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Posts Tagged ‘literature

“The things you used to own, now they own you”*…

 

things

 

Photographic artist Barbara Iweins practice has always dealt with the boundaries of intimacy and vulnerability, and how these can be pushed to their very limits. Her relationship with the medium began 11 years ago, when she was suddenly compelled to buy a camera and photograph strangers she met in the street.

“Ever since I was young, whenever I was in a public space, my eyes would be drawn to certain people and I wondered what they were thinking or doing at that exact moment, or even what their fears were, or their joys,” she explains. So, one day, she decided to act on that impulse, asking strangers if she could enter their personal lives. “Like a voyeur, I revisited them year after year with a new project. By the end of those five years, we were so close, that I could even make a picture of them at one of their most vulnerable moments: when they just opened their eyes in the morning. This project was called 7AM/7PM.”

Having spent so long focusing on the vulnerability of others, recently, Barbara decided to turn inwards, using her own private life as a case study for the first time. “It was time for me to lay myself bare a little as well,” she adds. The result is Katalog, a project she began in 2018 which she describes as “a radical confrontation with my possessions through my photographic lens. The exposure of oneself, pushed to its paroxysm.” In a mammoth project, for two years and 15 hours a week, Barbara isolated herself and photographed all 10,532 objects in her house. “In order to rigorously confront myself with everything I own, I then classified everything by material, colour, their frequency of use and their emotional value.”

You’d assume that this would be a somewhat performative gesture, that the majority but perhaps not all of Barbara’s possessions would make it into the series but, she tells us, “to be totally honest with myself, I needed to capture them all. No book, no piece of clothing, no kitchen utensil, no Lego was going to escape my lens.”…

The photographer undertook this mammoth task in an attempt assess the value she places on objects: “Artist Barbara Iweins on spending two years photographing all 10,532 objects in her house.”

* Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

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As we take on taxonomy, we might spare a thought for Jean-Jacques Rousseau; he died on this date in 1778.  A central figure in the European Enlightenment, he was a novelist (Emile, or On Education illustrated the importance of the education of the whole person for citizenship; Julie, or the New Heloise was seminal in the development of romanticism in fiction), a composer (perhaps most notably of several operas), and an autobiographer (his Confessions initiated the modern autobiography; his Reveries of a Solitary Walker exemplified the late 18th-century movement known as the Age of Sensibility, and featured an heightened subjectivity and introspection that later characterized modern writing).

But it is as a philosopher that Rousseau was best known in his time and is best remembered.  His Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract are cornerstones of modern political and social thought.  He was deeply controversial in his time: he was condemned from the pulpit by the Archbishop of Paris, his books were burned and warrants were issued for his arrest.  But during the period of the French Revolution, Rousseau was the most popular of the philosophes among members of the Jacobin Club. He was interred as a national hero in the Panthéon in Paris, in 1794, 16 years after his death.

42307923884_4bc291b918_o source

 

 

“Our situation is unique in the annals of life, yet inscribed for all time in the logic of history”*…

 

evolution

 

A scan of the history of gross world product (GWP) at multi-millennium time scale generates fundamental questions about the human past and prospect. What is the probability distribution for negative shocks ranging from mild recessions to the pandemics? Were the agricultural and industrial revolutions one-offs or did they manifest dynamics still ongoing? Is the pattern of growth best seen as exponential, if with occasional step changes in the rate, or as super exponential? If the latter, how do we interpret the typical corollary,that output will become infinite in finite time? In a modest step toward answering such ambitious questions, this paper introduces the first internally consistent statistical model of world economic history…

[Looking back to 10,000 BCE, the author concludes that] the world economic system over the long term tends not to the steady growth seen in industrial countries in the last century or so, but to instability. The credible range of future paths seems wide.

Oh, so very wide… David Roodman (@davidroodman) goes big: “Modeling the Human Trajectory” (pdf).

(Image above: source)

* François Meyer, 1974. La surchauffe de la croissance: Essai sur la dynamique de l’évolution

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As we take the long view, we might recall that it is on this date each year that the roughly 300 residents of a small village participate in a drawing that determines who will be sacrificed to insure a good harvest… in Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery.”

Originally published in the June 26, 1948, issue of The New Yorker, it evoked strong initial negative response; subscriptions were cancelled; much hate mail received throughout the summer; and the Union of South Africa banned the story.  It is now considered a classic of short fiction (and among the most famous American short stories); it spawned several radio, television, and film adaptations, and inspired voluminous analysis, both literary and sociological.

lottery source

 

 

“Deep in the fundamental heart of mind and Universe there is a reason”*…

 

darkenergy

 

Why does the Universe exist? There are two questions here. First, why is there a Universe at all? It might have been true that nothing ever existed: no living beings, no stars, no atoms, not even space or time. When we think about this possibility, it can seem astonishing that anything exists. Second, why does this Universe exist? Things might have been, in countless ways, different. So why is the Universe as it is?…

Derek Parfit explores the most fundamental questions of all: “Why anything? Why this?”  Part 2 here.

