The cold hard facts of freezing to death

Peter Stark in Outside:

Frozen In fact, many hypothermia victims die each year in the process of being rescued. In “rewarming shock,” the constricted capillaries reopen almost all at once, causing a sudden drop in blood pressure. The slightest movement can send a victim's heart muscle into wild spasms of ventricular fibrillation. In 1980, 16 shipwrecked Danish fishermen were hauled to safety after an hour and a half in the frigid North Sea. They then walked across the deck of the rescue ship, stepped below for a hot drink, and dropped dead, all 16 of them.

More here.


by Jeff Strabone

One of the duties of the modern nation-state is persuasion. Each state aims to keep its citizens convinced of the legitimacy of its rule. The state may be run chiefly for the enrichment of a few at the cost of the many, but the endurance of the state is widely thought to depend on its ability to sell its rule to the many as a common-sense truism. Or at least that was how it used to work. We may be entering a new era in the evolution of the state, one where the state approaches a state of utter shamelessness.

Gramsci Antonio Gramsci, in his prison notebooks, called this persuasive activity 'hegemony'. According to Gramsci, hegemony occludes the domination of the state and the classes whose interests it serves. One does not have to be an Italian communist of the 1920s to see the usefulness of Gramsci's groundbreaking insight. Broadly speaking, all political actors pursue their agendas by trying to narrow other people's imaginations in order to make desired outcomes seem common-sensical and undesired outcomes outside the ambit of reasonable thought.

It seems to me that over the past decade, in the United States, the state and a narrow circle of powerful interests—banks, energy companies, and private health insurers in particular—have simply given up trying to persuade the rest of us that their interests were our interests. Could we be moving in the twenty-first century to a state that practices domination without hegemony? Or, to put it in plain English, will the state shamelessly turn itself completely over to serving the interests of a powerful few without bothering to pretend that it's not? And if it does, how should we respond?

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On Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox

200px-Fantastic_mr_fox by Stefany Anne Golberg

Wes Anderson is a dandy who would make Oscar Wilde proud. Of all the sizzling epigrams that geysered out of Wilde’s pen, a favorite is, “A really well-made buttonhole is the only link between Art and Nature”. It’s a very dandy thing to say. Dandies like Wilde don't think that nature has any authority over art. They think the opposite. In dandyland, nature and reality imitate art. In other words, when we look at nature we see every nature painting and every National Geographic documentary we've ever seen. There is no “real reality” for humans without the human touch; nature is pretending to be art.

Wes Anderson’s dandy films bend reality over and paint a fuchsia moustache on its bum. They are sculpted and posed. They aren’t necessarily fake, like fantasy fake, but they are full of fakers. In all of them, the main character is a regular person upon appearance, but is basically an amateur and a fraud, playacting at greatness. Rushmore is the story of a teenage boy who masquerades as the king of his boarding school, but, in fact, he is a horrible student. The Life Aquatic is the story of a famous oceanographer, who is more interested in daring feats than science. Royal Tenenbaum, in The Royal Tenenbaums, is a wealthy and excellent lawyer, except that he has been disbarred and is a son-of-a bitch. These films are advertisements for the aestheticized life. Like Wilde, there is no true nature for Wes Anderson. Our authentic state is the one we imagine for ourselves, the trumped-up life we've convinced other people is impressive.

More than any of his previous films, The Fantastic Mr. Fox is a really well-made buttonhole. 'I didn't want it so much to be more realistic,' Anderson told the Telegraph, 'I wanted it to be more ours.' Anderson elaborates on Roald Dahl’s book with dandy aplomb. In both tales, we have a family of foxes—Mrs. Fox, little children foxes, and the eponymous Fantastic Mr.—intent on getting their daily bread by stealing it from the valley’s three farmers: Farmer Boggis, Farmer Bunce, and Farmer Bean. An epic battle ensues between animals and farmers, each trying to outsmart the other. Mr. Fox thieves not because it is necessary, but because it’s more fun than foraging in the wild like other animals. “I'm just a wild animal,” Fox says with a sigh. But his regret is not very convincing. This is a fox who sports a double-breasted corduroy suit after all. Getting his food from farmers instead of hunting is the wildness of Mr. Fox. In other words, his “natural” state is to act against nature.

