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robertogreco : aaronbady   14

What Fleabag's 'hot priest' storyline gets so right about sex and love
"Perhaps because she's never been religious, never believed in God, and never respected the authority that he represents, Fleabag doesn't see him coming either. He's an enigma to her, as is his faith; when she begins to feel an attraction to him, she has to google basic questions like "what happens to a priest who has sex?" (and makes rookie mistakes when she crashes his Mass). But though the season begins with the declaration that "this is a love story" — and she does eventually (spoiler alert) have sex with the Hot Priest — it's his insistence that she is redeemable and his desire to help her that knocks her off her feet (and which she fights to resist).

Though her chemistry with the otherwise nameless Hot Priest, played by Andrew Scott, is heavy and smoldering, it's worth noting that her first moment of attraction is when he tells her to "f*** off"; in season one, she used sex with unavailable, desperate, or mistreated men to prove to herself that she was not yet beyond acceptance but in season two, she tries to use celibacy (her own, and that of a winsome priest) to prove to herself that she really is. What's more, a priest can offer her something that a world where everything is allowed — and where nothing can therefore be wrong — cannot. How can a person find help when therapists — as her disastrous counseling session demonstrates — can only tell you that whatever you've already decided to do is what you will do? How can they help you when that inevitability has led you to do the wrong things?

What she wants, it turns out, is not to "f*** a priest" but to be told what to do. Having lost all confidence in her own judgment, her own instincts, and her own feelings — having decided that what she needs is for someone else to take over decision-making for her life — she is increasingly fascinated by this man of the cloth who seems to be exactly what she wants to be: a funny, profane train-wreck, wearing great dresses, who lives a mortified and celibate life of subjection (and is inexplicably plagued by predatory foxes).

This instinct is wrong, it turns out, because it's still the instinct to give up on herself. Love — as she told the therapist — "didn't bring anything good," but as the Hot Priest's absurdly effective and affecting "love is awful" wedding sermon emphasizes, giving up on it was the wrong conclusion. "It's painful. It's frightening. It makes you judge yourself, doubt yourself, distance yourself from the other people in your life," he says. "No wonder it's something we don't want to do on our own." Love isn't easy or something that feels right or has obvious places to go, he insists; love is, simply, hope. It's a sermon that somehow manages not to be the usual set of clichés, because we've watched these characters live it, and watched them come out of the other side: she fell for a priest because the idea of him seemed like the promise of sexual rejection and the annulment of her freedom; instead, he gave himself to her, accepted her choice, and allows her to turn his life upside down.

Except that ... he's fine. Having sex doesn't ruin his life, it turns out, just as it hasn't ruined hers. In fact, the revelation is that sex has changed nothing, which might be Waller-Bridge's most radically hopeful suggestion: after their trainwreck of a relationship, the Hot Priest goes back to the church, and she goes back to loving her family and being loved by them. No mistake you can make can change what matters; whatever you've done, it will pass.

If the first season was about honestly coming to terms with the damage sex can do, season two is about accepting what comes after confession, about the hard work of loving, even knowing the damage that love has brought and will bring again. What's difficult is not knowing what to do, but finding the strength to get on with it and do it (and the hope to try). In other words, love might not be an airport chase scene; it might be helping your sister up off her knees after she's begged her husband to leave her for good. Or your dad up off his when he's hiding from his wedding.

It's a good homily. "It's quite hard to come up with something original to say about love," as the Hot Priest puts it, but Waller-Bridges has had a good go. And then, having done it, the play is done. She waves goodbye to the camera and walks off into the night. She doesn't need us anymore; she has something better."
fleabag  aaronbady  2019  tv  television 
10 days ago by robertogreco
Aaron Bady on Twitter: "When you read about history of "The Coffee Shop," writers LOVE to gloss over the Middle-Eastern origin so they can get to the fun part where England invents The Public Sphere"
"When you read about history of "The Coffee Shop," writers LOVE to gloss over the Middle-Eastern origin so they can get to the fun part where England invents The Public Sphere

My man Ralph Hattox in 1985 seems to know what's up, tho https://archive.org/stream/CoffeeAndCoffeehouses/%5BRalph_S._Hattox%5D_Coffee_and_Coffeehouses_The_Ori%28BookZZ.org%29_djvu.txt

love "the near east"

"Once coffee had been taken out of the context of the Sufi dhikr and introduced into general consumption, it was embraced by an entirely different group of advocates, and with them the associations and images connected with the drink changed..."

"...While it remained one of the props of the nocturnal devotional services of the Sufis, others, perhaps less spiritually inclined, found it a pleasant stimulus to talk and sociability. From this the coffeehouse was born"

"If you draw the analogy between coffee and intoxicants you are drawing a false one . . . One drinks coffee with the name of the lord on his lips, and stays awake, while the person who seeks wanton delight in intoxicants disregards the Lord, and gets drunk""
aaronbady  coffeeshops  cafes  history  middleeast  coffee  neareast  2019  1985  ralphhattox 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Finding the Future in Radical Rural America | Boston Review
"It's time to rewrite the narrative of “Trump Country.” Rural places weren't always red, and many are turning increasingly blue."



