thinking about John Berryman

John.berryman1August Kleinzahler at the London Review of Books:

For what then seemed a lengthy spell, from the late 1950s well into the 1970s, the standard-bearers of American poetry were a group of manic depressive exhibitionists working largely, if not exclusively, in traditional metre and rhyme schemes, analysands all, and with self-inflating personae that always reminded me of those giant balloons of Mickey Mouse and Pluto associated with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. They published and reviewed one another in journals like the Nation, Partisan Review, theKenyon Review and Sewanee Review, with a good deal of auto-canonising. Robert Lowell, almost by default it seemed, was ceded pride of place, the ‘most important American poet now at work’. Lowell and Randall Jarrell, roommates at Kenyon College in the 1930s, and to a lesser extent Berryman too, were big on rating and ranking: the top three poets, the top three oyster houses or second-basemen, the three best Ibsen plays – they seemed especially to like the number three.

How do they rate now? It all looks a bit different fifty years on – it always does – after all the theatrics and hyperventilating, the crack-ups, ECT, Pulitzers, heart attacks, suicides, obituaries, followed hard on by biographies, critical appraisals and reappraisals, canonisation and decanonisation. This is the group sometimes known as ‘confessional’ poets or ‘mid-century’ poets: Lowell, Berryman, Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop and Theodore Roethke. The last two were more peripheral, both less overtly confessional, especially Bishop, and not so much on the scene, New York or Ivy League (though Bishop turned up briefly, and memorably, at Harvard).

more here.

Friday Poem

Demeter, Waitiing

No. Who can bear it. Only someone
who hates herself, who believes
to pull a hand back from a daughter’s cheek
is to put love into her pocket—
like one of those ashen Christian
philosophers, or a war-bound soldier.

She is gone again and I will not bear
it, I will drag my grief through a winter
of my own making and refuse
any meadow that recycles itself into
hope. Shit on the cicadas, dry meteor
flash, finicky butterflies! I will wail and thrash
until the whole goddamned golden panorama freezes
over. Then I will sit down to wait for her. Yes.

by Rita Dove
from Mother Love

publisher: W.W. Norton, 1995

Fear, Rage and Class: The Horror, The Horror … But Also the Beauty

Fawzia Afzul-Khan in Counterpunch:

FawziaI was visiting Washington DC this past week/end to attend a 3 -day orientation for Fulbright scholars and teachers going abroad to different countries around the globe to pursue our research interests in “other” societies and cultures, possibly to impart some skills we’ve learned in our corner of the world here in the USA, and to generally serve as cultural ambassadors, using a “soft” approach to convey American goodwill. Importantly, the almost 70-year old Fulbright international educational exchange program, sponsored by the U.S. government , is meant to aid in shattering stereotypes others may hold of us, as well as those we hold of other cultures and peoples who are “different” from us, whom we don’t know and hence are ideologically trained to fear and often to hold in contempt as “inferior.” But what of the deep ideological divides within the USA? What programs are funded by our department of State to help tear down the walls that separate Black from White, walls that teach hate borne of fear of the “Other”—that Black “other” which “threatens” to usher in an era of justice , an era of equality of Black (and Brown) lives with those of White Americans; ofcourse, this is a “threat” only to those who don’t wish to share their power and privilege, because an era of racial and economic justice challenges the very bedrock of white supremacy on which this admittedly great nation has been built.

The day after the racist assassinations of Black spiritual and political leaders in Charleston, S.C. (the Reverend Pinkney, pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Church, was also a Democratic state senator in South Carolina)—where 9 worshippers who had gathered for Bible study on a Wednesday evening lost their lives to a white gunman whom they had welcomed into their fold—I happened to walk past the Washington DC branch of this historic Black church. The Metropolitan A.M.E Church at the corner of M and 16th streets, has its own venerable history, where inaugural prayers for Bill Clinton were held, where President Obama and his family have also worshipped, and where several other American Presidents including William Howard Taft and Jimmy Carter have either worshipped or spoken. Naturally, I stepped inside the Church to pay my respects, and it was clear that the young man at the door felt bad telling me that because of the shootings in Charleston the day before, the Church was not open to visitors at that time but that I was welcome to return the following day or for weekend services.

More here.

