Tag Archives: The Baffler

The Hedgehog’s Array: August 12, 2016

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Noteworthy reads from the last week (or so):

“Monstrous Births,” Sarah Blackwood
“Perhaps it might be time to abandon altogether the idea of childbirth as a moral experience?”

“Are you dating a Fox News spy? Read it at Gawker, as the news site careens toward bankruptcy sale,” Matt D. Pearce
“It is time to soak up Gawker Media’s final days of freedom before the irreverent, influential and financially doomed media company goes up for sale next week.”

“Lives and Misfortunes of Lorenzo Da Ponte,” Antonio Muñoz Molina
“We imagine a very old man walking in New York in the twenties and thirties of the nineteenth century, recalling as if in a dream all the lives that he had lived, as remote as the opera performances that he used to attend in the Vienna of his youth, in an extinguished world.”

“Make America Austria Again: How Robert Musil Predicted the Rise of Donald Trump,” David Auerbach
“Trump is one of the most emotionally needy figures in American political history.”

“Delusion at the Gastropub,” Heather Havrilesky
“Food is personal. It’s sensual, it’s nostalgic, it’s political. But contrary to the slogans of our officious foodie overlords, food is not everything.”

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The Hedgehog’s Array: March 10, 2016

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Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“Fair Usage,” Elisa Gabbert
“Descriptivism can quickly succumb to its own kind of smugness; it forms its own set of shibboleths and rules.”

“A bookseller’s guide to book thieves,” Emily Rhodes
“Stealing books is not, I think, wholly bad.”

“Everybody Freeze!,” Corey Pein 
“Thanks to all this high-profile backing, a true transhuman miracle has occurred: Alcor, a preposterous operation built on the unethical sale of false hope, remains in business.”

“A Century of Fakers,” Sasha Chapin
“It’s hard to know what to do with the fact that you can buy shoes studded with over four hundred diamonds in a world where hundreds of thousands of people are dying of diarrhea.”

“‘The less I can see, of the world, the more I can focus,” Susie Steiner
“Someone once told me, at great length, how losing his sight would be the absolute worst thing he could imagine. He’s dead now. There really are worse things.”

Hedgehogs abroad:

“Between the Hipsters and the Hasids,” Matthew Schmitz
“Starry-eyed longing for a binding community can become yet another way of surrendering to this world. Rather than living and working where we are, we dream of where else we might be.”

“The Counter-Desecration Phrasebook,” Alan Jacobs
“It is language, McFarlane reminds us—as we are constantly reminded by the writers who attend to place—that builds the vital bridge between the mountains out there and the mountains of the mind.”

“What’s Pro-Life About an AR-15?,” James Mumford
“Just because you’re free to do something doesn’t mean you should do it.”

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The Hedgehog’s Array: December 4, 2015

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Some noteworthy reads from the last week:

“The Mainly True Tale of the Writer and the Spy,” Laura Spence-Ash
“Several years later, after he had returned from Germany and was studying at Columbia University, he was in the library and picked up the most recent copy of Harper’s Magazine. Pleased to see a story by Kay in the issue, he turned to the story and was shocked when, before the end of the first page, he recognized himself as Rod Murray, the main character.”

“The Dialectic of Love and Authority,” George Scialabba
“If irony alerts had been invented before 1977, they might have saved Christopher Lasch a lot of grief.”

“When Popular Fiction Isn’t Popular: Genre, Literary, and the Myths of Popularity,” Lincoln Michel
“What I’d like to focus on is the oddly persistent myth that genre fiction is “popular fiction” and that literary fiction is pointless and obscure. Or, as Jennifer Weiner regularly argues, that book critics and literary awards overlook the kind of fiction that real readers actually like.”

“Holing Up,” Mairead Case
“What if, instead of transformation or fire or constant reinvention, we just dig a home and make sure it’s warm and private and welcoming? What then?”

“The New ‘Horror Victorianorum,’” Michael J. Lewis
“So persuasively did Strachey make his case that no one thought it necessary to repeat the exercise. If in truth he made no case at all, except by implication, the tragic fact of the war was evidence enough that the Victorian age had failed.”

