"To be honest," he says, "I had got to the point in London when I started to feel a little frustrated. I know moaning is part of our national character, but I hate it. And I found myself moaning a lot about theatre. Why did they decide to put that on? How come he got to direct that? And why is it that they only want plays about black people who are part of the underclass or involved in street crime? Is it because those are the only types of plays about minorities that ageing white middle-aged reviewers feel they can understand? I just found myself moaning and moaning and moaning…" (slGrauniad)
Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, poverty thoughts. "This is what our lives are like, and here are our defense mechanisms, and here is why we think differently." (SLKinja) [more inside]
The Only Way Is Essex was the first of a new wave of scripted reality shows in the UK, inspired by their popular US equivalents. Yet what started as a riff on the old joke of the bimbonic 'Essex Girl' has somehow had an impact on linguistics (including a dictionary entry) and what we think of as beautiful. [more inside]
"The maths that saw the US shutdown coming". Peter Turchin (Previously) has a mathematical model that shows why the US is in crisis, and what will happen next. [more inside]
The Guardian presents an animated video explaining the distribution of wealth in the UK (and how it's getting worse).
Ask A Native New Yorker: How Guilty Should I Feel About Being A Horrible Gentrifier? Passionate response from a Bushwick native.
No matter what time period you are referring to, no matter what country or region of the world you are referencing, there is a single claim that you can make that will always be true and will never be challenged, not even by Malcolm Gladwell himself: the middle class is always in the process of emerging.
The truth is the human race has never been better off. We live in an age of plenty. The problem is one of distribution: Instead of being used for the benefit of all, that plenty is exploited for the benefit of a select, privileged few, who profit from polluting and in some cases sabotaging the commons. If a rich person has something you need, you should take it. And if a big corporation has something you want, you should steal it. Instead of paying retail prices when you go to a chain store, just don’t pay. After all, you earned it. [more inside]
Budgie - starring Adam Faith. The complete series one and two is available on YouTube [you may well need your cockney rhyming slang dictionary]. [more inside]
One Nation Under Elvis
My own conversion to country music came all of a sudden in 1990, around another campfire, also in Nevada. The great Western Shoshone anti-nuclear and land-rights activist Bill Rosse, a decorated World War II vet and former farm manager, unpacked his guitar and sang Hank Williams and traditional songs for hours. I was enchanted as much by the irreverent rancor of some of the songs as by the pure blue yearning of others. I’d had no idea such coolness, wit, and poetry was lurking in this stuff I was taught to scorn before I’d met it.[more inside]
A survey by a high-end estate agent has revealed that there are more domestic servants in the exclusive London district of Mayfair now than 200 years ago, and indeed, in the élite London neighbourhoods which have been bought up by absentee oligarchs, often only the lights in the servants' quarters are on at night. For those who fancy a life of serving the super-rich, there are courses to prepare them for catering to their masters' exacting whims. But it's not all rosy at the top; the prices of luxury goods (including foie gras, Patek Philippe watches, paintings by artists such as Cézanne and Rothko) in the basket used to calculate the Affluent Luxury Living Index have been rising at a rate exceeding inflation.
Dan Grover and Mike Belfrage have mapped transit inequality in the Bay Area after reading a New Yorker piece on the New York City subway (previously). The ways in which a widening income gap are changing the demography of San Francisco have been widely reported of late (previously, previously). The project's code is available if you'd like to try mapping your own city.
"The internationalized art world relies on a unique language. Its purest articulation is found in the digital press release. This language has everything to do with English, but it is emphatically not English. It is largely an export of the Anglophone world and can thank the global dominance of English for its current reach. But what really matters for this language—what ultimately makes it a language—is the pointed distance from English that it has always cultivated. " - Triple Canopy magazine on why do artists' statments and press releases sound so utterly odd and confusing.
"I would advise you when You do fight Not to act like Tygers and Bears as these Virginians do - Biting one anothers Lips and Noses off, and gowging one another - that is, thrusting out one anothers Eyes, and kicking one another on the Cods, to the Great damage of many a Poor Woman." Thus, Charles Woodmason, an itinerant Anglican minister born of English gentry stock, described the brutal form of combat he found in the Virginia backcountry shortly before the American Revolution. Although historians are more likely to study people thinking, governing, worshiping, or working, how men fight -- who participates, who observes, which rules are followed, what is at stake, what tactics are allowed - reveals much about past cultures and societies."Gouge and Bite, Pull Hair and Scratch" The Social Significance of Fighting in the Southern Backcountry [more inside]
A well-executed and terrifying visual representation of exactly how stratified wealth is in America. It's far worse than you could have imagined. [SLYT]
On the November 11, 1954 edition of the US educational program Omnibus, Leonard Bernstein presented what amounted to a 30-minute master class on one of the most familiar of all classical works, the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, to include reinserting some unused sketches. The results are, to put it mildly, interesting.