Between Saying and Doing


Richard Marshall interviews Robert Brandom in 3:AM Magazine:

3:AM: And then there’s the pragmatism – both the American and the Wittgensteinian species that you draw upon and develop. Aren’t these an alternative rather than an extension to the analytic approach? Wasn’t the later Wittgenstein of the ‘Philosophical Investigations’ reacting against the analytics – and his earlier self? How do you manage to run pragmatism in the analytic spirit, and why?

RB: It is easy to see pragmatism as not only critical of but antithetical to analytic philosophy’s concern with meanings. Wittgensteinian pragmatism about discursivity urges us to shift our attention from the analyst’s focus on meaning to concern with use—from semantics in the traditional sense to pragmatics in a broad sense. Rorty, like Dewey, wants to replace analytic philosophy’s master-concept of representation by concern with coping and practical agreement. Heidegger relocates the description and explanation characteristic of Vorhandenheit as a late-coming parochial sub-region of the more primordial Zuhandenheit. And so on. Wittgenstein himself seems to have drawn semantically nihilistic conclusions from his foregrounding of the social practices that constitute the use of linguistic expressions. Methodological pragmatists assert that the point of associating meanings with expressions (as theoretical postulates) would be to codify proprieties governing their use. Wittgenstein takes it that the uses in question are so varied and motley, and above all so plastic and variable, as to defy such regimentation. This is a point that his admirer Charles Travis in our own day has underscored with examples exhibiting the unavoidable “occasion sensitivity” of even the most ordinary empirical descriptive vocabulary—from which he has also drawn skeptical conclusions about the prospects for compositional truth-conditional semantics as classically conceived.

But I think concern with meanings and concern with the use of expressions, semantics and pragmatics, ought to be seen as complementing, rather than competing with one another. Methodological pragmatism and semantic pragmatism about philosophical semantics—that is, the claim that all there is to associate meanings (semantically relevant whatsises) with expressions is their use—do not together entail the semantic nihilist conclusions Wittgenstein and Travis want to draw. One of the ways in which classical analytic philosophy read its brief too narrowly is that it did not systematically consider the ways in which the meanings expressed by some vocabularies can make explicit what is implicit in the use of other vocabularies. This is true for instance of vocabularies whose principal expressive role is to serve as pragmatic metalanguages for other vocabularies. Expressions for normative statuses, such as “commitment” and “entitlement” let us say what it is one is doing in endorsing a claim or an inference.

More here.

China in Revolt


Eli Friedman in Jacobin:

For parts of the rich-world left, the moral of these opposing narratives is that here, in our own societies, labor resistance is consigned to history’s dustbin. Such resistance is, first of all, perverse and decadent. What entitles pampered Northern workers, with their “First World problems,” to make material demands on a system that already offers them such abundance furnished by the wretched of the earth? And in any case, resistance against so formidable a competitive threat must surely be futile.

By depicting Chinese workers as Others — as abject subalterns or competitive antagonists — this tableau wildly miscasts the reality of labor in today’s China. Far from triumphant victors, Chinese workers are facing the same brutal competitive pressures as workers in the West, often at the hands of the same capitalists. More importantly, it is hardly their stoicism that distinguishes them from us.

Today, the Chinese working class is fighting. More than thirty years into the Communist Party’s project of market reform, China is undeniably the epicenter of global labor unrest. While there are no official statistics, it is certain that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of strikes take place each year. All of them are wildcat strikes — there is no such thing as a legal strike in China. So on a typical day anywhere from half a dozen to several dozen strikes are likely taking place.

More importantly, workers are winning, with many strikers capturing large wage increases above and beyond any legal requirements. Worker resistance has been a serious problem for the Chinese state and capital and, as in the United States in the 1930s, the central government has found itself forced to pass a raft of labor legislation. Minimum wages are going up by double digits in cities around the country and many workers are receiving social insurance payments for the first time.

More here.

The Internet Accused Alice Goffman of Faking Details In Her Study of a Black Neighborhood. I Went to Philadelphia to Check.


