(Hat tip: Neetzan)
Archives For: The Dish
Salman Rushdie ruminates on a writer’s relationship with race and geography:
“Western writers have never doubted that their subject matter is interesting—even if it’s very local or parochial,” he said, and advised all writers to “just make the same assumption.” He also noted that Western writers have also felt free to write about any place in the world, not just where they’re from, and “nobody calls them deracinated.” He was buoyed by the fact that Indian writers are now embracing this same freedom, and writing fiction set all around the globe, refusing “to be caged by origin.”
When asked if he had advice for young writers trying to escape being pigeonholed by where they’re from, Rushdie answered quickly and with a big grin: “No tropical fruit in the title… avoid that shit.”
Employing fMRI technology, [psychologist Uri] Hasson and his neuroscience colleagues screened four film clips—from Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Bang! You’re Dead,” Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, and an unedited, single-camera shot of New York’s Washington Square Park—and then watched as viewers’ brains reacted. Their goal? To measure the degree to which different people would respond the same way to what they were seeing.
The results varied widely, depending on which film was shown. The unstructured, “realistic” video from Washington Square Park, for instance, elicited the same neurological reaction in only about 5 percent of viewers. Responses to Curb Your Enthusiasm were slightly more correlated, at roughly 18 percent; and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly ranked even higher, 45 percent. But ultimately, Hitchcock was the runaway “favorite”: a full 65 percent of the study’s cerebral cortices lit up the same way in response to the clip from “Bang! You’re Dead.”
Hasson’s conclusion was fascinating:
Matt Bieber of The Believer interviews philosopher Todd May about the pros and cons of eternal life:
BLVR: Let’s get into some of those specific changes that you think might take place under conditions of immortality. Could true love exist among immortals?
You seem to doubt it—you say that relationships would probably be “shallower.” And my intuition is to say that the intensity that brings lovers together, the passion and the urgency, has something to do with knowing we’re going to die, and that that sort of fervor might not be necessary under conditions of immortality. Is that where you’re going?
TM: Yeah. And I think we can broaden it outside of death here as well, which is that part of loving is the urgency of recognizing that the person that you’re with may not always be there. It may go back to what you were saying earlier, that there’s a solidarity about death that perhaps we share—and share intimately—with someone we love.
If you’re immortal, you can imagine being sad or grieving if a lover leaves you. But if everyone were immortal, then that leaving isn’t necessarily forever. There’s always a chance that you get them back somewhere down the road—you know, in 5, 10, 20,000 years. So I think that the urgency of the moment gets sapped. One of the things that’s crucial to me about love is that it has to be in the moment. Love is not a promissory note. And once you remove some of that urgency, you diminish love.
“For D.” by Christian Wiman:
Groans going all the way up a young tree
half–cracked and caught in the crook of another
pause. All around the hill-ringed, heavened pond
leaves shush themselves like an audience.
A cellular stillness, as of some huge attention
bearing down. May I hold your hand?
A clutch of mayflies banqueting on oblivion
writhes above the water like visible light.
If ‘1984‘ or ‘The Trial‘ had been a children’s book, Mr Messy would be it. No literary character has ever been so fully and categorically obliterated by the forces of social control. Hargreaves may well pay homage to Kafka and Orwell in this work, but he also goes beyond them.
We meet Mr Messy – a man whose entire day-to-day existence is the undiluted expression of his individuality. His very untidiness is a metaphor for his blissful and unselfconscious disregard for the Social Order. Yes, there are times when he himself is a victim of this individuality – as when he trips over a brush he has left on his garden path – but he goes through life with a smile on his face.
That is, until a chance meeting with Mr Neat and Mr Tidy – the archetypal men in suits. They set about a merciless programme of social engineering and indoctrination that we are left in no doubt is in flagrant violation of his free will. ‘But I like being messy’ he protests as they anonymize both his home and his person with their relentless cleaning activity, a symbolism thinly veiled.
This process is so thorough that by the end of it he is unrecognizable – a homogenized pink blob, no longer truly himself (that vibrant Pollock-like scribble of before). He smiles the smile of a brainwashed automaton, blandly accepting what he has been given no agency to question or refuse. It is in this very smile that the sheer horror of what we have seen to occur is at its most acute.
The reviewer, Hamilton Richardson, tackles more of the characters here.
You have until noon on Tuesday to guess it. City and/or state first, then country. Please put the location in the subject heading, along with any description within the email. If no one guesses the exact location, proximity counts. Be sure to email entries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Winner gets a free The View From Your Window book. Have at it.
I’m quite concerned that in the future someone might not know what author they’re reading. You see that with music. You would think in the information age it would be the easiest thing to know what you’re listening to. That you could look up instantly the music upon hearing it so you know what you’re listening to, but in truth it’s hard to get to those services.
