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Saturday, January 30, 2016
Do you want to rule a world? Blow apart a sun? Test a theory of community? Explore the very depths of depravity? End slavery and misery? Destroy all empires?
It is possible. . . At least in the imagination.
The proper study of man is everything. The proper study of man as artist is everything which gives a foothold to the imagination and the passions. [C.S. Lewis, “On Science Fiction”]
As it surrounds us now and resides, specifically, in no medium, we take science fiction for granted. Though we have lost the “new frontier” aspect of science fiction as exploration of other worlds, we have certainly thrown ourselves into exploring the limits—at least technologically and scientifically—of this one. I am typing this very essay on a gadget that Steve Jobs imagined even better than did Star Trek and its “futurism.”
During the first half of the twentieth century, however, what came to be known as science fiction was nothing short of disreputable to almost all literati and to the American public at large. It was considered low-class, childish, and quasi-pornographic. Associated with pulp, science-fiction books usually appeared on drugstore shelves next to ribald sex stories, romances, and comic books. Aside from a few prominent novels—such asBrave New World—science fiction remained suspect to most, and only highly regarded by a few. Those few could be truly fanatic and evangelical, meeting at various times of the year at what would become known as conventions, writing and mailing newsletters, and trading books and novels whenever possible. The detective/mystery author, Sharon McCrumb, has written two mysteries set at early science-fiction conventions, and, at least to this author, described the culture perfectly.
All this shunning and disrepute, however, served the new genre well as it grew mightily and without the restrictions that mainstream publishing placed on so much of the fiction of the time, especially in New York, where neither Jews nor Catholics were much welcomed in respectable publishing. Decentralized and unconnected to any single urban center, science fiction writers could be anti-ideological, anti-conformist, and subversive of WASPish norms. They could explore any thing, any setting, and any personality or community in any situation. Truly, the possibilities were endless. Geniuses such as C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Alfred Bester, and Robert Heinlein found themselves at the center of a new movement, one that allowed for the flourishing of imagination. Through their own speculations about what could be, science fiction also witnessed a grand critiquing of what was—especially in response to the rise of totalitarian and terrorist ideologies.Read More: http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2016/01/science-fiction-foothold-to-the-imagination.html
While the media was flooded with images of the starving children of Syria, the thousands of children suffering from Saudi Arabia’s U.S.-backed onslaught on Yemen made far fewer headlines.
The mainstream media was eager to report on the struggle for survival in Madaya. The mountain town near Syria’s southwestern border was once known as a popular resort destination in the Middle East, but its population is now reportedly being starved under a siege by the Syrian army.
However, the actual situation is far more complex. The U.S.-supported, so-called “moderate” rebels including the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida, had first laid siege to the cities of Kefraya and Fua, leading to a retaliatory siege on Madaya by the Assad government. Those same rebel groups were also, in turn, responsible for allowing the starvation in Madaya to continue by occupying the city and keeping humanitarian aid out of reach of the populace as a strategic tactic. Additionally, many images used in media reports on Madaya turned out to be fake or misleading.
Meanwhile, far fewer journalists are covering the large-scale starvation and displacement taking place in Yemen, a situation caused by a bombing campaign and blockade led by Saudi Arabia and its allies and backed by U.S. military aid. The Nusra Front, one of the groups responsible for skyrocketing food prices in Madaya, also has the backing of the Saudi government, like many of the rebel forces in the region.
UNICEF reported in October that 537,000 Yemeni children were at risk of severe malnutrition nationwide, while Alexi O’Brien, reporting for Al-Jazeera in September, noted that the United Nations warned that 96,000 children were “starving and close to death” in the port city of al-Hodeidah, and an additional 8,000 children faced starvation in Aden in 2016.
With economic woes at home and tensions with the West abroad, Russians are putting a new gloss on the Communist years – one that even previously unsupportive authorities seem to now be tacitly backing.
KALUGA, RUSSIA — For the groups of schoolkids who file through the newly minted Hall of the Soviet Epoch, the relics on display – household appliances, cameras, radios, money, Lenin busts, and political banners – might as well be from Mars.
