Directed by Daniel RiesenfeldFebruary 6th, 2015
Living Room, Paul’s Place (detail), 1971
February 6 – April 11, 2015
Friday, February 6th, 6-8pm
February 4th, 2015
Loop Mask, 2012/2014
Kinetic Sculpture (top spins on a point)
steel, stainles steel, shards of cast iron, enamel, steel cable, aluminum, acrylic paint coated with clear epoxy
38″ x 39″ x 26″ inches
By Paul Krugman
NY Times Published: FEB. 2, 2015
On Monday, President Obama will call for a significant increase in spending, reversing the harsh cuts of the past few years. He won’t get all he’s asking for, but it’s a move in the right direction. And it also marks a welcome shift in the discourse. Maybe Washington is starting to get over its narrow-minded, irresponsible obsession with long-run problems and will finally take on the hard issue of short-run gratification instead.
O.K., I’m being flip to get your attention. I am, however, quite serious. It’s often said that the problem with policy makers is that they’re too focused on the next election, that they look for short-term fixes while ignoring the long run. But the story of economic policy and discourse these past five years has been exactly the opposite.
Think about it: Faced with mass unemployment and the enormous waste it entails, for years the Beltway elite devoted almost all their energy not to promoting recovery, but to Bowles-Simpsonism — to devising “grand bargains” that would address the supposedly urgent problem of how we’ll pay for Social Security and Medicare a couple of decades from now.
And this bizarre long-termism isn’t just an American phenomenon. Try to talk about the damage wrought by European austerity policies, and you’re all too likely to encounter lectures to the effect that what we really need to discuss is long-term structural reform. Try to discuss Japan’s effort to break out of its decades-long deflationary trap, and you’re sure to encounter claims that monetary and fiscal policy are sideshows, and that deregulation and other structural changes are what’s important.
Am I saying that the long run doesn’t matter? Of course not, although some forms of long-termism don’t make sense even on their own terms. Think about the notion that “entitlement reform” is an urgent priority. It’s true that many projections suggest that our major social insurance programs will face financial difficulties in the future (although the dramatic slowing of increases in health costs makes even that proposition uncertain). If so, at some point we may need to cut benefits. But why, exactly, is it crucial that we deal with the threat of future benefits cuts by locking in plans to cut future benefits?
Anyway, even where the long-term issues are real, it’s truly strange that they have so often taken center stage in recent years. We are, after all, still living through the aftermath of a once-in-three-generations financial crisis. America seems, finally, to be recovering — but Bowles-Simpsonism had its greatest influence precisely when the United States economy was still mired in a deep slump. Europe has hardly recovered at all, and there’s overwhelming evidence that austerity policies are the main reason for that ongoing disaster. So why the urge to change the subject to structural reform? The answer, I’d suggest, is intellectual laziness and lack of moral courage.
About laziness: Many people know what John Maynard Keynes said about the long run, but far fewer are aware of the context. Here’s what he really said: “But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.” Quite. All too often, or so it seems to me, people who insist that questions of austerity and stimulus are unimportant are actually trying to avoid hard thinking about the nature of the economic disaster that has overtaken so much of the world.
And they’re also trying to avoid taking a stand that will expose them to attack. Discussions of short-run fiscal and monetary policy are politically charged. Oppose austerity and support monetary expansion and you’ll be lambasted by the right; do the reverse and you’ll be criticized and maybe ridiculed by the left. I understand why it’s tempting to dismiss the whole debate and declare that the really important issues involve the long run. But while people who say that kind of thing like to pose as brave and responsible, they’re actually ducking the hard stuff — which is to say, being craven and irresponsible.
Which brings me back to the president’s new budget.
It goes without saying that Mr. Obama’s fiscal proposals, like everything he does, will be attacked by Republicans. He’s also, however, sure to face criticism from self-proclaimed centrists accusing him of irresponsibly abandoning the fight against long-term budget deficits.
So it’s important to understand who’s really irresponsible here. In today’s economic and political environment, long-termism is a cop-out, a dodge, a way to avoid sticking your neck out. And it’s refreshing to see signs that Mr. Obama is willing to break with the long-termers and focus on the here and now.February 2nd, 2015
By Bryan Armen Graham
The Guardian Published: 30 January 2015
You’ve streaked at more than 500 events, most famously during Super Bowl XXXVIII between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers. Have you always had a taste for adventure? In school I was the class joker. In my local bar I’m the crazy guy – the guy who likes to do things for fun. It’s just stemmed from there. I’ve just had this taste for doing crazy things, mostly just to make people laugh. I love to see people smile and laugh if I do something silly or tell a joke whatever it may be.
What made you do this for the first time? I went to Hong Kong in 1993 with a one-way ticket and £30 in my pocket. The energy there at that time in the early 90s was infectious, just unbelievable. The Rugby Sevens was happening there, a two-day event, and I drunkenly said in a bar one evening that anybody can streak. The owner of the bar dared me to do it the next day during the final. I was only talking through the alcohol. I had no intention, but the next day a guy came and dragged me out of the apartment. I went to the stadium and had a few beers, then I ran on and took the ball off the New Zealand All Blacks – who were the best team in the world at the time – and scored a try. The whole stadium went crazy. I sobered up in an instant. The police threw me out of the stadium and I came straight back in and did it again about a half hour later. I believe I’m the first person who’s ever streaked twice at the same event on the same day. What a debut.
And you were instantly hooked? It was just infectious. It was the adrenaline I got from that first day. I went crazy. There was a big Chinese football game on two days later and I agreed to go to that. I quickly realized that people really enjoyed watching me do this – this crazy mad streaking – so I decided I’d see when I came home to England if it would be the same here. There hadn’t been anyone streaking for nearly 20 years in the UK. So I did a big a football game, Liverpool v Everton, and it went down great again. A couple of months later I did press-ups in the penalty area at a Liverpool v Arsenal game and that’s when I got a football ban.
A ban? I wasn’t allowed to go to any stadums for 12 months. That’s when I started doing golf, tennis, all the rugby events and such. Every time in every station at every sport, it’s the same reaction.
Are you recognized? Even if I’m not planning anything, if there’s a major sporting event in the UK, the police are pre-warned and they have security talks just on me. They carry photographs. That was all part of the adventure. Now I’ve got to get past people who are looking out for me. That’s when I started wearing disguises. I’ve even got into Royal Ascot, one of the biggest horse race weekends in the UK, dressed as a woman — thought I looked like the Undertaker from WWF. I don’t make a good looking woman, honestly.
Does the fear factor fluctuate according to the event? Streaking among the skinny stewards at Wimbledon must be different than a police state like the Super Bowl. Most definitely. Big soccer events are always scary. The biggest fear factor I had was for the Super Bowl and that started before I even left Liverpool. I went through every emotion in my head, the repercussions and the consequences. I was scared. I was worried about one of the players chasing me out and all the players jumping on top of me. That was my biggest fear because I suffer from a bit of claustrophobia. If they’d have all gone on top of me, there was a good chance I might die – I don’t know. I was even prepared to take a bullet in the leg from a sniper in the room. Remember, this was right after 9/11. The whole point of me doing the Super Bowl was to make people smile again.
Had you always eyed the Super Bowl? I was offered tickets to the Oscars that same year and said no. If I’m going to America to perform it had to the be the biggest event in the States. They said it was impossible and I said ‘Why? Who said it’s impossible?’ They said it just can’t be done.
Dare to dream. How much planning went into it? It was a year in the making. I’d tried the year before in San Diego. I’d arranged with a ticket broker over the phone for a $500 ticket, but when I arrived he wanted $5,000 and there was no way in hell. I was with friends and we didn’t even have that much money between us. I even got as far as the stadium on the tram, but the policeman on duty would not let me get off even though I said a friend had a ticket at the gate and I’d come all the way from England. He refused to let me off, so I’d made it all the way to the stadium just to be turned back, which was very disappointing. Of course I believe things happen for a reason. I wasn’t meant to do it that year because I was totally unprepared. I didn’t have a lawyer, I didn’t have any money, but now I had a whole year to plan for Houston. The next year I had front row tickets, I had a lawyer, and a referee’s uniform that I’d had sent to me from the States.
Wait, a lawyer? At this time I did have a sponsor. They said just have our name on your chest and we’ll get you the best and they did. They got me Richard Haynes, who was the No1 lawyer in Texas and one of the top six in the whole of the US. He was just unbelievable. I thought he was going to be some two-bit lawyer until I met him. You just knew you were in the presence of someone who was unbelievable. He said we go to trial, we plead not guilty: nobody told you you couldn’t go onto the field. There were no signs, no warnings. That was our argument.
Were there any close calls with security? Going into the stadium I had two sets of clothes on: my own clothes and the referee’s uniform underneath. Both sets had Velcro and could be easily torn away. As I’m getting frisked by security at the gate, he felt the Velcro on my trousers and asked what that was about. The only thing I could think of was I have a skin disorder and need to be able to put the cream on quickly – and he accepted that explanation! Then he lifted my top up and saw the referee’s uniform and asked about that. I said it was my lucky referee’s uniform and I wear it to every game. And he let me in. I looked at my friend and said this was meant to happen. If I can get through security with excuses like that, this will happen.
So what happened next? When we sat down at last, we had front row seats on the 50-yard line. The police and security were absolutely everywhere, and there was one security guard right in my direct line of where I planned to enter the field who stayed on his mark from two hours before the game started right up until the point when I needed to go on. He walked off his mark at the very moment I needed to go. It was like divine intervention.
And then you made your move. The adrenaline at that time was just pumping. The biggest noise I’d ever heard to that point was that very first time in Hong Kong. That noise was never replicated until I’m dancing naked on the 50-yard line at the Super Bowl. I felt like I was on there for so long. It felt like minutes before the chase happened. It was just surreal: I was dancing in the middle of the field at the Super Bowl and nobody was coming after me. I thought, “What the hell is going on out there?” expecting people to chase me straight away, so I had to come up with all these dance moves. I’m glad they started coming after me when they did because I was running out.
Mark Roberts says the Super Bowl remains ‘the holy grail of streaking’.
What do you think causes the hesitation? Why so often are you not chased immediately? The element of surprise – going on as a referee – is what made it possible. As soon as I disrobed, I think the players thought the referee has gone crazy straight away. As I’m dancing in circles around the ball, I’m looking at the police and they all looked confused. They didn’t know what the hell was happening for nearly a minute. If I’d have run off naked, I wouldn’t have gotten 10 or 15 yards. The element of surprise and confusion adds to the whole performance, the adventure.
What happened next? The police were going to let me go after a half hour, but the head of the NFL came running down. They’d spent millions and millions of dollars on security at the Super Bowl and I beat them all and they didn’t like it. At all. So they wanted the book thrown at me. The NFL even appeared in court against me. The head of the Reliant Stadium, the head of the NFL, a top policeman from Houston: they were going all out to get me sent to jail. I want to know where it says in the law books it’s illegal to make people laugh.
And what happened at the trial? I got a $1,000 fine, but I’d been paid $1m to do the Super Bowl. It was crazy because my lawyer turned out to be a woman – Richard Hayes assigned his right-hand lady, Sharon Levine, who’s sadly not with us anymore. The prosecutor was a lady, the judge was a lady, the jury were 12 women. So the state of my life was in the hands of all these ladies, who found me guilty. But when the courtroom was cleared and it was just me, the prosecutor, my lawyer and the judge, all the jurors went into the jury room and all you could hear was laughter. The judge said to me, “Mr Roberts, in all my years on the bench, I have never heard laughter coming from the jury room. Would you please escort me into the room?” And she linked my arm, we walked in and everyone was cheering and laughing and even the judge started to laugh. It was cool, one of those experiences that you never forget.
That’s it? A $1,000 fine? I wanted to get back to the States in 2006 to travel, but I was stopped in Newark and turned around and sent back to the UK. The Super Bowl was only a misdemeanor, but because I’ve got a police record now in the States, I’m told I need to apply for a visa at the embassy in London. There’s still a chance I might not get in. I love the States, you know. I’ll be deeply disappointed if I can never go back to the US again.
