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the interpretation of symbols

The problem here is one of the interpretation of symbols. One of my Southern students insists that the flag does not represent racism or slavery to him; when pushed, he suggests that if it represents such things to other people that’s their problem. In this view, the interpretation of a symbol is purely a matter of personal preference and no one has the right to criticize anyone else’s interpretation. I am afraid that I cannot accept such perspectivism. Symbols have histories; and the world we live in is historical. Whatever I or anyone else might think about the flag, it is a matter of record that it was created to serve as the symbol of an institution whose members disagreed about many things but agreed about the moral and legal acceptability of slave-holding. It is also a matter of record that today’s racists and segregationists still make regular appeals to that flag as the symbol of their cause, though less often and less publicly now than when I was a boy (which may help to explain the difference between my attitude and that of some of my students). That still-living history cannot be erased by waving the magic wand of personal interpretive preference — which, by the way, is a strange magic wand for someone to wave who seeks to represent and defend a traditional way of life.

Me, in 1996. But I think the intense debates going on right now over South Carolina’s use of the flag are a distraction from more important issues.

first thoughts on Laudato Si

A book frequently quoted in this encyclical is Romano Guardini’s The End of the Modern World. Pope Francis has long been interested in and influenced by Guardini, who was also a major influence on Benedict XVI. If I had my way, I’d spend the next couple of months preparing to teach a class in which this encyclical — a far richer work than I had expected it to be, and one that I hope will have lasting power — would be read alongside Guardini’s book, with both accompanied by repeated viewings of Mad Max: Fury Road. The class would be called “Who Killed the World?”

My first thoughts on Laudato Si’

how big Africa is

how big Africa is

Cattedrale Multiculturale

drawingarchitecture:

Mariuo Ricci, Cattedrale Multiculturale, 2015

the technique of the Black Magician

In all ages, the technique of the Black Magician has been essentially the same. In all spells the words are deprived of their meanings and reduced to syllables or verbal noises. This may be done literally, as when magicians used to recite the Lord’s Prayer backwards, or by reiterating a word over and over again as loudly as possible until it has become a mere sound. For millions of people today, words like communism, capitalism, imperialism, peace, freedom, democracy, have ceased to be words, the meaning of which can be inquired into and discussed, and have become right or wrong noises to which the response is as involuntary as a knee-reflex. 

It makes no difference if the magic is being employed simply for the aggrandizement of the magician himself or if, as is more usual, he claims to be serving some good cause. Indeed, the better the cause he claims to be serving, the more evil he does…. Propaganda, like the sword, attempts to eliminate consent or dissent and, in our age, magical language has to a great extent replaced the sword.

– W. H. Auden, “Words and the Word,” in Secondary Worlds (1968). Still more true today.

“Joy is not the satisfied contemplation of an accomplished result, the emotion of victory, the…”

“Joy is not the satisfied contemplation of an accomplished result, the emotion of victory, the satisfaction of having succeeded. It is the sign of an energy that is deftly deployed, it is a free affirmation: everything comes easy. Joy is an activity: executing with case something difficult that has taken time to master, asserting the faculties of the mind and the body. Joys of thought when it finds and discovers, joys of the body when it achieves without effort. That is why joy, unlike pleasure, increases with repetition, and is enriched.”

Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking, pp.142f. (via johnthelutheran)

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“Hunt’s comments are as silly as they are outdated; his Nobel Prize clearly wasn’t awarded for…”

Hunt’s comments are as silly as they are outdated; his Nobel Prize clearly wasn’t awarded for political correctness. But this is precisely the point. Hunt is a scientist; his talents lie in biochemistry, particularly in cells and proteins, and not diplomacy. Due to the public humiliation of this 72-year-old man, British academia has now lost a talented scientist. The members of Hunt’s lab will no longer have access to his experience and knowledge. The work he had been pursuing will presumably now be abandoned….  

