout for distractions for his child mistress, and therefore stops at an endless series of attractions, which every single little town seemed to be in possession of. The world’s largest stalagmite, obelisks commemorating battles, a reconstruction of the log cabin where Lincoln was born, the world’s longest cave, the homemade sculptures of a local woman. Humbert’s gaze is European, deeply sophisticated, cultivated and ancient, but also perverted and sick, while the things he observes on the journey across America are superficial, childishly un-self-conscious, ignorant of history, but also innocent and possessed of the freshness of the new. Lolita came out in the U.S. in 1958, one year after another road novel, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Oddly enough, the journeys that these two books describe also begin at the same time: Both Humbert and Lolita, and Sal and Dean, hit the American country road in 1947. It would be hard to imagine two more dissimilar fictional landscapes. This is because Kerouac describes it from the inside, with no distance, this is the America he grew up in, and he is so much an integrated part of it that he seems to embody its very soul. It is a young, restless, hungry, open soul. There are no points of contact with that America in Nabokov’s novel, and if you read the two books simultaneously, the reason becomes obvious: In Lolita, all is dissembling, there are only signs, everything stands for something else, and the one and perhaps only thing that is authentic, the child’s reality, is desired from an impossible distance, the breaching of which destroys it completely. In On the Road, nothing stands in the way of the authentic, except the rules of formal life; when they have been overcome, the glittering night opens to anyone who desires to enter it. The naïveté of this is astounding, but so is the power.”

17. Building the First Slavery Museum in America

“A nation builds museums to understand its own history and to have its history understood by others, to create a common space and language to address collectively what is too difficult to process individually. Forty-eight years after World War II, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened in Washington. A museum dedicated to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks opened its doors in Lower Manhattan less than 13 years after they occurred. One hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, however, no federally funded museum dedicated to slavery exists, no monument honoring America’s slaves.”

A Job’s a Job

“…I was finishing a PhD in philosophy at Emory University. The obvious path before me was to drift into a full-time position at a decent institution, work my dissertation into a book, zero in on a specialty, publish some articles and reviews, and lick the necessary wingtips to get tenure. But some sense of destiny (I would have never called it that then) kept me from ever taking such a path seriously. Though I’d proven myself capable of publishing articles and giving papers in the world of philosophy, I rebelled against the prospect of a microspecialty and the bureaucracy of tenure. Moreover, I hadn’t gotten into philosophy in order to become a scholar of philosophy, however wonderful and necessary the work of scholarship can be.

“When my mother called me from Iowa saying that she’d read in the local classified that Kirkwood Community College had a full-time philosophy position open, it seemed a reasonable way to get health insurance. The saying ‘a job is a job’ is particularly poignant for philosophers. Diogenes of Sinope, one of our profession’s early practitioners, used to beg money from statues. When asked why, he replied, ‘In order to get used to being refused.’ But he didn’t have a pregnant wife. And neither my wife nor I really wanted to live in a barrel and relieve ourselves outside, as were Diogenes’s customs.”

—Scott Samuelson, community college professor, journalist, and occasional chef at the beginning of The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone (2014)

Sunday 02.22.2015 New York Times Digest

Let's get out of here

1. Should We Stay, or Should We Go?

“‘Let’s get out of here’ may be the five most productive monosyllables in American movies. It confers agency on whoever says it. It draws a line under what’s gone before. It propels action. It justifies a change of scene, no matter how abrupt. No wonder screenwriters can’t get enough of it.”

2. At New York Private Schools, Challenging White Privilege From the Inside

“In the past, private school diversity initiatives were often focused on minority students, helping them adjust to the majority white culture they found themselves in, and sometimes exploring their backgrounds in annual assemblies and occasional weekend festivals. Now these same schools are asking white students and faculty members to examine their own race and to dig deeply into how their presence affects life for everyone in their school communities, with a special emphasis on the meaning and repercussions of what has come to be called white privilege.”

3. Peter Lik’s Recipe for Success: Sell Prints. Print Money.

“By one measure — money — Mr. Lik may well be the most successful fine-art photographer who ever lived. He has sold $440 million worth of prints, according to his chief financial officer, in 15 galleries in the United States that he owns and that sell his work. The images are mostly panoramic shots of trees, sky, lakes, deserts and blue water in supersaturated colors.”

4. In Service Sector, No Rest for the Working

“Employees are literally losing sleep as restaurants, retailers and many other businesses shrink the intervals between shifts and rely on smaller, leaner staffs to shave costs. These scheduling practices can take a toll on employees who have to squeeze commuting, family duties and sleep into fewer hours between shifts. The growing practice of the same workers closing the doors at night and returning to open them in the morning even has its own name: ‘clopening.’”

