In this first roundup of 2013 (made of links mostly gathered last December): the writer’s cabin, loneliness, a look back at OWS, Tarantino on DVDs, journalism and social media, an essay on reading by Oliver Sacks, the tragedy at Newtown, globalization, various documentaries, excerpts from a new English translation of Tiqqun’s Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, the 40th anniversary of Calvino’s Invisible Cities, some thoughts on copyrights, a one-man publishing venture, Zizek is depressed and a full-feature and finally a 60 minutes documentary about the Tsaatan nomads, in northern Mongolia, and the relationship they have with the white reindeer.
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The New York Times: “The Lure of the Writer’s Cabin” by David Wood, Dec. 9, 2012.
Much has been written about the writer’s cabin. Among the most notable recent books on the topic are “Heidegger’s Hut” by Adam Sharr and “A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams,” Michael Pollan’s account of imagining and then actually constructing his own writing space. A standard Internet search can quickly yield images of the writing rooms (cabins, huts, sheds) of legendary scriveners: Dylan Thomas, Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Roald Dahl, Carl Jung, Henry Thoreau and — a writer of a markedly different sort —Ted Kaczynski, to name a few. And Jill Krementz’s 1999 collection of photographs “The Writer’s Desk” gives us tantalizing glimpses of writers sitting at their desks. But why the interest? Have these places somehow become secular sites of the sacred?
Aeon magazine: “Me, myself and I” by Olivia Laing, Dec. 19, 2012.
We are social animals, the theory goes, and so isolation is — or was, at some unspecified point in our evolutionary journey — unsafe for us. This theory neatly explains the physical consequences of loneliness, which ally to a heightened sense of threat, but I can’t help feeling it doesn’t capture the entirety of loneliness as a state.
Wired: “A Eulogy for #Occupy” by Quinn Norton, Dec. 12, 2012.
From the beginning there were two main parts to Occupy. There was the cause of economic justice — the idea that resources shouldn’t be distributed so unevenly. This idea, in its myriad forms, drove marches and injected the rhetoric of the “99 percent” into the political dialogue. This was what the press often thought Occupy was all about.
Less understood was the other part of Occupy — the part that was about the need for community. Occupiers came to the camps to care for others as much as they came to be cared for. People had to find a way to matter to each other in ways that weren’t mediated by the social services, the justice system, the institutions we stick each other into.
Vulture: “Here’s How Quentin Tarantino Introduced Django Unchained at Last Night’s New York Premiere” by Katie Van Syckle, Dec. 12, 2012.
Thanks, everybody! Y’all ready for some Django Unchained? Are you guys ready to get UNCHAINED?! You know, actually, it’s funny: Just before I came out, they were telling me that there was a little problem in the projection booth with the projection bulb, and just a couple of scenes might have a slight strobing effect at the bottom … and I’ve been starting to do the press for the film, last week, and I’m getting a lot of questions about, ‘Oh, you’ve been doing this for twenty years now, how is anything different? What do you differently now than you did back then?’ And I’m saying, ‘Oh, I haven’t changed at all! Nothing’s different.’ But I actually started thinking about it when they told me that stuff about the projector bulb, and twenty years ago, fifteen years ago, or even ten years ago, I would have fucking flipped out, and had a fucking attack on everybody! Now I’m like, ‘Yeah, so what? It’s okay. It’ll be fine.’ You know, I think what I have learned is that if the film is good, it doesn’t matter, any imperfections. And if the film is bad, it doesn’t mean anything when [the projection is] perfect. So I think I’ve finally calmed down. Also, because I’m such a fan of film projection, projector fuck-ups, I tend to look at as romantic now. A DVD never fucks up.
GigaOM: “It’s not Twitter — this is just the way the news works now” by Mathem Ingram, Dec. 15, 2012.
The way that inaccurate news reports about a mass shooting in Connecticut filtered out through social media has brought up many of the same criticisms as Hurricane Sandy — that social media isn’t an appropriate forum for journalism. But this is simply the way news works now.
The New York Times Sunday Book Review: “Reading the Fine Print” by Oliver Sacks, Dec. 14, 2012.
Writing should be accessible in as many formats as possible — George Bernard Shaw called books the memory of the race. No one sort of book should be allowed to disappear, for we are all individuals, with highly individualized needs and preferences — preferences embedded in our brains at every level, our individual neural patterns and networks creating a deeply personal engagement between author and reader.
Pew Research Center: “Public Divided over What Newtown Signifies” Dec. 17, 2012.
Nearly six-in-ten (57%) say they followed news about the Newtown shooting very closely, making it by far the public’s top story last week. News interest in the Newtown shooting is higher than for other recent gun tragedies, including shootings in Aurora, Colo. (41% very closely), Tucson, Ariz. (49% very closely), and Virginia Tech (45% very closely). In April 1999, somewhat more followed news about shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. very closely (68%).