Hunt’s resignation reminds us that, in today’s universities, expressing the supposedly correct view on a matter is far more important than any contribution to knowledge an idiosyncratic individual might make. Academics and students alike are kept in line with speech codes, anti-harassment policies and safe-space initiatives. The pressure to conform to an approved way of behaving and speaking impacts on everyone, from students to world-renowned scientists. Everyone – male and female – is intellectually poorer as a result.

Joanna Williams

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“In a Wednesday press conference, Casebolt’s attorney, Jane Bishkin, revealed that prior to answering…”

In a Wednesday press conference, Casebolt’s attorney, Jane Bishkin, revealed that prior to answering the call about the party, Casebolt had responded to two incidents that were especially trying. In the first of these, a man had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in front of his children. Casebolt consoled the widow and assisted in photographing the body. And after that, he was called to a scene where a teenage girl was threatening to kill herself by jumping from the roof of her parents’ home. Casebolt calmed the girl and the situation was resolved successfully. “The nature of these two suicide calls took an emotional toll on Eric Casebolt,” Ms. Bishkin told reporters. “With all that had happened that day, he allowed his emotions to get the better of him.”  

A police officer takes on many sorrows over the years, and speaking for myself, I can say that few of these sorrows have affected me more profoundly than the suicides, a tragedy to which my own family has not been immune. Casebolt’s frayed emotions do not excuse his behavior at the pool party; a police officer is obligated to conduct himself as a professional regardless of his emotional state. But our knowledge of his experiences just prior to the videotaped incident should inform our judgment of him. In the heavily fraught incidents that preceded the party call, Casebolt acted with care and compassion, performing at his best under demanding circumstances. Minutes later he performed at his worst, though sadly for him, only this last incident was recorded and broadcast to the world.

Eric Casebolt’s Actions Explained

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“Take tenure out of the University of Wisconsin and the people who can will – over time – leave. If…”

Take tenure out of the University of Wisconsin and the people who can will – over time – leave. If we had a single national system, that would be one thing, as it would effect all equally. The departees wouldn’t have any place to go. But it won’t. Private universities, with the most outrageously high tuitions, will not do this. They are self-governing institutions. And even to the extent that boards of trustees are in tension with professors, they are driven by the quest for institutional prestige, not scoring political points. So the top academics will go there. The net effect of all this will be to kill off or bleed dry great state universities which are yes, still pricey, but not as crazy expensive and hard to get into as the prestige private universities.  

In short, it’s a big boon for education for the very rich.

Josh Marshall. This is exactly right. I don’t think Scott Walker gives a flying fig, but this is how it’s going to fall out.

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“Tell me that you program in Java, and I believe you to be either serious or boring. In Ruby, and you…”

“Tell me that you program in Java, and I believe you to be either serious or boring. In Ruby, and you are interested in building things quickly. In Clojure, and I think you are smart but wonder if you ship. In Python, and I trust you implicitly. In PHP, and we sigh together. In C++ or C, and I nod humbly. In C#, and I smile and assume we have nothing in common. In Fortran, and I ask to see your security clearance. These languages contain entire civilizations.”

Paul Ford: What is Code?

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“So don’t let these boys come up here and whisper sweet nothings in your ears about saving the world…”

So don’t let these boys come up here and whisper sweet nothings in your ears about saving the world with free wifi and clean water. We could go all day tit for tat about how design has changed or samed the world. Talking about design to designers is like talking to a brick wall about bricks. Designers think everything is design. All professionals see their craft amongst the world … “When you think about it — and I mean really think about it — everything is meat distribution engineering.” — meat distribution engineer.  

Ultimately the rhetoric behind this debate resolution is elitist self-aggrandizing propaganda and voting for it won’t make you feel better about yourself. Negating won’t make you feel better either but it’ll help make your peace with your false religion.

Jennifer Daniel, explaining why design doesn’t change the world.

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“So don’t let these boys come up here and whisper sweet nothings in your ears about saving the world…”

So don’t let these boys come up here and whisper sweet nothings in your ears about saving the world with free wifi and clean water. We could go all day tit for tat about how design has changed or samed the world. Talking about design to designers is like talking to a brick wall about bricks. Designers think everything is design. All professionals see their craft amongst the world … “When you think about it — and I mean really think about it — everything is meat distribution engineering.” — meat distribution engineer.  

