The Survival of the Wealthy and Tardigrades: This Week’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only publishing excellent writing, but also keeping an eye on other great work from around the web. This may be a predominantly arts/culture-centric website, but given the immediate gravity of U.S. politics, we’ve also been focusing this outward-looking post on indispensable political writing, as well as the occasional culture piece.

In the New Yorker, Jia Tolentino writes about the joys of reading Eve Babitz’s unapologetically hedonistic L.A.-socialite-centric writing, and the way that within her work, “emptiness is moving.” Writing in conjunction with the reissue of her novel Sex and Rage, Tolentino begins:

Few things are as conspicuously absent in contemporary fiction as pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Gratification, when it comes, is surrounded by guilt and bitterness; consumption is anxious; sex mostly seems like a vehicle for some highly determined thematic point. In this atmosphere of neurotic disquietude, Eve Babitz, an It girl of nineteen-sixties Los Angeles, has experienced a renaissance.

Meanwhile, in the New Republic, Zan Romanoff tries to dissuade the oft-made comparison between Babitz and Joan Didion, and suggests, while we’re being comparative, considering her work alongside that of Francesca Lia Block:

Because Babitz is contemporaneous with Didion, the two women are often compared to one another. But in fact they have little in common, aside from being female and Californian. In fact, Babitz’ closest peer—or perhaps her heiress—is Francesca Lia Block, who wrote a series of influential young adult novels set in Los Angeles in the ’80s, the most accomplished of which is 1989’s Weetzie Bat. The city serves as muse to both writers, who loved it long before the current vogue for its dusty vistas, strip-mall restaurants, and New Age lifestyles took hold. In fact, their writing is much like L.A. at its best: alluringly sexy but also heartbreakingly unpredictable, beautiful but indifferent to what you want from it.

Kendrick Lamar is on the cover of Interview Magazine this month, for a discussion with Dave Chappelle (who proves a fantastic interviewer), and as usual with Interview pieces, we get a glimpse of the artistic processes and ideologies of both the featured interviewee and the celebrity interviewer. Chappelle asks Lamar about the idea of political responsibilities of the artist (noting that he and Mos Def “argue about [it] all the time”), and says “I think some people can make conscious records, and some people can make booty records, and other people can make whatever the fuck they want records. But what do you feel, personally, when you’re making a record?” Lamar responds:

As I’ve grown as an artist, I’ve learned that my mission statement is really self-expression. I don’t want anybody to classify my music. I want them to say, “This is somebody who’s recognizing his true feelings, his true emotions, ideas, thoughts, opinions, and views on the world, all on one record.” I want people to recognize that and to take it and apply it to their own lives. You know what I’m saying? The more and more I get out and talk to different people, I realize they appreciate that—me being unapologetic in whatever views and approach I have.

Twin Peaks: the Return was honored with Vulture’s “Best Show on TV” title, and Matt Zoller Seitz got to pen a massive, gushing article about the intriguingly slow, stiffly yet somehow brilliantly acted, anti-nostalgic, peak-TV breaker. He says:

Twin Peaks: The Return — the Showtime reboot of the Lynch series — didn’t just exceed its progenitor’s what-the-fuck quotient right out of the gate; as it meanders through a series of daringly protected, often mysterious scenes, the show seems determined to destroy any preconceptions we had about what another Twin Peaks would look like, or even what post–Twin Peaks television could aspire to be. What Lynch and Frost are doing feels so new to TV that even showrunners whose triumphs are built on Lynchian foundations are in awe of it. At a Split Screens TV Festival event a few weeks ago, four episodes into the run of Twin Peaks: The Return, I asked David Chase if he was watching the new Peaks and whether he thought it was as good as the original. “I think it’s greater,” he said, with the uninflected certainty of a man noting that the sky is blue.

In the Intercept, Cora Currier writes about how under Trump there’s been a seeming surge of Customs and Border Protections officers lying to asylum seekers from Mexico. She speaks with a woman (given the pseudonym Clara here) about her experience attempting to flee cartel threats of violence, and being told at the border that the policy has changed, and now asylum is only granted “for religious reasons, or if you’re gay, or if you’re fleeing the government.” Currier emphasizes that “there’s been no official change of policy since Donald Trump took office, and [Clara’s] claim shouldn’t have been decided right then and there by CBP, whose officers do not have the authority to evaluate the validity of asylum claims.” She notes, further down in the piece:

Legal and immigration advocacy groups today filed a class action lawsuit against CPB and the Department of Homeland Security alleging a pattern of misinformation, verbal and physical abuse, intimidation, and outright illegal turn-backs of people requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Lawyers involved with the suit said they’ve seen “a drastic increase in illegal turn-backs since Trump was elected.”…The suit, filed in federal court in the Central District of California on behalf of six anonymous plaintiffs and Al Otro Lado, a non-profit that works in Tijuana, alleges that CBP has “coerced asylum seekers into signing forms abandoning their asylum claims by threatening to take their children away, threatened to deport asylum seekers back to their home countries,” and forcibly removed people from ports of entry.

John Carl Baker writes in the New Republic about the hyper-elitism of hypothetical-nuclear apocalypse survival, and how the people who’re behind the political tensions that could actually start a nuclear apocalypse are also the only ones who could afford to seek the proper, exorbitantly expensive, shelter from it. He kicks off his article with the recent news that a bunker somewhere in Switzerland is only accessible to people who can prove they can spend £25m in order to be considered.

Flush with cash and nervous about societal instability or even civilizational collapse, the wealthy are increasingly investing in a form of apocalypse insurance: posh shelters where they can ride out the coming calamity, whatever that happens to be. While this trend has obvious appeal, given Americans’ overlapping fascinations with wealth, real estate, and Armageddon, it also illuminates the intersection of two seemingly distinct problems plaguing society: economic inequality and the threat of nuclear war. Today, nuclear tensions arerising along with profits, but the class responsible for this lucrative rush to war has little reason to fear. It can literally buy its way out of annihilation.

And though human-life-threatening catastrophe is very much on the brain of late, you can at least rest assured that hardly anything, it seems, would completely wipe out life on Earth — that is, if you’re considering the resilience of Tardigrades. Ed Yong wrote a piece for the Atlantic about a recent paper by Oxford University’s David Sloan and Rafael Alves Batista and Harvard’s Avi Loeb weighing the odds that a space-borne catastrophe could totally wipe out life on earth:

Reassuringly, they think those odds are astronomically low—about one in 10 million for every billion years. “The conclusion we come to is that life, once it starts anywhere, is hard to eradicate,” Sloan says. In other words: Life finds a way (even if you bludgeon it with a giant space rock or an exploding star). To be clear, the three researchers aren’t concerned with the fate of humans—a fragile, fleshy species that, in Loeb’s words, can be “killed by climate change or affected by bad politics.” Instead, the trio wanted to know what it would take to wipe out all life on the planet. And to do that, they focused on the world’s hardiest animals—the tardigrades. Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are microscopic, eight-legged, water-living animals. They’re oddly endearing with their shuffling gaits, rotund bodies, and puckered mouths. They’re also the epitome of resilience.