Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Though it doesn't entirely share his enthusiasm for energy drinks and "instant-messaging," The Lonely Seagull most likely shares a similar target audience with experimental writer Tao Lin:
My target demographics include hipsters, depressed teenagers, depressed vegans, happy but sensitive teenagers, people of any age who are severely detached from reality, Europeans, all college students, and I think sarcastic vegans.

To that list, TLS might add desultory surfers, disillusioned skateboard enthusiasts, prolific biographers, ambivalent artisans, and retired health-care workers.

Additions, corrections, or rejoinders to this list are welcome.

(via The Book Bench)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The MacArthur Foundation Doesn't Care About The Lonely Seagull

Today brings some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the 2008 MacArthur Fellows--those lucky few who receive what's usually called "Genius" grants--have been announced. The bad news is that The Lonely Seagull has been completely overlooked YET AGAIN. Obviously, this is a miscarriage of philanthropic justice.

Sure, Wafaa El-Sadr might have "developed a multi-pronged approach to treating some of the most pressing pandemics of our time" but has she written a short and witty humor piece that's appeared in our magazine? No.

Don't even get me started about Diane Meier, "a geriatrician who is shaping the field of palliative care and making its benefits available to millions of Americans suffering from serious illness." Show me the limited-distribution, independently-produced literary magazine she's started.

The MacArthur Foundation obviously doesn't care about independent, original thinking in the arts. They prefer the super-popular tabloid hogs like the flashy Nigerian-American writer Chimamanda Adichie and celebrity basket-weavers like Mary Jackson. Why not just give the grant to Martha Stewart or Stephen King?

Maybe next year the MacArthur Foundation will get its act together and start writing checks to some really deserving people.

Friday, September 12, 2008


The Lonely Seagull likes to keep things simple. Too much clutter of any type just throws you off the trail of what you really should be doing. As some of you might have noticed, a surfeit of distracting and ultimately meaningless distractions has overwhelmed some sort of national contest lately. But the ceaseless quest for power is hardly the sole provenance of clutter and distractions; they adhere tenaciously to almost every aspect modern life.

Though still stuck in modern life, some people are trying to find ways to move beyond the unnecessary, toward something good and meaningful. This is hard work: If everything contains a distraction, where and how do you start sweeping away what you don't need?

Well, it could start anywhere--so why not start with "bike culture"? What should be one of the simplest pursuits has turned into a confusing and pretentious morass, argues a blog called Copenhagen Cycle Chic. They offer a case study of a typical (and hypothetical) Copenhagen bicyclist:

The bike she chose was a black one. Probably a good, reliable Danish brand like Kildemoes or Taarnby. It certainly wasn't a "TerraTurbo Urban Warrior X9000". It was just a bike. What it is called isn't important to her. Just the fact that it works.

She doesn't know how much it weighs. Nobody she knows or has ever met could tell you how much their bike weighs. Likewise, she doesn't know how far she rides each day. It isn't interesting. She rides at a good pace, not too fast to cause a sweat, and the ride is nice enough. She likes the fresh air and she often sees friends on the bike lanes. She loves crossing The Lakes and seeing the transformation from season to season. That will suffice.

This is a promising start. Next comes everything else.

(CCC tip via kottke)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

lil' education

Teaching is difficult. Writing is difficult. Writing about teaching is very difficult. Writing something about teaching that isn't entirely pessimistic, riddled with cliches, sentimental, tendentious, or just a thinly veiled list of complaints, AND, at the same time, is actually interesting to read, is nearly an impossible task. Too often, essays about teaching--even by excellent teachers and writers--fall into the same traps. Even if one is sympathetic to the overarching argument (standardized testing is undermining education; inner-city schools don't receive enough funding, etc, etc), pity and hopelessness overwhelm the reader and whatever vitality the teacher or students ever possessed--as characters, as people--is lost.

Yet, somehow, David Ramsey has managed to avoid any predictable pitfall in his wonderful essay about teaching in a partially reconstructed New Orleans school. But don't let that scare you away. As Sasha Frere-Jones puts it, the essay is "a tonic"--the main ingredient of which is, somewhat improbably, Lil' Wayne. Since his students loved Lil' Wayne so much, Ramsey started listening to him almost non-stop. It's this connection around which Ramsey builds his fine essay, and judging by his students' fervor, the choice seems inevitable:

Once I witnessed a group of students huddled around a speaker listening to Lil Wayne. They had heard these songs before, but were nonetheless gushing and guffawing over nearly every line. One of them, bored and quiet in my classroom, was enthusiastically, if vaguely, parsing each lyric for his classmates: “You hear that? Cleaner than a virgin in detergent. Think on that.”

Pulling out the go-to insult of high schoolers everywhere, a girl nearby questioned their sexuality. “Y’all be in to Lil Wayne so much you sound like girls,” she said.

They just kept listening. Then one of the boys was simply overtaken by a lyrical turn. He stood up, threw up his hands, and began hollering. “I don’t care!” he shouted. “No homo, no homo, but that boy is cute!”

(via SFJ at The New Yorker)