Ultimately the rhetoric behind this debate resolution is elitist self-aggrandizing propaganda and voting for it won’t make you feel better about yourself. Negating won’t make you feel better either but it’ll help make your peace with your false religion.

Jennifer Daniel, explaining why design doesn’t change the world.

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“Our five senses are dulled by inordinate pleasure. Penance makes them keen, gives them back their…”

“Our five senses are dulled by inordinate pleasure. Penance makes them keen, gives them back their vitality, and more. Penance clears the eye of conscience and reason. It helps us to think clearly, judge sanely. It strengthens the action of our will. And penance also tones us the quality of emotion; it is the lack of self-denial and self-discipline that explains the mediocrity of so much devotional art, so much pious writing, so much sentimental prayer, so many religious lives.”

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (HarperCollins, 1956).
(via millinerd)

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sweatervestboy: Reading a library copy of James Wright after 1…

sweatervestboy:

Reading a library copy of James Wright after 1 a.m., I get a handwritten message from Cindy 

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If you don’t want to watch it all, just watch the first…

If you don’t want to watch it all, just watch the first minute as Hermann Zapf writes the beginning of the alphabet.

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austinkleon: Paul Bacon, 91, Whose Book Jackets Drew Readers…

austinkleon:

Paul Bacon, 91, Whose Book Jackets Drew Readers and Admirers, Is Dead

“He didn’t see himself as a sensitive artist; he was there to serve,” said Mr. Gottlieb, who worked with Mr. Bacon for many years. “If you rejected the first one, he was happy to do a 10th one. We worked and worked until it was right.” […]

When describing his approach to design, Mr. Bacon said he had learned to subordinate his own aesthetic impulses to convey the main concept of a book. “I always tell myself: ‘You’re not the star of the show. The author took three and a half years to write the goddamn thing and the publisher is spending a fortune on it, so just back off,’ “ he said in an interview with Print magazine in 2002.

Here’s a nice appreciation from Steven Heller

[W]hen you look at Bacon’s jackets en masse, you realize you’re looking at a history of late-20th century commercial book cover design, a virtual legacy of eclectic lettering, illustration and typography prior to the digital revolution. Bacon was, after all, a product of an era of hand-drawn lettering, and type that was cut and pasted in order to achieve precise spacing. While this sounds archaic in a time when layered Photoshop imagery is the order of the day, Bacon’s work was appealing precisely for its handcrafted precision (as well as minor imperfections) and spot-on conceptual acuity that evoked the story rather than isolated passage.

That’s one helluva portfolio. RIP.

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Iconic book cover by Paul Bacon, who died Monday at the age of…

Iconic book cover by Paul Bacon, who died Monday at the age of 91

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Mavis Staples is so much cooler than you or me

Mavis Staples is so much cooler than you or me

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“A recent New York Times article showed that the rate of suicide among black children has increased…”

“A recent New York Times article showed that the rate of suicide among black children has increased substantially over the years. In contrast, the rates of suicide among white children has decreased, researchers suggested that the difference may lie in black children being more likely to be exposed to “violence and traumatic stress.” Kalief was exposed to violent and traumatic stress from the moment he was handcuffed for a crime he did not commit, to the time his parents could not afford his bail, to his unjustified imprisonment, to the physical abuse he suffered and the mental health resources he was denied. When we think about the kind of world we want our children and ourselves to live in we should not forget about Kalief Browden; his life and the circumstances of his death challenge us to reimagine and recreate a world in which this tragedy does not repeat itself.”

Kalief Browder and Black Suicide | Faatimah Knight | First Things

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From Bible Gateway. Note that the heading refers only to sexual…

From Bible Gateway. Note that the heading refers only to sexual immorality, while Paul refers to sexual immorality and greed and drunkenness and idolatry and reviling and robbery. So, my fellow Christians, when people accuse you of being unhealthily focused on sexual sins, this kind of thing is why.

