Saturday, December 13, 2014
Mohsin Hamid’s novels have always fused the personal and the political. First there was Moth Smoke (2000), a love story set in a Pakistan coloured by class and corruption, pot-smoking and power cuts. Next came The Reluctant Fundamentalist(2007), a pared-down parable charting the gradual disillusion of a young Pakistani with a high-flying career in corporate America.
First drafted just before the 9/11 attacks, it took years of rewriting before Hamid was content that his fictional world “would not be overwhelmed by an event that spoke so much more loudly than any individual’s story could”. Then, at the height of the emerging markets boom, came his subversive take on a self-help manual — How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013).
Discontent and its Civilizations, a disparate collection of non-fiction articles published since 2000, is split more explicitly into sections titled “life”, “art” and “politics” — but offers a similar blend of personal and political reflection, along with an insistence that the two are “inescapably intertwined”. Fifteen years living between New York, London and Lahore have made Hamid’s own experience — as he says in his introduction — that of a man caught in the middle of “what has been called ‘the war on terror’”.
The contradictory nature of Beckett is everywhere in evidence here. On one hand there’s the fastidiousness about the “leaves too many.” On the other is the fierce self-deprecation and disengagement, whereby “Watt” is “my regrettable novel,” " ‘Godot’ was written either between ‘Molloy’ and ‘Malone’ or between ‘Malone’ and ‘L’Innommable,’ I can’t remember,” and, about his radio play “Embers,” “Hate the sight of it in both languages.”
This last occurs in a letter of Dec. 1, 1959, to Barbara Bray, the BBC drama producer who oversaw the 1958 version of “All That Fall,” Beckett’s first radio play. The editing of this third volume of “The Letters of Samuel Beckett” is no less exemplary than that with which we’ve come to be familiar from the first and second, but the entry on Bray in the “Profiles” section is a masterpiece of tact and tacitness:
“Few people can have come so close to SB. Lively, inventive and with a strong literary sensibility, she was the ideal person to help him through his characteristic lack of confidence about the new medium — not least because she saw at once that it was perhaps, of all the media, the one best suited to his gifts.
The atmosphere of grief and reverence that followed the death of Seamus Heaney was punctured recently when an Irish newspaper carried a spirited attack on his reputation by Kevin Kiely. For Kiely, Heaney was a peddler of nostalgia who owed his success to sponsorship by Faber and Faber, impressionable Americans and timid academics. As criticism, Kiely’s tirade was nugatory, but it did serve one useful purpose, offering a reminder that the words of the dead are modified in the guts of the living, as Auden said, that strange things can happen to the reputations of recently dead writers. The 20th century is full of poets whose reputations have collapsed posthumously like circus tents in a strong breeze: Vachel Lindsay, Archibald MacLeish, Edith Sitwell, Cecil Day-Lewis. Poets go out of fashion and come back (HD), suffer a temporary down-grading when the biography comes out (Philip Larkin), or get relaunched in new and unexpected forms (the “Radical Larkin” of John Osborne’s anti-revisionist critique).
The publication of Heaney’s New Selected Poems 1988–2013, and reprinting ofNew Selected 1966–1987, therefore marks an opportune moment for reassessment as well as celebration.
P.J. O'Rourke in The Daily Beast:
Two seconds into the opening credits I was trying to get my daughter out of the room by any means possible. “Poppet! Look in the yard! The puppy’s on fire! Quick! Quick! Run outside and roll him in the snow!”
It turns out Girls is a serialized horror movie—more gruesome, frightening, grim, dark, and disturbing than anything that’s ever occurred to Stephen King.
I have two daughters, Poppet and her 17-year-old sister Muffin. “Girls” is about young people who are only a few years older than my daughters. These young people, portrayed as being representative of typical young people, reside in a dumpy, grubby, woeful part of New York called Brooklyn, where Ms. Dunham should put her clothes back on...
Then I had to buy a copy of Ms. Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl for $28.00. And it’s just the type of thing the IRS could nail me for, if I try to make it tax-deductable.
