Sunday, January 21, 2018

#TrumpShutDown Tick, tick, boom



IN A chaotic close to President Donald Trump’s first year as president, the US government has careened into an embarrassing shutdown.



The fact is, you can’t negotiate with someone so feckless and undisciplined (let alone ignorant and unqualified). And the funny thing is his own party knows it as well as we do.



Let's not forget that Trump already signaled that he wants a government shutdown.

“[Donald Trump] took a physical last Friday, and today we got the results from his doctor, Ronny Jackson. Right off the bat, the doctor broke big news: ‘The heart exam was normal.’ So, despite all evidence, Donald Trump does have a heart.”
---Stephen Colbert
Clips of several news hosts looking at the camera perplexed and all asking the same question: “Is Donald Trump a racist?”
Samantha Bee: It’s like Maya Angelou once said, “When someone tells you who they are, ignore it, elect them president, and then spend 24 hours a day asking each other if you believe what they told you about themselves.”
---Full Frontal


Sleep, why do it? Autobiography with Joseph


“I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” 
– Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier (1967 – 2015), publisher, Charlie Hebdo

Fire and Fury shows that the political and moral problem of this president — a "real-life fictional character" — is also a literary problem: How to get below the surface of a man who is all surface  The Noise Comes From Shallow Ends of Cold Rivers 




REALLY? WHO’D HAVE GUESSED!  Humblebraggers are even worse than full-on braggers

A revolution against boredom, punk music was the 20th century’s last avant-garde movement. What does its demise mean for creative life?  Sleeping on Samizdat Scenes in Darkest Hours in Prague - Plastic People Power 


On the cusp of his final, “posthumous” year, Keats shows he has done a lot of growing up, of necessity. Two days later, Keats enacts a comic tour-de-force that doubles as a taxonomy of human types. He writes to Georgiana of his friends James Rice Jr., John Hamilton Reynolds and Thomas Richards:   

“I know three witty people all distinct in their excellence — Rice, Reynolds, and Richards. Rice is the wisest, Reynolds the playfullest, Richards the out-o’-the-wayest. The first makes you laugh and think, the second makes you laugh and not think, the third puzzles your head. I admire the first, I enjoy the second, I stare at the third. The first is Claret, the second Ginger beer, the third Crême de Byrapymdrag. The first is inspired by Minerva, the second by Mercury, the third by Harlequin Epigram, Esq. The first is neat in his dress, the second slovenly, the third uncomfortable. The first speaks adagio, the second allegretto, the third both together. The first is Swiftean, the second Tom-Crib-ean [a reference to Thomas Moore’s Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress, 1819], the third Shandean. And yet these three Eans are not three Eans but one Ean.”


Q:  How is a poem like a shoe?
A:  It holds up a cosmos.  Molds to the shape of its wearer.   Comes in all shapes and sizes.  It can sit in a dark closet for a long while and still speak to us—of former lives, of the seasons, of the future.  It can become an addiction, a site of projection, an ego booster, a trusted favorite.  It has a life, a perfume, of its own.   It keeps us, as Whitman says, “afoot with our vision.”






The Dutch have a cure for older people afraid of injuring themselves: classes on how to fall properly.

As a poet, I like being the one who is awake while others sleep — the watcher, the one who courts by choice that liminal space between sleep and waking, where “reality” and inner vision blur, and all the big questions loom with heightened clarity.


Lisa Russ Spaar’s fifth collection of poetry, Orexia is a work that flies and crawls with creatures of all kinds—“mercurial cardinals” are accompanied by an “unflinching owl,” along with moles, deer, a thieving hare. (Not to mention human creatures.) According to Lisa, mistakes are not to be edited, but noticed, and collected ... and shown to human rats ... 

In “Temple Gaudete ,” the speaker wonders, “Can a word have a soul? How move / from one to the next without dying?” But even though the speaker warns us to see the death that is beyond “mere words,” and perhaps, in fact, between those words, the poet ultimately controls this fear for us, as readers. Desire, appetite, orexia, is decidedly separate from satiation. To reach is not to grasp. Hunger ends when digestion commences. Pure appetite is inconsummate. For Spaar, orexia is life itself, lest we fall silent to the “carnage always in any talk // of awe beyond language.”


Autobiography with Joseph


Father of Daughters

I always figured I'd be the father
of daughters the way a zebra imagines
he must one day be a meal
of pulpy purple meat, ribcage
picked clean, and so prepares himself
on the great, grassy plains
where rubber-necked vultures
practice disinterest, and lions wait
for a break in formation,
though most days sink into pink
horizons, and are warm and fine
but for the priming of his heart. I always
figured I'd be the father of daughters,
and now that I am, I am torn apart.

