First of all, I want to thank all the people who have sent me excellent samples of their writing as a response to our call for new Monday Magazine columnists. I had promised that I would announce the names of the new people who will be writing for us today but, after doing some thinking and talking to various colleagues and friends, I am not going to do that and here’s the reason: among the approximately 40 excellent people who have applied, there is not a single woman. This is very strange and nothing like it has ever happened before at 3QD. While we do not follow anything like quotas and basically make our decisions based on the quality of the pieces submitted, this complete lack of women applicants is so anomalous that it has caused me to think hard about what we might be doing to discourage women from applying. I have spoken to a couple of experts on diversity in hiring about this and even ran the text of my initial call for writers through an AI-based program which tries to identify language which might not appeal to certain groups of people (based on a deep-learning analysis of several hundred million job descriptions and responses to them) but it had little criticism of what I had written and even diagnosed my writing as “slightly feminine”.
One woman whom I asked for advice said to me that, “Sometimes the problem is not what you say but what you don’t say”. This struck me as sensible and so I would like to open up the window for submissions for another 5 days to everyone again after saying this:
We would certainly love for our pool of writers to reflect the diversity of our readers in every way, including gender, age, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, etc., and we encourage people of all kinds to apply. And we like unusual voices and varied viewpoints. So please send us something. What have you got to lose?
The new deadline for submissions is 11:59 pm, Friday, July 20, 2018 (New York Time). Please click here for details of what to send if you want to write for us. I now plan to announce whom we’ll be taking next Monday, July 23, 2018. Sorry about the delay.
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Nearly 120 years after his death, Oscar Wilde’s works continue to delight with their brilliant paradoxes and comic twists. His children’s stories, poems and political essays captivate us today just as they captivated his contemporary audience. The Picture of Dorian Gray has become a haunting classic. And a successful season of his plays at the Vaudeville Theatre culminates with Wilde’s greatest work, The Importance of Being Earnest, which starts on 20th July.
Then, of course, there is the Irish writer’s remarkable personal story. His tragic fall after his humiliating trial for “gross indecency” is a story as famous as any of his plays—perhaps more so. Wilde’s story has become a legend, retold a thousand times in books, on stage and screen. But Nicholas Frankel, a respected Wilde scholar, is sceptical of such myth-making. Oscar Wilde: The Unrepentant Years takes the story of Wilde’s demise and turns it on its head.
The conventional view is that after his release from Reading gaol in 1897, Wilde was “a broken, tragic figure” languishing in self-pity, and pining for his ex-lover Lord Alfred Douglas.
Among Africa’s poorest countries, Togo is surrounded by better-off neighbors that for decades have struggled to defeat lymphatic filariasis, a tropical disease commonly known as elephantiasis (the bacterial infection causes the skin of the swollen areas to resemble that of an elephant’s heavily wrinkled hide). Rising global powers India, Brazil and Indonesia also continue to wage war on an affliction that disables or disfigures 1 in 3 victims. Malaria is the only vector-borne disease that infects more people in the world.
Togo’s achievement, formally endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), is the culmination of almost two decades of smart interventions, say experts. The West African nation was among the first to take the WHO up on its challenge in the late 1990s to eliminate the disease, says Rachel Bronzan, a medical epidemiologist at global health care agency Health and Development International.
Leave America, and you begin to see it as the rest of the world sees it: as an unpredictable, potentially hostile force dedicated exclusively to protecting its own interests; as a gargantuan military power with an aggressive presence on the world stage and a dangerously undereducated populace. We’ve toppled governments, covertly assassinated democratically elected leaders, waged illegal wars that have poisoned and destabilized entire regions around the globe. The enormous postwar bonus we’ve enjoyed—our status as the world’s darlings—has been eroding steadily away, yet incredibly, we still imagine that everyone loves us. Peering wide-eyed from our self-absorbed bubble, we issue Facebook “apologies” to the rest of the world for our mortifying president and his absurd coterie, not quite realizing that the world, at this point, is less interested in how Americans feel than in foreseeing, assessing, and coping with the damage the United States is likely to wreak on world peace, stability, economic justice, and the environment.
James Baldwin, after having spent more than a decade in France, observed that “Europeans refer to Americans as children in the same way that American Negroes refer to them as children, and for the same reason: they mean that Americans…have no key to the experience of others. Our current relations with the world forcibly suggest that there is more than a little truth to this.” Although Baldwin was conflicted by the feeling that he’d shirked his responsibility by moving abroad, and he returned many times throughout the civil rights era, he also understood that a great deal of his artistic and intellectual maturity had grown out of the distance he’d put between himself and his native country.