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I will always be a sucker for Leica porn

I will always be a sucker for Leica porn

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I had both of these editions back in the day. Both books blew my…

I had both of these editions back in the day. Both books blew my mind, though in very different ways.

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drawingarchitecture: Anne Dessing

drawingarchitecture:

Anne Dessing

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“In relatively recent debates over toleration, there has developed a view that says toleration is…”

In relatively recent debates over toleration, there has developed a view that says toleration is simply not enough. In tolerating others, we implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) communicate that what they do or believe is, in our view, morally disreputable. That can have serious effects, of course, on the tolerated’s sense of self-worth and ability to live her life as she sees fit. Instead of toleration, the argument goes, we should instead offer one another mutual respect or positive regard or, and this is the key move, recognition. We need not morally endorse others’ lives full stop, but we should go beyond a grudging indifference to something like a decently warm encouragement. And the reason, broadly speaking, we must do so is because the goods we thought we could secure via toleration are not enough. They still leave those being tolerated the object of social opprobrium and thus at some real disadvantage—or worse.

Hence, it is not enough for gays and lesbians to achieve a rough degree of legal and political equality. Nor is it enough for tender college students to hear criticisms that go to the heart of their own sense of identity. Unless their moral lives are, in some real way, recognized and affirmed not only by public (or university) authorities and unless their fellow citizens (or students or speakers) can be counted on to do the same, real, substantive equality will remain elusive.

But this makes for the obvious question: if recognition, not toleration, is the rule of the day, why can’t moral conservatives or others with unpopular views make similarly structured claims? Well, in my view, they should be able to and the fact that they can’t helps reveal an incoherence at the heart of the recognition claim. Given a certain range of moral and religious pluralism, it is principally and practically impossible to extend recognition to all or even most, especially once recognition extends into our everyday social lives. Recognition is, or at least can be, a zero-sum game. And so what is lurking behind the purported argument for recognition—and toleration, for that matter—is a set of moral judgments about what lives are in fact worth recognizing or tolerating, and here is where the misunderstandings of moral conservatives and free-speech liberals will continue to lead to loss after loss.

Why Toleration Is Never Enough and Why Moral Conservatives and Free Speech Liberals Will Keep on Losing | Civitas Peregrina. An important and sobering post by Bryan McGraw.

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“In relatively recent debates over toleration, there has developed a view that says toleration is…”

In relatively recent debates over toleration, there has developed a view that says toleration is simply not enough. In tolerating others, we implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) communicate that what they do or believe is, in our view, morally disreputable. That can have serious effects, of course, on the tolerated’s sense of self-worth and ability to live her life as she sees fit. Instead of toleration, the argument goes, we should instead offer one another mutual respect or positive regard or, and this is the key move, recognition. We need not morally endorse others’ lives full stop, but we should go beyond a grudging indifference to something like a decently warm encouragement. And the reason, broadly speaking, we must do so is because the goods we thought we could secure via toleration are not enough. They still leave those being tolerated the object of social opprobrium and thus at some real disadvantage—or worse.

Hence, it is not enough for gays and lesbians to achieve a rough degree of legal and political equality. Nor is it enough for tender college students to hear criticisms that go to the heart of their own sense of identity. Unless their moral lives are, in some real way, recognized and affirmed not only by public (or university) authorities and unless their fellow citizens (or students or speakers) can be counted on to do the same, real, substantive equality will remain elusive.

But this makes for the obvious question: if recognition, not toleration, is the rule of the day, why can’t moral conservatives or others with unpopular views make similarly structured claims? Well, in my view, they should be able to and the fact that they can’t helps reveal an incoherence at the heart of the recognition claim. Given a certain range of moral and religious pluralism, it is principally and practically impossible to extend recognition to all or even most, especially once recognition extends into our everyday social lives. Recognition is, or at least can be, a zero-sum game. And so what is lurking behind the purported argument for recognition—and toleration, for that matter—is a set of moral judgments about what lives are in fact worth recognizing or tolerating, and here is where the misunderstandings of moral conservatives and free-speech liberals will continue to lead to loss after loss.

