Friday, February 05, 2016
Those are the people who do complicated things.
they'll grab us by the thousands
and put us to work.
World's going to hell, with all these
villages and trails.
Wild duck flocks aren't
what they used to be.
Aurochs grow rare.
Fetch me my feathers and amber
A small cricket
on the typescript page of
"Kyoto born in spring song"
in time with The Well-Tempered Clavier.
I quit typing and watch him through a glass.
How well articulated! How neat!
Nobody understands the ANIMAL KINGDOM.
When creeks are full
The poems flow
When creeks are down
We heap stones.
by Gary Snyder
Thursday, February 04, 2016
Cedric Johnson in Jacobin:
Ta-Nehisi Coates recently criticized the Bernie Sanders campaign for Sanders’s pessimism regarding black reparations for slavery and Jim Crow segregation. When asked during a campaign event whether he would support reparations, Sanders responded with characteristic bluntness, saying that “its likelihood of getting through Congress is nil,” before adding that a push for formal reparations for slavery would be politically divisive.
Instead of reparations, Sanders argued,
what we should be talking about is making massive investments in rebuilding our cities, in creating millions of decent paying jobs, in making public colleges and universities tuition-free, basically targeting our federal resources to the areas where it is needed the most and where it is needed the most is in impoverished communities, often African American and Latino.
Sanders’s plan is part of his long-held political vision that sees a revitalized public sector as a lever to address the needs of the most submerged segments of the population through universal social policy. But Coates was not impressed. As the foremost proponent of reparations in recent memory, he viewed Sanders’s response as a fundamental weakness in the senator’s “political revolution.”
Sara Solovitch in the Washington Post:
It was November 2012 when Dennis Hartman, a Seattle business executive, managed to pull himself out of bed, force himself to shower for the first time in days and board a plane that would carry him across the country to a clinical trial at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda.
After a lifetime of profound depression, 25 years of therapy and cycling through 18 antidepressants and mood stabilizers, Hartman, then 46, had settled on a date and a plan to end it all. The clinical trial would be his last attempt at salvation.
For 40 minutes, he sat in a hospital room as an IV drip delivered ketamine through his system. Several more hours passed before it occurred to him that all his thoughts of suicide had evaporated.
“My life will always be divided into the time before that first infusion and the time after,” Hartman says today. “That sense of suffering and pain draining away. I was bewildered by the absence of pain.”
Jesse David Fox in Vulture:
The oldest joke on record, a Sumerian proverb, was first told all the way back in 1900 B.C. Yes, it was a fart joke: “Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap.” Don’t feel bad if you don’t get it — something was definitely lost in time and translation (you have to imagine it was the Mesopotamian equivalent of “Women be shopping”), but not before the joke helped pave the way for almost 4,000 years of toilet humor. It’s just a shame we’ll never know the name of the Sumerian genius to whom we owe Blazing Saddles. But with the rise of comedy as a commercial art form in the 20th century, and with advances in modern bookkeeping, it’s now much easier to assign credit for innovations in joke-telling, which is exactly what Vulture set out to do with this list of the 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy.
A few notes on our methodology: We’ve defined “joke” pretty broadly here. Yes, a joke can be a one-liner built from a setup and a punch line, but it can also be an act of physical comedy. Pretending to stick a needle in your eye, or pooping in the street while wearing a wedding dress: both jokes. A joke, as defined by this list, is a discrete moment of comedy, whether from stand-up, a sketch, an album, a movie, or a TV show.
