Monday Reads: In Other News …Posted: October 17, 2016 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Bram Stoker, Dracula, Rabindranath Tagore, The Uberficaiton of the University 43 Comments
I’m fighting a horrible, terrible, very awful sinus infection that I really wouldn’t wish on any one. You’re just fortunate you can’t hear my voice right now. I sound truly diabolical. Of course, nothing could be as diabolical as a Trump Rally or Trump surrogate rationalizing Trump’s descent into madness and our descent into yet a lower level of the inferno he’s created for the nation. That’s why I’m going to take yet another day for anything but Trump-related reads.
Remember, we have another debate coming up on Wednesday and a live blog. I’m shuddering with either fever or the thought of another Trump Horror show. I’m supposed to be at a pre-wedding thing for youngest daughter but I really hate to share this illness with any one but the ex. We’ll be here as your usual safe zone. Either way, I will have wine.
The news has been so overtaken with the general election craziness that it distracts from other important things. This is a truly great time of the year and it’s closing in on Halloween. Indulge me while I indulge one of my favorite things. Yup. It’s an ancient grave yard, a classic scary book, and travelling Transylvania armed with only Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” as your guide. What more could you want than to start your day with monsters that come from one’s imagination instead of the Republican Party? I think you’ll delight in the photos and words of Luke Spencer at Atlas Obscura. Go check it out!!!
Nighttime in Transylvania is as atmospherically spooky as you would hope it would be. During the winter, a thick, low-lying mist covers thick forests of pine trees and firs. Above the fog, you can see the silhouetted turrets and spires of ancient castles and fortified churches. Many of the old homes there still burn wood fires, adding to the smoky air, while the towns are filled with gothic and baroque buildings that were once beautiful, but are now marked by peeling paint and crumbling facades.
It is common at night to hear howling in the forests, either from stray dogs or wolves. It’s easy to see why Bram Stoker chose this part of Romania to be a setting for his most chilling creation, Dracula.
The first section of Stoker’s gothic horror masterpiece takes the form of a travel journal, written in shorthand by a young English solicitor, Jonathan Harker, who is traveling across Europe to help conduct a land purchase on behalf of a noble client. Harker keeps a detailed diary of his journey from Munich to Transylvania, where he plans to meet the mysterious Count Dracula in his castle.
My plan was to follow in the footsteps of the fictional Harker, taking the same train routes—where possible staying in the same cities, towns and hotels—and ending my journey at the home of Vlad the Impaler, the real-life inspiration for Dracula. Partly encircled by the Carpathian mountains, Transylvania is still largely unexplored, despite its beauty and wealth of fascinating, centuries-old sites.
Some Brits are worried that we may be terribly distracted by the election. I know that Biden spoke about a possible cyber attack on Russia and that we essentially can’t sustain attacks on both Mosul and Aleppo which is why we’re focusing on the Iraqi attack on Mosul which we’re facilitating. John Kerry is planted in Europe right now trying to get our allies to consider some economic sanctions on Russia. So, there’s a lot in the air right now in foreign affairs which makes me even more glad we will have a President Hillary Clinton smoothly transitioning from the Obama administration.
The assault on the Iraqi city of Mosul that began this week underlines the fact that the next three months will be a perilous period in international politics. Fighting is intensifying in the Middle East. Tensions are rising between Russia and the west. And relations between China and its Asian neighbours are getting edgier. All this is happening while the US is diverted by the Trump-Clinton melodrama and the transition to a new president.
For Russia and China — two countries that are openly unhappy with the US-dominated world order — a distracted America will look like an opportunity. Both Moscow and Beijing regard Hillary Clinton with suspicion and believe that her probable arrival in the Oval Office would herald a more hawkish US foreign policy. They may be tempted to act swiftly, before she has a chance to settle into the White House.
A temporarily preoccupied America might not matter much in normal times. But big and dangerous decisions are looming. In the Middle East, the bombardment of Aleppo by Russian and Syrian government forces has led to a near-breakdown in relations between Moscow and the west. Without a common diplomatic project to hold them together, the two sides may slide into outright confrontation in Syria. Further sanctions on Russia are in the offing and the west’s military options are also being reviewed.
