:: Essays

Seven Theses published 19/07/2018

Concentration camps.  A legitimized Gestapo that rules at will, wherever it goes, with brute force behind it.
Geheimestaatspolizei. Violence cannot be contained at a border. The knock on the door is the Law. Militarized police enforce White Supremacy. As one German commentator put it, we have “Anti-Semitism without Jews.”  On this Continent, Muslims and Central Americans will serve just as well.  Not to mention transsexuals. And uppity young blacks. And women who don’t treat their fetuses with proper respect.

State of the nation address by Philip Green.

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Why Is Trump Doing What He Is Doing? published 18/07/2018

Let me give you my conclusions first, so you know where I am going with this.  I think Trump is being paid by Putin to conform American foreign, economic, and military policy to what Putin thinks are Russia’s interests.  This is not the only possible explanation for Trump’s behavior, but it seems to me the most plausible.  The principal items of evidence on which I am basing this conclusion are Trump’s trade war, his efforts to undermine NATO, his acceptance of Russia’s reabsorption of Crimea and effort to control Ukraine, his scuttling of the Iran nuclear deal, and somewhat more atmospherically his efforts to rehabilitate Putin as a respected player on the international scene.

Robert Paul Wolff asks why Trump is acting towards Putin like he is.

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The Policeman’s Beard is Algorithmically Constructed published 16/07/2018

Racter poses virtually no threat to human authors, nor does any other algorithmic author currently available. The question is hence not one of replacement, but of augmentation, of new responsibilities for the human author in light of the algorithmic one. When Juhl writes that computer-generated output lacks the intentionality of a text with a human author, he falls into a similar trap as Bök: both scholars fail to recognise the fundamentally human basis of algorithmic authorship. Human intention hasn’t disappeared, but is merely manifest in a new way. Indeed, The Policeman’s Beard’s apparent randomness is a rhetorical choice, and Racter’s nonsensical output pushes the limits of creativity by means of an intentional goal to be incomprehensible.

By Leah Hendrickson.

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XXXTentacion: Should We Mourn the Death of a Bad Person? published 08/07/2018

Hip-hop fans were grappling with the murder of rapper XXXTentacion, born Jahseh Onfroy. Onfroy was a popular rapper with a reputation for horrific violence. Onfroy’s ex-girlfriend accused him of brutally assaulting and imprisoning her while she was pregnant in 2015. Onfroy also once confessed to assaulting his gay cellmate at a juvenile detention center for staring at him.

Erica Shumener asks whether we should mourn bad people.

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Sex Colours published 02/07/2018

But what if rape is not the natural way to have sex? What if we aren’t evolving but devolving in our sexual exploits? What if humans give off bodily cues like lying still or walking away or turning cold and grey as a reticent octopus? Prairie dogs click for danger. Chimpanzees pound the ground. Golden Eagles shrill mating calls, calling back and forth with a whistle until the two birds, imitating each other, come close enough to sounding like one. Eagles have to use their voices to communicate because it would be hard to rape someone in the air. Wings make consensual sex possible? But it’s not just birds that say what they mean. Whole rumps in air, a suffocation of plumage, a battery of intricate dances.

By Nicole Walker.

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Per Kirkeby: In Praise of Diligence published 29/06/2018

What at first will appear handsome, clever, intelligent, must be brought to an end, must be ruined. Often the morning after it would become clear that what was there on the canvas or Masonite did not suffice. “Paintings that are merely beautiful or riveting in their colours are not enough if there is no structure within.” Only after a degree of “Untergang” or apocalypse can the real picture emerge, rising from the ruins of the beautiful. “I can’t begin by creating that structure. Well, I can, but then it needs to go down. The real structure slowly starts emerging in the picture.”

D.R. Hansen pays homage to the late Per Kirkeby.

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Dériving Through the City published 27/06/2018

We tend to think of ‘the city’ as expansive, even endless; a vast nervure of connectivity; a network rendered by myriad fragments and countless pathways. But Chombart de Lauwe, an urban sociologist, was trying to illustrate the narrowness of our real lived urban experience. Because when we say that we live in Paris or London or New York, we actually mean to say that we live somewhere in Paris or London or New York—in some (not-so) arbitrary collection of spaces, environments and zones. We live, that is to say we experience, a tiny specialised version of the city, itself inflected by concomitant associations and memories. His diagram tries to illustrate the city as it’s lived—not in expanse but in peculiarity.

To look at one’s own movements from a great distance, decontextualised, seems always to illustrate how one is enmeshed in the same coercive patterns as everybody else.

By Bertie Wnek.

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The Other Morrissey – Euro 96, TFI Friday and My Summer With Des published 22/06/2018

When England’s baser enthusiasms – for beer, patriotism and football – had coalesced to exert pressure on those who did not buy into them as mean-spirited and dour. Even though Morrissey’s character at the start of the series (from the vantage point of 1998) bemoans the contemporary presence of sleaze, Teletubbies and New Labour he does not realise what halcyon days of fleeting hope he is living in. A brief time in which the slovenly behaviour and lack of ambition of the English ‘lad’ could credibly elicit the affections of a woman like Weisz’s character. As England perform on the pitch, their followers perform to each other their identity with a lack of apology that is almost charismatic.

An extract from Albion’s Secret History – Snapshots of England’s Pop Rebels and Outsiders, by Guy Mankowski.

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Lionel Trilling: Literature & Liberalism published

Does our taste predict our politics? Is someone who watches House of Cards likely to vote any differently than someone who watches Big Bang Theory? Or someone who uses Spotify and someone who only listens to vinyl? And that these taste in any way present incompatible realities? In a market-based monoculture, where difference of taste is mere niche or “alternative,” no one can claim that aesthetics reveal values, or that people’s politics are likely to be shaped by the art they consume. If there are political divisions to be had on matters of taste now, they have moved on to other areas of the culture and are almost all superficial: liberals drive electric cars and shop at Whole Foods and conservatives drive trucks and eat red meat.

Jared Marcel Pollen on Lionel Trilling.

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Why I No Longer Read Heavy Books published 21/06/2018

We went to bookshops. She stood in front of the shelves and critiqued novels. I just listened. Often I couldn’t work out from what she said whether she thought the book was good or bad. She sounded just as clever when she was talking about books she disliked as books she liked. When I worked it out, I bought the books she approved of. I took them home and tried to make them look well-thumbed. In the mornings, I opened the books to the centre pages, and left them face down on my bedroom floor among stray socks and empty crisp packets, so that by the evening when I was home the spine was creased. I started carrying these books around in my hand with me when I left the house, especially when I would meet Jess. We would be walking down the high-street together and I would catch a glimpse of us reflected back in the windows of shops. I saw myself, Jess in one hand and a worn paperback in the other, and I liked what I saw.

By Andy West.

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