o literary genre is more ephemeral than art criticism. Mostly that’s a blessing, but sometimes writing of genuine value disappears from view. The 1960s and ’70s were years of tremendous vitality for American art criticism, as they were for American art. Yet today, when writers mention the debates of those days, they often focus on a handful of voices: Donald Judd, Michael Fried, Rosalind Krauss, maybe some late grousings from Clement Greenberg as his pen was running dry. The criticism of many others seems to have been unjustly forgotten. Among them I would have counted, until recently, Lawrence Alloway, who wrote regularly for this magazine between 1968 and 1981. To me, he remains the great intellectual resource among the art writers of that period, so I am happy to point out that a small revival of interest in his work is under way—an essay here, a conference there, and now a useful collection of scholarly papers, Lawrence Alloway: Critic and Curator (Getty Research Institute; $40), edited by Lucy Bradnock, Courtney J. Martin, and Rebecca Peabody. N
Many of the essays are based on archival research in the Alloway papers housed at the Getty Research Institute, where there is clearly a lot of fascinating unpublished material. They cover topics ranging from Alloway’s evolving views of museums to his ideas on the relationship between art and photography; from his love of movies (not “film” or “cinema”) and fascination with science fiction to his mutually enriching exchange of ideas with his fellow sci-fi fan, the artist Robert Smithson. I particularly appreciated Michael Lobel’s essay on Alloway as curator and his “global turn”; Jennifer Mundy’s account of his art-criticism course at SUNY Stony Brook; and Julia Bryan-Wilson’s exploration of his “self-reflexive” approach to criticizing the institutions of which he was a part.
The story of the Romanovs has been told countless times, but never with such a compelling combination of literary flair, narrative drive, solid research and psychological insight. The Romanovs covers it all, from war and diplomacy to institution building and court intrigue, but it is chiefly an intimate portrait that brings to life the twenty sovereigns of Russia in vivid fashion.
‘Heavy is the cap of Monomakh,’ Pushkin wrote in Boris Godunov, referring to the royal Mongol helmet used to crown Michael I, the first Romanov tsar, in 1613. Heavy indeed. The teenage Michael had been tapped by the boyars to take the throne following the destruction of the ruling Rurikid family and the subsequent national nightmare known as the Time of Troubles. He cried and insisted he wanted nothing to do with the crown, and for good reason: several of his uncles had been killed in the struggle for control of Russia. But the grandees refused to be put off and they begged on bended knees for hours until the weeping Michael finally gave in. Michael survived the throne, but quite a few later Romanovs would not be so lucky: six of the last twelve rulers, Montefiore notes, were murdered, and even those who survived slept with one eye open.
Michael had been chosen in large part because he was weak and would be putty in the hands of the mighty clans of the realm. ‘Let us have Misha Romanov,’ boyar Fyodor Sheremetev said, ‘for he is still young and not yet wise; he will suit our purpose.’ Sheremetev was right, but Michael’s strong-willed father, Filaret, acted as the true power behind the throne and kept in check the various factions competing for influence.
For over half a century, Indonesian literature has lived under twin shadows: that of the great writer and activist Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who died in 2006 aged eighty-one; and of the bloody events of 1965, which marked the end of the reign of Sukarno – the nation’s Communist-leaning first President – and the start of Suharto’s thirty-one-year New Order regime, during which all official discussion of the events was suppressed. The decades-long silence surrounding 1965 – during which up to a million suspected communist sympathizers were subjected to brutal torture and summary executions – was always tested by writers and journalists, even during the most repressive moments of the Suharto censorship campaign, but its general absence from school textbooks and official discourse has created an enduring problem for the writers currently at the forefront of Indonesian literature: how to reclaim the stories of a missing, epoch-defining era and reconstruct a new understanding of their country.
For authors such as Chudori who are now reconstructing this lost history there is a further complication: that of Pramoedya’s immense legacy. Jailed firstly by the Dutch colonial administration for his pro-Independence writings, and then by the Suharto regime for his unwavering leftist, pro-Sukarno stance, Pramoedya represents both an inspiration and a unique challenge to all Indonesian writers who follow in his footsteps. His monumental body of works – including the famous “Buru” quartet, written while he was imprisoned on the notorious island that gave the novels their nickname – seemed to mirror the size and scope of the largest and most populous country in the region: a vast archipelago boasting a culture, history and size surpassed only by China and India on the Asian continent but a past whose titanic – and relatively recent – political struggles have remained curiously invisible to the world’s gaze.
