Issue Number 13

Machine Politics

THE INTELLECTUAL SITUATION

Song for Occupations
A text message the day after the eviction read: “We need bodies down here.” We got dressed, on the train, off the train. The Brooklyn Bridge rose high against the blue sky. We went down Broadway. In front of us was the guy who balances a cat on his head; today the cat was wearing an American flag. We followed the movement toward familiar Liberty Plaza, which was now surrounded with police barricades and had been hosed clean, like a driveway.

A Left Populism

Whether the eviction amounted to a triumph or blunder for the plutocracy was hard, at first, to say. Protests, actions, and arrests continued through the fall, and then the ambiguity of winter hung over the movement: was this the end or just a preparation for spring? In the months and years ahead, we’ll learn whether Occupy can lead to what might be called the active recreation of American democracy.

Song for Occupations (Reprise)
We watched the kids beaten at Berkeley, the footage of the students pepper-sprayed at Davis. We watched the silent protest, hundreds of Davis students sitting still and observing the university chancellor on her endless walk to her car, like a funeral for her administration’s dignity. We compared American cities to pictures of Athens, Madrid, Lisbon. We watched London, Frankfurt, Toronto, Vancouver.



POLITICS

Christopher Glazek
Raise the Crime Rate

The nation’s prisons now contain more inhabitants than any American city save New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. And yet there is no “prison correspondent” at any of the nation’s major newspapers. This isn’t entirely the papers’ fault. Even if reporters were sent to the prisons, they could be denied entry: the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment does not prevent prison authorities from barring the press.



PSYCHODRAMA

Benjamin Kunkel
Buzz: A Play

“It’s always plausible when the woman’s too good for the man. (beat) And does the heroine show her love for the man she loves—sorry, redundant—but does she like, manifest her—?”

James Franco and Deenah Vollmer
Preparation
I really liked Tyrese. Tyrese ended up not liking me very much. I can understand why. I was being too intense. I was the idiot who didn’t realize this was a light movie, this was a PG-13 movie from Touchstone Pictures. I didn’t need to breathe and think like Muhammad Ali.



INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY

Kirill Medvedev
Dmitry Kuzmin

When I read a poet who is truly new, I find myself seeing not only the words on the page but, behind the page as it were, a new group of people. This is the poet’s imagined audience, to some extent; every poet has one; the new poet is one who in the process of imagining this audience also brings it into being.

Astra Taylor
Unschooling

The first day at Brown, the administrators assembled the entire freshman class in a large auditorium. You all are the smartest and most capable of your generation, they told us. This is the best place to be, and you are here because you are the best. My heart sank. Obviously that wasn’t true. We were there because we were darlings of the system, willing to accept its terms in exchange for its rewards.



RISE OF THE MACHINES

Sarah Allison, Ryan Heuser, Matthew Jockers, Franco Moretti, and Michael Witmore
Quantitative Formalism: An Experiment

Not only were genre signals quite strong—they were equally strong at wholly different textual levels. The convergence was so clear, it was almost spooky: it suggested that the logic of genre reached a depth that no one had imagined and no one really knew how to explain.

David Auerbach
The Stupidity of Computers

In signals intelligence nowadays, there isn’t enough human intelligence to process all the signals. Computers pick up the slack, with all their deficient understanding. We see it in health insurance, where claims are questioned or denied through partly automated processes that determine what treatment is “reasonable” and what premiums people should pay. At a certain scale, the quantitative must take over.



REVIEWS

Elizabeth Gumport
On Chris Kraus

For so long, so many lives refused to be lived like books! Because the books, in turn, were not truly like lives. One way in which they failed to account for female experience was by not acknowledging that failure to account for female experience—that constant feeling of being told, you are telling your life the wrong way. You are taking your life personally, which is to say: not like an artist.

Alice Gregory
On Sotheby’s, Inc.

The entire atmosphere is flirtatious. The very cadence of a good auctioneer is teasing: coy with one bidder, forward with the other, pitting the two against each other in a charged battle of tiny tics (paddle up, paddle down). He’ll dangle an index finger at a phone bidder on one side of the room, while leaning his bespoke-suited body toward an in-house bidder on the other. He pauses theatrically, repeating a price again and again until someone tops it.