The Daily Wrap

Today on the Dish, Andrew responded onscreen to critics of Thatcher, and revealed how foreign the Baroness would have been to the Republican program, from climate change to AIDS. Andrew also implored us not to wait for politicians to spearhead social change, pointed out one such case (of gay rights in Uganda), and considered the Obama administration’s role in the change sweeping America. Elsewhere, Andrew continued to express hope for Pope Francis, gave an interview with Vanity Fair, and daydreamed of a future career as a canna-critic.

In political coverage, we tried to measure what racial animus cost Obama in both elections, located the GOP in the 12-step plan, and explored some new ideas of class in Britain. We discovered most scandals don’t torpedo careers and reassessed animal rights’ victory on horse slaughter as Francesca Mari peeked between the grand moments and figures in history. Reading up on WWII, TNC pushed back on lofty assurances against barbarism, as we granted certain elements of the nanny state a second look.

In miscellanea, Laura Bennet and Willa Paskin panned Vice’s new HBO show, Tom Shone triangulated the elements of good cinema, and we counted music sharing as just one new struggle over intellectual property. We uncovered the history of the suicidal dogs of war and considered whether loneliness is a killer while the world markets craved red hot chili peppers. We came across a Fargo-style self-kidnapping service, looked beyond calories for healthy eating, and studied elite chic.

Later we read David Foster Wallace on Fyodor Dostoevsky, spotted the difference between hardcovers and their paperbacks, and wondered if the art gallery is becoming history. Things got beardy in the MHB, we met the gaze of an anti-Maggie Briton celebrating Thatcher’s death for the Face of the Day, spotted a shadowy VFYW in the East Village, and tracked down Rohrmoos-Untertal, Austria in the results of the latest VFYW contest.

–B.J.

The Daily Wrap

Today on the Dish, Andrew returned from vacation to reflect at length on the death of his hero and idol Margaret Thatcher. He measured the scorn of her enemies, contemplated the fruits of her legacy, and praised the strength and savvy that made her the first woman to become Prime Minister. Also, readers asked Andrew if he regrets his attacks on leftists over Iraq. On an even more personal note, he eulogized as his dear friend David Kuo who died last week.

Meanwhile, we rounded up reax to the death of Lady Thatcher, as well as a batch of her one-liners. On the home front we gathered analysis on Obama’s new budget proposal while the administration’s FDA scored a win in the contraception battles, and Josh Marshall suspected that money talks in the struggle for marriage equality. And on the foreign beat, Osnos parsed China’s stance on North Korea as Pat Buchanan gritted his teeth at America’s presence over the border.

In miscellanea, we let more readers ask Rod Dreher anything, considered whether the advantages of a college degree are shrinking and tallied up the lives saved by nuclear plants. Readers caught up with the debate over randier sex and learned that sometimes in space, no one can see you cry. Owen King pondered book titles that might have been, Nathan Bransford expected books to end up over our eyelids and we browsed the prints left on Americans over the years. Brian Jay Stanley took on a new dimension of life in fatherhood as we imagined what it would mean to lose a twin and surveyed the punishment of deserters throughout history.

We explored the history of verminous myth, got real about CPR, came across a spoiler firewall, and considered whether stupid is as stupid says. We peered out at Tokyo, Japan for the VFYW, spent a moment with a few fans at Fenway in the Face of the Day, and slow-jammed alongside snails in the MHB.

B.J.

Listening To A Picture

by Brendan James

Patrick Feaster found a way to recover the audio of records that have perished using photographs of the discs:

To “hear” the vanished record, Feaster scanned the page into a computer, unwound the lines from their spiral, cleaned up any breaks, and ran the resulting image through software that converted the lines into audio files. (Feaster details the process in more technical terms, with accompanying screenshots, in this blog post.)

When CGI Came Of Age

by Brendan James

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Alexander Huls considers the profound impact of the special effects developed for Spielberg’s Jurassic Park:

[M]oviegoers had yet to accept CGI as anything more than a novelty. As journalist David Morgan observed in 1993, “audiences were always aware that what they were watching was carefully crafted special effects.” Which is why for all of Terminator 2: Judgment Day’s success and technological innovation, its effects didn’t so much sweep audiences away as it did elicit “How did they do that?” reactions. For effects to truly break, their creators had to advance the technology to the point where the seam between illusion and reality completely disappeared.

