Posts Tagged “History”

07w50:6 A culture saturated in sexism

by timothy. 0 Comments

A culture saturated in sexism | Johanna Schneller
Link (The Globe & Mail)
“Women’s bodies have always been fodder for jokes, but the envelope keeps getting pushed,” said Jessica Valenti, whose book Full Frontal Feminism came out in March. Young moviegoers expect more and more outrageous humour, so the movies get more risqué. Offscreen, recent tabloids, TV shows and Internet sites raked Tyra Banks and Britney Spears over the coals for gaining weight. Endless unflattering photos of their non-washboard midriffs were displayed and discussed. The fact that Banks was at most a size 12, and that Spears has had two children, didn’t matter: These women didn’t maintain their veneer of perfection. They had failed. A few weeks ago, the nitpickers hit a new low: They targeted Jennifer Love Hewitt, zeroing in on bumps on her bikini-clad bottom and blaring, ‘We know what you ate last summer.’ Now, I try to have a sense of humour about this stuff. But Jennifer Love Hewitt is a freaking Polly Pocket, and obviously fit. Seeing her scorned – for I don’t even know what, having hips? – I can’t help but feel that the volume and ubiquity of this kind of criticism is tipping from humour into something uglier.”

// Comment: In building her argument, Schneller writes “In Knocked Up, which came out in June, hero Ben (Seth Rogen — [is] chubby, which I point out because it’s not an issue for the men)”. Being chubby may not be an issue for men, but I’d feel remiss if I didn’t point out the sexism men are subjected to in the media. Either McDreamy handsome or ‘chubby’, they are often depicted as morons who love tools, cars, and meat. I discussed this once with a self-indentifying feminist and she argued that these stereotypes embodied the ‘Everyman’ as if this justified it – an extremely weak argument (imagine it being made for depictions of women in the kitchen, or toward some oppressed minority. Stereotypes never represent the ‘every-stereotype’).

This was somewhat addressed in Goodreads 05w24:2, and especially in this article from, Beauty and the Beast arguing:

In addition to their girth, a signal characteristic of these men is immaturity. Most of them are unable to master the simplest daily tasks. A recent episode of Grounded for Life was propelled by Sean’s inability to take a phone message while a typical King of Queens knee-slapper was fueled by Doug’s inability to keep his hands off a co-worker’s Koosh ball, which he, of course, loses. And virtually every episode of According to Jim is sparked by Jim’s selfishness and impulsiveness—he fights with Santa and the next-door neighbor; he pouts about having to give up his vices so Cheryl can get pregnant.

Indeed, the promixity of these men to their childhood selves is often directly invoked. In a recent episode of King of Queens, for example, Doug’s dad visits for a model train convention, which dredges up bitter memories about how as a child, Doug was not allowed—I am not making this up—to play with his dad’s train. When Dad is called away from the convention and Doug offers to fill in for him, Dad is still reluctant to let his dumb-ass son work the controls. (And when he does, Doug promptly destroys the train set, along with its fake mountain landscape setting. See what happens when you play with Daddy’s train?) Perhaps, then, actors like Mark Addy and Kevin James are best suited for these roles not only because they portray a fantasy life for couch potato male viewers—for a half-hour a week, you can be 300 pounds and still imagine yourself married to Jamie Gertz!—but also because their proportions, with their ample torsos and short and apparently useless limbs, approximate those of babies. [emp mine]

It’s not that there aren’t handsome or sexually desirable men on sitcoms, but these men are typically marked as terminal bachelors, like Ted Danson on Cheers. To the extent they have anything to do with family life, they tend to skulk around its outer margins like coyotes. On Two and Half Men (CBS, Mondays, 9:30 p.m. ET), Charlie (Charlie Sheen) is handsome, successful, and wedded to promiscuous bachelorhood, but he gets to enjoy some nourishing familial scraps since his loser brother (Jon Cryer) and scampy nephew moved themselves into his pad. (In keeping with the Maxim ethos of these shows, the brother was abandoned by a woman who thinks she might be a lesbian. It would be emasculating for male viewers to see a man dumped for being completely undesirable, and, besides, lesbians are so hot.) Likewise, on Grounded for Life the schlumpy husband has a smoother bachelor brother, Eddie (Kevin Corrigan), who lurks around the house and functions as a Casanova alter ego. This really works in Grounded for Life, thanks to the slithery Corrigan, who is probably the best thing about any of these shows. (On According to Jim and Still Standing, the single sibling is an attractive but romantically hopeless sister of the wife. That’s the choice: fat guy vs. spinsterhood.)

