News 14.08.23: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

News 14.08.23: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web
News 14.08.23: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web
News 14.08.23: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

“Do you have any music?”

It was nearing eight o’clock in the evening on December 11, 1981, and the serial killer Stephen Morin was driving the SUV of his latest captive, Margy Palm, north out of San Antonio. Helicopters circled the city and police combed the streets, warning people to stay inside and lock the doors. Morin’s reign of terror was sputtering to a clumsy close after a rare mistake earlier that day. He was suspected of the murder, torture, and in some cases rape of more than 30 women in 9 or 10 states—and most of San Antonio now knew that he was on the loose in its manicured, country-club midst.

Morin’s concern at the moment, though, wasn’t escaping so much as finding an appropriate soundtrack for his kidnapping of Palm, the 30-year-old Texan in the passenger seat. Morin, also 30, had pulled a .38 revolver on her six hours earlier as she reached her Chevy Suburban in the parking lot of a Kmart after Christmas shopping, then shoved her inside the car. Palm looked like many of his other victims—pretty, fit, and blond—and tells me that she didn’t try to fight or flee for the same reason that some of the others hadn’t: “I’ve never felt that kind of fear.”

Cranked up on amphetamines and feeling cornered by authorities, Morin initially screamed at Palm in the car and threatened to kill her if she didn’t behave: “What’s one more damn dead bitch at this point?” Palm had missed the news about Morin and his horrific crimes that morning but was terrified enough to shake with fear, which seemed to turn him on.

Read the rest of this article at: Vanity Fair

He is standing in front of an old, intricately decorated urn in a museum, looking at the images etched into its surface, when he begins to wonder:

What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

These lines come from the opening of ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ written by John Keats in 1819. Across the poem’s five wandering and acutely detailed stanzas, Keats chooses not to seek an understanding of the urn in front of him through research or historical data; instead, he observes and imagines through questions and narratives. A person etched into the surface is playing a pipe under a tree – music that can’t be heard, Keats muses, and a tree whose leaves will never shed. Nearby, two lovers are frozen while leaning in for a kiss. To the poet, it seems their love is never-ending: though they will never kiss, they’ll never grow old or apart. Absorbed by the figures depicted on the urn, Keats creates an imaginative space, a space for thinking-by-looking.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?

‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ gives us a sense of the poet’s mode: he asks question after question about the urn, not to uncover facts or ‘answers’, but rather to sustain his experience of wonder and curiosity. There is something else, too. Keats is not only speculating, inventing and describing, he’s also seeking out the effects of his imaginative engagement with the urn itself. What exactly are these effects? And is there something about this particular mode of engaging with images and objects – with art – that could prove valuable in other contexts?

Read the rest of this article at: Aeon

News 14.08.23: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

On April 14, a 50-year-old Spanish woman emerged from her temporary dwelling place, 230 feet under the rolling hills of Andalusia. Up until that moment, Beatriz Flamini had been isolated in a cave for a 500-day challenge, without natural light, news or even sight of her own reflection.

Flamini is an extreme athlete known for climbing and mountaineering — forever on the lookout for “experiences very few human beings have had.” But for chronobiologists at the universities of Granada, Almería and Murcia, her expedition was an opportunity to monitor the human body unprompted by the usual signals that give structure to our days.

It can often feel like daily life’s alarm clocks, work schedules and appointments are a rigid imposition on an otherwise free-flowing natural world. Yet biology is suffused with similar clocks.

In the 4th century B.C. a ship’s captain under Alexander the Great reported seeing tamarind leaves which closed at night and started to open at sunrise, unfurling themselves toward midday. The 13th century “Noon and Midnight Manual” describes a principle of Chinese traditional medicine whereby qi — the body’s vital force — flows to different organs across twelve two-hour increments, repeating every 24 hours.

In 1729, French scientist Jean-Jacques d’Ortuous de Mairan studied the daily movements of Mimosa pudica leaves, observing that they continued even in complete darkness. Two hundred years later, the German ethologist Ingeborg Beling reported similar cycles in the animal kingdom. Her paper, “On the Time Memory of Bees,” describes the punctuality of swarm behaviors which can be trained to different times of day.

