B. R. Meyers - Hard to Swallow

For centuries civilized society took a dim view of food lovers, calling them “gourmands” and “gluttons” and placing them on a moral par with lechers. They were even assigned their own place in hell, and I don’t mean a table near the kitchen: They were to be force-fed for eternity. Not until halfway through the Industrial Revolution did the word gourmet come into use. Those who have since applied it to themselves have done a fine job of converting the world’s scorn to respect. The pleasures of the oral cavity (though we must say “palate” instead) are now widely regarded as more important, more intrinsically moral, and a more vital part of civilized tradition than any other pleasures. People who think nothing of saying “I’m not much of a reader” will grow shamefaced when admitting an ignorance of wine or haute cuisine. Some recent movies have even tried to turn banquets into heroic affairs. Advertising has abetted the trend, while political correctness, with its horror of judging anyone’s “lifestyle choices,” has done its bit to muffle dissent. 


But the idolatry of food cuts across class lines. This can be seen in the public’s toleration of a level of cruelty in meat production that it would tolerate nowhere else. If someone inflicts pain on an animal for visual, aural, or sexual gratification, we consider him a monster, and the law makes at least a token effort at punishment. If someone’s goal is to put the “product” in his mouth? Chacun à son goût.


Zoologists have recently discounted the notion that lobsters feel no pain when boiled alive. The gourmets’ response is to giggle at the plight of the “beasties” in the hope that others will follow suit. (With comparable tastelessness, a piece on foie gras in [The Best Food Writing 2006] is titled “Stuffed Animals.”) But when asked to laugh at the suffering of a living thing, or to drown out a moral compunction by turning up the TV, the American meat eater begins to sense that his values are not so far from the vegetarian’s after all. If food writers want to show what “a perverse attachment to certain goods” looks like, they are going about it in just the right way.


Pivotal to [The Omnivore’s Dilemma] is Pollan’s claim that
"our omnivorousness has done much to shape our nature, both body (we possess the omnicompetent teeth and jaws of the omnivore, equally well suited to tearing meat and grinding seeds) and soul."
One might as well describe man the way the anthropologist Ernest Becker did, as a digestive tract with teeth at one end and an anus at the other, and claim that the soul is shaped out of that. In which case, I don’t want one. But most of us use soul to mean the part of humanness that is not shaped out of that. In contrast to the fearless Becker, Pollan thinks that taking a hard look at human nature is more a matter of leaning over the museum rail at the caveman exhibit. Seeing only the painted mammoth on the horizon, so to speak, he derives the rightness of meat eating from the fact that humans are physically suited to it, they enjoy it, and they have engaged in it until modern times without feeling much “ethical heartburn.” (Only a food writer would use such an appalling phrase.) According to Pollan, this “reality” demands our respect. The same reasoning could be used to defend our mistreatment of children: In body and instinct, we are marvelously well-equipped for making their lives hell. If many cultures now object to abusing them, it is thanks to new values, to people who refused to respect the time-honored “reality.”
But by reducing man’s moral nature to an extension of our instincts, Pollan is free to present his appetite as a sort of moral-o-meter, the final authority for judging the rightness of all things culinary. He shoots a wild pig, for example, hugely enjoying the experience. We even get a spiel about how hunting makes people face the inevitability of their own death. (Psychologists have long asserted the opposite: As Otto Rank put it, and in words relevant to meat eating in general, “the death fear of the ego is lessened by the killing, the sacrifice, of the other.”) Ah, but then Pollan sees a photo of himself leering over the corpse and feels bad. So is killing pigs right or wrong? Or as he puts it, “What if it turned out I couldn’t eat this meat?”


All the same, Pollan decides to in-dulge his inner George Plimpton again, becoming “a reluctant, and, I fervently hoped, temporary vegetarian.” How seriously he took his meat-free diet can be guessed at. Though he claims to have stuck to it for at least a month, this most voluble of food writers does not name a single thing he ate. Nor, it seems, did he dine with any vegetarians.
“What troubles me most about my vegetarianism,” Pollan nonetheless has the fatuity to write,
"is the subtle way it alienates me from other people … As a guest, if I neglect to tell my host in advance that I don’t eat meat, she feels bad, and if I do tell her, she’ll make something special for me, in which case I’ll feel bad. On this matter I’m inclined to agree with the French, who gaze upon any personal dietary prohibition as bad manners … I also feel alienated from … family traditions like my mother’s beef brisket at Passover.”
It is common these days to see moral arguments veer off into appeals to self-interest. We have reached a pretty pass when they start veering off into the realm of etiquette. The bit about Passover surprised me a little, Pollan having just tacitly admitted what he thinks of Orthodox Jews, but perhaps for him it’s all about the brisket. A record of the gourmet’s ongoing failure to think in moral terms, The Omnivore’s Dilemma helps one to understand why no reformer ever gave a damn about fine dining—or the family dinner table either. When Jesus vowed to turn children against their parents, he knew he’d be ruining an untold number of perfectly good meals.

G

B. R. Meyers - Hard to Swallow

For centuries civilized society took a dim view of food lovers, calling them “gourmands” and “gluttons” and placing them on a moral par with lechers. They were even assigned their own place in hell, and I don’t mean a table near the kitchen: They were to be force-fed for eternity. Not until halfway through the Industrial Revolution did the word gourmet come into use. Those who have since applied it to themselves have done a fine job of converting the world’s scorn to respect. The pleasures of the oral cavity (though we must say “palate” instead) are now widely regarded as more important, more intrinsically moral, and a more vital part of civilized tradition than any other pleasures. People who think nothing of saying “I’m not much of a reader” will grow shamefaced when admitting an ignorance of wine or haute cuisine. Some recent movies have even tried to turn banquets into heroic affairs. Advertising has abetted the trend, while political correctness, with its horror of judging anyone’s “lifestyle choices,” has done its bit to muffle dissent. 

But the idolatry of food cuts across class lines. This can be seen in the public’s toleration of a level of cruelty in meat production that it would tolerate nowhere else. If someone inflicts pain on an animal for visual, aural, or sexual gratification, we consider him a monster, and the law makes at least a token effort at punishment. If someone’s goal is to put the “product” in his mouth? Chacun à son goût.

Zoologists have recently discounted the notion that lobsters feel no pain when boiled alive. The gourmets’ response is to giggle at the plight of the “beasties” in the hope that others will follow suit. (With comparable tastelessness, a piece on foie gras in [The Best Food Writing 2006] is titled “Stuffed Animals.”) But when asked to laugh at the suffering of a living thing, or to drown out a moral compunction by turning up the TV, the American meat eater begins to sense that his values are not so far from the vegetarian’s after all. If food writers want to show what “a perverse attachment to certain goods” looks like, they are going about it in just the right way.

Pivotal to [The Omnivore’s Dilemma] is Pollan’s claim that

"our omnivorousness has done much to shape our nature, both body (we possess the omnicompetent teeth and jaws of the omnivore, equally well suited to tearing meat and grinding seeds) and soul."

One might as well describe man the way the anthropologist Ernest Becker did, as a digestive tract with teeth at one end and an anus at the other, and claim that the soul is shaped out of that. In which case, I don’t want one. But most of us use soul to mean the part of humanness that is not shaped out of that. In contrast to the fearless Becker, Pollan thinks that taking a hard look at human nature is more a matter of leaning over the museum rail at the caveman exhibit. Seeing only the painted mammoth on the horizon, so to speak, he derives the rightness of meat eating from the fact that humans are physically suited to it, they enjoy it, and they have engaged in it until modern times without feeling much “ethical heartburn.” (Only a food writer would use such an appalling phrase.) According to Pollan, this “reality” demands our respect. The same reasoning could be used to defend our mistreatment of children: In body and instinct, we are marvelously well-equipped for making their lives hell. If many cultures now object to abusing them, it is thanks to new values, to people who refused to respect the time-honored “reality.”

But by reducing man’s moral nature to an extension of our instincts, Pollan is free to present his appetite as a sort of moral-o-meter, the final authority for judging the rightness of all things culinary. He shoots a wild pig, for example, hugely enjoying the experience. We even get a spiel about how hunting makes people face the inevitability of their own death. (Psychologists have long asserted the opposite: As Otto Rank put it, and in words relevant to meat eating in general, “the death fear of the ego is lessened by the killing, the sacrifice, of the other.”) Ah, but then Pollan sees a photo of himself leering over the corpse and feels bad. So is killing pigs right or wrong? Or as he puts it, “What if it turned out I couldn’t eat this meat?”

