Friday News: The good, the bad, and squirrel sex
Writing for the Awl Was the Best Mid-Career Decision I Ever Made – So you’ve probably heard that the Awl and the Hairpin are both shutting down. There have been a number of pieces on the Awl, especially, and its impact on writing and publishing and all sorts of other stuff. This piece from NiemanLab addresses some of these issues, and this lament from The Nation focuses on the general quality of the writing. But the essay to which I linked above, by Awl writer Heather Havrilesky (author of the Ask Polly column), is especially noteworthy, in part because she draws a nice distinction between writing simply for career success and writing because it feeds your soul. I don’t know why, but lately I’ve been feeling like we really need to be revisiting this distinction.
There are times in your career when you know you’re being undervalued; you have to get that money or move on. There are times when you feel undervalued, but you’re actually hallucinating — your editor is just busy or stressed out. (This was definitely true of my editor at that respected magazine.) But there are also those rare times when you have to ask yourself what you value the most, even when it means taking less than you arguably deserve. My experience at the Awl fundamentally changed the course of my career as a writer. Even though my financial situation felt precarious, I was too wound up and self-conscious, creatively, to write anything. The only cure for it was to write for someone like Carrie or Choire or Matt Buchanan, all of whom seemed to appreciate or at least tolerate my most obnoxious creative urges. That could only happen at the kind of small, fiercely independent publication that has very little interest in the conventions embraced by larger commercial enterprises. If I had developed Ask Polly anywhere else, it wouldn’t have been the same. – The Cut
I’m 48 now, so I’ve finally gotten to the place where I’m OK asking for what I deserve, which is something that comes only with age. Because I’m not the most “relevant” actress out there. I know that’s the industry perception because I’ve been this character for 14 years. But the truth is, anybody can be good on a show season one and two. Can you be good 14 years later? Now, that’s a fuckin’ skill.
I’m not necessarily perceived as successful, either, but a 24-year-old actress with a few big movies is, even though she’s probably being paid shit — certainly less than her male co-star and probably with no backend. And they’re going to pimp her out until she’s 33 or 34 and then she’s out like yesterday’s trash, and then what does she have to take care of herself? These poor girls have no real money, and the studio is making a fortune and parading them like ponies on a red carpet. I mean, Faye Dunaway is driving a fuckin’ Prius today. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a Prius, but my point is, she had no financial power. If we’re going to invoke change, that has to be part of it. – Hollywood Reporter
On Aziz Ansari And Sex That Feels Violating Even When It’s Not Criminal – And now onto the bad – or at least the bad stuff that will hopefully get better if we can really have the difficult conversations that need to be had. After Babe.com posted “Grace’s” memory of her date with Aziz Ansari, the backlash frankly shocked me, and I just kind of stood back and thought about how fucked up everything is (again, still). Then Samantha Bee spoke up (and PLEASE watch her take on this, because she brings up so many important points) and the above take was posted on HuffPo, and it feels like things are coming back into balance. And, you know, this is a topic on which Romance readers and writers should have a more nuanced understanding of these issues.
It would be easy to look at the Aziz Ansari story and dismiss it as the #MeToo movement run amok. (Author Caitlin Flanagan has already written Grace’s feelings of violation off as mere “regret,” and described the published account of her experience as “3,000 words of revenge porn.”) The story is messier than most that we’ve heard since The Reckoning began in October. Ansari’s alleged misconduct is not the same as Harvey Weinstein’s ? or Matt Lauer’s or Charlie Rose’s or Kevin Spacey’s or Roy Moore’s or Louis C.K.’s. But if the #MeToo movement is going to amount to sustained culture change ? rather than simply a weeding out of the worst actors in a broken system ? we need to renegotiate the sexual narratives we’ve long accepted. And that involves having complicated conversations about sex that is violating but not criminal. – Huffington Post
Squirrel Sex is Complicated – Of course it is! Seriously, though, Arizona wildfires have practically decimated the Mount Graham squirrel population (they’re down to under 40), and repopulation is an extremely difficult undertaking. Does this mean that humans aren’t the most complicated creatures when it comes to sex?
The answer to that question may lie not on the mountain itself but in the halls of Phoenix Zoo’s Arizona Center for Nature Conservation, where five Mount Graham squirrels form the core of a captive-assurance program that could help save the species from extinction. There’s just one catch: We need to figure out how to get them to breed first.
That hasn’t been easy, says Stuart Wells, the zoo’s former director of conservation and science, who was in charge of the program until last month. The squirrels, it turns out, are extremely territorial, aggressive loners who attack and even kill other squirrels, including potential mates, that invade their home turf. That makes it impossible to keep the captive animals together in the same enclosure — or even within sight of each other. On top of that minor complication, the animals are also incredibly sensitive to environmental changes like temperature and sound. And until recently we simply didn’t know how to keep the species healthy in captivity, let alone get it to breed. – Scientific American