In different ways, music, painting, and poetry each split into two: a cerebral, avant-garde version devoted to extending the modernist experiment; and a popular version that appealed to mass audiences without knowledge of the art’s traditions and conventions. The “serious” artists made a Tantalean bargain with the academy, which gave them a secure living and a measure of prestige while cutting them off from what any artist wants most—an actual audience. The popular artists won a level of fame and fortune that would have been unimaginable in the past, but what they do is not really art—or, better, not the same art.
If poetry is to remain relevant, distinguishing “art” from “pop” helps no one. Rather, it seems all poems inhabit ranges: good/bad, evocative/trite, innovative/conventional, euphonic/atonal, literal/allusive…and poems (and poets) can be measured against one another along these continua.
On “getting” poetry | New Criterion
Last year — barely 12 months into the experiment — [CEO Evan] Williams had already grown uncomfortable with the cost of the team he had just built. Paid subscriptions, which had been on the rise, flatlined in 2020. Publication budgets were cut — and then cut again, and again. Editors who were lured to Medium on the promise of being able to build out full-fledged publications were suddenly begging for enough money to pay for a handful of freelance stories a week.
The rest of their “publications” would comprise posts written on spec by an army of self-serve freelancers who uploaded their work to the platform in hopes it would be selected by an editor for promotion. This program, called “Amplify,” has become a core pillar of Williams’ vision for the future. Instead of paying full-time salaries and benefits to staff, Williams can use Amplify to get the content he wants at a fraction of the cost.
Amplify’s writers are paid a small and essentially random fraction of subscription revenue, based on how many people read their story. In theory their financial upside is unlimited, but in practice the program pays almost no one a living wage.
It seems like all these “innovative” tech billionaire serial entrepreneurs only know how to make money one way.
The Mess at Medium | The Verge
This really hit home:
My need for meaning and purpose, and my desire to be part of something bigger than myself, were likely motivators for joining the military. People assume that it’s the bad experiences soldiers have endured that make it difficult to adjust to life after the military. While this is sometimes true, very often it’s the absence of what soldiers valued that makes the transition difficult – the loss of meaning, sense of purpose and belonging. Those who sign up for service are likely more hard-wired than most to seek these things, making the loss all the keener. Under Gray’s influence, I recognise the difficulty of this loss and have found solace in his advice about how one can aspire to move past these innate human needs. I am not yet living in a way that Gray would approve of, hope for progress is more intoxicating than the dry lessons of history, but I am more selective in my choice of distractions today, and aspire one day to just be able to sit still in a room and live in that scented moment, before it’s gone.
Reading John Gray in war | Aeon
How is it possible that two bookshelves, all but identical in appearance and construction, can exemplify both left-wing critical design and the world’s most successful capitalist furniture-manufacturing strategy?
Such large-scale social change should prompt us to ask larger questions: What kind of world do we want to live in when we emerge from these chaotic times? How much of that world will have been actively built with our input, and how much of it will have been constructed for us by engineers in ways that only in hindsight we will understand to have been foundational? What patterns of behavior and habits of mind do these solutions privilege over other ways of doing things? What are the likely unintended consequences?
Technosolutionism Isn’t the Fix | Hedgehog Review
Furthermore, his paintings also often suggest connectedness, even in the midst of isolation. The woman in Automat may have felt like she was the only woman ever to sit alone at a table in public, but she wasn’t, of course. The painting works for me because the experience is at once unique to the woman in the painting and a common occurrence. The reason I like Morning Sun and Office in a Small City so much is that, taken apart, they show individuals isolated from the rest of the world, but taken together, they show how alike we are. We are common in our loneliness.
The thought makes me feel a little less lonely. I want to run into Morning Sun ’s frame and tell the woman on her bed not to worry. If she just waits a year, a man will sit in an office in a small city and do the very same thing she’s doing now. And since I can’t, I instead tell myself that people all over the country and the world are doing what I’m doing. That I am keeping myself apart, and in doing so am connecting myself to a larger whole.
The twist in staring too long at Hopper in the era of Covid-19 is that you see not only the similarities between then and now, but the differences. This year, I don’t only relate to the loneliness of the figures in Nighthawks, I also envy them. Unlike us, they can safely meet strangers in diners and bars. Of all the things I used to feel looking at Hopper’s paintings, longing was never one of them.
How Edward Hopper became an artist for the pandemic age | New Statesman
The fast pace of technological change turns us all, in a sense, into “perpetual novices”, always on the upward slope of learning, our knowledge constantly requiring upgrades, like our phones. Few of us can channel our undivided attention into a lifelong craft. Even if we keep the same job, the required skills change. The more willing we are to be brave beginners, the better.