Here perhaps, a reminder of where the word ‘stereotype’ comes from. Steven Pinker, in The Blank Slate (2002; p. 201) writes:

The word stereotype originally referred to a kind of printing plate. Its current sense as a pejorative and inaccurate image standing for a category of people was introduced in 1922 by the journalist Walter Lippmann. Lippmann was an important public intellectual who, amoung other things, helped to found The New Republic, influenced Woodrow Wilson’s policies at the end of World War I, and wrote some of the first attacks against IQ testing. In his book Public Opinion, [1922], Lippmann fretted about the difficulty of achieving true democracy in an age in which ordinary people could no longer judge public issues rationally because they got their information in what we today call sound bites. As part of this argument, Lippmann proposed that ordinary people’s concepts of social groups were stereotypes:mental pictures that are incomplete, biased, insensitive to variation, and resistant to disconfirming information.

Lippmann had an immediate influence on social science (though the subtleties and qualifications of his original argument were forgotten). Psychologists gave people lists of ethnic groups and lists of traits and asked them to pair them up.

(Pinker references two books in a footnote: Roger Brown’s Social Psychology, (1985) & the paper Stereotype accuracy: Toward appreciating group differences edited YT Lee, LJ Jussum, and CR McCauley, 1995)

The results proved either Lippmann’s thesis, or just highlighted traditional bigotry. It’s hard to say which, now that we live in a media soup – didn’t some people have ideas about spics and wops in the 19th Century, when those insults were common?

Walter Lippmann, btw, is the coiner of the term ‘manufacture of consent‘ which now days is associated with Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman’s critique of mass media. Pinker’s mention that Lippmann ‘influenced Woodrow Wilson’ sounds great out of context, but within the context reported by Chomsky, his influence was in the way he helped inspire American propaganda. Chomsky, wrote:

The first modern government propaganda operation [was] under the Woodrow Wilson Administration. Woodrow Wilson was elected President in 1916 on the platform “Peace Without Victory.” That was right in the middle of the First World War. The population was extremely pacifistic and saw no reason to become involved in a European war. The Wilson Administration was actually committed to war and had to do something about it. They established a government propaganda commission, called the Creel Commission, which succeeded, within six months, in turning a pacifist population into a hysterical, war-mongering population which wanted to destroy everything German, tear the Germans limb from limb, go to war and save the world. […]

Among those who participated actively and enthusiastically were the progressive intellectuals, people of the John Dewey circle, who took great pride, as you can see from their own writings at the time, in having shown that what they called the “more intelligent members of the community” –namely themselves– were able to drive a reluctant population into a war by terrifying them and eliciting jingoist fanaticism. […]

Another group that was impressed by these successes were liberal Democratic theorists and leading media figures, like, for example, Walter Lippmann, who was the dean of American journalists, a major foreign and domestic policy critic and also a major theorist of liberal democracy. If you take a look at his collected essays, you’ll see that they’re subtitled something like “A Progressive Theory of Liberal Democratic Thought.” Lippmann was involved in these propaganda commissions and recognized their achievements. He argued that what he called a “revolution in the art of democracy,” could be used to manufacture consent, that is, to bring about agreement on the part of the public for things that they didn’t want by the new techniques of propaganda. He also thought that this was a good idea, in fact necessary. It was necessary because, as he put it, “the common interests elude public opinion entirely” and can only be understood and managed by a specialized class of responsible men who are smart enough to figure things out.

This theory asserts that only a small elite, the intellectual community that the Deweyites were talking about, can understand the common interests, what all of us care about, and that these things “elude the general public.” This is a view that goes back hundreds of years. It’s also a typical Leninist view. In fact, it has very close resemblance to the Leninist conception that a vanguard of revolutionary intellectuals take state power, using popular revolutions as the force that brings them to state power, and then drive the stupid masses towards a future that they’re too dumb and incompetent to envision themselves.


