Thursday, October 19, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/19/17)

This new bio sounds interesting: Hating on Herbert Hoover

What did neolithic man eat after a hard day at Stonehenge? Sweet pork and rich cheese

How Eleanor Roosevelt and Henrietta Nesbitt Transformed the White House Kitchen

In Defence of Celebrity Gossip

I kinda want to try this: Why are games like Stardew Valley so darn satisfying?

Weekly Rec: Gulliver's Gate

Gulliver's Gate is a new-ish exhibition near Times Square that is basically the world in miniature. It's incredible. There's a mind-boggling amount of detail and extremely impressive craftsmanship. It has a huge section devoted to Manhattan, and then smaller sections for all different cities and countries around the world. (And also an airport and some freestanding landmarks.) You can also take a peek into the workshops where they make the various pieces, which seemed cool but I was there on the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend and it was so busy I couldn't really get close and certainly couldn't talk to any of the people working. (AND there's a place to get a 3D printed version of yourself made!)

I'm having trouble even finding the words to describe how incredible and intricate this is. I could have spent hours and still not noticed everything.

To give you a taste, here's part of the New England section:


They also added all sorts of cultural figures to various sections (some of which made more sense than others, honestly). Here are the tiny Beatles!


It's definitely worth the trip, though the amount of stuff going on was almost overwhelming and it was hard to feel like I was really appreciating the workmanship when the exhibit was crowded. Like so many things, I would have enjoyed it more were other people not allowed. Failing that, I'd recommend trying to go during the week (though maybe then there are lots of field trips?) and certainly not on a holiday weekend as I did.

Morning Coffee (10/19/17)

ICYMI, my first (In)expert Advice column went live yesterday!

I love this: MI6 boss: George Smiley a better role model for agents than James Bond

Oh: Trump voter fraud commission researcher arrested on child pornography charges

A reporter finally asked Trump to just explain his health care plan. His response was a train wreck.

Biden says that FOURTEEN foreign heads of state have contacted him about WTF is going on with Trump.

Donald Trump and the Cheney Doctrine

2017! Congressional Candidate Believes She Was Visited by Aliens

A TV Executive Sexually Assaulted Me: A Critic’s Personal Story

What Really Helps Women Succeed at Work? Access to Birth Control.

How Facebook Outs Sex Workers

A Centuries-Old Frieze, Newly Deciphered, Tells the Story of the End of the Bronze Age

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/18/17)

Mallory Ortberg, perfect as always: Emails I Have Never Received But Believe I Am Owed

Virtually Explore a World War II Shipwreck in 360 Degrees

The Commodified Country Paradise of the Pioneer Woman

The Nixon Dinners That Taught Americans to Stop Worrying and Love Peking Duck

The forgotten 18th century observatory that marked the rise of modern astronomy in India

(In)expert Advice: Authors and book covers!

Welcome to our first installment of (In)expert Advice, in which I, an avowed non-expert, tell people what to do anyway - and then have an actual expert weigh in on my advice! This column is made possible by my wonderful Patreon supporters. Got a question for us? E-mail me!

Today we've got a question about the world of publishing, so our guest expert is Kate Testerman, lit agent extraordinaire and founder of KT Literary. Follow Kate on Twitter and check out what the agency's up to on Facebook!

(Note: This question originally came from Twitter, so I've paraphrased for clarity and anonymity.)

THE QUESTION: An author just got the proposed cover art for her new book and she likes it, but there's a detail wildly wrong - let's say the main character's dog is the wrong breed. It bothers her a little but she's not too upset. Should she bring it up to her editor? Will readers be mad about it?

MY INEXPERT ADVICE: Okay, I have a few thoughts here. First of all, the straightforward answer to the first question: Sure, mention it. If they're asking for your feedback, I see no harm in saying "It's really cute, but would it be a big hassle to change the dog to xyz to match the text?" Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn't, but you might as well find out.

