06 March 2014
Michnik on Russia, Ukraine, Crimea and . . . Elsewhere
* Here is a report about the anti-war protests in Moscow & St. Petersberg that Michnik mentions.
05 March 2014
The Demise of Shame
Speaking With Solnit
03 March 2014
The Politics of Fair Use
28 February 2014
The Pussy Riot Media Campaign ~ From Infotainment to Politics
But shortly thereafter, Pussy Riot - including the putatively purged Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova - turned up in Sochi during the Olympics and were not only harassed by local police (accused here of theft from their hotel) and subsequently attacked by whip-wielding Cossacks (report here). This last episode is one Pussy Riot could not have made up. Chatting with Colbert is amusing, fending off Police and Cossacks focuses attention on precisely the matters Pussy Riot aims to subvert. As the MasterCard advert says, for a group protesting ( among other things) religiously based patriarchy, being set upon by uniformed Cossacks is "priceless."
27 February 2014
Good News From ... the IMF?
Salgado Before He Was A Superstar
This entry at the Lens blog (New York Times) on Sebastião Salgado is eye-opening both for what it reveals about his pre-superstar years and for the contrast it sets up with the many critics - think Susan Sontag, Ingrid Sischey, Michael Kimmelman, for starters - who are so incredibly dismissive of he, his motives, and his work.
PS: Stan B - thanks for noticing!
25 January 2014
Beware The Oppression of Filthy Rich Guys
Tom Perkins is a founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is what you might call a filthy rich guy. Apparently, he was a path-breaking scientist/engineer in the field of at optics. However, his historical vision seems to be pretty cloudy - distorted by self-serving ideology and resentment.
Tom recently made a fool of himself, publishing this letter at The Wall Street Journal drawing a parallel between critics in the contemporary U.S. who think it is outrageous that wealth and income are distributed in such absurdly skewed ways to - you guessed it - rampaging Nazis.
LettersPoor, oppressed Tom! He is all worked up because luck and speculation are not rewarded just by ridiculous - might I say obscene? - wealth. He wants us to respect him too! And when people do not respect he and his rich friends, when people suggest that the views of the wealthy for what constitutes a decent state of the world might be self-serving or destructive, well Tom looks closely and thinks he discerns the jackboots marching.
Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?
I would call attention to the parallels of Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."
Jan. 24, 2014 4:49 p.m. ET
Regarding your editorial "Censors on Campus" (Jan. 18): Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."
From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these "techno geeks" can pay. We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a "snob" despite the millions she has spent on our city's homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.
This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent "progressive" radicalism unthinkable now?
So, Tom, let me be clear. I don't hate you or other people lucky enough to occupy the 1% (although you are likely in the top .0001%) of the income and wealth distributions. I simply think that your position there is indefensible by any plausible moral, political or economic theory. Sorry to disappoint you.
16 January 2014
Criticism as Instruction
"The connoisseur or critic, crucially, is not a measuring instrument, a kind of authorship- or value-detector. Rather, they are bent on seeing, and seeing is not mere detection. Unlike detecting, seeing is not instantaneous, nor is it all or nothing or once and for all. Seeing is itself thoroughly critical; it is thoughtful and it is contextual. Stanley Cavell captures this idea when he explains that what distinguishes the critic is not that he or she can discern qualities that you cannot, but rather that, in discerning them, the critic can give you the means to discern them as well. Criticism is less an art of discrimination than it is a discipline of accounting for what one sees; it is a practice of making it intelligible to oneself and another. Critics make sense, and they give you the tools you need to make sense too. Critics don’t just see, they teach us how to see."
11 January 2014
Luc Sante on Brassaï
10 January 2014
This Is Your Face on Solitary Confinement
08 January 2014
The Consequences of Unemployment Benefits
"On This Week With George Stephanopoulos last weekend, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) claimed that, when it comes to unemployment, the longer you have it, "it does provide some disincentive to work.”
According to Mark Killingsworth, a professor of economics at Rutgers University, “in a limited sense that’s true, but it’s not huge.”
“Most people would rather get a job than sit on unemployment benefits,” he says.
Another labor economist, Henry Farber, who teaches at Princeton University, says the evidence “is pretty clear.”
“It suggests that the extended unemployment insurance benefits that we have had in the Great Recession and its aftermath have not appreciably reduced the job-finding rate,” he says. Having access to those benefits, Farber says, might extend the period of time someone is unemployed, but just by a couple of days.