IRS Agent: “You mean to tell me that you are attempting to take a tax deduction for buying this... this... Sir, did you read page ___? And page ___? And --WHOO-EEE -- pages _______? Did you receive your copy of the book through the mail? You do know, sir, that there are laws against distributing or receiving obscene material via the U.S. Postal Service.”
Not that I read it. Who can read a memoir by a 28-year-old? What’s to memorialize? The last 28-year-old who could have written a memoir worth reading was Alexander the Great in 328 B.C., after he’d conquered the known world, but he was too busy conquering the rest of the world to write it.
Read the full article here.
David M. Carr in Salon:
It is important to get clear on what ancient crucifixion was. The word “crucifixion” comes from the Latin word cruciare— “torture.” The Roman Cicero describes it as suma supplicum, “the most extreme form of punishment,” and goes on to say: “To bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him an abomination, to slay him is almost an act of murder, to crucify him is—what? There is not a fitting word that can possibly describe so horrible a deed.” The Jewish historian Josephus describes it as “the most pitiable of deaths.” The victim was first brutally whipped or otherwise tortured. Then his arms were attached to a crosspiece of wood, usually by nails, sometimes by rope. Finally, the victim was hoisted by way of the crosspiece (crux in Latin) onto a pole, and the crosspiece was attached to the pole so that his feet did not touch the ground. There the victim was left on public display until he died. Sometimes death came quickly through suffocation or thirst, but sometimes death was postponed by giving the victim drink. After the victim was dead, the Romans often left the body on the cross as a public display, rotting and eaten by birds. The point was not just to hurt and kill a person but to utterly humiliate a rebel or upstart slave, while terrorizing anyone who looked up to them. Crucifixion was empire-imposed trauma intended to shatter anyone and any movement that opposed Rome.
Tricia Rose in The New York Times:
The dramatic changes spurred by the civil rights movement and other 1960s social upheavals are often chronicled as a time line of catalytic legal victories that ended anti-black segregation. Jeff Chang’s “Who We Be: The Colorization of America” claims that cultural changes were equally important in transforming American society, and that both the legal and cultural forms of desegregation faced a sustained hostile response that continues today. According to Chang, the author of “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation,” multiculturalism challenged who and what defined America, going straight to the heart of who “we” thought we were and who “we” aspired to be. Attacks on exclusions by multicultural scholars and artists were taking place everywhere. University battles raged over whether the Western literature canon should continue to be elevated, or imagined outside the politics of racial hierarchies. Artists confronted the nearly all-white and all-male elite art world. Chang even describes Coca-Cola’s influential 1971 “I’d like to teach the world to sing” advertisement as a signal of how profitable a “harmonious” multicultural marketing plan could be. But over the next several decades, all the way through Obama’s elections, powerful counterattacks were launched, increasingly in racially oblique language. “Both sides understood that battles over culture were high-stakes,” Chang writes. “The struggle between restoration and transformation, retrenchment and change, began in culture.”
“Who We Be” is ambitious in its scope, an impressive gathering of a wide range of artists of color, with their creative interventions and politically charged war stories. Chang is an artful narrator, who uses biographical detail, personal texture and historical and political context to bring his stories to life. He highlights important but unsung heroes like the 1960s trailblazer Morrie Turner, who struggled to break into newspapers with his playful but politically sharp multiracial “Wee Pals” comic strip.
The torturer removes a fingernail:
No forgiveness for him.
An old Nazi softens, laments:
No, put him to death.
He who hates:
Give him a mirror and a gun.
He who hates in the singular:
Forgive him, once.
The crimes of lovers:
Forgive them later, as soon as you can.
Anyone who hurts someone you love:
Saints, you forgivers,
we could never be friends.
The betrayer, the liar, the thief:
Forgive anything you might do yourself.
The terrorist pulls a pin:
forgive the desperate, the homeless,
The terrorist pulls a pin:
No, no more good reasons.
The rat in my crawlspace, the vicious rat:
No forgiveness necessary.
