Tuesday, May 31, 2016
I have come to talk to you about the future. The future of the novel, I suppose, though possibly just the future of this speech. I’m going to describe to you the future as for years I imagined it would be. Put yourselves in 1948, the year I was born, on the August afternoon when music stations in Maryland began to play the sounds of a strange, all but noiseless disc, soon spreading all along the East Coast, leaving a trail of perplexity in anyone who happened to hear them. What was it? Nothing of the kind had ever been heard before, so it still didn’t have a name, but it was—we now know—the first Rock n’ Roll song in history. Whoever heard it was suddenly pitched into the future. The music of that disc seemed to come from the ether and to literally float on the airwaves of Maryland. This, ladies and gentlemen, was the arrival of Rock n’ Roll, and it came with the deep unhurriedness of that which is truly unexpected. The song was called It’s Too Soon to Know, and it was the first recording by The Orioles, five musicians from Baltimore. It sounded strange—which isn’t so strange, bearing in mind that it was the first sign that something was changing.
What thoughts might have crossed the mind of the first person who, hearing Radio Maryland that morning, comprehended that it was the start of a new era? It’s so, went the song, in the halting whispered delivery of singer Sonny Til, it’s too soon, way too soon to know.
I have come to talk to you about the future, which was for years something I thought of as arriving in the same way that Rock music arrived in the year I was born, with the deep unhurriedness of that which is truly unexpected.
How strange the whirligigs of time are when it comes to literature. It’s only a few decades, a second in the eye of eternity, since Julian Barnes and his then friend and ally Martin Amis represented the new British writing. I remember Barnes saying to me back in the days when I published him in Scripsi and celebrated him when I could – or should – in the literary pages, ‘I think my work and Martin Amis’s both benefited from the fact that the dominant mode of British fiction ceased to be social realism with a comic twist.’
That was in the early nineties when Smarty Anus (as he has long been called) was looking like a behemoth of Dickensian novelistic invention. In books such as London Fields, sordor, sorrow, squalor and sex were all wrapped in the silk (sometimes the cellophane) of Amis’s prose. That prose appeared back then, more than any British prose before it, as something like a lassoing larrikin idiom, prose that could give the Americans at their wildest and most idiolectally inspired a run for their money.
But of course, there had always been another voice in the new British writing — Julian Barnes. It was clear then, and remains so now, that the unassailable masterpiece of the period was Barnes’ shortish novel Flaubert’s Parrot (1984). This strange story of obsession, which distilled the essence of the author ofMadame Bovary via Barnes’ transfiguration of Steegmuller translating the Master, is the work that stands in relation to Amis not only at his grandest but also his most loose and baggy the way Jeffrey Eugenides’ Virgin Suicideswould stand to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest a few years later.
The Waste Land was one of Francis Bacon’s favourite poems. A phrase from section 2, “A Game of Chess”, exactly epitomises Study of the Human Body (1982): “And other withered stumps of time/Were told upon the walls”. This closing picture, one of 29 paintings on show at Tate Liverpool, depicts a body part, a gross truncation, bereft of torso and head. Topped by its bottom, it is a rump, a sturdy circumcised cock in a haze of pubic hair, and white-booted legs, advancing towards the viewer, clad in cricket pads. We are advised that David Gower, the England batsman, was an inspiration, but I wonder if Eliot’s word “stumps” didn’t also play its part, consciously or sub-consciously, as a verbal trigger.
The whole of Bacon’s masochistic homosexuality is encapsulated in this painting. Most of the indispensable parts are there – the penis, the buttocks, the anus – though the mouth is absent, presumably too tender for the ideal rough encounter. In fact, a mouth-part is there, displaced, but not the lips and tongue. You can see a row of teeth in the right cricket pad where, just below the knee, the white protective ridges have been summarily and severely pruned.
Programmed cell death (a.k.a. apoptosis) is a natural process that removes unwanted cells from the body. Failure of apoptosis can allow cancer cells to grow unchecked or immune cells to inappropriately attack the body. The protein known as Bak is central to apoptosis. In healthy cells, Bak sits in an inert state but when a cell receives a signal to die, Bak transforms into a killer protein that destroys the cell.Institute researchers Sweta Iyer, PhD, Ruth Kluck, PhD, and colleagues unexpectedly discovered that an antibody they had produced to study Bak actually bound to the Bak protein and triggered its activation. They hope to use this discovery to develop drugs that promote cell death.