But for older visitors to the cultural center, the little slice of a vanished civilization tends to evoke sighs of nostalgia. Some put a note in the guest book saying it's high time someone created an exhibition like this to teach the youth about the lost world that their grandparents built and fought for.
Indeed, for many years such a shrine to Russia's bygone Soviet era would have been frowned upon by authorities, despite the forgiving and even warm-hearted view that most Russians have consistently shown toward their former superpower homeland over the years. But the Soviet exhibit, which opened in August at the Kaluga Leisure Center, did get the go-ahead from local officials this time.
And given the ongoing, cold-war-like tensions with the West and economic woes at home, experts say that memories of the Soviet era have earned a new gloss – one that authorities might welcome as a subtle reminder to the public that Russia held its own against the US and its allies, and perhaps could again.Read More: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2016/0129/Maybe-the-Soviets-weren-t-so-bad-Russian-nostalgia-for-USSR-on-the-rise
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
TRUE horror of Cologne attacks finally REVEALED: Gang rape among HUNDREDS of assaults. THE horrific extent of the wave of crimes commited by migrant sex attack gangs in Cologne has been laid bare in shocking new revelations. By LEVI WINCHESTER
Violent crime rises by 27% after killings hit a five-year high: Surge in gun and knife attacks blamed for significant increase
A surge in violence fuelled by gun and knife attacks has led to a significant rise in recorded crime, official statistics revealed yesterday.
More than 4.3million offences were reported, a rise of 6 per cent and the biggest annual increase for nearly 15 years.
Murder and manslaughter shot up 14 per cent to their highest total in five years – up 71 to 574 in the year to last September.
Criminologists suggest the rising murder rate could be due to a ‘cocktail’ of factors, such as immigration, gang culture and police focusing on other investigations like phone hacking.
David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, said: ‘Because detective have been put on other tasks, such as investigating child sexual abuse, there are fewer people to sift local intelligence with the hope of stopping violence.’
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Saturday, January 23, 2016
Who invented clothes? A Palaeolithic archaeologist answers Hadley Freeman's answer to the question was chiffon-flimsy, so here's the lab-coat response.
"Who invented clothes?" It's one of those brilliant questions that children ask, before they learn that the big things we wonder about rarely have simple answers. It's the kind of thing that archaeologists like me get put on the spot about when chatting to kids, and we love to have a crack at answering.
Saturday's "Ask a grown up" section featured just that question, from eight-year old Harriet, with an answer by Hadley Freeman, fashion expert and fantastic writer. Hadley's response was, as usual, entertainingly breezy, with some refreshing encouragement to Harriet to experiment in developing her own style; but, like a fine chiffon, it was a little flimsy in substance.
I'm proud to be involved with ScienceGrrl, which aims to show girls that science is for everyone by providing diverse role models, and TrowelBlazers, a new project that is all about bringing to the fore the achievements of pioneering women archaeologists, geologists and palaeontologists. So I was kind of disappointed that a girl asking a genuine question about archaeology ended up with the barest of facts, as well as being told, even if it was meant lightheartedly, that the grown-up answering her question would rather she pay attention to what she looks like.
Hadley knows today's fashion world inside out and might not care much about pre-silk times, but I'll bet that Harriet wanted to find out more than what the Flintstones wear.
It's this kind of response that can, in aggregate, have a negative impact on children: being mentally curious ends up as something deeply uncool and not relevant to modern life. I'm not advocating force-feeding facts Vulcan-style when talking to young people – far from it. They like to be challenged and humour is a great way to do this. But I do think we should take every chance we get to pass on the incredible stuff that we've found out about our world thanks to science – including archaeology – and keep on showing girls that using their brains by asking big questions is, actually, absolutely fabulous.
So for Harriet, if you're reading: there's a whole lot we know about the invention of clothing. Many TV reconstructions and book illustrations of stone age (Palaeolithic) people really don't do them justice. People were already making finely worked bone needles 20,000 years ago, probably for embroidery as much as sewing animal skins, like the thousands of ivory beads and fox teeth thatcovered the bodies of a girl and a boy buried at Sunghir, Russia, around 28,000 years ago. This was some serious bling, representing years of accumulated work.Read More: http://www.theguardian.com/science/sifting-the-evidence/2013/may/20/who-invented-clothes-palaeolithic-archaeologist
Thursday, January 21, 2016
These sayings from the famous and the unknown alike helped me keep my sense of humor through the year.