JARED HARÉL



Denis Johnson was a prodigy, an American Rimbaud. Then, suddenly, he wasn’t. Heroin, alcohol, and the IRS followed, as did great writing. genius  



Resurfaced recently by Austin Kleon in his weekly newsletter, I missed this Nov 2016 list from Curbed of 101 books about where and how we live the first time around. The list is organized by category:


Why We Build features Geoff Manaugh’s A Burgler’s Guide to the City* andBuilding Stories* by Chris Ware.

Cities We Love includes Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit, A.J. Liebling’s Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris, and Make Way for Ducklings.

Changing Places highlights The Devil in the White City* by Erik Larson and The Levittowners: Ways of Life and Politics in a New Suburban Community by Herbert Gans.


Understanding People features Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg, Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns*, and Working by Studs Terkel.

And How We Live Today includes The Power Broker* and Robert Putman’sBowling Alone.
I love the inclusion of Busy, Busy Town and Make Way for Ducklings. Books marked by an asterisk I have read or can otherwise personally vouch for. If I could recommend just one book to read from this list, it would be The Warmth of Other Suns.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

I have never been more happy to be interestingly wrong

I am pretty sure that, if you will be quite honest, you will admit that a good rousing sneeze, one that tears open your collar and throws your hair into your eyes, is really one of life’s sensational pleasures
Suppressing a sneeze can be dangerous, doctors warn



White paper for the day: When mass killers make the news, they receive more valuable coverage than A-list actors.
↩︎ Celebrity Studies

Did you know that the Google Arts and Culture app does more than just match your selfies to better identify you on Google Image Search to fun portraits in museums that highlight the overwhelming representation of white men in museal collections? It’s true. For instance, there’s this fun little article on the life and career of cinematographer James Wong Howe:
James Wong Howe was born Wong Tung Jim in Guangzhou, China on August 28, 1899. Howe’s father brought his young family to the US - what he described as the ‘mountain of gold’ - when Howe was 5 years old.
His first home was Pascoe, Washington, where his father opened a general store and became the first Chinese merchant in the town. As a child, Howe faced vicious racism. His first schoolteacher quit as she didn’t want to teach a person of Chinese descent. His second teacher changed his name to be more anglicised, which is how he became ‘James Wong Howe’.


China tries to kill real Paris: I was not surprised to learn that a Parisian photographer was apparently inspired by the story (it later got translated and republished in the French magazine Feuilleton) and set about trying to approach the story visually—ultimately by comparing shots of the real Paris with photographs of Tianducheng, in China’s Zhejiang Province, where about 2,000 people live in a Paris replica, many of them working in a nearby France-themed amusement park. 

Images on the left are from China, images on the right are from France, all copyrightFrançois Prost. Latitudinal  stuff. 

An Assistant Allegedly Stole $1.2 Million of Goldman Sachs Exec’s Wine Vice 






Divers reveal what may be the world's largest underwater cave, after finding a passage between two caves in Mexico.


Having a child out of wedlock is the norm for women in their 40s






Whether our word for "tea" is from "cha" or "te" depends on whether the term migrated over land or sea Czechs and Slovak say chaj - cay -  as those Sikhs do ...

↩︎ Quartz

“Most people don’t realize how deeply ingrained their habits are and how where we park our car on a regular basis can tell someone many things about us.”




Your car is likely gathering a lot of information about you, and it’s in the carmaker’s best interest to exploit it.
↩︎ The Washington Post

When 136 Bird Species Show Up at a Feeder, Which One Wins? via The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

“There’s something tranquil about watching birds coexist at your backyard feeder, pecking away in their quirky abandon. That is, until the local Blue Jay arrives, flushing all your daintier songbirds out in a raucous flurry. It might seem like just plain bullying, but there’s more going on than meets the eye in the fast-moving (and frankly addicting) world of bird-feeder drama. Setting out a limited food resource (like a feeder full of seeds) in a time of scarcity (like winter) naturally brings birds into conflict. 






Mind readers: Why the most interesting man in the world isn’t so interesting any more


Only 700 publications existed in 1865. More than 4,400 existed by 1890, letting readers make tangible connections to other lonely readers... In MMXVIII there are millions MEdia Dragons for All the Lonely People in the world 

In 2016, Dos Equis beer revealed that they would retire Jonathan Goldsmith as their signature “most interesting man in the world” character. To attract younger drinkers, they introduced a new, younger “most interesting man” actor – Augustin Legrand. The reviews haven’t been great and I want to get into why I think the newer stuff misses the mark.
I think that the original ads work because they perfectly parodied a  very specific cultural niche. Specifically, the original ads were about urbane straight white guys living out an adventurous life in the 1950s and 1960s. The film is usually in color, sometimes black and white, but always grainy. The events are time very time specific, such as emerging from an Apollo era space capsule or helping to unveil the very first mobile phone. He’s James Bondish in that he often wears a tuxedo and mingles with the global elite.

