In December 2005, in his fourth month as president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust a myth. This was during an interview with Al-Alam, an Arabic-language channel broadcast from Tehran. The interview wasn’t an outlier. A year earlier, under new leadership, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the state-owned TV network that operates Al-Alam, broadcast a number of programs that described the Holocaust as a “made-up story,” a fiction or a myth. IRIB has always been hostile to what it calls the “Zionist Regime,” but prior to 2004 there had been no orchestrated campaign to cast the Holocaust as a lie.
Haroun Yashayaie is a past head of the Tehran Jewish Committee, an umbrella organization that oversees the administration of the city’s Jewish schools, kosher butcher shops and synagogues. A former film executive and newspaper editor, Yashayaie, who is 84, has always kept an eye on the media. When an IRIB channel labeled the Holocaust a fiction, he wrote an open letter in condemnation. When Ahmadinejad repeated the claim, he wrote another: “The Holocaust is, in fact, an open wound on the hands of Western civilization. … The Holocaust is not a myth in the same way that the massacre at Sabra and Shatila is not a myth.” After distributing the second letter to the media, Yashayaie personally delivered it to Ahmadinejad at a summit for religious minorities. The new president and his key cultural advisers were conflating criticisms of Israel with Holocaust denial, Yashayaie contended, and thereby whitewashing the crimes of fascism.
TS: Lines from Valerie Solanas’s play Up Your Ass open each chapter of Females. How did this choice help determine the book’s structure?
ALC: Verso had initially approached me about doing an introduction to Up Your Ass, which they were thinking about publishing. Eventually that idea morphed, and we decided I would just write a short book—but I still wanted Up Your Ass to be essential to it. I also wanted the book to be more experimental in form. I was thinking brief, numbered axioms, like Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle. That [idea] was a disaster. While it was freeing to be able to jump around from idea to idea, it was also painful and exhausting. I ended up with all these fragments and no coherent book, and I still hadn’t worked Up Your Ass into it. So I turned in the draft, came back to revise it after my surgery, and realized that the play could serve as the spine of the book. I more or less follow the whole play from start to finish. That transformed the book from this bad archipelago of thoughts into a single whole. The play was the answer.
THE MOST PLEASANT WAY to experience the Louvre Abu Dhabi is the same as with any monied museum: in total ignorance of the real circumstances of its creation. A broad steel dome of 7500 tons (the Eiffel Tower weighs about as much, in iron) rests on an archipelago of galleries and buildings. As you approach, it floats like a giant alien saucer from Independence Day. But from below the sunlight streaks through its delicate lattice of layered octagonal forms. This “rain of light,” both stunning and calm, evokes sun through palm leaves. The floors are gray, the walls are white, and all around is the blue of water and sky. The Louvre is on the island of Saadiyat, which means “happiness,” and Abu Dhabi’s gridded phalanx of skyscrapers stands at a relaxing distance across the water, like a shinier Chicago of the Middle East.
The circumstances of creation have not been harmonious for the first encyclopedic museum of art and civilization in the Middle East, nor has its western reception. “See humanity in a new light” is the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s slogan, but new light isn’t necessarily best light.
If you place their bodies of work end to end chronologically, Marianne Moore and Grace Schulman together created more than a century’s worth of American poetry. Moore’s first published poems appeared in Poetry in 1915; the 84-year-old Schulman’s most recent collection is Without a Claim (2013), although she’s published poems and a memoir since, and this year edited Mourning Songs, a compilation of poems about death and grief. Both women were poetry editors at major magazines, Moore during the latter years of Dial and Schulman at the Nation from 1971 to 2006. That tenure overlapped with a dozen years—1973 to 1985—during which Schulman helmed the Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y. She has also taught at Baruch College for decades, extending her knowledge and influence, and perhaps a bit of Moore’s influence by proxy, to generations of young poets.
Schulman has been candid about her connection to Moore, whom she met in 1949. Schulman was 14 at the time. “They said she was a great poet,” Schulman writes in her memoir, Strange Paradise: Portrait of a Marriage (2018). “I was struck by the combination of her humility and gorgeous vocabulary. I liked her humor, ranging from deadpan to high comedy.”
