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Best Reads of the Week–5/23-5/29

Copying this from a blog I love: Zunguzungu

I’ve decided that I am going to post links to some of the most interesting things that I came across during the week, but not necessarily published in the past week.  I also suggest that you also check out Zunguzungu’s sunday list, as it’s usually amazing and things I hadn’t seen at all during the week.  In fact you should check everything Zunguzungu posts, it’s all pretty amazing.

Here we go:

The Intimate Orwell:

Orwell once defined himself half in jest—but only half—as a “Tory Anarchist.” Indeed, after his first youthful experience in the colonial police in Burma, he only knew that he hated imperialism and all forms of political oppression; all authority appeared suspect to him, even “mere success seemed to me a form of bullying.” Then after his inquiry into workers’ conditions in northern industrial England during the Depression he developed a broad nonpartisan commitment to “socialism”: “socialism does mean justice and liberty when the nonsense is stripped off it.” The decisive turning point in his political evolution took place in Spain, where he volunteered to fight fascism. First he was nearly killed by a fascist bullet and then narrowly escaped being murdered by the Stalinist secret police:

What I saw in Spain, and what I have seen since of the inner workings of left-wing political parties, have given me a horror of politics…. I am definitely “left,” but I believe that a writer can only remain honest if he keeps free of party labels. [My emphasis.]

Lying about Reading: Who’s Keeping Score:

But that’s not what brought the two together in my mind. On one hand, we have big, painful books we feel compelled to see through to the end. On the other, the books we’ve sort of read and glibly lie about having finished. Both of these seem tied to some sort of reading scorecard, one in which the readers are measured and judged by—perhaps even more than—the books that they’ve read. If you hate a movie, you probably have no qualms about turning it off or walking out of the theatre, and the blame is placed on the film and those who made it, not on your movie-watching abilities. By the same token, no one will pat you on the back for watching something long and difficult, but they will if you’ve read “Ulysses” (and if you’ve given up halfway through, no one can blame you, though if you lie and say you finished it, I guess you’re in good company).

From the movie Solaris:

Knowledge is only valid when it’s based on morality.

The Patriot Act and Bipartisanship by Glenn Greenwald

In other words:  Paul and the other dissenting Senators better give up their objections and submit to quick Patriot Act passageor else they’ll have blood on their hands from the Terrorist attack they will cause.  That, of course, was the classic Bush/Cheney tactic for years to pressure Democrats into supporting every civil-liberties-destroying measure the Bush White House demanded (including, of course, the original Patriot Act itself), and now we have the Democrats — ensconced in power — using it just as brazenly and shamelessly (recall how Bush’s DNI, Michael McConnell, warned Congressional Democratsin 2007 that unless they quickly passed without changes the new FISA bill the Bush White House was demanding, a Terrorist attack would likely occur at the Congress in a matter of “days, not weeks”; McConnell then told The New Yorker: “If we don’t update FISA, the nation is significantly at risk”). Feinstein learned well.

This is from a few weeks ago, but so good.  End of Bad Guys by Chris Hayes:

We can use the occasion of bin Laden’s death to grasp back for the moment when the world seemed simple, or we can turn away from that impulse. We can say that with his death, we return to the world as our adult eyes see it, shot through with suffering and complexity. We can feel compassion for the thousands of innocents who died by bin Laden’s hand as well as our own, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time in places like Bagram and Baghdad. We can remember that just because there is evil in the world that we are fighting—and bin Laden was a mass murderer and war criminal—that does not mean we are purely righteous. We can reject relativism and still embrace nuance. We can have the courage to speak and act like adults, to put away childish things, to once and for all banish the bad guys from our nightmares.

Dylan at 70:

Dylan’s interest in change is more about the phases of his life than the cultural changes afoot at any given time. This is why the songs are timeless – we as listeners can situate ourselves in them, both in the lyrics and the sound of the songs, the pure emotional release they enable, whether pangs of heartache or the fancy of running along a “hilltop following a pack of wild geese.” Like any great writer, Dylan forges anew something we take for granted: “The sun’s not yellow it’s chicken.”