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Imagining Lyari Through Akhtar Soomro


By Maniza Naqvi

“I’ve lived all my life in my old neighborhood of Lyari. My father was a mason and he died of lung-cancer when I was six years old. I still feel his presence and remember his gestures and his appearance with his beard and a black and white checkered scarf on his head— you know like a Palestinian- scarf on his head.” Akhtar Soomro narrates himself. AkhtarSoomroselfport

And through his photo journalism Akhtar Soomro challenges us to enter on journeys that make us confront the geography and calculus of our own reality and recognize and imagine other stories. Stories of people, who have been systematically humiliated and diminished: people, who have been marginalized; and criminalized by those who have amassed power by grabbing every resource and facility and service in Pakistan. These photographs, as stark evidence, let us enter their world of survival, of how despite it all, people cope, triumph, flourish, create and celebrate, kick and punch back. Occasionally he gives us glimpses into the pathology of those grabbers of power: glimpses of the glint in their eyes, of the cynical grin on their faces and of the instruments and weapons that they wield to maintain their supremacy.


Akhtar Soomro tells us:

“I want to document a world that is in danger of disappearing. I have in the course of my own interest in these communities, photographed people at their festivals and in the streets. I remember the daily ordinariness of the Leva dances at weddings and other festive occasions in our streets. This dance is meant to induce a spiritual trance of joy. And how that is not a common place event any longer but still can be found. I want to show this world to the world and to these people themselves as something of value, of cherishing and for safekeeping.

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A Glimpse Into The Work of Pina Bausch

By Randolyn Zinn


Beatrice Libonati, Meryl Tankard in Walzer Photo by Gert Weigelt

On June 30, 2009, dance devotees from around the world mourned the untimely death of choreographer Pina Bausch. At 69 years of age and just four days after a diagnosis of cancer, she left behind a son, an acclaimed dance company, devoted fans, and a trove of masterpieces that changed the course of dance and theater history. Her work always left us wanting more. We were sure she had a century inside her.


Pina Bausch in rehearsal. Photo by Gert Weigelt

In Paris, whenever tickets went on sale for her company Tanztheater Wuppertal, a long line of Pina fans would snake out from the box office into the street. Television crews scrambled to put together elaborate promos, giving them pride of place on the evening news. Imagine if American news shows featured dance and theater segments alongside sports and weather. Take a look at one of these promos and be amazed not only by the snippets of the work, but by the cultural divide.

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On Seeing (an Imitation)

by Daniel Rourke

“Mimesis here is not the representation of one thing by another, the relation of resemblance or of identification between two beings, the reproduction of a product of nature by a product of art. It is not the relation of two products but of two productions. And of two freedoms… 'True' mimesis is between two producing subjects and not between two produced things.”

Jacques Derrida, Economimesis

Enlarged pupil (an eye with iritis)

As the day drew closer to its end so I strained my eyes to compensate. A milieu of symbols littered my computer screen, each connected to a staccato breach between breath and tongue. And in conjunction, fused one to another in a series, these symbols formed words and concepts, visions and ideas to which I felt an obligation.

I was designing a book, turning a text into a form through the processes of a computer design interface. The semblance of a page confronted each turn of my wrist or tap of finger, until the virtual book lay splayed open, its central fissure dilating as the words grew bigger or shrank to barely perceptible pricks of black. By manipulating the interface I could expand letters until they inked out the screen, or, in turn, spiral to infinite distance, turning definite symbols into the pixels of a cloud.

This process of making occurred at a virtual distance to me and yet, as the nights rolled onwards, this work was limiting my ability to see.

The doctor examined my right eye. I had iritis, a strain of the pupil with no particular cause, except perhaps for its over-use: for one's over-reliance on its mechanical operation. Being that my right eye was the strongest of the two it had over-compensated at each dimming of the day, allowing my left eye to relax as the symbols of my book whirled on. The strain resulted in a blood-shot appearance accompanied by a searing, throbbing pain. It hurt to see, and even more so to look. It hurt because looking was its cause.

Standing at the base of the Southern tower I arced my neck back as far as I dare. As the horizon descended into my stomach I could just about perceive the towers' tallest corners, pinching at sky. How many coins did it take to build these things? And how many steps was I expected to ascend in order to get to the 'observation deck'?

In exchange for my tiny coin I fathomed a giant network called 'New York'. From up here everything was horizon: the imaginary boundary between earth and sky that moves in respect of one's position.

In 2001 the two towers tumbled. How profane their figures seem now. How could it be that these prisms, designed and built in the 1960s, opened and occupied in the 1970s, witness of boom in the 80s and bust in the 90s, would come to stand for all the tumult and turmoil, striving and hope of our newest century?