"Rural spaces are often thought of as places absent of things, from people of color to modern amenities to radical politics. The truth, as usual, is more complicated."



"In West Virginia, what is old is new again: the revival of a labor movement, the fight against extractive capitalism, and the continuation of women’s grassroots leadership."



"Appalachia should not be seen as a liability to the left, a place that time and progress forgot. The past itself is not a negative asset."



"To create solidarity in the present, to make change for the future, West Virginians needed to remember their radical past."



"West Virginia’s workers, whether coal miners or teachers, have never benefitted from the state’s natural wealth due to greedy corporations and the politicians they buy."



"It matters that workers are rising up, and it matters that women are leading. It matters that the fight against extractive capitalism is fiercer than ever."



"The 2016 election still looms over us. But if all you know—or care to know—about Appalachia are election results, then you miss the potential for change. It might feel natural to assume, for example, that the region is doomed to elect conservative leadership. It might seem smart to point at the “D” beside Joe Manchin’s name and think, “It’s better than nothing.” There might be some fleeting concession to political diversity, but in a way that makes it the exception rather than the rule—a spot of blue in Trump Country.

If you believe this, then you might find these examples thin: worthy of individual commendation, but not indicative of the potential for radical change. But where you might look for change, I look for continuity, and it is there that I find the future of the left.

It matters that workers are rising up, and it matters that women are leading. It matters that the fight against extractive capitalism is fiercer than ever. And for all of these actions, it matters that the reasoning is not simply, “this is what is right,” but also, “this is what we do.” That reclamation of identity is powerful. Here, the greatest possible rebuke to the forces that gave us Trump will not be people outside of the region writing sneering columns, and it likely will not start with electoral politics. It will come from ordinary people who turn to their neighbors, relatives, and friends and ask, through their actions, “Which side are you on?”

“Listen to today’s socialists,” political scientist Corey Robin writes,

and you’ll hear less the language of poverty than of power. Mr. Sanders invokes the 1 percent. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez speaks to and for the ‘working class’—not ‘working people’ or ‘working families,’ homey phrases meant to soften and soothe. The 1 percent and the working class are not economic descriptors. They’re political accusations. They split society in two, declaring one side the illegitimate ruler of the other; one side the taker of the other’s freedom, power and promise.

This is a language the left knows well in Appalachia and many other rural communities. “The socialist argument against capitalism,” Robin says, “isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree.” Indeed, the state motto of West Virginia is montani semper liberi: mountaineers are always free. It was adopted in 1863 to mark West Virginia’s secession from Virginia, a victory that meant these new citizens would not fight a rich man’s war.

There are moments when that freedom feels, to me, unearned. How can one look at our economic conditions and who we have helped elect and claim freedom? But then I imagine the power of people who face their suffering head on and still say, “I am free.” There is no need to visit the future to see the truth in that. There is freedom in fighting old battles because it means that the other side has not won."
rural  westvirginia  politics  policy  us  economics  future  history  democrats  republicans  progressive  race  class  racism  classism  elizabethcatte  aaronbady  nuance  radicalism  socialism  unions  organizing  environment  labor  work  capitalism  inequality  appalachia  coalmining  coal  mining  coreyrobin  grassroots  alexandriaocasio-cortez  workingclass  classwars  poverty  identity  power  change  changemaking  josemanchin  2019 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Airbrushing Shittown | Hazlitt
"S-Town isn’t fiction—we can probably assume that the facts, as we are given them, are “accurate.” But mere accuracy doesn’t make it journalism: the private details of private lives have no clear public interest, and Brian Reed never seriously argues that they do. It’s creative non-fiction, then, a category whose very name is composed out of negations: not fiction, but not non-fiction, either; true, but created. And so the fact that he never finds anything—that nothing happened—is what he finds at the end of his investigation, the discovery that the very opposite of something happened. He finds that something didn’t happen, in a half-dozen different ways, and that it didn’t happen for everyone in a variety of fascinating ways: the murder, the gold, and the conspiracy of silence… He finds none of it, only the story of how he set out to look. And then out of this series of negations, he wraps it all up, neatly, so that we can all go home, entertained.

By the end of the podcast, you come to realize that the monologue that opened it—a monologue about clocks and how they are reconstructed—is really about Brian Reed’s own process, about reconstructing a life. “Sometimes entire portions of the original clockwork are missing,” he says, “but you can’t know for sure because there are rarely diagrams of what the clock is supposed to look like. A clock that old doesn’t come with a manual.” John B. McLemore is the clock, and the testimony Reed has gathered, over long years of work, are the “witness marks” a clock-restorer uses to guide their way, “impressions and outlines and discolorations, left inside the clock, of pieces that might’ve once been there.”

“Fixing an old clock can be maddening,” Reed says. “You’re constantly wondering if you’ve just spent hours going down a path that will likely take you nowhere, and all you’ve got are these vague witness marks which might not even mean what you think they mean. So, at every moment along the way you have to decide if you’re wasting your time or not.”