All the same, Pollan decides to in-dulge his inner George Plimpton again, becoming “a reluctant, and, I fervently hoped, temporary vegetarian.” How seriously he took his meat-free diet can be guessed at. Though he claims to have stuck to it for at least a month, this most voluble of food writers does not name a single thing he ate. Nor, it seems, did he dine with any vegetarians.

“What troubles me most about my vegetarianism,” Pollan nonetheless has the fatuity to write,

"is the subtle way it alienates me from other people … As a guest, if I neglect to tell my host in advance that I don’t eat meat, she feels bad, and if I do tell her, she’ll make something special for me, in which case I’ll feel bad. On this matter I’m inclined to agree with the French, who gaze upon any personal dietary prohibition as bad manners … I also feel alienated from … family traditions like my mother’s beef brisket at Passover.”

It is common these days to see moral arguments veer off into appeals to self-interest. We have reached a pretty pass when they start veering off into the realm of etiquette. The bit about Passover surprised me a little, Pollan having just tacitly admitted what he thinks of Orthodox Jews, but perhaps for him it’s all about the brisket. A record of the gourmet’s ongoing failure to think in moral terms, The Omnivore’s Dilemma helps one to understand why no reformer ever gave a damn about fine dining—or the family dinner table either. When Jesus vowed to turn children against their parents, he knew he’d be ruining an untold number of perfectly good meals.

G

The Globe and Mail - Building a Progressive Voice with Focus

When Jamie Biggar and his colleagues in Canada’s youth climate movement returned from the disastrous Copenhagen conference on global warming in December, 2010, they did so with a deep sense of betrayal and abandonment.
The adults charged with addressing the world’s climate crisis seemed incapable of setting aside personal agendas, domestic political considerations and petty international grievances for the sake of the planet. And it was increasingly apparent that 20-somethings like Mr. Biggar were going to be stuck with the unhappy consequences of their short-sighted inaction.
It was around this time that Mr. Biggar and his friend, Adam Shedletzky, began talking about starting up a political-action organization in Canada modelled on MoveOn.org in the United States. Since its beginning in 1998, MoveOn had morphed into a powerful, and deep-pocketed non-profit that advocates and campaigns for progressive positions on a range of issues.
And in March of this year, leadnow.ca was born.
With the collapse of the Occupy encampments and the future of the movement in doubt, leadnow could well emerge as an intelligent and more focused alternative to a leaderless association that never had an overarching strategy for success.
In less than a year, leadnow has attracted 60,000 members. The 28-year-old Mr. Biggar says the organization’s goal is to have half a million by the time the next federal election rolls around. While it is youth-led, leadnow strives to be a group that bridges generations.


“I think there is a sense, particularly among young people, that a lot of the systems and institutions in our society are really broken,” Mr. Biggar told me. “And there is a deep desire, I think, to work not just on becoming more effective within the system we have today, but also starting to look at how we can make it better, how we can create a more equal society, how we can achieve deep sustainability.”


Mr. Biggar says leadnow will be involved in two types of campaigns. One will be reacting to what the federal government is doing, holding it accountable on behalf of the 62 per cent of Canadians who voted for change in the last election. The other will be longer-term, more strategic efforts to bring about more fundamental changes. Electoral reform and economic inequality are two of the areas on which the group is focusing.
Leadnow has assembled an impressive list of advisers that includes the likes of Alex Himelfarb, a former Clerk of the Privy Council, and Beth Wilson, a managing partner at KPMG and one of the most powerful female voices in the country.
“We want to talk to people across political parties and try and create a values-based coalition of Canadians to bring about constructive change,” Mr. Biggar says. “We want to be a participatory, member-led democracy that people can trust. That’s what we’re trying to build here.”

sign up
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The Globe and Mail - Building a Progressive Voice with Focus

When Jamie Biggar and his colleagues in Canada’s youth climate movement returned from the disastrous Copenhagen conference on global warming in December, 2010, they did so with a deep sense of betrayal and abandonment.

The adults charged with addressing the world’s climate crisis seemed incapable of setting aside personal agendas, domestic political considerations and petty international grievances for the sake of the planet. And it was increasingly apparent that 20-somethings like Mr. Biggar were going to be stuck with the unhappy consequences of their short-sighted inaction.

It was around this time that Mr. Biggar and his friend, Adam Shedletzky, began talking about starting up a political-action organization in Canada modelled on MoveOn.org in the United States. Since its beginning in 1998, MoveOn had morphed into a powerful, and deep-pocketed non-profit that advocates and campaigns for progressive positions on a range of issues.

And in March of this year, leadnow.ca was born.

With the collapse of the Occupy encampments and the future of the movement in doubt, leadnow could well emerge as an intelligent and more focused alternative to a leaderless association that never had an overarching strategy for success.

In less than a year, leadnow has attracted 60,000 members. The 28-year-old Mr. Biggar says the organization’s goal is to have half a million by the time the next federal election rolls around. While it is youth-led, leadnow strives to be a group that bridges generations.

“I think there is a sense, particularly among young people, that a lot of the systems and institutions in our society are really broken,” Mr. Biggar told me. “And there is a deep desire, I think, to work not just on becoming more effective within the system we have today, but also starting to look at how we can make it better, how we can create a more equal society, how we can achieve deep sustainability.”

Mr. Biggar says leadnow will be involved in two types of campaigns. One will be reacting to what the federal government is doing, holding it accountable on behalf of the 62 per cent of Canadians who voted for change in the last election. The other will be longer-term, more strategic efforts to bring about more fundamental changes. Electoral reform and economic inequality are two of the areas on which the group is focusing.

Leadnow has assembled an impressive list of advisers that includes the likes of Alex Himelfarb, a former Clerk of the Privy Council, and Beth Wilson, a managing partner at KPMG and one of the most powerful female voices in the country.

“We want to talk to people across political parties and try and create a values-based coalition of Canadians to bring about constructive change,” Mr. Biggar says. “We want to be a participatory, member-led democracy that people can trust. That’s what we’re trying to build here.”

sign up

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Robert Jensen - Occupy demands: Let’s radicalise our analysis

The people who run this world are eager to contain the Occupy energy not because they believe that the critics of concentrated wealth and power are wrong, but because somewhere deep down in their souls (or what is left of a soul), the powerful know we are right.
People in power are insulated by wealth and privilege, but they can see the systems falling apart. US military power can no longer guarantee world domination. Financial corporations can no longer pretend to provide order in the economy.
The industrial system is incompatible with life.
We face new threats today, but we are not the first humans to live in dangerous times. In 1957 the Nobel writer Albert Camus described the world in ways that resonate:
"Tomorrow the world may burst into fragments. In that threat hanging over our heads there is a lesson of truth. As we face such a future, hierarchies, titles, honors are reduced to what they are in reality: a passing puff of smoke. And the only certainty left to us is that of naked suffering, common to all, intermingling its roots with those of a stubborn hope."
A stubborn hope is more necessary than ever. As political, economic, and ecological systems spiral down, it’s likely we will see levels of human suffering that dwarf even the horrors of the 20th century. Even more challenging is the harsh realisation that we don’t have at hand simple solutions - and maybe no solutions at all - to some of the most vexing problems. We may be past the point of no return in ecological damage, and the question is not how to prevent crises but how to mitigate the worst effects. No one can predict the rate of collapse if we stay on this trajectory, and we don’t know if we can change the trajectory in time. There is much we don’t know, but everything I see suggests that the world in which we will pursue political goals will change dramatically in the next decade or two, almost certainly for the worse. Organising has to adapt not only to changes in societies but to these fundamental changes in the ecosphere.
In short: We are organising in a period of contraction, not expansion. We have to acknowledge that human attempts to dominate the non-human world have failed. We are destroying the planet and in the process destroying ourselves. Here, just as in human relationships, we either abandon the dominance/subordination dynamic or we don’t survive. In 1948, Camus urged people to “give up empty quarrels” and “pay attention to what unites rather than to what separates us” in the struggle to recover from the horrors of Europe’s barbarism. I take from Camus a sense of how to live the tension between facing honestly the horror and yet remaining engaged. In that same talk, he spoke of “the forces of terror” (forces which exist on “our” side as much as on “theirs”) and the “forces of dialogue” (which also exist everywhere in the world). Where do we place our hopes?"Between the forces of terror and the forces of dialogue, a great unequal battle has begun," he wrote. "I have nothing but reasonable illusions as to the outcome of that battle. But I believe it must be fought." The Occupy gatherings do not yet constitute a coherent movement with demands, but they are wellsprings of reasonable illusions. Rejecting the political babble around us in election campaigns and on mass media, these gatherings are an experiment in a different kind of public dialogue about our common life, one that can reject the forces of terror deployed by concentrated wealth and power.With that understanding, the central task is to keep the experiment going, to remember the latent power in people who do not accept the legitimacy of a system. Singer/songwriter John Gorka, writing about what appears to be impossible, offers the perfect reminder:  "They think they can tame you, name you and frame you,aim you where you don’t belong. They know where you’ve been but not where you’re going,that is the source of the songs.”