Lippmann backed this up by a pretty elaborated theory of progressive democracy. He argued that in a properly-functioning democracy there are classes of citizens. There is first of all the class of citizens who have to take some active role in running general affairs. That’s the specialized class. They are the people who analyze, execute, make decisions, and run things in the political, economic, and ideological systems. That’s a small percentage of the population. Naturally, anyone who puts these ideas forth is always part of that small group, and they’re talking about what to do about those others.

Those others, who are out of the small group, the big majority of the population, they are what Lippmann called “the bewildered herd.” We have to protect ourselves from the trampling and rage of the bewildered herd. Now there are two functions in a democracy: The specialized class, the responsible men, carry out the executive function, which means they do the thinking and planning and understand the common interests. Then, there is the bewildered herd, and they have a function in democracy too. Their function in a democracy, he said, is to be spectators, not participants in action. But they have more of a function than that, because it’s a democracy. Occasionally they are allowed to lend their weight to one or another member of the specialized class. In other words, they’re allowed to say, “We want you to be our leader” or “We want you to be our leader.” That’s because it’s a democracy and not a totalitarian state. That’s called an election.

(source; not properly attributed; excerpts of the above found here and here, and sourced to the 2002 book, Media Control, and from the Alternative Press Review, Fall 1993).

Not having read Lippmann’s 1922 book, it seems then that his argument would run something like this: the ‘bewildered herd’ is subject to the distortions of the media, forming stereotypes on the basis of sound-bites, and hence a self-selecting group of elites have the right to shape public opinion through the active manipulation of those stereotypes. Even better, the self-selecting group of intelligentsia should actively seek to distract ‘the bewildered herd’ so that they are out of the way of the decision making process.

Which gets back to Johanna Schneller’s piece: the fucking tabloids and the like pissing us off by unfairly insulting celebrity women while the Earth burns and our governments are doing fuck all about it.

07w49:4 22nd Century Architecture

by timothy. 3 Comments

Bridged City
Figure 1. A 22nd Century Bridged City

The above is from an episode of the Star Trek series Enterprise. It came to my attention the other day through a montage depicting history in another episode of the series. As fans of the show know, one of the running plots involved time travel, and the depiction of human history ‘resetting itself’ (after plot related meddling) was done through the use of images from various sources grouped together into thematically recognizable decades. So the 1980s were depicted by images of Ronald Regan, Margaret Thatcher, and Ruhollah Khomeini, the 1990s by images of the Clintons, George H Bush shaking the hand of Mikhail Gorbachev, etc. After the depictions of the first half the present decade (scenes of 9/11, Bush & Blair) it moves on into speculation. (The images from the stream are available here). The future was represented by a car and a robot and from then onto scenes of the show’s 22nd Century, marked by the opening shot of the series, the launch of the Enterprise spaceship, in the year 2151 (Figure 2).

Captain Archer in the Timestream
Figure 2. Cpt Archer in the Timestream

The 22nd Century is therefore marked by two cityscapes, one being that of Figure 1 the other being the following. These are meant to be Earth cities given the context of the time stream, but both shots are re-used production art from previous episodes. As I’ve mentioned, the cityscape below is from a Season 1 show (‘Dear Doctor’), while the bridge above is from an episode of Star Trek Voyager‘s last season (‘Workforce Part 1’).

Toronto 2110 AD
Figure 3. Toronto, 2110 AD

With regard to Figure 3, because it is otherwise unlabeled and supposed to depict an Earth city in the 22nd Century, I thought it might as well be Toronto. We can imagine this stretch of waterfront as being a bit to the East, or a bit to the West, of the CN Tower thus accounting for its absence (or, I could just invite anyone to Photoshop it in). We can imagine the bridges are subway extensions to the island, and we see that a similar subway/covered LRT path runs right along the water.

This being an image originally from s-f, it reflects the current architectural trends of the beginning of the 21st Century, the postmodernist appreciation of angles, glass and concrete.

But I present this image to you thus as a reflection of what kind of city we’ll get if this century is to be one of starchitects. This is what another hundred years of Frank Gehry and Daniel Leibskinds will result in.

