Greenhouse proposed to replace Notre Dame roof

Liam James in The Independent:

Design submissions for the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral include a proposal for a glasshouse to be built in place of the old, wooden roof.

Parts of the original structure were destroyed in a fire earlier in April, prompting the French prime minister, Eduoard Phillipe, to invite architects to design a replacement that is “adapted to the techniques and challenges of our era”.

In response, Paris based architects Studio NAB submitted a design that is adapted to perhaps the greatest challenge of our era: climate change.

The proposed roof would be built of glass and its exterior would follow the shape of the previous one. However where there was once a tangle of wooden support beams inside, there would be rows of trees and flowers.

The spire too would be replaced with a green alternative. Inspired by the three beehives that survived the fire, the new spire would serve as an apiary, housing dozens of hives.

More here.

Rebel with many causes: Review of ‘Eric Hobsbawm — A Life in History’

Stanly Johny in The Hindu:

In early 1933, in the final days of the Weimar Republic, Eric Hobsbawm was in Berlin. He had lost his parents, and his uncle and aunt had taken him to Berlin where he joined his younger sister. As a teenaged student, Hobsbawm saw Germany falling into the hands of the Nazis. Hitler’s Brownshirts were unleashing widespread violence on the streets of Berlin. The country’s economy was in a shambles. Political instability was at its peak and the Nazi party was growing in popularity. Those were the formative years of the political Hobsbawm. “In this highly politicised atmosphere, it was perhaps hardly surprising that Eric soon became interested in the communist cause,” writes Richard J. Evans in Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History, a biography of one of the most renowned historians of the 20th century.

Evans, himself a historian, and a friend and admirer of Hobsbawm, has done extensive research, got hold of his personal files as well as the documents prepared by the British secret service on him and interviewed friends, students and family members to reconstruct the life of the historian, who was born in 1917, the year of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, and died in 2012, when the global economy was struggling to weather the heavy winds of the Great Recession.

More here.

Time to update the Nobels

Brian Keating in Aeon:

Imagine the outcry if, at the 2016 Summer Olympics, the legendary United States swim team –​ Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer and Townley Haas –​ still obliterated the competition, coming first in the men’s 4 x 200m freestyle relay, but only Haas, Lochte and Dwyer received medals, with nothing, not even a silver, for Phelps. ‘Unfair!’ you’d cry. And you’d be right.

The Nobel committee seems not to recognise how collaborative science is today; their paradigm remains the lone genius, or a duet or troika at most. Year after year, they perform their arbitrary and often cruel calculus, leaving deserving physicists shivering in the pool without any medal to show for it. Even those few modern experimentalists who have won unshared Nobel prizes owe their success to numerous collaborators – especially​ in particle physics and astronomy, which require massive data sets and large teams to analyse them. No scientist gets to Stockholm alone.

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics, which was given to Peter Higgs and François Englert for the theoretical prediction of what was later called the Higgs boson, exemplifies four key problems in the selective awarding of the prize.

More here.

‘Love Your Enemies’ urges readers to meet vitriol with decency

Terry W. Hartle in The Christian Science Monitor:

Arthur Brooks is one of the limitless number of policy analysts who toil in Washington. He stands out both because he is prolific and his work has had an impact. He has already written 10 books on a wide range of subjects, served as president of the influential center-right American Enterprise Institute, and writes a column for the Washington Post. His background sets him apart. An accomplished classical musician, he spent 12 years playing in a symphony orchestra. He worked his way through college and attended Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey – not exactly a “big name” school in the corridors of power (though he did earn a Ph.D. in public policy from the Rand Institute). On a personal level, he is deeply religious (Roman Catholic) and calls the Dalai Lama a friend and mentor.

In his latest book, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt, Brooks takes aim at the hypertoxic climate that affects our civic culture. His description of the current situation is essentially that “hyperbolic” public discourse driven by an “outrage industrial complex” has produced a culture of contempt that is tearing America apart.

