For the characters of Chris Ware's astonishingly ambitious comics project Building Stories, leading lives of quiet desperation is surprisingly noisy business. Plaintive, regretful and bitterly self-recriminating thoughts play on shuffle-repeat inside their heads, like a mordant Litany for the (I Wish I Were) Dead:
"Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the end of the world."
"At that point I was starting to get acquainted with the unfairness of life and learning it was better not to expect anything rather than set yourself up for disappointment."
Author Robin Sloan has spent time on both sides of the digital divide, both as a short-story writer and an employee at Twitter — where he described his job as "something to do with figuring out the future of media."
At a recent academic conference, Michigan State University professor Natalie Phillips stole a glance around the room. A speaker was talking but the audience was fidgety. Some people were conferring among themselves, or reading notes. One person had dozed off.
Each week, All Things Considered and Lenore Skenazy, author of the book and blog Free Range Kids, bring you "Another Thing," an on-air puzzle to test your cleverness skills. We take a trend in the news and challenge you to help us satirize it with a song title, a movie name or something else wacky.
This week's challenge: A study out of Norway found that couples who split the chores equally are 50 percent more likely to divorce.
Things go wrong in most stories. It would be a dull plot that did not include an upset, a setback or an obstacle.
But it takes a special kind of reversal to turn one of these plots into a black comedy. Often it's a tiny slip that becomes a vortex of disaster; sometimes it's a growing avalanche of humiliation.
But it's always hewn from the stuff of everyday life, which we see transformed into a minefield using only the slightest shift in perspective. And it allows us to laugh while giving thanks it's not happening to us.