Does this city look like a place you’d want to live? We can spy green-space but it seems very sparse. And don’t give me the old, ‘who cares I’ll be dead’ routine, so common from the likes of the Baby Boomers. It’s precisely that type of attitude which has gotten us our present shit world, and I don’t want to encourage more of that. Given the extension of our lifespans over the past century, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that this could be the city of your elder years, so take the question seriously: is this where you want to hobble and feed pigeons? Further, are you so selfish as to be that uncaring about the type of environment our proverbial great-and-beyond-grandchildren will live in?

Caprica City, Caprica
Figure 4. Caprica City, from the Battlestar Galactica Miniseries (2003)

A much more dramatic depiction of the type of city we could end up with it that from Battlestar Galactica. Filmed in Vancouver, perhaps one could label this ‘Vancouver 2210 AD’ since it seems a bit more harsh than the aesthetic presented above, as if one needed another century to get both the flying cars and the brutal deadness of the civic space:

Caprica City, Detail
Figure 5. Caprica City Detail

The real nightmare of urban development is this uniform cityscape of similar buildings, all equally unadorned, apparently utilitarian, with a neglected use of green space.

As spaces designed on computers to provide semiotic scenes meant to convey an advanced technological civilization, these reflect in turn the imagined futures of our own civilization. This is what we could end up with. But, in all likelihood, my guess is that the 22nd Century will not look like any of these images.

When Martin Rees published his book Our Final Hour in 2003, he famously gave our ‘civilization as we know it only a 50-50 chance of surviving the 21st century.’ (source) Now there’s some ambiguity there: others predict the potential extinction of humanity, which would certainly ruin our civilization, but it could also anticipate a sort of apocalyptic collapse into another form of Mad Max Dark Ages. But I have to point out the civilization known to the British in 1903 – and globally, that of every other nation and ethnic group on the planet (with the exception of those still living isolated tribal lifestyles) did not survive the 20th Century. The British Empire fell, the reliance on coal was replaced with that of processed crude oil, and the colonial projects of the era came to ignominious ends – the consequences of which we are still processing. Given how squanderous of natural resources our present civilization-as-we-know-it is, there’s no reason to want it to survive the 21st Century.King Charles III

Which brings me to Prince Charles, who by the times spoken of here will be thought of as King Charles III. In the early 1980s, Charles was mocked by the media for his interest in organic farming, and he’s currently thought of as daft for his architectural interests, including his sponsorship of the community of Poundbury. Poundbury is the result of Charles’ interest in the work of Leon Krier and Christopher Alexander. As the Poundbury website records:

Poundbury is a mixed urban development of Town Houses, Cottages, Shops & Light Industry, designed for the Prince of Wales by Architect Leon Krier on the outskirts of the Dorset County Town of Dorchester. Prince Charles, The Duke of Cornwall, decided it was time to show how Traditional Architecture and Modern Town Planning could be used in making a thriving new community that people could live & work in close proximity. Poundbury has now become World Famous as a model of urban planning, with regular visits from Councillors and MPs. Welcome to the Poundbury Community Website!

Given how Charles has already displayed some prescience when it came to organic agriculture, anticipating both its sense and its popularity, my expectation is that he’s once again onto something with his interest in such small-scale, community oriented architecture. The end result will be cityscapes of the 22nd Century which will not reflect the imagined exaggerations of the present shown to us through easy digital mock-ups.

I return now to the city of the bridge. When I saw this in the Timestream montage, the lines of it brought to mind the position just stated: that by the 22nd Century, technological advance combined with a rejection of explicit postmodernist, angular, and Leibskind-like egotism will brings us a meld of the traditional and the technological. The bridged city seemed a place inspired by Lord of the Rings, a technological version of Rivendell.

Figure 6. Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Figure 7. Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Rivendell, a bridge
Figure 8. A bridge in Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Figure 9. Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Given a choice between Caprica, or the Toronto of 2110 suggested here, I’d take a Rivendell of any season, of any weather condition. Of course, I expect to be able to continue to use a high speed internet connection, use a cell-phone, browse in an Apple Store, and be able to have sushi. The point here is we can take much more control over our built environment, and expect more from our architects than glass and concrete. Letting current architectural fashion guide the next several generations will only result in a Caprica like monstrosity.- Timothy


