Manifesto Destiny: Writing that demands change now

Lidija Haas in Bookforum:

MANIFESTO IS THE FORM THAT EATS AND REPEATS ITSELF. Always layered and paradoxical, it comes disguised as nakedness, directness, aggression. An artwork aspiring to be a speech act—like a threat, a promise, a joke, a spell, a dare. You can’t help but thrill to language that imagines it can get something done. You also can’t help noticing the similar demands and condemnations that ring out across the decades and the centuries—something will be swept away or conjured into being, and it must happen right this moment. While appearing to invent itself ex nihilo, the manifesto grabs whatever magpie trinkets it can find, including those that drew the eye in earlier manifestos. This is a form that asks readers to suspend their disbelief, and so like any piece of theater, it trades on its own vulnerability, invites our complicity, as if only the quality of our attention protects it from reality’s brutal puncture. A manifesto is a public declaration of intent, a laying out of the writer’s views (shared, it’s implied, by at least some vanguard “we”) on how things are and how they should be altered. Once the province of institutional authority, decrees from church or state, the manifesto later flowered as a mode of presumption and dissent. You assume the writer stands outside the halls of power (or else, occasionally, chooses to pose and speak from there). Today the US government, for example, does not issue manifestos, lest it sound both hectoring and weak. The manifesto is inherently quixotic—spoiling for a fight it’s unlikely to win, insisting on an outcome it lacks the authority to ensure.

Somewhere a manifesto is always being scrawled, but the ones that survive have usually proliferated at times of ferment and rebellion, like the pamphlets of the Diggers in seventeenth-century England, or the burst of exhortations that surrounded the French Revolution, including, most memorably, Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. The manifesto is a creature of the Enlightenment: its logic depends on ideals of sovereign reason, social progress, a universal subject on whom equal rights should (must) be bestowed.

More here.

Gun violence is surging — researchers finally have the money to ask why

Nidhi Subbaraman in Nature:

Maeve Wallace has studied maternal health in the United States for more than a decade, and a grim statistic haunts her. Five years ago, she published a study showing that being pregnant or recently having had a baby nearly doubles a woman’s risk of being killed1. More than half of the homicides she tracked, using data from 37 states, were perpetrated with a gun.

In March 2020, she saw something she hadn’t seen before: a funding opportunity from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study deaths and injuries from gun violence. She had mentioned firearms in her studies before. But knowing that the topic is politically fraught, she often tucked related terms and findings deep within her papers and proposals. This time, she says, she felt emboldened to focus on guns specifically, and to ask whether policies that restrict firearms for people convicted of domestic violence would reduce the death rate for new and expecting mothers. Male partners are the killers in nearly half of homicides involving women in the United States. “This call for proposals really motivated me to ask the research questions that I may not have otherwise asked,” says Wallace, an epidemiologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Wallace’s group is one of several dozen funded by a new pool of federal money for gun-violence research in the United States, which has more firearm-related deaths than any other wealthy nation. Although other countries fund research on guns, it is often in the context of trafficking and armed conflict. US federal funding of gun-violence research has not reflected the death toll, researchers say.

More here.

Friday Poem

Azza and I Share a Cup of Tea

We find a perfect piece of shade underneath the warm sun,
and Azza pours the tea before she speaksAzza never looks the same.
Each time you get close enough, each time you think you know her,
she reveals another surfaceIf you don’t pay attention, you might almost miss it
the way her crisp white toub falls gracefully on her shoulders,
how the gold crescent in her nose accentuates her face tenderlyAzza is timid, but captures your attention
She is not a mere stop on your destination
So, plan to stay awhile.Listen to the way she uses language to weave stories full of heart
Pay attention to how she sings songs of love
Count the scars and ask her how many battles she has foughtYou will be surprised to learn how many of them she’s won.
Sip your tea slowly and know that she will offer you a place to stay
Let her soft voice trickle into your ears, and
Let the cool breeze touch your skin

No need for formalities,
Azza has no care for them
She has no need for ceremony nor procedure

She takes big leaps, wanders on the dangerous route
She fears nothing, and is ready to risk it all
She is fearless, but never reckless
Beautiful, but never boastful
Smart, and always dreaming

She paints pictures of hopes and what-ifs
See how her eyes light up when she talks of future
Notice when she smiles
Because it does not happen often

Savor the moment,
Ask her the questions
Listen to the answers
Sip your tea slowly

by Leena Badri
from Pank Magazine 1.1-2020

Thursday, July 22, 2021

At 23, Amartya Sen finished the work for his PhD in one year and then set up an economics department

An excerpt from the Nobel Laureate’s memoir, Home in the World, at

By June 1956, at the end of my first year as a research student, I had a set of chapters that looked as if they could form a dissertation. A substantial number of economists at various universities were work­ ing then on different ways of choosing between techniques of production. Some were particularly focused on maximising the total value of the output produced, whereas others wanted to maximise the surplus that was generated, and there were also some profit maximisers.