Why Toleration Is Never Enough and Why Moral Conservatives and Free Speech Liberals Will Keep on Losing | Civitas Peregrina. An important and sobering post by Bryan McGraw.

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“In relatively recent debates over toleration, there has developed a view that says toleration is…”

“In relatively recent debates over toleration, there has developed a view that says toleration is simply not enough. In tolerating others, we implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) communicate that what they do or believe is, in our view, morally disreputable. That can have serious effects, of course, on the tolerated’s sense of self-worth and ability to live her life as she sees fit. Instead of toleration, the argument goes, we should instead offer one another mutual respect or positive regard or, and this is the key move, recognition. We need not morally endorse others’ lives full stop, but we should go beyond a grudging indifference to something like a decently warm encouragement. And the reason, broadly speaking, we must do so is because the goods we thought we could secure via toleration are not enough. They still leave those being tolerated the object of social opprobrium and thus at some real disadvantage—or worse.  
  
Hence, it is not enough for gays and lesbians to achieve a rough degree of legal and political equality. Nor is it enough for tender college students to hear criticisms that go to the heart of their own sense of identity. Unless their moral lives are, in some real way, recognized and affirmed not only by public (or university) authorities and unless their fellow citizens (or students or speakers) can be counted on to do the same, real, substantive equality will remain elusive.  
  
But this makes for the obvious question: if recognition, not toleration, is the rule of the day, why can’t moral conservatives or others with unpopular views make similarly structured claims? Well, in my view, they should be able to and the fact that they can’t helps reveal an incoherence at the heart of the recognition claim. Given a certain range of moral and religious pluralism, it is principally and practically impossible to extend recognition to all or even most, especially once recognition extends into our everyday social lives. Recognition is, or at least can be, a zero-sum game. And so what is lurking behind the purported argument for recognition—and toleration, for that matter—is a set of moral judgments about what lives are in fact worth recognizing or tolerating, and here is where the misunderstandings of moral conservatives and free-speech liberals will continue to lead to loss after loss.”

Why Toleration Is Never Enough and Why Moral Conservatives and Free Speech Liberals Will Keep on Losing | Civitas Peregrina. An important and sobering post by Bryan McGraw.

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“This unrestrained and insidious turn taken by the disoriented British-values campaign was exposed…”

“This unrestrained and insidious turn taken by the disoriented British-values campaign was exposed last month when it emerged that young Muslim children in one primary school were given a test to assess their predilection for radicalisation. The stated purpose of this intrusive Big Brother-style initiative was to ‘identify the initial seeds of radicalisation’. Judging by the questions posed, it appears that the marker for the precrime of radicalisation was the strength of infants’ feelings about the way of life of their families. To discover how pupils felt about their beliefs, the test asked them to indicate whether they agreed, disagreed or were unsure about the following statement: ‘I believe my religion is the only correct one.’ Any child agreeing with this statement was deemed to be in danger of becoming radicalised into anti-British values.  
  
The sentiments underpinning this infant-radicalisation test also inform the work of Ofsted school inspectors, assorted government programmes and the outlook of the political establishment. From this elite perspective, those who believe that their religion is the truth contradict the unstated official version of British values – namely, that all religions are correct. According to the jargon of the day, an inclusive, non-judgemental and respectful attitude towards other people’s beliefs is mandatory for school children. This demand for non-judgemental respect implicitly negates the freedom of conscience of millions of ardent believers for one simple reason: many religions assume that only they possess the truth. For Christians, Jews and Muslims, the idea that all religions are correct makes little sense. Indeed, if all religions are ‘correct’, then living in accordance solely with one particular faith is absurd.”

The British state’s silent war on religion | Religion and atheism | spiked

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“When talking about the need to reform the criminal justice system, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) often…”

“When talking about the need to reform the criminal justice system, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) often cites the case of Kalief Browder, a Bronx teenager who was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack and held on Rikers Island for more than 1,000 days. Browder insisted he did not commit the crime. He was held in solitary confinement for much of the time and tied his bedsheets into a noose in an attempt to kill himself.    
  
