February 7, 2015


Irony: "hyphenated" and "non-hyphenated".

February 1, 2015

Google for insecurity

Just about every study I have done relying on Google searches made me feel worse about the world. Huge numbers of people are racist and sexist; far too many children suffer from unreported abuse. But after studying the new data on sex, I actually feel better.

This data makes me feel less lonely. In my previous studies of Google data, I had found the viciousness that humans often hide. But this time around, I have seen our hidden insecurities. Men and women are united in this insecurity and confusion.

Google also gives us legitimate reasons to worry less than we do. Many of our deepest fears about how our sexual partners perceive us are unjustified. Alone, at their computers, with no incentive to lie, partners reveal themselves to be fairly nonsuperficial and forgiving. In fact, we are all so busy judging our own bodies that there is little energy left over to judge other people's.

-- Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

January 31, 2015


The last century of The New Republic has bestowed a rich legacy of lessons, both positive and negative, on race. At its best moments, the magazine has been a beacon of fact-based reporting and a forum for rich debate over racial issues. At its worst, the magazine has fallen under the sway of racial theorizing and crackpot racial lore. Moving forward, any reformation program should start by honestly acknowledging the past. The range of non-white voices in the magazine needs to expand, not just by having more nonwhite writers, but by having writers who aren't just talking to an imaginary white audience but are addressing readers who look like the world. The magazine has to avoid the temptation to be an insular insider journal for the elite and recognize that its finest moments are when analytical intelligence is joined with grassroots reporting. The magazine's well-stocked and complex legacy shouldn't be jettisoned, but it can be reformed, built on, and made new.

-- Jeet Heer on TNR

Likewise, before his fabrication of articles was revealed in 1998, Stephen Glass penned a 1996 piece about the Washington, D.C. taxi cab industry that seemed to cater to Peretz's appetite for melodramas illustrating black cultural pathology. The article drew an invidious contrast between hard-working, uncomplaining immigrants who believed in the American dream versus entitled black Americans who spurned honest work (and chased after white women). The piece included imaginary details such as, "Four months ago, a 17-year-old held a gun to Eswan's head while his girlfriend performed oral sex on the gunman." Glass also claimed to be in a cab when a young African American man mugged the driver, and celebrated the exploits of a fictional Kae Bang, the "Korean cab-driver- turned-vigilante" who used martial arts to beat up black teenagers who tried to rob his cab. It's fair to say that Glass's fabrications in this piece and others did more damage to The New Republic than any event in its history. And it's hard to accept a piece like the above would have been published in a magazine which wasn't already inclined toward a pernicious view of African Americans.

Continue reading "On TNR" »

January 28, 2015

Heinlein's great talent for extrapolation

Heinlein's books in his right-wing phase hardly add up to a logical worldview. How do we reconcile the savage authoritarianism of Starship Troopers with the peace-and-love mysticism of Stranger in a Strange Land? For that matter, how do those two books jibe to the nearly anarchist libertarianism of the Moon Is a Harsh Mistress? On a more practical plain, how could Heinlein have called for both limited government and a NASA committed to colonizing space (surely a big government program if there ever was one)? TANSTAAFL went out the window when a space or military program caught Heinlein's fancy.

But all these books share one trait: They ignore the consequences of people's actions. Starship Troopers gives us war without PTSD and guilt over slaughter (the aliens are Bugs, so can be exterminated without remorse) just as Stranger in a Strange Land is a vision of sex without strings ("grokking" means never having to say sorry). In other books, Heinlein gave us incest without trauma.

January 25, 2015

Art with ideas

The most provocative example of the dissonant group show is "Thanks to Apple, Amazon and the Mall" at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery (54 Ludlow Street, through Feb. 8), which expands our sense of the gallery's activities by celebrating the line of artists' e-books it started publishing in 2013. All nine of the writers, artists and filmmakers who created them are represented in this highly diverse presentation. The series has been edited by Brian Droitcour, a freelance critic and an editor at Art in America who also helped organize the show.

The works here include the erotic haiku of the artist duo known as Body by Body, rendered in big black letters on the wall, and the ephemera that Lance Wakeling collected while making his film "Field Visits for Chelsea Manning." Heightening the show's none-too-sanguine outlook, these include a Rubik's Cube produced by the National Security Agency and a brochure about the history of Leavenworth, Kan., home of the federal prison where Ms. Manning, convicted of releasing classified documents on WikiLeaks, currently resides.

Another standout in the show at von Nichtssagend is James Duesing's "End of Code," a droll, 15-minute computer animation in which fantastical semihuman creatures deliver deadpan non sequiturs, wisecracks and aphorisms while deciphering the code that controls both traffic lights and society. Whatever the future may bring, it seems to say, it is likely to be disorderly, but it could also be very funny.

January 23, 2015

Murakami pattern

When you read a Murakami you know it's going to contain the following list.

- Obscure Jazz references
- At least one bar scene where he can show off his knowledge of cocktails.
- A bizarre sex scene/ or imagined fantasy
- A character obsessed with fitness
- A protagonist in a middle management job with no aspirations
- A female love interest who apparently is never 'objectively' attractive but has some feature or nuance that attracts the protagonist.
- Central Tokyo but protagonist will leave to the country in search of an epiphany
- Unhealthy attention to cigarette brands

January 22, 2015

Train to Planes, Cuomo to Laguardia LGA JFK NYC

For: van shnookenraggen.

Against: the transport politic