“The view that somehow, by providing people with extended benefits," he says, "they are just living the-fat-and happy life and don’t need to look for work and are not finding jobs, does not seem to be borne out in any data that I have seen.”
What the benefits have done, Farber notes, is keep out-of-work Americans from leaving the workforce altogether. Killingsworth says what is missing from the U.S. economy right now is demand – both for goods and services, and workers.
“If we don’t do anything much to demand, then everybody is going to be scurrying around looking for jobs that don’t exist,” Killingsworth says." [Source]
04 January 2014
Say It With Flowers
Over the past week or so, The New York Times has run two stories   on the floral war Ai Weiwei is waging against the Chinese regime. At issue is the fact that the government has impounded Ai's passport, preventing him from traveling. It seems that the flowers carry pretty much the same message as the photo lifted above.
02 January 2014
28 December 2013
Noting Gerda Taro
22 December 2013
Janet Delaney South of Market
I have posted links here to various commentaries Rebecca Solnit has offered on the political-economic development of San Francisco. Here are links to a couple of her recent missives  . I've just come across this new book South of Market by photographer Janet Delaney, who has spent three plus decades chronicling the neighborhood from which she borrows her title. Delaney depicts precisely what Solnit underscores - that "development" is at best partially assessed by focusing on the shiny new buildings and teeming masses of young recruits to the high-tech sector. Any such assessment needs to focus too on inflated housing markets and homogenized culture as existing populations are displaced by newcomers and their money.
17 December 2013
So, Yes, Republicans Do Indeed Impose Voter Restrictions In Response to High Turnout by Minority and Lower Income Voters
15 December 2013
14 December 2013
Enthusiasms (39) - William Parker Quartet ...
Occupy the SEC and Administrative Politics (2)
I posted here (and then updated) on the impact Occupy the SEC has had on the rule making process among Federal bureaucrats charged with regulating the financial services industry. Rather than update again, I will add a second post. I do so because the outcome this week raises important theoretical questions.
First, here is a press release from Occupy the SEC on the newly adopted version of the Volker Rule. They offer a middling grade - let's call it a "gentleman's C-." But, second, given what research carried out by the Sunlight Foundation reveals about access to the regulators, it is surprising that we ended up with that a good a deal. The graphic above suggests who the 'real' players were. And, of course, this leads to an interesting social science question: how is it that access like this does not translate into a total gutting of the regulation?
Second, it is interesting to note that this success, this willingness to plunge into the details of bureaucratic politics, raises significant issues regarding the general political lessons we derive from rise and demise of the Occupy movement. It is common to characterize Occupy as a movement with no point, no demands, no interest in engaging in tired political activity. For instance, political theorist Bernard Harcourt* credits the movement for "resolutely resisting the call for specific demands and constantly reinventing itself" and suggests that, in so doing, "the movement liberated itself from imposed stereotypes and projections, and from others' prejudgements - from the tyranny of facile solutions and narrow-minded policy talk." Harcourt specifically invokes the refusal to become bogged down in debates over the Volker Rule as an example of this admirable propensity. Such engagement might simply issue in "a set of demands that could easily be met, yet amount to nothing." What does this say about the work of the folks who have been participating for years now in Occupy the SEC?
* Bernard Harcourt. 2013. "Political Disobedience." In Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience. University of Chicago Press, pages 48,61. The paper originally appeared in 2012 in the journal Critical Inquiry. You can find an early, abridge version of the argument here at The Stone blog from The New York Times.
PS: In light of the above, it perhaps might help to look back on the early Adbusters announcement from 2011.
In the same volume (cited above) in which Harcourt's essay most accessibly appears, anthropologist Michael Taussig chastises "the politicians and the experts" as follows:
They see OWS as primitive and diffuse because it has no precise demands - as if the demand for equality were not a demand, at once moral and economic, redefining personhood and reality itself. ... What the experts want is for OWS to submit to the language of the prevailing system. Yet is it not the case that merely to articulate such is to sell out the movement?" (39-40)But if, as seems clear the demand for equality is one (a demand that is), then what follows is how to make equality real. The various occupations did so prefiguratively. On that I agree. But, the occupations succumbed to a concerted effort to clear them and to reclaim and secure the various "public" spaces in which they had appeared. What was left behind was the task, among others, of subverting the barriers to entry surrounding the category "expert." Enter Occupy the SEC.
