‘There is no such thing as past or future’: physicist Carlo Rovelli on changing how we think about day3 days ago
Carlo Rovelli tells Charlotte Higgins about his days as a student revolutionary and how his quantum leap began with an acid trip
What do we are all familiar with hour? Language tells us that it ” passes”, it moves like a great river, inexorably dragging us with it, and, in the end, cleans us up on its shore while it continues, unstoppable. Day flows. It moves ever forwards. Or does it? Poets also tell us that time stumbles or sneaks or slackens or even, at times, seems to stop. They tell us that the past might be inescapable, immanent in objects or people or sceneries. When Juliet is waiting for Romeo, day passes sluggishly: she longs for Phaethon to take the reins of the Sun’s chariot, since he would whip up the horses and” bring in cloudy night immediately “. When we wake from a vivid dreaming we are dimly recognizing also that the feeling of day we have just experienced is illusory.
Carlo Rovelli is an Italian theoretical physicist who wants to make the uninitiated grasp the excitement of his field. His volume Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, with its concise, sparkling essays on topics such as black holes and quantum, has sold 1.3 m copies worldwide. Now arrives The Order of Time, a dizzying, poetic work in which I received myself abandoning everything I believed I knew about time- surely the idea that it “flows”, and even that it exists at all, in any profound sense.
We meet outside the church of San Petronio in Bologna, where Rovelli studied. (” I like to say that, just like Copernicus, I was an undergraduate at Bologna and a graduate at Padua ,” he jokes .) A cheery, compact fellow in his early 60 s, Rovelli is in nostalgic mood. He lives in Marseille, where, since 2010, he has run the quantum gravitation group at the Centre de physique theorique. Before that, he was in the US, at the University of Pittsburgh, for a decade.
Jonathan Safran Foer: technology is decreasing us21 days ago
Have you procured yourself checking email at dinner, or skipping from book to screen, unable to focus? The closer the world gets to our fingertips, the more we stand to lose
The first time my father looked at me was on a screen, utilizing technology developed to detect flaws in the hulls of ships. His father, my grandfather, could only remainder his hand on my grandmothers belly and imagine his infant in his intellect. But by the time I was conceived, my fathers imagination was provide guidance to technology that dedicated shape to sound waves rippling off my body.
The Glasgow-based Anglican obstetrician Ian Donald, who in the 1950 s helped bring ultrasound technology from shipyard to doctors office, had devoted himself to the task out of a belief that the images would increase empathy for the unborn, and attain girls less likely to choose abortions. The technology has furthermore been used, though, to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy because of deformity, because the mother wants a child of a certain sexuality. Whatever the intended and actual effects, it is clear that the now iconic black and white images of our bodies before we are born mediate life and death. But what prepares us to stimulate life-and-death decisions?
My wife and I debated learning the sex of our first infant before birth. I created the questions with my uncle, a gynaecologist “whos been” delivered more than 5,000 babies. He was prone neither to giving advice nor anything whiffing of spirituality, but he urged me, strongly , not to find out. He said, If a doctor looks at a screen and tells you, you will have information. If you find out in the moment of birth, you will have a miracle.
I dont believe in miracles, but I followed his advice, and he was right. One neednt believes in miracles to experience them. But one must be present for them.
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Isis is as much an offshoot of our global civilisation as Google1 month, 3 days ago
In the wake of terror attacks, and as Europe unravels, it feels as if we live in divided periods. But civilisation is more united than ever. The challenges facing the future climate change, AI, biotechnology will only bring us closer
Recent events in the Middle East and Europe seem to breathe fresh life into the conflict of civilisations thesis. Western incursions into the Middle East have triggered an Islamic backlash that has driven millions of Muslim refugees westwards and inspired terrorist attacks from Orlando to Nice; now the EU is unravelling as European voters abandon multicultural dreams in favour of xenophobic local identities. Allegedly, this has happened because the west has chosen to ignore the deep logic of history. According to the clash of civilisations thesis, humankind has always been is split into diverse civilisations whose members view the world in different and often irreconcilable styles. These incompatible world view stimulate conflicts between civilisations inevitable, and these conflicts in turn fuel long-term historical processes. Just as in nature different species fight for survival, so throughout history civilisations are systematically clashed, and merely the fittest have survived. Those who overlook this grim fact do so at their peril.
The clash of civilisations thesis has far-reaching political implications. Its supporters contend that any endeavor at reconciliation among the west and the Muslim world is doomed to failure. They further maintain that the EU can work only if it renounces the multicultural fallacy in favour of an unabashed western identity. In the long run, only one culture can survive the unforgiving tests of natural selection, and if the EU refuses to save western civilization from Islamic State and its ilk, Britain had better go it alone.
Though widely held, this thesis is mislead. Isis may indeed pose a radical challenge, but the civilisation it challenges is a global civilisation rather than a uniquely western phenomenon. Not for nothing has Isis managed to unite Iran with the United States, and to make rare common ground between Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. And even Isis, for all its medieval rhetoric, is grounded in contemporary global culture far more than in seventh-century Arabia; it caters to the fears and hopes of alienated, postmodern youth rather than to those of medieval shepherds and merchants. In pure organisational words, Isis has more in common with a large corporation like Google than with the Umayyad caliphate. The surest sign of a real clash of civilisations is reciprocal incomprehension. Isis, in contrast, sees its enemies only too well otherwise, its propaganda would not have been so effective. It is better, hence, to see Isis as an errant outgrowth of the global culture we all share, rather than as a branch of some mysterious alien tree.
Crucially, the analogy between history and biology that underpins the conflict of civilisations thesis is false. Human groups including human civilisations are basically different from animal species, and historic conflicts differ greatly from natural selection processes. Animal species have objective identities that suffer for thousands of generations. Whether you are a chimpanzee or a gorilla depends on your genes rather than your notions, and different genes dictate diverse social behaviour. Chimpanzees live in mixed groups of males and females. They compete for power by building coalitions of supporters among both sexualities. Among gorillas, in contrast, a single dominant male establishes a harem of females, and usually expels any adult male that might challenge his position. As far as we know, the same social systems have characterised chimps and gorillas not only in recent decades, but for hundreds of thousands of years.