The precision of the prism – flat, grey surfaces observed in isometric space – will forever be bound to these charismatic towers built of steel, concrete and capital. That they now stand as symbols effaces their identity in time or in space. They will always be contemporary, so long as cities are built and planes soar the skies above them. Looking back at them it is now I that stand on the horizon. Yet, howsoever I alter my vision, the towers stay solid and fixed to their position, being at one and the same time the landscape, the illumination and the roving eye.

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Helping strangers, learning other lives and escaping escapism: a conversation with filmmaker Ramin Bahrani

Ramin Bahrani is the director of such films as Man Push Cart, Chop Shop and the new Goodbye Solo. He was named, somewhat controversially, as being on the vanguard of the “neo-neo realism” by A.O. Scott in the New York Times and called “the new great American director” by Roger Ebert. Colin Marshall originally conducted this conversation on the public radio show and podcast The Marketplace of Ideas.

Bahrani, Ramin, director of CHO I’ve been reading Roger Ebert for over ten years, and I’ve never seen him praise someone as much as he praises you. He’s given your films four stars, he’s put Chop Shop on his list of “the great movies”, he had this wonderful blog post about you. How must this feel, to get such accolades from a man like Ebert?

It’s very humbling, and I’m very grateful because Roger Ebert is a legendary critic, known as the most important in America for decades. I’d like to stress that it’s not just me; he’s said this about a handful of other important directors that I really learned a lot from, like Martin Scorsese, and that makes it all the more wonderful a feeling. Watching Mean Streets as a teenager was one of the most important cinematic moments of my life. It really got me interested in making movies, and what kind of movies, and how to make them. Roger has the ability to write about films in a profound way anyone could understand, and that’s a rare gift. I really appreciate all that he’s done for my films.

It must also feel, just looking at this from the outside, that there’s a little bit of a – maybe a lot of an – “upping the ante” feel to it. Is there an anxiety-inducing side to this?

It’s natural for any artist, when the work seems to be catching on and people are paying attention and enjoying it, that there’s always some kind of an anxiety. You want to make sure the next one is good too, but when it actually comes to the nitty-gritty of doing the work or writing the script, making the film, it’s important to put those things aside. Just follow your own vision and do your best to make a film you believe in, that you believe an audience could enjoy and appreciate and understand and be challenged by. That’s what I’m working on now. I’m working on a new project, and at some point you really just have to put everything aside and move forward.

It just has to be you, your collaborators, the project and nothing else in your mind?

I’m glad you mention the collaborators. That’s a big part of it: Michael Simmonds, my cinematographer, my co-writer and others, but I do think about the audience with every film. It’s incredibly important, as we’re working, to make sure: can the audience understand what’s going on? I don’t just mean plot-wise, which is critical – can the audience understand what’s going on in the story? – but if we’re going after certain emotions, or if we’re going after certain ideas or certain questions, do we think the audience can understand those? Increasingly, what’s been on my mind with each film, Chop Shop and Goodbye Solo even more: would an audience be engaged by the story? Not just wonderful people like you who love movies and are cinephiles, but I honestly. and my collaborators also, we think about our moms, our brothers. People who like good movies but aren’t necessarily cinephiles. Could they enjoy the movie also?

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Can Pop Music Survive Without a Mass Market?

1261594563-largeJ. Gabriel Boylan in The Nation:

Unlike the introduction of the compact disc, which was developed by major labels and music retailers, as well as Phillips and Sony, the current tumult was unplanned and unforeseen. Digital technology has put far more power in the hands of ordinary consumers to wrest music from its gatekeepers. But crashing the gates has caused the music economy to dip down between cheap and free; people are storing more music on their hard drives than they're likely to listen to in the next decade, yet major labels, music retailers and even jukebox manufacturers are spiraling toward obsolescence. Offbeat and invaluable aspects of the mass music experience are slipping away as well, from the cranky exclusivity of the niche record shop to the tastemaking role of college radio to the music press itself.