Jesse Singal in NY Magazine:

Goffman, like any successful author, had her critics. Some said she focused too closely on the “bad apples” of the neighborhood; others that, as a white woman, she was telling a story that wasn’t hers to tell. Both critiques came up during a somewhat heated (according to participants I spoke with)author-meets-critics event held at last August’s meeting of the American Sociological Association that filled the room in which it was held. Overall, though, On the Run was seen by criminal-justice reformers and critics alike as an important step in confronting America’s mass-incarceration crisis — and a timely one given that the Ferguson riots would shake the country just a few months after the book’s initial release. No one had done quite what Goffman had done, and she earned plaudits for her courageous, revealing ethnographic research.

That all began to change last month, when a potentially career-threatening document materialized: On May 2 — or that’s when the document got to Goffman, at least — someone sent an anonymous 60-page critique of On the Run to hundreds of people in her field, including to members of the sociology departments at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was finishing her third year as an assistant professor, and the undergraduate (University of Pennsylvania) and graduate (Princeton) institutions where Goffman was based when she conducted much of the research that would become the book.

The document, uneven in its writing and logic but weirdly compelling in the sheer number of problems it purports to identify in On the Run, presents itself as a call for an investigation into research misconduct: It accuses Goffman of everything from lying about living near 6th Street (the author flags one of Goffman’s former Philly addresses — in fact, it matches up exactly to one neighborhood where she says she lived in the book) to mixing up characters’ ages in ways that suggest she fabricated major events. These were difficult charges for Goffman to forcefully rebut.

More here.

John Roberts Saved Obamacare Again


Scott Lemieux in The Guardian (Photograph: Donald Traill/Invision):

As Roberts’s opinion carefully explains, however, the plaintiffs’ claim was plainly wrong when the provision is read in the context of the statute as a whole. Roberts observed that, “State Exchanges and Federal Exchanges are equivalent – they must meet the same requirements, perform the same functions, and serve the same purposes.” If the court had accepted the theory of the law’s opponents, Roberts wrote, no one utilizing a federal exchange would qualify for a subsidy, “But the Act clearly contemplates that there will be [subsidy-] qualified individuals on every Exchange” even if the law doesn’t spell it out to its opponents’ satisfaction.

Even the court’s dissenters in this case once understood that Congress wouldn’t establish federal exchanges if they wanted them to fail – when it was politically convenient for them to understand it. Thursday’s majority opinion, in observing that it is “implausible that Congress meant the Act” to establish federal exchanges that wouldn’t work, cited the joint dissent written by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy in NFIB v Sebelius – the first case the court heart on the ACA –which assumed that the subsidies would be universally available. Kennedy was at least consistent in his assertion that subsidies would be available to all; the other three dissenters in Sebelius changed their interpretations in this case because their objective is apparently not to construe the statute fairly, but to inflict the maximum amount of damage to it.

Justice Scalia’s histrionic, protesting-too-much dissent provides plenty of evidence that his legal reasoning gave way to his political positions. Attempting to answer the question of why Congress would go to the trouble of designing a federal backstop that was designed to fail, Scalia asserted that, without the subsidies, the “the individual mandate [would continue] to encourage people to maintain coverage, lest they be ‘taxed.’” This is simply nonsense: in many cases, because Americans with low incomes aren’t mandated to carry insurance if it represents a financial hardship, without the subsidies, many people wouldn’t carry insurance nor be taxed for not doing so.

More here.

Why Australian painting matters

_Eastern_Road__Tur_1158587hFiona Gruber at the Times Literary Supplement:

Artists’ interpretation of Australia’s extraordinary landscape, its arduous and covertly violent history, and the modes of alienation and accommodation that are hallmarks of the white experience, all make for fascinating viewing; but there is a persistent image problem, especially among North Americans. Since its first rough colonization, Australia has suffered from being seen as a place rather than a culture. As McCaughey has written elsewhere: “the frustration for Australian artists and writers is that there is little or no curiosity about their identities, their histories, their reputations but only about how their work is a revelation of place”.

It isn’t just a bias of the North Americans. In 1788, the ships disgorging England’s unwanted were moored alongside shores with the longest continuous culture in the world, a fact refuted by the notion of terra nullius. The 40,000-year-old living art tradition at the heart of the culture was something of interest only to a few ethnographers and collectors, and the indigenous relationship between place and art hadn’t penetrated white consciousness. All of that changed in the 1970s, and McCaughey opens his book with an exploration of Aboriginal painting at a point when indigenous artistic expression, formerly found only in sacred ceremonies and sites, was translated into paintings in acrylic on canvas. Among collectors and the public, there was amazement at the explosion of colour and intricate dot or cross-hatch patterning, at the way works could seem abstract when looked at through a Western lens, but which also told complex stories about country, spirits and ritual. Enclosed within a familiar rectangle and hung on a wall, these works could now assume a legitimacy and status in the art world they had never before possessed. They allowed white people to see indigenous art for the first time.

more here.