From The Black Past:
The slave ship Zong departed the coast of Africa on 6 September 1781 with 470 slaves. Since this human chattel was such a valuable commodity at that time, many captains took on more slaves than their ships could accommodate in order to maximize profits. The Zong’s captain, Luke Collingwood, overloaded his ship with slaves and by 29 November many of them had begun to die from disease and malnutrition. The Zong then sailed in an area in the mid-Atlantic known as “the Doldrums” because of periods of little or no wind. As the ship sat stranded, sickness caused the deaths of seven of the 17 crew members and over 50 slaves. Increasingly desperate, Collingwood decided to “jettison” some of the cargo in order to save the ship and provide the ship owners the opportunity to claim for the loss on their insurance. Over the next week the remaining crew members threw 132 slaves who were sick and dying over the side. Another 10 slaves threw themselves overboard in what Collingwood later described as an “Act of Defiance.” Upon the Zong’s arrival in Jamaica, James Gregson, the ship’s owner, filed an insurance claim for their loss. Gregson argued that the Zong did not have enough water to sustain both crew and the human commodities. The insurance underwriter, Thomas Gilbert, disputed the claim citing that the Zong had 420 gallons of water aboard when she was inventoried in Jamaica. Despite this the Jamaican court in 1782 found in favour of the owners. The insurers appealed the case in 1783 and in the process provoked a great deal of public interest and the attention of Great Britain's abolitionists. The leading abolitionist at the time, Granville Sharp, used the deaths of the slaves to increase public awareness about the slave trade and further the anti-slavery cause. It was he who first used the word massacre.
...Sharp attempted to have criminal charges brought against the Captain, crew, and the owners but was unsuccessful. Great Britain's The Solicitor General, Justice John Lee, however, refused to take up the criminal charges claiming “What is this claim that human people have been thrown overboard? This is a case of chattels or goods. Blacks are goods and property; it is madness to accuse these well-serving honourable men of murder… The case is the same as if wood had been thrown overboard.”
More here. (Note: At least one post will be dedicated to honor Black History Month throughout February)
No center, no above, no below
Ceaselessly devouring and engendering itself
And drop into height
Clarities steeply cut
By the night's flank
Black gardens of rock crystal
Flowering on a rod of smoke
White gardens exploding in the air
One space opening up
Space in space
All is nowhere
Place of impalpable nuptials
by Octavio Paz
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Intizar Husain, A Pakistani Writer Who Saw Himself as Part of ‘a Great Tradition, as Much Muslim as Hindu’
Javed Malick in The Wire:
Widely regarded as the best fiction writer in the language since Qurratulain Hyder, Husain’s main achievement was the perfection of a unique style of fiction writing, which departed from the mainstream tradition of realistic fiction – developed and enriched by writers like Premchand, Saadat Hasan Manto, and Ismat Chughtai – and, instead, built on the age-old traditional techniques of story-telling. The corpus of his stories shows his mastery of an extensive range of narrative traditions. He drew upon Babylonian, Greek and Hindu mythologies; Biblical, Quranic and Buddhist texts; magical tales of West Asian and Indian origin; the traditions of the moralistic fable, the Qissa and the Dastan. While his treatment and techniques were traditional, Husain’s concerns were unmistakably contemporary.
Born and educated in Uttar Pradesh, Intizar Husain migrated to Pakistan and settled in Lahore. He began his literary career during the difficult years of the late 1940s. His early writing – like the work of major Urdu writers of that time – described the painful experience of the partition and the accompanying riots. His celebrated novel, Basti concerns a group of people who were uprooted from their homes. Through different characters and their several though different stories, the novel gives powerful expression to the terrible atmosphere of tension and fear and the sense of loss – material as well as spiritual.