He uses the word “contempt” deliberately because it is more than mere anger. A culture of contempt reflects a desire to “mock, shame, and permanently exclude [the other side] from relationships by belittling, humiliating, and ignoring” those with whom we disagree. “Contempt” says to others: “You disgust me. You are beneath caring about.” Brooks marshals an impressive amount of evidence to make his point. Not only is such behavior damaging to the public discourse, he writes, but it undermines the health of not only its practitioners but also of those on the receiving end. He cites research to suggest that humans are likely hard-wired to be decent and kind and to seek common ground. To him, the toxic political culture undermines our democracy and health and is contrary to human nature.

More here.

Darwinian existentialism: The history — and evolution — of the meaning of life

Michael Ruse in Alternet:

As the French novelist Albert Camus said, life is “absurd,” without meaning. This was not the opinion of folk in the Middle Ages.  A very nice young Christian and I have recently edited a history of atheism.  We had a devil of a job – to use a phrase – finding people to write on that period.  In the West, Christianity filled the gaps and gave life full meaning.  The claims about our Creator God and his son Jesus Christ, combined with the rituals and extended beliefs, especially about the Virgin Mary, meant that everyone’s life, to use a cliché from prince to pauper, made good sense. The promises of happiness in the eternal hereafter were cherished and appreciated by everyone and the expectations put on a godly person made for a functioning society.

Then, thanks to the three Rs, it all started to crumble. First the Renaissance, introducing people to the non-believers of the past. Even the great Plato and Aristotle had little place for a Creator God.  Then the Reformation tore into established beliefs such as the importance of the Virgin Mary. Worse, the religious schism suggested there was no one settled answer.  Finally, the (Scientific) Revolution, showed that this plant of ours, Earth, is not the center of the universe but a mere speck in the whole infinite system. This system works according to unbreakable laws – no miracles – and God became, in the words of a distinguished historian, a “retired engineer.” There was still the problem of organisms, whose intricate design surely had to mean something.  Blind law just leads to rust and decay.  And yet, organisms defy this.  If a clever technician set out to make an instrument for spotting things at great distances, the eye of the hawk is built exactly as one would predict. There had to be a reason.  As the telescope had a telescope designer, so the eye surely pointed to The Great Optician in the Sky. Along came Charles Darwin with his theory of evolution.  He showed, through his mechanism of natural selection – the survival of the fittest – how blind law could indeed explain the eye. Thanks to population pressures, there is an ongoing struggle for existence, or more importantly struggle for reproduction.   Simply, those organisms with better proto-eyes did better in this struggle, and over time there was general improvement.  The hawks with keener sighthad more babies!  They were “naturally selected.”

…That is the secret, the recipe, for a meaningful life in this Darwinian world.  First, family and the love and security that that brings.  Then society, whether it be going to school, shopping at the supermarket, or simply having a few drinks with friends, and sometimes strangers.  Third, the life of the mind. Shakespeare’s creative works are about people and their relationships – happy (Twelfth Night), sad (Romeo and Juliet), complex (Hamlet), doomed (Macbeth), triumphant (Henry V).  This is the life of meaning.  Take life for what it is.  Enjoy it to the full, realizing that the secret of true happiness is being fully human, taking from and giving to others.  And stop worrying about the future.  There may be one. There may not.  There is a now.

More here.

How to Fuck Your Neighbor

Maryse Meijer at the LARB:

For me — and, I suspect, for many others — my crush on Rogers has something to do with seeing a man play, and make-believe, and talk openly about his feelings; it’s about what it means to see a man not acting like “a man” at all. And the excitement of that — political, ethical, and, yes, sexual. What would it be like, I wonder as I watch Rogers, to fuck a man who rejects masculinity? How does Rogers, embodying this alternative, make us think about sex, about who it is safe to do it with, and how, and why, and who we become when we fuck, and what hurts when we do, and what might feel good, and what never did, and why our sex is so often marked by violence, physical or mental or emotional. The Rogers phenomenon is about what masculinity might look like if one rejects its patriarchal construction; it’s about the fear of — and intense desire for — a radical alternative.

more here.