13 December 2013
Occupy the SEC & Administrative Politics
Update: Here, from The Nation is a quick assessment of the new regulation written by Alexis Goldstein who participates in Occupy the SEC.
12 December 2013
11 December 2013
Philosophy, For Example ~ What Happens When Even Those (Men) Concerned About Gender Troubles in a Discipline Neglect to Pay Attention to What Their Female Colleagues Say
The issue is not debate, simpliciter, but how it is done. Too many philosophers accept the idea that truth is best achieved by a marketplace of ideas conducted in the fashion of ultimate fighting. But aggressive styles that seek easy victories by harping on arcane counterexamples do not maximize truth. Nor does making use of the social advantages one might have by virtue of one’s gender, ethnicity or seniority. Nor does stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the real world contexts, rife with implicit bias and power distortions, in which even philosophical debates always occur.And, lest it seem as though I am calling attention to the foibles of philosophers from the perspective of an outsider, recall this post on gender trouble in political science.
Sometimes, interestingly, the aim of truth is enhanced less by adversarial argument than by a receptivity that holds back on disagreement long enough to try out the new ideas on offer, push them further, see where they might go. Sometimes pedagogy works best not by challenging but by getting on board a student’s own agenda. Sometimes understanding is best reached when we expend our skeptical faculties, as Montaigne did, on our own beliefs, our own opinions. If debate is meant to be a means to truth — an idea we philosophers like to believe — the best forms turn out to be a variegated rather than uniform set.
Rochester NY - Economic Disaster Area
Passings ~ Jim Hall (1930-2013)
07 December 2013
Dr. Higgs & The Bean Counters
The emeritus professor at Edinburgh University, who says he has never sent an email, browsed the internet or even made a mobile phone call, published fewer than 10 papers after his groundbreaking work, which identified the mechanism by which subatomic material acquires mass, was published in 1964.
He doubts a similar breakthrough could be achieved in today's academic culture, because of the expectations on academics to collaborate and keep churning out papers. He said: "It's difficult to imagine how I would ever have enough peace and quiet in the present sort of climate to do what I did in 1964."
Speaking to the Guardian en route to Stockholm to receive the 2013 Nobel prize for science, Higgs, 84, said he would almost certainly have been sacked had he not been nominated for the Nobel in 1980.
Edinburgh University's authorities then took the view, he later learned, that he "might get a Nobel prize – and if he doesn't we can always get rid of him".
Higgs said he became "an embarrassment to the department when they did research assessment exercises". A message would go around the department saying: "Please give a list of your recent publications." Higgs said: "I would send back a statement: 'None.' "
By the time he retired in 1996, he was uncomfortable with the new academic culture. "After I retired it was quite a long time before I went back to my department. I thought I was well out of it. It wasn't my way of doing things any more. Today I wouldn't get an academic job. It's as simple as that. I don't think I would be regarded as productive enough."
A message would go around the department saying: "Please give a list of your recent publications." Higgs said: "I would send back a statement: 'None.' "I recommend this to those of my friends and colleagues about to launch into a Faculty Activity Report for the bean counters in one or another College or University. Of course, you shouldn't use this to persuade yourself that but for all those distracting demands - administration, teaching and publishing bundles of literature-driven papers - you'd be a Nobel laureate. Resist self-deception. But it is a nice counter-example to those pushing the rationalization of educational institutions.