Nieman Journalism Lab: “How does Wikipedia deal with a mass shooting? A frenzied start gives way to a few core editors” by Brian Keegan, Dec. 18, 2012
Users like BabbaQ (edits to Sandy Hook), Ser Amantio di Nicolao (edits to Sandy Hook), Art LaPella (edits to Sandy Hook) were among the first responders to edit several of these articles, including Sandy Hook. However, their revisions are relatively minor copyedits and reference formatting reflecting the prolific work they do patrolling recent changes. Much of the substantive content of the article is from editors who have edited none of the other articles about shootings examined here and likely no other articles about other shootings. In all likelihood, readers of these breaking news articles are mostly consuming the work of editors who have never previously worked on this kind of event. In other words, some of the earliest and most widely read information about breaking news events is written by people with fewer journalistic qualifications than Medill freshmen.
FiveThirtyEight at The New York Times: “Party Identity in a Gun Cabinet” by Nate Silver, Dec. 18, 2012.
An American child grows up in a married household in the suburbs. What are the chances that his family keeps a gun in their home?
The probability is considerably higher than residents of New York and other big cities might expect: about 40 percent of married households reported having a gun in their home, according to the exit poll conducted during the 2008 presidential election.
But the odds vary significantly based on the political identity of the child’s parents. If they identify as Democratic voters, the chances are only about one in four, or 25 percent, that they have a gun in their home. But the chances are more than twice that, almost 60 percent, if they are Republicans.
The Economist: “Going backwards. The world is less connected than it was in 2007” Dec. 22, 2012.
The index measures both the depth of a country’s connectedness (ie, how much of its economy is internationalised) and its breadth (how many countries it connects with). The economic crisis of 2008 made connections both shallower and narrower. The depth measure has rebounded since 2009, and is now 10% higher than it was in 2005—though it remains below what it was in 2007. But the breadth of connectedness has continued to slip, and is now 4% lower than in 2005.
A man called Jake lives in the middle of the forest. He goes for walks in whatever the weather, and takes naps in the misty fields and woods. He builds a raft to spend time sitting in a loch. Drives a beat-up jeep to pick up wood supplies. He is seen in all seasons, surviving frugally, passing the time with strange projects, living the radical dream he had as a younger man, a dream he spent two years working at sea to realise.
Canopy: “Excerpts from Preliminary Materials For A Theory Of The Young-Girl by Tiqqun” new translation by Ariana Reines. Another English translation of this text (first published in French in 1999) has been available online for a while: PDF.
The Young-Girl has neither opinions nor positions of her own. She takes shelter as soon as she can in the shadow of the winners.
PBS: “The City Dark” 60-mins documentary film by Ian Cheney, 2012.
Is darkness becoming extinct? When filmmaker Ian Cheney moves from rural Maine to New York City and discovers streets awash in light and skies devoid of stars, he embarks on a journey to America’s brightest and darkest corners, asking astronomers, cancer researchers and ecologists what is lost in the glare of city lights. Blending a humorous, searching narrative with poetic footage of the night sky, The City Dark provides a fascinating introduction to the science of the dark and an exploration of our relationship to the stars.
MetaFiler: “Cities and the soul” by Rhaomi, Dec. 30, 2012. December 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities. MetaFilter user Rhaomi gathered an impressive amount of resources, links, articles, illustrations, essays… all related to this peculiar novel (previously featured here and here).
Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain: “What Could Have Entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2013? Under the law that existed until 1978 … Works from 1956” (undated).
Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years – an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1956 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2013, where they would be “free as the air to common use.” Under current copyright law, we’ll have to wait until 2052.
Bits at The New York Times: “Publishing Without Perishing” by David Streitfeld, January 1st, 2013. An interview with James Morrisson about his very small, one-man publishing venture Whisky Priest. Morrisson also runs the blog Caustic Cover Critic (about book design) which I’ve been enjoying for a couple of years now.
The critic has published about a dozen out-of-copyright volumes using Lulu, which does the printing, and Amazon, which does the selling and shipping. He dubbed his venture Whisky Priest in homage to Graham Greene, himself an enthusiast of uncommon and unjustly forgotten literary efforts. On the Whisky Priest list are the Batchelder book; a collection by Edith Wharton; “Artists’ Wives,” Alphonse Daudet’s stories about the war between the sexes; and Storm Jameson’s “In the Second Year,” a prophetic look at fascism.
Salon: “Slavoj Zizek: I am not the world’s hippest philosopher!” by Katie Hengelhart, Dec. 29, 2012.
You write that we need to think more and act less. But in the end you identify with Lenin: a famed man of action.
Yes, but wait a minute! Lenin was the right guy. When everything went wrong in 1914, what did he do? He moved to Switzerland and started reading Hegel.
Tracking The White Reindeer a film by Hamid Sardar, France, 2008, 50 minutes. Winner of the Best Film on Mountain Culture award at Banff Mountain Festivals in 2008. Available in its entirety either on Vimeo (English version) or YouTube (French version). The English version is embedded below.
In the snow-covered plains of northern Mongolia live the Tsaatan nomads. The young Quizilol and the beautiful Solongo are in love. To prove to Solongo’s father that he is man enough to marry his daughter, Quizilol has to show he is capable of raising a herd of reindeer by himself. His family gives him a young stallion to start off. During a blizzard however, the stallion escapes into the spirit dwelling mountains. If it crosses the nearby Russian border, it will be lost forever. The young man can only count on himself to capture the animal. Only if he succeeds will he marry Solongo.