A Double Negative

Sep 1 2014 @ 6:32pm
by Dish Staff

Ivan Kreilkamp entertainingly tears down the practice of titling polemics “Against [X]“:

The crankily oppositional intellectual journal N+1 has made a regular diet of “Against [X]” in the past decade: “Against Exercise,” “Against the Rage Machine,” “Against Reviews.” The formula’s quality of brashly counterintuitive overstatement is well suited to twenty-first-century online publishing. When someone throws down the gauntlet against something as seemingly benign, necessary, or positively good as interpretation, happiness, exercise, or young-adult literature, who can resist taking a peek? Here lies a problem with “Against [X].” Its contrariness can seem contrived or ginned up for effect, aiming, with an excess of self-congratulation, for a outraged or scandalized response: Yes, folks, I’m dismissing happiness itself in a two-word title. Can you handle it?

But the contemporary manifestations of the form can appear weakly liberal when considered within the longer history of this genre. For the early “Against [X]” polemics by the likes of Augustine, Athanasius, or Tertullian (“Adversus Marcionem”), nothing less than the fate of the Church was at stake; their scorching blasts were designed to shore up correct orthodoxy against a heretical enemy whom they aimed to drive into exile. The contemporary, post-Sontagian polemics adopt a posture of provocation in faintly echoing such forebears, but they are, in their hearts, pluralistic, and in fact suggest only a slight revision in perspective. Lawrence Lessig isn’t really against transparency, of course: rather, his claim is that “we are not thinking critically enough about where and when transparency works, and where and when it may lead to confusion,” and so on.

Faces Of The Day

Sep 1 2014 @ 5:55pm
by Dish Staff

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Photographer Laura Grabman emails us the background on the above pic:

That party took place exactly 5 years ago, Labor Day weekend on the boardwalk at Coney Island in 2009. I happened to be walking by this group of partiers and I wound up staying for two hours photographing them. By the time I left they were hugging and kissing me goodbye. These people loved the camera and they loved to dance. I took about 300 photographs that day and I really enjoyed how uninhibited they were and how much fun they were having. The late afternoon light was perfect and so was the music.

See more work from the series here.

(Hat tip: Jenna Garrett)

Confessions Of A BBQ Critic

Sep 1 2014 @ 5:06pm
by Dish Staff

“Since Texas Monthly named me the nation’s first and only full-time barbecue editor in March 2013,” Daniel Vaughn sighs, “my health has been a topic of international discussion”:

My job requires that I travel from one end of the state to the other eating smoked brisket, one of the fattiest cuts on the steer. And I can’t forget to order the pork ribs, sausage, and beef ribs. Of course my diet is going to raise eyebrows. Including those of my doctor. During one of my semiannual visits to see him, when my blood work showed an elevated cholesterol level, he gave me a scrip for statins and a helpful catalog of high-cholesterol foods to avoid. First on the list? Beef brisket. Second? Pork ribs. When I told him about my role as barbecue editor, he just said, “Maybe you could eat a little less brisket.” I promised to focus more on smoked chicken, but the pledge was as empty as the calories in my next order of banana pudding. …

All jokes aside, I do understand the long-term perils of my profession. I’ve taken those statins religiously for several years, and I’m doing my part to keep the antacid market in business. But I’m usually more worried about the acute health concerns I face. I judged the “Anything Goes” category at a cookoff in South Texas and spat out a submission mid-chew that featured some severely undercooked lobster tails. At a barbecue joint in Aubrey, I took a bite of beef rib that I had reasonable suspicion to believe had been tainted with melted plastic wrap. And the most gastrointestinal discomfort I’ve ever had came from the 33 entries of beans I judged in one sitting at an amateur barbecue competition in Dallas.

But my health is my concern. To anyone who asks if I’m worried about an early grave, I just say I’ve pre-humously donated my body to barbecue.

Let’s just hope he doesn’t start hawking cholesterol medication. As one chef put it regarding Paula Deen’s dubious deal with diabetes meds:

Mental Health Break

Sep 1 2014 @ 4:20pm
by Dish Staff

For whether you’re working hard or hardly working this Labor Day:

by Dish Staff

In an interview about his new book, Our Great Big American God, Matthew Paul Turner dissects the problems with an all-too-Americanized God, our habit of “affecting, reimagining, shaping, and changing God’s story”:

God was never meant to be a nationalized deity. The very idea that God would showcase geographical favorites or advance the kingdom of one at the expense of another or several others goes against many of Jesus’s basic teachings. Moreover, our relationship with God has caused a large majority of America’s Christians to posses an elitist attitude or worldview, at times even imperialistic. Rather than humility, mercy, and redemption, God seems to have made us controlling, know-it-alls, materialistic, and far too certain of what God thinks about political, social, and spiritual issues.

Throughout our history we’ve branded God into a deity that works for us, one that mixes well with American values, one that agrees with our wars, and one who not only adheres to our way of life, in many cases, our way of life is God’s ideal, which we often suggest is one of the reasons he blesses us with prosperity. The biggest issue perhaps is that many of us are so comfortable with our American God, so certain of his ways, that to believe that we might be wrong is impossible.