How the Suicide Bomber Shaped the Modern Age

Peter Beaumont at The Guardian:

What Overton proposes is a sort of grand unified theory of suicide bombing, tracing a thread of bloody utopian thinking through a century or so of self-destructive murder, where the act prefigured either an idea of self-sacrifice for a greater good or reflected the religious conviction that the self continues.

“Such influences,” he writes in his prologue, “inspired the title of this book… It refers to the acceptance of death as the price of a bombing; how a suicide attack is perceived as the best way – even the only way – to defeat the enemy and usher in a new, peaceful age on earth; how a suicide attack is seen to offer the martyr access to paradise in their next life as reward for their actions”.

more here.

Sex, Art, and Misogyny

Coco Fusco at the NYRB:

Suzanne Lacy: Three Weeks in May, Los Angeles, 1977

Vivien Green Fryd’s new book, Against Our Will: Sexual Trauma in American Art Since 1970, arrives at this historical moment to offer an overview of American feminist artists’ treatment of rape. Fryd takes the first part of her title from Susan Brownmiller’s best-selling Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (1975), which called for a redefinition of rape as a political crime against women. Although some readers criticized the book for its comparisons of rape with lynching, Brownmiller’s argument that rape was an instrument of oppression against all women and that Freudian psychoanalysis had unjustly discredited women’s accounts of rape (by presuming them to be fantasies) helped to change laws relating to sex crimes. Rape shield laws were adopted in the late 1970s to prohibit the admission of evidence of or the questioning of rape complainants about their past sexual behavior.

Similarly, Fryd concentrates on feminist art that foregrounds the pervasiveness of rape, proposing that such art should be valued for its capacity to empower survivors and enhance public awareness. She focuses on how the experience of the survivor rather than the action of the perpetrator is represented in art and how it affects viewers.

more here.

The Gray Race for the White House

Edward-Isaac Dovere in The Atlantic:

“Joe Biden. He understands what’s happening today.”

The newspaper ad ran a few weeks before the 1972 Senate election in Delaware, when the upstart 29-year-old was challenging a 63-year-old incumbent. The ad, which appeared in the News Journal, Delaware’s major newspaper, happened to run under a column that described Biden’s newly combative strategy in the closing days of the race. Biden’s approach then, according to the columnist, was “in effect, ‘Dear old dad may have been right for his time—and I love him—but things are different now.’” The world was changing in the 1970s. It’s changing even more now. But the early months (at least) of the 2020 race are going to be dominated by three white men in their 70s arguing about how to make America great again: Donald Trump is turning 73 in June, Biden is 76, Bernie Sanders is 77.

Trump wants age to be an issue—he thinks it helps him. “I look at Joe, I don’t know about him. … They’re all making me look very young, both in terms of age, and in terms of energy,” he said on Friday, getting onto a helicopter on the White House lawn. “I am a young, vibrant man.”

More here.