Torrential, Gut-Bucket Jazz

Ornette-coleman_jpg_600x630_q85Geoff Dyer at the New York Review of Books:

It happened that on the day the great saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman died I was watching a preview of a recently salvaged film by Sydney Pollack of the making of Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace. The album was recorded live at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, the city where, in the late 1950s, Ornette and his collaborators, Charlie Haden (bass), Don Cherry (trumpet), and Ed Blackwell or Billy Higgins (drums) had formed the quartet that would soon declare the shape of jazz to come. The idea for Amazing Grace was that Aretha would record an album of the gospel music she’d grown up hearing and singing in her father’s church in Detroit. This was in 1972. John Coltrane had died in 1967, Albert Ayler—the tenor saxophonist who, along with Ornette, had played at Coltrane’s funeral—in 1970. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been dead for four years. The unifying grace of the civil rights era had given way to the fractured militancy of Black Power and revolutionary struggle.

The Southern California Community Choir march into the church with the quasi-military precision associated with the Panthers or the Nation of Islam. They’re dressed in the kind of silver, intergalactic costumes that locate the promised land in an Afro-futurist vision of outer space. But once the singing starts they reach far back into history, to the foundational elements of black American music: spirituals and gospel.

more here.

The Pope, the Saint, and the Climate

FrancisAssisiWebE.J. Dionne at Commonweal:

All of the pope’s trademark qualms about modern capitalism and his rejection of “a magical conception of the market” are sounded here, and there is a biting comment aimed at those who use the word “freedom” to offer blanket defenses of a system that leaves many behind: “To claim economic freedom,” he writes, “while real conditions bar many people from real access to it, and while possibilities for employment continue to shrink, is to practice a doublespeak which brings politics into disrepute.”

Yet any who claim that Francis is ignoring the Catholic past and inventing radical new doctrines will have to reckon with the care he takes in paying homage to his predecessors, particularly Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II. He cites them over and over on the limits of markets and the urgency of environmental stewardship. Laudato Si’ (“Praised Be”) is thus thoroughly consistent with over a century of modern Catholic social teaching, and if it breaks new ground, it does so within the context of a long tradition — going back to St. Francis himself.

Pope Francis poses a challenge to those of us in the wealthy nations, and he speaks specifically about how “opinion makers, communications media and centres of power are far removed from the poor.” Ouch! He demands payment of an “ecological debt” between “north and south.” Again and again, he returns to the twin ideas that the world’s poor face the largest threat from climate change and that the world’s rich have a special obligation to deal with it. The pope who immersed himself in the most marginalized neighborhoods of Buenos Aires has not forgotten where he came from.

more here.

Why Are So Many Mass Shootings Committed by Young White Men?

Josiah M. Hesse in Vice:

Why-are-so-many-mass-shootings-committed-by-young-white-men-623-body-image-1435081891When Dylann Storm Roof ended Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina and unleashed a hurricane of bullets, he secured himself a place in the dark history of young, white American males who kill strangers indiscriminately. Of course, we've known for some time that most violent crimes are committed by young people, and that men are more violence-prone than women, but in recent cases like Roof's, Sandy Hook's Adam Lanza, and the Aurora Theater's James Holmes, it seems like this newer breed of psychopath is more dangerous than its predecessors. When trying to decipher gun violence, it's tempting to focus on impoverished minority neighborhoods defined by structural woes like mass incarceration, poverty, lack of education, and so on. But research shows that mass shootings are primarily committed by white males—the most privileged class in society. So why are they the ones who snap? And is calling them “mentally ill” a way to avoid talking about race? “If you look at how the James Holmes case has played out, it's amazing how the themes [of other shootings] line up,” true-crime author Stephen Singular, who collaborated with his wife, Joyce, on the new book The Spiral Notebook: The Aurora Theater Shooter and the Epidemic of Mass Violence Committed by American Youth, tells VICE. “Most of these young white shooters—they're not underprivileged, they have so many advantages, particularly in the Holmes case. He was dealing with an inner reality that he didn't know how to contend with.”