A fantastic argument for the value of a liberal arts education & for embracing a lifetime of shoshin (“beginner’s mind”).
The joys of being an absolute beginner – for life | The Guardian
[A] people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.
Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.
The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.
The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
Any excuse will serve a tyrant.
Aung San Suu Kyi:
[D]espotic governments do not recognize the precious human component of the state, seeing its citizens only as a faceless, mindless - and helpless - mass to be manipulated at will. It is as though people were incidental to a nation rather than its very life-blood. Patriotism, which should be the vital love and care of a people for their land, is debased into a smokescreen of hysteria to hide the injustices of authoritarian rulers who define the interests of the state in terms of their own limited interests.
W.E.B. Du Bois:
Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.
Henry A. Wallace:
With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public.
A dissenting minority feels free only when it can impose its will on the majority: what it abominates most is the dissent of the majority.
No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.
Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.
We use our location as a way to think about our identity. In the case of the cosmos the timescale is well beyond our very short lifetimes or even beyond our comprehension. Some of the answers to these questions won’t be solved while we are still here but will be left to the incoming generations and the truth is there are questions that will simply be passed on and never answered. The quest might seem a bit nonsensical. Why does it matter when or how the universe began? Why does it matter when or how it ends? It matters for the same reason your locations throughout your life carry context for who you are. We exist on a timeline together — we pop into existence and then one day we stop. It matters for the same reason one of the first questions you learn to ask in another language is, “where are you from?” To know where you are at any given time is a frame of reference in which to measure your life in some way and in many ways those locations, those slices of time, hold a great deal of meaning.
A poignant reflection on the meaning of existence in a universe we’ll never understand.
An Atlas of the Cosmos | Longreads
President Donald Trump said National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe made the decision because the administration “got tired” of intelligence about election security leaking from Congress.
Prior to becoming Director of National Intelligence, then-Rep. Ratcliffe represented the resident of the White House during impeachment proceedings. Three weeks after impeachment failed to remove his client from office, Ratcliffe accepted his client’s nomination as Director of National Intelligence. He is the first DNI confirmed by a partisan vote for a reason:
Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and a member of the Senate intelligence panel, said he has concerns that Ratciffe has limited experience in the intelligence community yet extensive experience in politics. “A dangerous combination,” he said.
“Now more than ever it is vital that the DNI respect the critical firewall that must exist between intelligence and political calculations — especially if the truth isn’t what the boss wants to hear,” King said.
Before being elected to Congress in 2014, Ratcliffe was mayor of Heath, Texas, and a U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Texas. When he was first nominated, senators questioned whether he had enough intelligence experience and whether he was picked because of his willingness to defend Trump.
But given a second chance, Ratcliffe worked to separate himself from the president at his confirmation hearing, including by saying he believed Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, a conclusion Trump has resisted. He said he would communicate to Trump the intelligence community’s findings even if he knew Trump disagreed with them and might fire him.
If your client only reacts to alarming reports about foreign interference in federal elections when they reach the press, the logical way to help him keep his job — and keep you in yours — is to stop delivering alarming intelligence reports to those who directly represent voters.
Calling a halt to on-campus operations and going totally online, thereby waiving on-campus fees, was the right, moral choice. And yet it was the option that this reckless system could never take, because those inflated fees were needed to pay the fixed costs of the business model. Without sufficient state funds, universities are reliant on federal grant money, which requires students to enroll. If online courses drive away even a fraction of those students, the house of cards will collapse. For the university to do the right thing would be financial suicide.
The article’s title is misleading. The business model of education is the root problem, but it did not start with state universities. State governments — enthralled by neoliberalism, harried by zealotical anti-tax lobbyists & myopic voters — have spent forty years divesting from funding education as a public good, forcing public universities to rely on a mix of federal funding, out-of-state/international tuition, an amenities arms race, & ever-inflating service fees.
I don’t agree with the article’s proposed solution, but something must be done in the wake of the havoc on budgets — state and university — that will follow the pandemic.
Correctional, police, & military budgets bloat without restraint while the viability of the Post Office and public universities are jeopardized. One can only conclude American society cares more about imprisoning & killing people than we do connecting & educating them.
ProPublica looked at 68 cases of video-documented police brutality since George Floyd’s death in May. Among the cases where no officer has been identified or criminal charges filed:
- A Houston mounted police officer uses a horse to trample a woman from behind.
