A profile on Michel Houellebecq. [The Guardian] [Books]
“It’s not my role to be responsible. I don’t feel responsible,” he says. “The role of a novel is to entertain readers, and fear is one of the most entertaining things there is.” To him, the fear in Submission comes in the dark violence at the novel’s start, before the moderate Islamist party comes to power. Was he deliberately playing on a mood of fear in France? “Yes, I plead guilty,” he says. For Houellebecq, the job of a novelist is foremost to hold a mirror up to contemporary society.[more inside]
“Before the trip, Nigeria was a dim set of associations in my mind: my parent’s stories of their childhood, highlife cassette tapes, dated images from Google searches, negative news headlines, the taste of rice and stew. Going back gave me vivid experiences to call part of my life, to draw from when I talk about the country, my identity, what kinds of people I come from, and the roots of why I do what I do.”
The Tropes vs Women in Video Games project aims to examine the plot devices and patterns most often associated with female characters in gaming from a systemic, big picture perspective. - Tropes vs Women: Women as Reward. Tropes versus Women creator Anita Sarkeesian on the backlash to the series (Warning: GamerGate), Previously, previously.
The Quiet Demise of the Army’s Plan to Understand Afghanistan and Iraq. "In the heyday of counterinsurgency, the United States military’s Human Terrain Teams were a bold idea. In the drone-war era, they became an anachronism." [Previously 1, 2] [more inside]
Daniel Dennett, known for having previously explained thinking, religion, and consciousness, recently spoke at the Royal Institution where he did a most excellent job of explaining memes [1-hour video].
In the United States, only 22 states require that sex education should be taught in their schools. Of those, only 13 insist upon medical accuracy. There is no federal standard. As a result, classroom lessons that teach purity culture – the idea that virginity is a state of moral accomplishment – are pervasive. John Oliver's Last Week Tonight covers Sex Education in America. (NSFW) The end of the segment features a modern sex education video created by LWT, narrated by several celebrities (including Laverne Cox, Nick Offerman, Jonathan Banks, Kristen Schaal and Aisha Tyler) that touches on topics outdated lessons may be ignoring. [more inside]
First We Feast: An Illustrated History of Hamburgers in America. "The rise, fall, and resurgence of America's greatest cultural export." [more inside]
You Must Remember This: Charles Manson's Hollywood - Karina Longworth's podcast on the hidden history of Hollywood (previously, previously) takes an an in depth look at the darker side of the 60s. [more inside]
‘I’m No Longer Afraid’: 35 Women Tell Their Stories About Being Assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the Culture That Wouldn’t Listen (trigger warning: sexual assault) SL longform New York Magazine. [archive.org saved version here]
The Twitter account Diana_Vreeland pays tribute to the celebrated fashion editor/social maven by coming up with colorful suggestions for how to live your life.
Lavanya Ramanathan in the Washington Post on why we need to do away with the "ethnic food" label "It's not the phrase itself, really. It's the way it's applied: selectively, to cuisines that seem the most foreign, often cooked by people with the brownest skin."
For a time this summer, it seemed all anyone could talk about was the N.A.A.C.P. chapter president whose parents had “outed” her as white. The tornado of public attention has since moved on, but Rachel Dolezal still has to live with her choices—and still refuses to back down.
In the last decade, some cities have created unusual municipal projects using personal and institutional technologies and Open Data, to keep things running smoothly. In Chicago, there’s a text-based pothole tracker. Pittsburg, Chicago, NYC and other cities have snowplow trackers during winter storms. Boston asked people to adopt-a-hydrant and shovel them out after snowstorms. In Honolulu, you can adopt a tsunami siren. In 2013, the city of Melbourne assigned email addresses to 70,000 trees as part of their Urban Forest Project, so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees, and in many cases, the "trees" wrote back. [more inside]
On Monday, at the 2015 American Library Association Annual Conference, actress and author Sonia Manzano announced her retirement from the cast of Sesame Street, where she has played the role of Maria for more than 40 years. [more inside]
Yesterday, "Surf and Turf" Joey DaSilva slid, slipped, and skipped to the end of a 45-foot-long telephone pole suspended over the water and covered with grease and slop. By grabbing the flag at the end, he became the 2015 Saturday champion of the annual Greasy Pole contest, making him one of the elite crew eligible to compete again on Fiesta Sunday for the rest of his life. It's one of the highlights of the unique St. Peter's Fiesta, an annual festival sponsored by the Italian-American fishing community of Gloucester, MA. The festival is a five-day celebration including a procession of St. Peter's effigy accompanied by bands and Sicilian chants, a Sunday mass on a large outdoor altar, seine boat races, a carnival, food, and drinking - lots of drinking. The annual festival is a defining force in Gloucester's tight-knit community, even as the fishing industry that generated it continues a long decline. [more inside]
New U.S. government research indicates that female military veterans commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of other women and at rates nearly equal to that of male veterans -- a finding that surprised researchers because women are generally are far less likely than men to commit suicide. The findings raise questions about the backgrounds and experiences of women who serve in the United States' armed forces. [more inside]
Lahore Landing, an interactive documentary. "It all started when Taahira went to Karachi for a journalism internship ... Over Skype calls, she shared with us her experience – from underground indie rock concerts to alfresco BBQ nights. It surprised us. It seemed that all the media shared about life in Pakistan was a world of violence and terrorism when it was a lot more than that." [more inside]
Something about this country – the divisions, the class system, the general sense of distrust and dissatisfaction – seems to breed youth subcultures like no other place on Earth. The strange, stylish clans that this island incubates have been exported across the world, influencing everything from high street fashion to high art. From teddy boys to 2 Tone rudeboys, soulboys to Slipknot fans, grunge bands to grime crews, mods to mod revivalists, the history of these groups shows us a version of modern Britain that goes way beyond Diana and Blair.[more inside]
Answer the following questions in any language(s), formats, or paradigmatic expressions with which you are comfortable. Videographers are available for those most comfortable in physical languages. If you need further support to fully actualize your responses, do not hesitate to ask the Proctor for any materials or mediums you require. When you have finished, virtually or physically attach all answers to this questionnaire."Application for the Delegation of First Contact: Questionnaire Part B," a short story by Kathrin Köhler. Additionally: Köhler on the inspirations and influences for this piece.
