Azra Raza honored at the annual DIL Gala

ScreenHunter_2341 Nov. 02 16.58Congratulations to my sister Azra!

From the event invitation:

We would like to extend to you a warm invitation to Developments in Literacy’s 2016 Gala. The event will be held on Friday, October 28th, 2016 at Cipriani on 42nd in New York, honoring our Chief Guest, Dr. Azra Raza. We are honored that Dr. Raza has chosen to support DIL’s mission in educating and empowering underprivileged children in Pakistan.

Developments in Literacy (DIL) is a section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was launched in 1998. DIL has educated more than 23,000 students at 124 schools situated in some of the most underserved regions of Pakistan. DIL provides high quality teacher training; innovative, low cost teaching resources and maintains strong relationships with school communities. DIL has been awarded a prestigious 4-star rating for 6 years in a row by Charity Navigator. DIL’s work was recently highlighted in USAID’s Frontline Magazine, calling the Mobile Learning Project a “game changer” in educating teachers in inaccessible, remote areas of the country through videos delivered on their mobile phones.

Previous honorees include Christiane Amanpour, Ted Turner, Nicholas Kristof, Mira Nair, Nandita Das, Maleeha Lodhi and Shahzia Sikander. Below is Azra's acceptance speech.

by Azra Raza

Thank you Shaila, thank you DIL. I am deeply, deeply honored.

When my daughter Sheherzad was 5, she came home after the first week of kindergarten and announced to us, “I am just wasting my time. I can't read. I can't write. And they won't let me talk.” Well, we told her, this pretty much summarizes the state of most girls all over the world. They can't read, they can't write and they are not allowed to speak.

I am a scientist, but we called my mother a Rocket Scientist. Her life epitomized the prevailing ethos and traditions of a sharifzadi being raised in the Aligarh of 1930s where high culture was defined by an attitude of extreme gentleness…particularly, in the men, overt hyper-masculinity was tantamount to hyper-vulgarity. Sadly, it was also a time when older women in the family had to smuggle a female tutor to enter the zanan-khana secretly to teach the young girls how to read and write. Basically, my very gentle and civilized grandfather's attitude was why should the girls be taught to read and write? So they can shake hands with the English men?

After the death of the family patriarch, as the British tightened their hold over the natives, my mother's family suddenly found themselves bereft of their possessions and with no practical skills to survive. For my mother, this traumatic experience underscored the importance of education as the only means of individual empowerment and thus ignited an intense desire in her to educate not only her own children, especially the girls, but to fight hard for the education of all the children in her community.

I remember one evening last year when I was telling some friends about my mother and how she taught everyone around her to read and write. So much so that our driver who was from the North West Frontier Provinces not only became literate, started reading the Urdu newspapers religiously but then became so obsessed with the written word that he ended up writing his autobiography. When I told this story, one of my unnamed and very famous writer friends responded, “Azra, what else would a driver write but an AUTO-biography? And now I have the name of his next book: BUS!!” [Editor's note: “bus” means “enough” in Urdu, and “dil” means “heart”.]

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Installing the Idol: On the real power of imaginary notions

by Yohan J. John

800px-Crown_Brow_Throat_Chakras,_Rajasthan_18th_CenturyI want to make one thing absolutely clear. I am not a Zen Buddhist, I am not advocating Zen Buddhism, I am not trying to convert anyone to it. I have nothing to sell. I'm an entertainer. That is to say, in the same sense, that when you go to a concert and you listen to someone play Mozart, he has nothing to sell except the sound of the music. He doesn’t want to convert you to anything. He doesn’t want you to join an organization in favor of Mozart's music as opposed to, say, Beethoven's. And I approach you in the same spirit as a musician with his piano or a violinist with his violin. I just want you to enjoy a point of view that I enjoy.

Alan Watts

Some years ago I had my third eye opened. I was spending the summer in Bangalore, doing an undergraduate physics project at the National Aerospace Laboratories. I was staying with my sister's friend, and his landlady insisted that I participate in something called the “Kyudo ceremony”. My friends warned me that she was a bit of a kook — her house was filled with nude self-portraits in garish colors and flattering proportions — but out of sheer curiosity I acquiesced. The landlady whisked me away on her scooter to a nondescript house in a residential neighborhood that doubled at a Japanese Buddhist temple of some sort. In the waiting room, one of the assistants (devotees? students? acolytes?) asked me my name, which she carefully wrote on a very thin piece of paper. No explanations were offered. I was then taken to the main prayer hall, i.e., the living room. There was an altar, atop which say a statue of the Buddha, a few packets of biscuits, and a bunch of bananas. The priest who led me through the ceremony was a little old Japanese lady who communicated via a plump and slightly nervous-looking Indian translator. I stood and knelt and mumbled as instructed, occasionally wishing I had a translator for the translator. At one point the piece of paper with my name on it was set aflame —a rather stylish touch, I thought.

