We are still working on a few things, such as getting old posts from October 2017 up until April 2018 imported into the archives; fixing some issues with images not displaying correctly in a few old posts; problems with the daily emails not showing all posts; and a couple of other smaller issues.
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NEW POSTS BELOW THIS
Michelle Tea at The Believer:
The HAGS’ primary activities—and these remained constant throughout their existence—were roaming in a protective pack around San Francisco, getting drunk, going to punk shows, and the light vandalism known as tagging, leaving your gang’s name or your own inked somewhere it shouldn’t be.
“We’d spray-paint tags all over the city,” Thomas recalls. “I remember we spray-painted this van and it turns out it was the Breeders’ and they wrote the song ‘Hag’ about it.” Indeed, the lyrics begin “Hag! Coastal cutthroat!” and a bit further down Kim Deal speak-sings, “You’re just like a woman / Hag.” In this lost country of the 1990s, the HAGS seemed to rule by an almost cosmic decree. They would climb over fences at night and hop into public swimming pools to drink beer. They were like the alluringly bad boys of my youth, only they were girls. Like The Outsiders come to life, the teenage girl who wrote them into existence now showed all the way through.
Anastasia Berg at The Point:
To read well, Roupenian avers, is to “unmask.” To peel away the “pretty words” and reveal the “actual physical experiences” that lie beneath. Keep your guard up or you might just end up getting finger-fucked by a fat old man who will call you a whore. This ethic of suspicion is a lesson that many have already internalized: the revelation of any failure, in a person or an artwork, has become sufficient to dismiss either out of hand. In the case of art, in some circles it has become the whole point of confronting it. Even Roupenian was not safe from the wrath of the sort of failing readers that Pham identifies, readers who rushed to accuse the author and her story of having an ageism, fat shaming or classism “problem.” The problem with Roupenian’s story is not however that it is too frank in its portrayal of the objects of desire of a very young woman. The problem is not even that it lies. The problem is that it encourages us to lie to ourselves.
Tobie Mathew at Literary Review:
If one were to hazard a guess as to the largest nature reserve in Europe, Chernobyl would be an unlikely contender. And yet, over the last thirty years, a vast area closed off to all but a few tenacious babushki, clinging to their contaminated homeland, has offered a haven to an extraordinary array of wildlife, from birds to wild boar. The survival and resurgence of the region’s fauna is perhaps the only good to have come out of the unrelentingly bleak story of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster; it serves as a modest form of atonement, if not for the human lives upended, then at least for the deliberate extermination of every single pet during the evacuation of nearby Pripyat.
Chernobyl was a cataclysm of such magnitude that it is hard not to view events through the prism of a modern-day disaster movie. It is no coincidence that there are two bestselling video games set in the Exclusion Zone. The basic facts, however, are as follows.
Editor’s Note: Mohammed Hanif published a review of this film in Urdu at the BBC. A translation into English by Zahra Sabri is published below with Mr. Hanif’s permission. The film is the definitive story of Abdus Salam, the first Pakistani to win the Nobel prize. It captures in vivid detail his life’s journey—from a small village in Pakistan to worldwide scientific acclaim—and his fraught relationship with his homeland, where he faced rejection for being a member of the “heretical” Ahmadiyya movement.
by Mohammed Hanif, translated by Zahra Sabri
Dr Abdus Salam had once said, “It became quite clear to me that either I must leave my country or leave physics. And with great anguish, I chose to leave my country.”
I heard these words in what is probably the first documentary film ever to be made on the life of the Nobel prize-winning Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam. The producers of the film are two young men from Pakistan, Omar Vandal and Zakir Thaver. I’ve been hearing these young men go on about Salam since some ten years. They have been labouring over the film for more than a decade.
I had suspected that these two men might lose interest in this topic similar to the way that the whole nation of Pakistan has washed their hands of Salam, having labelled him a kafir. However, their efforts have borne fruit and the film Salam: The First ***** Nobel Laureate is ready for screening.
