a digital common place book | an @s_m_i production | one of a few

The point of remembering all this is not mere point-scoring. It is to remember that sometimes the radicals are correct, that in the heat of the moment, movements for justice can be easily caricatured by those with authority as threats to public safety, and those seeking basic rights and dignity as monstrous villains. And then after the radicals win, we try to make them safe and useless to future radicals by pretending our beloved secular saints were never radical at all.
Django Unchained knows that America’s relationship to slavery was not merely through legal institutions; it was a physical reaction to black flesh — a potently horrific mixture of abjection fused with desire. That physical sensation is what distinguishes American racism from the racism of Europe or the British Empire, where the hatred of black people was (and still is) rooted in a fundamentally intellectual contempt inscribed in law and custom.

The Oscars likes its racial redemption delivered by white people, through clean, legal means that can be accompanied by swelling music. But Django Unchained is more honest (and much more enjoyable) than Lincoln. Tarantino understands that the laws were only the screen of the real crimes of torture and rape and murder. Redemption for Tarantino comes through genuine respect for and pleasure at the African aspect of the American experience. The soundtrack contains hip-hop as well as spirituals, which is entirely appropriate. The redemption comes, not really through revenge or law, but through love.
explore-blog:

Study looks at the demographics of New York Times obituaries over the past 70 years. Some of the findings: 

• In the 1940s and ’50s, the paper ran many more obits than it does today; some were but a single paragraph.
• Prior to 1960, cause of death was not always included; today, it usually is. In our survey, aids was first listed as a cause of death in 1992.
• Where the dead were educated has remained relatively constant: The Ivy League reigns supreme.
• The obits have always been male-heavy. In 1972, a typical female obit was two paragraphs, and spoke not of the deceased’s accomplishments but of those of her husband and sons.
• Starting in the 1990s, the obits became more diverse, racially and ethnically, but also in terms of people who had distinguished themselves in occupations other than business or politics—attorneys, artists, scientists, athletes, and actors.

Previously, the appalling gender ratios of mainstream media’s obituaries. 

Emphasis mine.

explore-blog:

Study looks at the demographics of New York Times obituaries over the past 70 years. Some of the findings: 

• In the 1940s and ’50s, the paper ran many more obits than it does today; some were but a single paragraph.

• Prior to 1960, cause of death was not always included; today, it usually is. In our survey, aids was first listed as a cause of death in 1992.

• Where the dead were educated has remained relatively constant: The Ivy League reigns supreme.

• The obits have always been male-heavy. In 1972, a typical female obit was two paragraphs, and spoke not of the deceased’s accomplishments but of those of her husband and sons.

• Starting in the 1990s, the obits became more diverse, racially and ethnically, but also in terms of people who had distinguished themselves in occupations other than business or politics—attorneys, artists, scientists, athletes, and actors.

Previously, the appalling gender ratios of mainstream media’s obituaries

Emphasis mine.

Mr. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” helps perpetuate the notion that African Americans have offered little of substance to their own liberation. While the film largely avoids the noxious stereotypes of subservient African-Americans for which movies like “Gone With the Wind” have become notorious, it reinforces, even if inadvertently, the outdated assumption that white men are the primary movers of history and the main sources of social progress.
- An even better takedown here:

In short, the idea that the white north “gave” freedom to the slaves draws from and reinforces an attractively simple and flattering myth, one which formed around the old historiography of the period like a noose cutting off oxygen to the brain: the myth that black slaves were rendered passive by their condition, and that—absent an outside force interrupting their state of un-freedom—they would simply have continued, as slaves, indefinitely. It’s only in this narrative that freedom can be a thing which is given to them: because they are essentially passive and inert, they require someone else—say, a great emancipator—to step in and raise them up.

In Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln,’ Passive Black Characters - NYTimes.com

I am actually relieved to see these kinds of responses, because they accurately reflect the GREAT imbalance of power in the intellectual as well as political realm — what the Asian voices in my book describe and protest against. For a long time, Western histories simply suppressed non-western perspectives — nobody cared what the ‘native’ thought. But even today, the benignly universalist West creates the standards of judgement, and the historian at the imperial metropole of course writes the truly objective and coolly rational history. And the non-westerner challenging it with other perspectives is prone to be described — and discredited — as no more than a polemicist (The word is usual preceded by a damning adjective like ‘left-wing’ and ‘angry’). In this ‘universalist’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ perspective from the West, the parochial-minded native always responds and reacts, he doesn’t initiate anything or have original thoughts, let alone a history, of his own. But, you know, it is getting too late for this kind of ideological trickery.
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Pankaj Mishra, author of the excellent anti-imperialism book From the Ruins of Empire, responds to those criticizing his book for being “polemicist.”

A brilliant conversation between Mishra and Tabish Khair can be read here.

(via mehreenkasana)
There is an immense opportunity—maybe it’s even a business opportunity—to look at our temporal world and think about calendars and clocks and human behavior, to think about each interaction as a specific unit, to take careful note of how we parcel out moments. Whether a mouse moving across a screen or the progress of a Facebook post through a thousand different servers, the way we value time seems to have altered, as if the earth tilted on its axis, as if the seasons are different and new.
So that is my question for all of you: What is the new calendar? What are the new seasons? The new weeks and months and decades? As a class of individuals, we make the schedule. What can we do to help others understand it?
If we are going to ask people, in the form of our products, in the form of the things we make, to spend their heartbeats—if we are going to ask them to spend their heartbeats on us, on our ideas, how can we be sure, far more sure than we are now, that they spend those heartbeats wisely?
theatlantic:

Coffee: Preventing Scurvy Since 1650

In 1650, St. Michael’s Alley, London’s first coffee shop, placed an ad in a newspaper. That ad — archived in the British Museum, and Internet-ed by the Vintage Ads LiveJournal — extolled the many Vertues of the newly discovered beverage. Which “groweth upon little Trees, only in the Deserts of Arabia,” and which is — despite and ostensibly because of its Vertues — “a simple innocent thing.”
What’s amazing about the ad — besides, obviously, its crazy claim that coffee can prevent Mif-carryings in Child-bearing Women — is how flagrantly its copyrighters flung the Vertues they extol. Per these 17th-century Mad Men, coffee could be used to aid and/or prevent: indigestion, headaches, lethargy, drowsiness, arthritis, sore eyes, cough, consumption, “spleen,” dropsy, gout, scurvy, and — my personal favorite — hypochondria.
Read more. [Image: British Museum]

theatlantic:

Coffee: Preventing Scurvy Since 1650

In 1650, St. Michael’s Alley, London’s first coffee shop, placed an ad in a newspaper. That ad — archived in the British Museum, and Internet-ed by the Vintage Ads LiveJournal — extolled the many Vertues of the newly discovered beverage. Which “groweth upon little Trees, only in the Deserts of Arabia,” and which is — despite and ostensibly because of its Vertues — “a simple innocent thing.”

What’s amazing about the ad — besides, obviously, its crazy claim that coffee can prevent Mif-carryings in Child-bearing Women — is how flagrantly its copyrighters flung the Vertues they extol. Per these 17th-century Mad Men, coffee could be used to aid and/or prevent: indigestion, headaches, lethargy, drowsiness, arthritis, sore eyes, cough, consumption, “spleen,” dropsy, gout, scurvy, and — my personal favorite — hypochondria.

Read more. [Image: British Museum]