News 30.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 30.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 30.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 30.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Could David Brent get hired today?

Ricky Gervais, who awkwardly danced onto TV as Brent in the groundbreaking comedy “The Office” in 2001, was recently interviewed about his and Stephen Merchant’s creation. “Now it would be canceled,” he said, meaning a cultural rather than commercial verdict. “I’m looking forward to when they pick out one thing and try to cancel it.”

Gervais later wrote on Twitter that his remarks were “clearly a joke.” I believe the “joke” part. The “clearly” is debatable, given Gervais’s long history of posturing that his humor is too real for the thought police. Either way, it was an odd claim to make right as his widely praised series was being celebrated for its two-decade anniversary.

But if Gervais did not entirely have a point, he was at least near one. “The Office” might well be received differently if it were released today (if the Ricky Gervais of today would even create it). But the reasons go beyond “cancellation” to changes in TV’s narrative style — which have happened, at least in part, because “The Office” and shows like it existed in the first place.

In TV’s ambitious comedies, as well as dramas, the arc of the last 20 years is not from bold risk-taking to spineless inoffensiveness. But it is, in broad terms, a shift from irony to sincerity.

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

News 30.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 30.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When it comes to revolutionaries, the well-dressed employees who work in the Bank of Canada’s granite office building at 234 Wellington Street in Ottawa probably aren’t near the top of anybody’s list. And no wonder: for as long as central banks have existed, their job has been to maintain the stability of our economic system. That means controlling inflation, which can raise the price of everything from food to housing and, if allowed to run rampant, badly damage an economy. For the better part of the last thirty years, they did that masterfully—so masterfully, in fact, that people more or less stopped worrying about inflation at all.

But now, after a year in which governments and central banks did everything they could to stave off economic collapse, the inflation fears are back. That’s because if there’s one thing most economists agree on, it’s that making money too cheap and too widely available for too long should, at some point, lead to price increases. And, over the past year, we’ve seen money made as cheap and as available as it has ever been, with more than $12 trillion in fiscal stimulus being given to businesses and households worldwide (with central banks adding trillions more in lending) in an effort to prevent a pandemic-driven depression.

A litany of pundits and politicians saw something else in all that money being plowed into the global economy: a dangerous experiment that could spark a runaway inflationary fire. Conservative MP and former finance critic Pierre Poilievre is at the head of that pack, with YouTube videos (occasionally involving props like a piece of wood or a quarter) decrying what he has taken to calling “the inflation tax.” And, for some, the warning signs are already here. In May, inflation grew by 3.8 percent in the United States while, in Canada, it rose by 3.6 percent, its highest level in over a decade. With that jump, the cost of almost everything—food, vehicles, consumer goods—jumped too.

Read the rest of this article at: The Walrus


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For many people, coffee is the ultimate escape — a comforting cup to sink into, a few minutes’ break from work, the date before you decide whether you want to date. More recently, however, it’s been at the center of a percolating problem about “conscious consumerism,” which the New York Times has described as “an umbrella term that simply means engaging in the economy with more awareness of how your consumption impacts society at large.” That could mean avoiding single-use plastics, buying second-hand clothes, joining a food co-op or trying to discern which companies have ethical sourcing, manufacturing, labor and marketing practices.

The notion of a “socially conscious consumer” is not a social-media or “Goop” invention. It’s a concept that’s at least half a century old, when it appeared that companies began taking notice of the gaining momentum for this social shift and realizing that “with further demands for social and environmental responsibility, the cost to the firm of ignoring the social and environmental context in which it operates may not be profit; the cost may well be survival.”