The researchers used information about Bak’s three-dimensional structure to find out precisely how the antibody activated Bak. “It is well known that Bak can be activated by a class of proteins called ‘BH3-only proteins’ that bind to a groove on Bak. We were surprised to find that despite our antibody binding to a completely different site on Bak, it could still trigger activation,” Kluck said. “The advantage of our antibody is that it can’t be ‘mopped up’ and neutralized by pro-survival proteins in the cell, potentially reducing the chance of drug resistance occurring.”
Monday, May 30, 2016
by Dave Maier
If you ever meet a guy who tells you that he is a skeptic, most likely he means that he doesn’t believe in angels or fairies or anything “metaphysical”. Maybe he is a member of CSICOP (the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, publishers of Skeptical Inquirer magazine). We should, he will tell you, examine the evidence carefully before committing to anything, and be neither gullible nor dogmatic. But of course he himself believes plenty of things, and one person’s skeptic is another’s denialist. What, after all, is “intelligent design” if not skepticism about the biological theory of evolution, and climate change “denialism” if not skepticism about climate science? In all such cases the objector accuses his opponents of epistemological dirty pool and demands that the matter be instead illuminated by the sweet light of reason, as manifested (naturally) in his own views and the ironclad evidence for same.
Such battles about which particular things to believe do not concern the philosopher, who has bigger, more theoretical fish to fry. But these fish can smell pretty fishy to those primarily concerned to beat back the dark forces of dogma and superstition (or “metaphysics”). Perhaps they should be left out for the cat.
Not long ago, for example, Bill Nye the Science Guy opined on the value of philosophy. He was not impressed. One of his gripes was that philosophers spill lots of ink on pointless questions such as whether there’s really a real world out there, or whether instead we might all be in the Matrix, maaaan [*bong hit*]. There is much indefensible stupidity and ignorance packed into Nye’s short remarks, and it is not our task today is to air it out, but I did want to say a few things about the very idea of philosophical skepticism.
As it is presented in popular works and (sometimes) in Phil 101, the skeptical question is indeed given in just this form: how do we know anything at all about what’s “out there”? Most of the time we think we know all kinds of things, but here comes the skeptic to burst our bubble, and put everything we thought we knew into question. Maybe we all (or just you) are simply dreaming! Maybe we don’t know anything at all! And yet of course we do, for that way madness lies; so the whole thing looks like a perverse, logic-chopping sideshow. Why should we care about such nonsense?
by Michael Liss
It is time for navel-gazing here in the US.
We are about to have an election in which the two likely nominees have managed to alienate the electorate to an unprecedented degree. It has led to a surreal atmosphere. Hillary Clinton slogs on with a message that brings to mind the appeal of an appointment with a dental hygienist—it won’t be the highlight of your day, but it’s the healthy choice. Donald Trump has managed to do something quite brilliant—he has identified his target audience, taken disgust with dysfunction, mixed it with a shot of anger, and distilled it into one easily digestible slogan: “Make America Great Again.”
It is a genius-level move by a master salesman. With those few words, Trump seizes for himself and his supporters a core identity as the true heirs of a legacy of American preeminence. Like a classic old building, American greatness is still here—it’s just covered under layers of accumulated grime. With the right man in charge, someone of vigor and boldness, we can sandblast it all away and have a palace—even a cathedral—that celebrates. As we once were, so shall we be again.
But who were we? To what are we returning? That’s a fascinating question, because to own something, you need to be able to define it. And history lacks the clarity of a mathematical proof or a replicable scientific experiment. To paraphrase an interesting point Mary Beard makes in SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, the historian engages in a work of reconstruction which, by definition, is self-limiting. When the written word is absent or suspect, you learn about things by piecing together inference and fact, as if you were reassembling a broken amphora. You can scientifically analyze the contents, you can date the time it was fired, you can make assumptions about the economic and social standing of the owner and the community he lived in, but, in the end, what you have in front of you is likely the remains of an attractive, once useful, pot. A pot—not an unimpeachable set of facts about the nature of the people who used it.
