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In the News 19.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 19.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 19.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Searching London for My ‘Third Place’

After a quick stop at a Jamaican food stall at the outdoor Borough Market, I parted with my lunchtime companion and began my solitary journey through the heart of London, with City Hall on my right, the Thames to my left and the low winter sun above me. Though most of my walks through the city tended to be directionless — at least mentally, if not also geographically — today I had a purpose: I was looking for my “third place.”

Home and work, I had read that morning, are our first and second places, respectively, and the third place is a sociable one we choose for ourselves as somewhere that helps root us in our communities, and promotes social equality. Or at least that’s the ideal, according to sociologist Ray Oldenburg, who coined the phrase in 1989 in his book, The Great Good PlaceCafés, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. “Nothing contributes as much to one’s sense of belonging as much as ‘membership’ in a third place,” he wrote.

Read the rest of this article at: Longreads

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Growing Up as an Untouchable

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My stories, my family’s stories, were not stories in India. They were just life.

When I left and made new friends in a new country, only then did the things that happened to my family, the things we had done, become stories. Stories worth telling, stories worth writing down.

I was born in south India, in a town called Khazipet in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

I was born into a lower-middle-class family. My parents were college lecturers.

I was born an untouchable.

When people in this country ask me what it means to be an untouchable, I explain that caste is like racism against blacks here. But then they ask, “How does anyone know what your caste is?” They know caste isn’t visible, like skin color.

I explain it like this. In Indian villages and towns, everyone knows everyone else. Each caste has its own special role and its own place to live. The brahmins (who perform priestly functions), the potters, the blacksmiths, the carpenters, the washer people, and so on—they each have their own separate place to live within the village. The untouchables, whose special role—whose hereditary duty—is to labor in the fields of others or to do other work that Hindu society considers filthy, are not allowed to live in the village at all. They must live outside the boundaries of the village proper. They are not allowed to enter temples. Not allowed to come near sources of drinking water used by other castes. Not allowed to eat sitting next to a caste Hindu or to use the same utensils. There are thousands of other such restrictions and indignities that vary from place to place. Every day in an Indian newspaper you can read of an untouchable beaten or killed for wearing sandals, for riding a bicycle.

In your own town or village, everyone already knows your caste; there is no escaping it. But how do people know your caste when you go elsewhere, to a place where no one knows you? There they will ask you, “What caste are you?” You cannot avoid this question. And you cannot refuse to answer. By tradition, everyone has the right to know.

Read the rest of this article at: Lit Hub

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Where Did Time Come From, and Why Does It Seem to Flow?

Paul Davies has a lot on his mind—or perhaps more accurate to say in his mind. A physicist at Arizona State University, he does research on a wide range of topics, from the abstract fields of theoretical physics and cosmology to the more concrete realm of astrobiology, the study of life in places beyond Earth. Nautilus sat down for a chat with Davies, and the discussion naturally drifted to the subject of time, a long-standing research interest of his. Here is a partial transcript of the interview, edited lightly for length and clarity.

Is the flow of time real or an illusion?

The flow of time is an illusion, and I don’t know very many scientists and philosophers who would disagree with that, to be perfectly honest. The reason that it is an illusion is when you stop to think, what does it even mean that time is flowing? When we say something flows like a river, what you mean is an element of the river at one moment is in a different place of an earlier moment. In other words, it moves with respect to time. But time can’t move with respect to time—time is time. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that the claim that time does not flow means that there is no time, that time does not exist. That’s nonsense. Time of course exists. We measure it with clocks. Clocks don’t measure the flow of time, they measure intervals of time. Of course there are intervals of time between different events; that’s what clocks measure.

Read the rest of this article at: Nautilus

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The Teenage Whaler’s Tale

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Before his story made the Anchorage paper, before the first death threat arrived from across the world, before his elders began to worry and his mother cried over the things she read on Facebook, Chris Apassingok, age 16, caught a whale.

