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In the News 18.10.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 18.10.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 18.10.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 18.10.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

To the First
Lady, With Love


She had rhythm, a flow and swerve, hands slicing air, body weight moving from foot to foot, a beautiful rhythm. In anything else but a black American body, it would have been contrived. The three-quarter sleeves of her teal dress announced its appropriateness, as did her matching brooch. But the cut of the dress scorned any “future first lady” stuffiness; it hung easy on her, as effortless as her animation. And a brooch, Old World style accessory, yes, but hers was big and ebulliently shaped and perched center on her chest. Michelle Obama was speaking. It was the 2008 Democratic National Convention. My anxiety rose and swirled, watching and willing her to be as close to perfection as possible, not for me, because I was already a believer, but for the swaths of America that would rather she stumbled.

Read the rest of this article at The New York Times

The World’s Happiest Man Wishes You Wouldn’t Call Him That


My first night in Kathmandu I was startled from a dead man’s sleep by the ringing of my phone. I fumbled for it, girding myself for the worst. It was my youngest son, back home in the States. “Hi, Dad,” he said cheerily. He’d found a pile of antique smartphones (circa the late aughts) in a closet, and he wanted to know if he and a friend could drop them from his bedroom window, in order to “explode them” on our driveway. It was important, he said. He also admitted sheepishly to having already taken a hammer to at least one. He’d forgotten that I was ten time zones away. I could hear more hammering in the background.

In my haze, I tried to formulate any good reason why not to destroy all of our mothballed phones. (I couldn’t even remember if they worked, or why we still had them in the first place.) I could hear myself, trying to parent. But he was so wide awake, and I was so dopey with fatigue.

Read the rest of this article at GQ

Greenland Is Melting


Not long ago, I attended a memorial service on top of the Greenland ice sheet for a man I did not know. The service was an intimate affair, with only four people present. I worried that I might be regarded as an interloper and thought about stepping away. But I was clipped onto a rope, and, in any case, I wanted to be there.

The service was for a NASA scientist named Alberto Behar. Behar, who worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, might be described as a twenty-first-century explorer. He didn’t go to uncharted places; he sent probes to them. Some of the machines he built went all the way to Mars; they are orbiting the planet today or trundling across its surface on the Curiosity rover. Other Behar designs were deployed on Earth, at the poles. In Antarctica, Behar devised a special video camera to capture the first images ever taken inside an ice stream. In Greenland, he once sent a flock of rubber ducks hurtling down a mile-long ice shaft known as a moulin. Each duck bore a label, offering, in Greenlandic, English, and Danish, a reward for its return. At least two made it through.

Read the rest of this article at The New Yorker

The Self-driving Car and the Future of the Self.


“If I were asked to condense the whole of the present century into one mental picture,” the novelist J. G. Ballard wrote in 1971, “I would pick a familiar everyday sight: a man in a motor car, driving along a concrete highway to some unknown destination. Almost every aspect of modern life is there, both for good and for ill — our sense of speed, drama, and aggression, the worlds of advertising and consumer goods, engineering and mass-manufacture, and the shared experience of moving together through an elaborately signaled landscape.” In other words: Life is a highway. And the highway, Ballard believed, was a bloody, beautiful mess.

At the time, Ballard was still a relatively obscure science-fiction writer whose novels portrayed a future beset by profound ecological crises (drought, flood, hurricane winds) and psychotic outbursts of violence. His work notably lacked the kinds of gleaming gadgetry that decorated most sci-fi. But by the turn of the 1970s, he had begun developing an obsession with one technology in particular: the old-fashioned automobile. Cars had deep, mythic resonances for him. He had grown up a coddled kid in colonial Shanghai, where a chauffeur drove him to school in a big American-made Packard. When he was 11, during the Second World War, the Japanese invaded Shanghai and the car was confiscated, reducing the family to riding bicycles. A few years later, his world shrank once again when he was interned in a Japanese concentration camp, where he remained for over two years. He emerged with a visceral horror of barbed wire and a love for “mastodonic” American automobiles (and American fighter jets, which he called “the Cadillacs of air combat”).

Read the rest of this article at New York Magazine

Rise of the Reactionary

How a handful of Weimar émigrés came to have an outsized influence on the ideology of the American right.


Mistrust of high theory used to be a mainstay of conservatism. Edmund Burke, scrutinizing support for the French Revolution, had seen connections with sinister “literary caballers, and intriguing philosophers, with political theologians and theological politicians.” Even in the middle of the past century, when American intellectuals on the right were publishing the books that buttressed a movement—Peter Viereck’s “Conservatism Revisited” (1949), Whittaker Chambers’s “Witness” (1952), and Russell Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind” (1953)—a shared aversion to grand philosophizing was palpable. What was needed, Viereck wrote, was a “revolt against ideology” and a defense of what Kirk called “permanent things,” to offset, if possible, drastic changes, whether wrought in the blood of the Russian Revolution or, as Chambers wrote of the New Deal, in “a revolution by bookkeeping and lawmaking.” Conservatives wanted, above all, to conserve. “The American political mind has never thought much along consciously radical lines,” the political scientist Clinton Rossiter wrote, in “Conservatism in America” (1955).

Yet, at more or less the moment Rossiter wrote this, some on the right were making a different case, more strident and aggressive, and unafraid of world-historical theories. In the first issue of National Review, published in November, 1955, William F. Buckley, Jr., and his fellow-editors, several of them ex-Communists, announced that they were “radical conservatives” and vowed “to stand athwart history, yelling Stop.” Like more traditional conservatives, they looked back to a better time, but not in tones of gentle pining. They conveyed instead “strangely exhilarating despair,” as the intellectual historian Mark Lilla writes in his new book, “The Shipwrecked Mind” (New York Review Books), a collection of essays on philosophical and religious reaction. “The militancy of his nostalgia is what makes the reactionary a distinctly modern figure, not a traditional one,” he adds.

Read the rest of this article at The New Yorker

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // @sincerelyjules, @callicles, @lornaluxe