Pakistan is digging trenches —graves for people who have not yet died
as the country prepares for another record-breaking heat wave. Scientists
place the blame for rising temperatures squarely on climate change.
............................................................. —IndiaTimes, May 23, 2016
spades trace dolorous arcs in dry air
making long scars for many corpses.
sharp bell-like clangs of steel on stone
echo from the depths of this new scar.
the swoosh of pick-heads through air
end in thuds as their pikes take bites.
men sling dry earth over shoulders.
they lean into their work.
they heave the earth upon itself
raising mountains of waist-high ranges
that parallel the long straight wound they carve.
these sweating ghosts-to-be
who may soon be thrown as well
into the coarse cut of their work,
a ditch that will soon be healed, forgotten, lost
when the undulating range piled by gravediggers
is thrown back in to bury hearts that break,
covering myriad sins: myopia,
misanthropy, masochism, mistake,
this ditch where now-breathing, sweating,
living, loving dead will go—
we’re so good to ourselves, so profligate
we‘ll waste even our own last breath,
we'll make a place for it in a hewn slash,
bury it in our blue mother’s flesh,
the one we have not wisely loved
but sold for cash instead
by Jim Culleny
by Humera Afridi
Mere steps from Castle Clinton in Battery Park, on the southern tip of Manhattan, stands a striking bronze sculpture titled, The Immigrants. Created in 1973 by the Spanish sculptor Luis Sanguino, it portrays a group of individuals who have undertaken an arduous voyage. Their gripping expressions and postures tell a story of endurance—borne with patience and prayer; kindled by hope for a life of dignity, free of fear, whose nimbus-like promise will surely unfurl in this new world where they have disembarked.
Amid the deep-green lawns, beds of blooming tulips, and the sunny melodies of street jazz, the bronze figures beckoned. I spotted them on my lunch break, a fortnight or so before Memorial Day. Their raw emotions and the naked display of the human spirit expressed in all its earnestness caught me by surprise. Here in plain sight was a visual testimony to the search for sanctuary—a struggle that is painfully alive in a world beset by wars, but also, immediate and close to home, visceral in the lives of many thousands of immigrants in America who having found refuge here, nevertheless, now tragically live in fear of being deported and separated from their families.
A figure kneels, bare-chested with head thrown back, arms spread wide, broken chain-links dangling from fingers; another clasps both hands in fervent prayer, gaze directed heavenward. Disconcertingly candid and telling is the stance of one at the front of the line, who crouches, with a hand outstretched—surely symbolic of the labor of immigrants, and former slaves, upon whose foundation this nation is built. In the middle of the group stands a robed male of dignified bearing, arm held across his breast in a gesture of allegiance? of self-determination?
The Banality Of Neoliberalism (As Exemplified By The Clintons) And Why Americans Never Saw Its Evil (Until Occupy, Bernie Sanders And Donald Trump Alerted Us)
If it hadn't been for the disaster that was George W. Bush, the worst president of our time would be that arch-neoliberal serial philanderer Bill Clinton.
Clinton was almost as crappy an a-hole as W.
George W killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi women and children in a monstrous war crime. Bill Clinton merely made the lives of millions of Americans utterly miserable.
1. How Bad Was Bill Clinton?
Breath in the stench from the pile of crap that Slick Willy stuffed up our nostrils.
He destroyed thousands of good American jobs by exporting them with NAFTA.
He created the 2008 Wall Street crash and the Great Recession when he signed the two laws that repealed Glass-Steagall and removed financial derivatives from all oversight — the two worst laws signed by any president ever.
Internationally, he refused to intervene in Rwanda, and allowed 800,000 Tutsis to be brutally genocided.
He exploded the size of our Black and Latino prison population with his harsh 1994 crime bill and the building of many privatized prisons.
He doubled the number of our poor with his welfare reforms (today 47 million Americans live in poverty, and over 20% of our kids are poor, a higher rate than any other developed nation).
Clinton's presidency left Americans jailed, poorer, and brutally screwed in every sensitive orifice. He forced many of us to eat an eternal shit sandwich, a record of destruction topped by George W. only because W committed the satanic war crime of the Iraq War.
