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In the News 23.01.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 23.01.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 23.01.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 23.01.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

This Granular Life

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According to tradition, in the year 450 BCE, a man embarked on a 400-mile sea voyage from Miletus in Anatolia to Abdera in Thrace, fleeing a prosperous Greek city that was suddenly caught up in political turmoil. It was to be a crucial journey for the history of knowledge. The traveller’s name was Leucippus; little is known about his life, but his intellectual spirit proved indelible. He wrote the book The Great Cosmology, in which he advanced new ideas about the transient and permanent aspects of the world. On his arrival in Abdera, Leucippus founded a scientific and philosophical school, to which he soon affiliated a young disciple, Democritus, who cast a long shadow over the thought of all subsequent times.

Together, these two thinkers have built the majestic cathedral of ancient atomism. Leucippus was the teacher. Democritus, the great pupil who wrote dozens of works on every field of knowledge, was deeply venerated in antiquity, which was familiar with these works. ‘The most subtle of the Ancients,’ Seneca called him. ‘Who is there whom we can compare with him for the greatness, not merely of his genius, but also of his spirit?’ asks Cicero.

Read the rest of this article at The New Yorker

How Jokes Won The Election

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Since November 9th, we’ve heard a lot of talk about unreality, and how what’s normal bends when you’re in a state of incipient autocracy. There’s been a lot written about gaslighting (lies that make you feel crazy) and the rise of fake news (hoaxes that displace facts), and much analysis of Trump as a reality star (an authentic phony). But what killed me last year were the jokes, because I love jokes—dirty jokes, bad jokes, rude jokes, jokes that cut through bullshit and explode pomposity. Growing up a Jewish kid in the nineteen-seventies, in a house full of Holocaust books, giggling at Mel Brooks’s “The Producers,” I had the impression that jokes, like Woody Guthrie’s guitar, were a machine that killed fascists. Comedy might be cruel or stupid, yet, in aggregate, it was the rebel’s stance. Nazis were humorless. The fact that it was mostly men who got to tell the jokes didn’t bother me. Jokes were a superior way to tell the truth—that meant freedom for everyone.

But by 2016 the wheel had spun hard the other way: now it was the neo-fascist strongman who held the microphone and an army of anonymous dirty-joke dispensers who helped put him in office. Online, jokes were powerful accelerants for lies—a tweet was the size of a one-liner, a “dank meme” carried farther than any op-ed, and the distinction between a Nazi and someone pretending to be a Nazi for “lulz” had become a blur. Ads looked like news and so did propaganda and so did actual comedy, on both the right and the left—and every combination of the four was labelled “satire.” In a perverse twist, Trump may even have run for President as payback for a comedy routine: Obama’s lacerating takedown of him at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. By the campaign’s final days, the race felt driven less by policy disputes than by an ugly war of disinformation, one played for laughs. How do you fight an enemy who’s just kidding?

Read the rest of this article at The Walrus

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Drugs Du Jour

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Few people’s views on drugs have changed so starkly as those of Aldous Huxley. Born in 1894 to a high-society English family, Huxley witnessed the early 20th-century ‘war on drugs’, when two extremely popular narcotics were banned within years of one another: cocaine, which had been sold by the German pharmaceutical company Merck as a treatment for morphine addiction; and heroin, which had been sold for the same purpose by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer.

The timing of these twin bans was not coincidental. Ahead of the First World War, politicians and newspapers had created a hysteria surrounding the ‘dope fiends’ whose use of cocaine, heroin and certain amphetamines allegedly showed that they had been ‘enslaved by the German invention’, as noted in Thom Metzer’s book The Birth of Heroin and the Demonization of the Dope Fiend (1998).

Read the rest of this article at The Guardian

Zaha Hadid: From Flaming Sketchbooks To Global Phenomenon

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For a brief period at London’s Architectural Association in the 1980s, sparkling Perrier water was in vogue. Not for drinking, but for mixing acrylic paints. Students had watched in mystified awe as a steady supply of the bulbous green bottles were shuttled upstairs to the cramped third-floor studio, where recent graduate Zaha Hadid was busy conjuring a painting for an exhibition, a world of skewed perspectives and jagged forms making a bid for freedom. If they used the same fizzy water, her acolytes hoped, it might give their work the same magic Zaha lustre. But the bottles, Hadid later admitted, merely contained tap water: they were just a means of her assistants transporting it from the bar downstairs.

“Even as a student, Zaha had a kind of mythological aura around her,” recalls the artist Madelon Vriesendorp, who taught Hadid in painting workshops at the AA in the 1970s, introducing her to a vibrant colour palette beyond the smudgy greys and browns she had favoured. “She was an incredible creature, always dressed in spectacular layers of scarves and feathers and Perspex heels. And she had this strange habit of burning the edges of her drawings. They looked like futuristic treasures dug up from the ground, with all these crazy forms bending, twisting and warping. I loved her images, but I didn’t even try to understand what they meant.”

Read the rest of this article at The Economist

If You Were an Elephant …

… the world would be a brighter, smellier, noisier place – and you would be a better, wiser, kinder person. The author of Being a Beast explains all

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If you were an elephant living wild in a western city, you’d be confused and disgusted.

You’d have one two-fingered hand swinging from your face – a hand as sensitive as tumescent genitals, but which could smash a wall or pick a cherry. With that hand you’d explore your best friends’ mouths, just for the sake of friendship. With that hand you’d smell water miles away and the flowers at your feet. You’d sift it all, triaging. Category 1: immediate danger. Category 2: potential threat. Category 3: food and water. Category 4: weather forecasts – short and long range. Category 5: pleasure.

Grumbles from trucks and cabs would shudder through the toxic ground, tickle the lamellar corpuscles in your feet and ricochet up your bones. You’d hear with your feet, and your femurs would be microphones. As you walked 10 miles for your breakfast you’d chatter with your friends in 10 octaves. A nearby human would throb like a bodhran as subsonic waves bounced around her chest.

Even if it swayed with grass instead of being covered in concrete and dog shit, the city would be far, far too small for you. You’d feel the ring roads like a corset. You’d smell succulent fields outside, and be wistful. But you’d make the most of what you had. You’d follow a labyrinth of old roads, relying on the wisdom of long-dead elephants, now passed down to your matriarch. You’d have the happiest kind of political system, run by wise old women, appointed for their knowledge of the world and their judgment, uninterested in hierarchy for hierarchy’s sake, and seeking the greatest good for the greatest number.

No room here for the infantile phallocentric Nietzscheanism that is destroying modern human culture. If you were a boy you’d be on the margins, drifting between family groups (but never allowed to disrupt them) or shacked up with your bachelor pals in the elephant equivalent of an unswept bedsit (though usually your behaviour would be gentler, more convivial and more urbane than cohabiting human males). Your function would be to inseminate, and that’s all. Government would be the business of the females.

Read the rest of this article at The Guardian

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @andfinally_, @dagmara_ch, @norberthedog