Some weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting a rare conversation with Brian Bendis at MIT. Thank you, Brian, and many thanks to the university for arranging the event. The video and audio have been posted online.
In 1824, the Italian poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi decided to take on the subject of whether ‘writing is worth it’. I mean, I guess? But not for glory (at least, not for me). Just because I love to tell stories. I love reading stories. I love living in stories. That’s worth all the daunting obstacles (and there are plenty).
Anyway, here’s how it kicks off: “Young man, literary glory, or the fame that comes from learning and then writing, is one of the very few forms of glory presently available to the commoner. Admittedly, it’s not as impressive or satisfying as the glory that derives from public service, since action is much worthier and nobler than thinking or writing, and more natural. We weren’t made to spend our lives sitting at a table with pen and paper, and doing so can only be detrimental to your health and happiness. All the same, as I said, this is a glory that can be achieved without initial riches and without being part of a large organization. Theoretically.”
A Japanese government program has tried to make fatherhood cool and sexy. Has it succeeded? “Unlike previous campaigns to increase paternal engagement, the Ikumen Project painted the father as a heroic figure, emphasizing his masculinity and sexual allure; one of its posters depicted one man tearing off his suit and shirt…Many women [though] feel resentful that men are being treated as heroes for taking a fair share of very routine jobs. So although they may repeat the phrase “ikumen over ikemen” – and express admiration for the caring fathers they encounter – they also wonder why their own efforts aren’t being recognised to the same degree.”
Andrew Zimmerman and the Tale of the Epic (But Not Entirely Surprising) Fail: “In the interview, Zimmern simultaneously denigrates Philip Chiang, the co-founder of the P.F. Chang’s juggernaut (though Chiang is no longer involved with the casual chain), and elevates himself to the position of being the person capable of opening Middle America’s eyes to the myriad regional cuisines of a vast, diverse culture. “I mean, was P.F. Chang’s not a ripoff because Cecilia Chiang’s kid owned it?” Zimmern asks Fast Company’s Mark Wilson. “Because, despite how he looks on the outside, he’s a rich, American kid on the inside, right?” With one glib comment, Zimmern basically erases Chiang’s experience of race in America because he was from a rich family. (His mother, Cecilia Chiang, is a legendary culinary figure credited with broadly introducing San Francisco, and America, to traditional Chinese regional cooking through her restaurants and book.) Calling Chiang’s cultural purity into question in order to give his own work on Lucky Cricket a pass is deeply misguided, if not outrageously offensive.”