I was recently reading a book by the dreadful Robert Kaplan on the topic of China and the South China Sea, in which the author suggested that Chinese culture exists in one of its purest forms in Malaysia. He argued that only in the overseas Chinese communities that have continuously existed scattered around the Pacific Rim has Chinese civilization survived, uninfected by the tumultuous events of the Communist Revolution. Similarly, I have a friend who is a political philosopher and expert in Chinese philosophy who believes that it is in Japan and Korea where one can most easily find the artifacts of the Chinese civilization--specifically Confucian philosophy. Japan is, after all, a place where a lot of cultural practices and material culture from China have been preserved. And not just China, for much Silk Road artifacts are preserved in Japan as well, for the country has long stood as a kind of terminus, lying at the end of the line in East Asia.
And speaking of Confucianism and the Communist Revolution, have you ever wondered why Confucian philosophy has such a bad name in the West? Largely unknown--except in its fortune-cookie format-- if it is recognized at all, the tradition is rarely fully appreciated. This is partly because of its association with patriarchy and elitism-- and this bad wrap is something that was invented by the Chinese communists, who strongly discouraged Confucian thinking as being counter-productive to the egalitarian ideals of the revolution. (They were especially worried by its patriarchal stance toward women).
Personally, I've always thought this to be a shame as Chinese philosophy happens to be one of the world's oldest existing philosophies; one which has arguably impacted more human lives than any other philosophy-- past or present. It stands as one of the world's greatest philosophical traditions, and it is also my own personal belief that Chinese philosophy--in particular Confucian philosophy-- that more than any other tradition is most compelling for what it tells us about the Good Life.
Sughra Raza. Scaffolding. April, 2016.
by Evan Edwards
I have a copy of Franz Wright's Walking to Martha’s Vineyard on my bedside table. It has been there since my son was born last year. I’ve been trying to educate myself on contemporary poets for more than a year now. Wright was the one who happened to stick the most readily. I want my son to know about poetry; good, modern poetry that speaks to the vibrancy of the present. Of course, we’ll always read the classics, but I want him to also get an education in the words of those who aren’t yet dead, who are living and here and maybe coming to speak somewhere nearby at some point so that we can go together to hear a great poet speak in person and then walk out of the lecture hall feeling the brief surge of ecstasy you feel when you experience something extraordinary. Maybe it’s my obstinacy that drew me to him, or maybe it’s just the way that irony works, because of course Franz Wright is dead.
I first encountered Wright through the blog of a poet I met when I lived in Indianapolis. In the interview he gave, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the way he spoke about his recent economic troubles. The way he hadn’t been invited to speak or teach or fraternize (to be part of the brother/sisterhood of poets) since he’d made some admittedly snide and vicious remarks about MFA programs. How he was struggling with cancer. How he didn’t have the means to keep up the struggle for much longer. He was in remission, and had a tenuous relationship with hope. The cancer would, eventually, come back and then end his life in May of last year.
The word remission comes up one time in the interview, in the context of saying that he’s posted on Facebook saying that he is in the state of remission, and that he can give talks and readings, if anyone wants to get in touch with him. There was something very tender and heartbreaking in that statement. Here is one of the greatest living poets, recipient of a fucking Pulitzer Prize in poetry, Guggenheim fellow, son of poetry royalty, subtlest and most brutal portrayer of spiritual suffering, reaching out for work through his personal social media page. The desperation of that. It seemed hauntingly appropriate to speak of remission in that moment.
by Ryan Ruby
This month, two minor controversies revived the specter of the "language wars" and reintroduced the literary internet to the distinction between prescriptivism and descriptivism. One began when Han Kang's novel The Vegetarian won the Man Booker Prize and readers took to their search engines en masse to look up the word "Kafkaesque," which had been used by the book's publishers and reviewers to describe it. Remarking upon the trend, Merriam-Webster noted sourly: "some argue that ‘Kafkaesque' is so overused that it's begun to lose its meaning." A few weeks before, Slate's Laura Miller had lodged a similar complaint about the abuse of the word "allegory." "An entire literary tradition is being forgotten," she warned, "because writers use the term allegory to mean, like, whatever they want."