Is there a perfect time to streak? It has to be when the game is not in play, because you dont want to change the course of the game. So it’s usually just before kickoff. It’s the beginning of the second half and everyone is watching. Before the ref blows his whistle, that’s the time to go. Not like that one absolute idiot who’s trying to copy me in Spain. He does it with his clothes on during the game.
Jimmy Jump? Yeah, he’s an idiot. He is. He ruins games. He changes the course of the match.
How do you ensure you get your clothes back? Usually when I run onto the pitch or the field, I rip my clothes off when I’m on. So the first thing the police or security do is grab my clothes, give them to me and tell me to put them back on. This happens 90% of the time. Occasionally I’ve had to leave and travel from city to city – you know those blue paper suits the police give you? – I’ve had to wear those a few times to come home. But in general I get them back straight away.
But not always. Once in Spain I didn’t. I streaked at a Barcelona-Real Madrid match in Madrid and the police took me to the station. At half one in the morning they said I could go. I asked if I could have my clothes and they said security had thrown them into the spectators. I’d told nobody I was going to Spain and my passport, my phone and my money were all in my clothes. So now I’m naked at half one in the morning in the middle of Madrid, but I found my way home.
How? Well I’m running naked through the streets just to keep warm initially not knowing where I’m going. This Spanish guy stopped me so I explained my situation. The only place I thought to go was the Holiday Inn near the Bernabeu where I’d picked up my ticket. The Spanish guy gave the taxi driver his last 20 euros for me to get back to the hotel. When I walked in, everybody had watched it on TV. They lent me a t-shirt and shorts, let me stay in a room, lent me 200 euros to get home and I made it back.
All this must cost a lot of money. The cost of tickets to some of these events alone must add up. How do you account for the costs? It’s who you know I suppose. Over the years I’ve got to know a lot of ticket brokers. There’s one in particular – he’s like a best friend – and if it’s a big event he’s normally there and he gives me tickets for free. I met him actually at the 2002 Champions League final. The very first time we met, he gave me a ticket for £20 when the face value was £60. That was the time I scored the goal against the Germans. Since then we’ve been really good friends. If it’s in another country, sometimes I’ll have a sponsor. As long as I have their name on my chest, they’ll pay the costs.
Do you ever research the penalties in the countries where you streak? No, I go in blind. Usually what I’m attempting has never been done before, so it’s uncharted territory. There’s no precedent, so I just have to put faith in the hands of the police when I get there. Ever single country I’ve been to – I think I’ve streaked in 22 countries – it’s been the same. I’ve been treated the same by the police every time. The police are great. especially in England. They absolutely love it. They chase me laughing their heads off. The police after the Super Bowl when I went to jail, they took my mugshot and then duplicated it, asked me to sign it for them and their girlfriends.
It’s not really a violent crime, is it? It’s not a crime, really. If you look at in the whole sense of things it’s just a bit of fun. Which makes it more appealing for me because it is supposed to be illegal. If it was legal, everybody’d be doing it. People are scared of consequence, you see. If you cancel out the fear, you can do anything.
Thanks to Jonathan MaghenJanuary 31st, 2015
Credit Josh Freydkis
By SUSAN PINKER
NY Times Published: JAN. 30, 2015
PRESIDENT OBAMA’s domestic agenda, which he announced in his State of the Union address this month, has a lot to like: health care, maternity leave, affordable college. But there was one thing he got wrong. As part of his promise to educate American children for an increasingly competitive world, he vowed to “protect a free and open Internet” and “extend its reach to every classroom and every community.”
More technology in the classroom has long been a policy-making panacea. But mounting evidence shows that showering students, especially those from struggling families, with networked devices will not shrink the class divide in education. If anything, it will widen it.
In the early 2000s, the Duke University economists Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd tracked the academic progress of nearly one million disadvantaged middle-school students against the dates they were given networked computers. The researchers assessed the students’ math and reading skills annually for five years, and recorded how they spent their time. The news was not good.
“Students who gain access to a home computer between the 5th and 8th grades tend to witness a persistent decline in reading and math scores,” the economists wrote, adding that license to surf the Internet was also linked to lower grades in younger children.
In fact, the students’ academic scores dropped and remained depressed for as long as the researchers kept tabs on them. What’s worse, the weaker students (boys, African-Americans) were more adversely affected than the rest. When their computers arrived, their reading scores fell off a cliff.
We don’t know why this is, but we can speculate. With no adults to supervise them, many kids used their networked devices not for schoolwork, but to play games, troll social media and download entertainment. (And why not? Given their druthers, most adults would do the same.)
The problem is the differential impact on children from poor families. Babies born to low-income parents spend at least 40 percent of their waking hours in front of a screen — more than twice the time spent by middle-class babies. They also get far less cuddling and bantering over family meals than do more privileged children. The give-and-take of these interactions is what predicts robust vocabularies and school success. Apps and videos don’t.
If children who spend more time with electronic devices are also more likely to be out of sync with their peers’ behavior and learning by the fourth grade, why would adding more viewing and clicking to their school days be considered a good idea?
An unquestioned belief in the power of gadgetry has already led to educational snafus. Beginning in 2006, the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child project envisioned a digital utopia in which all students over 6 years old, worldwide, would own their own laptops. Impoverished children would thus have the power to go online and educate themselves — no school or teacher required. With laptops for poor children initially priced at $400, donations poured in.
But the program didn’t live up to the ballyhoo. For one thing, the machines were buggy and often broke down. And when they did work, the impoverished students who received free laptops spent more time on games and chat rooms and less time on their homework than before, according to the education researchers Mark Warschauer and Morgan Ames. It’s drive-by education — adults distribute the laptops and then walk away.
It’s true that there is often an initial uptick in students’ engagement with their studies — interactive apps can be fun. But the novelty wears off after a few months, said Larry Cuban, an emeritus education professor at Stanford.
Technology does have a role in education. But as Randy Yerrick, a professor of education at the University at Buffalo, told me, it is worth the investment only when it’s perfectly suited to the task, in science simulations, for example, or to teach students with learning disabilities.
And, of course, technology can work only when it is deployed as a tool by a terrific, highly trained teacher. As extensive research shows, just one year with a gifted teacher in middle school makes it far less likely that a student will get pregnant in high school, and much more likely that she will go to college, earn a decent salary, live in a good neighborhood and save for retirement. To the extent that such a teacher can benefit from classroom technology, he or she should get it. But only when such teachers are effectively trained to apply a specific application to teaching a particular topic to a particular set of students — only then does classroom technology really work.
Even then, we still have no proof that the newly acquired, tech-centric skills that students learn in the classroom transfer to novel problems that they need to solve in other areas. While we’re waiting to find out, the public money spent on wiring up classrooms should be matched by training and mentorship programs for teachers, so that a free and open Internet, reached through constantly evolving, beautifully packaged and compelling electronic tools, helps — not hampers — the progress of children who need help the most.January 30th, 2015
January 28th, 2015
By Charles Blow
NY Times Published: JAN. 26, 2015
At Yale, the Police Detained My Son
Saturday evening, I got a call that no parent wants to get. It was my son calling from college — he’s a third-year student at Yale. He had been accosted by a campus police officer, at gunpoint!
This is how my son remembers it:
He left for the library around 5:45 p.m. to check the status of a book he had requested. The book hadn’t arrived yet, but since he was there he put in a request for some multimedia equipment for a project he was working on.
Then he left to walk back to his dorm room. He says he saw an officer “jogging” toward the entrance of another building across the grounds from the building he’d just left.
“I did not pay him any mind, and continued to walk back towards my room. I looked behind me, and noticed that the police officer was following me. He spoke into his shoulder-mounted radio and said, ‘I got him.’
“I faced forward again, presuming that the officer was not talking to me. I then heard him say, ‘Hey, turn around!’ — which I did.
“The officer raised his gun at me, and told me to get on the ground.
“At this point, I stopped looking directly at the officer, and looked down towards the pavement. I dropped to my knees first, with my hands raised, then laid down on my stomach.
“The officer asked me what my name was. I gave him my name.
“The officer asked me what school I went to. I told him Yale University.
“At this point, the officer told me to get up.”
The officer gave his name, then asked my son to “give him a call the next day.”
My son continued:
“I got up slowly, and continued to walk back to my room. I was scared. My legs were shaking slightly. After a few more paces, the officer said, ‘Hey, my man. Can you step off to the side?’ I did.”
The officer asked him to turn around so he could see the back of his jacket. He asked his name again, then, finally, asked to see my son’s ID. My son produced his school ID from his wallet.
The officer asked more questions, and my son answered. All the while the officer was relaying this information to someone over his radio.
My son heard someone on the radio say back to the officer “something to the effect of: ‘Keep him there until we get this sorted out.’ ” The officer told my son that an incident report would be filed, and then he walked away.
A female officer approached. My son recalled, “I told her that an officer had just stopped me and pointed his gun at me, and that I wanted to know what this was all about.” She explained students had called about a burglary suspect who fit my son’s description.
That suspect was apparently later arrested in the area.
When I spoke to my son, he was shaken up. I, however, was fuming.
Now, don’t get me wrong: If indeed my son matched the description of a suspect, I would have had no problem with him being questioned appropriately. School is his community, his home away from home, and he would have appreciated reasonable efforts to keep it safe. The stop is not the problem; the method of the stop is the problem.
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
Why was a gun drawn first? Why was he not immediately told why he was being detained? Why not ask for ID first?
What if my son had panicked under the stress, having never had a gun pointed at him before, and made what the officer considered a “suspicious” movement? Had I come close to losing him? Triggers cannot be unpulled. Bullets cannot be called back.
My son was unarmed, possessed no plunder, obeyed all instructions, answered all questions, did not attempt to flee or resist in any way.
This is the scenario I have always dreaded: my son at the wrong end of a gun barrel, face down on the concrete. I had always dreaded the moment that we would share stories about encounters with the police in which our lives hung in the balance, intergenerational stories of joining the inglorious “club.”
When that moment came, I was exceedingly happy I had talked to him about how to conduct himself if a situation like this ever occurred. Yet I was brewing with sadness and anger that he had to use that advice.
I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out — earn your way out — of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look.
There is no amount of respectability that can bend a gun’s barrel. All of our boys are bound together.
The dean of Yale College and the campus police chief have apologized and promised an internal investigation, and I appreciate that. But the scars cannot be unmade. My son will always carry the memory of the day he left his college library and an officer trained a gun on him.January 26th, 2015
Kevin Green, left, and Nicholas Kristof in 1977. Carlton Union High School
NY Times Published: JAN. 24, 2015
By Nicholas Kristof
YAMHILL, Ore. — THE funeral for my high school buddy Kevin Green is Saturday, near this town where we both grew up.
The doctors say he died at age 54 of multiple organ failure, but in a deeper sense he died of inequality and a lack of good jobs.
Lots of Americans would have seen Kevin — obese with a huge gray beard, surviving on disability and food stamps — as a moocher. They would have been harshly judgmental: Why don’t you look after your health? Why did you father two kids outside of marriage?
That acerbic condescension reflects one of this country’s fundamental problems: an empathy gap. It reflects the delusion on the part of many affluent Americans that those like Kevin are lazy or living cushy lives. A poll released this month by the Pew Research Center found that wealthy Americans mostly agree that “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”
Lazy? Easy? Kevin used to set out with his bicycle and a little trailer to collect cans by the roadside. He would make about $20 a day.
Let me tell you about Kevin Green. He grew up on a small farm a couple of miles from my family’s, and we both attended the same small rural high school in Yamhill, Ore. We both ran cross country, took welding and agriculture classes and joined Future Farmers of America. After cross country practice, I’d drive him home to his family farm, with its milk cows, hogs and chickens.
The Greens encapsulated if not the American dream, at least solid upward mobility. The dad, Thomas, had only a third-grade education and couldn’t read. But he had a good union job as a cement finisher, paying far above the minimum wage, and he worked hard and made sure his kids did, too. He had no trouble with the law.
Kevin and his big sister, Cindy — one of the sweetest girls in school — both earned high school diplomas. Kevin was sunny, cheerful and astonishingly helpful: Any hint that something needed fixing, and he was there with a wrench. But then the dream began to disintegrate.
The local glove factory and feed store closed, and other blue-collar employers cut back. Good union jobs became hard to find. For a while, Kevin had a low-paying nonunion job working for a construction company. After that company went under, he worked as shift manager making trailer homes. He fell in love and had twin boys that he doted on. But because he and his girlfriend struggled financially, they never married.