You find nothing like that among humans. Yes, human groups may have distinct social systems, but these are not genetically ascertained, and they seldom endure for more than a few centuries. Think of 20th-century Germans, for example. In fewer than 100 years, the Germans organised themselves into six most varied systems: the Hohenzollern empire, the Weimar republic, the Third Reich, Communist East Germany, the federal republic of West Germany, and finally democratic reunited Germany. Of course they kept their language and love of beer. But is there some unique German essence that recognise their country from all other nations, and that has remained unchanged from Wilhelm II to Angela Merkel? And if you do come up with something, was it also there back in the working day of Goethe, of Martin Luther and of Frederick Barbarossa?
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‘He took sex to the point of oblivion’: Tracey Emin on her hero Egon Schiele1 month, 10 days ago
His work was once rejected as porn. But the ache, anger and sex frustration in Egon Schieles writhing nudes electrified Tracey Emins adolescence and devoted her special purposes that has never waned. She talks our novelist through his stormiest work
Thats quite rude, says Tracey Emin as we look through the drawings of Egon Schiele. Shes laying on her elbows with her mouth on her arm, almost like shes got to bite her limb to keep her mouth shut, and shes got her arse in the air and her legs are open. Shes got her dress falling down over her breast, her hairs tousled … Having sexuality to the point of oblivion, so theres no return. Thats what that looks like. And thats what makes it really good.
This is a tale of two artists. One is an Austrian expressionist in Sigmund Freuds Vienna at the start of the 20 th century, who have succeeded in shock even its refined erotic sensibilities with the stark sensuality of his images. The other is a adolescent in 1970 s Margate, whose first encounter with said artist, Schiele, was one of the most inspiring events of her life.
It was so clear what he was trying to say, recalls Emin as we sit in her studio in Spitalfields, east London, surrounded by her visceral paints. “Its about” sex frustration, this is about anger, “its about” being fucked up, “its about” being confused. So, in a manner that is, it was probably quite adolescent, you know? Its a little bit like Sylvia Plath, or anything that a moody 14 -year-old would grab hold of. I was looking for something to identify with, because I knew that I was different from other people.
The previous year, as she records in her memoir Strangeland , she had stopped going to school, instead floating between cafes and bars, drinking cider and lying on the beach. In this wayward adolescence in a rundown English seaside town, Schiele gave her direction, the objectives and a sense of who she might become. He was my idea of an artist, she says.
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Keep Calm and Carry On- the sinister message behind the slogan that seduced the nation1 month, 16 days ago
It is on posters, mugs, tea towels and in headlines. Harking back to a blitz spirit and an age of public service, Keep Calm and Carry On has become ubiquitous. How did a cosy, middle-class joke assume darker connotations?
To get some sense of just what a ogre it has become, try counting the number of days in a week you see some permutation of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster. In the last few days Ive watched it twice as a poster advertising a pub New Years Eve party, several times in souvenir shops, in a photograph accompanying a Guardian article on the imminent doctors ten-strike( Keep Calm and Save the NHS ) and as the subject of too many internet memes to count. Some were related to the floods a flagrantly opportunistic Liberal Democrat poster, with Keep Calm and Survive Floods, and the somewhat more mordant Keep Calm and Make a Photo of Floods. Then there were those related to Islamic State: Keep Calm and Fight Isis on the standard red background with the crown above; and Keep Calm and Support Isis on a black background, with the crown replaced by the Isis logo. Around eight years after it started to appear, it has become quite possibly the most successful meme in history. And, unlike most memes, it has been astonishingly enduring, a canvas on to which practically anything can be projected while retaining a sense of ironic reassurance. It is the ruling insignium of an era that is increasingly defined by austerity nostalgia.
I can pinpoint the precise moment at which I realised that what had seemed a typically, somewhat insufferably, English phenomenon had gone completely and inescapably global. I was going into the flagship Warsaw branch of the Polish department store Empik and there, just past the revolving doors, was a collecting of notebooks, mouse pads, diaries and the like, featuring a familiar English sans serif font, white on red, topped with the crown, in English 😛 TAGEND
It felt like confirmation that the image had entered the pantheon of truly global design icons. As an image, it was now up there alongside Rosie the Riveter, the muscular female munitions employee in the US second world war propaganda image; as easily identifiable as the headscarved Lily Brik bellowing BOOKS! on Rodchenkos famous poster. As a logo, it was nearly as recognisable as Coca-Cola or Apple. How had this happened? What was it that attained the image so popular? How did it manage to grow from a minor English middle-class cult object into an international brand, and what exactly was meant by carry on? My hypothesi had been that the combination of message and design were inextricably tied up with a plethora of English obsessions, from the blitz spirit, through to the cults of the BBC, the NHS and the 1945 postwar consensus. Also contained in this bundle of signifiers was the enduring pretension of an extremely rich( if shoddy and dilapidated) country, the sadomasochistic Toryism imposed by the coalition government of 201015, and its presentation of austerity in a manner so brutal and moralistic that it almost seemed to luxuriate in its own parsimony. Some or none of these believes may have been in the heads of the customers at Empik buying their published tea towels, or they may have just thought it was funny. However, few images of the last decade are quite so riddled with ideology, and few historical documents are quite so spectacularly false.
