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Today in Tabs: Pluto’s All Right I Guess, But It’s No James Baldwin

A newsletter is launched, a probe arrives, and a critique misses its mark.

Today in Tabs: Pluto’s All Right I Guess, But It’s No James Baldwin
[Photos: DFree via Shutterstock, NASA/APL/SwRI]

Tired of languishing in actual fame and wealth, a voice of a generation Lena Dunham has finally made the move to where the real action isn’t: newsletters! Dunham and Girls show runner Jenni Konner combined the words “letter” (news-) and “many” (the number of subscribers they aim to snare) and launched Lenny, a sort of Goop for people who need jumpsuits and abortions more than they need moisturizer and decorative candles. Lenny is beginning with a miniscule staff of only four full-time employees and a stable of freelancers, but may ramp up in the future to compete with much larger and better funded newsletters such as Today in Tabs and Everything Changes. Welcome to the field, Lenny! All 97 of us here at Allied Interglobal Tabs, Inc. are certainly pulling for you.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book has continued to attract thoughtful responses, including one from Shani O. Hilton that takes him very lovingly to task for ignoring black womanhood in his exploration of black manhood. In The New Yorker, Brit Bennett replied that “books by black authors are always asked to be more representative than they ought to be,” which is such a finessed line that it would seem crude to even call it a clap back, although in a way it is. But then Freddie deBoer1 got involved, with a “review” that amounted to “I haven’t read the book, but Coates is no James Baldwin.” While this is deBoer’s standard “brave contrarian” schtick, it drew a fair amount of criticism, to which Freddie replied “if you’ve read less than 10 of James Baldwin’s books, you don’t get to lecture me about his relative merits,” (this in relation to, I remind you, his critique of a book he hasn’t read). But then Coates clapped back hard:


All burn units on standby for incoming patient

To his credit, I guess, deBoer apologized for his 2008 criticism of Coates and then did his “I’m just a man, standing in front of the internet, telling my personal truth” thing that he does when he’s been made to look like a fool again. In conclusion, what if we just stopped lionizing anyone as “the one essential writer on race,” or anything else?

Like all of us, I’ve been distracted from the cold empty void within myself by news from the cold empty void that surrounds us all: space! Here with a roundup of Pluto news is The Verge science editor and friend of Tabs Liz Lopatto!

TODAY’S GUEST TAB, by ELIZABETH LOPATTO

Hello, internet friends! Perhaps you noticed an odd onslaught of space images this week. Or perhaps this suddenly happened to your twitter feed:

Well, about nine years ago, we launched a probe called New Horizons (with a computer that’s using the CPU from the original Playstation) to go buzz Pluto. Here’s a truncated version of that journey:

Aboard the probe are the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the planet in 1930; his children were in the room for the flyby ping. After some nail-biting—there was a glitch on July 4—we found out the flyby had been successful: New Horizons survived and the nerds went wild. If you like, you can read about what this astonishing mission was like, start to finish, for a New Horizons team member.

The mission isn’t over, of course. More data will be coming to earth over the next 16 months—but in the next few days alone, we expect the first image of Pluto’s moon Nix (discovered in 2005), a better shot of moon Charon, and plenty more up-close images of Pluto itself — some in color. Here’s what we’re already learning from our newest photos of the system. (Are you curious about how the images got here at all?)

You know what’s cooler than ice cold? Space.

Maureen O’Connor launched a surprisingly etymological debate about male ejaculate. White people: Detroit is not there to save you, says Aaron Foley. “Drone firing handgun” is, tragically, not a handgun that fires drones but just a quadcopter with a gun strapped to it because there is no idea too stupid for some people to try. Here’s a 1.6 terabyte Darknet markets archive for research or doxing or whatever your dreams can make real! echo-chamber.js finally solved comments. Despair at the unholy Egg Master. “Where have all the manly journalists gone?” whines bikeless racist tool. Elspeth Reeve answers convincingly: “it me.” Congrats to Man Men and Transgender on your Emmy noms! Meanwhile, in Canada, someone keeps shaving this cat. It is causing me genuine physical pain not to make the obvious jokes right now, I hope you all appreciate it.

Today’s Ill-Advised Mashup: Smash Grips, “Neutral Slam Hotel” by Ian Decker

Today’s Song: Styx, “Come Sail Away

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That’s it, go home the week in Tabs is over!

~We tab happily forever, so the story goes~

Today in Tabs is taking August off so watch me get lazier and more slapdash over the next two weeks! It should be great fun. You can enjoy the decline on Fast Company or I will email it directly to you.

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1. People keep asking me “who is Freddie deBoer and why does anyone care what he says?” So if you’re not familiar with him, Freddie is literally some guy with a blog. He’s an academic of some kind, and tends to be the guy making the “but” argument in any given case. Like, “I’m a leftist, but…” or “I’m a feminist, but…” Not always! But that’s what he always seems to get attention for. I think he’s the first result if you Google search “self-proclaimed ally.” He gets attention at all because if you got into blogging between 1996 and 2008 the internet is stuck with you forever.

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