5. Bringing Big Data to the Fight Against Benefits Fraud

“Business intelligence companies like IBM, SAS and LexisNexis have long provided predictive computer modeling techniques to financial services companies seeking to inhibit fraud. But now some state and local government agencies are turning to these services.”

6. The Upside of Waiting in Line

“The next time you are waiting in line, take consolation in the fact that otherwise you might not have heard of the opportunity in the first place. If we see a line at a club, restaurant or movie, we figure something interesting is going on there, and so lines have become a driver of publicity.”

7. Debt’s Two Sides: Riches and Misery

“Debt can blight your life. But … debt can make you much wealthier. Then it’s called leverage, and it can supercharge your investment returns if you use it wisely.”

8. Home Shrunken Home

“The architects are hoping that sliding glass doors, high ceilings, lots of natural light and Juliet balconies will help alleviate any feelings of claustrophobia.”

9. Please Don’t Thank Me for My Service

“To some recent vets — by no stretch all of them — the thanks comes across as shallow, disconnected, a reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there or what motivated them to go, and who would never have gone themselves nor sent their own sons and daughters.”

10. Did the Torture Report Give the C.I.A. a Bum Rap?

“The reality is, no one in a position of authority said no.”

11. The Reality of Quantum Weirdness

Is there a true story, or is our belief in a definite, objective, observer-independent reality an illusion?”

12. Straight Talk for White Men

“Two scholars, Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, sent out fictitious résumés in response to help-wanted ads. Each résumé was given a name that either sounded stereotypically African-American or one that sounded white, but the résumés were otherwise basically the same. The study found that a résumé with a name like Emily or Greg received 50 percent more callbacks than the same résumé with a name like Lakisha or Jamal. Having a white-sounding name was as beneficial as eight years’ work experience.”

13. Kevin Spacey, Star of ‘House of Cards’ and a Bromance With Bill Clinton

“The Clintons have not been shy about their ties to ‘House of Cards.’ Last summer, Mrs. Clinton told People magazine she and Mr. Clinton ‘totally binge-watched’ the first season.”

14. For Sofia Coppola and Anjelica Huston, Oscar’s a Family Friend

“Are shutterbug parents wiping away their mental databases of experiences with their offspring while bulking up their digital ones? And when children grow up reviewing thousands of pictures and hours of video of their young lives, will these images supersede their memories?”

15. Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk

“The premise of her memoir is simple: Macdonald loses her bearings after her beloved father’s sudden death. She retreats from the human world. She’s a poet, historian and longtime falconer, and for complicated reasons, she seizes upon a strange yet sublime prescription for what ails her: She will raise and train a young goshawk, a cur of a bird to some, notoriously difficult to tame.”

16. A Thankless Task

“Though increasingly ambivalent about them as an author, I still regularly turn first to the thankings when opening a book for the first time. I want to know if I can like this writer, if I can trust her. Is this a humble scholar or a self-conscious player on a stage? Was the book a labor of love or a lazy dash to the finish line? Acknowledgments give up fantastic clues, consciously and otherwise.”

17. Does Fiction Have the Power to Sway Politics?

“Fiction can say publicly what might otherwise appear unsayable, combating the coerced silence that is a favored weapon of those who have power.”

18. A True Picture of Black Skin

“DeCarava, a lifelong New Yorker, came of age in the generation after the Harlem Renaissance and took part in a flowering in the visual arts that followed that largely literary movement. By the time he died in 2009, at 89, he was celebrated for his melancholy and understated scenes, most of which were shot in New York City: streets, subways, jazz clubs, the interiors of houses, the people who lived in them. His pictures all share a visual grammar of decorous mystery: a woman in a bridal gown in the empty valley of a lot, a pair of silhouetted dancers reading each other’s bodies in a cavernous hall, a solitary hand and its cuff-linked wrist emerging from the midday gloom of a taxi window. DeCarava took photographs of white people tenderly but seldom. Black life was his greater love and steadier commitment. With his camera he tried to think through the peculiar challenge of shooting black subjects at a time when black appearance, in both senses (the way black people looked and the very presence of black people), was under question.”

19. Letter of Recommendation: Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’

Tusk was Fleetwood Mac’s follow-up to the 1977 megahit Rumours, the exquisitely engineered soft-rock juggernaut that went platinum 20 times over, spent 31 weeks at No. 1 and made Fleetwood Mac the world’s biggest band, the very definition of commercial rock. Everyone (including most of the band itself) was expecting the next album to be Rumours II: 40 more lucrative minutes of ‘Go Your Own Way’ and ‘Dreams’ and ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘You Make Loving Fun.’ Instead, they got Tusk — a deliberate act of crazy defiance. Everything about the album is ridiculous, from its length (20 songs, 72 minutes) to its sleeve art (a visual distillation of the precise moment at which the 1970s turned into the 1980s) to its title (the word ‘tusk,’ among the band’s male members, was slang for the male member; when Stevie Nicks heard that this would be the album’s title, she threatened to quit the band).”