The Keep Calm and Carry On poster was not mass-produced until 2008. It is a historical object of a very peculiar sort. By 2009, when it had first become tremendously popular, it seemed to respond to a particularly English malaise connected immediately with the way Britain reacted to the credit crunch and the banking accident. From this moment of crisis, it tapped into an already established narrative about Britains finest hour the aerial Battle of Britain in 1940 -4 1 when it was the only country left fighting the Third Reich. This was a moment of entirely indisputable and apparently uncomplicated national valour, one that Britain has clung to through thick and thin. Even during the high levels of the boom, as the critical theorist Paul Gilroy flags up in his 2004 volume, After Empire , the blitz and the victory were frequently invoked, constructed necessary by the need to get back to the place or moment before the country lost its moral and cultural bearings. The years 1940 and 1945 were obsessive repeatings, anxious and melancholic, morbid fetishes, clung to as a means of not thinking about other aspects of recent British history most obviously, its empire. This has only intensified since the financial crisis began.
The blitz spirit has been exploited by politicians largely since 1979. When Thatcherites and Blairites spoke of hard selections and muddling through, they often elicited the memories of 1941. It served to legitimate regimes that constantly was contended that, despite appearances to the contrary, resources were scarce and there wasnt enough money to go around; the most persuasive way of explaining why someone( else) was inevitably going to suffer. Ironically, however, this rhetoric of sacrifice was oftens combined with a demand that consumers enrich themselves buy their house, get a new automobile, stimulate something of themselves, aspire. Thus, by 200708, when the no return to boom and bust promised by Gordon Brown appeared to be abortive( despite the success of his very 1940 s alternative of nationalising the banks and thus saving capitalism ), the image started to become popular. It is worth noting that soon after this point, a brief series of protests were being policed in increasingly ferocious ways. The authorities were allowed to make use of the apparatus of security and surveillance, and the proliferation of prevention of terrorism statutes set up under the New Labour governments of 19972010, to combat any sign of disagreement. In this context the poster became ever more ubiquitous, and, peculiarly, after 2011, it began to be used in what few protests remained, in an only mildly subverted form.
The Keep Calm and Carry On poster seemed to represent all the contradictions produced by a intake economy attempting to adapt itself to thrift, and to normalise surveillance and security through an ironic, depoliticised aesthetic. Out of apparently nowhere, this image blending bare, faintly modernist typography with the consoling logo of the crown and a similarly reassuring message spread everywhere. I first noticed its ubiquity in the winter of 2009, when the poster appeared in dozens of windows in affluent London districts such as Blackheath during the prolonged snowy period and the attendant breakdown of National Rail; the implied message about hardiness in the face of adversity and the blitz spirit looked rather absurd in the context of a dusting of snow crippling the railway system. The poster seemed to exemplify a design phenomenon that had slowly crept up on us to the point where it became unavoidable. It is best described as austerity nostalgia. This aesthetic took the form of a yearning for the various kinds of public modernism that, rightly or incorrectly, was ensure to have characterised the period from the 1930 s to the early 1970 s; it could just as easily exemplify a more straightforwardly conservative longing for security and stability in hard times.
Unlike many forms of nostalgia, the memory invoked by the Keep Calm and Carry On poster is not based on lived experience. Most of those who have bought this poster, or worn the various pouches, T-shirts and other memorabilia based on it, were probably born in the 1970 s or 1980 s. They have no memory whatsoever of the various kinds of benevolent statism the slogan purports to exemplify. In that sense, the poster is an example of the phenomenon given a capsule definition by Douglas Coupland in 1991: legislated nostalgia, that is, to force a body of people to have memories they do not actually possess. However, there is more to it than that. No one who was around at the time, unless they had worked at government departments of the Ministry of Information, for which the poster was designed, would have watched it. In fact, before 2008, few had ever seen the words Keep Calm and Carry On displayed in a public place.
The poster was designed in 1939, but its official website, which sells a variety of Keep Calm and Carry On merchandise, states that it never became an official propaganda poster; instead, a handful were printed on a test basis. The specific purpose of the poster was to stiffen resolve in the event of a Nazi intrusion, and it was one in a set of three. The two others, which followed the same design principles, were 😛 TAGEND
and 😛 TAGEND
Both of these were published up, and YOUR COURAGE was widely displayed during the course of its blitz, given that the feared intrusion did not take place after the German defeat in the Battle of Britain. You can see one on a billboard in the background of the last scene of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburgers 1943 film, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp , when the ageing, reactionary but charming soldier detects his home in Belgravia bombed. Of the three proposals, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON was discarded after the test print. Perhaps, this was because it was considered less appropriate to the conditions of the blitz than to the mass panic expected in the event of a German ground invasion. The other posters were heavily criticised. The social research project Mass Observation recorded many furious reactions to the patronising tone of YOUR COURAGE and its implied distinction between YOU, the common person, and US, the state to be defended. Anthony Burgess later claimed it was rage at posters like this that helped Labour win such an enormous landslide in the 1945 election. We can be fairly sure that if KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON had been mass-produced, it would have infuriated those who were being implored to be pacify. Wrenched out of this context and exhumed in the 21 st century, however, the poster appears to flatter, rather than hector, the public it is aimed at.
One of the few test printings of the poster was found in a consignment of secondhand books bought at auction by Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland, which then generated the first reproductions. First sold in London by the shop at the Victoria and Albert Museum, it became a middlebrow staple when the recession, initially merely the somewhat euphemistic credit crunch, hit. Through this poster, the way to display ones commitment to the new austerity regime was to buy more consumer goods, albeit with a less garish aesthetic than was customary during the course of its boom. This was similar to the Keep calm and carry on shopping commanded by George W Bush both after September 11 and when the sub-prime crisis hit America. The wartime utilize of this rhetoric escalated during the economic commotion in the UK; witness the motto of the 2010 -1 5 coalition government, Were all in this together. The power of Keep Calm and Carry On comes from a yearning for an actual or imaginary English patrician attitude of stiff upper lips and muddling through. This is, however, something that largely survives merely in the popular imagination, in a country devoted to services and intake, where elections are decided on the basis of house-price value, and given to sudden, mawkish outpourings of sentiment. The poster isnt just a occurrence of the return of the repressed, it is rather the return of repression itself. It is a nostalgia for the state of being repressed solid, stoic, public spirited, as opposed to the depoliticised, hysterical and privatised reality of Britain over the last 30 years.
