Part of me admires anyone who can turn pregnancy into yet another product of our consumerist and patriarchal society, endorsing the idea that being 38-weeks pregnant is no reason not to be photogenic and high-achieving. But a much, much bigger part of me believes the kindest thing you can do for women is tell them the unfiltered truth. Nothing reveals the gap between social-media fantasy and reality more strikingly than pregnancy, so Amy Schumer has been an overdue antidote to all of the above.
Neal Stephenson’s introduction in the re-issued edition of the late David Foster Wallace’s Everything and More is a lengthy screamer, a small portion of which goes like this → To begin with, David Foster Wallace was arguably a science fiction writer (Infinite Jest), although he probably would not have classified himself as such. Of course Everything and More is not SF, or even F, at all, pace some of its detractors, but the mere fact of David Foster Wallace’s having been an SF kind of guy muddies the taxonomic waters before we have even gotten started. Novelists—who almost by definition hold motley and informal credentials, when they are credentialed at all—make for an uneasy fit with the academic world, where credentials are everything. And writers who produce books on technical subjects aimed at non-technical readers are doomed to get cranky reviews from both sides: anything short of a fully peer-reviewed monograph is simply wrong and subject to censure from people whose job it is to get it right, and any material that requires unusual effort to read undercuts the work’s claim to be accessible to a general audience. So in writing a book such as Everything and More, David Foster Wallace reminds us of the soldier who earns a medal by calling in an artillery strike on his own position, with the possible elaboration that in this case he’s out in the middle of no-man’s land calling in strikes from both directions.
It was a little over two years ago that I realized the ad-tech industry had gone too far. I was an executive at a global advertising company, watching a demo from a third-party data provider on how they could help with ad targeting. Their representative brazenly demonstrated how he could pull up his own personal record and share with us his income, his mortgage details, where he worked, what kind of car he drove, which political party he was likely to vote for, and his personal interests (craft beer, of course). It was everything, all in one place.
Webster’s dictionary took him 26 years to finish. It ended up having 70,000 words. He wrote it all himself, including the etymologies, which required that he learn 28 languages, including Old English, Gothic, German, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Welsh, Russian, Aramaic, Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit. He was plagued by debt to fund the project; he had to mortgage his home.
I have a confession to make: I love hard, mental, strategic design work. I love going cross-eyed envisioning customer journey options small and large. I love it like I love good typography and icons and layout, and I’m way better at it than I ever was at those things. I love it like I love color schemes, and, again—I’m better at it than I was at those. And, stop me if you’ve heard this one, the more strategic I gets, the further from the code I feels.