I, who put out the poison:
God of rats, forgive me once again.
by Stephen Dunn
from Between Angels
W.W. Norton, New York
Friday, December 12, 2014
Brian Mertens in Art Asia Pacific:
Since her first solo show in 2008, Imhathai Suwatthanasilp has developed a signature mode of production using human hair, often her own, which she weaves, crochets, embroiders or laces into quiet, intimate two and three-dimensional works that reflect on the nature of familial ties, domestic life, the female body and feminine identity.
Her recent solo exhibition at Bangkok’s Numthong Gallery, entitled “Rebirth,” featured 17 works, including sculptures, two-dimensional textile-based constructions and drawings, many of which incorporate materials such as shells, stones, wire coat-hangers and terra cotta, in addition to real and synthetic hair. Most of these pieces explore her bittersweet feelings about changes in the life of her family, after she and each of her three sisters, including her twin, moved out of their longtime home to marry or live with a partner—hence the show’s Thai title, “Ok-Reuan,” which translates to “leaving the nest.” A mixed-media piece titled Four Crowns (2014), featuring synthetic hair laced over four blown-glass objects shaped like pelvic bones, refers to Imhathai and her siblings at the time of their transition to married life. The hair is colored red, a reference to the association between this color and matrimony in Chinese tradition.
Erwin Chemerinsky in the Los Angeles Times:
Torture is a federal crime, and those who authorized it and engaged in it must be criminally prosecuted. On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 499-page summary of a report that describes the brutal torture carried out by the U.S. government and its employees and agents. Such conduct is reprehensible, but it also is criminal. The only way to ensure that it does not happen again is to criminally prosecute those involved.
The Federal Torture Act states that whoever “outside the United States” commits or attempts to commit torture shall be imprisoned for not more than 20 years “and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.” The act broadly defines torture as an “act intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering upon another person within his custody or physical control.” This includes inflicting “severe mental pain or suffering,” “the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering” or “the threat of imminent death.”
Additionally, the United States is one 156 nations that have ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This is an international human-rights treaty that prohibits torture and defines torture in language almost identical to the federal criminal statute.
The report leaves no doubt that the law and treaty were violated.
Fresh off a Pulitzer for Disgraced, Akhtar returns with a mordant play that explores similarities between free-market and Islamic fundamentalism.
Amitava Kumar in The Guardian:
Ayad Akhtar’s new play The Invisible Hand opened this week at the New York Theatre Workshop. When the lights come on, you see a man sitting in a chair while close to him stands a bearded guard with a Kalashnikov strapped to his back. The seated man is an American banker being held by jihadists somewhere near Karachi. In the opening scene, the prisoner is holding out his hands for the other man to clip his nails, which the latter accomplishes not without some tenderness.
If the 20th century was marked by travel – planes in flight – then the events of 9/11 ushered in the age of the burning aftermath. At least in the imagination of the west, the idea of free movement is now mocked by the nightmare of confinement. This is a specific fear: a dread vision of a man being held hostage by murderous zealots in an alien land, with beheading likely to follow.
The Invisible Hand plays with that familiar anxiety but surprises us with a different reality. Even a man hidden in a room is able to move money with the help of a mouse. As we discover in the play, the American banker must trade shares to earn his $10m ransom. In hiding he preaches the sermon of Bretton Woods: “Countries that can’t trade with one another go to war against each other”. The rest of the play is an exploration of the logic of the “free market” and its devastating impact in a country like Pakistan.
Okay, so maybe not so new since this was published in January but I missed it then.
Natalie Wolchover in Quanta:
Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning and a colossal stroke of luck. But if a provocative new theory is correct, luck may have little to do with it. Instead, according to the physicist proposing the idea, the origin and subsequent evolution of life follow from the fundamental laws of nature and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”
From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.
“You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.
England’s theory is meant to underlie, rather than replace, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, which provides a powerful description of life at the level of genes and populations.
Chris Kitching in the Daily Mail:
Maan Hamadeh wowed a crowd of passengers when he put his own spin on Beethoven’s Für Elise and Celine Dion’s theme, My Heart Will Go On, from the film Titanic.
Hamadeh performed the Beethoven classic in several different styles, throwing down a gauntlet for airport musicians.
