nemo williams

Diamonds Separated by Oceans: Baseball, Japanese-Americans, and Southern California’s Pacific Rim

Tropics of Meta

Baseball game at Manzanar War Relocation Center | Photo: Ansel Adams, courtesy of the Library of Congress Baseball game at Manzanar War Relocation Center | Photo: Ansel Adams, courtesy of the Library of Congress

“If California has made any contribution to sport on a national level, it is in the democratization of pursuits that were previously the prerogatives of elites,” noted the dean of California history Kevin Starr in 2005. “Most of the champions of the twentieth century who come from California first developed their skills in publicly subsidized circumstances: municipally supported swimming pools, golf courses, and tennis courts in particular, where middle class Californians, thanks to the recreational policies of Progressivism, were introduced to these previously social register sports.” 1 Indeed, even under the weight of racism, groups denied equal access to mainstream U.S. society found sports as a means to greatness and, in part, as a declaration of their commitment to America. Take two-time gold medalist Highland Park native Sammy Lee, or Hall of…

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Originally posted on Do you want to see my spaceship?:
The Heart of Gold’s Improbability Drive made it the most powerful and unpredictable ship in existence. There was nothing it couldn’t do, provided you knew exactly how improbable it was that the thing you wanted it to do would ever happen… ’The daaaaay is beauuuuutiful!’…

“Eyes Wide Shut” & the Paranoid Style in American Pop Culture

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eyes wide shut masks

What is it about Stanley Kubrick that makes people crazy?

I was truly excited about the release of last year’s film Room 237—as a historian and Kubrick fan, the idea of an hour or two of deep interpretation of the themes and symbolism of his 1980 horror classic The Shining sounded delightful.  It would be like taking a cultural history or film studies class where all the insights of a semester’s discussions were distilled into one megacut.

As it turned out, though, the film was more like a documentary about a cult or conspiracy theory, or simply the adherents of a weird fetish or hobby (say, a King of Kong for ersatz anthropologists).  Fairly ludicrous and elaborate inferences about the genocide of Native Americans or the faking of the Moon landing were narrated by the film’s motley, disembodied lot of amateur analysts, who even admitted that they may be…

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Originally posted on Flavorwire:
Summer reading lists: everyone’s got ’em. But what makes an ideal summer read? It sort of depends on who you are and what you’re doing, but here are a few suggestions: something light, something funny, something sun-drenched and atmospheric, something to travel with, something that will hold your attention no matter…


— nemo williams.

Dog Days Classics: Tolkien and Martin in Love and War

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tolkien and martin

By the time I gave up on finishing The Lord of the Rings, I like to think that I had outlasted a good portion of those who try.

It was early on in The Return of the King, the third book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy series, when the cumulative weight of the sheer number of pages, the chapters full of elf poetry, and the walking—God, the endless walking—finally beat me down. My middle-school-aged brain, prompted by nothing in particular, told me that I was done.

This was unexpected. I had cruised through The Hobbit, a compact fairy tale that was divided into neat little easily digestible episodes. It was fast-paced, exciting and, though ostensibly a children’s book, contained hints of darkness that remain chilling. Though mostly tame in its contents, it was not a sanitized story. It had the fearsome attraction of a movie that I…

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The Art of Running from the Police



Alice Goffman | On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City | University of Chicago Press | May 2014 | 45 minutes (12,478 words)

Below is a chapter excerpted from On the Run, by sociologist Alice Goffman, as recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky. Goffman spent six years living in a neighborhood in Philadelphia. In her groundbreaking book, she explains how the young black men in her neighborhood are ensnared in a Kafkaesque legal system which makes running from the police their only option, and how these men have made running into an art.

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The Blue Album: A Nostalgic Trip

The Blue Album (1994)

(as I mentioned earlier: so, since I decided to relaunch this blog on May 4th (2017), I decided to start reposting some older stuff — material that was on here before I abandoned this blog / picked it back up. Cheers.)

ATTENTION: hack-ish omphaloskepsis set to commence.

Every single last living person on this Earth has that album – that one album – that they will hold on to for the rest of their lives. It’s a peculiar type of ownership, this listener-to-album relationship. For most people, there’s several “favorite albums,” but the kind of album I’m talking about is the one that you’ve listened to a million times and still can’t find the point where you’re supposed to grow tired of it. Most of time, you never will. Ever. It’s a peculiar type of ownership. I’m talkin’ ’bout the kind of album that you connect in your mind with the monumental moment(s) in your life, and from this the album becomes a part of you on an almost cellular level, like a friend or an old love or – maybe this is more fitting, since albums become infectious – like a disease would. Maybe it reminds you of summers spent in the suburbs, laying on the grass with a boombox and a blanket; or, maybe it reminds you of an old girlfriend and all the wonderful memories you have of her, as my “special” album does. Maybe you were listening to it right before your car crashed, and now you can’t help but get goosegumps as that guitar solo comes up, the one that hit its high notes just as the front of your car wrapped itself around a tree-trunk all those months ago. It’s cellular, it’s infectious, it’s the album that will probably get played in an endless, sonic loop at your funeral. There’s also the weird chance that it gets played endlessly in your version of the afterlife, but that’s retarded.