Gregory Jones-Katz in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
ver the past four decades, scholars in the American humanities have used deconstruction — a style of interpretation pioneered by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida — to question the binary oppositions that structure society and enforce power relations. One example: The historian Joan Wallach Scott deconstructed the categories of "man" and "woman" and helped launch the field of gender history. While fueling trailblazing work such as Scott’s, deconstruction has conjured rather extreme, sometimes downright hysterical, responses. In the American press, vilification stretches back to the 1980s, when conservatives regularly launched polemics against deconstruction, condemning it as a movement against Western civilization. There has also been little love lost for deconstruction among members of the American left, from Marxists to Liberals, many of whom faulted Derrida and his epigones for an inadequate commitment to truth that made it impossible to develop a political philosophy.
But the left and right alike have misunderstood deconstruction — and the "de Man affair" certainly did not help matters. In 1987 it was revealed that the Yale professor Paul de Man, who had died four years earlier and was Derrida’s closest friend in American intellectual life as well as the most prominent exponent of deconstruction in the United States, had written pro-Nazi articles — at least one explicitly anti-Semitic — in 1941 and 1942 during his youth under the German occupation of Belgium. Derrida’s deconstructive readings of his friend’s wartime writings proved highly controversial; at one point, Derrida suggested that de Man’s criticism in his article "The Jews in Contemporary Literature" of "vulgar anti-Semitism" could be interpreted as support of a refined anti-Semitism and a clandestine critique of the "vulgarity of anti-Semitism." Derrida’s interpretation was red meat for hungry enemies of deconstruction, who offered it as proof of deconstruction’s nihilism. Since then, it has been difficult to conduct a dispassionate conversation about deconstruction.
It is into this contentious legacy that Theory at Yale arrives — marketed as an important first: a book-length history of the Yale School of Deconstruction. But Theory at Yale is instead a series of artful deconstructive readings of "the event of ‘theory’ in the American academy," with "theory" chiefly referring to "a certain kind of reflection on language and literature that garnered the tag ‘deconstruction’ in the 1970s, and in distorted form became a minor mass-media topic in the 1980s."
Thomas Piketty in the NY Review of Books:
The far right has surged in just a few years from 15 percent to 30 percent of the vote in France, and now has the support of up to 40 percent in a number of districts. Many factors conspired to produce this result: rising unemployment and xenophobia, a deep disappointment over the left’s record in running the government, the feeling that we’ve tried everything and it’s time to experiment with something new. These are the consequences of the disastrous handling of the financial meltdown that began in the United States in 2008, a meltdown that we in Europe transformed by our own actions into a lasting European crisis. The blame for that belongs to institutions and policies that proved wholly inadequate, particularly in the eurozone, consisting of nineteen countries. We have a single currency with nineteen different public debts, nineteen interest rates upon which the financial markets are completely free to speculate, nineteen corporate tax rates in unbridled competition with one another, without a common social safety net or shared educational standards—this cannot possibly work, and never will.
Only a genuine social and democratic refounding of the eurozone, designed to encourage growth and employment, arrayed around a small core of countries willing to lead by example and develop their own new political institutions, will be sufficient to counter the hateful nationalistic impulses that now threaten all Europe. Last summer, in the aftermath of the Greek fiasco, French President François Hollande had begun to revive on his own initiative the idea of a new parliament for the eurozone. Now France must present a specific proposal for such a parliament to its leading partners and reach a compromise. Otherwise the agenda is going to be monopolized by the countries that have opted for national isolationism—the United Kingdom and Poland among them.