20. Walk Hard. Walk Easy. Repeat.

“They knew that walking was physically the easiest (and also the most practical) exercise for those in middle age and older, but the researchers suspected that people might need to push themselves to achieve the greatest health benefits. So they created a regimen consisting of three minutes of fast walking at a pace that Nose says approximates a 6 or 7 on a scale of exertion from 1 to 10. Each ‘somewhat-hard’ three-minute spell was followed by three minutes of gentle strolling.”

21. ‘Out of My Mouth Comes Unimpeachable Manly Truth’

“For the next week, I will subsist almost entirely on a diet of state-controlled Russian television, piped in from three Apple laptops onto three 55-inch Samsung monitors in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan. (If I have to imbibe the TV diet of the common Russian man, I will at least live in the style of one of his overlords.) Two of the monitors are perched directly in front of my bed, with just enough space for a room-service cart to squeeze in, and the third hangs from a wall to my right. The setup looks like the trading floor of a very small hedge fund or the mission control of a poor nation’s space program. But I will not be monitoring an astronaut’s progress through the void. In a sense, I am the one leaving the planet behind.”

22. Meet the Unlikely Airbnb Hosts of Japan

“‘Airbnb doesn’t do as well in collectivist countries,’ she said, citing Japan as an example. ‘But in a place like Australia’ — which, like the United States, rates high on individualism and indulgence and low on pragmatism — ‘it’s huge.’”

Sunday 02.15.2015 New York Times Digest

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1. The Epidemic of Facelessness

“Everyone in the digital space is, at one point or another, exposed to online monstrosity, one of the consequences of the uniquely contemporary condition of facelessness.”

2. Museum Rules: Talk Softly, and Carry No Selfie Stick

“One by one, museums across the United States have been imposing bans on using selfie sticks for photographs inside galleries (adding them to existing rules on umbrellas, backpacks, tripods and monopods), yet another example of how controlling overcrowding has become part of the museum mission.”

3. On Tinder, Taking a Swipe at Love, or Sex, or Something, in New York

“There are now about one million Tinder users in New York.”

4. Monopoly’s Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn’t Pass ‘Go’

“Magie filed a legal claim for her Landlord’s Game in 1903, more than three decades before Parker Brothers began manufacturing Monopoly. She actually designed the game as a protest against the big monopolists of her time — people like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. She created two sets of rules for her game: an anti-monopolist set in which all were rewarded when wealth was created, and a monopolist set in which the goal was to create monopolies and crush opponents. Her dualistic approach was a teaching tool meant to demonstrate that the first set of rules was morally superior. And yet it was the monopolist version of the game that caught on, with Darrow claiming a version of it as his own and selling it to Parker Brothers.”

5. Let It Snow. There’s Work to Be Done.

“When bad weather hits, workers get more productive.”

6. The Tyranny of the Forced Smile

“Our Protestant work ethic has blended with contemporary notions of self-actualization to create a situation in which we are all expected to whistle like Disney dwarfs.”

7. Leaving Only Footsteps? Think Again

“More and more studies over the last 15 years have found that when we visit the great outdoors, we have much more of an effect than we realize. Even seemingly low-impact activities like hiking, cross-country skiing and bird-watching often affect wildlife, from bighorn sheep to wolves, birds, amphibians and tiny invertebrates, and in subtle ways.”

8. Great! Another Thing to Hate About Ourselves

“Each year brings a new term for an unruly bit of body that women are expected to subdue through diet and exercise.”

9. The First Victims of the First Crusade

“Religious violence seldom limits itself to one target and expands to reach the maximum number of available victims.”

10. Vitamins Hide the Low Quality of Our Food

“Most of the vitamins in our diets are synthetic additions.”

11. A Curious Case of Writer’s Block

“Paul was an old man now. He must have begun working on his dissertation well over a half-century ago. I had heard of professional students before, but this was bizarre.”

12. The Ants, the Honeybees and Me

“The biomass of humans is roughly equal to the biomass of ants on our planet.”

13. The Caligulan Thrill

“The essential dream of our age isn’t conflict; it’s a synthesis, in which the aristocratic thrills of libertinism are somehow preserved but their most exploitative elements are rendered egalitarian and safe.”

14. Why Movie ‘Facts’ Prevail

“Studies show that if you watch a film — even one concerning historical events about which you are informed — your beliefs may be reshaped by ‘facts’ that are not factual.”

