:: Essays

Blame the Nerds! American Punditry Achieves Peak Stupid published 17/12/2016

The sad thing, and I think this is what makes Osterweil’s article truly awful, is that I’m pretty sure he knows that his article is bullshit. He speaks of “the queer, female, and nonwhite contingent that makes up the majority of gamers,” and then notes that “those communities of marginalized gamers have just as much claim to the subject position of the ‘nerd,’ as do queer shippers and comic-book geeks.” And yes they do; so why write an article accusing “nerds” (no qualifier or subset indicator in sight) of contributing to the rise of fascism? Here is a possible answer: An article entitled “Online Assholes Contributing to the Rise of Fascism” would not attract eyeballs to one’s online publication. Worse yet, it might even be true.

EJ Spode takes down bullshit punditry – hard.

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The Resistible Rise of Donald Trump published 12/12/2016

Like a human stingray, Trump stuns with insults and diverting hand gestures—but what shocks people is that Trump’s election victory, and the Brexit vote, are baskets of unexplainables; shocking events in a world of shocking events, generating fear and defying normal explanation. We see ourselves and our world reflected in a shocking mirror; afraid of what we’ve become, and what we’re becoming. So explaining Trump is our dilemma, one which leads us reconsider the past, and past shocks to established order; because the rise of Donald Trump mirrors the rebirth of obscure intellectual Herbert Spencer (1820—1903), who had some shocking ideas of his own.

Paul Walsh on the rise of Donald Trump, Spencer and misarchism

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Tributaries of Afrobeat/s published 30/11/2016

Before Kuti’s adoption by a growing number of hip hop stars, Stevie Wonder had called him “an incredible pioneer” to whom the music world is much indebted. Long before he passed on, Miles Davis regarded him as the future of music. Mos Def, on his part, likens him to Bob Marley, Rick James, ODB, Huey Newton and Duke Ellington. This particular characterisation of Kuti is most unlikely and awkward but probably makes sense from a marketing point of view, that is, in creating a niche for the problematic image Kuti crafted for himself.

By Sanya Osha.

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The Many Self-Reinventions of Toyo Ito published 22/11/2016

Ito’s design pointed ahead in two ways. On the one hand it realised the modernist principle of transparency, exposing certain structural elements, but it did so with a hint of contradiction, by advertising its content like a boutique window: the inside was brought out into the city, but it was also encased as a display, with a glassy façade that looks like one of Jeff Koon’s readymade vacuum cleaner installations. A kind of high street modernism, it disrupted the canon in a second way by estranging the controlled, homogenous rationality of the grid.

By William Harris.

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How To Win Arguments In The Post-Truth Era published 19/11/2016

As French playwright Jean Giraudoux put it: “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.”

Bruno Diaz gets all sincere about our bullshit era.

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Not That: reflections on the Election, Choicelessness and Contradiction published

Badiou is clear that the properly political contradiction is not between two forms of the same world, but between a world and something which is beyond the limits of that world. The true contradiction was between Trump and Sanders, Badiou says. In affirmation of real choice, he continues that “today, against Trump, we cannot desire Clinton. We must create a return to the true contradiction. That is, we must propose a political orientation that goes beyond the world as it is …”

Cam Scott on Badiou on Trump.

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Excerpt: Vulgar Tongues published 15/11/2016

Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785) listed other slang names for prison which were in use at that time, such as the iron doublet, the sheriff’s hotel, lob’s pound, the boarding school, limbo, the repository and the spring-ankle warehouse. He also recorded that such a building was called a queer ken, and defined queer birds as ‘rogues relieved from prison, and returned to their old trade’, a usage which survived virtually intact into the 20th century, as in the classic 1936 London underworld novel The Gilt Kid by James Curtis.

An excerpt from Max Décharné‘s alternative history of English slang.

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After the Shock Waves of the US Elections, How Do We Locate Ourselves? published 12/11/2016

I can’t help viewing what is happening through the shadows of my family history – the possibility of brutality in a place you once considered safe, the possible need that the people you care about might need to prepare for sudden flight, the idea that the time when you can flee or change things may quickly pass; there might come a time when it’s too late. I would like to think that my fear is irrational, an overreaction, a symptom of being told about trauma and violence for as long as I can remember. But I know that while the particular shape of my fear might be influenced by my family history, the substance of it is not.

By Linda Mannheim.

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Paris Scratch [12 Snapshots] published 11/11/2016

The blind man sipped his café crème in the sun. His smile like a crack in the sidewalk over which people will inevitably trip. Or a riverbed geode cracked in 2. In France, geodes can be found — I looked it up — in the southeast between Cannes & Italy somewhere. His dog deflates into a wetnosed sigh at his feet, resigned to not going anywhere. The ponytailed counter girl in crisp white stares out, outside past her reflection, her job, past the forlorn hedge that hides the beyond & out. She had brought the old man his café crème. Was there someone else? She slaps the comb into her unread palm to a beat, a march or something tribal, something tiere monde, something that may lead her elsewhere if only for an instant. Would she always be this frustrated?

By Bart Plantenga.

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Symbolic Grenade: The Historical Provocations of Carlos Fonseca’s Colonel Lágrimas published 08/11/2016

Displacement is the situation of the writer, who tends to note or interpret rather than act, and this story of a man who isolates himself on a mountain with his memories is an analogue to the trajectory of not just 20th century history, but also 20th century literature. The lines between ‘Latin American’ and ‘non-Latin American’ literature have broken down in meaningful ways, and the question of whether identity based on geographical location even makes sense is a serious one.

Jessica Sequeira writing after Carlos Fonseca‘s Colonel Lágrimas.

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