Saturday Poem

Baseball Canto

Watching baseball, sitting in the sun, eating popcorn,
reading Ezra Pound,
and wishing that Juan Marichal would hit a hole right through the
Anglo-Saxon tradition in the first Canto
and demolish the barbarian invaders.
When the San Francisco Giants take the field
and everybody stands up for the National Anthem,
with some Irish tenor’s voice piped over the loudspeakers,
with all the players struck dead in their places
and the white umpires like Irish cops in their black suits and little
black caps pressed over their hearts,
Standing straight and still like at some funeral of a blarney bartender,
and all facing east,
as if expecting some Great White Hope or the Founding Fathers to
appear on the horizon like 1066 or 1776.
But Willie Mays appears instead,
in the bottom of the first,
and a roar goes up as he clouts the first one into the sun and takes
off, like a footrunner from Thebes.
The ball is lost in the sun and maidens wail after him
as he keeps running through the Anglo-Saxon epic.
And Tito Fuentes comes up looking like a bullfighter
in his tight pants and small pointy shoes.
And the right field bleechers go mad with Chicanos and blacks
and Brooklyn beer-drinkers,
“Tito! Sock it to him, sweet Tito!”
And sweet Tito puts his foot in the bucket
and smacks one that don’t come back at all,
and flees around the bases
like he’s escaping from the United Fruit Company.
As the gringo dollar beats out the pound.
And sweet Tito beats it out like he’s beating out usury,
not to mention fascism and anti-semitism.
And Juan Marichal comes up,
and the Chicano bleechers go loco again,
as Juan belts the first ball out of sight,
and rounds first and keeps going
and rounds second and rounds third,
and keeps going and hits paydirt
to the roars of the grungy populace.
As some nut presses the backstage panic button
for the tape-recorded National Anthem again,
to save the situation.

But it don’t stop nobody this time,
in their revolution round the loaded white bases,
in this last of the great Anglo-Saxon epics,
in the territorio libre of Baseball.

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

That Man From Stratford

Dominic Dromgoole in The New York Times:

Shakespeare’s power to endure has been ensured by twin track modes of survival: his life on the page and on the stage. His texts are pored over scrupulously by academics, read dreamily by kids and scanned with soft remembrance by the sere. At any given moment, his dramatic verse is sung, shouted, muttered and sometimes spoken with the warm assurance it needs, from hundreds of stages to thousands of eager spectators.

Two new books — “Shakespeare’s Library,” by Stuart Kells, and “What Blest Genius?,” by Andrew McConnell Stott — offer insights from each strand. Stott’s book delivers a vivacious portrait of the Stratford-upon-Avon Jubilee of 1769, organized by the actor and manager David Garrick, whose goal was to make a lot of noise for himself and in the process marmorealize Shakespeare. Kells goes on a quest through the oddly perverse world of booksellers and bibliographers, in search of Shakespeare’s own tomes. Coming from a performance rather than an academic background, I have a greater propensity for the Garrick story, but whatever your background, it’s easy to distinguish between a book to be cherished and one to be thrown across the room.

More here.

Board Games and the Meaning of History

Alex Andriesse in The Public Domain Review:

Ten thousand years ago, in the Neolithic period, before human beings began making pottery, we were playing games on flat stone boards drilled with two or more rows of holes.1 By the Early Dynastic Period in Ancient Egypt, three millennia later, board games were already represented in hieroglyphs. And on the wall of Nefertari’s tomb, built in the twelfth or thirteenth century BCE, someone painted the queen playing Senet, one of three Ancient Egyptian board games whose pieces have come down to us, along with Mehen and Hounds and Jackals.

The ancient Greeks, for their part, had Tabula, an ancestor of backgammon; the Romans added Latrones, an ancestor of chess. All across the ancient Near East, people played the Game of Twenty Squares, while in ancient China they played Liubo and in ancient India Moksha Patam, which was rechristened Snakes and Ladders when colonials imported it to Britain in the Victorian era. Wherever there has been civilization, strange to say, there have been games played on boards.

Until about the seventeenth century, these games tended to be traditional folk inventions that could not be traced back to a maker. Their boards were also relatively abstract, consisting of squares, triangles, spirals, or holes.2 With the advent of the Enlightenment and the rise of capitalism, however, the board games of Europe — like so much else on the continent — began to change.

More here.

A marine parasite’s mitochondria lack DNA but still churn out energy

Tina Hesman Saey in Science News:

One parasite that feeds on algae is so voracious that it even stole its own mitochondria’s DNA.