G

Robert Jensen - Occupy demands: Let’s radicalise our analysis

The people who run this world are eager to contain the Occupy energy not because they believe that the critics of concentrated wealth and power are wrong, but because somewhere deep down in their souls (or what is left of a soul), the powerful know we are right.

People in power are insulated by wealth and privilege, but they can see the systems falling apart. US military power can no longer guarantee world domination. Financial corporations can no longer pretend to provide order in the economy.

The industrial system is incompatible with life.

We face new threats today, but we are not the first humans to live in dangerous times. In 1957 the Nobel writer Albert Camus described the world in ways that resonate:

"Tomorrow the world may burst into fragments. In that threat hanging over our heads there is a lesson of truth. As we face such a future, hierarchies, titles, honors are reduced to what they are in reality: a passing puff of smoke. And the only certainty left to us is that of naked suffering, common to all, intermingling its roots with those of a stubborn hope."

A stubborn hope is more necessary than ever. As political, economic, and ecological systems spiral down, it’s likely we will see levels of human suffering that dwarf even the horrors of the 20th century. Even more challenging is the harsh realisation that we don’t have at hand simple solutions - and maybe no solutions at all - to some of the most vexing problems. We may be past the point of no return in ecological damage, and the question is not how to prevent crises but how to mitigate the worst effects. No one can predict the rate of collapse if we stay on this trajectory, and we don’t know if we can change the trajectory in time. 

There is much we don’t know, but everything I see suggests that the world in which we will pursue political goals will change dramatically in the next decade or two, almost certainly for the worse. Organising has to adapt not only to changes in societies but to these fundamental changes in the ecosphere.

In short: We are organising in a period of contraction, not expansion. We have to acknowledge that human attempts to dominate the non-human world have failed. We are destroying the planet and in the process destroying ourselves. Here, just as in human relationships, we either abandon the dominance/subordination dynamic or we don’t survive. 

In 1948, Camus urged people to “give up empty quarrels” and “pay attention to what unites rather than to what separates us” in the struggle to recover from the horrors of Europe’s barbarism. I take from Camus a sense of how to live the tension between facing honestly the horror and yet remaining engaged. In that same talk, he spoke of “the forces of terror” (forces which exist on “our” side as much as on “theirs”) and the “forces of dialogue” (which also exist everywhere in the world). Where do we place our hopes?

"Between the forces of terror and the forces of dialogue, a great unequal battle has begun," he wrote. "I have nothing but reasonable illusions as to the outcome of that battle. But I believe it must be fought." 

The Occupy gatherings do not yet constitute a coherent movement with demands, but they are wellsprings of reasonable illusions. Rejecting the political babble around us in election campaigns and on mass media, these gatherings are an experiment in a different kind of public dialogue about our common life, one that can reject the forces of terror deployed by concentrated wealth and power.

With that understanding, the central task is to keep the experiment going, to remember the latent power in people who do not accept the legitimacy of a system. Singer/songwriter John Gorka, writing about what appears to be impossible, offers the perfect reminder:  

"They think they can tame you, name you and frame you,
aim you where you don’t belong. 
They know where you’ve been but not where you’re going,
that is the source of the songs.”

G

New York Magazine - Joan Didion on Her New Memoir ‘Blue Nights’

Reading Joan Didion on any subject is like tiptoeing across a just-frozen pond filled with beautiful sharks. You look down and pray the ice will hold. Meeting her is not a vastly different experience.
Opening the door to her cavernous Upper East Side apartment, the writer murmurs a monotone “hello” but doesn’t shake hands. There’s bottled water, she says, waving in the direction of a double-size Sub-Zero in her double-size kitchen. She wears a sun-faded white sleeveless skirt-suit fashioned from the raw silk curtains in her old house in Brentwood. She is 76 but looks older. She has always been birdlike, five two and wire-thin, but never quite this frail. Her arms are translucent river systems of veins. Her face is worn, unyielding. “She doesn’t express it,” says her agent and friend Lynn Nesbit, but “you see the pain in her face.”
It’s true that drawing out her feelings in person is a doomed project—that ice is thicker than it looks. Possibly the best living American essayist and probably the most influential, Didion has always maintained that she doesn’t know what she’s thinking until she writes it down. Yet over the past decade, she’s been writing down more about her own life than ever before. If you want to know about her upbringing, read Where I Was From, about the delusions of her California pioneer ancestors. If you want to know how she feels about the sudden 2003 death of her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, you can read The Year of Magical Thinking, her stark but openhearted account of emotional dislocation. And if you want to know how she feels about the drawn-out death of her adopted daughter, Quintana Roo, two years later at the age of 39, you can order her new memoir, Blue Nights, on Amazon.


Didion has always been known for the crystal sheen of her writing—as a child she retyped pages from A Farewell to Arms—and the seeming casualness of her prose has long divided readers. The critic John Lahr once condemned Didion for suffusing her writing with nothing more than her own anomie, which he memorably called “the Brentwood Blues. She meditates on her desolation and makes it elegant,” he wrote. “Sent to get the pulse of a people, Didion ends up taking her own temperature. Narcissism is the side show of conservatism.”
And yet Didion owes her stature to more than solipsistic style. She’s also a soothsayer, always timely and often prescient. By virtue of her age—just ahead of the baby-boomers, young enough to recognize them and old enough to see them clearly—Didion has made a career as a canary in the American coal mine. In the sixties, she observed, from the vital center, the dangers of the counterculture, and long before Woodstock. Beginning in the nineties, she anticipated the shallow polarization that now dominates American politics. In the aughts, just in advance of aging contemporaries like Joyce Carol Oates, she anatomized the pain of widowhood. And, in Blue Nights, she warns against the false comforts of helicopter parenting and industrial medicine.
In each case, she makes the story her own—slyly conflating private malaise and social upheaval, a signature technique that has launched a thousand personal essayists. But sometimes it’s difficult to tell which of her confessions are genuine and which calculated for literary effect, how much to trust her observations as objective and how much to interrogate them as stylistic quirks. Her clinical brand of revelation can sometimes feel like an evasion—as likely to lead the reader away from hard truths as toward them.
In person, Didion does concede to me the occasional hard criticism. She admits that her writing might lack empathy, even human curiosity. “I’m not very interested in people,” she says. “I recognize it in myself—there is a basic indifference toward people.”


Both The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights are recognizably memoirs of grief, but they’re rendered in Didion’s familiar remote voice. It’s an oddly effective fit: Her coolness plays against the genre’s sentimental excesses but still allows her to avoid argument and indulge in open-ended reveries built from repetitions of painful facts. Didion has always been a presence in her nonfiction, though ultimately a withdrawn (and withdrawing) one, whose bafflement at the chaos of life is meant to stand in for the reader’s. In Magical Thinking and especially in Blue Nights, she represents her own unwillingness to reach conclusions as the ultimate form of honesty. The result is a deeply personal book that still feels strangely passive: Blue Nights articulates many half-regrets but never a cohesive feeling that things could have gone differently.


I ask Didion if she knows herself better now. “Yes,” she says. “I don’t know that there’s any value in knowing yourself better, but I think I do. I don’t feel worse or better. It’s just there.”

G

New York Magazine - Joan Didion on Her New Memoir ‘Blue Nights’

Reading Joan Didion on any subject is like tiptoeing across a just-frozen pond filled with beautiful sharks. You look down and pray the ice will hold. Meeting her is not a vastly different experience.

Opening the door to her cavernous Upper East Side apartment, the writer murmurs a monotone “hello” but doesn’t shake hands. There’s bottled water, she says, waving in the direction of a double-size Sub-Zero in her double-size kitchen. She wears a sun-faded white sleeveless skirt-suit fashioned from the raw silk curtains in her old house in Brentwood. She is 76 but looks older. She has always been birdlike, five two and wire-thin, but never quite this frail. Her arms are translucent river systems of veins. Her face is worn, unyielding. “She doesn’t express it,” says her agent and friend Lynn Nesbit, but “you see the pain in her face.”