Once another inductee was put through the motions, we were given the opportunity to learn what it is we had actually accomplished with that fifteen-minute-long ritual. A middle-aged Indian man emerged from nowhere with an instructional chart. It looked like one of those poorly drawn anatomical diagrams that are endemic to Indian schools. But instead of anatomy, we were confronted with a diagram of… eschatology. The Kyudo ceremony (I have been unable to find any mention of it on the internet) is based upon the belief that when you die, your soul will leave through one of several orifices in your body. Your rebirth (or liberation thence) depends on which hole in the body your soul evacuates from. If I remember correctly, leaving through the mouth means you come back to earth as a fish. If you leave through the nose, you are reborn as a regular land animal. If you leave through the ears, you become a bird. If you leave through the eyes, you become a sky god. This sounds like a sweet deal, but it is apparently only a consolation prize. The real goal is to leave through the third eye, and escape from the whole repetitive cycle of birth and death. But the third eye is blocked: something is needed to clear the way for the soul's egress. Normally it is your conduct — your karma — that determines this sort of thing. And Buddhism usually suggests that certain steps, like the eight-fold path, will help you break the habit of being reborn. But these Kyudo folks believe that their ceremony is a shortcut to transcendence.

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Monday Poem

“(Swifts) feed in the air, they mate in the air, they get nest material in the air.
They can land on nest boxes, branches, or houses, but they can't really land on
the ground.”— Researcher Susanne Åkesson

Swift
Swift 2

I’ve been airborne since
Augustus layed the footings of the Roman Peace
……—in that alone I flew two hundred years
without alighting once. My forebear’s bodies
so studied the inclinations of drafts
they bequeathed me wings and means
to defy grounded predators (their craft
is stealth and might while mine is
lift and flight)

Angels I’ve known I met
in clouds real as the dust
of parched whirlwinds,
but sweet and wet

free in vapor we rolled and bet
that a universe of soil and stone
may last but that of blood and bone,
ligaments, limbs and breath
will be snapped as short
as the short straw
in the short-sighted lottery
of man
…………………. alone
…………………. bereft

Jim Culleny
10/30/16

Democracy or theocracy? The bid to reform Scotland’s educational committee system

by Paul Braterman

ClergyLetterdnaA 1929 law* imposes three unelected clergy on each of Scotland's local Education Committees. This was based on practice dating back to the 1870s, with the formation of the Scottish educational system from a merger of church and non-church elements, and to the 1918 incorporation of Catholic schools into the system. The Catholic state schools are clearly denominational, the others officially non-denominational, but all alike fall under the control of the relevant Committees. There are currently moves to free Scotland's Local Authorities from this undemocratic imposition, using Scotland's admirable Public Petition process, and you can help with this (see end of post for more).

Few topics are less exciting than the mechanics of local government. Nor would I expect the world to pay much attention to the details of these mechanics in a small, only partly independent, country of no particular economic or strategic importance. Nonetheless, the case exhibits some interesting general features regarding the legacy of religion in an incompletely secularised Europe, and the realities of effecting change in a diverse and pluralist society.

The petition has attracted international attention, most notably from Michael Zimmerman, as director of the Clergy Letter Project, who in a Huffington Post article has eloquently described the current structure as “bad for science education as well as for religion”. The Clergy Letter Project itself is an impressive assemblage of over 15,000 ordained clergy, from various denominations and creeds, who argue that the correct response of religion to scientific discovery is acceptance and celebration. The image above symbolises this view, by combining the memes of DNA and Divine Creation. Accommodationism, in the best and truest sense of this much misused word.

Michael Zimmerman expresses his reasons for concern as follows:

There are many reasons why a law of this sort is inappropriate and undemocratic, and you can read most of them in the petition, but rather than focusing on those aspects of the situation, I want to address the potential for serious problems associated with science education. As we have seen in far too many instances, some with deeply held fundamentalist beliefs, beliefs that are well out of both the religious and secular mainstream of society, feel compelled to promote their narrow perspective rather than the consensus of the scientific community. These extreme views are almost always at odds with the religious beliefs that are held just as deeply by the vast majority of the religious community.

