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Toward the Philosophy of an Act

Toward the Philosophy of an Act

Mikhail’s manuscript was about stories, before the manuscript itself disappeared. At what point, he wonders, smoking, does writing become real?

21. Now I’m here, alone, envisioning Mikhail. I type and my words fill the white screen, paragraphs accumulating like storm clouds. Command-S and they’re saved, cached inside somewhere, in a space so small it’s virtually virtual. Amazing how we’ve gone from stone to parchment to paper to essentially nothing at all, as if we’ve almost managed to reproduce the very substance of thought itself, its fundamental nothingness, its lightness. Something not really existing, but not not existing either. Something tangible as smoke.

Turkey and the Headscarf Ban

Turkey and the Headscarf Ban

Taking one’s shoes off had become a signifier of where one stood on the secular-versus-religious divide.

On May 2, 1999, Merve Safa Kavakçı, a 31-year-old newly elected lawmaker from Istanbul, was to take the oath of office in Parliament, having won a seat two weeks earlier as a member of Turkey’s new Islamist party, the Virtue Party. The problem was that Kavakçı was among the few Turkish women in politics who wore a headscarf, and no woman had ever entered the Turkish Parliament in a headscarf before.

Act Normal or Go Away

Act Normal or Go Away

Dutch Election Diary

Wilders’s argument is, in effect, that multiculturalism is the opposite of diversity. At a Koblenz conference hosted by Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland, he warned in that the totalitarianism of the EU and political correctness would reduce the wonderful variety of nations to a “uniform multicultural society.” (He also said that “women are afraid to show their blonde hair,” which is new to me.) But he owes so much to the “politically correct” vocabulary of “rights” and “identity” that he claims to reject.

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

As allies flooded in, indigenous leadership was increasingly drowned out in a sea of noise.

As yurts were built left and right and kale arrived by the truckload, I began to see that Standing Rock was gentrifying. White people had arrived in a space that was not our own and tried to improve it according to our standards. We ate foods cooked by our poorer, browner neighbors and learned a few words in their language. We improved the housing stock and brought newer, greener technologies. But as we tried to help, we simply got in the way.

Descent into Liberalism

Descent into Liberalism

You’re rooting for Cold War II. The FBI is your BFF.

So far right did politics float that Richard Nixon is now a moderate and Pat Leahy looks like Che Guevara. The furthest-left there is to be is what conservatives call “radical liberal.” This should be an oxymoron, but given the span of the possible, it is not. With political possibility, language too is squeezed.

And then the Strangest Thing Happened

And then the Strangest Thing Happened

What is Adam Curtis doing?

There is nothing in HyperNormalisation Adam Curtis has not done before, except that his pace is increasingly relaxed, with lengthy, drifting, wordless sound/image juxtapositions that feel closer to contemporary “artists’ film” than anything on television. You could read this languor generously, as a conscious new direction in his work. Or it could simply be the sign of burgeoning self-indulgence, the kind of thing cult figures often become susceptible to.

While the Iron Is Hot

While the Iron Is Hot

The case for the Women’s Strike.

This is what is meant by the phrase “the feminization of labor”: not simply that men are handed more jobs that seem effeminate in nature (menial, slogging work like data-entry or cleaning), but that men are treated poorly as workers—that is, like women. The more people find themselves indirectly employed, for instance by tech companies and temp agencies, the more they can learn from the women’s labor movements of the past, in sectors once believed to be “unorganizable” such as domestic work. In degrading women’s labor, we degrade all labor.

Etched into Eternity

Etched into Eternity

Donald Trump’s disdain for heroism has been replaced by a passionate commitment to its exact opposite.

Trump’s florid hero worship represents a new liturgical moment in the political theology of American power—and a major shift in Trump’s rhetorical posture, which has previously made very little room for accomplishments other than his own. Yet it is far from unfamiliar in the world history of demagoguery.

Turf-guarding

Turf-guarding

The Democrats give the left the middle finger.

As is well known, Perez only became a candidate at the behest of Barack Obama, picked explicitly to scuttle Ellison’s otherwise smooth path to the chairmanship. This turned the contest into a referendum on how the party feels about the Sanders activists. Evidently it feels quite hostile.

One Word: Authenticity!

One Word: Authenticity!

Oscars 2017

The post-classic French musicals that do away with singers and dancers (A Woman Is a Woman) or emphasize melancholy and failed romance against a backdrop of societal drabness (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) serve as models for La La Land. Their use seems academic, befitting a director running for Student Council President of the Movies.

Writing for Rejection

Writing for Rejection

And reading Doris Lessing.

Of course I’ve owned feminine clothing all my life. But I wore it in public only as a gesture of deference toward my hosts or my audience—never as a way of being myself. For reasons I struggle to comprehend, The Golden Notebook made me feel that a woman can be as valuable as a man, as limitless in her potential, with the same right to drape her body in a lot of extra fabric. (Maybe you know Umberto Eco’s 1976 essay on the emasculating effect of putting on jeans when you’re used to a suit. He should see the jeans they have now.)