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The Hedgehog’s Array: August 7, 2015

hedgehog array logo_FLAT_72dpi[3]Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“I’m Not Dante or Milton, but Won’t You Remember Me, Too?,” David Wheatley
“I love minor poets. Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, Amy Levy, Charlotte Mew, Robert Fergusson, James Clarence Mangan, and Robert Garioch, are all poets I read with admiration and reverence.”

“The New Devil’s Dictionary,” T.C. Sottek
“transhumanist (n.): Someone so enamored with the misery of a natural lifespan that they wish to make it endless.”

“A Science of Literature,” Ben Merriman
“The statistics used in these works are mainly descriptive, and the faith placed in these descriptions is limited. A table or graph is treated as an object to be interpreted. In this and many other respects, distant reading remains a recognizably humanistic practice.”

“The Bully’s Pulpit,” David Graeber
“Our first instinct when we observe unprovoked aggression is either to pretend it isn’t happening or, if that becomes impossible, to equate attacker and victim, placing both under a kind of contagion, which, it is hoped, can be prevented from spreading to everybody else.”

“Big Love,” Cynthia Lewis
“I used to wonder whether Americans can pretend to analyze, act, or claim Shakespeare alongside the English. These days, however, I’m more concerned with whether love—unconditional and emptied of ego as it repeatedly emerges in these plays—can find a place among us, British, American, or otherwise. Can it even be understood, let alone valued?”

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The Hedgehog’s Array: June 5, 2015

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Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“After Lethal Injection,” Maurice Chammah, Andrew Cohen, and Eli Hager
“The question in Oklahoma is not whether capital punishment should continue, but how.”

“Against the Barricades,” Katie Ryder
“Today’s online commerce of words necessitates repetition—hence the fetishization of keywords, which become, in practical terms for editors and magazines, the correct labels for ideas, for observations, for all parts of thought. Cliché is quite literally the currency. We kid ourselves every time we discuss the devolution of public language as if it exists separately from this commoditization.”

“Mothers of Invention,” Parul Sehgal
“As an institution, the family is in the curious position of being regarded as both crucial to human survival and inimical to human freedom.”

“The Agency,” Adrian Chen
“As Savchuk and other former employees describe it, the Internet Research Agency had industrialized the art of trolling.”

“Homo Economicus Slouches Toward Retirement,” Sarah Burnside
“Adam Smith’s mother, Margaret Douglas, not only cooked his dinner but lived with him for most of his life. Marçal argues that the absence of such people from Smith’s vision of the market has created a fundamental flaw in economic thinking.”

“On Longer Lives and Longer Deaths,” Julie Livingston
“America has many open secrets. The nursing home is one of them. We try not to think too hard or too long about its residents or its low-wage staff.”

“The Complex Power Coupledom of Chris Hughes and Sean Eldridge,” Sarah Ellison
“or his 30th birthday, Hughes threw a party at the Queen Anne-style Brooklyn Historical Society, with a piano quartet that played Brahms. It was something a rich man would do, but it was also something that an old rich man would do. That was part of Hughes’s appeal. He had entrée to the world of technology, but he still preferred to read French novels in French.”

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The Hedgehog’s Array: March 20, 2015

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Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“Purple Reign,” Chris Lehmann
“What Mayer is pleased to call the [Yahoo’s] stable of ‘digital magazines’ is, in reality, the barest of fig leaves for an orgy of sponsored content—i.e., copy commissioned, inspected, and (increasingly) edited by advertisers, and misleadingly packaged as reliable, independent journalism in order to win eyeballs and reader trust.”

“Will Predatory Lending Take Down More Colleges?,” Alan Smith
“Is Sweet Briar the canary in the coalmine? Banks are certainly making obscene profits on the backs of the swap deals in the UC system, at the University of Michigan, and at American University.”

“Advertisers Should Pay You,” Thomas R. Wells
“If advertisers had to negotiate directly with you, or at least your software agent, then they would have to start paying a price that would not leave you feeling violated. And at that price they would want to buy much less of your attention than they do at present.”

