Life Sentences: The Life and Death of American Slang, Part I: Shade and Twerk

When does slang die? Is it when your mom sends you a link to a TIME.com definition of “bae”? When “shade” becomes a Jeopardy question? When “selfie” beats “twerk” for word of the year? These words have become so removed from their original contexts that the begin to lose their meaning, or at least some of their value. After all, isn’t one of the primary functions of slang to identify the speaker as a member of the community? I don’t care how many episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race your cool mom has seen, she does not throw shade in quite the way the queens of Paris is Burning do.

Imagined Conversations (7.30.14)

D: We are giving people larger derrières.
Dr. C: They want more ethnicity.
D: If Martha Stewart can do it, anyone can do it.
A and B overhearing.
A. Can you believe that guy! I will seize my own day. Carpe penis!

Spaced Out: The Lower Depths

There is a strange word that appears in Ancient Greek literature, a verb that describes a mental process: bussodomeuō. We could translate it as “to inhabit the base” or, more succinctly, as “depth-dwelling.” Such a gloss might be the best we can do.

Imagined Conversations (7.16.14)

A: Please don’t eat me.
B: Listen, even after you’ve become a cadaver, you’re still retrievable. God is within us and he has different ways of showing it in our lives, and this is just one way of showing it.
A: Don’t eat—
B: —My friend sent you to me, assuring me that I can use you freely…

Spaced Out: The Subway Map NYC Loves to Hate

Abstract representations of space like Vignelli’s map might make the viewer imagine that she is lost in an overgrown circuit board, a geometry problem, a modern Arabesque designed to awe without representing life. Maps, after all, are always more than utilitarian schematics; at times they are expressions of faith.

Imagined Conversations (7.7.14)

A: She did not seem to understand we were talking about a comedy book and not the transcripts from the Nuremberg Trial.
B: That hamster was going to start appearing in press conferences.
A: Right? For selfish reasons, I wish she’d decided to spend more time being a genius.
B: Obviously. Efficiency is great for U.S. Steel, but it doesn’t necessarily make sense for books.
A: Right…

Imagined Conversations (6.30.14)

A: I want a beautiful life but I’m stuck in this Garbage World with you people.
B: You’re the one who decided to leave three lanes closed during rush hour.
A: It was interesting giving my dark side the keys to the car. I went joyriding…

On Surveillance: A Conversation

“Remember that great line from 1984? ‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face—forever.’ The way I look at these recent revelations about our surveillance capacities—I think that what’s been revealed to us, essentially, is the boot of the future. This massive surveillance/intelligence system, documented by Snowden and others—this is the boot of the future. And the question is going to be, eventually, who wears the boot?”