The Poetry of Urine, and Other News


On the Shelf

A physician examines his uric haul.

  • Don’t ever say I haven’t done anything for you. I found you this, this, this … lovely thing … this meditation on urine by Dr. Jonathan Reisman, which I will aver to be the finest piece of urine-centric writing produced in 2016: “I practiced wielding the dipstick and centrifuge, and trained my eyes to recognize clues under the microscope … I began to comprehend urine’s enigmatic language … Today, thankfully, this is no longer necessary, though decoding urine still often feels like being a sommelier … By editing urine out of the bloodstream, kidneys preserve the primordial sea in our blood, maintaining the balance of salt essential to our survival. Without them, and without urine’s salubrious flow, our forebears could never have left the ocean to live on land, just as each newborn baby could never adjust to life outside its personal salty, amniotic sea—itself composed almost wholly from the unborn baby’s urine. So when urine flow slows in illness (when patients report poor urine output or parents tell of fewer wet diapers in sick infants), it is the body fighting to maintain the life-giving ocean inside each of us, our ancestral brine.”

  • Tom Bissell wrote a book about video games and then started to write video games themselves—only to discover that it’s much harder than he’d anticipated: “Around 2008 to 2009, when I was working on Extra Lives, all I did was play video games and think ‘I can write better than this shit!’ … Here’s the interesting thing: every single person I know who crossed over from writing about video games to writing video games has had that belief rudely shattered in the first month of the job. It’s way harder than you can imagine, it’s way more stressful than you can imagine … The difficulty all has to do with the fact that you’re writing a story completely out of order … You have very little awareness of what the gameplay leading up to it and coming out of it is going to be. There aren’t even levels yet. You’re writing scenes that are planted in the middle of this completely unknown ether.”
  • Los Angeles has seen maybe more intentional communities than any other city in the world—it’s ground zero for utopian urban planners. Bonnie Johnson looks back at a few of the more notable efforts in its history: “Job Harriman, a lawyer, former clergyman, and one-time running mate to socialist Eugene V. Debs on the national ticket, narrowly lost the LA mayoral election in 1911. Setting out to demonstrate a socialist alternative, he leveraged local friends to buy 9,000 acres with water rights at the site of a former temperance colony about forty-five miles north. He appointed a board and began selling stock for Llano del Rio … Six months after its opening in 1914, the colony had grown to 150 people, in addition to many farm animals, and had a post office, dairy, and laundry. Using local materials, the colonists built a meeting hall and hotel, as well as an aqueduct and water tank connected to nearby Big Rock Creek. At first, members lived in tents and dormitories, then in small adobe houses. Like Gilman and other feminist thinkers, site planner Alice Constance Austin envisioned kitchen-free homes with communal daycare, though Llano ultimately fell short of her designs. Largely populated by western farmers and businessmen and their families, the development grew to 1,100 and produced almost all of its own food, planting orchards, alfalfa, corn, and grain. The colonists also wove textiles and ran a print shop for their paper. The schools were Montessori-style, hands-on, and encouraged self-rule. The group held picnics, shows, and ball games; its twice-weekly dances were a legendary highlight.”