‘So when you see people and you see some of this anger at people in the streets and you’re like, “Why are they so unhappy?” Think about Kalief Browder and think about how his friends must feel about American justice, how his parents must feel and about how his community feels,’ Paul said Saturday in Concord, N.H. ‘If we become the party that cares about the Sixth Amendment as much as we do the Second Amendment, we’re going to dominate.’”

Rand Paul offers condolences to family of Kalief Browder – The Washington Post

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“Maria Albertina Iraheta Guardado was 37 when she decided to leave the Dos Bocas community in Santa…”

Maria Albertina Iraheta Guardado was 37 when she decided to leave the Dos Bocas community in Santa Rosa de Aguán, Honduras, and emigrate to the Bronx to meet up with her sister, who works as a house cleaner. She wanted to send money back to her mother and help support her six children. Some of them are already adults. But two—a nine-year-old and a 14-year-old—still live with Iraheta Guardado’s mother.

According to the mother and sister, who spoke with me on the phone, Iraheta Guardado also wanted to leave because of a growing weariness with the violence that plagues Honduras, the country with the highest murder rate in the world, as of 2012. Several years ago her husband was fatally shot by stray bullets in a cross fire, says Iraheta Guardado’s mother, Maria Amelia Guardado: “Like everyone else here, he was just murdered, because that’s what happens here.”

The mother learned from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team that her daughter crossed the border near Brownsville, Tex., on June 15, 2012, along with a group of other migrants and a human smuggler. She had walked for two days before fainting and being left behind near Falfurrias.

Identifying Iraheta Guardado took the combined efforts of forensic anthropologists, human-rights organizations, foreign consulates and law-enforcement agencies. Her mother then waited anxiously for her daughter’s remains to be returned; they had been delayed because of a bureaucratic snafu over a death certificate. Finally, in early April 2015, they arrived and were returned to the family for burial.

A story from Scientific American — alas, behind a paywall, documenting the wonderful work that my colleague Lori Baker, along with her students and co-workers, has been doing for years to identify the remains of people who have died trying to get to the U.S., and then to give them a proper burial. Serious forensic anthropology; serious Christian service.

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Photo

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“When I first started getting some attention, stories published here and there, Don DeLillo took me…”

“When I first started getting some attention, stories published here and there, Don DeLillo took me aside and gave me some advice that ended up being very formative for me. He said, ‘George, if you keep breaking into my home to use my swimming pool, I’m going to have to call the police.’ I always thought that was really wise.”

George Saunders, advice to young writers

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“Another fantasy of liberal education is that the student who advances to the university should take…”

“Another fantasy of liberal education is that the student who advances to the university should take up the study that interests him most. For a small number of students this is in the main right. Even at a very early stage of school life, we can identify a few individuals with a definite inclination towards one group of studies or another. The danger for these unfortunate ones is that if left to themselves they will overspecialize, they will be wholly ignorant of the general interests of human beings. We are all in one way or another naturally lazy, and it is much easier to confine ourselves to the study of subjects in which we excel. But the great majority of the people who are to be educated have no very strong inclination to specialize, because they have no definite gifts or tastes. Those who have more lively and curious minds will tend to smatter. No one can become really educated without having pursued some study in which he took no interest – for it is a part of education to learn to interest ourselves in subjects for which we have no aptitude.”

T. S. Eliot (1932)

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“Pour tenir dans la lutte qui oppose les deux seuls grands pays d’Europe restés démocratiques à un…”

“Pour tenir dans la lutte qui oppose les deux seuls grands pays d’Europe restés démocratiques à un régime de domination totale, quelques formes que le temps puisse donner à cette lutte, il faut avant tout avoir bonne conscience. Ne croyons pas que parce que nous sommes moins brutaux, moins violents, moins inhumains que ceux d’en face nous devons l’emporter. La brutalité, la violence, l’inhumanité ont un prestige immense, que les livres d’école cachent aux enfants, que les hommes faits ne s’avouent pas, mais que tous subissent. Les vertus contraires, pour avoir un prestige équivalent, doivent s’exercer d’une manière constante et effective. Quiconque est seulement incapable d’être aussi brutal, aussi violent, aussi inhumain qu’un autre, sans pourtant exercer les vertus contraires, est inférieur à cet autre et en force intérieure et en prestige; et il ne tiendra pas devant lui.”

