Ben Rothery
print from Edinburgh of puffin with a hat
illustration  art  print  poster 
10 days ago
Obituary: Sir David Frost - BBC News
For his part, Frost said his rise was more about luck than judgment.

"There was enormous luck in being young in that period, 1956-63," he told The Independent in 1993. "In the 60s, everything was exploding. There obviously is an interaction between one's time and one's life. But partly one was a child of the time and partly one was trying to take the argument ahead.
media  luck  career  timing 
4 weeks ago
Why Does Writing Suck? - NYMag
What’s also hard about writing, says Young, is that it’s never, ever done. “It reminds me a lot of getting regular exercise, eating healthy, keeping a house clean — all these things we have to do that are never done,” she says. “It’s never going to be something that’s finished.” Haha, ahhhhhh. When you put it like that, yeah. It sounds pretty bad.

What our chores and our writing have in common, then, is their requirement for boring, everyday discipline.

Like most chores and obligations — like trying to get oneself to the gym — the low point is just before you begin. And like most chores, the satisfaction derived from writing is all too short-lived. Especially when you’re writing for the ephemeral internet, or writing anything that will be discussed on the internet. “There’s so much out there that your stuff is competing against,” says Young. “People can really like it, and then two hours later they really like something else.”

Here, then, is where writing distinguishes itself from chores to become even worse: writing is personal, even when it’s not autobiographical. Writing feels directly tied to a writer’s self-worth in a way that less communicative professions don’t, says Young. With writing, she says, “you personally design and create something, and then you have to make sure other people like it, and you don’t have any control over that.” When people don’t like your writing, they effectively don’t like you.

The only thing worse than not being liked, of course, is no response at all. That praise (or feedback of any kind) is irregular and infrequent in writing is, of course, what makes it feel even better when one does receive it, and what makes it important to (try to) enjoy the process itself.

I must admit here that, for the most part, I enjoy writing, and I think it may be because I’ve decided it’s the only way to stay sane. Praise is great, but the only person who will always read my work is me, so I might as well find reliable contentment in churning out my daily 500 words.

procrastination...means one of two things, Young says: either you don’t like doing the thing you need to do, or you’re afraid of failing at it. Perhaps, then, when writers say they “hate” writing, they actually mean they’re afraid of failure. And in an industry as precarious as ours, that seems like a perfectly logical position to take.
writing  creativity  discipline  publishing  psychology 
5 weeks ago
Richard Curtis ‘Yesterday’ Interview
I’ve read that you wrote 3,000 pages for Notting Hill. How many pages did you write for this one?
I do have a bit of a habit of when I get two characters together, I just try and write a lot of conversation between them. Have dinner with the characters, spend the night with them, so I discover how they talk. Then I try and extract the essence of their relationship from that. I write a lot, and fast, and then sometimes I have to really focus and say, “This is exactly what the scene is about.”

In another life, maybe you’d be writing big dramatic epics where you could have those hourlong first acts.
I’m actually rather attracted by the idea of writing shorter films now. I think there’ll be a moment where people actually say, “Wait a minute, if we could get a really good film that lasted 70 minutes, we could have five more showings.” I sometimes wonder whether that should be my aim, to write the first illegally short movie

Was it a conscious choice to step away?
I always found the directing quite tough. I tried very hard to be true to the material and make it the best I could, but I didn’t have that sixth sense of what effect the camera is gonna have, like Danny. I always felt tortured by the impostor syndrome that this movie’s about, that feeling that everyone else on the set actually knew more than I did about how to direct. So I made up my mind I wasn’t gonna do it again. I was just going to work harder at the relationships with directors rather than be the director myself.
writing  film 
5 weeks ago
When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez met Greta Thunberg: 'Hope is contagious' | Environment | The Guardian
on leadership and what that means, the nature of change and youthful mindset

and despair:

AOC:

And I was working in this restaurant and I would go, day in and day out, and I was so depressed. I felt so powerless, and as though there was nothing I could do that could effectively counter the enormous number of societal structures that are designed in the US to keep the working class poor, and to keep the rich, richer.

I was really wallowing in despair for a while: what do I do? Is this my life? Just showing up, working, knowing that things are so difficult, then going home and doing it again. And I think what was profoundly liberating was engaging in my first action – when I went to Standing Rock, in the Dakotas, to fight against a fracking pipeline. It seemed impossible at the time. It was just normal people, showing up, just standing on the land to prevent this pipeline from going through. And it made me feel extremely powerful, even though we had nothing, materially – just the act of standing up to some of the most powerful corporations in the world.