It’s true that drawing out her feelings in person is a doomed project—that ice is thicker than it looks. Possibly the best living American essayist and probably the most influential, Didion has always maintained that she doesn’t know what she’s thinking until she writes it down. Yet over the past decade, she’s been writing down more about her own life than ever before. If you want to know about her upbringing, read Where I Was From, about the delusions of her California pioneer ancestors. If you want to know how she feels about the sudden 2003 death of her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, you can read The Year of Magical Thinking, her stark but openhearted account of emotional dislocation. And if you want to know how she feels about the drawn-out death of her adopted daughter, Quintana Roo, two years later at the age of 39, you can order her new memoir, Blue Nights, on Amazon.

Didion has always been known for the crystal sheen of her writing—as a child she retyped pages from A Farewell to Arms—and the seeming casualness of her prose has long divided readers. The critic John Lahr once condemned Didion for suffusing her writing with nothing more than her own anomie, which he memorably called “the Brentwood Blues. She meditates on her desolation and makes it elegant,” he wrote. “Sent to get the pulse of a people, Didion ends up taking her own temperature. Narcissism is the side show of conservatism.”

And yet Didion owes her stature to more than solipsistic style. She’s also a soothsayer, always timely and often prescient. By virtue of her age—just ahead of the baby-boomers, young enough to recognize them and old enough to see them clearly—Didion has made a career as a canary in the American coal mine. In the sixties, she observed, from the vital center, the dangers of the counterculture, and long before Woodstock. Beginning in the nineties, she anticipated the shallow polarization that now dominates American politics. In the aughts, just in advance of aging contemporaries like Joyce Carol Oates, she anatomized the pain of widowhood. And, in Blue Nights, she warns against the false comforts of helicopter parenting and industrial medicine.

In each case, she makes the story her own—slyly conflating private malaise and social upheaval, a signature technique that has launched a thousand personal essayists. But sometimes it’s difficult to tell which of her confessions are genuine and which calculated for literary effect, how much to trust her observations as objective and how much to interrogate them as stylistic quirks. Her clinical brand of revelation can sometimes feel like an evasion—as likely to lead the reader away from hard truths as toward them.

In person, Didion does concede to me the occasional hard criticism. She admits that her writing might lack empathy, even human curiosity. “I’m not very interested in people,” she says. “I recognize it in myself—there is a basic indifference toward people.”

Both The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights are recognizably memoirs of grief, but they’re rendered in Didion’s familiar remote voice. It’s an oddly effective fit: Her coolness plays against the genre’s sentimental excesses but still allows her to avoid argument and indulge in open-ended reveries built from repetitions of painful facts. Didion has always been a presence in her nonfiction, though ultimately a withdrawn (and withdrawing) one, whose bafflement at the chaos of life is meant to stand in for the reader’s. In Magical Thinking and especially in Blue Nights, she represents her own unwillingness to reach conclusions as the ultimate form of honesty. The result is a deeply personal book that still feels strangely passive: Blue Nights articulates many half-regrets but never a cohesive feeling that things could have gone differently.

I ask Didion if she knows herself better now. “Yes,” she says. “I don’t know that there’s any value in knowing yourself better, but I think I do. I don’t feel worse or better. It’s just there.”

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Douglas Rushkoff (CNN) - Think Occupy Wall St. is a phase? You don’t get it

Yes, there are a wide array of complaints, demands, and goals from the Wall Street protesters: the collapsing environment, labor standards, housing policy, government corruption, World Bank lending practices, unemployment, increasing wealth disparity and so on. Different people have been affected by different aspects of the same system — and they believe they are symptoms of the same core problem.
Are they ready to articulate exactly what that problem is and how to address it? No, not yet. But neither are Congress or the president who, in thrall to corporate America and Wall Street, respectively, have consistently failed to engage in anything resembling a conversation as cogent as the many I witnessed as I strolled by Occupy Wall Street’s many teach-ins this morning. There were young people teaching one another about, among other things, how the economy works, about the disconnection of investment banking from the economy of goods and services, the history of centralized interest-bearing currency, the creation and growth of the derivatives industry, and about the Obama administration deciding to settle with, rather than investigate and prosecute the investment banking industry for housing fraud.
Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher. What upsets banking’s defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns.
That’s because, unlike a political campaign designed to get some person in office and then close up shop (as in the election of Obama), this is not a movement with a traditional narrative arc. As the product of the decentralized networked-era culture, it is less about victory than sustainability. It is not about one-pointedness, but inclusion and groping toward consensus. It is not like a book; it is like the Internet.
Occupy Wall Street is meant more as a way of life that spreads through contagion, creates as many questions as it answers, aims to force a reconsideration of the way the nation does business and offers hope to those of us who previously felt alone in our belief that the current economic system is broken.


The members of Occupy Wall Street may be as unwieldy, paradoxical, and inconsistent as those of us living in the real world. But that is precisely why their new approach to protest is more applicable, sustainable and actionable than what passes for politics today. They are suggesting that the fiscal operating system on which we are attempting to run our economy is no longer appropriate to the task. They mean to show that there is an inappropriate and correctable disconnect between the abundance America produces and the scarcity its markets manufacture.
And in the process, they are pointing the way toward something entirely different than the zero-sum game of artificial scarcity favoring top-down investors and media makers alike.

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Douglas Rushkoff (CNN) - Think Occupy Wall St. is a phase? You don’t get it

Yes, there are a wide array of complaints, demands, and goals from the Wall Street protesters: the collapsing environment, labor standards, housing policy, government corruption, World Bank lending practices, unemployment, increasing wealth disparity and so on. Different people have been affected by different aspects of the same system — and they believe they are symptoms of the same core problem.

Are they ready to articulate exactly what that problem is and how to address it? No, not yet. But neither are Congress or the president who, in thrall to corporate America and Wall Street, respectively, have consistently failed to engage in anything resembling a conversation as cogent as the many I witnessed as I strolled by Occupy Wall Street’s many teach-ins this morning. There were young people teaching one another about, among other things, how the economy works, about the disconnection of investment banking from the economy of goods and services, the history of centralized interest-bearing currency, the creation and growth of the derivatives industry, and about the Obama administration deciding to settle with, rather than investigate and prosecute the investment banking industry for housing fraud.

Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher. What upsets banking’s defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns.

That’s because, unlike a political campaign designed to get some person in office and then close up shop (as in the election of Obama), this is not a movement with a traditional narrative arc. As the product of the decentralized networked-era culture, it is less about victory than sustainability. It is not about one-pointedness, but inclusion and groping toward consensus. It is not like a book; it is like the Internet.

Occupy Wall Street is meant more as a way of life that spreads through contagion, creates as many questions as it answers, aims to force a reconsideration of the way the nation does business and offers hope to those of us who previously felt alone in our belief that the current economic system is broken.

The members of Occupy Wall Street may be as unwieldy, paradoxical, and inconsistent as those of us living in the real world. But that is precisely why their new approach to protest is more applicable, sustainable and actionable than what passes for politics today. They are suggesting that the fiscal operating system on which we are attempting to run our economy is no longer appropriate to the task. They mean to show that there is an inappropriate and correctable disconnect between the abundance America produces and the scarcity its markets manufacture.

And in the process, they are pointing the way toward something entirely different than the zero-sum game of artificial scarcity favoring top-down investors and media makers alike.

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Mark Ruffalo (The Guardian) - We are the 99 per cent

I have spent the last two days at the Occupy Wall Street gathering. It was a beautiful display of peaceful action: so much kindness and gentleness in the camp, so much belief in our world and democracy. And so many different kinds of people all looking for a chance at the dream that America had promised them.
When people critique this movement and say spurious things about the protesters’ clothes or their jobs or the general way they look, they are showing how shallow we have become as a nation. They forget that these people have taken time out of their lives to stand up for values that are purely American and in the interest of our democracy. They forget that these people are encamped in an urban park, where they are not allowed to have tents or other normal camping gear. They are living far outside their comfort zone to protect and celebrate liberty, equality and the rule of law.
It is a thing of beauty to see so many people in love with the ideal of democracy, so alive with its promise, so committed to its continuity in the face of crony capitalism and corporate rule. That should be celebrated. It should be respected and admired.
Their message is very clear and simple: get money out of the political process; strive for equality in taxation and equal rights for all regardless of race, gender, social status, sexual preference or age. We must stop poisoning our food, air and water for corporate greed. The people on Wall Street and in the banking industrial complex that destroyed oureconomy must be investigated and brought to justice under the law for what they have done by stealing people’s homes and savings.
Jobs can and must be created. Family farms must be saved. The oil and gas industry must be divested of its political power and cheap, reliable alternative energy must be made available.
This movement transcends political affiliations. America has been debased and degraded by greed. This has touched 99% of America’s population. The other 1% is doing just fine – with more than a third of the wealth of this nation. We all know people who have been hurt by the big rip-off. We all know people who have lost their jobs or their homes. We all know people who have had to go and fight wars that seem to have no objective and no end – leaving families for years on end without fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.
The 99% of us have paid a dear price so that 1% could become the wealthiest people in the world. We all pay insanely high energy prices while we see energy companies making record profits, year after year. We live with great injustices in the land of justice. We live with great lawlessness in the land of the law.
It’s time to check ourselves, to see if we still have that small part that believes in the values that America promises. Do we still have a shred of our decency intact in the face of debasement? If you do, then now is the time to give that forgotten part a voice. That is what this movement is ultimately about: giving voice to decency and fairness.
I invite anyone and all to participate in this people’s movement to regain your dignity and what you have worked for in this capitalist society. Each of us is of great value to the whole. Do not forget your greatness. Even when the world around you is telling you you are nothing. You have a voice. You want a better life for your children and the people you love. You live in a democracy. You belong, and you deserve a world that is fair and equal. You have a right to take your place and be heard.
Show up at an Occupy Wall Street gathering in any major city in the US. Hit your social media outlets. Tweet it. Facebook it. Talk it up. It’s easy to do nothing, but your heart breaks a little more every time you do.