Analysing these – and other – approaches, and taking note of the fact that a higher surplus, when reinvested, could lead to a higher rate of growth and through that to a higher output in the future, the dif­ferent criteria could be compared through assessing alternative time series of outputs and consumption.

I was sure that the unruly literature on all this could be sorted out and nicely disciplined through comparative evaluation of alternative time series, which turned out to be fun to do. I called it the “time series approach”. I was glad to be able to outline an easily discussable general methodology for the various alternative proposals that were being offered.

More here.

This could be a game changer: Malaria vaccine becomes first to achieve WHO-specified 75% efficacy goal

From Oxford University’s News & Events website:

Researchers from the University of Oxford and their partners have today reported findings from a Phase IIb trial of a candidate malaria vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, which demonstrated high-level efficacy of 77% over 12-months of follow-up.

In their findings (posted on SSRN/Preprints with The Lancet) they note that they are the first to meet the World Health Organization’s Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap goal of a vaccine with at least 75% efficacy.

The authors report (in findings in press with The Lancet) from a Phase IIb randomised, controlled, double-blind trial conducted at the Clinical Research Unit of Nanoro (CRUN) / Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé (IRSS), Burkina Faso. 450 participants, aged 5-17 months, were recruited from the catchment area of Nanoro, covering 24 villages and an approximate population of 65,000 people.

More here.

The philosophy of porn

John Maier in Prospect:

Sex and analytic philosophy are not promising bedfellows. But when it comes to feminist philosophy, it is no mere pun to say that sex is where the action is. The revival of this neglected feminist concern is principally owed to Amia Srinivasan, the 36-year-old star of Oxford philosophy and Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College. Srinivasan began her career making influential contributions to formal epistemology and shot up the academic rungs; she has since found a public audience as a critic and essayist of remarkable precision and range. In her new essay collection, The Right to Sex, Srinivasan writes about consent, pornography and the ideological shaping of desire, attempting “to remake the political critique of sex for the 21st century.” Here, the political isn’t just personal; it’s intimate.

Readers may approach the book with misgivings. With what authority does academic philosophy address itself to the sexual imagination, fantasy and our intimate lives? There are other ways that philosophy can fail us besides being false; bad philosophy—like bad sex—can be formulaic and uninspired. When it comes to our ethical lives, philosophy wins authority not just by telling the truth about things, but by making sense of them. Philosophy, beyond being true, ought to ring true. Notoriously, when the heavy artillery of analytic philosophy—reduction, abstraction and theory-building—is turned on the landscape of moral and political life, the result is usually desolating.

More here.  [Thanks to T. V.]

Spanish Sketches

Martin Tyrrell at The Dublin Review of Books:

Three ideas that are central to all Orwell’s subsequent, serious writing were formed in Spain. First, that socialism works. Second, that socialism works, but beware, for it can take an authoritarian turn. (Homage to Catalonia in part tells a similar story to Animal Farm ‑ the utopia betrayed from within when its leaders start to suit themselves.) Third, that those who betray lie brazenly, weaving an elaborate web of self-serving falsehood. “[I]n Spain,” wrote Orwell in the 1942 “Looking Back on the Spanish War”, “for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed … This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading from the world.”

more here.

Last Exit to Socialism

Slavoj Žižek at Jacobin Magazine:

So what should we do in such a predicament? We should above all avoid the common wisdom according to which the lesson of the ecological crises is that we are part of nature, not its center, so we have to change our way of life — limit our individualism, develop new solidarity, and accept our modest place among life on our planet. Or, as Judith Butler put it, “An inhabitable world for humans depends on a flourishing earth that does not have humans at its center. We oppose environmental toxins not only so that we humans can live and breathe without fear of being poisoned, but also because the water and the air must have lives that are not centered on our own.” 