From there I learned that hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious. Other people start acting in a way that has more hope.

Greta: I know so many people who feel hopeless, and they ask me, “What should I do?” And I say: “Act. Do something.” Because that is the best medicine against sadness and depression. I remember the first day I was school-striking outside the Swedish parliament, I felt so alone, because everyone went straight past, no one even looked at me. But at the same time I was hopeful.
despair  climate  psychology  change  politics  environment  sweden  aoc 
5 weeks ago
Library of Mistakes – Edinburgh, Scotland - Atlas Obscura
to avoid another recession, Scotland compiled a library for the economist idiots
books  scotland  edinburgh 
7 weeks ago
What is Cochrane? | Cochrane
healthcare results and standards audited by expert readers
medicine  research  data  health 
7 weeks ago
Don’t misread Darwin: for humans, ‘survival of the fittest’ means being sympathetic | Aeon Videos
Dachner Keltner from UC Berkeley on how humans are hard-wired for community and selflessness, most prominently in the lower classes (giving, supporting) (vs richer people who are demonstrated to have less activation for others)
empathy  kindness  evolution  community  people  psychology  generosity  charity  giving  wealth  economics 
7 weeks ago
Opinion | The Long, Cruel History of the Anti-Abortion Crusade - The New York Times - John Irving
"Of an unmarried woman or girl who got pregnant, people of my grandparents’ generation used to say: “She is paying the piper.” Meaning, she deserves what she gets — namely, to give birth to a child. That cruelty is the abiding impetus behind the dishonestly named right-to-life movement. Pro-life always was (and remains) a marketing term. Whatever the anti-abortion crusaders call themselves, they don’t care what happens to an unwanted child — not after the child is born — and they’ve never cared about the mother.
abortion  sexism 
7 weeks ago
I Understand Why Democrats Don't Want to Impeach Trump
excellent piece - analysis - of black voting and disappointment: elections must be pragmatically won despite profound failures to address voter priorities

they don't prosecute officers who kill blacks because "they might lose" = same with impeachment
race  racism  politics 
7 weeks ago
Biden Segregationist Riff Even More Ignorant Than It Sounds
excellent summary of why and how Biden is out of step with the modern world
politics  election 
7 weeks ago
Susan Sontag was a monster, of the very best kind | Aeon Essays
Sontag had no time for the kind of faux humility that women are conditioned to perform anytime anyone shows interest in what we do. She gave no fucks, in the lingo of the internet, a particular patois she did not live to see. She became famous as a critic and essayist by being publicly serious about all kinds of culture, low to high

Sontag felt keenly, in her formative years, that she was different from other people, especially her family. She would later say that she grew up surrounded by philistines; she called it a ‘prison sentence’,

using her diaries as scorecards for what she read, or wanted to read, and for developing her ideas about the self, art and sexuality. Lists, lists, so many lists, and admonishments, and hopes, fill their pages. ‘The self is a project, something to be built,’ she wrote in an essay on Benjamin.

settling in New York. There, she discovered a world of people who read Hegel, went to the theatre and wrote for the Partisan Review, things that had been so out of reach to the adolescent Sontag that she lunged for them with all the more force.

it would have been unthinkable for Sontag not to speak her mind, no matter how unpopular it made her – and ‘speaking her mind’ meant articulating a nuanced, often contrarian position. She was an enemy of the pieties that people seemed to want from writers, then as now. There would always be plenty of other people happy to provide them. Why should she voluntarily blend into the din?

This is how I see her monstrosity: residing not in whether she was or was not likeable, but in her relentlessness, and her refusal to pander. The word ‘monster’ comes from the Latin monere, to warn. We need monsters like Sontag because they aren’t afraid to speak a certain kind of truth: cutting through cant, received opinion, nationalist rote,

Maintaining a lively critical capability isn’t just about snark. It’s how we’re going to make it out of these dark days of nationalism and populism with our democracy intact.

Moderation, and those who practised it, never interested her. It seemed to her like a cop-out. And she believed that only the immoderate rose to the level of the culture-hero: people who took things to extremes, who were ‘repetitive, obsessive, and impolite, who impress by force’, as she wrote of the French philosopher Simone Weil. Sane writers are the least interesting writers, and Sontag had that stripe of insanity, like that grey thatch of hair, that made you sit up and listen, and also made you a little nervous.