- Louisville police repeatedly shoot a reporter & camera crew with pepper bullets.
- Austin police shoot a minor in the head with a beanbag round.
- Unidentified police in Minneapolis open fire on a woman standing on her porch.
- Minneapolis police pepper spray a reporter displaying his credentials as he lies prone.
- New York police attempt to run over protestors with their SUVs.
- Two Salt Lake City cops in riot gear shove an elderly man with a cane to the ground from behind.
- Indianapolis police use excessive force to restrain a woman, then shoot her with pepper bullets & beat her with batons.
- Los Angeles police run over protestors with an SUV, attempt to run over several more, then flee the scene.
- Sacramento police place a man in a choke hold, then continue to apply it as he attempts to “tap out.”
- A U.S. Park Police officer strikes two journalists with a riot shield and then throws punches.
- Plainclothes San Diego police refuse to identify themselves while arresting a woman, then threaten to shoot anyone who follows them.
Deploying unidentifiable federal agents — without the consent or request of the Governor, County Executive, or Mayor — to the city about to host the opposing party’s convention to nominate his challenger in the November election is not merely provocative, it is terrorism:
[T]he term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.
[T]he term “domestic terrorism” means activities that (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
— 18 U.S. Code § 2331.5, as modified by the USA PATRIOT Act
The resident of the White House is literally using violent, masked federal agents in a terrorism campaign against residents of the city, county, and state hosting the nominating convention for his challenger in an election just over 100 days from now, a state he won four years ago, but where where the latest polling has him trailing 49% to 41%.
Lawlessness in the name of law and order is the hallmark of fascism.
Illegal abduction of protestors by Homeland Security agents deeply disturbs me — it erodes both the rule of law and legitimacy of government. More deployments appear imminent. That these agents’ non-sensical camouflage attire & lack of agency identification renders them indistinguishable from “federal troops” in the general public’s eyes is disquieting; this is a slow slide to de facto perception of martial law. Worse, the camo & non-affiliated look opens the door to similar abductions of citizens by non-government actors (“militia” & other domestic terrorist types).
Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state legislature has not passed a bill in over three months. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court voted to terminate the governor’s stay-at-home order via a remote session. (The margin: the previous governor’s lame duck political appointee, who had already lost a state-wide election for a proper 10-year term on the court.) Twelve days ago, the court upheld laws a lame-duck session of the Republican-controlled Legislature passed to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.
Wisconsin is on fire, and the arsonists control two branches of the state government. Gerrymandered districts make it unlikely that will change, even after the upcoming election.
For The First Time Ever, Wisconsin Surpasses 1,000 New COVID-19 Cases In 1 Day | Wisconsin Public Radio
I’ve read that because of how Neil Gorsuch ascended to the Supreme Court, you consider the current high court “illegitimate.” That’s a harsh assessment. Can you explain how you came to it?
It’s not that I think that Neil Gorsuch isn’t otherwise qualified to be a justice, but his seat was obtained illegitimately.
After Justice Scalia died in February of 2016, President Obama still had almost a year left to his term. So that Supreme Court seat was rightfully his to fill. But Mitch McConnell refused to hold any hearings on Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. The seat was held vacant till Trump took office and could appoint the Federalist Society candidate, Neil Gorsuch.
This was an absurd denial of a president’s constitutional right to have his nomination considered by the Senate. It was not Donald Trump’s to fill. This was a theft of the Supreme Court. The right stole the Supreme Court. They stole it.
I’ve just read Carl Hulse’s book Confirmation Bias, and he clearly documents what happened. When Justice Scalia died, one of the first persons to be told about his death, before it was even public, was Leonard Leo, the strategic guy for the Federalist Society. It was Leo who told Mitch McConnell about Scalia’s death.
Can you imagine that the majority leader of the Senate finds out from some guy representing an outside interest group? He doesn’t find out directly from the court or the family. That is how powerful they have become.
Essential reading on the damage to the United States’ justice system — not merely the judiciary — and one effort to begin picking up the pieces.
‘The Right Stole the Court’: An Interview with Russ Feingold | New York Review of Books
Prison and bondage have been effectively woven into Black acoustic consciousness.
A Brief History of the Policing of Black Music | Literary Hub
I’ve loved jazz more deeply than any other music for most of my lifetime. Jazz is about honoring ancestors, finding your own voice, envisioning the possibilities beyond reality’s seeming limitations, and calling others to share what you see. This piece captures why jazz — and its younger relative, hip-hop — are brilliant artistic responses to 400 years of oppression & violence against Black bodies, Black souls, Black communities, & Black futures.