President Vladimir Putin may calculate that a US administration that has refused to take military action against the Assad regime since 2011 is unlikely to reverse course in President Barack Obama’s last few months in office. But if the Russians push too hard, they could miscalculate and provoke an American reaction. That is particularly the case because the Obama administration is angered by Russian cyber warfare, aimed at influencing the US presidential election. Joe Biden, the vice-president, has already signalled that America intends to retaliate in cyber space.
Even without a worsening of the situation in Syria, fighting in the Middle East will intensify in the coming weeks. The Iraqi government, backed by the air power of a US-led coalition, has begun a major push to retake Mosul from Isis. With one eye on his legacy and another on the presidential election, Mr Obama would be delighted to notch up a significant victory against Isis in the coming weeks.
I’d be really interested in seeing more of this on TV news but I’m usually greeted by some unhinged screed of some unhinged Trump surrogate instead. As you may know, I’m trying to make ends meet as a sharecropper University professor right now. Here’s a read at AltNet on a book about the sharing economy and university professors. It’s an interesting read.
My book, The Uberfication of the University, explores what neoliberalism’s further weakening of the social is likely to mean for the future organization of labor by examining data and information companies associated with the emergence of the corporate sharing economy. It focuses on the sharing economy because it is here that the implications for workers of such a shift to a postwelfare capitalist society are most apparent today. This is a society in which we are encouraged to become not just what Michel Foucault calls entrepreneurs of the self but micro-entrepreneurs of the self, acting as if we are our own, precarious, freelance microenterprises in a context in which we are being steadily deprived of employment rights, public services, and welfare support. Witness the description one futurologist gives of how the nature of work will change, given that 30 to 80 percent of all jobs are predicted to disappear in the next twenty years as a result of developments in automation and advanced robotics: “You might be driving Uber part of the day, renting out your spare bedroom on Airbnb a little bit, renting out space in your closet as storage for Amazon or housing the drone that does delivery for Amazon.”
Talk about being careful what you wish for: a recent survey of university vice-chancellors in the United Kingdom identifies a number of areas of innovation with the potential to reshape higher education. Among them are “uses of student data analytics for personalized services” (the number one innovation priority for 90 percent of vice-chancellors); “uses of technology to transform learning experiences” (massive open online courses [MOOCs]; mobile virtual learning environments [VLEs]; “anytime-anywhere learning” (leading to the demise of lectures and timetables); and “student-driven flexible study modes” (“multiple entry points” into programs, bringing about an end to the traditional academic year). Responding to this survey, an editorial in the academic press laments that “the UK has world-leading research universities, but what it doesn’t have is a higher education equivalent of Amazon or Google, with global reach and an aggressive online strategy.” Yet one wonders whether any of those proclaiming the merits of such disruptive innovation have ever stopped to consider what a higher education institution emulating the expansionist ambitions of U.S. companies like Amazon and Google would actually mean for those currently employed in universities.
Science illiteracy in this country is truly reaching epic proportions. Lisa Ryan writes on the STATE OF THE UTERUS and has found a letter to the enditor where a “Pennsylvania Man Wonders What Will Happen to America If Hillary Clinton Has Her Period.”
We have many things to fear in today’s world. There’s terrorism, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and sexual assault, to name a few. Yet one concerned citizen has finally alerted us to the greatest threat of all: a female president who has her period.
In a letter to the editor of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, Carl Unger of Montgomery, Pennsylvania, pointed out that, while the “liberals and Obama are calling for social justice,” everyone is ignoring the bigger problem here. That, of course, is Hillary Clinton’s uterus.
“They call us sexist just because we are critical of Hillary Clinton and her health,” Unger wrote. “What if that time of the month comes and she is sick at the same time?”
And this is the point where I wonder if men understand women’s reproductive cycle and the concept of menopause at all. This article comes with a h/t to Delphyne.It appears that a “state actor” may have cut of Assange’s internet access. Wikileaks has been in the new recently for hacking what is claimed to be Podesta’s email. None have been officially recognized as real.
Wikileaks says an unidentified “state actor” has shut down internet access for its founder Julian Assange.