She would not, could not, relax. Art was too important. Life was too important.

‘Yet so far as we love seriousness, as well as life, we are moved by it, nourished by it,’ she wrote in her essay on Weil. ‘In the respect we pay to such lives, we acknowledge the presence of mystery in the world – and mystery is just what the secure possession of the truth, an objective truth, denies.’ Mystery is missing from all that is sage, appropriate, nice, fitting, obedient. Notice Sontag’s emotive, personal choice of words: we are moved by seriousness; it affects her (and, she presumes, her reader)

On video, you can see from the unwavering way she watches the people interviewing her that she can barely withstand being exposed to (what she clearly perceives as) their idiocy, but she has chosen to be there for whatever reason (shoring up her fame? Her bank account?) so she has to grit her teeth and answer their questions. There is an honesty in her inability to play the self-promotion game, and do it with a smile, that I admire almost as much as her work. Yet her very integrity made her a catch-all target for anti-intellectual jibes.

there are some things that are not a matter of opinion, but a matter of record.

Ethics, similarly, are something you practise, not something you inherently have: ethics as style, perceived through our particular historical consciousness. This strikes me as one of the most important observations in Against Interpretation: what we are sensitive to is a function of where we’ve been and what we have to compare it with. This has implications beyond art. We have to keep asserting that the current ethics of governing is unacceptable. We cannot normalise it and assimilate it into our idea of what governing is. We have to regard it as an anomaly that we will not tolerate.

‘It is not important whether or not Sontag was always right in her conclusions, only that she was right in raising the issues that she did,’ wrote Solnit in her tribute to Sontag in 2005, ‘for the most useful position is the one that prompts people to test an idea and perhaps think for themselves by disagreeing.’
writing  arts  culture  criticism  sontag 
9 weeks ago
A Spiteful Guide to Self-Improvement
There are dark and light powers to harness when trying to make changes, and sometimes you have to harness them both.

For instance, the word “better” is sort of vague and sounds nice (“I’m becoming a better person”), but I’ve found that “superior” can sometimes be more powerful, since it indicates a loser, too. Sometimes it’s important to have a loser in mind. It’s more fun, it’s also a little darker, and it’s more powerful. It’s sort of a zero-sum-game mentality — for me to be superior, someone else has to be a little bit inferior. It works best when you envision your old self as being the loser, and your new self as being the winner, but sometimes another person (an enemy) can work just as well if not better.

Think of your enemies and how disappointed they’ll be by your moving up in life; it can be very exciting. Later it may all turn out to be nonsense, but you’ll be on the other side by then.
psychology  habits  habitchange  planning  efficiency 
9 weeks ago
Jessica Andrews: ‘I didn’t feel like I deserved to speak’ | Books | The Guardian
I wrote the book in three separate strands: Lucy’s childhood to university, the Ireland strand, then the body strand. I printed it out, then physically cut it up. My neighbour was away and I had the key to their house in Ireland with a very big kitchen, so I spread the whole thing out on her kitchen floor and made little piles of themes that went together.
writing  career  structure 
9 weeks ago
Top 10 books about angry women | Books | The Guardian
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
writing  books  reading 
9 weeks ago
Emma Thompson Gets a Shock at 60 - The New York Times
“There’s lots of these roles that are in fact imposed on you by society, for years and years and years, then you suddenly go — am I any of those things? And if I’m not, who am I?” Thompson said.

“The eternal question, which I never thought I’d ask, is who am I?” she continued. “I was always so sure. As it turns out, I have no idea.”

Thompson is a lifelong environmentalist and tries to stay optimistic, having read that optimists live longer, yet, like so many earthlings these days, has trouble warding off eco-despair. “Cara,” she said, “we are in a race, as you know, against consciousness and catastrophe.”

Thompson professes to not care a bit. “The Murdochian press are a law unto themselves,” she said. She is far more concerned not just with the fate of the planet but also the minor matter of figuring out who exactly she is. “I have some questions that I hope to answer in the next 10 years,” she said.

I asked her about how men like Lasseter who have been #Me Too-ed might come back.