But is it not that global warming and other ecological threats demand of us collective interventions into our environment which will be incredibly powerful, direct interventions into the fragile balance of forms of life? When we say that the rise of average temperature has to be kept below 2°C (35.6°F), we talk (and try to act) as general managers of life on Earth, not as a modest species. The regeneration of the earth obviously does not depend upon “our smaller and more mindful role” — it depends on our gigantic role, which is the truth beneath all the talk about our finitude and mortality.

more here.

Impressions of Colors: On William Blake’s monoprints

Joseph Viscomi in Lapham’s Quarterly:

William Blake (1757–1827) is probably best known today for “The Tyger,” one of the most anthologized poems in the English language, from Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794), one of the most celebrated collections of poems from the Romantic period. Many readers of Blake also know that Songs was one of twelve “illuminated books” that Blake wrote, illustrated, and printed between 1788 and 1795 in relief etching, a technique he invented. In addition to being a visionary poet, an exceedingly creative printmaker, and an inventor, Blake was a masterful engraver, prolific illustrator, innovative designer, and an artist of astonishing originality.

Among the most widely recognized and highly regarded works by him as an artist are his twelve color-printed drawings, or monoprints, conceived and first executed—in another medium of his own invention—in 1795. The first to point out the excellence and importance of these works was William Michael Rossetti, in his catalogue raisonné of Blake’s works, which forms part of the second volume of Alexander Gilchrist’s Life of William Blake (1863). He states: “The color-printed designs are the most complete, solid, and powerful works in color left by Blake.” W. Graham Robertson (1866–1948), a poet, painter, and collector who once owned ten of the designs, agreed, noting that “these curious works, half printed, half painted, represent Blake’s highest achievement in technique, so are they also among the mightiest of his designs.” Blake’s monoprinting process and its relation to relief etching and illuminated books are also poorly understood, its technical and historical contexts remain mostly unexamined, and the sequence and dates of designs, printings, and impressions are mostly mistaken.

More here.

Dynamic heart model mimics hemodynamic loads, advances engineered heart tissue technology

From Phys.Org:

Efforts to understand cardiac disease progression and develop therapeutic tissues that can repair the human heart are just a few areas of focus for the Feinberg research group at Carnegie Mellon University. The group’s latest dynamic model, created in partnership with collaborators in the Netherlands, mimics physiologic loads on engineering heart muscle tissues, yielding an unprecedented view of how genetics and mechanical forces contribute to heart muscle function.

“Our lab has been working for a long time on engineering and building human  muscle tissue, so we can better track how disease manifests and also, create therapeutic tissues to one day repair and replace heart damage,” explains Adam Feinberg, a professor of biomedical engineering and  and engineering. “One of the challenges is that we have to build these small pieces of heart muscle in a petri dish, and we’ve been doing that for many years. What we’ve realized is that these in-vitro systems do not accurately recreate the mechanical loading we see in the real heart due to blood pressure.”

Hemodynamic loads, or the preload (stretch on heart muscle during chamber filling) and afterload (when the heart muscle contracts), are important not only for healthy heart muscle function, but can also contribute to cardiac disease progression. Preload and afterload can lead to maladaptive changes in heart muscle, as is the case of hypertension, myocardial infarction, and cardiomyopathies.

In new research published in Science Translational Medicine, the group introduces a system comprised of engineered heart muscle tissue (EHT) that is attached to an elastic strip designed to mimic physiologic preloads and afterloads. This first-of-its-kind model shows that recreating exercise-like loading drives formation of more functional heart muscle that is better organized and generates more force each time it contracts. However, using cells from patients with certain types of heart disease, these same exercise-like loads can result in heart muscle dysfunction.

More here.

Thursday Poem


When they come to pluck me, I appear
neither girl nor boy, clam nor cock.

I have neither hooves nor snout.
But I do have claws; I can grunt and growl

and show my teeth. I do not need wings
to create a windstorm, I do not need talons

to break skin; I can snarl and scrape.
I can unhinge my jaw, to fit a head twice

the size of mine inside. I can be razor-backed
and spike-edged when he tries to skin me,

unscale my silvery back, debone my brazen
hen-hide. I will be foul-mouthed and crooked-necked.