When it comes to semantics, prescriptivists insist that precise rules ought to govern linguistic usage. Without such rules there would be no criteria by which to judge whether a word was being used correctly or incorrectly, and thus no way to fix its meaning. Descriptivists, by contrast, argue that a quick glance at the history of any natural language will show that, whether we like it or not, words are vague and usage changes over time. The meaning of a word is whatever a community of language users understands it to mean at any given moment. In both of the above cases, Merriam-Webster and Miller were flying the flag of prescriptivism, protesting the kind of semantic drift that results from the indiscriminate, over-frequent usages of a word, a drift that has no doubt been exacerbated thanks to the internet itself, which has increased the recorded usages of words and accelerated their circulation.
My paternal grandfather, Axel Benzon, was a Dane. He and his wife, Louise, immigrated to America early in the 20th Century. He was trained as an engineer, was educated in the classics, and took up photography and woodcarving. He ended his professional career as chief engineer of the main U.S. Post Office in Manhattan.
He kept a diary, the pages of which are generically entitled: “Leaves from my diary.” It’s not handwritten, kept in one of those blank books one can buy at a stationary store. It’s typed on ordinary 8.5 by 11 paper. I’ve got a photocopy of much or most of it, but, judging by his index, not all.
In commemoration of this Memorial Day, May 31, 2016, I would like to share some passages from his diary, passages written just before the United States was drawn into the war. As you read these passages keep in mind that you are reading the reflections of a well-educated middle-class European who had immigrated to the United States.
by Brooks Riley
—because despite being enlightened, civilized, advanced, and free, we are trapped—
by Paul North
In the 1930s a Hungarian psychiatrist, Leopold Szondi, began to think that families predetermine the lives of their members, before he was deported to Bergen-Belsen because his family was Jewish. Through a special negotiation he and other intellectuals were released and sent into exile. Szondi settled in Switzerland, where he worked the rest of his long life on tests and treatments for Genotropism, the name he gave to this curse on families. Members of a family share, he thought, a narrow set of psychological tendencies that are transmitted across generations. Who you choose as a life partner, what kind of career you end up practicing, even how much money you make are all determined up to a point by a ‘familial unconscious.'
The familial unconscious contains drives and needs specific to the family and gives them their desires, their limits, their fate. Now, although Szondi wanted to release individuals from the family's unconscious predeterminations, and he invented a therapy to do so, the principle that underpinned his therapy was itself a fateful idea. Instead of staying limited by family traits, he wanted you to learn that: "Wahl macht Schicksal" — "Choice makes fate." With this principle, Szondi hoped to break through the walls of his patients' familial unconscious. What if he succeeded? Well, through this principle he also locked patients into a new idea of destiny. Fate may not pre-determine you, but it does determine you. The way it determines you now is not necessarily better, only different. Now your fate happens to you choice by choice.
Let us imagine that there is a history for the idea of fate. It is a fiction or a semi-fiction, but that doesn't matter. It will help us to see a pattern. The first stage of the history is ancient, even archaic. We see Greek and Roman worry about fate all over epic poetry and stoic philosophy. In monotheisms, however, and especially in Christianity, fate takes a back seat to a different kind of story, where what happens at the end of time cannot be pre-judged by humans. At the end of all things, whether it comes as a last judgment or a gift of grace, a human-looking God will be there, making all the final decisions.
The philosophical essayist Odo Marquard, who first sketched out this historical tale about fate—the fate of fate, he called it—was right: the weightiest things in life, which used to be completely out of our hands (threads were held by "the fates," judgments were made by God) at some point were put directly into our hands. After the great monotheisms (this is fiction too: we know they have not ended), everything, Marquard wrote in 1981, comes to be seen as made by human beings, including the highest things, like God, history, and truth. He notes that the expansive new human power of making did not actually put an end to the fate idea. Just because we began to think of ourselves as in charge, as making all things, including our own history, our ideas and ideals, this did not mean that we were free—on the contrary.