If I want to continue to listen to jazz faithfully, I cannot shut my ears, my eyes, or my mind to its core message. I cannot forget the responsibility I have to remember the past, and to support better worlds still waiting to be born.
It’s hard to not equate the amount of corporatespeak coming out of a public sector administrator’s mouth with the originality of their thought.
No Fall 2020 instruction plan is going to be ideal. My institution’s “Smart Restart” plan seems to maximize disruption in the near term, creates more potential for disruption of instruction later in the fall, and exposes faculty, staff, and students to grave public health risks.
In the near term, students who have already enrolled will have their schedules altered to adjust for evening and Saturday in-person meeting times. Students whose schedules have been set since April will now likely have to swap & drop courses to mitigate conflicts with other courses, work, practice for ensembles, and so on. Given how long it took to make this decision, this enrollment turnover seems likely to coincide with students new to campus in the fall (first-year or transfer) beginning to enroll in their own schedules.
Instructors in some courses will be asked to switch their pedagogy mid-semester, once again. Sure, they have more time to plan this change now, but instructors are still being asked to create the infrastructure for both an in-person and online version of these courses. Planning for online instruction to last just a few weeks actually compounds the burden of setting up those courses.
Students will again be asked to change their own modes of learning midway through the term. This is particularly disruptive for students with accommodations. The University must now develop, test, and fully support accommodations for each course in every format offered throughout the term.
In the event of a public health emergency on campus, in the local community, or in students’ home communities, adaptations that shift instruction to an online format earlier than Thanksgiving will be disruptive. Despite its stated commitment to testing, the University is taking on a massive risk for community transmission. What happens to a class if a student tests positive? Will it immediately move to online instruction during contact tracing/quarantine period? Or the instructor? Who teaches the course then?
Suspending in-person instruction after Thanksgiving is a sign that UW’s leadership doesn’t trust students — rightfully so, I think — and doesn’t want to risk an outbreak when students return, post-Thanksgiving. This just begs the question: why do these leaders believe students can be trusted to abide by campus public health guidelines & community standards prior to Thanksgiving?
I don’t know why this didn’t register with me until last night, as I watched the reports coming out of Minneapolis:
Cup Foods, the market where MPD officers killed George Floyd, was four blocks from my last Minneapolis address. I went into Cup regularly for cigarettes, drinks, & Middle Eastern snacks twenty years ago. I lived just south of E 42nd, the border between Bancroft & Northrop.
That was almost twenty years ago now, but that realization made this cut even deeper. George Floyd’s killing didn’t happen in the state I still think of as “home” — it happened in my old neighborhood.
On the bus ride home this evening my daughter saw a young Asian woman wearing a medical mask. She asked me, “Apu, why is that person wearing a mask?”
I told her, “That person is trying to keep herself healthy and other people healthy.,” but that answer felt lacking.
What I realized I wanted to tell her is that person was wearing a mask to be kind to other people. (I presume by attempting to assuage panicky people tempted by a stereotype of a COVID-19 carrier.) But I haven’t come up for a reason why wearing the mask is kind without implying the one wearing it is sick, or suggesting we should be suspicious of anyone wearing a mask.
She’s a smart kid, so I know a question to that effect would likely be coming. I owe her, and the kind stranger, the right answer.
My wife, daughter, & I came a step or two away from being run over this morning.
Twice a day, we cross a semi-busy street with an uncontrolled intersection. This morning, a city bus in the lane on our side of the street stopped to let us cross; the driver turned on the flashers. A car behind the bus whipped around into the oncoming lane to pass the bus. The driver of the bus noticed & laid on the horn, but it would have been too late had we not already been proceeding cautiously. We would have been run over in the crosswalk by an accelerating car.
The car had the name of a business on it. I already looked up the business. It’s small, with a nine person staff. The business’ website prominently features a picture of all nine of them in front of their cars; one matches the car that almost hit us. My wife & I have a composite description of the driver that matches one of the employee headshots on the website.
I have already called Metro Transit to pass along thanks to the bus driver. The person I spoke to said the bus has a dash cam; they will review the footage. I hope the driver is commended, with my thanks noted in their personnel record, and I hope Metro uses the footage to train other drivers about situational awareness.
As for the driver of the other vehicle, I’m pondering the best thing to do in this situation. Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday. Today, she — and possibly one or both of her parents — could be seriously injured or dead.
Lynn Berger more closely scrutinizes one of the dominant messages of our era: when humans are conditioned to think of themselves as batteries that must continually recharge in order to compete in the economy & society, who does that mentality actually serve? What opportunities for self-cultivation or collective advancement do we foreclose by accepting that conditioning?