The asterisks in the title stand in for the space where the word ‘Muslim’ should have been, but since this word has been expunged from the inscription above his grave in the town of Rabwah, the filmmakers have used asterisks to describe Salam so as to evade the possibility of a fatwa. Read more »
by Ashutosh Jogalekar
A new theory seldom comes into the world like a fully formed, beautiful infant, ready to be coddled and embraced by its parents, grandparents and relatives. Rather, most new theories make their mark kicking and screaming while their fathers and grandfathers try to disown, ignore or sometimes even hurt them before accepting them as equivalent to their own creations. Ranging from Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection to Wegener’s theory of continental drift, new ideas in science have faced scientific, political and religious resistance. There are few better examples of this jagged, haphazard, bruised birth of a new theory as the scientific renaissance that burst forth in a mountain resort during the spring of 1948.
April 2, 1948. Twenty-eight of the country’s top physicists met at the Pocono Manor Hotel near the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania. Kept apart from their first love of fundamental research in physics by the war, they were eager to regroup and rethink the problems which had plagued the heights of their profession before they were called away for war duty to Los Alamos, Cambridge and Chicago.
The listing of participants provides a rare snapshot of one of those hallowed transitions in the history of science, a passing of the torch. Both the old and the new guards were there. The old guard was represented, among others, by Niels Bohr, Paul Dirac and Eugene Wigner – the men who had formulated and then shaped the material world in its quantum mechanical image during the 1920s and 30s. The new guard was represented by Richard Feynman, John Wheeler and Julian Schwinger – the swashbuckling young theorists who wanted to take quantum theory to new heights, even if it meant challenging the old wisdom. J. Robert Oppenheimer who led the conference represented a prophet of the middle ground; a guide joining old hands with new. In retrospect, a clash of worldviews seems almost inevitable. Read more »
Derek Parfit. Untitled (Thundercloud), c1980s .
C type digital print.
More here and here.
Current show “The Mind’s Eye” at Narrative Projects, London, organized by Owen Laub with Samuel Sokolsky-Tifft. (Thanks, Sam).
by Gabrielle C. Durham
“Griselda was fighting against the patriarchy the only way she knew – through her unquenchable lust for venison.”
A romance or porn writer I am not, but what should strike you, other than the inappropriate sexualization of wild game, is the utterly superfluous preposition “against.” Why can’t Griselda simply fight the patriarchy? Why fight against? You got me, but the overprepositioning of English is driving me batty.
Why does this bother me? The short answer: Because it’s filler. Overprepositioning is the equivalent of “um, like, you know” without the obvious signposts of verbal dimness. If someone adds prepositions without regard to verbs, with no consideration of whether such appendages are required, then you are in the unsure-footed presence of a mediocre bullshitter. This is a writer who does not care about conventions such as transitive or intransitive verbs, dog-word-piling, or even the linguistic niceties that lubricate our written conventions. No, this writer is a cliché-spewing toad who only warrants pity for being ignored by a merciless editor.
If we were all native Turkish speakers, this would make so much more sense. Turkish is agglutinative, so prepositions are built into all the action. My Turkish friend who speaks English beautifully visibly falters with some predicate constructions. His tendency is to pile on the prepositions. Using prepositions feels so alien to him that he adds them scattershot to sentences. He becomes that hammer who sees every direct object as a nail. Read more »
by Max Sirak
For the better part of a year I’ve been working with a behavioral and family play therapist.
No. Not like that.
I’ve been helping her write her book. Because, it turns out, for writers undaunted by long term projects, ghostwriting is a fairly lucrative freelance option. At least, as far as keeping food on a table and a roof overhead go.
My favorite part of ghostwriting is the learning. It’s my job to absorb my client’s wisdom, gained from their years of experience, distill it, and use my words to make it fit for general consumption. The process itself all but guarantees I’ll encounter new ideas to sip, swill, and savor.
Having just finished ghostwriting a chapter on the therapeutic power of board games and averaging at least one game night a week with my friends, I’ve had games on the brain lately. And, because of it, I’ve stumbled upon some interesting connections I’d like to share. To explore them, we’ll answer three questions: Why do people play games? How does a person’s reason for playing affect the way they view other players? And finally, what traits and behaviors are being nurtured by the way a person plays? Read more »
Karl Marx Ignites the Millennials
after Mohammad Iqbal
Ah! Come! How can you not be roused! You are nothing but you are everything.