by Matt McKenna
Angry Birds is one of those generic children’s films that incorporates already popular intellectual property to mitigate the risk of losing money. The logic is that kids might skip a boring film about madcap animated animals, but if these madcap animated animals are the same ones with whom the children already have an established connection through video games, toys, and school supplies, the terribleness of the film won’t impact revenue. It works too: Angry Birds, a movie based on a smartphone video game franchise, has already made $164 million at the box office worldwide. I don’t mean this as a knock on children’s taste in films--the same risk reduction strategy applies to grown-up films as well. I bring up the Angry Birds intellectual property only because the “angry” in Angry Birds reflects the “angry” in America’s current political zeitgeist. So while children aren’t allowed to vote in the upcoming 2016 election, Hollywood is still able to provide them with an alternative entertainment option that promotes anger as the most responsible reaction to current events.
Angry Birds’ protagonist is Red, a bird who isolates himself from his community by being a pugnacious jerk. While the other adult birds are nauseatingly nice, Red is sociopathic: in one of his first scenes, Red assaults a father and smashes the father’s egg to cause a premature birth of the bird within (the baby bird survives, thank goodness). Of course, Red’s nasty disposition is eventually validated when the island is invaded by deceitful pigs who claim to be friendly but wind up stealing the birds’ eggs. Because Red had previously warned his fellow birds that the visitors were up to no good, he is subsequently chosen to lead these once wimpy flock to battle against the duplicitous pigs. By the end, Red defeats the pigs, saves the stolen eggs, and the birds who used to look down on Red now sing songs about how angry and valiant he is.
If Angry Birds wasn't so boring, it's horrifying moral would be the the film’s primary attribute. Reinforcing the current “you're either with us or against us” political climate in America, Angry Birds’ moral hinges on the idea that kindness is for the weak, and aggression is the only way to avoid looking like a sap.
by Akim Reinhardt
Hotter. I need it to be hotter.
I'm sitting in the backyard of my sister's carriage house apartment in Orange, California, a circle of jolly boutique and micro brew quaintness amid the sprawling shit hole that is Orange Country.
Of course nowadays, most any place in America afflicted by people is a shit hole. Indeed, even a quotient of the unpopulated spaces is beginning to emit a fecal stench, as if the human foulness emanating from the peopled portions of our nation is so strong as to waft and stain everything around it, like a halo of shimmering, homo sapiens stank.
I want it to be hotter.
After all, there are no more distinct places in the United States, or precious few at any rate. Instead, there are just types. The urban playground loaded with bars and restaurants, and kickball and skeeball leagues for childless 20- and 30-somethings; the poor and working class black and brown food deserts that gird the yuppies and empty nesters; the little towns hemorrhaging people, stragglers holding onto the local bar like shipwreck survivors grasping a buoy in the ocean; the increasingly opulent college towns full of precious students, microcosmic training yards for the urban playgrounds; the tourist spots offering up overpriced drinks and glossy nostalgia; all of it bound together by highways, those endless concourses of fast food, gasoline, and the occasional pile of roadkill.
But all of those types are just islands scattered about the uber-type, that oceanic wasteland of suburbia and its relentless waves of roads, strip malls, and tract housing, repeating itself over and over again like the backdrop of a cheap 1970s cartoon where a boring bipedal cat, arms outstretched, chases a smarmy little mouse who's certainly got it coming, but predictably manages to perpetually escape the fanged horror it deserves, thus prolonging the crankshaft repetition of house tree fence; house tree fence; house tree fence . . .
And all of it, every last bit of it, shot through with shitty chain outlets. Your uppers, your downers, your food in wrappers and boxes, your slave labor clothing, your mega stores, your tech shacks, and your money huts, all of them speckling the landscape like aggressive tumors mindlessly devouring their host.
No more places. Just types.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Charles Yu in The New Yorker:
The man lived in a one-bedroom efficiency cottage all by himself, in a sort of dicey part of town. One day, the man woke up and realized that this was pretty much it for him. It wasn’t terrible. But it wasn’t great, either. And not likely to improve. The man was smart enough to realize this, yet not quite smart enough to do anything about it. He lived out the rest of his days and eventually died. The end. Happy now?
The man could see that his therapist was not amused.
