Digest, 11/13/2021: Things Are Different Now
the twenty-seventh weekly digest post
First, please check out my friend Zeeshan Aleem’s recent article on Afghanistan’s looming hunger crisis. He and I were lamenting that the work we do that matters the most to us very rarely has any overlap with what gets us the most clicks/views/etc. It’s a pain I know all too well - this labor of love represents everything I want my writing to be, and it came and went without notice - so I want to throw my little bit of marketing weight behind that piece and urge you to read it.
For any newcomers who are a little disoriented by everything that goes on here (and I don’t blame you) please refer to this post for how to set up your subscriptions. As someone who publishes an unreasonable amount of words I am sensitive to not giving people any more email than they need. By dividing up the website into sections, you can get only the emails you want. This is particularly useful if you are sensitive to email overload and only want to get this digest each week, from which you could then decide what posts to read.
Many, many people have requested a Twitter feed that tweets out my posts. I don’t tweet and will never again - it’s no good for me, it’s no good for others, and I forfeited my right to use the service with my inexcusable behavior in 2017 - so I have resisted. But I have finally employed a friend to set up an account, @freddiesubstack, that should automatically tweet out links. That is all it will ever do; it will never follow anyone, like any tweets, or respond to replies. Also I literally don’t have the login credentials and never will, so there’s no temptation to worry about. Follow along if that’s your thing.
If you are of the old school and (like me!) still have an RSS reader, there’s no special URL needed, at least for most modern readers. You can just use freddiedeboer.substack.com and that should work. (I very much like The Old Reader, if you’re looking for a recommendation.)
Please don’t email me about my position on the Substack leaderboards. 100% of such emails have been in the way of encouragement and congratulations, so of course I’m not mad about it. But I saw those when I first set up this newsletter and said “nope nope nope.” I’ve never intentionally checked the leaderboard since, though I’ve blundered into it a couple times. It’s just exactly the kind of quantitative metric I don’t want to care about. I want to pay the bills and write for a passionate audience, not climb some status ladder. You can reference it in comments if it’s germane to your conversation, but in general please let me stay in the dark.
I’m going to be blogging my way through the recently published book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by the late David Graeber and David Wengrow, in the Book Club section of the website. I don’t think of this as a usual book club in the sense that I will give reading assignments or expect people to read along, but I want to do some old-school book blogging and the Book Club section feels like the right fit. (Of course, you’re encouraged to follow along and comment as I go if you’d like.) I’m not sure how I’ll divide the book up into posts, and will probably vary as I go, but it’s a 500+ page book so it’ll take some time. As always, Book Club content is for subscribers only, so if you want to follow along you know what to do.
This Week’s Posts
Monday, November 7th - Our National Conversation on Higher Ed Has Next to Nothing to Do With Higher Ed's Real Problems
We continue to fixate on the wrong things, or at least prioritize poorly, in our national political conversations about higher education.
Tuesday, November 8th - Please Just Fucking Tell Me What Term I Am Allowed to Use for the Sweeping Social and Political Changes You Demand
A sincere request that people come up with a term they like for the broad world of social justice politics (my preferred term) given that they don’t like woke, identity politics, social justice warrior, political correctness, etc.
Wednesday, November 9th - Academic Professional Incentives and CRT (or “CRT”)
I vlogged (sorry) about how CRT terms and papers keep finding their way from legal education into the K-12 schools where, CRT people insist, they don’t belong.
Wednesday, November 9th - Why Does the Universe Need a Teacup?
A deep-thoughts question about entropy from a scientifically-illiterate (but hardworking!) guy. Probably the best comments section since I started this project, and I highly recommend checking it out.
Thursday, November 11th - When You Condone Chaos, You Condone the Consequences of Chaos
I argue that it’s inevitable that right-wing actors will take advantage of the violence and chaos inherent to riots to do bad things, and we should take care not to let our protests devolve into riots accordingly. A post that’s been met with just massive bad faith on the left, describing me as a Kyle Rittenhouse defender when the first paragraph explicitly says I think he should go to jail and saying that I thought his victims deserve it, which is plain and simple a lie. So it goes.
