Reading Francisco Cantu’s “Boundary Conditions” (The New Yorker, 11 March 2019)

The militarization of the borderlands has become so commonplace that one often grows numb to its manifestations. — Francisco Cantu

In his article, a review of Greg Grandin’s The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America, Cantu shows how the words border and frontier co-exist in the American mind.

The review begins:

On Election Day 2018, residents of Nogales, Arizona began to notice a single row of coiled razor wire growing across the top of the city’s border wall.

Riveting.

Opening Sentence of the Day: Yiyun Li

  • Once upon a time, I was addicted to a salon.

— First Line, All Will Be Well, in the 11 March 2019 New Yorker

Seals of New York

Pack rat self. She clipped an article from The New Yorker of 21 March 2011 and kept it tucked away in a drawer. Until today, when self found it again. She kept only one page, so she doesn’t know who the author of the piece is.

In 1993, Kevin Walsh, of the New York Aquarium, said there was a harbor seal living under the Williamsburg Bridge. In ’97, Sieswerda reported that occasional seals could be spotted on out-of-the-way beaches in Brooklyn and Queens. In 2001, kayakers said that they saw about a dozen harbor seals living on Swinburne Island, in the Lower Harbor, two and a half miles from the Verrazano Bridge.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Looking Back: The New Yorker, Feb. 12, 2018

STATE OF THE RESISTANCE, January 2018

In a new book, How Democracies Die, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Zibatt argue that democracy does not typically succumb during a catastrophic event, such as a seizure of power by a military junta. It fails more commonly through the gradual weakening of crucial institutions, such as the judiciary and the press. In short, the Union is precisely as strong as its institutions, and those instiutions are being assailed in ways that we’ve seldom seen.

— Jelani Cobb, Talk of the Town, p. 27

Looking Back: The New Yorker, 28 May 2018

Self has been subscribing to The New Yorker for over 30 years.

She saves back issues. Obv.

Here’s an excerpt from a Talk of the Town piece published 28 May 2018:

“The Long Fight,” by Amy Davidson Sorkin

  • Among the many matters on which congressional Republicans have failed to press Donald Trump, a joke told by a communications aide may not rank particularly high, but it should have been among the easiest to address. This joke came during a White House meeting, after Sen. John McCain announced that he could not vote for Gina Haspel, Trump’s nominee for C.I.A. director because, at her hearing, she would not concede that the agency’s past practice of torture was immoral. “It doesn’t matter,” the aide said. “He’s dying anyway.” Instead of apologizing, the White House launched a hunt for the person who had leaked the remark. Some Republicans expressed outrage, but when G.O.P. senators attended a private lunch with Trump, on Tuesday, the incident wasn’t even mentioned.

After reading the piece, self adds McCain’s The Restless Wave, the book the Senator co-authored with Mark Salter, to her 2019 reading list. In that book, McCain writes

  • that he knows that torture can break people, and make them say anything — even tell lies, producing bad intelligence — and that it can rob a person of everything except “the belief that if the positions were reversed, you wouldn’t treat them as they have treated you.”

Stay tuned.

What Has Happened to Oleg Sentsov?

In two years, Trump has arranged two of the most bizarre summits in the world:

  • with Kim Jong Un, a brutal dictator, who he made seem, according to The Economist (10 June 2018) “warm, jovial, and eminently reasonable.” The Economist maintains Kim Jong Un “ought to be at The Hague.”
  • with Putin in Helsinki, a “one-on-one” which offered Putin “the chance to be seen as a global statesman, an equal with the President of the United States, the leader of a country whose participation was needed to solve just about every pressing world problem.” (Joshua Yaffa in The New Yorker, 16 July 2018)

In the meantime, what has happened to Oleg Sentsov, who was jailed as a “terrorist” for “protesting against Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the war Russia’s president unleashed in eastern Ukraine four years ago” (The Economist, 10 June 2018)? No one knows. Here’s the latest article self found about him; it was almost a month ago, in The Guardian.

Trump instead calls for Russia to be allowed back into the G7, which expelled it “for the seizure of Crimea.” According to Trump, that “happened a while ago.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2018 is SO 1461

  • In Renaissance Florence, a number of designated boxes placed throughout the city allowed citizens to make anonymous denunciations of various moral crimes — in 1461, for example, the artist-monk Filippo Lipi was accused of fathering a child with a nun.

— Claudia Roth Pierpoint, “Angels and Men” in The New Yorker (16 October 2017)

The article is a review of the Walter Isaacson biography of Leonardo da Vinci, called Leonardo da Vinci. One of the biggest surprises in the piece is the discovery that “one of the last remaining complete notebooks, the Codex Leicester,” is in the possession of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Also: “Leonardo was illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted . . . ”

Dear blog readers, last year self saw the Mona Lisa. It was May or June. A Spanish woman asked self whether she knew where the famous painting was located. Then she asked a museum guard, and the two of us went looking together. And we found it. And she asked self to take pictures of her standing in front of it. And insisted on taking a few of self.

And here’s a wide-angle shot of the gallery housing the Mona Lisa and then self making a horrible face because, honestly, she dislikes having her picture taken (not when the humidity has done things to her hair) and the crowded gallery full of people aiming their cell phones in one direction was so disorienting.

 

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Saturday: Lucy Brock-Broido (1956 – 2018)

Giraffe

(By coincidence, self happened to be watching 60 Minutes last Sunday and it showed the scene the author describes in the poem, the ‘culling’ of a perfectly healthy giraffe by a Copenhagen zoo)

His eyes were liquid, kind.

His lashes each as long as a hummingbird’s tongue

His fetlocks puffed from galloping, his tail curled upward

From the joy of feeling fleet across the tinted grasslands

And the gold savannah there.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

While We’re On the Subject of Girls’ Schools

from The New Yorker, 22 May 2017:

  • Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled is a remake of Don Siegel’s 1971 Civil War drama, about a wounded Union soldier who is given shelter in a Confederate girls’ school and arouses the repressed sexual energy of students and teachers alike. Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman, and Elle Fanning play residents of the school; Colin Farrell plays the soldier.

Alas, self missed this film when it showed in theatres last year but she will always, to her dying day, like Colin Farrell.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Style Guide, The Daily Stormer

The Daily Stormer is a relatively popular neo-Nazi blog, although it’s impossible to know exactly how popular. (From the style guide: “The site continues to grow month by month, indicating that there is no ceiling on this.” Also from the guide: “We should always claim we are winning, and should celebrate any wins with exteme exaggeration.”)

— Andrew Marantz, in a piece from The New Yorker’s Talk of the Town, 15 January 2018

Apparently, a HuffPost reporter, Ashley Feinberg, got sent a style guide, which is seventeen pages long. Excerpts:

  • Links must not “stretch into the spacing between words.”
  • Images must be exactly three hundred and twenty pixels wide, to avoid anything “aesthetically problematic.”
  • Each post “should be filled with as much visual stimulation as possible,” in order to “appeal to the ADHD culture.”
  • Passages from mainstream sources must be unaltered, so that “we can never be accused of ‘fake news’ —  or delisted by Facebook as such.”
  • There is NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH HYPERBOLE: “Even when a person can say to themselves ‘this is ridiculous,’ they are still affected by it on an emotional level. Refer to teenagers who get arrested for racist Twitter posts as ‘eternally noble warriors bravely fighting for divine war to protect the blood heritage of our sacred ancestors’ . . . You and anyone reading can say omg corny lol. But it just doesn’t matter to the primitive part of the brain.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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