Recharge your IPhones. From each according to his feed to each according to his need. In
times of global deceit tweeting the truth puts you in the driver seat. Road to hell is paved
with fake tweets. Take a knee. Raise a fist. Do it twice: First as history, then as tragedy.
Ask the drones of democracy, Masters of Business Administration, what else is there in
their dens of depravity besides electronic hallucinations, market rallies, blow-dried heads
squawking, mad money spiritualists, Ponzi schemers, daybreak business briefs, nighttime
rundowns, snorting bulls, bashful bears, quarterly yearnings, a spill of crooked graphs?
Women on the March, place a halo back on family values. Disrupt patriarchies that claim
your wombs as mere tombs of production. Ban gunrunners who hawk capitalism past its
sell-by date. Exorcise temples, churches, and mosques for religion is the pox of the poor
hurting for pride. Abolish Wall Street. You have nothing to lose. Unite! Inspire! Reignite!
by Rafiq Kathwari / @brownpundit
by Christopher Bacas
We make unplanned pilgrimages; a friend, job or tragedy send us barefoot around sacred mountains. Eyes fixed on the path, we’re prevented from losing our way by loyalty, diligence or grief. Anyone we pass is possibly the most important person we will ever (not) meet.
A job: play half-hour concerts; moving from unit to unit in an eleven-story Upper West Side building. Our private audiences, home-bound seniors. We are a saxophone/bass duo. My partner, Joshua, sings in English and Spanish. Our employers provide a list with names, apartment numbers and an emergency contact.
On the ninth floor, our first stop, a caretaker slowly opens the door. A vector of heat escapes around her into the drafty hall.
We announce our sponsor’s name. She doesn’t recognize it. Voices inside call out, ricocheting off a bare floor. She opens the door all the way. In the center of the room, behind a walker, Nayeli slumps into a kitchen chair. Swollen with disuse, her feet rest on a fresh, spread out Depends. In the corner, her husband, Tolentino, in a jacket and spiffy sneakers, sits on the edge of a plush armchair, knees tight. He gets up to shake my hand. Then, I lean in to shake his wife’s.
I pull my horn out of the case, assemble it and get ready to play. With upturned eyes, the couple appraise our instruments as if they were caged snakes. A brief cloudburst follows; small sounds musicians make before playing: soft descending notes in whooshing funnels, rattles and clicks. Then, silence, awkward and centripetal, whirling us into the present. We look at them. Read more »
Rachel Wiseman in The Point:
In 1964, when Joseph Brodsky was 24, he was brought to trial for “social parasitism.” In the view of the state, the young poet was a freeloader. His employment history was spotty at best: he was out of work for six months after losing his first factory job, and then for another four months after returning from a geological expedition. (Being a writer didn’t count as a job, and certainly not if you’d hardly published anything.) In response to the charge, Brodsky leveled a straightforward defense: he’d been thinking about stuff, and writing. But there was a new order to build, and if you weren’t actively contributing to society you were screwing it up.
Over the course of the trial he stated his case repeatedly, insistently, with a guilelessness that annoyed the officials:
BRODSKY: I did work during the intervals. I did just what I am doing now. I wrote poems.
JUDGE: That is, you wrote your so-called poems? What was the purpose of your changing your place of work so often?
BRODSKY: I began working when I was fifteen. I found it all interesting. I changed work because I wanted to learn as much as possible about life and about people.
JUDGE: How were you useful to the motherland?
BRODSKY: I wrote poems. That’s my work. I’m convinced … I believe that what I’ve written will be of use to people not only now, but also to future generations.
A VOICE FROM THE PUBLIC: Listen to that! What an imagination!
ANOTHER VOICE: He’s a poet. He has to think like that.
JUDGE: That is, you think that your so-called poems are of use to people?
BRODSKY: Why do you say my poems are “so-called” poems?
JUDGE: We refer to your poems as “so-called” because we have no other impression of them.
Brodsky and the judge were (to put it mildly) talking past one another: Brodsky felt his calling had a value beyond political expediency, while the judge was tasked with reminding him that the state needn’t subsidize his hobby if he wasn’t going to say anything useful. But the incommensurability of these points of view runs much deeper than this one case.
