Month: October 2017

It’s the Chinese, Stupid! … and Other Myths of the Decline of the West

On October 18, Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China, began his second term as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. Normally, this would also be his last, but as he also introduced a Politburo without a successor, it seemed that he intends to remain for much longer. Xi then announced an ambitious pathway to continue expanding China’s economic development and global prestige. It was an important moment, and it undoubtedly heralds the kind of change that will trouble pro-democracy activists in Asia and abroad. Predictably, though, the Western press almost immediately made...

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Quebec’s Bill 62 and the Age of Unreason

(On 18 October 2017, the provincial legislature of Quebec, the National Assembly, passed Bill 62, a law that prohibits “the wearing of face coverings for people giving or receiving a service from the state..” Specifically, the new law allows the provincial government, and providers of government services, from medical care to public transportation, to deny services to veiled Muslim women. This is only the latest episode in a longstanding campaign by Quebec’s political leaders to enforce a policy of public secularism. Peter Wheeland, a veteran Montreal-based journalist, has been following the issue. This article originally appeared in Cult Montreal.) A...

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Staging the Civil War

‘Everyone is a literalist when it comes to photographs,’ Susan Sontag wrote in Regarding the Pain of Others.  She has a point, sort of.  We expect photographs to represent reality back to us.  But they don’t, of course, or they don’t necessarily.  For example, she discusses an exhibit of photographs of September 11, 2001, that opened in Manhattan in late September of that year, Here is New York.  The exhibit was a wall of photographs showing the atrocity of that day.  The organizers received thousands of submissions, and at least one photo from each was included.  Visitors could chose and purchase...

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Black Grape: Pop Voodoo

Black Grape Pop Voodoo (UMC, 2017) Shaun Ryder is the quintessential survivor of the Madchester scene. His regular band, the Happy Mondays, burned out on a toxic pile of drugs and managed to bankrupt their record label, Manchester’s legendary Factory Records, with their 1992 stinker of an album, Yes Please! The Mondays then imploded and Ryder re-appeared a few years later with Ruthless Rap Assassin Kermit in Black Grape. Black Grape released two killer albums in the 90s and then faded into obscurity. Ryder and the Mondays cleaned up and re-surfaced around a decade ago and have been recording and...

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Bateson in Yellowstone

I’m a fallen vegetarian—I’ve renounced my renunciation, I’ll eat anything—and I’m on the road in Yellowstone National Park with James Bruggeman, a friend who shoots deer, elk, sheep, whatever, with a high-powered rifle, and has since he was a kid.  But as we’re watching out for the animals we want to see (wolves, especially, but elk and buffalo will do), he’s the one who opens the inevitable conversation on hunting with a dissertation on sentience that would make Gregory Bateson proud, or James Lovelock blush. Herewith a transcript of that conversation. ____________ James Bruggeman: “These are moral beings. They...

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