The Architectural Contributions of Prince Charles | Nikos Salingaros

Some Notes on Christopher Alexander | Nikos Salingaros

Restructuring 21st Century Architecture Through Human Intelligence | Nikos Salingaros and Kenneth Masden
Abstract: This paper introduces a compelling new way of thinking about, teaching, and practicing architecture. Founded on the basis of how the human mind
perceives and interacts with the built environment, we call this new design process “intelligent architecture”. Perhaps surprisingly, scientifically-conceived rules for architectural design and building can lead to a more human architecture, one with a renewed respect for traditional methods of architectural design. This new process can also be extended by implementing new technologies. By applying the most recent scientific advances to architectural thinking, we can better appreciate the architectural heritage of the past, giving scientific insight into its origins and manner of conception. This development also reverses an unfortunate misunderstanding that required the future to erase the past rather than to learn from it. […] How can anyone believe that a “Dutch Design Demigod” could know more about a place than the very people who were born and raised there? How can these starchitects espouse to know what is best for the rest of the world? More importantly, how do we combat the aesthetic authority that such individuals now exert over our place in the world?”

Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order | Nikos Salingaros

Jim Kalb’s review of Christopher Alexander’s Nature of Order
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Pattern Language | Christopher Alexander

The Nature of Order | Christopher Alexander
“‘. . . Five hundred years is a long time, and I don’t expect many of the people I interview will be known in the year 2500. Christopher Alexander may be an exception.’ David Creelman, author, Interviewer and Editor Knowledge Manager, HR magazine, Toronto”

// what gets me is that Christopher Alexander’s work does live up to that blurb by David Creelman, but his principles of design do not carry over to his shitty websites.

Christopher Alexander | Project for Public Spaces

Prince Charles honored with Scully Prize
//contains a brief account of Poundbury

Prince Charles On Being Relevant | CBS’60 Minutes
LINK (60 Minutes)
//If you can handle the clutter of advert garbage on this page, your welcome to it. It was from this 60 Minutes story that I learned about Poundbury.

The Future of Cities: The Absurdity of Modernism | Nikos Salingaraos interviews Leon Krier
NS: Has humanity, as you claim in your writings and talks, made a fundamentally false step in building its cities, and if so, what can be done about it now?
LK: Humanity lives by trial and error, sometimes committing errors of monumental scale. Architectural and urbanist modernism belong — like communism — to a class of errors from which there is little or nothing to learn or gain. They are ideologies which literally blind even the most intelligent and sensitive people to unacceptable wastes, risks, and dangers. Modernism’s fundamental error, however, is to propose itself as a universal (i.e. unavoidable and necessary) phenomenon, legitimately replacing and excluding traditional solutions. Thank God there are, through the applications of New Urbanism in the last 20 years, enough positive experiences worldwide to see a massive return to common-sense solutions.”

Reforming the Suburbs | Conference Page, March 2007
// I wish the images here were better, but this link is pretty much just an FYI

Image sources and references:

The Time Stream Images | Star Trek Enterprise

Star Trek Voyager Workforce Part I Screencaps

Star Trek Enterprise Dear Doctor Screencaps
(Cityscape here)

Lord of the Rings Screencaps

07w49:1 1897 Vulgarity

by timothy. 0 Comments

1898 Obscene Language Baseball Document | Robert Edward Auctions
“In a contest between two leading clubs during the championship season of 1897, the stands being crowded with patrons of the game, a gentleman occupying a seat in the front row near the players’ bench, asked one of the visiting players who was going to pitch for them. The player made no reply. He then asked a second time. The gentleman, his wife who sat with him, and others of both sexes, within hearing distance, were outraged upon hearing the player reply in a loud, brutal tone, ‘Oh, go fuck yourself.'”

(via Metafilter)

07w47:1 The Edwardians in Colour

by timothy. 0 Comments

I found this series on the weekend was astounded by it. Albert Khan’s archive of very early colour photographs from the first two decades of the 20th Century.

Related links below were previously on Goodreads (04w20:2; 04w22:1) and are of Charles Cushman’s archive and the images of Russia from the second decade of the 20th C.

Part 01 A Vision of the World

Part 02 Men of the World

Part 03 Europe on the Brink

Part 04 The Soldiers’ Story – The War

Part 05 The Civilians’ Story

The Empire That Was Russia

The Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection

07w45:5 Norman Mailer 1923-2007

by timothy. 0 Comments

Mailer in Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 4

NY Times Obit:
Norman Mailer, Outspoken Novelist, Dies at 84 | Charles McGrath

Lee Seigel’s review/essay of Mailer’s last novel, published last January.
Reader comments.