And events have shown this concern to be well justified.

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Terror on Trial 1: (In)visibilities

by Katrin Trüstedt

Neonazis (1)With very little international attention, a major terrorism trial is entering its final stage in Munich, Germany. Beate Zschäpe, the only survivor of a right-wing terrorism trio, is facing charges of complicity in ten homicides, two bomb attacks, and 15 armed robberies, as well as membership in a terrorist organization, attempted murder, and arson. The victims are mostly people with a Muslim migration background. If the situation had been reversed with a “Muslim” group assassinating “Germans” for over a decade, then international interest would most likely have trumped the reporting on the recent Paris or Brussels attacks. This attentional asymmetry is in many ways also what the trial is about.

Over the course of more than a decade, the self-declared “National-Socialist Underground” (NSU) managed to go on a killing spree across the country, and, in some troubling sense, they did so on the government's watch. Germany's domestic intelligence agency (Verfassungsschutz) was aware of the right wing terror cell before they went underground in 1998 and began their series of assassinations. And yet, for more than a decade, the police who were investigating the individual murder cases never considered the possibility of a right wing background as a motivation for the killings. Instead, in all of the various instances, the police only investigated the assumed criminal backgrounds of the victims as possible leads, presuming hidden ties to some Turkish mafia or criminal masterminds abroad. When people from the Turkish community suspected xenophobic motives, they were labeled as conspiracy theorists, as police documents show. The media went along with these assumptions and reported accordingly, and we all ate it up. The extent not only of right wing terror in Germany, but also of stupefying institutionalized racism in the Verfassungsschutz and the police, major fuck ups in the investigations, and collective blindness slowly came to light since 2011. All of this happened before the recent rise of the new right in Germany and elsewhere that seemed to have come out of nowhere.

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Perceptions

Anicka_Petri_lo-res_0-540x358

Anicka Yi. 6,070,430K of Digital Spit. 2015

“… The artist’s sculptural installation examines how “flavors”—visual, olfactory, gustatory, auditory—can form sense memories and spur longing, though their cultural and economic value is subject to global consumerism and a politics of taste. For the exhibition, the artist will create a large, illuminated pond containing synthetic and biological matter such as hair gel and the cellulose “leather” that grows from the bacterial cultures in kombucha tea. The gallery is scented with menthol—which for Yi recalls the dish Mint Pond, a plate of molecular gastronomy she once consumed at el Bulli, the famous but now defunct restaurant. The installation also features an intermittent soundtrack playing over speakers, as the exhibition plays on ideas of good and bad taste throughout.”

More here, here, and here.

So That’s What You Call It!

by Elise Hempel

DSC00236

Recently, needing a change from my standard breakfast of yogurt, I decided to make myself a nice omelet with cheddar cheese and tomatoes. Not having made an omelet for many months now, I'm out of practice a bit, but everything was going fine, my omelet cooking nicely in our cast-iron pan – not sticking, not burning, looking restaurant-pretty. I was almost done, almost ready to perform the fold, and then…. And then somehow, suddenly, I had a combination of omelet and scrambled eggs, or what, from here on out, I shall call a “scromelet.”

My partner, Ray, informed me a few months ago that this “linguistic blend of words” (Wikipedia) – not to be confused with a compound, in which both/all of the spliced-together words remain fully intact – is called a “portmanteau” (port-man-toe), a term I'd never heard before. My 2002 American Heritage college dictionary defines “portmanteau” first as “a leather suitcase with two hinged compartments” and goes on to define a “portmanteau word.” And a British website tells me that the word “portmanteau” is itself a portmanteau originating from the French word “portemanteau” which blends “porter” (to carry) and “manteau” (cloak). A further look at Wikipedia also reveals another interesting fact – that the term “was first used in this context by Lewis Carroll in the book Through the Looking-Glass (1871).”

Little did I know that I'd been creating portmanteaus for many years already. And since the term has come up, Ray and I can't seem to stop ourselves from creating them almost continuously. For instance, our dog, Groucho (neither “cockapoo” nor “puggle” but, as genetic testing revealed, a combination of Akita, greyhound and boxer, or a “groxita”), who likes to lie (with his front paws crossed) across the threshold between the porch and the living-room, or between the dining-room and the kitchen, is now a “threshound.”

