:: Essays

Coast of Utopia: Star Trek: Discovery‘s odd future published 31/10/2017

While many of the core elements of Star Trek’s “wagon train to the stars” model remain in Discovery, the series’ ideological focus and relative disinterest in depicting futurity sets it apart from much of the rest of the franchise. To be sure, there are many laudable elements early on—the strong opposition toward the rhetoric of racial purity, an animal cruelty plotline, and an interest in extensively representing diversity in both the cast and themes. However, in exchanging an idealised future for the quasi-present, Discovery abandons many of the solidaristic elements of prior series’ political utopianism and offers a flawed depiction of racial disharmony in their stead.

By James Rushing Daniel.

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In Defence of ‘Illiterate’ Translation published 19/10/2017

In Defence of ‘Illiterate’ Translation

If I am a fraud, I am at least a thorough fraud. To be vigilantly illiterate is to be always in a state of ready discovery. For the illiterate translator, perhaps more so than for the dually-fluent, each poem requires word-for-word, then line-by-line, then stanza-by-stanza, and finally poem-wide attention.

By Jacob A. Bennett.

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Synecdoche: New York and My Lonely, Fucked-Up Being published 10/10/2017


Into Sausalito’s balmy dark the little movie house spills us. Couples mostly, but I am alone. Alone and dazed at what I’ve just witnessed. In thrall to the story, I want to discuss Synecdoche: New York with Laura, the way we did in what already feels like the old days, though we’ve been apart for less than a year.

By Randy Osborne.

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Score published 08/10/2017

Sit in silence in the dark. Vibrate vigorously. Roll on your side. Picture tight, glistening calves and dark eyebrows. Have sex with two different men named Paul Davis in the course of a month.
Boost your immune system. Drink through your middle years. Look good but shorter.
Gather kindling. Learn the names of trees. Call your mother with hope. Call every day. Lift a car off the ground. Break a bone. Become a mouse with a special skill.
Remember a woman you do not know anymore. Picture her chic haircut, dangerous sunglasses, splash of scarf, bright lipstick, and expensive luggage. Consider a story is the way you dress.

By Laurie Stone.

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Reactionary Sentimentalism Part 3: Prague published 30/09/2017

“They’re afraid of the old for their memory. They’re afraid of the young for their ideas – ideals. They’re afraid of funerals – of flowers – of workers – of churches – of party members – of good times. They’re afraid of art – they’re afraid of art. They’re afraid of language – communication. They’re afraid of theatre. They’re afraid of film – of Pasolini – of Godard – of painters of musicians – of stones & sculptors. They’re afraid. They’re afraid of radio stations. They’re afraid of technology, free floating forms of information. Paris Match – Telex – Guttenburg – Xerox – IBM – wavelengths. They’re afraid of telephones. They’re afraid. They’re afraid to let the people in. They’re afraid to let the people out…”

Louis Armand on Underground Prague.

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A Weakness for Past Masters: The Modernist Isherwood published 29/09/2017

Picture Christopher Isherwood and the first image to come to mind is probably that boyish young man of the thirties, pals to Auden, Spender, Upward, training his I-am-a-camera gaze on the streets of Weimar Berlin. The second image? Most likely to be of sunny Santa Monica and the older Isherwood of the sixties who wrote his magnum opus, the 1964 novel A Single Man, about a day in the life of the English Professor George Falconer mourning his partner. (…) Everyone is a photograph album — spanning many times and stages and places. That Berlin should be there, quite rightly so. And Santa Monica too. But as Isherwood knew, the past is always there, really. It can be found just by turning back the page. And his English work is well worth turning back for.

By J. S. Loveard.

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Tigers in the DMZ published 28/09/2017

‘There is one thing about the Earth, not often noticed’, Butts writes in Warning to Hikers, ‘how quickly, in the friendliest country, the most loved, described, harvested or defiled, the land will become again a no-man’s-land.’ Quarantined sites like Porton Down attract intrigue for this very reason: they help us imagine what the land might look like without us. The flora and fauna are an afterthought for the technicians in Porton Down’s laboratories and, as a result, they thrive in a way they wouldn’t under our direct care and commercialisation. Speaking generally, military conflict is terrible for the environment (human or otherwise), scarring landscapes and contributing to the extinction of numerous species. But outside of the battlefield, the defence sector’s indifference towards nature is often seen to benefit the local wildlife, preserving ecologies that might otherwise have been bleached out by ‘human interference’.

By Jack Browne.

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The Secret Life of Airports published 21/09/2017

Next time you find yourself trudging down a dank tunnel that seems to lead to nowhere, in the nether regions of an airport, suddenly alone and perhaps feeling a bit of existential dread, or maybe just exhaustion and boredom—remember that you are taking part in the secret life of airports. These non-simple spaces are indices for our broader culture, sites to interact with and interpret—sites that can make us feel exhilarated or stranded, by turns. This is what I call airportness, and it spreads out into all sorts of surprising things, and seeps into unexpected places.

By Christopher Schaberg.

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The Narrowing Spectrum of Control published 17/09/2017

This is a well-pool of pea-soup oud, a full-on miasma to try and fight through. I flashback to the Anonymous guy telling me: “You cannot speak to your neighbours”. You cannot trust anyone. The drivers grass – the cleaners – the CEOs. So what do you do? Go with the majority? The fifty percent majority? You keep your head down, hope it’s better by the time your kids have grown up? Shelter yourself between the sheets of being a VPN rebel, writing nothing down, or it will be held against you.

By Kirsty Allison.

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Foucault Now published 11/09/2017

More than thirty years since his death, the self-proclaimed “historian of the present” falls ever farther from our present and farther from the latest work in the eras he studied. What, then, explains Foucault’s continuing influence, not just on academics nursing some intellectual hangover from drinking the koolaid of too much high theory during the disco era, but on some of our most important social critics, such as Judith Butler?

Peter Gratton looks at the enduring appeal of Michel Foucault.

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