How Mountain Dew Came to Perpetuate a Deep-Seated Appalachian Stereotype As Mountain Dew taps into tropes of corn-syrup-free authenticity and nostalgia for "backwoods" "renegades" and "rebels" with its throwback drink Dewshine, a daughter of Appalachia considers how the beverage reflects cultural stereotypes. [more inside]
The Asians Art Museum is a parody site bringing a cirtical lens to orientalist tropes in art museums, prompted particularly by rhetorical choices of the San Francisco Art Museum's 2009 Lords of the Samurai exhibition [audio]. It highlights the tendency for museums showing Asian art to present their shows as a"a harmless trip to a fantasyland of romanticized premodern Otherness, a place where dreams of Manifest Destiny never have to die?" [more inside]
Some Paths to the True Knowledge[*] - "Attention conservation notice: A 5000+ word attempt to provide real ancestors and support for an imaginary ideology I don't actually accept, drawing on fields in which I am in no way an expert. Contains long quotations from even-longer-dead writers, reckless extrapolation from arcane scientific theories, and an unwarranted tone of patiently explaining harsh, basic truths. Altogether, academic in one of the worst senses. Also, spoilers for several of MacLeod's novels, notably but not just The Cassini Division. Written for, and cross-posted to, Crooked Timber's seminar on MacLeod, where I will not be reading the comments."
[Note: *starred* links contain images of scantily clad women, making them possibly NSFW] If you've caught some of the *shorter "Crazy China" articles* circulating around recently, you've heard that the Chinese government is trying to crack down on stripping at funerals in rural communities. While you generally won't find stripping mentioned in descriptions of Chinese funeral traditions, other sources like *CNN* and *NPR* try to add context to this news. NPR notes that this **also occurs in Taiwan (Nat. Geo. video)**, but the article doesn't delve further. Luckily, we have the *research from University of South Carolina anthropologist Marc L. Moskowitz* to elaborate, capturing the more varied and complex reality of Taiwanese Electric Flower Cars and *the culture of dancing for the dead.* There's also a great Q&A recorded at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), which addresses questions of class division, safety of the women, gender equality, and other related topics. [more inside]
In Japan, people applying to work at Nintendo are given an amazing company guide (2015), bursting with color, that they remake every year. 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 ( via Simon Carless [Twitter], thnx)
Yet to tell the diffusion of Indian influence at this period as two separate processes partially obscures a still more extraordinary story. For it is now increasingly clear that between the fourth and twelfth centuries the influence of India in both Southeast and Central Asia, and to some degree also China, was comparable to the influence of Greece in Aegean Turkey and Rome, and then in the rest of Europe in the early centuries BC. From the empire of the Gupta dynasty in the north and that of the Pallava dynasty in the south, India during this period radiated its philosophies, political ideas, and architectural forms out over an entire continent not by conquest but by sheer cultural sophistication.
The Met's soon-to-open exhibit, titled "China: Through the Looking Glass," tackles the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion, and how Chinese culture has inspired fashionable imagination for hundreds of years. Juxtaposing high fashion with Chinese art, film, clothing, and artifacts, the exhibit looks to explore why Western culture is as enraptured with the East as it is. [more inside]
"What does it mean to be British? Read five outspoken collectives' views on identity in UK culture in this roundtable." - text by Zing Tsjeng for Dazed magazine (part of a series of articles on the state of the nation as the May 7 election approaches in the UK).
Science Needs a New Ritual
And so transcendence can take the form of blindness to differences between people and to our own biases. We assume scientists all think and believe the same things, even beyond the unequivocal data. We are all equal as scientists if we all value the same principles. And what we value comes almost entirely from Enlightenment-era Europe. This is a troubling state of affairs if we claim to strive for all humanity.
Angela McRobbie on the rise of the creative economy. Why are young people attracted to creative jobs with low pay, and how does this benefit the neoliberal project?