Israel’s champions owe us an explanation. First, they insist that Israel is and always must be a Jewish state, by which most of them mean not religiously Jewish but of the “Jewish People” everywhere, including Jews who are citizens of other states and not looking for a new country. To be Jewish, according to the prevailing view, it is enough to have a Jewish mother (or to have been converted by an approved Orthodox rabbi). Belief in one supreme creator of the universe, in the Torah as the word of God, and in Jewish ritual need have nothing whatever to do with Jewishness. (We ignore here the many problems with this conception, such as: how can there be a secular Judaism?) The definition of Jew has been bitterly controversial inside and outside of Israel since its founding. The point is, as anthropologist Roselle Tekiner wrote, “When the central task of a state is to import persons of a select religious/ethnic group — and to develop the country for their benefit alone — it is crucially important to be officially recognized as a bona fide member of that group.” (This is from the anthology Anti-Zionism: Analytical Reflections, which is not online and is apparently out of print. But see Tekiner’s article, “Israel’s Two-Tiered Citizenship Law Bars Non-Jews From 93 Percent of Its Lands.”)
Second, Israel’s champions insist that Israel is a democracy — indeed, the only democracy in the Middle East. They vehemently object whenever someone demonstrates how Israel-as-the-state-of-the-Jewish-People must harm the 25 percent of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish, most of whom are Arabs. Israeli law uniquely distinguishes citizenship from nationality. The nationality of an Israeli Arab citizen is “Arab” not Israeli, while the nationality of a Jewish citizen is “Jewish” not Israeli. Are citizens of any other country distinguished in law like that? The prohibition on marriage between Jews and non-Jews is not the result of political bargaining with religious parties but of a desire to protect the Jewish people from impurity. These contortions are required by Israel’s self-declared status as something other than the land of all its citizens. Early Zionists said they wanted Palestine to be as Jewish as Britain is British and France is French — a flagrant category mistake that has had horrific consequences for the Palestinians.
The insistence by Israel’s supporters — that Israel can be both Jewish and democratic — thus is puzzling. What does it mean for Israel to be a Jewish state if that status has no real consequences for non-Jews?
it is hard to remain human on a day when birds perch weeping in the trees and the squirrel eyes do not look away but the dog ones do in pity. another child has killed a child and i catch myself relieved that they are white and i might understand except that i am tired of understanding. if this alphabet could speak its own tongue it would be all symbol surely; the cat would hunch across the long table and that would mean time is catching up, and the spindle fish would run to ground and that would mean the end is coming and the grains of dust would gather themselves along the streets and spell out: these too are your children this too is your child
by Lucille Clifton from Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems BOA Editions, 2000
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In Homo Deus, the 2017 follow-up to his widely read Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari dismisses the idea of free will in cavalier fashion. Contemporary science, he argues, has proved it to be a fiction. In support of this claim, he offers several arguments.
Everything we do is fully determined by our “genes, hormones, and neurons,” and these “obey the same physical and chemical laws governing the rest of reality.” So from a scientific point of view, if we ask why a man performed any act, “answering ‘Because he chose to’ doesn’t cut the mustard. Instead, geneticists and brain scientists provide a much more detailed answer: ‘He did it due to such-and-such electro-chemical processes in the brain that were shaped by a particular genetic make-up, which in turn reflect evolutionary pressures coupled with random mutations.”
The concept of free will is incompatible with the theory of evolution. According to Darwin’s theory, we came to be what we are by passing on genes that proved useful in the struggle to survive. If human actions (e.g. eating and mating) were freely chosen, then we couldn’t explain our evolution in terms of natural selection.
Recent laboratory research proves that our feeling that we make free choices is an illusion. Subjects whose brains are being monitored are told to press one of two switches. They think they are making a free choice; but a scientist watching a brain scanner can predict which switch they will press before the subject is even aware of having made a choice. This shows, says Harari, that “I don’t choose my desires. I only feel them, and act accordingly.”
The idea of free will is bound up with the idea of an individual self that constitutes the inner essence of each human being. This modern notion of the self is really just a hangover from the religious concept of the soul. But all these notions–soul, self, essence–are outmoded; “so to ask, ‘How does the self choose its desires?’ …[is] like asking a bachelor, ‘How does your wife choose her clothes?’ In reality there is only a stream of consciousness, and desires arise and pass away within this stream, but there is no permanent self that owns the desires…”
Harari advances these arguments with great confidence. Yet they are far from conclusive. Read more »
Once upon a time, in a beautiful but endangered forest far far away a prince and princess met, fell in love and married. They were blessed with a hundred children. “I wonder,” said the princess, somewhat exhausted from her exertions, “how best to raise our dear ones to care for each other and their beautiful forest home?” “I have heard,” replied her husband “that reading to children matters.”
Being of a scientific inclination, the royal couple assigned twenty children to each of five experimental groups. They prevented these children from mingling—for keeping the groups apart was deemed good experimental practice—and assessed if reading matters asking following questions. Should one read aloud to children, or narrate stories of a parent’s own devising, or read and discuss plot points at length as one proceeds through storytime, or should one perhaps, as early as possible, cultivate the youth to read on their own and abandon them to their own devices? One group of children—“our little controls” as the happy couple called them—were raised without the benefit of any stories at all.
