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News 08.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 08.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 08.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 08.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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In The Flesh

Like many erstwhile leisure activities — exercise, cooking, walking your dog — shopping has become something that some marketers would have us believe is onerous, a problem we need solved rather than an activity we might deliberately pursue and even enjoy. Borrowing the most convincing rhetoric from tech companies, brands like Casper (mattresses), Everlane (clothes), and Harry’s (razors) have positioned their online, direct-to-consumer model as an elegant solution to the endless, overly complicated process of buying things. Part of their appeal is that by shopping on their sites, you can move beyond acquiring products in pursuit of a certain kind of enviable lifestyle and instead focus on what matters to you, whatever that may be. With their tightly edited selections of fewer, better things, these brands offer you the most sophisticated choice of all: to opt out of the cycle of consumerism and simplify your life.

Read the rest of this article at: Real Life

News 08.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How “Peanuts” Created a Space for Thinking

News 08.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In “The Storyteller,” an essay from 1936, the German-Jewish philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin describes what he sees as the beginning of the end of the oral tradition in the West. The collective trauma of the First World War and its aftereffects were making the communication of shared experiences through the telling of tales a thing of the past. He writes, “A generation that had gone to school on a horse-drawn streetcar now stood under the open sky in a countryside in which nothing remained unchanged but the clouds, and beneath these clouds, in a field of force of destructive torrents and explosions, was the tiny, fragile human body.” At the heart of this historical process is a grim efflorescence of experience: the sense that one is adrift in an unfamiliar landscape, a feeling that would endure as a defining condition of the twentieth century, when the world was expanding and becoming delimited at the same time. A few decades after Benjamin published his essay, the writer Luc Sante and his parents immigrated to the United States from Belgium. Sante’s mother and father spoke very little English, and, “tinged with a certain bitter realism,” they observed the foreign culture that surrounded them from an intimidating distance, as Sante explains in his introduction to “Peanuts Every Sunday: 1961-1965.” “It wasn’t surprising, then,” Sante continues, “that my father, an intelligent, capable man who had been dealt a series of bad hands by life—poverty, war, a truncated education—should see himself reflected in Charlie Brown.” Though he would come to be domesticated and beloved by Americans of all stripes, Charles Schulz’s comic-strip boy spoke to the émigré’s sense of dislocation, tough luck, and calamity.

There may be no more tiny, fragile body than Charlie Brown’s—the abbreviated torso, economized limbs, and naked, vulnerable head. That head: with a modicum of lines, Schulz produced an untouched, capacious orb on which a world of expression could play. In the Sunday strip for October 15, 1961, the title panel shows Charlie Brown’s head as a table globe, imprinted with a grid of latitude and longitude. The strip spins out the joke: to illustrate to Linus the distance between two locations (the absurd pairing of Texas and Singapore), Lucy plots the points over the top of Charlie Brown’s bare, impassive pate.

Surrounding this vulnerable human form is a wider world: hostile, exhausting, potent in its occasions for failure. Untethered from the historical moment, Benjamin’s agents of change, those “torrents and explosions” (like Hamlet’s enduring “whips and scorns of time,” which extend even to include the intimate “pangs of despised love”) are here as perennial humiliations played out in a fathomably unfathomable universe. “Peanuts,” Schulz once said, “deals in defeat.” At its core, the comic parses existential angst, strip by strip—not Cold War anxiety, a cloud under which “Peanuts” developed and flourished, but the garden-variety anxieties found in everyday life. Charlie Brown is the comic’s everyman (“Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest,” Linus complains in a 1965 “Peanuts” TV film), adept at losing one day and still rising the next to see things through. And yet, as grounded in real life as it seems to be, “Peanuts” shows very little of the actual world. The comic is striking for its spare visual details, its generic, repetitious settings, and its constrained action. Although the early strips were busy with detail, Schulz soon developed a style that was formally minimal. There is little in the way of depth perspective—and the action in each panel moves right and left, as if on a stage.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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Chasing the Pink

In May 2016, after months of failing to find a traditional job, I began driving for the ride-hailing company Lyft. I was enticed by an online advertisement that promised new drivers in the Los Angeles area a $500 “sign-up bonus” after completing their first 75 rides. The calculation was simple: I had a car and I needed the money. So, I clicked the link, filled out the application, and, when prompted, drove to the nearest Pep Boys for a vehicle inspection. I received my flamingo-pink Lyft emblems almost immediately and, within a few days, I was on the road.

