Five Things: June 16, 2022

I’ve obviously not kept up with the bi-weekly schedule and am not sure how consistent I’ll be throughout the summer. Hopefully a random issue appearing in your feed is a pleasant surprise! Sign up to get this as a fancy email newsletter whenever it comes out: As in Guillotine


Why So Many Blogs and Newsletters Aren’t Worth the Writer’s Effort | Jane Friedman

“It took me years to find my voice, and it’s a journey that’s hard to speed up. But here is one secret: envision one person you know well, who you feel comfortable and confident with, that loves to hear from you or learn from you. Write for them to help find your way.”

I’ve known Jane for ~15 years now, back when we worked on opposite sides of the fence at Writer’s Digest (her, books; me, magazine), and her path from introverted print book editor with no online presence to THE Jane Friedman has been a fascinating and instructive journey. I’ve learned a lot from her over the years and consider her both an invaluable resource and good friend, and occasionally even imagine she did write something specifically with me in mind!

This is one of her more straightforward posts, which I’ve had open in a tab since April, coincidentally the last time I sent out a newsletter. I actually know the majority of the people who subscribe to this newsletter personally, and I do frequently select and comment on specific articles with at least one of them in mind.

Ultimately, though, it’s really for me — a way to ensure I’m continually reading about things that are important to me; a way to gather my thoughts into more than a snarky tweet or three; and a way to maintain some semblance of a connection with a subset of people in communities that have become less tangible during the pandemic.

If you’re reading this, thanks for continuing to indulge me, and I hope you’re doing well.


Moms for Liberty Has Created Nightmares for Schools Across the Country | Laura Jedeed

“Across the United States, similar scenes play out in beige boardrooms. Groups of furious parents demand an end to Covid-19 mask and vaccine mandates, critical race theory, and “obscene” literature in schools. Many of them wear the same blue T-shirts seen in Chattanooga. All of them—knowingly or not—are part of the best strategy to win the midterm elections since the Tea Party movement in 2010.”

You’ve probably heard about the wave of book banning activity across the country — challenges of Maus and Gender Queer have gotten a lot of attention in mainstream media, while “grooming,” “CRT,” and “culture wars” have become popular buzzwords, usually with minimal context that implies a legitimate “both sides” to these situations.

Almost all of these challenges are in bad faith, though, and in many cases they’re either being driven by cynical politicians or organizations with direct ties to cynical politics. The books aren’t even the real target most times, they’re just the latest wedge to gain attention, classic “red meat” to energize the base, and Jedeed deftly lays it all bare.

If you want to stay on top of this nonsense and figure out what you can do to help beyond lazy “banned books” marketing initiatives that are popular in spineless publishing circles right now, follow Kelly Jensen’s excellent coverage at Book Riot, browse EveryLibrary’s comprehensive Legislation of Concern, and figure out what you can to on a local level to support intellectual freedom.


Banned in the USA: Rising School Book Bans Threaten Free Expression and Students’ First Amendment Rights | PEN America

“Of all bans listed in the Index, 41% (644 individual bans) are tied to directives from state officials or elected lawmakers to investigate or remove books in schools.”

There’s a lot of good data here to help understand the scope of various attempts to ban books, including nearly half coming from politicians doing exactly what Elizabeth Warren was falsely accused of last year when she asked Amazon to investigate why their algorithm was prioritizing obvious misinformation in its search results about COVID. Unlike Warren’s inquiry, many of the legislative attempts to ban books have “a realistic chance the threatened action can be carried out,” including defunding of schools, termination of employment, or their favorite outcome: voluntary and pre-emptive compliance via self-censorship.

Meanwhile, the publishing industry’s largest trade association is still spending millions to fight libraries’ need for fair and equitable access to ebooks.

This is the bad place.


The Grotesque Sportswashing of the Saudi Golf League | Alex Shephard

“The biggest winner? Saudi Arabia, which got a Premier League franchise on the upswing. The acquisition will undoubtedly help burnish its dismal human rights record; this sort of arrangement previously worked for Russia (2021 Champions League winners Chelsea F.C., which was until recently owned by oligarch Roman Abramovich); Qatar (owners of Paris Saint Germain, whose star player, Kylian Mbappe, is the best player in the world); and the United Arab Emirates (which owns Manchester City, currently the best team in the world—though they still can’t seem to win the Champions League).”

Before I got into soccer during the 2014 World Cup, I didn’t know anything about the concept of sportswashing, but it quickly became impossible to ignore, and even affected my perception of certain teams who benefit from it, literally wearing their hypocrisy across their chests. A couple of years after getting into soccer, I started dabbling in motorsport, another area where sportswashing runs rampant.

I don’t care about golf at all, but Shepherd does a great job of painting the bigger picture here, while also taking some thinly veiled shots at various rivals to his beloved Liverpool!

Side note: Crypto is getting into the sportswashing game, too, hitting close to home as the kit sponsor for my local Gotham FC, ensuring I won’t be buying one of their jerseys this season. 🙁


William Still Went From Managing Preston North End U14’s To Facing Lionel Messi In Just 10 Years | Jack Kenmare

“I actually think people that play Football Manager understand the game a bit more. You’ve got to go into a lot of detail to actually win things and be successful in the game, especially nowadays with it becoming more and more complicated. I appreciate people that are so passionate and so submerged in the game.”

To say I’m addicted to Football Manager would be an understatement, but similar to how the Madden franchise taught me a lot more about American football than simply watching it on TV or playing pick-up games as a kid, I can absolutely see how it offers a solid foundation for an aspiring manager to succeed in the real world. I’d never heard of Still, but his story is a delightful read, especially for how Football Manager played a role.

I may not have a career in soccer ahead of me, but my Football Manager experience is definitely an intangible component of my resume that aligns with my love of data analysis, experimentation, and iteration.

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