First and foremost, thanks for reading this. Time is money, yeah, but nothing is as dear as the finite mental energy we have available to us each day. Getting you on this page was the old foot-in-the-door; my real request is for some of that precious attention.
Because this won’t be worth your time if you’re not, like, with me with me. Snark doesn’t come naturally to me. (I wrote my thesis on earnestness, after all.) I’m neither beat reporter nor industry insider. I’m not a digital nomad and I’m not a firebrand; no wanderlust or intellectual thirst traps here. I’m just a young person who believes that solid thinking leads to solid writing, that solid writing leads to solid thinking, and that solid writing and solid thinking can lend solid substance to our increasingly amorphous lives. (Maybe I am a budding wellness guru?)
If there’s an additional argument I’ll try to thread through this newsletter, it’s this: It’s worth paying close attention to the objects and experiences that define our lives, and it’s worth spending time considering how they might be different.
How to know if you’ll like reading what I’ll be writing? This intro should give you a taste. I’m asking a lot, I know, so let’s get to your questions.
What does Sintext mean?
Sin, from the Latin by way of Middle English, means an “immoral act considered to be a transgressio–.” Nah, just kidding. Sintext isn’t a real word. If anything, it’s Spanglish. I use sin to mean without, and text to mean everything we’re missing.
Were we spelling it syntext, we’d be in Greek territory, and connoting the opposite of what we’re after. (See: synapse, synchronous, and *shudder* synergy.)
Think of Sintext as shorthand for out of context. And if out of context means “without the surrounding words or circumstances and so not fully understandable,” emphasis absolutely my own, then Sintext is the place to consider surrounding words or circumstances and pursue a better-informed understanding.
To get abstract, I want the word sintext — which I guess I’ll stop capitalizing and start using as a regular noun, except for when I’m referring to this publication, which has to be Sintext, right? — to suggest questions of relation and meaning-making that can’t really ever be answered away.
Uh, OK, whatever, what will Sintext be about?
READINGS, RABBIT HOLES, and REFLECTIONS.
By which I mean this and that. The last bullet on my resume currently lists “productive cultural criticism” as one of my interests, but that’s mostly because I figured “amateur linguistics” would be a weird look I can’t really back up. But “productive” is such a terrible word. It’s totally freighted with the demands of labor we so often place on ourselves. Maybe I’ll change it to propulsive.
In the intro to her new book, Emily Nussbaum, a TV critic I really like, explains that “[c]riticism is a lot of different things: It’s a conversation and it’s a form of theater. It’s a way of thinking out loud, while letting everyone overhear you, which means risking getting things wrong and, on occasion, being obnoxious.” I want Sintext to be about communicating and performing and wondering and postulating and, sure, embarrassing myself on occasion.
More concretely, each installment of this newsletter will bring you an essay that blends each of the following categories:
Readings: I work at DIESEL, an independent bookstore here in Los Angeles. (I lied: I have bookselling insight. Check out my staff recs!) This means that I am in theory spending more time with books than most. Books — like Nussbaum’s, called I Like to Watch, which I recommend together with this recent anti-TV piece in The Baffler — will be a big part of this newsletter. But words online count, too. My readings will be drawn from prepared, published writing.
Rabbit holes: A consequence of spending more than a sixth of our day online is that we spend more than a sixth of our day adrift among infinite information. Some bits of information are more valuable than others. Some are even worth chasing in circles, even if we’ll never catch our own tail. I often feel like this dog, freaking out about the hole I haven’t even finished digging. For me, rabbit holes open unexpectedly, and usually when I’m on social media. This section will be my way of justifying the unjustifiable amount of time I spend scrolling on my screens.
Reflections: Sintext will never not be self-conscious about being a newsletter — about the fact that these words are nothing more than pixels arranged on your screen according to a set of rules determined by Substack — or about being a newsletter begun by a person with significant privilege. Both these things matter. Sintext, as you may have gleaned, will always really be about language-and-something else, but Sintext will also leave room for the personal. Think of this newsletter as an ongoing intellectual diary that will help us both keep up with my thoughts, and also my ~feelings~.
How often will you be disturbing the sanctity of my inbox?
Biweekly. That either means twice a week or once every two weeks. We’ll see. Ambiguity can be useful for a serial procrastinator like me. (It’s for sure going to be the latter.)
Please, get in touch with ideas, suggestions, typos you found, things you’d like to see more, things you’d like to never see again, and whatever else is on your mind. Thanks for reading, always.