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How To Deal With Our Emotions

by Max Sirak

You are not a Vulcan. Leonard_Nimoy_Spock_1967

You are a human. You have a mind capable of logic and rational thought. You also possess a body that feels. Emotions are as principle to you and your being as your eyes, your hands, your feet, or your skin.

And, try as we might or think as we do – that life would be better, easier if we didn't have all these gooey feelings gumming up our insides – we do. So, since emotions seem to be a fundamental aspect of us, I thought now might be a good time to learn a bit more about them.

Our Emotional Education

Our emotional development starts three weeks after mommy and daddy make us.

This is when our brains start to form. Then, at about three months in utero, we start processing information. This is the genesis of our emotional lives. Long before we have our own lungs to breathe, our own mouths to eat, or our own eyes to see – we have our emotions.

Emotions are the names we give to the ways we feel. Inputs from the outside world are collected, filtered through our senses, and processed through our brains. The physiological changes we experience during this bio-computing – we name happy, sad, angry, etc.

Our propensity to identify with, or frequently experience, any particular emotion is partly atavistic, based on our genetic make-up. Some of us are more predisposed to feeling certain ways than others. It's a feature of our design. The foundations of which were laid long before we ever said hello to this sweet, sweet world.

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Walking Past the White House: You Look So Good and You Talk So Fine

by Maniza Naqvi

WPTWFor the past eight years, when I walk past it in the early mornings on my way to work, I've imagined the elegant, refined, educated, decent family that currently lives in the White House. They look so good and they talk so fine. A made for TV family. Making most of us feel good and feel great. Making America look good. I always pause at dusk to gaze at their residence, on my way home and think how lovely it seems because of them inside it. Change is coming. They are leaving soon.

But beyond the poetry and photogenic poise they don't matter. And whoever comes in after they are gone from here, won't matter either. The change won't matter. The incoming scandals won't matter. No one who lives here ever does. Matter. Much. You live here as a servant. No, not of the people.

Change here, is just the change of the custodian. The change of the chief marketing officer. There are panhandlers in this town who'll tell you that much. They are at the Squares and Circles around the White House and elsewhere in this town of squaring circles. They'll tell you, in their rants, how you can't stop the machinery, no matter what the scandal might be.

This country's architecture and its boundaries are the rule of law. Laws are its borders. It's laws promise us our limitless expression and our potential. Yet where are we now? How have laws and accountability been subverted and circumvented for the relentless machinery of war? These society's losers in the Capital's outside spaces just stand there ranting on and rattle a few coins in coffee cups asking us to: ‘change, change, change.' They're probably the only ones who get it. Change. Small to meaningless change.

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Tough Tenor: Balmer Beginnings

by Christopher Bacas

Bertha's 12-31-92After Allen fired Mike, I replaced him the next Friday night. Mike showed up for the gig anyway. That's how we first met. He was not tall, solid, short grey hair, onyx eyes, and all Baltimore: the accent, the indestructible Hunky genetics, the edge that let you know it might get real, right now. Before he spoke, he cleared his throat; that reflexive grunt, grammatically sound and ever present. His voice wasn't just gritty, it came out in cinderblocks; the kind with corners shorn, that scuffed skin off your palms when you picked them up. He often used the word bark. It described a responsive saxophone (“that horn barked”), the ability to play something (“you barked off those fourths”), or an aggressive person (“they barked at me, but fuck 'em!”). Mike's voice barked, too.

I was uncomfortable walking in on his gig. Allen was solid on his invitation. Earlier in the week, on the phone, he precisely quoted, in Bela Lugosi accent, Lenny Bruce's bit where a junkie jazz musician gets a gig with Lawrence Welk:

“you're perfect boy for my band…..YOU'RE DEAF….we play a lotta college dates,mostly industrial colleges.”

Selling me on a fifty-dollar-a-night weekend gig in menagerie of drunks. With travel, it amounted to seven hours.

Immediately, I said yes.

Before the drive to Baltimore, Allen invited me into his apartment. He lived alone and was raising two sons with a combative ex. It smelled of sandalwood inside. A Ben Webster record was playing. Allen always taught me, even things I thought I already knew. Ben shaped notes with exquisite varieties of breath: some had glowing El Greco halos, others popped like champagne corks or made panting dives into nothingness. I knew his sound, but hearing his loving care was the night's first lesson.