“Tolstoy Replays History,” Andrei Zorin
“Both Darwin and Marx presented their books to the reader not only as scientific discoveries, but as an important stage in their personal biographies. In the same manner Tolstoy was attempting a total explanation of the current state of Russia that had to be at one and the same time a panoramic historical reconstruction and an intellectual autobiography.”

“We Buy Broken Gold,” Clancy Martin
“I came by my own dishonest trade honestly.”

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The Hedgehog’s Array: February 13, 2015

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Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“AA Envy,” Helen Andrews
“Why this special treatment for twelve-step programs? Because all the other moral languages in which modern Americans are fluent, the languages that sound so inspiring and correct when talking about politics, turn useless in the face of addiction.”

“One Wine, Two Wine, Red Wine, Blue Wine,” Damion Searls
“The most well-known color-translation problem is Homer’s ‘wine-dark sea’—the sea rarely being, of course, what we would call the color of wine of any color.”

“A Place of Pasts,” Joseph Mitchell
“In the fall of 1968, without at first realizing what was happening to me, I began living in the past. These days, when I reflect on this and add up the years that have gone by, I can hardly believe it: I have been living in the past for over twenty years—living mostly in the past, I should say, or living in the past as much as possible.”

“Iammmmyookkraaanian,” Peter Pomerantsev
“After decades in Moscow with its aestheticised cynicism and London with its apolitical resignation, Kiev’s uprush of utopias was refreshing, and occasionally disturbing. Soon I found myself sitting in cafés scribbling my own pet utopia: Ukraine as a Russia 2.0.”

“A Clever Collection,” Matthew Walther
“We hit astonished, indeed open-mouthed, upon the truth, namely that the teenaged Austen was already a prudent, wise, humble person trying to make sense of a world full of boorishness and stupidity.”

“Your Snitching Gadgets,” Jacob Silverman
“Always-on data collection, combined with porous privacy policies and insecure devices, are changing our expectations for security and privacy. What matters now is not just what our devices and apps collect but also why, for whom, when, and how.”

“Why Max Weber Matters,” Duncan Kelly
“For those who hold fixed ideas about Weber the political animal, Ghosh’s claims will be hard reading. But part of the problem with seeing him as a straightforward nationalist was that even incandescent rage about national shame was allied to a profound understanding of geopolitics and political responsibility.”

Hedgehogs abroad:

“Cézanne and the Modern,” Leann Davis Alspaugh
“Henry Pearlman liked to say that every time he saw his art collection, it gave him a lift. We should all be so lucky.”

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“Where’s the Betterness?”

A lot of our society’s overblown technophilia goes on fulsome display at Austin’s annual gathering of the hip and innovative, South by Southwest Interactive.  Jacob Silverman, an independent writer, travelled to the 2013 festival to cover it for the fiercely contrarian review, The Baffler.

Bruce Sterling at SXSW

While dismayed by much that he witnessed, Silverman found some solace on the last day of the event. Science fiction author Bruce Sterling, self-proclaimed futurist and no luddite, delivered the closing talk and offered some pointed criticism of the festival’s underlying celebration of “disruption”  and its belief in the boundless promise of technology:

About “disruption,” a term that in Silicon Valley receives sacramental treatment, he said: “The thing that bugs me about your attitude toward it is that you don’t recognize its tragic dimension.” That is, e-books and online shopping killed off bookstores, digital music and file sharing wrecked the music industry, Google and Craigslist upended newspapers. New technologies don’t just supplant the old; they change our culture and society; sometimes they destroy more jobs than they create. In his reproof was an echo of Rebecca Solnit: wealth can be cruel and destructive.

Turning to the festival’s undercurrent of techno-utopianism, Sterling said that SXSWers who talk about making the world better “haven’t even reached the level of hypocrisy. You’re stuck at the level of childish naïveté.” He cited author Evgeny Morozov and his critique of technological solutionism—the belief that new digital technologies like smartphone apps and social networking can fix a range of social and political problems. “A billion apps have been sold,” Sterling declared. “Where’s the betterness?”

A new blog on The Hedgehog Review website, the Infernal Machine, will begin tackling similar issues around technology, knowledge, and culture when it launches in the coming weeks.

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