We were all gathered in the lunchroom of my Catholic grade school. I was in seventh grade, about to receive the sacrament of Confirmation. The archbishop wandered in to give us a little pre-Mass pep talk. His excellency told us to call him “Archbishop Jim.” His intention was surely to make us feel more comfortable around him, but I was shocked. He was a direct successor to the Apostles. He had the power of transubstantiation in his hands. He could forgive sins in the name of God. At a minimum, he was a lot older than me, and my parents told me to call adults “Mr. Maese,” not “Brook.”
“Archbishop Jim?” Nope. I couldn’t say it.
Years later, when I began working at the august American Enterprise Institute, I got to know the august Charles Murray. I called him “Dr. Murray” until the third time he told me to call him “Charles.” So “Charles” it is, but only by request. FDR once referred to Gen. George Marshall as “George.” Marshall was irritated at “such a misrepresentation of our intimacy,” and it showed. From then on, President Roosevelt never used the general’s first name.
I was reminded of all this when I read a news account last week of a press conference featuring President Obama and the chancellor of Germany. My jaw hit the floor when I read the president referring to the chancellor, Angela Merkel, as “Angela.”
If you give a dude a kale chip, he’s going to ask for some coffee to go with it. He’ll probably want to know if the beans are in season, and how recently they were roasted. Reading about the coffee’s origins on the back of the bag will remind him of the local farmers’ market going on that day, and he’ll want to take you.
He’ll want to fixed-gear-bike there, and, rather than a helmet, he’s going to want to wear a beanie to “keep his head warm.” He’s going to raid your closet until he finds not only the perfect cuffed one but also a denim jacket that belonged to your mother in college. He’ll probably tell you that his personal style is not a “style,” per se, but a representation of himself expressed through vintage finds with punk inflections. While explaining this, he’s going to forget about the farmers’ market, so you’re going to have to remind him.
The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.
The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.
- Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
- Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
- Shackling for prolonged periods.
- Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
- Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.
At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.
Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “Nato Three”, was held and questioned at Homan Square in 2012 following a police raid. Officers restrained Church for the better part of a day, denying him access to an attorney, before sending him to a nearby police station to be booked and charged.
Scott Timberg’s Culture Crash begins with a harrowing and by now familiar personal narrative of the Great Recession. In 2008, Timberg, an arts reporter for the Los Angeles Times, was laid off, a casualty of the infamous Sam Zell regime; soon after, the bank foreclosed on his family’s house. These back-to-back misfortunes made Timberg worry about more than making ends meet: They shook his faith in the entire enterprise of American creativity. “I saw myself in the third generation of people who had worked in culture without either striking it rich or going broke,” he writes, but such a career path no longer seemed available in the 21stcentury, and he wanted to understand why. Though there was a temptation to blame the awesome leveling power of the Internet, he concluded that “this was about more than just technology. … Some of the causes were as new as file sharing; others were older than the nation. Some were cyclical, and would pass in a few years; others were structural and would get worse with time.”
The causes of what Timberg terms “the killing of the creative class”—the murder suspects, if you will—include a long tradition of American “anti-aestheticism” going back to the Puritans; cuts to public funding for the arts beginning in Reagan’s 1980s; rising rents and vanishing public space in urban centers; the weakening of the church-state wall between editorial and advertising in journalism; theory-besotted academic “intellectuals … speaking in tongues”; the decline of mainstream respect for “middlebrow” culture; the pernicious critical influence of Pauline Kael; capitalism (specifically, the contemporary variant diagnosed by Thomas Frank as “market fundamentalism” and by the economists Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook as “the winner-take-all society”); and, yes, “the Internet” (particularly file sharing and the attendant collapse of the music industry). As this list suggests, Culture Crash is an ambitious but unfocused book. The villains proliferate, the time scale expands and contracts—in a couple of places, Timberg goes as far back as the cave paintings at Lascaux—but the message remains consistent: People who want to make a living from art and culture now are screwed.
This is incredibly depressing (and at times graphic) but an important piece all the same:
In the summer of 2004, a 15-year-old boy, needy and eager for attention, was driven down a road that stretched through the endless flatlands of Maryland’s eastern shore. The boy, known in court records as R.R., arrived at a dirt driveway, where a sign on top of a wooden post announced Last Chance Farm.
Four separate couples lived at Last Chance Farm. All were related to one another and all earned money taking care of troubled children who had been placed in foster care, including R.R.
But R.R.’s new guardians weren’t directly supervised or paid by the government. They had been signed up as foster parents by a giant corporation called National Mentor Holdings, which, over the last three decades, has turned the field of foster care into a cash cow. At any one time the company has an average of 3,800 children and teenagers in its foster homes in 15 states around the country.
This is a post about Medium, which is a fascinating company partly because it has a lot of money, and partly because its leadership team first brought you Blogger (the first really successful blogging tool) and Twitter (Twitter), and which released a whole slate of new features this week in a kind of confusing way.
But first it is about this question: What is web writing in 2015?
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You know, web writing — that chatty, affable, ephemeral old thing. The thing that prized personality over pomp, the thing with feathers (and links). What does it look like?
Does its writer work for a big website like BuzzFeed, crafting listicles, quizzes, reporting, and personal essays? Do they write a newsletter? Or have they fully abandoned HTML, and now they’re trying their luck with a podcast?
