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Art Basel: The fall of the Arab spring.

BEN LUKE [Art Newspaper] — “Arab Spring” (2014) [in the “Unlimited” section of Art Basel 2015] consists of 16 glass vitrines, empty but for stones that have shattered their glass; more boulders and bricks lie at the cabinets’ feet. The work was triggered by the plundering of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in 2011, and uses the same traditional display cabinets that were raided by the looters. Continue reading “Art Basel: The fall of the Arab spring.” »

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The Waterloo brand: Sideways hat, a big capital ‘N’, plus bees.

By CLAIRE WRATHALL [Christie’s Daily] — When Andrew Roberts’ masterly biography Napoleon the Great was published last autumn, Penguin’s art editor, Isabelle de Cat, intentionally eschewed portraits and images of battle scenes for its cover, opting instead for a large ‘N’ surrounded by an orderly swarm of golden bees. She was taking, she said at the time, ‘a symbolic approach, with the cover creating a sort of “brand” for Napoleon.’ Continue reading “The Waterloo brand: Sideways hat, a big capital ‘N’, plus bees.” »

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AWP: A ‘writers program’ that censors writers?

NATIONAL COALITION AGAINST CENSORSHIP [website release] — In a bizarre and counterproductive attempt to escape controversy, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) ousted poet Vanessa Place from a 2016 conference subcommittee because one of her creative projects was attacked as “racially insensitive.”

The project in question is a Twitter feed of the text of Gone With the Wind accompanied by a profile image of Hattie McDaniel, the actress famous for her portrayal of Mammy in the 1940 film. The goal, according to Place’s artistic statement, was to “show the inherent whiteness behind the blackface,” pushing the racism contained within the words to the forefront. Continue reading “AWP: A ‘writers program’ that censors writers?” »

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O the humanities!

By BROCK READ [The Chronicle of Higher Education] — There are plenty of reasons why disciplinary societies’ annual job reports can’t give us a bulletproof, thoroughgoing sense of the labor markets in their fields. For one thing, the reports draw from job boards—like the Modern Language Association’s Job Information List or the American Historical Association’s Career Center—that have competitors. (One job, no study logging it.) For another, jobs with an interdisciplinary bent might get cross-posted on multiple boards. (One job, several studies logging it.) Continue reading “O the humanities!” »

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Christians thanking their Islamic murderers.

By KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ [National Review] —Beshir Kamel, brother of both Bishoy Astafanus Kamel, who was 25, and Somaily Astafanus Kamel, who was 23, thanked their murderers for not editing out the name of their Savior when disseminating the video of their beheadings.

Appearing on an Arabic Christian television station, Kamel said that the families of the men, laborers who were working in Libya in order to provide for their families — 13 of them from the same small, impoverished village — were congratulating one another. “We are proud to have this number of people from our village who have become martyrs,” he explained. Continue reading “Christians thanking their Islamic murderers.” »

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Fun with unemployment numbers in America.

By JIM CLIFTON [Gallup] — Right now, we’re hearing much celebrating from the media, the White House and Wall Street about how unemployment is “down” to 5.6%. The cheerleading for this number is deafening. The media loves a comeback story, the White House wants to score political points and Wall Street would like you to stay in the market. Continue reading “Fun with unemployment numbers in America.” »

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Aram Saroyan: ‘I should interview Rod McKuen…’

McKuen with Poe

…at Poe’s grave in Baltimore. Left to right: Pam Plymell, Rod McKuen, Paul Grillo, Charles Plymell, Liz Plymell seated. (Image: courtesy Pam Plymell/Cherry Valley Editions.)

By ARAM SAROYAN [The Nervous Breakdown] — In the winter of 1976, I committed the professional and personal faux pas of giving a poetry reading with Rod McKuen. It took place at the Veterans Auditorium in downtown San Francisco and was supposed to be a benefit for the San Francisco State University poetry program. Lewis MacAdams, my friend and fellow resident of Bolinas, the radical seacoast town at the western edge of Marin County, was just then employed as director of the program. I had wanted a reading in that year’s series, of course, but Lewis and I were poetry competitors as well as friends. (I should say that poets, generally perceived as ivory tower dreamers and underpaid to the point of extinction, are among the most vainglorious and unforgiving in the matter of readings, appointments, anthologies, and the like, none of it amounting to a hill of beans.) In the months prior to the McKuen/Saroyan slate being set, my suspicion was that Lewis wasn’t going to include me on his schedule of readers, and this despite all the stuff I’d published recently, including full-page poems in Rolling Stone, New Age, The Village Voice, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine. Continue reading “Aram Saroyan: ‘I should interview Rod McKuen…’” »

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Awards for nodes: UK poetry prizes.