Jurassic Park did that. Spielberg told Tom Shone (for Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Summer) that when he saw Industrial Light and Magic’s first test shots of the dinosaurs, he felt as though he was “watching our future unfolding on the TV screen.” George Lucas, who was also there, recalled “it was like one of those moments in history, like the invention of the light bulb or the first telephone call… A major gap had been crossed and things were never going to be the same.” He was right. In the words of Shone: “Jurassic Park heralded a revolution in movies as profound as the coming of sound in 1927.”

A Mass Of Fickle Atoms

by Brendan James

Josh Horgan thinks social sciences (“softies”) are still struggling to find their place in the shadow of the hard sciences:

Softies look askance at the aspirations of hardies—with good reason. The recent recession provides a powerful demonstration of social science’s limits. The world’s smartest economists, equipped with the most sophisticated mathematical models and powerful computers that money can buy, did not foresee—or at any rate could not prevent—the financial calamities that struck the United States and the rest of the world in 2008.

He says this difference is just where the softer sciences can play to their strengths:

Protons, plasmas and planets are oblivious to what scientists say about them. Social systems, on the other hand, consist of objects that watch television; listen to the radio; read newspapers, journals, books, and blogs; and consequently change their behavior. In other words, social-science theories can transform societies if people believe in them. …

So we are left with a paradox: Although social science is in many respects quite weak, it can also be extraordinarily potent in terms of its impact, for ill or good, on our lives. Think of all the harm done in the name of Marx—and of social Darwinist and free-market theorists, from Herbert Spencer to Milton Friedman.

For the philosophy geeks among you: this seems reminiscent of the theories of Lester Frank Ward, the forgotten American Aristotle (with impressive mutton chops) who wanted a system of “applied sociology” to fall somewhere between pure science and political activism. It remains a tricky target to hit.

The Weekly Wrap

Independent Spirit Awards

Friday on the Dish, Andrew answered readers’ questions on his guilt over the consequences of the Iraq War, before letting them ask both Rod Dreher and Josh Fox anything. Elsewhere, we rounded up analysis of the poor jobs report, continued to watch the Senate evolve on equality and considered Mark Sanford’s scandal and its aftermath. Dominic Tierney picked apart the right’s hypocrisy on deadly weapons, Bouie expected slow, gradual progress on gun control, and the NRCC pulled a Buzzfeed.

In other political coverage, we kept an eye open on Hamas and met America’s number one jihadi while Bill Gardner uncovered a morbid map of the country. We exchanged with readers over fracking and its effect on emissions, remained skeptical on the significance of hydrogen technology, and weighed the costs and benefits of the soda ban.

Later we contrasted novels with their TV adaptations, spotlighted the work of poet Robert Bly, and asked if we should strike the set of Romeo and Juliet. David Hilfiker blogged through the fog of brain damage, Jimmy Stamp pieced together the history of the chess set and readers added more to the thread on modest weddings. Jeff Robbins stuck up for Yahoo’s no-work-from-home policy and Rebecca Shuman urged English majors to abandon hope, all ye who enter grad school.

We also nibbled on Whole Foods fast food, questioned stretching, and discovered an unknown sparrow by Berlin’s Unknown Soldier in the Face of the Day. Finally, we stopped by Lyon, France in the VFYW, observed two visions of Normandy in Cool Ad Watch and played another level of Billy Graham’s Bible Blaster for the MHB.

–B.J.

The rest of the week after the jump:

Thursday on the Dish, Andrew answered readers on why he changed his mind on Iraq, Harry Enten found support for immigration reform at critical mass, and Pew measured escalating support for post legalization. Felix supplied a fairly grim reason to sweat the bitcoin boom, Iraq asked Obama to pass the drones, and we checked in on the Gitmo hunger strike. We also surveyed the coming inter-activist skirmishes over fracking, discovered another cholera scandal rocking the UN, and Shafer yearned for a new vocabulary for North Korea coverage.