Friday, November 12th - deMoore’s Law (subscriber only)
I delve into what the new, impressively powerful and efficient Apple M1 chips mean for the future of computing. Another example of excellent comments.
We also got the second post for our book club of Demian and the return of my serialized novel, The Red The Brown The Green. As always the novel is free to all, while Book Club content is subscriber only.
From the Archives
Here’s a list of some prominent campus free speech controversies, as of July 2017. I put it together because then (as now) a lot of people were intently fixated on claiming that there is nothing to see here, no bad tendencies to worry about, nope, nosir.
Song of the Week
Substack of the Week
“Alice From Queens” is a irreverent, pseudonymous writer who quickly built a reputation for herself on Twitter as someone who cuts across a lot of ideological dividing lines with an unusual degree of humor and insight. I’m always attracted to people whose politics I can’t quickly map out onto preexisting forms, and she’s definitely in that camp. While her newish Substack doesn’t post often, what’s there is unusually timely and well-crafted, particularly her latest post about baseball, featuring an interview with her father. You should give it a look and see if it’s something you’re into. We need more insouciance and more outsider voices.
(As for the question of whether she’s really a girl, I don’t know and don’t care.)
My girlfriend is a burgeoning NFL fan. (Yes, my influence is prominent here, but she genuinely enjoys the game.) I’ve been trying to help teach her what I know, while being clear about the limits of that knowledge - I can identify man or zone coverage, I know what 11 personnel is, I know the starting skill position players for almost all teams, etc., but I couldn’t identify most pass routes or tell you who the Mike is on any given play. But at this stage, for her, it’s still the basics. So I’ve used the Madden video game a little and done a great deal of describing what’s happening during actual games, but I wanted to give her a book she could use to study on her own, and I immediately dug around for a used copy of The First Book of Football by John Madden. I know this probably seems a little condescending, but it’s genuinely a great guide for the true beginner, easing the reader in over time but ultimately embracing some complexity. It’s decades old, so some of the basic strategic elements aren’t so relevant anymore, but in the single most important aspect of learning, knowing the positions and what their job is, it’s a great resource. You could do a lot worse for someone just starting out. It’s out of print but cheap and easy to find.
NFL Pick of the Week
Last week I thought, for some dumb reason, that the Dolphins were playing the Ravens, and made a pick based on that misconception. Honor dictates that this go down as a loss in my record.
For games that actually exist, this week I like the Washington Football Team +9.5 at home over the Tampa Bay Bucs. WFT played the Bucs tough in their playoff meeting last year, Tampa’s receiving corps is banged up, Taylor Heinicke is underrated, and man I just love those points, especially at home.
I like the Detroit Lions +7.5 over the Steelers. Yes, a winless team on the road against a 5-3 team in a much stronger division. The Steelers fart out an embarrassing performance a couple times a season and noodle arm Ben Roethlisberger is averaging 6.0 air yards per pass. (Yikes!) I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Detroit wins outright, given that they’ve been hanging tough most games this season.
I also like the Los Angeles Rams -4 over the San Franciscon 49ers. I think the Niners are a mess, and recently bubbling questions over whether Kyle Shanahan is a good coach are legit. (Worse record than Mike Singletary!) I actually love their pass catchers, particularly Deebo, but Trey Lance isn’t ready and Jimmy G was never ready. Also I can’t just take underdogs every single game every week.
Comment of the Week
This feels like one of those moments where a bad metaphor makes you *think* you understand something when in reality the metaphor made it impossible to understand. - Andrew Wurzer
That’s all folks. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel deep gratitude for this project, your generous financial support, and the incredibly high level of conversation in the comments section. It’s all a blessing. Enjoy your Sunday.
Did anyone else reread “They Tell Me the Cruelty is the Point” for Veterans’ Day? It was even better than I remembered. If anyone missed it the first time, check it out:
inb4 more people accuse you of being alice