Reed did not waste his time; S-Town was a smash from the start, a career-making triumph. But in their original function, clocks are not made for entertainment. Clocks are tools that make social life possible. A clock makes time, and organizes it, and time is, ultimately, a social medium: we use it to coordinate with others and to communicate; a sense of shared time helps us meet each other and find each other and arrange the stories that we tell about each other—it allows us to take our turns speaking and listening, and it allows us to put things into their proper perspective. Without clocks—or without some sense of shared time, however constructed—society, as we know it, would not be possible.

John lived in his own time zone, literally: as Reed mentions, John B. McLemore’s house did not observe daylight saving time, so depending on the season, the time at his house might be an hour different than the surrounding area. It’s a good reflection of his relation to his world, his insistent eccentricity reflected in his own, personal, zone of time. It’s a good joke, a playful irony, even a self-consciously Faulknerian expression of being southern, a quiet little rebellion against unification under the guise of turning back the clock. It’s also totally ridiculous, which John surely understood: since all time is social, the idea of having your own time zone is absurd, only meaningful in the irony of its meaninglessness.

Moreover, for all his scrupulous attention to reconstructing the original function of a clock, the irony of clock restoration is that John didn’t repair clocks for their original function. His clocks were repaired to be old, to be antiques: the point of “restoring” them was not simply to make them work—that’s easy enough to do—but to make them work exactly as they once did. That’s why John hand-ground a gathering pallet from scratch. “They aren’t trying to simply make the clock work again,” Reed says of the fraternity of horologists. “Their goal is to preserve and reconstruct the original craftsmanship as much as possible.” Recovering and replicating the inspiration of the original clockmaker makes them valuable enough to sell, but it’s the sale that matters.

After all, clock restoration serves no useful function in a world where we all have clocks on our phones (the same phones we might use to listen to a podcast). In a world where networked clocks are everywhere, an antique clock is so big, heavy, and fragile that it isn’t useful in that sense. Instead, an antique clock’s eccentricity becomes valuable because of how odd it is, how particular, and how much work goes into restoring it. When people pay for a restored antique, they are paying for an incredibly laborious lack of useful value: so much work went into making them work again, but because that work is totally superfluous and unnecessary, it is thus, perversely, worth paying for.

If an old clock is valuable because of the perfectly recovered eccentricity of its original intention, the same could be said about John B. McLemore’s own perverse life, and for that matter, this podcast. So much work went into making it, but what, after everything, is this podcast actually for?

When John B. McLemore heard the earliest draft of Reed’s program, the story of the murder of that didn’t happen, his reaction was disappointment: “I can’t believe how much you’ve worked on this son of a bitch and at the same time,” he sighed, “my god.” Reed wanted him to be relieved, to be happy about the work, and is audibly upset that he isn’t. Perhaps John B. was in a bad mood, even a depressive episode; perhaps that was why he wasn’t sufficiently appreciative. Perhaps his original fit of enthusiasm for activist journalism had long passed—it had, after all, been years since he originally contacted Reed—and he had a different perspective on the story Brian Reed was telling. When Reed observes that “I am not saving the world over here,” John’s retort that “You are definitely not saving the world!” is delivered with a peculiar, bitter intensity, the laugh of someone who once thought it was possible, perhaps, but no longer does. What’s the point of all that work if it can’t save the world?

John B. isn’t cruel, though: “I think you’ve done pretty goddamned good,” he says, finally. And he’s absolutely right—one can only admire how well Brian Reed reconstructed his clock. But what is the point of it? What does it do?

I am writing this and you are reading it because we are sharing a moment: we have all listened to this podcast, the timepiece that Brian Reed built to bring us together. But what do we do with this unity? Across the seven hours of Reed’s production, we are told a story in which we all can understand each other, talk to each other, and hear each other: we can unite in admiration for John B., for the genius that was born to Mary Grace, for his voice, and for the power of storytelling. We can hear his voice and be united in our appreciation for his existence. Is this what we need now? Does it tell us our time? Does it bring us together? Does it help us understand what it means to have Donald Trump as president, and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as the most powerful cop in the land? Or is it simply a nostalgic exercise in anachronism, like a perfectly restored antique? Is it something we value because it does something, or because it feels old and authentic?

I don’t know. In the end, all it offers is questions."
aaronbady  s-town  storytelling  horology  clocks  purpose  journalism  podcasts  nostalgia  brianreed  johnbmclemore  restoration  accuracy  entertainment  process  criticism 
may 2017 by robertogreco
25 New Books by African Writers You Should Read | Literary Hub
"There has never been a better time than right now to be a reader of African literature, especially in the United States (historically, an underdeveloped nation in this regard). Of course, we’re still playing catch-up; many of these books have already been published in South Africa, Nigeria, or the UK, or in their original language. But that just means that old classics are becoming suddenly available alongside emerging new voices. So if you’re looking for something to read, and you want it to have the word “African” attached to it, here are my top 25 suggestions for the first six months of the new year. All dates are for U.S. publications. Chain bookstores won’t carry most of these, so you might have to do something as laborious and difficult as click a link–or ask your local bookstore to place a special order–but the one thing you can’t do, any longer, is complain you have nothing to read. You have your orders; go forth and read."
aaronbady  books  toread  booklists  africa  2016  leilaaboulela  taharbenjelloun  petinagappah  zakesmda  tendaihuchu  jowhorile  boubacarborisdiop  aigonibarrett  mahtemshiferraw  chrisabani  alainmabanckou  helenoyeyemi  rolandrugero  abdelilahhamdouchi  julianeokotbitek  gabrielokara  karinaszczurek  mickmulgrew  imraancoovadia  masandentshanga  mariendiaye  elnathanjohn  basmaabdelaziz  fouadlaroui  yaagyasi  dmaderibigbe  gbengaadesina  kayombochingonyi  safiaelhillo  chielozonaeze  lydianyachirokasese  ngwatilomawiyoo  hopewabuke 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Technology Imperialism, the Californian Ideology, and the Future of Higher Education
"This matters greatly for those of us in education technology in several ways (and not simply because Internet.org has partnered with edX to offer free online education). Facebook is really just synecdochal here, I should add – just one example of the forces I think are at play, politically, economically, technologically, culturally. These forces matter at the level of infrastructure, technological infrastructure: who controls the networks, who controls the servers, who controls our personal devices, who controls the software that’s installed on them?