It's good to be
the Kinga Micklethwait. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but a new study of unusual surnames offers some depressing insights into the lingering impact of class on social mobility.
"American Pastoral" inadvertently reveals Brooks and Halard to be deeply insecure, crass noveau riche, lowballing their renovations by hiring desperate, dirt-cheap Chinese laborers, and whining about maids who can't get to work on time, just because Hurricane Sandy knocked out train service. Where's the Vogue-style profiles of those poor souls? [more inside]
Can the 'Swiss finishing school' be saved? The finishing-school tradition dates from the 1800s, when wealthy debutantes began coming to Switzerland, famed for its clean air, majestic mountains and multilingual population. Here, they would complete their education by acquiring the domestic and life skills needed to run a household – and to attract a suitable husband. The goal was to produce an ideal mate, someone refined and accomplished with impeccable manners. [more inside]
Andrew Mitchell, Conservative Chief Whip, faces calls to resign after he reportedly said to police officers who refused to let him through the main gate of Downing Street: "Best you learn your fucking place. You don't run this fucking government. You're fucking plebs." [more inside]
This is a big deal because one of the main ways that people are socialized is through using, observing and contemplating material objects. The idea that people learn their places in society by engaging with the physical stuff around them has a long history in anthropology, but it was finally cemented into the theoretical mainstream in 1972 when Pierre Bourdieu published his Outline of a Theory of Practice. Bourdieu makes the case that we come to internalize the expectations of our particular social group by analogy with categories, orders and relations of things. Spatial arrangements of objects in the home, for example, or the use of different farming tools at different times of year, come to stand for intangible relationships between genders, social strata and the like, thereby anchoring abstract ideas about social organization to the physical world. ~ Designing Culture by Colin McSwiggen
Beloit College examines the cultural backdrop and assumptions of those new college freshpeople headed for, or currently wandering their new college home: Class of 2016 Mindset List
Two writers discusses race, class, feminism and its intersections in this wide-ranging discussion about what feminism can mean for women of colour. Refreshingly substantive.
First Class was a titanic "electronic" tea time BBC general knowledge quiz show in the late 1980s, presented by heartthrob Debbie Greenwood (now a regular on QVC UK) with the aid of a BBC Micro called Eugene. Two teams of teenagers represented their schools as they battled for supremacy playing a random selection of arcade games like skateboarder 720 degrees and Hypersports, the ultimate prize an Acorn Archimedes. Now, the nail-biting encounter between Armthorpe School in Sheffield and Montagu School of Kettering is on YouTube [parts 1, 2 & 3]
You eat too fast, and I understand why your antidyspeptic pill-makers cover your walls, your forests even, with their advertisements.
In 1891 author and lecturer ”Max O’Rell” (being the pen name of one Léon Paul Blouet) published an amusing account of his travels through the States and Eastern Canada - "A Frenchman In America" - that, along with the charming illustrations, reflect on then popular national stereotypes and character and is presented on Project Gutenberg in its entirely. (via)
The Mommy-Fight Site. What does it mean to raise a child in "America’s highest-income, best-educated Census area? D.C. Urban Moms and Dads might be as close as it gets to a field guide to parentis Washingtonianis" [more inside]
Paul Fussell, author of The Great War and Modern Memory and winner of the first National Critics Award for Criticism, but who is probably best known for writing Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, is dead. [more inside]
Welcome to the world of Britain's working poor. The Rowleys belong to a section of society not much mentioned in ministerial and media dispatches. They are neither the very wealthy affected by the 50p tax nor the "squeezed middle" expressing anxiety about child benefit and this week's budget; nor are the Rowleys representative of the long-term unemployed or one of the 120,000 "troubled families" in which the government is investing £448m over the next three years. [more inside]
"I can tell you that the days of of white, wealthy, upper-class [Smith] students from prep schools in cashmere coats and pearls who marry Amherst men are over. This is unfortunate because it is this demographic that puts their name on buildings, donates great art and subsidizes scholarships." Anne Spurzem, Smith College '84, reacts to news about the increase in diversity at her alma mater during President Carol Christ's tenure while Christ prepares to step down in 2013. Unsurprisingly, Spurzem's comments have caused an uproar among students and alumnae, leading to the creation of the Pearls and Cashmere Tumblr, which celebrates the diversity feared by Spurzem. Meanwhile, President Christ has responded to Spurzem's allegations in an open letter to to the Smith community.