…”There's a feeling of entitlement that white men have that black men don't,” Alan Fox, a professor at Northeastern University and co-author of Extreme Killing, told the Washington Post in a 2012 interview. “They often complain that their job was taken by blacks or Mexicans or Jews. They feel that a well-paid job is their birthright. It's a blow to their psyche when they lose that.” Roof was reportedly unemployed at the time of the shooting, having previously worked in landscaping.

More here.

Confessions of a Seduction Addict

Elizabeth Gilbert in The New York Times:

SeduceIt started with a boy I met at summer camp and ended with the man for whom I left my first husband. In between, I careened from one intimate entanglement to the next — dozens of them — without so much as a day off between romances. You might have called me a serial monogamist, except that I was never exactly monogamous. Relationships overlapped, and those overlaps were always marked by exhausting theatricality: sobbing arguments, shaming confrontations, broken hearts. Still, I kept doing it. I couldn’t not do it. I can’t say that I was always looking for a better man. I often traded good men for bad ones; character didn’t much matter to me. I wasn’t exactly seeking love, either, regardless of what I might have claimed. I can’t even say it was the sex. Sex was just the gateway drug for me, a portal to the much higher high I was really after, which was seduction.

Seduction is the art of coercing somebody to desire you, of orchestrating somebody else’s longings to suit your own hungry agenda. Seduction was never a casual sport for me; it was more like a heist, adrenalizing and urgent. I would plan the heist for months, scouting out the target, looking for unguarded entries. Then I would break into his deepest vault, steal all his emotional currency and spend it on myself. If the man was already involved in a committed relationship, I knew that I didn’t need to be prettier or better than his existing girlfriend; I just needed to be different. (The novel doesn’t always win out over the familiar, mind you, but it often does.) The trick was to study the other woman and to become her opposite, thereby positioning myself to this man as a sparkling alternative to his regular life.

More here.

Thursday Poem

Ten Acres of Small Factories

Count from one to ten, from ten to a hundred, from a hundred to a thousand.
A thousand peach blossoms.
A thousand peonies.
A thousand winter plums.
They all look really beautiful.

A thousand buds opened from the country to the factories.
A thousand subtle scents delivered to the same verb.

Count from a second to a minute, from a minute to an hour.
From January to February, February to March.
From Spring’s Beginning to Mid-Autumn, from Mid-Autumn to Frost-Fall.
Be ready to count until the very first day
the flowers wither.

Night. Two kinds of light appear in the factory.
One is lighting for overtime work, the other is
a wicked wildfire from the corner of the Boss’s eye.
Oh, may neither dirty the girls’ green dresses.

On the employee cards there are two perfumes.
One is the sweet age of all the girls,
the other the sweat from the labor.

Payday, 10 acres of small factories, 10 acres of sesame fields in bloom.
10 acres of scent,
carried away by whom?

by Guo Jinniu
translation: Brian Holton
first published on Poetry International, 2015

How the Talmud Became a Best-Seller in South Korea

Arbes-Talmud-in-Korea-690Ross Arbes at The New Yorker:

About an hour’s drive north of Seoul, in the Gwangju Mountains, nearly fifty South Korean children pore over a book. The text is an unlikely choice: the Talmud, the fifteen-hundred-year-old book of Jewish laws. The students are not Jewish, nor are their teachers, and they have no interest in converting. Most have never met a Jew before. But, according to the founder of their school, the students enrolled with the goal of receiving a “Jewish education” in addition to a Korean one.