On Koudelka ~ Luc Sante
05 December 2013
Passings ~ Nelson Mandela (1918~2013)
Nelson Mandela has died. An obituary is here at The Guardian. It is perhaps more appropriate to recall his own words - The New York Times offers a digest of of his own letters and speeches here. Advice: don't stop with the inspiring but sanitized blurbs excerpted by The Times, click through to the texts themselves.1964: Eight men, among them Nelson Mandela, with their fists raised in defiance through the barred windows of the prison car, leave the Palace of Justice in Pretoria, having been sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiracy, sabotage and treason. Photograph: AFP/Getty Image
Come to Rochester - Learn to Approach Photography in Thoroughly Conventionalized Ways
The University of Rochester and George Eastman House Announce Joint Master's Degree Program in Photographic Preservation and Collections ManagementThis is one of the headlines from the UR daily e-noticeboard this morning. The story is here. Despite the fact that I have been teaching a course on and writing about the politics of photography for half a dozen years, I have not been involved in any way. So much for interdisciplinary initiatives, I suppose. The real irony, however, is that while the program (as described) may be in keeping with fundamental views in the humanities about photographs as objects which have meaning, it really is contributing to shaping the world in ways that conform to just that theoretical approach. My own views are that that is precisely the wrong way to think about photography. Rather than worrying incessantly about semantics of photographs, it would be more fruitful to focus on pragmatics, on the ways we (a deliberately ambiguous term) use photography and the purposes for which we do so. Recently, I invoked Rancière's essay "The Intolerable Image" which I think underscores pretty much just that point. And today in my class we read and discussed John Berger's 1978 essay "The Uses of Photography" which (I think) anticipates Rancière's argument in central ways. Berger's essay is dedicated to Susan Sontag who, as much as anyone I suppose, is responsible for the view that thinking about photography (a technology for doing things) reduces to talking about photographs (objects and their characteristics). The new UR program is another step in making the world conform to Sontag's vision.
02 December 2013
Koudelka Interview - Follow-Up (2)
Although I would need to inquire further, the problems seem to lie primarily with editorial decisions at The Times rather than with Koudelka. No one should be surprised by shenanigan's at The Times. Note what Shulman says of the "separation barrier": "If you haven’t seen it with your own eyes but would like to know what it is like, your best option is to study Wall, Josef Koudelka’s new book of eloquent black-and-white photographs, taken over four years in repeated trips to Israel and Palestine." Shulman notes that the wall does not actually separate Israel and Palestine, but encroaches systematically on the latter. Indeed, he suggests that: "The Wall has become one more instrument—some would say the most useful of all—in the ongoing land-grab that is the real, indeed perhaps the sole, raison d’être of the Occupation."
For his part, Koudelka makes clear that he is not sanguine. "Of course I don’t have any illusion about this book that it will change anything. I am just showing what I saw. That’s all." and "I am not this guy who wants to change the world — of course I would be happy if it helped." This strikes me as unexceptional. Critics, though, do seem to have taken exception to these remarks:
I think it is not only about the wall, my book is about the wall and the Israel and Palestinian landscape. You have this divided country and these people who react certain ways to these conditions.But this strikes me, too, as unexceptional. (Meaning I see no reason to take exception to his comments.) Why? I read that passage in light of this one:
For me, Palestinian or Israeli, I look at you for who you are. When I left Czechoslovakia people asked me: “Are you a Communist? Are you opposed to communism? Are you an anarchist?” How you label it doesn’t mean much to me.
We have a divided country and each of two groups of people tries to defend themselves. The one that can’t defend itself is the landscape. I call what is going on in this most holy landscape, which is most holy for a big part of humanity, is the crime against the landscape. As there exists crimes against humanity there should exist the crime against the landscape.
I am principally against destruction — and what’s going on is a crime against the landscape that is enormous in one of the most important landscapes in the world.
An Israeli poet said to me, “You did something important — you made the invisible visible.” He meant that Israelis don’t want to see the wall and they don’t even want to speak about it. They don’t go across it. It is very easy to live in one country, in France or Czechoslovakia, and ignore completely one thing, one important thing, that you want to ignore.And, surprisingly, this comment brought to mind Jacques Rancière's essay on the intolerable image.* I don't have time to offer a detailed discussion. But Rancière invokes this image of an Israeli constructed roadblock on a Palestinian road from the series WB by Sophie Ristelhueber.
As Shulman notes: "We tend to imagine the Wall as a single, monolithic structure. In reality it is a set or system of walls and fences within walls and fences, a recursive infinite regress of barbed wire, rock, and cement that turns inward as it slithers over the hills, enclosing most Palestinian villages on the occupied West Bank in non-contiguous enclaves even as it incorporates into Israel as many Jewish settlements as possible." Apparently, it is not even continuous. It is simply part, as Shulman suggests, of a wider, more concerted strategy.