It happened at the end of April, which for generations has been whaling season in the Siberian Yupik village of Gambell on St. Lawrence Island on the northwest edge of Alaska. More than 30 crews from the community of 700 were trawling the sea for bowhead whales, cetaceans that can grow over 50 feet long, weigh over 50 tons and live more than 100 years. A few animals taken each year bring thousands of pounds of meat to the village, offsetting the impossibly high cost of imported store-bought food.

A hundred years ago — even 20 years ago, when Gambell was an isolated point on the map, protected part of the year by a wall of sea ice — catching the whale would have been a dream accomplishment for a teenage hunter, a sign of Chris’ passage into adulthood and a story that people would tell until he was old. But today, in a world shrunk by social media, where fragments of stories travel like light and there is no protection from anonymous outrage, his achievement has been eclipsed by an endless wave of online harassment. Six weeks after his epic hunt, his mood was dark. He’d quit going to school. His parents, his siblings, everybody worried about him.

Read the rest of this article at: High Country News

The Metaphysics of the Hangover Mark Edmundson

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We commonly think of hangovers as the next-day result of too much alcohol. We overdo it the night before, and the following morning we pay. We develop flu-like symptoms. We get a headache; our joints hurt; it’s an unpleasant thing to stare too long at the light, which seems all too inclined to stare back—hard. Whatever optimism we might have stored away in the vault of our psyche seems to have disappeared. We’re down, sorry, sad, and grim. We feel as if we have succeeded in poisoning ourselves—and the word is that we have. The word toxic hides in the middle of intoxication, like a rat in gift box. We’ve infected our bodies with toxins, and at first we got a happy ride. Some scientists speculate that the euphoria induced by drinking may come from the way alcohol summons forth energies to fight against the possibility that we’ve been poisoned. Being drunk, or even tipsy, thus understood, is elation as the defenders come roaring into the breach like a wave of charging knights. Banners flap, armor clangs, the hautboys sound in the air.

But then comes the morning, and it is time to pay. We arrive at the downside of the event. As high as we have mounted in delight, as the poet puts it, in dejection do we sink as low. That really does seem to be the case. The higher we’ve flown under the influence, the more down and dirty is the experience of the morning after.

There are a number of memorable literary accounts of the hangover, but none I’ve encountered outdoes Kingsley Amis’s in Lucky Jim. Jim is a young university instructor trying to find a place in the world. But the strain of seeking is considerable. One night Jim drinks more than he should and then quite a bit more after that. The next morning, he faces the hangover. Jim “stood brooding by his bed.… The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.”

Indeed, he did. Generally, one can’t in good taste laugh at someone, even a fictional someone, who feels quite as bad as Jim does. But the hangover is different from most other kinds of suffering. As generations of mothers and fathers have said to their wayward kids about one sorrow or another, “You brought this on yourself.” If you hadn’t filled the third glass, then the fourth and then the—how many were there?—you wouldn’t have that washcloth on your head and it wouldn’t hurt quite so much as it does to look at things.

But really, wasn’t it worth it? The night before, it was a pleasure to look at things. It was a particular pleasure to look at a comely someone, and maybe be looked at in return. The possibilities seemed endless, or at least far improved over what they had been in the afternoon. And everything else you looked at, the barstools and the tables and even the beer glass, didn’t seem quite so alien, quite so other as they usually do. Somehow objects gave off an encouraging, almost amiable glow. And by contrast with that dusty thudding in the head the morning after, the night before there had been a serene and steady kind of subliminal sound—they don’t call it “getting a buzz on” for nothing. Even the thoughts that came through that serenely humming brain were good ones, kind and hopeful and upbeat. Wallace Stevens speaks of “the hum of thoughts evaded in the mind”—well, yes, that too. The bad thoughts were evaded, or at least didn’t seem half so bad in the roseate glow of a few drinks.

Read the rest of this article at: INSTITUTE for ADVANCED STUDIES in CULTURE

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @tradionalhome; @thelustlistt; @wallis_p_