Just for starters, it would be important for European leaders—the French and Germans in particular—to acknowledge their errors. We can debate endlessly all sorts of reforms, both small and large, that ought to be carried out in various eurozone countries: changed opening hours for shops, more effective labor markets, different standards for retirement, and so on. Some of these are useful, others less so. Whatever the case, however, the failures to make such reforms are not enough to explain the sudden plunge in GDP in the eurozone from 2011 to 2013, even as the US economy was in recovery. There can be no question now that the recovery in Europe was throttled by the attempt to cut deficits too quickly between 2011 and 2013—and particularly by tax hikes that were far too sharp in France. Such application of tight budgetary rules ensured that the eurozone’s GDP still, in 2015, hasn’t recovered to its 2007 levels
Tom Bissell in the NYT:
Something happens to a novel as it ages, but what? It doesn’t ripen or deepen in the manner of cheese and wine, and it doesn’t fall apart, at least not figuratively. Fiction has no half-life. We age alongside the novels we’ve read, and only one of us is actively deteriorating. Which is to say that a novel is perishable only by virtue of being stored in such a leaky cask: our heads. With just a few years’ passage, a novel can thus seem “dated” or “irrelevant” or (God help us) “problematic.” When a novel survives this strange process, and gets reissued in a handsome 20th-anniversary edition, it’s tempting to hold it up and say, “It withstood the test of time.” Most would intend such a statement as praise, but is a 20-year-old novel successful merely because it seems cleverly predictive or contains scenarios that feel “relevant” to later audiences? If that were the mark of enduring fiction, Philip K. Dick would be the greatest novelist of all time.
David Foster Wallace understood the paradox of attempting to write fiction that spoke to posterity and a contemporary audience simultaneously, with equal force. In an essay written while he was at work on “Infinite Jest,”Wallace referred to the “oracular foresight” of writers such as Don DeLillo, whose best novels — “White Noise,” “Libra,” “Underworld” — address their contemporary audience like a shouting desert prophet while laying out for posterity the coldly amused analysis of some long-dead professor emeritus. Wallace felt that the “mimetic deployment of pop culture icons” by writers who lacked DeLillo’s observational powers “compromises fiction’s seriousness by dating it out of the Platonic Always where it ought to reside.” Yet “Infinite Jest” rarely seems as though it resides within this Platonic Always, which Wallace rejected in any event. (As with many of Wallace’s more manifesto-ish proclamations, he was not planting a flag so much as secretly burning one.) We are now at least half a decade beyond the years Wallace intended his novel’s subsidized time schema — Year of the Whopper, Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment — to represent. Read today, the book’s intellectually slapstick vision of corporatism run amok embeds it within the early to mid-1990s as firmly and emblematically as “The Simpsons” and grunge music. It is very much a novel of its time.
How is it, then, that “Infinite Jest” still feels so transcendentally, electrically alive? Theory 1: As a novel about an “entertainment” weaponized to enslave and destroy all who look upon it, “Infinite Jest” is the first great Internet novel.
Aaron Bady over at The LA Review of Books:
When I first saw the TV show, I loved it. The first season is perfectly balanced between individual stories (the story of Hailey, the young oboe player who gets her shot at the big time; the story of Gael Garcia Bernal’s hotshot conductor Rodrigo, brought in to save the NYSO) and the story of the larger thing of which they are all a part: the orchestra, the music. As Hailey and Rodrigo enter the orchestra from opposite ends — the bottom and the top — we get an upstairs-downstairs picture of the institution, and at the same time, we are invited to consider the value of an undervalued art. In its first season, Mozart was essentially Slings and Arrows, the story of a group of players who must constantly, loudly, and insistently declare that the show must go on, because the people they must convince are themselves, because it’s anything but clear that it can, and because they are the ones who must put their asses and livelihoods on the line, day after day, night after night. Their belief, their faith, and their gamble are the only things that make the show go on: the only certainty is that if they stopped saying it, it wouldn’t. And so, the conductor, musicians, and staff of the orchestra all have to keep insisting that they are New York’s orchestra — that they are our orchestra, your orchestra — to keep the ship above water, and to counteract the worrying realization that no one seems to want them very much. Their audience is aging and dying, their patrons are more interested in cultural capital than in the music, and true lovers of their art are few and far between (and usually broke). Orchestras are expensive and tickets are hard to sell; the orchestra’s main audience seems to be itself while Roderigo DeSouza struggles to live up to the expectations of the ghost of Mozart.