Elsewhere, we continued to argue libertarianism vs. Christianism, questioned the efficacy of the presidential pulpit, Harry Levine described the appeal of stop-and-frisk from a cop’s perspective, and Cowen factored alcohol into the pursuit of gun control. Brian Merchant found out how much Republicans like renewable energy, we considered cutting back on the GOP’s traveling debate roadshow in 2016. Readers spoke up about the low budget weddings, disapproved of UPenn’s no-smokers policy, and doubted any connection between the tactics of the NRA and Black Panthers.

In assorted coverage, we paid respects to the late, great Roger Ebert, let readers ask Josh Fox anything, and remembered Bruce Springsteen’s intense relationship with the Big Man. We read the brochure for pot’s Nappa Valley, flagged some major Sully bait, and heard readers sound off on the limits of graphic war imagery.

Later, Oppenheimer explored the limits of his parenting skills, Richard Nieva spotlighted the share-economy and its discontents, and we considered the status of Pixar films in light of the Nemo-sequel. We met a member of the US chemical battalion in the Face of the Day, made it through the MHB bit-by-bit and took a breath in North Galiano Island, British Columbia for the VFYW.

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Wednesday on the Dish, readers asked Andrew where federalism begins and ends, Nick Beaudrot kicked off a discussion on blogging as a way of life and Matt Sitman looked at Pope Francis as a Jesuit. Suderman caught up with the hiccups in Obamacare, Weigel measured lack of interest in the sequester and Pareene wondered if we’ve seen the last of the Clinton hacks. We discussed the economic reasons of the “decline” of marriage, checked in on the demise of the Euro, and Adam Alter noticed a connection between a hurricane’s name and how much we give for relief.

We caught Americans running drugs on the Mexican border, kept considering the plight of the snitch, and welcomed terrorism back to the silver screen. We pondered the significance of teacher cheating, asked if we’re hardwired for language and toured a lonely, lonely shopping center. Elsewhere, we updated readers on the Dish experiment, unearthed the very first Face of the Day, and readers sounded off on the restaurant EZ pass. Kate Crawford differentiated data and truth, Calvin Trillin extolled the joys of the floating editor, while Zoe carried on the marriage-surname discussion (and announced some exciting news).

Later, Moynihan cringed at his Wikipedia entry, we eyeballed how many of our fellow citizens go for UFOs and trutherism, and readers shared their experience of sensual sneezes. We reckoned with the power of Wagner and revisited Ware’s broken leg as Evan Selinger opened a drawer of old thank you notes. Andy Greenwald said a good word for bulk watching Game of Thrones while Woodman defended the misuse “literally.”

Finally, we looked out on London for the VFYW, spotted tiny tourists beneath a big Face of the Day, took a somber look back at Fraggle Rock for the MHB.

Port Authority Offers Media Tour Of One World Trade Observatory On 100th Floor

Tuesday on the Dish, Andrew expressed his disbelief on the advances of the gay rights movement while readers vented over yesterday’s guest post from Mr. Rick Astley. Ed Kilgore doubted that the GOP’s libertarians will threaten its Christianists, Frum raised his eyebrow at a Hillary victory, and we sized up the new Democratic coalition. Bernstein encouraged one Supreme Court Justice to step downa and Judis spotlighted the problems with America’s trickledown recovery. On the foreign beat, Graeme Wood took a hyperinflation vacation in Iran, Larison rebuked Jackson Diehl on the legacy of Iraq, and David Bosco warned of a new African intervention for the UN.

In assorted coverage, readers kept up the debate on taking husbands’ names, Oppenheimer demanded conservatives stay consistent on the “decline” of marriage, Dylan Matthews measured the exponential rise of Senatorial support for equality. A reader gave a personal account of narcoanalysis, we measured the benefits of early marriage, and found out that Google is against sponsored content (Vice, not so much). Tahir Hemphill pieced together an almanac of rap and Megan Garber paid respects to the word “whom,’ and Jordan Weissman analyzed Amazon’s buyout of Goodreads. We also looked out from a whale’s eyes and checked in on Ware while Mark Graham did a global survey of Wikipedia editors.