Initially, I told myself that this sort of gig work was preferable to the nine-to-five grind. It would be temporary, I thought. Plus, I needed to enroll in a statistics class and finish my graduate school applications—tasks that felt impossible while working a full-time desk job with an hour-long commute. But within months of taking on this readily-available yet strangely precarious form of work, I was weirdly drawn in.

Read the rest of this article at: Logic

News 08.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Toni Morrison, Towering Novelist of the Black Experience, Dies at 88

News 08.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate in literature whose best-selling work explored black identity in America — and in particular the often crushing experience of black women — through luminous, incantatory prose resembling that of no other writer in English, died on Monday in the Bronx. She was 88.

Her death, at Montefiore Medical Center, was announced by her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. A spokeswoman said the cause was complications of pneumonia. Ms. Morrison lived in Grand View-on-Hudson, N.Y.

The first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1993, Ms. Morrison was the author of 11 novels as well as children’s books and essay collections. Among them were celebrated works like “Song of Solomon,” which received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977, and “Beloved,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

Ms. Morrison was one of the rare American authors whose books were both critical and commercial successes. Her novels appeared regularly on the New York Times best-seller list, were featured multiple times on Oprah Winfrey’s television book club and were the subject of myriad critical studies. A longtime faculty member at Princeton, Ms. Morrison lectured widely and was seen often on television.

In awarding her the Nobel, the Swedish Academy cited her “novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import,” through which she “gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”

Ms. Morrison animated that reality in prose that rings with the cadences of black oral tradition. Her plots are dreamlike and nonlinear, spooling backward and forward in time as though characters bring the entire weight of history to bear on their every act.

Her narratives mingle the voices of men, women, children and even ghosts in layered polyphony. Myth, magic and superstition are inextricably intertwined with everyday verities, a technique that caused Ms. Morrison’s novels to be likened often to those of Latin American magic realist writers like Gabriel García Márquez.

In “Sula,” a woman blithely lets a train run over her leg for the insurance money it will give her family. In “Song of Solomon,” a baby girl is named Pilate by her father, who “had thumbed through the Bible, and since he could not read a word, chose a group of letters that seemed to him strong and handsome.” In “Beloved,” the specter of a murdered child takes up residence in the house of her murderer.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots

News 08.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

“I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered,” he posted on the social-media network Gab shortly before allegedly entering the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27 and gunning down 11 worshippers. He “wanted all Jews to die,” he declared while he was being treated for his wounds. Invoking the specter of white Americans facing “genocide,” he singled out HIAS, a Jewish American refugee-support group, and accused it of bringing “invaders in that kill our people.” Then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announcing that Bowers would face federal charges, was unequivocal in his condemnation: “These alleged crimes are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation.”

The pogrom in Pittsburgh, occurring just days before the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, seemed fundamentally un-American to many. Sessions’s denunciation spoke to the reality that most Jews have found a welcome home in the United States. His message also echoed what has become an insistent refrain in the Donald Trump era. Americans want to believe that the surge in white-supremacist violence and recruitment—the march in Charlottesville, Virginia, where neo-Nazis chanted “Jews will not replace us”; the hate crimes whose perpetrators invoke the president’s name as a battle cry—has no roots in U.S. soil, that it is racist zealotry with a foreign pedigree and marginal allure.

Warnings from conservative pundits on Fox News about the existential threat facing a country overrun by immigrants meet with a similar response. “Massive demographic changes,” Laura Ingraham has proclaimed, mean that “the America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” in much of the country: Surely this kind of rhetoric reflects mere ignorance. Or it’s just a symptom of partisan anxiety about what those changes may portend for Republicans’ electoral prospects. As for the views and utterances of someone like Congressman Steve King (“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies”), such sentiments are treated as outlandish extremism, best ignored as much as possible.

The concept of “white genocide”—extinction under an onslaught of genetically or culturally inferior nonwhite interlopers—may indeed seem like a fringe conspiracy theory with an alien lineage, the province of neo-Nazis and their fellow travelers. In popular memory, it’s a vestige of a racist ideology that the Greatest Generation did its best to scour from the Earth. History, though, tells a different story. King’s recent question, posed in a New York Times interview, may be appalling: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” But it is apt. “That language” has an American past in need of excavation. Without such an effort, we may fail to appreciate the tenacity of the dogma it expresses, and the difficulty of eradicating it. The president’s rhetoric about “shithole countries” and “invasion” by immigrants invites dismissal as crude talk, but behind it lie ideas whose power should not be underestimated.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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