Like a film that you love, or a book that you’ve read every goddamn summer since that summer you exclusively wore Superman pajamas and ate S’mores under the stars, it has become apart of you and will never leave you. Some people will tell you with wide eyes and a hushed voice about the time they first heard Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, how the acid they had dropped earlier on in the afternoon made the album come alive and POP! and push their state of mind past the bounds of reality. They’ll remember that album and the crazy persian rug they were laying on and all those wonderful colors that assaulted the room as they were led through a kaleidoscopic look at The Summer of Love. My mom still talks about the first time she heard Frampton Comes Alive, discussing it as if she were describing what it was like to bump in to Jesus at the supermarket. I can understand listening to a Beatles album and describing it as if you had bumped in to Mr. Jesus Christ himself in the bread aisle (no, I don’t care that the dude buys whole wheat bread instead of the cheap stuff) but I can’t understand acting that way about Peter “wah-wah-wah-wah-wah” Frampton. To each their own, I suppose.

You get my point – in fact, you (probably) did several sentences ago. My bad. We take these significant songs and albums and artists that we listen to and we internalize what we’re consuming, and by doing that the art becomes part of who we are as an individual.

For me, that album is Weezer’s 1994 self-titled debut, Weezer, affectionately known by fans as The Blue Album. Is it my favorite album of all-time? Nope, it is not; my favorite album – caveat: at the moment, since my pick has been known to sometimes change daily – is always a question that’s in a constant state of war with itself, but right now – if I had to pick – it would be a toss-up between In the Aeroplane Over The Sea or London Calling with The White Album waiting in the wings. I’m a pretty big music nerd, so it would be impossible for me to even try to pick a favorite album of all-time, but in terms of meaning pertaining to my own life, no album comes even close to this one. In fact, it might as well be the soundtrack playing in the background over footage from the first twenty-four years of my life so far, the words “Joshua, This Is Your Life” in big, bold, blue letters at the bottom like subtitles. The only thing that compelled me to even write this article in a flash was that while I was working on something else earlier, my Spotify jumped to the next song (on random) and it turned out to be “My Name is Jonas,” the opening track from The Blue Album.

Now, as I started writing these words, I realized that writing a “standard review” was out of the question – I’m not a very good critic, and whenever I think of this album and all the memories I’ve attached to it, I knew that there was no way for me to be objective, which is a very, very good way to explain why I do such a terrible job at writing reviews. Whether I hate something or love it unconditionally, my passion often drowns out all attempts I make at being unemotional (I blame it on discovering that I loved to write at eight years old and deciding to follow that love to the ends of the Earth). And, since I knew that there was no way in hell I was even going to come close to being objective about this album, I decided to write something a little more navel-gazing, a little more unencumbered by rules and critical nature, a little more, I done’no, “spacey,” or, if you prefer for me to use words like a fully-grown adult male, free-form and lackadaisical…

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interlude (meditations): a window at night


(so, since I decided to relaunch this blog on May 4th (2017), I decided to start reposting some older stuff — material that was on here before I abandoned this blog / picked it back up. Good to see you again…?)

As my depression grows and dips and sways and blossoms until it reaches its truest, angriest form — a black hole — I find myself with my head through the first-floor window of my bedroom, breathing in the night air, trying to stop myself from spinning and spiraling into the angry black hole, as if the night air is the only thing stopping me from falling into the molecule-blasting black vortex. (It’s darker in there than it is outside my window, the night more inviting than anything; out there is my beautiful Oregon green and big and charmingly sleepy, the air tinged with the smell of wet Earth and the rain that is always five minutes away — or five minutes past, whichever way you wish to look at it.) I admit it wholeheartedly, mostly if you didn’t know it before by reading this simple blog: I have clinical depression. The angry, sad, paralyzing kind; the kind that appears from nothing and will only go back after pulling me into nothing. That kind that strikes a relative of yours, but never you. The kind you fear. The kind I fear. That kind. And tonight I’m dealing with it in the simplest way possible: two joints, a notebook, and an open bedroom window. I can breathe by this window. I often feel like I can’t breathe anywhere else. Outside the little first-floor bedroom window of my apartment is a small pine tree, discarded packs of cigarettes surrounding the trunk like the remnants of a religious ceremony put on by some lonely band of roaming heathens; when the weather is nice during the spring and summer I get to sit beneath its branches and read in the morning and early afternoon. I live for those happier times. The angry, sad, paralyzing kind; the kind that appears from nothing and will only go back after pulling me into nothing. That kind that strikes a relative of yours, but never you. The kind you fear. The kind I fear. That kind. Tonight my beautiful little tree has a strange blue glow about it, an ornament two weeks past Christmas. It glows as if inviting me to come outside and join the rest of the big, dumb world. (But I can’t: my ego is still too large, my depression too unique and special for anyone else to truly understand. I can’t, I can’t, I will tell myself in the wee small hours of the morning, the prospect of a new day ahead, the air chilled before the rising of a new (and still same old) Sun. But the evening is still young and I am just one more writer cast in a shadow, trying to escape the misery of “what’s next? What is next, what is next, what is NEXT?”

nemo williams.


happy May the 4th! — nemowilliams.