Wisdom from Ian Bogost, University of Iowa – a fine addition to this ongoing archive of timeless advice. Pair with Greil Marcus’s fantastic 2013 School of Visual Arts commencement address.
The wonderful Allie Brosh is back with the second installment in her poignant illustrated account of what depression actually feels like. Pair with Bobby Baker’s visual diary of mental illness and children’s self-portraits of autism.
It all comes down to that urge to fascism — maybe a big word to use for art, but I think the right word — it comes down to that urge to fascism to know what’s best for people, to know that some people are of the best and some people are of the worst; the urge to separate the good from the bad and to praise oneself; to decide what covers on what books people ought to read, what songs people ought to be moved by, what art they ought to make, an urge that makes art into a set of laws that take away your freedom rather than a kind of activity that creates freedom or reveals it. It all comes down to the notion that, in the end, there is a social explanation for art, which is to say an explanation of what kind of art you should be ashamed of and what kind of art you should be proud of. It’s the reduction of the mystery of art, where it comes from, where it goes…
In his fantastic SVA commencement address, cultural critic Greil Marcus addresses the recent Gatsby cover controversy and what it tells us about the perilous division between “high” and “low” culture.
I was taking an advanced calculus class and my instructor was reputed to be a fabulous researcher, but he barely spoke English. He was a very boring and bad teacher and I was absolutely lost and in despair.
So I went to the campus tutoring centre and they had Betamax tapes of a professor who had won teaching awards. Basically I sat with those tapes and took class there. But I still had to go to the other one and sat there and wanted to kill myself.
I thought at that time, in the future, why wouldn’t you have the most entertaining professor, the one with the proven track record of getting knowledge into people’s heads?
We’re still not quite there. In university you’re still likely to be in a large lecture hall with a very boring professor, and everyone knows it’s not working very well. It’s not even the best use of that professor’s time or the audience.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales argues the boring university lecture will be the first casualty of the online education revolution.
Pair with Don’t Go Back to School, Kio Stark’s fantastic manifesto for lifelong learning outside the system.
I have been a dad for 6 years, a mom for 12, and for a time in between I was both, or neither, like some parental version of the schnoodle or the cockapoo.
I understand the reluctance many people have to play down the importance of gender, or for that matter, biology, in parenting; a world in which male and female are not fixed poles but points in a spectrum is a world that feels unstable, unreal. And yet to accept the wondrous scope of gender is to affirm the potential of life, in all its messy beauty. Motherhood and fatherhood are not binaries. And that, I’d argue, is a good thing.
All of this gives me great hope for the future of the American family, for our open-mindedness and the great potential of our sons and daughters. But just as I begin to become overly optimistic, I remember seeing some television show featuring transsexual women and their children, back in the 1970s.
My grandmother was watching it. “Oh for God’s sake,” she said, sucking on her Kent filter king, “those people aren’t women.”
“They’re not?” I said. She had no idea that I was a woman like the ones she was dismissing. How could she have known? I was just a boy then.
“Of course not,” said Gammie.
“They have children,” I pointed out. “And breasts. And — you know. Vaginas.”
She shot me a look. Ladies of her generation didn’t say vagina or vote for Democrats.
“That’s not what makes someone a mother,” she said.
“Really? What does?”
Gammie took a long drag on her cigarette.
“Suffering,” she said.
For mothers and fathers alike, there are times when the line between suffering and joy can be as vague as the line, for transgender people, between masculine and feminine. But surely it is those moments we feel everything at once — maleness, femaleness, melancholy, ecstasy — that make us most human.
Absolutely beautiful essay on what makes a mother by Jennifer Finney Boylan, who used to be James Finney Boylan. Pair with the New Yorker’s heart-warming celebration of gender diversity this Mother’s Day.
Boylan’s fantastic recent book, Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders, is a must-read.
Richard Feynman, born on May 11, 1918, on the role of scientific culture in modern society – timeless, remarkably timely read.
Pair with how ignorance drives science.
Exactly twenty years after Andrew Sullivan’s seminal essay “The Politics of Homosexuality,” Minnesota state representative Tim Faust (D) delivers an absolutely extraordinary, stirring speech on marriage equality, leading the Minnesota House to pass the same-sex marriage bill with a vote of 79:59.
Well, I have to start by admitting that not too long ago, I probably would have voted ‘no’ on this bill, but in the past there have been a couple things that changed my mind on this… . The question that keeps going through my mind over and over again is, “Do we, as a society, have the right to impose our religious beliefs on somebody else?” A right that I have taken for granted, and most of the people in this room have taken for granted, since the day we realized what the opposite sex is. That is a right I have taken for granted for a long time, and yet some people, because of others’ religious beliefs, do not have that right.
Last summer, I got married. And, before that, I had dated a woman for four years. And she was a wonderful woman, and I realized, after four years, that I could’ve married her and I would’ve been happily married to her for the rest of my life. But I also realized I could be happy without her. And I decided, after four years, that I wasn’t going to marry somebody I could live with — if I got married again, it was going to be to somebody I could not live without. And so we broke up.
And in a few months, I met my wife. And it didn’t take me very long to realize this was somebody I could not live without. And how lucky I am, how lucky we are. And yet, in this state, there are people that feel that way about each other, that cannot live without that other person, that feel the same way they do about each other that I feel about my wife — and yet, because of religious beliefs of other people, they do not have the right that I have taken for granted since the day I realized what the opposite sex was.
To reach puberty and find oneself falling in love with members of one’s own sex is to experience a mixture of self-discovery and self-disgust that never leaves a human consciousness. If the stigma is attached not simply to an obviously random characteristic, such as skin pigmentation, but to the deepest desires of the human heart, then it can eat away at a person’s sense of his own dignity with peculiar ferocity. When a young person confronts her sexuality, she is also completely alone. A young heterosexual black or Latino girl invariably has an existing network of people like her to interpret, support, and explain the emotions she feels when confronting racial prejudice for the first time. But a gay child generally has no one. The very people she would most naturally turn to — the family — may be the very people she is most ashamed in front of.
The stigma attached to sexuality is also different that that attached to race because it attacks the very heart of what makes a human being human: her ability to love and be loved. Even the most vicious persecution of racial minorities allowed, in many cases, for the integrity of the marital bond or the emotional core of a human being. When it did not, when Nazism split husbands from wives, children from parents, when apartheid or slavery broke up familial bonds, it was clear that a particularly noxious form of repression was taking place. But the stigma attached to homosexuality begins with such a repression. It forbids, at a child’s earliest stage of development, the possibility of the highest form of human happiness. It starts with emotional terror and ends with mild social disapproval. It’s no accident that later in life, when many gay people learn to reconnect the bonds of love and sex, they seek to do so in private, even protected from the knowledge of their family.