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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Why We Wait In Lines, by Jamie Lauren Keiles, Racked

The sidewalk line is a beast of its own kind, native to the space outside whatever latest bakeshop or store selling limited-edition streetwear. Within the broader genus of lines, it differs from those inside the post office or Starbucks. (I’ll call those normal lines “normal lines.”) All types of lines are a product of math that expresses the rate at which people arrive and how fast a cashier can distribute some stuff. Normal lines are borne from a solvable fluke: too many people, too few cashiers. Sidewalk lines do not want to be solved. They are intentional — cultivated, managed, bred like show dogs. In certain types of luxury transactions, we’ve come to accept them as a predestined fact.

I used to believe that standing in line was a natural arrangement of human bodies, much like geese flying south in a “V.” But queuing is a recent and man-made invention. The first historical description of the line only appeared in 1837, in Thomas Carlyle’s The French Revolution. Describing a postwar scarcity of bread, he wrote: “If we look now at Paris, one thing is too evident: that the Bakers’ shops have got their Queues, or Tails; their long strings of purchasers, arranged in tail, so that the first come be the first served.” According to Carlyle, lining up was a uniquely French eccentricity. How earlier peoples distributed their bread is a fact that I’ve not yet been able to suss out. Before self-serve supermarkets, most stores relied on a deli-counter model. I can only assume that shoppers massed around a vendor, who granted his attention to the squeakiest wheel.

Why I Can’t Abide By The AP Stylebook’s Rules On How To Talk About Suicide, by Torie Bosch, Slate

I am grateful that we are increasingly careful about how we talk about and report on suicide, and I respect the intention behind the ban on “commit suicide.” But I can’t support it. I don’t begrudge those who are more comfortable with “died by suicide” or “killed themselves,” but I bristle at the prescriptive nature of their objections, as though the rest of us who prefer “committed suicide” are wrong and need to catch up.

If Liberalism Is Dead, What Comes Next?, by Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

“Why Liberalism Failed” is a book that reads like an attempt to enunciate a primal scream, a deeply exasperating volume that nevertheless articulates something important in this age of disillusionment.

Sourdough By Robin Sloan Review – Infectious Zest For Life, by Suzi Feay, The Guardian

Sourdough is a soup of skilfully balanced ingredients: there’s satire, a touch of fantasy, a pinch of SF, all bound up with a likeable narrator whose zest for life is infectious. The novel opens a door on a world that’s both comforting and thrillingly odd.