Notes Towards a Theory of Hair: Novelist Siri Hustvedt Reflects on the Cultural Meaning of Coiffure [New Republic]
“Even this simple act of plaiting my child’s hair gives rise to questions about meaning. Why do more girl children wear their hair long in our culture than boy children? Why is hairstyle a sign of sexual difference? I have to admit that unless a boy child of mine had begged me for braids, I probably would have followed convention and kept his hair short, even though I think such rules are arbitrary and constricting. And finally, why would I have been mortified to send Sophie off to school with her tresses in high-flying, ratted knots?”
Paul Ford (MeFi's Own) looks through the Social Security Death Master File, the federal government's list of U.S. citizens who have died since the creation of Social Security in 1935. (NOTE: Not everyone on the list has actually died. Also, not everyone who has died in on the list.) You can explore the database yourself: The Database of the Dead -- Are You in It?
A Passion for the Void: Understanding Clarice Lispector’s Strange and Surreal Fiction. [The New Republic]
Plenty of writers inspire fierce devotion in their readers—the David Foster Wallace acolytes, with their duct-taped copies of Infinite Jest, come to mind, as do the smug objectivists dressed in tech-world casual who owe their entire world view to Ayn Rand. But no one converts the uninitiated into devout believers as suddenly and as vertiginously as Clarice Lispector, the Latin-American visionary, Ukranian-Jewish mystic, and middle-class housewife and mother so revered by her Brazilian fans that she's known by a single name: "Clarice."[more inside]
The Ghost of Cornel West. President Obama betrayed him. He's stopped publishing new work. He's alienated his closest friends and allies. What happened to America's most exciting black scholar?
Today, The New Republic's editor-in-chief Franklin Foer and literary editor (and thirty-year veteran of the magazine) Leon Wieseltier both resigned in a shake-up that also includes moving the magazine to New York from Washington and reducing its number of print issues from 20 to 10 per year. Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker reports that "the top editors are gone & mass resignations are imminent." The impetus for the resignations, according to Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine, is apparently that Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder who purchased the magazine in 2012 at age 28, and Guy Vidra, its new CEO, "are afflicted with the belief that they can copy the formula that transformed the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed into economic successes, which is probably wrong, and that this formula can be applied to The New Republic, which is certainly wrong." [more inside]
"I have worked at international development NGOs almost my entire career ... I’ve been frustrated by the same inefficiencies and assumptions of my sector that are now getting picked apart in public. Like the authors, donors, and governments attacking international development, I’m sometimes disillusioned with what my job requires me to do, what it requires that I demand of others. Over the last year, I read every book, essay, and roman à clef about my field I could find. I came out convinced that the problems with international development are real, they are fundamental, and I might, in fact, be one of them. But I also found that it’s too easy to blame the PlayPumps of the world. Donors, governments, the public, the media, aid recipients themselves—they all contribute to the dysfunction. Maybe the problem isn’t that international development doesn’t work. It’s that it can’t."
Rebecca Traister writes at the New Republic on being tired of women's choices, accomplishments, and existence being measured by barometers which are "calibrated to dude," as exemplified by a recent Esquire piece. [more inside]
Christopher Ketcham of the New Republic accuses Chris Hedges of widespread plagiarism.
The trouble began when Ross passed the piece along to the fact-checker assigned to the story. As Ross and the fact-checker began working through the material, they discovered that sections of Hedges’s draft appeared to have been lifted directly from the work of a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter named Matt Katz, who in 2009 had published a four-part series on social and political dysfunction in Camden.[more inside]
Ruby-Strauss learned his craft working for the notorious Judith Regan, in whose shadow all lowbrow publishing still operates. In college at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he had been a comp-lit major who scoffed when friends talked up popular sci-fi books. “I was too pretentious,” he says. “I was reading Camus.” (A far way from that to Tucker Max, I noted. “Is it?” he replied.) Under Regan, he came to appreciate the simpler beauty of “books that sell.” He acquired a book by shock-rock star Marilyn Manson and then a series of pro-wrestling books, still his highest-selling titles ever. He once took Regan to a match, where he remembers her looking around the arena and declaring happily of the crowd, “You could sell them blank pages!” (SLNewRepublic) [more inside]
[Pinker] conflates scientific knowledge with knowledge as such. In his view, anybody who has studied any phenomena that are studied by science has been a scientist...If they were interested in the mind, then they were early versions of brain scientists. If they investigated human nature, then they were social psychologists or behavioral economists avant la lettre. Leon Wieseltier pens a response to Steven Pinker's essay on scientism, both in the pages of the New Republic. Others, including some prominent atheists, have taken issue with Pinker as well.