From Goodreads 06w16:1:

The Mailers in Discussion
Part 1:
Part 2:
// Part 1: March 2nd afternoon on the Leonard Lopate Show; Part 2: March 2nd evening at some lecture hall. Norman Mailer and his son John Buffalo M. talk about their recent collaborative book and Mailer has great things to say about the state of the USA today. Personally, when Norman Mailer dies I’ll consider it a diminishment of humanity.


Norman Mailer fighting Rip Torn, 1970s
// this became popular on YouTube last August

Norman Mailer on Charlie Rose
Link to selections

Norman Mailer on Iraq and the American Right

07w44:4 Twelve Thousand Nine Hundred Years Ago

by timothy. 0 Comments

Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling | … et al (PDF)

To borrow stbalbach’s write up on Metafilter:

“On May 23, 2007 a multi-disciplinary team of scientists announced (YouTube, 70mins, 7-parts, part1-1 is a summary) the finding of physical evidence strongly suggesting that, around 12,900 years ago (10,900 BC), a massive Shoemaker-Levy type comet hit the atmosphere, air burst over the Great Lakes region of North America and probably engulfed much of the continent in a fireball and subsequent firestorm with catastrophic effects for life and climate. The extraterrestrial event coincides with the mass extinction or depopulation of many of North America’s largest mammals (including camels, mammoths, the short-faced bear and numerous other species); coincides with the end of the Clovis culture; and coincides with the start of a global climatic shift known as the Younger Dryas, a sudden return of Ice Age conditions. The “Younger Dryas impact event”, as it is banally being called, now competes with some well known and hotly debated theories, such as human hunters killed the mammals; or the Younger Dryas was caused by a slow down in the Gulf Stream (which has implications for current Global Warming predictions). On September 27, 2007 the team officially published their findings as Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling (PNAS open access).”

07w43:5 The Schoyen Collection

by timothy. 0 Comments

The Schøyen Collection
“The Schøyen Collection comprises most types of manuscripts from the whole world spanning over 5000 years. It is the largest private manuscript collection formed in the 20th century. […] The present website comprises a selection of digital descriptions of manuscripts with sample images from The Schøyen Collection. The whole collection comprises about 13,600 manuscripts and inscribed objects, of which about 720 are available on the present website. The selection, descriptions and digitalisation are the responsibility of the owner of The Schøyen Collection.”

07w43:1 Fuck the Young eh?

by timothy. 0 Comments

Why is Vancouver eating its young? Nothing cool about that | David Beers
“Nowadays in Vancouver, if, like me, you are middle-aged and own your digs, it can seem cruel to invite younger adults over for dinner, a taunt to those whose incomes are relentlessly outstripped by real-estate inflation. Even worse, you begin to sense that you and your guests are on opposite sides of a political divide. You are, after all, a member of the generation that is asking the young to endure and solve global warming, but what have you done for them lately, besides pouring fine wines in a heritage home of the sort they can never aspire to have? Much as the real-estate windfall graced middle-aged Vancouverites like myself, rising resource commodities prices have helped B.C.’s Liberal government run surpluses in the billions of dollars for several years now. But, for the young, the same government has more than doubled university tuition fees since 2001. And it’s given its MLAs a fat raise while refusing to up the minimum wage to $10 from $8. To add insult, the Liberals let employers pay a ‘training wage’ of just $6 an hour to workers starting out, most of whom, of course, are young. Spiralling housing and education costs. Low entry wages, weak public transit, kids living on the street and greenhouse emissions spewing away. If these seem vexing “issues” to older people, the young tend to bundle them as “boomer legacies,” burdens unfairly shifted onto them, says opinion researcher Angus McAllister. Politicians ignore at their own peril this way that youth filter politics, he suggests.” [emp mine, obviously]