Read the rest of this article at: Salon

News 30.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

White establishment liberals of Conant’s generation almost never considered race when they thought about the American future. In the summer of 1948, Henry Chauncey, an assistant dean under Conant who became the first president of the Educational Testing Service, was stunned to read an article co-written by one of the most prominent Black academics in the country, the anthropologist Allison Davis, who argued that intelligence tests were a fraud—a way of wrapping the privileged children of the middle and upper classes in a mantle of scientifically demonstrated superiority. The tests, he and his co-author, Robert J. Havighurst, pointed out, measured only “a very narrow range of mental activities,” and carried “a strong cultural handicap for pupils of lower socioeconomic groups.” Chauncey, who was convinced that standardized tests represented a wondrous scientific advance, wrote in his diary about Davis and Havighurst, “They take the extreme and, I believe, radical point of view that any test items showing different difficulties for different socioeconomic groups are inappropriate.” And: “If ability has any relation to success in life parents in upper socioeconomic groups should have more ability than those in lower socioeconomic groups.”

But that thought contradicted Co­nant’s assurance that the American radical he wanted to put in charge of the country would be “a fanatical believer in equality,” committed to “wielding the axe against the root of inherited privilege.” As the civil-rights movement grew, universities wanted to integrate more seriously, and standardized tests complicated their commitment. Testing made it possible to create a numerical ranking of all applicants, which helped enormously in handling the crush at the gates of selective institutions. Yet there had always been substantial average Black-white gaps in test scores—a reflection of the divergent quality of education and other resources in the lives of Black and white Americans. Conant’s efforts had resulted in greatly increasing the importance of tests, but the enhanced integration, beginning in the nineteen-sixties, of Harvard and other colleges and universities required decreasing their importance.

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

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News 30.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

What if I told you that the first modern feminist was a man, lived in the 17th century, and was a priest? I’m guessing you’d be especially skeptical about the priest part, so I’ll add that when this father of feminism wrote his vindications of women’s rights, he wasn’t a priest yet. He became one later, probably because he was broke.

His name was François Poulain de la Barre (actually, he added “de la Barre” later in life, and “Poulain” was sometimes spelled “Poullain”), and he grew up in Paris. His parents decided early on that he would become a priest, preferably with a doctoral degree so that he could rise through the ranks in the Church. He began his schooling at 9 and at 16 entered the Sorbonne, where he was force-fed a dry, Scholastic, all-Latin curriculum straight out of antiquity and the Middle Ages, with a special emphasis on the classics and Saint Thomas Aquinas. We know that Poulain excelled in his studies, and we also know that at 19, armed with his bachelor’s, he left school rather than acquire his doctorate, at which point his parents may have cut him off. For the first half of the next decade, he seems to have been an intellectual-about-town. He immersed himself in the free-for-all of the “Radical Enlightenment,” a more intensely anti-authoritarian strain of the early Enlightenment.

We don’t know much about the young Poulain’s daily activities, but we do know that, even before he left school, he was frequenting a freethinkers’ debate society that sometimes took on topics such as “whether women’s passions are stronger than men’s” and “whether the study of the arts and sciences is useful to women.” He may have gone to salons where the elites of the day gathered to expound upon new ideas and discuss novels, and perhaps even read their own work aloud. Aristocratic or well-to-do women hosted these affairs—some evidence suggests that he may have been a distant cousin of one eminent salonnière—and because Poulain probably hadn’t met many women in school, their presence would have offered its own kind of education. He was a man in search of a new worldview, and when he finally came up with one, it was audacious.

While still in his mid-20s, Poulain wrote three books in quick succession (1673–75). They constitute the first rigorously reasoned attack on the patriarchy. Before that, proto-feminist women (there were more of them than you’d think) tended to defend their sex by citing the accomplishments of queens and heroines of history and myth. Poulain instead used logic to demonstrate the absolute equality of women and men, and to make the case for their right to equal treatment under the law, equal access to education, and equal professional opportunities. (He saw no reason women couldn’t occupy high clerical positions, putting him a good 350 years ahead of a still-resistant Catholic Church.) Poulain rejected a marital contract that granted men dominion over women; he declared that marriage should be between equals, like friendship, and that husbands forced wives into a submissive role for no better reason than that they were “out-and-out bullies.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.