When I toured the boarding school last year, the students, who ranged in age from four to nineteen, were seated cross-legged on the floor of a small tentlike auditorium. Standing in front of a whiteboard, their teacher, Park Hyunjun, was explaining that Jews pray wearing two small black boxes, known as tefillin, to help them remember God’s word. He used the Hebrew words shel rosh (“on the head”) and shel yad (“on the arm”) to describe where the boxes are worn. Inside these boxes, he said, was parchment that contained verses from one of the holiest Jewish prayers, the Shema, which Jews recite daily. As the room filled with murmurings of the Shema in Korean, the dean of the school leaned over to me and said that the students recited the prayer daily, too, “with the goal of memorizing it.”

more here.

punk rock: giving ‘the saints’ their due

Screen-shot-2015-06-19-at-1-48-50-pmTim Sommer at The Observer:

Almost indisputably, three bands laid the foundations for English-speaking punk rock: the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and the Saints. Completely ignorant of each other and working more-or-less simultaneously on three different continents, these groups arrived at remarkably similar sounds. The Ramones began performing in the summer of 1974, and commercially released music in February of 1976; the Sex Pistols began performing in November of 1975, and released music in November of ’76; and the Saints began playing in Brisbane, Australia, in late 1973, and released their first music in September of 1976.

Now, the Saints aren’t as well known as the other two (at least in the States—it’s a different story in Australia and Britain), which is a damn shame, because the Saints’ second album, Eternally Yours, is not only one of the best albums to come out of the whole first wave of punk, it’s also one of the best albums of the decade.

There had been hints of greatness—well, more than hints—on the band’s first album, I’m Stranded (recorded in late ’76, released in early ’77). That landmark LP featured some first-rate material wrapped in a blubbering, charging, cavernous roar. The Saints hinted at an awareness of r&b vernacular, but wedded it to a quadruple-timed fanaticism and buzz-saw guitars.

more here.

Finding Our Bearings with Art

NigredoJohn Lysaker at nonsite:

We have come some way from the days when a stone torso fixed a poet and lead him to speak of its gaze, one that saw, even read him head to toe. For many if not most, it is now the reader or viewer or listener that sets the terms of such encounters, attenuated as they are. That is, it is no longer simply beauty that is in the eye of the beholder, but everything there is to say about a work and whatever might be found there. Not that “reader response criticism,” whether based in affect, cultural identity, and/or the neuro-Kantian turn, is the principal variable in this turn away from the sensibility that enabled Rainer Maria Rilke to write “Archaic Torso of Apollo.” But even without exploring the art market and museum culture, one has a firm sense that the basics of aesthetic engagement have changed in our age of digital reproduction.

Permit me an anecdote. I asked my “What is Art?” class: “How often do you listen to music?” “All the time,” I was told, each reporting that he or she listened for at least an hour a day. “But what do you mean by listen,” I asked. “Do you play the music just to listen to it, to follow it, to see where it goes and where it takes you? And then again, maybe a day or two later, listen again, armed with a few anticipations that, if you’re lucky, will cede to more intriguing discoveries? And might all that then ask of you something, something dear?” No. Music accompanied some other activity: studying, working-out, walking to class. For these students, and I do not believe they are unique, though they certainly were talented and a pleasure to engage, music had become ambient, what Brian Eno glosses as “an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint.”

more here.

A Heritage of Hate: Why it’s the duty of every white American to burn a Confederate flag

Erik Bryan in The Morning News:

Confederate_flag_story_1260_945_80What honor do we owe Confederate soldiers? They fought on the losing side of one of the most inhumane causes in human history, perhaps second only to that of the Nazis. I don’t believe this is an exaggeration. The Civil War—begun in earnest with a Confederate siege and bombardment of the US Army in Fort Sumter—claimed over half a million lives and destroyed numerous American cities, all so a minority group could be kept in chains. (Ever notice how proudly neo-Nazis in America display the Confederate flag? Does that not in itself put to rest any notion of “heritage, not hate”?) Why in the name of anything holy should the Confederate cause be memorialized at all? Why should we continue to esteem their hatred for and oppression of blacks by flying the battle flag of their soldiers? Especially considering how widespread their toxic and violent ideologies remain in America to this day.

…This whole discussion and the events leading up to it are shameful, and let’s be perfectly clear: This is white people’s fault. This is white people’s shame, and we have to do something about it. How do we meaningfully honor the victims in Charleston? How can we discourage support for white supremacy? How do we honor the millions of victims of white supremacy going back to the Civil War and before? We probably can’t do anything to ever atone for so many generations of suffering and hardship, but we can do something small and expedient. We can rid our public spaces of support for the Confederacy. We can demand our legislators and representatives—by any means necessary—to strip every public building and stretch of land of any recognition of those who rebelled against our United States and who brought death and destruction to our nation rather than recognize the liberty of a portion of its citizens. We can metaphorically spit in the eyes of our hateful ancestors who believed that their fellow human beings belonged in bondage. We can do this now, in our time. There are no excuses. There can be no delays. There’s simply no heritage of the Confederacy worth preserving. The Confederacy was trash. My ancestors, like yours, were wrong to do what they did, and I’d think after 150 years we can own up to that.