- How to negotiate: Walk a mile in his shoes. So when the deal falls apart, you’ll be a mile away and you’ll have his shoes.
- I have the growing feeling that the older I get, the better I was.
- It is no exaggeration to say that the undecideds could go one way or the other.
– George H.W. Bush
- A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
- There is no greater pain than happiness remembered in times of misery.
- A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
- All great questions must be raised by great voices, and the greatest voice is the voice of the people. – Robert Kennedy
- A speech is like God’s grace, it passes all understanding, and like God’s mercy it goes on forever.
- Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. – Edward Abbey
- Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn’t have to do it.
- He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire. – Winston Churchill
- If there was any justice in the world, people would be able to fly over pigeons for a change.
- If Roosevelt were alive today, he’d turn over in his grave. – Samuel Goldwyn
Read More: http://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2015-12-29/words-to-live-by
It's time to declare war on the pornification of childhood. Children are exposed to ever more inappropriate sexual imagery, but the problem is in the mainstream media, not the porn industry, says Alex Proud
Personally, I think Rihanna’s new video is puerile, sexist, race-bait nonsense. It’s the millionth in a long line of calculated-to-shock schlock videos. It’s like someone made a big list of bad-taste-boxes to tick and then ticked them all. Of course, in this sense, it’s not shocking at all. In fact, it would be far more shocking to find her not courting controversy-by-numbers.
For what it’s worth, I don’t really blame Rihanna here. She and the video are just the products of an industry that has no regard for the public or anyone else. It’s all part of the industrial-entertainment complex – and, in some ways, pretending Bitch Better Have My Money has anything worthwhile to say is no different to pretending that Iron Man 17 is a film worth seeing.
But it is different in other ways. My wife does her morning training in front of whatever music channel it is she watches and, recently, after she’d finished with the yoga mat and the Swiss ball, she forgot to turn the TV off and left BBHMM on. I walked past it and found myself transfixed.
It was like watching porn. Actually, it wasn’t like watching porn. It was porn. The video is a seven-minute-long softcore snuff film. Here, I suppose it’s interesting to cast our eyes back and look at how the porniness of videos has ratcheted up over the years. How tame Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball video (2013, demolition frontage) seems now. How tame Sia’s Elastic Heart video (2014, cage fighting with paedo overtones) seems now. How positively wholesome Madonna’s Like a Prayer (1988, underwear, blasphemy) seems now. I can hardly wait to see what 2016 brings. I mean, where do you go from snuff-lite. Simulated granny sex? Faux necrophilia?
A Review of “Why the Germans? Why the Jews?”by Götz Aly
Read More: http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2016/01/a-review-of-why-the-germans-why-the-jews-part-1/
Monday, January 18, 2016
The decades-long debate over the limits of free expression on U.S. campuses has jumped the Atlantic, and that has columnist Michael Kinsley reconsidering his Anglophilia.
Read More: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/01/how-american-pc-culture-conquered-britain
Swedish police banned from describing criminals anymore in case they sound racist. 'We want to avoid pointing out ethnic groups as criminal,' police say. By Emma Henderson
Munich, the capital of the German state of Bavaria, is the wealthiest city in the wealthiest country in Europe. It is often referred to as the country’s “secret capital,” and not without reason. Not only is it surrounded by a powerhouse of agro-industry and food processing, it is also a major center for automobile, insurance, banking, health, tech, media, and film industries. Although devastated like most German cities by Allied bombing raids during the Second World War, thanks to a conscious decision in the late 1940s to rebuild along traditional lines, its city-scape (unlike Frankfurt or Berlin) comes close to resembling its pre-war self. Its present population of slightly under 1.4 million is expected to grow by about 15 percent over the next decade.