The conventional, romantic view of the history of popular music is one of pure eras and movements reaching a creative peak before being co-opted, oversold or otherwise spoiled by runaway commercialism. Ragtime enthusiasts, rockabilly fans and punk proselytizers all claim that the early days of their favorite pet sounds were the best, most revolutionary and purest. The only truly lucky genres are those nobody ever liked–at least they were able to fade away honorably. The history of the popular music industry is often told in the same way, from its quirky, tentative beginnings through its benign, if greedy, golden age, when big labels could be handmaiden to terrific music reaching the masses. The cause of the industry's demise, the story goes, was avarice: the labels prized dastardly strategies for persuading music fans to part with as much cash as possible. The result, then, is the current mess. The potential chaos of a future where music is unprotected and unsellable (that is, an unviable profit center for labels or artists) might be worrying, but it's a prospect the industry created. Kot, a music critic at the Chicago Tribune, is excited about the new ways that bands are selling their music and trying honorably not to fade away. He is pleased that digital technology allows music to live and breathe beyond the grip of the record industry, which he thinks doesn't deserve any sympathy, since its response to the digital revolution has been not bold ideas about marketing or distribution but lots of lawsuits.

Iago and the Apologetics of Evil

J8926 Over at Notre Dame Philosophical Review, Colin McGinn on Richard Raatzsch's The Apologetics of Evil: The Case of Iago:

Perhaps Iago is the only person not puzzled by Iago, and there are signs in the play that he isn't entirely clear about Iago either. We know his actions perfectly well, and he works as a dramatic figure, but we don't understand why he does what he does — we don't grasp his motivation. We observe his plot to destroy Othello by instilling jealousy (and incidentally Cassio and Desdemona) but we don't discover what motivates him to undertake such a plot — with its evil, its risk, and its extremity. Worse, we seem to apprehend that he has no motivation; he is a motivational blank tablet, ontologically not merely epistemologically. In The Apologetics of Evil Richard Raatzsch edges probingly around this void, trying his best to make sense of it: his book is astute, determined, sensitive — but not an unmitigated success. The puzzle of Iago persists.

Raatzsch is on the right track when he notes the phonetic affinity of “Iago” and “ego”: Iago is certainly egotistical, egoistic, and egocentric. He recognizes no standard beyond himself; indeed, he hardly seems to grasp the reality of other people at all, save as tools, marks and dupes — always means, never ends. Raatzsch sees the character Iago as an incarnation of what he calls the “the concept of Iago”, the idea he embodies: he is best understood as a paradigm or exemplar. But it is still unclear what concept he embodies. He seems like a pathological version of something, but of what exactly? Iago is memorable and exciting, and universally hated by audiences of Othello; we have strong feelings about him. He also seems locked in a kind of dark conceptual symbiosis with Othello — as if he is the other half of a hybrid organism. Othello is warm, ingenuous, honorable, trusting, yet fatally credulous and weak; Iago is none of those things, but cold, deceptive, manipulative, and impervious to anything but his own perverse will. We feel we understand Othello — only too well, in fact — while Iago challenges our normal ways of explaining human action. It all seems so gratuitous.

The introduction to the book can be found here.


China_flagsRobert Fogel makes the case that we’re underestimating China’s rise, in Foreign Policy:

In 2040, the Chinese economy will reach $123 trillion, or nearly three times the economic output of the entire globe in 2000. China’s per capita income will hit $85,000, more than double the forecast for the European Union, and also much higher than that of India and Japan. In other words, the average Chinese megacity dweller will be living twice as well as the average Frenchman when China goes from a poor country in 2000 to a superrich country in 2040. Although it will not have overtaken the United States in per capita wealth, according to my forecasts, China’s share of global GDP — 40 percent — will dwarf that of the United States (14 percent) and the European Union (5 percent) 30 years from now. This is what economic hegemony will look like.

Most accounts of China’s economic ascent offer little but vague or threatening generalities, and they usually grossly underestimate the extent of the rise — and how fast it’s coming. (For instance, a recent study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace predicts that by 2050, China’s economy will be just 20 percent larger than that of the United States.) Such accounts fail to fully credit the forces at work behind China’s recent success or understand how those trends will shape the future. Even China’s own economic data in some ways actually underestimate economic outputs.

It’s the same story with the relative decline of a Europe plagued by falling fertility as its era of global economic clout finally ends. Here, too, the trajectory will be more sudden and stark than most reporting suggests. Europe’s low birthrate and its muted consumerism mean its contribution to global GDP will tumble to a quarter of its current share within 30 years. At that point, the economy of the 15 earliest EU countries combined will be an eighth the size of China’s.

This is what the future will look like in a generation. It’s coming sooner than we think.

What, precisely, does China have going so right for it?

