Hello from New York
Hello from New York, or technically, Union City, New Jersey, but given the trip is around/about New York, I think it’s fair to say hello from New York. Unfortunately that means this will be quite short (and won’t have pictures, since I don’t think Buttondown will let me upload from an iPad), but keep an eye out in two weeks for ~ reflections ~. I’m also working on some short essays that may or may not ever see the light of day 🤐 so keep an eye out for those too.
What I’m Reading
First up on the docket this week is Thant Myint-U’s The Hidden History of Burma. It’s a fascinating little story that tells, well, the hidden history of Burma (aka Myanmar, although as he points out, that was an ethnonationalist move by the junta akin to making English speakers call Germany “Deutschland”—not to mention the Myanma are only one of Burma’s ethnic groups, which is of course very much a part of the story). Basically: Burma, and the Rohingya crisis, is very complicated and sad! There’s long-running guerrilla wars with various ethnic militias, a military junta that has only reluctantly loosened its grip over the past decade (causing, of course, massive shifts in political allegiance even within the junta), a long-running suspicion of the West stemming from colonialism, a region (Arakan) that was invaded not even two centuries ago, and of course a nascent Buddhist nationalism in conflict with a Muslim minority. I almost needed flowcharts, but Myint-U steadily guides readers in; its a miracle the book is as readable as it is. He does have a weirdly biased viewpoint; of course, all non-fiction is biased in some sense, especially when the author is a figure in the events described, but I did get somewhat annoyed somewhere around the fifth time he said something along the lines of “and literally nobody else cared about the economy, which was the real problem, except for me.” But overall, I’d say it’s a nice current-events-are-more-complicated-than-you-think book in the vein of The Impossible State or We Didn’t Do It For You; read if interested.
I also randomly picked up (Julia Lovell’s translation of) Yan Lianke’s Serve the People!, in which one young soldier learns that serving his commander’s wife is Serving the People—which of course devolves into a raunchy sexcapade that ends on a surprisingly somber note. I don’t have much to say except to note that it has very beautiful prose (Lovell did a good job translating) and the book is so short that (if you can stomach some mockery of Mao’s slogans and/or mild erotic content) you should definitely at least give it a try.
What I’m Listening To
I still can’t get over An empty bliss beyond this world, which is one of the very very few albums that can completely transport me out of the ~ here and now ~ and into ~ another world ~, as silly as that sounds. I’ve recommended it here before, I’m sure, and I’m recommending it again.
What I’m Designing
I still use RSS for some things (Marginal Revolution and kottke.org, mostly) but I’ve gotten frustrated with Feedly, which basically acted as a drop-in replacement for Google Reader (RIP). It’s not terrible but it feels very… hmm… content marketing-y, which I don’t particularly care for or use. I could find a new RSS reader (or wait for the new NetNewsWire to get an iPhone app 🙂) but seeing as how I’m officially an iOS Developer™️ now it stands to reason I could make one that fits my needs pretty exactly. Plus I wanted to play around with/learn Figma, so I might as well design my own. If I actually mock up designs I will of course share them here.