I will be the chicken-head they know me to be,
if it will save my life. When he comes for me,

I will remember the coop, how they gathered the fowl
girl up by the feet with warm hands and cooing.

How her brown hung low when they entered her
into the guillotine and severed her head. How they

plucked her body until she was bare. I will remember
the blood and what happens when they want you as food.

by Khalisa Rae
from Pank Magazine, Issue 16


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Towards a Cultural History of the Beaver

Justin E. H. Smith in his Substack Newsletter:

Unlike talk of, say, badgers or ermine, talk of beavers seems always to be the overture to a joke. So powerful is the infection of the cloud of its strange humor that the beaver is no doubt in part to blame for the widespread habit, among certain unkind Americans, of smirking at the mere mention of Canada. Nor is it the vulgar euphemism, common in North American English and immortalized in Les Claypool’s heartfelt ode, “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” (1995), that entirely explains this animal’s peculiar symbolic scent. The crude term for a woman’s genitals, “beaver”, itself builds on a long history in which the figure of the animal is held up as a mirror and a speculum of human venery, and also of the transcendence of this condition through virtue.

For most of its history the beaver, hunted for its medicinal castoreum, was sooner associated with male testicles, and with the horrible yet paradoxically emboldening prospect of their loss. Later, it was taken up as the very model of the social animal, living in imagined New World dam communities constructed through the ingenious collaborative labor of these hominoid rodents. Beavers, the “busy” American animals, embodied the work ethic so many thought necessary for the transformation of that wild continent.

It is worth considering the extent to which these two images of the beaver —the one focused on its hind parts and their perceived virtues and vices, the other on its industry— are but two chapters of a single continuous history.

How Bell’s Theorem Proved ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’ Is Real

Ben Brubaker Quanta:

We take for granted that an event in one part of the world cannot instantly affect what happens far away. This principle, which physicists call locality, was long regarded as a bedrock assumption about the laws of physics. So when Albert Einstein and two colleagues showed in 1935 that quantum mechanics permits “spooky action at a distance,” as Einstein put it, this feature of the theory seemed highly suspect. Physicists wondered whether quantum mechanics was missing something.

Then in 1964, with the stroke of a pen, the Northern Irish physicist John Stewart Bell demoted locality from a cherished principle to a testable hypothesis. Bell proved that quantum mechanics predicted stronger statistical correlations in the outcomes of certain far-apart measurements than any local theory possibly could. In the years since, experiments have vindicated quantum mechanics again and again.

Bell’s theorem upended one of our most deeply held intuitions about physics, and prompted physicists to explore how quantum mechanics might enable tasks unimaginable in a classical world.

More here.

Why Neoliberalism Needs Neofascists

Prabhat Patnaik in the Boston Review:

It has been four decades since neoliberal globalization began to reshape the world order. During this time, its agenda has decimated labor rights, imposed rigid limits on fiscal deficits, given massive tax breaks and bailouts to big capital, sacrificed local production for multinational supply chains, and privatized public sector assets at throwaway prices.

The result today is a perverse regime defined by the free movement of capital, which moves relatively effortlessly across international borders, even as free movement of the people is ruthlessly controlled by a sharp increase in income inequality and a steady winnowing of democracy. No matter who comes to power, no matter what promises are made before elections, the same economic policies are followed. Since capital, especially finance, can leave a country en masse at extremely short notice—precipitating an acute financial crisis if its “confidence” in a country is undermined—governments are loath to upset the status quo; they pursue policies favorable to finance capital and indeed demanded by it. The sovereignty of the people, in short, is replaced by the sovereignty of global finance and the domestic corporations integrated with it.

More here.


A Call For Men To Dig Deeper

Eileen Myles at Bookforum:

So here is my ask. I want fiction by “men” in which they go into real detail about the internal mechanics of their own masculinity. I want evidence of that interiority on the page. Does it exist. All I’ve ever seen is silence or violence. I mean he’s perpetually doing it, the performance of being a man in writing, but he concomitantly refuses its existence except when there’s a glitch, meaning a woman, a queer, or an oddly behaving man. It’s like the only way a man ever talks about gender at all is by talking about them. Never talking about how it is to be a man.

That’s what I want. Before it’s over. Because I am for the abolition of gender difference. Or at least of a system that insists on two, placing one above the other. I want nothing short of the end of patriarchy. And I think you, guy, could bring it on if you would share with me your codex.

more here.