Sunday Poem

Danse Russe

If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt around my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,
Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my housedhold?

by William Carlos Williams, 1917

My Life with the Taliban

From The Telegraph:

Taliban-m_1564470f Spies, generals and ambassadors will pounce on this book, poring over its pages for clues to a way out of the Afghan morass. They will be disappointed, and perhaps dismayed as well. Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, a founder of the Taliban in 1994 and a minister during its short-lived regime, has much to say about the wars in Afghanistan and the roles he has played in them. As a teenage refugee from the Soviet invasion, he joined the mujahideen, and a few years later was fighting alongside Mullah Omar when the future Taliban leader lost an eye.

He has written a fascinating account of his own remarkable life which gives real insight into why the Taliban was formed, what motivates it, and what it is now trying to achieve. It is what he has to say about hopes of ending the current war, however, that will be of most interest to the spooks and diplomats in Kabul, Washington and London; they will have been hoping that Mullah Zaeef would point the way towards a negotiated end to the fighting. But he does not, and what he has to say suggests that ending the bloodshed could prove extremely difficult, if possible at all.

More here.

How a Lack of Control Leads to Superstition

Michael Shermer in Scientific American:

Cultivate-your-garden_1 Imagine a time in your life when you felt out of control—anything from getting lost to losing a job. Now look at the top illustration on this page. What do you see? Such a scenario was presented to subjects in a 2008 experiment by Jennifer Whitson of the University of Texas at Austin and her colleague Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University. Their study, entitled “Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception,” was published in Science.

Defining “illusory pattern perception” (what I call “patternicity”) as “the identification of a coherent and meaningful interrelationship among a set of random or unrelated stimuli … (such as the tendency to perceive false correlations, see imaginary figures, form superstitious rituals, and embrace conspiracy beliefs, among others),” the researchers’ thesis was that “when individuals are unable to gain a sense of control objectively, they will try to gain it perceptually.” As Whitson explained the psychology to me, “Feelings of control are essential for our well-being—we think clearer and make better decisions when we feel we are in control. Lacking control is highly aversive, so we instinctive­ly seek out patterns to regain control—even if those patterns are illusory.”

More here.

Whitewashing Haiti’s History

Sidney Mintz in the Boston Review:

Every medium of communication in the world is now overrun with pronouncements about Haiti. Many have been ill-informed, and a few maliciously intemperate. The extreme comments have the effect of making those that are mildly reasonable in tone seem more reliable; some, more so than they deserve. The New York Times, for instance, editorializes about Haiti’s “generations of misrule, poverty and political strife,” as if those nouns were enough to explain the history of Haiti.

HAITi%20flag Nations have beginnings, and then national histories, and the history of each is unique. I know how obvious that is. But the penchant among journalists and political scientists for creating phony categories such as “kleptocracies,” “developing nations,” and “failed states,” and then using these categories to obstruct serious talk, in this case about Haiti, immobilizes us and conceals the need to uncover the weight of local and particular history.

The New World’s second republic has indeed known political strife, bad leadership, and poverty. But to judge Haiti fairly, it is essential to remember that the country won its independence under the worst imaginable circumstances. The Haitians declared their freedom in 1804, when the New World was mostly made up of European colonies (and the United States) all busily extracting wealth from the labor of millions of slaves. This included Haiti’s neighbors, the island colonies of France, Great Britain, Denmark, and The Netherlands, among others. From the United States to Brazil, the reality of Haitian liberation shook the empire of the whip to the core. Needless to say, no liberal-minded aristocrats or other Europeans joined the rebel side in the Haitian Revolution, as some had in the American Revolution.

The inescapable truth is that “the world” never forgave Haiti for its revolution, because the slaves freed themselves.

More here.

Bed sharing ‘drains men’s brains’

From the BBC:

ScreenHunter_02 Jan. 24 09.33 When men spend the night with a bed mate their sleep is disturbed, whether they make love or not, and this impairs their mental ability the next day.

The lack of sleep also increases a man's stress hormone levels.

According to the New Scientist study, women who share a bed fare better because they sleep more deeply.

Professor Gerhard Kloesch and colleagues at the University of Vienna studied eight unmarried, childless couples in their 20s.

Each couple was asked to spend 10 nights sleeping together and 10 apart while the scientists assessed their rest patterns with questionnaires and wrist activity monitors.

The next day the couples were asked to perform simple cognitive tests and had their stress hormone levels checked.

More here. [Thanks to Kris Kotarski.]