“I don’t want to be thinking about men’s problems at the moment, thanks so much,” Thompson said. She said she had given the issue some thought and acknowledged it was thorny, but added, speaking of the men, “I’m sure they’ll grow up and sort it out. Because it’s their problem, not mine.” She would far rather talk about women. “If you get born into this body, it’s a different journey,” she said. “Whether you like it or not.”

Thompson’s big beef with most roles written for women is that they have gone from one extreme to the other, from the hopelessly domestic support-or-pine-for-a-man characters she felt swamped with early in her career, to, these days, women being straight-out badasses.

“Women now invent the weapons and shoot the weapons and are tough and not allowed to cry,” Thompson said. “We skipped from being in the kitchen to being in the tank, and there’s nothing in between. So we still have failed to explore and bring to the screen what being a woman is.”

I asked James Ivory what it was about Thompson that prompted him to cast her in “Howards End.” He replied that he was struck by her groundedness and brights. She was simply, he said, so very sane.

“A lot of actors and actresses are very fearful and timid and cover that up with all kinds of strange behavior you could call crazy, forever thinking they’re not good, that they’re failing,” Ivory told me. “There was none of that with her.” She also smoothed out some on-set tensions he had with Hopkins, becoming the go-between both men trusted. By the time filming ended, Ivory said, he felt he had a great friend in Thompson. He was also a bit forlorn: “There was really a sense of loss that this delightful person wasn’t going to be around every day.”

During production, Ganatra said she studied Thompson closely, trying to figure out how the actress seemed to live her life with such brilliance and grace. She concluded it had a lot to do with Thompson being present and humble. Ganatra watched as Thompson passed out Italian chocolates late one night to the crew, and reached up to absent-mindedly stroke the leaves of a tree she walked under one rainy day.

Ganatra said she found herself wanting Thompson to be her confidant and her life coach. “I wanted to be her,” Ganatra said.

Indeed, Thompson may profess to not know who she is anymore, but to the rest of the world, it is, as always, crystal clear.

“I asked her, ‘What’s it like to have all the answers?’” Ganatra said. “She just laughed and said, ‘I don’t.’ But she does.”
career  acting  theater  self  psychology  criticism  certainty  film 
9 weeks ago
The cheater in the Oval Office should be banished from the tribe - Los Angeles Times
Oh, and casinos really don’t like it when a player “expects to benefit” from a dealer’s help. This kind of cheating usually happens with winks and hand signals. It’s hard to prove, but when it is discovered, it’s punished with particular severity because it compromises the reputation of a house so thoroughly.
There’s a term for that particular brand of casino cheating: “collusion.”
politics  impeachment 
9 weeks ago
For Christina Tosi, Building a Dessert Empire Is Not All Milk and Cookies - The New York Times
She still seeks his advice, which he now gives only when asked. “Telling her something head-on isn’t the right approach,” he said. “No one wants to tell Tosi she’s wrong.”

She remains one of the boldest, most ambitious people he knows. “Always bet on Christina,” he said.

Ms. Tosi credits her upbringing for her determination. She wasn’t allowed to say, “I can’t” or “I’m bored.” Her mother was a no-nonsense accountant

To watch Ms. Tosi in action is to understand focus at a new level. She samples every type of cookie and batch of soft-serve when she walks into any of her stores, noting in an instant if the batter was overmixed or if the soft-serve temperature is off.
baking  momofuku  milkbar  career  ambition 
9 weeks ago
Emily Levine: How I made friends with reality | TED Talk
super enthusiastic oldster lays out how life is a circle of nature and death a part of it
death  nature  psychology 
9 weeks ago
Imagining America in 2024 - The New York Times
several playwrights do special sections for the NYTimes
theater  writing  performance 
9 weeks ago
It's time for men to step up and share responsibility for birth control | Moira Donegan | Opinion | The Guardian
Excellent summary of what women go through to prevent pregnancies they can increasingly no longer stop.