Then, about 15 years ago, Kevin hurt his back and was laid off. Soon afterward, his girlfriend moved out, took the kids and asked for child support. The loss of his girlfriend, kids and job was a huge blow.
“It knocked him to the dirt,” says his younger brother, Clayton, also a pal of mine. “It destroyed his self-esteem.”
Kevin’s weight ballooned to 350 pounds, and he developed diabetes and had a couple of heart attacks. He grew marijuana and self-medicated with it, Clayton says, and was arrested for drug offenses.
My kids would see Kevin and me together and couldn’t believe he had run cross country with me, and that he wasn’t 20 years older.
Kevin eventually got disability benefits, but he was far behind in child support and was punished by losing his driver’s license — which made it pretty much impossible to get a job in a rural area. Disability helped Kevin by providing a monthly check that he desperately needed, but it also hurt him because he might have looked harder for a job if he hadn’t been getting those checks, Clayton says.
Yet it’s absurd to think that people like Kevin are somehow living it up. After child support deductions, he was living on about $180 a month plus food stamps and a small income from selling home-grown pot. He supplemented this by growing a huge vegetable garden and fishing in the Yamhill River.
Three years ago, Cindy died of a heart attack at 52. Then doctors told Kevin a few weeks ago that his heart, liver and kidneys were failing, and that he was dying. He had trouble walking. He was in pain.
He was also worried about his twin boys. They had trouble in school and with the law, jailed for drug and other offenses. The upward mobility that had seemed so promising a generation ago turned out to be a mirage. Family structure dissolved, and lives become grueling — and shorter.
Kevin wrote a will a few days before he died. He bequeathed his life’s savings of $3,500 to his mom for his funeral expenses. Anything left over is to be divided between his children — and he begs them not to fight over it. His ashes will be sprinkled on the farm.
I have trouble diagnosing just what went wrong in that odyssey from sleek distance runner to his death at 54, but the lack of good jobs was central to it. Sure, Kevin made mistakes, but his dad had opportunities for good jobs that Kevin never had.
So, Kevin Green, R.I.P. You were a good man — hardworking and always on the lookout for someone to help — yet you were overturned by riptides of inequality. Those who would judge you don’t have a clue. They could use a dose of your own empathy.January 25th, 2015
January 24th, 2015
Untitled Pot, 2010
Ceramic and Glaze
20 X 12 X 12 inches
Two headless sphinxes at the entrance to a tomb in northern Greece. The country’s Culture Ministry announced this week that the bones of five people were found inside.
By RACHEL DONADIO
NY Times Published: JAN. 23, 2015
Call it “CSI: Alexander.” For months, the excavations at a large ancient tomb in northern Greece have gripped the country. First, a marble slab wall was unearthed. Then, through announcements and leaks from the Greek Culture Ministry meted out with the pacing of a good mystery series, headless sphinxes and other statues were found. Finally, bones! But whose?
Is it possible — as culture officials implied with a wink and a nod but never actually stated — that the tomb could be for the family of Alexander the Great? Archaeologists say it’s highly unlikely. But that’s hardly the point. By the time the Culture Ministry announced this week that the bones of five people, not one, had been found in the tomb, it was the latest episode in an archaeological reality show that has entertained and distracted Greeks from their economic troubles.
The show has also starred Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Even before he found himself fighting for political survival in national elections to be held this Sunday, Mr. Samaras used the excavation in Amphipolis, in the Greek region of Macedonia, to tap into national pride. He made a televised visit to the tomb in August — widely seen as an evocation of Alexander’s legacy — and later showed Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany artifacts found at the site. This week, Mr. Samaras, whose conservative New Democracy party was trailing the leftist Syriza Party in a close race, mentioned Amphipolis in a campaign speech, calling Macedonia “the eternal bastion of Greece.”
“It’s a kind of positing of national pride, but also nationalist connotations and feelings,” said Yannis Hamilakis, a professor of archaeology at the University of Southampton, in England, and the author of “The Nation and Its Ruins: Antiquity, Archaeology, and National Imagination in Greece.” Conjuring up Alexander the Great — “his assumed civilizing campaigns, his conquest of the Orient” — emphasizes his place in “the Western imagination as a whole,” Mr. Hamilakis said.
While acknowledging that the tomb is a significant find that deserves public enthusiasm, Mr. Hamilakis and other archaeologists argue that the dig has been conducted hastily and in a way that places popular appeal over serious scholarship. The Greek news media have thrived on the story — a rare bright spot in a cycle dominated by austerity and unemployment. Archaeology buffs have taken to the blogosphere, floating their own theories. Last year, “Amphipolis” was the most popular search term on Google in Greece.
Busloads of tourists have flocked to the site but can view it only from afar because the Culture Ministry has blocked access. The ministry also declined to allow Aikaterini Peristeri, the lead archaeologist on the dig, to be interviewed. (As elections neared, a recent cartoon in the Greek press shows Mr. Samaras lifting up Ms. Peristeri, whose last name means dove in Greek, as if she were a peace offering.)
The mound where the tomb was discovered lies in the ancient city of Amphipolis, about 200 miles north of Athens. Archaeologists began excavating the site in the 1960s. After a new dig started in 2012, archaeologists unearthed a 9-foot-high marble slab that would later prove to be part of a large wall with a nearly 500-meter perimeter enclosing the tomb. The Culture Ministry dates the wall to the fourth century B.C.
But the dig really picked up in June, and archaeologists eventually discovered two headless sphinxes at the tomb’s entrance, “an impressive and unique feature not previously encountered in Macedonian tombs,” Anna Panagiotarea, a spokeswoman for the Culture Ministry, wrote in response to questions. This “understandably generated great interest, excitement, enthusiasm and expectations among scientists, the media and the public alike,” she added.
The Alexander factor emerged in August, when Mr. Samaras visited the site and his culture and sports minister, Konstantinos Tasoulas, made elliptical comments about how Greece had been waiting 2,300 years for the tomb to be discovered — an implicit reference to the era of Alexander the Great, who in the fourth century B.C. was tutored by Aristotle and built up a vast empire before dying in Babylon.
Last fall, archaeologists said they had found three vaulted chambers behind the facade decorated with the sphinxes, as well as a mosaic depicting the abduction of Persephone by Hades and two female statues known as caryatids, each 7 feet tall.
On Monday, months after announcing that bones had been found in the tomb, the Culture Ministry said the fragments belonged to at least five bodies — two men ages 35 to 45, a woman over the age of 60, an infant and a fifth body whose bone fragments showed signs of cremation. One of the men’s bones had cut marks, possibly indicating wounds by a sharp object. The ministry said it would conduct DNA exams to see if there are family links between the bodies.
Though the official news release said nothing about Alexander the Great, a report on Monday in the Athens daily Kathimerini cited vague sources at the Culture Ministry saying that the female skeleton might be Olympias, Alexander’s mother, who was murdered after his death. The article first appeared under the headline “Amphipolis Scientists Point to Olympias,” but was later revised to read “Skeletons Pose Many Questions.”
Archaeologists have said it’s more likely that Olympias was buried alone, and they cite multiple inscriptions that place her burial site in the city of Pydna, in northern Greece. They also say there’s no evidence that the tomb was that of Alexander the Great or his family. “No, we don’t believe it is,” said Olga Sakali, the president of the Association of Greek Archaeologists. “All the historical sources that we have until now don’t give us such a clue.”
The association filed a formal complaint to the Culture Ministry protesting about the timing and methodology of the dig, which the association says bypassed normal methods. They were aghast that mechanical earth-moving equipment was used, instead of more delicate means. “It was an excavation for the media,” Ms. Sakali said.
In a statement, the Culture Ministry said that the earth-moving equipment was “restricted to the early stages of the excavation,” at which point “expert staff” took over and “followed all established scientific methodologies, protocols and etiquette to the fullest.” The ministry said the dig had not been “hasty, archaeologically ‘unorthodox’ or scientifically improper.” Regardless of the debate, many have just enjoyed the ride. “It’s great material,” said Antonis Kanakis, the host of Radio Arvyla, a comedy program on Greek television, who “interviewed” a skeleton in a popular sketch last fall. Mr. Kanakis quoted one of his subject’s answers: “O.K., you’re very proud of your ancestors, but have you asked your ancestors if they’re proud of you?”January 24th, 2015
X’ian’s Terracotta Warriors were discovered by a group of seven farmers digging a well on their communal farm in 1974.
Historians are losing their audience, and searching for the next trend won’t win it back.
By: Samuel Moyn
January 20, 2015
History has a history, and historians rarely tire of quarreling over it. Yet for the past few centuries, historians have maintained an uneasy truce over the assumption that the search for “facts” should always take precedence over the more fractious difficulty of interpreting them. According to Arnaldo Momigliano, the great twentieth-century Italian scholar of ancient history, it was the Renaissance antiquarians who, though they did not write history, inadvertently made the modern historical profession possible by repudiating grand theory in order to establish cherished fact. The antiquarians collected remnants of the classical past, and understandably they needed to vouch for the reliability of their artifacts at a time when so many relics were wrongly sourced or outright fakes. Momigliano cited the nineteenth-century Oxford don Mark Pattison, who went so far as to remark about antiquarians—approvingly—that “thinking was not their profession.” It may remain the whispered credo required for admission to the guild.
More wary than anthropologists, literary critics or political scientists of speculative frameworks, historians generally have been most pleased with their ability simply to tell the truth—as if it were a secret to be uncovered through fact-finding rather than a riddle to be solved through interpretation. Anthony Grafton once honored Momigliano with the title “the man who saved history,” and it seems fair to say that the latter voiced the consensus of a profession that makes facts almost sacred and theories essentially secondary.
Even when historians started to think a little, they did so gingerly. If antiquarians merely paved the road for modern history, to proceed down it required doing more than displaying the hard-won truth. Momigliano reported that it took a while for our early modern intellectual ancestors to suspect that they could ever improve on the classical historians of Greece and Rome, thanks to the new facts that antiquarians had eked out. The true antiquarians simply stashed their goods and, Momigliano vividly wrote, shivered in “horror at the invasion of the holy precincts of history by a fanatic gang of philosophers who travelled very light.” But their heirs, like Edward Gibbon, author of the stupendous Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, realized that storytellers would have to take on board speculation or “philosophy,” corralling facts within an intellectual scheme to lend them meaning. Facts alone were blind, just as theory was empty on its own. Yet Momigliano, sharing Pattison’s approval of the antiquarian origins of history, acknowledged the necessity of thinking almost regretfully, as if the results were an inevitably ramshackle edifice built on the bedrock of fact that it was the real job of historians to lay down. Theories could be stripped away, and stories renovated as fashion changed, but the facts on which the edifice was built would endure. The “ethics” of the profession, Momigliano testified, rested on the ability of historians to stay true to them.
In the early days of Gibbon’s Enlightenment, most of the frameworks on which historians relied were theories about the origins and progress of society; in the two centuries since, historians have been willing to have their facts consort with a wide variety of suitors, from nationalism to Marxism to postmodernism. The discipline has gone through so many self-styled theoretical “turns” that it is frankly hard to keep up. It is paradoxically because most historians have looked on theory with suspicion—as a lamentable necessity, at best, to allow the facts their day—that they have often been avid trend-watchers. Precisely because they are so fickle, opportunistic and superficial in their attitude to speculation, historians seem to change popular theories often, treating them not as foundations to be built on, but as seasonal outfits to clothe the facts they have so assiduously gathered.
* * *
Today, historians worry that they have lost their audience, and their distress has made the search for the next trend seem especially pressing. At the beginning of her new book, Writing History in the Global Era, Lynn Hunt remarks that “history is in crisis” because it can no longer answer “the nagging question” of why history matters. David Armitage and Jo Guldi, in their History Manifesto, concur: in the face of today’s “bonfire of the humanities,” and a disastrous loss of interest in a topic in which the culture used to invest heavily (and in classes that students used to attend in droves), defining a new professional vocation is critical. History, so often viewed as a “luxury” or “indulgence,” needs to figure out how to “keep people awake at night,” as Simon Schama has said. Actually, the problem is worse: students today have endless diversions for the wee hours; the trouble for historians is keeping students awake during the day.