The conclusion to the first season is superbly and powerfully crafted: the show, it turns out, goes on, but only once a few illusions are shed. The conductor must become a member of the orchestra; individual themes must be subordinated for the good of the music. At its best, it turns out, it isn’t about you. It’s about the music.
But the more I think about Tindall’s book, the more I realize how rose-colored that idealism ultimately is. The show not only makes classical music seem fun and sexy, and occasionally dangerous, but it draws you into its idealism, the abiding faith of its musicians that the thing itself is not only enough, on its own, but that it’s the only thing that matters. And this is exactly the passion for the music that the industry uses to keep itself going, and which keeps, in turn, its most exploited workers and musicians in their place.
Robert Greene II on Jonathan Zimmerman's Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education, over at US Intellectual History:
In 1947, just six years after Life Magazine declared the rise of the “American Century,” the American Social Hygiene Association (ASHA) distributed sex education materials to 47 different nations and over 60 organizations across the globe. Formed in the Progressive Era and now combined with the political, economic, and military might of the United States in the early years of the Cold War, the ASHA and similar groups reflected the rise of sex education in Europe, the United States, and eventually the non-western world throughout the twentieth century. Scenes of educators, government officials, and health care workers unpacking sex education films and written materials for classrooms in places such as East Asia, Africa, and Latin America symbolized the rising hopes and influence of western sex educators after World War II.
However, if little about the postwar world looked familiar to those who had lived through the first half of the century, historian Jonathan Zimmerman’s Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education (Princeton, 2015) emphasizes the enduring limits of sex education in both the United States and abroad. This brief but ambitious survey of sex education since 1898 tempers claims about modernity and revolutionary change with a narrative largely about continuity. Despite their resources and often evangelical commitment, sex educators in virtually every country from the United States to the Middle East faced strikingly similar opposition to their efforts to teach students about the physical, emotional, and social realities of sexuality. Rather than simply conflicts over specific curriculum materials or the training of teachers, the passionate arguments over the nature and future of sex education in the last century illuminate larger intellectual debates over culture, power, and rights, both individual and parental, in a globalized world.
Pankaj Mishra in The Guardian:
The governments of Egypt and Turkey are brazenly leading a multi-pronged assault on writers, artists and intellectuals. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last month denounced his critics among Turkish academics as treasonous fifth columnists of foreign powers; many of them have been subsequently dismissed and suspended. Both Turkey and Egypt have imprisoned journalists, provoking international protests. But the suppression of intellectual and creative freedoms is assuming much cannier forms in India, a country with formal and apparently free democratic institutions.
Controlled by upper-caste Hindu nationalists, Indian universities have been purging “anti-nationals” from both syllabuses and campuses for some months now. In a shocking turn of events last month, Rohith Vemula, a PhD student in Hyderabad, killed himself. Accused of “anti-national” political opinions, the impoverished research scholar, who belonged to one of India’s traditionally and cruelly disadvantaged castes, was suspended, and, after his fellowship was cancelled, expelled from student housing. Letters from Modi’s government in Delhi to university authorities revealed that the latter were under relentless pressure to move against “extremist and anti-national politics” on campus. Vemula’s heartbreaking suicide note attests to the near-total isolation and despair of a gifted writer and thinker.
The extended family of upper-caste nationalists plainly aim at total domination of the public sphere. But they don’t only use the bullying power of the leviathan state – one quickly identified by local and foreign critics – to grind down their apparent enemies. They pursue them through police cases and legal petitions by private individuals – a number of criminal complaints have been filed against writers and artists in India. They create a climate of impunity, in which emboldened mobs ransack newspapers offices, art galleries and cinemas.
