“Governments are too focused on democracy and rule of law. On Google Island, we’ve found those things to be distractions. If democracy worked so well, if a majority public opinion made something right, we would still have Jim Crow laws and Google Reader. We believe we can fix the world’s problems with better math. We can tear down the old and rebuild it with the new. Imagine Minecraft. Now imagine it photorealistic, and now imagine yourself living there, or at least, your Google Being living there. We already have the information. All we need is an invitation. This is the inevitable and logical end point of Google Island: a new Google Earth.”
And I realized I believed him. I believed in him, even. Sure, he’s a weird guy living in his own world. But what vision! And I wanted Google to make my world look like its own. And I wanted to give it all my information, about everything in my life, even my most private shameful thoughts.
I put the glasses back on, and took off my pants. We stood, naked, before each other with no secrets, no rules, and no shame. And I knew I never wanted to leave Google Island. Even if I could. — Welcome to Google Island | Gadget Lab | Wired.com
My plan was to write a portrait of Phil Jackson after basketball: to capture the full mundanity of his post-N.B.A. existence. It became clear very quickly, however, that such a thing was impossible. There is no Phil Jackson after basketball. Our first meeting was at his favorite diner, an unpretentious, inexpensive place decorated with framed jigsaw puzzles of Norman Rockwell paintings. We chatted for a while about upstate New York, where Jackson used to live, and the rumors about his current job prospects, but before long he was giving me detailed scouting reports of current N.B.A. players, then borrowing my pen so he could diagram a play on his place mat. At our second meal, at the little cafe attached to the upscale grocery store, I asked Jackson — innocently enough, I thought — how the N.B.A. has evolved since he first joined it as a player 46 years ago. He started unfolding his napkin to draw another diagram — whereupon I stopped him, went out to my car and brought back a stack of fresh paper. I expected him to sketch maybe three or four representative schemes: the motion offense of his 1970s Knicks, the running game of the 1980s Showtime Lakers, his 1990s Bulls’ signature triangle offense, the screen-roll plays popular today. Instead, Jackson spent more than an hour and a half drawing, in great and sometimes bewildering detail, what turned out to be more than 20 sketches — a mess of circles and arrows and hash marks that represented, no doubt, an infinitesimal fraction of his total basketball knowledge. He worked, the whole time, with the joyful absorption of someone solving a particularly excellent crossword puzzle. — Why Basketball Won’t Leave Phil Jackson Alone
‘There is something deeply perverse,’ Hamilton writes, ‘in the demand that we construct an immense industrial infrastructure in order to deal with the carbon emissions from another immense industrial infrastructure, when we could just stop burning fossil fuels.’ But, actually, we couldn’t. Not because it would be too expensive, and not only because billions of people would promptly die – from starvation, disease, cold, heat – but also, as Hamilton observes elsewhere in Earthmasters, because one immediate effect would be a sharp rise in global temperature. One of the effects of burning fossil fuels is the maintenance of a thick haze of sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere, which keeps the sunlight out and the temperature down. Sulphates last only weeks in the atmosphere; carbon dioxide endures for centuries. We are in a multiple bind. Both emissions and atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases need to be severely reduced. Cutting one without the other would be either fruitless in the long term or dangerous in the short term. We may well need to find other ways to keep the temperature down without fooling ourselves into believing we’ve made the problem go away. And we need to do all these things at the same time. — Thomas Jones reviews ‘The Carbon Crunch’ by Dieter Helm, ‘Earthmasters’ by Clive Hamilton and ‘The City and the Coming Climate’ by Brian Stone · LRB 23 May 2013
From Susan Wise Bauer’s May farm report. I am an absolute sucker for donkey photos.
(Source: chloedoesthings, via typetoy)
Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850)
Autograph manuscript and corrected galley proofs signed, 1833
The Morgan Library
Map of New York by Jenni Sparks, from a slideshow of hand-drawn maps
In Nagy’s “brick-and-mortar” class, students write essays. But multiple-choice questions are almost as good as essays, Nagy said, because they spot-check participants’ deeper comprehension of the text. The online testing mechanism explains the right response when students miss an answer. And it lets them see the reasoning behind the correct choice when they’re right. “Even in a multiple-choice or a yes-and-no situation, you can actually induce learners to read out of the text, not into the text,” Nagy explained. Thinking about that process helped him to redesign his classroom course. He added, “Our ambition is actually to make the Harvard experience now closer to the MOOC experience. — Nathan Heller: Is College Moving Online? : The New Yorker. Fewer essays, more multiple-choice tests: the wave of the Ivy League future. Can’t wait to get on that train.
Every poet, consciously or unconsciously, holds the following absolute presuppositions, as the dogmas of his art:
(1) A historical world exists, a world of unique events and unique persons, related by analogy, not identity. The number of events and analogical relations is potentially infinite. The existence of such a world is a good, and every addition to the number of events, persons and relations is an additional good.
(2) The historical world is a fallen world, i.e. though it is good that it exists, the way in which it exists is evil, being full of unfreedom and disorder.