The human mind loves nothing more than to build mental boxes — categories — and put things into them, then refuse to accept it when something doesn’t fit. Nowhere is this more clear than in the idea that there are men, and there are women, and that’s it. Alice Dreger is an historian of science, specializing in intersexuality and the relationship between bodies and identities. She is also a successful activist, working to change the way that doctors deal with newborn children who are born intersex. We talk about human sexuality and a number of other hot-button topics, and ruminate on the challenges of being both an intellectual (devoted to truth) and an activist (seeking justice).
Aimé Césaire was one of the foremost French poets of the 20th century. He was also one of the foremost leftists on his home island of Martinique and in the French National Assembly. Upon his death in 2008, he was honored with a state funeral attended by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy—ironic, considering Césaire’s refusal to meet with him in 2005, after the passage of a bill compelling French history teachers to emphasize the “positive aspects” of French colonialism.
In 2013, the centenary of Césaire’s birth was marked by academic conferences and new scholarly editions of his work. His words still have enormous power outside the classroom as well—at the Festival d’Avignon that year, for instance, the playwright Dieudonné Niangouna revealed that while he was imprisoned during the Second Congo War and forbidden from speaking or reading French, he hid lines from Césaire’s long poem, Cahier d’un Retour au Pays Natal, on the inside of his shirt.
No matter how much her projects vary in tone, style, and subject matter, Haenel always adjusts the temperature. Languorous and narcotic, Bertrand Bonello’s House of Tolerance(2011)—which traces the final months at an upscale Parisian brothel at the dawn of the twentieth century—is, like BPM, a superb ensemble period piece enhanced by Haenel. As Léa, she stands out as the most unflappable of her sex-worker sistren, the one least concerned with sweet-talking the clientele. When one belle epoque john complains, “No one knows what you’re thinking,” she dismisses him with a curt, “I don’t think anything.” Playing someone for whom acquiescence is the foremost professional requirement, Haenel burrows deep to find Léa’s impervious sense of self. That extreme self-possession is also manifest in her knockout cameo in Bonello’s Nocturama (2016), about a massive attack on the French capital carried out by a cadre of millennial and Gen Z terrorists. In the aftermath of the bombings, Haenel, whose character is credited only as the “young woman on a bicycle,” dispassionately remarks, “It was bound to happen.”
The term “autistic” originated with the talented Eugen Bleuler, director of the Burghölzli, the pioneering psychiatric hospital in Zurich. In the early part of the twentieth century some of Europe and America’s best physicians spent at least a season there. Bleuler valued Freud’s insights and took a cue from psychoanalysis in his efforts to attend to unconscious mental processes and listen to patients’ words. Among the staff was Carl Jung, whose patient Sabina Spielrein also became a well-known psychoanalytic practitioner and the teacher of the famous psychologist Jean Piaget. Patients were seen individually twice a day: doctors were instructed to write down everything they said, whether or not it sounded like nonsense.
In the detailed description of the group of schizophrenias he included in a 1911 book, Bleuler coined the term “autistic” to characterize thinking—something that, unlike many, he was certain was going on in his patients—and feeling that were more than usually introverted, self-absorbed, and lashed with fantasies.
In dictatorial states, a failure to applaud the Leader has often been a matter of treason. Last February, following the State of the Union address, President Trump flew to Blue Ash, Ohio, for a rally and accused the Democrats in Congress of that very crime. Their crime was a failure to stand and applaud sufficiently for the President of the United States. “You’re up there and you’ve got half the room going totally crazy, wild—they loved everything, they want to do something great for our country,” Trump said. “And you have the other side, even on positive news . . . they were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”
It’s unlikely that anyone remembers that moment in Blue Ash—a moment that would be an enduring stain on any other President—and the reason is obvious: Trump’s penchant for bald deception and incoherence is not an aberration. It is his daily practice. The vague sense of torpor and gloom that so many Americans have shouldered these past two years derives precisely from the constancy of Trump’s galling statements and actions.
And yet what happened in Helsinki on Monday will not be so easily forgotten. Just as the President’s comments following the torchlit white-supremacist march last year in Charlottesville made it clear that racism was at the core of his character and his political strategy, the contemptible remarks he delivered alongside of Vladimir Putin seemed to mark a turning point, even for some of his most ardent defenders. In the course of a single European journey, Trump set out to humiliate the leaders of Western Europe and declare them “foes”; to fracture long-standing military, economic, and political alliances; and to absolve Russia of its attempts to undermine the 2016 election. He did so clearly, repeatedly, and with conviction. Republicans in Congress (but not enough of them) and a selection of commentators on Fox News declared that Trump’s performance in Helsinki had been disgraceful.