In the last few decades, Hunt has had the most reliable eye for new trends in the American historical profession, and what she considers important always amounts to more than the sum of her current enthusiasms. You may not like the enterprises she is bullish on; you may try to blow up one of her bandwagons—as I did in these pages when she invented human-rights history—only to find yourself riding it for life [“On the Genealogy of Morals,” April 16, 2007]. What you cannot dispute is that she has a preternatural sense of the new new thing being touted by historians to study old things.
Like a few other famous trendsetters, Hunt, who recently retired from UCLA, was trained in the 1970s during the rising tide of social history, when what mattered most was learning about the ordinary men—and, even more important, women—lost to the enormous condescension of posterity. Having focused for centuries on kings (and, eventually, presidents) and their wars and diplomats and negotiations, historians realized that they had mostly ignored the social forces pulsing from below, and they longed to identify with the forgotten people who had been written out of history simply because they were not elites. Social historians often had left-wing sympathies, and, following the lodestar of E.P. Thompson’s luminous The Making of the English Working Class (1963), they wanted social history to chronicle the rise in political consciousness of the laboring people (and, later, other oppressed or marginalized groups) who deserved justice. Because they were interested in the shape of society and not only its working classes, social historians drew on a then-newfangled body of thought. It was not just left-wing politics but Marxism as a theory of society that prospered under social history’s reign; in turn, the whole tradition of such thinking, from the Enlightenment to Emile Durkheim and Max Weber, became canonical.
Hunt left the fold in the 1980s, bolting for what she famously dubbed “the new cultural history.” Worlds became full of meaning, renegade social historians discovered, and the representations of power that people create, the rituals they practice, and the ways they interpret their worlds now trumped basic information about the social order. It wasn’t enough to understand the class structure at the time of the French Revolution, Hunt argued in her landmark book Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution (1984); one also needed to understand the world of political symbols and “political culture” that made social action meaningful—especially since class turned out not to matter as much as the Marxists believed. Trading in Marxism for anthropology and “postmodern” theory, the new cultural history was, among other things, a protest against the tabulation of people according to static categories like “the workers” or “the peasantry,” and its breakthrough coincided with the failure of political efforts to win greater social equality.
Then Hunt changed her mind again. No sooner had the ink dried on The Family Romance of the French Revolution (1992)—a creative application of Sigmund Freud’s originally individualized psychoanalysis to a collective event, which remains her most interesting book—than she declared that “theory” had gone too far. It seemed, Hunt complained, to be little more than a recipe for saying whatever you want. “Postmodernists often put the word ‘reality’ in quotation marks to problematize the ‘there’ out there,” Hunt and several colleagues wrote in Telling the Truth About History (1994). But this statement wasn’t itself realistic—the point of theory is that no “reality” is self-interpreting—and her verdict could hardly prove the uselessness of broader frameworks of interpretation, except to those who treat them as secondary in the first place. Frightened by the whirling fashions that seemed to threaten mere chaos, Hunt rallied around facts. She declared the cultural turn a vast mistake, and postmodernism a tissue of error. From whatever heaven or hell they reside in, the antiquarians were smiling.
* * *
But if facts provide permanent refuge to historians, fashions continue to entice them. Twenty years on, Hunt is again scrutinizing the latest trends, and the opinions she offers about them in Writing History in the Global Era should not be taken lightly. She begins by reviewing the shift from social to cultural history. As she confesses, one big problem with the search for “meaning” in the past is that it was so vague as to be useless, even if it showed that a shortcoming of social history was an incessant focus on anonymous and supposedly objective processes. But cultural history proved to be another cul-de-sac. Hunt explains it with a different metaphor: “What began as a penetrating critique of the dominant paradigms ended up seeming less like a battering ram and more like that proverbial sucking sound of a flushing toilet.” In Hunt’s telling, the clear need even two decades ago was for a new “paradigm” for historians to apply to their facts. But what is it?
Where cultural history often emphasized the small and the local, Hunt continues, the current wave of interest in “globalization” favors the far-flung. It gets its name from a process exalted by Thomas Friedman and excoriated by Naomi Klein, and Hunt shows that historians have hardly been immune from suddenly discovering the world beyond their cramped former national or regional redoubts. She also shows that the very term “globalization” has experienced a crescendo in the past two decades, with books and articles pouring forth from presses offering global histories on a welter of subjects. We have been treated to global histories of cod, comics and cotton, and one publisher offers a series dedicated to global accounts of foodstuffs like figs, offal, pancakes and pizza. German historian Jürgen Osterhammel’s history of the nineteenth century, The Transformation of the World, shows what life was like when it took eighty days to travel around the globe, anticipating our age of supersonic movement of people and instantaneous transmission of bytes. Even Hunt has recently gotten into the act, editing a book about the French Revolution from a global perspective.
Proponents of globalizing history have persuasively argued that history has remained “Eurocentric,” but Hunt rightly asks whether the contemporary fashion of writing history across large spaces does more than drastically expand the canvas for historical depiction. “Is globalization a new paradigm for historical explanation that replaces those criticized by cultural theories?” she asks. It may enlarge the scale of study, focusing on long-distance trade, far-flung empire or cross-border war, but such a perspective could merely draw greater mountains of facts in view, without explaining what they mean or why they matter.
What global history emphatically does not prove is that the classic authorities for interpreting the past have become obsolete, especially since Karl Marx himself described the phenomenon now called globalization. Hunt’s starting point is different. She argues that because she and her fellow cultural historians so irreparably damaged the social theories that commanded history from Gibbon’s time to our own, the options for doing history now can only take one of two forms. One is to do without any reigning “paradigm,” which Hunt stipulates cultural history never had—beyond a general commitment to recapturing meaning, without agreement on how to interpret it. The other is to invent a new paradigm. Hunt’s fear is that globalization, because it foregrounds anonymous processes once favored by social historians, will end up preferring the sorts of frameworks they once relied upon. Globalization could, that is, make obsolete the insights of the cultural revolution Hunt originally sponsored, while doing nothing to lead historians beyond the limits she now thinks are intrinsic to a global focus.
To her credit, Hunt makes it clear that her need for a new dispensation is hardly universal within the profession. It is conventional to group Hunt with her generational colleagues Joan Scott and William Sewell, since all three bolted from social history in a crowd, and all three have regularly explained their turns over the years. (Sewell is the author of the greatest book in the historiographical landscape, Logics of History: Social Theory and Social Transformation .) But as Hunt notes, Scott has stuck it out with postmodernism—apparently believing it more defensible than Hunt does—while Sewell has gone “backwards” to Marxism. Hunt is not satisfied with either choice: “Must historians choose between a return to the previous paradigms,” she wonders, “or no paradigm at all?”
For Hunt to ask this question, her twin premises—that cultural history utterly devastated social theory, while generating no real interpretive worldview of its own—must bear a lot of weight. Perhaps too much: Sewell doesn’t think the first is true, while Scott would bridle at the second. For that matter, you might wonder whether the source of the problem is the roller coaster of approaches and its endless loops, which produces the demand for a new new theory.
Bravely, Hunt forges ahead to shape her own paradigm, in what is the most interesting chapter of her book. She concludes that historians need a novel approach to society—or, more precisely, a theory of the mutual relationship between the individual self and the larger society. Neither social nor cultural history, which submerged the individual in a larger system of forces or meaning—often to the point of rendering him entirely insignificant—could possibly fit the bill, Hunt says. But there is good news: “Ideas about the society-self connection are now emerging from an unlikely conjunction of influences.” Her goal is to spell out what these are, as sources for a new paradigm.
Two of Hunt’s sources are evolutionary neuroscience and cognitive psychology, which she tinkered with in earlier work. Her enthusiasm for them appears strange, given that the rule of biological processes is hardly less anonymous and deterministic than a globalizing turn that effaces human agency. Importing newfangled theories from other esoteric fields and leaning on works of pop science doesn’t seem like a recipe for success. Remember the crop of historians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century who put their bets on scientific racism? Nobody does, except as cautionary tales, because their work is worthless.
What becomes even more confusing is that Hunt grafts this trend onto a return to the hoary tradition of social theory that she explicitly admits is simply a broader version of the approaches that cultural history supposedly overturned. The idea that “the social is the ground of meaning”—in Hunt’s ultimate formula—was central to the tradition of thinking from the Neapolitan sage Giambattista Vico to Durkheim, Marx and Weber. It may be that social historians badly misunderstood this tradition in their efforts to think about society in terms of broad categories of people, just as cultural historians reversed the error in celebrating “meaning” as a separate object. But in her proposed return to the social, Hunt is essentially admitting that we progress not by seeking a new paradigm, but by fixing past mistakes. One of the biggest is the trend-driven thought that historians had to choose between studying society and studying culture, even if that false choice once made sense to Hunt and her generation.
For this reason, Hunt’s book sometimes reads as if we have to live her own intellectual life story in order to follow her venture to craft a new paradigm. It could be, however, that all this talk of “paradigms” is misleading—a distraction from the fact that the relation of self and society has been the constant concern of social theory since its origin, and that there is a huge range of options within that tradition to explore and improve upon. Hunt repudiates the common postmodern position that the self is a historical product, as if merely proposing a compromise between the claims of society and the self were specific or sufficient. Even when it comes to her own modish neuroscientific flourish, Hunt connects it to an older French thinker, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and his broader notion that selves are embodied. But like Marcel Gauchet, a contemporary Frenchman on whom she draws heavily, Merleau-Ponty is merely one figure within a rich fund of resources in social thought.
Hunt raises but never resolves what may be the key quandary for historians today. The emergence of global history inevitably makes one wonder if the categories—starting with “society” itself—that Westerners have devised to study themselves are applicable to peoples of all times and climes. Hunt repudiates extremist commentators who insist that Western categories can only ever explain Western things. It is not clear that this overcomes the difficulty.
* * *
Whereas Hunt wants to reckon with the fashion of globalization, Armitage and Guldi are interested in larger time scales and not merely expanded geographical spaces. Armitage, a trusted Harvard colleague of mine, has never been above spotting trends himself, having already helped define the study of Atlantic history, Pacific history and international history. Now he has a couple of new themes—long-term history and present-minded history—and in his effort to expound them he is joined by Guldi, a younger whiz kid who is an expert in “big data.”
Their exciting argument goes like this: in the past few decades, historians have dropped their emphasis on what the French historian Fernand Braudel called the longue durée. In his celebrated history of the Mediterranean Sea littoral, published in 1949, Braudel insisted on the superior reality of the long-term rhythms of life. The commanding forces of demography and environment, Braudel assumed, made individuals—even kings—mere “dust.” Armitage and Guldi offer a series of reasons why, contrary to Braudel’s inspiring example, historians broke for the short term. Perhaps the main one was cultural history: “meaning” seemed inevitably tied to a specific time and place, in ways that grand stories across vastly different times would always slight. But there were other reasons, too, like the pressures of finding new topics in the professional competition for turf. The results, Armitage and Guldi believe, were profound, as the average time scale of history books was precipitously compressed.
But retrieving our sensitivity to what the pair somewhat mysteriously call “vibrations of deeper time” is not just an attempt to return to Braudel’s cool and remote surveys of aeons. The real reason to ascend to Olympian heights and the sweeping gaze they allow, Armitage and Guldi say, is to plunge into the political affairs of the city. How is it, they ask, that since classical times history played the role as magistra vitae—roughly, a teacher for living—and especially for the guidance of political actors, but now has been rudely displaced by other fields, and especially by dismal (and often disastrous) economic thinking? History used to be, if not exactly philosophy, then at least “philosophy teaching by examples,” as Thucydides originally put it, and as the early modern Viscount Bolingbroke repeated in his Letters on the Study and Use of History (1735).
In this plea for relevance, Armitage is cutting against the famous stricture of his mentor, the Cambridge University don Quentin Skinner: if thinking is to be done, it has to be done “for ourselves,” without the aid of historical perspective. Where Skinner voiced a conventional antiquarian view that the role of writing history is to cut the present off from very different pasts, Armitage and Guldi insist on the operative value of historical work, and indeed for the highest public causes. After chronicling the cult of the short term, the two turn to the pressing political reasons for abandoning it in order to bring the long term to bear on our present, with the help of new digital tools. Historians need, they say, to immerse themselves in the vast digital archives of searchable information now on offer, and compared to which their old search for archival documents looks narrow and quaint.