And it matters at the level of ideology. Infrastructure is ideological, of course. The new infrastructure – “the Internet” if you will – has a particular political, economic, and cultural bent to it. It is not neutral. Some of this is built upon old infrastructure. In the United States, for example, networks are layered upon networks: waterways provided the outline onto which we mapped the railroads. Railroads provided the outline onto which we mapped the telegraph. The telegraph for the telephone. The telephone for the Internet. Transportation of people, products, ideas across time and space."



"The first two nodes of what would eventually become ARPANET (which in turn would eventually become “the Internet”) were connected in California in 1969 – from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to SRI International in Menlo Park – from Hollywood to Silicon Valley.
The infrastructure and the ideology of the Internet remain quite Californian."



"Another story from California, one specifically this time about higher education:

It may be that “the beginning of the end of public higher education as we know it” has its roots in an earlier development well before investors and tech entrepreneurs started predicting that we were only a couple of decades away from having only 10 universities in the world, thanks to their MOOCs. The beginning of the end, say Aaron Bady and Mike Konczal: the governorship of Ronald Reagan in the late 1960s, who then vowed he would “clean up that mess in Berkeley.”

At the time, the state had already developed what historian Kenneth Starr has called a “utopia for higher education.” The pinnacle arguably: The Master Plan for Higher Education, signed into law in 1960. The plan was, in essence, a commitment to provide all Californians with access to higher education, something that’s been, as Tressie McMillan Cottom points out in her work, a cornerstone of how Americans have viewed class mobility. The Master Plan was meant to offer three avenues for access to college, a tripartite system where the top 12.5% of high school graduates in the state could attend one of the campuses of the University of California – at Berkeley, for example, or LA – tuition-free. The top one-third were guaranteed a spot at one of the campuses of the California State University system – Cal State, San Francisco State, and so on. Community colleges in the state would accept any students “capable of benefiting from instruction” – that is, both new high school graduates and “non-traditional” students. Upon graduation from community college, those students could then transfer to any Cal State or UC campus in order to finish their Bachelor’s Degree. As Bady and Konczal write,
In theory and to a significant extent in practice, anyone from anywhere in California could, if they worked hard enough, get a bachelor’s degree from one of the best universities in the country (and, therefore, in the world), almost free of charge. The pronounced social and economic mobility of the postwar period would have been unthinkable without institutions of mass higher education, like this one, provided at public expense.

When Reagan took office as Governor of California in 1967, he made it clear: public expenses would be curbed, particularly in the university system. “There are certain intellectual luxuries that perhaps we could do without,” he told reporters. Taxpayers, he said, should not be “subsidizing intellectual curiosity.” The purpose of college, in other words, was not to offer what we’ve long construed as a liberal arts education; the purpose of higher education: to learn “job skills.”

The tech industry is just the latest to latch onto this argument. “Everyone should learn to code,” we now hear.

And as the state of California – and elsewhere – has withdrawn its financial commitment to free or subsidized public higher education, who has stepped in to meet the demands? The for-profit sector.

And the tech industry is latching onto this market as well."



"Tim Draper’s (unconstitutional) plan to split up the state of California would have completely reshaped American politics. It failed, but I think it underscores the sort of transformative vision – “the Silicon Valley narrative,” the “Californian Ideology” – that the tech industry has. This vision is not simply about “the virtual world.”

We in education would be naive, I think, to think that the designs that venture capitalists and technology entrepreneurs have for us would be any less radical than creating a new state, like Draper’s proposed state of Silicon Valley, that would enormously wealthy and politically powerful.

When I hear talk of “unbundling” in education – one of the latest gerunds you’ll hear venture capitalists and ed-tech entrepreneurs invoke, meaning the disassembling of institutions into products and services – I can’t help but think of the “unbundling” that Draper wished to do to my state: carving up land and resources, shifting tax revenue and tax burdens, creating new markets, privatizing public institutions, redistributing power and doing so explicitly not in the service of equity or justice.

