Sunday Reading (and Viewing)
Africa is a Country, on South Africa’s Tunisia:
South Africa is far from what Tunisia was like pre-revolution (for one it is not governed by a one-party police state), but the parallels of small-town cops beating to death (here‘s video footage from South African TV news) a South African Everyman because his was angry with poor or non-existent service delivery (water, electricity, roads, housing) is eerily reminiscent of a certainfruit vendor in southern Tunisia. Again, the differences between South Africa and Tunisia are too many to mention. But if you asked someone in Meqheleng (yes, I did look up the largest township in Ficksburg in the Free State Province) if they are as frustrated as your typical Tunisian circa 2010, I wonder what they would say?
Michael Ralph at Social Text, on protests in sub-Saharan Africa:
In the midst of revolutionary transformations sweeping the “Middle East,” be careful not to overlook a conjoined protest movement stretching across the African continent. In addition to “pro-democracy protests” in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, there have been mass demonstrations calling for major democratic reforms in Senegal, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Benin, Sudan, Swaziland and Djibouti. In fact, you could argue that this “season” of uprisings kicked off in November 2010, when protests against Morocco’s continuing occupation of neighboring Western Sahara reached a fever pitch.
Lil Buck jookin’ with Yo Yo Ma:
(On the Memphis roots and setting of Jookin)
Of course, Oakland has Turfing:
(On the Oakland roots and setting of Turfing)
On the expat:
“If you picked up, moved to Paris, and landed a job, what would you call yourself? Chances are, if you’re an American, you’d soon find yourself part of a colorful community of ‘expats.’ If, while there, you hired an Algerian nanny– a woman who had picked up, moved abroad, and landed a job– how would you refer to him or her? Expat probably isn’t the first word that springs to mind. Yet almost no one refers to herself as a ‘migrant worker.’”
On punishing the victims of sexual assault:
Universities in the United States rarely expel students for sexual assault, according to an investigation by the federal government. And in the 42 years since it began admitting women, Yale University has not been an exception. Because of the way universities handle sexual misconduct, it is often the victim who drops out of school. In fact, a survey I conducted of female students transferring into Brown University in the early 1990s revealed that one of the top reasons women may transfer colleges is because they’ve been sexually assaulted on their campus.
On the lies of BP:
A year after the Deepwater Horizon exploded 60 miles south of his Buras hunting and fishing lodge, Ryan Lambert can distill his opinion of BP and the oil industry down to one word: Liars. It’s an opinion he never thought he’d have. “The fishing industry has always lived side-by-side with the oil industry down here in Plaquemines Parish, and they’ve always told us that if anything happened, they would take care of the problem — they would repair the damages and they would make us whole — and I believed them,” said Lambert, whose Cajun Fishing Adventures Lodge is one of the state’s largest.
“Well, they lied. About everything. They didn’t take care of the problem, and they’re not taking care of us. Guys in my business weren’t made whole. A lot of them are starving. And now that the national media is gone, BP couldn’t care less. “I’m sick of it, and I’m telling the whole country about it — on national TV, in magazines and in front of Congress.”
For some writers exile means leaving the family home; for others, leaving the childhood town or city; for others, more radically, growing up. There are exiles that last a lifetime and others that last a weekend. Bartleby, who prefers not to, is an absolute exile, an alien on planet Earth. Melville, who was always leaving, didn’t experience—or wasn’t adversely affected by—the chilliness of the word exile. Philip K. Dick knew better than anyone how to recognize the disturbances of exile. William Burroughs was the incarnation of every one of those disturbances.
Probably all of us, writers and readers alike, set out into exile, or at least a certain kind of exile, when we leave childhood behind. Which would lead to the conclusion that the exiled person or the category of exile doesn’t exist, especially in regards to literature. The immigrant, the nomad, the traveler, the sleepwalker all exist, but not the exile, since every writer becomes an exile simply by venturing into literature, and every reader becomes an exile simply by opening a book.
Almost all Chilean writers, at some point in their lives, have gone into exile. Many have been followed doggedly by the ghost of Chile, have been caught and returned to the fold. Others have managed to shake the ghost and gone into hiding; still others have changed their names and their ways and Chile has luckily forgotten them.