A rather unsatisfactory ending, the therapist opined, and suggested that the man could do better. The man thought, Is she really serious about this? But he didn’t say anything out loud. The man was not convinced that he needed to be talking to the therapist at all, but he had tried so many other things (potions, spells, witches), and spent so much of his copper and silver, with absolutely nothing to show for it, that he figured why the hell not.
So how do I do this? he asked.
Why don’t you start again? the therapist replied. And, instead of rushing to the end, try to focus on the details.
O.K., the man said.
Ed Yong in The Atlantic:
The cave sits in France’s scenic Aveyron Valley, but its entrance had long been sealed by an ancient rockslide. Kowalsczewski’s father had detected faint wisps of air emerging from the scree, and the boy spent three years clearing away the rubble. He eventually dug out a tight, thirty-meter-long passage that the thinnest members of the local caving club could squeeze through. They found themselves in a large, roomy corridor. There were animal bones and signs of bear activity, but nothing recent. The floor was pockmarked with pools of water. The walls were punctuated by stalactites (the ones that hang down) and stalagmites (the ones that stick up).
Some 336 meters into the cave, the caver stumbled across something extraordinary—a vast chamber where several stalagmites had beendeliberately broken. Most of the 400 pieces had been arranged into two rings—a large one between 4 and 7 metres across, and a smaller one just 2 metres wide. Others had been propped up against these donuts. Yet others had been stacked into four piles. Traces of fire were everywhere, and there was a mass of burnt bones.
With the Democratic primaries grinding to a bitter end, I have suggestions for both Clinton and Sanders supporters that neither will like.
Robert Reich in Raw Story:
Some of you say Bernie should bow out because he has no chance of getting the nomination, and his continuing candidacy is harming Hillary Clinton’s chances.
It’s true that Bernie’s chances are slim, but it’s inaccurate to say he has no chance. If you consider only pledged delegates, who have been selected in caucuses and primaries, he’s not all that far behind Hillary Clinton. And the upcoming primary in California – the nation’s most populous state—could possibly alter Sanders’s and Clinton’s relative tallies.
My calculation doesn’t include so-called “superdelegates”—Democratic office holders and other insiders who haven’t been selected through primaries and caucuses. But in this year of anti-establishment fury, it would be unwise for Hillary Clinton to rely on superdelegates to get her over the finish line.
Andrew Altschul and Mark Slouka in Literary Hub:
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
Because, as writers, we are particularly aware of the many ways that language can be abused in the name of power;
Because we believe that any democracy worthy of the name rests on pluralism, welcomes principled disagreement, and achieves consensus through reasoned debate;
Because American history, despite periods of nativism and bigotry, has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds together, not pitting them against one another;
Because the history of dictatorship is the history of manipulation and division, demagoguery and lies;
Because the search for justice is predicated on a respect for the truth;
Shahidha Bari in Aeon:
Where language falls short though, clothes might speak. Ideas, we languidly suppose, are to be found in books and poems, visualised in buildings and paintings, exposited in philosophical propositions and mathematical deductions. They are taught in classrooms; expressed in language, number and diagram. Much trickier to accept is that clothes might also be understood as forms of thought, reflections and meditations as articulate as any poem or equation. What if the world could open up to us with the tug of a thread, its mysteries disentangling like a frayed hemline? What if clothes were not simply reflective of personality, indicative of our banal preferences for grey over green, but more deeply imprinted with the ways that human beings have lived: a material record of our experiences and an expression of our ambition? What if we could understand the world in the perfect geometry of a notched lapel, the orderly measures of a pleated skirt, the stilled, skin-warmed perfection of a circlet of pearls?
Some people love clothes: they collect them, care for and clamour over them, taking pains to present themselves correctly and considering their purchases with great seriousness. For some, the making and wearing of clothes is an art form, indicative of their taste and discernment: clothes signal their distinction. For others, clothes fulfill a function, or provide a uniform, barely warranting a thought beyond the requisite specifications of decency, the regulation of temperature and the unremarkable meeting of social mores. But clothes are freighted with memory and meaning: the ties, if you like, that bind. In clothes, we are connected to other people and other places in complicated, powerful and unyielding ways, expressed in an idiom that is found everywhere, if only we care to read it.