:: Essays archive ( 2000-2005, click for articles pre-2006)

Was it Called The Melancholic Android or Making Mr. Right?: The Deception of Film Memory published 04/05/2016

As I got older I convinced myself that Making Mr. Right examined deep questions about human relationships with artificial life. Yet it turns out that the only exploration of any relationship in Making Mr. Right is a romantic imperative that leads to sexual gratification. In a way I tricked myself into thinking that Making Mr. Right was a more profound experience than it actually was. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it’s unlikely it will be the last.

Stephen Lee Naish explores the transient nature of filmic narratology in Making Mr. Right.

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The Architecture of Crisis published 03/05/2016

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Looking at ruins and seeing beauty, seeing something aesthetic and “awesome” and desirable, represents a refusal to engage with the systems of policy, finance, and crisis which give rise to space and dismantle it. All these coffee table books and blogs do little more than comfort and accustom us to urban and architectural ruination – they do not shock us, or prompt us to ask questions.

Owen Vince on the banalization of ruins and the architecture of crisis.

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living words: ‘all hues in his controlling’ published 02/05/2016

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The inelegant paradox of life as I see it is how reading is a solitary activity, but doing so yields an understanding of the world and the many people populating it. Or is E.M. Cioran correct when he says, “We must read not to understand others but to understand ourselves”?

Greg Gerke on the worlds books open to us and the worlds they may leave out of reach.

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On Christos Ikonomou and the Current Greek Government Debt Crisis published 28/04/2016

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I keep distrusting the impulse to compare — America and Greece, my life and the book, the Greece of the book and the Greece of my experience, the Greece of the book and the America of my experience — believing distinctions like what it means to be an unemployed college graduate in America versus an unemployed fifty-two-year-old fisherman in a small Greek village are important and necessary to maintain.

Anna Zalokostas on the Greek government debt crisis and Christos Ikonomou‘s Something Will Happen, You’ll See.

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Cities in the Sky: Re-evaluating Yona Friedman published 19/04/2016

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The Friedman revived by relational aesthetics is the theorist of the individual, of adjustable prefab, self-design and spatial indeterminism. And yet there’s another side to Friedman, global in outlook and indebted to the heady days of the modernism he rose to prominence within, a side insisting on the state obligation to democratic public infrastructure alongside indeterminacy and a lucid registration of the need for economical solutions.

By Will Harris.

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Dandy Highwaymen published 15/04/2016

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The idea of the urban jihadist as martial and racialized – continually reproduced by both apologists and detractors – harbours a series of paradoxes which lock this figure in a tortuous circle: having a self-image of hyper-masculinity, but engaging in effete practices (in a kind of inverted form of dysmorphic syndrome); wanting to be different and noticed, yet needing to be hidden and secretive; and identifying with global subaltern resistance, but displaying personal signs of bourgeois aspiration through careful attentiveness to public appearance. This circularity may signal a kind of cognitive dissonance but not one commonly deployed by radicalization experts to explain the mental disconnect between behaviour and beliefs in jihadist psychology.

Zaheer Kazmi on the pristine, genderless souls of the male urban jihadists.

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Hilary Putnam: Compassion and Questioning as a Guide to Life published 07/04/2016

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Hilary as a young man resisted World War II and became a Trotskyist. He later helped lead a movement in Cambridge against the Vietnam war, and, learning from his colleague Roderick Firth, wrote brilliantly on how to think about war. Even given that in close families rebellion by children is normal and has an edge, Sam’s initial response was harsh; his father threw Hilary out of the house (in addition to patriarchal abuse, there is no fine moral judgment here since Stalin had murdered Trotsky in Mexico not so long before and many others). When Hilary had a fever, however, his mom went and brought him home…

Alan Gilbert remembers his friend the philosopher Hilary Putnam.

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Talking to the Dead published 06/04/2016

In the current American climate, while Donald Trump lunges for the White House by ranting from platforms, screens, and newsfeeds against the women, the immigrants, the refugees who must be identical with his contempt for their differences from him, as if a word matched its referent, always without slippage, I talk to the dead. To two long gone, especially: to Virginia Woolf and Plato, their resonances stretched across the millennia separating them.

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Thought As Style: Montaigne’s Essays published 04/04/2016

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Inventing a literary form is an honor bestowed upon few. We may speak of Don Quixote as the “first novel,” or Emerson as the “father” of American poetry, or Augustine’s Confessions as the earliest example of autobiography, and enjoy doing so because it exercises our desire to create ranks, build consensus and celebrate true originality, even if we know full well that American poetry didn’t begin at any one point, nor was there a first novel. Still, this hyperbole is fun, and lists need to be made. So when it comes to the essay, it should be said that the verdict is essentially unanimous: it belongs to Michel de Montaigne.

Jared Marcel Pollen on Montaigne.

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The Crisis in Capital Cruelty or How Europe is Slowly Banning the American Death Penalty published 22/03/2016

The firing squad is so last-century, far too static and literary for modern death culture. For a generation raised on Grand Theft Auto and POV porno, there is little meaning in lining some human up against a wall and ordering five slugs banged into them. No, much better to go all Hunger Games on their ass, set them free on the streets, give ‘em a head start and then call the cops to try and gun them down. Oh, and remember to film then post the whole thing.

William Watkin analyses the ambivalent status of capital punishment in contemporary America in relation to theories of power, control and transatlantic political relations.

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