Not all residents of Munich are Bavarian. Given its economic dynamism, the city is not surprisingly a magnet for émigrés from other German-speaking regions. On the streets and in cafes, one can hear the accents of Saxony, Brandenburg, or the Rhineland, not to mention Austria or German Switzerland. Moreover, one out of every four residents is foreign born. Munich is also the home of the Goethe Institut, Germany’s global linguistic outreach, with a cultural presence in ninety-eight countries, including nine branches in the United States and Canada. At last count there were 25,000 Americans living in the city, along with numbers (proportionate to population) from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Although Bavaria is regarded as one of the more conservative of the German Länder (the home of the Christian Social Union, a coalition partner of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union), its capital city is actually a bulwark of the Social Democratic party. The prevailing atmosphere is sophisticated and open, far from the Elves-in-the-Black-Forest/Oktoberfest image of Germany that many Anglo-Americans still carry in their heads.Read More: http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/Germany-s-open-door-8316
Trivers' Pursuit. Renegade scientist Robert Trivers is lauded as one of our greatest thinkers—despite irking academia with blunt talk and bad manners. By Matthew Hutson
To call Robert Trivers an acclaimed biologist is an understatement akin to calling the late Richard Feynman a popular professor of physics. As a young man in the 1970s, Trivers gave biology a jolt, hatching idea after idea that illuminated how evolution shaped the behavior of all species, including fidelity, romantic bonds, and willingness to cooperate among humans. Today, at 72, he continues to spawn ideas. And if awards were given for such things, he certainly would be on the short list for America’s most colorful academic.
He was a member of the Black Panthers and collaborated with the group’s founder. He was arrested for assault after breaking up a domestic dispute. He faced machete-wielding burglers who broke into his home and stabbed one in the neck. He was imprisoned for 10 days over a contested hotel charge. And two men once held guns to his head in a Caribbean club that doubled as a brothel.
Fisticuffs aside, what propelled Trivers into the academic limelight were five papers he wrote as a young academic at Harvard—including research on altruism, sex differences, and parent-offspring conflict. This work won him the 2007 Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Crafoord Prize in Biosciences, the Nobel for evolutionary theory. The award came with half a million dollars and a ceremony attended by the queen.Read More: https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201601/trivers-pursuit?collection=1084004
Maxwell Perkins has an editor been so famous – or notorious – as a sculptor of other people’s prose. As fiction editor of Esquire from 1969 to 1977, then as an editor at Knopf and of the Quarterly until 1995, Lish worked closely with many of the most daring writers of the past 50 years, including Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, Barry Hannah and Joy Williams. In an interview with the Paris Review in 2004, Hannah said: “Gordon Lish was a genius editor. A deep friend and mentor. He taught me how to write short stories. He would cross out everything so there’d be like three lines left, and he would be right.”t’s the custom for editors to keep a low profile and to underplay any changes they may make to an author’s manuscript. Gordon Lish is a different animal. Not since
His collaborations have not always ended amicably. His editorial relationship with Carver ceased after three books. When Lish donated his papers to the Lilly Library at Indiana University Bloomington, they indeed showed that he had drastically cut, and often rewritten, some of Carver’s best-loved stories. For theCollected Stories, published in 2009, Carver’s widow, Tess Gallagher, printed some of them in both edited and unedited versions. The critical reaction was divided. In the New York Times book review, Stephen King described the effect on one story as “a total rewrite … a cheat”; in the New York Review of Books, Giles Harvey wrote that the publication of Carver’s unedited stories “has not done Carver any favours. Rather, it has inadvertently pointed up the editorial genius of Gordon Lish.”
More than a dozen books have appeared under Lish’s own name – including the novels Dear Mr Capote (1983), Peru (1986) and Zimzum (1993). These have won Lish a small but passionate cult following as a writer of recursive and often very funny prose. For decades he taught legendary classes in fiction, both at institutions such as Yale and Columbia and in private sessions in New York and across America. Though he titled one of his books Arcade, or, How to Write a Novel (1999), he, like Socrates, never put his teachings on paper. They survive in his students, many of whom are now prominent writers and teachers of fiction, among them Christine Schutt, Sam Lipsyte, Gary Lutz and Ben Marcus.Read More: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/dec/05/gordon-lish-books-interview-editing-raymond-carver