Ordinary World for 1 Nov 2018


“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
– Michael Crichton

Ordinary World
1 Nov 2018


[Hi1] We Forget That Our Ancestors Were Monsters by Alex Goik: “It’s been shown that repeat exposure to vivid violence leads to an increase in people’s estimates about the prevalence of crime and violence in the real world. For example, deaths that occur from shark attacks generate more media coverage than deaths that occur from falling coconuts, which leads people to assume that the former case happens more frequently (despite the opposite being true). In other words, people think the world is a more violent place than it really is primarily because of what they see on their television screens. As we’ll soon discover, there was a lot more messed up shit happening in the world a couple of hundred years ago – humans just weren’t as hyper-aware of external negative events as they are today.”

[Hi2] The Time Capsule That’s as Big as Human History by Michael Paterniti: “If you were to build your own time capsule, what would you want people—or alien beings—a million years from now to know about us? That we were loving, or warmongering, or dopes strung out on memes and viral videos? That we flew to the moon and made great art, ate Cinnabons (that we measured at 880 astonishing calories), and committed atrocities? How could you begin to represent these times, as lived by nearly 8 billion people? And what would give you, of all people, the right to tell the story?”

[Hi3] Giving Color to History: Why colorized historical films and photographs bring the past closer by Elizabeth Picciuto: “A later scholar, Edward Bullough, offered a vivid example: think of a moment when you’re lost in a dense fog, and you’re really scared. But for just a moment, you drop your fear and note the eerie beauty of the fog. You set aside your own desire—the desire not to be lost—and see the fog without regard to what you want from it. That moment, that distance from your desires, is true aesthetic appreciation. Early film theorists, then, were referring to this conception of aesthetic experiences when they argued that film’s lack of color, sound, and dimension actually facilitated the necessary distance for aesthetic experiences. Film, they cautioned, shouldn’t mimic reality too closely. If it did, there would be too much immediacy, we would become too engaged with the images.”

[Hi4] A Brief History of Anti-Semitic Violence in America by Isabel Fattal: “American anti-Semitism is as old as America itself. For decades, American Jews have faced social discrimination, acts of vandalism against sacred spaces, and, in recent years, social-media harassment—and the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents has risen dramatically since 2016. Fatal attacks against American Jews have been far less common than these other forms of discrimination. And yet American history is full of episodes of physical violence against Jews and Jewish institutions.”

[Hi5] How a South Carolina Park Plans to Confront Its Racist History by Adina Solomon: “Unity Park will unite the two parks that were once segregated: Mayberry and nearby Meadowbrook, once a park restricted to whites. These days Meadowbrook Park is small and largely disused—many Greenville residents don’t know it exists. Mayberry Park, which has picnic tables and a baseball field, is still used. The 60-acre park will be in Southernside, a historically black neighborhood near downtown. It will join together Mayberry and Meadowbrook and be accompanied by the development of affordable housing. “I can remember asking why do we have as a city, why do we have two parks down there, both of them just postage-stamp size with a little bit of equipment,” White says. “That’s how naïve I was.”

[Hi6] Nine days that rocked our city by the bay… by Alex Horovitz: “The mass murder in Jonestown and the assassinations at City Hall still haven’t receded from San Francisco’s consciousness in 40 years. Or mine. In those nine days in November 1978, I became acutely aware that the world of adults was fraught with difficulty. It probably started me thinking in many ways about the impeding end of my childhood and the complexities of the world I would inevitably engage as an adult.”

[Hi7] Art Begets Art: Before Mary Shelley Wrote Frankenstein she had Visions of an Artist Erotic Nightmare by Nicol Valentin “Now Mary was quite the feminist, marriage as an institution really wasn’t her thing. However, when she found out she was pregnant she decided it was a better alternative than having an illegitimate child and convinced William to marry her. Unfortunately, she died shortly after giving birth, leaving William with a little girl, also named Mary. As little Mary grew, she became well acquainted with Fuseli. She knew of his famous painting, the lustful story behind it, and his relationship with her mother. Over the years the image of The Nightmare sunk deep into her subconscious. She married Percy Shelley in 1816 and two years later began her famous novel, Frankenstein.”

[Hi8] A Female Malady? Women in the Lunatic Asylums of Victorian London by Emma Jolly “As readers of Dickens will be familiar, 19th century women were portrayed regularly in literature as reaching for smelling salts for ‘nerves’, ‘swooning’, ‘agitation’ or ‘hysteria’. This latter condition became identified almost exclusively with women. In William Tait’s Edinburgh magazine, Volume 1, of 1834 (p.472), a man was described as being “seized with the female malady of hysterics . . .” Also, women who behaved aggressively, independently, or overtly sexually were vulnerable to accusations of madness. Passivity and intellectual inferiority were required, particularly amongst those in the genteel middle classes.”

Throwback Thursday

[TT1] Liberalism and the End of History: Rules, Laws, Political Correctness and Free Speech by Murali “Modern left-liberals believe 3 things, and it seems that these three things form an inconsistent triad. At least one of them will have to be given up. Let me roughly state what these three things are and I’ll try to show why they are inconsistent. 1. People are morally obligated to respect others, including members of minority groups by avoiding, in their conversations, use of certain words and phrases that are racist, homophobic, transphobic, fat-phobic, able-ist or in any way derogatory of those who lack privilege. In fact, violation of this obligation is reasonable grounds for criticism and censure by others. I will call this obligation spelled out in 1, the obligation to be politically correct (PC). 2. People have a right to free speech 3. Even if minorities formally have equal legal rights and formal opportunities, persistent substantive inequalities can be just as important vis a vis political justice.