At the same time as it evokes a sense of loss over the decline of an idea of Britain and the British, it is both reassuring and flattering, connoting a virtuous( if highly self-aware) customer stoicism. Of course, in the end, it is a bit of a gag: you dont genuinely think your pay cut or your childrens inability to buy a home, or the fact that someone somewhere else has been stimulated homeless because of the bedroom taxation, or lost their benefit, or worked on a zero-hours contract, is truly comparable to life during the blitz but its all a little bit of fun, isnt it?
The Keep Calm and Carry On poster is merely the tip of an iceberg of austerity nostalgia. Although early examples of the mood can be seen as a reaction to the threat of terrorism and the allegedly attendant blitz spirit, it has become an increasingly prevalent response to the uncertainties of economic collapse. Interestingly, one of the first areas in which this happened was the consumption of food, an activity closely connected with the immediate gratification of longings. Along with the blitz came rationing, which was not fully abolished until the mid-1 950 s. Accounts of this vary; its egalitarianism meant that while the middle classes experienced a drastic decline in the quality and sum of their diet, for many of the poor it was a minor improvement. Either way, it was a grim regime, aided by the emergence of various types of byproducts and replaces Spam, corned beef which stuck around in the already famously dismal British diet for some time, before mass immigration gradually attained feeing in Britain a less awful experience. In the process, entire aspects of British cuisine the sort of thing listed by George Orwell in his essay In Defence of English Cooking such as suet dumplings, Lancashire hotpot, Yorkshire pudding, roast dinners, faggots, spotted dick and toad in the hole began to disappear, at the least from the metropoles.
The figure of importance here is the Essex-born multimillionaire chef and Winston Churchill fan, Jamie Oliver. Clearly as decent and sincere a person as youll discover on the Sunday Times Rich List, his various crusades for good food, and the manner in which he marketplaces them, are inadvertently telling. After his initial reputation as a New Labourera star, a relatively young and Beckham-coiffed celebrity chef, his main concern( aside from a massive chain-restaurant empire that stretches from Greenwich Market in London to the Hotel Moskva in Belgrade) has been to take good food locally sourced, cooked from scratch from being a preserve of the middle classes and bring it to the disadvantaged and socially omitted of inner-city London, ex-industrial towns, mining villages and other places slashed and burned by 30 -plus years of Thatcherism. The first version of this was the TV series Jamies School Dinners , in which a camera crew documented him trying to influence the school meals choices of a comprehensive in Kidbrooke, a poor, and lately almost totally demolished, district in south-east London. Notoriously, this campaign was virtually thwarted by moms bringing their kids fizzy drinkings and burgers that they pushed through the fencings so that they wouldnt “re going to have to” suffer that healthy eating muck.
The second phase was the book, TV series and chain of shops branded as the Ministry of Food. The name is taken immediately from the wartime ministry charged with managing the rationed food economy of war-torn Britain. Use the assistance of a few public bodies, setting up a charity, pouring in some coalfield regeneration fund and some money of his own, Oliver planned to teach the proletariat to make itself real food with real ingredients. One could argue that he was the latest in a long line of people lecturing the lower orders on their choice of nutrition, part of an immense building of grotesque neo-Victorian arrogance that has included former Channel 4 displays How Clean Is Your House ?, Benefits Street and Immigration Street , exercises in Lets laugh at picturesque prole scum. But Oliver get in there, and got his hands dirty.
However, the tale ended in a predictable manner: attempts to build this charitable action into something permanent and institutional foundered on the disinclination of any plausible British government to antagonise the supermarkets and sundry manufacturers who funnel fund to the two main political parties. The appeal to a time when things such as food and information were apparently dispensed by a benign paternalist bureaucracy, before customer choice carried all before it, can only be translated into the infrastructure of charity and PR, which is something we learn what happens over a few weeks during a Tv indicate and then keep forgetting it. A permanent network of Ministry of Food stores pop-ups that taught cooking skills and had a mostly voluntary staff were set up in the north of England in Bradford, Leeds, Newcastle and Rotherham, though the latter was forced to temporarily close following health and safety concerns in June 2013, reopening in September 2014.
Much more influential than this up by your bootstraps attempt to do a TV/ charity version of the welfare nation was the ministrys aesthetics. On the cover-up of the tie-in cookbook, Oliver sits at a table lay with a 1940 s utility tablecloth in front of some bleakly cute postwar wallpaper, and MINISTRY OF FOOD is declared in that same derivative of Gill Sans typeface used on the Keep Calm and Carry On poster. This is familiar territory. There is a whole micro-industry of austerity nostalgia aimed straight-out at the stomach. There is Olivers own chain of Jamies restaurants, which allows you order pork scratchings for PS4( they come with a side of English mustard) and enjoy neo-Victorian lavatories. Beyond Olivers empire, middle-class operations such as the caterers Peyton and Byrne blend the sort of retro food common across the western world( lots of cupcakes) with elaborated versions of simple English grub including sausage and mash. Some of the interiors of their cafe( such as the one in Mends on Tottenham Court Road in central London) were designed by architects FAT in a pop spin on the faintly lavatorial institutional design common to the surviving fragments of genuine 1940 s Britain that can still be found scattered around the UK pie and mash shops in Deptford in south-east London, ice-cream parlors in Worthing in Sussex, Glasgows dingier tavern, all featuring lots of wipe-clean tiles.