Echoes of imperialism. Imperialism’s latest form."
california  californianideology  capitalism  commodification  education  technology  neoliberalism  2015  audreywatters  timdraper  aaronbady  mikekonczal  ronaldreagan  richardbarbrook  andycameron  libertarianism  inequality  infrastructure  privatization  unbundling  markzuckerberg  facebook  evgenymorozov  connectivity  injustice  losangeles  internet  web  online  netneutrality  politics  policy  economics 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Interview: Teju Cole « Post45 - Linkis.com
"TC: Anyone who writes is lucky. The idea that one will be read, whether by a few or by many, is a basic expectation that makes me happy. In a somewhat childish way, I can't quite get over the mystery of written communication. When I'm writing, I'm mostly thinking, "Some other human being will read this, and probably comprehend all or most of it in just the way I intended, or in a way I will find believable." That's what I think about, and so I really leave no space for brooding about the death of the author. The author, if not dead yet, will die. The reader will die and be replaced by another reader. But literature itself—its peculiar form of communion—is a deeper miracle. You're reading Song of Solomon. That's a thing you can do. You're reading Stendhal. That's another thing you can do. I know I'm being a nerd about this, but it honestly amazes me. I refuse to get over it."
tejucole  2015  interviews  aaronbady  writing  technology  via:robinsloan  communication  atemporality 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Interview: Sofia Samatar « Post45
"SS: The relationship between fantasy fiction, and the whole African literature thing... So, I get questions a lot, where people ask me why I write this, and I try to answer them as best I can.

Is that an antagonistic question? As in, "why do you write fantasy rather when you should be writing real literature?"

I think it's a little bit antagonistic, but I also think it's genuine. I don't think people are asking it to be confrontational. They honestly want to know. But genre fiction—you know, science fiction, fantasy, Western, romance—all of them are set apart from literary fiction, in the way that our literature is divided. And since literary fiction is generally felt to be realist—which is totally not the case, but it is what people think—the question becomes, well, here is this dominant literature, here is The Novel, we have this idea of the novel as a realist form... That's where the question "why" comes from, the idea that writing fantasy is not a normal thing to do.

One way I address this is to turn things around, and look at how much older fantasy is than realism, how much more widespread in the world. How deeply a part of oral tradition fantasy is—and say, you know, explain to me, "Why write realist fiction?" Because fantasy is not the fringe, really, if you take narrative as a whole. It is the center.

So, there's that answer. But that doesn't work, right? Because we are still looking at things the way they are now, the way literature is divided. So then I go to my other answers. One of them is that I don't know. I wrote my PhD dissertation on the Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih: I wrote it on the uses of the fantastic and the uncanny in his work, plus a comparative piece where I was looking at Ibrahim al-Koni of Libya, Ben Okri of Nigeria, and Bessie Head from South Africa/Botswana. I was looking at how all of these writers are using the fantastic and the uncanny in their work. I did this, in part, to try to figure out why I am drawn to this literature. And I failed! I failed, Aaron. I still don't have a satisfactory answer for my attraction to this kind of literature."

[Compare to https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:0a82a9f1b371 which references Stephen King saying something similar (https://web.archive.org/web/20151003010112/https://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/101627096303/michiko-kakutani-who-writes-reviews-for-the-new )
and Ursuala Le Guin doing the same (http://www.rc.umd.edu/sites/default/files/imported/reference/wcircle/leguin.pdf [.pdf] via http://designculturelab.org/2014/10/23/three-uncertain-thoughts-or-everything-i-know-i-learned-from-ursula-le-guin/ )

Update (4 March 2015): here's another Ursula Le Guin to add to the mix, this one referring to some Kazuo Ishiguro in the NYTimes:
95. “Are they going to say this is fantasy?”
http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Blog2015.html#New and http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2015/03/02/are-they-going-to-say-this-is-fantasy/

Update (10 July 2017): a thread: https://twitter.com/zunguzungu/status/884431966900113408

"What would you say if I told you that there was a thing called Science Fiction that exists [screenshots]

It's unfair to Ghosh--he's a better reader than the "why no climate fiction?" hottakes citing him--but it's become an annoying cliche.

If what you mean by "contemporary fiction" doesn't include Speculative Fiction, then contemporary fiction will not speculate about futures.

You could go a step farther: the "contemporary" in that sense of contemporary fiction is composed by literally removing the speculative.

The link to that "On the Media" episode on fiction and climate change, btw: https://www.wnyc.org/story/on-the-media-2017-07-07/

This is well put. If contemporary fiction doesn't address it, it's a structural erasure of writers that do, not a lack of them. [screenshot of https://twitter.com/nathangoldman/status/884420124752719872
trope of asking "why aren't writers writing about X?" is weird imo. seems meant as way of asking why don't people care about X...

..by asking why don't writers care. but almost always some writers do care and are writing about it. more interesting question is...

