What a marvelous condensation, the perfect intro to a Human Geography course, or to a lifetime of study for that matter. For my money, it’s at 3:30 that the big leap occurs, as he disaggregates China into provinces, but the whole package is simply brilliant pedagogy:
Monthly Archives: November 2010
Tom Engelhardt makes more sense to me than just about anybody:
So you wanna be safer? I mean, actually safer? Here’s a simple formula for beginning to improve American safety and security at every level. End our trillion dollar wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; set our military to defending our own borders (and no, projecting power abroad does not normally qualify as a defense of the United States); begin to shut down our global empire of bases; stop building grotesque embassy-citadels abroad (one even has a decorative moat, for god’s sake!); end our overseas war stimulus packages and bring some of that money home. In short, stop going out of our way to tick off foreigners and then pouring our treasure into an American war machine intent on pursuing a generational global war against them.
Of course, the U.S. national security state has quite a different formula for engendering safety in America: fight the Afghan War until hell freezes over; keep the odd base or two in Iraq; dig into the Persian Gulf region; send U.S. Special Operations troops into any country where a terrorist might possibly lurk; and make sure the drones aren’t far behind. In other words, reinforce our war state by ensuring that we’re eternally in a state of war, and then scare the hell out of Americans by repeatedly insisting that we’re in imminent danger, that shoe, underwear, and someday butt bombers will destroy our country, our lives, and our civilization. Insist that a single percent of risk is 1% too much when it comes to terror and American lives, and then demand that those who feel otherwise be dealt with punitively, if they won’t shut up.
It’s a formula for leaving you naked in airports, while increasing the oppressive power of the state. And here’s the dirty, little, distinctly Orwellian secret: the national security state can’t do without those Yemeni terrorists (and vice versa), as well as our homegrown variety. All of them profit from a world of war. You don’t — and on that score, what happens in an airport line should be the least of your worries.
The national security state is eager to cop a feel. As long as Americans don’t grasp the connections between our war state and our “safety,” things will only get worse and, in the end, our world will genuinely be in danger.
links for 2010-11-30
It’s been years since I last read Saki’s story, but Henry at Crooked Timber cites it in re: the latest Wikileaks foofaraw (“…the classic short story “Tobermory” tells you most of what you need to know…”) and he’s nailed it. And Holbo carries it a few steps further.
links for 2010-11-26
(lest he be forgotten)
A typology of truths
I’m enjoying Mark Twain’s Autobiography via iPad and Kindle, so page numbers aren’t an option for this lovely bit: William Dean Howells to Mark Twain, on autobiographical truth-telling:
The black truth, which we all know of ourselves in our hearts, or only the whity-brown truth of the pericardium, or the nice, whitened truth of the shirtfront? (note 52)
links for 2010-11-21
Right On, Bernie! (via Echidne of the Snakes)
Academic vs. Popular
This is pretty obvious, but I don’t think I’ve seen it so clearly stated:
Academic historians now write almost exclusively for one another and focus on the issues and debates within the discipline. Their limited readership —many history monographs sell fewer than a thousand copies— is not due principally to poor writing, as is usually thought; it is due instead to the kinds of specialized problems these monographs are trying to solve. Since, like papers in physics or chemistry, these books focus on narrow subjects and build upon one another, their writers usually presume that readers will have read the earlier books on the same subject; that is, they will possess some prior specialized knowledge that will enable them to participate in the conversations and debates that historians have among themselves. This is why most historical monographs are often difficult for general readers to read; new or innocent readers often have to educate themselves in the historiography of the subject before they can begin to make sense of many of these monographs.
The problem at present is that the monographs have become so numerous and so refined and so specialized that most academic historians have tended to throw up their hands at the possibility of synthesizing all these studies, of bringing them together in comprehensive narratives. Thus the academics have generally left narrative history-writing to the nonacademic historians and independent scholars who unfortunately often write without much concern for or much knowledge of the extensive monographic literature that exists.
(Gordon S. Wood “The Real Washington at Last” NYRB 9 Dec 2010)
links for 2010-11-16
links for 2010-11-15
(I'm feeling that I'm part of a very small minority who think this way and are daily more appalled at what the unheeding herd is thundering toward)
Emperor's Glorious Raiment. soon to be acronymized to EGR as in EGRegious. And I see no signs of hope, none, from any quarter of the political rainbow. Faugh.
…all over again…
Bruce Sterling keeps finding 'em. This one truly boggles whatever is [still] bogglable
from WFMU's Beware of the Blog, always fascinating and in this case positively essential cultural background and commentary
from Mark Rubin's Chasing the Fat Man, this one is a fascinating rumination and ethnographic reportage by one of my favorite musicians and commentators. A lot to think about in this one.
links for 2010-11-13
(Boston Review) I'm reading this in the light of the just-arrived The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (James C. Scott), which encourages heretical thoughts that question received wisdom about civilization, progress, development, etc.'Technology' can be seen as the means and the inducement to subordination of previously [relatively] free people.