Adia Benton in The New Inquiry:
The two leaders’ statements were upsetting. Why was Sirleaf’s concern for Americans’ health expressed with anger? Why did Koroma need to give official assurances that the contagion would not spread? What was at stake for them in identifying strongly with the Americans? Their unreciprocated identification with the plight of the Americans, to me, resonated with Malcolm X’s description of a psychological disposition that was borne of chattel slavery. Speaking on the difference between the “house negro” and the “field negro” in 1963, Malcolm X said:
When the master would be sick, the house Negro identified himself so much with his master he’d say, “What’s the matter boss, we sick?” His master’s pain was his pain. And it hurt him more for his master to be sick than for him to be sick himself.
Malcolm X’s insight is that identification with the master class is intimately linked to a division of labor and relationships of exploitation across spatial and racial lines. These feelings of allegiance and identification with elites, Malcolm X suggests, are forged under conditions of violence that uphold the terms of their servitude, their presumed inferiority, and their eagerness to accept what they are given, in exchange for meager personal gain. As a kind of managerial class, the “house negro” builds an uneasy intimacy with elites and, for his survival, depends on the remains of his master’s spoils; he eats the scraps from his master’s table, lives in his master’s attic, wears his master’s old clothes. Yet while the managerial class strongly identifies with the master class, its members recognize they will never be fully incorporated into it. The burdens of this relationship are deeply felt by the masses; they both witness and experience the structural, symbolic, and psychological violence this relationship engenders.
In short, we sick.
Read the rest here.
For five days John Muir tried to seduce Emerson into the wild — the mountains are calling, let us run away! Muir sang to him, let us go to the show! But Emerson’s companions would have none of it. Emerson is too old for nature, they told Muir; he could catch his death of cold. It is only in houses that people catch colds! Muir protested — there is not a single sneeze in the Sierra! The tottering Emerson, tempted, was inclined to agree with his friends.
On the sixth day, the two men rode together through the magnificent forests of the Merced basin. Muir preached to Emerson the gospel of the trees:
I kept calling his attention to the sugar pines, quoting his wood-notes, "Come listen what the pine tree saith," etc., pointing out the noblest as kings and high priests, the most eloquent and commanding preachers of all the mountain forests, stretching forth their century-old arms in benediction over the worshiping congregations crowded about them. He gazed in devout admiration, saying but little, while his fine smile faded away.
At the moment of their parting, Emerson took off his hat and waved Muir a last goodbye. He continued to send Muir letters and books, and urged Muir not to stay too long in solitude.
It is taken as true to the point of cliché that American culture rests on the strenuous embrace of the “spirit of capitalism,” which Max Weber famously attributed to Edwards’ own Calvinist tradition. We work ourselves to death for the wealth that demonstrates our being chosen for the better part of the afterlife. But Lowell’s testimony of Edwards attests to where capitalism and Calvinism might part ways.
Edwards came theologically to his reluctance about Princeton. His writing and preaching—although best known for fire and brimstone—repeatedly celebrate well-used leisure as a way to glimpse the kingdom of God. He expected that, with technological progress, people would experience such glimpses with increasing frequency. “There will be so many contrivances and inventions to facilitate and expedite their necessary secular business,” he wrote concerning the Christians of the future, “that they will have more time for more noble exercise.” He found a foretaste of this in the piety of his wife, Sarah Pierpont. According to Lowell:
So filled with delight in the Great Being,
she hardly cared for anything—
walking the fields, sweetly singing,
conversing with someone invisible.
There are two ways, perhaps, of looking at Goya, who was born near Zaragoza in 1746 and died in exile in France in 1828. In the first version, he was almost innocent, a serious and ambitious artist interested in mortality and beauty, but also playful and mischievous, until politics and history darkened his imagination. In this version, “history charged,” took him by surprise, and deepened his talent. In the second version, it is as though a war was going on within Goya’s psyche from the very start. While interested in many subjects, he was ready for violence and chaos, so that even if the war between French and Spanish forces between 1808 and 1814 and the insurrection in Madrid in 1808 had not happened, he would have found some other source and inspiration for the dark and violent images he needed to create. His imagination was ripe for horror.