More here.

How gravity kills Schrödinger’s cat


Elizabeth Gibney in Nature:

If the cat in Erwin Schrödinger's famous thought-experiment behaved according to quantum theory, it would be able to exist in multiple states at once: both dead and alive. Physicists' common explanation for why we don’t see such quantum superpositions — in cats or any other aspect of the everyday world — is interference from the environment. As soon as a quantum object interacts with a stray particle or a passing field, it picks just one state, collapsing into our classical, everyday view.

But even if physicists could completely isolate a large object in a quantum superposition, according to researchers at the University of Vienna, it would still collapse into one state — on Earth's surface, at least. “Somewhere in interstellar space it could be that the cat has a chance to preserve quantum coherence, but on Earth, or near any planet, there's little hope of that,” says Igor Pikovski. The reason, he asserts, is gravity.

Pikovski and his colleagues’ idea, laid out in a paper published in Nature Physics on 15 June, is at present only a mathematical argument. But experimenters hope to test whether gravity really does collapse quantum superpositions, says Hendrik Ulbricht, an experimental physicist at the University of Southampton, UK. “This is a cool, new idea, and I’m up for trying to see it in experiments,” he says. Assembling the technology to do so, however, may take as long as a decade, he says.

More here.

No Jokes for You: Jerry Seinfeld targets politically correct campus culture

Harry Stein in City Journal:

JerrySeinfeld described how an innocuous comic observation he made at a recent performance—that, when scrolling through names on their cell phones, people assume the imperious air of “a gay French king”; illustrating with an insouciant flick of an outstretched finger—he instantly felt the room go tense, as the audience silently responded: “What are you talking about ‘gay’? What are you doing? What do you mean?’ And I thought, ‘Are you kidding me?’” He added that he “could imagine a time when people would say that it is offensive to suggest that a gay person moves their hands in a flourishing motion and you now need to apologize.” Imagine it? That time is here and has been for quite a while. Like most of America, Seinfeld simply hadn’t been paying attention.

While this is obviously a fight on principle, it is just as obviously intensely personal. As Blazing Saddles marked its 40th anniversary in 2014, Mel Brooks, himself a liberal, bemoaned that racial sensitivities would preclude the film being made today—and it’s a real question whether some of Seinfeld’s most memorable episodes would pass muster in what conservative pundit Guy Benson aptly terms today’s culture of shut-up. Just off the top of my head, as a fan of the show, there were the following:

George, desperate to prove his racial bona fides by producing a black friend, seeks to befriend any black guy he can find, including a random guy on the street.

Kramer, refusing to wear a red ribbon on the AIDS walk, is set upon by a pair of gay bullies.

At the Puerto Rican Day Parade, Kramer accidentally sets fire to the Puerto Rican flag, and is attacked by a mob, including the same pair.

More here.

Wednesday Poem

Memories of Wolodymyr Serotiuk's Birthday

Sometimes, riding on a train
I think of you in the thirties
and can hardly keep from crying.

We were a carousel
governed by an out of whack calliope
from Toronto to Geraldton
to Fort Francis
to Timmins
to Kenora
to Port Arthur-Fort William
to Sudbury
to Coniston
to Rouyn, Noranda
than back to Toronto.

Always back to Toronto
where we had to leave the baby Mama had.

Standing six four
a stately hussar
wearing spats, watch chain and fedora
you held my skinny six-year-old hand.
We were a pair
riding the rails.

Mama died in thirty seven
left me wit you.
“Poison in the born parts,” you told me.
The Catholic Children's Aid
said a man couldn't look after a little girl
but we fooled them
didn't we
and ran away together.

They got Ronnie though.
He was only two days old.
“Some good family
will adopt the baby,” Miss jeffrey pronounced.

“Vee Ukrainians
no let people adopt our babies.
Vee no sign avay cheeldren,” you said.

And we never did.

by Sonja Dunn
from Uncivilizing
Insomniac Press, 1997.