NYC Surveillance, Dating Culture, Maria Bamford on Farts, and More: Today’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. Today, we have an essay about NYC surveillance of black neighborhoods from Fusion, a look at how British thrillers are expanding the limited (particularly antihero oriented) tropes American TV audiences are used to, an interview with Maria Bamford on what makes her laugh, and more.

Ethan Chiel writes for Fusion not only about the recent installation of floodlights around New York City Housing Authority housing — which have caused complaints across social media — but also about the history of New York City using light as a form of surveillance and control of its black populations:

This is not the first time New York City has used light to surveil its black population. In March 1713, the Common Council of the City of New York, the pre-cursor to today’s City Council, approved “A Law for Regulating Negro & Indian Slaves in the Night Time.”… It was a “lantern law” and required any slave older than 14 to carry “A Lanthorn and lighted Candle in it…as the light thereof may be plainly seen.” Basically, if you were a slave and out at night, you needed to carry a light in front of you so you could be easily identified. The law was enacted following a slave rebellion the previous April… Alvaro Bedoya, the Director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology, likens lantern laws to more modern cases of overreaching surveillance, such as the FBI’s wiretapping civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Atlantic spoke to author Moira Weigel about dating culture, surrounding the release of her book nonfiction book about the history of dating in America, Labor of Love. The interviewer, Bourree Lam, asks Weigel about how her book suggests that dating started when women entered the workforce, to which Weigel replies: Absolutely. Starting in the 1890s and 1900s, a huge number of young Americans began moving to cities and a huge number of women in particular began working outside of homes—their own homes, or homes where they might have worked as governesses or maids. Previously, courtship rituals had taken place in private places, almost always chaperoned by relatives or other authority figures. If you were well off, the scenario might have looked like a Jane Austen or George Eliot novel. If you were working class, you might have met prospective partners at a factory dance or a church social… But as women entered the workforce and hit the city streets, they gained new freedom to mix with men. Think what a big deal it is when one new man shows up in Middlemarch. Then, think how many men a woman who worked as a waitress in a busy restaurant might have met every single day. It must have been thrilling!

Former Flavorwire Editor-in-Chief Judy Berman writes for Vulture about the “new wave” of British thrillers (including The Night Manager, London Spy, and The Last Panthers) that’ve made their way to American television, and how they differ (most notably in how their way-shorter seasons inform their arcs and characters) from the series we normally consume in the U.S.:

Liberated from American TV’s imperative to crank out episodes until viewers stop tuning in, these shows minimize filler and deliver decisive conclusions. When writers know their final destination, they can resolve every plotline and experiment with unconventional storytelling methods that wouldn’t sustain multiple seasons. American thrillers like Homeland and The Walking Dead tend to outlast their natural lifespans, as once-focused stories become repetitive. But The Last Panthers was able to capitalize on the confusion it had purposely created in early episodes…Best of all, British thrillers craft strong characters and explore predominantly male spaces without falling prey to the antihero clichés of American “prestige TV.” By and large, these shows privilege the ensemble’s interactions over the psychological burdens of any given character.

Flavorwire has done its share of writing about Maria Bamford’s Netflix series Lady Dynamite — see our review here and a look at the show’s central and personal relationship to mental illness here — and Bamford may currently be making you binge-laugh, Bamford has shared the things that make her laugh with A.V. Club. Here, for example, is Bamford on farts:

And then farting… Have you ever sat on a giant whoopee cushion? If you haven’t, it’s very satisfying. It usually breaks after two uses because of the delicate nature of whoopee cushion rubber. And usually how long it sat in a magic shop will affect how sturdy it is. Maybe if it was fresh out of the factory it wouldn’t break after two uses, but it’s really fun. And democratic. Because it happens to everybody, as far as I know.