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Mark Ruffalo (The Guardian) - We are the 99 per cent

I have spent the last two days at the Occupy Wall Street gathering. It was a beautiful display of peaceful action: so much kindness and gentleness in the camp, so much belief in our world and democracy. And so many different kinds of people all looking for a chance at the dream that America had promised them.

When people critique this movement and say spurious things about the protesters’ clothes or their jobs or the general way they look, they are showing how shallow we have become as a nation. They forget that these people have taken time out of their lives to stand up for values that are purely American and in the interest of our democracy. They forget that these people are encamped in an urban park, where they are not allowed to have tents or other normal camping gear. They are living far outside their comfort zone to protect and celebrate liberty, equality and the rule of law.

It is a thing of beauty to see so many people in love with the ideal of democracy, so alive with its promise, so committed to its continuity in the face of crony capitalism and corporate rule. That should be celebrated. It should be respected and admired.

Their message is very clear and simple: get money out of the political process; strive for equality in taxation and equal rights for all regardless of race, gender, social status, sexual preference or age. We must stop poisoning our food, air and water for corporate greed. The people on Wall Street and in the banking industrial complex that destroyed oureconomy must be investigated and brought to justice under the law for what they have done by stealing people’s homes and savings.

Jobs can and must be created. Family farms must be saved. The oil and gas industry must be divested of its political power and cheap, reliable alternative energy must be made available.

This movement transcends political affiliations. America has been debased and degraded by greed. This has touched 99% of America’s population. The other 1% is doing just fine – with more than a third of the wealth of this nation. We all know people who have been hurt by the big rip-off. We all know people who have lost their jobs or their homes. We all know people who have had to go and fight wars that seem to have no objective and no end – leaving families for years on end without fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.

The 99% of us have paid a dear price so that 1% could become the wealthiest people in the world. We all pay insanely high energy prices while we see energy companies making record profits, year after year. We live with great injustices in the land of justice. We live with great lawlessness in the land of the law.

It’s time to check ourselves, to see if we still have that small part that believes in the values that America promises. Do we still have a shred of our decency intact in the face of debasement? If you do, then now is the time to give that forgotten part a voice. That is what this movement is ultimately about: giving voice to decency and fairness.

I invite anyone and all to participate in this people’s movement to regain your dignity and what you have worked for in this capitalist society. Each of us is of great value to the whole. Do not forget your greatness. Even when the world around you is telling you you are nothing. You have a voice. You want a better life for your children and the people you love. You live in a democracy. You belong, and you deserve a world that is fair and equal. You have a right to take your place and be heard.

Show up at an Occupy Wall Street gathering in any major city in the US. Hit your social media outlets. Tweet it. Facebook it. Talk it up. It’s easy to do nothing, but your heart breaks a little more every time you do.

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Eli Schmitt (n+1) - #occupywallstreet

 
Since Saturday, it has been harder for me to remain hesitant, to maintain my uncertainty about whether the people still occupying Liberty Plaza are succeeding, or could succeed, or even what they might succeed at. We still don’t know exactly what the demands are. One of the members of our group, in discussing the criteria for a good demand, noted that Americans like to “get something” out of a political action. Repeal, enact, ban. We want visible, measurable outcomes. But we have no Mubarak, no Qaddafi. We are the country that reelected Bush, that bailed out the banks, that has stalemates in Congress about paltry tax increases. Our partial joblessness and alienating democratic system may be very real, our reasons for congregating concrete, but the precise causes of our distress are still far off, the specific solutions perhaps further. 
I went back to Zuccotti Park on Monday around 11:30 PM. There were fifty people maybe, many of them sleeping, or preparing to sleep. A kid playing guitar. Someone was projecting images of Twitter onto a white screen. Hundreds of cardboard signs were laid out on the ground, lit by street lamps, waiting for protestors to take them up again. A chatty stranger from Virginia Beach told me he had moved to New York; “Where do you live?” I asked. He gestured out at the park, at the topless men smoking hand-rolled cigarettes sitting in front of banks of computers set up on poured concrete flower beds. “I live here now. We’re going to be here for a while.” 
Despite the repeated mentions of “Tahrir Square” and #globalrevolution on Twitter, the uprisings in the Middle East are probably not the best model for effecting change in America. But insofar as they constitute instances of political change instigated by groups of likeminded citizens, they are exciting to think about. It is exciting that people are upset and have claimed a public space as both a symbol of distress and a practical means of organizing. It is exciting that the protests and the occupation have persisted for over a week. It is possible, I think, without being starry-eyed or overeager, to be hopeful. And it is OK to be hesitant. It is OK to want to get something but also not be sure exactly how to get it, or even what it is. If the gathering was a justification of itself, then it arguably has succeeded. If we have not precisely enumerated our demands yet, at least we know that we have them. We would like to get something.

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Eli Schmitt (n+1) - #occupywallstreet

Since Saturday, it has been harder for me to remain hesitant, to maintain my uncertainty about whether the people still occupying Liberty Plaza are succeeding, or could succeed, or even what they might succeed at. We still don’t know exactly what the demands are. One of the members of our group, in discussing the criteria for a good demand, noted that Americans like to “get something” out of a political action. Repeal, enact, ban. We want visible, measurable outcomes. But we have no Mubarak, no Qaddafi. We are the country that reelected Bush, that bailed out the banks, that has stalemates in Congress about paltry tax increases. Our partial joblessness and alienating democratic system may be very real, our reasons for congregating concrete, but the precise causes of our distress are still far off, the specific solutions perhaps further. 

I went back to Zuccotti Park on Monday around 11:30 PM. There were fifty people maybe, many of them sleeping, or preparing to sleep. A kid playing guitar. Someone was projecting images of Twitter onto a white screen. Hundreds of cardboard signs were laid out on the ground, lit by street lamps, waiting for protestors to take them up again. A chatty stranger from Virginia Beach told me he had moved to New York; “Where do you live?” I asked. He gestured out at the park, at the topless men smoking hand-rolled cigarettes sitting in front of banks of computers set up on poured concrete flower beds. “I live here now. We’re going to be here for a while.” 

Despite the repeated mentions of “Tahrir Square” and #globalrevolution on Twitter, the uprisings in the Middle East are probably not the best model for effecting change in America. But insofar as they constitute instances of political change instigated by groups of likeminded citizens, they are exciting to think about. It is exciting that people are upset and have claimed a public space as both a symbol of distress and a practical means of organizing. It is exciting that the protests and the occupation have persisted for over a week. It is possible, I think, without being starry-eyed or overeager, to be hopeful. And it is OK to be hesitant. It is OK to want to get something but also not be sure exactly how to get it, or even what it is. If the gathering was a justification of itself, then it arguably has succeeded. If we have not precisely enumerated our demands yet, at least we know that we have them. We would like to get something.

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Dimitri Hamlin (Huffington Post) - Is That All There Is? The Question Of Nihilism

 
Just because I have been disillusioned and disappointed by particular value-systems, it does not follow that I need to deny the real existence of absolute or objective meaning, value and purpose to all experience and life. Acting as though I do not care does not prove that there is nothing to care about. On the contrary, I think every act is intentionally directed to progressively discover our fundamental understanding of the world as built upon the structure of care itself. Care is how the world makes a difference to us by enabling our free involvement and interest with things, including alleged concerns with meaninglessness.
If the question “Is that all there is?” does not necessarily evoke strict nihilism and misguided moral nihilism, then it can actually be quite liberating. Instead of ironically reading disappointment with some things not meeting expectations as evidence in support of nihilism, I choose to direct my attention to how important I feel it is to anticipate making a difference through correspondence with the world. I find it liberating to understand how everything is permissible not because the absence of God or Truth practically provides moral license for any and all action; instead, because everything expresses itself first as the potential for experience, there exists a “nothing” before actual things. Nothing is true and everything is permissible, therefore I am free before everything.
Nothing is the positive yet indeterminate impression on the horizon, just before becoming something definite. It is nothing and it is not-nothing. Together with the present, it is the future and it is the past. It is the pure potential and freedom to experience — the initial “I can” of intentional consciousness that provides for my participation and correspondence with wonder.