Contraception access, like abortion access, is imperiled. In this new reality, men’s continued indifference and uninvolvement in birth control is no longer merely unfair. It is morally unacceptable. ....another obstacle is the unwillingness of men to endure the drug’s side-effects, and of the medical establishment to permit a drug with side-effects similar to those of women’s birth control from being given to men. But we all know that men’s right to control their own lives and their own bodies will never be infringed this way. Men will remain free while women are made less free. It is time for men to use that freedom to help women, and take responsibility for pregnancy prevention.
contraception  birthcontrol  abortion  sexism  misogyny 
9 weeks ago
Women, being married needn’t make you unhappy – if you choose the right man | Hadley Freeman | Opinion | The Guardian
A rejoinder to the research suggesting the happiest women have no husband and no kids. The solution? Don't marry a child.
relationships  psychology  feminism  career  marriage 
10 weeks ago
Don't just do it, think it too: on learning with Gilbert Ryle | Aeon Essays
essentially arguing against the idea of innate talent and instinct as the deciders of athletic success. There is a ton of thinking and planning and rehearsing in training - intellectual labor and analysis - that leads to a specific athlete's success. It debunks the idea that, for example, Hannold is an insane free climber because he's physically and psychologically gifted (although he is also that): he trains and repeats and trains and repeats to a degree that is beyond comprehension and that's what leads to success.

"Montero argues that skilled agents commit to a process of continuous improvement, which spans both practice and performance. Drawing on the work of the Swedish psychologist K Anders Ericsson, and a wealth of testimonial evidence from expert practitioners, she claims that the process of deliberate practice is essential both to practice and to performance. Deliberate practice is intensely thoughtful: it involves not just repeating movements, but intensely focusing on one aspect of performance to perfect it."

Running coaches often talk about focusing on form, both in training and in racing, and I take this focus to express a related idea about the importance of thinking about movement. It is hard to give an adequate description of good running form in words." as in trapeze where there is a ton of practice to get to a "felt form" that is not describable when watching a move but is still the result of huge practice:

"when we think about form, we are self-teaching; trying to gain the elusive but ultimately unattainable concept of good form that, once achieved and felt, can be recognised and sought after again with a greater likelihood of success."
health  sports  learning  philosophy  fitness  psychology  training 
10 weeks ago
Naomi Wolf’s Career of Blunders Continues in ‘Outrages’ - The New York Times
Articulate take-down of Wolf's subjective sensationalism that doesn't include accurate facts - in fact, blows them off completely. Sigh.
books  data  research  non-fiction 
10 weeks ago
Health warning: social rejection doesn’t only hurt – it kills | Aeon Essays
What’s remarkable about this connection is how even trivial slights can ‘get under the skin’, as researchers put it. During CyberBall, being ignored by people you didn’t know and couldn’t even see was enough to trigger an ancient pain response designed to keep you alive. And simply watching videos of disapproving faces produced the same effect.

Baumeister found that following social rejection people become significantly more aggressive, prone to cheating and risk-taking, and unwilling to help others. But despite their swift change in behaviour, the socially rejected subjects showed no evidence of actually feeling hurt.

Some participants were told that everyone had picked them, while others were told that no one had. In the end, when all the students rated their feelings, the rejected group showed no change in emotions: instead of feeling upset, they seemed to have become emotionally numb. ...Baumeister calls this phenomenon ego-shock – an allusion to the physical numbness that can follow injury. Cutting yourself on a tin of tuna, for example, you might feel nothing at first; it’s as if for a brief moment your body shuts down to shield you against the pain. When you get rejected, Baumeister says, your psyche might similarly freeze up to protect you against the onslaught of emotional pain. Rejection, it seems, doesn’t always hurt; sometimes it goes beyond hurt, leaving us unable to feel anything at all.

the aftermath of major threats provoked significantly different responses in the subjects. They were more likely to become disoriented and paralysed, as well as lose their ability to think straight and make decisions. They felt removed from their bodies, as if looking at things from a distance. The world appeared to them unfamiliar and strange. This limbo state doesn’t normally last beyond a few minutes. Eventually, people collect themselves, and remember who and where they are.

However fleeting, such moments of shock, of utter unguardedness, reveal something about rejection and belonging that normally remains hidden. We are more than social animals. We don’t just live with others but also through them and in them. They place us and ground us into the world. When they see us, they identify us. After all, what is identity but the slow, lifelong accretion of gazes: us looking at ourselves being looked at by others? What we see is, largely, what they see, or what we think they see. And when they turn away, when we become unseen, in a way we cease to be.

The best predictor today in Europe or North America of who will be depressed is not a gene and it’s not a measure of your brain; it’s whether you’re poor.’ Kagan’s statement echoes something researchers have long known: that poor people have poorer health. It’s an argument that makes intuitive sense. Poverty, after all, entails a host of risk factors – child maltreatment, drug abuse, crime, unemployment, bad nutrition, inadequate health care – that have been linked to various physical and mental illnesses.