Raging against the tyranny of CanLit | Stephen Marche
“Now, in the middle of prize season and the authors’ festival, the differences between the two literary capitals couldn’t be starker to me. Brooklyn is so, so young and Toronto is so, so old: It felt like moving from a frenetic day care to an old folks’ home. […] Literature in Toronto is something your smartest aunt does once she’s cozied up in her favourite sweater. And the work therefore is less exciting. The popular novels here are generally ponderous, draped in sanctimony over suffering and history, melodramas in exotic settings. One thing you are not going to get out of a novel on the Giller list or indeed the best-seller list is a good laugh. […] Setting is everything in Canadian fiction. Plots don’t matter much. There are only a few plots anyway: recovering from historical or familial trauma through the healing power of whatever (most common); uncovering historical or family secrets and thereby achieving redemption (close second); coming of age (distant third place). The characters are mostly the same: The only thing that changes is the location of the massacred grandmother, what kind of booze the alcoholic father drinks himself into fits with, what particular creed is being revealed, in deft and daring ways, as both beautifully transcendent and oppressive. Innovation, whether in language or form, is a dirty word. […] If you think I’m being extreme, just look at recent comments by Ellen Seligman, the publisher of McClelland and Stewart, one of the most powerful people in Canadian publishing. Her response to the Giller list this year struck me as a devastating assessment of where we stand: “I don’t think prizes are necessarily for young writers,” she said in The Globe. It is a remarkable sentence. There are two ways to read it. 1) Young writers don’t write well enough to deserve prizes. 2) Even if they do write well enough, only old writers deserve attention. Because that is what the Giller is, a massive dollop of attention. Seligman says it openly: Only books written by old people are worth serious attention. The danger is that the Giller, like the CBC, will become just another institution for boomer self-congratulation.” [emp mine]

07w42:5 Richard Rorty Selections

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I found these initially in the compilation Philosophy and Social Hope (1999) and was very happy to find them both online in order to share. – Timothy

The Humanistic Intellectual: Eleven Theses | Richard Rorty (1989)
“If one asks what good these people do, what social function they perform, neither ‘teaching’ nor ‘research’ is a very good answer. Their idea of teaching—or at least of the sort of teaching they hope to do—is not exactly the communication of knowledge, but more like stirring the kids up. When they apply for a leave or a grant, they may have to fill out forms about the aims and methods of their so-called research projects, but all they really want to do is read a lot more books in the hope of becoming a different sort of person. So the real social function of the humanistic intellectuals is to instill doubts in the students about the students’ own self-images, and about the society to which they belong. These people are the teachers who help insure that the moral consciousness of each new generation is slightly different from that of the previous generation. […] Philosophers of education, well-intended committees, and governmental agencies have attempted to understand, define, and manage the humanities. The point, however, is to keep the humanities changing fast enough so that they remain indefinable and unmanageable. All we need to keep them changing that fast is good old-fashioned academic freedom. Given freedom to shrug off the heresy-hunters and their cries of “politicization!,” as well as freedom for each new batch of assistant professors to despise and repudiate the departmental Old Guard to whom they owe their jobs, the humanities will continue to be in good shape. If you don’t like the ideological weather in the local English department these days, wait a generation. Watch what happens to the Nietzscheanized left when it tries to replace itself, along about the year 2010. I’m willing to bet that the brightest new Ph.D.’s in English that year will be people who never want to hear the terms ‘binary opposition’ or ‘hegemonic discourse’ again as long as they live.” [emp mine]

Fraternity Reigns | Richard Rorty (1996)
“Our long, hesitant, painful recovery, over the last five decades, from the breakdown of democratic institutions during the Dark Years (2014-2044) has changed our political vocabulary, as well as our sense of the relation between the moral order and the economic order. Just as 20th-century Americans had trouble imagining how their pre-Civil War ancestors could have stomached slavery, so we at the end of the 21st century have trouble imagining how our great-grandparents could have legally permitted a C.E.O. to get 20 times more than her lowest-paid employees. We cannot understand how Americans a hundred years ago could have tolerated the horrific contrast between a childhood spent in the suburbs and one spent in the ghettos. Such inequalities seem to us evident moral abominations, but the vast majority of our ancestors took them to be regrettable necessities. […] H ere, in the late 21st century, as talk of fraternity and unselfishness has replaced talk of rights, American political discourse has come to be dominated by quotations from Scripture and literature, rather than from political theorists or social scientists. Fraternity, like friendship, was not a concept that either philosophers or lawyers knew how to handle.”[emp mine]
// In the above named book, this was reprinted as ‘Looking Backwards from the Year 2096’.