As in Koudelka's images there is intolerable suffering and behavior in this image. But it is not shown. This illustrates Rancière's point:
The classic use of the intolerable image traced a straight line from the intolerable spectacle to awareness of the reality it was expressing; and from that to the desire to act in order to change it. But this link between representation, knowledge and action was sheer presupposition. . . . Renewed confidence in the political capacity of images assumes a critique of this strategic schema. The images of art do not supply weapons for battles. They help sketch new configurations of what can be seen, what can be said, and what can be thought and, consequently a new landscape of the possible.Rancière thinks Ristelhueber's "little pile of stones" performs just this function. So too does Koudelka's series on the separation barrier. Not because he, like Ristelhueber, on Rancière's account, "has refused to photograph the great separation wall that embodies the policy of the state and is a media icon of 'the Middle East problem'," but because he too has focused on the various segments of the wall as "elements of the landscape" that inflict "wounds and scars ... on a territory." Koudelka is uninterested in the indignation his critics express. (He knows first hand about living behind a wall.) He is interested in making the scars and wounds on landscape visible. In that, it seems to me, he succeeds.
01 December 2013
fierce pussy ~ For The Record
Visual AIDS presents For The Record, an exhibition and broadside project by fierce pussy for the 24th annual Day With(out) Art, on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2013. [Details]
ABOUT: fierce pussy is a collective of queer women artists working in New York City. Formed in 1991, the members of fierce pussy came together through their shared involvement in AIDS activism. During a decade of increasing political mobilization around gay rights, fierce pussy brought lesbian identity and visibility directly into the streets with posters, stickers, t-shirts and various public interventions. They have continued to engage in a reclaiming of language and public space with installations and exhibitions in galleries and museums. Originally composed of a fluid and often shifting cadre of dykes, four of the original core members —Nancy Brooks Brody, Joy Episalla, Zoe Leonard, and Carrie Yamaoka— continue to work together.
29 November 2013
28 November 2013
COBRA Update (And No - this is not about the program for maintaining health insurance if you lose your job.)
In 1984 the British government established a special committee - COBRA (or Cabinet Office briefing room A) - that meets to address quickly political emergencies perceived or actual. The Guardian reports here on a newer, parallel COBRA, consisting of artists aiming "to engage critically and creatively with the increased use of aesthetics and performance by the UK government to promote, explain and justify its labelling of an event as 'an emergency'." The parallel entity meets whenever the official COBRA does in order to formulate a creative response to the the putative emergency.Yesterday The Guardian ran this story about an interesting graduate program in art and politics and featured a fellow, Theo Price, who both did the program and is a principal in the un-official COBRA undertaking.
Chris Hedges on Art & Politics ~ Just What You'd Expect
I generally find Chris Hedges actively unhelpful. Here he confirms my view. His view of art as necessarily concerned with "transcendence" is bunk. (To note only the most obvious thing, poetry is largely about articulating emotions, thoughts, insights.) But I suppose it makes sense since he is trying to connect art with politics. And his politics are unbearably moralistic. I suppose there is something to be said for consistency.
27 November 2013
Passings ~ Saul Leiter (1923-2013)
26 November 2013
Koudelka (Follow Up)
Pope to American GOP ... Your Libertarian Views are Anathama
23 November 2013
Outlier - A Definition
Britten at 100
"In Britten I have found a new hero, a musically surprising and multi-dimensional citizen of the world." ~ Marin AlsopHere is a piece from npr on composer Benjamin Britten (and specifically his War Requiem) on the centenary of his birth. I did not know his music or politics at all.
Update (11/26): There also is a recent essay here from NYRB reviewing a troika of recent works on Britten. The essay is more straightforward about Britten's sexuality and his politics than the npr piece. And it comes down, I think, on the right side of the continuing debate about Britten's accomplishment and stature. That debate seems to be heated: " . . . [I]n Britten’s centennial year (he was born in 1913 and died in 1976), the “battle of Britten” . . . continues. Britten’s reputation—the need to decide once and for all whether he is great or overrated—is central to discussion of him, in a way that is not true for more acclaimed contemporaries (like Stravinsky) or lesser ones (like Finzi). A peevish, aggrieved tone persists on either side."
22 November 2013
Filibuster Repeal - Spinning the Data Graphics
So, as the WaPo suggests, which you find persuasive will depend on whether you think a nomination to the Federal DC Circuit Court of Appeals is equivalent to the Deputy Vice Assistant to the Ambassador to Fiji. McConnell seems to think 'yes'; Reid 'no.'
