A curated selection of writing at the intersection of art, culture, and community, compiled each week by the editors of Storyboard.
FROM THE ATLANTIC
Will Anyone Remember 11 Dead Jews?
Like many of the 49,000 other Jews in the Pittsburgh area, Lidji was socializing at a local synagogue on the final Saturday in October last year when he heard the first rumors of a shooting at the nearby Tree of Life synagogue. The news was soon confirmed: Eleven Jewish worshippers had been murdered. Lidji felt paralyzed: Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, was still ongoing, and he wasn’t sure what to do. It wasn’t until a few hours later that something clicked, and Lidji felt a certain desperation stirring alongside his sorrow. Already, people were laying artwork and stones, which Jews customarily place on graves, on the sidewalk around the synagogue where the shooting had taken place. Many of the accumulating objects were fragile and homemade, with no clear owner or steward, left outside without protection against Pittsburgh’s notoriously wet weather. This was not just an outpouring of grief, but a proliferation of artifacts—artifacts that, in Lidji’s view, should be preserved.
FROM T: THE NEW YORK TIMES STYLE MAGAZINE
The Woman Archiving the World’s Ochers
Heidi Gustafson has Whidbey Island’s Double Bluff Beach to herself. But she’s not sunbathing or scanning the waves for whales. Instead, she’s traveled to the northern end of Puget Sound in Washington to crouch, back to the ocean, foraging for ocher at the base of a cliff. Armed with a small magnet and a knife, she stoops low to assess the striations in the rock face, formed by glacial activity hundreds of thousands of years before.
FROM THE LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS
I, Language Robot
As a child, when I received a new toy or pet, I would immediately visualize the worst that might happen: the novelty matches burning down the house; the parakeet flying straight through the glass door; the Lego bricks melting into the carpet; the Laser Tag gun mistaken for a real one. It was a psychological tic that served, probably, to inoculate me against loss.
I recognized the stirrings of that same tic earlier this year, when I was hired to write short fiction at OpenAI, a San Francisco-based artificial intelligence research lab. I would be working alongside an internal version of the so-called “language bot” that produces style-matched prose to any written prompt it’s fed. The loss that I feared was not that the robot would be good at writing—it is, it will be—nor that I would be comparatively less so, but rather that the metabolites of language, which give rise to the incomparable joys of fiction, story, and thought, could be reduced to something merely computable.
MoMA’s Revisionism Is Piecemeal and Problem-Filled
With great fanfare, MoMA has reopened after yet another major building expansion and has yet again declared intentions to tell a different, more inclusive, and less definitive story. While it purports to be non-chronological, the traditional narrative of modernism is left intact (unlike in 2000), and the ghost of the mainstream modernist timeline remains on the three floors, tracing art history from the 1880s to the present. The museum has done away with “isms” in favor of quirky[,] oftentimes nonsensical themes and dumbed-down gallery headings, such as “Stamp, Scavenge, Crush” and “Inner and Outer Space.”
FROM BELT MAGAZINE
Under the Big Dome
At 5:30 p.m. on October 21, 1961, a group of black Pittsburghers—kids and adults, blue-collar laborers and starched-collar professionals—congregated under darkening skies outside the Civic Arena to protest discriminatory hiring practices at the city’s sleek new auditorium. They carried signs that could easily have been spotted at similar demonstrations occurring across the country: “We Want to Work Too,” “Job Opportunities for Us Too!,” “Not Later, Now!” They sang “Nearer My God to Thee” as they marched. A couple men brought trumpets, another a large drum. It wasn’t the first protest decrying Pittsburgh’s bigotry—prior actions targeted segregated public swimming pools in 1949 and Islay’s restaurants’ refusal to hire black counter clerks in 1953—and it wouldn’t be the last. But this one was different; more raw, more personal.