...what forces make that writing invisible and what that might have to do with what broader cultures care about.
]

Related: a short thread I wrote on Kanishk Tharoor's collection as Fiction in the Age of Climate Apocalypse: https://twitter.com/zunguzungu/status/841638743123550208

The first paragraph of that Ghosh essay
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/28/amitav-ghosh-where-is-the-fiction-about-climate-change-

"the irony of the “realist” novel: the very gestures with which it conjures up reality are actually a concealment of the real.""]
sofiasamatar  2014  interviews  aaronbady  fantasy  sciencefiction  genrefiction  literature  fiction  writing  africa  ursulaleguin  kazuoishiguro 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Some observations on Taiye Selasi’s “Driver” – The New Inquiry
[regarding: http://www.granta.com/Archive/123/Driver (Update: now here and paywalled: https://granta.com/driver/ )]

"It may surprise you to learn that Taiye Selasi’s short story, “Driver,” absolutely seethes with class antagonism. It does so very quietly. “I am the full-time driver here,” is the first line of the story; “I am not going to kill my employers” is the second. Instead, the protagonist—Webster, a formerly college-bound young man whose ambitions were halted by his father’s illness, and who has become a driver for a wealthy Ghanaian family—writes “I will make just a few observations.”

This is all he will do. He will not kill them. He will merely see them.

He does not burn down his employers’ house, for example, but he does make some heated observations: the madam’s flowers are, she tells him, the “toast of all of Ghana”; some of us, he responds, do not have bread. But he doesn’t say it; he only imagines saying it to her. It’s the kind of bitter play on words that a frustrated mind would knot itself up with, but it’s a signifying that he doesn’t dare speak out loud. He doesn’t dare burn down their house, though he kind of wants to; instead, he ruminates on how the pots of flowers “burst into flames” as they “pretty” the walls of the compound. How beautiful their house would look in flames, he doesn’t say. The story does not turn into Faulkner’s “Barn Burning.” He does not attempt to reclaim his masculinity with violent action. He is passive. He observes.

It took a second reading before I noticed how intensely freighted the protagonist’s words are, in fact, how tightly wound his consciousness is. The antagonism is there, but the double meanings are also not quite meant to be heard; they might even be unconscious to him. His observations to us are as guarded as his words to his employers, his thoughts couched and hidden; he is surprised, at one point, to find himself crying. Nothing in what he has said, up until that point, explains why he has tears in his eyes. Which is another way of saying that he does not speak: he’s not telling any stories about what he sees, as the second meaning of “observations” indicates. He observes, passively, but he does not—except to us, and we must still draw it out of him—say what he has seen. He remains silent. He sees but is not heard.

He certainly doesn’t speak back to his employers, for instance. His great fear is that his employers will see him seeing them, and fire him for his observation, so he is scrupulously dumb, mute. His father is sick with cancer, his family needs the money from the job, and he particularly likes this particular job because it allows him time to read, to continue his studies, as he puts it. So he does what he needs to do to keep it. He keeps his mouth shut.

Instead of observing what he sees, then, he says what he is supposed to say to keep his job, which is, mostly, nothing. Like his father—“a smiley man…a dimpled, deferential, diminutive man”—he plays the part well. He says “yes, ma’am” and “yes, sir,” as little as he can get away with. But unlike his father, he knows the mask he’s wearing. His father believed. The son does not. His father thought that hard work and subservience would pay off; his son has seen that it does not, but he makes the best of it.

This, at least, is how the story is set up at the start. Our protagonist wears the mask, plays the role he has been hired to play. He follows the rules. He does what he is told, and he keeps his mouth shut. He is defensively cynical, making a protective shell out of a mute exterior. But the persistent difficulty of servile life is that his employers do not keep their end of the bargain, and do not have to. Employment is not a contract; employment is a form of subjection.

For one thing, his father’s boss does not take care of his sick servant’s family, as the father had expected, as the implied contract of their relationship does not turn out to enforce. Instead of acting as a benevolent patron, the boos simply offers a job as driver to the son (“offers”). If anything, the father’s sickness is an opportunity for his boss: another driver becomes available, and his sister needs a driver (for reasons which later become apparent)."



"The protagonist’s masculinity makes it easier to overlook the undercurrent of aggressive seduction that threads through the entire story, but it is there. Were the protagonist a woman, it would be easier to see his employers harassing him, forcing intimacies upon him that he spends the story trying to evade, but which he cannot avoid. We’d recognize this story in an instant if it were a frustrated male employer seducing his female servant, forcing her to choose to be seduced; Samuel Richardson wrote Pamela in 1740, and it’s been written a time or two since. But though it’s less clear that we are seeing a version of that story, we are: his mistress is frustrated with her husband’s infidelity, and she eventually forces the protagonist to choose to be seduced.

It begins when he walks past his mistress’s bathroom window and accidentally sees her naked. He is doubled over with panic that he will be fired for “peeping”; he hides, and literally weeps with fear. “Peeping” is a firing offense. But like most forms of policing, what seems like a contract—don’t do the crime, don’t do the time—is actually a power relationship masked by the illusion of choice. He sees her naked, but not because he “peeped”; it is her who left the window “undressed,” projecting her naked body out of the room where she bathes, onto the eyes of the unsuspecting Webster, who had no intention of seeing her. He didn’t actively look; he was just walking by, and was, passively, made to “peep.” But the moment he does, he is in her power.

The story ends when, fifteen minutes later, she walks out into the garden, where he is frozen, speechless, paralyzed. She tells him what he has feared: she saw him seeing her. She tells him he can keep a secret. Finally, she tells him that she will help his father if he has sex with her and, without using words, that she will fire him—like the last driver—if he will not. Here the story ends. She takes him in her arms; he reciprocates, and a curtain of modesty falls over the proceedings.