"A talented writer such as John Jeremiah Sullivan might, fifty years ago, have tried to explore his complicated feelings about the South, and about race and class in America, by writing fiction, following in the footsteps of Walker Percy and Eudora Welty. Instead he produced a book of essays, called Pulphead, on the same themes; and the book was received with the kind of serious attention and critical acclaim that were once reserved for novels. But all is not as it seems. You do not have to read very far in the work of the new essayists to realize that the resurrection of the essay is in large measure a mirage." (via) [more inside]
The Cavafy Archive has translations of all of C. P. Cavafy's poems (go here for the Greek) except for the 30 unfinished poems, which have just recently been translated into English for the first time by Daniel Mendelsohn. His translations are reviewed in a lengthy essay by Peter Green in the most recent New Republic. Mendelsohn was interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered earlier this week. Late last year Mendelsohn wrote an essay about Cavafy in The New York Review of Books. The Cavafy Archive also has translations of a few prose pieces by Cavafy as well as manuscripts, pictures, translated letters & short texts and a catalog of Cavafy's library.
What [Francis] Bacon produced are not paintings, at least not satisfying ones. They are little more than rectangles of canvas inscribed with noirish graffiti: angst for dummies. Bacon turned his clever little quotations from the masters, old or modern, into the twentieth century's most august visual claptrap. [more inside]
In December 2003, Brent Cambron gave himself his first injection of morphine. Save for the fact that he was sticking the needle into his own skin, the motion was familiar--almost rote. Over the course of the previous 17 months, as an anesthesia resident at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Cambron had given hundreds of injections.- Going Under by Jason Zengerle of The New Republic [print version] is heartbreaking article about the high rates of drug addiction among anesthesiologists. It tells the story of Brent Cambron and his spiral into addiction. His live was also sensitively chronicled in The Boston Globe by Keith O'Brien in Something, anything to stop the pain [print version]. [more inside]
Are you a young middle-class creative type (probably white) who has chosen to live in an urban neighborhood that your parents would have shunned? Have the families that formerly lived in your neighborhood (probably not white) been pushed out by soaring rents and real-estate prices to the city fringes or suburbs? The New Republic on demographic inversion.
The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for a purge of liberal and secular teachers from the country's universities. Now that this former rogue nation has fallen in line, we can turn out attention to the real terrorist threat: Britain.
Conservatism of faith v. conservatism of doubt- Andrew Sullivan's take on how "fundamentalism is splitting the GOP." An interesting article that is, I think, worth reading for how it characterizes recent changes in the Republican party. He doesn't exaclty see a schism, but he isn't exactly sanguine about the future of the GOP either.
The notorious Laura (Riding) Jackson, mistress and muse to Robert Graves, among others, is back with a new poem in the New Republic last week. There's a new biography and a new anthology coming out too, but the best things to read are her tirades to the New York Review of Books in response to critiques of her work by Paul Auster and Harry Matthews.
"It would be best if the arrest or killing of [Osama bin Laden] were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July." During the first three days of the Democratic National Convention, the Bush administration offers The July Surprise.