"New Supreme Court cookbook dishes up history, recipes": Jessica Gresko of The Associated Press has this report

The gravediggers stand by,
waiting to close earth's open
mouth again and tidy up.
Theirs is a job that gets
into the pores, and to the core.
They'll spruce up later on,
head out on the town
to bid farewell to the old year
and see the new one in.
Nothing for it then but leave you there
and drift away, bypassing the signs
for GET IN LANE and LOW HEADROOM
this darkening afternoon.

on this last dying day of the old year
bride and groom make of this inn
an everywhere of time and space
with fire and funeral.
And so we eat and drink and gossip on.
I raise a glass that is still warm,
propose a health embracing
both sides of the dark river—

Brrrrr , Here’s a poem for today by Richard Alan Taylor






In 2012, Michael Lewis gave a commencement speech at Princeton University, his alma mater. In the speech, Lewis, the author of Liar’s PokerMoneyball, and The Big Short, talks about the role of luck in rationalizing success. He tells the graduates, the winners of so many of life’s lotteries, that they “owe a debt to the unlucky”. This part near the end is worth reading even if you skip the rest of it.

I now live in Berkeley, California. A few years ago, just a few blocks from my home, a pair of researchers in the Cal psychology department staged an experiment. They began by grabbing students, as lab rats. Then they broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams of three into a room, and arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader. Then they gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.
Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group. They entered the room bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. The team consisted of three people, but there were these four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there. It should have been awkward. But it wasn’t. With incredible consistency the person arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it. Not only ate it, but ate it with gusto: lips smacking, mouth open, drool at the corners of their mouths. In the end all that was left of the extra cookie were crumbs on the leader’s shirt.
This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He’d been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.
This experiment helps to explain Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay, and I’m sure lots of other human behavior. But it also is relevant to new graduates of Princeton University. In a general sort of way you have been appointed the leader of the group. Your appointment may not be entirely arbitrary. But you must sense its arbitrary aspect: you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything.
All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.

Primitive Technology YouTube channel is up to. Over the past two years, this Australian man has built all sorts of tools, structures, and objects using only what he can find in the forest and has racked up over 330 million views on his silent videos demonstrating how he does it all.


In a reply to an article called Entrepreneurs Aren’t A Special Breed — They’re Mostly Rich Kids, Hacker News commenter notacoward wrote:

Entrepreneurship is like one of those carnival games where you throw darts or something.
Middle class kids can afford one throw. Most miss. A few hit the target and get a small prize. A very few hit the center bullseye and get a bigger prize. Rags to riches! The American Dream lives on.
Rich kids can afford many throws. If they want to, they can try over and over and over again until they hit something and feel good about themselves. Some keep going until they hit the center bullseye, then they give speeches or write blog posts about “meritocracy” and the salutary effects of hard work.
Poor kids aren’t visiting the carnival. They’re the ones working it.

That’s a pretty succinct summary of the “born on third base and thinks they hit a triple” effect…and it doesn’t just apply to entrepreneurship or being rich.



The next generation of mourning. I have begun like my mother before me to cross out names she lived to read the obituaries of all her friends in my generation . The first girl ever kissed is dead complications of pneumonia . I saw the email on the way from something important to something suddenly not unfold . Nothing is high-powered bullet had passed through me without hitting harder here and were bone later the egg as I remembered when we were 16 in a state of mutual cross and rode to the league that parent approved church sponsored alternative to a real beach trip was particularly bars and carnal temptations and made out in the back seat of a record 64 civilian power was really driving and the ball , looking back now and to wink and ground soon . The romance was over and we moved on , but never forgot that date and when I saw her 40 years later we still joked and smiled about that Ryan and wondered whatever happened to Ray and Maple .


When work changes, companies reward new ways of feeling about it. Enter corporate mindfulness. But what about when breathing exercises aren't enough?  Mindfullness



In case you missed Geraldine Doogue last year on Saturday Extra, she conducted three thought-provoking interviews. First was Professor Julian Le Grand of the London School of Economics, on the possibilities of employee-led mutuals contracting to the public sector. Then Sarah Barker and Karl Mallon talked about how firms are incorporating climate risk into their financial analysis. And former Hong Kong Governor Chris Pattenwarned about the politics of identity – a political movement that “savages democracy”. He described how in Northern Ireland he developed practical methods to move beyond identity politics.




In his book review of Polanyi’s A Life on the Left in the New York Review of Books, Robert Kuttner argues that ‘Democracy cannot survive an excessively free market and containing the market is the task of politics.”


Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Game of Mates: How favours bleed the nation
Get the book via gameofmates.com. Follow author Cameron Murray on Facebook and Twitter. Come to the Brisbane book launch on 23rd May, 6pm at Avid Reader, West End (Details and RSVP link).  Continue reading