The retrospective of Goya’s work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston moves carefully, gingerly, and creatively between these two positions, making some ingenious connections and juxtapositions along the way, and also a few that are, almost by necessity, awkward and odd. There is no perfect way of presenting the work of Goya in all its variety and ambiguity.
Heidi Ledford in Nature:
When immunologist Michel Sadelain launched his first trial of genetically engineered, cancer-fighting T cells in 2007, he struggled to find patients willing to participate. Studies in mice suggested that the approach — isolating and engineering some of a patient’s T cells to recognize cancer and then injecting them back — could work. But Sadelain did not blame colleagues for refusing to refer patients. “It does sound like science fiction,” he says. “I’ve been thinking about this for 25 years, and I still say to myself, ‘What a crazy idea’.” Since then, early results from Sadelain’s and other groups have shown that his ‘crazy idea’ can wipe out all signs of leukaemia in some patients for whom conventional treatment has failed. And today, his group at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City struggles to accommodate the many people who ask to be included in trials of the therapy, known as adoptive T-cell transfer.
At the American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting held in San Francisco, California, on 6–9 December, attendees heard dozens of talks and poster presentations on the promise of engineered T cells — commonly called CAR (chimaeric antigen receptor) T cells — for treating leukaemias and lymphomas. The field has been marred by concerns over safety, the difficulties of manufacturing personalized T-cell therapies on a large scale, and how regulators will view the unusual and complicated treatment. But those fears have been quelled for some former sceptics by data showing years of survival in patients who once had just months to live.
From the Republic of Conscience
When I landed in the republic of conscience
it was so noiseless when the engines stopped
I could hear a curlew high above the runway.
At immigration, the clerk was an old man
who produced a wallet from his homespun coat
and showed me a photograph of my grandfather.
The woman in customs asked me to declare
the words of our traditional cures and charms
to heal dumbness and avert the evil eye.
No porters. No interpreter. No taxi.
You carried your own burden and very soon
your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared.
Fog is a dreaded omen there but lightning
spells universal good and parents hang
waddled infants in trees during thunderstorms.
Salt is their precious mineral. And seashells
are held to the ear during births and funerals.
The base of all inks and pigments is seawater.
Their sacred symbol is a stylized boat.
The sail is an ear, the mast a sloping pen,
the hull a mouth-shape, the keel an open eye.
At their inauguration, public leaders
must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep
to atone for their presumption to hold office –
and to affirm their faith that all life sprang
from salt in tears which the sky-god wept
after he dreamt his solitude was endless.
I came back from that frugal republic
with my two arms the one length, the customs woman
having insisted my allowance was myself.
The old man rose and gazed into my face
and said that was official recognition
that I was now a dual citizen.
He therefore desired me when I got home
to consider myself a representative
and to speak on their behalf in my own tongue.
Their embassies, he said, were everywhere
but operated independently
and no ambassador would ever be relieved.
by Seamus Heaney
This poem was written by Seamus in 1985 at the request
of Mary Lawlor of Amnesty International Ireland to mark
International Human Rights Day. It has since inspired a
generation of human rights activists. Amnesty International's
highest award - the Ambassador of Conscience - is inspired
by this work.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
When Pompeii was rediscovered in the eighteenth century, no one was particularly interested in the rash of graffiti scratched on its walls. Excavators at the time were too busy carting away bulky and aesthetically pleasing works of art as trophies for the Bourbon kings. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century, and the advent of “romantic” archaeology, that one open-minded director, Francesco Maria Avellino, had the foresight to start conserving these fragile, less prestigious relics, thousands of which still survive, either in situ or detached with their original plaster. Other early enthusiasts included Chateaubriand and Bishop Wordsworth, both of whom recognized the “primitive” appeal of the insignificant-looking scrawls and their power to safeguard the noisy, if sometimes indecorous, opinions of Pompeii’s dramatically silenced inhabitants: the trials of school (“If Cicero pains you, you’ll get a flogging”), the pangs of love (“Rufus loves Cornelia”), threats (“Beware of shitting here”), electioneering (“Cuspius for aedile”) and insults (“Narcissus is a giant cocksucker”).