[TT2] History as Determing Ideology by Saul DeGraw “I have no fond memories of Reagan. I barely have any memories of him at all because I wasn’t even in kindergarten when he was reelected in 1984. I am cognizant of some elements of the Bush I vs. Dukakis election but mainly from reading about them as an adult. The first Presidential election that I really remember is Clinton and then people in my cohort entered the job market during the first tech bust and after the 9/11 recession. We spent most of the aughts in a recession and are still struggling with the fiscal crisis as caused by Bush.

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Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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13 thoughts on “Ordinary World for 1 Nov 2018

  1. Hi6: I am probably about the same age as Horvitz; I remember the Jonestown massacre as the very first “big scary” news story my parents weren’t able to insulate me from. We were at my paternal grandmother’s for Thanksgiving, one of the other relatives was watching it on the news. I remember my brother – who is five years my junior – asking my dad “Is God going to ‘take’ us?” (apparently some claim was made that God had “taken” the people at Jonestown). I remember my dad being angry with….maybe it was one of my uncles? For exposing us to that.

    I guess I would have been nine, if it was 1978. It was the beginning of an intimation that the world wasn’t a safe place, which has only been reinforced since then. Maybe that’s the point where my innocence started to die, I don’t know.

    I still reflexively cringe when someone uses the “drink the Kool-Aid” metaphor because I remember that news photo of all the bodies splayed out in the hot sun. It’s not a metaphor I like or will use.

    We lived in the Midwest so I don’t remember the Harvey Milk story, didn’t learn about it until some years later in high school civics or history.

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  2. Hi3

    I have a minor obsession with colorized photos. It’s another example of making history more accessible for people. My most powerful experiences have always been with physical objects from the past, but these photos really transport you to that moment.

    One of my favorite old photos is this one. I love the juxtaposition between these enormous, modern buildings and people using horses for transportation. It’s probably why that period fascinates me so much. I keep hoping someone will colorize it, but yikes what a lot of detail to cover.

    Also, they actually had color cameras during WWI, though they were not common. I have spent many hours staring at these photos.

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    • I got hooked on Denver pictures when I was working for the Colorado legislature. Tucked away here and there in the Capitol and the legislative services building are a number of pictures from 1900-1910 blown up to large size. This is one of my favorites because of all the transportation modes — horses, cars, bicycles, a pushcart, and electric trolleys.

      Another thing that jumps out in pictures of groups of people is that everyone is skinny. To the point that, compared to modern pictures, their heads look too large for their bodies. The one exception is a picture of the floor of the state senate in session — lots of overweight white male senators.

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      • Love that picture. I always marvel at everyone wearing coats, regardless of temp.

        I read an article recently that said that while the average male physic has gotten ’rounder’ in the last 100 years, men have also gotten stronger. Extra weight still creates extra muscle. Also, you will notice the average male chest today is more broad. I think 100 years ago you mostly had people with a climber’s physique. I could beat them in an arm wrestling match, but proportionally they are much stronger. And thanks to medicine, we can all eat like crap and still live into our 80s.

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        • I always marvel at everyone wearing coats, regardless of temp.

          The official rules for the Colorado legislature require that members and staff on the chamber floors must wear a coat. The Capitol is not air conditioned, and the windows in the chambers don’t open. Unseasonably warm stretches in April and May before the session ends can be… unpleasant. Sometimes the person in charge will relax the coat rule for members, but can’t do so for the staff. I was surprised by how quickly I got used to it, though.

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  3. Hi1: I like the overall gist of this piece but the title is kind of misleading as to what it’s really about. I think it’s really too easy for everyone to write off our ancestors as monsters rather than wrestling with the truth that people’s culture and surroundings shapes them and that we’re really no better, simply luckier to have been born in a time and place in which most philosophies are better and wiser and less violent than those of the past.

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    • I think you’re right that the title buried the article’s point: that human culture has been evolving in terms of what we view as moral/immoral and especially that we have begun to apply standards more generally (e.g., giving the same presumption of human rights and dignity to women, other races, ethnicities, and social classes).

      I have no illusions about my own capacity for evil.

      The article is also interesting juxtaposed with [TT1]. I admit I find hang-wringing over PC language tiresome since back in my youth what’s called ‘political correctness’ was known as ‘common decency’, but the need for some social rules/restraint to limit our worst impulses strikes me as part of shaping us into being less ‘monstrous’.

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      • See, I take the human capacity for evil as a warning against political correctness because common decency in public turns into policing others’ behavior in private, all too easily. I prefer “live and let live” over “common decency” simply due to the slippery slope concept.

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    • Macalester’s tactic has been to try to inject some humanities into STEM classes and some practical career training into the humanities. Last year, Rosenberg, the school’s president, brought the faculty together at a retreat to discuss the shifting balance of majors. One outcome was that faculty members were encouraged to pair together courses across academic disciplines so that, for example, a new class in social media might be a blend of computer science and philosophy. Professors in the humanities were also encouraged to give their students more career guidance than in the past, when many humanities students simply went to graduate school or law school after college.

      “The typical English major is designed to get students to go to graduate school,” Rosenberg says. “We need to rethink the curriculum so that it’s more focused on what employers will immediately find attractive.”

      Well good, they might actually find a way for the humanities to survive.

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