Marriage is a luxury good [NYT] After steadily rising for five decades, the share of children born to unmarried women has crossed a threshold: more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage. [more inside]
James McBride talks about The Help, Hattie McDaniel, why black women are still winning awards for playing maids, how black culture is appropriated and represented, and whether marginalized groups in America all serve the purpose of "cultural maids". [more inside]
Charles Murray, author of the controversial 1994 work The Bell Curve, has a new book coming out, entitled Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010. He's included a twenty-five question, weighted quiz to get a feel for how in touch you are with mainstream, blue-collar American culture. It's not automated, so you'll need pen and paper. [more inside]
Class Conflict Awareness Rose Significantly From 2009 To 2011 A new Pew Research Center survey reports that "the issue of class conflict has captured a growing share of the national consciousness".
Article suggests that we need to reassess our assumptions about the relationship between poverty and race. Following the article published in Forbes magazine dealing with poor black kids, this article brings up the question about poor whites and how invisible they have become.
On October 18, Wired embedded a reporter with both Anonymous and the #Occupy movement, calling both "a new kind of hybrid entity, one that breaks the boundaries between “real life” and the internet, creatures of the network embodied as citizens in the real world." The first entries in Quinn Norton's ongoing special report: Anonymous 101: Behind the Lulz were posted today. Coverage from Wired's other special report, Occupy: Dispatches from the Occupation are already online. NPR: Members Of Anonymous Share Values, Aesthetics [more inside]
In this nation, capitalism helped but a small group and corporations. A more equitable distribution was demanded by the majority . Their demands are being met. In Israel, there had been a growing disconnect between the few who had so much and the many who were unable to pay rents, live decently, buy food. This led to occupying central spots and setting up tent cities to protest, similar to what is taking place in the United States. The government got the message. Improvements are planned to correct social disparities. Note that like our nation, they too spend a huge amount for defense. Yet there is a recognition that domestic needs are central or there is nothing worthwhile to defend except those at the very top.
The Percentages: A Biography of Class. An autobiographical essay about growing up in the working class (as the author defines it) and then meeting the middle class (again, as the author defines it). This is so far outside my experience that I can't even summarize it properly, but it's worth reading.
Dorothy Gambrell of Cat And Girl fame spends an awful lot of time talking about education, class, debt, money, and the hollow promise of aspirational media to discuss how much she hates Good Will Hunting
This week has seen a lot of discussion of the American criminal justice system and its failings, and a lot of concern about what can be done to fix it. In 1947, a working class black man looked like he was about to have the full weight of the system brought down on him for taking justice into his own hands. But after Chicago leftists - including labor unions, religious leaders, artists, civil rights activists & others - launched a movement, James Hickman was set free after an all-white jury, in a trial presided over by a white judge, failed to convict, and the DA chose not to re-try because of the magnitude of public support for Hickman. According to a review in The Nation, a new book tells the story in a way that turns the typical right-wing biases of the true crime genre on their head. [more inside]
The unlevel playing field - "Contrary to popular perception, poverty and broken homes are underrepresented in the NBA, not overrepresented. ... We believe that skills always trump circumstances. But that's a myth."
The Legend of The Goatriders (Bokkenrijders): In the Limburg region at the end of the 18th century, between 300 and 600 individuals were tortured, tried and executed, accused of being members of a notorious and heretical band of robbers (who rode across the night sky on the backs of goats). But were they devil-worshipping hoodlums or the product of the economic and class pressures of their time? Regardless they have made their way into legend on TV and the printed page. (PDF link, from the European Ghost Literary Project) [more inside]
An image showing disparity in sentencing appears in a tweet by Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow and raises questions of its validity. Paul R. Allen is clearly a real case and Roy Brown an actual criminal but what do the differences in their sentencing say about the state of justice in America? [more inside]
In the wake of ever deeper budget cuts, public schools have begun charging students for basics, such as registering for honors or elective classes.