21 November 2013
Politics, Movement and Electoral
18 November 2013
this report by Olivier Laurent at The British Journal of Photography, the French newspaper Libération published its entire 14 November issue without a single photograph. The editors reportedly withheld images as a statement about the precarious situation of photographers and photojournalism. Yet, even though this 'statement' is intentional and derives its force from the contrast to a world awash in images - the photographs we expect are missing, not nonexistent - it underscores the audacity of Edwards' counter-factual.
Solnit on Typhoon Coverage
17 November 2013
Passings ~ Doris Lessing (1919-2013)
"She was political in the most basic sense, recognising the manifestations of power in its many forms. She was spiritual as well, exploring the limits and pitfalls that came with being human . . . [S]he was everything a younger female writer might hope for: kind, helpful, interested, and with a special understanding of the position of writers from elsewhere within England. . . . And she was a model also for every writer coming from the back of beyond, demonstrating – as she so signally did – that you can be a nobody from nowhere, but, with talent, courage, perseverance through hard times, and a dollop of luck, you can scale the topmost storyheights."
16 November 2013
Sunday! Music at Bop Shop Tonight
10³²K - Kevin Ray - Bass, Frank Lacy - Trombone and Andrew Drury - Percussion
Sunday November 17th 8pm
Bop Shop Records
1460 Monroe Ave
$15 donation requested.
This should be a great show. Highly recommended.
Storyville (BBC): Pussy Riot A Punk Prayer
GOP And 'Free Expression'
13 November 2013
What I Am Up To Tomorrow Afternoon
What's Wrong With Nuclear Power?
"The question ... is why such an inherently flawed design as the light-water reactor (LWR) is still, after all these years, the preferred technology?So we have a flawed technology because the decision-making process was dominated by military not energy generating considerations. (Source: This story at The Economist.)
Most of today’s reactors, whether they use boiling water or pressurised water, trace their ancestry back to the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, launched in 1954. At the time, the LWR was just one of many reactor designs that existed either on paper or in the laboratory—using different fuels (uranium-233, uranium-235 or plutonium-239), different coolants (water, heavy water, carbon dioxide or liquid sodium) and different moderators (water, heavy water, beryllium or graphite).
The light-water reactor of the day, with its solid uranium-dioxide fuel and water for both moderator and coolant, was by no means the best. But Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of America’s nuclear navy, chose it because it could be implemented faster than any of the others, making it possible for Nautilus to be launched on time. The LWR also appealed to Rickover because it produced a lot of bomb-making plutonium as a by-product.
After that, the die was cast."
12 November 2013
Pyotr Pavlensky's Painful Protest
"Red Square has seen a lot over the centuries, from public executions to giant military parades, but a performance artist broke new ground on Sunday when he nailed his scrotum to cobblestones in a painful act of protest" (source).So, I get why this guy nailing his nuts to the pavement is a protest. But why is it art?
11 November 2013
Gerhard Richter on Models
(Oil on canvas; 152 cm x 152 cm; Catalogue Raisonné: 895-10.)
"When we describe a process, or make out an invoice, or photograph a tree, we create models; without them we would know nothing of reality and would be animals. Abstract pictures are fictive models, because they make visible a reality that we can neither see nor describe, but whose existence we can postulate."~ Gerhard Richter*
10 November 2013
Passings ~ Norman Geras (1943~2013)
Passings ~ Jack Mitchell (1925-2013)
09 November 2013
07 November 2013
John Berger Collected
Passings ~ Editta Sherman (1912-2013)
05 November 2013
Awoiska van der Molen
I am continually impressed by the number of incredibly talented photographers out there in the wide world. Today, out of the blue, Awoiska invited me to be FB friends. I accepted, then followed the link to her web page - here - and discovered several remarkable series of images. I especially like the landscapes. What a fortuitous day.
Happy Birthday John Berger (5 November 1926)
03 November 2013
The Politics of Josef Koudelka's WALL
"Koudelka’s pictures have an eerie, meditative texture. Many of them are structured around the glaring contrast between the Wall, always intrusive, harsh, ophidian, and the organic, still living world of hills, terraces, and valleys on either side of it. Paradoxically, these photographs are beautiful, almost too beautiful, to look at—despite, or perhaps because of, the raw wound they reveal."I've lifted the passage above from this post at NYRB that Israeli activist and academic David Shulman has written on a new book* by Josef Koudelka. Shulman, himself a member of an Israeli-Palestinian Peace group called Ta‘ayush (meaning roughly 'living together'), is intimately familiar with the politics surrounding what the Israeli government euphemistically calls "separation barrier." I admire both Koudelka and Shulman immensely and have posted on each frequently- see here and here respectively. Here are a baker's half-dozen images from Koudelka:
As Shulman attests these images depersonalize suffering. Does their beauty - and the fact that they are more or less wholly de-populated - deflate the all to common worry that photography aestheticizes suffering?