Later, we tested the limits of working out of the office, Steve Mann showed us his proto-proto Google Glass, and we tracked how dull food gets tasty. Ian Crouch muted the blaring Inception trailer music and we detected evidence of the class structure in reality TV. We met some of the activists in Uruguay’s marriage equality movement in the Face of the Day,  sat in awe of another beatboxer for the MHB before visiting Tirana, Albania in today’s VFYW contest and Shannon, Ireland in the regular VFYW.

Monday on the Dish, Andrew signed off for vacation, but not before leaving a new ‘Ask Anything’ video. Meanwhile, we sized up the stakes in the Korean peninsula, Ackerman suggested we ditch the term ‘WMD,’ and Matt Taibbi described the difficulty of knocking down bad laws. We checked in on the chances of a GOP resurgence and the state of immigration reform, explained why the government won’t help us with our taxes and discovered that shale gas won’t hold up progress on renewable energy. Rob Walker told the story of a man forced to rat on criminals, readers continued the delicate thread on “gay rape” and kept up the appraisal of our public defenders.

Elsewhere, Noah Berlatsky stuck up for pricey weddings while we continued the threads on prenups and taking on a husband’s name. Readers pushed further on Justice Roberts’ possible blind spot on the definition of marriage, others defended the idea of political ‘evolution’ on the question, and the World Values survey tracked the progress of gay rights worldwide.

In more assorted coverage, Christopher Jobson came across found art in the age of Google, we witnessed the new found relevance of fanboys, learned some sneezes come from being hot and bothered. Also, we we questioned the authenticity of the Harlem Shake meme and later found the original version of “reality” entertainment was as staged as it is now.

Later, we browsed some dictator kitsch as Dirk Brockmann followed cash around the country and readers responded to Tomasky’s call for a more efficient restaurant check. We agonized over Kevin Ware’s compound fracture, watched cola cans score medical supplies, and asked whether Adderall will become a commonplace energy fix. Touchscreens were put to the test in the MHB, before we remembered that bunnies can be scary in the Face of the Day and spent a moment in Chengdu, China for the VFYW.

Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas

Last weekend on the Dish, Andrew praised the radical Christianity of Pope Francis, told us about his inspiring trip to West Point to speak to the military academy’s gay-straight alliance, and announced he was taking a breather.

We also provided our usual eclectic mix of religious, books, and culture coverage. Fittingly, we emphasized matters of faith, doubt, and philosophy, with Marilynne Robinson musing on the Resurrection, Paul F.M. Zahl making the religious case against drones, Karen Armstrong urging us to believe in a grown-up God, and Thomas Holgrave considered the complex traditionalism of young Christians. Julia Kaganskiy profiled programmers exploring the similarities between scripture and code, Alice Bolin recalled the benefits of reading like a child, Helen Rittlemeyer plumbed the parallel lives of DFW and Coleridge, and Francis Gino explained how what we wear impacts the likelihood of our cheating.

In literary and arts coverage, David Biespiel pondered the ways we live in the wake of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, the publication of Willa Cather’s letters defied her dying wish, and Edward Jay Epstein remembered Nabokov’s Dirty Lit. Ben Schrank described why he’s drawn to writing female characters, Danny Nowell re-read Walker Percy, and Harold Augenbraum profiled Proust’s young love. Avi Steinberg detailed why teaching creative writing in prison is so important, Barry Hannah proffered the reasons for writing, Maria Bustillos penned a love letter to editors, and Julia Fierro contemplated the challenge of novelists writing about sex. Stephen Marche was disappointed by the Kindle’s lack of development, Kate Hakala mourned the decline of steaminess on the big screen, James Parker put The Real Housewives franchise under the microscope, and Patrick Radden Kaffe was fascinated by the brainstorming sessions for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Read Saturdays poem here and Sunday’s here.