Even as they have some wise and penetrating things to say about the new services that big data affords, Armitage and Guldi make it clear that their brief is not for every historian to shift to the long term. In their defense, they cite none other than Lynn Hunt. Time-bound and local puzzles will always remain to be confronted; but for Armitage and Guldi, the really uplifting new new thing is that computerized data and computing power allow a set of rapid solutions to challenges that took Braudel and his ilk a decade to decipher. And these, they argue, could in turn allow historians a return to the public stage, whether it comes to debates about international governance or global land reform.
* * *
Armitage and Guldi are careful to distinguish their notion of the long term from other calls for “deep” and “big” history. Given her scientism, Hunt has a soft spot for the call for depth, one that is associated with another Harvard scholar, Daniel Smail, author of On Deep History and the Brain (2008). Smail refuses to restrict the history of humanity to the last few millennia and their documentary record, when archaeology and especially biology provide tools to extend history back much further. For acolytes of “big” history, like the Australian scholar David Christian, “deep” history that starts so late—with human beings—is itself too unambitious. It’s an argument that has resonated beyond the ivory tower. Bill Gates has been agitating for high schools to teach history starting with the Big Bang. “I just loved it,” Gates told The New York Times of his experience exercising on his treadmill while watching Christian explain the concept of big history on a video. “It was very clarifying for me. I thought, God, everybody should watch this thing!”
Perish the thought. Apart from the fact that Gates’s scientism sacrifices the critical perspective that humanists have learned to maintain since their disastrous nineteenth-century dalliance with biology and other natural sciences, the trouble with massive expansions of the time line, even just to the totality of human history, is simple: it forces historians to become scientists, effectively converting their discipline into what is already somebody else’s job. Gates’s big historians already exist: they are called physicists. In any case, this is not what Armitage and Guldi seem to want. They justifiably insist that humanistic inquiry like history is supposed to provide an alternative to “the natural-law models of evolutionary anthropologists, economists, and other arbiters of our society.” More than that, excessive expansion sacrifices the idea that the drama of human history is about the fate of our ends, and therefore what we ought to care most about, even when they affect the nonhuman world.
Yet even in their comparatively modest call for long time lines to confront burning problems (including a literally burning earth), Armitage and Guldi have no answer to what has always been the really hard question: How do you interpret facts across a tiny or huge time scale? Just as the globe provides a larger space, an extended time line merely allows a longer frame. To think about what happens in the sunlit uplands beyond the confinement of the local and time-bound, you need a theory. Data—including big data about the long term—is never self-interpreting. Nor is orientation toward the past for the sake of the future solely a problem for which more information is the solution; it is ultimately a philosophical problem that only speculation can solve. This was the point of social theory from Vico to Marx: to integrate necessary facts with a vision of human becoming, which never lacked an ethical and political dimension. Arguably, it is this, most of all, that people need today, not merely a proclivity for the long term.
Armitage and Guldi have no use for Marx except to inspire their title, and to allow them to begin their book by invoking the specter of the long term and to end it by demanding that the historians of the world unite. Unlike Hunt, they do not regard the newly won chronological sweep—like the larger space of globalization—as something that has to be filled by some theory or other that allows new or big (or old or little) data to be interpreted in compelling ways. Or if they do, it is not the focus of their brief for ambition.
Even our boldest trendsetters, then, do not see the wall between history and philosophy as the final frontier to breach, in part because it was the first one erected to define the discipline by antiquarians in love with their facts. Armitage and Guldi wisely remark that fashionable “critical turns” conceal “old patterns of thought that have become entrenched.” Of these, the most durable is not the affection for the short term, but the refusal to risk the certainty of facts for the sake of a fusion of history and philosophy.
* * *
In 1966, Hayden White published “The Burden of History,” his still invigorating attack on his professional colleagues. “History is perhaps the conservative discipline par excellence,” White wrote, coming out swinging, and perhaps most of all against the factological ethics so central to the modern craft. The consequences, according to White, were grave: “As history has become increasingly professionalized and specialized, the ordinary historian, wrapped up in the search for the elusive document that will establish him as an authority in a narrowly defined field, has had little time to inform himself of the latest developments in the more remote fields of art and science.”
Momigliano wrote a notorious polemic against White (a former teacher of mine) precisely for denigrating the recovery of factual truth, which he thought central to history. But if Momigliano turned that recovery into a punishing imperative of the historical superego, White wanted to substitute a different “ethics” for history—one that would make room for theory, or even insist on seeing beyond the contrast between history and theory, in the service of the present. Nearly 90 years old and still ahead of his time, White is back this year with his own lively new book, The Practical Past.
Because the past needs to be practical for us—there is no reason to care about it except insofar as it is useful to the present—White begins his book by once again putting Momigliano’s professional “ethics” in their proper place:
The older, rhetorically structured mode of historical writing openly promoted the study and contemplation of the past as propaedeutic to a life in the public sphere, as an alternative ground to theology and metaphysics (not to mention as an alternative to the kind of knowledge one might derive from experience of what Aristotle called the “banausic” life of commerce and trade), for the discovery or invention of principles by which to answer the central question of ethics: “What should (ought, must) I do?” Or to put it in Lenin’s terms: “What is to be done?”
It seems as if, in roundabout ways, all of our current historiographical trend-followers finally agree with White, in the face of what they regard as a great crisis for historical writing today. But it is one thing to call for speculation for the sake of relevance, and another to bring about a new marriage of history and philosophy. For the coming generation, one thing is clear: thinking will have to become our profession.
Writing History in the Global Era
By Lynn Hunt.
The History Manifesto
By Jo Guldi and David Armitage.
The Practical Past
By Hayden White.
Edited by Ed Dimendberg.
The Chartreuse Table, 2014, glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, acrylic paint, canvas, wood, 70 x 85 x 12 inches (177.8 x 215.9 x 30.5 cm)
January 31 — March 21, 2015January 23rd, 2015
Sara Kathryn Arledge
Cow Eating Bananas, 1965
Watercolor on paper, 22.25 x 31 inches
Through March 22, 2015January 21st, 2015
Pooled water and a salt grass field on a part of Owens Lake, in eastern California near the Sierra Nevada. The lake was drained decades ago, its source water diverted to Los Angeles. Photograph by Monica Almeida
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
NY Times Published:JAN. 20, 2015
OWENS LAKE, Calif. — For 24 years, traveling across the stark and dusty moonscape of what once was a glimmering 110-square-mile lake framed by snow-covered mountains, Ted Schade was a general in the Owens Valley water wars with Los Angeles. This was where Los Angeles began taking water for its own use nearly a century ago, leaving behind a dry lake bed that choked the valley with dust, turning it into one of the most polluted parts of the nation.
The result was a bitter feud between two night-and-day regions of California, steeped in years of lawsuits, conspiracy theories, toxic distrust and noir lore — the stealing of the Owens Valley water was the inspiration for the movie “Chinatown.” But while the water theft remains a point of contention, the battle long ago turned into one about the clouds of dust that were the legacy of the lost lake, 200 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.
In what may be the most startling development yet, the end of one of the great water battles in the West appears at hand: Instead of flooding the lake bed with nearly 25 billion gallons of Los Angeles water every year to hold the dust in place — the expensive and drought-defying stopgap solution that had been in place — engineers have begun to methodically till about 50 square miles of the lake bed, which will serve as the primary weapon to control dust in the valley.
That will create three-foot-high furrows that, sprinkled with far less water, together should scrub the atmosphere of the thick haze that often makes it impossible to see from one side of the valley to the other, with widespread complaints of asthma.
“All we wanted is air pollution control,” Mr. Schade said. “We just wanted to make it so it’s not so dusty.”
Mr. Schade, 57, his pursuit of Los Angeles finally over, celebrated the moment by announcing he was retiring as the chief enforcement officer for the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District. In that role, he installed cameras and air pollution maintenance stations across the lake bed, haranguing the city to step in whenever air pollution standards were violated.
No less striking, Los Angeles, after years of filing lawsuits against the basin asserting that the damage was not the city’s fault, is showing remorse.
“The city has accepted its responsibility,” Mayor Eric M. Garcetti of Los Angeles said in a ceremony marking the agreement last month. “We took the water.”
From one perspective, the agreement between the Great Basin district and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was a technical one, reflecting advancements in the science of controlling dust.
Yet more than that, the agreement — along with the public contrition expressed by a new mayor, who arrived in 2013 — was a critical turn in a long-running tale that has at times riveted this state. It is a clash of cultures and regions, between a teeming metropolis and a sparsely populated expanse of mountains, valleys and lake beds, where temperatures range in a single year from 10 degrees to 120 degrees or more. About 31,000 people live across the three counties that make up the water basin — or about one person per square mile.
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“We are very different people,” said Ron Hames, a member of the Alpine County Board of Supervisors and chairman of the Great Basin board. “In my county, we don’t have a bank. We don’t have a Starbucks. We don’t have a single stop light. There are 1,172 of us — depending on the day.”
William W. Funderburk, a Los Angeles lawyer who is vice chairman of the Department of Water and Power, said he was struck upon arriving by the tense atmosphere between the two sides. He and Mel Levine, a former member of Congress who is president of the department’s board, were the lead delegates to the negotiations.
“There was no trust,” Mr. Funderburk said. “It’s not an understatement to say that resolving Owens was similar to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bad blood had just been passed on through the generations.”
The war began in the early 1900s, when agents working for Los Angeles, posing as farmers or ranchers, bought up much of the valley in search of water to meet the needs of a metropolis that was rapidly growing — and wanted to grow more. The city began diverting water from the Owens River into aqueducts leading to Los Angeles in 1913. Within 10 years Owens Lake, which was fed by the river, went dry.
This was before the days of the Clean Air Act, and the region had no legal recourse against Los Angeles. But a combination of that law and state legislation passed in the early 1980s led Los Angeles to sign an agreement with the basin in 1997 agreeing to clean up the air pollution. It turned out to be just the beginning of years of bickering, as the city disputed how much the lake bed was causing the problem.
Mr. Schade, using dust-measuring devices, kept pushing Los Angeles to expand its efforts, and the city responded with lawsuits — including one challenging Mr. Schade’s authority as a regulator.
“They called in the attorneys,” Mr. Schade said. “They told their staff not to talk to us. Their strategy had been to bury Great Basin in lawsuits.”
A confluence of factors — starting with a weariness brought on by years of fighting — was largely responsible for producing what once seemed impossible. The 25 billion gallons of water Los Angeles has been pouring every year on the lake bed, its main strategy for controlling the dust, was nearly as much as the entire city of San Francisco consumes in a year, a waste that became increasingly egregious as the state’s drought persisted. And Los Angeles was losing nearly every one of the legal challenges.
Mr. Garcetti was frustrated by the drain on the city’s finances and water supply caused by a fight that seemed frozen in time. Upon taking office, he instructed his new appointees to approach the dispute with negotiation.
“I think we were highly deferential in terms of understanding their concern, and appropriately so,” Mr. Levine said. Mike Feuer, the Los Angeles City attorney, said that history “is replete with stories about how deep the conflicts have been and how little trust existed.”
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“That paradigm has shifted dramatically,” he added.
Still, one of the big concerns for Los Angeles officials was that this was a battle that seemed to have no end. A key concession that the city obtained was a ceiling on how much of the lake bed it was responsible for controlling, a subject of a continuing tug of war. Under the agreement, that area is up to 53 square miles.
Previously, “there was never a cap on square miles,” said Richard F. Harasick, director of water operations for the city’s Department of Water and Power, speaking over the whirl of helicopter blades while offering an aerial tour of the battleground. “When is enough enough? That was the source of our angst. O.K., we are responsible. When does that responsibility end? When are we done?”
For all the historical resentment of Los Angeles, some people here suggest that, with the passage of time, there may have been some beneficial if unintended consequences.
“While people who live here might have resentment of what happened 100 years ago, we also have 33,000 square miles of open land that never got developed,” said Matt Kingsley, an Inyo County supervisor. “It’s open and accessible. If it was all privately owned, this would be a lot different.”
