Martin Luther’s Revolution | The Nation
Review essay on several books about Luther and Protestantism.
religion  christianity  martin_luther  protestantism  history  theology 
4 hours ago
How your clothes are poisoning our oceans and food supply | Environment | The Guardian
How synthetic microfibers from clothes— mostly shed during washing— are collecting in both oceans and freshwater, and ending up in fish and other water animals. And: we're so screwed.
clothing  environment  plastic  science  economics 
5 days ago
A Man in a Hurry: Claude Shannon’s New York Years - IEEE Spectrum
Excerpt from "A Mind at Play," a new book about Claude Shannon and the invention of information theory.
information  claude_shannon  science  bell_labs  technology 
14 days ago
NYPD, Microsoft Launch All-Seeing “Domain Awareness System” With Real-Time CCTV, License Plate Monitoring [Updated]
Describes, in general terms, the Domain Awareness System designed by Microsoft for the NYPD. Might very well help prevent terrorist attacks; obviously open to serious abuse.
terrorism  civil_liberties  civil_rights  surveillance  technology 
16 days ago
[Reviews] | Getting In and Out, by Zadie Smith | Harper's Magazine
Zadie Smith on both "Get Out" and Dana Schutz's painting "Open Casket" More generally, on the idea of "appropriation."
race  art  film  zadie_smith  review  culture 
16 days ago
Wilhelm Reich: the man who invented free love | Books | The Guardian
Wilhelm Riech, one of the "second generation" of psychoanalysts, whose theories of "the orgone" inspired a generation to lock themselves in boxes for sexual fulfillment. Also one of the people Sontag mentions as a proponent of the theory that cancer is a result of repressed emotion.
wilhelm_reich  psychology  sexuality  disease  sontag 
17 days ago
From Ptolemy to GPS, the Brief History of Maps | Innovation | Smithsonian
Very brief history of maps and mapping, with some vague speculation about how GPS and turn-by-turn directions affect our ability to navigate.
maps  cartography  technology  GPS  history 
17 days ago
The Brave New World of Gene Editing | by Matthew Cobb | The New York Review of Books
Review essay of some books about genetics/CRISPR. Argues for more public attention and oversight.
genetics  science  CRISPR  democracy  representation 
17 days ago
Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us.) - The New York Times
On attempts to send out messages for aliens, as opposed to listening for communications from them. Some see this as extremely dangerous; the potential consequences raise important questions about representation and democracy. Who gets to decide to take an action that may literally change the course of human history? What kind of oversight is adequate?
democracy  representation  aliens  science 
17 days ago
How ‘Wellness’ Became an Epidemic
The growth of the Wellness Industrial Complex, and how "wellness" is different from "health."
health  wellness  culture  class 
18 days ago
The Art at the End of the World - The New York Times
Heidi Julavits visits "Spiral Jetty" with her family, and contemplates the relations between art, material, and a world without human consciousness.
heidi_julavits  robert_smithson  art  artists  landscape  land_art  spiral_jetty  nature 
19 days ago
Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science? | Science | The Guardian
Describes the history of journal publishing. Includes the rise of Pergamon, whose founder Robert Maxwell pioneered the business of journal publishing. Later bought out by Elsevier, Maxwell realized that the nature of scientific journals meant they weren't really in competition with one another, since each one's content is unique, so creating a new one didn't eat into the audience for older ones. He therefore helped create hundreds of new ones, and university libraries simply had to keep subscribing to everything.
science  journals  publishing  business  academia  economics 
26 days ago
Asghar Farhadi on The Past, A Separation, and Crafting Earth-Shaking Drama From Small Moments | Filmmaker Magazine
Interview comparing "A Separation" with "The Pat," discussing the role of the home, children, and small decisions as decisive points in people's lives.
ashgar_farhadi  film  directors  iran 
5 weeks ago
A Mystic Monumentality | by Martin Filler | The New York Review of Books
Review essay of two new books about Louis Kahn, which argues that he was the foremost architect of his era, and focuses on the "spiritual" aspects of his designs.
architecture  louis_kahn  architects  book_review 
5 weeks ago
A Sociology of the Smartphone
Excerpt from Adam Greenfield's "Radical Technologies," unpacking the role of the smartphone and the costs of that role.
culture  technology  smartphones  phones  infrastructure  inequality  privatization 
5 weeks ago
Panama Canal Expansion - Diagram of Panama Canal Locks
On the expansion of the Panama Canal to accommodate larger ships.