Linda Braune in New Politics:
In his newest book, historian Greg Grandin provides background to Herman Melville’s classic Benito Cereno, an 1855 short novel about a slave rebellion. Reflecting on this story written almost two centuries ago, Grandin opens up space for further research by those investigating the Black Atlantic. Melville’s novel told the story of a concerned and liberal sea captain, Amasa Delano, who boarded the slave ship San Dominick and encountered a deferential slave, Babo, caring for his slave master who had taken ill. Delano was moved by the humble slave’s concern for his master, the ship’s captain. Not until the end of that day does Delano realize that he had been deceived and that the slaves on the San Dominick had revolted and had actually taken charge. Babo was not a deferential slave, solicitous toward his sick master, but rather was the revolt’s ringleader! When Delano discovers the true circumstances, he directs his armed team of sailors to round up the rebels, and a fight ensues. The Melville narrative is extraordinary, ironic, and liberatory, and Grandin’s book provides some remarkable background material to the novel. Benito Cereno had been based on actual events recorded in the non-fictional Delano’s 1817 journal. Grandin provides a context for grasping this late eighteenth- to early nineteenth-century revolutionary era, reflecting a whole period of slave rebellion. However, three special contributions by Grandin deserve explication here: his emphasis on the Muslim influence on the slaves, the brutality of the free-enterprise seal-hunting industry, and the harsh march of slaves over the Andes.
First, one of Grandin’s striking contributions is his situating the real and the fictional Amasa Delano, and fictional Babo, within a revolutionary history and alerting his readers to the Muslim background of many West African slaves. Grandin reports that “some estimate as many as 10 percent” of over twelve million African slaves taken to America were Muslims (195). Grandin shows us, in fact, that when Protestant Delano meets Babo, he is possibly not confronted with a Christian slave, but a Muslim one, a Muslim brother of those who rose up and fought for a decade to acquire Haitian independence in 1804.
More here. (Note: At least one post will be dedicated to honor Black History Month throughout February)
Love Poem Entirely of Clichés
Breathing a word
but strictly between us
there is this about you
on the one hand
or the other
on the tip of my tongue.
You of all things
and of all people.
by John Stone
from In All This Rain
University State University Press, 1980
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
It is estimated that between 1890 and 1925, an African American was lynched every two and a half days. The academic and intellectual community was no different from the bulk of mainstream America. Peoples of African descent were visibly absent in any scholarship or intellectual discourse that dealt with human civilization. Black history events, African Americans were so dehumanized and their history so distorted in academia that slavery, peonage, segregation, and lynching were considered justifiable conditions. Under Woodson's direction and contributions from other African American and white scholars, the Negro History Week was launched on a serious platform in 1926 to neutralize the apparent ignorance and deliberate distortion of Black History. Theme of black history month 2016 is, Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories.
February was selected by a man named Carter Goodwin Woodson, who was a noted historian and publisher, and who was a pioneer in American Black history. He selected February for several reasons, in that this month has an enormous significance in Black American history. First it is in celebration of two historical figures who had a great impact on the Black population. They are Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Other noteworthy persons whereby the month of February is significant are: W.E.B. Dubois, who was born on February 23, 1868, and who was a Civil Rights leader and co-founder of the N.A.A.C.P. The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed on February 3, 1870 which gave Blacks the right to vote.The first Black senator, Hiriam R. Revels took office on February 25, 1870. The N.A.A.C.P. (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) was founded in New York City of February 12, 1909, and Malcolm X, the militant leader who promoted Black Nationalism was shot and killed by Black Muslims on February 21, 1965.