Dean can't carry the south. The New Republic's Jonathan Chait writes in response to Dean's flag gaffe: "What's alarming here is not that Dean wants to win votes from guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks. It's that he thinks he actually can... His aggressive secularism, association with civil unions, and antiwar stance all make him culturally anathema in the South. This is one of the many, many reasons Dean would be squashed like a bug in the general election if nominated: Bush could take the South for granted, and concentrate all his resources on battleground states like Pennsylvania. "
Can Mercenaries Protect Hamid Karzai? The US govt is hiring private mercenaries to do it's dirty work overseas. In short, by hiring private military contractors such as DynCorp, the U.S. government has found an effective way to conduct foreign policy by proxy and in secret. These proxies cannot be monitored, are effectively immune from all criminal sanctions, and are dangerously hard to control since they answer to corporate bosses, not military brass. (easy registration required)
The Coming Democratic Dominance "...ever since the collapse of the Reagan conservative majority, which enjoyed its final triumph in November 1994, American politics has been turning slowly, but inexorably, toward a new Democratic majority. It was evident in Al Gore's popular-vote victory in 2000 (made more significant by the overhang of the Bill Clinton scandals and Gore's ineptitude as a campaigner) and in Bush's and the Republicans' sinking fortunes in the first two-thirds of 2001. It was obscured by the patriotic rush of support for Bush after September 11, which to some extent carried over to the Republican Party as a whole. But it has resurfaced in recent months as Americans have turned their attention back to the economy and domestic policy and away from the war on terrorism. Far from being a temporary distraction from a long-term shift toward the GOP, popular anger at the business scandals and the plummeting Dow heralds the resumption of a long-term shift toward the Democrats. " (via george)
Ari Fleischer is a big fat liar. Or so says Jonathan Chait in the New Republic. Clinton-style truth parsing is so 90's. We're now in the age of the bold statement, whether or not the statement is true is merely secondary.
A fascinating analysis of the typological thinking that defined the historical outlook of the Jews for many centuries, and an explanation of why the Jewish people has the image of itself as that of a people forever on the verge of ceasing to be. But the bad is not always the worst. To prepare oneself for the bad without preparing oneself for the worst: This is the spiritual challenge of a liberal order. http://www.thenewrepublic.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020527&s=wieseltier052702
The only moral and practical answer that there has ever been to this question: partition, territorial compromise, a two-state solution, the establishment of a Palestinian state in most of the occupied territories with security arrangements in the Jordan Valley and identity arrangements in Jerusalem. An analysis that I can live with from The New Repuclic.
New World Order? As Israel and India form a new friendship, it seems that Israel's arch enemy, Arafat, is forming alliance with China, India's arch enemy. Apologizes for linking to DrudgeReport for the Arafat story, but that's all I could find.
Just when you thought things couldn't get any more unsettling, some of America's biggest radical racists glorify Al Qaeda's grit. "I wish our members had half as much testicular fortitude," says Billy Roper, a National Alliance official. White supremacists and Islamicists like Osama bin Laden just plain agree on a lot of things--in particular, that globalism and multiculturalism are the uber-enemies, and that separatism and cultural purity are the answer.
Buffoon Of The Day? Sen. Joe Biden criticized the war in Afghanistan and is now being called the "buffoon of the day" by the National Review. Roll Call says he's been criticized by top Republicans and the Washington Times notes that a top fellow Democrat is pretty upset too. The New Republic has another less-than-flattering piece on Biden before he made his comments. Did Biden just kill his chance to run for president in 2004? (via Vote.com and Political Wire)
Here's a New Republic article that provides some background on Afghani politics and an interesting argument on the Taliban's weakness. Here's a provocative quote: In 1999, when the United States devastated Belgrade and humiliated Milosevic, the Serbs eventually ousted him. In 1991, when the United States devastated Baghdad and humiliated Saddam, the Kurds and Shiites rose up, and might have toppled the regime had the United States not abandoned them. Historical parallels, of course, are never perfect. But the Taliban are no stronger than those two previous U.S. foes; in fact, they are probably weaker. Comments?
So far, G-Dubya's first 100 or so days in office have been a media party. (What happened to all that liberal media bias Rush Limbaugh was talking about, anyway?) Is it time for the hangover? Reporters are starting to realize that a photo-op at alternative fuels production facilities can't hide the fact that he's paying off his energy business cronies, that different skin colors and genders among Appeals Court nominees doesn't necessarily equal "diversity", and that Bush is generally not walking the walk for all his "compassionate Conservative" talk.
Bush's strategy: court the Catholics. Bush won as high a percentage of church-going Catholics as did Reagan in 1984, as Reagan was winning 25% more votes than did Bush. There's a strong Catholic vote in many states Bush narrowly lost, suggesting that consolidating his Catholic edge could assure victory in 2004.