shipping  panama  trade  transportation  infrastructure 
5 weeks ago
Drought as Infrastructural Event | Limn
Talking about, first of all, the Panama Canal, which uses fresh water from rivers to fill its locks and moves ships; this illustrates how droughts actually result from a combination of meteorological events and infrastructural design.
water  infrastructure  panama  government  governmentality  sovereignty 
5 weeks ago
The Next Green Revolution - National Geographic
On the different possible paths to increasing crop yields to meet the needs of a growing global population: genetic modification, traditional cross-breeding, organic farming, etc. Actually kind of hopeful, though as is often the case the political aspects of the issue aren't dealt with here.
food  agribusiness  agriculture  GM_foods  climate  economics 
5 weeks ago
Story of cities #27: Singapore – the most meticulously planned city in the world | Cities | The Guardian
How Lee Kwan Yew planned and built Singapore virtually from the ground up (thanks to bombing during WWII that wiped the slate clean, so to speak), creating a city that works very well, but only through continued strict regulation of the behavior of its residents.
cities  history  urban  urban_planning  governmentality  power_in_city 
5 weeks ago
The City of White Marble: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan - The Atlantic
Some amazing, eerie photos of what happens when you combine excesses of oil wealth and ego in Ashgabat.
photogprahy  turkmenistan  ashgabat  cities  government  oil  inequality  democracy 
5 weeks ago
The Doctor Is In. Co-Pay? $40,000. - The New York Times
About new, high(er)-level concierge medical services, aimed only at the very wealthy. Utterly despicable and thoroughly disheartening.
inequality  medicine  health  healthcare  wealth  PSC_235 
5 weeks ago
Exclusive: Thom Yorke and Radiohead on 'OK Computer' - Rolling Stone
Less about the actual making of the album than I'd like, and much more about Thom than anybody else. But some interesting stuff.
radiohead  music_industry  music 
6 weeks ago
The Man Behind Trump’s Voter-Fraud Obsession - The New York Times
Profile of Kris Kobach, secretary of state for Kansas and one of the leading advocates of both restrictive immigration laws and voter-ID laws. Interesting if nothing else because it shows clearly the connection between those two things.
politics  voting  elections  immigration  kris_kobach 
6 weeks ago
Dirty animals, clean animals – TheTLS
Argues that animals become metaphorical vehicles mainly to illustrate human failings— i.e., they are attributed qualities that we are seen to lack, This is possible because, compared to humans, animals are a "blank slate," on which nearly anything can be imposed.
animals  metaphors  philosophy 
6 weeks ago
Urban Dreams — The California Sunday Magazine
Describes the ongoing project to build a new capital for the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which lost its the one it had when the state was divided a few years ago. The plan is to construct an entirely new city, from scratch, or land previously used for agriculture. Predictably, lots of problems.
cities  urban  government  governmentality  state  urban_planning  india 
6 weeks ago
Stupendous intelligence of honey badgers – TheTLS
Review of Frans de Waal's new book <em>Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?</em> Discusses the anthropocentrism of philosophical discussions of mind and intelligence, which tend to take for granted a definitive gap between human beings and <em>all</em> other animals, and seek to describe that gap in terms of particular capacities. Instead, we should recognize a wide range of ways of understanding and operating in the world, as well as the fact that our ways of assessing them will need to take into account the specific circumstances to which other animals have evolved, rather than treating "animals" as a single category which is united merely by the fact that they are not humans.
animals  consciousness  cognition  philosophy  book_review 
7 weeks ago
The Pieces of Zadie Smith via Instapaper
IFTTT  Instapaper 
7 weeks ago
W. G. Sebald, Humorist - The New Yorker
Pretty quickly departs from the titular premise to a more general look at Sebald's work, focusing (not surprisingly) on the relationship between fiction and fact and the role of the photographs. Not really new ground, but still insightful.
sebald  novelists  writers  writing  fiction  narrative  james_wood 
7 weeks ago
Keeping the Books | Limn
Compares the blockchain, and the hopes being placed on it for new forms of banking, contracts, and even government, with Borges's story about the lottery of Babylon. The latter submits every aspect of human life to random chance, which is seen as less tyrannical than the choices of human governors; the blockchain submits everything to an automatic process of transcription which is more or less out of human hands.
