News 18.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 18.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 18.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 18.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Deng Xiaoping, the great reformer of the modern Chinese state, once said the building of socialism with Chinese characteristics depended on “engineers of the soul” — ideological workers who provide spiritual nourishment to their comrades. More recently, President Xi Jinping referred to teachers, artists, and writers as “engineers of the soul” who should actively “mold” the deepest sensibilities of the people. What both Deng and Xi aspired to cultivate was a revolution at the level of a person: an inner yearning that is in line with the Communist Party’s interests.

But the souls of the Chinese have resisted such efforts in Shanghai, which has been under a draconian lockdown since late March. This wasn’t supposed to happen here in China’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, with some 26 million people. Shanghai had been, after all, the best-managed city in China throughout the two years of the pandemic, a model where local authorities imposed minimal restrictions while making sure outbreaks stayed controlled. But as cases rose through March, residents and officials grew anxious. An official who heads Shanghai’s mental-health department went on television to tell residents they must “repress the soul’s yearning for freedom,” prompting amused citizens to create memes that satirized a spiritual turn in party-state officialese.

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine

News 18.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 18.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The parliament of Catalonia, the autonomous region in Spain, sits on the edge of Barcelona’s Old City, in the remains of a fortified citadel constructed by King Philip V to monitor the restive local population. The citadel was built with forced labor from hundreds of Catalans, and its remaining structures and gardens are for many a reminder of oppression. Today, a majority of Catalan parliamentarians support independence for the region, which the Spanish government has deemed unconstitutional. In 2017, as Catalonia prepared for a referendum on independence, Spanish police arrested at least twelve separatist politicians. On the day of the referendum, which received the support of ninety per cent of voters despite low turnout, police raids of polling stations injured hundreds of civilians. Leaders of the independence movement, some of whom live in exile across Europe, now meet in private and communicate through encrypted messaging platforms.

One afternoon last month, Jordi Solé, a pro-independence member of the European Parliament, met a digital-security researcher, Elies Campo, in one of the Catalan parliament’s ornate chambers. Solé, who is forty-five and wore a loose-fitting suit, handed over his cell phone, a silver iPhone 8 Plus. He had been getting suspicious texts and wanted to have the device analyzed. Campo, a soft-spoken thirty-eight-year-old with tousled dark hair, was born and raised in Catalonia and supports independence. He spent years working for WhatsApp and Telegram in San Francisco, but recently moved home. “I feel in a way it’s a kind of duty,” Campo told me. He now works as a fellow at the Citizen Lab, a research group based at the University of Toronto that focusses on high-tech human-rights abuses.

Campo collected records of Solé’s phone’s activity, including crashes it had experienced, then ran specialized software to search for spyware designed to operate invisibly. As they waited, Campo looked through the phone for evidence of attacks that take varied forms: some arrive through WhatsApp or as S.M.S. messages that seem to come from known contacts; some require a click on a link, and others operate with no action from the user. Campo identified an apparent notification from the Spanish government’s social-security agency which used the same format as links to malware that the Citizen Lab had found on other phones. “With this message, we have the proof that at some point you were attacked,” Campo explained. Soon, Solé’s phone vibrated. “This phone tested positive,” the screen read. Campo told Solé, “There’s two confirmed infections,” from June, 2020. “In those days, your device was infected—they took control of it and were on it probably for some hours. Downloading, listening, recording.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

In her classic memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, BoysViv Albertine recounts not only the time she spent as a punk during the 1970s in her pioneering band the Slits, but also documents her life after the band had ended. This is unusual. Most music books don’t venture into this territory, tending to stop when the hits stop, thereby drawing a veil over what happens next. The unspoken suggestion seems to be that, were it to continue, the story would descend helplessly into misery memoir.

“The pain I feel from the Slits ending is worse than splitting up with a boyfriend,” Albertine wrote, “This feels like the death of a huge part of myself, two whole thirds gone … I’ve got nowhere to go, nothing to do; I’m cast back into the world like a sycamore seed spinning into the wind.”

I loved Albertine’s book, and it was this one paragraph in particular, I think, that propelled me into writing my own book on this very subject: the curious afterlife of pop stars. I wanted to know what it’s like when that awkward next chapter begins, where anonymity replaces infamy, and the ordinary reasserts itself over the extraordinary. The life Albertine forged for herself after punk was complicated, as life tends to be. She returned to education, studying film; underwent IVF; and endured both illness and divorce. But she never fully let the music go, because musicians mostly don’t; they can’t. I finished her book convinced she was a hero.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian


News 18.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On the cover of the Innovation & Technology Issue, Christoph Niemann captures the eternal tug of war between the lure of the outside and the joys of technology. Even for a prehistoric cave dweller, the tablet could prove potently absorbing. The dilemma has only grown as the number and variety of technological gadgets has proliferated. We recently talked to the artist about the place of digital tools and good old-fashioned paper and pencil in his creative process.

You are very proficient with digital tools, yet many of your images celebrate the magic of simple line drawings. Do you like to work out ideas with a pen or on a tablet?