Like other unwelcome, staining deposits, graffiti has always polarized people into defenders and aggressors, neighbourhood-watchers and anarchists. In 1987, Susan Sontag wrote earnestly about the “indecipherable signatures of mutinous adolescents . . . washed over and bitten into the façades of monuments and the surfaces of public vehicles in the city where I live: graffiti as an assertion of disrespect, yes, but most of all simply an assertion . . . the powerless saying: I’m here too”.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about reality in fiction, or reality versus fiction. Take the many articles about the ‘true’ writings of Karl Ove Knausgaard, or the huge amount of attention paid to David Shields’s polemic Reality Hunger. Time and again we hear about a new desire for the real, about a realism which is realistic set against an avant-garde which isn’t, and so on. It’s disheartening that such simplistic oppositions are still being put forward half a century after Foucault examined the constructedness of all social contexts and knowledge categories; or, indeed, a century and a half after Nietzsche unmasked truth itself as no more than ‘a mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms … a sum of human relations … poetically and rhetorically intensified … illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions’ (and that’s not to mention Marx, Lyotard, Deleuze-Guattari, Derrida etc). It seems to me meaningless, or at least unproductive, to discuss such things unless, to borrow a formulation from the ‘realist’ writer Raymond Carver, we first ask what we talk about when we talk about the real. Perhaps we should have another look at the terms ‘the real’, ‘reality’ and ‘realism’.
Let’s start with ‘realism’, since it’s the easiest target of the lot. Realism is a literary convention – no more, no less – and is therefore as laden with artifice as any other literary convention.
Bemoaning the stoned slackers of the world might not be a wise choice for the author responsible for what we might term the “Mansplanations of History for Stoned Slackers” series: Killing Lincoln (2011), Killing Kennedy (2012), Killing Jesus (2013), and Killing Patton (2014), every single one of which rested comfortably in the No. 1 spot for weeks at a time. In fact, over the past two decades, O’Reilly has been in the position with seven different books for forty-eight weeks total. How does he do it?
Here’s a clue: If mansplaining means “to comment on or explain something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner,” then O’Reilly clearly sees America as a suggestible (though fortunately profligate) woman in desperate need of a seemingly limitless amount of remedial mansplanation. And to be fair, if the most popular nonfiction books are a reliable guide, Americans crave mansplaining the way starving rats crave half-eaten hamburgers. We’d like Beck—not an education professor—to mansplain the Common Core to us. We want Malcolm Gladwell—not a neuroscientist or a sociologist or psychologist—to mansplain everything from the laws of romantic attraction to epidemiology. And we want O’Reilly—not an actual historian—to mansplain Lincoln, Kennedy, Jesus, and all of the other great mansplaining icons of history. We want mansplainers mansplaining other mansplainers. We dig hot mansplainer-on-mansplainer action.
Tanzina Vega in NYTimes:
To hear Mikia Hutchings speak, one must lean in close, as her voice barely rises above a whisper. In report cards, her teachers describe her as “very focused,” someone who follows the rules and stays on task. So it was a surprise for her grandmother when Mikia, 12, and a friend got into trouble for writing graffiti on the walls of a gym bathroom at Dutchtown Middle School in Henry County last year.
Even more of a surprise was the penalty after her family disputed the role she was accused of playing in the vandalism and said it could not pay about $100 in restitution. While both students were suspended from school for a few days, Mikia had to face a school disciplinary hearing and, a few weeks later, a visit by a uniformed officer from the local Sheriff’s Department, who served her grandmother with papers accusing Mikia of a trespassing misdemeanor and, potentially, a felony.
As part of an agreement with the state to have the charges dismissed in juvenile court, Mikia admitted to the allegations of criminal trespassing. Mikia, who is African-American, spent her summer on probation, under a 7 p.m. curfew, and had to complete 16 hours of community service in addition to writing an apology letter to a student whose sneakers were defaced in the incident.
Her friend, who is white, was let go after her parents paid restitution.