In assorted news and views, coughing in a quiet music hall meant more than you think, Roy Peter Clark downplayed claims of a plagiarism pandemic, Tomasky grew tired of waiting for his restaurant checks, and wine declined in France. Dinosaur sex proved to be complicated, Barry Schwartz continued the conversation about marriage and love, and Alison Gash chronicled how same-sex adoption victories were won. Cool Ad watch here, MHBs here and here, FOTDs here and here, VFYWs here and here, and the latest window contest here.

–B.J. & M.S.

Stuck With Hamas

by Brendan James

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Maysoon Zayid eviscerates Hamas and stresses that their policies of religious persecution and gender-segregation are not what Palestinians are fighting for:

I’m sick to death of hearing that ignorant mantra, “Hamas was democratically elected.” The operative word is “was.” Their term has been up for four years. They are no longer democratically elected; they are warlords, and the Palestinian Authority has gifted them free rein. … Hamas claims to be fighting for freedom while invoking laws that oppress women and religious minorities. As Palestinians, we are striving for equality, not more oppression.

In 2006, I hung out with The Carter Center as they monitored the Palestinian elections. Nobody thought Hamas would win. Hamas did not think Hamas could win. The lion’s share of folks I spoke to who were voting for them were not actually voting for Hamas but against Fatah. They had gotten sick of the blatant corruption and inaction of the Palestinian Authority. They wanted to teach them a lesson. While Fatah was accused of stealing from the people, Hamas provided impeccable social services to the downtrodden. The idea was to put the fear of God in Fatah so they would straighten up, but instead Hamas won—and so did Israel.

Zayid conveys a larger point often lost in the coverage of this conflict: Hamas is not popular in Palestine. They are has-beens and opportunists. Occasionally they receive a boost in support when Israel strikes or the party leadership scores a release of prisoners, but generally they’re a huge disappointment. (A recent poll of both the West Bank and Gaza shows Hamas with support around 12% with Fatah, hardly beloved, around 36%.) If a national government came together and ushered in fresh elections, Hamas could lose serious clout.

On the other hand, Hussein Ibish warns that recently reconfirmed Hamas leader Khaled Mashal may use any reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah as cover to maneuver his way to the head of the PLO:

[I]t’s important not to underestimate the harm this could cause to the Palestinian national movement. Hamas’ policies are strictly inconsistent with those of the PLO, and contradict its treaty obligations. If Hamas joined the PLO with its current policies unchanged, let alone usurped it, the international standing of the PLO – one of the most important achievements of the Palestinian national movement, the value of which no one really questions – would be placed in dire jeopardy.

Palestinians want and need national unity. But the terms are crucial. If such unity in effect means abandoning the positions that underscore the PLO’s standing at the United Nations and other multilateral institutions, and diplomatic relations with well over 100 countries, the price will be exorbitant and disproportionate.

Time I spent kicking around the West Bank originally convinced me that the US and Israel are simply not doing enough to incentivize the formation of a unity government, whose elections would spit Hamas out of the PA soon after it brought them in. After all, the first incarnation of the Arab Spring that cropped up in Palestine was a wave of protests calling for ‘unity’ between Ramallah and Gaza City (which Hamas chose to handle with billy clubs). What if Palestinians got their national unity? The US could bite the bullet, encourage the merger, let Hamas in, watch them shrink into a minority party, and let Fatah lead and handle future negotiations.

But now, considering Mashal’s scheming and some good counterarguments by Michael Koplow in the aftermath of the latest Gaza mini-war, it’s not so obvious it would be that easy to dethrone Hamas. They have a lot of guns, for one thing. And maybe that’s the only thing that really matters.

(Photo: A Hamas militant takes part in the funeral procession. By Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

Is It Time To Retire Romeo And Juliet?

by Brendan James

Commenting on a new adaptation, Alyssa Rosenberg complains that the play “hasn’t aged well”:

[T]he vision of Romeo and Juliet’s deaths uniting their families is an adolescent fantasy of death solving all problems, a “won’t they miss me when I’m gone” pout. There’s a reason that, in the best modern riff on Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, Maria lives after Tony’s death to shame the Sharks and the Jets, her survival a seal on the truce between them. Dying is easy. Living to survive the consequences of your actions and to do the actual work of reconciliation is the hard part.