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Dimitri Hamlin (Huffington Post) - Is That All There Is? The Question Of Nihilism

Just because I have been disillusioned and disappointed by particular value-systems, it does not follow that I need to deny the real existence of absolute or objective meaning, value and purpose to all experience and life. Acting as though I do not care does not prove that there is nothing to care about. On the contrary, I think every act is intentionally directed to progressively discover our fundamental understanding of the world as built upon the structure of care itself. Care is how the world makes a difference to us by enabling our free involvement and interest with things, including alleged concerns with meaninglessness.

If the question “Is that all there is?” does not necessarily evoke strict nihilism and misguided moral nihilism, then it can actually be quite liberating. Instead of ironically reading disappointment with some things not meeting expectations as evidence in support of nihilism, I choose to direct my attention to how important I feel it is to anticipate making a difference through correspondence with the world. I find it liberating to understand how everything is permissible not because the absence of God or Truth practically provides moral license for any and all action; instead, because everything expresses itself first as the potential for experience, there exists a “nothing” before actual things. Nothing is true and everything is permissible, therefore I am free before everything.

Nothing is the positive yet indeterminate impression on the horizon, just before becoming something definite. It is nothing and it is not-nothing. Together with the present, it is the future and it is the past. It is the pure potential and freedom to experience — the initial “I can” of intentional consciousness that provides for my participation and correspondence with wonder.

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The Guardian - Police crack down on ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests

The anti-capitalist protests that have become something of a fixture in Lower Manhattan over the past week or so have taken on a distinctly ugly turn.

Police have been accused of heavy-handed tactics after making 80 arrests on Saturday when protesters marched uptown from their makeshift camp in a private park in the financial district.

Footage has emerged on YouTube showing stocky police officers coralling a group of young female protesters and then spraying them with mace, despite being surrounded and apparently posing threats of only the verbal kind.

NYPD officers strung orange netting across the streets to trap groups of protesters, a tactic described by some of them as “kettling” – a term more commonly used by critics of a similar tactic deployed by police in London to contain potentially violent demonstrations there.

definitely agree with this commenter’s point:

I am disappointed to find you referring to this protest as anti-capitalist which has a negative and alienating connotation, and which is a dangerously false label.This is about our broken system and taking our government back to a place of being about and for the people, not corporate interests.

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Time - A Lost Masterpiece, Now Found in Tokyo’s Metro

Trying to stop amid the stream of commuters at Tokyo’s Shibuya station — through which 2.3 million people pass every day — can be a risk. Even stepping out of the flow to grab a paper at one of the station’s many convenience stores can be a struggle. But as of Monday, there’s a new reason for Tokyoites to take a detour from their well-worn paths: revered Japanese artist Taro Okamoto’s Asu no Shinwa (“Myth of Tomorrow”) now has a permanent home near the Keio Inokashira line in the Shibuya station.
True to Okamoto’s trademark expression — “Art is an explosion!” — Myth of Tomorrow depicts the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, drawing comparisons from some critics to Picasso’s Guernica, which illustrates the 1937 firebombings of that Spanish city. (In fact, the two were contemporaries, and Okamoto is often compared with Picasso.) The white-tiled station wall has thus transformed into a burning landscape, swirling with hues of red, yellow and black.
Though the mural was begun nearly 40 years ago, this week’s installation is the first time the work has been seen by the public. A colorful 30-m long painting of 14 panels, Myth of Tomorrow is a remarkable window into the early vision of Okamoto, who died 12 years ago.


Hirano and others took over the project, tackling the bigger question of how to restore a piece of art that nobody had ever seen in its original condition. “A work is a living thing. Everything ages with a certain dignity, but no one had seen the mural’s life,” says Hirano. “So the decision was made to restore the mural to the beginning — to the original.” Restorer Emile Yoshimura and Hirano struggled to realize what they thought might resemble the original and were pleased with the result.
That is now what passersby can see in Shibuya, a district where young Tokyoites thrive, thinking little in their day-to-day lives of what their grandparents lived through. Tokyo’s Shibuya was chosen over other locations in cities that wanted the mural for display, and it will remain there for at least 10 to 20 years before the new Shibuya station, designed by architect Tadao Ando, is built. “It is about regeneration,” says Hirano. “Japanese people won’t see themselves as victims, but carry a sense of pride and take a step forward. I hope they’re inspired by it.” In a museum, Hirano says, the mural would have a limited audience. But in the station, the work can speak to anyone. That is, anyone willing to step out of the rush and take a moment to look at a new work of art, 40 years in the making.

[photo source]
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Time - A Lost Masterpiece, Now Found in Tokyo’s Metro

Trying to stop amid the stream of commuters at Tokyo’s Shibuya station — through which 2.3 million people pass every day — can be a risk. Even stepping out of the flow to grab a paper at one of the station’s many convenience stores can be a struggle. But as of Monday, there’s a new reason for Tokyoites to take a detour from their well-worn paths: revered Japanese artist Taro Okamoto’s Asu no Shinwa (“Myth of Tomorrow”) now has a permanent home near the Keio Inokashira line in the Shibuya station.

True to Okamoto’s trademark expression — “Art is an explosion!” — Myth of Tomorrow depicts the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, drawing comparisons from some critics to Picasso’s Guernica, which illustrates the 1937 firebombings of that Spanish city. (In fact, the two were contemporaries, and Okamoto is often compared with Picasso.) The white-tiled station wall has thus transformed into a burning landscape, swirling with hues of red, yellow and black.

Though the mural was begun nearly 40 years ago, this week’s installation is the first time the work has been seen by the public. A colorful 30-m long painting of 14 panels, Myth of Tomorrow is a remarkable window into the early vision of Okamoto, who died 12 years ago.

Hirano and others took over the project, tackling the bigger question of how to restore a piece of art that nobody had ever seen in its original condition. “A work is a living thing. Everything ages with a certain dignity, but no one had seen the mural’s life,” says Hirano. “So the decision was made to restore the mural to the beginning — to the original.” Restorer Emile Yoshimura and Hirano struggled to realize what they thought might resemble the original and were pleased with the result.

That is now what passersby can see in Shibuya, a district where young Tokyoites thrive, thinking little in their day-to-day lives of what their grandparents lived through. Tokyo’s Shibuya was chosen over other locations in cities that wanted the mural for display, and it will remain there for at least 10 to 20 years before the new Shibuya station, designed by architect Tadao Ando, is built. “It is about regeneration,” says Hirano. “Japanese people won’t see themselves as victims, but carry a sense of pride and take a step forward. I hope they’re inspired by it.” In a museum, Hirano says, the mural would have a limited audience. But in the station, the work can speak to anyone. That is, anyone willing to step out of the rush and take a moment to look at a new work of art, 40 years in the making.

[photo source]

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The New York Times - Miranda July Is Totally Not Kidding

The urban bohemian irks precisely because his or her quirky individuality is just part of a different kind of uniformity, where the uniform happens to be a bushy beard or Zooey Deschanel bangs rather than country-club khakis. Twee fascinations with childhood innocence can mask an unwillingness to tackle life’s darker quandaries. Who wouldn’t be annoyed by a guy who, say, finds a cracked milk bottle, makes a film about it, then silk screens it on a T-shirt and names his band Milk Bottle? The stakes are low. The results are soon forgotten.
But is Miranda July the archenemy of seriousness? She has an affinity for surface detail, like the childlike scrawl on her sculptures that appeared in the Venice Biennale or the matching haircuts of her two main characters in “The Future.” But unlike certain directors who fixate on marginalia, creating art in which the engraving on a character’s belt buckle takes precedence over the story, July’s seemingly superficial gestures service something greater: a pulsing emotional center. It’s odd that she has come to represent, for some, a kind of soulless hipster cool, because in July’s work, nobody is cool. There’s no irony to it, no insider wink. Her characters are ordinary people whose lives don’t normally invite investigation. So her project is the opposite of hipster exclusion: her work is desperate to bring people together, forcing them into a kind of fellow feeling. She’s unrelentingly sincere, and maybe that sincerity makes her difficult to bear. It also might make her culturally essential


July set out to write a tighter, more controlled story than her first film, with fewer characters. She was also in her 30s, and she was feeling older and less rainbow colored.
“It’s kind of about letting go of that feeling of my 20s, that feeling that I will do absolutely everything, I will have sex with everyone, I will go to every country,” she says. “In your 30s, it’s obvious that a finite amount of things will happen.” In “The Future,” the characters sum it up. Sophie: “We’ll be 40 in five years.” Jason: “Forty is basically 50. And then after 50, the rest is just loose change.”


