These are interesting excerpts I’ve clipped from articles online.
- 29 May 2020
Reading in the dark
I’ll often be too engrossed to notice the sunlight slowly fading. I’ll just stubbornly carry on reading, the book getting gradually closer to my face, squinting to make out the words. At some point my partner walks in, sees me peering at my book in the dark, and flicks on the light.
Why are you reading in the dark? You’ll ruin your eyes!
As soon as the light goes on, I’m aware of how hunched over the book I am, how much easier it is to read now that I can actually see the pages…
— Reading in the dark, Cassie Evans
- 29 May 2020
American Police Departments
The officers have since been placed on administrative leave but have not been charged with a crime.
Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, told investigators he did not hear police announce themselves and was terrified when the door was knocked down. In a 911 call just after the shooting, Mr. Walker told the dispatcher that somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend, according to a recording released on Thursday.
— 7 People Shot at Louisville Protest Over the Death of Breonna Taylor - The New York Times, Mike Baker in The New York Times
In other parts of the city and in St. Paul, police in riot gear clashed repeatedly with protesters amid reports of vandalized buildings and fires in businesses. In Minneapolis, at least one person was injured in a stabbing during the chaos, the police said. Late Thursday, protesters climbed over fences to breach a police precinct and set it on fire as officers retreated in squad cars. Smoke poured from the precinct and nearby buildings.
— National Guard Called As Minneapolis Erupts in Solidarity for George Floyd, Matt Furber, John Eligon, and Audra D. S. Burch in The New York Times
- 28 May 2020
Neofeudalism: The End of Capitalism?
A third feature of neofeudalism is the spatiality associated with feudalism, one of protected, often lively centers surrounded by agricultural and desolate hinterlands. We might also characterize this as a split between town and country, municipal and rural areas, urban communes and the surrounding countryside, or, more abstractly between an inside walled off from an outside, a division between what is secure and what is at risk, who is prosperous and who is desperate. Wood says that medieval cities were essentially oligarchies, “with dominant classes enriched by commerce and financial services for kings, emperors and popes. Collectively, they dominated the surrounding countryside … extracting wealth from it in one way or another.” Outside the cities were the nomads and migrants who, facing unbearable conditions, sought new places to live and work yet all too often came up against the walls.
US hinterlands are sites of loss and dismantlement, places with fantasies of a flourishing capitalist past that for a while might have let some linger in the hope that their lives and their children’s lives might actually get better. Remnants of an industrial capitalism that’s left them behind for cheaper labor, the hinterlands are ripe for the new intensified exploitation of neofeudalism. No longer making things, people in the hinterlands persist through warehouses, call centers, Dollar Stores, and fast food. Phil A. Neel’s recent book, Hinterland, notes patterns between China, Egypt, Ukraine, and the United States. They are all places with desolate abandoned wastelands and cities on the brink of overload.
Politically, the desperation of the hinterlands manifests in the movements of those outside the cities, movements that are sometimes around environmental issues (fracking and pipeline struggles), sometimes around land (privatization and expropriation), sometimes around the reduction of services (hospital and school closings). In the United States, the politics of guns positions the hinterlands against the urban. We might also note the way the division between hinterlands and municipality gets reinscribed within cities themselves. This manifests in both the abandonment of poor areas and their eradication in capitalist gentrification land grabs. A city gets richer and more people become homeless think San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles.
The increased attention to social reproduction responds to hinterlandization, that is, to the loss of a general capacity to reproduce the basic conditions of livable life. This appears in rising suicide rates, increase in anxiety and drug addiction, declining birth rates, lower rates of life expectancy, and in the United States, the psychotic societal self-destruction of mass shootings. It appears in the collapsed infrastructures, undrinkable water, and unbreathable air. The hinterlands are written on people’s bodies and on the land. With closures of hospitals and schools, and the diminution of basic services, life becomes more desperate and uncertain.