Pencil and paper are still my first choice. Drawing ideas is closer to writing than it is to painting, and a pencil lets you slowly search for a shape, while markers and pens have too much contrast right away. Tablets are a wonderful invention for the kind of work I do, particularly animation, but the radiance of a drawing on screen, especially when you add color, can help mask a weak idea. And I wouldn’t want one of those to survive, would I?

You often work in series, like the one above that you recently posted on your Instagram account @abstractsunday. What led you to make characters from hammers and nails?

This is the kind of exercise we did in art school: take a metaphor and squeeze as many iterations out of it as possible. Usually, they are just playful riffs. Like so many, I was helplessly obsessing over the war in Ukraine. These drawings became a release valve for the mess of confusion, anger, and fear in my head.

Given a choice between staying inside on a sunny day to work on an idea or going outside and enjoying the spring, which would you choose?

Of course I would go outside! Though, usually, after eight minutes, I’m antsy and thinking, “O.K., this is nice. Thanks.” And then I go back to my desk, where I belong.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 18.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

By a quarter past eight, the woods were bright and humming, and the summer heat had rolled in off Route 17. The early August air was soft and humid by the canal on the eastern side of the Great Dismal Swamp’s Virginia half. The bikers, the joggers, the hikers, the bird-watchers, and the couple loading up their dusty SUV each chimed “morning” one after another, all cradling the letter m at the roofs of their mouths.

Eric Sheppard stepped gingerly ahead of me. His turquoise polo shirt was lined with pin-sized holes on the collar, and he’d tucked the hem into his tan boot-cut khakis. He made his way to a muddy footpath facing the canal, away from the cluster of visitors. The water gleamed like black marble, reflecting the canopy.

“A whole lotta stuff went on here,” Sheppard said, gazing out over the pool and into the tangle of poplars where his forebears had been enslaved. “Our ancestors’ bones are still in that swamp right there.”

Listen to locals long enough and you’ll come to find that the Dismal shifts in the eye of the beholder. The land’s kaleidoscopic history is much the same. For one of Eric’s distant relatives, a lumberman named Moses Grandy, the swamp was at once the site of his bondage and the nexus of his freedom. Grandy toiled in the cavernous morass for decades as an enslaved laborer before stashing away enough coin to purchase himself outright. He was one in a colony of workers who lived in camps in the bog. Out of porous peat soil they cut and glued canals, lugged cypress and white cedar trunks, and crafted millions of shingles. Most inhabitants were enslaved, but some harnessed the swamp to other ends. Some sought refuge in it.

From the late 17th century to the end of the Civil War, thousands of maroons—runaways who obtained their freedom by occupying remote and uninhabited regions—lived in relative secrecy throughout the 750-square-mile wilderness. No one is sure exactly how many people escaped enslavement within its confines, but this much is clear: The Great Dismal Swamp, an area regarded by colonial settlers as so utterly inhospitable that its very air was once said to be toxic, was over multiple centuries home to the largest maroon community in the United States.

Sheppard, who was raised in Baltimore and now lives in Williamsburg, Virginia, didn’t know of Grandy until well into adulthood. He was trying to trace his late father’s ancestry when he stumbled upon a family graveyard on the property of a small, red-brick Baptist church in Camden County, North Carolina. When he got home that evening, he typed “Grandy” and “North Carolina” into Google. The top result was Moses’s autobiography. Sheppard cross-referenced his own family tree and found that he and Grandy shared common relatives. “It’s almost like he was calling me,” Sheppard said, inching closer to the canal. “How many other ancestors are out there calling their descendants?”

We moved farther down the pathway and approached a brown picnic table with an adjoining shingled roof and feet that were caked in drying mud. Stroking the bright silver hair above his lip, Sheppard told me that many of his other relatives likely worked in or around the swamp too. Because there is no firsthand documentation of their lives, though, Moses’s story is the closest Sheppard will get to knowing their experiences. It took him years, but he visited each location the freedman wrote about in his book.

For the better part of a decade, Sheppard has devoted himself to spreading awareness of Grandy’s narrative and the larger “human history” of the swamp. When he started, there was not a single monument, plaque, sign, or posting acknowledging the history of enslavement and rebellion in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge or on the Virginia or North Carolina sides of the Great Dismal Swamp Canal. Now, there’s a trail named after Moses, a pavilion that foregrounds maroons farther south, and a few markers that are part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. In September 2021, the House approved a bill that would help make the Dismal a national heritage site. If passed in the Senate along with subsequent legislation, the area would receive millions of dollars in federal resources to preserve and promote its history in the decades to come.

The viability and ramifications of this shifting landscape are of particular fixation to Sheppard. When we spoke, he wasn’t so much bothered by the prospect of change as he was leery of it. In the final few steps on our walk back from the waterway to his blue Ford Escape, Sheppard paused and looked at me. “The question,” he said, “is how are the descendants of enslaved people benefiting from this here?”

Read the rest of this article at: The Ringer

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