Todd Stewart | Archive - Picher, Oklahoma
Todd Stewart's photos of Picher, Oklahoma, a former mining boom town now virtually abandoned.
photogprahy  photographers  mining 
The Heroism of Incremental Care | The New Yorker
Atul Gawande on incremental, continual maintenance vs. acute, crisis actions. Surgery vs. primary care, road building vs. maintenance.
infrastructure  healthcare  medicine  incrementalism  maintenance 
The New Elite’s Silly Virtue-Signaling Consumption | The American Conservative
Both the title and, to some extent, the tone are irritating, but the basic point seems valid: consumption as a way of indicating both social and moral attitudes and associations.
economics  class  markets  hipsters 
2 days ago
In Angela Merkel, German Women Find Symbol, but Not Savior - The New York Times
On how Merkel's rise has not been tied to an improved economic position for women, who still make 22% less than men and are almost non-existent as corporate executives. One very interesting point is the difference between East and West, with West being much more conservative on gender issues.
germany  women  gender  women_and_politics  sexism  psc150 
2 days ago
The Man the Presidency Changed - POLITICO Magazine
Shortish piece on Chester Alan Arthur's shift from machine functionary to civil service reformer.
history  president  government  corruption  civil_service  machine_politics  psc120 
2 days ago
Documenting the Disappearance of America's Most Toxic Ghost Town
A book and exhibition of photos by Todd Stewart, documenting the slow disappearance of Picher, Oklahoma, a town made toxic by mining of lead and zinc.
mining  environment  photogprahy  against_irrelevance 
2 days ago
Myanmar Follows Global Pattern in How Ethnic Cleansing Begins - The New York Times
Goos basic explanation of the pattern of scapegoating to strengthen majority national identity.
burma  nationalism  identity  rohingya  conflict  ethnicity 
7 days ago
Inside India’s race to cool 1.3 billion people in a warming world - The Verge
As temperatures rise, air conditioning becomes a necessity in hotter parts of the world, but air conditioning adds to the problem. New methods of cooling, and powering air conditioners, will need to be found to accommodate large, hot places, like India.
environment  climate  technology  india  development  inequality 
7 days ago
Who Can Afford to Write Like John McPhee? | New Republic
A great writer describes his process, with many concrete pointers from improving one's own writing, but that process seems dependent on an abundance of time and money that few working writers could imagine having today.
writing  writers  john_mcphee  book_review  against_irrelevance 
7 days ago
The great nutrient collapse
As C02 in the atmosphere increases, plants produce more sugars and other carbohydrates, and less of other key nutrients, like protein, zinc, and potassium. As a result, there is more food being grown, but it is less nutritious. Very little research is being done on the intersection of climate change and nutrition, despite the profound implications this change might have for human health.
food  agriculture  plants  botany  climate  science  biology 
12 days ago
The Peculiar Poetry of Paris’s Lost and Found | The New Yorker
On the Bureau of Found Objects, established in 1804 under Napoleon; instantiates the idea of property as a sacred right in France, which is not interrupted or undermined by the loss of an object. Connects this to French history, in which lost objects once belonged to the person on whose land they were found; the French Revolution deliberately altered that norm, and the Bureau reflects the new standard.
cities  paris  loss  property_rights  law  against_irrelevance 
12 days ago
Jimmy’s Blues - Los Angeles Review of Books
Nice piece about Baldwin, really kind of a broad overview of his career as a writer, nominally organized around a comparison between his style and the blues and jazz (and a possible shift in that work from one to the other).
james_baldwin  writers  writing  race  music 
16 days ago
Here at the End of All Things
On the maps in fantasy books, and how they are and are not like maps of the real world.
maps  fantasy  geography 
21 days ago
A Storm Forces Houston, the Limitless City, to Consider Its Limits - The New York Times
On how unchecked growth has exacerbated the flooding in Houston, mainly by eliminating open areas and green spaces that could have absorbed some of the rain.
weather  climate  flooding  urban_planning  cities  development  power_in_city 
22 days ago
Finding North America’s lost medieval city | Ars Technica
Long piece on Cahokia and its excavation. Archaeologists think the city was built primarily as a spiritual center, as part of some kind of religious revival movement, with economic concerns secondary. At its height in 1050 BCE, it has as many as 30,000 people. Many unanswered questions about why, after about 400 years, most of that population left.
archaeology  science  history  native_americans  cahokia 
23 days ago
Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world | News | The Guardian
Stephen Metcalf on the rise of neoliberalism, focusing on its displacement of concern for or attention to values beyond those recognized by the market.
economics  hayek  keynes  neoliberalism  inequality 
23 days ago
Critical Failure | Hazlitt
On the critic Armond White, who the author argues has descended from a contentious but always interesting voice to, in essence, a troll, less interested in the films he reviews than in pissing off the people he perceives to be their audience.
criticism  critics  film  armond_white 
5 weeks ago
Architecture-by-Bee and Other Animal Printheads – BLDGBLOG
Interesting, partly speculative/fanciful look at animals as 3d printers, including real projects involving bees and silkworms.
architecture  insects  biomaterials  materials  science 
5 weeks ago
Inside Patreon, the economic engine of internet culture - The Verge
On Patreon, which has allowed a few people to make lots of money, many others to make some extra income, and struggles to deal with hate speech and similar problems.
internet  economics  free_speech  art 
6 weeks ago
Cogito Zero Sum | The Baffler
On the tendency to treat arguments and opinions as expressions of a self, and so challenges to those arguments as attacks on that self.
identity  politics  argument  learning  higher_ed 
7 weeks ago
Even After the Glass Ceiling Yields, Female Executives Find Shaky Ground - The New York Times
On the "glass cliff," the phenomenon of women getting top corporate jobs at companies that are in deep trouble.
business  economics  gender  women_and_politics 
7 weeks ago
Fewer Immigrants Mean More Jobs? Not So, Economists Say - The New York Times
Basically, all of our intuitions about the effects of immigration are wrong.
economics  immigration  politics 
7 weeks ago
Vanishing Land Fuels ‘Looming Crisis’ Across Africa - The New York Times
A combination of climate change, population growth, and poor management are leading to increased competition for arable land, sometimes turning violent.
africa  agriculture  environment  politics  development 
8 weeks ago
Martin Luther’s Revolution | The Nation
Review essay on several books about Luther and Protestantism.
religion  christianity  martin_luther  protestantism  history  theology 
8 weeks 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 
9 weeks 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 
10 weeks 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 
10 weeks 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 
10 weeks 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 
11 weeks 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 
11 weeks 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 
11 weeks 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 
11 weeks ago
How ‘Wellness’ Became an Epidemic
The growth of the Wellness Industrial Complex, and how "wellness" is different from "health."
health  wellness  culture  class 
11 weeks 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 
11 weeks 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 
12 weeks 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 
june 2017
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 
june 2017
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 
june 2017
Panama Canal Expansion - Diagram of Panama Canal Locks
On the expansion of the Panama Canal to accommodate larger ships.
shipping  panama  trade  transportation  infrastructure 
june 2017
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 
june 2017
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 
june 2017
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 
june 2017
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 
june 2017
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 
june 2017
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 
june 2017
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 
june 2017
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 
june 2017
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 
june 2017
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 
june 2017
The Pieces of Zadie Smith via Instapaper
IFTTT  Instapaper 
june 2017
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 
june 2017
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 
may 2017
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 
may 2017
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 
may 2017
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 
may 2017
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 
may 2017
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 
may 2017
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
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