By DAVID-ANTOINE WILLIAMS [The Life of Words] — Below I have three network graphs representing the nominees and winners between 2010 and 2014 of the T. S. Eliot Prize, the Forward Prize (Best Collection category), and the Griffin Prize, where the judges and nominees are poets based in the UK or Ireland. There are 174 nominations in those five years, shared among 61 individuals. Because the TSE prize has the most nominations and all judges are usually poets, it accounts for 129 of the 174 nominations. Continue reading “Awards for nodes: UK poetry prizes.” »

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Killing cartoonists for Allah.

WHAT DRIVES CERTAIN people to kill cartoonists as an act of faith? Two views:

By SALMAN RUSHDIE [English PEN via WSJ] — Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today….

Continued at The Wall Street Journal |

By GEORGE PACKER [The New Yorker] —The murders today in Paris are not a result of France’s failure to assimilate two generations of Muslim immigrants from its former colonies. They’re not about French military action against the Islamic State in the Middle East, or the American invasion of Iraq before that. They’re not part of some general wave of nihilistic violence in the economically depressed, socially atomized, morally hollow West—the Paris version of Newtown or Oslo. Least of all should they be “understood” as reactions to disrespect for religion on the part of irresponsible cartoonists. Continue reading “Killing cartoonists for Allah.” »

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The New Republic at 100.


NOVEMBER 24, 2014, marked the 100th year of The New Republic, a venerable American magazine that wore the contemptuous epithets by conservatives as a “liberal rag” like a badge of honor. The publication was a forum for discussion of politics, policy and the arts. More broadly, The New Republic was a place where ideas—new, old, and contested—could be articulated. Legitimacy was conferred on the publication even before the appearance of the first issue; it was the subject of discussion at former president Theodore Roosevelt’s Long Island estate (an auspicious setting for a magazine that would engage in political debate with a formidable tenacity). Continue reading “The New Republic at 100.” »

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Another Shakespeare First Folio found — this one in France.

[Bibliology: The Biblio Blog] — Shakespeare’s First Folio – containing 36 of his 38 known plays and printed in 1623 – is one of the most valuable books in English literature. It’s also one of the most closely inventoried. Of the 800 copies thought to have been originally printed in the 17th century, 233 are believed to still exist today. And now we can add the 234th to the list. Continue reading “Another Shakespeare First Folio found — this one in France.” »

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Money for nothing.

By KATE BACHELDER [Wall Street Journal] — The U.S. spent $12,608 per student in 2010—more than double the figure, in inflation-adjusted dollars, spent in 1970—and spending on public elementary and secondary schools has surpassed $600 billion. How’s that working out? Adjusted state SAT scores have declined on average 3% since the 1970s, as the Cato Institute’s Andrew Coulson found in a March report. Continue reading “Money for nothing.” »

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Goodbye to LM Kit Carson.

WE REPORT WITH great sadness that L.M. Kit Carson, whose “Africa Diary” production blog ran here in The Fortnightly Review several years ago, has died in Texas. His accomplishments and his unaffected intellectual powers were both impressive, and his great personal charm made him a wonderful friend, colleague, and occasional contributor.

By birth and by personal philosophy, Carson was the quintessential Texan, a man much, much larger than his sadly abbreviated life. We excerpt below the perceptive obituary published in the Dallas News: Continue reading “Goodbye to LM Kit Carson.” »

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The Ebola in your future.

By SCOTT GOTTLIED and TEVI TROY [from The Wall Street Journal] — The World Health Organization’s failed response to the Ebola crisis shows anew that the group is more a politically minded policy-making body than a relief agency. The WHO claims that it lacked the resources to respond to Ebola, but while the outbreak was spiraling out of control in West Africa, the organization had plenty of time and money to mount an international campaign to combat what it flagged last month as a “grave concern.” Not Ebola, but electronic cigarettes. Continue reading “The Ebola in your future.” »

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The secret life of figs.

By GERRY CORDON [ from That’s How the Light Gets In] — THE FIG VARIETIES grown in Britain (like our Brown Turkey)  develop fruit develop without flowers or  the need for pollination. That’s helpful, since we don’t have any fig wasps here to do the pollinating.  Because the remarkable thing about figs is that the flowers are inside the fruitlets that develop like little buds on the stems.  Elsewhere in the world, the flowers inside the fruitlets must be pollinated by a female fig wasp (a creature that lives for only two days) which must enter the fruitlet via a tiny opening at its apex.  The female wasp then proceeds to pollinate the stigmas of the fig before exiting the fig in search of other young receptive figs to complete the cycle. Once the fig wasp has left the fig, it ripens. Continue reading “The secret life of figs.” »

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