Read the rest here.
Walter Benjamin in The Paris Review:
From 1927 to early 1933, Walter Benjamin wrote and delivered some eighty to ninety broadcasts over the new medium of German radio, working between Radio Berlin and Radio Frankfurt. These broadcasts, many of them produced under the auspices of programming for children, cover a fascinating array of topics: typologies and archaeologies of a rapidly changing Berlin; scenes from the shifting terrain of childhood and its construction; exemplary cases of trickery, swindle, and fraud that play on the uncertain lines between truth and falsehood; catastrophic events such as the eruption of Vesuvius and the flooding of the Mississippi River, and much more. Now the transcripts of many of these broadcasts are available for the first time in English—Lecia Rosenthal has gathered them in a new book, Radio Benjamin. Below is one of his broadcasts for children, including thirty brainteasers. We’ll post the answers next week.
Perhaps you know a long poem that begins like this:
Dark it is, the moon shines bright, a car creeps by at the speed of light and slowly rounds the round corner. People standing sit inside, immersed they are in silent chatter, while a shot-dead hare skates by on a sandbank there.
Everyone can see that this poem doesn’t add up. In the story you’ll hear today, quite a few things don’t add up either, but I doubt that everyone will notice. Or rather, each of you will find a few mistakes—and when you find one, you can make a dash on a piece of paper with your pencil. And here’s a hint: if you mark all the mistakes in the story, you’ll have a total of fifteen dashes. But if you find only five or six, that’s perfectly alright as well.
But that’s only one facet of the story you’ll hear today. Besides these fifteen mistakes, it also contains fifteen questions. And while the mistakes creep up on you, quiet as a mouse, so no one notices them, the questions, on the other hand, will be announced with a loud gong. Each correct answer to a question gives you two points, because many of the questions are more difficult to answer than the mistakes are to find. So, with a total of fifteen questions, if you know the answers to all of them, you’ll have thirty dashes. Added to the fifteen dashes for mistakes, that makes a total of forty-five possible dashes. None of you will get all forty-five, but that’s not necessary. Even ten points would be a respectable score. You can mark your points yourselves. During the next Youth Hour, the radio will announce the mistakes along with the answers to the questions, so you can see whether your thoughts were on target, for above all, this story requires thinking. There are no questions and no mistakes that can’t be managed with a little reflection.
William Saletan in Slate:
In a dozen polls taken from 1982 to 2014, Gallup has asked Americans to choose among three views of evolution. One view is that humans “developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process.” Another view is that humans “developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.” The third option is that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” In that three-decade span, the young-Earth creationist option has always been the most popular choice. The percentage of respondents who affirm it has never fallen below 40. These findings, along with similar poll numbers, often alarm scientists, journalists, and educators. Nearly half of Americans, if not more, seem to be hardcore creationists.
But they aren’t. A new study, sponsored by the BioLogos Foundation and conducted by Calvin College sociologist Jonathan Hill, explores beliefs about evolution and creation in greater detail. The results show far more nuance, variation, and doubt than is commonly supposed. Most Americans do believe God created us. But the harder you press about historical claims in the Bible, the less confident people are. The percentage who stand by young-Earth creationism dwindles all the way to 15 percent. The survey, taken last summer and released on Tuesday, asked more than 3,000 people a range of questions about human origins. At Slate’s request, Hill provided detailed data and cross-tabulations on several questions. We’ve lined up the numbers here, from the most to least popular statements, to show how the poll numbers decline as you press people about their confidence in specific aspects of creationism.
Not Intrigued With Evening
What the material world values does
not shine the same in the truth of
the soul. You have been interested
in your shadow. Look instead directly
at the sun. What can we know by just
watching the time-and-space shapes of
each other? Someone half awake in the
night sees imaginary dangers; the
morning star rises; the horizon grows
defined; people become friends in a
moving caravan. Night birds may think
daybreak a kind of darkness, because
that's all they know. It's a fortunate
bird who's not intrigued with evening,
who flies in the sun we call Shams.
from Soul of Rumi
translation: Coleman Barks