New You in Old, Old America (or 1 Month & 2 Weeks in Shit Tons of Pain)

You are new to Georgetown when you arrive the first week of June. All you see are rainbows—flags of them, banners, geotags, advertisements, merchandise. Restaurants and clothing stores covered in streamers fluttering heavily in the thick humid air. It’s kind of South, you think, but Georgetown is so beautiful. Your mother had said, “Don’t walk alone here, people will wonder what you’re doing in this place.” She has already trained you to make a habit out of being very good. She thought it would protect your body from all the people who wanted to break it. But here in Georgetown, flags waving, colors streaming, you explore sidewalks in the daytime, awe-filled and fearless.

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six men gander
the coffeetime
(we sell only coffee black with cigarettes
only blue)

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Avoiding the One-Drop Rule

            This past January, I attended a concert at Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church. The audience in the church’s dimly lit basement was tattooed, bedecked in social justice slogans and, like most punk show crowds, predominantly white. Two hours into the show, a local hardcore band with both white and Black members took the stage. As they launched into their blistering set, I followed my instinct and, bobbing to the rhythm, started to work my way forward through the crowd. By the time the band had finished playing their first song, I had made significant progress toward the stage. That’s when the band’s lead singer leaned into the mic and yelled:

            “It’s fuckin’ 2016! BROWN PEOPLE TO THE FRONT!”

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September, 1945

Mr. Sohn, a slender, ginger-breathy old man who lived on the next block, said they were here to take Korea away from us.  He died within the first month.

Mother told me to put less garlic with the cabbage, because they didn’t like the smell. 

But I didn’t mind them, the new soldier patrol on our block, the American men in pairs with tall dusty boots, their steps heavy like the fresh tar they kept laying down in the fields, replacing everything Japanese.

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Excerpt of a handwritten letter from Ezra Pound to Jeanne Robert Foster dated April of 1922

What do you make of a forefinger (both hands) much larger in circumference than the other fingers –– really about the same proportion to circumference of fingers that my thumb is –– I had never noticed until yesterday.The rest of the letter can be found in the Special Collections of Houghton Library.

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Searching for Big Data in Sharon Weinberger's "The Imagineers of War"

These days, I often feel like I’m using Big Data to figure out the history of Big Data so I can better understand how Big Data is making me obsessed with Big Data. There are a few things I know for sure about this often perplexing pattern:1. The history of Big Data and the rise of the Internet appeals to me in part because I know it is inextricably tied to the history of American National Security and the rise of the military-industrial complex, 1950-1990, which also feels super consequential. 2. The plethora of data-driven archival databases and the precise search methods within them make it possible—in ways unimaginable even fifteen years ago—to pin down the corporations, figures, and products that made possible both the incomprehensible vastness of our government’s worldwide surveillance state and the incomprehensible vastness of the Internet.

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