The day after “The Future” was completed last fall, Putterlik died at age 81. In the spring, his wife died, too. July found out that most of their things were being tossed in a Dumpster, and so, in a panic, she drove over to their house and rescued as many objects as she could.
The tableau — July rifling through a box of poignant mementos, including a plastic-cow diorama that she placed gently on its side — could well have been a scene in one of her films. It could even, at first glance, have seemed like the kind of moment her critics accuse her of: a boxful of curiosities passed off as profundity.
But when she showed me the construction-paper card, holding it very carefully, she was clearly touched by this man’s love for his wife. With her film, she’s trying to understand and excavate something of that love. There was no fetishizing of the oddball, no crippling nostalgia, no lack of gravitas, either in that desire or in its result.
Maybe not everyone will believe this about her. I asked her what, if anything, she would like to say to those people. “I would just say I’m totally not kidding,” she said. “Life is too short. This is all too hard to do to actually be kidding about the whole thing.”

G

The New York Times - Miranda July Is Totally Not Kidding

The urban bohemian irks precisely because his or her quirky individuality is just part of a different kind of uniformity, where the uniform happens to be a bushy beard or Zooey Deschanel bangs rather than country-club khakis. Twee fascinations with childhood innocence can mask an unwillingness to tackle life’s darker quandaries. Who wouldn’t be annoyed by a guy who, say, finds a cracked milk bottle, makes a film about it, then silk screens it on a T-shirt and names his band Milk Bottle? The stakes are low. The results are soon forgotten.

But is Miranda July the archenemy of seriousness? She has an affinity for surface detail, like the childlike scrawl on her sculptures that appeared in the Venice Biennale or the matching haircuts of her two main characters in “The Future.” But unlike certain directors who fixate on marginalia, creating art in which the engraving on a character’s belt buckle takes precedence over the story, July’s seemingly superficial gestures service something greater: a pulsing emotional center. It’s odd that she has come to represent, for some, a kind of soulless hipster cool, because in July’s work, nobody is cool. There’s no irony to it, no insider wink. Her characters are ordinary people whose lives don’t normally invite investigation. So her project is the opposite of hipster exclusion: her work is desperate to bring people together, forcing them into a kind of fellow feeling. She’s unrelentingly sincere, and maybe that sincerity makes her difficult to bear. It also might make her culturally essential

July set out to write a tighter, more controlled story than her first film, with fewer characters. She was also in her 30s, and she was feeling older and less rainbow colored.

“It’s kind of about letting go of that feeling of my 20s, that feeling that I will do absolutely everything, I will have sex with everyone, I will go to every country,” she says. “In your 30s, it’s obvious that a finite amount of things will happen.” In “The Future,” the characters sum it up. Sophie: “We’ll be 40 in five years.” Jason: “Forty is basically 50. And then after 50, the rest is just loose change.”

The day after “The Future” was completed last fall, Putterlik died at age 81. In the spring, his wife died, too. July found out that most of their things were being tossed in a Dumpster, and so, in a panic, she drove over to their house and rescued as many objects as she could.

The tableau — July rifling through a box of poignant mementos, including a plastic-cow diorama that she placed gently on its side — could well have been a scene in one of her films. It could even, at first glance, have seemed like the kind of moment her critics accuse her of: a boxful of curiosities passed off as profundity.

But when she showed me the construction-paper card, holding it very carefully, she was clearly touched by this man’s love for his wife. With her film, she’s trying to understand and excavate something of that love. There was no fetishizing of the oddball, no crippling nostalgia, no lack of gravitas, either in that desire or in its result.

Maybe not everyone will believe this about her. I asked her what, if anything, she would like to say to those people. “I would just say I’m totally not kidding,” she said. “Life is too short. This is all too hard to do to actually be kidding about the whole thing.”

G

verbalresistance:

“Time was Inherited from an Earlier Universe”
A world-class team of  physicists studying the cosmic microwave background (CMB), light emitted  when the Universe was just 400,000 years old have claimed that our view  of the early Universe may contain the signature of a time before the  Big Bang. Their discovery may help explain why we experience time moving  in a straight line from yesterday into tomorrow.
The  CMB is relic radiation that fills the entire Universe and is regarded  as the most conclusive evidence for the Big Bang. Although this  microwave background is mostly smooth, the Cobe satellite in 1992  discovered small fluctuations that were believed to be the seeds from  which the galaxy clusters we see in today’s Universe grew.Dr  Adrienne Erickcek, from the California Institute of Technology  (Caltech), and colleagues believe these fluctuations contain hints that  our Universe “bubbled off” from a previous one. Their data came from  Nasa’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which has been  studying the CMB since its launch in 2001.Their model suggests  that new universes could be created spontaneously from apparently empty  space. From inside the parent universe, the event would be surprisingly  unspectacular.Describing the team’s work, California Institute  of Technology professor Sean Carroll explained that “a universe could  form inside this room and we’d never know”.The inspiration for  their theory isn’t just an explanation for the Big Bang our Universe  experienced 13.7 billion years ago, but lies in an attempt to explain  one of the largest mysteries in physics - why time seems to move in one  direction. The laws that govern physics on a microscopic scale are  completely reversible, and yet, as Professor Carroll commented, “no one  gets confused about which is yesterday and which is tomorrow.” Carroll  added: “Every time you break an egg or spill a glass of water you’re  learning about the Big Bang.”
Read More: dailygalaxy.com

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verbalresistance:

“Time was Inherited from an Earlier Universe”

A world-class team of physicists studying the cosmic microwave background (CMB), light emitted when the Universe was just 400,000 years old have claimed that our view of the early Universe may contain the signature of a time before the Big Bang. Their discovery may help explain why we experience time moving in a straight line from yesterday into tomorrow.

The CMB is relic radiation that fills the entire Universe and is regarded as the most conclusive evidence for the Big Bang. Although this microwave background is mostly smooth, the Cobe satellite in 1992 discovered small fluctuations that were believed to be the seeds from which the galaxy clusters we see in today’s Universe grew.

Dr Adrienne Erickcek, from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and colleagues believe these fluctuations contain hints that our Universe “bubbled off” from a previous one. Their data came from Nasa’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which has been studying the CMB since its launch in 2001.

Their model suggests that new universes could be created spontaneously from apparently empty space. From inside the parent universe, the event would be surprisingly unspectacular.


Describing the team’s work, California Institute of Technology professor Sean Carroll explained that “a universe could form inside this room and we’d never know”.

The inspiration for their theory isn’t just an explanation for the Big Bang our Universe experienced 13.7 billion years ago, but lies in an attempt to explain one of the largest mysteries in physics - why time seems to move in one direction. The laws that govern physics on a microscopic scale are completely reversible, and yet, as Professor Carroll commented, “no one gets confused about which is yesterday and which is tomorrow.” Carroll added: “Every time you break an egg or spill a glass of water you’re learning about the Big Bang.”

Read More: dailygalaxy.com

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(via intoxicatedspirit-deactivated20)

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The Economist - The debt ceiling deal; Nuts and bolts


ON SATURDAY July 30th, with a potential federal default just three days away, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, went before the press to declare, “We now have a level of seriousness with the right people at the table.” Approximately a day later, Republicans struck a deal with Democrats in Congress and President Barack Obama to raise the statutory ceiling on the federal debt and avoid a default that would have sent shockwaves through the global economy.
If it really took this long for the leaders to get serious, then it’s hard not to conclude that the preceding months of partisan rhetoric, competing proposals and brinkmanship were an elaborate kabuki to appease the parties’ respective bases, that would then give way to sensible bargaining. Indeed, the final deal looks remarkably similar to what knowledgeable insiders had long ago predicted would emerge. There was no grand bargain combining cuts to entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security with revenue-raising tax reform as America so desperately needs (though there were also no draconian and immediate cuts to spending as many tea-party warriors wanted).
Rather, the result is a mishmash of expedient stop gaps and promises that tilts heavily to Republican priorities while guaranteeing more wrangling and uncertainty in the months ahead. It does nothing to support the near-term economic outlook, and makes less progress on long-term fiscal consolidation than hoped.




