The Alt Into 6/2/17

The Alt Into 6/2/17

Here are the things that got our writers through this crazy week. 

David Howard King @davidhowardking

American Gods
This may be blasphemy to some, but in my mind, Neil Gaiman isn’t so much a writer as he is an ideas man–not unlike one of my favorite authors Phillip K. Dick. American Gods, the novel,  was brimming with great ideas but the plotting, narrative, and dialogue were all a bit stilted. The concept of gods immigrating to America on the backs of the people who believed in them is enrapturing. The idea that those very gods are fighting to stay relevant as Americans focus their attention on modern inventions and concepts is also a tantalizing idea. 
American Gods the television show may not really be any better realized than the book but it has been a real pleasure to watch other people play with Gaiman’s concepts. Last week’s episode was by far the best realized of the few aired so far. Gillian Anderson, who plays the physical manifestation of media, had previously manifested herself as Lucille Ball–last week she delivered a one-two punch–first appearing as David Bowie in a svelte, perry winkle suit and face paint in the back of a limousine. Anderson delivered a scolding to another character built almost entirely on references to Bowie songs. “Oh, you pretty thing” she begins before scolding her fellow god for “beating up the wrong guy.” Later she floats into a police station as Marilyn Monroe in her classic Seven Year Itch dress. It’s all so otherworldly and clever. 


Luke Stoddard Nathan @lukestdnathan

Taking the bus

A few weeks ago, I became a staff writer with The Alt. Our office is in Schenectady; I live in Troy. After a few days of driving to work, I wearied of the routine–the traffic; the looming threat of an accident; and the long, existential spiral to the top of the parking garage at the end of my trip.

CDTA’s 370 bus charts a near-straight line from my apartment to The Alt’s office. I had ignored the bus as an option merely because I was too lazy to check the schedule, perhaps guided by an unfounded, implicit belief that whatever the timetable decreed, it would of course conflict with my own. 

I was wrong. While taking the bus does add about twenty minutes to my commute, it gives me time to read, or write on my phone, as I am doing right now. On less productive days, it offers prime eavesdropping or conversational opportunities. It’s an altogether pleasant ride.

After Trump announced yesterday the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, The Atlantic’s CityLab ran a story about how we can address climate change at the local level. One way? Invest in public transit.  

I’m under no illusion that my $3 per day will do much to help CDTA expand or improve its service options. But I nonetheless enjoy availing myself of a public amenity that affords a slight sense of moral superiority, albeit primarily in relation to my weeks-ago, car-driving self. 
Katie Cusack @katiecusackk
Katie Cusack @katiecusackk 
Digitally mastered creative flow
I’m a pretty huge fan of coloring books. It’s a perfect way to pass the time and get that white noise going in your brain for a little while as you turn all of your attention to colors and patterns. 
(Side note: I don’t think there should be a distinction between adult and child coloring books. Keeping inside the lines is a social construct. There, I said it.)
Recently a friend showed me a whole new way to create when stress is eating at you, but you are adrift in the world with no crayons on hand. I spend a significant portion of my day behind the screen of my computer or phone (unfortunately) and this site  has brought a significant improvement to my mood, productivity and sanity when I have a few minutes in between projects to collect my thoughts. 
Heres the gist: The site presents you with a blank canvas, lined from the center with a faded axis. A tool bar in the corner has a set of colors in unlimited shades and gradients–like the greatest Crayola box you’ll ever own. Start wherever you like to begin your masterpiece and watch as your pattern is mirrored on the opposite side of the page, creating beautiful mandalas of your very own. Pro tip: While it’s great to play on a laptop, the real fun is in the smartphone/tablet accessory. It’s like really sophisticated finger-painting and way more gratifying for some reason. 
Jaya Sundaresh @jayaist
Citizen Jane: Battle for a City 
All this week at SpectrumCitizen Jane; Battle for a City is showing, and I’m seeing it tonight with a few friends. Jane Jacobs was a pioneering citizen activist who managed to stop Robert Moses, who was New York’s premiere urban planner in the 1960s, from paving over Greenwich Village with a highway. Jacobs wrote one of my favorite books, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which is a fantastic repudiation of Moses’ style of slash-and-burn urban renewal. Jacobs, a tiny housewife who was never professionally trained in planning, nonetheless managed to revitalize and remake an entire discipline in her image — now, most urban planners cite Jacobs as a fundamental thinker and writer for their practice.  

True story: if I wasn’t working for The Alt, I’d probably be in New York City right now studying urban planning. That’s how big an impact Jacobs’ work had on me. 

If you can’t make it out to the Spectrum this week, I’d recommend reading this great book on the war between Jacobs and Moses: Wrestling with Moses; How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City. David also says that The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York is a good read as well. It’s on my to-read list. 

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