Other versions of this are more luxurious, such as Dinner, where Heston Blumenthal provides typically quirky English food as part of the attractions of One Hyde Park, the most expensive housing development on Earth. Something similar is offered at Canteen, which has branches in Londons Royal Festival Hall, Canary Wharf and after its scorched-earth gentrification courtesy of the Corporation of London and Norman Foster Spitalfields Market. Canteen serves Great British Food, brews, ciders and perrys[ that] represent our countrys brewing history and cocktails the hell is British-led. The interior design is clearly part of the appeal, offering a strange, luxurious version of a work canteen, with benches, trays and sans serif signs that aim to be both modernist and nostalgic. It presents the incongruous sight of the very comfortable eating and imagining themselves in the dining hall of a branch of Tyrrell& Green circa 1960. Still more bizarre is Albion, a greengrocer for oligarchs, selling traditional English make to the denizens of Neo Bankside, the Richard Rogers-designed towers alongside Tate Modern. Built into the ground floor of one of the towers, it sells its unpretentious fruit and veg next to posters advertising flats that start at the knock-down price of PS2m.
Closer to reality as lived by most people is a mobile app called the Ration Book. On its website, it gives you a crash course on rationing, when the government made assured that in the face of deficit and blockade the population could still get lifes essentials in the form of the famous volume, with its postages to get X amount of dried egg, flour, pollock and Spam. It is an app that aggregates discounts on various brands via voucher codes for those facing the crunch the people the unfortunate Ed Miliband tried to reach out to as the squeezed middle. The website countries: Our squad of Ministers broker the best deals with the biggest brands, to give you the best value. Is there any better way of describing the UK in the second decade of the 21 st century than as the sort of country that produces apps to simulate state rationing of basic goods, simply to shave a little bit off the price of high street brands?
This food-based austerity nostalgia is one way in which peoples peculiar longing for the 1940 s is conveyed; much more can be found in music and design. Stroll into the shops at the Royal Festival Hall or the Imperial War Museum in London, and you will find an avalanche of it. Posters from the 1940 s, playthings and bangles , none of them later than around 1965, have been resurrected from the dustbin of history and to be laid down for you to buy, along with austerity cookbooks, the Design series of volumes on pre-1 960 s iconic graphic artists such as Abram Game, David Gentleman and Eric Ravilious, plus a whole cornucopia of Keep Calm-related accoutrements. A particularly established example is the use of the 1930 s Penguin book encompasses as a logo for all manner of goods, purposely calling to intellect Penguins mid-century role as a substantially educative publisher. Then there are all those prints of modernist buildings, “re ready for” Londoners to frame and place in their ex-council flats in zone 2 or 3: reduced, stark blow-ups of the outlines of modernist architecture, whether demolished( the Trinity Square car park in Gateshead seen in Get Carter ) or protected( Londons National Theatre ). The plate-making company, People Will Always Need Plates, has made a name for itself with its towels, mugs, plates and badges emblazoned with different British modernist houses from the 1930 s to the 1960 s, elegantly redrawn in a bold, schematic sort that sidesteps the often rather shabby reality of the buildings. By recreating the image of the historically untainted build, it manages to precisely reverse the original modernist ethos. If for Adolf Loos and generations of modernist designers adornment was crime, here modernist builds are built into ornaments. Still, the choice of buildings is politically interesting. Blocks of 1930 s collective housing, 1960 s council flats, interwar London Underground stations precisely the sort of architectural projects now considered obsolete in favour of retail and property speculation.
Many of the buildings immortalised in these plates have been the subject of direct transfers of assets from the public sector into the private. The reclamation of postwar modernist architecture by the intelligentsia has been a contributory factor in the privatisation of social housing. An early instance of this was the sell-off of Keeling House, Denys Lasduns east London Cluster Block, to a private developer, who promptly marketed the flats to creatives. A series of gentrifications of modernist social housing followed, from the Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury( turned from a rotting brutalist megastructure into the home of one of the largest branches of Waitrose in London ), to Park Hill, an architecturally extraordinary council estate in Sheffield, given away free to the Mancunian developer Urban Splash, whose own favouring of compact flats has long been an example of austerity sold as luxury although after the boom, its privatisation scheme had to be bailed out by millions of pounds in public fund. Another favourite on mugs and tea towels is Balfron Tower, a council tower block about to be sold to wealthy investors for its iconic quality. It is here, where the rage for 21 st-century austerity chic meets the results of austerity as practised in the 1940 s and 1950 s, that a mildly creepy fad spills over into much darker territory. In aiding the sell-off of one of the greatest achievements of that era the housing built by a universal welfare state the revival of austerity chic is the literal extermination of the thing it claims to love.
The Ministry of Nostalgia by Owen Hatherley is published by Verso( PS14. 99 ). To order a copy for PS11. 99, going to see bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over PS10, online orders only. Telephone orders min. p& p of PS1. 99.
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Autocracy in persons under the age of Trump: lessons from Hannah Arendt1 month, 26 days ago
The political theoretician who wrote about the Nazis and the banality of evil in the 60 s has become a astonish bestseller. Should we heed her warns that protesting only feeds the chaos?
In the scramble to make sense of the post-inauguration world, Amazon has been forced to restock a few key titles: Orwells Nineteen Eighty-Four hit No 1 at the end of last week, after Trumps adviser Kellyanne Conway employed the phrase alternative facts in place of some bullshit I just made up. But the astonish hit being long, complex and demanding or, as the online magazine Jezebel described it, extremely metal is Hannah Arendts The Origins of Totalitarianism, first published in 1951. Commentators have been referencing the run since Donald Trumps election in November but rarely has this spurred so many people to actually buy a copy.
In it, the political theorist( she always explicitly repudiated the term philosopher) details the trajectory: antisemitism( not merely hatred of Jews ), imperialism( not merely conquest ), totalitarianism( not merely dictatorship) are considered in their interrelation. Against the necessary background of imperialism, antisemitism became the catalytic agent first for the rise of the Nazi movement then for a world war of unparalleled ferocity and, ultimately, for the emergence of the unprecedented crime of genocide. That much is well established; the chill is in the detail.