Anna Williams suggests the exploration of “deeply childish love” is the point of the play:

The play’s criticism of the lovers becomes explicit in the speeches of Friar Laurence, who considers their relationship shallow, hasty, and immoderate. Amazed at the news that Romeo has suddenly stopped loving Rosaline and fallen in love with Juliet, the friar concludes that “young men’s love then lies / Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.” (Just as Rosenberg says, “Romeo’s age isn’t specified in the play, but the quickness with which he throws over a former flame for Juliet doesn’t suggest a particularly mature man.”) A love that lies more in the eyes than in the heart, in the friar’s analogy, is deficient.

The rapid progress of the lovers’ relationship worries the friar, too: “Wisely and slow, they stumble that run fast,” he cautions the eager Romeo. Although Juliet calls their love “too rash, too unadvised, too sudden” the night that she meets Romeo, she does not actually slow their courtship, as they marry the very next day. We are, in Rosenberg’s phrase, watching them “behave like early teenagers.”

I agree with Alyssa that most modern-dress productions don’t come off well—I haven’t been the same since sweating through a bleak, grey staging at Edinburgh Festival a few years back. But is the play itself really “outdated?” Probably not until self-destructive love is out of our system. In the meantime it seems odd to fault Shakespeare for the relatively recent butcherings of a drama that has been staged for roughly 400 years.

A Terminal Career Path

by Brendan James

Rebecca Shuman declares that “the tenure track literature professorship is extinct,” and urges all aspiring grad students to turn back while they still can:

Other well-meaning academics have already attempted to warn you, the best-known screed in this subgenre being William Pannapacker’s “Graduate School in the Humanities? Just Don’t Go.” But this convinced no one. It certainly didn’t convince me! Why? Because Pannapacker is a tenured professor. He pulled it off, so why can’t you? After all, someone has to get these jobs.

Well, someone also has to not die from small-cell lung cancer to give the disease its 6 percent survival rate, but would you smoke four packs a day with the specific intention of being in that 6 percent? No, because that’s stupid. Well, tenure-track positions in my field have about 150 applicants each. Multiply that 0.6 percent chance of getting any given job by the 10 or so appropriate positions in the entire world, and you have about that same 6 percent chance of “success.” If you wouldn’t bet your life on such ludicrous odds, then why would you bet your livelihood?

The Daily Wrap

Today on the Dish, Andrew answered readers on why he changed his mind on Iraq, Harry Enten found support for immigration reform at critical mass, and Pew measured escalating support for post legalization. Felix supplied a fairly grim reason to sweat the bitcoin boom, Iraq asked Obama to pass the drones, and we checked in on the Gitmo hunger strike. We also surveyed the coming inter-activist skirmishes over fracking, discovered another cholera scandal rocking the UN, and Shafer yearned for a new vocabulary for North Korea coverage.

Elsewhere, we continued to argue libertarianism vs. Christianism, questioned the efficacy of the presidential pulpit, Harry Levine described the appeal of stop-and-frisk from a cop’s perspective, and Cowen factored alcohol into the pursuit of gun control. Brian Merchant found out how much Republicans like renewable energy, we considered cutting back on the GOP’s traveling debate roadshow in 2016. Readers spoke up about the low budget weddings, disapproved of UPenn’s no-smokers policy, and doubted any connection between the tactics of the NRA and Black Panthers.

In assorted coverage, we paid respects to the late, great Roger Ebert, let readers ask Josh Fox anything, and remembered Bruce Springsteen’s intense relationship with the Big Man. We read the brochure for pot’s Nappa Valley, flagged some major Sully bait, and heard readers sound off on the limits of graphic war imagery.

Later, Oppenheimer explored the limits of his parenting skills, Richard Nieva spotlighted the share-economy and its discontents, and we considered the status of Pixar films in light of the Nemo-sequel. We met a member of the US chemical battalion in the Face of the Day, made it through the MHB bit-by-bit and took a breath in North Galiano Island, British Columbia for the VFYW.

–B.J.