The results of this longitudinal study were alas inconclusive. The prince haughtily accused his wife of surreptitiously reading to the control group; the princess icily retorted that her husband’s monotonic voice had lulled everyone asleep thus undermining the study. “I’d sooner stab myself in the ears than listen to another word from you.” Their scientific paper was rejected for publication; the couple lost their funding. And they all lived happily ever after. Read more »
Dr. Gary Schwartz is a recognized leader in the field of translational research and has been able to connect the basic and clinical science elements of drug development. His research focuses on the identification of new targeted agents for cancer therapy, especially in the treatment of sarcoma and melanoma. He earned NCI K24 and K12 Clinical Oncology Research Career Development Awards aimed at the mentoring of medical trainees in translational research. Moreover, he has authored about 200 papers and 17 book chapters in the field of basic and clinical cancer research. He currently serves as the Chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology and Deputy Director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University School of Medicine.
Azra Raza, author of the forthcoming book The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last, oncologist and professor of medicine at Columbia University, and 3QD editor, decided to speak to more than 20 leading cancer investigators and ask each of them the same five questions listed below. She videotaped the interviews and over the next months we will be posting them here one at a time each Monday. Please keep in mind that Azra and the rest of us at 3QD neither endorse nor oppose any of the answers given by the researchers as part of this project. Their views are their own. One can browse all previous interviews here.
1. We were treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with 7+3 (7 days of the drug cytosine arabinoside and 3 days of daunomycin) in 1977. We are still doing the same in 2019. What is the best way forward to change it by 2028?
2. There are 3.5 million papers on cancer, 135,000 in 2017 alone. There is a staggering disconnect between great scientific insights and translation to improved therapy. What are we doing wrong?
3. The fact that children respond to the same treatment better than adults seems to suggest that the cancer biology is different and also that the host is different. Since most cancers increase with age, even having good therapy may not matter as the host is decrepit. Solution?
4. You have great knowledge and experience in the field. If you were given limitless resources to plan a cure for cancer, what will you do?
5. Offering patients with advanced stage non-curable cancer, palliative but toxic treatments is a service or disservice in the current therapeutic landscape?
Baiji, my grandmother, was the custodian of standards of behavior of young women in the family. How to comport oneself — sit, stand, speak, eat—were strictly prescribed according to her rules of what was “proper” practice for girls. These rules did not apply to young men and boys.
Although I found most of Baiji’s rules onerous, it was especially difficult to adhere to one related to what the girls should eat and how much. First on Baiji’s list was meat –of all kinds. Mutton, beef and fish were strictly forbidden. Organ meat could not be mentioned in the same sentence that had the word girls in it. Neither were eggs, or butter or cream or rich edible oils. Nuts—walnuts, cashews and specially almonds—were also prohibited.
Once in a while, on special occasions such as Eid or at family weddings, girls could eat meat–in moderation. In winter they could have almonds —but no more than five a day. Peanuts were allowed but just a fistful, no more, at a time. Basic dry cereals, bread without butter, vegetables and fruits—these too in moderation—were best for girls. These foods kept them calm and of a clear mind, she said. Meat and such were “hot” and prone to causing agitation in women. Pregnant women and lactating mothers had special privileges. Even then, though calorie rich foods such as butter were fine, as were eggs — meat was still considered too extravagant for them. Read more »
There’s a well-established notion in film theory referred to as the “male gaze”. Here’s its description according to the theorist Laura Mulvey, who first introduced the concept in her 1975 essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”. Mulvey suggests that, in Hollywood films, “the determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female form which is styled accordingly” (my emphasis).
According to Mulvey, the (heterosexual) male gaze reduces female figures in films to mere objects, devoid of agency and incapable of advancing the cinematic narrative. As she analyzes it, mainstream cinema makes the viewer complicit in this gaze. It places the viewer in the position of identifying with the male actors, who advance the plot, and to treat the female characters in films as scenery. Women in films, on Mulvey’s analysis, can serves as objects and frames for the action, but men are the sole actors.
There’s a particular one of these roles that I have in mind, one that I haven’t seen discussed before in quite the way that Burnett’s discussion sparked for me. I’ll call it the “imagined female gaze”.Read more »
A few weeks ago, I journeyed up to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc during a work vacation. I went with a few friends of mine, embarking from our homes in Chambéry, France, taking a train to Annecy, and a bus to our final destination. I was outrageously tired, having stayed up until some ungodly hour of the morning playing, of all things, Just Dance.