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias

Did big data sink the Clinton campaign?

Why did Ada fail in Michigan? The primary and the general election were different contests, but both suggest that the failure lay in Ada’s model of the electorate—or more precisely, her inability to update her model of the electorate. In the general election, Ada told Clinton that Wisconsin was a lock, that Michigan was not a problem. But it wasn’t so much that Ada’s cake arbitrarily failed to rise; the failure was in the recipe. In an election where a great realignment took place—where thousands of voters in Rust Belt states who had voted for Obama twice now turned to Trump—Ada had not been programmed to detect the possibility of that realignment. The oracle had been hamstrung from the start.

Magic Dirt Nation

Magic Dirt Nation

Making airports great again at the Trump rally in Melbourne, Florida.

There’s a distant sucking sound in the sky, which excites the crowd. Several phones point skyward. Air Force One is powder blue and descends, ponderously and slowly, above the waiting crowd’s heads. They must have planned it this way, because though the sonic ripples are deafening, the plane’s approach rouses a cheer so raucous that the two sounds fight, which only whips up the rally-goers more.

Contemplating Customs Forms and Hotel Service

Contemplating Customs Forms and Hotel Service

Andrés Neuman has written a guide to the literature of an entire continent in the guise of a travelogue.

“Our generation,” recounts Hans, the protagonist of Traveler of the Century, “was a borderline, we were the last to study before Metternich’s repression began, but we were also the first to lose faith in the Revolution.” Though Neuman himself is too young for this description to be a tidy analogy for him and his peers, it nicely sums up the position of his predecessors in Bolaño’s generation. Where the writers of the Boom had the example of the Cuban Revolution to give them hope, no comparably utopian project was available by the time their followers came of age.

Trump’s Tlön

Trump’s Tlön

To focus on fact-checking alone is to miss the point: what is at stake here is not truth, but power.

This list is an absurdity and an obscenity. It is absurd because it bears all the hallmarks of a social studies paper hastily compiled by some desperate, clueless high school freshman. It is obscene for nearly too many reasons to count.

Agility Trials in Full Swing

Agility Trials in Full Swing

Akitas to xoloitzcuintlis at the Westminster Dog Show

Unless you’re a dog obsessive, you probably haven’t heard of the majority of breeds at Westminster. To help, owners lay out pamphlets about the histories of their breeds, information on how to care for them, and related décor, in addition to the dogs themselves, either placed on tables or below them, depending on size. With so many breeds competing for attention, novelty is a virtue. Any dog of Asian or Middle Eastern ancestry is liable to be dressed in a way that would make Edward Said turn in his grave.

Toward the Philosophy of an Act

Toward the Philosophy of an Act

Mikhail’s manuscript was about stories, before the manuscript itself disappeared. At what point, he wonders, smoking, does writing become real?

21. Now I’m here, alone, envisioning Mikhail. I type and my words fill the white screen, paragraphs accumulating like storm clouds. Command-S and they’re saved, cached inside somewhere, in a space so small it’s virtually virtual. Amazing how we’ve gone from stone to parchment to paper to essentially nothing at all, as if we’ve almost managed to reproduce the very substance of thought itself, its fundamental nothingness, its lightness. Something not really existing, but not not existing either. Something tangible as smoke.

Turkey and the Headscarf Ban

Turkey and the Headscarf Ban

Taking one’s shoes off had become a signifier of where one stood on the secular-versus-religious divide.

On May 2, 1999, Merve Safa Kavakçı, a 31-year-old newly elected lawmaker from Istanbul, was to take the oath of office in Parliament, having won a seat two weeks earlier as a member of Turkey’s new Islamist party, the Virtue Party. The problem was that Kavakçı was among the few Turkish women in politics who wore a headscarf, and no woman had ever entered the Turkish Parliament in a headscarf before.

Act Normal or Go Away

Act Normal or Go Away

Dutch Election Diary

Wilders’s argument is, in effect, that multiculturalism is the opposite of diversity. At a Koblenz conference hosted by Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland, he warned in that the totalitarianism of the EU and political correctness would reduce the wonderful variety of nations to a “uniform multicultural society.” (He also said that “women are afraid to show their blonde hair,” which is new to me.) But he owes so much to the “politically correct” vocabulary of “rights” and “identity” that he claims to reject.

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

As allies flooded in, indigenous leadership was increasingly drowned out in a sea of noise.

As yurts were built left and right and kale arrived by the truckload, I began to see that Standing Rock was gentrifying. White people had arrived in a space that was not our own and tried to improve it according to our standards. We ate foods cooked by our poorer, browner neighbors and learned a few words in their language. We improved the housing stock and brought newer, greener technologies. But as we tried to help, we simply got in the way.

Descent into Liberalism

Descent into Liberalism

You’re rooting for Cold War II. The FBI is your BFF.

So far right did politics float that Richard Nixon is now a moderate and Pat Leahy looks like Che Guevara. The furthest-left there is to be is what conservatives call “radical liberal.” This should be an oxymoron, but given the span of the possible, it is not. With political possibility, language too is squeezed.