For a 3-D tour of the subject in question– the universe– see here (the source of the image above).

* Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything

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As we explore existence, we might recall that today– and every June 16– is Bloomsday, a commemoration and celebration of the life of Irish writer James Joyce, during which the events of his novel Ulysses (which is set on 16 June 1904) are relived: Leopold Bloom goes about Dublin, James Joyce’s immortalization of his first outing with Nora Barnacle, the woman who would eventually become his wife.

The first Bloomsday was observed on the 50th anniversary of the events in the novel, in 1954, when John Ryan (artist, critic, publican and founder of Envoy magazine) and the novelist Brian O’Nolan organized what was to be a daylong pilgrimage along the Ulysses route. They were joined by Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Tom Joyce (a dentist who, as Joyce’s cousin, represented the family interest), and AJ Leventhal (a lecturer in French at Trinity College, Dublin).

The crew for the first Bloomsday excursion

source

 

Written by LW

June 16, 2020 at 1:01 am

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually”*…

 

Law enforcement officers across the United States are using a variety of weapons on protesters during demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality. George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. The fatal encounter has triggered a wave of protests across the country and around the world. Many of the events have been peaceful but some have turned violent, with scenes of arson, looting and clashes with police.

Authorities have imposed curfews on dozens of cities across the country, the most since the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968…

weapons

Often described as non-lethal, these weapons can seriously injure, disable and even kill. Police have used them against peaceful protesters as well as members of the press during the demonstrations.

Chemical Irritants

Chemical irritants include tear gas and pepper spray, which cause sensations of burning, pain and inflammation of the airways.

Public health and infectious diseases experts have opposed the use of chemical irritants such as tear gas, saying in an online petition that they could increase risk for COVID-19 by “making the respiratory tract more susceptible to infection.”

Because chemical irritants can spread widely, bystanders and individuals other than the intended targets can be exposed to the chemicals…

Reuters unpacks what U.S. police are using to corral, subdue and disperse demonstrators: “Weapons of Control.”

Attorney General Barr insists that pepper spray is “not a chemical”; but of course it is (as its manufacturer brags and the CDC agrees)– and a particularly dangerous one during the coronavirus pandemic.

See also “Crocodile Tears,” a history of tear gas and its use, and “The Power of Crowds,” a historical consideration of attempts through time to manage or constrain mass gatherings and of the resilience of the crowd.

* James Baldwin

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As we come together, we might recall that it was on this date in 1872 that Samuel Butler‘s Erewhon was published.  A satirical utopian novel, it skewers Victorian society in a manner reminiscent of Swift’s dismantling of 18th century society in Gulliver’s Travels.  Butler meant the title, which refers to the “country” he describes, to be understood as the word “nowhere” backwards (though the letters “h” and “w” are of course transposed).

220px-Erewhon_Cover source

 

Written by LW

June 9, 2020 at 1:01 am

“When I die, I’m leaving my body to science fiction”*…

 

toppng.com-astronaut-porthole-space-spacecraft-weightlessness-gravity-3840x2400

 

If Somnium is the first science fiction book (which many people argue is true), then this is probably the first reference to the idea of zero gravity, or weightlessness.

“…for, as magnetic forces of the earth and moon both attract the body and hold it suspended, the effect is as if neither of them were attracting it…”
From Somnium (The Dream), by Johannes Kepler.
Published in 1634
Additional resources

Note that the word “gravity” is not used to describe the attraction between masses; Isaac Newton did not describe universal gravitation until 1687…

The first entry in Technovelgy’s (@Technovelgy)Timeline of Science Fiction Ideas, Technology, and Inventions.”  Starting in the 17th century, it contains hundreds of reminders– most linked to info on real-life inventors and inventions that realized the dreams– that imagination is often the inspiration for invention.

* Steven Wright

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As we ponder precursors, we might recall that on this date in 1954 Gog premiered in Los Angeles.  The third film in Ivan Tors‘ “Office of Scientific Investigation” (OSI) trilogy, following The Magnetic Monster (1953) and Riders to the Stars (also 1954), it starred Richard Egan, Constance Dowling (in her final big-screen role), and Herbert Marshall in a cautionary tale of killer robots.

gog source

 

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