(3) The historical world is a redeemable world. The unfreedom and disorder of the past can be reconciled in the future.
It follows from the first presupposition that the poet’s activity in creating a poem is analogous to God’s activity in creating man after his own image. It is not an imitation, for were it so, the poet would be able to create like God ex nihilo; instead, he requires pre-existing occasions of feeling and a pre-existing language out of which to create. It is analogous in that the poet creates ￼not necessarily according to a law of nature but voluntarily according to provocation. — W. H. Auden, from The Dyer’s Hand
“Hello agent John, it’s client Dan,” commented the pecunious scribbler. “I’m worried about new book Inferno. I think critics are going to say it’s badly written.”
The voice at the other end of the line gave a sigh, like a mighty oak toppling into a great river, or something else that didn’t sound like a sigh if you gave it a moment’s thought. “Who cares what the stupid critics say?” advised the literary agent. “They’re just snobs. You have millions of fans.”
That’s true, mused the accomplished composer of thrillers that combined religion, high culture and conspiracy theories. His books were read by everyone from renowned politician President Obama to renowned musician Britney Spears. It was said that a copy of The Da Vinci Code had even found its way into the hands of renowned monarch the Queen. He was grateful for his good fortune, and gave thanks every night in his prayers to renowned deity God.
“Think of all the money you’ve made,” recommended the literary agent. That was true too. The thriving ink-slinger’s wealth had allowed him to indulge his passion for great art. Among his proudest purchases were a specially commissioned landscape by acclaimed painter Vincent van Gogh and a signed first edition by revered scriptwriter William Shakespeare. — Don’t make fun of renowned Dan Brown - Telegraph
What classic voyeurism is is espial, i.e. watching people who don’t know you’re there as those people go about the mundane but erotically charged little businesses of private life. It’s interesting that so much classic voyeurism involves media of framed glass—windows, telescopes, etc. Maybe the framed glass is why the analogy to television is so tempting. But TV-watching is different from genuine Peeping-Tomism. Because the people we’re watching through TV’s framed-glass screen are not really ignorant of the fact that somebody is watching them. In fact a whole lot of somebodies. In fact the people on television know that it is by virtue of this truly huge crowd of ogling somebodies that they are on the screen engaging in broad non-mundane gestures at all. Television does not afford true espial because television is performance, spectacle, which by definition requires watchers. We’re not voyeurs here at all. We’re just viewers. We are the Audience, megametrically many, though most often we watch alone: E Unibus Pluram….
For Emerson, only a certain very rare species of person is fit to stand this gaze of millions. It is not your normal, hardworking, quietly desperate species of American. The man who can stand the megagaze is a walking imago, a certain type of transcendent semihuman who, in Emerson’s phrase, “carries the holiday in his eye.” The Emersonian holiday that television actors’ eyes carry is the promise of a vacation from human self-consciousness. Not worrying about how you come across. A total unallergy to gazes. It is contemporarily heroic. It is frightening and strong. It is also, of course, an act, for you have to be just abnormally self-conscious and self-controlled to appear unwatched before cameras and lenses and men with clipboards. This self-conscious appearance of unself-consciousness is the real door to TV’s whole mirror-hall of illusions, and for us, the Audience, it is both medicine and poison. — David Foster Wallace
So if we try to feel our way towards a general sense of what the contemporary fantasy world is telling us about violence and destruction, the result seems to be this: pain and injury and sudden death are unpredictable, not planned or chosen by anyone like ourselves, yet always threatening, always around the corner. Against this threat, we defend ourselves as the situation dictates — without many qualms about how we do so, because we are not dealing with agents like ourselves, whose motives and methods would need scrutiny, about whom we might be able to make considered predictions. Violence does not belong in the moral world; it has nothing to do with human responsibility, with the kinds of choices by which we make up our lives from day to day. You could almost say that it is a non-human phenomenon, in the sense that it is so strange and specialized a happening. And it always begins ‘somewhere else’- in the mysterious and uncontrollable world Out There….
On the basis of what we have looked at so far, it certainly seems as though our society is aware of enormous but badly-defined threats — some internal (arising from the complications of technology), but most external. It is, as a result, tense and afraid, and alarmingly confused because it cannot locate the real sources of danger. More disturbingly, though, it is incapable of seeing this as a moral problem — as something to do with power, vision, understanding and choice, with the ways in which we decide to make sense of our lives. — Rowan Williams, The Truce of God
Following your bliss is useless. People are passionate about a lot of stupid things. It’s not a great mantra. Meaning, I think, comes from doing a full accounting of your limitations and assets, your passions and your weaknesses, your belief system and your fears, and then rubbing up against the things that cause you to panic, like an allergy skin scratch test, and find out what your reactions are. Once you figure out how you can contribute to the greater good, once you’re able even to define that, you take that information and pour yourself into one direction. Regardless of discomfort or regrets or what-ifs. (And then doing that over and over again, until death.) That does not fit on a T-shirt. That to me is more important than bliss, which would really just lead me back into bed, maybe with a bowl of corn flakes… — Jessa Crispin (via austinkleon)