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Hillbilly Elegy

Like many (most?) who have read J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, I didn’t hear of the book until after the election. In those weeks that followed, it became mandatory reading, and so I complied. The hype seems to have been justified, and though I don’t think the book explains Trump, it adds needed context to the social morass of post-industrial America.

I felt myself comparing it to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. But unlike AHWOSG, where the protagonist’s parents die early on, leaving Eggers and Toph free to escape their past, Vance’s tale revolves around his inability to escape his dysfunctional family and the milieu in which he grew up. And unlike AHWOSG, which is ecstatic, optimistic, and edging on the profound, Vance’s story is depressive, pessimistic, and base.

Though I found his personal story incredibly compelling and moving and the portrait of his community to feel quite real, ultimately Vance lost me in the final chapters (this may have been influenced by looking up his current political views prior to actually finishing the book). Vance escaped his fate, but I’m not sure what the takeaway should be – one seems to be an echo of Hillary’s “village” sentiment, as Vance himself credits his grandmother and grandfather as an indispensable safety net when his mother neglected her responsibilities. It’s not the memoirist’s burden to offer solutions for the problems they identify, but I felt myself cringing as Vance blamed a lack of thrift as the root cause of his community’s affliction. Perhaps though Vance views himself as the solution – watch this space for more.

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Thoughts

Less, More, and None

My friend Ethan shared his Less, More, and None list (inspired by Jacoby Young). Cool idea, thought I’d give it a try. Always good to remind yourself of your better aspirations.

Lenfest Institute and Digital First Media?

Notes on dynamic meters

Notes on newsletters

Notes on the membership model for news

Essays

Capturing Shawmont Station before its $1,000,000 preservation begins – the oldest extant passenger rail station in America

Originally a 18′ by 36′ stone house (Wissahickon Schist), the structure wouldn’t have stood out from the other country homes in this part of Philadelphia, at the tip of the Manayunk Reach, situated at the end of today’s Manayunk Canal Towpath.

Testing WordPress Gutenberg on a high volume news site

Water, sand, and societal change

The best restaurant? Matunuck Oyster Bar

Does Perry Raso run the best restaurant? Yes, I think he does.

EverQuote and patent medicine

In a thread begun October 2016, Washington Post technology director Aram Zucker-Scharff tweeted about the shady advertising practices of EverQuote, a Boston-based startup. Since then these ads have become prolific on the web (and nearly as prolific are Aram’s tweets documenting the malfeasance).

Lenfest Institute and Digital First Media?

What if Alden let another organization manage its newspaper assets as a blind trust? It would lose a great deal of flexibility in using DFM assets to leverage other companies it owns, but it would be able to wash its hands of the growing public relations crisis. Furthermore, it would give space for the strategic direction of DFM to be explored and pursued without the added baggage of hedge fund cross-percolation.

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