Sunday Reading

Via Amitava Kumar’s piece on teaching the literature of 9/11, p37 of Albert Camus’ The Plague:

When a war breaks out, people say: ‘It’s too stupid; it can’t last long.’ But though a war may well be ‘too stupid,’ that doesn’t prevent its lasting. Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves.

Or as Jason Kuznicki puts it:

“9/11 deserved a forceful response. Even a pissed-off response. It didn’t deserve a crazy response—nothing does—but crazy is exactly what we got.”

@Salmaan_H tweeted the following essays from the SSRC’s “10 Years After 9/11” forum for your enjoyment and edification:

I expect the entire forum is worth your time, and to those four I would add Neil Smith’s piece, which begins by arguing that “The most unpredictable result of the aftermath of 9/11 was surely the massive implosion of US global power.”

Ludic Despair:

“The strongest link between Greenberg and Everything Must Go is the rather relentlessly heteronormative insistence that the only thing preventing both characters from achieving happiness is successful reproduction.”

45 years of Star Trek: 

Star Trek was culturally significant and broke new ground in several different ways. The show featured an ethnically diverse cast and the very first inter-racial kiss (Kirk and Uhura) ever shown on television. Its depiction of an idealized future for humanity, without poverty or conflict, was bold.

Despite the progressive characteristics, the show was still quite shallow in some ways. Roddenberry advised writers to avoid discussing or visiting Earth in their scripts because “television today simply will not let us get into details of Earth’s politics of Star Trek‘s century; for example, which socio-economic system ultimately worked out best.” Writers were instructed to extrapolate an optimistic future while avoiding specificity in areas that would make people uncomfortable.

Another area where the progressive tone and culture of the show falls short is in its treatment of alien species. The original series is relentlessly ethnocentric—it often depicts alien cultures as deficient and in need of human influence (in the form of mainstream 1960s American values, no less) to set them on the right track.

It’s good to know he’s out there:


Jodi Ettenberg kindly sent me a few links:

On the legacy of Martin Luther King:

He ended the terror of living as a black person, especially in the south.

I’m guessing that most of you, especially those having come fresh from seeing “The Help,” may not understand what this was all about. But living in the south (and in parts of the mid west and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism. It wasn’t that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn’t sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus. You really must disabuse yourself of this idea. Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement decided to use to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth’s.

It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment. This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.

Chartporn, via gerry:

Jay Rosen:

NPR has no idea who is right. It cannot provide listeners with any help in sorting through such a dramatic conflict in truth claims. It knows of no way to adjudicate these clashing views. It is simply confused and helpless and the best it can do is pass on that helplessness to listeners of “Morning Edition.” Because there is just no way to know whether these new rules try to make life as difficult as possible for abortion providers, or put common sense public policy goals into practice in Kansas. There is no standard by which to judge. There is no comparison that would help. There is no act of reporting that can tell us who has more of the truth on their side. In a word, there is nothing NPR can do!  And so a good professional simply passes the conflict along. Excellent: Now the listeners can be as confused as the journalists.

Complain About Being Sexually Assaulted By A TSA Thug? THEY’LL SUE!.

On March 31st of this year, Amy Alkon — a writer who blogs at the Advice Goddess Blog — was sexually assaulted in front of dozens of witnesses [and wrote after writing this, was threatened with a lawsuit:]

Basically, I felt it important to make a spectacle of what they are doing to us, to make it uncomfortable for them to violate us and our rights, so I let the tears come. In fact, I sobbed my guts out. Loudly. Very loudly. The entire time the woman was searching me.

Nearing the end of this violation, I sobbed even louder as the woman, FOUR TIMES, stuck the side of her gloved hand INTO my vagina, through my pants. Between my labia. She really got up there. Four times. Back right and left, and front right and left. In my vagina. Between my labia. I was shocked — utterly unprepared for how she got the side of her hand up there. It was government-sanctioned sexual assault.

Amy’s public assault is not unusual. Stories of gratuitous and inappropriate touching by TSA employees are legion. The stories range from inhuman indifference to deliberate humiliation. Many of those stories emphasize that showing any resistance — whether by opting out of scanners, or voicing objections to groping — will result in immediate retaliation, and possible official investigation, by TSA employees. The TSA has reached the point that its sense of entitlement isnearly impervious to satire. Yet our government assures us that our concerns are meritless.