Mr. Schade said he was confident that the battle was finally over; if the fight were still going on, he said, he would still be heading out to the lake bed most days to check his monitors.
“I am retiring because I feel like I can,” he said.January 21st, 2015
NY Times Published: JAN. 18, 2015
It’s now official: 2014 was the warmest year on record. You might expect this to be a politically important milestone. After all, climate change deniers have long used the blip of 1998 — an unusually hot year, mainly due to an upwelling of warm water in the Pacific — to claim that the planet has stopped warming. This claim involves a complete misunderstanding of how one goes about identifying underlying trends. (Hint: Don’t cherry-pick your observations.) But now even that bogus argument has collapsed. So will the deniers now concede that climate change is real?
Of course not. Evidence doesn’t matter for the “debate” over climate policy, where I put scare quotes around “debate” because, given the obvious irrelevance of logic and evidence, it’s not really a debate in any normal sense. And this situation is by no means unique. Indeed, at this point it’s hard to think of a major policy dispute where facts actually do matter; it’s unshakable dogma, across the board. And the real question is why.
Before I get into that, let me remind you of some other news that won’t matter.
First, consider the Kansas experiment. Back in 2012 Sam Brownback, the state’s right-wing governor, went all in on supply-side economics: He drastically cut taxes, assuring everyone that the resulting boom would make up for the initial loss in revenues. Unfortunately for his constituents, his experiment has been a resounding failure. The economy of Kansas, far from booming, has lagged the economies of neighboring states, and Kansas is now in fiscal crisis.
So will we see conservatives scaling back their claims about the magical efficacy of tax cuts as a form of economic stimulus? Of course not. If evidence mattered, supply-side economics would have faded into obscurity decades ago. Instead, it has only strengthened its grip on the Republican Party.
Meanwhile, the news on health reform keeps coming in, and it keeps being more favorable than even the supporters expected. We already knew that the number of Americans without insurance is dropping fast, even as the growth in health care costs moderates. Now we have evidence that the number of Americans experiencing financial distress due to medical expenses is also dropping fast.
All this is utterly at odds with dire predictions that reform would lead to declining coverage and soaring costs. So will we see any of the people claiming that Obamacare is doomed to utter failure revising their position? You know the answer.
And the list goes on. On issues that range from monetary policy to the control of infectious disease, a big chunk of America’s body politic holds views that are completely at odds with, and completely unmovable by, actual experience. And no matter the issue, it’s the same chunk. If you’ve gotten involved in any of these debates, you know that these people aren’t happy warriors; they’re red-faced angry, with special rage directed at know-it-alls who snootily point out that the facts don’t support their position.
The question, as I said at the beginning, is why. Why the dogmatism? Why the rage? And why do these issues go together, with the set of people insisting that climate change is a hoax pretty much the same as the set of people insisting that any attempt at providing universal health insurance must lead to disaster and tyranny?
Well, it strikes me that the immovable position in each of these cases is bound up with rejecting any role for government that serves the public interest. If you don’t want the government to impose controls or fees on polluters, you want to deny that there is any reason to limit emissions. If you don’t want the combination of regulation, mandates and subsidies that is needed to extend coverage to the uninsured, you want to deny that expanding coverage is even possible. And claims about the magical powers of tax cuts are often little more than a mask for the real agenda of crippling government by starving it of revenue.
And why this hatred of government in the public interest? Well, the political scientist Corey Robin argues that most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure. I’m partial to that story, partly because it helps explain why climate science and health economics inspire so much rage.
Whether this is the right explanation or not, the fact is that we’re living in a political era in which facts don’t matter. This doesn’t mean that those of us who care about evidence should stop seeking it out. But we should be realistic in our expectations, and not expect even the most decisive evidence to make much difference.January 20th, 2015
West Coast Premiere
Through February 1, 2015
The newest Wooster Group work, Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation is a performance based on a 1976 LP of Shaker hymns, marches, anthems, and testimony recorded by Sister R. Mildred Barker and the sisters of the Shaker community in Sabbathday Lake, Maine.
Early Shaker Spirituals features performances of all twenty tracks from side A of the album sung by Cynthia Hedstrom, Elizabeth LeCompte, Frances McDormand, and Suzzy Roche. The performers channel the voices of the Shaker singers to give a new live rendering of the songs. Complementing the songs are dances created by the Group. They are composed of simple patterns inspired by the surviving fragments of the ecstatic dance that characterized the Shakers’ worship services. For the dances, the singers are joined by Matthew Brown, Modesto Jimenez, Bobby McElver, Bebe Miller and Andrew Schneider. Jamie Poskin reads from the album liner notes.
Early Shaker Spirituals returns to an artistic practice that the Group has used throughout its history: working with record albums as source material for original productions, among them Hula (1981) and L.S.D. (…Just the High Points…) (1984). The piece also expresses the Group’s long-standing interest in the Shakers, a millenarian, celibate, communitarian sect. In 1980, Elizabeth LeCompte, Kate Valk, and other members of the company visited the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community and met with Sister R. Mildred Barker. Around that time, the company first began listening to the record album that forms the basis for this new piece.
In addition to the performers, the full Early Shakers Spirituals ensemble includes Max Bernstein (sound), Enver Chakartash (costumes), Eric Dyer (tour technical director), Elizabeth LeCompte & Jim Clayburgh (set), Bobby McElver (sound), Erin Mullin (stage manager), Jamie Poskin (assistant director), Emily Rea (production manager), Ryan Seelig (assistant lighting), Jennifer Tipton (lighting) and Kate Valk (director).January 17th, 2015
Installation View, 2015
Through February 21, 2015January 16th, 2015
Untitled, 1961, graphite on paper, 12 1/4 x 9 3/4 inches (31.1 x 24.8 cm)
Opening reception: Saturday, January 17, 6:00-8:00pm
Through March 7, 2015
January 15, 2015
NEW YORK (AP) — A 16-year-old sneaker-loving teen is using the footwear to get a different kind of kick — he’s opened a pawnshop that uses high-end athletic shoes as collateral.
Chase Reed and his father, Troy Reed, opened Sneaker Pawn on Lenox Avenue in Harlem looking to capitalize on America’s multibillion-dollar athletic footwear market and the high prices sneakers can get being re-sold.
The idea started close to home, when Chase would ask his father to borrow money after Reed had spent a few hundred dollars on sneakers for his son. Reed would hold onto a pair of his son’s shoes until he had gotten his money back.
“My son said, ‘Dad, you’re actually kind of making me pawn you my sneakers,’” Reed said during a recent interview at the store. “Once he said that, a light bulb went off.”
He told his son, “You don’t have no money, but you got all these sneakers. Imagine how many other kids got all these sneakers and probably need cash.”
The duo decided to renovate the space in Harlem, where they had been living before moving elsewhere, into a retail location. And to pay for it all, Chase sold his own collection, bringing in about $30,000.
“My father told me, certain things you have to sacrifice,” Chase said.
Basketball sneakers can sell and re-sell for hundreds of dollars, depending on the shoe model, how limited the production run was, and how easy it is to find a pair in good condition. Sneaker Pawn carries shoes with price tags of more than $1,000.
The shop, which opened about six months ago, offers different options. People looking to just unload their sneakers — specifically basketball shoes — can offer them to the Reeds to be bought outright, or on a consignment agreement which nets the Reeds 20 percent of the final sale price. Those looking to pawn their sneakers have two months to redeem them for the amount of money the Reeds forwarded them plus a storage fee. Shoes that are being pawned are held in storage and not displayed, until the owner either gets them back or gives them up.
Chase, as the sneaker aficionado, has the final say on whether they buy a certain pair from someone, and what prices they sell the shoes at. He also customizes sneakers with his own art. Since he’s still in high school, his father handles the running of the store during the weekdays.
Fourteen-year-old Harlem resident Chaise Mack shelled out a couple of hundred dollars for a pair of Air Jordan sneakers released in 2012 that sell online for at least twice the price that he paid.
The store, he said, “is amazing. You can’t really find sneakers like this downtown. Most of the sneakers here are not in retail.”
It’s been a learning experience for Chase, who’s had to put aside the rebuilding of his own collection.
“Sadly there are a lot of size 14s that come through the store,” he said. “The nicest sneakers on Earth that come through the store and the first thing I do is sell them.”
He’s philosophical about it. I “can’t let my sneaker high get in the way of me making money, me being a businessman,” he said.January 15th, 2015
Caldwell led the last pitch of the Dawn Wall as Jorgeson belayed. Credit Max Whittaker for The New York Times
By JOHN BRANCH
NY Times Published: JAN. 14, 2015
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — On the 19th day of their climb, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, both now bearded, reached the summit of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall, completing a quest that included years of planning and that many considered the most challenging rock climb in the world.
Dozens of family members and friends greeted the climbers when they reached the top at 3:25 p.m. Wednesday, a cloudless day. After Caldwell hugged his wife and Jorgeson hugged his girlfriend, they were given sparkling wine. Jorgeson sprayed his. “That’s the first shower you’ve had in a while,” Caldwell’s wife, Rebecca, said.
Jorgeson said of their feat: “I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall, if you will. We’ve been working on this thing a long time, slowly and surely. I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context.”
It was the first ascent of the 3,000-foot Dawn Wall in a single expedition with the use of only hands and feet to pull climbers up — a challenge long considered impossible. Ropes were merely safety devices to break the occasional fall.
The sunset view at the top was stunning. What was less clear was just what Caldwell and Jorgeson had achieved.
El Capitan is hardly unassailable. Its face was first rock-climbed in 1958, and it has been crisscrossed by countless climbers using roughly 100 known routes. With its summit a mere 7,569 feet above sea level, it is no Everest or McKinley. Thousands of visitors from around the world hike the eight steep miles to its top each year, including several who left before daybreak Wednesday to greet the climbers.
But that was part of what made this expedition monumental — El Capitan’s familiarity. It is one of the best-known pieces of granite in the world, majestic and monolithic, causing crane-necked, open-mouthed gawkers to stand at its base and drivers in Yosemite Valley to veer off the road.
That accessibility was key to building fascination with the quest.
“I think the larger audience’s conception is that we’re thrill seekers out there for an adrenaline rush,” Caldwell said. “We really aren’t at all. It’s about spending our lives in these beautiful places and forming these incredible bonds.”
The entire climb was visible to anyone who wanted to watch through binoculars or long camera lenses while standing in a nearby meadow. And in recent days the assembly grew, some bringing camp chairs and nibbling on meats and cheeses, as history unfolded high above. From the wall, the climbers communicated through text messages and social media. Fans cheered success, and the climbers could hear it a moment later.
That was the magic that turned the quiet quest of two quiet men into a worldwide spectacle — an event both unimaginable and watchable. There was no mystery, but there was plenty of suspense.
“This is just amazing, really beautifully amazing, like a four-minute mile or a sub-two-hour marathon or Tiger Woods destroying every single major for a year or something, just off the charts awesome,” Will Gadd, an elite mountain sports athlete, said in an email message Tuesday.
For Caldwell, a 36-year-old from Estes Park, Colo., it was a goal that he could not shake since he first seriously conjured the idea a decade ago. It became his life-bending quest, a personal Moby Dick. Could every inch of the blank, vertical face of the Dawn Wall be climbed with nothing more than bare hands and rubber-soled shoes? He was not sure. He never was, really, until Wednesday.
“From the outside it was starting to look like a Hemingway novel or something, an unresolvable quest,” said Gadd, who has known Caldwell for many years.
Jorgeson, 30, from Santa Rosa, Calif., learned about Caldwell’s vision in 2009 and asked if he wanted a partner. Each year since, the two have spent weeks and months, mostly in the fall and winter, attached to the Dawn Wall, scouting holds, practicing pitches, imagining how to do it all in one push from the valley floor.
El Capitan is the height of three Empire State Buildings stacked atop one another, but with many fewer, and smaller, things to hold on to on the way up. The climb was divided into 31 pitches, or sections, like way points on a dot-to-dot drawing. When one pitch was successfully navigated, the climbers stopped and prepared for the next. Much of the work was done in the cool of the evening, when hands would sweat less and the soles of their shoes had better grip.
