Archive for December 2011
I have, but it’s a thing that merits constant reiterating, as so few us spend any time being aware of it. David Cain turns in a great post on the topic:
What would [anyone in the Iron Age] pay to be able to:
- speak to someone across the sea
- have the knowledge of thousand encyclopedias in their pocket
- watch segments of the past (or someone else’s past) unfold in moving pictures, in real time
- see the face or hear the voice of a dead loved one
- heat the house without stoking a fire
- cook food in thirty seconds
- clean and dry their family’s clothing with ten minutes of actual work
- suck the dirt out of a rug
- get all their water from inside the house at whatever temperature they wish
- access instructions on how to do almost anything that can be done by humans
This essay, delivered as a video, is an uncommon idea explained with great clarity. I implore you to look past the from — someone monologuing to the camera for 15 minutes makes me very likely to turn away — and give her amazingly rare points a hearing.
Have I ever told you how much I love David Brooks? (Yes, yes I have.) It’s because he says sensible things like this:
In sum, in the progressive era, the country was young and vibrant. The job was to impose economic order. Today, the country is middle-aged but self-indulgent. Bad habits have accumulated. Interest groups have emerged to protect the status quo. The job is to restore old disciplines, strip away decaying structures and reform the welfare state. The country needs a productive midlife crisis.
David Brooks does a thing most years I like: he saves a bunch of long magazine pieces and puts them together in a few columns. The ones four years ago were one of the reasons I started this site. The first part of this is the title link, the here’s the second. The few piece I’d not read before but did like:
Egypt’s changed a lot this year, but as Adam Shatz’s reporting makes clear, not as much as most optimists hoped it would.
The young people who launched the revolution are still protesting, but they have been outflanked by the hard men, the soldiers and Islamist politicians now calling the shots. The Mubarak regime was replaced by a military junta, the 20-member Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), headed by Field Marshal Muhammed Hussein Tantawi.The Scaf has all but declared war on Tahrir, assailing protesters calling for civilian rule as ‘enemies’ of the revolution which it perversely claims to embody.
I link to this in part because it so accurately supports a point I made recently: revolutions don’t really work.
The story of how Martin Luther’s ideas went from a small bulletin-board post at a university to a religion-changing, war-causing force.
Tetzel, the indulgence-seller, was one of the first to respond to him in print, firing back with his own collection of theses. Others embraced the new pamphlet format to weigh in on the merits of Luther’s arguments, both for and against, like argumentative bloggers. Sylvester Mazzolini defended the pope against Luther in his “Dialogue Against the Presumptuous Theses of Martin Luther”. He called Luther “a leper with a brain of brass and a nose of iron” and dismissed his arguments on the basis of papal infallibility.
Fascinating review from Stephen Holmes of Luke Harding’s book on Russia. To the extent that this portrait has been painted elsewhere, I’ve never seen it. A minor example:
Because ‘never show weakness’ is the most pressing imperative of any chronically insecure regime, the Putin government decided to do what took minimal effort: seize control of the principal platform on which the government’s many shortcomings could be displayed. The Kremlin has monopolised nationwide television news not in order to impose a party line or because it hopes to persuade a cynical and disillusioned public to swallow the official version of events, but because it fears what might follow if the regime’s critics are seen to get away with disclosing the criminality and ridiculing the folly of the country’s ruling circles on national TV.
Jay Rosen asked himself some questions (over a year ago) about an idea he’s trying to spread about the American journalistic style:
In pro journalism, American style, the View from Nowhere is a bid for trust that advertises the viewlessness of the news producer. Frequently it places the journalist between polarized extremes, and calls that neither-nor position “impartial.”
The initial idea is good, but the fleshing-out is worth sticking around for.
(via Chairman Gruber)
Oliver Burkeman’s column is always worth paying attention to, but this line in the latest one was too good not to share:
Anger [about grammatical mistakes] delivers ego-enhancing pleasure; so does strengthening the boundaries of group membership – and carping about language is far more socially acceptable than explicit class snobbery or nationalism (not to mention less bother than confronting actual atrocities).