I was in a cafe this morning where I heard some stuff I was interested in, and nobody could figure [it] out…. Then it changed to other music, and they didn’t know what that was. And I tried to use one of the services that determines what music you’re listening to, but it was a noisy place and that didn’t work. So what’s supposed to be an open information system serves to obscure the source of the musician. It serves as a closed information system. It actually loses the information.
So in practice you don’t know who the musician is. And I think that’s what could happen with writers. And this is what we celebrate in Wikipedia is pretending… that the speaker doesn’t matter. And if we start to see that with books in general… [y]ou see the thing decontextualized.
I have sort of resisted putting my music out lately because I know it just turns into these mushes. Without context, what does my music mean? I make very novel sounds, but I don’t see any value in me sharing novel sounds that are decontextualized. Why would I write if people are just going to get weird snippets that are just mushed together and they don’t know the overall position or the history of the writer or anything? What would be the point in that. The day books become mush is the day I stop writing.
Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic, the museum’s founders, were once a couple in love. One hot summer some years ago they stopped being in love and began to divide the contents of their apartment. Theirs had been an amicable split, though no less sad for that, and so they sorted through the rooms together, parsing shared memories of their relationship. Cups, CDs, ashtrays, coffee grinders, pans, rugs, books, badges, scarves: “even the most banal object [had] a story to tell.” These were the sorts of objects every well-meaning friend, every self-help manual, every magazine article offering advice on how to recover from heartbreak urged people like them to throw away, burn, break or give to charity—to get rid of at all costs. When love ends there must be no reminders.
But this pair didn’t wish to do any such thing. They wondered at the mercilessness of disposing of the evidence of love that may have given years of joy and much pleasure. They decided to curate a travelling exhibition of donated items, to offer bereft lovers the chance to create a ritual, an alternative to the vandalism proposed by the self-help manuals—”a chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation”, as the printed sign above Ana’s boots tells newcomers.
From Forna’s tour of the museum:
Against the opposite wall is a shaving kit given by a 17-year-old girl to her married lover in the late 1980s. When he donated it to this museum, the married man wrote: “I hope she doesn’t love me any more. I hope she doesn’t know she was the only person I ever loved.”
(Photo by Flickr user woodleywonderworks)
As a venue for securing employment, sure, maybe it’s not the most straightforward approach. Then again, according to Forbes, a whole host of college degrees, from film and art to philosophy and history, are pretty much pointless if your whole goal is to secure a high-paying wage. But as an intellectual pursuit, how is studying the history and cultural force of heavy metal music any different than studying, say, the societal impact of Renaissance era French poets? For many, college is a time to expand your horizons, to think weird thoughts and to absorb knowledge you’d probably never encounter otherwise. Rock on, Nottingham, \m/.
But the degree does have a practical side:
New College Nottingham has launched the degree to capitalise on the rock and metal music scene in the city which is home to Download festival [that attracts more than 75,000 rock and metal fans every year] and where Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson hails from. … Tutors say the degree isn’t about ‘creating the next rock star’ but is about capitalising on the thriving music industry in the city and enthusiasm for music to make students ready for a career in the industry, not just as performers but to work in music publishing, record companies and teaching.
Previous Dish on the nexus of scholarship and heavy metal here.
Clayton Cubitt contemplates the “Decisive Moment”:
Henri Cartier-Bresson believed that the photographer is like a hunter, going forth into the wild, armed with quick reflexes and a finely-honed eye, in search of that one moment that most distills the time before him. In this instant the photographer reacts, snatching truth from the timestream in the snare of his shutter. The Decisive Moment is Gestalt psychology married to reflexive performance art in the blink of a mechanical eye. It is the creation of art through the curation of time.
He envisions a future of “Constant Moments”:
With the iPhone 5 camera module currently estimated to cost about $10/unit, and dropping like a rock with the inexorability of Moore’s Law, we can see how even an individual photographer might deploy hundreds of these micro-networked cameras for less than it costs to buy one current professional DSLR. What might a photographer do with a grid of networked cameras like this, with their phone as the “viewfinder?” A street photographer could deploy them all over a neighborhood of interest, catching weeks worth of decisive moments to choose from at leisure. A photojournalist could embed them all across a war zone, on both sides of the battle, to achieve a level of reality and objectivity never seen before. A sports photographer could blanket the stadium and capture every angle, for the entire game, even from each player’s perspective. Activists could choose to link their networked cameras and capture a live feed from every protestor in a march of hundreds of thousands, each one flaggable, perhaps to highlight any police abuses as they occur, from every perspective nearby, editable live from anywhere else on Earth. All of this is closer to the now than to the future.