After following them for 10 years, they found that unskilled workers at the bottom of the hierarchy died at about three times the rate of senior administrative staff at the top. Access to healthcare – free then as it is now – could not explain the dramatic difference in mortality between the employment ranks. What’s more, a similar pattern emerged not just at the extremes but at all levels of the pecking order: the lower your status at work, the shorter your life.

Mounting evidence over the past two decades has established low socioeconomic status as a key predictor of early mortality and poor health, ....The link between health and social status – whether you measure it by income, education or occupation, or even by where people think they stand in relation to others – has appeared with remarkable consistency in studies of thousands of US adolescents, South Koreans, African Americans, and older adults in the UK. According to Marmot’s data, ‘if everyone in England had the same death rates as the most advantaged, a total of between 1.3 and 2.5 million extra life years would be enjoyed by those dying prematurely each year.’

Access to resources – a natural suspect – doesn’t explain the ubiquity of status effects on health. One possible reason, according to Wilkinson and Pickett, is ‘status anxiety’. The core insight here is that social status carries an implicit judgment of one’s value to society. The higher up the ladder you are, the more respect and admiration you command from those around you. By contrast, being lower down the hierarchy implies a failure to live up to society’s standards of success. It is to be judged as lacking and seen as inferior; in other words: to be rejected. The rejection might be implicit but, if anything, that makes it even more pernicious because it goes unquestioned: we often accept social inequality the way we inhale polluted air, or we justify it as a matter of merit. So if you find yourself near the bottom, you can feel worthless, hopeless and helpless.

A growing number of researchers now recognise that threats to our social identity, such as being negatively evaluated by others, can tamper with crucial neurobiological systems. Studies of animals in subordinate rank and people exposed to negative evaluation (for example, after giving a speech to an audience) suggest that social rejection triggers inflammation – the body’s innate response to injury.

A growing number of researchers now recognise that threats to our social identity, such as being negatively evaluated by others, can tamper with crucial neurobiological systems. Studies of animals in subordinate rank and people exposed to negative evaluation (for example, after giving a speech to an audience) suggest that social rejection triggers inflammation – the body’s innate response to injury.

Climbing the ladder doesn’t necessarily solve the problem; it might just raise the bar. Say you jump a few rungs, landing at the top of your peer group. You gaze down from this new perch and think how far you’ve made it. But then you realise that your reference point has now shifted: you’ve moved up to a new social group and the top has been pushed higher

In one study, the two researchers measured the average income per person in 21 rich nations against an index of each country’s health and social problems, and found no connection between the two. But when they ranked the countries from the most equal (eg, Japan and the Scandinavian nations) to the least (eg, the UK, Portugal and the US), a clear pattern emerged that could not be chalked up to chance: the most unequal countries had twice the levels of mental illness and obesity as the most equal ones; three to five years lower life expectancy; six to 10 times higher teenage birthrates; up to 12 times increased incidence of homicide, and markedly lower literacy.

One way to account for the benefits of greater equality might be that it dissolves the boundaries between groups, promoting social mixing and integration. For a long time, researchers have known that socially integrated people enjoy better health and longevity than socially isolated ones, but until recently it wasn’t clear why.

The quality of these connections counts, too. Some seniors thrive by nurturing fewer but deeper links, while others will find greater enjoyment still in solitude. Of course, none of this is to deny the deleterious effects of social isolation or question the plight of the elderly. But it does suggest a crucial difference between an objective state and subjective experience. The two are doubtless related, but being alone is not the same as feeling alone
rejection  society  economics  equality  aging  psychology  data  relationships  poverty  health  mentalhealth 
10 weeks ago
The Emptiness of Adam Gopnik’s Liberalism | The New Republic
Scathing takedown, with details, of the aging baby boomer's take on liberalism: no radical moves, take it easy, the founding fathers though racist, were OK. Cautionary about whitewashing history and not making sudden moves.



Gopnik judges political positions not by the substance of their arguments, but on a scale from childish and dangerous (radicalism of all types) to grown-up and responsible (moderate reformism). Gopnik’s liberalism is first of all a sensibility based on the “psychological principle” that people are many-sided, internally conflicted, and usually wrong, thus “incremental cautious reform is likely to get more things right than any other kind.”