When she describes the rise of the despot, which requires a mass not a rabble, you could be reading a sociologists thesis about Trump advocates. The word masses applies only where we deal with people who either because of sheer numbers, or indifference, or a combination of both, cannot better integrate any organisation based on common interest, into political parties or municipal governments or professional organisations or trade union. Potentially, they exist in every country and form the majority of those large numbers of neutral, politically indifferent people who never join a party and hardly ever go to the polls.
She describes, quite brusquely, antisemitism at its incipience: Whereas anti-Jewish sentiments were widespread among the educated classes of Europe throughout the 19 th century, antisemitism as an ideology remained, with very few exceptions, the prerogative of crackpots in general and the lunatic fringes in particular. Yet however you dismissed their mental capacity, this hardcore generated the ideological infrastructure on which a mass movement could be built. It is strikingly reminiscent of John Naughtons description on David Runcimans interesting Talking Politics podcast about the alt-right: People who belonged loosely to this side of the political system is mainly excluded from public discourse. But it just so happened, they didnt go quiet. They went to the net. So, for the best part of 20 years, a network of rightwing echo chambers has been established, upon which was constructed the infrastructure of Trumps campaign.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness review- a narrative of disloyalty by the church2 months, 14 days ago
Graham Caveneys defiant, important memoir details how the Catholic establishment fails abuse victims
Pope Francis has taken great strides in challenging all sorts of entrenched attitudes and prejudices in the Vatican that have given the Catholic church such a bad name of late. Progression has been disappointingly slow, however, on the commission he appointed in 2014 to tackle the appalling scandal of clerical sexual abuse. In March of this year Marie Collins, the last remaining is part of the panel who was a survivor of abuse, resigned after a Vatican department failed to comply with the commissions recommendation that it respond to every correspondent who writes in with allegations that they have been a victim. If the curia is resisting such simple steps, how to have faith that they will tackle the bigger underlying issues?
Reluctance to face up to the consequences of clerical abuse remains hard-wired into the structures of the church: an instinct to protect the institution at the cost of the individual who has suffered, and a brick-wall resistance to addressing the profound questions about the nature of vocation posed by such abhorrent behaviour. And so church leaders not all, awarded; surely not Pope Francis tend to speak of historical allegations whenever victims find the gallantry to speak up 20, 30 or even 40 years after events that are not for them in any way historical, but are a psychological and emotional trauma they will live with until their succumbing day.
Individuals like Graham Caveney. The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness recounts with great courage and candour how, in the 1970 s, as the clever, awkward, nerdy, merely child of devoutly Catholic working-class parents in Accrington, Lancashire, he was groomed by a priest at his local grammar school in Blackburn, and then sexually abused by him.
A casual glance might indicate he has managed to set it behind him he has a successful career as a novelist on music( the voices of the 70 s are one thread of this well-structured, rounded memoir) and biographer of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. But as he describes, without self-pity, Caveney fell out of university, struggled to kind adult relationships, turned to beverage and drugs to blot out the trauma, and on occasion attempted suicide.
The abuse leads you to fuck up their own lives, he reflects bleakly but unsparingly, and a fucked-up life means that youre a less believable witness to the abuse that fucked you up in the first place. Its an ironic trick of memory and survival: abuse induces you want to forget the abuse.
John and Kath, his mum and father, had no idea what was wrong. They watched their beloved boy, in whom they had expended so much hope that he would have more life opportunities than them, change first into a sulky, angry adolescent who refused to go to mass, and then into a messed-up wreck, beset by panic attacks.
They died in 1998 and 2002, still none the wiser. They continued to direct their flailing son back towards his old headteacher for wise advise, never suspecting that Father Kevin ONeill had sexually abused him as a 15 -year-old and set off the downward spiral.
The Caveneys had believed that the youthful, relaxed Rev Kev the Catholic equivalent of a trendy vicar was doing their boy a favor by taking him to theaters, cinemas and restaurants, broadening his intellect. What they couldnt know was that on the way home, the priest they looked up to would turn his vehicle into quiet side-road and force himself on their son. Afterwards, where reference is invited young Graham to go on holiday to Greece with him and a group of others, John and Kath enlisted the help of relatives to scrape together the cost, but it was just a pretext for more abuse.
Its them that I cant forgive you for, Caveney writes, addressing his abuser in the pages of a book that must have cost him dear to complete, the route in which you stimulated their hopes and aspirations the tools of your own needs. Its them who expended their lives worrying if it was something they had done wrong to make their son turn out the way he did.
Given how much Catholic grammar schools from the 1950 s through to the 1970 s were the road by which generations of working-class Catholic boys and girls got to get in life the Irish Christian Friend in my own home township of Liverpool boasted that they took the sons of dockers and built them into physicians it is impossible to believe that the disloyalty of Graham Caveney and his mothers is an isolated incident. How widespread it is, however, remains impossible to know because every bit of information has to be dragged out of a compulsively secretive church that recoils from guessing in terms of deep-rooted, complex patterns of abuse.
And what happened when Caveney identified his abuser in the early 1990 s to Father ONeills religious order, the Marists? Id merely slashed up my limbs, he adds, by way of context. The clergyman was challenged, apparently confessed his crimes, but was referred to a US therapy centre rather than the police. In 1993, he retired with full honors as headteacher. Kath even sent her son a cutting about the celebrations from the local paper. You were always one of his favourites, she reminded him. The report told of ex-pupils lining up to sing the clergymen praises, little suspecting how they too had been betrayed.
ONeill died in 2011, the serious charges against him encompassed up to the grave. He still doesnt seem to appear on any register I can find of abusive clergy. What distresses Caveney almost as much as the churchs failure to involve the police and courts is that he now can never confront his abuser, save in this raw, defiant but important memoir. A part of him, he confesses, still thinks in his darkest moments that what happened was somehow his own fault.
What was it about me? he asks. You watch, theres a bit of me that still believes Im unique, that I genuinely was your prime number, indivisible merely by myself. I dont want to think of myself as part of a pattern, merely another victim.