Dana G. Smith in Scientific American:
The older you get the more difficult it is to learn to speak French like a Parisian. But no one knows exactly what the cutoff point is—at what age it becomes harder, for instance, to pick up noun-verb agreements in a new language. In one of the largest linguistics studies ever conducted—a viral internet survey that drew two thirds of a million respondents—researchers from three Boston-based universities showed children are proficient at learning a second language up until the age of 18, roughly 10 years later than earlier estimates. But the study also showed that it is best to start by age 10 if you want to achieve the grammatical fluency of a native speaker.
To parse this problem, the research team, which included psychologist Steven Pinker, collected data on a person’s current age, language proficiency and time studying English. The investigators calculated they needed more than half a million people to make a fair estimate of when the “critical period” for achieving the highest levels of grammatical fluency ends. So they turned to the world’s greatest experimental subject pool: the internet.
Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times:
I think I know what it feels like to be “red-pilled,” the alt-right’s preferred metaphor for losing one’s faith in received assumptions and turning toward ideas that once seemed dangerous.
For me, it happened over several visits to the West Bank. I’d inherited, without really thinking about it, a set of default liberal Zionist beliefs about Israel as the good guy in its confrontation with the Palestinians, whose hostility I understood to be atavistic and irrational. This view collapsed the first time I walked down Shuhada Street in Hebron, in a part of the city where more than 30,000 Palestinians live under Israeli military control for the benefit of 1,000 or so Israeli settlers. Palestinians whose homes are on Shuhada Street aren’t allowed to walk out their own front doors, because the street, constantly patrolled by Israeli troops, is reserved for Jews.
Going there, I felt a transformation not unlike the one my colleague Bari Weiss described in her recent article on what’s been called the “Intellectual Dark Web,” a group of iconoclastic thinkers, many on the right, joined together by their confrontations with, and rejections of, social justice ideology. “The metaphors for this experience vary: going through the phantom tollbooth; deviating from the narrative; falling into the rabbit hole,” wrote Weiss. “But almost everyone can point to a particular episode where they came in as one thing and emerged as something quite different.”
For my own part, I didn’t emerge an anti-Zionist, exactly, but anti-Zionist arguments I’d previously dismissed began to make sense.
Colin Nissan in The New Yorker:
The Writer exists in two worlds: the world he’s creating and the world in which he wears the same shirt a lot. The Writer successfully holds each world responsible for his failings in the other, a Ping-Ponging of accountability that frees him to wake up around elevenish.
The Writer feels uneasy referring to himself as a writer in the presence of others. He struggles to shake the sense that he’s an imposter and that at any moment someone’s going to ask him what an adverb is.
The Writer has a small group of confidantes with whom he feels comfortable sharing his drafts. He relies on their honest feedback, and in exchange he gives their e-mails the finger.
The Writer refuses to allow criticism of his writing to sow doubt in other aspects of his life. He has other critics who specifically handle that stuff.
The Writer avoids distraction by disabling his Internet connection before he sits down to write. As a reward for this sacrifice, he allocates special Internet time for himself every three to five minutes.
James Hamblin in The Atlantic:
This is a time of much division. Families and communities are splintered by polarizing narratives. Outrage surrounds geopolitical discourse—so much so that anxiety often becomes a sort of white noise, making it increasingly difficult to trigger intense, acute anger. The effect can be desensitizing, like driving 60 miles per hour and losing hold of the reality that a minor error could result in instant death.
One thing that apparently still has the power to infuriate people, though, is how many spaces should be used after a period at the end of an English sentence.
The war is alive again of late because a study that came out this month from Skidmore College. The study is, somehow, the first to look specifically at this question. It is titled: “Are Two Spaces Better Than One? The Effect of Spacing Following Periods and Commas During Reading.”
It appears in the current issue of the journal Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics. As best I can tell, psychophysics is a word; the Rochester Institute of Technology defines it as the “study of the relationship between stimuli (specified in physical terms) and the sensations and perceptions evoked by these stimuli.” The researchers are also real. Rebecca Johnson, an associate professor in Skidmore’s department of psychology, led the team. Her expertise is in the cognitive processes underlying reading. As Johnson told me, “Our data suggest that all readers benefit from having two spaces after periods.”