elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)
Elizabeth Kolbert is one of my favorite writers in the New Yorker's writing stable. This week, in somewhat of a departure from her usual ecology and climate science beat, she has an incisive dismantling of the curiously blinkered* assumptions of Steven Pinker's book about violence. (sorry for the paywall.)

What does it reveal about the impulse control of the Spanish that, even as they were learning how to dispose of their bodily fluids more discreetly, they were systematically butchering the natives on two continents?


It is an excellent article. I have some sympathy for the basic underlying assertion that the nature of violence has changed, as the ways we identify with each other has changed, and that larger political units mean less daily interpersonal violence. But: you cannot burk a fact to support a thesis, and it seems like Pinker is doing this in spades. State-sponsored violence is a pretty big fact.

Wandering further out along the “laser cannon versus fly” axis, there is a crackling and satisfying essay by Stephen Marche, "Wouldn't It Be Cool If Shakespeare Wasn't Shakespeare?" in the New York Times magazine today.

You don’t have to be a truther or a birther to enjoy a conspiracy theory. We all, at one point or another, indulge fantasies that make the world seem more dangerous, more glamorous and, simultaneously, much more simple than it actually is. But then most of us grow up. Or put down the bong. Or read a book by somebody who is familiar with both proper historical methodology and the facts.


Yay for blistering takedowns of people trying to buy their crackpot theory into discourse. At least no one has tried making a thriller (starring everyone's favorite aging British actors!) out of climate change denialism yet. Fair warning, though, the penultimate paragraphs spoil it a bit, at least for me; it's still worth the read.

The perennial idiocy of women's Halloween costumes hardly bears reiteration, but this is pretty amusing.


* i.e.: reliably Western-ly colonialist and racist only with carefully updated 21st century crypto incarnations of the old chestnuts

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