ONeills old school, St Marys, Blackburn, today has a drama block named after him, an honour accorded despite the Marist order having been told about Caveneys accusations virtually 20 years earlier. Is it plausible that there is no one who knew of them who could have spoken up? Or did they consider that whatever good he had done at the school cancelled out sexually abusing a 15 -year-old in his care? It is part of the same impossible-to-fathom and offensive attitude that now apparently stops Vatican officials answering letters from those reporting abuse, in defiance of the pope.
Quite how long it will take for that prejudice to be defeated, I dont know. But after they have read The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness , the school governors might at least like to revisit the naming of their drama block, which scratch salt into open wounds.
Peter Stanford is a former editor of the Catholic Herald
The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness by Graham Caveney is published by Picador on 7 September( 14.99 ). To order a transcript for 12.74 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over 10, online orders only. Telephone orders min p& p of 1.99
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Fifty tints of Xi: scores of volumes praising chairman published in China2 months, 16 days ago
Blitz on bookshelves comes ahead of next weeks political summit and includes tomes including Xi Jinping: Know More, Love More
” This is the first volume I’ve read on Xi ,” acknowledges software engineer Wu Huifeng as he leafs through one of the most recent tomes of China’s prolific president.
It need not be his last.
A Communist party publishing blitz ahead of next week’s political summit entails the shelves of Chinese bookshops are now packed with Xi Jinping-themed works designed to strengthen both his reputation and his rule.
Immediately inside the entrance to the state-run Beijing Book Building, one of the capital’s largest stores, a lately inaugurated showing features at least 50 runs by or about China’s scribbler-in-chief.
” The speech is simple and sincere – quite down-to-earth, I think ,” said Wu, 43, who was perusing one of the most recent publishings, a 452 -page paperback about Xi’s seven years of rural exile during the Culture Revolution that sells for 76 yuan( PS8. 75 ).
Nearby, Fan Yubiao, a 22 -year-old salesman, was examining another recent volume, Xi Jinping’s Discourse on Youth and the Work of the Chinese Communist Youth League.
” Xi’s quite a good person. He’s strict ,” Fan said, praising his leader’s populist anti-corruption campaign which has toppled some of China’s most powerful politicians since he took power in 2012.
The works of Xi- who some now suspect will seek to remain in power beyond the customary decade- boasting titles both stirring and sterile.
At the Beijing Book Building you can buy catchily named volumes including Xi Jinping: Wit and Vision, Xi Jinping: Know More, Love More and Xi Jinping Tells Stories as well as the president’s best-known opus, Xi Jinping: The Governance of China.
Other titles are less enticing: Xi Jinping: Statements on the Construction of a Clean Government and the Anti-Corruption Campaign, Excerpts from Xi Jinping: Comprehensively Managing the Party in Strict Manner, and, for environmentalists, Xi Jinping’s Discourse on Ecological Improvement.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘Can people please stop telling me feminism is hot? ‘3 months, 10 days ago
The novelist has been accused of making equality mainstream: isnt that the phase? Plus an excerpt from her new Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was in Lagos last summer, teaching a writing workshop as part of an annual schedule that considers her period divided between Nigeria and the US. For much of the year, Adichie lives in a town 30 minutes west of Baltimore, where her Nigerian-American spouse runs as a medic and the 39 -year-old writes in the quiet of a suburban home. When Adichie is in Nigeria, where her parents and extended family still live, she has a house in the vast city she considers with the complicated love and condescension of the part-time expat.
Its an ambivalence with which many Nigerians regard her, too; last year, the workshop ended in a question-and-answer session, during which a young man rose to ask the famous novelist a question. I used to love you, she recalls him saying. Ive read all your volumes. But since you started this whole feminism thing, and since you started to talk about this gay thing, Im simply not sure about you any more. How do you intend to keep the love of people like me?
Adichie and I are in a coffee shop near her home in the Baltimore suburbs. We have met before, a few years ago, when her third novel Americanah was published, a book that examines what it is to be a Nigerian woman living in the US, and that went on to win a National Book Critics Circle award. A plenty has happened since then. Half Of A Yellow Sun, Adichies second and most well known novel, about the Biafran war, has been built into a film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton. Her essay, We Should All Be Feminists, accommodated from her 2013 TEDx talk, has remained on the bestseller listings, particularly in Sweden, where in 2015 it was distributed to every 16 -year-old high-school student in the land. The talk was sampled by Beyonc in her ballad Flawless. Adichie has become the face of Boots No7 makeup. And she has had a baby, a daughter , now 15 months old.
Adichie is still somewhat in the blast zone , not entirely caught up on sleep, but has published a short book, Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions, an extended version of a letter to a friend who, after having her own baby girl, asked Adichies advice on how to raise her to be feminist. I have had twin girls myself since our last meeting, so I am curious about her approach , not least because one of my two-year-olds currently identifies as Bob the Builder and the other as Penelope Pitstop. I would like to equip them to be themselves, while defying whatever projections might be foisted upon them. We depict each other baby photos and smile. Welcome to the world of anxiety, Adichie says.
The success of We Should All Be Feminists has attained Adichie as prominent for her feminism as for her novels, to the extent that now I get invited to every damned feminist thing in countries around the world. She has always been an agony aunt of sorts, the unpaid therapist for my family and friends, but having the feminist label attached has changed things, and not only among her intimates. I was opened to a certain level of enmity that I hadnt experienced before as a novelist and public figure.
This is partly why she has written the new volume, to reclaim the word feminism from its abusers and misusers, a category within which she would include certain other progressives, and to lay down in plain, elegant English her beliefs about child-raising.
Dear Ijeawele is, in some way, a very basic situated of appeals; to be careful with speech( never say because you are a girl ), avoid gendered dolls, foster read, dont treat marriage as an accomplishment, reject likability. Her chore is not to induce herself likable, her job must therefore be her full self, she writes in reference to her friends daughter, a selection Adichie has come to elevate almost above any other.