Finance Capital is Very Sexy, Don’t You Think? by Zunguzungu:

But you already know this. At the same time, you probably also know that confidence is related to being sexy, that people who act confidently are, in practice, given a certain amount of credit for having something to be confident about. If I act like I’m something special, people will treat me more like I’m something special than if I walk around in a cloud of shame and dread. And you also know something about the limits of such behavior: we know how much elasticity our sexiness has, and (more or less) how far we can push it. We know these things because we know a lot about how attraction works in practice; pretty much everyone, I think I can safely say, spends a sizeable portion of their formative years worrying both about how to be attractive and about who to be attracted to. And we learn a lot by doing it. We are interested in understanding how to master the process and profit from it, so we acquire a great deal of practical expertise in how it works, what its values are.

David Brook’s Political Dream by Greenwald:

But more generally, what Brooks so envies about British political culture — a small, incestuous, aristocratic, homogenized group of trans-ideological elites harmoniously resolving their differences — is exactly what already drives American policy and politics.  And that is what establishment spokespeople like Brooks always mean when they yearn for “bipartisanship”:  wise old men getting together in secret and reaching agreements that exclude democratic debate and render irrelevant genuine differences among the citizenry.

In Defense of Slavery by Ta-Neshi Coates:

In truth, we deal out our thoughts, facts and arguments in that irregular and desultory way in which we acquired them. We are no regular built scholar–have pursued no “royal road to mathematics,” nor to anything else.
There is my mantra, the mantra for this blog. There are moments in this book, so beautiful, and so lucid that you almost forget that the guy is actually arguing that people should have the right to sell both their own children, and other people’s children.
Protecting Israel is a special project taken on by the United States. The reasons may be good and bad, but it’s a burden we undertake. Israel does us no favors and is no use to us. Recognizing that fact hardly solves the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict, but it ought to be the starting point for what Americans should debate–not Israel’s policy toward its Palestinian subjects but America’s policy toward Israel.
President Obama’s support for this latest re-authorization matters because it bears on a central promise of his candidacy. During Election 2008, he made it seem as though a vote for him would signify and end to the Bush Administration’s excesses in the war on terrorism: its tendency to needlessly sacrifice civil liberties even when less intrusive measures were sufficient, its disdain for checks and balances on executive authority, its habit of using scare tactics to insist that national security legislation be passed quickly and without a debate. Hope. Change. Those were the slogans. They weren’t about getting Osama bin Laden, nice as that was.
Better systems exist – like the rigorous performance assessments used for National Board Certification, which have been found to predict teachers’ effectiveness. These measures look at student learning in context, linking it to what teachers do in teaching specific curriculum. Observations and feedback based on professional standards, administered by trained evaluators, are successfully used in schools that are part of the Teacher Advancement Program, and in cities like Denver, Colo. and Rochester, N.Y., along with classroom work showing how teachers contribute to student learning. The best systems also look at how teachers contribute to the expertise of their colleagues and the improvement of the entire school, building on the knowledge that teaching is a team sport. And in all these cases, evaluation is linked to coaching and professional development, so that teaching always improves.
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell quotes:

But it is necessary to try and establish the truth, so far as it is possible.  p. 149

I have tried to write objectively about the Barcelona fighting, though, obviously, no one can be completely objective on a question of this kind.  One is practically obliged to take sides, and it must be clear enough which side I am on.  Again, I must inevitably have made mistakes of fact, not only here but in other parts of this narrative.  It is very difficult to write accurately about the Spanish war, because of the lack of non-propagandist documents.  I warn everyone against my bias, and I warn everyone against my mistakes.   Still, I have done my best to be honest.  159-160

My second was a violent resentment at having to leave this world which, when all is said and one, suits me so well.  p. 186

A couple of new songs for the week that I was made aware watch Elvis Costello’s Spectacle with his guest Elton John on Netflix instant watch

Laura Nyro “Wedding Bell Blues”

Billy Stewart “I Do Love You”

David Ackles “Road to Cairo”

And then just a favorite of mine that I happen to come across again.  David Byrne “Making Flippy Floppy.”  Byrne shows you how to do it so you can do it later.  Happy Sunday!

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Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. 05/29/2011 at 12:07 pm

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