blockchain  bitcoin  technology  government  algorithms  automation 
9 weeks ago
Where Anti-Tax Fervor Means ‘All Services Will Cease’ - The New York Times
Describes conditions in southwest Oregon, where years of anti-tax voting have stripped public services to the bone. An interesting wrinkle in this particular area is that the area used to get money from timber harvesting on federal lands, which allowed them to provide most services without paying taxes. But, since that has declined, they're left to fund things directly, and people have simply refused.
government  taxes  oregon 
10 weeks ago
Woodcuts and Witches | The Public Domain Review
One the importance of easily-reproduced woodcut illustrations for spreading ideas about witchcraft in early modern Europe— and feeding the hysteria that led to the trial and execution of those accused of its practice.
art  witches  witchcraft  magic  religion  history  law 
10 weeks ago
U Can’t Talk to Ur Professor Like This - The New York Times
Argues that insisting on more formal standards of communication between students and professors helps to uphold important institutional values, in particular respect for knowledge.
academia  teaching 
10 weeks ago
The Case for Black English - The New Yorker
Review of John McWhorter's "Talking Back, Talking Black," with some really interesting bits about Black English.
book_review  language  race 
11 weeks ago
Key to Improving Subway Service in New York? Modern Signals - The New York Times
Describes problems with upgrading the single system on the New York subway, which is almost 80 years old. The lack of precision in the system means trains must stay further apart, reducing frequencies. Compares the efforts in NYC to London, which has moved much more quickly, and seen significant improvements in frequency and reliability; funding is one difference, but a big one is also that officials in London have been willing to close whole lines to create large windows of time for work on the signals, which NYC officials have been hesitant to do.
transit  trains  subway  infrastructure  technology  government 
12 weeks ago
Could history of humans in North America be rewritten by broken bones? | Science | The Guardian
New research on mammoth bones found in California may suggest that homo sapiens were present in the Americas as long as 130,000 years ago. The evidence suggests that the bones were "processed," meaning broken or smashed with stone tools, which may also be present at the site. Significant questions remain about the dating of the bones, as well as the hypothesis about how they were broken. If confirmed, this would also lead to questions about how these humans got there— whether over the Bering land bridge, or by water from Asia on some kind of boats.
archaeology  anthropology  history  native_americans 
april 2017
English Visionary | The Weekly Standard
Review of an exhibition of the painter Vanessa Bell, wife of Clive Bell and member of the Bloomsbury group. Suggests that Bell began down a radical path inspired by the impressionists and post-impressionists, which she ultimately failed to follow; argues, a little vaguely, that this reflects a cultural conservatism or provincialism in the bloomsbury group in general, which led them to become increasingly ensconced in a particular, romanticized historical version of Englishness rather than fully embrace radical new ideas.
bloomsbury  painters  painting  vanessa_bell  art  artists 
april 2017
Jill Lepore on the Challenge of Explaining Things | Public Books
Really interesting interview with Jill Lepore, focusing mainly on how communications technology affects the quality of political information and debate. She suggests, among other things, that party realignments in the US usually accompany changes in communications technology.
history  writing  technology  jill_lepore 
april 2017
A publisher of one's own: Virginia and Leonard Woolf and the Hogarth Press | Books | The Guardian
Unfortunately short piece about the Hogarth Press, started by Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1917. The first output was hand-set by the Woolfs on a hand-cranked press.
books  writers  writing  publishing  history  virginia_woolf 
april 2017
Inside Every Utopia Is a Dystopia | Boston Review
Review of a new biography of Norman Bel Geddes, a theatre designer-turned-furturist who created the Futurama pavilion for GM at the 1939 World's Fair in NYC.
futurism  utopia  technology  20th_century  science  science_fiction  design  designers 
april 2017
This Little Asshole Is Going to Kill 8 Billion Trees in a Decade - Vice
Describes the impact of the emerald ash borer. Mentioned but doesn't highlight the cyclical nature of these imported pests and pathogens: one reduces the population of one kind of tree, so another kind of tree is planted in large numbers as a replacement, which creates a good environment for the next. So, dutch elm disease killed lots of elms, which were replaced with huge numbers of ash trees, creating an opportunity for the borer to spread quickly.
insects  globalization  nature  biology  botany 
april 2017
You Should Work Less Hours—Darwin Did
Using Charles Darwin as the main example, argues that very productive an innovative people achieve what they do by taking significant breaks for rest and contemplation.