If she had used violence, it would be possible to call this “rape.” But he does not say no, does not resist, is not forced. He reciprocates, as he has no choice but to do. Which is the point. Because she allows economics to do the work for her, there is no word for his violation. We cannot say he was raped, because he chose, even if it wasn’t the choice he would have chosen, even if we see him weeping with fear and frustration, even if she catches him like a spider catches a fly. Of course, she needn’t be the spider in her own mind; she didn’t force him, after all, and maybe he really does want it? He doesn’t say no, after all, and she’s doing him a favor. She can think all of these things, plausible. And he says nothing to contradict her.

This, then, is the movement of the story: from an impulse to violent action to words, and from words—from actually speaking—to merely seeing, silent acquiescence. The silence of seeing and knowing what one does not dare to say. And the violation without violence of economic force. With no power to say no, silence is subjection."
observation  power  silence  control  policing  2014  aaronbady  taiyeselasi  storytelling  powerdynamics  subjection 
december 2014 by robertogreco
(NOT) Five African novels to read before you die – The New Inquiry
[in response to: http://theconversation.com/five-african-novels-to-read-before-you-die-33063 ]

"1. Yvonne Owuor’s Dust (2014). Everything changed when she wrote this book. It’s glorious and great, and brave and beautiful, and as you’re reading it, flip back and re-read the prologue, which is the poetry that the rest of the book works to explicate. Also, remember that it’s the story of an artist holding a paintbrush like a stabbing knife. This book is doing work. (alternate: Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place, which is pretty much all of those things too).

2. Shailja Patel’s Migritude (2010). This book is as beautiful as its cover, and I’ve learned almost as much from her writing as I’ve learned from her example. So brave and strong that you almost don’t notice the melding of an acute artistic sensitivity with painful self-reflection. So worldly that you almost don’t notice how rooted she is. So political that you almost don’t notice that she writes about love, always. (alternate: Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go, which is a lot more of those things than the “I’m not an Afropolitan” people seem willing to notice).

3. Alain Mabanckou’s Blue-White-Red (1998, 2013), African Psycho (2003/2007), Broken Glass (2005/2009), Memoirs of a Porcupine (2007/2011), Black Bazaar (2009/2102), Tomorrow I’ll be Twenty (2010/2013). Did you know that there is such a thing as African literature written in French? Neither did I! But Alain Mabanckou turns out to exist, and he’s a completely amazing and interesting and delightful writer, and as you can see from the dates above (original publications/translations), his English translators are slowly catching up with him. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because he’s funny and playful that he’s not deadly serious, and cruel. (alternate Francophone writer that is finally getting most of his stuff translated in the states: Abdourahman Waberi).

3.5. Oh, and what the heck, here’s a bunch of other novels written recently-ish by Africans, in French, that have been translated into English:

• Ken Bugul’s The Abandoned Baobab: The Autobiography of a Senegalese Woman (1982/1991)
• Gaston-Paul Effa’s All That Blue (1996/2007)
• Fatou Diome’s The Belly of the Atlantic (2003/2006)
• Gabriel Mwene Okoundji’s The Wounded Soul of a Black elephant & A Prayer to the Ancestors (2002,2008/2010)
• Léonora Miano’s Dark Heart of the Night (2005/2010)
• Edem Awumey’s Dirty Feet (2009/2011)
• Kossi Efoui’s The Shadow of Things to Come (2011/2013)
• Scholastique Mukasonga’s Our Lady of the Nile (2012/2014)

For most of these writers, this is the only book which has been translated in English, so for crying out loud, at least you could read that one book, you gauche provincial. (Alternate Europhone language whose African writers are finally getting translated into English: Portuguese. Look for names like Mia Couto, Pepetela, and Ondjaki.)

4. Hisham Matar’s In the Country of Men (2006) and Anatomy of a Disappearance (2011). Variations on a theme. Haunting, lovely, and wonderfully perceptive about masculinity and power, and his prose is crystal sharp. (Alternate Libyan novels: Ahmed Fagih’s Maps of the Soul, which is 618 pages and comprises the first three books (Bread of the City, Sinful Pleasures and Naked Runs the Soul) of his twelve novel epic, already published in Arabic.) (alternate African literary language that I can’t even begin to: Arabic. SO MANY BOOKS IN ARABIC.) (also, the Maghreb, what about them…) (what about the islands, do those count) (Africa is big)

5. Africa39: New Writing from Africa south of the Sahara. These are not at all the only interesting writers under the age of 39, but it’s a damned good anthology and a damned good list of writers. Most anthologies are not nearly this full of interesting surprises, and the level of quality is a lot higher than I had even hoped. And it’s 39 writers, from all over the place south of the Sahara, which is a lot of people and places. If you’re going to make an impossible list, it’s a good backstop to keep everything from sliding out of control (alternate: all the other books ever written by African people (alternate alternate: literature in non-European languages, let me know what you find)."
literature  africa  readinglists  aaronbady  2014  books  fiction  booklists 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Public universities should be free | Al Jazeera America
[I mostly agree with Aaron here, especially that we should have free public higher ed options, but I have a few quibbles:

- no mention of changes in percentage of population that want to attend college
- no mention of adminstrative bloat and the need slim that down
- no mention of the entitlements that tenured faculty members have grown accustomed to
- We have a lot of economic issues to sort out to make this happen. It's part of a greater system of problems, including the criminal justice system, finance system, K-12 education system, etc. No mention of where this stands in the list of priorities.
- there is some nuance to our road funding systems that is left out
- others ]

[Two responses: http://mattbruenig.com/2013/11/20/3-theses-on-higher-education/
http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/11/20/college_shouldn_t_be_free_three_big_problems_with_free_college.html ]
highereducation  highered  education  aaronbady  2013  piubliceducation  us  economics 
november 2013 by robertogreco
AIGA | The UC logo controversy: How 54,000 people, the mainstream press and virtually every designer got it wrong
"“Designers too often judge logos separate from their system…without understanding that one can’t function without the other,” noted Paula Scher, when I asked her views on the controversy."

Previously:
http://articles.latimes.com/2012/dec/12/news/la-ol-uc-logo-letters-20121212
http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/The-UC-logo-It-s-all-about-the-branding-4113439.php
http://web.archive.org/web/20131210054621/http://www.thinkingwithshakespeare.org/index.php?id=1261
http://www.sacbee.com/2012/12/16/5055646/keeper-dont-let-viral-mob-dictate.html
http://www.thinkingwithshakespeare.org/index.php?id=697
http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/12/17/how-could-university-california-have-avoided-logo-mess
http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/follow-up_university_of_california.php
http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/ic_uc_we_all_c_for_california.php
http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/zunguzungu/let-us-eat-cake/
http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/zunguzungu/a-different-baton/

And for reference:
http://brand.universityofcalifornia.edu/
http://brand.universityofcalifornia.edu/guidelines/visual-identity.html
http://brand.universityofcalifornia.edu/guidelines/identity-elements.html
http://brand.universityofcalifornia.edu/guidelines/color.html
http://brand.universityofcalifornia.edu/guidelines/official-university-fonts.html
http://brand.universityofcalifornia.edu/guidelines/the-uc-seal.html
http://brand.universityofcalifornia.edu/guidelines/photography.html
http://brand.universityofcalifornia.edu/guidelines/editorial.html
http://brand.universityofcalifornia.edu/guidelines/executing-the-brand.html

Onward California:
https://vimeo.com/50793162
https://vimeo.com/48040935

original video (with controversial logo)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARWWDEhGP8o ]

[Related sites:
http://universityofcalifornia.edu/
http://achieve.universityofcalifornia.edu/
http://lograr.universityofcalifornia.edu/
http://www.onwardcalifornia.com/ ]
julialupton  arminvit  brandnew  aaronbady  vanessacorrea  controversy  design  highered  education  criticism  christophersimmons  marketing  logos  2013  2012  identity  branding  logo  uc  paulascher  universityofcalifornia 
january 2013 by robertogreco
A moment of dreaming about higher education – The New Inquiry
[now here: https://thenewinquiry.com/blog/a-moment-of-dreaming-about-higher-education/ ]

"The work of self-cultivation that students do—when they learn language, learn to paint, learn to design and build, learn to socialize, and learn everything else that they learn—all eventually pays massive social dividends. A capitalist society like ours does not function if the state doesn’t educate its citizenry…There is nothing more blind to itself than a huge government which has enshrined “small government” as its ruling philosophy, and which exists only by spending tax dollars and but believes it can be against both taxes and spending."

"if we can see outside the frame of cultivation and pleasure, we can see that producing a mass population with all sorts of apparently superfluous skills—engineers that read novels and writers that know calculus—is a better society than one in which all human activity is reduced to pure utility, and bare recreation."
work  labor  highered  highereducation  aaronbady  society  learning  moocs  politics  capitalism  self-cultivation  liberalarts  government  smallgovernment  us  california  uc  2013  education  mooc  universityofcalifornia 
january 2013 by robertogreco
From Master Plan to No Plan: The Slow Death of Public Higher Education | Dissent Magazine
"The standard political criticism of the for-profit industry is that it exists only to vacuum up government subsidies; that it is a problematic byproduct of government actions. This diagnosis is perfectly in line with the Reaganite complaint against government interference in the workings of the market. If we look at California, however, we see that this critique has it backward. For-profit education flooded the market only after the state began to abandon its responsibility to create sufficient institutional capacity in the public system. The problem is not government action, but inaction. As the government gave up its Master Plan responsibility to educate California students, the for-profit sector expanded to fill the demand."

"While Proposition 13 dramatically limited the total revenue in the state‘s coffers, the prison boom diminished the percentage of total funds available for higher education."
funding  publiceducation  neoliberalism  capitalism  public  johnaubreydouglass  poland  korea  brazil  richardblum  government  higheredbubble  privatization  tuition  2012  mikekonczal  aaronbady  studentdebt  priorities  prisons  money  education  california  proposition13  uc  history  ronaldreagan  highered  forprofit  schooltoprisonpipeline  brasil  universityofcalifornia 
october 2012 by robertogreco

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