Read the rest of this article at: Noema

News 14.08.23: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

WHEN A MOVIE becomes a mass culture phenomenon, like Barbie, any negative criticism of it runs the risk of coming off hysterical. Any meanness toward it becomes the mirror version of the reactions of fans who see the movie in the theater again and again, who cry during certain scenes each time, and who tell the world about it on social media with a great sense of pride and purpose, or even with a certain amount of shock about its power over them.

Similarly, rushing to write a takedown, a counter-phenomenon more prevalent with every big new release, shows the same shocked inability to hold it in—to think before writing. It’s not the love or the hate that bothers me—it’s the speed. Rushing to the keyboard isn’t pretty, even if you’re still dressed in pink. In the case of Barbie, the opposite of the hot pink take is dressed just as loud.

There’s a silent movie by Ernst Lubitsch from 1919 called The Doll, in which a woman has to pretend she’s a doll to her fiancé while also convincing him that she’s convincing a wedding party that she’s a real person (which she is). This strikes me as a more sophisticated approach to the gender bind than anything in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, in which the doll-as-doll (Margot Robbie), now in the real world, goes up to a construction crew (the working class) to announce that she doesn’t have a vagina. That just seems schizophrenic, or hysterical in the old-school sense, instead of funny.

I guess it’s a joke about white privilege, or blonde privilege, but the construction workers don’t really get vulgar with Barbie, like they might in the real real world. In fact, freed from her Barbieland enclave, she strides through Los Angeles unharassed. Everyone is nice to her, including the owner of a store where she’s shoplifting, and then the police, who let her go. The only meanie is a teenage girl who calls Barbie a fascist, also a joke because we already know Barbie is totally, perfectly egalitarian as a citizen of Barbieland, except with Ken (Ryan Gosling), who is beneath her as a member of a caste born to be her accessory and nothing more, and who is also homeless. Supposedly things are the opposite in the real world, but we never quite see that. We just have to take it for granted that there, in reality, the Barbies are the accessories for the Kens, even though there are women doctors who stop Ken from performing surgery just because he wants to.

Read the rest of this article at: n + 1

News 14.08.23: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

Most, if not all, available evidence points to a grim future for the worker. But amid the tumult, as laborers struggle to achieve even a modicum of security while corporations salivate over the supposedly imminent automation of entire professions, a slick new narrative has emerged to assuage our deep uncertainty. Technologists, corporate managers, and a slew of LinkedIn “thought leader” types have begun issuing upbeat assurances that, when all the dust settles from the artificial intelligence revolution, the jobs that remain will be the sort truly grounded in our humanity.

Artificial intelligence, these myopic forecasters insist, will not make us obsolete; on the contrary, it will reveal and nurture the indispensable core of our being! It’s a belief espoused in recent works like Feeling Economy: How Artificial Intelligence Is Creating the Era of Empathy, in which business school professors Roland T. Rust and Ming-Hui Huang argue that “as AI [becomes] more able to think, human intelligence is deemphasizing thinking in favor of feeling and interpersonal relationships.” Or as Megan Beck and Barry Libert phrase it in the Harvard Business Review, “What you have to offer—what you can do better than any smart machine—is relate to the people around you.” In short, by eliminating the drudgery of thinking, AI will vindicate our highest callings: empathy and care.

Certainly such a transformation would be a change for the better if it comes to pass. Feelings have long been devalued in our understanding of work. Jobs like caregiving, for example, have been historically positioned as “labors of love,” the natural consequence of some innate feminine instinct, resulting in both its under-recognition and under-compensationToday, upwards of 68 percent of informal caregivers are women, gesturing toward the vast shadow economy that silently undergirds the visible one. The prospect that emergent technologies might finally shake us from this terrible patriarchal torpor—and help us realize that, as the CEO of TaskRabbit once put it, what robots can never replace is “the empathy and judgment that humans can provide”— is appealing for anyone hoping to rectify the fundamental imbalances plaguing our socioeconomic status quo.

Yet at its core, this rose-tinted prediction betrays a deep naivete. New tools are rarely as teleological as the prophets of the empathy economy profess to believe, their impacts never quite so predetermined. Technology does not operate in a utopic vacuum and has a suspicious tendency to reinforce existing biases. Which is why we should greet with skepticism any techno-optimist who foretells the revolutionary resurgence of care as if it were an inevitability. But that shouldn’t resign us to pessimism, either.

Read the rest of this article at: The Baffler