Some pitches were well over 100 feet straight up the rock, while others were sideways shuffles to connect two vertical pitches. One required a dyno, a jump from one precarious hold to another. Falls were not unusual; Jorgeson needed seven days and 10 attempts to navigate the horizontal traverse of Pitch 15, unexpectedly slowing the expedition, which was blessed by an uncharacteristic stretch of dry weather.
Two pitches were rated at 5.14d on climbing’s scale of difficulty, making them among the hardest sections of rock ever climbed. Nearly all were rated at least 5.12. To many rock climbers, completing one such pitch would be a career highlight. Few can fathom the difficulty of stringing together nearly three dozen of them without returning to the ground.
The Dawn Wall, sometimes called the Wall of the Early Morning Light, was first climbed in 1970 by Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell (no relation to Tommy). But their ascent was a virtual siege, using more than 300 bolts and hundreds of feet of rope to pull themselves up over 27 days.
Storms pinned them to the wall for long stretches, but the men refused rescue attempts, dropping notes to the valley floor and, at one point, greeting would-be rescuers on the wall with an offer of wine. When the men reached the top, they were greeted by a crowd of 70 and enjoyed champagne and fried chicken.
Their assault was widely criticized by those in the climbing community who preferred a quieter, more minimalist ascent. Royal Robbins, a rival of Harding’s, went up the Dawn Wall and cut many of the bolts sprinkled up the rock.
Few, if any, thought the Dawn Wall could be free-climbed, using just strength and guile — not ropes and equipment — for upward propulsion. Earlier attempts by Caldwell and Jorgeson had been aborted by bad weather, injuries and an inability to get past certain pitches.
Not this time.
When Harding reached the top of the Dawn Wall in 1970, he was asked why he had done it and said, “Because we’re insane!”
“For me, I love to dream big, and I love to find ways to be a bit of an explorer,” Caldwell said. “These days it seems like everything is padded and comes with warning labels. This just lights a fire under me, and that’s a really exciting way to live.”
Jorgeson said the Dawn Wall “was the biggest canvas and the most audacious project I could join and see to the finish.”
“Like Tommy,” he added, “I don’t know what is next.”
After a summit celebration, they were eager to return to the valley floor for a bigger celebration, and the chance to soak in both a warm shower and whatever adulation awaited once they returned to the view of anyone who wanted to watch.
Soon, they would be back over the edge, headed down, and the top of El Capitan was alone and quiet again.January 15th, 2015
“I’ll always remember that battle,” Kevin Jorgeson said of his 10 failed attempts at the sideways traverse of Pitch 15 before he was able to make it through that portion of the climb. Credit Tom Evans
By JOHN BRANCH
NY Times Published: JAN. 12, 2015
SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Inside Kevin Jorgeson’s living room, his smiling, bearded face popped up on the screen. His hair, two weeks since a shampoo, stuck straight up.
He spoke as if it were just an ordinary day and an ordinary circumstance.
He said hello to his girlfriend, Jacqui Becker, and his mother, Gaelena Jorgeson. But his eyes shifted uneasily as his portaledge, a hanging tent hooked halfway up El Capitan, lifted and swayed in Sunday’s gusty winds.
In a few days, he hoped, he would be home through the front door, not through FaceTime.
Jorgeson, 30, and his climbing partner, Tommy Caldwell, 36, are trying to become the first to free-climb El Capitan’s Dawn Wall, a 3,000-foot vertical route of barely dimpled granite in Yosemite National Park. Their quest has been years in the making, and they last touched horizontal ground on Dec. 27. With good fortune, they will reach the summit this week, having ascended to climbing lore.
After it happens, or even if it does not, Jorgeson will return here. He was born and raised in Santa Rosa, about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, four hours to the heart of Yosemite. He has a deep family connection there; a great-grandmother worked for the concessionaire in Yosemite a century ago, and the family has a photograph of her standing on the famed “diving board” atop Yosemite’s Half Dome in 1916. (She hiked, not climbed, in a skirt.)
While he is perched on the face of El Capitan, Kevin Jorgeson still drops in on his girlfriend, Jacqui Becker, via FaceTime. Credit Max Whittaker for The New York Times
Jorgeson showed an early aptitude for climbing. His parents learned that when their toddler seemed to vanish, they should look up. At 3, he climbed most of a two-story ladder at an aunt’s house before he was spotted. As he grew older, he often disappeared into the garage rafters or was found atop the chain-link backstop at a baseball field.
“It probably scared other parents more than us,” his father, Eric, said.
Eric Jorgeson worked for Santa Rosa’s Recreation and Parks Department and had a love for the outdoors that he passed on to Kevin and his younger brother, Matt. Kevin Jorgeson’s first exposure to climbing came at a wall inside a Santa Rosa sporting goods store. When Vertex Climbing Center opened shortly after, when Jorgeson was about 11, his father gave them both beginning lessons.
“It got him hooked,” said Eric Jorgeson, who, divorced from Gaelena and remarried, now lives in Idaho. “And it told me that it wasn’t the sport for me. But it got him through the teenage years without any of the typical teenage problems.”
By 16, he was competing in international climbing contests and had his first sponsorship, from Marmot, the outdoor apparel and equipment maker founded in Santa Rosa and now based in nearby Rohnert Park. He took his wall-climbing pursuits outdoors.
Jorgeson became one of the world’s best at “highball” bouldering, which features extremely difficult, relatively short ropeless climbs. He was the first to ascend Ambrosia, near Bishop, Calif., one of his favorite climbing areas.
Beyond his physical abilities, Jorgeson seems wired for climbing blank faces of rock, where precision and patience are as important as strength and flexibility.
“It’s a mental thing — he’s really good at memorizing sequences,” his father said, recalling Jorgeson’s ability to rehearse taekwondo moves or the best moves down a river in a kayak. “I bet after this climb, if you sat with him and said, ‘What’s the fifth move on Pitch 12?’ he could tell you. That may be an exaggeration, but he probably could do it for Pitch 15.”
Yes, Pitch 15. Should Jorgeson complete the free-climb ascent in the coming days, his struggle with the sideways traverse of Pitch 15 will be the heart of the story.
“I’ll always remember that battle,” he said.
Over the course of a week, he fell on 10 attempts, always on the same spot, shredding the skin from his battered fingers as he clung desperately, and vainly, to sharp, pebble-size holds on the wall. Caldwell made it past Pitch 15 and continued checking off pitches up the wall as Jorgeson lagged behind.
After Jorgeson failed on several attempts in the middle of last week, he texted one word to Becker, his girlfriend: “Devastated.” His next text said he did not want to be known as the man who almost climbed the Dawn Wall.
He rested his fingers, waiting for his skin to heal over two days, before embarking on another attempt on Friday afternoon. In the back of his mind, he knew that if he failed again, he would most likely end his quest in deference to Caldwell.
“That would have been my call,” Jorgeson said Sunday. “It definitely crossed my mind briefly, but I didn’t linger there too long. Answering that question wasn’t going to help me.”
He added: “I’m not going to lie. I did feel a lot of pressure that day.”
By then, Jorgeson had studied footage of each of his failures — how he pinched the rock on this hold, how he cocked his wrist on that one. He found that each fall had to do with a single foot placement.
“A millimeter change in the angle of my right foot on the exact same piece of rock,” Jorgeson said. “Before, it didn’t match the contour of this tiny little pebble I was trying to step on.”
“It clicked,” he said. “I reached this balance where I could do this pivotal move and unlock the next sequence.”
Jorgeson made it past Pitch 15 as a crowd in the El Capitan meadow cheered in the chilly twilight. By Saturday night, he was through Pitch 17. After a rest day on Sunday, he reached the top of Pitch 20 on Monday, pulling alongside Caldwell on the ledge of the Wino Tower.
From there, the final dozen pitches, extremely difficult by rock-climbing standards but not as difficult as what Caldwell and Jorgeson have completed, might be done in two days of climbing.
And then Jorgeson will come home.
“A shower,” he said of the first thing he wants after more than two weeks hanging on El Capitan. “There’s so many things. I can’t let my head go there yet, though.”
Jorgeson and Becker met at a resort in Anguilla three years ago. Jorgeson knew the manager, who had an opening for a fitness and climbing instructor. Becker was living in New York and teaching hula-hoop lessons as an executive for a fitness company. Friends called them “Hoops and Rocks.”
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Jorgeson contradicts the “dirtbag” reputation of climbing, showing that the sport’s credibility need not stem, in part, from a vagabond, grungy devotion.
Becker quickly recognized that Jorgeson was different from any stereotype. “We had a meeting with clients, and he was dressed up and sophisticated and had a killer taste in whiskey,” she said. “It caught my attention.”
Part climber, part businessman, he started a company called Pro Climbers International to represent climbers and expand the sport through training, workshops and events.
But there were times in the past few years, as he devoted months to the Dawn Wall, that Jorgeson wondered whether he was being selfish — spending too much time on an individual goal and not enough doing things that would promote the broader climbing community.
As it turned out, the Dawn Wall push in the past couple of weeks, and the attention it received, forwarded both goals more than he had imagined.
The idea of free-climbing the Dawn Wall — using only hands and feet to move upward, relying on ropes only in case of falls — belonged to Caldwell, dating back a decade. In 2009, Jorgeson asked if he wanted a partner.
Since then, for several months each fall and winter, Jorgeson has been consumed by the task of the Dawn Wall when he could have been expanding his business. Both men admitted that it often dominated their daily lives, filling their thoughts when they woke and keeping them awake at night.
Two years ago, after a 17-year wait, Eric Jorgeson finally received a permit to raft through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. Kevin Jorgeson anguished over whether to go with his father or meet Caldwell at the Dawn Wall. He eventually chose the 19-day raft trip, afraid he was letting Caldwell down.
The quest has taken an emotional toll, not only from the implausibility of the pursuit but also from the loss of friends to climbing over the years. Most haunting to Jorgeson was the loss of Brad Parker, a top climber also from Santa Rosa, who fell to his death in Yosemite in August.
Jorgeson had a deep conversation with Caldwell about it in September, and Caldwell opened up about the hurdles he had faced — a kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan and a divorce among them. Jorgeson committed to at least another year on the project. Maybe the next attempt would be the one.
In August, Jorgeson and Becker rented a small house outside Santa Rosa. A pair of sheep live in a field outside, and a 17-year-old cat, Monkey, clambers about inside. The living room includes Jorgeson’s childhood piano, a wood-burning fireplace, hula hoops and a large mirror used as a message board. (“House needs” include four stools, a kitchen island and “art for walls.”)
They considered moving to more familiar climbing meccas — Caldwell lives in Estes Park, Colo., at the doorstep of Rocky Mountain National Park — but Jorgenson preferred to be close to home, within reach of the ocean.
While there are no rocks to climb within view of his home, his quiet getaway is less than an hour away — the above-the-ocean climbs of Goat Rock at Sonoma Coast State Park. His postclimb plans with Becker include swing-dance lessons, furnishing the house and a trip to Europe.
Those must wait. Jorgeson is still a bit tied up.
“This is pretty awesome to watch,” Gaelena Jorgeson said to her son on Sunday. He was hanging on El Capitan; she was hanging out in his house. “You’re awesome.”
He smiled through a shaggy beard. He said he would see everyone soon.January 13th, 2015
JANUARY 17 – FEBRUARY 10, 2015
Opening January 17, 18–20h
Dog Loop, 2013-2014
(kinetic sculpture: top rotates on a point)
steel, steel magnet, stainless steel, cast iron dog,
found objects, acrylic paint coated with clear enamel
10 X 12 inches
Opening Reception: Sunday, January 11. 3-5PM
January 11 through February 15, 2015
Matt Paweski, Notch (Double) 2014
Euro – beech hardwood, birch plywood, steel, copper rivets, enamel, wax
Two parts/each 6″ x 6″ x 19″
Pedestal – 10″ x 22.5″ x 37″
January 9 – February 14th, 2015
Opening reception Friday, January 9th from 6-8pm
By LEON WIESELTIER
NY Times Published: JAN. 7, 2015
Amid the bacchanal of disruption, let us pause to honor the disrupted. The streets of American cities are haunted by the ghosts of bookstores and record stores, which have been destroyed by the greatest thugs in the history of the culture industry. Writers hover between a decent poverty and an indecent one; they are expected to render the fruits of their labors for little and even for nothing, and all the miracles of electronic dissemination somehow do not suffice for compensation, either of the fiscal or the spiritual kind. Everybody talks frantically about media, a second-order subject if ever there was one, as content disappears into “content.” What does the understanding of media contribute to the understanding of life? Journalistic institutions slowly transform themselves into silent sweatshops in which words cannot wait for thoughts, and first responses are promoted into best responses, and patience is a professional liability. As the frequency of expression grows, the force of expression diminishes: Digital expectations of alacrity and terseness confer the highest prestige upon the twittering cacophony of one-liners and promotional announcements. It was always the case that all things must pass, but this is ridiculous.