A reader writes:
I take issue with the contention that George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” is “a model for modern war journalism.” I don’t feel that Orwell can accurately be categorized as a “journalist” in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell fought on behalf of one of the belligerent parties, and actively participated in the frontline battles of the POUM, the Trotskyite militia. He recounts trench warfare in the mountains, night raids, and his other combat experiences. It certainly provides a gripping, fascinating look at the inept manner in which the war was fought in his mountainous sector; his accounts of the attitudes of the population and his other observations are also invaluable, and I don’t mean to disparage their importance.
But I don’t think they provide a very good model for modern war journalism, assuming that we want our journalists to have some semblance of objectivity. I can remember the howls of derision with which many treated reports from journalists “embedded” with American military units in 2003, because those journalists frequently sacrificed objectivity and overtly favored the soldiers with whom they spent all their time.
Well, Orwell took that a step further, and became one of those soldiers. While I appreciate and value the information Orwell provided, I hardly think that his perceptions, opinions, and analyses can fairly be considered “objective,” given that he purposely set that objectivity aside and risked his life to help one side in the conflict prevail by attempting to murder the soldiers on the other side of the conflict. If that is a model for modern war journalism, then we might as well stop sending journalists to cover the wars at all, and simply let some of the more-erudite soldiers from each side send back their own anecdotes and experiences, complete with their own pre-existing ideological and personal biases of the type one acquires from trying to murder the enemy and from having that enemy try to murder you.
There’s evidence pot can help:
[One experiment] incorporated data on 5,631 Americans, who reported their level of loneliness, described their marijuana usage (if any), and assessed their mental health and feelings of self-worth. Not surprisingly, the researchers found a relationship between loneliness and feelings of self-worth, but it was significantly weaker for regular pot smokers.
“Marijuana use buffered the lonely from both negative self-worth and poor mental health,” the researchers write.
Another experiment, featuring 537 people, found those who were experiencing social pain were less likely to have suffered a major depression in the past year if they smoked pot relatively frequently.
More Dish on the recent studies of loneliness here.
Artists Sebastian Acker and Phil Thompson highlight the surreal phenomenon of “copy towns”, where cities from Europe and the Americas are replicated for Chinese citizens:
[G]enerally China has a long history of copying, especially within architecture and the arts. For centuries the emperors would replicate lands that they had conquered within their own palace gardens. These constructs would often include fauna and plants from the conquered regions. This ability to replicate and maintain the distant land demonstrated the emperor’s control over the original region. Then there is also China’s desire to replicate the West and become a first-world country. A lot of Chinese people look up to the West as an ideal, so the construction of these towns could be seen as a way of accelerating their progress; a quick way of achieving through emulation.
(Photo above of Thames Town by Flicker user triplefivechina. Wikipedia describes it as “a new town in Songjiang District, about 30 kilometres (19 mi) from central Shanghai, China. It is named after the River Thames in England. The architecture is themed according to classic English market town styles. There are cobbled streets, Victorian terraces and corner shops.” )
Humans aren’t the only ones being displaced by climate change:
Each cold-blooded fish species has a particular temperature range in which it thrives. If water temperatures depart from that range, they may experience reduced growth and reproduction, ultimately reducing their numbers in a particular area and changing the species’ distribution. Climate change-driven shifts in fisheries pose the biggest threat to livelihoods in developing countries, especially in the tropics, where adaptation capacity of both people and fish themselves are more limited, [researcher William] Cheung said. …
With climate change predicted to accelerate in coming decades due to the rising amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, even faster shifts in fish populations are possible, which could even lead to disputes between countries if commercially valuable fish shift out of one country’s waters and into another’s, according to Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Dalhousie Univeristy in Nova Scotia who was not involved in the Nature study.
Robert Jones and Daniel Cox examine support for civil unions over time:
The changing political composition of civil union supporters shows that the center of gravity of this debate has shifted significantly. The civil union option has moved from being a middle way dominated by political moderates a decade ago to one that is, today, most attractive to political conservatives. And looking ahead, there is evidence that the civil union option may have a limited future, at least if younger Americans are any indication. When given a three-way choice, civil unions are the least popular option among Millennials (Americans born after 1980). Only slightly more than 1-in-10 (13%) Millennials prefer civil unions, while 67% say they support allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, and 15% oppose any legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship.
But Chris Geidner highlights a promising development for transgendered members of the military:
The Pentagon formally recognized earlier this month that there are transgender veterans — a step that LGBT advocates say is a long way from open transgender service in the military, but also a significant first step in that process. In a short letter dated May 2, a Navy official told Autumn Sandeen, a veteran and transgender activist: “Per your request the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) has been updated to show your gender as female effective April 12, 2013.”