In an excerpt from the book, Turner explores the complex legacy of Jonathan Edwards, the theologian and preacher most famous for his hellfire and brimstone sermon, “Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God,” and whom he identifies as one of the key influences on the American understanding of the divine:

Read On

by Dish Staff

Henri Cole cites Rilke’s thoughts on the age-old divide:

Look at the dogs: their confident and admiring attitude is such that some of them appear to have renounced the oldest traditions of dogdom in order to worship our own customs and even our foibles. It is just this which renders them tragic and sublime. Their choice to accept us forces them to dwell, so to speak, at the limits of their real natures, which they continually transcend with their human gazes and melancholy snouts.

But what is the demeanor of cats?—Cats are cats, briefly put, and their world is the world of cats through and through. They look at us, you say? But can you ever really know if they deign to hold your insignificant image for even a moment at the back of their retinas. Fixating on us, might they in fact be magically erasing us from their already full pupils? It is true that some of us let ourselves be taken in by their insistent and electric caresses. But these people should remember the strange, abrupt manner in which their favorite animal, distracted, turns off these effusions, which they’d presumed to be reciprocal. Even the privileged few, allowed close to cats, are rejected and disavowed many times.

Montaigne’s take:

“When I play with my cat”, he wrote, “who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?”

Read On

A Founder Left Behind By The Left

Sep 1 2014 @ 1:24pm
by Dish Staff

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Christian Parenti advises liberals to look to Alexander Hamilton for inspiration, not Thomas Jefferson. He especially praises Hamilton for his far-reaching economic insights:

Hamilton was alone among the “founding fathers” in understanding that the world was witnessing two revolutions simultaneously. One was the political transformation, embodied in the rise of republican government. The other was the economic rise of modern capitalism, with its globalizing networks of production, trade, and finance. Hamilton grasped the epochal importance of applied science and machinery as forces of production.

In the face of these changes, Hamilton created (and largely executed) a plan for government-led economic development along lines that would be followed in more recent times by many countries (particularly in East Asia) that have undergone rapid industrialization. His political mission was to create a state that could facilitate, encourage, and guide the process of economic change — a policy also known as dirigisme, although the expression never entered the American political lexicon the way its antonym, laissez-faire, did.

Parenti goes on to suggest how an appreciation of Hamilton might connect with a pressing contemporary issues – climate change:

Read On

The Disparities In Dining Out

Sep 1 2014 @ 12:35pm
by Dish Staff

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Roberto Ferdman flags a report that reveals gender wage gaps in the restaurant industry, even when tips are accounted for:

The median hourly wage paid to women is less than it is for men in all but one of the eleven jobs surveyed in a report by the Economic Policy Institute. In some cases, the gap is slight—for cashiers, dishwashers, food preparation workers, and hosts and hostesses, it’s a matter of cents. But in others, including supervisors and bartenders, the difference is well over a dollar. For managers, the highest earning occupation, the disparity was nearly three dollars per hour.

Read On

Slight Is Right?

Sep 1 2014 @ 11:41am
by Dish Staff

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Research suggests that people are willing to pay a premium to support small businesses:

In one experiment, the researchers gave subjects a $5-off coupon upon entering a local bookstore. Some of the coupons had short blurbs explaining that the store was in direct competition with a store on the scale of Barnes and Noble, and some explained that the store was competing with another mom-and-pop bookstore. (A control group was given coupons without any text like this.) Those who received the large-competitor coupon were far more likely to make a purchase than those who got small-competitor coupons—even though the coupons made no comments on the store’s superior quality.

Proximity also matters. The researchers analyzed Yelp reviews of local coffee shops, and found that, in general, the closer a shop was to the nearest Starbucks, the higher its rating was on Yelp.

Firms may already be aware that the narrative of the underdog carries immense sway with consumers—researchers suspect people are drawn to companies whose stories they perceive to mirror their own experiences. But this study expands that: “Consumers may want to punish stronger competitors…[and watch] them fail,” the study’s authors write. And this doesn’t just have to do with products, like coffee, that benefit from being seen as authentic; a local electronics store could theoretically sell more batteries by simply playing up its stiff competition with Radioshack.

Off With Their Heels

Sep 1 2014 @ 10:48am
by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

Rebecca Willis ponders the eternal question of why (some) women wear high heels:

We’ve heard it all before and it is, of course, a conundrum. Women say they feel empowered in heelsperhaps because they can look men in the eyewhen in reality they are physically handicapped by them. A lot of ink has been spent over the years trying to explain why we still wear them. To summarise: a high heel is sexual, changing the way we move, signalling passivity and availability. It’s misogynist, rendering women decorative and in need of a strong arm to hold. It’s a sign that we’ve escaped the prison of domesticityhave you tried doing housework in heels? And it’s a status symbol, as tallness is associated with privilege and good nutrition. Even so, many women, women with brains enough to understand that feet are a feminist issue, still want to wear heels. The long view may be that we’re going through a patch of cultural turbulence, but the close-up is that we really want that sense of lift. So for now let’s accept the existence of that desire, however ideologically unsound it may be. …

You have only to go to the chemist’s and stand in front of the shelves of gel insoles, corn pads, blister plasters and heel grips to see that footwear can be torture. And women are more tortured than men: according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, women are two to four times more likely to have hallux valgus (that’s bunions to you and me) and four to five times more likely to have hammer toes. If we could make ourselves immune to fashion and novelty, we’d be better off spending our money on a couple of custom-made pairs of shoes rather than lots of the off-the-shelf, one-shape-fits-all variety.

But what if this question is not, in fact, eternal? In a piece accompanied by a sketch by Konstantin Kakanias of fashion’s A-list in their preferred flats, Sadie Stein (NYT) announces a new, hobble-free era:

Read On