creativity  productivity  work  darwin 
april 2017
After the Sphinx, Kara Walker Is a New Kind of Public Figure
Longish profile of Walker, with an emphasis on the question of whether her sugar sphinx will be the first in a line of more public works. Lots of interesting stuff here, including the controversy she generated among black artists of (mostly) the previous generation.
art  artists  kara_walker 
april 2017
The Capsizing of Damien Hirst | Will Harrison
Profile of Hirst, framed as a story of decline, with his new exhibit positioned as a kind of last gasp at relevance (and profitability). Maybe excessively dismissive. Makes some interesting points about his participation in gentrification, and more generally about the contemporary art market as a not merely a reflection, but a positive cause, of economic inequality.
damien_hirst  art  artists  art_shows  economics  finance 
april 2017
Damien Hirst Is Back With an Underwater Fantasy. Will Collectors Care? - The New York Times
Sort of a preview/profile of Damien Hirst, on the occasion of his newest exhibition, "Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable." Takes him more seriously than some, but does manage to point out the extent to which his work is treated by himself as well as his buyers as a product first and foremost.
damien_hirst  art  artists  art_shows 
april 2017
Damien Hirst: Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable review – beautiful and monstrous | Art and design | The Guardian
Review of Damien Hirst's first exhibition in over a decade. Reviewer seems quite taken with the spectacle of it, but doesn't convince me that there's much going on beyond that.
damien_hirst  art  artists  art_shows 
april 2017
Triumph of the Thought Leader … and the Eclipse of the Public Intellectual - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Develops a distinction between "public Intellectuals" and "thought leaders," which is related to the fox and hedgehog. Public intellectuals are foxes with a broad range of knowledge, who can comment on events or ideas (and usually explain the problems with them). Though leaders are hedgehogs who develop and evangelize for one big idea. Both are useful for society, but declining trust in authority/expertise, political polarization, and economic inequality have all led to the supplanting of the public intellectual by the thought leader, whose approach and tone better suit the large corporate donors upon whom universities are increasingly dependent.
academia  intellectuals  ideas  inequality 
april 2017
Darwin's Early Adopters | Public Books
Really interesting review easy on Randall Fuller's "The Book that Changed America," about the impact of "The Origin of Species." In particular, Fuller argues that Darwin provided abolitionists with a counterargument to the theory of polygenesis.
books  book_review  darwin  evolution  science  history 
april 2017
The Man Behind History’s Most Iconic Movie Posters, From Breakfast at | Vanity Fair
Profile of Robert McGinnins, who illustrated many of the James Bond movie posters, as well as numerous paperbacks. Kind of an interesting, but short, discussion of his depiction of women, which is certainly idealized, sexualized, and unrealistic, but which in context might be seen as more empowering than the standard depictions of the time.
illustration  illustrators  artists  graphic_design  design  robert_mcginnins 
april 2017
Inside Alabama’s Auto Jobs Boom: Cheap Wages, Little Training, Crushed Limbs - Bloomberg
Working conditions in Alabama's auto parts manufacturing plants are dangerous, and employees are undertrained, under supervised, underpaid, and exhausted. Production quotas dictate speed at all costs. Another aspect of the debate about returning manufacturing jobs to the United States— shouldn't take it for granted that they will be GOOD jobs, or that they will create conditions similar to those of the past.
labor  manufacturing  work  unions  economics 
april 2017
A Journey Into the Merriam-Webster Word Factory - The New York Times
About the people who write dictionary entries, the ways in which they have responded to the internet, and the rising fame of some of the editors.
dictionary  words  etymology  internet 
april 2017
In the Land of Giants - The New York Times
On visiting the goat sequoias of California. Mooallem talks about how pictures never quite seem to show what it is about being in front of the trees that is so astonishing, which reminded me of experiences I have had with the Grand Canyon.
nature  environment  trees  plants  national_parks 
april 2017
The Art of Paying Attention | New Republic
Argues that critics have a duty to pay attention to what is going on in the world and respond to it, even if this makes them vulnerable to charges of "politicizing" art, etc. This means resisting the impulse to turn away, or to regard art and literature as a haven from the outside world.
criticism  attention  politics 
april 2017
The Future Agency - The Verge
About, mostly, Tellart, a design company that specializes in creating visions of the future for museums, government agencies, and so on. Interesting stuff about what makes such a vision seem plausible but still inspiring to people, as well as about the firm's choice of clients.