After shuffling around Annecy for a few hours, laden down with luggage and waiting for the arrival of our bus, we were on our way into the so-called heart of the French Alps. As badly as I wanted to sleep, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the changing landscape, framed through immense bus windows. I pressed my forehead against the glass and turned on some music, hoping to block out any sounds of more mundane humanity for just a moment. Views like this always felt too sacred for human chatter, for the faint rumble of an engine. I couldn’t do much about the vibrating of the bus, or the fact that I was on a bus at all, but this I needed: a world composed of only those things which have taken great thought and time.
For me, this was those mountains and Gregory Alan Isakov, a singer-songwriter and farmer based near Boulder, Colorado, who writes his songs in a barn-studio plastered with giant pieces of paper scrawled with potential song lyrics. He calls songwriting “laborious” in an interview with Atwood Magazine, but this labor gives way to music that is something else entirely: quietly transcendent, aching, longing, at once fragile and formidable. It feels clear that these songs are constructed slowly, scrupulously, mined from the depths of feeling. Anyone familiar with that so-often agonizing creative process might feel the erasures and changes, the takes and retakes, the immense and fatiguing degree of ceaseless thought and emotion that slowly amalgamates to form each of his compositions.
It felt like the only proper music to which I might listen: carefully composed and somehow soaring, a perfect sonic accompaniment to the mountains whose formations might well be described the same way. Read more »
Wine is a living, dynamically changing, energetic organism. Although it doesn’t quite satisfy strict biological criteria for life, wine exhibits constant, unpredictable variation. It has a developmental trajectory of its own that resists human intentions and an internal structure that facilitates exchange with the external environment thus maintaining a process similar to homeostasis. Organisms are disposed to respond to changes in the environment in ways that do not threaten their integrity. Winemakers build this capacity for vitality in the wines they make.
Vitality, in a related sense, is also an organoleptic property of a wine—it can be tasted. When we taste them, quality wines exhibit constant variation, dynamic development, and a felt potency, a sensation of expansion, contraction, and velocity that contribute to a wine’s distinctive personality. These features are much prized among contemporary wine lovers who seek freshness and tension in their wines. Thus, wine expresses vitality both as an ontological condition and as a collection of aesthetic properties.
However, this expression of vitality in both senses is fading in aged wines. In aged wines, freshness and dynamism can be tasted but only as vestigial as the fruit dries out and recedes behind leather, nut and earthy aromas. Appreciation of aged wines (at least those wines worthy of being aged) requires that we see delicacy, shyness, restraint, composure, equanimity, imperfection, and the ephemeral as normative. Read more »
A closeup of the very sharp horizontal snow line on the mountain Riol in Franzensfeste, South Tyrol, with winter creeping down from above while autumn lingers below. Photo taken in the golden light of the early morning sun in November of 2019.
Welcome to the future, which is now the past. As James Gleick argued (in his thoughtful and entertaining book, Time Travel: A History) the concept of the future is now fodder for historical understanding. As Gleick notes in his book, popular culture provides a key insight into how ideas about the future shaped the past, present, and the actual future.1
Pop culture during the twentieth century has long imagined the near and far future. Such imaginings became a running gag for talk show host Conan O’Brien. Back in the late 1990s, he started a new segment on his show, called “In the Year 2000.” It started first with him and his co-host Andy Richter (and later guests he was interviewing) donning collars and lighting up their faces with flashlights, while the band played futuristic sounding music in the background. Then, a round of predictions based on current events, ridiculous and silly predictions, all set to happen in the far off future of the year 2000. This bit continued well into the new millennium. Only during O’Brien’s all too-short stint hosting the famed Tonight Show did the format change to predict events in the year 3000 (with Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner providing a regular voice over—although once it was Lt. Sulu instead, George Takei).
The joke revolved around the idea that the future was already here, but the year “2000” still sounds pretty futuristic. Plus, it plays on how we viewed the future across the breadth of the twentieth century, as culminating in a utopia of technological progress, inevitably leading to social progress. Think Disney’s Epcot Center or Gene Roddenberry’s hopeful, post-scarcity, racially unified vision of the future in Star Trek. But O’Brien also pointed to a new phenomenon, when dates from popular culture in what was once the future recede into the past. I argue in this essay that the future we imagined in the past both shaped the present and contradicts it. This becomes clearest when we examine how some science fiction films or TV shows imagined a future date in our recent past. I’ll take three examples, the first being the classic anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion (set in 2015). The second is Ridley Scott’s classic adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Blade Runner (set in 2019). Last will be two events in the Star Trek universe: one set in our recent past (the Eugenics Wars) and one in the near future (the Bell riots). Read more »