* Josef Koudelka. WALL. (NY: Aperture, 2013).
02 November 2013
Contingent Faculty & Unions
This raises the obvious question regarding common complaints about the "spiraling costs" of College education. Once we determine the relative increase in administrative salaries (Deans and Dean-lets, Student Affairs Staff, etc.) relative to faculty salaries, we must then ask about the composition of faculty salaries. Not only are full-time, tenure/tenure track faculty not getting significant salary increases, but they are being replaced by very low wage, typically benefit-less contingent faculty. Where do those pesky cost increases originate?
01 November 2013
The NSA Apparently Has Zero Sense of Humor But Some Libertarians Do
30 October 2013
Digest ~ Political Economy
According to this story in The New York Times, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has signed a new lease giving the museum the prerogative to set admissions fees. Admission currently is governed by 'recommended' fees that leave actual amounts paid by visitors up to the visitors themselves. While the institution claims it has no plans to alter the admissions policy, any move to increased fees would fall hardest on those least able to pay.
And here at Creative Time you can find this brief interview with Rebecca Solnit focusing on art and the political economy of American cities.
Finally, this pointed essay from Jacobin on the ironic amnesia that afflicted Barack Obama when he asked whether people who wanted a raise could simply shut down the company if the boss refused.
No Surprise Here - Libertarians Tend to be Relatively Conservative Young White Guys
"The poll . . . shows libertarians identify much more with the GOP (43 percent) than with the Democratic Party (5 percent), but half identify with neither party.In other words, they are a modestly expanding part of a shrinking portion of the voting population. Perhaps they are too busy paying attention to themselves and their "freedom" to notice.
The libertarian movement is largely homogeneous. It is strongly non-Hispanic white (94 percent), young (62 percent under 50 years old) and male (68 percent).
About four in 10 identify as members of the tea party movement (39 percent), while 61 percent do not. More Republicans identify with the tea party (20 percent) than with libertarians (12 percent)." (source)
28 October 2013
Confederate Flags and Cluelessness Revisited at the University of Rochester.
I do not follow the UR CR (or anyone else) on Twitter. This was sent to me by a recent alumnus. Make that an irritated recent alumnus. But a couple of questions arise in all this.
First, why is the Confederate flag especially troubling to minority (and other) students on a college campus? Well, because from the late 1950s through the late 1960s the flag was a constant symbol of white resistance to integration of both public elementary and secondary schools as well as of Colleges and Universities. Often, of course, those protests were accompanied by rioting and violence against black students. Here are images easily discoverable on the web:
These press photos depict white students - usually, you'll note, white boys - acting out at the universities of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama respectively. In short, the confederate flag is indeed a symbol of the "Southern identity" and that identity is thoroughly inflected by racism. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.
Second, what does "free speech" and its infringement have to do with all this? I think
"The libertarian view – that the First Amendment is a protection of free expression – makes its appeal to the individualistic ethos that so dominates our popular and political culture. … Yet this theory is unable to explain why the interests of the speakers should take priority over the interests of those individuals who are discussed in the speech, or who must listen to the speech, when the two sets of interests conflict. Nor is it able to explain why the right of free speech should extend to the many institutions and organizations … that are routinely protected under the First< Amendment, despite the fact that they do not directly represent the individual interest in free expression. Speech is valued so importantly in the Constitution, I maintain, not because it is a form of self-expression or self-actualization but rather because it is essential for collective self-determination. Democracy allows people to chose the form of life they wish to live and presupposes that this choice is made against a background of public debate that is, to use the now famous formula of Justice Brennan, “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.”*If the College is meant to be self-governing, and if it is (rightly) protective of the free speech necessary to academic freedom, what we need on campus are forums (workshops, teach-ins, etc.) to address the sorts of conflicts the University now confronts. We are working on it.
* Owen Fiss. 1996. The Irony of Free Speech. Harvard UP, page 3.
** Correction: I have been informed that the student in question lives in a house on the fraternity quad, but that the house is not a frat house and that the student is not affiliated with any fraternity.