futurism  technology  future  design 
april 2017
The Battle Against The Philistines Never Ceases | Standpoint
An argument in favor of cultural criticism as a project of separating the great from the merely good, or the merely popular. Uses the usual straw man of "postmodernism" to explain why great critics supposedly don't exist anymore. No mention of Susan Sontag, or indeed any women at all. The points about Arnold, Eliot, and co., are compelling, though. Makes me wonder about the middle ground; can you make this sort of argument without sounding, or indeed BEING, elitist?
criticism  critics  culture 
april 2017
If These Walls Could Talk - / current issue
Review of a new biography of Louis Kahn, by Wendy Lesser. Some nice points about the way architecture shapes experience by creating spaces.
architecture  architects  louis_kahn  art  criticism  biography  book_review 
april 2017
The Academic Home of Trumpism - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Profile of of Charles R. Kesler, professor at Claremont McKenna, and his fellow "West-Coast Starussians," who have become one of the major sources of support for Trump within academia. Their main reason seems to be his opposition to government bureaucracy, which they read as a result of Progressive support for technocracy over democracy. That's at least a reasonable concern, as far as it goes, though there's a clear difference between principled stand against that tendency and thoughtless railing against things you don't understand because they cramp your style.
politics  conservatism  academia  leo_strauss 
march 2017
The Lies of Originalism | Jacobin
Beneath more than a bit of rhetorical excess, does a good job of showing some of the weak points of originalism. Specifically, that the Constitution represents the "will of the people" in some clear and meaningful sense; that the literal meaning of the text can be objectively discovered, even historically; and that originalism is the absence of ideology, rather than itself an ideology. In the latter section, leans a bit too heavily toward the notion that "everything is subjective," but the basic points are substantial.
law  jurisprudence  court  originalism 
march 2017
The Alt-Right Is What Happens When Society Marginalizes Men
Argues that, while the alt-right has components that are outright misogynist or racist and should be condemned, there is an underlying driver that deserves attention. This is that young men are increasingly being left behind/out of society, as their economic fortunes decline and society becomes less accommodating of their "natural" impulses. The problem with this argument is that it mixes a specious biologism with some reasonable points about economic change, talking about men's "inherent" or "hard-wired" desire to take action or assert themselves being thwarted in a "feminized" society. It's worth paying attention to the economic shifts that have left many young men without gainful employment, but the resort to this kind of nonsensical pseudo-genetics undermines the value of this point.
alt_right  conservatism  gender 
march 2017
A Modest Immigration Proposal | The Weekly Standard
Argues for market-based immigration quotas, combined with a clear distinction between immigrants and refugees, as a way of balancing security and economic concerns with a reasonable concern for the desire of people to immigrate in search of economic opportunity. The system would allow employers to bid on a limited number of permanent-resident and temporary slots; the cost of the bid would give them an incentive to try to attract immigrants only when there really are no Americans who can fill the job. Employers will have a better sense of what kinds of workers they need than government officials, and so this system will also work better than, e.g., the H1-B visa program, in which policymakers identify classes of workers they believe are more in demand. Makes some of the usual absurd historical generalizations about early waves of immigrants (that they were all more willing to work, that they assimilated more readily), but in general no insane.
immigration  conservatism  markets 
march 2017
Neal Gorsuch Nomination: The Left Distorts Originalism to Smear SCOTUS Nominee | National Review
Explains the distinction between "original intent" and "original (public) meaning," and argues that judicial originalists are focused on the latter, but often accused of focusing on the former. Also argues that while "intent" would lock interpretation into the prejudices and preconceptions of the authors of a law, a focus on "meaning" simply provides a standard that avoids total subjectivity.
law  judicial_interpretation  conservatism  originalism 
march 2017
Seed Librarians Are Fighting to Protect the U.S.’s Resilient and Diverse Food System
Public libraries are increasingly created seed libraries, often housed in old card catalogues, to keep track of local varieties and help maintain the genetic diversity of food crops.
libraries  seeds  agriculture  agribusiness  biology  environment 
march 2017
Sand mining: the global environmental crisis you’ve never heard of | Cities | The Guardian
Big piece on sand mining for construction, with examples from many different parts of the developing world.
china  mining  indian  sand_mining  construction  development  environment 
march 2017
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