What Do You Desire?

The writer, entering her thirties single and adrift, heads to San Francisco to spend time with Kink.com’s Princess Donna Dolore and attend a gangbang “where all the men were dressed as panda bears.”

Temporary

A woman engages in fantastical, extreme forms of temporary employment.

"The longhaired man is named Carl, and he is something of an entrepreneur. His small murder business sits in a tidy shack not far from the water, which is convenient for dumping the bodies. Location, location, location, he says. He sounds like my real estate boyfriend. I laugh and wash his weapons every morning, adhering to the cleaning manual he developed. I am filling in for his buddy who is currently serving some time. Carl does not always pay in money, but he feeds me and gives me a place to sleep, a small cot next to his desk in the shack."

The Stupidity of Computers

A history of the divide between computing and language, and why we “define and regiment our lives, including our social lives and our perceptions of our selves, in ways that are conducive to what a computer can ‘understand.’”

Chicago Cryptogram

Drunken students discuss politics and philosophy.

"Longhaired Empty in his furlined cape gazes down disdainfully on Harry, ogling Annie Axe’s butt as she wags it johnward. 'Alas, wretched mortal!' he says. Empty, alias Empedocles, flamboyant charlatan, lofty romantic, gay vegetarian, is the brightest and the maddest of us all. For Empty, ardent but gloomy democrat, the Red Scare is real, the Bomb is. 'It’s a time of increasing Strife,' he oft laments."

On the Market

An essay on working at Sotheby’s.

Art pricing is not absolute magic; there are certain rules, which to an outsider can sound parodic. Paintings with red in them usually sell for more than paintings without red in them. Warhol’s women are worth more, on average, than Warhol’s men. The reason for this is a rhetorical question, asked in a smooth continental accent: “Who would want the face of some man on their wall?”

Outsourcing Jobs

Walter Isaacson’s book is long, dull, often flat-footed, and humorless. It hammers on one nail, incessantly: that Steve Jobs was an awful man, but awful in the service of products people really liked (and eventually bought lots of) and so in the end his awfulness was probably OK.

Among Friends

A Mexican man reluctantly provides cultural insights to a pandering white American journalist.

"Two years before, Samuel Kramer had arrived to write the nteenth feature on Frida Kahlo. Someone told him I wrote screenplays for tough documentaries, and he paid me to accompany him through a city he considered savage and explain things he called mythical."

On John Ross

John Ross, rebel reporter, became the sort of devoted gringo scribe who would give up drugs and drinking in order to better write about the native revolutionaries; the sort of man who used dolls to preach armed revolution to high schoolers in the weeks after September 11th.

The Accidental Bricoleurs

On Forever 21 and the rise of “fast fashion”:

They have changed fashion from a garment making to an information business, optimizing their supply chains to implement design tweaks on the fly.

Christmas in Baltimore City, 2009

The first entry in the City by City project, on a Baltimore funeral:

My homeboy is interred at a cemetery with a swan lake where we used to take our girls at night because it was a park with a lake and it was just over the line and in the county.

Bad Education

With fewer and fewer students having the income necessary to pay back loans (except through the use of more consumer debt), a massive default looks closer to inevitable.

On the emerging student loan bubble.

Sad as Hell

"I have the sensation, as do my friends, that to function as a proficient human, you must both 'keep up' with the internet and pursue more serious, analog interests."

An essay on technology’s reach into daily life.