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The New Book of Snobs by DJ Taylor

Bee Wilson in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_2338 Oct. 30 17.44I’m afraid we’ve become terrible salt snobs,” joked the late food writer Alan Davidson when he and his wife Jane had me round for lunch one day in the early 2000s. On the table were a panoply of special salts, from pink Himalayan to damp, grey fleur de sel from France. Announcing himself as a salt snob was a form of gentle self-mockery, something Alan was good at. He knew how absurd it was to have all these salts, when he could have made do with a cheap tub of Saxa. But it was also a modest kind of boastfulness. Alan wanted me to notice how superior his salt collection was, which I duly did.

The concept of snobbery is deeply complex, as the literary critic and biographer DJ Taylor cleverly explores in his “definitive guide” to snobs. Snobbery is a form of social superiority, but it can also be a moral failing. Snobs may laud it over others, but we, in turn, despise and punish them for it. Taylor starts his book withthe “Plebgate” affair of 2012, in which the government chief whip Andrew Mitchell was forced to resign his official post, and later pay substantial damages, after it emerged that he had rebuked a police officer who asked him not to cycle through the gates of 10 Downing Street with the words: “Best you learn your fucking place … You’re fucking plebs.” As Taylor notes, Mitchell’s sin was not to swear, but his use of the word “plebs”, which, in ancient Rome, simply meant the common people.

More here.

How to Solve the Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever

Brian Gallagher in Nautilus:

ScreenHunter_2337 Oct. 30 17.38While a doctoral student at Princeton University in 1957, studying under a founder of theoretical computer science, Raymond Smullyan would occasionally visit New York City. On one of these visits, he met a “very charming lady musician” and, on their first date, Smullyan, an incorrigible flirt, proceeded very logically—and sneakily.

“Would you please do me a favor?” he asked her. “I am to make a statement. If the statement is true, would you give me your autograph?”

Content to play along, she replied, “I don’t see why not.”

“If the statement is false,” he went on, “you don’t give me your autograph.”

“Alright …”

His statement was: “You’ll give me neither your autograph nor a kiss.”

It takes a moment, but the cleverness of Smullyan’s ploy eventually becomes clear.

A truthful statement gets him her autograph, as they agreed. But Smullyan’s statement, supposing it’s true, leads to contradiction: It rules out giving an autograph. That makes Smullyan’s statement false. And if Smullyan’s statement is false, then the charming lady musician will give him either an autograph or a kiss. Now you see the trap: She has already agreed not to reward a false statement with an autograph.

With logic, Smullyan turned a false statement into a kiss. (And into a beautiful romance: The two would eventually marry.)

More here.

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar: A study in fortitude and rigor

Ashutosh Jogalekar in The Curious Wavefunction:

Chandra“Chandra”, as he was fondly known to friends and colleagues, was one of the twentieth century's most important astrophysicists. In addition he was probably its most rigorous and mathematical, applying hard and baroque mathematics to problems ranging from hydrodynamics to collapsing stars. His Nobel Prize came in 1983, and it should have come earlier. Chandra's life provides a good example of quiet rebellion against a traditional scientific establishment, and it's for this reason that it deserves wide study.

By all accounts Chandra was marked to be a great scientist from his birth. Born in the city of Lahore (now in Pakistan) to a respected civil servant, he quickly outpaced his fellow students in his study of advanced mathematics and physics. In the 1920s when he was attending college in the progressive city of Madras (now Chennai) he met the renowned physicist Arnold Sommerfeld when Sommerfeld was visiting Madras, and was both shocked and fascinated to hear Sommerfeld tell him that quantum theory had rendered outdated much of the physics he had learnt. That however was a deficiency that Chandra could remedy. As the famous story goes, at the mere age of nineteen, on a long voyage from India to England to attend graduate school at the University of Cambridge, he did the calculation that was to enshrine his name in history. That analysis which used tools from relativity and quantum theory that were far beyond the grasp of any other nineteen year old physics student, finally led to the establishment of the so-called 'Chandrasekhar limit', a limit for the mass a white dwarf can sustain before it collapses under the weight of its own gravity.

A few years later Chandra had a famous showdown with Arthur Eddington, the doyen of English astronomers and one of the most famous scientists in the world.

More here.