Sometimes exile simply means that Chileans tell me I talk like a Spaniard, Mexicans tell me I talk like a Chilean, and Spaniards tell me I talk like an Argentinean: it’s a question of accents.
Mr. Destructo on how to score while seeing Atlas Shrugged.
Idi Amin writes a letter to the Queen of England:
“My Dear Queen, I intend to arrive in London for an official visit on August 4th this year, but I am writing now to give you time to make all the necessary preparations for my stay so that nothing important is omitted. I am particularly concerned about food, because I know that you are in the middle of a fearsome economic crisis. I would also like you to arrange for me to visit Scotland, Ireland, and Wales to meet the heads of revolutionary movements fighting against your imperialist oppression.”
No, actually for real.
There are few places where society values rational, objective decision making as much as it values it in judges. While there is a rather cynical discipline called legal realism that says the law is really based on quirks of individual psychology, “what the judge had for breakfast,” there’s a broad social belief that the decision of judges are unbiased. And where they aren’t unbiased, they’re biased for Big, Important, Bad reasons, like racism or classism or politics.
It turns out that legal realism is totally wrong. It’s not what the judge had for breakfast. It’s how recently the judge had breakfast. A a new study (media coverage) on Israeli judges shows that, when making parole decisions, they grant about 65% after meal breaks, and almost all the way down to 0% right before breaks and at the end of the day (i.e. as far from the last break as possible). There’s a relatively linear decline between the two points.
Lady Poverty on the cultural baggage of universal commodification:
If you try to read a book like Marx’s Capital as a route to understanding between yourself and other working people, inevitably you are pegged as the consumer of a particular kind of commodity. This tells other people everything they need to know about you: namely, that you are either extremely smart for “consuming” philosophy; or that you are a poseur who is working really hard to be seen this way!
Consequently, people seeing me the way they do are doubly eager to declare their position on something like the Jersey Shore; for example, because their expectation of someone who reads a lot is that I wouldn’t be interested in commodities that don’t promote this, or which appear to go against it. So let me just reassure everyone that, much like my good friend Marx, I am indeed very interested in commodities of every sort, and much for the same reasons: because my relationships with other people are so profoundly shaped by them, and because for my purposes I have no choice but to engage.
David Simon keeps saying this, but it sort of remains true
We were doing our job, making the world safe for democracy. And all of a sudden, terra firma shifted, new technology. Who knew that the Internet was going to overwhelm us?” I would buy that if I wasn’t in journalism for the years that immediately preceded the Internet. I took the third buyout from the Baltimore Sun. I was about reporter number eighty or ninety who left, in 1995, long before the Internet had had its impact. I left at a time when the Baltimore Sun was earning a 37-percent profit.
We now know this because it’s in bankruptcy and the books are open. All that R&D money that was supposed to go into making newspapers more essential, more viable, more able to explain the complexities of the world went to shareholders in the Tribune Company. Or the L.A. Times Mirror Company before that. And ultimately, when the Internet did hit, they had an inferior product that was not essential enough that they could charge online for it.
I mean, the guys who are running newspapers over the last twenty or thirty years have to be singular in the manner in which they destroyed their own industry. It’s even more profound than Detroit in 1973 making Chevy Vegas and Pacers and Gremlins and believing that no self-respecting American would buy a Japanese car. Except it’s not analogous, in that a Nissan is a pretty good car and a Toyota is a pretty good car. The Internet, while it’s great for commentary and froth, doesn’t do very much first-generation reporting at all. The economic model can’t sustain that kind of reporting. They had contempt for their own product, these people…for twenty years, they looked upon the copy as being the stuff that went around the ads. The ads were God. And then all of a sudden the ads were not there, and the copy they had contempt for. They had actually marginalized themselves.
Sady Doyle, on the lovely mistakes of blogging:
On a blog, you get to take chances. If you want to write a 3,500-word meditation on Tina Fey and 30 Rock, while the show’s not currently airing new episodes, and without any news peg or worked-out thesis, then you can do just that. And I did that, and posted the first draft as soon as I’d finished, and it was one of the most successful things I’d written. But no editor would have taken that from me as a pitch. On a blog, you don’t have to convince anyone that what you’re doing is worthwhile, so you get to stretch and take chances and figure out your voice and your talents as you go. And you end up with some really lovely mistakes.
The Arabist takes apart a WSJ article on the cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.