This is a fascinating funny/sad inside look at for-profit education. [$]
The first chapter of our textbook, Your College Experience, was entitled “Exploring Your Purpose for Attending College,” and that’s where we would begin. It seemed strange to me that a credit-bearing college course should be dedicated to telling students why they should go to college, but the entire first-year sequence turns out to be an almost surreal riff on the socialization process of higher education, where secondary characteristics of college graduates become the actual subjects of the courses.
Leveling the field: What I learned from for-profit education—By Christopher R. Beha (Harper’s Magazine)
Unlike most of my peers in the 1950s and early 1960s, I advanced with the U.S. Marines and the Russians, bombed Tokyo and witnessed Hiroshima after it was atomized. I took out Panzers, but for two hours one afternoon was a German boy willing to die as American tanks bore down on him. They confirmed in me a sense that the world was not as we were told, and that ours was not necessarily the most exceptional way of life.
Movies saved my life: A young New Yorker meets foreigners in film—By Tom Engelhardt (Harper’s Magazine)
Part of the fascination rock stars, even those of the wannabe variety, hold for fiction writers must have to do with the degrees of mediation in an artist’s relationship to his or her audience. What would it be like to jump the gap between oneself and the presentation of one’s own art? In live performance the feedback is instant, for better or worse, and the artist’s presence as a conduit for his or her work is a precondition for that work’s existence.
I’ve tagged a lot of things with performance/audience.
The pretender: Dana Spiotta’s persuasive performances—By Jonathan Dee (Harper’s Magazine)
The ghost at the banquet of all public commemoration is always politics—above all, the mobilization of solidarity […] It is about the reaffirming of group loyalty rather than the establishing of historical accuracy, let alone the presenting of an event in all its moral and political complexity.
After 9/11: The limits of remembrance—By David Rieff (Harper’s Magazine)
Like many innovative artists, Monet, I believe, was unclear about what he had achieved. Or, to be more precise, he could not name his achievement. He could only recognize it intuitively, and then doubt it.
The enveloping air: Light and moment in Monet – By John Berger (Harper’s Magazine)
An alcoholic writes about AA and recovery. This is a fantastic essay. [$]
My own view-in-progress is that there is no such thing as alcoholism as a disease or an allergy or a condition, but that alcohol is a very effective and potentially addictive medication for a whole host of psychological and neurobiological problems. […]The problem with alcohol is not so much that it is an addictive medication; rather, it’s that, unlike other addictive medications–to which people will also grow or not grow addicted at varying speeds and in unpredictable ways–alcohol’s social function and accessibility obfuscate this reality. If you’re prone to overdoing it, the fact that you’re self-prescribing (and choosing your own dosage) doesn’t help.
Like most alcoholics I prefer to be the center of attention. That’s one of the reasons drinking was fun. You’re the hero of every story.
When you keep hearing “Relapse is part of recovery, relapse is part of recovery” each night from a different person, sometimes two or three, and then you leave the meeting and see the neon beer signs of the bar on the other side of Main, well, those lights get a little sparklier. Elbows on the bar, squeezed in, the bartender smiles; that smell of the bar, the smell of self-acceptance, joy, and fellowship.
Help is out there, folks.
The drunk’s club: A.A., the cult that cures – By Clancy W. Martin (Harper’s Magazine)
This nice essay on dying is behind a paywall, unfortunately. It’s the best thing in this month’s issue. Interesting blend of essay/memoir/reporting.
A good death: Exit strategies – By William T. Vollmann (Harper’s Magazine)
A journalist experiences a month of eating on the official rations and the black market. Probably my favorite from this month’s issue. [$]
Thirty days as a Cuban: Pinching pesos and dropping pounds in Havana – By Patrick Symmes (Harper’s Magazine)
Attributed to Chris Rock: “When you’re talking to someone, you’re not talking to that person, you’re talking to their agent.”
The war on unhappiness: Goodbye Freud, hello positive thinking – By Gary Greenberg (Harper’s Magazine)
This is so wonderful. We’re all living even further in the future than other people’s crazy dreams.
From a wish list of scientific advancements compiled by chemist and inventor Robert Boyle, who in 1662 discovered that the pressure and volume of a gas are inversely proportional, a property now known as Boyle’s Law. The list, which dates from the 1660s, is on display this month at the Royal Society of London, as part of the institution’s 350th anniversary celebration.
- The Prolongation of Life
- The Recovery of Youth, or at Least Some of the Marks of It, as New Teeth, New Hair Colour’d as in Youth
- The Art of Flying
- The Art of Continuing Long Under Water, and Exercising Functions Freely There
- The Cure of Wounds at a Distance
- The Cure of Diseases at a Distance or at Least by Transplantation
- The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions
- The Acceleration of the Production of Things out of Seed
- The Transmutation of Metalls
- The Making of Glass Malleable
- The Making Armor Light and Extremely Hard
- The Transmutation of Species in Mineralls, Animals, and Vegetables
- The Emulating of Fish Without Engines by Custome and Education Only
- The Practicable and Certain Way of Finding Longitudes
- The Use of Pendulums at Sea and in Journeys, and the Application of It to Watches
- A Ship to Saile with All Winds, and a Ship Not to Be Sunk
- Freedom from Necessity of Much Sleeping Exemplify’d by the Operations of Tea and What Happens in Mad-men
- Pleasing Dreams and Physicall Exercises Exemplify’d by the Egyptian Electuary and by the Fungus Mentioned by the French Author
- Great Strength and Agility of Body Exemplify’d by That of Frantick Epileptick and Hystericall Persons
- Varnishes Perfumable by Rubbing
- A Perpetuall Light
Crystal Boyle — By Robert Boyle (Harper’s Magazine)
Then came the renaissance, but only for those cities reborn into more dematerialized economies. Vacant lots were filled in, old warehouses were turned into lofts or offices or replaced, downtowns became upscale chain outlets, janitors and cops became people who commuted in from downscale suburbs, and the children of that white flight came back to cities that were not exactly cities in the old sense. The new American cities trade in information, entertainment, tourism, software, finance. They are abstract. Even the souvenirs in these new economies often come from a sweatshop in China. The United States can be mapped as two zones now, a high-pressure zone of economic boom times and escalating real estate prices, and a low- pressure zone, where housing might be the only thing that’s easy to come by.
Detroit arcadia: Exploring the post-American landscape — By Rebecca Solnit (Harper’s Magazine)
–I’ve always liked the Georgia font, especially those dropped numerals (1234567890). Lately it has become the “in” font for websites. One student finds that Georgia helps him get better grades.
–Steve Pavlina lists “10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job“. I’ve enjoyed his website quite a bit, minus the more out-there, new-agey essays (for example).
–I just love this political cartoon with Al Gore. The set-up (so perfectly in character), the wit, the cynicism… Gets me every time. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to read his book or see the movie yet. Though I’ve heard that his lecture circuit presentation is a barnburner.
–Composer Philip Glass and IBM teamed up with IBM to create the Glass Engine. I absolutely love the interface used to explore the range of music, allowing you navigate by title, year, style, emotional content, and more. I’d really like to see stand-alone software with the same functionality. I’d add in the ability to customize and create your own categories, and of course personalize the metadata for each of those. My other idea for this would be to run the software through a wall-sized touchscreen…