The transparency activist has been claiming asylum at London’s Ecuadorean embassy since 2012 to avoid extradition over sex assault allegations.
There was no way to immediately verify if he had been knocked offline, and if so, how a state actor was suspected.
Wikileaks has recently been releasing emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The anti-secrecy organisation did not return calls and emails on Monday, though it said in a tweet: “We have activated the appropriate contingency plans.”
A woman who picked up the phone at the Ecuadorean embassy said: “I cannot disclose any information.”
I personally have not found anything to get hysterical about concerning the leaked emails but many of them seemed to be highly edited and coming from Russia. Maybe this is what Biden alluded to this week. The link leads to the MTP interview with Chuck Todd that aired yesterday morning.
Did you know that Bob Dylan is not the only lyricist to have won the Nobel Prize in Lit? I’ve read Tagore, have you? My son-in-law’s Bengali family is quite proud of this really talented and brilliant man. He was not only a poet but a prolific fiction writer and musician.
There’s been a great deal of excitement over Bob Dylan winning the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. It’s rare for artists who have achieved widespread, mainstream popularity to win. And although Nobels often go to Americans, the last literature prize to go to one was Toni Morrison in 1993. Furthermore, according to The New York Times, “It is the first time the honor has gone to a musician.”
But as Bob Dylan might croon, “the Times they are mistaken.”
A Bengali literary giant who probably wrote even more songs preceded Dylan’s win by over a century. Rabindranath Tagore, a wildly talented Indian poet, painter and musician, took the prize in 1913.
The first musician (and first non-European) to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Tagore possessed an artistry – and lasting influence – that mirrored Dylan’s.
Here’s an interesting read on a medical secretary who wanted to be a muse from The New Yorker. This article indicates that she was anything but a muse.
Mège began her project in 1986, when she was twenty years old. She had just moved to Paris from the province of Auvergne, not far from Lyon, where her father was the manager of an automobile-equipment shop and her mother stayed home. When asked about her childhood and adolescence, she uses words like “fine” and “calm” and “French.” At the time she came to Paris, she had never met an artist, and had been to few museum shows, but she collected record covers and postcards of images that appealed to her. One Saturday in mid-July, she went alone to an exhibition by the portrait photographer Jeanloup Sieff at the Musée d’Art Moderne. Stunned by the images, which depicted anonymous and ordinary, as well as famous, subjects, she wrote to Sieff, telling him that she liked his work. To her surprise, he telephoned her a few days later. She wrote in her diary, which she kept from 1986 until 2008, “He calls me, I’m extremely moved, surprised, I feel drunk.” She asked him if he would consider making a picture of her.
So, this is my humble offering today in the hope we can get our minds on the future challenges of the world with Madam President!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
A ray of hope against Hatred and Hype (updated after the fold)Posted: January 9, 2011 Filed under: Human Rights, Main Stream Media, Middle East | Tags: Arizona shooting, Egypt, Elizabeth Edwards, Hatred-Hype-and-Consequences, hoping against Hope, humanism, Rabindranath Tagore, religion, Rumi, toward a peaceful coexistence 15 Comments
I often blog about hoping against Hope, but after yesterday’s haunting display of violence, I want to briefly turn to (and then pivot from) the undercurrents that drove that display: Hatred and Hype.
Too much of both has been polluting the dialogue in America for far too long.
That pollution has Consequences. We saw that yesterday.
But on the flip side of Hatred and Hype is authentic hope. From my hoping against Hope essay:
Authentic hope is grounded by healthy skepticism and action, not by a glossy Shepard Fairey poster.
Positive reframing of thought is rethinking things in a way that is constructive rather than destructive. It must be met with a positive reframing of actions — a plan.
Public policy that gestated at the Heritage Foundation before being passed by Democrats is not a plan.
We can’t just close our eyes, imagine a better world, open our eyes to watch as more wealth is transferred to Wall Street, and then expect that better world to somehow spontaneously manifest itself. At the same time, if we close our eyes and see nothing, nothing will ever progress. We need vision to have a plan, and that’s where hope comes in. It has driven humanity against the odds time and time again. Real hope is a call to action.