15. In Praise of the Cute Animal Video

“Whether compiled on BuzzFeed Animals, Reddit or the Animal Planet site, I self-medicate by looking at everything from a cat toying with a dolphin, a seal climbing onto a sailboat, a porcupine playing with a gloved zookeeper by spinning around like a Cuisinart blade, a baby panda sneezing or a herd of cows drawn from a distant hillside to a man sitting in a lawn chair playing a trombone.”

16. Love in the Time of Binge-Watching

“In modern-day romance, resisting the impulse to binge so that you may watch with a lover is the new equivalent of meeting the parents or sharing a sober kiss.”

17. The Whites, by Richard Price Writing as Harry Brandt

“Many years ago, in a magazine interview, Richard Price (now the author of nine novels, including Clockers and Lush Life) was asked why he devoted so much of his considerable literary talent to crime fiction and film scripts featuring criminals. He responded by saying that when you circle around a murder long enough you get to know a city. I cut that line out of the magazine and taped it above my computer screen. For several years, it presided over what I wrote in my own novels. With that answer, I believed that Price had crystallized what many writers knew and attempted to practice. That is, he considered the crime novel something more than a puzzle and an entertainment; he saw it as societal reflection, documentation and investigation.”

18. What Our Paranoia About Drones Says About Us

“Drones exist in the unlit parking lot of our imaginations, not only because of their history as agents of civilian deaths abroad but also because of something much closer to home. We increasingly glance at one another through a veil of suspicion, doubt and fear.”

19. It’s Buggy Out There

“Pure water does not automatically freeze at 0 degrees Celsius; it will remain liquid to about minus 40 degrees. To freeze at higher temperatures, water needs a seed, or ice nucleus, a tiny particle that acts as a geometric template, aligning water molecules into a highly organized solid crystal.”

20. How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life

“In those early days, the collective fury felt righteous, powerful and effective. It felt as if hierarchies were being dismantled, as if justice were being democratized. As time passed, though, I watched these shame campaigns multiply, to the point that they targeted not just powerful institutions and public figures but really anyone perceived to have done something offensive. I also began to marvel at the disconnect between the severity of the crime and the gleeful savagery of the punishment. It almost felt as if shamings were now happening for their own sake, as if they were following a script.”

21. The Stanford Undergraduate and the Mentor

“After sightseeing in Rome, Lonsdale and Clougherty were together in the hotel room they were sharing when she started dressing for evening Mass. Lonsdale came up behind her and kissed her, touching her neck and hair and telling her she was beautiful. She had told him she was a virgin. Both agree they had sex. But what actually went on between them that night, and throughout their yearlong relationship, would become highly contested. After the relationship ended, Clougherty accused Lonsdale of sexual assault. Stanford investigated whether he broke the university’s rule against ‘consensual sexual and romantic relationships’ between students and their mentors and, later, whether he raped her. The findings from the investigations have sparked a war of allegations and interpretations, culminating last month with dueling lawsuits, filled with damaging accusations. This case, which has been picked up by the media, does not fit neatly into the narratives that have fueled an ongoing national conversation about sexual assault of students on campus. But it exposes the risks of Stanford’s open door to Silicon Valley and the pressure that universities are under to do more for students who say they’ve been raped. It also reveals the complexity of trying to determine the truth in a high-stakes case like this one.”

22. The Post-Trend Universe

“The ability to find styles that actually suit one’s body and personality is cause for celebration, offering women so many more forms of self-expression. In the past, trends allowed every part of the fashion business to get a piece of the action. Department stores could sell their beloved ‘hot items,’ magazines could assert their authority over readers and manufacturers could produce endless knock-offs. This might have been great for business, but less so for the consumer. Now, though, every brand, and every media outlet, is focused on creating its own universe, ostensibly for the people who want its products or to buy into a point of view. As popular as fashion is today, running on a mixture of media platforms, the information is usually too diffuse. That’s why branding is so dominant; it helps establish corporate identities — boundaries, really — but branding also functions as a filter for many consumers.”

23. Permanent Midnight

“Nine years ago, after the skin on her face reacted to her computer screen, to fluorescent lights and then to the sun, Lyndsey was diagnosed with photosensitive seborrhoeic dermatitis, in its usual form a well-recognized skin complaint. This later developed into a chronic and severe reaction over her entire body. When her skin meets light, even through protective clothing, it burns. Not a ripped-off wax-strip burn but a blowtorch burn (her metaphor). The extremity of the reaction means she barely leaves her small house in Hampshire…. She spends her days in a blacked-out room, building up pockets of resistance which allow her out for a brief walk, before dawn or after sunset.”