Simone Weil, fragment written probably in September 1939. Words to the wise.

(As I work on my book I’m having to check all translations of Weil, which are notoriously variable in quality and accuracy, against the original texts. If you struggle to read this, welcome to my world. But it’s great.)

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newberrylibrary: Chromatic Wood TypeHappy Typeface Tuesday!…

newberrylibrary:

Chromatic Wood Type

Happy Typeface Tuesday! These wood type samples are chromatic specimens from the William H. Page Wood Type Co., produced in 1874.

Shown here from top to bottom, the wood types are titled: Renaissance, Etruscan, Gothic Paneled, and Corinthian.

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Dione (foreground) and Rhea

Dione (foreground) and Rhea

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Top: word-cloud generated from cat-lovers’ explanations of…

Top: word-cloud generated from cat-lovers’ explanations of their love of cats. Bottom: word-cloud generated from dog-lovers’ explanations of their love of dogs. Study report here.

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thingsmagazine: Death, What’s in it for me?, Harland Miller

thingsmagazine:

Death, What’s in it for me?, Harland Miller

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otticattica: We’ve been working the brilliant Ivan Poupyrev and…

otticattica:

We’ve been working the brilliant Ivan Poupyrev and team at Google ATAP to help design interactions, products and visualisations with their newly announced micro-scale radar technology.

Here’s the film we made about the project:

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brucesterling: *Still not enough to physically drown all the…

brucesterling:

*Still not enough to physically drown all the Global Warming denialists in Texas, but getting there

Two notes for Bruce Sterling: (a) You think it would be good for people to set their views about global warming based on what happens in one month in one place? I believe in global warming for scientific reasons, not because of local personal experience. (b) Floods don’t drown people selectively, based on whether an asshole like you approves of them or not. It would be good for you to remember that while people are mourning their dead.

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“According to Conway, there is a “disconnect” between the desire to travel into space and the desire…”

According to Conway, there is a “disconnect” between the desire to travel into space and the desire to understand it. This “disconnect” is a more fundamental difficulty for NASA than decades’ worth of budget cuts. It’s a contradiction that’s built into the agency’s structure, which includes a human exploration program on the one hand and a scientific program on the other. The planning for Mars missions so far has been left largely to the science types, but sometimes the human-mission types have insisted on getting involved. Whenever they’ve done so, Conway writes, the result has been “chaos.”  

Conway puts himself on the side of science, and, as far as he’s concerned, humans are the wrong stuff. They shouldn’t even be trying to get to another planet. Not only are they fragile, demanding, and expensive to ship; they’re a mess.  

“Humans carry biomes with us, outside and inside,” he writes. NASA insists that Mars landers be sterilized, but “we can’t sterilize ourselves.” If people ever do get to the red planet—an event that Conway, now forty-nine, says he considers “unlikely” in his lifetime—they’ll immediately wreck the place, just by showing up: “Scientists want a pristine Mars, uncontaminated by Earth.” If people start rejiggering the atmosphere and thawing the regolith, so much the worse.  

“The Mars scientists want to study won’t exist anymore,” Conway writes. “Some other Mars will.”

Rather odd that this essay on different ideas about colonizing Mars doesn’t mention that every one of these different scenarios, and different attitudes, is explored deeply and brilliantly by Kim Stanley Robinson in his Mars Trilogy.

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Jonathan Malesic: Please Don’t Search for Purpose

Jonathan Malesic: Please Don’t Search for Purpose

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The great Jimmy Rushing — Mister Five By Five — along with Count…

The great Jimmy Rushing — Mister Five By Five — along with Count Basie, for whom he did his best singing. What a master.