Donald Trump Is the First Demagogue of the Anthropocene

Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic:

ScreenHunter_2336 Oct. 30 17.17Lately I’ve been thinking back to something that John Kerry told The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, earlier this year. Asked about the importance of the Middle East to the United States, Kerry answered entirely about the Islamic State.

“Imagine what would happen if we don’t stand and fight [ISIS],” he said:

If we didn’t do that, you could have allies and friends of ours fall. You could have a massive migration into Europe that destroys Europe, leads to the pure destruction of Europe, ends the European project, and everyone runs for cover and you’ve got the 1930s all over again, with nationalism and fascism and other things breaking out. Of course we have an interest in this, a huge interest in this.

The 1930s all over again—Kerry was laying out a prediction in April, but it sounds a little more like description now. Even if America’s current dunderheaded demagogue loses the presidential election, the European project already falters in the United Kingdom, and Russia rumbles with revanchism. Fueled now (as then) by an ailing global economy, far-right nationalism seems ascendant worldwide. It’s hard not to think of the 1930s as the catastrophe which presaged our contemporary tragicomedy.

I write and report on climate change, not a pursuit that usually encourages optimism, but watching all this unfold with the atmosphere in mind has been particularly bleak. For the past few months in particular, I’ve been thinking: Wow, this is all happening way earlier than I thought it would.

More here.

Distant Brains: ways for people to communicate using only their minds. But at what cost?

Alena Graedon in Guernica:

Distant_brains-final_TOP-minScientists have been experimenting with brain-to-brain communication for some time; recent results, which have been remarkable, represent the culmination of a decade or so of research. In the past few years, brain-machine interfaces have been used on monkeys, rodents, and people, and in at least one case, on a human-rat dyad. By training his eyes on a flashing light, a volunteer could get a rat’s tail to move. Some of the most noteworthy innovations have come from a team led by Miguel Nicolelis at Duke. Members of the Nicolelis lab began by connecting pairs of rat brains. After the animals had been implanted with microelectrodes, the neural activity of a rat in a Brazilian lab could be transmitted via Internet to one in Durham, North Carolina. The second rat, upon receiving a brain signal from the first, would perform a task—pressing a lever that rewarded them both with water. These results, when presented three years ago, were seen by many as revolutionary.

But now the Nicolelis team has moved on, connecting several animals at once to establish larger “Brainets.” And their findings—published in a pair of Scientific Reports studies last summer—are even headier. They managed, for example, to get three monkeys to collaborate mentally to move a virtual arm through 3D space. Maybe still more impressive and unsettling, the researchers created a network of four interconnected rat brains, which was able to solve “a number of useful computational problems, such as discrete classification, image processing, storage and retrieval of tactile information, and even weather forecasting.”

More here.

masculinity isn’t in crisis, human beings are

Steven Poole in New Statesman:

ManWhat a terrible time it is to be a man. Emasculated by desk jobs and postmodern gender politics, they can’t even exercise eternally manly virtues – correcting other people’s grasp of trivial facts, say, or punching them in the face. And as everyone knows, men are incapable of maintaining proper friendships, so they have no one to talk to about their problems, even if they were able to acknowledge their emotions, which of course they can’t. No wonder they commit nearly all the world’s crime. And no wonder that the single biggest killer of men under 45 in this country is suicide. Men these days are angry and sad and voting for Trump and Brexit. And it’s everyone’s problem. It’s Mangeddon. It’s the Androcalypse. Why does our culture hate men so much? Who will stand up for the downtrodden male of the species?

One answer, of course, is the “men’s rights” movement, from which corner one hears mainly the distant yowl of entitled misogyny. But in a slew of new books, readers will find a variety of more competent thinkers addressing the current supposed crisis of masculinity, and what should be done about it. The first question to ask is: what is masculinity anyway? The artist (and transvestite) Grayson Perry attempts a definition in The Descent of Man, a book that draws on his “Great White Male” guest edit of the NS in 2014. Perry describes masculinity as “a deeply woven component of the male psyche”, but also simply as “how men behave at present”. Jack Urwin, in the bloggy, teenager-friendly tones of Man Up, writes ecumenically: “As far as I’m concerned anyone who identifies as a man, is a man; and because masculinity is a social construct and thus rooted mostly in identity rather than biology, masculine behaviour is exhibited by all men.” Masculinity “is simply a reflection of how the majority of men act”.

More here.