Real hope is this — “Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as ‘human shields’” (from ahram.org, with Yasmine El-Rashidi reporting):
Muslims turned up in droves for the Coptic Christmas mass Thursday night, offering their bodies, and lives, as “shields” to Egypt’s threatened Christian community
Saturday Reads: On the Bright Side of the Dark SidePosted: January 1, 2011 Filed under: Civil Liberties, Environmental Protection, Health care reform, Hillary Clinton: Her Campaign for All of Us, Iraq, U.S. Politics, Women's Rights | Tags: 2011, Airport security, Aldous Huxley, Baby boomers, Brazil, Chris Hedges, Dilma Rousseff, Ellis Island, Jon Huntsman, No Profit Left Behind, Orwell, Rabindranath Tagore, Scott sisters, TSA 11 Comments
Good evening and a Happy 2011, Sky Dancers.
Here are my Saturday offerings for the New Year. There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the headlines, so I tried to mix in a few stories and thoughts of my own to put things into a more motivating and thoughtful perspective.
From McClatchy: “2011 looks grim for progress on women’s rights in Iraq… BAGHDAD — When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki introduced what he called a national partnership government two weeks ago, he included allies and adversaries, Arabs and Kurds, Shiite Muslims and Sunnis. One group, however, was woefully underrepresented. Only one woman was named to Maliki’s 42-member cabinet, sparking an outcry in a country that once was a beacon for women’s rights in the Arab world and adding to an ongoing struggle over the identity of the new Iraq.“
From further down in the article: “After Maliki announced his lineup, Alaa Talabani, a female lawmaker from the northern Kurdistan region, delivered a rousing condemnation of the selection process to a packed legislative chamber. ‘The Iraqi women feel today, more than any other day, that democracy in Iraq has been slaughtered by discrimination, just as it was slaughtered by sectarianism before,’ Talabani said, her voice quaking with emotion.”
“…slaughtered by discrimination, just as it was slaughtered by sectarianism.” That is a powerful statement.
It reminds me of this Hillary quote: “To expand freedom to more people, we cannot accept that freedom does not belong to all people. We cannot allow oppression defined and justified by religion or tribe to replace that of ideology.” –Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the wall’s collapse
The words of both Alaa Talabani and Hillary Clinton above make me think of dry drunks and switching addictions. It is as if there is a certain quotient of oppression junkies out there who just go from one form of subjugating others to the next.
Which brings me to my next link. From Chris Hedges’, a few days ago, at truth-out… “2011: A Brave New Dystopia… The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World.’ The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.”
My apologies if another frontpager or commenter has already spotlighted Hedges’ piece and I missed it, but I think this is important enough a read to merit a repeat linking.
Speaking of our impending total enslavement, Derek Kravitz at the Washington Post reports that “As frustration grows, airports consider ditching TSA… Some of the nation’s biggest airports are responding to recent public outrage over security screening by weighing whether they should hire private firms such as Covenant to replace the Transportation Security Administration. Sixteen airports, including San Francisco and Kansas City International Airport, have made the switch since 2002. One Orlando airport has approved the change but needs to select a contractor, and several others are seriously considering it. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which governs Dulles International and Reagan National airports, is studying the option, spokeswoman Tara Hamilton said. For airports, the change isn’t about money. At issue, airport managers and security experts say, is the unwieldy size and bureaucracy of the federal aviation security system. Private firms may be able to do the job more efficiently and with a personal touch, they argue.”
No Profit Left Behind strikes again.
Oh, and it strikes here too — from Alan Johnson at the Columbus-Dispatch — “Kasich emphasizes ‘business’: Governor-elect wants to ‘exploit’ resources, picks EPA, DNR chiefs… Kasich, a former Republican congressman who will take office Jan. 10, emphasized that he doesn’t plan to empower business at ‘the cost of environmental degradation.’ But in the next breath, he said he wants to ‘exploit the wonders of our state.'”
Exploit? Way to thread the business vs. environment needle ever so delicately. Teddy R. has got to be rolling in his grave when he sees today’s Republican party.