But then... I'd try to let it go. In a pragmatic sense, it doesn't seem like you care about it enough to make this a hill you want to die on - and I agree that cover art generally shouldn't be, as long as it's not an issue like whitewashing. I am in no way saying that you should let people walk all over you, but as in any business (or personal, really) situation, you want to pick your battles and not make such a big deal over something non-essential that you risk the people you're dealing with gaining a negative impression of you (earned or not). Save that for the things you care about deeply.

And in a larger sense: I think the sooner you can practice letting go of tangential things readers might complain about, the better. Most readers will not care about the cover, or at worst will notice the dog breed is off but not be so rude as to yell at you about it. But there exists a small minority of readers who will always find things to which they object, some of which are mostly or entirely out of your control - the cover, the font, the price, the shipping time. (That might actually be easier to deal with than those who yell at you about things like your plot or characters. That will happen too! People are terrible.)

Interacting with readers is great, but in order to keep that up in a healthy manner as your career progresses, it's useful to create a bit of emotional distance. You don't owe anyone anything beyond what is in the book. If someone asks politely about the cover, you can tell them that authors aren't in charge of covers. Maybe they don't know! If someone is rude about it, you can ignore them. The fact that a person has purchased or read your book does not override your right to basic civility.

But really: Most readers are great and supportive. The rest will find something to be mad about no matter what. It's not your problem. Try not to take it personally. Good luck!

THE EXPERT WEIGHS IN: Kate's response is on the nose, though I will note that there's a couple of other variables that may affect whether or not your editor can do anything about it when you bring up your concerns. First of all, what type of cover is it? If it's an original piece of artwork commissioned for the cover, depending on what stage you see it in, you likely will be able to let the artist know that the dog is the wrong breed, and maybe even send along some reference images to help the artist correct the cover drawing. If the cover was shot for the book, you might have several images to choose from, but you're likely to be constricted by who and what was in the studio when the photos were taken. You can ask perhaps for some Photoshop, but if the publisher has already committed to a photo shoot, they may not want too much digital manipulation. Many covers, however, are some version of stock photos, and in that case, I would suggest doing some googling of your own on various stock image sites to provide further reference photos.

But really, if you can -- let it go. Most readers will understand that the author's responsibility begins and ends with the words on the page, and the cover and the rest of it is the publisher's responsibility.

Good luck!

THE VERDICT: Hey, my answer wasn't terrible! Yay! Thanks again for joining us, Kate!

Have a question for (In)expert Advice? Send it along!

Morning Coffee (10/18/17)

"A deranged animal": Trump’s newest lie about Obama is causing fury inside and outside the military

2 Senators Strike Deal on Health Subsidies That Trump Cut Off

Open Talk of a Military Coup Unsettles Brazil

This new hospital bill project from Vox is good and worthwhile: The problem is the prices

Beutler on the Pence football nonsense: Bottomless Bad Faith

Kate Winslet didn't thank Harvey Weinstein when she won the Oscar. Here's why

Smithsonian Announces Artists For Obamas’ Portraits: See Their Work

What!! MP Douglas Ross misses debate to officiate at Barcelona UCL match

I am cautiously optimistic about all the new European versions of Skam!

Historical Veggies Take Root In D.C. War Garden

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Monday, October 16, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/16/17)

For Women Seeking Pop Hits in 2017, It's a Climb

To Win This Board Game, Keep Away From The Matchmaker

How ancient lentils reveal the origins of social inequality

Can You Download Your Way to a Better Life?

Jane Squire and the Longitude Wars

Morning Coffee (10/16/17)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week.

If You're Going to Defraud the Defense Department Maybe Don't Write About It On LinkedIn

Of course: Exclusive: Even Pokémon Go used by extensive Russian-linked meddling effort

Unmasking Trump's Iran Plan

In Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community, abused women are finding a way out

How should the alt-right be covered?

Fighting the Battle for Truth to a Draw

The Infantilization of Adult Professional Women

The Rock Test: A Hack for Men Who Don’t Want To Be Accused of Sexual Harassment

Inside the Founding Fathers’ Debate Over What Constituted an Impeachable Offense

Japanese Scientists Turn Literary Detectives to Study a 1770 Magnetic Storm