The President’s attempt to reverse the damage—clearly the result of a panicked White House staff—only worsened the matter. Speaking from the White House Cabinet Room on Tuesday, Trump tried to take his listeners for fools as he explained that he had merely been misunderstood by the press. This was one of the most shameless walk-back attempts in the history of the American Presidency. Reading from prepared notes, which always lends to his delivery a hostage-like cadence, Trump tried to half-apologize to the American intelligence community for equating its analysis with that of Putin and the F.S.B. And, with that, the lights suddenly went out. The President sat in darkness. Even before the worldwide commentariat had a chance to voice its incredulity, the White House electrical system had called bullshit on Trump. Or was it a higher power?
All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now,
and after this next one just a dozen
to launch a little ship on love’s storm-tossed seas,
then only ten more left like rows of beans.
How easily it goes unless you get Elizabethan
and insist the iambic bongos must be played
and rhymes positioned at the ends of lines,
one for every station of the cross.
But hang on here while we make the turn
into the final six where all will be resolved,
where longing and heartache will find an end,
where Laura will tell Petrarch to put down his pen,
take off those crazy medieval tights,
blow out the lights, and come at last to bed.
by Billy Collins
from Sailing Alone round the Room
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While Americans are well-acquainted with Russian online trolls’ 2016 disinformation campaign, there’s a more insidious threat of Russian interference in the coming midterms. The Russians could hack our very election infrastructure, disenfranchising Americans and even altering the vote outcome in key states or districts. Election security experts have warned of it, but state election officials have largely played it down for fear of spooking the public. We still might not know the extent to which state election infrastructure was compromised in 2016, nor how compromised it will be in 2018.
Most of us can’t really picture what it would look like to tamper with an election, but security experts can. Even as you read this, voting systems, so dry and complicated and completely taken for granted, could well be in the midst of fending off attacks from foreign adversaries. Things could get bad — really bad.
Some environmentalists believe countries should somehow rely on renewables alone to increase their energy supply. Renewables — primarily wind and solar — certainly have a place in the mix, especially locally and at small scale. But because larger-scale renewable sources are dispersed and dilute, they’re limited to favorable conditions, and since they’re intermittent, they require backup energy generation to fill in when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.
Which means the renewable system has to be supported by a supplemental load-following system, typically natural gas. “As more wind and solar generation capacity get added,” observes energy security specialist Jude Clemente, “even more natural gas capacity is added.” Clemente figures that “some 35 states will have natural gas as their main source of electricity by 2022.” Unfortunately, burning natural gas produces about half the volume of CO2 as coal burning, significantly reducing the effectiveness of renewables in limiting global warming.
Rather than choosing a favorite energy technology and trying to adapt societies to its quirks, it’s surely better to choose technologies that meet the demanding conditions both developed and developing countries will face as the world warms. Replacing fossil fuels with renewables is a red herring. The real and primary challenge is decarbonizing the energy supply.
The problem with the homo economicus theory is that the purely rational, purely selfish person is a functional psychopath. If Economic Man cares nothing for ethics or others’ welfare, he will lie, cheat, steal, even murder, whenever it serves his material interests. Not surprisingly, although homo economicus is alive and well in many economics departments, many experts today prefer to embrace behavioral economics, which relies on data from experiments to see how real people really behave. Behavioral economics confirms something both important and reassuring. Most of us are not conscienceless psychopaths.
The vast majority of human beings are to least to some degree “prosocial.” In the right circumstances, we can be counted on to make modest personal sacrifices to follow ethical rules and avoid harming others. Of course, it’s easy to doubt pervasive pro-sociality when reading the daily news. We should remember, however, that cheating, corruption, and murder make the news because they are relatively rare. (No newspaper would run the headline: “Employee Doesn’t Steal, Even When No One’s Looking.”) As the phrase “common decency,” suggests, prosocial behavior is so omnipresent we tend not to notice it.
Why should we mourn the death of a bad person? I was recently struck by an interesting philosophical conversation on death that emerged far outside of the philosophy classroom—on Twitter. Hip-hop fans were grappling with the murderof rapper XXXTentacion, born Jahseh Onfroy. Onfroy was a popular rapper with a reputation for horrific violence. Onfroy’s ex-girlfriend accused him of brutally assaulting and imprisoning her while she was pregnant in 2015. Onfroy also once confessed to assaulting his gay cellmate at a juvenile detention center for staring at him.
Reactions to Onfroy’s murder in Twitter and Reddit’s hip-hop communities ran the gamut from sorrowful condolences to messages of good riddance. In Los Angeles, fans blocked roadways and swarmed cars during a vigil for Onfroy. Onfroy’s death forced many to confront the question: How should we regard Onfroy’s death if he truly lived a morally abhorrent life?