Eena, meena, mina, mo, / Cracka, feena, fina, fo, / Uppa, nootcha, poppa, tootcha, / Ring, ding, dang, doe. "Losing Count: “Eeny, meeny, miny, mo” and the ambiguous history of counting-out rhymes," from The Paris Review.
Déjà Lu republishes locally-selected scholarly articles from journals connected to regional anthropological associations around the world. The result is a PDF-heavy but fascinating collection of long reads on obscure topics. Via. [more inside]
As an archivist, my ethical duty is to maintain those objects of intrinsic value to future generations. I’ve often found that others assume my profession is focused on facts and figures, the hard data from which a census or otherwise lifeless historical record can be drawn. Such data will inform one on how a people survived. As important as this data is, it cannot tell you how a people dreamed. [more inside]
Unsung Heroines provides bite-sized biographies of Black women who changed the world, and is a great way to learn history you were deliberately not taught in school. Women profiled include Fannie Lou Hamer, the civil rights hero who first said "I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired;" Mary Church Terrell, an early advocate for civil rights and the suffrage movement; Melba Roy Mouton, a NASA mathmatician; as well as: [more inside]
"Mad Men" and Its Love Affair With 60s Pop Culture “Nothing ended up in the show that wasn’t related to story.”
[E]ven though the restaurant's cartoonish decor bordered on offensive, it was still a temple to a people and a cuisine that America couldn't ignore. Taco Bells were everywhere. In every strip mall. Off every highway exit. Even the racists, the immigrant-haters, the people who'd laugh at my elementary-school stand-up comedy routine would run for the border.John DeVore writes about finding the "unexpected, self-affirming solace" of home... at Taco Bell. [more inside]
You can laugh or sneer at Taco Bell. Shake your head at its high fat and salt content. Go ahead and lecture on what true Mexican food is. My mom would probably just roll her eyes at you, and take a broken yellow shard of crispy taco shell and use it to scoop up the pintos, cheese, and salsa.
"[In] the face of a culture that would deny them, it becomes necessary for an artist of color in the west to defiantly announce to the world: I am a fact." In April 2014, at the first ever Yale Asian Alumni Reunion, Vijay Iyer delivered a powerful speech "on two intertwined issues: the role of Asian Americans as upwardly mobile minorities and the role of the artist as a potential transgressor within elite institutions."
In 2014, the Montreal Swing Riot hosted a dance-off: Lindy Hop dancers vs street dancers. Teams introduced themselves with a display of their own styles, then traded off dancing in their own style for a few sets. The fun part, though, was the next challenge: each team had to dance to the other's music on the fly. The results are well worth watching.
Irish-American Dining. A history of and guide to food that is expressly Irish-American, by Mefi's own Max Sparber. Irish Egg Rolls! Early onion-based pub food! The hidden history of the Shamrock Shake! [via mefi projects]
Why I didn't call the police when I saw two black boys with guns next door. [The Guardian]
"My husband’s instinct was to call law enforcement, but that didn't seem like the solution. Especially after Tamir Rice."
You live in the Bay Area, it's a Friday evening and you have nothing to do...why not try Bike Party? It's like a less angry, more laid-back Critical Mass. There's one in San Francisco every First Friday of the month, another in the East Bay every Second Friday, an even bigger one in San Jose every Third Friday (which had a special guest rider last March), and a Peninsula ride every Fourth Friday. These rides change their route (and their theme) every month to keep it fresh. Not everyone is a fan, however, as evidenced by the comments on this local news article about the Sep. 2014 East Bay Bike Party.
The Japanese government is attempting to end Japan's culture of "death by overwork" (now known as karoshi) by moving to make it illegal to not take mandatory paid vacation days. Why won't Japanese workers go on vacation? The Japanese work some of the longest hours in the world and fear taking paid holidays in case they are ostracised by colleagues. The stress is so extreme that every year thousands of workers succumb to “karoshi”, or “death by overwork”. They either commit suicide (the see suicide as salvation), or die of a stroke or a heart attack. The Japanese are literally dying for work and the phenomenon is spreading to other Asian countries such as China, South Korea, and Bangladesh. A "chapter" of the award winning documentary "Happy" (now on Netflix and other online venues) looks at this Japanese phenomenon of Karoshi. HAPPY (trailer here) takes you on a journey from the swamps of Louisiana to the slums of Kolkata in search of what really makes people happy. Combining real life stories of people from around the world and powerful interviews with the leading scientists in happiness research, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.
HistoricPlacesLA is the first online information and management system specifically created to inventory, map, and help protect the City of Los Angeles' significant historic resources. It showcases the city's diversity of historic resources, including architecturally significant buildings and places of social importance as well as historic districts, bridges, parks, and streetscapes. You can search for specifics or try some popular seaches, and the map view let's you combine different overlays and base maps.
"There are many like me. We don't believe in a monolithic practice of Islam. We love Islam, and because we love it so much we refuse to reduce it to an inflexible and fossilized way of life. Yet we still don't fit anywhere."