Meanwhile the discussion of culture is being steadily absorbed into the discussion of business. There are “metrics” for phenomena that cannot be metrically measured. Numerical values are assigned to things that cannot be captured by numbers. Economic concepts go rampaging through noneconomic realms: Economists are our experts on happiness! Where wisdom once was, quantification will now be. Quantification is the most overwhelming influence upon the contemporary American understanding of, well, everything. It is enabled by the idolatry of data, which has itself been enabled by the almost unimaginable data-generating capabilities of the new technology. The distinction between knowledge and information is a thing of the past, and there is no greater disgrace than to be a thing of the past. Beyond its impact upon culture, the new technology penetrates even deeper levels of identity and experience, to cognition and to consciousness. Such transformations embolden certain high priests in the church of tech to espouse the doctrine of “transhumanism” and to suggest, without any recollection of the bankruptcy of utopia, without any consideration of the cost to human dignity, that our computational ability will carry us magnificently beyond our humanity and “allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains. . . . There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine.” (The author of that updated mechanistic nonsense is a director of engineering at Google.)
And even as technologism, which is not the same as technology, asserts itself over more and more precincts of human life, so too does scientism, which is not the same as science. The notion that the nonmaterial dimensions of life must be explained in terms of the material dimensions, and that nonscientific understandings must be translated into scientific understandings if they are to qualify as knowledge, is increasingly popular inside and outside the university, where the humanities are disparaged as soft and impractical and insufficiently new. The contrary insistence that the glories of art and thought are not evolutionary adaptations, or that the mind is not the brain, or that love is not just biology’s bait for sex, now amounts to a kind of heresy. So, too, does the view that the strongest defense of the humanities lies not in the appeal to their utility — that literature majors may find good jobs, that theaters may economically revitalize neighborhoods — but rather in the appeal to their defiantly nonutilitarian character, so that individuals can know more than how things work, and develop their powers of discernment and judgment, their competence in matters of truth and goodness and beauty, to equip themselves adequately for the choices and the crucibles of private and public life.
This gloomy inventory of certain tendencies in contemporary American culture — it is not the whole story, but it is an alarmingly large part of the story — is offered for the purpose of proposing an accurate name for our moment. We are not becoming transhumanists, obviously. We are too singular for the Singularity. But are we becoming posthumanists?
No culture is philosophically monolithic, or promotes a single conception of the human. A culture is an internecine contest between alternative conceptions of the human. Which culture is free of contradictions between first principles? This is no less true of religious cultures than of secular ones, of closed societies than of open ones. Popular culture may be as soaked in ideas as high culture: A worldview can be found in a song. Wherever mortal beings are thoughtful about their mortality, and finite beings ponder their finitude, at whatever level of intellectual articulation, there is philosophy. Philosophy is ubiquitous and inalienable; even the discourse about the end of philosophy is philosophy. A culture may be regarded as the sum of all the philosophies, all the reflective approaches to living, that are manifestly or latently expressed in a society. It is a gorgeous anarchy, even if it contains illusions and errors. There are worse things than being wrong.
Within a culture, however, some views may come to prevail over others, for intellectual or social reasons. The war between the worldviews has winners and losers, though none of the worldviews are ever erased and there is honor also in loss. In American culture right now, as I say, the worldview that is ascendant may be described as posthumanism. We have been here before, and not too long ago, but for different reasons. The posthumanism of the 1970s and 1980s was more insular, an academic affair of “theory,” an insurgency of professors; our posthumanism is a way of life, a social fate. An important book, a brilliant book, an exasperating book has just been written about the origins of that previous posthumanist moment. In “The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America, 1933-1973,” the gifted essayist Mark Greif, who reveals himself to be also a skillful historian of ideas, charts the history of the 20th-century reckonings with the definition of “man.” Strangely, he seems to regret the entire enterprise. Here is his conclusion: “Anytime your inquiries lead you to say, ‘At this moment we must ask and decide who we fundamentally are, our solution and salvation must lie in a new picture of ourselves and humanity, this is our profound responsibility and a new opportunity’ — just stop.” Greif seems not to realize that his own book is a lasting monument to precisely such inquiry, and to its grandeur. “Answer, rather, the practical matters,” he counsels, in accordance with the current pragmatist orthodoxy. “Find the immediate actions necessary to achieve an aim.” But before an aim is achieved, should it not be justified? And the activity of justification may require a “picture of ourselves.” Don’t just stop. Think harder. Get it right. (Why are liberals so afraid of their own philosophy?)
Greif’s book is a prehistory of our predicament, of our own “crisis of man.” (The “man” is archaic, the “crisis” is not.) It recognizes that the intellectual history of modernity may be written in part as the epic tale of a series of rebellions against humanism. Humanism has been savaged by theists and atheists, conservatives and progressives, fascists and socialists, scientists and philosophers, though it has also been propounded by the same diversity of thinkers. Who has not felt superior to humanism? It is the cheapest target of all: Humanism is sentimental, flabby, bourgeois, hypocritical, complacent, middlebrow, liberal, sanctimonious, constricting and often an alibi for power. The abusers of humanism, of course, are guilty of none of those sins. From Heidegger to Althusser, they come as emancipators. I think we should emancipate ourselves from their emancipations.
But what is humanism? For a start, humanism is not the antithesis of religion, as Pope Francis is exquisitely demonstrating. The most common understanding of humanism is that it denotes a pedagogy and a worldview. The pedagogy consists in the traditional Western curriculum of literary and philosophical classics, beginning in Greek and Roman antiquity and — after an unfortunate banishment of medieval culture from any pertinence to our own — erupting in the rediscovery of that antiquity in Europe in the early modern centuries, and in the ideals of personal cultivation by means of textual study and aesthetic experience that it bequeathed, or that were developed under its inspiration, in the “enlightened” 18th and 19th centuries, and eventually culminated in programs of education in the humanities in modern universities. The worldview takes many forms: a philosophical claim about the centrality of humankind to the universe, and about the irreducibility of the human difference to any aspect of our animality; a methodological claim about the most illuminating way to explain history and human affairs, and about the essential inability of the natural sciences to offer a satisfactory explanation; a moral claim about the priority, and the universal nature, of certain values, not least tolerance and compassion. It is all a little inchoate — human, humane, humanities, humanism, humanitarianism; but there is nothing shameful or demeaning about any of it.
And posthumanism? It elects to understand the world in terms of impersonal forces and structures, and to deny the importance, and even the legitimacy, of human agency. It certainly does not mean, as Greif correctly notes about antihumanism, a “hatred of the human.” There have been humane posthumanists and there have been inhumane humanists. But the inhumanity of humanists may be refuted on the basis of their own worldview, whereas the condemnation of cruelty toward “man the machine,” to borrow the old but enduring notion of an 18th-century French materialist, requires the importation of another framework of judgment. The same is true about universalism, which every critic of humanism has arraigned for its failure to live up to the promise of a perfect inclusiveness. It is a melancholy fact of history that there has never been a universalism that did not exclude. Yet the same is plainly the case about every particularism, which is nothing but a doctrine of exclusion; and the correction of particularism, the extension of its concept and its care, cannot be accomplished in its own name. It requires an idea from outside, an idea external to itself, a universalistic idea, a humanistic idea. Asking universalism to keep faith with its own principles is a perennial activity of moral life. Asking particularism to keep faith with its own principles is asking for trouble.
Aside from issues of life and death, there is no more urgent task for American intellectuals and writers than to think critically about the salience, even the tyranny, of technology in individual and collective life. All revolutions exaggerate, and the digital revolution is no different. We are still in the middle of the great transformation, but it is not too early to begin to expose the exaggerations, and to sort out the continuities from the discontinuities. The burden of proof falls on the revolutionaries, and their success in the marketplace is not sufficient proof. Presumptions of obsolescence, which are often nothing more than the marketing techniques of corporate behemoths, need to be scrupulously examined. By now we are familiar enough with the magnitude of the changes in all the spheres of our existence to move beyond the futuristic rhapsodies that characterize much of the literature on the subject. We can no longer roll over and celebrate and shop. Every phone in every pocket contains a “picture of ourselves,” and we must ascertain what that picture is and whether we should wish to resist it. Here is a humanist proposition for the age of Google: The processing of information is not the highest aim to which the human spirit can aspire, and neither is competitiveness in a global economy. The character of our society cannot be determined by engineers.
“Our very mastery seems to escape our mastery,” Michel Serres has anxiously remarked. “How can we dominate our domination; how can we master our own mastery?” Every technology is used before it is completely understood. There is always a lag between an innovation and the apprehension of its consequences. We are living in that lag, and it is a right time to keep our heads and reflect. We have much to gain and much to lose. In the media, for example, the general inebriation about the multiplicity of platforms has distracted many people from the scruple that questions of quality on the new platforms should be no different from questions of quality on the old platforms. Otherwise a quantitative expansion will result in a qualitative contraction. The new devices do not in themselves authorize a revision of the standards of evidence and argument and style that we championed in the old devices. (What a voluptuous device paper is!) Such revisions may be made on other grounds — out of commercial ambition, for example; but there is nothing innovative about pandering for the sake of a profit. The decision to prefer the requirements of commerce to the requirements of culture cannot be exonerated by the thrills of the digital revolution.
And therein lies a consoling irony of our situation. The machines may be more neutral about their uses than the propagandists and the advertisers want us to believe. We can leave aside the ideology of digitality and its aggressions, and regard the devices as simply new means for old ends. Tradition “travels” in many ways. It has already flourished in many technologies — but only when its flourishing has been the objective. I will give an example from the humanities. The day is approaching when the dream of the democratization of knowledge — Borges’s fantasy of “the total library” — will be realized. Soon all the collections in all the libraries and all the archives in the world will be available to everyone with a screen. Who would not welcome such a vast enfranchisement? But universal accessibility is not the end of the story, it is the beginning. The humanistic methods that were practiced before digitalization will be even more urgent after digitalization, because we will need help in navigating the unprecedented welter. Searches for keywords will not provide contexts for keywords. Patterns that are revealed by searches will not identify their own causes and reasons. The new order will not relieve us of the old burdens, and the old pleasures, of erudition and interpretation.
Is all this — is humanism — sentimental? But sentimentality is not always a counterfeit emotion. Sometimes sentiment is warranted by reality. The persistence of humanism through the centuries, in the face of formidable intellectual and social obstacles, has been owed to the truth of its representations of our complexly beating hearts, and to the guidance that it has offered, in its variegated and conflicting versions, for a soulful and sensitive existence. There is nothing soft about the quest for a significant life. And a complacent humanist is a humanist who has not read his books closely, since they teach disquiet and difficulty. In a society rife with theories and practices that flatten and shrink and chill the human subject, the humanist is the dissenter. Never mind the platforms. Our solemn responsibility is for the substance.January 8th, 2015
Francis Picabia, Masque, 1949, Oil on canvas, 23 1/2 x 28 3/4 inches, 60 x 73 cm
IMAGE SEARCH: Francis Picabia, Sigmar Polke, Jörg Immendorff, Albert Oehlen, John Stezaker, Rita Ackermann/Harmony Korine, Michael Williams, Raphaela Simon; selected by Parinaz Mogadassi
Opening Reception January 10, 6-8 pm
January 10 – February 28, 2015
Oil on plasticine clay on panel
54 x 40 x 1.5 inches, 137.16 x 101.6 x 3.81 centimeters
January 10 – February 21, 2015January 3rd, 2015
Not Yet Titled, 2014
7 3/4 x 16 x 8 in.
January 10 — February 28, 2015January 3rd, 2015