More here. (Note: At least one post will be dedicated to honor Black History Month throughout February)
Jan Hoffman in The New York Times:
One evening in the late fall, Lucien Majors, 84, sat at his kitchen table, his wife Jan by his side, as he described a recent dream. Mr. Majors had end-stage bladder cancer and was in renal failure. As he spoke with a doctor from Hospice Buffalo , he was alert but faltering. In the dream, he said, he was in his car with his great pal, Carmen. His three sons, teenagers, were in the back seat, joking around. “We’re driving down Clinton Street,” said Mr. Majors, his watery, pale blue eyes widening with delight at the thought of the road trip. “We were looking for the Grand Canyon.” And then they saw it. “We talked about how amazing, because there it was — all this time, the Grand Canyon was just at the end of Clinton Street!” Mr. Majors had not spoken with Carmen in more than 20 years. His sons are in their late 50s and early 60s. “Why do you think your boys were in the car?” asked Dr. Christopher W. Kerr, a Hospice Buffalo palliative care physician who researches the therapeutic role of patients’ end-of-life dreams and visions. “My sons are the greatest accomplishment of my life,” Mr. Majors said. He died three weeks later.
For thousands of years, the dreams and visions of the dying have captivated cultures, which imbued them with sacred import. Anthropologists, theologians and sociologists have studied these so-called deathbed phenomena. They appear in medieval writings and Renaissance paintings, in Shakespearean works and set pieces from 19th-century American and British novels, particularly by Dickens. One of the most famous moments in film is the mysterious deathbed murmur in “Citizen Kane”: “Rosebud!” Even the law reveres a dying person’s final words, allowing them to be admitted as evidence in an unusual exception to hearsay rules.
Consists of two tight-twisted, separate strands
Conjoined as one: and not unlike, in fact,
Our own familiar silver wedding bands,
Though these are loosely woven, inexact,
With wide interstices, so that each makes
A circle of ellipses. Tightly caught
At random intervals, two little snakes
Of wire are crimped into a snaggled knot,
That four short ends, sharp bevel-cut, present
Unsheathed, ingenious fangs. And when in place,
Stretched taut, or strewn in loose coils, may prevent
The passage through some designated space
Of beast, or man. You got used to the stench;
The mud was worse than being under fire,
My father said. A detail left the trench
At night, to get the dead back from the wire,
And no one volunteered. They stood, to view
Our brief exchange of rings and vows, for both
Our fathers had survived that war: and knew
Of death, and bright entanglement, and troth.
by Richard Outram
from University of Toronto Libraries
J. M. Tyree in Guernica:
There’s a man on the bus sitting directly in front of you. He has a small brown spider crawling across his red shirt, near his left shoulder blade.
You say nothing, but watch it with fascination until he rings the bell and exits at his stop.
After he leaves, the woman sitting next to you says, “Did you see that?”
“What?” you say.
The man with the spider on his back turns around because you’ve tapped him on the arm.
“There’s a spider on your back,” you say.
“Que?” he says, looking pissed off.
“A spider,” you say. “Como se dice ‘spider’…uh, mira, puedo que…que...could I just brush it off your shirt?”
He shakes his head disgustedly and turns away.
“There’s a spider on your shirt,” you say. “Could I brush it off?”
“Please don’t,” the man says. “My cousin’s soul has been trapped inside that spider for eleven years. One more year to go!”
Nancy Fliesler in the Harvard Gazette:
Researchers at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital have, for the first time, visualized the origins of cancer from the first affected cell and watched its spread in a live animal. Their work, published in the Jan. 29 issue of Science, could change the way scientists understand melanoma and other cancers and lead to new, early treatments before the cancer has taken hold.
“An important mystery has been why some cells in the body already have mutations seen in cancer, but do not yet fully behave like the cancer,” says the paper’s first author, Charles Kaufman, a postdoctoral fellow in the Zon Laboratory at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We found that the beginning of cancer occurs after activation of an oncogene or loss of a tumor suppressor, and involves a change that takes a single cell back to a stem cell state.”
That change, Kaufman and colleagues found, involves a set of genes that could be targeted to stop cancer from ever starting.
The study imaged live zebrafish over time to track the development of melanoma. All the fish had the human cancer mutation BRAFV600E — found in most benign moles — and had also lost the tumor suppressor gene p53.