— Neofeudalism: The End of Capitalism? - Los Angeles Review of Books, Jodi Dean in Los Angeles Review of Books
- 28 May 2020
Off-Road Land Trains
By 1954, with the Cold War well underway, the U.S. government realized the quickest way to get a nuclear bomber from Russia to America was to go right over the Arctic Circle. If we wanted any chance of preventing a nuclear apocalypse, we needed to know if Soviet bombers were crossing the North Pole as soon as possible. The Army planned to build 63 manned radar stations in the high Arctic around the 69th parallel (200 miles north of the Arctic circle) as a result. And to transport all the necessary material that far north, it would have to get creative.
— The Incredible Story of the US Army’s Earth-Shaking, Off-Road Land Trains, by Peter Holderith
- 28 May 2020
Larry Kramer, Public Nuisance
“I will never forget the day that article appeared in the Native,’’ Tony Kushner told me not long ago. In 1993, Kushner received a Pulitzer Prize for his play Angels in America, which addressed the impact of AIDS on American society. “I was in graduate school at N.Y.U. in 1983, and I was in the second-floor lounge in the directing department. Stephen Spinella, who went on to perform the lead role of Prior Walter in Kushner’s dark epic, was sitting across from him on a sofa. I can still see him there,’’ Kushner said. “He was wearing pink socks. I had just started coming out of the closet, and gay life seemed so exciting. By the time I finished the piece, I was literally shaking, and I remember thinking that everything I had wanted in my life was over. I was twenty-six years old and I didn’t really have the strength to deal with what he was saying, but I had to acknowledge that we were faced with a biological event of an awesome magnitudea genuine plague. People were beginning to drop dead all around us, and we were pretending it was nothing too serious. With that one piece, Larry changed my world. He changed the world for all of us.”
— Larry Kramer, Public Nuisance, Michael Specter in The New Yorker
- 28 May 2020
All the history I learned in my youth came from the American Girl doll books
I have no recollection of the books’ literary merits, but I still remember that Kirsten, whose family immigrated to Minnesota from Sweden, lost her best friend to cholera, had to ride out a snowstorm in a cave with the frozen body of a fur-trapper, and then saw her family’s house burned down by the baby raccoon she rescued (Changes for Kirsten, indeed!).
— All the history I learned in my youth came from the American Girl doll books, Jessie Gaynor in LitHub
- 27 May 2020
The human species will likely survive in spite of itself, though in a world warped by the bitter cruelties of our ruling classes. We may in fact go on surviving quite a bit longer than some prognosticators may imagine. There will doubtless be consequences for the effects we have on the environment, but no species before us has has the ability to engineer around these consequences. No creatures but humans have ever had the resources to create a peaceful world amidst the chaos of natural history. We must rise to the occasion and build a world for the masses who live on it.
— No Apocalypse - Protean Magazine, Michael Malloy in Protean
- 27 May 2020
On Skye, Nursing Home Deaths Expose a Covid-19 Scandal
But management told workers to wear masks only around suspected coronavirus patients an approach that Ms. Harris, in her complaint, compared to closing the gate after the horse has bolted. The company told her that aides who wanted masks were provided with them starting April 9. Not until April 18, a week before the outbreak, were masks required.
Even so, managers sometimes refused to wear masks themselves, including on medicine rounds to residents’ rooms, complaining that they itched, the three workers said.
— On a Scottish Isle, Nursing Home Deaths Expose a Covid-19 Scandal, Benjamin Mueller in The New York Times
- 25 May 2020
My Ten Games of the Decade
Cities: Skylines is easily the pinnacle of the city-builder, city-sim genre, having dethroned Sim City. It has its issues, for sure. The lack of mixed-use zoning and the overreliance on car-based travel are disappointing in particular. But, working around that and with the help of a few (hundred) mods, Cities offers an unparalleled canvas for painting a city.
Moments of intense concentration, placing things just right, are interspersed with blissful periods of sitting back and just watching the city work. Immensely satisfying, gratifyingly creative and endlessly mesmerising, Cities has spent half the decade as one of my most successful tools for relaxation.
— My Ten Games of the Decade, Dom Ford