Gopnik: “Whenever we look at how the big problems get solved, it was rarely a big idea that solved them,” he writes. “It was the intercession of a thousand small sanities.”

“The primacy of the public sphere isn’t just an abstraction of a German philosopher dreaming of a French café. It’s what stopped crime in the South Bronx.”


Like this one, Gopnik’s efforts to give his argument empirical flourishes are random, sloppy, and unpersuasive. But even in the philosophical clouds, where he would clearly prefer to stay, his claims are riddled with tensions.

he seems unable to shake the Berlin consensus, preoccupied with irrationality of the human heart that politics can only contain, never satisfy.

Gopnik summarizes the arguments of various types of “authoritarians” that liberalism is not good at providing clear order and symbolic identity. Though he ultimately rejects such claims, he empathizes with their presentation of liberalism as narrowly rationalistic and procedural, ultimately unable to address real questions of social meaning. “The realm of affairs in which questions of government, good and bad, can speak to us is extremely limited.”


He concludes that “tragic authoritarians”—generally right-wing, anti-modernist philosophers—are a bit too pessimistic, but that they have correctly described the human condition, doomed to a certain amount of defeat and disappointment. “Even the most compassionate program of egalitarian reform inevitably ends up against the limits of being human.” While Gopnik intends such concessions as a kind of eclectic absorption of every position’s strongest insights, he doesn’t seem to realize he is taking on board deeply pessimistic premises that cut against the sunny moral teleology of his liberal reformism.


Liberalism trumpets universal human rights, but class hierarchy at home and an imperial hierarchy of nations abroad prevent a great number of people from exercising those rights; it’s hypocritical to argue for equal rights without attempting to remove the political and economic inequality that undermine the whole project. “Liberal reform is pious,” Gopnik writes, “until it runs up against the limits of what it won’t, or can’t, reform, which is the governing system of exploitation and oppression. It sends that out freely to everyone too weak to resist.” Left-wing propagandists might even borrow a few of his pithy formulations of their views: Liberalism “doesn’t just export its atrocities; it exports its exploitations and then brings back the profits to support the supposedly liberal arts.”


rather than seek meaningful explanations, he falls back on ahistorical platitudes: “Strongman politics and boss-man rule, in simplest form, is the story of mankind,” he sighs. “So rather than search for the special circumstances that make it rise … we should accept the truth that it can always rise, that the lure of a closed authoritarian society is one permanently present in human affairs.”


The climate crisis, more than anything, has highlighted the inadequacy of the liberal orthodoxy’s self-congratulatory moderation and celebration of glacial incrementalism. It poses, in stark terms, the need for dramatic action and the inescapability of confronting the powerful interests behind the deadly carbon economy.

“There is a tragic rule of twenty-first century life, a rule of double amnesia,” he writes, gearing up for one of his dubious historical declarations. “The right tends to act as though the nineteenth century never happened, while the left tends to act as though the twentieth century never took place.” No century is Gopnik’s strong suit, but like most defenders of the status quo he has a particular difficulty seeing the twenty-first.
politics  liberals  liberalism  democrats  babyboomers  history 
10 weeks ago
Whitney Biennial Review: A New Perspective on Art History
the whitney summarized - both a little insidery and overdone but also insightful

If you want another kind of blasting indictment, look no further than Christine Sun Kim’s affecting six-part exploration of her own “deaf rage.”
nyc  newyork  art 
10 weeks ago
Escaping the Shadow of a Parent - The Book of LifeThe Book of Life
solid points on parenting + on getting out from under parents

An emotional shadow comprises a panoply of (normally very secret) commands about what will be required of a child to warrant affection and, metaphysically speaking, a place on the earth. Rather than a kingdom or a fortune, the parent hands down a set of invisible rules: you should never rival your father’s achievements; you must never be happier than I was; you must love people who will deny you security; you should not think of yourself as a man or woman in the true sense; you must worry perpetually about money; you must forever feel that what you’ve done isn’t enough… Such are the hidden commandments that one generation slips unnoticed into the psyche of the next.

we may be taken advantage of or wind up unable to feel comfortable receiving affection. At work, we may take early retirement from our real ambitions, telling ourselves – despite objective evidence to the contrary – that we haven’t got the talent required. Getting angry is impossible. We don’t allow ourselves to be too amusing or too excited. We feel guilty every time we spend money on ourselves. We’re living half the life that would be our due.