It’s worth asking the question, because of course — of course — they don’t blog. Blogging — I mean, honey, don’t even say the word. No one actually blogs anymore, except maybe undergrads on their first week of study abroad. 2015 has been, so far, dismal for the art. On the establishment side, there’s burned-out Andrew Sullivan polishing off the Daily Dish a little more than two years after he took it independent. Meanwhile, the old “alt-blog” kingmaker, Carles, sold hisHipster Runoff to an unnamed Australian investor for $21,100 this week.
Open up an old blog and it was a list of posts in “reverse-chronological order” (meaning newest-at-top), written by a single author or a set of them, with a collection of topics connecting the whole enterprise together. Meanwhile, in the right rail, there was a list of other blogs read by this one. Things were generally chummy: A post might begin half of some other writer’s post, leading off with “As my friend Matt wrote…”
Very, very few people do that anymore. Now, tell someone you’re visiting a news website — which is what blogs were, categorically, less than a decade ago — and they’ll likely think of some institutional homepage with big rectangles, each with a headline, image, and dek.
This week, Pope Francis did something unprecedented. (One could perhaps write that sentence every week.) He named, as a Doctor of the Universal Church, a tenth-century Armenian mystic called Gregory of Narek. Now, as the Catholic Church already recognizes thirty-five other Doctors of the Church, a designation that indicates saints who have made particular contributions to theological learning, you might wonder what’s so unprecedented about it. I’ll tell you.
Gregory was a priest in the Armenian Apostolic Church. As a formal matter, the Armenian Church and the Roman Catholic Church have been out of full communion since the fifth century. By the time Gregory was born, the two churches had already been divided for about five hundred years. So Pope Francis has named, as a saint of particular theological distinction, someone from a separated church—someone who was not, in fact, a Catholic at all.
The churches separated over Christology. The Armenian Church declines to accept the Council of Chalcedon (451), which declares that Christ has two separate, but conjoined, natures, human and divine, a position known as diophysitism. Like her sister Oriental Orthodox Churches, including the Coptic and Syriac churches, the Armenian Church holds instead that Christ has one combined human-divine nature, in which the human and divine nonetheless remain distinct, a position known as miaphysitism.
Sexuality and the land both have a life of their own. The land has its soil, weather, insects, and idiosyncrasies of geography all quite apart from the willful decisions of the farmer. Sexuality is lively with cycles, drives, growths and responses that need no permission to operate. This uncalled-for, hormonal, physiological given determines our sex, our shape, the breast, the beard, the hip — and all without a waiver from us. The whole awkwardness of puberty is a painful recognition of this fact, that I contain a life that “goes on without me” – and gives me pimples.
The otherness of the land is being greeted with a new enthusiasm by organic farmers and advocates of permaculture, a philosophy of farming interested in the harmonious and sustainable use of the land. The unasked-for quality of sexuality, on the other hand, remains a source of suspicion. The great moralizing religious and your average advocate of all things “sexually revolutionized” are in agreement here: Both see the otherness of sexuality as a threat to the entire life of the person.
The moralist sees sexual life as encroaching on the life of the spirit, a separate demand of the sinful flesh and an embarrassment within us to be suppressed. The advocate of contraception and abortion sees its cycles and fertility as encroaching on the life of work and fulfillment, a separate demand of “the biology” and an inconvenience to be repressed. Christians who mistake repression for virtue have advocated all manner of methods to render the human drive life under the spiritual thumb — from chastity belts to sex-ed classes preaching the ‘dirtiness’ of the non-virgin. We post-Christian denizens are no better, having subjected sexuality to the power of technology to keep fertility and arousal under the strict control of the rational man. The former advocates mortification, the latter sterilization, but both shudder at the face of an apparent paradox that there is within us that which goes on without us, a life that belongs to us, and yet, terrible thought – we belong to it.
Many of us have felt exasperated when sitting next to a screaming baby on an airplane, or encountering a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. It’s difficult to be gracious when you feel that your eardrums are about to explode. And it’s true that some parents don’t discipline their children appropriately. As one friend put it, an increasing amount of toddlers “are not closely attended or watched in public places, which creates a nuisance for those trying to shop for groceries or read quietly in a Starbucks. In some cases, it’s a cry (sometimes quite literally) for attention, and other times it’s just spoiled behavior that isn’t kept in check.”
But sometimes, babies are just tired, or hungry, or upset—and we have no right to be frustrated with the parent or the child over what’s an inevitable part of growing up. In these situations, we seem to have grown unaccustomed to the very frank, untidy, often loud realities of childhood. We’ve created for ourselves, within our commutes and careers, clubs and churches, a plethora of kid-free zones. And when a child enters that zone, we often are clueless as to how to cope with their presence.
When Vilma and Greta Zenelaj came across a Craigslist job ad that promised they could make as much as $22 an hour and get paid fast, it seemed like a good deal. The Albanian sisters had moved to Santa Monica to get a foothold in the film industry, and though they had produced a few independent features, they had run out of savings before they could also make a living. Now they were desperate to pay their bills.
Handy (then Handybook), the company that posted the Craigslist ad, is best known as a cleaning service. But unlike Merry Maids or your local cleaning franchise, it doesn’t actually employ any cleaners. Instead, it relies on an army of independent contractors to complete jobs, taking a 15% to 20% commission of every hour worked. It’s part of the “gig economy,” a much-hyped new class of the service industry where workers are expected to operate like mini-businesses. The influence of these companies is growing: according to an analysis by Greylock Partners, the value of transactions over platforms such as car services Lyft and Uber, grocery delivery service Instacart, courier service Postmates, and others could grow as large as $10 billion this year.
But the Zenelajs had never heard of the gig economy, and it wasn’t until orientation that they realized they would not be employees of Handy.