Mitochondria — the energy-generating parts of cells — of the parasitic plankton Amoebophyra ceratii seem to have transferred all of their DNA to the cell’s nucleus, researchers report April 24 in Science Advances. The discovery is the first time that scientists have found an oxygen-using organism with fully functional mitochondria that don’t have any mitochondrial DNA. (Some anaerobic organisms, which don’t need oxygen, and thus mitochondria, to survive, have also lost mitochondrial DNA.)

Mitochondria are thought to be bacteria that were captured by other cells and eventually became standard parts of eukaryotic cells — cells that encase their DNA and other parts in membranes. Mitochondria reside outside of the nucleus in a cell’s jellylike guts, the cytoplasm. Part of the settling-in process involved relocating some genes needed for mitochondria’s function to the nucleus of host cells. But most mitochondria kept at least a few genes. (Human mitochondria held on to 37 genes.)

Not so for A. ceratii, Uwe John of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, and colleagues discovered.

More here.

Why the U.N. chief’s silence on human rights is deeply troubling

Ken Roth in the Washington Post:

Halfway through his first five-year term, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres is becoming defined by his silence on human rights — even as serious rights abuses proliferate.

U.N. secretaries general have all struggled with when to speak out, trying to balance their role as quiet mediators of disputes with the need to represent core U.N. values. Outspoken support for rights can close some diplomatic doors but keeping quiet leaves the perception that the United Nations is indifferent to atrocities, abandoning the victims while often undermining prospects for peace. Guterres has firmly sided with quiet diplomacy.

He set the tone early in his tenure, which corresponded with President Trump’s inauguration. Guterres criticized Trump’s “Muslim ban” only after many other governments had condemned it — and then without mentioning Trump.

Guterres perhaps didn’t want to risk giving Trump an excuse to stop sending checks to the United Nations. But that reluctance to speak out has also characterized his approach to other powerful governments such as Saudi Arabia, China and Russia.

More here.

Edward Gorey’s Life as Art

Jillian Steinhauer at The Nation:

Published 18 years after his death, Born to Be Posthumous is the first full-length biography of Gorey. (His friend Alexander Theroux released a shorter, more intimate portrait, which he later expanded, in 2000.) Coming in at just over 500 pages, the book meticulously tells the story of the unconventional author and artist, who amassed an ardent following yet remains unknown to many readers. The fact that Gorey’s work is either fiercely beloved or completely unfamiliar has to do with the type of work it is: His primary output was small volumes that are reminiscent of children’s books in form but tell mostly adult tales of melancholy, mystery, and often sudden death—especially the deaths of children. “Tales” may be too strong a word in some cases, even when the contents cohere; sometimes they’re just collections of limericks or rhyming couplets of assorted words. As an adherent of literary nonsense and surrealism, Gorey was less interested in plot than tone, which he created in part through black-and-white drawings that look like prints.

more here.

Remembering Alex Brown

Rachel Kushner at Artforum:

“I’ll be wearing a blue anorak,” he said to me on the phone, so I could identify him when we met. We were more like immediate siblings than date possibilities for each other, and I repeated this line about a blue anorak to him for twenty years. He claims there was no blue anorak and what the fuck is an anorak, anyhow? But that’s what I remember. We went to see a Gerhard Richter show at Marian Goodman. I was aware that Alex’s grandfather Alexander Lippisch was a famous Luftwaffe aeronautical engineer who was recruited to White Sands Missile Range after the war. Looking at Richter’s paintings together, I immediately associated Richter’s blend of formal precision and German trauma with Alex’s. From the gallery, we walked into Central Park. We sat on a rock and Alex told me that one day, on a very similar rock, he’d been on acid with his friend the painter Alexander Ross. As they sat on this rock, tripping, they watched Alex Katz approach a Sabrett cart and buy a hot dog. Three painters named Alex: two on acid, one eating a hot dog. They left and went to Alex Brown’s place on Forsyth Street and, still tripping, walked into the scene of a dramatic drug bust.

more here.