Our memory of their value system hampers us whenever we try to enjoy ourselves. Being mildly depressed feels safer and more respectful.An emotional shadow is always, ultimately, created by blackmail. The deal is as follows: do as we want, or we will quietly choke off a supply of love; follow our way, or you must suffer and fail.

To be a good parent is willingly to cede control, to let oneself be forgotten, never to loom too large in the child’s imagination; not to present a massive obstacle to growth or achievement; not to become an object of worry or pity; not to be a source of fear or alarm; not to be the patron of self-esteem; to realise that offering someone protection cannot ever mean having the right to control their identity and psychic functioning.

To liberate ourselves at last, we need an adolescence...: permission to define oneself afresh and get far out of the shadow. Many of us, unknown to ourselves, managed not to have an adolescence at fifteen. There wasn’t enough love to dare to. Not every parent is mature enough to allow themselves to be hated and belittled.

Our growth requires that we confront something abysmally sad: that we weren’t exactly loved as we might have been and that we are, as a result, far from properly free. We might have wasted a big part of our lives in a straightjacket not of our own making. Parents can expect a lot from us; they don’t have a right to our identities. At the same time, more clearly than ever, we can see that the point of true parental love isn’t to produce a clone but to give encouragement to an autonomous new member of the human race; something we may now ever so slowly be on the way to becoming.
psychology  parents  children  guilt  tsol  debtotton  bookoflife 
10 weeks ago
Lies pave the way for anti-abortion laws. To defeat the laws we must fight the lies | Rebecca Solnit | Opinion | The Guardian
cogent summary from Solnit (but without the angle that bodily autonomy is protected even for the dead in this country)


Anti-abortion laws are built on anti-abortion lies. Lies about things like who has abortions, how abortions work, how women’s bodies work and how fetuses develop. The lies pave the way for the laws.

I believe the hatred of abortion is often because it makes women free and equal, and it is often advocated by people who show no interest in the health of infants or wellbeing of children.
abortion  healthcare  medicine  misogyny  sexism 
10 weeks ago
Why not being a jerk is important to your happiness and success - Fast Company
on not being a jerk to service people, on giving compliments, on existing in "near-success" vs. the generosity of biollionaires

"We all have good intentions that don’t lead to action. We have an even greater reservoir of admiration and good thoughts about others that get caught in the filters of insecurity and fear. To not let that dam burst is to cut life short and shortchange joy. There are so few absolutes. One of them: Nobody ever says at a funeral, “He was too generous, too kind, and much too loving.”
gratitude  compliments  psychology 
10 weeks ago
Lamisil (Terbinafine) - Side Effects, Dosage, Interactions - Drugs
comprehensive and readable list of issues, side effects, etc.
medical  health  toes 
10 weeks ago
Terbinafine and alcohol?
drinking while on lamisil or taking a break for holiday drinking
medical  health  toes 
10 weeks ago
Another ‘excuse’ for police bias bites the dust - The Washington Post
police use more force on black people than white - and black people resist less than white people

This comes on the heels of another survey of the social media accounts of police officers across the country. BuzzFeed reported that of the police agencies reviewed, 1 in 5 active police officers, and 2 in 5 retired officers, put up Facebook posts “displaying bias, applauding violence, scoffing at due process, or using dehumanizing language.”
police  blacklivesmatter  racism 
10 weeks ago
Does the news reflect what we die from? - Our World in Data
heart disease above all. but that's not reflected in media or online
data  health  medicine  death 
10 weeks ago
Wealth is correlated with greed, dishonesty and cheating -- are these effects or a causes? / Boing Boing
But why are they more likely to cheat, lie and to cut off pedestrians? And why are they less likely to give to charity?

It may be in part because they are cut off from the reality of poverty – living in an upper-class bubble. But primarily the researchers found that greed is actually viewed more favourably in upper-class communities.

“We reason that increased resources and independence from others cause people to prioritise self-interest over others’ welfare and perceive greed as positive and beneficial, which in turn gives rise to increased unethical behaviour,” the researchers concluded.
cheating  ethics  morality  economics  wealth  money  philosophy  psychology 
10 weeks ago
High School Principal Brings Free Laundromat — And Bullying Relief — To Students | On Point
Practical solutions to urgent problems. Laundry + bullying. Shootings + kids with nowhere to go.
inspiration  practicality  kids  school  guns  shootings 
11 weeks ago
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