Moving along and keeping with the theme from Chris Hedges’ piece, this headline from Raw Story: “Judge warns of ‘Orwellian state’ in warrantless GPS tracking case… Police in Delaware may soon be unable to use global positioning systems (GPS) to keep tabs on a suspect unless they have a court-signed warrant, thanks to a recent ruling by a superior court judge who cited famed author George Orwell in her decision. In striking down evidence obtained through warrantless GPS tracking, Delaware Judge Jan R. Jurden wrote that ‘an Orwellian state is now technologically feasible,’ adding that ‘without adequate judicial preservation of privacy, there is nothing to protect our citizens from being tracked 24/7.’ The ruling goes against a federal appeals court’s decision last summer that allowed warrantless tracking by GPS.”
Sounds like this judge in Delaware just may be looking out for us. So a little silver lining there.
In other uplifting reads… the Gray Lady has a very sentimental editorial today called “A Year Anew.”
From the link:“By now, of course, 2010 feels like a completely familiar, totally used-up year. But why does 2011 still sound like an annum out of science fiction? It’s not as though 2011 is a remoter outpost in the hinterland of the future than, say, 1971 was. Yet here we are in the second decade of the 21st century, living in the very future we tried to imagine when we were young so many years ago. Surely we must have colonies throughout the solar system by now. Surely hunger is no more, and peace is planet-wide. The coming of the new year reminds us, again, that we live, as we always have, somewhere on a sliding scale between utopia and dystopia and that we continuously carry our burdens and opportunities with us. 2011 is merely a new entry in our ancient custom of chronological bookkeeping, an arbitrary starting point for our annual trip around the sun. But it is also so much more. Who can live without fresh intentions, new purposes? Who does not welcome a chance to start over, if only on a new page of the calendar? Life goes on, but it goes on so much better with hope and renewal and recommitment. Last night was a night for banishing regrets. Today is for wondering how to live without new ones, how to do right by ourselves and one another.”
It’s probably nothing more than a neat little moment of synchronicity, but while reading the above, I couldn’t help but picture someone on the NYT editorial board reading Hedges’ column, getting depressed and a little drunk, and then deciding to respond with this editorial.
Next up from today’s Gray Lady, Bob Herbert has an op-ed on the suspension of the Scott sisters’ prison terms — “For Two Sisters, the End of an Ordeal… What is likely to get lost in the story of the Scott sisters finally being freed is just how hideous and how outlandish their experience really was. How can it be possible for individuals with no prior criminal record to be sentenced to two consecutive life terms for a crime in which no one was hurt and $11 was taken? Who had it in for them, and why was that allowed to happen? The Scott sisters may go free, but they will never receive justice.”
Those are good questions, but I doubt we will ever find any answers to them.
I saw a bunch of new year’s stories on Baby Boomers. I’m just going to link to a few of them without excerpting:
“Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65” (NYT)
“Baby Boomers Expected to Drain Medicare” (ABC)
“Baby Boomers helped democratize art” (USA Today)
With so many of the headlines being so hostile toward boomers, like the NYT and ABC ones, I was glad to see that last one from USA Today. I think all the demonization along generational lines is such a waste.
I have a couple more quick links before I wrap this up.
Over in Brazil, some exciting news. President Dilma Rousseff is sworn in! From Newsday: “Brazil’s first female president vows to end poverty.”
Newsweek has an interesting piece — “The Manchurian Candidate: When Barack Obama posted Jon Huntsman to Beijing, it looked like a crafty way to sideline a 2012 rival. Don’t bet on it.”
I hope commenter Pilgrim catches this one! I know she’s a Huntsman fan.
From Raw Story — “Kucinich: GOP’s anti-health reform push may fuel Medicare-for-all drive.”
Here’s hoping against Hope on that one.
And on that note, your historical trivia for January 1st. On this day in 1892… The Ellis Island Immigrant Station in New York opened.
I’d like to close with this verse from Tagore on this New Years…
MIND WITHOUT FEAR
(Gitanjali, Verse 35)
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up
into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening
thought and action-
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake
Hope you are having a peaceful entry into the new year. Drop a note and let us know what you’re reading and thinking about in the comments if you get a chance.