If Republicans are the clear winner from this deal, the economy is the loser. An ideal deficit-reduction package would have coupled near-term stimulus with long-term consolidation that stabilised then reduced the debt as a share of GDP. This deal certainly doesn’t do the first and it’s unclear that it will do the second. True, it does not add significant new fiscal tightening: total discretionary spending would be a mere $7 billion lower in fiscal 2012 and $3 billion in fiscal 2013 than current levels, according to a Democratic Senate fact sheet. On the other hand fiscal policy is already set to tighten automatically; the International Monetary Fund estimates by the equivalent of 1.4% of GDP. Mr Obama had hoped to extend the payroll tax cut as part of the deal. He may yet do so during the Congressional negotiations, but that seems a fading prospect. It is striking that last Friday’s appallingly weak GDP data did nothing to shape the deal any further in the direction of near-term stimulus.
As for long-term fiscal consolidation, the deal also falls short. Total deficit reduction of $2.5 trillion is less than the $4 trillion that bipartisan groups and political leaders had more or less agreed was necessary to put the debt on a meaningful downward path relative to GDP. It’s also the number Standard & Poor’s, a credit rating agency, had suggested was necessary for America to avoid a downgrade to its AAA credit rating. And it’s worth noting that now that GDP has been revised to be smaller than we’d realised,  debt is larger as a share of GDP.
In the end, hopes for a grand bargain that addressed entitlements, taxes and near-term economic support ran aground on the harsh reality that all these things would require bridging profound philosophical differences that have developed over decades. The odds that the next few months will yield a different outcome seem low: further brinkmanship (albeit of a less terrifying sort than seen in the past weeks) is more likely. That has become the routine way that fiscal policy gets made in America. True, stock markets rallied with relief that the most reckless path has been avoided. Meeting such a low standard should hardly be considered a vote of confidence in America’s fundamental fiscal and political maturity.


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The Economist - The debt ceiling deal; Nuts and bolts

ON SATURDAY July 30th, with a potential federal default just three days away, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, went before the press to declare, “We now have a level of seriousness with the right people at the table.” Approximately a day later, Republicans struck a deal with Democrats in Congress and President Barack Obama to raise the statutory ceiling on the federal debt and avoid a default that would have sent shockwaves through the global economy.

If it really took this long for the leaders to get serious, then it’s hard not to conclude that the preceding months of partisan rhetoric, competing proposals and brinkmanship were an elaborate kabuki to appease the parties’ respective bases, that would then give way to sensible bargaining. Indeed, the final deal looks remarkably similar to what knowledgeable insiders had long ago predicted would emerge. There was no grand bargain combining cuts to entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security with revenue-raising tax reform as America so desperately needs (though there were also no draconian and immediate cuts to spending as many tea-party warriors wanted).

Rather, the result is a mishmash of expedient stop gaps and promises that tilts heavily to Republican priorities while guaranteeing more wrangling and uncertainty in the months ahead. It does nothing to support the near-term economic outlook, and makes less progress on long-term fiscal consolidation than hoped.

If Republicans are the clear winner from this deal, the economy is the loser. An ideal deficit-reduction package would have coupled near-term stimulus with long-term consolidation that stabilised then reduced the debt as a share of GDP. This deal certainly doesn’t do the first and it’s unclear that it will do the second. True, it does not add significant new fiscal tightening: total discretionary spending would be a mere $7 billion lower in fiscal 2012 and $3 billion in fiscal 2013 than current levels, according to a Democratic Senate fact sheet. On the other hand fiscal policy is already set to tighten automatically; the International Monetary Fund estimates by the equivalent of 1.4% of GDP. Mr Obama had hoped to extend the payroll tax cut as part of the deal. He may yet do so during the Congressional negotiations, but that seems a fading prospect. It is striking that last Friday’s appallingly weak GDP data did nothing to shape the deal any further in the direction of near-term stimulus.

As for long-term fiscal consolidation, the deal also falls short. Total deficit reduction of $2.5 trillion is less than the $4 trillion that bipartisan groups and political leaders had more or less agreed was necessary to put the debt on a meaningful downward path relative to GDP. It’s also the number Standard & Poor’s, a credit rating agency, had suggested was necessary for America to avoid a downgrade to its AAA credit rating. And it’s worth noting that now that GDP has been revised to be smaller than we’d realised,  debt is larger as a share of GDP.

In the end, hopes for a grand bargain that addressed entitlements, taxes and near-term economic support ran aground on the harsh reality that all these things would require bridging profound philosophical differences that have developed over decades. The odds that the next few months will yield a different outcome seem low: further brinkmanship (albeit of a less terrifying sort than seen in the past weeks) is more likely. That has become the routine way that fiscal policy gets made in America. True, stock markets rallied with relief that the most reckless path has been avoided. Meeting such a low standard should hardly be considered a vote of confidence in America’s fundamental fiscal and political maturity.

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BUTT - HOLCOMBE WALLER SINGER-SONGWRITER FROM PORTLAND IS FED UP WITH BEING HAPPY
Do you know Sufjan Stevens? I think he has an intriguing mix of performing and singing and doing dress changes. His shows are wildly entertaining. He’s got good songs, a great voice and he’s amazingly cute too.I haven’t seen him play. What I’m saying is, I’m totally inspired to push the boundaries of what I’m doing. But you know, frankly, most of my inclinations in that direction are totally activist-oriented. They’re completely about political performance and politically oriented music and performance. I’m kind of obsessed with what’s going on politically in this country and in the world. Like, last fall my friend put on sort of a drag show, and one of the acts was me dressed up as a Saudi princess in full burka, and he was dressed up like Laura Bush, and together we sang It’s Raining Men by the Weather Girls, with this video montage of the Twin Towers exploding behind us and body parts flying onto the stage.How graphic……and important! The whole 9-11 thing in this country has everyone trapped in this post-traumatic stress syndrome. If you just show a picture of the Twin Towers in a room full of noisy people everyone will literally fall to a silent hush — it’s freaky. Everyone needs to get over it and get on, ’cause the bullshit that the government has been enacting in the name of 9-11 is just egregious and destructive. I’m so fucking sick of this fucking thing of everybody being scared. That bullshit is taking over my approach to music. I’m really tired of going to clubs and seeing people singing these fucking songs and this whole theme of feeling good. I’m just tired of sentimental music and a lot of stuff. Like, I know that Sufjan is really fabulous, but I’m really tired of hipster fascists. Fuck the hipster fascists! The shit that’s going on in the world is real, and important, and integral to our lives and our future. And it’s not like it’s uncool to admit that. I think it’s fucking really cool to be a revolutionary and an activist, and it’s really dull to have some sort of an a-symmetrical haircut and be obsessed about what type of jeans you’re wearing. 
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BUTT - HOLCOMBE WALLER SINGER-SONGWRITER FROM PORTLAND IS FED UP WITH BEING HAPPY

Do you know Sufjan Stevens? I think he has an intriguing mix of performing and singing and doing dress changes. His shows are wildly entertaining. He’s got good songs, a great voice and he’s amazingly cute too.

I haven’t seen him play. What I’m saying is, I’m totally inspired to push the boundaries of what I’m doing. But you know, frankly, most of my inclinations in that direction are totally activist-oriented. They’re completely about political performance and politically oriented music and performance. I’m kind of obsessed with what’s going on politically in this country and in the world. Like, last fall my friend put on sort of a drag show, and one of the acts was me dressed up as a Saudi princess in full burka, and he was dressed up like Laura Bush, and together we sang It’s Raining Men by the Weather Girls, with this video montage of the Twin Towers exploding behind us and body parts flying onto the stage.

How graphic…

…and important! The whole 9-11 thing in this country has everyone trapped in this post-traumatic stress syndrome. If you just show a picture of the Twin Towers in a room full of noisy people everyone will literally fall to a silent hush — it’s freaky. Everyone needs to get over it and get on, ’cause the bullshit that the government has been enacting in the name of 9-11 is just egregious and destructive. I’m so fucking sick of this fucking thing of everybody being scared. That bullshit is taking over my approach to music. I’m really tired of going to clubs and seeing people singing these fucking songs and this whole theme of feeling good. I’m just tired of sentimental music and a lot of stuff. Like, I know that Sufjan is really fabulous, but I’m really tired of hipster fascists. Fuck the hipster fascists! The shit that’s going on in the world is real, and important, and integral to our lives and our future. And it’s not like it’s uncool to admit that. I think it’s fucking really cool to be a revolutionary and an activist, and it’s really dull to have some sort of an a-symmetrical haircut and be obsessed about what type of jeans you’re wearing. 

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