If our views on mental energy and sustainable energy are so similar, why not take this parallel one step further and ensure that our efforts to live more energetic lives also serve a higher, more collective goal? As individuals, we have a limited shelf life, but the society to which we devote our energy will be around for much longer.
The current narrative, which dictates that individuals are responsible for recharging themselves to resist being drained by our capitalist, technological society, prevents us from finding alternative strategies for dealing with our pervasive sense of exhaustion.
How we turned into batteries (and the economy forces us to recharge) | The Correspondent
Is anyone even remotely impressed with the state of Apple Retail these days?
A month ago I purchased an item via Apple’s discount program for folks in my former line of work. I elected for in-store pick-up since the store is only a couple miles from my office. I just rode the bus over to pick up the item; it has been on back order, but the invoice I received via email on Friday indicated it would finally be in today.
The Apple Retail people tell me my item’s in the store — somewhere — but they can’t see it in their system because it was delivered today & hasn’t been scanned in yet. Apparently the scan-in process takes at least an hour, plus up to another hour to update their system. I can’t come back later, so I’ll have to wait nearby & work remotely. (Thank goodness for VPNs.)
BUT!, I could just cancel my original order, purchase a floor model (also finally back in stock today & sitting right on the table where I was being “helped”!) and walk out — but then I can’t get the discount on my original online purchase.
I’m a bit later than last year, but I’ve finally completed my 2019 year-end music mix.
My preference for instrumental music remains pretty strong, largely for the same reasons I outlined last year. Given the state of public discourse, music that communicates in a register beyond the verbal draws my ear. That said, there are tunes with vocal tracks — even ones that showcase them — on this mix.
Finally, before we get to the mix: You will see a link to a public Spotify playlist following the track list. Do not follow me on Spotify. I do not regularly use the service. These likely will be the only playlists I share in the next eleven months.
- Anja Lechner & Pablo Márquez – Die Nacht | Franz Schubert: Die Nacht
- Sokratis Sinopoulos Quartet – Red Thread | Metamodal
- William Tyler – Rebecca | Goes West
- Thompson Egbo-Egbo – Rise | The Offering
- The Comet is Coming – The Universe Wakes Up | Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
- Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughan – II | New Rain Duets
- Daniel Szabo – Visionary | Visionary
- The Bad Plus – Hurricane Birds | Never Stop II
- Larry Grenadier – Oceanic | The Gleaners
- Angélique Kidjo – Sahara | Celia
- Mdou Moctar – Ibitilan | Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Sessions
- Leyla McCalla – Money is King | The Capitalist Blues
- Newen Afrobeat (feat. Oghene Kologbo) – Open Your Eyes | Curiche
- J.S. Ondara – American Dream | Tales of America
- Radiohead – Ill Wind | Ill Wind
- The Polyversal Souls (feat. Alemayehu Eshete) – Feqer Feqer Nèw | Feqer Feqer Nèw
- Daniel Norgren – Let Love Run the Game | Whoo Dang
- Kel Assouf – Tenere | Black Tenere
- The Comet is Coming – The Softness of the Present | The Afterlife
- Hiromi – Spectrum | Spectrum
- Julian Lage – Crying | Love Hurts
- Brad Mehldau – The Garden | Finding Gabriel
- Eleni Karaindrou – Encounter | Tous des oiseaux
- Mats Eilertsen, Harmen Fraanje, & Thomas Strønen – Albatross | And Then Comes the Night
- Lucian Ban & Alex Simu – Quiet Storm (for Jimmy Giuffre) | Free Fall
- Mark de Clive-Lowe – The Offering | Heritage
- Soil & “Pimp” Sessions – Tracking | Outside OST for Anime series “Blue Eyed Monster”
- Joe Lovano, Marilyn Crispell, & Carmen Castaldi – Seeds of Change | Trio Tapestry
- Miho Hazama – Today, Not Today | Dancer in Nowhere
- RGG – Tenderness | Memento (Polish Jazz Vol. 81)
- Till Felner – Liszt: Années de pèlerinage, PremIère Annèe - Suisse S. 160 - Les cloches de Genève | In Concert - Beethoven/ Liszt
- Tom Russell – Red Oak Texas | October in the Railroad Earth
- William Tyler – Our Lady of the Desert | Goes West
- Paolo Fresu & Daniele di Bonaventura – Ave, Regina gloriosa | Altissima Luce: Laudario Di Cortona
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