Jesus Christ, pirate:

After reportedly feeding a crowd of five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, Jesus Christ of Nazareth was recently served with formal legal notice from industry trade associations, demanding that he cease and desist from what they charge is an illegal food-sharing operation under the terms of the Miracle Millennium Anti-Replication Act (MMAA).
Miracle-working rabbis like Mr. Christ, and their alleged property rights infringements, have been the center of controversy in recent years.  They’re the subject of a public education campaign by the Foodstuffs Producers Association of Galilee and Judea.  Loaves and fishes producers argue that unauthorized replication of food, since it deprives them of revenues to which they are entitled, amounts to stealing. Sympathetic rabbis in synagogues throughout Palestine are reading FPAGJ public service announcements, aimed at countering public perceptions that “everybody does it” and “it’s just a little thing,” to their flocks: “Don’t bakers and fishermen deserve to be paid?”  Many Torah schools have adopted FPAGJ “anti-foodlifting” curricula.

David Graeber, Direct Action: (via)

There’s actually a concrete, genealogical connection between punk and Situationism. Malcolm McLaren, the English producer who effectively invented the Sex Pistols, and hence the punk movement, had been involved in a Situationist splinter group and Sex Pistols’ artist Jamie Reid used Situationist principles to design their cover art and general aesthetic. Whether McLaren was serious or not…Situationist principles have become firmly ensconced in the punk philosophy-particularly among the hundreds of smaller, explicitly anarchist punk bands that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s (Crass, Conflict, the Exploited, the Dead Kennedys). Catchy lines from Vaneigem endlessly recur in song lyrics, and Situationist literature is widely available in any anarchist infoshop or book store, along with their contemporary, Cornelius Castoriadis and other members of the Socialisme ou Barbarie group, and historical material on the French near revolution of ‘68. Notably missing in most such bookstores is any significant space for most of what in France has come to be referred to as ”’68 thought”: Deleuze, Foucault, or Baudrillard-those authors seen as representing radical French thought in the academy. Essentially, punks and revolutionaries are still reading French theory from immediately before ‘68, the academics are mainly reading theory from immediately afterwards, much of which consists of a prolonged reflection on what went wrong, most often, concluding that revolutionary dreams are impossible.

And here’s Graeber taking on the Austrians at their own house (read down to the comments). Pretty much this is why the internet is a good thing.

Via Worsement, “Valuable time is lost on a futile gesture. Uncontrolled hair will never stay in place”:

“Most big-budget spectacle cinema of the last 10 years has, perhaps unconsciously, involved a mythic celebration and justification of American military power and white supremacy.” But, I mean, plus ca change.

Read this with this.

Twitter loves you for you:

Google+ and Facebook are in the identity delivery business, and Twitter is in the information delivery business. That’s a powerful distinction. It reflects a fundamentally different conception of what’s more valuable: information or identity. It also gets at who is more valuable, advertisers or users.

Digital Calluses and Tender Hands:

“Maybe what blogs and other digital publications are starting to do is provide an ongoing record of the real-life gaps between idealized descriptions of the dispassionate production of scholarship and the death-of-a-thousand-cuts pettiness of how it sometimes gets debated, deferred, and discouraged”

Not surprising, but still:

Berkeley, CA— The Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland (MOCHA) has decided to cancel an exhibit of art by Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip. The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), which was partnering with MOCHA to present the exhibit, was informed of the decision by the Museum’s board president on Thursday, September 8, 2011. For several months, MECA and the museum had been working together on the exhibit, which is titled “A Child’s View of Gaza.”

MECA has learned that there was a concerted effort by pro-Israel organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area to pressure the museum to reverse its decision to display Palestinian children’s art. (More pictures and a press release)

Let me just also steal some links from this roundup by Peter Frase (click through for the rest):

  • Jon Huntsman has complicated opinions about Captain Beefheart.
  • Around the world, ruling parties lose when the economy is bad, regardless of ideology.
  • Trying to stimulate the economy purely by monetary means might just end up inflating asset bubbles.
  • People in their 20’s are mad as hell, but seem like they’re going to continue to take it for a while longer.
  • The U.S. economy has about the same number of jobs now as it did in 2000, despite a much bigger population.
  • The rise of the gig economy is good reason to expand the welfare state and decouple its benefits from employment.
  • Peter Dorman speculates about the incentives and ideology of the elite in finance capitalism, and why it’s so hard to pit one segment of big business against another.