That day in Lagos last summertime, her friends were furious at the cheek of the young mans topic, but she instead liked his courage and franknes in asking it. She replied in the same spirit. Keep your love, Adichie said. Because, sadly, while I love to be loved, I will not accept your love if it comes with these conditions.
Having a newborn has built Adichie believe differently about her own parents, especially her mother. Grace Adichie, who had six “childrens and” worked her way up from being a university administrator to the registrar, taught her daughter to love manner as well as volumes, and was a very cool mum whom she idolised as small children. Nonetheless, and in the manner of most snotty young adults, young Chimamanda went through a phase of being very superior to her mom. Now, the novelist looks at her daughter and gulps.
Adichie recently came across her own kindergarten reports. My father keeps them all. You know what the educator wrote? She is brilliant, but she refuses to do any run when shes rile. I was five years old. She laughs. I couldnt believe it. My husband couldnt believe it. I must have been an riling child.
Its not as if she comes from a family of revolutionaries. My mothers are not like that. Theyre conventional, reasonable, responsible, good, kind people. Im the crazy. But their love and subsistence made that crazy thrive.
Unlike Adichie, who was raised exclusively in Nigeria, her daughter will be raised in two cultures and subject to somewhat diverging social expectations. Already, Adichie says with a laugh, friends and relatives from home are concerned that her mothering is insufficiently stern.
A friend was just visiting and she said to me, Your parenting is not very Nigerian. In Nigeria and, I suppose, in many cultures you control children. And I feel like, my daughter is 15 months, she doesnt have a sense of consequences. And I enjoy watching her. So she tears a page of a volume? Whatever. She hurls my shoes down. So? Its fun. I love that shes quite strong-willed. The joke between Adichie and her husband whom, to her intense aggravation, their daughter looks much more like is that her character cleaves to the maternal side. He says to me, Well, at least we know where she got her personality from. Shes quite fierce.
In the new book, Adichies advice is not just to provide children with alternatives to empower boys and girls to understand there is no single style to be but also to understand that the only universal in this world is difference. In terms of the evolution of feminism, these are not new lessons, but that is rather Adichies phase. She is not writing for other feminist writers, and demonstrates some annoyance at what she sees as the solipsism of much feminist debate.
That morning, on the way to see her, I had read a review of a new volume by Jessa Crispin, entitled Why I Am Not A Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto, a criticism of everything that is wrong with feminism today. If one can get over the eye-rolling aspect of volumes by feminists decrying the feminism of other feminists for degrading the word feminist by being insufficiently feminist, the book does raise questions about where 1 should be focusing ones efforts.
I Love Dick review- a treat for the intellect and the heart3 months, 11 days ago
Transparent creator Jill Soloway recasts the cult fiction about academics in a love triangle into a show thats innovative, well-acted and visually sumptuous
I Love Dick, the latest show by Transparent inventor Jill Soloway, boasts many amazing scenes, but the best is a sexuality fiction that imagines what media would be like from the female gaze. Movies and TV shows are littered with instances of men dreaming about women they are obsessed with but cant have guessed Kevin Spaceys rose-strewn sexcapades in American Beauty but here, a woman imagines being sexually pleasured by a human in a restaurant bathroom. Rather than naked breasts and breathy seductions, we consider waiters carrying plates with stuffed rabbits, a confident guy telepathically intuiting a womans needs, and a stoic stock figure of American masculinity filling out a white T-shirt in such a way that hasnt been ensure since James Deans death.
The woman is Chris( Kathryn Hahn ), a film-maker who has moved to Marfa, Texas, from New York City for the summer while her husband, academic Sylvre( Griffin Dunne ), has a residency for the season. The object of Chriss fixation and annoyance is Dick( Kevin Bacon ), the charismatic intellectual who selected her husband for the program. Dick is described as post-idea, but one budding aesthete at a cocktail party tells Chris that Dicks writing seminar has a two-year waiting list that hes been on for three years.
The show is based on the novel of the same name by Chris Kraus, and both the book and television reveal blur the lines between reality and fiction, intellectual epistemology and academic irony, and fine-fingered love and ruddy-faced lust. Every letter is a love letter, Chris tells Dick in a letter she writes as a short story to try to explain her love, but the protean formats simply construct things more complicated. Things get even more muddled when Chriss neighbor Devon( Roberta Colindrez) determined on stage a play about a couple that moves to Marfa from New York in which the woman detests herself and her husband detests her too.
Working off of a teleplay by Sarah Gubbins, Soloway lays out a series of inventive techniques, including the use of title cards to spell out Chriss narration and the aforementioned surreal fantasy sequence. The best innovation is when the footage turns from video to a series of still photographs, slackening everything down to a series of impressions which give it an intensity and visual fortitude that cant be found elsewhere. However, it is a technique that might construct some viewers streaming the present think that their Wi-Fi connections have abruptly seized up.
The performances are excellent, including Hahns harried film-maker yearn to love and be loved, and Bacons hollow-faced Dick whose misogynistic bravado( he thinks all cinemas by female directors suck) belies a human still mourning his recently deceased wife.
But the real starring of the show is Soloway, who proves here that she is one of the keenest minds working in television today. Like Transparent, I Love Dick is a heartbreaking, insightful and funny look at modern relationships. However, unlike in Transparent , none of these people are detestable. The skewering of the intelligentsia is sharp but accurate, as Sylvre insists that the Holocaust requires reinterpreting, but what keeps the 30 -minute program rolling is the idea of these three people thumping up against a longing for authentic feeling in a world that spoils everything with over-analysis.
While Amazon has yet to order the pilot to series, I can only imagine it is about how relationships become unglued and how artists become creatively unstuck. Just like the pilot to Transparent, this is a very promising beginning that points to a series imploring to be binged , no matter what insanely brilliant format it eventually takes.
Read more: www.theguardian.com