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This astonishingly advanced and beautiful car was also known…

This astonishingly advanced and beautiful car was also known by the punning pronunciation of the initials DS in French as “La Déesse” – the goddess. The philosopher Roland Barthes, who was later killed in a car crash, compared the genius of the design of the Déesse to the building of the great French medieval cathedrals as a supreme expression of the spirit of the age. He mentions the many-spired cathedral of Chartres, an ever-fixed mark to which we steered across the yellow oceans of maize and sunflowers from Rouen, and in which I once spent the night hidden between pews in a sleeping bag. Modern France’s new religion of mobility was all there in the Déesse.

And Barthes was right. The Déesse was a kind of miracle, and a lift in one after a long, dusty vigil in the sun could feel like divine providence. Perched on the Déesse’s sighing white leather seats, hugging our rucksacks, we marvelled at the way the steering wheel appeared to float like a halo, magically suspended by an almost invisible stalk. Shakespeare wrote “My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.” You’d never say that about the Déesse. The car floated, gliding forward effortlessly, having levitated with unhurried dignity from its parked stance, slumped on all fours. You wouldn’t choose a DS for a bank robbery. And there was so much glass. No car had ever been this transparent. Even the headlights swivelled about like two eyes, mysteriously coordinated with the steering, so the Déesse had the uncanny, almost supernatural ability to see round corners at night. The ineffable design still remains outside time, more modern, more confident, than anything that has come since.

Roger Deakin

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“In a statement conceding defeat, the Iona Institute, the main opposition group, said it would…”

“In a statement conceding defeat, the Iona Institute, the main opposition group, said it would continue to affirm ‘the importance of biological ties and of motherhood and fatherhood.’ The absurdity of that statement speaks for itself.”

The Victory for Same-Sex Marriage in Ireland – NYTimes.com. I can’t tell exactly what the NYT editorial board thinks is self-evidently absurd here: that “biological ties” are important? That “motherhood and fatherhood” are important? Both?

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“Any time I make [on Twitter] some sort of joke along racial lines or dealing with racial politics, I…”

“Any time I make [on Twitter] some sort of joke along racial lines or dealing with racial politics, I know that immediately there’s going to be a wave of positive response from people who know where I’m coming from and who share a basic aesthetic. The first five minutes, I know that I’m going to get positive responses. Then, minute six, it starts to go beyond that little bubble. Some people come in who don’t even recognize the humor, because humor is a declaration of in-group status. The further away you go from the center, the less they understand the context of it. Twitter is not just American. Race is completely based on context, so as soon as the discussion goes out of America, say once it gets to Britain, it gets a slightly different take. Then it goes past that and things get more and more absurd. Once that wave hits outside of America, all of a sudden people are looking at my picture going, ‘Why is this guy talking like he’s black?’”

Mat Johnson

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“Thirty years ago, in the ‘1984’ Macintosh commercial directed by Ridley Scott, a young…”

Thirty years ago, in the ‘1984’ Macintosh commercial directed by Ridley Scott, a young woman smashed the big screen her fellow citizens were forced to watch and obey. You imagine them standing up and rebelling afterwards.  

Today, in the ‘Up’ Apple Watch commercial seemingly directed by Stanley Milgram, a young woman docilely stands when a little screen strapped to her wrist tells her to.

Dr. Drang

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“In a time when ‘to other’ has become a condemnatory verb, randos are the other. If the…”

“In a time when ‘to other’ has become a condemnatory verb, randos are the other. If the mores in a given ZIP code preclude snarling at people for their race, sex, creed or sexual orientation, those uncertain of their own grip on the social center can always dump on randos. It is a nice, clean slur, free of identifying social characteristics. It refers to the extras, the spear-carriers in the background, the people who apparently have only themselves to blame for their exclusion, those you’ll forget all about when you move away. Their being tagged with that handle may indeed derive, at bottom, from their race, sex, creed, sexual orientation, body shape, economic misfortune or anything else, but users always have convenient deniability at their service. After all, there are so many people around nowadays, perhaps more than all the collected dead of ages past — who can keep track? We rest secure in the knowledge that while those people over there represent arbitrary collisions of data, we ourselves are a result of long and careful planning.”

Luc Sante. I’m feeling kinda convicted by this.

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Photo

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Photo

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